The first is mercy; the merciful will receive mercy.
Some people think that mercy is not meting out a deserved punishment. Not so. Mercy is more akin to gratitude. “Lord, have mercy,” is better understood as “Lord, continue to be gracious with us.” That’s why the KJV renders “mercy” as “loving-kindness.”
This has to do with the honor-shame society of the Bible and the satisfaction of personal debts. Taking the high road with people who owe you something is a virtue that God loves (see Mt 6:15-15; Mk 11:25; Lk 6:35; Eph 4:32).
Jesus told the story of a wealthy landowner who demanded payment of a huge debt from one of his servants (see Mt 18:23-35). The servant didn’t have it, so the landowner forgave the debt completely. Later, that same servant demanded payment of a far smaller debt from a fellow servant. When the second servant couldn’t comply, the first had him thrown into prison. The landowner then ordered the first service imprisoned. Jesus said that if we do not forgive the debts of others, then God will not forgive the one we have with him.
Forgiving others, having mercy on the undeserving are all rooted in God’s character. The real idea of Christianity is to transform us, no to leave us to enjoy the pleasures of this world. We are adopted as sons of God, and he does so to mold us into the image of his Son. Therefore, having mercy on others as God has had mercy on us is a sign of that transformation.
So far, I’ve been on time with Contradiction Tuesday, but late with Scripture Saturday. Every single time.
This new job has really cut into my blogging time!
Not that I’m complaining, mind you. After all, I need the money. And, for the first time since I can remember, I actually like my job.
Now on to Scripture Saturday.
Many atheists argue that God is a moral monster. They say that he has appalling standards compared to us humans.
Have you ever wondered why this is so? Why do atheists think God is evil for punishing sinful people (like the Canaanites)? Or why do they think he is a bumbling moron for allowing the Fall or creating Satan?
Simple. Atheism isn’t just a rejection of the concept of a deity. It is a decision with a serious moral dimension, and terrible consequences for the atheist — and I’m not referring to hell. I’m referring only to earthly consequences, especially in the way one thinks as an atheist. Let’s look at the Scriptures:
Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it completely. (Prv 28:5)
Are atheists evil? Maybe some are. Most aren’t by human standards. But by divine standards, they are as messed up as the rest of us (Rom 3:23). The bigger picture is the second clause — people who seek the Lord understand justice.
Without seeking God first, perfect and flawless justice will mean nothing.
The atheist can hem and haw all he wants about how he sought God and there was no God to be found. Balderdash. He fails to understand true justice because he is not seeking God.
Therefore, God’s actions against people like the Canaanites seem to the atheist inexplicable and mysterious; evil or disgusting. The atheist isn’t seeking God when examining the Bible, he’s really just window shopping “the god of some other religion” and comparing its actions with what he already believes morality to look like. He finds this god as coming up short, and therefore Christianity is yet another religion that fails to meet his criteria.
No wonder he doesn’t believe in God.
Instead, reverse all that. Let God set the bar, since God is (after all) God. Then measure yourself by his standard.
What’s happening, according to Scripture, is that since the atheist is not seeking God, he cannot understand justice.
I’ve heard that some folks benefit from a regimented blogging schedule, so I thought I’d give it a shot to see if it helps me. And that means I will now introduce two new features. If I blog nothing else in the course of a week, I will blog the two features.
The first is Contradiction Tuesday, where I will detail a perceived contradiction in the Bible. I’ll take requests for this series from skeptics and believers alike — e-mail me. It will begin next Tuesday; I didn’t have time to do one this week.
On a side note, I’m thinking of adding Anti-Testimony Wednesday sometime in the future. I would critique the latest “Why I’m not a Christian” bit from ex-Christian.net, with a private offer to the poster to defend him or herself here. Since they don’t like their unbelief challenged on the site, this would be playing by their rules. After all, the anti-testimony is posted publicly so it’s unrealistic to think that someone won’t pick it up and challenge it somewhere.
The series beginning today is Scripture Saturday. What better way to kick off Scripture Saturday than with a verse on the importance of studying Scripture?
If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination. (Prv 28:9)
Strongly worded. If a person stops studying God’s Law, then that person’s prayer is an abomination. An abomination! That’s the strongest way God can revile something. And here, God is saying that he will revile a person’s prayers if that person refuses to hear God! Read the rest of this entry
When I was in eighth grade, we started learning algebra. The teacher told us that variables stand for numbers, and we either solve for the specific number the variable represents, or treat the letter as if could be any number.
When a particularly astute student noticed that x, y, and z were always used as variables, he asked if any other letters could be used.
The teacher said any letter would work, but told us to avoid i. We asked why, and he replied that it could be too easily confused with 1.
But, math wizards, that’s not really why we don’t use i, is it? It’s actually a mathematical constant, defined as the square root of -1.
