Tag Archives: death

American holocaust: What would you do?

There are some excellent questions raised in this movie.

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Parallel universes: The materialist’s comfort in the face of death

If you want to get a good idea of the best way materialists have to deal with the otherwise nihilistic implications of their philosophical system, take a look at this clip from the movie “Rabbit Hole“.

I find it interesting how the boy makes the assertion that the notion of parallel universes are 1. infinite and 2. well evidenced by science. The truth is that 1. parallel universes are not infinite (as a matter of logical deduction) and 2. have absolutely no evidence for them whatsoever.

I’ve studied this theory for quite a while now. Ever since 5th grade in fact. And while stories like Quantum Leap and Number of the Beast may be wildly entertaining, the fact is that they simply don’t hold water scientifically (for a number of logical and philosophical reasons) and they ultimately provide no hope for anyone searching for real answers worth staking your life on.

Additionally, here is a documentary which attempts to breathe spiritual life into the otherwise dead philosophy of materialism. If you listen closely you will be able to pick up on the distinct fingerprints of post modernism. In order to add any weight to an otherwise vacuous theory, it is wholly necessary to wage an all-out epistemological assault on the mind. If we call into question what we know and how certain we can be of what we know, then we can sneak in a theory like parallel universes which has no real evidence to speak of.

However they do raise a very valid point about the question of where our knowledge really lies. I would argue, along the lines of Alvin Plantinga, that without God, the ability to reason and trust our thoughts is clear evidence of a personal creator.

God just needed another little angel so he took her

Have you ever been in a small group where someone has uttered something like the couple in the video above? Papering over a deep tragedy with answers that were not only paper-thin but actually damaging if closely scrutinized?

I have.

And like the grieving mother, I’ve also felt like an ass when I couldn’t stomach it anymore and decided to call everyone to examine the implications of what was actually being said.

I often wonder whether regular church goers actually realize how shallow and trite they make following Christ sound when they offer answers like the one above. I wonder if they know how much damage they do.

Like the couple above demonstrates, most often these answers, this shallowness is only allowed to grow and flourish in the absence of cross examination or close scrutiny.

The question of pain and suffering is immense. It is perhaps the largest question Christians face. It certainly is the root of why many cannot (note the inability here, not merely the unwillingness) place their faith in Christ. Accordingly, it requires us to spend many hours studying it.

We need to have both an immediate answer to those freshly grieving as well as a more nuanced answer for those able and willing to explore the deep questions surrounding death and suffering in the world God has made.

Here are three resources I highly recommend on this subject:

The Death and Resurrection of Debbie

[HT Frank Turek]

Does God give people cancer?

A section out of this story caught my eye recently:

A Baptist of Calvinist leanings, Chandler believes everything is in God’s hands and foreordained in a way people can’t fully understand. As he’s tried to stay well, he’s continued to preach to his youthful audience that they should get ready for suffering, and trust God will walk them through.

Trusting God to bring us through difficult circumstances is one thing, praising God for giving us a life-threatening disease is quite another.

We trust God to sustain us through difficult hardships, and we might even praise Him for bringing about good in spire of those hardships. However when we praise God for giving us those hardships we begin to raise some potentially faith-destroying questions about evil and suffering and how God fits in with it all.

Many are reluctant to address this subject because of the deep emotions that it often illicit, especially from those who are suffering through these circumstances. And while I recognize there is a time and a place to discuss this issue in a more objective sense, I believe that sloppy theology around the questions of natural evil like this cause many to run, not walk, away from the faith every year.

Natural evil

First lets examine what natural evil is.

Evil and suffering exists within a fallen and broken world. This includes not only man-made evil like rape, murder, and infidelity. It also includes the state of affairs we should expect to find in a less than perfect world. Things such as tornadoes, earthquakes, forest fires, etc.

Also diseases.

The one thing that all of these have in common is death. And we know from Scripture that God not only did not create death but came and volunteered to taste death so we wouldn’t have to, thereby defeating it.

