Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Meditation on the Mass Murder in Orlando

Meditation and prayer on the shooting in Orlando 

"(15) Thus says the LORD,"A voice is heard in Ramah, Lamentation, and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; She refuses to be comforted for her children Because they are no more." [Jeremiah 31:15 NASB]

What has happened?

“Orlando, Florida (CNN)An American-born man who'd pledged allegiance to ISIS gunned down 50 people early Sunday at a gay nightclub in Orlando, the deadliest mass shooting in the United States and the nation's worst terror attack since 9/11, authorities said.

* The gunman, Omar Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce, Florida, was interviewed by the FBI in 2013 and 2014 but was not found to be a threat, the FBI said.
* Mateen called 911 during the attack to pledge allegiance to ISIS and mentioned the Boston Marathon bombers, according to a U.S. official.
* Orlando police shot and killed Mateen.
* Mateen's ex-wife said she thinks he was mentally ill.”


Lord, we are overwhelmed and shocked at the loss of so many lives.  So many wounded.   How could this happen?  How can it be?  

Pour out your care, comfort and support to the families and friends of those killed.  Help the doctors have wisdom in caring for those in critical condition.  Provide help to those who are dealing with the post traumatic trauma of surviving such an event.    Lord, hear our cry.  Come into the midst of this mourning, pain, and suffering and provide your help.  LORD, we need YOUR help!

Lord God, creator, judge, redeemer, and restorer, come to us now and show us your grace, greatness, and goodness in the midst of this tragic loss of life.   Amen


How are we to understand this event?  

This mass murder is tragic, sad, horrible, and painful.  

In everything else we say we must not lose sight of the victims, the pain of their families, and the wounded.  The victims must be remembered and mourned.  

How are we to understand this event?

At the moment it seems it was the act of one man and not part of some grand conspiracy. This may change.   

But the connection with views of ISIS is largely in the minds of those who associate with them.  Some mentally and emotionally unstable people can feel empowered by seeing their actions as connected to some global movement.  Mental illness does not normally make people violent but for a few these issues can become part of how their distorted perspective is expressed. 

If ISIS did rule in Orlando there is little doubt that such actions would be seen as justice, since their policy has been the brutal murder of in same-sex romantic relationships as immoral.  They have been known to kill people for being gay as part of their vision of forming a “godly society.”    They see those who are in same-sex relationships as “animals”.  

Now it must be understood that the United States and the Western World that has been moving since the 1960s into a culture that wants to put an emphasis on sexual freedom of expression and takes a lawless attitude towards nearly all sexual activity is in a “head-on collision” with the Islamic legalistic perspective which is complicated, but sees open acts of homosexuality as crimes that in many Islamic countries is illegal and can lead to the death penalty. 

“Same-sex intercourse carries the death penalty in five officially Muslim nations: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mauritania, Sudan, and Yemen. [3] It formerly carried the death penalty in Afghanistan under the Taliban, and in Iraq under a 2001 decree by Saddam Hussein. The legal situation in the United Arab Emirates is unclear. In many Muslim nations, such as Bahrain, Qatar, Algeria or the Maldives, homosexuality is punished with jail time, fines or corporal punishment. In some Muslim-majority nations, such as Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, or Mali, same-sex intercourse is not forbidden by law. However, in Egypt gays have been the victims of laws against "morality".”  (For more information on the Islamic approach to homosexuality see http://www.religionfacts.com/homosexuality/islam )

So in one culture the open expression of homosexual activities is being promoted and even the use of public bathrooms are influenced by the concern to show openness to every shade of sexual feelings while in the Islamic cultures such actions can be seen to be crimes worthy of capital punishment.  

Interaction then between these cultures would clearly lead to a “train wreck” since they could not be more radically different. 

Since Western cultures are also very pluralistic and include people holding to the most liberal views concerning sexuality and people who see such actions as worthy of execution, then this creates an environment where clashes of opinion are unavoidable.   

To be healthy these disagreements must be non-violent, respectful, civil, and tolerant.  Also important values of Western culture at its best, but these attitudes can be easily lost.  

