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Money Quote

I was reading an article from ABC News that profiled two anonymous ministers that, despite their atheism, continue in their positions as senior pastors. That really makes me mad. They are doing their congregations a great disservice, and are being major hypocrites. Atheists talk constantly about the hypocrisy of believers, but it looks as if many of them fare no better with major issues of integrity. But that’s not really the point.

The point is that there is a single money quote from Adam, one of the ministers-turned-atheist, that sums up two things very nicely. First, why he was able to wholly change his worldview so readily. And second, what is wrong with American Christianity and why it is in serious decline:

As I lost my faith … I realized that really had no bearing on who I am and my character and my actions. I live no differently than I did when I was a fervent believer.

Contrast that with the proper attitude of the believer toward his faith, summed up nicely by C.S. Lewis: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” Adam’s problem is that he isn’t living any differently as an atheist than he did as a Christian.

The reverse is true as well. Christian converts live no differently than they did when they were unbelievers.

If the atheists are right, and there is no God, then a quick look at human history ought to be pretty disturbing. Wars, violence, greed, corruption, and horrible human rights violations permeate history like a cancer. We’ve always been violent and savage, and there’s no hope that we can change ourselves. We’ve tried and it doesn’t work.

But, if the Christian is correct, then God exists and he will recreate civilization so as all the war, violence, greed, corruption, and human rights violations are a thing of the past. That means we have hope. And, both Paul and James exhorted us to live as though we have it.

The problem is that even our ministers don’t seem to be living as if this hope is real, and the proof is this article. They readily abandon a dearly held worldview because, as Adam put it, there’s no difference in how he lives!

That’s really sad.

The Invention of Religion

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A new blogger arriving on the scene, badcatholic, imagines himself back in time as a fly on the wall during the invention of religion.

Caveman 1: Bro, these mammoths are frightening, and I don’t know why it rains.
Caveman 2: Yeah, sounds like we need some supernatural explanation for natural phenomena for which we are not yet advanced enough to understand.
Caveman 1: Right. So we’ll need a god…
Caveman 2: Nice.
Caveman 1: And let’s have no adultery with beautiful women…
Caveman 2: Uh-
Caveman 1: And in with the concept of eternal, unimaginable torment-
Caveman 2: Slow down-
Caveman 1: And moral obligations, and no more of this survival of the fittest. We’ll not be able to lie, or steal, or cheat, or mastrubate-
Caveman 2: Are you sure you-
Caveman 1: Or eat too much, or drink too much, or be lazy, or be prideful… (source)

It has always fascinated me that atheists repeatedly assert that religion is a human invention, yet a quick study of religious vices and virtues reveals that we’ve set an impossible standard for ourselves. Religions, not just Christianity, speak of the evils of acquiring and hording material possessions, lust, adultery, pride; and extol an others-centered attitude as well as exhorting adherents to not even think about bad things. Religion asserts that humans are broken and need to be fixed, either through a set of ritual behaviors or by a quickening of the spirit by the hand of God, and those who refuse to comply will face eternal destruction, shame, and humiliation. Who would invent that?

On the other hand, if God is the author of religion, that makes much more sense. A divine being who  stands in judgment of humanity warning us against adultery, lust, and evil thoughts makes more sense than a bunch of primitive humans with no motivation to make monogamy the preferred form of marriage, adultery a grave sin, and forbid masturbation and all forms of lust as the standard of behavior.

If mankind invented religion, I think we’d see a much different picture than we do now.

Bondage of the Will II: Scriptural Proof

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In my last post on the bondage of the human will, I established the existence of a moral law outside of ourselves. Atheists and theists can agree on the presence of such a law, but we cannot agree on its source. The atheist thinks that memes or evolution produces it; the theist believes that God produces it. Either way, we have arrived at the same point: a law exists.

I also established that man, more often than not, transgresses this moral law. It may be something small, such as a little white lie, or it might be huge, like a murder. Mankind isn’t generally good as many churches today teach. Man isn’t sick in sin, he is dead in sin. Man is generally evil.

The Bible deals with this issue in many places. The first good place to look is Romans 1. Paul begins by talking about the pagans living in Rome at the time, and finishes with this description of them:

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Rom 1:28-32)

Paul immediately follows that with this description of the Christians living in Rome:

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?  Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?  But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. (Rom 2:1-11, emphasis added)

So whether the reader is a Jew or a Greek, it doesn’t matter, for both are full of unrighteousness. This careful argument builds until its climax at chapter 3, verse 23: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Paul even includes himself as a sinner in chapter 7:

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Rom 7:18-24)

I think that if we are honest with ourselves, we will see the same pattern in our own lives. We wage a war with our mind to do what is right, but our flesh is weak and we give into it and do what is wrong. That’s every last one of us wretched human beings–we are not sick with sin, we are dead in sin. Look at Ephesians 2:1-3:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (emphasis added)

But it isn’t just us; it is all of creation. It goes back to the Fall in Genesis 3. The Fall affected not just man, but all of creation. All of creation groans under the pains of childbirth (Rom 8:22). And the worst part is, according to the book of Proverbs, we don’t see this: “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirits” (16:2). This is why so many churches today preach that man is generally good. And what does Proverbs say about people who are wise in their own sight? “There is more hope for a fool than him” (26:12b).

The Bondage of the Will

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It’s obvious from looking at the current state of the world that the human condition is broken. Wars, invasions, suicide bombers using women and children. The mayor of one the largest cities in the country is facing charges ranging from perjury to obstruction of justice–all while his city is crumbling economically around him. What is going on in the world today? Is this all we have to look forward to? More of the same?

Left to our own devices, we humans sin. The effects of sin are all around us, and can be seen daily simply by picking up a newspaper, watching the news on TV, or reading the RSS newsfeeds. Why the propensity to sin?

Mankind simply has it in his heart to sin. God has a perfect plan for our lives, and we can only have it by perfect obedience to his Law. Not the Mosaic Law, mind you, but the Law of God that is written in the hearts of all mankind, that which we instinctively know is right and wrong morally. The Mosaic Law is often points to the standard, but it is far from the standard. We know the standard. Read the rest of this entry