Friday, August 24, 2012

“Living a More Satisfying Life”


(photo credit: Dave Singer)

Certain beliefs help us live a more satisfying life. Drawing upon research, University of California psychologist, Sonja Lyubomirsky, has listed several cognitive-behavioral strategies. Let’s just look at one of them:

  • Developing strategies for coping with stress and hardships. There is no avoiding hard times. Religious faith has been shown to help people cope, but so do the secular beliefs enshrined in axioms like “This too shall pass” and “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” The trick is that you have to believe them. (Time, Jan. 17, 2005)
Yes, believing in these axioms is “the trick.” We are all aware of the powerful connection between thinking and stress (feeling). If you think that the flower delivery-boy is really a terrorist, you will probably experience some degree of terror. Therefore, our thinking and believing are critical. However, believing something like “This too shall pass” might require more than a “trick” but rather first-rate acrobatics.

Why? Because experience tells us that some things just don’t “pass.” Death is certainly a reality and so are chronic diseases. In fact, life slams us with many serves we just can’t return.- depression, defeat, desertion and finally death. Yes, it will pass, but often, it passes in a way that leaves us grieving.

Likewise, the belief, “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” contradicts the reality of our experiences and perceptions. For the average person, maintaining such beliefs isn’t a possibility. While they might be comfortable to believe, it requires major cognitive gymnastics. These can be accomplished only with psychological cost –dissociation and the rejection of reality.

Must life then remain threatening and stressful? Although we might rationally be convinced that the delivery boy is not a terrorist, life is still serves up real terrors, some of which transcend our coping skills.

I had my own home-grown coping strategies. As a 14-year-old, I would look in the mirror, flex my now-long-departed muscles and tell myself that I was a wonderful person and could get through anything that life threw at me. And I believed the pep-talk. Consequently, it made me feel heady and gave me the courage to face the treats of the school-yard.

However, I couldn’t see the pricey payments I had signed-up to pay. For one thing, I soon began to find that I couldn’t derive the same high with the same pep-talk. I now had to advance to even more grandiose thinking, and I had to believe it. However, I wasn’t aware that these “leaps of faith” were gradually driving a wedge between me and reality. Besides, this new faith was actually in conflict with reality – a costly conflict.

I was no longer the person that I believed myself to be. The person I was projecting wasn’t the real me, and I think that everyone could sense this uncomfortable and alienating dissonance.

Since then, I have learned other “coping strategies.” The Bible has taught me that “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). The Apostle Paul explained that this is actually worth celebrating! Why? Because in our weakness, our Lord stoops to our rescue and even renewal!

This belief has helped me immeasurably. Now, when confronted by stresses, fears and insecurities, I anticipate something wonderful that will emerge from them.

You might regard this as just another flight from reality. However, I’ve repeatedly been shown that this belief fully accords with reality. In my weaknesses, I’ve learned so much that has allowed me to navigate life and relationships successfully. I’ve observed how my Savior has not only brought me through decades of debilitating depression and also panic attacks, but I’ve also seen how He used the scorching flames of these afflictions to burn away the bonds of the falsehoods that had kept me captive.

Faith is powerful. However, belief (faith) requires an evidential foundation if it is to persist. My God has provided this foundation. Perhaps it wasn’t built according to my planning or timing, but it is solid, supported by a God who answers prayer and grants wisdom.

Please don’t envy me. He promises the same for all who seek Him:

  • But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deut. 4:29)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Privacy and Prince Harry in his Birthday Suit


What kind of conduct should we expect from our leaders? Evolutionist Richard Dawkins has argued that their private lives belong to them alone and that they have every right to protect them, even with lies:

  • Bill Clinton was impeached not for sexual misconduct but for lying about it. But he was entitled to lie about his private life: one could even make a case that he had a positive duty to do so.
Just yesterday, nude photos of England’s Prince Harry in the embrace of a nude woman were leaked to the press. The BBC writes:

  • Prince Harry was on a private break from his military duties when the pictures were taken. Pictures showing Prince Harry and a young woman naked in a Las Vegas hotel room have been published on a US website. The two photos of the 27-year-old royal, published on gossip website TMZ, were taken on a private break with friends over the weekend. The site reported that the prince was in a group playing "strip billiards"
The media has raised several issues. Perhaps the first is the privacy issue. The media argues that Harry has a right to his private life.

The second issue is the one of judgment or decorum. It seems that Harry has had a long history of doing and saying things unfit of royalty. In one prank, he donned a Nazi uniform. He has also been accused of “underage drinking and drug abuse.” In general, he has a reputation as a “partier.” In this instance, he and his handlers have been faulted for not confiscating cell phones before the nudity began. Some in the media have responded, “Good for him! He deserves to have a bit of fun!”

However, I think that there is a much more significant question at stake. “Who is Prince Harry and what governs his life?” Is it possible to separate his private from his public life? What if thoughts of sex, drugs and rock and roll govern his life? What if, as he is addressing the people of England through a national crisis, he is thinking about bedding-down the women before him?

If you are not a theist, you will probably even be incensed by this question? You’ll think what right do I have to insinuate that Harry would have these sexual thoughts when addressing the nation?

Well, I don’t mean to pick on Harry or anyone else. I just want to explore this idea that it doesn’t matter who we are in our private lives. I just want to ask if there is anything inconsistent about President Clinton talking on the phone about public policy issues as Monica Lewinsky was ministering to his manly desires. Can we separate public from private life?

You will probably answer that this is an extreme and isolated example and doesn’t shed much light on the issue of public and private. You might also respond that many American presidents have ably conducted their presidency as they were having an adulterous affirm, sometimes even several of them.

Granted, this is a difficult issue to debate. Perhaps Roosevelt ably fulfilled his role as president as he was having an affair. However, it could be just as easily argued that he could have fulfilled it even better had he not had the affair.

Certainly, we can make this case in regards to Bill Clinton. The disclosure of his affirm not only crippled his family but also his presidency. However, Richard Dawkins would argue that adultery – his private life – wasn’t the problem but rather his failure to adequately cover it up.

However, this raises additional problems. For one thing, our private lives can adversely affect our judgment. Roosevelt had made a pledge to his wife to honor and to love until death separates. However, he failed to live up to his pledge. Is there any relationship between his not keeping his pledge to his wife and failing to keep his presidential pledge? If he proved himself untrustworthy to his wife, why should he be trustworthy in regards to the presidency? The public person is a reflection of the private person.

