A Problem With Miracles?

I have someone I work with who said that while he agrees with my views on orthodox Christianity, he has a problem with so many miracles. The problem is that if God heals this person, what is the reason then for him not healing this one over here? The best solution he thinks is to simply limit miracles. Of course, I am paraphrasing, but that is what his view seems to boil down to.

What are we to say to this? On an emotional level, many of us can understand this. I remember my first death that really affected me. My grandfather died when I was 2, but that’s not old enough to remember. My Sunday School teacher in 7th grade was the one I remember. I kept wanting to see him be raised from the dead and hoping this would be a joke. One could say, “It happened for Lazarus. Why not?”

However, I think that if we keep it at that level, we reside in error. If we believe the Scripture, we have to confess that some people were healed miraculously. On the other hand, if we believe the Scripture, we have to confess that a lot of people were not healed miraculously.

Imagine being at the tomb of Lazarus for instance. Even if you’re a skeptic, let’s hypothetically assume the Christian worldview for the moment. The tomb is open and this man Lazarus is called out and is risen from the dead. Is it legitimate to say “I do not believe he has been raised because there are still dead people around here.”?

Such an argument would not make sense. It does not go against one miracle the fact that several people might not have received the same miracle. We might as well say the incarnation did not happen in the land of Judea because it did not happen in the land of China also.

Consider our search for extra-terrestrial life also. Let us suppose, as I predict, that we don’t find it anywhere else. What are we to conclude? That God did not create life on this planet? Not at all. We accept that God does some things in some places for some reasons of which we know not.

That’s something else we have to confess. It’s okay to not know why God does and doesn’t do some things. I hardly know why I do and don’t do the things that I do. How am I to explain for God? I think this is also valid for the problem of evil. It is the skeptic who says there is no good reason for something who has the burden. If he proves you don’t know the mind of God, well congratulations, we already knew that. How can he prove there is no good reason? He honestly can’t.

What’s the first thing to look for then? Look and see if the claim that a miracle has taken place is true. At this point, I think the whole argument breaks down. If it has happened, it has happened, and the lack of it happening elsewhere or to other people does not disprove that it happened here or to this person or these persons.

Remember everyone. You don’t have to know the reasons. You simply must trust. As said in Matrix Reloaded “Comprehension is not a prerequisite for compliance.”

The Bias Argument

I got this one today on the forum I debate on and I’m sure many other people have got this one as well. “You can’t trust the gospels. After all, the writers were biased.” (Note that the writer of such a statement never considers that he must be biased against documents that he considers biased.)

Let’s be clear. First off, the question of bias doesn’t necessarily matter. What? That’s right. It doesn’t necessarily matter. The first question you ask about any document is “Is the claim true?” Now if you have to go beyond that and look at the credibility of the author, then you do so. However, the first place to start is the truth of the statement itself.

However, there could often come a time to check the credibility of the author. This will many times involve checking to see if the author, if he is a modern one, is credentialed in the area he is writing in. (You obviously can’t check to see if Plutarch has a PH.D. in history for instance.) Is there a reason that we should trust him as an authority?

Then, we can check data within the document itself. Does the document remain true to itself? Even if the whole thing is wrong, is it consistent within itself? Consistency is not a test for truth, but inconsistency can show an untruth in the position stated. It does not mean the whole idea is false, but that one aspect of it is.

We can then check outside information. Was it written fairly close to the event? If it is a modern account, does he use sources that are close to the event? How about archaeological findings? Are there any that back these documents? (For the NT writings, these are abundant and the sources are very close.)

We should also note that everyone has a bias. This doesn’t mean that everyone has a bias in every subject, but if you hold any stance on any subject, then you have a bias for it. If you write your opinion anywhere on any topic, then you have a bias towards that opinion. This is neither good nor bad in itself. It is good to hold a stance, but it is bad to hold it if you are unwilling to examine outside views.

