I greatly appreciate the work of Tim Stratton of Free Thinking Ministries. Stratton most often argues using syllogisms and this is how I best understand arguments. Further, he is able to put difficult concepts "on the lower shelf" for those who are struggling to understand an argument or who may be new to apologetics. As I have said in the past, I highly recommend his work.
1. If God does not exist, life is objectively purposeless. 2. If life is objectively purposeless, there exists no objective standard to which one ought to approximate. 3. Anti-racism is an objective standard to which one ought to approximate. 4. Therefore, life is not objectively purposeless. 5. Therefore, God exists.
So I recently finished a new book by my favorite Anabaptist/Armenian,
Bruxy Cavey. In it he explains the Gospel in 1 word, the Gospel in 3
words and the Gospel in 30 words. On page 59 while discussing the Gospel in 3
words he makes the following statement that I found important in light of the
ontological argument and the concept of proper basic belief:
“At the core of our being, almost everyone holds a shared primary
belief. For you and for me, the belief is axiomatic and foundational, a basic
belief that we know we know. This idea resonates with all of us as somehow
truly true, so that virtually no one would want to argue against it. To assert
this proposition is to state what is obvious to our souls, to our deepest
selves. And here it is: the highest good
…There is no greater good.
...At the same time, the very concept of God is, by definition,
the highest good imaginable. There is nothing more great or more good than what
we call “God”…
God is the highest good conceived. Love is the highest good
achieved. So here are three beautiful words that bring together to two most
axiomatic beliefs ever to enter the human psyche: God is love.”
In 30 words, Bruxy explains that
I found the book to be a refreshing treatise on how an “all-loving
God” revealed to us in the person of Jesus makes sense and provides a
meaningful invitation to enter into the loving relationship for which God designed us and desires us to have.
Don’t take my word for it, read the book, don’t wait for the
Have a little hope on me, Roger
P.S. I also highly recommend Bruxy’s first book “The End of
P.S.S. If you haven’t read the book, can you
guess how Bruxy explains: a) The Gospel in 1 word? b) The Gospel in 3 words? Leave your answers in the comments, and I’ll
be back in a few days to reveal the "correct" answers.
Answer: At first glance, the prophecy in Ezekiel 28:11–19 seems to refer to a human king. The city of Tyre was the recipient of some of the strongest prophetic condemnations in the Bible (Isaiah 23:1–18; Jeremiah 25:22; 27:1–11; Ezekiel 26:1– 28:19; Joel 3:4–8; Amos 1:9, 10). Tyre was known for building its wealth by exploiting its neighbors. Ancient writers referred to Tyre as a city filled with unscrupulous merchants. Tyre was a center of religious idolatry and sexual immorality. The biblical prophets rebuked Tyre for its pride brought on by its great wealth and strategic location. Ezekiel 28:11–19 seems to be a particularly strong indictment against the king of Tyre in the prophet Ezekiel’s day, rebuking the king for his insatiable pride and greed.
However, some of the descriptions in Ezekiel 28:11–19 go beyond any mere human king. In no sense could an earthly king claim to be “in Eden” or to be “the anointed cherub who covers” or to be “on the holy mountain of God.” Therefore, most Bible interpreters believe that Ezekiel 28:11–19 is a dual prophecy, comparing the pride of the king of Tyre to the pride of Satan. Some propose that the king of Tyre was actually possessed by Satan, making the link between the two even more powerful and applicable.
Before his fall, Satan was indeed a beautiful creature (Ezekiel 28:12–13). He was perhaps the most beautiful and powerful of all the angels. The phrase “guardian cherub” possibly indicates that Satan was the angel who “guarded” God’s presence. Pride led to Satan’s fall. Rather than give God the glory for creating him so beautifully, Satan took pride in himself, thinking that he himself was responsible for his exalted status. Satan’s rebellion resulted in God casting Satan from His presence and will, eventually, result in God condemning Satan to the lake of fire for all eternity (Revelation 20:10).
