7/31/2007

Proof

Question to R. C. Sproul:
Some modern theologians believe that we can’t prove God’s existence. They say that devising proofs for God’s existence is a useless exercise; it’s just a matter of faith; we don’t need reasons. Is that approach consistent with the Bible?


Part of R. C.’s Answer:
No, I don’t think it’s consistent with the Bible at all. I believe, first of all, that we can prove the existence of God. I think we can do more than just give evidence. I think we can argue compellingly for the existence of God, at least in terms of a self-existent, eternal being.
Further, I think Aquinas was absolutely right
when he developed the concept of a “necessary being”. What do we mean by a “necessary being”? We mean that this particular being is one who is both ontologically necessary, that is, that he is a being who cannot not be, as
well as being a being who is logically necessary. When I say that God is logically necessary what I mean is this: it is illogical and inconceivable that you can have something coming out of nothing. It’s impossible. Nothing cannot produce something. Something must have the power of being, within itself, or other things couldn’t come into existence. This is what I mean when I say that
God is logically necessary. That’s as potent an argument today as it was in the days of Aquinas. People still try to get around it with fancy arguments, but I think that their efforts fail.



Christian Apologetics is the effort to give reasons or arguments that further the case for the Christian faith. I have been privileged to have the time to study many of those who engage in Christian Apologetics:

C. S. Lewis

Josh McDowell

Norman Geisler

Ravi Zacharias

John H. Gerstner

R. C. Sproul

John M. Frame

J. Budziszewski

Cornelius Van Til

Greg Bahnsen

Craig Blomberg

Ben Witherington III

and several others.

I am beginning to look at books by:

Mark D. Roberts

Ronald H. Nash

and John W. Montgomery.

After that, I plan to move on to:

Gordon Clark.

I find myself amazed that these teachers can put forth so many different arguments for God’s existence from so many aspects of the world we live in or the way we think. I do agree with Sproul in the quote above, despite the intra-mural debates that rag between different lines of thinking from people on this list (Can’t we all just get along?). I find no logical reasons to discount the traditional arguments for God’s existence when properly stated.

God’s existence is proven by argument. Someone who disagrees will have much to overcome.

7/24/2007

An Alien Solution

“…most Americans believe that their major problem is something that has happened
to them, and their solution is to be found within. In other words, they believe that they have an alien problem that is to be resolved with an inner solution. What the gospel says, however, is that we have an inner problem that demands and alien solution – a righteousness that is not our own. Once we begin to understand how that dichotomy comes together, we can see better how we can think we are talking about the gospel, yet people in this culture will hear it as merely a new form of therapy.” – R. Albert Mohler (“Preaching with the Culture in View,” in Preaching the Cross, Dever, Mark, et. al. p. 81)

Recent events in my personal life have brought me face to face with my biggest problem, and I stare at him in the mirror every morning when I shave. I am my own worst enemy. I can’t blame Satan, or the media, or the moviemakers, or the magazine publishers, or the boss, or my wife.

I am the one whose desires led him into sin. Even as a Christian, with a new heart and a changed life, I sin. Sometimes I sin in worse ways than I did before I became a Christian. Many of us are like that.

I am not alone in this. It is an historical problem.

Jesus addressed this issue in His day directly. He told people, “…it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” When the disciples spoke with Him privately, He said, “… whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.” (Matthew 15:10-20, ESV)

How badly our culture needs to hear this, especially the evangelical subculture that permeates our churches. Why do we often rant and rave against the enemies outside the church walls when the real enemies seem to be inside our own skins? Why do we try to look down our noses at others when our heads are all at the same height? You know, holding my head back that far hurts.

We must learn to look outside ourselves for the answer. We must find the “alien solution – a righteousness that is not our own” that Al Mohler refers to above. We must look outside ourselves to the finished work of Christ on the cross. We must see what He did for us as the completed work, and not a work we must contribute to in our own strength.

Christ earns us a right standing with God. He wins the war with our sin outright and gives us the gift of the righteousness He earned for us. He is our champion. He is our redeemer. I like the way R. C. Sproul puts it:

The first time I read the New Testament, I read the story Jesus told about the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee prayed, “God I thank you that I am not like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of
all that I get.” (Luke 18:11-12). The tax collector, on the other hand, couldn’t even lift his eyes to heaven. All he could do was cry out, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (18:13). Most of Jesus’ parables are difficult to understand, but this one ends clearly. Jesus concluded, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (v. 14). Which of the two men went
to his home justified? The one who, by faith, was covered by the righteousness of Christ.”
(“The Center of Christian Preaching” in
Preaching the Cross, Dever, Mark, et. al. p. 99)

But we do not want to hear this message. Our egos want to hold on to the idea that we can contribute, that we can earn something. We tell ourselves that we may not earn salvation, but we can earn God’s fellowship. We lie and say we cannot earn heaven, but we can earn God’s favor in this life.

