Sunday, November 23, 2014

Re-evaluation

I have taken some time off from writing on the blog. It wasn't because I didn't have anything to write. It also wasn't because I became bored with the topics. I wanted to take some time to re-evaluate the purpose of the blog and particularly the tone that is perceived by the readers. It was never my intention to come across as argumentative, elitist or degrading. I realize that some of the posts came across that way.

I believe that it is important to talk about faith, religion, philosophy, science and all the ways that they interact. I never meant to portray my way of thinking as absolutely correct. I am sure that I am wrong about many things.

To be honest, I think that most worldviews are reasonable. Don't misunderstand me though, I believe them to be false but I still affirm the validity of the belief. With that in mind, my intention was to write about the good and bad of all kinds of belief (yes, including Christianity).

I am interested in the big ideas. Since I am not formally trained in any of these I merely wanted to have some discussions about them.

In an attempt to engage people in these discussions I posted links from facebook to this blog. There never was much interaction but I did receive some encouragement from several people in person. Of course, the opposite is true as well: some people unfriended me on facebook (including family). I can only assume it had to do with my posts because it was right around the same time.

That really troubled me as I never intended for my posts to alienate people. I had the opposite in mind.

So, I have decided to stop posting on my personal facebook account. Instead, I have started a separate page. Those that are interested in the topics can join and those that aren't interested can keep their facebook uncluttered.

So, if you are an atheist and think that faith is ridiculous, lets talk about that. If you are a high federal calvinist, lets discuss that. I believe that these topics are important to talk about so If you are at all interested I spirituality and everything that goes along with it I would like to invite you to "like" the page.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Passover, or, Do the Plagues Make God a Monster?


So, Passover starts today. Which is weird because I just read the story in Exodus. I probably shouldn't admit this but I had no idea what passover was until today.
Passover is a celebration of the Exodus, the releasing of God's people from bondage. Passover is so called  because God passed over the Hebrews in the final plague on Egypt. The plague that convinced Pharoah to let them go, the one where the first born of both men and livestock were killed.
At first glance the plagues that God brought down, through Moses, on Egypt seem a bit harsh. It seems contradictory to the God we see revealed in Jesus. I would be lying if I said that I didn't struggle with theodicy (The problem of God and the existence of evil). I find it hard to reconcile the the actions of God sometimes.
For me, there are a couple things that it comes down to.
1. The potter can do with His clay as he likes. The death of humans (especially children) is a terrible thing to us. It is a tragedy, but, God has the power to create us, He has the power to take us out. Maybe it is my faith acting in hindsight but I have to believe that it is part of a greater plan.
I fully realize this isn't an acceptable answer for the secular world. It helps to understand God as the supreme being.
2. Pharoah should have let the Hebrews go. Have you noticed that the plagues started smaller and got worse every time that Pharoah refused or went back on his word? Pharoah had his chance.
God had a plan for the Hebrews. The most important plan, a plan that brings the gospel to all people, including gentiles. As bad as it might sound God had to act to bring the gospel to us.
But, what about the people (the first born) that died without hearing? It's hard to say. I don't think the Bible is clear on this, I can only rest in God's wisdom.
3. Jesus is the manifestation of God on earth. It is through Him that we are fulfilled. It is by Him we are saved. It is to him that we look. We can argue all day long about the God revealed in the Old Testament (and some scholars have a good defense for a lot of things) but ultimately we will be unable to defend it to a skeptical world.
When I talk about God I point to Jesus.
4. We must recognize that this is hard story for non Christians to accept. We can no longer just brush this aside. People have legitimate questions about the Character of God in the troublesome stories of the Old Testament.

We will probably not convince anyone by using apologetics. We must simply answer any questions that we can, speak the gospel and let the Holy Spirit work.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Christians are perfect..... Right?


Before I was a Christian I was an idolater, fornicator, liar, thief, a glutton and filled with pride and laziness.

Then God saved me.

And I am still all of those things.

Sure, by Gods grace I am redeemed. By His power I am working through it all - some are easier than others - but in my being I am still a wretched sinner. It is God alone that makes me righteous.

All to often we Christians put out the idea that we are perfect, or that we don't accept imperfect people. We make it sound like we no longer fall short of the glory of God. We need to articulate better the fact that we are just as bad as anyone else. We just have Christ.

If you think that being a Christian means that you have to be perfect to be accepted, think again. God saves us in spite of our sinfulness. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

Too often being a Christian becomes more about what we are against rather than what we are for. Christianity does not mean you have to fall in line with the neo-fundamentalist conservative machine. Being a Christian does not mean you have to adhere to a strict set of rules; rather a Christian's heart comes to enjoy God's law.

