Posts Tagged ‘Faith

03
May
09

The Faith Award

Why should God be so interested in belief—Dawkins wants to know. Why shouldn’t he reward kindness, generosity, humility, or sincerity? (The God Delusion, 104) It’s a very good question.

Dawkins is asking a question that pertains to an entity he believes (almost) certainly does not exist. Indeed it will be difficult for him to hear any kind of answer. He (and any atheist) is going to have to yield to the notion that God does indeed exist. Not just any god–for there are thousands who require good virtues and works of righteousness in addition to belief. But only one God–the God of the Bible–requires FAITH alone. If Dawkins (or any atheist) wants an answer to this question, he will have to tolerate for once, the God of the Bible…

In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth and gave order to it. He created man and woman in his own image. He blessed them and charged them to be fruitful and multiply, and to rule over his creation. God provided them with seed-bearing plants and fruit-bearing trees to eat for food. God saw all that he had made and saw that it was very good (Genesis 1).

Adam and Eve had perfect communion with God in the Garden of Eden. God had only one restriction–do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or you will surely die (Genesis 2:16-17). It is not too much to ask. There were plenty of trees from which Adam and Eve could eat. Only one single tree in the whole garden was forbidden. God gave us freedom to choose to obey him, or to forsake him. He permitted us to act on our will. And so we did. You and I were not there in the Garden of Eden. But we all fell with Adam’s sin. Sin infected the entire human race. We ALL are guilty of sin. We all harbor ill thoughts, we all lie, we all cheat, we all offend, we all shrink in our pride. And therefore we all die, just as God warned would surely happen.

God is not obliged to reverse our decision. We made our choice. We are not entitled to reconciliation. We all deserve eternal damnation.Yet God is gracious. He cursed the serpent for instigating this evil, but in the middle of the curse, he promised redemption for man (Genesis 3:15). And so he established his covenant.

As sinners, we are born into death. The dead and the living cannot have fellowship together. The pure will not tolerate the perverse. And the perverse will not tolerate the pure. God is perfect and holy. We are imperfect and unholy. We can do NOTHING to save ourselves. NOTHING! No amount of good works will ever redeem us from the grave. We will always contend with sin. We made our decision–we CHOSE death.

The only one who CAN save us from death is the One who is perfect and holy, without blemish, without sin—Jesus Christ the Son of God. He took our sin upon himself and died our death so that we may live.

Romans 10:9 tells us that that if we confess with our lips, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead, we will be saved. It is easy to read this verse to mean that we are saved as a result of our believing in God. But this would contradict with the rest of Scripture and nullify the work of Christ. We are saved by GRACE, not by works. Galatians 2:21. Belief in God does NOT merit salvation. Faith is NOT an activating agent that somehow makes the cross effective in our lives. We are not saved because we believe in Jesus. We believe in Jesus, because we are saved. Belief is a result (not a cause) of salvation. We will have restored communion with God, not because of anything we have done, but because of what Christ alone has done.

Dawkins is therefore mistaken. God does NOT reward our belief. Salvation—from beginning to end—is entirely the work of God ALONE. We are DEAD in our sin. As long as we are in the grave, we will only ever choose death. But the Holy Spirit gives life. Romans 8:1-17. The Spirit is the one who reveals God’s truth and leads us to true faith and repentance. We can NEVER choose to believe in God without the intervention of his Spirit. True faith can only come from God, not from ourselves. Ephesians 2:8-9. If true faith originates from ourselves, than belief in God is a work of self-righteousness.

Salvation is by God’s grace ALONE, through faith ALONE, in Jesus Christ ALONE, for His glory ALONE.

(I just breezed through an immense amount of doctrine.)

