Thursday, August 28, 2008

Is God Lost?

Why is God so hard to find? The answer lies in our freedom and God’s respect for it. He does not invade our space. We have chosen to push God out of our lives, and He will not violate that choice by pushing Himself back in. He has left abundant evidence of His existence in nature and dropped in telling clues of it from the supernatural realm. But He remains behind the veil, knowing that if He forces his presence on us, we will have no choice but to believe, and the freedom He has given us will be compromised. We must repudiate our choice of self and express our desire for a restored relationship with God before He will move in.

Our choice of self over God also explains the continuing presence of evil in the world. The disobedience of the first couple opened the gates to evil, and in the name of freedom, God had to let their choice stand. But just as humankind chose to bring evil into a world of good, God now offers us the option to bring good back into a world of evil. We can invite God back into our lives and restore the lost relationship, thus finding authentic love and meaning in spite of the ravages of a world infested with evil and death.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Restoring the Relationship

You might expect that God would have washed His hands of those who turned their backs on Him and directed his affection to a more grateful civilization somewhere on the far side of the galaxy. But amazingly, He did the opposite. Like the mythical Greek sculptor Pygmalion, God had fallen in love with His human creation and could not bear to lose them. When they chose self over God, they sentenced themselves to death. But then God set about to perform a daring rescue.

The second member of the Godhead, whom the world knows as Jesus Christ, came to earth, took the form of a man, died on a Roman cross, and was raised to life again. This act disarmed death and restored to lost humankind the right to reestablish a relationship with God. The emergence of the living Christ from His tomb was the guarantee that any person who chose to come back to God would be restored to a life of renewed relationship with Him.

“So why isn’t it working?” you may ask. If God came to earth to restore His loving relationship with us, why isn’t it restored? Why is He still so hard to find? Why do people still stumble around the planet ignorant of God, searching for something to fill the void in their hearts?

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Broken Relationship

If God intended us to have perfect relationships, why do they so often go wrong? Why are joy and fulfillment so elusive? Why is it such a struggle to find God? The answer is that God’s original intent has been thwarted in a tragic event that Christian theologians refer to as the Fall.

The Fall was a mortal, self-inflicted wound that occurred when the first created man and woman misused the freedom God gave them. Although God made humans for the very purpose of loving Him and bearing His essence, He did not force Himself on them. The man and woman were free to choose God and all the joy, love, fulfillment and ecstasy He brought to them. Or they could choose self and go their own way without Him on a path infested with all the pain, alienation, sorrow and death that would result from alienation from God.

Tragically, a day came when the couple listened to the voice of an adversary who deceived them into choosing to go out on their own. God honored their choice. He withdrew Himself from their lives and left them alone to find their own way. Without God, they were alienated from their purpose and lost their significance. It took humans only a few generations to lose virtually all awareness of God’s existence. Individual selves staked out their own territory and fiercely protected it, pushing themselves apart. Their focus on self fostered the pride, selfishness, alienation, anger and hatred that has infected the human family for the rest of its history.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Relational God and Love

The metaphors the Bible uses to picture the relationship between God and His people give us an idea of just how warm and close He intended it to be. In some passages He portrays Himself as a Father, in others as a Brother, a Lover, or a Shepherd feeding and protecting His sheep. Many passages portray the relationship of God to His people as a marriage. The core idea within these various pictures is clear: God desires with His human creation a relationship that encompasses all the joy and warmth of our closest human connections.

God intended love to be the dominating characteristic and driving force of all creation. He created men and women to be relational creatures who desire to expand and share the love He lavishes on them. We were designed to live not only in an upward relationship with Him but also in outward relationships with others. These connections can be as diverse as the neighbor who borrows a cup of sugar, the friendly competitiveness of a foursome on the golf course, the best friend who lends a sympathetic ear, the deep and delightful bond with children, the intense commitment and intimacy of marriage. We thrive on such relationships because we were created for connection with each other.

