Friday, December 31, 2010

Calming the Mind (MIND)

Angry man

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In the last post we talked about Contentment, Acceptance, Loving, and Mindfulness as a way to calm the mind. This is a way to deal with angry and worried thoughts. In this post I want to take this idea further and address Meditation, "I AM Worth it", Nurture, and Diversion as a way to deal with this type of thinking.

Meditation

I have previously posted on the subject of meditation here. Meditation is a contemplative awareness of your own thoughts, others, around you, and most importantly God. It is a deeper way of knowing what is going on. It is a discipline that requires much practice to become good at. Do not expect to meditate once and have calmness as a result. In fact meditation may take as long as three weeks practicing every day before a person starts to see the benefit.

I AM Worth it

OK I cheated on this one. I borrowed "I AM Worth it" from Dr. Redford Williams1. I AM Worth it is an acronym that helps you to remember four important questions.

Important: Is this important?

Appropriate: Is my anger appropriate for the given situation
Modify: Can I change my situation?

Worth it: Is change worth the effort?

Answering "Yes" to all of these would show that you have a problem to solve. Armed with this insight you can focus your energy toward an effective and productive solution. On the other hand answering "No" to any of these would show that you have a problem to cope with. This would mean that you need to find a way to get through and resolve your angry feelings.

Nurture

It is much easier to grow when there is someone to give you instruction, support, and encouragement. His/her nurturance is a powerful influence for growth. What can you do though when you are not with someone who can cheer you through the difficult moment. One thing to do is to develop some short phrases that you can say to yourself that will help you to self-nurture to a better outcome. Some suggestions for self-nurture comments would be:

"I can do this."
"I have faced situations more difficult than this before."
"When I figure this out I will be a better person."
"If I watch my reaction then I am effective in the way I respond"
"Cool Down."
"Take it easy."
"I am almost through this."
"I can to all things through Christ who strengthens me."

Maybe you can think of some of your own. The key to self-nurture statements is repetition. In the heat of the moment you do not want to search for the words. You want the words to come naturally. So identifying the phrases for yourself and practicing them is a good way to remember them.

Diversion

Diversion is a quick way to get the mind off of an angry moment. The way that it works is to find an activity that can get your mind off of things. Some might read a book, listen to music, do housework. For me doing yard-work is a good place to get my mind off of frustrations. A word of caution though; it does not work to divert your action, but leave your mind dwelling on the situation. The goal of the diversion is to get your mind off of the situations so that you calm down. One problem with using diversion all the time is that it becomes the bad habit of avoidance. If you have a problem that you are avoiding you will never solve the problem. Sometimes diversion for the moment, but then return to the problem at hand and addressing it is the best course of action compared to having an angry outburst.

What would it take for you to have a "CALM MIND?" Contentment, Acceptance, Loving, Mindfulness, Meditation, "I AM Worth it," Nurturance, and Diversion only work as you practice them. Having the idea of doing something is not the same as doing it. Trying it once is not the same as doing it well. If you want the have a CALM MIND it will take practice, repetition, and consistency. If make this commitment then you will find that you are able change your angry thoughts to more helpful and productive thinking. In the end you will cope and problem solve more effectively, which is something that I believe we can all work on.

God Bless You

 


1Duke Health Medicine Health Line (Nov. 26, 2007). Why Anger Kills. DukeHealth.org. Retrieved December 31, 2010, from http://www.dukehealth.org/health_library/health_articles/whyangerkills

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Reflection

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining, It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, 'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angels' voices! O night divine, O night when Christ was born; O night divine, O night, O night Divine.
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming, With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand. So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming, Here come the wise men from Orient land. The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger; In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger, Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend! Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!
Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever, His power and glory evermore proclaim. His power and glory evermore proclaim.

O Holy Night.  Ours is a Holy night.  about 2000 years have passed since that faithful night.  Yet God's Holiness in no less Holy than that night.  We act as if there is one day higher than another.  Yet consider this very night has been redeemed of God.  What will you do with it. 

Long Lay the world in sin and error pining.  Lets face it we have been enlightened in many ways.  Cars, computers, food handling, public works, waste treatment, and all manner of gadgets have changed the way that we live our lives.  We have technology that allows for me to type words on the screen and within 24 hours have people from all over the United States, and far off places from me like Russia, Malaysia, and Poland read it.  We are lucky to have food in bounty. 

And yet if we open our eyes the sin and consequences of sin keeps the world in bondage.  There is no reason that any child should go hungry tonight.  We have the technology, transportation, and the resources, what we lack is the will.  To allow a child to go to sleep hungry is a sin.  This is just one of many examples that I could give that sin is alive and well.  

Till a soul felt it's worth.  Jesus still enlivens the soul of those that trust in Him.  He transforms and changes the person from the inside out if he or she will let him.  Yet so many of us feel worthless.  This is a particular confusion to me.  Why should any soul with so many Christians in the world fail to feel it's worth.  Perhaps we have failed to shine the light.

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morning.  Praise God for new mornings.  Everyday, every moment of the day has the potential for new and glorious redemption.  Even this moment that you are reading this is a new opportunity for God's Grace and Mercy to flow through.  That is flow into your life and into the life of another.  What a glorious morning awaits us the moment that we put action to our faith and minister to those in need. 

Fall on your knees!  I was in meditation and God as clear as one can say he speaks said in my spirit, "Worship is the heart of obedience."  Obedience out of a hope to gain something is desire (sometimes selfishly) for some feel good moment.  Obedience out of avoiding some punishment is fear, (sometimes selfishly) or some from of self-preservation.  In either case obedience is self-focused.  Obedience that is centered in worship is characterized by love, devotion, hope, reverence,  and thankfulness. 

My prayer is that we would have a worshipful Christmas.  Thank You Lord for Your Son Jesus Christ.  I pray that during this time of year that You will fill our hearts and renew our minds.  That we not only be recipients of the gifts of love, grace, mercy, and hope, but we in fact would become vehicles of love, grace, mercy, and hope.  That the Light that You have placed in us would illume the world.  In Name of Our Savior Jesus Christ.  AMEN

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Calming the Mind (CALM)

Poster from the United Kingdom reading "K...

