The What of God

Once again for this blog, I want to have the disclaimer be clear. What I say is not meant to be extensive. If anything, I am wanting to tickle your appetite. I want you to get your feet wet and go swimming deeper into the ocean yourself. I suspect many of you could be like me and you like something you hold in your hand and what you read online is a supplement as it were to that. At this point, I have no books published that I can point to for your further consideration. That could change in the future, and I have been encouraged to go that way and it is something I think about, 

Yesterday, I discussed the “That” of God, and today, I’d like to discuss the “What”. Some of you might be wondering what the difference is between what and who. Let us suppose you described me in “what” terminology only. What would that include? It would include male, weight, height, body type, age, race, and other physical characteristics. What can tell you what someone can see if they see me walking down the street generally. 

If we get to the who, it is clear that the who does not change the what of my existence, but it gives you something deeper into my existence. The who will include things like “Loves philosophy and apologetics, tries to watch a Smallville every night, particularly shy around many people and not a socialite, loves the intellectual domain, willing to challenge someone at a game of Super Smash Brothers Brawl, etc.” 

Nothing changed with the what of my existence. Notice there are also better potentials for relationship if you know more about me. Let us suppose you are reading this blog and your only contact with me is through the internet. You could know me well. Suppose you talked with me there. You will know me better. Suppose though that you saw me in person. You’ll see sides of me that you can’t see through a computer. My parents know me in one way and they know me well. We all know though that our relationship with our parents is also different than that with our friends and so I could say my roommate, who is my closest friend as I’ve said, could very well know me better in some ways than they do.

Tonight though, we’re going to go into the what and this will include ideas that come from the doctrine of God. Largely, I’m wanting to jump off from Aquinas’s first argument with God as a being of pure actuality. What do I mean by that? Actuality is what something is. Potentially is what something could be. I am, in actuality, sitting. I have the potential to stand. I have just stood up, and now, I am sitting down again. (When you have a steel rod on your spine and your keyboard isn’t even waist high, typing hunched down is not pleasant.) Thus, I actualized a potential to become standing and then actualized potential again to sit. At this point, I again have the potential to stand, though I certainly choose not to at this point.

God is a being of pure actuality. He cannot change in any way. He cannot make progress or degress. If he had potential, then he would need an explanation just as much as the universe does. While Anselm may not have been right on the Ontological Argument, I believe he was accurate in that God is the greatest possible being that can be conceived.

Note also that each of these doctrines of God could be a blog post in itself.

Aquinas started with simplicity. A lot of people are really stunned when I tell them that I believe God is simple. “But God is so hard to understand and he’s so awesome! How can you say he’s simple?” Please note when I say simple, I am not speaking of simple in relation to the human understanding of him. None of us can say we comprehend the nature of God. As has been said, we are fleas sitting on the back of an elephant. 

Simplicity means simply that God and his attributes are not separate things. God is what he has. He does not have truth but is truth. These are attributes that do not exist external to him. They are him. There is not this thing called goodness and this thing called goodness is conjoined to God. Instead, the case is that God is goodness. 

If God is pure actuality, then that would mean also that what he is, he is infinitely and/or completely. He cannot be more good. He cannot be more powerful. He cannot be more knowledgable or wise or loving, etc. Also important is to consider that with the nature of God, God is the only being whose very nature is to exist necessarily. If the Christian God is, and I believe he is of course, he is necessarily. (And there is a fine difference between that and the Ontological Argument.)

Let us also consider power. By power, it is meant that God can do all that can be done by power. I am not going to dare assert that God can make a square circle. A lot of you might be wondering about the classic question “Can God make a rock so big he can’t lift it?” The best answer I have ever heard on this came from Dr. Gary Habermas.

“No.”

It’s that simple. The question is involving a logical contradiction. 

What about omniscience? I take this to mean that God knows all true propositions. For my open theist friends, this also includes future propositions. God knows, for instance, who is going to win the election on November 4th. He knows it just as well as I know the fact that I am typing on my keyboard at this moment. He knows it all from an eternal now.

