By Faith We Understand… (Part 2)

By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God…” (Hebrews 11:3)

Understanding is an essential for coming to terms with the world about us and its purpose and meaning.  The material world is not just some set of molecules comprising mass in different forms.  Rather, behind the world exists the living God, the Creator of all that exists.  A worldview gives shape to our understanding of all existence, and a variety of world views exist.  However, in essence, all world views can be reduced to two: 1) one by which the Creator gives rise, and 2) one that humanity envisions and shapes in the imagination.

The second of these comes in many forms, but these forms arise from a different source – humanity.  Humanity shapes as many world views as there are individuals and communities imagining them, nuanced into the claim “Your truth may not be my truth.”  This claim gives birth to each person creating what is right in his or her own eyes.  Who is to question a person’s understanding if the god in their imagination gives rise to it?  In essence, a worldview from this perspective is like rolling dice.  Whatever comes up is that person’s slant on life, and there is no one truth that dictates that slant except the one with the dice.  If a person does not like the numbers that appear the first time, she rolls them again until she sees the numbers she likes.  Such activity is random like one who continues to search for a slice on life appealing to the person.  Once found, it satisfies for a season until another roll of the dice serves up something better.  Chance is the name of the game for reaching an understanding of the real world.  That is, that individual assigns meaning and understanding to the dice roll or passively accepts the dice roll from another such as with a cult.  There is no divine fiat.  Rather, if any deity created the worlds, such a deity is much like the Deists who wounds up creation and then steps back and watches what His living creatures will do with it: cultivate it or blow it up.

Then there is the understanding of science fiction.  The deities of these world views arise from the imagination and also include a claim of no deity at all or the individual as divine.  From the world views beginning with humanity arise the understanding that the source ranges from some sort of deity creating to evolution.  Science fiction also brings with it aliens arriving from another planet and populating the earth.  Consequently, whatever individuals can imagine springs forth a worldview.  This worldview spawns aliens and war of the worlds, beings intent on destroying everyone else’s worldview and imposing their own, much like what happens in the real world.  Therefore, a tension exists between two major world views within this scenario.  That tension is between war and utopia.  In both cases, the outcome appears to be the same: the imposition of a dominate worldview onto the masses much like the “War of the Worlds” and Thomas Moore’s “Utopia” in which all things are regulated.  One expresses treachery while the other seems benevolent.  However, the results are the same: the control of others through the imposition of the controller’s worldview.  They rest on fiction divorced from reality.  Humanism spawns all of these understandings.

The first cited worldview arises from the Creator who is distinct and separate from creation.  One might ask, “Is the Christian and biblically based God not any different from any other deity (or non-deity) described above?”  One major difference exists that makes God distinct and different from all others.  As noted above, He is distinct from creation and thereby separate from the imaginations of those in the created order who imagine all sorts of gods, even themselves as divine.  He is not the creation of imagination or physical or material in nature.  He is the Creator of all that exists.

Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote,

Christianity brings the world a distinctive understanding of time, history, and the meaning of life. The Christian worldview contributes an understanding of the universe and all it contains that points us far beyond mere materialism and frees us from the intellectual imprisonment of naturalism. Christians understand that the world—including the material world—is dignified by the very fact that God has created it”  (Mohler, Albert, “Intellectual Discipleship: Following Christ with Minds, Bible Study Tools.com, http://bit.ly/1pElrQt.)

In other words, the material world constrains our understanding, because it does not have the guide of true biblical faith – the faith that sets focus on the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1-2).  Genuine faith does not set its sights on the material world but on the unseen reality of God who is separate and distinct from the created order.  He is not a benevolent dictator, a deity that leaves His creation alone, or a monster who oppresses people.  Rather, He is a God of love who faithfully commits Himself to our care and not as Mohler states of rulers alienated from Him,

Christians come to understand that idolatry and self-aggrandizement are the temptations that come to any regime” (Mohler, Intellectual Discipleship).

Since God created us, He knows us intimately and is aware of our alienation from Him and the limitations of our created state.  Consequently, He shared His love with us through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross to reconcile us from this alienation, not only with Him but with others and the world in which we live.  This alienation brought factions and war as well as the destructive activity toward our environment.  By faith, we understand His loving care and the claim He has on our lives, a claim to set us right with Him and ultimately to bring a halt to self-destruction.

Copyright (c) 2014, Action Faith Books Press.  All rights reserved.  Not to be used without expressed written permission.

By Faith We Understand…

The first example the writer of the the letter to the Hebrews gives is creation.  The author declares,

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 is an obvious starting point for faith because of the impossibility of creation’s observation.  Only God was present and created everything that came into being.  No one saw Him do it.  The author also wanted to insure that he included all existence within the realm of faith and that faith has its roots in history and God’s activity in the real world. Consequently, faith excludes myth, legend, some sort of leap, feeling, mysticism, and all that is seen

Is creation not in what we see?  Are we then to exclude creation as evidence for the unseen God? No. It is one thing to accept creation as evidence for the Creator.  It is an entirely another thing to place faith in this evidence.  Acknowledgement of the Creator does not save anyone. Along with such an acknowledgement must come faith in the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Jesus is God’s special revelation, Mediator, and the sole object of faith for salvation.  Creation is not the object of faith and means of our understanding of God or Redeemer in Christ.

