EVERYTHING NEW FOR 2015

The vast number of us enter 2015 with the greeting, “Happy New Year!”

As we look out our windows, many of us see a brisk cold morning, because 80% of the United States experiences a freeze.  However, that does not stop us from enjoying a fresh start in a new year.  As we view the landscape of the new year and review the old road behind us with all of its experiences and the wisdom it left us, we can plant our feet on the starting line of the new and give thought to fresh expectations and goals.  What guides them?

The Bible offers us some tips on all things new for paving our journey to which we can gain freshness and hope in things to come.  Many of the passages below give encouragement, strengthen our faith, and provide confidence of God’s sovereignty and providence from which we can draw for engaging the days to come be they good or difficult.

All references are from the New King James Version.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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“Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy” (Psalm 33:3).

“He has put a new song in my mouth– Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the Lord” (Psalm 40:3).

“I will sing a new song to You, O God; On a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You” (Psalm 144:9).

“Behold, the former things have come to pass, And new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them” (Isaiah 42:9).

“Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19).

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17).

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

“Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19).

“For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

“But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26-29).

“And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many” (Mark 14:24).

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:15).

“…and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:23-24).

“And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15).

“Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).

“Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning” (1 John 2:7).

“To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it” (Revelation 2:17).

“He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name” (Revelation 3:12).

“And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

“They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth” (Revelation 14:3).

“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea” (Revelation 21:1).

“Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful” (Revelation 21:5).

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Ten Obstacles to Saving Faith: Obstacle Two

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).

Ralph Edwards hosted the former television show called Truth or Consequences. The guests on the show had to answer certain questions. Answering correctly gained a monetary reward. However, an incorrect answer caused a contestant to suffer a consequence. Among these consequences consisted of a woman proposing to her escort on the show on her knees and a sailor calling his girlfriend while a woman sat on his lap saying, “Watch out honey, you’re ruining my hair” (http://www.otrcat.com/truth-or-consequences-p-1945.html?osCsid=7d8c9bjhrbski1eqb80s7el0l0).

This show, while humorous, reflected the real world in many ways. Truth does exist. The results of not abiding by the truth have their consequences. The consequences are not humorous but grim in many respects and at times damaging. For example, committing perjury under oath in court can bring about an indictment and a penalty.

The Apostle Paul writes that there is a cause and effect concerning the suppression of truth.  The causes of truth suppression are ungodliness and unrighteousness. Both of these characteristics aggressively disregard truth. In doing so, they substitute a lie that those who resist God hold up as truth. One of the major restatements of truth in postmodern culture is encapsulated in the mantra, “Your truth may not be the same as my truth.” Those who claim this mantra live by ever changing values of right and wrong, sometimes calling what is right wrong and what is wrong right.  Such a way of living is the penalty for the suppression of truth.

The value system this mantra dictates not only works its way into the life of individuals but also within all segments of society. This leads to lawlessness permeating organizational leadership, the court systems, the executive branches of government, and even with pastors and leaders of churches. Changing values result in ever-wavering application of standards, rules, and laws. The various institutions of our society become infected, including marriages and family, business ethics, the administration of justice, and our approach to God.

Our cities and states become safe havens for lawlessness as mass demonstrations and violence disrupt our way of life, such as with the occupy Wall Street gang and the destructive events that occurred in Ferguson Missouri and like activity throughout our nation when truth receives light treatment or modification according to the whims of individual dictates.

Elected officials have fallen and taken many with them because truth was not germane to their lives. We can name numerous companies that have taken hits to their finances and very existence because of corruption and violation of codes of ethics.  Enron and Arthur Anderson come to mind.  Their Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and other high-level decision makers have discovered similar fates as a number of elected officials because of their suppression of truth. We need only recall Presidents Nixon and Clinton as witnesses to cover-up and the suppression of truth. So many more have fallen in disgrace, resigning from office or receiving far worse consequences.

