Friday, November 28, 2014

10 of Your Blessings (It's a Start for Counting)

1. God created humanity. There was no need for an incredibly magnificent God like ours, to take any interest into creating humans. We did not need to exist for God to find fulfillment, though yes, our purpose is to please God.

2. God placed man in an ideal world with luscious fruit and luscious fruit, and no animals hunting us humans. Wouldn't it be an incredible sight to watch dinosaurs walk with humans, and not be trying to eat them? 

3. But God wasn't a deistic type God, which would have made sense. He has no reason to be interested in us as individuals, but He stayed and communed with man.

4. (Also, God didn't just destroy the world altogether after Adam's sin. We know that one day He will create a new heaven and a new earth, so He obviously had that ability. But He didn't use it after man corrupted the ideal world that He placed them in.)

5. Indeed, even after man messed things up, He remained in a relationship with man, going to great lengths to set up a sacrificial system that allowed the Israelites to enjoy a relationship with him, albeit a broken one.

6. Further, He refused to leave it as only for the Israelites. Contrary to negative popular opinion, God allowed His covenant with Abraham to extend to non-Israelites, like the men of Gibeon, Barzillai the Gileadite, and so on.

7. Then the Lord wasn't content with keeping tne relationship as purely broken. Jesus then laid down His crown to be born from a virgin in a manger.

8. Jesus went through and lived a perfect life, then went and died on the cross to take away the punishment for all our sins, to all who will accept His death as a substitution for their punishment. Raising again the third day, we have a promise that we too will raise again to life eternal.

9. Furthermore, the Lord refused to leave it to just the Israelite, but opened up His route of salvation to the Gentiles. All people now have the opportunity to get to have that intimate relationship with Jesus Christ that brings with it salvation.

10. Even still, God doesn't just give us eternity, and then become a deistic type God when it comes to this world. He still cares for us, and tells us that He will "never leave us, nor forsake us." We have His words that through our struggles, we will have Him strengthening us.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Obligatory Post about Immigration

It would be amiss not to discuss the move that President Barack Obama made this past week. So yeah, it shouldn't have happened because it is an overstretch of executive power.

Now onto topics that I actually want to talk about...

Just kidding.. I will actually spend some time analyzing the President's move.

First of all, the move will not solve the problem of the United States' immigration policy. Right now, the immigration policy is incredibly constrictive to those trying to enter the country. Immigration is valuable to all of America, and we should allow it to be more legal.

Yet President Obama's actual plan to simply extend deportation relief falls short of meaningful action to make immigration a simpler process. Indeed, it would be even more atrocious for the President to exercise that kind of power.

But the President is still not acting within his own proper authority. Extending deportation relief has long been a power that has been held by Congress under article 1, section 8 of the United States Constitution. (See DACA and TPS).

By doing this selfsame thing as an executive order, Obama has taken this power out of the hands of the legislative branch. Essentially, he has reformed laws that Congress passed in the name of "enforcement."

This is indeed an overstep, but it might not be quite as unique of an oversight as we might like. This has been a consistent trend over the last few decades, and focusing solely on this President's moves is probably not the answer to our problems.

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.