Why I Only Agree With 80% Of What You Just Said

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 2/15/2021

I’ve got a weird rule. No really, it’s something I use everyday when talking to anyone. It’s the 80% rule. What’s the 80% rule exactly?

Well if I find myself agreeing with someone more than 80% of the time, then I need to step back and find where we disagree. It’s a checks and balances sort of rule where I prevent myself from agreeing too much with anyone. Why do I have this rule? For a few reasons.

Why 80% and not some other percentage?

Honestly, it just makes sense to me. If I were to choose another percentage like 47% or 90%, then it doesn’t seem realistic. For instance, there are people who you and I agree with a lot.

Whether it’s a coworker, a spouse, or even someone you grew up with like a friend or a neighbor. There’s just some people we genuinely agree with the vast majority of the time and that’s okay. Everybody knows someone who they know well and almost always agrees with them. This rule of mine is applied to those circumstances too because it’s often the case that the people we know most are the ones we either strongly agree or disagree with in life.

Speaking of disagreements, let’s talk about family.

For example, my siblings are a great case study of this dilemma. We all grew up in the same home, with the same parents, under the same rules, and were given the same values. Yet now that we’re adults, we have the freedom to truly find who we are and it’s both strikingly similar or even a stark difference to how we were raised. Some of us are literal copies of our parents in how we behave, how we say certain things, and even what we believe about specific ideas. Then again, in adulthood all 5 of us do have a few key differences.

For starters, we’re just not the same on a personality level. Going by the Enneagram we’re all different numbers: Rachel (Type 1 – Moral Perfectionist), John (Type 3 – Successful Achiever), Me (Type 5 – Intellectual Thinker), Corban (Type 4 – Romantic Individualist), and Nathan (Type 6 – Loyal Guardian). Worldview-wise some of us are Christian, while some of us are not. Even then, my Christian worldview is not the same as those other Christian siblings either.

Politically, you can’t get more diverse. We have a centrist, two conservatives, a liberal, and a libertarian. To put it mildly, family gatherings can be a firecracker of an event when we’re all together and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Putting the 80% rule into practice.

We need more diversity in our disagreements. One of the main motivations for me avoiding talking to anyone online is because people have forgotten how to disagree. I don’t want echo chambers, but I don’t want a Facebook fight night either. I want civil discourse on important discussions. So I choose to have those in-person where we share the same space and I can see how they feel.

I dare you to disagree with me, but not at the cost of who you are as a person. I’d rather people freely leave Christianity, then be bound into believing it. There’s a hot take for you. Now have at it in the comments section you bastards of sin!

In all seriousness, it’s okay to be in the minority when it comes to what you believe. It’s also okay to be in the majority. Know what you’re about and stand by it with dignity. Question everything and when you’ve found the answer, then be content with it. Regardless, avoid for dear life the cognitive dissonance of agreeing 100% with anyone because that’s how cults get made and dictators rise.

My disagreements with God.

Can I be honest? When Christians don’t disagree with God it concerns me tremendously. I have strong disagreements with God and yet still choose to live my life submitted to his will for it. Why? Well God’s personal like you and me, therefore we’re going to disagree on some things.

When I see people who don’t disagree with God on anything, I then wonder if they also share this with other people they wholeheartedly follow no matter what they do. That’s called worship and the only one worthy of that is God. Even in my disagreements with God, I can acknowledge that absolute fact of reality that only he deserves our worship.

Unlike humans he’s not broken, corrupted, or flawed. He is perfectly good and that’s good enough for me to agree to his plan for my life. I’d encourage everyone to do the same, but only if you agree to it. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels

Trump Is King Saul

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 1-20-2021

There are a lot of parallels made about Trump. Even more so within the American Christian community. From Cyrus the Great (2) to Nebuchadnezzar (3), some Christians associated with the current conservative political movement or the Republican party have made such comparisons. I’ve even read of a few people making the bold statement that Trump is just like King David because they’re both flawed leaders that God is using for divine means to an end (4).

I’m not here to talk about those obviously wrong parallels. I think of all the comparisons that could be made, Trump is most like King Saul. Let’s see why that’s more likely the case from a character perspective.

But before I do that, let’s clarify something. Comparing anyone to any figure in the Bible is just an exercise in identifying who someone is like, not who they are in reality. For instance, I could make the case that I’m a parallel to Joseph in Genesis. We are known for our analytical intellect, God speaks to us in dreams, and we both have autism (5).

With that said, it’s just a comparison to aid in our understanding and not a pinpoint accurate psychological look into who someone truly is in real life. This is a common and normal exercise, so now I’m simply applying it to President Trump. With all of that said, who was King Saul?

Who Was King Saul?

Saul under the Influence of the Evil Spirit by William Wetmore Story | 1865

For the sake of time, I’ll paraphrase Saul’s story. In other words, this is the highlight reel and doesn’t cover everything we know about the guy. Here’s the gist of what happened.

At this point in history, Israel was ruled by way of a kritarchy which is a nation run by judges. After years of mixed results and finally with the failure of the prophet Samuel’s own two sons, the people of Israel demanded a new form of leadership like the neighboring nations. They wanted to be ruled by a king.

So Samuel went to God in prayer and asked what to do for the Israelites. Here in 1 Samuel 8:7, we have God’s response: “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.”

Like God had instructed, Samuel informs the people of Israel on how things are going to change under this new leadership style. He will take their children and use them for his own means to fulfill economic, political, and even war purposes. He will take the best of everything in the land for those most loyal to him and enslave the people under his rule. Lastly, when the people realize they have made a mistake God will not save them from the collateral consequences of their collective choice.

As time went on, Saul quickly went from a promising first king to a tyrant that threw out all of the traditions of his own people for personal gain. He made promises before God and others, but broke them with little remorse. He cast out anyone that questioned or threatened his power. He even hunted the man God chose to replace him which was David and his own son Jonathan who chose to obey God, rather than his unruly father.

History now knows that Saul was the king of compromise. Saul was a people-pleaser, but God was never pleased with him. David did become king of Israel and gave God the glory, yet Saul was always wondering who would give glory to him.

In the end, Saul had no faith in God and his lies only led to loss. Our response to conflict reveals our character and Saul will forever be known as a coward. The promising king was now just a man whose promises meant nothing.

Who Is President Trump?

President Donald Trump via axios.com

Now look at the Trump presidency and how it ended. The parallels speak for themselves. It began with a lot of promise for some people. He claimed to end abortion, build a wall, and fix the economy so that everyone would benefit. Whatever you think of those issues for yourself or any other issues for that matter, there are people who saw this outcome as extremely positive in 2016.

