There is a window by the dining room table, and outside is the falling snow. It falls on a sprawling backyard, covered in leaves its owner never got around to raking this year, and it falls on the one pile the owner’s son raked for him. The grass under that one pile is now long dead, an unintentional by-product of big-hearted kindness.

Next to the pile is a puddle. It rained the day before the snow, rained long and hard. The puddle fills a depression to the left of a large oak tree, the largest in the sprawling yard, which seems to lean away from the puddle on account of the swaying tire swing that hangs on the opposite side. The tire is also full of water.

The snow drifts, then swirls, sometimes thick and heavy, then light, dust-like in its descent. It falls now on a buck, wearied from its work evading hunters earlier in the year, wearied from its work chasing does earlier in the month, wearied from its work fighting for what it wants—to live, and to live the next day too.  It seems unconcerned for the fences, the dogs, the loud slamming doors of homes and cars that fill the worn neighborhood on this slow winter morning. Spent, the buck wanders around the winterized garden uncovering, then happily lifting it’s head to chew its own trophies-- hordes of fallen acorns the owner neglected to rake up along with the leaves.

A sudden flurry brings with it a covey of mountain quail, flying low and fast until deciding the yard outside the window looks like the perfect spot for touchdown. Maybe they saw the buck and decided it was safe. Maybe they saw the trampoline and thought it looked fun. Whatever the reason, they land, and the ground is soon a swarm of bobbing black heads, weaving in and out of broken iris stems.

The sun peeks out from behind some distant cloud, illuminating the flurries until the yard outside seems cloaked in a swarm of fireflies. Their lights extinguish suddenly with a gust that brings more gloom, but only for a moment— and then their fires are again reborn. Just then a large gray squirrel erupts from high in a neighboring tree, indignant at the buck in the owner’s yard. Leaping, scrambling, it claws its way down the trunk of a small cedar and pounces onto the frozen ground, scattering the quail. They fly for two wing-beats then land, tiny feet working furiously to slow them back down to the humor of their jerking gait. The squirrel gets as close as it dares and lets the buck know what for. The buck pays the squirrel no mind, and keeps on feeding. Dejected, the small bundle of forlorn fury surrenders his hidden treasure for the moment and retreats to a large rock near the fence to watch. He sits there torturing himself for the next half-hour before finally leaving in disgust. 

The owner laughs as he takes it all in, a witness to a simple beauty, seen through a window by the dining room table, and outside is the falling snow. 


When I was a kid growing up in Africa, the only thing worse than a dirt road full of potholes was a paved road full of potholes. The reason was simple: poor driving conditions on the first kind of road were easily and quickly remedied by a quick treatment with a run-of-the-mill road grader. To improve conditions on the second kind of road?—well, that was no minor surgery.  In many of Africa’s older paved roads, the ruts are well-established and deeply engrained. Not only that, but they are— for all intents and purposes— ‘fossilized’ ruts, surrounded by the armor of asphalt that’s hardened over time until it becomes virtually impervious to change.

Most people alive in America today were raised with the theory of Darwinian Evolution from a young age, in various degrees of detail, year after year after year, until theory—a supposition (uncertain belief) or a system of ideas intended to explain something— was laid down enough times and with enough frequency and insistency and authority that it hardened into “fact,” or “law.” But what happens when cracks form in the hardness of pavement, followed by pressure and temperature and time, and there’s a choice made to ignore the problem? A pothole forms. No educated person any longer questions the validity of the so-called theory of evolution, which we now know to be a simple fact,” says evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr. And that, my friends, is a pothole in the pavement.

This post is an initial, rudimentary look at a few of the cracks I see growing into serious road hazards in the aging infrastructure that is Darwinian Evolution. Some may find this introduction humorous for the simple reason that the ‘pothole’ analogy is exactly the same way many people feel about Christians and the Bible. While I’m very aware of the parallels, I’m not so sure the average evolutionist is. Which is why, off and on over the course of the next few months, I want to take a fresh look at several of the ‘benchmark’ issues I feel have been used to either blindly support or legitimately challenge the theory of Darwinian Evolution. These will likely include such topics as ‘Micro’ vs. ‘Macro’ evolution, The Miller Experiment, the significance of the Archaeopteryx discovery, implications behind the Laws of Thermodynamics and more. When it comes to the theory of Darwinian Evolution, in the words of double PhD and author Jonathan Wells, “The question I’m raising is whether all of this is really science—or is it actually a kind of mythology?” (Strobel  36, The Case For A Creator). I hope you’ll stick around long enough to take an honest look and decide for yourself.

Before I leap willingly (foolishly?) into the jaws of controversy— in order to do this fairly—I need to make something clear up front: I do not accuse science of, nor have I ever condemned science of being, “satanic,” or “the devil,” or as the opponent of God’s Truth. It has never been my intention to set up any sort of false dichotomy that forces the Christian to choose between science or the Bible. I agree to a great degree with a frequent visitor to this blog that “If God is the author of both the Bible and creation we shouldn't need to choose one or the other (Bible or science); we should be able to reconcile both.” In general, this is true. Under normal circumstances, when nothing but predictable scientific laws— which deal with the natural world and which God created to establish an orderly and functional universe—when predictable scientific laws are at work, the Bible should and will perfectly mesh with the naturalistic discoveries of our time. Science should be the greatest ally of Scripture in all areas where natural laws are at play. A good follow-up question, however, might be this— Are natural laws the only ones at play when we read the Bible? Asked another way, how does one reconcile the Bible and science in the case of events and accounts touched by external, supra-natural forces? How does one reconcile the Bible and science in the case of the miraculous?

