“I Object! That Is Impossible!”

Have you ever been in that awkward situations where someone in a group announces a particular belief as if everyone in the group holds to it? “Everyone knows that (fill in the blank) is good and (fill in the blank) is bad.” The person assumes everyone will nod in agreement, and most seem to. Yet there are times when I watch as everyone nods, and I want to stand up to say, “I object! I don’t agree with what you are saying.” Sometimes I do, but sometimes I let it go because of the situation. No matter what, it can be uncomfortable.

            Over the last few weeks I have tried to engage readers with a number of arguments and ideas in order to create conversation about truly important topics. Everyone has an opinion about everything; however, sometimes we spend our time discussing futile things instead of the most important things. I think perhaps we are afraid to find ourselves in an uncomfortable, argumentative situation. I don’t want us to fear this; instead, I encourage thoughtful reflection and civil dialogue. Just because politicians can’t seem to pull it off doesn’t mean that we, as a community, can’t give it a go.

            One reader wrote of an objection commonly made when one makes a claim that entails the supernatural; namely, that feats beyond the natural world are scientifically impossible. He writes, “I don’t have reason to believe that anyone has ever walked on water, due to my understanding of gravity, water and walking, and to never having seen anyone walk on water.” A fair question.

            I will admit that I agree, walking on water seems completely outlandish and simply impossible! However, I’m not sure that the reasons presented for dismissing the Biblical claim that Jesus did indeed walk on water holds up to further investigation. I would like to provide three primary ideas behind my reasoning.

            There are many things which people have never seen that they believe are true, including facts about historical events and people. Can you prove to me that Julius Caesar existed without using records or ancient writings? How can I be certain that the Revolutionary War really happened and the government didn’t simply fabricate a genesis story of the country in order to drum up patriotism? Obviously, these are silly questions, but I think that is the point. Just because I have not seen something does not alone rule it out as true.

            Secondly, yes, our observations of the physical world do seem to preclude anyone ever walking on water. However, how many times have scientific, inquisitive minds halted particular theories because they seemed to upset previously held notions? My reading through the history of science has shown me that many times new ideas cause others to be thoroughly reassessed. As I was reading through theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking’s book recently, I came across this admission: “Many scientists were unhappy with the universe having a beginning, because it seemed to imply that physics broke down.” In other words, they didn’t like the theory because it messed with their current understanding of the world. Likewise, our knowledge of gravity, walking, and water does not, in itself, mean that the Bible record of Jesus walking on water is impossible. All one could deduce from current knowledge of gravity, walking, and water is that it doesn’t seem possible.

            Finally, I think that people begin in the wrong place when they try to use the miracles recorded in the Bible as an objection to Biblical truth. They are miracles! Of course they are hard to believe and are not part of the natural order of things. Even a cursory reading of the text shows that those who originally witnessed the miracles were amazed and, at times, disbelieving.

            Additionally, one must look at the foundation behind the miracles before considering them. Try to explain an airplane to a person in a jungle, who has never seen one. “I flew through the air in a giant metal tube with wings to get here!” They might respond, “Metal is too heavy to fly in the air! Do you think I’m some sort of fool?” Jumping right to a “flying metal tube” with someone who has no knowledge or foundation of the physics behind air travel would make an airplane seem crazy and unbelievable.

            Similarly, the Bible begins with an all powerful, all knowing, Creator who brings everything into existence by His mere word and will. If then, the self-existent God can create all things, it follows that He can do whatever He wants in and through His creation. Nothing stops Shakespeare from doing whatever he pleases in the worlds he creates — including supernatural events and characters that are not normal in everyday life.

            The God of the Bible is the ultimate author and artist. He is able to act in ways that are beyond the normal constraints of the physical world as we know it, and He has the right to do so! Therefore, while miracles are hard to believe, I can readily accept them because of the God who is bringing them to pass. In fact, anytime a miracle occurs in the Bible, they are done for the purpose of showing that only the true God can do things are beyond the natural world. Examples can be found here: 1 Kings 18:16-45, Isaiah 44:6-11, Mark 2:1-12.

            You see, objecting doesn’t have to be awkward. Nor does responding to objections. I still believe we can have important discussions about highly polarizing subjects in a civil and constructive manner. So please, let us read, think, and grow together in our understanding of the world, of God, and of each other as we consider these various topics. Add your voice to the conversation. Questions, concerns, clarifications can be sent to AskPastorJones@gmail.com. 

