Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Evangelical Mind

2016 will definitely be one for the books. We are currently in what may be the craziest election cycle in the United States’ history. Campaign season can be fun or stressful for a lot of reasons, but I am always particularly interested in how the American evangelical community responds to candidate choices. Evangelicals traditionally have had conservative leanings in this country. There is, of course, no harm in this fact. Many churches in recent years have done a fairly decent job at emphasizing the arbitrariness of political leanings in evangelical orthodoxy. But this election cycle has caused my stomach to churn in unsettling ways.

 

I would like to believe that churches are becoming more neutral on political leanings, but this is not so. Due to the unfortunate nature of our divisive two-party system, we are left with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The evangelical response to Trump and his candidacy has been peculiar, to say the least. I could only hope and pray that Trump’s candidacy would be the knock-out hit to the unabashed evangelical devotion to the Republican Party, but this is not what has been observed. Multiple evangelical leaders across this country, many of them with big names and big churches, have, without question, endorsed Trump. And this is not an endorsement based off of the lesser of two evils, but rather these leaders genuinely think that Trump is a good moral agent who should be leading this country, with one pastor in particular calling Ch

 

ristians who do not vote for Trump “fools.” This only damages the evangelical mind by re-enforcing the false historical conception that America somehow used to be “great” and “Christian” and “blessed by God” and the Donald Trump, with his right-wing prowess, will successfully return America back to the good old days. We have officially uncovered a truth about many evangelical Christians that many others have suspected all along: To worship Jesus is to worship Western conservatism.

 

If these pastors and leaders cared to line up biblical morality with Trump morality, they would find that they go together, as Simon Cowell says, like vanilla ice cream and sausage: They don’t. But there is another side to this coin. There are many Christians, not just liberal, but conservative who have given a great deal of backlash to these leaders. Many evangelicals think Trump is a morally bankrupt agent and that Christians should not support him at all. There has been a strange mix of opinions amongst the evangelical community. Is this good? Well sure. It causes the church to wrestle with itself and its convictions. However, my ultimate concern for evangelical Christians has nothing to do with whether pastors are endorsing Trump or opposing him. My concern lies with the abrasive nature of their leanings. We bank on or against Donald Trump, or Hillary Clinton, or Bernie Sanders, or whoever. We care so deeply about who our president will be. Americanism has a nasty way of pulling us back into its false religion of exceptionalism, a concept that is unfortunately praised by many Christians. Let’s face it; many Christians do a much better job of worshipping America rather than Jesus.

 

What I have discussed thus far is just a symptom of the bigger issue. The big issue is this: Christian hope has been staunchly misdirected. We all hope America will get better, and we hope for a good president. But this is just a cheap replacement for real hope. Christians can be unnecessarily pessimistic people. We often buy into doomsday theories and fear that anything going wrong in our country is a sign that we are “turning away from God” and hope we are nearing the end of days so Christ will return. I am convinced that for evangelicals, this negative sense of hope has bred in us a longing not for God and His control over His creation, but for America and its leadership. So many Christians are too fatalistic in thinking that things have to get much worse before they can get better that hope in God and His providence has become meaningless. We desire hope in things that we can see with the naked eye and things that we can control, and refuse to let God maintain control.

 

I am not at all indicating that taking pride in America and loving our country is a bad thing. But this is important: American exceptionalism and Biblical Christianity are antithetical to one another. Our hope lies in Jesus Christ and his ability not to save the world later, but to continue saving the world at present. Christ’s physical resurrection rendered the old order useless and gave us hope for our present age as well as our future.

 

Ryan Ellington Edit: Besides, this world is not our home.

On Certainty

sin of cert

 

I recently read a fantastic book by Peter Enns called The Sin of Certainty. I will not lie, as skeptical as I was in reading this book, I was impressed and greatly satisfied with the result. I have a tendency, as do most Christians in the Western World, to intellectualize my faith. Enns hits on this hard. I want to discuss some of the spiritual insight I have gained in reflecting on some of these points.

 

Christianity is not rational. It can’t be because, post-Enlightenment Western civilization has significant epistemological differences from eras before. But why isn’t Christianity rational? There are plenty of reasons, and most of them do make sense, but we now have a very narrow view of what it means to “know.” Better yet, we have a very narrow view of the term “faith.” Faith and reason have been conflated in an almost unhealthy manner to form a false dichotomy between faith being a blind assertion with no evidential basis, or faith is essentially the same thing as reason when defined correctly. This epistemological debate stems from our ability to “know.” I would propose the Enlightenment era very much negatively affected how we should “know.” Reflecting on this, what should it mean to “know?”

