Archive for the ‘Hope’ 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

Depositphotos Image ID: 173296888 Copyright: zimmytws

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

 

In My Time of Dying

February 6, 2018

Photo courtesy of yours truly, Budapest Hungary

I have experienced an awful lot of dying in my world recently. People that I know, friends and family of people that I know, one after another, many people in my world are dying lately.

Frankly, from the moment we are born, we begin to die. This isn’t a pleasant thought, but this is where my head is going as I read my Facebook feed, offering condolences, prayers and thoughts, one after another.

Our cells begin to die off from the moment we are born. Sure, they regenerate. Our cells die off and regenerate throughout our lives. As our lives go on, however, the dying process speeds up, it picks up in intensity, the dying outpaces the regeneration and it results, eventually, in our natural deaths… if something doesn’t kill us sooner.

It could be depressing to think about. On the other hand, it is natural. This is the way it is.

Why do we even care?

Really, why does death bother us so much? Does my dog think about dying?

If death is simply a fact, a matter of life, a natural phenomenon, what’s gotten into our heads about it? How do we explain our preoccupation with death?

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Our Transcendent Hope

December 19, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 84091092 Copyright: kevron2002

A very close friend of mine was expressing concern about the state of the world recently. Specifically, Donald Trump seems to be provoking the Korean dictator, like a bully provokes a mass murderer. I was not prepared for such an existential discussion, and I did not respond very well.

The concerns are real. I was haunted by the specter of nuclear war as a child growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. I even bought a poster of a mushroom cloud to hang on my wall, not because I wanted the world to end in a ball of fire, but because it was the reality I couldn’t ignore.

But we do learn to ignore realities likes that. Maybe because it’s hard to live with them, we learn to push them back into the recesses of our consciousness. We displace the angst with busyness, entertainment and other distractions.

The fact is that life is short and tenuous. Whether we live to be a hundred or 80 or only 8, life will end. This is also a harsh but true reality, but I’m afraid it isn’t very helpful for someone who is laboring under the burden of the weight of the world. I wish I had said something more.

I firmly believe this world is not all there is. We thirst, and water exists to quench our thirst. We hunger, and food exists to sate our hunger. It makes sense that, if we yearn for something transcendent, something transcendental exists to satisfy our existential longing.

We all seem to “know” this, but the world is so full of a thousand flim flam answers to the ultimate existential question that we hardly have any idea where to start looking. We might be tempted to seize on the first or closest one, like responding to that Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes mailer declaring you might be the winner, or we abandon any hope of an existential answer and resign ourselves to the material world.

Is there proof of something transcendent? How can we know? These are serious and heartfelt questions.

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Back to the Tree of Life

November 24, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 13147743 Copyright: martinm303

The tree of life is mentioned only three places in the Bible.  The first and most prominent place the tree of life appears in the Bible is in Genesis. The Tree of Life is one of two trees specifically identified in the garden. The other tree, of course, is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

I have wondered what would have happened and how things might be different if Adam and Eve had eaten of the Tree of Life, rather than tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If they had eaten of the tree of life, would they have had eternal life at that point? Or is the tree of life something that must be consumed over and over again?

It really doesn’t matter for purposes of considering our present reality. From dust to dust is our current condition, but the tree of life appears again in the Book of Revelation, and it pops up three times in Proverbs.

That gives us hope. Though we are presently cut off from it, the tree of life figures into God’s ultimate plan as revealed in the Book of Revelation. The tree of life appears there on either side of the “river of the water of life… flowing from the throne of God….”[1]

Where do we find the tree of life in between the Garden of Eden and standing beside the river of the water of life from the throne of God? Let’s take a look.

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A Remedy for the Utter Loneliness of the Human Condition

November 14, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 5949233 Copyright: olly18

Have you ever felt like nobody gets you? Nobody understands who you really are?

First of all, congratulations, because you are being honest. It’s uncomfortable to be that honest. That kind of honesty is hard to face. Most of us would rather pretend it isn’t so, because facing it is like facing a yawning gulf. But the disconnect is there between what we wish and the way things are. It doesn’t go away… if we are honest.

We often feel and know deep down that no one really gets me. Not even my family or closest friends.

We sometimes feel as if everyone else “gets it” (this thing we philosophically call life) but us. Perhaps, everyone else is connected in a way that I am not. Nothing feels more isolating or lonely than feeling disconnected and alone.

More important than the first point, though, we are not alone. This is the human condition if we are being brutally honest with ourselves. There is a little relief in realizing that, but we still can’t escape the reality of it, and we shouldn’t try… if that is the reality.

What good does it do us to pretend in the end? But is this the ultimate end to which we are doomed to realize?

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Locked Out of Garden

October 28, 2017

depositphotos Image ID: 11321001 Copyright: draghicich

Prompted by the new book by Clay Jones, Why Does God Allow Evil?, I have highlighted a couple of potential keys to addressing the “problem of evil” emphasized in his book in the article,  The Problem of Evil and Mystery of Will.

The Christian response to the age old problem lies in the story of Adam and Eve. Created in God’s own image, they were given a choice but were forbidden from exercising it. Anyone with a modicum of understanding about human nature knows that forbidden fruit is a temptation that is hard to ignore. It should come as no surprise to us (or God) that Adam and Eve gave into the temptation and ate of the fruit.

God surely must have known that they would exercise that forbidden choice! Yet, he banished them from the idyllic “garden” He created for them and cursed the world, subjecting it to difficulty, pain, suffering and death. We are looking for a clue to the question that screams from our guts, “Why?!”

This indeed is the harsh reality in which we live. There can be no denying it. Recognition of this harsh reality is not uniquely Christian. It is a universal truth. The explanation of it is what differs. The atheist might simply say that we all die and “then worms will eat our bodies”. That’s just the way it is. The Hindu might say we suffer because of karma, and we all die, and die again, and again, and again, and again. The Buddhist might say we suffer only because we haven’t reached enlightenment because pain and suffering are just a figment of the unenlightened imagination. All worldviews must contend with the fact that we live in a less than idyllic world.

The Christian says we suffer pain and death because Adam sinned. “And we’ve been attending funerals ever since,” Clay Jones says; and “Only one thing is going to prevent you from watching absolutely every person you know die from murder, accident, or disease, and that will be your own death from murder, accident, or disease.” What a harsh sentence!

If the Bible is an accurate reflection of God and of reality, why in the world would God have cursed the ground and subjected His creation to futility?

The Apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans that God subjected the world to futility “in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption….” (Romans 8:20) This suggests that the choice that led man to corruption and the cursing of the world to futility was part of the plan all along. In this second half of “the story” we try to make some sense of it.

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