This intertwining dance of love with God and others is what gives meaning to human life. As long as the first couple maintained their relationship with God, His love flowed through them and enabled them to remain in perfect relational harmony with each other and the rest of creation. Bearing the life of God within themselves, their life had ultimate meaning, and they were fulfilled. There was no missing piece.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Three in One God

It is in a loving, personal relationship with God that we find the answers to the deep questions about our identity, purpose and destiny. It is in knowing this God intimately that we actually experience the certainty that we can know intellectually. The Bible shows God to be completely different from the image many people have of an aloof being who exists somewhere out there in the remote distance. He is by nature both personal and relational. Indeed, His very mode of being is relational. God is a living unity of three distinct personalities who exist in an intimate relationship bonded by love. This bond forms a oneness so close that the three members of the Godhead are identified in the singular simply as God. Though He is one, His oneness is a relationship bonded by the very essence of love.

Just as married couples desire children, the three persons of the Godhead desired to expand and share the love that flows within their relationship. Therefore, God created man and woman—creatures bearing His own image, creatures whom He could love and who could love Him in return. We are told that He breathed his own Spirit into the first man and woman He created. He placed his own life at the center of their being, filling their lives with meaning and love. They fulfilled the purpose of their creation by bearing within themselves the life of God, which not only completed them but also gave them immense joy. As God intended, the life of this primeval couple was one of continual ecstasy and lavish delight.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Missing Piece

If we could create our own truth and validate it merely by believing it, we should be able to fill the void in our soul with whatever we truly believe will fill it. But regardless of what we feed it, we cannot sate its voracious appetite. It swallows everything we throw into it yet remains as empty as ever. We cannot create our own personal reality because a true reality already exists. The void in the human heart derives its shape from this true reality. Like the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle, no substitute will fit. Unless we find the one piece that was designed to go there, the picture remains incomplete.

Seventeenth-century philosopher Blaise Pascal identified this emptiness in the human heart as a “God-shaped vacuum.” Pascal realized that mankind’s inner hunger can never be satisfied until it turns to God as the missing piece to fill the emptiness. God is the ultimate absolute who brings meaning directly into the life of every man and woman. God in the human life is the keystone to the arch, the one stone that fits at the apex, bringing solidity to the entire structure and holding all other stones firmly in place.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I Feel Empty

It seems that every human being comes into the world the same way and with three questions etched in his or her subconscious: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? We are restless and adrift until we discover our identity, our purpose and our destiny.

The longing for meaning leads searchers to try many dead end paths. For example, we are often told that the answer lies inward instead of upward. We feel isolation and emptiness because we have not found our true selves. Then popular psychology tells us that our upbringing, societal expectations, religious strictures and personal neuroses conspire to hide the true self beneath layers of distorting masks. We are told that when we strip away the masks and find the authentic self beneath them, our alienation will disappear.

Another widespread approach to fulfillment tells us to look neither upward nor inward but outward. Fill the void in your life with toys, entertainment, prestige, pleasure and achievements. Focus on distractions. Move fast. Stay busy. Party hearty. Do anything, buy anything and try anything to keep from looking into that terrible abyss in the soul. But it doesn’t work.

None of them work long term. Self-assessment and self-realization do not fill the emptiness. While such exercises may have value as a starting point for understanding our needs, we are finite. Our hunger for meaning is greater than our ability to satisfy it. So where can we turn?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Embracing God

It is at least as reasonable to say that there must be a God to account for life as it is to say that matter is simply self-existent and life arose from dead matter. If all we were doing was guessing without evidence, one claim may be just as plausible as the other. Both alternatives must admit that the laws of nature as we know them can’t account for beginnings. Both alternatives must admit that beginnings are extra-natural and inexplicable. Having admitted that, the next step is to ascertain which claim best fits reality as we know it.

