Religion

The truth will set you free

Freedom is a bit of an obsession of mine, largely because of its relationship to truth.
If I believe a lie, I am a slave to the deceiver, because I don’t live according to the world I live in. I’m not in accordance with the nature of my existence.
If I tell lies or live a lie, I make a slave of myself, as I deny my own nature in favour of one that does not exist. A lie always concerns the liars nature, at the least by the idea that they know what they talk of.
What is freedom but being true to yourself? But who is yourself? We are such twisted creatures that we seem to be contradictory things at different times, and often at once. And not only are we divided, but we are profound. We contain depths beyond our own knowledge.
That ‘Who am I?’ is a valid question, is enough to show its significance. It is one of the greatest question of all. Whether we study maths, chemistry, animals, people, religion, God, or anything else, we’re looking for where we fit in, and what that makes us.

“If you continue in my word, you shall be my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth: and the truth shall make you free.”
John 8:31-32

What truth does Jesus mean? The truth about who we are.
According to Jesus and his disciples, we are the objects of God’s love, we are His children, we are called to His family. We are here to love. This is freedom.
But this is not just the answer for humanity. We are not loved just as a part of humanity, but as an individual child of God, made in His image. Our place isn’t as specks in a faceless mass.
We exist for perfect love. What is love?

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
1 John 3:16

Love is a giving, and especially a giving up. And love is also receiving, and sharing.
Love is giving what is good, and especially giving up what is good, for another’s sake. Love is sharing in another’s sorrows, weaknesses and struggles. And love is receiving another’s gifts of love, with joy, thanksgiving, and the plan of giving back whatever you can. And so, love is the complete sharing of life.
God gave us life and His Son, Jesus Christ gave up his life for us. By his incarnation, Jesus, the eternal Word made flesh, shared in the sorrows, weaknesses and struggles of all humanity. We ought to receive his gifts, including his very self, with joy, thanksgiving, and the plan of offering him ourselves, as we follow him, carrying our crosses. And he will be faithful, and receive our offering with joy, and continue to give himself to us. And we will share in his life, as he abides in us, and we abide in him.
This is what we truly are, this is what we are made for, and this is our freedom.

Love doesn’t seem to be perfect freedom. What if we were slaves? Would we not then be free by resistance and disobedience, rather than love?
No, because if we consistently disobeyed, for example, the masters could just tell us what not to do. My point is, we can even become slaves to resistance itself.
Undoubtedly, there are times and ways to resist all injustices, and it is an imperative of love to take such opportunities, but resistance is not freedom itself. Even in such conditions, love is the greatest freedom, because by love, we are our true selves no matter who or what may oppose us.
To love our enemies is not only righteous and relaxing, but genuinely liberating, as we live by the truth of us, of them, and of God, that no one’s actions can ever change.

I’d like to finish with a prayer:

Heavenly Father,
Help us to know, remember, and live by the truth;
Help us to live in freedom, and to liberate others;
Help us to live by your love, always.
Give us to love and seek the truth with all humility, and with great joy and zeal.
Teach us to be grateful to you at all times, for our existence and for our redemption, and so for our entire lives.
Teach us, by your Holy Spirit, to pay without ceasing, so that we may thank you always, serve you always, listen to you always, and accept you always.
Amen.

May God bless you, and your family.

The Old News

Christians have been reporting the same piece of “news” for nearly two thousand years. And hundreds of years before that, the prophets were predicting this same piece of news. After all this time, we still call it news, and we still report it, each and every day, around the entire world.

And it truly is news, even to this day. Even to those who have heard it a million times. Why? Because it’s still relevant to every single soul in the world. The “Good News” isn’t just about a one time event. Of course, a few unrepeatable events are crucial components of it, but equally, it’s about God coming down to you and to me, on this very day.

It’s news to us, both because we didn’t know about it beforehand, and because now we know, it changes everything. The salvation of humanity is the greatest event in all of history, and it’s as important today as on the day Jesus was born, the day he was crucified, and the day he rose again. Everything else is fleeting, and fading away, and come tomorrow no one will care, but the good news of the Kingdom of God changes all things in creation for all of eternity.

What’s more, it’s news to me every time I hear it. Yes, I have heard before, but I am forgetful. And while it’s relatively easy to get into the habit of living by the belief that God is “good”, it’s far tougher (and far more wonderful) to live by the belief that God is love. It’s shocking every time: God is merciful. Even while I haven’t forgotten, I am, so to speak, being continually shocked by this great truth. Further, He’s not merciful to us from a distance, and He’s not love in a vague and confusing aura of love; He is love, and He has mercy, in the person of Jesus Christ, God who took on flesh for us, and then gave his flesh for us, that we may live forever in him, and he in us. God is love, and He comes to us!

The gospel of our salvation is incredibly wonderful, and the most important truth in the universe. We should aim never to forget it, and never to neglect it. Not in thoughts, words, or deeds. It is truly our life.

This ancient truth is what matters. The most meaningful and wonderful truths in existence are held within it. It is to this old truth that we should be always looking, and not for a new understanding. I have often tried to write something original and “deep”, but I find that these are rarely worth reading. Such ideas may have some small worth, especially in a good context, but compared to the uncountable riches of salvation, they are nothing.