This brings us to God’s eternity. It means that God can act in time, but God is by nature outside of time. He does not grow old. He does not change. What God is doing, he is eternally doing. He is at this moment creating the world, bringing about the flood, destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, judging the world, and blessing the saints in their after-death. We experience these things temporally, but God is doing them all at once. Were he not, he would be temporal.

I also brought up his immutability, meaning that he cannot change. This follows since he has no potential. What God is, he always is. Personally, this is one of my favorite concepts I think of when I think of God. It makes me realize that with all the hectic nonsense I often have going on in my life, at the end of the day when I pray, which becomes a more exciting time as things go along, I realize that there is a foundation of all things that I can always rely on.

Of course, I would have to speak of the love of God in that God is eternally loving. When we get to the who of God, this will be explained in a far more in-depth way. Some of you are probably already thinking ahead and realizing just how that is going to be and what makes Christian theism unique in that. For now, it will simply suffice to say that God loves all that corresponds to his moral nature. I theorize, and again this is just theorizing at this point, that something is able to experience the love of God to the degree that they correspond to him morally. 

While it’s not often mentioned, I would like to mention the beauty of God. For many believers, and I should think it would be the case for all, one of the great desires of the after-death is to look into the face of Christ, to see him who is the image of the invisible God, and behold the great beauty that is inherent in his person. Beauty captivates many of us today and I sometimes find myself amazed when I think that with all the beauty I see here, it all is practically hideous in comparison to the source of its beauty.

God is also a God of justice, which is something that is not liked to hear by many of our skeptical friends today. We often want a God who will come and heal us when we are sick and take care of the problems in our life, but we don’t like it when God comes and judges the sin that we have in our lives. A lot of people don’t really like a God who acts like one. God is just though and just as much as he loves that which corresponds to his nature, he must judge that which directly contradicts his moral nature as well.

With all of this, we have a good idea of what God is. Who is God though? What is he like? For that, we will have to look at how he has revealed himself and especially in the person of Christ. That is for our next installment.

That, What, And Who

Last night, I said that we’d be discussing various topics on the doctrine of God. Note of course that nothing I say here will be exhaustive. If you want something in-depth on the topic, I recommend getting a good Systematic Theology. I have read both Geisler’s and Erickson’s and I can recommend both of them. What I plan to do is just touch on the surface. 

I was pondering this last night though and trying to decide of the distinctions in the doctrine of God. I have this in mind also because I am in constant debates online and one of them right now is on God’s revelation. The question of “Why hasn’t he made himself clear?” I find this to be an odd question though as some people will say that they can doubt his existence.

This might sound like a shock to you, but I think you can doubt the obvious.

We owe a lot to Rene Descartes. Unfortunately, it’s not good. There’s a reason his work, “A Discourse of Method,” is included as one of the books that screwed up the world. (The list comes from Benjamin Wiker’s book “10 Books that Screwed Up The World And Five Others That Didn’t Help.” My roommate gave me that book for my birthday and I consider it a very important book everyone should read.)

Descartes gave us the idea of doubting everything to find what was true and if it could be doubted, then it wouldn’t be clung to. His end was that he couldn’t doubt he was doubting so he based everything on “I think, therefore I am.” (What happens when you’re asleep or unconscious and not thinking?) Great. Now the idea of what we can rely on is based all on our subjective experience starting with us. 

Descartes even had doubt of the existence of the material world. Now I would say the existence of the material world is obvious and I think most of you would also. There are people who will say they doubt it. What do you say? This is the kind of place where one of my professors says “Well if they doubt reality, it’s best to just go out for pizza then because if reality won’t convince them, what will?”

To me, the existence of God is obvious. In fact, this is the way it is for most of the world. Most people now and throughout history have believed that this world isn’t all that there is. They have been theists of some sort. Now someone might say “They haven’t been Christians though have they?” To this, I must answer, “No, they haven’t.”

As if that was ever the point….

No one is saying by the idea that God’s existence is obvious that that means everyone has always known that the Triune God has or will reveal himself in Jesus Christ. (Will for those B.C. people) What is being said is that people have believed that there is something more than what they see with their own eyes.

