Friday, November 21, 2014

The History of Humanity

God is awesome. We heard as much last week. We have probably had it also grounded in our very face that the Lord who sits on the throne is one who is just simply awesome in the ways that He interacts with man.

Yet today I again want to share with you a simple, yet very very true history lesson. So here goes nothing.

Once there was nothing in existence, save one being, whom we call God. He decided for some reason that despite His extreme lack of obligation or need for such a thing, to create a world. It was an ideal world, and He put his creatures like man into it.

Now let's just make one thing clear - from a purely logical standpoint, a Deist God just makes sense. After all, a God who is so great that He can literally just speak things into existence is probably too transcendent to even care about His creation. I see no reason why He shouldn't just create the world, and leave us all to our own devices.

But in the ideal world that God placed Adam and Eve, He didn't just leave them alone, but specifically made sure that they had whatever they needed to survive. He even went so far as to allow them an opportunity to have a relationship with Him.

And Adam and Eve took that great blessing that was given to them, and they defiled it, breaking the one commandment that God had given to them to keep.

At this point, God's actions also don't seem to make sense from a logical perspective (logic is so very human after all). He could have easily destroyed the earth right then and right there and start afresh (or not restart at all). But He didn't. He decided to give Adam and Eve a lighter punishment of simply banishment from the ideal world that they were living in.

At this point, a deistic God really starts to make sense. Why should God still be concerned about these people who denied the blessings He gave them in exchange for some fruit? Nonetheless, the Lord goes to great lengths to keep man in a relationship with Him, albeit a broken one.

Eventually selecting the Israelites as His people, He looks after and guides them, confronting their enemies, and giving them a way to worship Him as He deserves. As He continually blesses them, they continually defile those blessings. And yet He still continues to bless them.

Indeed He blesses them through their sin until the point that in the very last book of the Old Testament, He proclaims,
"I am the Lord, I change not. Therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts."  

These are all the blessings God has bestowed on man prior to His actually coming to earth, and taking on the punishment for our sins, so that we can truly have a restored fellowship with Him.

Pretty amazing blessings, right? Well, how exactly are you responding to this blessing? Are you defiling it like humanity has done throughout history, or are you doing your best to serve the Lord in all the ways He deserves?

Monday, November 17, 2014

How Not to Read the Bible

In my Spiritual Formations class this Tuesday, the professor just casually mentioned that too often when we are reading the Psalms, we put ourselves directly into the story. We pretend that when the author was speaking of the faithful one, he was obviously referring to us.

Thus we read that our enemies will be vanquished if only we trust in the Lord. It's great; we now relate to the Scriptural passages we are reading, but we are not the faithful one that the psalmist was thinking of when he penned those words.

Here's the thing about the Bible - it already is a relatable book. One can definitely find teachings in it that are relevant to our own lives.

But our process in determining those types of applications should not come until after an understanding of the text itself.

This chronological step is not just a semantic matter. If one tries too much to only look to the Bible for meaning and application in his own life, it becomes all too easy to rest in "Promises of God" that God never actually promised. For instance, it becomes easy to say that Philippians 1:6 is a reason why the Lord will continue to bless a friendship into great things, because he started a "good work in you."

Obviously, the apostle Paul was referring to the idea that the Philippians' eternal salvation was secure, not any extraneous circumstances regarding friends. This relates to our own life in regards to our own eternal salvation, and nothing more at all regarding any other parts of life.

All this does not exclude the idea of applications into our own life that perhaps the original author would not have known possible. Just because computers weren't a thing doesn't mean that the admonition in Colossians 3:17 to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus doesn't apply to my writing of this blog post.

In conclusion, then, let's hear some words from my Spiritual Formations textbook, 40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible, by Robert Plummer,
"Depending on the setting of the modern-day reader, a variety of implications are possible. The implications must flow within the channel of meaning determined by the conscious intent of the human author; they must be 'submeanings' of the original paradigm... The original author is the determiner of meaning, which in turn limits implications." 

So yes, we should be able to relate to the Bible, but let's be sure that we base that relationship on the Bible itself.

Friday, November 14, 2014

How about a Psalm of Praise (with only Minor Points of Application)

  There is a great truth, which cannot be suppressed by any Christian. I am fairly certain that all denominations can and do ascribe to this one belief. Disagree as we might on issues ranging from the mundane to the doctrinal, from the legitimacy of divorce to the extent of God's predestination, we all agree on one fundamental point (among others too).

God is pretty dang awesome! Kinda an incredible transcendent being that I ultimately can't try to pen down in words. A God who had the unlimited power necessary to speak this world in existence, and the unlimited knowledge to know what would all transpire after He did so. 

So why does He even care about the lives of us lowly human beings? From a purely logical standpoint, I must admit that the God of the Deists makes sense. The God who is big enough to create this world should have no reason to seek any pleasure or present any interest in it. 