I should focus on the riches of God’s grace. Hopefully, what others have not yet found, I may show them, and if God one day allows me to notice a previously overlooked trinket among His treasures, then God will have shown me yet more favour that I don’t deserve.

That said, it is clear that we can’t all be full-time “theologians”, and I’m not sure a people composed entirely of theologians would be desirable. I am obliged to think about events other than salvation, and men other than Jesus. But at these times still, I should aim to keep in mind the gospel of God’s grace, which changes how we view all of reality, from the soul within us to the ground upon which we tread. There is nothing in reality which is not God’s, and there is nothing we should do if not for God. All things relate to the good news of my God, the Creator and the Redeemer. Perhaps this is part of what is meant by “pray without ceasing” (1Thess 5:17).

[I’d like to end with a prayer, if that’s all right. Let us close our eyes and pray. Are they closed yet? Good.]

Dear God, who by your mercy has offered us the gift of salvation,

Thank you for saving us.

Remind us constantly, and prepare our souls, to hold on to the good news of Your Kingdom.

By your grace, grant us the help we need to give up our all to possess Your Kingdom,

and to live out Your gospel, in love.

Help us to remember those who have not yet heard Your news,

and give us the courage and everything else we need, in order to share it with them.

Simplify our souls, so that we may accept your gospel entirely,

and live honestly before you.

Help us to pray better.

Thank you for the good news! You are so wonderful.

Amen.

[You may open your eyes now.]

May God bless you in all that you do.

Could we believe in God without knowing?

The idea of God is a tough one. Most who claim to believe in God would say He is a mystery. Plenty would say She is a mystery.
My question is, I suppose, what is belief in God? What does it look like?
A large part of the problem is words. Words are like empty pots that the hearer must fill with meaning, based on their position and the smells left behind by the meanings that have occupied it in the past. It’s a pretty risky way of communicating.
How many people might reject the word ‘God’ but actually believe in Him? Who knows.
What if you believe in a grand mystery? Is that ‘God’? What if you simply believe in goodness? Is that ‘God’? What if you believe in meaning, whether of life, or of the universe? Is this ‘God’? What if you just believe in something that transcends every individual? Is this belief in ‘God’? What if you believe there is something in man that is beyond man? Do you believe in ‘God’?
What if you don’t believe He is a ‘personal God’? Is this not belief? What if you don’t believe He’s best described as a He? Is this no longer belief? What if you don’t believe He’s particularly concerned with your life and its details? Is this not belief?

The word ‘God’ is a tricky pot, that is awkward to use because so many people at so many times have filled it in so many ways. So many different conceptions flood in with it. It would be understandable if everyone got together and agreed to never use it again. Think of all the clarity there could be.
However, I believe this is a mistake. The word ‘God’, I believe, signifies the ultimate beyond us, and that ultimate beyond us requires a word. This single word ‘God’ unites all who believe in this “ultimate beyond us”, in a more or less vague feeling of awe, and I don’t believe we should sacrifice that. Plus, without this word, it becomes impossible for us to have constructive and enlightening dialogue on the nature of the ultimate beyond us.
Calling It, ‘the Universe’ or ‘Fate’ or ‘Energy’ rather than ‘God’ is only evading necessary conflicts and questions. These words may be useful in their own right, but, in my opinion, to never say ‘God’ fails to adequately express the grandeur of such concepts.

For my part, I believe that Jehovah (I AM THAT I AM) is God.
I believe He deals with individuals, but is not there for the sake of any individual.
I believe He is like us, but in a way that is beyond us, so that imagining Him as one of us has limited use.
I believe that He is in every one of us, in a form. This may be called “the divine spark” or “the image of God” or simply “love”.
I believe that God is love.
I believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son. I believe that Christ is the Word in the flesh.
I believe that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I believe that He is the foundation of all things.
I believe that He is good, and that He is the source of all goodness. I do not believe He has anything evil in Him, or is the source of any evil.
I do not believe that He deals out punishment or reward except in the form of natural consequences or His own presence/withdrawal (and perhaps the two may be one).
I believe that He is a mystery, that may be understood in part, and explored further through experience and love.
I also like to call Him by masculine pronouns, as a default (eg. mankind) and to identify Him as the God of others who called Him ‘He’.

I believe it is better if we spend less time asking whether God exists, and more asking what He is like.

May ‘God’ bless you.

The Holiness of God

Speakpeacealways (a great blog, check it out) asked “Weelll… there are sooooo many questions one could ponder on, but the one that has been occupying my mind has been how to define/explain the holiness of God to someone who’s wondering if God exists and if He does, what kind of a person He is… hope that’s an interesting enough question.”

I believe holy basically means set apart (with strong religious connotations). It also has strong connotations of purity. So, I don’t think holiness is one aspect of God’s nature, but a way of describing His whole nature as different. Therefore, I think I would best reply by showing what sets God fundamentally apart from all else.

