September 30, 2011

God Exists. Prove Me Wrong.

For me, an inordinate amount of evidences both a posteriori and a priori point to a Transcendent Being beyond not only our ability to fully comprehend Him but also beyond the Creation itself. For me He is the Great "I AM" of the Christian Bible. The onus of proving His existence is not placed on me so much as the data shows that the onus of proving He does not exists rests on the non-theist or atheist to show why He doesn't. The burden of proof is on non-theists.

There are (4) four classical arguments for the existence of God. I will address each individually: Cosmological, Moral, Teleological and Ontological in order and then offer logical syllogism for each. Following the description of these arguments I will then select the one that, to me is the most sensible, internally consistent and “sits” the best with my conscience.

The first argument for the existence of God is the Cosmological Argument that augments into the Kalam Cosmological argument. Since this has already been discussed in depth in The '1969' GTO Kalam Cosmological Argument post, I will address this concisely and move on and spend more time on the other three. The Kalām Cosmological Argument (KCA) is derived from the “normal” Liebnizian Cosmological Argument from Gottfried Leibniz that says that: (1) Anything that exists has an explanation of its existence (2) If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God (3) The Universe exists (4) Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence (1 & 3) (5) Therefore, the explanation of the existence of the universe is God (2 & 4). If we add to this the stipulation that the universe is not eternal but actually had a beginning. If it had a beginning it therefore is contingent or dependent and therefore…has a cause (or creator God). This argument reinforces Liebniz’s original argument by adding an additional step of logic making it harder to refute.

The second argument to posit is the Teleological Argument. This argument argues for an intelligent designer of the universe/creation. The logical syllogism is as follows: 1) The “fine-tuning” of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design. 2) It is not due to physical necessity or chance. 3) Therefore, it is due to design. When I say fine-tuning I do not necessarily mean that a tidy explanation of the universe is that it was designed or “dialed in to a perfect setting” per se but it is a neutral expression that has to do with constants and quantities' being just right for the existence of intelligent life….us…mankind. In other words the earth being the exact right distance from the sun to allow weather that does not freeze us to death or burn us to a cinder. It is hard to believe otherwise. If the universe were even infinitesimally skewed one way or the other away from the way it is now…life could not exist in it, human or otherwise. Even if the evidence for the “fine tuning” itself were missing, the “multiplicity" of lines of evidence for the fine-tuning of certain constants and quantities as well the number and variety of the constants and quantities that exhibit fine-tuning give ample grounds for thinking that fine-tuning is here to stay and cannot be just written off as a colossal blunder on the part of the scientific community. Ironically it is here I believe that a Christian's strongest argument resides and it is also the weakest point. Why? Because we Christians often need to actually use scientific methodologies to bolster our argument when stating the evidences are scientific “constants”, “quantities”, “numbers”, etc. By doing this we use a posteriori evidences to argue for that which is a priori.

Regardless, the very first premise exhausts the alternatives of thought and by doing so, in the absence of a specific alternative suggestion (which there rarely is), someone is justified in positing the first premise and basically “standing on it”. They’re justified in thinking that because all the alternatives due to necessity and chance (statistics and odds) seem to be exhausted in the face of design. The argument therefore is as sound as the plausibility of the premise… which is extremely plausible. One only needs to look around at the wonders of creation to see the amazing complexity and symbiotic relationships that all work together to sustain life, from the macrocosm to the microcosmic level.

“...since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Romans 1:19-21

The next claim is the Moral Argument from which we derive the following flow of logic. (1) If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist. (2) Objective moral values and duties do exist. (3) Therefore, God exists. Every person has a moral compass internally that is intrinsic to who we are. Some are more sensitive to it than others and it shows in their behavior. Most people know and understand it is improper or morally wrong to throw a live child into a fire and kill them for no reason. The moral argument poses the question, “Are there things which I ought not to do and other things which I ought to do? “ The moral argument further adds to this question by also asking,  "Do these expressions of right or wrong maintain their validity independently of our apprehension of them, and if so, what is their foundation?"

Many naturalists have maintained that morality as a sense of obligation is merely a sociological and psychological preconditioned response. Theists on the other hand believe it is something much more. In the absence of God or the ultimate moral benchmark or “highest good”, good and evil fail to have any real meaning and objective moral values and duties do not exist. But as we see around us every day in acts of moral rectitude both within ourselves and others, there is a moral standard. If we are to believe evolution people should not be running into life-threatening situations to save another human being's life (or even an animals). The evolutionary concept says that we should actually be running in the absolute opposite direction away from the danger. Running into a fire to save someone or something does not jive with "survival of the fittest" theory. Survival of the fittest says, "Stay alive at all costs". Even if it means sacrificing everyone including throwing your wife and kids under the bus before submitting yourself to the danger of death. But we don't do that as humans, do we? As a matter of fact we willingly submit our lives to jeopardy for strangers in many cases. Only recently has this type of morality begun to breakdown in modern society. Why? Because morality is disappearing. Why? Because God in our lives and in societies is disappearing. The lack of concern for the well-being of our neighbors is in proportion to the lack of God in our lives.

"...Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself." Luke 10:27

As we drift farther away from God, morality is diminishing but even now in a diminished state many people live by a “code”. On the other hand non-theists and/or atheist (in the absence of God) reduce human beings to just another animal species. Although the humanists among them continue to try and treat human beings as morally special in contrast to other species and instill dignity, if they followed out their reasoning to its logical conclusion man would needlessly be amoral and no different than an animal which evolutionists have paint them out to be. The naturalistic view says that moral values are socio-biological and evolutionary constructs. Theists on the other hand argue that the moral gauge is instilled in us by a morally correct being. We are a divine construct. If humanity behaves and works within moral “norms” and we do act morally, so much so that sometimes we are incognizant of that fact. It stands to reason that Something (God) imposed these moral obligations and/or restrictions on/in us. If God did not exist, as Fyodor Dostoevsky once said in The Brothers Karamazov, "everything is permissible."

The last claim suggested is the Ontological Argument and is actually developed from Alvin Plantinga. Plantinga’s Ontological Argument is as follows: (1) It’s possible that a maximally great being exists. (2) If it’s possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world. (3) If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world. (4) If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world. (5) If a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists. (6) Therefore, a maximally great being exists. Having stated these we can then deduce that there is no way we can know unequivocally that the metaphysical exists because the possibility knowing the metaphysical exists cannot be defined with things of “our realm” as it is wholly “other” so knowing as we would normally understand it (facts, evidence) is not possible. In other words the metaphysical (God) and epistemic (human knowledge) are of themselves “ontologically distinct”. Because the metaphysical (God) is beyond the ability to prove through evidences in this realm (physical vs. metaphysical), they’re incompatible. You cannot prove a theory about the existence of apples in a world that only contains oranges and orange parts. This leads to the need for incorporating logic, rationalism and an intangible or an a priori (argued with only logic and rationalism w/o evidence or an a posteriori premise). We need an intuitive warrant or “gut instinct”.

