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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Friendly Atheist Has 78 Questions for Christians: Part 5

We're nearing the end of this series. The remaining questions are a little more random and not as easily grouped to create a theme for my post but some of them need to be addressed. Like I said in the introduction, I knew I wouldn't get to every single question, but I think I'll get to more than I thought I would when I started. I will probably have only one more post after this one.

46) Why is God playing hide-and-seek with all of humanity?

I've written about this before. I would say that God has and does reveal Himself. First, He is clearly seen in His creation (Psalm 19:1, Romans 1:20). He gave His word to the prophets and apostles. His voice was heard audibly at Mt. Sinai and at Jesus' baptism. Most importantly, there is the incarnation – the birth of Jesus, our Emmanuel (“God with us'), where He dwelt among us and we beheld His glory. Today, we have the canon of Scripture to attest to these things and Christians are commanded to go into all the world to make Him known to all the nations. God certainly doesn't hide from humanity.

It's my opinion, though, that even if God appeared to this generation, people who refuse to believe will still refuse to believe. Jesus told the Pharisees that His resurrection would be the sign of His authority yet, after He raised from dead, the Pharisees still refused to believe and even bribed the guards at the tomb to say His disciples stole His body.

The evidence for God is overwhelming and people who refuse to believe will still refuse to believe regardless of how God makes Himself known.

29) Does God speak to you personally?
30) If God spoke to you and told you to kill your child, would you do it?
31) If God told you to kill me, would you do it?
32) Is God always watching over you?
33) How 'bout when you're on the toilet?

I don't believe God ordinarily speaks to people in the same way He spoke to the prophets. If He did, we might ask why we would even need a prophet? God could have just spoken to every person in Israel and given His message rather than having one person say, “Thus saith the LORD...” Now that we have the Scriptures, I don't believe there is any more needs for prophets or apostles at all so I'm even less likely to believe anyone who claims to have heard God speak. Those times in the Bible where He did speak to people are the exceptions, just like the miracles recorded in the Bible are exceptions.

Of course, there are people who are “called.” Some people become preachers, missionaries, or have some other ministry God has “called” them to. Yet even in these instances, the people don't claim that God spoke audibly to them. It is usually through prayer, study, fasting, and seeking God that He has made His will known to them.

I don't claim to understand exactly why God has chosen to speak only through the prophets or through the Scriptures but it's clear that He does.

76) Do you believe childbirth is an example of a miracle?
77) Does that mean Hitler was once a miracle baby?
78) And if childbirth is a miracle, how come that miracle happens thousands and thousands of times every week?

I believe life is a miracle. I believe the human body is a marvelous machine that virtually screams of design. I believe the DNA molecule is the fingerprint of God's hand in the creation. I believe the “scientific” term, abiogenesis, is merely a rehashed version of spontaneous generation which was tossed into the trash bin of bad scientific theories along with bloodletting.

What I can't understand is how people can look at the wonder, the complexity, and the design that is present everywhere in the universe and sit, cross-armed and shaking their heads saying it's still not enough evidence for God. Like I said, they refuse to believe!

47) Do you believe that Jesus is coming back to earth during your lifetime?
48) If you do, what do you say to all those people who have been saying the same thing for centuries and are no longer with us?

Matthew 24:36 says that only the Father knows the day and hour Christ will return. Jesus did give us signs to look for that would precede His return. Obviously, we're closer to His return than any generation before us which is perhaps why we see these things happening with more and more frequency.

Maybe Jesus will come in my lifetime. Maybe not. How am I supposed to know? I do know that it's going to happen, though, and Matthew says it will be like it was in the days of Noah. Genesis tells us that God proclaimed His Spirit will not always strive with men. For 120 years, people continued as they always had – eating, drinking, marrying – then the Flood came!

2 Peter 3:3-4 talks about this attitude: Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation. We should not interpret Christ's delay to mean He's not coming.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

A Friendly Atheist Has 78 Questions for Christians: Part 4

Several of the questions Hemant Mehta asked in his video, 78 Questions for Christians, have to do with homosexuality. In this short video, Mehta never explains his point in asking any particular question but, rather, lets the question speak for itself. In many cases, the viewer can see how a question is provocative. In the cases of these questions, though, I'm not sure what Mehta is getting at. I do have some ideas, of course, which I'll expound upon in my answers.

