The cliché is true, although there may be more than two things that are certain in life. Few today escape paying taxes, and only two people in recorded history escaped death: Enoch and Elijah.
Our government argues about who pays how much instead of working on the real problems the country faces, as Congress gets approval ratings below 30% regardless of which party is in charge. Meanwhile the debt we are passing on to the next generation piles up.
The end of life is very certain. We don’t know how or when and feel robbed if it happens earlier than we think it should. Americans spend untold billions trying to look younger and delay the inevitable while not taking care of our bodies. In my earlier post I began telling the story of my brain tumor and the depression which followed it.
News Travels Fast
Word traveled quickly about my condition and people were concerned. I appreciated everyone’s thoughts and prayers for me and my family. We received support from so many people, including a second tier of prayer warriors we didn’t even know. Nowadays it travels even faster with the advent of blogs and CarePages, where families in crisis can keep people updated.
Life Threatening Illness with Time to Think
One of the silver linings in the dark cloud of a cancer diagnosis is that it causes you to examine your life and your standing with God. You come face to face with your own mortality and suddenly other things pale in significance. You also have a chance to say the things that should be said to your family and friends.
With a heart attack or fatal car crash there is no warning, for you and the loved ones who must now face life without you. If you haven’t done your homework on beliefs and speaking to loved ones, you may come up short.
A Faulty Understanding of Providence
Other cultures and time periods had a better understanding of providence than ours does. Perhaps our technology has insulated us from death. Even agriculture seems easier, as less than 3% of the U.S. population grows the food the rest of us buy at the supermarket.
We focus on secondary scientific causes as a third of news reports are dedicated to weather forecasts; we think about whether our lawns need watering rather than whether someone else’s crops will fail.
Providence is God working all things out in the world for the good of those who love Him. He makes the rain fall on the just and the unjust. He is not the passive watch-maker of Deism who created the world, then leaves us to our own devices.
Providence is God’s active overseeing of all that happens on this good earth He has made, fallen from its original intent (Paradise Lost).
A Simple Meal-time Prayer
The child’s prayer, “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for this food. Amen.” displays a simple faith and deep truths that adults have a hard time coming to grips with.
Is God both great and good? The Bible says yes; our world says no.
Yes or No Questions
Some of life’s most important questions can be answered yes or no. Any parent has had to answer some of these questions. There is no in between or “it depends.”
Is there a God? Are people more important than animals? Is there an objective right or wrong? Are there some things we can know for certain? Is the Bible true? Was it inspired by God? Is it without error?
Is there life after death? If the answer is no, then nothing we do really matters in the end. What we believe about it does not alter the answer. We should always ask, “What are the consequences if I’m wrong?”
Atheists in Eternal Peril
If an atheist like Christopher Hitchens died shaking his first at a “non-existent” God and is wrong, he will spend eternity separated from that God unless God is a cosmic Santa Claus and forgives everyone, regardless of what he has done (universalism).
In that case Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and many other unrepentant mass murderers will be in heaven. But God would not be fair to let people like that into His heaven.
If a mass murderer like Ted Bundy truly repented and trusted Christ to forgive him of his sins, the Bible teaches he is in heaven along with Mother Teresa.
As offensive as that may be to some who want to earn their way to heaven, it is what the Bible teaches. It also teaches that no one is good enough to earn their way to heaven, that God is so holy that no one can enter His presence without an advocate who says, “It’s OK, I paid the price for his/her sin myself.”
Bad News, then Good News: Do, do, do vs. Done
Christianity is unique among the major world religions, which all have good principles that inspire people to lead better lives. The Bible teaches that Jesus the Messiah was the sinless sacrifice for our cosmic treason against our Creator, and the only work He requires of us is to believe in Him and trust Him to bridge the chasm between us and a holy God.
All the good works we do added together are not nearly enough points to get us into heaven (let’s say 1,000,000 are needed, although the real number is infinity since the standard is God’s perfection). Some of us earn 100, some 200, some only 10, but let’s be honest and admit that none of us gets anywhere close to a sinless life.
The Bible teaches that those who break even one command of God have broken the whole Law. That’s bad news.
