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Written by: C. W. Booth

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Faith and Fraud

This evening, for the first time, I watched Leap of Faith starring Steve Martin, a film about an overtly charlatan faith healer. Elements of the movie were based on actual charlatans who had been exposed over the years in their various frauds, especially one whose wife surreptitiously broadcast prayer card requests to the “prophet’s” hidden radio ear piece so he could claim to know audience members’ ailments as if by special revelation.

What do I think about all that? Pretty much about the way I view all movies of entertainment: Did it tell a good story? This one was mediocre but entertaining.

It amuses me that the anti-God community at large thinks this type of religious charlatanism is limited in scope to theists. Over my half century of living I have watched as one political guru after another has made dogmatic and prophetic claims about the inescapable facts of liberalism, or conservatism, or even communism, only to be shown that such gurus had no particularly clearer insight than the man-on-the-street. At other times scientists polish off their crystal balls and forecast the conquering of one disease or another, or prognosticate the destruction and doom of the planet, all again to be shown incorrect; their prophecies but mere carnival shamanism.

We want to think someone somewhere knows the final, firm, concrete, and empirical truth, and we tolerate their speculations as if they were proven facts. And charlatans take advantage of that unfounded hope, selling their guesswork and their own imaginations as if they were verified realities.

Is there a God? Some charlatans will tell you “absolutely yes” because they have seen Him with their own eyes. Other frauds will tell you “positively no” because they cannot see Him with their own eyes.

Well, is there a God or not? I believe there is. That is faith. I believe God exists not because I have seen Him, but because I genuinely believe the written testimony of the men who were the students of Jesus. For me, that written testimony is a record of compelling evidences.

I place into the category of religious frauds all those who assert that “there is no God” when they give “because I have not seen Him“ as their evidence. They have not seen God, so what does that prove? Merely that you cannot see the spiritual and the supernatural does not “prove” anything about whether it is real or not. Saying, “I have not seen that which is not visible,” does not mean the invisible is not there. Such persons have made a faulty logical conclusion, and worse, they have made the charlatan’s claim: they assert something absolute about religion that they cannot possibly prove and cannot possibly know, and they know they cannot prove it.

Religious frauds exist both among the faith community and the anti-faith community.

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[This essay was originally posted as blog. As a blog it was subject to public review and comments. Only a selection of the cleaner and more salient comments are reprinted below.]

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A commenter asked questions of Booth to which Booth responds

Good questions.

Question 1: Do I believe any of my prayers have been answered?

Answer 1: In so much as they have all been heard and “evaluated” by God, yes, each and every one. Did I always “get what I wanted”? No, not by a long shot. But that is always because what I wanted was not what God wanted. Every prayer is subject to the condition that James phrases, “If the Lord wills.” We live and breathe for His kingdom, not for our convenience.

Question2: Why do people of faith pray?

Answer 2: We pray because God, as God, demands of us humility toward Him. He told us, again in James, we should not expect to get anything we want (or need!) if we do not pray. Prayer is worship. Why should God grant us anything if we will not worship Him?

Here are four links to blogs I wrote on prayer. I suspect the first one in the list is the one that would most interest you; it is called, “Prayer works--I got what I wanted, or perhaps, God got what He wanted”






Friday, August 05, 2011

What Would It Take for You to Abandon Your Christian Faith?

What would it take for you to abandon your Christian faith? That question has literally been addressed to me.

My short answer: Nothing that I can think of.

But what about ever-advancing scientific findings which disprove Creationism? That naïve question is filled with disputable assumptions as well as an entirely false premise. The false premise is that the Christian faith is predicated upon a young earth creation event as its core foundation. While I personally find a young earth creation event (6,000 - 60,000 years ago) to be most compatible with Genesis 1-3 and the majority of available scientific data, it would not unseat my faith to learn that Genesis 1-3 was a metaphor or allegory for how sin and human spiritual death entered the world instead of it being a literal historical report. The disputable assumptions implicit in the question are related to the phrase “ever-advancing scientific findings which disprove Creationism.” No scientific finding is so concrete or profound as to yet have disproved the creation event of Genesis 1-3.

Moreover, I cannot for the life of me understand why atheists or anti-Christian bloggers persist in pointing toward sin, evil, birth defects, and natural disasters and then saying, “A good and intelligent God would not have created a world with such bad things in them.”

Well duh!!!! God did not create the world with such bad things in them! He created the world perfect, without disease, without human death, and without natural disasters.

When humanity sinned God cursed the world. That is where pain, grief, suffering, birth defects, and natural disasters came into the picture. They were imposed onto the already perfect world via a curse, intentionally. Pain is not accidental, as if God did not see it coming.

Why does the anti-theistic community keep raising this as a question? Are they purposely pretending they are unaware of this part of the biblical story just to be belligerent or do they simply not grasp the import of the story of the human Fall? In either case, repeatedly asking “Why is there suffering in the world instead of the world being perfect?” begs the question regarding their sincerity or literary acumen.

