Tag Archives: theology

Will It End?

Of course I drag my feet long enough in responding to this that the original source article is no longer available. But Tobias Buckell “recently referred”:http://www.tobiasbuckell.com/2007/01/11/25-of-americans-believe-world-will-end-this-year/ to an AP article that reported that 25% of Americans think that Jesus will return this year. ((The actual verbiage is that 22% of Americans think that Jesus’ return this year is ‘highly likely’.)) To which I resond:

Why? What makes this year any different?

Now, granted, that quarter of the population may turn out to be right, but I _would_ be curious to know what ‘evidence’ they would refer to in making such a prediction. Matthew 24:36-39 makes it quite clear that no man will know when Christ will actually return. This from the mouth of Jesus Himself. Many have tried to predict His return, even being so conceited as to seat these predictions inside so-called ‘prophecies’. And time and again, those predictions have been proven wrong.

The only thing we can know with any assurance is that we live in the end times. Even Paul and other apostles of the early Church claimed that they were in the end times. But we don’t know how long they will last or when Christ’s return will occur. It’s best to live like His return could be any day, but it seems foolhardy to try to actually make concrete predictions about this event.

Not Something We Have Yet

We’ve been tackling the book of Hebrews on Sunday mornings recently, and yesterday we hit the difficult passage in Hebrews 6:4-12. It hits on the topic of “apostasy”:http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/apostasy. What makes this passage so difficult is that it’s easy to derive from it that an individual can lose their salvation. Our speaker Nate Irwin pointed out, though, that the question, ‘Can you lose your salvation,’ is actually the wrong question to ask.

The word ‘salvation’ is actually used rather infrequently throughout the New Testament, and in nearly every place where it occurs, it indicates a future event, pointing toward something that has not yet occurred. Scripture seems to indicate that salvation itself is not actually granted until a person dies, hence the frequency with which salvation is referred in terms of “hope”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hope.

This actually explains a lot to me in terms of those who call themselves Christians and spend years in productive ministry only to fall away later and renounce their faith. The best explanation I’ve ever been able to provide for such behavior is that these folks weren’t Christians to begin with. Now, I have reason to believe that what really occurs is that perhaps these folks give up the faith, rejecting the gift of salvation, and essentially turning away from their hope. They turn apostate, and as such, they lose the _hope_ of their salvation. This passage is also clear that, short of a miraculous work of God, it is impossible to return these lost sheep to the fold – they have tasted and experienced the revelation of salvation and rejected it. In turning away from it, they harden their hearts to such a degree that it is nearly impossible to turn back again (though nothing is ever final until death). It would seem that it is harder to turn an apostate back to the faith than it is to bring to faith late in life one who has lived in unbelief all his life.

While salvation is only finalized upon death, this still does not mean that there is anything a man can do to _earn_ his salvation. No works will ever achieve a level of righteousness great enough to be declared worthy of Heaven in a man’s own merits. He must still believe and have faith – and it takes oh so little faith – but most importantly, he must hold to this faith and walk in it all his life in order to secure the hope of his salvation. This puts the onus back on the man to ensure that he walks faithfully and lives righteously (to demonstrate his faith). Salvation, then, is not the ‘free pass’ that many American Christians seem to think it is – you pray the prayer, receive the gift, and then go right back to living your life the way you were. That is not what salvation is about. It is about a life-changing, life-altering, regenerative change that makes a man more than he was previously. This does not mean, of course, that a man cannot still fail and fall into sin, but the true believer who holds a true faith will not be happy living in such sin and will, at the Holy Spirit’s urging, turn again from it. He will, in short, exhibit the fruits of the Spirit. And if such fruit is not present, then it is likely that this individual has not been truly regenerated and does not truly hold the faith.

Our speaker in the service yesterday evening reviewed the morning message briefly and said that a better question to ask then ‘Can I lose my salvation?’ is ‘Can I lose my “justification”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justification?’ I’m still looking into that one, since it involves understanding the nature of what justification is and how it is granted. I’ll get back to you on that one.

Forthcoming

I’ve just quite a bit of material to write about, all of it stacking up in the queue. Most of it right now has to do with theology and philosophy and the like, some of it has to do with writing, and some to do with gaming. All of it requires a clear head to mull over and think through coherently enough to formulate something worthwhile from the rabble, and so I’ve pushed it off for a few days now. My heart may be into writing, but my mind simply can’t keep up right now.

To give you a little idea of what I have on the table right now, here’s a list of entries I’m hoping to draft in the somewhat near future:

* A response to statements that the Bible may not actually be inerrant
* A response to the charge that C.S. Lewis himself may not have considered the Bible to be inerrant
* Musings on the use (or lack thereof) of classical logic in today’s culture
* The disappearance of antithetical logic
* The social nuances of avid bloggers
* An objection to bookstores that are beginning to place science fiction and fantasy novels in separate categories
* A little blurb on eschatology
* Video games in politics – again
* Storytelling in video games – just how important is it?
* The relationship and similarities of statistics and psychology

I’ll even give you folks a choice – which of the above topics sounds most interesting to you? What would you like me to write about first?

