The Problem Is Sin


Seattle_AtheistsIn the Theist/Atheist Facebook group I’ve mentioned from time to time, a question came up about faith (is it a virtue). One thing led to another and one person involved in the discussion said he had four problems with faith in the “christian god.” The first area he mentioned was sin. He said, in essence, that he rejects the idea of sin.

I was shocked at first. This discussion took place just a week after the Florida shooting that killed 49 people at the Pulse, a gay bar in Orlando. I think, how can anyone watch the news and then turn around and say he doesn’t believe in sin?

My only answer is that Satan, who Jesus described as the father of lies, has blinded the eyes of unbelieving people. The problem is so obviously sin.

Society talks about love and tolerance, to the point that those topics have become almost trite. And yet, as if bringing an answer to the problem of violence or hatred or prejudice or terrorism—whatever was behind the actions of the Orland killer—several Broadway stars resurrected an old folk song from 1965 by Burt Bacharach: “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love.”

Before this cry for love, God gave us the Law that serves as our tutor—showing us how impossible it is for us to act in a morally upright way day in and day out, every hour of every day.

Jesus explained that God’s standard goes beyond the Law to include our attitudes as well as our actions. So lust makes us equivalent to adulterers, hate makes us as guilty as murderers. And yes, Jesus said, the law requiring an eye for an eye needs to be replace with love for our enemies.

So when the world tells us we need love, they’re right.

The problem is, they think love we somehow generate from within or already have but need to tap into, will be victorious over sin. If we love, we won’t be selfish any more. Or prideful. Or angry. Or greedy. Or lustful. Or power-hungry. Or jealous. Or vengeful.

If we had this love or could learn to love other people, if that was all we needed, then why do bad things still happen? Even if we just figured out the benefit of love fifty years ago when the song first came out, shouldn’t we see some progress, if that’s all we need?

In truth, the fact that we are still dealing with prejudice and hatred and corruption and all the other problems in our culture—abuse, pedophilia, sex trafficking, rape, identity theft, and more—is proof that sin is real. We should see some movement toward a better society, but what evidence is there for a positive change? We haven’t curbed alcoholism or drug addiction. We haven’t stemmed the growth and power of gangs. We haven’t replaced love for violence at any level. Kids still bully kids. Men still abuse women. Women still cheat on husbands. Takers continue to take.

Why is that, if not sin? There is no explanation.

Atheists have no explanation. I’ve asked before. Those who believe in evolution have no theory how society, which developed, they say, from the animal world, has taken on these evil tendencies.

Because that’s the prevailing view: humankind is good but society corrupts. The question remains: when there were just a handful of evolved humans, were did their evil tendencies come from? The atheist formula—good people create a bad society—simply does not compute.

The sad thing is, Christians have backed off from declaring the problem of sin. At some point the narrative accepted on most fronts was that “fire and brimstone” preaching was bad, that people shouldn’t be scared out of hell, that what would “win people to Christ” was to hear about His love and forgiveness.

There’s a lot of truth it that approach. Paul wrote to Titus, explaining the saving work of God:

But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)

So, yes, the catalyst for change is God’s kindness and love.

But the atheist I mentioned from the Facebook group went on to say that the third thing he had against faith in God was salvation. He apparently doesn’t want it because he believes he doesn’t need it.

That’s the place people end up if they believe they are good and don’t have a sin problem. Maybe we shouldn’t bring back fire and brimstone preachers, but we certainly should tell the truth about human nature.

It’s hard for me to believe that anyone in the world would ever stand up and say, I’ve never had a wrong thought or done a wrong deed in my entire life. I’ve loved others as much as I love myself. Any such person would most likely be guilty of lying and of pride, so there goes the idea of good. Because in God’s way of accounting, “good” means “without any bad.”

In our society we put good on a sliding scale. If we can say something is “mostly good,” then it’s good. Five stars. But even the best five-star people we know, still fall short of perfect. They know it. We know it.

So why aren’t we coming to the obvious conclusion: the problem our world has is sin.

Until we get a proper diagnosis, we’ll slap band-aids over incurable wounds.

One more thing. Telling someone he is a sinner is not hateful. That’s like saying a doctor is hateful for telling someone he has cancer. Uh, no. Not. Hateful. Try, honest.

We have spent too long in the faery land of Good Humanity, so we no longer recognize what stares us in the face every night on the local and national news: humans sin. We all sin. Everyone of us.

It’s not hateful to admit that sinners sin. It’s not hateful to tell people there’s a Savior—One declaring Himself to be Love—who wants to rescue us from the mess of our own making.

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Published in: on June 22, 2016 at 6:16 pm  Comments (17)  
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Where Are We Looking?


glass half fullI had a discussion with a good friend last night about looking at the glass as half full or half empty. Some people see life in all it’s darkness and gloom and hopelessness. Others see it as full of hope and promise. What makes the difference?

