Thoughts of a Living Christian

Musings of an amateur theologian and hopeful writer

Archive for the month “July, 2010”

Apologizing for Christianity…?

I have only just started bible college for this semester, and one of my units is Christian Apologetics. After telling someone the name of this unit, they asked, “why do you need to know how to apologize for Christianity?” I guess in this person’s mind this way of thinking is redundant and completely nonsensical. After all, aren’t Christians meant to have faith; why would they need to say sorry for this?

It should be noted at this point that the word apologetics has it origins in the Greek word apologia, meaning a defensive statement. Christian Apologetics, therefore, refers to the defense of Christianity. 1 Peter 3:15 implores of us to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have,” in other words, we should we always be ready to give a reason as to why we are Christians.

Christians live in quite a turbulent period of history, as the rise of intellectual atheism threatens to bully anyone who has not thought seriously about a divine being into blindly accepting atheism out of fear of seeming stupid. Many evangelical Atheists will say this is exactly what Christians have done in the past – bully anyone and everyone into blindly accepting Christianity out of fear of hell. There is a subtle shift of thinking occurring. Where there was once a lean toward naive Christianity, slowly the lean is becoming more toward naive Atheism.

People such as Christopher Hitchens who argues that religion is poisonous and child abusive, and Richard Dawkins who states that any intellectual Christian mind – and presumably any Christian mind – is a disgrace to humanity, have carefully and persuasively formed arguments that seem so attractive and believable that many naive people think they are right, thus closing their mind to any supernatural reality. I have looked into arguments such as these out of interest in the past, and most of them essentially come down to three major misconceptions about Christianity: (1) God is a benevolent, cruel deity who deals out punishment left, right and centre for seemingly ridiculous and arbitrary rules; (2) the fact that Jesus needs to die on a cross for our salvation, when – these are not my personal views, I’ll just make that clear – surely such a loving, holy and all powerful God could simply blink away sin and death; and (3) evolution is a FACT – excuse me madam, you have a long lost cousin in the tree – thus religion and the ideal of a divine presence comes from humanity.

Firstly, these people often see God as a being on a power trip. They see God’s rules as irrelevant, merely arbitrary commandments put in place for the sake of being rules. These rules are simply a test of faith, to see who could follow such ridiculous laws in a bid to appease God. To respond to this, it should be understand that God’s rules aren’t rules for the sake of being rules. I’ll use the metaphor of an iron to make my point. The producer of the iron makes the iron, knowing full well how it should be used, and in order to help the person who buys the iron to use it to it’s full potential, the producer includes an instruction manual. The instruction manual includes rules for operation, and no one would argue that any of these rules are arbitrary.

What happens when these rules are not adhered to? Something bad will happen. For example, a man wishes to take a bath. The bath is cold. He sees the iron. Irons are hot.

Cold water. Hot iron.

Need I say more?

Furthermore, things are built to suit a particular environment. The iron is best suited for a well ventilated room, on an ironing board in front of a TV. The iron is not suited for a bath. A boat, to further my example, is best suited for water. When it is used on a road, firstly the boat will not move, and secondly, chances are the boat will be wrecked.

You see, God is our creator, so He knows the best way for us to live. He therefore also knows how we should not live. The rules He has given us are simply for our best intentions. Like the iron was not intended for the environment a bath offers, but rather on an ironing board, the animals God has created are intended for their particular environments on this Earth. We, however, belong somewhere other than this world. God created the world and formed the animals out of that world, but created us in the image and likeness of Him and from Him. Our environment is therefore spiritual. For us to function properly, it should be evident that we should adhere to the rules God has given us, through and within Him.

However, humanity is the iron thrown into the water. Humanity has rebelled against the rules and in humanity’s wisdom decided we know better than God our creator.

I would respond to this first misconception by saying that God is not a punishing God, but rather – in Munroe’s words – a God of principles. I have just mentioned two principles, that creations should be used the way they are intended, and creations should exist within their intended environments. When these principles are disobeyed, it is not the creator coming down and punishing you for jumping into a bath with an iron – beside the fact that you’ve probably suffered enough – but rather, it is the natural result of that principle being disobeyed. When we as humans disobey God and try doing things our own way, God doesn’t punish us, rather we experience what happens when we remove ourselves from the environment we’re intended for. When we remove ourselves from the spiritual environment of being in relation with God, we essentially place ourselves in the environment of this Earth. What happens to things on this Earth? They die. They return to the ash and dust they come from. Without God, that is our destination.

Sin is going our own way. It is choosing other than the principles and rules of operation God has given us. Sin is anything other than God.

Heaven is eternal relationship with and within God. Hell is merely the opposite. Neither are physical destination as such – at least as we see it in this life – of which so many people believe. Heaven is our intended environment, and hell is the iron in the bath.

The second misconception is a relatively easier one to explain. God cannot merely wave away sin. We often say that God can do anything. God cannot do anything. God cannot be near, commit or tolerate sin. Why? Other than sin being anything other than God, it is because He is a God of principles. God is perfectly holy. As a result of that, the natural consequence is that He cannot withstand sin. Humanity’s intended environment is spiritual, in relation with God. Therefore, sin separates us from God.

