Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

| Newer Entries »

Christianity 101

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Recently, I had the privilege of speaking to a classroom full of bright, young students at one of the local community colleges.  The invitation had come from a good friend of mine who teaches a class on Philosophy and World Religions.  As he covered various world religions, he would invite speakers representing those religions to come and field questions regarding their particular belief system.  On the day that his class was covering Christianity, he had asked me and one of the pastors from my church to come participate in the Q&A sessions.

In-between sessions, he said something to me that was very troubling.  He said that he had asked some of the Christian students in his class if they knew what the Gospel was, and if they could explain it, but no one responded.  I would certainly hope that the students who remained silent were just reluctant to do so because they were uncomfortable speaking up in front of the class.  I would hate to think that they really did not know nor understand the Gospel, although I wouldn’t be too surprised by that.  Sadly, it’s getting much harder these days to find a church that is in the habit of regularly presenting the Gospel.  In fact, my friend had further commented to me that many of those same Christian students had remarked that in their church they had never heard their pastor explain the Gospel.  If that’s true, it is worse than tragic, it’s shameful!  To further complicate things, when well-meaning people do attempt to present the Gospel, they often make the mistake of presenting it as if it was merely some means by which we can “become a better person.”  But, as Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias has pointed out, “Jesus did not come to make bad people good, but dead people alive.”  Furthermore,  when the Gospel is presented, it is often couched in terminology that most people cannot understand or cannot relate to in today’s world.  With this in mind, the following is the manner in which I explained the Gospel to his class that day.

It all begins with God.  This God really does exist.  I’m not simply saying that I have a “personal belief” in God or that I have a “personal faith” in God.  I’m saying much more than that. The latest discoveries in science affirm the fact that this God really does exist, whether people choose to believe it or not.  Secondly, this God is absolutely holy and just. This is crucial to understand especially in today’s world where people have tried to invent a “god” of their own liking by reducing Him to an image that they, personally, find much more convenient and much more comfortable.  They’ve imagined a god who is all-loving, who never judges anyone.  But a god who is so “loving” that he never judges evil is not a  just judge.  To say that God is holy is to say that there is absolutely no trace of evil or imperfection anywhere in His character.  He is the embodiment of absolute justice.

The bad news is that you and I have rebelled against God by knowingly, willingly, daily, repeatedly violating His Laws.  Therefore, all of us are lawbreakers- we are all guilty and we know it.  The other bad news is that each one of us has an expiration date stamped on us.  The time will come when you and I must die- but it doesn’t end there.  You and I will survive the grave to someday appear before God, the One Who is the final Judge over all that He has created.  As our case is brought before Him, every thought, word,  and action that we’ve lived out will testify against us.  As we stand before Him, there will be no doubt in our minds that we deserve His justice.  We stand there as condemned criminals- He knows it and we know it.  That’s the bad news.

The good news (“Gospel”) in all of this is that out of His unimaginable love, as a supreme act of grace on His part, God, from the beginning of time, set forth a plan whereby we could be pardoned. When God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into this world to die on the cross, something of enormous consequences was taking place, such that my mind cannot fully grasp it.  When Jesus died on the cross, it’s as if God had reached out and dipped His pen in the blood of His Son and wrote out a contract with the human race.  As with any contract, there are terms of agreement and they are as follows:  Anyone who is willing to turn away from their rebellious behavior and acknowledge God’s authority  by surrendering their life to His Son will be found “not guilty” when they are brought before God.  This offer will not be made to anyone after they die.  Only those who were willing to enter into this contract with Him on His terms will be pardoned of their crimes against Him.  Their case will be dismissed, all charges will be dropped, and they will be acquitted of every offense they’ve committed against Him.  But there’s more.  Not only will they be pardoned, but God has made the magnanimous offer of granting them eternal life and they will be given the incredible privilege of spending eternity with Him in His kingdom.

That, my friends, is the Gospel.  And now you know why the Gospel is not just “good news”, it is the greatest news that has ever fallen on human ears.

Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in Theology | 11 Comments »

The Question of God’s Existence- Why Does it Matter?

