Thursday, April 30, 2009

2 Peter 3:3-9

In my experiences, the activist "free thinker" varies among certain types, and the foundation of such a mentality is commonly based on one or more of the following conclusions:

~God is dead.
~God hates (or is apathetic of) humanity.
~God and science are incompatible.
~God is an ancient myth.
~God is for the weak, unintelligent person.

Every once in a while a new "naturalist bible" is released
(e.g. works by Hawking, Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and a number of others). Is this evidence of progressive science? Not necessarily, the conclusions of popular naturalist works, that the idea of God is insignificant, are of course similar; however, the premises leading to this conclusion are not always complementary to one another. On the contrary, an important method in scientific progression, quite obviously, is that a premise is to supply reason for a conclusion, not for an agenda. If the premises are arguably not in line with one another, then what basis is there for the ultimate conclusion? Generally, this conclusion of God's "insignificant value" is obsessively tossed around by use of various scientific premises, which is essentially man's arrogance of trying to make conclusions against religion strictly by using science. The result: an undeniable, underlying agenda and/or public entertainment further influencing today's misconceptions of progressive science. In short, the modern naturalists, if they wish to present considerable arguments, need better inductive reasoning and less arguments engulfed in non sequiturs.

Now, what is intelligent about debaters like Richard Dawkins is they pick easy targets to make their positions seem valid (e.g. attacking amateur fundamentalist Christians rather than debating Christian philosophers). Whenever studying apologetics and some of God's most recurring oppositions, many of which are particularly inspired by over-estimated, contemporary readings, such as Dawkins' The God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens' God Is Not Great, one can only witness truth in the following passage (2 Peter 3:3-9):

"First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, 'Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.' But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
Again, "With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day."

Evolution does not necessarily contradict creationism (it is of biological rather than theological relevance). On the contrary, it flows with the given biblical evidence. According to the Genesis account, on the seventh day God rested, quite possibly meaning, in God's time, converted to human time, the 7 trillionth day. This also occurs in the natural world; for example, the expanded correlation between the length of human years and dog years seems to be the case regarding the length of God years and human years. In reality, science is certainly not in conflict with religion, but as I previously mentioned, it is rather the arrogance of men - who grasp for straws in desperation to deny a transcendent God - and how they want to apply that science that is in conflict with religion.

Arguments against the significance of God have been made since the fall of man, but he is as alive and well as ever. An intelligent man, or "wisened fool", opposing the incalculable authority can believe he exceeds its presence or the necessity of it until his grave, when really he is merely a speck of a fool to such a patient and timeless God.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"The idea of a heaven sounds absurd!"

Absurdity is the ecstasy of intellectualism. Albert Camus once stated, "The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth." The concrete rationalist considers the attributes of Heaven to be absurd or maybe even unappealing. It also seems to be a kindergarten fairytale, or as author Christopher Hitchens horse laughs, "a ridiculous theme park". Such a conception is quite understandable; however, the true attributes of it are very sensible when more thoroughly observed.

To put Heaven into perspective the best I can, I am going to provide an excerpt that I previously wrote about the power of God:
"If [God] indeed showed himself in a more definitive manner, or according to our visual awareness (e.g. waving from the clouds on a golden sleigh, giant hands lifting mountains, etc.), a power so far beyond the universe suddenly interjecting the universe would demolish all in the vicinity [Richard Deem; God and Science]. This is justified by the very words of God, in Exodus 33:20, saying, 'You cannot see my face, for no man can see me and live.'

Simple examples tend to put seemingly great complexities into perspective. Imagine the power of a star resting billions of miles away. The light shines so brightly, it can still be seen regardless of its distance, but it is days old by the time it reaches our eyes. We know that human vision is harmed when staring into the closest star of all, the sun. The creator of substances as powerful as these must have a natural light far beyond any of the creation, including the power of the stars, therefore it is for our own good that we cannot see God in full form."
According to the given premises, all will be invigorated with enhanced entities capable of enduring the full presence of God. Additionally, when understanding that we are assimilated to an earth incapable of exhibiting the full presence of God, we then reveal further evidence that any place capable of exhibiting such must be physically incomprehensible from the current conception. As Richard Deem writes, '"Since Heaven is where God lives, it must contain more physical and temporal dimensions than those found in this physical universe that God created. We cannot imagine, nor can we experience in our current bodies, what these extra dimensions might be like."

