What Kind of God Do We Worship?

Nancy Pearcey’s book, Finding Truth, asserts that the Christian worldview is superior to other worldviews because it best explains our world and is logically consistent. [1]  Part of the Christian worldview is that God exists, that he is a person, that he loves us, and that he is just.  But yet in the Christian doctrine of salvation, which states we must believe in Jesus to be saved and go to heaven, we are faced with three contradictions.

  • If God is a God of love and justice, how can he condemn people to hell who have not heard of Jesus, who have a distorted view of Jesus, or whose culture and/or religion tell them Jesus is irrelevant.
  • Everyone agrees that God made us finite. Being finite means our ability to know what is true is limited.  So how can God require us to believe in the extraordinary events of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection which occurred over 2,000 years ago?  Also, not everyone in the world has the time and resources to investigate all the different religions to see which is superior.  How can God require us to do something he made us incapable of doing?
  • There are well over 70 passages in the New Testament that teach salvation is through belief in God, or through our conduct, pattern of behavior, motivation, use of abilities, and repentance. If salvation is only through belief in Jesus, why did God place these verses in the Bible?  Is God trying to confuse us?

So what kind of God do we worship?  Is he a God that claims one thing and yet does another?  Is he a God who claims to be a God of love and justice and yet condemns people to hell who either have not had the opportunity to know about Jesus or who do not have sufficient proof to convince them of the validity of Jesus and his teachings?

That is not the God I worship.  The contradictions we have described above are so inconsistent with the life and teachings of Jesus who is our best guide to the character of God.  The only logical solution to this problem is that our doctrine of salvation must change.

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[1]   Nancy Pearcey, Finding Truth, Colorado Springs, CO:  David C. Cook, 2015, p. 181.

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Seeking Answers

In the last blog, we discussed Nancy Pearcey’s book Finding Truth.  Another reason I appreciate this book is Pearcey’s emphasis on having reasons for our faith instead of just accepting what is taught.  In the foreword to her book, J. Richard Pearcey states that Christians should “think for themselves, question authority, examine evidence, and push for answers that make sense of our world”. [1]  And that is exactly what we do in this blog.

Why is it necessary to admonish Christians to have reasons for our faith?  It is because when a worldview does not square with the facts the adherents generally “suppress the things that their worldview cannot explain, walling them off into a conceptual area separate from reality”. [2]  Is that not what Christians have done with the doctrine of salvation?  Our blog of February 28, 2017 details one contradiction in the Christian doctrine of salvation.  Previous blogs and my book detail a total of three contradictions that Christianity has not addressed.  Why has Christianity ignored these issues?

Pearcey points out that a major reason people leave Christianity is because they could not get answers to their doubts and questions.  In fact, they could not even get the church to treat their questions seriously.  [3]  If we have contradictions that are at the heart of one of our major doctrines, we must resolve it.  Otherwise, our worldview is no better than any other and those who think for themselves, who seek answers that make sense of our world, and who question authority will continue to leave Christianity.

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[1]   Nancy Pearcey, Finding Truth, Colorado Springs, CO:  David C. Cook, 2015, p. 13.

[2]   Ibid., p. 152.

[3]   Ibid., pp. 58-60 and 247-248.

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Finding Truth

I had known of Nancy Pearcey’s book, Finding Truth, for some time but had never read it.  Recently my step brother, David, suggested that I read it.  So I took his advice and I am glad I did.

The premise of Pearcey’s book is that while all different worldviews have an element of truth [1], they at some point are deficient.  By deficient she means their philosophy does not fit the facts we observe in our world or is not logically consistent. [2]  Pearcey does an excellent job of showing how the dominate worldviews of our time are deficient.

Pearcey’s book mainly points out the deficiencies of worldviews other than Christianity.  She does not spend a great deal of time defining the Christian worldview or defending it other than to point out the Christian worldview better fits the data we have available to us.

Does the Christian worldview have any deficiencies?  Pearcey does not mention any.  However, look at my last blog.  The Christian doctrine of salvation has a glaring deficiency when it states that anyone who wants to be saved must believe in Jesus and his death for our sins and yet a majority of people who have ever lived have not heard of Jesus or have an erroneous view of Jesus.  How could a loving and just God require us to do what a majority of us cannot do?  Pearcey states that “any inconsistency within a system of thought discredits it” [3] and “internal contradictions are fatal to any worldview”. [4]  So why do Christians not want to address this issue?

In Matthew 7, Jesus tells us to address our own short comings before we criticize others for their faults.  Maybe we Christians should address the inconsistency and contradiction in our doctrines before we judge the worldview of others.

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[1]   Nancy Pearcey, Finding Truth, Colorado Springs, CO:  David C. Cook, 2015, pp. 86-88.

