Friday, February 15, 2019

WISDOM – ITS OFFENSE AND COST




Wisdom is a matter of seeing reality as it is and acting accordingly. The benefits of wisdom (having accurate feedback) should be apparent. If we don’t have accurate sensory feedback, we will crash. When we don’t have a proper understanding of anything we manage we will also crash, whether it’s a matter of brushing our teeth, eating healthful food, or even washing our cloths. Whatever we are to manage successfully, we first have to understand.

This requires some degree of self-examination. When it became apparent to me that I couldn’t read the blackboard, my parents took me to get glasses, and this resolved the problem. I found that reading better enabled me to perform better.

This also pertains to relationships. I had been noticing that something was amiss. Others were not responding to me in a positive way. With a little self-examination, I began to notice that I had a pattern of challenging and antagonizing friends and acquaintances. After I modified my behaviors, I began to see improvements. However, this required a deeper level of self-examination than merely taking stock of my blurred vision. Instead, I had to confront the fact that I had been at fault.

The benefits of wisdom are undeniable. Therefore, the Bible teaches a lot about the road to wisdom and self-examination:

·       A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain, but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding…The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving…The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps. (Proverbs 14:6, 8, 15)

Why does the “scoffer seek wisdom in vain?” The answer seems to reside in the fact that the scoffer is not self-examining, but why not, especially if wisdom is needful?

The commitment to wisdom costs everything and has to head our wish-list:

·       …if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will…find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity. (Proverbs 2:3-7)

Wisdom and truth have to take precedence of all else. (Valuing wisdom and truth is inseparable from valuing God.) However, they seldom do. I needed a set of glasses to perform well as a student. We too require a set of glasses to perform well spiritually and interpersonally. However, to see with a new set of glasses is to see that we have been wrong in many ways. Instead, we prefer to believe that we are right and others are wrong:

·       Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart. (Proverbs 21:2)

We would rather be right in our own eyes than to think accurately. Why? It’s just too painful to see ourselves as we truly are. Instead, we bathe ourselves in positive affirmations and the approval of others, even at the cost of truth and wisdom. We would rather be arrogant than accurate, feel good than to think good.

Besides, when we refuse to see ourselves accurately, our skewed vision prevents us from seeing others and life itself accurately. Jesus had explained that this refusal condemns us:

·       “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” (John 3:19-20)

I had been a lover of the darkness. I fed on the lies of positive affirmations. However, each of these left me more alienated from myself and from others. I was looking them to feed my inflated ego, but there were no takers, just silence from a distant side of an impassible chasm. I thank my Savior for painfully dragging me into the light.

DID CHRIST DIE FOR ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE?




Did Christ die only for the elect, only for those who will eventually be saved? I don’t think this view is Scripturally sustainable in view of the many verses that explicitly claim that he had died for all. Even the Hebrew Scriptures attest to the fact that He died for absolutely everyone:

·       We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

Notice that the same “all” who had rejected God – and that is absolutely everyone – are the same “all” that He had died for, absolutely everyone.

In his second evangelistic sermon, Peter preached that Jesus had been raised to turn everyone away from their sins:

·       When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways." (Acts 3:26)

Paul wrote that:

·       supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:1-6)

How could God desire for all to be saved without also making provision for them at the Cross? This passage requires us to take “ransom for all” as absolutely all. Why? Paul instructed us to pray for all. There is absolutely no reason to think that he was only requiring us to pray for the elect, simply because we do not know who they are. Besides, we are to pray for absolutely all because God desires that all be saved. If He desires that all be saved, He must have died for all.

Later, Paul made a revealing distinction, which points to the fact that Jesus must have died for all:

·       …for this we labor and strive, that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. (1 Tim. 4:10)

Even though God “is the Savior of all men,” this applies especially to believers, who are saved by faith in Jesus. By this, Paul had acknowledged that He died even for those who will not believe.

John had made the same distinction to indicate that Jesus died not only for the elect (believers) but for everyone, the sins of the entire world:

·       He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)

This proves that salvation is available to everyone, “whoever believes”:

·       "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Implications:

This means that no one has to worry that their sins are not covered by the Cross. This serves as an encouragement to all who might want to come to Christ but doubt that the door is open to them.

This also portrays a God who truly loves His creation and who wants to reconcile everything to Himself:

·       The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. (Psalm 145:8-9)

We are the problem and not God. This doctrine identifies us as the fault and not a God who only offers hope to the limited number of people He will actually save.


Chapter 11: THE COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD


 

I think that formal logical presentations of an argument offer clarity and appeal. The next chapters are presented in the form of a syllogism – two premises and a conclusion. If the two premises are shown to be likely, then the conclusion is logically unavoidable.

For a common example of a syllogism:

PREMISE #1: All bachelors are unmarried.
PREMISE #2: John is unmarried.

Conclusion: John is a bachelor

It is easy to see that if we prove that John is unmarried, it automatically means that he is a bachelor.

Similarly, the Cosmological proof argues that any first Cause had to always exist (eternality) or it too would have required a cause, and only God can fulfill this necessary requirement. Here’s what it looks like

PREMISE #1:  All things that have come into existence are caused to exist.
PREMISE #2:   If there is no eternal uncaused Causer, then nothing else can exist.

Conclusion: Therefore, there must be an eternal uncaused Causer - God.