I realize that to many skeptics an eternity in Heaven, or an eternity anywhere for that matter, is also completely illogical. Yet one has to acknowledge that time is a property of this universe - it can be described as a system used to measure change and sequentiality. If it indeed exists, it is not congruent with this universe in the sense that it and other spiritual dimensions are not timed, rather they are eternal because they are not physical properties of this u
niverse. In the current conception one cannot comprehend the true concept of eternity when both mentally and physically accustomed to one's own system of existence. The thought of eternity is the fabrication of trillions of years, yet when the final year is reached, trillions more are added. That is precisely a finite interpretation, thus infinity is seemingly an illogical concept. Ultimately, it is not complete absurdity when rationally considering concepts beyond the universe.

Question: "I love my wife, is there still marriage in Heaven?"

I would rather not thoroughly answer that question for 2 reasons: I am not married yet nor have I been to Heaven. In my opinion, it would not be fair if I did with absolute assurance, and would appear as if I am standing outside of a building talking about the wallpaper on the inside. But to give a simplified hypothesis, no (even though I believe we will be in fellowship with each other) because apparently everyone will be "married" to Jesus (indeed it sounds unappealing when contemplated from the flesh). All will be resurrected beings with divine properties rather than adhering to secular practices bound in imperfection. Marriage as defined by the Bible is a gift and partnership, and is adequately symbolic of the more eternal marriage between believers and Jesus. Matthew 22:29-30 says, "You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, or the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

An Important Quotation at the Christian Book Expo 2009

When you say something mild yet people get heated, it means there is power in your words. When that continues to happen you eventually realize that others inherently value your message whether they like it or not. However anti-theistic author Christopher Hitchens, special guest at the Christian Book Expo 2009, made a relevant point, so I feel the need to address it.
"Those that say 'I have a meek and mild Savior for you, and if you don't like it you can burn tortured infinitely' the same whether they keep it to themselves or try to pass it on to someone else. A person who believes that is a wicked and delusional idiot...I decline to be spoken to in that tone of voice. I will not be told 'I have a supernatural offer for you, you can be redeemed if you believe just in me and if you don't like it you can be tortured forever'. I won't be talked to like that. That is the language of fascism and dictatorship. It's comforting to know that it is completely mythical..."
I believe in evolution in the sense that a short-tempered man is the successor of a crybaby. As cowardly as the passage sounds (i.e. "I do not like the sound of that. It is scary and unfair, so not only will I deny it, I will also be intolerant of those who believe it."), it is an important argument that should not be shamefully discarded by apologists. I want to make it clear that although God is not limited to or from any way of spiritual conviction, generally, gone astray is prudence through ways of "in-your-face" evangelism as Hitchens so passionately despises. There is a potential degradation one feels having an absolute stranger propose various credenda. Though inadvertently, given is the implication that the listener is an ignorant heathen thus further influencing psychological bitterness - a more intense rejection of the actual message due to anger with the messenger (however, that most definitely depends on the listener and the context of the situation). On the contrary it is possible to speak a painful truth without that truth causing more pain than it must. In many cases such encounters are viable, but on the other hand there is considerable evidence of the harm done; for example, it is the formation of the severely anti-theistic hardened heart, which extends beyond mere atheism or agnosticism such as those like Hitchens himself.

