Sunday, November 29, 2009

...And the soldier asked, "What's a prudent evangelist?"

I would rather my descendants have greater abilities and a greater knowledge of the love of Christ than I do, much like standing on one's shoulders in order to get a clearer view of the valley. How can one do this?

1 Corinthians 13:1-2: "I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell. I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains but if I have no love, I am nothing."

Sometimes the problem is not so much what one is preaching, but rather how he is preaching it.

When a man has a gift in speaking the truth, brute aggression is no longer his security blanket for approval. He, on the contrary, spends most of his energy trying to tone it down because his very nature is already offensive enough. So, should there not be a balance between the drill sergeant and the amiable teacher? In this context, I want to focus on the former. When the drill sergeant-like approach becomes customary to a congregation, the congregation, over time, grows insensitive to the coming wrath thus potentially raising the bar for truly fearing God and understanding what it means to fear God. In result, individuals are negatively affected because, out of cynicism, it will then take a deeper effort to instill a true passion for Christ and the purity in which he stands. Of what benefit is there when, seemingly, apathy is shown from the teacher towards the sincere troubles of each individual's heart?

Colossians 4:3-6: "And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."

Time and time again the evangelist must stop and ask himself, "Whose judgment is superior, God's or my own?" The legalistic evangelist will intuitively evangelize on his own watch, whether inadvertently or intentionally, rather than on God's watch. Any truth, when passing through the hands of man, can be transformed into an entrapping lecture apart from, in this case, the beauty of Christ, and such a displacement can leave falsehoods to be purged by the mercy of God. When communicating with rebellious men, do not all things have a more effective time, place, and method in which to be communicated? Indeed it is essential that Christ is being taught regardless of incentive (Philippians 1:18), but because God finds great pleasure in observing the growth of his messengers, why should any evangelist remain merely a heckler to the public who mutilates by legalistically professing the Christian ethic? Alternatively, upon desiring growth in Christ, many are prophets who mutilate the coarse patterns of both oneself and a fallen humanity by use of the Christian faith.

There is a difference between evangelism motivated by legalism and evangelism motivated by faith in Christ, and I feel that the distinction is repeatedly ignored. The legalistic method is one in which the evangelist shares his faith through feelings of obligation or as an act of charity, whereas the prudent evangelist shares his faith to appointed individuals under the influence of the Spirit. Just as God sees the individual, his followers must strive to do so as well. Kierkegaard said, "Spiritual superiority only sees the individual. But alas, ordinarily we human beings are sensual and, therefore, as soon as it is a gathering, the impression changes -- we see something abstract, the crowd, and we become different. But in the eyes of God, the infinite spirit, all the millions that have lived and now live do not make a crowd, he only sees each individual."

I do understand that this can be misinterpreted as a position irrespective of the belief in sharing the Gospel by some (thus "trying to shut believers up"). Oppositely, the acknowledgment of the concept of effective timing by adjusting one's focus on the ingenious patience of God is the only sure and profitable position. Yielding to God's judgment is certainly not an act of compromise to man; instead, it is the greatest form of wisdom. This is so because there are natural tendencies of impatience undeniably instilled in most prideful humans during a fast-paced era - quite often must one feel pre-eminently in the right of each and every moment. Whereas, God has been sustaining rebellious men for millennia, therefore he is very much aware of one's potential reactions towards the ultimate truth during any given situation and time of day. The truth without the harmony of God is not a truth fully manifested, it is frightening words from a reckless man's mouth, as radical skepticism, out of pride, hates and fears the possibility that it is not in absolute control of its own eternity. Rather, it surrenders to the works and securities of its own hands (Isaiah 2:8). The Holy Spirit must be present in order to overcome such a nature. Therefore I do not much trust the man who cares solely to inspire - he does not really inspire me - only the man who cares to tell the truth, whatever that may do. For when the man who cares to tell the truth happens to inspire, I, in addition, find it easier to believe that he in fact does his homework on how and when one should truly inspire (e.g. by way of the Spirit).

Concerning the subject of a virtuous faith, it is easy to concur with Diogenes, "Discourse on virtue and they pass by in droves. Whistle and dance the shimmy, and you've got an audience." Regardless, if an individual is indeed led to further seek the will of God, should a mission ever end at its very beginning? Realistically The Sinner's Prayer is no secret code to those during the age of information. Throughout much of humanity, the value of repentance has been reduced to an unsubstantiated ritual. I call this way of repentance lip service - it is made religiously provisional in substitution of a lasting and humble passion for Christ. Yet what is merely lukewarm, according to scripture, will be spit from the mouth of God (Revelation 3:16). One must remember that discipleship is both guidance and friendship, therefore the nurturing of the individual is essential to any new-found walk with Christ.

