Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Short Response to Anne

This is a short response to Anne, who read my post on Christian Fantasy and was kind enough to respond on her blog here

Hi Anne! I'm glad that you found my blog and that it interested you. And thank you for so graciously interacting with my thoughts, even if you disagree with them. Your English is fantastic, by the way!

A few clarifications.

1) The distinction I was making between imagination and fantasy is one that we all know and feel. The two words are not perfectly interchangeable. There is a great deal of imagination that goes in to fantasy, but still we tend to view fantasy as imagined things or situations which are impossible to be actualized in the real world. Think about the Fantasy genre in books and film. These works are called fantasy because the stories that they present could never actually come to fruition in reality.

Here is where my thoughts on imagination as being productive comes in. For example, if you are a writer or an artist, you may fantasize about writing a great book and receiving rewards and accolades for having done so. But in the end, you are no closer to actually writing that great book because your fantasizing will never lead to anything productive. In fact, it is self defeating in that you can become so enamored with the idea of writing a great book that you will never put the hard work into actually writing that book.

Imagination, however, serves to actually produce that book. You aren't vaguely fantasizing about some personal scenario which will never come to pass, but thinking about how you might put those imagined scenarios into stories that will engage a reader. So, if you are writing a Fantasy book, a great deal of imagination goes into writing that story, including creating fantastic characters and creatures that could never exist in reality, but you are not simply fantasizing. To say it another way, if you are fantasizing, you are necessarily using your imagination, whereas if you are using your imagination, you may be thinking of fantastic things, but you aren't necessarily fantasizing.

2) Regarding my thoughts on fantasizing as stealing glory from God and being self-idolatry, I must say that I am a Christian in a sense that is not very popular today, and especially in Europe. By that I mean that I accept the Bible as God's perfect revealing of Himself to humans, and as the only true guide to knowledge of who/what/how He is, and who we are as humans. The way in which I interact with God, and with the rest of the world, is therefore dictated by what I find within the Bible. That being said, the Bible is a God-centered book, that is to say, it revolves completely around God Himself. And through all the stories and commands (it is a varied book made up of narrative, Law, history, poetry, wisdom literature) He reveals to us His plan and desire to be in relation with His creation in a way that focuses on His greatness.

So, when I speak of my desire for recognition/glory as being an affront to God's glory and worth, what I'm saying is that, in those moments when I'm fantasizing of my greatness, I have left that God-centeredness that He desires for me. In so doing, I have stolen what He alone deserves, which is that central place of honor and glory and worth to which EVERYTHING in this universe was created to relate. And, the full expression of this entire concept was incarnated in the person of Jesus Christ.

In Jesus, we find the ultimate paradox. God, the One who is deserving of all the honor and worship of all created things in the universe, became a man and died in our place, the ultimate expression of humility and love. And He did so to set me free from sin and death, which are often seen in this life in the form of self-centeredness and self-idolatry. As it is said in the Apostle Paul's second letter to the Corinthians in the New Testament:

"16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Cor 5:16-21)

Jesus, having rescued us from the death and worthless pursuit of loving ourselves, has freed us to love and serve others. It is only when we come into a relationship with God through believing in Jesus Christ that we can actually experience this freedom. And, it is in our nature to continually return to loving and worshiping ourselves, which is why we need to daily humble ourselves and ask God to help us in living a life that is truly God-centered and Christ-centered, focusing on bringing them glory and not ourselves.

So, that is a bit of the perspective that I'm writing from. Having lived in Europe for 5 years and hoping to return soon, and being married to a French woman, I know that you will almost definitely disagree with me, and that you are more than likely unsympathetic, if not antipathetic, to my ideas. But interesting discussions should always be based on open and honest dialogue. Again, I thank you for making that possible by writing and interacting with my post in such a kind manner.

I hope all the best for you.


Thursday, November 01, 2012

Christian Fantasy, or, I Worship Myself

Today I glanced at my twitter feed and noticed this post by Don Miller. He was writing about how his mind wanders and he could daydream all day if he wanted, but that contrary to what some might think, such fantasizing can actually be a great hindrance to creativity. Miller made a distinction between imagination and fantasy. Imagination is the life source of great art. It is what draws you into a work of art like a tractor beam, be it painted in colors or crafted in prose. Fantasy, on the other hand, is a useless distraction. Why?

