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His Master's Voice
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Written by: C. W. Booth

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Knowing God’s Will in Advance: The Have’s and the Have-Not’s

This is a brief introduction to a series of blogs I have begun writing as I sit here recovering from a nasty viral infection. For many years I have maintained that I am not a Christian mystic. My blatantly non-mystical belief system has drawn many attacks, some kind-hearted and sincere, though much more often, mean-spirited and antagonistic.

Few attacks have come from a Scripture-centric perspective. Almost all critics offer personal experiences as the strongest proof of the reality of how God communes with humanity.

Bypassing the less relevant rabbit trail topics, it seems the main artery of interest for the mystic traveler is “hearing the voice of God” for oneself. In short, we pray to God and that is half of the mystic’s divine conversation. For His part in the conversation God sends to the mystic an inaudible response in the form of sensed-feeling, gut intuition, or random-thoughts, which if properly understood or interpreted, are the very voice of God and are as reliable as any prophetic utterance.

These sensed-feelings are said to be available to every Christian. However, only the very spiritual are thought to be open to hearing the voice of God, and so, while everyone is constantly being sent the voice of God, only some have been sufficiently trained or sufficiently softened so as to hear.

For the mystic who is convinced these sensed-feelings are the very voice of God, every prayer is answered with a virtual yes or no, buy or sell, move or stay, and come or go. These are the spiritual “have’s.” Such persons no longer need question the wisdom of any decision they need to make for the choice is always given them supernaturally by God and therefore it can never be wrong.

Those of us who do not attribute sensed-feelings, gut intuition, or random thoughts as being the infallible voice of God, well, we are the spiritual “have-not’s.” For us, decisions are to be prayed over, pertinent Scripture scrutinized, human counsel sought, personal motives examined meticulously, the welfare of others considered, the righteousness of each choice evaluated, and above all, the welfare of God and His kingdom assessed in light of the possible choices. Our final choices could well end in disaster for us, for there are no guarantees of “being right.”

My intent in writing these articles is to ask all of us whether we have properly considered all the relevant Scriptures. Have we misunderstood or misapplied some passages while conveniently overlooking others? Have we really considered Paul’s own examples?

At the end of this series I doubt anyone will be convinced to change their opinion one way or the other. However, I do expect that each person will provide a far better answer as to why they believe what they believe about “hearing the voice of God.”

So, what do you believe? Are you at present a have or a have-not? Do you feel you have been missing out on the will of God for years? Feel free to comment below.

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The next article in this series is Part 1: What is God’s Will? found here: What Is God's Will?

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Booth’s Addendum

For those who missed Nightline's episode last night, Friday April 9, it was called "Twisted Faith." Ordinarily I do not watch Nightline because it tends toward sensationalizing tragedy--who needs that? But this episode was relevant to this topic. It depicted how a church secretary manipulated a pastor into murdering his own wife by use of the phrase, "God told me..."

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[Note: The above essay was originally posted as a blog. As such, it was open to public commentary. Below are select comments from the public and by the author which are considered helpful in bringing comprehension to the topic or in advancing the dialogue.]

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Pulbic Comment 1:

I am not very good at quoting scripture, but it would seem to me that God speaks to many people in the Bible and it would be naive to assume he no longer does. There are many prophets in the Bible and many instances where God makes his will known, now these days He doesn't seem to come in the form of burning bushes or a loud voice, but I do believe he speaks to us when it suits his purpose.

Having said that, I do believe you have hit the nail on the head when it comes to how these gifts can be abused or misused. It would be pure selfishness to believe that God cares about every single one of our daily choices, he doesn't care if you order the chocolate or vanilla ice cream. The key is that no matter our spiritual gifts we should examine things using the Bible and the advice of other Christians, using your gifts on your own can lead to corruption and evil (as you stated with the lady abusing her gift to get a pastor to kill his wife). I do believe if this is that powerful it must be a God given gift, but what we do with these gifts and how we treat them (consider them carefully or take them for granted) can make a big difference.

Things are seldom black and white.

Booth's response to Comment 1:

Thank you for expressing your concern. You stated, "it would seem to me that God speaks to many people in the Bible and it would be naive to assume he no longer does."

That comment is, of course, an assumption. Scripture states, "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world." (Hebrews 1:1-2)

The above passage does not say God will not speak through prophets again, so I do not force that meaning onto it. However, it does say that God's primary message for today came, and comes, via the words of Jesus. Those words are found in the Scriptures, in the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, James, Paul, Jude, Peter, and Timothy. So God's "speaking" used to come primarily via the prophets, now it comes primarily via the written Word of God.

If every person still "hears" God's "voice" apart from the Word then it is patently untrue (by sheer volume) that God primarily speaks via the written Word of Christ. Moreover, if every person still "hears" God's "voice" apart from the Word then every person is by definition a prophet, which is something that seriously violates what God has actually said in the Bible.

God does speak to every every person on the planet via the written Word of God. But God does not "speak" to every Christian in an "inaudible voice" for He has not made everyone a prophet. God reserves the revelation of His audible voice for prophets alone, and such prophets must never speak even one word in error or presumptuously while calling that error or presumption "the voice of the Lord" or else they have proven themselves to be false prophets.

Blessings.

