Archive | polimics RSS for this section

If God created the universe, what created God?

If God created the world, who created God?

We, as sentient and at least somewhat intelligent humans, exist. That’s not debated by most people. How, however, did we get here? Where or who did we come from? And if God created us, who or what created God? 

Panspermia 

Some have speculated that we got here through panspermia or even directed panspermia.[1] Panspermia is the hypothesis that microorganisms were seeded to our planet through meteoroids, comets, asteroids, or even from alien life forms. That just moves the question back. Where then did life come from (to say nothing of matter)?

Interestingly, some have speculated what it would take for us to seed life to another planet by blasting off a rocket with microorganisms onboard. Some believe we could carry out a “Genesis” mission to an uninhabited planet within 50 to 100 years.

Of course, the mission would require a lot of really smart people working in coordination with a lot of really smart people. And it would cost a lot of money and use things like ion thrusters and really advanced robots. So, starting with life and intelligence, it may be possible to seed life to other planets (assuming they are fine-tuned to support life). But again, this just pushes the question back and proves the need for intelligent design.

Multiverse or many worlds hypothesis

Another hypothesis to explain the origin of life on earth (specifically intelligent life on earth) is the multiverse theory.[2] Yes, this should remind you of all the crazy stuff that happens in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. This theory is interesting and problematic for a number of reasons. It’s more science fiction than fact.

  1. It is, by far, not the simplest explanation. This is problematic (see: Occam’s razor).
  2. It’s nonsensical. One could then postulate that there is a near-infinite number of you, or of Loki. Loki was a cool show but the questions multiply as the “Lokis” multiply.
  3. There’s nothing that we have observed that would lead us to logically conclude that there is or is likely a multiverse (it seems, rather, that those arguing for this position are just frantically trying to get away from the reality of the existence of God[3]). 

If God created the universe, what created God?

Here are the options:

  1. The universe somehow sprang from absolute nothingness completely on its own.
  2. The universe inanimate has existed eternally and that something somehow exploded and eventually led to the life forms we have now.
  3. The universe was created by a powerful and eternal Entity.

Each of those options is honestly hard to fathom. Which makes the most sense?

The universe somehow sprang from absolute nothingness completely on its own.

This is not something we really observe. In our experience and observation, something does not come from nothing. If even a simple pool ball is rolling on a pool table we assume it was set in motion by something. We don’t assume it moved although no force whatsoever acted upon it (What about quantum particles?[4]).

There’s a story about a scientist making a bet with God. The scientist bets God that he can create life. The scientist grabs some dirt and sets off to work. When a voice from heaven said, “Get your own dirt!”

“It is a vain hope to try to give a physical account of the absolute beginning of the universe. Not only must the creation event transcend physical law, it must also,… transcend logic and mathematics and therefore all the scientific tools at our disposal. It must be, quite literally, supernatural.”[5]

The universe has eternally existed.

If the expansion of the universe were an old VHS video that you could reverse, you’d see the contraction of the universe into an infinitesimally small singularity—back into the nothingness from which the universe sprang.[6] Thus, the Big Bang actually matches with what Scripture says. That is, the universe—all the matter that is—came into being at a finite time, ex nihilo, out of nothing.

The universe has not existed eternally.

The universe was created by a powerful and eternal Entity.

It makes sense to say, doesn’t it, that anything that begins to exist must have a cause of its existence?[7] I think that makes a lot of sense. I mean a pool ball on a pool table isn’t going to move unless someone or something causes it to move.

This is especially the case when we consider the extreme fine-tuning necessary to allow for life, especially intelligent life. “On whatever volume scale researchers make their observations—the universe, galaxy cluster, galaxy, planetary system, planet, planetary surface, cell, atom, fundamental particle, or string—the evidence for extreme fine-tuning for life’s sake, and in particular for humanity’s benefit, persists.”[8]

God is the Uncaused Cause, the Unmoved Mover. God is. He is the Creator.

But then, who or what created God?

Anything that begins to exist must have a cause of its existence. The thing with God is, He did not begin to exist. He has always existed. Therefore, He needs no cause or creator. He is the Creator.

“The Cause responsible for bringing the universe into existence is not constrained by cosmic time. In creating our time dimension, that agent demonstrated an existence above, or independent of, cosmic time… In the context of cosmic time, the causal Agent would have no beginning and no ending and would not be created.”[9]

This is, in fact, what the Bible says about the LORD God. It says, “the LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth” (Is. 40:28) and it says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1 cf. Ps. 136:5; Is. 45:18; Col. 1:16).

The universe has not always existed. Instead, “the universe was brought into existence by a causal agent with the capacity to operate before, beyond, unlimited buy, transcendent to all cosmic matter, energy, space, and time.”[10]

God revealed Himself to Moses as: “I Am who I Am” (Ex. 3:14). God is the One who Is. He is the Existing One. He is the One who is beyond and before time and matter. And as such, He is able to create time and matter.

