6/28/2008

The God-Man

Ligonier Ministry’s blog has a series of posts from John Gerstner on the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ. You can find the first three here, here, and here.

The last post above contains great examples of Christ’s influence on the world. Here’s an excerpt from the summary:

We are fully aware that to attribute Godhood to any man is a colossal
affirmation. It borders on the incredible--the impossible. But when we consider
the impression of Christ's humanity, the great claims He made for Himself in the
most humble way, the unrestrained adoration and worship of those who knew Him,
the miracles associated with Him whose life was a "blaze of miracles," and the
constant recurring miracles of grace which have attended the heralding of His
name throughout the world, we propose that (if it is difficult to believe that a
man was also God) it is impossible to deny Christ's deity. It is difficult to
believe; it is impossible to doubt.

6/25/2008

China

Several posts and articles on Christianity in China have recently caught my attention. See the posts here and here and follow their links.

It seems Christianity is no longer just a Western phenomenon. (Not that it ever was to begin with.)

6/24/2008

O God of Grace…

Thanks to Between Two Worlds for printing the prayer below:

O God of grace,

Thou hast imputed my sin to my substitute,
and hast imputed his righteousness to my soul,
clothing me with a bridegroom’s robe,
decking me with jewels of holiness.

But in my Christian walk I am still in rags;
my best prayers are stained with sin;
my penitential tears are so much impurity;
my confessions of wrong are so many
aggravations of sin;
my receiving the Spirit is tinctured with
selfishness.

I need to repent of my repentance;
I need my tears to be washed;
I have no robe to bring to cover my sins,
no loom to weave my own righteousness;

I am always standing clothed in filthy garments,
and by grace am always receiving change of raiment,
for thou dost always justify the ungodly;

I am always going into the far country,
and always returning home as a prodigal,
always saying, Father, forgive me,
and thou art always bringing forth
the best robe.

Every morning let me wear it,
every evening return in it,
go out to the day’s work in it,
be married in it,
be wound in death in it,
stand before the great white throne in it,
enter heaven in it
shining as the sun.

Grant me never to lose sight of
the exceeding sinfulness of sin,
the exceeding righteousness of salvation,
the exceeding glory of Christ,
the exceeding beauty of holiness,
the exceeding wonder of grace.

6/20/2008

Faith and Surrender

I’m reading the best recovery / self-help book I’ve seen. The book, The Last Addiction: Why Self-Help Is Not Enough, is written by Sharon A. Hersh (WaterBrook Press: Colorado Springs, 2008). The book’s take on “surrender” is the most Biblical expression of the concept I have read. Here’s an excerpt:

When I surrender my wounds to [Christ’s] death on the cross for me, I am acknowledging that I can’t save myself. This concept of surrender is more foreign [than] we might think, especially if we are familiar with words of faith. We can believe that Jesus died, was buried, and arose again. We can say the words, “I know Jesus died for my sins. I want Him to come into my heart.” But surrender goes further. Surrender is joined to belief when I know that I am utterly helpless, and I exchange my ways of being good, of proving myself, of pulling myself up by my bootstraps, for The Way of needing [Jesus’] love, forgiveness, mercy, grace and holiness as much as I need oxygen. This desperation is only born out of dying to myself.

Whether it is addiction or another excruciating reality of life that strikes the final wound that leads to surrender, it becomes a gift when we invite the healing wounds of Jesus to minister to our wounds. (pp. 87-88)

This concept of surrender is really a form of trust. Trust in the life and death of Christ alone as payment for my sins, not in the abstract, but in a concrete and final way.

I had this type of trust when I invited Jesus into my heart when I was seven years old, but I have found that this trust has deepened over time. I have become more and more aware of my sins and the imperfection of even my best works. I have become more and more aware of the dark depths of my heart where my sin comes from.

This heightened awareness has caused me to cling to Christ more fully and more desperately than ever before. That humble trust is the true meaning of surrender.

6/17/2008

Where to Start Reading the Bible

I appreciate the post over at Ligonier’s blog on Bible Reading. R. C. gave a similar list of books to start reading in his Knowing Scripture. It helped me to read the books of the Bible he recommended in order to get the big picture of the Bible’s story. I then went back and read the other books to fill in the details.

6/13/2008

Piper on Psalm 51

I have been obligated to confess some deeply troubling personal sins over the last few weeks. I’ve always loved the Psalms, and I quickly found Psalm 51 when God was pleased to change my heart and grant repentance. I find that David’s prayer gives expression to the pain and turmoil I find myself in as I confess my sins to God.

John Piper made some comments on this Psalm in a recent sermon that are worth quoting at length. He explains some of the darker feelings I have been having. Here is part of what he says, and I encourage you to follow the link and read the whole thing.