In such incidences, the consequences of truth’s suppression resulted in eruption of violence, destruction of property, and personal ruin. The suppression of truth not only rises from ungodliness and unrighteousness, but it also promotes them. Truth does exist, and its consequences reflect and give evidence of its existence regardless of its denial among postmodern philosophers.No one is immune to lapses into what the Bible calls sin or transgressions.  It tells us,

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NKJV)

Our approach to God is the most devastating in the compromise of truth.  The compromise of truth within churches often occurs first with Scripture as having its source in divine authority.  Faith diminishes to the extent of the devaluing of God’s word in life and practice..  When the authority of Scriptures falls, so also do its teachings.  For if the Bible itself fails to gain our trust, how will its teachings?  Its teachings have come under attack among liberal theologians so that Christ’s death and resurrection becomes relegated to myth.  Philosophical and religious speculations rise to replace the historical-grammatical reading of the Bible.

Two specific perspectives on Scripture contribute to the dilution of Scriptural authority: the Jesus Seminar and Higher Criticism.  Many scholars from the Jesus Seminar claim that they can act as authorities or arbiters for determining which words of the Bible Jesus spoke and which were added later to the text of the biblical books.    Higher Criticism holds that certain books of the Bible (the Pentateuch – first five books of the Old Testament) were stitched together by a single editor and had a number of different authors.  Higher critics question the validity of the Bible as God’s word.  Rather, according to them, it arose from myths (See D. James Kennedy, “Archeology and the Bible,” Bible and Spade Journal, Volume 24:2, Spring 2011.  Such perspectives diminish the truths the Bible teaches as well as faith.

Scott Newman writes,

Post-modernism postulates that truth cannot be known, and that man is the real source of truth. “Evangelical” post-modernism bears the same family traits of its father by diminishing the importance of knowledge and truth. In some “evangelical” circles the likeness is so striking, that man is taught to be a god, and therefore the source of knowledge and truth” (“The Appeal Of God’s Truth To The Mind: Theological And Exegetical Answers To Post-Modern Trends Within Evangelical Thought,” Scott Newman, “Conservative Theological Journal,” Volume 1:2, August 1997, https://www.galaxie.com/article/ctj01-2-06?highlight=truth).

What a tragic commentary on postmodernism. The very essence of truth is that it is knowable by the very fact that we constantly acknowledge it daily in our lives.  We accuse others of wrongdoing, make judgments of right and wrong, establish administration of justice, and trust others to be truthful in their dealings with us. Truth is innate to and assumed in human behavior, judgments, actions, and the establishment of ethics in organizations and society.  Denial of truth leads to chaos and lawlessness.  Some may claim that certain behaviors do not necessarily reflect universal applications.  Each society has its own rules. That denies the common core principles existing universally as foundational to those rules from which people draw for establishing them.

Humanity depends on such a universal application for order and interaction. Our communications call upon truth to trust, make promises (or contracts), call for fairness, and create order in a multitude of interacting societies. Even the functions of language assumes the absolutes of truth.  Chaos otherwise ensues and results in implosion of interactivity and societies themselves. The extinction of societies throughout history gives witness to the suppression of truth at the root of societies and in the heart of every individual. Truth resting on individuals leads to tyranny as power becomes the mediation for truth: “It is true because I said so and I am the power source.”  The lie is at the root of every other evil: adultery, betrayal, deceit, slander, gossip, boasting, mistrust, murder, and cheating.

Only one remedy exists for reducing and halting the destruction of society and life within it – the acknowledgment of the God of truth and embracing His way through faith in His wise counsel and way of living revealed in His word the Bible. That comes through faith in Him and reconciliation with Him as the source of godliness and righteousness. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, the source of truth, to return us back to God. Those who suppressed the truth murdered Him to cover up their lies with those around them. He came to tell us the truth about God and to reconcile us to the truth. Living in the truth embraces His judgment on its suppression in our lives. We embrace the truth when we place our faith in Him as the remedy God gave to draw us back to God and to live a life pleasing to Him.

