Church, Where Is Your Joy?

Joy

Today in church, we were awarded a special treat. We witnessed a profession of faith and two baptisms and a testimony. While professions of faith and baptisms are an absolute blessing to the church, this post will focus exclusively on the testimony. Allow me to paraphrase the joyful message we heard below:

After being challenged to confess her sins to God by her unchurched mother, she feels guilt for avoiding church and putting it off, so, alone with her child, she finally gives in and confesses. When she does this, she did so completely with an open mind and an open heart. To her amazement, she heard words, though not with her ears, that she had not used before this moment. The words were not hers, but they were spoken into her heart. And then, she confessed.

After her confession, since she had missed church, she found a church service streamed online. The sermon mentioned Isaiah 43:18-19.

She quickly looked up this verse in the pages of a used teen study bible someone had given to her. Within the Word of God, she read the verse, noting not only God’s answer to her confession, but that out of every verse in her used study bible, this verse was the only one marked with a highlighter. The only one. Through His Word God told her:

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”  Isaiah 43:18-19

While it occurred to me and many others that a wonderful thing had happened to her, later, I thought of something else. Much of what happened to this young lady we can see fits into a portion of our church order of worship.

http://network.crcna.org/worship/historic-order-worship

Some churches have a different order and may have slimmed it down to just a few headings, but in this order, we have Gathering/Praise, Confession, Proclamation, Response to the Word, Lord’s Supper, and Sending. I am, of course, paying close attention to the Confession section of worship here. Within that section we have sub-headings: Call to Confession, Prayer of Confession, Assurance of Pardon, Passing the Peace, and Response to Thanksgiving.

It occurred to me that God had lead her through part of this order of worship without the presence of a pastor, worship leader, choir, or congregation. Our Good Good Father came down to meet her in her own living room and, with Him and her baby son, she had church there. She experienced the Holy Spirit Calling her to confession through her mother. God lead her through her Prayer of Confession. God, then, Assured her of His plans for her in Isaiah 43:18-19. She received Peace from the Lord over the condition of her heart and along with that, a desire to joyfully tell others what He has done for her in Thanksgiving.

My telling of this event in this way is not to say that these things (pastor, worship leader, etc,) are unimportant, but to show that we as believers in Christ and church-goers get to follow this order of worship every week and some of us can still remain unmoved by it.  Why is that?

Unless you were there, it is hard to adequately describe the energy and joyfulness by which she had told us what God had done for her.  The room was electrified.  And why shouldn’t it be?  God performed a miracle on this woman’s heart just as He has for you and me.  I find the joyful manner by which she delivered her message to be almost as important as the Word she shared with us.  My hope, going forward, is that those blessed to be in attendance will not let this detail fade from their memories.  It is for this reason I humbly ask: Church, where is your joy?

Please pray with me: Lord, if we haven’t felt this way in a while, may this be us again.

God Bless.

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More Than Matter

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Are you more valuable than the chair on which you sit or the desk at which you work?  If you are an atheist, how do you come to a conclusion?

Some people who make the claim that God does not exist or that they aren’t convinced that God exists do not understand that materialism is their default position.  Materialism, being the claim that all that exists is material (matter), is a big problem for the atheist because, if no God exists, all material things, in the objective sense, can only be equal to all other material things.  There lacks an objective way to determine value.  So, ultimately, you could not reason that you are more valuable than furniture.

I think they (materialists) think that by escaping the dominion of a Good Good Father, they may continue on their own merry way without repercussion.  When by denying God in favor of materialism, they have actually injected themselves into a universe without meaning, objective mortality, and laws of logic, since these things are all immaterial.  They also find themselves without the faculties to discover truth.

Of course, nobody who claims the non-existence of God acts like the default position of materialism is true.  They actually behave more consistently with those who believe in God.  They work and learn and create in ways that exhibit meaningful lives.  They follow an objectively moral path that condemns violence against the helpless and condemns lying and cheating.  And they champion their intellect as a way to solve problems and, ironically, as a way to reason that the very God that gave them the ability to do so does not exist.

Speaking of intellect, why would you trust anything that you know if your intelligence is not the product of greater intelligence, a Great Mind?  Why believe anything you think is true?  Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, John Lennox explains:

“There are not many options — essentially, just two. Either human intelligence ultimately owes its origin to mindless matter or there is a Creator. It is strange that some people claim that it is their intelligence that leads them to prefer the first to the second.”

So when materialists disagree with this article, they have already defeated themselves because their own worldview turns the very action of reasoning into a mere series of predetermined physical causes that can only result in a conclusion based on the collision of material in one’s brain, instead of a process by which one can determine truth, wherever the evidence may lead, based on observation and logic.  How do you find truth on a world where predetermined bodily physics determines what we think, how we feel, and how we act?  Answer is, you don’t.