39) Is acting on one's homosexuality a sin?
40) Is homosexuality itself a sin?

I suspect Mehta doesn't think homosexuality is a sin. Just to be clear, though, according to atheists, there is no such thing as sin at all. Let me ask Mehta a question: is it morally wrong for an adult man to lust after a 6 year old girl, even if he doesn't act on it? Why? A sin is usually defined as a transgression against a divine law. So, if there is no divine law, how can there be any sin? Even though Mehta doesn't believe in sin, he still wants his Christian viewers to take a stand on this point. I'll explain why I think he's doing this.

Homosexuality and transgender issues are hot buttons in social and political dialogues. For Christians to say homosexuality is a sin is to invite the label of “bigot” and “homophobe.” If Christians answer, yes, to these questions, Mehta believes he exposes Christians as being intolerant. If we answer, no, then we are casting doubt on the authority of God's word. It's sort of like that loaded question, “Have you stopped beating your wife?”

Mehta has no moral standard by which he can judge anything as wrong. He asks these questions rhetorically – not sincerely. Even so, I'll still answer him. We are all sinners. The things we do aren't the sins, they're the symptoms of our sin. Think about it: it's not telling a lie that makes you a liar. You were a liar before you spoke the lie, when you decided in your heart that you would lie. When you finally spoke the lie, you were just doing what liars do. So, yes, homosexuality is a sin – even before a person acts on it. You can call me intolerant if you want but the truth is intolerant.

41) Do you believe gays and lesbians should have the right to legally get married?
42) Would your church ever marry a gay or lesbian couple?
43) If not, and you believe that they should have the right to marry, why do you remain in that church?

Mehta posted this video 3 years ago, before the Supreme Court issued its decision that made gay marriage “legal.” I put legal in quotes because gay marriage was already legal, even prior to the decision. Two men could go to a church, have a ceremony, exchange vows, exchange rings, open joint checking accounts, buy a house, and live happily ever after. There was never any chance they would be be arrested and sent to prison because of it. The difference was that I didn't have to consider them to be married. The Court's decision didn't affect them – it affected me.

In Matthew 19:4-5, when asked about marriage, Jesus answered, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female... For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? It's clear from this passage that Jesus defines marriage as being between one man and one woman. Liberal churches that perform gay “marriages” are clearly at odds with God's word and His plan for marriage. I would ask why any Christians would remain at those churches?

44) Why would God create people who are gay and then punish them for being gay?

First, there is no definitive study to show that people are born gay so there are no grounds to say, God created them that way. But even if people are born gay, being born with a condition doesn't automatically make that condition normal and good. There are plenty of congenital disorders that we treat people for. If we someday discover a “gay gene,” homosexuality will still be a sin.

Regardless, God doesn't punish people just for being gay. Gay people are also liars and thieves and murderers. They are just like every other person – sinners in need of repentance. We are all guilty of sin and are all condemned. However, the Bible says that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

45) If God is already sending gay people who act on their homosexuality to hell, why do so many Christians fell the need to persecute them here on earth?

There is so much here that I'm not sure where to start. What does Mehta mean by, “so many”? Is he talking about groups like the Westboro Baptists? Besides them, I don't know of any self-identified Christians who persecute gays. When I think of people who actually assault gays, I think of rowdy men, maybe drunk, maybe being egged on by their buddies, acting out on effeminate men much like a bully on the playground picks on the smallest kid. They're not sincere Christians engaged in some holy crusade to rid the world gays through violence.

I would also ask what does Mehta mean by persecution? Does he consider Christians just calling gays, sinners, to be persecution? In that case, Christians are at war with all the lost people of the world – only not to harm them, but to save them! I guess some people, though, don't like being told they're sinners and so they feel like we're “persecuting” them.

