Unreasonable Demands

Why do atheists continue to demand physical evidence for spiritual phenomena? I’m mystified by this total lack of understanding of the spiritual realm. God is a Spirit, and no one has seen Him, but atheists persist in asking for demonstrable confirmation, as if we humans can conjure up something physical for that which is not physical.

This makes no sense.

Expecting physical evidence of the spiritual is unreasonable.

The two realms—the physical and the spiritual—operate on separate planes, and any mathematician can tell you that parallel planes do not intersect. That’s DO NOT INTERSECT.

The fact that God, exercising His omnipotence, has on occasion stepped into the physical realm or allowed His spiritual messengers to do so, demonstrates the existence of the spiritual, as well as His sovereignty over both realms. But clearly there can be no study using the scientific method of that which is anomalous. After all, the supernatural is not natural.

What don’t atheists understand about this?

Because of the unreasonable demands for physical evidence of that which is not physical, these same individuals conclude that anything beyond the physical must not actually exist. But of course “the physical” is defined by what the human senses can detect.

Obviously, atoms must not have existed for thousands of years, and only came into existence when humans gained the ability to see them through the use of microscopes. For that matter, other universes didn’t exist either, until humans developed telescopes powerful enough to see them. My point is, just because the human senses can’t always detect the existence of a thing—even physical things—this lack on our part is not evidence that things beyond our awareness do not exist.

To limit the world to what humans can see and know is narrow thinking.

For instance, dogs and dolphins and whales can hear sounds that are beyond the range which the human ear can detect. Are those sounds just myth or pretend or fabrications? Well, no. Because sound is detected by a physical property, humans have developed technology that allows us to study sounds we can’t actually hear. But if we only accept what we can detect by our physical senses, we ought not believe in sounds, or colors for that matter, that are beyond us.

How odd that what we once could not see or hear and did not know existed, is now readily accepted. But spiritual things that people have known for centuries do exist have come under attack and under the unreasonable demands of unbelieving people who want to limit knowledge to their approved list.

Because, it seems, these naturalists who limit themselves to what can be detected by the human senses, hedge themselves with the idea that what we know now can change at any moment. And that’s OK. So today we can rule out the multiverse, but tomorrow we might “discover” evidence for the very thing we deny today.

If that’s so, then how can any living, thinking person rule out the existence of God?

Might not He once again sovereignly enter the physical plane in a “demonstrable” way so that all those atheists who have limited themselves to the physical can see the existence of the spiritual world?

It’s going to happen.

Christ will one day return in such a way that every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that He is Lord. His return will be something sudden, dramatic, universal. Meaning that nobody will miss it or doubt it or mistake what’s happening.

What’s sad to me is that atheists won’t know sooner. I mean, in truth, God sovereignly enters this world moment by moment through His Holy Spirit. Every believer has the presence of the Holy Spirit in his life. That’s a spiritual happening, an ongoing Presence, an unexplained supernatural Being who resides in the heart of every follower of Christ.

Those of us who have experienced His guidance or comfort or peace or conviction or joy know it’s something beyond our capacity to manufacture. It’s supernatural, not natural.

One day the veil that blinds the eyes of those who don’t believe, will be lifted. Then, just like the stars we could not see without powerful telescopes and the particles of atoms we could not see without powerful microscopes, the spiritual world that exists beyond the physical will become clear to us all.

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About this image: In 2015 NASA and ESA celebrated “the Hubble Space Telescope’s silver anniversary of 25 years in space by unveiling some of nature’s own fireworks — a giant cluster of about 3,000 stars called Westerlund 2. The cluster resides inside a vibrant stellar breeding ground known as Gum 29, located 20,000 light-years away in the constellation Carina. . . . The largest stars are unleashing a torrent of ultraviolet light and hurricane-force winds that etch away the enveloping hydrogen gas cloud. This creates a fantasy celestial landscape of pillars, ridges, and valleys.” Available at WikiMedia Commons and is a public domain photo.

The Separateness of Holiness

The Tabernacle

The Tabernacle

God’s plan for Israel was that they should be a God-fearing nation in order to point all other nations to Him. As a result, after the Exodus, He gave them a place to worship, priests to mediate between Him and them, and sacrifices to perform for their cleansing.

When Jesus came, He perfected each of those roles in Himself. He spoke of His body as the temple to be destroyed and rebuilt in three days. He took the role of the High Priest. And He became the sacrifice, once for all.

