Hope and Grief

In the midst of the Augustine I’m reading now, I got out of my library a copy of C.S. Lewis’s “A Grief Observed”, a book I had bought years ago but never started reading until last night and as I started it, one thought came to me.

 I wish I had read this sooner.

I was thinking back to a loss of mine last year. I remember going through a time of grief. I’m sure it can’t compare to that of Lewis who had lost his beloved wife to cancer, but I could tell that we both knew grief.

I believe people in grief want hope most of all. I thought about that last night and thinking about personal struggles of mine. I remember thinking, “God. If I could really know for one second that I will overcome, I believe I could truly be happy.”

Being in grief is like being in a prison cell. You almost wish the prison cell had no windows for if you couldn’t see normalcy outside your cell, you could convince yourself it didn’t exist.

Yet this cell does have a window and you can see outside of it and it seems quite unusual that someone will even try to see into your cell. You see normalcy going on and you grieve wondering if you will have that again.

What would make all the difference? If someone came over to you. Imagine what it would mean if someone saw you as normal as well. Even if they couldn’t help you out, to know that you are seen would be great enough.

Lewis once said, and it might be in this work, that it is more important that Heaven should exist than that any of us should make it there. Kreeft calls that a statement that will need years of unpacking.

Lewis’s point is simply that hope needs an object. Even if the object is not reached, there is an object that hope looks forward to. Bibilcally, hope isn’t wishful thinking. Certain events are called hopes. Hope in the Bible is that which is looked forward to in certainty but has not yet arrived.

Biblically also, we do have the promise of hope in all our circumstances. We are not really alone in the prison cell. The triune God of Scripture is there with us, even at times when we can’t feel his presence, a term I hesitate to use anyway.

Thus, to those in grief I say, look out the window. It will soon be yours and even better than this!

Problems I see in evolutionary thinking

Yeah. I’m going off course from my thoughts on prayer here, but hey, it’s my blog so my choice. I decided to do this after listening to some debates today on creation/evolution. I was just amazed at what I was hearing on the side of the evolutionists. It seemed my main critique had been quite accurate.

The debates I heard had William Provine vs. Phil Johnson and Jonathan Wells vs. Michael Shermer. Keep in mind that I am not a scientist please. I do not deal with the scientific evidence that much. I deal with the philosophical underpinnings. The scientists can debate the other all they want.

It appeared that the only way to believe was to assume only naturalistic theories. They would repeatedly say “Well what method do you see God using?” It would be fiat creationism generally, but that doesn’t count since it’s not naturalistic. In other words, any counter theory on origins must be naturalistic before it can be accepted. That’s the point though. Naturalism can’t explain it.

I was particularly fascinated when the topic of morality came up and someone asked a question to Provine. Provine replied that whatever your background is, keep it up. The questioner said “My background is murder and rape, and it was that because I believed that life was meaningless and had no value.” Ouch. It’s very hard to refute an argument like that.

Someone came up though and asked what thiesm has contributed since methodological naturalism has put a man on the moon, cured diseases, etc., and that it seemed to him that the worst events in history had been done by those who were strong believers in religion.

Now I found this a very odd statement to make. First off, in naturalism, there is no objective basis for determining that an action is evil or good. You have to borrow from theism in order to do that. My point felt further established when Provine complained about the intolerance of Christianity. By what standard is this being condemned?

I would also say that naturalism has not given such things to us and Christianity has not done the worst evils in the world. People who have been naturalists and Christians have done such acts. I do believe though that one can lead to a conclusion more logically than another. Look at it this way.

In naturalism, man is a cosmic accident with no value bestowed on him from outside. In Christianity, man is a divine creation and bears the image of God and is someone whom Jesus Christ loves and died for. Which one of these best results in my seeing my neighbor as someone of value? Which one of these best results in living out the life of love?

