Thursday, May 18, 2017

Amor Fati (Love of Fate) & The Christian Response

            “Amor Fati” is a Latin phrase that means love of fate, wherein loss and suffering are to be accepted and considered as good or necessary facts of life. None of us are immune to pain. The Amor Fati of the Nietzschean consideration advises a love of one’s fate even in pain albeit without God. 

            On the contrary, God does not assure Christians of a painless life. Instead the Bible teaches us to live in Christ to gain the peace that transcends all understanding, which enables us to live successfully through pain.  

            The objective of this article is not to extensively dissect the Amor Fati of the Nietzschean consideration. Basic concepts of Amor Fati will be emphasized to motivate an adequate Christian response. Furthermore, a basic flaw in the atheistic consideration of Amor Fati will be identified.   

Nietzsche’s Amor Fati

            Amor Fati was glorified by the atheist German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, who considered “love of fate” as essentially important for life. Nietzsche referred to Amor Fati as:1

            “…formula for greatness in human being” (Ecce Homo, 258)

            “…his inmost nature” (Ecce Homo, 325)

            “…the highest state a philosopher can attain” (Will to Power, 1041)           

            In its existential outworking, those subscribing to Amor Fati would believe that everything happens for a purpose. They are to love that which has happened to them. This essentially translates to accepting, interpreting and activating fate as a positive purpose for life. Nietzsche expressed this as, “My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati. That one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backwards, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal itbut love it.”

            Nietzsche linked Amor Fati to the concept of eternal recurrence, “Basically, this means that you live your life according to the principle that if you were to have to repeat the same actions as in the past, you would do them the same way. In other words, be at one with your fate and give your actions the weight of eternity. Stop wishing for something else to happen, for a different fate. That is to live a false life.”2

Christian Response to Amor Fati

            How should Christians, subscribing to Historic Christianity, encounter and engage with fate?

            Our fate is not fatalistic. The Bible does not teach that our life is an outcome of a predetermined course of events. Although God is sovereign, HE has offered us freedom to make choices that control our fate.

            For instance, we could choose to either accept or reject God. If we accept God, we go to heaven. If we reject the Lord Jesus Christ, we go to hell. Our eternal destiny is based on the choices we make now.

            Our temporal destiny, in large part, is also based on our choices. Cigarette smoking is injurious to health. We either choose not to smoke cigarettes to live a healthy life or choose to smoke so that we are vulnerable to illnesses associated with smoking.

            Life is a series of choices. Our choices determine our destiny.

            Most significantly, we love God. We cannot disassociate God from our life. We see life’s events from the perspective that God is the author and sustainer of our life. This need not necessarily postulate that God has foreordained every aspect of our life.3

            Christians look to God always – be it in moments of joy or pain. We are to depend on God always; seek HIM and pray continually. Therefore, we are not called to navigate life without God, rather we are to gain God’s peace and HIS sustaining and healing power to navigate through life’ darkest moments.

            Amor Fati contradicts Christian belief. So Christians cannot subscribe to Amor Fati. Christians are to love God. We are not mandated to love our fate.

            The sovereign God also controls our fate (cf. Tower of Babel, Jonah in the fish etc.). So the individual Christian would rather be aligned with God’s will than to rebel against God. Aligning with God’s will is only possible when we love God and seek HIM always.    

Basic Flaw in Amor Fati

            The basic flaw in Amor Fati is that one cannot truly love his fate. In order to understand this, let’s consider an existential dilemma. How should a father, who subscribes to Nietzsche’s Amor Fati, respond when he discovers that his infant son has an illness that will kill him early?

            A man had Amor Fati tattooed in his forearm so to be constantly reminded to love his fate. Here’s how this man responded when he discovered his infant son’s terminal illness, “When it counts is when you find out your infant son might have an illness that will debilitate him and ultimately kill him before he sees his twentieth birthday…It is then when you have to look at your forearm, be reminded that you have a choice in how to perceive this event, and look in the mirror through tears and consider something: Maybe, just maybe, if he wasn’t sick I would have taken him for granted. Now I won’t.  Now I’ll make every second count.  I can choose to be grateful for twenty years fully-lived with my son versus sixty years mostly wasted.”4

            Sounds good, isn’t it? Not exactly!

            How do we live while suffering from a terminal illness or while experiencing the untimely death of a loved one? Would not Amor Fati (love of fate) help us in this situation?

            No!

            We cannot truly love a painful situation – a terminal illness or an unexpected loss of our loved one. A true love of any situation would involve a desire for that situation. None of us desire terminal illness or to lose our loved one early. Hence, we cannot truly love our fate that involves horrendous pain.

            True love of one’s fate should essentially motivate a life within that fate. If one loves his fate, he should love to live that fate. This is similar to loving our house. If we truly love our house, we would love to remain in that house. We would not immediately seek to relocate to a better house.

            Fate that involves suffering cannot merit a similar response. We cannot truly love to remain in pain. Instead, we truly love to immediately liberate ourselves from that very painful circumstance of our life. Therefore, the love that Amor Fati demands cannot be true love.  

            But some may argue that they love their debilitated life (e.g. disability). This cannot be true love as well! Suppose a medical intervention is discovered to heal that disability, would we not rush to gain healing? So we truly love a life without disability. We cannot truly love a disabled life.

