Monday, October 28, 2013

Dangers and Consequences of Christian Universalism (Part 1)

Some Christians vociferously state that all people (irrespective of spirituality and/or morality) are heaven-bound. A few of the many reasons as propositions for their beliefs are:

(1) Christ’s atoning death is for the salvation of all mankind.

(2) The historical-grammatical interpretation of the Bible is incorrect (E.g. ‘Hell’ lacks context). There is no literal (physical) hell.

 (3) One cannot comprehend truth (resorting to uncertainty). God can do anything.

(4) God will annihilate the unbelievers after their death (Annihilationism).

Christian Universalists need not believe in all the reasons presented above. They could believe in one or a few.

Necessity of Christ but Unnecessity of Belief in Christ:
Some Christians state that Christ and HIS finished work on the cross is necessary but belief in Christ is NOT necessary for salvation. This could be considered a scandal on God’s nature for at least a couple of reasons:

(A) Why should God sacrifice HIMSELF on the cross when people will be saved irrespective of their belief in God (Jesus Christ)? God could have merely uttered one salvific word to achieve universal salvation. Thus all people would be saved without the miraculous and gory drama of Christ’s saga.

(B) Is God so callous that HE sent HIS Son to ruthlessly die on the cross for something that’s virtually insignificant?

One could present more such thoughts. Positing Universalism should not scandalize God’s nature. God’s attributes cannot oppose each other - a perfect being cannot be good and evil at the same time.

If Christ is necessary for salvation, then belief in Christ is absolutely necessary. The statement, “Christ is necessary but belief in Christ is unnecessary,” is not a plausible statement. Please observe the following sequence of thoughts as an analogy:

(1)   Food is necessary for existence.

(2) Although food is necessary, belief in food is also necessary for a person to eat the food.

(3) If there is food and if the person believes in the food, he will eat.

(4) If there is food, but the person refuses to believe in it, he will not eat.

(5) Therefore, a person ought to have the food, and also believe in it to eat.

Factors that motivate unbelief in food could be the lack of: desire, taste, hygiene, contamination (poison) etc. If I do not believe in the food presented to me, I will not eat it, for it may not be tasty or it could be poisoned.

Although Christ and HIS atoning sacrifice is factual, one should place his faith in Christ so to have Christ live in him (cf. Galatians 2: 20; Colossians 1: 23, 27). If Christ is necessary, then belief in Christ is also necessary to appropriate Christ’s finished work of salvation into our lives.  

Necessity of faith in Christ can be presented through the coalescence of God’s attributes. Because God is holy, HE cannot tolerate sin, but punishes it with hell. This agrees with HIS attribute of holiness and justice. But God is also loving, merciful and compassionate, so HE gave HIS Son, our Lord Jesus, to die for mankind’s sins. Therefore, man should believe in Christ for Christ to live in him. A man, who does not believe in Christ, rejects Christ and HIS atoning sacrifice. An unbelieving man implies that Christ’s atoning sacrifice isn’t necessary for his salvation (cf. Luke 24: 26).

So we can reasonably conclude that belief in Christ is a virtual necessity for salvation, for unless Christ lives in a man through man’s belief in HIM, he cannot be saved.

Interpretive Conundrums:
When Christian Universalists affirm the relevance of the Bible, yet reject the historical-grammatical interpretation of the Bible, they create numerous conundrums in the Bible. Many biblical doctrines will be questioned for their validity and significance, of which some are:

Sin: Certain flavors of Christian Universalism dilute the doctrine of sin to a mere flaw. They do not categorize sin as an assault on God. The wages of sin being death is also appropriately diluted. Sins are characterized as mere character flaws i.e. hatred, filthy language, sickness, lust, pride. Flawed hermeneutics of the Bible contribute to this problem. If this were to be true, man does not have any overarching reason to detest sin. This then would promote rampant immorality.

Faith in Christ: How would the various verses proclaiming faith in Christ, as a means to salvation, interpreted by the Christian Universalist (E.g. John 3: 16 et al.)?

Some Christian Universalists interpret that ‘faith’ will be imputed (ascribed). But imputation of faith negates man’s freewill. If God imputes faith, can it also be argued that God imputes sin into man? In other words, when man sins, does he sin because God imputes sin into him? A God who imputes sin into man, is not a good God, and so ceases to be God. If there is no God, salvation is meaningless and so is universal salvation.

If belief in Christ is imputed upon man, then Christ’s death and resurrection was unnecessary. God could have simply imputed belief in people without the incarnate Christ in the picture.

Fruit of Spirit: If God wills all be saved, there is no need for the believer to produce fruit of the Spirit. So a believer who does not produce the fruit of the Spirit will be saved. This implies that a believer need not remain in Christ (John 15). Consequently, a believer can remain outside of Christ (disbelieve in Christ or remain disobedient to Christ) and still be saved. So not only is the fruit of the Spirit rendered meaningless, but also faith and abiding in Christ.

