Monday, May 31, 2010 radio show on sacrifice and the Chrsitian Life Radio Show - Sacrifice and the Christian Life with Donald McConnell and Doug Eaton: A Memorial Day Special

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Guide to Basic Ideas #5: Death

We mentioned in the last entry that mankind’s fall into sin disrupted both every part of mankind and the physical itself. One of the results was that death entered the world. According to the scriptures, before mankind entered into sin, there was no death. This is undoubtedly difficult for modern man to accept since he expects to see the universe functioning in a mechanistic way and expects to see physical evidence to confirm such radical ideas. However, we don’t know how long the world existed without death, nor do we know exactly when these events occurred. Nor do we know all of the physical processes that have created the appearance of distance or time between us and the events of Genesis. We have ideas, but we can’t fully reconstruct what happened. In part because we were not there, in part because we cannot reconstruct what happened, and in part because God is a volitional actor of infinite power not a lab rat that can be put into an experimental maze and made to perform at will. The bible teaches that death entered the world through the sin of mankind. This death is both physical and spiritual. Human being’s bodies not only die, but human being’s, because of their rebellion against God, eventually suffer judgment and separation from God. The bible teaches that this involves eternal torment. While that may seem highly unpleasant or undesirable to us, it is completely just. God has behaved toward mankind in an incredibly loving, merciful, and gracious manner. Yet human beings rebel against God and behave selfishly, greedily, and sinfully almost from their very conception. God, through the provision He made in Jesus Christ, has made every opportunity for us to come back to Him. Through general revelation, He has revealed the way the world works, our sin, and our need for Him. Yet most human beings still reject all of this and do not seek God. God has to come out and find us and drag us almost kicking and screaming into His kingdom. God’s sentence of death is just and reasonable under the circumstances even though we as opposing parties to this judgment at times find that difficult to accept. God, in His mercy, has made it possible for us to avoid eternal death and to obtain eternal life. God has promised to resurrect to eternal joy and happiness those who are willing to accept His provisions in Christ. More on that will follow. It is interesting that the resurrection that God promises is a resurrection of human beings with bodies as well as a spirit or soul. We will continue to have a material and an immaterial element in eternity. This is another reason why Plato is wrong in thinking that only spirit is good.
The bible says it is appointed to man once to die and then the judgment. People who believe in reincarnation believe something completely incompatible with the biblical worldview. Every human being has only one life, dies, and then will face God’s judgment with a resurrection to eternal life or a resurrection to eternal suffering. There is no do-over. No human being is reincarnated or has any past or future life ahead of them except for the eternal life in Christ or the eternal life apart from God following the judgment. There certainly are some people who have an affinity for the past. I certainly feel that way myself. I can easily see that in many ways I am more of a pre-modern person than a post-modern person. But I never lived before 1960. I am not reincarnated from any prior person. Neither is anyone else. This basic teaching of Christianity is important because it means we have to get things right the first time around. There is no second chance. So, we try as hard as we can to persuade people to respond to God and to accept his mercy and grace.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Basic Ideas 4: Where Plato was Wrong

If you’ve read my blog you’ll notice that I’m an admirer of many of the ideas of Plato provided that they are reinterpreted to match the Christian worldview. However, there were areas where Plato was seriously wrong. One of these areas has to do with Creation. As Nancy Pearcey discusses in greater detail in her book Total Truth Plato believed that spirit and matter had both preexisted eternally and that spirit was associated with goodness and order and matter was associated with evil, intractability, and insufficiency. This simply isn’t the case. And Plato’s view led to a variety of negative results, especially in the Middle Ages. The emphasis of some early Christians on asceticism and the rise of the monastic movement as an ascetic phenomena as well as the improper belief that full time preaching of the gospel, either as a missionary or a pastor, is somehow the only really holy occupation or vocation are all negative fallout that came the idea the spiritual is good and the material is bad. Pearcey describes Plato’s view led to a “two-story” view of reality in which spirituality was superior and material or worldly things were inferior.
The biblical view of reality contrasts sharply with this idea. When God created the heavens and the earth He created them out of nothing. Matter is not eternal and did not exist before God created it. This ought to be obvious from a scientific point of view because what we know about matter now is that it simply isn’t the sort of thing that can be around for an eternity. If the universe had been around for an infinite period of time, it would already be cold and atoms would be equally spaced out in the emptiness of space. This is because universes run down. They become less organized and lose energy as time goes by. All matter behaves this way. Happily, God is not matter and God is the sort of thing that can exist eternally, indeed outside of time. God created time and the time space continuum as well as matter. Matter has been under His total and complete control from the very beginning. When God created the universe, He pronounced it to be good. Later, because of human sin, evil entered into the world and that evil brought about by human sin resulted in the world experiencing futility. When God created the world it was good, but after mankind sinned God cursed the world and it began to function in an imperfect way. Instead of merely bearing edible fruits and seeds, some plants began to bear poisonous thorns and to create toxic chemicals. Instead of animals living on the herbs of the field, some animals began to live by eating other animals. The entire way the world functions was affected as a result of mankind’s fall into sin. Naturally the greatest effect was on mankind himself. Human sin affects every part of our being. It does affect our material bodies, and it also affects our immaterial soul or spirit. Escaping from sin does not merely involve escaping from matter. It requires an escape from our immaterial personage as well or the transformation of that personage. As a result, we can’t escape from sin by merely avoiding certain things or having an ascetic lifestyle. Instead, the only escape from sin is through the transforming power of God made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We’ll talk more about that later. For now, it’s enough to point out that Plato was incorrect in believing that the material world was inherently evil because of its materiality. By contrast, Aristotle was also in a sense in error in acting as though the material world was entirely good and that every impulse, act, or pattern within that world was always for the good and fully in accord with the design and purpose of each thing. Thomas Aquinas, though he does talk about sin, sometimes seems to over emphasize the goodness of the natural world when he discusses the function and design of mankind and the elements of the natural world. Plato went too far one way, Aristotle and Aquinas went too far in the other in not taking into account the effects of the fall.