Copyright (c) 2014 Action Faith Books Press.  All rights reserved.  May not be stored or published in any form, except for brief excepts as noted by copyright law, without expressed written permission from the publisher.

The Content of Faith

Many centuries ago the Christian philosopher Anselm of Canterbury wrote,

“For I do not seek to understand so that I may believe; but I believe so that I may understand. For I believe this also, that ‘unless I believe, I shall not understand’ [Isa. 7: 9]. (St. Anselm (1998-09-10). Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works (Oxford World’s Classics) (p. 87). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.)

Understanding arises from faith and not faith from understanding inasmuch as sight does not require faith. For if faith arises from understanding, there would be no faith, because understanding would swallow it through (in)sight. Yet we have faith for understanding much of what remains unseen. The unseen has substance and evidence, and we do not deny that unseen because we admit its substance and the evidence for it. Science continuously shows us such substance, and we have faith in our scientific instruments to confirm this substance. Yet, some question both the substance and evidence for faith until someone makes a promise to us. That promise contains both substance and evidence. That substance is its fulfillment, and the evidence is that the promise remains unseen until also fulfilled.

God does the same thing for us. He is bold enough to step out of His sphere into ours and make a promise and big enough to bring it to pass. Jesus assumed our status in our humanity, loved us, gave His life for us to deliver us from our nihilistic state. His promise was God’s promise,

“In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, i would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you; and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself so that where I am you will be, also” (John 14:2-3).

Are we courageous enough to believe that promise from the unseen God inasmuch as we believe the unseen words coming from our spouse or close friend?  Trust depends on it.  Those who depend on and have faith in their spouses or friends come from different religious and philosophical persuasions.  They are Christian, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, and a number of other persuasions.  Some say, faith is fake or not required, because they see it as a religious expression.  Yet contrary to their own persuasion, they exercise that faith daily with their spouses and friends, for they depend on their word, and trust them to fulfill it.  Faith in God is no different. Although He remains unseen, He is relational, and He expands our understanding of trust.  While unseen, He calls us to trust His promises.  Can this call be any different from trusting out spouse or a friend?  It holds as much substance and evidence, for it is tested daily in the crucible of relationships.

Ten Obstacles to Saving Faith: Introduction and Obstacle One

In his letter to the church in Rome, the Apostle Paul sets out to defend the gospel of Jesus Christ. Part of that defense of the gospel is faith. Throughout this letter, Paul gives meaning to faith by association with the contents of the gospel. The center of that gospel is Jesus Christ. He associates faith with the following:

  • grace (Romans 1:5; 5:2; 12:3)
  • righteousness (1:17)
  • Christ’s sacrificial death (3:25),
  • justification (3:28, 30; 4:5; 5:1)
  • righteousness (4:11-13; 9:30-32; 10:6-8)
  • God’s promises and inheritance (4:13-20)
  • obedience (1:5; 16:26)

All of these comprise the meaning of God’s saving act toward us. They stand in contrast to our alienation from God and unbelief resulting in rebellion against and rejection of Him. In the first chapter of Romans, Paul sets out ten obstacles to saving faith, which prevent people from coming into relationship with God both in our existing life and in the life to come of eternity. These obstacles resist the above listed benefits from God and reflect unbelief. This article addresses the first obstacle with subsequent articles taking up each of the others. While Paul writes of these obstacles from the perspective of those who reject God and fail to believe Him, Christians can also stand in the way of enjoying relating to God and enjoying His presence in life through not believing God in the benefits He offers.  This is not to say that Christians do not possess these benefits.  Rather, believers can doubt them and fall into a similar life as someone who does not believe the gospel and the benefits it brings them.

In laying out the condition of all humanity in Romans 1-2, Paul sets forth a heavy indictment of those who reject God. Among the first of these indictments include ungodliness and unrighteousness. He writes,

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).