Actually, even a few as life-changing on par with the reactions that the Black American community had for Obama during the election of 2008. Like usual, both figures failed to deliver and live up to the hype. Although, for Trump his term ended with the shameful storming of the US capitol by his most ardent fans in a sad attempt to overturn the election. They took the bait of a lie that led to the death of 5 imagers of God, which is horrific for all involved.

Like an incel on OnlyFans, some Christians have crawled in lust to worship Trump and it’s shameful. Your ignorance doesn’t prove his innocence. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s the blind eye of the Church that has built up the ego of a man who craves the adoration of all. Several of those who voted for him were so focused on winning for once that they never considered what would honestly happen if he had won the presidency. Well, now we know.

Now can I criticize a public figure like Trump and be consistent as a Christian? Absolutely. Do I need to remove the plank in my eye before telling someone else to remove the speck in their eye? Of course. As I like to tell people, I’m a shit-show of a human being and need God to save me on-the-daily because I’m the worst. In humility, I admit I’m a failure and sin more often than anyone will ever know.

God gives grace to the humble and I’m glad he does because that’s all we can give him. We must approach God in humility and faith, if we want to be in his good graces. The problem is that Trump lacks the spine to be humble before God and his faith is a farce.

His actions have spoken for him in that regard. He doesn’t fear God because he’s too afraid of the god that is his own graven image. That’s disgusting and it’s even more so when we consider that some of us supported such crass behavior in our leadership that claimed to follow Jesus.

We as Christians should be the first to publicly oppose a political leader in sin and the last to publicly support anyone in politics. Our gaze should be fixed on the Kingdom of God, not our own kingdom that was never a nation under God. Participate in the present and that includes politics, but remember to remain focused on the future for that is where we will find rest under the sovereignty of Jesus as king. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. www.pbs.org
  2. https://www.vox.com/identities/2018/3/5/16796892/trump-cyrus-christian-right-bible-cbn-evangelical-propaganda
  3. https://communalnews.com/king-nebuchadnezzar-and-president-donald-trump/
  4. http://www.sfltimes.com/opinion/looking-to-the-bible-to-justify-allegiance-to-a-flawed-leader
  5. For more on this theory see Samuel J. Levine’s book, Was Yosef on the Spectrum?

Now and Not Yet: Your Impact on Eternity

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 12-15-2020

Back when I was in high school my youth pastor Andrew used to ask us over and over in the Leaders In Training (LIT) discipleship group: “How will you impact eternity?” This LIT group was for high school students who wanted to become leaders in their communities and was co-led by Andrew. We met for over a year consistently and the friendships I built in that time I carry to this day.

When the group ended and we all grew up, it was tragedy that brought us together again. The funeral for the best LIT student: Ryan. While I sat there watching one-by-one as people spoke about how Ryan did all of these deeply impactful things for others asking for nothing in return, it made me reflect.

Would I be known like Ryan as a man who put others before himself, even until the very end of his life? Would I be like most of us in the group and eventually leave God to pursue things that have no ultimate value to them? Would I be one of many who aspire for the things of God or one of just a few who actually attained it?

It was during this funeral when those words of Andrew hit me again: “How will you impact eternity?” I didn’t know the answer that day, but I do know the answer today. Everyone has an impact on eternity, but not in the same way.

Now vs. Not Yet: What’s the Difference?

There’s only two ways to impact eternity. In fact, I believe there are only two types of people in this world. Those who are meant to impact eternity now and those who are meant to impact eternity at a time that’s not yet here. This is tricky, so let me explain each one briefly.

In the first half of people, we have those whose impact must be now. They are or were born in a time and place where their impact is within their lifetime. For example, think of Martin Luther King Jr and how his impact on eternity was immediate. It had to happen within his lifetime or else we would not be where we are today if it wasn’t for his strong influence during the Civil Rights Movement.

In contrast, the other half of people are those whose impact is not yet. It’s people who are laying the long-term groundwork to impact those in the future. For instance, think of Malcolm X who was very important in his time and yet is now more important than ever during this time in history. Just as Dr. King defined the 1960s, so too Malcom X has defined the 2020’s just as they’re getting started. So how does this relate to eternity? Let’s look at a visual for help.

For the sake of concept, think of eternity like a never ending line filled with many points along the way from beginning to end. Each point represents a moment in time, while the line is all of time and then some. We each inhabit a point in time, but that point in time is a part of a much larger story at hand.

For those who didn’t live for God, their impact is negative. For those who do live for God, their impact is positive. Now whether or not your life is negative or positive is not the focus of this blogpost, but rather when your impact will take place and how much of an impact you will have as an imager of God. To see when your life can impact eternity let’s compare the two most important disciples of Jesus: Peter and Paul.

Both were absolutely necessary figures within the Kingdom of God, but with completely opposite aims in that pursuit. To see the full scope of this comparison, we’ll examine one figure at a time and their overall impact. Let’s begin with Peter and then go into Paul.

Peter Was Now

St. Peter in Prison by Rembrandt Van Rijn | 1631

There’s a reason that Peter is mentioned more than any other disciple in the Bible, second only to Paul. Peter was essentially the go-to-guy for Jesus because he knew that Peter powered by the Holy Spirit would accomplish things that none of the other disciples could. Peter lived in the now.

What he did had to be done when it did because time is always ticking for people whose impact on eternity is now. It’s right now and can’t be delayed. It has to be done before you die or else you will be considered unfaithful to God. A servant in the Kingdom of God who was not faithful with the investment God gave to them. This wasn’t Peter. He did what was required of him and then even more. People like Paul run the race of faith, but people like Peter sprint like it’s a 40 yard dash.

Did he do things that still have an influence to this day? Sure, but that wasn’t his main aim. He wrote letters and still has an influence on our culture, but not nearly as compared to what he did within his lifetime. Without Peter being as faithful as he was to help lead the early church, we would not be where we are today as a church.

Paul Was Not Yet

The Apostle Paul in Prison by Rembrandt Van Rijn | 1627

But Paul was built different. Being a scholar and a former Pharisee, he was a man of the written word first. Where Peter was a man who preached passionately, Paul was a man who wrote prolifically. Paul lived in the not yet.

When compared to any other author in the Bible, Paul has both written the most and had the greatest impact on the modern church in how we think aside from Jesus of course. From the current controversies with his writings to the striking statements that are even more relevant to our day, Paul was ahead of his time and his biblical letters give testament to that fact.

His impact on eternity was not yet because the amount of persons whose lives were radically changed by the writings of Paul is too much to count. For instance, if it wasn’t for the book of Galatians or any of Paul’s writings, then Martin Luther’s 95 Theses would be radically different. Maybe not even happen at all the way that it did in the past. The ripples of impact reach far in the future and hence why Paul’s works ring so true to our point in history.

