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Think: Embrace The Unknown

What if I admitted to you that I can’t prove that God exists?

I believe (as I’ve previously discussed) that it’s not about 100% accuracy it’s about providing the best explanation for the available evidence.

So think with me; list out the reasons that you believe what you do about God. Christian or Buddhist or atheist, my challenge to you is to list why you believe what you believe about God. It’s easy to argue against something. In our culture arguing against something is actually valued; doubt itself is now a virtue. So be it. But in your doubting you still have a responsibility to be reasonable, right? And so even if you don’t believe anything in detail about God, take a few minutes to list out why you believe what you believe.

How’s it going? This will be fruitful.

But what if you believe nothing at all? Well, if you’re an agnostic person with a stance in the unknown in regards to God’s nature, you may have one or a combination of any of the following responses to the idea of God description being described in the first place. I have some responses for you to consider.

1. “God is unknowable therefore I don’t have an opinion on God.” Really? Let’s rethink. You can’t KNOW that God is unknowable unless you know EVERYTHING there is to know. That’s impossible. This is claiming that you have superior knowledge than all other people who are religious without providing evidence of such superior knowledge. It’s an assumption and it comes across as arrogant. It’s a claim about the nature of God himself (that he is unknowable). It is more accurate for you to say “I do not know whether God is knowable or not.” At this point we can see that, if nothing else, it is possible to know who God is. 

2. “I don’t care enough about God so I don’t have an opinion on God.” Really? Do you care about the people who do? Do you believe they are crazy? Do you believe I am crazy? Would you consider at least engaging in something that I and others have dedicated their lives to? I think empathy alone leads every human to consider the question of God’s nature. To put this bluntly, if you don’t care about who God is and who Jesus is, you don’t care about me. I’m not trying to guilt trip you. I’m simply hoping to engage in a  non-confrontational dialogue around why you believe what you believe. I hope we can think about these things rather than writing poorly crafted facebook comments. 

3. “There is not enough available evidence for me to have an opinion on God.” Okay, I get this. I like having evidence for big decisions too. However, if we’re honest with ourselves we don’t live our day-to-day lives based on evidence. The evidence that exists is very limited. Why are you in your current field of study or occupation? Why do you choose to work at what you work at? There may be evidence related to this like the salary potential but that data itself is only as relevant as the value you give to that evidence. Is money really that valuable? Evidence needs to be valued in order to have meaning and your own values are subjective. This point is worth repeating: evidence itself is only as relevant as the value one ascribes to it. Therefore, using evidence itself is value-driven instead of simply “evidence-driven.”  This means that you often make decisions based on very little evidence and instead make decisions based on your subjectively derived value. And when it comes to God’s existence you’re likely setting the bar so high that no fact could ever be proven. I’m not asking you to prove anything. It’s simply figuring out what opinions are there and the underlying factors which lead to those opinions. Be a little more humble than your aim to reach 100% certainty; be willing to engage in thinking about the nature of God and your underlying influences for determining the nature of God. 

 Rationalize. Consider evidence. Use logical deductions and use inductive reasoning.

Be honest with your list. There will be family influences, cultural persuasions, and just plain gut-feeling type things. A good researcher is aware of their own biases for the sake of the validity of the experiment. Be a good researcher. Explore all the influences that brought you to your particular belief about God’s nature.

Okay. Your list is made.

What you may find in reflecting on your list is that some things are not at all relevant to proving a particular view of God’s existence. Some reasons are better than others. Embrace the unknown and consider whether your reasons are even that helpful in finding an answer to the “who is God” question.

Feel free to share your list of reasons with me (I’d be curious). In my next post, sometime next week, I will begin exploring reasons for and against the Christian view of God (including his existence and his nature). I believe that when we consider the available evidence it is more reasonable for us to believe in the Christian faith than the alternatives. I believe the available evidence points us to that. What does your evidence point you towards?

 

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Think: Series Introduction (Pt 1)

Think with me.

Think about why you believe what you do about Lester B. Pearson. Do not turn your brain off. Think. Rationalize. And consider evidence. Why do you believe what you believe? Use logical deductions and use inductive reasoning. Take a second… do you have a list of reasons?

List made? Great!

Now we have reasons. These reasons will help us answer the question: the Lester B. Pearson that you cognitively believe in, does (or did) he exist?

The question of existence is important because the answer does not rely on faith but on truth. What is objectively true?

You won’t be able to prove with 100% certainty that Lester exists. You will point to documents recording his location and I will say they could have been forged in order to propagate the male chauvinism and white supremacy of the day. You will show off evidence of his signature but I will laugh at the propaganda you’ve bought into and challenge its historicity. You will quote eyewitnesses but I will contend those witnesses simply had hallucinations; they actually made money off of the story-telling so they were simply acting out of their evolved state of self-preserving mammalian instincts and looked to obtain wealth.

Still believe in Lester?

