The Argument for a Deity

While reading through the works of the most prominent Enlightenment Thinkers, one must read Newton’s Opticks, and His letter written in 1692 to the Reverend Dr. Richard Bentley. In these excerpts, Newton insists that the design seen in nature proves the existence of an intelligent and omnipresent God who makes everything make sense and work together smoothly. The “mechanism of the world” he says, is the only thing by which we can tell there is a grand maker. Stars, planets, water, air, plants, animals, culture, numbers, and shapes combine in an orderly, well-thought-out design. The patterns of nature, declares Newton, allow us to observe and come to know God. He reveals Himself to us as we dissect and understand His grand puzzle. In a passage from Newton’s Opticks (1704), Newton gives examples of God’s ornate structure of creation. He describes the intricacy of the human body, the orbit of comets, and the instincts in wild animals. He then asks, “And these things being rightly dispatched, does it not appear from phenomena that there is a Being, incorporeal, living, intelligent, and omnipresent…?” Newton’s point is that humans are mere bystanders whose job it is to observe God’s intricate design.

Isaac Newton offered a very mathematical and logical argument. It was convincing, and he made a good point for mathematical theism. His approach in proving the existence of God has several benefits. One benefit is that when Newton describes the universe, he does it in a way that sends all the glory to God. In fact, his argument sounds much like Psalms when describing the work of the grand maker. Psalms 10:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Like Newtons works, this passage shows that all of creation contains God’s fingerprints. Also, mathematicians, philosophers, and scientists receive the gospel in the structured speech to which they are accustomed. Newton’s works were quite popular, and were proof that an intelligent scientific leader in society believed in a holy, absolute God.

Although Newton had inspiring ideas, and honorable theology, the flaws in his argument appeared later, during the Enlightenment. In the 1700’s, great thinkers such as Voltaire, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, studied his works and used his ideas to try to prove God’s inexistence. They developed the worship of human Reason, and twisted Newton’s mathematical theology into a sort of religion, revering the mind and structure of the earth. Unintentionally, Newton’s way of arguing helped these atheists to sway culture toward the modern faith in science and reason. Because of this change in thinking, we now deal with a mass amount of distrust and self-pride. The words of doctors, researchers, philosophers, and politicians are now studied and trusted more than are the words of God in Scripture.

To Fight, Or Not To Fight?

One tricky question that I often struggle with is whether or not it is right to fight for the truth. In other words, “Are there times in life when we ought to enter a struggle or take sides on an issue rather than avoid conflict?” The answer is clearly, “YES!” But it is not entirely that black and white. There are times for both.

Do you remember reading the classic, The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane? If you don’t, or if you never read it, here is a short summary: A young man in the 1800s, Henry Flemming, enlists in the Union army and quickly discovers sides of himself he never knew existed. He fights for a while in his first battle, but as soon as the odds turn against him, he deserts his regiment. The book is about how he fights with himself and friends, but neglects to do battle with the real enemy. Eventually, he learns how to deal with his own fears, guilt, courage, and pride, and how he overcomes his selfish, childlike attitude to become a man. This is a great book (despite the occasional language) which teaches much about the necessity to be courageous.

The Bible is very clear explaining that there is a time for everything under the sun. There is a time to take a side, and fight for it, and there is a time to avoid the unnecessary conflict. Often, people bicker and argue for insignificant reasons. Other times, when an important issue arises, and we know what is right, we fail to take a stand against the lies, and let them win without a fight. As Christians, we must figure out how to decipher between petty disagreements, and hurtful heresies, and we must know how to respond to each.

Peace is a way of life. An obedient follower of Christ does not seek an argument, or debate foolishness with his brother; but rather, he sheds off the insignificant disagreements, and he lives in harmony with his friends. Romans 12:17-18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Often times, we humans have too much pride, and much like Henry, in The Red Badge of Courage, we make a huge mountain out of an issue, no more important than a mole hill. Instead of picking fights, and landing punches on our fellow disciples, let us save our battles for those that we must fight.

Despite our timid, or lazy tendencies, we Christians must be willing to jump into a scuffle if it is the right thing to do. We should take pride in what we believe, and defend its honor as if it were our own. Our job, as scripture loving soldiers, is to fight for truth, and sometimes, even enter a battle in order to defend what we know is right. James 4:17 says, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” When dealing with a conflict that actually matters, we shouldn’t bow up, or play dirty, but we should always fight. Unlike Henry Flemming, a good soldier doesn’t run when the struggle becomes great, but rather, they use the challenge to urge them on, and gain the courage to fight to the death!