In a blog post some time back, pastor Bill wrote this in regards to the miraculous—“Wrap your mind around this wonderful definition of “miracle” from Easton’s Bible Dictionary (Thos Nelson, 1897).
“An event in the external world brought about by the immediate agency or the simple volition of God, operating without the use of means capable of being discerned by the senses, and designed to authenticate the divine commission of a religious teacher and the truth of his message (John 2:18 Mt 12:38).
“It is an occurrence at once above nature and above man. It shows the intervention of a power that is not limited by the laws either of matter or of mind, a power interrupting the fixed laws which govern their movements, a supernatural power…
“‘The simple and grand truth [is] that the universe is not under the exclusive control of physical forces, but that everywhere and always there is above, separate from and superior to all else, an infinite personal will, not superseding, but directing and controlling all physical causes, acting with or without them.’
“God ordinarily effects his purpose through the agency of second causes; but he has the power also of effecting his purpose immediately and without the intervention of second causes, i.e., of invading the fixed order, and thus of working miracles.””

I think the caution of Brian Edwards is a valid one—“The evangelical who relies upon the argument [for example,] that Genesis 1 and 2 (or 3 and 4) are poetic and not historical has abandoned sound principles of interpretation in order to avoid what appears to be a scientific problem; why then does he not abandon Jonah as well—or, more particularly, the virgin birth and resurrection of Christ?”
How does one reconcile science and the Bible when God suspends the laws of science in order to accomplish His sovereign ends? Which one wins out then? Clearly, there are vital and important areas where science and the Bible are at odds, even when God is the Author of both. You can understand my hesitation to agree with those who wish to make science the absolute arbiter of Truth when it comes to reading and interpreting the Bible—it is clear that science is not the plumb-line for gauging that which is most “real.”

Now let me be clear; I do not see it as contradictory to use the products of science, or trust their ability to make certain tasks in life easier or more enjoyable. I have no problems living my life in harmony with the observable and applicable laws of science, which can only “work” because God a. created them (Col. 1:15, 16) and b. sustains them (Col. 1:17). But while I live my life in an autopilot sense of reliance on the natural (scientific) laws of God’s world, I also live in a more fundamental dependence upon the supernatural. So that, should God choose to suspend or supercede the natural laws of the universe in the literature of the Bible, or should He ask me to suspend my trust in those laws today, so that I might, for instance, ask Him for a miracle of healing in the life of a child with leukemia, I must revert to that greater Reality.

I have frequently been asked, wouldn’t a contradiction between science and the Bible necessitate in some way that God is being expressly deceptive?
To which I would reply—
Is it deceptive of God to set up natural laws such as gravity, so that water flows downhill, only to supercede those laws and part a sea when His people needed to escape the clutches of Pharoah’s army (Ex. 14:21,22)?
Is it deceptive of God to set up natural laws such as the laws of friction and the 2nd law of thermodynamics, and then allow the sandals and clothes of His people to remain in perfect condition for 40 years as they wandered through the wilderness (Duet. 29:5)?
Is it deceptive of God to set up natural laws of procreation and then defy every known law of science as well as the understanding of heaven to enter our world Himself, through the womb of a virgin, fully man without ceasing to be fully God (Luke 1:30-35)?
Is it deceptive of God to say “all men are destined to die once” and then raise Lazarus from the dead? To raise Christ from the dead (Jn. 11:38-44)?
No. Not deceptive. Above our pay grade, perhaps, but not deceptive.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8,9). My sense, whenever God is accused of deception, is that there exists in the accuser an underlying and emotional trust issue rather than an objectively legitimate intellectual objection. Granted, this is a generality—but I have seen it proven to be true many times.

As I have said before, much unnecessary confusion could be avoided if people understood that many of the literary forms of Scripture, such as historical narratives, are written in what is called ‘The language of appearances,’ or, ‘Phenomenological Language.” R.C. Sproul defines this as “language that describes things the way they appear to the naked eye” (Sproul, Literary Forms, Part 1). What if, just as the Bible writers described things as they accurately appeared, science is simply doing the same, striving to describe and explain the world as it accurately appears? Is it ‘false,’ is it ‘deceptive’ that the world appears to function in a way an ordinary person can observe, when in reality, something far more complex is going on behind the scenes? No. Just as ordinary people in Bible times could walk outside and observe the sun ‘coming up’ and ‘passing overhead’ and ‘going down,’ so can and do we ordinary people today, in scientific times. It is not ‘deceptive,’ it is not contrary to fact that the sun appears to ‘rise’ and ‘set’ when viewed with the naked eye. So what if, just as the language of appearances cannot hope to capture the incredible complexity that lies behind the curtain of scientific laws even while describing appearances accurately, what if, in the same way, the language of science cannot hope to capture the incredible complexity that lies behind the curtain of supernatural laws that went into a supernatural process of creation and that continues to operate in a way that sustains the natural creation? Does that make “what’s really going on behind the scenes” deception? No more than it does in the case of phenomenological language.

All science is capable of doing then, is only ever discovering ‘half’ of the story because at best, its tools are natural and created, and thus unable to detect or understand either the supernatural creator or His supernatural means. Does that make science a waste of time? By no means! I believe God has given us these tools as a gift, to better our lives and to “be our brother’s keeper.” The finiteness of science does not mean it is a waste of time, only that science must admit to and honestly face its own limitations. This is where C.S. Lewis’ beautiful quote rings out so poignantly—“In Science we have been reading only the notes to a poem; in Christianity we find the poem itself.”

Surrounded By Grace,


A good friend of mine recently posted this comment on facebook, and it got me thinking. "Christmastime offers opportunities for stress and opportunities for hope," he wrote—"Which are you choosing this season?" 

It’s a fair question, you know. Stress is a Christmas staple, right up there with eggnog and elves. I would have added fruitcake to that list, but it didn’t start with an “e” and, apparently, there’s a general and growing discontent surrounding that belovedly traditional brick of stick-to-your-ribs. So be it; more for me. But all rib-sticking aside, it really is easy to get caught up in the stress machine that is an American Christmas, easy to get drug out to the deep end of the tree lot by an undertow of deadly nostalgia that pressures you to accept responsibility for recreating the magic of Christmas past while simultaneously orchestrating the memories for Christmas future, all at the expense of Christmas present. And that’s just stupid. When it comes to choosing between opportunities to create “the perfect Christmas” and opportunities to share the hope of the incarnate Christ in a loving way to those around us, the choice should be a no-brainer. 

