Great content using the pre-suppostional approach to apologetics.
Why does God allow an obliteration of people in a natural disaster without seemingly a thought or concern? Why God doesn’t just remove Satan and his evil schemes that he executes in this world? If God is all-powerful (omnipotent), this task would certainly be within his power. If God is all-knowing (omniscience), he knows the evil processes Satan will instigate. If God is all-loving and completely good, God should want to protect his children from any harm that may come to them.
• Evil is at work in this world, but not in the next.
God created the world in which the difficulty of evil/sin is possible, but it was not in his design that we participate in it. Man created the problem of sin and brokenness at the first fall of Adam. Adam exercised his free will by choosing to deny our creator’s direct command and ate the forbidden fruit. (Genesis 3:6-7) Written in his book, Intellectuals don’t need God & other modern myths, Alister McGrath maintained, “How do they (we) know that there cannot be morally sufficient reasons for God permitting suffering?” Consider the possibility that to “die” from this life and go to heaven is not punishment. Philippians 1:21 reveals, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”, therefore, gaining entrance into a heaven with overwhelming joy, happiness, and love. Do we as finite humans, with limited knowledge, have a capacity to judge if evil that has occurred is not allowed by God for sufficient reasons unknown to us? It is within boundaries of God’s known character attributes that he is all-loving. With that assurance we can assume that God is restraining evil in this world. God is inhibiting wickedness until his overall redemptive strategy is achieved. This permits all who will come to know Jesus Christ time to place their faith in him.
23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:23–24)
One would assume that God could stop evil, but to do so would require the end of this world. No one knows “the day or hour” of the end as we are told twice in the gospel of Matthew and once in the gospel of Mark. “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32) To have an all-knowing God intervene during times of great evil would diminish the reason for sending his son to bear the suffering of this life for us. There is no pain, murder, evil, hate or anything not perfect in heaven. Yes, God could make it trouble-free to gain the promised reward heaven, but at what cost? The cost was his Son, and at his suffering, the admission price was paid. To maroon his children in the precarious position of an opulent spoiled child, waiting for the great protection of a parent would lead us to be unable to freely choose God’s forgiveness and grace He provided in Jesus.
Man, a broken self-deprecating individual could not justly determine the level of pain or evil at which point God should intercede. Would murder be the precipitating evil? How many murders must occur prior to intervention? Should the count be taken into consideration, the murder of one or the murder of 100 or more? If the needless killing is of someone who has lived a long fulfilling life, then is this considered a “needless death”? Does the death of a young child hold more weight within the balance of judgment of evil? Man’s finite mind is in no position to make decisions such as these, as all life is considered sacred. If not murder, what about natural evils that are not initiated by man? If we pronounce floods, tsunamis and other natural disasters that appear to our finite minds to needlessly take life as sufficiently wrong humanity cannot rightly conclude as to what level of disaster should or should not be contained as we have no visibility to the destination of the intended purposes.
God can and does intercede against all forms and methods of evil and when doing so carries out His design for His creation. We are not God, so to second-guess when God should or should not step in places us as God’s equal. Equal footing between God and man does not increase the status of man, but serves to decrease the status of a perfect, all loving, all knowing God. By doing this, He then ceases to be God. We need God to be God; man needs God in all his impeccable glory.
• So God restrains evil in this world, what does this mean for me?
Shake your fists, yell, scream and stomp your feet at God, and plead with Him to intervene for all wickedness and earthly sufferings. God is great enough to shoulder the burden. Place your reliance for security in this life in one who was sent to bear the evil and sin of this world, Christ Jesus. If it is God’s will to stop the evil for the last time he will do so. Directing your attention to Him is to correctly place your faith and expectant optimism exactly where it should be.
“4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelations 21:4)
McGrath, A. (1993). Intellectual Barriers to Faith. In Intellectuals don’t need God & other modern myths: Building bridges to faith through apologetics. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Re 21:4, Mark 13:32). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
The New International Version. (2011). (1 Pe 2:23–24). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Events of the past week were disheartening. Many in our society watched in dismay as the unthinkable became a reality and a new law of the land. Many thought it would never come to this. Some thought the battle was lost long ago and this day was inevitable. Personally I watched in shock and amazement as the battle shifted to social media. Dividing lines were drawn, statements proclaimed. Each claiming their “moral high ground” as masses watched and condemned or applauded the proclamation. Many pronounced the “who am I to judge position” or the “#LoveWins in the end” position. As this unfolded, I question where we are as church, universally speaking. Are we really fulfilling the great commission? Is this what the prescriptive commands in the Bible are to have us do?