Besides, it is hard to exercise proper judgment if we are busy contorting our mind to justify permissiveness. Perhaps, as a result, Roosevelt had been overly permissive with Joseph Stalin, against the warnings of Churchill, allowing Stalin to grab Eastern Europe?

You might think that this is a leap of logic - and perhaps it is - but it is patently obvious that our judgments and philosophy fall in line with our lives. In other words, our private lives cannot be segregated from who we are and what we think.

Another problem with this “cover-up” philosophy is simply that what is covered-up will eventually be exposed, sometimes with terrible consequences.

Lastly, to lead effectively is to inspire trust. To inspire trust requires the leader to be trustworthy. He has to be able to convince his people that he has their best interests in mind and not his next sexual encounter. Our life-script must be centered on one motivation or another, as Jesus warned:

  • But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:23-24)
We cannot serve our sexual appetite and other people equally. One vision must predominate. Jesus also suggests that as we focus our eyes on the wrong things, we will think the wrong things. We will be “full of darkness.” There is no way that we can separate our hidden motives from the rest of our lives. These motives will color everything else.

This doesn’t mean that Prince Harry can never be an adequate leader. However, as long as partying trumps service, service to his nation must suffer as a result.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Richard Dawkins, Atheism and Sexual Faithfulness


Can we be good without God? Certainly not sexually!

Richard Dawkins has been termed “the world’s most famous atheist.” He also insists that we don’t need God to be good. However, he makes some interesting admissions:

  • Why are we so obsessed with monogamous fidelity in the first place? The underlying presumption — that a human being has some kind of property rights over another human being’s body — is unspoken because it is assumed to be obvious. But with what justification?   
  • And why don’t we all admire — as I increasingly do — those rare free spirits confident enough to rise above jealousy, stop fretting about who is “cheating on” whom. (Banishing the Green eyed Monster)
What does Dawkins admit? He admits that monogamous marriage is a matter of “property rights” and cheating is admirable. Of course, this must also include lying. If you’re a cheat, you must also be a good liar:

  • Bill Clinton was impeached not for sexual misconduct but for lying about it. But he was entitled to lie about his private life: one could even make a case that he had a positive duty to do so
If cheating requires a “positive duty” to lie in order to cover it up, perhaps that says something about the nature of cheating. If a couple can’t handle the truth that one party is cheating, perhaps self-control is more in order. And perhaps true love requires faithfulness!

However, Dawkins might be right that the cheater can’t be honest about the cheating. His partner might not be able to handle it. When I returned to college, I wanted to try what had become a rage – a sensitivity (therapy) group. I wanted to stay close to “home,” so I decided to join a group sponsored through the United Campus Ministry. However, before long, it became apparent that the “minister” was putting-the-make on two attractive females in the group. They confronted him about this, and he responded that he and his wife had an “open marriage.”

However, he later admitted that they had to carry out this “openness” in secret. Once he came home early to find his wife entering their home with her cheating-prey. The minister admitted that this sight so disturbed him that he had to be committed to the mental hospital for two weeks.

However, these are precisely the “free spirits” that Dawkins “admires.” But are they really free spirits? Is it freedom to jump from a 12-story building or to drink lye? Dawkins think so and therefore rhetorically asks,

  • Why should you deny your loved one the pleasure of sexual encounters with others, if he or she is that way inclined?
There seems to be many good reasons – mental breakdown, divorce, disease, damage to children and even to society. John J. Davis (Evangelical Ethics) wrote of the work of British Anthropologist, J.D. Unwin:

  • After a comprehensive study of both Western and non-Western cultures throughout human history, Unwin concluded that the record of mankind “does not contain a single instance of a group becoming civilized unless it had been absolutely [heterosexually] monogamous, nor is there any example of a group retaining its culture after it has adopted less rigorous customs.” Unwin observed that a society’s adoption and maintenance of heterosexual monogamy as a social standard “has preceded all manifestations of social energy, whether that energy be reflected in conquest, in art and sciences, in extension of the social vision, or in the substitution of monotheism for polytheism.” (p. 116)
Why wasn’t Dawkins cognizant of the various costs of “open” marriages? Perhaps his own lusts clouded his thinking. However, it seems that this has clouded the thinking of many non-theists.

Psychiatrist G. Brock Chisholm, president of the World Federation for Mental Health, had stated in 1945:

  • The re-interpretation and eventual eradication of the concept of right and wrong which has been the basis of child training, the substitution of intelligent and rational thinking with faith in the certainties of the old people, these are the belated objectives of practically all effective psychotherapy.
  • The fact is that most psychiatrists and psychologists and other respectable people have escaped from these moral chains and are able to observe and think freely.
  • If the race is to be free from the crippling burden of good and evil, it must be psychiatrists who take the original responsibility.”
How widespread was this thinking “In a 1976 survey of members of the APA, 95% reportedly admitted to being atheists or agnostics.” Were these philosophical commitments the product of evidence or lifestyle choices? According to Al Parides, Prof. of Psychiatry, UCLA:

  • If you look at the personal lives of all Freud’s followers—his initial disciples—these people certainly have an unbelievable amount of particular problems in the sexual area…The amount of deviancy as far as their sexual behavior and so forth is enormous. If you are saying that psychiatry promotes a certain form of morality that is a deviant morality in regard to many areas including sexual behavior—yes, I would agree. (Psychiatry: The Ultimate Betrayal, Bruce Wiseman, 12-14)
Perhaps God is necessary for the well-being of the family!

“Been There, Done That: Christ Didn’t Work for Me!”


In the course of blogging, I encounter many people who claim,

  • Well, I tried Christ and it didn’t work for me!
Many are relieved that Christ “didn’t work.” Consequently, they are now free to live their lives in any manner that they want. However, for others, I sense that this had been a genuine disappointment. They might be angry and defiantly demand proof of God’s existence, but there also seems to be a genuine longing and recognition that their lives are incomplete without God. Many talked of a personal crisis insisting, “He wasn’t there for me when I really needed Him!”

What can we say? Their experience (and the interpretation they place on it) trumps anything we can say. Sadly, we – even Christians – wrongly interpret our experiences. We have wrong expectations about how God will work.

