Thursday, April 27, 2017

Some Atheists Will Never Believe In God

The epistemological objection of many atheists is that there is no concrete evidence for God’s existence. They argue, “If only I could see God, I would believe in HIM. Since no one can sense God with the five senses, belief in God is unreasonable and unjustified.”
Although, superficially, this objection appears reasonable, there are several problems with this objection. Christian Philosopher J.P Moreland, presents the following arguments as to why this objection of the atheists cannot seriously challenge the theistic claim of God’s existence:[1]

Self Refuting Proposition

The proposition, “I can believe in only what I can see” is self-refuting, since that very proposition cannot be seen. But some may argue that the sentence expressing that proposition can be seen, hence the said proposition is valid.
However, the proposition expressed by the sentence, “I can believe in only what I can see” is not identical to that sentence. The sentence is of a particular length and a particular color, which is not true of the proposition itself. Hence, the proposition is self-refuting, thus it is invalid.

Existence Of Non-Empirical Entities

Our thoughts exist. But none of us have seen our thoughts. Thus it would be preposterous to determine that thoughts do not exist, since thoughts are invisible.
Similarly other non-empirical entities such as numbers, laws of logic, values, and propositions do exist. Positing the non-existence of non-empirical entities based on their invisibility is question-begging. Therefore, since we affirm the existence of non-empirical entities, we could also affirm the existence of God.

Category Fallacy

Entities belonging to a specific category cannot be assigned the properties of entities belonging to another category. For instance, sound notes (musical notes) cannot have the property of ‘color’ (i.e. sound notes cannot be colored). It would be a category fallacy to assign color to sound notes. Hence an objection that we should not believe in sound notes because they are not colored commits a category fallacy.
Likewise, the objection that one should believe that something exists only if it can be sensed commits a category fallacy. God, by definition, is an infinite Spirit. God, being a spiritual being, cannot possess material / sensory qualities. Hence ascribing sensory qualities to God is to commit a category fallacy.

Numinous Intuition

J.P Moreland argues that there could be other ways of seeing apart from sensory seeing. For instance, some form of numinous intuition could enable one to see nonphysical objects. Intuition in this context means “being directly aware of” as opposed to a mere thought of about something.
In numinous experiences – direct awareness of a holy, good person – people claim to see God. Numinous experiences do exist, for it can be proven that numinous perception is analogous to sensory perception.[2]

Postulation Of Unseen Entities

Consider the existence of other minds. We do not see minds as we see a material object. But since we know that our bodily behavior is a result of our mind, we infer that there are other minds. So we postulate the presence of other minds, such as ours, because other people are embodied persons (and not robots), whose bodily behavior is certainly analogous to ours.
Similarly, one can infer the existence of God from HIS effects in a way similar to that in which we infer the existence of other minds or theoretical entities. Therefore, belief in God is valid.

Would Atheists Believe God Even If HIS Existence Was Obvious

God has indeed offered sufficient evidences for HIS existence. Presence of many who believe in God is an adequate proof.
However, the big question is this, if God’s existence is as plain as a nose on your face, would atheists believe in God? (I have borrowed Dr. William Lane Craig’s phraseology.)
William Lane Craig elaborates this thought, “Some atheists, unsatisfied with the amount of evidence that we have, have argued that if God existed then he would have prevented the unbelief of the world by making his existence just starkly obvious. For example, he could have inscribed on every atom in the universe “Made by God.” Or he could have placed a neon cross in the heavens saying “Jesus Saves.” In that case God’s existence would be starkly apparent to everyone and thereby he would have prevented the unbelief in the world.”[3]
Dr. Craig quotes Christian philosopher Paul Moser to emphasize that it need not be God’s prerogative to prevent unbelief in the world for a simple reason that God’s sole desire is not to prove HIS existence but to motivate man to love HIM.[4]
Furthermore, the Bible presents several instances to prove that belief in God’s existence need not necessarily translate into a love relationship between man and God.
For instance, God personally revealed HIS existence to Adam and Eve. So Adam and Eve believed in God’s existence and knew HIM personally. However, they disobeyed or rejected God when the devil tempted Eve.
Consider another instance; the devil believes in God’s existence (James 2: 19) but the devil opposes God because of its rejection of God. The devil does not desire a saving relationship with God.
Some atheists would continue to argue that if God were to perform miracles, they would believe in HIM. Sadly, the Bible negates this thought.
The fact that man will continue to reject God even if God were to make HIS presence as plain as a nose on your face through the miraculous is depicted in the parable of Rich man and Lazarus, “Of course, in order to believe in God (that is, to trust in him, to know him) you’ve got to first believe that God exists. But if you reflect on it, there is really no reason at all to think that if God were to make his existence starkly obvious that more people would freely come to know him and his salvation than actually do. Mere showmanship will not bring about a change of heart. That is the lesson of Jesus’ parable in Luke 16:30-31 where you will remember Abraham tells the Rich Man in Hades who asks him to send someone from the dead to his family members so that they will believe and not come to this place, and Abraham says, Even if someone will rise from the dead, if they won’t listen to Moses and the Scriptures neither would they believe in that case. Just seeing a miraculous event isn’t going to bring about heart change if these people are closed to God and his Word.”[5]
The Old Testament is replete with the miraculous (parting of the sea, pillar of cloud and fire, plagues in Egypt etc.). However, these miracles did not initiate a love relationship between God and Israelites. Even after witnessing these miracles, the Israelites continued to reject and disobey God.
Therefore, we could reasonably believe that even if God were to reveal HIS existence in a starkly obvious manner, the deceptively adroit man would discover reasons to reject God and to not love HIM, “So if God were to inscribe his name on every atom in the universe, or place a neon cross in the sky, people might well believe that he exists, but how can we be confident that this would lead to a greater love of God and knowledge of God? Perhaps over time people would begin to chafe under these brazen advertisements of God’s existence and even come to resent him for such in-your-face effrontery. In fact, we just don’t really have any way of knowing that in a world of free creatures in which God’s existence is as plain as the nose on your face that the number or the percentage of people who come to love him and to know and experience his salvation is any greater than that in the actual world where, remember, the actual world includes not simply the past and the present but also the future. But then it seems to me the claim that if God existed he would make his existence more evident or starkly obvious just has little or no warrant.”[6]

