Thursday, June 26, 2008

Desert of Dreams

This hardly sounds like an excuse considering I don't have a job or, quite frankly, any activity besides church twice a week, but I've been busy. There you are, I've been swamped just by reading, writing, stapling and checking email. In my defense, there have been a few odds jobs I've started recently, I'm in a band and trying to write music, I've again been saddled with the opportunity to write a script for a movie, and I'm writing a gang-story with several of my friends.

It is this last activity that I would like to draw your attention to. I'm heading out of town on vacation for a couple days, so if you want a dose of my hyper-creative side and/or you love reading fantasy stories in general, I'd invite you to check out my newest blog: the Desert of Dreams Chronicles. Once you're up to date on the story, be sure to check back every couple of days for the latest addition by me, Thomas H, or JBC. As a friendly reminder to do this, I've linked to this blog from my blog, so yeah, check it out, leave comments, and enjoy!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Thought for the Day

I know this post won't be all that substantial, but an interesting thought occurred to me as I meditated on my pastor's sermon this morning and surfed my favorite blogs. As you may or may not have guessed by now, I am deeply interested in the whole "Calvinism vs. Arminianism" debate. Ever since my pastor spent a whole year preaching on the sovereignty of God, over the past several years I've read/seen multiple debates on the issue and read some quality material on the concept of "free will." Yeah, yeah, I know, I've pretty much always been a Calvinist, but I still enjoy hearing the arguments and biblical support from both sides of the debate.

That said, the thing that hit me is that one of the most prevalent arguments against Calvinism (but not completely for Arminianism either, see "edit") is that a loving God would not send someone to hell. One thing they fail to do, and, for that matter, something that Christendom on the whole fails to do, is look at the very nature of God's love. Take Romans 12:9, for instance. Paul is saying that true love abhors what is evil. Granted, this passage is talking about the love we as Christians should possess and demonstrate in our lives, but surely God's true and perfect love likewise abhors evil. Think about that. If true love hates evil, then why would we expect God to let sinners as horrible and rebellious as ourselves into heaven? The answer, of course, lies in the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross. When a person is saved, the punishment due to him by God is essentially transfered onto Christ. God, then, in a sense, looks upon him as holy and blameless.

The atonement aside, my point is that it is the nature of a loving God to send an evil person, in other words, every unsaved person to hell. This is, of course, assuming we use a biblical definition of God, but what other authority is there? Where did the oh-so-popular idea that "God is love" come from in the first place? The Bible, of course, and it is this very same Bible that says that true, Godly, love has no tolerance for evil. It may be hard to accept, but when an unsaved person faces God on judgment day, the loving thing for Him to do is send that person to hell, because He abhors what is evil. There is no attribute or part of God that wants to let the reprobate into His presence. His justice, His holiness, His wrath, and even His love all scream that the sinner get what he deserves--eternal damnation in the lake of fire.

*edit* I've been thinking about this a little bit more, and I'm realizing that instead of Arminianism, which has no problems with the reality of hell, this post has much more to do with answering to universalism and the, umm, more "positive" brand of Christianity. So ignore the first paragraph for the most part, it's not as relevant to the whole post as I thought it was going to be.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Satan can be so, so, well, loopy....

If there's one great falsehood that really creeps me out, if there's one massive lie that just sends chills down my spine, it's Mormonism. Yes, all those other heretical religions are sad and scary, but this one really rubs me wrong. I don't know why exactly. Maybe it's their totally off-the-wall beliefs, maybe it's because I have a really good relationship with a Mormon family. Whatever it is, it really does scare me.

I'm saying this because our church just watched a video last Wednesday that compared the Bible to the Book of Mormon. It examined the history, people, places, flora & fauna, etc. of the two books to see how they stood up in light of all the physical evidence we have. To put it bluntly, the Bible absolutely owned. I mean, I just did a big project on the identity of Jesus that eventually branched out into reliability of Scripture in general. It is amazing that, given all the archaeological and manuscript we as Christians get criticized as hard as we do by skeptics, atheists, and the like. Sure, a thing or two may be questionable, but there's no doubt that we at least have a decent body of evidence to support our faith.

In contrast, the Book of Mormon's account has nothing. That's right, nothing, zilch, nada. Not a single shred of evidence to support it's historical narrative. It talks about battles in North America where millions of people died, yet we have nothing. It mentions great cities and civilizations with great technology, yet there is no trace of them today. It mentions wheat, barley, and horses, yet none of these are found in North America. All they have is a one book with absolutely no reason whatsoever for believing in except for the fact that it claims to be revelation from God and brings good feelings. I've heard of blind faith, but this is just so, well, as the title suggest, loopy!

