Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Undeniable Existence of the Unknown makes Faith an Unavoidable Ingredient for All

*This reads more like a chapter in a book than as essay.
What thing that you don’t think is true, would bring you to shambles if it were? What is something that, if it were true, would be devastating…and subsequently result in reorganization, rethinking and re-evaluating your worldviews, beliefs, thought life and actions? 

Thinking about those questions should reveal to us that if our foundational belief(s) we hold, which other beliefs spring from, are proved false, our convictions topple- kind of like the game Jenga. 

From one foundational belief, such as the existence (or non-existence) of God, we build our other beliefs, so if the foundation is shaken our beliefs atop have no integrity, like a house on a poor foundation. Every person's beliefs depend on certain things being true and certain things being false. 

The question, "What if what you belief is not true?" should disturb Atheists, Buddhists, Terrorists, Bigots, Pacifists, Christians and Muslims the same. Such a question does not so much ask, "What do I believe?" as "who am I, why do I do what I do, what is purpose and why am I here?"

Aren’t we all attempting to reconcile our beliefs with the world around us, and reconciling the world around us to our beliefs? For instance, if I believe homeless people are worthless and somehow I become friends with one, I need to re-think and/or change my previous belief. That’s an example of me reconciling my beliefs to the world I live in. An example of reconciling the world to my beliefs is watching the world news and visibly watching the brokenness, death and wars which I believe are the results of humanity’s current state of corruptibility. 

The Search for the Historical Adam 

I came across an article, The Search for the Historical Adam, in Christianity Today, and it brings into question the existence of the historical Adam (and Eve.) “Dennis R. Venama, the BioLogos senior fellow for science, and the biology chairman at Trinity Western University, says cumulative evidence shows, “humans are not biologically independent, de novo creations, but share common ancestry” with prior primate species.” (Christianity Today)  

According to genome research our species is possibly derived from an original population of around 10,000. There are leading scientists, who are Christians, who founded an organization called BioLogos, who uphold that belief and uphold the entire Biblical narrative as true. (They do explain their interpretation of the Genesis narrative.) (Christianity Today)  

The cover of Christianity Today reads, “Some scholars believe genome science casts doubt on the existence of the first man and woman. Others say the integrity of the faith requires it.” It is certain, historic Christian confessions of faith and Christian seminaries state it, and our orthodoxy (Christian truths affirmed by all those professing throughout world throughout all time) requires it. 

Because I believe the Orthodox Christian doctrines of creation, the fall of humanity, original sin, and Paul’s crucial link to the historical Adam with redemption through Christ (Romans 5), which entails the entire Biblical narrative be true- that is, conformed to fact, the possibilities set forth by BioLogos have left me reeling…and agonizingly pondering doubt and belief, proof and faith. 

“Fazale Rana, the vice president for research with Reasons to Believe asserts, “These types of genetic comparisons are meaningless,” because they do not explain the fundamental biological and behavior differences between chimps and humans. Rana also says close genetic similarity does not require shared ancestry.” (Christianity Today)  

Here are some more quotes, which are not necessarily responses to the previous quote:
“A Biologos paper by Venema and Falk state, the human population “was definitely never as small as two…Our species diverged as a population. The data are absolutely clear on that.” (Christianity Today) 

Biologos reinterprets, and “upholds,” Scripture in accordance with their data, depending on an alternative understanding than the traditional Christian interpretation of Genesis. 

“Some Christians, “see the Genesis passages on Adam as a “story of Israelite origins,”not the origin of all humanity, in which case there is no conflict with evolutionary theory.” BioLogos writer Denis Lamoureux of the University of Alberta, the author of Evolutionary Creation, thinks that “Adam never existed, and this fact has no impact whatsoever on the foundational beliefs of Christianity.” In his view, “the Holy Spirit descended to the level of the biblical author of Genesis 1 and used his incidental ancient science regarding biological origins” to reveal “infallible messages of faith about the human spiritual condition.” As with Enns, he sees Paul’s epistles as reflecting the common biological understandings of that era,” thus maintaining “inerrancy of the Bible, but not of interpretations.” (Waltke) (Christianity Today

In the 1940s, C.S. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain, “for long centuries, God perfected the animal form which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of himself.” Lewis thought that in the process God eventually caused the new divine consciousness to descend upon this organism, but “we do not know how many of these creatures God made, nor how long they continued in the Paradisal state.” 

