Thursday, May 28, 2009

Heart & Mind


Many atheists and theists alike seem to be overly impressed with the human brain and its use for finding and truly knowing truth. Don’t get me wrong, I count myself as a Christian that has good reason for my belief and lean not on the “just believe” mantra. But faith is a component and faith is not a matter that is understood with pure intellectual effort. This is perhaps the biggest reason that atheists hold so dear to their world view. How dare we ask them to consider to do as God asks them…to give of their heart!

Perhaps one of the best examples in Scripture of just how much “head knowledge” will get you is in the example of Solomon. Son of David and King of all Israel he was literally given the opportunity by God Himself to ask of anything. Instead of endless riches and long life Solomon merely asked God for wisdom. God, being pleased with this answer, gave him what he asked for going so far as to say, “there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both riches and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.”

Do you understand the implications of what has transpired here? Essentially God is giving Solomon wisdom to such a degree that no other man, before or after him would possess. Kind of interesting when you consider the brilliant minds that have graced this earth, isn’t it?

Yet how does Solomon’s gift help him in pursuing truth, in pursing a relationship with God? Examples can surely be given that it did indeed help him. He had a very unique insight on how things work and how to righteously discern. Yet how did this man with such a wonderful gift end his journey here on earth?

Well after taking on hundreds of wives (many of which were from foreign lands – a forbidden practice) and concubines Solomon set about worshiping the gods and idols of these women betraying God. “The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the LORD's command. So the LORD said to Solomon, "Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates.”

I wonder if you noticed the word “heart” in that piece of Scripture? Though this man possessed as much knowledge as any one human will ever experience…he still failed to have the relational heart of faith that God requires of us. Our wisdom and knowledge are certainly good things. I would dare not condone thoughtlessly practicing your faith or pursuing truth. But we have more to give of ourselves…do we not?

Enjoy the journey!

If you'd like to see my video presentation on this subject click here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Works Based Doctrine...


In the Land of YouTube I am often the most challenged in my faith. There are multitudes of people with multitudes of ideology and well presented argumentation for you to stumble across and quickly find yourself in a faith crisis. Thankfully God has guarded my heart and even in times where I may question, the prayed for answer comes. Most times these topics are not atheist versus theist but rather one doctrine versus another. I may do a post that illustrates this kind of struggle regarding hell in the near future.

For now, I want to expound on some conclusions I’ve come to regarding the supposition that our salvation has any root in a works based doctrine. In my last post many of you may have been lost unless you took the time to watch a video exchange between myself and a YouTube user named Jordan. But in that post I bring out the thief on the cross next to Christ who is promised “paradise” by Jesus Himself. I then ask the following questions:

What did this man do to earn the promised paradise?

Was he baptized?

Was he circumcised?

Did he correctly understand Christ’s humanity vs. His deity?

Did he have an understanding of the Trinity?

Did he believe in free will or predestiny?

My point was simple. Doctrine and all the “add ons” of our faith while important to our walk/relationship to God may not be as necessary as some might assert. Is it a good idea to understand Armenians in light of Calvinism? Sure. Is it good to discuss baptism dunking versus the sprinkle? Why not? But do we so bog down our lives and go down the road of legalism that we become paralyzed. I think not.

There are those that make the case for a works based salvation. They quote Scripture by chapter and verse to show the A-Z requirements on our parts to first be worthy and then remain worthy as we grow in our faith. I’ll admit at times that I have even let doubt enter my mind and ponder whether I had missed something. But soon a thought-stream similar to the following hit me and I believe I have an answer:

1. Being that no man (save for Christ) has ever lived a life of perfection…what is the standard that one should heed in order to live this works based faith?
2. Let’s assume for a second that the accountability clock only begins from the point of accepting Christ having all past sins forgiven. Do you believe it possible from that day to your very last to live a complete life of perfection?
3. Let’s now assume that you can and do live a complete life of perfection from age 25 to death. Do you think a pure, perfect, righteous, and holy God will then forget all of your dealings previous to 25?