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ
www.MBCGlobe.org
facebook.com/MBCGlobe

“Don’t Be Fooled: A Look At The Moral Law”

When I was a teenager the newest trend was to download music on your computer to burn your own compilation CD of your favorite songs. Same idea as a mix tape, only a little newer and little cooler — at least I thought so! I was so excited when my family finally got a computer that had the ability to burn CD’s that I ran to Walgreens on the corner and bought a pack of ten to get started. With the playlist ready to go, I opened the cellophane wrapper only to discover that I didn’t actually purchase blank CD’s, I purchased 10 empty CD cases. What a bummer! My excitement quickly dissipated because only a few moments before at the store my mom said, “Let me see the CD’s to see if they’re the right ones” to which I responded, “Don’t worry about it, I know what I’m doing!” Famous last words.

            Sometimes in life we think we know exactly what is going on, until we realize that we don’t. We can assume that our understanding of reality, of the world around us, is what we imagine it to be, only to be caught off guard. We believe we know that Darth Vader clearly says “Luke, I am your father”, only to learn that the line is really “No, I am your father.” All joking aside, it is vital that we all take time to assess what we think we know, what we have assumed, and what we believe to be logical, in order to make sure that we have not been lead astray.

            Last week I introduced a form of Deism common among people who grew up in a church/religious context. However, as I mentioned in the previous article, I truly believe that Deism (in its many forms and permutations) is the commonly held belief of many people today. True, most would not use the term but personal testimony is a dead giveaway. “Sure, I believe in a creator, call it God if you’d like, but I don’t think he/she/it really cares if you go to church, so long as you are a good person. Isn’t that really what all religions are about in the first place, just being a good person?” It might sound good on the surface, but does it really hold up to scrutiny?

            Why would someone who is not “religious”, in the popular understanding of the term, espouse any belief in a god? A number of reasons would be given including, 1) The order and beauty of nature, 2) An internal sense of something beyond the physical world, and 3) the moral law written on the hearts of all people. While these are all true, they are simply not enough. Like a CD case missing the CD, the Deist perspective is incomplete.

            C.S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, makes the case that a moral law, the basic understand of right and wrong that all people in all times and places have understood, is a pointer to the truth and existence of God. This is part of the natural revelation that Paul speaks of in Romans 1 that leaves mankind without an excuse in denying God. The Deist, however, does not regard any special revelation from God Himself in any religious text, including the Bible. Therefore, what the Deist can know of God must come from natural or general revelation, (i.e. nature and the moral law). The big question is then, “Is that enough?”

            The moral law is good, right? It is good not to lie, cheat, steal, or kill. These basic ideas are foundational in any civilization. It follows that the moral law giver, God, is also good, right? Yes, God is good; however, this leaves the Deist in an interesting predicament. You see, the law of gravity will always be followed, there is no breaking it. Yet on the contrary, the moral law, although we affirm it is good, is constantly broken by all people, even those who believe it is important. So we have a moral law, a moral law giver, and people who break this moral law.

            Now the question is, “What does the moral law teach us about the moral law giver?” That He is good, yes. But does that mean He is also forgiving, gracious, and kind? No, from a Deistic perspective you cannot substantiate any of that. Lewis remarks, “The moral law does not give us any grounds for thinking that God is ‘good’ in the sense of being indulgent, or soft, or sympathetic. There is nothing indulgent about the moral law. It is hard as nails. It tells you to do the straight thing and does not seem to care how painful, dangerous, or difficult it is to do.”

            The reality is God has revealed His moral law in the hearts of all people (cf. Romans 2:15), but not so we can somehow live up to its standards, because if we are honest with ourselves, we see that we are constantly breaking it even as we go against our own conscience. However, God has not simply revealed His moral law, but He has revealed the way for law breakers to be forgiven. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came to earth to live a perfect life, free from any law breaking, and then died a sacrificial death in order to set law breakers free. The reality is, thinking we can be perfectly moral in our own strength is like buying a pack of CD cases believing they are filled with actual CDs. While the example may seem silly, the idea it is intended to point at is anything but. Don’t be fooled. Let the moral law point you to the God who is not only good, but who is abundant in mercy and grace.

