Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What's The Difference?

I have had much to think about recently. One of the things I have been looking into is how to increase traffic to my blog. This has led to some added widgets that I have found appealing, but it has also led me to other blogs, blogs I do not necessarily agree with. I found one of the best things one can do is to comment on other blogs. So I started doing this, first with other Christian blogs that do not fit into my nice "Reformed" box I have carved out for myself. This has resulted in a good conversation about women in ministry over at the M blog. I have also been having a dialog with an elder from one of my former churches. He happens, I don't know if happens is the right word, if he didn't find that conversation through my blog then it is more than coincidence, to have contributed greatly to that conversation and I think has eloquently expressed our shared position on the matter.

This journey has led me into some rather uncharted waters. I have found myself in a couple of dialogs on atheist blogs. I have found the conversations enlightening, they tend toward ad hominem attacks and to fallacious reasoning, but what does one expect when they so violently deny the truth and the one who is Truth. But this experience has brought me around full circle to the ongoing dialog I am having with my former elder on regeneration.

It has become apparent through some of the conversations I am having with some atheists that some of them know the Bible quite well, better than many Christians I know. They understand what the Bible teaches about sin, man's condition, God, Jesus' life, death, and ressurection, and salvation. They have all the facts, their minds comprehend what is said in the word of God. They are not mentally deficient, impaired in their thinking or on drugs. One of these men has, in my opinion, about the same knowledge of the Bible as I do. This leads me to a question. If we both have the same facts, the same information, the same revelation, why do I believe and he does not? Is there something I found in me, some spark deep down inside, hidden for a while, but alas I found this spark, this flame, this faith, inside me. Could this be the difference between us. We both have the same Jesus doing the same thing for me and for him since Jesus work on the cross was for all mankind equally, it must be this thing in me that is the difference. I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps and exercised this faith that was in me. I did this thing and he did not, there is the difference. What is different is what is in us, I found my faith, he did not. I would thank God for that but why would I do that? It was my faith that I excercised. I did it. I saved myself. When I die and stand before God and He asks, "What have you done that I should allow you into my kingdom?" I can boldly say, "I found faith inside me and I excercised it, it is because of my display of faith that you should allow me into your kingdom." Of course no Christian would agree with where I have taken this, but it is the logical outworking of the type of thinking that is running throughout modern evangelicalism.

But let's get back to the question, what is different between the two of us. I went to the scripture to see if I could find an answer, and boy, did I find an answer.

"4 Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
to dwell in your courts!"
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version., Ps 65:4 (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).


"19 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God."
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version., Eze 11:18-20 (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).


"26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules."
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version., Eze 36:25-27 (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).


"48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed."
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version., Ac 13:48 (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).


"4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ"
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version., Eph 2:4-5 (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).


"13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version., Php 2:13 (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).


"13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth."
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version., 2 Th 2:13 (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).


"18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures."
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version., Jas 1:18 (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).


This giving us a heart of flesh and making we who were dead, alive and appointing to eternal life and this choosing is all of God. God chooses us, God makes us alive, God gives us hearts of flesh, God regenerates us, God gives us faith that we can then excercise after He saves us. This is important to understand. This is why we go and proclaim the gospel of God to all, resting fully assured that God will bring some to repentance and faith. As I have these discussions with unbelievers it is only because I know that my salvation is totally of the Lord that I can, with a humble heart, thank him for saving me from myself. It also lets me understand why He does not save everyone, so that I might know the richness of the salvation He has given me and that by knowing that I glorify the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Sola Deo Gloria!

In Christ
Alan

16 comments:

GuyMuse said...

Thanks for the link and for adding me to your "Blogs that tell the truth" list. I feel honored to be included in the list! I have returned the favor by adding you to my "Blogs I Enjoy." I find it interesting to dialog with fellow believers with different outlooks than my own and learn from them. I find your reformed theology fascinating. I've always heard there were believers holding to the 5-point Calvinist position but have never interacted personally with any until finding your blog. If you were to suggest only ONE book about RT which would you recommend I read?

Alan said...

Guy, Only ONE book! Yesh, I will try and control myself. Probably for a good overview "What Is Reformed Theology" by R.C. Sproul would be my recommendation, however I knew I could not limit myself to just one, "Chosen By God" also by Sproul is a fantastic read. I read it in just under two days!

Eric said...

Alan,

I agree with you that there are some atheists who know the content of the bible well. You are right on in saying that the only difference between the atheists and us is that God has chosen to regenerate our hearts. It certainly is not because we are better than they are. It is all grace.

Some would cry, "That's not fair!" Of course it's not. Fair would be if God sent us all to Hell.

Good post!

Eric

Rhea said...

Alan, I appreciated your comment on my blog. It was a little surprising, to be honest. It seems that lately, the "cool" way to look at alcohol consumption is that we have "freedom" in Christ, so it's okay to toss a few back. For whatever reason, these same people seem to forget that we're also NOT supposed to be a stumbling block to others...but anyway...I just really appreciated what you had to say. Thanks!!

Hell's Handmaiden said...

Alan,

I am one of those atheist bloggers and my experience with ad hominems seems to be quite different from yours. In my experience the 'faithful' dive into a thread with a predicable pompous attitude and exhibit generally bad behavior. After having this pointed out to them over the course of several exchanges, those that stick around then settle down and the conversation becomes much more productive.

