Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Good, Evil, and God

I just finished reading a rather interesting article presented in the Christian Research Journal. The article deals with the perennial challenge of a “good God” and the existence of evil.

I must warn you now that, if you find philosophical articles that are heavy on cerebral discussion, your eyes will probably glaze over just trying to follow the arguments on both sides.

The issue has been debated for centuries. How could I think that I could add anything else to the discussion?

I don’t, to be honest.

I would, though, like to offer a simpler, saner view of the whole argument.

Consider †his: God is God, and we are not!

Nobody sane should even begin to think that we can see things from God’s perspective. Isaiah 55:8 says that God’s thoughts are higher than our own. God is omniscient, as the article states and the Bible supports. How can measly man ever hope to see things from an omniscient perspective?

God is considered to be “outside of time.” He also never changes. That implies that He sees me as I am typing this at the “same time” as He sees Christ being nailed to a cross for my sins. How can He do that? I don’t have a clue, and don’t think I ever will as long as my perspective is stuck on Earth, stuck in time. How can my writing this be “predestined” and foreknown, and still be the result of my free will? I don’t have a clue.

Let me get even more gutsy: nobody has a clue. Calvin didn’t. Arminius didn’t. Neither did Luther, Wesley, or anybody else. They probably do “now,” but only because they are in Heaven, and can see things as God does. (At least I assume that’s the case.)

So why did God create evil, or create Satan who became evil? Why does God allow evil? I would be interested in the opinions of others, because I have no idea.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

God's Timing, His Grace, and What Comes In-Between

When I first started this blog, I didn't want it to be about me. I wanted it to be about God. I wanted it to be about what I would discover in His Word.

Something got in the way, though, and only recently have I discovered what it has been.

Shortly after that I started reading a book by Anne Jackson, Permission to Speak Freely. The book's official release was yesterday, August 31, 2010, but I've had a copy, courtesy of Amazon.com, since around the 18th of August. This book has hit me square at the core of my being in so many ways and for so many reasons. I have said on Facebook and Twitter that it's required reading for every Christian.

But that's not why I'm writing this.

There's a couple of chapters in the book on the Prodigal Son. It relates to Anne's overall story, of course, but one paragraph just burst through every sense I have. I need to share it here:

Sometimes we've been churches that preach a grace up front for those who aren't Christians and grace at the end for those who follow the rules and are "good Christians," but we've tragically neglected the people in between. The truth is that none of us, even on our best, "holiest" days—the days we don't cuss or look at porn or yell at our spouse or at the idiot who cut us off in traffic—even our best days aren't holy enough to be looked at by God.
That's why there's the Cross. And that's why we all need it for both our brokenness and our righteousness.
I cannot express how close to home this is to me. For the past 4 years I've lived in fear that, even though I'd be in Heaven, that I had failed in so many "responsibilities" and "obligations" in life that I'd be the one who was saved "as if through fire" (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). I imagined myself as being the "bum in Heaven." I'd be clean, but where others had great mansions or rooms, I'd have a little shack at the bottom of the hill.

You see, I've blown many of the "responsibilities" I'd been told God imposes on us. I'm not a father, and according to a former pastor and Dennis Rainey, that's not God's will. My wife and I are under heavy debt, which is a bad thing. I could go on, but you get the idea. "Responsibilities" to me were negative things, not positive.

Well, I'm through that now, thanks to a wonderful friend who is closer than a brother to me. As Anne also points out in her book, sometimes the transfer from head to heart doesn't happen right away, and there's nothing we can do to force it. It took my friend to finish that transfer.

But why did it take almost 4 years to get this?

Consider †his: God is never late (2 Peter 3:9), but He can be "slow" by our standards. (See this link to a humerous but heavy article by James Watkins for some further insight.) His timing is perfect. That means that the 4 years it took me to comprehend the truth about His grace in my failures was for a reason! His grace is always sufficient for our failures and our transgressions ... even our open acts of rebellion at times (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). I was covered by His grace all the time! And now, after 4 years of numerous changes, trials, difficulties, discoveries, and finally healing, I can start to share some of this with my Facebook friends and here.

An immediate healing wouldn't have served His purpose, just like the man born blind in the Gospels had to remain blind for an untold number of years before he would be healed by Jesus (John 9:1-41). Even after his healing it was rough, but his faith was secure.

Why does God take His time? Because He knows better! No, that won't be enough for us at times, but that's OK; His grace is sufficient for that, too.

Friday, June 11, 2010

How many choices do we need?

I just read an interesting blog post from my e-friend, Scott Smith, on his Sarcastic Xtian blog, entitled "The Bondage of Choice." (Click the title of this post to link to it.)

