Thursday, May 31, 2012

Should Christians be surprised by suffering?

In light of some recent comments on Christians and suffering that I've read on a few blogs, I wanted to share a few thoughts on the topic. Should Christians be surprised by suffering in their own lives? Should they be surprised by suffering in the world? We shouldn't be surprised by the suffering we endure in this life. Peter wrote in his letter, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you."

What about the things preachers tell us on television? Aren't we supposed to have "our best life now"? With just enough faith can't we live a life full of health, wealth, and pleasure? Well, all of those are things are indeed pleasurable. Health and wealth are definitely pleasing to us, but I think if one's focus is on health, wealth, and fun then one is missing the point of Christianity.

God does not rescue us from earthly suffering, instead God rescues us from sin and ultimate suffering. What is ultimate suffering? I would say that ultimate suffering is eternal separation from God. That is the suffering God rescues us from. I'm not convinced that Christians can have their best life now here on earth. To think such a thing is possible is truly wishing and not an idea that holds much weight. 

I think modern Christians are surprised by suffering because prosperity teachers (for example Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer) teach their listeners that Christians are entitled to prosperity and to activate that prosperity you just need a little faith, you know the kind that is the size of a mustard seed, and then BOOM you will be rich, healthy, and have a fun time here on earth. These guys also teach that if you're a poverty stricken Christian then you're not living the "life of faith" and that if you "just had enough faith" you wouldn't be in the mess you're in. If you hear crap, I mean, teaching like this and think that it's biblical teaching, then yeah, you're going to be surprised when you're budget doesn't look like Bill Gates' budget aren't you? The "prosperity theology" will also make people do things like Meyer wrote in her book We laid hands on the check and prayed. I went and got all of our checkbooks and my pocketbook and Dave got his wallet and we laid hands on them and put the blood on them, asking God to protect our money, to cause it to multiply and to see to it that Satan could not steal any of it from us” (p.111 The Name, The Word, The Blood.)

I don't mean to imply that being rich and healthy are bad things to pursue. What I am saying is that Christians shouldn't expect those things as rights or that health and wealth is due to them simply because they are Christian. God does not owe us material pleasure. He rescued us from ultimate suffering, which is far greater than any material gain we can ever have in our earthly life. The Apostle Paul explores that concept in his letters to various churches and people that the present suffering we endure now cannot compare to the eternal life given to us from God. While that thought isn't always the best answer for a friend, family-member, or even yourself, to the question of suffering; it is the biblical answer I think and also a far more satisfying answer than "Well, if you just had enough faith you could get out of this mess you're in."

Suffering is a common theme in the Bible and not at all incompatible with Christian theism. I won't get into the topic here because I've wrote on it elsewhere, but I mention it in this blog post to make the point that Christians shouldn't be surprised when a flavor of suffering comes our way because it will hit all of us sometime in our life. When it comes our way we endure it and not lose trust in God because a calamity has knocked us down.

Check out this video below by R.C. Sproul and please check out the links.


Is the Word Faith movement biblical? There are more links at the bottom of this article related to the Word Faith movement

Why suffering?

Understanding Evil: The best of all possible worlds

Understanding evil

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Quote of the week - Allan Bloom on reason

"There are two threats to reason, the opinion that one knows the truth about the most important things and the opinion that there is no truth about them. Both of these opinions are fatal to philosophy; the first asserts that the quest for truth is unnecessary, while the second asserts that it is impossible. The Socratic knowledge of ignorance, which take to be the beginning point of all philosophy, defines the sensible middle ground between two extremes."

-Allan Bloom, Giants and Dwarfs,  p. 18

Monday, May 21, 2012

Quote of the week - Immanuel Kant on morality

"Even if there never have been actions arising from such pure sources, what is at issue here is not whether this or that happened; that, instead, reason by itself and independently of all appearances commands what ought to happen; that, accordingly, actions of which the world has perhaps so far given no example, and whose very practicability might be very much doubted by one who bases everything on experience, are still inflexibly commanded by reason ... because ... duty ... lies, prior to all experience, in the idea of a reason determining the will by means of apriori grounds." 

-Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the metaphysics of morals, 1785

Friday, May 18, 2012

Panel debate on the existence of the Christian God and if it matters

This panel debate is on the existence of the God of the bible and if His existence matters to the world. This panel style conversation involves Christopher Hitchens, William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel, Douglas Wilson, and Jim Denison. I think this panel discussion is one of the best for any person who is new to arguments for and against theism because the listener is hearing the best of the best from both sides. The only negative point of this debate is that the moderator involves himself too heavily in this discussion, which is really, really, really, annoying.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Quote of the week - Jean-Paul Sartre on existentialism

"Existentialism is nothing else but an attempt to draw the full conclusions from a consistently atheistic position. Its intention is not in the least that of plunging men into despair. And if by despair one means as the Christians do – any attitude of unbelief, the despair of the existentialists is something different. Existentialism is not atheist in the sense that it would exhaust itself in demonstrations of the non-existence of God. It declares, rather, that even if God existed that would make no difference from its point of view. Not that we believe God does exist, but we think that the real problem is not that of His existence; what man needs is to find himself again and to understand that nothing can save him from himself, not even a valid proof of the existence of God. In this sense existentialism is optimistic. It is a doctrine of action, and it is only by self-deception, by confining their own despair with ours that Christians can describe us as without hope"

- Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism Is a Humanism, lecture (1946)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Why the resurrection is a stumbling block

In this video Michael Horton discusses why the resurrection of Christ was a stumbling block to people in the ancient world and why it remains a stumbling block to people today.If for some reason the video doesn't work, you can watch it here too.

Monday, May 7, 2012

quote of the week - Paul Copan on polytheism vs monotheism

"Consider polytheism (many gods) versus monotheism (one God). We can ask: Why involve extra entities when just one will suffice? All things being equal, if one God (monotheism) is adequate for the task of creating and sustaining the universe, why bring in multiple deities? There is no reason to multiply additional entities beyond necessity — a principle known as “Ockham’s razor.” Extra gods can be plausibly eliminated on the basis of explanatory simplicity. One God will do just fine."

- Paul Copan, Is Naturalism a Simpler Explanation Than Theism?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Quote of the week - Allan Bloom on relativism

"History and the study of cultures do not teach or prove that values or cultures are relative. All to the contrary, that is a philosophical premise that we now bring to our study of them. This premise is unproven and dogmatically asserted for what are largely political reasons. History and culture are interpreted in the light of it, and then are said to prove the premise. Yet the fact that there have been different opinions about good and bad in different times and places in no way proves that none is true or superior to others. To say that it does so prove is as absurd as to say that the diversity of points of view expressed in a college bull session proves there is no truth. On the face of it, the difference of opinion would seem to raise the question as to which is true or right rather than to banish it. The natural reaction is to try to resolve the difference, to examine the claims and reasons for each opinion."

- Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind,  p. 39

Time off

Hey gang (is it cool if I call you, my audience, gang? I hope so. If Shaggy sounds cool saying it, then surely I do) it's been a while, the whole month of April to be exact. I unintentionally took some time off from blogging due to a large project at work, some extra studying at night for the Network+ exam, and more "stuff." I will return to blogging regularly with the philosophy quote of the week at least, which I will post today, but then get that back on its regular Monday schedule next week. 

Surprisingly, the month of April had more viewers than usual even though I didn't post one single in April. I understand not every visit is a read, but it's interesting anyway.