Tuesday, December 30, 2014

All Things New

A short while ago a Christian friend asked for clarification regarding paradise, heaven, Abraham’s bosom, hell, Hades, and the lake of fire. She concluded her request thus: “Yes, you could say I'm confused. . . . Any clarification you can give me will be greatly appreciated.”

Below is my response.

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This can be a rather convoluted discussion. I think the confusion lies primarily in the fact that the terms paradise/heaven/Abraham’s bosom and hades/hell/lake of fire are used, it seems, interchangeably in scripture. Furthermore, the verses which contain these references are somewhat lacking in detail and are therefore interpreted variously by sincere, Bible-believing folks.

So we have to be cautious to distinguish between what the Bible actually says and what Christians and theologians claim it says.  

Having said this, I think it is helpful to differentiate between our STATE and our LOCATION after death. When it comes to life after death, I believe the Bible offers more about our state (the condition of our being) than our location (geography?).

Therein lies the debate—the uncertainty—regarding whether paradise, Abraham’s bosom, and heaven are different places or simply different names. I suppose one could mount an argument either way.

But what is clear from the texts?

I believe the New Testament is clear that when we die our soul leaves our body. Paul teaches that to be dead is “to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2Cor. 5:8). Upon our death we will be in a disembodied state of existence—a soul without a physical body. This is what we call the “intermediate state.”

Now, call it paradise, or Abraham’s bosom, or heaven—whatever one calls it—our disembodied soul will be present with the resurrected Jesus.

The intermediate state of existence is temporal in that we will be disembodied souls only until the resurrection of the dead. When we are resurrected our soul will be reunited with our raised, corporeal body.

At the resurrection, the intermediate state (disembodied souls) will enter the Eternal State where our souls will be forever reunited with (housed within) our physical bodies (now glorified). This seems to be the clear import of Paul’s teaching in 2Cor. 5:1-4 (see also 1Cor. 15:35-44).

So we may think of things in terms of our present state (before death), our intermediate state (after death), and our eternal state (the resurrection). Notice again, this has to do with our state of being not our location.

In the end, it’s not a matter of us going up to heaven but of heaven coming down to us. And death is swallowed up by life.  

The former things have passed away . . . Behold, I make all things new.
~Revelation 21:4, 5



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Joy To The World

During this most wonderful time of the year we hear much of the most beautiful story ever told; the drama of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. All the elements which make for an inspiring story are present: love and loss, tragedy and triumph, vice and virtue. But there is one essential quality which must not be overlooked—the story is true.  

We can ill afford to romanticize away the reality, the historical reality, of the birth of God’s Son. Thus, this and every Christmas we emulate the Bethlehem shepherds.

And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds (Luke 2:16-18).

Notice the shepherds do two things:

1) They “came” and “found” Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus,

and

2) They joyously and unashamedly told those who cared to listen (and perhaps even those who didn't care to listen) the story of the newborn Child who was the Son of God.

Likewise, Christians have done these same two things for over two thousand years. We revisit The Nativity and we “make widely known” what we know to be true: The Son of God has come to save His people from their sins.  Joy to the world!

The shepherds couldn’t keep quiet. How can we?


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Law & Order

With regards to the killing of Michael Brown (and I suppose Eric Garner) Bojidar Marinov writes:

now the conservatives discovered not only the value of obeying the laws – that were passed by Congress – but also the value of unquestionable obedience to any orders from police, whether lawful or not.

I understand what Bojidar is getting at, but I think we need a bit more nuance.

In other words, I'm not sure standing up for one's rights (e.g. to bear arms or to speak freely) or standing against unjust laws (e.g. abortion on demand or Obamacare) is the same thing as standing up to or resisting a police officer's lawful order.

For example, I taught my children to think critically of government, matters of law, rights and responsibilities; AND ALSO to comply with the police.  

Was I being logically inconsistent by teaching them to on the one hand question governmental authority (law making) and on the other hand obey the police (law enforcing)? I don't believe I was.

These are two different circumstances. One has to do with a larger picture of principle and the other is more pragmatic. (That is, when it comes to cops and their policing…I didn't want my kids to get into further legal difficulty—perhaps even physical danger—for disobeying a cop's lawful order.)

