The Ups And Downs Of The Straight And Narrow


A Reprise.

Life is often compared to a path leading from one place to another. Jesus used the picture of a road in one of His teaching sessions to describe the journey to life or to destruction. The first has a small gate and is narrow. The latter has a wide gate and a broad road.

Elsewhere in Scripture the path God wants us on is described as straight. For example, Jeremiah 31:9b says

I will make them walk by streams of waters,
On a straight path in which they will not stumble (emphasis mine)

While many are familiar with the road metaphor and may even know of the narrow versus broad comparison or the straight versus crooked analogy, fewer of us realize that this road is as much like a roller coaster than anything else. Scripture is filled with examples of people who experienced great success only to turn around and encounter great adversity.

Elijah is one example. He experienced a great success when he confronted Baal’s prophets, and God proved Himself true. He followed this showdown by seeing God answer his prayer to bring an end to the three-and-a-half-year drought. But what happened next? Jezebel threatened to kill him, and he ran for his life.

Jesus experienced this roller coaster more than once. Right after He was baptized–a spiritual high point–He spent forty days in the wilderness being tempted by Satan. I’d call that a spiritual low point, if ever there was one.

There are even several of these high/low experiences connected to the Christmas story. After the magi made their visit, Herod, in his jealousy, attempted to kill this prophesied Messiah. Because of God’s warning in a dream, Joseph was able to steal away with his little family and head into Egypt. But back in the region of Bethlehem, male babies under the age of two were slaughtered. Part of the Christmas story, then, is the weeping and wailing of Rachel, lamenting for her children.

Thus says the Lord,
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
Lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
She refuses to be comforted for her children,
Because they are no more.” (Matthew 2:18 quoting Jeremiah 31:15)

Of course the ultimate up and down ride connected to Christmas is that Jesus left the glories of heaven to be born as this sweet baby boy for the purpose of dying. But His death is the very means of life for all who believe in Him. Talk about a roller coaster!

No surprise, then, that life holds ups and downs for each of us. Not forever, though. There will be a day when the rough places will be made plain, when the mountains will be brought low and the valleys exalted.

Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
And all flesh will see it together;
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 40:5)

This post is a reprint of one that first appeared here in December, 2012.

Advertisements
Published in: on September 25, 2018 at 4:56 pm  Comments Off on The Ups And Downs Of The Straight And Narrow  
Tags: , , ,

Everlasting Life Changes Everything


One of the issues that’s come up in some of the discussions I’ve had with the FB group promoting dialogue between theists and atheists, is our attitude toward life. In one thread the topic of abortion came up, though the originator of the post hadn’t intended that aspect to take center stage. The thinking of many of the atheists fit closely with their belief in relative morality—if society says abortion is OK, then it’s OK. Because . . . no soul. An aborted fetus would not know existence, so it can’t miss something it doesn’t know about.

In another conversation, the idea that the Christian has a different outlook because of the hope for life after this life, became very apparent. To the atheists, anything that God allows that brings suffering is considered His moral failure, because this life is all we have. There’s no point to suffering that conforms us to the image of Jesus Christ, because they don’t believe there’s anything beyond the grave.

The point is simple. Belief in everlasting life has an enormous affect on a person’s world view. It can dictate what a person thinks about abortion, euthanasia, suffering, the purpose of life, the death of a loved one, views on a “just war,” and more.

Because, put simply, if this is the only life we have, and it comes to an end when this body stops breathing and the brain waves cease, then this body, this life is the one we ought to value above all else. But if this body merely houses an eternal soul, then what happens to the soul should be of supreme importance.

Maybe other people have known all along that this fundamental rift exists between theists and atheists, but I don’t think I did. I’ve said more than once, we Christians are no different than any other sinner. And I think that’s true on one level. But that doesn’t mean that we think the same way.

Oh, sure we may all reason, and study, and deduce the same (though often Christians are accused of somehow turning off our logic), but our fundamental starting places are different. Think about geometry, if you ever had to take the subject in school. At some point you had to use the laws of geometry to construct certain “proofs.” You had a starting place known as a “given” and from that to a stated conclusion, you had to show how the laws of geometry, lead you to the conclusion.

But what if not everyone in the class had the same “given” statement? Could you all successfully prove the desired conclusion? Of course not. A “given” is a statement that needs no proof, either because it is fundamental, like a definition, or because it is a measurement made before hand. So a problem might start by saying, if A, B and C are points on a line (definition), and AB=BC (a predetermined measurement).

