12/24/2015

A Christmas Hymn for 2015

In keeping with a Christmas tradition of mine, I wanted to share one of my favorite hymns, sung at a recent church service I attended.  I will also take the time to explain some of the lyrics.  

The song I have chosen this year is “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence,” a solid performance of which can be found here.  This song takes much of its imagery from Isaiah Chapter 6 and Revelation Chapter 5 and Chapter 19.  The hymn was probably written in 275 A. D.

The first verse says:

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
and with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

These verses from John Chapter One come to mind: 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known. (John 1, ESV)

The Gospel of John was written in about 90 A. D., well within the generation of the earliest disciples of Christ.  This imminently reliable gospel begins with the startling fact that Jesus was the Divine Son of God, the very Deity in human flesh.  Jesus was what D. James Kennedy used to call “The Eternal God-Man,” a man distinct from God in person, yet one in essence with Him.  How could we not be in awe of the fact that the glory of God was revealed in the Person of Christ? 

Should we not say, with the prophet Habakkuk, ”But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him" (Habakkuk2:20, ESV)?  Should we not shout from the roof tops, “Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling” (Zechariah 2:13, ESV)?


Followed by:
King of kings, Yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, In human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful.
His own self for heavenly food.

Our Lord’s deity is again praised using phrases said of Jesus from Revelation 19:16: ”On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” The vision switches briefly from the lowly Christ, born in a manger, to the exhausted Christ coming to earth in his glory to judge the nations.

Christ’s words from Luke 22:19-20 are then referenced: “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Christ gives his life as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of his people, and the “heavenly food” of The Lord’s Supper strengthens them for the long journey through this life to heaven to come.

Verse three:
Rank on rank the host of heaven
spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
from the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
as the darkness clears away.

In another allusion to Revelation Chapter 19, we hear of the risen and ascended Christ coming to earth to judge the world.  As Christ himself said, “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done” (Matthew 16:27, ESV).  This coming judgment should compel us to reach for God’s mercy to forgive our sins.  This grace and mercy was bought by Christ for all of those who repent of their sins and place their trust in him.


Verse four:
At His feet the six-winged seraph,
Cherubim, With sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to His presence
as with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia! Lord Most High!

The imagery progresses to the heavenly vision seen by the prophet Isaiah in Chapter Six of the book that bears his name: “Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”” (Isaiah6:2-3, ESV).  We are transported through the vision of the prophet into the very throne room of God Almighty to see Christ at his most glorious.  We praise him with the seraphim, specially created angels of God who are specially equipped to fly in God’s direct presence.  We sound our “Hallelujahs” to “The Lord Most High.”  We praise him, not just for what he has done, but for who he is: the Lord God Almighty.


This humble blog post only begins to ‘scratch the surface’ of the wondrous message of “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.” May the God of all grace bend our knees and humble our hearts before the risen Christ this Christmas season.


11/06/2015

Operation Christmas Child National Collection Week: November 16-23, 2015

It's that time of year again.  Time to participate in the world’s largest Christmas project of its kind: Operation Christmas Child. The annual Samaritan’s Purse project is a favorite of many families, churches and groups.  They spread joy to millions of children around the world by filling shoeboxes with a “Wow!” item—like a doll or soccer ball—other fun toys, school supplies, hygiene items and notes of encouragement.

I had the great privilege of going to Lima, Peru, in 2008 to help hand out some of those shoeboxes to children in need through local churches.  To read my story, follow this link and read several posts from my trip.  It was an unforgettable experience.

Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization headed by Franklin Graham. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to more than 124 million children in more than 150 countries and territories. For many of these children, a gift-filled shoebox is the first gift they have ever received.  You would not believe the places these shoeboxes can be delivered for just $7 per box!


With a computer or mobile device, you can conveniently pack a personalized Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift on the Samaritan’s Purse website at samaritanspurse.org/occ.  You can even select toys and gift items, write a note of encouragement and “pack” them in a shoebox online. Using special tracking technology, we can follow our boxes to discover where in the world our gifts are delivered by using the donation form found at samaritanspurse.org/occ. These gifts of hope will go to children in some of the hardest-to-reach countries, and they are distributed through local churches so life-changing connections can be made with the body of Christ. 

Drop-off locations can be found at this link.

You can volunteer for year-round positions at this link.  It's a very rewarding experience.