When God created man and woman and placed them in Eden, He spoke directly to them and gave them direction for living and relating to Him in the form of specific commands.  His word guided them.  In their innocent state, they understood that God created all things, including them.  He told them so, and they believed Him.  He also gave Adam the task to give names to the different animals He created.  When God gave Adam a spouse, one like himself as to his humanity, but different from him as to his form, he also named her, “She shall be called woman” (Genesis 2:23).

When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, they lost their innocence and with it alienation from God that passed through them to their offspring and their children’s offspring through all subsequent generations.  Eventually, the understanding that God created the world’s and humanity became alien as distance from God grew.  Humanity’s eyes turned inward and toward creation as the distinction between the Creator and creation blurred.  Humanity lost sight of the unseen God, and individuals relied on what they could see.  Faith in God eluded them as they turned to the created order for deities.  Eventually, certain people rose up and declared that what exists simply popped out of nowhere, always existed, or other gods created them.  Their understanding of the material world was that the universe evolved and the visible arose from the visible rather than from the invisible and unseen God.

When some surfaced the possibility of a god, they exclaimed, “What god? Your god or mine?  That animal is divine as is that tree and rock.  Let us create our gods from them.”  Gods multiplied as humanity also created images like himself from wood and stone – the visible creating the visible.  Humanity moved such a distance from the unseen God that the destructive forces of his alienation compelled him to shape visible images for his god.  Rebellion from God destroyed faith in the Creator and obliterated humanity’s understanding of the source of creation, including all individuals dwelling on the earth.

Other forms of theism arose, such as polytheism, atheism, and all other forms of idolatry arising from the minds of men and women.  These forms of theism gave them a new understanding and paradigm of the source of all things.  They arose from the visible rather than from the invisible God.  The Big Bang eventually replaced God and spread a materialistic philosophy and religion throughout the earth.  That is, the visible created the visible.  Many individuals begin to understand God as an unseen entity as an unknown (agnosticism).  They then claimed, “We cannot trust that anything unseen acted as the source of the material world.”

Individuals begin relying on observation and the senses behind such observation according to this new theistic paradigm.  This new paradigm also made room for a negation called atheism, which leads to a complete denial of any deity.  Such form renders a new way of viewing the world about us.  Spirituality no longer arises from the unseen God but from whatever individuals make it to be.  Men and women are no longer considered living beings from the breath of God but an evolved existence from a primordial state of slime to a state of material consciousness.  Then we die and disintegrate back into material chemicals shrouded in dirt and mud.

Such is the hopeless state of humanity’s alienation.  It make understanding rudderless, aimlessly wandering across the seas of shifting philosophies transcending the centuries and morphing into greater senses of a lost sense of purpose.  It possess no faith except in the finite and corruptible imaginations of individuals.  Faith is whatever one wants it to be with no substance or evidence to which the author of the letter of the Hebrews points.

However, that is not the case with those who trust the God of the Bible.  We gain knowledge from understanding, and that understanding arises from faith in God.  God reveals Himself to us.  With that revelation He also imparts understanding.  Revelation precedes true knowledge.  Knowledge precedes trust (“Nothing But the Gospel: Can We be Saved Through Creation, Other Religions, or Human Philosophy? by Floyd Talbot, Action Faith Books Press, 2014, p. 163).  God imparts the understanding that He created all that exists.  Additionally, faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ leads us to our Creator and Redeemer as well as eternal life with Him.  By faith we understand that He sent His Son into the world to reconcile us back to our Creator and God so that we can have a living relationship with Him now and forever.  This is the gospel, the good news that confronts our alienation from others, the world, and God.

Stray Cats, Wild Animals, and the Gospel

Some years ago, a cat started coming around in the back yard. He had no identification tags but appeared well groomed and domesticated, indicating that someone had him as a pet. I later learned that a neighbor abandoned him when moving. Yet, he seemed rather skittish and kept his distance. I began putting food down for him, and he eventually allowed me to pet him. In time, I took him in the house and began sitting him in my lap and petting him. At times, when he heard an unfamiliar noise, he would freeze up. One time when a friend came over and we were sitting around talking, he suddenly dug his sharp nails in my leg and hop off my lap. I finally caught him and placed him outside. He ran away and never returned.

Sometimes stray cats become involved in the Church. They hang out and get to know people in the congregation. Eventually they begin teaching classes and becoming deacons or elders. Many of these strays appear well read in the Scriptures and know their way around them. They can speak well of basic doctrines and talk of application. Their lives reflect devotion to God and the Scriptures. Sometimes they receive Bible college or seminary degrees and go on to become professors or pastors. Eventually, they introduce questionable teachings in the pulpit, groups, or in their discussions one-on-one. These teachings at first seem simply like a different interpretation or something taken out of context, a familiar approach not unlike what normally occurs in informal group settings.
Continue reading Stray Cats, Wild Animals, and the Gospel