What is a prudent prophet? In my lifetime and throughout history, there have been several, what some might call, "end of the world date-setters" that have dedicated not only their own lives but also the lives of others to spreading news of world-devastating calamity or rapture both nationally and internationally. As expected, much of the world becomes intrigued, whether comically or sincerely, by the matter - some Christians are convinced, others skeptical; some atheists mock, others simply ignore the prophecies in sheer disbelief - and as evident in my ability to write this, as the world continues beyond every date that has been set thus far, all of the prophecies were indeed false.

Why is this? False prophecies come from men who believe that faith is nothing more than a stubborn emotion felt in the heart - the equivalent of wishful thinking. On the contrary, doubt is a question mark; faith is an exclamation point. The most compelling, believable, realistic stories have included them both. Doubt asks, "Is it possible for me to have too much faith, to the point of being just plain foolish and impractical, or is it evil trying to convince me so?" Then the answer, resting in the motive and the source of his faith, catches him either off-guard or when the time is right. That is suspense. The false prophet prophesies according to his own understanding, his own calculations, his own interpretations, and in this, he is opposing the will of God. A prophet will be false in his every prediction when his judgment is empowered by mere faith in himself, or other sources, rather than by faith in God. Matthew 24:36 says, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in Heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." It is ironical that by this we know it will not be the end of the world as long as man disobediently attempts to calculate the end of the world. God's commands are very much necessary and based upon reason: Prophets proven to be blatantly wrong are merely humoring skepticism pertaining to the existence of God. The destruction caused seems to be far worse than the earthquakes prophesied, and strangely enough, the aggravation caused by the prophet is the very thing wrongfully fulfilling his own prophecies of destruction.

All in all we are called to further seek the will of God before claiming the will of God. But thankfully, as C.S. Lewis once stated, "A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word 'darkness' on the walls of his cell." I believe the same concept applies to the failures of evangelists and prophets. God still possesses the sovereignty and the knowledge to reverse a man's mistakes for his own glorification. His work is magnified when repairing the destruction afflicted by men, however, it is not always so easily comprehensible, according to our own understanding, the many ways in which he does this. At times, an individual may react disdainfully towards the truth of Christ, yet when the Spirit wills it, the planted seed grows when the time is right. An individual may mock and ridicule theism after witnessing a failed prophecy, yet he still does it with an unadmitted interest in the actual truth value of the overall belief system he mocks. God's relationship with man does not work in a way in which man stumbles and then God has to drop what he is doing in order to lift him up; rather, man stumbles so that God can lift him up. Hence it is utterly impossible to truly diminish his glory.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The "Devil's Advocate" That Glorified God

At the start of one of his "Does God Exist?" debates, Dr. William Lane Craig stated [roughly quoted], "First off, I want to say that we need not spend all our time and energy arguing for (or about) God, but rather enjoying our relationship with him."

My purpose for beginning with Dr. Craig's words is to remind the apologist to prioritize his personal relationship with Christ first and foremost. Yet I do understand that this is a way in which many theistic philosophers continue to experience God - one discourses on virtue in order to stimulate the minds of individuals of all ideologies and not only that of the highly insurgent skeptic. It is not to convince or to persuade, but instead it is to encourage men to search willfully
and extensively under the law of God. However, a number of activist non-believers radically censure supernatural-related doctrines; one can merely approach him with such and he builds reason for a more intense disdain. In what ways should this be conversed, with civility, in order to effectively reach out to the self-proclaimed intellectuals of the new age (e.g. radically anti-theistic iconoclasts, skeptic philosophers, humanistic scientists, etc.)? I must note that this question by no means implies compromising the nature or the law of God in order to "persuade" skeptics - the theist should understand the great distinction between "compromising the truth" and "tonality and the truth". Moreover, consistently does one expound under both logically and scientifically strong convictions for skeptic ideologies, hence those constantly active among these fields must remember that even the sun shines into cesspools and is not polluted [Diogenes].
Secondly, it must be noted that one's stressing over such is futile. A message of encouragement regarding patience and the steady effort of diligence can be found in Proverbs 25:15, which says, "Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone." Patience is a commonly forgotten gift, often replaced by recklessness and ungodliness, and the reason for this is because God is patient.