One of the most glaring examples of this comes out of the “prosperity gospel.” According to this heresy, we merely need to follow certain laws, and God will automatically empty His bank into our lap to satisfy our every need, right now!

However, He doesn’t always work this way, and this isn’t the true Gospel. Consequently, many walk away from such churches deeply disappointed, convinced that “God didn’t work” for them.

We all have to labor through our faulty expectations about our Savior and His sometimes mysterious ways. After battling against decades of depression, I was mistakenly convinced that, now with Christ on my side, depression would vanish into nothing more than a distant memory. It didn’t. It even found a new companion – panic attacks – which devastated me for years.

It was apparent that Christ hadn’t “worked for me” – that He even despised me. However, I had nowhere else to go. There was no other hope. I had tried five highly recommended psychologists and psychiatrists, each having terminal degrees, and each had left me worse off than I had been before.

I had never imagined that a person could experience so much pain. I became dysfunctional and found it difficult to even carry on a conversation. I saw death as the only escape from my suffering, since God, evidently, was indifferent to my prayers. My faith was no more substantial than cloths on a line during a tornado. However, there was no other place where I could turn.

During many sleepless nights, I couldn’t even pray or read the Bible. I would simply lie in bed with the Bible on my chest, hoping, against all reason and experience, that somehow this God would have pity for me.
I would try to read the Bible, but it was just words. However, at other times, a simple phrase like, “And God heard him,” would suddenly come alive. No, it actually exploded into a burst of light, burning away all the cobwebs. In a mere second, all of the clouds of depression and panic were driven away – far away. As hard as I would look for them, they could no longer be found. For the day, at least, they had been driven away by a force that transcended anything I could understand.

The depression and panic would return, but so too would these Scripture-borne bursts of healing light. However, they were never at my beck-and-call. Instead, they came as directed by an invisible hand.

I no longer experience these bursts, but perhaps my Lord has deemed that I no longer need them. Perhaps He now expects me to walk by faith and not be sight.

Yet, I am still waiting for Him to address other needs – painful needs. However, I’ve learned some critical truths. Abraham had to wait 24 years for his promised son, Isaac. Along the way, he often despaired of the promise of God. Moses had to wait 40 years for God to equip him to lead His people out of Egypt. Moses had so thoroughly given up on God, that he resisted God’s plan for him to deliver Israel out of bondage.

Waiting in darkness builds character. Passing through the “valley of the shadow of death” is a requirement for spiritual maturity, and it’s going to hurt. Paul warned:

  • But we have this treasure [of God and salvation] in jars of clay [our sordid lives] to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. (2 Cor. 4:7-11)
Sometimes, God does answer our prayers immediately, but most of the time, He doesn’t. We therefore need to wait patiently. This is a central theme of many of the Psalms. King David even had to lecture himself to wait patiently:

  • Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42:11)
Waiting doesn’t come easily or naturally. It usually brings out the worst in us. It brought out the worst in Job. He had lost everything and couldn’t understand why. He therefore wrongly charged God with injustice. Finally after much waiting, Job had a private, yet humbling audience with God. Afterwards, the humbled Job was blessed with far beyond anything he had had previously.

We need the right expectations or else we will despair. Peter warned:

  • Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. (1 Peter 4:12)
Suffering and the waiting for God to respond is clearly not “something strange.” It is God’s modus operandi.
However, it is also His MO that, “any who come to Him, He will in no way cast them out.” (John 6:37)

I wish I could say more to those who have despaired of God. I guess this essay is just my feeble attempt.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Revived Heresy: Saving Faith without Repentance



In our permissive age, it is not surprising to find this permissive heresy taking hold of many of our churches. It goes like this:

  • Since Christ has forgiven us past, present and future (Heb. 10:14), this means that we don’t have to repent of our sins once we’re saved.

This heresy certainly has the semblance of truth. That’s what makes it so tenacious and destructive. It’s true that we are forgiven permanently in Christ. The New Covenant promises us that He will never again bring our sins to bear against us (Heb. 8:12; Jer. 31:31-34). Therefore, we no longer have to worry about condemned (Romans 8:1).

Well, doesn’t this mean that we can continue to sin unrepentantly once we are saved? No! Scripture warns us in so many ways that that we cannot continue in sin:

  • If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Hebrews 10:26-27)
This is a description of someone who practices sin as a lifestyle. Such a person should not be encouraged that they are saved simply in view of their profession of faith. This would amount to a false and misleading encouragement:

  • This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7)
John is emphatic. Salvation – the purification “from all sin” – is accompanied by a changed life, not a refusal to repent and a rejection of the light.

Elsewhere, John claims that:

  • No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. (1 John 3:6)
If we make sin into an unrepentant lifestyle, we have no connection to the One we profess. Repentance and confession are key. We all struggle with sin. However, if we sincerely confess, he will forgive and cleanse us (1 John 1:8-10) more than 70 x 7 times. However, if we refuse to repent, we should have no expectation of forgiveness.

However, these verses seem to suggest that we can loose our salvation if we refuse to repent. However, if salvation is truly a free gift – and it is - it’s a done deal, isn’t it? But if it is a gift and a done-deal, why then the warnings against continuing in sin? God won’t retract His gift of salvation, will He? No, He won’t (Romans 8:38-39). How then can we reconcile the truth that we are unsaved if we refuse to repent with the truth that salvation is an absolutely free gift not requiring our good deeds?

These ideas can be reconciled once we understand the meaning of faith and our new life in the Spirit. If we believe in Jesus, we will do what He tells us to do, as John assures us:

  • We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. (1 John 5:18)

If He lives within us, we can’t unrepentantly continue in sin. If we continue in this manner, it means that He is not living in us, and we must cry out for His forgiveness.

Similarly, if we claim that we trust our doctor but refuse to take the pills that he says that we must take, we don’t really trust him. If we truly trust him, we’ll do what he tells us to do. This pertains even more so to our relationship with our Savior. If we trust Him, we will repent!

Yes, we are forgiven by Christ past, present and future, but Hebrews warns us that if we fail to hold onto our faith/repentance to the end, we never really had them:

  • Hebrews 3:6: But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.
  • Hebrews 3:14: We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.
We only “share in Christ” if we “hold firmly till the end.” If we truly have the Biblical gift of faith, we will continue in faithfulness. If we refuse to repent, it means that we never had it and His Spirit never resided within us. Therefore, it’s not a question of loosing salvation but recognizing that we never had it.

Those who refuse to repent are kidding themselves about their salvation. And those who are preaching this way preach a false hope. Instead, they must preach repentance.

Faith and repentance are truly inseparable. You, therefore, can’t have faith without repentance, and you can’t have repentance without faith. If faith means turning to the new life in Christ, then repentance means turning away from the old life. It’s only one turn from the old to the new – opposite sides of the same coin.

Because faith and repentance are almost interchangeable, we often find the promise of salvation depends on faith, but also repentance. Therefore, in many offers of salvation, faith isn’t mentioned. Mentioning repentance is clearly enough:

·        In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. (Acts 17:30; 2:38; 3:19: 8:22)

Also, as faith is granted as a gift (Eph. 2:8-9), we find the exact same thing regarding repentance (2 Tim. 2:24-25; Acts 5:31; 11:18). This again strongly suggests that the two are inseparable – part of each other. Therefore, we can’t claim to have faith and not repentance.

Jesus even warned that if we refuse to repent, we refuse Him. Repentance is the way to open the door to Him:

·        Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Rev. 3:19-20; 2:5, 16, 21; 3:3; Luke 13:2-5)

Nevertheless, we trust that those who have His seed will repent. If we refuse to repent, we also refuse to have faith and reject salvation. This doesn’t mean that we will always repent of our many sins. We are unaware of some of them. However, if we know that we are in sin or are in active denial that our adulterous affair is a sin, then we have no reason to expect that we are forgiven.

To demonstrate the absurdity of this idea that I can be forgiven while refusing to repent, let’s imagine a new believer who goes to the pastor wanting baptism:

·        Pastor, I believe everything in the Bible, but I must tell you that I refuse to give up my adulterous affirm. This woman is just too important to me. Nevertheless, I want to be baptized and to join the church.

The pastor must say “no!” How could he extend the right hand of fellowship to this “believer” and then immediately start church-discipline proceedings to retract that hand from him, if he remains unrepentant! This is absurd. The pastor must tell the adulterer that he must first repent before he can be received as a brother.

If this new believer had instead stated, “Pastor, I believe and therefore want to leave this woman, but I don’t know if I can summon the strength,” this would be a different matter. There are some sins that we continue to struggle against for our entire lives. However, also in this instance, the pastor should withhold baptism even if this man is truly a believer.

Faith and repentance cannot be separated. Any who claim that they believe but refuse to repent are simply deluding themselves.


   



   

If Genesis is not History, then its Theology Lacks Foundation



This is a letter I wrote to a Christian who denies that Genesis 1-11 are historical. Instead, he argues that the theology of Genesis can stand without the history of these chapters. In a prior challenge, I tried to point out that we can’t have the theology of the Cross without the history of the Cross – the historical fact that Jesus actually died for us. I tried also to argue that Jesus’ theological points depended upon Genesis being historical (Matthew 19:4-6 on “divorce,” for example).

Thanks for your gentle response to my invasive challenge. While we both agree that sound interpretation must attempt to recover the original meaning of Gen. 1-11, you approach it with a lot of assumptions that are not really part of the text:

  1. That Moses (or whomever you might suppose wrote Genesis) was writing from an ANE (ancient near-eastern) worldview.
  2. That the Bible is unconcerned about history, biology and even the physical world.
  3. Instead, Genesis 1-11 is merely “God’s love letter to us.”
These are powerful assumptions that will determine the way we look at the text. Nevertheless, I don’t think it is possible to approach the text without assumptions or paradigms. The question then becomes, “Which paradigm enables us to see the text as it was intended?”

I think that the most reliable paradigm, if the Bible is truly the Word of God, is the light shed on Genesis from the rest of Scripture, namely that of the NT. Therefore, if Jesus, Peter, Paul and John regarded Adam, the Fall, the Garden and the creation accounts as historical, this should take precedence over other considerations, especially when the theology they derive from these accounts depends upon the historicity of Genesis.

For another example, Peter reasons that God means business about a future judgment. He cites His past (historical) judgments as evidence – the flood and Sodom (2 Peter 2:4-9). If these accounts were merely parabolic, then we’d have no reason to believe that the future judgment is any more than parabolic.

Theistic evolutionists tell me that we need to be humble and tentative about our interpretations. (If only they were as humble about Darwin!) However, a tentative faith is an anemic and uncertain faith, one that will not be able to bear the weight of our lives.

This is really a big matter. If we are going to deny the historicity of Genesis, then we are to also deny everything that later inspired writers derived from Genesis. If the historicity of Genesis 1-11 – the foundation for subsequent theology - is discarded, then the house built upon this foundation will also eventually be discarded.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Scripture must not suffer at the Hands of Bible Criticism or the Present Scientific Consensus




My Response to Dr. Peter Enns:

I must apologize for my response – not having read your book or even Madueme’s response to it. So let me just confine my remarks to your first critique of Madueme:

“(1) An underestimation, devaluing, and/or minimizing of the impact of biblical studies and/or the mainstream scientific consensus on evolution for an evangelical theology of Scripture.”


While you claim that “an evangelical theology of Scripture” must be informed by evolution and bible criticism, the entire Bible, implicitly and explicitly, requires that we put God’s Word above all other words:
  
  • Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: "So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge." (Romans 3:4)
  • Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, "Do not go beyond what is written." Then you will not take pride in one man over against another. (1 Cor. 4:6)
  • To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. (Isaiah 8:20)
Even more explicitly, we are instructed to subject all truth claims to the scrutiny of Scripture:

  • The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor. 10:4-5)
Everything must be judged in light of Scripture. Meanwhile, it would seem that you prefer to subject Scripture to “the impact of [critical] biblical studies and/or the mainstream scientific consensus on evolution.”

This is a strategy – compromising the Faith in accordance with the day’s “consensus” -that has led the Christian faith down many tragic foxholes. In “Bonhoeffer,” Eric Metaxas gives several illustrations of how tragic this strategy has been:

  • Even worse, another church publication, “Junge Kirche,” once an organ of truth and theological orthodoxy, had gone over to the dark side, painting Hitler in brightly messianic collars: “It has today become evident to everyone without exception that the figure of the Fuhrer, powerfully fighting his way through old worlds, seeing with his minds eye what is new and compelling…The figure of the Fuhrer has brought a new obligation for the church too.” (325)
What the eye sees can be very misleading, along with your emphasis on the “mainstream scientific consensus.” However, to be fair to you, it always has been very seductive to the church. We latched onto the “steady-state theory” because this was the consensus view. To our great shame, we also adopted the prevailing consensus racism. You former colleague, Karl Giberson, issued a poignant warning about the scientific consensus:

  • How shocking it is today to acknowledge that virtually every educated person in the Western culture at the time …shared Haeckel’s [racist] ideas. Countless atrocities around the globe were rationalized by the belief that superior races were improving the planet by exterminating defective elements…there can be little doubt that such viewpoints muted voices that would otherwise have been raised in protest. (Saving Darwin)
The pressure to keep step with the “mainstream scientific consensus” has long been present. It has led the church to embrace geocentrism and even greater idiocies:

  • A church that does not keep step with modern scientific knowledge is doomed. It may take quite a while, but it is bound finally to happen. Anybody who is firmly rooted in daily life and who can only faintly imagine the mystic secrets of nature, will naturally be extremely modest about the universe. The clerics, however, who have not caught a breath of such modesty, evidence a sovereign opinionated attitude toward questions of the universe. (A record of Hitler’s thoughts from the Diary of Joseph Goebels – Quoted in “Bonhoeffer,” 166)
   

   


   

Friday, August 17, 2012

Dialogue with a Gay Pastor Friend: Scripture must Remain Preeminent


My response (below) continues an on-going dialogue. To see it in its entirely, please go to David’s blog or to my blog.

David,

Thanks for your predictably thoughtful response. This was my favorite line:

  • Treat us [gays] as an anthropological challenge! Better than treating your friends like a condemned herd of goats.
I must say I certainty appreciate that you don’t call me a “bigot” or a “hate-monger” as so many do. I’m glad that we can cut through all of the degrading labels and jargon.

There is some truth that I treat you as “condemned.” (And, on one level, I deeply regret this!) But I know that you realize that we are convinced that God regards everyone who refuses to repent of their sins as condemned (John 3:18). And I think that you also understand that, for us, it would represent the supreme cruelty to extend a false hope of salvation to someone who refuses to repent.

To deal with your first sentence: I am not free to assess the gay lifestyle from strictly a pragmatic assessment - an “anthropological study.” Fundamentally, I am mandated to regard this lifestyle through the lens of Scripture. If I am a disciple of Christ, I have no choice but to submit to His Word – all Scripture. And this unequivocally informs me that gay sex is wrong.

While we both agree that our interpretations of Scripture are highly vulnerable to our psychological and cultural baggage – and a lot of it we can’t seem to shed – this awareness has warned me to take greater care. Although I may never be perfectly objective, I do think that it is possible to “achieve” a high degree of objectivity (or perhaps I should say, “receive”) and certainty about many of our interpretations.

In contrast to the Christian understanding of the centrality and authority of Scripture, you exalt “experience” and “faith” in your experience. You write:

  • Scripture and theology only provide the categories that such experience takes on.  If we deny our experience in the service of abstract argument, we risk becoming eventually soulless.
Consequently, you make your experience more authoritative than Scripture. For those who reject Scripture, this is certainly understandable. However, you call yourself a “Christian” and even a pastor – a shepherd. However, Jesus had affirmed the supremacy of His Word in many ways:

  • If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you…If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. (John 15:7, 10)
In addition to this problem, you face other difficulties. Experience does not speak on its own. It too requires interpretations before it can say anything. You have argued that a fulfilled gay relationship proves that it is a good thing. However, many claim the same thing about their adulterous relationships or even their “Bonnie and Clyde” lifestyle. Are these too therefore good?

Morality can be difficult to assess using pragmatic measures. Often, sexual relationships start out with a flurry of good feelings. Do these temporary feelings mean that it is the right thing? The adulterer often claims that his lover is the “love of his life,” while his four children are waiting for him at home.

Even more fundamentally, do good feelings always equate with the right thing to do? Often the right thing to do is to do the emotionally costly thing, like being a whistle-blower. In short, we are easily led astray by our feelings.

Besides, if you want to evaluate the gay lifestyle on the basis of experience, you also have to look at the frightful stats. They consistently reveal that this lifestyle is fraught with great costs – suicide, depression, substance abuse, STDs, and a greatly shortened life-span. If you want me to do an “anthropological study,” I cannot disregard these costs.
   
You conclude that,

  • Fundamentalists [that’s me!] are idolaters, mistaking the letter for the spirit of the scripture.
If we are making an idol of God’s Word, then aren’t you making an idol of your experience and feelings? It cuts both ways. However, if God is our supreme worship, then His Word must provide the guidance.


The Emergent Church and it Denial of Dumbing-Down


Loving God with heart, soul and mind – with all of our faculties – is our calling. This is because He has bought us lock-stock-and-barrel!  Oddly, the Emergent – think “postmodern” – guru Tony Jones writes as if he is onboard with this understanding:

  • I defy him [Ben Witherington] to find one post or podcast by anyone with a link to the emerging church who has suggested a dumbing down of seminary or college curriculum, the dismissal of Greek and Hebrew from syllabi, or a diminishment of the teaching of literary, exegetical methods.

What’s so perplexing about this challenge? The Emergent Church and their gurus are opposed to statements of faith or truth. According to them, “truth” is in flux. However, this never stopped them from writing books about it. Here is my response, which I posted on Jones’ blog.

Tony,

Contrary to your denials, a dumbing-down is ENDEMIC to your stance. You wrote:

• This fixation with propositions can easily lead to the attempt to use the finite tool of language on an absolute Presence that transcends and embraces finite reality. Languages are culturally constructed symbol systems that enable humans to communicate by designating one finite reality in distinction form another. The truly infinite God of Christian faith is beyond all our linguistic grasping…and so the struggle to capture God in our finite propositional structures is nothing short of linguistic idolatry. (The New Christians, 234)

Once you discredit “propositions,” what you term “linguistic grasping,” and “our finite propositional structures,” you are left with only feelings and conversations – a searching but never finding. This equates to a dumbing-down.

You also wrote on the next page:

• Giving in to the pressure to petrify the conversation in a ‘statement’ would make Emergent easier to control; its critics could dissect it and then place it in a theological museum alongside other dead conceptual specimens… (235)

When you disparage “statements” of truth as “dead conceptual specimens,” you are virtually saying that there is nothing worth learning, holding to, or standing-up-for. Hence, you value the search but disdain the possibility of finding any answers. Such a search is therefore meaningless, because any finding is non-existent.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hate-Mongers should be Shot, shouldn’t They?


A man posing as an intern shot the guard, Leo Johnson, at the Family Research Council (FRC), a Christian group promoting pro-life and traditional marriage, located in Washington DC. According to LifeSiteNews.com:

  • The suspect, a 28-year-old male from Virginia named Floyd Lee Corkins II, said, “Don’t shoot me, it was not about you, it was what this place stands for.” AP later confirmed that Corkins is a liberal activist who volunteers with a left-wing group in the D.C. area.
  • “The FBI said Corkins had 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches, a Sig Sauer 9mm pistol, two additional magazines loaded with ammunition and an additional box of 50 rounds of ammunition when he came into the building.”
Corkins evidently intended to kill many. Boston.com adds:

  • Corkins who had been volunteering recently at a community center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, made a negative comment about the organization’s activity before the shooting.
This shooting should not be regarded as simply the work of one man. The media has fanned the flames of hatred by insisting that the FRC and other groups like it are “hate organizations.” About three hours about the FRC shooting the Huffington Press referred to the “Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center deems a hate group.” 

Why a “hate group?” Simply because the FRC opposes gay marriage! Sadly, the mainstream media is all too happy to support this demeaning characterization. One way that media does this is through unbalanced reporting. When a gay is victimized, the media gives the story full coverage. However, when the tables are reversed – and they often are – the media is relatively silent. NewsBusters reports that:

  • ABC was the only broadcast network that offered a full story on the FRC office shooting on Wednesday night. They led with the story and gave it two and a half minutes. None of the network newscasts reported the breaking detail that shooter Floyd Corkins volunteered for six months at the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, adding depth to his political motivation.
What is the effect of this unbalanced reporting? Christians are unfairly seen as victimizers, “bigots,” and “hate mongers.” This fuels hatred and the faulty notion that the church is depriving gays of their basic “human rights.”

It is these unbalanced and misleading characterizations that have placed a gun in the hands the Floyd Lee Corkins and have told them that they are performing a righteous service.

According to LifeSiteNews,

  • His parents told the FBI that Corkins “has strong opinions with respect to those he believes do not treat homosexuals in a fair manner.”
From where did Corkins get this notion that those who favor traditional marriage “do not treat homosexuals in a fair manner?” We are against all sexual intercourse outside of marriage, not just homosexual sex. We are also against any marriage that is not between a single man and woman. Does this make us “hate-mongers?” Should we therefore be fair game for the pedophile, the adulterer, the bigamist, or the polygamist, or anyone else who objects that we don’t approve of their behavior?

Are we “hate-mongers” because we don’t approve of lying, cheating and stealing? Should we be shot-up because we would vote for laws against libel, robbery and perjury, or are we only despicable because we oppose gay marriage?

Today, many in the media construe their roles as “social activists” and not “truth activists.” If there is anything to be an activist for, it is for the truth. If there is any flagpole around which we can all rally, it is the truth. If there is any basis for unity, it is around the truth. If there is anything that can restore the nation’s faith in the media and the government, it is a zeal for the truth. Unless the media can regain its proper vision, it will continue to loose respect and will gain as an agent of division.

My Response to the Sermon of a Gay Friend



This is my response to the sermon of a gay friend:

Thanks for your invitation to hear your sermon. I’ve always admired your willingness to reach across the aisle, especially to someone like me. And of course, it remains the prayer of both of us that someday we will be sharing the same pew.

Let me just address what I think is your main point of contention against “conservatives.” You are somewhat dismissive of us because of the flaws that you perceive in us – this includes Luther and Calvin – namely, our need for certainty and “simple answers.”

To this, I must plead “guilty as charged.” Consequently, my prayer is that He would constrain me from construing His Gospel according to my needs and proclivities. I experience the internal demands of my own agendas and this troubles me as it should.

However, we can turn the tables on this score. Aren’t we ALL driven by these needs and desires? Couldn’t I say this also about your entire sermon? Wasn’t it an attempt to justify YOUR lifestyle? We might even take this a bit further and ask why is it that homosexuals are preoccupied by this one issue?

Of course, the answer is very apparent. Your lifestyle is in conflict with not only your conscience but also with Scripture. Therefore, you are coerced to endlessly and futilely try to resolve this ever-present tension.

We all do this in one way or another. I certainly did! In this regards, I have to thank God because of my decades struggle with depression that had so humbled me, so that all I want now is His truth:

·        He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (Deut. 8:3)

I therefore thank God as King David had:

·        It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. (Psalm 119:71)


   

   




Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Reclaiming Hell


We need hell, and, from the very start, the church has laid claim to this vital doctrine. On the day of its unveiling – Pentecost – Peter preached damnation. Israel had committed the premier sin. They had murdered their promised Savior:

·        “This man [Jesus] was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” (Acts 2:23)

They were guilty as charged and knew they deserved the worst punishment. In his next sermon, Peter was even more explicit:

·        “And it shall be that every soul that does not heed that prophet [Jesus] shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.” (Acts 3:23; NASB)

 Therefore, in horror:

·        When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37)

In order to be receptive to the Good News of salvation, they first had to understand the bad news of eternal condemnation. The condemned had to be alerted to their desperate status before they’d become receptive to the answer. No one will take medicine unless he is first convinced that he needs it.

In contrast, it is common to hear Christians saying,

·        We shouldn’t preach “hell.” This would just bring people to Christ for the wrong reason – fear. Instead, they first need to love Him for whom He is.

However, fear might be a necessary to get their attention. Besides, salvation lacks meaning if we aren’t first aware of from what we are being saved! The first Great Awakening was said to have been launched by a fear-provoking, hellish sermon.
   
In the sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, preached on July 8, 1741 in Enfield, Connecticut by perhaps America’s greatest theologian, Jonathan Edwards, fear-of-hell was the centerpiece. Wikipedia writes:

  • Jonathan Edwards was interrupted many times before finishing the sermon by people moaning and crying out, "What shall I do to be saved?" Although the sermon has received criticism, Edwards' words have endured and are still read to this day. Edwards' sermon continues to be the leading example of a Great Awakening sermon and is still used in religious and academic studies, over 270 years later.
Edwards had helped his people to graphically perceive the reality that confronted them if they didn’t confess and repent of their sins. They cried, "What shall I do to be saved?" This was a healthy and appropriate response, given in light of the prospect of falling into the hands of a righteous and just God (Hebrews 10:30).

It would be wrong to warn our children and our congregations about hell if there is no easy solution. Likewise, it would be wrong to warn our children about adults who might lure them into their cars with promises of candy, if this wasn’t a real threat and if there was nothing that could be done to prevent it. However, there is an easy solution, as Peter promised:

  • "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)
We must reclaim “hell.” A recent study concluded that the belief in eternal judgment leads to moral living. I don’t want to let studies determine how I will believe and speak, but perhaps they are able to point out an imbalance in our understanding of Scripture. Perhaps we have discarded “hell” without good reason. Perhaps also, our message is anemic without this warning. Take for example this typical conversation. After presenting the Gospel, the hearer responds,

  • I’m glad that Jesus works for you, but I’m happy with myself and my life just the way it is.
We need to be able to retort,

  • I’m also glad for you, but this is irrelevant. We all must face an eternity of punishment or bliss, and now is the time to confront this reality.   
Eternal punishment is a reality, as Peter later attested. After listing several widely-accepted instances of God’s judgment – punishment of the angels, the Flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah – Peter concluded that eternal judgment isn’t a fairy tale (2 Peter 2:4-9).

We need to know that a just God is in charge as we experience victimization. Otherwise, we will be tempted to seek revenge. Paul wrote:

  • For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction. (2 Thes. 1:6-9)
 It is because we are convinced that God will judge that we are free to love (Romans 12:14 – 13:4). We don’t have to play pay-back with our enemies, because justice will pay them back. If we trust God in this area, we need not take this upon ourselves.

The doctrine of “hell” was also central to Jesus’ teachings. In fact, He spoke more about hell and its horrors than did anyone else within the Bible:

  • "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil.” (John 3:18-19)
 In one sense, we are self-condemned because we have refused to avail ourselves of the only cure – the light of Christ. Some will argue that the future judgment is therefore also a matter of self-condemnation. If we have hated the light in this life, we will continue to hate it in the next, when we are confronted with the light in all its intensity.

However, my concern is not with the mechanics of condemnation but with its reality. Even if we are merely self-condemned, this is not going to make the condemnation any more bearable. Similarly, if hell is literally a “consuming fire” or merely an “outer darkness” doesn’t address the question of pain. Instead, the question of hell’s pain and perpetuity is foremost. Jesus regarded hell as a fate worse than death:

  • "And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)
 Death is not to be feared. Hell is, along with the God who has the power to send us there. The fear of God should be a healthy terror for those who aren’t on His right side. However, for those who are His, it is our “delight,” as it is for His Messiah (Isaiah 11:3).

As Jesus maintained, no one will escape this judgment:

  • “And [they] shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:29)
 I’ve heard many say that if there is a heaven and a hell, they will be going to heaven because, “I am a good person!” This assumes that God grades on a moral curve. However, Jesus assured us that any sinful act can merit hell:

  • "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” (Matthew 5:22)
There is no place for self-righteousness in God’s kingdom. Instead, we all must repent of our sins:

  • And He [Jesus] answered and said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:2-3)
Anyone who knows their own conscience, knows that they are a sinner who deserves condemnation (Romans 1:32). It is only the blindness of self-righteousness that obscures this critical inner knowledge.

In many instances, Jesus taught that hell is a place of torment, so much so that if it were possible to avoid hell by cutting off both hands and feet, this would be a small price to pay:

  • "And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire.” (Matthew 18:8)
We cannot reject speaking of hell, seeing that Jesus so often did so. Besides, if the disease is so threatening and the cure so simple, we cannot withhold this. It would be like our doctor failing to tell us that we have an operable cancer because he doesn’t want to offend us. Let us pray that we will have the boldness of Jesus who proclaimed:

  • “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." (John 3:36; NIV)



Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Give the People Hell!


The late scientist Isaac Asimov famously claimed:

  • I don't believe in an afterlife, so I don't have to spend my whole life fearing hell, or fearing heaven even more. For whatever the tortures of hell, I think the boredom of heaven would be even worse.
However, perhaps “fearing hell” and longing for heaven – the carrot and the stick – serve as necessary social and moral glue. Recently, in the wake of the Colorado shootings, evangelical author, Jerry Newcombe expressed these very sentiments:

  • "Tens of millions of young people in this culture seem to have no fear of God. It's becoming too commonplace that some frustrated person will go on a killing spree of random people. If they kill themselves, they think it's all over. But that's like going from the frying pan into the fire."
  • "Where's the fear of God in our society? I don't think people would do those sorts of things if they truly understood the reality of Hell."
  • "The founders gave us a system where voluntary God-fearing was the underpinning of civility in society. The more internal restraints people have, the less need they have for external restraints.
Although the Huffington Press had libelously and maliciously insinuated that Newcombe had insensitively made these statements in regards to the victims of the shooting, research supports his position:

  • Research shows that if religious thoughts are implicitly aroused in people’s unconscious, they will be less dishonest and more charitable…But why? Well, if supernatural punishment increases adherence to moral norms, and economic success rests on minimizing corruption and maximizing honest trade, then it makes sense that these types of religious beliefs could have a large scale impact. Indeed, we and others have argued that religious beliefs—and in particular those regarding omniscient, punitive supernatural agents that police our moral behavior—may have been instrumental in producing the level of cooperation required for early societies to grow beyond small groups where everybody knew each other.
Atheist turned Christian, Peter Hitchens - he's the brother of the late atheist Christopher Hitchens - wrote that the fear of eternal punishment had kept his immoral behavior in check and eventually led him to call upon the Lord. And he is not alone in this. One survey found that 26% admitted that the fear of hell had been at least somewhat responsible for their turning their back on sin.

Instead of criticizing religions’ teachings regarding ultimate rewards and punishments, perhaps secularism needs to acknowledge the wisdom behind such teachings.

