"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

Monday, November 30, 2009

Faith and Reason

I frequent Patrol Magazine's site from time to time. I recently read a blog about faith and reason, by Tim Raveling titled How I became Agnostic; You can't have faith and reason at the same time. I had to choose.

A very well written, well thought blog. I enjoyed it, and was excited to see that he originally posted here, and that there were many comments. It's such a refreshing rarity to read respectful debate in comments on such a topic.

I wondered, is it true? Is it impossible to have faith and reason at the same time?

Tim states,

"Faith exists in the absence of reason. The two cannot coexist for any given belief."

and at another point in his post,

"Every action we take as human beings has something of reason and something of faith, but those “somethings” do not coincide."

He goes on to explain...

"When you fly, your reason tells you first that airplanes work, and rarely crash, based on the evidence of your knowledge, your visual perception of other planes taking off and, if you are a physicist, your knowledge of aerodynamics. Your faith tells you that your knowledge is accurate, that your eyes are working, and that the laws of physics will continue to function. Coincidentally, the less faith you have in these things, the more nervous you will be to fly."

I believe I disagree with Tim here. It appears to me that even in this example, faith and reason do coincide. When we climb into a plane, we believe it will fly because it is reasonable to believe it will fly. Faith and reason are serving the same purpose and acting at the same time; a reasonable faith and a faith-filled reasoning.

But what if reason and faith do conflict? Can faith and reason then coincide? Tim states that there are three responses to such an apparent contradiction; blind faith (who cares what it looks like, I know this is true simply because I believe it's true!), rationalization (bringing reasoning to the level of faith; at surface level this doesn't appear rational so there must be a reason beyond the surface level that can explain it). Or rejection, simply accepting that what was believed to be true was not true; believing that putting faith in the irrational is insane.

One of my favorite Theologians, Thomas F. Torrance, (a student of Karl Barth) spoke on the relationship of Faith and reason. His book Incarnation says,

"For Torrance, faith may be defined as what happens to our reason when it encounters the nature and reality of God. It encounters a personal reality it has not met before, which it cannot fit into its predefined categories, which far outstrips its powers of comprehension but which makes itself intelligible in terms of its own unique reality. Reason must either reject such a reality or recognise it and learn to reshape its whole way of perception in accordance with the nature of this new reality. If it does the latter, reason becomes faith" (xliii).

I guess this means, in Torrance's understanding, that reasoning is rationalized into faith.

And that is the thing. Sometimes it seems ludicrous to live in faith. But even then, it is reasonable. In my last post, I wrote of the faith of George Muller. God provided for all his needs. He never once had to ask for finances in his different ministries. It certainly seems foolish to count on an invisible hand to provide for the physical needs of hundreds of orphans under your care; downright irresponsible! Common logic would say if you don't ask for money to go buy and prepare food for the kids, there will be none. George stepped out in blind faith, and God provided.

Was he unreasonable to do this? God had always provided. should he not expect that God would do so again?

Sometimes its just more reasonable to believe in the unreasonable.

Tim says, in his last paragraph, "...I still believe in God, and I still believe that Christ was humanity’s best incarnation of him."

I have other friends who have left the Christian faith who would probably say similar things.

My question is this: Is it rational to believe that Christ was a good man; the best incarnation of God, if he was not God himself? To me, this seems far less reasonable then Christianity itself.

C.S. Lewis said it best,

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic -- on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg -- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. "

I do not know Tim. He is quite obviously a talented writer, well-read, and intelligent. I am sure he exceeds me in all these areas. I also do not believe he came to this decision lightly. In many ways I understand his struggle recognizing that there is a lot to our faith (much of which Tim mentions) that just doesn't seem to make sense. I can hardly imagine the struggle and how fearful it must have been to leave a life long faith and hope behind. The only difference between Tim and I in our struggles with the Christian faith is the direction our reason took us. He chose reason over faith and my reason became faith. I pray that as Tim continues to seek truth, the true God will guide him to His arms.