Dawkin's bus campaign said "There is probably no god, so enjoy your lives." He thinks that being a Christian means living a wooden life of following rules. Many Christians think that too.

This dichotomy is detrimental. We put forth this facade that Christians are better people. We make everyone believe that our lives are perfect. We create a culture that implies that people must get their act together so God can love them. We make it seem like people have to believe proper theology so they can go to heaven.
Being a Christian does not mean that you must stop thinking for yourself. It doesn't mean we should stop asking the hard questions. Ecclesia semper reformanda est.

Being a Christian does not mean that you have to be anti-intellectual. To be a true follower you do not have to adhere to young earth creationism, or eternal conscious torment, etc. You may chose to  believe that, but it is not a fundamental of the faith.

Jesus is the only fundamental of the faith.

We humans are unworthy but made worthy in Christ. We are not made worthy by our own actions or the opinions of others. We are not saved because we know absolute truth. We are not redeemed because we have proper doctrine.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Reasons For Atheism


I have been thinking a lot about non theism lately. I wonder why some people refer to themselves as agnostic or atheist. I ponder what it means to accept theism.

Atheism

It seems to me that there are a couple things at play here. First of all I think that most atheists are actually anti-theists and are closer to agnosticism. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with the term atheism as a belief in no God in the same way that theism is belief in God. Since, however, Gods existence can't be proven one way or the other (apart from a personal encounter) atheists should at least consider that he exists. Even Dawkins does: "I can't be sure God does not exist... On a scale of seven, where one means I know he exists, and seven I know he doesn't, I call myself a six... That doesn't mean I'm absolutely confident, that I absolutely know, because I don't." or "God, if he exists, would have to be a very, very, very complicated thing indeed."

In all sincerity, I am curious as why people label themselves as atheist. Is it because they don't want God to exist? They put more faith in naturalism and think that God and science aren't compatible? They think that they have to stifle their intelligence to accept theism?
I think there are two kinds of atheism. Emotional and intellectual.

Emotional Anti-theism

Appealing to emotional reason to disprove God. I have seen this type of argument used against God employed by Christopher Hitchens in a debate with William Lane Craig.
Emotional anti-theists dislike God because of people claiming to follow Him. It is easy to hate God because of terrible things that people have done. Sometimes horrible acts are done in His name and sometimes they are perpetrated by people that are in a position of spiritual authority.
God is accused of being a divine psychopath. Stories like the Canaanites or curses against pharoah are seen as crazy.

Hitchens said "The Bible may, indeed does, contain a warrant for trafficking in humans, for ethnic cleansing, for slavery, for bride-price, and for indiscriminate massacre". He attributes the actions of humans to divine action.

Emotional atheism asks why God allows bad things. It asks why God's people do rotten things. Legitimate questions indeed.

Intellectual Atheism

Intellectual atheism is the idea that accepting theism means accepting ignorance. Intellectual atheists accuse theists of not understanding science, because if they did they would no longer be theists.
Here is Hitchens again. "Faith is the surrender of the mind; it’s the surrender of reason, it’s the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It’s our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated."

To me, this means that Hitchens thinks that reason and faith are mutually exclusive. I can see where he is coming from as I have been there too.

Come to Church, leave your brain at home.

The Question

So, what makes people use these labels? I am curious to know. I am not trying to troll or create an argument (but I may write a response).
What is your major reason for choosing atheist, agnostic or theist as a label?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Forgiveness and Forgetting

There are certain elements of the Christian life that keep coming up. To me, these are some of the things that embody what it means to be a Christian.

Grace and forgiveness.

I would like to talk about forgiveness n this post. Everyone has stuff. Everyone has forgave and forgiven. All us Christians know that God has forgiven us and thay we really did not deserve it. That is grace, it's scandalous.

I have no problems forgiving people when they hurt me. Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to brag but it is true. I understand, to borrow a phrase, hurt people hurt people. I have been forgiven of much by both God and people that I love. I hope to be able to extend that grace to people that hurt me.

But.

There is something that I have struggled with lately. I have a hard time forgiving someone that hurts other people that I love.

I think that I have forgiven, but sometimes I really don't know. I think of the term "forgive and forget" and think that is required when forgiving. I don't think we need to forget, in fact, I think forgetting is a terrible idea.