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Several years ago, I wrote the following words in the flyleaf of my Bible: “If there is no God, then nothing really matters.  If there is a God, nothing else matters.”  I don’t recall where I heard it, but as far as I’m concerned this one statement covers all the bases in very few words- it really is the bottom line.  Notice that the question is not whether one believes in God, but rather, is there really a God? Does He really exist? This is the ultimate question, isn’t it?  It has to be the ultimate question because absolutely everything about your life and mine depends upon the answer to that question, whether the answer is “yes” or “no.”  All of the important, relevant questions that we ask about our lives are ultimately grounded in that question.  Where did we come from?  How did we get here?  Are we here by the purposive act of a Creator Who made us, or are we simply the product of random, blind forces of nature?  What is the purpose and meaning of life?  IS there any purpose or meaning to life?  What is the basis for ethics and morality?  On what basis do we determine what is right or wrong?  What about truth?  Is truth relative, or is there absolute truth?  If so, is there any way that we can discover it?  What happens to us when we die?  Does life simply terminate at the grave or will we survive the grave?  If we survive the grave what will become of us?  Where will we go after we die?  As I said, the question of God’s existence is the ultimate question.

When it comes to this question, there are many today who would tell us that it’s rather pointless for us to even ask such a question since there’s no way that we can ever really know.  Others would insist that such a question is a complete waste of time since we cannot know anything about God.  But to say that we can’t know anything about God is not only a cop-out, it’s self-contradictory.  After all, the person who says that we can’t know anything about God is actually claiming to “know” a lot of things about God!

For instance, they may be assuming that God is some “impersonal force” that lacks the ability to communicate with us.  Either that, or they are assuming that even if God is a personal Being Who can communicate with us, He is either too distant to do so, or else He simply doesn’t care to do so.  They are assuming that  none of the world’s religions nor any of the religious texts within those religions could ever be seriously considered as the means by which God has attempted to communicate with us.  And finally, they are assuming that God has not taken the initiative to reveal Himself to us in any way through the physical, material world that He created.

As I said, the question of whether or not God really exists is, by far, the most important question that anyone could ever ask.  With so much at stake, we dare not brush it aside or ignore it on the assumption that we “cannot know”.  Not only can we know, I am convinced that the answer to that question has been clearly revealed to us and is available to anyone and everyone who is willing to approach the evidence with an open mind.

Tags: , , , ,
Posted in Theology | 53 Comments »

Who Made God? – Part 2

Monday, January 25th, 2010

This post is Part 2 in the series “Who Made God?”. Click here to read Part 1 first.

In my previous post, I was talking about a formal debate that I was watching that involved two scientists, one of whom was the famous atheist, Professor Richard Dawkins and the other was Christian theologian, Dr. John Lennox.  I mentioned that they were debating some of the more notable points in Dawkins’ book, “The God Delusion”.  Eventually, the question “Who made God?” came up for discussion and I went on to explain why the question itself was invalid according to the rules of logic.  But no matter how many times it is pointed out that such questions would not apply to an infinite God, people of all ages continue to ask it as if there must be another, more “satisfying” answer to this question.  After all, to say that such questions do not apply to God is really just another way of saying that God was “always there”.  Now of course I realize that such an explanation is totally unacceptable to some people and they would even consider such an answer to be not only too “convenient”, but much worse, they would consider such an answer to be a “cop-out”.  Dawkins, in fact, makes it clear that as an atheist, he really does feel that such an answer is a cop-out.

The irony in all of this is that even though Dawkins considers it to be absolutely ridiculous to suggest that God is uncaused, self-existent, and eternal, He (Dawkins) is apparently willing to believe that matter can possess all of those characteristics!  So, according to Dawkins, God must have a beginning, but matter doesn’t require a beginning. God could not possibly be eternal, yet matter must be eternal.  Dawkins insists that “only an idiot” could accept the statement, “In the beginning God..”, yet he finds it perfectly reasonable to accept the statement, “In the beginning dust and gas….”.

