———- ———- ———- —
“Love people and use things. Don’t get it backwards.”
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
“God is love.” (Don’t get that backwards either.)
“Love the Lord your God with all your
Love your neighbor as your self.”
Years ago, attending a family reunion on my father’s side, I was surrounded by cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and other relatives. Asked to watch some of the children for a while to allow some other activity to take place, I found myself wondering what I could impart that might make a lasting influence on the lives of these children. That’s when I shortened something heard or read in the past into the brief statement that I did not want to say in reverse because I wanted the positive statement to stay in their minds:
“Love people and use things. Don’t get it backwards.”
Short and simple enough even a child can memorize it easily.
And wisdom memorized can come back to help us at unexpected times in the future.
The idea of manipulating or using people to achieve our own goals is behind stealing, lying, murder, and other evils.
But why is there so much evil in the world?
A whole field of study and philosophical thought has developed from that one question, known as theodicy. However, without getting into all the difficult philosophical issues involved in that question, my personal answer has always been simple. I don’t understand all the issues involved, and there are no doubt philosophical flaws in my answer, but most people seem to understand it intuitively and instinctively:
Because the God who is Love made us in His image, desiring that we share in His Love.
Because God is bringing all things in heaven and on earth into a unity of love in Christ.
Because love is not possible for puppets, so He had to allow the possibility of non-love in order to create beings, human beings, capable of choosing to love Him and to love one another.
(I am avoiding saying “free will” due to some of the philosophical and biblical problems with that phrase, so I am using “choose to love” rather than “free will.”)
Incidentally a few side thoughts to inject at this point, if it is true that angels once fallen cannot be redeemed, then God had to create humans in a special way to make it possible for them to be redeemed. So, the fall into sin and evil was not something that took the Creator by surprise, but the “Lamb [was] slain from the foundation of the world” as part of the Creator’s plan from the beginning. He knew that there would be sin and evil, but He also planned to show the greatness of His love and mercy and power in how He would buy back from that sin and evil a people for Himself, His people as a temple and body in which He could dwell, and ultimately his Bride. By the way, notice the mixture of male and female in His people’s being both “His” body (male) and His “bride” (female). So, somehow the Creator God in Himself combines both male and female, masculine and feminine, and imparts that image to those made in His image. Again, just a thought, nowhere close to a final word on the subject.
No one would claim that ours is the best of all possible worlds, but if the Creator God who dwelt bodily in Jesus Christ our Lord is the all powerful, all good, all wise, and all loving Being the Bible claims Him to be, then certainly …
This must be the best of all possible ways of achieving the best of all possible worlds.
And, that would be a world united in love in Him who is Love. If there were a better way to achieve His goal or purposes for all creation, then He would have chosen it. And, in the end, when He reveals in the consumation of all things how He has gathered into a unity all things in Christ, all things in heaven and all things in earth, then we and all conscious beings (perhaps including angels and others) will be able to see and understand His wisdom and glory and why He created all things to make Himself known and manifested to all beings.
So this begins the book (or blog) that has been growing in my heart for many years. One of the reasons I delayed was a desire to reinforce, to document and back up, the things I have to share. However, sometimes is is necessary just to begin, and to go back and create the footnotes later. Virtually everything of any significance can be debated from multiple points of view, but it is still necessary for us to live our lives and to have satisfying “answers” to many questions in advance of our learning the final and ultimate truth as only our Creator knows it.
This evening I went to see an excellent movie, “God’s Not Dead.” It included Kevin Sorbo, Dean Cain, the Newsboys, and many excellent young Christian actors. It did an supurb job of including several relevant sub-stories:
– a muslim college woman who converts to Christ and pays a severe family penalty for her newfound faith;
– an agnostic humanist news reporter who learns she is dying of cancer and who finds no hope in her humanistic and evolutionistic worldview (or in her highly successful boyfriend, played by Dean Cain);
– a Chinese exchange student with a non-theistic successful businessman father;
– a pragmatic “Christian” girlfriend who is more interested in the freshman’s future law degree than in his integrity before God;
– a Christian girlfriend of the atheistic philosophy professor, (she endures his ridicule of her faith because she wants his love and attention);
– the Christian girlfriend of the atheistic philosophy professor is sister to the part played by Dean Cain, so another tangle is introduced with their Christian mother who has severe old-age dementia (watch for her to have a highly significant moment of clarity when her son finally comes to visit her); and
– a pastor who wonders if he was accomplishing anything of value compared to his visiting missionary friend.
