what i’m reading: The End of Reason

Category : God, bible, choice, faith, feeding my brain

 

One of the goals of R3 is to present an intellectual side to faith.  So often people have the idea that you must have “blind faith” to follow God.  But that’s not the case.  God never asks us to stop using our minds or to stop thinking.  He asks us to trust him, not become brain-dead.

But not everyone sees Christianity this way.  Some people question the reliability of the Bible.  Others question the sanity of believing.  Not long ago Sam Harris, an atheist, challenged the existence of God, and therefore the validity of believing.  In his book The End of Faith, Harris argued that since there is suffering, there can be no God, because God would never allow suffering.  And if he did, he’d be a horrible God, and therefore unworthy of belief. 

Those are pretty heavy charges.  And to be honest, on the surface they seem very compelling.

That’s where The End of Reason comes in.  Ravi Zacharias responds to those challenges and lays down an intellectual and philosophical argument for the existence of God. 

Somewhere along the line, we’ve decided that people who have faith can’t use their mind.  That’s probably the polite way of saying it.  But that’s not what I’ve discovered.  I’ve found that the more I use my mind, the more I work at problems, the more I study the issue, the stronger my faith, the more I believe.  That’s the value of The End of Reason.  In one short (it’s only 128 pages long) book, Ravi Zacharias lays out a strong argument for not only the existence of God, but for the existence of the Christian God. 

He starts by arguing for a Christian worldview based on the ideas of origin (where do we all come from), meaning (what’s the point?), morality, and hope that assures a destiny.  Zacharias argues that when atheism is challenged on those points, it can’t come up with logical and consistent answers. 

I’ll be honest, I didn’t find everything in this book convincing.  But I don’t think that’s the point.  If you talk to any scientist, he or she will tell you that no theory gets 100% of the evidence.  It’s not always about certainty, it’s about which side has more evidence. 

That’s where faith comes in.  There will never be a way to prove with 100% certainty that God exists.  We just need to take the evidence we have, use our minds, and allow faith to take us the last bit. 

In that regard The End of Reason is an excellent start.  Ravi Zacharias presents a compelling argument that counters the general arguments of atheism, and Sam Harris’s specific arguments.  Living out a life of faith is about being willing to ask tough questions, and listen for hard answers.  It’s about not shying away from the unknown.

obedience

Category : Daniel, God, faith, taking action

 

I have to admit, I didn’t expect to come back to the topic of obedience so quickly after prayer thursday. But sometimes God has a way of emphasizing a point.

Right after I finished writing that post I went to the gym and turned on my ipod to catch up on some Ravi Zacharias podcasts. Much to my surprise the topic on deck was Daniel’s life – specifically how he was able to stay obedient to God while virtually everyone around him was giving up God in favor of Babylonian ideals.

Ravi laid out three keys to Daniel’s success.

1. Resistence – Daniel knew where to draw the line. He recognized that there are some things we simply can’t do. Once we cross that line, it’s hard to get back.

2. Dependence – Daniel acknowledged that it was God who allowed him to act. He knew where knowledge, intellect, reason ended, and where faith and trust in God come into play. Because of this he was able to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and save not only his life, but other’s as well.

3. Confidence – Daniel believed that God is who he says, and does what he promises. And that God alone would be his judge.

When I think about obedience in my own life I realize how often I fail at all three of these steps. But what strikes me is how often I fail at the first one. I often push the limits. I want to see just how close I can get to something without sinning. Isn’t that setting myself up for failure? Isn’t that asking to be disobedient?

Maybe I need to take a lesson from Daniel, and make an effort to not cross that line in the first place. Then, maybe it won’t be so hard to obey.

nonnegotiables

Category : God, taking action, trust

 

Focus.

That is not a word I often use to describe myself. By my nature I’m easily distracted. Not because I can’t pay attention when I want to – but because so many things fascinate me it’s hard to concentrate on just one thing.

As a kid I never had a hard time thinking of something I wanted to be when I grew up. There were so many exciting possibilities. Would I be an astronaut? How about a comic book artist? A writer? The next Indiana Jones?

As an adult it’s still hard for me to focus on just one goal. There are still so many things I want to do with my life that sometimes I feel paralyzed – not by fear, but by excitement. I am excited about all the amazing possibilities that lay before me.

In Wide Awake, Erwin McManus suggests that the most difficult decisions in life aren’t between good and evil – but between two equally good choices.

I think this is true.

After all, how do we make a decision between becoming an astronaut and a doctor? Or a football star instead of a baseball player? Or the most important question of all: hot dogs or hamburgers?

Life is filled with endlessly good choices competing for our attention. That’s why it’s fundamentally important to know what we won’t negotiate. We need to know what things we won’t surrender no matter what the situation. And dare I say, no matter the cost?

This applies just as much to our faith as it does to our lives.

It’s hard to know how to interpret rock bands (good), or long hair (meh), or the prosperity gospel (bad) if you don’t know what your nonnegotiables are. If we don’t know what defines God, then we get upset over something as simple as the music you play in church.

When everything has equal importance you can’t separate preferences from necessities. And so we attack people who have a different set of preferences – even when they agree with us on the necessities.

Of course there’s something deeper here too. We can’t live “wide awake” if we don’t know our core convictions. We can’t live out our dreams if we don’t know when to say “no” and when to say “yes.”