Conclusion

As I look at my own life, I see this parallel too with Andrew’s impact on eternity and mine. He is a Peter type, while I’m a Paul type. He is squarely focused on the Great Commission within his lifetime, yet I’m squarely focused on the Great Commission beyond my lifetime.

Together, we have a balanced approach to ministry to this day as we begin the early stages of starting a brand new church in the state of Colorado. A hard worker and a heady writer on the same mission to win souls to Christ. Our hope is to co-labor with Christ as he restores the reunited by way of the head, heart, and hands of Christian living.

Now will we have the same impact as Ryan at the end of our lives? Tough to say when you’re in the middle of a life being lived out, but time hasn’t run out yet in our own respective race in faith. The clock is still counting down and there is work to be done for those here and now, but also for those not yet here.

Lastly, it’s your turn. You need to seek God and ask when will your impact on eternity take place. Will it be within your lifetime right now or beyond it? By considering your calling from God (2) and preparing your mind for action to implement that calling (3), then you can find out how you will impact eternity. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29
  3. 1 Peter 1:13

The Scale of Faith: Evidence + Experience

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 11-18-2020

About a year ago when I worked at Staples, I had a conversation on faith that was fantastic with one of the coworkers on my sales team. It was one of those moments you pray for and ask God for the awareness to know when one of those moments is happening. As Christians, we call this discernment. The ability to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and what he is doing in the present.

Oddly enough, this conversation was initiated by her when she rolled by my desk and asked a few questions about my faith. This was pretty common because she did this with everyone as an extrovert and loved chatting with everybody on the team, but the subject of our conversation was brand new. It was something we never talked about before and I was very excited to have this conversation because I’m always waiting for these moments to happen.

Unlike most people, I have a different motivation for why I go to work. It’s not for money or the type of work I’m doing necessarily, but rather comes down to a very simple question: what spiritually needs to be done here? That’s my motivation that guides everything I do at work and in life overall. Every day and every moment guided by that simple question. On this day during this moment, I knew what spiritually needed to be done. I needed to answer her question, but not the one she was asking.

When someone is searching their own soul, they tend to discover holes within their worldview. For my coworker, this hole within her worldview was related to her experience with Christianity as a person who grew up Catholic. Her being a Hispanic American that grew up within the family’s strong Catholic tradition lends credence to the idea that maybe her faith wasn’t genuine. Maybe this routine of rituals never actually meant a real relationship with God himself. Maybe the faith she thought she had with its rules and regulations never materialized in her adulthood into something real.

The Conversation

The conversation started with her asking, “You’re religious, right?” and I said yes. She then asked if I was Christian or Catholic. I said I was both, which compelled her to ask how I could be both. I replied that my theology is predominantly Catholic, but my convictions are predominantly Protestant. For instance, my theology is inspired by the Jesuit school of thought called Molinism, but I align a lot with the Anabaptist movement as well. I’m a clear mix of these two different sides of Christianity after studying both for myself.

This answer seemed to resolve her surface-level questions, but now it was my turn. I asked “You’re Catholic, right?” and she said yes. She explained that she grew up Catholic, but doesn’t practice the faith like her family does. I followed up with my next question, “Why not?” and that’s when the real questions came to the surface.

Here she shared how the showy stuff never clicked with her, but that she knows that there must be something like God because she has experienced him growing up. She heard that I was Christian and just wanted to know if what she experienced was real. This is a question we should all ask ourselves. Is what I’m experiencing God or is this something else?

The Scale of Faith

I don’t remember everything that I shared with her, but I do remember the crux of my point. Essentially, faith in God is a scale that’s balancing between evidence and experience. In general, the Christian life is a strange combination of undeniable evidences and unexplainable experiences.

Like my former coworker, we too experience things that we cannot explain and yet know intuitively that this must be God. Likewise, we also observe and measure things in life that logically lead us to God. We all in one way or another experience God and have evidence that God exists in our reality. The key is finding the balance between these two components for a healthy Christian faith.

An Evident God

When we focus too much on evidence, we drown in the rabbithole of not knowing enough. Put simply, you will never know enough about God or be able to define him anymore than he has defined himself for us. As King Solomon put it, “there is nothing new under the sun (2).” There is no secret knowledge that remains undiscovered about God that we can find.

He has intentionally given us all we need to know about him and yet leaves it hidden for us to discover for ourselves. Many avenues in fact from history to mathematics or philosophy and science, but none of them leads to the full knowledge of God. If we knew everything there is to know about God, then he wouldn’t be God. Like any person you come across in life, you will never know everything about them and the same can be said of God.

Then again, faith requires evidence. It’s demanded by our minds trying to make sense of the unknown in the best way that we can, so this doesn’t mean we throw out logic and reason. Instead, this just means we search until we find the edge of knowing God and admire the mystery that stands before us. When we know God and are known by him, then we will know who we are and what we were made to do.

The God Experience

With experience, we find ourselves in the murky waters of the abstract and what has been felt in the fleeting memories of our unique moments with God. It’s not meant to be explained because these moments are to be lived in and felt with all our being. It’s the knowledge of being there that counts and not the incalculable details of the moment.

Why do some dream of Jesus and immediately become Christian, despite every reason to remain a part of their current faith? We don’t know and that’s because it’s not our experience to explain. It’s not our story to tell, but their honor to tell it as a critical piece to the unfinished puzzle that is their life in Christ. These experiences with God are once-in-a-lifetime and at the same respect unforgettable.

Conclusion

Her experience could very well have been God. She didn’t need to doubt it per se because only she would know if it was genuinely a God moment. With discernment, I believe what she shared was a God moment and affirmed it as such to her by the end of our talk.

What I left her with was a challenge: “You seem to know what it’s like to experience God, but is God evident in your life? Before you write off God or your faith from your childhood, look at it again and see if there’s anything to your faith. Could this really be true? You experienced it, so now it’s time to find out if there’s evidence.” Our boss walked by and that’s when we got back to work, but I still hope to this day that she takes the time to reevaluate her faith.

Was the experience truly God or something she made up? Could God be evident in her life? If Jesus is a real person, then is what he said true? Those are questions that only she can answer for herself.