God’s Sovereignty: Christian Universalists proclaim that God is sovereign, so HE will save all.

This implies that God can do anything. If God can do anything, would the Christian Universalist subscribe to the notion that God can create another God or God can commit adultery or God can lie? If not, how would he negate these abnormal possibilities of God’s sovereignty that contradict HIS attributes?

Repentance: Man need not repent, but God will gift repentance to man. This is preached by some Christian Universalists. Imputation of repentance eliminates freewill of man. If man is not free, he is God’s puppet. How then would the Christian Universalist interpret the verses that teach freewill of the believer (Joshua 24: 15; Proverbs 16: 9; John 7: 17; Revelation 3: 20 et al.)? Additionally there are verses that term the believer as a child of God, friend of God, and disciple of God. These verses imply man to be anything but a puppet of God, so how would the Christian Universalist interpret these verses?

Negation of Hell: Some posit the reality of heaven and negate the reality of hell. They negate the reality of hell citing a lack of context. A cursory glance at a couple of passages describing everlasting punishment (hell), reveals judgment as context (Matthew 25: 46, context is in verses 31-33, and 2 Thessalonians 1: 9, context is in verse 5). Since everlasting punishment is stated within a context, hell is a reality.

Holiness: Christian Universalists also claim overtly or covertly that a believer need not be holy, for he will be saved even if he is not holy. If a believer need not be holy, he can be immoral, so is the Bible advocating immorality in a believer? Negating holiness in a believer also negates the holiness of God, within the context of Christlikeness. Is Christian Universalism positing a God who is not holy? A God who is not holy is not God.

Loving and Worshiping God: A believer need not worship or love God for he will be saved even if he remains obstinate in not loving and worshipping God. The Christian Universalist then needs to explain the many verses in the Bible that demand love and worship of the living God.

Obedience to God: God’s commands need not be obeyed, since the believer would be saved nevertheless. How then would the Christian Universalist interpret all the verses that mandate obedience to God’s commands?

Given the factors presented above, affirmation of the Bible is virtually immaterial when essential doctrines of the Bible are diluted and the attributes of God negated.

Translation of the Bible: Some Christian Universalists assert the corruption of the biblical translation. If the Christian Universalist claims that the translation of the Bible is corrupt, then he should discard the entire Bible. If some parts of the Bible are corrupt, wouldn’t it entail that the entire Bible may be corrupt? If the transmission of Bible is deficient in certain parts, doesn’t this also imply that God is intentionally misleading HIS people by not being sovereign over the transmission of HIS Word? 



I will stop at this juncture to maintain a self imposed 1500 (approx) word limitation of a single blog post. I will conclude my thoughts on Universalism in my next blog, where I will touch upon other relevant themes. Amen. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

The god Who Admits All People to Heaven is…

The tenets of Historic Christianity are stated, the nature of truth examined, and adequate reasons to reason out our faith in Christ have been offered in my previous blog. Let us now examine the god who welcomes anyone and everyone into heaven. For the purpose of differentiating the god of the Universalists from the living Triune God, I have termed the god of the Universalists as ‘unigod.’ I have posited few threads of argument from within morality (distinction between right and wrong or good and evil) to question the existence of unigod. But let me begin with worship, which is man’s response to God’s worthiness.

God should be worshipped for HE alone is worthy of our worship (adoration, thanksgiving, prayers etc.). God deserves this response from all people.

From the perspective of Historic Christianity, since God so loved the world, HE gave HIS only Son, so that those who believe in the Son of God will receive eternal life (John 3: 16). Salvation of mankind (those who believe in Christ) is an outcome of God’s love for man. Since salvation is God first act (through HIS love to redeem man from his sin), the believer loves God, and worships HIM always. The living God reveals HIS worth to HIS people by HIS blessed presence, and offers hope that HE, through HIS second coming, will fulfill all HIS promises (e.g. eliminate evil forever). Thus man worships this Almighty, loving, gracious and a compassionate God.

In contrast how does unigod reveal his worthiness to his people? All that he supposedly does is to save all men (universal salvation). If this is his only or primary revelatory act of worthiness, then this god (unigod) has placed himself in a quicksand situation. If one can negate the unworthiness of unigod by confuting universal salvation or expose unigod’s attributes to be unworthy of God, then by entailment, unigod need not be existent and hence worshipped.

The following arguments present the unworthiness of unigod so to eliminate him from the figment of any imagination.

Argument from Attributes of God:
Man, to love and worship God, should be aware of HIS attributes or nature. Minimally, love and justice can be posited as great communicable attributes. Attributes that are perfect in God but also found in humans to a degree are ‘Communicable Attributes.’