Despite Paul’s clear explanation in Romans 3, we fail to internalize the depths of our sinfulness. We fail to understand that we do not “rouse [ourselves] to take hold of [God]”. We trust our own works to earn us something when “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” We trust ourselves when we are not trustworthy. We do not ask God to “rend the heavens and come down” on our behalf. (Isaiah 64, ESV)

The Christian life is lived based on faith, trust in Christ. We trust in Christ not only as the way to heaven, but also as the foundation for any positive change in us. We learn to be confident in the hope we have in Christ, and we learn to fight the war with our own sinful desires not to earn something, but out of gratitude and love for God. We do not despair, even in our greatest failures.

(LP Cruze’s blog posts are encouraging to me. His blog is named Extra Nos. He gets this part right.)

7/19/2007

How do we know …

How do we know what we know? How do we know what is true? How do we evaluate one idea against another? How do we interpret the information our senses provide us? What do we see? Hear? Touch? Smell? Taste?

These questions fascinate me. I first began to ask questions like this as I studied Human Factors Engineering (HFE) in graduate school. HFE is a branch of engineering that studies how a human being interacts with their environment, usually with respect to how we obtain information and how we perform work. We looked at basic types of mistakes that people make, the way we obtain information from our senses, the way we process that information, the way we decide to act, and the way we activate machine controls to act on that processed information. The field includes ergonomics, but it included much more than that.

One of the things we learned right off the bat was that the way we interact with our environment is a process. Think of a black box with arrows going into the left side for what goes into the process (inputs) and arrows coming out of the right side for what comes out of the process (outputs). The box itself is a set of steps that are followed in sequence on the inputs to reach the outputs.

I had never thought of knowledge being the result, or output, of a process until those classes. I began to read widely on the subject, both within my field and outside it. I came across the branch of philosophy know as epistemology very quickly. According to Wikipedia, epistemology is “the branch of philosophy that studies the nature, methods, limitations, and validity of knowledge and belief.” This field fascinates me, and I plan to pursue an education in philosophy as my time and resources allow.

The thing that interests me at this point is the skepticism many philosophers have with regard to knowledge. Wikipedia defines philosophical skepticism as a field that “poses the question of whether knowledge, in the first place, is possible.” I find it amazing how many modern or post-modern philosophers do not believe we can find knowledge about the outside world at all. From Hume’s skepticism with regard to sense perception and empirical knowledge to Reid’s reaction to Hume, the field is amazing to me.

I do not want to go too far into the issue, but I do want to point out something. I have been taught to see knowledge and rational thought as processes, and I believe that they are. Any process that reaches an organized output requires someone to set it up and keep it going. From assembly lines to creation itself, processes require a processor. A process must be designed, or it does not lead to purposeful outcomes. That includes the process of knowledge and the process of thought.

As John M. Frame puts it here:
Apologists have often noted that we could not know the world at all unless it had been designed for knowledge. If the world were nothing but matter, motion, time, and chance, we would have no reason to think that the ideas in our heads told us anything about the real world. Only if a person had designed
the world to be known, and the human mind to know it, could knowledge be possible…without God the data of our experience suggesting order and causality are unintelligible…So if creation presupposes God, even the denial of creation presupposes him …

We cannot deny that logic reflects reality or that knowledge is possible. Any such denials are forced and temporary. R. C. Sproul and Norman Geisler both argue this persuasively, as if it needs to be argued. Frame puts it this way: “You can’t question logic without presupposing it; you can’t argue against the primacy of logic without presupposing it as primary.”

The process of logical thinking and the process of arriving at knowledge from our senses both require a designer. We need a designer who possesses creativity and intention. We need a designer that does not change his thinking himself. If his thinking process changed, then our process of logical thinking would change as well. Going back to Frame’s writings: “Logic, the laws of nature, and the laws of morality make no sense unless God is presupposed.”

We are left with what one internet apologist states well: “The Absolute God with an absolute mind, has conceived of the logical absolutes. They are a reflection of His mind.”

May we stand in awe of the unchanging, clear-thinking, purposeful, powerful God of the Bible!