Notice that ungodliness and unrighteousness begin a downward spiral. The first of their acts is the suppression of truth. Once this suppression occurs, indignity toward God results in dishonoring him. That follows with lack of gratitude leading to futile thinking and a dark heart. Once rejection of God and His glory thrusts Him down through dishonor and ingratitude, it leads to lifting up a claim to wisdom and ultimately full-blown idolatry.  A claim to the wisdom of which Paul notes, is really a claim of being wiser than God for recognizing what is best for ourselves.  The wisdom of which Paul speaks leads to idolatry (1:23), that is corrupting the image of God and setting up images gods unworthy of Him.

Rejection of God takes many forms:

  • Embracing God and then turning away (apostasy)
  • Claiming that one cannot know God (agnosticism)
  • Denying that God actually exists (atheism)
  • Worshiping of other gods (polytheism) made in the image of man (idolatry)
  • Defying outright God although one knows Him (rebellion)
  • Practicing the occult and cultism (Satanism)
  • Making excuses for not embracing God by faith (self-will)

Regardless of the form, they all add up to unbelief and rejection of God. Paul makes known that unbelief is the key ingredient leading to ultimate idolatry and all of its trappings: uncleanness, lust, and dishonorable treatment of self. The list Paul makes provides a summary of the type of people who typify unbelief (Romans 1:29-31), among which consist of sexual immorality, envy, murder, strife, violence, lack of trust and love.  Idolatry is the act of the worship of gods made in the image of those things in the created order including humanity.  It is the enshrinement and placement of anything in the created order as first place before God.  All of the above listed rejections of God are idolatrous practices.

Notice that their progression begins with ungodliness and unrighteousness. These two characteristics describe the natural bent of humanity. The first term, ungodliness, refers to a lack of respect or irreverence. It is a failure to render honor. It is the negation of a bent toward the goodness that characterizes God. The second term suggests unfaithfulness or disloyalty and not imperfection. It could also describe faithlessness that exhibits wrongdoing, injustice, and wickedness. Unrighteousness is a force for all other evils, especially those that Paul sums up at the conclusion of the chapter (1:29-31).

In listing the irrational and hostile traits at the conclusion of chapter one, Paul illustrates an undeniable truth. Those who exhibit ungodliness and unrighteousness toward God conduct themselves in like manner toward their fellow humans. If they demonstrate unrighteousness toward God, they will do so toward others. If they display acts counter to the sexual design for which God created them, they will perpetrate sexual immorality as described in the Bible toward others (1:29). If they are haters of God (1:30), they will be malicious, envious, deceptive, evil-minded, violent, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful toward others (1:29-31). Dishonor and irreverence only perpetuates the results of these characteristics toward others. The empirical evidence is obvious worldwide where we witness conflicts and wars over the material goods of the world and the desire to deprive others not only of their property but also of their lives either on an individual level or on the level of a society or nation.

Faith in God cannot stand when such turmoil and maliciousness exist. They exist or have existed within each person on the earth and in every person who has ever lived who never turned to God. For faith to exist and thrive, all individuals must recognize, admit to, and turn away from ungodliness and unrighteousness. The Bible calls this repentance. Repentance and faith must come together, and they do so only through God’s activity within the individual in turning a person from his or her own self-oriented condition toward Jesus Christ to recognize Him as the Redeemer of one’s soul.

Copyright (c) 2014 Action Faith  Books Press.  All rights reserved.  Cannot be used or stored in any form without expressed written permission from Action Faith Books Press.

Part 3: Examples of Atheism Replies and Responses

I recently engaged some atheists on their website into a discussion on atheism and their defense for it.  All of them were responding to an article one atheist wrote called “Debunking Christianity.”

