Here’s a challenge I received from an atheist on Twitter:
Is a God who endorses slavery worth following and truly moral?
How would you respond to someone who said this to you? I think you could come at this from different directions. You could respond to the slavery part, or challenge him on the concept of something being “truly moral,” or do both. Tell us what you would say in the comments below. Then come back here on Thursday to hear how Brett would answer this challenge.
In Tim Keller’s book Prayer, he applies C.S. Lewis’s thoughts on friendship to our relationship with Jesus:
Prayer is therefore not a strictly private thing. As much as we can, we should pray with others both formally in gathered worship and informally. Why? If the substance of prayer is to continue a conversation with God, and if the purpose of it is to know God better, then this can happen best in community.
C. S. Lewis argues that it takes a community of people to get to know an individual person. Reflecting on his own friendships, he observed that some aspects of one of his friend’s personality were brought out only through interaction with a second friend. That meant if he lost the second friend, he lost the part of his first friend that was otherwise invisible. “By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets.” If it takes a community to know an ordinary human being, how much more necessary would it be to get to know Jesus alongside others? By praying with friends, you will be able to hear and see facets of Jesus that you have not yet perceived. (pp. 118-119)
For this week’s challenge, here’s a comment left by an atheist on this blog:
I have always wondered about the statement that “something cannot come from nothing.” Isn't this a complete refutation of the ex nihilo creation? If something cannot be created from nothing, there cannot be a created universe since there is nothing to create from. Adding “magic” or “supernatural” to the equation does not solve anything since “magic” is by definition doing something impossible.
However, if for any reason we assume God can create something indeed out of nothing, then the premise “something cannot come from nothing” is false.
If it’s really the case that “something can’t come from nothing,” does that prove creation ex nihilo is impossible? If we believe in creation ex nihilo, does consistency demand we stop using the claim “something can’t come from nothing” to challenge atheists?
Take a shot at answering this challenge in the comments below. Alan will be here on Thursday to give his response.
A comment on the blog this week argued that when the Bible was written, “homosexuality was not a concept,” and that therefore, the behavior the Bible is really against is not the kind of loving relationships between same-sex partners we see today (this is the main argument currently being made by those trying to reconcile homosexuality with Christianity).
If you haven’t yet read Kevin DeYoung’s book on the Bible’s view of homosexuality, I very highly recommend it (you can also listen to Greg’s interview with DeYoung here). Here’s an excerpt from his chapter titled “Not That Kind of Homosexuality” responding to this argument:
Every kind of homosexual relationship was known in the first century, from lesbianism, to orgiastic behavior, to gender-malleable “marriage,” to lifelong same-sex companionship. [Non-Christian classics professor Thomas K.] Hubbard’s summary of early imperial Rome [in Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: A Sourcebook of Basic Documents] is important:
The coincidence of such severity on the part of moralistic writers with the flagrant and open display of every form of homosexual behavior by Nero and other practitioners indicates a culture in which attitude about this issue increasingly defined one’s ideological and moral position. In other words, homosexuality in this era may have ceased to be merely another practice of personal pleasure and began to be viewed as an essential and central category of personal identity, exclusive of and antithetical to heterosexual orientation.
If the ancient world not only had a category for committed same-sex relationships but also some understanding of homosexual orientation (to use our phrase), there is no reason to think the New Testament’s prohibitions against same-sex behavior were only for pederasty and exploitation….
Nascent ideas about orientation were not unknown in the Greco-Roman era. Consider, for example, Aristophanes’s oration in Plato’s Symposium (ca. 385– 370 BC), a series of speeches on Love (Eros) given by famous men at a drinking party in 416 BC. At this party we meet Pausanias, who was a lover of the host Agathon—both grown men. Pausanias applauds the naturalness and longevity of same-sex love. In the fourth speech we meet the comic poet Aristophanes, who proposes a convoluted theory, including notions of genetic causation, about why some men and women are attracted to persons of the same sex. Even if the speech is meant to be satire, it only works as satire by playing off the positive view of homosexual practice common in antiquity.
Suggesting that the only kinds of homosexual practice known in the ancient world were those we disapprove of today does not take into account all the evidence. Here, for example, is N. T. Wright’s informed conclusion:
As a classicist, I have to say that when I read Plato’s Symposium, or when I read the accounts from the early Roman empire of the practice of homosexuality, then it seems to me they knew just as much about it as we do. In particular, a point which is often missed, they knew a great deal about what people today would regard as longer-term, reasonably stable relations between two people of the same gender. This is not a modern invention, it’s already there in Plato. The idea that in Paul’s day it was always a matter of exploitation of younger men by older men or whatever . . . of course there was plenty of that then, as there is today, but it was by no means the only thing. They knew about the whole range of options there.
Read more of what Kevin DeYoung had to say on this subject here or in his book.
The biblical phrase “God is love” is sometimes used to chastise Christians for “condemning” people by teaching that certain behaviors are sinful. Of course the fact that “God is love” should affect everything we say and do, but before we can draw any conclusions from the phrase, we must first understand what God’s love looks like. Kevin DeYoung explains:
[W]e cannot settle for a culturally imported understanding of love. The steadfast love of God must not be confused with a blanket affirmation or an inspirational pep talk. No halfway responsible parent would ever think that loving her child means affirming his every desire and finding ways to fulfill whatever wishes he deems important. Parents generally know better what their kids really need, just like God always knows how we ought to live and who we ought to be. Christians cannot be tolerant of all things because God is not tolerant of all things. We can respect differing opinions and treat our opponents with civility, but we cannot give our unqualified, unconditional affirmation to every belief and behavior….
God is love, but this is quite different from affirming that our culture’s understanding of love must be God. “In this is love,” John wrote, “not that we have loved God but that he has loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Love is what God did in sending his Son to be our substitute on the cross (Rom. 5:8). Love is what we do when we keep Christ’s commands (John 14:15). Love is sharing with our brothers and sisters in need (1 John 3:16–18). Love is treating each other with kindness and patience (1 Cor. 13:4). Love is disciplining the wayward sinner (Prov. 3:11–12). Love is chastising the rebellious saint (Heb. 12:5–6). And love is throwing your arms around the prodigal son when he sees his sin, comes to his senses, and heads for home (Luke 15:17–24).
The God we worship is indeed a God of love. Which does not, according to any verse in the Bible, make sexual sin acceptable. But it does, by the witness of a thousand verses all over the Bible, make every one of our sexual sins changeable, redeemable, and wondrously forgivable.
God’s love does not look like “blanket affirmation.” This is what God’s love looks like:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (John 4:7-11)
God’s love didn’t affirm and celebrate everyone’s choices. God’s love acknowledged sin. God’s love suffered for the sins of others. God’s love sought repentance and redemption. In the same way, for Christians, the goal of warning people about sin isn’t to condemn, it’s to redeem.
It’s easy to affirm someone’s behavior and go on your way. It’s much harder to act as Jean Lloyd exhorts us to act in an article about her former sexual sin:
Although I appreciate the desire to act in love, [automatic affirmation] isn’t the genuine love that people like me need. Love me better than that! … Don’t compromise truth; help me to live in harmony with it.
This cry should be echoed by each and every one of us, because each of us is a sinner living among sinners. Loving in this way involves effort, sacrifice, and sometimes even suffering. But how can we do less when the love of God suffered for others?