Your Reality vs. Your Fantasy

Does the image you have of yourself match who you really are? Which one is real? Here’s another thought, it’s not about how you see yourself that matters as much as what you do. Actions matter.

Self-Image

One day I was dressed all in black, my old uniform, but it wasn’t the clothes that triggered a thought. It was how I saw myself then. You see, though no one knew it, I was the baddest, toughest, guy around who had all the answers.

At least that’s how I thought of myself.

That was my internal world/buffered self (see The Problems of Being A Self-Made Person). It was my identity and the story I told myself. Was it true?

Hahaha.

How did I interact with the world within this view of myself? With a superiority complex covering over an inferiority complex.

What use was it? Hard to say, I was too busy telling the world how brilliant I was to measure impact. There wasn’t any legacy in it.

Ask yourself those questions.

Living An Impactful Life

Now consider legacy. Legacy comes from making a meaningful impact in people’s lives. If you look carefully you can see the influence of one person as it works its way down a line of people. A ripple effect.

Think of the small things, the little things that you’re consistent at. I see people who show up and volunteer at every big project. They are in part creating something that will have an impact for years to come. Those who see them will remember, and whatever banner they are under will be remembered.

I work with people that I know I can count on. Their legacy is loyalty. One had even left, but while there I could count on her and learned from her.

The questions I’m leaving you are these, what legacy do you want to leave behind, and how far-reaching? When you die, how do you want to be remembered? For the Christians, when you see Jesus, will he tell you ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ (Matthew 25:21).

Think about these. If you are truly who you see yourself as and are making the impact that you should, or if it’s just a personal fantasy.

Is There A God?

We’ve spent the last five months looking at the Bible, and are now tackling what’s probably the biggest part of the series, the Doctrine of God. Starting with the question “Is there a God?” This will be an overview, but if you’re really interested in it, check out Dr. William Lane Craig, J. Warner Wallace, Greg Koukl, Ravi Zacharias, and Frank Turek for starters. That’s their specialty.

Let’s get started.

Why do we think there is a God?

Humans have a sense that there is something more, along with what we see in nature and what the Bible says. As creative forces ourselves, we sense a bigger creator, yet we don’t honor it (Romans 1:19-25). Though some don’t want there to be something greater than them, who may expect something from them like we expect things we make to do as we want (Romans 1:18,20,23,25).

Some claim they have no sense of God and deny Him (Psalm 14:1, 53:1, 10:3-4); however, it’s evident they have some sense when they call on a higher power or ask for prayer during times of trouble. Don’t sneer when they do, but pray and help them.

For Christians, the inner awareness is stronger. We see God as our Dad, ourselves as His children, and know Jesus with enough depth that we love him despite never seeing him (Romans 8:15-16; Ephesians 3:17; Philippians 13: 8, 10; Colossians 1:27; John 14:23; 1 Peter 1:8).

Then there’s nature and Scripture. In the Bible, you won’t find a place that doesn’t assume God exists. Creation tells of his character (Romans 1:20), and the heavens of His power (Psalm 19:1-2). The complexity of us in comparison to the other animals reveals something of the image of God, as the only animal with a spiritual/religious instinct.

I need more than that, what other evidence do you have?

There are traditional philosophical proofs of God used to back up what we see. We’ll look at four:

  1. The Cosmological Argument which comes in two forms, horizontal and vertical, cause and sustaining. The first is this, everything has a cause, therefore the universe has a cause. Something caused it, therefore, God caused it. God has no cause, as God is a necessary being, what Socrates described as an unmoved mover that exist out of necessity.
    He can’t not exist, or else everything falls apart (Colossians 1:17) as the vertical proof asserts; every part of the universe is dependent, so all the universe must be dependent, therefore, the whole universe is dependent right now on some independent Being beyond it for its existence.
  2. The Teleological Argument has roots in the Cosmological Argument, both borrowing from the principle of causality. The argument states that all complex design implies a designer, there is complex design in the universe, therefore, there must be a designer for the universe. Designs have a purpose.
  3. The Ontological Argument is a proof for what God has to be like in order to be God. If God exists, we must conceive of Him as a Maximally Great Being that cannot not exist, so God exists. It’s confusing, here’s another video.

The Moral Argument, the last one. Our conscience and Romans 2:12-15 agree on this. It’s stated like this, moral laws imply a moral lawgiver, there is an objective moral law, therefore, there is a moral lawgiver.
C.S. Lewis said that the problem of evil kept him from believing in God. That is until he realized by saying something was evil, he was implying something was good. Who said that was good, and the other evil? That was a lightbulb moment for him.

