Charity Disparity

The following article is about atheism and philanthropy.  Notice that of the $430,000 raised for cancer research in 2012 by “atheist groups,” $215,000 came from Stiefel (who is independently wealthy) and that a large portion of the remainder came from Christians.  No wonder Stiefel doesn’t want to entirely alienate religious people.  Obviously, he recognizes that they’re the ones who give.
CNN Belief Blog

Gallery

What Works

One of the elders of our church used to work for Social Security.  The other day he told me about how Social Security absorbed the administration of state-run disability benefits.  To streamline the process, they sought to automate the system through the use of computers.  An outside vendor was brought in to pitch a system which could handle the massive load.  The only problem was that the vendor didn’t actually have the technology they sold.  The demo unit they brought to their presentations was nothing but a metal box equipped with a very impressing array of buttons and flashing lights.  The vendor believed that if they could just get the money from Social Security first, they would be able to produce the promised equipment.  The decision makers at Social Security had little knowledge of computer systems but didn’t want to admit this fact so they went with the vendor.  This interplay between pride and deception brings to mind the old fable of the “Emperor’s New Clothes.”  Except in this case more was at stake than a leader’s public image.  Millions of dollars of taxpayer money was lost through the debacle.

This story makes me think of the various worldviews that exist.  So many promise much but deliver little.  When people decide what to believe about reality (and it is a decision), perhaps they should consider a worldview that has proven effective.  Check out these observations made about Christianity by an economist raised in an atheist state.

I’m not saying we should choose a belief system simply because it works.  I’m saying that if it works when nothing else does, perhaps a greater Mind was indeed behind its inception.

Hell? No!

I’ve had several conversations with atheists and agnostics regarding the existence of the God of the Bible. After all is said and very little done, their objections almost always come down to disbelief in a character who would create moral beings knowing they would sin and then cause them to suffer eternally for sinning. They say something like, “If such a being exists, he doesn’t deserve my allegiance let alone my love.” I have to admit they have a point.

That being said, I am a believer in the God of the Bible.  I will never apologize for the Being presented within the pages of Scripture.  I will in no way minimize his severity or avoid a discussion of his judgments.  I’m “all in” with God as revealed in holy writ.  Any other god does not deserve my allegiance let alone my love.

So, what are we to do with the doctrine of Hell?  Many Christian thinkers have struggled with this question.  C.S. Lewis expressed in his book, The Great Divorce, the belief that those in Hell lived in an environment which reflected the misery of their choosing and could at any time choose Heaven.  More recently Rob Bell mused in Love Wins that it’s likely that every created being will at some point accept the supremacy of Christ and be welcomed into the kingdom of God.  I understand the motivation behind these ideas but scriptural support for them is thin at best.  We mustn’t allow our personal disdain for a doctrine to push us into forging new ones.  For this reason, I disagree with these two men whom I otherwise respect.  The Bible teaches that Hell is a real place prepared for Satan and his angels and that those who fall under God’s wrath will be sent there as final judgment.  I do not, however, believe that God will cause anyone to suffer eternally.  I am under this conviction because that’s what I understand the Bible to teach.

In Matthew 10:28, after predicting that his followers would suffer persecution to the point of execution, he cautions, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Emphasis mine NAW)  The word translated, “hell” is gehenna which referred to the Hinnom Valley just outside of Jerusalem.  Gehenna was used as a garbage dump where trash was burned.  Jesus warned that God was not only able to destroy the body but also the soul in his celestial garbage dump, Hell.  Hell is not a place of eternal torture but an incinerator for the destruction of sin-spoiled souls.

Someone might protest, “But what about all those places in the New Testament which describe Hell as eternal?”  Good question.  Let’s look at a case in point.  Mark 9:47-48 says,

 “And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,where

“‘the worms that eat them do not die,
and the fire is not quenched.’” (NIV 2011)

When he said this, Jesus was partially quoting Isaiah 66:22-24 –

“As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure.  From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the Lord.  “And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.” (NIV 2011)

So let me ask the question: Is this passage describing conscious people eternally suffering?