…David is forgiven for his sin and justified in the presence of God. But what Psalm 51 describes is what David felt and thought as he laid hold on God’s mercy. Some might say that Christians after the death of Jesus do not pray and confess this way. They should not think and feel this way. I don’t think that’s right…

This is foundational to everything. Being a Christian means being broken and contrite. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you get beyond this in this life. It marks the life of God’s happy children till they die. We are broken and contrite all the way home—unless sin gets the proud upper hand. Being broken and contrite is not against joy and praise and witness. It’s the flavor of Christian joy and praise and witness.

(John Piper, “A Broken and Contrite Heart God Will Not Despise,” as downloaded from here on today’s date.)


I know I am justified by what Christ has done for me. He has paid the penalty for my sins, and there is nothing I can add to or take away from His payment. But it is good to know that feelings of remorse, and even revulsion, are normal in view of my past sin. And, somehow, because I know these feelings are normal, I can turn myself over to God in a wholehearted way. I can think of myself rightly as God lets me feel His love once again.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

6/09/2008

The Four Horsemen Get Some Things Right

Stand to Reason’s blog contains a great post on the new video from our modern aethiest group. Here’s a sample from the post.

Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris are actually doing us a favor. The thing I appreciate about these men is that they don't view religion as a relativistic, subjective enterprise. They take the claims of Christianity seriously by addressing them as truth claims, not preferences. In the first ten minutes of a video they've titled The Four Horsemen, they express frustration about
the fact that people have made religion untouchable--that if a person tries to argue against the truthfulness of a religion, even the non-religious will shake a finger at him for criticizing it. I couldn't agree more with their frustration...

I agree. I dislike the way most people in the modern church make religion subjective. When religion moves into the are of “blind faith,” our critics are right to ridicule us. The Christian faith is about truth that is revealed by God. Truth. Objective, provable, demonstrable truth. We would do well to remember that.

6/05/2008

The Universe as Illusion vs. The Ontological Argument

Skeptic magazine gives a summary of possible explanations for the universe we live in. The article (“Why This Universe?: Toward a Taxonomy of Possible Explanations,” Robert Lawrence Kuhn, Skeptic, Volume 13, Number 2, 2007.) starts with the question “Why is there something rater than nothing?” and notes many of the alternatives scientists and philosophers put fort as possible answers. This listing, or taxonomy, is intended to promote useful discussion about the alternatives.

The article states that each of the alternatives given is “logically permissible.” This is a misnomer; “logically permissible” implies that there is a cogent argument in support of the explanation. Since many of the explanations are contradictory, this cannot be the case. To imply otherwise makes no sense. The author does note that these possibilities “should not be mistaken for scientific theories or even scientific possibilities.” I agree, but would add that logic in and of itself excludes all of the possibilities except one: theism.

I will grant that many of these explanations are theoretically possible, that is, taken individually, they are internally consistent. They are possible in that sense, but one must successfully argue for the truth or falsehood of each in order for them to be logically possible.

I will give a series of posts that address many of the possibilities given in the article. I have given logical arguments for God’s existence elsewhere, and I do not plan to repeat all of the argument’s details for these posts (see here and here to get started). I will start with the notion of the universe as an illusion.

To quote R. C. Sproul, “if something exists - if anything exists - then that which exists is either an illusion, self-created, self-existent or ultimately created by something that is self-existent.” All alternatives in the Skeptic Magazine article reduce to one of these four. I will take each of the four alternatives in a slightly different order: illusion, self-created, created by something self-existent, or self-existent. I apply these alternatives to you, your own being. (Quote from here.)

The universe could theoretically be an illusion. But, if you find yourself in an illusion, there is one truth you can be certain of: you exist. You must exist because if you did not exist, there would be no one to have the illusion. You are not an illusion, so you must have an explanation for your own being. We must now explore different possibilities.

You cannot be self-created. For anything or anyone to create itself, that thing must exist before it exists. I hope that last sentence gives you a splitting headache, because it is supposed to. It is not logically possible to exist before you exist. You would have to be existing and not existing at the same time and in the same way. That is not logically possible.

Now we can explore what we mean by something that is “self-existent.” By “self-existent,” I mean something that has always been, something that has the power of being in and of itself. It cannot not exist. That is, it exists necessarily. To clarify, I turn to Sproul:

… if something exists, then something exists necessarily. This piece of paper that I’m holding cannot exist unless there is some necessary existence somewhere somehow that has the power of being in itself. If there ever was a time when there was nothing - absolutely nothing - then nothing could possibly exist now. And whatever is eternal and self-existent is ontologically transcendent [of a differing order of being] to everything else. (Quote from here.)

