Lunatic Religion

Between the fact that I’m online a fair amount of time each day and the fact that I am a fifth grade teacher who has to do a lot of paperwork and planning, I spend a lot of time inside facing a computer. Doing so gives me the opportunity to see a lot of different images. Often, I come across a photo with a natural subject and find myself somewhat impressed by its beauty, regardless of the fact that I’m viewing a pixelated version of the real thing on a digital screen.

Fortunately, however, there are also times that I do get to be outside. It may be standing outside during car-rider duty viewing the rural scenery near the school where I work or accompanying students on the school nature trail to collect check for footprints at one of our tracking stations. Likewise, the necessities of lawn mowing and exercise also afford me opportunities to be outdoors.

Surely, not all of my moments outside are spent in rapt awe of the natural beauty that exists in nature, but, when comparing the beauty that I take in through a photo on a computer screen to an actual tree branch swaying in the wind on a breezy afternoon, there is no comparison. I am utterly convinced that no form or model devised by mankind will ever be able to fully replicate the beauty and splendor of witnessing, in person, the real, ecological and geological evidence of God in the natural world around us.

The same comparison, I believe, can be drawn between our life experiences as humans on earth and the hope that we have in life everafter. As an elementary science teacher with a very basic understanding of the scientifically-minded portholes through which we attempt to understand God’s creation, I honestly believe that the most advanced scientific theories only begin to scratch the surface of what is true about how this world came to be. No human mental construct will ever be able to fully comprehend or understand the magnitude of God. I’m not throwing out evolution or creation, but, conceding that it is an open-ended question that we may not fully understand until we are taught the truth by the one responsible for it all. If God did post all of the details of creation in Genesis, the earth itself wouldn’t be able to support the weight of the book.

Parallels, here too, can be drawn to our limited understanding of the dynamics that exist with regard to life, death, purpose, hope, and peace. From a logical and common cultural perspective, the idea that our whole justification comes from a God who became a helpless and homeless infant who would some day be executed, to the idea that, despite our vile selfishness as a species, we can live endlessly with that God, true Christianity is ludicrous! The creator of all life bent down and washed the feet of his followers, as a servant would, and instructed them then to do the same for each other. He actually wants us to kneel down in humble servitude and believe the promise that, if we accept His grace, we can live forever with him. From the perspective of your typical, independent, hard-working, pioneering American, this concept is absolutle lunacy!

As the late singer/songwriter Rich Mullins once said, “If you want a religion that makes sense, I suggest something other than Cristianity. But, if you want a religion that makes life, then, I think this is the one.”

My life doesn’t have definition and purpose because somebody was able to logically speculate the legitimacy of a scientific theory explaining how the earth came to be. My being, instead, has been infused with a faith in what I don’t and can’t fully comprehend. It is a faith that provides peace beyond understanding. My hope lies wrapped in a glorious life that even my imagination is too limited to contain.


“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
1 Corinthians 13:12

Eyes Have Not Seen

Are there mysteries we should know?
can I find them in a book?
will science give us answers
to the questions we make up?

Oh, Lord have mercy on my soul,
my way this faithless sight,
how my mind bends for your law
in a world of constant plight.

If we could but see it all
past these tangible things,
if we could but touch the open space
to see the horde of silent wings

And in the darkness hear a song
a song of ancient ages
and catch a glimpse of He who sat
in the middle of the angels.

Eyes have not seen,
nor ears have heard.

by Kevin Max
from AT THE FOOT OF HEAVEN, 1994

Christian. Really?

Men are a very poor reflection of God. The basis of true Christianity is the belief that Jesus of Nazareth was and is the Son of God, the infinite and eventually incomprehensible Creator of life. All of the Old Testament leading up to the birth of Christ and everything that has happened since are subject to the One who was born homeless, in a borrowed barn, and laid in a troth. Whether an atheist, a Buddhist, or anyone else believes this is true or not is irrelevant to the point that this is the foundation of Christianity: the character and being of God was revealed to us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ here on earth.