I opened one discussion with the following:

“This article is full of straw man arguments (or should I say accusations without merit) and false attributions while offering not one defense FOR atheism.  Each point always refers to another site, which turns out to be a non sequitur.  If the author really raises a true argument on its face, it would present it without references to other cites.  This is very poor argumentation.  In fact it is a non-argument.”

One atheist decided to reply with the following:

“if this site fails to make its point as you suggest, then just show us that theism is true.

PhD’s in Christian stuff regularly visit here, but they offer no evidence at all that Christianity or any other theism is true.

The inference to the best explanation for all the theisms and all the differences among them is that everybody is making it up. It’s not possible for all of them to be true, but believers of a particular theism claim it is true and all those that are different from it are wrong.

So, …here you are, I suspect with your own version of a theism – probably one of the Christian ones – that you like and you want to think of as true. If you think it is true, then that means there must be evidence to support it. Well, show us the evidence.

If the Christianity you like is at least as true as gravity, you should be able to provide evidence that is as clear as that we have for gravity. The evidence you provide us should show us that your god and only your god must be the cause of the evidence. That is, the evidence must point only to your god. If the god you like is the Bible character called God, then what you want to give us as evidence must be explainable only by that God. Note that ignorance does not point to the Bible’s God character.

So, have at it, I promise you this, if you provide evidence that is as good as the evidence for evolution, atomic theory, germ theory of disease, quantum mechanics, or relativity, most of us who visit DebunkingChristianity will become followers of your god in a snap.”

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I replied with the following statement:

“Since this website posits assertions against the Christian faith (and not a defense for atheism), that the burden is where the presumptions should be? I stated that the article here does not make its point for atheism through the cited logical fallacies. Ridicule and personal assaults are not defenses for atheism. To use logical fallacies demonstrate the defenselessness of a position. Now if a Christian were to write like this on that person’s cite, the burden would shift to that person required to defend one’s position.

Your first statement is a head-shaker: “if this site fails to make its point as you suggest, then just show us that theism is true.” It begs the question (another logical fallacy) or onus probandi. You are on a roll with logical fallacies. Logic does not work in that fashion, because it is not an argument on the merits. Rather, it is simply an attempt to shift responsibility for a failed argument.

Logically, it is deception to attempt to pass on a burden of proof while using ridicule and logical fallacies against a position while requiring the same burden of proof from those you oppose. If this writer takes the view that there is no God, then the author must shoulder that person’s share in supporting the claim. Clearly, the author has not done this in any rational way by setting forth specific undeniable premises and concluding from them that God does not exist. The author has not offered any evidence, as clear as gravity, that God does not exist and he cannot do so. Your gravity example is no more than another logical fallacy of “false analogy.” Did you ever study logic and reasoning? You cannot have it both ways.

The author and you attempt to shirk your epistemic responsibility through logical fallacies and ridicule. That does not work and is an anti-intellectual approach. This author’s approach is worse than that of the philosophical and psychological sciences, which deal in hypotheses and theory. Even the physical sciences approach the real world with hypotheses and theories. Theory is not proof. Therefore, your position and demand is anti-science. Do you demand that they show proof when all this article ask for is ridicule and logical fallacies? Think again, because you are not doing so.

You can promise all you want about accepting theism when in fact you would not even accept Him if He appeared before you and spoke with you personally. You have ensconced yourself so firmly in your position and against God that you would not budge for anything. So tell the truth and rise from deception. Again, logical fallacies do not support a claim. Rather they work against it and show the bankruptcy of your thinking. You pick up the same bankrupt thinking as Bertrand Russell. Remember his book “Why I Am Not A Christian.” Note, his book was not titled “Why I am An Atheist.” He could not defend his atheism but his lifelong claim was what he was against. That is not meritorious.

So now, if you adhere to the author’s claim, support it through reason, logic, and evidence and not by ridicule, logical fallacies, and assault. Do not try the “burden of proof” shift of responsibility. That one misfires like an unkept rifle.

