Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Apology: The Existence of God

The first subject of any apologist must be the existence of God.  For if there is no god, all religion is merely part of the population manipulating another part to some end.  If there is no spiritual dimension, no metaphysicial reality then there is only nature: the observable world and religion is simply a vain affectation.  Certainly many who hold themselves to be scientific embrace this view.

First, I maintain that there is a metaphysical reality.  I hold this view for several reasons.  There is a universal acceptance of the spiritual sphere.  Not that every person in the world holds this for they do not.  Rather that every people group in the world is religious.  Perhaps I had best pause and define religious as: of or relating to the worship of or a doctrine concerning a divine being or beings (from the New Oxford American Dictionary.)  It is apparent that by this definition even atheism is a religious belief!  Every tribe and nation believe in some kind of religion.  Spirituality is ubiquitous.  Surely if this were merely human invention it would not have been invented everywhere by everyone.  Think of how the wheel and alphabet are not ubiquitous.  But religion is universal.  In contemporary America as we have become more “scientific” (i.e. more convinced that evolution is true and there is no supernatural world) in reality we have become increasingly superstitious.  There has never been more belief in angels, demons and ghosts since the middle ages.

Second, if there is a spiritual dimension either it is either inhabited or not.  If it is not inhabited by beings (other than whatever spiritual dimension we may possess) then it is of no concern to us.  If however it is inhabited then we must be concerned with the beings that live there as they undoubtedly have power to influence our natural world.

Third, what do we can a superhuman being? The New Oxford American Dictionary defines god as: a superhuman being or spirit worshiped as having power over nature or human fortunes.  So if there is a spirit world and it is inhabited at least some of it's inhabitants may properly be called gods according to our understanding.  Again, if these beings have no power over nature or human fortunes than they are not gods and we need not concern ourselves with them.

Fourth, the existence of God.  If there are 2 or more gods then relating to one or all of them may be problematic.  What if we relate to a god who is overpowered or destroyed by another god?  What if we worship a god who is capricious or untruthful?  What if the gods interfere with each other's revelation of themselves to us?  In pluralistic deity there can be no sure relationship with any divine person and hence we are hopeless to discern a right and wrong way to relate to such a reality.

So if there is a metaphysical world inhabited by a being of power that necessitates the existence of God.  A God powerful enough to create the world and reveal Himself to us.  A God righteous enough to truthfully reveal himself and just enough to rule over and administer the world fairly.  Thus I posit the existence of one God against all forms of atheism, naturalism, pantheism, polytheism and dualism.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Apology: An Introduction

From the New Oxford American Dictionary:

apology noun ( pl. -gies)

1 a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure.

2 ( an apology for) a very poor or inadequate example of.

3 a reasoned argument or writing in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine.

I trust, dear reader that you understand I do not intend to write in the spirit of the first or second definition but in the third.  I have long thought of how to organize this essay and finally have worked up the courage to start writing it down.  As always my goal is to see if it sounds as cogent in writing as it does in the echoing recesses of my mind.  Undoubtedly it will not if past projects have taught me anything!  Equally I am hopeful that this will have some reasonableness about it and that my thinking will be refined by the exercise of setting these things down on paper and the interaction that may follow.

What is it that I will seek to defend here?  It is simply this: Christian Orthodoxy.  St. Peter tells us, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”  So that is what I set out to do: to answer for my Hope.  And the measure of my answer is this: that it conforms to the Word of God.

A voice says, “Cry out.“

And I said, “What shall I cry?“

“All men are like grass,

and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.

 The grass withers and the flowers fall,

because the breath of the LORD blows on them.

Surely the people are grass.

 The grass withers and the flowers fall,

but the word of our God stands forever.”

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A Few Thoughts on Christian Missions

“You haven't been writing much recently, Jon,” you say. “What have you been thinking about?”
OK, I know no one really said that but anyway here it is since I am a blogger and I share what I think regardless of whether anyone cares!
Missions. There has been a fair amount of stuff written in the blogosphere about Christian Missions. No bible-believer doubts the need for some kind of mission to share the gospel. The main thing right now in 2007 is that I think we are working with the wrong paradigm. There is an adage: armies always prepare to fight the last war. I think this is true of missions. We don't even blink at spending $50,000 or more to send an American to live in a foreign country and plant a church. We are unfazed when every fourth year he brings his whole family back to the US and travels to his 60-100 supporting churches. We are unconcerned that there are churches supporting multiple missionaries when they are not honoring their pastor by supporting him financially.
“So,” you ask, “what paradigm should we be using.” The NT one of course! Paul did not try to go to every town in an area. He makes this clear in Colossians 2. He did go to the big population centers and then sent people out from there to plant churches in the hinterlands. So, where are our big populations centers. New York, L.A., Singapore, Hong Kong, etc. If we could do some really effective gospel outreach in these places we could reach the world!
My second thought is that missions is cyclic. There are periods when the focus is outward and there are periods when the focus is inward. For instance: can you name a great missionary from the reformation? No, the focus was on building up the church with a renewed focus on God's Word. From that we get later great missions outreach. My thought here is that the great American missions movement came from a church that was domestically healthy and growing. Is that still the case today? Perhaps we need to focus missions on really building up american churches and sharing the gospel with the growing number of our fellow citizens who have never been to church or heard the gospel.
American missions has historically done a huge work in evangelizing the whole world. We have sent missionaries to every nation and translated the Bible into hundreds of languages. But the now the church is failing to reach our own Jerusalem. A huge majority of those in evangelical churches will never give the gospel message to anyone. Yet we hold fast to the idea that we, as Americans, have shouldered the burden of world evangelism and the idea that we should deviate from that in any way is unquestioned. Until now.