Public Comment 2:

John Piper is having Rick Warren speak for his fall, 2010 Desiring God conference because Piper says Warren is a solid, Biblical, evangelical. Yet, Rick Warren's website is currently promoting and recommending books by Richard Foster. One of the books is entitled, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. This book does not promote the Biblical idea of 'Scripture alone.' Foster calls on Christians to be involved in mystical practices in order to connect to God and to discover new revelations.

The Biblically minded Christian knows that all the Christian needs to do is study the Bible and rely on the ministry of the Holy Spirit to assist us in understanding. Foster's book among other things encourages Christians to be involved in Transcendental Meditation. Foster denies that he is promoting TM but yet admits that he is calling on Christians to 'empty the mind in order to fill it.'

Foster also encourages Christians to enter the world of mediation through the door of imagination. The Bible has fourteen verses in the King James Version that speaks of the imagination and all of the verses speak of it in a negative manner. Foster claims that Christians, through their imagination, can actually encounter the living Christ and that he will 'actually come to you.'

However, Foster also warns that what he is encouraging Christians to do can be dangerous. Foster says '…since to open ourselves to spiritual influence can be dangerous as well as profitable.'

Foster claims Christians need to be taught by 'masters' who are Christians that have learned the art of mediation techniques. Foster also encourages Christians to be involved in astral projection. Foster says that is not what he is promoting but it clearly is when Foster writes, 'In your imagination allow your spiritual body, shinning with light, to rise out of your physical body. Look back so that you can see yourself laying in the grass and reassure your body that you will return momentarily. Imagine your spiritual self, alive and vibrant, rising up through the clouds and into the stratosphere…Go deeper and deeper into outer space until there is nothing except the warm presence of the eternal Creator.'

Does John Piper agree with Richard Foster? If not then why is Piper praising Rick Warren as a Biblical pastor and having Warren speak for his conference when Warren's website is promoting Foster's books that are filled with the mysticism of pagan spirituality?" -- Brannon Howse: June 23, 2010, http://www.worldviewweekend.com/worldview-radio/episode.php?episodeid=16770






Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Part 1: Knowing God’s Will--What is God’s Will?

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Note: Introduction to Blog Series can be found here: Knowing God's Will in Advance--The Haves and Have Nots"

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God Accomplishes His Will

God always accomplishes all His will (Job 42:2). This is true no matter what inner voices we never hear, those we think we hear, or those we do hear. Further, God realizes all His goals no matter what choices we make here on earth. His success in fulfilling His purposes for humanity does not depend on us, our intentions, or our individual choices (Romans 9:16).

“God’s will” is shorthand for “those righteous plans God has designed for humanity, the heavens, and the earth.” Among other attributes God is perfectly holy, just, all powerful, and all knowing. Therefore, all His plans are equally holy, just, and perfect. It also means that He has the authority and power to ensure all His plans are implemented in the way He desires them to be carried out.

For example, before God even created this planet and its inhabitants, He planned to send Jesus to die and resurrect as a sacrifice for sins so as to save those who believe in Him (Ephesians 1:4). No matter what Adam and Eve chose to do, ultimately their actions and choices would cause them to conform to God’s predetermined schedule of events and outcomes. All the saved believers of history must surely rejoice that this was so.

Yet, you may ask, “Surely God did not desire Adam and Eve to sin and thus to need the saving sacrifice of Jesus?” Indeed, God’s plan included the inevitable episode of mankind’s rebellion. That episode did not make God “happy” on an emotional level, for obedience is always better than the need for sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22), and God is only content with utter holiness (Leviticus 11:45, 1 Peter 1:14-21). Nonetheless, though mankind’s turn to sin and the actual event of Christ’s sacrifice may have been unpleasant for God (Romans 15:3), it was a necessary part of His holy plan, His will.

Now we begin to perceive a truth. Holiness, and God’s will, are not equivalent with temporal happiness, present bliss, or earthly comfort. His will often includes pain, suffering, and deprivation (1 Peter 4:16, James 5:10, John 15:20).

Again, someone may ask, “But what about me; is it God’s will for my specific life that I suffer?” This is the preliminary question that inexorably leads to the next, “Does God have a detailed plan for my life?” Those are the questions that will be dealt with in the next blog in this series.

Hidden in Plain Sight--Another Meaning for the Phrase “Will of God”

There is another meaning which is virtually ignored and unknown among sincere Christians. In Scripture the phrase the will of God often does not mean “a secret plan.” Instead it often simply means “to live a holy and sanctified life.”

Back in the Old Testament Solomon told us that the purpose of the life of every human was to fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). That is the very definition of the will of God. God’s commandments and principles, like the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21, Galatians 6:2), are the very roadmap of holy and righteous living. To live in the fear of God, and so obey how He has told us to live, is to perform the will of God.

God’s Will for You (and Me) is to Live a Holy Life

God's Will for Us Is to Please Him by Our Walk

We believers get so caught up in the allure of mysticism, the search for God’s secret and hidden plan, that we forget that He already revealed everything we need to know to live a life pleasing to Him, “And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:16).

If all we ever do in life is to live holy and righteously, never having received God’s secret plan, we will have pleased God. Is that not the point of life, to please God by having lived our lives for Him?

Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 4:1-2)

God’s Will for Us Is to Show the World He Makes People Holy

God’s will for our lives is that we live and comport ourselves in a way that is good according to the Bible, morally acceptable as described in the Scriptures, and perfect in holy conduct as Christ has commanded us. When we are good, acceptable, and perfect in our behavior we have proven (validated) God’s will for this world.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Romans 12:2, quoted above, does not allude to some secret will of God. Paul defines the will of God for us. He tells us that to live in moral excellence (a good, acceptable, and perfectly righteous life) is to demonstrate the truth (prove) that God’s will is also holy, just, and righteous. If Christians live in sin, we appear to disprove to the world that God and His will are genuinely good. The “proof” is not showing other believers that we know some secret about God’s hidden plans, rather the “proof” is that our holy lives display to the world that Christ is holy and “transforms” sinners into saints.

For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. (1 Peter 2:15)

God’s Will for Us Is to be Sanctified and Saved

Foremost in God’s will is that every person be transformed by becoming born again. Those who display faith in Christ are those who have been redeemed. To live forever with Christ as a redeemed believer is God’s will; and that is not a secret plan.

The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:17)

Moreover, those who are born again, according to the will of God, must live in a sanctified manner. God decrees, that is, He expresses His will that we abstain from all evil and live in purity of action and thought. That too, is no secret plan, but it is the will of God. Sanctification is our calling.

For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. (1 Thessalonians 4:2-7)

Part 1: Summary Statement

So far we have seen that God’s will includes human suffering. That suffering is unpleasant to humankind. It is also unpleasant for God (Romans 15:3, Ezekiel 33:11). Nonetheless, no matter what any person does or decides to do here on earth God’s holy plan, His will, cannot be undone or stopped. God always accomplishes His holy will, His secret plan.

The phrase, "the will of God," is often not about God’s hidden, unrevealed, and secret plans. Very often when the New Testament speaks of the will of God it is a statement meaning that God has called us to live good, holy, and sanctified lives to show the world that God transforms and saves sinners. Holy living proves that God and His intentions are good toward humanity. Living righteously, and thus showing the world that God is good and is saving sinners, is pleasing to God as it fulfills His will.

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The next article in this series is Part 2: Knowing God’s Will--A Detailed Personalized Plan? found here: Can you know God's personalized plan for your life?






Monday, April 19, 2010

Part 2: Knowing God’s Will--A Detailed Personalized Plan?

Am I Destined to Suffer? What is God’s Plan for Me?

In the previous articles in this series we have seen that God’s will includes human suffering. That suffering is unpleasant to humankind. It is also unpleasant for God (Romans 15:3, Ezekiel 33:11).Nonetheless, no matter what any person does or decides to do here on earth God’s holy plan, His will, cannot be undone or stopped. God always accomplishes His holy will.

In this Western society we are unused to suffering. It always comes as a strange and unexpected shock. This is a very un-Christian mentality.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (1 Peter 4:12-14)

Suffice it to say that far from being a surprise or a strange occurrence, suffering should be the expected norm for every believer.In fact, those who do not suffer for the gospel should be wondering what odd thing has happened to them because, surely, if the world hated and persecuted Christ, it will--it will--hate and persecute Christ’s disciples (Matthew 10:22, 24:9, Mark 13:13, Luke 21:17, John 15:18-25, 17:14).

Am I Personally Destined to Suffer?

So this first question need never be asked by a Christian. It is a foregone conclusion that the world will hate Christians and this animosity will usually lead to suffering of some kind. For many saints of old this involved jail, beatings, loss of property, and defamation. For very many others, death.

What Is God’s Plan for Me?

But apparently not everyone does suffer for being Christ’s disciples. That exception to the rule implies that God really does have a specific plan of events or a unique personalized life’s schedule for every believer.In other words, there is a “God’s will” tailored to the life of every person. I believe this to be true.

Many passages of Scripture talk about God knowing what your individual needs are before you ask (Matthew 6:8). Others discuss the fact that God has counted the very hairs on your head (Luke 12:7) and knows the day of your death before it happens (Luke 12:25). John was told that his life would be a long one of suffering in service to Christ (John 21:21-25). Yes, it is likely that every person’s life has been planned out by God even before that life is lived.

That God has a plan for every individual is not really to be seriously contested. God knows all things and how all things end before those things have even been started. By definition that is a detailed and individualized plan. There is a “God’s will” for every person, animal, and thing in creation.

“For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, 'My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure'; calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.” (Isaiah 46:9b-11)

All of that is really beside the main point. For the real question that is on everyone’s mind and heart is this: How can I find out what God’s plan is for my life before that plan is implemented? In other words, I want God to tell me what His will is for my life before a major event takes me by surprise or before I suffer loss. That topic, whether God reveals His specific plan for a single person so that the individual may take action and forgo loss or suffering, will be taken up in the next blog.

Part 2: Summary Statement

God does have a detailed plan for every living creature. As a general rule, that plan will include suffering for any follower of Christ. All believers must make that an expectation for their own life. Beyond that truth, most believers want to know what else God has planned for them. Will God tell me what is coming before it happens? Will God reveal the right answer to tough questions with which I will wrestle during my life?

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The next article in this series is Part 3: God, Show Me the Right Decision to Make, found here: God, Show Me the Right Decision to Make






Friday, April 23, 2010

Atheism and Humanism -- Meaningless, Vain, Hopeless Philosophies

The Ideal

Free-thinking is the primary instrument employed by atheism and humanism. Free-thinking is the ideal state where a human can engage all his or her mental capacities without being encumbered by external influences such as community values, parental morals, governmental persuasion, or religious input.

In such a theoretical influence-free state of contemplation the human is open to create his own set of values and life purposes. In short, the individual human becomes the standard of life and practice, and is the definer of good and bad, and is himself his own meaning in life. For lack of another descriptor, the individual becomes a mortal god to himself.