It is hard to refrain from protecting your pride when a friend argues with your point of view. It is difficult to force yourself to take a stand for the truth when the odds push strongly against you. But doing these things are marks of a true soldier. We must be very clear on which side we are on, and be sure to continue fighting along side those with similar motives. The fact that a fellow deacon at your church wants to sprinkle instead of baptize, doesn’t mean that you should come at him with a machete. Even though your Goliath looks deadly, invincible, and almost handsome, you should not give in or start fighting for the lies that are clearly against our Father. Rather, Christians, hold high our King’s flag and take courage, for He fights for us!

Joshua 1:7-9 says, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

How To Keep Your Emotions In Line With The Truth?

Have you ever felt like the world is falling apart? Usually it only takes the starting of a new day to learn that there is hope. Feeling can be deceptive. Sometimes the lies told by our emotions cause trouble in our minds, and our relationships. One might ask, “Were we not created as emotional beings?” Human emotion can be divided according to its origin: emotion that is based on love, which illuminates truth, and emotion that is based on selfishness, which suppresses truth. God gave us emotions so that we can enjoy life, and so that we can interact with, and understand people. Thankfully, love is not an emotion, but it is a decision that sometimes drives our emotions. When we let love determine what kind, and how much feeling we have, we are wise, and acting godly. But when we allow selfishness to take control, we speak and act foolishly. God is Love, and since we are made in His image, we must let His love be the director of our feelings! We should depend on Him to show us truth. Most emotions are not absolutely good or bad. In fact, almost all feelings that we have can still be felt when we are being sure to have loving emotions. When we feel happiness, sorrow, excitement, worry, admiration, or even anger, it is not necessarily an incorrect feeling. We must always be checking ourselves to make sure that our emotions are based on love. It is the unloving feelings that get us into so much trouble. When we start to show emotion whose origin is selfish, or hateful, we are sure to confuse our hearts, and abuse forgiveness.
Truth is the purity of IS. If something IS, it is undoubtedly true. Emotion sometimes clouds the IS, and allows us to create a COULD BE. Love is true, and there is no COULD BE when dealing in the soundness of love. In The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, Betsey reminds us that, “There are no ‘ifs’ in God’s Kingdom.” In a sense, this kind and forgiving captive is saying that the reality and truth of her harsh imprisonment IS. What she could be doing if she had escaped IS NOT. So why let your emotions create such fantasies? Truth is fact and something that cannot be argued against. Scripture is truth, and it helps us distinguish between our own selfish creations, and reality. Emotions based on selfishness create convincing falsities that we often develop into what we think is truth. But God allows us to see the IS. We are given the opportunity to let Christ remove sinful beliefs, and write the real truth on our hearts.
Without truth, emotions breed lies and deceit. We invent things, and convince ourselves to believe them and react to them as if they were true. But when we require ourselves to see the truth, we have the opportunity to have good and godly emotions, like those of Jesus. Christ always had in mind the good of the world. He was unselfish, perfect, and loving. We are His disciples, and therefore, must try to be like Him. We should always supervise our emotions, and check them regularly so that we are sure to not get carried away with selfish thoughts. It is wrong to try to bolster or back up our emotions. Rather, we must forget the questionable emotion and focus on truth. Happiness, sorrow, excitement, worry, admiration, and anger are not bad in themselves, as long as the motivation for each feeling is love. As Christians, we must combine truth and emotion, so that we might become more perfect, like Christ.
By making sure that our emotions are based on love, we can know that they are in line with the truth. The Holy Spirit helps us know what to feel, and when. If I thought my emotions were correct, and yet others disagree, I might want to check them against the Scripture to make sure that they are in line with the truth. Sometimes we even have conflicting emotions. This is almost always a fight between your selfishness, and your love for others. This definitely deserves a double check of your emotions. Given, feelings and emotions are so easily changed, checking them is a good way to make sure they are still harmonious with truth. There is always a right and a wrong emotion. Thus, we must figure out which agrees with the IS, and make sure to maintain a loving attitude. Titus 3:3-6 says “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.”

When to Take Scripture Literally

How do we know whether to take a passage of Scripture literally or figuratively? I have recently read On Christian Doctrine by St. Augustine, and his theological concepts in this book are spot on! If you don’t mind reading some out of date grammar rules, I would highly suggest this book.

