Are Your Conversations with Those of the World the Same with Those of the Church?

 

Does this exchange sound familiar?

Bill: “Hello, how are you doing?”

Steve: “I am good . . . and you?”

Bill: “I am doing well also.”

Steve: “Great! . . . See ya later!”

Bill: “You too!”

This kind of short, being-friendly-but-not-wanting-to-really-talk-about-anything-important, dialogue happens all the time. We have these discussions with people at work, passing by in the grocery store, sporting events, parties, and unfortunately . . . at church.

This has bothered me for some time.

Why do we have these same types of conversations with our brothers and sisters at church? Now, I understand that there are occasions where it is not the best time or the proper setting to have a lengthy conversation. However, our time together is called fellowship (Greek. koinōnia). Koinōnia, in its biblical context, means to “share with someone in something which he has,” and “to have a close mutual association.” It’s a term I never use to refer to hanging out at a work related event, or birthday party with unbelievers, BBQ at a neighbors house, or any other type of gathering that is not with those of the family of God. I am sure no other Christian does either.

How are Christian relationships supposed to be different?

We who are of the family of God have a close, mutual association in Christ. In fact, it is because of Christ that we have been united into one body of believers, a royal priest hood belonging to God (Rom. 7:4; 1 Pet. 2:9). Paul uses the phrase in Christ quite often in reference to Christians.[1] Paul uses the term koinōnia to speak of the direct participation of the believer with Christ, which is a spiritual communion with the risen Lord (1 Cor. 1:9).

Why does he use that phrase and not just call us believers in Christ or fellow children of God?

Because all who are born-again have died with Christ in his death and have been made alive with him in his resurrection (Romans 6:5-10), granted that we share (koinōnia) in his sufferings.[2] We are united into one body, under the lordship of Christ, “having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Phil. 2:2).

Therefore, if we are to be of the same mind and same love, loving others, demonstrating that we are of God,[3] we should seek God’s will together in one mind, which is our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3; cf. Rom. 6:19,22).

How are we to do that, staying the course on the path of righteousness?

Through the fellowship and discipleship within the church, united in Christ and in communion with the Spirit.

The author of Hebrews, speaking about the rest for us in Christ, says

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end (3:12-14).

God’s means for keeping believers in Christ is through the body, to keep our hearts from the hardening effects of sin. It is through grace-saturated fellowship, exhorting, encouraging, and praying for each other daily that God uses as the means to sustain us until glorification (Read 1 Cor. 12:1-26). Our sanctification depends on our fellowship with our Triune God and each other.

Ultimately, true biblical fellowship is a relationship, not an activity.

How do we turn our quick, superficial conversations into koinōnia?

A few months back I decided to try something different, to be more intentional in my conversing with believers on Sunday or any other time. So, after the typical how-are-you-doing exchange, I ask, “What has the Lord shown you this week?” The responses I received have been astonishing. Every response gave me a glimpse into the window of a fellow brother or sister’s heart. We got to share in something we both have in common—struggles with sin and a desperate need for Christ.

Over the last few months, many have shared with me their joy in Christ due to a particular situation, whether in prayer, reading the Bible, or through trials. And some opened up in need of guidance, encouragement, or just needed someone to listen. The crucial element in all of this is that the conversations went from the natural to the supernatural. We were talking about something that the world doesn’t have or truly understand—our spiritual lives in Christ. We were experiencing true koinōnia.

Just recently, I ran into a newer family at our church just after our Wednesday night Awanas program. I have interacted with the husband a few times over the last few months but only discussed trivial matters. And our last interaction ended rather awkwardly, because there were no more superficial questions left to ask. So, we just sat there and stared at each other with silly grins on our faces.

This was before I began asking this question.

Well, this time when our trivialities ended, I asked him, “So, what has the Lord shown you recently?” He said, “Nothing.” And we were back at that awkward place again.

What now? You can’t say, “Oh, sorry to hear that. Take care.”

My entire purpose in asking this question was to “share” in another Christian’s life in Christ. And in this moment, here was a man that needed to be encouraged. I asked him if he has been reading his Bible, and he said he hadn’t but then pointed to his wife, letting me know that she reads all the time. I encouraged him to make time daily to be in God’s Word. I told him that he is the leader of his house, and if he wants his children to grow up in a house where the Lord is the head of it (and I now he does), then his kids need to see their daddy reading it daily, guiding the family by its wisdom, and uniting his family to be one in Christ.

He was much appreciative of what I said. Praise God.

I could have just shaken his hand and said, “How ya doing?” And I know he would have just said, “I am doing good.” And that would have been the end of the conversation, followed by a wave and a “see ya later.”

But really, he was in a rough patch. If you are not reading the Bible regularly then you are starving yourself (Matt. 4:4). That is an extremely dangerous place to be in. I thank God for that conversation and hope that the Spirit convicts him to be in the Word, and I look forward to asking him the same question when I see him again, Lord willing.

I have never been so blessed in fellowship. Seeking to talk and share what we truly have in common—Christ—is what makes our fellowship different from the conversations we have in the world.

 

Romans 11:36

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1. 86 times; or in him 33 times; Ex. Rom. 6:11; 8:11; 12:5; 1 Cor. 1:30; 3:1; 2 Cor. 1:21; 5:17

2. Phil. 1:29; 3:10; 2 Cor. 1:5; cf. Rom. 8:17

3. 1 John 4:7-8; cf. Rom. 13:8

Prayer: The Catalyst of God’s Actions

Something to reflect and meditate on as you seek the Lord’s will.

Prayer is how God accomplishes his will—through moving the hearts and wills of others to carryout his purposes in bringing lost sinners to Christ, sanctifying and preserving them to glory.

So, though God is sovereign, it doesn’t negate the necessity and power of our prayers to move God to action (not to be understood as open theists see it).

Prayer is how God works to bring about his purposes. Our salvation and sanctification are the effect flowing from causal prayer. Lets see some Scripture to demonstrate what I mean.

Jesus says in Matthew 9:38, “therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” That is a very interesting statement, considering that the harvest belongs to the Lord and is the one who brings the growth (1 Cor. 3:6-7). While God has decreed to save a people for himself (Revelation 5:9-10), and nothing can stop him from doing so (Matt. 16:18), Jesus asks that we pray earnestly for the Lord to send out laborers to do this work in building the church. Why is that? God desires for us to earnestly want that (Matt. 6:33).

Prior to Peter’s betrayal, Jesus says to Peter that he has prayed for him that his “faith may not fail” (Luke 22:32). Peter’s faith doesn’t fail because Christ prayed for him. God ordained for Peter to have enduring faith, but that secured salvation was brought about through the prayers of Christ.

In John 17:9, Christ says that he is praying for those whom the Father has given him. Why is he praying for them, considering what he said earlier: “I give them [those whom the Father has given him] eternal life and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. . . . [And] no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (10:28,29)? God has ordained to save those whom he has called, but his saving them is through the prayers of Christ.

In Acts 8, Peter rebukes Simon the magician for his desire to purchase the power of the Spirit to use as he pleases. Peter said for him to “pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you” (v.22). If God is going to forgive him, prayer is going to be the means through which this forgiveness will come about.

Paul’s prayers under gird the sanctification of the churches he shepherds and the power of his ministry.

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul and Timothy, since hearing of their conversion to Christ, have not ceased praying for them, asking that God would fill them with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding (Col. 1:9). The praying serves as the catalyst—the desire to God—that he would fill them and grow them in Christ. Their sanctification is rooted in answer to prayer. Paul and Timothy ask in prayer because they have the confidence in God that if they ask anything according to his will, they are heard (1 John 5:14), with full assurance that God will supply every need, according to his riches in glory in Christ (Phil 4:19). God’s will is for our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:13), and it is brought about through the payers of the saints.

He asks for the Ephesians to be “praying at all times in the Spirit . . . and also for me that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel” (6:18,19). And he asks the Colossians to “pray . . . that God may open us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ” (Col. 4:3).