So….based on the ontological argument, Plantinga posits that, if you can conceive it, the concept is intuitively possible, therefore it’s coherent and cogent. He goes on to state that there are weak arguments against it such as: If you can imagine a maximal being you could also imagine a quasi-maximal being also. The question you then need to ask yourself is: Why would the existence of the maximal being be preferable over the quasi-maximal? He posits that if you are rationalizing for an ultimate maximal being the quasi would be redundant and through logic we can conclude that if we are looking for something that is the “Ultimate Being” **AHEM** the Christian God, that basically (1) something less is redundant and unnecessary and therefore not the preferable option or/and (2) Why would the ultimate or maximal being allow the lesser to exist its place being redundant? Stated another way: Intuition would lead us to believe that having found the maximal being, the other cannot exist.

The largest argument against theists is the non-theist view that the theist has no “evidences”. The irony is: If we are arguing for something spiritual or a priori with a posteriori evidences…we never will have the evidence that non-theists are looking for because these “evidences” don’t exist as a non-theist perceives them. What physical evidences do science or evidentialists (need to have) have to prove or disprove God who is Spirit? As the Bible says, things of the Spirit are spiritually discerned…

“...but a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the lord, that he will instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Cor. 1:14-16

To wrap this up I will state that, for me, the strongest and most preferable argument of the four is the Teleological Argument. Perhaps it is because I view the world now with spiritual vision vs. naturalistic vision. It is what Paul referred to as the natural man and the spiritual man in 1 Corinthians 2. I personally cannot attribute the symbiotic near harmonious balance of systems in the Creation to anything else but Something or Someone capable of “putting it all together” and making it work. The microcosmic systems at the atomic and cellular work together with biological systems that work together with the hydrological system that works together with the ecological which works together with the global system that melds with the cosmological system....and all these blend seamlessly as if they were intended. What is even more fortuitous for us as theists is that all of these systems and things of Creation are observable. All of them can be used as readily available reference points for theists and non-theists alike as they are visible and discernible to both. They may be observed differently and exegeted/intepreted differently but they are a point of commonality. From the idea of design also arises the intelligent design theories put forward by people like Michael Behe of Lehigh University. As man has dug deeper into the microcosm we have found increasing complexity rather than increasing simplicity. Commonsense would dictate that the more we dig down to the basic building blocks of Creation the simpler things should’ve become. We have now found just the opposite in the sub-atomic realm and in the constitution of a biological cell. This of course has not surprised theist as much as it has baffled non-theists and science. The complexity is counter-intuitive and by revealing this complexity science has opened its own Pandora’s Box that can’t be simply shut again and shoved under the collective scientific bed. It also cannot be explained away with fanciful or whimsical theories of random chance, probability and the elapsing of eons of time. The complexity of and the perfect harmony of the Created order is staggering and can only have been attributed to an intelligent being beyond our ability to fully comprehend…a being that could only have been revealed as human minds cannot even fully grasp Him. Part of the revelation is clearly through the complexity and wonder of the Creation that surrounds us every single day as stated in Romans 1. 

I will also state that I prefer the William Paley’s Watchmaker Analogy over the “fine tuning” analogy because (1) it appeals more to a “hands-on” analogy for the common man since nearly everyone has owned or does own a watch and (2) It is an idea that has been around for a long time. It has been solidly reasoned through and has been repeatedly beat on, beat down and attacked and has withstood the concerted onslaught of enemies that mean to annihilate it but fail. I like its time tested-ness. It has been assaulted viciously and even though it has been driven under the water and it looked like it was down for the count, it continually resurfaces for “another go round”.



I will leave you with William Paley's elegant Watchmaker Analogy...

In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there forever: nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer I had before given, that for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there. (...) There must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers, who formed [the watch] for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use. (...) Every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature; with the difference, on the side of nature, of being greater or more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation.
~William Paley- "Natural Theology, or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity collected from the Appearances of Nature" (1802)
Photo Credit 1: Robert Tindale
Photo Credit 2: Paul Stewart 

September 29, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines XIII: Unplug

Technology Can Build or Destroy Relationships

I have actually written extensively on this on my blog in Spiritually Severed (no pun intended). To some extent we have all become victims or willing slaves to technology. Many of my communications are more dehumanized as they are online. It is strange, I have never been more connected to people through technology but never more distant as electronic forms of communication have nearly eliminated the need for face-to-face communication. When we fail to make the personal connection and instead do it in an informal manner through cellular technology we begin to breakdown and destroy a basic need of humanity which is close relation and interaction, in some cases the visual communication of body language and for intimates the communication of a touch

People Yell At You Because They Care

I am occasionally told that I spend too much time on the computer or online. Mostly because of school work when it gets heavy in the beginning of semesters or in online summer classes. I have now also started using computers for creation of sermon manuscripts this also requires me to sink quite a few hours into computer use. If I am told I've spend too much time on the computer I usually shut it down. Their obvious concern (and mine) is that I am not investing enough time in my flesh and blood relationships. These are clearly paramount and I know this so when I am online or on the computer especially for work or school work I like to make the most efficient use of my time.

What's The Attraction of Being Plugged In?

One of my huge online usages is for publishing a blog that I started about 2 years ago called SoulJournaler. It now has a following of 1000 registered users with more joining every week and others following through Twitter and other networks. It is a place where I can reach people with the Gospel and teach people the things that I have learned. Also online there is a nearly endless source of knowledge and information if one knows where to look for it.

What's The Attraction of Being Unplugged?

The same things that bothers my wife about me being on the computer to much are the same thing that bothers me. I know for a fact that I need to spend as much time with my family and people I care about that I can. We only come through this world in the way that we do one time. Eventually if we stay plugged in to long its like we are plugged into a backwashing sewer. We end up getting nothing out of the Internet or time in our gadgets but waste or wasted time. We need to utilize the time to the best of our ability. It should not be spend constantly with our heads jammed up against a backlit TFT screen or hammering out keystrokes and tapping a thumb-pad. Our computers cannot tell us they love us and they cannot hug us, our kids and family members can.

Hidden Dangers of Being Plugged In

I learned the hard way that the biggest danger the Internet posed for me is the ease that a person can spend money. Nearly anything you can imagine can now be found on line for a cost and all it requires is a credit card number and time. Since I am married I have to answer to my wife if I spend too much money. This brings a strain to our relationship and it isn’t worth it. So it is a checks-and-balances system that works for me. It isn’t as if we have any to spend to begin with. If things are purchased they are usually purchased on credit and paid back within the month to avoid interest. Therein lays one of the dangers. Buy now pay later. A person still owes the money and if paid at a later date it is paid with interest. It is better to not even spend money, especially if money is spent that you do not have.

Unplug from the box and plug into your life while you still have it. You'll be glad you did.

You don't get this time back.

Spiritual Disciplines XII: Nobody's Fool

Apt Pupil of God and Self

I have learned that God is truly long-suffering. He patiently waited out the stiff-necked Israelites right to the bitter end. He continually gave them second chances. He even asked the Father to forgive them for they did not understand what they were doing as He hung on the cross. I personally have learned that longsuffering is loves struggling mate. There can be no true long-suffering, tolerance and patience for someone…unless you love them. Only true ἀγάπη / agape love would allow a person to continually be dumped on and deserted but continue to give love to their abuser expecting nothing in return. We could all stand to learn from this selfless act.