Now if you wish to dialog on worldviews, then cease with logical fallacies, because I will call them out when I detect them. Defend your position and do not do so from the position of what you are against. That is a failed argument and an onus probandi. I would be happy to present my position. However, once I read a logical fallacy presented against it, then your essentially end the dialog, because your argument fails.”

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The atheist continue on with the same line of reasoning – personal attack on the Christian faith and continuous opposition to it.  There was no defense FOR atheism proposed.  The following is the reply.  It offered the same line of reasoning as the prior responses.

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“No theism has ever shown that the object of its groveling and affections is real, so no burden of proof exists to demonstrate the non-existence of any of the tens of thousands of gods mankind has invented over its history. Today’s Christianities have hundreds of gods, none of which is anything more than a social construct maintained through ignorance and wishful thinking.

Until someone produces something that looks like legitimate evidence for some gods existence – and no one ever has – it is not incumbent on anyone to show the non-existence of gods. All of us proceed through life merrily ignoring all of everyone else’s gods.

If you are a theist as relates to a specific god, like Yahweh or Satan or Baal or Allah, you implicitly are an atheist regarding all the gods you do not believe in or actively reject. Lots of us reject your version of a god or gods in the same way that you, without evidence, without research, without a moment’s consideration, feel free to reject so many other gods.

Did you develop a proof that Vishnu does not exist before deciding to reject its godliness? I thought not. Did you work out all the details of a slick little syllogism about why Thor does not exist before you were convinced that it does not exist? I didn’t think so. So, you give yourself license to be an atheist without proof, but you imagine that you have put up a defense for the god you imagine to be real by insisting that others disprove its existence.

A billion Hindus really can be(and are) wrong, even though the non-existence of all 300 million of their gods have not been demonstrated explicitly.

A billion Muslims can be(and are) wrong, and you disbelieve in good old Allah with nary a second thought. How unphilosophical of you. And before you go off on a “Allah is the same as the Christian gods” diversion, remember that Muslims(just like the Jews) to not believe the “no man come unto the father” crap associated with the Bible’s Jesus character.

You, FloydAT, are every bit the atheist that everyone else is. Nobody believes the other guy’s god malarkey. Get over it. All of us reject other people’s god gobbledegook because no one has ever produced evidence showing the god they like is any more real than fairies, pixies, gnomes, leprechauns, unicorns, elves or any other imaginary creature.

I am just a very agreeable atheist who agrees with everyone who rejects the other guys gods. I reject them all.

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Although the atheist provided new examples by citing other faith, he misrepresented them and the Christian faith.  It contains more logical fallacies of false attribution, straw man, and ad hominem.  It also offered no defense for atheism.

In forthcoming articles, I will quote from the four horsemen of the New Atheism (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris) to show how others lay claim to their means of argumentation – that of logical fallacies and their failure to provide an argument for atheism.

Must Christians Take A Leap Of Faith?

Leaping manI have often heard Christians claiming that we should take a leap of faith in the gospel.  One blog I read stated,

You could say Peter took a leap of Faith when he jumped out of the boat and began walking on water. Peter, an imperfect man, walked on water like Jesus did” (http://www.godswill-wellness.com/leap-of-faith.html).

Noted scientist and Christian Francis Collins said,

Nobody gets argued all the way into becoming a believer on the sheer basis of logic and reason. That requires a leap of faith.”

Another writes,

“The paradox lies in this,” he wrote. “We can experience presence—one could just as easily say grace—when art approximates the leap of faith, when it dares to place us directly inside an act of discovery. The risk of imagination, like the risk of faith, instills fear in those who believe we can only be saved by rational propositions. But the paradoxical truth is that unless we learn how to live in that risk-taking leap of faith, we will lose touch with the meaning of those propositions.”

His words (who was this guy?) mirrored what I believed and had been unable to explain: that my writing was an act of faith, that imagination itself was belief (http://bit.ly/1F0hOP5).