Imagination is productive, while fantasy is about escape. Interesting.

I'm not a writer, but the reason Miller's post caught my eye was that just yesterday, a friend and I were talking about what we daydream about and why. I said that I often caught myself fantasizing about doing something great, be it a heroic act or a stirring message, and that what I was longing for in those daydreams was recognition. After all, I do describe myself as being good at everything, but great at nothing. But, Miller's thoughts came down like a hammer on my soul.

I'm not longing for recognition, what I'm really longing for is glory. Saying it that way is only meant to cover up the treason that really lies in my heart. I don't just want people to notice me by imagining myself in situations where ignoring me would be impossible. Instead, I strongly desire that others would see me as being glorious and worthy of awe. Simple recognition won't suffice.

But all glory that isn't ascribed to God is an affront to His worth. What I'm searching for in my fantasies is to rob God of His glory. Of course, I could never say that outright, which is why I phrased it the way I did to my friend--"I'm longing for recognition." That's a bold faced lie.

I want Glory. And that infinitely devalues the redemption that Jesus Christ bought for me through His shed blood. In fact, the very idol of self that I set up every time I go seeking for glory, is the very idol from which he died to give me freedom. Christianity is a relationship in which God invites us to deny ourselves, die to ourselves, forget ourselves, and follow Jesus as He transforms our insignificant little lives into means of accomplishing acts of eternal significance. In my own hands, I'm but a child's drawing in the wet sand, waiting to be washed away by the next tide. But in His hands, my life becomes a brushstroke in the incredible work that is His eternal plan. I'm only beautiful in the right context in the the hands of the right artist.

My name is Mike Gorski, and I'm an idolater. I love myself too much.

My name is Mike Gorski, and I'm a sinner saved and sanctified by pure grace. All the glory and honor to Christ my Savior.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

First Things First

"Theologians, they don't know nothin' 'bout my soul." Many would agree strongly with this statement penned by Jeff Tweedy, frontman for the iconic group, Wilco (a personal favorite). And I'm beginning to think that maybe he is right, at least in light of the recent and rising scandal surrounding Dinesh D'Souza, a name that is gaining in popularity among evangelicals, and his apparent engagement to a woman not his wife.

A few weeks ago WORLD magazine printed a story highlighting D'Souza's seemingly improper relationship with a woman which came to light at a Christian Apologetics conference, at which D'Souza was the keynote speaker. You can read the article here. When confronted by event coordinators about the inconsistencies that surface when one is married, yet engaged to another woman, D'Souza said that he had been separated from his wife for a few years now, that divorce papers had been filed, and he was quite certain that he was meant to be with his present fiancée. Admittedly, the whole situation seems odd, if not downright reprehensible.

Shortly after, D'Souza responded on the Fox News website. He defended his actions as being above reproach and claimed that WORLD deliberately reported false information as part of an elaborate conspiracy theory involving Marvin Olasky, who has intimate ties to both WORLD (editor) and King's College (former provost). D'Souza claimed openly stating that he and his fiancée stayed in different rooms at the conference, and that if he had thought he was doing something wrong by being engaged before the finalization of his divorce, he would not have introduced her at the event as his fiancée. So, he vindicates himself by (1) declaring himself innocent of the apparent accusation of the appearance of sexual immorality, (2) by pleading ignorance of any moral/biblical standards regarding divorce and remarriage, and (3) by passing the blame on to the sinister forces of Marvin Olasky and his minions over at WORLD magazine.

His first defense could be legitimate, at least in reading both the WORLD article and his own response. I acknowledge that it is entirely possible that D'Souza and his 'fiancée' could have stayed in separate rooms, and that they could very well maintain a high standard of physical purity in their relationship. Regarding his third claim, Marvin Olasky may as well have adamantly opposed D'Souza's rise to leadership at King's College, but I doubt that he would encourage poor reporting in order to have some sort of journalistic revenge.