Like Satan, the human king of Tyre was prideful. Rather than recognize God’s sovereignty, the king of Tyre attributed Tyre’s riches to his own wisdom and strength. Not satisfied with his extravagant position, the king of Tyre sought more and more, resulting in Tyre taking advantage of other nations, expanding its own wealth at the expense of others. But just as Satan’s pride led to his fall and will eventually lead to his eternal destruction, so will the city of Tyre lose its wealth, power, and status. Ezekiel’s prophecy of Tyre’s total destruction was fulfilled partially by Nebuchadnezzar (Ezekiel 29:17–21) and ultimately by Alexander the Great.
I (The Other Chad) have been a Chicago Bears fan since the Super Bowl Shuffle days of 1985. If you are a Bears fan, that means the Green Bay Packers are your nemesis. They have the longest running rivalry in professional football.
For the past 8 years, my Bears have been dominated by the quarterback play of Aaron Rodgers. He is without a doubt one of the greatest signal callers in the history of the NFL. So as much as I dislike playing the Packers, I truly appreciate what Rodgers can do on the field.
What I also respected about Aaron Rodgers was that he wasn't afraid to share his faith. But a recent ESPN article revealed that he has actually abandoned his Christian beliefs. I was very disappointed to hear this news. But what was even more concerning was his reasoning. He struck up a relationship with Rob Bell, who is known for his book "Love Wins" and denies that there is a literal Hell. Apparently, Bell's worldview was convincing enough for Rodgers to now declare that he no longer calls himself a Christian.
Below is an excerpt from the ESPN article describing what shook Rodger's faith. The disappointing thing is it does not sound like he sought out additional resources other than Bell and his recommendations. The doubts described are common questions that can be addressed with reasonable answers. My prayer is that Aaron Rodgers will continue his search and see that there is an overwhelming amount of evidence for the truth of Christianity.
Excerpt from ESPN Article:
I ask him where this search has led him, half expecting him to reveal some second act. Instead, he says he looked inward.
"I think in people's lives who grew up in some sort of organized religion, there really comes a time when you start to question things more," he says. "It happens for some at an early age; others, you know, maybe a little older. That happened to me six or seven years ago."
Like so many players in the NFL, Rodgers devoted much of his young life to those twin pillars of American culture: football and faith. As a boy growing up in Chico, he attended a nondenominational church with his parents, both devout Christians, and absorbed the religion's traditional tenets. And yet, even as he soaked up those lessons, there were aspects of dogma that left him dissatisfied. "I remember asking a question as a young person about somebody in a remote rainforest," he tells me. "Because the words that I got were: 'If you don't confess your sins, then you're going to hell.' And I said, 'What about the people who don't have a Bible readily accessible?'"
For years, these concerns nagged at him, especially as he met more people from other walks of life -- teammates who grew up in different parts of the world, friends with different religious backgrounds. He started reading books that delved into alternate interpretations of theology. Then, not long after he became the starter in Green Bay in 2008, he met Rob Bell, a young pastor from Michigan whom the Packers invited to speak to the team. When the talk ended, Rodgers waited for the group to dissipate and then introduced himself to Bell, best known for his progressive views on Christianity. The two men struck up a friendship. Bell sent Rodgers books on everything from religion to art theory to quantum physics, and the quarterback gave him feedback on his writing. Over time, as he read more, Rodgers grew increasingly convinced that the beliefs he had internalized growing up were wrong, that spirituality could be far more inclusive and less literal than he had been taught. As an example, he points to Bell's research into the concept of hell. If you close-read the language in the Bible, Rodgers tells me, it's clear that the words are intended to evoke an analogy for man's separation from God. "It wasn't a fiery pit idea -- that [concept] was handed down in the 1700s by the Puritans and influenced Western culture," he says.
"The Bible opens with a poem," he adds. "It's a beautiful piece of work, but it was never meant to be interpreted as I think some churches do." I ask him whether he still sees himself as a Christian, and he says he no longer identifies with any affiliation.