My response was something I had learned from being a Mac fan and a Palm fan. People used to poo-poo Apple's Macintosh computer system (and that's really how it was designed, as a system combining hardware and software) because you had "fewer choices of applications" than with Microsoft Windows. Last Friday I chose to lay my trustworthy Palm Trēo 680 to rest, replacing it with a new Palm Prē Plus; again, the AT&T guy, chatting with my wife (who was also drooling over it and the iPhone), mentioned that the Pre had "fewer apps."

My question was: how many choices do I need?

Choice is important. God gives us the ability to choose. He also gives us the responsibility to choose wisely.

Consider †his: how many choices of gods do we have?

Those in the world would say we have dozens, maybe hundreds. Some religions, such as Buddhism, say that we will become gods as part of our travel through the wheel of enlightenment. New Age thinking echoes that, saying that each of us are little gods in our own right. Even the claiming-to-be-Christian Word of Faith movement steps into that realm with the idea that, since we are all created in the "image of God," obviously we can do anything God can do as long as we depend on our faith, just as He did when He spoke the universe into existence.

But how many choices do we really have?

Two. God and Satan.

There is only one road to God (John 14:6). All others lead away from God. That's Satan. We can call him by various different names, we can mask him in various different forms of "light" by using terms such as "enlightenment," or we can clothe him in our own image. It still doesn't work.

We only need two choices of gods, and only one is the right choice.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Quick News Update

One of the issues I've had with Blogger (or, to be more precise, blogspot.com) is its inability to use what are known as "trackbacks." To oversimplify, trackbacks are a mechanism by which one blog can comment on or blog about another blog, and the latter gets notified about it. For example, I intend to comment on something written on another Blogger blog, but I would like for his blog to know about it.

That other blog, the Sarcastic Xtian, uses a different comment system than the standard Blogger one. He uses DISQUS, which does allow trackbacks and reactions.

I've decided to use that here, effective immediately. I mean, it's not like this blog is so busy that it has gotten a lot of comments anyhow, but I'd like that to change. (I know, if I'd post something more often than once every other odd leap year, it would help.)

Some other features of DISQUS are:

  • the ability to reply to a comment, and have it come out "threaded." That means that you see replies as replies, near to the original comment.
  • the ability to post using a variety of different user IDs, including Facebook, Twitter, Open ID, and more. Each login method also allows echoing back to the service through which you logged in. For example, if you log in through your Twitter account, you can tweet your comment.
  • automatic anti-spam and anti-profanity filters.
  • the ability to "like" a comment or to "flag" a comment.
There are probably more cool things here that I missed, or am not thinking about at this moment.

Oh, I should add that using DISQUS will require opening up some permissions in your browser. Sadly, I forget right now which ones are required (mainly because I had to fight them for another comment service, Intense Debate, which required me to open up Quantcast, of all places), but I believe they should be obvious to regular users of utilities like NoScript, AdBlock (which shouldn't require any extra handling), and Ghostery (which might need some unblocking).

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Taking the Bible Literally

This actually began as a comment for a post, Taking Jesus Literally, on the Spiritual Reflections blog. (The title of this message should be a link to the post, but in case it doesn't come through FeedBurner properly, it's http://revmdavis.blogspot.com/2010/03/taking-jesus-literally.html)

Unlike previous posts here, this is purely my own opinion. Part of me doesn't like that, because my opinion is worth as much, or as less, as anybody else's. On the other hand, what's the title of my blog? Consider This! I'm not going to say this is "right" or that you're going to Hell if you disagree with me. (I do insist that, if you choose to disagree in a comment, to do so agreeably. No personal attacks, no foul language, etc. And, sorry, I have the final say on how that gets defined. Cope.)

I've found that taking the Bible "literally" is the only way to go. The problem is in how you implement that. Obviously, from the term "implement," I'm an engineer by trade and by Godly design (it comes naturally to me, in other words), so that affects my perception of things.

So let's look at taking the Bible "literally." First, there are obvious places in the Bible that are symbolic or poetic. The Song of Solomon, also called the Song of Songs in some translations, is essentially a love poem. The Psalms are songs, not commandments. When you start to get into prophecy, though, the distinction becomes dull, especially when you get into end-times prophecies.