I can’t change minds, but I can compliment critical thinking with the best case for the Christian faith. That case starts when we examine the scale of faith to see if evidence and experience meet at the cross of Christ. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NASB)

How To Celebrate Halloween

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 11-1-2020

Like most days in the year, Halloween is a day filled with contentious debate. Although this isn’t necessarily everybody who finds the day controversial, but rather Christians who have quite the beef with this day in particular. Yet when examined further, we find that these assumptions about this day of the dead remain buried by the fact that it’s simply not pagan (2). For instance, it’s origins are steeped in the traditions of French and Irish Christians that mixed their cultures with other cultures into the melting pot that is America.

Regardless, a more important question comes up when these holidays within our respective cultures arrive to be celebrated once again. How should we celebrate these holidays? As Christians or believers of other faiths, how should we approach the holidays? More specifically, how should we approach Halloween?

Earlier this month, I was talking with a friend over the phone about Halloween and how it’s okay to celebrate it as Christians. We discussed a lot beyond that, but I’ll just share what I talked with him about on how to approach Halloween. What we centered our conversation on was three key questions.

What is Christian?

The first question is what is Christian? With this question, I wanted to guide the dialogue to the Bible and how Christians have always approached holidays respectively. This first question can be done within any respective religion as well.

For Christians, a key biblical text is Colossians 2:8-23 and how because of the substance of Christ’s sacrifice these cultural celebrations are now merely symbolic if anything to the believer. They went from days of religious repetition to righteous remembrance. We are not obligated to repeat these traditions, but rather we now get to remember what these traditions mean to the Christian faith.

On Christmas, we get to celebrate the birth of Jesus. On Resurrection Sunday, we get to remember how Jesus rose on the third day after paying the debt of sin with his death. Again, look at Colossians 2:14-17 one more time: “having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day- things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” From a biblical vantage point, it matters more why we celebrate holidays than how we celebrate holidays. With that in mind, how we celebrate still matters and that ties into the second question. But for now, always ask yourself why before you ask yourself how.

What is Cultural?

The second question is what is cultural? For this one, we focused a lot on the nitty-gritty of how we celebrate holidays. I’ll just bring up one point we discussed during this second question. When it comes to how we celebrate, is there a way to know what’s worth celebrating?

In my favorite passage in the Bible for ministry, Paul writes that we should “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil (3).” In other words: test everything, embrace good, and avoid evil. Now let’s apply that filter to Halloween.

With all of these customs and traditions, we just can’t celebrate everything. I mean, there’s some pretty dark activity done on Halloween and some great fun too. Does that mean we stop celebrating Halloween because bad stuff is done on that day? No, you just don’t do the bad stuff. Let me explain.

Traditionally every October 31st, kids and parents go door-to-door to collect candy in costume as they say “trick-or-treat” to their neighbors. Has this always been the tradition though? No, not at all.

The costumes are originally a French Christian tradition to honor those who have died, the date is relatively new compared to other holidays, and the involvement of parents is in direct response to the Black Halloween of 1933. This was when teenage boys caused so much vandalism nationwide in America in response to the Great Depression that cities considered banning the holiday altogether before giving it a family-friendly revamp (4). So the Halloween you know today is not even historically accurate.

Truthfully, the modern celebration of Halloween is just like Coca-Cola. The original was way more dangerous and fun, but now it’s a watered-down cash grab that has brainwashed you into thinking it’s good because you have so much nostalgia for it. Put in simple terms, All Hallows’ Eve is now just a hollow shell of its former self.

So now what? Well, celebrate it. It’s a great custom that brings communities and families together. If we’re being honest, is there anything remotely morally reprehensible about a kid dressing up as their favorite superhero and collecting candy? Not in the slightest.

But if you want to go holier than thou, then what if a kid in remembrance of Chadwick Boseman dresses up as Black Panther to honor one of those who has gone before us and who in fact was a Christian too. That’s faithfully sticking to the roots of Halloween. On the other hand, the standard celebration usually has some adult woman laced up in a slutty cat costume in the hopes of getting some action with her toxic ex at a party that looks like a high school reunion, but with more botox and booze. Then again, to each their own.

At the end of the day, reject all of the bad done on Halloween or any day for that matter and embrace the good. Learn about the holiday, adopt the customs that are good, and then avoid the bad. You can even choose not to celebrate altogether which is totally fine too, but that leads into the final question.

What is Convicting?

Lastly, what is convicting? After all of this information and knowledge has been discussed, it’s still your choice whether or not you are comfortable celebrating any holiday. Convictions are not meant to be advertised to all, but they are meant to be respected when in the company of others who know of said convictions.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 8, Paul dissects the idea of liberty into two compatible halves: knowledge and love. We all have varying degrees of knowledge and love that combines into your current convictions. That’s why every conviction is different from person-to person. Some of us eat meat and some of us don’t. But what matters most is being aware of your convictions and when aware of other people’s convictions, being the better person and honoring their commitments to a conviction as well.

Paul points this out when he writes: “But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ (5).” If you want your convictions to be valued, then you must value the convictions of others. This value is found in the active balance of knowledge and love.

Without love your conviction is prideful and without knowledge your conviction is pointless. Therefore, find the balance between what you know and what you love. For the Christian, this love is Christ. For the non-Christian, it’s anything but Christ. If you as a Christian have a conviction that is not Christ-centered, then you have bastardized your own behaviors and beliefs.

When we were nearing the end of our conversation, we ironically pointed out our different convictions of food. My great friend is convicted about eating pork, while I am a simp for lime pork street tacos. With that knowledge in mind, I can now love my friend by not eating pork around them. If my friend doesn’t eat meat, then I don’t need to either when I’m with them for their sake. What divides us should never get in the way of what unites us.

I have the conviction to take time every Halloween to read up on the Protestant Reformation because the anniversary just so happens to land on the very same day. It’s a tradition I’ve made for myself and I will repeat it every year. Then again, I do also enjoy spending time with others doing more traditional Halloween customs. Either way, I choose to celebrate Halloween. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. https://youtu.be/fu-5BmAzbrU
  3. 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 (NASB)
  4. https://www.history.com/news/halloween-haunted-house-great-depression
  5. 1 Corinthians 8:8-12 (NASB)

Finding Forgiveness

Firearm Fumble

During the summer, the youth group that I help lead went on one of our big events at Bear Creek Lake in Colorado. Like most youth groups, students need rides and before leaving to the event I was on my way picking up a few of the students going that Saturday. After picking up four guys for the event, we were on our way.

While driving to our church to touch base with other leaders before leaving to the event, some of the guys in the backseat of my car decided to pull out their BB guns that they recently bought. Of course at the time, I wasn’t aware they even had them in my car. Anyways, they eventually got pretty excited about them and before you know it they wanted to show me how powerful their BB guns were while I’m driving.