Christians are commanded to love our neighbor. Part of loving them is telling them they're wrong. It doesn't help a drug addict, for example, to say, “God loves you just the way you are.” That message actually hurts him. What we say instead is, “Dude, you're out of control. Drugs are ruining you life. If you don't stop, you're going to die!” We don't say these things because we are judging the drug addict but because we are trying to help him. Likewise, we tell sinners about their sins – not because we are judging them but because we want them to see their need for a Savior.

The old saying is that ignorance is bliss. It's hard for some people to hear the truth. If a gay person is told that homosexuality is a sin, it upsets his fantasy that he can live however he wants and there will be no consequence. They become angry at the Christian who tells him the word, like a dog in a pit tries to bite the person who reaches in to help him.

Proverbs 14:12 says, There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Some people think it's OK to be gay. They're wrong.  When we tell them they're wrong, we're not persecuting them – we're trying to rescue them!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Friendly Atheist Has 78 Questions for Christians: Part 3

In Hemant Mehta's video, 78 Questions for Christians, he asked several questions concerning the truth of Christianity – especially when compared to other religions. We'll discuss these in this post.

28) If a group of people came from, say, Africa, came to your community with the intent to convert you to their tribal faith, would you listen to them and take them seriously or would you just dismiss them because they don't believe what you already believe?
34) What do you say to Muslims who believe the Quran is the Holy Book?
35) Are they wrong?
36) Have you read the Quran?
37) And why do you so easily dismiss their Holy Book?
38) And then why do you get upset at atheists who dismiss yours?

I believe in God, I believe in Jesus, and I believe the Bible. I believe these things for the same reasons I believe anything – I think they're real, true, and correct. Of course, I wasn't always a Christian and I didn't always believe the Bible. From a starting point of doubt and skepticism, I sought answers and became convinced that God is real and the Bible is true.

It's not possible here to cite everything that convinced me to become a Christian. I've written before about five, quick arguments for the existence of God. I believe the crux of those is point 4 – the historical fact of Jesus. The Bible is not like other books of religion. It was written over hundreds of years by dozens of people. Jesus had a very public ministry. He spoke to crowds, performed miracles, died publicly, and appeared alive again to hundreds of people. His words and miracles were recorded by eyewitnesses and the veracity of the New Testament far surpasses any other book of antiquity.

I simply cannot examine every religion in the world. Nevertheless, they all have their chance in the arena of ideas. Anyone who claims to have the truth, I will listen to him. How do his claims compare to the Bible? To whom did his revelation come – to one or to many? Is there archaeological and scientific evidence? Is there historical evidence? What is the provenance of his religious book?

Truth is exclusive. All world religions could be wrong but they can't all be right. Still, there is far more reason to believe the Bible than any other claim to the truth.

23) Is there anything in your life right now that makes you doubt God's existence?
24) If you did doubt God's existence, how would your life change?

This question is vague. Is Mehta asking if I could doubt the existence of Yahweh or of any god? I know Yahweh lives but, if something could ever make me doubt that, I still wouldn't stop believing in an eternal, supernatural, personal creator of the universe. If I believed there was no god, I would be a fool.

61) What would it take to change your mind about God's existence?
62) Do you think it's a little strange when someone says they're going to believe in something no matter what, even when all the evidence seems to point to the other direction?

Atheists play word games. For example, they often say that atheism isn't a belief there's no god but rather a lack of belief in God. It's a subtle difference but they say this to avoid the logical fallacy of asserting a universal negative. But here, Mehta is saying that “all the evidence seems to point to the other direction” of there being a God. Really, Mehta? “All” the evidence? I have yet to hear any evidence for atheism.

I've written before that some atheists proudly boast that their fundamental argument is a lack of the evidence for God. If atheists want to say they aren't convinced by the evidence for God, then that's a different story. But let's be clear here: there is no evidence that God doesn't exist.

65) Why are there so many Christian denominations?
66) And are the people who are in those different denominations bad Christians? Are they wrong?
67) Which denomination is right?
68) Or which group of denominations is right?

We talked about this a little in my community group at Church a few weeks ago. There, I said that Catholics aren't Christians. Baptists aren't Christians. Only Christians are Christians!