Christians and Scientific Discussion

I stumbled across another interesting “science blog”:http://highlyallochthonous.blogspot.com yesterday, this one focusing primarily on Earth Science. In “this entry”:http://highlyallochthonous.blogspot.com/2006/12/truth-in-science-on-newsnight.html, Chris Rowan makes a couple of statements that all scientists (especially _Christian_ scientists) should take into consideration:

Furthermore, to properly interpret criticism you need a firm theoretical understanding of the theory you’re criticising.

This is one the primary reasons why lately I’ve tried to curtail myself from writing on topics about which I have very little knowledge and expertise. There are few things so embarrassing as making a dogmatic point only to find out you’re wrong and then have to backpedal.

I’ve watched a number of Christians debate certain scientific points, and it quickly becomes evident that these folks clearly have a less-than-adequate understanding of the other side of the argument. So most of the time arguing is spent trying to get the Christian to understand the point that the secular scientist is trying to make, rather than actually debating the merits of the argument itself and the supporting (or damning) evidence from both camps.

And let’s be clear – “evolution can’t explain x, therefore ID” is not an example of the scientific method in action, and “an unspecified intelligence at some point did something to DNA by some unspecified mechanism” is not a scientific hypothesis. When you make some positive hypotheses about the nature of God- sorry, The Designer- and when and how he has done his designing, and show (by experiment, not assertion) that your hypotheses explain the facts better than evolution does, then biologists might start taking ID seriously.

In the field of science, I’ve seen researchers on both sides of a lot of issues fall into exactly this kind of trap. Most commonly, it is the Christian scientists ((Let me be clear here – when I say ‘Christian scientist’, I am _not_ referring to the particular philosophy/religion/cult of Christian Science; I am merely making a distinction between the average secular scientist and the scientist who possesses a belief in a creator God.)) who will make specific claims, only to have them fall under the weight of evidence from evolutionary scientists.

As a result, I have to wonder how much of science from Christian research organizations is founded on actual evidence and research and how much is simply airy exclamations based on theological beliefs. Don’t get me wrong – I do believe the Bible to be accurate, and I believe in a literal, 6-day creation and intelligent design. But I fear that far too many scientists who are Christians try to make science fit into theology. I believe that science and theology _can_ complement one another, even when they seem to be in opposition. ((I attribute this to the fact that mankind’s understanding of the universe is finite and that there is likely no way possible that we will ever be able to understand everything, even under the best and most rigorous scientific study.))

I believe that Christian scientists do a great disservice to both science and theology when they try to force scientific evidence to fit their own personal theologies. I think that fear plays a large part in _why_ they try, though – science and rationality sometimes have a way of shaking one’s faith in the existence of God, especially when they seem to support the traditional Darwinian evolutionary viewpoint. But rather than facing their fear and examining fact, far too many Christian scientists take information gleaned in the scientific community and try to force it to fit a specific mold. Consequently, they come off looking like fools and their research is quickly debunked as garbage. ((For the record, I’m sure that even if they had indisputable evidence backing their claims, there would be those in the scientific community who would laugh and scoff. You always have naysayers.))

At any rate, it’s a little food for thought, and as always, this entry is open for discussion and debate. And I believe that reading through Chris’ site may inspire some interesting and new story ideas.

A Noticeable Shift

Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen a noticeable shift in focus on my blogroll. A lot of the blogs I’ve been reading that deal with faith and spirituality issues have been thinned a great deal while my writing-related blogroll has expanded substantially. I’m actually rather amused by the shift because it says something about my interest levels in these two types of blogs.

The trimming of faith-related blogs from my blogroll is not indicative of any disinterest in the topics and issues of the Christian faith. No, I’m still quite interested in such topics, and I continue to keep the “Open Dialogue forum”:http://open-dialogue.com/forum running in the event that anyone would care to use it for discussion, as still happens occasionally. The trimming does, however, reflect my dissatisfication with the vast majority of faith-based blogs on the web these days. Most of the ones I’ve read seem to ultimately only spin their wheels in an endless cycle of philosophical and theological rumination. Except that, instead of digesting truth and processing it to some worthwhile end, most of these individuals seem to prefer to spit it back out onto the ground, a warm, soggy mess that, in the end, never yields any kind of spiritual nutrition.