Outspoken atheists and humanists, such as Bertrand Arthur William Russell and the authors of Humanist Manifesto I and II, have articulated that the goal in the life of every atheist is obtaining happiness through the good life here and now. Happiness and the good life are said to include living in a community that is free of religious mores, unencumbered sexual encounters, and no interference from any person or institution that might infringe on carrying out any personal appetite that might increase said happiness.

Given those parameters of free-thought and happiness it is obvious that both religion and ethics-based laws of government are enemies of atheism and humanism. Moreover, since religion tends to influence ethics-based laws, religion is seen as both harmful and dangerous to all humanity. Therefore, another major ideal of atheism and humanism is to eradicate all religion in all forms except that of humanism itself.

Internal Problems for Atheism and Humanism

Given limited time and space it is possible to cite only a few of the overarching problems that the atheistic and humanistic philosophies hold for themselves. Here are some major ones.

1) Impossibility of Achieving Free-Thinking

Since the highest goals are pursuing happiness through living the good life here and now and to be allowed to be a free-thinker without external moral or ethical constraints hampering such pursuits, the goals are intrinsically unachievable. This is blatantly obvious of free-thinking.

To qualify as a free-thinker as they envision it, one must be truly free in head, heart, and circumstance. No one may impose a control or an influential thought that does not originate with the free-thinker. Yet, every atheist and all humanists are always under someone else’s authoritative structure. At home, parents control media access. At school thoughts are presented by the administration for review, textbooks imposed, and writing assignments are made compulsory by the teachers. The state requires everyone to think about elections, the census, wars, and foreign policy. Airlines dictate rules that curtail free-speech regarding the subject matter of terrorism. Bosses at work can actually dictate the content upon which a person must ponder all day.

Free-thinking is an impossible goal at best. It is a delusion at worst. In all the above scenarios someone else is overshadowing every thought with external value systems, outside ethics, and controlled processes of thought. So long as a human is living in a society, true free-thinking is utterly impossible.

2) Impossibility of Achieving Unencumbered Happiness

Similarly, unencumbered happiness where the individual human determines the actions, environment, and situations that will confer upon himself bliss is just as illusory as free-thinking. It takes money to purchase the good life here and now. The government takes away money liberally, reducing one’s happiness. It takes substantive me-time to implement the good life here and now. One’s workplace will claim a third of the day and tremendously erode time to experience happiness.

Atheistic happiness, for some reason, almost always calls uninhibited guiltless sex into its definition. Yet, disease, paternal responsibility laws, and dangerously jealous girlfriends always seem to sap much of the happiness from free-sex.

We need not even consider those persons who have been assumed into the military, where most of life is regulated by external authority figures. Any free-thinker who thoughtlessly violates the criminal law, such as by purchasing illegal drugs, may find himself in the prison system where all of life is not merely regulated but stiflingly controlled.

3) Atheists and Humanists Violate Each Other’s Happiness

No atheist or humanist is truly free to think for himself. Speaking anecdotally, atheists and humanists tend to be militant in their animosity toward all things religious. There is no room in their ranks for a free-thinker who entertains the possibility of even a disinterested supernatural deity. Therefore, free-thinkers are compelled by their community to adopt the ethics, mores, and dogmas of other atheists and humanists.

If this is doubted in any way, I would merely point to the Humanist Manifesto I and II. All religion is roundly condemned as harmful and dangerous. That is persecution in thought if not in practice. Thus, free-thinking is curtailed in all atheists and humanists by their fellows. How then can the free-thinker decide for himself without external influences what will make him happy? He is told what will make him happy, and he must comply or leave the community.

The Impact of the Internal Problems: Meaninglessness, Vanity, and Hopelessness

Virtually all the life-purpose-statements of atheists and humanists involve narcissistic and hedonistic priorities, by definition. Life is literally the pursuit of personal happiness, the individual’s good life, here and now. There is no next life or supernatural afterlife.

Yet, as demonstrated, no atheist or humanist is capable of achieving any of their most cherished goals because outside authorities will constantly be governing them their entire life. Since there are no external ethics except those that flow from the mind of the individual humanist, the only evil in life is that a humanist is blocked in his goal of fabricating his own happiness. In that sense, the humanist will experience nothing but evil every day of his life since established authorities constantly impose their wills, morals, and laws.

During the evil days of his short life, the humanist/atheist will be subject to the environment and aging. He will take on the suffering of illnesses, accidents, crime, and abuse by others who are seeking to make themselves happy. Ultimately, disease, mental infirmity, or disaster will end the life of the humanist and he will begin rotting and become forgotten by those still seeking their own happiness.

Such humanists will not have achieved full happiness in this life but rather will experience evil every day of their lives. They will have died without achieving any of their most important goals. They will not be remembered. That is the very essence and nature of a meaningless and hopeless life.

That preordained self-imposed hopelessness is easily predictable and foreseeable. It is probably for that reason that so many of the atheists and humanists that I have personally known during my life have tragically and prematurely died by their own hand.

True Hope and Genuine Meaning

Every Christian knows the reality of the hope that a faith in Christ gives. God grants believers a guaranteed place in the paradise (or heaven) of “new earth” (Revelation 21:1). Existence does not end at corporeal death. The joy of living with God is eternal and not based on temporal situations or circumstances.