Now we get to the main point. Can bias affect an argument? Indeed! However, it can affect the argument in a good way or a bad way. Suppose I want to really prove something to you. I am biased that my view is correct. However, if I want to make a convincing case, would it be best if I do my research and writing sloppily, or if I take my time and examine the information closely and write out my thoughts in a coherent matter?

When it comes to the NT, we see the writers doing this. Luke especially says that he thoroughly examined everything to be sure of what he wrote. The writers of the NT also had nothing to gain from their writings other than shame and being outcasts from the community at large and persecution at the hand of Nero. Those are hardly compelling reasons to write unless you believe what you write is true and important!

Someone might ask why there are no non-Christian sources to the resurrection. The answer is simple though! If someone who wrote did believe in the resurrection, then they would be Christians! You might as well ask why strong theists don’t write books in favor of atheism!

Overall, the bias argument is simply a red herring. It accomplishes nothing except ignore what really matters, the truth about the topic under discussion.

Why Aren’t We Unified?

I have finally finished the last HP book. I won’t tell anything about the ending rest assured, as I know that my readers who are fans of the series will not want me to spoil anything. However, as I was listening last night to my book on audio, I was struck with some ideas on the way the church is doing today.

Readers hopefully at least know that the story involves Harry Potter fighting the dark wizard Voldemort and in the final book, it all comes to a culmination as the battle will be decided in this one. I thought though as I listened that it seemed like everyone on the side of the good was there and ready.

One part involved one person normally seen as a jokester standing up and taking a cause. I immediately thought of a friend of mine who simply delights in making people laugh. (He’s an awesome friend too.) I thought, “If I was in Harry’s shoes, I’d also like to know that a guy like that was out there supporting me.”

Everyone is eager to help out. It doesn’t matter if they are young or if they are old. Their educational level doesn’t matter. On the other side, the ones for the darkness are also ready. As seriously as the good take their side, the evil ones in the series are just as serious and are willing to do anything in their cause.

Why would they do such things? Why do the stories have people on the side of the good willing to risk their very lives? Why are they so ready to die on the cause of what they believe to be good? What is it that propels these people to move to such actions on what seems to be a regular basis?

The answer is obvious. They know that there’s a war going on. Rowling has said that herself. This is a war and in the HP series, there are casualties. Real life has them as well. People do die in the cause. People do suffer in the cause. The good guys win, but it is unrealistic to say they do so without suffering.

Are we in any less of a war though? On the contrary, we are in more of a war. We are in one where not only physical lives are at stake, but eternal destinies. If only we could learn from the heroes of HP though and have our causes band together! If only we could realize that we all need to work together and do all that we can to win this battle.

Imagine what we could do if we would just be united. Oh there are differences as there are in the HP stories. Not everyone sees everything the same way. However, we all do see one thing the same way. We see that there is evil in the world and that we are to be salt and light and that is not to be taken lightly.

I am bothered by seeing many Christians who I wonder will have their contributions in Heaven be that they thoroughly argued against Calvinism/Arminianism or Preterism/Futurism or Old-Earth Creationism/Young-Earth Creationism. I have nothing against holding discussions on such topics, but they are not our focus and for too many people, they are.

What do we want a crown for in Heaven? Winning people away from Arminianism or winning people away from Islam? Convincing people that the Earth is old, or convincing people that Jesus is the risen Lord? Doing all that we can for the cause of Futurism, or doing all that we can for the cause of Christ?

The way we are going to do this is if we are united. While the books may have Harry Potter in the title, it would be a fool unfamiliar with the series who thought that Harry Potter actually fights alone. He never does. He fights with his friends by his side and they encourage and build each other up. While there are a number of main friends, there are a large number of people in the background cheering them on and standing up and saying “We are here and we are with you.”

Indeed, this is one time I do think real life needs to be like fantasy.

Where’s Our Excitement?

As we all know, and as this blog writer definitely knows, Pottermania has hit again. I have heard people everywhere talking about the last book. (Which I hope to finish tomorrow sometime) If you go to any public place and mention it nearly, you will most likely hear someone else talking about how much they love it.

