Some Circular Arguments Cut Both Ways

“All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.”  (Jn. 1:3)

The very things the atheist uses to argue against Christianity, actually cuts both ways.  The objections against the failures seen in religion also argue against the atheistic philosophy of naturalism.

The idea that mere material particles, composing the entire rationale for causation for everything in the universe according to naturalistic philosophy, could possibly be the explanation for the social/moral breakdown of the Crusades, the Inquisition, the various religious wars, the modern versions of slavery, and the Roman Catholic Church as a wholly repressive political entity prior to the Protestant Reformation, is thoroughly implausible.

That neutrally bland, morally-empty material particles could, through mutation and natural selection, rise to the current state of conscious thought and the complex and subtle sophistries of the creation/evolution debate, stretches all credibility.

Even if we have zero idea at this point in time how creation was accomplished, at least to this Christian the concept of fiat creation by an Intelligent Designer God is vastly superior to Darwinian evolution.  The notion that all of the complexity that we see in the physical universe from the cosmos to the living biological cell, should have self-assembled itself into its current functionality according to any imaginable or unimaginable purely unguided program requires an atheistic faith in materialism that can in my opinion be characterized as simplistic and childish.

The Bible presents to us a living God who is not subject to or limited by the dimension of time.  God therefore has infinity of time at any one moment to answer multitudes of prayers spoken daily across the globe, manage individual journeys of faith large and small, oversee the minutest details of the ecological balance of the planet, and to have spent unlimited time in the design and creation of every living and nonliving thing we observe and study today.

As a Christian, I like the concept of the Anthropic Principle first introduced in a paper submitted by the British physicist Brandon Carter in 1973 at a scientific conference.  It identifies scores of mathematical “constants” in the equations that describe the physics of the universe that had to be in place during the first few split-seconds of the Big Bang to allow for complex life like ourselves billions of years later.

The argument made by atheists that “because we are here as observers” supports the notion of a naturalistic explanation for the apparent design we perceive in nature, only works if a person is already convinced of naturalism.  Again, this argument cuts both ways.  “We just happen to be here as observers” just as easily can be explained as a result of fiat creation as well.

The Power of a Journey of Faith

“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” (1 Cor. 1:17)

The idea of a God-composed journey of faith life-script is even above, even more radically novel, than the great American ideal of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” so brilliantly articulated in the Declaration of Independence.

A God-composed journey of faith can function in any political, economic, and religious environment.  It is not dependent upon outwardly favorable worldly conditions.  Being “in Christ” is an eternally secure place in the palm of God’s hand, which is unassailable by anything anywhere in existence.

People can be missionaries in the deepest regions of the Amazon rainforest, or in the jungles of New Guinea, or in the most repressive political and social regimes, and be as physically and spiritually safe as anywhere else on the globe if we are in God’s will and way.

The Christian faith and life began in the most hostile environment imaginable in the heart of the city of Jerusalem, where only weeks before, Jesus Christ was crucified by the religious and civil authorities.  The Christian faith spread out into the first-century Greco-Roman empire that was saturated with classical philosophy, polytheism, and idol-worship.

The works of God require very specific life-plans that are above our capacity to compose, initiate, or self-orchestrate.  No matter how small or large, the plans of God succeed spectacularly because they are divinely conceived and energized.  Whether it is the salvation and transformation of the person living next door as a result of our Christian witness, or a Christian revival movement that transforms an entire culture and generation of people, it is through God-composed journey of faith life-scripts that the supernatural works of God are accomplished.

This simple and basic concept of God displacing our way with His way, starting with Abraham and continuing throughout all of the journeys of faith recorded in the Bible, is in my opinion one of the last major pieces of biblical truth to be recovered following the Protestant Reformation.  I think this will be one of the central themes in the upcoming last-days challenges.

The Bell-Shaped Curve of Religious Experience

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” (1 Cor. 2:12)

It is safe to say that in our experience and observation there are some excellent parents, some very poor parents, but with the vast majority of parents falling within the fat central portion of the standard bell-shaped curve.

The excellent parent exercises some amount of wise discipline.  Children cannot rule the house.  Children should not grow up spoiled or be self-centered.  The excellent parent helps their children to discover their talents and interests, provides support and validation, and engenders in their children a sense of self-worth, confidence, and direction balanced with caring for the rights and feelings of others.

A biblical-quality journey of faith life-script composed by God is a part of the salvation package for every Spirit-born believer.  God-composed  journeys of faith, by definition and without exception, fall at the extreme optimum, positive, right-side portion of the standard bell-curve graph.  This is the narrow gate of Matthew 7:13-14 that the cross and the resurrection open up for the Christian.

Although no Christians come close to perfection, the divinely crafted journeys of faith that God individually crafts for each believer are perfect.  All else is where we find the explanations for the Crusades, the Inquisition, religious wars, and all un-Christ like behavior.

When atheists criticize Christianity, they are criticizing that portion of the standard bell curve to the left of God-composed journeys of faith.  Most of what the atheist says negatively about “religion” is true.

