The Value Of Religion and the Problem With Atheism

In the following video Carl Young present some material that should make the new atheist type rethink the virtue of their constant attacks on religion as though their attacks are in somehow virtuous. Young’s points out that a loss of faith and religion is the reason why so many people today are despond. Young also shows that a loss of faith tends to move a culture towards  State-ism and the development and growth  of a will for power in the human spirit which results in metal disorders and the totalitarian state.

In  a past  article I pointed out  that atheism is a phenomenal which seems to take place at the end of a civilization and is one of the marks of a decaying culture. It is hard to tell whether atheism  is causal or  the fruit of atheism. However,  either way it is not a positive force in the human community.

A Christian Letter to a Libertarian

A Christian Letter to a Libertarian

Mark, although I believe in liberty and freedom I am not a libertarian.  I try my best to avoid any “ism”. If I was to give myself a label I would refer to myself as a Christian realist.  I do not believe in big government, big religion, or for that matter big anything.  It is not that big is inherently evil, it is that humans are inherently evil and will abuse the power that goes with big.  If history proves anything it proves this.  I believe it was Lord Acton who said “that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”

Libertarians and Christians can agree on a number of things but their basic difference is found in the definition of liberty and freedom.  The libertarian wants to be free to do their own thing. Free from all restraints and for many that means God.  The Christian believes they are set free from self indulgence to serve others and God.  Christians also recognize that all men are slaves to something, in that slavery is a part of the human condition and can never be overcome completely with political ideology, which means that no amount of philosophy or libertarianism will change that condition.

One of the basic roots of libertarianism is radical individualism and as a Christian realist I must believe that in the end radical individualism is the enemy of liberty.  The problem is to find a balance between individualism and collectivism.  I personally believe that conservatism does a better job balancing these two than libertarianism.  Therefore, conservatism aligns better with Christianity than libertarianism. However, Christianity must also in some areas depart from conservatism when it hardens into an un-flexible ideology.

The Christian realist has a realistic view of the power of law.  They understand that the law is powerless to change people.  However, unlike the libertarians they understand the necessity of law to impart social restraints, norms and boundaries which instruct humanity in civil living.  Moreover, Christian realists see that the problem is not with Law, but rather with humanity.  For the Christian realist mankind is fallen, being incapable of keeping the law and rejoicing in it.  Even from an evolutional point of view most would say that mans progress have gone awry and that mankind is anything but a noble savage.  The Bible would put it this way “All have sinned and have fallen short of being truly human”.  Man in his fallen nature is in need of God’s help in order to hold it together.  This help comes in the form of God’s grace given in forgiveness and power to be free from ineffective living that leads to unhappiness and ultimately in missing the goal of the divine life.

I would encourage you to take a serious look at the Christian faith.  I would contend that it contains the best of all philosophies in regards to what constitutes the good life.  It provides us with a balance between individualism and collectivism and between mercy and justice.  Yes, it puts tremendous demands on a person but it is entered by a free choice and commitment to Jesus Christ.

Find Me God

Find Me God

 Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them.” Ecclésiastes 12:1

Have you ever wondered why Solomon told people to remember God when they’re young?  I always thought that as you got older, one should remember God more often because you’re getting closer to death.  However, Solomon says to do it while you’re young, but why?  I think one reason is that when you’re young, you’re pure in heart.  Your mind has not been filled with crazy ideologies and belief systems which make it hard find and know God.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”

One of the greatest insights I’ve read on finding God was written by C.S. Lewis; it’s about God finding us, or us finding God.  The quote is quite lengthy, however, it is rewarding.  “When you come to knowing God, the initiative lies on His side.  If He does not show Himself, nothing you can do will enable you to find Him.  And, in fact, He shows much more of Himself to some people than to others—not because He has favorites, but because it is impossible for Him to show Himself to a man whose whole mind and character are in the wrong condition.  Just as sunlight, though it has no favorites, cannot be reflected in a dusty mirror as clearly as in a clean one.  You can put this another way by saying that while in other sciences the instruments you use are things external to yourself (things like microscopes and telescopes), the instrument through which you see God is your whole self. And if a man’s self is not kept clean and bright, his glimpse of God will be blurred-like the Moon seen through a dirty telescope.  That is why horrible nations have horrible religions: they have been looking at God through a dirty lens.  God can show Himself as He really is, only to real men.  And that means not simply to men who are individually good, but to men who are united together in a body, loving one another, helping one another, showing Him to one another.  For that is what God meant humanity to be like; like players in one band, or organs in one body.  Consequently, the one really adequate instrument for learning about God is the whole Christian community, waiting for Him together.  Christian brotherhood is, so to speak, the technical equipment for this science-the laboratory outfit.”[1]

Jesus gives further insight when he says to his disciples, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me.  Because I live, you also will live.  On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.  Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.  He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him” (John 14:15-24).