It is true, no Christian can prove the existence of the supernatural. Neither can the atheist prove the non-existence of the supernatural.

God’s presence offers no tangible indicator within the believer. God resides in believers invisibly; there is no audible voice, no visual up-front display of divine messages inside the eyeball, and no entity below the flesh that can be detected by tactile examination.

What does happen imperceptibly is a change of mind, attitude, desires, goals, and ultimately, behaviors. Whereas once we hated God, we suddenly love Him. Once we did not understand the goofy tales and sayings of the Bible, and now they have genuine and deep meaning. Once we did not care about God’s ethics or the salvation of others, and now such things consume our passions. Once we lived for selfish debauchery, and now we live to serve God as our Master and Savior.

Never Truly Free

No one is ever truly free to think or act without bias or apart from outside influences. Atheists, humanists, and unbelievers are slaves to sin, hedonism, and self. They have no genuine freedom to think or act from love for God or for the sole benefit of others, because they cannot envision even doing so. Thus, they are not truly free.

Christians are slaves of Christ. While they can and do sin, they have the freedom to serve Christ, to act on His morals, and to altruistically do good to and for others just because they want others to profit. So, while Christians are slaves, they are also free from the mind-stifling constraints of sin that so harmfully suppress and control atheists.

Most freeing of all is the hope of eternal life in the very presence of God in the new city of Jerusalem on new earth. Suffering ends at the conclusion of this short life and an eternity of joy with the Savior begins. If some forms of corporeal happiness are absent now, it is of no consequence because something far better is still ahead. Not only will God remember our names forever, He will invite us to talk with Him face-to-face during an eternity of personal encounters.

That is hope! That is meaning!

and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:5-6)

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If you would like to know how to acquire this hope, please read the article, Your Personal Salvation.

Addendum

For whoever is joined with all the living, there is hope; surely a live dog is better than a dead lion. (Ecclesiastes 9:4)

Sustain me according to Your word, that I may live; And do not let me be ashamed of my hope. (Psalms 119:116)






Monday, April 26, 2010

More Thoughts on Atheism and Humanism

“We find insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of a supernatural…as non-theists, we begin with humans not God, nature not deity.” Humanist Manifesto II, Paul Kurtz editor, 1973.

It is morbidly amusing to me that atheists “find insufficient evidence for believe in the existence of a supernatural” because the abundant evidence that does exist they do not take the time to understand and read. Worse, they break every rule of science when they prematurely conclude before doing the investigation that the evidence is not permitted to have the outcome of rationally indicating the reality of a supernatural.

I have never yet found an atheist who has a working grasp on the meaning of Scripture as it was intended to be understood by the men who wrote the words that comprise it. Rather, the references atheists make to Scripture demonstrate they have not studied it, or, they have studied it not for understanding but to read into it the most improbable meanings or to fit around it genuinely absurd theoretical origins.

For example, I have had atheists tell me that Jesus never claimed to be God, for He knew He was only an ordinary human man. Virtually all the instances of Jesus calling Himself God and Lord were summarily dismissed by the atheist as either church alterations to the original biblical texts, the Jews misunderstanding what Jesus meant, or modern man’s not understanding that Jesus was Himself declaring all humanity was its own god. Common sense and literary science died a little more when I heard those preposterous fabrications.

A very young atheist recently told me, with all the confidence and arrogance that uniformed imagination imbues, that there is no historical evidence that Jesus ever existed in history. He read this on an atheist apologetics website. He said that fact was one of the most convincing evidences he had found to disprove Christianity as a truthful belief system. I asked him, “Would you be interested in seeing even one piece of secular historical evidence that Jesus existed in real history?” To his credit, he said he would. I went and fetched my copy of the complete works of Josephus and allowed him to read with his own eyes the entry made by Jew-turned-Roman-pagan Josephus during the destruction of Jerusalem. There are, of course, many more such documents written by secular and religious persons that reference the historical Jesus.

My young atheist then countered that archeology has positive proof that the New Testament is entirely fiction. That is a tall order, but I asked him what that archeological evidence was. He stated that the exact location of Nazareth has never been found. Such is the irrationality of a militant anti-belief. No one should have to point out that the inability to find the precise location of a 2000 year old town that used to house 400 people is not positive proof of anything, much less proof that the entire New Testament is a fiction.

“As in 1933, humanists still believe that traditional theism, especially faith in the prayer-hearing God, assumed to love and care for persons, to hear and understand their prayers, and to be able to do something about them, is an unproved and outmoded faith. Salvationism…still appears as harmful…we can discover no divine purpose or providence for the human species…no deity will save us; we must save ourselves…promises of immortal salvation or fear of eternal damnation are both illusory and harmful.” Humanist Manifesto II, Paul Kurtz editor, 1973.

Why does the atheist care whether other humans in the world are happy in their belief in God? Why does the atheist community declare “Salvationism” to be harmful and dangerous?

“It is we who create value and our desires which confer value. In this realm we are kings.” Bertrand Russell, 1957.

Russell went on to say that Christians are, by his humanist values and definitions, evil because they prevent his achievement of hedonistic pleasure here and now. It seems that Christians, those who believe in an afterlife and in Salvationism, cause moral constraints to be placed on society in the form of community mores, civil laws, and criminal laws. All these laws and mores impose ethical controls and limits on the “fun” that atheists can extract from others (e.g. child seduction, driving drunk, theft, etc.). As the conservative barriers to the unbridled pursuit of chaotic, wanton, and destructive pleasures Christians are evil in the eyes of the frustrated atheist.