However, I can think of the great benefits theism in that sense has brought us. I believe if we thought of the things that matter most to us, they wouldn’t be brought by science. Which do I enjoy more? Do I enjoy my computer, or do I enjoy more the people that I meet through it and the bond of friendship? Do I enjoy books more, or do I enjoy the knowledge I find within books?

The most valuable things in my life are the things that I do not detect with my senses. They are love and friendship and hope and joy. I would much rather have happiness in Christ than all the riches in the world. These are the things that science cannot bring me. Science is a good no doubt as the material world is good and science studies that, but my greatest happiness comes from theism.

I lastly recall hearing the line in the Shermer debate of “If things here need a designer, well doesn’t the designer?” This throws a naturalistic view on God though and makes God part of the creation in that he consists of “parts.” One doctrine of God is his simplicity. It does not mean he is easy to understand. It means that he is complete and has no parts. You could say he is “Simply holy” for instance, in that he is completely holy.

Material things are put together. Immaterial things are not. God is immaterial and thus, God is not designed. Now if they want to say that things need a designer, then we can say that we need a designer. If they want to say not all things need a designer, then we can say God does not need one.

Overall though, the most stunning aspect is the aspect of morality. It seems that these words of right and wrong and ought and good and evil keep popping up. Always watch for those friends. Always. I’d even say an intellectual virtue is given that implies that you ought to be honest with the evidence. Now I agree, but what is the basis in naturalism?

My conclusion? I can still rest easy tonight as a creationist.

<>

Our Father

I was thinking about prayer last night. Maybe many of you are like me and you get a lot of your praying in at night.  I started pondering that the reason God asks us to pray is that it does make some sort of difference. I do not believe God would ask us to participate in an exercise of futility. God wants us to pray. I don’t think it’s always to change the external world directly. It could more change the internal world that will in turn change the external world.

My mind immediately cries out then that it would be great to know the best way to pray. I immediately think then that we have been told how to pray. I do not believe the Lord’s prayer is a prayer that we repeat vainly. (Interesting isn’t it that we are told to avoid vain repetition, yet we vainly repeat the Lord’s Prayer often.) Thus, I want to spend the next few blogs looking at the Lord’s Prayer.

It begins with “Our Father.” (Interestingly, the only part of the Lord’s Prayer that the Jesus Seminar put in red in their five gospels work.) What does it mean to how we pray when we are told that we are to begin with “Our Father?”

The first thing to notice is that this is an address to someone outside of ourselves. Meditation is spoken of in Scripture, but it is not in the sense that the Easterners would consider it. In pantheistic systems, meditation is more for looking inward. For the Christian, meditation and prayer are focused on that which is outside ourselves, which would be God.

I also notice that this is done in a community context. This is not saying “My Father.” This is saying “Our Father.” Unfortunately, we don’t tend to do well with group prayer. The only time I see a real group prayer usually is with my Bible Study group where we’re all close-knit. In other cases, we’re too rushed and we just give a general prayer. (How many times do you think you could just quote the prayer that will be said at Thanksgiving?)

If we are to pray biblically, then we need to be open with each other. Of course, this is hard for us to do today. What if somebody thinks less of me? How do I know I’m not the only one going through this? Won’t I be embarrassed? Does anybody really care about what I’m going through?

Considering that last one, if no one really cared, first off, you wouldn’t care. Secondly, why should you pray because that assumes that God cares. Thus, you already have two that do care. Why are you to automatically assume no one else cares? Finally though, if God does care about something, it seems that everyone else who thinks something doesn’t care is wrong.

Thus, we need to be with our community. When we are with our community, we also need to be praying. Could this be one reason why churches don’t grow though? There really is no connection? You can walk into a room with your “church family” and feel like no one knows what’s going on.

Who are we to pray to? Our Father. This is a truly amazing claim. Jesus is the one who told us to address God as Father and he used regularly the term “abba” which would be “Daddy.” This was reserved for intimate conversation. Indeed, prayer is intimate conversation.