But what about all the errors that are in the Bible? So far, all the alleged errors in the Bible that I have seen (except one) singly or in uncounted lists were not genuine errors made by the original prophets but are contemporary misreadings, mistranslations, archaic language from the KJV, minor copyist deviations, or arise from ignorance of global human history. What is the one exception that I cannot explain and does it sway me to doubt the accuracy of the Word? I am not going to say what the allegation is, and no, it does not sway me that the Bible is in error simply because something is presented in it which I cannot yet understand or explain.

As per my previous blog, in the same way that there are religious frauds on the Christian faith side, so are there religious frauds on the anti-faith side citing groundless or overtly baseless arguments. In any situation, I cannot think of any circumstance or argument that has anything close to sufficient force such that it would sway me away from faith in Christ. Besides, where else would I go for a hope for the future; where is the hope in atheism?

So Jesus said to the twelve, "You do not want to go away also, do you?" Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” (John 6:67-68)






Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What Scripture Passage Makes You Doubt the Faith?

Some months ago I watched a news program on “evangelical” Christian pastors who had secretly lost their faith but remained employed in the ministry. The majority stated that the thing that swayed them into unbelief was their study of the Scriptures and subsequently encountering unanswerable questions! I find their experience somewhat inversely analogous to when atheists come to believe in God because of the unanswerable questions raised by contemporary scientific theories in such fields as cosmology, biology, and astronomy.

In my experience the more I have studied the Scriptures the more my faith has been strengthened because of the irrepressible consistency of the salvation message from era to era. Yet, I have encountered difficult to understand passages and concepts. With time, research, and prayer often a compelling answer to such passages presents itself. What I have learned from this is that it is far more reliable to question my understanding than to question the veracity of the Word simply because I do not comprehend everything I read in it.

So, if you are a Christian, have you encountered a passage of Scripture that is so puzzling you cannot shake it from your mind, or, is there a passage that might even be making you question your faith? If so, what are those passages?

Note: I do not know if any reader, or myself, can or will respond with a convincing answer, but I would like to know what it is that most bothers believers.






Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Unique Perspectives

Over the past few days I have been watching the seasonal meteorite shower. Some meteorites were the usual faster-than-imaginable streaks of light across the sky, here and instantly gone. A few left trails of luminous residue as they burned themselves out.

One surprised me. It appeared from nowhere, as they all do, then moved impossibly slowly, almost not at all. I thought maybe it was a satellite and not a meteorite. As I watched the point of light actually grew larger. After it had grown about ten times its original size the outside edges of the ball expanded and luminesced while the center of the ball shrank. Then the whole thing disappeared as noiselessly as it had arrived.

Only then did I realize that I had witnessed a meteorite from an entirely new perspective. It had been falling almost directly toward me, not streaking by. I was watching it approach as it sped to earth and burned up as if I was at its termination point at the end of its nearly straight line track, like looking at a motorcycle headlight as the bike motors straight toward you. Oddly, someone in Arizona likely saw this same exact meteorite as a streak of light since, from their perspective, it was falling away from them.

No longer can I glibly say to a child, “A meteorite always looks like a streak of light across the sky.” Its appearance changes with the angle of perception, how close it is, and whether you are seeing it midway or near the end of its descent. It is still just a piece of comet debris burning as it falls into the atmosphere of our planet, but its presentation does change.

Often people object that the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) present the same or similar events regarding Jesus in different ways and with different details emphasized. If all four accounts were exactly the same then three of the writers would not need to have written at all. But each writer wanted to, needed to, emphasize a different perspective for their unique audiences at the time.

For some of the writers it was important to show that two or more people were healed at one event while for another author it was sufficient to focus on only one of those who was healed. Most of the writers found it sufficient to show that Peter denied Christ in a courtyard, while one wanted to emphasize that the denial was protracted, having begun in one courtyard but culminating in another. Same events, different perspectives.

Seeing and describing events from different viewpoints does not mean contradiction or error. It lends credibility to the writing because that is how things in the real world occur, and how real people report on the same events. And like a meteorite that falls silently in the night witnessed only by a guy who wrote a blog about it, the events of the written Gospel stories were real and they happened, and they were penned by those who witnessed them, unique perspectives and all.






Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Unbelievers Can Do Good, Including Atheists

Sometimes in our zeal we Christians overstate or exaggerate some truths of Scripture. One of those truths we abuse, unintentionally to be sure, comes from Isaiah 64:6a, “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” So we think we are paraphrasing this verse when we say that no unbeliever can do any good thing. But we are in fact overstating and to some extent misrepresenting the essential truth in the passage.

Of course the “quotation” above is actually a partial quotation of the verse, and it is taken grossly out of context when cited in this manner. The passage does not say the unbeliever can do no good deeds. It does say that a sinner, whether they believe in God or not, can do nothing good enough to save himself.

