People often don’t like religion because they don’t want to obey
A lot of people react to religion and want nothing to do with it. Not because they’ve considered its truth claims but because they feel it is constricting. Interestingly, we got our modern English word “religion” from the Latin word religio meaning “obligation” or “bond.”
So, it has been recognized for a long time that religion is binding. The question is, why? Why should anyone obey a religion?
If the religion’s truth claims are accurate then there would be a good reason to obey. Otherwise, I’m not going to be bound by a religion just because that’s what my grandma believed… No. If you’re going to tell me what I can do and not do, you better offer some good reasons why I should listen.
God demands obedience
1 Kings 8:60-61 says, “The LORD is God; there is no other. Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the LORD.” It is admittedly a big claim that “the LORD is God,” and He alone. But if that claim is true it seems to make sense that the LORD could demand obedience.
So, the question it seems we need to answer is not: “Should I obey?” But: “Is it true?” A lot of times it seems we’re tempted to go at it a different way. We’re tempted to think: “I don’t want to obey, therefore I won’t consider if it’s true.”
We can see the ridiculousness of that thinking when we apply it to a different context…
Imagine you’re driving on the highway with me. I’m going 95 when the speed limit is 70. You’re concerned because you know there are often speed traps in the area. Also, you don’t want to die. So, you say, “Perhaps you should slow down. There could be a speed trap.”
I, however, am rather content with the speed I am going. But you see a police car ahead. You very kindly warn me: “Um, that’s a police car… See it?! He’s right there! Slow down!”
But I don’t listen. I want to drive fast so I ignore the possibility of a cop car.
Religion and obligation
Ignoring information that might be pertinent because we want to do what we want to do might be problematic. Just because we don’t want there to be a cop to enforce the rules does not at all mean there is no cop.
I understand people not wanting to be obligated by a religion. We all naturally want to be in charge; we want to do what we want to do. We want to be God. But we can’t be God if God is God.
If God is, then God is in charge. He is God. If the religion is real, it necessarily leads to obligation.
That brings up the very important question: “Is God?”
Imagine I gave you a pill that made you feel morally obligated to give me money… Kinda random but hear me out. After the pill wore off, what would you think of your moral conviction to give me money? Would you regret it? Question it? Probably both.
That’s what moral conviction is if we’re simply evolved creatures. Why? How is that so?
Naturalistic evolution teaches that our sense of morality evolved
Naturalistic evolution teaches that our sense of morality evolved. That is, our “moral genes” just happened to make us better suited for survival, and thus those with a moral characteristic passed on their “moral genes.” And so, we have morality. But, so the thought goes, just as the Neanderthals died out, morality could have died out. Or certainly, a different form of morality could have won out.
In fact, Charles Darwin says in The Descent of Man that if things had gone differently for humans they could have evolved to be like bees, where “females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters.” The atheist Michael Ruse in his book, Taking Darwin Seriously: A Naturalistic Approach to Philosophy, says, “Morality is a collective illusion foisted upon us by our genes.”
So, if we’re simply evolved from monkeys, morality is the equivalent of taking a pill that makes us think certain moral convictions are right. But the reality would be different. We, based on this view, only have those convictions—whatever they are: treat people nice, don’t murder and maim, etc.—because we happed to evolve that way (“took the pill”).
Of course, just because the way that you arrived at a conclusion was wrong, does not mean that your conclusion was wrong. In a test where the answer is A, B, C, or D, I could just choose “C” because it’s my favorite letter. I may be correct in my answer, but I certainly don’t have a solid reason for believing in the validity of my answer. In fact, probability would say my answer is likely wrong.
Another problem with wholesale naturalistic evolution is if we believe it explains everything then it in some ways explains nothing. Gasp. Yeah, that’s not a good thing.
If evolution explains morality, then I’m moral because of evolution which at least in some ways undercuts morality. Some people even say that religious people, like people that believe in Jesus, are religious because they evolved that way. Believing in a higher power brought some type of group identity which led tribes of our ancestors to be more likely to protect each other and thus survive and pass on their genes. And so, religion is the result of random mutational chance.
