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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
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Saturday, February 21, 2009
Humanism... Meh...
When I was three or four, my mother's uncle passed away. I didn't know him, but I remember well enough that my grandmother's house was full of people who were very sad and crying, and that I was frightened by the intensity and the frequency of grief all around me. I was old enough to be genuinely alarmed and personally frightened by other people's fear, or what I perceived to be fear. I remember therefore asking my mother,in the midst of my own growing fright, why everyone was so upset, and she tried to explain not only that her uncle had passed away, but what death was.

That is a conversation I will not forget. She described it as something like [1] falling asleep and never waking up again, and [2] explained that every one dies eventually no matter how good they are, and that [3] there was nothing she or anyone else could to do change that.

I was both mortified and petrified (it was my bed time, and the thought that I might not ever wake up was frightening enough, but hearing my mother say she couldn't change it if I did - that tore from me any hope of comfort, and I wept until I was exhausted, and though I don't remember actually falling asleep, I am sure I did eventually.

I don't know how you (the reader) found out about death, but I don't want you to hate on my mom for her ham fisted parenting. Perhaps if my mother hadn't been a teenager at the time herself, and if she had known the Lord, or had some better up-bringing herself, or simply not been distracted by her own profound grief, she might have had more grace for me that evening; yet however we came to know about death, the reality of it - the inescapability of it - carves a canyon sized groove into the fabric of our existence.

We know that death is everywhere yet doesn't our culture hide it in hospitals and old folks homes? A terminally ill person might know a hundred people well, but will only see a handful in the hospital - because no one wants to "remember" him or her that way - which is a cop out, really it is that death is horrible, and people would rather ignore it than deal with it. We put death off, as it were, until we have to deal with it. First our grand parents, maybe other older family members, eventually mom and dad, then our friends and siblings. The average 40 year old has been to a dozen funerals, most of which are family, and few of which he or she bothered to visit even when he or she knew they were dying.

I am not trying to make anyone feel guilty here either. When my grandfather was in the hospital, my father called me and asked if I would go and visit him. I declined, and my grandfather died the next day. He had visited a church the Sunday before, but I don't know if he had ever heard the gospel in His life. So while I air my regrets, I do so by way of saying this post is not about guilting people into visiting dying people - though were it about that, I should encourage you to seize the day.

This post is about how the fear of death can wrongly inform our theology.It is amazing to me that most of us assume that because we are sincere, and because we read scripture, and because we would never believe anything about God that isn't in the bible - that it must follow that our theology is "right" and people who disagree with it must not know how to read scripture. There are good, godly, people who do this, not out of malice, and not out of wilful ignorance, but out of a sound conviction that their theology is the most God honoring, honest way of looking at the text that they know how to do - and most of them wouldn't hesitate to adopt a more sincere scheme if they could be convinced that such a scheme existed. That is, we are not talking about people who hate the truth and want to pervert it, but rather those who love the truth, and want to preserve it.

Now the fear of death in our culture has a flip side: the preservation of life is considered a virtue. What do we call someone who saves someone else's life? That's right - A hero. Now I know, we could turn this post into an abortion discussion quite easily at this point - especially given that it is profoundly illegal to destroy the eggs of any species considered to be "endangered" - for our laws make no distinction between fertilized egg and mature adult when it comes to birds - since there is no social pressure to redefine these living, growing, baby birds (eggs) as lumps of cells that have no value until they are hatched - that is, since the eggs of endangered birds don't offend the liberal freedoms of those who are blinded by their own morally bankruptcy, we don't have any trouble seeing the eggs for what they are...

But I digress - the point is that the flip side of this fear of death is a heightened value placed on human life (except as noted). Most in our culture would say that everyone other than aborted babies, and convicted felons in certain states, has a right to life.

To make it personal, most individuals believe, deep down, that they have a right to live. That is what struck me the hardest as a three year old. I didn't have a lot of intellect or knowledge to work with or guide me, but even in the simplicity of my thinking, I knew this much - I knew it was wrong -- wrong for me to die, and I had no one to blame but God. I hated the inescapable truth of my coming death with every fibre of my little being, and it is, I believe, this same sort of unbridled passion that drives a great deal of humanism today.

You see, the atheist, or the secularist, or let's make it even broader - all those who don't believe the bible is 100% - for these people, whether they acknowledge it or not, death is an injustice, it is an offense to them - and a multitude of ethical philosophies have sprung up through out history that spring from this same tap.

You have heard the expression, "the sanctity of life" - that isn't a biblical expression, it is a secular one. Life is sacred, we say, but unconsciously we mean that our own life is sacred to us, and because it is, we are willing to allow that all life is sacred, because in a world where all life is regarded as sacred, the chances of someone taking my life are greatly reduced. Our culture is already borderline narcissistic, and even as Paul writes, so it is true, "for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church," (Ephesians 5:29 NASB). Paul's admonition there is for husbands to examine how they love and cherish their own selves, and to love their wives with that kind of focus, intensity, and consistency.

