An Atheist Theological Position and Faith

I recently engaged some atheists concerning their claims about how they see the God of Christians.  One claim an atheist author made was that the Christian god is simply one of the imagination.  This god exists because Christian believe this god’s existence.  The actual statement is, “they [gods] exist because you make them exist” (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godlessindixie/2014/10/24/god-does-exist-2).  The author goes on to state,

You were likely taught from your youngest days to believe in this entity, and some of you have spent a lifetime cultivating a way of thinking about and perceiving a world which includes this Being in the midst of it. You were taught to listen to the thoughts and feelings in your own head and consider that some of them may very well be this Person communicating with you, telling you things you should know. You’ve spent many years reading a text which you were told represents the right way to think about this person, and if you’ve had as long as I had, you were able to internalize its vocabulary and its thought forms until they became second nature to you. In short, you do experience this person as if he were a real person, and it won’t do you any good for me to stand here and tell you he does not exist. That’s simply incorrect. He exists because you make him exist.”

In other words, God is not a matter of epistemology, belief system, or even reality, but simply of one’s imagination.  I posed a challenge to this claim (and a claim it is) that it is no more than the logical fallacy called a straw man or even a false attribution.  It is also an epistemological one for the one making the claim.  Let us examine the claim from these perspectives.

First, let us look at the logical fallacy.  A straw man argument is positing a position to someone that the person does not hold.  The person doing this sets up what is known as a straw man, that is, a false position.  Then the person making the claim begins either attacking the straw man or making statements about it rather than addressing the real position the other person actually holds.  Another logical fallacy could also be applied to this type of claim called false attribution.  A false attribution is falsely attributing a position to another the other person does not hold or one that is irrelevant or biased to support one’s claim.  In neither case does the one making the claim present an argument on the merit.  That is, the claimant fails to address the other person’s position at all through evidence or reasoning.  All this atheist could do is make the claim and use a work of fiction to support it without any further support other than repetition of the premise:  it is all in the mind or imagination.

After a brief interchange when I brought up this atheist’s straw man, he replied with other logical fallacies:

1. That I missed his intent, which was “to explain to other atheists something they may not be getting about believers.”

2.  That his experience as a former Christian and seminary graduate supported his claim

The first argument simply affirmed the false attribution logical fallacy or a lie by continuing to attribute a false position to Christians.  The second argument was another logical fallacy known as “appeal to authority.”  Appeal to authority is an attempt to sidetrack the discussion from the claim through appealing either to another authority (“So and so says…”) or oneself as an authority rather than address an argument that supports the claim (or an argument on the merits).  That is neither one supports a person’s claim.  One is using what is false while the other sidetracks from a claim by going elsewhere.

I then addressed the claim altogether with another argument: “If God did not exist, people would not have any thought of the existence of God.”  They could not imagine God or even think or discuss any kind of divinity.  The first atheist dropped out of the discussion while a few others entered it. One atheist tried to counter this by claiming that we imagine certain fictional science fiction characters, and they do not exist: i.e., Superman, Buck Rodgers, etc.  Fiction writers create fictitious characters from what they know in the material created order.  To refer to them by name is simply an action of assigning a name to things that exist.  Fiction writers know about human beings or other types of beings within the created order.  They then dress them up in a certain garb or identity and name them.  This action does not address what one does not know or the non-existence of something or God.

For example, God asked Adam to name the animals.  If animals were not of the material world, Adam would not have the foggiest idea about animals.  Nothing could come to mind.  Their existence and the knowledge of that existence comes before naming them.  Some may ask, “What about the unicorn?”  The unicorn is a horse with a horn.  Horses exists, and animals with horns exists.  People see what is in existence, integrate these existing things, and assign a name to it in the same way Adam did.  The atheists in the discussion continued to bring up these examples with different other fictional characters, claiming that they did not exist except in the imagination.  However, regardless how many examples one gives, the same argument applies.  These fictional characters are representations of what already exists.

