Thursday, May 28, 2009
This is what C.S. Lewis had to say about the issue of "free" will:
Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata-of creatures that worked like machines-would hardly be worth creating. -Mere Christianity, p. 48
First off, I love C.S. Lewis. His writings, particularly the Narnia series, have had a big impact on my faith growing up. So this is not intended to be a bash to him or to state that I am somehow theologically smarter than he was. I can agree with this quote on a basic level, but I feel it leaves out some pretty important factors in regards to our ability to choose or "reject" God. Ive already covered in a previous blog this issue of free will once before, but I would like to briefly rebuttal to Lewis's quote with three different points...
If the only other choice that God gives humanity is suffering in an everlasting pit of unspeakable horror, than we are not really free to choose or love Him.
What would most Christians say to a husband, who openly threatens to burn his wife in gasoline if she ever leaves him? Could he then say that he has deep, true love for her?
NO! She would only stay with him out of fear...her well being depends on it! Thusly, it is insane and sadistic to say that God gives us choice under THAT particular premise.
Mans will cannot truly be free if it is bound by Gods choices. Jesus tells us in John 6:44 that,
"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him".
This implies that God has to do something first in our lives, in our hearts, before we can even think about accepting God and is the only way to have a relationship with Him. Then Paul tells us in Romans 8:7
"the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so."
If a mind tainted by sin cannot subject itself to God of its own "free" will, then we dont really have "free" will to begin with. So therefore the people that have not accepted God yet, are merely incapable of doing so until God makes the initiative to open their heart to Him.
Lewis is right when he says that God didn't make us as "machines" that really only love God because they are not free to do otherwise. I think we are able to make choices that are against God's wishes, a.k.a. sin. Yet on that same note, I think we need to remember God's original design for us, before sin even stepped into the picture. God says in Genesis 1:26 ,
"Let us make man in our image, in our likeness"
To me this implies that we are first and foremost made not only LIKE God(on a much less scale of course) but FOR God. So though we are tarnished by sin...Christ must be the emery to clean our hearts back to its original luster. And once at that original perfected state, we as humans cannot help but love God for all that he is.
To say that God would make any human without the potential to reciprocate love, once God begins to unbind us from sin, would be very cruel. It would mean God literally made people that were incapable of loving him, and thus could only be sent to eternal torments in response to their pre-programed desire to hate God and never change. And this is where the mainstream view comes into conflict with its own moral crutch called "free will"
Therefore, I think of the "free" will to love God, as merely the inate desire we WILL have once God cleans us from our dispositions. God didnt make us as robots incapable of doing anything else, but our will is won to him slowly and beautifully as he cleans away the devils work from every single human being. God will not give up til everyone comes to that point of purity and acceptence of Him.
Monday, May 18, 2009
The wonderful love of God is probably the most talked about and celebrated thing in Christian culture. We sing songs about it, we use it as the focal point of most sermons, we put it on t-shirts, and we talk about it while handing out food bags to the less fortunate. We seem very enthused with this fact that God loves us enough to forgive us our sins and take us to heaven (and rightly so). Most Christians believe that God is infinitely loving, and that His love is available to all to have, if they so "choose" to believe in Christ (John 3:16). Most Christians believe that God "is" love, as stated in 1 John 4:8. That God is the very definition of it and the ultimate example of what love should be for us humans.
But most Christians also believe (though talk about it substantially less), that God eventually just...gives up on us. That if we dont accept Jesus as Lord by the time we die, that God will release His grip on love and let us fall into an everlasting abyss of suffering. He spends our whole life trying to get us to accept His love, to demonstrate it through the lives of us Christians, but because of some strange "mystery of life"...most of humanity just doesn't want such perfect love. Even so, it never stops us from calling such a temporary love the "Good News" of the gospel...or as Id like to call it more appropriately, the "not so good news" gospel. We say many times in evangelizing,
God loves you unconditionally!
While at the back of our minds thinking,
Well, sort of...
Because the fact of the matter is, if the person you're evangelizing to doesn't accept Jesus before he dies, God will revoke all love and hope to that individual and leave them in Hell for all eternity (according to mainstream theology anyway).
And while most of us aren't bursting for joy about the darker side of the gospel, we accept it and kind of shove it to the closet of our minds. We casually cruise past it in the majority of our sermons, and focus on the more "happy" side of it... that WE Christians can be sure that God loves us, because we turned our hearts to Him and are following Him! And though I passively accepted this view of Gods love for many years, I eventually found it in bitter conflict with the very nature and character of God. And after many months of staring it square in the face, I eventually saw it completely contradictory to the very nature of love, as given to us by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-13...