In British Evangelicals Derek Kidner’s 1967InterVarsity press commentary on Genesis, he stated that after God conferred his image upon Adam, he did the same with others who then existed, “to bring them into the same realm of being.” In Kindler’s view, Adam’s “headship of humanity extended, if that was the case, outwards to his contemporaries as well as onwards to his offspring, and his disobedience disinherited both alike.” (Christianity Today)

“John Bloom, director of Biola University science and religion program wrote that if there was merely a collectively pre-Adamic hominids (original population) that “collectively evolved into modern man, then the theological foundation for the nuclear family, sin, and death appears to be eroded. The credibility of the Bible when it speaks on these issues seems to be damaged: If it does not correctly explain the origin of a problem, why should one trust its solutions?” (Christianity Today)

“Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, stated, “If Adam doesn’t exist, Paul’s whole argument- that both sin and grace work “covenantally”- falls apart.” (Christianity Today)

“John C. Collins, Covenant Theological Seminary Old Testament Scholar, stated if Adam and Eve lacked, “an actual existence we nullify so many things in the Bible it results in a different story.” Collins remarked if genetics forces reconsideration he could reconceive of Adam and Eve as “the king and queen of a larger population,” maintaining Genesis’ historicity.” (Christianity Today)

My Reaction and Dilemma  

I think the debate above makes me question the overall reliability of the main claims and major themes of Christianity, in addition to the Adam issue. So, more than addressing specifically the Adam issue, I am exploring the dynamics of faith and doubt in what follows. 

Central to do all I do (and all you do), is the belief that I am (you are) acting congruent with facts and truth, or a faith so convinced/convicted that its principles are as close to irrefutable facts in my mind (in your mind) as they can be. I think facts and belief are meant to be wedded, not divorced. So, if the validity of what I believe has been legitimately challenged, how can I neglect the challenge and not search for answers? I think the truth withstands the rigors of all doubt, all challenges, all questions, all refutations and all contrarian beliefs.

The adage, “doubt strengthens belief,” is no consolation during questioning/doubt, only in hindsight. Just like heresies in the church always produce greater theological clarity, there is something born as a result of doubt, that cannot be conceived without it. 

I think it is healthier for a boy raised in a Secularist home to study the plausibility/validity of Christianity than to not. Similarly, I think it is healthier for a boy raised in a Christian home to study the plausibility/validity of Secularism than to not. They will either reinforce or tear down their “inherited” beliefs…either way it will educate. 

At first glance, I don’t see how there was no historical Adam and Eve, and no original population of two and Christianity be true. In my mind, at least right now, the two cannot be reconciled. Because of that lack of harmony, I ask, is there a gospel if there is no Adam? What a hopeless place this can leave a Christian if the weight of doubt can be felt.

Because I believe there is no hope apart from the good news of Jesus Christ the Messiah, if I’m not convinced of that, I believe I have no purpose, nothing to offer people, no hope for my life, no hope for anyone’s life, no hope for humanity, no hope for tomorrow, no hope for right now, no hope in going to work today, and no hope in looking back or looking ahead, no hope in love, no hope in death, no hope in justice, no hope in evil, no hope in life.

BioLogos claims have brought doubt on my most crucial and foundational beliefs…those things that dictate how I think and act, why I’m hopeful, why I plan the things I do, why I try and strive, how I spend my time, why I abstain from certain things and why I entertain certain things, why I perceive the happenings of life as I do, how I process the meanings of events and happenings in life, what I value in life and why, why I treat people a certain way, and even why I believe I’m alive. 

If I were relativist this would not matter so much. If I were a relativist I could say, “Oh, well, since there is no truth, it doesn’t matter,” not really believing my own statement. There would be no reason to be alarmed if I didn’t believe what I believe is true. However, all of us believe what we believe is true otherwise we wouldn’t believe it…even the relativist asserts things are true and others are not. 

For instance, if someone who didn't believe in God, yet alone a God who was interested their personal beliefs, behavior/conduct/morality (or lack thereof), was all of sudden convinced God did exist and that God was very interested in their personal beliefs, behavior/conduct, they would be devastated. Likewise, if someone who believes in God and believes that God is interested in their personal beliefs, behavior/conduct/morality (or lack thereof) all of a sudden believes God does not exist, and therefore didn't care about their beliefs and behavior/conduct/morality, they would be devastated too. 