The question then is, what are they doing with this idea? Are they willing to follow the idea and seek for the truth instead of settling for worldviews they might hold and realize that they are false? Could it be that there are many people out there who haven’t yet got to hear the gospel but realize the worldview around them is false and are crying out for something real? I believe that those who are such will get the gospel be it by a missionary or some supernatural means. If not, it could be many will arrive in glory one day and look in the face of Christ and say “It was you I was seeking all along was it?”

Of course, I question how many of them that can be so I definitely fully endorse missionary action to bring the gospel to as many people as possible. 

This is the first question that must be answered though in our  discussions. THAT God is. I’m not even going into the nature of the God that is there. It could be Plato’s demiurge that was a finite god now for all I care. The only point to establish is that there is something out there beyond us. What that something is, as who will come later, is a question for another blog.

Beginning At The Beginning

I think it was Aristotle who told us the three most important things to do in telling a story. You need to begin at the beginning, continue through the middle, and finish at the end. That works well for stories. It also works well for arguments. I mentioned in last night’s blog debating someone who was dealing with dbout and what I tried to do was to go to the beginning. 

What is that beginning? Who is God? It’s amazing that we leap into so many thorny issues in relation to moralityand how God relates to that without deciding who he is. Consider if we were discussing the Problem of Evil. If we have a finite godism concept, then the problem of evil makes sense. Of course, it also becomes a real problem then as we can’t really be sure if God will overcome it in the end. If we have the Christian God, it’s not so much a problem as it is a mystery. Let’s suppose we have good reason to believe God has revealed himself in Christ, which we do. If we grant that, then we have to say, “Why evil?” It doesn’t destroy our faith then, but just presents a mystery. (Naturally, for those who don’t believe God has revealed himself in Christ, it counts as a problem.)

Our concept of God changes everything. Take the issue I was discussing with someone, the doctrine of Hell. If we’re going to look at this doctrine, we have to realize that it will be looked at from a Christian framework. It’s saying “Even if I grant everything else in your system, can you really say that Hell is a proper doctrine to believe in?”

Please note how that is worded. When I talk about Hell, I want to be sure that I give no one the impression that I like the doctrine of Hell. I don’t. Dwight L. Moody once said that if anyone ever preaches on Hell, there’d better be tears in his eyes. I’m not sure if I am at that point yet, but I certainly hope I am someday.

I was on an internet chat program one day when a friend contacted me. Our troops had just slain the sons of Saddam Hussein. My friend was pleased that we’d finally eliminated those two evil men. I had to say “You know, I’m glad that they’re not going to be around to inflict pain on anyone else, but I’m also sorrowful because I know two more people have entered Hell and there’s no escape.”

I say that because it is true. Hell should never be a doctrine that brings us delight. Too many Christians give the impression that when the fires of Hell are burning some of their enemies, they want to be right over them roasting marshmallows. I believe we can delight in justice and truth, but the suffering of others, not really. I also don’t think we can say it brings delight to God that people are in Hell, but that’s their choice.

And yes, we will look more at this thorny issue at a later date.

However, if you’re going to discuss Hell, you have to start again with God which is what we too often don’t do. Our arguments usually begin in a rather silly way when you think about it. Consider the Problem of Evil. An atheist would say “Well, if I was God, I could find a much better way to do X.” Oh? Really? You mean there’s no chance that if you suddenly stepped outside of time and had omniscience that you might just think that God has the right idea?

“Well, I wouldn’t like to suffer like that, so surely God wouldn’t allow that.”

It is quite frankly tiring to hear such things. It has been said that many people do wish to serve God, but only as advisors. When I come to the Problem of Evil, I have to look and consider “God knows the end from the beginning. Who am I, this finite being of limited intelligence bound by time to tell him he’s doing it wrong?” That doesn’t mean I don’t think we can’t make our requests known to God or even our complaints, but I do think it means we shouldn’t expect the master of the universe to change everything around just to make us happy.

What’s our concept of God? Maybe it’s time we looked at that. It could make many of the other issues much more understandable.