Granted all of this is happening within the span of a few minutes, but at first they pretended to use them and make lots of fake gunshot noises. Then one of them gets the bright idea of showing me what they sound like when they shoot them without any BB’s inside. Without enough time to react, one of the students behind me points the gun directly at my front windshield and fires it twice in quick succession.

Within an instant and by the sound of it, we all realized that the BB gun was actually loaded and my windshield now had two brand new bullet holes. One in the lower right hand corner and the other in the upper right hand corner of my front windshield. My reaction could have been better, but I was pretty pissed to say the least.

We soon arrived at the church and I confiscated their BB guns for the day before leaving for the event. I decided to allow the students to go to the event, even though they just damaged my car. They come from very broken homes and the last thing they needed was to go home early. For these four guys in particular, being at church or youth group is an escape from the Hell that they have to live with on a daily basis.

For instance, one of them lives with their grandparents because his mom chose to stay addicted to drugs rather than raise him. To this day, his mom wanders around looking for her next fix, while her son wonders why she doesn’t love him enough to quit. All four of these guys have similar stories and this cultural footprint influences the majority of their behavior. These boys are simply the byproduct of broken people who don’t know any better.

When we arrived at the lake, everyone seemed to have a fun time except me. The kids were hanging out and having a blast, but I couldn’t stop thinking about why this situation was frustrating me so much. I was angry and couldn’t shake it all day, but I also knew this happened for a reason.

Unlike most people, I don’t believe in accidents or coincidences. Instead, I believe that God works all things together for those who trust in him and therefore every moment is an opportunity to learn something. In this moment, I just couldn’t figure out what that something was or why this moment happened.

When it came time to go home, I told the students that I was going to hold onto their BB guns until one of them confessed to shooting my front windshield. Because they shot it from the backseat, I never actually knew who did the damage to my car. So as I dropped off all of the students and headed home, I kept thinking about what to do next.

I texted back and forth with other people to get advice from them. They all had very similar answers: get justice. Those kids deserve what’s coming to them. They’re guilty and need to be responsible for their actions. At one point I planned on destroying all of their BB guns, but I never did because the guilty student texted me that night.

Knowing this particular student and their circumstances, I believe their apology was genuine. He mentioned that he wanted to fix things and explained to me that it was an accident. He didn’t realize he actually had BBs in his BB gun at the time. After reading his response, it finally clicked for me. I knew what this whole situation was finally about.

Forgotten Forgiveness

You see, I too was in a very similar spot when I was in 3rd grade. After school one day, I was waiting by the hill where the soccer fields were for my Dad to pick me up. I was with a few of my peers and we decided to see who could throw a rock far enough to hit this abandoned house across the street from the school where we were waiting. In between us at the top of the soccer fields hill and the abandoned house was the street where parents were picking up their students.

We each took an attempt. All of us ended up throwing way too short and were hitting the sidewalk across the street. Then we all went again. Everyone got a little closer, but I hit a shingle on the roof causing it to chip a bit. This looked and sounded awesome, so I went for one more throw.

With this third throw, I lobbed my rock way too high and it flew straight down where the cars were lined up ready to pick up kids. My third attempt went directly into the center of an expensive sports car. Like dropping a bomb in a lake, this windshield completely cracked and splintered off in every direction.

Before I knew it, this wealthy man got out of his car and was scanning the perimeter as he tried to find the culprit. Little did he know that this culprit was crying and hiding behind what felt like the only bush on that hill. I barely fit behind it and was hoping he would just go away.

What felt like hours passed and eventually my sibling came by to tell me that Dad was here talking to the wealthy man with the broken windshield. I straight up died inside right then and there from complete terror. After wiping my tears, I went down the hill and got in our car.

Later that night, my Dad was pacing back and forth. By his conversations with my Mom, I could tell that I did something really bad. That this sports car’s windshield was going to be expensive to fix.

When the dust settled, my Dad finally came to my room and told my brothers to leave so he could talk to me in private. He asked me how I was feeling and then what happened. I gave him the gist of it and he listened intently.

After hearing my side of things, there was a pause. Then he broke it by saying that I didn’t need to worry about the windshield because he was going to pay for it. We hugged and then joined the rest of the family for dinner. He forgave me and that was the last that I ever heard of that situation.

Forgiveness Found

Jump back to when I received this text from the student who cracked my windshield and now it all added up. I now knew what I needed to do. This lesson in life was about finding forgiveness when justice was expected.

Grabbing my Bible, I looked up Matthew 18:21-35 for the story of the king and the two debtors. When I found the passage, I prayed about the situation and replied back to the student. To read the screenshots of the conversation we had, I’ll just refer you to the footnotes at the end of this post.

Anyways, I said not to worry about the window and told my story from third grade. Next, I told him to look up Matthew 18:21-35 and asked him to read it instead of paying for the windshield. Like my Dad forgave me, I forgave him.

When I was at fault, I was forgiven. Therefore, since he was at fault I decided to forgive him too. From there, he did his homework and I forgave him again in-person just to make sure he understood what I was trying to show him.

That God offers everyone two choices: justice or forgiveness. The difficult road is getting exactly what we deserve and becoming not only distant to Jesus in this life, but the life to come when this is all over. The easy road is to avoid evil and conform to God’s goodness as we pursue freedom in Christ.

That day I could have gone with either option and been completely in the right, but ultimately forgiveness won out. Sometimes, justice must be done and yet other times grace must take place. At the end of the day, that decision is up to you. So when an unjust moment happens to you and you see an opportunity for the other party to learn something, find the courage to forgive. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Matthew 18:21-35 | “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Alvin Plantinga + Autism

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/27/2019

About two years ago in the month of June, I was on a road-trip with my Dad and a few of our friends. On the way to and from our destination, I was finishing Alvin Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief and came across an interesting statement that he makes in his book. In fact, it’s not necessarily apart of the main narrative, but is rather just a footnote at the bottom of a page in the chapter entitled “Sin and Its Cognitive Consequences.” In this footnote, Plantinga writes

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Source: Amazon

It is no part of the [Aquinas/Calvin] model to say that damage to the sensus divinitatis (2) on the part of a person is due to sin on the part of the same person. Such damage is like other disease and handicaps: due ultimately to the ravages of sin, but not necessarily sin on the part of the person with the disease. In this connection, see Jesus’ remarks (John 9:1-3) about the man blind from birth (p. 214, fn. 22).

Now as someone who has been diagnosed with high spectrum autism disorder (3), this quote stuck out to me like a sore thumb when I first read it. I’ve always had a curiosity on the subject of those with special needs and their cognitive ability to know God, but this really gave me more of a drive to study it further. To think and see if someone with malfunctioning cognitive faculties (i.e. intellectual disabilities) can consciously choose whether or not to believe in God.