In fact, you could argue all of our thinking processes are the result of evolution. We’re just matter in motion. We’re all just responding to random whims. From belief in morality to belief in evolution, we’re just evolved to think this way… We can’t do anything about it. It’s programmed into us. It’s the pill we were given…
But if all this is a pill we’re given—what we’ve randomly evolved to think—what should we think?… Isn’t all our thinking just built into us through evolutionary processes?…
Alternatively, Christians believe that humans are created with an innate moral sense.
So, it seems morality is either a fiction with no basis in reality or God created us and explains reality—explains why we have an innate sense that we should treat people nice and not murder and maim.
There are big implications for either view. What is your view? And why?
Why am I Latino?
There have been many moments in my life where I have wondered, “Lord, why am I Latino?” Maybe it is not a common question, but for me, it made the difference in me understanding the core of who I am and who I should be. I have wondered. I have waited and sought answers from people, books, and reflected—hoping and yearning, to understand why. Being Mexican, coming to faith in a Chinese heritage church, pastoring at a majority white church, I have always felt different. Different simply because I did not always look the same as my brothers and sisters around me, and I felt like something was missing.
People often talk about how culture often influences being able to feel at home in a church, but in my case with my ethnic heritage, I have been able to look past those things and have found a home in the unknown and new. Going from big city to rural, I have remained open to all in which God has called me to. And I have found comfort in the new and have become more aware of how my upbringing allows me to minister to the body of Christ in ways that only I can, and that is a blessing.
Without trying to sound proud, I am grateful and humbled that Jesus would choose a sinner like me, broken and in the process, to serve Him and His people in this capacity despite whatever my upbringing might have been. But I still desire to understand why.
In my seeking, I was meeting with one of my professors and he pointed me to Mañana by Justo Gonzalez. The book examines different beliefs in theology through the lens of the life and history of Latin America and the Latinos that inhabit it. I had not met many Latino Protestant Christians and I was looking to see if there were any authors who could provide insight into my question. Surprisingly, I was drawn to tears by this statement made about Latinos converting to Protestantism: “It is often a traumatic break that brings about much suffering.” I had no idea how true this statement was for me. From the very moment of conversion, I have felt something like this.
I had to tear myself from the customs of my family that had persisted through generations. Having been brought up Catholic I had to remove myself from things like the veneration of Mary, praying to the saints, praying the rosary, and attending mass. These things and more, had more stock in my life than I had realized because in rejecting those things I no longer was able to share that part of life with my family.
This is where the chasm formed between the culture in which I grew up in and the road I walk as a believer. I separated myself from the things that go against Christ’s sacrifice for me and that would pull me away from Him and in the process, it tore me from the generations of traditions of my heritage. I never knew how to navigate that and am still in the process of figuring those things out. However, in the intersection of culture and Christianity, I have found Christ’s redemption of it. Christ is the author and perfecter of all the happenings that led to the point of my conversion and beyond. All the events that transpired before even my birth were somehow to bring God glory in the renewed life I would one day have. I’m grateful and I’m privileged to think that I have the honor of being the first Christian in my family. And I look forward to continuing this journey and refining the idea of what it means to be Latino in light of Jesus Christ.
I know that the seeking does not end here. Nor does it simply end in the reflection of a single blog post. It will probably take an entire lifetime of hardship, unpacking baggage, pressing into the uncomfortable to understand how my ethnicity will influence my life. I rest assured, however, knowing I have the hope that Christ will see me through all of it, even if I do not get to the bottom of why I am Latino. Only the Lord knows.
*Photo by Tiago Aguiar
Here’s some somewhat random reflections on knowledge if you’re interested…
How Can We Know Anything at All?
Wow. That is a super big question. And it’s a question that some people are not asking at all. That’s problematic. And in some ways ignorant. However, others are asking that question but they’re asking it in a proud way. That’s also problematic. And ignorant.
Let me ask you a question, how do you know your dad is your dad? Well, some of you will say, “He’s just my dad. He’s always been my dad. I’ve always known him as my dad.”
But I could say, “But, how do you know you know for sure he’s your dad?”
Others will answer, “I know he’s my dad because my mom told me.” But how do you know your mom’s not lying? Or, how do you know she knows the truth?
