The Origin of Unbelief

What underlies unbelief? Some will tell you that they have examined the evidence, and found it wanting. Of course, that is a tenuous assertion, as the inductive methodology applied there can never lead to absolute truth. But even that doesn’t account for the underlying presuppositions  that press one into scouting for evidence.

It is quite simple, and we find the explanation in the Psalms:

Psa 36:1  Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes.
Psa 36:2  For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.
Psa 36:3  The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good.
Psa 36:4  He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil.

The unbeliever simply believes in himself more than anything or anyone else. There simply, in his presupposition, is no-one or nothing to be measured against other than himself. Wisdom is that which is in himself, and has no other source. He does not believe nor understand that there is any inherent evil or badness in himself.

A sad state of affairs for the unbeliever, and it can only be solved by asking for wisdom from the Creator.

Missing the Really Big Picture

The full-scale assault on the rights of Christians continue with more aggression and hatred than ever before. Anyone who dares profess faith in what God actually says, and not what secular liberals demand, is labeled as a “religious nut”.

In one of the latest such assaults, volunteers at a Houston cemetery are prohibited from mentioning God or Jesus. (http://punditpress.blogspot.com/2011/06/va-cemetery-to-veterans-word-god-jesus.html)

Setting aside for the moment the political agenda of the people who make these decisions, do they even consider the bigger ramifications of their position and enforcement of anti-Christian sentiments? Do they even think through the bigger picture, or is it simply knee-jerk politics and liberal pandering?

What is the bigger picture? The bigger picture of course, is God.

If God exists, then there should be no question, ever, about acknowledging, respecting and honoring Him. The creator of all that is, the one that is the greatest love of all, and the ruler of heaven and earth surely stands above all man-made conventions?There can be nothing more important than God, in such a case, regardless of political correctness.

The question of God’s existence has been debated for as many years as mankind has had a mind capable of doing so, by many smart and educated people, and it is still being debated. Yet, some act as if the question has been definitively answered in the negative, that God does not exist, and that therefore, any mention of God is offensive.

That logic is, well, simply illogical. If God doesn’t exist, then why bother preventing any mention of Him? Surely it is only the small-minded that will be offended by the fictitious? You don’t hear these same people going around complaining about the mention of “The Force” as part of the Jedi religion, and preventing public expression of that. No, it is Christianity and the Christian God being singled out for this special treatment. Why is that?

The other part of the bigger picture is this, if God exists, then everyone will one day be held to account before Him. For Christians, that is a day of joy and victory when we can humbly bow before God and acknowledge His grace, love and acceptance through the sacrifice of Christ. But for those who are against God, things will not quite go so well.

What we can deduce from the actions of those that seek to prevent the free expression of the Christian faith is that they either have indisputable proof that God does not exist, which I doubt, or that they see themselves as bigger and more important than both God, and the eternal fate of others in the world. What other explanation can there possibly be?

If they should answer that we should not “force” our religion on others, then the simple question is this…what are we allowed to “force” on others, and why? No-one can be forced to believe anything, it is the result of their own free will. But of course their non-belief should be forced on everyone.

If the answer is that we should not offend those of other religions, then we are almost back at square one…has this specific person determined absolutely that all religions are equally valid and true? Have they engaged in a rigorous process of internal and external criticism of the different religions, and comparative religious study? Because if they did, then they would know that such a statement and belief is ludicrous. Religions, while they may have some broad common elements, are exclusively true. You simply cannot logically arrive at a point where they are all equally true.

That leaves just one option…these people think they are more important than God. They believe that they can make implied statements about His existence, launch petty little sneak attacks against Christians, and in the process, they deny Him before the world. Good luck with all that.

Love. Simply.

With all of the conflict, fighting and bad things going on in the world today, one tends to forget about love. The dictionary defines love like this: – a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person. – a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend. I suppose that isn’t too bad. But for me, that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Real love is not reducible to a warm fuzzy feeling. It is so much more. It is an attitude, it is demonstrable, it is active and alive, with a life of its own. It is unconditional…something that we so often forget.

