Saturday, March 14, 2020

If We Would Just Catch Our Breath

It has been broadly accepted that mankind is nothing more than a highly evolved animal, not really any different from any other living thing out there. No other animal is even remotely like us in the ability to reason, or to will, or to communicate, or to abstract, but according to the modern conception that is only a matter of degree rather than substance. I don't believe that, but then, what makes man so special in my view? In the early chapters of Genesis, we are told exactly what that is and especially with regard to all other life.

The creation account in the beginning of Genesis is really an elucidation of God’s determination to make mankind in his image. The creation of the universe itself and all other lifeforms is treated as the backdrop to that ultimate aim. No more explanation than “and God said…and God saw that it was good” is offered for all of those creations, but for mankind a bit more needed to be said. The thrust is that mankind is unique, special among God's creations with something nothing else in all the physical world has.

Mankind was made in the image of God, which means they are a likeness resembling God. God is non-corporeal and outside of the created order (John 4:241 Timothy 1:17), which means that man’s resemblance to God is not physical but something else. Physically, mankind is much like anything else that is alive and is separated by mere degree from all else. However, nothing else is like mankind in those areas of divergence noted above and that is where the image of God shines forth. God is the only thing other than man (and angels) that shares those qualities.

Presumptively, God fashioned man, physically, from the same material he had used to make other creatures. Whereas they were brought forth from the earth by a mere word, mankind was formed [Hebrew: yatsar] by God in the manner of a potter and then directly breathed into by God which granted man soulish life. Although later in the creation account, that word (formed) was applied generally to all the creatures God had made, I find it interesting that in dealing with the detail of creation, a clear difference in how that played out is specified.

Whereas a general, creative word was sufficient for every other creature, with man God got his hands dirty and infused his own breath into Adam. Every creature had living being [Hebrew: nephesh chayyah, the animation of living being] granted by God, but had so without any reference to breath breathed into it by God himself. For creatures, God merely said, "Let the earth bring forth..." For man, God took dust in his hand and formed the creature, then breathed out of himself into man's nostrils the breath of life.

What is important about this distinction, it seems to me, is that the quality that makes mankind’s living souls uniquely from God is also the means by which God’s image was uniquely communicated to man. We are in God's image, not just because we are like God descriptively, but because we came directly from God substantively. We are, in essence, breath from God. Human beings truly are the offspring of God.

As wonderful as that is, it has a drawback--it means we last forever, just like God. God is eternal and the breath that came out of God and was put into man (and made him a living soul) lasts forever too. Therefore, people never cease to exist, their soul is eternal. Ultimately, body and soul will brought together, as at first, and permanently assigned to their place of eternal abiding. So the only question about our future existence is not if we will, but where we will and under what conditions.

We certainly can't be destroyed, anymore than God can!

Most of us are only all too aware of our need for the redemption our broken, dying bodies: physical death, and what leads up to it, is enough to get that message across. Thankfully, we have the necessary vicarious sacrifice in the death of Christ and his victorious resurrection from the dead for that, provided we place our trust in him. But what is the more essential need included in the mix is the redemption of our eternal souls, those whisps of the very breath of God which last forever. Everlasting life is in our hands from the scarred hands of Christ, if we would just pause in faith and catch our breath.

Monday, March 9, 2020

A Christian Worldview: What Should We Do?

Solomon was an interesting figure. Blessed with incredible wisdom, intelligence, wealth and power, he decided to test drive life by his own wits. He set out to figure it all out and experience everything he could. He studied everything he could, sought out every kind of pleasure he could find, built great projects, amassed fantastic wealth, and at every turn felt nothing but emptiness. Famously, he decried, "All is vanity and a striving after the wind," in despair at the discovery.

He looked at the people around him and saw they experienced the same thing—emptiness. The Hebrew word translated emptiness or vanity throughout Ecclesiastes (hebel) literally refers to breath or vapor. Quite accurately it conveys the fleeting quality of thing that seemed to be there but then wasn't. For Solomon, after all of his efforts, achievements and experiences, life boiled down to a merciless sentence with emptiness at every comma and a period ending it all in the suddenness of death.