If the Christian doctrines are true that spells disaster for the non-believer. So too, if the non-believers doctrines are true that spells disaster for the believer. (The truth is, by its nature, conservative; there can’t be a God and not be a God at the same time.) 

I am convinced that if the majority of the Bible is merely symbolic (of course, some is intended to be), the Bible then means nothing. If the Bible’s accounts of historical events, time periods, YHWH’s saving acts among Israel, creation, God incarnate and His finished and applied work, and the revelation of the highest and deepest wisdom in the Holy Spirit, are merely symbolic, the Bible offers no more help that matters  than one of those man-made wood carvings in India. 

Why Secularism is Implausible 

As I question the integrity of my faith, meaning, is it aligned with knowable, researchable facts and data, I wonder if I have been mistaken. So, I wonder what it is like to walk in a Secularist’s shoes, and think in their mind frame. 

It is hard to "get out from under" one’s own beliefs. It is unnerving, especially during a time you are not convinced of your own. Likewise, I'm sure it would be for a Secularist to briefly try to adopt a Christian’s mind frame. 

Amidst my doubts I find great comfort in the fact that science supports mystery. Science supports the unknown, thus leaving room for the possibility of the supernatural. For instance, even scientists who believe in the Big Bang Theory and/or unguided evolution can’t say they know where the matter that caused the Big Bang originated from. Another mystery: how can there be laws to science and nature but no lawgiver? How can irrational and unconscious matter produce rational and conscious beings? 

I will say, part of why the truthfulness of Christianity is so convincing is because its claims are consistent with archeological findings, factual evidence, proven historicity (religious and pagan) human physiology, human psychology, human sociology, and generally why things are the way they are. In my mind, reality is explained by the Christian doctrines and the Christian doctrines explain reality. 

Amidst my doubt I also find comfort that there is no known end to space.. If that fact doesn’t support an infinite entity what does? 

Also, Atheism/Secularism cannot account for human’s ideas of “good” and “not good,” and “perfect” and “falling short.” Where did those ideas come from, how did we get them? Atheism, once again, has no answers for why reality it how it is. 

I find comfort in thinking, that if God were provable (and visible) beyond a doubt and our origins likewise, then the Mystical Supreme Being would be neither Mystical or Supreme. 

In my Atheist/Secularist mind frame, I could find no reasons no grounds for reconciliation and compassion in a world where Christianity is not true. The philosophical/theoretical/scientific groundwork which a Secularist/Atheist builds on, cannot lead to the existence of, yet alone the value of, reconciliation, love and compassion. 

If there is no God, or if God didn't create us, I have no reason to be gracious ever again to anyone unless I think it might benefit me. I no longer have a reason to do what I should do if it conflicts with what I want to do. If there is no God, or if He didn't create us, I would have no reason, besides my own self preservation and pride to act in a manner that didn't comply with my urges and compulsions. (There are only a few good Atheists, the rest don't really live what they say they believe…like me at times.) 

If I don't believe God made me, or cares how I act, what I believe in, or how I treat others then I have no reason to humble myself or build others up. I have no grounds to try to honor, to protect, to serve, or not take advantage of, those "weaker" than me. Not only would be it be foolish for a nonbeliever to refrain and abstain from various sins, it would be incoherent and nonsensical. We cannot have both a moral, selfless and loving society and a godless one- they are wholly incompatible. Secularism cannot summon morality, selflessness, love or compassion. 

I have no doubt that non-believers have found all kinds of seemingly fulfilling and satisfying purposes for life, but none of them, as a whole, make sense to me. 

In addition to all those conundrums and major tensions, the existence of all the following are problematic to the Atheist/Secularist: ethics and integrity, rewarding labor, instinctive responsibility, wanting to believe in something, consciousness, goodness in one’s heart, knowing of right and wrong, rationality, the appreciation of beauty and pursuit of it, creativity, the ideas of personal identity and worth, graciousness, the sun, the stars, and all matter. Detectable and verifiable spiritual activity in our world is also problematic. One may say, “I don’t believe that hocus pocus,” in other words, “I will cling to what science can prove and deny the undeniable possibility of the supernatural.” Secularists/Materialists/Atheists are not realists, because there is always, even for them an element of mysticism. If they were realists, as they claim they are, they would be mystics.  
Pastor Bryan Clark of Lincoln Berean speaks to some of these points when he says, the "new atheists" are passionate for justice and upholding right and pointing out wrong in this world. However, the only basis by which we can say there is evil in the world is if there is some sort of a standard, which a relativist says does not exist. "A relativist can have an opinion, but by their definition you cannot project that opinion on somebody else and judge somebody else on the basis of your opinion." Therefore, a relavist cannot say that anything is wrong, unjust and unfair. 

