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Posts Tagged ‘Creator’


Daughter who spies me reading the book: “Daddy, isn’t R.C. Sproul boring?”

“No, honey. Not to me.”

She is only 9 and R.C. is still a bit over her head. But one of Sproul’s strengths has always been putting the cookies where average people can reach them (not necessarily 9 year-olds however). As a young Christian I read his books and listened to his tapes. I owe him a great debt, so to speak.

In Not a Chance R.C. Sproul turns (most of) his attention away from theology and toward the philosophy of science. His concern is the growth of irrationality in science particularly as it intersects with issues related to creation. For people who don’t usually read philosophy, or haven’t in quite some time, he strives to make it accessible. He also strives to see the application. He interacts with a very long list of philosophers. He mostly succeeds in his goal of accessibility.

He begins with discussing the notion of chance. It can be used in the mathematical sense of probabilities, which is appropriate in science. We speak this way often: what are the chances of rain today? It can also be used to speak of something being accidental or unpredictable. This is typically an inappropriate use of the term in science. This use is growing as some scientists talk about things being created by chance. His point is that chance is not an entity and therefore cannot create anything. To speak as it can is to descend into irrationality. It is not irrational to say we don’t understand something at this point in time. But speaking of it as by chance is.

“I have been contending for the rigorous application of the laws of logic to inferences drawn from induction. Indeed that is what this book is all about.”

He also delves into the question of the universe as created, self-created or self-existent. Sometimes self-created and self-existent are used interchangeably by some scientists. They are not the same. All scientific data at this point in time would appear to rule out a self-existent universe. There was a “time” when it was not. Self-creation is also a logical nightmare. It cannot be and not be in the same sense and at the same time. The universe would clearly appear to be contingent as a result. He makes a brief argument for a Creator.

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In the first chapter of The Creedal Imperative, Carl Trueman looked at the forces in society that are making it more difficult for Christians to use creeds and confessions to summarize and make their faith known. In his second chapter Trueman goes on the offensive and builds the case for creedalism and confessionalism.

He does not refute all the challenges in this chapter. He more clearly and expansively builds the case for the assumptions that he made to begin the book. These assumptions provide the foundation for seeing creeds and confessions as helpful and authoritative summaries of the faith for communities of faith.

He begins with the adequacy of words. Seems strange to have to do this since we read all the time: blogs, books, recipes, novels, school books etc. Words, oddly enough, reflect back to a biblical understanding of God’s nature: He is the God who speaks. We see this in Genesis 1 and that continues through the rest of the Scriptures. God speaks, and what he speaks are obviously words. He speaks to make himself known. He speaks to have communion within the Trinity and with creation. The use of language therefore is not incidental, but how God defines and sustains his relationship with humanity before and after the fall. It is “a means of his presence.”

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In preparing for my sermon on Sunday I re-read Jonathan Edwards’ discourse “Men are Naturally God’s Enemy”. Nestled in there was the following:

“All the sin that men commit, is what they do in the service of their idols: there is no one act of sin, but what is an act of service to some false god. And therefore wherein soever God opposes sin in them, his is opposite to their worship of idols: on which account they are his enemies. God opposes them in their service of their idols.”

Idols are our functional saviors, what we use to supplement (or replace) the living and true God. We use them to “save” us from the realities of life in a fallen world. They offer pleasure, distraction, hope and other benefits. Not that they can deliver. But we rely on them, and their false promises, anyway.

As Tim Keller notes, these idols are often good things. We aren’t talking about little statues we bow down to each morning. But they function as gods in our lives. They have our allegiance. We rest our sense of security on them. This we do because, as John Calvin noted, our hearts are factories of idols. Not that we create idols, but turn good things into idols. The problem is not “out there”, but “in here”.

As I lay in bed, wishing I was asleep, I was struck by the fact that our most common idols are found in the first few chapters of Genesis. Sure, there are modern ones like fancy sports cars (or luxury sedans or…), all things Apple, and other inventions. Or science, many bow down there accepting whatever science says (this week) without recognizing that scientists are finite, sinners with (often ungodly) presuppositions instead of purely objective thinkers and observers. But most of our idols have been there from the beginning. As a result, they go unnoticed by most people.

