Respect and Blamelessnes – Giving A Blameless Answer

September 30, 2007

Ravi Zacharias said something to the effect that mud slinging is completely useless, because it causes you to get your hands dirty and lose a lot of ground.

I have seen a disturbing trend in religious discussions. On the one side are those who have become known as militant atheists. On the other side are certain Christians, many of these well-meaning, but still do not have a good defense of the faith they profess. These two sides have embarked on a mud-slinging campaign. This plays out in that either side calls each other names for their perceived ignorance, and in turn nothing good comes out of it. Atheists call Christians (and adherents of other faiths) ignorant for believing in the supernatural, and Christians call atheists stupid for not believing in the Bible.

In this mud slinging, no ground is taken, but ground is only lost. In the process the position of both sides is tainted in the eyes of the other, both being perceived as “dirty” to the other, because while slinging mud you end up covered in it yourself. Christians have certain perceptions of atheists because of their insensitive attacks on the intellectual aspect of faith, and atheists in turn see the shame of the Christian who does not display the love of Christ in their combating the attack waged against them.

On the Christian side a couple of things may happen: The Christian may conclude that the atheist doesn’t understand them; they may also conclude they have no interest in doing so; they usually become more firm in what they believe; but at the same time still don’t have an answer for the person who is asking them why they do believe; and in the process of debating, usually disrespect is shown.

The Christian apologist’s favorite verse is 1 Peter 3:15: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” But usually they forget the next piece of the verse: “But do this with gentleness and respect…” The next verse says, “… keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

To the Christian I ask: Do you have prepared a reason for the hope you have? If I was not a Christian, and I asked you why you are, would you have an answer for me? If someone asks you why you believe the Bible, do you know? It is awesome to have faith in the Word of God, but not everyone believes the Bible is the Word of God, or else does not understand that it is. Do you have a way to explain it to the one who is seeking understanding? Do you have an answer for the person for whom “because the Bible says so” is not a sufficient reason? Also, while you are talking to someone who does not understand the faith you have, do you speak to them with respect? Do you yell at them and call names for not believing, or do you explain your faith with gentleness, being filled and guided by the Holy Spirit?

It is possible to be a bold defender of the faith, but to present a bold defense in a respectful way. It is important to note the next verse, that if we do this, the one accusing us will find no fault in our behavior. They may slander us, but shame will be brought on the individual if the slanderous accusations are not true.
For the atheist/agnostic/seeker/questioner I ask: When you are discussing Christianity with a believer, do you do so in a respectful way? Do you treat the person you are speaking to in the same way you expect to be spoken to? Do you call them names? Or in your discussion are you genuinely seeking after understanding?

True wisdom, knowledge and understanding can only be found in a setting of respect and dignity. Does your conduct during discussion bring shame to yourself and to that which you profess to be true? Or are you blameless in your approach?

Blamelessness is key. If you cannot present a sound argument to support your point, your argument is not blameless. Likewise, if you present a sound argument in an unsound way, you are not blameless then either.


Lessons From The Great Divorce – The Rest Who Went Back

September 27, 2007

In C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, it is sad that all but one (in addition to the narrator) would choose to go back to hell even when given the chance to spend eternity in heaven. Each of the characters has their own reasons, stemming from their unresolved sin, for going back:

– For a couple, heaven was simply too overwhelming and brilliant
– One tried to bring a piece of heaven back to hell (but it wouldn’t fit)
– A self-conscious ghost refused to be helped because she didn’t want to be seen through in her shame
– One went back when she was unable to attract any of the heavenly spirits
– Two possessive women (one of her husband, the other of her son) refused to give up possession of their “loved” ones, completely missing what love really is
– One refused to stop acting and pretending (he was an overdramatic tragedian), and refused to embrace the joy of heaven

If you do not know the Lord, what is keeping you back from receiving the salvation being offered you? Are you afraid of the light? Do you enjoy your sin too much? Do you hold onto something or someone possessively, mistaking this for love? Do you harbor bitterness or resentment?

