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Four Things Christianity Allows Us to See 20/20
(I know, I know. We’re all already tired of the “2020 Vision” themes. But this opportunity only comes twice in the timeline of human history–and the first time we weren’t even counting years the same way, nor were we measuring vision the same way. So humor me.)
Few ideas have made an impact on me more than this quote by C.S. Lewis:
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
It is a profound thought with many implications. But it mainly points to the simultaneous testimonies of the evidential weight and explanatory power of the Christian worldview. In other words, Christianity is not only a worldview for which there is much evidence. It is a worldview that offers an explanation for everything we see and experience in life.
Here are four things Biblical Christianity allows us to see:
A More Satisfying Vision of Our God
People have all sorts of ideas about God, but these ideas tend to leave us dissatisfied with God.
I find that misconceptions about God are often due to a shortsighted obsession with one of God’s attributes to the neglect of all the rest. For many, God is too loving to be wrathful. For others, God is too wrathful to be loving. For some, God is too elusive to be knowable. For others, God is too confounding to be real.
Each of the world’s religions present their own imbalanced view of God. He is too transcendent to be personal, and too holy to love. Or He is too erratic to be exalted and too complacent to be decisive.
With all the poor explanations of who and what God is, it is no wonder so many people have a hard time believing in God at all.
As Christian apologist Greg Koukl puts it:
If that’s the kind of God they don’t believe in, then I agree with them. I don’t believe in that kind of God either.
The Bible stands apart from all these dissatisfying presentations of God. The Biblical picture of God displays the cumulative force of every attribute of God. As such, Christianity has an understanding of God that is maximally dynamic in every attribute— and because of every attribute.
In the Bible all God’s attributes stand in balance with one another. God’s righteousness is balanced by his love. Wrath is balanced by mercy. Condemnation is balanced by grace.
All man-made visions of God will forever be too small. In Christianity, we find that God is bigger than any caricature with which skeptics portray Him. God is more complex than any misrepresentation by which the religions of the world present Him.
This is because in the Bible we are not given a manmade vision of God. The Biblical vision of God is one given by God Himself. The Christian understanding of God is more satisfying because God is more satisfying.
A More Lofty Vision of Our Humanity
Misconceptions about God almost immediately result in misconceptions about us. Whenever we recast God in our thinking, it will always be a demotion from who and what he has revealed himself to be. And because humans were made in his image, humanity will be demoted in our thinking as well.
Christian philosopher Nancy Pearcey stated it this way:
When a worldview exchanges the Creator for something in creation, it will also exchange a high view of humans made in God’s image for a lower view of humans made in the image of something in creation.
Some worldviews describe humans as a feature of an exclusively physical universe. As such, we are the result of random mutations, highly intelligent animals, living on oasis of life-permitting good luck. Some worldviews describe humans as a manifestation of an exclusively spiritual universe. As such, we are the delusional manifestations of a universal over-soul, working our way toward oblivion.
As much as biology influences the human experience, we are so much more than an accidental pack of neurons. As much as people long for spirituality, we are meant for more than nirvanic nothingness.
The Bible stands apart from all these presentations of humanity. The Biblical explanation of humanity tells a story in which a personal God decisively creates us for the purpose of, and with the capacity for, a relationship with him. Unlike all other creatures in his creation, we were made like him to be with him.
Christianity has the greatest possible view of humanity because it holds that humans were made in the likeness of the greatest possible Being.
A More Accurate Vision of Our Problem
I think everyone can agree on at least one thing: the world is not as it should be.
Turning the pages of world history, it’s easy to see that humanity has a problem. On one page we are doing fantastic things—exploring frontiers, creating art, and splitting atoms. On the next page we are doing terrible things—exploiting people, producing filth, and dropping bombs.
What is our problem?
Over the years, important thinkers have devised explanations for why the world is out of whack. Buddha taught that physical desires were our problem. Karl Marx taught that economic oppression was our problem. Sigmund Freud taught that repression of our physical desires was our problem.
Some believe we are simply uneducated. Our problem is that we do not know enough about the universe and each other. We are not lost. We are ignorant and confused.
Some believe we are simply unenlightened. Our problem is that we are off-center and out of touch with deeper reality. We are not lost. We are unconnected and distracted.