First of all, I think I should clarify, that I am NOT by any means saying in this post that some pieces of the Bible are more or less important to follow than the rest! I am only addressing a confusing idea that many people don’t understand: Is all of Scripture meant to be taken literally? St. Augustine would argue, “no”, but it must all be taken, one way or another. He explains a great way to figure out which passages in Scripture to take literally, and which to not. On Christian Doctrine, says that when we are trying to find the meaning of an obscure passage, we need to look at other passages in Scripture that are clearer. So, in other words, we should take the context of the confusing verse or two, and try to dissect it, and use other verses to clarify.

The Old Testament is often ignored due to it’s seemingly irrelevant or sometimes out-dated commands. So, because of this, people ask, “Should we, as modern day Christians take the entire Old Testament literally?” St. Augustine said that in any book, we should weigh the content, and decide if it is meant to be taken literally, or figuratively. Specifically addressing this question of the Old Testament, he said that “Many things were done in the course of duty in those times which now cannot be done without libidinousness.” For example, in their culture, it was necessary for a godly man to marry his deceased brothers wife, or for a modest woman to have long hair, or even for the sacrifice of their livelihood. Therefore, Augustine claims that due to the new Law, in Jesus Christ, we do not have to execute them literally. Because of this, we must pray, and ask the Lord to show us which parts of the Old Testament to take literally and which to take figuratively.

Deciding what parts of the Bible to take in what way, is VERY serious. It is easy to declare that a passage is meant figuratively, simply because it fits your cause. But this would be altering the Scriptures, and it is of the uttermost importance that we do NOT do that!! Revelation 22:18-19 says, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” So this passage is saying that anyone who adds or takes a way from the Scripture, will be punished by God with the ultimate punishment. (eternity without God!)

Now, you might say, “Well, I have a hard time interpreting other books. Did Augustine claim that the Bible is the only book that is sometimes hard to interpret?” The answer is, no. St. Augustine said that there are many books other than the Bible that have been misinterpreted, and that they too must be dissected and compared to the rest of the book. He said that the only thing keeping good readers from good books, is the fact that often, people do not put in the effort to connect the pieces of the puzzle and discover the true meaning of the book.

When we look at the Scripture, we must first define if it is meant literally, or figuratively. When we look at literature, we must first define if we should take it literally, or figuratively. What about movies? Americans today watch movies all the time! And due to this fact, the market for movies has rocketed. Movie producers now days have the money, and the means to add special effects, hire amazing actors, and set up a fiction stories that pop out with amazing reality. Because of the general unwillingness to take some things in, in different ways, this type of eye-candy draws our culture in. And we become infatuated with these stories that seam so possible, and realistic. Sadly, this has created a society that constantly quotes films as if they were sages, wears t-shirts on their favorite TV shows, and imagines absurdities as if they were living in a fairy tale themselves. This proves that, despite the general obsession for movies, we must weigh them against scripture, and be very careful when taking something from them literally.

To maintain clarity, I must reiterate the importance of believing Scripture. As Christians, there are not a lot of books that we can just read without straining them through the Word. In fact there are NONE! The Bible is the only piece of literature that we may completely have faith in. Yes, it is good to study it, and try to understand it better (which is the whole point of this post) but we mustn’t think twice about whether or not it is true! The Bible is a gift from God, and we are to cherish it as much as possible, without making it an idol. Psalm 119:129-136 says, “Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them. The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments. Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name. Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me. Redeem me from man’s oppression, that I may keep your precepts. Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes. My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.” This says that we should view God’s word as entirely holy, and full of wisdom. Weather we take it’s parts literally or figuratively, it is all from our Father, therefore it must be believed! We too must long to keep His commandments.

The Trinity

The Bible says that there is ONE and only God. And yet, we also learn that there is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. So which is it? Do we have one God, or three of them? The answer is One!!! The Bible repeatedly says that there is only one God, and there can NEVER be any other god than Him! That is set in stone! Now that we have established this, we may address the tough question: What is the “Trinity”?

