Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Nothin’ From Nothin’ Leaves…

Not long ago an atheist posted this curious challenge: 

What does Yahweh look like? He isn't a 'he' despite convention. No dimensions? No hands? No body? No brain. Totally incorporeal? 

He sounds essentially like nothingness. So prior to creation, what was 'He' conscious OF? He can't be conscious of himself as consciousness is consciousness OF something...(it's a property of something, not a thing itself) and he's without form I think.  

 Then ...how could a non conscious, non physical, formless.. thing...create ANYTHING? 

Not only is her challenge curious, but for her, it’s also fatal. Notice she contends that "He [God] sounds essentially like nothingness. . . Then ...how could a non conscious, non physical, formless…thing...create ANYTHING?" 

This is an excellent question!  

How does "nothingness" cause or create or account for (whatever term one prefers) "ANYTHING" much less everything? 

This fundamental question has never been, in my estimation, answered by atheists. How can something—in this case the universe and all it contains—come from absolutely nothing? It defies logic (as does the materialist's word salad of how "nothing" really means "a little something"). 

I just don’t have enough faith in nothing to be an atheist. 

Not surprisingly, when I turned her own query against her, she completely ignored it and instead offered three more questions: 

1) Does existence exist independently of consciousness?  

2) does [sic] Yahweh exist? 

3) did [sic] Yahweh speak the universe into existence? 

The answers to these questions are: 1) no, 2) yes, and 3) yes. 

You see, George Berkely famously wrote: "To be is to be perceived." 

Now, we must ask: Perceived by whom? 

My answer to this question is God. God perceives all things. There is nothing that exists apart from or independently of His consciousness. 

There is a universe of things which exists independently of my consciousness (and the consciousness of other humans and animals) but nothing exists independently of the consciousness of God. 

God (the great Perceiver) is the ground of all reality and/or existence. I say again: nothing exists apart from His consciousness.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

God's Chosen People? (Postscript)


Different groups of Christians end up invested in different interpretive paradigms, learn to ignore certain potentially threatening leftover texts [verses which don’t neatly fit into their system], and are persuaded that the remainder of leftover texts can be explained away on an ad hoc basis when they are “rightly understood,” read in proper context, or otherwise “correctly” interpreted. . . . The adherents of all of the paradigms are persuaded that their approach to biblical interpretation produces a comprehensive and consistent reading and understanding of the entire body of scripture. (Christian Smith, “The Bible Made Impossible,” p. 45)  

Some concluding thoughts regarding our conversation of “God’s chosen people” and theological disagreements in general:  

1) Conservative, Bible-believing Christians disagree about many, many things. 

2) Such disagreements are not about believing the Bible, but interpreting it. That is, such dissentions are not about faith but hermeneutics. 

3) Conservative, Bible-believing Christians bring disparate hermeneutics—based upon presuppositions and theological pre-commitments—to the text; i.e. Christians view scripture through various lenses. 

4) Because Christians bring dissimilar understandings to scripture, simply appealing to biblical texts will not settle theological disputes. (Has anyone ever seen the “dueling verses” approach settle a matter of theological controversy?) Thus, Christians have debated biblical texts for centuries.  

5) Diversity needn’t devolve into division. May we strive to exemplify the motto: in essentials unity, in non-essentials charity, and in all things Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

God's Chosen People? pt. 2

My conversation with my friend and sister in the Lord continues from last week. The irenic tone shows how we as believers can disagree without being disagreeable.  

Once again, her words are bold and italicized 

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I arrived at my understanding [that contemporary Jews are God’s chosen people] by doings of the Holy Spirit and Bible study . . . 

This conviction cannot serve to settle debates or determine truth. 

“I don’t understand what you are intending to mean by ‘this conviction cannot serve to settle debates or determine truth.’” 

Let’s use this present discussion to illustrate. You believe Israelis are God’s chosen people. I do not. Yet both of us believe: “I arrived at my understanding by doings of the Holy Spirit and Bible study.” Thus, the conviction that we both have (that the Spirit guides us in our study of the Bible) cannot settle our disagreement. 

Said another way, it would be most unfair and uncharitable for one of us to say to the other: “Well, you would agree with me if only you allowed the Spirit to guide you!”  

And so it is, while we can trust that the Spirit is leading us, this conviction—in and of itself—cannot settle debates or determine truth.  

That is, Spirit-led Christians of good will, who truly believe the Bible, are disagreed about many things. And this, in my mind, is okay. In fact it is inevitable. There are no infallible interpreters of scripture. 

“I am in agreement with what the Bible states in Romans [specifically Romans 11:26].” 

Yes, I am too. It’s not a matter of “agreeing” or “disagreeing” or believing or disbelieving the Bible. Both of us have a high view of scripture. This is a matter of interpretation 

We both affirm the truthfulness of Romans (and the rest of Scripture). However, we interpret Romans very differently. The “all Israel” of Romans 11:26 is understood in a variety of ways. (The Reformation Study Bible lists 3 different plausible interpretations of “all Israel.”) 

So, to be fair, we must be clear that this discussion is not about believing or (“agreeing with”) the Bible. It’s about interpreting the Bible. 

“The Jews . . . of the world can be thought of as needing the Gospel of salvation in Jesus as much as any other group of people.” 

We are agreed. 

Furthermore, the geo-political conflict in the Middle East, in my estimation, is simply that—geo-political. It has nothing to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ; the message of what God has accomplished for His people in the Person and work of His Son.  

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You may read the conversation in its entirety here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

God’s Chosen People?

I received a thoughtful response to last week’s article which dealt with the persecuted Church. My friend is mostly in agreement regarding the plight of beleaguered believers, but she is very much disagreed concerning my position that Israelis are not God’s chosen people. 

Below is an excerpted version of our cordial conversation. Her words are bold and italicized. May God add His blessing to your reading. 

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I arrived at my understanding [that contemporary Jews are God’s chosen people] by doings of the Holy Spirit and Bible study . . . 

I think most Christians believe this to be true of themselves. (I don’t know a Christian who would claim otherwise!) And so, when Christians disagree over something, each one of them may honestly believe: I arrived at my understanding by doings of the Holy Spirit and Bible study. Thus, this conviction cannot serve to settle debates or determine truth. 

“I am persuaded that Israel is not targeting Christians in Gaza with their military operations.” 

Perhaps not. But Israelis (not necessarily the government) persecute Christians in Israel. (This is certainly true of a minority, not the majority of Israelis. However, the same could be said of Muslims: the majority of Muslims are not actively persecuting Christians. Nevertheless, Israeli and Muslim minorities do indeed persecute Christians.)  

Unfortunately, the vast majority of American Christians are unaware of the Jewish persecution of Christians (especially those believers who try to share their faith) in Israel. 

As for Jews being God’s chosen people: This is a matter of biblical and/or theological understanding. I consider being chosen (in this context) to mean elected unto salvation; and I believe salvation is to be found only in Christ. 

God’s people are saved (in both Testaments) by grace through faith. Biology saves no one and never did. That is to say, no one has ever been or ever will be saved simply because he or she is Jewish. 

The Old Testament saints, by faith, looked forward to Christ; and New Testament saints, by faith, look back to Him. There is—and always has been—only one way of salvation and Christ is that One way.
 
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Next week: The conversation continues.