Image via Wikipedia

Equally if not more important to calming the body in the heat of anger would be calming the mind.  It is the mind that invents all manner of evils (and goods) to hoist upon those that we are most passionate about (good or bad).  Without calmness of the mind one risks acting out rashly, harshly, with vengeance even when it is done with premeditation.  This is not a direction we want to go.  Thoughtful? Yes! Intentional? Yes!  Hurtful? No!  Destructive? Definitely not!  When cooler heads prevail you will nearly always regret the latter two, but you can nearly always celebrate the first two. 

How do we move to be more calm of mind?  I think there are several concepts that need to be explored in having a "CALM MIND":  Contentment, Acceptance, Loving, Mindfulness, Meditation, Improve, Nurture, Diversion.

Contentment

I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.
Philippians 4:12 (HCSB)

This is quite a statement.  First, I tells me that contentment is a learned way of being.  If you learn something know how to do it not the same as doing it nor doing it well.  These things take intentional practice to do them well.  Contentment falls into that category.  Contentment is the quietness of soul that comes over a person when all is well.  Yet Paul is writing the Philippians here that he has learned contentment  in "any and all circumstances."  So the second thing I learn is that true contentment is not tied to external circumstances.  He takes it further and says, "whether well fed or hungry."  True contentment is not tied to getting some need met.  This is quite extraordinary.  If you ask someone what is contentment they will always point to some peaceful external circumstance or getting some need satisfied.  Yet Paul is saying plainly that there a contentment that is greater than these.  How does he do that?  Four things that he does:  he trusts in his relationship with Christ (Philippians 4:13); he prays (Philippians 4:6-7); he is thankful (Philippians 4:4, 10); and he meditates on the good things in life (Philippians 4:8).  Now each of these may be difficult to do in the moment that you are angry, but remember this is a discipline that you want to learn well.  More on Contentment here: Christian Mindfulness (Contentment)

Acceptance

Acceptance is the act of receiving something.  Often we do not like things or we believe they are unjust or unfair or are not what we want.  Accepting something you do not want is like drinking vinegar.  Non-acceptance is the rejection of something.  Now if that something is a circumstance then acceptance means that you receive the circumstance as it is.  Not that you judge it to be good, but that you acknowledge it is what it is.  You stop fighting against reality and come into contact with it as it is.  If the something is a person, then you accept them as they are, the good and the bad.  Not that you desire that they stay that way or that the nature of your relationship has to stay the same, but you accept them as a human being with shortcomings even as you are a human being with shortcomings. 

As a Christian my acceptance is rooted in my acceptance of Jesus Christ as the Lord (in charge of) and Savior (rescuing me from my shortcomings) of my life.  My acceptance of my circumstances and of others is rooted in this truth.  That God accepts me through the relationship that I have with His Son Jesus Christ.  God's acceptance of me and my acceptance of Him becomes the foundation of my acceptance of people and events in my life.  I also note the the reverse is true.  There are times when my acceptance of God is diminished.  At those time my acceptance of circumstances and people also diminishes. 

I often share this analogy when it comes to acceptance:

Imagine that you go home and your bedroom has been painted your least favorite color.  You are shocked and disgusted by the color so you close your eyes and pretend like it is not painted that color.  Your quickly find your way to the door and refuse to reenter the room until it is dark.  Not turning on the lights you get ready for bed and go to bed.  The next morning you wake up and open your eyes to discover much to your dismay that the room is still that ugly color.  You again close your eyes and find your way to the door and leave.  You again refuse to go into the room until it is dark to avoid seeing that ghastly color.  You do this a second night, a third night, a week, two weeks, a month, two months.  Let me ask you, "What color is the room?"  For all that effort and energy over the last couple of months the room color has not changed and you are most likely more miserable than when you started.  This is non-acceptance.  It is only through acceptance that you can actually do something about the color of the room.

Not accepting something does not change it.  Accepting something gives the possibility of change.   One of the hardest things to accept is that there are some things that are beyond your ability to control.  I have this diagram to help understand what I have control over, what I have influence over, and what I have neither control or influence over.  Trying to control something that you do not have control over is frustrations.  Accepting things you have no control over, accepting that some situations at best you have influence over and focusing your energy on things you have control over is effectiveness.Control influence

Loving

Passionate anger as a force meets it's match with passionate love.  Loving in the midst of anger seems to be foreign to most if not all of us.  I have previously posted on Agape Love here: The Greatest of these is Love, 1 Corinthians 13: What is Love?, Love: Going Deeper in the Word.  Let me say this where love abounds you cannot go wrong.  Where anger abounds you cannot avoid going wrong. 

Mindfulness

I personally advocate Christian mindfulness.  Christian Mindfulness at its core is contemplative awareness by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:15).  Contemplation is an act of the will which requires that we be fully engaged in the present moment and dependent on God's Holy Spirit.  Contemplation is where what we know meets what we experience.  It is the process of wisdom.

Beginning with awareness of your signals and triggers you move into greater awareness of the circumstance (awareness of environment or of the moment), Person or people that are involved (awareness of relationships), and prayerfully aware of what God is doing to work through this circumstance (spiritual awareness).   When we are able to enter into the "peace of God" we achieve Christian Mindfulness.  

Mindfulness not only involves greater awareness, but also increased potential to act effectively.  When it comes to anger it will allow you set aside selfish desires and see the most beneficial and effective course of action. More on this here: Awareness of Self (Effectiveness)

Well I have covered the CALM part of CALM MIND.  I hope that I can get back to the second half soon.  I am not sure as it will be busy the next couple of days and I want to thoughtfully and mindfully describe Meditation, Improve, Nurture, Diversion.  My hope is that these posts are helpful in dealing with anger.  I will be putting up a Table of Contents as soon as I have worked through this series.  Please be in prayer for me as I consider writing a book.  I am sensing that this is the direction to go for me, but I still have reservations (Grammar being one of them).  My hope is to present something that helps me to fulfill the mission:

To live and challenge others to live excellent, fulfilling, and authentic lives.

I hope that is what this blog is doing for you as well.  Thank you for your prayers and readership.  You all are a blessing to me!

~BJ

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Can God Create and Object So Big He Cannot Move It?

Black Hole in the universe

Image via Wikipedia

This is another supposed contradiction that Atheists like to throw out to challenge the idea of an all powerful (omnipotent) God.   The argument creates a dilemma in that God is either not omnipotent because He cannot create such a thing or He is not omnipotent because He cannot move it.  The problem though is not in the dilemma, but with the question itself.  The question is logically flawed. 