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away[...]
13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
- God is patient, God is kind.
- God keeps no record of wrongs.
- God always perseveres.
- God never fails.
- God is only patient until you die, God is only kind if you obtain the right set of beliefs about Him.
- God is keeping a record of your wrongs and once you die you're going to suffer eternally for them.
- God will not always persevere, and eventually will give up on you.
- God will eventually fail to save humanity, and only end up with a small portion of it.
Most Christians view God as a kind, well dressed man who passes by a restaurant everyday before going to work. In this restaurant is a beautiful waitress that he used to date in high school, but after some tough times, called off the relationship. Even so, he decided years later that he forgives her and still wants her as his wife someday. So once in awhile he may pop in the restaurant for some coffee and smiles at her from afar. Once in awhile he leaves notes for her telling her that he misses her and asking her out on a date, and every time she kindly declines. And after awhile of the same tired routine, the man finally gives up on the woman and without a goodbye...never again returns to the restaurant. And though frustrated that his love was never again returned, hes just happy that he has a lock of her hair to remember her by (as if it makes up for not having her in his life).
But this is saying that our perfect God who IS love, has a love for us that is just as petty and conditional as typical human love. This is saying that because our love ends at death, so must God's. This is saying that because we Christians can be satisfied with just us being saved, that God will also be satisfied. This is saying that God is really not much different than any other human with temporary goals, hopes and emotions. This is...quite frankly...stupid. Especially in light of the parable Jesus gives us in Luke 15:4-6
4"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6and goes home.
This parable has always been so heart-warming to me, especially now that I believe God not only wants to save all, but will do so. It speaks of a love that will not give up until each one of us are found and returned back to Him. That one sheep...one soul...is just as valuable to the Good Shepard as the other ninety-nine are. But yet, the mainstream insists that God will only rescue a few sheep from the clutches of sin...and will eventually stop looking for the majority. That God, in all His mercies and forgiveness and wisdom, and unsurprising, all abundant love...somehow didn't plan for our fallen state and will eventually leave us to it in eternal horror. How can we call that the unfailing, perfect example of love?
It breaks my heart so much that this is our majority view. That we cling so violently to such a doctrine, that most certainly does not line up with love as shown in the Bible. That in all our legalistic doctrines and traditional interpretations, we have unjustly put God's love on the same level of imperfection and failure as human love. So its no wonder that many people "reject" the gospel when we say that God's love sometimes fails indeed (in fact it does most of the time according to mainstream theology). But I believe God's love is so much greater than human love, so much more unending. God's love is so much more grand for every human soul than we can possibly ever grasp at...and yet the majority of humanity is blind, deaf and completely dumb to that fact. Do you think God is going to give up though? Do you think He will magically stop loving us just because we dont always get things right? Do you think He is surprised by any of our sins, even the one of unbelief? Do you think Jesus died only so that a few would be forgiven and reconciled to God? Do you really think He's going to let Satan overcome and win most souls in spite of Gods patient, and unfailing love for them?
I really don't think so. Call me a heretic for believing my God is that big, but it will not change the truth of God or the true gospel of Jesus. Nor will it change Gods heart towards humanity, even through judgment and its purposes. And I dont believe we can accurately preach to a "dying world" if we believe God's love and patience for them to be just as short as our human lives are.
I encourage you to read over these passages in your own time with God, and really ask yourself, Can God's love possibly be as amazing and unrelenting as the Bible says? Ask yourself,
If God is powerful enough and willing enough, can He also be loving enough to bring all to salvation in Him?
My prayer is that in time, you will see that yes...God's love is that amazing, and that unrelenting. And yes, God is that loving...to the fullness of every characteristic of love.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
In the eight month period of what I've decided to call my "spiritual renaissance", I feel God has really challenged me to step outside my head so to speak. To break the Christian box. To stop confining Him to all these preconceived notions, particularly the ones people instilled in me as irrefutable truth(with good intent of course). To stop assuming that I have things all figured out.
And this was very uncomfortable to me, as I think it is for any human. Bishop Carlton Pearson says,
"the human mind has an incredible capacity for refusing to see what it doesnt want to see. Sometimes we feel that we know so much, that we dont want to know anymore. That we dont want to consider that there just may be another aspect of truth we havent considered yet."( very loosely quoted).
Thats where I was, and in some ways still am. I had prayed many months ago to be closer to God, to have that passion that I had in years past again. All I wanted was God back the way I knew Him...I didnt particularly want new or enhanced understandings. So there I sat in my ship with all the questions I (to this day) believe God allowed me to have for good reason.