Related to the symbolic and poetic are allegory and idiomatic phrases. For example, when Psalm 50:10 says that the "cattle on a thousand hills" belong to the Lord, you're not going to find hill #1,001 and say that the cattle on that hill doesn't belong to Him. (Actually, you might want to pop the link to that verse open in a separate tab, because he's going to get a lot of mileage in this missive.) Idioms in the Bible are harder to find because the idioms don't translate literally well at all. The often-despised Living Bible translation (which served as the basis for the slightly less paraphrase-like New Living Translation) actually translates one idiomatic phrase as "don't count your chickens before they hatch" (specifically 1 Kings 20:11 ... I'll let you read it in other translations, via the link to Bible Gateway, to see the "better" translation).

The second enemy of literal Bible consideration is precision. We 21st century "civilized" "educated" fellows want finely detailed numbers. If someone counts 77,000 in one place, then they'd better not claim 77,500 somewhere else, or even 77,005. The problem is, when counting that many soldiers, for example, that are milling about, ready for the battle (and probably vulnerable to attack while standing there), performing a precise to-the-person head count is simply not reasonable. Even then there were methods for estimating a rough count of people; estimation is still used today. For other metrics, there's the law of "significant digits" (which should send some students that were forced to take physics in high school into a shudder). Significant digits basically says that you have to take the precision of measurements into account, and the result can only be that precise, no matter what a calculator says.

A third issue when dealing with literal interpretation of the Bible is audience. Now, I'm not a dispensationalist, even though I happen to agree with many views that are often labeled "dispensationalist." Dealing with the parts I cannot agree with will take this post too far off-base. I will say, though, that there are commands that were given to the Israelites that don't apply to the Gentiles (Acts dealt with an early form of this), there are commands given to certain individuals that aren't necessarily for everybody, and there are issues that aren't an issue for one group that are for another (such as the "eating meat offered to idols" discussed in 1 Corinthians).

In order to know the audience, usually you need another important factor for interpretation: context. Again this can take a post of its own, but there are very few verses of the Bible that we can take by themselves and get a clear picture. Psalm 50:10 provides a good example of this as well. Reading even the rest of the verse makes it clear that you don't have to count hills to determine where cattle that aren't God's exist; it starts out with saying that all critters are His. The remainder of Psalm 50 should give you an even greater idea of what's going on. Many, many false teachings have been generated by taking a verse or two out of context and using it to "prove" some flake-generated idea.

There's one vital component, though, of literal Bible interpretation that too many people miss: the Holy Spirit! Although some people will take this as heresy, it's true: the Bible is merely words on paper without the indwelling Spirit of God as a part of your life. No, I'm not saying you need to speak in tongues or fall backwards when touched on the head. I'm simply talking about the Holy Author of the Holy Bible dwelling within you! If you have not turned over your life to Jesus Christ, don't even bother with Biblical interpretation at all. It won't make sense!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Scared for Nothing!

The Yahweh's Yarn in a Year for January 2 was from Joshua 1-5. This section begins the time when the next generation of Israelites prepared to enter & conquer the Promised Land. Reading Genesis through Deuteronomy, you'll discover that God had promised Abraham and his descendants that land, but when the whole mob left Egypt, they were afraid of the people in the land they were about to enter. Of the 12 spies they sent in, only two — Joshua (the guy the book's named after, and now the leader of the Israelites) and Caleb — had the faith to believe God was going to give them the land. As a result, the people were told to go back into the wilderness and wander around there for 40 years, in the wilderness that took them a year to get through.

There's quite a bit of stuff to look at here, but here's what hit me in the face this time. This comes from the story of the scouting party investigating Jericho. You can find this in Joshua 2:1-11. Rahab, a prostitute and flax handler of some sort, had hidden the spies from the guards that were looking for them. She explained that the city was scared of the Israelites. Why? Because of all the stuff that happened 40 years ago!

Consider †his: 40 years ago the Israelites wimped out, even after being miraculously rescued from the Egyptians by tons of … well, miracles! Through it all, they got scared of the people in the land beyond the Jordan river. But those people heard about it, too … and were even more scared of the Israelites and their God Who fought for them! They didn't just get scared now. They were scared 40 years ago, when Israel was just as scared. For forty years the people of Jericho lived under the threat of the Israelites coming in and taking them out. For forty years, though, the feared Israelites were themselves fearful, so much that they had to spend a time-out in the desert until that generation was gone.

Now Consider †his: isn't God just as much for the child of God today as He was for the children of Israel then? The world is scared of God today. Why do you think there's so much of a push to get rid of Christmas, but not the false Kwanzaa, or the real Hanukkah, Ramadan, or other holidays? As one person put it, "it's because it's got Christ in it, and after 2,000 years He's still intimidating people." You, Christian, are intimidating, too. If you have Christ in you, you're just as intimidating. Obviously the point isn't to make people fear you, but don't be afraid of what happens around you when Christ is in you.
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