Check out Faith and Doubt by Aaron Espe. Good song.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Come and see what God will do!

Every now and then, I get asked to speak for some youth event or something of the sort. I often speak on the very things I struggle with the most, like faith. Recently I read a book about George Muller, a great man of remarkable faith. George Muller; The Guardian of Bristol's Orphans. An amazing book--you could easily read it in a day, and everyone should.

George Muller, amongst the multitude of wonderful things he did, started the first orphanage of Bristol, England back in the 1800s. Starting an orphanage, though amazing in itself, may not be the most amazing thing in the world. Starting it with the trust and expectation that God would provide everything--EVERYTHING--for such a ministry is. George Muller was also a pastor, and though he truly desired to provide for the great need of countless homeless and needy orphans in Bristol, his main desire for beginning the orphanage was as a testament of faith to the members of his church and the community at large. George Muller determined to never ask for one cent in the support of his orphanages. In the sixty or so years of his life after beginning the orphanage, he never once asked for any provision, trusting that God would completely provide.

And he did.

I love this one story. George was in his office going over some business with one of his assistants. The daughter of friend and assistant, John Townsend was playing out in the garden below. George watched the then eight year old Abigail Townsend through his window with a smile; she was like a grand daughter to him. He loved her dearly. There was a knock on the door. It was the matron from Orphan house three. At this point in the orphanage history, there were three orphanages; I believe each had about 300 or more orphans living in their walls. The matron informed George that there was no food in the kitchen. none. It was breakfast time for 300 hungry orphans. George just said. "I'll take care of it."

I can almost picture the excitement and smile on his face, like a child on Christmas day, as he ran down the stairs, out the door and straight to Abigail in the garden.

"Abigail, come with me. Come and see what God will do!"

As they walked into Orphan house 3, George stood before the 300 orphans all quietly and patiently standing before their spots at their tables, empty plates and cups before them. George said, "Good Morning Children, Let us pray. Dear God, we thank you for what you are going to give us to eat. Amen."

The children pulled out their chairs across the wooden floor, and that was when a knock came at the door. The baker. He couldn't sleep the night before feeling as if he was supposed to make bread for the orphans, so he stayed up, and now had fresh bread for everyone.

"God has blessed us through you this morning!"

Then there was the next knock. The milkman. His cart had broken down right in front of the orphanage. The load was to heavy. It would need to be lightened in order to fix the cart. Milk was given, free of charge if they would only help him take it off the cart.

Sometimes God multiplies loaves and fish; other times he breaks down milk carts.

I have always thought that faith is something that I need to muster up; something I really need to work on. But the bible says it is given to us. Eph 2:8 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.

Why does it seem that some Christians have a George Muller faith then, while others have...my kind.

The more we walk with God, the more he blesses our faith. The more time we spend with our Father, the more we trust him. George Muller read through his bible over 300 times in his Christian life. He became a Christian in his early 20s and died at 89. Do the math. This man loved God's word, and he was in love with his Lord, his constant provider.

Are we self-sufficient? Independent? In control of our situations? Bummer if we think so; we're missing out on a lot of excitement.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Where is my blog? right here.

I have had this blog for many years; all the way back to 2004. It didn't take me long to regret choosing a domain address as confusing and difficult to type as once-a-sinner-now-saved.blogspot.com. I thought it was cool at the time... Recently, I discovered that it is possible to change your blog's address with just a few simple clicks. Yes, it took me five years to discover this. Sinnernowsaved.blogspot.com should be much easier to remember. Soon after making this change, however, I realized that this will screw up any link ever made to my blog, as well as prevent many people from finding my blog being that it is no longer located at the old address. Oh foolish, foolish me. In fact perhaps no one will even read this because they won't be able to find my blog! Gasp!

What's that? Just change it back you say. Yes, this would make sense, but the first time I made the change, it messed with my layout a bit, and I lost a few things, so I dare not return to my old address for fear of doing irreversible damage to my page. I am not computer savvy enough to prevent these blog blunders. Sigh. sorry for all the confusion.