That returns us to the original claim – if God did not exist, no thought of divinity apart from the created material world could be imagined or entertained in our thoughts.  Furthermore, atheists could not even make the claim that God does not exist.  If He did not exist, why do they continue to make the claim that He does not exist?  It is a claim without meaning.  They would not be making any claim at all, because they could not entertain what does not exist in their thoughts.  All their claims about the non-existence of God amounts to no more than a personal attack on those who hold that God exists.  Nothing more.

Atheism is actually a theology that requires faith as much as Christian theology also requires faith.  All of us must have faith whether that faith is in humanity (humanism), other religions (pluralism), or any other kind of -ism in the world.  Too many unseen elements exist in the material world and beyond it to simply rely on empiricism or related approaches.  Our finiteness prohibits us from an all out claim or disclaim of God.  Atheists must believe God (or gods as they put it) does not exist.  They cannot provide evidence from the material world or anything beyond finite knowledge to make a claim of the non-existence of God.  Inasmuch as atheists make claims for the non-existence of God, no scientific method can prove such non-existence or even offer evidence at the very least.  They must accept such non-existence on faith that their theology of no God is feasible.

Consequently, atheism offers no more than a comparative faith.  It is far less tenable to believe in the non-existence of something than in the claim of what exists.  It is also more difficult to develop a theology around non-existence than existence.  I would rather place my faith in the God of the Bible than in faith in a non-existence of the Divine.  The biblical God gives far more substance and evidence, for it has the backing of history and creation.  These will be explored in future posts.

Opposition to Religious Freedom

While opposition to religious freedom continues to raises its ugly head, little do those who oppose religious liberty understand that freedom of speech and the practice of religion are integrated.  Any attempts to chill either is oppression and violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.  The suppression of free speech is also a suppression of religious freedom, and the opposite is true.

The mayor’s office in Houston is another incident where both freedom of religion and speech have come under attack.  Mayor Parker recently sent a subpoena to several church pastors demanding that they send their sermons to the mayor’s office for review if they have certain words or phrases in them: homosexual, her name, or any other similar wording.  In other words, if the pastors do not comply, they would be in contempt of court and be prosecuted.

The Houston mayor’s office received a notice not only from the pastors’ attorney but also from the Texas State Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Human Rights Commission to stand down and cease her actions.  They knew that the mayor’s office was in violation of First Amendment rights and that the Mayor was stepping out on a dangerous cliff.

Attempts to silence the gospel has received its challenges over the decades, but the action of the Houston mayor is rather blatant.  Hobby Lobby won at the US Supreme Court in their case over paying for abortion drugs in their insurance premiums.  Such lawsuits and opposition to religious freedom and speech would have been unheard of a century ago, but religious freedom receives increasing opposition in our society as the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4) attempts to turn the hearts of individuals to himself and away from God.  The Apostle Peter aligns with the Apostle Paul when he claims that Satan is like a roaring lion roaming around seeking those he wants to devour (1 Peter 5:8).  Satan has placed his own hatred in the heart of those who oppose God to stand up against those who place their faith in Him.  We should not be surprised at his tactics, but rather we should learn about them to be able to stand up against those who side with Satan.

When those in power attempt to suppress the gospel, they must find or create a message to replace it.  That message arises from debauchery and deceit.  Such a message looks at wrong and calls it right and demands that people must embrace that wrong through oppression and suppression of the truth.  A path exists from seeing wrong as benign to ignoring it, acknowledging it, accepting it, embracing it, and finally practicing it.  Once a wrongdoing enters the stage of being seen as a neutral practice, that opens the door to considering it as benign.  As benign, wrongdoing can be left to grow within a society much like a benign tumor grows in the body.  This benign tumor can displace other organs, and a wrongdoing seen as benign can displace truth through shifting it to “your truth may not be the same as my truth.”  At that stage, truth becomes rejected in favor of some sort of alleged neutral ground.  Once this neutral ground is established within the mind, the person becomes an evangelist for spreading this benign message (or new gospel) to the community at large and outward to society.

