Monday, July 25, 2005

A Culinary Argument for the Existence of God

Douglas Wilson wrote an article for a soon to be released cookbook entitled Hot Providence. In the article he gives a culinary argument for the existence of God. Here is an excerpt:
Think for a moment what God could have done with food. He could have designed a universe in which some sort of fuel was necessary, but where the (entirely superfluous) function of taste was missing. He could have provided us with abundant sources of nutrition, but which had the ethos of cold, shapeless oatmeal. No taste anywhere. Bleh.

Or He could have given us food that had slight variations or degrees of refinement, like gasoline. We could have had super premium oatmeal, which was more gruel-like, and then premium, like cream of wheat, and then regular, which would be like oatmeal, with the texture and everything. But still, nothing that had taste. No brown sugar.

What kind of God created taste? Not just the function of taste--because He could have done that and only provided one or two tastes--but the riot of tastes, the pandemonium of tastes, the bedlam of tastes that we actually have. Think for a moment what is actually going on out there. We have, just to take a small sampler, watermelon, orange, cinnamon, bacon, walnut, beans, make that 482 different kinds of beans, grapes, salmon, sharp cheese, honey, butter, and nutmeg. If we were to catalog all the tastes in the world, straight out of nature, we are no doubt surpassing tens of thousands of distinct, identifiable tastes. And God looked on the creation and said that it was very good, but He then wanted to expand on this good start. So in the creation mandate, He required that sons of Adam and daughters of Eve learn how to cook. This meant that they were to go out into the world, find all those tastes, and then start playing with them. What goes with what? And when you mix this with that, what happens? What happens if you mix a little more of this, but then set the whole thing on fire? Wait, I know. Let's put it in a pan, melt some butter in the pan, and then put it on the fire. And by this means, the thousands of tastes became millions of tastes. Recognizable and distinct tastes. But what for?

Who was the first guy who figured out coffee beans? If we take these beans, cook them, grind them up, and then run really hot water through them, we get a comfort drink that tastes really nasty for the first six months. But if you persevere in the making and drinking of it, it gets to be really good. So God gave us the great concept of the acquired taste--strong coffee and dark beer and black licorice.

The omnivores among us may consequently be forgiven for thinking that everything is supposed to taste good, because it certainly looks that way initially. It appears that God has set the limits (and I think there are limits) so far out there that some might think there is no point in stopping. But I have grave personal doubts, for example, about Rocky Mountain oysters, soup made out of birds' nests, and any food developed by someone in the grip of an idea having to do with healthy life style choices. That's the kind of thing that gets us grape nuts, shredded wheat, and tofu. But still, the concept appears to be that God wants to enjoy all kinds of things. This is why I think there have to be limits, because if everything tastes great, then what's the point? If everything is special, then nothing is. This is why we should be dubious about certain combinations--tangerines in milk, oreos and mustard, peaches and gravy, whiskey and ice cream. If failure in the kitchen is an impossibility, then genuine success is an impossibility. We need to measure the success of a dish with more questions than whether or not it is burned on the bottom.

So limits are important. Another place we might cross the line is when cooks get so into the idea of presentation that they start serving up what I call "art food." The food looks like it was arranged on the plate by someone who has a graduate degree in doing that kind of thing, but it tastes ghastly. Not because duck brains couldn't taste good, but because the art cook kind of forgot what he was supposed to be doing. Taste first, and presentation to accompany that taste as a faithful servant.

So I return to the question. What kind of God would create a world in which literally millions of very different pleasures can occur in your mouth, and for no apparent functional reason? This is a God who loves pleasure, and is willing to throw those pleasures around His universe with wild abandon. He insisted on creating beings who are capable of enjoying all these sensations, and, because they have eternity in their hearts, they will pursue tinkering around with a foul tasting bean until they figure out how to get chocolate out of it. But in order to be a God like this, one who loves pleasure, He has to be a God who loves. More than that, He has to be a God who is love. But in order to be love, He must be triune. Before the world was created, before anything material came to be, God was every bit as prodigal and wasteful as He is now. What kind of God would do this?

