Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Religion vs. the Gospel

I enjoy trying to figure out how atheists and agnostics think. They generally think I'm a "religious" person, but the "R" word carries a lot of baggage. The "secularist," as some atheists would prefer to be called has no need for religion. They even write books like god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by the late Christopher "Hitch" Hitchens. An atheist friend of mine gave me a copy of that book. I read it. The religion Hitch is mostly talking about can be poisonous. I'm not religious like that, nor is anyone who really understands and lives by the Gospel.

Religious zealots who fly airplanes into tall buildings are evil. I find it interesting that most atheists pick more on Christianity than Islam regarding the evils of religion. They also seem blind to the treachery of evil atheists like Pol Pot, Hitler, and Stalin. Clearly, evil is not limited to the religious or irreligious. What matters is the truth, and the Gospel is Truth. The Gospel is literally the "good news" of Jesus Christ.

Religion and politics go wrong when human beings look to them as cures for the problems of our world. Religion alone is just as impotent as political solutions or human ingenuity in solving the problem of evil. Those paths are false paths to utopia, either here on earth or as a portal to eternal life in the hereafter. True Gospel religion in the sense of James 1:27 is actually good. The Gospel of Jesus is the only solution to all of humanity's problems. The True Gospel can cure the ills of the world. It is the way, the truth, and the path to life eternal. That's the difference between religion and the Gospel, and it matters.

Below are two lists that compare the good news of Jesus, the Gospel, with the "religion" that atheists rightfully hate. I hate that sort of religion too. So did Jesus. In fact, it was pious religious people in cahoots with the political ruling class who hung Jesus on the Cross, so both of those camps can take credit for that atrocity. The good news is Jesus willingly took a bullet (nails, actually) for all of us.

The first list was created based on the second. The second list was created by someone claiming the first list has "the baggage of a fundamentalist theological framework that deifies and worships Jesus so much that his actual message is lost." I don't think that is true. Both lists have their problems. Nobody can wrap a systematic theology around the Gospel without messing it up. I'm offering both lists as evidence that religion and the Gospel are very different regardless of whether you're seeing the Gospel through a progressive liberal bent or a more conservative Biblical view. Both lists help make an important distinction between religion and the Gospel which should help any honest truth seeker find True North.

List 1 Source: Google's cache of as it appeared on Aug 15, 2012 03:31:49 GMT.
  1. Religion defines rules that must be obeyed but can never be obtained. Gospel defines hope for a life that is in reach.
  2. Religion draws lines to separate “us” from “them”. Gospel is the good news that community is available for everyone.
  3. Religion values tradition. Gospel values transformation.
  4. Religion claims justice through sanctification and belief in our own set of doctrines. Gospel creates justice for all regardless of beliefs.
  5. Religion has the goal of gaining God’s favor. Gospel has the goal of favoring people who have rarely been favored.
  6. Religion sees hardships as divine punishment and prosperity as divine reward. Gospel seeks to eliminate hardships and grant prosperity.
  7. Religion is about a greater sense of self. Gospel is about a greater sense of community.
  8. Religion seeks to formulate behavior. Gospel seeks to transform character.
  9. Religion imagines a God that judges us. Gospel imagines a process that changes us.
  10. Religion looks for God in deified messengers. Gospel observes the kingdom of God which is within us.
  11. Religion worships sacred texts. Gospel worships the sacred in life.
  12. Religion competes to declare its own ideas as divine truth. Gospel celebrates truth wherever it exists.
  13. Religion spreads guilt and failure. Gospel spreads hope and promise.

List 2 Source:  Mark Driscoll, a pastor in the Seattle area.
  1. Religion says, if I obey, God will love me. Gospel says, because God loves me, I can obey.
  2. Religion has good people & bad people. Gospel has only repentant and unrepentant people.
  3. Religion values a birth family. Gospel values a new birth.
  4. Religion depends on what I do. Gospel depends on what Jesus has done.
  5. Religion claims that sanctification justifies me. Gospel claims that justification enables sanctification.
  6. Religion has the goal to get from God. Gospel has the goal to get God.
  7. Religion sees hardships as punishment for sin. Gospel sees hardship as sanctified affliction.
  8. Religion is about me. Gospel is about Jesus.
  9. Religion believes appearing as a good person is the key. Gospel believes that being honest is the key.
  10. Religion has an uncertainty of standing before God. Gospel has certainty based upon Jesus’ work.
  11. Religion sees Jesus as the means. Gospel sees Jesus as the end.
  12. Religion ends in pride or despair. Gospel ends in humble joy.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Big Bang and the Bible