Hopefully you haven’t simply given up your belief in Lester’s existence (and especially the exact nature of his existence included the characteristics of Lester) and you have a rebuttal to me. I’m not suddenly correct simply for putting an argument forward. The nature of Lester is either true or false. My apologies to my former Grade Five elementary teacher, but I don’t deserve an A for effort this time. I’m wrong. But my arguments were actually reasonable to some extent; there was an element of truth in my arguments. It’s possible that some of your rationalism doesn’t qualify as a quality argument.

Failure in argument doesn’t come from a lack a argument. Failure in argument comes from a lack of providing the best explanation for the available evidence.

So this is why you and I should believe in Lester B. Pearson, his existence (and the corresponding nature of his existence) is the best explanation of the available evidence.

This illustration helps us understand two things: 1) offering an argument does not mean you are correct, 2) there is a correct and an incorrect answer in regards to existence.

The same is true of God. We must think to know God. Further, we must realize there is only one correct answer and many incorrect answers. The same is true of the very nature and characteristics of God. Consider Lester B. Pearson, was he a tall man with brown eyes or a short man with blue eyes? A loving father or a childless landlord? You cannot say both. Either God became human in the man Jesus Christ or he did not.

Now what we need to do is put forward arguments, lay out the available evidence, and think.

Image courtesy of deathtothestockphoto.com/

perspective

I compare myself to others. I’m trying not to. Here’s how.

How do I deal with my tendency of comparing myself to others? I answered this question to someone else the other day online. Thought I’d share it with you.

My personal how-to is likely different than most.

I’m a very competitive person and although being competitive sometimes helps me, there are problems. On the one hand I get discouraged when I do worse than my peers, or when I do worse than my own personal goals. On the other hand even when I do well, I’ve found (and continue to find) that it creates this arrogance in me that although I don’t say it publicly I pretty much think I’m better than others. Despair or pride.

So two things I do:

  1. Identify the problem as a problem.
  2. Reflect on where my identity really comes from. For me, my identity does not come from my accomplishments. It doesn’t even come from my family, or my friends, or where I grew up. Sure, these things contribute to be a part of me. But when we tear everything away, I am an accepted, appreciated, and honoured child of God. Because of what Jesus did for me, I believe that in the grade-book of God I have an A+. 100%. Not because of what I did but because of what Jesus did for me. And reflecting on this inevitably causes my stress/emotions/discouragement and also my judgmental attitude to fade. I can’t take credit – Jesus did it so I have no reason to be arrogant. I can’t be sad because what matters most is already settled.

After reflecting on this I make some more personal goals, perhaps chat with a friend about it because that helps too, and I move forward with a better perspective of others because Jesus gave me a better perspective of myself.

This applies in all of life. It is in all honesty exactly what I work through. I probably go through this process, dealing with these types of situations, a handful of times a month. It’s what I do. I’ve tried other methods but when I rely on self I either get arrogant or discouraged. And the one-liners like “it’ll be okay – next time” just don’t satisfy me intellectually or emotionally.

I’d encourage you to try something similar.

Did Jesus really rise from death?

Yes.

It’s the best explanation for the basic historical facts. As Greg Koukl explains in this video, it’s the most probable explanation for all the events that happened historically.

Link for mobile users: m.youtube.com/watch?v=dob0Xg1fZdk 

  1. Jesus died on a cross. No chance he just fainted considering the historical practice of crucifixion.
  2. The tomb which Jesus was laid in was and still is empty. If it wasn’t for this the story would have never began. The tomb itself was guarded. There was motive for the opposition to disprove this fact and there was no motive for the disciples to steal it.
  3. The early disciples each experienced an encounter with the risen Christ. This couldn’t be just a vision or just a hallucination; it happened at the same time in front of crowds and the stories aligned.

So Koukl concludes, if you have a dead Jesus, and empty tomb, and witnesses to a resurrection – if you have all these historical facts – then the logical answer is the simple answer: Jesus rose from death.

If someone rose from death, wouldn’t they be worth paying attention to?

What is gossip?

Something I’m learning: gossip is not acceptable regardless of the audience; be it your boss, spouse, or pastor. How do you know if it’s gossip? Check your three ENTS:

Intent – what is the purpose of sharing this info? Does it bring praise to self or God? Does it tear down or build up?

Content – is this info true? Am I stating assumptions as fact? Are the opinions that I’m sharing genuinely my own?

Consent – have I obtained permission to share this info (+ve or -ve) with this audience? Would the discussion be any different if the person discussed was in the same room?

Learn with me.

3 Metaphors To Help Us Understand Christian Repentance

I’ve recently challenged people to learn the meaning of Christian repentance. I might as well describe it a bit, right?

This is important because repentance is good for you, whoever you are, because it goes alongside an important leadership quality, self-reflection. But it’s also important because you can’t be a Christian without practising Christian repentance. It’s a non-negotiable for us.