For far too long, discussions about the mystery of the Holy Trinity have been assumed to be the province of theologians with fifty-pound heads. But there are two questions that all of us can ask, and we ought to ask them far more frequently--and in the presence of our food. Those questions are, "Who would do this?" and "What must He be like?" When should we ask these questions? The times will vary, but we ought to remember the questions every time we say grace, because this is why we are saying grace. When do we recall the questions? Whenever we eat a cookie, and then down a tall glass of cold milk. When the hot gravy goes on the cheese potatoes. When we are sitting on the lawn on a summer evening, spitting watermelon seeds. When the butter melts on the corn on the cob just right. When we pour lemonade and iced tea together, half and half. When the green beans are cooked together with pistachio nuts. Honey butter. Home made fudge sauce on store bought ice cream.

Who would do this? What must He be like?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

What do you believe?

Have you taken the time recently to stop and think about what you believe if you are a Christian? B.B. Warfield describes it like this:
A dozen ignorant peasants proclaiming a crucified Jew as the founder of a new faith; bearing as the symbol of their worship an instrument which was the sign of ignominy, slavery and crime; preaching what must have seemed an absurd doctrine of humility, patient suffering and love to enemies- graces undreamed of before; demanding what must have seemed an absurd worship for one who had died like a malefactor and a slave, and making what must have seemed an absurd promise of everlasting life through one who had himself died, and that between two thieves.

B.B Warfield, The Divine Origin of the Bible

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Cinderella Man and fatherhood

Dr. Russell Moore is the Dean of the School of Theology here at Southern Seminary. In his blog, he shares his thoughts on the movie Cinderella Man and the odd, yet Biblical, worldview of fatherhood being portrayed in that movie. A quote:
This, along with a scene in which Crowe's character gives his helping of meat to his hungry daughter right before he is to go to a fight, struck me as deeply meaningful. They also indicate precisely why the film is so, well, odd to most moviegoers. It is patriarchal in the most biblical sense of the word.

In this film, there is no wise-cracking nine year-old boy with a heart of gold to correct the bumbling parents. There is no cherubic four year-old girl who alone knows that the real meaning of life is within. Instead, there is a dad who understands that it is up to him to provide for his wife and his children. And there is a wife and children who love him for it.

It seems to me that if our culture could understand something of the world behind "Cinderella Man," we might be able to grasp better the meaning of the gospel. After all, Jesus compares life in Christ to a father who would never give his son a stone when he asks for bread (Matt 7:9). This is especially significant since Jesus himself refused to turn stones into bread, opting instead to trust in the provision of a Father who promises to feed all his sons with the Bread that comes down from heaven (Matt 4:4). Only by taking on the Evil One and offering up his life under the curse of the law is the Righteous One able to usher us into the presence of a messianic banquet.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The beginning of certain knowledge

One of the gifts that God has given us is our ability to grow and mature in knowledge. Yet, this gift has been given for one purpose: to drive us in humility back to the Giver and His Word. In fact, growing in knowledge will always result in humility because it will always reveal how much more there is to know. It is only those who are ignorant of reality that will puff up in what little knowledge they have. Here Grudem makes the point of how totally dependent we are on Scripture for any certain knowledge about anything in life.
In fact, in one sense it can be argued that the Bible is necessary for certain knowledge about anything. A philosopher might argue as follows: The fact that we do not know everything requires us to be uncertain about everything we do claim to know. This is because some fact unknown to us may yet to turn out to prove that what we thought to be true was actually false. For example, we think we know our date of birth, our name, our age, and so forth. But we must admit that it is possible that some day we could find that our parents had given us false information and our "certain" knowledge would then turn out to be incorrect. Regarding events that we personally have experienced, we all realize how it is possible for us to "remember" words or events incorrectly and find ourselves later corrected by more accurate information. We can usually be more certain about the events of our present experience, so long as it remains present (but even that, someone might argue, could be a dream, and we will only discover this fact when we wake up!). At any rate, it is difficult to answer the philosopher's question: If we do not know all the facts in the universe, past present, and future, how can we ever attain certainty that we have correct information about any one fact?