The web is loaded with sayings on a leap of faith, such as the following:

“Change requires taking a leap of faith.”

“Sometimes your only available means of transportation is a leap of faith”

“Sometimes the greatest distance between two points is a leap of faith.”

The notion of a leap of faith began with Soren Kierkegaard although he never used the phrase directly.  In one of his works, Kierkegaard notes,
When someone is to leap he must certainly do it alone and also be alone in properly understanding that it is an impossibility. … the leap is the decision. ….” (Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments).
Kierkegaard saw Christian faith as full of paradoxes through which one who places faith in the Christian God must take a leap to embrace.  However, is faith really what he and many other Christians attempt to affirm?

If we consult the Christian’s authority on faith, the Bible, I believe we come to a very different conclusion.  The Bible asserts that we do not take any sort of leap, but that our faith rests on content, evidence, reality, and an object as rock solid as the world in which we live.  Faith cannot be called biblical faith when divorced from any of these.

Biblical faith requires content.  Faith stands on substance and not simply nothing.  There is no leap into some darkness or void.  Rather, the Bible claims that faith requires substance,
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for…” (Hebrews 11:1)
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews identifies that substance is hope.  Such hope rests on the word of God He speaks in the past, present, and future.  It is for this reason that we read in the letter to the Hebrews,

By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3).

Creation occurred in the distant past prior eyewitnesses.  Faith believes the word of God that brought about creation.  It accepts the reality of God speaking and that all that exist did not arise without Him as atheism claims.  Events that occurred because of God’s word took faith on the part of those who lived later.  God’s spoken word then gave those who trusted Him confidence that His word stands firm and gives hope.

As we work our way through Hebrews 11, we discover how the author weaves substance and evidence together.  God’s past actions give assurance of future hope.  Noah lived righteously based on what he knew of God’s activity in the past both in creation and His dealings with his ancestors.  God had long faithfulness.  He complied with God’s direction to construct an ark, for he knew that God would fulfill His promise of deliverance.  God appeared to Abraham and gave him a son.  These events led him to conclude that another “city” existed for him and his family (11:9-10).  Moses also waited for the Messiah according to the same faith.  The prophets knew God’s faithfulness to them and drew confidence in His deliverance.

Faith rested in the God of hope in a future reality.  It was not faith in some nebulous nothingness.  God acting space and time is evidence for faith.  From creation to providence, God strengthened the earliest believers as well as those today.  It is not blind or divorced from the real world or teachings without foundation such as what exists in Eastern religions as Buddhism and Confucianism.  Faith does not rest in philosophical words that have no relationship to reality, such as platitudes or sayings divorced from the real world.  In fact, that which does not exists is not part of reality.  It could not come to mind and be conceptualized.  Those who take faith as simply isolated from what exists rely on presumption and ignorance.  It has its trust in one’s imagination or subjectivity and not in that which exists external to the person.  God exists apart from the imagination and the fantasies one conjures up in the mind.  He is distinct from the individual and not one with a person.  That is pantheism or panentheism, that is God is everything or in everything.

Such a notion makes gods of men and makes no distinction between God and humanity.  For this reason, the God who exists apart from the created order and humanity itself can act apart individuals.  His acts in creation gives substance for what He promises.  Faith relies on this reality and not in the fantasy of finite gods as integrated in creation or one with it.  As the object of Christian faith, God fulfills in reality, in space and time, what He promises.  Presumption is opposite such fulfillment, because it is reliance on the imagination apart from the word of God.  For this reason, biblical faith is not a leap of faith, which is impersonal, but trust in the personal God who acts to fulfill what He declares in reality.

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The Dones of Church

This morning I read an article from Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed by Thom Schultz called “The Rise of the Dones.”