If God’s existence doesn’t need an explanation then why should the universe’s existence need an explanation? 

“This popular objection is based on a misconception of the nature of explanation. It is widely recognized that in order for an explanation to be the best, one need not have an explanation of the explanation (indeed, such a requirement would generate an infinite regress, so that everything becomes inexplicable). If astronauts should find traces of intelligent life on some other planet, for example, we need not be able to explain such extraterrestrials in order to recognize that they are the best explanation of the artifacts. In the same way, the design hypothesis’s being the best explanation of the fine-tuning does not depend on our being able to explain the Designer.”[11]

How should we respond to the One who created the universe?

That’s a big question. But, I’ll take it further, how should we respond if the Christian understanding of God is correct? What if the Programmer coded Himself into the program like the Bible talks about?

If what Scripture says of the Creator entering His creation is true, as I believe it is, then I think it clearly follows that we should be amazed and submit to the One who has shown Himself to be the Lord.

We must all, however, make that choice on our own. I can’t make it for you. But I, for one, am awed and astounded that the Creator would enter His creation to rescue His creation.

Not only that but the Creator was crucified (see Col. 1:15-20). As Jesus was making purification and propitiation for sin by bearing our sin on the cross, He was simultaneously upholding the universe by the word of His power (Heb. 1:2).

How should we respond to the One who created the universe and yet loves us?! I believe we should respond in reverent worship:

“Worthy are You, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for You created all things,
and by Your will they existed and were created” (Rev. 4:11).
“Worthy are You…
for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).

Notes

[1] E.g. Francis Crick, Life Itself: Its Nature and Origin (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1981).

[2] See: https://reasons.org/explore/publications/questions-from-social-media/is-the-existence-of-a-multiverse-a-problem-for-christianity

[3] “The many worlds hypothesis is essentially an effort on the part of partisans of the chance hypothesis to multiply their probabilistic resources in order to reduce the improbability of the occurrence of fine-tuning” (J.P. Moreland & William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview [Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2003], 487). Ironically, “the many worlds hypothesis is no less metaphysical than the hypothesis of a comic designer” (Moreland & Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, 487).

[4] “There is no basis for the claim that quantum physics proves that things can begin to exist without a cause, much less that [the] universe could have sprung into being uncaused from literally nothing” (Moreland & Craig, Philosophical Foundations, 469). Even if one follows the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics, “particles do not come into being out of nothing. They arise as spontaneous fluctuations of the energy contained in the subatomic vacuum, which constitutes an indeterministic cause of their origination” (Ibid.). This very brief explanation is helpful: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/quantum-field-theory-what-virtual-particles-laymans-terms-javadi/ and also see: http://atlas.physics.arizona.edu/~shupe/Indep_Studies_2015/Homeworks/VirtualParticles_Strassler.pdf

[5] David A. J. Seargent, Copernicus, God, and Goldilocks: Our Place and Purpose in the Universe, 114.

[6] A better illustration would actually be a balloon losing its air. When considering the expansion of the universe it’s amazing to consider that eventually the universe will grow dark because the speed of the expansion of the universe will eventually be too great for us to observe our cosmic surroundings.

[7] “Everything restricted to the cosmic timeline must be traceable back to a cause and a beginning” (Hugh Ross, Why The Universe Is The Way It Is, 132).

[8] Ross, Why The Universe Is The Way It Is, 124. See e.g. Hugh Ross, “Fundamental Forces Show Greater Fine-Tuning” https://reasons.org/explore/publications/connections/fundamental-forces-show-greater-fine-tuning, Fazale Rana, “Fine-Tuning For Life On Earth (Updated June 2004)” https://reasons.org/explore/publications/articles/fine-tuning-for-life-on-earth-updated-june-2004, and Seargent, Copernicus, God, and Goldilocks, 121-127.

[9] Ross, Why The Universe Is The Way It Is, 132.

[10] Ibid., 131. 

[11] Moreland & Craig, Philosophical Foundations, 487.

*Photo by Tyler van der Hoeven

Is the world enchanted?

Is the world enchanted?

Is the world enchanted? Or merely natural? Deterministic? Are we just chemical processes that have been wound up and will wind down? Or, is there a “ghost in the machine”?

Is there something before and beyond? Can everything be coolly explained or is there the Unexplainable? Could it be that fantasy and fiction are tapping into something true? Something fantastic and far beyond us?

Are there spells and spirits? Or are we mere decomposing skulls with sinews?

And the world we inhabit is it wondrous; consisting of beauty, mystery, as well as sad irony? Or is the world a mere and meaningless blip before the heat death of the universe?

Is “the cosmos,” as Carl Sagan has famously said, “all there ever was and all there ever will be”?