However, if some of the class have a different “given,” the steps they take and the conclusion they reach will be very different from everyone else. What if their “give” stated AB=BC-2? Clearly, a starting point that is skewed, can’t arrive at the same conclusion.

In the same way, the important things in life like purpose and values and destination and significance, hinge on what a person understands about life and life after life.

In that regard, theists do have a common starting point—and that point is very different from the one atheists have.

The stark differences between theists and atheists do make for lively debate, I’ll accede to that. But I question if there’s much else we can ever agree upon if some of us believe humans have souls and some don’t.

We won’t think the same about “animal rights,” for instance, or human rights either. Although, I continue to believe that much of the beliefs that those who reject God hold, come from Christian underpinnings.

No one can tell me, for instance, why one person should sacrifice himself for another, as did those teachers at the horrific school shooting last week. Why would they do that, if their life would come to an end? Did they think a young life was more valuable than an old life? On what basis? Or did they act because of some other reason, some other fundamental belief? Would atheists ever sacrifice themselves for another? If so, why?

I tend to think Christianity has informed our society so that sacrifice is something we admire, that we incorporate into our own thinking, whether we embrace Christ or not.

As far as practical take-away from this idea, I think those who do believe that life will continue after this life (and a 2014 Pew Research study indicates that’s as high as 72% of Americans), need to think seriously about that next life, that everlasting life. What, where, and how are questions that come to mind.

Of course those are beyond the scope of scientific study. We’re trafficking now in the realm of the spiritual. And it seems to me to be a wise investment of time to nurture our spiritual life even more than we do our physical life.

Published in: on February 19, 2018 at 5:34 pm  Comments (6)  
Tags: , , , ,

A Quiet Conversation About Purpose, Meaning, And Destiny


115898_twins_1One day twin brothers were having a quiet conversation, and the meaning of life came up.

What do you suppose it’s all about? the first brother asked.

It’s about getting what you can in the here and now, brother number two answered. There’s nothing else after this.

Seriously? His brother wrinkled his brow. You mean, when we leave, we …

Go into oblivion. What else could it be? I mean, when you’re gone, you’re gone. If you go first, I won’t see you again and vice versa.

It all seems so pointless.

That’s why you have to make every minute count while you’re here. Grab what you can. Live for the moment. Eat and sleep like there’s no tomorrow, because there really might not be one.

I don’t know. I have this feeling that there’s more.

Crazy talk.

No. It’s talk that makes me think there’s more. I’ve heard things.

What kind of things?

You know, voices. One especially. Over and over I hear, ‘I love you boys.’

Your imagination.

I don’t think so.

Look around. You see any mysterious person who might be talking to us?

Well, no.

All right then.

But why couldn’t this person, you know, be somewhere else and when we leave here we join them there?

Because there is no other place.

How can you be sure?

Do you SEE another place?

Well, no.

Case closed. If you can’t see it, taste it, smell it, feel it, or taste it, then it doesn’t exist.

You said ‘taste’ twice and you left out hearing.

Do you hear anything now?

No.

All right then.

But I’ve told you, I hear this voice almost every day. Sometimes it even sings.

You’re losing it. And I’m stuck with a crazy for a brother.

Why is it so crazy to think there’s a world beyond the one we know?

Because you have no evidence, no proof.

I’m telling you, I do have proof. I’ve heard the voice of one telling me how much we’re loved.

That’s nothing but your wishful thinking tricking your mind into believing something that has no basis in fact.

How do YOU know there’s no basis in fact?

Show me this mysterious, invisible person. Where are they, huh?

Next time I hear their voice, I’ll wake you up.

Don’t bother. If I have a sour stomach, I can imagine things too. Hearing voices of invisible people is not proof.

Then what is?

How about an actual person, right in front of my face?

I don’t think it works that way. Somehow, I think we need to go to the I-love-you person, not the other way around.

You’re making this up.

No, actually I’m not. I’m on my way now.

And with that the first of the twin boys was pushed through the birth canal and born.

– – – – –

This post first appeared here in May 2013 as a rebuttal to the atheist notion that there are no “invisible beings with superior powers,” by which they mean God or any other spiritual beings. Of course what they miss is the limitations we humans have: how can we know of things beyond the scope of our ability to investigate? And they discount revelation simply because it contradicts their presupposition.