The fact is that we defeat materialistic claims every moment of our lives.  To illustrate, facebook friend Paul Ross poetically writes:

“I transcend matter everytime I have a thought, because matter (Impersonal mindless purposeless undirected processes) are not conscious. Everytime I make a decision, because matter has no will.

Everytime I move in faith, because matter has no beliefs. Everytime I care, because matter could not care less.

 Everytime I reason, because matter is devoid of reasoning.  Everytime I intend something, because matter has no intentions.

Everytime I purpose something, because matter has no purpose, and everytime I pray, because matter has no requests.”

Again, the doctrine of Materialism maintains that you are only a product of the material of which you are composed.  Nothing more.  I say doctrine because this is a system of belief just like any of religion.  The difference here is that those of theism actually describe reality completely.

Accepting materialism as reality puts you in conflict with common sense as well as God. He says you are more.  You are valuable.  You are a moral creation.  You are a conscious being.  Whether theist or atheist, you already understand this to be true.  How do I know this?  Because Romans 1: 19-20 proclaims it.  But also because you profess this every day with the way you live your life.

God Bless.

The Good Good Father vs. The Straw god

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A true tragedy within contemporary culture is the great amount of people, some even claiming to be Christians, who do not understand the character of God.  In some cases, their animosity does not seem to be based in mere misunderstanding, but in strategy.  Willingly or unwittingly, they create gods of their own choosing, what I will call Straw gods (small “g”).  Like straw man arguments, these ideas are formed in order to defeat a god who is fallible, limited, not all-powerful, not holy, or all-knowing.  Below, I would like to give a few examples of just such questions or statements that confuse a Straw god with the God of the Bible, explain the inherent problems with them, and even try to answer them in a way that will not support their faulty premises.  To do that, I will humbly borrow the theological gravitas of Arthur W. Pink and his book, “The Attributes of God”, from which I will quote extensively.

Before we begin, I want my readers to know that I sampled these questions from various atheist/ Christian Facebook groups.  These are real questions that should demonstrate to us the magnitude of our culture’s inability to understand who our Good Good Father is.

Let’s proceed.

 

Question #1.  Shouldn’t a god who commits mass murder be held accountable?

The answer is yes.  But a god who commits mass murder cannot be the God of the bible.  The questioner, here, posits a Straw god who can be convicted of a crime (murder) and then be held accountable for said crime.  The holiness of this god is called into question, as well as his sovereignty.  One is moved to ask if this god that isn’t all good or all powerful or all moral is worthy of our praise?  Truly, the one named in this question is not.

The Bible tells us that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John1:5).  Certainly, a being without darkness would not be a murderer.  Such diabolical claims are most often made in relation to Old Testament commands to utterly destroy enemies of Israel, punishing them for their grave disobedience.  Either way, it is our sinful world that deserves God’s punishment.  Punishment, not murder.  These deaths occurred due to the despicable things done to one another and done to a people who had been warned, but remained in direct rebellion against their creator.  Pink explains:

“Because God is holy he hates all sin. . . It follows, therefore, that he must necessarily punish sin.  Sin can no more exist without demanding his punishment than without requiring his hatred of it.  God has often forgiven sinners but he never forgives sin; and the sinner is only forgiven on the ground of Another having borne his punishment . . .” (page 54)

Other times, questioners may conflate the existence of natural disasters, like hurricanes and tsunamis, with a murderous god.  After all, aren’t God’s decrees the “counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11).  The problem here is that these “acts of God” seem to be the only acts attributed to Him.  Isn’t a beautiful warm summer day an act of God?  A cool refreshing breeze?  Rain for the farmer’s crops?  But when we see an event happen that, with our limited knowledge, we deem to be negative, doesn’t it seem that these are the only acts God must be responsible for?  Pink offers:

“O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to children of men” (Ps. 107:8).  Gratitude is the return justly required from the objects of his beneficence; yet it is often withheld from out great Benefactor simply because his goodness is so constant and so abundant.  It is lightly esteemed because it is exercised toward us in the common course of events.  It is not felt because we daily experience it.” (page 77)

A page earlier Pink talks about examples of God’s goodness revealed in our human experiences:

“With comparatively rare exceptions, men and women, experience a far greater number of days of health than they do of sickness and pain.  There is much more creature happiness than creature-misery in the world.  Even our sorrows admit of considerable alleviation, and God has given to the human mind a pliability which adapts itself to circumstances and makes the most of them.”  (page 76)

Truth is, the proof of God’s eternal goodness cannot not be explained by the results of a  temporary existence.  Exiting the material world does not mark the end of the human experience of those who love God.

Still, they will call Him a murderer or genocidal.  If we are to accept this characterization of our Good Good Father, we also must ask ourselves the following questions:

How is it possible for the creator of the morality to be immoral since immorality is a deficiency of perfect morality?  It is not.  God is the maximal Being.  He cannot exhibit traits that are not perfect.  

By what standard can we judge a being who made us?  It is one thing to pass judgement upon someone who resides on our same footing, a coworker, friend, or neighbor, but it is an entirely different story to act as judge over a being of infinite perfection.