I prayed constantly and cried out to God...I just wanted to love others and help them see God like I had in years past... but He finally helped me realize that in order to do that, I needed to stop trying to sail back to what I knew before, and completely release myself from the shores of mainstream Christianity and let the good Lord guide my ship.
So finally I did, and I let myself examine the concepts that I had completely either written off as crazy or were only slightly sympathetic to (such as ultimate reconciliation). And slowly but surely I felt the anger and confusion melt away in awe of an amazing, transcendent God. I felt challenged, but also willing to examine my old beliefs and adjust them according to what God was showing me...even when it didnt seem to make sense...or in the case of ultimate reconciliation...too MUCH sense (haha).
At the same time I developed a knack for skepticism, to the extent that I never really had before. Ive never been a fan of questioning things too much or too deeply (until these last 8 months or so) but it unwillingly became ingrained as apart of my thought process.
At the same time I get the typical sense of surety that I shouldn't question such things...that I should just accept what Ive been taught growing up. But what am I afraid of? If God is truth, more investigation of that truth will only confirm it and give me a more solid ground to stand upon. Truth would not and will not magically overcome God and the Bible if they indeed be true, in which I believe they are. So I began to question why I KNEW what I did, how was I so sure?
I knew that I had had reasons to believe what I did, but was there a bigger picture of the world that I wasnt seeing?
Even though I feel like the dust has settled and I feel my beliefs more solid than they were previously, I constantly ask myself this. And I feel that question ultimately has led me to a much grander view of truth. Coming back into having a passion to debate and investigate I cant help but ask myself "Who is really right? Could I be wrong?". I wish more Christians were able to do that. because one of the main problems I see in the world today is the fact that everybody thinks they're right about everything, and so little do we challenge that. We're so ready to accept whats been handed down to us, and what the preacher says on Sunday mornings, that in the process we may plug our ears and laugh at a more reasonable (and often times, more Biblical) view.
Our tradition and Christian religion is a wonderful incubator or "nest" in which a fledgling Christian can hop around and chirp. A place where one can open their little mouth in hunger and eat the worm of mainstream doctrine, and be safe from the likes of atheist and Muslim birds. But eventually the fledgling grows up and gets sick of the prescribed doctrine worms. Eventually the bird is tired of his sibling birds who have grown enormous egos along with their bodies. The small nest no longer suits his need for growth and shelter. And thus the once little bird must spread his wings and fly into the unknown, and make his own nest so to speak. I call this flying "the nest of tradition" or phase two of the Christian life. Its not to say that one disregards everything one learns in the nest, but that our growth in God and understanding Him cannot be contained to the nest of tradition and its interpretations.
Flying outside of that nest I feel I have more of a real love for God and people, and a bigger view of Him and His ways.
So many times we seem to value our tradition more than we value what the Bible says or what God may be trying to show us. In Matthew 15 some Pharisees get mad at Jesus because His diciples didnt wash their hands before eating, as was the tradition. And Jesus replies in verse 3-7,
"And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? ...(buncha stuff)... you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7You hypocrites!..."
I think Jesus implies here that our tradition, The Bible, and what God shows us arent by nature in the same camp...and should be separated when they come into conflict with one another. Failure to do so gets us stuck in our man-made religions and ideals...instead of a pursuit for God. I think we should no longer allow such tradition to get in the way of the things Gods trying to show us...and in doing so will make us so much wiser as I feel I have started to become.
Its possible and am almost sure that I am still wrong about some things. That other people may be wiser in some respects, even some fundamentalist Christians. I certainly hope Im right about many things, most particularly ultimate reconciliation and Gods unfailing love for all humanity. But at the end of the day I've come to conclude that THIS is where God wants me to be. This is the place of mind where He has led me and where He broke the oppression from my heart. My understanding always has and always will be in need of growth (as is the case with everyone). And I could spend all day everyday in torment worrying that God will be forever furious if I dont get the perfect definitions of everything. But God purposefully has not given us the answers to everything in "clear as day, proven fact" form. So the only thing we can do as human beings, is to piece together the evidence given in the most coherent matter possible, with the Holy Spirit guiding us accordingly. And thats what I try to do now as I live life...nothing more, nothing less. I dont think God honestly expects anything more of His creations, how could He? And that is part of why I believe He truly has an unfailing and unconditional love for us all, that death itself cannot and will not stop.