 

For starters, science works off of repeatable empirical evidence. Due to principles such as falsification, science cannot make “proof” claims, just claims that are derived specifically from evidence. Likewise, history works off of evidence, but evidence that is not repeatable. Either way, it seems perfectly rational to accept both of these fields as legitimate. We do it all the time. To be rational is to base your beliefs on hard, physical evidence. I disagree. I do not mean I disagree that this is an invalid form of gaining knowledge, but knowledge cannot be reduced to these principles. Unfortunately, many contemporary western Christians have, without even realizing it, bought into this. Faith in God almost seems to be, at least in the apologetic sphere, working off of the same evidentialist-based principles as science and history. With the mass production of “defend the faith” books and apologetics seminars, we seem to be in a battle against some atheist agenda to overthrow religion with scientific or naturalistic evidence, while simultaneously using those same principles to either assume God’s existence can be reduced down to mere scientific principles, or that science simply does not hold up against supernatural creation.

 

This is unfortunate, because when scientists such as Lyell, Wallace, Darwin, Einstein, and Hoyle start to say a bunch of weird stuff that later seems to make a lot of sense and renovate the scientific enterprise, Christian opposition to scientific principles (with an odd contortion of the same principles) seems to fall short. This is where a new (or rather, really old and forgotten) idea of “knowing” should come into play. All truth is God’s truth. This is a standard the Christian should live by. So, if science or history conflicts with your faith, it doesn’t actually conflict, but it should give you more insight into God’s creativity. This scientific way of viewing knowledge should be one part of the Christian’s worldview, but it seems that it is often the only part.

 

This sets us up to rely on our faith in God through our own knowledge and reason. The problem is things are always changing, and what seems rational at one moment may seem completely ridiculous the next. By doing this, we are confining God to our feeble understanding of who He is. The reality is that God is ultimate Being, and His ability to be grasped in its fullness is impossible. Faith, as Enns points out, must be much more about our Trust in God than our feeble arguments that we use to support his existence. Do not hear me saying that these apologetic arguments are not of great importance and do not have their place. They absolutely do and as a philosophy student, I affirm these. But the real issue lies in knowing God through trust. This is difficult to put into words, but it cannot be seen in the same rational light as the scientific method. It is an entirely different way of knowing, but knowing nonetheless. Even in times of doubt, we shouldn’t run away and ignore the fear of being wrong, but we should embrace doubt as a way of God showing us our limited knowledge, and trusting Him through those times of struggle anyway. Also, we should embrace being wrong, because you can’t gain knew knowledge until you admit you are wrong about something. This allows us to not put God in a box where He has to operate on our rules and conditions, and it lets us not lose faith when our “arguments” are proven to be unsound.

 

“Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.”

-CS Lewis

Should Christians Meditate?

meditate

Meditation has been around for thousands of years. Early pagan belief systems emphasized the importance of meditation, and many large eastern religions still practice it today. Meditation is a big part of many people’s lives. It can be a way to achieve a higher level of consciousness, have a mystical experience, or it can be just a way to relieve stress and anxiety from a hard day at work. But there is a question raised for Christians in regards to this topic. Should Christians participate in meditation? Or maybe, is it a sin for Christians to participate in this practice. This, like many other topics, deserves a proper understanding of what exactly the subject is and what exactly is being achieved during the process.

 

What is Meditation?

 

There are a variety of different forms of meditation. We often picture someone sitting with their legs crossed and their palms facing upward on their knees, sometimes doing a chant or prayer of sorts. Meditation can be defined as simply deep thought on a particular subject, or it can be an ultra-spiritual practice. Either way, there are some careful steps that the Christian must take in order to meditate in a faithful way. There are, of course, better ways to meditate than others. For instance, John Piper’s form of mediation in which every verse in Scripture read ought to be extensively thought out and reflected upon is certainly a powerful, beneficial form of meditation for the Christian to practice. Not only that, but I think Christians SHOULD practice it. Deep thought and contemplation on Scripture will always be beneficial for the personal spiritual walk of the Christian.