Some say it’s temperament—some of us are simply born with a propensity to look on the negative side while others can’t help but see the possibilities, even in the deepest pit. Interestingly, one of my favorite bloggers touched on this subject in her response to a comment at another site.

Apparently the commenter made reference to life being sustained by death. As he explained it,

all life on earth depends on the death of other creatures for its sustenance, from plants who use the decayed remains of animals and other plants, to the animal kingdom, where some kill plants to live, while others kill the plant-eaters to survive.

InsanityBytes, the blogger in question, had made the point that our focus determines our understanding. Those looking at death, see dead animals and dead plants instead of nourishing and delicious food. In the same way, those looking at the temporal are blind to God’s grandeur.

It’s a good point I think.

But I suspect there’s also the matter of our measuring stick. If we measure all things by the standard of humankind, then we shrink the world into manageable explanations and theories—physical things we can verify with our physical senses. All else, we simply reject.

Demons? Don’t be silly, there are no such things as demons? I know because I can’t see them, and my perceptions are the measure of what is real! No ghosts either. Or angels. And certainly there is no God! No heaven. Or hell. Or afterlife of any kind. Those things simply can’t be proven in physically verifiable ways, so someone had to make them up.

As soon as we recognize that humankind actually isn’t the measuring stick, that there might be things in existence that we don’t know or haven’t experienced or can’t comprehend or dissect or explain, then the world opens wide. Now there are spiritual possibilities we hadn’t conceived of, given our limited focus.

No longer are we locked in to the temporal; we can lift our eyes to the eternal.

But how can we?

This is where revelation comes in. It’s true that, by definition, the finite cannot know the infinite. We who are limited are incapable of understanding limitlessness. What is it like to live before time? To have no beginning or end? To never grow weary or tired? To have infinite power and wisdom and love and mercy and justice?

We need a snapshot, a story, an explanation—a revelation—to open up that which is beyond our ability to apprehend on our own. Even then we will be peering through a darkened window and glimpse only shadows of the reality.

But those shadows grow sharper the longer we look, the keener our eyesight. We focus. We stare unrelentingly at that which we know to be true though we can’t manipulate Him—for what we’re looking at is God—and we can’t force Him to act in ways that are more to our liking.

At some point we realize that the image of God is Jesus and He isn’t as murky as we first thought. We realize that He is the standard by which all is measured. In fact, no glass is half full or half empty. All are empty until filled with Living Water, and then they are never empty again.

Sadly, some people will insist on making humankind the measure of all things. They’ll never lift their sights any higher, never realize that humans don’t control the wind or the waves or the sun, moon, and stars.

Humans don’t dictate what is right and what is wrong; the moral code embedded in our hearts is not of our creation. We can ignore it or corrode it, but we can’t remove it any more than we can erase God by saying He doesn’t exist.

To those who refuse to look beyond humankind as the arbiter of reality, the glass will be leaking. Death does sustain life, but for how long? What happens when death overwhelms life? What happens when death overwhelms me? The adage is true: one out of one dies. But those of us who look to God and not to humankind know the last part of that statement: and then comes the judgment.

It’s a warning, not a condemnation. We have all already failed. The sentence has been delivered: guilty, destined to die, both physically and spiritually.

But Jesus stands in the gap.

He’s changed the Valley of Weeping into a spring, covered the dry ground with the waters of the early rain. He has done what we need in order that we might be restored to right standing with the Father, in order that we might walk in the newness of resurrection life instead of the deadness of our sinful condition.

Half full or half empty? Truly, the answer lies in our focus.

Published in: on November 3, 2015 at 5:33 pm  Comments (5)  
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The Biblical Answer To The Question Of Evil


dawn-457770-mWhere did evil come from? This is the question atheists either don’t try to answer or can not answer. It’s part of the weakness of that belief system—there are too many things that can’t be explained.

Biblical Christianity, on the other hand, has a clear, concise answer (so this post might turn out to be rather short).

Solomon spelled out the answer in the book of Proverbs. In the first chapter, he personified Wisdom, and it is Wisdom that gives the answers to the question of evil.

“Because I called and you refused,
I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention;
And you neglected all my counsel
And did not want my reproof;
I will also laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when your dread comes,
When your dread comes like a storm
And your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
When distress and anguish come upon you.

“Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;
They will seek me diligently but they will not find me,
Because they hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the LORD.

“They would not accept my counsel,
They spurned all my reproof.

“So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way
And be satiated with their own devices.

“For the waywardness of the naive will kill them,
And the complacency of fools will destroy them.