Modern philosophy is like this benign tumor by relegating wrongdoing and evil to a neutral ground.  However, such relegation is not a neutral act as no act is neutral.  Actions and practices step out from belief systems.  Belief systems are not neutral or benign.  Rather, they are advocates of one’s worldview or philosophy of life.  One’s worldview does not sit benignly in the mind taking neutral positions on practices one encounters.  People vote their positions in the public square.  As a person encounters a particular practice, thinking, or behavior, one either accepts or rejects it depending on that person’s worldview.  Accepting a new way of thinking can cause a shift in a worldview for incorporating what one accepts for making subtle changes in the worldview.  If the incorporated thinking or philosophy comes in conflict with a component within one’s worldview, a struggle ensues until the new thought process or behavior is accepted or rejected.  All of us are tempted with such recurring conflicts.  The rejection of one way of thinking must transpire for the acceptance of another way of thinking.  Neutrality calls for co-existence, but co-existence cannot occur when a struggle happens over conflicting philosophies concerning thinking and behavioral practice.  Like a tumor, the new way of thinking or belief displaces the existing way of thinking or belief.

Neutrality then follows the path of rejecting existing philosophy past ignoring the new to acknowledging, accepting, and embracing a stance, worldview, or lifestyle of a new worldview, paradigm, or philosophy.  Acceptance turns into advocacy much like what has happened within the Houston mayor’s office.  The mayor not only rejected the biblical worldview for belief and practice, but she embraced a worldview opposite the biblical one to the point of practice and advocacy.  Practice turned to evangelism for her worldview as she pressed it on the pliable and malleable Houston City Council to rule according to a tyranny of the minority.  She was never neutral but an evangelist for a specific worldview that opposed the worldview of pastors she subpoenaed.  Hers was an opposition toward suppression of these pastors’ speech and religious practice.

Neutrality much like tolerance cannot exist when there is opposition and conflicting worldviews.  “Tolerance” is a smokescreen for the intolerant statement “my truth may not be your truth.  Truth is not neutral nor tolerant of a lie.  Rather, it creates a dividing line between what is right and wrong.  It leaves no neutrality.  The source of truth is God whose truth is universal and stands opposed to all worldviews that reject truth.  There is no “my truth may not be the same as your truth.”  That statement has its source in worldly view and not in God’s view.  When one makes such a statement, they exclude all other worldviews and reflect intolerance of others while embracing “my truth.” The perspective of “my truth” is no more than a limited grasp of an alienated state from and opposed to God.  It not only rejects God as the source of truth but other belief systems through the stress of “my truth.”  It is ultimate intolerance.  Intolerance leads to suppression and oppression of opposing worldviews and ultimately opposition of religious freedom and free speech.

For this reason, the Founding Fathers of our nation incorporated the First Amendment into the US Constitution.  They recognized humanity’s fallen state from God and sought a higher law founded upon unalienable rights conferred by the Creator.  They saw God’s truth as the ruling truth over the intolerant “my truth may not be the same as your truth.”  They saw God’s law as the prevention of oppression of religious practice and speech.  They knew that when humanity embraced God as the source of truth, they could live with one another in spite of conflicts and differences.  The gospel is the message for ultimate freedom for embracing the way God originally created us and to live according to the truth found in Jesus Christ who claimed,

I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life (John 14:6).

A Daily Prayer

Read: Ephesians 1:15-21

15Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. (Nelson, Thomas (2009-02-18). Holy Bible, New King James Version (NKJV) (p. 1134). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.)

Father in Heaven, our Sovereign Lord,

Grant us [the church] the spirit of wisdom to know you and your word;

Grant us understanding for embracing the hope we have in you –

A hope based on your righteous and unfailing faithfulness (Psalm 36:5) –

And insight into the wealth and treasures of your glory (Psalm 113:4-9)

that shines forth the inheritance we have through Your precious Son

Who died that we may live with You in Your glorious realm – our future home (John 14:2-3) –

Who lives to reveal Your will through Your living word (Hebrews 4:14)

Grant us the strength from the greatness of Your divine power

You work in us through Your Holy Spirit to conform us to Your likeness –

Setting us apart to love us and to transform our minds

To think Your thoughts and to act according to Your will.