If my former pastor is to be believed (and I believe him) this is a pass/fail test. That means anything less that a 100% perfect grade will constitute failure. So unless there is an advocate, a pure and sinless representative willing that He should stand up on our behalf and offer His life as a payment for our failure…we have nothing much to hope for…do we?

Last but not least, I think we are prideful to ever presume that it was something we did, something we accomplished that “earned” us salvation. Last I checked, Jesus Christ completed the work on the cross! Our works, though filthy rags are simply a joyous response to the overwhelming Joy we have once we come to the reality of our salvation. We do it not to earn anything, not to impress our Father, but simply as a thank you and as an act of worship and obedience. When we fail, we are grieved, led to repent, and then all the more thankful for His mercy as we obtain His forgiveness.

Enjoy the journey!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Discussion with Jordan from YouTube

Jordan,

I’ve debated on whether to make a video or not in discussing our exchange further and at this point have decided upon a letter. Since this discussion may be of some interest to our mutual viewers, I will likely post it to my blog and supply a link for those that desire to see my next offering. As it stands I already tried to shoot one video but scrapped it since it was too long and not as concise as I’d like.

A Word of Thanks
First let me thank you for the kind words. If I never accomplish anything on YouTube but being known for projecting a positive view of a mainstream Christian, then perhaps that alone is sufficient. Hopefully you know that my affinity for you is equally shared or else I would not take the time to stay in touch or worry about your decisions. I find your search for truth refreshing and courageous. I find your zeal admirable and your presentations humble. Though our doctrine is rather on opposite ends of the spectrum the heart behind it all is quite similar!

Simplicity Explained Further
To address your video let me start where you began and that is with the topic of Simplicity of belief. I agree with you that questions and further study and polling Pastors does and will lead to the “complicated”. It is human nature to make mountains out of mole hills. However, there is a reason that I base my simplicity stance on although I did not mention this in my initial presentation:

Luke 23:39-43
39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"
40But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."
42Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[
f]"
43Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."


Now I realize it can be dangerous to quote Scripture to you. This may even be a story that you don’t believe. For purposes of my rebuttal though…it is enough that you know that I believe this account. So from that perspective I ask you:

What did this man do to earn the promised paradise?
Was he baptized?
Was he circumcised?
Did he correctly understand Christ’s humanity vs. His deity?
Did he have an understanding of the Trinity?
Did he believe in free will or predestiny?

Simply put, all this man did is put trust in Christ in his last hours on this earth. I realize that people may not agree with the conclusion I come to from this. But it seems pretty obvious that we most certainly make this thing called Christianity much too complicated!

The Virgin Birth
You seemed to understand the broad strokes of my counter arguments. My only need for clarification on this issue stems from minor details that perhaps you failed to consider or perhaps I failed to make obvious.

1. I now understand that my theory about WHY you dismiss the Virgin Birth account to be baseless. It was a theory and I only meant to call you out on it as a means to verify or dismiss it. I also get your points about the story not necessarily going hand in hand with your stance on Christ’s deity. Thank you for explaining that to me!

2. The passage of time. This was a very weak part of my argument. Perhaps it should not have made the cut. I do want to clarify for you though that I never state that Mary might have forgotten. I do however ATTEMPT to make the point that 30 years may have clouded her resolve and/or allowed for doubt to creep in. Mary never ceases to be flawed and human although she played a very special role and was chosen by God for such a wonderful purpose.

3. Where to draw the line in parenting. Where I totally disagree with you here is when you state that Mary’s job as a parent was over because he was a grown man. Please tell that to my folks! Granted, their role in my life is much different now. They do not dictate rules and consequences nor do they provide shelter, clothing, and nourishment. But I can certainly tell you that should rumor reach their ears that I have gone mad or perhaps become addicted to drugs or any manner of negative/destructive behavior…they would show up at my door as Mary did with her son. We need to remember that Mary is the ONLY woman in all of human history to ever raise The Messiah. What she does or does not do is surely forgivable considering the lack of any previous experience to draw upon.

