Monday, June 18, 2018

The Evolving of Evolution into an Unconsidered Presupposition

Phillip E. Johnson, writing in Reason in the Balance:

The "platform of mechanism and materialism is now so firmly established in the world of higher education that it is very difficult for most professors even to imagine that the platform might be shaky. When a few years ago I began pressing in university circles the question whether evolutionary naturalism is true, I was met mainly with blank incomprehension. Ask a group of intellectuals whether new-Darwinism is really true, I learned, and you can hear the sound of minds snapping shut all around the room.
When I did get a reply, it usually was that 'evolution' is the best naturalistic theory and that naturalism is the philosophical basis of science and thus equivalent to rationality. Hence naturalism is 'the way we think today.' To ask modernists whether science is true is like asking them whether rationality is rational or truth is truthful. Science is, by modernist definition, our only truly objective way of knowing anything. 
Alfred North Whitehead was among the greatest of twentieth-century philosophers of science. In his classic work Science and the Modern World Whitehead wrote that to understand the philosophy of an age, the important thing to concentrate on is not the ideas that people are explicitly debating. More important by far are the presuppositions that practically everybody with any influence takes for granted, presuppositions that are rarely defended or even articulated because they seem so obviously true. These constitute the cultural definition of rationality, the beginning of reason. 
In the late twentieth century, the most important presuppositions in intellectual circles are that science has preeminent authority to describe reality and that science is based on naturalism--or methodological atheism, as it is sometimes called. This starting point necessarily implies, whether everyone understands the implication or not, that room for God exists only in the world of the imagination, or perhaps somewhere back in a 'Big Bang singularity' at the ultimate beginning of time. 
Belief in God may persist, particularly in people who have only a shallow understanding of science, but the believers can never have more than a tenuous standing in the world of the mind. Science can step forward at any time and employ its prestige to take control of any subject, even subjects inaccessible to empirical investigation like the ultimate beginning itself. Metaphysical statements by prominent scientists are accepted in the press and throughout public education as advances in scientific knowledge; contrary statements by theologians or religious leaders are dismissed as 'fundamentalism.' The naturalists hold the cultural power; theists in academic life have to accommodate as best they can."
Phillip E. Johnson in the chapter, The Beginning of Reason

"...evolution really is mistaken for explanation. It has the fatal quality of leaving on many minds the impression that they do understand it and everything else; just as many of them live under a sort of illusion that they have read the Origin of Species." G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

God is in Our Pain and Waiting for Us

C.S. Lewis, in The Problem of Pain:

"Now God, who has made us, knows what we are and that our happiness lies in Him. Yet we will not seek it in Him as long as He leaves us any other resort where it can even plausibly be looked for. While what we call 'our own life' remains agreeable we will not surrender it to Him. What then can God do in our interests but make 'our own life' less agreeable to us, and take away the plausible sources of false happiness? It is just here, where God's providence seems at first to be most cruel, that the Divine humility, the stooping down of the Highest, most deserves praise." 
C.S. Lewis, from the chapter Human Pain, from his book, The Problem of Pain

Friday, June 1, 2018

God is Not a Human Construct

David Powlison, of the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation, writes:

"What is the typical human experience of "God"? Depending on who you listen to, God is a philosophical abstraction, your higher power, an idol, an experiential high during meditation, a remote tyrant, a good buddy, creative energy, a benign grandfather, or even yourself. All these images grossly misshape God. Does that mean it is impossible to know the living and true God if I have spent my life believing such false images? The Bible everywhere rejects such an idea and offers instead to "open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light" (Acts 26:18). God is in the business of changing people's minds; (shining) in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6). Life experience is not supreme; neither are the lies that people believe. God is, and he alone trumps what we bring to the table." 
David Powlison, in his booklet, Life Beyond Your Parents' Mistakes

"Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: 'People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship--and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. 
'The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'
Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone--an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.'
When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, 'We want to hear you again on this subject.' At that, Paul left the Council. Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others." Acts 17:22-34  

Thursday, May 31, 2018

What Dictates Our Perception of God?