9/24/2015

Why You Should Become a Christian: Conclusion

I hope that you have found this little series to be helpful.  I have outlined the reasons that I have chosen to be a Christian and to remain in the faith.  I have shared much of my own personal intellectual and emotional journey.

The reasons given are not persuasive arguments for everyone. I pray that if you are a person who does not find them convincing that you will at least be motivated to explore other arguments and approaches.

Some places to look on the internet are: www.str.org, www.ligonier.org, www.carm.org, and www.4truth.net.  

Some helpful books include The Reason for God by Timothy Keller, Reasons to Believe by R. C. Sproul, Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Richard Bauckham, and I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek.  These men differ on many theological issues, but their arguments for God’s existence and the truth of the Bible are sound.  

Some other names to research include Greg Bahnsen, Cornelius Van Til, Alvin Plantinga, John Frame, and Craig Blomberg. 

The ultimate aim of this blog is to point others to Christ as the great Lord and Savior. He is the one Person who has walked the earth who is worthy of true worship and lavish praise. May His glory be over all the earth.



9/17/2015

Why You Should Become a Christian: Christianity Has Changed My Life

I was raised in a Baptist church in a small, West Tennessee town. Many times, I have heard the testimony of a person who has been radically and completely delivered from the awful, evil sins they once committed.

I have often questioned the miraculous deliverances purported in these testimonies, especially when the speaker implies that my life must assuredly be changed in the same dramatic way if I truly repent of my sins and come to Christ.

I do not intend to discuss a long, rambling account of my personal sins and the way I have tried to set them aside. I have found in my own experience that my besetting sins have persisted after I became a Christian, even though I am better than I once was.

The difference in my life I want to discuss is not a dramatic reversal of my behavior. The Holy Spirit has helped me to get better over time, but I have not been made perfect, and I have not been radically and instantly delivered from sin.

The change in my life that I want to focus on is the freedom I have found in God’s forgiveness. I have found freedom and power to change in the knowledge that my sins are forgiven because of Christ. I have the encouragement I need to get up when I fall down.

Jerry Bridges describes this well: 
Gradually over time, and from a deep sense of need, I came to realize that the gospel is for believers, too. When I finally realized this, every morning I would pray over a Scripture such as Isaiah 53:6," All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all," and then say, "Lord, I have gone astray. I have turned to my own way, but you have laid all my sin on Christ and because of that I approach you and feel accepted by you.
[Christians] stand before God today as righteous as we ever will be, even in heaven, because he has clothed us with the righteousness of his Son. Therefore, I don't have to perform to be accepted by God. Now I am free to obey him and serve him because I am already accepted in Christ (see Rom. 8:1). My driving motivation now is not guilt but gratitude.

To use an expression of the late Jack Miller, we must "preach the gospel to ourselves every day." For me that means I keep going back to Scriptures such as Isaiah 53:6, Galatians 2:20, and Romans 8:1. 

It means I frequently repeat the words from an old hymn, "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness." The success of our struggle with sin begins with our believing deep down in our hearts that regardless of our failures and our struggle, we have died to sin's guilt. We must believe that however often we fail; there is no condemnation for us (Rom. 8:1).

I find freedom from my sin in Christ’s power. I do not find a perfect freedom. These are always sins that I am prone to commit. If I fail, those are the ways I am going to fail at most of the time.

Am I worried about losing my salvation or making it null and void because of a “habit” or “continuing in sin?” Sometimes I do doubt, but in the end I know that I am forgiven in Christ. I repent of my sin and enjoy Christ’s forgiveness.

Will I earn rewards for the good things I have done on earth? Yes, God will graciously reward the results of His power because He sees my ‘good works’ through the lens of Christ’s righteousness credited to me.

He will reward the works He has brought about. But the rewards I earn will not be for me. They will be cast at the feet of Jesus in His honor.


Our next post will conclude our little series about why you should become a Christian.

9/10/2015

Why You Should Become a Christian: Christianity Leads to Joy

Psychology, the way people think, has always been a fascination of mine. Great care must be used by a Christian in this area, but the concepts can often be redeemed. One of the most fascinating areas of psychology is temperament theory.

Temperament theory can be traced back to Hippocrates. It is undeniably imperfect, and some have even rejected the theories altogether.

Many of us are very reserved in temperament.  We were just made to be calm and quiet.  
It might surprise those who know very little about people like us that we want to be happy. Not just happy-go-lucky, smile all the time, laugh at everything type happy, but truly happy.

