Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Pain, Disappointment and Apostasy

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

In a post somewhere, I made a remark in the introduction, "Personal tragedy does not ruin your faith if you stay close to God. The 'problem of pain' is something that evolutionists and atheists cannot answer, but we know that Genesis is the foundation of all major Christian doctrines. Death entered the world through Adam's sin", and I quoted Romans 5.12. (More about the article itself later.)

Some people who are not rooted in their faith may fall away during bad times. There are those who look for excuses to turn away from God. Others remain firm, and even grow in their faith. God is there, and he has been there all along.
Used by permission of Ken Ammi
Naturally, some atheo-fascists decided to attack a part of my introduction and ignore the actual article:
  • "You make a living out of giving dumb comments? Pain evolved so creatures wouldn't hurt themselves more by not feeling they're "damaged". Stop dumb commenting!"
  • "...the purpose of the post seemed to be that evolution couldn't explain pain, now as you know pain is covered in evolution as it is a development of the sensory organs and nervous system.  I pointed out that it was a poor argument..."
Aside from childish personal attacks and outright misrepresentation (focusing on half of a sentence in my introduction, then claiming that it was the essence of the article, which clearly had not read), they used boilerplate-type responses that had no meaning. They were based on circular reasoning and easily-refuted pragmatism, but the fact remains that atheism and evolutionism cannot answer the deeper questions of human experience. Only biblical Christianity can adequately explain death and suffering as well as the problem of evil.

There are people who claim to have been Christians (or theists to some extent) and have renounced God. Quite often, they have had a superficial "conversion experience" and were not rooted in the Word of God and strong teachings. I have had discussions with people (and read comments) who claim to have been Christians for a long time, yet they showed abysmal ignorance of what the Bible really says; so many refuse to do their homework, yet have opinions on subjects that they do not understand. Some use an "argument from outrage", that a loving God could not exist because if he did, he would not allow suffering. But suffering is actually an argument for the existence of God.

Some, like Lewis Wolpert, want God to become a kind of cosmic wish fairy; if he doesn't do what is asked of him, then he doesn't exist. (Yeah, makes sense to me, too. I believe people like this were looking for excuses to rebel against God.) Some have had deeper problems and said, in essence, "God wasn't there when I needed him and didn't answer my prayers", then they proceed to hate him, pretend he doesn't exist and attack those of us who proclaim the authority of Scripture.

Some people who are not rooted in their faith may fall away during bad times. There are those who look for excuses to turn away from God. Others remain firm, and even grow in their faith. God is there, and he has been there all along.
Image credit: izQuotes. Text by C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity

Naturally, most people will ask where God is during bad times. But we need to remember that he is our creator (Romans 9.20-21, John 1.3), does things according to his purpose (Ephesians 1.11-12), does not consult with us first (Job 38.4) and has more wisdom than we do (Isaiah 55.9). Pretending that God is evil to justify rebellion against him is both arrogant and absurd (Job 40.8). His children need to trust and cling to him (Galatians 4.6), knowing that his judgments are true and righteous (Psalm 19.9).

While there are some people who use evil in the world, their own disappointment in God and other things as reasons to rebel against God, there are many others who stay firm in the faith. The article for which I had written an introduction was about one of the most tragic and painful things that can happen to a woman — my friend had a miscarriage. Another friend was feeling the pain of a failed marriage when his divorce became final. Christian singer Jeremy Camp's wife died at age 21, they had only been married four and a half months. Despite tragedy and trials, people still believe.

I have been up front about the fact that I fell away from the faith for about fifteen years. (No, I did not "lose my salvation" and get "re-saved" or "re-born-again", loss of salvation is a false teaching.) This was not from anger at or disappointment in God. There were several reasons (written elsewhere), but mostly because I wanted to pursue the sin in my life.

If I wanted to use the pain in my life to reject God and pretend he doesn't exist, I have several:
A proper understanding of the Scriptures, patience and respect for God helps keep the apostasy away. Also, plenty of prayer, sometimes Christian counseling and talking to someone who cares is very helpful. There are people I love and want to help, but they are on the other side of the planet. But when I know what's happening, I can pray for them and offer encouragement.

It's up to each of us to draw closer to God and persevere. God is there, and he is listening. We still believe.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

What Are You Putting In Your Head?

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen 

Some people identify themselves as Christians and creationists, then wonder why their spiritual life is a shambles. A big part of the problem is the negativity and time-wasting that occurs. Here are some things to consider.Although this article is written for Christians, other people should be able to get useful information out of it as well. 

There are Christians who complain that their walk with God is severely lacking. We cannot base our faith (or worse, base our assurance of salvation) on how we feel, but perhaps we're getting a spiritual nudge to examine ourselves.

It amazes me how in conversations, on social media and so on, I encounter people who have indicated that they are Christians but have — uh, interests — that are opposite to those that a Spirit-led Christian should be indulging in. Now wait, I'm not going to get legalistic like some Fundamentalists I've known and give you a list of "approved" activities. (I'm listening to secular instrumental music while I write this.) What I am going to do is give you some things for your prayerful consideration. Not being a fan of the highly subjective "What Would Jesus Do?" movement, there are still times it may be useful.