The question then asks shouldn’t God be held accountable.  Whom could He possibly be held accountable to?  If there is one, to which, our God could be held accountable, that being would then be God.

We, as believers, rejoice in the fact that our holy God has absolute authority over creation.  Clearly, the Straw god in question #1 is about one that is unholy and not good and without authority.

Question #2.  Why would a loving God send anyone to hell?

So the Straw god put forth is one that cannot reconcile his loving nature with his nature of wrath.  This is not the God of the Bible worshiped by Christians.  According to His word (1 John 4:8, Ps. 7:11), God is all loving and yet the wrath of God is another perfect facet of his Divine character.  To infer otherwise, as this question does, misunderstands both attributes.

In his book, mentioned above, Pink lists several qualities related to His perfect love and makes the point that “it is not simply that God ‘loves’, but that He is love (1John 4:8).  Love is not merely one of his attributes, but His very nature” (page 98).  So because He is love and He is sovereign, infinite, holy, immutable, and gracious, it stands to reason that so is His love.

After having defined God as love itself, the skeptic might propose that His reaction to the rebellion by His creation to His face should also be loving, which is in keeping with his identity.  To this, I would say that God’s response to those violating the law is wholly loving.  His response is the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.   Folks that are moved to respond to this supremely loving act are saved, given eternal life. For those who are unmoved by Him, He respects their will to remain separated from His presence.  Moreover, “How could he who is the Sum of all excellency look with equal satisfaction upon virtue and vice, wisdom and folly?” (page 106)  In other words, how should a being whose every nature is perfect respond to what is “impure and vile”?  Wouldn’t not judging evil be, in fact, unloving and violate His divine character?  In effect, wouldn’t it also be a “moral blemish” attributed to a morally perfect God?  Pink says, “Indifference to sin is a moral blemish, and he who hates it not is a moral leper” (page 106).

Clearly, in order for God to be God, He must be able to reconcile all his Divine characteristics.  That is the Good Good Father that deserves our worship.

Question #3.  Can’t god get rid of evil?

It should be noted that often the same skeptic who has asked questions #1 and 2, at another time, may turn around and ask question #3.  Which creates a no-win situation.  One where God can neither punish evil or let evil reside without accusation.  And clearly, if this questioner is one that adheres to materialist belief, it should be asked of them how their concept of evil is grounded, since if material is all that exists, they cannot possibly believe in such a thing as evil in the first place.

But back to the subject.  The question is really the first part of a famous quote of ancient philosopher Epicurus:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?  Then he is not omnipotent.  Is he able but not willing?  Then he is malevolent.  Is he both able and willing?  Then whence cometh evil?  Is he neither able nor willing?  Then why call him God?”

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?”  Of course, He is able.  Pink opens his chapter entitled “The Power of God” with this:

“We cannot have a right conception of God unless we think of him as all-powerful, as well as all-wise.  He who cannot do what he will and perform all his pleasure cannot be God.  As God hath a will to resolve what he deems good, so has he the power to execute his will.”  (page 58)

It’s really this simple.  Any god who is limited in any way cannot be the God of the Bible.  The question most people get hung up on, and I suppose rightly so, is why He would allow evil.  Please remember though that with His power, as Pink comments, comes wisdom.  God is not like a bully on the playground who does not know his own strength.  He has reasons, perfect reasons, even though we do not know what they are at every moment.  But, ask yourself, why would we know the absolute motivations of a perfect being when we are as we are?  We are woefully dependent upon Him and His providence.

Admittedly, the information above does not prove or serve as evidence for the existence of God.  It is to serve as somewhat of a guide for your conversations with seekers or non-believers about our Good Good Father.  With this culture war, we cannot allow skeptics to reintroduce the Him as a less than perfect being.  We must defend the true God of the Bible, instead of the Straw god promoted by a secularist culture whom is simply set up to fail.

God Bless.

Proof, Evidence, and A Good Good Father

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In my last article, Atheists Don’t Exist, commentors keyed on the idea that atheists simply lack a belief in a God or gods.  According to them, they do not make knowledge statements regarding the existence of God or gods, as I attributed to them.  While I refuse to believe that most atheists do not hold an opinion on this subject, through our discussion an interesting distinction was made.  It was posited that if either side of the argument had “proof” there would not be a debate.  Well, this site is dedicated to providing evidence for the existence of a Good Good Father.  So I had to ask myself,  “Isn’t evidence proof?”

The short answer is no.  Evidence, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary, is “something that makes another thing evident”.  With evident defined as “easy to see or perceive; clear”.  While proof is understood to mean “a proving or testing of something” or “evidence that establishes the truth of something”. The definitions do sound kind of similar, right?  I would differentiate the terms by saying that proof is the highest standard of truth.  If you prove something, you do so as a mathematical certainty.  Evidence, on the other hand, needs to be considered and analyzed to substantiate or diminish a belief. Unfortunately, I have observed these words used interchangeably on numerous occasions and, in this case, regarding the reasonableness of the existence of God.

