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Posts Tagged ‘God and free will’

Let’s talk about the gods most of us worship.

Perhaps it’s not the God known to many people, including those of my faith (Christianity). That’s probably who the creator of this meme (found on an atheist website) was thinking about.

So who — or what — god might it be? The list of candidates is, sadly, longer than Pinocchio’s nose.

  • Wealth: how many people sacrifice relationships, family life, peace and even a good night’s sleep trying to fill their bank accounts to overflowing? And how much do we really, really need to retire comfortably?
  • Toys: Are our garages big enough to hold the boats, RVs, ATVs and riding lawnmowers that our culture says we should own? Can I find the space needed to cram an 85-inch flat-screen TV into the family room?
  • Career: Is it enough to be a regional manager? Wouldn’t my resume look even better if I was a vice-president? Or maybe a government cabinet minister?
  • Public image: How many of us strive to look endlessly happy and witty on social media?
  • Sex: According to the publisher of adult-entertainment trade publication XBIZ, the North American pornography industry earns at least $6 billion annually. Can anyone credibly insist it’s not a god to millions?

I’m not off the hook here. My wife can easily advance the case that my photography hobby (obsession?) and computer are gods that I kneel before.

So what about you? If you look hard in the mirror, can you admit one or more of these gods sits on the throne of your life? And admit they’re probably not providing the satisfaction and purpose that our culture insists they should?

I write all this to tell you the creator of the universe leaves all these petty little gods in the dust. Why? Because wealth, toys, career, public image and sex couldn’t possibly care less about YOU in this life or the life to come. And when this life ends, all those little gods are left behind like smelly litter.

Believe it or not, the creator of the universe knows YOU and cares about YOU. A section of the Bible, simply called ‘Jeremiah’, puts it like this: The Lord says, “I love you people with a love that continues forever.”

Maybe you’ve read that statement, then looked at your life or at the state of our planet and declared “no way”. So just consider these facts:

  1. Rock-hard evidence of God’s love for YOU is the gift of freewill. That gift is why this world is in its current broken state.
  2. Imagine how much worse things would be if God wasn’t involved in the world, if he wasn’t working in ways you and I will never understand in this life. No, don’t imagine it because that’s depressing. Just consider being thankful.

So what do you do with this love? Let me suggest a radical answer: accept God’s gift of His Son Jesus Christ. When you accept Him and follow Him, God know longer sees the bad things you’ve done and the good things you’ve failed to do. He only sees His Son’s perfection, transferred onto you.

Sound like a good deal? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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This meme, helpfully posted on an Atheist website, makes two points:

  1.  God isn’t real
  2.  People are afraid of reality.

I won’t bother with the first point; many websites explore the question of God’s reality (here are two from the perspective of Christianity, which is my faith: http://carm.org/ and http://www.ReasonableFaith.org), so I’ll leave it up to them.

As for the second point, my first reaction was to immediately think this: people believe in God because they are all TOO aware of the reality of their condition.

People who believe in God and follow Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is God’s Son) usually know they don’t live anything close to an ideal life.

Take me, for example. I’m aware that I’m:

  • Self-centred (and therefore don’t care enough about others)
  • Greedy (Frank, you have 700 CDs; do you really need more??)
  • Prone to hold grudges (which always hurts me, not the person who made me so angry)
  • Usually looking for something in return whenever I’m generous (It took me awhile to figure out this is giving with my hand out).

These are just the faults I can immediately identify; I’m sure my very patient wife can suggest more.

However long the list is, here’s the truth: while I can make little improvements, I can never truly fix all my weaknesses. I don’t have the willpower, the discipline or the discernment. And I’ll be bold here and declare that YOU don’t have what it takes to fix all your faults, either. In fact, no one does.

That’s the absolute, unblinking reality of humanity’s condition.

So, if we can’t fix ourselves, who can? Let me be quite radical and declare that God, our creator, is up for the task. In fact, His prime business is repairing broken people. The Internet has many stories about how following Jesus Christ has restored damaged people. (I touch on two of those stories in this blog: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-fz.)