The Planned Parenthood Scandal


A History Lesson

I have been thinking over what I wanted to say about Planned Parenthood, abortion, and selling fetal body parts for over a week now, and I still don’t know how to address this issue.

Here are my random thoughts:

* I’m so glad the people at The Center for Medical Progress and David Daleiden who spearheaded this three-year plan to out Planned Parenthood and the companies to which they sell fetal body parts, had the courage of their convictions and acted.

* Because the liberal left so recently used undercover video to discredit Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, they don’t have a legitimate argument against these tactics.

* The mainstream media was initially slow to embrace the story, but some have given it a fair hearing. More recently, however, I don’t hear anything on the news about the new videos. Are they becoming indifferent to the horror? Or do they simply have nothing to say because there is no defense, yet they don’t want to encourage the logical opposition to Planned Parenthood funding by our tax dollars? Interestingly, Fox News is planning an exposé on Planned Parenthood September 5. Should be enlightening.

* I had no idea the extent of this aspect of the abortion industry. It’s far more horrific than I imagined and has been going on far longer than I realized.

* I don’t understand how thinking people can continue to support Planned Parenthood. Set aside the controversy over abortion for a moment, and ask whether or not Planned Parenthood is obeying the law against selling fetal tissue or not. They claim “reasonable compensation,” but they talk in the undercover videos like capitalists working to best monetize the commodity they have to offer.

* The bottom line is still the law that allows abortion. When the Supreme Court ruled in 1973 in the Roe v Wade case, the selling point for abortion was that the woman had the right to choose what she did with her own body. The fact that science has since proven that life begins at conception, that this zygotic/embryonic/fetal state is unique, no longer in fact “the woman’s body” but a separate individual with his or her own DNA simply has not been addressed.

* The issue of what we as a society do about life is a dividing point, with Christians on one side and atheists on the other. A large group of compatriots are “swing voters,” voting with their approval or disapproval, and moved largely by the emotion of the day. When women were fighting for a more equal stand in society, then those in the middle swung toward abortion, but when videos come out revealing the trafficking of infant body parts, making it impossible to ignore that the liver and heart and lungs and brains come from living humans, the swing group moves toward the pro-life position.

* Pro-life and women’s rights ought not to be seen as mutually exclusive. A woman ought to have the right to say no to sex that leads to pregnancy. Why isn’t that right brought front and center?

* The left-leaning proponents of “women”s rights” have confused a woman’s right to be who she is with a woman’s right to do what men do. So Rosanne Barr, in her 90s TV show, claimed the right to spit and chew and scratch the way men do. Oh, yay! But to the point of this article, sexual promiscuity has now become a woman’s right. And just like men who don’t have to bear the consequences of their licentiousness, so too, women wanted to be free of the product of their immorality. Birth control was the first step, abortion the end game when all else failed. So now women can be like men! That, the feminists say, is women’s rights.

* I read a NYTimes article today about women who are refused abortions. Apparently this does happen, most commonly, according to the article, when a woman doesn’t realize until late in the pregnancy that she’d going to have a baby. So if she goes to the wrong clinic—one that doesn’t do late term abortions—she may get turned away. This article says there needs to be more studies about the effect of a woman carrying and delivering a baby she wanted to abort. But what seemed shocking to me was that 95% of these women are glad they gave birth. Most bonded with their baby and, in the words of this slanted article, “adjusted.” The article, reporting about the woman in the anecdote who had been turned away from having an abortion, said, “S. now says that Baby S. is the best thing that ever happened to her. ‘She is more than my best friend, more than the love of my life.’ ” Still, this is held up as only one factor in measuring how well this woman is doing. How well off she is economically seems of equal value.

* None of these studies has anything to do with the spiritual aspect of what’s going on in a woman’s heart, so no matter what the findings of any of these studies appear to be (and there aren’t many studies—not even ones examining the effects of an abortion on the state of a woman’s mental health), they are incomplete.

* All this serious look at the well-being of the woman who wants to or who has aborted her baby, looks past the fact that the life of a child is at stake. Either a baby will have the chance to live or will be denied that chance, based solely on what the mother decides is good for her.

* The best thing churches can do to combat abortion in the long term, in my opinion, is to provide compelling, Biblical reasons to young people to avoid promiscuous sex. The secondary reasons aren’t enough. Young people need to determine if they love God more than they love sex.

