Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Obeying God's Law

 I will keep the law given by God, sanctioned by man.  I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad--as I am now.  Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation; they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigor; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be.  If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?  They have a worth, so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane, quite insane, with my veins running fire and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs.  Preconceived opinions, forgone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by; there I plant my foot.
-Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre)

This excerpt from Jane Eyre struck me when I first read it.  Like all others, I have felt the pressures of temptation, and like all others, I have fallen to temptation.  When life is calm and easy, I am willing and even excited to obey God's commands, but the story is quite different when I am faced with trouble.  In our times of weakness, it can be difficult to follow that which God has told us to do, whether it be following through with a commitment, not doing something you know is wrong, or trusting Him when struggling with pain or fear.  However, God did not create laws for those times when it is easy to follow them; He created laws for the times when it is difficult, painful, or even scary to follow them.  He created laws for times when we are being tempted to refrain from doing something you know is your duty, participate in an action, behavior, or thought you know is wrong, or trust in yourself or in the world instead of putting your faith in God.  As humans, we are prone to error, and God knows it.  For this reason, He offers us His strength in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:13).  God always provides a way out of temptation, but because of our sinful nature, we can't reach high enough to pull ourselves out of the hole.  Thankfully, He is always there, offering His hand and ready to pull us out--all we have to do is accept it.

Hebrews 11:1

HEBREWS 11:1 says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."  Over the Internet as well as face to face, I have been asked to prove the existence of God.  The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently conducted a survey showing one in five Americans claim not to believe in God, which is the highest percentage our nation has ever seen, having grown by 25% in the past five years.  More and more people in America and around the world are turning to evolution and science as the cause and reason for our world.

About a year and a half ago, I became interested in the topic of God's existence.  I already believed there was a God, but I had never seen or heard of any proof, so I decided to make it my mission to prove His existence.  Surprisingly enough, I was able to find a significant amount of information to support God's existence, and I began sharing it with people through the Religion and Spirituality page on Yahoo Answers, through a writing website, and through atheist friends of mine.  But much to my surprise, people still refused to believe my evidence, and I could not understand why.  I began relying too much on my evidence and found myself in a constant need to prove evolution wrong.

One day, I was reading in my Bible, and I came across a verse that addressed belief and faith.  Unfortunately, I cannot remember the exact verse I read, but it went along with the ideas expressed through Hebrews 11:1.  I came to the realization that faith and evidence are two completely different concepts.  Evidence is a tool Man uses to understand and explain natural phenomena, whereas faith is believing in something whether or not there is scientific evidence to support it.  For example, I'm sure you believe you have a brain inside your skull, but have you ever actually seen your brain?  You might have seen someone else's brain, but how is that evidence that you have one?  A doctor might tell you that you have a brain, and they could even show you pictures, but he could just as easily be lying and using false or edited pictures.  Likewise, have you ever seen space?  How do you know there really are stars and planets beyond our Earth?  When you look into the sky, you see stars, but how do you know they are really billions of miles away and not just twinkling lights within our atmosphere?  For those of us who have never been into space, which I believe is most of us, we are taking the word of the astronauts who have been to space.  We are believing them based on faith, not necessarily on evidence.  We cannot see God with our eyes, but we can learn about Him by listening to those through whom He has chosen to speak as well as through the Bible, which is somewhat like the Christian textbook, just as a science textbook might explain your brain or space.

In the end, evidence can always be disproven.  People prove and disprove evolution everyday.  People prove and disprove God everyday.  But no one can disprove faith because it is not based on evidence.  Evidence is man-made, but faith is God-made

Mere Christianity

Over the past few weeks, I have been reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (yes, another C.S. Lewis book!).  I was originally told to read the book for summer reading (for school), and I though no more of the book than I thought of my other summer reading requirements; however, it took no more than the first few pages for me to become absorbed in the book.  As I have explained to my friends, I truly believe if everyone in the world read only the first two chapters of Mere Christianity, the world would be a better place.

The book is broken down into four "books" (1. Right and Wrong as a Clue to he Meaning of the Universe; 2. What Christians believe; 3. Christian Behavior; 4. Beyond Personality: or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity).  Lewis writes as though he were speaking directly to the reader, and he writes in a way that would appeal to both Christians and non-Christians who are either exploring Christianity or opposed to Christianity.  He doesn't write as if the persuade the reader but rather to express what he, personally, believes, and he often includes in many of the later chapters that if a specific idea or analogy doesn't help the reader, or is too confusing, to trash it and use whatever does help or makes sense.  One thing I was able to appreciate is the humility with which he wrote.  He didn't express his beliefs as if everything he said was right or as if he was smarter or better than anyone else.  On multiple occasions, he referred to his own sins and said that if anyone noticed any mistakes in his explanations to forgive and correct him because he did not claim to be above anyone else in knowledge.

The book explains many of Christianity's most trying questions and sets people on a path to answering those questions.  It is written in an almost scientific way, diving into deep explanations on how things work.  An atheist once asked me to prove the existence of God, and when I gave him what little evidence I had, he told me it wasn't thorough.  He told me in order to prove God's existence, I would have to start not with God ("If God is real, such-and-such would be true, and it is") but rather start with that which we can physically observe and somehow find God that way ("Because such-and-such is true, God is real").  Though I do not believe anyone should believe in God because of the scientific evidence for Him, I do understand why the atheist wanted evidence and why he wanted in the way he specified.  Most people who have a very logical way of thinking (specifically "math/science people") need things to be explained in a scientific or mathematical sense in order to fully understand it.  I am by no means a math/science person, so explaining this to the atheist (I am calling him "the atheist" not to single him out but because I do not want to use his name so publically), who was a math/science person, was difficult for me.  However, in Mere Christianity, Lewis explains he evidence of God, the beliefs of Christians, how to begin your relationship with Christ, and theology in an orderly and detailed way that appeals to both math/science people and artsy/scatter-brained people (like me) alike.

I am not going to provide a summary for the book for a two reasons.  First, there is so much information in the book that in the time you could read my summary, you might as well have read the book.  Second, Lewis words everything so clearly that I wouldn't be able to reword it and still give it justice (I would have to quote basically the entire book).  Once school starts back up, my teacher may assign an essay much like that I wrote for The Abolition of Man, and if so, I will post that here as well.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Abolition of Man

The Abolition f Man is a book written by the famous author C.S. Lewis.  For an ethics class, I was to read the book and write a summary/response to Lewis' ideas.  Even though it was a difficult read, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, as it opened my mind to a new perception of modern science.  I must admit I had a little trouble comprehending Lewis' eloquent writing style, so I used the following two websites to help me understand what he was trying to convey while writing my response:


The Abolition of Man Summary/Response

In The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis addresses the idea of a natural law of morality, which he calls the Tao, that leads mankind’s definition of right and wrong.  Lewis explains the need for such morality to be taught in schools by providing a connection between emotion and ethics, which later in life will provide the students with a will and reason behind the choices they make.  Students who have been educated in this way and who can stand in the face of a moral dilemma and stand firm in their beliefs with strong support are considered to be men with chests; however, students who do not have emotion and meaning backing their definition of ethics will crumble in the event of a moral choice and are considered to be men without chests.  Although emotions can be weak and mercurial, trained emotions can be used to guide a person’s views rather than leaving him to rely solely on reason, which can only take him so far.  The idea of Reason is often used in such a way as to “debunk” emotion, exposing it as fickle and unreliable.  With Reason as his weapon, a man can say, “This is how we can preserve society;” however, Reason cannot supply an answer to the question of, “Why should society be preserved?”  Inherent emotions and morals, or the Tao, provides society and life with a meaning and purpose that Reason cannot, and therefore the structure of Reason faces great limitations as defense for a man’s argument.  Still, society continues to shift away from moral values and towards science and Reason.  Science has given mankind a certain power over nature, allowing man to control his surroundings.  For example, natural selection has enabled a couple to choose the specific gender and genetic makeup of their child, and birth control and abortion give a woman power over her pregnancy.  On a lesser note, if someone is cold, he no longer must chop down a tree and build a fire but can rather turn on an electric heater.  Science has distributed power into society; however, the total amount of power is limited, meaning as one group gains power, another group must lose power.  As a result, only a small minority grows increasingly powerful while the rest of society grows increasingly powerless.  In the example of natural selection, the husband and wife, or in some cases only a mother, has the ability to choose which of the twenty-four babies will survive and which will be killed.  As the minority (the parents) gains power, the majority (the babies or the twenty-four fertilized eggs) loses power.  Because Reason is becoming such a strong force in society, people are encouraged to surrender their natural emotions for science.  Ray Bradbury explores a world where society has completely abandoned emotion and values in his novel Fahrenheit 451.  In Bradbury’s fictional future, which modern society is frighteningly beginning to resemble, individuals are discouraged from spending time in deep thought and are encouraged to divert their attention to meaningless technologies such as giant TV screens displaying mindless entertainment.  The officials of this society shove science and technology down the throats of the people in order to blind them from emotion because emotion leads to the formation of strong opinions, which could be used as a dangerous tool against the minority (the officials) that hold the power.  Within our current society, people are giving up their souls for science by wasting away in front of a computer on social media sites rather than spending time getting to know God through prayer, pondering the meanings for the way things are, or formulating valid opinions and views.  The majority is falling into monotonous, robotic, and powerless lifestyle that is brought about by Reason rather than delving in the purpose for life.  If science and Reason continue as they do on a path set on destroying natural values, they will soon reach a point where they are destroying everything they have built up, for eventually they will face the values of knowledge, understanding, and learning, which are what drive and support Reason itself.  In conclusion, the Tao, or the inherent morals and emotions that rule and motivate our world, are necessary in order to keep a balance of power, values, and purpose within modern society.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Journey Begins