            Nietzsche’s Amor Fati promotes action, not stagnancy within that fate. This action does not preclude an action to change that fate. While Nietzsche prescribes love of one’s fate, that very love does not translate to enduring one’s fate. The man who subscribes to Amor Fati states that Amor Fati does “…not to teach you to be a cow standing in the rain, simply enduring and hoping to survive your fate…”5

            While applying Nietzsche’s Amor Fati to life’s painful predicaments, the constant endeavor is to change life’s situations. Upon encountering a terminal illness, the immediate response is to seek appropriate medical care to heal the illness. This is an endeavor to change one’s fate.

            Similarly, upon losing one’s job, the immediate motivation is to search for another job. Those attracted to eat unhealthy food will fight their appetite for unhealthy food and strive to live healthy. They do not love their fate of sickness or joblessness or eating unhealthy food.

            Therefore, those applying Nietzsche’s Amor Fati to their painful predicament exhibit a stark exhibition of a lack of love towards their painful predicament. They desire to change their fate by either eating healthy or searching for jobs or searching for a suitable medical intervention for healing.

            Man constantly strives to make things better in life; to change his fate. Thus he cannot love his fate that involves pain, for he exhibits love for an improved position in life. Therefore, Amor Fati is not a tenable proposition for life.

Endnotes:

1http://privatewww.essex.ac.uk/~beatrice/Nietzsche%20and%20Amor%20Fati.pdf

2https://dailystoic.com/robert-greene-interview/

3 Please refer to Dr. William Lane Craig’s argument to assert the fallaciousness of theological fatalism at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/transcript/s3-14

4https://dailystoic.com/amor-fati/

5Ibid.


Websites cited were last accessed on 18th May 2017. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Salvation Of Jews; Is There An Aberration? (Salvation Of Old Testament Believers)

            Consider the number of Jews who reject Christ. Would they not be saved although they believe in the same God as Christians do? Is there an innate injustice in God’s plan for the salvation of Jews?

            Jews could be broadly categorized into:

            (J1) Jews who lived before Christ.

            (J2) Jews who live(d) during and after Christ.

            Jews are God’s chosen people. Intriguingly, it appears as if there are two plans of salvation for the Jews – a simple and a complicated plan. The simple plan does not explicitly involve Christ and applies to (J1). Since Christ was not explicitly involved in this salvific plan, the Jews had one less factor to believe. Hence this plan could be termed simple.

            The second plan, which involves Christ, applies to (J2). This appears to be a complicated plan because the Jews had to / have to believe in Christ as well.

            The apparent injustice is this; how could there be a simple and a complicated plan for the salvation of the same group of people? The only distinction between these two groups is that they’re either born before or after Christ.  

            This apparent injustice is magnified for God determines the precise time of birth of all people – Jews included. The individual Jew does not choose his/her time of birth. So it is rather plausible to infer that God placed the Jews born during or after Christ in a more precarious position than their ancestors. (Their ancestors did not have to deal with the Christ-factor for their salvation.)

Christ Is Necessary For Salvation

            The New Testament categorically asserts that both the Jews and the non-Jews (Gentiles) would only be saved if they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4: 12, NASB). Salvation is by the grace of God through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2: 8-9; John 1: 12, 14: 6).

            So mankind existing since the New Testament period should necessarily believe in Christ to be saved.

Salvation Of Old Testament Believers

            The term Old Testament (OT) believers include both the Jews and the Gentiles. The OT believers were not privy to the life and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, for they were born at a time when Christ was not revealed by God to the world.

            Two questions are in order. First, how did God save the OT believers? Second, is God’s plan for the salvation of Jews who lived after Christ more complicated because they had to believe in Christ as well?

            Understanding the salvation of Jews who lived in the Old Testament era should throw vital light into unraveling this predicament. Let us consider the three vital aspects of salvation: Justification, Regeneration, and Sanctification.

            Justification of OT Believers: Man is a sinner (be it in the Old Testament or since the New Testament period). So man remains guilty in his standing with God. If man is to be saved, his legal status must be changed from guilty to not guilty. If man met God’s requirements fully, he would be declared just or righteous in God’s sight. Man is justified when Christ’s righteousness is imputed upon him (Romans 5: 1, Galatians 3: 24, Ephesians 2: 8, Titus 3: 5).

            Abraham, Moses and King David never heard of Christ, yet they were saved (justified) by virtue of their belief in God (of the Bible). Salvation of OT believers included Gentiles as well (E.g. Job, Melchizedek, King Abimelech).

            OT believers were not saved by adhering to the law. Abraham lived 400 years prior to the establishment of the law, yet he was saved. Moreover, the law cannot be adhered to perfectly; the law merely brings knowledge of sin (Romans 3: 20; Cf. Galatians 3: 11). The uncircumcised Abraham was saved merely by virtue of his faith in God. The salvation of uncircumcised Abraham negates any notion of salvation by works (performing sacred rituals and doing good works).

            But Christ is necessary for salvation, and the OT believers, who lived before Christ by the plan of God, did not possess a conscious knowledge of Christ. So how were these people saved?

            Romans 4: 1-5, 9-10, 16 offers an answer to this question. Paul invokes Genesis 15: 6 to establish the fact that belief in God is adequate for salvation. Thus when man is saved by virtue of his faith in God, Christ’s righteousness is transferred upon this man, thereby rendering him as not guilty in God’s sight (Romans 3: 21-22, 5: 17, 6: 23, 8: 1; 1 Corinthians 1: 30).

