Monday, October 20, 2008

Love Divine

The love of God is demonstrated in his unconditional election of his saints.

The doctrine of the love of God had always confused me before I understood it in light of limited atonement. In the past, I assumed that God had a homogenous and monotone love for all creation and all humans alike; that it did not matter whether someone was a sinner on his way to hell, or a saint who had been redeemed by the blood of Christ. I thought that the love, that we had coined the "agape" love of God, was a single blob of love dumped on everyone at exactly the same time, in exactly the same measure and mode.

Here's what confused me:

1. God has agape love for me
2. God has agape love for the one going to hell
3. The love of God can result in the eternal damnation of the soul
4. The love of God is therefore not a saving love
5. The agape love for me is weak, undirected, and indistinct

The implications would be:

1. God's love for me is nothing more than a general positive disposition that God has for all his creatures, including slugs and microorganisms.
2. God's love for me is not what saved me, for there are people loved by God who are not saved.
3. There can be no true comfort nor security in the love of God.

Now, the rebuttal is that people go to hell because they reject the love of God.
First, let's remember what hell is. It is everlasting torment and torture without possibility of relief, the result of the wrath of God against sinners. How this reality and God's superabundant love can be given to the same soul, I do not know. This seems more like the outworkings of hate than of love.
Therefore, if people receive this hate as a result of their rejection of love, then God's love is no longer unconditional, but conditional.

The solution to this problem is to understand the love of God as the Bible presents it. A sermon by John Piper helped me to understand it, from Malachi 1:2-3,

I have loved you," says the LORD. But you say, "How have you loved us?" "Is not Esau Jacob's brother?" declares the LORD. "Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert."

How does God demonstrate his love? By choosing Jacob over Esau. By choosing Israel over the nations. By choosing the saints over the sinners. As it is written in Romans 8:38,

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

missions end game

What exactly is a mission trip? and what is it supposed to accomplish.
Is it simply the finding of opportunities to interact with unbelievers and have them come away with a feeling that Christians are nice people?
It just seems to me that there is limited time, energy and resources on the mission field. We can't do everything, we can hardly reach everyone. But with what we have, we are obligated to be most efficient and faithful as stewards. With the limited time, energy, and resources that we have, how can we herald the gospel in the clearest, most effective way? This seems like the end game.

But what do we usually do on the field? We coax the people, we entertain them, we paint their buildings (usually poorly), we try to hock our wares of English lessons, community development work, and health care, and we call it missions. To what end do these things point?

Not everyone is going to swallow the gospel pill. It's bitter and obnoxious and the Bible even says so. It is foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling block to Jews. But to those who are being saved, it is the power of God unto salvation. I think we need to start off on the right assumptions based on what we know is true. Not everyone wants to submit to Christ, not everyone embraces his lordship. The gospel is not good enough news for a lot of people. So, it's time to stop selling it attached with free bonus products.

There are those who will respond to the gospel if they will but get the chance to hear it. To these the gospel must go.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


When God provided Abraham with the ram to replace the sacrifice of Isaac, he provided it at the eleventh hour. He supplies all our needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. There are those verses sometimes that are existential enough that you wonder if you'll ever experience it tangibly. How convinced I am of this truth right now. Being in Thailand for two months now, I realize just how weak and needy I truly am. Illiterate, lonely, and poor. But God provides - he always provides. I received a gift of $1000 from a friend I hadn't known for very long, right at the moment when I needed it most, right at the time when I was wondering if I was really going to make it as a missionary in this place.

If I'm not in need, how could God ever be my well-spring of life? If I do not undergo suffering, how could God ever be my comfort? Isn't it true that God brings trials and testing our way, not because he is evil, but because he is perfectly good. Not only is he good ontologically, but good expressively. He shows us his goodness time and time again. And when we can't see his goodness, he turns up the contrast so that we might.

Friday, October 03, 2008

How to become an atheist

One becomes an atheist through an intricate yet predictable series of unfortunate events.

1. He begins to become seduced by the illusion that objective reality lies only in what can be perceived by the senses, measured, reproduced and demonstrated as proven fact.
2. This, in turn, causes him to become highly skeptical of phenomena. Perhaps it begins with a skepticism about trivialities like deja vu, ghosts, angels, demons, clairvoyance.
3. He reasons that there must be a scientific explanation for EVERYTHING. Note that this is an assumption and will play a major determinative role as a screen and filter for every idea that comes henceforth.
4. He begins to question his own faith and is deeply troubled by inconsistencies in the tradition that he has embraced. This expresses itself in several ways: 1) Questioning of the subjective experiences that he had encountered; 2) Becoming critical of areas of logical inconsistency in certain passages in holy texts; 3) Becoming highly cynical of the commands that the religion imposes on followers; 4) Finding fault with the moral quality of the deity in question; 5) Finding fault with the leaders and so-called spiritual giants of the faith; 6) Realizing that the world's religions all teach fundamentally different and irreconcilable things; 7) becoming troubled by the problem of evil; 8) Realizing that science has very different answers about the nature of reality and the origin of the universe.
5. This leads him to establish another set of tenets: 1) We cannot know what God wants of us; 2) If God were truly good, he would: a) remove all evil b) reveal himself to all creatures c) provide salvation for all; 3) religion is vastly incongruent with current scientific knowledge and progress.
6. In light of the fact that no religion offers what he wants or expects, he determines: 1) it is futile to worship this or any other god; 2) Indeed religion offers nothing and has no place in the landscape of future society; 3) There is no god.