We are told the Father loves us. We are told the Father cares for us. However, one thing we need to remember is that the Father wishes for us to be like him as well. We are not naturally his. We are his by adoption. He did not have to save any of us. He chose to save some of us though. That can be believed whether one is a Calvinist or Arminian. None would be saved unless God wanted to offer salvation.

Maybe we need that image in mind when we pray. God is the Father and not the grandfather. A grandparent might often spoil their kids, but a Father doesn’t. The Father loves us, but he also disciplines us. He’s love, but he’s also holiness. We don’t have command over the Father. The Father has command over us.

Thus, we have two words in a prayer. So much more could be said. I believe a whole volume could be written on these words. I hope I’ve said enough tonight to get you thinking though.

A does not cause C

I struggle with obsessive-compulsive beliefs. At work today, we had something all over the register. It was believed that it could have been vomit or spittle, and I think at the end it was agreed to be spittle. I’m gone. I’m heading to the rest room to wash my hands at a pace that would make Clark Kent catch his breath.

One problem where this happens is in the area of religious thought. I think of what I have an MP3 of Gary Habermas saying. Habermas asks how many people have doubted their salvation before. I have heard him speak on this live and I raised my hand and was amazed at how many other people raised their hands as well. He ties this in at one point with factual doubt.

He talks about someone hearing a lecture on the resurrection and the evidences for it and saying “I’ll never doubt again!” Then the question comes of “How long do you think that’ll last?” The answer is, until a thought comes of “What if Habermas doesn’t know what he’s talking about?” Then, “What if he knows but he’s wrong and he’s just ugly and stupid?” It leads to, “What if the resurrection really isn’t true?” and then concludes in “I’m doubting the resurrection. I must not be a Christian.”

How many of us have done this? We’ll come up with strange beliefs and then think, “Ah! All of a sudden I see so much evidence for this!” If we were thinking rationally, we wouldn’t see that, but our emotions overpower our rationality and in fact, they do not allow us to think rationally.

Habermas asks us to make a distinction and realize that A does not cause C. He speaks of Actions and Consequences. We seem to connect the two together automatically. Habermas says that there is a letter in between for Beliefs. What happens to us is not as bad as what we say about it.

<> Consider the dilemma a single guy like myself has to face in being unlucky in love. You ask a girl out. She says no. Alright. That’s one. You ask another out. She says the same. You ask another out. She goes out but breaks it off after the first date. You come across one and you have a good relationship but she breaks it off also.

Now the best thing to do is to realize that this kind of thing could be normal. Now maybe sometimes, you are a jerk and you do have a problem, but is that always the case? How we handle it will depend on the beliefs we interpret from the actions. If I interpret them as saying “I’m unlovable and will never get married,” well don’t be surprised if my confidence is shot. If I instead say “I didn’t win that time, but there are millions of lovely ladies out there and I only have to marry one,” I could do better.

Another case involves being on break tonight in our break room and having a friend in ministry come in and one of the grandmother types in jewelry. Now my friend is one of those that is quite fundamental in my eyes and freaks at the thought that I love Harry Potter for instance. In some ways, around others in my field, I always feel inferior. Even as I sit here, I can’t think of why I should feel that way.

<> Well, the lady in there talks to me later and says she’s so proud of me and is glad that I’m going into the field I am and compares me to her late husband who was so in her words “Full of the Spirit.” I’m listening and realizing how erroneous my beliefs were. I had allowed a B to come in based on an A that wasn’t accurate and was causing me to have a view of myself that I was, as Habermas says, downloading.

What’s the cure tonight then? Watch what you tell yourself. Watch the beliefs that you give yourself. See if you’re not making up cases that aren’t true and that if you were thinking straight, you’d realize aren’t true.  Don’t you want to live your life according to true beliefs and not false ones?

Good news for the night! You could be wrong!