But our human logic just can't understand the transcendence of God's reasoning and inclinations apparently. Still the question should be raised. Why does God even care about the lives of us lowly humans? 

It is a question that is raised at least twice in the Old Testament, though from two vastly different attitudes. 

We already looked at Job's response to the Lord's immanence and care for the plights of men, and honestly this post is about praise, not why we should be glad that the Lord cares to convict us of our sin. 

So I shall move on and conclude with the praise given by David for the same thought process. Looking at Psalm 8, 
"O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger. When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!" 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Midterm Victories: What they don't Mean

Midterm elections came and went this week. As expected, Republicans have won a majority in the Senate while further solidifying their control over the House. Republicans immediately state that this means that the people of the land are now done completely with ideas propagated by those nasty Democrats that have been thrusting our country into the ground.

But in the words of the wise Treebeard, "Don't be hasty!" It has been consistent that in the midterm elections of a president's second term, his party tends to fair poorly. Such a trend has happened in years such as 1874, 1894, 1918, 1938, 1950, 1958, 1974, 1986, and with George W. Bush in 2006. 

It is such a common phenomenon that it has a name - the 6 year itch. So maybe we ought not be so sure that Republicans are now going to experience the most amazing decade in their history quite yet.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Ignorance is no Excuse

"Well, it's ok because I didn't know that was wrong!"

Such goes the typical excuse for many horrendous things we do. I stole some money, I clearly was under the impression that private property didn't exist, and thus, I thought my actions were completely and entirely justified! 

A quick look at the sacrificial system of the Old Testament (or maybe just a quick look at one passage of Scripture within the Old Testament that happens to be about sacrifices) reveals that ignorance does not excuse sin. 

Leviticus 5:15-19, declares, 
"If a soul commit a trespass, and sin through ignorance, in the holy things of the Lord; then he shall bring for his trespass unto the Lord a ram without blemish out of the flocks, with thy estimation by shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for a trespass offering. And he shall make amends for the harm that he hath done in the holy thing, and shall add the fifth part thereto, and give it unto the priest: and the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering, and it shall be forgiven him. And if a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the Lord; though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity. And he shall bring a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest: and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his ignorance wherein he erred and wist it not, and it shall be forgiven him. It is a trespass offering: he hath certainly trespassed against the Lord."

So the ancient Israelites were held accountable for sacrificing for sin that they did not know they were doing, or did not know was sin. That's all for today because I have a debate tournament.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Re-examining Absolute Truth: A Deeper Look at the Contradiction of Relativism

One of my first posts on this here blog almost one year ago was to start an Apologetics series. When trying to take upon an enormous endeavor such as defending the truth of the Bible, I felt it valuable to actually show that truth existed in the first place.

My answer to demonstrating absolute truth was admirable, but ultimately, just a tad bit lacking in terms of depth. Because of that (and the fact that I had to write a paper that more deeply covered the subject), I have decided to reexamine the concept of absolute truth and why it must exist.

I believe it is self-evident that some truth exists. Indeed to deny that claim is nonsensical, yet as the Bible predicts in Romans 1, there are plenty who try to deny the truth set before them. But the actions of every human, including those who claim to deny obtainable, objective knowledge, demonstrate that they actually do believe in its existence.

So to demonstrate this disconnect, we must show that such disconnect is possible; more specifically, it is necessary to see how what one actually believes and professes to believe don’t always line up. After this, we can see how this principle pans out in the life of the skeptic. Finally, we can show how the skeptic’s ultimate belief in truth indicates that knowledge is indeed obtainable. (Yes, I even left in my super snazzy road map for you; you're welcome.)

Two Sets of Doctrines

In the science fiction novel Shadow of the Hegemon,  Orson Scott Card pens these words,
“I don’t know a soul who doesn’t maintain two separate lists of doctrines – the ones they believe that they believe and the ones they actually try to live by.” 

The point is rather simple – there are certain things we claim to believe; however, sometimes our actions are a truer indication of what our beliefs actually are.

For instance, look to the many people who profess to come to faith that ultimately fall away. Commonly labeled “easy-believism,” it has become a consistent problem in the church - those who profess Christ do not depart from iniquity or show the fruits that Jesus mentions as accompanying naturally with salvation.

It is likely that the actions of these “Christians” indicate that underneath their words, they are simply deceiving themselves, and ultimately have not believed in the name of Jesus Christ at all.

The Bible describes that at the last day, many will stand before the Lord claiming to know Him and to have cast out demons in the His name, and yet, be told that the Lord never knew them.  What we see through this illustration is that one can believe that he believes one concept, but his actions underlie his true beliefs.