As a universal Christian church we have lost our ability to provide a witness for the gospel of Jesus Christ by relinquishing the ability to properly evaluate society and/or a person’s actions or beliefs.
• You shouldn’t judge!
Many take the Bible passage in Matthew 7:1 of “Judge not, that you will be judged” and stop there. The prohibition is not to judge others in the same way as the, “Pharisees, who were very rigid and severe, very magisterial and supercilious, in condemning all about them, as those commonly are, that are proud and conceited in justifying themselves.” (Henry, M. 1994) Unfortunately, this first century exegesis of the Biblical text fails to carry over to a modern context very well. We are considering this passage in the 21st century context. There are no Pharisees currently around, but many still attempt to act as they did 2000 years ago. This line of thought from Jesus is cautioning us against judging hypocritically, uncharitably, unmercifully, with a spirit of revenge, and a desire to do damage. We should however, “Counsel him, and help him, but do not judge him.” (Henry, M. 1994)
Nonetheless, the statement of “You shouldn’t judge!” needs to be addressed. Do people judge other actions, items or people? Yes, and it is absurd to think that we do not do this waking moment of every day! A “You shouldn’t judge!” assertion is a self-refuting statement. A self-refuting statement is defined; “a statement is one that fails to meet its own standard, as another example, “I cannot speak a word in English.” We have to judge in order to function. We judge our behavior, others behavior, thoughts, what they value, and what they believe as determination of what coincides with reality. The “You shouldn’t judge!” statement is a judgment! It makes a claim to know truth. A value proposition of what is right and what is wrong.
For the sake of argument, let’s investigate what the Bible provides as a prescriptive command not to judge. John the Baptist in Matthew 3:7 told the Pharisees and Sadducees, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” I ask you this, how did John know the Pharisees and Sadducees were a “brood of vipers”? John formulated a judgment of their actions and behaviors and called them into repentance! Other example is Paul speaking in Athens in Acts 17. Paul is rendering a judgment against their culture of idols that they worship.
22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:22-25)
The Apostle Paul and John the Baptizer, with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, made a judgment claims against a society, a culture, and groups. They attempted to show them the inaccuracies of their worldviews that would not lead them to repentance and righteousness before the one true God. As people of the 21st century, and as Christians, we are called to do the same. By pointing to the one true God, the one God who sent his Son so we may have redemption when placing our trust in him.
• Can we fulfill the mission?
The recent political decisions are not the end of the world. We should remind each other that the Christian faith has rarely been in the advantageous position in either culture or the political realms in the past 2000 years. This is but another small step to removing the coherent truth claims of the gospel message from the public square of ideas. What are we to do?
While many stimulating sermon messages this past weekend were crafted and conveyed, many used the “love wins in the end” perspective. Twitter hashtags created the #LoveWins message further creating a buzz of anticipation in the social media realm. Both sides of the argument claimed “love” and rainbows with an exciting splash of colors permeated all corners of the internet. While this made everyone feel really good. Happy colors have a way of uplifting a person’s philological state. (Basic commercial marketing 101) It accomplished nothing in the way of constructive dialog about the issues our culture faces.
#LoveWins alienates both sides from the issue at hand. Both are claiming to be “loving” faction. From the Christian perspective, love does NOT win, love HAS ALREADY won. Love won at the cross of Calvary when Jesus was crucified for us. All of us, nasty, gross, deplorable, self-serving sinners benefited from God’s redemptive action in his creation. Jesus was sent as a sign of God’s claim on his creation providing pathway to him as a substitutionary atonement that diverts God’s wrath. Yes, wrath! You cannot have love without hate. An example is; if you love children, you hate child abuse. You cannot have one without the other. It follows then, if God loves his people, created in the likeness of himself, there will be a natural hate of sin because of his love for us. In some aspects, the universal church has minimized this attribute of God. God will not be mocked and there is a wrath of God coming for those who make the willing choice not to follow him. Additionally, a #Lovewins mantra fails to address the full totality of the problem. A biblical love is “sacrificial, efficacious, and seeks what is right (1 Corinthians 13) and it cannot intersect with sin.” Yes, love your neighbor, but no, I do not have to affirm or condone sinful behavior. It would be the same if; I in my sinful nature was having an inappropriate relationship with my neighbor’s wife. You, as my other neighbor knew this was taking place. At this point you’re forced to make a judgment. Is this right or is it wrong? Remember, for those who may wish to walk the fence on this, you receive no free pass. No judgment of right or wrong is really a judgment. A non-decision is really a decision stated in the words you do not speak. Sexual sin is sin and it is wrong.