A god who loves all, even those who hate and abuse him, seems to be a loving God. But a careful examination of this love reveals cruelty. Please observe this situation, “I don’t want to be with god, but he forces me to be with him, and I have to spend the entire eternity with him” – this certainly is a depressingly bitter hope. Holding people against their will is slavery; none accept, agree, or admire slavery. This is dictatorship in its glory. But this is precisely what unigod does to people. Love in unigod is actually cruelty.

Minimally, justice is a disposition to do that which is morally right. Presence of ‘right’ requires a ‘wrong;’ this is analogous to rust requiring a metal. Since evil is rampant in the world, a common man expects the authorities to punish evil. But unigod, as an apparent ultimate authority, does not punish evil, for he allows even a horrendously evil person to enter into heaven.

At our workplace, we are extremely saddened and frustrated when we are victims of injustice. An authority who fails to provide justice is unjust or evil. By allowing a horrendously evil person to inherit the greatest good (heaven), the unigod reveals his unjust and evil attributes.

Since God cannot be evil and unjust, we reasonably claim that there is no unigod, and that universalism is nothing but a grand illusion.

Argument from Abuse:
If you are unaware of Dawkins’ intense abuse (an act of evil) of the living God, please read the endnote.1 Proponents of Historic Christianity believe that Prof. Richard Dawkins, the bulldog of Atheism, will not go to heaven, if he doesn’t repent of his sins and accept Christ the Lord as his Savior. The God of Historic Christianity is a holy God and in HIM is no sin, so sin cannot coexist with God.

Please brace yourself for an unmitigated indecent assault on unigod. The unigod is an evil, corrupt, depraved, putrid, brainless blockhead; he is a nonsensical dummy, foolish idiot, insanely ignoramus dolt, a nincompoop, and a senseless monkey. Anyone can mock and thoroughly disrespect unigod.2 Despite these abuses on unigod, Universalists will claim that unigod will still save me.

A god who accepts and agrees with abuse of any intensity is a god without perfection and holiness. Even man’s intrinsic dignity and self-worth prevents him from agreeing and accepting to abuses of any form or size. So a god who is awfully comfortable with abuses to the extent of supporting and welcoming evil is an evil god that resides only in the fantasies of certain minds.

Argument from Consistent Discipleship:
The Universalists claim that all people will be saved despite their good or horrendous nature. By the same token, would the Universalists accept abuse? They technically should accept, for if their god allows this upon himself, the Universalists, as the disciples of unigod, should unconditionally allow this upon themselves. Failure of the Universalists to accept horrendous abuses upon themselves or their families and friends will intuitively expose their opposition to their own god.

Historic Christianity asserts Christlikeness in the believers of Christ (Romans 8: 29 et al.). This is not a mere fact from the realm of the spiritual, but from the realm of the physical as well. Christians are called to bear fruit and much fruit (John 15).

The contentment and joy of a parent is directly proportional to the physical and behavioral resemblance of their child. For example, if a child resembles the goodness of the parent, the parent will be greatly joyful and contented.

But in the case of Universalism, there is no resemblance of unigod in the lives of its disciples. The children of the alleged unigod exist in reality, and the child is to resemble the parent, but the resemblance of the children of the unigod is much unlike the unigod. So we can reasonably posit that since unigod exists only in the imagination of the Universalists, they are unable to imitate their god.

Argument from Existence of God:
The ironclad moral argument for the existence of God states:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.

Dr. William Lane Craig, the analytic philosopher of religion, defines objective moral values as, “To say that there are objective moral values is to say that something is right or wrong independently of whether anybody believes it to be so.”

We can extend the moral argument for God to:

4. The unigod saves all people, even the horrendously evil.
5. So there are no objective moral values in unigod.
6. Because objective moral values and duties exist, unigod does not exist.

In conclusion, Universalism is purely mystical and the alleged god who admits all people into heaven is imaginary, and resides only in the minds of the universalists. I simply cannot comprehend a god who saves all people. Please enlighten me if you disagree with me.

I will continue on this subject but from the perspective of Christian Universalism (Christians subscribing to Universalism) in my next blog. Amen.

Endnote & References:
1 Dawkins’ view of God in his book ‘God Delusion:’ “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

2 This indecent attack on unigod is perfectly reasonable, since unigod is existent only in the dreams and imagination of universalists.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Do All People Go to Heaven? (Reasoning the Truth of Historic Christianity)

In February 2013, I composed my preliminary thoughts on ‘Universalism’ under the title “Do All People Go to Heaven?” The title remains the same, since I intend to dwell further on Universalism. For the sake of continuity, please observe the synopsis of my previous blog:

1. Universalism is a belief that all people will go to heaven (inherit God’s salvation), irrespective of who, what, why and how they are.

