Dawkins Small Group

Do you know this guy?  He kind of looks like an 80’s musician who might have had some big hits, but its actually Richard Dawkins Pope of the new atheism.

This last week I got to go to a small group that is centered on Richard Dawkins’  book “The God Delusion.”  The group is made up of some agnostics, others ready to walk away from their faith, and some Christians.  It is ironic that the new atheism has become so much a religion that Dawkins was having atheist camp this summer for youth,  and now there are small groups popping up that study atheistic teachings.

This last week we all kind of shared where we are at when it came to believing in God and then moved on to can an atheist have meaning and value in their lives.  Dawkins claims an atheist can and that he sees beauty and meaning all throughout nature, but I kept wondering how?  Where does Dawkins ground meaning and beauty?  Let me share something from theologian G.K. Beale which nails this point.

I once had a philosophy professor who was an atheistic existentialist (no god, we create meaning). He was more consistent than some Christians in living out his beliefs.  He passionately believed them. He believed all of his life was without meaning, and he committed himself to the idol of irrationality.  He believed that since there was no God there is no meaning in life. So he said, “Why should I listen to the authority of the university? There is no God who set up any authorities, including university authorities.” So he would only come to class every once in awhile. He would say, “let’s go to the pub or maybe to my house. And maybe we won’t meet for three weeks, and we’ll see how it goes.” Eventually the university fired him.  And then a few years later, I read a newspaper headline regarding him: “University Professor Commits Experiment in Suicide.”  Because life had no meaning, he thought that perhaps in an act of suicide he would find some irrational mystic meaning.  So he slashed his wrist, and as he was dying, he was taking notes.  And he said, “These notes are for my students. And in case I find no meaning in this suicide, and I doubt I will because there is no meaning in anything, maybe they will find some irrational mystic meaning in my thoughts as I am dying and taking notes.”

So what gives us meaning?  When you look at your wife or husbands face, or a new born baby why do you believe it has meaning or value?  Or anymore value than an empty beer bottle?  The atheist must live with the depressing truth of meaninglessness, which is utterly contrary to all we experience and intuitively believe.

ryan

Advertisements

The Culture Wars And Why They Will Continue

Here is something I wrote during seminary and am becoming more convinced that it might be correct.

It has become common for young Christian leaders to have apathy towards a right-wing Christianity that is constantly at odds with the culture around them.  Younger Christians are standing up and saying they want to move past the tired culture war debates that have persisted over the last 30 years.  But I have begun to wonder if this is really possible or just a naive idea.

Don’t get me wrong I think that some Christians, past and present, have too tightly tied together biblical principles and political values.  And the result has been that for many of the unchurched in our nation Christianity is a group of hypocritical bigots who are just trying to establish a puritanical theocracy.

But is it possible for biblical faithful Christians to move past the culture wars?  As much as I would like to say yes the sad truth is no, in fact I think the culture wars will only escalate in the coming decades.  And while they may go dormant with one side winning more than the other they will only boil more intensely as time goes on.

My point of this post is not to rally the troops or to prepare you to pick sides but more of to explain why I think this is the case.

Up until the Enlightenment humanity had a shared theistic/deism/Christian worldview.  This worldview grounded morality and explained how people ought to act and behave.  It was the grounding, to use the proper philosophical term, of why people acted with virtue.  We had a shared civil morality that grounded how we governed and interacted with each other.  With the Enlightenment this all changed.

Nietzsche proclaimed that God was dead and with the rise of Darwinian evolution we were freed from the need to believe that God created the cosmos, therefore if God was not needed for creation he was not needed to ground our morality either.  Such statements that we find in our Declaration of Independence that ground the worth and value of humans not in what they can do or achieve but rather in their orgins/ontology no longer made any sense.  It became impossible to tell anyone why they should not steal, or harm others, other than to make secular arguments from utilitarianism about working for the greatest good for the greatest number.  But even with utilitarianism there is no grounding for the “ought” why ought one comply with what is good for the greatest number and for that matter what is good and who gets to define it?

