44. God is not a _____!

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Reconnect Episode 44

Maybe when you see a fill-in the blank about God not being something, or someone, your mind runs to fill it in with something akin to the title of the 2007 Christopher Hitchens’ book, God is not Good. Maybe you’d fill in the blank by saying something like “God is not a merciful, forgiving God.” This is certainly what Richard Dawkins thinks, as he wrote in his bestselling book, The God Delusion:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

But that’s not what this episode is about at all! This episode looks at false views of God emerging from within the Church.

Christians, in our sinfulness, far too often approach God in ways that are contrary to how he is revealed to us in Scripture. Sometimes, these presentations might come from people who claim to be Christians, but are really not! They might be false teachers, or people who think they are followers of Christ, but in reality they are far from God, based upon their confessions of who he is, and, or, their approach to interacting with him in their day to day life.

In this episode, Stephen Puls, joins me again; this time to discuss some false views and approaches to God that we far too often see in the Church.

For instance, we might approach God as a Black Hawk helicopter God. We expect him to swoop in and save us from all of our trials and tribulations. But is such deliverance from all earthly afflictions promised in Scripture? No, it’s not. God is not a Black Hawk helicopter God.

Another example of a false approach is treat God as a magic genie! We simply approach him again and again for things that we need and want, and that’s it. That’s the bulk of our interaction with him. What happens when such prayers are not answered in the affirmative? Will our faith be shaken? Will others who are not Christians, laugh and mock our God for not responding to our prayers as we expect him to?

Sometimes we treat God as a vending machine. We expect to get blessings from him, but they come at an expense! We have to pay in some fashion to receive God’s gifts. We treat all of our dealings with God in transactional terms: I prayed; I went to Church; I went on that mission trip; so I expect x, y, or z, from you in return, God!

Stephen shares these and many more false views and approaches to God in this episode. And most importantly, he shares a true view and approach to God: God is an anchor God!

Show Links:

Another episode featuring Stephen Puls: “Religions, Atheism, and Wars!”

Andy Wrasman’s Blog Posts on “Who is God?”

Order Andy Wrasman’s book, Contradict – They Can’t All Be True

What do all religions have in common?

Building off the last post, after hearing the difficulty of defining the word religion, how do you define what is a religion so that everything that we generally call a religion is included, yet everything we generally consider to be secular is excluded?

Reading Michael Molloy’s Experiencing the World’s Religions I learned that the etymology of the word religion is two words, “re” and “lig”.  “Re” means again; makes sense, reply, rebound, repeat, etc.  “Lig” means “to connect” or “to join,” as in ligament.  Together, religion means “to connect again.”

This concept is easily found in most religions.  They offer ways or processes of returning to some sort of original state of mankind that has been lost or severed from some problem.  For Christianity, the problem is sin that separated Adam and Eve from God and thrust them out of the Garden of Eden.  Their sin then was passed on to all men and the ultimate effect of our sin is eternal death and separation from God.  The way to “reconnect” with God and that original state of humanity before the “Fall” is through faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  Other religions offer a different problem, a different separation, and a different way or path of reconnecting with that original state of being.

Moving beyond the etymology of religion, Molloy says that instead of making a set definition that can encompass all religions it is best to simply list common characteristics of religions.  He lists 8 common characteristics and I address them in the following video:

After watching the video, post a comment giving examples of how the 8 elements are found within Christianity.  Also, ask yourself, does Atheism have these 8 elements?  If it does, then should it be considered a religion?  If it doesn’t, should it not be considered a religion?

Why Do We Need To Teach High School Students Apologetics?

I don’t think many churches are teaching apologetics.  I know some that are, but I think they are the exception, not the norm.  I was never taught apologetics in high school.  The best answer I was given to why I should believe the Bible to be the word of God was to read 1 Timothy 3:16 – not the best answer!  In fact I wonder if that answer damaged the faith of the high school peer that asked it.

Here is a sampling of feedback I received from high school students after their first unit test on Christian Apologetics:

This section significantly helped me very much so. Not by strengthening my faith, I didn’t actually have any doubts or skepticisms about the Gospel that needed answering. I am already very strong in my faith. The way it helped me so much, is by making it easier for me to answer other people’s questions. Being a faithful Christian, many of my non-religious or skeptical friends, come to me looking for guidance or answers regarding Scripture. I would give them pretty good answers that would generally leave them feeling satisfied. Now I feel like I can answer all of their questions 110%, eliminating any doubt or fear in their minds.

This apologetics section definitely helped me to learn to better defend my faith. I have a lot of non-Christian friends who I regularly converse with about my religion, so this class gave me new tools & talking points that I can discuss with them, as well as raised new questions that I have further researched on my own. The most significant thing I learned was about the historical authenticity of Jesus’ life & the fact that there were pagan historians who affirmed Jesus’ life.

Yes, after studying this past month I have learned that I knew very little about how to defend my faith to those who don’t understand.

Studying the reliability of the Gospels and answering questions about who Jesus is helped me throughout my beliefs and doubts. As I was researching and reading the book, my doubts on the Christianity faded away, since it seems so true! There are so many evidences that Jesus was a real, existed figure and that he has been resurrected. These studies answered my question of if Jesus even existed because I sometimes thought that Jesus could be just a fictional character. The most significant thing I have learned from this section of the class is that only the New Testament had time gap less than 100 between the original and the copies.

Studying the Gospels and the questions about who Jesus is really helped, as it helps me to have more apologetic evidence to further back my faith, both in my own mind and to defend it to other people. The most significant thing I learned were the reasons for believing the resurrection. Since I don’t often see miracles, hearing of someone being legitimately dead, and the rising again, is worthy of attention. But it is also hard to believe. Reading the evidences for it helped strengthen the idea in my mind.