 

What about other forms of meditation that require one to sit in silence, with their eyes closed, and reflect upon other things? Or better yet, what about the forms of meditation that are used to achieve a higher level of consciousness? Not all of these kinds of meditation are hyper-spiritual in nature. In fact, the ancient Buddhist meditation, Vipassana, has been shown to have very positive effects on brain chemistry, reducing anxiety and depression for many people. Even the atheist writer Sam Harris has written that he practices Vipassana himself. This practice has very similar qualities to a common form of Christian meditation known as Centering Prayer. This prayer allows one to sit in silence and focus upon God and essentially find rest in him. It is done by closing your eyes, blocking out all distractions and focusing on a particular word that describes God’s character, such as “Christ”, “Savior”, “Divine Love”, etc.

 

So, Should Christians Do It?

 

On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with Centering Prayer or Christians pursuing some kind of meditation to enrich their spiritual lives. Many people who practice these forms of meditation say that they feel much closer to God and have more peace in their lives. It is very difficult to just give a black-and-white answer as to whether meditation is wrong for the Christian or not.  There is nothing unbiblical about it, so long as you do not invoke non-Christians spiritual practices into it.  If you are a Christian and choose to pursue meditation, I would keep three things in mind:

 

  1. Make sure the manner in which you meditate does not clash with Scripture. Matthew 6 gives a model for Christian prayer, and it also gives one specific prohibition in verses 7 and 8: “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” The word “babbling” is often translated as “chanting”. This does not mean we cannot pray the same thing over and over again. What it DOES mean is that we cannot chant with the intention of coercing God into meeting our every desire. This leads to my next point.
  2. Make sure that your meditation is not “you-centered.” We have this problem often enough with normal prayer, and we certainly don’t need it in some other form of meditation. Again, coercing God into meeting your desires is never a good thing. Also, Christians should never meditate in order to achieve some higher degree of consciousness. Make sure that what you are doing is not all about you, and not even primarily driven to relieve you of stress and anxiety (although it is not altogether wrong for this to have some motivation), but strive to honor God and further His Kingdom in everything you do. If you choose to do the Centering Prayer exercise, make sure your intention is to eliminate all distractions so your whole purpose is on God and your communication with Him. Never try to invoke some kind of higher mystical feeling.
  3. Finally, never allow meditation to replace other forms of prayer. Scripture models a healthy account of prayer that is simply communication with God, just like you would communicate with anyone else. Meditation should not take the place of this traditional form of prayer that Scripture speaks so highly of. Talk to God, ask Him for guidance, ask Him for forgiveness, and ask Him for a clean and pure heart every day.

 

Separating My Philosophy From My God

http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/why-phds-in-theology-commit-adultery

The above link is to a video of John Piper describing how knowing God on the PhD level in theology can be harmful to our faith in Him.  I found the video to be incredibly humbling and informative.  Is there something that a student of philosophy like myself is missing if I only know God on the academic level?

This has been a genuine struggle for me.  I have a difficult time separating my personal relationship with God from my studies about Him and who He is.  It is something that I am constantly working on in my personal life.  But I feel as though I’m not alone in this boat.  Don’t get me wrong, I love studying philosophy, religion, and biblical hermeneutics.  In fact, I plan to devote my career to it someday.  But the importance of discovering who God is on a relational level has to trump my knowledge of who God is on an academic level.  There are a few steps that I, and many others, have to continually work at in order to properly distinguish my relational faith in God from my academic knowledge of who he is.

Apologetics Can Be Harmful

I am NOT saying Christian apologetics is a bad field of study.  Again, I am devoting my life to studying a part of this.  The problem is that anybody who studies apologetics, philosophy, religion, etc. can easily fall into the trap of devoting every bit their identity in God to strict academic knowledge.  Our faith in God was meant to be much more than that.   As Piper said, “who cares about knowing God the way the Devil does?”  Anybody can study up and gain information about someone they’ve never met.  But knowing someone in this way does not give you any relational status with that person.  There is much more beauty and comfort that you have with an actual relationship with another person than if you just know details about them.

Apologetics can also be harmful when we claim to know indefinitely who God is.  This often occurs through philosophical arguments for the existence of God.  Philosophical arguments can be useful, but they are in no way the defining factor of who God is.  Placing your absolute faith in arguments that are constructed by human thinking can make God out to be something that He is not, and it can give you a false assumption that you know all about God.  The real danger in this is that it can be easy to make God out to be a high probability as opposed to the personal Savior of your soul.  The most humble thing that students of philosophy and theology can do is to recognize that the defining features of God are unknowable, and that mysterious side is the beauty that we ought to be chasing.

