Category Archives: Apologetics

Should a Christian Have a Dream Catcher in Their Car?

 

A number of years ago, my parents took a cruise ship to Alaska. On that trip, my mother found an attractive dream catcher, and she gave it to me as a birthday gift. I hung it up in my car, around the rear view window mirror, just as a way to remember her, and her thoughtful gift to me.

So, I was really caught off-guard a few years later, when a Christian friend of mine was offended that I had that dream catcher hanging in my car. Some Native American cultures historically revere dream catchers as religious symbols, intended to protect children from bad dreams and evil spirits. But the larger Pan-Indian movement in the 20th century, in an effort to raise awareness of Native American cultures among the majority population, adopted the dream catcher as a cultural symbol. Not all Native Americans share the exact same spiritual beliefs as the Ojibwe tribe, from where the dream catcher most probably originated years ago. My mother looked at it as a memorabilia keepsake, something she wanted to give to her son.

Christian apologist John Oakes, at the apologetics blog Evidence for Christianity, that I highly respect, has an article explaining why he personally would not have a dream catcher in his car. We both agree that having a dream catcher is a gray area, in the “disputable matter” category, as found in Romans 14.  Oakes does not think a dream catcher is sinful, but he personally would not have a dream catcher, as it might offend someone else, just as eating food sacrificed to idols might personally offend another Christian, in the first century church.

I support most of what Oakes is saying, but I take a different personal position. It is important to remember the context for Romans 14. There were Christians in the first century, who came out of pagan backgrounds, where eating food sacrificed to idols was readily practiced. Such practices would offend the conscience of those believers from those backgrounds, so this is why the Apostle Paul urged other believers, from different backgrounds, to carefully avoid insulting the conscience of the more sensitive believers, by avoiding such practices.

In the case of my Christian friend who objected to my mom’s dream catcher, this friend had no Native American background. Much less did this friend have any association with the Ojibwe tribe. Neither was this true of my mom, nor myself. Therefore, it was not anyone’s conscience that was being “offended,” but rather it was the rumored idea my friend had in their mind, of a dark power, that possibly someone, somewhere might be troubled by the presence of a dream catcher.

Though I appreciate my friend’s concern, that followers of Christ should reject idols, my response is this:

Good grief.

The effort that we could expend in trying to remove all  things in our lives that might possibly offend someone, somewhere in the world, is a fool’s errand. To apply Romans 14 in this manner, takes the text out of its appropriate, New Testament context. It would be a form a perverse legalism to constantly police our lives, searching for those practices or artifacts that might trouble someone, somewhere. The meaning of symbols constantly changes across various cultures today, being appropriated and re-appropriated with different meanings, quite frequently.

For example, the radical Islamic State (ISIS) has destroyed countless precious cultural artifacts of ancient Syrian culture, all in the name of stamping out idolatry. Technically, those Muslims were right in declaring various statues as polytheistic idols, from a past era. But would someone be tempted to worship these idols today? Possibly, but this is highly, highly unlikely. Most moderns view these artifacts as testimonies to history, and we therefore grieve their loss. As such destructive ideological extremism spreads, the preservation of valuable cultural heritages becomes more important than ever.

Just think about the evolution of the swastika, discovered by archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, and more recently, the Confederate flag. At one time, these were symbols with positive meanings, but not anymore.

A popular, American Coca-Cola pendant, before the Nazi’s adopted the swastika as their symbol, and ruined it for everyone.

As Christians, we regularly use terms like “Sunday,” “Monday,” “Tuesday,” “Wednesday,” etc., to describe the days of the week. The Quakers of the 17th and 18th centuries refused to use that terminology for weekdays, as those names correspond to pagan gods, which were worshipped hundreds of years ago, during the pre-Christian era of Europe (the same logic applied to the first eight months of the Roman calendar). So those early Quakers would use terms like “first day,” “second day,” “third day,” etc., all very biblical terminology, to faithfully describe the days of the week. But to my knowledge, there are no people today, nor in the 17th century, who come or came from such pagan backgrounds, who might have or had such sensitive consciences. I do not see Christians today clamoring for altering the names of weekdays, who wish to rid our minds of such supposedly pagan mindsets, who might be tempted to worship the sun (Sunday), or the moon (Monday), or Thor, the god of war (Thursday).