Currently, the idea of being respectful and civil in disagreements seems to many to an attribute that is being lost, more and more.  Violent actions and words are all too often coming into our public lives and politics.   We are not agreeing to disagree in an agreeable manner very well many times.

A Christian attitude towards those with same-sex attractions or who fall under the definition of “LGBT”  should be from my perspective very different than the views promoted by ISIS. In summary my view would be:

1.  Those who would define themselves as “LGBT” are made in God’s image and are to be treated with respect, compassion, and love.  They are not to be abused verbally or physically.   People of the “LGBT” community can be responsible citizens and have many praiseworthy characteristics, the same as all other people made in God’s image. 

2.  Because of the rebellion of humanity, sexual desires in all human beings are misdirected, distorted, and wounded.   So misuse of our sexuality is part of the human struggle now “East of Eden” 

3.  Historic Christianity would see the desires of those in the “LGBT” community as being one way of many that sexual passions can be misdirected, distorted, and wounded.  I would not see same-sex romantic relationships as part of God’s will for any human being.  

4.  I believe that coming into a true redemptive relationship with the Messiah Jesus as one’s personal prophet can bring substantial healing to every person’s sexual desires including those in the “LGBT” community.  Such healing can be difficult and a process but is part of being a disciple of the Messiah Jesus.  

As the Apostle Paul expressed to those in a culture that largely accepted “LGBT” behavior. 

"(9) Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, (10) nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. (11) Such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God." [1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NASB]

5.  It is clear then that one of the areas of repentance or a change of mind for people coming to consider Christianity would be their understanding of God’s will concerning their use and expression of their sexuality.  

6.  There should be civil and respectful discussions between those holding the historic view of Christianity and those in the “LGBT” community to increase understanding and sensitivity towards each other’s views.  We will have to learn to agree to disagree in an agreeable manner. 

7.  I believe that Christians should strongly grieve over, and oppose any who would physically attack the “LGBT” community.   We should seek to protect the physical safety of all those in the “LGBT” community.  No crimes of physical violence against them should be tolerated.  

So I believe that a Christian perspective is very different than the worldview set forth in Islam and especially ISIS.  

How should we understand this event?

With lamentations and sadness.  Crying out to the LORD for help.  

Seeking what answers we can to avoid such events.  Recognizing the protection against lone gunmen is very hard to accomplish.  This brings up the struggle against freedom and security.   How do we keep people safe from the few who would do such harm without taking freedom away from many that do no harm? 

No easy answers “East of Eden”

So we must pray for wisdom and humbly work together seeking the common good for all those in The Republic.  

Lord, have mercy on us all.  Lord, especially have mercy on those who have lost loved ones and who are wounded.  Lord, come now and help them!  Amen

Friday, April 8, 2016

How can we be held accountable for lack of faith?

How can we be held accountable for a lack of belief and immoral lifestyles if God chose not to reveal himself to that person?  How can that be fair?

This all depends on what reality is regarding God's actions.  From a biblical viewpoint, God is manifesting the divine reality both in the physical universe and in psychological revelation in such things as the human conscience (Read Romans 1:18 through to the end of Romans 2).  

This type of evidence for God is reflected in philosophers who support a “natural theology”[1], the universal evidence of a human conscience in a sense of right and wrong[2], and now some people speculating there is such a thing as a “God Gene” may point to humanity being “hardwired” in some complicated way to be aware of the divine.[3]

So if God has given a revelation of the divine reality and the reason for a lack of faith is due to an indifference, neglect, or apathy towards such revelation then there would be grounds for a moral failing in people omitting their duty to seek the truth.   If we have no obligation to seek truth or accept the truth, then all human knowledge would be lost.  Also, people who have more revelation will be held more responsible than people with less. 

The Christian concept of God is one in which the Creator is 100% fair in the moral judgment of human beings and takes no pleasure in their failing their moral obligations.  But human beings are 100% responsible for their moral behavior (Ezekiel 18). 