3 metaphors:

1. A U-Turn

The GPS is frustrated. Things are only getting worse. Home is not straight ahead. You need to turn around.christian repentance

We pick up this metaphor from Acts 26:20 where Paul summarizes his teaching. He says that people should “repent and turn to God”. Christian Repentance is a U-Turn towards God. The Bible is clear that you’re either for God, totally devoted to him, or you are against God. There’s no middle ground. Here’s the important thing – you should constantly be ensuring you are not off-course. But in Christianity there’s only forwards and backwards. Either your actions are for him or against him; towards Jesus or away from him.

This doesn’t mean you suddenly arrive at your destination as soon as your 180 degree turn happens. You don’t suddenly become perfect. But you make a U-Turn. Away from wrong. Towards Jesus.

2. A Tree

This was a common metaphor that Jesus used. For Jesus, the outcome of repentance is bearing good fruit (see Matthew 3:8, & Luke 3:8). Just like a tree, there needs to be internal nourishment to lead to an external good. In Christian repentance, change needs to happen from the inside out. It’s not about behaviour modification. You don’t cut off a maple branch and expect apples to grow. You plant a seed that will one day bear fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
(Galatians 5:22-23a ESV)

3. Jesus’ Death and Resurrection

Death. Then new life. Put sin to death. Live a new life. This is at the core of Christianity. This is the gospel. However, this isn’t just a metaphor but the power behind all Christian repentance. The Bible often talks about the power of the gospel. It’s powerful because all your sin/wrong/shame/failure gets transferred onto Jesus when you make that U-Turn decision towards him. But here’s the really important thing:

You can make the turn towards Jesus, and you can try to get down to the root of your sin issues, but if you aren’t centred in the gospel your efforts will be fruitless.

In the gospel we are not loved because we failed but loved despite our failures.

In the gospel we are not shameless because we don’t sin be we are shameless because Jesus put shame to death on the cross.

In the gospel we do not try hard because we have to but rather God’s Spirit breathes life into us.

In the gospel, we are continually reminded of the love of Jesus and that leads us to love others. We love because we have been loved. We forgive because we have been forgiven. We have life because Jesus put life in us. And we continue Christian repentance regularly because we want to keep turning towards Jesus, remove the weeds from our hearts, and live for the one who lived and died for us.

That’s Christian repentance.

 

// Quick note about comments. I’ve taken down the comments on this blog. I find conversations happen better through fb, email, face-to-face, or even twitter. On most websites, comments aren’t very helpful or edifying. So I’ve removed them. //

Why don’t miracles happen… when we pray?

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Some people, in an argument against the existence of God, note that miracles don’t happen. People pray everyday for miraculous things to happen, yet God does nothing.

So does that mean God isn’t real?

No. God and miracles are two completely unrelated concepts. It’s like saying the sky isn’t green therefore grass doesn’t exist. When I ask God for something, He can give three answers: yes, no, or later. I can ask my boss for a raise and just because I don’t get one doesn’t mean my boss doesn’t exist.

“But doesn’t Jesus say all our requests to God will be answered?”

Yes, but there’s more to it. Here’s what Jesus said, as recorded by Matthew (chapter 7):

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”

If you stop here you may think all Christian prayers get the answer “yes,” but Jesus continues…

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

So why doesn’t God do the miracles we ask for?

John Piper explains Jesus’ words this way: “No, we do not get everything we ask for… because we would in effect become God if God did everything we asked him to do. We should not be God. God should be God… The reason I say that we do not get all we ask is because the text implies this. Jesus says in verses 9-10 that a good father will not give his child a stone if he asks for bread, and will not give him a serpent if he asks for a fish. This illustration prompts us to ask, “What if the child asks for a serpent?” Does the text answer whether the Father in heaven will give it? Yes, it does. In verse 11, Jesus draws out this truth from the illustrations: Therefore, how much more will your Father give good things to those who ask him.”

At first glance, it seemed that Jesus said that God the Father will give to his children everything his children ask. But the text doesn’t say God will give the exact thing that the child asks for. Rather, it says God will give good things to those who ask.

God is smart. God, in his infinite wisdom, knows what we need and what we don’t. He wants us to ask and he will give. The metaphor of child-father is very helpful in this case. If a parent always gives their child all the candy they ask for, then they aren’t being a good parent. God is a good father. He gives good gifts.

Implicit in the act of praying is the idea that the one you are praying to is greater than you. If you could do the miracle yourself you likely wouldn’t be praying. Let’s continue this train of thought. If they are great enough to do miracles, isn’t it also true that they are great enough to have a reason not to perform the miracle in the way you asked? If by praying you accept you can’t handle the situation, isn’t it also true you accept that God is knowledgeable enough to know how to handle the situation?

Prayer isn’t an easy thing to explain. I’ve said before it’s like the way light is both a particle and a wave. A particle and a wave are contradictory things. It is impossible to be both but that’s what scientists observe. Prayer is like that with apparent contradictions. It gets a little mind bending. But we aren’t called to understand all the complexities of God, we are simply encouraged to pray.

Keep praying. Keep praying to the one who is great enough to know when the best answer is no.