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Humanity is Basically Good?

In the wake of the horrific attack on the Boston Marathon spectators, people are struggling to make sense of the world. Or, more accurately, they’re trying to reassure themselves of their worldview. Trying to convince themselves of the basic goodness of humanity. Attacks like this are rare in the US. But in other parts of the world, they are a way of life. And in other parts of the world, daily life is a horror that we in the West can hardly fathom.

In fact, the human story is one of brutality, injustice, and suffering. Insulated by the now waning benefits of a Judeo-Christian value system, the world is once again closing in…and even then it has only been held back briefly and barely at arms length. Yes, many displayed virtue in helping out those injured. I was impressed at how quickly people ran towards the blast to help the injured. And yet in the same week I read a story about a man in India. His wife and 8 month old child lie dead in the street as he begged passing motorists for help. None of whom stopped.  Why did people render aid in Boston, but not there?  Worldviews matter. And we still have the remnants of a society whose worldview compels us to render aid.

Most assure themselves that the “good people outnumber the bad.” But history demonstrates that goodness and peace is an anomaly. Christian Theology perfectly explains why the world is the way it is, though the why’s of any individual situation may be obscured. The larger why is sin. Deny sin, and the world will leave you constantly scrambling to explain…or explain away…in order to make sense of things.

Modern masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact. The ancient masters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity. They began with the fact of sin–a fact as practical as potatoes. Whether or no man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing. But certain religious leaders in London, not mere materialists, have begun in our day not to deny the highly disputable water, but to deny the indisputable dirt. Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved. Some followers of the Reverend R.J.Campbell, in their almost too fastidious spirituality, admit divine sinlessness, which they cannot see even in their dreams. But they essentially deny human sin, which they can see in the street. The strongest saints and the strongest sceptics alike took positive evil as the starting-point of their argument. If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat.

-G.K. Chesterton

 

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Taking Liberal Pro-LGBT Theology for a Test Drive

The writer over at Eternity Matters take pro-homosexual theology for a test drive:

People who hold to pro-gay theology* (i.e., God doesn’t consider it a sin and that he approves of “same-sex marriage”) use all sorts of fallacious arguments to make their case.  In this post I am taking the pro-gay theological reasoning out for a test drive, so to speak, to see how it applies to other passages.  After all, if their principles are sound they should work in other situations as well.

Ideas have consequences. Anyone who is concerned about truth should be concerned with being consistent. Unfortunately, it’s most often not the case. But this is one test for whether or not an idea is sound. Does it make sense in contexts where the logic carries over?

It’s a good read. You can check it out here [link].

Annihilationism, Continuity, and The Cross

Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins.  “Pay” is a good word to use for it– even the writers of the New Testament use accounting language to describe what took place. In fact, when Jesus cried “It is finished” the word he used was “tetelestai.” That’s an accounting term that means, “paid in full.”  When ancient Greeks finished a business transaction, the account would have that word written on it. In this case, it was a divine transaction where we take on His righteousness and Christ takes on our sin.

If the penalty for our sins was annihilation instead of torment, then Christ would have to have been annihilated in order to pay for them. But he wasn’t annihilated, He was tormented. He endured a conscious awareness of his pain and separation from the Father…which is a good description He gives elsewhere of the fate those who die in their sins without his provision. [Luke 16]

Furthermore, it would be impossible to first exist, then be truly annihilated, and then return, as there would be no continuity of existence. That is, something that ceases to exist cannot return. It’s gone. The only thing that could “return” would be a copy, not the original. Otherwise the thing, or person, wouldn’t have been truly annihilated.

If I am right on this, it’s another reason to reject annihilationism.

Tim Keller on Coming To Terms With The Wrath of God

jesus-in-gethsemane1Stand to Reason mentioned a sermon by Tim Keller where he describes how he came to terms with the wrath of God:

Because if there is no wrath by God on sin, and there is no such thing as Hell, not only does that actually make what happened to Jesus inexplicable—Jesus staggering the way He is, asking God, “Is there any other way,” [and] sweating blood means that He was wimpier than hundreds of His followers, if there was nothing like [God’s wrath]—but…the main thing is, if you don’t believe in the wrath and Hell, it trivializes what He’s done…. If you get rid of a God who has wrath and Hell, you’ve got a god who loves us in general, but that’s not as loving as the God of the Bible, the God of Jesus Christ, who loves us with a costly love.

Definitely worth a read, especially if you find the idea of hell difficult to swallow. I don’t particularly enjoy the idea myself, but I find it makes sense– in addition to the fact that what I enjoy has little bearing on the way reality really is.

The Obamas Spend Easter at St. John’s, Pastor Forgets Basic Christianity 101

The Obama Family walks, under armed escort (i.e. guys with guns), to church.

The Obama Family walks, under armed escort (i.e. guys with guns), to church. (Source: AP)

On Easter the Obama family walked to the famed St. Johns Episcopal Church where, according to church history, every president since James Madison has visited.

Newsbusters pointed out a line [link] during the sermon that was conveniently omitted from the AP report [link] , but I noticed something else that is troubling.

Before I go on, it should be noted that Easter is the central moment of Christianity. Jesus is raised from the dead in order to defeat death and sin and allow a way for mankind to have access to God. This is not some obscure theological point — it’s Christianity 101.

Except the preacher, Rev. Dr. Luis Leon, didn’t seem to get the memo.

The sermon by Rev. Dr. Luis Leon was based on the Gospel of John and the Resurrection of Jesus. Leon said the message of Easter was about the “proclamation of victory, the victory of powerful love over loveless power.”