Another important aspect to understand is that of the consequence of sin. As mentioned previously, sin places us away from God and into the world. Sin places us away from life and into death. The consequence of sin is death. To account for sin, something must die. God did not command us to kill an animal because He is some cruel deity with a serious case of bloodlust and a hatred for animals, but rather this commandment was an act of mercy. To account for sin, something must die – and that thing would be us. God gave us the option of killing something else as atonement for our sin.

After approximately 2000 years of this happening and humanity still not really getting the point of it all, our ever merciful God decided to give us something permanent. Nothing is more permanent than Himself. So He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to be the everlasting and eternal sacrifice that would act as the atonement for our sin. However, Jesus did something else, of awesome significance. He permanently and definitively defeated death, sin and in the process Satan for all time. No longer must we make sacrifices.

God made it easier for us to have a relationship with Him, by offering something permanent. 1 Corinthians 1:23 tells us that what we preach is a stumbling block for non-Christians. To anyone who is not a Christian, the cross and blood of Jesus Christ is nonsensical and foolishness. It is no wonder that this is still a major misconception about Christianity even to today.

The third point I will leave to science.

However, I will briefly say two things.

Firstly, is it not interesting that the piece of fossil linking humankind to any other animal has not been found?

Secondly, the idea of adaption I believe points to a far greater God. It shows a deeper side of creation. God knew that the world would change naturally, thus built into animals and humans the ability to adapt. Over thousands of years, fossils suggest, animals have changed and even humans have physically and visibly changed. BUT, they have not at any point completely changed species. Fossil ‘evidence’ that ‘proves’ humankind once stooped over and had a far more prominent jaw does not prove evolution. Just the other day I saw a man who unfortunately had a very prominent nose.

He definitely evolved to be that way.

Hopefully this blog was of some interest. I have only just begun my Christian Apologetics class, so undoubtedly I could write a better apologetic essay in a few months, but in the mean time I endeavor to do my best to convince others to expand their thinking to hopefully include something of a supernatural reality, and hopefully track that towards Jesus Christ.

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On Dying Atheists

Why would I name my blog Thoughts of a Living Christian, you may be wondering. Well, my selection was mostly influenced by the fact that I was listening to Muse’s song ‘Thoughts of a Dying Atheist’, a horrifyingly beautiful piece where Bellamy – a self-professed Atheist – plays the character of a man who has reached the end of his days and is suddenly faced with the morbid fact that, according to his particular beliefs, there is nothing for him once he dies. Faced with the fact that he won’t be reincarnated, won’t appear before the Pearly Gates, won’t receive his 72 virgins; he is suddenly afraid. Firstly, what if he was right and there is simply nothing once he dies; and secondly – and the more terrible of the two – what if he was wrong and he will soon be entering eternal damnation?

Not a very happy topic Aaron, you may now be wondering. And I’m not surprised. It is a normal reaction to be afraid of or become upset by death. Theologically, death is not natural, and came as a result of sin. So why then, would this particular topic be of interest to me?

One of the major reasons is because everyone dies.

Everyone.

You will.

I will.

Your neighbor, your cat, your teacher, that doughnut guy…everyone dies.

Death, therefore, is that inescapable thing that all must face, all must deal with and all must come to terms with.

BUT, it doesn’t have to be as terrifying as society says it is. For example, what happens to a Christian when he/she dies? He/she enters into eternal bliss, where there is no pain, no suffering, and eternal, perfect communion with God. This physical life we exist in at the moment is saturated in sin, drenched in death and putrid with pain. Death nearly seems merciful.

Don’t misinterpret me, however. I am not trying to say that death is good. Death certainly is not good. Death is the cancellation of relationship. What I am merely trying to say is that death need not be feared IF you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, who conquered death.

It is no wonder that Matthew Bellamy fears death. I’m not in any sort of position to judge, but without Christ, he – no matter how awesome his music is – and other Atheists like him, such as Dawkins, are destined for the same fate as this earth and everything from this Earth. But those with Christ are no longer of this Earth. They are no longer destined for death, but have risen with Christ, and live through Him by the Holy Spirit. As Christians, our physical bodies may die, but we need not fear what happens after, for our spirits are now alive, thanks to Jesus Christ.

Hence, this blog should not be taken as depressing, but rather uplifting and encouraging. We now have the option to be alive, through having a relationship with God, and can escape death and fear! Christ has given us a hope that cannot be found on this Earth, a hope that cannot be quenched by any force or defeated by any evil. This, therefore, should be the basis upon which we live. Once understanding this, we can go out into the world and live amongst those who are dead. Like light in darkness, life cannot be defeated by death, but is unmistakable and conquers death.

Perhaps Bellamy and Dawkins will one day have a Damascus moment and one day come to understand true life.

We probably shouldn’t hold our breath though.

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