Will you let go of the chain today? Will you let go of that which is holding onto you, and surrender it to God Almighty? Will you allow the Lord to make you new and receive you into his kingdom? Will you let go of your sin, and in turn receive forgiveness, new life and victory over its power? I pray you will. I pray you learn from this story that there is only one way to be saved, and it is through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Posts In This Series

A Review
The Intellect
The Arts
The One That Stayed
The Rest Who Went Back


Lessons From The Great Divorce – The One That Stayed

September 26, 2007

In C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, the narrator witnesses an encounter between one of the bright spirits and a ghost with a red lizard on his shoulder. The lizard is whispering things in the ghost’s ear. After yelling at it to be quiet, the ghost turns away from the mountain to which he is journeying, and turns to go back to the bus to hell. The lizard represents everything that keeps us from God. The spirit he is speaking to has burning hands outstretched, ready to kill the lizard as soon as the ghost verbally permits him to do so. The ghost gives a succession of reasons why the spirit shouldn’t kill the lizard:

1. He doesn’t want to bother the spirit with killing it
2. It isn’t presently bothering him because it went to sleep
3. He’ll be able to get it under control himself through gradual process
4. He doesn’t feel well enough to go through with “the operation”
5. He thinks killing the lizard would kill him
6. He’ll go and get his doctor’s opinion (back in hell), and come back later
7. Then he asks why the spirit hasn’t killed the lizard yet

At this point the lizard whispers into his ear that the spirit can indeed kill him, but it would kill the ghost as well. The lizard tells him that it is only natural to have him on his shoulder, and it is not natural to be without. He promises to be good, although he has not been so in the past. The ghost almost believes the lizard, but then finally relents and begs the spirit to kill the lizard. In one swift moment the flaming hands of the spirit kill the lizard and throw it to the ground. After this, something wonderful happens. The ghost is remade into a solid spirit. At the same time, what used to be the lizard becomes a great horse, which the new spirit rides away on.

This is the one ghost in this story out of them all who decides to stay in heaven. This also illustrates what happens to someone who surrenders to the power of God

In the life of the unregenerated human being, sin has complete control. The person may fight with it, but they never win. The sin always regains control. People make all sorts of excuses why their sin is okay, and why it should be alright to keep living in it. “It’s no big deal” … “I’ll take care of it myself” … “I can’t live without it” … “I’m not ready yet” … the excuses keep coming, and on and on the struggle goes. But at any minute, as soon as the words are spoken, as soon as the life is surrendered to God, he can and will set you free from the power of sin over your life. This is the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Not only can a person be free from sin’s consequence (damnation due to your separation from God apart from Christ), but they can also be free from the very power sin holds over the individual that keeps them living in the habitual pattern of that nature.

As soon as the words are uttered, the sin may then be removed. God will not impose his salvation over our lives before we utter our surrender to it. But at that moment – praise the Lord! – we can be set free. Being set free, we are born again by the Spirit of God into a new and living hope, the hope of salvation and eternal life in the presence of God. In Christ we become masters over that which used to have mastery over us.

Will you, like this once enslaved ghost, chose God’s salvation today? Will you be free from the power of sin? Will you allow him to make you new? Or will you listen to the lies whispered in your ear, that you have everything under control, and turn away once again to the life you’ve always lived?

Posts In This Series

A Review
The Intellect
The Arts
The One That Stayed
The Rest Who Went Back


Lessons From The Great Divorce – The Arts

September 25, 2007

Ravi Zacharias talks about three levels of putting together an argument: the theoretical and abstract, the practical via the arts, and what he calls “kitchen table talk.” Yesterday we looked at someone in C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce who missed the point of the theoretical approach – to find the truth. Today I want to touch briefly on the arts.

In Lewis’ story, the narrator overhears another conversation, one between an artist ghost and a spirit seeking to help him. The spirit reminds the ghost, “Light itself was your first love: you loved paint only as a means to tell about light.” The point of the arts is to portray reality. One does not paint for the sake of the paint itself, but to show something to the viewer of the painting. That reality being painted comes from God. Therefore at its root the arts should bring glory to God and illuminate his majesty.

Unfortunately the arts have become what the spirit warned the ghost about, the self-interest, personality and fame and prestige of the artist. The arts no longer glorify God, but have become the medium for all sorts of perversity and detestability. This is not how God intended us to use our gifts. Just as in the Garden of Eden when man, made in God’s image, misused his choice to obey God or sin, likewise the world has misused its God-given gifts for the purpose of sin.

The most beautiful art made by human hands is that which paints scenes of glory. The most beautiful poetry are the hymns. The most beautiful literature likewise speaks of the majesty of God.

The greatest work of art of all is that which was made in the image of God himself, that is, the human being.

Praise God for all the works of his mighty hands!

Posts In This Series

A Review
The Intellect
The Arts
The One That Stayed
The Rest Who Went Back


Lessons From The Great Divorce – The Intellect

September 25, 2007

In C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, the narrator encounters many interesting characters in heaven. These aid Lewis’ point in writing the book – that there is an absolute way to heaven, and it is through the Lord Jesus Christ. All of the characters encountered have different expectations about why they should be accepted into heaven, or why they at least want to visit. Today I want to focus on the Episcopal bishop, referred to as the Fat Ghost in the story. The encounter between him and his Spirit friend is found in Chapter 5 of Lewis’ book.

