“The great danger is to always single out some aspect of God’s creation and identify it, rather than the alien intrusion of sin, as the villain. Such an error conceives of the good-evil dichotomy as intrinsic to the creation itself…something in the good creation is identified as [the source] of evil. In the course of history, this “something” has been variously identified as…the body and its passions (Plato and much of Greek philosophy), as culture in distinction from nature (Rousseau and Romanticism), as authority figures in society and family (psychodynamic psychology), as economic forces (Marx), as technology and management (Heidegger and existentialists)…As far as I can tell, the Bible is unique in its rejection of all attempts to either demonise some part of creation as the root of our problems or to idolise some part of creation as the solution. All other religions, philosophies and world views in one way or another fall into the trap of [idolatry] – of failing to keep creation and the fall distinct. And this trap is an ever-present danger to Christians [as well].”
Albert C. Wolters in “Creation Regained: A Transforming View of the World”.
Having begun holidays I can now indulge in reading the paper, which admittedly has become a newfound delight. This morning I came across something almost chillingly surreal, as secular thought sometimes touches on but doesn’t quite break into a Biblical understanding of our world.
So I was reading this article in The Sun-Herald entitled System error: how our will to live could crash the program woven by the mind of Sam de Brito. Being the secret philosopher that I am, I indulged myself in his thoughts about the nature of human life.
He began by referencing the classic “human life is nothing but an illusion” thought experiment. The brain in the jar. We are all part of a complex design by a higher being, but in this case it’s usually the highly advanced technology of The Matrix or Nick Bostrom’s “supercomputor built by an incredibly advanced civilisation”. And so de Brito, in this article, placed himself in the shoes of this ‘incredibly advanced civilisation’ and staring at his imaginary supercomputor screen set out to decide what the base properties of humanity are. And his conclusions are startlingly Biblical.
He states that “the most obvious is the will to live” which he fleshes out as “self-preservation, selfishness or self-interest”. Essentially, self-centredness. Concern for ones own welfare over anyone else’s. His second, and equally important, base element of humanity is the “will to reproduce”. It’s also interesting that he paints this in a self-centered light, he admits that he likes to think his love and protectiveness for his child as selflessness but he also recognises it is the justification for many horrific disasters in history from colonisation to cruelty and crime; just people fighting for their families. He claims “Our savage love for our own has made Homo sapiens the most powerful and destructive species on the planet in just 160,000 short years.”
Let’s just pause for a minute and actually think about what this guy is saying. Humanity is inherently self-centered and as a result, destructive. I studied James earlier this year with some of my girls and one of the verses left this unforgettable and graphic image in my mind:
“But each person is temped when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown bring forth death.”
What de Brito eloquently phrases as “our will to live”, the Bible describes as “sin”, the selfish desire that is the nature of humanity. What struck me here is that de Brito isn’t suggesting that the problem is only some particularly bad people, or that it’s dependent on one’s upbringing or environmental influences. He actually is stating that each individual human has an inherent self-centered element that is the basis of their being. This may surprise you, but Jesus taught the same thing:
“Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes from the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.”
One of the central factors of the gospel of Jesus Christ, is that humanity is the problem, their hearts are the problem. That was the other thing that struck me about this article, de Brito seemed to think these elements of humanity problematic. I may not be a well-read as others, but I seem to think that secular thoughts tends more to encourage self-satisfaction and selfish thinking. The eye-catching phrases “How to have the best sex now”, “These Proven Mind Tricks Will Get You What You Want”, “Live Your Best Life Now” etc etc. Just read some headlines and you’ll see the trend. Rarely does someone stop and say…hold on, I think we are the problem here.
So what’s de Brito’s proposed solution to this problem? He concludes with this statement:: “This makes me wonder if the purpose of the grand experiment we call life is to see whether our species can make the leap of consciousness to override our own base coding and put others before ourselves?”. Ironically, that seems to suggest we can solve our own problem and I think just sticks us right back into our inherent “will to live” or sinful desire to solve our own problems the way that we want to.
Seeing as Jesus seemed to recognise that we had this same problem 2000 years ago, what was his solution? Firstly, the problem is defined in slightly more depth in the Bible. Sin isn’t just following our own desires, but it is rooted in our rejection of God, our Creator. That’s an element de Brito left out of his created universe, he separated them from himself. Creator and creation were distant but clearly distinct entities, de Brito didn’t include a relational element. However, the apostle Paul paints the picture like this:
“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”
That is why humanity is like it is. Cut off from the creator by de Brito’s “will to live” which is essentially what the Bible describes as the “lusts of their hearts”. Ok, so now we’ve laid out the problem in more depth, what exactly did Jesus do about it?