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23
Apr
09

To Believe or Not Believe

In chapter three of The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins criticizes Pascal’s Wager as an argument that God exists. Pascal’s Wager basically says that you lose nothing to believe in God—if God exists, you win; If he does not exist, it is no loss to you anyway. But in opting not to believe in God at all, you take a greater risk, for if it turns out God indeed exists, you face his wrath and lose everything. A very weak argument indeed. Dawkin’s critique made me smile…What if you believed in the wrong god? Wouldn’t you face even greater wrath than if you hadn’t favored any god at all? A very good point–the selection of gods can be more overwhelming than the toothpaste aisle…

Dawkins contests that man cannot seriously chose to believe something unless he is convinced of its trustworthiness. Belief is not a haphazard choice as much as it is a conviction. You can’t pretend to believe something.

In my own family there are members who do not acknowledge any god whatsoever, others who exalt mother nature, some who are apathetic in their faith, and then those who proclaim Christ. The scope might be even broader in your family. Across the globe we find more gods than we could ever fear. John Calvin makes the observation that from the beginning of time, there is not one nation, tribe or even family on the face of the earth that can completely depart from the notion of a divine being. So penetrating is the inkling of a deity in our minds (Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, 44).

Not even the atheist can completely escape the notion of a god. I like the title Dawkins gives to chapter four—Why There Almost Certainly Is No God (emphasis mine). The man who rallies the agnostics and closet-atheists in the world to come out be “loud and proud” ATHEISTS, is too afraid to lead his own parade. Is there hidden deep-down in his being, an awareness of some god, that–try as he might–he just cannot shake?

It would seem that the same notion is rooted deep in all of us…or why should cultures near and far, throughout history, be compelled to worship something (anything) at all? From where does this common notion of a deity come? Is it possible we have a Creator who knows each one of us? Is it possible we might bear his image? Is it possible that this inkling deep within us indeed testifies to a true God who made us?

Indeed, even idolatry is ample proof of this conception. We know how man does not willingly humble himself so as to place other creatures over himself. Since then he prefers to worship wood and stone rather than to be thought of as having no God, clearly this is a most vivid impression of a divine being (Calvin, 44).

The evidence for God is not lacking. Just like it is possible to identify an artist by his distinct creative style present in his work, so creation testifies to its Creator. Romans 1:18-20 tells us that God’s invisible qualities have been clearly revealed to us through what has been made, leaving us without excuse. There is no reason for our disbelief.

In his book, Jesus Among Other Gods, Ravi Zacharias states that a total rejection of God has less to do with lack of evidence than it does the suppression of it (50). Drawing from Scripture, Zacharias reminds us how the Pharisees always demanded a sign from Jesus, even after immediately witnessing a miracle. But Jesus understood their game. They did not seek a sign. They did not need any more evidence. They simply did not want to believe that Jesus was who he claimed to be. They didn’t care about evidence, they only cared about their own industry, even at the cost of truth. (50-57) So stubborn we can be.

At my church, I have the privilege to receive excellent teaching in the adult electives Sunday mornings. This quarter I am taking an elective on apologetics, taught by published author, Dr. Stephen J. Nichols. A few weeks ago, he related this “suppression of evidence” to a boy who tries to keep an inflatable ball under his feet in a swimming pool. He pushes it down and tries to keep it under, but despite all his efforts, the ball always pops up again. The truth always surfaces. The nagging notion of a God is always there, no matter how much we try to deny it. And the evidence for his existence cannot be ignored. If we are so determined to refuse the truth, we will become frustrated, even angry when it surfaces. It just isn’t what we want to believe. (This certainly explains why Dawkins seems so stubborn and angry when it comes to the subject of God.)

If creation plainly testifies to a Creator. If even we ourselves, though hostile to our Maker cannot shake the notion of his existence. If we desperately suppress the evidence in order to favor a lie, then do we in fact choose to believe (or not believe) in something even without sincere conviction–without legitimate reason? Is Dawkins wrong when he says that belief is more than mere choice?

I believe God gives us freedom to entertain our wills, at least within our sinful state. We can choose…but our human will will never choose TRUTH on its own. The Holy Spirit must be at work in our hearts. Mark 3:29 tells us that to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is the only one unforgivable sin. I believe this is because it is the Holy Spirit who regenerates us and leads us to Jesus Christ who is TRUTH.

We might fight it, we may pursue a substitute god, but we will never have rest until we finally acknowledge our Maker and call him Lord.




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