If you’ve met serious Christians, I’m sure you’ll know we’re not perfect. Which might lead you to wonder if I’m truthful about God fixing people who following His Son.

I am truthful, but all this is mixed in with the mystery of free will. The horrors of human history make it plain God has never wanted humanity to be a race of goose-stepping robots. This means He permits people — including Jesus followers— to resist His efforts to fix us.

But when we accept the gift of Jesus and believe that He died for all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do, then we welcome Him into our lives to start the repair work.

When will that work end? When this life is finished and we go to Heaven to spend eternity with Him. Until then, we serve as His ambassadors in a hurting world.

Does this make sense? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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I was having on online conversation with someone who has a very unorthodox view of Christianity when he asked some fascinating questions:

What is there in God which makes God perfect? And what (by extension) is in Jesus Christ that makes him better than all of us?

I’ve never wondered about these things, but I imagine many people have, given the overwhelming imperfection of this world. If you’re one of those people, I hope my research and thoughts will be helpful.

Is God perfect (i.e. without fault)? Many people say yes, based on the words of Jesus (whom serious Christians believe is God’s divine Son). In a section of the Bible called ‘Matthew,’ Jesus establishes this astonishing standard for anyone who follows Him: “you must be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.

Two points that need to be made here:

  1. Since God’s existence can’t be proven or disproven, the same can be very credibly written about Him being perfect.
  2. Who defines perfection? Ask 10 people this question and I’m pretty sure you’ll get at least five dramatically different responses.

So what is there in God that makes Him perfect? For me, it’s establishing free will for all human beings and then sticking with free will no matter what. Some might see this as bad, given wars, human trafficking, terrorism, hip-hop and most of Steven Seagal’s movies (hey, gotta keep it from getting too serious).

But I see free will as being the characteristic of perfection because it’s the characteristic of absolutely perfect love. And by perfect, I also mean the word’s less-known second definition: “complete, not deficient” (according to the Oxford dictionary).

That perfect love is also exhibited in Jesus Christ. Learn about his life by reading the Bible and you’ll find out He has unfathomable wisdom, unmatched understanding of the human condition, unshakeable trust in God and a willingness to sacrifice Himself for the good of everyone who’s willing to follow Him.

Why the sacrifice? Because the wrong things we do and the right things we fail to do build an impenetrable wall between us and God. When someone as remarkable as Mother Teresa knew she couldn’t be good enough to overcome that wall without Jesus, then what does that say about me? What does that say about YOU?

Only one person can—and has—penetrated that wall: Jesus Christ. Nowhere is there even the slightest shred of evidence to suggest he had even one fault. So he was capable of taking the penalty—eternal separation from God—that we deserve onto His perfect shoulders when he was put to death.

God rewarded that sacrifice by raising Him from the dead, putting Him in charge of EVERYTHING and offering Him as a life-changing gift to everyone on this planet. Including YOU. Are you willing to consider accepting this astounding gift? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Hitler freewillMaybe you’ve seen this quote in social media. And, like the atheist who created this graphic, maybe you also think it’s silly.

But before you instantly agree and move on, give this graphic some thought. In fact, give it more thought than the person who created it.

So what if God thought the world needed an Adolf Hitler or an Osama Bin Laden or a Josef Stalin or a Pol Pot?

Didn’t He also think the world needed a Mother Teresa, a Pope Francis, a Jean Vanier (creator of the L’Arche homes for severely disabled people) and a Nelson Mandela?

The point is not whether God created good and bad people. The point is He created people with absolute freewill. In other words, people like YOU and me.

Did God know how Hitler and Mandela would turn out? Quite possibly; serious Christians believe God exists outside of space and time (even as He created them) so we can speculate that he was aware of the choices Pol Pot and Jean Vanier would make.

So does that mean He suddenly changes His mind and stops Bin Laden from being born? I’m sure some folks would say yes.

If you’re one of them, this sudden denial of freewill is a slippery slope. If you believe God is perfect — a position held by serious Christians — and stands in rightful judgement of his creations’ choices, then where do the limits on freewill end?

