Christmas, A Cure for the Pain of the World

Defenses of Christmas aren’t much better than the attacks. Remember: cynics get intelligence, believers are good hearted, dimwits. Defending anything based on religion, such as Christmas, must rely on feeling and not intellect, says our culture. Christmas is good, because it is about family, as if family is an unmixed blessing for most people. Christmas is good, because it is about “belief,” especially in the spirit of Santa. Since Santa does not exist, and recent holiday movies demand we believe in him, this seems like a call to madness. Christmas is also supposed to be about the “child within,” but in a culture in dire need of grownups this seems dangerous as well. Jesus once said to be like a little child regard to humility, but irrational Christmas marketers aren’t saying that. Christmas seems to involve believing in the unbelievable in order to regress to childishness.

Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, the incarnation of God and Man. If true, it is [a pivotal] moment of history. If false, it is useless. Best reason and best experience argue that it is true. My heart bears witness to His gentle Voice. My mind demands that I accept the truth of history. This moment when Heaven and Earth were brought together is the answer to the pain of our existence and that is the very problem with both cynicism about Christmas and most defenses of the holiday.

The cynics see a world of pain and embrace it. Chaos is basic to their vision of the world, but their very rationality denies this view. The defenders act as if platitudes can solve problems. Warm hearts are not enough against cold reality.

Christmas is for a world of pain. Christmas is good news, because it shows God comes down to Earth and saves us. Such news makes merry, but remains realistic. It is for sin, but about redemption. It denies nothing about human hurts, but does not rest content in them.

~John Mark Reynolds

Struggle of Life

Have you struggled with the way life is and the way it should be?

People fall into one of three philosophies of thought when struggling through this tension: Theist (We can know God), Agnostic (I’m not sure God exists or that we can know), and Atheist (We cannot know).

For the theist, the presence of evil is proof God exists; for the agnostic, evil creates a huge question in the mind; Atheists see evil as proof God does not exist.

At best, I am a theist. At worst, I am agnostic of the variety. Doubting Dawkins and Atheism’s Strength demonstrate the achilles heal of Atheism. Atheism is not a tenable option for me.

One honest atheist explains (please pardon some of the wording),

In a godless universe shit happens without rhyme nor reason. Life is predatory from the ground up. Creatures eat one another by trapping unsuspecting victims in unusual ways, launching surprise attacks out of the blue, and hunting in packs by overpowering prey with brute force and numbers. Sometimes a creature just goes wacko for no reason at all. Humans are not exempt. Sometimes the wiring in our brains goes haywire and we snap. We too are violent and we inherited this trait from our animal predecessors. We also show care and concern to our kith and kin but we can lash out in horrific ways at what we consider an uncaring world.

David Heddle remarks,

On the one hand, a very illuminating observation. On the other hand it is nothing more than yet another attempt at the proof of godlessness by the existence of evil. Axiomatic atheism is, if you will, a one-trick pony: Bad things happen, ergo no god. They also throw in “show me god exists” – a reasonable request from their perspective—but this is a negative statement rather than a positive. The only positive argument atheism has is, as Loftus puts it, shit happens. He writes:

In a universe where there is an all powerful, perfectly good, all knowing God this tragedy is not what we would expect to happen.

Here Loftus is 100% wrong. He is operating under the misguided assumption that Christianity is a religion that teaches shit never happens.

The bible teaches us to enjoy life, God’s bounty, and temporal happiness. It also promises, like a prescription medication: side effects may include pain, despair, suffering, lapses into grievous sin, weakness, apparent senselessness, persecution, misery, and physical death. Why atheists think that fallen man in a fallen world behaving exactly as the bible tells us is somehow a problem for Christianity is unfathomable. Shit happens. Loftus is correct that a godless world predicts as much. He is incorrect that a world with the god of the bible does not. Both hypotheses fit the data.

Heddle is spot on. But further, I would say that many people see God as a Ivory-Tower God, a God that is disconnected from His creation in any meaningful way.

If God were an Ivory-Tower God, then Atheists would be correct

But God is not an Ivory-Tower God but a God who can identify with our suffering.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “The joy of God has gone through the poverty of the manger and the agony of the cross; that is why it is invincible, irrefutable.” We need a suffering Savior. We need a Savior who has tasted the cup of horror we are being forced to drink.

But more to the point, as Peter Kreeft goes so far as to say, “If good and evil exist, God exists. The struggle of life is a struggle for faith, but not just faith but faith in Jesus, our Emmanuel.