What do all these views have in common? They describe what is wrong with the world as something that has happened to us. Something ‘out there’ is our problem.
As the story goes, The Times in England once asked several prominent intellectuals, “What’s wrong with the world today?” Christian author G.K. Chesterton responded simply,
Yours, G.K. Chesterton
The Bible presents the most accurate diagnosis of our problem—sin. It is a problem that resides in each and every one of us. We do not do what we should because we are not what we were meant to be. The problem is very much ‘in here.’
A More Hopeful Vision of Our Salvation
When you survey the philosophies and religions of the world, you notice that each one has its prescribed list of things to do in order to attain salvation. Whether by education or meditation, sacraments or sacrifices, removal from the world or involvement in it–there are things we must do to fix the problems we have. Because the problem is something ‘out there,’ the solution must be as well. All we have to do is go out and get it.
Christianity on the other hand offers a unique hope. Philosopher of religion Albert C. Wolters tells us:
As far as I can tell, the Bible is unique in its rejection of all attempts to either demonize some part of creation as the root of our problems or to idolize some part of creation as the solution.
In other words, because we are the problem, the solution is out of our grasp. We cannot attain salvation; it needs to be given to us. Like criminals in a court of law, or a terminally ill patient, if we could have saved ourselves then we would not be in this predicament in the first place. Our exoneration must come from a righteous judge. Our cure must come from a great physician.
In the Bible, there is only one solution presented: Jesus Christ. The entire Old Testament anticipates his sacrificial death. The New Testament celebrates his miraculous resurrection. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that is the power of God unto salvation. He has done for us what we are desperately incapable of doing for ourselves.
Christianity offers infinitely more hope because Jesus is infinitely more capable of saving us than we are of saving ourselves.
Here’s the thing…
When it comes to the battle of ideas, there is no such thing as neutral ground. There is no “view from nowhere.” We all believe something, and we all believe what we believe based on assumptions we cannot prove.
As I see it, there are then two questions:
1. How well can you see the beliefs you have?
This is where most people begin and end. They find the evidence to support their belief, and that is that. They believe it because they “see it.” But, a second questions must be asked.
2. How well do your beliefs help you see everything else?
Do your beliefs involve a misconception of God? Do your beliefs diminish your vision of humanity? Do your beliefs confuse your vision of our problem? Do your beliefs present hope in your vision of salvation?
We Christians believe in Jesus Christ, because in him we see God of very God, the fullness of the Godhead bodily. In him we see humanity the way it was meant to be. In him we see our sin identified, paid for, and defeated. In him we see hope for the eternal life for which we were made.
We Christians believe in Christ, not only because we see him, but because by him, we see everything else.
(Footnote links are affiliate links for Amazon.com. If you click or purchase from these links I will receive a small commission. So, thanks in advance!)
 Greg Koukl, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, p. 163.
 Nancy Pearcey, Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes (p. 98).
 Albert C. Wolters, Creation Regained: A Transforming War of the World, p. 50.
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2019 Reading Review
Last year, when I wrote about my reading journey through 2018, I did not know what to expect. I worried about coming across as braggy. I wondered at the anxiety that would come from broadcasting my yearly reading goal. However, I only wanted to encourage others to engage in one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity—reading.
The response was exactly what I had hoped for. In the weeks that followed, readers replied with questions about certain books. Others recommended books for my 2019 reading list. Through the year, many have shared parts of their own reading journey. It has been awesome!
The problem is, now my hands are tied! Apparently, when you let the world know what your plans are for the year, people expect a follow-up. Who knew?
So, here we are a year later. I am happy to report that I have achieved my goal of reading 60 books this year.
The following is a summation of my year in reading.Continue reading “2019 Reading Review”
3 Bible Passages for Thinking about Joshua Harris
Have you heard about Joshua Harris? Chances are you have heard more about him in the past two weeks than you have in the past two years. If not, allow me to update.
Two weeks ago, Harris and his wife announced that they were getting a divorce. This is big news for the former megachurch pastor and author of the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, a book that was central in sparking the so-called “purity culture.” (See here.)