A very dour perspective, to be sure, but all that matters is whether or not it’s true. 

Despite the endless despair over the emptiness of human existence cited throughout Ecclesiastes, a positive conclusion came at the end. “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man,” Solomon averred. Now that is a perspective we can live with! In very practical terms it makes living through so much meaninglessness meaningful with the added benefit that it's easy to remember.

"Recognize God, respect him as your creator, live life in regard to him" is how I would state it. That may seem very “Old Testamenty” from a New Testament vantage, but it translates readily into a Christian worldview. For Christians, life revolves around recognizing Christ as God in the flesh, respecting him as Savior, and living in regard to him. What Solomon learned the hard way Christians can adopt by faith, and without all the bumps and bruises along the way that come when one of trusts in oneself.

Honestly, there is only thing in life that isn’t wasting away, that crosses the threshold of death and remains in eternity--our relationship with Christ. This is the only thing of worth we will ever have in this life and the only thing we can improve upon and have stand the test of time. It certainly is the only thing we can take with us. All the things that humans treasure and labor for and try to preserve and protect from the savages of time (and savages themselves) matters not a whit in the end.

Only what we have with Christ matters!

The only thing of any real value in life is knowing God on friendly terms. So why are people, supposedly with a Christian worldview, working at anything else? By not developing this kind of Christian worldview and living by it, believers end up living in a tug of war between the flesh and faith, between the world and the Spirit. They live defeated, worldly, empty lives and feel uncertainty about their place in the end. It doesn't have to be this way, vanity is not unavoidable.

Living with Jesus eyes is the only way to live at all. Anything else is a waste of time.

So put first things first. Above all, know God, not as a precept or a theory, but personally, as a constant companion that you want to be with. Then, simply go where he goes, do what he does, and say what he says. Live with life revolving around Jesus. If we don’t put the most important thing first, in the end, we’ll have nothing. That would be the vanity of all vanities.

What went before...

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

A Christian Worldview: Where Are We Going?

In the last post I mentioned that the antidote to the place we find ourselves in is Jesus Christ, but what is it that gets people to come to Christ the antidote? Certainly, God is the most fundamental answer, but if God's effort was all that was needed to get people to the antidote, God would bring everyone to Christ and everyone would be saved. But that is not what happens--it does not comport with reality scripturally or materially. Whatever God does in the hearts of people to draw them to Christ has to be coupled with something that is not up to God to accomplish, otherwise, everyone would come to Christ and be saved.

That something is faith.

It takes faith in the antidote to actually avail oneself of the antidote. Faith in Christ like this is impossible for the depraved mind we spoke of in the last post to express, but it is also impossible for faith like this to be imposed. It wouldn't be faith in that case, it would be something more akin to instinct. So two elements need to come together to produce the faith connection to Christ: God, the Spirit empowering; and a willful reaction to trust God from the human heart. Like epoxy, two elements mix together to make a bond that works.

The old adage says that one can lead a horse to water but he can't make him drink. The Holy Spirit convicts, draws, we might go so far as to say woos the sinful human, but the Holy Spirit cannot and does not believe for him. Enabled by the Spirit's action, we must believe for ourselves. If we won't, God will not do it for us, and we won't be saved. The snag in all this, it seems to me, is that big word, REPENTANCE.

Repentance means to change one's mind, to realize after determining a course, that it was not the right course, and so changing directions. We tend to fixate on the small population of our own misdeeds when thinking about repentance, but that doesn't really get to the root of things. To repent of the thing that really ails us we have to go back to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. True repentance lies in undoing what Adam and Eve did.

Adam and Eve thought their judgment was as good as God's, we have to unthink that. Adam and Eve saw themselves on par with God as to determination of the what and wheres of life, we must "unsee" ourselves as like that. The thing Adam and Eve despaired over with regard to God, we must repair by the application of the cross and the victory of the resurrection. Simply put, we must stop trusting ourselves and start trusting God.