Grant us the grace to sustain us through all temptations and troubles (1 Corinthians 10:13)

We face daily from those who oppose You, the gospel, and Your Son

From Your enemy – Satan – who stands day and night

Accusing Your children of wrongdoing (Revelation 12:10) –

Those whom you accounted righteous before You.

We thank you for answered prayer and all the gifts we have in You.

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Amen

“My truth may not be the same as your truth” Is this true?

From time to time, I hear someone saying, “My truth may not be the same as your truth.”  Because postmodern thinking has infiltrated this generation and our Western society with its relativism, many make this statement without realizing what they say.  They do not realize the problems arising from this statement.  Some do, but use it as an escape hatch for shutting down an argument in which they do not wish to engage.  Those shutting down an argument cannot defend their own position.  Others also look at this statement as conclusive, the end of all argument, and an inescapable “truth” without a legitimate rebuttal.  Are these conclusions really that air tight or do they simply teeter on the cliff of irrationality, reducing argument and communication to meaningless?  Let us examine the logic and philosophy behind this statement and dig to the root of it.

The book Nothing But the Gospel addresses this argument, stating,

Many today reduce truth to “my truth may not be the same as your truth.”  Such an assessment of truth cancels it out by reducing it to millions of individual opinions.  In doing so, truth itself depends on humanity and not on God, and reduces it to non-existence.  Such so-called truth relies on the limitations of finite beings living in a temporal existence and ignores the unknown” (p. 76).

That is, one making this claim about truth asserts a self-defeating argument and redefines the meaning of truth.  Opinion substitutes for truth and makes truth dependent on the limitations of an individual, group, community, or society.  By redefining the word, the user becomes enclosed in his or her own limited existence beyond which another “truth” claims to exist.  That is, all “truths” are mutually exclusive and only valid within a specific circle.

Moving outside one’s circle of truth into another person’s circle is non-negotiable depending on the flexibility of one’s “truth” principles.  It also expresses a statement of intolerance and standard.  That is, if your truth is different from mine, then anything beyond my cocoon of truth has little relevance.  Not only does it have little relevance, but if I cling heartily to my truth, your truth can be very offensive to me. Such offense lends to alienation and conflict while cutting off discourse and association.  The more firm the stance on one’s truth, the greater the intolerance of another person or group’s truth.  Of course, this assertion remains unstated until “truths” clash.  Then the banners raise and protests begin.

This statement about truth also raises what one attempts to avoid: absoluteness and a sense of right or wrong.  By making the statement about truth as possessive or belonging to one person or group as opposed to another, a sense of absoluteness arises.  One who makes the claim will not state outright that another is wrong, but when one makes such a claim, that person excludes the claims of any other “truth.”  An attitude of intolerance confirms this absoluteness, which eventually surfaces when one holding the claim is pressed in a corner.

Furthermore, truth cannot stand alone.  It must be practiced.  Otherwise, it is ethereal and has no substance or connection to the real world.  Practice makes truth reality.  Practice expresses and distinguishes between right and wrong right and wrong.  That is, a person behaves in a manner one believes to be a right course as opposed to a wrong course.  People make judgments and engage in actions based on personal standards.  We often hear the phrase when asked why a person acted in the way one did, “It was simply the right thing to do.”  Trust depends on telling the truth or exhibiting certain attitudes or behaviors.  People realize that specific attitudes and behaviors are common within groups, communities, and societies.

A person making a claim about “my truth” soon discovers isolation.  Others outside of the realm of another person’s truth then begin to view the person clinging to a “my truth”  as an oddball.  Consequently, the truth of truth is its relevance beyond one person, and if beyond one person, to how many more will truth apply before it reaches its limitation?  If truth has limitation, it then exhibits the same claim as truth limited to one.  The group or community making the claim, much like the individual, soon discovers isolation, and not only isolation but also intolerance of other groups, communities, and societies.  Have we not seen the results of this throughout history?

Therefore, is truth or a claim of truth a problem or the individual making the claim about truth the problem?  Some may say neither is a problem.  Why then does intolerance or conflict arise with the statement of “My truth may not be the same as your truth?”  Does truth contribute to intolerance or conflict?  The Bible claims that the suppression of truth gives rise to everyone claiming their own truth,

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).