We want to be happy in the sense of being “blessed” or “delighted.” It might help to remind of the old adage, “Still waters run deep.”

John Piper has been a great help to me in many ways. His teaching has reinforced much of what I have learned about the way my heart works.

God made us to live a moral life, and we should not be surprised that moral living gives us joy. God forgives us of our sins in Christ, and we should not be surprised that the love he has shown for us results in joy.

This joy is at a profound level that can even motivate us to give our lives over to suffering and death on Christ’s behalf. The idea is not that our happiness is the greatest good; it is that we are made for God’s glory.  Living for His glory gives us joy.


I have not found a worldview or religion that can come close to Christianity in providing joy. This joy has led to great positive changes in my life, and I will describe those changes in the next post.

9/03/2015

Why You Should Become a Christian:Christianity Gives a Certain Promise of Heaven

I have mentioned before that the ideas Christianity holds make intuitive sense to me. This idea is true of the central message of the Christian faith: what most call “the gospel,” or the good news.

The gospel is intuitive in that, once I was made aware of it; I knew “in my gut” that it explained my experience. Of course, it is not intuitive in that I would never have thought this up without someone telling me about these truths.

The gospel is the fact that God offers eternal life as a free gift. Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” As a gift, eternal life is not earned or deserved. I will return to this idea latter. 

The law requires perfection. Jesus Himself said, “Be ye perfect even as your father in heaven is perfect.” We cannot avoid the knowledge that we have fallen short of this obviously true ideal.  (???)

No one obeys the law perfectly or obeys the law with perfect motives: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

The old prayer of confession in the Anglican Church reads, “We have sinned against [God] in thought, word and deed. By the things we have done and the things we have left undone.”  It’s not just about what we do; it’s also about what we don’t do.

This conflict leaves us inadequately prepared for God’s judgment in and of ourselves. We are not perfect. We do not meet God’s standard.

The gospel comes into sharper focus when we understand what the Bible says about God. God is holy, or separate from sin. God is also just, that is, He is the perfect judge who must punish sin.  

The Old Testament reads, “... yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.” God also loves: “God is love.” And since He loves His people, He must act.  

In human terms, this tension leaves God with a problem. On the one hand, He loves us and does not want to punish us. One the other hand, He is just and must punish sin. God solved this “problem” for us in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is God who came to earth as a man. As a man, Christ was able to follow the requirements of perfect morality. He was able to live a perfect life, always doing what is moral from perfect motives.

He also was able to take our sins upon Himself. He took credit for the things we have done wrong. 

He suffered a death He did not deserve as a substitute for us. He suffered the wrath of God for our sins.

As Isaiah wrote, “All we like sheep have gone astray, each to his own way, but God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all … it pleased the Lord to bruise him, and he has put him to grief.” As Paul wrote, “For [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” 

God has made it possible for Christ to take credit for our sins and suffer infinitely in His soul for them. We take credit for all of this by faith.

Faith does not just understand the good news of what Christ has done for us.  It does not just believe that these facts are true.

Faith is a confident trust that what Christ did He did for us. It trusts what He said about how to live our lives and what He said about having eternal life.

This is what the Bible means when it says, “Believe on [not just in, but on] the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” It is what Christians mean when they say that they accept the free gift of eternal life from Christ.

Why then do we do good works? If eternal life is a free gift, why should we strive to be moral? One answer for this is that we are grateful for the free gift we have received.

The gospel frees us from having to search our motives, which are often impure, and to live for the God who made us. We do not have to agonize over our motives because Christ died for impure motives as well as impure thoughts, words, and deeds. We do not perform good works out of desire to avoid punishment because Christ took our punishment for us.

Christ offers an abundant life to all who would turn to Him in faith. There is nothing outside you that keeps you from accepting His free gift of eternal life today. I pray that all who read this can find the hope of heaven that God has revealed to us in Christ.

Many people find that this simple message leads them directly to belief in God.

We should pray that the faith of Christians will be strengthened by the message of the gospel. Our next post will look at a practical reason to embrace the God of the Bible.


(Note: D. James Kennedy provided the general outline for this article.)

8/20/2015

Why You Should Become a Christian: Christianity Explains the Presence of Evil

A bridge in Minneapolis collapses. Nuclear weapons experimentation makes Kazakhstan home to people with awful disfigurements. A train wreck in Brazil kills eight and injures over 100. Civil war tears apart the hopes and dreams of children in Africa. ISIS continues its reign of terror in the Middle-east.  Seemingly countless murders tear apart families.