Perhaps the only way to know your dad is actually your biological dad is through a DNA test. But could it be the case that the DNA clinic is deceiving you? Is it possible that there’s a big conspiracy to deceive you? What if you are actually part of the Truman Show? Everything is just a big hoax for people’s entertainment?… How could you know without a shadow of a doubt that that’s not happening?
You really can’t. Not 100%.
We Can’t Know Everything
We, I hope you can see, can’t know everything. There’s a healthy level of skepticism, just as there is healthy humility.
Also, if we think our knowledge must be exhaustive for us to have knowledge, we will never have knowledge. And we will be super unproductive. I, for one, would not be able to go to the mechanic. And that would be bad.
Our knowledge is necessarily limited. We may not like it but that’s the cold hard truth, we must rely on other people. We must learn from other people. There’s a place for us to trust other people. Of course, we are not to trust all people or trust people all the time. But we must necessarily rely on people at points.
Philosophy and the History of Careening Back and Forth Epistemologically
John Frame, the theologian and philosopher, shows in his book, A History of Western Philosophy and Theology, that the history of secular philosophy is a history of humans careening back in forth from rationalism to skepticism and back again. One philosopher makes a case that we can and must know it all, every jot and title. And when they’re proven wrong, the next philosopher retreats to pure epistemological anarchy, claiming we can’t know anything at all. Again, when it’s found out that that view is wrong and we can in fact know things, we swing back the other way. And so, the philosophical pendulum goes and we have people like Hume and people like Nietzsche.
The history of philosophy shows that we should be both skeptical about rationalism and rational about skepticism. Both have accuracies and inaccuracies. Which helps explain the long life of both.
The Bible and Knowledge
The biblical understanding of knowledge takes both rationalism and skepticism into account and explains how both are partly right and partly wrong. And it explains that though we may not be able to know fully, we can know truly. It also explains that there are more types of knowing than just cognitive and rational. The Bible not surprisingly understands who we are anthropologically and so is best able to reveal the whole truth epistemologically.
The Bible also understands that there is experiential knowing, tasting—experiencing something—and knowing something to be true on a whole different level than mere cognitive knowing. When the Bible talks about “knowing” it’s intimate, tangible, and experiential knowing. For example, it says Adam “knew” his wife and a child was the result of that knowledge. That, my friends, is not mere mental knowledge. It’s lived—intimately experienced—knowledge. It’s knowledge that’s not available without relationship.
Job says it this way, I’ve heard of you but now something different has happened, I’ve seen you (Job 42:5). Jonathan Edwards, the philosopher and theologian, talked about the difference between cognitively knowing honey is sweet and tasting its goodness. It is a world of difference. The Bible is not about mere mental assent. It is about tasting. Knowing. Experiencing. Living the truth.
The Bible says and shows that Jesus is Himself is the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus is what it means to know the truth. He is the truth and shows us the truth. He is truth lived, truth incarnate.
The Bible communicates that some people don’t understand, don’t know the truth. There’s a sense in which if you don’t see it, you don’t see it. If it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t make sense. The Bible talks about people “hearing” and yet “not hearing” and “seeing” and “not seeing.” Some people believe the gospel and the Bible is foolishness (1 Cor. 2:14).
How Should Christians Pursue Knowledge?
First, our disposition or the way we approach questions is really important.
How should we approach questions? What should characterize us?
Humility! Why? Because we are fallible, we make mistakes. However, God does not. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Also, kindness, patience, and understanding are an important part of humility and asking questions and arriving at answers. So, “Faith seeking understanding,” is a helpful and common phrase.
Second, where do we get answers from?
Scripture. Why is this important? Again, I am fallible and you are fallible, that is, we make mistakes. And how should we approach getting those answers? Are we above Scripture or is Scripture above us? Who holds more sway? Scripture supplies the truth to us; we do not decide what we think and then find a way to spin things so that we can believe whatever we want…
Third, community is important.
God, for instance, has given the church pastor/elders who are supposed to rightly handle the word of truth and shepherd the community of believers. We don’t decide decisions and come to conclusions on our own. God helps us through Christ’s body the Church.
Fourth, it is important to remember mystery.
We should not expect to know all things. We are… fallible. So, we should keep Deuteronomy 29:29 in mind: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” There are certain things that are revealed and certain things that are not revealed.
Fifth, our questions and answers are not simply about head knowledge.