The suppression of truth arises from what the Apostle Paul asserts as “unrighteousness,” that is, the refusal to recognize and follow God as the source of truth.  He goes on to write,

…because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (1:21-25).

In the absence of divine truth and its practice, individuals adopt their own “truth” and fail to recognize that it must be practiced.  Therefore, the problem resides with individuals. They end up practicing a lie while laying claim to “My truth may not be the same as your truth.”  When asked about that person’s truth, the next claim comes forth, “That (practice) may be OK for you but not for me.”  In making this statement, one integrates practice with one’s statement of truth and the admission that it must be practiced.  By doing so, one establishes a standard for one’s view of truth and its practice.  That standard not only applies to that individual but also to the group or community with which the individual is involved until the scope of this standard becomes wider to a society and beyond.

Paul explains the logical conclusion of a person or society establishing its own “truth” – setting up a divinity or idol for the society after first rejecting God.  Under the umbrella of another divinity, individuals begin to practice dishonor, intolerance for others, deceit, and any number of other practices Paul mentions.  Conflicts and destructive behaviors arise as each society clings to its own set of “truths” and looks upon other societies as oddballs.  Power resides in those (the dictator) who hold sway with their “truth.”  Has history not shown these consequences, especially when people depart from the living God and fail to give Him the worship due Him?  Worshiping the God of Jesus Christ brings all claims of truth and their conflicts to an end.  Since He created all that exist, He alone determines truth for that existence.  Jesus said,

I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

He alone establishes the truth for all to follow and reconciles all to it and God through Himself.

Tension Between Faith and Unbelief

Shortly after our first parents decided to walk their own road not taken, their two sons struck out on divergent paths.  Both lived in the same household.  Both observed their parents.  One killed the other.  What happened?

The Scriptures give us very little about their motives and the forces that motivated them.  Most of what we receive came from oral tradition since those who wrote of them were not their contemporaries.  What we do know is telling about both of them.  One statement about Abel gives us great insight about his motivations.  The author of the letter to the Hebrews states,

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4).

Abel acted out of faith, and Cain behaved from unbelief.  If we follow the author’s argument carefully, we gain valuable information about both.  Before entering into observations of the events surrounding the two brothers, we must consider the context of the original circumstances.  Afterwards, we can review what other biblical authors write of them.  We can make several observations from the above text:

  1. Abel offered to God
  2. Abel’s offering arose out of faith
  3. The offering Abel made was superior to Cain’s
  4. Witness testified of the superiority of Abel’s sacrifice
  5. Abel’s offering showed his righteousness
  6. He left a legacy of faith as its first martyr

Some of these observations are puzzling.  First, we do not know what made Abel’s offering “a more excellent sacrifice.”  However, we have hints throughout this passage.  The first hint, which the author intentionally places, is faith.  If we consider the entire context of Hebrews 11, we understand that the author emphasizes faith.  The author also sets out to support the main point: faith has as its grounds substance and evidence (Hebrews 11:1).  The substance of faith is hope.  Its evidence is unseen realities.  The dominant unseen reality behind creation is God.  The chapter places stress on God as the Creator to emphasize that the visible did not create the visible.The author provides a number of examples to support this primary point.  The earliest example is creation itself, a time when no one lived.  It takes faith to understand that all that exists comes from God.

He then moves to the offspring of our first parents.  Abel was the very first man of whom God gave witness to his righteous standing before Him by faith.  Abel was also the first martyr for his faith.  Cain took out his fierce anger toward God by murdering his brother whom God accounted as righteous not so much because of the gift he offered God but because of his faith expressed through the gift.  Abel’s faith pleased God.  We know this truth by what the author subsequently informs us about faith,

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (11:6).