As He Is

Last night, I was up later than I should be discussing, or more like debating, with someone who was having some doubts about his Christian faith. It hinged around Calvinism. Now I am not a Calvinist, but I have many brothers and sisters in Christ who are. It brought to mind though something we must all remember when we approach God.

First off, none of us knows God entirely. We all have some wrong beliefs about God. We should seek to get rid of as many of them as we can, but in our finite capacities, it’s highly likely that any of us this side of eternity will have fully correct knowledge of God. Even though we are limited even, it’s doubtful that all the knowledge we have will be correct.

There is a great danger though in saying “Well, if that’s the way God is, I could never worship him.” The danger is that that’s the only God you have! Is it really rational to say, “I don’t like the concept of God in Christianity, so I will become a naturalist instead.”? It’s hardly valid to say God doesn’t exist just because you don’t like something about him.

We have to get past this notion that truth is what we like. There are some things I don’t like about Christianity. In fact, it’s probably a good thing because Christianity is not an easy religion. When I see a beautiful lady, I don’t like the command of Christianity that says that sexual intercourse is to be reserved for marriage. It would be so nice to write that off.

When I realize that I have to go to work the next day, I may often have this great urge to call in sick and take sick pay. Unfortunately, there’s this command against lying. I don’t like the command. In fact, at the time, I like the idea of breaking the command. I do it though because I know that the command is the true path to happiness.

So what of God? One has to ask himself, and we should all ask ourselves indeed, “Am I really seeking for the God who is there or am I seeking for the God who I want to be there?” In our day and age, it’s liked to have a god who is there to take away all your troubles but then goes back to his own little corner of the world and lets you go out and have your fun. Many people today do not like the thought of a God who acts like one, which includes such minor details as judging evil. (Well, we don’t usually mind judging someone who’s done evil to us! Just leave us alone thanks!)

God is unlikely to change for you and frankly, why should he? It seems we are so self-centered today that we think it appropriate for God to meet our standards, but we don’t think anything about changing ourselves to meet his. As I told this person yesterday who was talking about Hell as well, it does not surprise me that some people go to Hell. What should be surprising to us is that not all people go to Hell. He could send us all there and who could say he was wrong to do so?

When we think about God, and I believe our highest good is to contemplate the nature of God, are we wanting to see him as he is. Are we willing to give up some of our beliefs about him if we find them to be inaccurate of our view of who he is? If you are a Calvinist, are you willing to forsake it if you find it to be false? If you are an Arminian, are you willing to forsake it if you find it to be false? I’m not saying to not have a position, but I’m saying to be open in your position always. 

We are warned against making images of God. Our danger today is not often physical images but mental ones that do not reflect him. Are you making sure you’re doing what you can to avoid false ideas of God so you can worship him as he is? He won’t change for you, but hopefully, you’ll be willing to change for him.

Love For The Homosexual

I recently spoke at my church on the topic of homosexuality in relation to the Supreme Court in Connecticut deciding last Friday to lift the ban on same sex marriages. (Please note that I do not consider them to be marriages in any way though.) Afterwards, someone came up to me and asked me the question of how to handle dealing with a homosexual co-worker.

This is a difficult topic for we Christians. On the one hand, we want to paint the reality of sin as it really is. On the other hand, we don’t want to come out with all barrels blazing and drive the sinner away. How is it that one can come to the homosexual and call homosexuality sin but yet reveal to the homosexual that he is a creation in the image of God?

In fact, this is something that we could say we have to do with everyone. We all deal with people who are dealing with various sins. In fact, the one that we deal with the most is ourselves. I don’t know about you, but I could easily identify a number of sins in my life that I struggle with and yet, I still have to realize that I am loved in the eyes of God.

I think homosexuality is different though. We could talk about someone who wants to give up alcohol for instance and can’t seem to do it. Alcohol is something more external to you though, though I don’t deny the reality of addiction. Sexuality is who you are. It is your very nature. It is what you live with every day of your life. Sex is not a function. It is an aspect of your nature.