Then, last week, Harris announced, “By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.” He went on to write,
[T]o the LGBTQ+ community, I want to say that I am sorry for the views that I taught in my books and as a pastor regarding sexuality. I regret standing against marriage equality, for not affirming you and your place in the church, and for any ways that my writing and speaking contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry. I hope you can forgive me.
So, here’s the thing…
We have seen people embrace a Christian identity and deny a Biblical sexual ethic in order to embrace the sexual revolution. What strikes many about Harris’ story is not simply a repudiation of Biblical sexuality but of Biblical Christianity altogether. As Christians, how are we to think about such an influential figure renouncing the faith?
I would offer three passages to guide us. Continue reading “3 Bible Passages for Thinking about Joshua Harris”
Say It with Me: Reductionism
This is the fourth installment of a series, introducing terms and ideas that may be unfamiliar to most but are increasingly necessary for the thinking Christian to understand.
Stephen Hawking died in March of 2018. He battled a disease for fifty-five years that should have taken his life in two. Dr. Hawking pushed the boundaries of human understanding while inspiring wonder in millions. Astronomer Royal Lord Martin Rees eulogized, “Few, if any, of Einstein’s successors have done more to deepen our insights into gravity, space and time.”
Rarely does such an intriguing combination of intellect, personality, and circumstances intersect. A mind of that caliber and a life of that character has much to tell us about ourselves and the universe we inhabit.
As Dr. Hawking drew close to death, he shared his thoughts on the prospects of dying. Hawking believed that science had eliminated the notion of a personal creator, and he was outspoken in his belief. He believed that the universe was only the result of quantum fluctuations. He believed that humans are no more than biological machines. So, when commenting on death his worldview came through.
I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.
Despite the monumental life he lived, in the end, he was reduced to a computer whose components had failed. This world-changing mind was reduced to a failing machine. The man who changed how we view the world was reduced by his own worldview.
Stephen Hawking was so much more than his worldview allowed him to be.
Here’s the thing…
People are more than their worldviews often allow them to be. This is because their worldviews contain a fatal flaw known as reductionism. Continue reading “Say It with Me: Reductionism”
Book Review: So the Next Generation Will Know (McDowell & Wallace)
As a Christian parent, are you concerned that your children have doubts about the faith you are passing on to them? As a youth pastor or minister, are you troubled by the apathy so many of the kids in your youth group show toward spiritual things? As a Christian educator, are you worried that you are out of your depth with the questions your students have about the Christian worldview?
Being all three, I can relate. The fact is that the generation currently coming of age, Generation Z as they are called, are living a profoundly different adolescence than even the most recent generation before them. So, how do we Christian parents, pastors, and teachers help them stay grounded in the faith and thrive in the culture?
Here’s the thing…
Thankfully, we have some help.
In their newest book, So the Next Generation Will Know (set to release May 1), renowned Christian apologists Sean McDowell and J. Warner Wallace offer a guide to engaging what is quickly becoming the largest and most secularized generation. Continue reading “Book Review: So the Next Generation Will Know (McDowell & Wallace)”
Mending the Secular/Sacred Split
Many Christians find themselves living in two separate worlds, one on Sunday and the other the rest of the week.
They may see their faith as an add-on that merely supplements their daily routine. The effect that being a Christian has on their lives is limited to nominal traditions and comfort in times of crisis. They do not see their Christianity as having any implications on their jobs outside of being an upright, honest, hard-working, gospel witness while doing it.
On the other hand, they may see their faith as being somehow beyond their day-to-day. Worshiping God is something done in a Sunday service. Serving God is something done in organized church ministry. They see their jobs as John Beckett describes “a second-class endeavor—necessary to put bread on the table, but somehow less noble than more sacred pursuits like being a minister or a missionary.”
In other words, they have bought into the secular/sacred split, dividing all of life into a two-story house that Francis Schaeffer described decades ago. They have relegated “real world” issues and “everyday” life downstairs along with all things secular. They have confined their Christianity upstairs, as it were, with personal preference, subjective values, and everything else sacred.
But, this is a huge departure from the Christian life as prescribed in the Bible, doing everything in Jesus’ name (Colossians 3:17) and to God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31)
So, here’s the thing…
We need to mend the secular/sacred split. Continue reading “Mending the Secular/Sacred Split”