I guess you could say that I’ve grown frustrated with the seemingly endless process that most Christians today go through of spending entirely too much time wondering aloud about the nature of our relationship with God and what we as Christians are to do about it. It could be that these folks are, indeed, physically active in their churches and communities trying to apply the truth of Scripture to their lives and reflect Christ to those around them. If such is the case, however, it is not reflected in the content of their blogs. What I see are continual arguings and bickering among folks who are supposed to be of like mind, rehashing issues and ideas and topics that have been hashed over and over again, seemingly with no ground gained. I find this both troubling and particularly frustrating to watch and be a part of. They never leave the communities of their local churches because they’ve become mired in the process of “figuring things out” rather than taking the Good News to those who’ve never heard. They’ve lost sight of what they are to be about and what it is they are here to do.

For a while I lent my voice to the din, expressing my thoughts and sharing in the process of learningm, but in recent weeks, I’ve opted to back out and back away from most of these ongoing discussions. The words, actions, and reactions of so many involved – Christian and non-Christian alike – have served only to exacerbate my cynicism toward the American church. So, rather than continue to involve myself through this medium and risk losing myself completely to such negative attitudes, I’ve backed away and left them alone, choosing instead to take a more personal, one-on-one approach with folks via email, IM, and face-to-face encounters. And these I find much more satisfying.

In the vacuum this change has brought, I’ve begun to more aggressively pursue my writing, and so my writing blogroll has expanded to fill the void left by the trimming of my blogroll’s other half. Writing has given me that creative outlet my inner artist has so craved and proven to be much more refreshing than I could have expected. I still don’t get to write nearly as much as I’d like to yet, but I’m becoming more and more involved in the writing community. In the process I’m getting to kill two birds with a single stone – I get to write all these fun stories while being able to periodically talk about faith-related issues with interested people.

It’s an interesting ride, to say the least, and I feel content in being able to have, in some ways, the best of both worlds.

Faith

“Eric Bailey”:http://www.xanga.com/YOYOY008 has what may be the “most profound statement on understanding faith”:http://www.xanga.com/YOYOY008/534408149/faith.html that I’ve heard in quite some time. He recaps the story of Abraham and Isaac, the sacrifice commanded by God on top of that mountain, and Abraham’s unquestioning obedience. Eric also points out the impossibility of faith, the juxtaposition of two things that cannot both be true. Powerful, dynamic faith not only believes that both can be true but that both will occur. Surely, Abraham both believed that God would make a great nation from Isaac and that he would sacrifice his son. Hebrews states that Abraham actually believed that God would raise Isaac from the ashes.

Here is the most notable quote from Eric’s thoughts, the summary and point of his contemplations:

You not only have to know that the mountain will move, but that it is impossible to move it.

And you must know both without any doubt.

… Get it yet?

Faith is something of a divine madness — It transcends understanding, it transcends words, feelings, expression, life…

Or, at least, it _should_.

Abraham.

Go give the whole thing a read. He makes a most insightful point.

Finite to Infinite

I’ve been delighted that a “friend”:http://fadingdust.wordpress.com of mine has joined the ranks of bloggers. He never fails to stimulate my thinking, and his “entry”:http://fadingdust.wordpress.com/2006/09/03/evil-problems/ from the other day is no exception:

bq. As to another application, while studying philosophy here in seminary, I’m curious about Plato & Natural Theology. Philosophy has always been ‘searching’ for a conception of God that is ‘pure-God’, consistent, full, beyond disbelief. But it’s a search without an end. Who’s to say your conception of God “is”? You conception of God will never be The Concept of God, it will always only be Your Conception of God, in-so-far as it’s based only in your head & not in external info (like God’s own self-revelation).

As usual, I’m taking one piece of his monologue and running in a slightly different, but related, direction with it. Yes, I like philosophical rabbit-trails. They’re fun.

He’s correct in saying that no conception of God will ever be consistent, full, or beyond disbelief. Ultimately, none of us can ever have a concept or understanding of God that is comprehensive and total. God is, by definition, infinite; we as humans are, by definition, finite. It is simply impossible to fit the infinite into the finite. The finite will never be able to contain it all, let alone comprehend it or understand it. This is the nature of the created to the Creator. He will always, ever be so much bigger than us that all we will ever be able to understand of Him will be just the very, very tip of a massive iceberg. In point of fact, it is safe to say that our human (finite) understanding of an infinite God will always be infinitely small.

This is exactly the reason why faith is a necessary factor in relating to an infinite God. We have to understand that, since we are infinitely smaller than Him, there will always be an infinite number of things about Him that we simply cannot comprehend or understand, that will be forever beyond our reach to see, know, or experience. This is why faith is absolutely crucial to our ability to relate to an infinite God. We have to trust that God is good, despite the fact that He does not reveal everything to us, knowing that we are simply unable to grasp all that knowledge.