Just because we forgive does not mean we should put ourselves in situations where we can get hurt again. Forgiving people should not make us a doormat. The ultimate goal is to get both parties to agree on reconciliation. That doesn't always happen. We are not obligated to dismiss past transgressions, especially when they keep happening.

So, what is forgiveness? I don't know exactly but it certainly isn't sweeping past mistakes under the rug. It isn't pretending that everything is fine. It doesn't mean that everything needs to go back to the way it was before.

Sometimes I think forgiveness can be more for the forgiver than the receiver. When we hold on to past hurts it hinders us from moving forward and does nothing to accomplish any reconciliation.

Forgive, don't forget. Love. Reconcile when possible.

By Steven McCurdy

Monday, February 10, 2014

An invitation to an open and honest discussion

It may seem strange to people (Christians and non Christians alike) that I spend time writing about what would be considered secondary issues.

I write about these secondary issues because I think they are important to understand the primary issues. I do not write simply to be controversial, it is not my intention to cause strife and division. The divisions exist whether we talk about them or not; This is precisely why we should talk about them.

To a non Christian (or Christian) these things seem like stupid things to talk about and they can be. I would like to state that the primary, fundamental aspect of the Christian faith is Jesus; it certainly isn't soteriology, pneumatology, eschatology or any other "ologies".

But.

There are hard things to explain and things that don't really make sense. I believe that truth is important (even if we can never truly achieve it).

For non Christians some of the things that are hard to accept. Stuff like:

Moses calling curses on Egypt.
The genocide of the Canaanites.
God asking Abraham to kill Isaac.
Levitcal laws.
Elijah cursing the kids for making fun of him.
Etc.
(Basically theodicy)

I don't have all the answers - at least answers that will completely satisfy - but, we should talk about these things. I am happy to offer my perspectives on anything to anyone genuinely interested,

Even for Christians there are things that are hard to figure out. For example:

The extent of the atonement
Election
Charismatic gifts
Women in leadership
(Basically, doctrine)

As a Christian I find these topics compelling and that is why I talk about them. Yes, they are secondary issues. Yes, the do not have salvific power. They are, however, important to discuss in a honest and reasonable way.

After all, as Bill Nye would say, Theism offers some "Extraordinary Claims". We can't deny that. In fact sometimes I feel like it would be easier NOT to believe in God, but, I cannot deny Him. I know Him. So, instead of denying the difficult things or blindly following dogmatic ways of thinking, let's embrace doubt and support sincere inquiry.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Confession: I am a Calvinist sympathiser

I know some Calvinists, good, intelligent, thoughtful and concerned Christians. I can appreciate why they believe what they do. I cannot agree with all of Calvinisms logical outcomes but I can understand wanting to believe in a God that determines our salvation. Otherwise, how are we to be saved unless He rescues us? Surely not by our own power. How are we to remain in the faith if not by His sustaining hand? I can see why they would want to attribute all the good to Him, I want to too.
I respect their commitment to giving God all the glory.
But there are some things that I just can't get past.
1. Single predestination (Infralapsarianism) inconsistencies
Many Calvinists (not all) affirm in a belief that men are free to sin but not free to effect their salvation. They say this, and then continue to say that man does not have free will. Compatibilistic free will is still free will! At this point you have to decide, does man play a co operating role with God (pelagianism, semi pelaginism, Arminianism and even Infralapsarian Calvinism)? Or does God determine all things including the fall (supralapsarianism).
Any type of free will, compatibilistic or otherwise, is synergistic. Even in the Calvinist view men are still co operating with God by utilizing their fallen natures.
2. Double predestination and the decree of sin
I find supralapsarianism to be the most consistent form of Calvinism. In this theory God determines all things. God pre determined the fall of man through Adam. But I find this view has problems of it's own: namely, how is God not the perpetrator and of sin? After all He clearly wants it to happen.
Also, how are men responsible for actions that they were predetermined to do before the foundations of the world by an absolutely sovereign God?
3. The weak atonement of Christ
I have heard it said that prior to the fall men had free will and because of Adams transgression we are now in bondage to sin.
I agree.
But how does an Infralapsarian calvinist answer? Do they agree with the premise? If so, how can the effectiveness of Adams trespass to corrupt be less than Christs atonement? How can Adam have the power to condemn mankind but God himself is unable to atone for it? Now, either Christ atoned for everybody universally, or at the very least, makes the gift of salvation to everyone.
4. Making God a liar
Preaching the gospel to everyone is a lie. We tell people that God can save them but we are not telling the truth. Its like throwing a plate of spaghetti at the wall and seeing which noodles stick.

By Steven McCurdy