With the foundational belief that Jesus was God revealed in human form, it is perfectly logical to place great emphasis on the actions and teachings of Jesus Christ as being synonymous with the characteristics and wisdom of God. While here on earth Jesus taught, fed, healed, and served. His daily life was humility and selflessness manifested in human form and he instructed His followers to live the same way:

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:37-40

“If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” John 13:14-15

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

The failure of most Christians to embody these teachings, characteristics, and values in their daily lives is undeniable, but, the fact should be recognized for what it is: humans are imperfect, human reflections of a perfect God. If I didn’t know anything about Jesus and I only had the lives of Christians to go by as a testament to Christianity, I fear that I would also think of the Christian life as foolishness because of the gargantuan gap between the way that Christ lived on earth and the way that so many Christians, including myself much of the time, live now. Pompous piety will achieve nothing without the embodiment, through grace, of Christ’s character and teachings in our daily lives.

If There Is A God

God doesn’t exist. How could a righteous God exist with all of the war, sickness, death, oppression, and poverty that exists in the world? The truth is that life is meaningless. It is senseless without any substantial rhyme or reason. No purpose.

But, wait! If this is the case, where did I get my sense of what is righteous and just in relation to what is crooked and unfair? If life was really meaningless and senseless, we shouldn’t notice because, without meaning and sense, how would we have any idea of meaning and sense is?

This brings me back to a point that I’ve made several times before. If there really isn’t a God, then why do we have atheists? If I am an atheist, why am I taking an intentionally defensive stance against something that isn’t really there to defend against?

Why do people do good things for others, but, then refuse payment for their good deeds? You may say that they did it to make themselves feel good. But, if that is so, why does it make them feel good?

The fact that we are bothered by injustice indicates that justice exists. A standard exists by which we compare what is right and what is not.

What is left, then, is to come to grips with the existence of injustice. I don’t have a magic bullet answer, but, at the same time, in my own experience I have found greater peace and meaning in my life by experiencing difficulties.

God is love and His nature is revealed in James 1:27 where the bible says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” It is likely that the pain so evident in the world now is consequentially related, through a spider web of chain reactions, to humanistic tendencies manifested in the earliest history of man on earth.

We don’t have all of the answers right now, but, He does. He is the source of the justice that flickers like a moral pilot light in us and He will prevail. 1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

“If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know that it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.”
-C.S. Lewis

Understanding The Indefinable – Is My Belief My Own?

From DEVOTIONS FOR RAGAMUFFINS by Brennan Manning, Pp.305:

You cannot apply human logic or justice to Yahweh. Human logic is based on human experience and human nature. Yahweh does not conform to this kind of order. If Israel is unfaithful, God remains faithful. The Being of Revelation remains faithful against all logics and all limits of justice because He Is and is unchanging. It is only this note of his persistence. Love tends to be a bit irrational. It pursues despite infidelity; it blossoms into envy, jealousy, anger – frantic anger, which betrays keen interest. The notion of love not only gives a fuller notion of divine nature, but by blossoming into other notions of passion, wrath, and eagerness, it widens our notion of God. The more complex and emotional the image of God becomes in the Bible, the bigger he grows and, paradoxically, the more we approach the mystery of his indefinability.

From DEVOTIONS FOR RAGAMUFFINS by Brennan Manning, Pp.337:

 If there is one thing I have learned in the gathering mist of midlife, it is that the journey from Haran to Canaan is a personal one. Each one of us bears the responsibility of responding to the call of Christ individually and committing ourselves to him personally. Do I believe in Jesus or in the preachers, teachers,  and cloud of witnesses who have spoken to me about him? Is the Christ of my belief really my own or that of theologians, pastors, parents, and Oswald Chambers? No one – not parents or friends or church – can absolve us of this ultimate personal decision regarding the Who do you say that I am – is addressed to every would-be disciple.

More Thoughts on Atheists Attempting To Refute God

About a month ago I posted the following:

If you don’t believe in God, why are you so concerned with hashing out the idea that He doesn’t exist in a blog? I ask this knowing that the times in my past when I’ve most wanted to stand up for the perspective of atheistic life were times when my own conscience shivered – because something was touching a sensitive nerve buried deep in my soul. If God doesn’t exist and doesn’t matter, why not blog about something else?