In other news, for those of you who perchance have stumbled upon this page despite the change of address, I have another new blog--an indie music blog with my friend, Taylor.


I am pretty stoked about it. Taylor is a veritable Indie genius so hipster wisdom should abound.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Raw Chicken Stimulates the Imagination

I am currently in job purgatory--that place between college and career when one works a menial part time job often reserved for high school students. But its not that bad, it provides lots of time to think. I often pray, sing to myself, think about church planting, youth ministry, girls, family and friends, books, music, God. Some times when breading the raw chicken, I imagine that there was a strain of chicken zombieism that went unchecked; that some farm butchered and plucked those zombie chickens, and then shipped them to our pizza place. It wasn't their fault really--they didn't know; zombies often run around like chickens with their heads cut off--especially zombie chickens. As I quickly bread the chicken, I accidentally prick my skin on a chicken breast rib, contract the chicken zombie virus and begin rampaging the town of Roseau. The government sends in snipers to destroy all the strutting, clucking undead. But it's to late, soon all Roseau is running around, pecking at each other in a zombie stupor!

These are the mindless places mindless jobs take me. I have had many stressful, think-on-your-feet-or-crash-and-burn jobs, so this can be a pleasant change...for the time being, at least.

I recognize that even having a reliable job in small town Minnesota during a recession is a blessing in itself. Even though I am not in full time ministry right now, God is still providing opportunity to hone my skills, and serve within my own church. And though a pizza place is not the most exciting job in the world, I can't help but think that God has some lessons and opportunities here for me. The job has already challenged my pride (go minnimum wage college grad!), and I am beginning to see that if I put myself out there, God could really use me to touch lives for him through relationships I form. Pray that I take that leap--that I see the opportunities before me and take them. That I really love the people I work with. I want to bring meaning to this period in my life, to show the love of Christ to the people I encounter. I continually find myself imagining friends, family and co-workers on the day of judgement looking straight into my eyes and asking me why I never told them about Christ. That is so much scarier then zombie chickens, and yet, it seems so much easier to push out of my mind.

It shouldn't be.

Friday, November 20, 2009

What the...

My roommate from last year is a photographer. This has made me a professional model. Here is the story.

Taylor: Hey Tyler, let me take your picture.

Tyler: OK, let me do something stupid first.


Tyler: Ha! There we go.

Taylor: Oh...wow...

One year later, I receive this email from Taylor.

"Dear Tyler

An image of you has sold through Getty images. It's the one of you against the pink background with your poorly shaved beard. A company paid close to $600 for it. Best of all that company lists itself as an "Addiction Agency." I laughed and laughed and laughed. And then laughed some more. Thought you might get a kick out of it. I owe you a cigar.


I am the face of addicts everywhere.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


My family is a pet family. We've had animals since I was very young. Fish, birds, cats, dogs, hamsters. Right now we have a cat and dog; so we're not quite the zoo we have been. Most of these pets have been wonderful, and quite smart. Our first dog wasn't.

It was perhaps the cutest stupid animal to ever gnaw a tennis shoe. One time this dog climbed onto our dinning room table...and peed. I have had many years to contemplate what was (or wasn't) going on in the head of this ridiculous animal. The only logical conclusion I can come to is something like "hmmm....this surface is often full of delicious food, I had better claim it as my territory." Dumb mutt.

I realize that my love for animals is conditional. I am so thankful that God's love for me is not. I have spent so much of my life trying to earn the salvation he has already freely given me. I can't earn his love through my works, and though I pee on the proverbial table all the time, God loves this stupid mutt! His love does not change.

A good friend shared some verses from Hebrews 10 with me; how we can confidently walk into the thrown room of God with clear consciences because Christ, our High Preist, goes before us. Awesome. I especially like verse 14,

"...by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy."