Pop psychology pushes people to trust in themselves, and seems to assume that people don't do so enough. As far as I have seen, most people have “trust-in-self” in spades. They really aren’t interested in trusting God, but they'll trust in their self, independent of God, even if their lives are falling apart. Pride? Perhaps. Yet, so many of those same folks still want eternal paradise, they're just not so hot on the whole overbearing God thing.

But if one doesn't love and trust God, one wouldn't like heaven.

An all-expense-paid trip to Disney World would be totally unappealing to me. I’m not interested in Disney characters, I don’t like standing in line, I have no interest in animatronics and I’m much more interested in experiencing a thrill in movement than watching a cheesy production. To top it off, I hate Florida! The heat and humidity are as close to hell as I hope ever to be. Why would I ever want to go to Disney World, even if offered an all-expense paid trip?

A similar question could be posed rhetorically to some folks regarding heaven. Heaven is all about God. Everyone there trusts him implicitly, everything there serves him unquestioningly, everyone there is fascinated by him, everything there is perfectly aligned to his will (and the people and angels there, willingly so). You see, everyone there is conformed to the image of Christ. For some folks that holds no allure. They may not want to go to hell, but they really don’t want to have life revolve around Jesus either!

The point of this life is not to get an all-expense-paid trip out of hell, nor to have life cease working against us (as in reversing the curse here and now). The point is changing our mind about God and ourselves, about realizing our need for Jesus and embracing a framework for living that revolves around trusting God rather than ourselves. A Christian worldview arises out of repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ.

So where are we heading as Christians?

Toward Christ in trust. Toward knowing Christ as Lord. Toward becoming just like him. A Christian worldview sees life revolving around God. Anything less is a fallacy. So turn to him today. Follow him tomorrow. Be at it next week. Make it the principle that governs all your living. That's where a Christian needs to be going.

How then shall we live...

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

A Christian Worldview: How Did We Get Here? Part II

As established in Part 1, seeing life through Jesus eyes entails seeing the world and the life in it as created by God. None of us is an accident of chance (not even the lowly amoeba is); instead, all life is the result of God actively creating life at some point in the past and then ceasing thereafter from creating life. Furthermore, this perspective is one that actually comports with reality, whereas any viewpoint excluding the existence of a creator and relying upon random chance and processes that could be active today does not.

That, however, leaves us with the questions of why life is what it is and why humans are what they are. What of suffering, and death, and evil? What kind of Creator must we have when there is such misery in the creation that creator has made? The texts of Genesis 3:14-24 and Romans 1:18-32 yield an answer, which is really quite robust and needs to be braided into any Christian worldview.

Simply put, the reason that conditions are what they are is that God is angry. The word used to describe God’s attitude toward life, particularly human life (Romans 1) is wrath [Koine: orge]. Literally, the word refers to a swelling up, figuratively it refers to the state of being teeming in opposition. In other words, the wrath (orge) God feels towards humanity moves him to stand up and fight against them. That might seem a quaint idea to modern sensibilities, but it is biblical and it lines up with reality!

But why is God so wrathful? According to Romans 1, it is because mankind has endeavored, from the beginning, to marginalize and dismiss God in order to do whatever they have wanted to do. Whether we look at the story of Adam and Eve, or at the generations leading up to Noah, or at those who built a tower in opposition to God’s right to rule over and judge us, or anything since, the biblical history of mankind is played on one note: resistance to God. His counterpoint is wrath.

In this day and age, is that an idea that has any merit, any truth value to it? Look for yourself. Are people willful while they put their Creator on a bookshelf or ignore that Creator altogether? Does dismissing or neglecting the Creator allow them to pursue whatever course of action they see fit? Do they project upon God what they want him to be or what conveniences their willful agenda? That certainly jibes with my observations.

Even good people, the very best people, don’t take God seriously.

If they're not projecting their wishes and excuses upon God in one way, then they're dismissing and neglecting him on another. No one in the natural is truly unselfish or unwillful or God-seeking, and it has always been so.