So while it is true that if God had failed to reveal either the divine existence or moral standards to a person it would be unfair for that person to be judged by things he/she were ignorant.  

However, if as the Bible states, God has given adequate information about the divine presence and moral obligations to every person, it is, therefore, fair and just to hold them accountable for their behavior.   The reason God can hold people accountable is that they are not without information about God or their moral responsibility. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

How is it fair for my Jewish parents to be in hell when they had no chance to trust Jesus as their Savior?


How is it fair for my deceased Jewish parents to be suffering in hell when there was no way they could have accepted Jesus in the culture they lived in?  How can it be fair for Jesus alone to be the way to escape hell fire?

Let us look at this problem and try to think about it carefully and logically. 

The Problem:  How is it fair for Christianity to teach that people will be condemned to hell because they did not trust in Jesus to save them when this was impossible for them to do?

The Emotions around the Problem:

To do that we have to express the emotions such a question brings up in us. 

Almost none of us would ever want any of our loved ones to go to hell.  Regardless of what they did in their lives.  Our love for justice is less most of the time than our love for those people we call family and friends. 

We might not mind if some of our enemies went to hell after death, especially if we felt they had escaped consequences in this life, but few of us if any would be at peace knowing one we loved would suffer eternal punishment. 

This would especially be true if we felt they had not had an opportunity to really consider the claims of Jesus to be the Messiah and Savior.   So the question raises up strong feelings and inner conflictions regardless of our answer.

Even those who might say that such a judgment by God would be fair would most likely admit that they would rather that justice is forgotten and pardon be given in such a case.   So we must answer this question carefully with full awareness of the emotional weight that such a question has within it. 

Now that we have considered the emotional weight of the question it would be good for us to analyze the possible answers that we can give to it

Analyzing the options about hell

The following answers would seem to be possible options to people either being in hell or not being in hell.   

1.  Not in hell because no one is in hell

A.    Hell does not exist
B.    Everyone is saved from hell because God does not punish sin after death.
C.    Everyone is saved because the suffering of Christ has saved everyone regardless if they believe or not.  

2.  Not in hell although some are in hell

A.    Not in hell because some were moral enough to earn heaven
B.    Not in hell because some people had the Messiah Jesus pay for their moral failures and by faith received HIM as Savior.

3.  In hell although some are not in hell

A.    In hell because they were not moral enough to earn heaven
B.    In hell because they were moral but did not trust in Jesus
C.    In hell because they were not moral enough to earn heaven and did not trust in Jesus

4.  In hell because all are in hell after death

A.    All have sinned and therefore all justly go to hell
B.    God sends both good and bad people to hell

Since the question is about the justice or fairness of Christian teaching we need to summarize this here.[1]

1.  God is the moral judge of all human activity.   

Psalms 94:2

“2  Rise up, O Judge of the earth, Render recompense to the proud.”

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

13  The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.
14  For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.

2.  God will fairly judge each person’s moral actions, attitudes, and words.

Romans 2:5-11

5  But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,
7  to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life;
8  but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.
9  There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek,
10  but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
11  For there is no partiality with God.

3.  Those that had much accurate information and opportunity to act upon it will be judged more severely than those who had less accurate information and less opportunity.  The judgment will fit the particulars of the person’s situation, culture, personality, and capabilities. 

Romans 2:12

12  For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law;

4.  All rational human beings will be found fairly and justly to have acted in immoral ways and failed to live up to their conscience.[2]

Romans 3:9-20

9  What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin;
10  as it is written, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;
19  Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God;
20  because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

5.   An appropriate and proper punishment will be given to each individual person.  The punishment will fit the crimes and no one will be punished more than they deserve.  People will get what they deserve in this judgment unless they are forgiven by God. 

Genesis 18:25 - 25  "Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?"

6.   No seekers or good person will go to hell.  Only those who deserve hell will suffer hell.

Hebrews 11:6

6  And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Matthew 7:7

7  "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

7.  Hell is filled with people who continue to reject God’s will.  It is because those in hell never stop sinning that it lasts forever.   There are no truly repentant sinners in hell.