God doesn’t just want us to be able to talk about theology and philosophy. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “that we may do…” So, God also cares a whole lot about what we do. Knowledge is to lead to action. We are to be hearers and doers.
The world that we live in is riddled with evil. It’s full of foul and wicked plots. There are many theories and conspiracy theories that tell stories about this world that we live in. Many of these tales are attention-grabbing and even deeply disturbing. How should we respond?
God tells us how we should respond. Here are a few things He tells us:
Laser Beam Focus on Jesus
From the beginning to the end, the story of Scripture is a story about the Savior; our need for a Savior, the coming of the Savior, and the coming quick return of our Savior. Scripture says testify about the Savior! He is who the world needs!
The world does not need just more knowledge or secret knowledge. It doesn’t need to uncover all the plots of man or Satan. The world needs the experiential life-transforming knowledge of Jesus the Messiah and Savior.
Satan portrays himself as an angel of light. He’ll even quote God Himself. He’ll give what appears to be secret knowledge as he did to Eve in the Garden. But, that work of Satan is a distraction and diversion from the truth—from Jesus the Savior, answer, and solution.
Do you know who really knows what’s going on behind the scenes?! Not the person on YouTube; no matter what they say or how many followers they have.
We don’t want to be guilty of “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). Instead, we want to follow Paul’s teaching, conduct, aim in life, faith, patience, love, steadfastnesses, and persecutions and sufferings (v. 11).
We also need to remember that all Scripture, all the promises of God, find their fulfillment and answer in Jesus. We need to see Jesus, not more videos on various theories. Jesus is the hope and protection of the earth, not some person with some so-called “secret knowledge” of what’s really going on behind the scenes.
That being said, there are evil and deceitful plots going on in the government—in every government. We should not be naive and think there isn’t. But there always has been. There was when Jesus physically walked the earth and Moses too. But what does the Bible say the solution is? And what should be our focus?
People clearly do follow “the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). This world is often a wicked place where people creatively carry out wickedness. That is true. But what’s the solution?
It is certainly true that “ we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Yet, the solution is not some secret knowledge. It’s being “strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (v. 10). The solution is taking “up the whole armor of God” (v. 13), not knowing the intimate and hidden details of what the spiritual forces of evil are up to. Colossians 2:15 tells us that Jesus is the one who defeats the wicked powers.
Amid a crooked and perverse generation and while the antichrist or antichrists walk the earth, how are we to respond? How do we steel up ourselves to endure and persevere? It’s not through secret theories that we discover on the internet. No. It’s through holding fast to the word of truth, tenaciously seeking Jesus, and lovingly telling of Him and His goodness.
Jesus has the “words of life.” Jesus is our “first love” and it is He that we need to return to (Revelation 2:4). Notice what 2 Peter 1:3 says: “HIS divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of HIM who called us to his own glory and excellence.” It is in Jesus that “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). And the riches of blessing found in Him are limitless.
Thus, we need a laser focus on Jesus. Satan as the great deceiver and destroyer would have us distracted from Jesus by any means possible.
Don’t Waste Time on Old Wives’ Tales
1 Timothy 4:7-8 says: “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths [some translations say, “Old Wives’ Tales.”]. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
In John 17:17 Jesus says we are made holy by the truth and then He says God’s word is that truth. It is all Scripture—not secret theories—that is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
We need the words of life to live the life we’re called to live. We need to consume that truth every day and be able to “rightly divide the word of truth” and be like the Bereans and weigh what is said against what the Word of God shows us (Acts 17:11). And we need to be in tight relationship with other Christians so we can be accountable and encouraged by them.
In 1 Timothy 1 Paul urges that people not “teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith” (v. 3-4). Paul goes on to say, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion” (v. 5-6).
In 1 Timothy 2 Paul tells us what we are to do instead of engaging in “vain discussion,” internet searches, and YouTube consumption: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (v. 1-2). So, instead of reading and watching conspiracies about the government, we are to pray for the government. That’s productive, biblical, and God-honoring. So, if you have concerns about what’s going on in our world and in the government—which you should!—the thing to do is pray, not feed on loads of news and theories about “what’s really happening.”
Paul says that when we pray in this way, it “is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (v. 3-6).