Farewell Bruce Metzger

Last night after I wrote my blog, I was informed that Bruce Metzger had passed away. Metzger was in his 90’s and was still on staff as far as I could tell. My first hearing of him was in Lee Strobel’s Case for Christ as an expert on the transmission of the biblical documents and I was quite impressed. I have since then read his book on Revelation called “Breaking the Code”, his lexicon for Greek students, and “The Bible in Translation.”<>

<>Metzger will be missed on this Earth. I thought last night of the phrase of “When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a way so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.” Right now, the world is crying, but Metzger is rejoicing.

Dear Christians. My blog is short and sweet tonight. Metzger left us a legacy as well. I think whatever path we’re following, we should follow it with that much devotion to Christ. I would hope that the phrase I’ve just put up will be true when I die as well one day. If you hope the same for yourself, then start living accordingly.

Going Deeper

Ah! Valentine’s Day! Indeed, I had been thinking about the love of a lady last night. Yes readers who do not know. I am single so I only think with anticipation. However, I had read an excerpt of C.S. Lewis talking about seeing a lady and he could not tell if she was clothed or not. (I believe it was from the Great Divorce so this would be Heaven.) He pointed out that if she was clothed, it was not a disguise as it is here.

Disguise.  Now there’s an interesting way to put it. A disguise implies that there’s something underneath. As a man, I know that that is certainly true for a female. I thought about that as many of us men when seeing a lady do wonder about what that disguise is hiding. I believe this is something natural for men. What we do with the thought is up to us. There are right ways to handle desire and wrong ways.

This is also a good reason to value modesty ladies. A modest lady can make a guy wonder, but he also seems more respectful in doing so. The treasure is more valuable if it’s guarded more closely.  A girlwho is showy with all she has just doesn’t present a challenge and is unattractive.

So I took this thought further. Now if a guy meets a girl and they marry and they are on their honeymoon, has not the man gone deeper when that disguise of clothing on the girl is shed? Indeed he has, but woe to us if we think that once we see past the disguise of clothing that there are no more disguises.

Yes. Woe to him who only gets the body and misses the soul. Woe to the man who gets a girl to give him his body, but cannot seem to get her to give him his soul. Friends. Winning a girl’s body frankly is easy. I wouldn’t, but I could go out on the streets tonight and whip out my wallet and win a girl’s body. A criminal could force a girl’s body. However, he cannot buy her soul from her or steal her soul from her. It is her’s to give.

<><>This is one problem with pre-marital intercourse even. There is no giving of the soul. It is only the giving of the body. If the soul has not been given, are you truly fully giving yourself to another? Why not wait? “Well he might leave me.” Then you really don’t trust him do you? A true lover will not make your staying with him depend on intercourse. A true lover will love you and intercourse will just be a bonus.  It’s an important bonus and it serves its purpose in marriage, but it is never meant as a threat or a test.

<><>Furthermore, this doesn’t just relate to marriage. This relates to everything else. Go out and look at the night sky with an astronomer. He will see things that you will not see. (Unless you happen to be interested in astronomy.)  My father and I watch every new Smallville together and because of my greater interest, I am seeing subtleties that he is never seeing. A preacher’s worst nightmare is to have a skilled theologian in the audience, as he knows such a person will be analyzing the sermon closely.
<>I have a friend in Florida now who shows me this truth well. He is the music buff. I am the philosophy and theology buff. He and I would hear the same song on the radio. I would comment on the meaning of the song and that I thought the message was quite good. He would reply, “But they only play three chords!”

<>The ultimate point is that if you want more of something and to enjoy it more, you have to go deeper. The best place to go deeper I would say is in God. The more you dive into him, the more you will enjoy him and the more you will know him.

<>Go deep!

Measure of a Man

I heard a story today on the radio about a study showing adoptive parents are better than real parents as they tend to give more to the child and give more attention. (My first thought is who determined what better and worse is. Veruca Salt got all that in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but would hardly be considered “better.”)

The motivation behind this of course is so the homosexual left can be given a case to adopt children.  This misses a huge point though in that children are better when they have a Mommy and a Daddy. I thought about that today in what it would mean to be a father and how that is a much neglected but needed role.