It highlighted that many leaders in the church are leaving for good.  Why? Schultz notes, “The Dones are fatigued with the Sunday routine of plop, pray and pay. They want to play. They want to participate. But they feel spurned at every turn.
Schultz preceded the above remark with, “Why are the Dones done? Packard describes several factors in his upcoming book, Church Refugees (Group). Among the reasons: After sitting through countless sermons and Bible studies, they feel they’ve heard it all. One of Packard’s interviewees said, “I’m tired of being lectured to. I’m just done with having some guy tell me what to do.”
Interestingly enough, this interviewee did not seem like he wanted to play either unless that play centered around him.
I think when we contextualize the point of Schultz’s article, it boils down to what the churchmen said in Malachi’s time. Present congregationalists won’t admit to this, but the parallel is stunningly similar. Those leaders in Malachi’s time could also be saying, “I’ve heard it all. I have labored fruitlessly. I’m tired of being bashed by God. Been there, done that. God’s word is wearisome. So bye.”
Is it not a heart issue for the Dones also? Are they not really pointing their finger at God and saying, “What profit is it that we have kept His ordinance…?” The current crowd of the Dones may also be saying, “What profit is there in being a disciple and serving God in he church?” The cycle returns.
It seems that the issue always seems to find its way in the heart.  It is a sad commentary when people echo the churchmen in Malachi’s time,
“I left the church because I didn’t get anything out of it.  No recognition for my service.  No pat on the back or attaboy.  No since of control over programs.  It seems to boil down to, “What’s in it for me?”
Many want to attend the Church of Me and sit on the premises rather than stand on the promises (as Southern Baptists used to say).
One person replied,

Perhaps, it is a heart issue – but not the way you think.  It isn’t that it is useless to serve God – rather it is useless to continue to be part of a congregation where your role is to “plop pray and pay” and to provide hands (no brain necessary) for the leader’s vision…I understand why so many may be. … especially if their church changed under their feet leaving no opportunities.”

Hmm.  My reply is,

Malachi expressed that same sentiment about the “churchmen” in his day. “Ploppers” are not engaged in serving God. Of course, prayer is a gift. Samuel prayed for the people daily and even said, “God forbid that I should sin again Him in not praying for you.” But when we become exhausted in our prayers, God becomes a burden. Augustine’s mother, Monica, made it her life-long ministry to pray for her son daily. In God’s timing, God answered that one prayer, and look at what happened. Augustine became one of the most influential theologians in church history after leaving a life of debauchery. As for “paying,” that is turning God’s gift of giving into a “pay to play” situation. Many take that one by offering conditional gifts to the church.

God is the one who disburses His gifts in His church. Would He then allow those same gifts curl up and die? He also opens up opportunity. Faith sees those opportunities and steps out. Often, it is what we want and not what God wants of us. Opportunity always exists in the church to serve people. It is not always in the big stuff or before a large crowd to be seen. There is the coffee ministry, greeters, ushers and hushers, custodians, money counters, visiting the sick at their homes or in the hospital, or changing stinky diapers in the nursery while singing a lullaby. The last one does not need to be formalized. While doing these things, the opportunity to share the gospel one on one with new comers always exists. Nike’s motto is, “Just do it.”

Again, it is a matter of the heart and not the art of ministry. This past Sunday, my pastor brought up in teaching from Malachi that we should be taking an inventory of our heart. I like what Zig Ziglar once said, “Perform a check up from the neck up to prevent the hardening of the attitudes.”

Wise advice for all the Dones who are fed up from the neck up.”

Only a personal inventory and faith reveals true motives.  The challenge still remains, Who do we worship and serve – ourselves or God?  Isaiah’s response is very telling,

“Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of †unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).

After God touched his lips and asked,

Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” (6:8)

The prophet’s reply was,

Then I said, “Here am I! Send me” (6:8)

Isaiah did not say, “I’m done” but “I’m undone.”  He chose the better response to which the LORD declared,

And He said, “Go…”

God determines the mission with the gift and the power.  Ours is to walk by faith by also declaring, “Here I am, send me!”