After Super Bowl XLV, Rodgers and Bell spent a lot of time talking about what he experienced on that bus -- how he felt, or didn't feel, and his realization that absolute success on the field didn't make him completely content. It wasn't until he confronted his own "narrow-minded" views about the world and his place in it, he says, that he experienced a sense of the fulfillment he yearned for. "I think questions like that in your mind lead to really beautiful periods where you start to grow as a person," he says. "I think organized religion can have a mind-debilitating effect, because there is an exclusivity that can shut you out from being open to the world, to people, and energy, and love and acceptance.
"That wasn't really the way that I was, maybe the first 25 or 26 years of my life," Rodgers continues. "I was, you know, more black-and-white. This is what I believe in. And then at some point ... you realize, I don't really know the answers to these questions."
Did God have anything to do with the monstrous storm that wreaked havoc in Texas for several days? Some will argue that God was simply an interested observer; after all, the laws of nature rule in this fallen world.
But intuitively people know that God was in charge. I’m sure that even those who had not prayed in years called on God in their distress, asking Him to control their circumstances. And, of course, as believers we know that God was not just an interested bystander.
The book of Job is instructive here. God gave Satan permission to send wind and lightning to kill Job’s children but Satan could not act without God’s express approval. To be sure, nature is fallen and so earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis occur, but Job knew that whatever the secondary causes might be, his calamity was traceable to God. “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21, italics mine).
Who sent the flood during the days of Noah? Who sent the plagues that ravaged Egypt? Who sent the storm that caused the pagan sailors to throw Jonah overboard? In these and dozens of other passages, the Bible traces the ultimate cause of these disasters to God. He does not usually do them directly, of course, but the secondary causes of nature are also under His command. Jesus could have spoken the word and Hurricane Harvey would have become as calm as the waters of Galilee.
God has His own reasons for these events which are unknown to us. But from Scripture we can glean what our response should be and the lessons to be learned.
First: We Grieve, We Do Not Judge
Jeremiah grieved alone. He was dismayed that others were so calloused that they could walk past the destroyed city of Jerusalem with dry eyes. “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which was brought upon me, which the Lord inflicted on the day of his fierce anger” (Lamentations 1:12). The destruction of Jerusalem did not just affect the wicked; the righteous suffered equally. Jeremiah grieved for both.
Jesus, when speaking about a disaster in Jerusalem, asked, “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4-5). Here was a tragedy known and talked about in the city of Jerusalem. It is quite possible that this tower was an aqueduct built by Romans who were employing Jews in its construction. Of course the Jewish zealots would have disapproved of Jewish workers helping with a project that would benefit their despised oppressors. We can hear it already, “Those men deserved to die…they were victims of God’s judgment!” The self-righteous pointed fingers in those days too!
Jesus affirmed that those who died when the tower collapsed were not greater sinners than others in Jerusalem. It was both morally wrong and self-righteous to sit in judgment on those who were killed so unexpectedly. From God’s standpoint, disasters might be meticulously planned, but from our perspective they occur haphazardly, randomly.
Let our tears be translated into action, helping with our prayers, with our giving to organizations that help the distressed and, if possible, join others who are physically responding to those in need. We grieve for the people in places like Corpus Christi and Houston; we grieve we do not judge.
Second: Values Are Clarified
When that tower in Siloam fell, no one mourned the loss of the bricks, but eighteen families mourned the loss of a husband, father, or brother. As Max Lucado said back when Katrina hit New Orleans, “No one laments a lost plasma television or submerged SUV. No one runs through the streets yelling, ‘My cordless drill is missing’ or ‘My golf clubs have washed away.’ If they mourn it is for people who are lost. If they rejoice it is for people who have been found.” (1) He goes on to say that raging hurricanes and broken levees have a way of prying our fingers off the stuff we love. One day you have everything; the next day you have nothing.
“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). Disasters help us separate the trivial from the weighty, the temporal from the eternal. Suddenly what is most important becomes most important.
Third: Life Is Uncertain
Natural disasters confirm the words of James, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). The people who lose their lives in a natural disaster do not wake that morning telling themselves, “This could be my last day on Earth.” Collapsing towers, accidents, and floods happen without warning.