Coming to Faith

Most Christians do not come to faith in Christ because of a philosophical argument.  I know I certainly didn’t.  I accepted Christ at the age of six without having any knowledge of systematic theology or philosophical inquiry whatsoever.  Let’s face it, we all believe in certain things without having sufficient reason to do so; or we at least accept things without having enough knowledge to establish that belief.  An atheist may say that they find enough comfort in not knowing all of the mysteries of the universe without invoking a god.  I, on the other hand, find more comfort in invoking God in my worldview and not knowing all of the mysteries about Him.  Philosophical knowledge is useful, but it does not produce spiritual growth or relational comfort with God.

Allowance For Christ’s Intervention

Regardless of whether you are doing a devotional, studying theology, or just living out your everyday life, Jesus Christ must be a part of it.  Do not confine Christ to ten minutes of your morning, or just what you are studying in your Bible class.  Allowing Christ to be the center of everything you do throughout your day is key to being at peace with who God is.  Finding comfort in the fact that God wants to be a part of everything that is going on in your life is what allows you to pursue the mysterious aspects of God and come to terms with the plans that He has for your life.

I Lost My Faith. I Began to Doubt. I Became a Disciple.

“If you die tonight, and you are not 100% sure that you will go to heaven, pray this prayer with me!”

“If you are 99% sure that you are saved, you are 100% lost!”

Of all the things I heard in my youth group and camp experiences growing up, these two quotes stuck out to me the most. They are used all the time. Usually, to follow it up, the evangelist/preacher that says these kinds of things will post on twitter afterward “54 saved tonight! #booyeah!” Why? What is so good about saying any of that?

Christian culture is obsessed with numbers. “Get ‘em saved, and bounce.” That’s basically the model that we follow. But it goes a little further than even that. Christian culture distorts the meaning of biblical Christianity by doing things like this. It doesn’t work. The majority of the people that I knew growing up who got saved under the guidance of an evangelist who said things like this dropped it and went back to doing whatever else it is they do, sometimes not even returning to church. That’s a problem, and it creates a lot of cognitive dissonance among Christians. I don’t think evangelists are intending to do any of this, but it is harmful, for a LOT of reasons. There are two main components that are missing from evangelical culture: 1. The freedom to doubt not just your salvation, but Christianity as a whole. 2. Discipleship.

Losing My Faith

I lost my faith when I was in seventh grade. Not because I didn’t believe in God anymore, but because I decided that there was no way to fully know, with complete and utter certainty, that I had been saved. Yeah, I had accepted Christ when I was six, so I really was a born again Christian, but I went through a painful moment where I couldn’t reconcile my salvation, which was in fact true, with the degree of certainty that many evangelists and pastors wanted me to. So, I felt that by their definition, I wasn’t a Christian.

Doubt

 

The next step is a big one. Doubt. Oh yeah, you better believe I doubted the truth of Christianity. But it didn’t last for long. It was just an early high school thing that I more or less kept to myself. But even so, during that time, I was anxious. I was anxious because I was still hearing the 100% message that I had been hearing my entire life. This caused me to believe that I wasn’t a Christian. Yeah, I genuinely believe it. I was so scared to continue doubting, but I longed to be open-minded and learn the truth. But as I began to question certain truths of the faith, I began to become more comfortable with it. I mean, after all, Habakkuk did it, and God was fine with him.

Doubt is powerful. Without considering it, it can be difficult to learn. It is okay to go through periods of skepticism. God would much rather you gain knowledge than hide in ignorance. But don’t make doubt the center point of your life. I still go through periods where I doubt God, His motives, and other things. It’s part of human nature. We doubt. And it’s okay. I would say that the 100% message is most harmful in this category. If someone hears the Gospel at a summer camp, gets saved, and begins to doubt some small aspect of their Christian walk later, they will leave the Christian faith. No doubt about it (well, I guess there’s SOME doubt J). Evangelists, instead of trying to get numbers, should focus on teaching people to learn. They should teach people not to worry in times of doubt and frustration. Let me assure you of one thing, if you are 99% certain you are saved, you are most certainly not lost.

Discipleship

Finally, here is the most important step. Discipleship doesn’t happen. Christianity is not confined to ten minutes of your morning devotional or the moment you get saved. Christ has called us to become true disciples that walk with Him daily. This means that Christ should be radiating throughout every moment of our lives, not just a few. Evangelists need to teach people to continue to follow Christ, and not just live for that one moment of salvation. Being a Christian is not the moment of your salvation. Being a Christian is your life.