Many people in a rather reckless context claim to "just tell it like it is". In actuality, nobody really stresses what one says so much as the motive behind what one says; hence, he is merely blowing hot air and detracting from "what is". I am aware that many are familiar with the frequented quotation by author Brennan Manning, "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians..." In a social sense rather than spiritual sense, the Manning quotation is indeed rather valuable due to a certain tendency of "holy condescension" and, equally important, irresponsible Christianity. Lamentably have theists attempted to justify reckless misrepresentation of God and the collective body of believers while further ignoring such a sincere observation; yet the separations within the Christian community that are birthed from a plethora of causes, ranging from moral and theological disagreements to social and political wars, are ways in which the atheist will contest the validity of theism. While disagreements are inevitable, would not the representation of a unified body of Christ prevail when as consistent as possible? John 15:20 must remain in the heart of the believer, "Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also," but secondly one must also remember the great distinction between luxuriating in destruction and adjusting for construction. It is written that there is a number of individuals ready to yield just as there are hardened hearts, and the preservation of the good is certainly worth one's effort.

Is this truly "humanistic theology" that I am speaking of, in the sense of making an appeal to man before an appeal to God, or merely open arms for a brother's ambiguous pleas of bewilderment? First, let me explain. The simple notion that faith is the divine, objective truth makes it inherently far from humanistic theology regardless of the means in which the message is communicated. However, this is not an indication that it cannot be improperly communicated (e.g. violent extremism). Is one not given ears to hear his brother's responses in order to effectively communicate with him? "He who has ears, let him ear" (Matthew 11:15): The passage is frequently projected onto the non-believer, yet it equally applies to the believer. As social beings, one is designed to learn by acknowledgment of countless sources including perspectives of the non-believer. If otherwise, would not God be inhibited from using other media to speak to those that faithfully perceive his full presence? He is quite unpredictable and has once used something as illogical as a burning bush on Mount Sinai to send a message (Exodus 3). One's holiness is neither a component of stubborn arrogance nor a form of communicative rejection. Instead, great components of communicating the divine truth are the fruits of the Spirit.

It is actually quite simple, as simplicity is often highly underestimated and complexity is not always necessary. In the appropriate context, and to perform sincerely and without boast, the vitality of faith in Christ is manifested through a lifestyle of understanding. Sometimes the sharing of faith is as simple as allowing one's fruits to invigorate a sense of natural intrigue by the recipient. Inherently, one is longing to adhere to the individual he has great affection for; likewise,
contemporary apologist Ravi Zacharias stated, "Yes, if truth is not under-girded by love, it makes the possessor of that truth obnoxious and the truth repulsive."

I cannot think of very many things more despicable than befriending one merely to try and change him. In such cases the fruits are displaced from a Christ-like walk to a disingenuous business - a deviation from the faithful man's love without agenda. A truth that is both fully manifested and radiant provides direction, and the individual bound to be drawn by its fruits from within the bearer will be drawn. I understand that this raises the question: Does time, ultimately, tick away for the salvation of an individual initially secured in the foreknowledge of a timeless God? One cannot be absolutely certain either way - we find that tomorrow is promised to no man, but merely in the eyes of man
; hence, this is where faith in the fruits, as manifested through Christ, come into effect. Moreover, one's design is much like a lasting beginning (thus remaining consistent with Einstein's theory regarding the relativity of time).

Surely all people self-proclaim some variation of truth, but how can one truly illuminate a vigor for that truth? Oftentimes as I walk the streets, I am either approached by or observing the modern evangelist - I further see that he would greater benefit from assimilating the outlook of a conqueror rather than that of a beggar (Romans 8:37). On one hand Christ was persecuted for speaking truth, yet on the other he was sought for his proficient wisdom and miracles. Now, there is power in truth, and any speaker will experience both hands no matter his approach. While we all have callings,
I find that, in an era of overestimated intellectualism, a philosophically sound approach to the properties of God holds a great deal of strength, which according to my experiences is an intriguing perspective for those who initially do not favor alleged fairytales or implied condescension. More specifically, it is said to be "a breath of fresh air", and Christ in his true manifestation is most definitely a breath of fresh air to those who sincerely seek him. When we begin merely by fighting about our differences, and in this case, the theist versus the atheist, we leave no foundation to build any sort of ladder to understanding; with no understanding, there is nothing but a wall of denial.

