Tuesday, October 28, 2014

An Atheist's Prayer Request

If you don't mind, please ask God to reveal himself to me. Maybe group prayer will help. . . . I have sought God for many years, but I have received no confirmation of his existence. Please pray. Also, if you could share your experience of receiving confirmation, I would enjoy hearing it. How did you come to know that God exists?

I don’t know if this atheist’s request is genuine or not. (I suspect it isn’t.) But below is part 1 of my two part response to her.

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I will pray for you, but probably not that God will "reveal Himself" to you. This seems a bit individualistic and presumptuous. You see, as a Christian—by definition—I believe that God sufficiently reveals Himself to the world. Thus, such a prayer, it seems to me, would actually go against Christian belief.

The issue is this: Do you accept or believe God's revelation of Himself. Obviously, at this point you do not. But does your non-belief in God reflect poorly upon God's self-revelation? I don't see why it should.

Relatedly, does your lack of faith obligate God to go "above and beyond" for you—in in a manner He doesn't do for the rest of us? Again, I don’t see why it should.

Does your lack of faith in God demonstrate that there is no God? No, of course not. Your lack of faith demonstrates your lack of faith; nothing more. Thus it seems that your lack of faith is about you, not God.

I suppose my question at this point is: Why do you disbelieve in God.

You write: “I have sought God for many years . . .

Why would you do this? It seems irrational for one to honestly “seek” for that which one believes to be non-existent. (Most folks wouldn’t do such a thing for many minutes, much less many years!)

So…this “search for many years” makes me wonder how strong your disbelief really is. (Notice, I’m questioning your disbelief and not your sanity.)

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Next week: Part 2


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Politics & Religion

Last week’s article, “Good Laws vs. Good News” was met with this response: “We are not to be part of this world, but apart from it and therefore not a part of this world’s politics.”

This certainly sounds pious but what does it mean—biblically—to "not be part of this world"? Does the Bible say followers of Jesus cannot or should not participate in politics? I don't believe it does.

For those who claim otherwise, two problems immediately come to mind.

First, where and how does one draw a line between that which is political and that which isn’t?  

Because Christians are “not of this world” we cannot vote? We cannot run for public office? Christians cannot be lawyers? Judges? Police officers? Fire fighters? Christians can't be in the military or work for public schools? Can a believer hold a State job of any kind? What about belonging to a labor union?

Furthermore, aren’t we participating in "this world's system" every time we pay taxes? Should we not pay taxes? (I’m thinking not paying taxes may indeed separate us from the world but in a whole different way.)

Second, this kind of monastic-like thinking (in my opinion) totally misunderstands what the Bible means by being separate from the world. We are separated from the world—not by withdrawing from it—but by God's word and Spirit. We are not of the world because we are in Christ.

Consider the prayer of our Lord:

I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. ~John 17:15-16

 The Christian's sanctification is not in jeopardy simply because he is interested in politics or is employed by the State—his sanity maybe…but not his sanctity.      

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Good Laws vs. Good News

In response to my 2 part series dealing with the church, divorce, and gay marriage, a gentleman offers the following:
 
According to 1Corinthians 5 we are not to keep company with a brother who does not repent of sexual sins. However Paul is clear in saying we do not judge those on the outside. . . . If we are not to judge those outside the church, why do we want laws based on Christian morality forced upon non-believers? Are we trying to tell them God will hate them less if they only commit our sins?
 
Below is my response.
 
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All laws are moral (even speed limit laws). The question is: Whose morality should serve as a foundation for law—God’s or the godless’?
 
That being said, the above objection conflates laws (passed and enforced by the State) with Paul's instruction to the church to practice church discipline. Church discipline has nothing to do with State legislation.
 
That is, the church neither passes nor enforces civil law. There is a separation of church and State. The church and the State operate in two distinct spheres (think of biblical phrases such as “the keys" and “the sword"). Consequently, to desire good and moral laws is not all the same thing as to demand theocracy.
 
But also, and more troubling, the above complaint seems to confuse Law with Gospel. The content of the Gospel of grace, the message of what God has done for us in the Person and work of His Son, has nothing to do with the laws of the State. Americans may love their so-called “civil religion” but there’s really no such thing as the Gospel of the State. There’s only the Gospel of God.
 
Only by greatly confusing the above things would one even think to ask: "Are we trying to tell them God will hate them less..."
 
How sad.
 
God will love you more if only you sin less is no Gospel.
 
The truth is man may sin less but he is nonetheless a sinner. And the State—no matter how moral its laws—cannot reconcile us to God. Yet thankfully, God in His mercy has reconciled us to Himself in Jesus Christ. Now this is good news!