God is more interested in faith than in material things offered to Him.  Cain failed to honor God, and God saw through his gifts to his heart.  Cain’s response to God’s rebuke showed that faith did not dwell with him.  Rather, Cain became furious toward God rather than showing faith from receiving God’s rebuke.  With the nature of the gift placed momentarily aside, we can come to terms with God’s rejection of Cain’s offering.  Although his response resulted from God’s rejection of his gift and subsequently confronting his wrath, that wrath toward God already existed.  It simply had opportunity to express itself upon God’s rejection of his gift.  We can see from his behavior that faith was not in Cain’s gift to God.  Because of his unbelief, Cain showed dishonor toward God.  God therefore rejected both the gift and the dishonor that arose from unbelief.

Sometimes unbelief and rebellion fester in the heart before it later presents itself.  An unbelieving heart is one of rebellion against God, and it fails to please Him (11:6).  The conclusion the Hebrews author draws about genuine faith follows immediately from the Cain and Abel episode.  Abel’s faith preceded his gift while Cain’s unbelief preceded his.  Cain receives no mention in Hebrews 11 because the author intended to give examples of those who pleased God through faith.  Cain failed to make the list.  Cain’s heart caused him to withhold a pleasing  sacrifice to God.  That was the first expression of his unbelief.  A viewing audience may not perceive anything negative in either gift these two men offered.  They both presented gifts from their respective occupations.  Consequently, the bystander may be surprised by God’s pronouncements.  However, as the story unfolds, the second expression of Cain’s unbelief rushes with violence from his heart.  He rages against God and sought an opportunity to murder his own flesh and blood.  God sees what individuals cannot.

We can quibble to the end of time about the sacrifices and their meanings each man brought to God.  Scholars have done so and will continue to do so.  However, one thing seems clear about the Genesis account of Cain and Abel and the Scriptural witness of each of them.  Cain voluntarily left God’s presence (Genesis 4:16).  He was unrighteous from the outset.  His leaving was the ultimate act of unrighteousness.  The Hebrews passage makes clear that faith played a dominant role with Abel for God to give witness to him as righteous.  Cain’s omission in Hebrews 11 speaks loudly about his unbelief and the results.  Jude compares false teachers to the “way of Cain,” warning about their participation in Cain’s sin and unbelief (Jude 11).

In the account of Cain and Abel, we observe the tension between faith and unbelief.  That tension continues to exist along with their respective fruits.  A life of biblical faith in Christ pleases God.  A life of unbelief calls for God’s wrath.  The way of Cain is the way of falsehood arising from unbelief.  Faith seeks after God and honors Him.

Copyright (c) 2014, Action Faith Books Press.  All rights reserved.  This article cannot be used for any purpose without expressed written permission of Action Faith Books Press.

Biblical Faith and False Faith

One of the major distinctions between the faith about which the Bible speaks and all other faiths is that biblical faith is rooted in historical reality.  Some may lay claim that history does not matter.  Rather, it is the “idea” on which faith focuses that makes it genuine.  From this perspective arises myth.  Myth, legend, and fable have the aura of the story, moral didactic, and speculation.  These elements are more important than actual history to those who embrace myth, legend, and fable.  They feed the imagination for carrying forth specific culture, ethnic claims, or national identity through time.

The 18th century German theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher once stated,

Our faith in Christ and our living fellowship with him would be the same even if we had no knowledge of any such transcendent fact [as the Holy Trinity] and even if the fact itself were different.” (Schleiermacher, Friedrich in Toon, Peter, “Ways of Describing the Holy Trinity,” Reformation and Revival, Volume 10:3 (Summer 2001): 108.)

While he addresses the Trinity as possible myth, he points to the core of Christian faith – the triune God.  If we follow his logic to its conclusion, we could say the same thing about God, the coming of Jesus in the form of man, or any number of other biblical truths.  In other words, truth does not have to express truth to be the grounds for faith.  This assessment of the Christian faith goes counter to genuine biblical faith. It establishes faith in a god unknown to the biblical authors and denies the core distinctiveness of the God the Scriptures uphold. Schleiermacher undercuts the historical, source, word, and foundation of faith by dismissing God and history and making faith a leap into a vacuum – no object and no connection with reality (history).

Often, the myth or legend changes or evolves to capture the minds and hearts of the current generation for prolonging the myth within a cultural backdrop.  Most of the world religions have their basis in myth through both oral tradition and sacred writings.