The only way you can drive a passion for justice, right and wrong, is "you must be an absolutist." "You must say there are certain things in the world that are wrong, there's certain things in the world that are evil, there is such a thing that is just and that which is unjust and the standard is not based on my opinion or your opinion, it is rooted in the very character of God. As as absolutist we are well equipped to say there is evil, there is injustice, there is badness in the world and we find is totally unacceptable." (Bryan Clark) 

What that means is, a relativist, who says personal opinions are the source of right and wrong, moral and immoral, cannot say what the terrorists did the the NYC World Trade Centers was wrong, because it was rooted in their belief system. Only an absolutist can say, "that was wrong by the standard of what God says about it." 

So, if I'm a "new atheist," or relativist, I cannot desire justice, hate sin, or say any other person's belief system is wrong (even terrorists).

Of course, all those problems for a Secularist doesn’t mean Christianity is true, it just means Atheism/ Secularism is improbable.

Faith is the Vehicle to All Beliefs

Wouldn’t we all, without a second thought, prefer to eliminate the element of faith?
We all have problems alike...the inexplicable. Why are the deepest things, such as, “How did we get here?  “Why are we here?” and “What is our end?”elusive and impossible to pin down?

Isn’t it maddening to Atheistic and Spiritual seekers and pursuers alike that there is no airtight, slam dunk, research (evidence) about the origin of matter, DNA, etc?  We all are in the same boat…equally relying on the improvable, i.e. faith. 

Faith is the inevitable and uncomfortable home we are forced to dwell in for the time being.

Can you imagine, if we as a human race, we all convinced about the answers to those deep questions and wrote a coinciding credo that became our global (and personal) constitution? Now, imagine the opposite…this is where we are at- turmoil, hatred, wars, power struggles, greed, judgment, disagreement and havoc.  

Our utter inability to produce answers to our deepest and most essential questions is uncomfortable at best. We cannot, as we wish we could, have control or manipulate the answers to those questions. The answers are what they are, withstanding opposing opinions and beliefs, and by faith one believes in their answers. The truth needs no one to testify for it. It needs no verification, save its own existence, which is the ultimate testimony. I believe the fossil records, all research and data is only exploring and uncovering  the truth, not dictating it. I believe Christians have nothing to fear, only to lay claim. 

Faith against fact is idiocy. Faith, with the accompaniment of and support of facts and rationale is the best place any one person can hope to fall. 

We may be more comfortable admitting that we don’t know everything than at submitting to that fact. Declaring that fact and coming under the weight of that fact are not the same thing.

Elements of suspicion and doubt are always left to be mingled with our factual findings, be it fossil records, evolution and creation. We may, through unprecedented explorations, understand genes like never before but that does not provide an air-tight determinant fact about they originated from.

Perhaps, this is why the only thing God requires is belief in Him and trust in Him, via faith. Christians believe faith/truth in Jesus as Savior is what pleases God. (Naturally, faith/trust in God produces evidence of faith and trust in God, i.e. “fruit,” and/or “good works.”)  Faith is the only vehicle that drives us to any belief, and Christians say faith in the Messiah is paramount. 

When we trust in something or someone and cast our faith in it, in a sense, it costs us nothing. At the same time, our faith is really all we have to offer, so it costs us everything. One may ask, “What can I do to please God?” and a Christian may answer “It is impossible to please God without faith.”

Of course, faith is only as good as what we put our faith in. For instance, if my faith is in a wood carving and the wood carving gets destroyed by fire so does my faith. Similarly, hope in hope is no hope at all. 

The Biblical command, “Do not lean on your own understanding,” does not mean “discount facts, evidence and rationale and just have faith in God contrary to all of them.” The command speaks directly to humans, who lack complete understanding. Because of our lack of complete and comprehensive proof, and admission of the unknown, every person has a dash of lack of knowledge, which makes faith an inevitable ingredient.  The impossible must be possible because there are things we cannot explain. Thus, leaning on our own understanding is foolish, irrational and poorly thought-out belief system.