            Regeneration of OT Believers: A regenerated man will ardently desire to live a holy life in his new birth. He will not desire to live a sinful life.

            One could argue that the OT believers could not have been regenerated since the Holy Spirit was not yet given. (The Holy Spirit would not be given until the Pentecost.) However, the Bible provides us with adequate evidence to corroborate the fact that the OT believers were regenerated.

            Moses contrasted the two groups of Israelites – those who were circumcised of heart (Deuteronomy 30: 6) and those who were stiff necked and stubborn (Deuteronomy 29: 19-20; Exodus 32: 9, 33: 3; Ezekiel 2: 4). As Paul said in Romans 2, a real Jew is the one who is circumcised of heart (v28-29). The heart of the real Jew is altered to conform to God’s will.

            The OT believers also experienced a change of heart (1 Samuel 10:6, 9; Cf. Isaiah 57: 15; Ezekiel 11: 19-20, 36: 25-26). This is similar to the transformation Jesus described to Nicodemus much before the Pentecost. Thus we deduce that the Jews who loved and obeyed God in the Old Testament period were regenerated.

            Sanctification of OT Believers: Sanctification is the process in which the regenerated man becomes progressively holier. The Old Testament ascribes righteousness upon Noah and Job (Genesis 6: 9; Job 1:1, 8). While one can argue that Abraham, Moses and Daniel were not indwelt by the Holy Spirit, it does seem that these men were under the influence of the Holy Spirit because the Bible says that they were faithful, meek, good and self-controlled (cf. fruit of the Spirit). Although the Holy Spirit did not indwell the OT believers, HE evidently exerted an external influence.   

            Thus we understand that the salvific pattern of the believers in Old Testament and New Testament exhibit great similarity.

Salvific Plan Remains Same

              God’s plan of salvation included Christ then and now. However, the Jews who lived before Christ did not consciously see or hear of Christ’s salvific work to believe HIM.

            The Bible also states that the OT believers were saved because they possessed a forward-looking faith based on the promise that a Messiah, or a Redeemer would come. While speaking of the OT believers such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, the Bible asserts that “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance…” (Hebrews 11: 13, NASB, Emphasis Mine). In the same chapter, Moses “…considered abuse suffered for the Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he looked to the reward.” (Hebrews 11: 26, RSV, Emphasis Mine). The Lord Jesus emphasized that Abraham was looking forward to the day of the promised Messiah, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” (John 8: 56, RSV, Emphasis Mine). So if the Jews before Christ had clearly heard and believed in the Messiah and in HIS coming, they were saved.

            But what about those Jews who probably did not hear of the Messiah’s coming? (There may have been Jews during the time of Christ, who may not have heard the gospel message clearly because of the geographical distance and the lack of technology to disseminate information quickly.) Would they be saved?  

            If the Jews had not heard about the coming of the Messiah in the future, they would not have rejected HIM per se. If these Jews believed in God, they would be saved. The benefits of Christ’s atoning death would be transferred upon them.

            One final question remains, is God’s plan for the salvation of Jews who lived after Christ more complicated because they had to believe in Christ as well?

            Regeneration or “being born again” is totally a work of God (John 1: 13; Ephesians 2: 5; James 1: 17-18; 1 Peter 1: 3; cf. Ezekiel 36: 26-27). When a Jew hears of God and of Christ, God speaks powerfully to him and the Holy Spirit works powerfully in him. (Herein God does what HE needs to do to bring man into HIS fold.) Then man responds to God in faith. When God works powerfully in us, the honest seeker would easily accept Christ.

            When Jews reject Christ, the only significant consideration is whether the gospel of Christ-crucified has been preached clearly to them or not (cf. Romans 10: 14). If the gospel of Christ has not been preached clearly to them, then they are not rejecting the Christ of the Bible. In this instance, there is every possibility that God would save them as how HE saved the OT believers. 

            Therefore, we can reasonably conclude that there is no aberration in the salvation of the Jews.

Postscript:

The God Of Jews & Christians Is Not The Same

            Jews reject the Trinity. So they reject the divinity of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. The Jews strictly worship a monotheistic God. On the contrary, Historic Christianity subscribes to a Godhead that is Trinitarian yet monotheistic in nature. The Godhead is comprised of a co-equal Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

            The OT believers – the Jews and the Gentiles – worshiped the same God. However, when Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit were revealed to mankind in the New Testament, the conception of the Godhead became different for the Christians.

            In other words, God revealed HIMSELF progressively to mankind. Hence, it is plausible to deduce that God would not expect the OT believers to believe in the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit. However, since HE has revealed the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, God would expect mankind in existence since the New Testament period to consciously believe in Christ for their salvation.


            The Jews (existing since the New Testament period, and if they reject Christ) and the Christians worship a different God. (In other words, although God is one, the Jewish and the Christian conception of God is totally different since the New Testament period.) The God of the Jews is similar to the Islamic conception of God (Allah). The Islamic conception of God is strictly monotheistic and the Muslims reject the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Yet the Jews and Muslims worship a very different God. If the Jews and the Muslims worship a different God, then by the same reasoning, we can reasonably deduce that the Christians and the Jews worship a different God. Therefore, the Jews in existence since the New Testament period would be saved only if they believe in Christ.   

