Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Skeptic's Prayer

This is the last post on our “Problem with God” blog. We will continue to monitor the postings for comments and reply as needed. It’s been good talking and dialoging with you! My sincere prayer is that you find your heart’s true home.

I leave you with this extended quote from one of my favorite authors, Peter Kreeft, professor o philosophy at Boston College from his book, Handbook of Christian Apologetics.

“This claim – that all seekers find – is testable by experience, by experiment. If you are an honest scientist, here is a way to find out whether Christianity is true or not...

Perform the relevant experiment. To test the hypothesis that someone is behind the door, knock. To test the Christian hypothesis that Christ is behind the door, knock.

How do you know? Pray! Tell Christ you are seeking the truth – seeking him, if he is the truth. Ask him to fulfill his promise that all who seek him will find him. In his own time, of course. He promised that you would find, but he didn’t promise a schedule. He’s a lover, not a train.

But – you may reply – I don’t know whether Christ is God. I don’t even know whether there is a God. That’s all right; you can pray the prayer of the skeptic:

God, I don’t know whether you even exist. I’m a skeptic. I doubt. I think you may be only a myth. But I’m not certain (at least not when I’m completely honest with myself). So if you do exist, and if you really did promise to reward all seekers, you must be hearing me now. So I hereby declare myself a seeker, a seeker of the truth, whatever it is and wherever it is. I want to know the truth and live the truth. If you are the truth, please help me.

If Christianity is true, he will. Such a prayer constitutes a scientifically fair test of the Christian “hypothesis”—that is, if you do not put unfair restrictions on God, like demanding a miracle (your way, not his) or certainty by tomorrow (your time, not his). The demand that God act like your servant is hardly a scientifically fair test of the hypothesis that there is a God who is your King.

But all this King asks for at first is honesty, not faking a faith you do not have. Honesty is a choice of the will—the choice to seek the truth no matter what or where. This is the most momentous choice you can make. It is the choice of light over darkness, ultimately heaven over hell.”

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Saturday, March 8, 2008

Seek and You Will Find

The headline is a promise from the most amazing person to walk the face of this earth. Disagree with him, deride him, mock him, reject him – but do not underestimate the influence Jesus has exerted on this world or the power of his words. No one has affected the course of history more than Jesus Christ. This man from Nazareth – whom we Christians believe was both God and man – makes this amazing promise: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Many have earnestly taken him up on those words – and have found them to be true. Moreover, they have found him to be true.

If you sincerely desire to know the truth, I encourage you to...

accept Jesus’ challenge. But, be honest. If you want to debate because you enjoy intellectual sparring, fine. Just don’t call yourself a seeker. Call yourself a debater. If you really want to know the truth, you can. Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Pilate, who condemned him, asked Jesus, “What is truth.” The Answer was starring him in the face.

My mentor, Bob Tuttle, came to faith in Christ as a skeptical college student. He prayed, “God, if there is a God, I give all I know of myself to all I know of you.” God met him right then and there and his life has never been the same. Why? The Jesus of history is alive today working in people’s lives.

Religious historian Huston Smith says that only two people in history have caused their contemporaries to ask not, “Who is he?” but “What is he?” He said those two are Jesus Christ and the Buddha. And of those, only one said “I am the way.” Buddha says, “Here are my teachings, follow them.” Jesus said, “Follow me.” Buddha never claimed deity. Jesus did. Buddha died and remained buried. Jesus rose from the dead. “What is he?” indeed.

I will echo Daniel Taylor’s invitation. If you would like to speak with me or any other contributor to this blog, feel free to go to our church website and email us. As fellow travelers, we will be glad to point you in the direction of life that was once pointed out to us. Belief in God makes us no better than anyone else. Hopefully, it makes us better than we were. It’s been said that sharing faith is “one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” If you want to know where the bread of life is, we’ll help you find it.

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Friday, March 7, 2008

The Wager

“I should be much more afraid of being mistaken and then finding out that Christianity is true, than of being mistaken and believing it to be true.”

In a nutshell that is what is called “The Wager.” It was developed by Blaise Pascal, the brilliant French philosopher, scientist and mathematician of the seventeenth century. He died much too young, in his 30’s, yet accomplished more than many do in a life twice his length. Most of his life he lived as a nominal Catholic until late in his 20’s when he had a second conversion experience. His profound experience of God thoroughly changed him and he became...

an apologist for Christian faith.

