Religion By Design

Aristotle said that man seeks truth and is instinctively inclined to formulate a belief system as a guide to assist him in attaining his objective. The Russian poet Chekhov opined that a man without a belief system leads an empty life.  Freud said that we are also inclined to worship something, whether that be some god of our own design or a man or some object. We are inclined to design a god who satisfies our base instincts. What are these base instincts?

Atheists believe man was motivated by his fear of the unknown to design a personal god they believed cared about us and would be our protector in our time of need. They would have Christians believe that we added to that concept by inventing a God who pardoned us for our sins without requiring us to not sin. But theologians, philosophers and psychologists tell us our greatest motivator isn’t our fear; it’s our pride. And it’s our pride the unbelievers’ god plays to.

Unbelievers want to be their own god. They therefore are forced to believe that God is an impersonal force which created the universe and then left us alone to survive in his creation as best as we could. Unbelievers reject the concept of a personal god because they simply do not want to believe in a personal god, a moral governor who holds them accountable for their actions. It’s not fear that motivates them to design such a god, it’s their pride. Pride is man’s greatest motivator for our behavior, and it’s been that way since Adam and Eve were told by Satan they could be gods.

Christians worship the only God who is God, “the God who is there” (as theologian Francis Schaeffer said). Our triune God is not a God of our own design because our innate pride would never let us think of God as he really is, a righteous and holy, personal God who loves us, cares for us, and holds us accountable for our actions, but also, through his grace, forgives us for our sins as long as we believe in him, overcome our pride (with the help of the Holy Spirit) and repent of our sin.

No, this “God who is there” would not be a God of any human design. The unbelievers’ innate pride gets in their way to accept the truth of who God really is, and motivates them to design a god who isn’t there.

 

 

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Churchill or Chamberlain?

Presidents are supposed to be good leaders. Historically, America has benefitted from leaders who had integrity, humility, compassion and led with courage of conviction. Based on the negative comments from those people who refuse to accept the reality of the Trump presidency, they firmly believe that, during the first year of his presidency,  Donald Trump hasn’t exhibited any of these characteristics.  Since his election, they have ridiculed his every attempt to perform his job which he said is to lead our country to greatness. Isn’t that an objective we should all share? Again, based on comments from those who oppose Trump, they don’t seem to care about achieving that objective. Why don’t they? Shouldn’t every American want America to be great again? Doesn’t that just make sense?

Based on what the experts tell us, in this post modern age, it doesn’t seem to be as relevant that our leaders lead with the courage of their conviction. According to Dr. Burk Parsons, editor of Tabletalk, the trend these days is to celebrate self-appointed leaders who have actually demonstrated a lack of integrity and courage of conviction. As Parsons says, “We now live in a world that applauds Chamberlains and mocks Churchills.” President Obama’s election supported that conclusion. Hillary’s election would have added further support. But, my question is, have we actually sunk so low that we prefer a Chamberlain to a Churchill? I don’t think so. Based on the results of the last election, enough people (who don’t live in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, New York City, etc.) still wanted a Churchill enough to actually get Donald Trump elected. That truly was the real significance of Donald Trump’s victory. Apparently America isn’t quite ready to throw in the towel yet.

I’m certainly not making the claim that President Trump is a Churchill; but he could be, and shouldn’t we all wish he would be? I say this because America has reached the point in our history where only a Churchill can truly make us great again. Sure, the Donald isn’t a humble man, and he’s not particularly effective in communicating compassion; but, ironically many of these same people who say they detest him for his lack of humility, integrity and compassion have actually been influenced by post modern thought, which downplays the importance of integrity and humility.

There is one thing though that opponents of Donald Trump as our president must accept: America has elected a man who at least knows how to lead. Where we go from here is not certain, but at least he seems to have the courage of conviction to try and “drain the swamp,” and take on the entrenched power structure in Washington in an effort to force our legislators to come up with bi-partisan solutions to reforming our immigration laws to make them conform to what most other civilized countries require of those who emigrate to their shores, reform a failed Obamacare program, and come up with a tax code that favors no particular class of people but is fair for all. Although his opponents may not agree with the manner or degree in which he proposes to address his convictions, they must at least accept the reality that he is our president and that he does have the courage to pursue those convictions.  Now it’s up to our Congress to do their job.

