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“A personal relationship with reality”?

In When Atheists are Right on March 16, 2015 at 6:29 am

Billboard 1This billboard communicates an important truth: it’s good to have a relationship, personal or otherwise, with reality.  It is, however, contestable that atheism brings us into this relationship.  It does so only if there isn’t a God.   If there is a God, then this is false advertising.

 

 

 

God or a Caricature?

In Devotional, Rants on February 7, 2015 at 6:27 pm

Atheists rightWhile this certainly isn’t true in all cases, I find that most of the young people that I know who are walking away from God are not walking away from the actual God, but from a Modern or Western, watered-down imaginary representation of him–often the god of caricatured “fundamentalists.

Good, but the thing I wish they’d realize is that there’s more distance between this false conception of God and God as he really is than there is between a cheese dish served by Alain Passard at in Paris at Arpège and an ad for Kraft dinner in an old magazine in my doctor’s waiting room.

If you are rejecting God, you need to know who you are rejecting.

I must start with the disclaimer that I don’t really know God as he is, nor does any human being, but we get some hints from his creation and between the lines of the prophets through whom he spoke and most clearly in the person of Jesus Christ.

When we look at the cosmos we see that God is as creative as he is powerful. And he must like human beings a lot because he gives us all sorts of good things: love, food, sex, sunsets, beaches, oranges and wine.

God is perfect justice. I will admit that this is a bit of a stumbling block in our culture of tolerance. We don’t like a God that draws a clear line between right and wrong and then judges the wrong. This is but one attribute of God, but he’s a lot easier to walk away from if we imagine it’s the only attribute. This is usually only a stumbling block to those who experience no true injustice. Consider all the crap that some people have to live with at the hands of others; then the God of justice moves from an embarrassment to a necessity to get up in the morning. It is definitely wrong to machine gun children, or to rape teen aged girls and string them up in a tree to taunt their grieving, and helpless father or to force women and children into sexual, or any other kind of, slavery. You know people do this, right? If one’s life is filled with this kind of injustice, justice isn’t so easy to dismiss and the God who is justice isn’t so easy to reject.

He’s also perfect love. Yeah, I know. Perfect justice AND perfect love? How to you put those things together? Well, if there truly was a God, I think it’s reasonable to expect that there’d be some things that would be, intellectually, a little hard to grasp. He knew it was hard to grasp so he showed us what it looks like–his son on the cross–he judged Jesus as if he were us (justice), and then he treats us as if we were Jesus (love). Perfect justice and perfect love is right there at the cross.   It’s pretty clear that he will do anything and everything to bring you into a relationship with him. Everything, that is, except force you to be in a relationship with him.   That’s perfect love.

So if you are going to walk away from God, walk away from the one who heals the sick and blesses the poor, away from the one who eats with prostitutes and then lifts up those that are abused and seats them at the best seats at his table. The one who will bring justice to those who use people like objects and to those self-righteous folk who already have everything that they are going to get, away from the one can only woo you to him with the sacrifice of his love, and who loves you so much he won’t force you.

Does Religion Divide us?

In When Atheists are Right on January 4, 2014 at 9:30 pm

Religion dividesJohn Lennon asked us to imagine a world with no religion.  I think the reason he wanted a world of no religion was because religion divides us.

 Debate.org asked the question: Does religion divide the world?

73% of those responding said yes.

Why does religion divide?  One of the respondents (AbdulRaufw4lr6s) nailed it explaining that “Religion is another form of categorizing” :

Religion . . . tries to divide between good and evil . . . ; accordingly, people who belong into that particular definition of ‘good’ is called the ‘believers’ and likewise, those who belong into the definition of evil is termed ‘sinners.’ From there, the whole process of giving definition and categorization escalates . . .

It is true that religion divides humanity in exactly this way.  Whenever someone claims and exclusive truth there is a great danger of division.  The thing is, everyone makes truth claims

–even “non-religious” people:

“All religions lead to God”

“There is no God”

“Truth requires evidence”

“The ends justify the means”

So the issue is not whether or not one will hold a exclusive belief; the issue is to which exclusive set of beliefs will one hold.