Endnotes:

[1] Scaling the Secular City A Defense of Christianity, J.P Moreland, 1987, Baker Book House Company, p226-228.
[2] J.P Moreland offers several arguments to posit numinous perception as exhibiting the same features that characterize sensory perception and he also presents seven tests to assert the credibility of numinous intuition. (Scaling the Secular City A Defense of Christianity, J.P Moreland, 1987, Baker Book House Company, p237-240.)
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hate The Church, Love Jesus!!

            A recent Barna research declares the death of the church in the lives of nearly half of America’s Christians, “…In this new age, religion is in retreat from the public square, and traditional institutions like the church are no longer functioning with the cultural authority they once held in generations past. Today, nearly half of America is unchurched. But even though more and more Americans are abandoning the institutional church and its defined boundary markers of religious identity, many still believe in God and practice faith outside its walls.”1 (Emphasis Mine). This discovery is relevant to all parts of the world where the church exists; it’s not confined to America.

            Christians who do not attend the church cannot be deemed as non-Christians. Barna reports that genuine Christians do not attend the church, “Barna created a metric to capture those who most neatly fit this description. It includes those who self-identify as Christian and who strongly agree that their religious faith is very important in their life, but are “dechurched”—that is, they have attended church in the past, but haven’t done so in the last six months (or more). These individuals have a sincere faith (89% have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important to their life today), but are notably absent from church.”2 (Emphasis Mine).

            If genuine Christians do not attend the church, then it’s worthwhile to ascertain reasons pertinent to this sorry state in Christendom. Adequate reasons for this malady have been provided in my previous blog entitled, “How Could Christianity Insult & Injure You? (Toxic Christianity)”3

            Churches are guilty of driving Christians away. Filth is in abundance in many churches. Typically the naive members of these churches, who have very high opinion of the church, would be nauseated by the filthy deeds of those in the church leadership (Pastors, Elders, Deacons, Worship leaders…).

            The church is made up of people - you and me. Irresponsibility of the leaders manifesting in poor and shallow, and at times, theologically incorrect sermons drive people away from the church. 

            Then the presence of selfish, obnoxious, and spiritually proud Christians demeaning their fellow Christians by abusing their powerful leadership status to drive the church into a spiritual dungeon is a heartbreaking trend in many churches.

            It is the Christians who compel their fellow Christians to steer clear of the church. When we blame the churches for being unchristlike, let us rightfully assign the blame upon Christians, who are the temple of the living God.

            Would Christians lose their salvation if they do not attend a church? No! The Bible does not say that at all. “No amount of church attendance will earn eternity in heaven. No lack of church attendance will result in the loss of salvation” says conservative Christian Q&A website, gotquestions.org.4

            Should those Christians who do not attend church be blamed for their lack of church attendance? What would one gain by blaming a Christian who does not attend the local church? Nothing!

            Instead of blaming the Christian who does not attend the church, the church, if it’s keen on serving / ministering to people, should invest it’s energy into getting the Christian back into its fold. If the Lord Jesus encouraged the search and recovery of that one lost sheep (Luke 15: 3-7; Cf. Matthew 18: 12-14), the church does not have any valid reason, whatsoever, to not invite the unchurched Christians.

            The Lord Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required” (Luke 12: 48b, NASB). This applies to the local church.

            The local church has been given much, for the local church is a powerful spiritual entity than an individual Christian, who does not attend the local church. Hence it is incumbent upon the church to graciously invite the unchurched Christian into its fold. 

            If a Christian does not attend a church, he / she could remain devoid of vital spiritual power essential to his / her existence as a Christian. Although the benefits of attending a church are immense, here are a few germane reasons for your consideration.