* Apart from teaching the next generation, churches can also make a huge impact by caring for teens who are pregnant and have chosen not to abort. If we value life, we should be willing to put our hands to the plow and do the work that would honor life and help young, single moms learn to parent well. For many that may start with learning about their Creator God and how He fashioned their child in their womb.

Is Your Dog A Person?


512px-Cheddar_CheerleaderIn the recent discussion about abortion at author and friend Mike Duran’s site, the pro-abortion commenter asked more than once when a baby (he said fetus or one of his other preferred scientific terms) was a person.

To me that was an obvious—we’d established, and all agreed, that life begins with conception. However, in his mind, that just-conceived life was not yet human, not yet a person.

Another commenter, a pro-life advocate in Canada, highlighted the question of personhood as central to the discussion:

the more pressing question and one perhaps that we could have engaged him on more fruitfully was , “But when should they be assigned a right to life, and why?”

In other words, for what reasons do we assign “personhood”, with all of its attendant rights, on a human being?

I’m a little stunned. I should think when they’re alive would be a good enough answer to the question, “When should they be assigned a right to life.”

But ultimately this discussion comes back to belief in God. Man cannot create life. Yes, I know, that’s somewhat under review, what with the advancement of cloning. But in reality, unless there is life to begin with, there is no cloned life, so Man still can not create life.

God creates life, and even if Man someday figures a way to produce life apart from “natural causes,” that doesn’t change the fact that God is supreme, and still the giver of life. I don’t look at this issue as any different than a person taking antibiotics as a way to recover from an infection. Man did not heal him. God still healed, but He used the medicine.

But let’s say we agree that a person gains personhood at conception—that a life is considered a person when he first becomes alive—what about the life of an animal? Shouldn’t a dog’s life be preserved and protected the same way as an unborn baby’s life? In fact, if life determines personhood, is my dog a person?

No, the issue isn’t simply the preservation of life, any life, in any form. Setting aside the fact that plants are also alive, I’m addressing the Hindu idea that animal life is sacred, an idea that is gaining traction in the US and perhaps in other places in western society.

Of course evolutionists who ascribe to the common descent theory—in which all life descended from a common source—don’t see human life as unique. For them there is no reason to protect an unborn child over against a titmouse. Both are alive but society has not recognized either as persons. In other words, society gets to decide who is a person and who isn’t.

Except, society does recognize the unborn as a person when the mother wants to give the child birth. The irrationality, then, is with society. Why would a woman wanting a child or not wanting a child change his personhood?

In essence this view says slave owners were right—if they didn’t recognize the personhood of a slave, then he wasn’t a person.

Today we think that view is hateful. And it is.

Why, then, would society choose another class of people and determine they are not persons?

The frightening thing is that this rationale carried to its logical extreme means other groups of people can be stripped of personhood—homeless people or those with Down Syndrome or the schizophrenic or those with Alzheimer’s. If society gets to say who’s a person, why should we think there will not one day be a determination that an undesirable group is stripped of personhood.

At the same time, since human life is viewed as no different from animals, why not elevate our pets to the place of personhood. We already call them our children, and more and more owners are putting clothes on their dogs. It’s a natural leap for us to give them the “right to life.”

We Christians need to understand this issue. More than the lives of the unborn are at stake, and that’s saying a lot since so many babies lose their lives to abortion.

The real issue is the evolution-creation divide that so many Christians seem to be wearied with, and since children are, by mandate, taught evolution in school, in one generation our country will no longer think human life is separate and distinct from animals.

Unless we teach our children otherwise. Purposefully. Clearly.

Creation isn’t just about genesis. It’s about God breathing life into Man, giving us a spirit which He did not give to any of the animals. Why do you suppose no suitable helpmate was found for Adam? It wasn’t because of sexual comparability. It was at the level of personhood. No animal was created in God’s image, after His likeness.

Man is more than what the animals are. We have capacities animals don’t have. We can reason, we can sin, we can worship, we can forgive, we can judge, we can aspire. These are not things we’ve learned or gained because of superior intellect. These are part of our personhood, part of our moral fiber, our spiritual makeup. They are part of human life.

Consequently, all human life should be valued. The taking of life should not be something done for convenience or comfort. Today, a woman can kill her unborn baby because it’s inconvenient for her to be pregnant at this point in her life. Tomorrow will she be able to kill her aging parent because it’s inconvenient for her to be a caregiver at this point in her life?

