Tuesday, December 6, 2016

FROM WHERE DO WE OBTAIN AN ACCURATE ROADMAP FOR LIFE?





Why do some people seek out God? They understand that the secular, materialistic worldview cannot account for their experiences and perceptions; it cannot explain the facts of our lives. Nor can it provide an accurate roadmap for life. In “Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical,” Timothy Keller wrote:

·       One of the world’s most prominent philosophers, Jürgen Habermas, was for decades a defender of the Enlightenment view that only secular reason should be used in the public square. Habermas has recently startled the philosophical establishment, however, with a changed and more positive attitude toward religious faith. He now believes that secular reason alone cannot account for what he calls “the substance of the human.”

For one thing, materialism is unable to provide a basis to believe in the things that we must. It cannot provide a basis for objective moral law. Consequently, with the rise of irreligious states, there has also been a rise in genocide:

·       Habermas tells those who are still confident that “philosophical reason . . . is capable of determining what is true and false” to simply look at the “catastrophes of the twentieth century—religious fascist and communist states, operating on the basis of practical reason—to see that this confidence is misplaced.” Terrible deeds have been done in the name of religion, but secularism has not proven to be an improvement.

Secular humanism is unable to provide any moral basis for our indignation for the surrounding evils. The poet and atheist, W.H. Auden moved to Germantown in NYC from his Ireland in the early 1930s. While he was watching a news clip in the movie theater about the Nazi invasion of Poland, he was horrified to see the audience rise to its feet, applaud and cry out, “Destroy the Poles.” Auden wanted to take a strong moral stance against their response, but he realized that, as an atheist, his values were merely self-constructed and, therefore, lacking in any persuasive value. This sent him into a moral tailspin, resulting in his becoming a Christian.

Materialism could not give Auden what his heart demanded – objective moral truth to combat evil. There are also many other things that materialism cannot provide. Keller writes:

·       Habermas writes: “The ideals of freedom . . . of conscience, human rights and democracy [are] the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. . . . To this day there is no alternative to it.”

Nor can science provide the ideals that are so essential to human thriving, like the concept of human equality. Keller writes:

·       In 1926 John T. Scopes was famously tried under Tennessee law for teaching evolution. Few people remember, however, that the textbook Scopes used, Civic Biology by George Hunter, taught not only evolution but also argued that science dictated we should sterilize or even kill those classes of people who weakened the human gene pool by spreading “disease, immorality, and crime to all parts of this country.” This was typical of scientific textbooks of the time. It was the horrors of World War II, not science, that discredited eugenics.

When we find that our roadmap will not take us where we need to go, it is time for find a better one.

MESSAGES FROM BEYOND



We are surrounded by the creations of God – those on the outside but also on the inside. We experience a taste of God when we apologize for having caused pain and then are forgiven. We also sense His presence in other ways. In “Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical,” Timothy Keller wrote:

·       Leonard Bernstein famously admitted that when he heard great music and great beauty he sensed “Heaven,” some order behind things. “[Beethoven] has the real goods, the stuff from Heaven, the power to make you feel at the finish: something is right in the world. There is something that checks throughout, that follows its own law consistently: something we can trust, that will never let us down.”

For me, it was Rachmaninoff. Having struggled for years with depression and self-loathing, the type that drives us to the highest bridge, Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony preached to my aching mind a sermon of hope, peace, and love. It actually reassured me that there was something beyond the pain, a place of love and warmth, a place where I’d be cared for.

At that time, I was not ready to hear a sermon about God, but this piece of music preached a sermon I needed to hear.  Somewhere, there was a rest, and I believed in what it preached. It encouraged me to hold on.

How did this work. It wasn’t just a matter of a set of beautiful melodies, which touched my heart. It was more than that. It communicated to my heart that there was another reality, a place that guaranteed me relief.

But aren’t these just feelings? Can they be trusted? Sometimes they cannot be trusted. They sometimes are merely the product of dreams or fears. They are not constructed grammatically with coherent sentences. However, my experiences came to me with the completeness and authority of chapter and verse.

Perhaps Bernstein failed to embrace the content of the message that Beethoven had passed on to him. However, by the grace of God, I had no other options. Even though I had little understanding of the hope that had been communicated to me, my burdens wouldn’t allow me to forget about it. It was only later that the nature of this hope was revealed:

·       “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:27-30)

THE SUPERNATURAL





A skeptic had asked:

·       “Has there ever been an incident where people wanted to do something and a supernatural force stepped in to prevent it?”

I answered:

“Let me relate just one incident. Many years ago, I had met a young lady to whom I was very attracted. We knew that we could not be romantically involved because she was still married, although intending to divorce. Instead, we decided to just be friends.

However, I was experiencing something very strange when I’d try to pray. It felt like my prayers were hitting the ceiling and going no further. I had never experienced this before. It was perplexing and continued for almost a week.