God’s reaction to such was to pull the plug. Pull the plug on perfection, pull the plug on life, pull the plug on health, pull the plug on relationship, and leave us to our own devices since that’s what we wanted. The plug pulled, God removed himself from our realtime perception of him and left humankind to themselves, given over to a mind without God in it. As a result humankind lives flawed lives in a flawed world until death comes and each faces ultimate judgment.

Philosophers worry about theodicy, the justification of a perfectly good God given all the suffering and death here on earth. It’s not a thing a person looking at the world through Jesus eyes needs to worry about, for the fault lies not in God, but in humankind. The question is not how can God be all-good in the midst of so much evil, but why, since God is only good, it’s not a whole lot worse! At some point in time, given God's perfections, it will have to be.

So we wonder, “How did we get here?” and we see the Bible has an answer. In the beginning, God made everything, including life, and then he rested. He made humans in his image with divine-like powers of will, choice, creativity, etc. and placed them in a perfectly made world. But humans, in their god-like abilities, opted to trust their own judgment and do their own will rather than God’s. They rebelled and triggered the judgment of a perfectly just God.

Death and all the misery, weakness and suffering that comes with it is the price humans pay in the here and now for wanting God as he truly is out of the picture. Not only in themselves was the penalty inflicted but also upon the world around them God made for them. As it was for Adam and Eve, so it is for the rest of us. We have been given over to ourselves, separated from God, and the result is a depraved mind in a world broken beyond repair, leading to death.

But there is an antidote. God has a plan for fallen humankind, lost in isolation, brokenness and death--a redemptive plan. If we turn from our rebellion, from our rejection of God, and embrace him in our lives and living, he will welcome us into fellowship with himself and give us his very own breath so we can live in soundness of mind and fellowship with him now and forever. This is the message of Christ, this is what his death and resurrection secured for all who repent and accept the gospel.

A Christian worldview perceives that we are not accidents of chance but the creations of purpose--the purpose of God. A Christian worldview sees everything as a creation made by God but broken by sin, wrecked by death, and thankfully, redeemed in Christ. A Christian worldview sees that God has put us in this broken place so we would see the folly of our rebellion, repent, and put our trust in him.

A Christian worldview sees God in the face of Christ and realizes he is the only way out of the here we've gotten to.

Friday, February 21, 2020

A Christian Worldview: How Did We Get Here? Part I

Earth is a very friendly environment for life, even in places that seem completely inhospitable. Virtually anywhere one goes on or near the surface of the planet, life is teeming. In the biosphere of this planet the chemical processes of life find a safe haven for their action and interaction. And yet, whereas biogenesis is rampant on the planet, abiogenesis is non-existent, not even in experiments designed in its favor. Is that a problem?

It isn't for me, but then I'm a believer in biblical creationism. For the atheistic evolutionist, however,  it is an insurmountable wall. If the evolutionist does not have a plausible, credible, demonstrable theory for how chemicals progressed from soup to life, they have nothing but a realization that species adapt because of breeding and mutation. They do not have an explanation for the origin of life, therefore no explanation for the origin of species, nowhere near an explanation of where we came from, and certainly no reason to pitch concerns about a Creator over us out the window.

There are really only two possibilities to explain the origin of life on earth: it arose by chance chemical reactions or it arose as the result of purpose. Those who favor atheistic or naturalistic explanations favor chance, folks of a more spiritual bent prefer purpose. The promoters of chance must embrace an existential nightmare springing from the meaninglessness of life, the promoters of purpose are faced with the weighty matter of whose or what purpose brought life into being. It seems to me the chance promoters have a bigger challenge that requires a greater faith!

The basic building block of life as we know it is protein, a polymer made up of varying units of some 22 different amino acids. Nucleic acids, enzymes, sugars, lipids, as well as liquid water, are essential, but everything truly alive is made of protein. The precursor molecules of these organic materials have been shown to self-assemble in both natural environments and experimentally, so it seems a simple matter to serendipitously get the right zap, and presto chango, life sparks into existence. But that didn't happen, it couldn't have happened, it will never happen because it's impossible. Why?