Let me make up someone, a sort of composite of several people in my experience. Nemo Nominal states that he is a Christian. He has a Bible, listens to teachings once in while and passes along biblical pictures with text. Nemo also listens to various secular music performers that glorify promiscuous sex, violence toward women, occult themes, alcohol abuse, profanity, the party lifestyle, rebellion and more. He also likes movies with extreme violence, crude humor, lots of profanity, graphic sex, mocking God and so on.

Nemo's television viewing includes quite a bit of violent and immoral programming. His Bible? On a shelf somewhere; he made a New Year's resolution to read it daily and fell away after about a week. When he bothers to read a book, it is an action adventure with the same elements as his television and movie choices. Oh, wait — he did read the "religious" (but unbiblical) books The Shack and Heaven is for Real. His copy of The Greatest Hoax on Earth by Dr. Jonathan Sarfati has been on the shelf for two years after he received it as a gift. Right next to The Lie: Evolution/Millions of Years by Ken Ham.

If you asked him if he knew for sure that if he died right now that he was sure he would go to Heaven, he cannot answer. Nemo is uncomfortable around Christians who are enthusiastic about their faith, and is willing to compromise on biblical authority regarding Genesis and evolution.

One time, Nemo tried to imagine Jesus attending one of his movies with him and listening to some of his MP3s, then pushed those images out of his mind because they made him uncomfortable.

After all these influences, he still wonders why his spiritual life is virtually nonexistent.

There are two admittedly flawed but somewhat helpful analogies that I want to use. One is from my father, who likened the mind to a garden. If you plant bad things and give them attention, those will grow. The same with good things. Also, the mind is like a computer. I learned this with programming languages: Garbage In, Garbage Out. For that matter, in Web page design, a bit of bad HTML coding can spoil a page or even a site.

It's not rocket surgery to realize that filling your mind with negativity will affect your emotions as well as your spiritual life. In fact, it can have some detrimental effects on your physical health as well. For that matter, when I was listening to Kid Rock, I was more willing to be aggressive, and my blood pressure was elevated.

There are two other aspects that I want to address. First, negative people. We can't escape them of course, but we sometimes we can find ways to cut down on our contact with them. Especially online. One of my Facebook friends was discussing how he is less willing to have people post things to him that they know he objects to, or people who will make a point of being argumentative. I have my own areas where I'll "unfriend" (or, on Twitter, "unfollow") someone, or block if needed. Watch who you hang out with, they can bring you down (1 Cor. 15.33).

Negative people can be in various discussion groups, Pages, other aspects of social media. Some Christians think that by arguing with atheists, they are promoting the gospel. Sometimes, yes. But too often, they will argue with its own sake and to bolster their egos by attacking Christians (especially biblical creationists). There comes a time when these Christians need to stop throwing pearls before swine and giving what is holy to dogs (Matt. 7.6), to shake the dust off their feet and move on (Matt. 10.14). There are other people who may want to have a genuine conversation, but their time was squandered by arguing with atheopaths.

Some of these obstreperous types are only after attention and bolstering their egos. (I can name some that it is practically impossible to do anything "right" in their eyes, and the few times they are wrong, they have excuses that it wasn't their fault anyway). Many are consumed with hate and are willing to listen, let alone, to learn. These types should be ignored so that the Christian can move on to more productive uses of his or her time. Not to mention being better for the blood pressure and spiritual growth. Besides, we need to be more concerned with glorifying God than with what they think about us!

But I must add that there are negative Christians as well. Some will judge you for not being a good enough Christian because you don't follow their pet doctrines on nonessentials for salvation. Or they just argue too often. I believe many are just as full of arrogance and pride as angry atheists, and I recommend distancing yourself from people like that as well. They may be weak or even false Christians (Gal. 5.16-17).

Next, neutral activities. While not everything you do has to be "productive", some things can easily be black holes for your time. For example, how much time do you spend looking at funny videos and pictures or just "surfing" without a goal? It can be fun, of course. And suddenly, several hours are gone. You can plug several other things into the above and see if, while not actually damaging, they are taking away from your valuable time and mental energy.

What do we have, then? Some of the negativity in your life is easily controlled by paying attention to your entertainment choices. Be honest with yourself and ask if it's harmful to your attitude and mental health. Consider how is it affecting your spiritual life. Would Jesus do this? If you do watch some things, watch them with discernment and take your thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10.5).

Biblical Creation and Evangalism, The Question Evolution Project, Philppians 4:8

I have a challenge for you. Go on a kind of fast. Give up the raunchy material for a period of time, say thirty days. (Don't get rigid about it, if you stop into the convenience store and their radio has Lady Gaga playing or the television is on, that's no reason to run out of there.) If thirty days is too much for you, try less. Two weeks. One week. But I urge you to try.