The Bible has the best description of love:

1Co 13:1  If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
1Co 13:2  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
1Co 13:3  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
1Co 13:4  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
1Co 13:5  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
1Co 13:6  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
1Co 13:7  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1Co 13:8  Love never ends.

1Co 13:13  So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Love is all of the best for the other. It is total disregard for the self, and total regard for others. Nothing is too good for love. It is the type of love that makes you sacrifice all, even your life, for others. This passage is such a perfect description of what Christ did for us. He endured all, and while He had prophetic powers, and total wisdom and understanding, it was only love that had Him lay down His life. And because of His love, we can be absolutely certain that love never ends, because God never ends.

In our daily walk, we don’t really do all that well with the love thing. I know I act in an unloving fashion often, even to those close to me. Yes, the standard is high, and we sometimes fail. But love ultimately cannot fail, and if we try and love in Biblical way all the time, surely we will get better at it, and with God, perfect it one day.

From the time that you read this, going forward, teach yourself what real love is from the passage above, and try to let love into your life, all the time. God’s very substance is love:

1Jn 4:7  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
1Jn 4:8  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1Jn 4:9  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
1Jn 4:10  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
1Jn 4:11  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1Jn 4:12  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

Loving like God demonstrated and shared is as good as seeing God Himself. Will you love like that? Patient, forgiving, selfless? There is no greater thing you can do on this earth than to love those around you like that.

The Days Before You Die

How would you feel if you knew that death was but a day or two away? In the last few days and weeks we had a senseless murder in our town, we lost a vibrant and young friend to death through a blood clot from a muscle injury, and a young father left behind his wife and two young children, losing a 3 month battle with cancer.

We all think about death and dying sometimes. It is the one sure thing, life on this earth is terminal.

And so it was, even for Jesus, the Son of God. He knew that He too would die the death of mortals, that it was the plan from the beginning that the sacrifice of His life will set free His people. Jesus was scared but resigned. Like all of us. The difference is that Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen, and when He would die. None of us, except those on death row maybe, know that.

Mat 26:1  When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples,
Mat 26:2  “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”
Mat 26:3  Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas,
Mat 26:4  and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.

Jesus prepared the disciples, and left them with the most powerful religious message in the world at the last supper. In that one sentence, Jesus established the basis for His kingdom on earth.

Mat 26:27  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you,
Mat 26:28  for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Yet having done that, Jesus was scared, yet resigned to the will of the Father.

Mat 26:39  And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

When we are close to death, or when we lose loved ones to death, I suspect that we will all pray that prayer. We will all ask for just a little more time, a few more opportunities, and the possibility of death to pass us by. Yet we have no control over that, it is purely the will of the Father. As He set the date of the crucifixion in place, so He has set in place the time and circumstances of each person’s death. It is His will.

Our purpose on earth is His purpose, and when it is accomplished, the Father will end it.

Joh 19:30  When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

While very few of us know the time and circumstances of our own death, we know that in the death of Christ, we will live after death.

In the days before you die, make sure that you know what Christ did, and that you know Him.

An Alternative Christian View of Evil

One of the biggest objections against the existence of the Christian God is the argument of evil. If God is so good, why do bad things happen? He at worst wills it to happen, and at best allows it to happen, for reasons known only to Him. If He wills it to happen, then He is cruel, and if He allows it to happen, then He is not omnipotent, thus powerless to stop it. But since the argument about the existence of God revolves around worldview, the Christian (apart from asking the non-believer to justify any kind of morality from his worldview), should also be careful not to accept views of evil that are inconsistent with their beliefs.

Many times the instances of natural disasters, like the earthquake in Japan, are brought up as proof of evil, since many people die. Other horrific examples are also quoted, often very graphically, to raise the emotional levels of disgust.

But here is the problem with using that as proof of evil. In the Christian context, evil has nothing to do with that kind of human suffering. Evil, simply put, is that which drives people away from God, that which is in direct opposition to the will of God. Throughout the Bible, evil, is mentioned hundreds of times, and it is never about man, it is always about man’s relationship with God. Yes, people do horrible things to each other. And the ones doing the evil things are evil, but not because of what they do to others, but because they are doing what is contrary to the will of God.