            Significantly, we will not lose our salvation by not attending a church, but by not attending a church, we are most likely to lose our salvation. How?

            The devil is constantly on the prowl to devour Christians. Hence spiritual attacks against Christians are always imminent. By not attending a church, we remain vulnerable to Satan’s attack.

            We could remain spiritually empty by not attending the church. Not being disciplined enough to study the Bible and pray [constantly] is a surefire recipe to bring forth a dangerous spiritual malady into our life.

            The antagonists of Historic Christianity are active. Not being in the community of believers is a surefire recipe to be vulnerable to the debauched ideas that strive to destroy Historic Christianity. Yes, if we are not in a church, we offer ourselves as an open house that entertains erroneous ideas that attempts to contradict the veracity of Historic Christianity.

            Here is a caveat. If we are in a painful situation of any kind (death of a loved one, sickness, joblessness, family problems, problems at your workplace etc.), it is imperative for us to be in a church. The church, potentially, has every spiritual medicine to treat us (assistance for various needs, wise Christian counsel, uplifting and encouraging prayers, shoulder to cry on etc.).

            We may have very genuine reasons to not attending the church. The church may have acutely hurt us. Hence we may have lost faith in the church and may need time to heal (maybe months or even years). Alternatively, our work situation may have forced us to not attend the church.

            Let’s face another fact here. None of us are primed to attend any church. We need that particular church that offers us the peace or the comforting ambiance to worship God in spirit and truth. In this regard, there may not be a church in our vicinity that appeals to us. In other words, our reasons for not attending a church could be exhaustive and rather valid.

            What do we do in this situation?

            We need to, very minimally, be in the company of spiritually mature Christians. If our family does not offer us that spiritual support for valid or invalid reasons, we need a spiritual mentor. We need to be completely honest with our mentor about the problems we confront.

            If we do not have a spiritual mentor, we need to humbly and prayerfully seek a spiritual mentor. We should acknowledge that we need help and prayerfully search for that help. When we honestly and prayerfully seek, God will provide. Ask and it shall be given.

            Being in the company of spiritually mature Christians and not a church is a not an everlasting remedy. Our prayer is to locate a church that would serve us.

            But that’s not it. Our prayer is also that the church fulfills the need of its members and even the non-members. The onus is more on the church than it is on the Christian who is seeking a church. So we pray that the church leadership leads the church in a godly and a Christlike manner that invites and serves both the churched and the unchurched Christian.

            So may the unchurched Christians find a church that satisfies their spiritual need. May God answer this prayer of ours.

Endnotes:


2Ibid.  




Cited websites last accessed on 20th April 2017.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Defending Good Friday; The Necessity of Christ’s Sacrifice

             Incoherent and self contradictory arguments yield faulty dogmas. You can argue for just about anything as long as you do not endeavor to ensure that your argument does not contradict itself and that it is coherent. Then you take pride in the argument rooted in asinine incoherency and self contradicting assertions.

            Upon close observation, you will detect stark incoherency and self-contradictory assertions in the arguments of the detractors of Historic Christianity. Being in the season of remembering our Lord’s atoning sacrifice on the cross, it is imperative to consider the arguments against the Lord’s sacrifice on the cross. Let’s consider the Unitarians as a case in point, for they do not believe that Christ died to save you and me of our sins.

Who Are The Unitarians?

            They are liberals with a thought process deeply rooted in the relativistic paradigm, “The Unitarians are a community of people who take their religion, or their spirituality, liberally. That is to say, we hold that all people have the right to believe what their own life-experience tells them is true; what the prompting of their own conscience tells them is right.”1 

            Unitarians regard themselves as Christians only from a diluted perspective of living according to the life and teachings of Jesus. Their definition of the term “Christian” is excessively weak and preposterous because they do not consider Christ as God, “Unitarians believe that Jesus was a man, unequivocally human.”2

            They reckon the Bible as not inspired, inerrant and infallible. Unitarians claim that the Bible should be validated by the light of reason and conscience, “Anything in the Bible that Unitarians accept as true is accepted because it rings true in our own humble reflection upon it. We do not accept it just because it is in the Bible.”3

            Some Unitarians believe that God exists as one person, whereas other Unitarians have a diverse belief about God, “Some believe in a God; some don’t believe in a God. Some believe in a sacred force at work in the world, and call it “love,” “mystery,” “source of all” or “spirit of life.””4

            Christ's death on the cross makes sense only in the event of HIS resurrection. Unitarians believe in, or should we say, “not believe in” Christ’s resurrection from different perspectives.5 These perspectives deny Christ’s bodily resurrection and are predicated on a rigorous denial of attributing any salvific component into Christ’s sacrifice.  The Unitarians believe that Christ’s resurrection was a powerful myth. Alternatively, they consider that the spirit of Jesus triumphed over death and that the church is the physical resurrection, the risen body, of Christ (thereby denying the bodily resurrection of the Lord).

Necessity For Christ’s Atoning Sacrifice

            Before we begin to briefly unpack the Unitarian view laden with invalid arguments, let us succinctly consider Christ’s sacrifice from the Historic Christian perspective.

