Thursday, September 30, 2010

Truth Without A Christ Context

LeRon Shults, former professor of theology at Bethel Theological Seminary, wrote:

From a theological perspective, this fixation with propositions can easily lead to the attempt to use the finite tool of language on an absolute Presence that transcends and embraces all finite reality. Languages are culturally constructed symbol systems that enable humans to communicate by designating one finite reality in distinction from another. The truly infinite God of Christian faith is beyond all our linguistic grasping, as all the great theologians from Irenaeus to Calvin have insisted, and so the struggle to capture God in our finite propositional structures is nothing short of linguistic idolatry.

This is a fantastic thought but woefully incomplete. This is truth without the context of Christ. Yes, Christianity (and all the major monotheistic religions) confirm that God is infinite and beyond description. However, if an infinite God wants to communicate to a finite being, He will limit Himself in that revelation.

When a parent speaks to a child, do they use their "native" adult language? Maybe that parent holds a doctorate degree. Do they use high-brow academic language when speaking to their toddler? Aren’t family physicians taught to limit their technical jargon when communicating to their patients?

Christianity says that the infinite God has revealed Himself in a finite way. This is profound when you consider that this finite way was in the physical form of Jesus Christ.

Christ is the ultimate set of propositions. The Scriptures literally call Him “The Word”. The very statement “There are no absolutes.” is an absolute statement.

With the above said, let me also write against the other extreme. God cannot and should not be reduced only to a set of propositions. The scriptures describe this “Word” as living, walking, breathing, talking, dying and resurrecting. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind and loved all. Unlike other gods who claim to love us, He proved it by giving His life, something your average god can’t do.

BTW, this answers the age-old philosophical question, “Can God create a rock that He can’t lift?” Yes He can and He did. He is infinite so He CAN limit Himself. He HAS limited Himself so that we can know Him. We cannot know the infinite. This doesn't mean He is limited in ability, only in presentation to us.

In other words this God who is infinite in ability, has limited His will. The Godliest thing we can do is to do the same. THIS is why belief in the Christian God is tied to morality, character and integrity.

But people that reduce God to just black and white, tend to be dogmatic out of what appears to me to be a sense of insecurity. I think they are insecure with NOT knowing. This is antithetical to the idea of faith.

Faith is a moderation of belief. It is to believe something enough to not be a persistent, consistent skeptic but to doubt it enough to not be dogmatic. Anything else is extremism of belief. At least that’s what I believe, but I can’t be for sure.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The What of Science, the Why of Religion says the following:

Garner in fact quotes Ferris along these lines. Following his God-mongering comment, Ferris writes: "Cosmology has more than enough to do trying to figure out how the universe works without also flattering itself that it is going to tell us why. Religious systems are inherently conservative, science inherently progressive… [It doesn’t] seem likely or even desirable to imagine that they are headed for some sort of rapprochement. This may be an instance where good walls make good neighbors.”

In other words, science is best equipped to answer the questions of “what?” and “how?” while religion is best equipped to address the question of “why?”. This is why science has virtually nothing to say about our morality, yet religion has tons to say there. Morality is tied to purpose. Purpose is tied to a purpose maker. The million dollar question is whether or not that purpose maker is a transcendent God or left to each individual.

This is why I laugh at the atheist who says they reject belief in God because of some transcendent moral code. The more they affirm such a transcendent moral code, the more they affirm God’s very existence. To say that it is wrong for an innocent little baby to suffer in a world where there is no God, is equivalent to saying that the Government doesn’t exist but failing your taxes is still against the law.

There IS a reason why it is wrong for an innocent little baby to suffer. Life has a purpose. That purpose is not yours or mine.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Power of Persuasion

There are many ways to fall but only one way to stand. The road that leads to faith can be traveled via a crutch, via wishful thinking and projection, convenience and mindless traditionalism, or by thoughtful submission.

If faith is not achieved through thoughtful submission, WE become gods, creating truth based upon our desires and convenience, or out of an unexamined set of "creature comfort" habits.

To arrive at faith through thoughtful submission requires that one love truth more than one's convenience, comfort or desires. That is the "submission" component.

For such a submission to be thoughtful, requires a search for truth itself. If you believe you have found such truths, you can help others do the same only through persuasion.

It might be a cliche but I often say that cliches are repeated because they are true and ignored because they are repeated:

People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

You'll never have someone's heart or mind until you have their respect. You'll never have their respect until you give them the same. Such respect doesn't mean that you have to agree with them. It simply means that you show that you care for them as opposed to caring for winning an argument and nurturing your pride.

This brings me to the latest controversy regarding the burning of the Koran. Burning another religion's holy book does NOTHING to persuade. If Rev Terry Jones were to have gone through with such a thing, does he really believe that even ONE Muslim will in sackloth and ashes be convinced of the teachings of Christ as Lord of all? Can Mr. Jones point to even ONE example from his Christian faith or from secular history where an offensive act has acted as a persuasive one and changed the hearts and minds of the offended?

But you might ask, didn't Jesus offend the religious leaders of His day in similar acts when he took a whip into the Temple and drove away all the money changers? Didn't Jesus do a similar thing when He called the religious leaders of His day "vipers" and "broods of "snakes", et al?

The key to understanding Jesus' repudiation of the religious leaders of His day comes in His motivation to point out hypocrisy. He constantly pointed out the logical inconsistencies of the religious leaders of His day as they claimed to follow the law of God yet failed to love their neighbors as themselves or love God with all their hearts and minds.

If offenses should come, Christ followers should be offending religious attitudes held by people like Mr. Jones. I hope to make a small contribution there with this post.

If Mr. Jones follows this same Christ, the Christ who taught that it was better to give than to receive, better to love than to hate, better to lose one's life than to try and save it, is He reflecting Christ by merely inciting anger and hate with those in whom he disagrees?