A little fact about myself: I have been to seven different schools.  That means I've been the "new kid" seven different times, and let me tell you, it's NOT easy.  Suddenly, you are thrust into a completely new group of people who look at you like you're some freak of nature who must have some nerve to disturb their norm or who don't even bother to give you a second glance and go on through their lives as if you never existed.  You feel awkward, confused, lost, and really self-concious.  Being in a completely new environment, you have to test the waters--get to know some of the kids and figure out which group you want to be a part of.  You can't, however, just wait for people to come to you.  It is vitally important that you take the initiative to introduce yourself and ease your way into your new world.  No matter how awesome one of the kids seems, you're not going to run up and give them a hug or start acting like you've known them forever.  It's the same way with Christianity.  It's difficult ot just jump right in and expect it to be easy because it's not.  At the same time, you can't just sit back and wait for God to force you into a relationship with Him.  YOU have to start praying, reading your Bible, and easing into this new way of life.  But at the same time, you can't expect to be a perfect Christian right from the start, in part because there's no such thing as a "perfect Christian," considering we are all human and therefore flawed.  Refering back to the "new kid" analogy, when you find someone who seems like a potential friend, you have to work towards developing the friendship--it's not just going to happen.  You have to communicate with the person and spend time with them, getting to know them and building up history.  Likewise, you cannot enter Christianity with the belief that you will immedietly have a close relationship with God.  You must develop you relationship with Him by spending time with Him and talking to Him, which is done by reading His word, praying, and discussing His word with others.  I am not dismissing the possiblity that God might reveal Himself to a person through some spiritual revelation, and the person suddenly has a highly developed relationship with the Lord, but I am saying that YOU have to work at getting to know God.  A good way to get started is to commit to praying at least once a day.  It doesn't have to be a super long, emotional prayer--just tell God how your day was, tell Him what's on your mind, tell Him about anything you're worried about or can't get off your mind.  Try reviewing your day--is there anything you want to ask forgiveness for?  Is there anything you want to thank God for?  I heard this quote once that said,"What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you thanked God for yesterday."  (I saw the quote on a Facebook picture, so I don't know to whom I should give proper credit)  Really think about that for a second.  I know if I woke up tomorrow with only what I thanked God for today, I would have nothing--no friends, family, housing, food, clothing, or even life. (Remember I am going through this journey myself, so I'm still struggling...a lot).

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Journey Through the Eye?

Matthew 19:24
Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

Wow.  That's pretty scary, isn't it?  It's easier for an 800lb camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.  I can barely get a thread through the eye of a needle!  In our minds, getting a camel through the eye of a needle is impossible, so how is it even possible we could get into God's kingdom?

But then we see verses such as Philippians 4:13--"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  If I can do all things, how can I accomplish the impossible task of entering the kingdom of God?  This is the first thought that occurred to me when I put these two verses together.  What I was failing to do was look at the second part of Philippians 4:13--"THROUGH CHRIST who strengthens me."  The truth is, it is absolutely impossible for us to enter the kingdom of God.  But, like with the verse, we must look at the second part of the truth.  With Christ, there is nothing we can't do.  With Christ, and only with Christ, can we enter the kingdom of God.

My Journey is to walk with Christ and to one day enter into the kingdom of God and see my Father's face and His kingdom with my own eyes.  I have set up this blog so that you might find the Truth and accompany me on my Journey, so let it begin....