For the post in its original forms – with responses go to… https://gracemark.wordpress.com/2007/07/04/brief-thought-on-blogs-attempting-to-refute-god/

The main purpose of this post is to point to an essay I came across that I thought was interesting and related to my original thought posted above:

SEVEN STEPS FOR ATHEISTS

By Richard Bewes

You’re hard at it, my friends – some of you; but you need a more vigorous recruiting method if you’re to have a hope of turning the world atheist. For all the efforts of a number of your champions, you’re falling behind on a number of fronts. Ought you not perhaps to disown some of your more prominent up-front spokespersons – who only seem to be turning out the well-worn slogans and boring cliches of many centuries?  As an outsider to your cause, then, here are a few tips – nothing too heavy:

1. Up-grade your message

The BBC, here in the UK, does you a good turn from time to time, in sticking an atheist on its ‘religious’ morning programme Thought for the Day. As a Christian I’ve done a number of Thoughts myself for them.But why do your representatives come up with such daft and stale  utterances as that given by your Richard Dawkins? – “Humanity can now leave the cry-baby stage and learn that it has finally come of age.” We’ve heard this sort of thing before. My goodness – we would like to see some substantial indication  of the truth behind Dawkins’ statement. When was the turning point of our growing-up supposed to have taken place?

It was the celebrated Professor C.E.M. Joad who thought that the point was being reached quite early in the twentieth century; that our problems could be dealt with as circumstantial – relating to environment, lack of education and the ‘growing pains’ of the human race. But Joad completely back-tracked in 1952, after the experience of two world-wars. In his book Recovery of Belief, he admitted that such a theory “has been rendered utterly unplausible by the events of the last 40 years. To me, at any rate, the view of evil implied by Marxism, expressed by Shaw and maintained by modern psychotherapy, a view which regards evil as a by-product of circumstances, which circumstances can therefore alter and even eliminate, has come to seem intolerably shallow.”

So, in the face of today’s escalating wars, conflicts  and atrocities on a bewildering variety of fronts, it’s a suggestion (only a suggestion) that you do what we Christians have done. Despite all the world problems that perplex us, we at least have worked out a framework of thinking that takes account of how evil entered our world, what God has done about it and how we may confront it. Suggestion: let the ‘growing-up’ argument be tactfully ditched, and some re-thinking be done. If not Dawkins, then someone else should try a little harder.

2. Be positive about your atheism

I once did a debate with a group of atheists and agnostics in Harold Wood, Essex, years ago; they were the Havering Humanists. I wasn’t too surprised when, some years later, they folded up – because in the debate I was aware, not of what they were for, but only of what they were against –and that was Christianity.

It doesn’t add much to the argument when one of your representatives, Philip Pulman, declares, “Without a doubt Christianity will  cease to exist in a few years.” Does he not know that the Emperor Diocletian even had a medal struck at the turn of the third century AD, to celebrate the end of Christianity?  In the end it was the Roman empire that bit the dust. Voltaire some two centuries ago prophesied that the Bible would soon be obsolete. He would have been surprised if he had known that his own Parisian residence would one day be turned into a Bible depot.

No, the historian T.R. Glover is nearer the mark in his words, “The final disappearance of Christianity has been prophesied so often as to be no longer interesting.”  See to it, then; surely you atheists can improve on these clapped-out sentiments?

And it is absolutely no answer at all, when asked what your world-view is, to answer “I’m an atheist”; what we would want to know is not what you don’tdo believe, about life and its meaning, on this world. How do you interpret your own existence? What is life for? believe, but what you

It was Mahatma Gandhi years ago who was once asked to organise and promote an atheistic cult. He replied, “It amazes me to find an intelligent person who fights against something in which he does not believe.” Exactly.  Atheism is a denial – and if it simply stays as that, then its only reason for existing is parasitic. So my tip for the atheist is, See if you can develop a positive message which does not rely on an adversary to keep its momentum going! Otherwise, all you will do is to harden and strengthen the defences of your opponents. So what do you believe – positively?