If so, what explains the wonder and wild nature of life? What explains the rhinoceros and the beauty and rapture of art? What explains those moments, those brief moments, with family or friends that feel so right?

I believe there are subtle hints all along the road of life that point us to something out of sight. Markings or tracings of something; distant echoes of a not distant presence; the quiet speech of the spirits.

Those moments of silence under the glow and vastness of the sky, the moon reflecting the glory and splendor of the sun, speak. These types of moments speak not to our heads but reverberate in our hearts. These moments awaken. They call us beyond. They say there is more.

So, we must ask, what if there is more? If so, what good, what beauty, and yet what hideous evil might there be? And, if there is more, if there is the equivalent of witchcraft and evil, what spells might be possible and cast?

Perhaps a sort of blindness? A dullness to what is real?

If there is more, and evil, beyond the great beyond, might there be a battle? A cosmic battle? A Saruman and Sauron? A Voldemort? A Frodo? An Aragorn?

Could our lives have cosmic significance?

Is the world enchanted?

There are many ways to answer this question. And we all answer it one way or another. We may just not truly ask it. That is, really think it through. I propose that’s not a good way to go forward. If the world is “enchanted” in some way it would be good to know. Perhaps very helpful to know. Because, to use The Lord of the Rings as an example, what if we are in the equivalent of hobbitian, but there is a hoard of raging orks on their way?

If the world is enchanted, it is more wondrous and wonderful than we could possibly know. But, it may also be more dangerous too.

That’s actually what the Bible teaches about the reality of the world we live in. It is, so to speak “enchanted.” It is “under a spell.” Similar to the witch in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia that made an enchantment over the whole country so that it was always winter and never Christmas.

What if there is a spiritual realm? What if there is more than the merely physical? Curiously, the Christian Bible talks about fiction made real. It talks about a hideous dragon set to destroy and deceive. It talks about an enemy that crouches low like a lion ready to pounce and attack. And it talks about a god of this world that is subtly influencing the world.

Evil is more multidimensional, nuanced, and complex than science alone can suggest… In addition to systemic injustices and personal ignorance and physiological imbalances, there really are forces of spiritual evil in the world—and behind them all there is a singular supernatural intelligence.[i]

The influence of the “god of this world”[ii] is often less perceptible than the wind.[iii] Yet, with all the devastation of a furious tornado.

The world, not just the hills, are alive with the sound of music. The universe roars with echoes of life. Sometimes we are just not quick to notice. Perhaps because we’ve become callous to the call of creation.[iv] G.K. Chesterton says, “Fairy tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.”[v]

A quick google will return wonder: Walakiri beach sunset, Halong Bay, Huangshan. Most images will do. Or, think of the amazing ability of a chameleon. What a world we inhabit. What a surprising and often beautiful world we live in. “Reality is very odd, and… the ultimate truth, whatever it may be, must have the characteristics of strangeness.”[vi]

Consider this, someone in a one-dimensional reality would have trouble conceiving of a two-dimensional reality, let alone what that reality would be like. Someone in the two-dimensional reality would have a greater likelihood of conceiving of and pondering a three-dimensional reality though because they already know that there are more than one-dimensional realities. They already know that things that would seem impossible to the one-dimension reality are very much possible.

We live in a reality that is sometimes so much not like reality, should we also not at least speculate that there may be a spiritual reality; something different than the dimension that we are currently in? And what if that reality is more real than our current reality, and what if that reality is actually more present than we can now conceive?

The Christian story—the true myth—is similar to so many amazing myths in literature. But with a big difference: The Christian story claims to be true. C.S. Lewis said, “The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history.”[vii] Similarly, Nancy Pearcey says, “The great events of the New Testament have all the wonder and beauty of a myth. Yet they happen in a specific place, at a particular date, and have empirically verifiable historical consequences.”[viii]

And is it not clear, that in most myths the evil person/force of the story would be happy if people thought that evil did not really exist? It seems to me that would be a worthy goal of evil, to make people think evil and enchantment weren’t real. Imagine the spell one could wield on the world if the world couldn’t imagine that there was such a thing as spells?! As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”

The world is enchanted. In the original use of the world enchanted. The world is “under a spell; bewitched.” The world is “utterly delighted, captivated, fascinated, and charmed” by someone or something. This someone is Satan and the spell is sin. The curse and fall of humanity have long since happened.[ix] The fall was not just the fall of humans but encompasses the fall of angels. We are in a cosmic story. The Christian Bible teaches us that the myths are not magical enough for the reality of the truth.