As I searched for a way to describe the difference between proof and evidence succinctly, I found this on-point quote by Oxford mathematician Dr. John Lennox:

“Can you prove that there is a God?  In a mathematical sense no, but proving anything is very difficult.  The word proof has two meanings.  There’s the rigorous meaning in maths that is difficult to do and rare.  But then there’s the other meaning – beyond a reasonable doubt.”

So when I hear the familiar “there is no evidence for the existence of God”, I should really hear “there is no conclusive evidence for the existence of God”.  Of which, I can agree.  But certainly, there is plenty of evidence for the existence of a Good Good Father at our disposal.  None of it, however, can be considered a proof, but, as Professor Lennox supports, real world mathematical proofs are “difficult and rare”.  Consequently, approaching a discussion or debate with these parameters for success, clearly, represents an act of futility since achieving such a high standard of certainty is so tall a task.  This might explain why non-believers never apply these high standards to issues they tout.  Ask yourself, can such a proof be made for macroevolution?

That said, the devout non-believer still might say, “I only believe things that can be conclusively proven.  For example, I can prove gravity.  If I drop this book, I can prove that it will fall to the floor”.

Right.  With respect to Dr. Lennox, it isn’t hard to prove something that is observable.  You might be able to prove that it falls that particular instance and the next and then the next after that.  But can you prove that it will always fall?  Or that it always has fallen?  More so, what you have done is make a prediction based on prior experience of the effects of gravity on other books and similar items.  You may have faith that the book will always fall, but you can’t prove it always will.  In fact, the only reason you know the book fell is because you observed it.  Again, can you prove it fell yesterday?  According to the question above, if you can’t, well, then you shouldn’t believe that it did.  In fact, should someone ask you if the book would have fallen yesterday, your  honest answer should be “I don’t know” if you cannot prove it did.

Sure, this all sounds a tad silly.  Of course, you believe that the book will fall even without mathematical proof.  But you do so because you have seen books and other solid materials fall in the past and in the present.  You have good evidence.  You noticed that you have never observed an instance where a solid object knocked off a table had not fallen to the floor.  So with the evidence of prior experience, you’ve made a reasonable assumption that it will happen again.  You’ve considered evidence from reality to support a belief.

But then you might say, “I get this, but you are comparing a book, an object we can see, with the workings of an invisible God.  Why should I believe something that cannot be proven or that I can’t see?”

To that, I would offer that you already do.  There are plenty of other things, that you use everyday, that you don’t bother questioning even though you cannot prove how or why they work.  Math is one of them.  Math is a concept.  Like all concepts, it is immaterial.  In other words, the number three does not exist in the physical realm.  You have never seen a number three, other than in the sense that it represents a number of items on a page or screen or in real life.  You may see three apples, but what you see are the apples, not the number.  The Scientific Method is another example.  How do you test the Scientific Method to see if it works?  You don’t.  You just have to have faith that it does.  Otherwise, you couldn’t do math or science.  In fact, if someone were to state that “only things that can be proven are true”, how would this person prove that that very statement is true?

See, when you do not have to deal with the burden of conclusive proof, you are free to give answers that, after careful analysis, make the case for the existence of God in the Theism vs. Atheism debate.  Answers that show that non-believers require more faith than believers do in order to live out their beliefs.  No longer will you need to be stymied by demands of mathematical certainty that your opponents require, but do not apply to their own beliefs.  Instances that fail to be a search for truth, but rather, serve to impede the achievement of any resolution or enlightenment.

So when an atheist coyly posts the familiar, “You know that you are an atheist too, right. You deny the existence of Thor, Odin, and all the other pagan gods.  We simply go one god farther than you.”  You can respond to them that we can reject those small “g” gods because we simply have more compelling evidential support for the creator God of the Bible.  Tell of the evidence from history, philosophy, science, logic, etc.  Then ask, by what evidence do you deny mine?  And wait.

Maybe, at this point, you want to know what the evidence from history, philosophy, science and logic is?  Or maybe you just want to be able to better explain to a loved one why you believe what you do.  Well, “Like” this blog and every so often new content will be sent to your email.  My intent is to simply present the evidence, hopefully, in an easy-to-understand, but informative and respectful way .  You can decide what to do with it.  Let me leave you with this quote from the great C.S. Lewis:

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance.  The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

While the quote speaks of Christianity, the same rings true for theism.  If God exists, this understanding requires action.  How can what we do when faced with the evidence for the existence of God be anything other than infinitely important?
God Bless.

Atheists Don’t Exist

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Atheists do not give themselves enough credit for achieving such a high level of certainty while announcing definitively that God does not exist.  One can only assume that such a revelation could only be put forth if the entire universe had been painstakingly searched for the presence of a deity.  That the vastness of time and space had been conquered.  And knowledge of every dimension had been accrued and analyzed.

