Archive for June, 2010

The American Heresy

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

In the comments on my last post I had a spirited conversation with a friend from high school regarding the existence of hell. To summarize my understanding of his argument, he believes that hell is not a real place because hell is evil and God being all good cannot create evil. The references to hell in Scripture, therefore, are metaphors. This is one of the many variations of this idea the United States today. I’d like to take a moment here to share my thoughts on the matter.

First, I believe hell is a literal place where people who do not receive God’s forgiveness for their sin through Jesus in their earthly lives will spend eternity. Hell is a place where those who have not received salvation in Christ receive eternal punishment for their sin (Matthew 25:30, 41; Revelation 14:9-11; 19:3).

This is not inconsistent with God’s goodness. In fact, quite the opposite is true. If God were not to punish sin then he would not be wholly good because he would allow evil to exist without consequence. In this sense, hell is no more evil than prison.

What about the length of punishment? Is eternal punishment really justified for temporal sin? Ultimately, I don’t think we can answer that, because we are incapable of ascertaining the true extent of sin. We do not know the damage that sin does beyond the obvious things that we see and feel. Yet we know that sin is wrong even when there are no apparent damages to the people around us (for instance sex between to single consenting adults is sin although there are no apparent negative effects). We cannot judge whether eternal punishment is fair or not, only God knows.

While this is not comfortable for me, I trust God. I know that God is good. I know that he will do what is right. So, I trust him to do the holy, righteous, loving, good thing. Even when I don’t understand it. I must hold myself to God’s standard and not attempt to hold him to mine. He’s God. I’m not.

There’s a lot more that could be said here but this is enough for one post. What do you think?

Own Your Own Sin

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

In my last post I asked if God was responsible for sin? I argued that God is, as least secondarily, responsible for the existence of sin because although he had the power to prevent it he chose not to.

I offered the analogy of someone aware that a bank robbery was about to occur and did not call the police. That individual is secondarily responsible for the robbery because they had the power to prevent it, and chose not to. Does this remove culpability from the one committing the robbery? Does this excuse his action? Absolutely not!

Let’s say that you knew that I was going to rob a bank and did nothing to stop me. You would not be directly responsible for the fact that I robbed the bank. I still had the choice not to rob the bank. I am responsible for the choices I make.

Applying this to our conversation, we can see that, although God may be indirectly responsible for sin, each individual is directly responsible for every sin that they commit. God is therefore just in judging sin.
In response to some of the comments from Tuesday’s post this is why we cannot justify our sin be putting it back on God. By God’s design we are free moral agents. Although God allows for the potentiality of sin we are still responsible for the free choices that we make. We must own our own sin.

Is God Responsible for Sin?

Monday, June 14th, 2010

I love having conversations with people who disagree with me. It forces me to think. It forces me to understand why I think or believe the way I do. A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with a Pentecostal friend of mine. We were discussing how sin entered the world. My friend believes that sin entered the world through the agency of free moral agents and there was nothing that God could do to stop it. The way I understand what he was saying, sending Jesus was God’s reaction to sin and his way of fixing something that went horribly wrong.

Let’s take a closer look at the argument. First, we both agree that sin is in the world. Second, we both agree that sin is offensive to God. The question then is, how did something offensive to God enter the world. I see two possibilities. (1) God was unable to prevent sin from entering the world because of either a lack of knowledge or a lack of power. (2) God was able to prevent sin from entering the world but chose not to prevent it.

The problem with option 1 is that it denies God’s omniscience, omnipotence, or both. The problem with 2 is that it makes God, at least secondarily, responsible for sin entering the world by allowing sin to enter the world. Now, I know some of you are going to balk at the second problem but pause and think about it for a moment. If my dog bites my neighbor, who is responsible? Me. If I know that my neighbor is going to rob a bank and I don’t call the police, am I responsible. In a secondary sense I am and the law hold me responsible. If God had the knowledge that sin would enter the world and the power to stop it and he chose not to he is, at least secondarily, responsible for sin entering the world.

So either God could not prevent sin or God is partially responsible for sin. For my friend, he is more comfortable with saying that God could not stop sin than saying that God is partially responsible for sin. I can’t accept that. I can’t sleep at night thinking that there is something outside of God’s ability to control. Outside of God’s sovereignty. How can I trust that God will fulfill all his promises if he sin was able to enter the world against God’s will. To me this makes sin in a sense more powerful than God. That not only gives me fits philosophically but it is not biblical. Therefore, I accept that God is secondarily responsible for sin entering the world because he could have stopped it. But, I trust that since God is all good and all loving his choice to allow sin is the good loving choice. I don’t understand it. But God has always been faithful and good to me so I trust him in spite of my lack of understanding.