We may not wish for the world to be this way. But, that is not for us to decide. As Gandalf said, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Of course, that’s not to say that all is bad. The story of the Bible is actually a wonderful, almost unbelievable story, that starts with a beautiful couple in a bountiful garden paradise and ends with a host of their decedents in an eternal paradise. The Bible is a comedy, not that it’s funny—though it has its funny parts—but because it has a U-shaped plot. That is, it starts out great but then a terrible seemingly insurmountable problem is introduced. But, thankfully doesn’t end in that sorry state.

As any good fantasy, there is a hero. And, as any good hero, He has many names: Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Son of God, Savior. Jesus is the true mythic hero. Jesus is Aragon and Frodo. He is Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Aslan, and Ransom. He is Iron Man, Black Panther, and Captain America. And He is Avatar Aang. The God/Man, the Hero, offers rescue to the whole world.

The Bible is a big amazing story. It rivals and even surpasses Marvel and the Lord of the Rings. It tells us about God making a world. The Bible even tells us about angels rebelling against God and starting a cosmic battle. And it tells us about deception and romance.

It tells us that God became man and that this GodMan—Jesus Christ—had superpowers. And He used His superpowers for good. And He fought the evil enemy. He defeated and cast out the great dragon’s evil hitch men.

It looked like the GodMan was going to win. He was going to defeat all the bad guys and even rule the world. He had a large loyal following.

But, something happened. The GodMan, the all-powerful One, died. He died. He that brought people back from the dead, died.

That, that was unexpected.

With the GodMan’s death, hope died.

The GodMan’s followers fled in fear. They didn’t know what had happened… And they hid in fear. They hid for three days.

But the GodMan returned. He defeated death. He rose from the dead.

The Bible claims and shows us that this all really happened. It’s not a “once upon a time” story. Although, for all those who trust Jesus as the Hero and Lord that He is, they will live “happily ever after.”

From Genesis, the very beginning of the Bible, until Revelation, at the end, we see one unified true cosmic story. We see God making a very good and beautiful world. But we see the serpent enter the scene and we see humans depart from God’s good plan and we see the devastation it brings. The world is torn in two. Relationships are ruined and rebellion spreads. The whole world whirls.

But, as God promised, He was not done. He loved the broken world and would be broken Himself to fix it.

So, the Bible tells the story of a terribly fierce dragon set to destroy the whole world. It’s really not so different from the Marvel myths in some ways. But, it claims to be true and it recounts the tales of one hero. A hero that loves the planet, the whole world, so much that He died for it. He, however, didn’t stay dead. He was so great and powerful that even death itself couldn’t defeat Him.

The story of Scripture is different from Marvel and other myths in various other ways too. For example, the Bible was written over the period of fifteen-hundred-years, by more than forty authors with varied backgrounds (e.g. king, herdsman, fisher, tax collector, physician) and literary styles (e.g. historical narrative, poetry, law, biography), on three different continents (Asia, Africa, and Europe), in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) and yet it tells one unified story.[x]

Yet, the overarching narrative continuously declares Messiah Jesus. The Bible’s unity among diversity is for me a profound witness to its glory and trustworthiness.[xi] I believe its significance can never be fully known and yet the storyline of Scripture can be beautifully and briefly portrayed such that even a child can understand its main points.

As you read, study, and contemplate Scripture you are struck not by the number of contradictions in the text but by the overwhelming unity of the story. The Bible, from beginning to end, explains the amazing work of the hero, Jesus the Messiah. It uncompromisingly explains reality, the way things are, should be, and will be, whether it tickles our ears or not. The Bible far from being fixed on shambles is fixed on an amazing interlocking bedrock of truth.

So, is the world enchanted? If you have suspicions that what you see in the physical world is not all there is, the Bible says that your suspicions are correct. The Bible says there is more. A lot more.

There are practical reasons for believing in enchantment. Because there are good reasons for believing in the existence of God. As the philosopher Alvin Plantinga has said, there are some very good arguments for believing in the existence of God, “arguments about as good as philosophical arguments get.”[xii] “If God is, what he is has far-reaching consequences for our lives—who we are, how we live, and what happens after death,”[xiii] and I would say, what’s possible.

Jesus’ resurrection tells us, proves to us, that the world is indeed enchanted. There is more to the world than we can see with our mere eyes.

In other words, if God exists then it seems clear that spirits and thus the spiritual realm exists. If this is true, as it seems to be, then there is a whole lot unseen and unknown that can act in and on the world, as we know it. This, at least in some ways, is a rather frightening reality.

Just as there was fear and trepidation by the first brave souls aboard a boat, there is a healthy type of fear that we should have. These are very uncharted seas.

Life is not something to take lightly. This world is enchanted. There are spirits, and angels, and fallen angels. A dragon set to defeat us all. We may see him breathe fire but what comes out of his mouth are deceptive lies.

The enchantment of this world is all the more dangerous because it’s allusive. We don’t see the spell. Many disbelieve. But, the reality is, there is more than meets the eye.