[2]   Ibid., p. 181.

[3]   Ibid., p. 117.

[4]   Ibid., p. 181.

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A Contradiction at the Heart of the System

The Christian doctrine of salvation states we must believe in Jesus and his death for our sins to be saved and go to heaven.  In this blog and in my book we have asked three questions about this doctrine.  One of these questions is:

  • What kind of a God would condemn to hell those who have never heard of Jesus or who have a distorted view of Jesus?

This question has been asked for centuries but no one has developed answers that are logical and Biblical based.  Having no answer for this question creates serious problems concerning the validity of our Christian faith.  As David Trueblood, a Christian philosopher, states:

What kind of God is it who consigns men and women and children to eternal torment, in spite of the fact that they have not had even a remote chance of knowing the saving truth?. . .A God who would thus play favorites with His children, condemning some to eternal separation from Himself while admitting others, and distinguishing between them wholly or chiefly on the basis of the accidents of history or geography, over which they had no control, would be more devil than God.  In any case He would not even remotely resemble Jesus Christ, and thus there is a contradiction at the heart of the system. [1]

If we have a contradiction at the heart of our faith, how can we justify adhering to our faith?  Now I understand that we are finite and will not understand why God does everything the way he does.  As a result we will need to take some things on faith.  But I have a hard time believing that God would place a contradiction at the heart of our faith and expect us to essentially ignore it.

There must be a solution to this problem.  So why have we not resolved it?

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[1]   David Elton Trueblood, Philosophy of Religion, New York:  Harper & Row, 1957, pp. 221-222.

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Of Being Very Sure

In an article on the impact black holes have on galaxies and the various theories scientists have about that subject, John Kormendy notes that “Scientists get very sure of things that they think they’re very sure of.  And sometimes they’ve been wrong—and when they are, it’s a hell of a job to change the folklore”. [1]

We are no different than the scientists.  In his Curious Cat blog, John Hunter notes that it is difficult for all of us to change.  Part of the problem is that once we invest so much in a particular way of thinking, to change that way of things means what we have done in the past is wasted. [2]  And none of us like to think we have wasted a considerable part of our lives. But regardless of what it costs us we should follow the advice of a Turkish proverb:  “No matter how long you have been on the wrong road, turn back.”

Now Christians can use what is stated above to convince someone to become a Christian.  In fact that is what Christianity is all about—admitting our failures and resolving to take a new direction.  However, we should also follow this Turkish proverb when we encounter problems with our beliefs.  For example, in this blog and in my book we have raised three questions about the Christian doctrine of salvation.  For centuries, Christianity has not addressed those questions.  In this blog we have proposed a solution but accepting that solution requires that we change some of our beliefs about our doctrine of salvation.  Will we continue down the wrong road on which Christianity has been or will we turn back?

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[1]   John Kormendy as quoted in Camille M. Carlisle, “Of Black Holes and Galaxies”, Sky & Telescope, February 2017, p. 20.

[2]   Gerald Suarez as quoted by John Hunter, http://management.CuriousCatblog.net, June 25, 2014.

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Focusing on the Past

In this blog (see the posts of 08-24-2014 and 08-31-2015) and in my book, we have noted the curiosity that while Christ’s resurrection is one of the most celebrated Christian events, it is hardly mentioned in our theology.  Why?  Several other Christians have recognized this and one is H. A. Williams.  He states that if the concept of the resurrection is just an historical event as in Christ’s resurrection or if it is just a future event as when we will be raised from the dead, then the idea of the resurrection is merely theoretical and therefore meaningless to us.  In other words, it has no impact on our current lives. [1]

Williams asserts that the resurrection should have an impact on our lives because only if we experience resurrection in the present can we expect to experience it in the future. [2]  Additionally, the Bible teaches us in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 that Jesus’ resurrection (which is described in the perfect tense) is a past event with present consequences which is the new life God wants us to live.  The only way we will experience true resurrection after we die will be if we experience true resurrection while we are alive.  We must become a new creation if we expect to experience the presence of God when we die.  Why is that not part of our doctrine of salvation?

Also in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, the past tense is used to describe Jesus’ death for our sins.  There is nothing more we need to do about our sins; Jesus paid the penalty and that is final.  It is so strange that in our doctrine we Christians focus on what happened in the past, on what is already been accomplished, while ignoring what God has planned for us today.  Why?

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[1]   H. A. Williams, True Resurrection, Springfield, IL:  Templegate Publishers, 1972, pp. 3-5.