The wager is basically this: On the objective side, either God exists or he does not. On the subjective side, I believe it or I do not believe it. If God exists and I believe, I have everything to gain and nothing to lose. If God does not exist and I believe, I gain nothing and lose nothing. If God does not exist and I do not believe, I gain nothing and I lose nothing. However, if God exists and I do not believe, I gain nothing and I lose everything (eternal happiness). Since neither objective position can be proved in this world, the options remain open and a “bet” is possible as well as necessary. Pascal’s wager points out that a choice must be made and the consequences of that choice. Everyone must choose and everything hangs in the balance. Where do you place your bet?

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Desperate Atheists?

You’ve heard of Desperate Housewives. I propose that the rash of books over the past couple years from atheist writers could be classified as “Desperate Atheists.” Historically, the greatest philosophical argument against belief in God, especially Christian belief, is the presence of evil in the world. (In fact, Boston College Professor of Philosophy Peter Kreeft says the problem of evil is truly the only “proof” against belief in God. There are arguments against belief, but no other “proofs” in the atheistic arsenal.) Yet, this proof has been thoroughly demolished by Christian philosophers with the argument of free will. “Man can only be a saint in a world where he can also be a devil.” If we are free, we must be free to do evil. The vast majority of suffering and evil in this world is carried out by people against other people. God gave us the gift of freedom and our misuse of that gift is the cause behind much of the world’s suffering. The argument of free will is so airtight that atheist writers don’t even take it on aggressively anymore. In my readings of Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens I found it interesting that they...

hardly mention it. No wonder they are desperate. Their only “proof” is dismantled. Couple that with the greatest philosophical problem for atheism (the existence of and continued growth of faith in God worldwide) and modern atheists find themselves in a philosophical dilemma.

Oxford professor Alister McGrath articulates this dilemma quite well in his brilliant response to Richard Dawkins’ best selling book, The God Delusion. What follows is an extensive quote from McGrath, using the conclusion from his book, The Dawkins Delusion. While the book focuses on Dawkins’ in particular, the points he makes are applicable to other current atheist writers as well.

“Every worldview, whether religious or not, has its point of vulnerability. There is a tension between theory and experience, raising questions over the coherence and trustworthiness of the worldview itself. In the case of Christianity, many locate that point of weakness in the existence of suffering within the world. In the case of atheism, it is the persistence of belief in God, when there is supposedly no God in which to believe.

Until recently Western atheism had waited patiently, believing that belief in God would simply die out. But now, a whiff of panic is evident. Far from dying out, belief in God has rebounded and seems set to exercise still greater influence in both the public and private spheres. The God Delusion expresses this deep anxiety, partly reflecting an intense distaste for religion. Yet there is something deeper here, often overlooked in the heat of debate. The anxiety is that the coherence of atheism itself is at stake. Might the unexpected resurgence of religion persuade many that atheism itself is fatally flawed as a worldview?

The God Delusion seems more designed to reassure atheists whose faith is faltering than to engage fairly or rigorously with religious believers and others seeking for truth. (One wonders if this is because the writer is himself an atheist whose faith is faltering.) Religious believers will be dismayed by its ritual stereotyping of religion and will find its manifest lack of fairness a significant disincentive to take its arguments and concerns seriously. Seekers after truth who would not consider themselves religious may also find themselves shocked by Dawkins’s aggressive rhetoric, his substitution of personal creedal statements for objective engagement with evidence, his hectoring and bullying tone toward “dyed-in-the-wool faith-heads” and his utter determination to find nothing but fault with religion of any kind.

It is this deep, unsettling anxiety about the future of atheism that explains the “high degree of dogmatism” and “aggressive rhetorical style” of this new secular fundamentalism. Fundamentalism arises when it fears its own future is threatened. The God Delusion is a work of theater rather than scholarship—a fierce, rhetorical assault on religion and passionate plea for it to be banished to the lunatic fringes of society, where it can do no harm. None can doubt the visceral appeal that this book will make to a secular audience that is alarmed at the new political importance attached to religion and its growing influence and presence in the public arena. Its dismissive attitude to religion will doubtless win plaudits from those who heartily dislike religion.