“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
Jesus came, and dealt with it himself. He wasn’t just a man, he was God and man. “He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was in the world. In him was life…” (John 1:2-3). The Creator himself came into his creation to save his creatures from their inward looking and darkened hearts. This isn’t a problem we can solve by gathering our human strength and conquering it. Although, de Brito has the right idea, put others before yourself, life isn’t just about you. But neither is it just about humanity, it’s about the Creator, ‘the mind behind the mega computor’.
Except the Creator didn’t make any errors in his creating, it is the creation that corrupted itself. The base coding of “the will to live” can manifest in one of two ways: living as you want, pursuing your hearts desires, or living as you are created to, glorifying and praising your Creator. de Brito discovered that the outcome of the first option was pretty grim and maybe you think so too. Have a read of what God’s intended plan is for Creation, the details of his solution played out through history and you may find something more satisfying.
“Who, after all, made the world of nature, and then made possible the development of sciences through which we find out about nature? Who formed the universe of human interactions, and so provided the raw material for politics economics, sociology, and history? Who is the source of harmony, form, and narrative pattern, and so lies behind all artistic and literary possibilities? Who created the human mind in such a way that it could grasp the endless realities of nature, of human interactions, of beauty and so make possible theories of such matters by philosophers and pscyhologists? Who moment by moment sustains the natural world, the world of human interactions, and the harmonies of existence? Who maintains moment by moment the connections between what is in our minds and what is in the world beyond our minds? The answer in every case is the same – God did it. And God does it.”
Mark Noll in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind
One thing I’ve come to notice more and more is the great difference between the end goal of the believer and the end goal of the unbeliever. When I ask my non-Christian friends what their purpose in life is, often the answer is to find happiness, to enjoy themselves. Sometimes Christians make the mistake to think that this goal of happiness is found once they commit themselves to Christ.
However, Christ spoke about the godly life not as one full of laughter and popularity, but instead of mourning, suffering and joy. In my own time I’ve been spending a lot of time dwelling on the great sermon that Jesus gave (Matthew 5-7), and it’s focus (so far) seems to be on a selfless life, not seeking your own enjoyment or fun. Our calling as Christians is to mourn our sinfulness and find comfort in Christ’s sinlessness, the fact that God so loved us, so drenched us in his mercy should flow out of our lives as we to seek to be merciful, loving and peace-keeping. That’s where our joy comes from, knowing the indescribable God and trusting him with our lives.
I’ve just got back from a youth camp where we looked deep into 1 Peter 1-2:12. I was struck by how very different we are called to be. Our new purpose is to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light”(1 Peter 2:9). But does this mean we’ll be happy all the time, that God will grant us our every desire and wish? I don’t think so. Our hearts are so tainted by sin that often what we wish for is not what is best for us. Peter talks about the value of trials and suffering:
“You have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
1 Peter 1:6-7
But God doesn’t leave us alone in our struggles but has given us each other, a support network. Following Christ isn’t an individualistic purpose but a collective one, we are ” a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession”. Together we strive to live for him.
So this leads me to my challenge. The mantra at our church is to be “Real with God, real with the world and real with each other.” It is so easy to be swayed by the world’s ideal of happiness and to pretend that you’re not struggling, to have the external appearance of ‘satisfaction’, ‘contentment’ and happiness. But is that beneficial? I don’t think so. We all fail, we all struggle, we all sin. How much greater would it be if we supported each other, encouraged each other in these things rather than having an individualistic approach?
Let’s be a community honest about our failings and praising in our Saviours perfection. Striving towards holiness together.
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind…..Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy…For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
1 Peter 3:8,15,17
When it comes to politics people often have particularly strong views. Some are passionate about one specific party or one specific policy and they have strong views. Others have been around and voted over many years and have become jaded by the whole carnival and hold their jadedness vehemently. Others haven’t voted that much and are already apathetic about the process and the part they play in it and, almost paradoxically, they are boisterous about their apathy.
This article isn’t so much about anything specific in terms of parties or policies. The point of this article is to outline some of the key Biblical texts and principles that inform the Christian’s thinking about government, the Christian’s interaction with government and how the Christian goes about their role in choosing a government. And then also to outline some implications that flow out of those biblical guideposts that will inform how a…
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As some of you may know, I’ve been working with kids with disabilities for almost 2 years now. Initially I began just to gather some work experience but it ignited a passion and a love for these people. I see so much intelligence and beauty in them and experience so much joy in my work.