            Atonement is the work Christ did in his life and death to earn our salvation. The Bible teaches that God’s love and HIS justice compelled Christ’s incarnation on earth and dying for our sins:

            John 3:16, NASB: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

            Romans 3:24-26, NASB: “…in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus…” (Paul states that God had been forgiving sins in the Old Testament but no penalty had been paid. So people could wonder whether God was indeed just and ask how he could forgive sins without a penalty. So God sent Christ to pay the penalty for our sins.)

            On the road to Emmaus, Christ explained that HIS suffering was necessary, “And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:25-27, NASB).

            The book of Hebrews also explains the necessity of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Since it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away our sins (Hebrews 10:4), a better sacrifice is required (Hebrews 9:23). Only the blood of Christ (his death), would be able to really take away sins (Hebrews 9:25-26). Hence, we reasonably conclude that Christ’s atoning sacrifice was necessary for God to save us.

Christ Died In Our Place

            Consider a few passages from the Bible that speaks of Christ’s death as substitutionary (HE died in our place):

            John 1: 29, NASB: “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

            2 Corinthians 5: 21, NASB: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

            Galatians 3: 13, NASB: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us…

            Hebrews 9: 28, NASB: “so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”

            1 Peter 2: 24, NASB: “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”

            These passages teach us that Christ bore our sins, for they were laid on HIM. Because Christ has come to be sin, we have ceased to be sin or sinners.

Questioning Unitarianism

            The fundamental belief of the Unitarians is that all people have the right to believe what they think is right. So if a Unitarian speaks against Historic Christianity, he / she is fundamentally contradicting his / her core belief. In other words, if the Unitarians believe that all people have the right to believe what they think is right, should they not allow Christians to believe in Christ’s atoning sacrifice and bodily resurrection? Should they not consider that the Historic Christian worldview is valid? So if you and I subscribe to Historic Christianity, the Unitarian, by virtue of his own belief, has no right to debunk or condemn our belief as wrong or invalid.  

            In fact, strictly speaking, the Unitarian worldview does not allow for rejection or condemnation of any other contradicting worldview based on the opinion that the contradicting worldview is wrong or incorrect. However, if the Unitarian condemns another worldview, then, by virtue of his condemnation, he rejects his own worldview.

            If your Unitarian friend considers himself to be a Christian, he professes to follow Christ. But the Unitarian does not consider Christ as God. So, in essence, the Unitarian follows another human being (who could have been mightily wrong in his deeds. Oh well, according to the Unitarian belief, in the relativistic paradigm, there cannot be wrongs, there can only be rights. But that’s for another day!).

            So a Unitarian could follow both Christ and Muhammad although both taught mutually contradictory teachings. (For instance, Christ claimed to be God, whereas Muhammad did not consider Christ as God.) The Unitarians are blissfully ignorant or remain in blatant denial of the fact that their worldview allows them to follow those who can only be partially right in their thoughts, words and deeds, thus allowing them to believe in incoherent and contradictory teachings.

            (If a Unitarian can follow another human being, what prevents him from following Hitler or Pol Pot or Stalin, who obviously thought that their massacres were justified?) 

            The Unitarian need not be totally committed to follow the person that he claims to follow, for his worldview allows him to follow ‘A’ and ‘B,’ and if both ‘A’ and ‘B’ teach mutually contradictory teachings, then the Unitarian can only follow ‘A’ or ‘B’ partially. Therefore, the Unitarian proclamation that he follows Christ can only be partial at its very best. Partial commitment is not an absolute commitment that Christ demands of HIS disciples.   

Conclusion

            Disregard the Unitarian or any other worldview that disbelieves in Christ or HIS atoning sacrifice. Let us humbly and worshipfully reminisce and be thankful for Christ’s atoning sacrifice for you and me. Charles Wesley wrote the most meaningful words for this season in his hymn “And Can It Be That I Should Gain”:

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Endnotes:

1https://www.unitarian.org.uk/pages/frequently-asked-questions-faq

2Ibid.

3Ibid.

4http://www.uua.org/beliefs/what-we-believe/higher-power

5https://www.unitarian.org.uk/pages/frequently-asked-questions-faq

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Sex In Heaven?

            The question whether or not there would be sex in heaven is pertinent because the Bible narrates a more complex question in Matthew 22. But if we consider the same question from an informal perspective, we would term the question as cheesy or coarse. 

            Interestingly, the Lord Jesus Christ answered HIS questioners, irrespective of the question being cheesy or sophisticated. If Christ answered HIS questioners, then we may as well answer any question.

            The Bible provides our context, “On that day some Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to Jesus and questioned Him, asking, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother as next of kin shall marry his wife, and raise up children for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers with us; and the first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother; so also the second, and the third, down to the seventh. Last of all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had married her.” But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” (Matthew 22: 23-30, NASB).

            Some Christian theologians argue that there will be no sex in heaven.1 Other theologians argue that there will be sex in heaven.2

            I personally believe that there will be no sex in heaven. The Bible indicates that there will be no sex in heaven (Matthew 22: 23-30). Furthermore, existence of sex in heaven would entail insane possibilities that would contradict the core attribute of heaven, which is perfection (heaven is a state and place of perfection).

            If there is sex in heaven, consider the extent of insane possibilities:

            1. No Procreation: The goal of sexual intercourse on earth is procreation. However, if there is sex in heaven, procreation cannot be the goal, for there cannot be procreation in heaven. (The Bible does state from the narrative in consideration that there would be no procreation in heaven.)

            Procreation cannot exist in heaven because children are in an innately imperfect state (they need to grow to actualize their purpose for creation). Since heaven is a place of perfection, imperfection cannot be actualized or children cannot be born.

            However, if procreation were to be possible in heaven, every child born in heaven should be hardwired to believe in God. In other words, every new birth in heaven would be a birth of a heavenly human robot, without freewill, and programmed to believe in God.

            You could argue that heaven is a place of perfection, hence freewill need not be a theme of concern. This response would lead to a myriad of questions disputing God’s wisdom and justice, and the answer to each question would die a death of thousand qualifications.

            Here is a model question, “If children born in heaven are perfect, why are children born on earth imperfect (they can sin)?” If you were to invoke the entailment of evil / Satan on earth as a precursor for mankind’s imperfection on earth, then a follow-up question could be, “Is it not unjust of God to create metaphysically different children, wherein some children born in heaven cannot sin (due to perfection in heaven), and other children (born on earth) have the potency to sin (an adult could reject God) so to merit hell?

            So procreation is impossible in heaven. If the goal of sexual intercourse in heaven is not procreation, then it should be something other than procreation.  

            2. Sex in heaven could be for pleasure, if procreation were to be non-existent in heaven. If sex in heaven is for pleasure, there ought to be gradational variations to pleasure, which in turn will betray the attribute of perfection. The conservative Christian consideration is that man will derive pleasure in heaven because of his coexistence with God (cf. Psalm 16:11 et al.). So if the beatific vision or coexistence or face-to-face worship of God is to bring about ultimate pleasure to man in heaven, then what kind of a pleasure would sex offer him?

            Sex cannot offer man a greater pleasure than worshiping God. So sex ought to offer man the pleasure that is inferior to worshiping God. But the state of “inferiority” is an attribute of imperfection. So if sex were to exist in heaven, then it should be predicated on imperfection. So sex cannot exist in heaven for the purpose of pleasure.  

            But certain theologians contend that we can eat in heaven, and that eating is not for the purpose of necessity but for the sake of pleasure. If eating for the purpose of pleasure is existent in heaven, then why can sex not exist in heaven for the sake of pleasure?  

            The notion that we can consume food in heaven for the sake of pleasure is based on conjecture. Pleasure need not be the only other option to necessity i.e. if food is not needed for sustenance / necessity, then it does not infer that pleasure is the only other reason for consuming food. In fact, we do not know what type of food will be available in heaven. Some reckon it would be the food that was made available to Adam & Eve. However, food in heaven can be for purposes that do not involve pleasure.  

            So in the same way, could sex be existent in heaven for reasons other than pleasure? No! There are better reasons that invalidate the existence of sex in heaven.

            3. Singles would be deprived of sex in heaven: Not all who die and go to heaven are married. Christian singles die and go to heaven and all children who die go to heaven.

            If sex were to exist in heaven, the aspect of partnership (how would one choose another for sex) is a key thorn in the face of perfection. Who would the single individual in heaven choose to engage in sexual intercourse with and what would be the mechanism (suitability / eligibility) of this selection or participation?

            Furthermore, since the Bible categorically rejects the notion of marriage in heaven, sex, in the context of being outside of marriage in heaven, would open an “ethical” Pandora’s Box.

            4. Polygamy in heaven? If sex were to occur in heaven, then polygamy is a direct entailment, within the context described in the Scripture. If a man had married multiple women during the course of his earthly life, then he should obviously have sex with all of them in heaven.

            But deprivation is innate to polygamy (husband can only be with one wife at a time, which results in sexual deprivation for the other wife). Deprivation is a state of imperfection. Hence polygamy (or sex in heaven) cannot exist within the state of perfection, for heaven is a state of perfection. If polygamy cannot exist in heaven, then we could presuppose an absence of sex in heaven.

            Conclusion: This is a trivial theme for our consideration, because it is non-salvific and does virtually nothing to aid our growth in Christ while we live on earth. We do not know for certain as to the availability and the purpose of many relevant aspects in heaven (Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:9). Hence, it is not a good use of our time to delve deeply into these trivial aspects of Historic Christianity.

            However, every question ought to be answered meaningfully. Hence, this is an honest endeavor to respond to the question, “Will there be sex in heaven?” The overall evidence points to the notion that there will be no sex in heaven, which is in no way a loss to those who would inhabit heaven in the glorious presence of our living God.