Studying the reliability of the Gospels and answering questions about who he is definitely helped me. I have gotten into situations before where I wish I had the knowledge that I need to answer various questions from friends. I feel more equipped to get into discussions from now on.

These questions have made me much more knowledgeable on the Gospels and Jesus. Before I just believed in these things because I knew that I should. Now I know that these things actually happened and are actually true. I feel a lot more confident in my faith now and feel like I can talk to people about Christ more now because I can support what I believe in.

If you still have any doubts about why you should apologetics in your church, send me a message or leave a comment.  If you need some help or suggestions in getting started, send me a message or leave a comment.  Thank you for your time and for reading.

Daoism – What is it, who believes it, who practices it, and how does it compare to Christianity?

My goal is to create group discussion guides for each religious symbol within the Contradict logo.  So far, I have one made for Hinduism and one made for Daoism.  I create a leader’s guide that gives suggested answers and Bible verses to be read for each question.  My goal however is to have participant’s be able to provide great answers on their own because all the questions are compare and contrast questions between Daoism and Christianity.  All the questions are very open ended and could go anywhere.  I hope that after such a small group discussion all the participants will be able to recognize Daoism’s influence in Western culture and to be able to share the Gospel and the truth of God’s Word in connection to themes and practices of Daoism whenever they arise in day to day life.

Here are the links to the Daoism guides:

Leader’s Guide

Participant’s Guide

I’d love to hear feedback on these guides, especially if you use them to guide a small group discussion.

To close here is a Daoism video that can be used to introduce the discussion:

What about those born into other religions? Isn’t God playing favorites?

What about those born into other religions?  Isn’t God playing favorites?

English: Richard Dawkins giving a lecture base...

English: Richard Dawkins giving a lecture based on his book, The God Delusion, in Reykjavik (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

This is a common argument that comes up quite a lot by people who reject the Christian faith because of exclusivity of salvation as being by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  Usually, the argument is thrown out to people who grew up in predominantly Christian regions of the world.  Outspoken Atheist, Richard Dawkins refers to this situation as the result of “childhood indoctrination.”  In the Preface of his best-selling book, The God Delusion, Dawkins writes:

If you feel trapped in the religion of your upbringing, it would be worth asking yourself how this came about.  The answer is usually some form of childhood indoctrination.  If you are religious at all it is overwhelmingly probable that your religion is that of your parents.  If you were born in Arkansas and you think Christianity is true and Islam false, knowing full well that you would think the opposite if you had been born in Afghanistan, you are the victim of childhood indoctrination.

Sadly, Dawkins is likely correct for many religious adherents.  Many people would attest that their faith is the result of their upbringing and they don’t have any answers to share to back up their faith besides pointing to the claims of their religious texts (Christians – the Bible is true because it says it is true) or their subjective experience during prayer (Mormons – just pray and you’ll feel the burning in your bosom that Mormonism is true).  I know my faith is a product of my upbringing, and I don’t deny it.  However, I and many other Christians point outside of our experience to observable evidence such as the fine-tuning of the universe for life on earth for the existence of God and we then point to the historical evidence of the person of Jesus Christ.  The Christian faith is grounded in history and the authors of the New Testament pain-mistakenly made efforts to ensure their accounts portray this fact.  You can sift through this blog more to find answers to back-up the validity of the Christian faith via historical examination, but I want to address this question from a different angle.  Since “child indoctrination” doesn’t apply to everyone who is a Christian, or follower of another faith, I think the complaint of Dawkins can be boiled down to fairness.  If God is real and a correct understanding and truth about him and trust in him are key components of salvation, it’s not fair that some are born in positions where they likely will become adherents of the WRONG religion.  Since this doesn’t seem fair, then God must not exist, because God must be fair.

As I have answered previous questions from time to time, here I go again with a statement of validation, Socratic style answering, a straight answer, and Scripture to back up the answer.

Validation:

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking that I’m a Christian, because I grew up in a Christian family, a Christian culture, that if I grew up in Turkey, I’d likely be a Muslim, or that if I grew up in India, I’d probably be a Hindu.  I’d agree with you; it’s not always the case, but more often than not we are often a product of our environment.  The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as the saying goes.  It seems as if God is playing favorites, since some people are born into lives that appear to be more fertile to having a relationship with him.

Socratic Method:

“How is it playing favorites, if Jesus died to take away the sins of all people?”

“Is it really playing favorites, if we are all sinful and deserving of condemnation?  For God to remain just and not overlook lawlessness, he had to send his one and only Son, Jesus Christ to die as a substitutionary sacrifice.  Does God have to go through such pain and suffering, considering we are all guilty of sin?  Shouldn’t we be fortunate that he has paved a way for us to have salvation?”

“Where do you stand in the so-called “favorites” ranking?  Have you heard the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ?”

Answer:

The Bible is very clear that God does not show favoritism. He is the savior of all men.  Jesus’ last words to his disciples before ascending to heaven were commands that they should make disciples of all nations.  (Matthew 28:18-20)  He even promised that it would happen and that the disciples would receive power through the Holy Spirit to accomplish that feat.  (Acts 1:7-8)  It is clear in Scripture that people from all races, nations, and tongues will have salvation and be with God in heaven.  This is already evident now if you look on a map of the spread of religions.  Christianity is the only religion that is diverse enough to have spread across the globe, breaking through all sorts of barriers of language, culture, ethnicity, and lines of nationality.  Jesus even promised that the end would not come until the Gospel has been preached to all nations.  (Matthew 24:14)  It is clear that Jesus does not show favorites due to place of birth.

Scripture:

Galatians 3:26-29 – “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Revelation 7:9 – “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.”

Acts 10:34 – “Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.”