Posts for February 2011
5 Posts found

Acts 17.15-21 – God and the new atheists
Posted: 16 February 2011 in Acts

And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed. Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)

Today’s new atheists seem to have the same problem the Athenians suffered from long ago. They can bring their brain into gear (just about), but they have great trouble engaging their heart. Worse than that, they are downright distrustful of it. But it is of course the heart which has a central role to play in any sort of relationship, and that is especially so in the case of God. It is at this point that a new atheist will typically intervene to tell you that the heart is just a pump. What has happened to make people so distrustful of anything other than the purely cerebral – and to such an extent that even such a commonplace metaphor as “the heart” has to be given a crassly literalistic understanding?

In fact, there is no way of knowing God except by engaging with him through the heart. As something ultimately mysterious, and beyond human conceptualisation, engaging with God must necessarily involve something more than the intellect. I speak as a Protestant myself, but I suppose Protestantism, with its emphasis on the written and spoken word, must bear part of the blame for the current situation. Words go to make up sentences, and sentences are manipulated by the rules of logic, so they practically invite a cerebral approach. But in religion the cerebral is worthless unless it also sinks down into the heart.

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2 Chronicles 8.12-14 – God and worldly affairs
Posted: 14 February 2011 in 2 Chronicles

Then Solomon offered burnt offerings unto the LORD on the altar of the LORD, which he had built before the porch, Even after a certain rate every day, offering according to the commandment of Moses, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts, three times in the year, even in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles. And he appointed, according to the order of David his father, the courses of the priests to their service, and the Levites to their charges, to praise and minister before the priests, as the duty of every day required: the porters also by their courses at every gate: for so had David the man of God commanded.

It occurred to me what the response would most likely be if a British Prime Minister let it be known that he considered himself to have a priestly function, in praying for the nation, for an hour each day in Westminster Abbey. He would certainly be lampooned by every newspaper in the land, and probably even the professionally religious would feel uncomfortable about it. In fact there cannot be many world leaders today who wouldn’t be much ridiculed in those circumstances.

But I suppose that goes to show how far even professing Christians have gone in removing God to the periphery of worldly affairs. We no longer act as if we believed God was Lord of the universe, and that his worship was central to the material and spiritual welfare of our lands.

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Revelation 17.7, 20.12,15 – Objectivity in religion
Posted: 12 February 2011 in Revelation

“The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.”

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works….. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

The Bible exists, in large measure, to make objective what would otherwise be a completely subjective understanding of God. If somebody today were given free rein to write their own account of what they believed God to be like, it is a fairly safe bet that the ideas present in at least one of the above two passages would be absent.

The news that a.) anybody whose name is not written in the book of life will be subject to divine judgment, and b.) that the names in the book of life were written there before the foundation of the world, ought (at the very least) to inspire a sense of awe which is almost completely missing in much contemporary religion.

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Isaiah 51.4 – The nature of God’s law
Posted: 11 February 2011 in Isaiah

“Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.”

This verse is an interesting take on the nature of God’s law. The law is here not seen as an onerous imposition, which we must obey upon pain of divine retribution. Instead it is seen as a light, which is given to us so that we can walk in a way which is pleasing to God. For Christians, of course, salvation is through faith in Christ, and not through the works of the law. But still, law is far from unimportant, because the love we have towards God should manifest itself through obedience to his will. As John reminds us:

“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” (1 John 5.3)

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Luke 18.35-43 – Spiritual Healing
Posted: 10 February 2011 in Luke

And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me. And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him, Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.

Like most of the healing stories in the Bible, this one probably has a double significance: Firstly there is a physical healing and, more importantly, there is also a spiritual healing – for which the physical healing serves as a metaphor. Healing requires the prior gift of faith, as Jesus’ words, “thy faith hath saved thee,” makes clear. In fact, the gift of faith actually is a spiritual healing, insofar as it enables us to turn to God for both our spiritual and physical needs – including further healing (which is not to deny that the medical profession has a role to play in physical healing).

Whilst physical sight is useful in navigating ourselves around the world, and doubtless the blind man was glad to have it restored to him, spiritual sight is essential for anybody who would see eternal life – and it comes only from God. With our spiritual eyes open we can read the Bible, and discover the living Word of God, instead of a secular history, or a long forgotten correspondence.

The immediate result of the healing is that the people glorified God, which, as ever, is the fundamental purpose of all Creation.

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