Speaking to my own community of faith, our leadership provided a message that was thoughtful and timely regarding our current cultural state. Outlined in the message were points to consider about Satan’s actions in God’s creation. To follow along with those points made, I wish to go one step further. How do we look to ourselves and make our lives a consistent Christian witness?
1. Stop the defeatist Christian naval gazing!
Collectively more time is spent watching television, posting pictures of stupidity on social media (guilty!) and faking a coherent Christian worldview then actually engaging in a discussion about problems of the heart (read, sinful nature) we all have. Your children, your car, your job, even you spouse are not god, but in some cases, we have made them one. The one true God should be your God, and if you really proclaim him as Christ and Lord of all, then do the difficult work and open your Bible and learn something about him!
2. Engage in learning!
Learn about the issues and how to develop a Christian worldview. Read a book. Not just any book, but a book that discusses the historical positons of the Christian church. Something written by a pillar of the Christian faith (Wesley, Calvin, or Luther) or by a highly educated scholar and the book was critically reviewed by their peers. Any new-age semi-Christian spiritual garbage written by a “popular” pastor, who ignores the basic tenets of the Christian faith, is rubbish.
3. Connect with a Growth Group and get in the game!
The modern church so adores the doctrines of Justification and Adoption, but barely utters anything about the doctrines of Sanctification and Perseverance. (If you don’t know what those words mean, you just proved my point.) Learn the doctrines of the Christian faith and learn how to teach them to your family and defend them in the public square of ideas.
• In conclusion…
Stop looking at the left or right political party to save you. Learn everything you can about the one true Savior of the world. He alone is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. (Rev 19:16) God is sovereign over all, but we have a role to play in his Kingdom.
I end this post with an open invitation to the members of my community of faith. If you disagree with me, then engage me. You can go sulk in the corner and talk about how the “guy who writes about God” spoke harshly or you can connect with me on the City and we will open the scriptures, examine what the word says, figure how to apply it and defend it.
If we can’t even create disciples among ourselves, then how can we expect to be salt and light to a broken world that desperately needs to hear the message…
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” (Matthew 5:13)
Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 1643). Peabody: Hendrickson.
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7)
Bold words for a rural carpenter whose extremely countercultural opinions for first century prevailing thinking. What was Jesus talking about? Who was he to make such a claim that all people should look to him to be reconciled to the one true God? He was God himself. His position as the second person of the Trinity allowed him to make demands that others must consider. He had credibility to speak like this; he performed miracles the world had never seen. He turned water into wine, healed an invalid and walked on water. Still with this information available to people, why would they not place their trust in him?
- Sin is the fundamental problem.
Society is damaged. It is damaged due to broken people that make up that society. Every one of us has a heart of stone. (Ezekiel 11:19) It is this hard heart that makes us indifferent to the truth. When we cannot hear truth, any truth we hear sounds like animosity towards the person as a whole.
Sin closes the mind to truth. Christians are often accused to be narrow minded by claiming Jesus is the only way to God. I cannot dispute that some Christians are very narrow minded. But, there is a larger issue in play here. Christians imperfectly attempt to follow where the evidence leads. Christianity is a testable religion based on evidence and reality. We look at the world through a lens of the Bible. We are not opposed to science and pragmatic theories. We desire to follow the information to where it leads us. If that information leads us to the biblical creation account or the evolutionary theory, so be it. Both accounts will not remove a creator God from the picture. God needs to be considered when contemplating about how we fit into His creation and plan. Compare this to an atheistic worldview. They claim that there is no God and this non-god did not create anything, but the world a nothing more than a random causation of atoms. These atoms collected at just the right amount and the right time to create all we see in the material world. The material world is all that exists by their interpretation. To transform this worldview is very difficult. They refuse to study any other evidence outside of the material world. Christians consider information from both sides. Christians are the open-minded group; perhaps the atheistic can be deemed the narrow-minded crowd.
