The Part of Us That Matters

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Note the contrast between what is: outer, wasting away, light, momentary, affliction, seen, transient.

And what is: inner, being renewed, eternal, weighty, glorious, beyond all comparison, unseen, eternal

Both are part of us, but one matters infinitely more than the other. Don’t confuse the two, or you may lose heart.

Faith Takes More Than Proof

John 20:30-31 “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name”
John 12:37 “But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report?  And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

[Note to readers: Other than this note and a title change (it was originally “A Paradox of Proof”), this is the unedited opening post from a short-lived, now-defunct blog from 2011.  While working on the next set of new long form posts, I will re-post what ended up being only 3 apologetics-focused posts from 2011 each Saturday.  I’m considering adding in some similar work to the new site – let me know what you think!]

Everyone has a point of view – and in modern times that often leads to a blog.  I am starting this blog to put some thoughts out there.  I am not a professional philosopher or minister.  However, I felt I needed a forum for sharing ideas – and hopefully improving mine and others.

People by nature want to persuade others of their rightness.  For example, John, the disciple of Jesus, wrote a book for a specific purpose – to persuade anyone listening “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.”  In the same book, John says that miracles were performed for this same reason – and that many were not convinced.  In fact, John says this failure to convince was intentional on God’s part.  Whatever your beliefs, have you ever been frustrated when someone just won’t come around to your view, no matter what you said?  Would you be more frustrated if you were told that any argument you could make wouldn’t be good enough?

In John’s gospel, he claims to be a first-hand witness of several miracles performed by Jesus, climaxing in the resurrection of one Lazarus, who was apparently dead for so long that “there is a stench” (John 11:39).  John spends a lot of time setting the scene — many people had gathered to comfort Martha and Mary, the sisters of the deceased — pointing out that Lazarus had his own tomb, which indicates he was probably affluent and well-known — this event was to be very public.  The result when Lazarus came out?  John says many “believed in Him”, but many others did not believe, and some saw Him as a threat – resulting in his crucifixion.

John, writing for the specific purpose of creating belief, tells us the ultimate miracles are not enough to generate belief in everyone.  “Proof” does not always convince, and those who disagree hold their beliefs as strongly as those who agree.

Every day I am confronted by those who propose a purely naturalistic world where the supernatural is not allowed in.  Miracles do not exist, and never did.  Mankind was created through an unknowing process of natural selection and is a type of animal, although perhaps a special animal.  They have just as much conviction as I do.  I could argue against these views – what G.K. Chesterton called a “dogma of materialism” because proving it would mean disproving every claim about a supernatural occurrence that any human has ever claimed.  This is, of course, impossible.  (If you have a link, or links, to a page, or multiple pages, with all this evidence, please post it).  It is a matter of faith, however much proponents of evolution and other “scientific” issues claim overwhelming evidence and vast consensus.  It takes faith to fill in the gaps in the evidence.  Those who disagree with me are obviously willing to accept these gaps.

On the other hand, we have the oral and written testimony of many people reporting many supernatural things over the centuries.  This includes John’s records of many first century miracles.  However, John also testifies that a man raised from the dead was not enough to convince the skeptics on the scene.  This man, Lazarus, even became the target of death threats, because he was evidence that threatened the well-being of those who made their living off the established religion.

If you are a Christian – what argument can you make that is better than raising a man from the dead, then following that up by raising yourself from the dead?

The best anyone can do is state their case, get feedback, question and/or refine the message, try again, and hope.  However, there is more to proof than meets the eye.  There is more to life than cold reason.  People have reasons for believing what they do and acting how they act.  The Apostle Paul says “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood…”  (Eph 6:12).  Nothing I can write, do, or say is guaranteed to convince anyone, but it might.  In the meantime, it should make for some interesting, character-building discussion.  I hope my mind is changed on occasion.

If you agree, encourage, refine, and participate.  Take heart that Chesterton also said: “When I fancied that I stood alone I was really in the ridiculous position of being backed up by all of Christendom.”  If you do not agree with what I write, say why.  Provide details.  Stay on topic.  But don’t shoot the messenger.

Reflections on Philippians #4: Be an Example

“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” – Philippians 3:17

At the time of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, the gospels of Mark and John probably weren’t written yet, and the other two may not have been broadly available. New Christians couldn’t easily read about Christ, so Paul recommends learning about Him through His other followers.

Today, most will not search the Bible for God. What can people learn about Christ from you and I on our blogs and elsewhere?

Reflections on Philippians #3: Pressing On

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made [Christs righteousness] my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:13-14

In the life of the Apostle Paul, author of Philippians, “what lies behind” includes overseeing the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:57-58), and “ravaging the church, and entering house after house, [dragging] off men and women and committ[ing] them to prison.” (Acts 8:3) We all have different shameful things in our past, but God forgets them. His purpose is to always make us more like Christ, so we press on and strain to move forward. The prize is worth it.

Reflections on Philippians #2: The Problem of Good

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8

The news that seems to get the most attention is bad news.  Good news is hard to come by, but it’s out there.  Make an effort to find it, think about it, praise it, and emulate it.  Be intentional.

“Even if you’re an atheist, you face…the problem of good…if the world is a chance assembly of accidental phenomena, why is there so much that we want to praise and celebrate?” – NT Wright[1]

[1] N.T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God, P. 19