Apt Pupils Are Flexible On Non-Essentials

I have realized that I can win arguments but loose people. I now understand that dogma in orthodoxy is a good thing but dogma in the non-essentials prohibits me from winning people to Jesus Christ. If I become dogmatic and legalistic about non-essentials I build a wall instead of a paved path between the person I am evangelizing and myself. Being on fire for God is fine. Trying to light people on fire for God like a blowtorch on paper is not. Blugeoning people over the head with the Holy Spirit has a counterproductive effect. People don’t care that you know your Bible upside down and backwards and can spout doctrine and Calvin’s Institutes…they care that you love them and will hug them when life sucks. They care that you will be there to lift them when they fall and stumble in this life. I have learned if I do these things first and occasionally bring them cookies or candy…they will listen to just about anything you have to say and will often buy whatever you are selling (figuratively speaking). What this says about my journey thus far is that either someone has been slipping Valium into my coffee or God is doing a tremendous work of cleansing and sanctification in me. I believe it is the latter of the two obviously. I believe the Lord has me closer to where He needs me to be to have an effective ministry. I am far from perfect but I am not the exact same person I was either. I am justified in Christ…and that is the best start anyone can have.

Epitome of The Astute

A person that is teachable is a listener and an observer. Nobody learns anything flapping their gums all day or shuttering their eyes from the world. Silence is usually all that is needed for someone to teach. Light on things is usually all that is needed to learn. Light exposes truth and silence solicits a reaction. Silence is a vacuum in the company of people that usually needs to be filled. Unless one is trying to rest their mind in preparation for prayer silence usually does not stay so for long. We are social people and the one that learns the most is the one that sees and hears. It is these type of characteristics that I run constantly in many different people that are teachable.

How To Deal With Other Opinions

When I hear something I do not agree with I try to figure out why the opinion is disagreeable. Is it my prejudices or is the opinion or idea just repulsive by its nature. Sometimes things are just plain repulsive because they are truly and sincerely wrong. They are so far outside an acceptable morality that they leave no question to their “wrongness”. If they are more middle of the road I try to evaluate the truth of the statement. In fairness I have learned to do this otherwise I remain in a myopic intellectual bubble. What is worse is I can potentially become ignorant and hypocritcal. I would not be intellectually honest if I did not evaluate in fairness the pros and cons of a given position...even when I may not agree with them. That being said, if after completing the evaluation I find the opinion to be outside biblical limits I call the person to task to defend their position. Usually by doing this I expose the flaw in their argument and dismantle them. If they have validity to their opinion I will respect it and nod or walk away with respect for the person and their opinion. Relationships are about compromise and teachable moments. If we do not compromise and realize that we could potentially be wrong or admit we don’t know something….how could we ever possibly learn? Trust me…no one is that smart.

"Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still, teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning” ~Proverbs 9:9

"The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death." ~Proverbs 13:14

“A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue. ~Proverbs 17:27-28

September 28, 2011

The '1969' GTO Kalam Cosmological Argument


I will attempt in this post to sequentially explain the Kalām Cosmological Argument. Within William Lane Craig’s book Reasonable Faith he argues for two premise both of which I will attempt to clarify in the order which they are presented. Because this portion of his book uses 50+ pages to explain the argument I will simplify it into approximately two pages of single space 12 font Times Roman. I believe Craig made it way more complex than it had to be by adding superfluous scientific explanations that were (1) riduculously complex and (2) fraught with potential logic errors and other minutiae that atheists will use to refute his argument. Because atheists really can't refute the validity and truth of the Bible's authority they often usually attack their own scientific theories embedded within theistic arguments and premises as being outdated or questionable. Case-in-point: The Idea of the Big Bang. Most scientists now realize that to preclude a divine being from their theories....they need to find a way to make the universe an eternal entity. If they don't do this they have to concede from logic that the universe had a beginning and therefore...a cause or a Creator. This would require a supernatural or metaphysical being....and they will not do this in their intellectuality because they believe it is to akin to believing in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. (3) Much of what Craig posits as evidence from science is absolute psychobabble.

If I haven't bored you already...we shall proceed with caution...

The Premises

Premise #1: Whatever begins to exist has a cause
Premise #2: The Universe began to exist. The universe therefore had a cause

I will then surmise and create a synopsis that encapsulates Craig’s conclusion.

The Argument

The Kalām Cosmological Argument (KCA) primarily falls out from or is derived from the “normal” Liebnizian Cosmological Argument from Gottfried Leibniz that says that: (1) Anything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause. (2) If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God (2) The Universe exists (4) Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence (1 & 3) (5) Therefore, the explanation of the existence of the universe is God (2 & 4). This premise itself is based in the idea of sufficient reason which says that (1) anything that exists needs an explanation for its existence and (2) seems to be an argument for causation from sufficient reason. In other words: If something is dependent on something else for its existence there must be a cause of its existence or a reason why it exists. Christians and theists in general posit that that reason is the Christian God or Aristotle’s “Uncaused Cause”.

Explanation of Premise #1

As such the KCA adds additional stipulation(s) or criteria to this argument that include that (1) Anything that has a property of being (ontological) that exists by necessity of its own nature is that it be eternal (no beginning or end). This means if that the universe is not eternal which many atheist contrarily claim it is eternal, then it could “fail to exist” by necessity of its very nature. The Kalam argument specifically argues that the universe is not eternal but actually had a beginning. If it had a beginning it therefore is contingent or dependent and therefore…has a cause (or Creator). Craig actually pushes this theory/argument to its extreme by positing that not only is the universe “dependent” or contingent on a cause/Creator it is a special dependency because it came into existence ex nihilo or “out of nothing”.

The KCA can then be summed in three succinct statements as noted in the text. (1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause—Things that exist have a reason for being, things do not just “pop” magically into existence. Things can come into existence ex nihilo but they still need a cause. (2) The universe began to exist (3) Universe has a cause. The implications of this line of thought is this: If the universe has a cause of its existence then that cause is God. If the universe’s cause is God…then God must exist. Craig later elaborates on this last thought by saying that not only did it have a cause, it had to have had a cause from outside of itself in God. Why? Because if the universe is all there is physically, it stands to reason that whatever create/caused the universe, if it had a definitive start point in the past immemorial, that cause is wholly “Other” or beyond the universe. We in Christianity understand this to be God since He is Spirit, pervades all things (not pantheistically or panentheistically) but is wholly distinct from the Creation.

