Wednesday, August 26, 2015

C.S. Lewis on Choosing among the Myriad of Religions

From C.S. Lewis's essay (warning:  the online version has quite a few typos) "Christian Apologetics",

For my own part, I have sometimes told my audience that the only two things really worth considering are Christianity and Hinduism. (Islam is only the greatest of the Christian heresies, Buddhism only the greatest of the Hindu heresies. Real paganism is dead. All that was best in Judaism and Platonism survives in Christianity.) There isn’t really, for an adult mind, this infinite variety of religions to consider. We may salva reverentia divide religions, as we do soups, into “thick” and “clear.” By thick I mean those which have orgies and ecstasies and mysteries and local attachments: Africa is full of thick religions. By clear I mean those which are philosophical, ethical, and universalizing: Stoicism, Buddhism, and the Ethical Church are clear religions. Now if there is a true religion , it must be both thick and clear: for the true God must have made both the child and the man, both the savage and the citizen, both the head and the belly. And the only two religions that fulfil this condition are Hinduism and Christianity. But Hinduism fulfils it imperfectly. The clear religion of the Brahman hermit in the jungle and the thick religion of the neighboring temple go on side by side. The Brahman hermit doesn’t bother about the temple prostitution nor the worshiper in the temple about the hermit’s metaphysics. But Christianity really breaks down the middle wall of the partition. It takes a convert from Central Africa and tells him to obey an enlightened universalist ethic: it takes a twentieth-century academic prig like me and tells me to go fasting to a mystery, to drink the blood of the Lord. The savage convert has to be clear: I have to be thick. That is how one knows one has come to the real religion.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Is the Atheist my Neighbor? A Review

 Are you a religious person who has a friend or relative who is an atheist or agnostic, but they just don't fit the usual categories of someone who wants to lead a selfish life of sin? Instead, they seem like pretty decent people?  And you just don't know  how to fit them in with what you have been told the Bible teaches about such people? 

Or are you an atheist or agnostic who is tired of religious people telling you that you actively suppress an innate belief in God, borne of a hatred of God and a desire to be wicked?  And to bolster their case they cite passages, such as  Psalms 14:1 and 53:1 in the Hebrew Bible, or Ephesians 2:12 or Romans 1:18-21 in the New Testament?

 Then the  book,  Is the Atheist my Neighbor?, by theology professor Randal Rauser, is for you.  In it Randal explains why none of these biblical passages are good reasons for accusing atheists of blindly, stubbornly ignoring God out of a desire to sin.  And he shows how often they can be good, reasonable people that are worth getting to know and befriend.  People who would make good neighbors.

Is the Atheist my Neighbor? is a short (97 pages), easy read.  But I think it is an important work, that can help change the tone of the conversation between believers and non-believers from hostility to respect and even friendship.  That's something we all could use a lot more of in this world.  Pick up a copy.  After you read it, I think you'll want to pass it on to that special friend or relative. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Parable of the Good Atheist

Theologian Randal Rauser offers the audio version of the Introduction to his book,  Is the Atheist My Neighbor?which is even better in the print version.

Or now there's the  youtube version.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Conversion of a Psychopath

I should probably warn that there may be some triggers in this video.

Why I am a Christian (David Wood).

Friday, May 1, 2015

Curing a Snakebitten World

There's a very strange story in one of the books of the Hebrew Bible:

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. (Numbers 21)

There is no explanation why looking at the bronze serpent on the pole would heal someone of their snake bite.  Does looking at the bronze serpent somehow suck the venom out of the victims before it can kill them?   I'm not sure, but it sounds like a possible explanation. 

Now what is interesting is that Jesus refers to this story when explaining his own significance:

  “14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (John 3)

So what connection did Jesus see between the story of the bronze serpent in the Hebrew Bible and himself?   Well, most of us are familiar with the story of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, and how it tempted humans to eat of the forbidden fruit, which resulted in their eventual deaths.  We could say that they had been snakebitten, and that the serpent's venom - sin - has been coursing through our veins ever since.  Could it be that is what Jesus had in mind?

If so, it would explain what John the Baptist says about Jesus earlier in the same gospel,

"Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"  (John 1:29)

In the sacrificial system of ancient Israel, on the day of Atonement, the high priest would confess the sins of the people over a goat, which would then be driven out into the wilderness.  (See Leviticus 16) Once the goat was gone, the people were considered to be cleansed of their sins.  Their sins had been taken away.

What is interesting is that the goat isn't just driven out into the wilderness.  It is driven into the wilderness to Azazel.  Azazel was probably the name of a demon.  Could it be that the goat is returning the sins - the venom - back to the serpent from whom it originally came?

Likewise, when Jesus was raised up on the cross, he absorbed into himself the sins of the world - the venom from the serpent - and perhaps returned it to its original source.  That seems to be the cure that God has offered to our snakebitten world.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Simple Way to Know the Truth about Jesus

I agree with Michael Brown's very simple way to know the truth about Jesus.  Just skip to the 21 minute mark of the following video.

Michael Brown:from drug addict to a disciple of Yeshua.