So it got me thinking about what God’s intentions were in creating these people so different from others. I started following a theologian, Kirk Patston, who’s currently researching and writing his Phd on the Theology of Disability. I’ve been attempting to consolidate what I’ve gleaned from his lectures, seminars and research but I’m not quite at the stage to present anything too coherent. But I thought I’d fill you in on my progress so far.
There are a number of ways that people approach disability, of which religion is only one. But we’ll start there.
– The Religious framework tends to present two poles: disability as punishment from God or as a special divine gift.
– The Medical Framework, uses language such as “suffers from”, disability becomes something that is treated, a problem.
– The Social Model is interesting, it picks up on the fact that whether or not something is considered a disability depends on whether the society accommodates for them. For example, if everyone used sign language as well as spoken language, deafness would not be considered a disability.
– The Cultural framework sees disability as a creation of cultural dialogue. Kirk interestingly used different types of films to illustrate this: he pointed out the differences in the typical role of the disabled in films aimed at different people. In films for young boys, the disabled are terrifying. In films for adult men, the disabled are the joke. In chick flicks, disability is a tragedy that an individual overcomes.
– And finally, the Biopsychosocial model, and as the name suggests it is an interaction of multiple dimensions: the biological, psychological and social approaches.
Where do I stand on all this? Well, I think, as with anything, that a multi-dimensional approach is needed to understand disability. As you may realise, I don’t agree with prebirth screening. Our culture has become one of elimination, deciding who should and shouldn’t be born. Then a lot of questions are raised as to how to care for these people in our communities, right? What if society can’t afford the ‘burden’ of people who have special requirements?
At this stage, all I can say about my own point of view is that we need to be inclusive, especially in the church. As you can see in the video I posted above, this is not as simple as we think, but is more necessary than we think. Inclusion doesn’t mean providing another place just for people with disabilities to be cared for so that our own communities aren’t ‘weighed down’ by their needs. I actually think it calls for the church to show the love of Christ by going out of their way to love and serve them. These people are valuable humans.
Paul talks about the church as one body, and uses this image to illustrate the importance of it’s different members.
“For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that could not make it any less a part of the body….if the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing?…..The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.
1 Corinthians 12:12-22 (my emphasis)
I think these people are blessings. And the challenge they present to us is one of Christ-like sacrificial love. We should seek to serve these people and change our face-value judgements on their worth.
If you are interested in knowing how to best accommodate for the disabled in your church CBM have been developing and producing resources in their Luke 14 Project, some of which are freely available but some you can purchase.
The art of Tim Noble and Sue Webster has always blown my mind. They must be pretty gifted to be able to make a literal pile of rubbish resemble something so real. And yet the shadow seems so different and distinct, so contrary to what it reflects.
Sometimes, there are those moments in life where you have a chance to stare at it long enough to see that it’s not quite right. It’s those short and “unusual” peeks and pauses between the long smooth strides you take through life. Things like conflict, funerals and divorces, or maybe not such large canyons but seemingly small cracks like gossip or disagreement. Surely, everyone has experienced this. Glimpses of a bigger picture, perhaps.
When I stand too close to ‘life’, I so quickly place my trust in things that are actually not worth it in the long term, like chasing after the wind. I come to realise that the only constant is Christ and what he’s done, sometimes because it feels like it’s the only thing left standing. Whether it’s the amazing family I have in Him who provide eager love and support, or the comfort, joy and assurance I have knowing that he has greater plans for me.
These past few weeks or months, or however long it’s been, I’ve been standing on the edge of a great canyon, surveying the spectacular person of Christ in light of such a broken world. Even though I have no control over what happens next, where I go or what doors are opened for me, I know his sovereignty and his great purpose. I thought I’d take a chance to share with you some scripture that has brought me much comfort and joy even when I can see the brokenness of the world so clearly.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
This verse can often be used in the wrong way, some people suggest that if things don’t seem to be going well then maybe you don’t even know God. But just take a moment to reflect, that often when things aren’t great you come out of them having learnt so much. As Job says “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” (Job 23:10). Just as a loving Father disciplines his children for their good, so God disciplines us out of love for our good.
“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God”
There is so much comfort in knowing that although it feels like life pulls and pushes me around, there is security in God. He is consistent, compassionate and he alone saves. When all my plans and goals and dreams fall through, when I put my hope in the things that pass away like the wind, there is a God holding me fast. Something worth putting my hope and time and life into.
So although I feel a little like this sculpture, pushed and pulled around by the elements, I cling to the one and true living God who never moves. Who even came and experienced the brokenness of this world, suffered at the hands of his own creation to clear a path to him. If you haven’t yet felt the desire to accept the offer to walk with Him, can I encourage you to, it’s well worth it.