In previous blogs I have shown that reason, morality, conscience, the order of the universe, the concept of beauty and a sense of meaning all point confidently toward the existence of God. They show a consistent imprint on the nature of reality from which God may be credibly postulated. I have also shown that naturalism can’t explain or account for reason, morality, meaning and beauty. Evolution is inadequate to account for these realities since it is based on the three principles that run counter to scientific laws:

1. Order can emerge from chaos.
2. Life emerged from dead matter.
3. Human intelligence evolved from dead matter.

Faith in God is not only rational, it is necessary to make sense of all reality. As Christians, we have varying positions on issues in the Bible, but we can remain united in the core belief that God is God and Christ is His Son.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Case for God

Nothing about the concept of God violates evidence, reason or any branch of science. Science tells us that no effect can be greater than its cause. Creation tells us that God is greater than the universe. Science tells us that nature runs down and dissipates. Creation tells us that God made everything originally perfect, but it incurred damage and began to degenerate. Science tells us that life comes only from life. Creation tells us that life resides eternally in the nature of God, and He imparted it to His creation.

The hard fact that forces us into belief is that life is here, and it is not rational to think it could have arisen out of dead matter. The only possible alternative, unthinkable as it seems, is that something alive is uncaused and self-existent. Nothing less than God fits all the requirements. The case for God is that simple. He is the only possible answer to life and existence that fits into place without jarring the order of the universe or insulting the rationality of science. Reason can rationally conclude that God is the ultimate absolute without need of empirical proof. And faith can step out on that certainty.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Embracing Reality

Accepting the rationality of God’s existence may not overcome all the obstacles to full belief in biblical Christianity. Many issues in the Bible defy understanding. Some can be explained, and some cannot. Must we understand and resolve all these difficulties before we allow full-blown faith to kick in? Of course not.

When we become Christians, must we agree with all other Christians on all doctrines of the Bible? Not at all. From the beginnings of Christianity, believers have held varying positions on such issues as revelation, miracles, prayer, providence, pain and worship. But they remain united on the core belief that God is God and Christ is His son. Because we know we are standing solidly on the ultimate absolute, we can put peripheral uncertainties aside without letting them undermine our certainty in the core truth of His existence.

It is a blind, unwarranted faith that defies reason and evidence. Faith in God is the opposite. With God as the ultimate absolute, all the pieces fall into place and fit together in a rational pattern that squares with the reality we experience.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Supernatural Existence

While the human mind cannot comprehend God, reason applied to available data tells us that something like God must exist. This universe is filled with life, law, energy, meaning, delight, love, morality and beauty. Such things are beyond the capacity of mere nature to provide. But their existence indicates that there is something greater at work—they point to God. God is invisible, but we can infer His existence by His effects in the universe, effects that only something like a god could cause.

Why should we think it impossible that our universe may be contained within a larger realm that is beyond the capacity of our senses? As Plato postulated, the spirit world that seems to our eyes insubstantial and unstable could be a world even more substantial and stable than our own. This universe of ours could be a mere shadowy reflection of a greater reality beyond it. Our failure to comprehend the supernatural gives us no reason at all to deny its existence.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Faith and Expanding Our Horizons

The step beyond comprehension into belief is called faith. Understandably, the word faith grates on the ear of a rationalist like fingernails on a chalkboard, but that’s because of a popular misconception about what faith is. We should never exercise faith in spite of reason and evidence but always because of reason and evidence. When reason tallies the evidence and maps the course, it hands the keys to faith to start up the engine. Faith trusts what reason tells it must be true. Blind faith undirected by reason is neither credible nor admirable. It is a foolish leap into the dark with no assurance that it will land on the solid ground of truth.

So, the choice between God and naturalism is not a choice between faith and reason. Faith is essentially inoperable without reason, and reason is sterile and powerless without faith. When people choose God, they take a step of faith. When people choose naturalism, they take a step of faith. The choice between God and naturalism boils down to whether one’s faith is informed by reason or whether it is blinded by a skewed philosophy that throws reason off course.