Why No One Really Believes in Relativism

So how do those who profess that objective knowledge is impossible violate this principle? The adherents to this philosophy argue that they can’t know anything. (I will refrain from mentioning that they somehow know that they can’t know anything.) But how exactly do they argue this point?

To conclude anything about the world, such as that there is no knowledge, one must go through an investigative process. However, such a process requires the utilization of certain knowledge to begin with.

In an as of yet unpublished work, Dr. Richard Tison discusses the process by which Adam would have obtained any knowledge of the world in the Garden of Eden. He explains that in order for his investigations to bear fruit, he would need to already have some knowledge to gain any further knowledge. Specifically, he opines,
“Without these presuppositions (causality, natural order, and regularity), he could not organize or classify data of his observations because he would not be able to identify any intelligent, uniform pattern to his experiences… These axioms of knowledge, then, were not first discovered by his investigation because no investigation would have made sense without them.” 

At first glance, since the skeptics don’t believe it is possible for one to find any universal patterns, this doesn’t seem to be a problem for them. However, as aforementioned, to come to any conclusion about the possibility of knowledge required such an investigative process.

You don’t just assume conclusions without first going through some sort of process to verify those conclusions. But as Dr. Tison correctly points out, your investigation will be meaningless if you do not already have certain “axioms of knowledge.” Without logic, for instance, you would be unable to make a connection between point A and point B.

Thus, in order to get to the conclusion that there is no knowledge, you have to rely upon knowledge. Try as you might, you will ultimately always believe in this knowledge, as it is impossible for one to conceive of a world without such truth.

The Metaphysical: Conception and Existence 

Before we jump into the metaphysical question of existence, it is important to repeat and clarify. A world without objective knowledge cannot be conceived because such a task requires the use of objective knowledge. It is because of this that a world without objective knowledge is impossible.

Ayn Rand explains in “The Metaphysical Versus the Manmade,” that the world exists; thus, we can observe it.  Further, while not everything that exists can be observed (i.e. God), nor everything that can be conceived of necessarily exists (i.e. a unicorn), anything that has the potential to exist in the world can be conceived of by the human mind.

Indeed, anything that can exist can be conceived of (i.e. there is no rational reason why a unicorn can’t exist in reality). The logical extension to this point is that if something cannot be conceived of, it cannot exist.

Seeing as we just demonstrated that it is impossible to conceive of a world without objective knowledge, it follows that such a world does not exist. To put that another way, there is such a thing as objective knowledge.

Professing Themselves to be Wise...

By utilizing rational processes to make arguments about how such rational processes don’t exist, man underscores his belief in objective knowledge. While some men have blinded themselves to think that they believe objective knowledge is impossible, no human being can conceive of a world without absolute truth.

Since anything that has the potential to exist can be conceived of, a world of subjective knowledge cannot exist. All these men are instead living under the words of Romans 1:19-22, 
“Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” 

Ultimately, objective knowledge is undeniable and self-evident, and all of humanity believes in it. If they claim not to be, they are showing themselves as fools.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Oddest Rebuke in the History of Mankind

I have made it to the end of the book of Job. As most of you know, the book ends with the Lord rebuking Job for four chapters.

As I was reading Job truly to figure out what Job was being rebuked for, I was paying rather close attention to what the Lord said, so that I could determine whether my prior guesses were correct.

But the rebuke doesn't like a typical rebuke. Outside of maybe Job 40:2, the Lord says absolutely nothing of what Job's sins are, and what Job has done that has engendered this rebuke. Instead God spent His time explaining His transcendent power and majesty.

Naturally, this rebukes produces very much of the desired effect (how could God fail in His efforts?). In Job 42:5-6, Job responds,

"I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."

And there you have it - repentance comes as the result of the Lord's rebuke. Repentance comes because of a further knowledge of who God is. I don't believe it is too much of a stretch to say that ultimately all true repentance will come from a greater knowledge of who God is.

Perhaps if we want to live a life of godliness, we ought to start by gaining a greater knowledge of who God is. And we also ought to continue by gaining a greater knowledge of who God is, and you know what? We ought to end by gaining a greater knowledge of who God is.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Whatever Happened to Ukraine?

Let's face it. The world is a huge place and a significant amount of importance happens every single day. There is no way that a news source will cover everything that happens throughout the entire world.

That's all commonplace, but I think we all tend to think a little warped about the effect that this actually has on the news. 

Because here's the thing. We tend to believe that an event simply has resolved itself to a new equilibrium if the news stops reporting on the unrest in the area. For instance, there was a ceasefire agreement in the conflict of Ukraine and Russia, but we heard reports early on that tension still remained and that the ceasefire was extremely fragile. 

Then the IS story was stressed in the news because it's kinda a big deal, so we stopped hearing about the conflict along the border of Ukraine. As we stopped hearing about it, we obviously stopped thinking about it entirely, and may even believe that it has simply stopped being an issue. 