I related it to a close friend. She suggested that perhaps I shouldn’t see this female, even as a friend. At first, I protested, but I had the feeling that she was right and that I was just kidding myself about my friendly intentions.

Once I had decided to break off entirely, my sense of separation from God vanished entirely, and I NEVER experienced it again.

It taught me that I can trust in God to warn me away from what I shouldn’t be doing. This was subsequently confirmed by many other supernatural encounters, some far more dramatic.”

Sunday, December 4, 2016

MORALITY, JUSTICE, MODERN SECULARISM, AND COMPASSION: MY RESPONSE TO AN ATHEIST





It is understandable that you feel uncomfortable with dogmatic and objective forms of morality. These can become imperialistic and pose a threat to the innocent. However, correct objective forms can also promote society as these ideas have promoted the West.

Where would we be without the traditional Western understanding of objective justice! This, however, is now crumbling before a subjective and secular understanding of compassion.

In one such case, a woman was raped by a migrant. However, since she felt sorry for him and had compassion, she refused to bring charges. Consequently, this man is now free to rape others. Compassion? Not really.

Compassion must be guided by wisdom. However, wisdom is now almost dismissed. Why? Because, wisdom recognizes that there are objective principles of morality and justice, and that morality is not just a choice we make but a law to which we must conform.

GOD’S WARNINGS, OMNIPOTENCE, AND THE GUILT OF HUMANITY





Job was not the first or the last to indict God, charging Him with “injustice.” In fact, such indictments are ubiquitous in Western society today, where any form of punishment is disparaged as “insensitive” and “mindless.” Even now, students at OSU are mourning the death of a terrorist who had knifed and plowed down a number of students with his car. In another case, a woman refused to bring charges against a migrant who had raped her because she felt that he had been driven to commit the rape.

In our moral and intellectual climate, it should not be surprising that God is scorned as a vengeful, medieval deity. “Christian” evolutionist, Karl Giberson, affirmatively quoted atheist Richard Dawkins in this regard:

·       [God is a] “tyrannical anthropomorphic deity” and “commanded the Jews to go on genocidal rampages.” But who believes in this [OT] deity any more, besides those same fundamentalists who think the earth is 10,000 years old? Modern theology has moved past this view of God.” http://biologos.org/blog/exposing-the-straw-men-of-new-atheism-part-five/

The late and renowned atheist, Bertrand Russell had been asked, “What if you meet God after you die and he asks, ‘Why didn’t you believe in me?’ How will you answer him?” Russell answered:

·       God, there was simply not enough evidence, just not enough evidence.

Is this true? Does God punish without sufficient warning? Scripture gives us a resounding “No.” Why then do people claim that there is no evidence? According to Scripture, humanity suppresses this evidence (Romans 1:18-20) and prefers the darkness to the light of truth (John 3:19-20).

Scripture gives us many accounts that substantiate this claim. For example, Pharaoh continued to harden his heart, even after the horrific 10 plagues. His chariots even pursed the fleeing Israelites into the sea with waters walled up on either side – an unmistakable testimony to the fact that Israel’s omnipotent God was with them.

How can we account for such willful blindness and foolishness? Only in this way: that humanity’s hatred of God is so great that it overrides every other consideration.

The Book of Revelation provides another stunning portrait of the sin-hardened. Even after the plagues that had accompanied the opening of the seven seals and the six trumpets, we read:

·       The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. (Revelation 9:20-21; ESV)

Can we indict God because of our stubbornness? Even after this, God provided many other signs that He meant business. He sent two supernatural prophets to prophesy against the nations for 1,260 days. When they had succeeded in killing the two, humanity gloated over their death and refused to allow them to be buried. However, this worked against them. After several days, God raised them and brought a terrible earthquake upon the land (Rev. 11).

Did they repent? No! Was God finished with His warnings to repent? Certainly not:

·       The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory. The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish  and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds. (Revelation 16:8-11)

Instead of repenting and confessing their sin to their Creator and Provider, they “cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores.” Did they not know what they were facing? They must have, but they had hardened their hearts like Pharaoh. They were no longer amenable to reason.

At this point, we tend to raise another objection:

·       God, you are omnipotent. You can do all things. If you have the power to change the hearts of men, why didn’t you change all their hearts so that they would come to you? To know to do good and to not do it is to sin.

This objection represents a misunderstanding of God’s omnipotence. While He can accomplish all the things He wants to accomplish, He cannot accomplish them through any means. He cannot sin; He cannot violate His Word. Besides, He is also constrained by His very character. Jesus had prayed that the Father would spare Him from going to the Cross:

·       And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)

Evidently, there was no other way. God’s character constrains Him. His holy nature demands that there had to be a sufficient payment for sin. There was no other way.

I don’t understand why there must be eternal punishment, at least, not completely. However, I am resigned to the fact that I only see in part (Deut. 29:29) and that there is much about my Savior that I still do not understand. However, I am willing to wait and to abide with the understanding that He has offered to us.