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Friday, December 26, 2014

Redeemer and Hope

I think that I have broached this several times in the past, but I have reason to believe that it runs counter to the prevailing assumptions and needs to be repeated. 

What is God's basic attitude toward the world (kosmos in Greek) which He has created? In light of that, what is our basic response?

One stream of Scripture says that all things are in God's hand. He controls everything. If it happened, God did it. There is truth to this, because, after all, if God created all that is then He is ultimately the source of all that is. God sustains creation as well. He "thinks/speaks" it into being. Creation is dependent on God to exist, it is "contingent." Many texts of Scripture go so far as to say that God creates weal and creates woe. Obviously, many Christians believe that God controls every single event, some go so far as to negate human freedom.

On the other hand, the Scriptures also refer to human response to God (whether faithful or sinful). Human culpability would seem to imply God is not controlling everything. We are not merely "sock puppets" but have, to some extent, freedom. We make choices and we have regrets for things we have done or left undone. 

For me, the primary image of Scripture is "the God Who saves." Salvation, or redemption, is God's rescue operation. It seems that God has made a creation from which He is withdrawn (a common feature of Biblical Revelation) and into which He intervenes. When bad things happen we turn to God for rescue and safety. At times, God's wrath (negative judgment) may be behind it all. This can be seen in places where we read that God has 'sent' a punishment (in the form of a foreign invader or a drought, for two examples) because the people are unfaithful. If God saves, and I would argue that is the primary thing He does, then all things are redeemable (potentially).

Human illness can be healed. This is a Divine intervention (whether miraculous or through more ordinary channels) where God 'saves' one from death. However, eventually, death wins. There are times when sick people die. Resurrection is the ultimate redemption. God takes life back from death's grasp. So, St. Paul, who lived in third world conditions and was very familiar with suffering and death, was able to say "Death where is your victory? Death where is your sting?" How could a man who suffered so much and saw to much able to think such a thing? Because of his experience of resurrection.

In the end, salvation makes sense of it all. Not now, certainly, when we see through a glass darkly and live only by faith. Someday, however, it shall be clearer.

This is why the birth of the Messiah matters, we are able to understand the means and mode of that salvation. God become human, God taking into Himself our human situation and condition, including suffering and death--this is how He does it. We await that deliverance in its final form, but here and now, today, we have a foretaste and a reason for joy and hope!


  1. People forget that His kingdom has not arrived. This life is a bumpy road. Lord Jesus, come. Maranantha

  2. >For me, the primary image of Scripture is "the God Who saves." Salvation, or redemption, is God's rescue operation.

    Tell me, Jeff--can God rescue you from your own determination to wallow in ignorance, bigotry, and immaturity? Such a deliverance would almost tempt even me to believe in miracles.

  3. Yes, God can even save me!. And more importantly for you, Michael, He can save you. You can stop blaming God for everything that is not exactly what you want. You can actually find peace.
    I wish you well in the coming year.

  4. >You can stop blaming God for everything that is not exactly what you want.

    I don't blame God for anything, Jeff, since He isn't there, any more than I blame Lord Voldemort for his evil designs on Hogwarts--he doesn't exist either.

    As I've observed before, clear thinking doesn't really come easily to you, does it? As one character observes to another in "The Great Divorce," "There's a certain...lack of grip."

    If I thought a God were there, I would ask him, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Indonesian tsunami, if He wasn't responsible for that, who was? Fortunately, I don't look for mythical explanations--that is the sort of thing that appeals to you.

    In fact, something extraordinarily fortunate did happen to me this year that seemed inexplicable. After nearly two years of unemployment, with my retirement savings gone and my credit cards maxed out, a job suddenly "fell into my lap" 3 months ago out of nowhere, and it's the highest-paying job I've ever had. The whole thing is so crazy that if I operated at your primitive level, I would have to say "It had to be God."

    But facts, as John Adams once remarked, are stubborn things, and no fact can possibly point to the existence of an infinite being outside time and space. So while myth tickles your fancy, for those of us who are honest with themselves, reality beckons. Perhaps one day you will realize that as well. I continue to hope.

  5. Read this: "Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God," WSJ article 12/25/2014. If the link does not work, search Google.
    The calculations of science may, in fact, suggest a Creator.

    1. Jim, I'm not sure, but if you are who I think you are, you are an elderly gentleman who has a house in Camden, Maine, and you made a significant personal impression on me on the couple of times I visited the St. Andrew's men's group--you struck me as someone with a great deal of graciousness and humility.

      I am sorry to be in the position of having to offend you, but the calculations of science can't possibly suggest a Creator, since science can't find data outside the physical world, and a Creator, if He existed, would have to be above, beyond, and previous to, the physical world and everything else that exists.