Christianity gives an answer for the strangeness that we sense in the world. Christianity gives a solid reason for believing in the spiritual realm and for us ourselves having a spirit.

Humans are not robots or automatons. At least that’s what the Bible says. Our actions matter. Our lives and our decisions matter, even eternally. They ripple through the corridors of time. There was and never will be a meaningless moment.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis said, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

Friends, our lives matter, our actions matter, our voices matter. That, at least, is true from a Christian perspective. If, however, as Carl Sagan said, “the cosmos is all there ever was and all there ever will be” then this would is not enchanted and meaning is limited to what you make it.

I believe, however, if we knew a millionth of the magnitude of our lives we’d be moved to wonder and crippled by the significance of it all. Our lives and our every action have significance because this world and this life are not all there is. So, friends, let’s live fierce purposeful lives because we have purpose. Our lives matter more than we can know.

If there is more than the material, more than meets the eye, then what are we? What then are humans?

Notes

[i] Timothy Keller, The Great Enemy (Encounters with Jesus Series Book 6).

[ii] 2 Corinthians 4:4.

[iii] Ephesians 2:2.

[iv] Psalm 19.

[v] G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy.

[vi] C.S. Lewis, “Christianity and Culture.”

[vii] C.S. Lewis, “Myth Became Fact” in God in the Dock.

[viii] Nancy Pearcey, Saving Leonardo, 211.

[ix] Genesis 3.

[x] See .e.g. F. F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments: How We Got Our English Bible, 88.

[xi] “To have 27 pieces of [New Testament] literature written by eight or nine authors contemporary to the events, all of who were giving the same basic message—about Christ—is unprecedented. Nothing like it exists for any other book from antiquity” (The Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Bible, 133). I like the way J.I. Packer says it:“To the man enlightened by the Spirit, Scripture is no longer a bewildering jumble of isolated items… Part chimes in with part, Scripture meshes with Scripture, and the unified bearing of the whole Bible becomes apparent. The accompanying experience of the ‘taste’, or ‘flavour’ of spiritual realities is immediate and ineffable” (J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Wheaton: Crossway, 1990), 92

[xii] Alvin Plantinga, Knowledge and Christian Belief, x.

[xiii] Esther Meek, Longing to Know, 17.

*Photo by TOMOKO UJI

Noah’s Ark and the Bible’s Narrative Arc

Noah's Ark

“…the whole earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (Gen. 6:11b-12).

The story of Noah and his ark has always been a difficult story. Knowing the context of the story is helpful though.

So, what was going on before God destroys the world with a flood?

Well, just a few chapters earlier we see that God made an incredibly good and beautiful creation (see e.g. Gen. 1:31). We see God made people–all people–with dignity and worth (Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1-2). We see God gave people good things to do (Gen.1:28).

But, we also see, humans didn’t listen. We see that in the Fall of humanity (Gen. 3), the first murder (Gen. 4:8), and the growing corruption and violence (Gen. 6:5). In Genesis, we go from God and good creation to growing corruption very quickly (that’s also representational of my own tendency).

It was not God who “paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” That’s what humans had already done. Humans damaged and defiled the very thing that would have brought them endless delight. Humans turn from fresh fulfilling water to putrid puddles.

But, that’s not it. Humans also hate. They hate humans that were made with the dignity of God. They hate and they hurt. They abuse and injure. And even kill.

Before God destroyed the world in the flood, humans destroyed the world with their sin. In God’s act of destruction, He was actually bringing a type of deliverance. He could have, and in a sense considered, destroying the world completely (Gen. 6:6-7).[1]

Yet, God worked through Noah, a mediator (Gen. 6:8ff)[2], as He does, to bring salvation through judgment.[3] God provided a type of rescue when wrath was deserved.

Ultimately we know, the God-Man, Jesus Christ, took the wrath of God and the violence of the world on Himself. When we understand the whole context of the story of Noah’s ark, we see it is not God at fault. He is not the guilty party for the destruction of the world.

Instead, we see we are at fault. We carry out atrocities. We turn from God, where alone there is life, to trifles and trivialities. We hate humans, who have eternal value and being, and love things that perish in a moment.

When the story of Noah’s ark is understood in context, from the perspective of the whole of redemptive history, we see how amazing it is that the LORD is both just and the justifier of the one who trusts in Jesus alone for rescue (see Rom. 3:25-26).

Read More…

What Made Mary Special?

What made Mary special? Was there something in her background that made God choose her? Did she have a high place in society?

Let’s look at some background to try to answer those questions.

Mary was a young girl (maybe as young as thirteen) from an obscure town. Actually, when one of Jesus’ future disciples heard where Jesus was from he said, “Nazareth?! Can anything good come from there?”