But what about that first Christmas? Was it immune from the barbs of stress and filled strictly with the sweet strains of hope? Was it free from complications and full only of “The little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes?” No. Now granted, absent were the petty stresses of recreating nostalgia or the headaches involved in thinking up cute new traditions. But, in general, the more I think about it, the more I believe stress has always been and always will be a companion of Christmas.

Think of the virgin.
A man that she loved, a wedding on the horizon, her whole life ahead of her. She had plans, you know, she had dreams. And then she had an angel, standing in front of her, telling her that everything about her everything was about to change. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty stressful to me.

Think of the fiancé.
One day he’s the luckiest man alive. The next day he’s the subject of pity and speculation. He had honor, you know. Now he was being asked to risk it on a miracle. He had rights, you know. Now he was being instructed to forfeit them for the greater good of God’s master plan. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty stressful to me.

Think of the Wise Men.
Families, livelihoods, schedules to keep. Then, suddenly, a brightness in the heavens that claims their attention over jobs, wives, even children. They must drop everything to follow this inconvenient star, leave home behind and follow a belief that costs them comfort, not to mention gold, frankincense and myrrh. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty stressful to me.

Think of the Shepherds.
Minding their sheep and their own business on a cold night, a silent night. But suddenly— a holy night! A noisy night! Gleaming beings with a message that must have been nothing less than overwhelming to these simple men. Maybe their sheep scattered at the explosion of singing. Maybe they lost some much-needed sleep. For sure, we know they were afraid, at least initially. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty stressful to me.

Think of that stable.
No privacy. No drugs. No sterile, multi-positionable cushioned bed. No caring family, keeping anxious vigil in the waiting room under the influence of free yet horrid coffee. Just a bunch of sleepy cows or donkeys or, God help us, goats— filling the air with what I can only assume to be an irritable ‘lowing,’ accompanied by the distinct aroma cattle barns are known so famously to possess. And then, on top of it all, visitors—visitors!— unannounced and uninvited by the new and bewildered parents, who by this time were doubtless exhausted and at their worst. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty stressful to me.

Christmastime offers opportunities for stress and opportunities for hope,” my friend wrote— “Which are you choosing this season?”
You know, I'm beginning to believe the two have always been connected. That maybe, just maybe, God allows stress as a test of our trust. Maybe these “stress-tests” are actually “trust-tests.” God says something, maybe through a promise in Scripture written a millennia before, and then he brings along stress, to see how firmly we’re holding onto Him. Maybe that stress looks like an angel, informing you your dreams are about to change. Maybe that stress is a whole boatload of angels, enough to make you ‘sore afraid.’ Or maybe the stress comes to you in the form of a governmental decree that inconveniences you at a time of incredible financial and emotional vulnerability. Maybe then, the question is not so much ‘will you choose stress or hope?’ but ‘what will you choose to do with stress?’  I doubt you can avoid it this Christmas, but you do have options, you know. You can complain about it. Get angry about it. You can fight it. Or you can give it back to God and trust Him, trust that God can use stress to lead you to Him, in much the same way that a star can sometimes lead to a King.

Christmas has always been stressful, and always will be. But perhaps, in the end, the test of stress comes down to how we choose to interpret the character of God in light of it. Herod looked at the stress-filled arrival of baby Jesus and saw a threat. The virgin, the fiancĂ©, the shepherds and the wise men looked and saw 'peace, on earth... good will toward men.' I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty hopeful to me.

Surrounded By Grace,


Here's a quick look at some of the pictures and footage from last Sunday's Christmas play and party at The Outpost!

An Outpost Christmas from Josh Thompson on Vimeo.


In my last blog post I issued a challenge of sorts regarding the importance to “Man Up” and choose your position when it comes to the forces at work behind human existence. Our choices, as I see it, come down to ‘purposeless accident’ or ‘Divine design.’ It’s one, or it’s the other; we do not have the luxury of remaining neutral. A great question that came out of the ensuing discussion asked, basically— Why is it necessary to equate “purposeless accident” with evolution? Couldn’t evolution be the tool God divinely designed as the means to bring about humanity?

It’s one thing to debate the validity of evolution with the individual who refuses to consider supernatural means in the origin of MAN; it’s quite another thing when the individual proposes that evolution is the means employed by The Supernatural One to bring about the end result that is MAN. But for that person, the Christian evolutionist, there are some interesting difficulties to wrestle with as a result. This post is intended to deal with just a few of these difficulties. In my next post, already in the works, I’ll attempt to deal with a few of the pivotal potholes I see in the pavement of the evolutionary highway itself.

1) False Starts
Interestingly, both camps that support Darwinian evolution as the means of explaining the appearance of mankind (advocates of ‘purposeless chance’ as well as advocates of ‘Divine design’) share a similar problem: the matter of ‘first life.’ “Why can't we say that God "created" life because He created an earth in which various chemicals could interact to eventually become rudimentary DNA?” asked a recent ‘Divine design’ visitor to my blog. As this question seems to imply no need for supernatural “meddling” once all the non-living chemical components for life are created and accounted for, the answer is the same for both camps: Because there is no scientific evidence to indicate that life can spontaneously generate from various, non-living chemicals, any more than there is evidence that my amazing Apple computer can spontaneously generate from a pile of metal bits, loose wire and motherboards. What needs to be understood is that, using the analogy of the computer, there isn’t even evidence to show how the components themselves, the “pile of bits and wire” came into existence, much less the computer itself. It would be helpful if we could simulate an environment, complete with all the necessary, non-living chemical components and then duplicate this “first life” in a laboratory experiment; unfortunately, no one has been able to do so. “Science, you might say,” notes science journalist John Horgan, “has discovered that our existence is infinitely improbable, and hence a miracle” (Science and Christianity: Four Views, 139).