For example, Buddhism had its source in Siddhartha Gautama.  According to myth, Siddhartha meditated under the Bodhi tree and received enlightenment.  Rather than perpetuating leaders in the way of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama designated the Dharma (or teachings and doctrine) as the “leader.”  His own words and sayings were part of the Dharma.  Therefore, his words in fact are the leadership for furthering disciples.  Additionally, they were means of enlightenment and not so much sources of historical reality.  Consequently, Buddhist faith found its roots in the sayings, teachings, and doctrines for communal living and social order.  It had its rules and disciplines for leading to enlightenment from self effort and personal insight.  Ideas and not history dominates Buddhist enlightenment through one’s own efforts and meditation (contemplation).  Concerns about what was (history) is a distraction to wise thinking.  Enlightenment takes the path beyond such concerns to Nirvana through a speculative philosophy, the place of no attachment or desire.  Such enlightenment differs according to the philosophical school.

Other Eastern and Western religions and philosophies take a similar approach – history is irrelevant.  As such, it can undergo revision or be replaced or modified as myth.  It becomes divorced from the here and now in terms of meaning and application.  Rather the myth of an event or person, regardless if it is true, take precedence over historical reality.

In the episode of Star Trek “Rightful Heir,” Worf travels to a Klingon planet to engage in religious ceremony ushering the second coming of Kahless.  He prays for several days until during his prayers, Kahless appears before him.  Doubt rises within him as he questions Kahless about past battles and Kahless fails to deliver the correct answers.  Later, Worf discovers that the religious leaders of the planet had cloned Kahless for Worf’s benefit, which causes a crisis of faith for him.  When he returned to the USS Enterprise, Worf has a conversation with Data who shares about a crises of faith he also had as a machine desiring to be human.  He informed Worf that he chose to believe that he was a person instead of a machine.  He informed Worf that he took a leap of faith.  It did not matter that Data believed a lie about himself.  A leap of faith helped him to dismiss the lie.  Worf concluded from the conversation that the actual existence of Kahless was unimportant for his faith.  Rather it was the idea (or the myth) that counted as the basis for faith.  This enabled Worf to resolve his crises of faith.  To him, the historical reality of Kahless and his leadership in returning the glory of the Klingon Empire was irrelevant to his faith.  For him, faith can have a lie for its foundation.  The idea or myth replaced historical reality according to the philosophy of Star Trek.

The problem with this philosophy is having faith depending on myth or a lie.  Faith in that which is fiction is faith in falsehood.  As Worf discovered, it required a leap of faith.  Such a leap is groundless, for it has no basis in reality.  Biblical faith teaches a very different kind.  It is faith grounded in the reality of history.  Accordingly, God created the heavens and earth, including humanity.  He gave us purpose and direction for living and communicated them to us through His word in the Bible.

Humanity’s rebellion alienated us from Him and that purpose and direction so that all of our searches lead us to meaninglessness, or according to postmodern philosophy nihilism.  As we attempt to ground ourselves in material existence, our grounding slips through our fingers like jello.  Human philosophy provides no meaning in itself for covering all humanity.   Rather, it is grounded in a million opinions about human existence, the past, and the future.  Experience fails, because, again, everyone has a unique experience and an interpretation of it.  Experience reduces truth to “my truth may not be the same as your truth,” cancelling any resemblance to a universal truth from which even people in a similar culture could receive direction.  Human philosophy has too many wrinkles and scars resulting from violence, mistrust, warfare, and interpretations and responses to these events.  Each generation has a different take on the importance of behavior, events, and priorities.  Each builds it own monuments and icons to venerate something meaningful or someone of importance for attempting to give life significance and purpose.  However, through the decades and centuries, those monuments crumble and return to dust as does every man and woman.

However, because God created us in time and history, we engage history as we pass and live through it.  Not only do we engage history, but God has revealed Himself to us in it.  He came to us in history to deliver us from our state of alienation and purposeless existence due to the rebellion we exhibit toward Him, others, and our environment.  The Bible calls this rebellion sin.  God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to reconcile us to Himself from the strained separation we have had with Him throughout the days, years, and decades of our lives.  Jesus’ death as a sacrifice for sin dealt a blow to the decay, disease, violence, and death we face regularly in our cultures, societies, governments, communities, and environments.