Yes others have been more cautious. Aware of the moral obligations of a critic of religion to deal with this phenomenon at its best and most persuasive, many have been disturbed by Dawkins’s crude stereotypes, vastly oversimplified binary oppositions (science is good; religion is bad), straw men and hostility toward religion. Might The God Delusion actually backfire and end up persuading people that atheism is just as intolerant, doctrinaire and disagreeable as the worst that religion can offer?

Dawkins seems to think that saying something more loudly and confidently, while ignoring or trivializing counterevidence, will persuade the open-minded that religious belief is a type of delusion. Sadly, sociological studies of charismatic leaders—religious and secular—indicate that Dawkins may be right to place some hope in this strategy. For the gullible and credulous, it is the confidence with which something is said that persuades rather than the evidence offered in its support. Yet the fact that Dawkins relies so excessively on rhetoric rather than the evidence that would otherwise be his natural stock in trade clearly indicates that something is wrong with his case. Ironically the ultimate achievement of The God Delusion for modern atheism may be to suggest that this emperor has no clothes to wear. Might atheism be a delusion about God?” – Alister McGrath, The Dawkins Delusion (InterVarsity Press, 2007), pp.95-97.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Questions, Questions, Questions...

During this series we have explored all kinds of questions, and we have answered many of those questions. However, I really don’t think we will ever be able to answer all the questions and concerns that seem to stand in the way of someone believing in God.

We know all kinds of stuff...

about God. He has revealed himself in so many different and unique ways. I realize that in making the previous statement, some reading this will question whether not that is true. I am comfortable with that happening. However, I guess what I am not comfortable with, is someone not responding to God’s desire to connect with them based on a technicality. We hear about the criminal that is exonerated in a murder trial because of a technicality, and we are disgusted. It is one of those things that happens in our justice system that just doesn’t seem right. How can someone not be held accountable based on a technicality? Of the same token, how can someone not respond to God based on a technicality? We spend an enormous amount of time and energy trying to answer all of the difficult questions about God. At the end of the day, are we any more closer to God then when we first began? Hopefully!

Here is the bottom line for me: without faith, God is just a nice idea. It requires faith to believe in God. It requires a leap of faith for many. Now, are there facts and figures that we can point to that support the reality of God’s existence? Absolutely! But at the end of the day, it takes faith to believe in God.
I would like for my last blog entry to simply ask a few questions. Here they are:

What is your technicality?
What is preventing you from fully believing in God?
Do you have faith that God is real? If not, why?
Can you make the decision to put your faith in God today? If not, why?

If you are willing to allow yourself to be really honest and are open to discussion on these questions, I’d love to speak further with you.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A Closing Shot

Alas, the blog is quickly coming to a close. Bummer. In closing, at least for my part, I want to say

mad props to Pastor Ron for setting up this blog to discuss these problems that people have with God. And extra mad props to those of you out there in cyberspace that have taken the time and energy to read and dialogue with us. My hope and prayer is that there are those of you out there that have been reading and commenting that have had a nugget of truth planted in your minds, hearts, and souls, and that God would use that truth to show you that He is real and that He is the true way to fulfillment. I know I have enjoyed and have benefited from the interchanges that we have had with some of you. It's easy to fall into the, "I just believe it" rut, so it's good to have others shake us out of that to answer the question, "But WHY do you believe it?" So even if no one else has taken anything away from this conversation, I have and am grateful.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Confession from a former Atheist

On this blog we have been posting answers to questions submitted at La Croix Church over the course of a six-week series called "The Problem with God." We received nearly 200 questions. Like the others, today's post came anonymously from someone in our congregation. Though it's not a question, it is an interesting observation.

This is not a question, but a confession from a former atheist. Atheists want to believe they... are too smart to believe and boast of their intelligence and demean believers to increase their pride. But in reality, atheists are trying to overcome their greatest fear…that maybe Christians are right. That is why they work so hard to convince the world there is no God. If NO ONE believes then there could not possibly be a God. The truth is atheists do not have anything to believe in. There is no other reason for life…this world…or anything if you do not believe in God. The truth is atheists live a life of fear and sadness without knowing why!

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rob's Problem with God

For my last post, I wanted to give my own perspective on problems with God. As I reflect back on those times when something was really interfering with my faith, or my relationship with God, I can honestly say that my biggest problem with God was...drum roll please...ME!