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24

“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” John 1:3

The Explanation of Premise #2

If you managed to clear that first hurdle and understand that existence (of universe) presupposes a cause (or reason) for existence without your head spinning we then need to move on to the more difficult of the two premises (2) The universe began to exist. Not only did it begin to exist but did so ex nihilo “out of nothing”. It is at this point Craig goes into some extremely long-winded and somewhat convoluted arguments based in both deductive/philosophical reasoning or more confusingly, through inductive scientific arguments that are thoroughly bewildering and somewhat amusing in their innate complexity. They are bewildering not because they are hard to understand but in a way that they defy commonsense. I found it hard to believe intelligent people would go to such an extent to preclude the thought of the existence of God through dumbfounding and nearly unintelligible explanations. The explanations and meandering dissertations are formulated by scientists with wild but unbiblical imaginations that frankly seem ludicrous. They are ludicrous because their theories at times are so far-fetched they make the plausibility that God being the Creator a vastly easier idea to accept (think Occam’s Razor or lex parsimoniae/the law of parsimony). The inductive scientific arguments are all fluff and no substance (i.e.: fanciful and rambling theories).
 
In an attempt to “cut to the chase” and keep this essay within two pages I now proceed to the valid argument that comes out of Craig’s thought. Once we digest some of the theories of how the universe began to exist through things such as Quantum Gravity Models, String Theory, Chaotic Inflationary Model, Baby Universes, Oscillating Models, Multiverse, blah, blah, blah…Craig leads us to this section’s conclusion by stating there are 4 valid arguments or reason to believe that the universe had a beginning and has finitude. The primary and strongest one that he points to is based on Entropy or the 2nd Law of Thermodynamic, a premise that: Because energy is “winding down” in the universe and there is a finite amount of energy in the universe and it is still progressing towards disorder or absence of order…at some point in the future, the universe will suffer heat death or cease to exist…or use up the energy of the universe. The fact that the universe has a finite amount of energy and order and it has not lost all its energy or order since it is still being expended as we speak…argues heavily for the fact that universe was indeed created at a past date or point in time.. Therefore it is not eternal but created or caused which leads us back to the second premise of the KCA: The universe began to exist. If the universe does have a finite amount of energy and it hasn’t been exhausted shows that a quantifiable amount of “gas” was put in the gas tank of the universe at its creation as the “initial start-up condition” and before such time, the universe did not exist. After the “gas” runs out of the universe’s “tank”…it will end barring a catastrophic or cosmic calamity beforehand (like the Day of The Lord).

The '1969' GTO "Judge" Model

My analogy is that the universe is like a self-contained ‘69’ Gran Turismo Omlogato (GTO) "Judge" with a black paint job and black interior (think Munstermobile), that is given all the fuel it needs for its existence at the point the Creator creates it. Why? Because I like GTO's. Anyway...once the car runs out of fuel having reached the destination or the cause for which it was created, it ceases to function or in the case of the universe dies heat death or contracts back in on itself (implodes) or ceases to exist as an expanding entity. As for the GTO it sits on the side of the ontological highway and...eh....oh nevermind.... 

As Christians we understand the heavens and earth will eventually “pass away” and there will be a New Heavens and a New Earth.

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.” Revelation 21:1.

Synopsis

In Craig’s conclusion, which I will also make my summary for this essay, Craig then argues for the nature of the first cause…or should I say First Cause? As stated earlier in my analogy of the universe as a car, the universe is essentially what is considered a closed system in physics and therefore finite. The universe is also all that is currently physical. It then stands to reason that the universe was indeed created at a definitive point in the past by and had a cause outside of the physical realm since whatever it was that created the universe or caused it had to be beyond the physical realm. This “ultra-mundane" being as Craig’s terms It/Him must have therefore transcended time also since physical space and time are linked together by Einstein’s Space-Time Continuum. Since there was no time as we understand it or one moment followed by another in sequential linear order, this “ultra-mundane being” must also have the characteristics of timelessness. If He/It is timeless He/It must therefore be changeless since changes require linear time. To be timeless, changeless and not of the physical realm dictates that this Being must also be immaterial and dare I say it spiritual and beginning-less or *(ahem)* uncaused since without time there cannot be an infinite backslide of causes. A sequence of causes implies a sequence of time which there was none of before the creation of the universe which we already have concluded had a beginning or inception! There are further non-theistic arguments against this line of reason but frankly, I am disinterested in pursing them since my brain has been thoroughly charred to a cinder by this topic and it is outside the scope of the paper to argue polemically for the validity of the non-theistic argument. Good day!

September 27, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines XI: Downshifting


Why The Hurry? Slow Down

I was at one time all about rushing around and putting more stuff in my schedule than I could possibly handle. This led to burnout and letting a lot of people down because I couldn’t possible meet the demands of the schedule I had made for myself. Sometimes too much is too much. I have through God’s grace and the love of my wife divested myself of this lunacy. Part of this “overscheduling” was an inflated sense of worth. I often bit off more than I could chew to make myself feel important. I felt if people always need me or wanted my help…I was an important person. What I found is that people didn’t necessarily need help…I found many people were lazy and turned to me to shovel off their responsibilities because they knew by giving the work to me that I would actually do it. These days are over because as I’ve entered middle age I have begun to accept the fact that I just cannot do everything I use to in my twenties and early thirties. So do I continue to hurry? Sometimes. Am I addicted to the former chaos? No.

Slowpokes In The Passing Lane

Being stuck behind people used to be intolerable for me. I wanted to scream and pull my hair out. I would start ranting about how people think the world revolves around them and they should get off the road. This has changed in most cases. I now realize for me to think like this is to assume the world revolved around me. Unless the car is creeping at 25 mph in a 55 mph zone I generally bide my time and wait the person out. These types of situations really have more to do with the circumstance. Obviously, if I am in an emergency situation I am flooring it and passing people like NASCAR at Daytona but if not I try and be patient and realize that some people like the elderly find it difficult to navigate and manage driving at high speeds since their reaction time is not as good as it used to be.

Let Children Be Children

Do we rush kids through stuff? Children do not have the knowledge base of an adult so it should be expected that they will often react slower. Being a jerk and being beligerant and rushing or pushing parents to "move themselves along" only shows a persons ignorance and failure to empathize with other people. This shows a failure to love others. Pateince with children is a unique situation because this is behavioral issue of young children and they need time to acclimate to the real world. This is a case where we need to be exceptionally patient. Children are not like adults in that they are often going through a learning process. As a parent, I now know for a fact that a parent and adults in general need to be longsuffering and work with the child to learn. Ephesians specifically spells this out for parents to their children. “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” Eph. 6:4. The word exasperate in this passage means to push them beyond their tolerance level so that they lash out or breakdown.

Conservation of Energy

At 42 I am now getting to an age where I need to slow down in an act of self-preservation. I cannot expend all my energy at once. My reserves of energy do not recharge as quickly as they once did. I am still as strong and my endurance is almost the same but my recovery time is much longer. Prolonged sustained stress makes me ill. Going slow in a learning process more than it is a choice. I pray that God gives me patience in my life to be able to this.

Coffee

The morning is a tough one for me. Most would say that I abuse coffee/caffeine and most people would be right. I mostly have two speeds during the day: on and off. Anything else is a waste of time for me. Pushing too hard incurs too much stress and negatives in my life and going too slow gets nothing done. I may not overschedule my day like I use to but I still have quite a bit that needs to get done.