Apparently at St. John’s Easter isn’t about Jesus’ victory over sin and death. Instead it seems Jesus was making a point about people who have power on earth but don’t have love.

 

He said the “Easter vision” was the ability of the congregation to recognize the presence of Christ in their life, which would allow them to see the world in a new way without pain, loneliness, injustice, war, hate and despair [emphasis mine]. Instead, with the new vision, he intoned, they can see with love, hope and truth.
If the reporter, Stacy A. Anderson of the AP, has accurately captured the essence of the sermon, then the point of Easter at St. John’s is not about mankind being reconciled to God, but about some utopian ideal we can create here on earth ourselves.

While Jesus spoke of his followers being “salt and light,” He did not teach any sort of utopian hope for this world. On the contrary, he left his followers with a much different picture:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” – John 15:18-20

Interesting, maybe the Rev. Dr. Leon hasn’t made it completely through the book of John yet.

In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

William Lane Craig – Evidence for the Resurrection

In celebration of Good Friday and Easter, here is a short clip of William Lane Craig debating the literal, historical resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and the reliability of the eyewitness accounts.

Thought on Romans 1 and Judgement

On Monday nights I meet with a group of men to study the book of Romans.  Each of us takes turns doing observations on the verses for the night and tonight is my night.  We’re in Romans 1, and rather than get into the homosexuality issue (maybe later) one thing is striking me as interesting and it’s this:

 

24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for [p]a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed [q]forever. Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is [r]unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing [s]indecent acts and receiving in [t]their own persons the due penalty of their error.

28 And just as they did not see fit [u]to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, [v]haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

When we think of God’s judgement we usually think of the bad guys getting punished–maybe with a spiritual surgical strike– where there’s no collateral damage and when the dust settles the good guys are left standing.

But here we have this idea that God says “Okay, have at it. ”  What follows is one evil thing piled onto another.  They’re like dogs, running away from their master, leash dragging in the dirt,  tearing up the neighborhood as they go.  Wait?  this is judgment?

I have a few thoughts on this passage.

First, at this point in my life I can’t imagine a worse life than being allowed to indulge into whatever I wanted.  As any addict will tell you, indulging in pleasure without restraint is a process of gaining more desire for something that gives you less and less pleasure.

Second, the people under judgement here seem unlikely to show love to each other.  They give approval to those who live like they do.  But that list of characteristics doesn’t sound like a very fun party.  At least not for very long.  I’ve known people like this.  It’s all fun and games until they turn on each other.

Third, and this is the unsettling one (for me anyway) is that the effects of these acts don’t seem limited to those who are under judgement.  There is collateral damage.  Parents suffer because of the sins of their children.  These lives touch the lives of people who are trying to please God and the godly ones get burned.

Eventually, God says, “Enough”.  In the Old Testament we see God delaying destruction until various people groups sins reach their “full limit.”   There is a final judgement, but there is also judgement leading up to that.

Life is messy.

Calvin on the (lack of) rhetoric in scripture

Why read John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion? For gems like this:

In vain were the authority of Scripture fortified by argument, or supported by the consent of the Church, or confirmed by any other helps, if unaccompanied by an assurance higher and stronger than human judgement can give. Till this better foundation has been laid, the authority of Scripture remains in suspense. On the other hand, when recognising its exemption from the common rule, we receive it reverently, and according to its dignity, those proofs which were not so strong as to produce and rivet a full conviction in our minds, become most appropriate helps. For it is wonderful how much we are confirmed in our belief, when we more attentively consider how admirably the system of divine wisdom contained in itis arranged – how perfectly free the doctrine is from every thing that savours of earth – how beautifully it harmonises in all its parts – and how rich it is in all the other qualities which give an air of majesty to composition. Our hearts are still more firmly assured when we reflect that our admiration is elicited more by the dignity of the matter than by the graces of style. For it was not without an admirable arrangement of Providence, that the sublime mysteries of the kingdom of heaven have for the greater part been delivered with a contemptible meanness of words. Had they been adorned with a more splendid eloquence, the wicked might have cavilled, and alleged that this constituted all their force. But now, when an unpolished simplicity, almost bordering on rudeness, makes a deeper impression than the loftiest flights of oratory, what does it indicate if not that the Holy Scriptures are too mighty in the power of truth to need the rhetorician’s art?

Quick Theology: Entitlement

Whatever I get in this life is better than I deserve.  Even in utter misery God may still be present.  In Hell there is full justice.

 

Debate: William Lane Crais vs Christopher Hitchens – Does God Exist?

This video is long, but worth watching.  Christian philosopher and theologian (he has doctorates in both) William Lane Craig debates one of the “four horsemen” of the “new atheists”, Christopher Hitchens.

After watching the whole thing my opinion is that Craig is the more logical and Hitchens the more charismatic.  Craig lays out his logical arguments and Hitchens never really dismantles them, or even attempts to.   Logically speaking, I think Craig wins.  But if you’re more  swayed by quips and charisma, you’ll come away with the impression that Hitchens did.

I like Christopher Hitchens even though I think his worldview is wrong and utterly bankrupt.  On the other hand,  I’m not a fan at all of Richard Dawkins who comes across as an arrogant bully whose arguments contain little argument and lots of name calling.  (He also refuses to debate Craig, claiming that the only reason Craig wants to debate him is because he’s an egomaniac who’s hungry for fame.  Talk about projecting yourself on others.)

This kind of debate is perfect to put on and listen while you’re working.