 

 

What Being a Christian means

Audrey Spiess posted this on Facebook and I liked it so much I thought I would paraphrase it and publish it as my post this week.

When I say that I am a Christian, I’m not claiming to be clean living, almost perfect holier than thou person. I’m not claiming to be strong enough to change society, or have been more successful than unbelievers in my career or wealth accumulation. I recognize sin’s importance as an affront to God and am saying I am a sinner in need of a Savior; so weak that I need God’s strength to carry on. I give all the glory to God for whatever success I have achieved.

When people tell me they are atheists, they are telling me they believe they are so strong they don’t need to believe that some God cares about them enough to clean up the messes they make in life and ease their pain. They certainly don’t believe they need to be saved from sin because sin isn’t that important an issue in their lives anyway. Everyone makes mistakes and wrong choices once in awhile, right? They believe they are basically good people compared to bad people and expect to go to heaven, if there is a heaven, when they die.

They tell me they believe it is entirely up to each of us to be strong enough to assume complete responsibility for living our lives and that, if we can unify, we are even strong enough to make the world a better place for all. They tell me there is no moral governor, and we must determine our own moral code without any guidance from any external divine source. They naturally assume any success in life has been earned entirely through their own efforts.  They give all to the glory of man.

This side of heaven, we won’t know the truth except through faith, and, personally, I think it takes greater faith to be so pridefully certain that Christians have it all wrong, than it takes to be a believer.

 

How Do We Reduce the Deficit?

If I’m not mistaken, I believe statistics show that the top 5% of people in America pay 80% of the money collected by the Federal government each year. Many people in America pay no income tax at all, and some even receive money from the government. As every American knows, our government continues to operate in the red. Assuming we should reduce our ballooning deficit, how can this be accomplished?

Can the wealthy pay more? Of course they can. But there is a limit and this approach has its unintended consequences. Is this the only way to reduce the deficit? Of course it isn’t.

Back in 1980 when I wrote my first book of my Financial Guideline Series, I published an article for a Denver newspaper entitled “Living on Less” my point was to focus more on reducing expenses than on increasing income. Inflation was a big problem in 1980, and peoples’ budgets were strained trying to cope with rising prices. Well, government budget is strained trying to meet all of the politicians commitments, and the same game plan applies to reducing the Federal deficit.

Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, in an article entitled A taxing situation, prefaces his advice by stating that “The current debate over tax legislation starts at the wrong end. Politicians want us to accept that some people aren’t paying ‘enough.’ This keeps the debate focused on those who work to earn the money, rather than on politicians who cynically misspend it, in large part to keep themselves in office.”

Thomas says that it is the spending, not taxes, that needs to be reduced, but of course most people don’t want to give up what they believe they are entitled to. It’s difficult to take the candy away from the baby once they’ve tasted it. Democrats continue to support welfare programs that encourage more and more people to turn to their government for assistance, even though the government does so few things well, and is running out of money. The big deal now is of course health care which liberals call a right, not a privilege.

Thomas states that this debate has President Trump “yielding to the class warfare crowd, which believes ‘the rich’ ought to pay more and the bottom 50 percent should pay even less. A better idea would be to require every American to pay something. Even street panhandlers, some of whom receive tax-free money through welfare benefits, should have some skin in the game.”

Thomas concludes by urging that any tax reform be accompanied by reduced government expenses, and that we need to focus on teaching people how to create their own “pots.” “Now we teach envy, greed and entitlement, an unholy financial and ideological hat trick that improves on one’s life.” Even President Obama admitted that our welfare programs have failed.

As one of my favorite candidates for president, Marco Rubio, once said, “We don’t need new taxes. We need new taxpayers, people that are gainfully employed, making money and passing into the tax system. And then we need a government that has the discipline to take that additional revenue and use it to pay down the debt and never grow it again.”

Makes sense to me.