Probabilities for one thing. Life, even in its simplest forms, is actually very complex. It's not just the order of elements in biochemical compounds that matters, it's also the shape of the molecule. Chirality, as much as anything else, is what allows the proper shape to be possible: in living things amino acids are left-handed, sugars right-handed. To function in the processes of life, compounds must be made of the right stuff in the right order and in the right shape. If not, processes go wrong or don't function at all.

That said, what of the probabilities I mentioned? Given a rich chemical soup containing an infinite supply of amino acid residues, the odds of a single, specific, small (150 residues long) functioning protein self-assembling is more than astronomical--1 in 10 to the 1064th power (my thanks to Dr. Meyer). To get a sense of that magnitude, there may be no more than 10 to 86th atoms in the entire universe! Even if there were natural, chemical ways in which these odds could be lessened they still would not become anywhere near probable, and we're only talking about one, small protein. Life requires multiple proteins, generally much longer.

The likelihood of one small, specific, functioning protein self-assembling in a chemical soup is, for all intents and purposes, impossible.

RNA-world theories hardly fare any better. Order in sequence is still necessary for function, particularly since protein synthesis is ultimately required to produce life as we know it. Even if the can is kicked down the ally a way, it still has to be picked up to clean up the situation. From my layman's perspective, the specificity of functioning proteins is still the hurdle (biologically and probabilistically) that a naturalistic origin of life must get over, even if starting with RNA. Self-assembling the thing that could code the assembling of a functioning protein is, if anything, more improbable than a functioning protein assembling itself.

I cannot see where experiments that demonstrate RNA's capacity for "natural selection" demonstrate anything other than RNA's replicative capacity. Has that not been understood since we've known about RNA? Those capabilities do not mitigate the probabilities involved. They certainly don't address the twin peaks of specificity and function. The truth is that the only thing we know for sure about the generation of life is that it takes life to make life. 

Given the extreme complexity in the chemistry of the cell and the time available for random sampling in any chemical soup (whether for proteins or RNA) the odds of useful, functioning, biochemicals self-assembling by chance are so insignificant as to be impossible. If all the universe were nothing but the chemicals needed, put into the most advantageous environment imaginable, the odds for self-assembly by chance would not be reduced significantly enough to change the impossibility. Life was undoubtedly created on purpose.

And even if one does not buy into purpose, the fact that life isn't coming into existence naturalistically on Earth now still has to be dealt with. The environment is very friendly now given the ubiquity of life now, and yet new life isn't spontaneously developing so far as anyone can tell. Whatever was happening to start life on Earth isn't happening now, despite how life-welcoming Earth is. We only see the unbending rule that life arises from life.

Naturalistic explanations for life's likely singular origin reach for scenarios that properly belong in the realm of imagination. The Bible, on the other hand, sets forth the scenario we see in reality--life was started at some point in the past and then ceased coming into existence--and it did so long before anyone ever did a scientifically sound abiogenesis experiment or knew just how ubiquitous life was. According Genesis 1:31-2:3, God exerted creative force in putting all creation into place, with all of its life, and then he ceased from his creative work. No more energy or mass and no more life was created afterwards.

Truth comports with reality.

Therefore, a Christian worldview perceives everything, including life, as arising from the hand of God on purpose. That is how here got here and that is how we got here. We all are creations purposefully made by God and our existence is lived in the light of our Creator who is over us. Are you ready to live life knowing there is a God who purposefully made you and to whom you must answer? Are you ready for truth?

Part II...

Saturday, February 15, 2020

A Christian Worldview: What Is Truth?

Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

In a world where truth is asserted on the basis of consensus, or conversely, to be hyper-individualized, is there actually such a thing as truth? The contemporary search to uncover truth includes immense computing power sifting massive amounts of data and modeling at levels not possible just a couple of decades ago. Has it brought anyone closer to the truth? Who knows? Regardless, it seems to me that each person does have a conception that certain things are true, and that truth conception influences their lives, that is their decisions, direction, interactions, relations, and values.