I can go and talk to a co-worker and we’ll spend so much time just bouncing theories back and forth. Instant excitement is there and as excited as I was about the series beforehand, I get even more excited when I talk to someone else who is excited. That excitement is contagious!

Compare this though with our faith.

Our preacher this morning used the verse of “I was glad when they said unto me let us go to the House of the Lord.” Let’s be honest. How many of us are glad? How many of us usually just can’t wait to go into the doors of the church and enter into worship? How many of us talk theology within the church?

In fact, once we arrive, we are usually talking about anything else besides biblical topics. Now I don’t have any problem with discussing non-biblical topics. However, I find it sad that we can’t discuss them with as much zeal as we do any other topic that we could discuss?

I ponder if it could be our idea of holiness. We think that to treat the text seriously, we have to be in this somber mode where we are praying perchance and waiting for the heavens to open and just flood us with knowledge in some mystical experience that will open the text to us. Anything else just isn’t treating the text seriously.

I consider discussing though with my friends who have Pottermania as we look at events and lines in the text and try to draw out the meaning in them and how they relate to each other. We do so lightly and joke around as we toss around idea after idea and see what fits, but can there be any denial that we aren’t taking that text seriously?

Why can’t we treat the Scripture with as much excitement? Notice the idea is not to decrease our zeal for other things. I think we should have zeal for all that is good and enjoyable and we shouldn’t punish ourselves for enjoying something. The idea is not to bring other things down. That would be an insult to Scripture really as we have to bring things down to the level of Scripture. We need to raise the Scriptures up in our eyes so that we see them for the treasure troves they are.

Maybe we could even do it without so much silly debate that turns people against each other. I love debate, but a lot of it is ridiculous. It amazes me what people will divide over. When I discuss theories on the Potter books with friends, we never divide into separate groups and go our own way. Each idea is there and open for consideration. We say some we can accept, some are just speculation but have some merit, and some we can see as wrong.

Why don’t we? Why don’t we work on seeing God as exciting? Why don’t we have times where we sit around and discuss the great truths of our faith? Pity us if we can do so with a human literary work, but we can’t do so with the Scriptures.

Cheating To See The End

Where I work, we do sell the new Harry Potter book. (Readers of my blog know that I’m an avid fan of the series.) While watching today, I saw a child pick up a book, turn to the end, read it some, and then make some remark. I was stunned. Why would someone pick up the book and just read the end?

I can think of some ways I apply this to the faith as well. My first thought is with the atheists I meet who complain about the Problem of Evil. The complaint is always that there is no good reason why X would be allowed to happen. (If they see a good reason, it’s not really a problem any more.)

Yet we are not the authors of the story and we have no right to know how the story ends. I believe that would cheat us out of so much of life. I think of the question where asked if you could see your future, would you really want to? It’s tempting, yes, but would you really want to? Could it be you would live your life differently simply because you want to reach that “future?” (Yes. We could get into some interesting questions on time-travel theory here, but I think the point still stands.)

Imagine going to see a movie with a friend and each time during the movie your friend who has seen it says “Now right here, this guy…..” and “You need to watch this character” and “This character falls in love with that one” or “This one dies.” Honestly, would you want to go see a movie with such a person again? I assure you that our author is not that type either.

In essence, we are cheating if we read the end first. We are missing out on the joy of getting there. It would make no sense to go to a bookstore and buy any fictional work and just read the last few pages to see how it ends and then assume you understand the story. Even if you know what will happen to some characters somehow, getting there is a different story.

Now I can apply this to Christians. Too many Christians I fear spend way too much time on eschatology. (Study of the end times.) Now I do believe we should have some knowledge of this area. I have my stance in eschatology and I can defend it, but I am not dogmatic about it. I will gladly fellowship with people of a different view so long as it’s orthodox.

We cheat ourselves though if we spend our lives only studying the book of Revelation. We should study it and other books on the end times. However, if we study only them, we miss the real point. The real point is not knowing when it will end. The real point is knowing who is in charge in the end. When we study Revelation, for instance, we should keep the first words of the book in mind. “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” If we study the book and come out with theories on eschatology, but we have no new truth about Jesus, our time was wasted.