With this moral confusion fascism, communism and uber-nationalism took root.  The history of the twentieth century bore the fruit of these new human ambitions with events such as WWI, WWII, and the atrocities of Pol-Pot in China. Secular intellectuals who put such hope in these ideologies did not return to faith for the grounding of human morality and meaning rather they reached into despair that any truth about the world was possible, thus the rise of postmodernism.

Truth became subjective (true for you but not for me), minimalistic (as long as I don’t hurt anyone) and ever changing depending on one’s culture.  Morality was turned into a hodgepodge of sentimental consensus and preference.  Which effectively stripped it of a sturdy basis to speak out against moral evils.

Without a grounding for morality no moral consensus can be reached, which is why we are in an ongoing culture war.  Human rights, and morality once grounded in Creator God are now subjective instead of objective.

Without God and grounding our morality in him we are left with no real resource to say what is good or evil, right or wrong, or how humans ought to live. And these are really the root issues and matters that undergird all of the culture wars, and why they will only intensify over time.  For the Christian, human rights, morality, and truth are knowable and rooted in God.  For many secular liberals nothing could be more absurd and disdainful.  As time wears on this cultural divide will only make itself more apparent in our elections, educational systems, entertainment, and laws.

Of course I am not advocating a “us vs. them” posture.  I am simply attempting to explain the culture wars and why they will continue.  It will be the responsibility of every mature follower of Jesus to deftly navigate these perilous culture waters and love both the truth God has objectively given to us and our neighbor.

ryan

Why We Love The Church

One of the best book I read a few years ago was “Why We’re Not Emergent.”  It was well reasoned, incredibly written, and avoided unneeded polemics in favor of a passionate plea to take serious issues that deeply effect our understanding of God.  Well the authors, Ted Kluck, and Kevin DeYoung have a new book out, a follow up if you will, entitled “Why We Love The Church.”  Here is a quote from me that has said much of what I have felt about doctrine and the church for many years now.

Church isn’t boring because we’re not showing enough film clips, or because we play an organ instead of guitar. It’s boring because we neuter it of its importance. Too often we treat our spiritual lives like the round of golf used to open George Barna’s Revolution. At the end of my life, I want my friends and family to remember me as someone who battled for the Gospel, who tried to mortify sin in my life, who found hard for life, and who contended earnestly for the faith. Not just a nice guy who occasionally noticed the splendor of the mountains God created, while otherwise just trying to enjoy myself, manage my schedule, and work on my short game.

ryan

The Doctrine of Union With Christ

Had a great conversation with a friend tonight and he was telling me about how he did not understand what it means to be “in Christ.”  Paul uses this phrase constantly in his writing and for many of us we just kind of gloss right over it.  Yet there might not be anymore precious, practical doctrine that a Christian can live in than that of our Union with Christ through the reconciliation that took place on the Cross.

It reminded me of how much I have profited from learning about what our Union in Christ means.  If you are looking to really delve into it listen to Phil Ryken’s talk from the Gospel Coalition on the topic.

First let me say that this doctrine is somewhat mysterious, just like the teaching of a husband and wife becoming one (Eph. 5:32) so to is the union between us and Jesus.  We must be humble in speaking about our union with Christ as it does have a mystical component that we must leave open to the will of the Holy Spirit.  This does not mean we can not say anything in fact there are some glorious truths we can state confidently.

1. First our union with Jesus is legal.  When we our viewed by God the Father it is through Christ and his righteousness that he sees us.  This does not mean he does not see us and only Jesus, but that when he sees us it is in union with Christ and therefore Creator God views us as justified.

2. Our union with Christ is spiritual.  The Holy Spirit which dwells in us is the bond that holds us in Christ.  Through the work of the Holy Spirit we die with Christ, are reborn with Christ, and live new life with Christ.  The Holy Spirit unites us to Christ in a supernatural way in that as we grow over time to imitate Jesus and look more like him, it is done by the work of the Holy Spirit.