It is my contention in the 21st century that a biblical-quality journey of faith, with the cross of Christ baked in, is at the pinnacle of rational thought, moral challenge, purpose, meaning, and direction.  All other religions can be considered childish in their human invented rituals and beliefs…but not a God-composed journey of faith containing the element of the cross of Christ.

For this reason the Bible stands alone and above the fray.  The cross of Christ applied to our lives has to be considered factual because this falls outside of human imaginative invention.  God displacing our way with His way in an adventurous and risky journey of faith, pervasive throughout the positive stories of faith in the Bible, is so contrary to worldly conventional normalcy that no one other than God would or could invent this totally novel concept.

A God-led expedition into the discovery of “all truth” is not an arbitrary enterprise.  It is not a product of geography or culture.  It is not a made-up, arm chair, non-factual belief.

It is also my contention that the cross of Jesus Christ contained with the biblical narrative stories of faith withstands the acid test of critical analysis.  This I believe is one of the last remaining major components of faith to be fully recovered following the Protestant Reformation.

A Journey of Faith is a Divine Creation

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness: but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18)

In the account of mankind’s fall in the Garden of Eden, recorded in the Bible in Genesis 3:1-13, Adam and Eve did not have to rush headlong into eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  They could have instead said to the serpent: “What you say is intriguing, but there is no hurry.  We will discuss this with God, and then get back to you shortly.”

This ancient account has too much pinpoint accuracy about human nature, this early in human history, to be fiction.  Judging by the speed of acceleration and momentum generated by the Scientific Revolution of the last 400 years, the God-given character trait of a thirst and drive for knowledge confirms the ill-fated, hastily impatient jump that Adam and Eve took when offered a shortcut to a knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 3:6).

A biblical-quality adventure of faith is the God invented, ordained, functionally correct vehicle to take us into the knowledge of good and evil.  A God-composed journey of faith life-script divinely inserts God into the conversation of our lives.  This is not simplistic, juvenile, or childish.

An adventure of faith resides at the uppermost apex of thought, truth, and reasoning…so uniquely challenging that a God-composed and led adventure of faith lies outside of human invention.

The worldly conventional outlook of “me, myself, and I” is in direct contradiction to venturing out into a journey of faith following God’s lead…picking up our cross to follow Jesus.

I do not care what form the tempter took in the Garden of Eden.  I accept the account as it is written.  This confrontation in Genesis 3 is too profoundly deep to show up this early in human history, according to some humanistic or naturalistic explanation.  It “hits the nail on the head” long before the invention or contemplation of hammers and nails.

A God-invented journey of faith shows up with the introduction of Abraham in Genesis 12.  This is ancient, premeditated, front-loaded, information-rich, divine revelation inexplicable by humanistic accounting.  There is nothing gradualistic or progressively incremental about it.  Journeys of faith are a fiat creation of God, complete and fully assembled with no tools required.

No matter what the benefits are from “evolutionary psychology” in the social sciences, the biblically recorded adventures of faith reside far above and outside of worldly conventional thinking.

If the above arguments ring true to today’s Christians, then stepping into our individually crafted adventures of faith following Jesus is paramount.

A Journey of Faith is Issues-Driven

“That in everything ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge.”  (1 Cor. 1:5)

The 2016 American presidential campaign offers a glimpse into an eternally valid moral reality.  A candidate who is lacking in the fitness category of moral character can adopt the effective strategy of character assassination of his opponent to bring them down to their level.  We see this strategy successfully used in the Garden of Eden in the temptation of Adam and Eve.

Lucifer cannot possible compete with God in the area of moral fitness, so Lucifer callously and subtly attacks the character of God by insinuating that God has an unsavory hidden agenda in withholding from Adam and Eve the fruit from this one special tree in the Garden: “Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

Lucifer cleverly made the conflict in the Garden of Eden one over personalities and not issues.  Lucifer slanders the character of God without ever arguing the merits or the methods of obtaining a real knowledge of good and evil.

God-composed journey of faith life-scripts in the Bible are issues-driven at the deepest and most profound level imaginable, brilliantly mixed with a personal relationship with the living God that openly reveals God’s true character (Jer. 31:31-34).

Atheists like to accuse the biblical faith as being simple-minded.  A God-composed adventure of faith following Jesus Christ is in actuality an issues-driven enterprise at the pinnacle of human experience.  God-led expeditions of faith recorded in the Bible are information-rich to an extent that lies far outside of horizontally conventional wisdom and human literary invention.

In the deliverance and exodus of the Israelites from Egypt recorded in the Old Testament book of Exodus, the Egyptians want the Israelites to remain in Egypt as slaves for the most self-centered, horizontally conventional reason…economic…free labor.  But the God-composed adventure of faith scenario for the deliverance of the Hebrew people from Egypt is so issues-driven that it soars far above any worldly conventional thinking imaginable.  The account of the deliverance of the Israelites is so foreign to conventional normalcy…not in spite of but because of its miraculous events…that it could not possibly be fiction.

God’s master-crafting of adventures of faith to lead us into a genuine knowledge of good and evil is the non-simplistic antidote to the personality-driven character assassination of God attempted by Lucifer in the Garden.  An information-rich, divinely crafted adventure of faith is the answer.