You [Lord] meet [in fellowship with] him who rejoices in doing righteousness, [he] who remembers You in Your ways. Behold, You were angry, for we sinned, We continued in [our sins] a long time; and shall we be saved? For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:5-6)

This passage does not say that the good deeds are not done, or that because they are done by sinners what is good mystically becomes bad. No, the passage uses a pair of metaphors to compare a sinner’s good works to what God requires as payment for salvation. Compared with paying for salvation the sinner’s good works cannot even pay for used worn out farmer’s overalls. As sinners our good works offer no better eternal protection than a fallen leaf has against decay.

It must be understood that a sinner can do good works in a humanistic and moralistic sense. It is just that those good works earn them no saving favor with God. When it comes to salvation, all their good works have no real value at all. It must also be understood that a sinner constantly sins and only God is genuinely and inherently always good.

So if a sinner’s good works are worthless and cannot provide enough value to even be a down payment on salvation, how can they be saved? Jesus already paid the full price on the cross. All we must do and all we can do is call on His name to be saved, believing in Him in our hearts, and confessing Him as Lord and Savior with our mouths, pens, and keyboards.

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[This essay was originally posted as blog. As a blog it was subject to public review and comments. Only a selection of the cleaner and more salient comments are reprinted below.]

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A commenter raised objections to Booth to which Booth responds

Of course, I do believe that the doctrine of Total Depravity is an accurate description of humanity's fallen condition. The unsaved are very frequently called the "slaves of sin" in the New Testament. I do NOT believe in the parody of Total Depravity that men like CS Lewis made of the genuine doctrine.

From God's perspective human good works are eclipsed by human sin. From man's perspective even the most notoriously bad individual does "good" things once in a while, like feeding their hungry baby. Those good things that the unsaved man does are because men are created in the image of God. Total Depravity does not say a human is less than human, or that a human is no longer created in the image of God, but it does say that every intent of the heart is inclined toward selfishness, and in that respect, even the outwardly good works are inwardly selfish in nature. That selfish nature is only defeated upon regeneration.

So even if an unbeliever's outward works are good from a moralistic or community standard it does not mean those outwardly good works are born from a good motive or from a good heart. Even if the motive is selfish (and thus sinful) the outward work remains moral and good from the world's viewpoint.

Booth Responds to Upset Readers

OK, some folks are a bit upset that I wrote that unbelievers can do things that are considered good on this earth (good from a moralistic and earthly sense, not necessarily an eternal spiritual sense) because the Scriptures state that every intent of the heart is toward evil. So permit me to invoke Paul's words,

For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:12-16)

Paul says with or without the Law everyone will be judged guilty for the sin of unbelief if they do not have faith in God. Of interest to the discussion is when Paul says, "for when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law..." We can all agree that God's Law told us to do only good things and not sinful things. So if the Gentiles do the things of the Law by instict, that is the good works of the Law written in their hearts, even though they do not have faith in God they are doing good things.

True, Paul goes on to say that they are still slaves to sin, and they will still be judged according to their sins, not according to their good deeds, for they would have had to keep every Law perfectly to "earn" heaven by never having rebelled. But doing good works of the Law on this planet as an unbeliever does not contradict the truth that man's heart is depraved, bent on sin, always lusting after evil, and is desperately sick.

What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE." (Romans 3:9-12)

This is true, there is no one on earth who has lived a perfectly righteous life, not one, except for Christ. It is also true all have turned aside to rebellion against God at some time or other. This is the truth of total depravity. Yes, the unsaved can "do instinctively the things of the Law...written in their hearts" but not perfectly and so they are unrighteous after all. And nothing they can ever do will earn them salvation with God, for only Christ can pay for that salvation. There is no one who is perfectly righteous in and of himself, no one.

Booth Responds to a Supportive Reader

Dan, thanks for the comment. I agree, so much of what man would call good God would call selfishness. Yet, when something "good" is done here on earth, even from impure motives, we rejoice that something good was indeed done at all.

Booth Responds to Two Questions from a Reader

Those are great questions.

1) Clearly an unbeliever can do "good works" on earth, as Paul states, because at times by instinct they keep the rules of the Law which are written in their heart. However, that must be balanced by the statement God made after the flood that every intent of the heart of man is wicked at some level. So even the genuinely good things they do are motivated to some degree by wicked intents (I think that usually means they are motivated by selfish desires). This is where Ayn Rand gets her thesis that all human decisions are motivated by hedonism. In the case of the unbeliever she may be more right than wrong.

2) No unbeliever can truly please God because to please God one must first believe that He exists, then one must place oneself under His kingship as a servant and as an adopted child. That means being humble enough to confess one's sins. Until one is able to do that one remains self-dependent, which is pride, which God opposes. I do not think an urepentant sinner who will not confess his sins can possibly please God regardless of the good works they might do on earth because the one thing God most desires, their worship, they withhold.

That is just my opinion. What is yours?


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