In addition, I must make it clear that God is a skillful strategist. His followers are endowed with a plethora of personalities and strengths in order to fulfill the ultimate purpose. Therefore, they are capable of spreading his message in a variety of ways apart from those previously mentioned.
No matter the approach, all should remember Titus 3:1-2 in their endeavors, "Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men."

Returning to Hitchens, even though he can be emotionally justified in his statement, he is simply misguided. If he does not believe there is a Hell and that theists are delusional (which is a point of view that he openly expresses), then there is no reason to take offense. There is a popular quotation within the atheist community by author Robert Pirsig, "When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion, it is called religion."

There is no denying that the quotation is witty (and I want to note that depending on semantics I do not support "religion"; in some cases, it is only a distraction from the very God it supposedly serves), however, if the assertion is indeed valid, then for one to take offense in opposition of the delusional teachings of any form of theological fatalism is quite insane through and through. If one was to visit a psychiatric hospital, which is generally a discourse of a great deal of seemingly outrageous absurdity, he would choose not to hold it against the insane mainly due to the intuition in which he "knows" the inmates speak illogically. When he truly concludes an ideology to be intellectually absurd then there exists nothing to be offended by, otherwise neither individual is the sane individual. Hitchens did add that he is comforted to "know" that it is completely mythical; however, by the aforementioned words of Pirsig and his very own intolerance of any religious dogma, there is an inconsistency in the overall perspective towards theists who believe in a Hell.

Having said that, how does one remain offended by a purportedly nonexistent conception? He is offended when there is an inherent vestige, a state in which he still considers that this nonexistent conception exists. Deep in every individual's conscience rests the possibility of God no matter how passionately he denies it.

More importantly, I want to explain the mercy of God and how it is not in contradiction with the theoretical existence of Hell. Hitchens' statement raises the controversial and repetitiously used rhetoric yet again:

"If God loves everyone so much, then why would he send a person to eternal torture?"

Occasionally, one is coerced to avoid excessive biblical criteria according to the philosophies of those who do not directly accept the Bible as absolute truth. Although time after time do I fail in my own imperfect ways, this does not always have to be a problem. While the Bible is the infallible sword of believers, one's relationship with Christ, upon surrender, can provide the gift of reason. Should not the follower realize his direct relationship with and heart knowledge of Christ as much as his head knowledge of the word of God? Such a relationship distinguishes faith from mere religion; hence, a consciousness of both his nature and his word in biblical context can be attained. One can remember that God's word is the sword, and the mind which he has given is the sheath.

Regarding the prior question, revealed are the basic qualities of God in which many are familiar with: he is merciful, loving, sovereign, and just; however, one must understand the wrath of God - one in which is to be feared above all else. Considering God according to the Bible, the lasting solace throughout all of existence is that of God, not from oneself nor any other external force(s). Eminently is humanity given the current existence for the glorification of God, hence an indication of the opportunity to either seek or reject the presence of God. Because he fortifies all that is loving and merciful, if one is to reject him, then equivalently one is rejecting such blessings of divine amity, as C.S. Lewis said, "God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing."

Often do I use the following analogy to support the prior explanation: Just as cold is the absence of heat rather than the opposite of heat and dark is the absence of light rather than the opposite of light, Hell is the "absence of God" (however, it is only safe to say "to a degree") rather than the opposite of Heaven. Should it remain puzzling to so many that one's very own denial of God and all divine fortifications, hence consequently being permitted such, is utterly contradictory to Epicurus' rhetoric of a malevolent God? The existence of Hell is substantially a representation of not only the wrath but also proportionately the love of God; ultimately, he forces himself onto no individual in rejection of him and his great blessings. This is an absolute consistency with all the revealed properties of God.