Of course, the atheist hasn’t really accomplished any of this.  Nor has he considered the overwhelming amount of evidence provided by science, history, philosophy, and logic.  Much of the time, they avoid accepting the burden of proof by claiming that they simply lack a belief in a God and positing that it’s the theist’s job to change their (the atheist’s) mind.  Sadly, debating from a position of weakness.

But where does this certainty come from?  Isn’t “God doesn’t exist” an incredibly bold claim, considering how easily the notion can be debunked?  From his book, The Answer to the Atheist Handbook, Romanian minister Richard Wurmbrand, who was imprisoned for his Christian beliefs by communists in 1948, discusses the folly of such atheist assertions:

“Atheists assert that there is no God.  How can they be sure?  The book you are reading was conceived in prison.  The guards regularly searched our cells for forbidden objects . . . They did not find them.  We waited until they had left.  Then we took them out of their hiding places.  You search a cell for an object and you do not find it.  But is it right to maintain that it is not there?  Who has searched the infinite universe to ascertain that there is no God?”

But what if it could be true? What if an atheist could attain this kind of knowledge?  Then we have a different problem.  For argument’s sake, he has somehow traversed the far reaches of the universe, in search of a deity.  Having achieved knowledge of all time and space.  And searched every dimension, momentously finding it lacking a Good Good Father.  Wouldn’t that person adorned with special attributes and abilities such as these, in fact, be God?

Clearly, a material being does not exist that could accomplish what atheists claim because they are not equipped for the job.  This being would have to be eternal and all powerful so as not to be constrained by time and distance.  He would need to be immaterial and limitless in order to constantly observe all of reality simultaneously in the event that, like Wurmbrand’s guards, the deity might reappear when the atheist left any particular corner of the universe.

So one needs the characteristics of God to know definitively that God does not exist.  Who has the characteristics of God?  Answer:   only God.  Crunch!  The atheist’s premise is promptly crushed under it’s own weight.

No, the intellectually honest atheist cannot be an atheist at all.  The best defense he can muster would be to claim that the evidence of God is unconvincing or the God’s existence is unknowable.  Taking the person from atheism to agnosticism.  The philosopher Alvin Plantinga refers to this when he said:

“. . . lack of evidence [for God], if  indeed evidence is lacking, is no grounds for atheism.  No one thinks there is good evidence for the proposition that there is an even number of stars; but also, no one thinks the right conclusion to draw is that there are an uneven number of stars.  The right conclusion would instead be agnosticism.  In the same way, the failure of theistic arguments, if they indeed fail, might conceivably be good grounds for agnosticism, but not for atheism.  Atheism, like even-star-ism, would presumably be the sort of belief you can hold rationally only if you have strong arguments or evidence.”

The honest agnostic cannot confirm or, more importantly, deny the existence of a Good Good Father.

God bless.

 

 

Inconsistent Atheism

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Naturalistic Atheism describes a universe ruled only by the push and pull of blind natural forces upon matter.  Nothing else exists apart from the physical world.  Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins provided a popular illustration of this worldview in his 1996 book, River Out Of Eden:

“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice.  The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no other good.  Nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.  DNA neither knows nor cares.  DNA just is.  And we dance to its music.”

Is this consistent with the way anyone actually lives?  Do atheists actually see the universe this way?  Can society accept the ramifications of this worldview?    The answer to all three questions is a resounding no.  One only has to review the claims made above and apply them to their own life to refute them.  Described above is a rather cold world, void of meaning, justice, and any sense of good or evil.  An existence, I suspect, that most would agree is not their experience of reality.

The immediate problem here is that Dawkins tells us life is without meaning because the universe is controlled by blind physical forces and genetic replication.  He’s using science in an attempt to convince us that something immaterial does not exist.  Does anyone else see a problem?  Of course, science can only report on things that can be tested.  So is it any wonder that Dr. Dawkins cannot discover meaning through the lens of his microscope? Or record it’s weight?  Or identify its origin?  The use of observational science to respond to a philosophical problem is inappropriate since these kind of questions simply cannot be answered by science.  So, instead, scientists, like Dawkins, must discount the existence of meaning, and a meaning-giver, right from the start.

Here’s what I mean by meaning.  According to James Anderson’s inciteful article from www.thegospelcoalition.org called, “Can Life Have Meaning Without God?”, meaning involves the careful consideration of at least three concepts:  purpose, significance, and value.  Folks who may be afraid to sound boastful need not worry that proclaiming meaning for their life is as conceited as it sounds. After all,  after some personal introspection, don’t you think that most people see their lives as having a fundamental goal (purpose), a contribution to the grand scheme of things (significance), and a betterment of the world (value).  According to Dr. Dawkins, atheists don’t believe this, or do they?  One only has to look at Dawkins’ own biography to see that he seems to believe that his life has meaning.  From his wikipedia page:

“He studied zoology at Balliol College, Oxford, graduating in 1962; while there, he was tutored by Nobel Prize-winning ethologist Nikolaas Tinbergen. He continued as a research student under Tinbergen’s supervision, receiving his MA and DPhil degrees by 1966, and remained a research assistant for another year.”