Truth is set apart from all lies. Likewise God is set apart from all false gods. All people belong to the truth, and the truth belongs to all people; likewise God is necessary for and works upon all people: God is universal, where lies and false gods are relevant only in the minds they live in.
God is perfect, and therefore set apart from all that is imperfect. By what standard is God perfect? By His own, which may be cheating, but since He created everything, only His standard will ever work for us, or anything else.
God is absolute. By this I mean that all He does, He does without half measures. He is not reserved, and does not have finite desires being subdued within Himself at any time. In this sense, He is pure, and apart from all things of half-measures.
God is set apart from us because He cannot be grasped. I mean this in two senses. Firstly, like truth, we cannot control God to our own ends. Secondly, He is beyond our knowledge.

that ye may be in strength to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, to know also the love of the Christ that is exceeding the knowledge, that ye may be filled—to all the fulness of God
Ephesians 3:18-19

God is infinite, and God is mysterious, and is beyond our knowledge. Yet, we may know Him, and even ‘be filled–to all the fulness of God’. This brings us back round to God’s universal nature, accessible to all. He is both ungraspable and universal.

He is also set apart by His actions, particularly His work in Jesus, God the Son.

And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of an only begotten of a father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

One thing that sets the Christian God apart from other gods is His willingness to be among us, despite being so far above us.

who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal to God, but did empty himself, the form of a servant having taken, in the likeness of men having been made, and in fashion having been found as a man, he humbled himself, having become obedient unto death—death even of a cross
Philippians 2:6-8

Here is a God that is humble, setting Him apart from gods and men.
We have a God who chose to die, and death upon a cross. And this of all things was His means of salvation. A God who is without sin, yet descends to Earth and dies for sinners.
Why did Jesus die? Because ‘God is love’. God is apart from us because He is absolute love, and all things good and meaningful have their source in the absolute love that is God.

in this we have known the love, because he for us his life did lay down, and we ought for the brethren the lives to lay down
1John 3:16

The crucifixion was the perfect expression of God’s love. Love in comfort means far less than love in torture, and while God may have loved us from power,He decided to do so better from weakness.

God’s holiness is all His own, and yet we may share in it (His sharing also sets Him apart).

and we—we have known and believed the love, that God hath in us; God is love, and he who is remaining in the love, in God he doth remain, and God in him.
1John 4:16

God’s people are set apart by their conduct, their humility, their courage, their hope, their faith, and especially their love. As God is holy, so are they.
If you’re seeking to see God’s holiness in action, they are probably your fastest option.

God bless you.

Any questions?

I haven’t posted anything for more than a month now, for a few reasons. I was slightly busy at first. Then, it was a matter of being uncertain of what I wrote, and even when I was pretty certain, I wasn’t sure it was even worth anyone reading.

So my solution here, is that I will ask you for questions, then try to answer in a post as best as I can. Not that I have the answers, but I want to explore questions and see what may be found. I need some guide of what to consider and what to share, and I think questions fit the bill nicely. I expect I may have to give various thoughts on each question rather than an answer.
So please share with me any questions, areas you’re curious about, or challenges to my ideas. I generally post a combo of philosophy, politics, theology and general religion (often with an emphasis on freedom) but anything will do.
Maybe if there’s something you have been pondering for a while, and would like to see another’s perspective on, you could share that. Or maybe if you have a question on something I’ve posted in the past, you could share that.
Please give me a question. I don’t want to be the fool answering questions no one asked.

Thank you very much and God bless you.

There is no necessary evil

The argument that some evil is necessary is used to defend some evil acts. For example, someone might say that because there are evil people in the world trying to do evil, the good must use evil, when there is no other way, to restrain the evil.

There are two problems with this idea (but the first is maybe just an explanation of the second).

Firstly, evil has a tendency to escape and overflow such situations (eg. The abuses by militaries of their enemies and innocents). This means that it is doubtable if evil policies ever decrease the total evil. ‘Fighting fire with fire’ doesn’t work literally (ask a firefighter), and I don’t see why it would metaphorically. Is there anything in existence that lessens itself? Anything that drives itself out? Anything that defeats itself? Why should evil be unique in this way?

Secondly, I have never heard of anything in existence, where its own existence is an argument for its necessity. Please tell me if you can think of one. Unless evil is a unique substance in this way, or I’ve overlooked a similar substance, or it does not truly exist, it cannot be necessary because of itself.

Evil can’t defeat itself, nor excuse itself.

The three options I see are that
1. Evil doesn’t exist
2. Evil isn’t evil to evil people
3. Evil is never necessary for the sake of evil.

Religion (and morality) refuse option 1. Evil exists as much as good does.
Jesus rejects option 2., when he tell us,

‘but I—I say to you, not to resist the evil’
Matthew 5:39

And,

‘but I—I say to you, Love your enemies, bless those cursing you, do good to those hating you, and pray for those accusing you falsely, and persecuting you, that ye may be sons of your Father in the heavens’
Matthew 5:44-45

Jesus and Paul accept option 3. when Jesus tells us to

be perfect, as your Father who is in the heavens is perfect.
Matthew 5:48

and when Paul clarifies the Christian position to

Be not overcome by the evil, but overcome, in the good, the evil.
Romans 12:21

God bless you