Thursday, January 17, 2019

Joyce Meyer Denounces Prosperity Gospel; What About You?

            Finally, Joyce Meyer realized that the prosperity gospel is not only a theological aberration, but it rudely condemns God’s most faithful disciples, just by virtue of their suffering.

            An article in Faithwire revealed the good news of Joyce Meyer’s transformation, “Evangelist Joyce Meyer recently admitted that in the past, her views on the “prosperity Gospel” were “out of balance.”

            Meyer, who has received much criticism for her preaching on the prosperity Gospel, shared with her Instagram followers the dangers in taking such theology too close to heart.

            “I’m glad for what I learned about prosperity, but it got out of balance,” the well-known Christian author and speaker said. “I’m glad for what I’ve learned about faith, but it got out of balance.”

            Meyer noted that this sort of theology led her to believe that the reason others experienced calamities was due to a lack of faith.

            “Every time somebody had a problem in their life, [I thought] it’s because they didn’t have enough faith. If you got sick it’s because you don’t have enough faith. If your child died, it’s because you don’t have enough faith,” Meyer said.

            She explained that she has since learned that faith doesn’t ensure that everything will be perfect, but rather it means simply putting your trust in God in all things.

            “Faith is something God gives you that you need to use and release in your life. It’s a powerful force but it’s not just an automatic, you put your trust in God, you put your faith in Him,” Meyer added.

            Meyer’s announcement came as a surprise to some, as she has been a major proponent of the prosperity Gospel in the past.”1

            Joyce Meyer, in her 8th January 2019 video on Instagram, said, “Faith is something God gives you that you need to use and release in your life. It’s a powerful force, but it’s not just an automatic. You put your trust in God. You put your faith in HIM. I’m glad for what I learned about prosperity, but it got out of balance. I’m glad for what I learned out of faith, but it got out of balance. And so every time somebody had a problem in their life was ‘cause they didn’t have enough faith. If you got sick, you didn’t have enough faith. If your child died, you didn’t have enough faith. Well, that’s not right. You can’t – there’s nowhere in the Bible where we’re promised that we’ll never have any trouble. I don’t care how much faith you’ve got, you’re not gonna avoid ever having trouble in your life. Jesus said, “In the world there will be tribulation. Cheer up, I have overcome the world.”2

            This is the same Joyce Meyer, who audaciously said that Christ might have owned an airplane, had HE been living now.3

            But by the grace of God, Joyce Meyer has now understood the truth behind prosperity. Now, we believe, that her ministry would effect a change in the hearts and minds of those who have fallen for the deceptiveness of the prosperity gospel.

            The deceptiveness of the prosperity gospel was emphasized by Pastor John Piper, “In a video for his ministry, Desiring God, Piper argues that a huge component of the prosperity Gospel is wealth.

                        He points out that Paul talks about the dangers of money in 1 Timothy 6:6-10:

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
            “In other words, the very thing that leads people to suicidal piercings of pain is nurtured and cultivated by the prosperity preachers,” he notes. “They are encouraging that this suicidal behavior happens. That is abominable.”

            “It’s because riches are such dangerous things. They’re not a blessing usually, they’re usually a curse. People are cursed with riches; they’re destroyed by riches,” Piper added.

            He goes on to point out that “it’s not sinful to make a lot of money, but sinful to keep a lot of money.”4

            Prosperity Gospel is indeed deceptive.

            But just as Joyce Meyer realized before it’s too late, let’s hope and pray that the bulldogs of the prosperity gospel – the Joel Osteens and the T.D Jakes’ of this world  – and their believers, understand the deceptiveness of the prosperity gospel and preach Christ-crucified, for Christ did not come to make poor people rich, HE came to make dead people live (spiritually).

Endnotes:

1https://www.faithwire.com/2019/01/14/joyce-meyer-takes-a-jab-at-the-prosperity-gospel-denounces-her-past-beliefs-in-it/

2https://www.instagram.com/p/BsWuTxmjS_y/?utm_source=ig_embed

3https://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/joyce-meyer-transparent-evangelist/story?id=10355887

4https://www.faithwire.com/2019/01/14/joyce-meyer-takes-a-jab-at-the-prosperity-gospel-denounces-her-past-beliefs-in-it/


Websites last accessed on 17th January 2019. 