A boy needs a man to teach him how to be a man. Sadly, this has been terribly neglected in our world. Most TV shows picture the father as an idiot to have pity on and the woman as the one who keeps everything in order around the place and is always the voice of sanity. It’s one reason I love Smallville. Jonathan Kent was a father any son could be proud of and Clark always relied on his Dad and always wanted to be like him.

But what does make a man? This is the key question. It seems our society has so many misplaced ideas. Is someone more of a man because they have bigger muscles for instance? I am just 120. Does that mean that someone who is 160 and in stronger physical condition is more masculine than I am?

How about success with women? Is the guy who is already happily married more of a man than I am? On some levels, I could see this if he is more courageous in approaching the women. However, I do not believe that a man’s measure can be found in sexual prowess either. I believe too often that many of my men have replaced masculinity with this. If we can “score with the babes”, why we’re men. It’s often as if the first time a man sleeps with a woman that he’s passed a rite of passage. Now in a sense, a man has passed some sort of rite at that point, but I believe one should be a man before having intercourse, and not have intercourse hoping that will make him a man.

Is it intelligence? Ah. How much I would like to say yes. However, even this cannot work. Not all men are what we’d call intellectuals, but am I to question their masculinity because of that? I might question other aspects of them, but I should certainly not call their masculinity into question.

What about the body period? Is being a man consisting of having the right genitalia? If a man was in prison for rape and was castrated, would he cease to be a man? If he lost his organs in a war injury of some sort, would he cease to be a man? A man does have those characteristics, yes, but do they make him a man or does he have them because he is a man?

When asked, I think that I would say that the measure of a man ultimately is in his soul. Does he have those traits that are masculine? Is he a leader? Is he strong in heart? Is he confident? Does he truly love the lady in his life? How about the other ladies he meets? How does he treat them?

How does he live before God? Does he seek to be like Christ? Does he control his passions or do his passions control him? Is he willing to put his life on the line for the people that he loves? When push comes to shove, is he willing to stand up and fight? Does he represent himself and his family well before the throne of God?

Yes. These are the measure of a man. It’s not in how much you can bench press, it’s not in physical size, it’s not in sexual prowess, and it’s not in intelligence. It’s in the soul.

I pray to be that kind of man. If you’re of my gender, I hope you pray the same.

The Other Preaching Job

I preached again Sunday at a church in another state.  I was praying the night before that I would do a good job in preaching and that my words would be true and good. I think it’s times like that where you realize the magnitude of the position that you have taken upon yourself and realize that people are going to be watching your every word and soaking it in. Some of them sadly will take it as gospel as many people seem to believe X just because their preacher said so and they can’t be argued out of it.

Yet I immediately had a thought upon realizing that I would be preaching. I realized that I was preaching every day. My actions are speaking what I believe the gospel to be louder than my words are. Do I believe that Jesus is Lord of all? I hope so, but I would honestly say my life doesn’t really reflect that. Do I believe God is omniscient and knows what’s best? I would hope so, but as I struggle with sin still, I realize that I am implicitly saying each time I sin that I know better than God. That’s hardly saying I believe in his omniscience.

Other people are seeing that and I am proclaiming a gospel to them. I can pray that it will be the true one. There are some who will sadly see what I do speak so loudly that what I say won’t matter. I would hope my arguments are enough to convince an honest seeker, but if I cannot get them to the point to listen to my arguments, then what good have I really done?

It makes me think of St. Francis of Assisi when he said “Preach the gospel. Use words if necessary.” Friends. I know honestly that I do fall drastically short. I know also though that means that I need the gospel just as much as the next guy. Luther once told us to preach the gospel to yourselves every day. I have accepted Christ as my Lord and savior, but I still need to hear that good news.

When I screw up, which I will, and when I screw up badly, which I will, I need to be reminded that God is there and that I can always come to the cross. When things are good, and they will be and are at times, I need to be reminded of the grace of God that he gives me times of blessing, but I also need to be reminded that when I am put back into the fire again, it’s not because he loves me any less.