 

 

God’s Sovereignty and Our Free Will

Dr. Daniel G. Garland, author of Elephant In the Room, asks the question “Is life a book with unlimited alternate endings? Or is history somehow unfolding according to a predetermined plan? If it were the latter, human responsibility or personal regret would seem to be eliminated.” Is Forest Gump’s view of life the reality? “I don’t know if we each have a destiny or if we’re just floating around accidently-like on a breeze. But I-I think it’s a bit of both.” Garland maintains all Christians should be theologians of sorts and should be curious about how God’s sovereignty functions within our gift of freedom of will. How are we supposed to deal with the “elephant in the room?”

It is not my purpose in this article to attempt to do justice to this subject; Dr. Garland has done that in his book, and I recommend anyone interested in pursuing this important subject should read Elephant In The Room. I can only say that the interplay between God’s total sovereignty and our free will is one of the most controversial subjects in Christianity. Understandably, people find it difficult to reconcile God’s absolute will with our human will, and many of us end up believing Forest Gump’s view that somehow, in some way, our lives involve a bit of both.

I think theologian John S. Feinberg, author of No One Like Him, offered a good explanation of how God’s sovereignty and our free will work together. He defined an absolute rule without consideration for our free will as being “deterministic.” Such a cosmic dictatorship is called “hard determinism.” We would essentially be robots. Feinberg stated that God did not operate this way. He uses references from the Bible to state that God indeed has a plan for each and every human being he has created, but, because he doesn’t orchestrate every detail of how we live our life, Feinberg says God rules by “soft determinism” because he allows for our choices in his plan for us. Another theologian, Dr. R. C. Sproul, talks about God being the primary cause and we being the secondary cause.

Concordantly, we aren’t as free as we think we are. Total freedom is called “libertarian free will,” and we do not practice that kind of free will because we must all exercise constraint over our behavior to survive; and God also imposes limits on our behavior because he loves us and wants us to enjoy him and his creation. So then, our free will must be compatible with God’s will for us, and that’s why Feinberg concludes we have “compatibilistic free will.”

God’s soft determinism combined with our compatibilistic free will: Makes sense to me.

 

 

 

Have Christians lost the Culture War?

According to Os Guinness, author of over thirty books on Christianity, Christians have lost the culture war. We Christians don’t want to concede defeat, but we must deal with the reality that we are now living in post-Christian America.

Author Greg Koukl, author of The Story of Reality: How The World Began, How It Ends, And Everything Important That Happens In Between, points out how aggressive the resistance to our entire worldview has been since the Supreme Court passed its ruling on same-sex marriage in 2015. Those opposed to Christianity have been emboldened by this monumental decision and moved forward, both socially and politically, to further implement their agenda of rebellion against the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We should note that, in addition to the acceptability of  same-sex marriage, their agenda includes the acceptance of homosexuality and transgender bathrooms, and the list goes on. Today, the very existence of God is challenged as well as the authority and reliability of the Bible, the singular role of Christ in the salvation of the world, a moral code based on the unchanging word of God, and we are ridiculed, censured and subjected to government interference in clear violation of our First Amendment right of free speech. Koukl is convinced “things will get much more difficult in the near-term, and probably in the longer, as well. ” So then, what are Christians supposed to do to resist the threat posed by this secularization of our culture?

We know that Christians are not to be a part of this world, and Guinness observed we are to remain that way; we can’t give into where the world wants to take us. Koukl reports that this is “no time for going with the flow, or for compromising our message to make it look more palatable. Christ’s words are hard and brash and daring and divisive, and the world will never accept anyone who is faithful to them.  The days are over when any Christian can quietly coexist with the culture without being able to ‘give an answer for the hope that is in them” (1 Peter 3:15.) Believers who have been on the sidelines in the past will not be able to hide. They will be forced by the opposition to actively choose sides.”

Koukl states that he personally has done two things to resist those who would see Christianity destroyed, and he advises all Christians to follow his lead.

First, we are to adjust our expectations. We need to recognize the reality of the challenge against all that we cherish and value. Remember that our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world have had it far worse than we are experiencing or likely to ever experience. Koukl speculates that “maybe God is ‘giving our culture over” (Romans 1:24, 26, 28) for a season to remind us what realm we truly belong to.”