Endnotes:

1https://www.gotquestions.org/sex-heaven.html, last accessed on 6th April 2017.

&

http://www.equip.org/bible_answers/will-there-be-sex-in-heaven/, last accessed on 6th April 2017.


2http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/sex-in-heaven.htm, last accessed on 6th April 2017.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Christianizing Dowry; Redeeming Dowry From Evil

            We are absolutely wrong, if we still consider the groom’s family as the draconian entity demanding dowry from the bride’s. In a shocking turn of events, girls (Christians included) are demanding property, jewels, cash and automobiles for their marriage (dowry) from their parents.1

            Why do girls demand dowry from their parents? Have we lost the battle to abolish dowry? Alternatively, do we need to rethink the process of dowry payment and examine if there is a realistic possibility to redeem dowry from its evil to an unsullied and acceptable form?

            Traditionally, dowry is the “Money, property, or material goods that a bride's family gives to the bridegroom or his family at the time of the wedding. In many cultures, the dowry not only helps to cement the relationship between the bride's and groom's families but also serves to reinforce traditional family roles and gender roles.”2

            Dowry is a legal abomination in India, “Payment of dowry is now prohibited under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 in Indian civil law and subsequently by Sections 304B and 498a of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Despite anti-dowry laws in India, it is still a common illegal practice. Other laws attempting to address the problem include the Dowry and Bridal Gifts Restrictions Rules, 1976 and the Dowry Prohibition (Maintenance of Lists of Presents to the Bride and Bridegroom) Rules, 1985, which are intended to document gifts and provide complainants with stronger evidence in the event that prosecution for crimes against the bride occurs later.”3

            Dowry transcends religion. Payment of dowry is practiced by people from all religions - Christians, Muslims, Hindus included. When we discuss the theme of dowry from a Christian perspective, we often find genuine and well meaning Christians opposing dowry. This is an acceptable response for the dowry system has the innate potency to be evil.

            The challenge ahead of us is to examine whether this system can be redeemed or not. In other words, is there anything positive about the dowry system, and if so, can we redeem dowry from the clutches of evil to a more beneficial form?

Contemporary Prevalence

            Dowry system is widespread in Asian countries that include the Arab world. In the Arab culture, the groom offers dowry to the bride, whereas in the Asian cultures, the bride offers dowry to the groom.

            In its most evil form, the dowry system transforms marriages into a business of extortion and demeans the value of women so much so that women are victims of unbridled violence.  

Biblical Relevance

            Dowry was a prevalent exercise in the Old Testament period. Genesis 29 records the narrative of Jacob, being in love with Rachel, offered to work seven years for Rachel’s father Laban, in exchange for her hand in marriage, “Now Jacob loved Rachel, so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than to give her to another man; stay with me.” So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.” (Genesis 29: 18-20, NASB).

            The Bible provides other references for dowry from a neutral perspective. This is not to say that the Bible endorses payment of dowry with a further implication that the Bible endorses evil caused by dowry.

Understanding Parents’ Psyche

            For a moment, discard all negative aspersions that enfold the dowry system.

            Parents who offer their daughter in marriage would necessarily and voluntarily love to give good gifts to their daughter depending on their affordability. This is to ensure that their daughter lives a comfortable married life.

            But giving of good gifts to their daughter is strictly predicated on parents’ affordability. (There is no need whatsoever for a parent to incur debts that they cannot pay off to give good gifts to their children during their marriage.)

            Parents giving their sons in marriage would give good gifts to their son. There need not be any differentiation built into the dowry system on the basis of gender. In other words, parents can give good gifts to both their sons and daughters depending on the need, affordability, but without any partiality. To reiterate, any well meaning parent would love to offer these gifts out of love and their own volition.

            What kind of a parent would not pave way for their children to live a good life? It would take a very evil parent to horde wealth and not give gifts or share their wealth with their children. It is their children who would, or shall we say, should, enjoy the good benefits of the parents’ labor.

            In fact, if children would inherit parent’s wealth, then what prevents parents from giving their children good gifts? So any well meaning parent would love to give their children all the good gifts within their means during and after their children’s marriage.

Dowry’s Biblical Foundation

            If we are to consider redeeming dowry from the clutches of evil, we should understand the driving force behind this evil.

            Wealth is at the core of dowry. Very often, we are slaves to money. We are also often slaves to the comfort that wealth offers.

            So wealth should be relegated to its proper place with respect to God. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that wealth is antagonistic to God, “You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6: 24b, NASB). The Bible also teaches that we are to strive for God than for wealth (Matthew 6:33; Cf. Matthew 4:4).

            Therefore, when dowry is being considered, both parties (bride and groom) ought only to consider dowry from a godly perspective. In other words, dowry is not about wealth but about God.

Dowry Predicated On Love

            God mandates parents to love their children. Parents are to love their children impartially and equally. So giving of good gifts during marriage a.k.a. dowry is an entailment of parents’ love for their children.