Like a good teacher, my math teacher gave us what we could handle. Later, those of us that either read the sidebars in our algebra books (because we’re extra geeky) or took calculus learned the real reason why we don’t use i as a variable. Clearly, eighth grade students learning the basics of algebra wouldn’t have been ready to learn about imaginary numbers.
My eighth grade math teacher didn’t lie. He just didn’t give us information that we weren’t ready to have. Later, a fuller revelation of the facts would be realized.
This is the reason that God gave the Law. Not because he was lying or misleading us. And he didn’t “edit” things or change his mind later. He gave us the system that our feeble brains could handle, and now he has fully revealed the purpose and meaning of the Law, freeing us from its tyranny to live by grace in Christ Jesus.
The Law was but a shadow of the perfect reality to come (Heb 10:1). Now that the perfect reality is here, we may rejoice in him (Jesus Christ) rather than having to follow the Law.
A question from the Reddit thread of questions we theists supposedly can’t answer (but we really can, but if we do, then we’re full of it because we’re not supposed to have all of the answers, but if we don’t have all of the answers theism is false; atheism makes my head spin–I’m way too consistent in my personal judgments to ever embrace atheism!).
This question concerns hell, and it’s a common one:
How can God’s love be unlimited if there is hell?
Hell is a fate to which humans consign themselves. God is basically the ultimate respecter of persons. He has laid the cards on the table–no matter how deeply we penetrate the black box of existence, it becomes increasingly complex and ordered. No matter how far we probe the cosmos, the evident beginning of everything is found. Ultimately, it all points to a First Cause that is itself an intelligent creator–a person, God the Father.
Jesus, the second person of God–the Son, has revealed the Father to mankind by becoming one of us. The wrath of God against ungodliness has been appeased in the sacrifice of the Son to those who have faith (active faith, faith that does something; different from mere assent to a certain worldview).
From the Father and the Son comes the Holy Spirit, which is the evidence of God’s action in the world. He calls us, convicts us of our sin, and regenerates us in faith to become sons of God and conform to the image of Christ.
The cards are on the table, and they are many and obvious. But no one is coerced to love God. I don’t believe loving God is choice per se; rather, it is a revelation of something already inside you from the start. Being a Christian isn’t something that you do once in an altar call, but a lifelong journey of self-discovery.
If you refuse the free gift of grace, living life apart from God, God doesn’t snuff you out of existence (though we could argue that he would be justified in doing so). Instead, he allows you to remain in tact, living both on earth and into eternity. The soul was created for eternal fellowship with God, to snuff a person out of existence would be to violate the ontology of the soul. Make it something that it isn’t. So, what to do with the soul that rejects God?
Well, heaven with God wouldn’t be nice. If you rebel against and ultimately reject the fellowship of someone (such as divorcing a spouse), you don’t want to spend a solid second with that person ever again–let alone all of eternity! It would be worse torture than, well, hell. Cruel, even.
I’ve heard many an atheist express sentiments like this. Over the course of keeping this blog and venturing into discussion forums with various atheists (such as Theology Web, the Rational Response Squad discussion board, the Why Won’t God Heal Amputees forums, and the Is God Imaginary forums), I’ve heard several times over things like, “I’d rather spend eternity in hell than be in heaven with your God!”
This is predicted in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Lk 16:19-31). In it, a rich man dies and goes to (presumably) hell, while a beggar named Lazarus ascends to (presumably) heaven. When the rich man realizes that he’s lost, does he try to alter his fate? Nope–all he does is ask for a drink of water, something that would satisfy his immediate need only. Then, he wants to warn his family so that they won’t suffer the same fate. Notice: he doesn’t want out of hell!
This is why C.S. Lewis observed, wisely I think, that the doors of hell are locked from the inside. No one is there that doesn’t want to be there.
Hell is perdition and separation. It is, ultimately, what the sinner wants–total separation from God. God is giving him his way. However, for those who submit to God’s way rather than their own, glorification in heaven awaits, and eternal fellowship with God.
I was recently directed to a Reddit thread where the atheists were proposing questions that theists can’t answer. Surprise, surprise, we can answer them, and in many cases have answered them (just not the satisfaction of the atheist). Of course, personal satisfaction isn’t a prerequisite for truth.
That said, what follows are questions from that thread that center on the Atonement. Read the rest of this entry
Jimmy Akin has an interesting article about former Pope John Paul II’s progress on getting canonized a saint. Not that JPII is advancing the cause, of course, but that his supporters are pushing the Vatican to name the recently departed pope a saint immediately. As in now.
I wanted to comment because a statement in it ties into my recent post answering questions from a Reddit thread enumerating questions we theists supposedly can’t answer (but we really can). That previous article was on questions that tied specifically to the soul’s eternal destiny, and Akin touches ever-so-briefly on that.
Akin’s article had a statement that dropped my jaw with regard to determining eternal destiny. Before I give my thoughts on that statement, let’s begin with asking why the Vatican would have an interest in thoroughly investigating a potential saint before canonizing him.There are three points to bear in mind. Read the rest of this entry