And will our dogs be given more rights than our unborn children?

Maybe we’ll simply stop giving birth since we have these dog children who don’t have all those irritating tendencies to think for themselves as human children do. Maybe we’ll simply let the culture go completely to the dogs.

Published in: on February 6, 2015 at 6:06 pm  Comments (4)  
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Abortion


A History Lesson
Sometimes the bits of culture I look at are things I don’t like. Abortion is one of those. Friend and fellow writer Mike Duran recently addressed the issue and a surprising (to me) discussion unfolded, started by someone who took a strong stand in favor of abortion.

After several rounds of comments, Mike finally asked him to stop because he was not saying anything new. Before I read Mike’s request (which I took to heart as much as I expect the pro-abortionist did), I’d posted what I consider to be a blistering comment, in which I called some of the things the pro-abortionist said ludicrous, insulting, and wrong and his position despicable, reprehensible, and unconscionable.

The thing is, I had more to say! I didn’t address some of the worst of what this commenter said. In response to Sally Apokedak who related that she had had two abortions but knew of God’s forgiveness, he said

Maybe you had two abortions and killed two of your fetuses, but Sally, you didn’t do anything wrong for which you need to be forgiven! You did the morally right thing under the circumstances. Let’s face it – you weren’t ready to be a mother. If God exists, you did exactly what he would want you to do. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

That he would claim the moral high ground for killing human life. He didn’t want anyone calling the unborn babies. Rather he wanted us to use precise scientific language in a discussion like this, calling these unborn zygotes and fetuses. But he pretends to know what God would think (if he exists!).

Well, Scripture, not this man’s imagination, shows us what God thinks. One such instance is the conception of Samson. His parents were childless until one day an angel appeared to his mother who then related to her husband his message:

But he said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and now you shall not drink wine or strong drink nor eat any unclean thing, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death. (Judges 13:7)

So, before she conceived, she was to observe the conditions of a Nazirite because her son, Samson would be a life-long Nazirite. And that life started in the womb, at conception, deduction leads us to believe.

Job, in one of his discourses makes clear statements about his own life:

“Did not He who made me in the womb make him,
And the same one fashion us in the womb? (Job 38L15)

His comment is reminiscent of David’s:

For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them. (Ps. 139:13-16)

Or how about this clear statement of faith:

Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb;
You made me trust when upon my mother’s breasts.
Upon You I was cast from birth;
You have been my God from my mother’s womb. (Psalm 22:9-10)

Isaiah echoes what David says about a person’s conception:

Thus says the LORD who made you
And formed you from the womb (Isaiah 44:2a)

And again a few verses later:

Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb (Isaiah 44: 24a)

Some chapters later, he speaks of God’s hand upon him:

The LORD called Me from the womb;
From the body of My mother He named Me. (Isaiah 49:1b)

Just as Samson was set apart as a Nazarite, so Isaiah was set apart spiritually. Clearly God not only physically formed the unborn, but He interacted with them spiritually!

God also gave Isaiah purpose, while he was still in the womb:

And now says the LORD, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant (Isaiah 49:5a)

Jeremiah’s experience was much the same:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
And before you were born I consecrated you;
I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer. 1:5)

Shall I go on? There’s more!

It’s upsetting to me when someone slanders God’s name and lies about Him, and I felt a need to set the record straight. Far from approving of abortion, I suspect God looks at these unborn aborted babies as orphans who He takes special notice of.

Here’s another piece of intolerable disinformation from this same commenter:

The right to life begins wherever the human community decides to assign it!

In short, people like this commenter put “the human community” in the place of God. Mankind has simply made himself into an idol. It’s the very thing Satan tempted Eve with: Don’t you want to be like God, knowing good from evil? Some scholars suggest that idea of knowing good and evil was the desire to determine good and evil for ourselves, just as the pro-abortion people do.

Killing life is not good. This commenter conceded that after conception, the union of the sperm and egg is life. He simply didn’t want to call it human life. As if the product of two humans could be some other kind of life. It’s so illogical, it’s hard to believe intelligent people hold to these views. Yep, they are heinous, reprehensible, and unconscionable ideas. I don’t know how a civilized society can hold to such selfish savagery as abortion!