The person Mary was engaged to be married to was a not a wealthy man. He was a carpenter. Mary likely had a hard but normal upbringing. Mary’s name in Hebrew (“Miriam”) could be connected to the Hebrew word for “bitter.” It’s not hard to imagine that Mary had already faced much in her life that was bitter and in her lifetime she certainly would.

So, Mary’s background, upbringing, and social status did not make Mary special. What made Mary special? What does the Bible say?

Luke chapter 1 (specifically verses 26-56) is where we see the most about Mary. We can make a few observations from this passage and see why Mary was special.

1) Mary was Favored by God

Mary was favored by God (Lk. 1:28,29,30). What does that mean? The word favored here means that Mary received grace, not that she is a source of grace for others. The favor Mary received was unmerited.

So, was Mary normal? In some ways, yes. You might even say, plain. Mary herself says that she was of “humble estate” (Lk. 1:48; 52).[1] However, as John MacArthur says, “She was the one sovereignly chosen by God—from among all the women who have ever been born—to be the singular instrument through which He would at last bring the Messiah into the world.”[2] So, was she normal? Yes and no.

Read More…

Societal Analysis

It’s very interesting and perplexing to me that as a society we want and we are begging for and demanding what is good. We are acknowledging that things are very wrong in society. That seems to be the case no matter where you are politically, whatever side you find yourself on.

We acknowledge there’s a problem, but as Plato pointed out a very long time ago, good people make for a good society. That seems to make clear sense. Yet, society seems soiled. Thus, we have found the problem, and it’s me.

When someone is sick there’s a medical analysis. This entails five different elements:

  1. The Ideal (of what’s healthy)
  2. Observation (of symptoms/signs)
  3. Diagnosis (or analysis of disease/disorder)
  4. Prognosis (or prediction of cure/remedy)
  5. Prescription (or instruction for treatment/action for a cure)

I believe that society is in need of an analysis. What are we observing? What’s the problem? Can it be fixed? If so, how?

We are observing a lot of problems or symptoms: violence, racism, inability to patiently discuss important issues, pride, etc. What is the disease? The disease seems to be a problem with people. Many people lack goodness. What’s the cure? We must be good. What then is the solution? We must learn to be good. That is the prescription. That is the treatment.

This seems very shallow and very simple. But it is not. Stick with me.

If we want a good society, we must have good people. Yet, I’m not sure we even have an understanding of what “good” or healthy even is. Do we even have a starting place for what constitutes good or healthy? If not, how could we possibly arrive at a prognosis or prescription let alone be in a place to give a diagnosis?!

The English writer and philosopher, G.K. Chesterton, once said, “What is wrong is that we don’t ask what is right.” We have no way by which to measure what is wrong and what is right. That is an obvious problem. You can’t build much with a standard that’s not standard.  

If good individuals make for a good society, as seems to make sense. Perhaps the first and foundational prescription is to return to the conviction that there is such a thing as “good.” And not merely what is good for the subjective individual, but a good beyond and above us that corrects us.

In any field of work you have to have a standard, a means to measure; a way to know what is healthy and what is not. We have an idea of when one is overweight because we understand that there is a range of healthy weight. How can we prescribe a cure when there is no standard for what is good or healthy? And how can there be hope when there is no standard of healthy?

We, as a society, for the most part, don’t have a clear way to say what is good. And we don’t have a pathway to make good people. If anything, we have many conflicting things shaping people. Porn is prevalent and it makes objects of people and materialism is too and it plays down the importance of people in place of the value of objects. Ours is a conflicted society. 

I believe the disorder in society comes from a plague more destructive than any pandemic, and that plague is sin. Its signs are everywhere. In my heart and actions, and yours too.

The diagnosis is deadly if not dealt with. The plague exponentially increases if not dealt with. It wreaks havoc on the scale of the Tsar Bomb. It leaves devastating effects on generations. It leaves gaping holes in individuals and is the downfall of society if not dealt with.

The prognosis, however, thankfully reveals that progress is possible. But it will be slow and painful. And it entails admitting there’s a problem; a problem, a plague, not just out there in the world, out there in others, but in me.

When someone observes a ghastly problem and knows the cure we inherently know the right thing to do in that case. It is to cure. Humans often fumble around talking about problems and we hustle around trying to cure. But all the while only grasping at what it meant to be truly healthy. We half see and so we get the diagnosis, prognosis, and prescription wrong. We always have.

I believe, however, that hope is not lost. I believe Messiah Jesus, the Healthy One, has brought the cure. He who did not have the plague took our problems, our sin, upon Himself on the cross. He showed us the cure, it is Himself. It is love. Death is the only answer. Death to self. We must die to self, we must love.

We must turn from our prideful and sinful ways and trust in Jesus our loving cure. Jesus gives us 1) the ideal of healthy, 2) the observation about what’s wrong, 3) the diagnosis, 4) the prognosis, and 5) the prescription. Without the provision of those five elements the only prognosis is death.