God loves people and wants them to receive salvation through Jesus. So, we pray for them and we share with them. We don’t waste time on speculation and silly myths. Instead, we should seek to be continually captured and enraptured by Christ Jesus, knowing there is solace, depth, mystery, and beauty there to sustain us a thousand lifetimes.
Spend Your Time on the Greatest TRUE Tale
Paul said, “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.” And Paul also said, “Him [Jesus!] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Col. 1:28-29).
Read 2 Timothy 4:1-5. What Paul says there is the priority. That’s what “fighting the good fight” (2 Timothy 4:7) looks like.
Paul strove and struggled to share the message of the Savior, not a secret message about something going on in the world. Satan would have us distracted from the good news of Jesus—the good news of hope and salvation to a broken and needy world.
When the chaos of wickedness ratchets up in the book of Revelation, what is it God’s people are to do? Protect the world and keep it from destruction through knowing what’s secretly going on behind the scenes and through sharing those hidden things? Is that how the book of Revelation exhorts us to persevere? No.
Revelation is about Jesus and the victory of Jesus. It’s the true story of His final triumph over every evil plot and wicked foe. It holds before us the truth that we are in a cosmic battle, that there is a god of this world who is presently working ruin, but also the truth that the Lion and the Lamb will conquer. That’s the “secret knowledge,” the revealing, the REVELATION we need. We need the true message of Jesus’ victory. We don’t need distracted by lesser stories. Instead, we need again and again to return to and be tethered to Jesus.
So many tales are a distraction from the true and greatest tale. Brothers and sisters, we don’t need new and secret knowledge. We need the old old story again and again. We need to be smothered with the truth of the Savior of the world, not suffocated by secret theories. The hope of the earth is Jesus, not some locked away thing we can learn about on a website somewhere.
We need laser beam focus on Jesus. And we need to share the true story about Him in love. We need to be evangelistic about the good news of Jesus Christ! Not any conspiracy theory.
 I think of Chuck Colson. If there was a theory about the watergate scandal it wasn’t just a conspiracy theory. It was true. But the answer wasn’t information, it was prayer. God brought Chuck Colson to salvation when he was in prison. Colson has gone on to lead a ministry to those in prison. So, prayer is powerful.
*Photo by Mika Baumeister
What does the Bible say about the length of our days? It says are days are short. Here’s the Bible on the shortness of life:
“For we are but of yesterday and know nothing,
for our days on earth are a shadow.”
“O Lord, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!”
“The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.”
“As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.”
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’”
What hope is there in the face of death? In the face of the shortness of life?
*Photo by Scott Rodgerson
What explains the contradiction of humanity?
Theologically what is the difference between self-confidence and pride?
God does gift individuals. And it is good to acknowledge that truth. The manager in Jesus’ parable that invested his talents and earned a good return for the owner had to have a type of confidence (Matt. 25:14-30).
Further, God created us as a “work of art” to carry out the good deeds and mission He wants us to accomplish (Eph. 2:10). So, in a sense, we can have confidence in the self that God intended us to be. Therefore, self-confidence is not in itself bad.
Of course, these truths need to be balanced by the humbling reality that we are sinners and that every good thing we have is a gift. What do we have that we did not receive (1 Cor. 4:7)? And we should always recall that every good gift and every perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17). It’s not innately ours.
Self-confidence can mean prideful evaluation of one’s ability. It does not, I don’t think, have to be understood that way though. It could mean something like: confidence in who God made you to be and in your God-given abilities. If understood that way, perhaps “God-confidence” or “God-acknowledgment” would be better.
Either way, it does not seem to me that self-confidence is inherently bad. I also think considering the opposite term can be helpful to consider: “self-skepticism” or “self-suspicion.” The Bible does say that our hearts are desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9). So, does “self-skepticism” better describe what the view of ourselves should be?
I don’t think so. I don’t think self-confidence or self-skepticism gives us the whole picture. And if left with just one of them or even a balance of both of them together, we still miss something huge! We miss our self in relation to God.
If we consider ourselves without relation to or thought of God, we’re going to get it wrong. We’ll error on either over-confidence or over-suspicion about our self. Yet, when we consider ourselves with reference to what God can and does do, we can be confident in who He has made us to be. While at the same time not obsessing about our self, because we’re focused on Him. We can have a healthy suspicion of our self but that’s not crushing. Because we know that God can and does overcome our sin.