2) Natural vs. Supernatural
‘Fine,’ the Christian evolutionist might say, ‘Let’s say God was necessary to make the first living organism (whatever that was), but— the rest of the process could be done without Him.’ This seemed to be the tone in another recent comment on my blog by a supporter of Divinely-backed evolution, who kept referring to 'random' and 'natural' processes—“Note that both micro and macro evolution use the exact same mechanisms, random mutations being selected for or against by natural selection, the only difference is the degree of change over different lengths of time”(I’ll address ‘micro’ & ‘macro’ evolution in my next blog post). My question is— Isn’t that language contradictory to “Divine design?” Doesn’t ‘random mutation’ by definition mean there was no ‘design’ behind it? That it could just as well have evolved in a different way, along a different evolutionary trajectory that did not lead to the spirit-filled creature that is Man? And what about the “selection” process for the progress of life? When it comes to which mutation is more advantageous and, by extension, which life form is thus “selected” to survive, is it  ‘nature’ that is selecting and guiding those mutations, or is it God? ‘Natural selection’ or ‘supernatural selection?’ Random processes imply random results, which is confusing if a person is claiming that God is behind and directing the evolutionary process as a way to arrive at a very specific end result that is Man. If the Christian evolutionist is saying God set up the scientific framework of laws that would make evolution possible, and that that qualifies everything which has emerged since as His ‘design,’ then unless you’re also saying that this creation scenario under the guidance of scientific laws would have produced exactly the same results (humankind) were it repeated hundreds of times with the same beginning variables, what you’re describing is still chance, and not God that brought about the being that is Man.  Again, it seems as though a choice needs to be made on this point; I struggle to see how this language is reconcilable. Stephen C. Meyer, director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, put it this way: “To say that God guides an inherently unguided natural process, or that God designed a natural mechanism as a substitute for his design, is clearly contradictory” (Strobel, The Case For Creation p.23). Darwin himself once argued that if we admit God into the process, then God would ensure that only “the right variations occurred… and natural selection would be superfluous” (Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution, 329-30).

But let’s hold off, for the sake of argument, and take either ‘natural’ or ‘supernatural’ selection as the means for evolutionary change and increased complexity. Because either way— whether the selection of ‘which life-form would survive’ was truly “natural” or if the selection was “supernatural” and guided subtly by the hand of God— this leads the God-believing evolutionist into another, more complicated difficulty.

3) The Problem of Death (“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men…” Romans 5:12)
According to the Bible, prior to the sin of Adam and Eve, the created world was devoid of sin. There was no wrongdoing, no suffering, no want, no sickness and— no death. Death, according to the Bible, is a bi-product of sin. And not just “spiritual death”— that is not the sole implication of Scripture— but physical death as well. So what’s the problem? Namely this— Darwinian evolution, the theory of change from simple to complex, is a theory dependant on death. Natural selection, evolution’s chief tool, is a process dependant on the death of the weak and the survival of the fittest through competition in order to pass on the favorable traits necessary to live on and evolve in a hostile world, all for the designed purpose (according to the Christian evolutionist), of bringing about God’s finished product that is Man. The problem is… the first book of the Bible depicts a non-hostile environment, free from fear or competition or… death— until, until, fully formed man makes a choice to disobey his Creator. How does a theory of Divine design by means of natural selection (or Divine direction for that matter) address this important inconsistency? There is only one way, as far as I can see, and it’s the same way the atheist would address the problem—by challenging the credibility of the Bible.

A last (but by no means final) difficulty in this brief study that perhaps would have fit better under “False Starts,” comes into focus when the God-fearing evolutionist reads the Biblical order of creation.
4) The Order of Creation (DAY 5: “So God created… every winged bird according to its kind.” DAY 6: “And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind.” Gen. 1:20-25)
What we have here is the Bible’s description of the order of creation events. Assuming with the Christian evolutionist that what’s being described is the order in which animals evolved on the earth, you immediately run into what I understand as a basic evolutionary problem of sequence. This is because the evolutionary theory would likely reverse this order of events, having ‘winged birds’ follow or evolve from some creeping reptile. I think this is a fair inconsistency. Again, how would the ‘Divine design by evolution’ respond to this? I would assume by another assertion that the Bible is not a science book, or some similar argument. But it’s important to admit that the more details you “bend” in the Bible to make it match up with unproven theories, the less ground you leave yourself to stand on when it comes to what you can really trust in that Book. In the end, you are unavoidably making a decision about which you trust more.

Surrounded By Grace,

MAN UP ~ 11/22/10

There has been a misconception commonly taught that it takes faith to believe in God or the Bible, while all that is required to believe in evolution is common sense based on indisputable facts. I won’t be the first to point out the contradictions about this but— I wanted to add my voice. I do not believe that evolutionary chance is responsible for the existence of humankind or the origin of any other forms of life.  Mainly, this is because I’ve made a choice to believe that the God of the Bible, not chance, is responsible for life and because I don’t believe science has satisfactorily demonstrated, through the use of its own tools— empiricism (knowledge derived from experience, observation and/or experimentation) and rationalism (knowledge derived from logic, reason or mathematics)-- the evidence that transforms theory into fact. As a theory then, evolution still requires faith to believe its descriptions (and the ramifictions) of 'how things came to be.'

Choices are vitally important to the human experience, and the same truths about empiricism and rationalism that are applied to proving evolution likewise apply to proving the Bible— no matter how much you’re able to empirically measure and reasonably deduce, you will always come to a point where faith—a choice to believe something you cannot prove—comes into play. In his book, A Reasonable Faith, Tony Campolo writes about the issue of 'choice' in a separate discussion about existentialism, that “Existentialism is not a philosophy; it is a method of establishing truth in the mind of man. That method is basically through commitment. Consequently, every Christian is a kind of existentialist. When a secularist student asks me why I believe the Bible, I answer, ‘Because I decided to.’ Then I ask, ‘Why is it that you do not believe the Bible?’ The student usually thinks over the question and answers, ‘I guess because I decided not to.’