Thursday, May 4, 2017

An Introductory Defense Of The Blessed Trinity

The Bible reveals the distinctive and an essential Christian doctrine of the blessed Trinity. The Christian worldview makes this unique claim that God is one and yet there are three who are God.
Although Natural Theology could posit God’s existence and HIS attributes, Trinity, however, belongs to revealed theology. Trinity is a unique nature of God, which can only be comprehended when God reveals HIS nature to man, else man cannot comprehend the unique nature of God.
Since our mind is limited to comprehend the doctrine of Trinity, this doctrine should be honestly and diligently studied. Trinity is denied by Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islam and the likes. Hence, Christians dialoguing with the proponents of other worldviews ought to justify and defend the doctrine of the blessed Trinity.
While striving to understand the nature of God from the Bible, especially when there is no explicit mention of the Trinity, all the passages referring to this particular theme ought to be recognized and systematically interpreted. Thus the doctrine of Trinity is an entailment of a diligent hermeneutical enterprise; an exercise in Systematic Theology.

FORMULATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF TRINITY

The word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible. However, the term “Trinity” describes a doctrine that is implicit in the Bible. But the doctrine of Trinity is based on the several explicit teachings found in the Bible.
The following statements form the core of the doctrine of Trinity:1
1. The Father is God.
2. The Son is God.
3. The Holy Spirit is God.
4. The Father is not the Son.
5. The Father is not the Holy Spirit.
6. The Son is not the Holy Spirit.
7. There is exactly one God.

EVIDENCE FROM THE BIBLE

Trinity is plausible only if the Bible asserts the following three aspects of the Godhead:
(1) The oneness of God.
(2) The three persons who are God.
(3) The three-in-oneness of God.
The Oneness of God is taught in the following passages of the Bible: Exodus 20:2-3, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me” (Emphasis Mine). The Hebrew translation of “before me” means literally “to my face.” Deuteronomy 4:35 says, “You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other” (Emphasis Mine). The Shema in Deuteronomy 6 says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (v4, Emphasis Mine).
Moreover, God has commanded HIS people to love HIM and no-one else (Deuteronomy 6:5) and fear and serve HIM and no-one else (Deuteronomy 6:13).
Verses revealing the oneness of God are not limited to the Old Testament. The New Testament also emphasizes the oneness of God (1 Corinthians 8: 4, 6; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; James 2:19).
The Bible teaches that there are three distinct persons in the Godhead with three sets of cognitive faculties.
The Father is God (John 6: 27; Galatians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 8:4, 6; 1 Timothy 2:5).
The Lord Jesus Christ’s deity is affirmed in the Bible (Isaiah 9:6-7; John 1:1, 20:28-29; Philippians 2: 5-11; Hebrews 1: 3a, 8; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1; Colossians 1:15-20, 2:9). Christ was placed on an equal footing with God (Matthew 28:19). Christ claimed to forgive sins (Mark 2: 8-10), for which HE was accused of blasphemy by the ardent Jews, for only God can forgive sins. Christ spoke of the angels as HIS angels (Matthew 13:41). He regarded the Kingdom of God (Matthew 12:28, 19:14, 24, 21:31, 43) and the elect of God as HIS own (Mark 13:20). Christ also claimed the power to judge the world (Matthew 25:31-33) and reign over it (Matthew 24:31; Mark 14:62). Significantly, Christ did not deny HIS deity before Caiaphas, “And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” Jesus said to him, “It is as you said…” (Matthew 26:63-64, NKJV, Emphasis Mine). Last but not the least, Thomas addressed Christ as HIS God (John 20:28).
There are biblical references that identify the Holy Spirit as God (Psalm 139:7-10; Acts 5:3-4). The Holy Spirit is described as having the qualities of God and performing HIS works (John 3:8, 16:7-11; 1 Corinthians 3: 16-17, 6: 19-20, 12: 4-11). The Spirit is also placed on an equal footing with God (Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14; 1 Peter 1:2). Mark 3:29 states that blasphemy against the Spirit of God is an unforgivable sin.
The three-in-oneness of God is also taught in the Bible:
Matthew 28: 19-20 links the three persons of the Godhead and places them in equality. It is imperative to note that the word “name” is singular while describing the three persons, “…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”
The Pauline benediction also places the three persons of the Godhead in unity and equality (2 Corinthians 13:14).
John’s gospel provides the strongest evidence of a coequal Trinity (1:33-34, 14:16, 26, 16:13-15, 20:21-22 cf. 1 John 4:2, 13-14).
The oneness of the Father and the Son (John 10:30, 14:6-11), the Son and the Spirit (Romans 8:9) and Father and the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:11) is also taught in the Bible.
Although the Bible does not explicitly state the three-in-oneness of God, adequate data is found in the Bible (as mentioned above), which suggests the unity of the three persons of the Godhead.

