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In relationships to be serious is to be monogamous or dedicated. One cannot be serious about someone and at the same time seek to be with others in the same way. Faithfulness is equated with being serious, as I think it should be. In one’s art, career or sport, to be serious is to be disciplined and dedicated to the mastering of that thing, to being as successful as possible. Practice, honing of the craft and constant improvement are the lifestyle of one who is seen as serious.

There seems to be a discrepancy with how we view a seriousness of faith in our culture today. One who goes to church on Sundays is considered one serious about their faith. Praying, knowing Bible verses and even showing a passion for certain issues such as abortion, sexuality, poverty and others, are all indications that one is serious about their faith. There is however a great distinction between being serious about the Gospel and being serious about Spiritual discipline and some theological, cultural and social issues.

We live in the aftermath of the Enlightenment. One consequence of this is that many of us live our lives day by day unknowingly following the rules and principles that that movement has set for our Western world. We are children, in a sense, of the Enlightenment and therefore have inherited the good and the bad that worldview has produced. One of these rules states that religion is good only for one’s individual private spiritual practice. This rule made it possible for great minds like that of Ben Franklin, to confess a faith in God and yet act and behave politically and scientifically as one free of that faith. For the Enlightenment, God and his Law have no place in the public square, the classroom or the laboratory.

I believe this has had a great affect on our world, the world we have been born into and have grown up in. This world, where many of us have raised and are raising children, operates under the premise that God is not concerned with, or involved in it outside of one’s church walls or prayer closet. What we do in the world outside of our spiritual disciplines and church fellowship, doesn’t really matter much. We are waiting for God to fix this broken world, we are waiting to live in an eternity where our faith matters. It is the longing of every Christian to see the Kingdom of God. Jesus tells this same thing to Nicodemus in their secret meeting one evening in a garden, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”. We who have been awakened to the grace of God in Christ see the Kingdom, and we long for it. Every Sunday together we pray “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”. If this is your longing, your heart is in the right place. Unfortunately, as we long for the Kingdom, we have been told this Kingdom is not a present reality and cannot therefore be the hope and life of our world today. We are waiting.

To be serious about the Gospel is to believe that the Gospel informs, renews and has power in every aspect of life and society. If the Gospel we believe is true, then there cannot be anything in all of existence that it is not good news for, either in the condemnation and defeat of the wicked or in the redemption and renewal of the creation. If Christ is King, which is the good news of the Gospel, then he is King over all without exception.

Serious faith is not only a pious one. Morality, rules, passion for good causes and even a confidence in the forgiveness of sin and an afterlife with God are not the same as a serious faith. A serious faith is one that encompasses all of life and reality, it is a faith that leads one to live there today fully for the Kingdom of God.

Science, politics, art, education, justice and everything else are under his rule and wisdom. May we all begin to throw off the shackles of the Enlightenment and embrace a full and confident faith in Jesus who is the King of the nations and the Lord of all of life and society.

hospital-scutari

“To arms! To arms! The Christians are attacking!” Prince Valiant (?)

“The Church is not the Church unless it is the Church militant”. R.C. Sproul

 

It is easy to understand that the Church is an institution ordained and formed by Christ to invade the realm of hell, extinguishing it from the earth. Our Lord himself says that the “gates of hell shall not prevail” against us. Paul concludes his letter to the Ephesians, after he has expressed the power and benefits of Christ given to all who have been delivered through his exodus from death and sin, with an appeal to put on the whole armor of God, Ephesians 6. The Church is indeed an army and all who are called by Christ have been commissioned into its service. The vocational callings of the Church such as pastors and teachers are ordained for the dedicated job of equipping the saints for the battle, the labor of the ministry, Ephesians 4. It is important to express that the battle we fight is not with guns and smart bombs, but with the power of the message that Jesus is the victorious King of the nations. In our fight we are ordered to “overcome evil with good”, and to “love our enemies”.

I have heard it said by many, I do not know by who originally, that the Church is the only army that shoots its own soldiers. This is a sad reality. I myself have seen this done. The Church is not only an institution called for battle, it is also a community formed for service and renewal. I would actually go so far as to suggest that the Church cannot succeed in the battle if it does not also fully embrace its calling to be a hospital, caring for the wounded and broken, regardless of who they are or how they got there. The same Apostle who calls us to gird our loins for the battle also calls us to be a people that gently and humbly restore our fallen brethren, Galatians 6.

The ability to fight the good fight, while caring for the wounded is a mark of maturity and wisdom according to the New testament. Jesus was a master of this. Dispelling evil and humiliating it, while restoring the woman caught in adultery so that she would “sin no more”.

So is the Church an Army or a hospital? According to Scripture it is both, and this is part of its practical strength. May we who are called to serve the Kingdom of God, fight the good fight as we serve and renew our world.

killer mike

Secularist love to promote the idea that religion is responsible for most of the deaths and wars in our world. They confidently reference the Salem witch trials, where 20 people were tried and executed. The Crusades of the Middle Ages are also mentioned often as a means to support the claim (estimates range from 1-3 million dead); a series of wars fought by professional soldiers on both sides. Recently rapper Killer Mike was a guest on Real Time with Bill Maher and responded to the opinion of Bill O’ Reilly that rap music was responsible for violence. Mike demonstrates a complete lack of understanding regarding, history, religion, and his own worldview. He also seems to have a self created idea of what Hip-hop is and his contribution to it. What results is a very weak argument against religion and a disturbing solution to the problem of violence (religion).

Hip-Hop vs. Rap Culture

I agree and appreciate Killer Mike in regards to the history of Hip hop. He is correct that it started as a peace and entrepreneurial movement combining various skills and art (elements) together for a purpose. These would become the pillars of the culture now known as Hip-hop. He then however proceeds to deny that rap music in any way influences violence. I am a Hip-hop head. I am not as old as Mike, but I remember when Hip-hop shifted from story telling, to gangsta rap. For sure, stories were still told. The narrative however changed from, “Let’s keep a unified and positive movement going and let the world know about the injustice we are suffering under.”, to “murder and violence are actually virtuous and badges of honor. To not engage in violence and crime is to have no credibility.” This is a huge paradigm shift, and its one that Mike has perpetuated and profited from. The current mentality and message of most mainstream rap music is antithetical with the origins of Hip-hop. This is one main reason why I conclude that style is not enough to make one apart of a culture. Modern rap culture is in may ways influenced by Hip-hop to be sure, but it is not Hip-hop. Rap culture is a newer and perverse anti-type of Hip-hop culture.

One Bloody Century

Killer Mike claims that his music, and that of the Rap Culture (which he misleadingly labels and lumps together as Hip-hop) has nothing to do with creating or influencing violence. He instead blames the “three Abrahamic religions” and their “books” (I will not engage here in the massive injustice he does to the issue by lumping Christianity together with Islam and Judaism.).In fact, the first thing we ought to do as a society, as a solution to violence, is to do away with these religions and their books. Killer Mike then proceeds to mention that after religion is gone, the next focus should be on government oppression. I find this very interesting. Mike is making a claim that the main cause of violence in society (and I assume the world) is religion. However recent history tells a completely different story. Just the top ten evil world leaders of the past century (rated as such by kill counts) are responsible for an estimated 140 million deaths. This is more than all of recorded world history, including all wars, outbreaks and natural disasters up to the 20th century, combined. Let that sink in. Not one of these “leaders” were Islamic, Jewish or Christian, but rather, atheist, communist and socialist. In fact many of their victims were those who dissented due to their religious convictions and their refusal to throw away or deny the teachings of their holy “books”.

Something really disturbing about Mike’s plan is how similar it is to that of some of these evil leaders. Mao ZeDong, Communist ruler of China from 1949-1976, ordered the confiscation of church facilities and destruction of Bibles as well as the arrest and/or execution of thousands of Christians. There are historically three waves of intense persecution of Christians by ZeDong: 1. The Communist Party first comes to power in 1949  2. The Great Leap Forward  3. The Cultural Revolution. The banning of Christianity and punishment for those even suspected of the crime was a constant situation, but these three eras mark extreme and intentional, violent persecutions. Today in China, Christianity is flourishing even though it is still illegal, and many Christian leaders are saying that Christendom itself has shifted to the East, as the West becomes more and more settled in the thinking and policies of the Enlightenment. Killer Mike seems to have a similar idea in his solution. I hope he understands that not only is his theory of religion and violence in history seriously flawed, but also that the conclusion he builds based on his premise actually has been seen played out in history as persecution against the religious. These persecuted religious were at times, the main resistance to the tyranny. A clear example of this would be The Confessing Church, a church and seminary that operated illegally underground in Nazi Germany smuggling out Jews in an underground railroad system. These Christians spoke publicly against the Third Reich. They also plotted and attempted assassinations on Hitler himself. I could go on and on, but the point I believe is clear: Killer Mike’s plan is to remove a very important and active worldview that has resisted secularist oppression and tyranny in our modern era.