“But he who listens to me shall live securely
And will be at ease from the dread of evil.” (Prov. 1:24-33)

In a nutshell, humankind hated God’s way, so He gave us over to our own way.

This is the point that atheists who say evil proves there is no good and loving God don’t get. Our good and loving God delegated to us the care of the rest of creation, and He told us what we needed to know to be successful.

Instead of embracing God’s way, we hated His way, thought we could figure out a way around it, and decided we knew better than He.

Simply put, that’s evil. There is no better way than the perfect way. Our embracing something less than perfect drags us further and further from God and from His plan for us. If it weren’t for His intervention, we would have no hope.

But thanks be to our loving, good God who knows exactly what we need, we have a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ who has brought us out of darkness into His marvelous light.

Later in the book, Solomon says

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Prov. 9:10)

God is entwined in it all—the beginning of wisdom, our response to wisdom, the reproof when we ignore wisdom, the consequences for hating wisdom. And the point of wisdom is to lead us to the fear of the Lord.

It’s self-fulfilling. The more we fear the Lord, the more we fear the Lord.

But “fear” doesn’t mean get all terrified, though that’s a part of it. The Hebrew word is yir’ah, and it’s various meanings are these:

I. fear, terror, fearing
A. fear, terror
B. awesome or terrifying thing (object causing fear)
C. fear (of God), respect, reverence, piety
D. revered

It is use C that applies here—fear, respect, reverence, and devotion. These are the heart attitudes, applied to our relationship with God, that yield wisdom.

Today there are a lot of ideas about God—he’s our buddy, he’s our Sugar Daddy, he’s an it or a she or an unknown, he’s nonexistent. All these are ways of neglecting wisdom’s counsel. We think we can ignore God or deny Him or treat Him with disrespect and still reap the benefits of His kindness and mercy. We don’t realize how much we pay for the existence of evil.

All the sin and sickness and death that plagues the world and all that’s in it is a direct result of turning our back on God instead of fearing Him.

Evil is here because of how humankind treats God. If we don’t love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength (the first commandment), then how can we think we’ll be able to love our neighbors as ourselves (the second commandment)?

That we ever even try is a recognition of God’s law serving as a moral compass inside us. But that’s another matter for discussion another day. Suffice it to say, evil is not something rightly dropped at God’s doorstep. He created a perfect world, and it is we who let Him down, not He who bungled the oversight of what He made.

My guess is, the same pride that said we could bypass the regs God laid down, also is the reason we don’t want to admit evil exists in us and on earth because of us. But that’s the truth—the Biblical answer to the question of evil.

Published in: on January 27, 2015 at 6:58 pm  Comments (2)  
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Rebutting The Postmodern Philosophy Of Language


Adam_and_Eve019Much of postmodernism stems from an assertion that language shapes the way humans think, but humans, in turn, cannot stand outside of language to investigate it objectively. Thus, language is powerful because it shapes human thought, but it is impoverished because it is unable to serve as a means to examine itself.

Recognizing the power and poverty of language, poststructuralism implies that all knowledge, including its own, must be taken on faith.
How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith, Crystal Dowing, p. 126.

Downing asserts that this view of language is Biblical, citing God’s identification of His name to Moses as Yahweh—I AM WHO I AM. “As though in recognition that language molds perception, God communicates a Self that transcends the limitations of any noun referring to a created entity” (p. 127).

Her summation follows:

The power of language to mold, and hence limit, our understanding of God thus implies its poverty. Language cannot capture the essence of God because it is a human, not a divine, creation.

This is wrong on many levels.

First, Man did not create language. Downing’s own assumption destroys this theory–how could a man without language create language if we are molded BY language?

I refer back to the Bible, where God commanded Adam to care for the garden, keep it, cultivate it, refrain from eating of the fruit of a certain tree. Clearly, God initiated this conversation. Language had to be His idea.

He also put Adam in charge of naming the animals BEFORE Eve was created. Adam had no “cultural” reason to name things, yet he did so as a response to God’s command.

Does this mean that Man created language? Not the concept of language, surely. Individual words, yes–in that regard only, Man “creates” language.

Other Scriptural evidences that language is God’s creation include the fact that He named Man. He named Woman. Later in history, He wrote with His finger in stone the commandments He wanted His people to follow. He also specified that He inspired all Scripture–the words that reveal Who He is and what He does.

Secondly, the idea that Man cannot capture the essence of God because of the poverty of language is flawed.

Man cannot capture the essence of God, according to the Bible, because sin separates us from Him. Sin blinds, so we do not see His essence. We do not seek after Him. We are, like Adam, hiding from Him.

Postmodernism promotes the concept that God is hard to find, transcendent and mysterious.

The truth is, He was not any of those things before sin.