So wont you fly the nest? Isnt it so cramped and confusing in there? Isnt it so frustrating dealing with the "know it alls" after awhile? Arent you ready to let the spirit of God take you on a journey to see a bigger view of the world and His love for it?I admit it can be scary at first, but I think its healthy to really look at why we believe what we do. To not stubbornly presume we have the "right" interpretation and everyone else is just wrong and deceived by Satan. To truly examine the possibilities. I think in doing that we can begin to understand people and God so much better.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
I really intend this blog, obviously, to be more geared as a spiritual journal for me. So I really debated whether or not to post this entry. But sometimes, like today, I just have more personal things on my mind. So this blog wont be terribly interesting (I dont know if they really ever are anyway) as it is not meant as anything but a vent, and maybe a small clarification to those of you that havent understood the pains in my recent months that HAVENT been as spirituality related. So just be for warned if your looking for my so called "deep" spiritual insights:
Its kind of weird to say that Ive been single almost half a year now. Its even weirder that it really bothers me, since before my last relationship I had been (well officially) single for about two years, and then before that I never had even dated anyone. But here I am, sad, and feeling sorry for myself that no romantic endeavor has even slightly worked out in this near 6 month period.
Most of the time I would have been way over any girl by this point, but as Ive learned painfully but surely in the past 6 months, is that I really was(and in a less romantic sense, still am) in love with Amy(my latest ex). I hate admitting it to myself, since the 2 times I thought I was "in love" before that I shortly concluded afterwards that I was just naively infatuated. But despite all the things about Amy that I didnt agree with or like(particularly the person she transformed into at the end), I still reminisce on all the good times we did have when I would visit her(or even apart). And I really miss the part of me she completed at the time and just really the friendship that was like none other. We were apart the majority of the relationship obviously but in her I had a friend that would listen to me, and likewise...no matter what the problem, the success...any time of day. It was such a magical connection that I felt, and that, she at the time, claimed she felt as well.
I really had convinced myself that she was my soul mate and that I wanted to marry her, and though now Im glad I didnt pursue those plans any further...I was serious about it. Maybe what makes me most lonely and hurt still to this day was the terrible way we ended, that til this day has been completely irreversible. I can understand a person not feeling romantic about me anymore, I guess I can even understand when a person doesnt want to be my friend anymore. But when a person meant everything to you, and they claimed the same about you for over a year, I cant understand that person just walking out of my life never wanting to speak to me again...for no real given reason. More than my girlfriend, I considered her my closest friend...it didnt matter how far we were apart. So the various times I tried to mend things at least as friends between us from the time she broke up with me til about a month ago, and them being met with absolutely no response...just kindof blows my mind I guess. Its still hard to believe that I spent 1500 dollars and a years worth of love and care on someone that, for really small ridiculous reasons, dumped me for an athiest and wants to never speak to me again.
I know that I just need to completely get over it..since obviously her actions in the end showed that she wasnt the right girl for me at all. And in one sense I have...I dont think about her as often, Im fairly motivated to achieve something in life again (well on my good days) and Ive felt attracted to other people. But theres still a part of me that hasnt really dealt with it, that doesnt really know how to. Theres a part of me that is still with her even though our physical involvement never went beyond a 8 second kiss. And sometimes I just break down, because a part of me is still...dead and unfulfilled. And no matter how many times I tell myself that "she just wasnt the right girl and God will just magically give me someone better someday" it doesnt really repair what was broken in me.
It doesnt replace the empty chair in my life that she brought into the circle of my heart and just one day, left for something "better". And so ever since then, Ive just felt so lonely. I have a few good friends, not alot, but they're good and I try to hang with them when I can...but they do not nor could they possibly fulfill what Amy did in my life.
I still really deeply care about her, and hope that whatever shes doing she is happy. I hope that God brings her the best, most Godly man possible someday. In one way I feel sad and disappointed to no end that I could not be enough for her, or be that guy. But then in another way I dont feel bad at all because I know that for the staunch majority of the relationship I did everything I could to treat her kindly and respectfully unlike her past boyfriends. I know that I truly gave it my all, and that no matter how much I cannot understand it now, it was in Gods will at the time but not for the long run.
And though she may not forgive me for my weak self-esteem and analytical nature, I will forgive her for much more terrible things and be glad that we at least tried.
I know (or at least hope) that God has someone out there for me that will be for the long run. But I've pretty much concluded that wherever she is Gods probably not going to reveal who she is to me until I am content with myself and God, just as I was before my relationship with Amy. And that really it makes alot more sense for me to just establish myself in my career and figure out the man God is trying to make me into right now, before rushing off into another relationship. I only wish that in this time of singleness I could be content and not feel so empty and lonley without that "special" type of girl in my life. Its really difficult not to miss what I had, and not to in some way search for it. But I will pray that God gives me the strength to do His will contently in my singleness, while having the wisdom to see and cherish the right thing when it comes along.