Something that should be kept in mind is that this is a real Christian struggle also. Christian men and women can struggle with this issue and we need to have love for those who do and recommend good Christian counseling. I say Christian because modern secular counseling will try to convince someone that such activity is not a sin.

I was first asked though what the causes of homosexuality were in my opinion. I pointed to an absent father, an overbearing mother, and personal insecurity. Ultimately, it’s a self-image concept. It is in realizing that that we can begin to see where the healing should take place. Keep in mind as I say this that I am not a trained psychologist in any way. 

My first piece of advice to this guy was that in dealing with his friend, that he should not really talk about religious matters. The first thing needed is to be a friend. Let me be clear on this. I think men should minister to homosexual men and I think women should minister to homosexual women. Now that doesn’t mean a woman can’t share the gospel with a homosexual man, but if you have any control over the situation, let a man work with a man and a woman work with a woman.

I am going to be writing for men here, but I think the same could apply to women and they need to adjust accordingly. I once worked with a man who is a homosexual still as far as I know before I moved. I simply was a friend to him and let him borrow some of my video games for instance that he was interested in. We never talked about religion, but I do not doubt my religion was known. It was common knowledge around the workplace. He and I even went out to a local pizzeria once on our lunch break.

Did I think some people could make jokes behind my back? Sure. Let them though. I was being a friend and trying to make a point clear. You are accepted as a man. Not just as a person but as a man. This is one reason a good lady is so important to a man. When a man realizes that his lady sees him as a man, then stand back. This guy can do anything!

Then, I would say to let him bring it up. Let him ask what makes you so different from all the others, and especially hope he says “All the other Christians.” It’s at that point that you can go into communicative evangelism. I would begin first by talking about Christ. Talk about who he is and what he did. Eventually, you’re going to have to get into sin though.

This is also where we need to recognize the difference between the person and the actions they are committing. People are sinners, but it is not a necessary trait to being a human that one be a sinner also. There is the possibility of change not into something that is less than human but something fully human. God enables each person to become what they were meant to be. Soren Kierkegaard once prayed that with God’s help, he would become himself.

Of course, all of this should be done with prayer. The best thing still is to treat him as a man. Make sure that he is seen as one of the guys and before too long, he might begin to think that he is and one aspect of being one of the guys, is noticing all of those lovely women that we are blessed to live amongst on Earth.

I Love Friendship

I spoke today at my church on the topic of homosexuality in response to the Connecticut Supreme Court decision to life the ban on homosexual marriages. One aspect I touched on was that just because two people live together does not mean they should have the privileges of marriage. I gave as an example, my roommate and I.

Later, I recalled an event that we had happen once where two Jehovah’s Witnesses came to our apartment and accused us of being homosexuals after just meeting us. They didn’t come right out and say it but talked about how evil the world is and said “Just look at you two for instance, living together like this.”

I’m sorry, but I don’t know much other way to take that.

However, as I ponder it, in many ways, that’s a kind of back-handed compliment. Friendship between men is often lacking I think and if two friends are close enough that they can be told a remark like that, then that is a close friendship. As I have witnessed events over the past year though, I have come to see more and more how important friendship is.

I could tell you many times that my roommate did something for me that was totally unexpected and yet, it was done. I could not explain it but in my mind I was thinking “Wow.” Often times, it’s not even explicit things. It is implicit things that I notice from the actions done that show that I am being considered in a way I would not have realized.

Of course, this goes both ways. As I said in my message today, if he was heading home and he got in a car accident, I would be the first one at the hospital. No doubt about it! Our friendship is unique and I would do whatever I could to help him out. There is no sense in even asking the question. Simply put, there is no question about it.

Aristotle spoke highly of friendship amongst the virtues and while there was a golden mean for the other virtues, there wasn’t for friendship. He even believed that friendship was essential for happiness and said that the essence of friendship was living together. Of course, that takes on a new connotation when one gets married where the spouse becomes one’s best friend, but even still, the true friends you’ve had will remain true friends throughout.