What makes a person think trusting 100% in all knowledge attained by humans (via science, etc.), which is incomplete and incomprehensive, is a rational and wise thing?
Shouldn’t it be deemed foolish for a person to depend on their comprehension of the incomprehensible? 

The essential element of faith puts humans in our rightful place, that is, believing in what we can’t see or fully explain. The requisite of faith to even attain beliefs and worldviews demonstrates our futility, and highlights our limitations, weaknesses and desperation. 

Perhaps our denial of the necessity of faith is because faith is a difficult “state” to be in- it requires trust of something we can’t fully prove. Perhaps, the belief that we determine our own truth is vogue and appealing is because it is mindless and easy. Ironically, holding that belief takes much more faith- faith against fact, making it unfounded, thus requiring even more faith than Christianity. 

The bottom line for Christian belief is stated in Hebrews 11:3, “By faith we understand that the world were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which are visible.” Christians believe, God, somehow, produced the bodies of the first human beings, and it wasn’t a purely natural process randomly advanced by mindless and unguided matter. that could have just as easily turned out anything other than human beings. 

The Rock Beneath our Feet

Amidst my questioning and weak faith, I believe the Triune's God’s grace is all-sufficient. The strength of my faith does not validate me before God- the object of my faith does. I believe I have a rock beneath my feet, despite my feeble and doubting mind. I believe there are deep and steady waters beneath the raging sea above. 

The integrity of our faith is not what saved, is saving, and will save us- it is the Triune God Himself. Putting our faith in our faith of the Son of God, is different than putting our faith in the Son of God Himself. Christ’s blood has atoned and set me free from sin, not my ability to grasp those facts intellectually. 

I don’t need my belief in God as much as I need God Himself.  Perhaps, we hold our faith in our belief higher than we hold the object of our devotion…God Himself. When I have no answers, no solutions to put my faith in, making me desperate, I need God Himself more than I need to be fully persuaded and intellectually convinced by my faith/my limited comprehension and understanding.

Drawing Back of the Curtain

Everything in my life hinges (should hinge on, but fails often practically) on the, uncertain, but believed upon, existence of the Triune God and my personal redemption, vindication and future resurrection by way of the "Lamb of God": my marriage, my work, my attitudes, my behaviors, my worldviews, my motivations, how I spend and don’t spend my money, what I watch and don’t watch, what I say and don’t say, my purposes, my reasons for living, how to treat people, how to act, etc.

If Christ was not resurrected a Christian’s faith is futile. Prove Christ was a mere prophet and you have just proved there millions of delusional people in the world who are praying to and worshiping a God who is not there...that they are wasting their lives. The Christian’s life ought to be built around Jesus being their personal and the world’s Savior. 

My ability to figure the God does not make God either real or not real. My belief in Him does not make Him actually exist, just like my unbelief does not make Him actually not exist. Faith has realistic doubt and I am casting my doubts on the cross and empty tomb, partly because it is the world’s only hope, partly because I am convinced of its historicity and compatibility with reality and partly because of the improvable, thus indisputable, movements in my soul that convey and convince those claims. In, Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer wrote, "we might be wise to follow the enraptured heart rather than the more cautious reasonings of the theological mind." Christians believe, not that we have found out, or figured out some spiritual truth, but rather, it has been disclosed to us.

Faith, to an extent, always defies reason. Tozer wrote, everyone's "whole life is shrouded in mystery. They fail to consider that any real explanation of even the simplest phenomenon in nature lies hidden in obscurity and can no more be explained than the mystery of the Godhead...Every man throughout his entire life constantly accepts without understanding."

Tozer wrote, "What God declares the believing heart confesses without the need of further proof...Faith must precede all effort to understand. Reflection upon revealed truth naturally follows the advent of faith, but faith comes first to the hearing ear, not to the cogitating mind. The believing man does not ponder the Word and arrive at faith by a process of reasoning."

Along with all those who are the Lord's inheritance we cannot cognitively go against the stern, sweet, unmistakable persuasion of the Spirit of the Lord. He who is in us, because we have believed, witnesses to our entire being that Jesus is God the Son, that God is Triune, that God spoke creation into existence out of nothing, and that God has given us eternal life and this life in His Son only. It has been revealed to us to the point that we cannot deny it- to the point where you can't not believe it.It is much like the saying, "When you see you it, you have no choice but to believe it." If you haven't seen it/been revealed it, skepticism is natural.

