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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the www.comereason.org Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Thursday, April 07, 2022

Rainbows, Revelation, and the Already and Not Yet

 

Rainbows, REvelation, and the Already but Not Yet

The midweek Bible study group at my church is completing their study on the book of Revelation and I was asked to provide a few thoughts on the last two chapters of this amazing portion of Scripture.

The rainbow has had quite a bit of visibility in our society. The bands of red at the top transitioning through six hues to a violet bottom reflect the order of the rainbow produced by refracting the sun’s natural light. Today, we see the rainbow adopted as a symbol, most prevalently in what has become known as the “Pride Flag.” Designed in 1978, the rainbow was chosen because it had some popularity in the ‘60s hippie culture but also because “the colors reflect the diversity of the LGBT community and the spectrum of human sexuality and gender.”1

Ironically, as other communities of grievance have appeared, people have felt the represented spectrum isn’t diverse enough, so color band have been added, lines have been multiplied, and triangles now appear so that it no longer reflects anything natural at all. It has become much more a symbol of politics than a reflection of natural order.

Of course, this isn’t the first time the rainbow has been used as a symbol. The Bible tells us that its role has been symbolic by its very design.

The First Recreation

In Genesis 6 we read that when God saw that every inclination of the human mind was nothing but evil all the time, he destined the world to be destroyed. Yet, God preserved his faithful and allowed the earth to be recreated. Genesis 9:8-15:

“But you, be fruitful and multiply; spread out over the earth and multiply on it.”

Then God said to Noah and his sons with him, “Understand that I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you—birds, livestock, and all wildlife of the earth that are with you—all the animals of the earth that came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you that never again will every creature be wiped out by floodwaters; there will never again be a flood to destroy the earth.”

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all future generations: I have placed my bow in the clouds, and it will be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I form clouds over the earth and the bow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all the living creatures: water will never again become a flood to destroy every creature. (CSB)

Tonight, we finish the book of Revelation, reading about the second recreation of God’s world. Did God break his promise? Oh no, for, like any good lawyer, the answer lies in the specifications of the contract. God destroys the earth the second time not by water, but by fire! Again, the motivation is to wipe out the infection of evil that people have carried throughout God’s creation. In Revelation 21:23 we are told the new world will no longer have the sun. So, here's the question: Will there be a rainbow in the New Heavens and the New Earth?

Living in the Already and Not Yet

For those of you who read last week, the answer should be an unqualified Yes. There will be a rainbow, but it will be of a different type. The foundations of the city shone with the twelve jewels, sparkling in vivid colors. (You see, the light of God cannot be divided so refraction cannot occur there.) God’s word endures even through the recreation as his promise is never to end.

The rainbow is just one example of a promise that we have already received, but one that has yet to be completely fulfilled. On Sunday, I mentioned this as living in the “Already and Not Yet.” We are already living in the Kingdom of God; it has come among us. But we are not yet delivered into its full hope and promise.

We see this kind of tension over and over again in Scripture: 2

  • Hebrews 2:8–9: “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death”
  • 1 John 3:2: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

Other aspects of the “already, but not yet”:3

  • Already adopted in Christ (Romans 8:15), but not yet adopted (Romans 8:23);
  • Already redeemed in Christ (Ephesians 1:7), but not yet redeemed (Ephesians 4:30);
  • Already sanctified in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:2), but not yet sanctified (1 Thessalonians 5:23–24);
  • Already saved in Christ (Ephesians 2:8), but not yet saved (Romans 5:9);
  • Already raised with Christ (Ephesians 2:6), but not yet raised (1 Corinthians 15:52).

Living Our Lives as Part of The Already and Not Yet

Here’s the thing about Revelation and the end times—most Christians see it as this future event where Jesus will vindicate his church, defeat evil, and provide us with a blissful existence for eternity. But that’s what Saul of Tarsus believed as he headed out for Damascus, too. He waited for his messiah to vanquish Rome, to restore God’s people to their rightful place and to live as a good Jew should. Saul was wrong. The Messiah has already come and it was the light of the Lamb, striking him blind and knocking him down that actually opened his eyes and his heart to the deeper truth that Paul could have all of that right now. It is that revelation that allowed him to happily suffer and be imprisoned for the sake of the Gospel. The reality of God’s Kingdom was buried too deep in Paul’s heart for external difficulties to diffuse it. He saw it as one would see a rainbow: there is no hard lines between the colors. The simply flow one into the next naturally so that eventually you are at the other side.

We can have all the promises of heaven right now.

  • Can we dwell with God today? Yes!
  • Can we enjoy the blessings of righteousness today? Yes!
  • Can we have blessed fellowship with others of his kingdom? Yes!