What really floors me about the entire situation is that D'Souza has risen to relative fame as an apologist, even in evangelical circles, while obviously being ignorant of basic Christian doctrines involving marriage and family

I think this highlights some important weaknesses in American evangelicalism.

First, we are suckers in the realm of politics. Political conservatism has become so strongly linked to conservative evangelicalism that as soon as their is a Christian who offers some intelligent response to the dominant liberal political climate (the media, at least), we latch on to him in the hopes of establishing legitimacy in the political arena. But, as in this case, perhaps we are too quick to seek political recognition and in so doing sacrifice our spiritual legitimacy. After all, it seems obvious that evangelicals, and King's College in particular, were too quick to promote D'Souza to a position as spokesperson for a movement that should be better known for it's Biblical orthodoxy rather than its political strength.

Second, this leads me to ask the question as to why evangelicals are so quick to ally themselves with people who will grossly misrepresent us? Frankly, I think it proves that our priorities are out of order. In the name of regaining political credibility, as mentioned above, we give spiritual authority to people who specialize in another area. Sometimes, as in the case with D'Souza, you wonder how this man ever came to be a leader of a Christian college, or a keynote speaker at an apologetics conference. If he is a political expert, then let him be just that, and leave him out of the Christian spotlight. This sort of thing happens all the time with celebrities and professional athletes who have some sort of conversion experience. Christian organizations, desperate for a platform, put an inexperienced or unverified convert right into the spotlight just to eventually shame themselves, the Lord, and possibly ruin the soul of one of God's beloved children.

Third, in getting our priorities out of order, we are substituting foundational truths for nonessential areas. Surely politics should be important for a Christian, but it is not an essential aspect of Christianity. In fact, the New Testament paints a portrait of the Christian as being an alien and sojourner in this world, awaiting the return of our true King and the final establishment and confirmation of our true Kingdom. We can't trade the scriptures, and knowledge of God's revealed will therein, for aligning ourselves with someone from our preferred political party who just takes his political philosophy and just slaps Christian packaging on it. We are to test everything by the word of God.

So, in this election season, if you find yourself being more passionate about seeing your candidate win a debate than Jesus Christ saving sinners from condemnation, remember to put first things first. You are a citizen of heaven before you are an American, and you should care greatly about the theology and beliefs of those Christian spokesmen that you get behind. Jeff Tweedy was right in criticizing theologians and pointing out their ineptness in helping lost souls, especially if he was referring to those who, at least in regard to their faith, have the equivalent of a mail order license practice spiritual medicine.

Choose your doctors well and know what they believe.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Thoughts on Image Bearing

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."--Genesis 1:27

What exactly does it mean to be made in the image of God? In the past months I have become increasingly appreciative of God's complete otherness. It is something that necessarily effects everything we do, especially in the development of our theology. And so, I recently posted the following on twitter: "To be able to understand anything, we need a healthy grasp of God's distinctness as Creator. He is not like us, or anything that is made." What I was referring to was this vast difference between God and man that exists because He is the Creator and we are His creatures.

In response, a friend commented on Facebook regarding our being made in God's image. He was alluding to what we all know and feel, that in some way or other we are like God. If we are made in His likeness, how "other" can He really be? Here is how I think about the issue.

In relation to the rest of creation, we are unique in that we bear His image. No other animal or created thing can boast of this. So, we are set apart from everything else in the universe, which explains my friend's comment and concern to defend our being in some way special. We all sense this privilege. Nobody ever looked at their dog and thought, "wow, it's amazing the things you have accomplished!" After all, there is quite a bit of difference between being able to roll over and being able to design and send a rover to Mars. Here, we see that we resemble our Creator, not simply because we are created, but because He has indeed made us like Him.

In relation to God, however, the image-bearing is unidirectional. Since God is the only ontologically independent being in the universe, there is nothing else like Him. Really, there are only two categories of beings, those that were created, and those that weren't. We, along with the rest of creation, find ourselves in the former category, while God alone lives in the latter. That's a pretty big deal, which was what I was trying to get at in my previously mentioned tweet. Even though we are made in His image, we will always be different because we are created. Our perspective is limited to the finite and temporal, for example, while God's perspective, in a way we can't and probably won't ever completely understand, is free from the restraints of time and space, and infinitely so.