These help in overcoming the intellectual objections of unbelievers and give believers a firmer foundation for their faith. These are the simplest forms of the arguments, if you want to go deeper then get Dr. Norman Geisler’s The Big Book of Christian Apologetics; An A to Z Guide.

There’s still the matter of the heart issue.

What do you mean by that?

Our very nature is so hostile to God, it’s blinding.

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
2 Corinthians  4: 4

The apologetics arguments can help you know of God, an intellectual assent if you will (1 Corinthians 1:21), but it takes the power of God to help see and trust Him. It took me 31 years to do that (1 Corinthians 2:5). The good news is He’s chasing you, all you have to do is stop, and turn towards him.

How can I know God at all?

He has to reveal himself to us, and he does in general revelation (Romans 1:19). A lot of apologetic thought springs from that. The ultimate revelation, though, is Christ.

All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
Matthew 11:27

That’s needed because we can misinterpret what is revealed in nature.

What do you mean?

It can be suppressed in wickedness (Romans 1:18) because if you think there is a creator, then it created you for something. That leads to two options: find out what it is, and submit or rebel. Wickedness darkened their thinking as they tried to find out, or made their own gods (Romans 1:21-23; 25). Jesus is the light that clears the thinking (John 1:1-5).

Next month we’ll answer the question, how can you know God?


Doctrine of the Bible Posts
How Did We Get The Bible?
Is The Bible The Word of God and Does It Matter?
Is The Bible Inerrant?
Is The Bible Necessary?
Is The Bible Sufficient?

Sources
Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem
Chapter 9: The Existence of God

The Big Book of Christian Apologetics; An A to Z Guide by Dr. Norman Geisler
God, Evidence for. Pg 198

 

What Is “Thoughtful” Christianity?

At the start of the year, I began categorizing a lot of posts under Thoughtful Christianity. What do I mean by it?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines thoughtful as careful reserved thinking. Dictionary.com defines it as careful, heedful or mindful. How is this different from intellectual?

Because it’s not solely a mental pursuit driven by reasoning and curiosity. It is related to it by study, reflection, and speculation, but should also impact life itself.

An agnostic, Julian Barnes, wrote, “What’s the point of faith unless you and it are serious–seriously serious–unless your religion fills, directs, stains, and sustains your life?”

The Christian Paradox

Christianity is a paradox in that the Gospel is so simple that a child can grasp it, and scholars continue to debate it’s finer points. The lens I view the world is in how is Christianity relevant here, what would help, what’s going on, and what am I to do? That’s the steady hum of thoughtfulness going through my mind.

We like to build narratives to make sense of our lives, little mini-narratives, but there is a meta-narrative. Creation, The Fall of Man, Redemption, and Restoration. That encompasses the Bible thematically.

The Fall explains why the world is the way it is, and why humans are so self-centered that we can’t be left unchecked. Not even a multitude of laws can fix it.

Deeper inside is how it applies to us. My favorite is the Wisdom books of Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes along with the entire New Testament. In the Old Testament, you have a people trying (or not) to live according to God’s standards, and being unable to. Their lives are examples of good and bad decisions. Later in the New Testament, a hope is developed and brought to fruition in the New.

Immerse yourself in the story.

“But it’s just a story.”

It’s more, you can pursue a strong apologetic foundation to cement it in place. There are types you can pursue, the best when you can overlap them and it makes sense. Here are the different approaches:

  • Classical Apologetics: It focuses on arguments for the evidence of God along with historical evidence supporting the truth of Christianity. Two steps characterize it, theistic and evidential arguments. (My preferred area)
  • Evidential Apologetics: Focuses on the need for evidence: rational, historical, archaeological and experiential. It’s broad in scope.
  • Presuppositional Apologetics: Like it states, this area starts with a few presuppositions, like Christianity is true, and then argues the case. It’s broken into four areas itself: relational, rational, systematic consistency, and practical.

A blend is best. But my point is that you can go deep with Christianity. Want philosophy, go to reasonablefaith.org. Want to blend that with existential, go to rzim.org. Popular level classic apologetics, go to str.org and coldcasechristianity.com.

When you trust that it’s true, you’re more likely to live it. Just like you trust that if go on a trip, you’ll get there. You don’t know what’s along the way, only what you’re bringing with you, and where you’re going.

Breaking It Down

When you have the big picture, know the background, the cultural context, explore the areas that systematic theology explores; it opens up. A thoughtful Christianity is hard to shake. The deeper you dive, the stronger your foundations, the more it comes alive.

A simple way to start is to just ask yourself, “how does the Bible apply here” in various situations. Not just in commands, like most think, but an explanation for life. Why did that person do that? What is happening here? And so on.

You can go as deep as you want from there, the only hitch…you have to know Scripture. Go on and try it, let me know what you get.