David Powlison of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation, writes:

"The question is, which do you allow to dictate your perception of God: the Word or personal experience? If you look at God only through the lens of your human experience, you misunderstand him. But when you listen, the Holy Spirit speaks through the Word to reinterpret your life experiences. This truth then goes on to shape your perceptions of future experience." 
David Powlison in the booklet, Life Beyond Your Parents' Mistakes

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart 
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6

"If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever--the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." John 14:15-17

"But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you." John 16:13-15

Monday, May 28, 2018

What Does it Mean to Be at Peace With Another?

The Bible tells us that, as much as it is up to us, to be at peace with one another (Romans 12:18). 

Now there are two forms this peace can take: physical peace between ourselves and someone else, and inner peace between ourself and God regarding another person.

In the first case--physical peace with another--we can show up at a gathering, run into a person in public, or even be related to them, and be at peace in the sense that we are cordial, graceful, polite and considerate. As much as it is up to us, we forge peace, whether the other person reciprocates or not. 

Now, after being with this person, or even during the time we are in the presence and proximity of this person, we may perhaps not actually feel inner peace. 

That would be the second form of peace: an inner peace before God, free of all offense, when we think of this person.

I can speak for myself when I say that, if I thought physical peace was difficult enough to attempt and maintain, establishing a true authentic inner peace regarding certain people can seem nigh impossible. It is truly the work of God in a heart and mind that is sincerely desiring to no longer take or feel offense.

I can honestly say that when I stopped feeding my flesh the false affirmations of being hurt and offended, and exchanged the manipulations and pettiness of man for the Truth of God, I was able to arrive at a state of inner peace before God regarding people who previously tripped me up. 

One of the ways I have been able to achieve this spiritual, mental, emotional and physical peace from my end is to first of all realize that the way people behave, the hurtful things they say, the negativity and judgments they lob, all come from a place of their own inner fallenness. They lack the love of God not because God does not love them, but because they do not know, accept or want God to love them. So they have rejected the love of God which is the beginning of being able to accept and love ourselves. 

Second, they cannot rise above their fallenness because they do not have the new life of Christ to direct them. So they go in circles, repeating the only thing they know that has always lifted them up (at least temporarily, and quite imperfectly). 

They gossip to be important, they lambast and character-assassinate to assuage their own sense of failure and lack, they boast to one-up, and they scheme to be the favorite to stay ahead of the constant threat they feel from others.

In short, it is a form of insecurity that drives people to enact all sorts of manipulations and power plays to keep themselves in a position of relevance that they never feel they quite own but are obsessed with obtaining.

So, once we understand why a sibling throws us under the bus by saying all sorts of hideous things about us behind our back, (never coming to us to discuss what perturbs them so), and once we comprehend why a co-worker or friend insists on kissing up to or taking on the role of golden child in the lives of others, we can then no longer let it bother us.

The gossip (and we've all been gossips at one time or another), does so because they either want to get attention for being the bearer of other people's news, or they want to make others look bad in order to make themselves feel better (warped, isn't it? The only way one can feel good about themselves is to denigrate other people). 

They are the most forlorn of all. How lonely it must be to see everyone in life as better than one's self, to the point that a person can never say anything good about anyone except for themselves.

In the case of the one who loves to be in the most beloved esteem of others, their manic grasping to be first among everyone else in the hearts and minds of others is merely a neurotic attempt to elbow their way into dominating and owning others in order to boost their own ego. Heaven forbid another co-worker, friend or sibling manages to have even a pittance of a close relationship with the one they covet. The one who craves esteem will ratchet up their dominance the minute they get wind that their prize is interacting with others.

I give these two examples because I believe them to be very common and because I understand them very well. 

But we can do this logical stepping back in any situation in which we are struggling to arrive at inner peace before God in regard to a particular person. We must look away from our own irritation to see what lies behind the out-workings of another. 

And when we attempt to discern what is really going on, we find out, thankfully, that it usually isn't about us. 

The critic isn't just critical of us, they are critical of everyone

The one who craves popularity with the parents or the boss doesn't just see you or I as competition, they see everyone as competition. 

The person playing both sides, pretending to be a confident to me and then exploiting my words is pretending to be a confident to everyone and exploiting their words too!