“Pride,” at least how I think about it, has to do with what one has done. In my mind, it means someone is proud of what they themselves have accomplished. Pride is less an evaluation of one’s ability and more so a belief that’s one’s ability is simply a result of one’s own efforts. There’s no grace in pride, given or received; all is earned.
So, with pride, there is a fundamental misunderstanding of who humans are and who God is. God is the giver we, as humans, are receivers. God is, and we are contingent. Pride is a foolish misunderstanding of ontology. God is independent, humans are dependent.
Notice, King Nebuchadnezzar was humbled after he praised himself and all he thought he himself had accomplished. Nebuchadnezzar found out that God humbles those who walk in pride (Dan. 4:37). When pride comes, then comes disgrace (Prov. 11:2).
We should, however, understand that there is a difference between “pride” and “pleasure.” King Nebuchadnezzar didn’t just take pleasure in his kingdom and in all that God had entrusted to him, he took pride in it. That is, he acted as if he was responsible for it all himself. He exalted himself and failed to exalt God.
I believe it is good to take pleasure in the abilities God has given us—whether preaching, building cabinets, or whatever. In a movie about Eric Liddel, a Christian Olympic runner, he says, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” There’s nothing wrong with taking pleasure in what God has given us to do. But, notice an important point: Liddel said, “God made me fast.” Liddel acknowledged God even in his abilities.
But wait, didn’t Liddel run? Didn’t Liddel sweat? Didn’t Liddel sacrifice? He showed amazing discipline to be an Olympic runner, right? Yes. And every good gift is from God. Including Liddel’s ability to do each of those things and also his ability to breathe and his very existence was from God.
So, I believe one could evaluate themself as very good at what they do and that it required a lot of work on their part to become effective, without being prideful. How so? They acknowledge that it is all a gift. Discipline—a gift. Breathing—a gift. Etc.—a gift.
Perhaps the fundamental difference between “pride” and “self-confidence” as we are considering the terms is this: One is an exaltation of self without reference to God, the other can be confidence in God with reference to who He has made you to be.
The apostle Paul had a sort of confidence—we see it demonstrated through his letters and missionary work—but he also said it was not him but Christ in him (Gal. 2:20). Paul, after He met and was radically transformed by Christ, was not so much confident in himself as what God was able to do through him, though he was a mere disposable jar of clay (2 Cor. 4:7).
So, I believe it is right and good to have a kind of self-confidence in who God has made us to be even while we work at killing pride.
*Photo by Nicolas I.
Can an outside hand reach into the fishbowl of our universe?
Newton, a scientist that also happened to be a fish, was a keen observer of the ecology of the fishbowl. He was surprised to observe regular patterns in his fish universe. But he did.
For example, Newton observes that food daily falls upon the surface of the water at the same time each day. It is a law of nature. It’s just the way the world is.
Newton observes other natural phenomena like the temperature of the water. He further notes that each death of a goldfish results in a distant flushing noise and then in reincarnation of that goldfish. Newton, awestruck by his discoveries, publishes his findings in his magnum opus entitled Fishtonian Laws.
Many read his groundbreaking work and are convinced that the laws of the fishbowl are unassailable. After all, the patterns observed have always been that way and so always will be that way. No outside source can act within the fishbowl. The reality is food appears every day and as a goldfish dies, a new one appears. That is the unbroken chain of events we observe. That is the way it’s always been. How could it be different? Who or what could act on these laws of nature?
We are in a closed system; the aether of the universe—in which we live, move, and have our being—is constrained by an invisible force. There is an unknown unobservable wall that keeps us from knowing what is outside nature, what is outside the physical universe. There is no way for us to know the metafishbowl.
In the post-Fishtonian world, there were still whispers of the metafishbowl—of the supernatural hand of God—but most of those stories were dismissed as baseless dreams. After all, even if there were a God that set up the fishbowl, he no longer acts in the fishbowl. Such a being is wholly other and transcendent and would not care about lowly fish.
Everything just goes on swimmingly by itself. We shouldn’t expect an outside hand, right?… There is no reason to think an outside being or force could act within our world.
Or, does something smell fishy about this story?