2. All religions are fundamentally different; they contradict each other (E.g. Atheism negates God, and the God of Christianity, Islam and Hinduism are fundamentally different). If religions are poles apart, how can all people go to heaven?

3. Hell is not a literal presence for a Universalist. The Universalist will allegorize passages from the Bible that describes hell.

4. Universalism does not explain evil & justice on earth. Universalism advocates an immoral world. Man can do what he desires (even horrendous evil) and still be saved.

5. The god of the Universalist is evil (not offended by sins and cannot stop evil) and unjust (cannot provide justice to people). So we infer that the god Universalist’s posit is imperfect; in the likeness of an imperfect man. This god need not be worshipped or glorified.

In order to expose the errors innate in Universalism, we ought to establish the foundations of Historic Christianity to reveal its intricate composition and to state the basic contradiction between Universalism and the Historic Christianity. Then we need to understand the nature of truth, and subsequently be convinced to reason out our belief.

Historic Christianity
It is important to know the details of Historic Christianity in order to identify the errors of contradictory truth claims. Please observe the intricate interdependence of the essentials of Historic Christianity:

1. Truth: There is absolute and objective truth.

2. The reliability of the Bible: The Bible is inspired (by God), inerrant (no errors), and infallible (trustworthy). It is the only and the final authority for faith and life. The Bible is absolutely truthful.1

3. Existence of God: The Bible reveals a holy God.2

4. God’s Trinity: There is one God, in the persons of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

5. Miracles of God: God is supernatural and active, so HE will act. HIS supernatural acts are miracles.3

6. Incarnation: The Savior of the world, the Lord Jesus was fully God and fully man.4

7. Total Depravity of Mankind: The Bible reveals the total depravity (sinfulness) of mankind.

8. Condemnation of God upon Sinful Man: The holiness of God entails God’s condemnation (wrath) upon sinners.

9. Virgin Birth: Christ was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Thus, Christ is 100% God, and does not inherit mankind’s sin.

10. Sinlessness of Christ: Christ lived a sinless life on earth. Only a sinless God can save mankind of all their sins – past, present and future.

11. Grace: The gracious God saves mankind from their sins. Salvation is a free gift, since salvation is not gained by man’s work.  

12. Faith in Christ: Man should necessarily believe in Christ for the appropriation of Christ’s one-time, perfect sacrifice for his salvation.

13. Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ: Christ died and rose again. Resurrection was mandatory for overcoming evil and death.

14. Christ’s Bodily Ascension: Christ’s resurrection was a bodily resurrection and HE bodily ascended to heaven. Our resurrection will also be a bodily resurrection (glorious body).

15. Christ’s Intercession: Christ lives to intercede for all those who believe in HIM.

16. Second coming of Christ: Christ will come again in glory to judge mankind, to eliminate evil forever, and to usher a life of eternal coexistence with God in the new heaven and earth.  

These are the essentials of Historic Christianity. Unbelief /denial of any one essential will nullify the others through a chain reaction (E.g. If one denies absolute truth, then Bible is not absolutely true, so miracles are denied and along with it Christ’s virgin birth, resurrection, and salvation will also be denied.)  Denial of any one of the essentials of Historic Christianity is to deny Historic Christianity. Thus it is a reasonable implication that those who deny one (or more) essential doctrine(s) of Historic Christianity are cults or liberals or postmodern Christians.

We observe that salvation according to Historic Christianity is by grace through faith. Only those who believe in Christ will be saved (Christian Particularism). Those who do not believe in Christ will not be saved. Since Universalism declares salvation of all mankind, it totally contradicts Historic Christianity. The question that demands verdict is whether Universalism and Historic Christianity, proclaiming contradictory truth claims, are true within the same context of salvation.  

Exclusivity of Truth:
Can contradictory statements within the same context be true? This leads us to examine the nature of truth. Please think through with me:

1. Truth is pure. Truth should not contain errors / lies.

2. Opposite of truth is an error / lie.

3. Opposite of an error / lie need not be truth, but it could be another error / lie.

4. An error / lie could contain strands of truth, but strands of truth will not transform the lie to truth.

If you agree to the flow of thoughts mentioned above, then the entailments are:

1. Truth excludes errors / lies.

2. Truth is absolute, singular and exclusive (also consistent). Hence, the opposite of truth is essentially a lie, it cannot be another truth.

3. Simply speaking, 1+1=2, there cannot be another answer to this equation.

If we have two truth claims, one should ascertain if there are contradictions between the two truth claims. Contradictory truth claims will not be true at the same time and in the same context.5

If two people are looking at the sky from the same room and at the same time, and if one says that the sun is brightly shining and the other says that there is no sun in the sky, only one of them can be right. In this context, the truth is that the sun is either visible or invisible; the sun cannot be both visible and invisible at the same time.