All that to say that even though we are made in His likeness, we aren't completely like Him. Or, to say it differently, even though we bear His image, to look at a man is not the same thing as to look at God. We can look at the creativity of humans and conclude that God must be creative Himself, but in seeing our creativity, it isn't the same exact creativity that God uses. Ours is but the faintest semblance, but a true resemblance nonetheless.

The exact nature of our image bearing has long been disputed. Many have defined it according to our intellect, emotion, and will. And, it's true, the combination of these three things doesn't exist in the animal world, at least not to the same extent as in humans. But, it seems that dominion must play a part, since, directly after the creation of the first man and woman, God gave them dominion over the entire earth. That would explain our unique giftedness in herding the rest of creation, at least. Also, our creativity must play a role, for no other creature uses their natural faculties to freely explore and create like humans do. Personality should probably play a part as well. In short, it's difficult to pin down exactly what our being created in God's consists in.

However, one idea that has helped my growing understanding of this subject has been this: We are made in the image of God, and we "image" God. This covers how God's image is manifested in us in both what we are, and what we do. This gives us a bit more robust understanding of image bearing, and allows us to appreciate the likeness of God that exists in every human being simply because they exist, while at the same time seeing that likeness not only in their human-ness, but also in what they do with that human-ness. In other words, I'm not just an image bearer because I'm human in substance, but because being human, I necessarily do things that "image" God.

At any rate, it is extremely humbling to think that God created mankind in His image. Even if there is a great distinction between the Creator and creature (Isaiah 55:8-9), still we do resemble Him (James 3:9). And, there is a great responsibility that comes with being made in His likeness. We are not only born bearing His image, but we also "image" him in everything we do. That means that as I go about my business, I need to be asking myself, "how is what I'm doing reflecting, or, 'imaging', my Creator?"

Monday, October 15, 2012

Which Comes First: Orthodoxy, or Orthopraxy

I have now been a Christian for over ten years. That has been sufficient time to see much change, both in my own life, and in the world of Christian things and people at large. One of the more startling changes, however, has been that of people I know, love, and respect abandoning their faith, or at least coming close to that. Of course, this happens for many reasons, but the gist of it seems to almost always be the same thing--they step off of the foundation of the Bible as the only rule for all of life and then lose their footing in a slippery and messy hodgepodge of ideas and -isms.

Objective vs. Subjective Foundations

Something that first triggered my thoughts on this subject is that old people, in general, grow theologically soft as they age. Even those who were filled with fire in their youth later fall prey to the sentimentalism that comes with old age. In this video Billy Graham shows the effect of decades of compromise in his crusades. This compromise came largely in the form of Graham's partnering with theological liberals and non-Christian religious leaders in his famous evangelistic crusades, and that in the name of getting the gospel to the largest population possible. And, last year I heard Chuck Swindoll, in a radio interview, talk about his great passion in life. What was the great passion that this amazing preacher had  come to realize in his retirement years? Public speaking.

I was shocked to hear a man who had nourished not only his own congregations through his teaching over the years, but also thousands of other Christians all over the world, confess that public speaking was his great passion. I expected him to say expository preaching, or something along those lines. Surely, as the interview proceeded, he would qualify that statement? But I waited in vain as he spoke about his new book that would help people become better public speakers.

The other major event that got me thinking about why some Christians leave the faith, or at least begin to compromise in serious ways, was the uproar occurring around the release of Rob Bell's book Love Wins. I know, I'm about two years behind on this one, but this post is not a critique of Bell's book, but rather an attempt at tracing how it was that he arrived at a place where he could actually write it and believe what he wrote. For the best, and most fair, review of Love Wins, see Kevin DeYoung's thoughts here. Bell, in the famous promotional video released prior to his book, questioned what has long been an accepted as an essential Christian doctrine--the exclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead, Bell claimed that not expressing faith in Christ is not a certain indicator of a person's eternal fate. We just can't put ourselves in the position of Judge and think that Ghandi could be in hell. Surely, as Billy Graham acknowledged in the above link, there must be a wideness in God's mercy that all allows people from all faiths to be part of the Bride of Christ, whether they are conscious of it or not.

But what is common between these three examples? My proposed answer is that each of these men headed down the road of compromise as soon as they began to judge the world around them by their feelings, which are highly subjective, rather than by the Scriptures, which are objective. Graham and Bell have been outspoken as to how their experiences with people of differing faiths led them to their conclusions of the wideness of God's mercy. This response is a natural one. Of course, when you befriend a Buddhist or Muslim that is kind, generous, and genuine in their affection for you, you don't want to imagine that they remain in a state of condemnation before God. It's even harder when you recognize that they exhibit many 'Christian' behaviors.

What is often considered to be 'Christian' behavior, though, is really just moral behavior, and here Christians can't take the high road. God has given a sense of morality to every culture, though some societies choose to suppress or emphasize one aspect or another at various times. In this way, when Billy Graham's Muslim friends sincerely loved him, he shouldn't have been surprised. After all, not all Muslims are violent extremists. Nor should Rob Bell be surprised that in a predominantly Hindu country there would be a man who once stood up for justice. But where they go wrong is in assuming that because these men do things that we tend to associate only with Christians they must therefore be Christians, whether they know it or not. What happens, then, is that in order to make sense of their experience, Bell and Graham drastically change their understanding of salvation in order to appease their conscience regarding their friends.

God's justice must bow the knee to our experience.

But again, moral behavior is not necessarily 'Christian.' Graham and Bell need not look further than the Bible to see this truth. Jesus, in Matthew 5:43-48, describes one reason why Christians should not only love their own, but also their enemies. He says, "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?" (Matt 5:46-47). Everybody loves those who love them. What is difficult is loving those who hate you and persecute you.

Here, Graham, Bell, and all those who have fallen for the "how can God not save these people? They are good people" line of reasoning have forgotten that God has given us an objective standard by which we must judge and evaluate all of life and our experiences--the scriptures. And, in regard to this issue it speaks loudly and clearly.

Romans 3:9-18

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: 
“None is righteous, no, not one; 
11  no one understands; 
no one seeks for God. 
12  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; 
no one does good, 
not even one.” 
13  “Their throat is an open grave; 
they use their tongues to deceive.” 
“The venom of asps is under their lips.” 
14  “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 
15  “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 
16  in their paths are ruin and misery, 
17  and the way of peace they have not known.” 
18  “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 

Acts 4:11-12
This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” 

All people are sinners before a Holy and Righteous Judge, and there are none who escape His judgment who don't do so through the means of faith in Jesus Christ.

Our experience of life is subjective and prone to lead us into a form of naive sentimentalism, drawing us away from the hard truths of God's objective revelation. But, as He is infinitely wise and gracious in His dealings with us, we must subject all of our experiences and thoughts to His word, acknowledging that He knows best. We must fight against the tendency to think that God is unjust to judge all those who are outside of Christ. Our lives must be firmly planted in the fertile soil of the Scriptures. To let our roots spread into any other soil will only result in the withering and drying of our souls, as well as the possibility of being carried away in the mudslides of postmodern relativism.

Objective vs. Subjective Interpretation

At this point, I'm sure that some, who are sympathetic to Graham and Bell's theological softness regarding salvation, would respond to my previous thoughts by pointing out the subjectivity of our interpretation and experience of the Bible and life. What I have tried to communicate in the above was that in understanding our experience of life, God has given us an objective, external source on which to ground our lives. When faced with conflicting feelings in our life, such as that of non-christian friends who are sincere in their ethic and love for others, we mustn't make our goodwill toward them the standard of judging the eternal state of their souls, rather, we must submit to God's revelation to us in the Bible.

Here, however, those in line with Graham and Bell might counter by directing us to the subjective nature of all of life, including our interpretation of the Scriptures. They too would claim to be consistent in evaluating all of life and in reaching their conclusions based on scriptural revelation. In fact, Bell's book is an attempt to justify his views based on the Bible.