3. Be creative about your atheism

Forget what you’re trying to attack; there’s no lasting future in that. Instead, start to express your atheism creatively; to address sonnets to it, to create sculptures – and dedicate concertos to it. I’m not sure you have done much in this field of sheer creativity yet; symphonies, paintings, statues, poetry? Most of the art galleries in Europe seem to be stuffed with the work of Christians.  See if you can fill the beautiful museums of this world with vivid and attractive expressions of your belief-system.  Anything else? –

4. Be populist in your appeal

Rallies, for example. Oh, you need to do more than book a London theatre for an esoteric debate with some religious cleric. That will only feed yourselves. No, think towards filling  the biggest football stadiums you can – with people who are ready (and even longing?) for something better than what they are living for now. Like Billy Graham has done at Wembley Stadium. Why you might even emulate him as he did in Korea, and have a million  in your audience at a disused airfield! He and Pope John Paul; they did tend to think big.  Work a little harder.

Can you do the equivalent of BBC Television’s  Songs of Praise?  Let’s hear your atheistic music with its positive lyrics than can lift, inspire and give new hope to millions!

5. Show us your virtues

It would be a help if you can show us around atheistic youth clubs and camps and summer houseparties and any work you may be doing among orphans; let’s see your family and play groups, and community centres.

Could you take us on a tour of your work among the down-and-outs and the homeless,  and your equivalent of the Salvation Army’s soup kitchens? And your centres for Aids sufferers? And the hospice movement – had you thought of getting any homes established,  and staffing them yourselves?

And – if we can be really adventurous – take us abroad for a peep at your leprosariums?  I remember meeting Dr. Dennis Burkitt (of the Burkitt Lymphoma fame) out in Tanzania. He told me that he had been all over the tropics. Every single one of the leprosy hospitals he had ever visited were begun and run by Christians. Surely there must be one, run by an atheist organisation? 

You see, I’m not absolutely sure that we have seen all that you have done, or could do, for suffering humanity. It’s only my tip….

 6. Can you develop a ritual?

Every movement of substance needs a form of celebration, if it is to appeal to great masses of people. I suppose that the only really big atheistic movements in recent times were Communism and Fascism.  And indeed for a while they did pull young people into their ranks, with marches, flags, songs, parades, medals and orchestrated adulation of the leadership. Have you plans for a similar exercise? Always assuming, I hope, that you would avoid the persecution of non-adherents – the burning of books, the pulling down of buildings and destruction of family life  that seemed to go hand in hand with these organised movements?

So, I’d be glad to see how you celebrate your atheism. Which leads me to my last and seventh tip:

7. Let’s see some joy in your lifestyle

Oh we Christians have sometimes been accused of being kill-joys!  Perhaps that has occurred when our beliefs have become rigidly nominal and mechanical. But visit a community which bears a close and personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and I would then ask whether you too have an infectious enthusiasm and joy that overspill with songs, love and practical service into the surrounding society, as theirs do, in community after community, in country after country – even when the government and the media try to shut down their operation. We have millions  of martyrs on our roll of honour. I have known some of them. They were honoured to die for Christ. How far would you be prepared to be killed for your beliefs?

Are your prophets and your champions happy people? Do they come across that way? For they – and you also – will certainly need to show some joy, if others are to be drawn like a magnet into the sheer satisfaction  of an atheistic world-view that really holds together and makes sense of the universe! 

So, try a little harder. Seven tips, my friends. I wonder if this helps.

(From http://www.richardbewes.com/comments-6.html )

Brief Thought On Blogs Attempting To Refute God

If you don’t believe in God, why are you so concerned with hashing out the idea that He doesn’t exist in a blog? I ask this knowing that the times in my past when I’ve most wanted to stand up for the perspective of atheistic life were times when my own conscience shivered – because something was touching a sensitive nerve buried deep in my soul. If God doesn’t exist and doesn’t matter, why not blog about something else?

Finding Life Through Sacrifice

The beauty of God is the grace of God. The splendor of life as a follower of Christ is the utter humility that Jesus has called us to live in. To sacrifice personal gratification in favor of truth in giving is favorable to He who gave all for us. To do so when nobody is watching is to live as Jesus called us to. It is a perspective that runs counter to the predominant sentiment of our culture. While the reality of our self-centered nature often wins out over the ideal of putting first what is right and good, it is an ideal that is reflective of His character and an ideal that, by His grace, we are able to meet through Him.