Should God also stop YOU from driving because He knows that one day, you’re going to hurt someone in an accident?

Should God have forced eternal singlehood on singer Kenny Rogers, actress Joan Collins, director James Cameron and TV host Larry King? Each has been married at least five times; think of all the emotional pain and (possibly) financial hardship caused by all those divorces.

What about AK-47 machine gun inventer Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov? Wikipedia says Kalashnikov emphasized the weapon was for defensive purposes only and severely regretted the deaths it caused. But so what? Why not hold Kalashnikov and, by extension, God responsible for the actions of people Kalashnikov never even met?

Singer Amy Winehouse (1983-2011). There’s someone whose death we can certainly stick on God, right? After all, He should have denied her the right to ever touch a drop of alcohol, since it was a major factor in her death.

Casinos. Now there’s a good one. How dare God allow even one to be constructed, since gambling has contributed to freewill-loving people going bankrupt, to marriages and families breaking up, and to careers being destroyed.

Now let’s consider another element of freewill: The freedom to accept or reject the idea of a loving, perfect creator who has every right to judge you and me on all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do.

If you accept the idea, then how about the notion that this perfect creator wants His creations to spend eternity with Him — wants it so much that He sent His equally perfect Son to live among us and be put to death to pay for the sins of everyone who believes in His Son?

One of those believing people could be YOU, if you accept the gift of Jesus Christ. What do you think? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Prayer-doubt 2.16No doubt about it: prayer is often a mystery, even to people who believe in it and practise it.

So I was intrigued by this graphic (found in an atheist internet community) because it asserts a viewpoint I haven’t seen before.

Indeed, doing a Google search of the question “Is prayer an act of doubt?” brought up almost no links. Apparently, most people (even those who doubt God’s existence) have never thought to pose the question.

So is praying an act of doubt? Blogger Juanita Ryan (www.JuanitaRyan.com) puts it very well when she writes: “We want to trust God. We want to have faith. But we have so many questions. So many things are unclear and uncertain.”

In western culture, doubting there even is a creator is common. So wondering if God is watching over everything is hardly rare.

But watching over everything is not the same as arranging everything. If you believe in God, then you probably believe in freewill. And that’s part of the mystery. How, when and where does freewill mix with God’s will? And how does all that work in His plan for this planet, for you and for me?

There are no definitive, truly satisfactory answers to those questions  And I’m fine with that. Questions like these are a powerful and necessary reminder that God is God. And I am NOT.

So are my prayers an act of doubt? Sometimes. Remember, as a man of faith (I follow Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is God’s divine Son), I’m surrounded by people — including my parents and brothers — who think praying to our creator is a joke, a quaint throwback to a time when Christianity was influential in my country (Canada).

Then I think about this point made by Juanita Ryan: “Where do we take our doubts if not to God? Where do we voice our uncertainties if not to God?”

Exactly. Just hours before Jesus was arrested on trumped-up charges, A section of the Bible called Matthew (one of four Bible accounts of Jesus’ physical life on earth) records that He spent anguished time on His own, praying to His Father about His fears and uncertainties.

“Jesus fell to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, don’t make me drink from this cup [of betrayal, torture and death on a Roman cross]. But do what you want, not what I want” (Matthew 26:39).

Right there is the biggest reason I can think of for praying. Jesus prayed. A lot. And he prayed about his uncertainties. And as a result, He was strengthened for the hard road ahead, so much so that He willingly carried out His Father’s plan to reconnect us defiant, sinful people to Him.

By trusting and believing in Jesus — His physical life and work, His death and resurrection — God no longer sees all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do. Jesus has paid the price for it all. So when this life is finished, those who trust and believe in Jesus will spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

Sound intriguing? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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The Right GodAh, Homer Simpson. Even a dolt like him occasionally raises questions that are worth answering. This is one of them.

In case you don’t know, 17th century mathematician, philosopher and physicist Blaise Pascal formulated his philosophy based on the Christian idea of God. Since that time, there have been many challenges to the wager, but let’s deal with the one put into Homer’s mouth by the writers of The Simpsons.