My problem with God was that he wasn't doing things the way I wanted things done, or wasn't waving the wand and making the outcomes I wanted happen. He was calling me to something better for me but at the cost of something really comfortable, numbing or short-term pleasurable for me. My problem with God was that he wanted to be God rather than letting me be God.

It took a long time of trusting and being patient enough to see the blessing of obedience before I came to realize that life is so much better when I let him assume the God role. It may not look better in the worldly sense (e.g. I make a lot less money now than I did as an engineer), but it is incredibly better. Peace, joy, and a certainty of being loved and forgiven even in the midst of difficulty beat the crud out of material stuff.

For far too long in my life I believed in the concept of God...I believed things about God. Many of the questions we've addressed on the blog, while good and honest, deal with God as a concept. Only in the last ten years or so have I come to believe in God and believe God as a person. I have encountered a loving, compassionate, Savior who cares so much more about us than we even care about ourselves. I hope you encounter and come to know this person, too.

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Friday, February 22, 2008


Q: Why would God ever test us?

A: Why not? Just because God tests us does not mean that he is unloving or not concerned about us. It is the very opposite. He tests us because he cares about us. He tests us because he loves. He tests us because he is more concerned about our character than he is our comfort. Don’t get me wrong God is not against comfort necessarily, but he is absolutely more concerned about transforming us into the very image of Christ. Theologian’s call this process sanctification, which basically is a fancy word for the process of becoming like Christ.

James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

When we are tested or when we go through difficult times our character is formed in the fire of those experiences, which in turn produces perseverance and perseverance leads us towards wholeness or completeness in Christ. The Bible says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The word perfect is actually “teleos” which literally means “complete”. God wants us to be complete in him, so “how is that possible?” We are made perfect through these times of testing and trial.

It is important to distinguish between testing and tempting. Sometimes people get confused with whether or not God tempts us or test us. The Bible clearly tells us that God never tempts us (James 1); however, over and over again in the Scripture we are told that God tests his people. It is Satan that tempts and God who tests.

We assume that God is testing us because he needs to know whether we are going to be faithful or not. God is sovereign and does not need to test us to know whether or not we will be faithful. God is already aware of what we are going to do. He knows what we are going to do (fore-knowledge), but does not determine what we are going to do (free-will).

Testing is more about us. It is about revealing to us who we really are and what we are going to be about. Are we truly going to follow God with our lives? We are tested by God many times to prove to ourselves that we can be faithful. If we make the right choice one time, then we can make the right choice another time. It builds our confidence for living God’s way.

So the next time you feel like you are being tested, or going through trials ask this question: “Lord, what are you trying to teach me?”

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Peter's Faith

Q: Initially Peter was reported to have been quite close to Jesus and eager to both defend him and protect Him from Roman soldiers in the Garden of Gethsemane. He attempted to decapitate Malchus, but severed only his ear. He then served with Jesus for a period of several months, observing the teachings of Christ and getting to know Him on a deeper more personal basis. It was only after getting to know him and observing his teachings on an ongoing basis, and watching his miracles and listening to his ministry. Did Peter’s faith, as evidenced by his denial of being a follower, decrease rather than increase as he got closer to Christ?

Actually, Peter spent about three years with Jesus prior to the Garden of Gethsemane event you mention; and that event happened just hours before Peter’s denial. While this question has some of the timeline facts of Peter’s life with Christ amiss, I chose to answer it because of what I perceive to be the underlying question, “Why does Peter sometimes show flashes of faith and then fall flat on his face at other times?”

First let me say that I love how the Gospels are honest about Peter’s struggles with faith. At one moment he’s jumping out of the boat in faith, only to sink in the water from wavering faith. He believes Jesus Is the Son of God, but then feels the need to jump in and try to fix things himself.

I love these stories because they ring true to us, and also because they show Christ’s posture toward us when our faith slips at times. He immediately offers a hand up from the water and, after the resurrection, he restores Peter from his three-fold denial. As I’ve written in other posts, Christians sometimes underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. One of the main things the Bible says that the Holy Spirit does is witness to the truth of Jesus Christ. It is that witness that deepens our faith. After receiving the Spirit on Pentecost, Peter shows incredible courage through beatings, imprisonment and even execution.

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