Published in: on February 4, 2015 at 6:33 pm  Comments (7)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Life Is Too Big


fortress-of-stone-5-979165-mI have a little life. By that I mean, my life is pretty uncomplicated. I work from home, don’t have a mortgage, live a fairly simple life with no ex’s or in-laws or extended family putting demands on me. And yet, at times I feel life is too big.

And that too needs explanation. For one, there’s so much to do. I’m certainly not saying I have more to do than other people, but the fact is, I’ve gotten myself into a variety of roles—administrator for the CSFF blog tour, regular contributor at Spec Faith, judge of an ACFW contest, organizer of the Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction, freelance editor. and now workshop instructor at the Oregon Christian Writers conference.

Each of those roles—and I didn’t even include writing, either my fiction or non-fiction, or blogging—has various “stuff to do” attached to it. Sometimes, it all feels too big.

But more than that, I have a friend whose father just passed away, a couple I know who are both in the hospital—she with cancer and he with serious respiratory issues—another friend who’s husband is looking at a lung transplant, a neighbor whose daughter has an undiagnosed illness. Sometimes just the physical needs of people make life seem too big. Who can visit or write notes of consolation or even pray for everyone in need?

I haven’t even gotten to the spiritual needs or the emotional needs of people I’m privileged to have in my life.

How about the notes or emails or phone calls to those I care about—some friends I don’t want to lose, some relatives I dearly love.

All this in my little life.

Add in concerns, and even responsibilities as a good citizen, for my state and my nation and yes, the world. To be honest, my involvement at this level is small, mostly concentrated in prayer, though I try to stay informed, make every effort to vote, and do pay my taxes.

The sum total of it all makes it clear to me—life is too big.

I think it’s gotten bigger in the last two decades, what with the Internet and social media, which also carry wonderful advantages even as they increase the bigness of life.

I spent three years as a short term missionary in Guatemala and went for months not reading a newspaper (they were in Spanish and I’m not fluent) or watching TV. I didn’t know who was in the Super Bowl, what the President said in his State of the Union speech, or what movie had just been released.

I didn’t know what was happening in France or Israel or Cuba. Life was considerably smaller, and I suspect that’s the way life in the US used to be, too.

But now we are global and instant and connected.

It all feels too big to me.

It’s times like this that I am so thankful I have a big God. It’s sort of silly to call God “big” because He has no limit. Can Someone unlimited be measured and compared so He can be described as “big”? It doesn’t quite feel right, but the point, I guess, is that God is over, above, beyond, outside of all the other bigness of life.

He’s bigger than my concerns for my sick or grieving friends. He’s bigger than all the activities I’ve got on my to do list. He’s bigger than my concerns for the spiritual well-being of our nation, for the spiritual well-being of my neighbors and family and friends.

In many respects, I’m glad I’m aware that life is too big for me to handle because it presses me into the cleft of the Rock Who is higher than I.

I am so much more aware of my need for God when I am aware of how life is too big for me to take on by myself. Honestly, I can’t imagine how anyone manages without God. I mean, friends and loved ones can support and encourage and help, but life is too big for them too, so in the end we’re doing little more than shuffling the furniture around and hoping that makes life easier to manage. It doesn’t.

Only God, with His strength and understanding and plan and purpose, can make it all come out right. I don’t even know what “right” looks like. He does. He’s got the whole thing in His hand.

Published in: on January 20, 2015 at 6:38 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , ,

Atheism’s Unanswerable Question


Evolution_tree_of_lifeChristianity and atheism, which of necessity requires belief in evolution, are two contrasting worldviews, not only because they have opposing views about God but also because they have opposing views about humankind. While the focus of discussions and debates often concentrates on the existence of God, it is the view of humankind that leaves atheists with an unanswerable question.

There are two specific ways that Christians and atheists view humankind differently. First, Christians believe that humans are unique from animals because we have an eternal soul. Atheists believe instead in the “common descent” principle:

In evolutionary biology, a group of organisms have common descent if they have a common ancestor. “There is strong quantitative support, by a formal test”[1] for the theory that all living organisms on Earth are descended from a common ancestor.[2]

Charles Darwin proposed the theory of universal common descent through an evolutionary process in On the Origin of Species, saying, “There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one”.[3]

Second, Christians believe humans, though created in God’s image, have a fallen, or sinful, nature passed down through Adam who turned his back on God when he intentionally disobeyed Him. The only way to change society is to point individuals to Jesus Christ who provides a way of escape from sin, guilt, the law, and death.