The Gospel of God as the End of Death

I would like to offer my opinion on how violence can be done away with in the world.  As a Christian in the culture, I am told to serve and renew my communities. Serving means the giving of time, resources, body and words. Hip-hop and Rap Culture both have serious needs and shortcomings, as every human culture does. The “Book” I ascribe to and obey is the only source where actual diagnosis is given and where solutions are presented. Killer Mike seems to believe Hip-hop is special in regards to the needs it has. Though there are culturally unique challenges that must be addressed as unique, the underlying issue is the same with the whole of humanity. According to the Bible, the “book” which provides the explanatory framework for Christianity, humans are valuable because they are created in God’s image. Indeed, “Image Bearer” is the definition of “human being” in Scripture. We have been created and therefore belong to God as his possession. We are beautiful because he is beautiful. We create as imitators of our Creator. We long for justice and cringe when it is absent, because we are humans. All humans at some level understand and are attracted to justice as creations in the image of the One who loves justice and indeed its only source.

This good God, is also the active and reigning King of all the earth. This is where understanding who Jesus is and what exactly he did is crucial. Jesus died in order to defeat evil and death. This is the core of the ‘gospel’ (good news) message. Jesus resurrected, not only for the shock value of a grand finale miracle that would top all his previous ones. He resurrected as a declaration of his power in his victory over his enemies. Remember the scene in Troy when the two armies were facing each other? One side brings out a giant champion and the other side is waiting on Brad Pitt. When Brad, or rather Achilles, finally arrives it is clear that he is responsible for fighting the giant gent on the other side. Why do they do this? The Kings decide it is best to have their two best fight it out rather than have many of their men and resources destroyed in a battle. The rules are clear, the two champions fight to the death and the armies they represent will share their fate. What is true of the champion is true of their people. Well Brad wins, he usually does, and his victory is victory for his men, though they didn’t lift a finger. The huge dead man representing the other side means that the men he was representing, lost that day as well, of course not as bad as the dead guy. Watch the scene here.

This is the idea that the Apostle Paul is communicating in his New Testament Epistle to the Romans. In chapter 6 we learn that all who have faith in Jesus and have been baptized, are now to understand that they have a new identity with him, vs. 1-6. What is true of Jesus, is true of his people, who are all who have faith in him. In the beginning of this text, Paul says that the resurrection was the defeat of death, Romans 1:4. Death is an important character in the biblical narrative. God hates death. Like any King, he is severely insulted by the vandalism and destruction of his image. And not only that, but death is the champion for sin, which is bringing brokenness and injustice to all of God’s creation, including the ecology itself (see Romans 8). Romans 5 says just this, that sin “reigned in death”, vs.21. When Jesus resurrected from the grave, defeating death, he didn’t just defeat death, he defeated all that death was representing as champion of that kingdom. Sin, which was reigning in death, was defeated as well. Lets unpack this thought. If death, the great power of sin, terrorizing and destroying as sin’s champion, is defeated, what does that mean for all the powers and authorities under it? I’m referring to all those things not as strong and mighty as death. They are defeated as well, not only because their champion is dead, but because they, who are weaker, can in no way resist the power of Jesus and the Kingdom he has ushered into this world.

This means that no government, evil dictator, torture campaign, or army can hold power over the people of God. Many empires, rulers and authorities have tried to defeat the Kingdom of God and stop its advance, yet it expands over the earth. Death is no longer scary, the kingdom of sin is no more. Violence exists today and is a terrible thing. Evil is most heinous but Secularism still fails to give justice to how terrible it is. The Bible however does not excuse evil or explain it away. Its bad. There is no justifying or reasoning with it, it must be destroyed. Jesus Christ has defeated evil and therefore is the only way broken humans can be made whole. He is the only way sinners can be forgiven and transformed from wretches to restored image bearers. As horrible as death and violence are, these are temporary institutions, doomed to destruction and extinction.

In this current time, violence and evil seem to still be strong and full of vitality. However, what many perceive as strength, is actually panic and desperation. “Sin will be no more” is the end of the Biblical narrative. In Isaiah 2, the prophet is shown a mountain that is higher than any other peak on the earth. This mountain is the Mountain of the Lord and upon it sits a City shining bright as a beacon to the nations of the earth. This “City on a hill” is where all humanity is to live, and indeed we see that the nations and peoples are drawn by the light of the liberty and justice of God’s Law up the mountain and into the city. The peoples of the earth all say,

Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Isaiah 2:3

This is the solution to violence and wickedness, the law of God. He has defined liberty and justice, life and flourishing. His Law preserves justice for the society that comes and lives on his holy mountain by the light of his word. The practical result of living according to his law is the end of violence, which is what Killer Mike, and indeed most of us, want:

And he shall judge between the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. Isaiah 2:4

God is the only one who can end violence in this world, and in sending his son to suffer the violence of evil, he has guaranteed his resolve and victory:

He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. Psalm 46:9

Killer Mike claims to want to end violence by doing away with religion, when in truth, the end of violence and all evil is the goal and end of true religion.

 david hume

“Is [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both willing and able? Whence then is evil?” 

These are the words of the 18th Century Scottish philosopher, David Hume. Men and women have echoed his sentiments many times over the past centuries since he first expressed them. Known as the Philosophical ‘Problem of Evil’,  it as been recited as the reason to not believe the Bible and in the God it presents by students, professionals, and all other types of people. It does seem to speak to the human experience in a way other arguments do not. One thing is certain, whether one believes in God or not, evil is a very real problem for us all. Dr. Bahnsen takes Hume’s problem head on. The following is a brief handout I created for my audience during a talk on Bahnsen’s critique of Hume and his Problem of Evil. Much of the information here can be found in ‘Always Ready’ by Dr. Greg Bahnsen. It is critical for Christians to begin to learn how to engage unbelief and especially those arguments that have convinced so many for centuries. As Dr. Bahnsen demonstrates, the key to seeing Hume’s misunderstanding is found in the Scriptures and the revelation of God’s character and nature that they alone provide.

David Hume’s Challenge 

  1. If God is not able to stop evil then he is not all powerful.
  2. If God is able to stop evil but does not, he is not good.
  3. Evil exists. Therefore God is either not all powerful or he is not omnipotent. The Christian view of God is logically inconsistent.

“Briefly the problem of evil is this: If God knows there is evil but cannot prevent it, he is not omnipotent. If God knows there is evil and can prevent it but desires not to, he is not omnibenevolent. If, as the Christian claims, God is all-knowing and all-powerful, we must conclude that God is not good. The existence of evil in the universe excludes this possibility.” George H. Smith

Defining “Good”

In order to make the claim that there is evil in the world, one must have a presupposition that defines for them what exactly they mean by making a judgment as to what is or is not good.

Some popular definitions in culture and philosophy:

  1. Good is whatever evokes public approval. It is defined by the majority.
  2. Good is whatever evokes the approval of the individual.
  3. Good is whatever achieves a certain consequence. Such as the greatest happiness of the greatest number.

These ways of defining what is or isn’t good and therefore right or wrong just do not add up when trying to apply them to reality. For example, the only way we can know if something achieves the greatest happiness is to be able to record and test the feelings, opinions and consequences of every person in every instance, impossible even for computers. Also, we are still left with finding an agreed upon standard of what happiness and goodness are and if they are both necessary for the other….

We see all the time that the majority of a certain community may all agree that something is good, but it turns out to be very un-good. Making happiness about the individual’s subjective approval is clearly unsound. Some individuals approve of abusing children or murdering their loved ones. Also, this would mean there can never be a real discussion regarding what is good because every individual would have differing definitions (subjectivism).

The Christian worldview defines “good” as God’s character and person as revealed in the Bible. It is an objective absolute definition. We believe God is good because he himself is the source and standard of “good”.

 

“Philosophically speaking, the problem of evil turns out to be, therefore, a problem for the unbeliever himself. In order to use the argument from evil against the Christian worldview, he must first be able to show that his judgments about the existence of evil are meaningful-which is precisely what his unbelieving worldview is unable to do.” Greg Bahnsen (Christian philosopher, apologist and theologian)

Hume cannot answer his own problem. Evil is still happening and existing and it becomes an even bigger problem when it cannot be explained, or even worse, resisted and defeated. The Bible has more to say about God than Hume lets on. The Bible does affirm the goodness and power of God as well as the existence of evil. Hume however, fails to take into account the whole counsel of God as laid out in Scripture. This could be perhaps due to oversight, or maybe out of convenience but it still stands that Hume’s argument does not accurately represent the God of Scripture, whom he is claiming to disprove. God is omnibenevolent, omnipotent and it is revealed that the infinite God of Scripture is also mysterious. Bahnsen restates the problem in light of this missing premise:

Bahsen’s 4 premise argument for the existence of God in a world where Evil happens

  1. God is good.
  2. God is all-powerful (Omnipotent)
  3. Evil exists (happens)
  4. God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists. (Though the reason is not revealed to us)

When all four of these premises are maintained there is no logical inconsistency within the Christian worldview. Indeed it is a natural thing for the Christian to grow in as a matter of their maturing in Christ.

“All things work together for good to those who love God and are the called according to HIS purpose.” Romans 8:28

“Shall not the Judge of the Earth do what is right?” Genesis 18:25

There is a real disdain in the modern world for mystery. This might be due to the claim by the Age of Enlightenment that human reason (science, rational thinking, ect.) is the solution to the problems of the world and the idea of a mystery means there are things beyond human reason. The truth is there is much we as finite beings can never understand. God does not reveal his reason(s) for allowing evil, and he doesn’t have to. He is a God who keeps his word (Psalm 12) he is a God who loves justice, Isaiah 61:8.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”” Isaiah 55:8&9

“Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?” Job 11:7

Hume and atheists since him, have confidently charged Christianity with logical inconsistency. Bahnsen has demonstrated that this is not at all the case. God does not have to deal with evil as his creatures would like him to in order for him to be just. Hume may not like that God has his own mysterious reasons for dealing with evil, but he cannot any longer claim inconsistency. The problem of evil is not a logical one, it is psychological. The Atheist has issue with God’s sovereignty and authority as God and King over all the earth and humanity, not with his logic.

“The problem of evil comes down to the question of whether a person should have faith in God and his word or rather place faith in [their] own human thinking and values.” Greg Bahnsen

God of Justice

“For I, the Lord, love justice.” Isaiah 61:8

“For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice. The upright will see his face.” Psalm 11:7

“The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.” Psalm 33:5

We may not like how God is doing it, but Scripture is clear that God IS indeed the God of Justice. He has sent his Son, Jesus and his Spirit into the world in order to expose, judge and defeat evil, John 16. The non-believing worldview still has to answer the problem of evil. Their best attempts are to reduce evil to nothing more than “progress” or nature or mere inconvenience, which is no answer at all. Only the Christian worldview offers a solution while taking evil very seriously. So the Problem of Evil rather than disprove the existence of God, actually serves to bring us to Him and to choose whether to obey him and his word, or continue to walk in our own preferences and desires.

Dr. Talbot of Whitefield Seminary has a great discussion with the crew of Apologia Radio on the Gospel, slavery, the Puritans and God’s Law.

Puritans, Law, Justification, and Beards – 2/7/2015
http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ApologiaRadioPodcasts/~5/YBXSsX0EnHA/AR0113_2015-02-07.mp3

Join us for one of our new favorite broadcasts of Apologia Radio.  We are joined by Dr. Kenneth Talbot of Whitefield Theological Seminary (Whitefield.edu).  We chop it up with Dr. Talbot over the Puri…

Subscribe the podcast http://feeds.feedburner.com/Apologiaradiopodcasts

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This is from a great site, Though the Lens of Optimism. I highly recommend it. The author in sharing this said something very true in my opinion, “Dominion comes through service.”

When the Church believes a Gosple that is about God and his Kingdom of.justice and power, we will see our society reformed in ways that seem impossible. The Church has been assigned the ministry of welfare. The State today denies us this vocation and uses it as a way of control and power. We must call them to repentance and again stand as the light and glory of God to a broken world.

The Poor : Oppressed or Sluggards