Second, we are to fortify our resolve to be true to the gospel no matter what the cost. We must stand firm in the Word regardless of the commitment of the opposition to destroy our religion as we know and believe it to be. It should not matter to us that the opposition is more determined now, we must persevere. The power of Christ within us gives us the strength and fortitude to stay the course God has laid out for all of us.

Koukl reports that when Guinness was a young man, his missionary parents gave him two stones when he was sent to Nanjing to boarding school in Shanghai. One stone said “Found Faithful,” and the other stone said “Please Him;” words to live by.

 

The Evolution of Unbelief

Unbelievers identify with the concept of evolution. They believe in evolution of life, evolution of a moral code, and evolution of religion. They embrace what they see as an evolution of unbelief in the West. Of course, these people believe that evolution is progressive, and that this is a good trend because things are getting better. I might point out here that scientific law presents evidence to the contrary. Based on the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the entire universe is actually evolving from order to chaos.

Indeed, surveys do show that an increasing number of Americans are checking the box marked “none of the above” when answering the question of what religion they are. In fact, theologians tell us we are now living in a post-Christian America. This reality begs the question: As we appear to be evolving more towards unbelief, what is happening in our culture? I think that even unbelievers have to concede our society is not progressing the way they had hoped. When we look back to our growing up years and compare the divisiveness in our society today with those times, doesn’t it seem as though we have been progressing from order to chaos? Could there be a connection between what is happening now and the fact that our society has gradually evolved away from a society dominated by Christian morality and ideals?

We know Christianity is growing by leaps and bounds as the lamp stand continues to move east towards India and Africa, and this is wonderful news, but here in America, we need to understand where this evolution of unbelief is taking us and what to do about it to slow its “progress” in our culture.

Christians have faced this challenge before in our history. Ever since the gospel accounts initially presented the character and purpose of Jesus Christ, followed by the letters of the apostles organizing the Christian doctrine and the church, Christianity has been subjected to the challenge of unbelief; and, until Christ returns and every knee shall bow and tongue confess that He is Lord, those who reject Him will always be with us. So then, we must continue to be diligent in maintaining our witness and proclamation of the truth of the gospel to the world.

Over the centuries, the Roman Catholic Church gradually evolved towards unbelief in the sense that it relegated the Word of God to a secondary position under the authority of the Church. The Reformation brought us back to sola scriptura, the Bible alone. It was this commitment to the Bible as the ultimate source of all knowledge that slowed down the process of this Romanist evolution away from the truth of the Gospel.

Then modernism was introduced to us in the Enlightenment. As theologian Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr. once said, “The result was a totalitarians imposition of the scientific model of rationality upon all truth, the claim that only scientific data can be objectively understood, objectively defined, and objectively defended. In other words, the modernist worldview did not allow for the notion of special revelation and openly attacked the possibility of supernatural intervention in world history.”

Modernism has evolved into postmodernism which rejects modernism and maintains neither science nor revelation can provide us with the truth because there is no such concept as absolute truth.  Mohler tells us that postmodernism is nothing more than the logical evolution of modernism into a new form. “Claiming that all nations of truth are socially constructed, postmodernists are committed to total war on truth itself, a deconstructionist project bent on the casting down of all religious, philosophical, political and cultural authorities.” Mohler tells us that Karl Marx recognized an evolution from modernism to postmodernism when he stated that  “all that is solid melts into air,” an evolution from order to chaos. And certainly we can see what Marx meant as we begin to understand where postmodernism is taking us: from the order inherent in knowing the truth to the chaos of not knowing or caring to know the truth because there is no truth. So then, how is the Christian to live in this new age of evolved unbelief?

Dr. Mohler recommends that as we “continue to face opposition from false gospels and from the culture at large, we must continue to protest.” He says the only way to retaliate against the nihilism of postmodernism is to proclaim through our witness and word a return to the doctrine of sola scriptura. We have God’s Word written down for us in the Bible. “God has spoken to us in a reasonable way in language we can understand, and has given us the gift of revelation which is His gracious disclosure of Himself…we cannot capitulate to revisionist models of the doctrine of Scripture.” Mohler concludes by expressing the hope that, as we celebrate the 500th year anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, the theology of the reformers like Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and others “finds new life in our modern Christian church.” Only in this way can we hope to stem the tide of the evolution of unbelief.