Listen

24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (ESV)

Grill a Christian

Todd Friel, of Wretched Radio, went to a public college and discussed Christianity with a group.

Grill a Christian (Part 1)

Grill a Christian (Part 2)

Grill a Christian (Part 3)

Reasons Why I Would Reject Christianity

I would reject the Christian faith for the following reasons:

1. The resurrection was found falsified or a lie beyond a shadow of a doubt ().
2. There was a compelling reason for me to reject Christianity and look to another religion– vis-a-vis something better than Jesus Christ’s resurrection.

We hold tight to the cross of Christ and His resurrection because, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” ().

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (ESV)

19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (ESV)

Doubting Dawkins

Atheism has made a huge leap into the public mind. It seems that, ever since 9-11, a new breed of Atheism has come of age. One poem in particular about being an Atheist produces a few questions in my mind:

If you are hungry, I will offer food.
If you are thirsty, I will offer water.
If you are cold, I will offer warmth.
If you are in need, ask and I will give.
If you are in trouble, ask and I will help.

I do not do these things in the hopes of being rewarded, or out of fear of being punished.
I do these things because I know them to be right.
I set my own standards and I alone enforce them.
I am an Atheist

How does an Atheist “know them to be right”? What is right? wrong?

Who is the arbitrator of what is right? The individual person? Society?

What if one society sees everyone else not like them as inferior and decides to pursue all other societies’ destruction? It’s right in one society’s eyes but not others.

What if one society decides to take in and nurture all helpless people, while another decides to end the lives of all the helpless? What makes one society virtuous while another horrendous?

What if a society, at one point in time, pursues justice for all, yet within 1 to 3 generations becomes corrupt and pursues self-interest alone and throws justice out in the street?

What constitutes virtue? horrendous action? justice? injustice? Who gets to define these ideals and why should I follow those ideals?

This way of thinking promotes people doing what is right in their own eyes.

If we are to pursue the full extent of Atheism, then we must follow the natural conclusion provided in the video below.

What hope is there? There is no hope. There is no reason for me to follow any laws or guidelines of society. Because there is no God, I will not be judged by God, even though I will be judged by society, and even then, society’s perception of good will change. And if that is the extent of my judgement, so what? And who cares?

Check the site out: http://www.doubtingdawkins.com/.

Answering Doubts – Entering NeoModernism

Doubt has changed the landscape of (American) Christendom. At one point, it was cool to question everything without trying to find real answers (Emergent anyone?). Although, this is certainly an overstated and simplistic view, the point still stands; I am not saying doubt is not a real issue, though.

Doubts are real

People are truly wrestling with the tension of what they have been taught and what they see and experience in real life.

Our society has moved from Modernism (“This is true”) to Post-Modernism (“Is this true?” “What is true for you is not true for me”) to a Neo-Modernism (“the answers I was given don’t hold enough weight for me to accept them”).

The answers are not failing as answers, however. I believe they are couched in the wrong verbiage. This does not mean we change the answers. We change how the answers are expressed.

I am not advocating the dumbing down of our answers. We are not talking with five year olds. We are talking to adults who have potentially faith-alleviating doubts.

I am advocating the rewording of our answers in a thoughtful, meaningful, and concerned way.

Modernism was a double-edged sword

Modernism was a blessing and a curse. The silver bullet approach to answering skeptics years ago has lost its effectiveness. Those answers are shrugged off like water off a duck’s back.

Many reasons attribute to this. One significant reason is biblical illiteracy. But more to the point, foundations for the “silver bullet” answers of yesteryear have disappeared. The building blocks which establish the answers have been eroding beyond recognition or have been completely dropped out of the collective discussion.

In other words, we are somewhat used to giving a simple answer to a question and people accepting that answer (whatever it is), but that was because the groundwork for the answer was already laid because biblical literacy was more common then than now.

The Solution

The issue is immensely complex. The solutions are even more complexly difficult to implement. But here is a starting point for furthering the discussion:

  1. Prayer ala “Why weren’t our answers to the questions good enough?” 29 And he said to them, “This question cannot be answered by anything but prayer.”
  2. Time – We need to spend a TON of time with those who have the questions
  3. Effort – We need to demonstrate our love for others in the difficult process of digging for answers
  4. Build Biblical Literacy – We need to construct anew the foundation for our answers

What do you have to add?

14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” (ESV)