PREMISE #1 All things that have come into existence are caused to exist:

To deny this is absurd. To illustrate, if I tell you that my cup of coffee just appeared without any cause, you would think me crazy. This is because we never see uncaused things materialize out of nothing.

We reasonably assume that there are causes for any phenomena. That’s why we do science – to discover the causal relationships between what is caused and its causal agents. Therefore, to deny that phenomena require causes is to reject the basic assumption of science – that everything has a reason or a cause.


PREMISE #2 If there is no eternal uncaused Causer, then nothing can exist:

It follows that something or Someone must be uncaused and therefore eternal, in order to explain the existence of everything else. If this ultimate Causer is eternal, there is no need to explain its cause, because it always was.

We cannot conclude that the universe caused itself, because it would first have to exist to cause anything. Nor can we conclude that there was an apparatus that causes universes. Why not? Because, then we would have to ask, “What caused the apparatus.” If we then claim that there is a mechanism that causes this apparatus, then we would again have to ask, “What caused the mechanism?”

This is the problem of an “infinite regress” of causes or explanations. It means that ultimately, there is no cause at the end of the line where the buck stops. It would also suggest that an infinite chain of past causes and effects was nevertheless completed before the world began. This is why it appears that no causal explanation of the universe is ever adequate without an uncaused and eternal Causer.

The eternal can’t be a something – the universe or any part of it. Matter and space cannot exist apart from time, and time could not have been eternal. The concept of eternity requires an infinite number of years to have already passed to arrive in the present – a logical impossibility. Why? Because only a finite number of years could possibility have been accomplished (or counted) to bring us into this moment! It’s impossible for an infinite number of years to have already passed. Infinity knows no limits. If an infinite number of years had already passed, then it wasn’t infinite.

Therefore, the eternal Cause must be Transcendent. He must transcend time and space and exist apart from this time-bound universe.

Big Bang cosmology also maintains that the universe – time, space, and matter – had a beginning in time. According to Stephen Hawking:

·       “Almost everyone now believes that the universe and time itself had a beginning in the Big Bang!”

This has proved to be a bitter pill for most cosmologists. If the universe had a beginning, then, according to Hawking, it opens the door to a disturbing question, “Who caused it?” As Hawking freely admitted about the now defunct steady-state theory of the universe:

·       The motivation for believing in an eternal universe was the desire to avoid invoking divine intervention to create the universe and set it going. http://www.hawking.org.uk/the-origin-of-the-universe.html

The law of entropy also argues against an eternal universe, since by now, after an infinite amount of time had passed, everything in the universe would have dissipated. Also, if the universe has been expanding infinitely, space and matter should also be infinite. However, modern science denies that any of these are infinite.


CONCLUSION: This leaves us face-to-face with an intelligent and eternal Being who transcends time, space, and materiality, a Being who has the causal power to produce everything else.


Challenges:

Many atheists when confronted with these facts hoist agnosticism as a flag of convenience. They argue that we know so little about cosmology that we should not embrace any conclusion.

While they are correct about knowing so little, I think that the little we know points to God.

The skeptic will also raise the God-of-the-Gaps argument: “Because we don’t know, you assume that God did it.”

This however misrepresents theistic proofs. Here’s how:

1.    We can just as easily charge the skeptic with Naturalism-of-the-Gaps – Because we don’t know, natural unintelligent forces must have done it.

2.    There does not exist one shred of evidence that causal agents operate naturally and without intelligence or purpose. Besides, the objects acted upon also seem to be wonders of design, even the tiniest atom.

3.    The theistic proofs do not conclude, “We don’t know, so God must have done it.” Instead, these proofs compare ID (supernaturalism) with naturalism and demonstrate that ID is the most reasonable conclusion.

Others charge that theistic proofs only make God seem probable and, therefore, are unable to serve as a basis for our faith and relationship with God.

Actually, I agree. Consequently, I do not invoke theistic proofs as a basis for faith but as a defense of faith, a means to challenge skeptical assaults against the faith. Besides, since I have a highly doubting disposition, I sometimes think through these proofs to silence my own doubts, and they do. They reassure me that I am following the path of truth.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

FAITH AND POLITICS: A LETTER TO A SKEPTIC





I appreciate your willingness to dialogue with a person of faith. However, there are numerous points that you have made that are worthy of addressing:

“In my opinion, faith is, and should be, a deeply personal thing for each individual.”

My belief in Jesus is deeply personal. However, it is also a faith and commitment that permeates all areas of life, even the political arena. However, it seems that you pit logic and reason against the Christian faith and therefore think it taboo to anything outside of ourselves.

However, this Jew didn’t become a Christian merely because of a series of pleasant feelings. Instead, I became convinced about Jesus, based largely upon logic and reason.

I find it amusing that skeptics think that it is inappropriate for us to bring our faith into the public arena, while the “faith” of others is totally acceptable. Yes, their agenda is not based solely on logic and reason. Instead, logic and reason are servants of our values and proclivities (religion). Values cannot be determined in a laboratory or test-tube or by science or mathematics. Nevertheless, these undergird all of our “reasoning.”

Interestingly, when Christians fail to bring our faith into the public, instead arguing that faith and politics must be kept separate, we are also castigated for this. As a result, atheists often criticize the Church for not taking an active stand against segregation and Hitler (National Socialism), and they are correct.

Consequently, we have just as much a right and even a duty to a seat in public discourse as anyone else.