It also makes one think of the future. What will it mean when we each marry some beautiful ladies? I think of time with him and with other friends I’ve made here as well as we watch our children grow up together and start our careers. Should I get a book published, I can imagine them telling other friends that they knew me beforehand and getting those free author’s copies and acknowledgments going out to them.

Friendship is just unique. It is a chosen relationship like no other. One could say that the eros relationship is done for bodily pleasure, though few of us today I think would say we marry solely for that reason, but with friendship, the pleasure is in the joy of the other person and how you share the good and bad times together.

Friends are those people you can be open and honest with. My roommate gets a unique trust from me that my own family doesn’t even get. It’s just a different relationship and I’m sure there are many men out there that can relate to that. There are things you will tell your friends that you would never dream of telling your parents.

It’s something that needs to be restored also. In talking about homsoexuality, one person came to me afterwards and asked how he can help a man he works with who he’s trying to evangelize who is homosexual. I gave the advice of being a friend. Men who struggle often need good male friends who will just be friends with them and accept them as men. When it comes to talking about Christianity, don’t talk about sin first. Talk about Christ and his grace.

Friendship is a gift from God. I urge anyone who wants to consider more to get a copy of C.S. Lewis’s book “The Four Loves” and read on Phileo. Naturally, the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle as well. Something to consider is that friendship was a unique term in Plato as well. In the dialogue that discusses what a friend is, which is called Lysis, at the end, Socrates isn’t sure how to define it as per most dialogues, but he wants to depart from those he was dialoguing with as friends.

I think there’s a really deep truth to that.

Connecting to the Past

I was at a concert at our Seminary tonight where a group performed that plays the classic rock oldies from the 50’s and 60’s. Our Seminary president asked me if I was familiar with that music. I told him that my Dad raised me on it. When he and I went driving anywhere, he always had that music on and I have come to know it better than modern music. (Though I hesitate to use the term. I think much that is labelled as music today disgraces the muses.)

I recalled later on how I used to watch the Super Mario Brothers Super Show everyday. My Dad would record it and I’d watch it when I got home. In each episode, they’d also play an old song from that period normally and I’d ask my Dad what it was every day when he got home and much of those songs still remain with me. When I hear the music, I can often recall the episode that the song was played in.

I love this kind of concert also because it connects me with the past. It reminds me of something. Those old songs are still good. We have a lot of new stuff today and while I’m hard on much today, there is a degree of modern stuff I do like. I like to listen to Evanescence. I’m a huge RPG fan and Final Fantasy music drives me wild. As a Smallville fan, I love listening to Remy Zero sing “Save Me.” My crazy side also likes Weird Al Yankovic.

All modern musicians though are in debt to the musicians of the past. It was through trial and error that much of music was improved and the introduction of new ideas. Consider harmony. It was considered a scandal when it first came and today, most of us can’t even imagine the thought of music without harmony. While much has improved, there are still great old classics. How many of us in the Christian community love the great old hymns still?

But surely there’s more to this than music. Right?

We need to connect with our past. Christianity did not just pop up in the 20th century. Science did not just suddenly show up one day. Philosophy did not begin with Descartes. Many studies have been going on for a long time. While we may not have had some of the advances we have today, particularly in science, let us not lose sight of the fact that science was going on.

My roommate was once shown about someone who apostasized who is a young man who apparently also reads a lot and asked if my library could compare to his. He said it did and noted something very important about this young man’s library. There were no works in it by the ancients. Plato and Plutarch were nowhere to be found. 

I was talking to a good friend of mine today and was thinking about a lot of things he’s going through. As I was at that event of our Seminary’s tonight, I was thinking about this connection and it occurred to me that it seems my friend could have a good dose of modernism. Modern thinking is good in many ways, but it needs to be tempered by ancient thinking.

The ancients thought in ways that we didn’t. A lot of the questions that they raised have yet to be answered by us. When one reads Plato and/or Aristotle, one sees a totally different style of thinking than in our modern and contemporary philosophers. I’m not saying that all Plato and Aristotle said was right. It wasn’t. It was a different way of thinking though and they did get a lot of things right.