“In his scientific works, Dawkins is best known for his popularisation of the gene as the principal unit of selection in evolution; this view is most clearly set out in his books:[36]

The Selfish Gene (1976), in which he notes that “all life evolves by the differential survival of replicating entities”.

“Dawkins is an outspoken atheist and a supporter of various atheist, secular, and humanistic organisations. He is a patron of the British Humanist Association, and a supporter of the Brights movement.”

Wouldn’t studying zoology at Oxford, being tutored by a Nobel Prize winner, and earning Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees denote a life of purpose?  What if you were a writer of  successful scientific books aiming to accurately describe the universe?  Wouldn’t you say that pursuit is significant?  And why else would he support atheist, secular and humanistic organizations if he did not think his doing so would be of value?  No, Richard Dawkins says that life is without meaning, but lives in a manner that says quite the opposite.

You might say, “But wait.  Maybe the good doctor meant that meaning is not granted from outside one’s self.  Couldn’t he simply choose to commit his life to the noble pursuits of science and education thereby giving purpose, significance, and value to his own life?”

In response, that view sounds reasonable until you realize that if it were true then any one person’s self-created meaning would be equal to all other self-created meanings of the world.  In other words, Hitler’s meaning would be just as purposeful, significant, and valuable as Ghandi’s.  From Anderson’s article, “The only way we could non-arbitrarily discriminate between all these subjectively meaningful lives—to deem one better or more worthy than another—is by smuggling some objective values through the back door. Sooner or later the meaning-from-within camp has to pilfer from the meaning-from-outside camp.”

Furthermore, do you have the ability to bestow meaning onto your own life?  Can you give your own life meaning if your life lacks meaning from the beginning?  Anderson asks, “How can meaningful choices arise out of a meaningless life?”  The truth is that we lack the authority to give our own lives meaning due to our limited view of the big picture.  Wouldn’t any self-created meaning be based solely on our own personal whims?

Moreover, declaring that your life or anyone else’s life lacks meaning denies the obvious effect that one life may have on others.  In other words, even if German industrialist hero Oskar Schindler would have testified that his life was without meaning, the 1,200 Jewish laborers that he saved during the Holocaust, when asked, would certainly disagree.  Schindler’s actions during that horrible time in history meant the survival of generations of Jews.  An incredibly meaningful life indeed.

Discussion of the Holocaust can easily lead us to the next troubling aspect of Dawkins’s worldview:  justice and good or evil.  Again, we can call on another quote.  This one is a particularly over-the-top rant from the Dawkins’s bestseller on atheism, The God Delusion:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant    character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

If you compare the quote above from The God Delusion and the first quote from River Out Of Eden, you’ll notice the mention of justice in both instances.  More specifically, he says there isn’t “any justice” and that here the OT God is “unjust”.  How can this be?  Which quote is true, if either?  See, by painting God as unjust, he presupposes the existence of something just, since injustice is a deficiency of justice.  Dr. Frank Turek explains this compellingly about evil in his terrific book, “Stealing From God”:

“Evil is like rust in a car; If you take all the rust out of a car, you have a better car; if you take the car out of the rust, you have nothing. . . In other words, evil only makes sense against the backdrop of good.  That’s why we often describe evil as negations of good things.  We say someone is immoral, unjust, unfair, dishonest, etc.”

So to paraphrase Dawkins’s delusional quote:  God is not good.  This again takes an objective moral stand that is denied credibility in his first quote where he declares there is “no design, no purpose, no evil and no other good.”  Dawkins cannot resist because he has to know at some level that objective moral truths and values exist.  Meaning that there is truth beyond the push and pull of natural forces.  He cannot sustain his own view that the world is ruled only by moral opinion.

Undoubtedly, we would not recognize a society that lived out this worldview consistently.  This view allows the existence of a Holocaust that is not objectively wrong or evil.  The nazis could never be blamed for the horrors inflicted upon the Jewish people, since they were simply “dancing” to the music of their DNA.  This atrocity, that is, if atrocities could exist here, wouldn’t be their fault.  Calling acts such as these war crimes could only be considered, at worst, a mere difference of opinion.  Without the grounding of something or someone objectively good, each action in the universe would have equal value, none worse than another.

In his book, mentioned above, Dr. Frank Turek discusses a great example as to how far a consistent atheist would have to go to maintain his worldview, which occurred during a debate between Turek and David Silverman, president of American Atheists.  Dr. Turek pressed his opponent that without the existence of God, there is no objective morality (meaning right or wrong are not based on opinion).  Eventually, Silverman, in his pursuit of consistency, had to admit that there was no way to hold the nazis accountable for what they did.  The immoral nature of the Holocaust cannot be affirmed by the atheist worldview.  The kicker here is that Silverman is himself a Jew!  A world of consistent atheism is a world of complete madness.