Remember for the Atheist (as I have said before) this is an absurd question.  Why a person would want to know if an imagined being could move and immovable object is confusing to me.  It would seem that putting energy in to such fiction would be a waste of time.  In short I would quickly say that any fantasy being could move any fantasy object without any problem while still creating something that is unmovable at the same time.  This is fantasy after all.

Moving on though to the question at hand.  The goal is to call into question the Omnipotence of God.  In my estimation we cannot in our finite understanding be aware of what omnipotence is.  If we could understand the most powerful force in the universe we would just be scratching the surface of understanding omnipotence.  If it takes 70,000 computer processors to figure out the merging of two black holes, then understanding omnipotence is a bit more processing power than my tiny brain can handle.  At best we can imagine that God is more powerful than the most powerful thing we can think of. 

My concern though is for the second half of the question.  First the size of the object.  For an object to be so big it would have to be larger than the force trying to move it.  Omnipotence by definition is infinitely powerful.  So in this case our object would have to be infinitely large.  Creating an infinitely large object would displace everything else in existence.  It would be the utter obliteration of everything (Including God Himself?).  This would make such an object a fantasy.  It would be an unreal object.  Can God create something that does not have the possibility of existing.  No!  Why?  Because it is a contradiction.  For an object to exist it must be finite and if it is finite then God can move it.  Something finite cannot be infinite.  So such an object cannot logically exist.

Next looking at the properties of Objects.  I would say that moveability  is a universal property of objects.  Throughout the universe we see objects in motion.  There is no corner in which we find something that is not moving in some way, shape, or form.  I propose that it is not possible for an immoveable object to exist.  Everything is in motion in some manner.  Even Black holes (in my limited understanding) are in motion.  So if the most massive objects that we are aware of are in motion then an object even more massive would have to be in motion as well.  What is more motion is measured relative to another object.  So in order to test whether it was not moved there would need to be two of these immoveable objects.  I am having trouble imagining one now we need two.  Hmm!

One more thing, the laws of astrophysics would indicate that as an object got larger it would reach such a size that the gravitational pull of that object would begin to pull itself into itself creating a black hole.  As that object became more massive then it would reach the mass of the universe.  What is larger than the mass of the universe?  I am not sure, but if our universe is moving I am not sure what a black hole more massive than our universe would be?  Singularity perhaps.  Could God move it?  Yes  we exist don't we.   So you see no matter the enormous mass of this supposed object it would have the quality of moveably.  An immoveable object is a contradiction in and of itself.  So it cannot exist. 

In conclusion then the question is illogical.  Illogical questions can be answered however you want, but you will never know nor can you arrive at the correct answer. 

I have a question for the Atheist.  Can any researcher create a computer simulation of an immoveable object?  They might want to start here and get up to speed.  This simulation took 70,000 processors three months to compute.  I wonder how they connected all those laptops :-) .  Here is what they produced. 

 

Well at least we know the object is bigger than the little guy on the left and also bigger than the guy on the right Notice the little ripple at the end as it takes the little black hole into itself. 

God Bless You

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OK I'm Angry So Now What? (Learning Relaxation)

relax time

Image by Xavier Fargas via Flickr

Once a person has recognized their triggers and signals, what does he/she do next?  I have previously posted on the Biology of Anger here.  In short it difficult to overcome biology.  When you are angry your fight or flight response needs to be quieted.  This is primarily accomplished through relaxation (see here for some ideas).

Relaxation and intense anger are incompatible states.  The idea is to become so good at relaxation that you can sort of turn it on.  Some people mistake relaxation to be an event.  For example: "I can't wait for the weekend so I can relax."  or "I will finally be able to relax on vacation."  or "When I lay down I can relax."  The problem with this view is that relaxation is tied to your external circumstances.  Relaxation is not of any particular use if you are angry about your situation.  The situation is not relaxing by definition.  However, relaxation is not an event.  It is a skill and a state of mind. 

I don't say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.
Philippians 4:11 (HCSB)

Contentment is relaxation of the soul.  If Paul has learned how to be content in whatever circumstances he is in the I firmly believe that we can do the same. 

Start with relaxing the body.  There are many strategies for relaxation.  I have written about a few that I have used with people in my counseling practice.  Here are a few more ideas.  The goal is to find one that works for you and practice it every day. 

By practicing it everyday you accomplish at least three things. 

First you learn to recognize tension.  by recognizing the difference between a relaxed and tense state you can add this to your awareness of signals for anger. 

Second you lower your set level of tension.  We all have a general level of tension in our day to day life.  Some people's level is higher and others lower.  By lowering you set level of tension you give yourself more room to respond over reacting.  Think of it this way if you are already highly tense then it will not take much additional stress from your circumstance to push you into a negative reaction.  But if you are lower in tension from practicing relaxation then it will take more stress to push you to a negative reaction, which will give you more time to effectively respond. 

The third thing that practicing relaxation accomplishes is that you get better at it.  Think of an activity that you get better at with more practice.  The same is true for relaxation.  In fact the better you get at relaxation the more effectively you can use it in a tense moment. 

I have had people tell me in counseling, "I have tried those relaxation strategies and they do not work for me."   When I ask them when the tried it they respond, "When I got angry of course."  There is a problem in this thinking.  If you are a basketball player and the only time you take shots at the basket is during a basketball game you are not going to me a good basketball player.  To be good at something takes practice.  Some activities take a lot of consistent practice.  Relaxation is one of those activities in my opinion. 

Practicing relaxation has many health benefits as well.  Give it a try.  Notice the sense of well-being that comes through effectively relaxing. 

God Bless You

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Recognizing Anger

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - AUGUST 26:  A stop sign i...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

If you travel through life ignoring the signals or triggers for your anger it is a bit like driving while ignoring stop signs.  Eventually you will get into trouble or in to a serious accident.  There are three types of anger signals:  Body signals, thought signals, and actions signals.  Triggers are the situations that typically result in you feeling angry.