Did Christ call me or Rev Terry Jones to burn books or to set hearts ablaze?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Taste of Goodness In The Pursuit Of Truth

In my last post, I wrote about the limitations of logic. Both Stephen Hawking and James Lee were extremely logical in forming their worldviews which also share many similarities.

In past posts, I have referenced Ravi Zacharias's criteria for truth. Truth must be:
1. Logically consistent
2. Empirically adequate
3. Existentially relevant

I have had the hardest time getting my mind around #3. But things have gotten clearer lately, so I'd like to share these thoughts.

It seems to me that it might be easier for we human beings to test for health than truth. When I say "health", I am referring to our very being. One might say "good" rather than health but because I am only talking about good relative to us (does a belief equip me to be a better person in some way), I prefer the word "health".

In my last article, when I spoke of the paranoid person being just as logical as the healthy person, I demonstrated how paranoia can be logically justified. The presence or absence of logic is no savior in in clearing the muddy waters here. However, the paranoid person can become so restrained as to no longer live a healthy life.

I am seeing this in a close family member of mine. His paranoia prevents him from being able to work. He would LOVE to have a job but he can't be around crowds nor can he be around a blaring radio or t.v. He can't function like a healthy human being. But his paranoia is far from being irrational. But I believe that the truth sets us free. As a result, it brings what we might call health. The truth equips us and makes us better people.

THIS is why I'm not an atheist. Atheism, when followed consistently, means that there is no transcendent purpose maker in life. It means that I define purpose and that purpose only applies to me. I can change that purpose whenever I want to whatever I want. I become my personal god.

But I am a lousy god. We ALL are. Tiger Woods was god of his life when his supermodel wife wasn't good enough for him and he expanded his horizons. James Lee was a lousy god when he decided that the best way he could get the message out about his worldview was to change the programming of the Discovery channel. Most of us write letters. He decided to strap bombs on his person and use a gun. Lyndsey Lohan is a lousy god to herself, offering her an escape from pain through booze rather than true healing.

I could go on and on with the examples, but the point is not to throw rocks. My message is simple. DON'T simply follow your heart. DON'T simply trust yourself.

I believe in Psalm 37:4 which says, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." At first glance, this appears to paint God as a divine waiter. But reverence for God doesn't allow such an interpretation. Reverence directs me to this interpretation. God is saying that as we delight in Him, He will be the SOURCE of our desires. All of a sudden, as I submit my life to Him, I start wanting what HE wants for my life. THEN, I can follow my heart because it has submitted to Him.

Can you test this worldview to be true? No, but you CAN test it to be healthy. You can test it to determine whether or not it works. You can test whether or not it is good.

"Taste and see that the lord is good" - Psalm 34:8

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Insanity of Logic Estranged from God

Stephen Hawking has announced that that God is no longer necessary in order to start the Big Bang:

He also is warning us to abandon the earth or face possible extinction:

The latter, resonates with what the the recent Discovery Channel bomber James Lee was saying. James Lee, influenced by Daniel Quinn's series of books and Al Gore, believed that humanity was "filthy", that the earth would be better off without us, and that we faced extinction if we didn't stop global warming. He believed we needed to stem the population growth by no longer having children:

Before I go any further, let me be unequivocal in saying that I do NOT for a moment place Mr. Hawking in the same category as Lee in terms of a proclivity towards violence.

But both of these men share dire predictions, building their reasoning upon humanistic, naturalistic presuppositions.

I would actually agree with their conclusions that if the world is merely a product of naturalistic random processes, independent of God, then we are doomed unless we can take extreme actions.

One can be logical but be wrong. Logic is as only as truthful as its presuppositions. Both a young-earth creationist and an evolutionist can look at the same Grand Canyon but logically come to different conclusions based upon different presuppositions. The evolutionist will claim, a lot of time and a little water formed the Canyon. The young-earth creationist will claim that a lot of water (Noah's Flood) and a little time formed it.

Positivism is a philosophy that says that science can NOT say what is ultimately true. It can only correlate observations. In other words, it can only connect the dots.

The task of science is not to find out what nature is, but only what we can say about it.

Science can ask what and how. This line of questioning is authenticated by technology. Science can not answer "why". This is the domain of religion. When one asks "why", one is inherently asking about purpose and purpose is ALWAYS tied to someone's will. "Why" is therefore tied to "who". For the atheist, "who" is us. It is me and you. For the person of faith, this "who" is outside of ourselves. "Who" is God.

It is funny for me to watch atheists and agnostics moralize, asking questions along the lines of, "If there is a God, why does evil exist?" as if they can justify a logical definition of good and evil outside of God's very own existence. If God doesn't exist, why can't I eat pork or abort a baby in the womb? Because YOU say so? Or because the law might say so?

As C.S. Lewis learned when he was an atheist, for him to say the world was broken assumed that he had a reference point (the idea of good). But where did this reference point come from? A fish doesn't complain about being wet. It doesn't even know it is wet because all it has known is water.

"If you are really a product of a materialistic universe, how is it that you don't feel at home there?" --Encounter with Light

I greatly respect Mr. Hawking and have learned a lot from him. My respect comes from the fact that he is extremely gifted in his use of logic. But logic alone will cause one to go insane (ala Mr. Lee). As G.K. Chesterton pointed out in his classic book "Orthodoxy", the paranoid person is also logical.

They believe everyone is out to get them. When you tell them that is not true, they say, "Well of course you'd say that. You're out to get me. You would say that." Reasoning can not penetrate such thinking. Logic has limits. Its limits are in the realm of faith.

For more information, check out:

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton:

Also, check out my favorite blog 13.7's post on Hawking and God: