Tag Archives: God

The Undeniable Religious Underpinnings of an American Holiday

No Arguments

I don’t want to get into any arguments this Thanksgiving, believe me. I only look forward to meeting with family, eating turkey, along with every imaginable kind of casserole, then later flopping prostrate onto some flat surface to nap through the mythical effects of tryptophan and marshmallows. But just as with so many other things in this politically-correct life, there are those who want to make a case against Thanksgiving, at least the religious underpinnings it brings to the dinner table.

Like as with Christmas, there will inevitably be those who want to keep God out of Thanksgiving.

There has been so much debate over the level of influence religion (specifically Christianity) had in the founding of our great nation, the United States of America. Many have argued that our forefathers wanted nothing more than a completely secular society void of anything sacred. Others have argued that our Founders, if anything, might have been tolerant of religion, but never had any propensity toward the public expression of Christianity, especially in governmental affairs.

But facts are facts.

Just Facts

Look, I know that some of you would like to argue with me about the Christian heritage of this country, but I’m not going to argue; I’m just going to present the facts.

The following excerpts are taken from early Thanksgiving proclamations made by our Continental Congress.

From the First National Thanksgiving Proclamation made by the Continental Congress, November 1, 1777

It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES to
set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for SOLEMN THANKSGIVING and
PRAISE: That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings
of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that,
together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession
of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest
Supplication that it may please GOD through the Merits of JESUS CHRIST, mercifully to forgive
and blot them out of Remembrance…

That it may please him, to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People, and the Labor of the Husbandman, that our Land may yield its Increase: To take Schools and Seminaries of Education,
so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing
Hand; and to prosper the Means of Religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom,
which consisteth “in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost.”

May I ask a stupid question or two? What about the above quote sounds totally secular? What about the above quote gives the idea that the majority of Congressmen were nothing more than deists?

You see, we can argue all day long about the current state of our nation, but at its founding there were men in government who were not afraid to encourage our people to pray, praise, give thanks, and repent for our sins. I read nothing about thanking the Indians for corn.

As a matter of fact, what I read in these early documents was a call to be thankful, even in the midst of hard and difficult times. These early congressmen all agreed that even though we were at war, God was merciful and the gospel needed to be proclaimed throughout the world! Can you imagine that kind of thinking coming from Washington today?

United States Congress, October 20, 1779

Resolved, That it be recommended to the several states, to appoint Thursday, the 9th of
December next, to be a day of public and solemn thanksgiving to Almighty God for his mercies,
and of prayer for the continuance of his favor and protection to these United States; to beseech
him that he would be graciously pleased to influence our public councils, and bless them with
wisdom from on high, with unanimity, firmness, and success; that he would go forth with our hosts
and crown our arms with victory; that he would grant to his church the plentiful effusions of divine
grace, and pour out his holy spirit on all ministers of the gospel; that he would bless and prosper
the means of education, and spread the light of Christian knowledge through the remotest corners
of the earth; that he would smile upon the labors of his people and cause the earth to bring forth
her fruits in abundance; that we may with gratitude and gladness enjoy them; that he would take
into his holy protection our illustrious ally, give him victory over his enemies, and render him
signally great, as the father of his people and the protector of the rights of mankind; that he would
graciously be pleased to turn the hearts of our enemies, and to dispense the blessings of peace to
contending nations; that he would in mercy look down upon us, pardon our sins and receive us into
his favor, and finally, that he would establish the independence of these United States upon the
basis of religion and virtue, and support and protect them in the enjoyment of peace, liberty and
safety. as long as the sun and moon shall endure, until time shall be no more.

Notice the prayer that God would “graciously be pleased to turn the hearts of our enemies, and to dispense the blessings of peace to contending nations?” Therein lies the big difference between a Christian nation at war and a Muslim jihad.

United States Congress, October 31, 1780

Whereas it hath pleased Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, amidst the vicissitudes and
calamities of war, to bestow blessings on the people of these states, which call for their devout and
thankful acknowledgments… and, above all, in continuing to us the enjoyment of the gospel of peace…

…to cherish all schools and seminaries of education, build up his churches in their most holy faith and to cause
the knowledge of Christianity to spread over all the earth.

United States Congress, 1781

It is therefore recommended to the several states to set apart the 13th day of December next, to be
religiously observed as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer; that all the people may assemble on
that day, with grateful hearts, to celebrate the praises of our gracious Benefactor; to confess our
manifold sins; to offer up our most fervent supplications to the God of all grace, that it may please
Him to pardon our offenses, and incline our hearts for the future to keep all his laws; to comfort and
relieve all our brethren who are in distress or captivity; to prosper our husbandmen, and give
success to all engaged in lawful commerce; to impart wisdom and integrity to our counselors,
judgment and fortitude to our officers and soldiers; to protect and prosper our illustrious ally, and
favor our united exertions for the speedy establishment of a safe, honorable and lasting peace; to
bless all seminaries of learning; and cause the knowledge of God to cover the earth, as the waters
cover the seas.

And just one more, 1784

[May the Supreme Ruler of the universe]  bless all mankind, and inspire the
princes and nations of the earth with the love of peace, that the sound of war may be heard of no
more; that he may be pleased to smile upon us, and bless our husbandry, fishery, our commerce,
and especially our schools and seminaries of learning; and to raise up from among our youth, men
eminent for virtue, learning and piety, to his service in church and state; to cause virtue and true
religion to flourish, to give to all nations amity, peace and concord, and to fill the world with his
glory.

Argue all you want, but I consider Thanksgiving to be a religious holiday, one that should be encouraged by our government. At least that’s what it seems our Founding Fathers would have wanted.

Please share this. I’d appreciate it.

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Great Is His Faithfulness, His Mercies, His Love

It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22-23

I’m in my office, my study, finishing up my sermon for this coming Sunday, “Thankful for His Holiness,” and I have instrumental music playing in the background. The song that is playing right now is “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”

Folks, because God is holy, all of His other attributes are sure! And because He is faithful, I can know that His mercies endure forever and His compassions, well, they fail not!

If it wasn’t for that, I’m very sure He would have changed His mind about me a long, long time ago.

But He is faithful and ever-loving! He is true to His promises! And every morning I’m awash in His mercies and goodness, whether I recognize it or not!

I don’t deserve to be loved like I am, but He loves me, anyway.

If you don’t know what it’s like to be loved, if every human on earth has left you, then may I just ask you to look to the Cross? “When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died…” Oh, my friend, you are loved, you’ve just got to accept it.

So often we ask things like, “How could you love me?” You may think that about God. You may wonder, after all you’ve done, how could He love you?

If God was like other people, any other human, He’d probably give up on us, too. But here’s the thing, as He told Hosea (and you should read that story), “I am God, not man.”

God doesn’t simply love, as in what He does; He IS LOVE! It is His very nature! He defines what true love is! And if HE said He loves you, you can count on it. You can depend on it! You can rejoice over it! You can shout about it!

No! You and I don’t deserve it! Who wants a deserved love, anyway? You want a love that’s undeserved, unmerited, and not based on anything you could or can do!

Man, without Jesus I don’t know where I’d be right now, if not dead and in hell. I’ve just got to worship Him.

“I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon the cross, but here I am to worship, here I am to bow down, here I am to say that You’re my God!” …that’s the music that was playing as I wrote the previous sentence.

Well, I guess I better get back to my study 🙂

As always, if you need to talk, I’m always available. If you would like to call someone who can introduce you to Christ and tell you more about His mercies and His love, call 1-800-NEED HIM.

God bless!
Anthony

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The Real Problem with the Problem of Evil

This evening at church we will be having an “Ask the Pastor” question-and-answer night. Am I nervous? A little. However, I’ve already warned the congregation that I may not have all the answers and some questions might get a simple, “I’ll have to get back to you on that.” We’ll see. I may even post the questions I get in an upcoming post! Hmmm? 

But, because I have done a little writing on the “problem of evil,” I’ll re-post this article/paper in honor of tonight…and all the questions I still struggle with.

An Old Debate

One of the most common reasons for denying the existence of God is the problem of evil in the world. Just ask any group of atheists to give their top ten reasons for unbelief and surely one will claim as number one, “If there is a God, then why is there so much evil in the world?” For many, this is the pièce de résistance of rebuttals. How could a good God be real and allow all the suffering in the world to continue unabated – assuming He is even good? The eighteenth century philosopher, David Hume described the problem this way in Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, 1779:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?” (Stackhouse 1998, 11)

So, the “problem of evil,” and its source, has been an issue of philosophical debate for centuries.  The existence of evil in the world, along with unanswered questions, has even become evidence enough for some to embrace atheism.  Therefore, because so many philosophers and theologians have tried for ages to reconcile the existence of God with the existence of evil, I dare say that nothing I write will be new.  But, if anyone were to challenge my belief in God, along with my faith in Jesus Christ, with the argument that the problem of evil constitutes proof God does not exist, then I would possibly respond with arguments based on the following thought:

Without the existence of God, there should be no evil to be a problem, and that’s the real problem with “the Problem of Evil.”

Evil? What Is It?

What exactly is “evil?” Now, that may sound like an absurd kind of question to ask, but if the existence of evil is the evidence that is supposed to expose my faith as a fraud, at best, or even a lie, then what is it?  Is it something tangible? Is it metaphysical? Is it theoretical? What is it, exactly? Does it have any particular form? How can it be distinguished from what is called good? On what do the atheists and agnostics base their definition of this thing called “evil?”

Amazingly, the answers are not all the same, nor in some cases even grounded in reality. However, it is imperative to understand that we must define this God-killer, because its definition will determine our conclusions and help to clarify our assumptions.

When C. S. Lewis was an atheist, for example, his “argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust.” (Lewis 1989) There he had it, or so he thought. God could not exist because so much evil exists. But how did he arrive at “this idea of just and unjust?” Lewis said, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.” (Lewis 1989) “Tell me,” I would say, “what is evil, and how do you recognize it when you see it?

The Adjective

To start, evil must be understood to be an adjective. Evil is a description of something that is not good. Evil is not a thing. The word “evil” only describes the thing, the thought, and the action. Technically, “evil” does not exist, only what it describes.

Some people say that they cannot believe in God because why or how could a good God, if He was perfect, create evil? They think of evil as something that must have not existed until God made it. But evil “isn’t a kind of molecule or a virus…infecting or affecting everything it encounters.  There was no time when God said, ‘Let there be evil,’ and there was evil.” (Stackhouse 1998)  As John G. Stackhouse put it, “evil becomes a noun only in the abstract.” Additionally, in his book Can God Be Trusted, Stackhouse says of evil:

“An action can be evil, or an event can be evil, or a quality can be evil, or a being can be evil. And we can lump all these particular evils together in our minds and come up with a category ‘evil.’ We can even go on to discuss it as if it were a particular thing, so long as we do not forget that we are always dealing with a category or group of particular evil things, not a thing itself.” (Stackhouse 1998, 31)

So then, if evil is a description, how is it that we come to use the adjective, or as Lewis put it, the “crooked line,” without first having some idea of what is a “straight” one?  Defining what is good is as important as defining evil. To know what is evil, we must first have some assumption as to what is not evil.

The crazy thing is that if God does not exist, and man is nothing more than a collection of random matter, both good and evil are purely relative – their existence is based purely on one’s perspective.  So, in other words, the one who says that there is no God, based on the existence of evil, is literally basing his belief on pure opinion, not on anything objective. Therefore, in order to bring an accusation against the goodness of God, one must have a base line. What is the standard by which we determine what is good and what is evil?

The Standard

Some use Man as the baseline. They compare God to the standard set by what is thought to be good behavior in this world. They rationalize that if God is real, at least according to monotheistic dogma, He must be all-powerful, perfectly good, and the supreme example of love, kindness, and providential care. Because it is preached that God is a better Father than earthly fathers, Mark Twain took it upon himself to write:

The best minds will tell you that when a man has begotten a child he is morally bound to tenderly care for it…[yet], God’s treatment of his earthly children, every day and every night, is the exact opposite of that, yet those minds warmly justify those crimes…when he commits them.” (Tonie Doe Media 2007)

So then, according to Twain, God could not exist because if He did, He would act consistent with our understanding of what a good and loving earthly father would do.  In other words, if God cannot, in all His perfection, behave better toward His children than the most common man, His credentials are therefore revoked, and He must cease to exist.  However, this is so illogical.

Who are we to say that God, if He is perfect, and we are imperfect, ever treats His children poorly? Do the protesting cries of a toddler who has had poison taken from his grasp carry more weight than the decision of the earthly father to take it away? How, then, are we to automatically assume that the infantile tendencies of finite man are wiser than the infinitely Mature?

Using Man as a baseline for what is good and evil is pure arrogance.

Whose Line Is It?

In reality, the problem of evil is really a problem for the atheist. He, who denies the existence of a Creator and accepts only the realities of evil in the world, essentially has nothing about which to complain.  Everything should be just fine and dandy, but it’s not.  The atheist knows that evil things happen to both good and bad people.

He sees the hurt, feels the pain, and begs for justice. The reality of evil in the world causes men to cry out for justice; for things to be made right. This is a problem, though, because knowing that a crooked line is not straight hints at the fact that a Line-drawer exists.

The Followers’ Fault

Others take a different approach. They claim that God does not exist except in the evil intentions of his followers to control others through guilt. They claim that God is just a fabrication of priests to keep mankind from behaving “naturally.”

They say that nature is good, and if anything, God is evil for trying to get man to behave contrary to the very way he was created to behave. One guru said, “It seems that for those who worship God, the opposite to God is not that which is ‘evil,’ but that which is natural.” He said of animals, comparing them to men, “They don’t worship God, they don’t go to church, they don’t have any theology.  They don’t have any feeling of guilt, they are simply natural.” (Osho 2009)  In other words, if there is evil in the world, it is because our belief in God has inflicted it.

The Majority Response

But for the majority of the hurting world, pain is real, loss is real, and evil is manifested daily.  Many see the things that happen to innocent people, especially children, and wonder, “If there is a loving God, why doesn’t he do anything about this?

These people, many of which hold on to hope as long as they can, finally succumb to their doubts and conclude that the only way to explain away the pain is to admit that it is just part of life, part of the natural world, part of what makes us human; alone, in our quest to make life easier, free of pain, free from evil; alone, without God.

These are the ones, I believe, that lure more away from the faith than any Darwinist.  They are the ones who have seen evil face-to-face and cannot fathom a God who would allow it to continue.  And because their experiences are so painful and tragic, the devout are left speechless and without explanation. Ellie Wiesel is a good example.

Wiesel’s Observation

Wiesel was a teenager when he saw his family murdered in the Nazi death camps.  But it was only after witnessing one particular act of horror – the slow, hanging death of a young boy – that he turned away from his faith in God.

In the book Night, his Nobel prize-winning autobiography, Wiesel said he heard a man behind him ask, “Where is God now?” As he stood there, being forced to stare into a pitiful, wide-eyed, swollen face of a dying child, a voice within replied, “Where is He? Here He is – He is hanging here on the gallows…” (Wiesel 1982) Because there was no justification, even in the big scheme of things, Ellie Wiesel’s God died with the executed boy.

But as sad as it is, without God, who can say what happened to that boy was any worse than the slaughter of an animal?  Are we not all just animals – some more evolved than others?

The Real Problem

To me, the problem of evil is not a problem for the believer to explain, but one for the non-believer.  Aside from the theological arguments about the character of God, without God, to turn Hume’s question around, “whence then is evil?

Without God, evil is relative to one’s desires and personal pleasure.  Does it really even matter whether or not God could do anything about evil in the world when the whole question is moot if He didn’t exist?

With God, evil is defined as that which is against His law, that which stands opposed to His standards, and that which describes all who take pleasure in such rebellion. Without God, evil is just a matter of opinion.

That is the real “problem of evil.”


Works Cited

Lewis, C. S. “Atheism.” In The Quotable Lewis, by C. S. Lewis, 59. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1989.

Osho. The God Conspiracy: the path from superstition to superconsciousness. New York: Osho Media International, 2009.

Stackhouse, John G. Can God Be Trusted. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Tonie Doe Media. In The Atheist’s Bible, 129. New York: Harper Collins, 2007.

Wiesel, Ellie. Night. New York: Bantam Books, 1982.

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Filed under Apologetics, Culture Wars, Faith, General Observations, Life/Death, Struggles and Trials

Five Things About God’s Hands

Artist: Rebecca Brogan

Maybe you are at a point in your life where you doubt God. Maybe you doubt He cares. Or, even if He cares, you wonder why you can’t see it.

I hope the following list of what God’s hands do will bring you some comfort and encouragement.

  1. They Created Man (Gen. 2:7). As much as we would like to think that we are self-made, there is a Hand that formed us from the dust of the earth. We are not like the rest of creation which was simply spoken into existence; we were fashioned by the loving, artistic hand of the Creator, and His fingerprints are all over us.
  2. They Contain the Believer (John 10:27-29). The believer should never worry about his salvation. He should never worry about being stolen away. Thank God that we are in His hand, and nothing, not even ourselves, can remove us from His omnipotent protection.
  3. They Chastise the Child (Prov. 3:12; 13:24; 22:15; 19:18; Deut. 8:5; Rev. 3:19). God is not a Father who encourages “timeouts;” He knows how to apply loving discipline to our seats of instruction. If more parents would worry less about the world’s wisdom and suggestions and follow the wise instruction of Scripture, we might not have as many entitlement-claiming, over-grown bratty children running the streets demanding their own way.
  4. They Carry the Broken (Isa. 40:11). Praise the Lord for His mercy and love! As the gentle shepherd who must sometimes break the leg of the wandering lamb, God must discipline us. However, it is then that He carries us close to his bosom where we learn to love being in His presence.
  5. They Catch the Stumbler (Psa. 37:23-24). There are times when we stumble, but because He is holding our hand, we will not “utterly” fall.

Jonathan Edwards preached in 1741, it is a “fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God.” But as a child of God, there is no better place to be!

David said, even after he had sinned, “Let me fall into the hand of the Lord…” (1 Chron. 21:13). He knew the truth that brought comfort, a comfort the world does not know: “The LORD will not cast off his people…” (Psa. 94:14).

Praise God for His loving, providing, protecting, parenting, and guiding hand! 

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The Better Question

When looking for answers to our problems, many times we ask the question, “What would Jesus do?”

A better question might be, “What did Jesus do?”

“But we preach Christ crucified…” – 1 Corinthians 1:23

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Things I Don’t Know

As a husband, father, pastor, author, and perpetual student, I am constantly reminded of how much I really don’t know.

What if I made a list of all the things I don’t know? Well, that would be impossible, especially when there are so many things that I don’t know I don’t know.

However…..

Here are some things I wish I knew more about or could better understand. If it were possible to master these subjects, my self-esteem might go through the roof! Some may even call me a “know-it-all” in a non-derogatory way!

Do you know the answers to the following questions?

  • How can only three knobs (valves) and two lips play an infinite number of musical notes?
  • How do people get clean in dirty bath water?
  • What are hot flashes, and why women hate them in the winter?
  • Why are things like Pi (things that have no answer) so dadgum important?
  • If animals in cartoons and movies can talk to each other in English, not to mention read, why don’t they just write a note to humans when someone is in danger?
  • Why do women wear “natural” makeup to look natural, when natural was what they were before they put on the makeup?
  • Greek grammar – enough said.
  • Who killed Kennedy?
  • Why can’t I just decide to increase my debt limit, instead of balancing my budget?
  • Why do dogs and cats hate each other?
  • Why I could never pick up a snake by the tail, but Steve Irwin could?
  • How did the first person decide drinking something fermented, breathing something on fire, eating something coagulated, or using the anal glands of a beaver for flavoring (castorium) was an appetizing idea?

Life is full of persistent, nagging questions. Some questions may never be answered. I may never truly be a know-it-all. However, when it all comes down to what’s most important, I am reminded of the words of a man who was blind from birth: “I was blind…but now I see.”

I may not know everything, but I know that I will be OK when I die. I know that this world is not all there is. I know that heaven awaits me when I die. How? It’s all written in the Word of God.

 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. – 1 John 5:13

Did you know that?

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How Long? Selah.

“O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah.” – Psalm 4:2

FullSizeRender (1)Selah. A word that calls us to stop for just a moment and contemplate what we’ve just read. This morning pause and consider the glory of God.

“My glory”

It is important that we realize first that when David writes these words it is not only about himself. This is one of those verses which have a double meaning: one that is meant for the time it was written, and another that implies a bigger story. In this case, it’s about the glory of God.

In case you’ve ever wondered, the word glory carries with it the idea of a “heaviness” or a “burden.” It concerns one’s “reputation.”

“Sons of men…”

David was probably writing to men whom at one point were his trusted friends, but now they were trying to kill him. These were men who made up his inner circle of government, who acted in his name. Yet now, here they were in rebellion, turning the glory of David’s reign into shame.

Sons of men was something of a title of honor and dignity.

“Vanity” and “Leasing”

Vanity is that which is hollow and worthless. Vanity is that beauty that fades, the riches that decay. Yet, what does the world love? It chases after fleeting fame and false beauty. It’s constantly trying one-up God’s creation. Yet, men “love” it; literally, they “flirt” with it. Why not seek after things that last?

“Leasing” is another word for lying. David is asking why it is that men seek after lies? I guess the answer could be found in the modern context of news. Why do we keep going to the media for truth about the world when we know they rarely tell the truth?

From Glory to Shame

God is asking His creation – the ones who bear the fingerprint of their Creator – “Why do you turn MY glory into shame?” Why do men and women constantly seek after emptiness and lies, when the Truth is right in front of them?

Why did David’s men rebell against him, knowing he was God’s annointed King of Israel? Why do men rebel against Jesus, the eternal King of Glory? After all, we are who we are because of God; we are the jewel of His creation! Why do we love to devalue ourselves, turning His glory into shame?

Tragic, isn’t it? Nevertheless, the “how long” part of this verse hints at something very important: We can’t rob God’s glory and impune His name forever.

Just think about that for a while.

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