4. Mary’s failure to understand The Plan. I have no quarrel with you regarding Mary’s understanding of how important Christ is or would be. I do not think that hurts my point about her perspective on how that destiny would manifest. The ENTIRE reason that the Jews of that day failed to recognize Christ as their coming Messiah was exactly due to the unconventional way in which He fulfilled His work. Nobody expected their King to die on a Cross. Nobody expected a carpenter from Bethlehem to understand Scripture, to teach, to heal, to cast out demons, and to confront the Pharisees as He did. They all expected a warrior King that would conquer their enemies and reign on high. Even when Jesus literally told of his coming death His own disciples failed to understand Him. Again…I think you expect something of Mary that is unreasonable. She acted very human in her reaction to the gossip that reached her.

5. Mark VS Mathew, Luke, & John. Perhaps you can assist me with a bit of confusion I have. You assert and it seems common amongst others (especially Christian skeptics) that Matthew, Luke, and John all borrow heavily from Mark and go so far as to include things that Mark fails to record. I have no problem with this claim so much as I have a problem with the conclusion. You seem to think that any additional stories that are not in Mark must be fabricated and are not trust worthy. I wonder where you get the idea that Mark recorded a comprehensive accounting of Christ and His experiences? If you and I set out to write about 911 having both lived during this tragic set of events would our recounting be exactly the same? And let’s suppose you write your account first. I read it, borrow heavily from it in my book but add things you left out? Would my book be any less trust worthy?

Let me conclude here and thank you again for the discussion. I hope to continue our journeys comparing notes with one another as we go! I feel confident that God is accomplishing a work in both of us and that He will finish what He began. I am excited to see how it all pans out.

In Christ,

Jim

Monday, May 04, 2009

What Happened to the Evidence Series?


Back in January of this year I began a series on YouTube called Evidence & Faith. It stalled when I came to part four having filmed and edited a video called “Miracles”. Something about that presentation did not sit right with me and I certainly want quality if I am to apologetically outline my journey. After much prayer and uncertainty about what to do, I realized that much of the work has already been done for me. The very author of the very book that I had based part four on had recently released his own video called Miracles, saying exactly what I had wanted to say but much more eloquently than I.


Then it hit me! There are tons of other YouTube channels and persons to help me complete this series. And since this is about God and His Son, not me…why take months and months to put this thing together? So for now…here is the “playlist” or series as it currently stands:

http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=5CFD063C06103501

This consists of 15 videos currently but I may add to that number as I am led. The order of these videos is also not an accident but rather very purposeful. My journey does not have to be yours but this was the order of events, facts, realizations, and circumstances that have led me to faith in Christ and the particular views of Scripture I have today. What is missing is the details of the book, Case For Christ. As I find videos that cover more of those topics they will be added. For now Veritas48 covers the most important argumentation from that book…which is that of the Resurrection.

Enjoy the journey!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Happiness...


“We hold these truths to be self-Evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This familiar phrase was penned by one Thomas Jefferson and is part of The United States Constitution. On the whole it sounds good and I am agreeable. Upon closer inspection with Scriptural magnifying glass in hand…those last five words start to gnaw at me. I suppose there is nothing inherently wrong with pursuing and even obtaining happiness. But I must ask: Are we “entitled” to it? If so, at what cost?

I am counseling a man right now that is wrestling with leaving his wife. Details spared the most common justification he gives when asked why is:

“Because I deserve to be happy. God would want me to be happy!”

Isn’t that the mentality of the day? Isn’t that a justification for any and every decision we make as we pursue this temporal, fleeting, emotion? So I ask again…to what end do we as Christians seek our own personal pleasure and happiness? What Scriptures are you reading that I am failing to locate about the topic?

I’m just asking.