Speaking of lawful order: Bojidar is grossly overstating things when he says, "the conservatives discovered . . . the value of unquestionable obedience to any orders from police . . ."

Is this actually the case? I don't think it is.

I am not speaking of "unquestionable obedience" to "any orders" from police. Rather, I am speaking of obeying what officers may lawfully tell one to do.

Suppose I am driving along and a cop "lights me up." Even though I’m sure I've broken no laws, what should I do? Keep driving because he has no right to pull an innocent motorist over? Or, should I pull over?

I think I should pull over. And though I don't believe I am guilty of breaking any laws I will provide my license and registration if she asks me to (a command in the form of a request). I will not be disrespectful in any way.

But let's suppose she says this can all "go away" (whatever "this" is) if I give her a little something "off the books" to make Christmas a little sweeter this year.

Should I comply? I don't think so. This isn't a "lawful order." So it's not a matter of "any orders" but of lawful orders.

After we submit to the lawful orders of the police—in effort to avoid legal and physical escalation—then perhaps in a more proper setting (maybe before a judge) we can then make our case. 

I’m just not convinced that the best way to fight unjust law is to combat the police.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ignorance of Biblical Proportion, pt. 2

After last week’s article, the following conversation ensued. For clarity the atheist’s words appear bold and italicized.

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I recall many studies showing how atheists, in general, are more knowledgeable about the Bible than many Christians.

I've not seen the "many studies" but the many atheists I've spoken with evidence the contrary. [There haven’t been “many studies” but one study grossly misrepresented.]

The atheists with whom I've interacted or watched in formal debates have very little knowledge of the Bible or church history. In fact, it seems that what they "know" is simply recycled among them. That is, they all "know" the exact same things and nothing more.

I think many of the "celebrity" atheists just use the same arguments again and again. Although, so do the religious apologists.

I agree.

And in my limited experience, every-day-atheists tend to merely parrot the "celebrity" atheists—thus the in-house recycling.

The "celebrity" atheists (and their disciples?) tend to say the same things of the Bible and Church history over and over and over...no contemplation...no nuance. (Hence the scare quotes around "know.")

The scope of their "knowledge" of the Bible and Church history pertains to these themes: genocide, slavery, misogyny, crusades, and inquisitions. And that's about it! That's both the scope and the depth of their “knowledge.”

In other words, what they "know" of the Bible and Church history is extremely narrow and incredibly shallow. It is caricatured "knowledge" at best. What they "know" of the Bible and Church history could be contained on a bumper sticker. It's little or nothing more than sloganeering. 

Furthermore, it seems that most atheists' "knowledge" simply serves as a rather blunt object with which to bludgeon believers in debate and not as a means of understanding or an impetus for furthering inquiry. This is reflected in nearly every dialogue between atheists and Christians I've ever seen, heard, or participated in.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Ignorance of Biblical Proportion

Recently an atheist challenged me: “How can you accept the modern re-interpretation of bible verses previously taken literally . . .”

She asked this in regards to my contention that there is no “war” between science and scripture. It’s difficult to answer a question so laden with erroneous assumptions. Know what I mean? The query contains more errors than words!

I’ll limit myself to three corrections.

First, it is wrong-headed to conflate “literal” with “literalistic” or “literalism.”  (This is a fairly common mistake.) To interpret the Bible “literally” is not at all the same thing as to understand it “literalistically” or to subscribe to “literalism.”

Second, it is embarrassingly uninformed to allege that Christians “previously” interpreted the Bible all alike and literalistically. Christians throughout history—like today—have enjoyed a wide range of interpretations and understandings of scripture. Hermeneutics today and yesterday are far from monolithic.

Third—and this should be painfully obvious by now—there’s nothing whatsoever “modern” about the “re-interpretation” of biblical passages. Even a cursory knowledge of church history reveals this. For example, multiple approaches to Genesis 1 predate Darwin by literally (yes, I mean literally) centuries upon centuries. 

This is a problem I run into time and again: Atheists know next to nothing about the Bible and even less about church history. And yet they can’t stop blathering about the Faith.