Atheists, on the other hand, believe humans are morally neutral at worst and might even be considered “good” by virtue of the fact that what exists has survived.

Right and wrong, good and evil, then, are not existent apart from the perception of a group or community. Hence, homosexuality is wrong until the group determines it is right.

Infants come into the world as blank slates or even as good slates and only turn toward evil if they are influenced by societal patterns (racism, for example) or errant views (such as religion). The way to change society is simply to re-educate people.

One atheist puts it this way:

So if we are determined, then how do we define evil? If our minds come from our brains, and our brain circuitry is out of our control, then is anyone responsible for anything – no matter how courageous, no matter how innovative, no matter how good or evil, that the person is? (“An atheist’s view of evil”)

Another atheist discussing evil concludes with this:

For atheists, a better explanation for the presence of evil in the world is that God does not exist. (“Atheism”).

A number of others discuss evil only as an argument against the existence of God. But here’s the question that atheists can’t seem to answer: where did evil come from? If life has a common descent, if we’re born with no natural bent toward evil, what injected evil into the equation?

In reality, the atheist scenario is one that would seem to result in utopia: humans, evolved from a common and not evil descent, growing toward their full potential without any negative force to intercede.

Except for society. Which teaches gender differences and racism and encourages belief in mythical gods which motivate people groups to hate.

But society is nothing more than people interacting with one another. So how and why did humans start acting in hateful ways toward people who were different from them? Why did the strong decide to take from the weak instead of using their strength for the greater good?

In other words, where did evil come from?

This is the atheist’s unanswerable question.

As I mentioned, a number of professing atheists lay evil at the feet of God, then declare that its existence proves He couldn’t possibly exist. That he doesn’t eradicate evil shows either that he’s too weak to do so (and therefore, not God) or too evil himself or too undiscerning to know evil from good (and therefore not God).

The argument, of course, ignores what God Himself has to say about evil and its existence. But more so, it offers no alternative, no explanation for the virulent presence of evil in the world.

In fact, some atheists deny the existence of evil:

Atheists such as Richard Dawkins claim that evil doesn’t actually exist. In his book, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life Dawkins writes: “In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” (David Robinson, “The problem of evil is a bigger problem for atheists than Christians,” Christianity Today)

Of course such a view collapses the argument that evil disproves the existence of God, because something that does not exist cannot itself be used to disprove anything. So either evil exists, or it doesn’t. And if it exists, but there is no God, then where did it come from? How did it come to be included in this mix of materialism?

Actually the atheist I quoted above, was on the right track. Evil comes from the absence of God. He does exist, but He doesn’t force Himself on our lives. Humankind, having chosen to leave God out, now experience the world with the absence-of-God component a reality.

Sweet Aroma


grilled-chicken-legs-745038-mI’m sitting here enjoying the aroma of barbequed chicken. I don’t think anyone is actually barbequing, although it’s certainly warm enough that they could. It’s just that most people, even in SoCal, don’t think about barbequing in January. (This may be quite different for those living in the Southern Hemisphere, however. 😉 ) I suspect I’m smelling the aroma of roasted or fried or broiled chicken from another apartment in my building.

Nevertheless, the scent is tantalizing. I’m having meatloaf tonight but am sitting here thinking, Why couldn’t I be having chicken? Never mind that I had chicken all last week!

It’s that mouth-watering scent lingering in the air, that sweet aroma that induces a desire for a chicken dinner. It’s almost enough to prompt me to hunt down the nearest KFC. Almost.

But that’s what a sweet aroma is supposed to do, isn’t it—entice a person to draw closer. When I smell the salt-water breeze, for example, I know I’m close to the ocean, and I’m honed in on reaching the beach. The scent of evergreens does the same for me when I’m heading for the mountains.

Fresh baked bread draws me, too, and so does apple pie. Or chocolate chip cookies. Pretty much grilled anything can start my stomach growling, and here I am—back at that aroma of fried chicken.

Interestingly, the Apostle Paul refers to the knowledge of Christ as a sweet aroma.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? (2 Cor. 2:14-16)

I find this passage a little hard to digest (pardon the pun—I just couldn’t resist), but the main point seems to be we believers carry the aroma of God to other Christians first but also to non-Christians. To Christians, the scent is sweet—it’s the aroma of life—but to the latter, it’s the odor of death.