Jesus will return to judge all people who’ve ever lived.  Some will live forever in a new heavens and new earth.  Others will be cast into Hell where they will be completely destroyed as the Bible teaches.  So, pertaining to God’s justice, has he not the right to destroy what he has created?

I have much more I could say about this doctrine and what the Bible says about it it but I’ve got other things to do right now.  Maybe later.  For an exhaustive treatment of this topic, I suggest reading The Fire that Consumes by Edward Fudge.

Strategic Planning

I just reblogged a post on Islamophobia.  I agree with the facts related in the post and with the contention that many people fail to call out the misdeeds of Muslims out of fear of backlash or worse.  However, I would not say that Islam is ultimately to blame for the evils committed by some Muslims around the world.  Islam just provides a convenient palate upon which the sinful hearts of humans mix the blood-red hues of their hatred.  Other convenient ideologies have been churchianity, Communism (rational atheism applied), nationalism, and racism to name a few. For the real issue check this sermon I delivered on November 11th.

Strategic Planning

Growing Young

I’m coming to believe that human thought goes through three phases on individual and societal levels.  Humans begin in intellectual childhood.  They believe the things they’ve been told.  They are limited by rules and driven by fear.  Some societies and individuals remain in childhood.  Often they do this because those entrusted to lead them seek only to exploit them.  Whether it’s a communist government or a denominational board, codependent leadership must jealously defend the naiveté (pronounced “orthodoxy”) of their constituents.

Beyond childhood, humans can develop into adolescence.  Those in this stage break out into individual thought and personal gratification.  They rely on peers and mistrust established authority.  They rabidly question assumptions and delight to liberate “children” from them.  While more aware than children, intellectual adolescents have their own blind spots especially to the limits of their own perspective.  For minds to progress they must go through some form of adolescence.  Sadly, some people remain in adolescence indefinitely.  One example would be Richard Dawkins and his sympathizers.

Should a person somehow find the humility to continue learning past adolescence, he or she will move on into intellectual adulthood.  At this level, a person has faced struggles and had the rough edges knocked off.  More than once, he or she has had to admit that much of what they were told while in childhood was in fact true though misunderstood or misinterpreted.  Intellectual adults have discovered a world outside their own minds where others’ ideas and needs disallow the luxury afforded to the critic.

My prayer for all of us is that our minds can grow up.  After all, Jesus told us to love God with our minds as well.

Empty Legacy

photo credit: waycoolpics.wordpress.com

No person should be allowed the luxury of holding a belief while ignoring its implications.  Why?  Because the implications of today’s prevalent beliefs shape the ethos of the next generation.  For instance, suppose I had been born into a culture which had been largely shaped by the belief that the ability to overcome a rival tribe was conferred on me through a rite of manhood.  Obviously, I would go through that rite.  After several defeats I might come to question the effectiveness of the manhood ritual.  I might come to believe that the rival tribe’s practice of cannibalism made them more powerful.  Since cannibalism had not been part of my cultural ethos, I would probably find the idea of eating another human to be distasteful (pardon the pun).  For me, eating another person would be hard, but propagating my ideas would be easy.  Suppose I convince others in the tribe of my position and after another defeat at which I get killed, they decide to eat a couple of the felled rival warriors.  What if after that, my tribe won the next battle?  My tribe would most likely continue to dabble in cannibalism.  Within two generations the buffet would be open.

Lately, I’ve encountered some pretty aggressive anti-theists.  The messages coming from that camp are fraught with what I would label, “ideological dissonance.”  So, just to do my part to help everyone come into personal harmony, I present this atheistic ontological syllogism for review:

P1- Meaning is an interpretive construct of a sentient mind.

P2- Sentience requires interplay between evaluative consciousness and memory.