God and the people He created walked in the garden and talked together. Adam and Eve weren’t on their faces in fear, weren’t mystified by God’s presence or His essence–no more than a toddler is in the company of his mother, though she is certainly not a person he can fully grasp.

I posit that any poverty of language is a direct result of sin that defaces all creation.

When I was little—second grade, I think—I got in trouble one P. E. period for being too loud. We were right outside the 6th-grade classroom playing kick ball on the asphalt with lines painted for the bases. (Why someone thought this was a good place for little kids to play anything is wrong, so very wrong for so very many reasons! 😦 )

For a competitive, excitable seven-year-old lacking self-control, staying quiet during a close game of kick ball was just too much to ask. My punishment was to miss P. E. the next day.

This was back in the era when no one thought much about leaving kids inside classrooms, so on the day of my punishment, my teacher told me I was not to get up out of my seat, then left with the rest of the class.

Most of them, that is. A little boy was also staying in because he hadn’t finished some work. We talked a bit, and I guess he told me what was stumping him. I was pretty sure I could show him what to do, but there was my teacher’s order, Don’t get up out of your seat.

Ah-ha, a solution presented itself. I wouldn’t get up out of my seat, I would get down. Yep, I got down on my hands and knees and crawled across the room. And yeah, I got busted–lost P. E. for a week, but worse, I was embarrassed, caught in front of the whole class, not just for my disobedience but for lying as I tried to walk the line of literalism. True story.

What does that have to do with the postmodern philosophy of language? If my teacher had been a postmodernist, she might have thought the problem was with language. Perhaps we needed a discourse that would allow us to communicate outside the tower in which our language group had us confined–hers the language of adults, mine of second graders.

Poppycock. I knew exactly what she MEANT by Don’t get up out of your seat. But I didn’t like it. I wanted to find a way around it. I also didn’t want to suffer consequences for going against it. So I, in my mind, manipulated what she said and justified myself to myself by pretending I was not disobeying as long as I didn’t break her mandate in the precise way she stated it.

I am so thankful God gave me a teacher who didn’t let me get away with that. The problem was in my sinful little heart, not in the language my teacher used. Not in my perception of that language.

We cannot speak of God as He really is because we no longer know Him as He really is. Not because of who He is but because of what we became–sinners with a nature that no longer allowed us to relate to Him.

Without Jesus, that’s the state we’re destined for.

However, with Jesus, I now know the Father.

And yet, I see through a glass darkly. One day, even that will change, and I will know in the same way I am known.

That’s something to look forward to! 😀

This article combines two posts from a series on Postmodernism published here in 2006.

Published in: on February 5, 2014 at 6:37 pm  Comments (5)  
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Broken Cisterns


Cistern_getting_waterAccording to Wikimedia “a cistern is a tank for storing water, usually covered. It may be as small as a toilet cistern or large enough to be essentially a covered reservoir.”

God, through the prophet Jeremiah used cisterns as a metaphor to show His people’s relationship with Him.

For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me,
The fountain of living waters,
To hew for themselves cisterns,
Broken cisterns
That can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:13)

696415_mountain_waterfallI don’t know about you, but if I were in need of water and had to choose between “living water”–the kind that flows freely, abundantly, cleanly–and water stored in a cistern, I’d take the former every time.

But God didn’t just accuse His people of choosing cistern water over living water. They were making for themselves broken cisterns–ones that couldn’t hold water at all. In other words, since we need water to live, they were abandoning the source of life in favor of their own empty effort.

What a great picture of Humankind’s attempts to make it without God. We dig and work and build and produce and save, but in the end we go out like we came in–alone.

Our own efforts to provide the love, security, purpose, sense of belonging that we all need, net us dry ground. Furthermore, one person’s attempt to do religion is no better than another person’s rejection of religion.

Water isn’t found in man-made activities. We can’t give up enough for Lent or fast often enough or even serve in homeless shelters often enough to get the water we need.

The Jews Jeremiah was talking to had left worship of the LORD their God and were serving false gods, made with their own hands. They couldn’t see how silly it was for them to pray to a statue that they had carved from a block of wood, one that could not walk or talk, and certainly could not give them Living Water.

But people in contemporary Western society aren’t any smarter. We think happiness will come if we just have enough money, just get the right job, just marry the right person, just have freedom or protection or safety or health. We go all in on things that are temporary, ephemeral, over which we have little control.

God tells us we can’t do it, that He’ll provide. But like little children we say, No, no, let me, I want to do it. So we’re hacking away to dig out these systems we think will make life make sense or fill up our loneliness or at least get us through to the weekend. It’s a sad way to live, trying to squeeze water out of the muddy mess we make.

Especially when we can turn and enjoy Living Water in abundance.

Published in: on April 4, 2013 at 6:42 pm  Comments Off on Broken Cisterns  
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