You don't have to be religious to love your life. Everyone normal individual loves his or her own life, and cherishes it - guards it as their most precious possession. This universal reality has informed many a pagan religion, and even (especially?) our moral secularism. Live is so precious, it is wrong to take it under almost any circumstances.

This message comes at us from the cradle to the grave, from within our own selves, and again is reinforced in every society and culture on the globe. Little wonder it slips into some of our theology unchallenged - the notions, while inarticulate in our subconscious, are certainly there for most of us - and so when we form our image of God - the one we form before we start to form even before know how to read - we assume that this God, if He is God, must share our pre-conceived values.

It is because our life is precious to us that we subconsciously reason that the it is right that murder is a sin -- because life is precious! There are many Christians today who cannot support the death penalty because they truly believe that it is a sin to take any life - just as there are people who won't swat a mosquito because they value "all" life.

In Matthew 7:12 we read, "In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (NASB), again in Luke 6:31, "Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. ", and let's not forget, "you shall love your neighbor as yourself" - which appears several times in scripture (c.f. Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 19:19, 22:39, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14, James 2:8). You will never hear a pagan or an atheist say a word against such verses - because though they deny God, they do not deny the idea that the world would be a better place if we all treated each other the way we want to be treated ourselves.

All of us reason from the cradle onward, that anything that harms us is bad, and anything that helps us is good - and we don't have a lot of trouble transferring that idea to other people - we don't need religion for that, it comes natural.

It comes natural because it is just another manifestation of our own selfishness. Every last one of us values our life, and the quality thereof - and because we do, we assign value to things that preserve that life, and by extension, other lives like it.

But that is precisely where we can go awry.

You see, what happens is some begin to reason about God's character, not from scripture, but from this personal formula. God commands us not to murder one another, and -what-d'ya-know-, that lines up nice with what we already think about life in general. Of course God commands us not to murder - murder would be injurious to life, and that would be evil (according to those extra-biblical, preconceived notions that inform our culture, and through our culture, have brainwashed informed us), and since God isn't evil, God cannot condone murder. Likewise, since the preservation of life is the flip side, some apply the same formula to the after-life: since life is sacred, God wants to preserve it - that is why God wants us to evangelize - because He wants to save as many as possible.

The great commission, under this scheme, is God telling us to be about saving souls because they have value, because it is evil to let even one soul go to hell...

Do you see what is wrong with that thinking yet?

The reason it is evil to take another life is because God said not to. Yes, you are taking away something of profound value, but that is going to be good or evil depending entirely upon whether or not God wills for you to take that life. When God ordered the Israelites to wipe out entire nations, it was not evil. I know of a person who calls himself a believer, who for this reason believes that the OT God is not the same God as the NT God - that Jesus is kinder, and better than the God of the OT - for this very reason - the God of the OT did not withhold judgment, as Christ did, and so the judicial punishment for sin that was carried out in the OT is seen by this man as an incompatible with the love of the NT Jesus. That's an extreme case however, most people wouldn't go that far - but a lot of them cringe and wince at what appears to be God's "heavy handed" justice in the OT.

Listen: You don't have to be a full blown implementer of this error for it to mess up your theology. Why do some people believe that God is trying to redeem every human being that was ever born? They don't think that because scripture makes an air-tight case for it. They think that way because they presume that the taking of life is in and of itself evil, and that preserving it is good - they think that God made and upholds this standard, when in fact it is just worldly wisdom - the doctrine of demons.

The person who has fallen into this worldly wisdom, imagines deep down that the reason God calls us to evangelize is because God is trying to save everyone. Now, because they don't want to worship a God who is a failure (since not everyone is saved) they make a grand fuss about free will - as though God could not simultaneously be sovereign while man had free agency - thus, God is still good, because he is trying to save everyone, and man is to blame because he uses his free will to reject God.

Here you see we enter into Pelagianism, and semi-Pelagianism. Whatever the fall did to Adam, whatever the curse of God is - it doesn't affect, in whole (Pelagianism) or in part (semi-Pelagianism) our ability to repent and believe.

Likewise, because it would be evil for God to fail to try and save everyone, We must develop a doctrine of election whereby God stands in the past, looking into the future, and sees who will choose him, and "elects" those men who first elected of their own free will to save themselves through faith.

Likewise, because it would be evil for God choose to save anyone at the expense of others, we must embrace a universal atonement, or change what the atonement means - either God atones for everyone, or atonement doesn't mean atonement anymore.