Revelation 16:9-11

9  Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory.
10  Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became darkened; and they gnawed their tongues because of pain,
11  and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds.

8.  The only way to avoid hell is to have our immoral actions paid for by the Messiah Jesus as a substitute and HE suffers our punishment in our place on the cross.   

Isaiah 53:6-8

6  All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.
7  He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.
8  By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?

9.  Because of this the only way to be restored to God is through the Messiah Jesus. 

John 14:6

6  Jesus *said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

10.  We must receive Messiah Jesus to become children of God and escape the just punishment of our sins.

John 1:12-13

12  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,
13  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

So the orthodox Christian position is concerning hell is:

People are not in hell because some people had the Messiah Jesus pay for their moral failures and by faith received HIM as Savior.   People are in hell because they were not moral enough to earn heaven.[3]

13.  Why can’t everyone be saved by the Messiah Jesus’ sacrifice? 

God must demonstrate HIS mercy, but also HIS justice.   God saves the maximum number of people that can be saved without compromising HIS justice or  encouraging another rebellion.?

14.  God takes no pleasure in punishment of the wicked.

Ezekiel 18:23

23  "Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked," declares the Lord GOD, "rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?

How is this view fair?

1.  Most people are only looking to God to give them a fair judgment.  This God will do.

2.  Fairness is impartial and just treatment or behavior without favoritism or discrimination.  God does not favor any group over any other group.

3.  It is impossible for God to do anything unfair so It is not possible for my loved ones to be treated in an unjust way with God.

4.   The Christian view is beyond fair in that since all deserve to go to hell the fact some are spared is merciful. 

Contemplation:  I must trust my loved ones into the all wise, good, just, and caring hands of God the Father.   This does seem to be what the Scripture teaches.

Explore:  How can we enjoy heaven knowing if loved ones are in hell?

Revelation 21:1-4

21:1  Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.
2  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
3  And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,
4  and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."

[1] For a good summary of the issue of hell and how we can answer the question it raises concerning the goodness of God see The Many Faces of Evil (Revised and Expanded Edition): Theological Systems and the Problems of Evil
May 6, 2004  by John S. Feinberg

[2] There are differences of opinion about children before they are able to make understand or make moral choices and those that have the minds of children though adults in age.  My perspective is that God does not hold children or those who are child like in their abilities responsible for their actions and places the blood of Christ over them.  I think this also applies to the 60% of conceived children who are miscarried.  None of these suffer hell from my perspective since how can God judge people morally who never engaged in rational moral decisions. 
[3] All other religions are seen as false and speaking false things about God’s essential nature.  Because of this they are committing blasphemy.   Because of this then people cannot avoid hell through the practice of these faiths. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Why doesn't God do things like regenerate limbs or miracles so big that everyone would have to believe in God?

Why doesn't God do miracles like restore limbs or legs?  Why not do something that clearly must be God and God alone?  

We must understand that much of this question is an argument from silence.  We don't know that God never regenerated a limb or for that matter fixed a fender.  We have very few miracles recorded in the Bible when one takes for granted that it was written over about 1500 years give or take a few centuries based on various theories.  

Who can really say what God has done or not done regarding miracles since our history of them is so incomplete.  Miracles are rare by definition.  One could argue that the healing of leprosy may have restored some limbs since leprosy often leads to a loss of toes, or fingers (2 Kings 5:14; Luke 5:12; ) and so these may have been restored.  One can look to the book 

Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life  

by Eric Metaxas for a modern defense of miracles and stories that witness of them happening in New York City.  