Someone may say, “Wait, wait.  People have done horrible things in the name of Christ, haven’t they?  Are Christians any better?  What about their inconsistencies?”

Of course, Christians have fallen short.  You can look for examples throughout history or even the facebook pages of some believers.  But you should not judge a philosophy by its misuse.  And you are right, there are inconsistencies, but we have a name for those inconsistencies.  We call it sin.  And unlike atheism, Christianity has a solution for this problem:  The life-saving blood of Jesus Christ.

We have a Lord who stepped down from his throne in heaven and took our punishment because He loves us that much.  The reality of Him reveals lives of purpose, significance, and value and a universe where the shadows (injustice and evil), as Turek puts it, prove the sunshine (objective good).  Atheism only has these created, blind natural forces, physics against molecules, that fail miserably to describe reality as society observes it.  

God Bless.

Pain, Suffering, and a Good Good Father

pain-and-suffering-lawsuit

A few weeks ago, my wife and I saw a film called “Miracles From Heaven”.  It was okay, as faith-based films go.  It was based on a true story about a young girl and her family as she struggles with a disorder that prohibits her from digesting food properly.  We were drawn to this story because the young girl’s disorder is similar to the rare condition our daughter has called Superior Mesenteric Artery Syndrome (SMAS).   Again, a fine family film about believers facing tough situations.  There is a point in the film, however, where the mother, played by Jennifer Garner, asks her pastor a familiar question:

Why does a loving God allow pain and suffering?  

At this point in the film, the mother is disillusioned with her faith.  She refused to return to her church because the answers didn’t seem to be there.  The pastor didn’t even seem to know how to answer her question.  His response was something like, “I don’t know, but God loves you.”  It was an answer as unsatisfying to me as it was the movie mom up on the screen.

The popular lament calls into question God’s loving nature.  It asks how can He be truly loving if turmoil exists in the lives of even those who love Him.  Skeptics, ultimately, use this idea as a backdoor way to promote doubt for God’s existence, making it easier for those who are swept up in the emotional nature of their burdens to adopt their premise.  Truth is, when you factor in our gift of freewill and God’s purpose in creation, the presence of pain and suffering actually supports the existence of a loving Good Good Father.

At this point, I would like to caution my readers that the reasons for pain and suffering discussed in the article may not comfort someone currently facing a trial or burden.  The ideas here may seem insensitive in the wake of whatever hardships lay before them.  My hope is that we all may understand more deeply the function of pain and suffering in our lives.  The last thing I would want is for my words to inflame an already emotional situation.   So please, if you are struggling with something big, you are welcome to save this article for a better time.

That said, “Why does a loving God allow pain and suffering” is, nonetheless, an important question that has been asked for centuries.  It was the ancient philosopher Epicurus who asked:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?  Then he is not omnipotent.  Is he able, but not willing?  Then he is malevolent.  Is he both able and willing?  Then whence cometh evil?  Is he neither able nor willing?  Then why call him God?”

See, the thinly veiled accusation here is that since pain and suffering exists, a creator God who doesn’t act against it lacks value.  

So what, specifically, would a loving God have to alter to effectively banish these situations from the world?  To start, it seems that much pain and suffering could be prevented if God would simply limit our freedom of choice.  I mean, do we not suffer for the most part because of our bad choices?  Bankruptcy comes from poor choices with money.  Marital strife can emerge from the choice to lust for someone other than your spouse.  Friendships often dissolve due to our choice of words.  Bottom line, most times of trouble in our lives happen due to actions we take that we could simply stop, but we don’t.  So why doesn’t God simply eliminate these poor choices for us?  So that stealing, for example, just isn’t an option.  Clearly, if pain and suffering were not to exist, He would have to do this, right?

But then, we have another problem.  If God halts our ability to choose wrongly, doesn’t He, at the same time, prevent us from choosing rightly?  In encouraging God to act in this manner, don’t we relinquish the ability to define what is right?  Or what is right about humanity?

So what, you might say.  We would have a greater, better world.  One without divorce, incarceration, hurt feelings, and rejection.  The list of examples could go on and on.

Right.  But in what kind of reality would this leave us?  We currently live in a world where the shadows prove the sunshine.  Meaning that within the weaknesses of humanity, we also find our strengths. So it stands to reason that, in eliminating our weaknesses, we lose those strengths as well.  For example, since villains wouldn’t exist, neither would heroes.  There wouldn’t be victory without loss.  The concept of sacrifice would be just that, only a concept, if not played out in real life.  And can love truly exist in a world without the option of hate?  Ultimately, a world without the shadows leaves us in a world without the sunshine.

You might say, fine, but there are plenty of things that cause pain and suffering that don’t rely on our choice.  For example, hurricanes, famine, and cancer in children.  Why wouldn’t a loving God stop even these things from happening?