So, if you want to study philosophy, you need to go back and read the ancients. If you want to study science, you need to read Aristotle also with works like “Physics” and “De Caelo” as well as scientists like Kepler, Galileo, Newton, etc. If you want to study history, read Plutarch, Josephus, and Tacitus. If you want to study theology, read Aquinas, Augustine, the Reformers, and the church fathers. I could go on.

In doing so, you develop new categories and allow not just one time period to tilt your perspective. Each of us to a degree is also a product of our times and the way to cure that is to go outside our times. Read the giants that came before us. They have much to say to us and we only hurt ourselves if we refuse to listen.

Sound-Bite Culture

In the last presidential debate we had here in America, the candidates had very little time to speak. I was watching this and wanted to scream at Tom Brokaw a number of times. It’s almost as if he wanted to do anything to make sure an actual discussion of the issues wouldn’t break out. How is it that any candidate can explain their economic policy in one minute?

Now you all know that this isn’t a political blog. I won’t deny that I have strong political opinions and I do pray about this election, but I think what happened that night is simply an indicator of the way our culture is going and to an extent, it affects all of us. At the time, I currently have a number of philosophical issues I’m mulling over in my mind and I find it hard to sit down and really focus on one. Focus is not a gift of mine.

This sadly affects us in apologetics also. Our culture expects answers to come quickly and frankly, a lot of issues just can’t be solved on that timescale. I used to belong to a church and we went out one night a week for witnessing. One night before we go out, our pastor is speaking and then with the crowd suddenly says to me “Okay. You’ve got 90 seconds. Explain to us the problem of those who’ve never heard.”

Friends. That is a real problem and there are many answers to it and I think they’re worth debating back and forth, but I think anyone with an answer would agree, excepting universalists, that you really can’t answer a question like that in 90 seconds and even a universalist might want time to explain their case instead of just saying “Everyone will be saved.”

Today, I’m at work and a co-worker comes to me and wants to know what I believe as a Christian and he tells me that his church teaches that if you’re a good person and you don’t really do anything bad (I had to qualify that one immediately) but don’t believe in God, you go to Hell. Meanwhile, if Hitler repents on his deathbed, he goes to Heaven. He wanted to know if I agreed with that.

I did.

So then he asks me how it can be just for someone like that to go to Hell. (Isn’t it interesting? It’s always just to allow people to go to Heaven who are sinners, but it’s never just to allow sinners to go to Hell.)

I decide that we need to start at the beginning and start talking about the nature of God. I go through some of the attributes of God and what they mean and then point out that if that is true, and this question must be understood within the Christian framework, then it would follow that all sin is divine treason against a holy and perfect God wanting to kick him off the throne.

My reply that I got? “But you still haven’t answered my question.”

I’ll also note I did not take long in explaining this. I’ll be surprised if I took three minutes tops. I believe the question of Hell needs to be answered and there are answers, but you can’t answer a question like that in just three minutes often. Is it any wonder we don’t get to discuss fundamental ideas because we can’t discuss foundational issues enough?

Now we get interrupted. I’m the kind of guy that if I’m interested in the conversation, we can be interrupted and I can come right back and see you when I’m free and pick up exactly where I left off. I start talking to him again about this topic and the next thing I hear is “Well, I don’t remember reading about Hell in the Old Testament.”

Okay. We’ve switched the goalposts. All of a sudden, we’re on the topic of the origins of Hell. That’s fine. I can handle it. I start then talking about the Essenes and the intertestamental period and the Apocrypha. Unfortunately, this guy didn’t recognize any of this stuff which I found revealing. It makes me realize we are getting just soundbites to argue with when the issues underlying them aren’t understood at all.

But, lo and behold, here comes an interruption again.

When we get back together, again, I’m continuing but then I hear, “Wait a second. Why are you as a Christian reading non-Christian books?” Wow. Where did that come from? Again, I was happy to answer the question. I didn’t get much time and shortly afterwards, it was time to clock out which means the next day I work with this person, the topic could go anywhere.

