Archive for the ‘Gospel’ category

Suffering Eternal Decisions

February 21, 2018

Depositphotos Image ID: 31692361 Copyright: DesignPicsInc

I often listen to podcasts in the morning as I shave, shower, brush my teeth and get ready for work. Today I was listening to Dr. William Lane Craig respond to some questions about free will and suffering, and his comments prompt this blog piece.

He made the following statement

“Natural suffering forms the arena in which the drama is played out of people being freely called to come into the kingdom of God and find an eternal relationship with God. It is not at all improbable that only in a world infused with natural suffering would an optimal number of people freely respond to God’s gracious and initiatives and come to enjoy a relationship with God and eternal salvation.”

Dr. Craig represents the Molinist view of the tension between God’s sovereignty, knowledge and power and man’s free will. On the Molinist view, God knows the future, but he does not determine it. Knowing the future, God chose to set the universe in motion, but he does not determine every aspect of it, including the choices that people make. Knowing the future, God chose to set the universe in motion, and to that extent, He determines the outcome, because He knows the outcome. He does not determine it, however, to the extent of interfering with the free will He gave humans who are created in His image. The fact that he knows the outcome, does not mean that He determine the choices each person makes. Each person is free to choose as they will, but God knows how they will choose from the beginning, and so He wills it.

This is (my simple version of) the Molinist view. It respects God’s sovereignty, while acknowledging the clear implication of free will and moral responsibility to which God holds us that is reflected from beginning to end in the Bible.

I tend to like the Molinist view, but I am always somewhat cautioned in my own thinking not to be overly concerned with doctrinal nuances. I don’t want to die on a Molinist hill other than the Gospel. The Calvinist resurgence in the church today stands in contrast to a more Armenian view of inviolate free will. Many have been the discussions and debates between these two views, and I fear we spend too much time and energy on debating when we should spend more time living out the Gospel. I think Paul might lump these debates in the category of vain discussions.

Still, I think it is good to chew on these things as they may be beneficial to our knowledge and understanding of God. As I thought about Dr. Craig’s comment above, I could not help think that this is a kind of divine utilitarianism – what is optimal for generating the most free will responses of love for, relationship with God and eternal life with God.

Dr. Craig’s thesis is an attempt to explain why suffering exists in the world when God is supposed to be good, all-powerful and sovereign. Why doesn’t God stop suffering if He is all those things? Why does he allow suffering at all?

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The 2nd Amendment, Freedom & Responsibility

February 16, 2018
Second Amendment to the Constitution

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If faith without works is dead, then our thoughts, prayers and condolences are meaningless at some point if we aren’t willing to take some action to address the societal problem of school shootings and mass shootings in general. What is the Christian response to these tragedies? Is the 2nd Amendment greater than the 6th commandment (though shall not murder), the greatest commandment (to love God with all our hearts, souls and minds) and the second greatest commandment (to love others as ourselves)? How do we balance the 2nd Amendment with God’s commandments? Are guns really the issue? Below is an article with some thoughts to consider as we mourn the victims of another school shooting.

via The 2nd Amendment, Freedom & Responsibility

 

Vain Discussions

February 13, 2018

Depositphotos Image ID: 156857478 Copyright: NatashaFedorova

“As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.” (1 Timothy 1:3-7)

What Paul characterizes here in the first chapter of the first letter to Timothy is something that goes on quite a bit in religious circles today. We may not speculate about “myths and endless genealogies” today, but we engage in similar discussions. I don’t think that myths and genealogies are so much the issue, as the time we spend locked into trying to prove and persuade others of particular points and principles that are peripheral and  distract us from “the stewardship of God that is by faith”.

When Paul talks about certain persons teaching a “different doctrine”, I don’t think he is speaking about doctrine in the way we might view the word today. In Paul’s time, there were no systematic theologies. Doctrinal issues focused on the fundamentals – who is Jesus? Did he rise from the dead in bodily form? Must believers be circumcised?

Today, there is no end to the theologies and doctrinal points of view that get so finely debated as to focus on such things as how many angles can dance on the head of a pin without jostling each other. I jest of course; but that is the point. We get into the weeds on issues that may be interesting, but they aren’t central or necessary to the Gospel.

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Spirit and Truth vs. Self-Made Religion

January 28, 2018

Depositphotos Image ID: 91001324 Copyright: carlosyudica

In a previous blog article, I talked about the shadow of things to come. Paul says that following rules and observing religious ritual is just a shadow of things to come. Later in the same chapter in Colossians, Paul explains in more detail what he is getting at. When we are focused only on the do’s and the don’ts and on observing religious rituals, we are focused on the wrong things.

“If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were alive in the world, do you submit to regulations – ‘Do not handle,  Do not taste,  Do not touch’ (referring to things that all perish as they are used) – according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:20-23)

Paul isn’t advocating that followers of Christ abandon self-discipline and self-control and do whatever they like. “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” (Romans 6:1-2) But, following Jesus doesn’t mean stepping up religious observances and following rules and regulations more closely. The focus on rules and rituals entirely misses the point.

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The Significance of the Resurrection

October 24, 2017

depositphotos Image ID: 24765707 Copyright: lexmomot

I have written about the central importance of the resurrection of Jesus many times, but I come back to it again. Nothing could be more important. Of this Paul, was crystal clear in his writing.

If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain;

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins;

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are evolved people most to be pitied;

If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die”;

What you sow does not come to life until you die.

These are all statements made by Paul in his first letter to the people in Corinth.[1] These statements underscore and highlight the importance of the resurrection in Christian thought.

Jesus is the center of the Christian faith, and the gospel is at the center of Christianity and the resurrection is at the center of the Gospel. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, everything falls apart. The claims of Christianity are bankrupt because they rise or fall on this one point.

If Jesus was raised from the dead, Jesus is who he said he was and no other event in human history is more significant; no  religion or philosophy lays a claim to hope in the present and the future like words of Jesus. Jesus truly is the “light of men”[2] and the “bread of life”[3].

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God’s Word Became Flesh

October 2, 2017

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“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us….”[1] (John 1:1-5,14)

These are among my favorites verses in the entire Bible. When I read them as brand new creation, having just come to believe that Jesus was who He said He was, God in the flesh, and having committed myself to follow Him, these words virtually leapt off the page. They still resonate freshly with me.

As an English Literature major in college, I read the opening phrase – in the beginning was the Word – with wonder. Language, words, were special to me, and here was the very opening phrase in the New Testament placing supreme meaning and significance on the Word, “and the Word was God.”

The Word is God!

Mind blown.

I recently listened to Tim Keller talking about this passage. Tim Keller, if you haven’t ever listened to or read him, is top shelf. No one synthesizes faith and culture better than he in my opinion. He breathes fresh life into this meaning-packed passage with the following observation:

“A person’s word is the clearest and ultimate revelation of who you are.”

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Judging the Church and Reconciling the World

September 22, 2017

Christianpics.co

Paul writes to the Corinthians “not to associate with sexually immoral people”, but he qualifies that statement to say that he is “not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters since you would need to go out of the world”. (1 Corinthians 5:9-10) What is Paul talking about here?

Paul goes on to clarify that he is writing to the Corinthians “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler – not even to eat with such a one.”

He is obviously talking about people within the church, and this is a point that I think we have generally gotten wrong in the modern church today, but maybe not in the way that one might suppose.

It seems to me that we have got these instructions from Paul to the Corinthians exactly backwards.

I think of the Moral Majority when I say this. I think of the efforts of Christians to try to impose “Christian values” on our world. I realize that I am departing from many Christian leaders to say something like this, but please hear me out.

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