This 5 minute video below explains how the Big Bang theory supports a Biblical worldview. A lot of people don't know steady state theories of the universe were a reaction to the undesired implications of the Big Bang. Then again, unless you're interested in cosmology and the history of science, you might not have even heard of steady state theories of the universe. Almost everyone has heard of the Big Bang theory. Winners are immortalized. Losers are quickly forgotten.

According to astrophysicist Sarah Salviander, a research fellow in the Astronomy Department at the University of Texas at Austin:
"The steady state theory was natural product of the limited information available prior to the 1920s. It really did appear that the universe was infinitely old and unchanging. When Georges Lemaitre found a solution to Einstein's general relativity equations, he realized that the solution allowed for a universe that's finite in time. Then Hubble found evidence for an expanding universe, which also logically implied a universe with a beginning. By the 1960s, with the discovery of the cosmic microwave background, the evidence for a big bang was so overwhelming that the physics community gave up on steady state."
Steady state theories were popular with scientists because an eternal, unchanging universe allowed for the "billions of years" required for Darwinism to work its magic of "evolution." When the scientific community arrived at the consensus that the universe had a beginning, Darwinism had a serious problem. There simply isn't enough time for evolution to work, presuming it can work - which I'd argue is a false presumption - but that is another blog entry for another time. 

As a reaction to the undesired outcome of a universe with a beginning, some physicists tried to come up with an alternative theory; however, not only couldn't they get the math to work out as desired, the physical evidence discovered by Penzias and Wilson (accidentally, by the way) of the cosmic background radiation blew away steady state theories. They are now on the ash heap of failed attempts to use science to remove the possibility of God.  

Many Christians struggle with issues like Darwinian evolution, the Big Bang, and how science relates to the Bible. I used to struggle with this a lot too, but I don't so much any more.  Here's why.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Atheist Faith

I do not have enough faith to be an atheist. That statement bothers atheists because they like to believe they are free from faith, but they are not. You cannot believe something except from the position of another belief, and the atheist view is generally held with tenacious conviction rather than the scientific incredulity that is open to new facts, logic, and evidence. At least this is true of the atheists I have met and interacted with personally. Here's a quote from Mark Mittelberg that explains this even better.
This might surprise you, but even atheists live by faith. ... They operate in the belief that there is no Creator, no higher moral law to which they are accountable, no divine judgement and no afterlife. They can't prove any of these things. They don't know for a fact that there is no God, spiritual standard, day of reckoning or existence after death. In fact, most people in the world believe that denying these things goes against the evidence as well as human experience and therefore requires more faith.
Most atheists I've met seem to believe they are more rational and reasonable than people who do believe in God. That seems more like arrogance or ignorance (or both) wrapped in pride to me. I guess that's why I've never met a truly humble atheist. Those that are humble move into agnosticism, and the truly honest agnostics don't stay in that questioning state indefinitely. They get off the fence and either go back to being prideful atheists, or they evolve into people who believe in God and pursue truth in humility, at least in my experience. I'm sure there are exceptions.

The atheist worldview is generally based on a form of scientism, which is "a belief in the universal applicability of the scientific method and approach, and the view that empirical science constitutes the most authoritative worldview or most valuable part of human learning to the exclusion of other viewpoints." [Source: Wikipedia]

How much an atheist's scientistic view excludes other viewpoints is fluid, but every atheist I've met or interacted with personally has a worldview informed by secular humanism and buttressed by some form of scientism, without exception. Atheists like to believe they have a scientific understanding of the world, but they have mistaken the materialistic presuppositions used in doing science with materialistic conclusions. They use bad logic to justify their willful denial of the evidence for God. In the end, that is how atheists roll. It isn't a matter of evidence at all, but a matter of the will. They don't want to believe in God, so any argument or endless series of arguments is sufficient to remain willfully ignorant of the many dozens of arguments and plentiful evidence in favor of God.