Now let me get something straight here: I don't want to make fun of Mormonism. I realize that many serious and clear-thinking people actually believe this, and I realize that this is a deeply thought-out and developed belief system. At the same time though, it's so terribly obvious that the whole thing is a outright lie. I don't exactly know what happened to Joseph Smith, or what he saw, but the guy is a total fraud. That's why it's ever so important that we stand up for the truth in times like these. For some reason, Mormonism is one of, if not the, fastest growing cults these days; we need to be showing them that the entire thing is a great falsehood and that salvation is found solely through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ as taught in the Bible. Unlike the fabrications of devils, God's word has stood, tried and true, for thousands of years. It is the sole, infallible, perfect, and complete source of knowledge and truth, and nothing can stand against it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Something to Cover me for the Week

Sadly, I have very little amazingly profound to blog about at the moment. At least, nothing amazingly profound that we shouldn't be aware of every day. For instance, today I had the privilege of listening to a couple Way of the Master podcasts while working on a small, mindless, job for a friend at church (gotta love the power of multitasking). They played a clip of R.C. Sproul essentially summarizing the main story of Scripture: God creating the world, notably mankind in His image; man rebelling against God; God having the amazing grace and love to send His only begotten Son to the cross to make a way of salvation for rebellious man. I'm sure you've heard it countless times, but there was something in the way Dr. Sproul (he is a Dr., right?) spoke and emphasized certain aspects of God's truly incredible love and mercy that just brought me to my knees. To think that God owes us absolutely NOTHING. To think that He would have been perfectly right and just to annihilate the human race the moment Adam fell. To think that He not only turned His back on but hated His own Son, another member of the Godhead, so that I could one day be reconciled to Him! I literally stopped what I was doing to wonder at and rejoice in the fact that God saved a wretch like me. I mean, WOW, I've heard the Gospel many times (and hopefully will hear it countless more times) yet it is still the most beautiful, precious, thing I have ever attempted to wrap my mind around, and it is infinitely better than anything else that's ever happened to me. Praise God!

*on a somewhat different topic* I also managed to spend my time reading two big long blog discussions on Calvinism vs. Arminianism (i.e. predestination vs. free will). That's right, two of one day (just linking to one of them though). Talk about a nice mental exercise. Needless to say, though, I came away from both with renewed convictions that the doctrines of Grace are indeed taught in God's Word. One commenter (from a discussion on the topic that I was reading several months ago) best summed in up in saying that you can search the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, but you will never find the concept of free will (at least, not in the Arminian/semi-Pelagian sense). Ironically, just about every verse I've seen used to support Arminian dogma is also completely consistent with the Calvinist position. In fact, one guy even went so far as to say that Calvinism does seem more heavily grounded in Scripture, but it still didn't sit well with his previous personal convictions. That, I think, seems to be the crux of the issue. Despite the repeatedly clear teachings of Scripture, some people just can't bring themselves to worship a God that would create people only to send them to hell. I would go on, but an excellent summary of this can be found in the James White vid I posted several weeks ago. Definitely one of the most powerful and truthful ten minutes of teaching I've ever heard.\

Edit: I'd also check out this recent article by Al Mohler on homosexual marriage in California. Short, sweet, and brilliant. He brings up and exposes some of the faulty reasoning behind this tragedy that I'd never really thought about before.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Screwtape Reaction

Okay I'll admit it. I'd really like to be able to churn out a nice, lengthy, review after every book I read (much like Mr. Challies), but I very rarely take notes when reading on my free time and I'm, well, not exactly in the "school/educational" mode at the moment. Thus, I'll have to make due with a "reaction post."

Overall, I found C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters to be a very good, thought provoking, and interesting read. I'd recommend it to almost any semi-mature Christian. There are two main things to observe before I launch into the bulk of the review, and it is important to keep these things in mind. First, this is a fictional, theoretical, speculative, and very personal book. It would be a grave mistake to assume that everything Lewis wrote is founded on Scripture, and I'm sure he would say the same. This is just one guy's take on spiritual beings, I personally doubt that Hell and devils really function the way Lewis describes them. Second, Lewis notes in the introduction that not everything Screwtape (the first person narrator of the book, a "high-ranking" devil) says is true; rather, it is only what he thinks is true.

That said, there are many things in the Screwtape Letters that one can learn and meditate upon. Namely, the nature, processes, and forms of temptation and sin. There were many great lines (probably one every other chapter) that I wish I could quote here. In other words, I was frequently examining my own life while reading this book, and I found several of Screwtape's examples and advice to be all too familiar. Several good points include:
--The spirit world is very real. Satan and his devils are constantly working to draw people away from God via lies, temptation, and confusion. They are always working to create the next huge damning worldview (in the specific case of this book: Nazism).
--The fact that every extreme a person could go to (except extreme devotion and service to God) can become dangerous and ultimately sinful.
--Pleasure is not in and of itself a bad thing; after all, God created pleasure. It should be noted, however, that the demons are quick to exploit and pervert this pleasure into sinful forms.
--A clear thinking head is Godly. One thing I found very interesting is that Screwtape often advocated confusion and unreasonable thinking. Lewis always painted reasonable and logical thinking as something that leads men to God. More often than not (actually, all of the time) devils try to confuse people, deaden their reasoning, and draw their mind away from the matter at hand. It is very interesting to consider that Screwtape takes satisfaction in the fact that "great scholars are now as little nourished by the past as the most ignorant mechanic who holds that 'history is bunk.'" All sin is ultimately foolish and unreasonable; it never makes real sense to do it, yet we too often are blinded to the simple truth.