Moreover, if someone says, ‘there is no truth,’ then his statement is also not true - it’s nonsensical. Someone else could say that ‘truth’ is only a matter of opinion, and does not possess an absolute meaning. In this case, that very statement is also a matter of opinion and does not possess an absolute meaning, so it’s nonsensical as well.

So we can confidently affirm that truth is absolute, singular, exclusive, and objective.

The nature of truth teaches us that truth excludes contradictions. Since Historic Christianity and Universalism contradict each other, both these contradicting worldviews cannot be true at the same time and within the same context (e.g. Salvation). It’s either Historic Christianity or Universalism, not both.

If we believe that Historic Christianity is true, we ought to give reasons for our faith and hope. But why?

Reasons to Offer Reasons For Our Faith:
Just as Apostle Paul reasoned out with the Jews and the Gentiles in Athens and Corinth (Acts 17: 22 – 18: 4), we are to reason out with those of contradictory views. A few reasons to reason out our faith are:

Perspective of Discipleship: We are mandated to disciple others (Matthew 28: 19). Discipling includes answering / clarifying honest questions. Those who disciple others ought to practice their religion seriously. Serious practitioners of religion should have a basic knowledge of other worldviews. Lack of interest in contrasting worldviews, such as Universalism, is valid if discipleship is an insignificant part of our life. But if we are a disciple of the Lord Jesus and practice our religion seriously (seriously committed to it), we should explain the reason for our serious practice and commitment. Reasoning is innate in discipleship.

Perspective of Biblical Mandate: If we cannot explain the reason for our hope, then we are blind in our faith and practice. If ‘unexamined life is not worth living,’6 then ‘unexamined faith is not worth believing.’7 The unexamined faith cannot distinguish good from evil, and cannot provide reason for the hope we have in the Triune God and the Bible. Every Christian is mandated to demolish arguments and lofty opinions against God, and provide the reason for his belief in Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 10: 4-6; Hebrews 5: 14; 1 Peter 3: 15). This is the biblical mandate. Failure to provide a reason implies shallow faith and an anticipation to disbelieve Christ when confused and confronted with situations or arguments apparently more powerful than our faith. Moreover, failure to offer reason for our hope in Christ is a disobedience to God and HIS commands.

Perspective of Evangelization: We exist to help our family and neighbors. When we know the truth, we should speak of the truth to our neighbor. We live in the digital era; there are many who evangelize their worldview through digital and other mediums. Transmission of our faith mandates us to offer reasons / evidences for our faith. Failure to offer evidences reduces our belief to a lie. Those who believe in lies are liars. If we are not liars, we ought to substantiate the truth of our belief.

These are adequate reasons to reason out our faith. Let us reason together, says the Lord (Isaiah 1: 18, NASB). Thus we ought to reason the truth of Historic Christianity.

Having established the foundations, I will, in my next blog, provide adequate reasons for Historic Christianity from other perspectives, so to debunk Universalism. Amen.

References:
1 Every apparent contradiction in the Bible can be reasonably explained. The Bible is the only ancient historic document that possesses a plethora of objective reasonings and evidences for its reliability.

2 The existence of God can be independently explained by philosophy and science.

3 Philosopher David Hume’s argument against miracles can be reasonably debunked.

4 Thus, Christ’s sacrifice was a perfect sacrifice – both from the divine and human standpoint. The Lord Jesus Christ is God incarnate, the Son of God, and the second person of the blessed Trinity. HE saves mankind from sins.

5 Law of Non-Contradiction

6 Socrates

7 Edwin Navarro


Monday, October 14, 2013

Wealth - To Serve and Satisfy

On matters of wealth, one observes two extreme lifestyles: (a) Belief in utmost importance of wealth; so one lives to work, earn, save, save and save more. The more wealth one accumulates, the greater the need he envisions. Satisfaction and contentment are a farfetched reality, and (b) Belief in asceticism (abstinence from worldly pleasures) - utterly unpalatable. Those subscribing to the former lifestyle ought to find satisfaction with what they have. But, how can we be satisfied with our wealth?

We are our own enemies, for we often succumb to greed in the guise of need. In a complex life filled with obvious need of relational entities (children, parents, relatives, friends etc.), our need gradually migrates into a bizarrely ambitious domain, and in the process, contentment is a lost asset.

Even at the outset, let me add a disclaimer that my wealth motif excludes all who strive hard to make both ends meet. They may possess meager savings or none or may be in negative - with loans and mortgages. But I pray this blog would serve these people groups, for depression, hopelessness, uncertainty and fear are often the agents of destruction of sanity and health. ‘How do I live and navigate my future with a meager income?’ is the fear of these minds.