All these sub-stories were interwoven with the main story of the atheistic Philosophy 150 professor (played by Kevin Sorbo) who said he wanted to get on with the important material in philosophy without having to rehash “old superstitions” about whether or not God/god exists. So to avoid that area of philosophy and get on with what he considers more important, he asks his class to dispense with that issue by agreeing with him that “God is dead.” One freshman felt that making such a statement would require him to lie, so he was the only student in the class who could not sign the statement “God is dead.” As a result, he had to accept the professor’s challenge to prove that God is alive. The professor gives him one 20-minute time period at the end of one class each week for the next three weeks. He must in that time prove to the class that “God’s NOT Dead” and field any questions they may ask of him. So, the main point of the movie was the title, “God’s NOT Dead.”
It was so well done, that I will not spoil the plot(s) by telling any more. The main structure (but not the list of all the subplots) you could have learned from the movie’s public trailer, which was shown at the church I attended a couple weeks ago. The movie theater needed 500 advance ticket sales to bring that Christian movie to town. They definitely got those and thus it was being shown for a full week, March 21 through 27, (attendance was so good they held it over for more than six additional weeks as well). A major event in my life was completed earlier that day (March 24 Monday), so I was very happy to rest my sore muscles in the evening while watching that movie.
What it convinced me was twofold: How little I have to contribute, and that I have something to contribute. However, the movie helped me realize at the same time that I do have something to contribute to the discussion, because I am concerned about how our children, and indeed all Christians, are subtly led astray by false claims of “knowledge.” Hopefully what this means will become more clear as the reader continues below.
I am passionate about helping people develop a biblical and Christian worldview. It involves every area of life and thought. It is not merely personal, family, church, and funeral parlor. It is not merely the biblical and Christian view, it is a view of the REAL world. Henry Morris titled his book on education, “Educaton for the REAL world.” Similarly, the biblical and Christian view of the world is the REAL world, the world that EVERYONE lives in whether they agree with that worldview or not. The objective nature of that real world was and is determined by the Creator. He is. And, He created and sustains all things as an objective reality no matter what you or I or anybody else thinks about it. God’s ways and His thoughts are the only truly objective reality, and none of us fully comprehends God’s reality.
It has recently been brought to my attention that my personality does not come across very attractively when I get on my “soap box” or endeavor to share things I am passionate about. So, let it be acknowledged from the outset that in no way do I believe I have all the answers. Nor do I believe that I am right and nobody else is. Like the six blind men and the elephant, it is possible for all six to be right and all six to be wrong at the same time. [ Must create a side box with that story in it; want to continue with the main point at this time. In the meantime, interested readers can refer to the Wikipedia article, "Blind men and an elephant." ] Each described correctly a portion of the whole elephant, but each was wrong in their extrapolating that portion as though it were the entire animal.
“You think you have all the answers” is a common attack on anyone who claims to have ANY answers. Just because I do not have all the answers does not mean that I cannot have SOME right answers, even if only a few. However, like most human beings, I am prone to over-extending beyond its proper sphere any right answer I may have. I need to remember that, because such over-extension is just like the six blind men did with their part of the elephant. Paul said, ”Knowledge makes arrogant, but love builds up and edifies.”
The sub-stories of the movie were excellent reminders that there are many more issues involved than merely the cerebral challenges in that philosophy classroom. At the same time, there was definitely a cause to be defended in that classroom, and the actor playing that freshman (like David with Goliath) took up the cause (in spite of past geniuses and a well-educated professor) appropriately with both wisdom and humility: He made his points without claiming to have all the answers or even necessarily a complete answer to the questions being raised. Yet he made some excellent and very valid points.
Relevant digression: In the movie, at the end of the freshman’s first 20-minute session with the class, the professor demolished the freshman’s point with a single quote and question. The freshman had no answer for it at the time. When we are defending the faith, we will not have answers for everything. So, it is also important to remember that failure to have an immediate answer to a challenge does not make the challenger right. If you are a Christian sharing your faith, here is a helpful way to handle such situations (and simultaneously to grow personally). You can respond to the person posing the question with something like the following:
That is a good question, and I do not have an answer for that. However, I am certainly not the first Christian to be faced with such a question, and you are not the first person in history to have posed it. So, if I learn something about your question, would you like me to share it with you?