It is true that a Buddhist could have had equally transcendental, and indisputable, moments of revelation and clarity which persuaded him that Buddha is the definitive chief of reality/spirituality. I believe, one day we will know who's faith is validated, and what people group is vindicated. 

Doesn’t something cease to be the object of our hope when it is attained? It is an oxymoron to hope for what we already have. Because that is the case, all we have is our hope(s), that is, either a false hope or a true hope. Christians are told to live according to their unique and specific hope. In the same way, Secularists and Atheists live according to their unique and specific hope. 

Christians believe belief is a gift and hope is a gift. Faith and hope, the Christian believes, comes by way of God “drawing back of the curtain,” and revealing Himself to us. Therefore, Christians believe they cannot credit God’s disclosure of profundities to their desire to learn. Thus, the credit goes to God, not humans. Humans who do not believe the God who made them exists particularly hate when that God gets all the credit and humans get none. 

Christians believe this wisdom’s origin is not humans- it is imparted from the Triune God. Christians believe all the human wisdom in the world, or that which can be gained through scientific discovery or self-understanding does not include the Christian revelation, which I believe, by undeniable granted faith, is the preeminent and final enlightenment. You either believe that by faith, or, by faith, don’t believe it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Are you Working Hard Enough to Please Him?

I heard a lady ask that question, not sure who “him” was referring to. 

I wonder if that is the stab that people sometimes have at Christians. I wonder if people perceive us as miserably indebted people straining hard to please our demanding and severe master. The question, “Are you working hard enough to please Him?” couldn’t miss the mark more than it does. We are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24) God’s graciousness and mercy is our motivation and our inspiration and the reason we are joyfully devoted to Him. We are not motivated or devoted to earn His acceptance/approval because that can only be freely given by God. He loved us first, so we act primarily as grateful recipients. Even if we work and work for God, who does God owe that He should repay them? 

I have a hunch that the person who asks, “Are you working hard enough to please Him?” is actually the one fears they are not working hard enough to please Him, even though they might claim they don’t even believe in God. I think we all have, to an extent, an inborn sense of the existence of a higher being and that we miss the mark, or are unworthy in some way or another- we may feel shameful about things we’ve done, had feelings of guilt, regret or remorse or had a sense of failure about something. 

I wonder what would happen if we answered the question (Are you Working Hard Enough to Please Him?) with questions: “No, I’m not, are you? Do you know that God can justify His acceptance of sinners because Christ has made peace with Him for us? Did you know Christ paid our sin debt, the wages of which was death, and therefore we can be blameless and free of accusation in God's sight?...I would want to add that I am happily captivated by Him and His loving-kindness, that might be why I appear to be trying hard to please Him...because I want to, because He has enabled me to be pleasing to Him- even the "fragrance of Christ." I tried to work hard enough to please Him, but I couldn't do it, I needed an offering for my guilt, one which I could not produce- I needed God to come to my rescue and He did." 

Some people have such funny ideas about what Christianity is; perhaps, that is partly our fault.

Monday, August 15, 2011

He Rebukes It and It Obeys Him

“…As they were sailing along He fell asleep; and a fierce gale of wind descended on the lake, and they began to be swamped and to be in danger. They came to Jesus and woke Him up, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm. And He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were fearful and amazed, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water and they obey Him?” (Luke 8:23-24, NASB)

I love that line, “He rebuked the wind.” The KJV renders the question of his disciples on the boat in verse 24: “What manner of man is this?”  In other words, “what type of man can do that?” Perhaps fearing what type of man He was caused them to be fearful. Perhaps their response was similar to Peter’s in Luke 5:8. When Jesus demonstrated His power over the catch of fish, Peter fell at Jesus’ feet and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" (NIV) KJV renders Peter saying, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 

A man possessed by demons in Luke 8:28, after seeing Jesus cried out, “What business to we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” “The demons implored Him to permit them to enter the swine and He gave them permission. And the demons came out of the man and entered the swine; and the heard rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.” Even the demons sought to obey Jesus because they recognized His power and what He was capable of. Jesus had to give the demons permission to act. The time will come when God will no longer give anything or anyone any permission to do anything that can bring us harm. Jesus is destruction’s nightmare- He is evil’s most dreaded sight…He is Son of the Most High God.  