Body signals are the sensations that you feel when you are angry.  These sensations are automatic (see previous post).  Most people will feel hot, some sweaty, nausiated, headache, muscle tension, beathing hard, and so on.  The trick is to be more aware of your personal signals.  If you recognize that you are feeling angry then you can identify your body signals by thinking over the previous several minutes and becoming more aware of how you feel physically.  The tendency is to short change this awareness by simply stating, "I feel angry."  This is usually a thought or at least an emotion.  But awareness involves being more aware of how your body feels over just knowing that you are angry. 

Thought signals are the automatic thinking that occurs when you are angry.  For example:  Someone cuts you off in traffic and you think, "You idiot you are going to get someone killed."  That is an automatic thought.  These automatic thoughts often fit a similar pattern across various settings.  The most common pattern is to label people or situations with deregulatory language.  There can also be emotionally charged words like hate, pissed off, F%$# you, sucks, and so on.  Each person has their own pattern in thinking when they are angry.  The trick is to recognize your own.  Another common pattern of angry thinking is the just/unjust (either-or thinking).  You let some perceived injustice be the justification for your anger.  When in reality it is more likely the other way around.  It  is the perception and not the event itself that is triggering your anger.  For example: What if I told you that the person that cut you off in traffic was taking his child the emergency room because she is very ill.  You would change your thinking, "Be careful I hope that your daughter gets better.  That feeling is compassion over anger.  What changed?  Your thinking.

Action signals are the behaviors that you do when your angry.  Often others will recognize our action signals long before we are aware of them ourselves.  If you are bold you can ask others to help you identify your signals when they observe them.  It might be better to ask them to tell you when you are not angry at the time.  Telling someone their anger signals while they are angry is usually met with defensiveness.  Some typical action signals are: raised voice, complaining, slamming objects, stomping, arguing, clenched fist, clenched jaw, punching, kicking, and so on.  Each person has actions that tend to be typical when they are angry.  The goal is to become aware of some of the early signals before your anger leads to the more aggressive ones.  Another way to catch action signals in the moment is when someone says "Why are you angry?"  Rather than the automatic, "I am not angry."  You can say, "What am I doing that makes you think that?"  Most people that we are close with are perceptive of our moods and will be able to identify our anger long before we are aware of it. 

Triggers are the situations or people that can pretty reliable result in our anger.  Being aware of our triggers is beneficial in two ways.  We can learn to avoid unnecessary situations.  Avoiding an angry situation is wise.  Anger in the raw rarely solves anything.  If avoidance is not possible then awareness of our triggers allows us to be prepared to take positive action.  You can plan ahead what you are going to do if that trigger happens.  Planning ahead for angry situations or dealing with people that push our buttons is effectiveness.  Not planning is foolish because you will likely fall into habitual behaviors that have not been effective in the past. 

Being aware of signals and triggers is the first step in coping with or resolving your anger.  If you miss this step you are much less likely to be successful in dealing with anger.  If you do this step then you will be much more prepared to respond rather than react when anger comes your way.

God Bless You

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Euthyphro Dilemma

"Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?"

This is often presented as a puzzle by atheist because it becomes a circular argument or leads to conclusions that seem to contradict our concept of God.  In the grand scheme of things the whole dilemma is more complicated that it is simply stated. 

First recall the dilemma is absurd to the atheist. 

Is what I think is good (or what we generally call good) commanded by a non-existent being because we think it is good, or is it our thinking it is good because it is commanded by a non-existent being.

After a while one begins to wonder why atheist are so concerned dare I say threatened by absurdities?  It also makes me wonder why some atheists are so vehement against theists.  My advice to atheists, "Screaming and mocking the naive does not make them less naive, but it does make them less likely to listen to you."

As with most of these arguments the defining of words is important.  in this case the defining of a word is the central part of the dilemma.  In short this dilemma could be restated:

Does goodness define itself or does God define goodness. 

The other option is that neither goodness nor God exists.  Which is the way that most hard core atheists go. 

What is meant by "it."

Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?

"It" seems to be "What is morally good."  If this is the case then the dilemma restated becomes:

Is what is morally good commanded by God because what is morally good is morally good, or is what is morally good, morally good because what is morally good is commanded by God?

This is the core of the defining good.  That is does good define good or does God define good

x commanded by y because x is x or x is x because x is commanded by y

"It" could also be the "what is commanded by God."  If that is the case then the dilemma restated becomes:

Is what is morally good commanded by God because what is commanded by God is morally good, or is what is commanded by God morally good because what is commanded by God is commanded by God?

In this case the first horn is a tautology and the second horn is illogical.

x is y because y is x or x is y because y is y

Either the dilemma is illogical or hinges on defining morally good. 

On the other hand "it" could be generic "the thing" implied by the argument which is the object of our speculation. 

Is what is morally good commanded by God because the thing is morally good, or is the thing morally good because the thing is commanded by God?

If this is the case then we need to define what the thing is before we can proceed to answer the dilemma. 

God commands moral good.  This is a true statement to the theist.  The problem occurs when you attempt to separate moral goodness from God.  Treating moral goodness as a quality independent of the nature of God creates a contradiction in the first horn of the dilemma.  If moral goodness is separate then it constrains God which then God looses his will, sovereignty,  and omnipotence.  However these problems dissolve when you consider that "the thing" to be the nature of God.  Restating the first part of the dilemma becomes:

What is morally good is commanded by God because God's nature is morally good.

If this is what is meant by moral goodness then the first horn of the dilemma is true.  It also answers the question of how to define goodness.  It is God's nature that defines moral goodness.

The second half of the dilemma becomes:

God's nature is morally good because God's nature is commanded by (proceeds from) God

A command is a statement proceeding from the speaker asserting his/her authority.  In this case God's nature then proceeds from God as a word (command).  In short God's nature both defines and acts according to what is morally good.  Interestingly this makes me think of two parts of the Bible that express this idea of goodness proceeding from God in the form of a command.

Then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness.
Genesis 1:3-4 (HCSB)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.
John 1:1-5 (HCSB)

In Genesis we discover that God commands into existence many things (in fact all things).  He also observes that it is good.  What makes this interesting is that His creation proceeding forth (by way of command) from His Nature (goodness) becomes an object which He can now describe as "good."  He is the definition, the creator, and the observer of goodness. 

One might object that this goodness is arbitrary and therefore meaningless.  That is to say an all-powerful evil god could do the same thing and call it good.   However God's goodness is immutable.  That is to say unchanging and fixed.  That which is evil and good cannot be arbitrary.  Goodness is fixed in God's nature.  Everything that is good in existence is then a reflection of God's goodness and/or proceeding forth from God.

Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning.
James 1:17 (HCSB)

The passage of John identifies the command of God (Word, Logos in Greek) as the person Jesus Christ.  It continues to describe how The Word was God and created all things.  Continuing the Bible says that the Word has "life in Him."  The "life was the light of men."  The light is not darkness.  It shines into the darkness. Spiritual darkness is the absence of spiritual light.  Evil is often equated with spiritual darkness.  Evil then is not so much a quality that is opposite the quality of good as it is the quality of being without God.  This is fundamental to our understanding of Good and evil.  Which I will have a chance to elaborate in future posts I am sure. 

Back to the second half of the dilemma we see a hint of why God created.  God commanded because goodness proceeded from His nature.  It also makes the second half a true statement.  If both halves of a proposed dilemma are true then it is by definition a false dilemma. 

By this point most have lost interest in the dilemma I am sure.  For those of you that read through my philosophical ramblings; Why?  ;-) and thank you for your readership.   In short the dilemma is best answered with a question, "What do you mean by morally good?" And then proceed from that point with the theist position that moral goodness is defined by God's nature, if the atheist is uncommitted.  The rational position for the atheist is that moral goodness does not exist and that goodness is an arbitrary or beneficial opinion of the individual or community that holds it.  The implication of this view is that all manner of evil can be justified because it is a matter of lack of benefit or opinion that it is evil.  But more on that later.

God Bless You

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Argument that Goodness and Omnipotence are Incompatible

Atheist

Image via Wikipedia

Another argument that atheist put forth is one of so-called self-contradictory qualities that are attributed to God.  The most common is the the qualities of Goodness and Omnipotence (all-powerful).  The argument goes something like:

1) If God exists then He is all-good
2) If God exists then He is all-powerful
3) A good being corrects evil if it is in their power to do so
4) Evil exists and has always existed in the world
5) God has not acted (from 4)
6) If God unable to prevent evil He is not all-powerful
7) If God does not prevent evil, He is not good
8) Therefore an all-good, all-powerful God does not exist (From 5-7)

Remember this is an absurd argument from an atheist's perspective.  It is absurd in that they are assuming a priori something that they don't believe.  "If a non-existent thing exists."  So the first and second premise falls apart in the atheist's logic.  Arguing from absurdity makes any conclusion suspect. 

A second problem is what is good.  Goodness for the theist is a quality of God that extends to His creation (albeit imperfectly).  That is there is a standard for objective morality (goodness) that is given by God.  By what standard does the atheist use to determine what is good.  At best goodness is an opinion of the person making the judgment.  The first statement becomes "if God exists then he must be good according to my opinion."  The third statement becomes "a being ought to take what I think is good and correct what I think is evil."  The seventh statement becomes "If God does not prevent what I think is evil then He is not good in my opinion."

A third problem is in the assumption that God is impotent to do anything about the evil that exists making Him not all-powerful.  "If He can do something about the evil then why wouldn't He."  That a good being does not act in the face of evil does not automatically mean they are not good nor that they are powerless.  It could be that the being has another purpose, intent, or reason for evil to exist.  It could be that evil exists that goodness might be understood and appreciated.  It might be that evil exists that the good that comes from freedom can be fully realized.  It might be that evil exists because the fullness of time and ultimate goodness has not yet arrived.  There are many more missing bits of information that would lead a good being to not act or to delay their action. 

A forth problem is that it puts the arguer in the position of judge.  In one sense the arguer attempts to place themselves above God.  They are judging what is good, what should be corrected, and that God has not acted.  Let's assume that this person was justified to go where angels fear to tread. Then the arguer must be all-knowing themselves to make the determination that God is not good or that He has not acted.  But in fact they are making an argument from an incomplete understanding of the facts.  God may have acted imperceptible (or not in a manner our arguer expects), God may act in a time yet to come, maybe what we have judged bad may actually turn out good and so on.  The arguer cannot know all things so to make this argument without all the facts is giving one's opinion. 

Fifth, not really a problem more of an observation.  Often someone making this form of argument will have a deeply personal (often painful) circumstance, situation, relationship, and/or event that heavily influences their conclusion.  I believe that Christians would do well to not dismiss "the feeling that..." until they have "fully understood the underlying reason that..."  Even theist struggle with doubt about God's dealings with humanity in general and in our own lives specifically.  Shrill dismissals will not win a person over, but a compassion and an understanding heart just might.  Even great men of God have their moments of doubt.  Humble expressions of doubt will not make you seem weak, but rather it will make you honest. 

Lord, why do You stand so far away? Why do You hide in times of trouble?
Psalms 10:1 (HCSB)

I will say to God, my rock, "Why have You forgotten me? Why must I go about in sorrow because of the enemy's oppression?" My adversaries taunt me, as if crushing my bones, while all day long they say to me, "Where is your God?"
Psalms 42:9-10 (HCSB)

In conclusion then we have an atheist who makes an argument which essentially says, "In my opinion God does not exist."  For an atheist to state their opinion in logical form is not a very powerful argument.  On the other hand we also need to recognize that we can minister to a hurting person if they let us.  Let us be mindful that we might not add to another's pain, but could possibly bring them from spiritual darkness into The Light.

God Bless You

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Trust and Relationships

We struggle to know when to give our confidence to another person.  We long for intimacy of a close friendship, pursued a relationship, and then betrayed.  Jesus understand betrayal.  On the eve of his persicution He was turned over by using a kiss, deserted by those nearest Him, even denied by one very dear to Him.  Below are some selected posts on trust and friendship.

 

Three Sides of Trust   Friends of Christ
Interaction of Three Dimensions of Trust   John the Baptist "Friend of Christ"
Trustworthiness According to the Bible   Jesus' Friends in High Places (No not in heaven)
Trustworthiness: What does it look like?   Judas Kiss of a Friend?
Confidence Restored?   Missing the Mark (Friendship Defined)
Circles of Confidence Part I   When Friends Fall
Circles of Confidence part II   Who is Your Greatest Friend?
Is Meaningful Conversation a Measure of Happiness?...    
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Path to Peace

path to peace

Returning back to my posts on anger, I previously posted on the ring of anger.  The ring of anger keeps anger going without resolution.  Just avoiding the things that are unproductive and unhealthy with anger does not resolve the feeling of anger.  I would even go further and say that unless you do something with the anger you are likely "stuffing it." 

The path of peace is a better way to handle the feelings of anger.  Remember it is not anger that is good or bad it is the way you handle it that makes it good or bad.  The four ways that are the path to peace are Show it positive (express it), Shape it, Sort it out, and/or Surrender it. 

Show It Positive (Express It)

Since you put away lying, Speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another. Be angry and do not sin. Don't let the sun go down on your anger, and don't give the Devil an opportunity.
Ephesians 4:25-27 (HCSB)

One of the signs of emotional maturity is the ability to express feelings in a healthy manner.  Expressing anger in a mature, clear, and healthy way is very difficult.  Part of the reason is that when you are angry the thinking/planning/organizing/rationalizing part of your brain is slowed way down.  The other part of your brain is sending the signal "punch this guy" or "run away."  The rational part of your brain is lucky to guide that into a verbal response which usually results in a verbal attack or quiet seething.  While the verbal response is desirable to a physical attack it is lacking in emotional maturity. 

Expressing emotions like anger in a mature manner involves several steps.  First you have to be aware that you are angry.  That might seem funny to you, but most people that struggle with anger are not aware of their anger until after they have said or done something that they regret or hurt another person.  You may have said or been told in a loud angry tone, "I AM NOT ANGRY!"  It is the contradiction that demonstrates a lack of awareness.  The second step is understanding why you are angry.  "What is the trigger?"  "What do I believe about the situation?"  "Do I understand why I am feeling this way?"  After you are aware of and understand your anger, then it is time to put it into words.  The typical suggestion is "When" (Fill in the trigger) "happens I feel angry."  There are many words that describe the feeling of anger that can be applied to different types of anger as well as different intensities of anger.  Find the right word.  It might be helpful to learn a vocabulary of anger (more in a future post).

Shape It

A ruler can be persuaded through patience, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.
Proverbs 25:15 (HCSB)

In 1980 13-year-old Cari Lightner was killed by a drunk driver.  Candy Lightner was  devastated by the loss, as any parent would be.  She learned that the man that had killed her daughter would not spend much (if any) time in jail.  She felt enraged and helpless. Candy her mother promised herself that she would not let her daughter's death be meaningless.  Later that same year Candy formed Mother's Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) on September 5, 1980 (Cari's Birthday). 

Anger is a powerful force.  Undirected it is destructive to the victim and the perpetrator.  But if that force can be channeled it becomes an unstoppable movement for positive change.  How does one woman's anger become an international movement?  It is in the quality of shaping your anger to a positive outcome.  Now you may not start a national movement (or maybe you might), but you can use that same force to accomplish some good in your life and the life of others.  It takes support from friends and family. A willingness to let go of the destructive side of anger, and an unwavering commitment to see that anger motivate you to greater action.  It will take greater effort and thoughtfulness, but the wonderful thing about anger is how incredibly motivating it is.  Use that motivation or energy to do something positive.  It could be as simple as using it for an intense physical workout at the gym or as dramatic as starting a movement that radically changes your world.  Whatever it is channel it into something good!

Sort It Out

But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Fool!' will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, 'You moron!' will be subject to hellfire. So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Reach a settlement quickly with your adversary while you're on the way with him, or your adversary will hand you over to the judge, the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison.
Matthew 5:22-25 (HCSB)

Once a person has understood there anger it is beneficial to do something to sort it out.  Sorting it out will often involve going to the person that you have offended or who has offended you.  If you desire to sort it it out you have to approach the situation with a sincere desire to make things right.  It will not work if you go with the intent of justifying hurtful, harsh, or demanding manner then it will not likely work.  But if you go with grace, leniency, and a desire for reconciliation then you can have hope of sorting it out.  The process of sorting things out can be very complicated and difficult.  It can also be very time consuming.  Often it is not immediate so patience is a must.  What is more is sorting things out with another assumes that the other person is in a place to want to do the same.  Demanding that a person who is not ready to sort things out with you cooperate with your effort and "good will" is a sure recipe for frustration and increased anger.  This will further strain the relationship.  Just remember this:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone's eyes. If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone.
Romans 12:17-18 (HCSB)

If it is not possible or if it is not practical to sort it out with another person sometimes you can sort out your anger by your self or with a trusted person than can listen to you and give honest feedback.  The goal of sorting it out on your own is to take your understanding and awareness to a deeper level.  Greater understanding will help you then to identify the things that you can change in yourself or in your environment to avoid triggers or resolve the anger that you experience.  Sorting it out will often lead to some level of acceptance for the way things are.  Not that you have to judge the situation as just, fair, or good, but that you accept it.  Once you are able to accept it then you can move to the next stage on the path to peace. 

Surrender It

I view surrendering anger from a spiritual view point.  It is hard for me to imagine surrendering anger from any other perspective.  I see surrender as different than forgetfulness or not bringing it back up.  Forgetfulness (if such a thing is possible) is unmindful.  It is a type of self-denial.  You have to forget being hurt and constantly work a releasing the hurt over and over and over again.  This may not be so hard for minor offences, but when someone has deeply hurt you this constant state of trying to release the hurt is in itself hurtful.  You have to deny you hurt, but how do you deny what you feel.  You have to deny yourself.  Self-transcendence is an extremely difficult road to take.  Few (if any) ever arrive.  When you fail at this self-denial then you are likely to beat up your self or have others beat you up emotionally by saying, "Why can you just get over it."  Not bringing it back up is also a type of self-denial.  Forgetfulness denies how you feel.  Not bringing it back up denies what you think.  You are reminded of the thing that made you angry and think on it, but do not express it.  You try to push it away from your awareness.  What I think happens is that the thought that is put away in an effort to not bring it up lies in our sub-conscious waiting until some other event reawakens our awareness of the thought.  Often this repeated awakening of the angry thought intensifies every time and eventually leads to resentment and/or forceful expression of the angry thought in some future discussion. 