There is a lot packed into this brief footnote, so let’s break it down in context. The footnote is attached to a section of the chapter where Plantinga is describing the worst effect that sin has on us and our sense of God. He writes:

The most serious noetic effects of sin have to do with our knowledge of God. Were it not for sin and its effects, God’s presence and glory would be as obvious and uncontroversial to us all as the presence of other minds, physical objects, and the past. Like any cognitive process, however, the sensus divinitatis can malfunction; as a result of sin, it has indeed been damaged. Our original knowledge of God and his glory is muffled and impaired; it has been replaced (by virtue of sin) by stupidity, dullness, blindness, inability to perceive God or to perceive him in his handiwork (p. 214-215).”

In other words, Plantinga argues that our knowledge of God is the most damaged aspect of our sensus divinitatis (sense of divinity). If our sense of God was not impaired, then we would be completely aware of God in everything. But because everyone has been born into sin, we all have a malfunctioning sense of God. Like a broken window, our view of God is distorted before we accept the Gospel. After we accept it, then our sense of God is restored to what it was always meant to be since the beginning.

Yet, we all don’t have malfunctioning cognitive faculties. Is this footnote indicating that some may have a harder time understanding the Gospel because there are more mental roadblocks that may inhibit their path to genuine belief in God? Not to say that our own sin directly causes this malfunction, but that sin itself has caused this malfunction in the cognitive faculties of some.

For example, no one is morally responsible for a person being born with a heart defect, but rather this defect is directly related to the natural consequences of the Fall. The unnatural breaking down of the human body as the world ages away. Original sin is the root of these malfunctions for the most part, not the individual sins of others. For more on that, let’s turn to the Gospel of John.

The passage of Scripture that Plantinga points out in the already mentioned footnote is John 9:1-3. In this passage, Jesus comes across a blind man who has been blind since birth. Inquiring to know why this man is born blind, the disciples ask Jesus whether it is due to the man’s own sin or that of his parents.

As if to say, whose sin caused this consequence? Who is responsible for this man’s poor condition of being blind from birth? Jesus succinctly replies “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” What does Jesus mean by this exactly?

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Source: Pulpit & Pen

John Piper of Desiring God (4), spoke on this very subject and makes an important point. “The explanation of the blindness lies not in the past causes but the future purposes,” says Piper. For this specific case, the blindness from birth was not a sinful consequence, but rather a predetermined act of God. This disability was given, so that God might have the glory in the healing of it. By healing a blind man from birth publicly, Jesus caused others to see things spiritually. Thus, leading to people naturally giving God the glory.

In Genesis 50:20, Joseph speaks about how God can take something evil like our physical ailments or malfunctioning cognitive faculties and turn them into something good. This can be seen when a family is closer to each other when compared to other families because of the attentive care necessary for one of their family members that may have an intellectual disability like autism. If not for having a family member with said disability, there are many families that would probably be more distant to both each other and God. Like usual, God can answer a series of evils with one good thing.

boy-child-country-551576.jpg
Source: Pexels

But that stills leaves our question unanswered: can people with malfunctioning cognitive faculties consciously accept or reject belief in God? Can they ever have a repaired sense of God? To put it simply, of course they can and a good portion of them do have genuine belief in God.

Even though someone may be at a mental state where they are equivalent to that of a small child or may have an IQ lower than normal, they still have the ability to receive the Gospel. In Mark 10:15, Jesus clearly states that “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” If we base our faith in our own intelligence and knowledge, then we have not received the Gospel like a child and are not actually Christian.

We have made up our own God at that point because faith in the kingdom of God is childlike, not complex and complicated. Either we believe that Jesus is Lord and confess that God raised Him from the dead or we don’t. It’s as simple as that and for someone with malfunctioning cognitive faculties, they too have the ability to receive or reject belief in God on these grounds.

One last thing. Like anyone who comes to faith in God, the moment of salvation is completely by the power of the Holy Spirit. We cannot do this on our own. We cannot have our sense of God repaired and our souls redeemed, unless by the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

So whether someone has an intellectual disability or not, we need the Holy Spirit during this transformation from death to life. From disbelief to genuine belief in the one true, triune God. Without the Holy Spirit, we cannot be born again. But by the power of God the Father in Christ Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit, we can all be born again. We can all be made alive in Christ. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Earlier in this chapter, Plantinga defines sensus divinitatis as “a disposition or set of dispositions to form theistic beliefs in various circumstances, in response to the sorts of conditions or stimuli that trigger the working of this sense of divinity (p. 173).” This sense of divinity or this sense of God is the bedrock for which the A/C Model hinges on and is one of the main themes discussed in Warranted Christian Belief, along with the rest of Plantinga’s Warrant trilogy. The name sensus divinitatis was originally penned by a French theologian named John Calvin.
  2. It is possible that my original diagnosis of high spectrum autism disorder by Stanford University may have been a mistake. As Thomas Sowell argues, a number of cases in the past that were diagnosed as ADD, Autism, and so on could have been just children with what he dubs “Einstein Syndrome.” Also known as late-talkers, Einstein Syndrome is named after Albert Einstein due to a theory that he began to talk at a later age than usual due to certain portions of his brain developing faster than normal. If a child’s parents are extremely gifted in mathematics or music, then the child may be more likely to be a late-talker, according to Sowell. To learn more, click here.
  3. https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/why-was-this-child-born-blind

The Thief and the Cross

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 4/10/2020

In light of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, I wanted to take some time to write about the thief on the cross. By thief on the cross, I am referring to one of the two thieves that were crucified with Jesus. One became a believer, while the other did not. So for now, any references to the thief on the cross are towards the thief that became a believer.

Why Were People Crucified?

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Bart D. Ehrman, PhD | James A. Gray Distinguished Professor University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

This thief on the cross is an interesting figure in the historical account of the crucifixion of Jesus, but is often overlooked in the grand scheme of things. He most likely would have been a Jewish man due to a number of factors like his belief in one God (2) and his familiarity with the teachings of Jesus about the kingdom of Heaven (3), along with his punishment. Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar, points out the uniqueness of the crucifixion and why only a certain group of people would receive this form of punishment when he writes

Crucifixion was reserved for special cases. But there were lots of special cases. Two of the most common were low-life criminals and enemies of the state. These are two very different matters – they are not the same thing… This was especially the case – I reiterate – for enemies of the state. Rare exceptions might be made for low-life criminals – escaped slaves, horse thieves, general riff-raff who did not matter to anyone in power (4).”

In other words, the two thieves were most likely crucified for either stealing something very valuable like horses as their names would suggest or for being insurgents that were sworn enemies of the state. Regardless of why they were hung in the first place, these two men died alongside Jesus and witnessed His final moments before His death. This will be the bedrock for the rest of this blog-post moving forward.

Artistic Depictions of Christ’s Crucifixion

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What is also of note is how artists depict where the three men are in different works of art. For instance, Peter Paul Rubens and Titian seem to have placed the thief on the cross to the right of Christ, while the proud thief is to His left. This deliberate creative choice of putting the thief on the cross beside the right hand of God is significant.

In both Judaism and Christianity, to be on the right hand of God was a sign of God’s “ruler-ship, authority, sovereignty, blessing, and strength and is significant in Scripture (5).” We can see this in many places in the Bible such as Psalm 110:1b where it says “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” To be fair, there are other works of art like Rembrandt van Rijn’s Christ Crucified between the Two Thieves: The Three Crosses (6) that appears indifferent to where each thief is in the picture and is rightly so focused on Christ Himself.

Likewise, James the brother of Jesus once wrote “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you (7).” It would seem that in the spirit of this passage and the current state of the thief on the cross, that Rubens and Titian visually depicted what was spiritually taking place inside this thief’s soul. That as the thief on the cross was up there next to Jesus, his heart and mind were radically changed. A series of events that brought this man to a point of understanding.

Things like Jesus asking for the forgiveness of His executioners (8), soldiers dividing His garments by way of casting lots, and those passing by railing blasphemous statements towards Christ in a taunting way (9) all occurred before the thief on the cross had a change of heart. In the Gospel of Matthew (10), it even records both thieves mocking Jesus until a certain point where only the proud thief is left to mock Jesus. Sometime between both thieves mutually mocking Jesus and the proud thief continuing to mock Jesus, was there a sharp change in attitude from the thief on the cross.

A Change of Heart

What happened so suddenly that a thief dying on a cross would suddenly have a complete change in how he perceived Jesus? I’d argue it is a combination of moments, but for now we will only focus in on one aspect. What Jesus said and how He acted during this whole ordeal.

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Anatomical Crucifixion Sketch | Jacques Gamelin, 1779 (12)

Just for a little more context, their punishment by way of crucifixion was not so nice. In fact, it was one of, if not the most painful form of torture at that time. According to Maslen and Mitchell’s article written in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (11), crucifixion had many cruel ways of ending one’s life.

Some of those causes of death may have been, but are not limited to acidosis, arrhythmia plus asphyxia, cardiac rupture, hypovolemic shock, and so on. Death by crucifixion was a brutal, yet extremely prolonged way to die. For some, they died in a matter of hours. For others, they died in a matter of days.

I believe of the three events that took place before the thief on the cross had a change of heart, the moment of Jesus forgiving His executioners had the most impact on the thief. Christ’s response showed the thief a direct contrast to the way He lived His own life. A seed of regret was planted.

Jesus forgave those that were killing Him. The two thieves probably hated those that were crucifying them. Jesus was known as an exorcist and a teacher who wanted to help the poor and sick. The two thieves were most likely men that spent the majority of their lives only helping themselves.

As if the name was any indication, these thieves were probably selfish. Christ was selfless. The thieves died for crimes they committed. Jesus died for crimes we committed. For the thief on the cross and from his perspective, this man was different in almost every single way from him and the other thief. They deserved this death, but Jesus didn’t.

This strong distinction between a thief and the giver of eternal life is a drastic black-and-white difference. One died for taking that which was someone else’s, while the other died for giving all that He had for others. This I believe is what changed the thief on the cross from mocking Jesus to defending Him in front of everyone.

By everyone, I mean everyone. Gentiles and Jews. Pharisees and Roman soldiers. Family, friends, neighbors, and so on. Everyone there at the crucifixion knew of or had heard of these three crucified men and were probably shocked watching the thief on the cross have a change of heart. A thief for the first time encountering something he had never seen before: unlimited love in response to unbridled hate. The love of God in reaction to the darkest of human deeds. The Gospel happening before his very eyes.

The short story of the thief on the cross ends in a profound way. Luke chronicles the rest of that story when he writes

But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise (13).””

In response to the thief’s change of heart and his humble demeanor, God gives Him grace. A grace that surpasses all understanding. This is the thief and the cross. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. Luke 23:40
  3. Luke 23:42
  4. https://ehrmanblog.org/why-romans-crucified-people/
  5. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2015/06/13/what-does-the-right-hand-symbolize-or-mean-in-the-bible/
  6. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/41.1.31/
  7. James 4:6-8b
  8. Luke 23:34
  9. Luke 23:35-37
  10. Matthew 27:44
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1420788/
  12. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/historicalanatomies/gamelin_home.html
  13. Luke 23:40-43

Don’t Judge Me By The Color Of My Eyes

Updated: 5/27/2019

A while ago, my older brother John wrote a really powerful Facebook post about the state of racism in the world. He considered the matter and concluded that racism is nothing more than a categorical error. The idea that because of a sole variable (i.e. the color of one’s skin), those that share that variable are less than those who do not have that variable (i.e. those of a dissimilar skin color).

Even if both groups shared almost every other variable (i.e. culture, DNA, religion, etc), they were and are still identified by a variable that bears little to no significance when compared to more appropriate labels of identification like one’s birthplace or cultural upbringing. With his permission and in light of the anniversary of Martin Luther King Day, I wanted to share his thoughts with you (1). So, let’s see what he said.

I’ve heard so much talk lately about “black” people and “white” people. Unfortunately, every single post has missed the point entirely. We live in a world where we’ve been taught to categorize by color. A process that if not taught to you since you were born, would make absolutely no sense. In fact, you would find it ridiculous because if you step back and think about it, color does not represent anything.

You would never consider categorizing people by eye color. It would be so stupid to even try. Close your eyes for a second and try to imagine a world where people were categorized by eye color. The whole idea is just stupid, right? Well, open your eyes. This is your reality.

So why don’t you even give it a second thought when someone says “white” or “black” people? The very moment that you define someone by their skin is discriminatory. That is the birth of racism. Allow me to explain.

The deep rooted problem lies in our fundamental thinking process that we all are guilty of being indoctrinated into believing. Somewhere in our messed up ideology we discarded categorizing other people by real connections like culture and heritage. Instead, we have substituted appropriate labels with something more superficial and shallow: the color of our skin.

The way we use the word color itself is ridiculous. Everyone’s a different shade of brown. Have you ever actually seen a person with white or black skin? Me neither.