Too many Christians are falling though for what Gary Demar calls in his book “Last Days Madness.” When a terrorist attack takes place in Israel, a new prophecy book is written. Within a decade, they will be sitting in the back storerooms of Christian bookstores as debunked. I don’t even bother buying books trying to interpret modern-day events.

Both views are missing something. The end is not the whole point. Getting there is as well. Yes. We Christians should look forward to Heaven, but that does not mean that we fail to enjoy our lives here on Earth. We should not be so focused on Heaven that we fail to bring it to Earth.

The Author Will Do Great!

If you’re reading my blog earlier in the day, I’ll go on and say I’m writing early because I plan to be one of those people that’s at the bookstore at midnight to pick up book 7. Since I will be getting home late and since I do value my sleep, I have decided to go ahead and write the blog early.

Some people have asked me about this book. “Who do you think is going to die?” I don’t know. “How will this end?” I don’t know. There are several other questions that I won’t ask for the sake of those who haven’t read the book, yet when asked “Do you think you could be disappointed?” my answer has been “Absolutely not!

Let’s consider what we have so far without spoiling it.

We have a boy on an adventure where all is not natural.

We have him making friends.

We have him finding people that are scrupulous and some that are quite angelic.

We have him being unsure of who he can trust and who he can’t.

We have him making mistakes at times and these cost him.

We have people dying.

We have evil taking place and seeming to be on the rampage.

We have things going on that we don’t see the purpose of yet.

We have the boy suffering greatly for things that he is in no way responsible for.

We have concern about the future in how it will all turn out.

Yet those of us who are fans do not deny some things. We do not deny that JKR is a great author. We do not deny that she is an intelligent author. We do not deny that she is going to bring the story together. We also do not deny that we will like the way the story ends. We are also quite sure that when it’s shown how it ends we will look back and say “Why didn’t we see it before?”

Oh my. Have I just described the life of faith?

Look back over that list of events that have taken place. Do they not all bear a relation to the life of faith? Do we not live in a world where all is not natural, where evil seems to be on the rise, where it can be hard to know who to trust and not to trust, where we suffer for things we’re not responsible for, and where things happen that we do not understand?

If we are willing to say though that JKR knows what she is doing, then ought we not say the same thing for the greatest author of all? As brilliant as I think JKR is, she cannot hold a candle to the greatest storyteller of them all and we are the ones living that story out. We are the ones that are having the adventure.

Tonight, if you’re buying the new book, enjoy it, but then ask yourself if you’re going to enjoy the book that you are in and if you are going to say that you know you will not be disappointed with how it turns out. If you’re going to give JKR the trust that you give her in her work, will you not do the same with the creator?

Sometimes I wish life was like….

I grew up in the video game generation and one game I bonded to immediately was Legend of Zelda. I wanted to be like Link in every way. Well now I’m older and I’ve got the new Twilight Princess game on the Gamecube. I’m playing it last night and get to an unusual boss section where this kind figure gets overcome by the evil of an item and turns into the boss. (And with Zelda bosses, as time goes by, they have to get both bigger and uglier.)

I was playing that and pondering that I sometimes wish life was like that. I wouldn’t mind waking up one day and being off on a great adventure to save the land and no matter what big monster comes my way, I know I can handle it. I was telling that to a friend of mine and he said something else. He said “I wish it was like Kingdom Hearts.” That’s a Playstation series. I know another friend who would wish it was like the game Chronotrigger, and one who would probably say like the story of LOTR.

All of these friends are male also.

I think that could be something in the guy’s soul. Now might it exist in the female soul as well? Yeah. But let’s be honest. When we go to the bookstore or the game store or the movie theater, there is often a striking difference between what the sexes buy and view in there.

Yes. I think we men like to have adventure in our lives. I could imagine some people hearing my thoughts and thinking “Why, you’d face death and danger at every single turn.” To which I’d answer, “The point?” I think most of us wouldn’t mind facing that. In fact, it’s something that makes us come alive. The more dangerous something is, the more a guy usually wants to do it.