Now the real question is why does God not produce more miracles in order to convince people of the truth of the divine existence?  It would appear that the most miracles occurred during the ministry of Jesus the Messiah.  But this great demonstration of power did not produce a great turning towards him in the long run.  The Messiah Jesus seems to lack faith in the idea that people who are looking for more miracles are looking for a relationship with God. 
"But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet;"  Matthew 12:39
The apostle John tells us that:
"He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him."  John 1:11
So the person that produced the most miracles in biblical history was rejected and crucified and only had about 120 people who were responding in true faith.  Some of the 500 doubted even seeing Jesus the Messiah raised from the dead. 
I think that the problem is we are assuming that we want to be honest with the evidence they have about God.  It appears that humanity lacks objectivity when it comes to the issue of God.  We are not seekers after the reality of the divine existence.  We don't mind making "god" in our image, but we are not so open to accepting the Creator for who the divine person really is in reality.  
"For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened."  Romans 1:21
I have responded to the options of this lack of evidence for God recently due to a similar question raised at Socrates.  
See - http://socratescafefortlauderdale.blogspot.com/
Let us assume for the moment that there is a Good God who would want human beings to respond to the divine person in a positive way. If we assume this then we would also have to assume that the only reason there were not more miracles and greater concrete evidence of God's existence is that God knows that humanity would only become more morally guilty with such a revelation since they would not respond to it by loving God with all their hearts, minds, souls, and strength.  The more revelation the more responsibility.  A merciful God would limit revelation to those who are not going to respond to it well.

God providing concrete evidence of the divine existence seems tied to a heart desire to seek a relationship with God.

"And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him."  Hebrews 11:6
Faith here is justified true belief based upon the evidence that is given in creation and the human psyche (Romans 1:18-20)
It can also be argued that there is enough evidence for knowledge of God but a lack of objectivity towards this evidence.
Now another problem could be that such an approach would also cause a loss of something that God is hoping to develop with humanity.  
This possibility has been explored by some of the existential philosophers. Here is an example. 

The King and the Maiden

Søren Kierkegaard
"Suppose there was a king who loved a humble maiden. The king was like no other king. Every statesman trembled before his power. No one dared breathe a word against him, for he had the strength to crush all opponents.
And yet this mighty king was melted by love for a humble maiden who lived in a poor village in his kingdom. How could he declare his love for her? In an odd sort of way, his kingliness tied his hands. If he brought her to the palace and crowned her head with jewels and clothed her body in royal robes, she would surely not resist-no one dared resist him. But would she love him?
She would say she loved him, of course, but would she truly? Or would she live with him in fear, nursing a private grief for the life she had left behind? Would she be happy at his side? How could he know for sure? If he rode to her forest cottage in his royal carriage, with an armed escort waving bright banners, that too would overwhelm her. He did not want a cringing subject. He wanted a lover, an equal. He wanted her to forget that he was a king and she a humble maiden and to let shared love cross the gulf between them. For it is only in love that the unequal can be made equal.
The king convinced he could not elevate the maiden without crushing her freedom, resolved to descend to her. Clothed as a beggar, he approached her cottage with a worn cloak fluttering loose about him. This was not just a disguise – the king took on a totally new identity – He had renounced his throne to declare his love and to win hers."

So what we have here is that on the one hand the question assumes the objectivity, intellectual honesty, and goodness of human beings who are only suffering for lack of knowledge about God due to God lacking character or competence.  Yet, in cases where great evidence was given such as in the ministry of Messiah Jesus (it should be noted that even those opposed to Jesus record he was a worker of miracles -  http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/is-there-any-evidence-for-jesus-outside-the-bible/ )   this did not cause the human race to join the Messiah Jesus adn accept him as their king but instead to crucify him (Psalm 2).
So we have to doubt either the competence and character of humanity in dealing with truth or the competence and character of God in providing evidence.  Somehow we find it easier to doubt the competence and character of God than our own.
So are there rational responses to this argument.  Yes, for there is some evidence for God's existence which many find sufficient and God may know that providing more evidence would not lead to greater faith but greater guilt and/or miss the mark of the type of relationship God wants with humanity.  The faith that God wants is not some mere formal intellectual faith but a loving trust.

Those are my musings.  God told us that "East of Eden" the world would be hard and filled with thorns, sickness, struggles, pain, tribulations, and death.  Our humanity would rather live apart from God's kingdom in perfection and has chosen "East of Eden" where we can be free of God's rule and healing presence.  This perspective has little faith in our competence or character.  But perhaps that is where the problem rests.