            If there is more than one child in a household, then parents’ love for their children ought to be impartial (the girl is to be equally loved as the boy or the vice versa and if there are two or more boys or girls in the family, the parents should love them equally.). When either of the children (boy or girl) is being given in marriage, the parents are free to do their best according to their affordability and to their children’s welfare.

            In other words, nothing can impede parents’ love for their children that entails giving of good gifts to their children for their marriage. Alternatively, parents cannot be held guilty, if they are genuinely unable to provide for their children’s marriage (owing to poverty).

            However, demand of dowry in any form and violence of any kind on behalf of dowry (non-payment) is an abomination in God’s sight.

Absolute Condemnation Of Dowry Incompatible With The Bible

            The term “absolute” is used (in this context) in the sense of “complete” or “outright.” Churches or pastors cannot condemn dowry totally. In other words, the Bible provides a means to offer dowry but without any evil or sin defiling it.

            But due cognizance is offered to the evil prevalent in the dowry system. Hence there is no endorsement of evil within the dowry system.

            This also goes without saying that churches and pastors cannot univocally condemn dowry as if there is no provision whatsoever for the parent to give good gifts to their children for their marriage.

            An absolute or total condemnation of dowry, devoid of any latitude for parents to exhibit their love for their children during their marriage through giving of good gifts, is equivalent to condemning parents’ love for their children. Churches and pastors should not take this course of action. Instead proper biblical teaching about dowry is the need of the hour.

Conclusion

            We find security in God and not in wealth. It is God who makes us wealthy. We could be wealthy now, but if catastrophe were to assault us, we could lose all our wealth in a moment. But if we are with God and if we remain in Christ, nothing can separate us from God. God is everlasting; wealth is fleeting. So we need to train ourselves and our children to focus on God and not on money. Payment of dowry cannot offer us security, only God can.

            Christians who truly find their security in God would never ever demand dowry. Christians, who truly love God, will love their children and offer them good gifts during their marriage. There is nothing inappropriate or sinful when parents offer good gifts to their children.

            May God rule us. May we not be ruled by greed or love for money.

Endnotes:      

1Vijay TV’s TalkShow, Neeya Naana, aired on 19th March 2017, entitled “Mother Where’s My Dowry?”

2http://www.dictionary.com/browse/dowry?s=t


3https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dowry#Violence_against_women_and_international_perspectives

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Dirty Worship Team (The Existential Dilemma In The Churches)

            In his article entitled “Drunken Worship Leaders and Mercenary Musicians,” Dr. Brown launched a scathing attack on the hypocrisy of certain worship leaders, “If there’s anyone in the body of Christ who should be an example of purity of heart and purity of life, it is the worship leader, the man or woman who leads God’s people into his holy presence. Yet it is increasingly common to hear about worship leaders getting drunk after church services and dropping f-bombs while they boast about their “liberty” in the Lord. Some churches even hire unsaved musicians to play on their worship teams because of their talent. How can this be happening in the house of the Lord?”1

            This crisis could be experienced by many churches, if not all, for the simple reason that all are imperfect. Worship leaders are not immune to imperfection.

            However, expectation of a high moral standard for a Christian leader is reasonable and biblical (Cf. 1 Timothy 3). Christian leadership includes worship leaders, and those in the worship team should also be deemed a part of the church leadership (secondary leadership, if you may) because they are upfront and leading the congregation, in worship - albeit passively; not interacting directly with the congregation.  

            It’s not just the drunkenness and/or the F-bombing members of the worship team that’s the bane of the local church. The imperfection extends far beyond that.

            Consider the anger issues or the rebellious attitude of some in the worship team or the gossip machinery laden with unjust judgment or the groupism predicated on every frivolous possibility or the trampling of the lesser talented members by their more talented counterparts. Each problem mentioned above is not inferior to drunkenness or F-bombing, from the perspective of sin, because it neither glorifies God nor elevates the worship team members to a higher moral standard.

            So there is an existential dilemma in the church (with respect to the worship team). Godly wisdom is absolutely mandatory to resolve this dilemma.  

            Without implying that Christians are way better than non-Christians, should the church hire non-Christian musicians for their worship team? Having non-Christians to play in the church worship team is a risky proposition from a spiritual perspective. Dr. Brown emphasizes this aspect, “…What? A God-mocking atheist playing guitar on a church worship team? And what happens when they pray together and seek God’s heart? Or do they even pray together at all?

            Little did I realize that it is becoming more and more common for churches to hire musicians who have no connection to their church—and sometimes no connection to the Lord—to play in their Sunday morning services. Forget about unity in the Spirit. Forget about harmony in the Lord. Forget about ministering under the anointing. The show must go on!