Reason and arguments can build up a case for or against the Bible and the existence of God, but finally each of us must make a personal decision. Even after Christianity is viewed as a reasonable faith, the individual still must make what Soren Kierkegaard called ‘a leap of faith.’ That leap may be made on the basis of thoughtful arguments and after all other options have been reasonably explored. But ultimately a decision must be made, a commitment must take place.” (12,13 A Reasonable Faith)

I recently had a brief conversation with a childhood friend who has found his way into a philosophy/theory called Evolutionary Metaphysics. From the little I’ve read about this system, what’s really fascinating is what they do in the name of staying purely true to what is empirically and rationally provable: They describe the options of belief, they lay out the basic choices humanity has to choose from when it comes to explaining our existence—but in the end, it seems they refuse to take sides. To which, although I appreciate and respect the brutal honesty of their approach, I say— “Man up!” Here are the concluding few paragraphs of a chapter from their book, entitled “Shattering The Sacred Myths.”

Your choice
It was mentioned at the start of this book, that when it comes to explaining our existence, once all of the myths and misconceptions have been stripped away, there remains only two possibilities.
One possibility is that there is some kind of purposeful creative process that designed the universe and planned the events that led to the evolution of intelligent life. If this is true, then we have a reason and a duty to survive and to progress, to play our part in the grand cosmic scheme. We could have faith that continued technological advancement will lead to social, economic, and moral progress. And we could have hope that humanity can survive by choosing to be thoughtful and cooperative.

The other possibility is that there is no God, no plan, no purpose, life is meaningless, consciousness has no special value, and so human life has no special value either. Our only reason for continuing to struggle through life would be to pursue our instinctual needs and desires, and our only reason for continuing this social and economic progress would be to increase our material wealth and level of luxury. Other than friendly affections or noble ideals, our only justifiable reason for caring about each other would be for the anticipation of some mutual benefit. Without any cosmic purpose worth making personal sacrifices for, this universe will never be anything more than a cosmic battlefield for evolutionary competition and the conscious struggle for power.

These are the only two possibilities. Other writers might claim that there are other possibilities, but if you look closely enough at their explanations, you always find flaws. Their arguments will either be unscientific or be based around some hollow form of reasoning.

In any case, it is up to you to decide which of the two you want to believe. Believing in either possibility requires having faith in some unproven assumption. The only understanding that requires no leap of faith, and so therefore the only understanding in which we can be totally confident, is to keep our minds open to both possibilities. 
~ Shattering The Sacred Myths

To be constantly noncommittal, “Being open to believing anything,” sounds a lot like fear-based paralysis to me. Like an inability to risk, an inability to make a choice. But life is all about risking, about tough decision-making. It’s what forms character and builds maturity and defines personality. I choose, therefore I become. To live as a human is to possess the freedom and ability to make choices that, to a great degree, determine what we become. The real problem with keep[ing] our minds open to both possibilities" is the assumption that this is even possible. I believe the band Rush addressed the true nature of noncommittal indecision quite eloquently: “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” By virtue of being endowed with the freedom to choose, Human beings have been stripped of the option of neutrality. You cannot choose but to choose. What you can do is actively choose, or— if you’re deluded, willfully ignorant and/or cowardly— passively choose. But you still have made a choice.

The other problem when it comes to keep[ing] our minds open to both possibilities" is that one of those possibilities, according to the Bible, actually requires, it necessitates— an active, risky choice of the will for it to “count” in your favor. One of those ‘possibilities’ (that there is a God behind the purposeful, creative process that designed the universe) does not allow for noncommittal, according to what the Bible says about God. If that possibility is true, as the Bible claims it is, then without an active choice of faith to believe in that particular possibility, the most proudly open mind in the world is actually already blindly biased. “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” And that is the position of Scripture— To not actively choose belief in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is a passive choice— to reject him:  John 3:36
”Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”
Finishing a thought on the issue of choice, Tony Campolo concludes—“We recognize that no one has limitless options (or total freedom), but that each man is able to determine the course of his life by the commitments he makes out of his available alternatives. We believe that ultimately, each man will be judged by what he decides about Jesus” (74 A Reasonable Faith).

Regardless of what empiricism and rationalism can or cannot prove when applied to the claims of evolution, God and the Bible, in each case there awaits the inescapable need for faith. In this world, there will always be a need for faith— which is why I challenge you to be brave, take a risk, man up and proactively make your choice regarding what you believe in that cannot be proven, or else— your silence has already made the choice for you. 

Surrounded By Grace,


One Day's Pay! from Josh Thompson on Vimeo.

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If you go to The Outpost, you know we just finished Sermon #2 in our version of the "EveryONE Counts" sermon series. Last Sunday, we kicked off this series by talking about how God's people are stewards of God's stuff. This Sunday we dealt with us being stewards of God's grace

In the past couple of weeks we've also talked about some issues of disconnectedness at The Outpost. Many people feel a lack of connection to a location. Many feel a lack of connection to each other. And many feel a lack of connection to a vision that speaks to the needs of Weaverville and The Outpost's role in meeting those needs. 

So here is the question: How can 'being a good steward of God's grace' bring about greater connectedness within our church family? How can this particular kind of stewardship unite us to a greater degree?
I'd love to hear your feedback in response to this question; it would be fantastic to get a whole conversation going about how our connectedness is affected by this kind of stewardship, as well as the stewardship of 'stuff' that we talked about last Sunday. What are your thoughts? Let's talk! To leave a comment below, click on the word "comment" and follow the directions to say what you want to say. Then keep checking back in to follow the conversation.