Let me ask you: did four or five “gods” create the universe? What about the air you’re breathing right now — did a committee of “gods” come up with that? Our brains, our opposable thumbs, our ability to recognize right and wrong — did “god” #3 do all that during a very busy day at the office? Or was it #1?

If what I’m writing here seems a bit ludicrous, that’s exactly the point.

So why the Christian god? I bounced the question off a wise pastor. Here’s a bit of Ross Carkner’s thoughts:

“To begin with, we are talking about The Almighty as recorded in the Bible who has no equal. Poor Homer is concerned about all the lesser gods who are duking it out for a share of last place in the god contest.

“These lesser gods have often been put in place, not by their own claims, but the claims we make for them. The Bible records God as making His own claims …. so I do not worship a god of my own making, I worship the God who makes everything!

Here’s another viewpoint, from John Morris of the Institute for Creation Research: “There is one infallible way to know [what is the right god]—one sure test, and no other. The one God who can defeat death is the only God who can give life!”

That god is the God who offers a gift to humanity: Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is His Son. Numerous Bible writers declared that three days after death, Jesus was brought back to life. That’s right, by “the only God who can give life!”

Now what about God getting “madder and madder” if we don’t worship Him? If the twists and turns of human history have proven anything, it’s that God is all about freewill — that includes us deciding who we want to declare as creator.

Ross Carkner weighs in again at this point:
“Is this God an ego maniac? Does the Almighty crave our attention? or is He more in tune with my redemption? My needs? My crisis? Since He is more concerned about my fulfillment — my fullness of life in Him, his reaction to my choosing lesser gods is not anger, but sadness.”

Exactly. So what do you think about Pascal’s Wager now? Does it make sense? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Where's the plan? 2.15When I saw this graphic, posted on an atheist website, my immediate reaction was: I bet that’s how the world looks to a lot of people.

It’s hardly a stretch to write that planet Earth appears to be in permanent chaos. Wars, Ebola virus, fundamentalist terrorism, rampant corruption, female and child slavery, broken marriages, child sexual abuse. I’m sure you can easily add to the list.

So where’s the plan? Is all this playing out according to some orderly arrangement? Really?

In a word, YES. Now stay with me while I explain.

Serious Christians like me believe God’s plan is not so much about events. It’s about people. It’s about a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians  believe is God’s divine Son.

That relationship has three key parts:

1. It can, and has, changed the world for the better. Consider these facts:

  • Christians have started hospitals and universities (this essay sheds light on that topic: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-9O).
  • A Christian, William Wilberforce, tirelessly led the decades-long fight to end slavery in Great Britain.
  • Christian scientist Francis S. Collins played a leading role in mapping the human genome.
  • Members of a Christian organization, the International Justice Mission, risk their lives to free female and child slaves in the developing world.

2. It can, and has, brought life-changing peace to lives torn apart by pain and misery. Two examples:

  • Second World War hero Louis Zamperini (subject of the Hollywood movie Unbroken) was an angry alcoholic tortured by regular nightmares of his time in a Japanese prison camp. Then he became a serious follower of Jesus Christ. The nightmares ended. The drinking stopped. And his troubled marriage was restored.
  • Beaten up and betrayed by his criminal friends, Michael “Bull” Roberts was at the end of his rope when he reached out to Jesus Christ. Since then, he’s left behind a life of crime and sought to help others in his situation. (You can read a bit more of his story here: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-5g).

3. It’s based on free will. This might seem difficult for you to accept because free will includes our ability to do all the nasty stuff I mentioned in the second paragraph. You might protest that a loving God would not allow all those things to happen. But centuries of evidence shows that free will is an all-or-nothing proposition.

If the nasty things I mentioned were stopped, then so would your ability to ignore God and reject the gift He offers you: a changed life, now and for all eternity, through faith in Jesus Christ.

It’s up to YOU to respond to the gift. It’s up to YOU to figure out whether you want to be part of God’s work to make this broken world a better place. It’s up to YOU to take hold of the life-changing peace He offers through Jesus.

So what do you think? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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