As we wrap up this book, let’s not wait for God to do something before we respond. Let’s remember that through his church, we are vindicating Christ via good works. We are defeating evil becaue the gates of hell cannot prevail against us, we are granted eternal life right now in Jesus Christ. We are his body. Let us not waste a moment, but live with an eternal perspective seeing all the beautiful colors and hues God has placed before our lives.

References

1. “Rainbow Flag (LGBT).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Mar. 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_flag_(LGBT).
2. “What Is the Concept of ‘Already but Not Yet’?” GotQuestions.org, Got Questions Ministries, 29 May 2014, https://www.gotquestions.org/already-not-yet.html.
3. Briones, David. “Already, Not Yet: How to Live in the Last Days.” Desiring God, 31 Mar. 2022, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/already-not-yet.

Monday, October 04, 2021

Thinking About What Truly Makes Life Worth Living


Last week, I had the blessing of escaping with my wife to the giant redwoods of northern California. We stayed right in the middle of the park and I was able to ride my bicycle through the Avenue of the Giants. It was an incredible experience, being dwarfed mile after mile by some of the oldest and tallest living things on earth.

These redwoods are a testament both to God’s creative power and to the beauty he weaves into his creation. Being there is breathtaking and humbling. I marveled at his good gift to us in the experience. It is one of those things that makes life worth living. Such a statement shouldn’t be shocking, as God’s grace has that effect.

One of the great things about such a getaway is it allows one to think about the important things of life and even life itself. For example, I began to ponder “just what is it that makes life meaningful?” What does it mean to say life has meaning? We may have a natural drive to survive, but so do most animals. Seeking meaning beyond our survival is something different. It’s seeking something higher.

The Human Drive for Meaning in Life

Such questions are nothing new. Humans have always desired to find meaning both individually and within their broader existence collectively. One way we do this is to seek out meaningful experiences. By that I don’t mean experiences that make one happy or feel good. Watching a funny television show, taking a ride on a roller coaster, or getting a new hairstyle can do that but it doesn’t mean these are meaningful. Alcohol and narcotics can also make you feel good.

No, meaningful experiences are those experiences that elevate an individual. They make him or her more in touch with unique qualities that in nature only humans hold. Experiencing the truly beautiful, like the beauty of the redwoods, is one example.

All people appreciate beauty. As I’ve written before, beauty is objective. By that I mean there is a standard of beauty that sits outside of ourselves. That’s because beauty finds its ultimate fulfillment in God Himself. It is what is known as one of the transcendentals. (The two other recognized transcendentals are truth and goodness—in the sense of justice and morality). Transcendentals, as the name implies, are fundamental to being human. They transcend subcategories and are foundational to understanding value as human beings. In other words, these are the core of living a meaningful life.

Transcendentals and Elevating Humanity

The transcendentals are fundamental because they represent the highest virtues for human experience. Just having a feel-good experience, as I noted above, doesn’t make an experience meaningful. Unfortunately, today there are an awful lot of people who confuse feeling good with living a good life. They think satisfying an appetite or urge is going to make them happy. But appetites and urges are simply base instincts. They are things we share with animals.  Dogs like belly rubs; snakes bask in the sunlight. All creatures want to have full stomachs and seek sex whenever and wherever they may find it. Animals are motivated by instinct, but for humans to behave this way cultivates a form of selfishness. Being human is to differentiate ourselves from animals and act in a way that is distinct, to emphasize aspects of who we are that separates us from animals.

Seeking out experiences that are grounded in truth, goodness, and beauty help us make that distinction because recognizing these things is unique to humans. Animals don’t care about beauty at all. While a female peacock might be attracted to a male with the more spectacular display of tail feathers, she is operating on an instinctual attraction, not seeing the display for its own sake. Neither of the birds would stop to ponder a richly hued sunset or the towering redwoods. We, on the other hand, see beauty for what it is in itself.

Recognizing transcendentals may be understood as something we share with God. They are part of what it means to be made in His image. God is not simply the source of all that is good; goodness finds its perfection in him as God is love. God is truth and God is beautiful.

Modern Culture’s Missing Piece

As I thought about all this, one thing I’ve realized is our culture no longer seeks to cultivate and develop truth, goodness, and beauty. We assume them then seek out the more base pleasures instead. That’s what the eruption over the U.S. abortion laws are all about. People want to feed their base nature for casual sex, but don’t want to be dealing with the natural outcome of such encounters. Yet, isn’t this animalistic? Doesn’t such a drive for immediate physical gratification rob us of expressing our uniquely human understanding that sex is good and beautiful because it bonds two people together who have committed to safeguarding the well-being of each other and any progeny that may result from that act?

