Tuesday, April 25, 2017

CAN WE PROFITABLY LIVE TOGETHER WITH ONLY HUMANLY CREATED VALUES?





Moral relativists claim that there is no need for God-given values and beliefs, and that we are capable of forming own values and consensus, even if they are just evolving values:

·       “Human imagination and consensus do in fact yield norms that affect behaviour. For those norms to work, it is not necessary for actual, literal lines independent of our heads to exist as a feature of the landscape. If one insists that human imagination and consensus are not enough, one is rationally obligated to show why they are not.”

I responded:

“Admittedly, humanly created values can yield a temporary consensus. However, this consensus will only be maintained as long as our cost/benefit analyses coincide, as long as both parties feel that they are benefitting from the consensus.

In contrast, the Christian is committed to honoring, respecting, and seeking the welfare of the other, not simply because they are deriving some direct benefit or immediate emotional payoff but ALSO because they believe in the correctness of what they are doing.

We are now living in a perilous age in which the consensus is quickly dissolving. The various parties do not see any overriding advantage in civility, love, and a commitment to transcendent values. Instead, each interest group wants their own distinctive benefits and will destroy the other parties in order to get them.

How do we resist the fears and temporal desires that have taken us captive? Only by valuing the Transcendent above our immediate safety and comforts!”


Sunday, April 23, 2017

CONFRONTATIONAL EVANGELISM





Some years ago, I asked a missionary, “What is the most important principle you’ve learned for talking to non-Christians?” He explained a simple truth that I haven’t forgotten:

·       I first come to them, and then I slowly draw them to me (Christ).

He learned that he had to first enter into their world, their thinking, before he could draw them to his thinking. I was impressed but also convicted. How unlike me! I confront; I go right for the jugular. I first attack the place of disagreement and conflict, and then I am surprised to find that I have sown only disagreement and conflict.

Yes, I knew Paul’s teachings on this subject:

·       For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. (1 Corinthians 9:19-22)

However, for some reason, these teachings didn’t take root in my approach to evangelism. To my shame, perhaps I’d been too addicted to a competitive spirit. However, for whatever reason(s), I now see that I was failing to love the non-believer as I should, putting his needs first.

Instead of listening, acknowledging, and taking time to ask questions in order to understand him better – and this is what love requires - I was on the offensive, like a coiled snake looking for the right opening to attack. Instead of taking time to listen, I was already thinking about what I’d say next. However, Scripture warns us:

·       Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)

Our first duty is to hear and only secondly to speak. This is what love requires. Even though I knew enough to not get angry, the unbeliever was in my crosshairs, whether he knew it or not, and I was poised to bring down his argumentation.

I now intend to keep the unbeliever in my crosshairs, but not to beat him but to show him the love of Christ. This is my intention. I might fail dismally at this. It is so against my nature. However, honoring my Lord is the most important thing, more important than my natural inclinations.

This doesn’t mean that I am rejecting confrontational evangelism. There is definitely a place for this. However, where I can, I want to lead with the mercy and indulgence that my Savior has extended to me. Let us all pray accordingly.


Friday, April 21, 2017

STOICISM AND ITS GLARING VACUUM





I admire the principles of Stoicism. They are remarkably like our Christian values. However, it becomes quite apparent that something is obviously missing. For example, a leading Stoic philosopher wrote:

·       “I don’t see the point of dreading a state of non-existence, especially considering that there is absolutely nothing I can do to avoid it [death].”

I responded:

“True, but perhaps irrelevant, in view of our humanness! We might know that it is not helpful or even reasonable to dread losing our job or rejection. However, such fears and insecurities seem to be hot-wired into our nature.

Consequently, I think that we need something more than our own logic, something else that has been hot-wired into us – the knowledge that we are being cared for from Above.”

CAN WE CONSISTENTLY LIVE THE COMPASSIONATE LIFE WITHOUT JESUS?





An atheist argued that a belief in God is unnecessary and irrelevant to living a moral life:

·       “If you think the positive outcome is a place of great love, then select actions that will increase love in the physical world, and you will find they tend to be what you would already define as morally good. I think we all share a similar understanding of positive/negative sensations and thus can come up with a set of generally acceptable… set of rules to operate under.”

Actually, I agree with you. We are wired in a way that equips all of us to know moral truths, and when we show compassion, we all (ideally) experience a satisfaction, a sense that validates the supremacy of love.

I even agree with you that we do not have to have a belief in God in order to experience the surpassing reality of love. As humans, we all share this (because we are created in the moral and cognitive likeness to God).

However, living a life of compassion is not easy. This is why we do not observe it as often as we would like. Why not? Because compassion can often prove inconvenient and even costly! It requires patience and sacrifice, if we are to live compassionately.

Besides, many of our neighbors represent a threat to us in one way or another. They might have competing views or they might even want to hurt us. How are we to love and forgive them? I think that this is only possible if we are convinced of the surpassing truth and requirement of showing compassion to others.

In this regard, our Savior instructs us to forgive others as we have been forgiven. This requires us to put his truths above our feelings and even our immediate well-being. Instead, if we live by our feelings and baser instincts, we tend to seek revenge or even a preemptive strike.

Then how do we live according to compassion? We have to know that when hurt and threatened and even when we face the prospect of death, we are supremely protected and loved. Therefore, loving others doesn’t require that they reciprocate by loving us back. Why not? Because we know that we are loved from Above.




THE CHRISTIAN IN-CROWD?



A skeptic had challenged that Christians are divisive:

·       The evangelical narrative is concerned with separating Insiders from Outsiders, Us from Them.

Firstly, I have to acknowledge the truth of this critique. We do (and the Bible does) make such distinctions. However, I think that it is necessary to point out that we all make such distinctions, however much we might want to affirm the oneness of all humanity. Let me just list a few examples:

·       “Receptive Skepticism” (a Facebook group) even refers to itself as “receptive skeptics,” as opposed to others who are not. However, I think that this is fine. You even have a secret in-group for the real RSers. That’s fine too.

·       We distinguish democrats from republicans, males from females (although this distinction has now become politically unacceptable); senior citizens from non-seniors; adults from youth; educated from non-educated…

·       You have even distinguished Evangelicals from non-Evangelicals.

However, these types of distinctions are not only unavoidable but even helpful, but here’s the potential problem – that we might regard our group as superior and more worthy than others, and, subsequently, look down on and degrade others.

This is something that we must not do. In contrast, we Christians are commanded to love all others, even those who wish to take our lives. We also have been taught that we have no basis to look down on others. If anything, the Bible teaches us that God scraped the bottom of the barrel to get us (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). (And this is certainly true of me!)

This is why we seek to be peace-makers, even with those who have wrongly maligned us.