Different denominations doesn't always mean different beliefs. Sometimes, denominations simply represent how Christians have chosen to organize and govern themselves. For example, one group of Christians might assemble into one, large, organization where each community is just a local branch of the larger organization. Another denomination might be made up of independent, local churches where each community is autonomous.

Of course, a denomination can sometimes be identified by certain practices in its services. Different people have different views on things like the use of instruments in their music, if they should pay their pastors, do they take up offerings, how to ordain pastors or deacons, how to support missionaries, etc. Many of these different practices have no bearing on the gospel or what is required for salvation. In that case, there are no right or wrong denominations – only differences.

There are some groups, though, that might be called “denominations” but aren't Christian. Jehovah's Witnesses and the LDS are examples. These types of groups claim to believe in Jesus but they have a different understanding of who Jesus is. They believe in some other Jesus, not the Person described in the Bible.

73) Do you think it's just a coincidence that different religions are popular in different parts of the world?
74) Do you believe that if you were born in Saudi Arabia, you would be a Muslim rather than a Christian?
75) Is it possible that religion has less to do with what's true and more to do with the circumstances of where and when you were born?

I'm not sure how relevant the question is. Of course we're products of our culture. If I were born in Japan, I would probably speak Japanese, right? But how would that make Shinto or Buddhism true and Christianity false? If I were home schooled and only taught creationism, would that make creation true? If I were educated in public schools and only taught evolution, does that make evolution true? The truth exists regardless of what different people in different places believe.

There are different people in different parts of the world that don't have the truth. Jesus has commanded, Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20). Preach and teach. That's the job of every Christian.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

A Friendly Atheist Has 78 Questions for Christians: Part 2

Hemant Mehta describes himself as a friendly atheist. In his video, 78 Questions for Christians, he groups the questions according to subject. The first section dealt with heaven and hell. The next section deals with prayer. I've numbered the questions according to how Mehta numbered them but I've rearranged them in my answer.

10) Whose prayers does God answer?
11) And if it's ultimately God's will what happens, why even bother praying?

We can see from the questions that Mehta has a very rudimentary understanding of what prayer is. For example, what does it mean for God to “answer” a prayer? Judging by the Mehta's list of questions about prayer, Mehta certainly believes “prayer” means “asking God for things” and “answered prayer” means “God gives you what you ask.” I could paraphrase the two questions above as:

Who gets what he asks?
If nobody gets what he asks, why even bother praying?

It sounds a little shallow when I phrase it like that, doesn't it? That's because it is shallow. Mehta has caste God as a year 'round Santa Claus and, every day, we get to tell Him what we want in our stocking. Just think about this: what kind of relationship would you have with your child if he only ever talked to you when he wanted something? And if you didn't do everything he asks, he would stop talking to you? If my children were like that, I'd be both very hurt and very angry. Yet this is apparently how Mehta thinks our relationship with God should be. I've written about this before, people have a false idea of who God is, then claim He must not exist because they can't find a god who acts like they imagined.

Jesus gave His disciples a model of prayer, often called the Lord's Prayer. He said, “Pray like this....” If you examine the prayer, you'll see that includes things like acknowledging God as our Father, praising Him, desiring His will to be done, and asking Him to forgive our sins and keep us away from temptations. Of course, we do also ask Him to help meet our needs – our “daily bread” - but Metha seems to think that's all prayer is.

Have you ever heard the child's prayer of grace? “God is great, God is good. Thank you, Lord, for this food.” What a wonderful prayer! Praise – thanksgiving – adoration – all presented in a few simple words. If all Christians prayed like this – praising God, seeking His will, asking for forgiveness and seeking His guidance – then revival would break out in America.

James 4:3 says, Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. I know I'm not a model Christian so I can't say my prayer life is where it should be. But if I spent all my prayer time telling God what I want Him to do for me, I would feel more spoiled than edified. Unfortunately, too many Christians spend their prayer time focusing more on themselves than God.

8) If your son or daughter were dying – and I hope that never happens – would you just pray for them or would you take them to a doctor?
9) And if you say you'd do both, which one do you think has more of an impact?