Evil, defined for this article as sin or injustice against another human being, is all around us.

I am not about to try to give a comprehensive explanation for how evil came to be. I do not claim to be the kind of person who can do that.  God created men with the ability to sin and the ability not to sin, but I cannot reason beyond that.

I do not know how evil came to be; I just know that evils exists. Evil is present. Evil is real.
What must exist in order for evil and suffering to be truly wrong? Does not the existence of evil itself require a standard of good?

Should we just accept evil as a part of the way the universe works? Should we accept a view of evil based on social convention, or the DNA encoded in our cells?

These things vary from one person to the next, but we do not find a definition of evil that changes greatly from person to person, place to place, or time to time. We always seem to have a notion of the way things ought to be.

I want a view of the world around me that accounts for the reality of evil and suffering. I want it to be called evil, not just the absence of happiness that is a social construct of mere men.

We know that this standard of good and evil must be real. Life makes no intuitive sense without it.
The denial of evil is impossible in view of the pain and suffering we see around us. I want cruelty to be profoundly wrong. For this, I need an absolute standard for what is right.

Christianity allows for this standard. It allows evil to be “evil.” Non-Christian views of the world do not allow for this standard because they provide no standard or right and wrong.

The theologian Greg Bahnsen writes:
… it is crucial to the unbeliever's case against Christianity to be in a position to assert that there is evil in the world -- to point to something and have the right to evaluate it as an instance of evil … the problem of evil turns out to be, therefore, a problem for the unbeliever himself. In order to use the argument from evil against the Christian worldview, he must first be able to show that his judgments about the existence of evil are meaningful -- which is precisely what his unbelieving worldview is unable to do.
Knowing that evil “is,” that it exists, is enough to convince us that there is a God. We cannot define evil without defining good. Evil is a falling short of the good.

Knowing that evil “is” leads us relentlessly to a God who is the definition of good. Without Him, we would not know evil when we saw it.

Of course, Christianity does not stop there. It also offers hope for deliverance from evil. In the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ we find ultimate deliverance from “the last enemy,” death. (1 Corinthians 15:25-28).


In Christ, we find deliverance from the power of evil and the forces that bring it about (Colossians 2:8-15). Many have found Christ to be their life and hope in the face of the real, tangible evil we find all around us.  We turn in our next post to one outcome of the teachings of the Bible.

8/13/2015

Why You Should Become a Christian: Christianity Changes the World for the Better

I was very ill as a young child. I had a lung disease that left me breathless after walking a few feet, much more out of breath when trying to run, climb, or jump. I was thirteen before I began to grow out of it, but I had been through a lot before then.

My illness always hit me hard when it came time for PE, physical education, class. That was when we divided up into teams to play sports.

I was never the first one chosen for the team. I was usually chosen last. Everyone knew I would have little to contribute. My best contribution would be just to stay out of the way.

Little League Baseball was and is more than a sport in Obion County, Tennessee, where I grew up. It is more like a religion. Parents had a lot to say about the make-up of the teams, and they organized try-outs.

I tried hard, but I was never picked to be part of the best team. I always wanted to be part of the winning team.

Christianity offered me the chance to be a part of the winning team, to be part of the group that will make a real difference in the world. Christ’s church proves to be a great influence today.

Here are some of the ongoing accomplishments of Christians making a difference in the world:

Operation Christmas Child impacts over 10,000,000 of the world’s impoverished children each year with gift-filled shoeboxes. 

World Vision, a Christian relief, development, and advocacy organization, assists more than 70 million children, with families and communities, to overcome poverty and injustice.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief serves over 600,000 meals and purifies over 250,000 gallons of water per year for those devastated by disasters.

Mercy Ships has performed more than 1.7 million medical services valued at over $670 million and influencing more than 1.9 million people as direct beneficiaries.

Medi-Share has allowed Christians to give more than $275,000,000 to meet each other’s healthcare needs independent of healthcare insurance.

Prison Fellowship partners with hundreds of local churches and agencies across the country to bring Christ’s love to prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families.

World Changers uses teams of Southern Baptist youth to rebuild the homes and the lives of thousands of families impacted by poverty and tragedy. 

These facts do not mention the countless daily ministries of local churches all over the world that meet the needs of Christians and Non-Christians alike. What more could you ask of an organization?
Christ said of His church, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” I am finally part of the winning team.