When you read the obituaries of those who have died in sudden calamities, you should visualize your own name in the column. All of us know someone who has been unexpectedly killed in an accident, perhaps in a car wreck, at work, or by drowning, not to mention a heart attack. When we grieve with the families, we should remind ourselves that our own death could be just around the next corner. We are born with an expiration date.
Tragedies rid us of the overconfidence we have that we are in control of our destiny. Disasters, in the words of David Miller, remind us that “Human existence on Earth was not intended to be permanent. Rather, the Creator intended life on Earth to serve as a temporary period in which people are given the opportunity to attend to their spiritual condition as it relates to God’s will for living. Natural disasters provide people with conclusive evidence that life on Earth is brief and uncertain.” (2)
In one of his most popular books, C.S. Lewis imagines a lead demon, Screwtape, telling his underlings that war can be dangerous to their demonic agenda because it causes humans to think about eternity. If the demons are not careful “they might see thousands turning to the enemy [God] during this tribulation. In fact, it just might cause thousands to divert their attention to values and causes that are higher then they themselves…Thus, in wartime men prepare for death in ways they do not when things are going smoothly.” (3)
Then the demon continues:
“How much better for us if all humans died in costly nursing homes amid doctors who lie, nurses who lie, friends who lie, as we have trained them, promising life to the dying, encouraging the belief that sickness excuses every kind of indulgence, and even, if our workers know their job, withholding all suggestions of a priest lest it should betray to the sick man his true condition!” (4)
Lewis believes—and I concur—that “contented worldliness” is one of the demons’ best weapons at times of peace. But when disasters come, this weapon is rendered worthless. He writes, “In wartime not even a human can believe that he is going to live forever.”
This is one of the reasons why we will never know all of God’s purposes in natural disasters—we simply do not know the thousands, or perhaps millions, of spiritually careless people who were forced to take God seriously in a time of crisis. Even those of us who watch these calamities from a safe distance, hear God saying, “Prepare for your own death…it may be soon.”
Fourth: We See a Preview of Coming World-Wide Judgments
Let’s return to the words of Jesus as He speaks about the collapsed tower of Siloam, “But unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). We’ve all seen a movie preview that gives us a glimpse of what is yet to come. Natural disasters remind us that severe judgment is coming.
Depending on how you classify them, at least three or four natural disasters will accompany the return of Jesus to Earth: “For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn…” (Matthew 24:27–30).
Convulsions of nature will eventually be a part of God’s sovereign judgment. Here is a future ‘natural disaster’ which is the real movie after the preview.
“When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’” (Revelation 6:12–17).
We owe a great debt to those affected by Hurricane Harvey. What happened to them is a warning to us all. If we don’t repent we “shall likewise perish.”
Fifth: While There Is Time, We Must Find Firm Ground
Jesus likened a future judgment to a natural disaster. He ended the Sermon on the Mount by telling the story of two men: one who built his house on the sand, and the other on the rock. On a beautiful sunny afternoon they looked identical; perhaps the house built on the sand was even more beautiful than the one built on the rock. But a natural disaster revealed the difference between the two. “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock” (Matthew 7:25). The other house could not endure the storm, “and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:27).
Recall that the Titanic went under with 1,522 people knowingly going to a watery grave. At the White Star office in Liverpool, England, a huge board was set up; on one side was a sign titled: Known To Be Saved, and on the other, the words: Known To Be Lost. Hundreds of people gathered to watch the signs. When a messenger brought new information, the question was: to which side would he go?
Although the travelers on the Titanic were either first, second, or third class upon boarding, after the ship went down, there were only two categories: the saved and the drowned. Just so, in the final Day of Judgment, there will be only two classes: the saved and the lost. There is only heaven and hell.
God shouts from heaven, “Unless you repent, you will likewise perish.”
1. Max Lucado, “What Katrina Can Teach Us,” Pulpit Helps, vol.30, no.11 (November 2005), 5.
2. David Miller, “God and Katrina” http;/www.apologeticspress.org article 351
3. C.S. Lewis, Paved with Good Intentions (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 24