When He ascended to the right hand of the Father, He gave believers the same three roles, not to redo what He had done but, because we are in Christ, to act as an extension of Him:

And coming to Him as to living stones, you also are being built up as a spiritual house for a royal priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)

Israel was to be separate and holy, to point the nations to God.

Jesus was separate and holy, providing the way of reconciliation to God.

Believers now are to be separate and holy, to point all other peoples to God.

We are not to be separate and holy in order to be reconciled to God–Jesus accomplished that for us. But in understanding that we humans cannot atone for our own sins, that we in fact need a Savior, it seems some have concluded that the separate and holy issues aren’t for today.

Yet the New Testament writers make it clear. Peter specifically quoted from the Old Testament law in his first letter as support for his call to be holy:

but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1:15-16)

Paul spoke about separateness:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 – emphasis mine)

Jesus prayed for His followers specifically about being in the world and yet being set apart:

I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. (John 17:15-19 – emphasis mine)

No list of things to do or things to stay away from. Yet Paul is quite clear that our lives are to be different from those who don’t believe:

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called . . . So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:1, 17-24 – emphasis mine)

Why, I wonder, do we hear so little about living a holy life? Some Christians speak as if holiness equates with legalism, but certainly the Bible doesn’t call us to be legalists. Rather than standing apart from the world, it seems many Christians make it their goal to fit in. How we handle our money, the entertainment we choose, our treatment of the homeless, how we dress, what we write–in so many ways, it’s hard to say Christians are not conformed to the world.

And wasn’t that Israel’s problem? Didn’t they want to be like the nations around them rather than to be holy like God, so they could represent Him to the lost peoples?

Published in: on February 1, 2013 at 6:20 pm  Comments (1)  
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Health Care And The Responsibility Of The Church

The Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday that President Obama’s health care bill is Constitutional, besides coming as a surprise, has stirred up considerable discussion, some vitriolic and some jeering, depending on which side of the issue a person falls.

I have a tangle of thoughts that I haven’t sorted out yet. Maybe I can do that here.

First, I believe President Obama’s intention is to right a wrong. It’s wrong, for example, for insurance companies to deny coverage to people once they get sick. It’s also wrong for medical costs and insurance rates to be so high poor people can’t afford insurance and small businesses can’t afford to offer that benefit to their workers.

One of the arguments for this health bill is that the uninsured cost the rest of society because medical professionals must raise their rates on everyone else in order to make up what they lose treating those without insurance.

Here’s where I think things have gone astray. Once, doctors didn’t expect to get rich by practicing medicine. They understood that their time was not their own and that they might get paid in eggs over weeks and weeks, if at all. That was OK with them because they saw their job as a service to the community. They were willing to work sacrificially for the good of others.

All that’s gone. Now doctors and hospitals and pharmacies and insurance companies are in business. It’s all about making money.

Don’t get me wrong. I know there are some dedicated doctors and nurses out there, doing what they can within the system. But by and large, the health profession has changed from a helping profession to a lucrative one. As far as I’m concerned, it’s wrong for individuals or a corporation to get rich off the misery of others. Insurance companies, if we’re to use them, ought to be non-profits. But it’s probably too late to close that barn door.

That’s not all that went wrong, I don’t think. Health insurance has reduced the sense of obligation for a neighbor to look out for those in his community.

Years ago a friend of mine was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She had good health care, but as a single, unable to work for a time, her disability insurance only went so far to cover her rent, utilities, food, and the like. Her church and the Christians she worked with rallied around her, and she told me that the months when she was unable to teach, she actually made more money than when she was working. Christians stepped up to care for her much the way Scripture instructed believers to provide for widows.

Insurance or no insurance, believers are supposed to care for one another and to help the poor. But more and more, the government is stepping in to do what the Church is supposed to do. Has government taken on the role of providing for the needy because believers no longer live in obedience to the Word of God?

I suppose it’s futile to try and figure out what caused the breakdown of the Church’s role as the primary resource for the poor. I have to believe, however, that “universal” health care will only increase this trend. Who will think to help his co-worker who is going in for surgery? That’s what we have insurance for, isn’t it?

And how will individuals learn to trust God in the crunch of adversity? We have insurance now. Our trust is in the government programs.

Except, the reality is, government programs fail.