Add your voice to the conversation. Questions, concerns, clarifications can be sent to AskPastorJones@gmail.com.            

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ
www.MBCGlobe.org
facebook.com/MBCGlobe

“I Believe In A god That…”

One of my favorite films when I was younger was the classic 80’s flick, The Karate Kid. Filled with iconic scenes and memorable lines, the film garnered a cult following that recently inspired YouTube to produce a spinoff series that catches up with the characters years after the events of the film. Out of all the familiar catchphrases, the one still is recited in pop-culture is the mysterious directive of Karate master, Mr. Miyagi, “Wax on, wax off.” Not understanding why he was told to clean cars and paint fences, (Daniel came here to learn to fight!) he followed the old man’s orders until he could take it no longer. Finally Mr. Miyagi revealed the movements Daniel was repeatedly doing were not simply cleaning motions but were self-defense moves that he could use to protect himself. This changed his outlook and his attitude.

                   “Why are we doing this? What is our end goal?” Knowing the reason why you do something is important; it affects your outlook on life. So let me ask you, why go to church? What is the point? Is it just an optional bonus for some people? The question could be further posed, “What is the point of Christianity as a whole?” Now, obviously your world-view will dictate how you respond.

                   In turns out, perhaps unsurprisingly, many people have a view of Christianity that is not Biblical or historic, especially many teenagers who grew up going to church. Sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton spent many hours interviewing approximately 3,000 teenagers only to discover that, although most of them self-identified as Christians, the way they expressed their beliefs opposed orthodox Christianity. Smith writes, “To the extent that the teens we interviewed did manage to articulate what they understood and believed religiously, it became clear that most religious teenagers either do not really comprehend what their own religious traditions say they are supposed to believe, or they do understand it and simply do not care to believe it.” In other words, perhaps churches have not been clear about the “point” and goal of it all.

                   In order to classify what these teens were espousing, Smith and Denton were forced to coin a new phrase: Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. The basic ideas are that a god does exist, created the world, and wants everyone to be nice and happy.  However this god doesn’t really need to be a part of your life unless you need help with a problem. And finally, good people go to heaven when they die.

                   Unfortunately, it has been my experience that it is not simply teenagers who believe like this, but the vast majority of people who have even the smallest form of a religious background. Dr. Albert Mohler comments, “Let’s be very clear, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is religion, but it isn’t Christianity. It’s nowhere close to biblical Christianity.” Yet it seems that many people assume the above ideas do accurately reflect Christian belief.

                   While many people will never use a term like Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (or any form of Deism) to describe their world-view, it seems to be that the basic tenets are widely-held by many people. In the past, I have simply regarded people who would espouse these types of beliefs as irreligious or indifferent. Yes, they would say they believe in a god, but they simply can’t be bothered by this god. Yes, they would pray if they were in a bind, but to join a group of like-minded people seems preposterous. Yes, they think that they deserve to go to heaven when they die, but solely to be with lost loved ones in a type of paradise not to be with God. According to this mindset, life is primarily about one’s self-fulfillment and happiness while on this earth. It all sounds good, right? So what’s the problem?

                   My question to anyone who holds these types of beliefs is first and foremost, “According to what?” Meaning, where do you get these ideas? I clearly remember a moment speaking with a person about the kind of god she believed in, to which I responded, “Where are you getting this information from? Aren’t you just making this up?” She thought for a moment and admitted, “I guess you’re right.” However, she didn’t seem to be troubled by this self-realization. An entire world-view created in one’s imagination, with no foundation and yet, she doesn’t care… I don’t understand this type of thinking.

                   We must examine our motives. Are we doing something over and over, like Daniel in the Karate Kid, simply because someone told us to do so? Do we know our motive, our end goal? One must remember that growing up in a Christian church and having Christian family members does not make one a Christian ipso facto. And what we believe does ultimately matter. Yes, knowledge of God is only truly achieved through His sovereign hand. Knowing God is what Christian salvation is all about (cf. John 17:3). However, Christians must strive to be evermore clear about the truth of God and the gospel of Christ as revealed in the Bible. We must not allow tradition or culture to get in the way of what is truly Biblical. We must not be like Mr. Miyagi and hide our motives and purposes; instead we must make sure we are understood as we forthrightly proclaim truth to our children, to our community, and to the ends of the earth.  

