Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

If you accept Jesus and become a Christian, will God make you happy?

Navy SEAL Matthew "Axe" Axelson

Navy SEAL Matthew “Axe” Axelson

This is a wonderful, wonderful post from Amy Hall, who writes for the Stand to Reason blog.

She writes:

I had a brief interaction with an atheist on Twitter a couple of weeks ago that unexpectedly turned to the issue of suffering when she said:

You clearly never had a time you were hurt. I don’t mean sick. I don’t mean heart broken. I mean literally a near death experience or rape or abusive relationship…. You can keep floating on a [expletive] cloud thinking Jesus will do everything for you but it’s a lie. What makes you so special?

That surprised me at first because it didn’t seem to have anything to do with the tweet she was responding to, and I was confused as to why she would assume I’d never been through anything traumatic. But then in subsequent tweets, when she revealed she had been raped, it became clear that her trauma had played a central role in her becoming an outspoken, obviously angry “antitheist.” She’s a self-described antitheist now because she thinks Christianity teaches Jesus “will do everything for you” to give you a perfect life, and now she knows that’s a lie. The rape proved her understanding of Christianity false.

So it made sense for her to reason that since I believe Christianity is true, I must still be under the delusion that Jesus is making my life special, which means I obviously never encountered any evil or suffering to shake that delusion.

All right, readers. I don’t want any of you to be thinking that if you become a Christian that these things should be expected to happen:

  • you will feel happy all the time
  • you will be able to sense God’s secret plan for your life through your feelings
  • God’s secret plan for your life will automatically work, even though it’s crazy
  • God will give you a perfect spouse and lots of money without you having to do any work
  • you get permission to do things that that make you happy, even if they are expressly forbidden by the Bible
  • you don’t have to do anything that makes you feel bad (e.g. – go to work), because God wants you to be happy

No! Where do people get this idea that if they convert to Christianity, then God will become their cosmic butler?

Amy has the answer: (emphasis mine)

Hear me, everyone: This is a failure of the church.

A friend of mine who was deeply suffering once said to me that many Christians are in for “an epic letdown” when they realize their preconceived notions about what God is expected to do for us are false. Pastors who preach a life-improvement Jesus are leading people down this precarious path to disillusionment.

If suffering disproves your Christianity, you’ve missed Christianity. The Bible is filled with the suffering of those whom God loves. The central event of the Bible is one of suffering. Love involves suffering. “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” That means suffering.

It’s the church. It’s all the singing about happy things and having of happy feelings and happy preaching designed to make us feel good. I would say the comforting devotional reading doesn’t help to make us any tougher or more practical, either. People seem to use Bible study and devotion as a way to artificially create good feelings of happiness, peace and comfort, instead of just doing hard things to serve God. I don’t think it’s a “spiritual” Christian thing to read A. W. Tozer, etc. just so that you can feel comforted and spiritual. That stuff just gives you a false sense of safety about your precarious situation. God’s job is not to prevent you from suffering. In fact, even if you make really smart, practical decisions, you can expect to get creamed anyway.

Please take 15 minutes and read the book of 1 Peter in the New Testament.

Here’s a summary from GotQuestions.org:

Purpose of Writing: 1 Peter is a letter from Peter to the believers who had been dispersed throughout the ancient world and were under intense persecution. If anyone understood persecution, it was Peter. He was beaten, threatened, punished and jailed for preaching the Word of God. He knew what it took to endure without bitterness, without losing hope and in great faith living an obedient, victorious life. This knowledge of living hope in Jesus was the message and Christ’s example was the one to follow.

Brief Summary: Though this time of persecution was desperate, Peter reveals that it was actually a time to rejoice. He says to count it a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ, as their Savior suffered for them. This letter makes reference to Peter’s personal experiences with Jesus and his sermons from the book of Acts. Peter confirms Satan as the great enemy of every Christian but the assurance of Christ’s future return gives the incentive of hope.

Practical Application: The assurance of eternal life is given to all Christians. One way to identify with Christ is to share in His suffering. To us that would be to endure insults and slurs from those who call us “goodie two shoes” or “holier than thou.” This is so minor compared to what Christ suffered for us on the Cross. Stand up for what you know and believe is right and rejoice when the world and Satan aim to hurt you.

Recently, I blogged about how suffering is compatible with an all-powerful God, so you might want to read that too if you missed it.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , ,

A liberal feminist comedian, her beliefs about God and how she formed them

Consider this article written by a liberal ex-Catholic woman whose 7-year-old daughter is an atheist.