Why do Black Lives & LGBTQ+ Lives Matter?

Why do black lives and LGBTQ+ lives matter? This is an important question because some people have views that don’t support the idea of lives mattering. For example, Charles Darwin, the most famous proponent of evolution titled his book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle of Life.  And in his book, The Decent of Man, he says,

“The Western nations of Europe… now so immeasurably surpass their former savage progenitors [that they] stand at the summit of civilization…. The civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races through the world.”

Does a strict Darwinian view of the world lead to all lives mattering? It does not appear so. That’s why this question is important. Why do black lives and LGTBQ+ lives matter?

If we cut off our objective moral legs, we have no way to stand. If we say morality doesn’t matter, then it doesn’t matter. We can’t pick and choose. We can’t both say people are the way they are and have the desires they have and it’s fine and say it’s not okay for people to be certain ways and do certain things. That’s the crucial thing we need to consider.

Black lives matter. LGBTQ+ lives matter. White lives matter. Yes, yes, yes, and yes. But why?

That is a super important question and one that sadly isn’t receiving a lot of sustained thought. Why do black lives matter? Why do lives matter at all? Where do we get this concept? Is it true? 

Jesus said, black lives matter.[1] Jesus said, LGBTQ+ lives matter. Jesus said, all lives matter.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-38).

But does Jesus matter? And if He doesn’t on what basis then are we saying all these lives matter? This may seem like a stupid question. We just know all types of lives matter, right? But do we?

The common view that many have is Darwinian evolution, that we came from nothing and we are going to nothing; from purposelessness to purposelessness. Where is meaning, morality, and lives mattering to be found?[2] Is there a basis for human rights?

Also, did the Roman culture, in whose hands Jesus was murdered say, all lives matter?[3] Did Joseph Stalin say all lives matter? Did Friedrich Nietzsche? Did Adolf Hitler? Did Mao Zedong? Is it even possible to say all lives matter or any lives matter when the highest maximum is have it your way and do what’s right for you? Could it be that “just as long as no one gets hurt” has been trampled upon and obliterated by “you can do whatever you want”? Objective NormsIf God is dead, and we killed him, as Nietzsche said, what follows? Perhaps Nietzsche was right, perhaps that makes all things permissible? Each person doing what is right in their own eyes, whatever that might be. Who is anyone, who or what is God, to restrain? …We are who we are and we want what we want and that’s nobodies business, right?

How or where, then, do we get the concept of lives, any lives, ultimately mattering? The concept of lives mattering would be merely imaginary (a social construct). Perhaps good for America right now but not for all people at all times and places.

We can’t deconstruct everything and still have a basis which to say lives matter or to say that we must love others. We can’t both say we can do whatever we want and you can’t do certain things (like be racist or homophobic). 

Read More…

C.S. Lewis on Scientism in Out of the Silent Planet

Have you ever heard of C.S. Lewis’ book series, The Chronicles of Narnia? It’s good. But, Lewis’ Ransom Trilogy is even better. And one of the reasons for that is because he confronts scientism.

Scientism

Scientism exalts the natural sciences as the only fruitful means of investigation. In the words of Wikipedia: “Scientism is the promotion of science as the best or only objective means by which society should determine normative and epistemological values.” In short, scientism is the view that says science, and science alone, tells us what is right and true.

Science, of course, is different. It is the study of the natural world through systematic study (observation, measurement, testing, and adjustment of hypotheses). Scientism goes beyond science and beyond the observation of the physical world into philosophy and ethics.

How can observations about the natural world tell us how to think and live? How can science tell us how to best do science? What can be said about the problems of scientism? C.S. Lewis gives us a few things to think about, and in a very enjoyable way.

Out of the Silent Planet on Scientism

Weston, one of the main characters in C.S. Lewis’ book, Out of the Silent Planet, holds to a form of scientism and belittles other ways of acquiring knowledge. Unscientific people, Weston says, “repeat words that don’t mean anything”[1] and so Weston refers to philology as “unscientific tomfoolery.” The “classics and history” are “trash education.”[2] He also says that Ransom’s “philosophy of life” is “insufferably narrow.”[3]

When science is the sole means of knowledge then we are left without theology, philosophy, and ethics. We are left to decipher ought from is. And it can’t be done. Or not in a way that prevents crimes against humanity. “Intrinsically, an injury, an oppression, and exploitation, an annihilation,” Nietzsche says, cannot be wrong “inasmuch as life is essentially (that is, in its cardinal functions) something which functions by injuring, oppressing, exploiting, and annihilating, and is absolutely inconceivable without such a character.”[4]