This week the city of Stockton, California, has been in the news because they had to declare bankruptcy. Another city, I believe, declared they were cutting back on city employee pensions which had provided them with something like 80% of their salary after they retired, for the rest of their lives! How anyone ever thought that was a workable arrangement, I have no idea, but the thing is, those employees undoubtedly put their trust in their government pensions.

But shouldn’t our trust be in God? And hasn’t God given His people the mandate to share with those in need?

Every time I read God’s plan for the nation of Israel, I’m amazed. If they had followed what God set down, there would have been no poverty among them. It’s quite an involved plan that included a “jubilee,” or a time of giving back to the former owner the land you’d bought. In essence no one actually bought land. They bought a number of harvest seasons before the next jubilee.

Unfortunately unscrupulous rulers like Jezebel and King Ahab ignored God’s law and took what they wanted which brought the whole system down.

I bring this up because I believe God has structured and called the Church to look out for the needy and for one another so that there should be little poverty today.

Instead, we have the government inserting itself in our affairs, ordering us to look out for ourselves.

It strikes me that Peter instructed believers in his first letter to submit to “governors as sent by [the king] for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right” (1 Peter 2:14). Today, however, the government has decided it’s up to them, the leadership, to do right instead of praising individuals who do so.

The question that comes up next is, Who then will punish or praise the government?

That’s the best I can do for now. What are your thoughts about the Supreme Court decision?

Systematizing A Relationship

The nugget my missions pastor passed on to us on Sunday referred to “high theology.” I know what he was talking about. The previous sermons in the book of Ephesians looked at what Paul was telling the believers about their faith, or more accurately, the result of it.

In chapter one, for instance Paul gives a number of “in Him” statements: He chose us, redeemed us, sealed us. Of course he elaborates some on each of those, so that we can understand them and the great gifts we have.

In chapter two Paul gives several “you once were … but now” statements, tied together with a couple “remember” passages. Again he is clarifying who the believer is: what he was saved from, how he was saved, and what he now enjoys as a result of salvation

This is theology.

As Pastor Mike Erre, our soon to be new senior pastor, said when he preached from Ephesians, the first half is full of indicatives–expressions of simple statements of fact.


Paul undergirded a number of his letters in this way. First the indicatives, then the imperatives.

In other words, before he addressed what instruction he needed to give the church, what things they should do to live up to their calling, he first wanted to be sure they understood that calling, especially God’s provisions and promises attached to it.

What struck me today, though, as I was reading a book about the Church, is that today we seem to be systematizing our theology to the point that it would be easy to forget we as believers in Jesus Christ primarily have a relationship.

The particular chapter I was reading followed a discussion of what the kingdom of God meant and whether the kingdom of God is synonymous with the Church (no), whether it has come as Jesus said from time to time or if it is still to come.

The discussion reminded me of the interviews I heard with Rob Bell when his book Love Wins first released (see “If Love Wins, How Come Earthquakes Happen?”). He made much of the fact that Jesus said the kingdom was near, was within, and he ignored any statements that indicate the kingdom is something yet to come.

As I’m thinking about this, I suddenly thought, maybe these scholars are being too scholarly. Maybe they’re trying too hard to understand something, to systematize something that is really easy to understand if you get the fact that it is relational more than it is rational.

Rational things can be analyzed and categorized. Relational things are harder to do so. But to a great degree, relational things are easier to figure out.

Jesus made it quite clear: “If you love me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). He expanded on that moments later:

He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him…If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me. (John 14:21-24)

Interestingly, John also records a conversation the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ had with Peter. His repeated question was, Do you love Me? (see John 21:15-17)

I don’t think it requires some kind of understanding of primary languages or a degree in theology to get what Jesus is saying.

If you’ve ever loved someone, you know that you want very much to make them happy. You want to do things they will appreciate, give them things you hope they like. Even if it means giving up what you want. The desire to please them is greater than the desire to go to the movie you want to see or whatever else might be at issue.

Our relationship with God is much the same, Jesus is saying. If I love Him, I’ll want to please Him. It’s not really an academic study, not something we need to understand as much as commit to.

If you’ve been by A Christian Worldview of Fiction before, you probably know that I really like theology. I love studying the Bible and understanding what it says. But I think sometimes we can get so caught up in our study we forget we are dealing with a Person, that we are in a relationship, and that it’s not an overly complicated one–unless we make it so.

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