Sunday, January 26, 2014

Discussion with a Skeptic

Sometimes my non-Christian friends manage to save my bacon when I haven't posted to the blog for a while and feel either uninspired, or have been just too sick or busy to write anything. I had a Facebook discussion today with a friend who is a skeptic, and this post is based on points I made in that discussion. 

My friend brought up many of the usual objections that get raised, i.e. the authority of God's Word, "why should I believe in a God who wants me dead if I work on Saturday etc." A lot of superficial knowledge and criticisms, but no real understanding of Christian theology, biblical history, biblical authority, criticism (in a positive sense) etc. I replied to his points as follows. 

The same the objections and criticisms have been raised by skeptics and critics of God and the Bible for centuries. The objections/questions come out of a foundation of the usual faulty presuppositions about God Himself and Scripture. These objections and questions been answered in quite a lot of meticulous detail by MANY able scholars, but the willful skeptic will NOT be satisfied by ANY answer. In truth, fallen man just simply does not want to believe and submit to his Creator or to acknowledge His sovereignty. Right at the outset, they dismiss biblical authority by calling it "ancient texts written by men with political motives often hundreds of years after the purported events." (As an aside, the biblical text "dating" issue has been addressed adequately, and there is enough manuscript evidence, although we do not have original autographs with the possible exception of the Ezekiel Stones">And here is a Jerusalem Post link if you haven't heard of those). My friend said he "chooses to believe in a God that . . . etc." That statement is revealing. Man wants a God of their own imagination and design rather than the One who is the great I AM, and who reserves the right to reveal Himself and define Himself as He chooses. He has revealed Himself through direct revelation (theophany), through what He has created, and by the Holy Spirit's inspiration of the 66 books written through 40 different authors. Plenary Inspiration is the name of that doctrine. 

Even assuming the caricature of God's command about the Sabbath (given at a specific time for a specific reason), we have to deal with one central truth that man finds most unpleasant. Put bluntly, God as Creator has the absolute right to do what He wills with His creation, and as Creator, has the absolute right to DEFINE good and evil, right and wrong etc. We begin at that point. "Who is man to offer complaint in view of his sins?" (Lamentations 3:39). Man has no right whatsoever to argue with God about whatever He does, and would be foolish to do so since He is infinite and we are finite. So where does one go from there? 

For those who are genuinely interested and want to understand, and really want to know God and His eternal purpose, the answers lie within Scripture's pages, but it takes the power of God to open the human heart and mind to get it due to the impact of man's fall. God has an overarching eternal purpose revealed from Genesis to Revelation-a purpose revealed in progressive stages of human history. His purpose and revelation culminates in Jesus Christ, God Incarnate. He is the central figure of all of Scripture - the very One in whom everything culminates. Prior to His incarnation in human form (for a purpose) the Adamic Covenant had a purpose. The Noahic Covenant had a purpose. The Mosaic Covenant (and Mosaic Law) had a purpose. Then came the Incarnation. Subsequently the New Covenant now has a purpose. "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world." (Hebrews 1)

Finally, a word about the attributes of God that were hinted in my discussion, i.e. all powerful, all loving. God's love is much more than the "warm fuzzies" most people think of when the word "love" is used. God has many attributes—omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, perfect love, perfect righteousness, perfect justice etc. He must have those attributes or He would not be God. His love and His justice require Him to act in certain ways consistent with His sovereign character. That means He has every right to punish men when they disregard His commands, even though He extends them a great deal of grace, patience, and mercy. If God did not punish sin, evil, and wickedness, then he would not be loving. He punishes in a temporal sense, and eventually in an eternal sense. But the way fallen man interprets is, "God, if you love me, you'll let me do what I want to do whether You like it or not." 

Christ is the answer to all of this. He is the key to the door, the way of true knowledge, and the exact representation of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit in physical form. Only through Him will you ever get it. You have to come to know who He is, what He did, and why He did it (thank you, Pastor Cliff, for that very user-friendly phrasing). If you can get that far, you'll have come a long way. I make no pretense at having all the answers. Even in eternity, we will still be finite and He will be infinite. Even in the glorified state in which a believer will be in eternity, we will still not be able to comprehend God in toto. I do not doubt Him or His goodness at all. If I have any "existential question," I wonder why the Creator of the Universe —knowing in advance what would happen after Creation—would have bothered doing it the way He did it. Why did He create knowing both the angels and man would fall? Why would He plan to come to earth in human form, allow His own creation to spit on Him, scourge Him, mock Him, pull His beard out, and all else the Lord suffered? I would have vaporized everybody on the spot had it been me. But He did not. He had a different purpose. 
But back to now, and back to the present earth. He HAS revealed Himself, He HAS made His will and purpose known, and as Romans 1 tells us, mankind has no excuse, and will have no excuse. I would rather trust in Him, be obedient, love Him and love others, and try to be His ambassador in this fallen world the best that I can, rather than scorn Him and turn my back. I am thankful He saved me. Why, I don't know. I know my own capability for sin and evil. But He saved me. And I am thankful. 

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