Now, suppose I actually know someone, who would ride in my car, who really came from a background, where a dream catcher did possess some religious or spiritual meaning. They might see my dream catcher as an implicit endorsement, tempting them towards a spiritually harmful practice.

This would be an area where Romans 14, with respect to “disputable matters,” would be applicable. I would hope that in this case, I would discreetly take down my dream catcher, and slip it into my glovebox. I would not want something I have to become a stumbling block in their journey towards Christ.

But until then, I like having that dream catcher visible, as a way of remembering how much my mother cared for me. If there are any other Christians, who continue to object, I would say this: They probably have too much time on their hands, and they would be better off putting their efforts to rid our lives of “idols” to better use.


Is It A Stretch?….The Big Bang and the Bible

Veracity blogger-in-chief, John Paine, has done it again with another Veracity “Vlog,” otherwise known as a “video blog.”

Now, I know that a number of my Young Earth Creationist friends are not too crazy about the “Big Bang Theory,” as they argue that the Big Bang can not be found in the Bible…. and I am not talking about the TV show, but rather the cosmological theory….

But try this one on for size:

Bless the Lord, O my soul!
    O Lord my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
     covering yourself with light as with a garment,
    stretching out the heavens like a tent(Psalm 104:1-2 ESV)

The continuous expansion of the universe, that results from the cosmological Big Bang, ties in very well with the psalmist’s metaphor, of God “stretching out the heavens like a tent.”

Okay. I am not necessarily saying that a psalm writer was consciously thinking about the modern physics of cosmic radiation, underneath his Middle Eastern tent, over twenty-five hundred years ago.

That would be a “stretch!”

Yet we are dealing with not just a human author, but a supernatural author, as well. It seems to be more than mere coincidence that God’s Word just happens to have a metaphor, that perfectly matches the description that astronomer Edwin Hubble first discovered in 1929. As John Paine demonstrates, the history of the universe from science is a good argument to help people who do not accept the Bible, to consider the possibility of believing in the God of the Bible.

True, having conversations with your neighbors about the Big Bang, rarely by itself will  lead them to profess faith in Jesus. But it can create a pathway to share the Gospel. Otherwise, to refrain from appealing to general revelation in our conversations, is like trying “to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.”

Think about it.

Perhaps the connection between the Bible and the Big Bang is not such a “stretch” after all.

 

If you are still a bit confused, Christian astrophysicist Hugh Ross at Reasons to Believe gives us some background on the Big Bang Theory (two videos, about 90-seconds each).  If you want to know more about how we at Veracity approach the debate over creation, just find the search field on the Veracity blog, type in “creation” or “creationism,” and click GO!….. (SLIGHTLY OFF-TOPIC: John Paine filmed the promotion video for Faith Bible College. Check that out, too!)


Whistling Past the Graveyard

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The Case for Christ: Easter for Believers and Skeptics

Leslie and Lee Strobel, 1972, back when they dismissed the Resurrection as a fraudulent delusion.

“He is Risen!” Historical event or fraudulent delusion?

If you are the type of person who has had questions about the veracity of the Christian faith, then go see this movie. Better yet, take an open skeptic with you.

The Case for Christ is based on the true story of an atheistic journalist, whose life is turned upside down when his wife becomes a follower of Jesus. Lee Strobel, an accomplished reporter for the Chicago Tribune, a “just the facts, ma’am,” type of guy, is desperately afraid of losing his marriage and family, so he begins a long journey to try to disprove Christianity in order to “save” his wife from the error of her ways.