This kind of a fast should have a positive effect, but it is not enough. It was emphasized to me when I came out of messing with occult matters that I had left a void, and that needed to be filled with good things. If you want music, there are good substitutes on the Christian market, and even streaming audio on the Web (as well as apps) that can give you the sound you want with lyrics that are far better for you. I cannot recommend much Christian "entertainment", unfortunately, but I can recommend that you find other uses for your time than filling your mind with junk (Phil. 4.8). Personally, I recommend biblical creation science material. You can even find videos from good teachers on the Web (here, for example). And podcasts. And sites. And books. And... You're not going to be able to adequately defend and present the truth of biblical creation, or the Christian life itself, if you don't put some effort into learning.

My main purpose with this article is to encourage people to get rid of the negativity and replace it whenever possible with more wholesome things. Christians can get spiritually uplifting and edifying material. Make friends with more positive and spiritually-minded people. And most of all, get into your Bible reading!

— Cowboy Bob Sorensen

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Trust, Confidence and the Ripple Effect

Christians have confidence in God's power for salvation. God is trustworthy because of who he is. Sometimes we have some difficulty trusting in him because we usually cannot see what he is doing, but that improves as our faith grows and we have more experience in our walk with him.

Humans are another matter, as trust has to be earned. We often start out small and see if our trust in someone is justified, and then build from there. Unfortunately, trust can be easily shaken or even destroyed. When someone does something to shake our confidence in them and our trust level, it can have a ripple effect, influencing other areas of our relationship with that person. Especially if someone is a respected teacher or apologist.

freeimages / Vjeran Lisjak
Simple Matters
There are nonessentials that some of us prefer, such as eschatology, continuance or cessation of the sign gifts of the Spirit,  pedobaptism, predestination and other doctrines. We can disagree on these without breaking fellowship. Or should be able to do so, anyway. I disagree with some of the beliefs of Dr. James White and of Dr. Michael Brown. But they have Christian fellowship even though the two of them disagree on some matters — they even debate together against opponents of essential matters. Thinking Christians do this; we can hold differing viewpoints and still get along, perhaps we'll have debates and discussions, but still consider each other brothers and sisters in Christ. The fact that we have disagreements may cause us to more closely examine what others teach and believe.

We all know that people make mistakes. Some people will use a mistake as an excuse to call someone a liar or to dismiss what they have to say ("typo pouncing" does not give someone an intellectual or morally superior position). The ripple here is that if someone makes a few too many mistakes for my liking (aside from getting tongue-tied from excitement, fatigue or whatever), then I am more likely to check what is being said a little more closely.

More Scrutiny
There are certain doctrinal matters on which I refuse to compromise, even though they are not essential to salvation. Not essential, but still important. For example, it is disappointing to me when a Christian apologist or philosopher defends an old Earth viewpoint. It implies to me that he or she is elevating "science" above Scripture. It can also imply that this person has not bothered to investigate the relevance of Genesis to achieve a proper understanding of Scripture and its authority.

Either way, I become more skeptical of his teachings and skill, and pay closer attention to what is being said.  When the apologist or teacher begins to make a point of teaching old Earth beliefs (especially theistic evolution) and mocking biblical creation, that ripple will probably cause me to end my association with him or her.

Suspected Dishonesty
I ended my association with a biblical creationist because I believe he was being disingenuous. Was he actually lying? I cannot say, because I do not know his heart and if he intended to deceive people. It was on the matter of supporting King James Only-ism, and people with this cult-like mentality have been shown to be dishonest. This man had been a bit shifty in the past but I gave him the benefit of doubt. Later, he used misleading terminology and invalid comparisons on the KJVO issue. With his skill and knowledge (having scientific training and credentials), he should know better than to use such blatant logical fallacies. I cannot prove dishonesty and it is not worth making a case for it, so I simply stopped associating with him and will no longer promote his articles on my sites. (Note: I do not want to get sidetracked on debating KJVO, preferring instead that people will understand the point that this is underscoring.) The ripples get larger.

Outright Dishonesty 
Unlike some people, I will not just run off at the mouth and libel someone by calling them a liar. However, I have heard a respected apologist misrepresent biblical creationists. (He remains unnamed because I have no proof.) Not only did he use a hasty generalization, but when he gave his comments about a creationist, it struck me as very limited information. I felt that I could not trust him, so I stopped listening to him.

Likewise, I have heard and read blatant misrepresentations of presuppositional apologetics. Giving them some leeway in the matter, there are several different schools of thought on presuppositional apologetics and it gets confusing (I do not fully grasp it myself, though I do have strong leanings in that direction). The ripples of confidence and trust get much larger and more significant.

Blatant Sin and Compromise
It has amazed me that some people were respected by Christians, caught in sins (some of them never actually repented), denied the Bible that they once claimed to believe — and then are idolized by the undiscerning Christians anyway.  I'm not talking about someone getting angry and cursing or something small, either. That ripple has become a wave that washes away my sand castle.

Christians need to have healthy skepticism and be on guard so we do not give out false or erroneous information. When people who are supposed to be teaching us (James 3.1) make significant mistakes, use bad reasoning, are dishonest — well, that wrecks our trust. Will I forgive these people? It gets difficult, but I must (Ephesians 4.32). Will I trust them again? As it stands now, no. But only God knows the future.

— Cowboy Bob Sorensen