The advancement of his ministry—the power of the gospel—is brought about through prayer.

Even for us to increase in love to each other is rooted in prayer for the Lord to bring that about (1 Thess 3:12).

What is of the utmost importance to realize is that . . .

Because God has ordained all events to come to pass, even the prayers leading to and/or serving as the cause of those events, then the events cannot come to pass unless the prayers that are ordained come to pass before hand.

That is huge.

God’s working in the world is mountain-moving work (Matt. 17:20). That is why he says to have that kind of faith. And to see lost sinners changed from children of wrath (Eph. 2:3) to children of light (1 Thess. 5:5), is a mighty work, requiring mighty prayer.

We must pray to move mountains; nature-changing is mountain moving.

That is why we are called to be “devoted to prayer” (Romans 12:12)

 

–Romans 11:36

 

Atheism: A Worldview Sustained on Borrowed Capital

At the root of atheism is the understanding that every created thing came into existence through a process of evolution. At one time there was nothing, then there was something, and then through random-chance processes over billions of years, organic life came into existence and through mutation eventually evolved into the human species. Now, this is just a cursory description of the atheistic worldview, but it captures the essence of it. There is no ‘Creator’ or ‘Architect’ or any kind of supernatural being that brought all of these elements together to form the cosmos and life, as we know it. There is absolutely no rhyme or reason as to why we are here at all.

What is a worldview? Well, a worldview is how one views the world. Pretty simple. We all have one. Everyone looks at the world through a particular lens that has been cut and shaped through one’s upbringing, experiences, education, etc., in which one arrives to a set of beliefs and operates by them. However, if we believe that absolute truth exists, which the Christian position in fact asserts (John 14:6), then there can only be one correct worldview. Ultimately, all arguments revolving around anything of difference is all about worldviews. However, the sensical worldview is the one that is coherent and consistent, having the ability to support itself without the need for outside help. It can stand firmly by itself.

I think Ravi Zacharias’ four-fold test for a coherent worldview rightly establishes the foundation for any proposed worldview: Origin, Meaning, Morality, and Destiny. Where did we come from? (origins) Why are we here? (meaning) What’s right and what’s wrong? (morality) Where are we going? (destiny).[1] Now, because he is a Christian, the atheist or any other non-Christian might object because a Christian is setting the standard for coherency and consistency—it sounds circular. Granted, a non-Christian could make that argument; however, I have to ask what other points of reference in understanding humanity and its existence is there to frame one’s perspective of the world ? I have yet to see other criteria that matter more than these when it comes to defining the human existence.

Because I firmly believe the Christian position to be the most coherent and consistent, any other worldview that has to borrow from the Christian worldview in order to support itself fails. If the atheistic worldview is stable, we should not see any borrowing from the Christian foundation. However, my position is that all non-Christian worldviews have to borrow because they realize their views are bankrupt as they stand and need capital from the Christian bank account to survive.

So, to demonstrate this, I am going to use one of the four-fold points—morality—as my test-point as I review a recent blog post from an atheist blogger (godlessmom.com). In this post, she reviews and attempts to refute an article from James Anderson, Christian professor at Reformed Theological Seminary who made an analogy between software and human behavior to make a case against atheism. I am not going to go through all of her talking points in her demonstration of why the analogy was flawed; rather, I want to look at her presuppositions as she makes some of her arguments, demonstrating her need to borrow capital from the Christian worldview in order to support her view.[2] I see this as one who is sitting on God’s lap trying to slap him in the face.

The beginning of her blog response is attributed to clearing up misunderstandings that theists have of atheism. On the positive end, I think that is good and helpful. The last thing I would want is someone to misrepresent me, stating perspectives that I don’t hold to. So her doing that is helpful for the sake of respectful and healthy dialogue between the atheist and Christian communities.