In one of the books I’ve read (it’s been a few years and my aging mind can’t remember which one and I don’t have the free time to chase it down), the author tells of a person from India coming to the States. Now, when people from the States go to India they are struck by the sheer number of little idols, statues to gods, that are seemingly everywhere. Yet, this person arrived on our shores aghast at all of our idols! It is always easier to see other people’s idols. Just like it is easier to see their splinter while not noticing the log in your eye.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1 (ESV)

We see here a number of idols, or functional saviors, that enslave people. I guess I could start with religion. I’m not talking faith in the God of the Bible, but that tendency toward ritual and legalism that provide us with a false sense of assurance. But I won’t.

Marriage is a frequent idol for people. They think it a refuge from loneliness, economic insecurity and hopelessness. Many single people think life would be tolerable if only they were married. Many married people live in fear of their marriage ending and don’t take the necessary steps to make that relationship healthier and godly. They so need the approval of their spouse they never say ‘no’ and live in misery because they fear a greater misery.

Connected to marriage by God, but disconnected by humanity, is sex. We live in a society of sex addicts, or idolators. Sex offers them, they think, enough pleasure to overcome the pain and boredom of life that they become enslaved. They think it offers intimacy, but forsake its intended intimacy through objectification of various kinds. It often destroys the relationships we so desperately want.

Also connect to marriage by God, and increasingly disconnected by people, is children. Many seek love from (rather than giving love to) children. They seek immortality through their children. They seek to fulfill their own failed goals through their children. Many people place intolerable burdens on their children, destroying them as a result.

We also find control. We are to subdue and rule creation- under God’s authority. But we try to play God and make everything bend to our authority. We crave control, fearing we are not sufficient to meet the challenges of unexpected events or circumstances. It destroys relationships like acid (then we wonder why the person left even as we try to manipulate them back into the relationship).

We also make a god of creation. Our idol factory hearts twist stewardship of creation into environmentalism so that the environment and/or animals become more important than people made in God’s image. People begin to sacrifice real and potential relationships on the altar of being green. They look to their pets to fill the black hole in their hearts that crave unconditional love. We should care for the environment and animals, including pets, but many give them ultimate status in their universe.

Work is another functional savior for people. (For others the avoidance of work is their idol). They seek to be utterly independent, secure and safe thru their work. It provides an ultimate meaning for them that only God is intended to have. They turn the image of God in on itself. God works, and calls us to work. It is the ordinary means of providing our needs. But in God’s providence, at times we endure hardship that we might be humble and experience grace and compassion so we will be ready to extend grace and compassion.

“A true hope looks forward to the obtaining of happiness in no other way but the way of the gospel, which is by a holy Savior, and in a way of cleaving to and following him.” Jonathan Edwards in Charity and Its Fruits

All of these things, as God gave them to us, is good! But we ceaselessly give them more importance than intended. We use them in the place of God to provide us with satisfaction, security, pleasure and even salvation. All that we have turned into functional saviors can only be returned to their rightful place as we seek all our significance, meaning, security and satisfaction from Christ. This only happens as we see the the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ as Creator and Redeemer. As Jonathan Edwards argues, only when we see Christ as sufficient to bestow all the happiness we need, will we forsake other means to secure earthly happiness.

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Some time back I did a rather brief review of Paul Tripp’s new book on marriage, What Did You Expect?”  As I mentioned there, I think this is one of the best books on marriage.  Tripp goes beneath the surface of marriage (and this is applicable to ANY relationship).

In the DVD, taken from a conference, is similar but not identical to the book.  In the DVD, he focuses on the big picture of marriage.  And that heart of a marriage is determined by worship.  What you worship will determine the quality of your marriage, and other relationships.  The more you worship someone or something instead of God, you will be in conflict because you don’t have the same desires and priorities.