Surrounded By Grace,

BUCK ZOMBIE ~ 10/21/10

“Let’s gooo, Cookie Monsterrrrr!!!” whooped the man behind me in a thick Hispanic accent. His 6 year-old grandson joggled past our enclave of onlookers at that very moment and flashed a crooked smile, a small bundle of uncoordinated joy trying to dodge grass tufts and flying high-kicks while at the same time move the soccer ball up-field without tripping over it. It was a heartwarming scene filled with laughter and goodwill and crotchety parents that I normally would have spent a whole morning writing about, especially since one of my own sons was also playing in the game—“Gooo Nathan!”— but I admit to being incredibly distracted. Buck fever is a hard thing to shake.

Hunting is a passion of mine, but it’s a hard thing to explain to a non-hunter. I tried explaining its allure to my wife once in terms of shopping and sales after she asked me to stay home on a prime hunting weather day. “That’s like me telling you not to go shopping on Black Friday” I blurted out, and then added for good measure (since she never actually shops on Black Friday)—“and there were no lines and they were giving out espresso machines as door prizes!” She frowned and looked at me like I was wearing diaper on my head. Which is when I remembered that coffee was another of my obsessions, not hers. Drat.

I’ve tried other ways of explaining hunting, of explaining the itch and the scratching satisfaction it brings to hike, to scour hillsides for antlers, to don camouflage and hoist a weapon of deadly force with intent to… to… And anyway, none of those ways seemed to adequately convey the thrill either. “It’s like looking for the perfect garage sale,” I’ve tried—“you know it’s out there, somewhere—that treasure you don’t know you need until you find it, until you see it and know you must have it...”
“It’s like a successful, last second hail-Mary pass to win the championship game,” I’ve tried. No luck.
“It’s like baking the perfect turkey,” I’ve even tried— “on Thanksgiving Day. When your in-laws are visiting.” Nothing. Nobody gets it. Blank stares.

And so, with a sigh of resignation that comes from accepting that you’ll never truly understand, let it suffice to say there’s a desire, a fierce hunger that exists in the world of hunting, that only grows stronger as the season wanes and huntable weekends disappear from the calendar like prime shopable hours in the first indulgant light of Black Friday. It’s a gnawing sensation that comes in waves. At its least intrusive consistency in the days and weeks directly following the closing day of the season, it’s ravenous power thickens and slowly gains in force as it begins to draw strength from magazine racks and random camouflage sightings in the early months of Spring. Then, oddly enough, there’s a lull. This occurs during the peaceful, optimistic haze of opening weekend, when most hunters trick themselves into believing that successfully scratching the itch is just a matter of getting out of bed and taking a gun into the woods. Do not be fooled; this haze is the calm before the storm. This is when the worst of the fever begins to eat at your intestines from the inside out— when opening weekend success eludes you. From that point on, until you shoot your buck, it’s a mouthful of chocolate-chip cookies in a world devoid of milk.

My opening weekend hunting experience was a disaster. A storm blew into my honey hole with fog so thick I half expected an ‘80’s classic rock band to spandex dance their way out of it. Gratefully I was spared such a horror, but after two days of rain followed by a third morning sans antlers, I was defeated. The next two months only produced more of the same: long hikes, long hours, no bucks. Soon I became a walking buck zombie. Sitting at the dinner table, last year’s buck-ghetti taunted me. Hits on the radio all began sounding like the theme song from Wild America. Watching my son’s soccer game, the children became a field full of dandy, dancing bucks, galloping by me in gaudy fluorescent jerseys. “Let’s gooo, Cookie Monsterrrrr!!!”
Snap out of it Josh.

This weekend is closing weekend. It’s our last hope. For all of the Buck Fever-ridden, camouflage-clad volunteer army of deer population control experts, this weekend is the last chance to bring home the bac— err, the venison. It’s the last chance for countless men and women in northern California who simply can’t explain to you the thrill of the chase and frankly, have given up trying. And it’s my last chance too. I’ll be out there, in those dappled, magical woods this weekend, I’ll be out there, questing after the defeat of my own mythical monster. I’ll be out there, because, after all… I’m just another preacher after a fast buck.


I think we tend to look at certain characters in the Bible as "God's favorites," and we secretly label modern Christians with the same title. King David always made my list of heavenly brown-nosers; with a title like "man after God's own heart," he's kinda hard to ignore. After all, he was God's anointed king, so it's no wonder he's so well loved. Now admit it-- you've thought the same things about other Christians you know-- their lives seem 'anointed by God,' like they must be His special favorites. The truth is, if you are God's child, you are His anointed. The Holy Spirit rests on you. But I'm betting you don't feel like it.

My pastor says, "we live on planet trouble." Maybe that resonates with you today? I've found that trouble is something like a rolling quarter. On one side, there's opportunity- let's just be super spiritual and say that every time trouble rolls into our lives, it brings with it the opportunity to fall on God and prove His faithfulness yet again. Then there's the other side of trouble. Let's call that side discouragement. If trouble coasts along nicely until it bumps into us and then falls over on the side of discouragement, we're in a pickle. We're like upside-down turtles at that point-- we can't right ourselves. We need someone else to come along and flip us over so we can see the light, see the sun again, see the side of trouble that is opportunity. Someone did that for me recently, and his words were so encouraging, I wanted to share them with you. 

What he sent me was a list of troubles that rolled into the life of God's anointed king, the brown-noser himself, King David. I suppose it's a wee bit sadistic of me, but oddly enough, I felt a 'misery-loves-company' sort of glow as I read this list. Here were his observations from Scripture on that anointed life:
1) Even after he was anointed to be the next King of Israel by Samuel, Israel's great prophet, David's family continued to belittle him--even aftery King Saul's advisors invited him to come and sing at the palace and play his harp.

2) When the Philistines threatened Israel with their champion Goliath, the newly anointed heir to the throne was left to tend the sheep. When he brought his brothers food and expressed indignation that no one in Israel had the faith to challenge Goliath, his brothers severely and publicly rebuked him.

3) After David killed Goliath, Saul became jealous of him without any justification, even though he had named him the commander of his army.

4) When David succeeded in everything that he did because God blessed him in so much, King Saul tried to kill him. David had to leave his wife and home and live as a fugitive for the next 12 years. Even the King's son and his best friend Jonathan could not save him.