For all their bluster that the supernatural is unproved the atheist has not disproved its existence either. Neither have they taken the time to sincerely read and understand the Bible as its authors intended it to be understood. Atheists’ time is consumed with finding objections to the Bible and its history so as to injure Christianity and thus remove all ethical constraints to their hedonistic appetites. For the atheist the pursuit of individual pleasure here and now, regardless of the costs to others and unmindful of the judgment to come, is the goal of his wretched short life.

Truth is the first casualty in the pursuit of pleasure.


I said to myself, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself." And behold, it too was futility. I said of laughter, "It is madness," and of pleasure, "What does it accomplish?"
All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure.”
(Ecclesiastes 2:1-2, 10a)
"Futility of futilities," says the Preacher, "all is meaningless!"
(Ecclesiastes 12:8)
The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good.
The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men To see if there are any who understand, Who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one. (Psalms 14:1-3)

Indeed, the only reason to say, “There is no God” is to commit abominable and corrupt deeds. In 3000 years atheism, humanism, and hedonism have not changed. There is no new evil under the sun.






Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Belief in Aliens Rational while Belief in God Irrational

Atheist Stephen Hawking Advances Mythology of Space Invaders as Science

Faith in Aliens is Perfectly Rational?

In a recently released documentary series called “Universe,” theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking warned earth that it was “perfectly rational” to earnestly believe that nomadic hostile extraterrestrial aliens could invade in massive UFO mother ships. Hawking, an atheist,* is often referred to as the most intelligent man on the planet. Hawking stated, “To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational. The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like.”

It would be inappropriate to write Hawking off as a kook. He is a highly respected professor and science author. Moreover, scientists in the United States spend millions (billions?) of dollars on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) and those massive radio dish arrays it uses to search the heavens for sentient life. NASA has even included solid gold plaques and sound recordings for any aliens that might happen across the unmanned spacecraft it has sent into space to photograph our solar system. Oh yes, scientists do believe in ET-aliens, and they have spent their grant dollars guided by that faith.

What was Rational Yesterday is Irratonal Today

In the 1960’s belief in God was the societal norm and UFO believers were considered irrational misfits who had adopted mythology and delusion as their religion. Today, atheistic scientists have reversed this. Now, sincere belief in God is considered the domain of misfits who have deluded themselves with a mythological religion while heartfelt adherents to a faith in exterrestrial aliens have captured mainstream acceptance.

Based on the Evidence…

Elevating ET-aliens to the status of literal factual beings is not “perfectly rational.” It is a step of misquided faith, a religious belief, a superstitious mythology. There is not now, nor has there ever been, tangible evidence or proof that alien life exists, much less massive mother ships of nomadic hostile aliens. No ship has landed on the mall in Washington D.C., the SETI dish farms have not detected intelligent signal patterns, and the Hubble Space Telescope has not photographed ET ships circling Mars. Water has been found on Mars and our moon, but no off-earth life.

There is no evidence for life existing off of earth, and most pointedly, not intelligent life. That is a hope, a dream, an assumption, a presumption, a belief, a mythology, a religious ideal, but it is not a reality. It is not fact.

By contrast, there is more “evidence” for the reality of God than for ET-aliens. Seriously. The Bible is evidence. To be sure scientists and atheists denounce it as poor evidence, baselessly claiming virtually every page of it has been faked, but one cannot deny that it is evidence. It speeks eloquently and passionately about 1500 years of interaction between humans and their God. These eyewitnesses sincerely thought these encounters were true and valid.

Eyewitnesses are usually considered strong evidence in any attempt to verify an event. From that perspective, the Bible, which is the accumulated eyewitness accounts of people who claim to have seen and talked with God, is more evidence than Stephen Hawking has offered for his faith in ET-aliens.

Inevitable Conclusions

This is the inevitable outcome of rejecting God. God must be replaced. So man turns from that which has been amply documented about God to place his trust in that of which he can only speculate but for which he has no evidence whatsoever. Which is more rational, to believe in an unseen entity that has no evidence to promote its existence, or to believe in an unseen entity whch has thousands of years of evidence compiled in favor of its reality?

Atheism has no answers at all, only insane speculations absent any evidence. And to what end are these unsupported speculations? They promote fear, frustration, hoplessness, and a desperate emotional attachment to the very science that concocted the myth. Christianity is built on thousands of years of evidence via human eyewitnesses who have interacted with God. Hundreds of improbable prophecies have been fulfilled further validating that same written evidence.

Christianity cannot prove God’s existence any more than Stephen Hawking can prove the existence of ET-aliens. Nonetheless, the Bible certainly offers more evidence on behalf of God than any atheist can offer regarding aliens. More to the point is the fact that Christianity offers freedom, hope, forgiveness, and a release from inevitable death. Atheism offers nothing in return for the faith placed in it, or in its mythological aliens. God offers life to anyone who places their faith in Him.

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* Yes, I know there is a debate as to whether Hawking is an atheist or merely an agnostic. His wife has gone on record as stating he is a closet atheist. This is supported by the fact that Hawking tends to use the word “God” only as a metaphor or euphemism for concepts or processes for which science has not yet fully devised an entirely naturalistic theory. Labeling Hawking as an agnostic seems to considerably overstate his faith in a creative supernatural deity.