Her first point I want look at where she is clearly borrowing capital from a Christian worldview is in her response regarding homosexuality. The Christian professor stated,

Both religion and homosexuality are common traits in human society (although the   first is vastly more common than the second, and, it must be said, the prevalence of homosexuality is often overstated). Yet atheists typically view religion as a bad thing and homosexuality as a good thing—or, at least, as not a bad thing.[3]

Her response affirms the point regarding homosexuality, but it is her statements against religion that show her thievery. She writes,

Most atheists see nothing wrong with homosexuality. This is true in my experience. However, the reason for that is not because homosexuality is “common”. It’s because there is no harm done by it, so disliking same-sex love in any fashion is a waste of time and energy. Yes, religion is common, perhaps more so than homosexuality (I would have to see numbers on that), but the consequences of religion now and throughout history have been immense, unending and abhorrent (italics mine).

In the italicized portion, she makes an objective statement positing what is abhorrent. My question is, how does she even have a foundation to stand on to make such claims? Before working through her statement, lets look at all of her comments regarding morality. And what you will see is how bankrupt her position is, which can only be supported by borrowing from the Christian worldview.

In the beginning of her post she stated, “Atheists don’t believe in a supreme programmer [she is responding to a computer software analogy]. . . . Atheists do not believe we have an author-given purpose to fulfill. . . . Human behaviour is, however, consequential and inconsequential in relation to our survival and the well-being of others in our species.” After her remark about abhorrent consequences of religion, she goes on to say, “Atheists judge what human behaviours are good and bad by their consequences, not by how common the behaviour is.”

Next, she responds to Professor Anderson’s comment, “atheists treat religion as a ‘bug’ but homosexuality as a ‘feature’.”

She says,

No, Professor, we do not! We don’t treat any human behaviour as a ‘bug’ nor any human traits as a “feature” because we don’t believe we have been written to have an ultimate purpose by some bearded celestial programmer.

We do, on the other hand, see some human behaviours as harmful and others with little to no negative consequence. If something hurts people more often than not, either physically or by stripping them of human rights, it’s pretty obvious that thing is not so great (italics mine).

Professor Anderson says, “But the oddity is this: for the atheist both traits are understood to be products, or at least byproducts, of evolution. If the two traits are equally the result of undirected natural evolutionary processes, why treat one as a bad result and the other as a good result?”

She responds, saying “Because one causes harm, while the other does not. Once again, most atheists base what they believe to be good and what they believe to be bad, on the consequences, not how ‘natural’ it is (italics mine).”

Later on she restates this point: “Once again, good behaviours can be spotted by their good consequences. Bad behaviours can be identified by their bad consequences.”

And then her second-to-last response truly shows the folly and absurdity of her worldview. Professor Anderson says, “For the serious atheist nothing in the universe—and therefore nothing in human society—can be literally ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ There are neither bugs nor features in an evolutionary naturalist universe, since both concepts presuppose an underlying design or intention behind the universe.”

She responds with,

Yay! Now you have it! Now you understand that in the grand scheme of things (including all the billions of light years of space out there) what we do means nothing. It is neither good nor bad. However, that doesn’t change the fact that to our species, our planet and the other life we share it with, there is necessity to see things as good and bad. While the Universe does not care what we do each day, our neighbours certainly do. Assessing the consequences of our actions prior to committing them, is a mechanism of survival and makes living here on Earth a helluva lot more pleasant. That’s why judging what behaviours are good and which are bad is best done by considering the consequences.

Keeping this last comment from above in mind, “. . . what we do means nothing. It is neither good nor bad,” let’s look back at the first comment, regarding the abhorrence of religion. Again, she said, “. . . but the consequences of religion now and throughout history have been immense, unending and abhorrent.” So, what foundation can she stand on to make such claims? After all, according to her worldview, what religion does in this world means nothing. It is neither good nor bad, right? But she wants to impose a standard of morality classifying the consequences of religion to be abhorrent. First, she needs to back up her claim historically to adjudicate her position, not just assertions with emotional adjectives attached to it. And in looking at some of her later statements, she ultimately sets up a straw man, mixing in religious atrocities of the past made by non-Christian religions.

She states, “Human behaviour is, however, consequential and inconsequential in relation to our survival and the well-being of others in our species.” Ok, so she wants to discuss terms of effect, but either effect from one’s actions have no objective bearing. Instead, she imposes her standard as it pertains to well-being and survival. Well, whose well-being are you talking about? Whose survival? I think the argument could be made that if we as a society eradicate all non-tax payers who leach off the government of which we tax payers put money into, it would benefit our survival and our well-being, would it not? If she is going to be consistent, she should have no objection if I put together a militia to seek and wipe out all non-taxpayers. If she objects, then she is not being consistent. If she wants to say religion is abhorrent for its consequences, which usually means those of a religion killing or ostracizing those who don’t hold to that view, then she would have to look at any other movement that does the same, in this case a movement to slaughter non-taxpayers because they don’t conform to the laws of the society, as being abhorrent.

I don’t want to put words in her mouth; however, most of the objections regarding religion usually revolve around the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition (She does mention slavery toward the end of her post; however, her ignorance is obvious, for she has no understanding of what orthodox Christianity is, mixing in Roman Catholic teaching and errors and Mormon doctrine and errors). Ultimately, the objections arise from ignorance of Scripture and history.[4] Which is at fault, those who abuse and twist Scripture to support their actions or the Scripture? Scripture hasn’t changed; man is the one who perverts the meaning, so address those who fail to interpret Scripture as the author(s)’ of the Bible intended to communicate.

She states, “Atheists judge what human behaviours are good and bad by their consequences, not by how common the behaviour is.” How can atheists determine such a thing? What is a good or bad consequence? If I steal millions of dollars, putting many folks in bankruptcy, so I can move to a remote island and have the house and living situation I always dreamed of, is the consequence of my actions good or bad? If there is no universal, governing standard, then how can she say it is bad or good? Again, if I felt it was right for my well-being, in order for her to be consistent, she could not say what I did was bad or immoral. Actually, she really could not say it was good or bad because according to atheism, nothing has meaning.

She states, “We do, on the other hand, see some human behaviours as harmful and others with little to no negative consequence. If something hurts people more often than not, either physically or by stripping them of human rights, it’s pretty obvious that thing is not so great.” This goes with my objection above. Why does it matter if something hurts people more often than not? Why do humans have rights? No, she can’t say it is pretty obvious that thing is not so great according to your worldview, its only obvious from a Christian worldview. Man is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27-28), with a unique dignity, which is to be upheld and recognized in all generations by a universal law of morality. If I hold to an atheistic worldview, why should I let someone else’s rights infringe on my rights if it benefits my well-being or quality of life to take away those rights? She is speaking non-sense. She has no foundation other than her opinion to make such a claim.

And then looking at her second-to-last response to professor Anderson, we see that her arbitrary ethical stance is inconsistent, utterly bankrupting her entire position (I will re-post her portions in bold and interact with them in [ ] ):

Now you understand that in the grand scheme of things . . . what we do means nothing. It is neither good nor bad.

[What grand scheme is she referring to? When one uses the idiom in the grand scheme of things, one is appropriating purpose. So, while she is saying there is no purpose, she is claiming that the purpose is that there is no purpose. In looking at the phrase the scheme of things, which is the root of the idiom she used, the Cambridge dictionary online defines it to mean, “the way things are organized or happen in a particular situation, or the way someone wants them to be organized.”[5] Her argument fails because she is stating a purpose to a purposeless purpose, which is rooted in her arbitrariness. It’s circular.]

However, that doesn’t change the fact that to our species, our planet and the other life we share it with, there is necessity to see things as good and bad.