Deadlines & Bottom Lines: The Landmines of Life
Timelines & Finish Lines: Organization of Life

In the past I have allowed deadlines and bottom lines to dictate my life both in speed and quality. Unrealistic ones ruin lives and kill people young due to unnecessary stress. Timelines on the other hand I would consider a different way of keeping time. Where deadlines and bottom lines are transient or imaginary cut-off points, a timeline to me is more planned. Timelines show the progression of something to their completion. If things are systematically planned out in small chunks over a sustained period it is a more commonsensical approach to getting a task done. Deadlines are drop-dead dates that imply little or no planning beforehand which could have some scrabbling at the very last moment to get things done. Timelines seem more wise an practical in that they show a even-keel expenditure of time and effort.


Choice of Gears

I can choose to say no. When people dump things on me, just because they waited until the last minute to give me something to get done with a drop-dead date…I can still refuse. As mean as this seems, failure to plan and panic on someone else’s behalf does not necessarily equate to an emergency on my behalf. People need to organize and plan better. If folks know they are about to get to a hill or obstacle they need to plan accordingly and prepare to shift into low or high gear. People need to be adjustable and flexible. There are two old sayings that fit well here:

“Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part…” 

and 

“Most people don't plan to fail, they fail to plan.” In the end, if you have work to do but still need to slow down…you need to have a plan to do so.

September 26, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines X: Simplicity: The Man Defined By His Calling

Divesting One's Self of the Entitlement Mentality

I was exceptionally susceptible to an entitlement mentality until very recently. I was an Ameircan! I was a Christian! I was an employee of the 1st Tier auto manufacturer Mack Trucks! I made close to a six figure salary. I was educated! I deserved it right!?!?! *cough* nah.

The only thing I deserved was a swift kick (and still do!). If I had gotten what I deserved God would've burnt me to a cinder a la Wild E Coyote. Thank goodness God is a merciful God!

God has effectively beat the entitlement mentality out of me. The Bible is clear:

"All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" ~ Romans 3:23

"...the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 6:23

I deserve death but instead I receive life. Not just this life but eternal life. I am blessed with a wife and children, all of which love me. I expect nothing from anyone now except spiritual attack and persecution. In (3) three years I have gone from a near $100k salary to what the U.S. Government considers poverty. I accept it without question. I question neither what God is doing to me or what He is doing to my family. I now understand the cost of disobedience...as did Moses...and David...and Abraham...etc, etc. I see too much of His work in other areas of my life to doubt or question Him. I will say that at times it is quite difficult financially but we get by because my family and I trust in Him.

I am owed nothing in this life but I owe my life to Jesus Christ. That my friend…is simplicity in its simplest form: Accept Christ and what He has done for each and every sinner and everything else sort of works itself out accordingly.

More Is Not Better...More Is Deadly

In the past, the more-is-better mentality nearly cost me everything including my wife and my life. I lived by the culture's modus operandi that is a lot is good than more is better. Wrong. The more-is-better is usually a selfish mentality. Selfishness is not conducive to marriage or a proper Biblical life either. I realize that I cannot store up treasures here but I need to store them up in heaven. More-is-better makes people what the next big thing. In a circular race of keeping up with the Jones you end up buying things you wouldn’t have normally purchased. You act ways you wouldn’t normally have acted. You whore yourself out to the culture. The attitude that the harder you work the more you gain is an illusion and an American fallacy too. I worked insanely hard for multiple employers only to be released to unemployment during economic downturns. We need to strive after the work that God calls us too and a huge part of that is taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. As for the rest…as Qoheleth said in Ecclesiastes: Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. Ecclesiastes 4:4

Do Not Covet Your Neighbors Possesions
Do Not Be Jealous of Your Brother

I do not currently battle with envy of others as I have in the past. God has been doing a rather harsh work of breaking me of this sin. I do know that to have many of the things I believe I want will actually do harm to me both spiritual and probably mentally. I imagine at some point in the near future there will be occasions of envy or jealousy of what someone else has and I do not. The one thing that is a major issue is the idea of comfort and knowing for sure where money is coming from to pay bills. Recently God has been providing for this fairly well but income is not always assured in my household and this causes stress.

As for opportunities I would have to say yes, there is an envy if not a jealousy. I want very much to be a fulltime preacher but the Lord has seen fit to limit my time in the pulpit. Often it is limit by folks that tell me I am not ready yet I deliver sermons to other congregations that seem happy with what I have given them in terms of preaching the word of God. Still I see many gaps in my schedule and know in the back of my mind that I have a family to provide for…and I cannot effectively do this, go to school and work a meaningful job to effectively support my family. I occasionally wrestle with self-worth issues. I realize God gives me my worth but I have not been able to “stretch my legs” and run a race at full effort yet.

What I Own No Longer Owns Me-God Does
What I Do No Longer Defines Me-God Does

Since leaving my previous career as an engineer and pursuing the ministry in whatever form it will end up as…I have not been afforded the luxury of owning much of anything or bragging about going anywhere. This issue has been taken off the table by the Lord. These things if they still define anything about me anymore…their effects are negligible.

My True Identity-Now & Forever

I am a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. That has, by calling, chose or has been chosen to preach the Gospel to a word sorely in need of it. I am a doulos/δοῦλος or slave of Christ that has chosen to take on His yoke instead of that of the world or that of world system which is broken, fallen and corrupt. A slave people! My Master defines who I am. I am a man that gets His value and import from that which God entrusts me with. By His grace I will be a full time teacher and preacher of the Word.

To Give Away The Things of The World

There is very little of this material world that still intrigues me enough to covet or have a desire to horde it. I used to feel the need to possess things and collect them. I guess the last vestige of materialism is my reference books, commentaries and Bibles. Although I would greatly miss them and fret that I did not have them for reference when producing sermons or papers…they are replaceable. Frankly, only a dork would get wound up over losing a book regardless of how valuable it was. When I began donating things to charity solely to unload the junk from my life...I encountered a joy I had never felt before.I was making someone elses life/family happy not just my own life or my own family. I one case I was actually given a thank you card from a woman through a friend that knew I donated the toys at Christmas...she closed the card...Thank You Andy Claus. I cried. I never realized how a simple toy can change a childs life. Just yesterday I also threw away old powerlifting trophies too. At one time I thought they were the greatest thing...now they are only eyesores.

A Downsized Life Is A Happy Life

The last three years have been a purge of, ahem, biblical proportions. Many of my material possessions have either been sold off, thrown out or give away to charity. A lot of the stuff that I divested myself of was of my old pre-conversion life. When I converted quite a few transformation things happened that made hobbies or preferences incompatible with the new creation. Musical tastes changes drastically-old albums went in the trash or to the thrift store. Movies of dubious morality either got tossed or sold also. Toy collections that where enormous were sold off and given to charity like Toys For Tots and other charities.

Once the material goods when then God saw fit to start stripping me down economically and internally. At times this divestiture has been vastly harder that parting with the material things. When you divest yourself of internal things it literally changes who you are. I am no longer the person I was even a year ago. It is the sanctification taking hold I suppose. God is removing baggage so that I can do the job He has called me to do. I guess the Lord wants me to travel light and unencumbered as this would make sense for a man that might be trying to outrun godless secular throngs that would rather see me crucified than telling the truth of the Gospel (sarcasm…but some truth too).