TRINITY & THE LAW OF NON-CONTRADICTION

The doctrine of Trinity is not self contradictory, “Some attempt to argue against the Trinity by asserting that the concept is in violation of the law of non-contradiction. How can God, they ask, be both one and three at the same time? The law of non-contradiction asserts that something cannot be ‘a’ and ‘non-a’ at the same time and in the same sense. I do not think the Trinity violates this principle, however, since the doctrine maintains that God is one in a sense and three in a different sense. He is one in substance or essence but not one in person…”2

THE PLAUSIBILITY ARGUMENT

Dr. William Lane Craig argues for the plausibility of the Trinity from the perspective of love, “God is by definition the greatest conceivable being. As the greatest conceivable being, God must be perfect. Now a perfect being must be a loving being. For love is a moral perfection; it is better for a person to be loving rather than unloving. God therefore must be a perfectly loving being. Now it is of the very nature of love to give oneself away. Love reaches out to another person rather than centering wholly in oneself. So if God is perfectly loving by His very nature, He must be giving Himself in love to another. But who is that other? It cannot be any created person, since creation is a result of God’s free will, not a result of His nature. It belongs to God’s very essence to love, but it does not belong to His essence to create. So we can imagine a possible world in which God is perfectly loving and yet no created persons exist. So created persons cannot sufficiently explain whom God loves. Moreover, contemporary. [sic] cosmology makes it plausible that created persons have not always existed. But God is eternally loving. So again created persons alone are insufficient to account for God’s being perfectly loving. It therefore follows that the other to whom God’s love is necessarily directed must be internal to God Himself.
In other words, God is not a single, isolated person, as unitarian forms of theism like Islam hold; rather God is a plurality of persons, as the Christian doctrine of the Trinity affirms. On the unitarian view God is a person who does not give Himself away essentially in love for another; He is focused essentially only on Himself. Hence, He cannot be the most perfect being. But on the Christian view, God is a triad of persons in eternal, self-giving love relationships. Thus, since God is essentially loving, the doctrine of the Trinity is more plausible than any unitarian doctrine of God.”3

ENDNOTES:

2http://crossexamined.org/the-trinity-defended/, last accessed 18th February 2017.
All Scripture references are from NIV, unless otherwise mentioned.

This article was written for the Christian Apologetics Alliance and was first published at http://christianapologeticsalliance.com/2017/02/18/an-introductory-defense-of-the-blessed-trinity/

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Some Atheists Will Never Believe In God

The epistemological objection of many atheists is that there is no concrete evidence for God’s existence. They argue, “If only I could see God, I would believe in HIM. Since no one can sense God with the five senses, belief in God is unreasonable and unjustified.”
Although, superficially, this objection appears reasonable, there are several problems with this objection. Christian Philosopher J.P Moreland, presents the following arguments as to why this objection of the atheists cannot seriously challenge the theistic claim of God’s existence:[1]

Self Refuting Proposition

The proposition, “I can believe in only what I can see” is self-refuting, since that very proposition cannot be seen. But some may argue that the sentence expressing that proposition can be seen, hence the said proposition is valid.
However, the proposition expressed by the sentence, “I can believe in only what I can see” is not identical to that sentence. The sentence is of a particular length and a particular color, which is not true of the proposition itself. Hence, the proposition is self-refuting, thus it is invalid.

Existence Of Non-Empirical Entities

Our thoughts exist. But none of us have seen our thoughts. Thus it would be preposterous to determine that thoughts do not exist, since thoughts are invisible.
Similarly other non-empirical entities such as numbers, laws of logic, values, and propositions do exist. Positing the non-existence of non-empirical entities based on their invisibility is question-begging. Therefore, since we affirm the existence of non-empirical entities, we could also affirm the existence of God.

Category Fallacy

Entities belonging to a specific category cannot be assigned the properties of entities belonging to another category. For instance, sound notes (musical notes) cannot have the property of ‘color’ (i.e. sound notes cannot be colored). It would be a category fallacy to assign color to sound notes. Hence an objection that we should not believe in sound notes because they are not colored commits a category fallacy.
Likewise, the objection that one should believe that something exists only if it can be sensed commits a category fallacy. God, by definition, is an infinite Spirit. God, being a spiritual being, cannot possess material / sensory qualities. Hence ascribing sensory qualities to God is to commit a category fallacy.

Numinous Intuition

J.P Moreland argues that there could be other ways of seeing apart from sensory seeing. For instance, some form of numinous intuition could enable one to see nonphysical objects. Intuition in this context means “being directly aware of” as opposed to a mere thought of about something.
In numinous experiences – direct awareness of a holy, good person – people claim to see God. Numinous experiences do exist, for it can be proven that numinous perception is analogous to sensory perception.[2]

Postulation Of Unseen Entities

Consider the existence of other minds. We do not see minds as we see a material object. But since we know that our bodily behavior is a result of our mind, we infer that there are other minds. So we postulate the presence of other minds, such as ours, because other people are embodied persons (and not robots), whose bodily behavior is certainly analogous to ours.
Similarly, one can infer the existence of God from HIS effects in a way similar to that in which we infer the existence of other minds or theoretical entities. Therefore, belief in God is valid.