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The other evening the wife & I were watching the season finale of Burn Notice on our DVR.  I thought it an apt metaphor for our current experience.  The main character, Michael Weston, is a spy who is blacklisted and dumped in Miami.  The show is about his quest to discover why he was blacklisted (false accusations), and how he helps people in need of his specialized skills on the way.

At times I feel blacklisted and dumped in central Florida.  This is all perception, not actuality.  I can’t seem to move forward and on.  It’s as if we are stuck here trying to make ends meet while using my specialized skills to help churches in need.  I can’t explain why we remain here- it is not through a lack of trying (I’ve lost track of the open positions for which I have applied).  But in the midst of this, I have to keep returning to 1 Peter 4:

19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (NIV)

I am here by God’s will.  I am between calls by God’s will.  I can’t change things, but I can be responsible.  I continue to ‘do good’ or be obedient to Him and work for the good of the church.  I also entrust my family into the hands of my Faithful Creator and Redeemer.  I can’t sit and moan, withdrawing into a shell.  I can trust and continue to do what I’ve been called to do as opportunities permit.  And so I shall, even as I pray:

9 Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. … 14 But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” 15 My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. 16 Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love. 17 Let me not be put to shame, O LORD, for I have cried out to you; …19   (Ps. 31 NIV)How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you.

20 We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. 21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. 22 May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.  (Ps. 33 NIV)

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Though I grew up in a nominally Catholic family, and went to Mass most Saturdays, I grew up affirming evolution.  Like most boys, I like dinosaurs and cavemen.  We had the Time Life series of books on science, and I spent lots of time reading about the theory of evolution (sadly I’ve engaged in debates with people whether it was a theory, a hypothesis etc. but I don’t care what you call as long as you don’t call it a fact).  In school we watched those videos about the moths in England near the factories and other stories of evolution within a species.  I had no reason to doubt that this was an accurate interpretation of the data and explanation for our existence on this planet.  In fact, I did not doubt it was true.

Off to Boston University (no, not Boston College the more famous Catholic institution down the street that we usually beat in hockey).  I was required to take a lab science.  I hate lab sciences.  I inevitably mess up the experiments.  But just prior to my sophomore year, a class caught my eye.  It was …. Bioastronomy and the Search for Extraterrestial Life.  It was a lab science, but one without experiments!  I was all over that class!

The premise of the course was that the only way to determine if the possibility there was life on other planets was to study how life supposedly came to exist on this planet.  As a result we studied astronomy and evolution to arrive at an equation to determine that possibility.

A liberal blog that decided to make fun of my in this matter among others, figured that the professor didn’t do a very good job.  I think the professor did a fine job communicating the material to the converted.  But something happened to me.  I began to see all the factors that were vital to the existence of life.  At the end of the class there was a 1 in 10 to the 26th power chance of there being life (or something like that).  That is 1 followed by 26 zeroes.  That seemed quite unlikely to me.

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It has been over a decade since I’ve read The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin.  I’ve been wanting to read it again, and I started today. 

Today I read through Book I, chapters 1-2.  Chapter 2 ends with this idea:

“Here indeed is pure and real religion: faith so joined with an earnest fear of God that this fear also embraces willing reverence and carries with it such legitimate worship as is prescribed in the law.” (I, 2, 2)

Faith is joined in fear.  We believe what God says and we hold Him in such reverence that we worship Him as He deems right.  True faith does not lead us to take God lightly; rather we take Him and His Word seriously.  How does Calvin get there?

True wisdom is comprised of knowledge of God and knowledge of ourselves.  Calvin argues that we cannot know ourselves accurately apart from knowing God.  We learn about God as we learn about ourselves.  He doesn’t go there just yet, but this is based on the fact that we are made in the image of God (imago dei).  You can’t possess true wisdom without knowing God.  You can’t possess true wisdom without knowing yourself.  This is essentially the path of the Proverbs.

“For we always seem to ourselves righteous and upright and wise and holy- this pride is innate in all of us- unless by clear proofs we stand convinced of our own unrighteousness, foulness, folly, and impurity.  Moreover, we are not thus convinced if we look merely to ourselves and not also to the Lord, who is the sole standarnd by which this judgment must be measured.”  (I, 1, 2)

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