Now it would be wrong to say that God never causes the death of others. He does many times in Scripture. He uses disease, war, and famine to chastise nations. However these occasions were 1. proclaimed ahead of time 2. only done as a result of punishment and 3. they had as their aim correction for the purpose of reconciliation, that is, they were not vague in the least.

So the logical conclusion here is that if God is sovereign in the sense that Matt claims He is, that is “everything is in God’s hands and foreordained in a way people can’t fully understand”, then God must have given Matt the brain tumor and is therefore must be punishing Matt.1

Denying the logical conclusion

Some might object,

Chandler’s videos have often addressed the difficult questions of suffering, including whether it’s God’s will.

During a break at his most recent visit to Baylor hospital, Chandler said, “At the end of the day, I don’t believe God gave me this cancer, but I do believe he could have stopped it and didn’t. … God is not punishing me, but somehow, for my joy and his glory, he’s let me endure this and walked me through.”

Chandler is the first to acknowledge that he’s balancing Christian resignation with a flat-out effort to stay alive.

Why would their be a need to balance “Christian resignation with flat-out effort to stay alive” if the “Christian resignation” is not based on the belief that God ultimately gave him cancer?

Matt Chandler is a wonderful guy and it pains me to watch him struggle not only with a physical disease, but also with a theological disease.

As I pointed out above, Chandler’s view of God’s role in nature is causal (“everything is in God’s hands and foreordained in a way people can’t fully understand”). That is, God causally determines all things to come to pass according to His will (this is a belief shared among many Calvinists like Piper, Sproul, Voddie Baucham Jr., etc.). So if you combine this causal view of God’s role in nature with his last statement which follows a traditional compatabalist position, you end up with the logical conclusion that God gave him cancer. What is sort-of amusing (if it weren’t for the fact that it has the potential to completely destroy a person’s faith) is that he recognizes this conclusion as the logical outcome, and like a man jumping in front of a train in a valiant (but utterly futile) attempt to stop it, he issues the statement cited above. However, like a train, the logical force behind the earlier view of God’s sovereignty (interpreted to mean causal determinism) steamrolls right over this attempt to prevent the logical conclusion from following. The simple fact remains that no amount of convoluted reasoning can help him avoid the ugly logical conclusion his theological system forces him to.

Beliefs like this one are toxic.

It is the #1 reason people walk away from or are discouraged from pursuing Christ is that pastors like Matt call into question God’s character with their sloppy theological systems.

Matt has cancer because he lives in a fallen world. Period.

If any lesson is to be gleaned from his tragic situation it is that this world is broken and fallen and is in desperate need of a savior.

  1. If this sounds familiar, it should. This line of reasoning is exactly what many of Job’s friends followed. []

Death according to Buddhism

I’ve recently come across an author for American Thinker, Robin of Berkley. I absolutely love her work and story telling style. Here is an ex-script from her post titled “Tiger, the Buddha, and me”:

Here’s my favorite story about the Buddha: A grieving young mother from a poor background begged him to revive her dead son. Not only was she heartbroken, but she feared her husband’s wealthy family would punish and shun her for the child’s death.

The Buddha promised to bring the boy back to life if she returned with a mustard seed from a home where death had never visited. She thanked him profusely and set off for town.

The young mother knocked on door after door and heard heartbreaking stories of loss. Finally, she grasped the Buddha’s teaching: that sorrow is a part of life. She returned, bowed deeply to the Buddha, and asked him to help her bury her child.

It’s too bad that the mother didn’t visit Jesus’s home. While He may not have given her a mustard seed, He might have given her faith of about the same size1. That faith might have been large enough to move mountains, including the mountain of death that we all face2. She might have also realized that while the Buddha is right, death has touched every house3, he was wrong in that death is not just a natural part of life. That we should just dispassionately accept it and move on.