So what then if denying how you think or feel does not lead to resolution then how does one take this path to peace?  Surrender is the key. 

sur-ren-der:

to yield (something) to the possession or power of another
  to give oneself up, as into the power of another; submit or yield

I use surrender in both senses of giving an object up as well as giving one's self up.  The object that you surrender is anger.  You yield or turn over the anger to the power of another.  To whom or what do you surrender the anger to?  Well I am convinced that spiritually speaking no one can receive someone else's anger by way of surrender.  It can only be received by another person through force, retaliation, or retribution.  I believe that only God can receive our anger by way of surrender.  Consider that surrendering anger to God is being obedient.

Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord.
Romans 12:19 (HCSB)

What is more surrendering your anger to God is a statement that you trust Him to work it out for the best.  When I try to avenge my anger I am just as likely to be angry in an unjustified or extreme way.  God on the other hand will execute justice in perfection.  What is more if the person is repentant it gives you a path toward restored relationship.  If you do not surrender your anger then even if the other person comes to you and says, "I am sorry" you will not have freedom to reconcile until you surrender your anger. 

Surrendering involves self-surrender.  First you submit to God.

But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.
James 4:6-7 (HCSB)

Then you submit to others.

Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4 (HCSB)

Even submit to those that are against you. 

But I tell you, don't resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two.
Matthew 5:39-41 (HCSB)
You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Matthew 5:43-45 (HCSB)

But this is too hard you say.  I agree.  I think apart from a relationship with God through Christ this type of submission is impossible.  It requires that you have honor toward Christ, relating to God, and filled by the Spirit.

... but be filled by the Spirit... submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.
Ephesians 5:18 and 21 (HCSB)

The scope of submitting is far beyond what can be summed up in this brief post.  What I have done is given you a path.  A Path to Peace.  Now whether you choose to walk this path is up to you.  I pray that you find it and that the Spirit of God so fill you that you arrive safely in God's peace. 

God Bless You

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Disproof of God?

Agape feast 02

Image via Wikipedia

There is an argument that "Proves that God does not exist" that circles Atheistic circles that goes something like:

Premise (1)
If God exists, God has not had the feelings of lust or envy.

Premise (2)
If God exists, God exists as a being who knows at least everything man knows.

Premise (3)
If God exists as a being who knows at least everything man knows, God knows lust and envy.

Premise (4)
If God knows lust and envy, God has had the feelings of lust and envy.

(5) God exists.
By hypothesis.

(6) .: God has had and has not had the feelings of lust and envy.
By (1) - (5).

(7) God does not exist.

By (5) & (6)
Q. E. D.

The logic of this proof falls apart on the definition of lust and envy.

Lust:  A strong desire

God does have a strong desire it is called love.  In the Greek is is Agape.  It is the benevolent stance toward humanity His strong desire (Agape) that has led Him act in grace and mercy. 

In this case the first premise is sometimes false (Depending on the nature of the desire).

Lust: A strong sexual desire

God is not sexual in the sense that we use the term lust.  So in that respect God has not known strong sexual desire. 

In this case the second premise is false. 

Envy:  A feeling of discontent in conjunction with the desire for possession or qualities of another. 

What can another possess that is not already God's for he has created everything.  For envy to be a state that God experiences there would have to be some object that belonged to another.  This seems to make the statement that He knows envy absurd.  He can know it in the sense that He understands that it exists, but He cannot by his very nature know envy in an experiential manner.   

In this case the third premise is false. 

In one case God does envy.  He is discontent for the heart (will of men) to be toward Him.  He has given men "Free will" as such it is this gift of free will that allows for men to give something that He does not have.  However, it seems to fall apart because if God has given it, He also can take it away.  Consider the story of Jonah the reluctant prophet or consider that one day:

By Myself I have sworn; Truth has gone from My mouth, a word that will not be revoked: Every knee will bow to Me, every tongue will swear allegiance.
Isaiah 45:23 (HCSB)

So in this case the first premise is again sometimes false. 

Given that the major premises in the "Proof that God does not exist" can be either proven false or sometimes false it makes it a weak argument and its conclusions suspect.

On the two cases that God does lust and envy, let me say this.  God has a inescapable passion for each person alive.  His love is more than anyone can describe or understand.  It is this love (strongest of desires) that leads Him to pursue a intimate relationship with you.  You can reject His offer, but interestingly His love is not quenched.  His love is also accompanied by a discontent that men would reject his offer of love.  He is envious that men should turn their lives to Him.  This discontent is only resolved through repentance of a believer or destruction by God wrath.  Interestingly this parallels the belief that there are two eternal destinations for men in Christian thought.  To heaven or to hell and the path is chosen by whether the individual turns toward God's love and resolves the tension of discontent.  If a person does not turn then God's love is edged out by a growing discontent that eventually spills out as wrath.  I realize I am repeating myself somewhat, but it is important enough to repeat and ask, "Which way are you going?"

God Bless You all!

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

First Cause

Universe

Image via Wikipedia

As it seems to me there are three competing theories for the origin of the material universe.  1) One all the material for the universe is eternal.  2) The existence of material is cyclical that is to say that some future event caused the material to appear in the distant past.  3)  That the material has a beginning.

At the present time it would seem that evidence is point to the fact that our universe had a beginning.  It also looks like it will have an end.  The end will either be a cooling off and dying or at some point collapsing upon itself.  This would make the material of our universe not eternal, but keeps open the possibility that other universes have loaned our present universe eternal matter. 

It is this evidence that to me presents the strongest case that the material universe is not eternal.  If present observable universe is not eternal then something has caused it to exist.  There are a few theories.  Singularity which is the predicted initial state of the universe.  The best non-technical way to describe it is a black hole on a massive scale in which the entire contents of the universe exists in a tightly compacted point.  A second theory is that proceeding the "Big Bang" there was a "Big Crunch" and that the universe has always existed in a state of expansion or collapse in a never ending cycle of death and rebirth.  A third is that our universe is actually one of many.  The beginning of our universe was created at the collision of other universes. 

Each of these theories contains their own particular difficulties.  The problem with each of these theories is that they are beyond science.  They rely on observing the universe as it is now and modifying the theory to conform to the present data.  What ends up happening is a system in which most of what we know about the physical universe does not conform to the scientific laws that have been established.  So the theory becomes more and more complicated to account for new information.  What is also interesting is that you find scientists using a peculiar word more and more frequently.  "I believe that..."  It is this that leads me to think that scientific cosmology at some point becomes an article of faith.  That is to say we reach the limit of what is knowable and have to accept the resulting explanation by faith.  Most will deny this and say they are making predictions based on what they are observing.  Funny though when someone with an alternate cosmology suggests they are doing the same they are closed out of the game so to speak. 