This series is about the development of a Christian worldview, and in that matter the basis for one's conception of truth is foundational. In the above snippet from the Gospel of John the word used for truth [Koine: aletheia] communicates a basis for understanding truth objectively, namely, that truth aligns with reality. Whereas Pilate demonstrated a relativistic view on the subject, Jesus had a very definite position on the existence of truth, and that truth had to correspond to reality. Jesus came to tell the truth; the thing that was actually so, the thing that was perseveringly so, the thing that cut across that which wasn't so.

If a Christian worldview is about seeing life through Jesus eyes, then Christians who have such will also have a robust concept of truth, just like Jesus. According to that kind of view, whatever a person may say, or believe, or promulgate may not actually align with reality. It is possible to be right or wrong, for something to be true or false, justified or unfounded, even in matters of morality, religion, and ideas. Christianity itself rises or falls on the reality of a single truth claim, that Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead. If that event did not actually comport with reality, then Christianity is false and claims that it makes concerning morality and metaphysics would be called into question.

If truth doesn't have to comport with reality we devolve into a wonderland where the difference between fact and fiction is indiscernible. Imagination would rule the day, until a two pound hammer fell on the imaginer's head from a scaffold and ended the dream. Consciousness may be a weird, subjective thing but it cannot shrug off reality or the environment in which it arises will end up turning on that consciousness and biting it on the rear. We don’t get to make up the world we want and call it truth, we’re stuck with the world as it actually is.

Even metaphysical and moral "truth" has to comport with reality, the ultimate reality that is... God. The metaphysics and morality of Judeo/Christianity arose from that ultimate reality speaking for itself. The unseen creating God told people what his supernatural power did and what his omniscient wisdom knew was right. Jesus Christ represents the most direct sample of this occurring, so to have truth in one's morality or metaphysical concepts those have to align with Christ and what he said.

Because truth comports with reality, it also will function within reality, it must. If something is true, it will work. Nicolas Copernicus (1733-1543 CE) famously dealt with this certainty in dealing with retrograde motion of the planets. Geocentrism didn't work, and couldn't possibly comport with reality. I deal with claims, similarly non-functioning, all the time, especially in the charismatic circles I run in. Doctrine that comports with reality, particularly the reality of Christ and his word, will work in reality. Doctrine that doesn't comport won't work and is bad doctrine.

Inevitably, bad doctrine leads to bad practice.

Understanding the truth and looking at life on the basis of it is the heart and soul of a Christian worldview. Living by that perspective keeps followers of Christ from going off the rails; it keeps them from being deceived; it keeps us from being lost in the dark. It helps us to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus. Show me a claimant to Christianity that doesn’t have this robust concept of truth and I’ll show you someone, undoubtedly, not living according to Christ. So dear reader, how are you living?

"Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth."

"...you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

The next part...

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

A Christian Worldview: How Is It Adopted?

The concept of worldview deals with the way a person or a group of people look at life and living. It can be applied to the impact of language, or culture, or ideology, or at the level of the individual which focuses it upon a very personal and unique space. For purposes of this series, it is that last consideration I will be addressing--the context of the individual. Together, we will explore what it means for the individual follower of Christ to have a thoroughly Christian worldview.

Worldview is really about the glasses one looks at life through. Glasses, because we are not speaking about seeing objectively through the native or natural lens that's part of the eye, but of something that is adopted by the seer or instilled by the environment, and through which one sees their all-compassing perspective of life. Belief in Christ is one such viewpoint, which when adopted is meant to impact the believer sufficiently to change, develop and instill an all-encompassing way of looking at life and living. The gospel is meant to cause us to see life, not through blue eyes or brown eyes, but through Jesus eyes.

So, it’s important to understand the means by which one adopts such a Christian worldview. Using a phrase like this may lead one to think that a believer merely accepts a series of propositions and endeavors, as best he or she can, to apply those precepts to their living. That is not at all the case, though I think sometimes Christians think that way and that teachers of the faith sometimes teach like that is the case. Whereas that certainly is the case in other ideologies, it is not at all the case in true faith in Christ.