The first foundational principle is the necessity of work (occupation). Christian worldview does not posit work as a consequence to sin.  Before the fall (sin), Adam and Eve were mandated to work in the garden (Genesis 2: 15). After the fall, pain was the painful addition to Adam’s work. The original creational intent was for Adam to work in peace, but after he sinned, his work was cursed into a painful toil. Consequently, we work through pain. If work is a necessity, pain is an undesirable yet mandated companion.

If you don’t believe in the Biblical reasoning for painful toil, you cannot escape the reality of evil that offers pain as an unworthy companion to work.  Painful toil/work is the only choice presented to man – theist and the atheist. The sooner we grasp this reality, the better our life would be.

Not too long ago, I firmly believed that my income was a consequence of MY painful toil – blood, sweat and tears. Yes, there is a superficial acumen to this thought but it craftily removes God from the equation. We are not offshoots of ‘goo-to-you-via-the-zoo’1 theory (evolution), but we are the creation of a sovereign God - created in HIS image - according to HIS just, perfect, pleasing will and pleasure. Adam and Eve did not own the garden, but it was God who owned the garden and offered it to them. This truth must not be forgotten.

Those who do not believe the Christian worldview cannot escape the fact of the ‘intelligent design’ (intelligence behind the creation of the universe - Big Bang Theory). While Atheists term the intelligence behind the creation of the universe as mere intelligence, Christians ascribe creation to God. But the truth is this; just as the universe was created by God, we have been created by God! If we are created by God, then we are not our own. If we are not our own, then we can no longer pronounce the yield of our work as our income.

Let us view this from another perspective. Waking up healthy isn’t a random occurrence. Health is a prerequisite to efficient work. Our health is not a product of randomness, but the grace of God. If it is through God’s grace, then our ability to work is God’s gift to us. Consequently, the fruit of our work is also God’s gift. If the fruit of our work is God’s gift to us, we can no longer claim ownership over anything – not even our own lives (cf. Galatians 2: 20)! We are mere stewards of our possessions.

Atheists, Narcissists (lovers of self), hedonists (pleasure seekers) and the likes will differ and suffer in this count. They do not subscribe to a higher power that governs their deeds. They are their own masters and sole owners of their wealth. They are their own gods. While they scorn ‘faith’ in God, they place that very same ‘faith’ upon themselves or their knowledge. Their object of faith differs (not God, but self), but ‘faith’ as an asset remains intact in their lives. They represent hypocrisy within the context of ‘faith.’ Self-deification – the essence of these lives – promulgates self-governance.   

Self-governance presupposes knowledge to govern. Those who profess total ownership over their wealth ought to be certain while making decisions. Most often their certainty serves their inward needs. Because of their foundational positions (atheism, narcissism, hedonism et al.), they accumulate adequate reserves for themselves and then look outwards towards benevolence or philanthropism.  Even if one were to concede stewardship in this instance, this is chiefly a narcissistic (self-satisfying) stewardship, which is not stewardship.
           
Stewardship professes diligent governance and distribution to a needy situation or person. If one is to be a steward, he ought to live to be a steward. He ought to provide for himself to begin with, and then look outward to needy cause(s). The flight steward always instructs us to use the oxygen mask on ourselves and then help our neighbor in need. We ought to live to serve others.

At the heart of wealth accumulation is the apt notion of uninterrupted income of wealth. Source of income is the most intriguing aspect of wealth accumulation. Two normative sources are, man and God. If man considers himself as the source of his income, he strives harder to provide for himself. Instead, if he believes that his source is from another entity other than man, he appeals to the other, thus mitigating his stress of sourcing.

The Christian worldview ascribes the source of wealth to God (cf. 1 Samuel 2: 7; James 1: 17). Since wealth is God’s gift, we retain a portion for our living and part with the rest to serve the needs around us. A common Old Testament notion is the 10% offering of tithe to God and a retainment of 90% for our needs and that of the others (2 Chronicles 31: 5). But the Lord Jesus redefined tithing in the New Testament through HIS glorification of the poor widow, who gave all that she had, from her acute poverty (Mark 12: 41-44; cf. 2 Corinthians 8). So we recognize an upgrade of tithing from 10% to 100%. Once again the Bible does not mandate us to a punitive action of bringing poverty upon ourselves, for that would cause the nonexistence of the giver. Suicide is not an option for a believer of Christ! We are justified to retain a portion for our living (not a luxurious living).

A Christian doesn’t offer a portion of his money to satisfy the needs of others, rather he gives God’s money that is with him to comfort and encourage the neighbor(s) in need. The principle of Christian giving is to give beyond his means and without the slightest urging from anyone (2 Corinthians 8: 1-3, J.B Phillips). So a Christian prowls to devour his neighbor’s poverty. He doesn’t wait to be asked, but sensing others’ need, he gives and gives sacrificially. Christian’s giving is not governed by percentages or his ability or his means, but by the sheer magnitude of need around him.