3. Our union with Christ is powerful.  Because of our union with Christ Jesus’ life flows through us renewing our minds, hearts, and desires (Rom. 12:2, 2 Cor. 4).  We are transformed to be like Jesus, not through our own power (which we could never have) but because of our union with Christ.

4. Our union with Christ sustains us.  In John 15 Jesus unpacks how he is the vine and we are the branches.  Jesus tells us we can do nothing.  Grasp that you can do nothing outside of your union with Christ.  As a branch Jesus will prune you so that you can bear fruit which is our last one.

5.  Our union with Christ allows us to bear spiritual fruit.  Jesus allows intended to reconcile all things to himself through us and his Great Commission.  Your relationship with Jesus is incomplete and not meant to be just you and him.  Jesus was clear that as his branches he always intended that we bear fruit, that is spiritual fruit.

Our union with Christ is the Christian life, it is our salvation.

ryan

Doug Groothuis: MeWorld

My former Professor at Denver Seminary has a fun blog that I like to read on occasion called The Constructive Curmudgeon.  His posts are often thought provoking and convicting for me.  Here is a post he wrote a few days ago about the implicit self-absorption that makes up much of our current culture.  He entitled he parody post “MeWorld” which I think says it all.

Hi, this is Me.

You need to know everything about Me. Here are hundreds of photos of Me. I am cool, cute, in the know, have photogenic friends, and those who aren’t make Me look better. I can strike a pose, even hundreds of them: Me on display for you.

You need to know all My likes and dislikes, too: My favorite TV shows, movies, video games, foods, celebrities, clothes, tweets, and more. My trivia is your treasure–because it’s Mine.

It’s MeWorld: just Me for everyone out there, because you need to know Me. I need more friends on Facebook, more twitter partners, more posts on My blog, more cell calls, more links to Me, more emails to Me, more YouTube videos featuring Me.
You need to know everything about Me.

Don’t you? Hello…

Saved

Because of Jesus’ work on the Cross the Christian can say; “I have been saved, I am being saved, and when Jesus returns, I will finally be saved.”

Dwell in this, as it is what your maker is doing/has done for you.

ryan

Why Suffering?

As I have been reading through “The Brothers Karamazov” I have been wrestling with the topic of suffering.  Now the topic of suffering is immense and the questions pile up very quickly the more one examines all the different angles of suffering.

I am going to do a series of blogposts on suffering starting with the why.

Going to the beginning we see in creation that God made everything very good and in harmony with himself.  In our rebellion against him we fractured that relationship with God and humanity was broken, along with the world we live in.  The Christian must go back to the fall to understand what there is suffering.  That at the fall humans chose to rebel against their Creator for the idol of self-deity.

Along with that rebellion all of nature also fell out of accord with its maker. Romans tells us that all of creation yearns for the time of redemption when God will restore the natural world to its rightful and perfect state.  Just like us, creation is in need of being made whole.

Therefore suffering finds its origins in humanity willfully sinning against God and leaving us broken.

And as the old saying goes; hurt people hurt people.  All of us are broken and with our free will continue to hurt others as we have been hurt as well.  Suffering comes from our sinful hearts, from a nature that is still in rebellion to God and choosing to surpress the truth in our evilness.

This is what makes it ironic when humans query why God allows suffering, for if he were to eliminate it, it would be the end of us.  Evil which causes suffering is not “out there” or a karmic force of some kind, rather it is the nature of our hearts.  For God to do away with it would result in the death of all of us.

This is why the Christian God is one of unimaginable mercy and kindness.  He is slow to anger and quick to love.  He patiently waits for us to turn to Jesus and be given a new heart and nature, and the grace for our evil we do not deserve.  For rather than choosing to stamp all evil which results in suffering, God has chosen to offer redemption to us sinners with wickedness finding its fount in our fallen nature.

May you dwell in the grace and mercy of God that he has chosen not to eradicate evil instantaneously, and that our suffering is rooted not in God’s apathy toward our pain, but instead in his willingness to offer us new life through the blood of Christ.

ryan