What do people believe in today’s society are the things that truly makes life worth living? I’m seeing more and more people seeking an answer to that question and they cannot seem to find it. I’m beginning a project where I explore the transcendentals as not only an answer to that question, but as a way of evangelism. God is attractive because in him we can find all beauty, goodness, and truth. If people are longing for these things, I want to bring them to the source.

I will explore this topic in more detail in upcoming posts. For now, I hope that you seek out experiences in life that strengthen the Good, the True, or the Beautiful. You may just find your life has become more meaningful as a result.


Thursday, April 01, 2021

Is Easter Rooted in Paganism? A Rapid Response Video Series

The Easter celebration is to mark the resurrection of Jesus, but some claim that it really is Christian repackaging of ancient pagan rituals. Do the bunnies and eggs prove Easter has pagan roots? What about all those fertility goddesses? In this Easter week rapid response video series, Lenny shows you just how to think through such outrageous claims without a lot of research, and how you can be smarter than Google.

Video 1 - The Rites of Srping

Video 2 - Ignoring Judaism

Video 3 - History's Documents

Video 4 - How to Be Smarter Than Google

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Three Rapid Reflections on Saint Patrick's Day

Three Rapid Reflections on Saint Patrick's Day
There are incredible hidden riches for us to glean today in the story of Patrick—a man who wasn't even Irish! Watch these three short videos as Lenny explains Patrick's mission, his method, and his model for reaching the seemingly unreachable.

I'll be releasing each of the three videos throughout the day today, so come back and watch them all!

Part 1 - Patrick's Mission

Part 2 - Patrick's Method

Part 3 - Patrick's Model

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Christmas Greetings, BLM, and Engaging Others


Does it bother you if a store clerk wishes you “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”? I guess it could depend on the context. If I was purchasing, say, Channukah candles then the clerk’s salutation would probably be seen as appropriate. However, what if it was just my Saturday grocery run? Should Merry Christmas be avoided because it could possibly cause offense to some people?

As our society has become less Christian and more politically correct, some argue there has been a push to wish everyone happy holidays as a safeguard against offending anyone. But I don’t see such a move as effective. Indeed, sometimes they have consequences opposing their intended effect.

Take for example the recent statement by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. After a video of President Trump wishing Georgia rally attendees a merry Christmas and encouraging the greeting’s use, Nessel took him to task on Twitter for the remark, writing:

I remember the first time I was at a store with my son and an employee said “Merry Christmas” to us. My son looked devastated as asked “Are we the only people who don’t celebrate Christmas?” I answered “No, and we are just as American as everyone else.” Glad @JoeBiden knows that.

Various conservative outlets jumped on the tweet, one that Nessel has since deleted. The Daily Wire lead with the headline “Michigan AG Slams People Wishing ‘Merry Christmas’ After Trump Warning.”1 Breitbart wrote “Michigan AG Dana Nessel Launches “2020’s War on ‘Christmas’.”2 It strikes most people that taking umbrage at another person wishing you Merry Christmas is silly. Her denouncing those who would draw upon a traditional greeting mentioning a Christian holiday celebrated by the vast majority of people in the country (be they Christians, atheists, and even some of other faiths) feels more than insensitive. It feels like an attack.

After deleting the original tweet, Nessel sought to justify her stance with this comment that is still available online:

Saying “Happy Holidays” this time of year does not denigrate Christianity. It simply acknowledges and respects the great diversity of our nation and includes each and everyone of us who call ourselves proud Americans.

Is this true? Her claim is worth investigating and thinking about this carefully can help shift through some of the more divisive rhetoric that’s been weaponized this year. It may even help Christians better their witnessing efforts.

The Ugliness of Sloganeering Salutations

While the Coronavirus pandemic may be the most top-of-mind crisis of 2020, the tensions over race and law enforcement are certainly in a close running. Part of the fallout from these events was the elevation of the slogan Black Lives Matter. Its originators, Alicia Garza and Patrisse Cullors saw the slogan as “A call to action, to make sure we are creating a world where black lives really do matter.”3 As the racial tensions and civic unrest elevated over this summer, the phrase morphed from a simply rally cry to a creed and a political movement. Some of the more radical activists began demanding people speak the phrase to show they are not racists. Garza and Cullors founded the Black Lies Matter Global Network Foundation and their web site began promoting far-left positions. She stated in a 2015 interview, “I think, is that we actually do have an ideological frame. Myself and Alicia in particular are trained organizers. We are trained Marxists.”4

People, not surprisingly, reacted against the slogan. Some didn’t like the idea that they must signal their virtuosity by saying the phrase. Others didn’t want to identify themselves with the radical politics of the movement. Still others felt that the phrase didn’t tell the whole story. A counter-slogan of All Lives Matter began to crescendo in response to the ubiquity of Black Lives Matter.