A Christian cares for himself and his family (not luxuriously) before tending to the needs of his neighbor. He also ensures that his church doesn’t suffer from lack of funds. But if his church is abundant with income, it is only fair to direct his wealth to satisfy the needs of people and causes around him. Ideally, a Christian, within his sight and to the best of his abilities, ought not to have people suffering for want of finances.

We primarily provide for our immediate need and then give sacrificially beyond our ability to alleviate poverty in our line of sight. When we live in this mindset, we love and pledge our loyalty to God, and not money (Matthew 6: 24).

The Bible emphatically asserts that God satisfies everyone (Deuteronomy 11: 15; Psalms 145: 16; Proverbs 19: 23; Luke 6: 21; John 4: 14). In other words, God satisfies those who believe HIM with all their life. God not only creates, HE sustains HIS creation totally (Nehemiah 9: 6; Romans 11: 36; Hebrews 2: 10). So we need to believe that God will sustain and satisfy us always.

In conclusion, our satisfaction is dependent on our total belief in God. The more complete our belief, the greater our satisfaction. The more we doubt God, the greater our dissatisfaction, stress, depression, hopelessness, uncertainty and fear. May God enable us to believe, love and glorify HIM, even with our wealth. Amen.

References:

1 I love this statement for evolution by Norm Geisler. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Is the Israeli Claim for Homeland Reasonable, and War Beneficial?

Continuing on the subject of ethics and moral choices, let us think if war is a beneficial option. As a case in point, we shall consider Israel – a nation constantly at war. Israel is a country many hate to love and love to hate. Some Christians hate Israel! These are often ardent supporters of the notion that the Israelis have been unjustly awarded occupation of their homeland by the UN.

If the Israelis were not given the land for habitat, the Christian animosity against Israel would be nonexistent. If Israeli occupation is reasonable, the Israelis and the UN ought not to be blamed, and the Christians are being unreasonable in their animosity towards Israel. Conversely, if Israeli occupation is unjust, Israelis and the UN have erred, and the Christian animosity could be considered reasonable.

May the following questions lead us into a conclusion. First, are the Jews a legitimate race? The answer is an uncomplicated YES. Unlike other races such as Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, and Philistines that were either destroyed or merged into another culture to lose their identity,1 the Jewish race survives to this day. 

Second, ‘where were the Jews before they converged into their homeland?’  An undisputable answer is that they were in other parts of the world - America, Germany, Russia, Sweden...

Third, ‘why did the Jews disperse to the various parts of the world?’ Biblical and extra-biblical history affirm that the Jews lost possession of their homeland due to the Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusaders, Mamluk, and Ottoman conquests, hence had to disperse.

The Jews indeed lived in their homeland before the Roman conquest. Prior to the Roman conquest, the timeline of Jewish history was:
1. Exodus from Egypt

2. Settlement of the Israelites in Israel.

3. Establishment of Jewish monarchy with Jerusalem as capital (King Saul to King Solomon). The first temple built in Jerusalem by King Solomon.

4. United Israel divides into Northern (Israel) and Southern (Judah) Kingdoms.

5. Israel crushed by Assyrians and Judah by Babylonians. Jerusalem and the first temple destroyed, and Jews exiled.

6. Many Jews return from exile during Persian and Hellenistic periods; the temple rebuilt.

7. Israel suffers further conquests; Jews exiled.

           
Although the Jews were exiled to different parts of the world, they began to immigrate into their homeland during the Ottoman rule. In 1909, Tel Aviv – an all-Jewish city - was founded.

Given these facts, one can deduce that:

1. The Jews are a race with a homeland from as early as the 13th – 12th century BC/BCE. The Jewish race survives to this day, maintaining its national identity. (Israel was rechristened to Palestine in 5 BC.2)

2. The Jews were exiled to various parts of the world due to foreign conquests, but they returned in parts even before the UN legitimized Israel’s homeland in 1948.  

3. Therefore, the Jewish claim to Palestine is not utterly outrageous as some Christians propose, but vastly reasonable and legitimate. The decision of the United Nations, to grant Israelis the land, was reasonable and credible.


“If the Arabs put down their weapons there would be no more conflict, but if Israelis put down their weapons down there would be no more Israel.” 3 If this quote is valid, we concede Israel’s right to defend herself against any aggression. Alternately, there is a possibility that the UN erred in awarding the land to Israel (should be substantiated through objectively credible evidences). This presents a situation of an aggressor and a defender. So we ask, ‘Is there morality in war?’ Can war be justified (Just War) or is “Pacifism” (no violence in a war) the only answer to peace in the world?  