This is also why science will always fail to fully explain everything that exists and happens in the universe. Science is, by its very nature, a finite tool. It is a construct of finite men and so is inherently limited. Because the ability of men to see and know and understand is limited, so too is science limited in the same ways. Science _is_ a useful tool for learning more about that which finite men can experience, but science can never be the all-encompassing, comprehensive tool of study that mankind would like it to be.

Faith and science are not mutually exclusive tools. They are, in fact, complements to one another, particularly when wielded with wisdom and patience.

Paths of Viewpoint

Interesting. Rob “pointed”:http://www.rmcrob.com/?p=3008 me at a link for a Christian philosophy “blog”:http://triablogue.blogspot.com/ that endeavors to address some deep philsophical arguments coming out of at least one corner of the atheistic community. At this point I’ve read only the three entries at the top of the page, but in just the few moments in which I have done this, I’ve followed a link-path that has illuminated what is, to me, an intriguing juxtaposition of viewpoints and reactions.

1) Rob sees Steve as being full of himself. I see Steve simply as knowing what he believes so well that he is able to defend his beliefs very eloquently from a philosophical viewpoint.

2) Both Steve and John Loftus (whom Steve has been going head-to-head with lately) see each other as taking snippets of the others’ arguments and presenting them out of context and in so doing twisting the arguments to put words in each others’ mouths.

3) John has added an “entry”:http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/12/poisoning-well.html to his “blog”:http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ (shared with several other authors) ranting about how some people on the web are “poison[ing] the well.” I’m sure he had Steve in mind when he wrote that, particularly since John left a comment on his site today. What I find interesting is that John wrote that rant on his own site, then neglected to disallow the option for anyone to comment or leave feedback.

As I said, interesting. Both Steve and John just got added to my blogroll and daily reading list. I’ve always enjoyed good philosophical discussion and being prompted to think deeply on some of the weightier matters of life and faith. I think I’ll follow both these men for a little while and see what takes place in their discussions. Heck, I may even opt to contribute, and I’m sure there will probably be fodder for writing some things of my own here.

Relating to the Powers-That-Be

My Bible study from a couple of days ago wanted me to write out what I have learned about submission from a series of verses. This was the second one on the list.

bq. ^5^Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.
Romans 13:5

There wasn’t much to go on there. The ‘therefore’ indicated that there was an entire discussion prior to this verse and that this phrase was simply the conclusion. Additionally, because I read the verse alone, ‘because of conscience’ left me wondering exactly what Paul was talking about. Context is always critical in the exposition of Scripture, so I backed up a few verses to the beginning of this thought.

bq. ^1^Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. ^2^Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. ^3^For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. ^4^For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. ^5^Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.
Romans 13:1-5

Now, this passage clearly indicates that all authorities in all governments the world over are put into place by God Himself. There is no leader that has his position that God has not willed to have that place of prominence. Therefore, rebellion against these authorities is also direct rebellion against God. In rebelling against our leaders, we are, in essence, shaking our collective fists at God and saying that His choice of a leader for us was bad.

What I find interesting about this passage is the statement that doing what is right will reap a commendation from the one in authority, where doing wrong will reap only terror. Now, granted, this is not always the case. Sometimes doing the right thing will, in fact, earn us an undesirable result, but I do know of stories where someone did the right thing, even under a merciless dictator, and was rewarded for doing so. The principle applies – doing the right thing will usually earn the respect of those in charge.

I do think that this passage supports the notion that we get the leaders we deserve. I think of a country like Iraq, burdened for so long under the cruel government of a murdering dictator. Or Iran, with their continual problems with harsh leaders. This begs the question – would an entire nation that serves a god other than Jehovah naturally find themselves governed by ruthless leaders? Is that why Iran continues to have problems with bloodthirsty authorities? Another question then – would we, as a nation, then be wrong or unjust to interfere with what God has established by removing these leaders from power? Or would that, too, be in God’s will, either by providing a new, hopefully better leadership (i.e. democratic government) or by instituting an equally ruthless dictator (i.e. putting Saddam in power)? Either way it goes, I believe that it still works out in God’s will. He still provides the leadership that the people deserve, for however long that may be.

Ultimately, the admonition is clear and still relevant to today – we submit to God’s appointed authorities, whether they be political, religious, or social, so that we might avoid His judgment but also because it is the only right thing to do. He placed them where they are for our benefit, and as such we are to obey them.

Rich Theology

At the Men of Purity conference over the weekend, we sang this song. ((There’s nothing quite so powerful and spiritually moving as hearing 800 men singing worship songs together.)) I love the words, love the music, love the richness of theology described herein. Take a moment to reflect on the words and to think about what they mean. I don’t know how anyone can read, hear, or sing these words and not fall in love with Jesus all over again.

In Christ Alone
by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty © 2002

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
‘til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand