God and Gremlins: Why I Believe

Believing in God is akin to believing in gremlins. Believing in God is irrational, backwards, or illogical. At least this is what “rational” society would have you believe. Rational society also defines faith as believing in what you know isn’t so, but what they don’t understand is that this definition couldn’t be further from the truth. There are valid, and convincing, arguments for the existence of God, and not gremlins. As someone who flirted with atheism, I would like to share some of the evidence as to why I believe.

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Science Is A Tool, Not An Authority

One of the things Christians are attacked over is their “unreasonably blind” faith, and “willful ignorance” of modern science. Although I would agree that there are Christians that hold their beliefs without asking the questions of why, that is not the case for all, and those that do ask the questions find that there are reasonable arguments for the Christian worldview.

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Proposition 8 Overturned – Love the Person, Hate the Sin

It’s funny.  During election time, we get bombarded by ads explaining the history of the candidates we look to elect.  We see what they did, what they said, and what they wrote.  It’s the same thing when people are picked to sit on the Supreme Court; their entire life history is rolled out before the public and scrutinized.  I’ve always had mixed feelings about the way a political figure is portrayed, especially through the attack ads and media, because I know that things in a persons past can be an indication of what that person is like, but it also can be an indication of what that person was like.  I think this difference has become more important to me now than it has in the past, especially when thinking about the history of California’s Proposition 8.

As I’m sure everyone is aware, Proposition 8 was voted on, and approved, by a majority of people in California.  It created an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.  Last week a Federal judge, Vaughn Walker, overturned the proposition.  It is being appealed.

Scripture tells us that homosexuality is a sin, and as such I should be opposed to it.  That’s all fine and well, but Scripture also tells me to love my neighbor.  That’s all fine and well, too.  But what happens when my neighbor practices homosexuality?  Well, that’s easy, too: “Love the person, hate the sin.”

For a Christian, it should be easy to separate the sin from the sinner, but not everyone is a Christian.  On top of that, there are those who believe themselves to be Christian, but are not. As a result, an us versus them mentality between the “pro-gay” movement and the “anti-gay” movement has developed.  In this mentality, Christians have been labeled as discriminatory, hateful, bigoted, etc.  While there are those who, unfortunately, fit these labels, semantics have played a large part in this perceived hatred.

The Christian sees human beings as Children of God.  It doesn’t matter whether they practice homosexuality, heterosexuality, baseball, football, whatever… We are not defined by the actions we partake in on this Earth.  We see people as people, or at least we should.  Non-Christians seem less inclined to make this distinction.  People are defined by what they do, and how they live.  People define themselves, so that they are not merely a member of the human race, but they are part of a particular group in the human race, i.e., gay, straight, black, white.  There are even those that think some of these groups are inferior to others, but I don’t think I need to pursue that.

My point is that Christians have not been painted as anti-gay, but as anti-gay-people.  Again, there are Christians that fit that description, but real Christians should not be against gay people, but against homosexual acts.  Quite frankly, Christians should be against any sexual action that takes place outside a marriage approved by God (one man, one woman).  Yes, this includes heterosexual sex!

So, I’m bothered by the fact that so many people picture Christians as hateful.

But I love my neighbor!  How can I be hateful?  Another teaching from Scripture says that we are supposed to be in the world, but not of the world.  Can it be that we have become too involved in the world?  I try to look at everything from a balanced point of view, and it seems to me that while we have to be part of the world in order to interact with others, it is possible to become too involved.  I think this is exactly what has happened, and the result is an inaccurate picture of hate.

Which brings me back to where I started.  There was a time when I was dead set against gay marriage anywhere in the U.S., and the world for that matter.  God has declared homosexuality a sin, and that’s that.  And while that is it, I have to remind myself that I can’t make people be, or even act like Christians.  God could, but He doesn’t.  Why should I?

Judge Walker wrote:

Marriage in the United States has always been a civil matter.  Civil authorities may permit religious leaders to solemnize marriages but not to determine who may enter or leave a civil marriage.  Religious leaders may determine independently whether to recognize a civil marriage or divorce but that recognition or lack thereof has no effect on the relationship under state law.

Did you catch that?  Churches don’t have to recognize civil marriages, just as many churches don’t recognize civil divorces.  Currently, the Catholic Church requires an annulment before an individual can be remarried–just because the law says a divorce is final, does not make it so in the eyes of the church.  Why should marriage be any different?

Only God has the power to change people; all I can do is travel the path He puts me on and plant seeds.  It’s up to Him to make them grow.  It’s time to step back, and let those who want to live in sin, live in sin.  It won’t change the fact that just because it’s legal, doesn’t make it right, and we can only pray that one day, no one will take advantage of that particular “right.”  More importantly, we need to start acting like neighbors instead enemies.

NOTE: Judge Walker’s ruling can be found at Scribd.

Cover Photo Credit: Photos by Lanty at Unsplash

Your Sin Is Not My Sin (Romans, Chapter 14)

I’ve been taking college Bible classes for a few months now, and recently had an interesting discussion that started out on the topic of whether church leaders should drink alcohol or not. Most felt that it would look bad for a leader to partake despite that fact that alcohol is used freely in the Bible, and a strong argument can be made for its encouragement.

Their scriptural support came from one particular verse: Romans 14:20. If we look at Romans, Chapter 14, as a whole we find a much bigger message. A message that deals with more than just drinking or eating meat sacrificed to idols. Don’t get me wrong, freedom in Christ does not give one the green light on everything, but there are many things not spoken of in the Bible that we must make decide for ourselves. This is an excerpt of my final post regarding the topic.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know what a modern day Templar Knight is, but it doesn’t matter. I can make a strong case, Biblically, for drinking wine, but cannot say the same for a fraternity. This makes it a perfect example of an opinion as described in Rom 14:1.

First, Romans 14:20, “it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats” is being used out of context. Once this verse is placed back into the entire chapter and read as a whole, we find that food, wine, and days of worship are being used as examples.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. (Rom 14:12-13)

John, you felt that your pursuit of God, and the fraternity did not conflict with each other, and you felt secure in your faith with that decision. If you had not given it up, would it have caused others to stumble, or question, in their faith, or would they merely have been upset with you? Rom 14:4 asks, “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?” The friction you received was from those who not only passed judgment on you, but put a stumbling block in the way of your faith. Their prejudice caused you to question what you approve. Romans 14:16 says, “So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil.”

My Grandmother-In-Law (if there is such a title), gave up chocolate during WWII. I guess it was a sacrifice made to help bring the war to an end. She is strong in her faith, and continues to abstain. She doesn’t care if people eat chocolate in front of her as she is not tempted by it. If, however, she were tempted then it would be wrong of me or anyone else to eat chocolate in front of her, as it may cause her to stumble. That does not mean I should always abstain from chocolate, only around her.

The difference between these two situations is faith. She gave up chocolate, because it was a personal choice that was made in faith, and she intends to keep that faith. You gave up the fraternity, through prayer and faith, but only after you were made to stumble by those who judged you. I can extend this to the use of alcohol by saying that I would abstain from drinking around others who may be tempted to join in, even though it is wrong for them, and not for me.

I want to ask you a question, but I want it clear that I am not asking you to change your sacrifice, as that is a choice you have made and are comfortable with. What if someone joined your church who is not in a position of leadership, but is a member of the same fraternity you belonged to? What if they started receiving friction from those who are prejudice against the fraternity. You stated that you did not feel it was in contradiction with God, so when the new member and the other members come to you, what do you say? Do you relate to the new member your personal sacrifice? As a leader, trying to live by example, you may give the impression that this is the path the new member should take.

If the new member follows your lead, we must ask why? Did he/she make this choice out of prayer and faith through God. If this is the case, then he/she will be happy with their decision. If not?

And what of those who are prejudice? They are once more “victorious” in their pursuit, giving them more ammunition for further judgments against others, more fodder for them to boast, and further validation of their “righteousness.”

What if the new member decides that they are not going to leave the fraternity? He or she may become disillusioned with your church if the pursuit of those who are prejudice persists. In this case he or she may leave for another church, or leave the church entirely, speaking ill of your church or Christianity as a whole. Those who are prejudice will probably be angry at his or her decision to stay, causing a rift in your church until the “offender” leaves.

As you can see, it is not as simple as just having a beer. If I were always in the presence of someone who may be tempted by my actions, I would give it up, but the reality is that there is a bigger problem in the church that needs to be addressed. That is the holier than thou attitude, that some pass on to others. The judgment made that you are not as strong in your faith, or a “baby Christian” because you partake in something that others find “sinful.” This is a disease that has worked its way into Christ’s Church and has created thousands of splinter churches, each with its own beliefs, and its own holier than other churches mentality. It’s a problem not only between denominations, but between churches of the same denomination, or non-denomination, down the road from each other.

It needs to end, and church leaders need to “take a stand.” We need to explain to people, that your sin is not necessarily my sin, or your brothers or sisters sin. It may be wrong for a church leader to ever drink, if he or she is working with a group of alcoholics, but it is a situation that that leader would have to determine for his or her self. We as leaders can not sit back and say, “that person is not setting a good example.” Really? “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?”

As leaders we need to dismantle the judgment of others. If a new member came to your church, and the friction between that member and those who are prejudice came before you, how would you handle it?

Based on the teaching of Romans 14, I would tell the new member that they must pray for guidance , clarity, and confidence in the decision they make. It is not a decision for me to make. I would also point out the error in the ways of those who are prejudice in their judgment of others, and ask them to refrain. I may lose some members of the church this way, but I would rather lose members by pointing out the truth in God’s Word. Romans 14:19 says, “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” This can only be done if we pursue peace through faith. If those causing trouble leave, I would seriously wonder where their faith really stands. The truth in God’s Word does not appeal to all.

Let us not drive the wedge further into Christ’s church.

Cover Photo Credit: Hasan Almasi at Unsplash

from “Memoirs Of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt 1725-1798”

The Memoirs Of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt 1725-1798 encompasses six huge volumes. I had intended to read the whole set, but only made through his military career in volume 1. With everything else I have to do, it would have taken me years to read at the pace I was going.

Towards the end of my reading, in Chapter XIV, I came across this conversation between Casanova and Yusuf Ali regarding atheism:

He added that the existence of God could be useful only to those who did not entertain a doubt of that existence, and that, as a natural consequence, Atheists must be the most miserable of men. God has made in man His own image in order that, amongst all the animals created by Him, there should be one that can understand and confess the existence of the Creator. Without man, God would have no witness of His own glory, and man must therefore understand that his first and highest duty is to glorify God by practising justice and trusting to His providence.

“Observe, my son, that God never abandons the man who, in the midst of misfortunes, falls down in prayer before Him, and that He often allows the wretch who has no faith in prayer to die miserably.”

“Yet we meet with Atheists who are fortunate and happy.”

“True; but, in spite of their tranquillity, I pity them because they have no hope beyond this life, and are on a level with animals. Besides, if they are philosophers, they must linger in dark ignorance, and, if they never think, they have no consolation, no resource, when adversity reaches them. God has made man in such a manner that he cannot be happy unless he entertains no doubt of the existence of his Divine Creator; in all stations of life man is naturally prone to believe in that existence, otherwise man would never have admitted one God, Creator of all beings and of all things.”

“I should like to know why Atheism has only existed in the systems of the learned, and never as a national creed.”

“Because the poor feel their wants much more than the rich, There are amongst us a great many impious men who deride the true believers because they have faith in the pilgrimage to Mecca. Wretches that they are, they ought to respect the ancient customs which, exciting the devotion of fervent souls, feed religious principles, and impart courage under all misfortunes. Without such consolation, people would give way to all the excess of despair.”

Cover Photo Credit: Noah Silliman at Unsplash