Ravi Zacharias tells a story about Henry Martyn

Martyn was not an attractive man.  (Or at least that’s what history records.)  Because of his embarrassment by the way he looked, he preferred to stay away from people.  He lived his life on the edges of relationships.  That is, until a young woman was able to see beyond his appearance,  and fell in love with him. 

Naturally he fell in love with her.

His other love was God.  So sitting in church one day, Martyn heard about India and the desperate need to bring God to the people of that country.  Suddenly Martyn knew what his dream was.  He knew that to live wide awake, he had to move to India. 

And so he went to the woman he loved and asked her to join him. 

She refused. 

Devestated Martyn began to question his calling to Africa.  Was this really the dream God had for him?  Was he even hearing it correctly?  How could he choose between India and the woman he loved?

As he wrestled with his choice he realized it wasn’t a choice between a woman and India – but between this special woman and God.

Henry Martyn knew what was nonnegotiable in his life.  He knew that nothing was more important than God.  As hard as it must have been, he left England and moved to India.  And died there at the age of 31. 

Martyn risked everything, and sacrificed so much, because he knew the things he couldn’t compromise.  His decision cost him the woman he loved, produced tremendous physical suffering, and in the end took his life.  But because he knew his priorities, he lived his life with both focus and purpose.  He lived wide awake.

So what are your nonnegotiables?  What will you never compromise?

what i’m reading: Longing for a Holiday at Sea

Category : Paul, bible, feeding my brain, sharing faith

     

What does it look like to live out a life of faith? 

That’s a question I’m always asking myself.  In fact, that’s really the whole purpose of R3

The more I look at God, and who he is, the more I realize we shouldn’t hide.  That we shouldn’t be afraid of acting boldly.  And that includes hiding from our failures and weaknesses.  In other words, a major part of being Christian is being open and vulnerable.  It also means admitting that we aren’t perfect and that we don’t have all the answers.

For some this seems to come naturally.  They can admit the challenges in their life.  I find this difficult to do.

It’s a problem I share with the people who lived in Corinth during the first century.  They were becoming increasingly prideful and “righteous” in how they viewed themselves.  Sadly, I can all too often relate to that.  So Paul rather bluntly addressed the issue saying, “We [the apostles] are fools for Christ, but you [the Corinthians] are so wise in Christ!  We are weak, but you are strong!  You are honored, we are dishonored!”  (1 Corinthians 4: 10)

Paul is pointing out that the pride and arrogance are the exact opposite of how Christians should behave.  He offers a different way of living, saying, the apostles “have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men.” (1 Corinthians 4: 9

We’re not to put up fake barriers and to pretend we’re better than we are.  Because a true Christian is open with his or her life.  We’re vulnerable in front of the whole universe.  And here I am afraid of what people think of me!

This is why I find the blog Longing for a Holiday at Sea so encouraging.  It manages to be both bold and vulnerable.  It has that balance Paul implies.  Vulnerable, because it discusses difficult topics and personal trials.  Bold, because it focuses squarely on God’s grace and mercy.

The entire blog serves as an encouragement to people who are suffering and struggling.  It shows, in a very real way, that even in our struggles God has compassion for us.  In a book called The Grand Weaver, Ravi Zacharias demonstrates that God cares about our disappointments.  Our disappointments matter to him.  And this is surely reflected in Longing for a Holiday at Sea.  

Perhaps the thing I enjoy most is the encouragement I receive from reading this blog.  It teaches me that I can actively seek God, and have questions.  It shows that I can be imperfect, but still loved by God.  And those are lessons worth remembering.

quote of the day: purpose

Category : different, quote of the day

         

“If one does not know one’s purpose, any destination will do.”

- Ravi Zacharias
   Jesus Among Other Gods

what i’m reading: Jesus Among Other Gods

1

Category : Bible reliability, Jesus, bible, book review, feeding my brain

   

I think it’s safe to say that we live in a very pluralistic world, where ideas from a wide variety of cultures are shared and believed.  Who among us doesn’t know someone of a different faith or philosophical background?  But that pluralism isn’t limited to just religion or politics.  Choice is everywhere, including our toothpaste aisles!  Because there are so many options out there, sometimes it’s difficult to define our reality, and so we’ve all heard someone ask, “what is truth?”  

Of course it may not matter with toothpaste.  I suppose they may even all be the same.  But is religion?  Do all religions somehow end up at the same place?

That’s the question Ravi Zacharias takes in Jesus Among Other Gods.  Zacharias tackles some of the biggest questions facing religions (Is there a God?  Does God cause suffering?  Is God knowable?) and shows just how Christianity differs from Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Atheism.  In each chapter he discusses the Christian view and then compares it to one (or more) of the other major religions.  By showing that the religions believe very different things on these topics he argues that it is impossible for all religions to be the same.  Either God exists or he does not.  Either God sent his son Jesus or he did not.  If God exists Atheism can not be true.  If Jesus is not God, then Christianity can not be true.

Christianity is often presented as a religion based purely on faith.  But that’s not true.  There is certainly something to be said for “divine revelation” and “understanding through faith.”  Those things help Christians better understand the world.  But God didn’t leave us with only those tools.  He also gives us historical evidence and eye witness testimony. 

I don’t know about you, but I am very much concerned about the truthfulness of Christianity.  I want to know if Jesus was real, or if it is a hoax.  Frankly I have no desire to live my life believing in something that’s a sham.  And that’s what I enjoy about Zacharias’ approach.  He uses logic and reason to make the case for Christianity.  He puts together compelling arguments that answer tough questions.  And in my mind this book definitely proves that all religions are not the same.