5) During those 12 years, David lived outdoors, or in caves, or among Israel's enemies with his wives and children. He was often betrayed by his own people, was nearly killed multiple times, and had to move every few days or weeks with only the belongings he could carry with him.

6) Once he had to pretend he was crazy to avoid arrest and execution by the Philistines.

7) When Nabal insulted David and his men, despite all that they had done to protect and bless him, God stopped David from killing Nabal and gave him a wise wife.  For accepting that honor, she earned the privilege of becoming a fugitive too.

8) David could not fully trust his most capable commander, Joab.

9) When David forgot his loyalties and agreed to fight against Saul and his army with the Philistines, God stopped him--and allowed the Amelikites to capture and run off with his family and belongings and the families and belongings of all his mens' families.  When his men were ready to stone him, David alone had the faith to pray to God for the miracle rescue that followed.

10) When Saul was killed by the Philistines, at last freeing David from a life as a fugitive, so was David's best friend Jonathan killed.

11) After Saul and Jonathan were killed, even though God had anointed David to be the next King 12 years before, David had to wait several more years before his own tribe would agree to make him their king.  Then he had to rely on Joab--the commander he despised--to help him fight and win a war against Saul's descendants.

12) When David had finally united all 12 of Israel's tribes, was experiencing success on every side, was admired by everyone, criticized by no one, and had triumphed over his worst enemies, he made the worst mistake of his life, a mistake that would haunt him until he died--he took his eyes off of God and decided he needed Bathsheba. That mistake led to the rape of one of his daughters by her brother, fratricide by his oldest son, and that son's eventual rebellion against him, an event that took the lives of thousands of innocent Israelis and his own life.

And yet, even after all of this trouble, we know King David, God's anointed, as 'a man after God's own heart.'

"The point is, whatever discouragement you're facing, THE LORD WILL BRING YOU THROUGH THIS!  He is the same God who loved David so much that he put him through 12 years of nail-biting stress, danger, poverty, and hardship.  The result was that David learned to find his strength, not in himself, not in his friends and fellow soldiers, but in God alone.  That is the place where God is taking you, and He will watch over you with love and tenderness--as you travel with Him--until you're there."

Be Encouraged.

Surrounded By Grace,

BROTHER 'ASS' ~ 10/5/10

I remember being happy with my body until one humid day in 7th grade when a Senior in high school asked me why my belly stuck out. Thus began my own self-conscious obsession with image.
The human body is a funny thing. Venerated and despised, abased and exalted, it is tent and temple, all in one.

C.S. Lewis had this to say of the human body.
"Man has held three views of his body. First there is that of those ascetic Pagans who called it the prison or the 'tomb' of the soul, and of Christians like Fisher to whom it was a 'sack of dung,' food for worms, filthy, shameful, a source of nothing but temptation to bad men and humiliation to good ones. Then there are the Neo-Pagans (they seldom know Greek), the nudists and the sufferers from Dark Gods, to whom the body is glorious. But thirdly we have the view which St. Francis expressed by calling his body 'Brother Ass.' All three may be—I am not sure—defensible; but give me St. Francis for my money.
         Ass is exquisitely right because no one in his senses can either revere or hate a donkey. It is a useful, sturdy, lazy, obstinate, patient, lovable and infuriating beast; deserving now the stick and now a carrot; both pathetically and absurdly beautiful. So the body.”

So the body. I read this quote and suddenly understand with renewed clarity why it is God chooses the human body so many times as His object lesson for explaining what His Church is like.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27)

There are many who love to criticize the Church, who make into sport the art of church-bashing. To these, the Church is described like a ‘tomb,’ a travesty of nature, a sham. The way I hear some people talk about the Church, it might as well be a ‘sack of dung.’ And so, with such trite talk the people of God and the world alike critique His bride to His face. I think this neither a good idea nor a fair view.

There are also those who would over-spiritualize Christ’s bride, making the Church out to be an air-brushed supermodel on the cover of Vogue or Rolling Stone Magazine.
It’s all ‘glorious,’ everything’s glorious. This Church gets placed on quite the high pedestal, like a trophy on the mantel over a roaring fireplace, never touched by the everyday world unless picked up and dusted off by the passing housemaid. But… I wonder about those who think this way—do they actually attend a church steadily? As much as I love Christ’s church, I think this neither a good idea nor a fair view.

No, “give me St. Francis for my money.” The truth is somewhere in-between I think. Not the positional truth, mind you, but the practical truth. Because in practice, the Church “is a 
useful, sturdy, lazy, obstinate, patient, lovable and infuriating beast; deserving now the stick and now a carrot; both pathetically and absurdly beautiful. So the body.

And of that absurdly beautiful body, I am a part.

Surrounded By Grace,


“God is a two-faced, back on his word, Indian-giver,” the man sputtered with a forcefulness that caught me off guard. He stood there fuming, halfway in and halfway out of my office doorway, straddling a threshold much greater than he understood.

The man was an office ‘walk-in’ off the street. This happens a lot in our small town, and in my office in particular, which sits in the middle of the historical district like Main Street’s fishbowl, large glass windows inviting the scrutiny of the curious. The man had been curious. Stepping inside, he’d introduced himself with the question- “What does this place do?”

When he realized that “this place” was a church office, the man immediately began hinting at his displeasure with God, all the while prefacing these hints with assurances that he had great reverence for ‘The Man Upstairs.’ “I was raised catholic,” he said reasonably, “so I respect God.” I wondered what ‘respect’ meant to such a man. Little did I realize how soon he would spell this out for me— it became all too clear that for the man in my doorway, respect had more to do with resentful fear than submissive trust.