Sunday, December 30, 2018

Could Christians Get Depressed?

            “Being depressed is like wearing a pair of apocalyptic glasses. Everything seems bleak, futile, and pointless. The promises of God, which normally bring life and hope and sunshine, seem hollow. God himself feels distant and uncaring, like a distracted, removed father who cares more about other things or other people,” says Stephen Altrogge in his article entitled 3 Powerful Pieces Of Encouragement For The Depressed Christian.1

            The World Health Organization offers these key facts about depression:2

·Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression.
·Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.
·More women are affected by depression than men.
·At its worst, depression can lead to suicide.
·There are effective psychological and pharmacological treatments for depression.
            Broadly, there are two types of depression, according to an article in Christianity Today:3

We'll start by saying there's more than one way to define "depressed." The American Heritage Dictionary begins with these two definitions:
1. Low in spirits; dejected. 2. Suffering from psychological depression.
Almost everyone experiences the first definition at some time. We all get sad or have "the blues" on occasion. Whether you're bummed about your favorite NFL team losing last Sunday, or bombing on a test, or a rift in a relationship, it might help to know that most people have those feelings at some time or another.
If you're experiencing that type of depression, take comfort in knowing that it will likely pass in a relatively short time. In the meantime, keep going to church, praying and reading your Bible (the Psalms can be especially helpful). Do fun things with friends and family; don't spend too much time brooding alone in your bedroom. And talk to someone you trust—a parent, a teacher, a coach, a youth leader, a pastor.
But what if you're experiencing "psychological depression," the second definition? Certainly, you should be doing the things recommended in the last paragraph. But if you have psychological depression—also known as "clinical depression"—you should see a professional, because this type of depression is a very real illness, just as real as cancer or the common cold.
As you continue reading this, that's our working definition of "depression." We're referring to psychological or clinical depression.
Clinical depression is often caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. It's not "just in your mind."
Depression is usually treatable with a combination of medicine and counseling. Unfortunately, less than half of depressed people actually seek treatment. According to the NMHA, people resist treatment "because they believe depression isn't serious, that they can treat it themselves, or that it is a personal weakness rather than a serious medical illness."

            Why do we get depressed? The same article from Christianity Today describes the causes for depression:4

Any one or a combination of things can trigger depression, including:
·Death or serious illness of a friend or family member
·Loss of love or attention from a friend or family member
·Breakup of a romantic relationship
·Family problems, especially parents' divorce
·Isolation/loneliness
·Rejection or teasing
·Physical, verbal, and/or sexual abuse
·Genetic vulnerability, particularly if a parent is/was depressed
·Chemical imbalance
·Hormonal changes, including PMS
·Substance abuse
·Hospitalization, especially for a chronic illness
Some people are more likely to get depressed than others, because of a chemical imbalance or other factors. Meanwhile, others may never get clinically depressed. The bottom line: The chances of getting depressed vary significantly from person to person.

            What are the symptoms of clinical depression? Mental Health America describes the symptoms of clinical depression:5

Ø  Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood
Ø  Sleeping too much or too little, middle of the night or early morning waking
Ø Reduced appetite and weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain
Ø Loss of pleasure and interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex
Ø  Restlessness, irritability
Ø  Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment (such as chronic pain or digestive disorders)
Ø  Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
Ø  Fatigue or loss of energy
Ø  Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless
Ø  Thoughts of suicide or death

            Another article on depression authored by Stephen Altrogge provides eleven Bible verses for depression:6

May these give you hope and strength as you wait for God to lead you out of the Valley of Darkness.
1.      Deuteronomy 31:8 -- God Will Never Leave You
2.      Isaiah 41:10 -- God Will Strengthen You and Uphold You
3.      Psalm 40:1-3 -- God Hears Your Cry
4.      Psalm 3:3 -- The Lord Is Your Shield
5.      Psalm 34:18-19 -- God Is Near To The Brokenhearted
6.      Isaiah 40:31 -- The Lord Will Renew Your Strength
7.      Isaiah 42:3 -- A Bruised Reed He Will Not Break
8.    Matthew 11:28-30 -- Come All Who Labor and Are Heavy Laden
9.   Romans 8:38-39 -- Nothing Can Separate You From God
10.  Psalm 34:17 -- The Lord Hears Your Cry
11.  Psalm 42:11 – Hope in God

            Could Christians be depressed? Yes and why not? Do not believe anyone who argues that Christians cannot be depressed. Saul, Job, David, Jeremiah, and Judas Iscariot were depressed!

            The article from Christianity Today speaks about depression among Christians:7

For Christians, depression can carry extra baggage—in the form of guilt or shame. Since Jesus promises abundant life, Christians often assume there's a spiritual problem if they're depressed. Other well-meaning believers don't necessarily help by saying things like, "Have you completely submitted to God?" or "Do you have any unconfessed sin?"
One reader wrote, "The worst was well-meaning people who told me to 'just get over it' or 'rejoice for this is the day the Lord has made.' This made me feel ashamed of my depression because I felt that I was dishonoring God, but I could not just shake it off. Its grip on my life was strong."
While spiritual problems—like habitual or unconfessed sin, lack of faith, or, in rare cases, demonic attack—certainly can trigger depression, those things are often the result of depression, not the cause. Depressed Christians certainly should continue praying, reading the Bible, confessing sin and pursuing holiness, but unless God or a professional Christian counselor says otherwise, don't assume the depression is caused by a spiritual problem. That type of thinking can keep a depressed Christian from seeking the professional help—counseling, medication, or both—they need.
Again, we want to say that while spiritual issues can contribute to depression, they're usually a result, not a cause. If you think your depression or emotional struggles have spiritual roots, talk to your pastor, youth pastor or a Christian counselor.

            What cures depression?

            Stephen Altrogge cites Chris Cipollone’s new book Down Not Out while offering encouragements for a depressed Christian. Here’s an excerpt:8

Recognize That Your Feelings Are Just That: Feelings are pathological liars. Very rarely do they speak the truth about reality…One of THE most important things I’ve learned to do when I’m depressed is to recognize that what I’m feeling probably isn’t true. The truth is outside of me, located in the sacred pages of scripture.
When I’m in the grip of depression or anxiety, I have to, in a sense, detach my brain from emotions. I have to fall back on what I know to be true even though none of those things feel true.
Chris puts it this way: When it comes to mental illness, our feelings can be very misleading. I say this because a change in how we feel about God can be one of the main manifestations of depression or anxiety. This can be very distressing for a Christian, yet how we feel about God does not impact who he actually is.
We may feel angry about our circumstances, which leads to the thought that God hates us. He doesn’t.
We may feel lonely, which leads to the thought that God has abandoned us. He hasn’t.
We may feel hopeless, which leads to the thought that there is nothing left to live for. There is.
If you find yourself in a dark cloud, it’s not a good time to evaluate the state of your life, your relationship with God, or what tomorrow will be like. Frankly, that will probably sink you even further into darkness.
Rather, you need to dramatically simplify your thinking. Cling to the simple truths of scripture, even if they feel empty. Often, I’ll pray simple prayers like, “Father, I know you love me and are going to get me through this.” I don’t let my mind dwell on whether I’m being a good dad or if I’m reading the Bible enough.
Then I turn my attention elsewhere, often to something quite mindless like a show on Netflix. I know that I can answer all the big questions of life when God brings me to a better place. Until then, I’m going to keep my thinking childlike (in the biblical sense).
Find A Faithful Friend: …If you’re a depressed Christian, try to find one person who can be a lifeline for you. Yes, it can be challenging to find someone like this, but you need to. You can’t be a lone ranger when it comes to navigating the dark and choppy waters.
Fall Back On Jesus: When you’re stumbling through the dark, it usually feels like God has abandoned you. This can be an utterly terrifying experience, especially the first time you experience it.
But Jesus has you in a grip much stronger than your grip on him. Though it may feel like all is lost, it’s not. He has you, is holding you, and will sustain you as you travail through the screaming void.
Chris puts it this way: “Paul does not say that we’re immune from trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or sword. What he does say is that in the midst of all these things, we cannot be separated from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. God’s love for his people is guaranteed.”
There will be times when the most you can do is say, “Help me, Jesus.”
He will indeed help you. You probably won’t feel his help, but he’s there, holding you, guiding you, and shepherding you to green pastures. You may not be able to hold onto him, but he has you in his omnipotent grip that nothing, including your depression, can break.
Honestly, you’re much weaker than you feel. The good news is that he’s much stronger than you can imagine.
The End of Depression: There will come a time when your depression and anxiety will be fully and finally gone. When Christ returns, tears will be dried, brokenness will be healed, and mental illness will be banished, never to return.
Until that day, you can rest in the simple, lovely truths God has declared over you: you are loved, you are held, and you will be sustained until the end.