Belief in Christ is about a quantum change in our nature. A metamorphosis so fundamental that the Christian, upon coming to sincere trust in Christ, becomes a new being--a creature different in its nature than it was before. That is not to say that the Christian decides this, or adopts this by choice and thereby makes it so, even if by remarkable effort. This change is the result of the introduction and infusion of a catalyst, a change agent, in this case a change person, namely, the Holy Spirit.

The simple truth is that no one can even come to Christ and believe in him unless that one is drawn by the Father (through auspices of the Holy Spirit, it seems to me). The conviction of heart and mind in regard to Christ which undergirds repentance, in my mind, comes through the Holy Spirit as well. It is the Holy Spirit interacting with humans that empowers them to have a faith which allows Christ to dwell in their hearts at all. It is that presence, power and action of the Holy Spirit which is the foundation of a Christian worldview.

The Holy Spirit is our lens. 

Christians do not see life in a Christian manner by mere choice, but through a lens actualized and activated by the Holy Spirit. The faith that responds to and partners with the Holy Spirit becomes an all-encompassing perspective on life for the one born again. If that is not present in one claiming the faith, there is no way that one can truly be in the faith. Actually being born again matters.

Are you born again? Do you have a Christian worldview?

The next part...

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Looking Out from the God Mirror

I am the shadow of the Lord

Like a shadow attached to a person I am attached to God
I spring from him in the shape of him
I am nothing apart from him
Merely a projection separated from him

I am a reflection of the Lord
More than mere silhouette with more substance than shadow
Not truly freestanding but intimately analogous
I have no being apart from what I reflect

I am not really a person without him or apart from his person
To be what I am I must stay attached to the Lord
And gaze out from the mirror upon him

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Faith Versus Works

Not all works are equal, and even "good" works can be differentiated by quality. Some works are self-referent and so are not meritorious in the sight of God even if they accomplish something worthwhile. These are initiated by the self for the benefit of self and so are merely a selfish pursuit, even if they seem altruistic. They are only impressive among those who cannot see them for what they are, or those who do the same kind of works. They gain no favor with God.

There are works which are not self-referent. Those are inspired by God, bidden by God, and carried forward at his instigation, impetus and encouragement. Even though such works are not truly capable of being credited to the ones doing them, God rewards them as if they are. If God rewards them for being done they must be considered meritorious, despite the fact that in themselves they could never force him to declare their doers righteous on the basis of them.

No work is meritorious of salvation, regardless of whether or not it is rewardable by God. No work has the power to erase the record of works which are not meritorious (i.e. sin), only blood can do that and that by concession from God. So at best, God-instigated works can be rewardable with benefits (even eternally) but never with forgiveness or righteousness. That is not surprising because forgiveness is an act of mercy or grace, and as such can never be earned, else it would cease to be mercy or grace.

Faith is always referent to its object. It can be misplaced, as it would be if directed at self or at false gods, and thereby be without any value whatsoever to God. However, if its object is God as he is, particularly his character and power, God does reward it. There is nothing about faith in and of itself which would deserve such reward, the impetus for such lies completely in God's grace. Yet, because God responds rewardingly toward faith in him, such God-referent faith would have to be considered meritorious.

However, even saving faith is not meritorious of salvation. There is nothing in such faith which has the power to wash away sin and restore righteous fellowship with God, even though it is essential to salvation. It is merely the reaction (trust) a believer has toward God's words and deeds, and even then not unaided. God's word (of promise) is what invokes faith, while God's presence (or Spirit) is what aids it.

The Apostle Paul made it clear that works and faith are not the same sort of thing. He treated them as diametrically opposed concepts. While it is true that both faith and works can be rewardable, it is also true that neither is meritorious of salvation. So even though God promises salvation to those who put their trust in Christ, it is the blood of Christ which does the heavy lifting.