We are made perfect, yet are in the process of being made holy. Already but not yet. Already viewed as perfect even as we are slowly being made perfect. Our God is great. Our High Priest is beautiful.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Philosophy of Humor

It is my belief that even the lamest joke/pun will be found humorous to the recipient if the deliverer delights in said joke/pun.

If I am wrong, please don't correct me.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

John's church plant

I met John one summer at camp. It's crazy to think that if either one of us had chosen a different path that Summer, I may have missed out on one of my most treasured friendships. I remember one particular week of camp when the youth revealed to us beyond a shadow of doubt the propensity towards wickedness in all mankind. All have sinned and fall short of God's glorious standard; try sleeping in a cabin of boys for a night and you will be convinced of that truth. They stole and hid our clothes, put toothpaste in each other's shoes, ran our boxer's up the flag pole (and through poison ivy...I won't explain how we found that one out), pushed a counselor's refurbished, collector's car down a narrow wooded path scratching the paint on the way, snuck out at night, and used my car shocks as their own personal trampoline. When we said one thing, they challenged us to our faces; practicing deliberate disobedience without a hint of remorse. Yet, when it came time for games and hanging out, we became their greatest buddies. The strong confidence we entered the week with had diminished to jello. We were exhausted, and as is the case at camp, we didn't have much free time. In fact, our only moment of peace was hitting the showers. One evening, as we stood in adjacent shower stalls, the hot water easing the stress from our aching muscles, we talked about our campers and the way they were treating us--the utter disrespect wearing us down. I don't know how that train got into the men's shower room, I swear there were no tracks, but it plowed us both at the same time. We saw with heaven sent clarity that we were those campers before our God. There, standing naked in our stalls, we revealed our darkest sins to one another; the ways we each were spitting in the face of our Saviour. Two sinful servants standing in the shower room. John was half dressed by the time I stepped out of the shower, wrapped in a towel, tears falling from our cheeks as we realized who we were and what we had done to our Lord. We embraced each other and prayed.

That's when one of our campers walked in.

It is a bad idea to hug in a shower room while wrapped in a towel (or any state of dress for that matter). It wasn't until later that John and I even considered what our moment of embracing prayer must have looked like to a horribly confused (and potentially scarred) camper. Its fun to look back at the awkwardness of that situation, but even more so, it is amazing to look back and see God grabbing the hearts of two friends, convicting them, and preparing them for the plans He has for each of us.

John inspires me like very few do. At the age of 23, he has already helped form a church, having lay pastored and preached there for over 2 years. Though he has never gone to a Christian college, his passion and utter excitement for learning, growing, and seeking our faith supersedes that of just about anyone I know, as does his knowledge. John loves God, and loves people. Period. God will use him, because he is willing to be used by God.

Three or four summers ago, my sister had a bible study that John's wife made the over an hour long trek from their home town to attend every week. This gave John and I a good chance to meet, play at the park with his little boy, and catch up. One week, John told me of his dreams to plant a church some day. I casually mentioned to him how Winnipeg might be a good city to plant a church, and we (somewhat) jokingly began to dream how wonderful it would be to be in ministry together some day.

Two weeks ago John quit his job to focus full time on preparing for a church plant; his current thought being in Winnipeg! John has his church planting assessment with ConvergeUSA (our church conference--formerly called the Baptist General Conference) in January. It is so exciting to see a dream beginning to sprout some legs. I share these stories to invite you to pray for John as he prepares for this next step, and makes his final decisions as to where God is calling him.

John has also invited me to consider joining him in this church plant. At this point I couldn't even tell you the likelihood of such a possibility becoming reality; only that I am seriously and prayerfully considering it. I beg your prayers for discernment and wisdom in this very important decision. I believe that God can, and will give us each a very clear sense of where he is calling us, and where he can best use us. I do not want my excitement for working with a beloved friend in a familiar city to distract me from any other path God may have planned for me. It would be easy to stop looking elsewhere for ministry positions. Please pray that wherever God takes each of us, that we will humbly follow his lead in obedience and that we will love him and love people. Period.