Endnotes:

1https://theblazingcenter.com/2018/08/depressed-christian.html

2https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression

3https://www.christianitytoday.com/iyf/hottopics/selfesteem/understanding-depression.html?start=1

4https://www.christianitytoday.com/iyf/hottopics/selfesteem/understanding-depression.html?start=2

5http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/depression

6https://theblazingcenter.com/2018/02/bible-verses-for-depression.html

7https://www.christianitytoday.com/iyf/hottopics/selfesteem/understanding-depression.html?start=2 & https://www.christianitytoday.com/iyf/hottopics/selfesteem/understanding-depression.html?start=3

8https://theblazingcenter.com/2018/08/depressed-christian.html


Websites last accessed on 30th December 2018.         

Friday, December 28, 2018

Can Christians Smoke Weed If It’s Legal?

            Does legalizing marijuana (weed/cannabis) entitle Christians to smoke? This question presupposes two notions: A. Weed/Marijuana is not to be smoked if it’s illegal in the country/state of your residence. B. Weed is prohibited in many countries because it is dangerous to human health.

            Before we examine the pros and cons of smoking weed, let’s understand why weed is prohibited in many countries. Dr. Walt Larimore1 - an award-winning medical journalist - highlights the problems caused by weed to human health:2 (Emphasis Mine)

Marijuana use can lead to problems after both acute and chronic use…A 2005 study of car accidents in France found that the chances of drivers being responsible for a fatality were more than three times higher if they had been using marijuana compared to those who had not.
Marijuana leaves people sedated and less coordinated, making it unwise to drive or operate equipment while under its influence. Coordination problems may last up to 24 hours, long after the person no longer feels high.
Many people report euphoria and positive feelings from the high, but 40 to 60 percent report unpleasant experiences. This has been the case with marijuana smoked for medical reasons…
About 10 percent of regular recreational users of marijuana develop dependence, according to the Royal College of Physicians’ report. When people stop using marijuana after chronic use, they can have withdrawal effects, with symptoms like restlessness, insomnia, nausea, and cramping.
Compared to other abused drugs, these can be mild and short-lived…
…Other negative effects have been reported. Students regularly using marijuana have lower grades, more traffic accidents, higher use of alcohol and sex as coping mechanisms, and more psychiatric problems than nonusers. These conclusions come from epidemiological studies that do not establish cause and effect, but have been cited as evidence of what is called “amotivation syndrome.”
More seriously, there is growing evidence of a connection between marijuana use and psychosis. Cannabis can precipitate psychosis and continued cannabis use in psychotic patients makes their illness worse…
The evidence is moving toward a consensus that daily use of marijuana causes psychosis and precipitates schizophrenia, especially if use begins before age 15. A study in New Zealand monitored marijuana use in people for 25 years and published its results in 2005. It found that daily marijuana users had a 1.6 to 1.8 times greater chance of developing psychosis even after all other known causes were taken into account…
Other concerns have been expressed that marijuana may negatively impact the immune system, increasing the risk of infection. This would be particularly problematic since the people for whom medical marijuana is most frequently recommended (AIDS and chemotherapy patients) are already at very high risk for infections. Research is not as yet clear about this connection.
The Natural Database rates marijuana as “possibly unsafe” for adults and children, “unsafe” in pregnancy, and “likely unsafe” (orally or inhaled) for breast-feeding women.

            Since the Bible does not explicitly condemn the usage of weed, we can expect both answers: ‘No, we cannot smoke weed’ or ‘yes, we can smoke weed.’ An article in Christianity Today, entitled ‘Should Christians Smoke Medical Marijuana?’ offers both these answers:3

No—It's a bad Witness: …Christians should be cautious about using marijuana. Marijuana is associated with vice and unseemly activity. Christians are called to be above reproach, "without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation," shining "as lights in the world" (Phil. 2:15, ESV). We are told to "not be conformed to this world" (Rom. 12:2) and to "walk properly as in the daytime," avoiding sins of addiction such as drinking and partying (Rom. 13:13). In 1 Peter 2:11-12, Peter urges Christians to "abstain from the passions of the flesh" and to keep their conduct honorable, so unbelievers "may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation."
The issue is not the relative danger of marijuana itself; it is about witness. If Christians use marijuana as a medical aid, it should be done in a quiet, private manner, without flaunting. Christians must be mindful of pot's controversial and hazardous reputation in culture, and be sensitive to the perspectives of both other Christians and unbelieving observers. Christians should take note of the food offered to idols issue in 1 Corinthians 8-10 and strive to abstain from arguably innocuous activities that are nevertheless contested in culture. It is not worth offending or making someone stumble.
Yes, with care: …Scripture raises important questions.
First, is it moral? This is the most important question. Does Scripture prohibit or command using marijuana for medical purposes? If something is illegal, unless Scripture commands us to do it, we do not. Where medical marijuana is legal, this is no longer an issue.
Second, are mind-altering drugs sinful? This one is a bit more slippery. Many prescription drugs—like psychiatric drugs—can be mind-altering, and so are legal drugs such as tobacco and alcohol. Christians have reasonable arguments on both sides. But I think we can agree that one's motivation is relevant. If someone puts their hope in mind-altering drugs, and these drugs become a way to turn away from the Lord, they are idolatrous and wrong. Even then, that does not mean that the person must stop taking the drugs. It means they must learn how to turn to the Lord in their troubles.
Third, is it wise to smoke medical marijuana? This overlaps with the morality question. There are times when something is morally permissible, yet unwise. If you struggle with a desire for alcohol, it is permissible but unwise to work in a place where alcohol is served. With medical marijuana, that question could be reframed as, "Is it helpful or dangerous?" Are there deleterious consequences to this treatment? The brief answer, and I suspect there would be many heads nodding at this, is that every medical treatment has possible harmful side effects. In an era of full disclosure, many prescription warnings end, "Oh, and you might die too." When you line up modern pain relievers, marijuana looks quite tame. It is riskier than Tylenol but safer than Vicodin. The dangers ebb when the marijuana user is terminally ill, and Scripture supports palliative care for the dying (Prov. 31:6-7).
Finally, is your conscience clear? Is it okay that people know you are taking medical marijuana? You do not have to announce it in front of the assembly, but you should not be ashamed if other people know. If your conscience bothers you, do not do it. For some people, the stumbling block might be that you smoke it. Put it in a pill form and use its technical name, and many consciences would probably be soothed.
Many innovations have unwanted side effects. For example, the Internet is a purveyor of pornography. Yes, more people will use marijuana for non-medical reasons. People who would not cross the barrier between legal and illegal might be more prone to try something that is legal though restricted.
How would I vote? Be wise and do not violate your conscience.

            Dr. Walt Larimore’s advice regarding smoking weed is forthright, “…a consistent effort should be maintained to discourage all use of marijuana even if at some future time its illegal status is changed. The risks of using marijuana are great. Every year, about 100,000 people seek help in kicking the marijuana habit. The church could play a significant role here as only Jesus Christ can fill the void that marijuana abusers experience.”4

            Therefore, the use of weed should be discouraged even if it is legalized in the country/state of your residence. However, its consumption could be permitted if the usage is for medical purposes with strict medical oversight.

Endnotes:

1Dr. Walt Larimore, MD, DABFP, FAAFP, is an award-winning medical journalist, a best-selling author, and a nationally-recognized family physician. He co-authored a book with Donal O’Mathuna, Ph.D., entitled ‘Alternative Medicine: The options, the claims, the evidence, how to choose wisely.’ This book is an evidence-based article on marijuana.

2http://www.drwalt.com/blog/2013/06/27/marijuana-the-truth-part-4/

3https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/june/vg-medicalmarijuana.html

4http://www.drwalt.com/blog/2013/07/03/marijuana-the-truth-part-5/


Websites last accessed on 28th December 2018. 

Monday, December 24, 2018

How Could God Be Born? (Birth Of God)

            God, by definition, is uncaused. If God is uncaused, HE cannot be born. How then do we celebrate Christmas as the birth of God – the Lord Jesus Christ?

Was Christ God?

            If Christ is not God, then HIS birth need not be questioned. But every sincere Christian believes that Christ is God.

            How could we be certain of Christ’s deity (that Christ is God)?

            We may not find a verse in the Bible in which Christ acknowledges HIS deity with the simple words, ‘I am God.’ But the Jews of Jesus’ time were well aware that HE claimed to be God, “The Jewish leaders picked up rocks again to stone him to death. Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good deeds from the Father. For which one of them are you going to stone me?” The Jewish leaders replied, “We are not going to stone you for a good deed but for blasphemy, because you, a man, are claiming to be God.”” (John 10: 31-33, NET, Emphasis Mine).  There’s another instance of the Jews disputing Christ’s claim to be God, “The Jewish leaders replied, “We have a law, and according to our law he ought to die, because he claimed to be the Son of God!”” (John 19:7, NET, Emphasis Mine)

            How did Christ claim to be God?

            Although Christ may not have said the simple words, "I am God," HE did make several claims of paramount significance that only God can make:

            (1) Jesus claimed that the angels were HIS angels (Matthew 13:41). Elsewhere angels are spoken of as ‘the angels of God’ (Luke 12: 8-9, 15:10).

            (2) In the same verse (Matthew 13:41), apart from claiming that angels are HIS angels, Jesus referred to the Kingdom as HIS Kingdom.

            (3) Although God alone can forgive sins, Jesus claimed to forgive sins, “And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”” (Mark 2:5, RSV; cf. Mark 2: 1-12).

            (4) Jesus spoke of judging the world (Matthew 25: 31-46).

            (5) Jesus claimed to be one with the Father, “…The Father and I are one.” (John 10:30). To know Christ is to know the Father, HE claimed (John 14: 7-9).

            (6) Jesus claimed to be pre-existent, “Jesus said to them, “I tell you the solemn truth, before Abraham came into existence, I am!”” (John 8:58, NET).

            (7) Jesus clearly acknowledged that HE is Christ, the Son of God, “And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:63b-64, NKJV, Emphasis Mine).

            (8) God alone has the power to kill and make alive (1 Samuel 2:6). However, Jesus claims this power to give and preserve life, “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes.” (John 5:21, NET). Elsewhere HE said, “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live…” (John 11:25, RSV).

            We could go on and on, but it is adequately clear from the Bible that Jesus is God.

How Is The Birth of God Justified?

            The New Testament identifies Jesus as both truly God and truly man, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. The Word was with God in the beginning. All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind…Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory—the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father. John testified about him and shouted out, “This one was the one about whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is greater than I am, because he existed before me.’” For we have all received from his fullness one gracious gift after another. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only one, himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known.” (John 1: 1-4, 14-18, NET).

            Jesus is described as God, who created all things. This very Jesus became man and entered earth. Thus says the Bible about the incarnation of God as a man. Therefore, Jesus Christ was truly God and truly man.

            Christ was not God, to begin with, then human being, then God again. The incarnate Lord Jesus Christ was God and man, simultaneously.

            Therefore the birth of God is not an aberration. It is perfectly logical. If Christ were truly man, then HE had to be born on earth as a human being.

Necessity Of Incarnation

            Finally, was it necessary of God to become man to save mankind?

            Yes!

            Why?

            Very minimally, sin separates God and man. Since every human being is a sinner, no man or woman can be with God forever. Therefore, the problem of sin (that separates man from God) had to be resolved.

            This problem can only be resolved by God’s initiative. Man cannot initiate any solution because he is limited/finite. Therefore, the infinite God initiated the salvation of man through the second person of the blessed Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ.

            The consequence/wages of sin is death. Therefore, any program of salvation should include death.1

            If Christ had to die, then HE had to be born.

Endnotes:

1Only the sacrifice of the eternal God can save mankind of their sins – those who have died, those who are living and who will die, and those who are yet to be born.

                        

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Could Human Beings Gain Immortality?

            Mankind’s perpetual quest to become God or to invalidate God is evident in its venture to overcome death and grant immortality to the human life.