“Even the disciples doubted Jesus’s power — and that was after Jesus performed miracles in front of them, but, ultimately, faith invites us to trust and, more importantly, to look back over our lives and see God’s activity throughout.”

-James Martin

Love From the Almighty

Today is Valentine’s Day.  That can mean a lot of things for a lot of different people.  It can be a celebration of the love of you and your significant other, it can just be a day where you and someone you’re infatuated with go on a date, or it can be totally renamed to something like “Single Awareness Day.”  Regardless, Valentine’s Day is rooted in love.  Love is a concept that we sometimes have a hard time identifying in a satisfactory way.  For some, it’s just a reaction to chemicals in our brains.  To others, it’s much more than that.  From the biblical perspective, love is necessary.  It’s necessary for many reasons.  For one, we live in an evil world.  Nobody would deny this.  Love is necessary for us to function properly in society.  Human beings were not designed to be alone.  We are designed to be with one another, whether that be in a romantic manner or just a simple friendship, this idea of love is everywhere.

But here’s the sad part:  Love is overcomable.

Our world is messed up.  It’s infected by sin.  It is in our DNA to fight off the love and affection that God has instilled in our world.  The divorce rate is higher than ever.  Love is easily broken.  People become distraught over love.  So what do we do about it?

Loving someone comes with a temptation.  You can easily place the basis of your love in that other person.  Is this bad?  Well, yeah!  If love is going to succeed, then we have to recognize two central things:

1.  God is love.

2.  We are created in God’s Image.

The real problem is that we root love in things that we shouldn’t.  Being created in the Image of God means that love should be in our nature.  But if we are going to have healthy relationships with the people in our lives, shouldn’t we place the basis of our love in its source?  God is love.  That’s so easy to say, yet so difficult to grasp.  Every relationship that we have ever been in, and will ever be in, should be rooted in the transcendent love of God.  This Valentine’s Day, we should remember the love that God has displayed for us to see.  We should find satisfaction and fulfillment in Him.  Love doesn’t come down to pure chemistry, but the way that God views us, the way that we should view God, and the way we ought to view others.

“What is man that You magnify him,

And that You are concerned about him,

That you examine him every morning

And try him every moment?”

Job 7: 17-18

God, Grace, and the Beautiful Season of Christmas

“O God! If I worship You for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell,
and if I worship You in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise.
But if I worship You for Your Own sake,
grudge me not Your everlasting Beauty.”

The above is one of my all time favorite quotes. However, it is not just a quote, it is a prayer. The Muslim saint Rabia Basri prayed it. I do not follow Islam, but read the prayer a couple times and try to grasp the meaning of it in Christian terms. Along side this, I read a tweet from pastor Brian Zahnd last week that sort of went along side this:

“I’m a Christian” should mean approximately this: “I’m trying to replicate Christ in my own life.” Not “I’m going to heaven when I die.”

What is the real reason we worship God? What is the real reason we celebrate this upcoming holiday called Christmas? Is it for satisfaction of knowing God, or to escape eternal fiery pits? I don’t want to be that guy that tells pastors to stop preaching about hell, because it’s certainly important. But as I read Scripture, I do not see a trend of Jesus saying things like “Accept me or die!” I see Jesus preaching the Word for the purpose of trying to get people to find satisfaction in God.

So, Christmas is coming up soon. What does this mean for Christians? We often talk about the fact that Jesus came into the world on this day to purge it of sin and death. This is true, but let’s redirect our focus. Our focus should be on grace. I would argue that Christmas is completely about grace. Nobody wants to spend eternity in the biblical picture of hell, but at the same time, we ought to recognize and appreciate more of what’s going on in the big picture. Grace is what separates Christianity from every other worldview. It shows a Savior who came down to earth, died for something that was completely OUR fault, and none of it was His fault. It was totally undeserved and unearned. Until we grasp the fullness of this, we will never be able to appreciate Christ for who he is. John 10:10 says,

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

These words are straight out of the mouth of Jesus. We need to focus on the fact that Jesus Christ came so that we could engage in a satisfactory relationship with Him. Christ went through the most pain and suffering any human being could ever endure, and it would be foolish and selfish of us to ignore that aspect of it simply to avoid hell. We ought to be more scared of not having the prize than suffering the punishment.