That, in turn, caused a similar backlash. Blacks felt that such a phrase diminished the point they were trying to make. The common analogy they offer is to picture yourself at the doctor’s office after you smashed your finger with a hammer. When he asks “which finger should I treat?” you would never respond with “Oh, doc, ALL finger matter!” Of course they all do, but the one that’s hurting needs the attention now.

 Good Housekeeping even ran an article stating that it’s problematic to say “All Lives Matter”:

While the intention of the phrase "All Lives Matter" may be to put everyone’s life on equal footing and convey a sense of unity, responding "All Lives Matter" to "Black Lives Matter" is actually more divisive than unifying. That's because it discounts and diminishes the focus on the violence and discrimination Black individuals face every day in this country.5

Switching from Slogans to Meaningful Conversation

This reaction to the reaction brings me back to my opening example. Let’s apply Nessel’s statement to the BLM slogan controversy. Without doing damage to her meaning, I can simply replace two terms and see if her argument is still appropriate:

Saying “All Lives Matter” this time of year does not denigrate black people. It simply acknowledges and respects the great diversity of our nation and includes each and everyone of us who call ourselves proud Americans.

Interestingly, there are a lot of people that would agree with Nessel’s original statement, but object to the revision and there are just as many on the other side of the political fence who would agree to the revision but reject the original! Yet, in both we have a group that offers a phrase of identity (either “Black Lives Matter” or “Merry Christmas”), a group that feels it has been in some way disparaged (Blacks or Christians), and a more encompassing category phrase (“Happy Holidays” or “All Lives Matter”) that becomes the substitute. If the logic is sound, it seems it should hold true in both sets of circumstances. So, an organization that instructs its employees not to say “Merry Christmas” but only “Happy Holidays” may be as offensive to Christians as hearing “all lives matter” as a retort to “Black Lives Matter.” 

However, there is a caveat because the phrase Black Lives Matter is also the name of an organization that promotes values antithetical to Christian beliefs. If I were to use the phrase Black Lives Matter, would I also be giving undo credibility or endorsement to the organization’s political stance? Even if I mean to affirm the broad concept, how do I know that’s what those who hear or read my reply will not assume I accept those stances? In our social media/soundbite world, being misunderstood is too common place and sloganeering on either side can lead to a breakdown in communication instead of a path to meaningful conversation.

If someone askes me if I think black lives matter, I usually respond with “I’ll go further than that. There are a lot of things that matter. Money matters. I say black lives have inestimable worth.”

Therefore, let me offer this alternative. If someone askes me if I think black lives matter, I usually respond with “I’ll go further than that. There are a lot of things that matter. Money matters. I say black lives have inestimable worth.” In using this reply I can accomplish three things: 1) I can affirm the real pain those in the black community feel, 2) I can avoid any misunderstandings of tying myself to a political stance or movement, and 3) I can stimulate additional conversation. It allows me to talk about the imago Dei and why human beings carry intrinsic value. It opens the door to evangelism opportunities.

Similarly, don’t wait for a clerk to wish you happy holidays. When you fist step up to the counter, you can wish them a merry Christmas. You can also ask them “why do you think this particular holiday draws so much more attention than any other? What is so special about Christmas?” By moving beyond slogans, we can communicate better, be understood more clearly, and inspire others to think more deeply. That would make Christmas the happiest of holidays.

References

1. Hank Berrien. “Michigan AG Slams People Wishing 'Merry Christmas' After Trump Warning.” The Daily Wire, The Daily Wire, 7 Dec. 2020, www.dailywire.com/news/michigan-ag-slams-people-wishing-merry-christmas-after-trump-warning.
2. John Nolte. “Nolte: Michigan AG Dana Nessel Launches 2020's War on 'Christmas'.” Breitbart, Breitbart, 7 Dec. 2020, www.breitbart.com/politics/2020/12/07/nolte-michigan-ag-dana-nessel-launches-2020s-war-christmas/.
3. Elizabeth Day. “#BlackLivesMatter: the Birth of a New Civil Rights Movement.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 19 July 2015, www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/19/blacklivesmatter-birth-civil-rights-movement.
4. Jared Ball. “A Short History of Black Lives Matter.” The Real News Network, The Real News Network, 23 July 2015, https://therealnews.com/pcullors0722blacklives
5. Lizz Schumer. “Saying That ‘Black Lives Matter’ Doesn't Mean That Other Lives Do Not.” Good Housekeeping, Hearst Magazine Media, Inc., 5 June 2020, www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/a32745051/what-black-lives-matter-means /.

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