Thursday, July 30, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Arrived safely back in Oregon after 'vacation' in Romania. Easier to adjust to the time difference when going east to west than the other way. Had kinda a baptism by fire, as I had to resume field work right away and the temps are near 100 every day.

Finally going to relax this weekend, as we're heading to the woods and Antioch (third annual) Family Camp. Looking forward to just taking it easy, doing a little trout fishing, reading, lying around. About the most exercise I expect is maybe a bit of volleyball or frisbee golf, but if it's hotter there than usual, I may even pass on those.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ciao, Romania

It's 3 am in Bucharest, and we're headed for the airport. Going to Portland via Frankfurt.

Our team from Antioch has already diverged, with Nate, Jason, and Megan staying behind with Emi and Vio. They'll travel to Budapest, Hungary, then Vienna and Prague before Nate and Jason go to Athens. We'll leave Kesh in Frankfurt, as he'll be flying to Paris to visit his sister for a couple of weeks.

It's been a great trip; we learned a good deal, taught quite a bit, had loads of fun, and made some lasting (even some eternal) relationships. It'll be good to get back to home and family, however.

Ciao, Romania

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Camp Romania-Style

We're winding down our week of putting on a youth evangelistic camp near Lake Surduc in Timis, Romania. There are 140 campers, and our American team is participating alongside the Romanians. Kristin is singing with the worship team, with Kesh and Collin playing bongoes and digital drums and Nate playing some guitar. Collin heads up the sports events, Megan and some of the girls offer crafts, and most of us lead small discussion groups morning and evening. I delivered the messages each evening.

It was, apparently, a rather diverse group of Romanian churches and pastors, and I've come to realize that there was a good deal of skepticism--as to whether camp would even work with the Americanos so involved and about my different (apologetic) approach to the talks.

And then, if I'd have told them beforehand about the theme skit, they'd have certainly said 'no way!' The theme of the camp--The Quest for Truth--was carried to extremes of absurdity by Louisiana Jones (my son Nate) and Georgia Jones (Kesh Phillips) and their enemies Count Vladimir (Alex Hardin) and his apprentice vampire Fido (my son Jasper). Their antics had everyone in stitches, but did serve to set up each of my talks, which tackled (in turn) the existence of truth, what science and reason really tell us about the universe (that only the three monotheistic faiths come close to describing it accurately), how fulfilled prophecy and the reliability of the New Testament separate Christianity from Judaism and Islam, the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and its implications, and, finally, what occurred at the crucifixion (what it means to us and what should be our response).

In the end, it all came together in a powerful, supernatural way, and everyone at camp was deeply affected. I know that our team will remember this week for years to come, and I trust that the Holy Spirit is still moving in the lives of many from both of the cultures that shared this exciting week at camp.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Apologetics Conference

Well, I wore out 3 different interpreters, but I survived 5 lectures and a Q&A session over two days here in Arad. I spoke on postmodernism, the credibility of miracles, worldview thinking, a critique of naturalism, and the problem of evil and suffering. The conference was attended by folks from much of western Romania, and I received some great questions and had some interesting discussions. I ate meals with the attendees rather than with my team from Antioch.

That team, meanwhile, was doing a variety of things... street ministry with gypsy kids, visits to the orphanage sponsored by our host church, and completely tearing down and rebuilding the play structure at the church. Some of them really have a gift with kids.

We'll participate in the church services tomorrow (one in the morning and one in the evening); in each, our whole team will sing one song (with Nate and Jazz on guitar and keyboard) and then Kristin Jones will sing a solo (accompanied by Nate on guitar). I'll preach, and that means two different sermons, as if I haven't had enough trouble keeping ahead of the game so far. When Emi asked me to do these things, it was all in the nearly-hypothetical future; if I had known then what I know now... well, I'd still have probably said yes.

We went to a nearby farm tonight for a barbecue. There we celebrated Jim Kone's birthday, and Nate caught a fish ("Crappe Grindo"?) in one of the ponds. That was all cut short by thundershowers, which caused us to scurry back to the church in a variety of vehicles (some barely road-worthy). The storm continues a couple hours later as I type this.