I would then ask if God’s “loving” act of stopping these events would actually satisfy the person asking this question?  For instance, what if God rid the world of hurricanes?  Would the skeptic now believe that God was loving and good?  Or would they continue down their list to the next item that causes pain and suffering?  Would they say, “Wait, it’s nice that we don’t have hurricanes anymore, but how can a loving God allow famine?”  Childhood cancer?  In response, God bans famine and childhood cancer from His creation.  Gone.  Now is God loving and good?  Would this satisfy the questioner when there are still things like earthquakes, floods, and droughts in existence?   Interestingly, as we go down the list, each of the most heinous violations become less egregious than the one before it.  Humanity would continue to cry out over the hardship of mental illness all the way down to the relatively benign discomfort of a simple hangnail.  Clearly, if we suppose God can only be loving based on his removal of pain and suffering from the universe, he can’t truly be loving and good if ANY examples of pain and suffering still exist no matter how small.

So how can God still be loving and good despite the presence of pain and suffering in our lives?

Well, to start, we need to go way back to the beginning of time.  It is widely accepted by the scientific community that the universe had a beginning.  The beginning may have started with a massive explosive event (Big Bang?).  In order for this to happen there needs to be a limitless, overwhelmingly powerful, immaterial, and personal mind that dwells outside of time and space to cause it to happen. Something not confined by the physical forces created in the presumed Big Bang explosion.  This is what we call God.  So before the creation of the universe, there was nothing.  No-thing.  And because God decided to, He created the universe.  His decision is the reason there is something instead of nothing.

The important part of His character for this discussion is his personal nature.  Meaning, he chooses to create.   And when something is created, it presupposes purpose.  Otherwise, why create?  Why create something when nothing will do? 

Because of God’s purposeful continual creative actions in the universe, isn’t it reasonable that our Good Good Father has a purpose for our pain and suffering too?  Even the tough seemingly unexplainable examples like childhood cancer?  Certainly, our limited understanding serves to prevent us from understanding the motives of a limitless, powerful, immaterial, and personal God.  For example, put yourself in place of the young daughter in the illustration below.

A father knows that in order to keep his young daughter safe from sickness and disease that she must endure an uncomfortable shot, a vaccination.  Due to limited knowledge, the child cannot see past the pain felt in that moment as the needle pierces her skin.  Frightened and confused, she wonders why this is happening.  She thinks, “My father is supposed to love me and take care of me.  How could he bring this pain upon me?  How could he stand by and let this happen?”

It isn’t until years pass and the daughter matured, having her own child, that she saw the value of the vaccination that she barely remembered as such a terrible betrayal.  Having gained more knowledge about the world, She realized that the pain and fear she felt was, in fact, a small price to pay for the sake of her health.  Best of all, she completely understood that her father loved her.

Are you familiar with how the young daughter feels?  What about the daughter, now older, in the second paragraph?  Of course, in this illustration, the father represents God and the daughter is all of us, His children.  So possessing the knowledge of children, in comparison to His knowledge, it is likely that we would not know His plans right now in the midst of our struggle, but the Bible, His inerrant word, tells us He is for us (Romans 8:31).  He loves us so much that He allowed His son to die so that we may one day live forever with Him.  So, faced with this great sacrifice, we are challenged to trust in Him and in His purpose for us.  Author Kevin DeYoung offers some insight in his book, “The Good News We Almost Forgot”:

“This is a sad world we live in, one in which God not only allows trouble, but at times, sends adversity to us.  Trust, therefore, does not mean hoping for the absence of pain but believing in the purpose of pain.”

DeYoung’s words highlight how we are often trapped within our struggles.  We rather hope for the absence of pain instead of it’s purpose.  The good news is that purpose opposes indifference.  Purpose infers a goal, an ending.  A plan.  The existence of purpose means that all the pain and suffering we face is not wasted.

Our daughter has a day-to-day struggle with pain from her condition.  She doesn’t always share with us how she feels, choosing instead to tough it out in order be treated like a normal teenager.  My wife has had to learn to sense when she’s having trouble most of the time.  Other times, it’s quite obvious.  My daughter can’t always eat what everyone else eats or be active after eating.  As a young girl, doctors accused her of being anorexic because she simply could not keep her food down and her symptoms fit the profile.  She’s dealt with long periods of time with a feeding tube fed through her nose into her stomach.  And my wife had to spend years tirelessly searching for medical advice for a disorder that, at the time, only hundreds of people, in history, have been diagnosed.  So why did a loving God let her be afflicted with this?  

There’s that question again.  At this point, it feels like the wrong question to ask.

Maybe we should ask, “What does our loving Good Good Father want with her?  Or, Lord, what are you trying to show us?  What are you preparing us for?”  Because what I believe is that with our daughter’s SMAS, our Good Good Father is making her who He created her to be.  Who she needs to be to fit His purpose for her life.  And if we do not understand this purpose right now, that’s okay.  We can trust that one day we might, God willing.

God bless.