Trying to earn our way is pretty ridiculous knowing that the entrance price is so high. We can’t possibly afford it. The good news is Jesus the God-man came to earth, lived a perfect life, took on the sin of the whole world, then paid the fine on the cross for all who would place their faith in Him. This is a really good deal for those who are humble enough to take it.
The finished work of Jesus on the cross: done, not do, do, do…
Historic Christianity vs. Liberalism/Humanism
Assuming for the moment that there is a real heaven and a real hell, this one question can identify believers in two of the great religions in our world.
- If you died tonight, do you know for sure where you will spend eternity?
Historic Christianity answers yes to this question and can show you where in the Bible (instruction manual from our Creator) it is answered.
Theological Liberalism or Humanism puts man in God’s place and will either not answer it directly or say it is arrogant to be sure of one’s destiny. The Bible is viewed as a collection of important religious writings, mere words of men.
Naturalism is a subset of liberalism; it focuses on secondary causes, denying the supernatural and yet requires faith in the supernatural, making it the most illogical of all belief systems. Time and chance are the reason for the complex world we see around us, from the glory of a sunrise arriving on time every day to the intricacies of DNA. The second law of thermodynamics (things get less complex, not more complex without an outside force acting on them) is ignored, as the universe was created from nothing by a Big Bang. A supernatural event?
In future blog articles, we’ll explore and contrast these two great religions: theological liberalism and the historic Christian faith. There is also a wide spectrum of beliefs in between among people who identify as Christians.
Common Values and Different Worldviews
Many values are common ground between non-Christians and historic Christianity; liberalism in its extreme form is a completely different worldview and has little in common with historic Christianity. Even though theological liberalism may use the same words in Christian creeds, they mean completely different things.
I hope Christians will be encouraged to think in a new way about Christ and the Bible, non-Christians will consider Christ as Redeemer of their souls, and that everyone will have a better understanding of each other.
Good Books by Human Authors
For basic apologetics I recommend Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, the well-known author of many works including the Narnia children’s stories. Compiled from a series of radio broadcasts during World War 2, the first half presents the case for theism vs. atheism, and the second half deals with basic Christian ethics and beliefs common to all denominations.
For those skeptical of the authenticity of the Bible, Josh McDowell wrote Evidence that Demands a Verdict. This covers the oral tradition in the Hebrew culture and the numerous manuscripts dating from soon after events like Jesus’ miracles and bodily resurrection took place.
The early New Testament books were written while skeptical eye-witnesses were still alive to dispute them. Secular and Jewish historians like Josephus confirm that Jesus lived and died in Palestine.
The Book of Books by a Divine Author
Historic Christianity and the Bible itself teach that the best selling and least read book in human history was inspired directly by God, written by several human authors with their own personalities.
Before asking the question “What Would Jesus Do?” one must first understand what he actually did and taught. The best place to start is by reading the New Testament, rather than what people say about it.
The Roman Catholic monk Martin Luther was upset at the corruption he saw in the church of his day, posting a list of issues for discussion on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517.
Later Luther translated the Bible directly from the original Greek New Testament and Hebrew Old Testament into the common German of his day, so that the Bible would be accessible to everyday Germans. In the process he unified the German language much as Shakespeare did for the English language.
Having recently started a word-by-word translation of Martin Luther’s Bible from German to English, I’ll be publishing the book of Matthew a chapter at a time on the Patch, with commentary to follow a week or so later. Hopefully people will contribute to a discussion on what the text says and debate my opinions on it.
No Maverick Molecules
Having faced death twice and been spared by a gracious God, I find the Providence model a more satisfying explanation for the way the world operates than any other. He has called others home: by our thinking early, but not by His.
We can’t see the whole tapestry He is weaving in history. His story. We see only the tangled threads on one side of it. Sometimes they make no sense. Without question, they are excruciatingly painful at times for some.
The longer I live, the more I’m convinced that the Bible is true. It and its Author can be trusted.
As the first question of the 1563 Heidelberg Catechism puts it:
"Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong - body and soul, in life and in death - to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him."
Suffering is part of life; no one escapes it. Had God not spared my life, living with suffering in a fallen world with a great and loving God still makes more sense than the popular thinking that Satan is somehow on an equal footing with God in this war between good and evil.
The Bible teaches that he is a fallen angel. Martin Luther put it well: “The devil is God’s devil.” God wins in the end.
God is great and God is good. The child’s prayer is true.