Sounds like we may have internet access even at the camp next week, so I'll try to keep posting.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

This and That, Romania-Style

Much to report from our trip to Romania, and too full a schedule to find time to report it all... In addition, my schedule separates me from the rest of the team at times, so what I have to share is biased towards my own doings.

Tuesday, I had opportunity to speak to the department heads at the University in Arad. This was conducted entirely in English (that is, without translation), as these professors were all proficient in it (despite this talk being the most technical of all those that I will share on this trip). The topic was a critique of naturalism within science. In it, I made several points...

1) The university system and nearly all universities were established by Christians. The term itself means "from many, one." The diversity refers to the various areas of human endeavor, from poetry and music, to economics and politics, to chemistry and philosophy. And the unifying principle that held all these diverse disciplines together was the lordship of Jesus Christ. On this understanding of the history of the university system, it is a contradiction in terms (an oxymoron) to talk about a 'secular university,' though that is what we now have all around us.

2) The reason the university has come to teach without reference to God or to Jesus is the mistaken belief that modern science has somehow disproved His existence.

3) Like the university system, modern science uniquely arose within a Christian worldview. It was Christian men and women, studying the pages of Scripture, that came to believe that the study of the universe in which we live was a worthwhile endeavor. Thus there is no historical justification for approaching science from a naturalist worldview (which says that the universe is the whole show and that there is no God behind it).

4) That science was uniquely birthed by Christians is because the many assumptions that make science feasible come from a Christian worldview. Though there are some twenty such assumptions that could be discussed (such as that the laws of logic and mathematics really apply to the universe in which we live), a couple of the most important ones are these...
Since the universe is created (as opposed to illusory or eternal), we expect to find design and order in it, as it is a reflection of the rational mind of God.

Since we are created in the image of God, our reasoning and senses are reliable for discerning that order and design.
These and others of the necessary assumptions of science remain either contrary to a naturalist metaphysic or at the least unexplained by naturalism. The naturalist scientist depends upon the order in the universe (reflected in predictable, law-like processes) but cannot account for where that order comes from. Thus, there is no logical justification for--and a whole lot of logical justification against--taking a naturalistic approach to science.

5) If we do not artificially constrain ourselves to strictly natural explanations, then all of the latest scientific discoveries are rightly seen as supporting a theistic--not a naturalistic--understanding of the world in which we live. For example, the discovery that the universe had a beginning a finite time ago provides powerful scientific confirmation of the cosmological argument for God's existence (as well as for the Biblical statements--many of them made 5,000 years ago--that the eternal God created the universe transcendentally). Likewise, the teleological (design) argument for God's existence (and care) has received stunning scientific confirmation from astrophysics (the discoveries that led to the 'anthropic principle,' the recognition that the universe, galaxy, solar system, and earth exhibit incredibly fine tuning that has as its goal intelligent life in this one place in the universe), biochemistry (the discovery of the awesome complexity of living cells and the consequent recognition of the vastness of the gap between non-living chemicals and the simplest life), and genetics (the discovery of the universal genetic code, the information contained therein and the incredible efficiency of it), to name just a few.

To put it another way, although Darwin provided a hypothetical naturalistic explanation for one thing--the diversity of life on earth (an explanation which itself fails the test of evidential support, but that's an entirely different series of posts)--all of the other big things that science ought to be able to explain--the origin of the universe, the order in the universe, the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life on Earth, the origin of the first life, the Cambrian explosion (the 'big bang of biology'), the information in the genetic code, the origin of consciousness) are amenable to explanation within a theistic, but not within a naturalistic, worldview.

6) Thus, it's high time we abandon the naturalistic approach by which science is currently operating and return to the more powerful and objective approach that characterized the first several centuries of scientific progress.

My new friend, Vlad Criznic, who is the Eastern European staff for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, was so impressed by the argument I shared with this faculty that yesterday morning he interviewed me about this topic for his weekly half-hour apologetics-oriented radio program.