The first existential reality is the presence of evil in this world (all forms of unjust aggression that destroys people and societies rather irreparably).  When evil is existent, do we remain quiet or oppose? To what extent are we to oppose evil?

In case of a communal violence, if armed police are present on the scene, should they be pacifistic and allow the carnage or should they curtail the evil aggression even if it warrants elimination of evil elements? This situation is a no-brainer, I vote for the armed police to use their weapon. Translating this into a context of national security, ‘how should one nation respond to an evil neighbor’s war against it?’ Should the defending nation remain pacifistic to allow the evil nation to maraud and massacre or should it defend itself at the cost of a few or many human lives? Once again, I vote for an adequate defense than being pacifistic.

Let us consider another case in point for the purpose of examining pacifism and the Just War theory. In June 1967, Israel launched a preemptive strike against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. These nations had amassed their troops on the Israeli borders. Based on sight and intelligence that these nations were out to destroy, Israel destroyed the Egyptian air force and moved into the Golan Heights (held by Syria) and the West Bank (held by Jordan).When aggression is evidenced by military amassment, a preemptive strike is a better option, for it prevents loss of lives from the defending nation.

A conflict between two pure and righteous entities is not an existential reality, as both entities will abstain from destruction. In conflicts, we observe a lesser and a greater evil, or shall we say, lesser and a greater good. In such cases, one would prefer lesser evil or greater good. While determining the lesser evil or the greater good, people disagree and a conflict ensues. This is predominantly due to subjectification of a latent or an obsessive bias intrinsic to an individual. Permit me to contextualize this thought.

When Christians think on Israel, they could reason through dispensational or covenant theology (Replacement theology / Supersessionism).  The former espouses Israel and the church as distinct entities, and the latter replaces Israel with the church. But these doctrines are associated with specific methods of biblical hermeneutics. The dispensationalists adopt literal hermeneutics and the covenant theologians allegorize the prophetic passages. Thus, we sense a complex web where one leads to another – literal hermeneutics leads to Dispensationalism, which leads to supporting Israel unequivocally.

I have attempted to investigate this subject by scrutinizing Israel from a non-theological standpoint, to determine if there is reasonability in the Israeli claim to their homeland. Through a factual examination, I understand Israel’s claim to be reasonable. If Israel employs unjust violence to pursue her valid and reasonable claim, I disagree with their modus operandi.

Finally, does a Just War betray the Lord Jesus Christ’s teachings on love and turning the other cheek? Is the Lord a Pacifist? Of course, the Lord advocates pacifism in many contexts. However, one should diligently observe the deeds of an immutable God in the past, present and the future. The Bible does not teach absolute pacifism, for we are called to love good and hate evil (Romans 12: 9). The Bible narrates numerous contexts where God used war to eliminate evil. In fact, God designed our immune system to constantly wage war against any alien intrusions so to keep us healthy. Thus the following can be reasonably postulated:

1. There is evil in this world.

2. Presence of evil posits a source of evil, namely Satan.

3. God eliminated evil through the means of war (E.g.            
Deuteronomy 7).

4. A holy and a Just God will eliminate Satan/evil permanently 
(Revelation 19 & 20).

5. Pacifism posits non-violence, but the Lord, in eliminating Satan forever, will wage war (Revelation 19: 11bff).

6. Thus, Christ, the second person of the blessed Godhead, does not posit absolute Pacifism.

If an individual preaches absolute Pacifism, he ought to answer many questions, of which some are: would he allow a violent mob to massacre and loot the innocent? If the pacifist responds in affirmative, does he really love his helpless society, so to obey God’s commands, or is he merely in love with his pacifistic ideology?

As individual Christians we are not to battle evil with arms. If that were the case, our perpetual task will be militancy against evil. Just War, from a nation’s perspective, is acceptable only when there is an evil/unjust aggression involved that strives to destroy the sanctity of lives. Just War should also involve: just cause, just intent, last resort activity, formal declaration of a war, limited objectives, proportionate use of force, and respecting noncombatant immunity.

Here is my conclusion:

1. The award of homeland to Israel was a reasonable and a legitimate decision, so Christians’ hatred for Israel is an exaggeration. However, any nation’s (Israel included) use of unjust violence is to be opposed.

2. The Bible does not teach absolute Pacifism. A nation can defend itself from any unjust/evil aggression.

3. Individual Christians are not to battle evil with arms, but should cooperate with the State and be law abiding citizens.

References:

1 http://www.josh.org/resources/study-research/answers-to-skeptics-questions/existence-of-the-jewish-people-today-is-objective-evidence-that-the-bible-is-true/

2 According to some views. Another view states that Roman Emperor Hadrian changed the name to Palestine.


3 Quote ascribed to anonymity, as far as I am aware of.