Weston concurs. He is ready and willing to wipe out a whole planet of beings. He says, “Your tribal life with its stone-age weapons and bee-hive huts, its primitive coracles and elementary social structure, has nothing to compare with our civilization—with our science, medicine and law, our armies, our architecture, our commerce, and our transport system… Our right to supersede you is the right of the higher over the lower.”[5]

It is about life. Looking at life, looking at survival alone, leads us to think that alone is the goal. My life versus your life, Weston’s life versus the Malacandrian lives. That’s what we get when we derive ought from is. “Life is greater than any system of morality; her claims are absolute.”[6] And so, if it would be necessary, Weston would “kill everyone” on Malacandra if he needed to and on other worlds too.[7] Again, Weston finds agreement in Nietzsche: “‘Exploitation’ does not belong to a depraved, or imperfect and primitive society: it belongs to the nature of the living being as a primary organic function.”[8]

Conclusion

Is Weston’s view correct? No. And we know it. That is the point C.S. Lewis makes. He offers a narrative critique of scientism in Out of the Silent Planet as well as through the whole Ransom Trilogy. He shows the havoc that scientism sheared of theology, philosophy, and ethics can unleash.

The answer is not to discard science, however. That is not what Lewis proposes either, though that is what some protest. The answer is to disregard scientism. Science is great and a blessing from God, but science on its own is not enough as our guide. We cannot, for example, derive ought from is. We cannot look at the natural world around us, at what is, and find out what we should do, how we ought to live.

Notes

____

[1] C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet (New York: Scribner Paperback Fiction, 1996), 25.

[2] Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet 27.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals.

[5] Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet, 135.

[6] Ibid., 136.

[7] Ibid., 137.

[8] Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond God and Evil, par. 259.

C. S. Lewis on Longing

Introduction

You can trace the theme of longing through most of Lewis’ writings. In some places, it is explicit in other places it is implicit. For example, Perelandra does not so much make an argument as much as make you desire and long to experience something of what Lewis wrote. When reading some of Lewis, we often find ourselves hoping what he writes about is true. Lewis’ argument is not really cognitive and logical as much as it is “kardialogical,” that is, reasoned from the heart. As Blaise Pascal said, “The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.”[1]

It is also important here to look at what Lewis meant by longing or desire. Lewis himself said, “From the age of six, romantic longing—Sehnsucht—had played an unusually central part in my experience.”[2] Sehnsucht is a German term that communicates the longing that all of humanity has. It means “longing,” “yearning,” or “craving.” It is a way of saying, “something is intensely missing, there must be more.” Joe Puckett defines Sehnsucht this way:

The aching, and yet pleasurable, intense longing for a life that we cannot yet have but naturally and universally crave. It is the feeling of having lost something that we once had—giving us a sense of homesickness and discontentment with the less-than-ideal world we currently find ourselves in.[3]

Lewis was specially equipped to discuss longing since from a very young age he had experienced such longing and had the ability to write about it with apologetic force in both narrative and essay form. My thesis is that Lewis is correct, our longing does point us beyond this world. Our longing ultimately points us to the Lord and His coming Kingdom.

Read More…

Who is Jesus?

Who is Jesus? That is the all-important question. That is the hinge on which history hangs.

That question has been a question for centuries. John the baptizer even said, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matt. 11:3). Islam says Jesus is a prophet. Jehovah’s Witnesses say Jesus is a mighty being, even a god. But not God. They do not believe in the Trinity.[1]

So, who is Jesus?

For us to answer that question, it’s important that we consider what Jesus Himself said. So, who did Jesus Himself say He was? Jesus is asked about His identity in the Gospel of John. People asked Jesus, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” (John 8:48).

Read More…

Proof of God’s Grace #3: Overcoming Grace

Scripture teaches that it is the Spirit that overcomes people’s hardness of heart and gives spiritual life. So, John 6:36 says, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all” (see also Ezek. 11:19-21; 36:25-27).[1] Notice it says, “the flesh is no help at all.” The Apostle Paul also says it is “the Spirit that gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6). Thus, salvation does not come from “human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Rom. 9:16). So Paul says, “It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

James 1:18 says, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” Whose will was it? It was “His will.” Of course, God uses means to accomplish His will. People are brought to new life through “the word of truth” (cf. Rom. 10:14; 1 Pet. 1:23).[2]

Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3). That is because, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (v. 6). It is the supernatural work of God that makes a person a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). That is why we “must be born again” (Jn. 3:7). And of course, no one can make himself or herself be born, let alone born again. It is the Spirit’s prerogative; the Spirit works the way He works (Jn. 3:8). We also see that even faith is a gift from God (1 Chron. 29:14; Jn. 3:27; 1 Cor. 4:7; James 1:17). No one would believe without God first giving the gift of faith. Therefore, Jesus says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (Jn. 15:16 cf. v. 19).

So, we say with Peter, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3). Peter says that God “has caused us to be born again.”

Read More…

%d bloggers like this: