Monthly Archives: December 2008

Reminder about Christian Frustration…

I know many of my fellow Christians get frustrated from time to time when discussing Christianity with non-believers, and yes, I too get frustrated from time to time.  Why is the frustration there?  Many times it is because something seems so obvious to us, and we know it to be true and we are trying to explain it.  What’s the problem?  Often times it seems the other person just isn’t getting it, and we can’t figure out why.  It is the truth, we know it is the truth, we see the evidence plainly, why can’t they?

Well, the answer is in scripture, and we just have a tendency to forget it sometimes.

1 Corinthians 2: 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

There are aspects to God character, God’s ways, His plans, etc… that cannot be captured by man alone, the “natural man” literally cannot grasp them.  It takes the Spirit of God to communicate those truths to us.  Much of our frustration arises out of trying to explain deep theological issues, or describing God’s character or actions to someone who admittedly does not believe in Him…if they are not born again, then The Spirit of God does not reside in them, hence is not communicating to them in the same manner as He is to us.

This is not boasting, nor mocking in any way, shape, or form.  It is a truth that we cannot deny, and anyone who has gone through a conversion experience to Christianity can testify to this idea.  The Spirit is quite capable of working on the “outside” of natural man, drawing him, prodding him, nipping at his heels in order to give that natural man a choice…enabling grace.  This is why the gospel in all it’s simple beauty is to be preached to all; it is that chance to faithe, to choose, and is understood with the help of the Spirit if only from the “outside.”

But, it is the “meat” of our faith that can be frustrating to communicate, in some cases even to fellow believers.

1 Corinthians 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

Paul is pointing out that while these Corinthian believers have the Spirit, they are not responding to that Spirit and growing in Him as they should; hence, Paul has still been feeding them “milk” as one would a babe, and not “meat.”  I can sense Paul’s frustration here, as it appears he wishes he could really dig into deeper spiritual teaching, but must hold back.  Our frustration often comes when we do try to delve into deep spiritual teaching and we actually expect a “natural” man to respond as though he already has the Spirit of God dwelling within him.  (Also, this is actually a problem with many churches; they fail to feed the flock with meat as the flock grows in knowledge, the preachers keep dishing out milk as though they are still dealing with babes.  As the babes grow up they crave meat, but the milky preachers don’t/can’t provide it.)

I once had an conversation with an online acquaintance who was not a Christian, but who I had a relationship based on calm dialogue, back and forth, kicking around ideas.  After failing to explain, what to me was very obvious, I finally put my thoughts into words.  I told him the situation was like trying to describe the visual perception of colors, movement, light, etc… to someone who was blind since birth.  That is the level of perception that God’s Spirit brings into someone who faithes on Christ.

Far from being angry or being offended by my comment, it helped them to understand the frustration that I was indeed feeling.  Now, my point is that it does no good to be frustrated; it is understandable, but does no one any good.  If you find you are getting too frustrated; remember the important point; it is never our own words that bring about knowledge or illumination; it is the Spirit.  He can work through our words, especially the good news of the gospel to quicken hearts, but it begins, carries on, and ends with the Spirit.

6 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Conversion, Theology

The Problem of Evil? Part 6…

Now, there are a few other points I want to add here.  First, I think Hume makes an odd “mistake” in his supposed logical argument against  the existence of God.  If God is both omni-benevolent and omnipotent, why do we have evil?  Hume only includes God’s benevolence, and God’s omnipotence, and then attempts to pit them against each other.  One thing is obvious, he believes he is making a case against the Judeo-Christian idea of a God, which I do find significant in that it is usually the idea of the Christian God that non-believing philosophers, are dead set against.

So, I don’t find his argument against God holds up even under the logical scrutiny of other non-believers if they realize that God has many more attributes that must be taken into consideration.  The first two that jump to my mind is God’s Holiness and His Justice.  Is God benevolent?  Yup, but He’s also Holy and perfectly and absolutely Just.  This factors into the free will solution as well; God has a standard, if we fail to meet that standard, He will execute Justice.

Adam ate of the tree and the prescribed action in the divine justice system was quickly carried out.  Again, one cannot put forth an argument against God if one does not have, or present, an accurate “picture” of the very thing one is arguing against.

The other side to all of this talk of the “problem of evil” is that it is self-defeating when offered by a non-believer as an argument against God.  To label something well and trully evil, there must be an absolute objective standard of what evil is.  Just as with morality, the concpet of evil has no meaning if there is nothing but matter; if we are but mere matter, there cannot be anything truly called “evil.”

There can be things we do not like, but any connection to real morality would not be there IF we are nothing but mere matter.  Whether or not Hitler was right or wrong in his actions, for example, would only be someone’s opinion.  As a Christian, I can truly label Hitler’s actions as evil and wrong, and have those labels be meaningful.  By phrasing the problem of evil as the problem of evil, a non-believer is basically admitting that there is indeed real right and wrong; an absolute standard.  This “argument against God” falls prey to itself.

Now, there are some non-believers who will put this argument forward, but what they are really asking a believer to do is to explain evil.  The very human question, often asked in times of pain, depression, death, etc… is “Why?”  Many of the “solutions” I’ve put forth in this series covers that idea.  And, yes, I do favor the free will solution.  It makes sense both logically and scripturally.

But, in the end, I don’t find Hume’s “problem of evil” a problem at all, not in the sense of an argument against the existence of God.

12 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, Atheism, Christianity, Philosophy

God did bless us with doggies…

Leave a comment

Filed under Humor

The Problem of Evil, Part 5b…

The last post was about Free Will as a solution to the “Problem of Evil.”  In this post, I’d like to delve into another aspect of this solution.  Most of the time, when people talk of the Problem of Evil, the focus is on moral evil.

Remember, moral evil is that evil that is directly caused by humanity; torture, murder, rape, etc…  There is that other type of evil to take into account as well, and that is natural evil, as I mentioned before.  Natural evil comes about from “nature” and the various laws of science operating.  If you fall, gravity will pull you down and perhaps aid in breaking a bone, or even result in death from things like head injury.

Free will isn’t just a solution supported or put forth from Christian philosophers.  The interesting thing here comes in when it becomes clear that most people that support the free will solution are focusing in on only moral evil.  It is pretty obvious that our wills, whether they are free or not, play into moral evil…that’s the whole point.  Mankind contributes evil to this world all the time; we lie, cheat, steal, kill, etc…

Now, from a Christian perspective, the Free Will solution also covers natural evil.  From our perspective, God created a good world for us to live in; a safe world, one in which we didn’t even have to worry about death.  Again, Adam’s free will choice of not faithing on God brought about natural evil in our world.  God gave charge over to Adam over this world of ours, and Adam’s choice impacted not only humanity but also the rest of physical reality here.

We believe that all creation groans under the weight of sin, not just humanity.  This is one of the few explanations that I’ve come across that can and does account for both kinds of evil.  It is true that we can now try to yield to righteousness, instead of to sin, in the realm of moral evil, but we must also put up with a fallen creation, not just a fallen humanity, in the realm of natural evil.

Natural evil can be anticipated, but in most cases of huge natural disasters, we are unable to “fight” it directly.  We have to anticipate and then respond.  So, the characteristics of the two kinds of evil are different, but the ultimate responsibility still lies with mankind.  The ultimate outcome, again according to scripture, will be a restoration not only of mankind, but also of all creation.  Both moral and natural evil will be taken care of.

One common question that come up is something along the lines of, “So, you believe if Adam shimmied up a tree and fell on his head that he would have survived prior to his eating of the Tree of knowledge?”  My answer is “yes.”  God clearly has the power to sustain…not only life, but also inanimate matter as well…

Deuteronomy 8:1 All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers. 2 And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. 3 And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live. 4 Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years.

What we have here is a clear example of God maintaining the state of even inanimate matter; their clothes lasted forty years whilst they trudged about in the wilderness…they never needed knew robes, shoes, etc… because God intervened, apparently at the molecular level, in order to maintain their clothing.  He is quite capable of sustaining that which He wishes to sustain.

Again, I wrote this post mainly because I do think it is important to touch upon both kinds of evil, moral and natural, and also to show that Christianity does indeed account for both through the free will solution.  I hope to give a brief overview sometime soon of the Arminian vs. Calvinistic position on the whole free will issue.

1 Comment

Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Philosophy, Theology

The Problem of Evil, Part 5a…

Ok, here are the other “Problem of Evil” posts: Part 1, 2, 3, and 4.  As I’ve been discussing, “The Problem of Evil” is one argument that is used against the idea of there being a God, and now I’m going to make an intro post on another main “solution” to the “problem;” Free Will.

I’m breaking this discussion of Free Will up into several parts, because anyone who has looked into this knows that whole books have been written about this very topic.  I’d also like to eventually talk about the debate in light of Christianity as well; Calvinism vs. Arminianism in particular.

Ok, so this “solution” centers around mankind’s responsibility in bringing about evil in the world.  Free will is a condition for morality; for true right and wrong…for true righteousness, there must be choices available.  Why?  Because morality, to be truly meaningful, must have a split between a “right” action/choice and a “wrong” action/choice just by sheer definition.

The question arises, “Could God have made everyone where they would freely “choose” the good, no matter what?”  The answer is “no” because it is a logical contradiction.  If no one could do otherwise than choose to do good, then there is no meaningful choice involved at all.  The focus in this solution shifts from God to mankind.  The idea can kind of be summed up like this, “God made evil possible, man made it actual.”

In this solution, God is not responsible for evil in that He created it, rather mankind is responsible because he made a wrong choice.  If God desired robots He very well could have made them, but He did not.  He desires us, for various reasons, and He desires us to freely choose Him.

Does this solution line up with scripture?  Sure.  We only have to look to the account of Adam and Eve for one clear example.  As I’ve blogged about before, The Tree of Knowledge and the command not to eat of it was there as a choice.  Right choice and behavior was available; don’t eat of the tree.  Wrong choice and behavior was available as well.  Of course, as I mentioned before, this choice is about faith; trust God and follow what He says, or react with lack of faith and go against Him.  We also see in scripture that Adam’s act, his choice, has major repercussions for the world.

I’ll continue on in part 5b…

18 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, Atheism, Christianity, Philosophy

Interesting post at UD…

Uncommon Descent is a blog about Intelligent Design Theory, and has multiple contributors/authors.  Every now and again someone will post a blog that I find interesting.

The latest one that caught my eye was “The Psychology of Blinding Obedience to a Paradigm” by Barry Arrington.  It caught my eye for two main reasons, first I find the subject matter interesting, and second because he uses a bit of scripture to add to his idea.

First, it is possible for anyone with a certain paradigm to become blinded, if they aren’t careful.  This is true even of certain Christians with certain beliefs, but it is also true, as Barry points out, of other paradigms as well.  One of the keys to not becoming blind in one’s obedience to a paradigm is research.  This is where the fundamentals of true science can play a part, as we are to dig into things with the intent to find real and “true” information.  If one is presented with new info, it too should be sifted through and researched.

Many have this odd idea about Christianity that it tries to get people not to test things, not to research.   This couldn’t be further from the truth.  We are told quite clearly in scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. “Good” here carries with it the idea of truth.  Other places in scripture back this up as well.

What I do find to be happening more and more in the scientific community, as Barry points out, is a blind obedience that is not only being carried out by those firmly entrenched in the field of “science,” but is also fully expected of those just learning…grade school students, high schoolers, college kids, etc…  Blind obedience results from not proving all things, from not digging into a subject and asking questions.  It results from latching onto a certain POV, for whatever reason.

Do I think that there are some Darwianian scientists who question their beliefs and truly dig into them, looking for new info, and good counter-arguments?  Sure.  But, the bothersome thing is that there are currently too many who do not…and even those who do are afraid to speak out about their questioning.  This results in their passing on blind obedience to “the next generation.”

Barry used the story of Lazarus to illustrate this idea.  There were those people in the crowd that witnessed a full-fledged miracle first-hand.  They literally saw a formerly dead human being emerge alive from a grave, at the behest of Christ, and went to witness this fact to the leaders.  This new information did not alter the leaders actions, rather they became even more frantic in their pursuit of Jesus, in order to silence Him once and for all…they were stuck in their own paradigm.

John 11:45 Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. 46 But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. 47 Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. 48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. 49 And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, 50 Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. 51 And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; 52 And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. 53 Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.

Anywho, I thought the interplay between Barry’s idea and scripture were quite interesting.  Check out the article if you have time, and care about such things.

1 Comment

Filed under Musings, Of Interest, Origins

Don’t forget in the dark…

Doc Scott used to teach on this idea quite regularly, and it is a fundamental idea that is so important to grasp and to hold on to.  “Don’t forget in the dark what you learned in the light.”  It seems to be a simple phrase, and it is, but it is also very profound.

At some point in most people’s lives, usually early on, we are, on occasion, afraid of the dark.  What’s usually the remedy?  At first, it is to add light.  We can be setting in bed as children with the light on, perhaps reading a story before going to sleep and our rooms are completely safe to us.  We have our bed and our curtains, our toys are just where we left them.  We feel safe and comfortable with everything there and clearly visible.

Now, when the light is shut out and it’s time to go to sleep, we shift our perception of the room.  Nothing actually changes.  Nothing.  It is all still exactly the same; our bed is there, our toys, our curtains, etc…  but, we panic because we don’t remember what it was like with the light on, all we are experiencing is that darkness and the shadows that are now in the room.

Applying this to theology is easy.  We learn all of these great lessons and reassurances in our walk of faith.  We know how wonderful God is, we learn about grace, faith, peace, forgiveness…  While things are going good for us, we are indeed content and even happy with this knowledge; we feel safe and secure.  When the “light” gets switched off, we often forget these lessons.  When things start going down hill we start to feel uneasy.  When things hit rock bottom and we are setting in the proverbial dark, that’s when we need to remember those things we learned in the light.

God is wonderful, grace exists, faith is the answer, we are loved and not alone, etc…  Nothing about these fundamental facts have changed because of our rough times. Nothing.  Yes, it’s hard, it’s a struggle.  Life is a series of bright patches, and patches of darkness.  One of the tricks to getting through the dark patches is to hold on to those things that you know to be a fact “in the light.”

As we grow older, we begin to understand that just because our nightlight is shut off, doesn’t mean that our rocking horse suddenly becomes this horrible shadowy creature…it’s still just our friendly little rocking horse.  God does lead us through life from faith to faith, and He is maturing us as we go.  If it is utterly true that He’ll never leave us nor forsake us, and we know this in good times, it is also as utterly true when we are going through horrible times as well.

What I really like about the phrase, “don’t forget in the dark what you learned in the light,” is that is it so easy to recall that you can usually bring it to mind when faced with awful situations, when you find yourself in that dark tunnel.  Now, again, it’s not an easy slogan to live by, it’s very hard, and I forget some of the stuff I learned in the light when I go through a tunnel, especially when it is a long one.  That’s one of the reasons I’m blogging about it today, and also to help remind everyone else out there going through one of these tunnels right now.

Leave a comment

Filed under Musings, Theology