Notice that you are not claiming that you will necessarily come back with “the” answer. or even “an” answer, because sometimes the question itself is wrong or flawed. That possibility was portrayed brilliantly at one point in the movie as well. (Not going to spoil it for you, but watch for it in his second of the freshman’s three presentations to the class.) Notice by asking if they would like you to share with them in the future what you learn about the question they are raising, you may be calling their bluff if they are just throwing up a smoke screen: Is this a sincere question that is truly an intellectual stumbling block for them? Or, is it an insincere question in the sense that it is intended to distract from the real issue that is bothering the person? (In the movie, the real issue behind most of the professor’s mental gymnastics was the personal experience he revealed when asked, What happened to you? Why do you hate God so much?) The challenger’s question will give you a motivation for further personal study. However, by asking if they want you to share the results of that study with them, in most cases you will be let off the hook, and their lack of genuine interest will be exposed. Still you may want to study to learn a possible answer or two for your own edification and spiritual growth.
Forgive me for the digression. When there are so many things to share that do not easily fit a linear model, sometimes it is like spokes on a wheel, requiring a return to the center to go back to another related point:
The movie showed me that there are many important issues involved in defending our faith, just as we are told to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. However, at the same time, I came to the Lord while at (undergrad) college, and then for many years went back to try to win souls for Him from the college campus. That experience led me to realize that we need to study to love the Lord with all our MIND, as well as heart, soul and strength. It is not that the other things are not important. They most certainly are. And, surely should be a balance in our lives. However, as there are organs in the physical body that have specialized functions, there are organs in the body of Christ that have their specialized functions as well. Every cell needs to have the basic life processes functioning properly and regularly for the cell to be alive, but each cell also needs to have a specialized function to contribute to the overall well-being of the body as a whole. No one cell can do all that the body needs, and Paul pointed out that even “lesser” organs have important functions that contribute to the good of the body as a whole so that there is a unity in that diversity.
So, I have long felt a need to help supply a balance to the body in the area of the intellectual and mental worldview, which is often neglected by Christians in our day. It was refreshing to see a movie like “God’s Not Dead” showing how we can begin to restore a balance in that area.
In college there are many things that do not square well with the Bible. They are in many classes and subjects besides philosophy, some fields and subjects more than others. There are a number of possible responses we can have to those problems, including but not limited to…
– reject the Christian faith;
– reject the classroom and drop out of college;
– just get through the course without challenging the issues raised;
– believe what the classroom taught is true, but the Bible is also true. ( But this will subtly undermine one’s faith if the classroom clams to be teaching “knowledge” yet what is being taught is in fact false; as Paul said to Timothy, what is falsely called knowledge or falsely called science has damaged the faith of those who profess such false knowledge. To paraphrase a quote from Ronald Reagan: “It is not what you think you know that is the problem, but what you ‘know’ that ain’t so [that is the problem].” )
– Or, you can do what was one of the original founding purposes of Harvard College (founded in 1636), stated in an early student handbook: To lay Christ as the foundation and root of all genuine knowledge and all real wisdom, and build from there.
That last approach to the problems is the most difficult path, because it requires triple or quadruple intellectual work. You must …
– Learn what they are teaching, right or wrong, and sometimes understand their point of view better than they understand it.
– Seek to discern and determine what parts are right and what are wrong, and articulate your reasons for those determinations, even if they are only tentative.
– If something is wrong, study to learn why it is wrong both biblically and in terms of the things we observe in creation. Because God created everything, there is no genuine contradiction between so His words written in scripture in the Bible and the things we can observe in what He has made.
– And finally, if you decide something is wrong, generally you will be challenged to present an alternative, a positive theory or view that is at least consistent with Scripture (even though it need not be the only possible “answer”). (As the freshman who refused to say “God is dead” was challenged to defend “God is alive.”)
Obviously these things are not done in isolation from others. Christian apologetics is no more an individualistic endeavor by isolated people than any area of life and thought. We are social beings that live in community. Even as language is learned from the community, so also all areas of life and thought are extended by a community effort. As iron sharpens iron, so we can and do sharpen each other in community. And, that is how our Creator made us to be: We need the community and we also can contribute to the community.
It is important to defend the possibility of absolute truth.
It is important to defend the idea of knowledge from revelation.
It is important to remember that knowledge makes arrogant but love edifies.
It is important for us to grow in Christ in many different ways.