“12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
Whether you believe in God or not it takes is five minutes with the evening news to understand that society is in trouble. There is a sin problem not just in our culture, but in the world as a whole. A materialist will say, “All we need is more education and society will behave in a kinder fashion towards their fellow man.” The Christian will say, “Yes, education is a part of the solution. However the dark selfish heart of man cannot be remedied only by education, but by a conversion of the heart through Jesus Christ.” (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26) A Christian holds both sides in a tension, of this world and the world that is to come. (John 8:23, 18:36, 18:32) We know how the human heart is, depraved. This is apparent for basically two reasons. First, it is the reality of which we live. We see through war, starvation, and sexual exploitation that we do not treat each other very well. In the second place, the Biblical account states that we are people separated from God by sin. No matter how good we try to be we cannot remove the hardness of our hearts on our own. (Romans 7:17-20) The Bible is confirming the facts we already knew, that our hearts are corrupt and evil because of sin. However, the Bible outlines the solution for our brokenness and does not leave us on our own. (Romans 3:23-25)
Other religions claim this world is a non-reality (Buddhism), appeal to views that this life is a payment for mistakes in another life (Hinduism), or demand a system of works to appease a God that is unknowable. (Islam) Each of these beliefs is a manifestation from inside the human heart. None of these addresses the problem as it lies before us. We cannot be reconciled to the creator God of the universe without Christ Jesus. Dr. Paul Copan Ph.D. philosophy, Marquette University remarks: “The founders of the world’s great religions made no claims as extravagant as Jesus of Nazareth did: to forgive sins, to be the judge of all, to always be present with his followers throughout the ages, to hear their prayers. Because of Jesus’ claims the earliest believers were even referred to as being members of The Way.”
“27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:27)
- If Jesus is the only way, what does this mean for me?
Followers of Jesus Christ are many things. Some of them are very good, some of them not so good. Nevertheless, narrow-minded we should not be. We imperfectly look at both sides, all the evidence and direct our hearts to where it leads. To do otherwise would be closing humanity off to the greatest narrative the world has ever seen. The one true God that created the universe sent the redemptive salvation of Jesus Christ for us all!
Powell, D. (2006). Holman Quick-Source Guide to Christian Apologetics (p. 324). Nashville, TN: Holman Reference.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Acts 4:12 , Mt 11:27, John 14:6–7). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Canyon Creek introduces Whiteboarding our Faith- Every 4th Wednesday night at the Everett Campus.
Whiteboard Christianity is a freethinking, interactive, discussion forum that is open to all.
Have friends that do not believe in God, bring them! Have friends that believe another religion or another denomination, bring them too!
Each session will contain great conversation where we will wrestle with the essential questions of life and grow stronger in our faith.
Only one rule: All people are respected and in the end, we may not all agree, but we will still be great friends!
Great article on starting conversations. Enjoy!
Everyone is concerned with his or her future destiny. These infinite, open-ended questions of the afterlife appear to us at random times. A death of a beloved family member, an emotional television program or a story told by a friend may provide the mind cause to bring thoughts like these into focus. What happens to us when this life is over? Are Heaven angels bearing wings and harps, sitting on the clouds? Is there a final judgment for individuals, holding them accountable for their actions in this life? If there is a Heaven, does that mean there is Hell also? How can God send someone to Hell instead of Heaven? Is Heaven as great as a Christian believes? Both believers and unbelievers continually wrestle with the reality of an afterlife, heaven and causation’s for an eternal destiny. The questions are real, worthy of asking and insisting of solid answers.