Would Atheists Believe God Even If HIS Existence Was Obvious

God has indeed offered sufficient evidences for HIS existence. Presence of many who believe in God is an adequate proof.
However, the big question is this, if God’s existence is as plain as a nose on your face, would atheists believe in God? (I have borrowed Dr. William Lane Craig’s phraseology.)
William Lane Craig elaborates this thought, “Some atheists, unsatisfied with the amount of evidence that we have, have argued that if God existed then he would have prevented the unbelief of the world by making his existence just starkly obvious. For example, he could have inscribed on every atom in the universe “Made by God.” Or he could have placed a neon cross in the heavens saying “Jesus Saves.” In that case God’s existence would be starkly apparent to everyone and thereby he would have prevented the unbelief in the world.”[3]
Dr. Craig quotes Christian philosopher Paul Moser to emphasize that it need not be God’s prerogative to prevent unbelief in the world for a simple reason that God’s sole desire is not to prove HIS existence but to motivate man to love HIM.[4]
Furthermore, the Bible presents several instances to prove that belief in God’s existence need not necessarily translate into a love relationship between man and God.
For instance, God personally revealed HIS existence to Adam and Eve. So Adam and Eve believed in God’s existence and knew HIM personally. However, they disobeyed or rejected God when the devil tempted Eve.
Consider another instance; the devil believes in God’s existence (James 2: 19) but the devil opposes God because of its rejection of God. The devil does not desire a saving relationship with God.
Some atheists would continue to argue that if God were to perform miracles, they would believe in HIM. Sadly, the Bible negates this thought.
The fact that man will continue to reject God even if God were to make HIS presence as plain as a nose on your face through the miraculous is depicted in the parable of Rich man and Lazarus, “Of course, in order to believe in God (that is, to trust in him, to know him) you’ve got to first believe that God exists. But if you reflect on it, there is really no reason at all to think that if God were to make his existence starkly obvious that more people would freely come to know him and his salvation than actually do. Mere showmanship will not bring about a change of heart. That is the lesson of Jesus’ parable in Luke 16:30-31 where you will remember Abraham tells the Rich Man in Hades who asks him to send someone from the dead to his family members so that they will believe and not come to this place, and Abraham says, Even if someone will rise from the dead, if they won’t listen to Moses and the Scriptures neither would they believe in that case. Just seeing a miraculous event isn’t going to bring about heart change if these people are closed to God and his Word.”[5]
The Old Testament is replete with the miraculous (parting of the sea, pillar of cloud and fire, plagues in Egypt etc.). However, these miracles did not initiate a love relationship between God and Israelites. Even after witnessing these miracles, the Israelites continued to reject and disobey God.
Therefore, we could reasonably believe that even if God were to reveal HIS existence in a starkly obvious manner, the deceptively adroit man would discover reasons to reject God and to not love HIM, “So if God were to inscribe his name on every atom in the universe, or place a neon cross in the sky, people might well believe that he exists, but how can we be confident that this would lead to a greater love of God and knowledge of God? Perhaps over time people would begin to chafe under these brazen advertisements of God’s existence and even come to resent him for such in-your-face effrontery. In fact, we just don’t really have any way of knowing that in a world of free creatures in which God’s existence is as plain as the nose on your face that the number or the percentage of people who come to love him and to know and experience his salvation is any greater than that in the actual world where, remember, the actual world includes not simply the past and the present but also the future. But then it seems to me the claim that if God existed he would make his existence more evident or starkly obvious just has little or no warrant.”[6]

Endnotes:

[1] Scaling the Secular City A Defense of Christianity, J.P Moreland, 1987, Baker Book House Company, p226-228.
[2] J.P Moreland offers several arguments to posit numinous perception as exhibiting the same features that characterize sensory perception and he also presents seven tests to assert the credibility of numinous intuition. (Scaling the Secular City A Defense of Christianity, J.P Moreland, 1987, Baker Book House Company, p237-240.)
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hate The Church, Love Jesus!!

            A recent Barna research declares the death of the church in the lives of nearly half of America’s Christians, “…In this new age, religion is in retreat from the public square, and traditional institutions like the church are no longer functioning with the cultural authority they once held in generations past. Today, nearly half of America is unchurched. But even though more and more Americans are abandoning the institutional church and its defined boundary markers of religious identity, many still believe in God and practice faith outside its walls.”1 (Emphasis Mine). This discovery is relevant to all parts of the world where the church exists; it’s not confined to America.

            Christians who do not attend the church cannot be deemed as non-Christians. Barna reports that genuine Christians do not attend the church, “Barna created a metric to capture those who most neatly fit this description. It includes those who self-identify as Christian and who strongly agree that their religious faith is very important in their life, but are “dechurched”—that is, they have attended church in the past, but haven’t done so in the last six months (or more). These individuals have a sincere faith (89% have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important to their life today), but are notably absent from church.”2 (Emphasis Mine).

            If genuine Christians do not attend the church, then it’s worthwhile to ascertain reasons pertinent to this sorry state in Christendom. Adequate reasons for this malady have been provided in my previous blog entitled, “How Could Christianity Insult & Injure You? (Toxic Christianity)”3

            Churches are guilty of driving Christians away. Filth is in abundance in many churches. Typically the naive members of these churches, who have very high opinion of the church, would be nauseated by the filthy deeds of those in the church leadership (Pastors, Elders, Deacons, Worship leaders…).

            The church is made up of people - you and me. Irresponsibility of the leaders manifesting in poor and shallow, and at times, theologically incorrect sermons drive people away from the church. 

            Then the presence of selfish, obnoxious, and spiritually proud Christians demeaning their fellow Christians by abusing their powerful leadership status to drive the church into a spiritual dungeon is a heartbreaking trend in many churches.