So here are the competing explanations for our universe which is nearly unanimous that it had a beginning.  1) The universe existed in a very tightly condensed point so tightly condensed that we cannot even begin to imagine it.  It then violated every conceivable physical law that we know of (or rather the laws did not exist yet) and exploded.  Over time it expanded fast enough to escape the singularity and cooled.  As it cooled the physical properties and laws begin to take shape.  And all of this was random unguided chance.  2) the universe has always existed in an expanding or contracting form.  We are currently in an expanding form.  At some point in the future the universe will not be able to continue to expand and will be pulled back into itself in a grand collapse.  Only to start the rebirth of a new universe.   This one is a bit more challenging in that it uses physical laws to collapse the universe, but violates nearly all of them to create it.  3) Ours is not a unique universe.  In fact there are many universes that have always existed and when they collide in random fashion they create new universes (of which our is a product). 

In short we either have a random purposeless unguided process, which violates nearly every thing we know about the physical universe which explodes or collides into existence.  Or a supernatural intelligent creator that has spoken out of nothing all that is into existence.  He builds out of nothing a universe that is orderly and purposeful. 

As you might expect I am partial to the second story.  But given that at some level each of these explanations must be taken by faith (belief) I really wonder why anyone would rather have a random, unguided, purposeless universe.  I suppose the greater question for me is that if the universe is random, unguided, and purposeless, then why should there be any order at all.  It seems quite contradictory that out of an early existence in which no physical laws exist that this chaos should form something orderly.  In that respect it is God creator ex nihilio (out of nothing) that seems to me to be the most reasonable explanation of our existence and the order contained within it. 

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Celestial Teapot, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Pink Unicorn, and Other Strange Creatures

Picture of teapots.

Image via Wikipedia

Atheists argue that since the existence of God is taken by faith by most adults that it is a matter of sheer fantasy.  They will often take it a step further and use teapots, Flying Spaghetti Monsters, Pink Unicorns, and others to make the point.  The form of the argument goes something like this:

If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.1

To me the problem is not that there is an "intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it" nor that celestial teapots, flying spaghetti monsters, or pink unicorns are "nonsense."  Rather in each of these cases it is an invention of the author and the authors admit that the story is mocking, challenging, or otherwise parody of religious thought.  Can I prove that a celestial teapot does not exist?  Yes, it is an admitted made up concept by Bertrand Russell.  Can I prove that Flying Spaghetti Monster does not exist?  Yes, it is an admitted made up parody of intelligent design by Bobby Henderson.  Can I prove that Invisible Pink Unicorns do not exist?  Yes, it is an made up concept by alt.atheism (et al) to challenge Theists who suggest that Atheists must offer evidence to refute the existence of God. 

In each of these cases the story was made up and the authors have all admitted as much.  Now a person can choose to believe in a story in which its author's admit they made up, but to do so is foolishness.  The stories come to us as inventions of human creativity.  Not so with a belief in God.  If this argument was to hold water one would have to establish that the belief in God was made up invention of human creativity.  I can easily point to when, how, and where "Teapot (et al)" stories were created, but the atheist has a much more difficult task in my estimation in demonstrating that the belief in God is made up or invented.  Even more difficult in some ways as, for the majority of people that believe in God, it was not based on a religious text or story that led them to faith, but rather a personal experience in which the Divine Creator of the Universe revealed Himself to the believer.  That is to say I believed in God before I believed in the Bible, or in the gospel of Christ!

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1) Bertrand Russell (1952) ...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Answering Atheists

question mark

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When and Atheist asks you to explain God, do not take the bait.  Usually it is in the form of a question of God doing something.  For example, "Why does God kill children?"  The question is insincere.  It is not being asked out of a genuine curiosity, but is a trap.  Our Lord was very good at recognizing these types of questions and responding effectively. 

When He entered the temple complex, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to Him as He was teaching and said, "By what authority are You doing these things? Who gave You this authority?" Jesus answered them, "I will also ask you one question, and if you answer it for Me, then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Where did John's baptism come from? From heaven or from men?" They began to argue among themselves, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Then why didn't you believe him?' But if we say, 'From men,' we're afraid of the crowd, because everyone thought John was a prophet." So they answered Jesus, "We don't know." And He said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."
Matthew 21:23-27 (HCSB)

Let me rephrase the question to make my point.  "Why does a non-existent being kill children?"  The question is absurd.  A non-existent being cannot do anything by definition.   Since the question is illogical to the person asking it there must be some other motive in asking it.  I think the best way to respond to these "Why does God do (or not do) something" questions from atheists is to turn the question back to them. 

"Do you believe that God exists?" 

"No"

"Then why are you concerned about something that does not exist doing something?  Your question seems absurd."

"So you are admitting the God does not exist?"

"No I am just trying to understand your question as you mean to ask it.  The Bible tells me to be weary of answering foolish questions.  Your question seems foolish to me since it is illogical."

Don't answer a fool according to his foolishness or you'll be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his foolishness or he'll become wise in his own eyes.
Proverbs 26:4-5 (HCSB)

A surface reading of this proverb seems to be self-contradictory.  So are we to answer the fool or not answer the fool.  But after some examination and contemplation of this proverb I believe that this is describing my point here.  If you answer the foolish question you become foolish.  If you answer by pointing out the foolish question you make the person asking the question aware of his foolishness. 

This is exactly what Jesus did with the Chief Priests above.  He pointed out the foolishness of their question by getting them to think through their own position.  They became aware of their own foolishness.  So he did not answer the question according to their foolishness, but He did answer the foolishness of the question. 

And so we, in defense of the Gospel must be very cautious to not assume that every question is sincere or that every question is an inquiry of further wisdom.  Sometimes the question is foolish.  Better to point out the foolishness of the question than to answer it, become foolish, and/or make the fool wise in his own eyes. 

The fool says in his heart, "God does not exist." 
Psalms 14:1 (HCSB)

Have a blessed day!

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