The Bible never mentions the “Trinity” as a being. In fact, it never even mentions the word! Modern Christians simply use it to differentiate between the three parts of God. Just like water has three forms (liquid, solid, and gaseous) so does God have three forms (Father, Son, and Spirit). Luckily, the Scriptures do give us a good idea of how these three characteristics of God work together, and separately to be the perfect God to which we joyfully belong. (Read Romans 8, Ephesians 1:3-14, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, and 1 Peter 1:2)

Today, I was reading On Christian Doctrine by Augustine of Hippo. St. Augustine had great insight into a lot of tricky ideas. One of them that caught my eye, was his theology of the Trinity. The concept of the Trinity confuses many people, and will continue to, but even though we can’t grasp this concept fully, it doesn’t hurt to think about it! In On Christian Doctrine, Chapter 5, it says, “The true objects of enjoyment, then, are the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, who are at the same time the Trinity, one Being, supreme above all, and common to all who enjoy Him, if He is an object, and not rather the cause of all objects, or indeed even if He is the cause of all. For it is not easy to find a name that will suitably express so great excellence, unless it is better to speak in this way: The Trinity, one God, of whom are all things, through whom are all things, in whom are all things. Thus the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and each of these by Himself, is God, and at the same time they are all one God; and each of them by Himself is a complete substance, and yet they are all one substance. The Father is not the Son nor the Holy Spirit; the Son is not the Father nor the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is not the Father nor the Son: but the Father is only Father, the Son is only Son, and the Holy Spirit is only Holy Spirit. To all three belong the same eternity, the same unchangeableness, the same majesty, the same power. In the Father is unity, in the Son equality, in the Holy Spirit the harmony of unity and equality; and these three attributes are all one because of the Father, all equal because of the Son, and all harmonious because of the Holy Spirit” 

 

The Good Samaritan

The parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke, is told by Jesus in order to explain what a good neighbor looks like. But today the phrase “Good Samaritan” has many different connotations. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines a Good Samaritan as “anyone who helps others unselfishly”. The New Oxford American Dictionary says that he is “a charitable or helpful person”. Dictionary.com declares he is “a person who gratuitously gives help or sympathy to those in distress”, and The World Book Dictionary defines him as “a person who is unselfish in helping others”. All these definitions have a common theme: caring for others. The Good Samaritan is not a literal person, but rather, is a symbol in one of Jesus’ parables displaying unselfish love. This character is a great example for us today, and we can learn much from his characteristics. We discover through this parable, and through other passages in the Bible, that Christians are to love ALL people no matter their race, religion, gender, occupation, or party. Matthew 5:43-48 says,“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Luke 10:25-37 relates the parable of the Good Samaritan. A lawyer puts Jesus to the test by asking what it takes to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered him by asking, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” The lawyer answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus then confirmed this answer, and told the lawyer that he was correct. But the lawyer then asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied with the parable of the good Samaritan. He told of a traveling Jewish man who fell among robbers, and was stripped, and beat, and left to die. A priest soon walked down the road, but saw the helpless man, and passed on the other side so that he would not have to help the man. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place, he saw the man, and ignored him. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where the man was lying, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds. He brought him to an inn and payed for all of his expenses. Then Jesus asked which one of these characters proved to be a true neighbor. The lawyer answered, “The one who showed the poor man mercy.” And then Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” This parable is a fiction story that contains symbols and signs that represent other, more meaningful things. Jesus often used parables to teach His followers important lessons that are much easier to understand with these symbols in place. Jesus’ Good Samaritan was a symbol signifying a man who is kind even toward his enemies. In ancient days, when Jews joined with pagans in marriage, their offspring were called Samaritans. Thus, Jews viewed the Samaritans as less than themselves, and soon, they wouldn’t even travel through Samaria. This caused much hate between the Samaritans and the Jews, and ultimately, they became enemies. For this reason, Jesus used a Samaritan as his “good neighbor” figure so that the Jewish lawyer and other listeners could understand to what degree we are to love ALL people.

The priest, the Levite, and the robbers are characters in this story who, unlike the Good Samaritan, ignored and hated the poor, hurt man. The man was a Jew, so it was most reasonable for the priest or Levite to help him. But they were selfish and pretended they didn’t even see the poor Jew. People who are so selfish that they can’t even look at someone in need are the opposite of the Good Samaritan. Through out time, it has been very easy for people to stick to their own path, and try not to see those in need. Even today, we often are too prideful and selfish to go out of our way to help someone. The Good Samaritan’s actions contradict our culture’s view on how to treat others. Today’s society teaches people to think that they are too good to care for others, and that the homeless and hurt should take care of themselves. This point of view is unhealthy, and Christians should strive to heal this wound in the culture, and set a good example of being generous toward others. American culture encourages the people of today to be selfish and prideful. To help someone, especially an enemy, would be unthinkable. To be like the Good Samaritan, Christians must quit conforming to culture, and rather do what is right according to the Scripture.

