Monday, June 15, 2015

The Information Age & the Christian Worldview: Is God just a delusion? Or is God real?

What does it mean to believe?  What does it mean to follow Christ?  How is this applied?  What is the process involved?  How does faith stack up against the modern views on life?  Is God just a delusion?  Or is He real?

The late Charles Colson put it well:

“It is not what we do that matters, but what a sovereign God chooses to do through us. God doesn't want our success; He wants us. He doesn't demand our achievements; He demands our obedience. The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of paradox, where through the ugly defeat of a cross, a holy God is utterly glorified. Victory comes through defeat; healing through brokenness; finding self through losing self.”
Charles W. Colson

 Yet many do not believe in any God.  They don't think God exists.  Or they don't like the idea of God.  Or they think all truth is relative.  

I personally have come to believe that God really is.  I really believe that God is actually real, and actually exists and that Jesus Christ was a real person that was born.  I believe, in audacity I suppose, that Jesus Christ was who he claimed to be: the son of God.  I also believe that Jesus Christ, this man, the carpenter, while on Earth did not make a single sin in his life.  He lived perfection, 100%, the only person to ever do so.  How could he?  Because he was God, yet also a man.  

And after living the perfect life, he died the perfect death.  How does one die a perfect death?  Well, for one he must be guilty of nothing.  He was completely innocent.  Secondly, the immortal words that Jesus uttered on the cross seal the deal.  Do you remember what he said?

As they beat him, mocked him, spit on him, Jesus spoke his last prayer to his Lord: "Father forgive them, they don't know what they're doing."

That very simply is how one goes about dying perfectly.  I believe these events were recorded by eye witnesses in written form.  Much like how we get most of our history: through written reports.  I believe those reports survived accurately in the gospel accounts.  Why?  It's very reasonable to believe the gospel accounts are accurate, given the manuscript evidence (over 25,000 fragments) which tend to be highly cohesive when compared to each other (about 99.5%).  

Finally, I believe that after Jesus Christ died, that three days later he reclaimed his life.  I believe that Jesus Christ bodily resurrected, through the power of God.  Aren't miracles impossible?  I don't believe so.  Miracles are reasonable, given an omnipotent God.  If God could create the universe, raising Jesus from the dead isn't really that difficult.  

All of these things I believe tend to go hard against the grain.  That's alright.  I've always been one to go against the stream.  Dead things tend to ride down stream, afterall.  Modern people don't tend to believe the things I believe.  They tend to believe many different things.  Not all, but some.  

They believe in ideas like evolution, relativism, and naturalism.  These are what we might call idealogies, or presuppositions.  They are sets of beliefs, surrounded by facts, not 100% proveable, yet adhered to.

Christianity is similar, it's adherence to a certain worldview.  It's not 100% proveable, yet I adhere to it.  Now I tend to think that the evidence supports Christianity to the point that it can be reasonably believed and adhered to.  I tend to think that Christianity can be investigated to the point of being true beyond a reasonably doubt.  

Many agree with my analysis, including some of the greatest minds in the history of man kind.  Just to name a few: 

Chuck Colson, lawyer, politician, famed for prison reform
Sir Isaac Newton, famous scientist
Jackie Robinson, famed baseball player
Martin Luther King Jr, civil rights activist, Christian preacher
Mother Theresa, altruistic servant of the poor
C.S. Lewis, author of the Narnia series
J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings series 
Helen Keller, philanthropist, author
George Washington, first U.S. President
Francis Collins, scientist, founder of the Human Genome Project
William Wilberforce, famed for leading fight to abolish slavery in England
Eric Liddell, Olympic gold medal winning runner
Sir Francis Bacon, known for establishing the scientific method
Galileo Galilei, famous astronomer
Robert Boyle, famous for his work in chemistry
Max Planck, well known for his work on quantum theory

That's just off the top of my head in a few minutes.  This is the part that just doesn't fit into the modern narrative.  It doesn't fit the narrative of the new atheists.  It doesn't fit the narrative told in public schools.  It just doesn't fit at all.  But I never knew this stuff.  I had to research it myself.  

Christianity has very effectively been stereotyped and mocked into oblivion in western civilization.  Why is that?  There must be something to that.  Well, if I were coming at it from the Christian worldview, it would be very natural to say that there is a battle being waged for the hearts and minds of all people on Earth.  And it's a spiritual battle, not necessarily a physical one.

Or as Jesus accurately phrased it: "The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil."

It's a battle of mind.  And there are two primary competing worldviews duking it out in the west.  The Christian worldview, within the realm of Protestant, Lutheran, Catholic, and other orthodox faiths all surrounding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

The apposing worldview over the past 50-100 has gone under many different names: modernity, materialism, naturalism, scientism, and most recently post-modernism.  None of those views tends to be the prevailing mindset today.  The modern mind tends to be highly varied among those views.  For sake of time we'll just call this mindset the info-age man.  

The infoman tends to believe these suppositions:

You only live once.
Life is what you make it.
Science is our best test for what is true.
Believing in God is ridiculous.
I need a good job, a family, and to save for retirement.
Truth can't necessarily be known.
Ethics are relative.
Tolerance is the most important value.
Who am I to say what's true?
Jesus didn't exist, or he was a good moral teacher.

We've all heard those one-liners haven't we?  That is the modern mindset.  It's very prevalent today.  In stark contrast is the Christian worldview:

We are eternal beings.
Life is ordained by God.
The Bible is our best test for what is true.
Believing in God is reasonable.
I need to pray hard, work hard, and live in service to others.
Truth can be known.
Ethics are fixed and universal.
Love is the most important value.
Who am I to say I know better than God?
Jesus is the son of God, he existed, and he lives today.

Is the modern mind correct?  Is God just a ridiculous delusion?  I tend to think the modern man hasn't thought through his suppositions.  

The modern thinks humanity has surpassed any need for God, and charges into the future as a basically good creature ready to claim his destiny as all powerful.  Yet the modern man tends to forget that World War II was only a short 75 years ago.  The modern man tends to think the west must be above that now.  Yet the modern man forgets that racism and racial violence in our country was only 50 years ago.  The modern thinks he has surpassed all of that though.  I guess just recently?  Very recently.  For it was only 20 years ago that somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million were exterminated in the Rwandan Genocide.  Well perhaps man has ascended very, very recently then?  Yet today the sex trade industry flourishes worldwide, including within the vaunted borders of the United States.  

Doesn't quite fit the enlightenment narrative does it?  The facts are plain and simple: humanity struggles just as much today as it did during other dark periods of human history.  The malady of the human soul has not been overcome by modernity, materialism, or scientific and technological advances.  In fact it may be indicated that man has simply found more efficient ways of destroying one another.  

Has science really removed the need for God?  If that's so, then can science explain how the universe could pop into existence from nothing?  Can science explain how time + chance equals humanity, in all it's complexity?  If a bomb goes off in a junk yard will the result be a fully assembled car?  Perhaps we haven't thought through the science under-girding that assumption.  

Are ethics really relative?  Well, 2+2 = 4.  In math 2+2=4.  2+2=5 is an incorrect answer.  2+2=3 is also incorrect.  Math is not relative.  Neither is history.  The United States declared independence in 1776.  To say we declared independence in 1775 would be incorrect.  The same with saying 1777.  There is a simple correct answer, historically.  If I go to my bank account and ask how much is in it, and the clerk says $5.25, do you think she will let me take out $250,000.00?  Maybe $5.25 is true for her but not for me?  In monetary systems, truth is not relative, but objective.  In history, archaeology, math, scientific law, politics, and religion truth is not relative, but objective and absolute.  Why should ethics be different?  Hitler's concentration camps were evil, always, for everyone, at all times, in all places.  Whether Hitler exterminated Jews in Poland or France or Russia, it was always evil all the time.  

The apologetics are quite sound to me.  The science for God.  The history for God.  We've gone over it a hundred times in this blog.  Click here to view some of those discussions, if you'd like to learn more about the reasonable evidences for the Christian faith. 

Let's jump forward.  Given that the modern man's suppositions don't seem to hold up, there is only one direction to turn.  We must turn toward the roots of western civilization: Christianity.  The west was built by Christianity, by it's stabilizing moral function, in Europe as well as the United States.  

How does God come to us?  How do we come to him?  The experiences are extremely diverse.  Paul saw Jesus on the damascus road.  Today much the same is reported in areas of the world like India and China.  Christ appears to them directly.  Yet for many over history, it's been quite different.