I once worked at a grocery store and I had to push in buggies for a time. Now I’m a small guy and I couldn’t push in too many at once, but I had heart and speed and I could rush in and out and get them. Sometimes, I didn’t really want to. However, if it was storming and the rain was coming and the lightning was cracking, I wanted to be out there! It was an irresistible draw!

As I ponder it though, it could be that our lives are more like that than we realize. We may not fight big boss monsters, but do we not fight? We may not face death, but is there not some danger in all of our lives? Do we not wonder how many situations will turn out in our day to day living?

Which gets me to something I’ve always said in here. I do believe the adventure is there. I think the problem is we don’t open our eyes to see it. There are exciting events taking place and we are on the greatest quest of them all. Indeed, our quests are truly more real and exciting than Zelda, Kingdom Hearts, Chronotrigger, or even LOTR.

They’re better also for when we finish a game, we finish it and can say “Well done.” This game may not have the reset option, but it sure has a whole lot better than game over at the end of it.

Friends are Friends Forever

I wish I could claim credit for this idea. I can’t. It came from talking to a friend of mine and I wish to expound on it. I’d like to thank this friend of mine though for being with me through a lot of hard times and being a companion by my side. At a point in my life when I was facing a sudden burst of fear and thought I’d have an anxiety attack like in the past, he was there. He’s a great guy and I’m pleased what I write is true of him.

But he was telling me about visiting someone’s house and how that person had passed away and how it was bittersweet. Then he said it occurred to him that those kinds of friends are friends forever if they’re Christians. The relationships aren’t temporary. They’re just put on hold for a time. As the song says, “Friends are friends forever, if the Lord’s the Lord of them.”

Paul said that we don’t mourn like those who have no hope. Indeed, we do mourn. In fact, it is entirely proper for us to mourn. The Christian life is not one where you try perpetually to live on Cloud Nine. There are ups an downs for everyone and the loss of a friend is a great down.

I thought about this further and how our actions are affecting everyone we encounter. Each action is building that person up into either a most wondrous creature for all eternity, or a most vile creature for all eternity. Every action then is imbued with meaning. There are no useless actions.

This is also a good motivation to share the gospel with your friends. If you care about your friends, you want them to be with you don’t you? What kind of friend are you if you don’t want to be friends forever with a friend? The only way you can do that as a Christian is to be sure that your friends are Christians as well.

In view of this, should we not still cherish our friends? Should we not rejoice that we get to be friends forever with them? That Christian friend that you care so much about? It will never end. You get to spend forever with them and you get to know them better as time goes by.

Let’s also remember that Heaven doesn’t destroy good things here. It perfects them. You will have perfect friendship with that friend. Isn’t that good news?

Your Prayers Are Heard

I was at my Bible Study tonight with some friends. We’d had a really great and biblical discussion and it was time to close in prayer. Our little circle gathered all of our prayer requests together and then we all listened as our originator prayed. As he prayed though, I was struck with a reality.

I remember telling someone one night in my effort to preach the gospel to him, that his prayers were heard. I had a thought as if something almost magical was taking place at that moment. We were communicating with the most awesome being of all and if Christianity is true, we are being heard.

I wonder if maybe that’s why we can be so lackluster in prayer. Do we really think that God is hearing us? Do we really know who this God is that we are praying to and what he has done in the past and is doing now? Is he really such an overwhelming influence in our lives that we live our days in awe?

I’ll go on and confess that I’m not at that point yet. It seems we make prayer so that it is difficult to do. Maybe we do expect too much. Emotions aren’t the strong point of all of us, but there should be some feeling of awe. When we pray, are we merely saying vain words, or are we really believing that our prayers are heard?

This is one of the great dangers of our lives. Our lives can become ritualized. We read the Bible simply because we’re Christians and that’s what we do. We pray because we’re Christians and that’s what we do. It’s the reason we go to church or help out people in need. How many of us have helped out someone in need and been annoyed at doing it but thought, “Well, I’m a Christian so I gotta do it.”

