Friday, December 2, 2011

God or Tooth Fairy?

Christopher Hitchens compares belief in an intelligent creator/designer to belief in the Tooth Fairy. The difference is that when you examine the evidence, the Tooth Fairy hypothesis contradicts the reality that we observe and experience. (Get ready for a run on sentence of extreme proportions) And yet, given the reality of specified complexity found throughout the universe, the unavoidable scientific evidence that the universe had a point of origin, the fine tuning, (to the point of mathematical absurdity), present in the universe necessary for life to exist, not to mention the persistence of objective morality in the human mind - supposing an intelligent creator is perfectly reasonable. I would argue that it is actually the most reasonable conclusion to draw from the evidence and the reality we experience. Do not misunderstand me though, I do not intend in this short post to even begin making the leap to a case for any particular religion. My intention is to bring Hitchens' objection into perspective and lay the groundwork for basic Theistic belief. I suspect that many of you reading this already consider yourselves Christians. Even so, if you have never considered the evidence for God in creation, I would point you to Romans 1:20.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

No Cultural Christianity

It seems to me that as soon as any nation becomes settled enough to try to bottle Christianity as their own cultural experience, that is when God will rearrange the world. Not allowing Christianity to be bound to any one culture is essential to the spread of the Gospel. While all other major religions are still primarily concentrated in the area of their origin, the focus of Christianity in the world has shifted many times -- Palestine to Mesopotamia, Europe to the U.K. and U.S. and now booming in Africa and Asia among other places. The reason is that the Gospel transcends culture. It enhances and unlocks the full potential in the culture of it's adherents rather than destroying it and/or attempting to replace it. Obviously, certain aspects of the culture will inevitably be changed. What I mean is that an Asian or Latin American person does not have to become Europeanized or Americanized (or whatever the case may be) to embrace the Gospel.

I have decided to call this phenomenon the "Tower of Babel Syndrome". We Christians have a built in tendency to journey only so far before we settle on the "plains" of our own "Shinar". That happens when we start to believe that we have gotten all that we need from God and we can handle the rest. We are content to blend just enough of the "God ingredient" with our lives/culture to make it pleasant but not uncomfortable. Of course, we will call God in if we think we need something, but otherwise we are busy building our own monuments. We need to tear down these towers, regardless of how grand or "religious" they may appear and embrace the everlasting Kingdom that God is building in us, with us and all around us.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Better than everyone else?

A common claim of Atheists is that Christians will by necessity view non-Christians as "2nd class citizens". Because of this they conclude that all public displays of Christian symbols and beliefs are not just offensive but have the effect of subverting all non-believers to a lower social standing. That idea historically and Biblically incorrect. Granted, religion by itself will almost always produce that outcome, but the Gospel of Christ is radically unique in this regard.

It is well documented that during the 1st and 2nd century Roman empire (and it could be argued throughout history) it was the TRUE Christ followers who demonstrated the most inclusiveness. The pagan Romans discriminated against people socially and the Jewish were racially prejudice. But the early Christians reached out to care for people regardless of their race or social standing. The question is, why? Answer: because at the very core of the true Christian Gospel is a man (who was God incarnate) suffering and dying for people who did not love him and did not accept his message. Anyone who follows his example today has no excuse for looking down on anyone. Taking it a step further, God's grace ought to humble a Christ follower to the point that they consider others (Christian or not) better than themself.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A basic apologetic about the Deity of Christ

Contrary to what skeptics/critics say, the Deity of Jesus is not a concept that hopeful and misguided people made up after his death. Even though there is no record he ever said the exact phrase, "I am God", there can be no doubt people understood that's exactly who he claimed to be. Ultimately, it was that "blasphemy" which led to his crucifixion. By denying their assumptions or explaining that they were simply mistaken, he might have saved his life. His claim to be God is not in and of itself proof that he was God. But make no mistake about it, that is who he believed himself to be, even at the cost of his own life. It cannot be argued that he was merely a good moral teacher or a prophet. C.S Lewis said it best, "Either this man was, and is, the son of God: or else a madman or something worse." Just consider this...does a sane man give himself up to torture and death to uphold a lie? Doubtful. A madman might, but there is no evidence whatsoever to support the theory that Jesus was crazy. The most likely scenario is that he was telling the truth. Again, probability does not equal irrefutable evidence, but it should at least be worth your consideration.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Biological Warfare

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24)

As Christians, I am afraid that we often over-spiritualize the term "flesh". While it is true that flesh means more Biblically than just our skin, it is important to realize that our physical body still plays a huge role. Flesh may not be the whole team, but in certain games, it is the star player!!

 I would like to submit that no one understands the meaning of "deny themselves" better than a person who has overcome a biological tendency for something*. Drugs, alcohol, food, lust, anger etc. The predisposition to perform particular sinful acts is inherent to every person. And though we may not realize it, many of them are prompted biologically. The most obvious example is of a person who has become addicted to a substance and developed a biological dependency. That is a situation that most people know about -- dependency, withdrawals, relapse etc. Less obvious examples would be things like: the chemical reactions in the brain that make a person anxious, stressed, on edge etc. That person's body is "setting them up" for whatever sin that they most readily fall into (i.e. anger, depression etc). The same can be said of a physical impulse for sexual desire. Again, the body acts as a sort of "setup", making the choice to embrace lust via pornography or adultery seem practically inevitable. Food and alcohol are doubly dangerous in this regard because the body prompts a person to eat/drink and then whatever is consumed produces chemical reactions that can prompt in other ways. Obviously, I am not a medical doctor and am speaking from very limited and general knowledge about this sort of thing. Nevertheless, I think these things are important to understand, because things that are prompted biologically can easily be excused. "It just comes naturally," as the saying goes. In truth, all sin comes naturally.

My point in saying all of that is to draw attention to something. Here is an example. It is no accomplishment for me to say that I have never used heroine. I have never wanted to use heroine. I have never had to "deny myself" heroine at any point. I have never even seen it!! Unfortunately, there is an epidemic of morally superior Christians who live their lives with a sense of false pride because of all the things that they "don't do", (i.e. don't smoke, don't drink, don't gamble, don't cuss, don't beat my wife etc). But if you talk to Believer who has trusted in God to overcome a biological dependency on something, they are usually not particularly prideful about it. It was a painful and humbling process. They know what it means to truly "deny themselves".

Let me encourage everyone. Do not be prideful of the things that you "don't do". And do not sweep under the rug the sins that you are giving into regularly just because they seem "natural" or because they aren't as publicly offensive as drug abuse.

Galatians 5:16-17 "So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit..."

*Don't misunderstand me. Everything comes back to a spiritual struggle. There are innumerable, deadly serious, struggles that are not as easily linked to biological tendencies. Either way, we must learn to live by the Spirit to overcome the flesh.