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[Note: The above essay was originally posted as a blog. As such, it was open to public commentary. Below are select comments from the public and by the author which are considered helpful in bringing comprehension to the topic or in advancing the dialogue.]

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Booth responds below to a pulbic comment placed on his blog (public comment is not quoted):

The numbers that Hawking is focused on are the vast number of galaxies viewable by the Hubble. However, the numbers that are important are the ones that show the extreme improbability that any planet anywhere should have come to have the size, composition, single satellite body, distance from the center of the galaxy, moderate size star, and distance from the sun as has our Earth.

Further, the numbers indicate the impossibility that a second planet with Earth’s life-sustaining features exists anywhere, or ever will. Those are just numbers, of course.

Evidence: All the telescopes of humanity have been unable to find any planet with features even close to that of Earth. Not only is life having to arise by “time and chance” mathematically inconceivable, that such a thing should happen twice is a matter of religious faith.

At the center of every galaxy is a black hole that spews unimaginable radiation into all but the very outer arms of the galaxy. There can be no life anywhere near the glob of stars that comprise the radioactive bright regions of any galaxy, including ours. To safely sustain life a planet and its parent star must be on the outer rims and far from other solar systems. What this does to “the numbers” is erode all hope that any other planet could ever exist to host life.

Yet, we are not alone in the universe, for God has made us to fellowship with Him. And God has made this planet to be inhabited by us, at least for now, as part of that fellowship.

“For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place, but formed it to be inhabited), ‘I am the LORD, and there is none else.’”(Isaiah 45:18)

You are correct that we have only located several hundreds of planetary-like bodies outside our own solar system. Literally all of those orbit stars that are either far hotter than our sun, causing the planetary bodies to be several thousands of degrees on their surfaces, or are too far from their star, leaving them frozen, like one-time-planet Pluto. Nothing has been found even remotely similar to our Earth, yet.

I think the fundamental assumption is flawed, however. It is only "rational," "possible," "reaonable," or "probable" that another life-bearing planet will be found if it can ever be demonstrated that life can arise from lifeless ingredients without the application of outside intelligence. To date, science has applied all its own intelligence to attempting to manufacture life from liefeless ingredients in the lab and has failed, so what chance is there that such ingredients form life without intelligent direction?

In other words, if the presupposition is false (the presupposition being that life arises from certain ingredients without an intelligent architect), then it does not matter how many galaxies, stars, and solar systems exist in the universe, for life will not be found. It must first be demonstrated that life really can and does arise from certain ingredients all by itself. Until it is shown by evidence to be true, it remains but a religious conviction of the scientific priesthood.






Friday, April 30, 2010

Part 3: God, Show Me the Right Decision to Make

Introduction

In past articles in this series we have seen from the Scriptures that God’s will includes human suffering. That suffering is unpleasant to humankind. It is also unpleasant for God (Romans 15:3, Ezekiel 33:11). Nonetheless, no matter what any person does or decides to do here on earth God’s holy plan, His will, cannot be undone or stopped. God always accomplishes His holy will.

And we have also seen that God does have a detailed plan for every living creature. As a general rule, that plan will include suffering for any follower of Christ. All believers must make that an expectation for their own life. Beyond that truth, most believers want to know what else God has planned for them. Will God tell me what is coming before it happens? Will God reveal the right answer to tough questions with which I will wrestle during my life?

What is the Best or Right Decision?

If you are like most believers you have asked God to supernaturally reveal the “best” or the “right” answer to certain decisions of life. Some even ask God to show them His “will” in this specific instance or that particular situation. And all this really sounded quite pious to me, until today.

As I studied out this matter with another believer, it became increasingly clear that our sanctimonious requests are often a sham. What do we really mean by “best” or “right”? We usually mean, “the decision option that will ensure I don’t lose money,” or, “the answer that will make me look like a public success to the Christian community.”

For example, if I am trying to decide if I should sell my house to move closer to the church or stay in my house and payoff the mortgage and I pray, “God, show me the right answer,” am I really interested in getting any answer except, “this decision will give you the most lucrative financial outcome while also making you appear to be a spiritual leader”? What decision would we make if God were to reveal, “Selling your house will cause you to incur a huge financial loss just as your church relocates to the suburbs leaving you behind and making you look inept to all your friends”?

Why Do I Want to Know?

In short, we really want God to tell us the future so that we can personally prosper! Prosper in prestige, standing, reputation, or finances. Somehow we see that prosperity as equivalent to “finding God’s will.” Yet, God explicitly tells us He will not allow us to see or know our personal futures because the future would feed our greed and pervert our decisions and ruin our faith now! Perhaps it would be for our spiritual benefit to lose our wealth, have our reputations tarnished, and experience humility, but would we ever think to ask for that as the “right” outcome? What would we decide to do if we knew the outcome in advance?

Is the Future Hidden On Purpose?

Note that four times in Ecclesiastes the rhetorical question is raised, almost mocking humanity, “Who is going to tell a man what comes next in his life?” Then in 7:14 God states that He has designed all of life, all its ups and downs, expressly to hide from humanity the future, so that no man will be able to discover what comes next.