Unfortunately, my son and daughter are dying. My step sons are dying, too. My wife is dying. My mother and siblings are dying. My wife's family is dying. I'm dying. Everyone reading my blog is dying. Romans 5:12 says, Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. It's not a question of if you're dying – it's only a question of when. And, yes, prayer is THE most important thing I can do for my children, my spouse, my family, and my readers – especially if death is imminent. It's my prayer that they will all seek Christ, ask for His forgiveness, accept Him as their Lord, and be saved.

If my child were sick or hurt, yes, I'd take him to the doctor. I would pray that God would help him recover, that He would give the doctors and nurses wisdom, that He would give my son comfort, and give me peace. Above all this, though, I pray that my son comes to Christ. Let's face it, doctors can't stave off death forever. One day death will claim everyone I love and, at that time, all the doctors in the world are useless. But if my prayers have been answered, then they will have had an infinitely greater impact.

12) If you have cancer right now, what's going to help you more: drugs or prayer?
13) Let's say you have an amputated limb. Would prayer ever bring it back?

Several years ago, I wrote a series in response to the video, “Why Won't God Heal Amputees?” Certainly, Jesus is able to heal us. Luke 22:50-51 tells us that Jesus healed the ear of Malchus after Peter had cut it off with a sword so I know that Jesus is able to heal even a severed limb. It's just that I don't expect Him to miraculously heal people today like He did during His ministry.

Jesus overtly said that He did miracles to demonstrate His authority. In Mark 2:1-12, Jesus healed a paralyzed man to prove He had the authority to forgive sins. In John 11, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead to show Martha that He is the resurrection and the life. When Jesus appointed His disciples, He gave them the ability to perform miracles including healing the sick and raising the dead (Matthew 10:7-8). This was to show their authority to preach in God's name. But now we have the Scriptures to evidence His authority and the need for miracles has passed.

Jesus has promised us an eternity where there is no more pain or sorrow or death but paradise is not on this earth nor in these bodies. This is a cursed world where there is sickness and disease. Does Metha think we should be able to pray and no one should ever die or even get sick? I guess he does. Like I said, he has a very rudimentary understanding of prayer.

16) If you had an exam coming up, what do you think would help you more: prayer or studying for the test?

Heck, why even bother with school – or even a job? I could just stay home and pray that God mails me a paycheck! Really, Metha? God never commanded us to do nothing. In fact, He condemns laziness. Matthew 5:16 says, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. We should strive to be the hardest workers, the best students, the friendliest neighbors, etc. And, yes, we should seek God's help while doing this. There's an old saying that says we should work like it depends on us and pray like it depends on Him!

18) What matters to God more: the quantity of prayers or the quality of prayers?
19) If it's the quantity that matters, how come the most popular team doesn't always win the Super Bowl?
20) And if it's the quality that matters, how come people we really love, people who are close to us, how come they die no matter what we say to God?
21) Is it possible that your prayers have no supernatural effect and only serve to make you feel better?
22) And if that were true, would you ever admit it?

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “pray without ceasing.” If you were to walk through the mall with your spouse or drive down the road with your child, wouldn't you talk to them? Well, we're never truly alone because God is always with us so I try to talk to God just like that – like He's sitting there next to me. I tell Him I love Him. I thank Him for all He does for me. I tell Him about things I struggle with and ask for His guidance.

I believe that, as we draw closer to God, His will becomes our will. When that happens, we worry less about how things affect us. When things are going well, some Christians will say, “God is blessing me.” When things aren't going well, some Christians will say, “God is testing me.” I think if we prayed like we should, more Christians would start to say, “It's not about me.”

Lord, help my team win the Super Bowl. Don't let anyone in my family get sick or die. That's how a 5-year-old prays.

O Lord, I come to You with praise. You alone are good. You alone are worthy to be worshiped. Let me know Your will and give me the strength to be obedient. Forgive my sins and let me rest in Your mercies. Let me trust in You for everything I need and let my thanksgiving never end! Amen! These are the kinds of prayers that get answered!