Some may counter that God instructed some people to do bad things to others. But in the Biblical context, obeying God cannot be evil. To argue such is to raise the morality of the questioner above the moral reasoning of God, and once again, that argument needs to be constructed before it can be applied.

But God lets people die, in their thousands, in some of the most horrible ways thinkable, some may counter. And again, if we are to discuss death, then we need to take the Christian perspective. Paul, sitting in prison, and fully expecting to be executed in the most horrible way, writes this:

Php 1:21  For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Php 1:22  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.
Php 1:23  I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

Death is not something that the Christian fears, it is something that he desires, because it means to be with Christ. Death is not evil for the Christian, it is hope and gain. Death is only evil for those who are not Christian, and who are in opposition to the will of God.

God surely cannot go against Himself, and David writes this in the Psalms:

Psa 5:4  For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you.

And if we remember that evil is that which leads people away from God, then the blame should be placed where it belongs, the evil force that lead mankind, and caused the fall of creation, into a state of evil that could only be overcome by the perfect sacrifice. That is the Christian view of evil, and how evil is to be overcome…not by asserting that there is no God, but by accepting the Christian view of evil and the victory over it.

Before entering into an argument about evil, it needs to be understood. And the Christian view is radically different than the secular view.

Perfect Atonement

The death of Christ on the cross is the only way to be redeemed, forgiven and saved before God. There is simply no other way. Once it becomes one of the ways, and not the only way, then there is no need for Christ, and no justification for the existence of Christianity.

If God is to be God, then, just as He is perfect in His characteristics, He is perfect in His mechanism for being reconciled to Him. There is nothing else needed. God cannot but provide the perfect atonement for our sins. If it is imperfect or contingent in any way, then we are lost. Our God is not God, and we have little hope.

The atonement of Christ achieves perfectly what it set out to do…pay the price for the sins of those that God saves. The death of Christ is on behalf of those that are God’s. Nothing else is needed, it is a perfect atonement.

1Pe 2:24  He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Of course, this is in contrast to postmodern evangelism. We hear it from the pulpits time and again. I just read it again this morning on a discussion board. The atonement is not an actual perfect atonement, it is a theoretical or potential atonement. And it may or may not be perfect, depending.

Let me explain. Somewhere along the line, the actual perfect atonement of Christ became an act of imperfect possibilities. The story goes like this: Jesus died on the cross for the sins of every single person in the world. If individuals exercise faith in Jesus, they get to share in the benefits of His death on the cross. If you do not believe, then it will do you no good. Christ really really really wants to save you, and even died on the cross for you, if only you would believe.

While that is a nice story, it turn the perfect atonement into a contingent atonement. The death of Christ was not to potentially save sinners, it was to actually save sinners. It requires nothing additional. It does not require good works, or an autonomous act of faith from a free will. His death was not to provide the possibility of being saved, it was to save. And it does, it saves every person that it was intended to save.

Some object, and throw out passages that talk about God intending to save all, and that He does not want any to be lost. To which I can only ask…was the atonement perfect or not? Did Christ die in vain for the majority of what He set out to do? Because we know that some, indeed most, are lost. That means that God failed, and that not only is His atonement not perfect, but so is His love, justness and sovereignty. In short, it means that God is not God.

No, it cannot be. For God to be God, He has to achieve what he sets out to do perfectly, and that means the perfect substitionary atonement for all those that He intends to save. It means perfect harmony between His intent, His actions and His outcomes. This also what Jesus said about His purpose:

Joh 6:37  All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
Joh 6:38  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.
Joh 6:39  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.

If God does not save perfectly, what hope do we have, either now, or in the future? Are we to trust our own fickle beliefs and believe on good days, and disbelieve on bad days? God does save perfectly, through His perfect grace, perfect love and perfect sovereignty. It is not a perfect scheme, or plan or contingency. It is actual salvation, brought about by actual atonement.

There is no other basis for salvation, no other way to God and no hope without it. God claimed His people on the basis of His perfect atonement.