The Fat Ghost, we discover, is theologically liberal and philosophically relativistic. He thinks that his opinions, if believed honestly and sincerely, should be accepted no matter what. He sees nothing sinful about a wrong opinion, as long as it is sincere. He doesn’t believe in a literal heaven or hell (which is ironic because in the story he has walked in both). He has fallen in with the academic crowd and was swayed by every new idea that fell on his ears (which lead to his becoming a liberal theologian). He also has a hint of existentialism. He doesn’t believe that he was really sent to hell. In the end he chooses to return “home” and not stay in heaven because he is reading a paper to a theological society, (“not of a very high quality, perhaps”), the following week about how Jesus’ teachings would’ve changed had he lived (more liberal theology, completely ignoring who Jesus Christ really is).

The Fat Ghost is the token intellectually and theologically liberal professing Christian. I say professing because he is not really a Christian at all and is instead called an apostate for rejecting all orthodox biblical theology. If he stays in heaven, he expects to test all things with his intellectual faculties, and in turn also wants to be used and appreciated for his intellectual might. He has completely missed the point of faith, and of inquiry. The Spirit says to him:

Once you were a child. Once you knew what inquiry was for. There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers, and were glad when you had found them. Become a child again, even now… You have gone wrong. Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth. What you now call the free play of inquiry has neither more nor less to do with the ends for which intelligence was given you than masturbation has to do with marriage.

I suspect that many people who believe they are saved will be surprised, like this Ghost, to find that they were not. Opinions may be sincere, but may be sincerely wrong. The Bible says we must worship God in Truth (John 4:23). This Ghost, in the end, had no real thirst for the truth, and was not really interested in finding it. In the end he turn away from heaven, and quite contently, to instead entertain his own ideas about how Christianity should be.

Take the warning. Do not be like this man. Do not miss the point of asking questions. We ask questions because we are seeking after the truth. When we find it, we must rejoice in it. Jesus says, “I am the Truth” (John 14:6). Rejoice in Christ and the salvation he gives.

Posts In This Series

A Review
The Intellect
The Arts
The One That Stayed
The Rest Who Went Back


Reaping and Sowing (Planting and Harvesting)

September 23, 2007

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps [harvests, or gets back] what he sows [plants like a seed]. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit [of God], from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8).


The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis – A Review

September 20, 2007

I have been quoting C.S. Lewis for a couple days now. Tonight I finished his book The Great Divorce. It has been a great book, and I would like to spend my next couple of posts discussing it.

First of all it is important to note what Lewis himself said about the book:

I beg my readers to remember that this is a fantasy. It has of course – or I intended it to have – a moral. But the transmortal conditions are solely an imaginative supposal: they are not even a guess or a speculation at what may actually await us. The last thing I wish is to arouse factual curiosity about the detail of the after-world.

In other words, this is not meant to be a story depicting theological reality. It is a fantasy novel which tells a moral tale. Its purpose is not to teach a theological doctrine of purgatory or something like that, but rather tackles the philosophical issue of universalism. (This, I am aware, is also a theologically and biblically relevant issue.)

Secondly, the point of this moral tale is also set forth by Lewis in the preface, (and I quoted it a couple days ago here . The point of the story is to show that it is a fallacy to say that all roads lead to God. To use his illustration, the world is not a circle, where all the radii point to the middle, but a path that branches of again and again, and at each branch one must make a choice. The tale is therefore not theological, but philosophical.

The narrator (assumed to be Lewis) tells a story of a bus ride from hell to heaven. When the people on the bus get to heaven, they get to choose whether they would like to stay, or whether they would like to return to hell instead. Some of the “ghosts” run back almost as soon as they see the splendor of heaven. Others journey for some ways, encountering the “real spirits” of people they knew (or, in the case of the narrator, would have liked to know) while alive. These spirits encourage the ghosts to give up their various lusts and selfish ambitions in order to fully embrace heaven. All but two of the ghosts refuse to do this and choose to go back to hell instead.

In each of the encounters between ghost and spirit, a different issue of sin is addressed. Many refuse to accept that they acted in a sinful way at all. Some see heaven as “their right,” but will not turn to God to receive the heaven he has offered them. Some don’t see anything wrong with staying in hell, and would even rather take their loved ones back to hell than to stay with them in heaven.

Each of these cases is not only interesting, but very real. I would like to explore these a bit further in next week’s posts.

Posts In This Series

A Review
The Intellect
The Arts
The One That Stayed
The Rest Who Went Back


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