Again, since it would be evil for God to make any soteriological distinction between men, God cannot produce faith in some people unless he produces faith in all people - therefore, all God can do is offer up the possibility of producing faith in those who by their own merit and sound choice wisely decide to pursue God - a choice they can rightly boast about over those who failed to make the same choice given the same information.

Do you see where this is going and where it comes from?

Look, I would love it if scripture told me that God was going to save everyone that was ever born, but I gotta tell you, that would make the gospel and the bible pointless. I would also love it if God were trying to save everyone, but I gotta tell ya, I would be very concerned about His sovereignty. If God is not in control of everything, either by weakness or according to some benevolent decision - God is not really in control, and something else is. I would love it if I could find some intellectually consistent way to bend and twist the concept of propitiation such that I could say that Christ atoned for everyone - but I can't because I know what the word means - if Christ atoned for all, then none will suffer hell, for the atonement cannot be separated from reconciliation itself, and the notion of God sending those who have been reconciled to Him through Christ into hell is not only preposterous - it is an insult to God's character. I really do wish I cannot hit unbelievers with that wonderful sales pitch - "Jesus has died for your sins already!" but I cannot, I can only go so far as scripture, and say that Jesus died for sinners, and that every sinner who repents and turn to Christ in faith will definitely be saved - and I can assure them with profound certainty that this is going to be true for them if they repent - but I cannot go beyond that without offending my conscience, and doing profound injury to my understanding of the Holy scriptures.

The idea that Human life is intrinsically valuable is so subtly off, that many of us accept it without every critically examining it.

The moment we begin to understand that a thing cannot be evil or good in and of itself, but is only good or evil insofar as it is in harmony with or in rebellion against God - the moment we see that the veil has fallen from our eyes.

We really have trouble accepting that our standard for good and evil is the immutable will of God.Our fallen and corrupt souls are more comfortable with the notion of a unilateral and immutable moral checklist that even God must adhere to, than we are with the idea of having an imutable and moral God, and yet we have no choice in the matter. What God wills is good, and what rebels against that will is evil - by definition.

Has God given a command, to fail to keep that command is evil - the ten commandments demonstrate that every last one of us had rebelled against God - we have all lied (born false witness), we have all wanted something that wasn't ours (lusted after it), we have all hated (Jesus said that hatred is as the sin of murder), none of us have kept God's command, and that shows us that all of us are evil.

Now, understand this about yourself. It isn't that you are (and remain) an otherwise neutral person who could be defined by which has the greater balance (good acts or evil acts) - so that we would say, you are good if you have more good acts, and you are evil if you have more evil acts. That is not how scripture paints us and measuring ourselves in that way shows that we don't understand the purpose of the law. The law was not meant to show us that we disobey God all the time. The law reveals a truth to us that we cannot ignore - we are not just neutral people who have sinned - we are sinners. We are not neutral, we are rebellious. God Already knows this. The law wasn't given so that God could determine whether or not we were rebels - it was given to show us what is true of us - we reject God's rule - or said another way - we are evil to the core.

That is why we need Jesus - because God has every right to destroy us given that we are evil - that we live, breath, eat and sleep evil - day in and day out. Today, this day, you have committed so much evil, that God is just and right if takes you from where you are and sends you to hell forever, and if you cannot see that, it is because you have a very warped idea of what is good and what is evil - an opinion that is no doubt echoed in the world. But a biblically informed conscience knows the truth. We really are evil. Really, really evil.

We don't want to be saved from our sin, we want to be free from punishment - we hate God, and though we might imagine that it is just his "rules" that we hate - in reality we hate His rule - His rightful reign over us. We hate that he can rightly condemn us - and re rage against the notion that such a judgment would be righteous - because we have our own self-informed notion of what is good and what is evil.

I could write on this till sun up, but I ought to close it off. The bottom line here is that there is a stink in the church - a festering stench that crept in through the floor vents, it reeks of worldly thinking, it masks itself as love or mercy, but its roots reach down to the earth, and not up to heaven. It ever so invisibly, quietly, and subtly removes God as the source of righteousness, and replaces Him with an ethical philosophy that is grounded upon an imaginary intrinsic Human worth.

Honestly, If someone thinks that Jesus died for everyone, and they that anyone who says otherwise is slandering Christ's good name, there is nothing to be gained by lining up your proof texts from scripture against theirs, unless you like arguing for argument's sake. The end of that is always that you end up arguing in circles rehashing and repeating the same points over and over, ten, twenty, thirty different ways - and they in turn return in kind. I see people do this every day, especially here, on the internet.

If you find yourself in a conversation like this, or drawn to those sorts of discussions - whether you regard yourself as a defender of the one true faith, or perhaps you just have a personal vendetta against anyone who doesn't believe those things that define God to you - whatever your axe happens to be - grinding it will may sharpen the axe - but that same axe will never fell the tree.

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posted by Daniel @ 11:44 PM  
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