That’s probably one of our greatest dangers. We don’t really get to live the excitement of the Christian life. Oh we can sit down and watch a movie we’ve seen several times before and say “I love this movie!” or we can listen to a song we’ve heard several times before and say “I love this song!”, but dare we read a passage of Scripture we’ve read before?

I would point the finger again at a loss of wonder. Movies can hold us in wonder. Music can hold us in wonder. Prayer and Scripture don’t. Might I posit a culprit for this? (Of course I might. It’s my blog and I can do what I want.) I would say that the culprit in all of these is holiness.

I’m not talking about biblical holiness. I’m talking about our conception of holiness. Somehow when we say “Holy Bible”, we enter this austere mode where we think we have to be reverentially silent and control our emotions and think only the holiest of thoughts and not laugh or enjoy ourselves. Somehow, our society has equated holiness with boring.

Don’t believe it? Go watch a movie based on a book of Scripture sometime. Everyone in them seems to speak in a monotone all the time. You don’t see smiles. You see just people walking around as if they’re all in a sour mood and trying to be better than everyone else. I hate to say it, but biblical movies usually are boring.

Yet here’s something to consider. Spirituality is considered exciting. Be it the sentimentalism of “Touched by an Angel” or the New Age of Sylvia Browne. Things that are “spiritual” have an air of excitement and danger to them. Why else do we have so many TV shows and movies with those kinds of themes?

Why are those exciting? Probably because we give them an air of surprise and excitement. You’re talking to a psychic! Anything could happen! They’re in touch with the other side! Here’s what I’m wondering. If talking to dead uncle Fred is exciting, why isn’t talking to the God of all creation exciting?

My solution? Restore that wonder. If you want to laugh while reading Scripture some, do so. Celebrate your emotions when studying. Be honest in your prayers and realize who you’re speaking to. One of the best prayers I know of is the one of Dwight L. Moody after a long day of ministry prayed “Lord, I’m tired. Good night.”

Also, remember the truth about what it is you believe and who it is you believe. We look at holiness as a punishment today. We need to change that and look at holiness as exciting. Holiness is not meant to keep us from having a good time. It is meant to make sure we have a good time.

Why don’t we? Let’s remember our prayers are heard. Let’s be holy. Really holy.

Existence

When it comes to thinking about Jesus as I’ve said, I wanted to find a good place to begin. What better place can there be though than to begin with the fact that Jesus exists? The fact that anything exists should hold us in wonder. We can look at the world and say “All of this might not have been.”

A question that has often been asked to atheists by theists, and I think it is a good question. Why is there anything rather than nothing at all? We could look and ask not just why are we here, but why is anything here? It is nonsense to say all of this came from nothing, yet there amazingly some atheists do hold to this position.

Let’s start with the root of existence. All that is I believe is that which reflects God. What about evil? Evil really isn’t. Evil is an absence and an absence is not a positive existence. It’s showing a lack. It is like saying the empty portion in a glass exists. It just doesn’t really fit.

Christ though is the one who has already existed. Of course, all three persons of the Trinity have existed for all eternity, but Christ is our revelation so that we could know what God is like. Before we know what Christ is like tonight. We need to realize simply that Christ is.

I find this so incredible. Let us think about this one who was from the very beginning and in the bosom of the Father.  And what does John say about this one? This very one who was from all time walked among us! We saw him! We touched him! We heard his voice! He was entirely real! He lived like one of us!

Do we really pause to think about this? This God who revealed himself dwelt among us! When the ancients read John 1:14, they were stunned. How could the Word, which has the divine nature entirely, become flesh? How could that which was God from the beginning live on Earth?

Yet this is what happen! This Christ who eternally existed came and lived above us. Why? He wants us to experience existence as he does. He loves us. He wants to show us his utter delight in us. He wants us to have the most real existence of all. An existence where we reflect him in every way.

And this only starts, because he exists. Let us pause and keep in mind this great wonder. God exists and existence is good.