[All other animals besides humans don’t see it that way; survival of the fittest, natural selection, etc. Humans are part of that, right? What is this about sharing in a dog-eat-dog world? That is the harsh truth about an evolutionary worldview. Now she thinks she can throw in a however, when she has just claimed what we do means nothing. It is neither good nor bad. This is her inserting her own subjective standard, making it the objective, governing ethical standard. Again, she is making a determination based on some sort of necessity to a purposeless, non-moral existence to see things as good and bad all for a purpose that doesn’t exist. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? But where does this baseless standard for seeing things as good or bad come from? Behaviors and consequences? Well, again, who is she to make a judgment call on my behavior calling it good or bad, if I do something that benefits me, but ends up being not so beneficial (she must define beneficial too) for others? She really can’t impose anything. Why? Because in the grand scheme of things, nothing matters! She can say what she wants, but in the end, if I have one shot at this life, then I am going to do what I darn well please. Do you see her thievery? She has no foundation to make a valid argument. She has no ground to make any sort of “ought-to” statements. If she does, according to her worldview, then it is just her opinion—I am not bound to her opinion. However, she is bound to the Christian moral position, the one that isn’t really there, but by necessity we must live by it. Her view must steal to survive.]

While the Universe does not care what we do each day, our neighbours certainly do.

[According to a Darwinian, naturalistic worldview—her worldview—there is only matter; humans are just bags of protoplasm, with neurons firing off in the brain and thousands of chemical reactions going on all throughout it. According to her worldview, the Universe and humanity are all in the same category. She wants to use the word care, but really there is no good or bad, so care is a word that cannot be rightfully applied in her worldview. If humans are just another element of the matter in the entire universe, then humans, like the universe really don’t care about what we do everyday. How can she say otherwise? She wants to operate with a system of morality that is not consistent in an atheistic worldview; she must steal from the Christian worldview to survive.]

Assessing the consequences of our actions prior to committing them, is a mechanism of survival and makes living here on Earth a helluva lot more pleasant. That’s why judging what behaviours are good and which are bad is best done by considering the consequences.

[I don’t want to waste space saying the same thing over and over, but do you see the inconsistency? What is the standard to judge the consequences of one’s behaviors? If a husband and wife made the assessment that executing their three children would make their life a helluva lot more pleasant, would their actions be considered an example of bad or good behavior? She can’t make an objective statement because nothing is objectively moral or immoral in an atheistic worldview. All she has is her opinion; why should we listen to her? ]

 

Conclusion

In her closing remarks, she says, “The Biblical worldview offers no consistency on any topic.” I think she needs to take a closer look at her worldview; it is the biblical worldview that she lives in but fails to recognize the One who created it.

In my introduction, I spoke of the four-fold test (origin, meaning, morality, destiny) to gauge the consistency and coherency of a proposed worldview. I used one point, morality, to apply to the atheistic worldview, in the efforts to see if atheism can be consistent, holding a view of morality that is consistent with its foundational presuppositions. I contended that atheism couldn’t stand on its own; rather, it must borrow capital from the Christian worldview to survive. I believe my representation of her comments and contexts were accurate, which ultimately reveals the folly of her worldview.

It is clear that atheism is a thief; it takes without even realizing that it does. It’s the blind survival mechanism of atheism (pun intended). The apostle Paul spoke of those who live in such a way. He writes, “the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Atheists, like the rest of mankind, suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness, rejecting what God has plainly showed them in creation. They claim to be wise but are fools, for they failed to honor God, becoming “futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” They are without excuse (Romans 1:18-23).

The Bible says, “the fool in his heart says there is no God” (Psalm 14:1). One cannot truly become wise unless one recognizes who the only Wise one is (Proverbs 1:7). And this understanding and knowledge is available to those who are humble and have a contrite spirit, who see their sinful condition, and recognize their need for a Savior. If a person believes that Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave, and confesses it with his mouth, he shall be saved (Romans 10:8-9).
—-Romans 11:36

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[1] “ASK Group Leader Introduction | RZIM.”

[2] I hesitantly put the link to her blog, with the warning that there are some crude and inappropriate terms on her site. But I want to ensure that I am not misrepresenting her. http://godlessmom.com/an-analogy-so-bad-youll-feel-like-youre-taking-crazy-pills/

[3] “http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/bugs-features-and-atheism”

[4] She commits the fallacy of hasty generalization, which in this case, she is making a conclusion by lumping all religions together and making a judgment call against Christianity.

[5] http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/british/the-scheme-of-things