            Several technology billionaires are investing billions of dollars into research that aims to immortalize human life. Gear Patrol provides an insight into some of these ventures:1

Dmitry Itskov’s vision for humanity reads like a fantastical sci-fi novel. By 2020, the Russian media oligarch promises that his project, The 2045 Initiative, will have produced technology that will allow humans to upload their consciousness to an android avatar, thus creating a new, superior species of cyberkinetic humans — “neo-humanity,” as he calls it — capable of infinite intelligence and immortal life…
“Death has never made any sense to me,” said Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle and fifth-richest man in the world, to his biographer. Ellison sees death as “just another kind of corporate opponent he can outfox.” To defeat death, Ellison created The Lawrence Ellison Foundation, which has pumped over $300 million into aging research and the mysterious workings of the human brain.
Peter Thiel, the enigmatic co-founder of PayPal, is disappointed with today’s technological innovations. For him, they don’t live up to the hype. Through a venture capital fund called Founder’s Fund and through the Thiel Foundation, Thiel has invested heavily in only the most ambitious tech startups — one of which is Alcor, a groundbreaking cryogenics company whose ambition is to literally freeze living human bodies, halting nearly all organ functions and cell processes, for years at a time.
Google’s biotech research division, Calico, aims to better understand the science of aging. Under Google co-founder Sergey Brin’s leadership, the company has partnered with pharmaceutical giant AbbeVie and is rumored to be developing a drug that mimics naturally occurring human genes responsible for long life. Not much is known about Calico’s research endeavors — like many of Google’s subsidiary research divisions, Calico’s ongoings have been kept mostly under wraps…
            How could human beings gain immortality?

            One theoretical approach to gaining immortality is to treat aging as a disease, and thus prevent death. The other approach is to upload our personalities to an artificial brain so that we live as 100% holograms, says an article in the Quartz:2

The idea that age is a disease that can be identified and treated is now fairly well accepted, but only a decade ago, it was laughable. Aubrey De Grey, an upstart computer-science engineer, created what could be considered a precursor to the field of geroscience. De Grey theorized SENS (Strategies for Negligible Senescence) in his 1999 book The Mitochondrial Free Radical Theory of Aging. The basic premise was that we can attack and treat aging much like we treat all disease: by identifying the core cause and traits, and then developing ways to relieve or prevent them. If we can do this, in theory, humans could live forever…
However, some Valley types want to take our bodies out of the equation all together. Inventor and futurist Ray “The-Singularity-is-Near” Kurzweil, now the director of engineering at Google, and Russian billionaire news magnate Dmitry Itskov want to bring our minds from the analog into the digital.
Kurzweil believes in a future where tiny nanobots will swim through our bloodstreams, repairing and augmenting us on a molecular level until our dependence on them makes us more machine than man. Itskov has a less nuanced approach: He wants to rip our brains out of our bodies and put them into robotic avatars—and he wants the ability to do it by 2025.
But, as bits and bytes, are we still human? At what point do we stop extending life, and instead eliminate it? After Itskoff takes our brains out of our bodies, he wants our minds to leave the flesh entirely. As part of his 2045 initiative, Itskoff wants to upload our personalities into an artificial brain when we die. We would live on as 100% virtual holograms floating around space, no longer linked to the physical world, existing as energy, thought, and information. Kurzweil thinks that will happen as a natural part of evolution: that our synergy with machines will augment our thought capabilities, eventually culminating in a point where humanity will travel the cosmos as pure energy.
            What is the need to overcome death? Let’s consider two possible reasons, one from a worldly sense and another from a theological sense.

            Pleasure: Very minimally, those who have all they need and want would enjoy this life more by extending it. Who’d not want to enjoy their good health, awesome family, great occupation, and a fat bank balance?

            Fear: Fear of God’s judgment or a possible afterlife (as in the case of agnostics, atheists etc.) could be a motivator to seek immortality.

            You are probably religious or irreligious. You may or may not have done some very bad things that prick your conscience. You are fearful about what could happen to you after your death. In other words, you think you would be better off at earth than to dabble with the post-death existential domain. 

            What could be the single greatest ramification of human immortality?

            If human beings gain immortality, God could be rendered invalid – at least partially.

            Theists believe in the afterlife. For instance, Christianity believes in the existence of heaven and hell. Those who believe in the God of the Bible would be in heaven forever and those who do not believe in Jesus Christ would remain in hell forever. Since the sins of those who do not believe in the God of the Bible are not forgiven, they are destined to hell forever.

            But by gaining immortality on earth, human beings could attempt to evade God’s judgment – heaven and hell. Thus, they can do what they want – good and bad – while on earth.

            Or at least, this is what they may think.

            Could God be rendered invalid?