The Lord is making me a simple man so that He can do wonderous work through a humble lowly chump like me. I truly get the joke people...He is using me. *(sigh)*

A Common man...with an uncommon calling

September 25, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines IX: Be Good To Yourself


"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." ~1 Corinthians 6:19-20

I Thank God for My Existence & Upholding My Life

I am truly grateful to you oh God who has made me as I am. Every one of my eccentricities have been accounted for and I know that they reside within me for the reasons you have established since before the foundations of the world. My uniqueness has been given to me by you and for this I am forever thankful. We are not the same as humans but specially constructed for use in your plans. No molecule or rogue agent is in your universe. I know that every single particle exists to bring glory to you oh God whether that particle is a part of me or not. Thank you for my existence. Thank you that you saw fit to number me among your chosen.

I'll Not Hesitate To Thank God for Being Created In His Image

If I could not bring myself to thank God for me and my existence it goes to show that I do not value His handiwork or that fact that He saw fit to make my in His image. This means I do not value being made in a holy and godly image. This lack of appreciation is hard to ponder. It would be like biting the hand that feeds…or should I say biting the hand that molds. At the core of a failure to be thankful to God is a heart of ungratefulness or maybe even selfishness?

I'll Accept Myself As God Has Accepted Me In Grace and Mercy

Strangely, I have always had a hard time accepting myself as is. I also had a hard time forgiving myself of past improprieties and committed sins. I needed to realize that He forgave me…now I need to forgive me. Receiving one’s self is just another way of saying accepting one’s self. When we begin to or are able to accept ourselves, we begin to accept ourselves as God does. Through grace and mercy God extends love to us in our sinful condition even though we are not worthy of it. It is in His extension of this grace that we are given our value. As we begin to accept ourselves after repentance, even through our faults we begin to see us as God sees us, flawed but redeemable. If we can do this for ourselves knowing we have nothing to offer then we also need to release we need to do the same for other human beings…since they too are made in God’s image and like us, they too are flawed.

I'll No Longer Neglect The Temple of The Holy Spirit (The Naos)

Although I am under no obligation to be totally open about this portion of my life to strangers I should probably disclose some of the more sordid details in my past. Two of which were alcohol abuse and drug use. The thing I learned about both of these ungodly and atrocious habits is, at their heart, they revolve around self-centeredness and selfishness. In these habits you care about how “you” feel or what “you” are doing. Other people do not enter into the equation and if they do it is usually only because “you” stand to gain something from “them”. This is not biblical and the quicker people realize it the quicker they have a chance of getting back on the correct footing towards God. Being Christian is about dying to self and turning outward. It is not necessarily about becoming self-absorbed and turning inward. These addictions/habits aided and abetted the destruction of good relationships with friends and in some cases family because other people fall by the wayside on importance as compared to the self. On the flip side of this I have taken care of myself since those days to the best of my ability and exercised and eaten well. The positive fallout from this is proper health, sleep and eating habits that I have now passed on to my wife and children (sort of).

Self-Care or Selfishness?

The self-care that I sense Jesus pulling me into is in the spiritual life. This area has fallen short in my life and requires work. Part of this is in service to others. I have not totally figured this one out as of now but it is clear that this is what ministry is about. Being of service and being a servant is near the center of being Christian. As with many things in my life, this is a work-in-progress. This is not a self-love or selfishness as commonly understood when we protect ourselves or look out for our health physical, spiritual or otherwise. Instead we should see staying healthy physically and mentally as a matter of keeping God's tools sharp for the gleaning of the harvest fields. God likes to keep His tools razor sharp.

Burnout Is Inevitable In Sinful Man

Burning out is lousy. It stinks and I have nothing good to say about it. I could say it is a good indicator that I need to get back to God but that would mean I strayed off God's course in the first place…and that too stinks royally. Burnout to me tells me that something got out of balance and went unbiblical somewhere. There are a few verses that back up my sentiment on this:

~Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. Proverbs 4:27

~So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Deuteronomy 5:32

~Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them. Deuteronomy 28:14

If I have reached this point I try to make it a point to find out where I went rogue or veered to the left or to the right. What I have not done is backed off the throttle and trusted in a sovereign God.

How Does One Recover?

Recovery is to stop and realize no matter how much I get done today, tomorrow brings another set of responsibilities and another set of anxieties. Man in and of himself can never get ahead of the curve in terms of work. Nor can man ever get ahead of the curve in terms of chasing God. God is infinite and so are His attributes. He is wholly other. Once I realized this I saw no point in worrying about getting “it all right” or correct. God will make things as He wants them. I am an instrument for that happening. Even when I think it is me it is in His sovereignty that things will be done and get done anyway. Even when I do things in an evil manner, God works it to His benefit.

Knowing Anxiety Is Senseless Changed How I View Life

I live life for today. Yes, I still plan ahead but I refuse to fret over it or fret over things that are out of my control. I now know that even the best laid plans of men can be laid to waste in and instant by the Almighty if He deems it proper to do so. This THIS has made life easier to live. When I do something I still do it to the best of my ability but I do not do it for self-glorification or public acclaim, I do it knowing I represent the body of Christ and to me that makes me work even harder to get things right. I am not doing things for myself but God’s glory which is infinitely more important.

Life Is A Gift & A Blessing

We are all gifts from the Almighty. We were gifts and blessings to our parents when we were born and many of our parents viewed us as just that: A gift or blessing from God. Why? Because we were!!! If God sees fit to see us this way and the two most important people in our lives see/saw us this way. Why is it so hard for us too? Every human life is a precious creation of a being in the image of God. It is why most if not all people (except for the insane or mentally disturbed) view murder or war in such abject horror. It violates everything we understand about the value and sanctity of human life.

Accept Love Given and Be Grateful

Protect is a poor choice of words here. Block one’s self from receiving live seems more apropos. Having said this I would say that one of the main ways to block receiving love from God or others is to have too much love for one’s self. Self-centeredness inhibits one from recognizing that we are loved often times. In these situations we often make ourselves to exalted or overly esteem ourselves. In this way we buffer what should’ve bee easily recognizable love. When we are selfish we seem to expect more and when we don’t get what we think we deserve we feel or think we have been cheated. What is usually always the case is…just the opposite is true. We are given love in abundance but we do not recognize it as such so we think we got cheated out of something. The people extending the love then realize their love is not being received or on some cases ignorantly rejected. When this happens, love gets restrict or held back because it does not get recognized and reciprocated. Eventually love disappears in these situations as little by little the failure to recognize and accept the love by the selfish person whittles away the love and patience of the one loving. This of course is at the human-to-human level. God on the other hand extends the love until the dying breath of the person, after which the sinner or selfish person that does not accept it pretty much seals their fate. They are condemned because of their selfishness. If they do not repent and accept Christ, humble themselves and begin to serve which is the true fruit of the one whom follows Jesus…they inevitably get it wrong...thus condemning themselves to eternal punishment and separation from God.