Now, I know that someone reading this post is going to argue that I am making God responsible for the fact that they sin. Well, that’s not what I believe but this post has already gotten too long so come back Thursday and I’ll explain what I believe about that. Please leave you comments below. Like I said, I like to talk to people who disagree with me. That’s how we all learn and grow. It’s how we love God with all our minds.

Twitter-God

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

A lot of people think that connecting with God is like connecting with someone through Facebook. You do a search and find God’s Facebook page. Then request Him as a friend. Facebook sends God an email asking Him whether or not He’ll accept you or not. You presume that He will. But you don’t know. He might block you and you’re never really sure if he’s going to block you or not.

God’s not like Facebook. He’s more like Twitter. You find his Twitter page and start following Him. There’s no waiting for approval. We automatically start hearing from Him as He sends out tweets. He Tweets regularly through the Bible and the Holy Spirit. He’s always communicating, always sharing. We can log on and read His tweets or ignore them.

That’s the way most people treat twitter and the way most people treat God. We log on when we’re bored. Check out what’s going on. Or we just tweet incessantly and ignore what everyone else is saying. We talk at God and call it prayer but don’t take time to listen to Him and hear what He has to say. Like Twitter, to really appreciate God you’ve got to take some time to stop tweeting and start reading, stop talking and start listening.

Take some time today and make a point to listen to God. He’s got a lot to say to you.

Subcreation

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

My daughter has a new favorite game, “The Fairy Game.” It’s a game created by Disney to go along with their move Tinker Bell. In the game you create a fairy and fly around Pixie Hollow helping the get ready to bring summer to the mainland.

My little girl’s favorite part of the game is creating the new fairies. She currently has 23 fairies that she has created and printed that we’ve put in a binder for her. It’s not just creating fairies though. She loves to create. Her favorite thing to do at home is create art projects whether painting, molding play dough, or gluing random things together. At church and in preschool her favorite part is craft time. One of her favorite destinations is the Detroit Institute of Arts because she love doing the art projects on the weekends.

But it’s not just my daughter that loves to create. Deep inside, I think we all love to create. Some people create businesses and organizations that do great things in the world. Some people create inventions that make our lives easier. Some people create beautiful works of art. Some people create wonderful stories that capture our imaginations. I love to create through this blog hopefully helping people draw closer to God and become better leaders. I also create through my research as I learn new things and communicate them through articles and my upcoming dissertation.

J. R. R. Tolkien calls this desire to create subcreation. He talks about it in his essay “On Fairy Stories” that you can find in The Tolkien Reader (it’s out of print so check your local library). Tolkien argues that subcreation is part of the image of God. God is a creative being who has created beings in his image that love to create. Now, only God can truly create by creating something out of nothing, but we can create by taking what he has creating and manipulating it to become something different and new. We create because our Father is creative. Creating is one of the ways that we display the image of God that is in us. Part of the way we worship and glorify God is to create.

What about you? What do you love to create? How are you displaying the image of God through the creative drive in you?

Seeing Through New Eyes

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Yesterday morning I noticed a piece of twine tied to one of the trees in my neighborhood. At first I was confused. How did a piece of twine get tied to the tree like that? Then I remembered how the trees on that street looked when we first moved in. It was a new neighborhood. All of the trees that line the main thoroughfare had three pieces of twine tied to them and to stakes in the ground to help the young trees grow straight.

It’s been six years since we moved in. Those trees have grown over the past six years and no longer need the support of the twine. Trees grow slowly. They change slowly. As I saw those trees everyday, I didn’t notice how much the trees were changing over time.

The same is true in organizations. While some changes are fast and noticeable others are slow and hard to notice in the midst of a change. We often need a fresh look at what’s going on to understand how to lead in our organizations.

This is the value of consultants. Consultants take a snapshot of the organization and help the leadership see it with new eyes. The summer is coming and this often is the time when church leaders take time to pause, refresh themselves and plan for the next ministry season. This is the perfect time to consider bringing in a consultant to help plan the next phase of your church’s ministry. For more information about consulting and information on how one might help your church, contact Jericho Ministry Solutions. Or, you can email me directly at Bryon@JerichoMinistries.net.