However, I want to build on those things to extend the worldview beyond those fundamental apologetic questions into every area of life and thought, especially those areas which are used to challenge the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Colossians 2:8-9).
This book (blog) will endeavor to contribute to the discussion in terms of a systematic effort to examine and expound principles and ideas that allow us to have a distinctively Christian worldview, and to defend the fact that we are talking about the REAL world in which every human being lives, not just some subjective ideas that are “true for you personally.”
By the grace of God and with God’s help, I want to show that we can build all our thoughts in every area of life and thought on God’s revealed word in Scriptures. The emphasis will not be on the “personal, family, church, and funeral parlor” as important as those things are in their appropriate time and place. The emphasis will be on the subjects we learn in schools and colleges, see portrayed in zoos and botanical gardens and museums, see in the music and movies our culture produces, and even hear about in the news . . . in short, ideas and issues that affect all of us, that seep into every area of our culture, even if we are not high school or college students at the present.
Please note that I will not be seeking to “prove” the existence of God.
Why is that? Because the Bible never does it. Because the Bible says that all men already know (or once knew) the Creator, and that they hold down (suppress) that knowledge. However, God says that because they cannot escape knowing their Creator from the things that are made, they are truly “without excuse.” (Romans 1:18-21 & 26)
Remember, I said we need to show biblically and then from the things that are made, so there is an alternative and additional answer to why I will not “prove” God’s existence:
When someone claims we need to prove that God exists, one way to respond is to ask them:
What kind of proof would you accept?
Proof in mathematics takes things that are accepted as true (axioms) to prove less obvious things (theorems). In other words, “proof” takes things that are more obvious or more real and uses reasoning to determine things that are less obvious or initially less “real” to the one making the “proof.” If God created all things, nothing is more real or more obvious than He is. Creation speaks knowledge and reveals his eternal power and Godhead to all who observe it. So all men know Him (or knew Him at one time but did not retain that knowledge). Therefore, no one (at least no one with the mental capability of asking the question) has any legitimate excuse for suppressing that knowledge.
But what about the person who does not know there is a God?
Response already given above: There is no such person. (Romans 1:18-21 & 26 explains.) (Please note that people who are too young, or unconscious and in a coma, or who have advanced dementia, etc. do not provide any excuse for those who have enough awareness to raise a question about such people. Clearly they will be fairly judged by a God who is Love and who does not desire to lose any person to sin and evil and rebellion. It is like the question: What about those who never hear about Jesus? If there are such people, they provide no excuse for those who raise the question, for clearly such a questioner HAS heard about Jesus as the question itself proves, so the questioner will still be held to account for what he already knows. People who never had an opportunity to hear about Jesus will be judged fairly by a God who is Love and who does not desire that any should perish and be lost from His purposes for their lives.)
In short, because all reasoning begins with axioms or things assumed, then the choice of such foundational principles is a human endeavor for all except God Himself. And, since reasoning is affected by sin and rebellion against the Creator, it taints all of us, even our thinking and reasoning. So, my defense of Scripture is to build all my thoughts and ideas on Scripture. It is Scripture that holds up my reasoning, not my reasoning that holds up Scripture. Therefore, it is not for me to persuade or convince anyone that I am right. But all Christians are called to give an answer for the hope that is in them. So we can share how we build our thoughts and ideas on Scripture.
But they do not believe Scripture, some will say.
Response: It is not in my power to change their beliefs, especially not with human words and human ideas. Rather it is the work of the Holy Spirit to use God’s word from Scripture to convince them in their hearts what is true. Even Jesus did not try to convince them, but rather said, “If any man wants to do the will of God, he will know whether the teaching comes from God or merely from me.” (John 7:17). Which is more powerful to change hearts: My human reasoning, or God’s word revealed in Scripture? When my answers in any given area of study or thinking are based in God’s written word, then listeners are exposed to Scripture. Christians often recognize the truth due to the testimony of the Spirit to their hearts. And the Holy Spirit can use Scripture to convince anyone who thinks otherwise. All we need to do is testify or witness to how that Scripture informs and shapes our own thinking, leaving it to God’s Spirit to convince anyone else what is correct.
In this book (blog), we shall endeavor to describe a biblical view of the REAL world:
– and show how we can live by it, (if you need another “c”, add to the list
And, this we will attempt to do, God permitting and enabling.
(RSH2014Mar24M9-11PM-11:45PM&2014Mar27Th1:00PM; last rev.2015Jun26F12:13PM)
———- ———- ———- —