            Oh yes, it’s important that we do things with excellence, and I know that a poor musician or an off-key singer or a lousy sound system can drag down a whole service. And as a musician myself, saved as a 16-year-old, heroin-shooting, LSD-using rock drummer in 1971, I fully understand the power of music, especially anointed music. And I believe that the laborer is worthy of his hire and that those who sacrificially serve should be compensated. But I also understand that God hates foreign mixtures, that a little leaven leavens the whole lump, and that the spirit of the world and the Spirit of worship are incompatible.” (Emphasis Mine).2

            Should the church accept (into the worship team) only those who do not show any outward imperfections? This is one possibility. An entailment of this principle is that those accepted into the worship team should have been an active member of that church for a minimum period of one or two years or more. The one year (minimum) active membership could reveal the moral credibility of that member to the church.

            But what if a musically anointed person joins the church and desires to be a part of the worship team immediately? Would the church management provide an exception for this member, thereby antagonizing those who are in the shelf waiting for their chance to participate in the worship team? This is for each church to deal with.

            If a church is dogmatic about allowing members without any outward imperfections (so to speak) into the worship team, then it is quite possible that the church ignores or overlooks the other imperfections of that person. There could be hidden sins in that person as well (e.g. if that person plays dirty politics at the workplace and the church does not have any clue whatsoever about this imperfection or if he/she abuses his/her spouse or children, and the abused parties are silent…the list is endless).   

            How should the church respond when their worship team members are found in sin? This is a gazillion dollar question for every church.

            The easier option is to fire those who are caught in sin from the worship team. But then the Lord’s gracious response to the woman caught in adultery would haunt the legalistic decision of the church management, “Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”” (John 8: 11b, NASB).

            But the church management would argue that the lady caught in adultery was not an elder, overseer or a deacon in the local synagogue or the church. Hence, they may further argue, that the instance of Christ’s gracious interaction with the woman caught in adultery does not apply to the decision of the church, in our context.

            Very well!

            Did Jesus employ sinless people as HIS disciples? No. There were horrendous imperfections in every one of HIS disciples, even to the every end of Christ’s earthly life.

            God chose imperfect people to accompany HIM day and night while HE was on earth! What a great honor and an awesome privilege rendered to imperfect people by God! And these were the very imperfect people whom Christ trusted (so to speak) to carry out HIS great commission to the very ends of the earth.

            In other words, the Lord Jesus was extremely gracious. HE did not focus on the imperfections of HIS disciples. HE kept forgiving them seventy times seven (Cf. Matthew 18: 21-22). Therefore, the church does have the option to forgive the sinning member as long as he is truly repentant of his/her sins.      

            The member found in sin should be corrected. Forgiveness notwithstanding, the church should also encourage and monitor the sinning members to quit their sinful deed. Whether the church suspends or allows the worship team member to participate in the team while he/she is on the corrective path is up to the church.

            But what if one or a few in the Church leadership (Pastor, Elders, Overseers, Deacons) are also guilty of the sins committed by the errant worship team member? Would the church then deal with the errant worship team member with a high-handed approach while being soft by overlooking the sins of the influential leader of the church? It goes without saying that the church should be consistent in its operations.

            There is another element of risk in this business and in this very context. Consider a pastor or an elder who drinks in moderation (I have no idea whatsoever about the precise definition of “moderation,” but then that topic is for another day!). It is quite possible that a worship team member could follow the footsteps of this pastor / elder by drinking in moderation and still retaining the hallowed halo of holiness upon himself. But in due course of time, the member could become a victim to drunkenness.

            In this very situation, it was the pastor / elder’s practice of moderate drinking that led to the worship team member’s drunkenness. This is another dilemma the church has to constantly confront.

            What if the worship team member refuses to acknowledge his/her sins? How should the church engage this situation?

            Confronting a sin should not be based on the witness of a single person. Instead it should be based on the witness of two or three [credible] witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15 & 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1Timothy 5:19). If the member is proven to be sinful and if the said member refuses to acknowledge his/her sins, the church has all the liberty to fire that person (1 Corinthians 5:5, 13b).

            Is firing the only option? No! The church can be gracious in its actions as well. Once again each church has to deal with their situation with the measure of godly wisdom that they seek to perform with.

            Someone said, "the church is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners." Humble and repentant sinners have a great role to play in the church of Jesus Christ. A gracious church is one whose leadership, first and foremost, accepts that they are wretched sinners as anyone else. Grace flows top down.

            A church that rejects a notion that it consists of sinful members, whose leaders are as sinful if not more, rejects the gospel of grace. As Christian theologian Father Hans Küng said, “…The church must constantly be aware that its faith is weak, its knowledge dim, its profession of faith halting, that there is not a single sin or failing which it has not in one way or another guilty of. And though it is true that the church must always disassociate itself from sin, it can never have any excuse for keeping any sinners at a distance. If the church remains self-righteously aloof from failures, irreligious and immoral people, it cannot enter justified into God’s kingdom. But if it is constantly aware of its guilt and sin, it can live in joyous awareness of forgiveness. The promise has been given to it that anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.”

            Therefore, every decision of the local church should be overflowing with the grace of God. Such a church is the need of the hour and that church will overcome all its existential dilemmas by the grace of God and with godly wisdom.

Endnotes:

1http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/38195-drunken-worship-leaders-and-mercenary-musicians


2Ibid.