7/16/2007

What I Do Not Understand

“…What is unique about Christianity among all the world religions is its central doctrine of a once-for-all atonement that is offered to people to grant them salvation… most religions have no provision for an atonement … Why would a world
religion not consider an atonement necessary for redemption unless, in their view, God is less than holy? If God is perfectly just and people are not perfectly just, yet those people are trying to be in a vital relationship with God, you have a basic, overwhelming problem. How would a God who is holy and just accept in his presence unjust creatures? … Human beings who are unjust must be justified somehow to enter the presence of a holy God. That’s why the whole focus of Judeo-Christianity is at the point of atonement, which brings about reconciliation. But if you don’t believe that God is all that holy, there’s no need for any concept of reconciliation. We can live however we want because this kind of god is a cosmic bellhop who will overlook all of our sins and do whatever we want him to do for us.” - R. C. Sproul

Many things in theology confuse me. This is not a big surprise. I am not a professional theologian and have no seminary training. It is a “hobby” for me in a sense, but one I take seriously. Theology is a passion for me because it has been impressed upon me from an early age what God is like and how little of God’s character I reflect.

God is holy. This means He is separate and different from me, primarily in the fact that He is completely without sin or sinful desires. My understanding of God’s holiness comes mainly from reading and studying the life of Jesus.

I can see out into the expanse of Christ’s life by looking through the window provided in the New Testament of the Bible. I have read this collection of 27 books many times.

I have rarely questioned whether these records were true, at first because of the fact that the people I respected held the New Testament to be God’s Word and without error. Later I had the opportunity to explore the evidence for the basic truthfulness of the New Testament documents for myself. I accepted The New Testament as true for my own reasons without depending on the testimony of others.

The New Testament presents a terrifying picture of what holiness is when it shows us the Person of Christ. Christ shows knowledge beyond that expected of a human (John 1:48-49). He heals the sick (Matt. 15:29-31). He stops the wind and the waves (Mark 4:35-41). He raises the dead (John 11:38-44). He teaches the most strict version of morality I have seen, including actions and attitudes of the heart (Matt. 5-7, Mark 7:14-23). He teaches that sin requires an eternal punishment (Mark 9:42-50). He accepts worship (Matt. 16:16-17, Luke 5:8, John 9:38, John 20:28-29). And, certainly not least, He rose from the dead Himself (1 Cor. 15:1-8).

Christ claimed to be God (John 8:58, John 10:30). He convinced a group of Jewish monotheists that He was God in the Flesh (Phil. 2:5-11).

Why is this so scary? He created the world (John 1:1-5) and holds it together (Col. 1:16-17). As my creator, He has the right to tell me what to do, and He requires perfect obedience (Matt. 5:48). He knows my imperfections (1 Cor. 13:12). In the words of Phillip Yancey, He is resurrected and “out there running around loose somewhere,” capable of upending all of my plans and dreams at any time. And He has reason to do exactly that in view of my sin.

However, the story does not end there. We see Christ promising to reconcile us to God by taking away our sins (Luke 24:46-49, John 3:10-21, John 14:6-7). We learn of the marvelous chance to take credit for what He has done for us by our faith (Luke 18:9-14). We see the picture of God’s action: “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” by making “[Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:16-21).

That is a part I really do not understand: that God could love me. That a being so perfect and holy could love me, a professional sinner, and a bad one at that.

The atonement, what Christ did for us on the cross, is a partial explanation for that love. The idea is that God could love us because He sees our sin as paid for by Christ's suffering on the cross. He sees us as having Christ’s righteousness credited to our account. (penal substitutionary atonement)

Many within the church obscure this marvelous, incomprehensible love of a holy God. I read books which treat the atonement as a kind of overarching story without explaining any of the particulars. I read and hear sermon after sermon that hide God’s holiness, His requirements, and man’s sinfulness under a mountain of practical advice and modern psychological methods. I find Sunday School materials that omit God’s requirements and holy nature while pointing to the example of God’s love, leaving much of God’s character unexpressed. I find intellectuals who bury the simplicity of the gospel under a mountain of technical jargon and obtuse arguments over fine points of archaic “theories” that have often been rejected by the church in most of history.

Only Christianity even begins to explain God’s holiness and God’s love at the same time. Why do we hide our uniqueness under the mundane?

We see a light that blinds us in its intensity and permanently changes the way we see. Why do we hide this light, the very light of the world, under a bushel? Why do we hide the very words that could gain a hearing from the world and the cultures we live in?

May God have mercy on us because of Christ. May He grant us a change of heart that overflows into the lives of those around us.

7/12/2007

The Case for the Real Jesus

I started a new discussion on Lee Strobel on Amazon.com with some of the comments below. I had a chance to review his soon to be published book, The Case for the Real Jesus.

This is the most useful book he has written yet. He addresses many of the concerns raised by those outside the Christian faith. As usual with Strobel, the book is a collection of interviews he held with noted authorities on various aspects of the historical Jesus.