Death is not natural4, it is the result of evil5. Not everyone has tasted death6, and even those who have are not without hope of having their condition reversed.7

The good news is that death will one day be defeated.8. Then, those of us who have decided to stand with Jesus will say:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
-Isaiah 25:8, 1 Corinthians 15:55

  1. Matthew 17:20 []
  2. Romans 6:23 []
  3. Including God’s own house. []
  4. Genesis 2:17 []
  5. James 1:15 []
  6. Hebrews 11:5 []
  7. John 3:16 []
  8. 1 Corinthians 15:26 []

Depravity, is it total?

In a recent discussion on Facebook with a few Calvinistic brethren of mine, we ran across the topic of Total Depravity. Here is a segment of that conversation wherein I discuss the Reformed view of this doctrine’s flaws.

Jared, your view of man’s depravity seems to be rather chaotic and confused. Much like Luther and Calvin’s views on the matter were. Especially Calvin.

I remember reading in the Institutes on several occasions where Calvin would say in one chapter that Man was unwilling to submit to Christ while in the next he would go on about how man was unable to submit to Christ. Which is it? It seems fashionable in Reformed doctrine to attempt to have both. To have your epistemic cake and eat it too. However this is not merely a mystery (the favored escape hatch of Calvinists when faced with the logical and philosophical paradoxes elicited by the conclusions of their theological system). Rather, such notions of man’s inability to do good is antithetical, or logically opposed to the notion that man is unwilling to do good.

And therein may lie another difficulty for us. For the good I speak of is good meritorious unto salvation. In that respect we can certainly make a case that no man seeks after God of their own accord. However we’ve thankfully also been shown that God, through the Holy Spirit, is at work in the world drawing all men unto Christ. So in the end, the Calvinist notion of no man seeking is only half true. The rest of the truth is that man has been given all he needs in order to “seek and ye shall find”. As such I completely reject the notion that I Corinthians 2:14 is a normative prescriptive statement regarding man’s noetic capabilities such that, apart from Christ, a man is wholly ignorant of all spiritual truths.

Regarding Matthew 7:11, the focus of the passage is on the father who gives the ultimately good gift of his son. The focus is on the giver, not the gift. This ought to be pretty plain since gifts cannot, in and of themselves, be either good or bad. It is the giver and their intentions in making the gift that determine the goodness or not of the gift. I would say that I am surprised that you attempted to avoid this relatively straightforward and simple teaching of Jesus but I must admit that I have come to expect theological contortions like this when one holds to a man-made theological system first and foremost as opposed to simply taking the text at it’s plain meaning.

What is a text’s plain meaning? I would argue that it is what someone, saved or not, would understand the author to have meant.

But therein probably lies another great gulf between us for I do not think one can make the honest case (without severe epistemic ramifications) that apart from Christ dwelling within us we can not know or be certain of our knowledge regarding any truths whatsoever.

Oh, and regarding the LBC, WMC, etc. I hate to tell you but none of them are Scripture. Further I would argue that they all suffer from the same philosophical short-sightedness in that they somehow manage to miss the glaring problem with evil, sin, and suffering they create by their view of God’s sovereignty and how all things that come to pass (including sin) were somehow ordained by God. You can cling to the notion of a greater good if you wish, but I would argue that the scores of people whose faith has been wrecked and destroyed by such a heinous view of God ought to be a clear warning that such a notion is not only logically and morally untenable, but that in practice the fruit it yields is far from serene comfort.

The fact is that God is not in league with what he claims to be waging war against (name sin, death, and hell).

Orientation for new believers

What should new believers expect to find when they sign up to follow Christ and thereby inherit a spiritual family?

Well, pretty much the opposite of this list recently posted on a group support website for former Christians.

I think it is worth noting the stark contrast between conversion stories vs. de-conversion stories. One is a story of new life breaking in where death once stood. The other is a story of death overtaking life.

The contrast couldn’t be greater.