Who Made God?


Often, after I mention “God,” I will hear the challenge, “What evidence do you have that there is a God?”

Sensing a hostile close-mindedness, I’ll often answer in generalizations:

  • The evidence for God is all around us. All of my senses proclaim the artistry, design and wisdom of God.
“Well, who made God?” For anyone who has read the militant atheist Richard Dawkins, this retort is predictable. Sometimes, it is followed by an explanation to impress upon me the weightiness of this seemingly childlike response:

  • “God” is no explanation at all for design if you can’t account for God’s origin. You’re just merely passing the buck without any explanation whatsoever.
While, for an anti-theist, this challenge is quite satisfying, it hides many problems within its confident assertion. For one thing, the theist freely admits that we can’t explain God – the infinite, eternal, and uncaused Being. In fact, such an explanation is logically impossible! It is impossible to explain something or Somebody who precedes everything else – all causation.

Let me try to explain. If we were to explain the origin of the sun, we might want to mention the natural forces and matter that pre-date the sun. This is because any explanation requires causal agents or forces that exist prior to the thing or event we hope to explain. If these agents do not exist prior, then they can’t be used to explain the thing we want to explain. This is because the cause must precede the effect!

Therefore, if God came before all else – time, energy, space and matter – then these can’t be expected to explain God’s origin. In fact, nothing can be invoked to explain His origin!

Furthermore, if time, energy, matter or space could be called upon to explain God, then, according to the logic of the non-theist, our explanation would be invalid because we then would find ourselves unable to explain our explainers – time, energy, matter, and space – because these would require their own explainers! This is the problem of “infinite regress.”

There is even a more fundamental problem with this atheistic challenge. It requires that any explanation be complete or exhaustive. It rejects our explanation of an Intelligent Designer to explain design because we lack complete knowledge about Him – and we do lack this complete knowledge.

However, we lack complete knowledge about everything. Does this mean that we are unable to even give an explanation for anything? Of course not! Why do plants grow? Because of the sun and water! Although this explanation is incomplete, it doesn’t make it meaningless or irrelevant. Actually, this explanation can be very helpful. It instructs me to water my plants and to not plant them in complete shade.

The atheist will retort:

  • This analogy doesn’t work. We do know a lot about the sun and water. Whereas, you know nothing about your God.
Of course, the atheist cannot prove that we know nothing about God. Nor can he offer the slightest bit of evidence in support of this claim. In addition to this, even if we do know a lot about water and the sun, we still are miles away from a complete knowledge. We are still baffled even by the nature of time, space and matter!

Perhaps this places God back-on-the-table!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Christian Oppression and Our Responsibility



Author Toby Westerman adds:

  • A silent holocaust of Christian martyrs is taking place around the world. While individual instances of murder and mayhem are sometimes reported, the general pattern of violence is ignored by the media, the United Nations, and most national governments. The perpetrators belong primarily to one of two groups: fundamentalist Islamists or Communist-controlled governments.
Westerman lists some examples of this holocaust from 2009 and before:

  • The burning of several Catholic Churches in Malaysia, the deaths of Coptic Christians shot following midnight Mass outside their church, police raids in Saudi Arabia against private prayer groups, all testify to the type of "toleration" employed by Muslim fundamentalists.
  • In Egypt, allegations that a Christian man raped a Muslim woman resulted in the murder of seven Coptic Christians and an attempt to kill the area's Coptic bishop. The deadly assault took place about 60 miles from the ancient temple site of Luxor, a popular tourist attraction.
  • In Saudi Arabia, a nation where no Christian church is allowed, the country's religious police are ever on the alert for non-Muslim religious activity, including private expressions of prayer. Private group Bible readings and praying run afoul of strict religious edicts. Even Filipino guest workers, who perform menial tasks for wealthy Saudi families, are in danger if they attempt to pray as they did in their homeland.
  • While instances of Muslim persecution of Christian believers are documented from Nigeria to Indonesia, no where is Christian martyrdom more tragic and ironic than in post-Saddam Iraq. After the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 the Christian population was estimated at about one million. Unfortunately for Christians, the post-Saddam era gave the Muslim majority a taste of democratic rule without the American provisions of a popularly accepted version of the U.S. Bill of Rights. Unrelenting attacks on Iraqi Christians have caused between 400,000 and 500,000 Iraqi Christians to flee Iraq, and many of those remaining are internal refugees - displaced citizens in their own nation, fearful of returning to their homes.
And now the Western media are ignoring the fact that the “Free Syrian Army” are killing Christians in Syria. Oppression in Communist nations is equally egregious. Westerman  also indicts the media:

  • It is time for the U.S. mass media to acknowledge the persecution of Christians around the world, and to identify those who commit these crimes. We must recognize that the persecution of vulnerable Christian populations by militant Islamists and Communists is a herald of things to come for the remainder of humanity.
While the Western media are ready to uphold humanitarian causes, Christian martyrdom is not one of them. For one example, World magazine laments that:

  • Google is hot for homosexual rights, but where’s the global campaign to support Christians, who are persecuted in dozens of countries? (August 11, 2012)
This is none! What Western nation is threatening these abusing countries for their flagrant violation of human rights? I am aware of none.

Meanwhile, the churches remain silent, convinced, for one reason or another, that they have to stare clear of politics. However, this position finds absolutely no support within the pages of Scripture. Instead, we are repeatedly warned to stand against oppression, especially the martyrdom of our brethren:

  • Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked. (Proverbs 25:26)
When a Christian is silent or unresponsive, he “gives way to the wicked.” Instead, we are to expose wickedness:

  • Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. (Ephes. 5:11).
Silence is not an option. If we don’t extend ourselves to the broken and the dying, it is sin:

  • Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins. (James 4:17)
We cannot turn our backs. While many pastors insist that by taking a “political” stance, we turn people away from hearing the Gospel, Scripture would argue the opposite thing. Jesus prayed that His disciples would love one another so that the world would know that they belong to the Messiah – the Savior:

  • "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35)
  • "My prayer is…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me…May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:19-24)
How can the world see our mutual love, if we turn away from the oppression of our brethren? However, if they see us pouring ourselves out for our brethren  – whether they are in Africa, the Middle East or Asia – they will marvel at our love and self-sacrifice and wonder at the God who motivates such self-sacrifice.