Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Reasonable Faith

We cannot reason our way to God. The God of the Bible is the God of reason, truth, and history. But none of these things connect us to Him redemptively; faith does. However, sound reason is not incompatible with faith, but actually works with it to lead us to truth. Faith in God, as it turns out, is the most reasonable thing to have. All truth originates with God and therefore points us to Him (Ro 11:36). Winfried Corduan is right to write, "We do not need to be gingerly in our investigations of truth. If a belief cannot withstand hard questioning, it may not be worth holding. If Christianity is true, it should be able to withstand the hardest questions we bring to it. If Christianity is not true, we should reject it."

He goes on to say, "It must be kept in mind that it is not as easy to show Christianity to be false, even hypothetically, as some people think."

The "fool" who says there is no God (Ps 14) is a fool because he acts against sound reason, not faith. He acts against the world of evidence that communicates to all of his senses and mind that there is indeed a creator with distinct divine attributes. The testimony of history also testifies to God's existence and work. A key reason the Bible generally and the New Testament particularly are so credible is because of the massive eyewitness testimony on which they are based. Christianity happens in real time and real space. It is rooted in corroborated historical events, unlike any other belief system. It's key events and characters have been seen and heard and documented. The Bible as a historical document cannot be successfully shown to be untrue. It stands the tests of historical authenticity. Now, that being said, receiving this historical document as the Word of God requires some faith, which is the gift of God (Ep 2:8), comes by hearing His Word (Ro 10:17), and so does not come by our senses.

The testimony of conscience is also a powerful witness to God's presence in the world (Ro 2). So are our otherwise unexplainable longings for love, justice, beauty, and so forth. These come from being made in God's image and likeness (Ge 1), and they clearly distinguish us from His other creatures.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

By All Means, Question God

Keeping with the theme of my last post, I urge you all to hit Christianity with your most perplexing questions. Take your best shot at the Bible. Both God's Word, and God's religion, will prevail, because they are rooted in Him. Both have been under assault for thousands of years; and on this very day Christianity is experiencing its greatest expansion, because it is true. The gospel is not news that merely persuades; it transforms. It changes hearts, because "it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Ro 1:16).

It is common for some ignorant Christians to urge folks, especially their children, not to question. They are afraid that their faith can't take the hard hits. This is an embarrassing fear; for it assumes that the message and ways of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son, are weak. But there is nothing weak about Jesus. And it is Him that always welcomed honest questions. Honest questions rooted in honest doubt are not offensive to Jesus, and should not be offensive to His people. Jesus appreciates integrity and curiosity. What He does not tolerate is insincere questioning from those who are out to disprove Him but cannot do so with integrity. He doesn't appreciate nonsense questions such as, "Can God create a rock that He cannot lift?" He does not take seriously those who would toss the Bible because they don't get the answers they like to such queries as, "Where did Cain get his wife?", "How can God condone the killing of children described in the Old Testament?", and "Why doesn't God prevent natural disasters?" Asking the questions is encouraged, provided the heart behind the asking is open to God's answers, and not hard against Him, and so seeking to discredit Him no matter His answer. Again, honest doubt is acceptable. Arrogant doubt is not.

It is not my mission in this post to answer these particular questions in any detail. However, off the top of my head I would say Cain married his sister, the killing of the children was a form of mercy, and natural disasters are meant as physical visible signs of invisible spiritual realities -- like universal human guilt. There are Scripture texts on all of this for those who care to seek.

I plan to continue with this theme tomorrow. But for now let me close by mentioning some New Testament characters that might interest you. Consider Thomas (Jn 20), often called "doubting Thomas" because he asked to see the scars of Jesus' crucifixion before he would believe. Jesus accommodated the request. Consider also Nathanael (Jn 1). He's the one who, when told by Philip that the Messiah of whom the Law and Prophets foretold had been found, asked if anything good could come out of Nazareth, meaning Jesus. Jesus' response to this was to say of Nathanael that he was "an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit." Or in Mark 9, there is the father of the demon possessed child, who goes to Jesus for help, but goes with doubt. He says to Jesus regarding his faith, "I believe, help my unbelief." Jesus did.

But then there are the Pharisees who relentlessly questioned Jesus but always to trap Him, or discredit Him. Jesus was not at all accommodating to them. He cursed them, embarrassed them, rejected them, and condemned them. He called them the blind sons of hell (Mt 23).

So go on, take your very best shot at Jesus. He can take it. And if you take an honest shot, He will receive it graciously, and just might rescue you too.

Monday, February 20, 2012

If Anything Is, God Is.

A couple of days back my four year old daughter said to my wife, "Mommy, tell me about God". They were not then in a conversation about God, or the Bible, or anything particular to that realm (though all things have to do with this realm). The question seemed to come out of nowhere as it broke through the common place activity of the hour. As Marian spoke to Tess about God, Tess asked to see God. Marian explained that God is an unseen Being, the invisible Reality. So of course the next question from my daughter was, "If God is invisible, then how do we know that He's real?" This question is asked by those who are 4, and 40, and 80. It is the same old question, and it is a question the Scriptures answer for us.