Add your voice to the conversation. Questions, concerns, clarifications can be sent to AskPastorJones@gmail.com.            

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ
www.MBCGlobe.org
facebook.com/MBCGlobe

“You Have Faith… But I Have Science!”

Some people may find it strange to note that one of the earliest and most important proponents of what is known today as the Big Bang theory, was none other than astronomer and Roman Catholic priest, Georges Lemaître. As a priest, Lemaître believed in a God that had revealed Himself in a way that mankind could understand. As a scientist, Lemaître believed that the mysteries of the physical world could be understood through observation and intellectual inquiry. Although many today believe there is an uncrossable chasm between faith and science, tracing the history of science tells a very different story, with many of those great minds of the past also being devout believers in a supernatural God. 

            Before Lemaître’s proposal, the consensus of the scientific community was the eternality of the universe, that is, the belief that the universe has always existed. It was regarded as “religious” to think that the universe had a beginning. In fact, famed theoretical physicists Stephen Hawking writes, “Many scientists were unhappy with the universe having a beginning, because it seemed to imply that physics broke down. One would have to invoke an outside agency, which for convenience one can call God, to determine how the universe began.” 

            So while all of the evidence was coming forward that the universe did in fact have a beginning, something that Bible believing people have always affirmed, many in the scientific community did not want to believe the objective evidence because of their emotional response. Objectivity is when one is “not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.” I believe this example is helpful in pointing out that even when we affirm that we are being objective in our view of evidence, all people must be aware that we have particular beliefs that we hold for emotional reasons. All people have beliefs that are, in a very real sense, beliefs of faith.

            It was not until the 1960’s that the universe having a beginning became the scientific consensus. But instead of the evidence of a universal beginning convincing all people of the truth of God as the Beginner, many people had to convince themselves that the universe came forth out of nothing — that is, there once was nothing and for no apparent reason, there was suddenly something. Stephen Hawking writes, “I think the universe was spontaneously created out of nothing, according to the laws of science.” To be fair, Hawking does go on to try to explain why he thinks this; however, consider such a statement in light of everything else you know about reality. Does something ever come from nothing? Not only is this sort of thinking non-scientific, it is a full-blown statement of faith. Hawking is relating something he believes without empirical evidence; in other words, something he believes by faith. 

            With all of this in mind, I believe that, simply stated, there is an infinite, eternal being, who created all things. I believe the Creator has revealed Himself to all mankind through His creative work. The Apostle Paul writes that God has plainly made Himself known stating, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse (Romans 1:20).” Additional, I believe this Creator entered into His own creation in the person of Jesus Christ revealing further that our Creator is personal and not merely some cosmic force. The actions of Christ proclaimed His true divinity and finally, His resurrection from the dead solidified His claims. How can I believe these things? Are these just faith statements or do they also contain scientific inquiry?

            I look at the world around me, I see all that has been made, I recognize that there is a maker. I learn of the life of Christ and the claims that He made, I learn that He was killed by Roman officials, a fact that has little dispute even among irreligious historians, and that He rose from the dead three days later, appearing to many people including an appearance to a crowd of over 500 people (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:6). I read of these events in the most widely dispersed, historically reliable, best attested work of antiquity, the Bible. Finally, I have had an encounter with this Creator God through the new birth of His Spirit. Biblically speaking, the idea of Christian regeneration, or the new birth, is something that is an objective work of the Spirit apart from the will of man.

            I am not asserting that Biblical Christianity is solely an objective stance simply come to through a series of tidy arguments; obviously faith is vital for Christians. The primary point I am trying to make is that all beliefs, including those held by atheistic or agnostic scientists, have an aspect of faith to them. Therefore, when one asserts, “You have faith, but I have science” as if they automatically have the intellectual “higher ground”, you can assess their statements and point out their faith.

            Biblical Christianity makes sense. It makes sense scientifically and spiritually. It makes sense of all that we see and all that we cannot see. As C.S. Lewis eloquently put it, I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

Hawking quotes are from his book “Brief Answers to the Big Questions”.

Add your voice to the conversation. Questions, concerns, clarifications can be sent to AskPastorJones@gmail.com.            

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ
www.MBCGlobe.org
facebook.com/MBCGlobe