The team and I spent most of the day yesterday sight-seeing; we visited Timisoara, a city of 400,000 about 30 miles from here, where the 1989 revolution against communism began. We were guided by Doru Popa, Emi's father and one who was involved in the events of that historic week when the revolution spilled over into Arad. It was thrilling to me to hear the accounts of these events while standing where they took place. It reached a humid 100 degrees there yesterday.

We ended the day with two hours of indoor soccer, our American team playing short games (10 minutes or to two goals) against (alternately) a team of Romanian pastors and leaders (Emi's team) and another team of local fellows. Suffice it to say for this report that we easily held our own, and shattered any local idea that Americans are inferior at the 'world's game.'

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Delivered the sermon Saturday evening at an exciting church plant in Bucharest (pictured below is Adiel Bonescu translating for me). They meet for their regular service on Saturday evening because of the availability and reasonable cost of the place they rent for that. They meet in 4 smaller, regional missional communities on Sunday mornings.

It rained all night Saturday and most all day Sunday. While most of our team took a day trip into the mountains, Nate, Jazz, Kesh, and I relaxed most of the day, I preparing my talk for the science faculty at the university in Arad. From 5 to 7 pm, during a break in the rain, we played 6 v 6 soccer on a small, wet, concrete field. We held our own against the Romanians, were leading by two late, and when they tied it up and the rains returned, the game was called. We spent the evening with our entire and extended host family, part of the time singing while Nate played guitar and Kesh played bongos. Dinner and much of the family time were by candlelight, as the electricity was out.

We leave early today (Monday) for a 10-hour van trip to Arad, where we will remain for the rest of our stay. Tuesday, I will speak to the science faculty at the university there (from 10 to 1); feel free to pray for that event.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


So, we're in Bucharest, each of us living with a host family and enjoying Romanian meals. We're experiencing a late-afternoon summer storm right now, though the weather has been delightful otherwise (quite warm during the day, but cooling each evening).

We have been spending time with the young people who make up a church plant (of less than a year) here in the capitol city, and it has been great to see that they are experiencing some of the same blessings and difficulties as we at Antioch. I have so far shared with the guys about three apologetics issues--postmodernism, the reliability of the gospel accounts, and the problem of evil and suffering. This evening I will preach on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus and the centrality of these events to church history, to human history, and to cosmic history.

Having a great time, wish you were here...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Romania Bound

Tomorrow's the big day! With a team of 17 from Antioch, my boys and I are headed to Romania. It will be a varied experience; we'll hope to serve and love and help and teach and share, but I expect we'll learn a great deal as well.

As for me, I'm scheduled to teach and preach, to be involved in an apologetics conference (that's my main gig after all) and to share the good news at a youth camp. I'll also have an opportunity to speak to the science faculty of a Romanian university. I'd appreciate your prayers throughout.

As for blogging, we'll have to see. I expect to have the time (moreso than of late), but am uncertain of the availability of internet access in the places we'll be staying. By all means, though, keep checking!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Wright on the Spirit

Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense is a relatively recent book by N.T. (Tom) Wright. It's one of the current all-church reads at my home church, Antioch. Billed as a modern Mere Christianity, this book succeeds in offering what C.S. Lewis' classic did--a sensible articulation of basic Christianity free of church-speak and accessible to the man or woman on the street.

I highly recommend it (though I'm not yet finished). For now, though, let me just offer a paragraph on the Holy Spirit...
The Holy Spirit and the task of the church. The two walk together, hand in hand. We can't talk about them apart. Despite what you might think from some excitement in the previous generation about new spiritual experiences, God doesn't give people the Holy Spirit in order to let them enjoy the spiritual equivalent of a day at Disneyland. Of course, if you're downcast and gloomy, the fresh wind of God's Spirit can and often does give you a new perspective on everything, and above all grants a sense of God's presence, love, comfort, and even joy. But the point of the Spirit is to enble those who follow Jesus to take into all the world the news that he is Lord, that he has won the victory over the forces of evil, that a new world has opened up, and that we are to help make it happen.