The Case for Christ is a major, major step up from movies like God’s Not Dead, that ambitiously relies on the composite characterizing of atheists, unnecessarily fueling the fires of culture war rhetoric. Furthermore, unlike other recent film offerings, The Case for Christ does not get distracted by the logic of false dichotomies either. Instead, The Case for Christ, focuses on two themes: (1) making the case for the Resurrection of Jesus, based on the minimal facts argument, built on the consensus of evidence found in secular, historical scholarship, and (2) exploring how human prejudices interplay with the tension between faith and reason.

The Case for Christ is not for everyone, and I can think of two, very different types of people who fit within this category. First, if you are a skeptic, and you are completely opposed to considering the evidence for the Resurrection, The Case for Christ will absolutely frustrate you. But you probably will not like any other Christian-themed movies either.

Secondly, The Case for Christ will underwhelm the Christian who feels like they already have all of the answers, and who never wrestles with doubts. The film simply leaves open the question of why the different Gospel accounts are not 100% agreed upon the discrete events surrounding the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus. Many a Christian evidentialist would reason that the existence of discrepancies between the Gospels enhances their historical credibility, instead of taking away from it, an argument that makes good sense to historians, but that will unsettle the most strict, biblical inerrantist. The evidence from textual criticism, that upholds the reliability of first century New Testament documents, will annoy the Christian who merely believes that the English Bible in their hand simply dropped straight down right out of heaven. But for believers and non-believers who are willing to ask penetrating questions, The Case for Christ is right for them.

The Case for Christ is not perfect, by any means. For example, as this Forbes magazine reviewer observes, the discussion about the Shroud of Turin was not very convincing. Plus, there is only so much you can do in a two-hour movie, as this review at The Gospel Coalition points out (check out these “The Case for Easter” resources). Because of the limitations of the medium, the events surrounding Lee Strobel’s journey towards faith and overcoming skepticism have been tightly compressed in the film, and this might confuse some. Strobel’s interviews with experts happened after his conversion to Christian faith, and not before, as depicted in the movie.

But overall, The Case for Christ does a very good job with making an apologetic argument for the Christian faith, based on evidences, within the context of a believable narrative, without getting too bogged down with the details. Get the book that the movie is based on, if you want to go to that level. If I had to recommend one movie that you can take a non-believing friend to see, without embarrassment, The Case for Christ would be it.


Ivor Noël Hume, and the Evidence for Faith

Ivor Noel Hume, in the filming of "Search for a Century," a 1970s Colonial Williamsburg production.

Ivor Noël Hume, actor turned famous archaeologist, in the filming of “Search for a Century,” a 1970s Colonial Williamsburg production.

Ivor Noël Hume, a pioneering archaeologist of colonial America, died on February 4, 2017. As the New York Times tells it in their remembrance, Hume was an “accidental, self-taught English-born archaeologist who unearthed the earliest traces of British colonial America.” He was the director of archaeology at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation from the mid to near late 20th century, excavating 18th century Williamsburg, as well as 17th century settlements in the area, notably, Wolstenholme Towne, at the Carters Grove estate. Most locals now know of the place as part of Martin’s Hundred, in the neighborhood of the Kingsmill community subdivision.

I only met Mr. Hume a few times growing up as a kid, but my late father, George Alan Morledge, worked with him at Colonial Williamsburg. My dad, an historical architect, had been hired by Colonial Williamsburg vice president, Ed Kendrew, to assist in the team effort with the archaeologist Hume. From digging below ground to restoring 18th century structures above, these historians across various disciplines enjoyed the pursuit of evidence that helped to reconstruct Williamsburg, and other local, historical sites, to paint a portrait of what life really looked like in the early years of colonial Virginia.

Many consider Hume to be the “father of historical archaeology.” As I remember him, mostly through my dad, Ivor Noël Hume was quite a character.
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