      In other words, if He were there, He would have to exist in a realm that science could not measure or touch.

      It would be like an eyeball trying to see itself. It would be like a fetus in the womb trying to figure out who its great-grandparents were. It just can't happen.

      This program won't accept posts above a certain length. If it was designed to measure posts by sense and validity, it would not accept anything by Jeff at all. In any case, I have to split my post and will continue in a moment.

    2. (Continued)

      As to the article, I clicked on your link, but it only points to the first paragraph or so of the Wall St. Journal and after that, you have to be a subscriber, and since the Journal proclaims as truth a great deal that is nonsense, I am not inclined to subscribe.

      The idea of an Infinite Creator appealed to scientists up to the days of George Washington and even beyond. Now, we know that the universe began with something very much like an explosion, that it continues to fly apart forever, that the parts that are farthest from us are moving away even faster than before, that one day, scientists on earth will be unable to tell that there are any other galaxies at all, and that eventually, the universe will wind down to a cold, dead void.

      Meanwhile, science tells us that on a cosmic scale, our planet frequently comes within a hair of a catastrophic collision with another stellar body such that all life might be wiped out. And if that doesn't happen, our Sun will eventually collapse on itself and die and, long before that, our planet will have been absorbed ever more closely into the Sun's gravity, such that the oceans will boil, life on earth will become unsustainable, and all life will die.

      Moreover, out of millions of living species that have ever thrived, only one could think, most species of living things are beetles (that's really true), and the one species that can think is also walking upright on two legs in a frame obviously designed for walking on all fours, which can lead to a life of chronic back pain.

      The idea that any of this points to an "All-Wise Creator" is quite simply a joke--sorry.

      Jeff doesn't realize this because he paid little attention in science class in high school.

      I see the software still considers my post as being too long. I will continue in a moment.

    3. (Continued)

      Yes, George Washington paid decided tribute to the "All-Wise Providence" that alone, in his view, had enabled the moral foundations of our nation. That was an understandable view in his day shared, to some extent, even by Thomas Paine. It is also true that when George Washington worshiped at Anglican service, he refused to go forward to receive the Eucharist and, when chided for that by a priest, refused to attend services in that parish again. So I'm not sure how applicable his example is.

      As to being on the team with George and Jeff, I would always want to be on any team that had the character of George, a man of prudence and strength for whom I have the greatest admiration, though I also note that even though he was quite well aware, for the last 20 hours of his life, that he was dying, he never once called for a minister or asked for prayers to be read over his deathbed. But he was a man of oak and iron to whom this nation owes an incalculable debt.

      As to being on Jeff's team, well, in a sense, I already am, since he is no more a Christian than I am. That may seem strange, but it is quite true. The "God" Jeff believes in does not know the future, which is like saying the Memphis Chief of Police has never actually been sworn in and does not actually have a badge. Jeff is not only not a Christian but not even a grown man; he is a clever boy who likes to see how cute and creative he can be with the scriptures that he really doesn't know very much about in the first place.

      I know this sounds shoclking, but I assure you, Jim, that you are really giving Jeff more credit than he deserves.He is to the Christian ministry as I am to Olympic pole-vaulting--each is a non-starter.

      There are perceptions, and there are facts, and sometimes they don't really line up with each other, I last visited Mt. Vernon 4 years ago, and there was a sweet lady reenacting Martha Washington and conversing with visitors. I said I was from Tennessee, and she said she didn't know where that was, even though Tennessee became a state during Washington's lifetime (1796), so she was mistaken. Jeff also doesn't know the Bible, even as this nice lady did not know that part of history. I didn't care to argue with her, but the integrity of St. Andrew's as a parish precisely depends on arguing with Jeff and confronting him for his ignorance and folly, which are two parts of his makeup to which he clings desperately. It is impossible for him to make any progress until he gives them up. And he wants very much to cling to them.

      If you are who I think you are, Jim,you are a very nice man, and considerably nicer than I am.

      But if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. The question is whether you will truly help him--or merely confirm him in his folly by misplaced praise.

      What feels good is not always what is best. This is doubly true in Jeff's case.

  6. George Washington shared strong beliefs about religion in his farewell address citing religious principles as the foundations of justice. He cautions that morality cannot be maintained without religion. Can't claim any great intellect for myself but believe I want to be on the team with George and Jeff.

  7. Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God
    The odds of life existing on another planet grow ever longer. Intelligent design, anyone?
    Dec. 25, 2014 4:56 p.m. ET
    In 1966 Time magazine ran a cover story asking: Is God Dead? Many have accepted the cultural narrative that he’s obsolete—that as science progresses, there is less need for a “God” to explain the universe. Yet it turns out that the rumors of God’s death were premature. More amazing is that the relatively recent case for his existence comes from a surprising place—science itself.

    Here’s the story: The same year Time featured the now-famous headline, the astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were two important criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from that star. Given the roughly octillion—1 followed by 24 zeros—planets in the universe, there should have been about septillion—1 followed by 21 zeros—planets capable of supporting life.

    With such spectacular odds, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a large, expensive collection of private and publicly funded projects launched in the 1960s, was sure to turn up something soon. Scientists listened with a vast radio telescopic network for signals that resembled coded intelligence and were not merely random. But as years passed, the silence from the rest of the universe was deafening. Congress defunded SETI in 1993, but the search continues with private funds. As of 2014, researches have discovered precisely bubkis—0 followed by nothing.

    What happened? As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan supposed. His two parameters grew to 10 and then 20 and then 50, and so the number of potentially life-supporting planets decreased accordingly. The number dropped to a few thousand planets and kept on plummeting.

    Even SETI proponents acknowledged the problem. Peter Schenkel wrote in a 2006 piece for Skeptical Inquirer magazine: “In light of new findings and insights, it seems appropriate to put excessive euphoria to rest . . . . We should quietly admit that the early estimates . . . may no longer be tenable.”

    As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero, and kept going. In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here.

    Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.

    Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?

  8. There’s more. The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces—gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces—were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction—by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000—then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp.

    Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against the universe existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row. Really?

    Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term “big bang,” said that his atheism was “greatly shaken” at these developments. He later wrote that “a common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology . . . . The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

    Theoretical physicist Paul Davies has said that “the appearance of design is overwhelming” and Oxford professor Dr. John Lennox has said “the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator . . . gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.”

    The greatest miracle of all time, without any close seconds, is the universe. It is the miracle of all miracles, one that ineluctably points with the combined brightness of every star to something—or Someone—beyond itself.

    Mr. Metaxas is the author, most recently, of “Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life” ( Dutton Adult, 2014).

  9. Jim, thanks for sharing the entire article. Sadly, it represents the kind of sloppy thinking that makes people think they are understanding science while still giving them permission to believe in fairy tales.

    Let's start with the subheadline of the article: "Intelligent design, anyone?" Really? The article itself says that out of billions and trillions of stars and planets in the universe, few or none are likely to support life. Then it goes on to imply that the presence of life on our planet must be miraculous. And it calls this evidence of "intelligent design."

    The greatest city in the world at this time is Tokyo, with a population of 35 million. If you knew an engineer who built something the size of a thousand Tokyos, almost of all of it uninhabitable, for the sole purpose of populating a single room in that expanse with a large cage full of mice, would you call that engineer an *intelligent* designer?

    If you can answer that, you will see what some of us are less than impressed with the credulity that seems to inform the thinking of the author of the article.

    By his own showing, the universe that "must" have been brought into being or else we wouldn't be here, is largely empty, dead, cold, and useless. And even though he doesn't get into this, something similar is true on earth. Most of the living things that have ever lived are extinct. There have been five great "die-offs" in which all living things were nearly wiped out. Where is the "intelligence" in that?

    No, sorry--the evidence supports my way of thinking, not that of the author of the article.

    But, his proponents insist, if the universe were not here, we would not be here, so that is miraculous, or wonderful, or something.

    Only if you assume that we were "supposed" to be here and that if we weren't, something would have been "wrong." But why assume any such thing? The idea of "supposed to" is an interpretation that we put on things; reality doesn't care whether our universe was "supposed to" come into being or not or whether we were "supposed to" be here. Certain forces are what they are, so here we are; if they were different, we wouldn't be here. I wouldn't be typing the truth, Jeff wouldn't be typing falsehoods, the Tea Party wouldn't be trying to shut down the government, Chelsea Handler wouldn't be posting provocative photos, and another Asian airliner wouldn't have gone missing. Perhaps a different universe might have come into being, with different living things in it, or perhaps nothing at all would exist. Who knows? Eric Metaxas doesn't know, nor does Paul Davies, or John Lennox. Carl Sagan, on the other hand, certainly did know something about science which he called, compared to religion, "a candle in the dark." I agree.

  10. By an interesting coincidence, I came across this article this morning. Despite the occasional instance of a famous scientist or philosopher having religious belief, it has about the same importance as a famous scientist or philosopher believing in Bigfoot or alien abductions. Francis Collins, one of the most distinguished living biologists, is a Christian. He was moved to convert, first, because he read "Mere Christianity" and second, because while on a hike, he came across a frozen waterfall, and the three streams of the waterfall reminded him of the Trinity, so he knelt and "gave his life to Christ."

    He is certainly entitled to do that if he wishes, but for most people, religious belief decreases as intelligence and education increase.