First the biography of the author:

Carolyn Castiglia is a New York-based comedian/writer wowing audiences with her stand-up and freestyle rap. You may recognize her hip-hop alter ego Miss CKC from Comedy Central, VH1 and MTV2. Carolyn’s web vids have been nominated for an ECNY Award and featured in two issues of EW magazine. She’s appeared in TONYThe NY PostThe Idiot’s Guide to Jokes and Life & Style. You can find Carolyn’s writing elsewhere online at MarieClaire.com and The Huffington Post.

Look at what she wrote:

I was raised Catholic, and like most people my age who were raised Catholic, I no longer attend church on Sundays. We’re “recovering Catholics.” That’s what so many of us call ourselves. We’re still disgusted with the Church for the way it covered up the sex abuse perpetrated against my generation and roll our eyes at the Church’s stance on things like abortion, gay marriage and women’s rights.

[…]I learned a lot about being a Good Person from the things I heard in church… I wanted to be a Good Person, not just because only Good People go to Heaven. I just liked the idea. The meek shall inherit the Earth. It sounded right. Somehow all this sh*t I’m swallowing now, it’s gonna pay off later.

I’m pretty much agnostic now (sometimes believing more strongly, other times thinking the concept of God is kind of a joke), but I value the way the idea of God has gotten me through the rough patches. And that has been the payoff. Somehow this notion that there is a giant man in the sky with long hair and a big robe who will hug you from heaven if you need it and carry you on the beach when you’ve had one too many wine coolers to walk without falling down and getting sand all up in your bikini has been very comforting to me. The image of Jesus but as God but totally as a bro (a homeboy, if you will), there’s something righteous about it, if you know what I mean.

But the way I imagine God has changed over the years — He’s gone from being a person, a man, to being more of a Thing, a notion. Goodness. The Oneness of the Universe. With something female in there. The energy that keeps the whole thing afloat. God as I know it now when I know it is kind of a cocktail made from a shot of Buddhism, a shot of feminist activism and a splash of ginger ale (because that, my friends, is something you can always count on).

Now the Christians who are reading this will be cringing because we know that these beliefs are not taken out of the Bible. She seems to be speaking more about her opinions rather than what is true. She doesn’t seem to be focused on finding truth, but more on being a “good person” and having God as a crutch to pull out if she falls down while pursuing her own plan.

She’s wrong that “good people” go to Heaven. Only people who accept Jesus as their leader (Lord) and accept his death as a sacrifice for their rebellion against God (Savior) are resurrected to eternal life. If she is a relativist, then I guess what she means by being a “good person” is that she thinks of herself as good and that the people around her think of her as good. However, the main purpose of Christianity is not to be a good person, or to have people like you or to be happy and comforted.  The main goal of Christian living is to puzzle about the truth about God’s existence and character, and then to re-prioritize your life based on who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for us. So the focus in Christianity is on truth, and that’s what her church should have taught her from a young age. And we are the ones who must read the Bible, we must not rely on someone else to do it for us.

But there is more to her story – her child has been affected by her problematic views of Christianity and God.

She writes:

My daughter, on the other hand, at the ripe old age of 7, is convinced that there is no God. Not even a god. Yup, my kid’s an atheist. And she pretty much has been since she was 5.

It’s not for lack of exposure to God or god or even gods and spirituality, because she has attended Church and church and a UU “church” and it has made no impact. We’ve prayed together. I talk about God sometimes, in a good way. When I asked her recently why she doesn’t believe in God she told me, succinctly, “Because I know too much about science!”

Is it a good idea to take scientific advice from a 7-year-old child? I think that we should instead prefer to learn from scholars who research and debate issues in science and religion, and then teach the child based on what we have learned. This is why it was so important to emphasize how people arrive at true beliefs in the church. If she had done the work herself to arrive at true beliefs, then she would know what to say to her child’s presumptuousness.

More:

The other night over dinner my daughter looked up at me and said, “Who created the Earth?” And I said, “Well, some people believe that God created the Earth, and some people believe that nature is a creation unto itself.” My daughter replied, “I think nature is a creation unto itself.” I said, “You know, you’re pretty staunch about the fact that there is no God.” And she told me, “Well, I don’t think he exists. If he does, he’s a ghost, and that’s weird. I just don’t believe it. You know, there are Universes beyond our Universe. Once you get outside the Milky Way galaxy, there’s a lot more stuff out there.”

Wow. When I was 7 I didn’t know there was a world outside my town.

So the universe created itself? How could it create itself? It would have to have existed in order to do anything, including create. So it would have to have existed… before it began to exist. That’s a contradiction, and so it cannot be true. Funny how kids decide whether God exists or not without knowing what they are talking about. It’s the parents’ job to be able to guide the discussion, not just sit there.

She continues:

Oh sure, my mother thinks raising a child without religion is dangerous. “I understand you don’t think she needs God now, Carolyn. But you gotta give her religion so it’s there for her when she needs it later.” When the shit hits the fan, when everything falls apart. When you realize there is no one but God you can trust.

See, here is where she needs someone to point out that it’s not God’s job to help you through crises or make you happy. No one who reads the Bible thinks that God is our cosmic butler. We know from reading the Bible that he has purposes that are different from our purpose to be happy.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Two kinds of people who have tried to shame me away from Christianity

I recently had two interesting encounters last week, first with a secular Jewish leftist man and second with a New Age prosperity gospel feminist Christian woman. I wasn’t going to say anything about them, except that my pastor was talking this morning about how people often fall away because of the shame and scorn that is heaped on them by non-Christians. So now I’m going to say something.

So let me start with the texts he used:

2 Tim 4:1-5:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:

preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,

and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

And 1 Peter 3:15-16:

15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Now a quick word about those. I think the real point he was trying to make – and this is what he spoke about eloquently and passionately – is that if you have orthodox theological beliefs in this day and age then you are going to be shamed, humiliated and reviled by people. And I would go further than he did and say that it is not just having an orthodox view of who Jesus is that annoys them (e.g. – deity, exclusivity of salvation, morality, etc.). No, their disapproval spreads on into politics, especially abortion and gay marriage – basically any kind of rules around sexuality. That’s what’s really bugging these people, I think.

So let’s talk about the two people.

The man who thinks that conservative Christians are stupid

The first kind of person who tried to shame me for being a Christian is the person who thinks that Christianity is stupid. This kind of person invokes things that he hears in secular leftist pop culture as if it is common knowledge that theism generally, and Christianity in particular, is false. He’s watched a documentary on the Discovery channel which said that the eternally oscillating cosmology was true. Or maybe he watched a documentary on the History Channel that said that Jesus never presented himself as God stepping into history. He presents these things that he reads in the New York Times, or sees on MSNBC or hears on NPR with the authority that Ben Carson might take when explaining modern medicine to a witch doctor.

I don’t want to get into the details of what happened. Suffice to say that my interlocutor invoked a popular-level authority against me, which I promptly discredited, and then I responded with peer-reviewed studies published by scholars from two prominent universities. He ignored the studies and demanded to know whether I would accept his caricatured, simplistic view of what people who disagree with him believe.

This not the first time he has done this to me, either – it is standard practice apparently, for people on the secular left.

It goes like this:

  • Me: here are two arguments against naturalistic evolution, the origin of life and the Cambrian explosion.
  • Him: but you don’t believe in a young-Earth do you? I mean, you believe in evolution don’t you?
  • Me: let’s talk about how proteins and DNA is sequenced, and the sudden origin of Cambrian body plans
  • Him: (shouting) Do you believe in evolution? Do you believe in evolution?

And this:

  • Me: there hasn’t been any global warming for 18 years, and temperatures were warmer in the Medieval Warming Period
  • Him: but you don’t deny climate change, do you? everyone on NPR agrees that climate change is real
  • Me: let’s talk about the last 18 years of no warming, and the temperatures during the Medieval Warming Period
  • Him: (shouting) Do you believe in climate change? Do you believe in climate change?

He asks these questions so he can either label me as a nut, without having to weigh the evidence I’m presenting, or have me agree with him, without having to weigh the evidence I’m presenting. It’s all about ignoring the evidence, so he can get back to his busy, busy practical life – and get back to feeling smug about being smarter than others. I think a lot of men are like this – they don’t want to waste their valuable time studying, they just want to jump to the right conclusion, then get back to doing whatever they want – like watching sports on ESPN, or working out, etc.

So how do you respond to a man who gets his entire worldview from the culture, but never deals with peer-reviewed evidence? Well, I think you just defeat his arguments with evidence and then present your own (peer-reviewed) evidence, and then leave it at that. Men like this one have this invincible impression that all the smart people agree with them. Carl Sagan proved that the universe oscillated eternally, Bart Ehrman proved that the “huge” number of manuscript variants discredited the reliability of the Bible, Sam Harris disproved the moral argument with utilitarianism, etc. Their heads are filled with conclusions from discredited arguments, but they are certain that all the smart people agree with them. The most important thing about these men is that they have never seen a fair academic debate between two sides. They cannot name a single scholar who disagrees with them. They cannot formulate an argument against their own view without caricaturing the argument, e.g. – intelligent design is identical to young Earth creationism, opposition to gay marriage is “homophobia”. And they are careful to surround themselves ONLY with opinions that reinforce the imagined intellectual superiority of their views.

The woman who thinks Christianity is life-enhancement

This one is especially difficult when you are a young man, especially if you are rejected by your mother, and especially if you are rejected by your mother for your Christian faith. You find yourself sitting in church or youth group, hoping for the approval and affection of the Christian women for your sound theology and effective apologetics. Little do you know that many Christian women understand Christianity entirely in self-centered, subjective terms. Many women see Christianity as life-enhancement, designed to produce happy feelings. God is their cosmic butler whose main responsibility is to meet their needs and make their plans work out. Many women have learned to water down every part of Christianity that offends their family and friends, or puts the brakes on their plan to be happy in this life.

I have met Christian women in churches and campus clubs who were communists, Darwinists, pro-abortion, pro-gay-marriage, universalists, and pretty much every other kind of secular leftist ideology that is dominant in our culture. When probed, their reason for holding to these views is always a mix of emotions, intuitions,  family-approval or peer-approval. It’s like this subset of Christian women has no independent ability to drive at the truth for themselves through study, but instead they merely adopt whatever feels good from whatever is on offer in their social or cultural environment – like going to a buffet. When they change locations, (e.g. – going off to college), they gravitate to a new set of pleasurable beliefs which earn them peer-acceptance and peer-approval. But the common thread is that they disapprove of any attempt to defend the truth of Christianity objectively with apologetics, and they disapprove of defending (with evidence) the Bible’s teachings if it goes against their feelings and/or against family/peer approval.

So how to respond to women who understand Christianity as life enhancement instead of as responsibilities, obligations and expectations?

First thing, be careful that you don’t attend a feminized church where the pastor in preaching and picking hymns that give you the idea that God is your cosmic butler. Second, read the Bible very carefully, and understand that with respect to God’s purposes for you in this world, your happiness is expendable. You cannot be looking to attractive Christian women that you happen to meet in church to support you, as many of them have long-since sold out to the culture. They are not interested in learning evidential apologetics to defend God’s reputation, or in defending the unborn, or in defending natural marriage, or in defending the free enterprise system that supports family autonomy from the state, etc. Those things are hard and unpopular, especially for those women who were raised to think that Christianity is about life enhancement and peer-approval.

In my case, the woman who tried to shame me has a Bible verse on her Facebook cover photo, and “likes” the Bible on Facebook, and her favorite preacher is Joel Osteen. She’s very beautiful, athletic and attractive. But you cannot be seeking approval and affection from women like that – you must make the choice to do without it. And most important of all, you must accept that beautiful, athletic attractive women can be fundamentally unserious about Christianity. This is “working as designed”,  as we say in the software engineering business. Nothing that most pastors say to women during church is going to fix this problem, because most pastors don’t see this as a problem. Pastors mostly think that women are naturally good, and that they don’t need to know apologetics or integrate with faith with politics, economics, etc.

Here’s 1 Cor 4:1-5 to make the point:

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.

For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.

Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

And 2 Tim 2:4:

No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

Or, since I like Ronald Speirs so much:

This is the situation in which we find ourselves, so get used to it. And believe me, I have to deal with this, too. So I have all the sympathy in the world for you. Resign yourself to the fact that no one is going to approve of you for being faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ; not secular men, not Christian women. There is no cavalry coming to rescue you.

Filed under: Personal, , , , , , , , , ,

J. P. Moreland explains the meaning of happiness in the Christian worldview

From happiness expert and Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland.

Excerpt:

According to ancient thought, happiness is a life well lived, a life that manifests wisdom, kindness and goodness. For the ancients, the happy life — the life we should dream about — is a life of virtue and character. Not only did Plato, Aristotle, the Church Fathers and medieval theologians embrace this definition, but Moses, Solomon and (most importantly) Jesus did, too. Sadly their understanding is widely displaced by the contemporary understanding of happiness defined as pleasure and satisfaction, a subjective emotional state associated with fleeting, egocentric feelings.