In the spirit of unity, why not the one that will most likely lead to unity?  Let this be our standard.

In a sermon entitled, “Exclusivity: How can there be just one true religion?” Tim Keller identify three key differences between Christianity and every other religious beliefs.  Keller contends that it is in these differences that we find the basis for unity.

The differences:

  1. The central figure of all other religious beliefs is a human being, but in Christianity it is God himself.
  2. This God became flesh–he became a human being.
  3. In all other religions the central figure tells us what we need to do in order to be blessed, but in Christianity, God blessed us because we could never      deserve it.

These very things, if they are embodied, are the very things that will bring peace on earth.

  1. Because we aren’t saved by our performance, we can’t even begin “the whole process of giving definition and categorization” described by           AbdulRaufw4lr6s.  Keller points out that both the secularists and moralists look down their noses at others, but people who live the Gospel believe that they are no better than any one else, probably worse.  If you’ve run into Christians who think they are better than everyone else, you’ve either misunderstood them, or they’ve misunderstood the gospel.
  1. All other religions, (according to Keller) point to a life to come as the true destination for humanity.  Christianity, on the other hand, is very interested in THIS life.  By becoming flesh, God himself is affirming this world–this physical world.  He wants all of humanity to work together to make this world a good world–he wants us to serve the world, as he did when he died for it and us.  If you’ve run into Christians who don’t care about the environment, for instance, then you have either misunderstood them, or they have  misunderstood the gospel.
  1. Jesus is God.  Keller admits this sounds a little arrogant.  But Jesus came into the Jewish/Roman world which was very divided.   There were      tremendous divisions between Greeks and Jews and the rich and poor. The early Church gives testimony to the inclusive nature of the gospel.  Christians mixed races and socioeconomic classes.  This unity was created because people understood Jesus to be God, not just a man, who came to earth and died for people who hated him so that they might live, both now and forever.  How can a person who follows this God, look down on others for any reason?

Jesus, Zeus, Thor and the Kraken

In Rants, Worldview on December 23, 2013 at 12:22 am

FootballOne more thing about the Bill Maher video.

Consider this my Christmas post.

In the video, Maher equates faith in Jesus Christ with belief in Zeus, Thor and the Kraken and all the other “stuff that is not evidenced based.”

I love it when he gives us the circumstances by which he would become a believer. He challenges, “Show me a God and I will believe in him. If Jesus Christ comes down from the sky during the half time show at the super bowl” and starts doing miracles, then he will believe in God. Confidently he concludes, “But that’s not going to happen.”

But it did happen.

It is only in timing that God’s plan diverges from Maher’s. Other than that, the Incarnation of God on earth was exactly the sort of proof that he demands. If the Incarnation is what Christians proclaim, I don’t think that even Maher would insist that there ought to be some repeat performance just for his sake. The issue for Maher is that he doesn’t trust the first century Jews and Romans who saw, first hand, the events as recorded in the Gospels. For some reason, he doesn’t trust their testimony. Perhaps he doesn’t think they were as smart as he is, or at least rational–too easily duped.

A good argument can be made that first century Jews were less likely to believe that Jesus was the son of God than modern day atheists. They proclaimed every day that God is One–they refused to give up this tenet even in the fact of the most horrendous persecution by the likes of Antiochus Epiphanies. Still, they were convinced. Christianity started with a significant number of these very people willing to die equally horrible deaths at the hands of the Romans proclaiming what they had seen with their own eyes.

Granted, there were some who saw and did not believe. I wonder if Maher would be convinced even with his Super Bowl miracle. Then as now, to accept that God exists and that Jesus Christ is his son necessarily leads to submission to this God. For many, it’s this submission that is the issue, rather than the evidence.

Within Maher’s cynicism is an incredible testimony of how incredible an event the coming of Christ was. What actually happened, and convinced so many of the inconvincible, was much more wonderful than the trick of changing “nachos into loaves and fishes” at a football game. Instead of changing a modern snack food into the ancient equivalent, he fed the hungry, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind and made the lame to walk again; he offered forgiveness to all–shady businessmen, prostitutes and me. 0

Evidence aside, this is a God of a different category that Zeus or Thor or the Kraken?