What is the real thing we should be focusing on this Christmas? Grace and sanctification. That’s it. Focus on what Christ did for us…. Not just so that we could escape punishment, but so that we could one day grasp the entirety of God’s love.

10 Biblical Passages That Radically Shape My Worldview

The Bible can be a tricky book. Much of what I study is how to properly interpret it. However, to make things simple, I’m just going to post ten different passages that have had a significant impact on my life:

  1. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.                                                     Romans 12:2

This verse is fairly well known among many Christians, but there’s just something deep about it that really sticks out to me. For one, to be conformed to Christ, by definition, is a moment of radical change that cannot be achieved by means of anything else. Also, it shows the powerful, life-transforming power of Christ to change someone, regardless of who they are or what they have done.

  1. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a]whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1: 2-4

One thing that my dad always told me growing up was to try and figure out what God is teaching you during any given hardship. While this is difficult to do, this verse is speaking to that kind of situation. When I have this kind of perspective, it not only makes hard times bearable, but it also gives me a tremendous amount of comfort, knowing that God will make all things work together for good. It is a method of spiritual growth that cannot be achieved any other way.

  1. The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Psalm 19:1

People have different ways of connecting to God spiritually. My particular way is through being out in His creation. This helps me to connect to God in a way that no other method does. This verse just helps shed light on God’s beautiful handiwork.

  1. Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;

James 1:19

Try this. You would be amazed the amount of wisdom, insight, and joy you can get from listening to others (particularly those who have more life experience than you).

  1. 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.

Matthew 5:39

To turn the other cheek when you are slapped in this culture is a sign of shaming the other person. Do so in love, not in hate or an act of revenge. A non-violent behavior can go a long way with people who cause conflict in your life.

  1. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Colossians 3:2

This verse is simply speaking about focus. The human struggle revolves around a constant anxiety, and sometimes even depression that can hinder people from living the abundant life that God has meant for them to have. The main cause of this is focus. Have your focus on things that are good, things that are of God, and not things that are meant to cause you harm.

  1. One who is full loathes honey,
    but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.

Proverbs 27:7

Sometimes it’s good to throw in a metaphor. I like this verse because it puts the satisfaction of God in simple human terms. This sort of connects to John Piper’s idea of Christian hedonism. “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

  1. he predestined usforadoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

Ephesians 1:5

Adoption is a beautiful thing, one that I have had the privilege to witness first hand in my own family.

To know that Christ had the intention to adopt us, children who were lost, is a powerful message that fully grasps the sovereignty of God.

  1. “If your brother or sister[b]sins,[c]go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.

Matthew 18:15

Need help solving problems in your personal relationships? There you go. That’s as simple as it gets.

  1. He will destroy death forever.
    The Lord God will wipe away the tears
    from every face
    and remove His people’s disgrace
    from the whole earth,
    for the Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 25:8

This is my favorite verse in the Bible. The knowledge that Christ will defeat death in the end is what gives the most powerful feeling in the Christian walk: Hope.

Guidance of a Father

I remember as a little kid looking at people who were older than me and, based off of what I saw, I developed a very specific kind of worldview.  The way I saw it was that your parents raise you, you grow up in their home under their guidance, and then you become an adult and leave and live your life without any outside guidance.  As a kid, I was semi-right in what I observed.  The world is full of people who receive no guidance when they leave their home.  This is the life that I, along with probably every American teenager out there, wanted.

 

I grew up in a family in which my dad was a Southern Baptist preacher.  I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Savior at the age of six, got baptized when I was nine, and went on to live to normal “preacher’s kid” life of being in church every time the doors were opened.  My dad gave me a lot of guidance growing up, not just in regards to spiritual issues, but also in regards to issues such as yard work, how to act in public, how to treat others, how to make smart decisions with money, school, and other things.  As I grew up and my dad instilled these values within me, I also had a sense of rebellion against my dad.  I wanted to be different than him.  Why?  Because every teenager wants to be different than their parents.  As I got older I began to get tired of the rules and the lifestyle that my dad was having me live.  In the deepest parts of my heart I knew he was doing his best to do the right thing for me, but I longed for that day when college hit and I could be free from his grasp.

 

That day finally came when I moved off to college.  I was so excited for this day because I could finally make almost all of my decisions for myself and not have my father’s guidance.  It didn’t take me very long to realize a few things.

 

  1. My dad was right in almost every decision he made for me my entire life.
  2. This life of doing whatever I wanted was not all that it was cracked up to be.
  3. I still needed guidance from my father, and it just simply wasn’t as convenient anymore.