P3- Consciousness and memory are products of chemical processes in the human brain.

P4- When the brain is destroyed, consciousness ends and memories are erased.

C1- Relative to the deceased individual, regardless of the details or duration, the life that he or she lived becomes retroactively meaningless.

P5- At some point, all brains and their products will be destroyed.

C2- Human life, regardless of the details or duration, is utterly meaningless.

P6- Resources invested in something which is utterly meaningless are wasted.

C3- The attempt to survive or accomplish anything is a total waste.

If you disagree, please tell me why.  If you agree but still choose not to commit suicide, then it’s because you fear the only certainty of your existence.  In short, your life isn’t advancing the human condition or accomplishing anything noble; you are just procrastinating.  So, the most consistent atheist ethic would be “die today” or “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.”

If you are living in the West, then you were probably raised with a value system which says that you should value human life.  The basis of that value is, “all men were created equal” or some similar formulation.  Your heart is trying to retain a borrowed ethic the basis of which your mind and mouth deny.  So, feel free to keep going where you’re going, just please admit that you are going there.

Don’t just stand there! Stand up! {Guest Post}

A more prosaic post by my post-Christian friend, Zane Gilley.

Years ago, while I was still Christian, I had this great idea for a song about the three young men in the fiery furnace.  I don’t recall any of the verses of it, but the chorus still comes readily to mind.

  “What’s it to you, O Nebuchadnezzar,
   Why do we care, what you do to us?
   The God that we serve, lives ever and ever,
   And he has the pow’r to deliver us.” 
 

 The reason I am writing this today is because in the story, these three men believed in something.  They believed in it strongly. And when they were tested, the believed it defiantly.

 “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Romans 12:9

These men believed the bowing to images was evil, and they acted accordingly.  No man, no matter how powerful was going to tell them to do evil.

Just like in Acts 17:11, years ago, I searched the scriptures daily to see if those things were true.  My conclusions are likely not the same conclusions others may draw.  The important thing is the quest for truth, and the knowledge of it.  If more people would “buy the truth and sell it not”, this world we live would become a much better place.

It is true that peoples’ visions of the truth are as populous as their opinions.  This tends to lead to all manner of aggression; but it does not need to be so.  I can get along with near everyone, so long as I am not being preached at.  Then, I desire to do the same.

I, like Paul, can be all things to all men.  I can argue with the preachings on the hill, or I can concentrate on the things that make life better for all, such as peace, love, and forgiveness.

Going back to the beginning, everyone needs to stop expecting for things to either fall into their laps, or end up against their wishes.

It is better to go out and act.  Do what it takes to make the world better lived in.  Remember, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Don’t just stand there!  Stand up!

Fish Eyes

Mike the mallard bobbed on the surface of the pond, the early November wind whipping through his feathers.  Driven by an empty gizzard, Mike plunged toward the silted bottom.  Halfway down he encountered a rather large bass which caused him to backpedal a bit then come to a full upright position under water.  The bass, equally startled, came to a dead stop.  The two stared at each other for a few awkward seconds before Mike broke the silence with a little small talk.

“Boy, this water sure is cold today.”  He observed.

To which the bass replied, “What water?”

Mixed Motives and Methadone

I just read a blog from an atheist who took exception with street preachers who hung out in the pub district and offered aid to the revelers there.  He made some great points.  One of his problems with these folks was that they did good out of mixed motives.  They offered physical assistance to people in crisis but they also wanted to spread the gospel.  So my question is, “What’s wrong with that?”

Consider a non-profit organization whose goal is to help heroine addicts.  They open a methadone clinic hoping to attract addicts seeking relief from withdrawals.  At the clinic they also offer rehab services.  Should we fault them for having mixed motives?

As believers in Christ, we believe that humanity suffers from one problem, sin.  That disease manifests itself through a myriad of symptoms.  Whether we’re addressing symptoms or offering a cure the mission and the motive remain the same.