Ultimately, there are only two possible solutions to this problem: (1) We must learn all the facts of the universe in order to be sure that no subsequently discovered fact will prove our present ideas to be false; or (2) someone who does know all the facts of the universe, and who never lies, could tell us some true facts that we can then be sure will never be contradicted.

This second solution is in fact what we have when we have God's words in Scripture. God knows all facts that ever have been or ever will be. And this God who is omniscient (all-knowing) has absolutely certain knowledge: there can never be any fact that he does not already know; thus, there can never be any fact that would prove that something God thinks is actually false. Now it is from this infinite storehouse of certain knowledge that God, who never lies, has spoken to us in Scripture, in which he has told us many true things about himself, about ourselves, and about the universe that he has made.

Systematic Theology Wayne Grudem pg. 119-120
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge... Proverbs 1:7


I have to give credit where credit is due. The name of this blog comes from a song by Derek Webb entitled Thankful. Fittingly, it is a song about our total depravity in sin and utter dependence on grace for our salvation. As Christians, we of all people have the most to be thankful for!
You know I ran across
An old box of letters
When I was bagging up some clothes for goodwill

But you know I had to laugh
At the same old struggles
That plagued me then are plaguing me still

'Cause I know the road is long

From the ground to glory
But a boy can hope he's getting some place

But you see I'm running from
The very clothes I'm wearing
And dressed like this I'm fit for the chase

You know there is none righteous
Not one who understands
There is none who seeks God no not one
No not one
So I am thankful that I'm incapable of doing any good on my own
Said I'm so thankful that I'm incapable of doing any good on my own
'Cause we're all still-born
Dead in our transgressions
Shackled up to the sin we hold so dear

What part can I play
In the work of redemption
'Cause I can't refuse and I cannot add a thing

'Cause I am just like Lazarus
And I can hear your voice
And I stand and rub my eyes and walk to you
Because I have no choice
'Cause it's by grace I have been saved
And through faith it's not my own
It is a gift of God and not by works
Lest anyone should boast

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The real reason for reading

John Piper gives a compelling reason for rigorous training of the mind. A quote:
The issue of earning a living is not nearly so important as whether the next generation has direct access to the meaning of the Word of God. We need an education that puts the highest premium under God on knowing the meaning of God’s Book, and growing in the abilities that will unlock its riches for a lifetime. It would be better to starve for lack of food than to fail to grasp the meaning of the book of Romans.
I think this is one of the reasons why he lists How to Read a Book as one of the books that has influenced him the most.

Monday, July 04, 2005

A start

15+ years on this long road from ground to glory and I find myself not very far along in my journey of sanctification. But to progress in this journey is not like other journeys. The way you grow in holiness is not by directly pursuing holiness through discipline, asceticism, and exertion. If this was the case, then those with the strongest willpower and character would be able to boast in their might. Rather, the way to progress in this journey is by resting on grace. In God's perfect design, those who are most weak and most broken are those who must rely the most on grace. And those who will continually depend on grace alone are those who will progress and grow far greater in holiness above those who rely on their own strength. Therefore, our first focus should not be on the strength of fleshly virtues, but rather on our helplessness and need of grace. I have learned that the only way to make progress in this journey is not by pursuing holiness directly out of my own power, but by 1) continually seeing my need of grace, 2) trusting in God's promises of grace, 3) being transformed by the Spirit through that grace and 4) living a renewed life out of that grace. This is the way we must travel on this road. We run the race by resting. We walk the road by waiting. We progress through prayer. We must go through God if we are to be sanctified, so that He may get that glory and we may get the help. It has taken me 15+ years to learn this... I hope I have 15+ more to live it out.