25 February 2009

God's Literal Promises

Gen 17:3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him...

Gen 17:8 I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God."

Those silly Jews think God was being literal when He spoke of an "everlasting possession." He didn't try to mislead Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob into thinking this promised land was a physical place, they just took it that way. Obviously God was being figurative. Right?

1Th 4:16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
1Th 4:17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Of course God's Word through Paul is literal. What's to be figurative about this?

I'm mocking you. I'll stop now. My point is that Abraham and all his offspring understood God's promise. Now Christians say they are wrong. If that's the case, how do we as Christians know that our understanding of God's promises aren't also wrong? What if a new sect arises telling us, "Silly Christians! That's figurative!"

Rom 11:18 Do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.

Rom 11:22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.

Wouldn't it be a whole lot more consistent and logical to say that nothing is figurative? That God always means what He says?

21 February 2009

Religion of Reason

Atheists or agnostics often (if not in every case) believe as such because of reason. They think they've escaped from the influences of a religious society to think freely. Freethinking then inevitably results in atheism or agnosticism, since that's the logical result the reason must give. According to them anyway.

Look closely, and it becomes evident that their faith is in the logic. Logic is their god. It is considered infallible. Instead of being without religion, their religion is reason.

I love this quote by Lewis Carroll Epstein:

Physics is actually a religion. A religion based on articles of unproved faith. In physics the articles of unproved faith are: "There always has to be a reason" and "The body of reasons has no self (internal) contradictions." If past experience had not contradicted these articles, that in itself could not assure continued compliance. But past experience has not confirmed the two articles. At any time, past or present, there are always things for which reasons have not been invented and things haunted by internal contradictions. Thus, belief in the articles is unproved faith.

To put this another way, we could say the first basic tenets, the dogmas, of the religion of reason are:
  1. For everything there is a reason.
  2. The body of reasons is entirely self-consistent.
  3. Logic and all laws of the universe do not change with time.
I have been thinking of the significance of tenet #3 lately. It would be a very sad discipline if all the work you did today was worthless tomorrow. So clearly no scientist wants to believe that the laws of the universe might change tomorrow. But this is why most atheistic scientists are also skeptics. Being skeptical is an attempt to justify tenet #3 without calling it faith. Skepticism says, "It has been this way in the past, and unless there is a reason for it to change, it will stay that way." (No, this isn't Newton's first law -- atheistic scientists perhaps have unjustly extrapolated the concept of inertia to their philosophy.) There's really no conclusive proof to this stance. It is only a matter of probably's. That's why the atheist/agnostic arguments have reduced to little more than that as recently displayed as advertisements on London public buses:

“There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Probably? That's compelling logic. As I've pointed out before, science is all about theories, and theories are never proven. It is all probably's.

I once got irritated when a professor of mine said in class that the physical equation being studied was true in the past but might be wrong today. I thought he was an idiot. Now I realize it is truly something we take for granted, taken on faith. As a Christian, I have good reason to believe that how the world works tomorrow will be the same as today. It is because of God's nature to be unchanging and ever faithful. Should He desire the laws of the universe to change, He certainly can do so. But because they have not changed yet, I attribute it to His goodness. It is a reason to thank Him every day.

So even as I have used reason in this very discussion, my premise is upon the nature of God. The use of logic stands on this firm foundation. Reason and faith in God are not opposites. Without God, logic's feet are gone, so to use logic requires faith in logic itself.

Reason this, will you?

12 February 2009

Rather 'Ronged

1Co 6:7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?

To be sure, this passage is talking about believers having civil lawsuits with other believers (read verses 1-8 for context). But we'd make a mistake to say it's no deeper than that. Verse seven tells us there's a heart issue here. "Already a defeat for you" is like saying "the lawsuit is a symptom far beyond the core problem."I suggest that the core problem is selfishness, the failure to obey the law of love towards neighbor.

"Why not rather suffer wrong?" Rather than what? Should we rather suffer wrong than not suffer wrong? Knowing that any given wrong is evidence of sin, we should all desire no wrongs towards one another at all. If that's not it, let's try again: suffer wrong rather than what? Let's look at verse 8:

1Co 6:8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud--even your own brothers!

This suggests that the opposite of suffering wrongs is doing wrongs. So, verse 7 is saying we should rather be at the receiving end of a wrong than the giving end. As I said, we should ultimately rather there be no wrongs at all. But our sinful tendency is to be selfish, so it is a given that, even amongst Christians, there will be wrongers and wrongees. Until we are glorified, that's just the way it is. So given this situation, why not rather be wronged?

I sometimes think I should begin every day expecting to be wronged by someone, because it will probably happen anyway. Then when someone crosses me, instead of getting angry because my "rights" have been violated, I can I know my blessing that instead of being the wronger I was the wrongee. And it gives an opportunity to display grace. Even further from getting angry, I can pray that the wronger might know God's grace. I cannot presume to know all that a wronger is going through in life, to say that a little offense against me is worth fighting about.

Consider thinking this way every time you get behind the wheel of a car. You just know someone out there will cross you. Why not rather be cut off?

Mat 5:38 "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'
39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
43 You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

May we be a people overflowing with grace and forgiveness for one another and for those outside even as grace and forgiveness has abounded unto us.

09 February 2009

Foundation or Scaffold

I don't know who decided gold is valuable. But apparently it is. At one time, the American economy was based on gold as currency. It is rather inconvenient to carry gold around with you, so we printed paper money to represent the gold. Today we no longer use a "gold standard" system, but instead our money has worth because the government says so.

This is very similar in my mind to scaffolding:

scaf⋅fold –noun
1. a temporary structure for holding workers and materials during the erection, repair, or decoration of a building.

Once a building is complete, the scaffolding is removed. If that means nothing to you, think instead of training wheels. Once I could ride a bicycle unassisted, my dad removed the training wheels.

What's my point? I think it is the same with America's Christian/moral heritage. Some argue that since America was built with Christian morality that America will collapse without it. But this argument falls logically short. Is Christian morality America's foundation or is it merely scaffolding? Is it a wheel or a training wheel? See, you can argue all you want about how America started, but it does not logically follow that America must be the same way today.

If money has worth because the government says so, cannot also America exist simply because the government says so? The analogy with currency is particularly interesting given the current economic situation. It has been suggested by some that we return to a gold standard to solve the problem. If that's the case, it would be an example of mistaking the foundation for the scaffolding and the consequences coming to haunt us. And it seems probable we'll make the same mistake with morality.

Even so, my first allegiance lies with a King and his kingdom, not America.