I have posted in the past about keeping up with secondary sources to discover the truth about the news stories that are being presented, but what about doing research on issues that were in the news, but now are no longer? Do we continue to follow them to the full resolution? Or do we just let the news tell us that this other story is more important because it is more immediately dangerous and we all know danger sells? 

Yeah, so I don't think that's a good idea. I don't think we should let the news determine what we are interested in from current events around the globe. Unfortunately, we can't know everything about every culture in the world, but we should ensure that our extensive knowledge is not dictated by the coverage news sources provides.

If you were interested in the Ukraine crisis and the plight of those people when the news was covering it, you should still be interested in it now, and be looking to see what is happening as that progresses. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God, but...

Many are familiar with the text we have for today. It is the time in which Peter confesses that Jesus if the Christ.

I have decided to look at Matthew 16 because that's where the events of the story became sensitive to my life (because Matthew is the book I'm reading through for my Spiritual Formations class). The events unfolded more specifically in verses 13-18
"When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

It is hard not to admit that Peter has made an excellent proclamation here. Obviously, Peter is correct when he asserts that Jesus is the Son of God. It is clear that Peter isn't just saying this, but actively believes it, as Jesus validates what Peter has said by explaining that it was revealed to him by God.

So we must understand as we follow this passage onward that Peter truly holds to the correct belief that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Thus, it seems odd that immediately after these events, Matthew tells us (as does Mark), that Peter rebukes Jesus for explaining that He must die for salvation to occur before all men. In verses 21-23,
"From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men."

It seems that while Peter knows who Jesus is, he hasn't quite acknowledged the importance of that fact. While Peter knows that Jesus has ultimate authority on earth, he somehow still thinks he knows enough to be able to rebuke the Son of the living God.

I wouldn't be too quick to judge here; after all, God had revealed to Peter who Jesus is. I also wouldn't be too quick to judge Peter here because I think I struggle with much of the same tendency. I know who Christ is, but I don't seem to acknowledge the importance of the fact.

 I may not necessarily rebuke the Lord for his actions, but I do spend far too much time looking for my own support rather the Lord's in troublesome situations. I do spend far too much time "savoring the things that be of men," rather than those that are of God.

I wonder how many Christians go around, knowing God and yet not living as though that should have any effect on their life. As if they were self-sufficient without God in their lives to begin with. But that's absurd.

Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. We should probably trust His power and authority in our life.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Tradition! It's How We keep Our Balance

Honestly, this topic for today is one that I am surprised I haven't mentioned before. It is something that has been a concern of mine for a couple of years that I believe I have probably kept silent about for far too long.

There are certain practices within the church that do not have Biblical support that people will claim as necessary for the church. Now, I will be quick to point out that most of these practices are not denied by Scripture, but that doesn't change the fact that they are ultimately man-made traditions that are not essential for the proper functioning of the church. 

I speak of traditions such as the altar call, a particular form of music, tithing through offering plates, hymnals, having church on Sunday as opposed to another day, celebrating Christmas, or prescribing to only one translation of the Bible at all costs. 

These traditions are great tools (with the exception of the one translation tradition; that's just showing a lack of faith), but they are not essential for the proper functioning of the church. 

I don't feel I need to do much to support the idea that something that man has made within a church structure is not an integral part of the church's worship of the Lord. This is after all one of the many reasons why I would never become part of the Catholic church (the whole sacraments as a means of grace, and works to supply salvation thing would be the major ones of course). 

So to illustrate my point, we shall look at only one passage from the book of Matthew. Matthew 15:1-20 details a tie in which the Pharisees question Jesus on the fact that he doesn't have his disciples not wash their hands before they eat. This was a tradition within the Jewish religion at that time, which of course the Pharisees supported very thoroughly. 

It is important to note that there is absolutely nothing heinous about washing your hands before you eat. It's actually a rather healthy thing to do. But it will in no way harm your relationship with the Lord to do these things. Yet it is a tradition that is not necessary to actually please the Lord. 

To respond, Jesus points out another tradition that is contrary to the law of the Lord to illustrate more generally that the Law is just sort of more important than those man-made doctrines. He finishes by quoting Isaiah in Matthew 15:7-9,
"Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."

So here we have some pretty strong language in relation to teaching as doctrines that which were the creation of men. Or to apply that to our current context to treat as absolute Biblical truth the man-made traditions of a particular denomination.

Just in case there's any doubt that the Lord doesn't ultimately care about the traditions that are mentioned above as long as they don't actually deny the Lord, look to his words in Matthew 15;16-20,
"And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man."

So essentially, I'm making a fairly simple point here. Traditions are man-made tools that do not have divine sanction. Don't teach as doctrines the commandments of men.

Apologies for the lateness of this post. Had a debate tournament, got in at 2, woke up at 11, and it spaced my mind entirely.