BradyLee said...

I didn't read your whole blog, but after reading your list of Scripture, I got the point!

What a blessing to have the Word of God---

To His Name be Glory forever and ever! Amen!

A. Caleb Hartley - Business Consultant & Entrepreneur said...

Alan:

I'm just curious (I'm not particularly religious), what is your opinion of reincarnation?

Namaste,
Andrew

Alan said...

a. caleb-

"27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,"
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version., Heb 9:26-27 (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).

I do not believe in reincarnation.

In Christ
Alan

bob said...

Ok Buddy, you wanted more traffic to your blog...you got it :)

"but what does one expect when they so violently deny the truth..."
I don't even know how to comment on this question/statement/mis-characterization/?
Could you please clarify? Perhaps you could define "violently", "deny", and "truth"?
As for why or how an atheist, who knows the bible better than many or most Christians as you admit, could not believe in the God of the bible, please consider that many of us atheists are former believers. I was a bible believer for 25 years, from age 17 to 42. Of course some will accuse us of never being "true" Christians. I usually give up at that point.
Anyway, I promise to read your blog frequently...for a while.

Alan said...

Bob,
Welcome to my blog. I will define those three terms for you. 1)Violently-I was speaking of the individuals with whom I was interacting, not you specifically. 2)Truth- “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version., Jn 14:6 (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).
Jesus states here he is "the truth," not a truth, one of many truths, etc. and 3)Deny-Jesus is God in the flesh who lived a sinless life in our place, suffered and died on the cross for the sins of many, and rose from the dead on the third day, assuring us of eternal life. This atheists DENY. I have considered the fact that many atheists are former Christians, I have also come to a conclusion that I left unsaid in the post because my targeted audience was believers, namely that without the illumination of the Holy Spirit there is no chance of an individual coming to saving faith no matter how many facts contained in the Bible he may be familiar with. Thanks for stopping by and hope to hear more from you. I am heading out of town today but I will check out your blog when I get back.

In Christ
Alan

bob said...

Alan - 1)Violently-I was speaking of the individuals with whom I was interacting, not you specifically.
I have to assume that you are exaggerating? Has any atheists actually threatened you or your property with physical harm because of your disagreements?

2)Jesus states here he is "the truth," not a truth, one of many truths, etc.
So, if I was to ask you how old the earth is, you would answer truthfully "Jesus"? How about if I asked you where the deepest part of the ocean is? "Jesus"?
As you can see, there are a lot more "truths" than just one. Perhaps you could explain what Jesus is telling us in Jn 14:6 when he claims to be "the truth".

3)Deny-Jesus is God in the flesh who lived a sinless life in our place, suffered and died on the cross for the sins of many, and rose from the dead on the third day, assuring us of eternal life. This atheists DENY.
You do understand why we deny those claims, don't you? Well, I understand that you believe that those of us who deny those claims just have not been called by the Holy Spirit. That is just another "truth" you get from what you read in the bible. But if you will, or even can consider that we are actually using the very same criteria that you use to deny all the other gods, that being the lack of historical and scientific evidence. If you went outside and looked up to the clouds and saw Thor floating down with his hammer raised, and he landed next to you and answered all of your question, to your satisfaction, would you not conclude that Thor was real? You might not worship him, but you could probably conclude that he was real.
Well, how is that any different than what I ask of your God? It's not, but you have a nice little place to retreat to...the Holy Scriptures. You, and just about every other believer can find some verse to explain to yourselves why us non believers don't believe or stopped believing. But what you so often over look is that we are exercising the very same skepticism that you exercise concerning every other religion.

Just my thoughts

bob

Alan said...

Bob, glad to see you back. First off, when I say violently I am speaking metaphorically, you know it's a genre of literature, a method of stating something for effect. Same with #2. As far as your argument on the third point, well, I was not trying to engage you in a debate, I was answering a question. You are making the same error many Christians make when they engage in apologetics, you are assuming we both have the same starting point, this is not true, we have differing presuppositions, but you still have them whether you realize it or not.

In Christ
Alan

bob said...

Alan - ...when I say violently I am speaking metaphorically, you know it's a genre of literature, a method of stating something for effect.
Gee thanks. So nice to see that you equate (metaphorically) the atheist argument with physical harm. (That was sarcasm)

Alan - Same with #2. As far as your argument on the third point, well, I was not trying to engage you in a debate, I was answering a question.
I would think any dialogue between two who disagree can be classified as a debate.

Alan - You are making the same error many Christians make when they engage in apologetics, you are assuming we both have the same starting point, this is not true, we have differing presuppositions, but you still have them whether you realize it or not.
I don't get it. It sounds vaguely like you are explaining to me why we can not have even a simple conversation. Perfect! The Truth In Context is now deleted from my favorites.

ick said...

Bob, I was not saying that we cannot have a dialog or debate, just pointing out what I was doing. I would be more than happy to engage you in discussion after the holidays. We absolutely can discuss this further and I am sorry to have given you that impression. In fact my comments about having different starting points was my attempt to start the dialog. Again, sorry for giving you the impression I did not want to continue discussion.

Alan said...

Sorry. Bob, that last comment was from me, on a friends computer and forgot to change the identity.

Alan

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