 

As I reflected on my life, I realized that the one big thing I was missing was my relationship with God.  While it may be less convenient to get guidance from my dad now, it is always extremely convenient to get guidance from my Heavenly Father.  As I develop my views on religion, I try to keep this principle at the core of who I am.  In high school I never read my Bible.  In college, now, I have to drink from God’s Word every day to gain knowledge, wisdom, and most importantly, guidance.  While I was blessed to have such a great father, I cannot express how even more blessed I am to have such a great Heavenly Father.  This life is absolutely meaningless if it lacks guidance.  My view as a small child was that adults had it all together and knew everything there was to know about life.  My view now is that, no matter how old you get, you will ALWAYS need guidance from the Father.

 

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”

-Psalm 32:8

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Adapting Faith

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I’m going to take a break from my posts on skepticism and talk about the current state of faith in our culture.  This still has to do with knowledge and truth, but not on the same lines as my previous post.  As a Christian, I believe that we need to be aware of the history of faith and how it has changed.  I have come to believe one central thing in my studies.  Faith that cannot adapt to change will significantly shrink and eventually die out.  Now, what do I mean by this?  If our faith is grounded on what we may have thought at one point in our lives, or at one point in our history, then we will see Christianity slowly start to go away.  My theory is that this is what is happening in our society right now.  Yes, there are people genuinely seeking to disprove God, but there are also Christians who feel so strongly that they cannot abandon what they have been taught, that they are willing to refute modern findings in history, science, and other fields of knowledge to keep their fundamental beliefs.  The American society is becoming more and more hostile to Christianity, and it is not because they have no reason.  The popular myth is that Christianity cannot adapt to change, and this is because CHRISTIANS have not allowed it to adapt to change.

 

I live by one central motto in my life.  “All truth is God’s truth.”  I am not afraid to discover what is true, because I do not feel as if God wants me to live in ignorance.  God created the world and everything in it, and so I think it is a sin to sit back and just not discover what is out there because of fear of what we might discover.

 

There are several examples of times where science has changed and many Christians have felt that they cannot accept it, because of what they have been taught.  One example of ignorance in science is when Copernicus theorized that the earth revolved around the sun.  He was deemed a heretic because, in the book of Joshua, Joshua asks God to stop the sun in the sky.  This implied that the sun revolved around the earth, not vise versa.  The reason why he was called a heretic was because people could not let go of their fundamental beliefs and accept the change.  This change brought another way of viewing the Bible into perspective.  God does not correct us if we are ignorant of something in His creation, He lets us discover it on our own.

 

Another example of how science was very different in the past is the people who lived during the time that Genesis was written had a lot of strange, false views about what science was.  They believed that knowledge was derived from our intestines, not our brains.  They also did not believe in a supernatural or a natural world.  Nobody could even perceive of a world where God did not create it.

 

Now, we live in a culture where atheists and agnostics are making the claim that we do not need God or religion because science can explain everything, or will eventually be able to explain everything.  This is because they are taking advantage of the things that Christians are not willing to adapt to, and using them as a weapon against God.  I can see where they are coming with this, however it is not a proper approach.  We used to think angels pushed the planets in orbit, we now know that this is not the case.  We used to think that intelligence came from the intestines, we now know that this is not the case.  We used to think that the earth was only 6000 years old, and we now know that this is not the case.  We used to think that the great complexity of biological life on earth was the result of a designer, and we now know that this is not the case.  Sadly, there are many Christians who will not accept these truths.  I can go on and on, but the point is, if we are trying to conflate God with science, we are asking the wrong questions.  Asking the proper questions is the most important thing to saving Christianity in our culture.  You see, science hasn’t changed since the time when people were extremely ignorant of science.  We are constantly discovering just what is out there and what kinds of questions to ask when trying to figure out things about God.  If we are not open to change, and if we are not open to our faith evolving, we will lose opportunities for winning people to Christ.  Our society is becoming extremely secular because Christians will not open up and embrace the existing reality that is in front of them.  My hope and prayer is that Christians will not settle for intellectual laziness and go out, learn to ask the right questions, find the right answers, and then embrace the secular culture to ultimately further the Kingdom of God.

 

 

“Explaining how something happens scientifically doesn’t explain it away; the question of purpose, intentionality, the question of why still remains there on the table.”

-Alister McGrath