The church truly advances the gospel in word and deed now, not to mention the many things it has accomplished in the past.  That fact is an important argument for the existence of the God of the Bible in itself.  (For more on the accomplishments of the past, see the books What if the Bible Had Never Been Written and What if Jesus Had Never Been Born, both by D. James Kennedy.)

Our next post will take us back to the world of philosophy to tackle what many call the greatest argument against the God of the Bible: the existence of evil.

8/06/2015

Why You Should Become a Christian: Jesus is the Best Teacher and Example

There is no other religious leader like Jesus Christ.

Many of us do not have a respect for authority in and of itself. In general, we do not care what a person’s position is, because we will respect them only if they are worthy of respect. Just because his title is “boss” or “professor” doesn’t mean that we will blindly follow his directives or uncritically do what he says.  We do not follow people who jump of cliffs.

We do not care how many titles a person has, we will only listen to their teaching if we are convinced they are intelligent and trustworthy. That’s why Christ’s credentials as a teacher are so very important to us.

What makes a good teacher? Some qualities of a good teacher include the fact that his teachings are true, and he can prove it. He follows his own teaching. He cares for those whom he teaches. And his teachings make a difference in the world. (Please note that I do not think a person must be male to be a good teacher. I use the masculine pronoun out of convention.)

We have an accurate set of historical documents that describe the events of Christ’s life. Christ appeared on the earth claiming to be God, teaching people how to live their lives, and giving us facts about God.

We can believe His teachings about Himself and about God because of His miracles. The fact that He performed miracles proves that God placed a stamp of approval on His message.

Miracles are contrary to the normal operation of the universe. They cannot be explained by known natural laws. Only a God who is powerful enough to bring about the universe from nothing could possibly perform them. God would not perform miracles on behalf of a false teacher.
Jesus Christ, as both God and man, is the only completely true teacher. He can no more lie than God Himself could.

Christ followed his own teaching. No one, even His enemies, could accuse him of sin. He lived a perfect life, the only man ever to earn the rewards of heaven through His own efforts.

Now we get to the last issue for discussion in this chapter: did Christ care for those He taught? No teacher has ever done for His followers what Christ has done for us.

He took our sins upon Himself and suffered God’s wrath for those sins when he didn’t deserve it. He rose from the dead to show His triumph over our greatest enemy: death itself. He makes it possible for those who have faith in Him to take credit for His perfect Life and have their sins paid for by His death.

Christ’s life, teachings, and love make Him the only teacher worth following without reservation. I thank God for what He accomplished for me in Christ each day.


Did Christ’s teaching make a difference in the world? That question is so significant that it deserves a post all by itself, and we will turn there next.

7/30/2015

Why You Should Become a Christian: God Makes Logic, Rational Thought, and Science Possible

Logic

Have you ever spent an afternoon thinking about thinking? Most people I know would quickly answer with a resounding “no.” Some would throw in an expletive. I admit that I am the type of person who thinks about thinking.

One aspect of thinking is our ability to determine the internal consistency of ideas, or whether or not the ideas ‘fit together.’  We need to be able to know whether our thinking method itself is accurate. This reasoning is the realm of formal logic.

Formal logic has always fascinated me. The laws of logic shape the way we think. They are an open window to the Christian God’s world.

Let us examine one law for instance: the law of non-contradiction.  It says that something cannot be both A and Non-A at the same time, in the same relationship, and in the same sense. This law cannot be denied. To deny it is to affirm it. For example, if you say, “The law of non-contradiction does not apply,” you could mean, “The law of non-contradiction does indeed apply.” The meanings would be the same.

The noted theologian Gordon H. Clark explains:
If the law of [non] contradiction is curbed, then a collection of letters, w-a-t-e-r, can mean not only sulfuric acid, but also at the same time and in the same sentence, tree, stone, Arcturus, the preposition because, and the cow jumped over the moon, ad infinitum…A word that means everything means nothing.
This law of logic, which leads us to all the others, is undeniable because to question it is to use it. It is the only way we can think.

How would an atheist account for a law like this, or any other of the laws of logic for that matter?  These abstract laws are not the result of observable behavior of objects or actions. We do not observe the laws of logic occurring in nature.  They are “abstract,” not physical things we can touch.

They are not open for scientific exploration and study. We assume that logic’s laws work in order to evaluate scientific evidence. Using science to prove that logic works would be circular reasoning, meaning that you would have to assume that logic works in order to prove that logic works.