What happens to us after this life is over has been fiercely debated by the science and philosophy disciplines for centuries. Science, while excellent with providing a hypothesis in this area can do little to provide concrete evidence. The existence of heaven cannot be tested evidentially by a designed experiment as with other areas of science. It would follow that since science has little to add, philosophy or more specifically the philosophy of religion is the discipline of choice. Well known Italian physicist and philosopher Galileo Galilei stated, “…the scriptures tell us how to go to heaven, but not how the heavens go.” (Groothuis, 2013) Depending on your beliefs, Jesus of Nazareth is the only one that has been to heaven and returned. An explanation of heaven, the nature of what heaven is, and well-defined directives to gain entrance are contained in the scriptural New Testament account of Jesus and his teachings. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV) offers a sense of this life is not the end. “16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” This verse tells us that even with our earthly bodies “wasting away”, there is more. “The eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” describes heaven as a place where no association to anything in this life can be drawn too. Many have heard the stereotypical descriptions of heaven, and these thoughts come to mind; all white, with no distinguishing colors, drifting angels sitting of puffy clouds, softly playing harps and of course the “wings”. Verse 21:1 (ESV) in the book of Revelations offers insight as to how heaven will be upon the second coming of Christ. “1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” This is a tremendous statement. The weight of this shatters the myth of a placid, color neutral heavenly world, while a brand new heaven and earth is established. This would point to a fully restored earth, with real ground for God’s children to dwell and live within the magnificence of Christ and not drifting around on free-floating clouds. Revelations 21:3 (ESV) affords the believer another reason for excitement, as God himself will live in his newly created heavenly earth among us. 3 “…Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” The claim of no pain and crying, all former problems of this life will be gone offers a fantastic argument for belief in heaven. When this life is completed a gift is given. The gift of heaven is one of a new earth, where we will live among our Lord. Consequently, if we are to interpret these biblical texts correctly, no white clouds, wings and harps will be available.
Life on earth can be difficult and unjust. Humanity continues to act selfishly towards one another letting our own self-centeredness wound people we do not know. Even the people we hold closest to our hearts are not immune to unjustifiable hurt and distress. The cries for justice and fairness are heard constantly. As a community, we incorrectly look to government at all levels to protect us from ourselves. This is a misplaced hope, as hope ought to be in the one who created the heavens and earth. Naturally, with God’s promise of heaven also comes with the price of hell. This justice will befall on both believers and skeptics at the Day of Judgment. Each of us will be held accountable for our actions. Actions directed toward others, but also actions imparted on ourselves will be scrutinized. This is true justice. Justice divided fairly and in equal measure from a God fully outside the limits of a finite morality. It follows then if our actions and thoughts are true to God, heaven will be the reward but the opposite hell needs to exist for those who choose a life apart from God. How can a just and loving God send someone to an eternity of hell? How could God not send the unrepentant and unrighteous to hell? For God to unequally measure out justice would make God less of the God he is. God is the quintessential characterization of fairness. In this life, we desperately need him to be God in all of his immensity.
Sin is so horrendous to God, take into account the verse of Matthew 18:9 (ESV) “And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.” The Apostle Matthew uses an incredibly strong analogy that if your eye sins, it would be better to remove the offending body part than continuing in that sin. In the book of James our spoken words are called into question, “And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” James 3:6 (ESV) These verses are two of many in the Gospels that repeat God’s command for belief in Him and requiring a change of your life for following the only sinless one, Jesus. These passages are direct calls to repent and do our very best to lead a sinless life. At this point, God has literally no choice but to disseminate judgments to hell, if after these declarations man still chooses to exercise his or her “free will” and live a life apart from Him. A one-dimensional definition of Heaven and Hell can be understood as follows:
- Heaven, an everlasting life living with God’s greatness and glory in his predestined creation.
- Hell is an interminable existence of deadness while living apart from God and all His creation.
Heaven is as great as a Christian believes! Luke 12:32 (ESV) 32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” God wants to invite us into the Kingdom of Heaven. “Good pleasure” is the phrasing used by the Apostle Luke. The Lord wants to offer us the pleasure of being in his sight. As discussed earlier, scripture does not give the impression of a heavenly space void of all color or a drifting space of clouds. Actually, scripture alludes to heaven as a great feast or party. Isaiah 25:6 (ESV) “6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.” This verse is very powerful with its description of “great” wine and “rich” food alluding to a magnificent celebration. In addition, Revelations 21:18-21 describes, “walls built of Jasper and a city of pure Gold and Glass”. Other jewels are depicted as well, Sapphire, Emerald, Onyx, Carnelian, Beryl and Amethyst among others. All the colors, food and drink in their splendor are illustrated in these scriptural accounts of Heaven. What images come to mind? Perhaps this invokes a great earthly vastness, full of glory and significance grounded in a physical reality, with no pain and sorrow with endless amounts of hope. Contemplate the absolute greatest time ever in your life. Thoughtfully think about on how you felt inside. Now, wonder about what this feeling would be if it was momentously more than it was. The finite human mind can hardly conceive let alone dream of a “heaven” this tremendous.
All have been offered admittance to this heavenly world, whether is the offer is accepted is a choice everyone must make. Micah 6:8 (ESV) “8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God…”