Consider the differences:

Contemporary Understanding Classical Understanding
Happiness is: Happiness is:
1. Pleasure and satisfaction 1. Virtue and character
2. An intense feeling 2. A settled tone
3. Dependent on external circumstances 3. Depends on internal state; springs from within
4. Transitory and fleeting 4. Fixed and stable
5. Addictive and enslaving 5. Empowering and liberating
6. Irrelevant to one’s identity, doesn’t color the rest of life and creates false/empty self 6. Integrated with one’s identity, colors rest of life and creates true/fulfilled self
7. Achieved by self-absorbed narcissism; success produces a celebrity 7. Achieved by self-denying apprenticeship to Jesus; success produces a hero

How can we be certain Jesus is inviting us to a classical understanding of happiness in Matthew 16:24-26? He isn’t talking about going to heaven rather than hell, nor is He telling his followers how to avoid premature death. Where Matthew writes, “what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul” (emphasis added), Luke clarifies Jesus’ teaching by replacing “his soul” with the word “himself” (Luke 9:25). The issue is finding one’s self vs. losing one’s self. More specifically, to find one’s self is to find out how life ought to look like and learn to live that way; it’s to become like Jesus, with character that manifests the fruit of the Spirit and the radical nature of Kingdom living; it’s to find out God’s purposes for one’s life and to fulfill those purposes in a Christ-honoring way.

I like that “success produces a hero”. Who doesn’t want to be a hero? I certainly do.

In one of his lectures, Dr. Moreland says, and I quote: “Happiness is the freedom to do what we ought to do”. That’s right. When a person is free to comply with God’s design for human flourishing, then he/she is happy. My biggest source of unhappiness is the feeling that I cannot be who I want to be as a Christian. It’s getting even worse when I think about how the government is now using force to prevent me from spending what I earn the way I want, and saying what I want about the issues of the day, regardless of who is offended. I am becoming increasingly thankful for the time I spend with other dedicated Christians. That’s when I can be myself and not worry about what anyone is going to think of me. This is no small source of happiness.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , ,

The top 7 things a wife needs to be happy in her marriage

Do women have a plan for marriage?

Do women influenced by feminism understand marriage?

From MercatorNet.

Here’s the list, in order of importance:

  1. A husband’s emotional engagement
  2. Fairness
  3. A breadwinning husband
  4. A commitment to marriage
  5. Staying at home
  6. Shared religious attendance
  7. Traditional gender attitudes

I want to highlight #3, because it’s the one I most frequently find missing in younger, unmarried Christian women.

Here’s number three:

American wives, even wives who hold more feminist views about working women and the division of household tasks, are typically happier when their husband earns 68% or more of the household income. Husbands who are successful breadwinners probably give their wives the opportunity to make choices about work and family—e.g., working part-time, staying home, or pursuing a meaningful but not particularly remunerative job—that allow them to best respond to their own needs, and the needs of their children.

The reason I have found that the young, unmarried Christian women oppose this is because it negates the “follow your heart” Disney princess mentality that they are often raised on. They don’t want to be practical, and some of them even go so far as to shun the good advice of other married women. Women should be able to count the costs of a marriage and understand that handsomeness and confidence does not pay the considerable bills that married couples incur, especially when they have children. I think a good basic education in business, finance and/or econonomics for this “follow your heart”, “have no fear” women would be beneficial.

I also liked #4:

Wives who share a strong commitment to the norm of lifelong marriage with their husband—e.g., who both believe that even unhappily married couples should stay together for the sake of their children—are more likely to have a happy marriage than couples who do not share this commitment to marriage. Shared commitment seems to generate a sense of trust, emotional security, and a willingness to sacrifice for one’s spouse—all of which lead to happier marriages for women. This shared commitment also provides women with a long-term view of their marriage that helps them negotiate the inevitable difficulties that confront any marriage.

Again, I’ve noticed that young unmarried women, even those entering the period of declining beauty and declining fertility, are very alarmed by the idea of being married. Marriage is somehow seen as “boring” and they are not too keen on having to sacrifice their need to be happy to a husband and to children. Marriage can wait – it can wait till they are 40. Plenty of men around to marry them then, good men, too, they say. And so long as their friends affirm their “follow your heart” plan, cost calculations don’t enter into it.

So, to summarize, you can send a list like this to most young, unmarried woman and she can read it and agree, and then go in a completely different direction. So strong is her intuition and desire to be happy – it just overrules common sense. They don’t know enough to pursue what will really make them fulfilled (by having a meaningful life) in the long run. And that, if I may say so, is really scary. Older, married women are, of course, much wiser and more practical.

Yes, I’m being silly to get on someone’s nerves. This whole post is to annoy her. If you saw the parody of me that she wrote of me, it was even funnier than this. She is not a feminist at all, but I like telling her she is one.

Filed under: Commentary, , , ,

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