But where they are in error is in their starting point. That's why I have chosen to label the previous section "Objective vs. Subjective Foundations." True, they attempt to justify their conclusions biblically, and even consider themselves to be orthodox, evangelical, Christians in many senses. But, the order of their hermeneutic is flawed. A Christian should be someone who looks into God's revelation in the Scriptures first, and then attempts to form and evaluate his experience of life according to that truth. The soft Christian, however, puts their experience first.

It's true that the interpretation of Scripture is a subjective endeavor that is colored by preexisting factors such as culture, language, and place in history. As many missionaries (hopefully) know, much of what is exported from America is not necessarily Christian, but American Christian. Much of how we think about Jesus' teaching regarding the poor, or money, depends on our nationality and are socio-economic status. But, this subjectivity takes place at a different level, or in a different manner than the way soft Christians apply it. As we read the Bible, it is of first importance that we try to minimize to the greatest extent possible these prejudices that we carry with us. In this way, the Bible becomes the means God uses to correct us, and to strip us of all that extra baggage. The goal should be to judge our subjective experiences by the objective word, rather than judging the objective word by our subjective experience. So, while they may claim to be faithful to biblical teaching, in fact they are trying to mold, or conform, the Bible according to their experience.

When confronted with the fate of our non-Christian friends, we are tempted to say, "God would never send such a good man to hell?", and subsequently look to the Bible to justify our sentiment. When personally confronted with this dilemma, I am continually forced to direct myself back to the objective revelation of God, and to submit the feelings of what I wish were true, to that which is actually true. It's not easy, but it is essential if we are to guard our souls against falling away. 

The order in which we relate our theology to our everyday life is extremely important. It is the only thing keeping us from sliding down the slippery slope of pluralism which has claimed so many well intentioned believers. We must first seek to have a firm, objective foundation in order to then be able to rightly judge our subjective experience of this world. A healthy orthodoxy must inform and direct orthopraxy.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

I'm Back!

So, it's been awhile since my last post. Actually, it's been like two years, I think. There are a million reasons why I haven't posted in forever, but here are just a few.


I think that deep down, my blog exposed somethings about me that I didn't particularly like seeing. In a post from the distant past, I talked about having a bit of a superhero complex. Oddly, I often find myself fantasizing about various situations in which I do, or say, the perfect thing that ends up saving the day. Many people don't think that this is very serious, but my time working with the Sunshine Carpet Cleaners, aka WHM, taught me that such fantasizing is spiritual treason. After all, why do I so rarely fantasize about God saving the day?

Anyway, all this spills over into my adventures in the interweb. In theory, my blog started out as a way to stay in communication with people back home when I left for Spain about five or six years ago. That was very honest and innocent, but, because of the aforementioned sinful tendency that I have, there was always a fear that I was using it to stroke my superhero complex. Sort of a way to write and pretend that I was one of those really great bloggers (like Tim Challies), but with the safety of knowing that nobody actually read or cared about what I was writing.

All this led me to pose myself the question, "Who cares anyway?" I mean, why should anyone care what I think about anything? Mike Gorski is just an average person who does everything...well, average. Interestingly enough, this is linked to another sinful fear of mine, that I'll never be good enough at anything to be useful. When I read the most interesting books or blogs, or hear great sermons, I'm often convinced that the reason the person was so compelling is because they are so naturally gifted, and I am not, nor will I ever be endowed with such natural abilities. Of course, there is some truth here. Most people aren't in the habit of reading books written by freshman in college, and for good reason. But, my sin nature would again take a half-truth and pervert it into a seemingly stronger imitation of a full-truth.

At the heart of my not writing for fear that I'm not smart enough to please other people is the sin of people-pleasing and approval seeking. Again, there are many who read those sins and think, "That's nothing! It's not like you were tempted to put naked pictures of yourself on your blog!" However, these are root sins, not surface sins.--sins that permeate everything that I do and every interaction I have. I'm constantly struggling with pleasing people and convincing them to either like me or say good things about me. So, of all the unfinished posts I have on my computer, they all have one thing in common--I stopped writing because I was scared someone would read it and think or say something bad about me, or the opposite, I wrote it to make myself look good, smart, and lovable.