Friends. We need that message. If we can’t convince ourselves of the gospel, how will we be able to convince others. If we are not truly living it, how will our lives be able to truly proclaim it?

Pray for me that I may live it. I pray that you will live it as well. Friends. Preach to me the gospel as well. I need that also.

Do you know all truth?

I had to preach this morning at a church in another state. I drove there as it’s not too far a drive, but I didn’t sleep much. Thus, when I got back home, I was kind of worn out. I listened to a Ron Nash lecture on MP3 online for awhile, but then I realized I needed to take a short nap before church.

<> It was one of those strange times where I went to rest and when I woke up, immediately I had grasped something I hadn’t realized entirely before.

In logic, we have four types of propositions. In each type, S stands for the subject and P for the predicate.

<> A: All S is P. (All horses are four-legged animals.)

E: No S is P. (No horses are four-legged animals.

I:Some S is P. (Some horses are four-legged animals.

O:Some S is not P. (Some horses are not four-legged animals.)

In the first type of statement, you have to know all horses to know they are all four-legged animals. Why is this important? Let’s look at an unspoken presupposition of naturalism that I believe is absolutely essential to the worldview.

All truth is explainable within a naturalistic worldview.

This is an A statement. Now in order to know this though, you must know all truth. If you do not know all truth, you do not know if it is explainable in a naturalistic worldview. If you do know all truth, you are omniscient and if you are omniscient, well, you are God then.

Now does this prove naturalism is false? No. It could be all truth is explainable within a naturalistic worldview. I don’t think it is, but it could be.  However, this does mean that a naturalist has to act on his idea of “faith” as much as he accuses the Christian.

<> Thus, I as a Christian feel no obligation to have to accept that premise. I would also say that this would apply to all truth being verified empirically.How do you verify empirically that someone loves you or that you love someone else for instance? How do you verify empirically that all truth is verifiable empirically?

Friends. Don’t let yourselves get pulled into these assumptions. Could it be truth that all truth is explainable in naturalistic terms? Yeah. I doubt it, but if naturalism is true, then it is. There’s no reason to accept such a premise though.

Secondhand skepticism

A co-worker tonight told me that I should talk to someone else. They’ve gone off to college and now are saying things like “The Bible was written by men after the times and is full of errors.” Many of us in apologetics have seen these kinds of arguments before. We know they don’t work and we know they’re flimsy.

We know that you can show that the ancients did place great emphasis on memorization. We know that you can show that we have a high number of manuscripts by which we can cross-reference to be sure the text we have today is what was written.  We can use archaeology to show that the text is reliable in what it says. We can finally use philosophy to show that the arguments against miracles are fallacious.

Now my friend comes to me though saying “But it is fact that there are plenty of errors in the Bible.” Friends. When someone says something like this to you, there’s always one question you should ask immediately. Phrase it however you want but the terminology is the same. “Name one.”

It’s amazing how many people will be caught off guard by this. If, however, they do name one, then you really do give an answer. If you have to, be able to say, “That’s a good question and I haven’t encountered that one before. Please let me spend a few days looking at it and I’ll get back to you.”

Why do I call this secondhand skepticism though? Because these are sayings that have become commonplace in the marketplace of ideas and they’re usually spread by people who haven’t searched themselves and are merely going by what some college professor told them.

The danger is that these are often Christians who take a beating because they weren’t prepared, when answering questions like this isn’t difficult. However, we are not preparing them. Yes friends. It is largely our fault. We send children through Sunday School but we keep them at the level they start at. They are NOT ready to face an atheistic professor in college if all they have is their feelings and a testimony.

Like smoke, this stuff is inhaled easily and spreads just as easily. It’s a cancer that we can prevent though. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We can start now in training our young people how to answer these arguments. The anti-smoking ads keep telling us about truth. We can learn from that. It’s time we taught our young people the truth so they won’t get caught by secondhand skepticism.

Instead, maybe they can smoke their professors.