As the old Journey song once said, "Be Good To Yourself". Why? Because you...are not yours. You do not own you...Christ does. You my friend are bought and paid for.

September 24, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines VIII: Sacred Sanctuary: Entrance to Infinity

Forest Cathedral
by Isabelle Ann

The Difficulties of Getting Away To God

I have obligations in life that I really can’t afford to excuse myself from, we all do. The battle is ongoing but if we do not remove ourselves from the frontlines we will be blindsided because of carelessness. A tired, stressed and worn-out person is a careless and clumsy person both physically and mentally. As God sees fit to incorporate me into more ministry work I will need to find the time to get away. I am now pursuing whatever God has me do right now. In some cases this means going where he calls. This week it was to be at a campground to preach to 50 people. In October it will be two weekends in a row Oct 15th and 22nd. This will be in conjunction with school and other requests for Bible Study. If I actually do a good job these opportunities can only increase. At some point it will become overwhelming and I will need to make conscious decisions to abstain for sanity’s sake.

Alone With My Maker

Most people work be searching for vacation of downtime when asked what getting “away” is. I feel just the opposite right now. For a while “getting away” meant getting away from the old me and the old grind of corporate life. Getting away now means getting into ministry and doing the will of God. Even work for God is better than rest in the old life. Work for God frees me from the burden of so-called rest in the world.

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. Psalms 84:10

My Soul Burns

My soul yearns to preach and speak of God as much as I can prepare for: Every week, twice a week, every day? Whatever God can support me through. My family has encouraged me, my friends understand it is …where I need to go. This is not actually a retreat in many peoples definition but when it allows me to dwell fully on God's Word, to me it is a getaway.

What To Do After Withdrawl From The World

When I retreat from the world I think about God. Think about how I can relax and still bring honor to God. I never shake off this responsibility. Many feel they need to get away to some far-away place or some exotic locale. I personally could care less about this. To me it is just an excuse to brag about how much money a person had to waste or how distant the place was. [*Yawn*] I guess the true get away for me is a campground in the mountains with a raging campfire with my kids tucked in in the camper and my wife and I just sitting in the woods in front of the fire. As the fire burns down we will look at the immensity of the night sky and the plethora of stars and the Milky Way.

The Sound of Solitiude With God

I got to be honest on this one. I feel like I should be doing stuff. I think just sitting around would make me uncomfortable. God knows this too. I generally have two speeds: On and Off. I would love being with God…I guess I would just need to be doing something for Him. Perhaps worship?

Sanctuary In God Removes Snares of The World

Time down cannot be a bad thing. I know from experience that I do not do “idle” too well and perhaps this is part of my problem. It is quite possible I need to not just “downshift” into a lower gear but perhaps actually shift into neutral so I can let the spiritual motor cool down and idle too. I realize if I continually race and pound the motor within me it will eventually break down and I will end up having a breakdown. This past summer when classes were over for a month after an 11 month stretch of full course load at Valley Forge Christian College I literally did not know how to deal with all the time off. It felt improper to be doing nothing. I felt guilty and didn’t know why. I now realize it is because I am wired to work not rest. It is time to rewire.

September 23, 2011

The Nefarious Stampede


What I Do

I nearly always talk to people because...frankly...I like to talk. I do not just talk to my own brethren either. I talk to those that have not had the fortune of getting to know their Creator or acknowledging that He exists. I am constantly trying to find inroads to people's place. It is clear many will not meet me where I am because they either just do not care to or do not know how to. As much as this sounds arrogant, I am aware of some of the road blocks coming from the other side and try to work around them. I have been on the other side that stands firmly on empiricism and naturalism. I spend two decades work and contending with engineers, educators and humanists. I learned their language and their presuppositions and arguments that bolster and under gird their worldviews (many of which that are logically flawed). So I know ask many only to honestly follow through their reasoning to its logical conclusion without prejudice to see that it either makes no sense, it dead-ends or in some cases contradicts itself. I figure if I can first get someone to see the error in their thinking I have an inroad to fill the gap left by their erroneous thinking with God. The latest discussions though have been more disheartening than some and I realize that sometimes the measure of whether I made any progress with them will not become evident until we reach our final destinations. BTW, Tim is an alias to protect the true identity of my potential convert.

The Low Point

I was dealing with a Secular Humanist and to some extent he very well could’ve passed himself off as a functioning agnostic based on some of his peripheral comments about the inability to say whether or not he truly believed a god or the God existed. He would not outright deny the existence but nor would he accede to God’s existence. The worst moment when approaching someone with another worldview like Tim is getting into the meat of the conversation with the person and realizing I had not taken the time to define the terms; as in the Law of Identity. It turns out my subject is also thoroughly immersed in the pluralism of the culture and a tendency towards deconstructing words and language until they ceased to have the meaning that commonsense would dictate they should. We began to get into disagreements over what actually constituted things like evil and what Hell is, where it is and if it even exists. Tim seemed to think Annihilationism was a form or Hell and I told him the annihilation just means you cease to exist. No punishment…just nothingness and no consciousness. You effectively “wink” out of existence. I tried to tell him his soul as it exists now will do so indefinitely and what he does and decides now affects where he (his soul) resides for eternity. It will either be in Hell forever separated from God's love but exposed fully to His wrath (neither of which he was sure existed, God or Hell) or it would be in Heaven in the presence of God (which he also wasn’t sure existed). Inability to get him to lock into commonly accepted ideas of these terms (God, Hell, soul) made getting to my points across painful and nearly unbearable for me in their post modernistic and pluralistic terminological detours.

The High Point

The best moment is that I was able to convince him to some extent that he was being intellectually arrogant passing judgment about God being “mean” allowing genocide but yet Tim himself had not constructed a full, honest, logically consistent idea of what he believed God was to him before passing said judgment. To me this is a start. A start that does two things (1) it shows me he is receptive to being taught even in his humanistic and pluralistic state. Often pluralist are pluralist except when it comes to the Christian faith and (2) I believe I may have given him just enough conversation to make him thoroughly dangerous. What I mean by this is he could either now use the information I gave him to further ridicule or combat Christians or the information I gave him could act as a seed that the Holy Spirit can now cause to sprout and grow into fledgling faith. I hope it is the latter of the two. This is part of the danger of giving people words that are so powerful…they can be used as tools…or weapons.

Primary Avenue of Discussion

Eschatology which comes from ἔσχατος / eschatos in Greek meaning "last" and -logy meaning "the study of" or the study of Last (Things), study of the End. It mostly concerns itself with an individual aspect and a corporate aspect. The corporate or final events in history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity, commonly referred to as the end of the world. The individual aspects concerned are death, judgment, heaven, and hell.
More broadly in Christianity is also refers to or encompasses things related to the Messiah Jesus Christ or Messianic Age, the End Times, and the end of days.