Several commentators connect this image Paul used, to the aroma of burning incense in the Roman triumphal parades. To the Romans the scent was a sign of victory, but to the prisoners and newly acquired slaves, the odor was the mark of death or the end of all they had previously known. Notice, what the two groups smelled was exactly the same, but because it meant something entirely different to each, they reacted in diametrically contrasting ways.

So, too, the aroma of Christ. To the Christian, He is life. To the non-Christian? Not so much.

And yet . . . I can’t help but wonder if the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Christ isn’t as enticing to non-Christians as to Christians. Enticing, but perhaps because it isn’t compatible with other odors, it becomes a hated thing. Or perhaps an odor is too weak or, worse, identified as one thing, when actually it is something else.

I’ll never forget one of Christopher Hitchen’s last articles in which he mentioned all the notes he’d received from Christians who said they were praying for God to miraculously heal him. Truly, he seemed touched. Of course he also mentioned the ones he received that said he was dying of cancer as payment for his atheism.

That last is not the sweet knowledge of Christ. I don’t know what that kind of ugliness is or where it comes from—maybe a white-washed tomb.

The knowledge of Christ is His life of ministry and His death “that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” The knowledge of Christ is His resurrection power and His promise to return as our King.

Whether the words of life He spoke or the deeds of life He performed, whether the death He suffered that gifted us with life if we belief, whether as the first alive from the dead, or whether fulfilling the promise of life everlasting, Jesus is all about life.

That’s a sweet aroma. That’s the enticement He offers. I’m not sure how that beauty and truth can do anything but attract. I guess it does. God’s word says it does.

Like that fried chicken, the aroma we transmit permeates the air. The job of every believer is simply to make sure we’re not smothering it or diffusing it beyond recognition. How those around us respond is their responsibility. How we permeate our world with the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Christ, is ours.

Published in: on January 7, 2015 at 6:21 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , ,

A Quiet Conversation About Purpose, Meaning, And Destiny


“Why do deities need supernatural tricks: A Rebuttal

115898_twins_1One day twin brothers were having a quiet conversation, and the meaning of life came up.

What do you suppose it’s all about? the first brother asked.

It’s about getting what you can in the here and now, brother two answered. There’s nothing else after this.

Seriously? His brother wrinkled his brow. You mean, when we leave, we …

Go into oblivion. What else could it be? I mean, when you’re gone, you’re gone. If you go first, I won’t see you again and vice versa.

It all seems so pointless.

That’s why you have to make every minute count while you’re here. Grab what you can. Live for the moment. Eat and sleep like there’s no tomorrow, because there really might not be one.

I don’t know. I have this feeling that there’s more.

Crazy talk.

No. It’s talk that makes me think there’s more. I’ve heard things.

What kind of things?

You know, voices. One especially. Over and over I hear, ‘I love you boys.’

Your imagination.

I don’t think so.

Look around. You see any mysterious person who might be talking to us?

Well, no.

All right then.

But why couldn’t this person, you know, be somewhere else and when we leave here we join them there?

Because there is no other place.

How can you be sure?

Do you SEE another place?

Well, no.

Case closed. If you can’t see it, taste it, smell it, feel it, or taste it, then it doesn’t exist.

You said ‘taste’ twice and you left out hearing.

Do you hear anything now?

No.

All right then.

But I’ve told you, I hear this voice almost every day. Sometimes it even sings.

You’re losing it. And I’m stuck with a crazy for a brother.

Why is it so crazy to think there’s a world beyond the one we know?

Because you have no evidence, no proof.

I’m telling you, I do have proof. I’ve heard the voice of one telling me how much we’re loved.

That’s nothing but your wishful thinking tricking your mind into believing something that has no basis in fact.

How do YOU know there’s no basis in fact?

Show me this mysterious, invisible person. Where are they, huh?

Next time I hear their voice, I’ll wake you up.

Don’t bother. If I have a sour stomach, I can imagine things too. Hearing voices of invisible people is not proof.

Then what is?

How about an actual person, right in front of my face?

I don’t think it works that way. Somehow, I think we need to go to the I-love-you person, not the other way around.

You’re making this up.

No, actually I’m not. I’m on my way now.

And with that the first of the twin boys was pushed through the birth canal and born.

Published in: on May 24, 2013 at 5:20 pm  Comments (8)  
Tags: , , , , , , ,