            It is the Christians who compel their fellow Christians to steer clear of the church. When we blame the churches for being unchristlike, let us rightfully assign the blame upon Christians, who are the temple of the living God.

            Would Christians lose their salvation if they do not attend a church? No! The Bible does not say that at all. “No amount of church attendance will earn eternity in heaven. No lack of church attendance will result in the loss of salvation” says conservative Christian Q&A website, gotquestions.org.4

            Should those Christians who do not attend church be blamed for their lack of church attendance? What would one gain by blaming a Christian who does not attend the local church? Nothing!

            Instead of blaming the Christian who does not attend the church, the church, if it’s keen on serving / ministering to people, should invest it’s energy into getting the Christian back into its fold. If the Lord Jesus encouraged the search and recovery of that one lost sheep (Luke 15: 3-7; Cf. Matthew 18: 12-14), the church does not have any valid reason, whatsoever, to not invite the unchurched Christians.

            The Lord Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required” (Luke 12: 48b, NASB). This applies to the local church.

            The local church has been given much, for the local church is a powerful spiritual entity than an individual Christian, who does not attend the local church. Hence it is incumbent upon the church to graciously invite the unchurched Christian into its fold. 

            If a Christian does not attend a church, he / she could remain devoid of vital spiritual power essential to his / her existence as a Christian. Although the benefits of attending a church are immense, here are a few germane reasons for your consideration.

            Significantly, we will not lose our salvation by not attending a church, but by not attending a church, we are most likely to lose our salvation. How?

            The devil is constantly on the prowl to devour Christians. Hence spiritual attacks against Christians are always imminent. By not attending a church, we remain vulnerable to Satan’s attack.

            We could remain spiritually empty by not attending the church. Not being disciplined enough to study the Bible and pray [constantly] is a surefire recipe to bring forth a dangerous spiritual malady into our life.

            The antagonists of Historic Christianity are active. Not being in the community of believers is a surefire recipe to be vulnerable to the debauched ideas that strive to destroy Historic Christianity. Yes, if we are not in a church, we offer ourselves as an open house that entertains erroneous ideas that attempts to contradict the veracity of Historic Christianity.

            Here is a caveat. If we are in a painful situation of any kind (death of a loved one, sickness, joblessness, family problems, problems at your workplace etc.), it is imperative for us to be in a church. The church, potentially, has every spiritual medicine to treat us (assistance for various needs, wise Christian counsel, uplifting and encouraging prayers, shoulder to cry on etc.).

            We may have very genuine reasons to not attending the church. The church may have acutely hurt us. Hence we may have lost faith in the church and may need time to heal (maybe months or even years). Alternatively, our work situation may have forced us to not attend the church.

            Let’s face another fact here. None of us are primed to attend any church. We need that particular church that offers us the peace or the comforting ambiance to worship God in spirit and truth. In this regard, there may not be a church in our vicinity that appeals to us. In other words, our reasons for not attending a church could be exhaustive and rather valid.

            What do we do in this situation?

            We need to, very minimally, be in the company of spiritually mature Christians. If our family does not offer us that spiritual support for valid or invalid reasons, we need a spiritual mentor. We need to be completely honest with our mentor about the problems we confront.

            If we do not have a spiritual mentor, we need to humbly and prayerfully seek a spiritual mentor. We should acknowledge that we need help and prayerfully search for that help. When we honestly and prayerfully seek, God will provide. Ask and it shall be given.

            Being in the company of spiritually mature Christians and not a church is a not an everlasting remedy. Our prayer is to locate a church that would serve us.

            But that’s not it. Our prayer is also that the church fulfills the need of its members and even the non-members. The onus is more on the church than it is on the Christian who is seeking a church. So we pray that the church leadership leads the church in a godly and a Christlike manner that invites and serves both the churched and the unchurched Christian.

            So may the unchurched Christians find a church that satisfies their spiritual need. May God answer this prayer of ours.

Endnotes:


2Ibid.  




Cited websites last accessed on 20th April 2017.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Defending Good Friday; The Necessity of Christ’s Sacrifice

             Incoherent and self contradictory arguments yield faulty dogmas. You can argue for just about anything as long as you do not endeavor to ensure that your argument does not contradict itself and that it is coherent. Then you take pride in the argument rooted in asinine incoherency and self contradicting assertions.

            Upon close observation, you will detect stark incoherency and self-contradictory assertions in the arguments of the detractors of Historic Christianity. Being in the season of remembering our Lord’s atoning sacrifice on the cross, it is imperative to consider the arguments against the Lord’s sacrifice on the cross. Let’s consider the Unitarians as a case in point, for they do not believe that Christ died to save you and me of our sins.

Who Are The Unitarians?