Realizing this alone can automatically remove much, if not all, of our being offended. 

Certainly there are times we are accountable for our role in a misunderstanding. It's taken me a long time to delineate those times from the times that it isn't me. And we can figure this out by observing the person in action with other people. Suddenly, once we crawl out of our own narrow vision of me, myself, and I, we will see that the person we thought was out to get us, is out to get everyone! 

And then there are those who are not out to get us, or anyone else. 

Those are the people that I've also discovered can have a mature, honest dialogue. When I go to them to apologize for something, they don't deny that I need to apologize, or they at least accept my apology even though they didn't notice the wrong I thought I may have committed. They don't deny what's true for me. They are mature enough to hear me out. 

These are the same people who I can come to and say, "I was hurt when you said such and such." They don't go all defensive, launch into a tirade of how I'm always the bad guy and then give me the silent treatment for years on end. These are the folks who can actually respond with, "I'm sorry I said that." And we can still be friends. The world doesn't come crashing down because they are uncomfortable either with someone else's apology, or with being gently confronted.

All of this is tied up in the luxury we have in this country of being easily offended. 

But as Christians, when we take the call seriously to, as much as it depends on us, be at peace with one another, we must work with God on arriving at that very peace: a peace only He can instill in us when we ask for His wisdom and discernment so that we can see what is really going on (in others and in ourselves).

And when we see that a physical peace, as good as it is, is often not the entire peace, and when we get to the point of disgust and exhaustion with being so internally disturbed with certain people, we reach out in that moment of despair and cry out to God to remove the ill will from us once and for all.

That is the moment when God begins to build compassion in us for those who torment us (either because they do torment us or because we allow the way they are to torment us). 

We begin to see the sinking sand that underlies their manipulations, attacks and toxicity. We see they are desperate for relief but don't know how to get it. We begin to feel a fire burn in us to pray to God to free them. We focus in all humility on their hurt, their pain, their lack, their obsessive drives to be affirmed by people who can never fully affirm them. 

Our hearts finally break for them in their captivity. The very captivity we were once depraved within when we came to the end of our miserable selves and were cracked wide open by God Himself so that, one at a time, our heart, mind, soul and body could emerge out of the deadness. It is there we met Jesus; birthed as His Spirit entered in, filling every fiber of our person with Himself.

"And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raises us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." Ephesians 2:1-7

"For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:3-7

That is what takes us from being perpetually caught in the petty traps of other people to freedom to love others as Christ loved us. To not be offended that they are dead in their trespasses, but crushed. To not be perturbed at their ignorance, but persevering in the confidence of God's goodness. To not take it personal, but pray they, too, come to the knowledge of the truth. 

"So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful." Colossians 3:12-15

copyright Barb Harwood

A Form of Godliness that Denies Scripture

John MacArthur, writing in his 2 Timothy New Testament Commentary:

"It is tragic and puzzling that so many preachers who recognize Scripture to be God's own Word spend more time investigating and interacting with the limited and imperfect minds of other men than delving into the infinite and holy mind of God. Part of the reason, of course, is that many hearers do not really want to delve into the depths of God's righteousness and truth, because it exposes their own shallowness and sin. Paul already has warned Timothy about the danger of those who hold 'to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power' (2 Tim. 3:5). Later in the present passage he will warn again that 'the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine;...and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths' (2 Tim. 4:3-4; cf. Acts 20:29-30). 
by John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 2 Timothy

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Commitment and Character, Not Success

John MacArthur writes, in his New Testament Commentary on 2 Timothy:

"Paul did not focus on the visible success of Timothy's ministry but on the excellence of his service. He focused not on Timothy's opportunities but on his commitment, not on his personal prominence but on his character. He expressed no concern for the young pastor's acceptance or reputation but great concern for his faithfulness and godliness. He did not emphasize the size, wealth, or influence of the church at Ephesus but rather its spiritual life and health under Timothy's care. He did not concentrate even on Timothy's spiritual gifts, important as those were, but on his spiritual life and his spiritual service." 
John MacArthur, New Testament Commentary, 2 Timothy