In the context the commandment that Jesus is referring to is the commandment to love one another as he has loved them.  From this, we can gather that it is not the intellectual or the person who knows the most about the bible that Jesus will reveal himself to, but rather to the man who loves his brothers.  We can also gather that there is a knowledge of God in Jesus that is beyond knowing the Bible.  It is the knowledge that comes from having a deep relationship with someone; we could liken that to a man knowing his wife in an intimate fashion.  After being married for 50 years I can say that I know my wife.  I know what she likes and I know her desires even without her telling me.  You could say I know her will; and I know it apart from her writing me a letter every day about her wants and desires.  Knowing God in Christ on this level is getting close to the meaning of what Paul says when he tells Christians to “live by the Spirit and not the flesh”.

Let me conclude by saying if you want to be found by God, or find God, you can begin by loving his image and likeness in other Christians and your fellow man in and through the body of Christ which is his church.  Love is the way to God.

[1] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) pages164-165

 

Why I Go To Church

Why I Need the Church and the Bible

Some people wonder why they would ever need the Church or the Bible.  Why not just go for a walk on the beach or climb a mountain and meet and worship God there?  Can you not experience God as well or perhaps even better in nature than at Church or from reading the Bible?  I do not doubt for a minute that you can experience God in nature, for I have done that myself.  Nature has a way of opening the human spirit to the Divine.  Our experience of God while in nature often seems more real than anything that we may experience at Church or from reading the Bible.

I have found that when I wish to travel to a place, I want to know everything about it. I will read everything I can about it, and I will try to find people who have been there and are able to answer questions about that particular place.  I find myself filled with questions.  What is the best way to get there?  What should I see?  What should I avoid?  What should I wear for clothing?  You see, I do not want to be surprised.  I want the best trip possible.  I especially do this when I go for a hike in the mountains, for I do not want to get lost.  The harder the climb, the more research I do.

Going to church and reading the Bible are like the research one would do for a journey unto a very high and often dangerous mountain.  For me, it seems only natural to talk to as many people as possible who are on or have made the journey.  I once went to Africa and climbed Kilimanjaro.  I called everyone I could find who had made the climb, even complete strangers, and asked them about the mountain and the trails.  I wanted to be ready for anything.  I wanted to make it to the top.  When Christians gather at church, it is mainly to talk about the journey and to study the map.  They consider their map to be the Bible.  The strong and knowledgeable ones among them who have been on the journey a long time do not attend church solely for themselves, but also to help the young and weaker ones among them.  They want everyone to get to the top.  They share with them the trails to avoid and the ones to take.  They make sure that the young ones know the map and the right and best guides who can help them on their journey.

Let me say something about the map.  It is true that sometimes people get the map mixed up with the real territory.  When that happens, people often spend more time reading the map than moving on in their journey.  I know some people who are always reading and talking about the map, but never seem to get too far along on the journey.  They seem to have confused reading the map with the journey.  This is truly sad because it confuses people about the reasons for the journey and the purpose of the map.  Of course, on the other side of the coin are those who feel they can do okay without a map, compass, or a guide.  These folks often end up in a briar patch lost, cold, and hungry.  They often spend a great deal of time backtracking and wandering around aimlessly.  However, some of the stronger ones seem to get along fairly well without the map, but when asked where they are, they often do not seem to know.  The little ones and weak ones without the map and compass often just die or quit.