Sadly, for the blog, life just got too busy and hard to keep writing. As a family, we faced a lot of trials, and for me, those were all mixed up with my cross-cultural struggles in France. Everything is harder when you live in another country. EVERYTHING. And the truth of the matter is that I didn't face my trials with the spiritual strength I should have. In fact, probably the greatest lesson I learned in all those difficulties, is that I wasn't as strong as I thought I was, and I was entirely self-sufficient in my walk with God. God's word being true, as it is, reminded me that God would never put me in a situation where my only recourse was to respond sinfully (1 Cor 10:13), but the bitterness I carried away with me from France revealed that Christ had not been my hope and ever-present Lord in my trials. Just the right idea.

And now, here I am in seminary at The WEST Institute, getting a full, two-year master's degree in one year, while trying to start a Spanish ministry in the church, take care of my family, and manage our apartment complex. Needless to say, I'm busy. Busier than I've ever been, and we can definitely all feel it. But, I'm back in the blogging saddle now, and hoping to write some short observations about our current life, like the fact that in the past year I've put on about thirty pounds. #fattyfatfat Oh wait, this isn't twitter.

If you happen to stumble upon my little corner of the net, I hope you enjoy it. But even if no one ends up reading it I go.

Soli Deo Gloria

Friday, July 02, 2010

The Problem of Evil

I'm slowly reading "The Doctrine of Sin and Redemption" by Henri Blocher, and the chapter on the problem of evil (the first chapter, and only one I've read so far) was interesting.

He starts with three biblical principals that lay the foundation for assessing our attempts at answering the problem of evil:

1) Evil is completely, radically, and absolutely bad (or evil). We should never diminish the wickedness of evil or the horror of its effects. God hates evil.

2) God is completely, radically, and absolutely sovereign. We should never minimize his resoluteness in making all things happen, both in the big picture and the smallest details. "Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps." (Psalm 135:6 ESV)

3) God is completely, radically, and absolutely good. He is never complicit with evil, nor does he ever approve of it.

Generally, he says, our attempts at resolving the problem of evil reflect some biblical truth as seen in one or two of these three principals, but at the same time minimizing or outright denying the remaining principal(s).

He set forth some of the classic representations of each of these three emphases. The reformed position--God allowed evil to enter into the world because he saw, in his infinite power and wisdom, that His defeat of evil would bring Him more glory than any other possible world He could have created. The free will position--evil entered into the world because man has a completely free will, and man has a free will because ultimately, if his choice of loving God didn't come from his own free agency, it wouldn't be love at all. And lastly, the least common view--that God had to create evil to be complete. Without evil, according to this view, God would be like Hall without Oates, or peanut butter without jelly, or yin without get the picture. Obviously, this last view can't be held by anyone who adheres to a traditional evangelical set of beliefs because it makes evil a part of God, i.e. God is part evil.

What I appreciated the most about Blocher's position, was that he didn't want to abandon the three very obvious biblical principals that he cited (Evil is absolutely evil, God is absolutely sovereign, and God is absolutely good) for the sake of having a nice, clean, easily resolved doctrine of evil. Instead, he prefers to guard the mystery of the details. After all, the reformed position tends to minimize the pain in suffering and the fact that suffering at the hands of evil men is the result of evil itself, an evil that God hates with a pure hatred, though He remains in control at all times. The free will people tie God's hands just for the sake of keeping theirs free, though the scriptures are replete with examples of the contrary. And obviously, who could dare say that God is in Himself evil, as if it were a necessary part of his existence?

So, I'm resolved to try to look at the world and all of it's wickedness--encountered mostly in my own heart--through the lens of these three biblical principals instead of through the lens of my traditionally reformed doctrine. When I see evil, I can't deny that it is 1) absolutely, positively evil, 2) it is not out of the control of God's sovereign, loving, and protecting hand, and 3) God hates it, and it is absolutely contrary to the perfectly good God I find in the scriptures.