The laws of logic cannot come from science because science is based on inductive reasoning from things we see in our environments. For example, we cannot see the law of non-contradiction in the world. We would have to see the properties of a non-existent things (non-A). The laws of logic are abstract constructions that exist only in the mind. We discover the laws of logic by thought, not observation.

The laws of logic are not evolutionary in origin, either. Evolutionary processes governed by natural selection would not necessarily lead to the truth about our world.

If our thinking is a preconditioned response determined by our genetics, rational impulses would then be determined by genetics. There would be no decisions made in any traditional sense. We would all be pre-programmed to do what we do, and therefore there would be no sense in arguing. We could not change each other’s genetics, so no one could possibly win.

Natural selection would only encourage behavior that would lead to survival. We could not be certain our beliefs about the world were true, only that they let us survive in any given situation.
Further, genetics change from person to person. Therefore, the undeniable laws of logic would change from one person to the next.

A Christian can account for the laws of logic by stating that they come from God. God has originated the laws of logic because He thinks logically. The laws of logic are a reflection of God’s mind. They do not change because the God whose thinking they reflect does not change.

As Michael Butler puts it: 
If atheists were consistent with their worldview, they would give up on logic and rationality altogether. But since they do behave rationally (at least some of the time) this shows that they are borrowing capital from [Christianity]…
Christianity allows for abstract and universal laws. Abstract because the Christian worldview teaches that more things exist than material objects. Thus it makes sense for there to be abstractions. Moreover, the universality of logic is possible because it is grounded in the character of God. God is by nature logical. And this all-powerful, all-knowing God orders all things…
I do not find an adequate explanation for logic and rational thought outside God. Literally, my thinking about thinking drives me inescapably to God’s existence.

Rational Thought
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 includes much more than that.

One of the things we learned ‘right off the bat’ was 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 represents a set of steps performed 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.

I have been taught to see rational thought as a process. 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. Someone must design a process, or it does not lead to purposeful outcomes. That includes the process of knowledge and the process of thought.

As John Frame puts it here:
[Those that defend the Christian faith] 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 …
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 fundamentally  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.”  (“Transcendental Arguments: An Essay” by John Frame, as downloaded from: apollos.ws/transcendental-argument/Transcendental%20Arguments.pdf, on 2/25/15)

Science

I had been employed as an industrial statistician for several years in the past. I used statistical methods to determine the best way to set up manufacturing equipment and processes.

The basic uniformity of nature, the idea that things in the future will happen as they have in the past, is a requirement for any kind of knowledge based on probability or science. But how can we be sure our experiments will work?

We know the future will be basically consistent with the past with respect to physical laws because the God who upholds those laws does not change. The way the world works does not change from one moment to the next because God made it to be relatively consistent.

As apologist Michael Butler says: 
That the uniformity of nature is compatible with the Christian worldview is easily proven ... God, who is providentially in control of all events, has revealed to us that we can count on regularities in the natural world.
The Bible teaches that God providentially causes the harvest to come in due season, for example. Because of this regularity, we can be assured that scientific endeavors will be fruitful. Thus, far from presupposing the falsity of Christianity, science would be impossible without the truth of the Christian worldview.
Once again, my professional life leads me to belief in God. All of science, not just my profession, depends on the basic uniformity of nature, and only God’s design of the world to act in a certain way can guarantee it.  The fact that science works proves that God exists.

God establishes reason, and without Him, we have no reason to be reasonable at all.


Our next post chapter will shift from philosophy to the field of history.  We will explore the Person and work of Jesus Christ in the next of our reasons to believe in the God of the Bible.  

7/24/2015

Why You Should Become a Christian:God Has Done What He Has Done

This post is an argument for God’s existence based on what He did when He created the world.  Bear with me on this one, because this is the most intensely philosophical argument in this short series.

God is eternal. He has no beginning and no end. This truth is foundational for a popular argument for God’s existence. Reason demonstrates that something in the past must have always existed.  We will look at two examples: counting and the progression of time.

It is not possible to count to the end of the series of real numbers. You can always count one more. It is, in one sense, an infinite series of discrete things. You can’t move to the end of a series like that. It has no end.

It is similarly impossible to move through an infinite series of moments of time, if time is in fact a discrete series of real moments. For example, if time extends forward forever then it is obvious it will never end. Reversing the process, if time extends infinitely into the past, time would never have arrived at this moment.