This is why picking up our cross and following Jesus is so important (Heb. 11:6).

Both Unbelief and Atheism are Simplistic

“Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”  (1 Cor. 1:25)

The religious leaders in Jerusalem in the first century were partly right in their expectation for the coming messiah.  The messiah would be all that Isaiah 9:6 prophesied…”For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

Jesus Christ of Nazareth was and is all of those things, but not in the way these religious leaders expected.  Their limited worldview was narrowly focused upon a coming messiah who would be similar to how they viewed themselves in their passionate desire to be free from the current Roman political and military occupation of Israel.

Unbelief, like its sister atheism, is narrowly simplistic.  We have to dig deeper to discover real truth, and not just settle for worldly conventional thinking.  If we are worldly-minded like the religious leaders in Jerusalem in the first century, then our vision cannot expand into the realm where the truth will set us free (Jn. 8:32).

The maliciously intentioned temptation of Lucifer in Genesis 3:5…“your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” is purposely simplistic.  Simply eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not enough.  It takes a full-blown, mature, God-composed journey of faith containing well-orchestrated challenge, struggle, and yes…suffering…to unearth and expose the real issues underlying good and evil.

In their journey with Jesus towards Jerusalem on one occasion, the disciples argued amongst themselves who should be the greatest in the expected upcoming new kingdom of Jesus in the capital city.  They were each in their own minds measuring window curtains for their large corner offices in the temple.  Jesus, knowing their thoughts, places a small child in their midst and says: “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”  Yes, faith is childlike.  But what the disciples would face in the coming days ahead leading, to Calvary and beyond, was not simplistic.

Atheists come across something in the Bible they don’t like, and they stop there.  They do not bother to dig any deeper.  This approach is simplistically shallow.  Unbelief is similarly simplistic.

A biblical-quality walk of faith is at the pinnacle of character challenging lessons.  A God-composed journey of faith life-script is at the apex of the highest of human experience, because real truth about good and evil is not simplistic.

That Not of Yourselves, Part 4

“It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hind’s feet, and sitteth me upon high places.” (Ps. 18:32-33)

From The Second Half of the Cross

When we are spiritually “born again” through repentance and faith in Christ, we take on the nature of God. An animal that is newly born takes on the nature and character of its parents.  A baby whale stays close to its mother, copying the mother’s every move.  The young elephant takes on the nature of an elephant, observing and learning from every member of the elephant herd.

A journey of faith is the relational vehicle that God created for us to begin to relate to and become more like Him. Picking up our cross daily is the effective means created by God to remove the stubborn, rebel-nature we inherited through our fall into sin.  Being born-again is the first step in beginning a new life taking on and exhibiting our new natures “in Christ.”  The Holy Spirit is the seal that we are born-again because he lives within us to help us grow daily toward becoming more like God.

My greatest desire in my own journey of faith is that God will prove Himself to be brilliant and insightful beyond my imagination. That God can set up a program and capably manage it toward an eternally beneficial outcome fulfills the deepest in-built need we have for purpose and meaning in this short life.

Once a new Spirit-born Christian realizes that Jesus Christ is alive today and that He is Savior and King, the next step is to get to know Jesus personally and to discover what God is really like. This requires a God-composed journey of faith life-script, and like salvation, this requires a work of God.  This is what separates Christianity from all other religions and philosophies.  By God’s design and intention, this is one element of our Christian experience that validates and authenticates the God of the Bible, because it cannot be duplicated or counterfeited through horizontally conventional, worldly thinking.

“As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God” (John 1:12).  God gives the Spirit-born Christian the power to become a son of God.  Becoming a son of God occurs after Spirit-born salvation, and is energized by God.  This is why a God-composed and orchestrated, biblical-quality journey of faith erases merit and self-generated works from the spiritual equation.

A journey of faith through the second half of the cross, as described in this book, should never be confused with the notion of salvation by works. Earning or maintaining our salvation through works has no place in biblical Christianity (John 5:24).  “It is of faith that it might be by grace” permeates the true Christian experience from beginning to end.  The outcome of discovering God’s nature and true motivations drives the entire experience.  God is love, and He wants to get us rightly connected to Him so He can share His love with us in a positive relationship for all eternity.  This is the biblical record from beginning to end.

Salvation through a Messiah who dies on a Roman cross as the penalty paid in full for the shortfall and deficit of our sins, a scenario that we could never invent and that was missed ahead of time by absolutely everyone living in first-century Israel, validates and authenticates the God of the Bible as the one true living God for our eternal benefit. A new-covenant journey of faith following Jesus Christ in our own lives as Spirit-born and Spirit-led Christians, in life-scripts we could not possibly imagine or orchestrate on our own, is in complete harmony with the narrative stories of faith recorded in the Bible.

“That not of yourselves” is the well-intentioned, love-filled theme that runs throughout the Bible from beginning to end both in our salvation and in our journeys of faith. It defines the second half of the cross in the highest moral and spiritual way.  It is a vital and key ingredient in the preparation of end-times Christians for the challenging times ahead (Matthew 24:44).