What type of man can still the turmoil in our hearts, cast out demons, triumph over the uncertainties of life, forever halt the restlessness of our souls, alleviate the painful and unanswerable questions, make right what is wrong, heal mental pain, mend emotional scars, and rebuke even death itself, except the God-man? 

Jesus will once and for all rebuke the pain that ails us and it will obey Him. The surging waves will stop and it will become calm. He is ruler over all. Everything obeys Him.

Where is our faith?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Transferred from Self-Reign

Isn’t the worst thing that could happen is that God would give us over to leave us alone to deal with our demise?

Sadly, many of us prefer for God to leave us alone. Some people favor what others believe is the worst thing that can happen.

Some of us want rescued from our sinful desires and their consequences, some want to indulge in them, expand them, pursue them and continue in them.  Some of us are desperate for God’s intervention and interference; others of us ignore and refuse His intrusion. (At times, all of us don't want His interference/intrusion, but speaking to soul rescue. Luke 17:33 speaks to this: "Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.")
After all, God is a jealous God- He and comes into our lives and claims us…He says “mine!” of our mind, our strength, our heart, our soul and our body.
The following scriptures provide thoughts on these ideas...

As Joshua’s days drew to an end, he said in 24:14-15, “Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness. Throw away gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…” (italics mine) 

Fast forward to Romans chapter 1 where Paul states that although some, “claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over to the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator- who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.” (Paul goes on to mention homosexual sins.) (Italics mine.) 

Romans 1:28: “…God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.” 1:32 says, “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

Romans 1 talks about people’s blatant and deliberate disobedience and disregard for their own God-given sense of morality, and God-given judgment of right and wrong  testifying against them. Interestingly, our sins serve as a witness against us before God (Joshua 24:22).

Romans is saying that God allows people, according to their choice, to continue to be subject to their self-reign and its destructive implications.
(Although sins may bring satisfaction, "riches," relief and solace, the “joy of the godless lasts only a moment,” it's merely temporary. The delight we take in godless thoughts, acts and things render their rewards in full immediately and there is no lasting fulfillment or permanent satisfaction.) 

As evidenced in Joshua and and Romans, sometimes the only way for us to get what we want leads us to disobey and resist God. Israel did just that- at the expense of following God they turned their backs to Him and worshiped false gods, just like in Romans, and just like we all do to an extent.  

Although, we all have a taste for particular sins that cling to us like our skin and follow us around like a lonely puppy, I think that the worst thing that could happen is if God would not save me from myself- that He would give me over to my sins without providing grace, forgiveness and the Holy Spirit.

Because of God, I am no longer held captive to my personal futility and sins. I have been liberated from myself and my self-reign. God saved me from, did not give me over to, myself. 

“Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession- to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14) 

The verbs used to describe the state of Christian in the New Testament are past tense, for example, reconciled, purchased, adopted, called, forgiven, purified, justified, and glorified.  

"For He rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13-14)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

How and Why does Understanding and Experiencing God’s Holiness and Being Spawn Worship?

There is no human explanation why experiencing God’s holiness or receiving a momentary look of Him as He is, cultivates indescribable satisfaction. Shouldn’t His holiness/His Being evoke a flight response? Shouldn’t it stir up dread, fright and anxiety? The “run for cover” type primal fear? 

God preserves good and purges evil- He is dedicated and devoted to acting in accordance with His goodness.  Since that is the case, I desperately need mercy and without it I am despairing at the thought of His preservation of good and purging of evil. Because I know what resides in me. 

Why can revelation of His holiness and His being be so sweet and overpowering at the same time? Does it have to do with the fact that it is indivisible from His mercy and grace? Perhaps, if we only knew His holiness we would be rightfully terrified, but knowing Him Holy, and at the same time, gracious, kind, tender and gentle makes all the difference- makes it overwhelming and sweet. It is here we understand a frightful Holy God has called a sinner like me a friend and adopted me as a son and has become by loving Father. 

We can be sure, unless we know God will not take our sins into account, we cannot and would not marvel at this attribute. (I can only imagine how insane a Christian must seem to an atheist- praising and worshipping God for His devotion to separate good from evil at the cost of giving up His only Begotten Son and being drawn to Him because of it.) 