All of this reminds me of a similar situation that I encountered a few years ago when I was invited to speak at a Christian club at one of the local high schools.  I had just finished presenting evidence for the existence of God, and I opened it up to Q&A time.  There was one particular student in the audience who was an atheist and he was a very intelligent young man.  He had a reputation for asking tough questions in order to make the speaker look bad and that was obviously his intent on that day.  He raised his hand, so I called on him, expecting a question.  Instead, he had a comment.  He said, “Basically, what you’re trying to say is that nothing caused God, nothing created God, and that He didn’t come from anywhere-  He was just…..always there”.  I responded, “Yes.  That is exactly what I’m saying”.  The atheist student sat down in his chair and was laughing at me, expecting that I would simply move on to the next question, but I stayed with him.  I said , “May I ask you a question?  I understand that you are an atheist”.  He replied, “That’s right.  I don’t believe in God because I believe in the Big Bang”.  I said to him, “That’s fine.  The problem is that you’re trying to start in the middle of the story and I refuse to let you get away with that. In fact, I’m going to “push you backward in time“, back, back, back before the Big Bang.  The point is, what you’re really trying to say is that prior to the Big Bang, there was a “particle” that never, ever, ever had a beginning.  Nothing caused this particle, nothing created this particle, it didn’t come from anywhere, it was just……always there. So, why is it that when I say that God was always there, you think that it’s ridiculous, yet you are willing to accept, by faith, that the particle was always there?”.   Not having a response, he looked at me and said, “Fine.  You can go on believing that God was always there and I’ll go on believing that the particle was always there.  We’ll just call it even-  our views are equal”.  I went on to point out to that young man that there is nothing “equal” or “even” about those two ideas.  As we will see in future posts, the evidence for God is very compelling, whereas the evidence for “eternal matter” requires a tremendous amount of faith.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Theology | 3 Comments »

Who Made God? – Part 1

Monday, January 11th, 2010

It was one of those rare nights when I didn’t have any commitments, no meetings, no place where I had to be, and no particular plans. I sat down in front of the t.v. with a plate of buffalo wings that I had just picked up on the way home, and reached for the remote. I’m so busy these days that I don’t have a lot of spare time to watch television, and after only a few minutes of searching through the channels, I realized that I really hadn’t missed anything worthwhile anyway. I decided to watch a dvd that I had purchased a while back and even though I had already watched it once, it was worth viewing again to pick up on any details that I may have missed the first time.

The title was “The God Delusion Debate” which was an actual debate that took place in 2007 in an auditorium in Birmingham, Alabama and was filmed before a sold-out audience. One of the debaters was Dr. John Lennox, a scientist, mathematician, author, and Christian theologian who was representing Christianity. Dr. Lennox holds doctorates from Oxford, Cambridge, and the University of Wales, as well as an MA in Bioethics from the University of Surrey. The other speaker was scientist, author, and well-known atheist, Richard Dawkins. Dawkins is the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford. As an author, he has written several best-selling books. In fact, his most recent book, “The God Delusion”, was the topic of that evening’s debate as the two speakers gave arguments and counter-arguments over some of the points that Dawkins had presented in his book.

One of the points from Dawkins’ book that they discussed was the question, “Who made God?” (“Where did God come from?”, “What caused God?”, etc.). Apparently, Dawkins had devoted a considerable amount of time to this in his book, so he must honestly feel that this is a difficult and serious argument against the existence of God. Even though this question is often asked by the average person on the street, I was both disappointed and surprised to hear such a question put forth in a best-selling book by one of the world’s leading atheists who obviously prides himself on his great intellect.

The question itself is really not all that difficult and it involves a couple of issues. First of all, the question is invalidated by the fact that it commits an error in logic by confusing two different categories. Dawkins’ question would be similar to asking, “Who is that bachelor married to?”, or “What does the color red sound like?” In both cases, the question makes the mistake of attempting to mix two distinct and separate categories. Such questions are therefore invalid because they violate this foundational rule of logic. The same rule applies to this question about God. Such questions as, “What caused this?’, “Who made this?”, and “Where did this come from?” are perfectly legitimate questions within the category of that which is finite. However, God, by definition, would be in the category of that which is infinite, therefore such questions would not apply to God. So, the obvious answer to Dawkins’ question is that no one and nothing “made” God. Nothing “caused” God, and He didn’t “come from” anywhere. Nevertheless, even though we understand that the question itself is invalid, we still feel the need to ask it. And so, many people such as Dawkins continue to ask it. Is there another, more “satisfying” answer to this question? I believe that there is, and we will explore it in my next post.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Theology | 7 Comments »

| Newer Entries »
  • In today's world, there is a great deal of confusion when it comes to matters of truth, meaning, morality, our origin, and our destiny. The purpose of Renewed Thoughts is to bring clarity to such issues by examining them in light of a Biblical worldview, using the tools of science, philosophy, and critical thinking.