He especially addresses the particular issues I see raised on the internet. The sections on the influence of pagan religions on early Christianity, the early composition and distribution of the gospels, and the selection of the books included in the traditional New Testament are particularly helpful.

His straight forward, journalistic style of writing powerfully brings home the knowledge and convictions of those scholars and experts he interviews. I highly recommend this book.

7/10/2007

Desiring God Ministries is looking for ideas to spread a resource of theirs: “Light and Heat,” an audio mp3 on CD resource. This is a great series of sermons for an introduction to John Piper. I love my copy. You can share your ideas here and possibly qualify to distribute 5,000 of the CDs.

7/07/2007

Reformation 21 has posted a wonderful short article on the atonement by J. I. Packer. He avoids the temptation to oversimplify. He also confronts the issues head on. Here’s a quote:

But I do not see how it can be denied that each New Testament book, whatever other job it may be doing, has in view, one way or another, Luther’s primary question: ‘How may a weak, perverse and guilty sinner find a gracious God?’… to the extent that modern developments, by filling our horizon with the great meta-narrative, distract us from pursuing Luther’s question in personal terms, they hinder as well as help in our appreciation of the gospel.

7/05/2007

A Possible Addition to Your Story of David and Goliath

I have set through many talks on the story of David and Goliath. I thought you might be interested to hear some facts from a talk I heard given by Edmund P. Clowney on the White Horse Inn radio broadcast a few months ago. I have “jazzed up” the presentation a bit to make it more interesting. Clowney was a seminary professor at Westminster Theological Seminary before he passed away and did not have a dramatic flair.

The story is in 1 Samuel 17:1-58. Do not stop reading the story at verse 50. Everybody does that. It keeps the story G-rated, but makes it dull. Go ahead and read at least verses 51-54. It won’t hurt; it’s in the R-rated Bible that we have been given.

Here we see David stand over the dead body of Goliath of Gath, reach down, and remove Goliath’s sword from the scabbard at his belt. He grabs Goliath’s hair, lifts his head, and cuts his head off at the neck.

Verse 54 says he took the severed head to Jerusalem. We suspect from 2 Samuel 5:6 that Jerusalem was in the hands of the Jebusites at the time. It was not liberated until sometime later.

I rely on assumptions here, but I can just see the young David, soon to become the Warrior King of Israel, who would throw off the oppression of the Philistines and conquer a kingdom. I see him standing on a hill outside Jerusalem with the bloody, severed head in his hand shouting to the Jebusites on the city wall, “This is what the Lord God of Israel did to Goliath, and you are next.”

Tradition goes on to say that David buried Goliath’s head on that hill outside Jerusalem, a hill that would become known as the place of the skull: Golgotha. Matthew 27:33, Mark 15:22, Luke 23:33, and John 19:17 testify that this hill was the one Jesus Christ was crucified on.

Get it: Jesus Christ tread underfoot the greatest enemy of Israel as He walked up Calvary’s hill to die for us. And He will tread underfoot all of our enemies as we turn to Him in faith. Colossians 2 says, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”

All the guilt, shame, pain, and temptation faced by those who have faith in Christ were made powerless by Christ’s victory on the cross! All the enemies Satan can bring to bear have been not merely defeated, but put to shame by Christ. Turn to Him in faith for your deliverance.

7/03/2007

Morality

A good short article on morals in an atheistic world resides here.

The article, by Dr. Phil Fernandes, gives a good short summary of my anti-hero: Friedrich Nietzsche. By “anti-hero,” I mean someone who I disagree with who I can nonetheless respect for his or her intellectual stance.

Nietzsche is a philosopher who wrestled with the meaning of ethics in an atheist worldview. His basic conclusion was there were no transcendent ethics, and that we must create our own. He at least acknowledges the reality of a world without God and takes that view of the world to its logical conclusion.

I believe that ethics are consistent and universal. God so created the universe that we have a moral sense that is a reliable guide to actions in the world.

Nietzsche is also an example of ethics “thrown out the window” in the historical movements that adopted his philosophy. I pray for the day when all men will acknowledge the moral law and the Moral Lawgiver.

The scary part is that none of us follows the law. We are all moral relativists when it comes down to it. We justify our actions in many awful ways. Thankfully, there is grace and mercy from God through our faith.

7/02/2007

Upcoming Desiring God Conference

Desiring God Ministries has announced the theme and speaker for their National Conference, September 28 – 30, 2007 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

“Stand: A Call for the Endurance of the Saints.” The theme verse is Revelation 14:12: “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.”

More information is here. Registration is here.

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