THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS (Part 2 of 2)

In the Fall and subsequent redemption of man by the blood of Jesus Christ, the glory of God is maximized, in that His Son now takes center stage to a watching universe. But redemption is in response to our sin, and because God hates sin, it must be expunged from us. The Roman Catholic Church teaches the concept of Purgatory, a place after death and before heaven in which one’s sins are purged before entering eternity. The concept of purging our sins seems biblical but the time and place for this is extra-biblical. The time and place for the purging of our sins is not after death and in Purgatory but now and on earth. Our fallen world is the best of all possible worlds, not to maximize human happiness, but to purge us of our sins. Recall Revelation 22:11: “Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.” Something important is permanently fixed in us at the time of our death. If this does not strike terror in us, then we have not understood. If this is the God-ordained purpose for our lives on earth, the question then is, am I taking full advantage of it? Do I have the same sense of urgency and single-mindedness about the purgation of my sins as I do for—well, you fill in the blank? Only the Holy Spirit can kill my sin, but He does so for the obedient, who consciously strive...

THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS (Part 1 of 2)

The world is collectively waging war against God. We neither like the way He made us nor the way He made the world. We feel driven to correct His many mistakes. The rebellion is on, for none can deny the suffering and inequities of life. How can this world be the work of a loving, omnipotent God? In 1710, the renowned Enlightenment figure Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz opined in his Theodicy that our world was not only the handiwork of God, but the “best of all possible worlds.” He was a serious and brilliant Christian, having invented calculus contemporaneously but independently of Newton. Some believe that he was the last “universal genius,” possessing all the knowledge in the world. But few have shared his opinion. In fact, Voltaire, shocked by the 1755 great earthquake of Lisbon that killed 60,000 people, disagreed so vehemently that in Candide, he placed this quote in the mouth of a fool. Most today would agree with Voltaire. But might Leibnitz be right? Recall a point made by C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain that if God is all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful, then how can He fail to produce a perfect creation? Even the introduction of sin into the world should be unable to disrupt His plans. He said this despite having survived the horrors of the trenches of World War I.  But even if we concede this powerful and difficult to refute point, still ours does not feel like the best world possible. We must be missing something. I suggest that something is purpose. To answer the question of whether this is the best...

A LAMENTATION FOR REALITY

What a year we have all been through! COVID, riots, the election, conspiracy theories on the right and left, racial animosity, defunding the police, wildfires and hurricanes—tension is high and trust is low. It all feels a bit unreal, which caused me to ponder what the Bible teaches about reality. What is real and how can I know? Is God real, does the Bible give a true depiction of reality? These important questions can only be answered, affirmatively or negatively, by faith. If God is real and the Bible is true, then we become privy to knowledge that we could not otherwise possess. Not least among these truths is that God is a moral Spirit and the universe He created is both spiritual and moral. Further, the spiritual and moral have primacy over the merely physical and natural. To say this differently, the spiritual and moral are in a very important sense more real than the natural world which we all experience through our reason and senses. They are more real because the natural world that we currently experience is merely temporary and will be done away with. But the spiritual and moral world, which underpins the natural world transcends time and space, being itself eternal. When the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. Because this is so, the church has long understood that her first allegiance is to that spiritual and moral reality, even, and especially if, that reality came into conflict with the secular world around her. This formed the backbone of the Christian worldview for centuries. Further, in our earthly lives, we are citizens...
Wisdom Books Part 5 of 5

Wisdom Books Part 5 of 5

The Books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon comprise the Hebrew wisdom literature and form a unit. As such, they offer deep insights into the biblically legitimate ways to understand both life and the Author of life. This series will examine each book in successive order. SONG OF SOLOMON Song of Solomon is easily the most controversial book in the wisdom literature or perhaps in all of the Bible. If these books are a commentary on life, as I have suggested, then surely the message of this book is that life is about love. This accords well with the rest of Scripture. Paul writes to Timothy, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). But the love in Solomon’s Song is a very passionate love. And God built people for passion. Is Solomon teaching us that we must be passionate about God? If then, I have more passion for someone or something other than Christ, is that not idolatry? And if I am an idolater, what can I do but first declare myself the chief sinner, and then beg His forgiveness and plead that He would teach me to love Him with all my being. It is no compliment to God that I or any of His creatures should be so deficient in loving Him, such that we by nature expend our passions more on the creation than the Creator. But this highlights another feature of the love in Solomon’s Song – its exclusivity. Song of Solomon and Job have in...
Wisdom Books Part 4 of 5

Wisdom Books Part 4 of 5

The Books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon comprise the Hebrew wisdom literature and form a unit. As such, they offer deep insights into the biblically legitimate ways to understand both life and the Author of life. This series will examine each book in successive order. ECCLESIASTES If Proverbs teaches the importance of wisdom, Ecclesiastes discloses at least one important thing that unaided reason cannot achieve; and that is to establish purpose. Solomon, the wisest of men examines “life under the sun” and deduces, not purpose but vanity and meaninglessness. His conclusion to the effect that the whole duty of man is to fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13), does not follow from anything that preceded it in the book. Rather, it is revealed to him by God, who is not “under the sun” but in heaven. Ecclesiastes then teaches the crucial truth that purpose must come from “outside the system.” A case could be made that Ecclesiastes is the book for our generation. In an affluent culture, such as ours, one can find many distractions from the “vanity” of life and thereby dull the pain that purposelessness is meant to induce. The pain of futility and boredom is given by God to drive us into the arms of His Son. For apart from Jesus, one cannot understand that we have both a common and a unique purpose. Preparation for eternity with Christ is common to all of His followers but, in addition, we are each unique with an individual purpose. Only in Christ can one, by faith, know his purpose. Without a clear...