Jesus came in real time and history so that our faith rests on actual historical events and not on myth or legend.  He broke through space and time in the form of a baby and grew into adulthood as we do.  His coming, death, and resurrection were facts.  That makes our faith based on reality and not fiction, thereby making that faith genuine and with foundation.  In Jesus’ coming to us in the form of a man, He showed us God the Father and the richness of what it means to relate to Him.  He loves, gives, cares, and desires us.  These are not fictitious characteristics found in a novel but real actions toward us from a real God.  Unseen as He is, He revealed Himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ.  Jesus informed one of His disciples, Philip, when Philip asked to show them the Father,

“Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip?  He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father'” (John 14:9)?

Jesus reveals God to us.

God Himself makes the distinction between true biblical faith and false faiths.  We do not define real and genuine faith.  God does.  He imparts to us what it means to trust  and love Him as well as how to trust and love other people.  He is the only one who can, because we are such a distance from the truth about real faith that we cannot know it or God without His disclosure.  In human terms, faith takes a different turn of meaning – lacking in substance and evidence and dependent on what one sees.

God gives faith substance.  It is not in something ethereal, mystical, or mythical.  Biblical faith is from above, from the one who created us and loves us.  He showed that love through His Son, Jesus Christ.  This act of God in sending His Son into the world in time and history turns faith away from being a leap, because God took the initiative to come to us.  We could not leap over the gap from the created world to the realm of God.  God did this through revelation of Himself and His initiative to cross the barrier between Himself and the material world.

Why, then, does faith seem or feel like a leap for us?  The Bible gives us a very clear answer.  We do not see God.  One of Jesus’ other disciples, John, informs us,

No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:14).

We cannot even see our own spirit or soul, and for that reason many claim these do not exist.  However, they do exist, because God breathed spirit into us, and we became living beings (Genesis 2:7).  We are spiritual being clothed in material substance of skin, muscle, and bones.  Since this existence is true of us, it is difficult for us to think in terms of spirit, especially of God who is spirit.  We are more familiar with what we see with our eyes, hear with our ears, and touch with our hands.  Invisible realities leave us with doubt of their existence.

Therefore, when any thought of God enters our minds, we question whether any such being exists.  Yet, there He is in the thoughts we think as muddled as our thoughts make Him, so much so that we concoct other gods to replace Him in our thoughts.  We would not even conceive of God if He did not exist just like we cannot and do not conceive of the non-existent.  One might ask, “What about science fiction?  People have never seen all of those creatures people imagine.”  Yes they have – in the form of themselves or other creatures mixed together much like the Greek and Roman gods mingled human and animal and formed them out of sticks and stones.  All such elements for God rises from the seen things of creation as distortions of the unseen God.  Although the thought of God enters our minds, our alienation from God completely distorts Him as we attempt to make Him into something from the created order.

For us, coming to grips with the unseen God and unseen realities calls for what we define as a leap of faith.  We call it a leap because we cannot grasp it.  Therefore, like Data in Star Trek, we leap into belief to overcome the crisis of having a God consciousness and not “seeing” or “feeling” this God.

This is where God enters the picture.  He recognizes our limitations, finiteness, and alienated state from Him and how these characteristics place us in a situation of grasping for what seems to slips through our fingers like the wind.  God then must come to us and wake us up from our spiritual deadness.  He imparts faith in us for grasping His revelation of Himself in His word in the Bible and recognizing His Son Jesus Christ.

We do not have to be like Pontius Pilate whom Jesus faced at the end of His life who asked Jesus, “What is truth?”  We do not need to seek love or goodness in all the wrong places, because God showed us real love in real time – in history.  He also distinguished false love and goodness from real love and goodness through His activity in time in the person of Jesus.  He showed them to us in Jesus.  Real and genuine faith finds its grounds in the God of history.  Have you discovered that God?

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