I think, by contemplating and meditating on His holiness/His being we are awestruck- we are catching a glimpse of His splendor and brilliance… the things that incomprehensible and perplexing to us. In such a case, we have no formulated response, no set way to react or act, no premeditated way to think or perceive, we cannot  deliberate…we are uninhibited, we are caught up in something much bigger than us and we know it, and see it and feel it, and it is like nothing else- the cliché fits- there are no words

In such an instance, perhaps, we are experiencing God and partially apprehending as “I AM WHO I AM.” Done away with, for a short time, are our blunderous ideas of who we think God should be or who we erroneously think He is. Gone is our faulty rationale, our presuppositions, our tainted perceptions and awry beliefs of God and life and ourselves. Those things are put in their proper place of beside the point. At this time we see more than who we want God to be or who we have made Him out to be. 

Maybe, when experiencing God intimately we are getting to the roots of who we are (formed by Him from dirt) and who God is (the self-existent, inexplicable I AM).There is nothing that puts us beside ourselves like being swept up in a glimpse of who God is. When we get a hint, an insight, we instantly know our place and who we are without being told it…we are stripped of our self-referential, culture-assigned identities.

At this time, our body does what it does. It raises its hands, it cries, it gets on its knees, it dances, it longs…it is, as it ought to be.

I once read in a Christian book "to not trust your feelings." I don't recall the context he used it in and I'm sure the author meant well, but that comment raises difficult questions for that comment to answer to. Didn't God invent feelings and emotions? Doesn't God communicate to us by appealing, not only to our understanding and intellect, but also our emotions and feelings by way of euphoric and indescribable moments? Our feelings are not intrinsically bad- they don't belong to our flesh. Of course, that is not to say feelings don't mislead us and deceive at times. We all misuse and abuse feelings and emotions to an extent.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Imp and Jel: "Non-Dogmatic" Dogmatic Statements

Imp: “Many people mistakenly have the notion that spirituality is synonymous with religion. Religion is a specific dogma of organized rules and guidelines based on the ideas of spirit.” 

Jel: “All beliefs, statements and assertions are, by their nature, are “organized rules.” For instance, the self-labeled “non-dogmatic” statement, “the truth is different for different people,” is strict truth claim- not non-dogmatic. Not to mention, that statement is not possible.”

Imp: “I ascribe to a non-dogmatic spirituality.”

Jel: “Ascribing to a non-dogmatic spirituality is itself a type of dogmatic spirituality.” 

Imp: “Some features of a non-dogmatic spirituality are 1) an insightful relationship with oneself and others, 2) a strong personal value system, 3) A meaningful purpose to one’s life.”

Jel: “All three features of the “non-dogmatic” spirituality you described are, by definition, exacting and inflexible tenants- in other words, dogmas.” 

Imp: “Well, there is no way to know if any religion or truth claim is true.” 

Jel: “Imp, you told me earlier Jesus was not the only way to God, therefore you assert Christianity is untrue, which contradicts your own statement: there is no way to know if Christianity is true. If your belief system excludes mine, how is your belief system all-inclusive? By making your assertion you have made an exclusive claim- which you claim I make and you do not.

Furthermore, do you think a truth claim is still true if it does not conform to fact, but is refuted by it?
Imp: “I don’t believe any religion is wrong, per se. I’m not here to judge everyone and say I’m the only right one.”

Gel: “If you believe what you believe is true, then you believe the truth claims that are opposed to yours are wrong, right?” 

Imp: (face grows flush)

Gel: “Since your belief system says, “no religions or belief systems are wrong,” do you believe the belief system that murders Americans for fun is not wrong?” 

Imp: “If what I say bothers you so much maybe we shouldn’t talk anymore! Why do you have to be so judgmental, small-minded and hypercritical?” 

Jel: “Of course I ponder what everyone says, and mull over the likelihood of their claims- they beckon to be contemplated. Is it not as fun for you to consider the probability of my belief system as it is for me to consider the probability of yours?"

Conclusion: Where there is a statement or assertion about spiritual reality, there is a rigid and exclusive claim. Propositions are inescapable. Show me a doctrine-less, proposition-free belief system without truth claims which depend on very specific faith assumptions (beliefs not supported by empirical evidence and irrefutable fact) and I will show you the Creator of the Universe in the palm of my hand.