I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves. He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11)

For who will bring [a man] to see what will occur after him? (Ecclesiastes 3:22b)

For who knows what is good for a man during his lifetime, during the few years of his futile life? He will spend them like a shadow. For who can tell a man what will be after him under the sun? (Ecclesiastes 6:12)

Yet the fool multiplies words. No man knows what will happen, and who can tell him what will come after him? (Ecclesiastes 10:14)

In the day of prosperity be happy, But in the day of adversity consider-- God has made the one as well as the other so that man will not discover anything that will be after him. (Ecclesiastes 7:14)

This hidden future is just as it should be. That is God’s will. “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). And again, “you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth” (Ecclesiastes 11:2b).

This theme of God intentionally hiding our future from us is repeated in the New Testament, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that’" (James 4:14-15).

The more spiritually minded among us may object, stating that they want to know the future so as to make the wisest spiritual choice possible. For example, “God, should I witness to Joe or to Roger today?” Our expectation is that God will reveal the future outcome of our evangelistic efforts such that it will enable us to make a profitable decision. If God “reveals” that Joe will respond to the gospel today, I will witness to Joe. If not Joe, then Roger.

But is that a choice whose decision depends on our knowing the future? Not really.

God tells us that whenever the opportunity arises, we must share the gospel--in season or out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). Since God already revealed that principle in the Bible, there is no need to ask who to give a witness to! What if God had revealed that Joe will never be saved, would you decline to witness to Joe? What if you were to learn that in spite of rejecting the gospel, God placed Joe in your life so that you would be the one and only witness of Christ to him, thus making it obligatory for you to witness to him regardless of his reaction--could you with Paul say that Joe’s blood was on his own head because you “knew” he would not respond well (Acts 18:6)?

Is Asking for Wisdom the Same as Asking for the Right Answer?

God tells us He will freely give to those who petition Him for wisdom. But what He grants to us is wisdom, not the solution to a problem nor a glimpse of the future.

Wisdom is the spiritual ability to overlay Scripture on top of our daily problems and to discern the righteous actions to take guided by biblical principles of godly living. Applying wisdom has nothing to do with being able to know the future or an outcome; it has everything to do with knowing the Bible and having the training and desire to do what God has already commanded in the written Word regardless of whether the outcome enriches us or not.

Being wise is the spiritual fortitude to live, think, walk, and act holy. To be wise one need not know the future. In fact, it would be unwise of God to reveal to most people anything about their own future as this would infringe on His sovereign domain and would embolden people to act with arrogance, pride, and selfishness.

When we pray seeking wisdom from God, it is not "the right answer" to our problems we seek. Rather we seek the wisdom to make decisions that show off God's holiness and God's righteousness in the ordinary world so that others will see that believers behave in unnatural godliness, even when circumstances are tough.

Of course, it is also wisdom to ask that if it is God's will He will bring us safely out of our current problem(s). But wisdom goes much further, for it asks, "And if it is not your will to bring this problem to a happy conclusion for me then bring to my memory the Scriptures that will cause me to behave in love, patience, and contentment in front of the watching world so You will be glorified."

Whose Life Is It To “Waste”?

If we are truthful with ourselves we really just want to know the outcome of our decisions so that we do not waste our time, our money, our efforts, our emotions, our reputations, or our lives. However, none of those things really belong to us as they belong to our Master, Jesus, who spends them all freely as it pleases His holy planning. Wasted effort is not the same thing to Jesus as it is to us.

Jesus wisely does not reveal the outcome of our human plans and choices. He alone controls whether such things prosper, not us. The only burden He places upon us is to act in biblical wisdom and to accept the circumstances He constructs around us. It is His kingdom, not ours. Did not He give the prophets over to bitter lives and executions (Acts 7:52, Luke 13:34)? Did God not warn Paul three times that to go to Jerusalem was dangerous, yet Paul went anyway because of his great desire to preach to the Jews he so loved (Acts 20:22-24, 21:11-14, Romans 9:1-5)?

It is not the potential success, future prosperity, or prospective fame of the outcome that ought to drive our decision making. Therefore there is no need to petition God to know the future and no rational basis on which to assume future knowledge is needed to decide which choice is “best.” Rather, we need only humbly ask, “Do I believe I am best serving the kingdom of Christ with my biblical choice, and am I willing to accept the consequences and costs of following through?”

Choosing to serve God often means personal ruin, jail, starvation, beatings, and for some, beheading. We already know it is God’s will that His disciples must suffer for Him. Do you really want God to reveal your literal future of suffering to you as He did for Paul? Rather, pray that God would show you what options are biblically open to you and which ones you can commit to without dishonoring His name. That is sufficient. Beyond that is for Him alone to know because He alone will cause the increase of His own kingdom (1 Corinthians 3:7). God always accomplishes His own will regardless of our decisions or actions.

Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:4)

for we walk by faith, not by sight-- [nor by seeing the future] (2 Corinthians 5:7)

What can be seen no longer requires faith. Therefore, we live, make decisions, plan, and work according to faith in God and faith in the principles of holy living found in His Word. We walk by faith and not by getting glimpses of our future.

Is it right to ask questions of God or to seek from Him a sign? What does it mean to test God? That is the topic of the next article.

Part 3: Summary Statement

God intentionally has hidden the future of our own lives from us. That includes the outcomes of our own decisions. God does not desire us to seek our own profit or prestige through a foreknowledge of the outcomes of our decisions. Rather, He demands only that we pray, “If it is your will Lord, I will live long enough and will be committed enough to follow through and implement this decision I have made for your kingdom.”

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The next article in this series is Part 4: Testing God, Seeking Signs, and Asking Questions, found here: Testing God, Seeking Signs, and Asking Questions


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