We can know a few things about this necessary being. If it must be in and of itself. If this being causes all that is to exist, it must exist independent of the universe it creates, or it must transcend the universe. Since it exists outside of the universe it causes, it is not limited in its being by anything or anyone else.

Something that has always existed would not have a changing being because to change means to be limited by something or someone else. Change also means to stop being one way and start being another way, but the cause of all that is cannot stop being. Therefore, the cause of all that is cannot change. Norman Geisler expounds on what it means to exist in the way I am describing, to exist necessarily:

… necessary existence means that He cannot not exist—so He had no
beginning and no end. But it also means that He cannot “come to be” in any
other way. He must be as He is necessarily. He can’t become something new. That removes all change from His being—He is unchanging... In fact, since a necessary being cannot not be, He can have no limits. A limitation means “to not be” in some sense, and that is impossible—so He is infinite. Also, He can’t be limited to categories like “here and there,” because unlimited being must be in all places at all times—therefore, He is omnipresent. All of these are attributes that follow just from knowing that He is necessary. (Quote from here. See Norman Geisler here and here for further argument.)

Now the other option is that you have existed forever. First of all, this runs contrary to all of human experience. You are conscious of a time when you began to be. You have a first memory. In addition, you are not capable of maintaining your own existence forever, and you are conscious of that fact. You can cease to exist. That is why you spend so much time and energy preserving your life.

Second, our being changes. Scientific studies that show that even our very cells die out and regenerate. We are literally not the same physical being today that we were yesterday. We grow old. We take ill. We are injured. All of these things are a change in being or essence.

If you cannot be self-existent, then you are left with a self-existent cause of your own existence. Other arguments lead to the same conclusions, and I have tried to expound on them here.

Quotes from R. C. Sproul are from the article “God’s Existence and Atheism: R.C. Sproul talks to Peter Hastie,” Copyright Australian Presbyterian July 2002, as downloaded from here on 7/27/07.

Quotes from Norman Geisler are from the article “Questions About God: What Kind of God Exists?” by Dr. Norman Geisler as downloaded from here on 6/4/08.

6/04/2008

A Re-print of a Letter to the Editor on Chance

I wanted to reprint a letter to the editor I found while going through some old files of mine. Please note that this basic argument can apply to many scientific theories that claim that evens happen “by chance.” May evolutionists and scientists use that type of language.

Dear Sir or Madam:

William M. Montante’s article titled “Journey to a Definition of Chance” appearing in the August 2004 issue of Professional Safety hinted at a very important point about chance. However, it failed to adequately express the main philosophical issue.

“Chance” is spoken of at many points in the article as if it were a tangible being that has the power to cause something, namely an accident. Some examples are the phrases “through which chance can act,” and an “outcome [that is] chance dependent” (page 39).

Chance is an abstract concept. As such it has no existence. It is not a thing, no-thing, nothing. It cannot cause anything since it has no existence in reality. It has no being, and hence no power. It’s similar to the idea of a negative number. We can never find a negative number of tangible things. This is one of the first rules I learned as an engineering student to test the outcome of a classroom problem. If I had a negative length for an answer, my answer to the problem was obviously wrong.

The safety profession often uses the concept to describe the unknown or immeasurable events and circumstances that cause an accident. Statisticians also attempt to predict the future based on “chance” or probability. It has been useful to scientific research for this purpose. It is the best way we have to predict the future with imperfect knowledge.

But “chance” has no being. It is not some force that can intervene in the world. We do great damage to the rational underpinnings of science when we say that anything, from the evolution of man to the cause of an accident, is “by chance.”

Take a coin flip. The best mathematical predictor of the outcome we have is a “50-50 chance.” But we cannot rationally state that chance caused the coin to land on heads or tails in a particular incidence. If we knew all of the variables involved in the particular coin flip: the exact weight of the coin, the distribution of the weight over the coin’s volume, the force imparted to the coin by the finger, the exact location on the coin’s surface of the force, the air’s density, the exact point where the coin is caught, etc.; we would be able with 100% accuracy to predict the outcome of the flip. These variables are the true causes of the heads-or-tails outcome.

As safety professionals, we would better spend our time learning new ways to measure the events that lead to accidents as opposed to attributing any causal power to “chance.” The true causes of accidents are rationally accessible through our senses. They are scientifically discoverable.

What we can measure, we can learn to control. We simply cannot afford to let faulty notions of “chance” distract us from our ultimate goal of accident prevention. Lives are at stake.

(The argument of this letter came from Dr. R. C. Sproul as expressed in his book Not a Chance. Of course, any mistakes are mine.)

Sincerely,

J. K. Jones, M. Sc.
Member of the American Society of Safety Engineers

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