Similarly, we cannot expect that an infinite regress of causes of physical things exists either. That is, if we move backward from ourselves to the things that caused the things we perceive in our world now, then backward to the things that caused them and so on, we must find something that did not have a beginning. Otherwise, the universe would never have moved through an infinite series of discrete things to get to ourselves.

The infinite regression cannot exist in reality. Whatever the first cause was, it must have always been and it must have the power and ability to bring about all we see in the universe.
There is another way to state this type of argument that has been made popular by Walter Martin and R. C. Sproul. The universe as it exists now is either self-created, uncreated / eternal, or created by someone or something that is eternal.

The universe cannot be self-created because then it would have to exist before it existed in order to create itself. That is manifestly illogical. (It’s so illogical that I get a headache reading the first sentence of this paragraph.)

The universe cannot be eternal because everything we see in the universe is changing with respect to its being. It is coming and going out of existence, so to speak. If it is changing with respect to its being, it cannot be eternal.

Also, as R. C. Sproul points out, if that unchanging thing is the universe, it would have to be a part of the universe that does not change and has always existed. We still have something eternal and powerful that created it.  This being exists beyond the universe in the most important sense. It is transcendent, or has a different form of existence than the perceivable universe. So we are left with one conclusion regarding how the universe began: it was created by someone or something that is eternal.

There is another possibility that has become more and more popular, especially since the “Matrix” movies were released: the universe might be an illusion. The philosophical theologian Norman Geisler said that if all of reality is some form of an illusion, you must account for the illusion. The illusion is either self-created, eternal, or created by an eternal being; and we are back to the discussion above.  (It might also help to remind someone who thinks that life is just a dream to avoid talking in his sleep.) 

With two lines of reasoning, we find the universe coming from something that has always existed. Something, or someone, has always been here. It was not caused to be by something that existed before it. It is self-existent; it has the power of being in itself.

J. P. Morland, another theologian, adds that nothing outside this first cause could have caused it either act or not act. There was a “time” when there was nothing outside it, so there was nothing to cause its actions. It has the power of choice, the power to act on its own. Only a person has the power of choice.

Now we have a personality that has always existed, is super-powerful, and displays intention. This fits the Christian notion of God quite well, but not perfectly. 

There is another aspect of what God has done that leads us to other things about Him.  The world around us is full of processes that move toward an organized purpose.

My area of professional expertise is industrial engineering, also called “process engineering” at some universities.  We industrial engineers spend most of our lives in the pursuit of process improvement.

We professionally apply ourselves to manufacturing processes in many different industries. We look at ways to improve equipment, organization of jobs, the way human beings interact with machines, and the way humans interact with each other.

The end, or purpose, of a manufacturing process is to produce quality products, when needed by customers, at minimal cost, in a safe manner. There is one thing we know: a process left to itself does not meet that purpose.

Any time we take our hands off the controls, neglect the equipment, or neglect the people, we experience bad products, late shipments, high costs, and increased injuries. If we neglect the process completely, we achieve nothing whatsoever.

The argument I am stating below, is not exactly about design as some have said. It is about purpose.
John Gerstner, in his book Reasons for Faith (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1960, reprint 1995), uses this example on p. 34-35: “The dandelion sends up a little parachute to carry its seed along on the wind and find a place to germinate. That certainly spells intention … we search in vain to find anything in the dandelion that corresponds to our brain, the brain that enables us to think up useful plans.”  The humble dandelion shows that it has a purpose, and it must have been designed to meet that purpose.

This quote is another way of describing a process that leads to a conclusion: the ongoing cycle of life.  We find the location of the purpose evident in this process in “the ultimate cause which we have seen lies behind everything that is.” (ibid, p. 35)

This is not an argument based on probabilities, or an argument that is more likely true than not.  Evidence for any purpose at any point in any process demonstrates the existence of an intelligence to set that purpose.

So now we have reasoned to a being that has always existed, has great power, has the power to choose, has intelligence, and has intention. Only personal beings have the power to choose, and possess intelligence and intention. This truth fits the general idea of the eternal, personal God of the 
Bible well, but not perfectly.


Our next post will look at some abstract processes that also require explanation.

7/17/2015

Why You Should Become a Christian: God has told us about Himself

We can solve some problems intuitively. As an engineering major I was often faced with complex problems in mathematics, chemistry, physics, and other engineering disciplines that required much thought to solve.