Our culture is getting dumber simply because we can only think in those kind of sound-bites. We don’t know how to analyze issues deeply. We don’t know how to ask questions any more. All we know is how to feel things. We have become the gods of our own universes. It seems that if we cannot grasp an idea immediately, it cannot be true.

It’s going to have to start with us also. I have to improve my focus as well. I’m a product of my culture in some ways also. I believe learning truth is worth overcoming this problem though. Do you?

SAINTS WIN!

 I was online Saturday night and I saw a friend of mine typing excitedly in the theologyweb forum, “SAINTS WIN! SAINTS WIN! SAINTS WIN!” I care nothing about sports really, but I thought I’d have some fun with this obvious reference to football and said something like, “He must have just read Rev. 21 and 22.” I then continued with comments like “Yes. The saints do win and it is worth celebrating.”

 However, that thought kept coming to me. It wasn’t just seeing “Saints Win.” It was seeing “SAINTS WIN!” I wondered if I had ever really taken the time to consider that that is how the story ends. The saints do win.

 There are some truths that are obvious that we just seem to forget. If we remember them, we do not realize the impact. How much could be said on what a difference the resurrection of Christ makes or the incarnation or creation ex nihilo or salvation by grace through faith. Each of these doctrines should leave us in absolute wonder throughout the day. We say we believe them, but do we really realize them?

 The saints winning is such a point. This one hits us home because we live in a world where we do undergo suffering. We all have mountains that we are trying to climb in our lives that are weighing us down. We all have struggles we’re trying to get through. Who among us has not once looked to the heavens and asked “Why Lord? Why?”

 Our answer if we believe the Scriptures, is to trust the author. The saints do win. This is the reason why we should not hold back at the problem of evil or have it keep us in terror. G.K. Chesterton in his work “The Man Who Was Thursday,” describes a character in a way that if you saw his ugly side, you thought there was no way there could be any good, yet if you saw his beautiful side, you knew there had to be a reason for the ugly.

This was not meant as a strict parallel of God. G.K. Chesterton did say that this book was to be considered “A nightmare.” However, I do believe there are many that look at the world this way. They see suffering and cannot begin to fathom that there is so much goodness here as well. We should be the people who see goodness and think “Yes. It is because of this that we know there must be a reason for suffering.” Are we to know this reason? Not always and in fact, rarely. The reason is there though and we should trust that.

 All things work together for good to them that love the Lord. Please notice first what it is. All things. It doesn’t say “All good things” and it doesn’t say “All things are good.” It says “All things work together for good to them that love the Lord.”

 All things work together then for the saints, for these are the people who love the Lord. If you are a member of the body of Christ, then you are included in this group.

 If you are not saved in fact, then you are not truly doing what you can about the problem of evil as you are not dealing with the evil nearest to you, the evil in your own heart.

 The answer to the problem of evil then is that the world needs saints. We need to be saints who will trust in God that he is working all things together for good and to bring as many people into the fold so they can be a part of that good.

 And it is best to be part of that good. It is best to participate in the glory of God. As C.S. Lewis has pointed out, you will bring glory to God somehow. John the apostle and Judas both brought about the plan of God. One did it knowingly and willingly and the other one didn’t. Either way, any action will bring about the glory of God. Why not make it a good one?

Of what good is it to do an evil act? You will harm those around you and you will harm your own soul as well. Each action you do helps to shape you and your view of God. If you treat sin lightly, then you are treating God lightly. In our world today, it is good that we celebrate the love and grace of God, but let us not forget other attributes like holiness and justice. Hebrews 12 reminds us that our God is a consuming fire and how the Israelites were afraid to approach him including Moses. Yes. We can boldly approach the throne of grace and should, but let us be clear on who we are approaching. He is not just a grandfather in the sky. He is God Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth.

 Thus, let us do good for the glory of God. Why should we fear anything either? We are on the winning team. Whatever suffering we undergo in this life, it will work for our good. As Kreeft has said, our worst day here will seem like a bad head cold from the viewpoint of eternity. We have all eternity to live in bliss and joy. The temporary suffering we have here is nothing in comparison to that.

 Go out then! Be a saint! Remember, you are on the winning team!