Romans 1, for example, says that knowledge of God is made plain to us because God has shown it to us (v19). The Apostle Paul goes on to say that God's invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made (are not invisible)(v20). The invisible Spirit who is God has revealed Himself in the visible creation. The evidence for God's existence is so "plain" and "clear" says Paul, that those who disbelieve in Him are "without excuse" (v20). Those who don't believe in the Creator God of the Bible are not stupid; they're blind, and they suppress the truth God has made plain (v18).

Let me put it this way, somewhat philosophically: If anything exists, God exists. I know this because I am not insane. Crazy maybe, but not insane. I know that something cannot come from nothing. Nothing is nothing. There is no thing in nothing. Nothing is non-existence. And nothing comes out of non-existence. So if anything exists, a creator exists. If anything is, a maker is. That's just basic reason. You and I know of nothing without a beginning (excluding God). We know of nothing without an origin. So for a person to argue that in the reality that we occupy, there is no God, is asinine. But it's beyond asinine, it's a form of insanity because she is arguing against all that we all already know -- that if there is a something, it has an origin, and that origin must be a self-sustaining one. One may argue that the God of the Bible is not that origin, but he can't rationally argue for no self-sustaining origin. If a thing exists, it has an origin, and there is a creator. For anything material to exist, there must be a non-caused first cause. There must be an independent, outside creation reality,  with the nature and power and will to create.

You need not believe in the God of the Bible to believe in this rationale. You only need be a living creature, and trace backward the existence of anything. At some point you reach the point where you run out of material causes, yet, the thing whose history you are tracing still exists. For example, I am holding a pen. I trace its origins back to the makers of the plastic and the ink and the metal, and to the hands that put it all together in a factory, and even to the materials of the earth drawn out to make the plastic and the ink, etc. But eventually I can go no farther in the material universe, yet the pen is still in my hand. How is that possible? God is.

At the end of the day as I examine reality, that God exists makes perfect sense, while an absence of God makes no sense. Whether you're tracing the history of a pen or of a person or of the universe as a whole, the same old questions arise and the same old answer satisfies -- God is.

Biblical faith is not blind faith, but the opposite. It's eyes wide open trust in a God that has gone to great lengths to make Himself known, even creating a universe, and sending His Son into it, so that we are all without excuse.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky displays His handiwork. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard -- Ps 19:1-3.

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him -- He 11:6.

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God" -- Ps 14:1a.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world -- He 1:1-2.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Here I Go Again

I'm going to give this another run -- blogging that is. I quit for a bit because I was concerned of being, or falling into, what RC Sproul Jr calls "The Narcissism Machine", meaning the Internet. He says it was given this name by the demons in research and development. He goes on to say that, "It was invented to tickle and titillate the egos of everyone logging on. Pornography exists to tell us how desirable we are, beautiful women just throwing themselves at us. Facebook and Twitter exist to tell us how much we are 'liked.' And blogs, complete with sundry analytics, tell us how smart and influential we are. Blistering posts about the other guy will not win this war. Sound theology and its defense will not win this war. It will take stronger stuff. . . like humility."

I am highly concerned about these things in me.

Having said that, I am also highly concerned for God's church, a spiritual nation that has always needed and had a prophetic ministry. By prophetic I don't mean future-telling; I mean truth-telling. What the prophets mostly did was call God's people to God, or back to God. They served in some sense as prosecuting attorneys, laying God's case concerning the sin of His people before those people, and commanding them to wake up, repent, and believe the gospel. But not only believe the gospel, but live in its light. We desperately need a functioning gospel that is the center of our thinking, values, feelings, choices, working, parenting, marriages, spending, etc. The gospel is not just the front door into the church, or even into heaven. The gospel functions to teach us how to live in the presence of God on earth, and in heaven.

Also, the Apostle Paul is clear that the Scriptures are useful not only for teaching and training in righteousness, but also for correction and reproof (2 Ti 3:16). Again, the prophetic ministry of the Word.

I'm bent toward this prophetic ministry. It's how I think without even trying. I've come to accept that God has built me this way to serve in such a capacity within the church. And so I embrace it, but with ongoing concern that I am not careless. I pray not to be one who believes the lie that by making my case via blogging, I have become more than the dust, grass, and vapor that the Scriptures call me. I pray almost daily to be made humble, while holding ever more tightly to the truthfulness of God's written Word. As Mark Dever has said, it is not humble to be hesitant where God has been clear and plain.

In addition, I've returned because apparently I had some readers. Who knew? Not me. Until I stopped blogging, and folks began to ask me why, I didn't know those folks were reading. A few of them said the blog had helped them. So as I said earlier, I'll give it another run. Let me begin with this:

"Men and women who hear the Gospel regularly, I ofter fear much for you. I fear lest you become so familiar with the sounds of its doctrines, that you gradually become dead to its power. I fear lest your religion should sink down into a little vague talk about your own weakness and corruption, and a few sentimental expressions about Christ, while real practical fighting on Christ's side is altogether neglected. Oh, beware of this state of mind! 'Be doers of the Word , and not hearers only.' 
No victory--no crown! 
Fight and overcome!"  
JC Ryle