I was often guided by my intuition, a kind of problem-solving method best describe by the phrase: “AH-HA, now I see it.” Many of us were often able to see the answer without consciously thinking through the problem. Of course, we had to go back to the beginning, reason through our answer and provide a proper line of reasoning to get credit for the problem on an exam.

The “AH-HA method” guided me through many problems and exercises. It guides me through many decisions I make today as a manager. Of course, I have to go back to data and facts derived from observation and careful thinking to make my case. I must still justify my actions to others.

Does this mean the “AH-HA method” is inferior? Yes, it does in a least one way. Decisions should be made based on facts.

We must explain the real world as we find it. However, do not tell me intuition has no place. Thousands of problems over the course of an undergraduate and a graduate degree in engineering tell me otherwise.

I freely admit that my initial solution to the question of God’s existence was fully intuitive. I just knew, from a big-picture assessment, that the Christian concept of God and salvation explained my world. The concept itself was convincing.

Of course, in a period of self-doubt and insecurity at about age 20, I reasoned through the problem. It was a pure “AH-HA method” to begin with, but I found many reasons to believe the “AH-HA” solution was accurate.

I want to give you an overview of this concept of God that led me to say “AH-HA.” The best short definition of God’s attributes, the things we can know about His being, is illustrated by a quote from one Christian definition: “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 4).

God is a Spirit. His very being is not physical or dependent upon a physical component. His being is not divided. His being cannot be split up into parts. Louis Berkhof puts it like this, “…He is not composed of various parts, such as the body and soul in man, and for that very reason is not subject to division.”

God is infinite. He is not limited by anything: not His physical universe, not His knowledge, not His location, and not His situation. He can do anything He wants.

Is there anything God cannot do? Yes. He cannot do anything that He does not choose to do, and there are some things He will never choose. He will not lie, fail to be just, do something unrighteous, or do anything else that is inconsistent with His character. His promises can be counted on.

God is eternal, or unlimited by time. He has always been there. He never came into being in any sense, and He never will come to be any other way than He is now. A quote from the theologian Louis Berkhof illustrates the eternal nature of God when he says, “For Him there is only an eternal present, and no past or future.”

God is unchangeable. His being cannot change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He has always been who He is and never will be different. To quote Arthur W. Pink: “God is perpetually the same: subject to no change in His being, attributes, or determinations.”

The part about God not changing His determinations bothers some people. How then can the Bible say that God “repents?” God’s reactions will be consistent with His own attributes.

He chooses to react in a certain way toward another being when that being acts one way, and then changes His reaction to that being when that being changes. He will forgive the repentant. He will turn His anger against the unrepentant. He is both loving and just as appropriate. The changes are in us, not in Him. God is a being with Whom we can relate. 

These facts govern everything else about Him. God’s “being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth” are all “infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.”

God is not limited with respect to knowledge. He knows everything that has happened, everything that will happen, and everything that could have happened but did not.

His knowledge means He will never be surprised by the problems we face, and that he knows the ultimate solutions to those problems. He also knows how to communicate with creatures like us.

God is not limited with respect to His power. He can do anything He wants. Nothing or no one can stop Him. The standard way to say this is “God can do all His holy will.” Nothing can stop His wrath against sin. Nothing can stop His mercy and grace towards the repentant.

God is holy. R. C. Sproul quotes the old children’s table blessing for a picture of God’s holiness: “God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for this food.” God’s holiness is His greatness and His goodness. He is different from anyone or anything else. God always does the right thing. He is most worthy of worship.

God is just. He cannot do anything that is unjust to another. He cannot wrong someone. He must see that justice is done.   

He is the only perfect judge of all people, everywhere. This explains my conscience. God in His wisdom has placed within me an intuitive conviction that certain things are wrong.

God is good. There is another aspect to this truth. God shows mercy. He is gracious to His creatures. The just God who requires a penalty for sin provides the payment for that sin in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

This gives a solution for the real guilt I experience.  I am not talking about guilt feelings, but actual guilt for actual sins. God offers mercy and grace in the face of His ultimate justice.

God is truth. He always tells the truth. He reveals Himself and His will in His creation and in His revelation in the Bible.  I can count on the promise of salvation He makes.

By intuition, this idea of God can convincingly explain the world we live in. I will give arguments to back up this idea in the chapters ahead based on philosophy and history. The historical arguments will be based on the person and work of Jesus Christ, the only teacher and example worth following.


Our next post will discuss what God has done in His creation.

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