It was near the end of a predictably typical ramble about religious abuses in the world that the lit match finally reached the powder keg that apparently lurked just beneath the surface of his measured facade. In this case, I unfortunately served as the match. “God is in the business of redemption,” I had said meaningfully, intending to exude a ‘mercy triumphs over judgment’ sort of attitude. That’s when he turned on me. Snapped. Face flushed red, eyes widened, pupils dilated, voice, trembling. “God is a two-faced, back on his word, Indian-giver.” He spat it out. Wow. I stood there like a deer in the headlights of his blinding anger and thought— ‘Was it something I said?’ It was. It was the idea of mercy. Of Grace. Like a balloon on a blade of grass, it rubbed him the wrong way. The mere idea of mercy, that God could set aside punishment and grant second chances had triggered instant rage.

“Do you know the story of the Prodigal Son?” he demanded, hands opening and closing erratically at his sides.
“I do,” I acknowledged.
“The Father in that story is supposed to represent God, right?”
“So He splits up His livelihood between His two sons, one responsible and the other not. But when the irresponsible son returns, the Dad throws a party for the irresponsible son—it’s like He rewards him for his bad behavior!”
I admitted it certainly could feel that way. He brushed off my comment with a dismissive wave of his hand—“That’s exactly what he does—rewards bad behavior and ignores responsible behavior.” By 'responsible behavior' I could see he meant the older brother. And, I could see, he meant himself.

It eventually came out that the man in my doorway was indeed an older brother, a responsible brother, the brother who had always followed the rules and resented the second chances afforded his younger sibling who was now “born again.” He said those two words like a four-year-old says ‘spinach.’ It was as if he saw it as some sort of spiritual redundancy, an “again” he had never needed. I realized then that this man saw the mercy of God as leniency. I tried to explain the difference between leniency and grace--that one is a blatant abuse of justice, because no one pays for the crime (leniency), while the other is only possible because justice is first satisfied by another. God can only be merciful towards us because His own Son was already punished in our place--! But this key to grace was lost on him. All he could see in his tunneled-vision fury was the other son.

For most of us, we frame the story in much the same way this man saw it— it’s the story of the other son, “The Prodigal Son.” Singular. But I think that’s a title that misses the full scope of what’s going on in Jesus’ lesson. Most people understand that this tale comes as the third in a trilogy of parables, all about the recovery of lost things, with this final story as the anchor. There’s the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin, and then we go and lose the ‘lostness’ in the name of the third story—by calling it “The Prodigal Son.” One commentary said that in these three parables, “more fuss is made over the recovery of something that was lost than over the safe-keeping of what has been there all the time.” I would agree; the emphasis on God recovering, or ‘receiving back’ what was lost is the big idea of all three parables—but I think we miss a key point if we think only the first son was lost, while the second son was in the category of “safe keeping;” I think in a sense, he was lost too.

I recently found a Bible with a heading for this story that I like much better—“The Two Lost Sons,” it’s called. The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, The Two lost sons. “Two?” you might be thinking—“Only one of them lived out his sin fantasies.” Perhaps. But if “found” in this story means living again like part of the family, both of them were lost, because neither of the boys were living like sons. One was a son, living like a self-made orphan. He had a family, but he'd emancipated himself from it. He’s the one we call ‘prodigal.’ He’s the show-stealer who disowns his father and family to go it alone. And it's really easy to look at the speck in his eye and distance our own lives from the bulls-eye of Jesus' target audience-- but there’s another character in this story. One was a son, living like an orphan. The other was a son, living like a servant. If ‘prodigal’ means “extravagantly wasteful,” both sons have wasted their Father’s inheritance because both sons prove they believe the benefits of sonship must be worked for. It must be earned. The younger son proves this by thinking he has to work off his debt in order to be received back as part of the family. The older son proves this mindset by acting like it’s been his faithful labor, his spotless track record all along that has earned him, at the very least, the right to share a goat from the family flock with his friends. We do this with God all the time-- it's a "Life for God" mentality. The Father sets the record straight— And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours” (Luke 15:31). What did that mean? It meant the older son could have enjoyed his Father and the privileges of being part of the family (including the use of the family wealth to throw a party for his friends) any time he wanted to. This is a "Life with God" mentality. Enjoy, live off the wealth of the Father with Him! That he hadn’t, to date, was his own choice. You can’t enjoy the gifts you're too busy trying to earn as paychecks. 

The man in my office left, unwilling to accept that God’s receiving of him didn’t depend on his own faithfulness, on his own responsibility. He left the office determined to hold God in contempt of justice, so focused on the unfair mercy shown his own brother that he refused to see the equally extravagant gift of grace being held out to him. Like the older brother in the Biblical story, he didn't see that neither he nor his brother could ever 'deserve' or 'earn' sonship-- it was a free gift! And yet... he was determined to continue comparing who had worked harder for it.

Do you see yourself as God’s servant, or His son? Do you run through mental checklists of things you have to “do” to make God happy with you, to keep Him loving you, to assure that He approves of you and lets good things happen to you? If so, you’re living like a servant.  A servant has to work for food, for shelter, for protection. His work must be worthy for him to receive such benefits. But a son “does” nothing to earn being a son or to experience the benefits of sonship. Being a son is not something you “do”—it’s something you are received into on the day of your birth. It’s something you are, by virtue of having a Father who claims you as His own. Why was the party thrown for the younger son? Because he allowed himself to be received as a son—he accepted the love of his father in full knowledge that he hadn't done anything to earn it or deserve it. He humbly accepted the receiving-back love of his father in full knowledge of his own unworthiness and lack of merit
Will you allow God to receive you? He longs to embrace you like the Father in the story ran to embrace the younger son, lifting him off the ground in such a fierce bear-hug that the boy no longer stood on his own two feet, until the only thing supporting the young man became the strength of his Father's arms. Do you know, He tried to embrace the older son too--? Because God's in the business of redemption. Because God wants all His children to live like a sons.

"So the sinner is received- not because of the service he is going to render, not because of the love he is going to show, not because of the value he is going to prove, but absolutely and wholly through the divine mercy, and for the sake of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, our perfect Ransom and our only plea."          -A.B. Simpson on the Prodigal Son

*Grace induces faith & Grace is obligated to faith ~