            They are liberals with a thought process deeply rooted in the relativistic paradigm, “The Unitarians are a community of people who take their religion, or their spirituality, liberally. That is to say, we hold that all people have the right to believe what their own life-experience tells them is true; what the prompting of their own conscience tells them is right.”1 

            Unitarians regard themselves as Christians only from a diluted perspective of living according to the life and teachings of Jesus. Their definition of the term “Christian” is excessively weak and preposterous because they do not consider Christ as God, “Unitarians believe that Jesus was a man, unequivocally human.”2

            They reckon the Bible as not inspired, inerrant and infallible. Unitarians claim that the Bible should be validated by the light of reason and conscience, “Anything in the Bible that Unitarians accept as true is accepted because it rings true in our own humble reflection upon it. We do not accept it just because it is in the Bible.”3

            Some Unitarians believe that God exists as one person, whereas other Unitarians have a diverse belief about God, “Some believe in a God; some don’t believe in a God. Some believe in a sacred force at work in the world, and call it “love,” “mystery,” “source of all” or “spirit of life.””4

            Christ's death on the cross makes sense only in the event of HIS resurrection. Unitarians believe in, or should we say, “not believe in” Christ’s resurrection from different perspectives.5 These perspectives deny Christ’s bodily resurrection and are predicated on a rigorous denial of attributing any salvific component into Christ’s sacrifice.  The Unitarians believe that Christ’s resurrection was a powerful myth. Alternatively, they consider that the spirit of Jesus triumphed over death and that the church is the physical resurrection, the risen body, of Christ (thereby denying the bodily resurrection of the Lord).

Necessity For Christ’s Atoning Sacrifice

            Before we begin to briefly unpack the Unitarian view laden with invalid arguments, let us succinctly consider Christ’s sacrifice from the Historic Christian perspective.

            Atonement is the work Christ did in his life and death to earn our salvation. The Bible teaches that God’s love and HIS justice compelled Christ’s incarnation on earth and dying for our sins:

            John 3:16, NASB: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

            Romans 3:24-26, NASB: “…in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus…” (Paul states that God had been forgiving sins in the Old Testament but no penalty had been paid. So people could wonder whether God was indeed just and ask how he could forgive sins without a penalty. So God sent Christ to pay the penalty for our sins.)

            On the road to Emmaus, Christ explained that HIS suffering was necessary, “And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:25-27, NASB).

            The book of Hebrews also explains the necessity of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Since it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away our sins (Hebrews 10:4), a better sacrifice is required (Hebrews 9:23). Only the blood of Christ (his death), would be able to really take away sins (Hebrews 9:25-26). Hence, we reasonably conclude that Christ’s atoning sacrifice was necessary for God to save us.

Christ Died In Our Place

            Consider a few passages from the Bible that speaks of Christ’s death as substitutionary (HE died in our place):

            John 1: 29, NASB: “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

            2 Corinthians 5: 21, NASB: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

            Galatians 3: 13, NASB: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us…

            Hebrews 9: 28, NASB: “so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”

            1 Peter 2: 24, NASB: “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”

            These passages teach us that Christ bore our sins, for they were laid on HIM. Because Christ has come to be sin, we have ceased to be sin or sinners.

Questioning Unitarianism

            The fundamental belief of the Unitarians is that all people have the right to believe what they think is right. So if a Unitarian speaks against Historic Christianity, he / she is fundamentally contradicting his / her core belief. In other words, if the Unitarians believe that all people have the right to believe what they think is right, should they not allow Christians to believe in Christ’s atoning sacrifice and bodily resurrection? Should they not consider that the Historic Christian worldview is valid? So if you and I subscribe to Historic Christianity, the Unitarian, by virtue of his own belief, has no right to debunk or condemn our belief as wrong or invalid.  

            In fact, strictly speaking, the Unitarian worldview does not allow for rejection or condemnation of any other contradicting worldview based on the opinion that the contradicting worldview is wrong or incorrect. However, if the Unitarian condemns another worldview, then, by virtue of his condemnation, he rejects his own worldview.

            If your Unitarian friend considers himself to be a Christian, he professes to follow Christ. But the Unitarian does not consider Christ as God. So, in essence, the Unitarian follows another human being (who could have been mightily wrong in his deeds. Oh well, according to the Unitarian belief, in the relativistic paradigm, there cannot be wrongs, there can only be rights. But that’s for another day!).

            So a Unitarian could follow both Christ and Muhammad although both taught mutually contradictory teachings. (For instance, Christ claimed to be God, whereas Muhammad did not consider Christ as God.) The Unitarians are blissfully ignorant or remain in blatant denial of the fact that their worldview allows them to follow those who can only be partially right in their thoughts, words and deeds, thus allowing them to believe in incoherent and contradictory teachings.

            (If a Unitarian can follow another human being, what prevents him from following Hitler or Pol Pot or Stalin, who obviously thought that their massacres were justified?) 

            The Unitarian need not be totally committed to follow the person that he claims to follow, for his worldview allows him to follow ‘A’ and ‘B,’ and if both ‘A’ and ‘B’ teach mutually contradictory teachings, then the Unitarian can only follow ‘A’ or ‘B’ partially. Therefore, the Unitarian proclamation that he follows Christ can only be partial at its very best. Partial commitment is not an absolute commitment that Christ demands of HIS disciples.   

Conclusion

            Disregard the Unitarian or any other worldview that disbelieves in Christ or HIS atoning sacrifice. Let us humbly and worshipfully reminisce and be thankful for Christ’s atoning sacrifice for you and me. Charles Wesley wrote the most meaningful words for this season in his hymn “And Can It Be That I Should Gain”:

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Endnotes:

1https://www.unitarian.org.uk/pages/frequently-asked-questions-faq

2Ibid.

3Ibid.

4http://www.uua.org/beliefs/what-we-believe/higher-power

5https://www.unitarian.org.uk/pages/frequently-asked-questions-faq