            At this juncture, it is important to understand death and afterlife from the Bible. William Lane Craig explains death and afterlife as, “When a person dies, his body lies in the grave until the return of Christ. The souls of those who belong to Christ are drawn into a closer, more intimate fellowship with Him in this disembodied state. We really don’t know what this disembodied existence is like. It’s possible that souls in this disembodied condition project mental images of each other and themselves as bodily, so that they can relate to one another. The souls of unbelievers, by contrast, enter into a state of conscious torment and separation from God which is called Hades. When Christ returns, He will bring with Him the souls of the departed believers, and their remains will then be raised from the dead and transformed into glorious, powerful, resurrection bodies, and their souls will be reunited with their bodies. After appearing before the judgment seat of Christ for rewards, they will then be ushered into the new heavens and the new earth. Unbelievers will also be raised from the dead and reunited with their bodies, and then after being judged by God, they will be cast into hell.”3

            An appropriate understanding of death and afterlife includes the knowledge that the soul of man is the immortal component of human life. In other words, God has provided human beings with an immortal component, namely, the soul.

            Could science trap the soul in the human body by healing aging or preventing humans from aging? Aging is not the only reason for death. There are diseases and catastrophes (both manmade and natural) to contend with. Already there are quite a number of diseases that science is yet to understand, let alone cure. Then there is the potential for new diseases.

            How could science prevent death due to natural causes such as earthquakes, floods, hurricane etc.?  In other words, even if science were to prevent the human body from aging, death can occur due to other reasons.

            The soul is the incorporeal or the nonmaterial component of the human being. When science has not even understood and conquered the material aspect of the human body, how could it gain control over the immaterial aspect of the human body?

            To trap the soul in a human body that does not die will indeed be a tall order for science. Allow me the audacity to say that this is an impossible task for science.

            To overcome death, in my opinion, is a futile endeavor.

            But we can look at this scenario from another perspective as well.

            Why not consider death as the meaning of life? Here are the concluding words from the article from the Quartz:4

As physician turned bioethicist Leon Kass says, “Mortality makes life matter.” Kass is the author of The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis and once headed George W. Bush’s presidential council on bioethics. To him the question of whether we should aspire to live forever is not a philosophical one: It’s simple economics.
The value of scarcity dictates that the less of something there is, the more something is worth. For our lives to have meaning and urgency, it is therefore “crucial that we recognize and feel the force of not having world enough and time,” he says. In the absence of death, he fears mankind will become lazy, disengaged, and disinterested.
Then there’s terror-management theory, which states that humanity has a unique knowledge of the abstract meaning of death: Unlike other animals, we can picture it and therefore fear it in a particular way. Because of that fear, we are pushed to make the most of what little life we have. Sheldon Solomon, psychology professor at Skidmore College and co-creator of the theory, says in an interview for Scientific American that “the idea that death is an affront to human dignity that needs to be completely eliminated strikes me as arrogant (and selfish) homocentric death denial.”
Humankind has known this for a while. “As the ancients noted, immortality would make life meaningless and banal,” Solomon says. “All of our most cherished human values like courage and generosity would be inconsequential if we existed in perpetuity.” In other words, nothing is impressive when there’s an infinite amount of time to do it in. Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and science avatar to the millennials, puts it nicely in an interview with Larry King about his lack of fear surrounding death: “If you live forever, why get out of bed in the morning, because you always have tomorrow.”
And even if we managed to live forever—what would we do with all that time, anyway? As novelist Susan Ertz said, “Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.”
Motivated by fear of the unknown, most of us try to hold on to the life we have now. But in doing so, we may fail to consider that the brevity of life is what propels us to make the most out of living it. It’s possible that in order to live our lives fully in the present, we need to accept that there will come a day when that present will end.
Silicon Valley wants to make us immortal, and they’re accustomed to getting what they want. But by making our lives never-ending, will they take from us the meaning of what it is to live?

Endnotes:

1https://gearpatrol.com/2016/09/19/tech-billionaires-immortality/

2https://qz.com/1123164/seeking-eternal-life-silicon-valley-is-solving-for-death/

3https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/popular-writings/practical-issues/what-happens-when-we-die/

4https://qz.com/1123164/seeking-eternal-life-silicon-valley-is-solving-for-death/


Websites last accessed on 13th December 2018.