[2]  Ibid., p. 13

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Thou Shalt Not

“Augustine defined sin as any word, deed, or desire against eternal law.” [1]   How are these eternal laws expressed?  Most of those that come immediately to mind are negative.  Consider the Ten Commandments.  Only two are positive.  Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy and honor thy father and mother.  The other eight tell us not to do something—“thou shalt not”.  Why is so much of the Bible negative—don’t do this, don’t do that?  What kind of person is God if he is someone who just tells us what we cannot do?

However, the eternal laws given in the Bible are not all negative.  The Golden Rule is positive–“Do unto others. . .”  The Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 are all positive—Blessed are those who. . .”  In Matthew 22:34-40 Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God and the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.  Both are positive.

We Christians tend to be negative about our beliefs because of our emphasis on the necessity of believing in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins.  In order to be saved we must acknowledge that we are sinners, that we did what is wrong.  However, the good news is that the forgiveness of our sins has been dealt with in the past; it has already been accomplished; it is a done deal.  So why is our emphasis on the past?

What our emphasis should be on our future; it should be on the new life God has planned for us; it should be on the type of person we God wants us to be; it should be on the new creation God wants us to become (II Corinthians 5:17).  Our focus should be on what we are to be or do instead of what we should not be or do.

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[1]   Timothy McDermott, editor, St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ, Norte Dame, IN:  Christian Classics, 1989, p. 250.

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Religion and Morality

I’m reading Backgrounds of Early Christianity by Everett Perguson.  In this book Perguson notes that morality was not associated with religion in Greco-Roman paganism.  Rather, morality was taught by philosophers and teachers or was the result of one’s national customs.  Perguson also notes that this distinction between religion and morality is strange to those of us of the Judeo-Christian heritage. [1]

But is this separation between religion and morality really that strange to us Christians?  Our doctrine of salvation states all we need to do to be saved is to believe and nothing else.  Our ethics or morality has nothing to do with our salvation.

However, this blog and my book reference multiple Biblical passages that contradict the notion that our ethics have nothing to do with our salvation.  One example is in Galatians 6 where Paul is talking about Christians and Christian problems; he is not talking about unbelievers.  He says:

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-9 ESV)

Religious rules for Greco-Roman paganism were largely ceremonial and not ethical.  Major events in a family’s life were celebrated by offering gifts to various idols and gods. [2]  Is that much different from salvation being just a matter of belief?  Is God satisfied, are we saved, just because we say the right words at one point in our lives?  Is God satisfied if we have a ceremony of professing belief and baptism?  If you answered “yes” then it appears that the practices of the Greco-Roman pagans were not much different from our practices as Christians today.  If you answered “no” then we need to change our doctrine of salvation.

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[1]   Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993, pp. 65 and 165.

[2]   Ibid., p. 165.

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What Is the Great Commission?

In the last blog we briefly mentioned the Great or Divine Commission which is contained in Matthew 28. It is Jesus’ final instructions to his followers.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

What is of interest is that all of Jesus’ commands contained in the Great Commission are action words—things we are to do.  Nothing is said about belief.  Jesus did not say to make believers of all nations; he said to make disciples.  So why is not our doctrine of salvation the same?  Why does our doctrine of salvation only concern itself with our belief in Jesus and his death for our sins and say nothing about the actions the Bible says we are to take?

Now before someone will be a disciple of Jesus or follow Jesus’ command they undoubtedly would first believe in Jesus.  However, that still does not negate the emphasis Jesus places on actions in the Great Commission.  And as we have shown in this blog and in my book, the entire Bible has the same emphasis; our actions are necessary for our salvation.

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The Divine Commission

Frank E. Wilson, in his book The Divine Commission:  A Sketch of Church History, places considerable emphasis on the church fulfilling the divine commission Christ left his followers.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

What interested me was that his book, while recording the partial realization of the divine commission, was mainly a record of how unlike Christ the church has been throughout history.  The people in leadership positions in the church were more interested in money, power, and prestige than about the things of God. [1]  They were quite willing to torture and kill those who disagreed with their theology and practices, even for very minor differences. [2]  In our own age we have seen priests molest young children, TV preachers amassing wealth at the expense of their poor followers, and all sorts of financial and personal misdeeds by Christians.

What is incredible is that throughout this sordid history of the church the teachings of Jesus have remained valid.  I do not see how that could happen if Jesus’ teaching were just a human construct.  The hypocrisy of the church teaching one thing and doing another should have ended it long ago.  The fact that it did not indicates to me that Jesus’ teachings are of divine origin and in spite of the fallible people who are this church, his teachings remain the ultimate guide for our lives.  This is one reason why I believe.

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[1]   Frank E. Wilson, The Divine Commission:  A Sketch of Church History, Delhi, India:  Facsimile Publisher, 1927, p. 209.

[2]   Ibid., p. 114.

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