Naturally, there are some things in The Screwtape Letters that I had to just flat-out reject. Most significant among this is the blatant Arminianism. This could, of course, be one of those things that Screwtape only thinks is true, because a God that "can only woo" makes for a much easier opponent for devils. Nevertheless, the whole "free will" thing was so prevalent in the book that I felt several points were worth addressing.
--God does not convince men to become Christians. Contrary to what Screwtape says (which Lewis may have considered untrue) God does have the power to directly save a person if He wants. He is the one that initiates, executes, and finishes salvation. Every stage of the salvation process directly involves the sovereign work of God.
--There is not some kind of "spiritual balance" between good and evil in the world. For some reason (probably due to Screwtape's perspective) this book left me with the impression that there is a delicate balance between good and evil, like two sides playing a game of strategy and constantly trying to exploit the other's moves. Yes, there is a struggle between good and evil, but God is not trying his best or failing to completely overcome evil. Instead, He is tolerates it for a time yet will ultimately triumph over Satan and accomplish His will for the universe.
--I have very little authority to speak on this matter, but I'm fairly sure that Screwtape misses the exact nature of prayer as well. Through some confusing chain of reasoning, he manages to argue against the notion that God works out our prayers in accordance with His will. In other words, Screwtape thinks that our prayers were not "predestined" to occur because if they were, then we wouldn't pray freely. Rather, God does not foresee, but sees things in "His unbounded Now." I, quite frankly, believe that prayers are predestined and that they are more for our benefit and God's glory than anything else. God knows our thoughts and our heart, and I don't believe that our prayers convince Him to do anything. That's why we pray for many things, but above all we pray that the Father's will be done.

Above all, though, The Screwtape Letters did bring up a very interesting "logical contradiction" of sorts. As mentioned, Lewis says that not everything Screwtape says is true, and I'll probably grant him that. One wouldn't expect the "Father of Lies" or his followers to speak the truth. However, I've also been told that Satan and co. know better theology than even the most brilliant and learned theologians ever to walk this earth. If this is so, though, then the devils must know even better than we as Christians do, that their struggling is vain because God is omnipotent and will ultimately triumph in the end. Now I'm sure their hatred of God is so intense that they will continue to rebel until God casts them all into the lake of fire. Here's the thing about The Screwtape Letters though: Screwtape seems confident that his side will eventually triumph. Now given the Arminian (perhaps even Pelagian) view from which he operates, I can see this being a bit more plausible, as there really is a true, undecided battle for souls.

I'll leave you with that thought...and the recommendation that you read this book.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Calm Before the Storm

Now that it's summer (and seeing as how I don't have a part-time job...yet) I'll try to be blogging a bit more extensively. I have a couple substantial ideas fermenting, but until then, here's a few tidbits:

--I've started off my summer reading, which hopefully will end up being quite extensive, with some good old C.S. Lewis. First was Prince Caspian. After seeing the movie (an excellent film btw) I decided to read the book to get a better feel for the two. Yeah, I know, the movie was quite a bit different, but you have to realize that the book, while great, is not structured like a good movie. So I respect the changes the Prince Caspian producers made in the film. Next up was The Screwtape Letters. A good friend of mine was reading it so I decided to do the same. Very interesting book to say the least. I'll likely be posting a more extensive review later.

--Okay I'm not very familiar with this band at all. In fact, I think I've only heard one of their songs, but I came across a link on to a free album download from Downhere. From what little I've heard, they seem like a decent group, and you can't go wrong with free...

--Ummm, let's see, I guess that's about it for now. I'm in a really rough little band with some friends and we actually have a pretty well developed song going at the moment. No, recording is still way off, but perhaps I'll post and discuss the lyrics one of these days.

Until then, go read something better, like, umm, say, maybe the Bible?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Okay, I've never really gotten into these kind of things, but I think this one might be kinda cool to check out every week or so. I saw on Yahoo the other day that some teenager from Marina Del Rey, California, named Zac Sunderland is going to attempt to be the youngest person to sail solo around the world. The guy is currently 16 years old, and yes, like almost all of the young overachievers in the world, he's homeschooled.

The link to his official site is here.