Because the journey is often long and hard, the map at times can be quite hard to read.  It does have a lot of details about the journey.  It is there to help and is very important.  However, it can be confusing to someone not too skilled in map reading.  When the journey gets difficult, it is then a person needs to remember the training in which the guides taught him about how to use the map.  It is even better if travelers have cell phone, so they can call a guide for further directions on how to make best use of the map.  We always need to remember that the map is a piece of paper that only reflects the territory.  It is not the territory.  We also need to remember that the map was made by a lot of people who have made the journey and left us their story about it.  When we read the map, remember that those who wrote it were all on the same journey, but not all used the same trail and all did not make it to their destination.  Like in nature, some trails are better than others and a bad choice can cause you to lose your way or even perish.  Yes, some died on the journey without making it to top or back home.  This is another reason why we should study the map; we want to know that we are on the very best trail.

If you are not a member of a church, let me suggest that you find someone, maybe some of your friends who are on the journey and ask them about the church they attend.  Ask them if they study the map and if its members are excited about the journey.  If they say yes to both questions, you might want to check it out.  You can also begin the journey by getting a Bible and start becoming familiar with what it teaches.  You do not need to understand everything—just start reading it.  A good place to start is the Gospel of John.  If you do not know of anyone who is able to help you, you can write me, and I will be glad to help.  I often have map reading courses at my office or even in people’s homes.  If you would like to attend one, let me know.  You can reach me at lyleduell@gmail.com

Reason, Faith and Certitude

Reason, Faith and Certitude

” From about half-past ten in the evening until about half-past midnight. Fire. The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. Not of the philosophers and intellectuals. Certitude, certitude, feeling, joy, peace Peace.”[1] Blaise Pascal

Reason will never take you to the certitude of God. If pure, which it never is, it regularly leads to doubting. On the other hand, love will always lead to trust (faith) and acting on faith will lead to certitude. However, in the end certitude is a gift of God. Give to those who love Him and have true faith in the Christ.  The apostle John says, “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son” ( 1 John 5:10).   In chapter  two of his letter John refers to this inter witness as an anointing of truth.

Moreover, Jesus also speaks about  it as a revelation from the father when he asked his disciples who they believed he  was in Matthews gospel. The conversation reads like this, “Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:16-17). This inter witness is the revelation in the believer’s heart through the spirit of God, which gives them certitude that Jesus is the Christ. This measure of faith cannot be accessed by reason alone or any human effort. It is a gift of God-given to all true believers. It is being born from above. It is given to all who truly put their faith in the Christ and love God.

The inter witness that Jesus is the Christ is not the same as the promise which Jesus made to his apostles that they will be led into all truth (John 14:16). The all truth promise was made to his apostles who form the foundation of the new temple of God (Eph 2:19-22). The early church looked to the apostle as the ultimate authority in matters of the faith and except for a few Gnostics heretics never claim, “the all truth promise”… It is obvious, that if every Christian had received the all truth promise” there would have been total unity and no division in the church from the beginning, which we know is and was not the case. Plus there would have been no need for the first-century  church to ask the apostles questions about the faith, as we see early Christians do in the New Testament. Many of the writings in the New Testament are made up of the apostles answering questions that were sent to them by individuals and churches.

From the above we gather when John said, “all of you know the truth” He was taking about the fact that believers had received through the gospel the revelations that Jesus was the Christ. (John 2:20-21). There is no reason to separate this faith experience from the acceptance of the gospel and hearing the word of God preached, for that Word is the bear of the Spirit. This simply means that if a person hears the gospel preached and believes it, the Holy Spirit will confirm their faith in their heart that Jesus is the Christ resulting in a certitude given by God.

[1]  Pascal conversion experience was recorded on a small piece of paper and sewed into the inner lining of his coat and was found after his death. It read, “The year of grace 1654. Monday, 23 November, feast of Saint Clement. . . From about half-past ten in the evening until about half-past midnight. Fire. The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. Not of the philosophers and intellectuals. Certitude, certitude, feeling, joy, peace. The God of Jesus Christ. My God and your God. Forgetfulness of the world and everything except God. One finds oneself only by way of the directions taught in the gospel. The grandeur of the human soul. Oh just Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you. Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy. I have separated myself from him. They have abandoned me, the fountain of living water. My God, will you leave me? May I not be separated from him eternally. This is eternal life, that they may know you the one true God and J.C. whom you have sent. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ. I have separated myself from him. I have run away from him, renounced him, crucified him. May I never be separated from him. One preserves oneself only by way of the lessons taught in the gospel. Renunciation total and sweet. And so forth.” (pp. 95-96