Also, the word “race” is entirely incorrect in the context that we use it in when talking about people. If there is no biological difference between people of different shades, then there is only one race. I’ll say it again. If there is no biological difference between people of different shades, then there is only one race: the human race.

If you really break it down, there is only one thing that people of the same skin shades have in common: the way society views and treats them. This is the only thing that creates the bond between people who look similar and separates those who look different. But the way society treats you has entirely nothing to do with you.

Now we’re back to agreeing that there is really no difference, except the one that we created in our minds. So I leave you with this: as long as you yourself define people by categories of skin “color,” you are reinforcing racism. If you want to change society, then you must first change the way you think.

Again, I love what John wrote about this issue. Really spoke to me and I hope it speaks to you in light of MLK Day. So what’s the takeaway from this Facebook post written by John?

If you change the way you think, then you will naturally change the way you speak. Don’t judge others by the color of their eyes or skin, but instead judge them by the inner condition of their identity. Now before you go, here is some more food for thought from two very important men in history speaking on the same subject:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” – Christ Jesus (NRSV John 7:24)

With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. John also gave me permission to make minor edits that help fit the format of a blog-post, as well as fix any grammatical errors present in his original Facebook post.
  2. For more from John Cribari, here’s his personal training business: https://lessons.com/ca/simi-valley/personal-training/cribari-training
  3. Disclaimer

The Cosmo-Quattro Argument

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/27/2019

Rather than writing on something currently on my mind, I just wanted to upload a response I gave a couple years ago on a Facebook group to someone who posted a meme about theism. The post revolved around how theists cannot provide adequate answers to support their belief in God. I don’t remember which group on Facebook it was, but I think off the top of my head it was either Atheist Beings, Atheism Uncensored, or Atheism United. Either way, I wrote this particular response on Google Docs as well and have just kept it over the years in my Google Drive. So with minor adjustments for clarity and conciseness, here is my response:

Okay I’m back. Sorry for the delay, I had a long day at work and then after work I was busy for quite some time. Finally have a little time to sit down and write back to you all. In a previous comment, I said that I would lay out the Change Argument and William Lane Craig’s Kalam-Cosmological Argument for those who are following this particular thread. First let me start with Dr. Craig’s argument and then proceed with the Change Argument:

The Kalam-Cosmological Argument (Source: On Guard by William Lane Craig)

1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2) The universe began to exist.

3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Now this argument is airtight in its premises. The logic likewise flows as follows and is simple in its presentation. The conclusion is that this universe has a cause. Simple enough. Now let’s take this one step further with the Change Argument:

The Change Argument (Source: www.peterkreeft.com)

1) The material world we know is a world of change.

2) When something comes to be in a certain state, such as mature size, that state cannot bring itself into being.

3) Other things must be involved.

4) Nothing can give itself what it does not have, and the changing thing cannot have now, already, what it will come to have then.

5) Nothing changes itself.

6) No matter how many things there are in the series, each one needs something outside itself to actualize its potentiality for change.

7) The universe is the sum total of all these moving things, however many there are.

8) The whole universe is in the process of change.

9) But change in any being requires an outside force to actualize it.

10) Therefore, there is some force outside (in addition to) the universe, some real being transcendent to the universe. This is one of the things meant by “God.”

11) Briefly, if there is nothing outside the material universe, then there is nothing that can cause the universe to change.

12) But it does change.

13) Therefore there must be something in addition to the material universe.

14) But the universe is the sum total of all matter, space and time. These three things depend on each other.

15) Therefore this being outside the universe is outside matter, space and time. It is not a changing thing; it is the unchanging Source of change.

With Craig’s argument and Plantinga’s argument in mind, we can conclude a series of things:

  1. The universe has a cause.
  2. This cause logically must be immaterial, spaceless, and timeless.
  3. It cannot change because it is the unchanging source of change.
  4. Therefore, the cause of the universe is changeless, immaterial, space-less, and timeless.

Adding these figures together we move onto the next argument that reasonably follows: The Teleological Argument. It is the argument that Christopher Hitchens considered the greatest argument for the existence of God. Even today, many atheists consider it to be the most formidable argument. The argument goes as follows:

The Teleological Argument (Source: On Guard by William Lane Craig)

1) The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.

2) It is not due to physical necessity or chance.

3) Therefore, it is due to design.

Gathering our conclusions together, let’s now attribute factors to this mysterious first-cause. In order for something to be the first-cause it must fit this specific criteria that we have just observed together:

  1. The universe cannot cause itself into existence nor be the first cause (See: The Kalam-Cosmological Argument).
  2. The first-cause of the universe must be immaterial, space-less, and timeless (See: The Change Argument).
  3. The first-cause of the universe must be changeless (See: The Change Argument).
  4. The first-cause of the universe must be the designer of the universe (See: The Teleological Argument).
  5. Thus, the most reasonable and logical explanation based off of the evidence is that this first-cause must be and is God.

Lastly, in the Greater Than Argument I argue that God must be multi-personal due to Him being beyond our limits as the first-cause of the universe. My argument goes like this:

The Greater Than Argument

1) Every human is a single person.

2) God is greater than a human.

3) Since God is greater than a human, He therefore must be multi-personal.

4) The Christian Trinity is the best explanation of His multi-personal nature.

5) Therefore, God is a tri-unity of persons, yet remains one nature.

From this lengthy and exhaustive breakdown, we can also conclude that this first-cause (i.e. God) is indeed personal and is a transcendent creative mind. Just as a painter creates a painting with a specific purpose in mind, God must have personally caused and created the universe with a specific purpose in His mind. What purpose did God have in making the universe?

In the Judeo-Christian worldview, God caused and created the universe for His own glory. In other words, everything was caused and created for the glory of God. In Revelation 4:11, it says “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

Branching off of this, why should we glorify God? Well He made us and that should be enough reason to glorify Him. We are in eternal gratitude that God would want and will for us to exist because He desired for us to glorify Him by tending to the Earth in response to His love towards us (2). It’s a relationship that God desires from us because it’s in that relationship that those who choose to love Him back are glorifying Him to the fullest extent. As the Gospel of John writes, “We love because He first loved us (3)” and that’s why in the Judeo-Christian worldview, we desire to love everyone equally because Christ loved us first.

But before this can take place, everyone must first repent of their sin. The very thing that separated this relationship God and mankind once had together is blemished by our own sin. Yet, God (the Father) so loved the world (humanity) that He gave His only begotten Son (the Christ) that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

To conclude, you must repent and believe in God, so that you can now determine to glorify God in all that you do. The ultimate aim in Christianity is to know God, to be known by God, and to make God known. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. Genesis 1:26-31
  3. 1 John 4:19
  4. Disclaimer