Controversies regarding the vitalities of non-essential doctrine, cultural immoralities, and taboos, and their precedences to salvation, are ongoing within the theistic community. While these should never cease acknowledgment, are they not held, in negligence, as diversions from one's active realization of the authority of Christ? Intellectuals of modern skepticism begin with disfigured premises regarding God's cause due to the case that so many of his earthly representatives misrepresent his great cause. Truly, reason is a larg
e cut of what directs one to a reasonable God apart from the uncultivated mentality - one in which is driven by fear of philosophies and scientific data. Ironically, would not the creator be both the paramount definition of knowledge and the source of logic? Lasting is the irrational conflict between men of science and men of faith, yet there is an analogy by Robert Jastrow that nails the primary difference between the two: Men of science hike the mountain 'round and 'round in search of truth. This will inevitably lead back to the Author of truth. Eventually, upon nearing the top, they will realize that men of faith have been standing there for centuries.

Yet it is axiomatic that there are different callings for Christians in correspondence with personal strengths and weaknesses, just as a military has different tasks for soldiers. A number of individuals will appear to be devil's advocates as interpreted by the self-governed conscience of man. Constructive accountability of the philosophical and social areas of Christianity and its truth wholly for the glorification of God has lamentably become a repulsive role to a number of modern fundamentalists. Beware: open-mindedness will often say, "Everything is permissible except a sharp opinion." Would it not be of great exigency to support faithful men who productively challenge the ethos of modern Christianity for the manifestation of its true, essential values? Personally, I like finding problems because I like solving problems. Nothing is more depressing to me than cheerfully sweeping things under the rug. It reminds me of passive individualism. I would rather have strong enemies than a world of passive individualists. In a world of passive individualists nothing seems worth anything simply because nobody stands for anything. That world has no convictions, no victories, no unions, no heroism, no absolutes, no heartbeat. That world has rigor mortis. This is not to justify the instigation of unnecessary conflicts, but rather to defend truth from future turmoil. Needless to say, one should avoid passivity when negative extremists represent hatred or falsehoods as regularities within the body of Christ (e.g. the infamous Westboro Baptist Church). The motive behind criticism often determines its validity. Those who care criticize where necessary. Those who envy criticize the moment they think that they have found a weak spot. In Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin effectively explained the Church's interaction with the state of the times (or cultures); firstly, love should be one's guide before tradition. As previously mentioned, determining the tone of one's beliefs does not necessarily entail altering and/or compromising one's beliefs:

"I mean that the Lord has in his sacred oracles faithfully embraced and clearly expressed both the whole sum of true righteousness, and all aspects of the worship of his majesty, and whatever was necessary to salvation; therefore, in these the Master alone is to be heard. But because he did not will in outward discipline and ceremonies to prescribe in detail what we ought to do (because he foresaw that this depended upon the state of the times, and he did not deem one form suitable for all ages), here we must take refuge in those general rules which he has given, that whatever the necessity of the church will require for order and decorum should be tested against these. Lastly, because he has taught nothing specifically, and because these things are not necessary to salvation, and for the upbuilding of the church ought to be variously accommodated to the customs of each nation and age, it will be fitting (as the advantage of the church will require) to change and abrogate traditional practices and to establish new ones. Indeed, I admit that we ought not to charge into innovation rashly, suddenly, for insufficient cause. But love will best judge what may hurt or edify; and if we let love be our guide, all will be safe.

There is a certain role for a number of theists, and surprisingly enough, one in which is not to condemn in the name of doctrinal principles. Instead, it is to provide reasonable direction for one to ruminate on Christ, love, and virtue as manifested through scriptures, but first, let me explain: I feel that some individuals, forgotten individuals, more confidently relate to this approach. There is a presupposition that says, "Oh, it's from the Bible, whatever," and then there is the alternative, "I've never thought of this that way. It's starting to make more sense." Scripture in its purest interpretation is the one and only reliable foundation of all teachings worth teaching, yet every individual requires an amount of deconstruction in his grand search for truth. I want to make it clear that this does not imply something as contemptuous as provoking the loss of one's conscious state of mind. Veracity is within all people, however the challenge is sorting through one's own nonsense.
Those who speak of progression but are afraid of change are self-repressed and therefore unable to reach any further than their eyes can already see. In Job's hardships, he shaved his head and tore his robe saying, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I must return (Job 1:21)."

I think it is healthy to, every once in awhile, combat everyday inclinations in order to inspire evaluation of one's own potentially biased ideologies, whether it is for the theist or the atheist. It is like a reflection that rearranges the pieces in the mirror; surely the questioning of faith, rationality, opinion, and ideology
is an effective self-evaluation. In result, if it was ever true faith in the beginning (more than mere opinion or belief), the right questions can only make that faith stronger under the discovery of more refined answers. When one serves as a planter of seeds for the glorification of God, the remainder of the vision is placed in his sovereign hands. With this an endeavor cannot be any more valuable whether the results are comprehended by man or not.