I primarily used the concept of Hell and where one goes after death since this allowed me to broach the subject of the need of salvation to avoid eternal punishment in a really bad place (Hell). I couldn’t even convince Tim to intellectually accent to Hell existing because he claimed it was just a concept the Israelites and subsequently the concept Christians got from the Egyptians. Therefore the Christian Hell couldn't possibly exist because it was an Egyptian idea….as if the fact the Egyptians believing in it first precluded the fact that the Hell described by Jesus then didn’t exist?!?!? Say What? Eschatology also allowed for a conversation about the End Times (a la “Left Behind”) and Rapture which then solicited chuckles, looks of disbelief and a joke about people flying in the sky like Superman from Tim.

Painful Insights & Saddening Realities

As I began to listen to Tim and hear certain statements from him and certain opinions I began to realize a few things (1) Tim had not formulated a coherent of internally consistent picture or argument of what he thought God was/is. He made statements such as, “I cannot believe in nor will not believe in a God that allows wholesale slaughter of innocent children in a genocidal rage. Especially when the Bible says he is infinitely good and holy. That’s a contradiction!” I realize at this point that (1) he doesn’t truly understand the idea that an infinite God has infinite characteristics in infinite supply and as such, being infinitely good, he is also infinitely everything else including just…so therefore he must judge things that are evil. (2) I then asked him what his picture of God is and how he perceives God and he actually tells me that he hasn’t really thought about it that much and couldn’t really tell me. (3) I then see that he doesn’t really understand the Christian God or any god for that matter but is willing to pass judgment about Him or it based on flawed and limited knowledge. This is intellectual arrogance. It dawns on me that I am arguing more against atheistic/agnostic/humanistic unwillingness to think things through than anything else. These non-Christian or anti-Christian worldviews often are not willing to think through their lines of thought to logical conclusions and see that they are flawed both in premise and reasoning. I then need to conclude that they are intellectually immature, intellectually dishonest, and intellectually lazy or just flat out apathetic and just don’t care. How am I to reach people that are ignorant or apathetic to the fact they are perishing physically and spiritually? Do I try to convict them of their sin? Do I scare them with the threat of Hell which many of them do not even believe in and in some cases have resigned themselves to the fate of annihilation (or so they believe)?

How I Felt In the End (Pun Intended)

I wondered why I do this stuff to myself and I realize (as Depeche Mode used to say) people are people and sometimes we just get along awfully and don't see eye-to-eye. I realize unequivocally that it is only seeds I can plant and that the true ontological change (change of being) is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is a combination of us as the carrier of the message imbued with the power of the Word and the Holy Spirit. In the end I am still sad, disenchanted and slightly disheartened as I encounter these types of responses constantly as I am constantly using apologetics and talking about my faith with people. I cannot even have a legitimate argument with these so-called intellectuals (humanists, atheists) and educated people because they believe things that are based on flawed logic and don’t even care. With all the sympathy I can muster I make this last comment: They are ignorant (as in ignorant of other options), they are dying (in sin) and they don’t even care that they are ignorant and dying. What is worse, as in the case of Mark below is they knowingly stay ignorant....just as I did until God called me out and dragged me to Him. I literally left nail marks on tile when He pulled me to Him. I did not want to let go of me old self.

Atheist Arrogance

I must state that while I talked with Tim I also drew an atheist into conversation at the Boyertown YMCA. After long conversation with him I asked him why it is so hard for some to actually work through their thought processes to their logical conclusion and his response was startlingly biblical in a bad way. This man whom I will refer to as Mark since he didn't want me to use his name in a paper of an institution of higher learning said this: "I do not want to think my logic through to its logical conclusion. I just do not want to believe in God nor believe that I can or would be saved...whatever that means. I don't need saving, there is nothing to save me from....you guys are nutty you know that?" He then finished with this: "The only thing I need saving from is you." This is after he imposed himself into a conversation I was having with someone else. Even after treating him respectfully and letting him air his concerns he still condescended and left me with an insult no matter how humorous he thought he was being. I would do it all over again a hundred times. If I even chip one piece of his spiritual deadness off his self-imposed wall it will have been worth it. At first I felt as if I should be insulted but in reality I realize that he is insulting God...and that is his amends to make, not mine. The blood will be on his hands...I am doing what I have been commanded to do faithfully like Ezekiel did, but currently without visible progress.

The constant repetitive rejection of what you are convicted is true has a draining emotional effect on anyone that loves those that are lost and is continually rejected. I realize like the prophets of the Old Testament that sane people to not choose this life...sane people are called to it and out of love, awe and obedience to a transcendent God...we obey and we serve. We know that our obedience is the perfect manifestation of our love for Him. Yet it takes its toll at times...like today. 

As obedient soldier I march on waiting for next point of engagement with the powers and principalities of this world because for me there is no...."at ease" or shore leave. Not while people are practically climbing over one another in a nefarious race to perish in their sins. A gleeful stampede for Hell's gates.

September 22, 2011

Servant of Man but Obedient to God

Servants of the servants of God...this is the person that takes a leadership position in the church corporate. We serve people but we answer to Christ. There can be no other way. We are not obliged to but if we love and obey Christ we will. If we are really Christian we will because it will be the fruit of what we are. Part of our job as leaders is to assure our Lord is happy with what we do and how we treat others. Not because we need to do works to earn our way to be face-to-face with Christ (in Heaven).

The prize isn’t necessarily Heaven…it is to be with our Lord forever as opposed to being separated from Him…forever. Hell. Eternal punishment.

Part of making the Lord happy is by making our brethren happy by telling them the truth and teaching them in the ways of the Lord. We do it for our children why would we not do it for all the others we are to love because they are our neighbors? If we love God we should also love the creation (men) that is made in His image because they are in fact imperfect imitations of Him. We are so much so effigies of Him that God Himself descended and took on the attribute of humanity so that he could live a life as man and be sacrificed to save man from himself as he was not able to affect this salvation by his own accord. It could only be our Lord as it would be the only suitable sacrifice in the eyes of God to atone for the sins of man.

Leaders, we are servants of the servants of God. Servants in God’s image called to serve our brothers and sisters also in God’s image….but we are to obey God. We are to imitate Christ and those we serve as leaders are to imitate us as servants also. It is a form of paradoxical ladder…a reverse ladder so to speak of servants that always reach for the lowest rung on the ladder because the lowest rung on the ladder here is the highest in the Lord’s court. The more we serve man with the Lord’s order the more we will have the Lord turn to us and smile (I can think of no better scenario either here or there). We serve mankind but take our marching orders from above. To make man happy, nea, comforted joyful. How? Joyful man having been given the knowledge (through revelation) of God as prescribed by God. Why? Because what man thinks he wants and how man wants you to serve him will never make him happy. Why? Because God being the creator knows what is best for His creation and knows what will bring the most joy and happiness for His creation.

Him. Jesus. Yeah...that One (I sense a theme here…I’m just sayin’ ya know?)

So we take our commands from God and serve men giving men what God wants them to have. Him or knowledge of Him. How? By hearing the Word…which is Him also.

Why are men to be of joy for God? It brings glory to God showing that, having obeyed God’s statues, man is made joyous doing what he was created to do in the first place…love God with all our hearts, souls and minds.

Sorry...just musing on God…aaagain (as Forrest Gump would say).

Serve one another and in so doing we serve God also. There's more to it but this is a part.

1 Corinthians 4:1-5 “This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
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