To be like the Good Samaritan, Christians mustn’t consider some races better than others or be prejudiced against certain types of people. Rather, the Church needs to step up, and help improve the selfish mindset of the world. Christians should not wait for the government to help the poor and they definitely shouldn’t expect other people to, instead of themselves. The Bible calls each and every Christian to extend a hand to the needy. They must give to the homeless, and care for them, despite what other people will think of them. To be a Good Samaritan, people must love their neighbors as themselves, and they must always maintain respect for others, whether weak, or strong, poor or rich, needy or with plenty. A Good Samaritan is always on the look-out for people in need of help. He is a missionary who seeks out the lost. Good Samaritans love people because they love God. When Christians lay down their pride and love the Lord your God with all their hearts, they also will love His creation! The Good Samaritan is a serving friend who views himself as less than his neighbors and who loves his enemies.

Being a Good Samaritan means loving all people unconditionally. Romans twelve tells us that love is sincere. “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” It teaches us to “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” “Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.” This is exactly what the Good Samaritan does for the Jewish man. Romans goes on to say that Christians mustn’t take revenge upon those who have done them wrong. But, instead, they should do their best to live at peace with everyone. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.” A Good Samaritan doesn’t hate people or hold a grudge against someone who has wronged him. Rather, he is forgiving and loving towards all people. Believers who worship God, love their enemies, open their arms to the homeless, give to the hungry, act as servants to their equals, and lead through humility are Good Samaritans.

How to Meditate…

True meditation is not what is usually thought of when doing yoga, or some kind of stress freeing exercise. Most people think that meditation consists of relaxing your body, calming your mind, and freeing your self from any thoughts that you may be having. While this might sound attractive right now, I am here to tell you that that is NOT how it is done! Meditation is an act of freedom, but not from the world, or from your thoughts. It is freedom from your stress, and worry! This world is all around us, so there is no getting away from it! You might want to get used to that fact!!! But when you think about it, it is not the “world” that you feel like you need a break from, it’s your sin. You can’t get away from your sin by just emptying your mind, and trying to sit still for thirty minutes! Meditation is rather an act of FILLING your mind, and not with any old thing, but with God’s peace. God’s love is so deep, that we can sink into it, and find true and lasting peace.

Many religions exercise meditation. But Christians do it in an entirely different way. The purpose of meditation is generally to find a relaxing few minutes to rest, and get a break from this busy world. Much of the time, people try to get some peace through meditation, but peace can only be accomplished if God is helping us get it. Secular, and Christian meditation are done in similar ways, but, the two have quite different outcomes.

For most meditative beings, the goal in meditation is to empty the mind, and to “become one” with the inner self. Sadhguru from Isha Kriya is a Hindu teacher who says, “Meditation is not something one does, it is something that one becomes.” “You must become in touch with the inner-most core of who you are.” Despite the accepted idea that the meditative state can last an entire day, it can not be truly calming for any more than that half hour or so that meditation is being done. The “peace” that they find when meditating upon themselves, eventually depresses them because there is a lack of love. Letting the mind lapse into a quiet, selfish coma is, very unhealthy and lonely. No one is filling the emptiness created.

There are some things that may be found in common in the meditation of Christians and that of the secular world. Most religions understand that our bodies need to regularly set worries aside and to rest. It is necessary to find time to be still and think. Most people, regardless of their religion, also agree that living in this world requires finding a deep and lasting peace. They, are exactly right, but the critical difference between the two, comes when discussing ways of obtaining this peace.

Christians believe that meditation is the act of filling the mind with God’s love. He can give lasting peace that can only come as a gift from Him. Christian meditation is setting apart a time to “be still, and know that I (He) am God”. This healthy time of quiet allows for prayer and growing closer to Him. This kind of meditation never leaves the Christian empty or lonely. Rather, it gives a full joy that lasts for a lifetime.

Life on earth heaps many trying demands on our bodies. Facing hardship, pain, or stress, people discover that to maintain a happy life, they must have peace. Many agree that a great way to find this peace is to meditate. While unbelievers think that this can be found in an empty span of quiet “un-thought,” Christians know that peace can only come from Christ. While both agree that meditation involves sitting quietly still, non-Christians teach that mediation is allowing the mind to dissolve into the soul until only the inner self remains. Christians, however, practice a meditation which allows the Holy Spirit to move in our hearts, and God to bless us with His beautiful gift of peace.