For William Wilberforce, it was a ride in a carriage with a believer who shared his faith along the journey.  For Charles Colson it was on a drive home after being told about Jesus, and sobbing uncontrollably until he had to pull his car over because he couldn't see well enough to drive.  For Ravi Zacharias it was coming to faith in Christ after a suicide attempt at age seventeen.  For C.S. Lewis, it was reading G.K. Chesterton's The Everlasting Man.  For G.K. Chesterton it was investigating the arguments for atheism and finding them severely lacking.  For the NFL football player Deion Sanders it was winning a Superbowl, ordering a Lamborghini and feeling desperately empty at the moment of his greatest achievement.  For Bill Wilson founder of the twelve steps, it was a bright flash of light in his hospital room after he called out: "If there's a God out there show yourself!"  For author Eric Metaxas it was a dream of pulling a golden fish from a frozen lake of consciousness.  For rock musician Brian Welch (leader singer of Korn) it was being addicted to Meth and reading the scripture which read: "Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest."  For Annie Lobert it was calling out to Jesus for help in depths of prostitution and drug addiction.  For journalist Lee Strobel it was investigating the historical Jesus.  For Mark Driscoll it was walking into a fraternity party and feeling himself stopped at the door by a voice telling him that such a life wasn't meant for him.  For Nabeel Qureshi it was fighting to defend his Muslim beliefs and being convinced by the love presented by a friend who was a Christian.   

And then there's me.  God presents himself in a million different ways.  Naturally an omniscient God would do just that.  There isn't really a set pattern.  It's very often quite different for everyone.  There are many roads to the cross of Jesus Christ.  Much of my work on this blog is to draw roads to the cross.  And to let people know that they don't have to be a khaki button up shirt evangelical to know Jesus.  You can be an intellectual, a scientist, nerd, goth, hipster, indie rocker, college professor, architectural engineer, occupier, libertarian, liberal, conservative, skidrow bum, rich banker, poor garbage truck driver, American, eastern mystic, western new ager, southern baptist, northern materialist, and anything else you could imagine.  God doesn't require joining a stiff church congregation, taking up frisbee golf, or agreeing to be boring or listen to cheesy Christian rock, or convert to being a thin lipped judgmental bore who lifts their nose and says "I don't believe I'd wish to do that, that looks like it might be fun."  

God simply says, come to me and give me your heart, believe in my son Jesus Christ, and follow him.  

He bid me to do the same, in a special way.  He saw me in trouble.  He saw me believing a lot of lies.  He saw me addicted and troubled.  He saw me self sufficient maybe, but entirely empty.  God put a Bible in my hands.  He gave me dreams that made me want to search for the truth.  He taught me how to be a seeker.  He guided me along the path.  And he stepped into my writings, and showed me a way out of the wilderness.  God put the gospel of John in front of me, which I watched, read, listened to, and observed hundreds of times.  Finally it broke through my skull: Call out to Jesus for help.  And I did just that.  I called out to Jesus, and abandoned myself to his care in a very real way.

Then everything in my life changed.  I know it sounds cliche.  But it's true.  

There was of course a long progression to that point, over years.  Up until age 20 I had absolutely no interest in any amount of higher learning what so ever.  You might say I was a materialist, but I wasn't really anything.  I just did whatever felt good.  And screw the rest!  Eventually I started attending college, and learned to love reading and writing.  After daily journaling regarding philosophy and life and reality, and morals and principles and the human condition it wasn't until 2007 that I began to accept that perhaps there was something to spirituality.  I started off as a sort of esoteric new ager, dabbling in whatever felt right.  Tarot cards, zodiac signs, all of that stuff.  It wasn't until 2011, on a quiet morning watching humming birds buzz about the front yard flowers that I came to the revelation that "God is everywhere."  From there I began exploring the various faiths, and then in 2012 I called out to Jesus Christ for help.  It wasn't a short road to get there.  God meets us at many points in our lives.  He is the grand weaver.  And as it has been said: His brush is time.  

The Christian worldview.  It's reasonable.  It's right.  The evidence is everywhere.  The witnesses are many.  I've been touched.  So can you.  And you should.  We should all know the meaning of life: Coming to know the creator of life.  Coming to know the one who made the world and you and me.  That is the meaning of life itself, coming to know the God who made humanity, through Jesus Christ the savior who sets us right, because let's just be real: We all need a savior.  The world is a rough place.  We all need a savior.  That one should be easy to tell.  

Redemption is the meaning of life.  Jesus Christ is the way.  Is it really such a stretch?  Is it really so hard to believe?  We're all hurtling through space on a rock, yet we can't believe in miracles?  We've all heard of the genocides and world wars, yet we can't believe we need a savior?  We've all felt the emptiness without him, yet we can't seem to see that we should know God?   

Pray to God.  Talk to him.  He is available now.  Not later, now.  Talk to him!  Say something!  Begin that journey!  It's worth it.  The answer to the riddle of the meaning of life was not what I necessarily wanted to hear.  But it was what I needed to hear.  Trust me, it's real.  Ask God to reveal himself.  Be a seeker.  Pursue the truth.  He will reveal himself.  Thank you for reading.  

Heavenly Father, I pray you would reveal yourself to the one reading these words, who seeks to know what the truth is about you.  In Christ, Amen.  

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