The Essence of Tragedy

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This post is inspired by a recent conversation I had with a friend in a Literature and Philosophy class about his assignment to write a paper about the essence of tragedy in the context of various works the class has read this semester.

I’ve been so inspired by that conversation as to write what I believe is the essence of tragedy, and how it has changed from the era of the Greeks until now.  Tragedy, as we know it, started as a genre in Greek drama.  Every Greek tragedy included a protagonist, often a hero type, struggling against fate.  Most of these tragedies involved a prophecy which the protagonist attempted to avoid, ultimately fulfilling it.  This fall was catalyzed by a fatal flaw, often hubris (pride).  The point of the tragedies, plays like Oedipus Rex, Agamemnon, and Antigone was to cause the audiences to have a feeling of sympathy and reflect intellectually about their world.  Tragedy is thought-provoking because it reveals to us a key aspect of our lives, that we all have flaws.  Greek tragedies never featured hope, because the Greeks did not have hope.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” -Romans 3:23

This verse outlines tragedy.  We were created to experience the glory of God, yet sin pulls us away from that glory, it is the fate that we are tied to, it is our fatal flaw.  Throughout history, people have tried to escape sin, and the death it leads to, but all have fallen.  Not every culture had a name for it, but all humanity knows it.  We see the consequences of our choices and try to change our choices but in the end, they lead us back to the same pit of despair.  The Greeks and other cultures turned their attentions toward building character, wealth, and honor to distract from the futility of life’s struggle.  Those things were somewhat tangible, but they were not satisfying.

This tragedy of humanity was finally given hope at the cross, in God in human form, Jesus Christ.  As he bled and died, he took the tragedy of the world upon him.  That day seemed to be the peak of tragedy, as a man who seemed to be perfect, without flaw, hung dying.  Could there be hope for man?  An outsider looking at just this scene would not think so, but the outsider does not know the whole story.  “For God so loved the world, that he sent his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” -John 3:16.  “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By his wounds you have been healed.” -1 Peter 2:24  Jesus took that sin upon him so that humanity might not suffer the ultimate consequence of sin, but that was not the end of the story.  “…that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”-1 Corinthians 15:4

This is the ultimate joy and hope, the opposite of tragedy.  All who believe in Christ have hope in his resurrection!  “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” 1 Corinthians 15:19  This verse is true, Christians, if Christ was not raised from the dead, have no more hope than the rest of humanity, in fact, it means that they suffer for nothing.  “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead (verse 20).”  Now there is hope on earth for humanity.  One must ask; since hope has been brought to mankind, is there still tragedy?  The answer is yes.

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” -Romans 1:28  This is the essence of tragedy, when a person rejects God and the gift of salvation.  A man given the hope of the gospel who rejects it experiences a greater tragedy than the Greeks who did not know of God’s salvation.  The essence of tragedy in the modern world is the opportunity of redemption rejected.

 

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My Voice Does Not Matter

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This past weekend, hundreds of women exercised their first amendment right to assembly and free speech and protested at and after the inauguration of president Donald J. Trump.  I was not one of them.

I am a young woman, in the millennial category, single, in university, but I did not protest.  Why?  Because although I want women to be respected and I do not want my rights violated, I did not agree with many of the women protesting.

For the first point, I agree that Donald Trump has made some very disrespectful comments about some women, even women in general.  That does show a lack of respect, but I also think that Trump is willing to treat women as equal to men, at least in a political and occupational setting, seeing as he has appointed women to his cabinet and has had them on his campaign team.  Thus, I did not think that it was necessary to protest in Washington or another big city to encourage him to respect women.  I could go on about why Trump really is the president we deserve, but this video has already done that: https://www.facebook.com/journalpoems/videos/926035810829348/?pnref=story

What I really want to point out is how women like me are unrepresented by the media these days, that we are not treated like the radical feminists and protesters on Washington are.  However, because I am a white, Conservative Christian, my voice does not matter.  Because I believe that the second amendment applies to this era to protect my rights, my voice does not matter.  Because I believe that pornography is evil and that women should dress modestly, my voice does not matter.  Because I believe that men and women are equal because they were created in the image of God, but I also believe that they were given different, valuable roles by God, my voice does not matter.  Because I believe that unborn life is more sacred, my voice does not matter.

I hate that women are mistreated in nations around the world, oppressed just because of their gender.  That is not the case in the United States of America.  We as women have more freedoms than any other women in the world, and we have since the founding of our nation.  We have not always had the right to vote, but that was because the family and community structure was very different in the eighteenth century.  It is disappointing that women are not always paid or treated the same as men in the work force, especially when it comes to pay, and I think that should be changed.  Men and women should  get paid for doing the same work.  However, I believe, counter-culturally, that married women’s primary job and privilege is to raise their children.

I believe that pornography is vile, even “lesser” pornography in movies and tv.  Women should not be shown off as sex idols in media.  Women were created beautifully and to give beauty to the world, but the ability to arouse sensuality is not the same as being beautiful.  Women are life-givers, literally.  We have an ability to comfort and say the right thing at the right time different from men.  We show strength through endurance and biting back ungracious words when children ask us for a candy bar for the hundredth time.  We have soft and beautiful voices in many different ranges, our voices are often compared to angel’s, in fact.  These, and others, are beautiful qualities of women.

I believe that a woman does have a right to control her body, but with that right comes responsibility.  All rights have moral obligations and vice versa.  When freedom is abused, it is taken away, piece by piece.  I do not think that school dress codes are oppressive.  I do not think it is right for men to objectify women because of what they are wearing, but I also do not think it is right for women to objectify themselves and flaunt their bodies.  Modesty is beautiful, it shows a depth of character.  One can still be modest and express herself.  In addition to clothing, women have a right to exercise or not to, to eat healthy or not to, and to have sex or not to.  However, women never have the right to murder for convenience.  abortion is not controlling one’s own body, but destroying someone else’s no matter how that someone else got there.

This is me, protesting against the culture, screaming into the void.  I desperately wish for peace in this nation, I desperately wish that all men and women saw themselves as beautiful in the eyes of God, and held themselves accountable to Him as King of the Universe.  Alas, there is sin in the world, and with that comes discord and violence.  Women are continuing to fight to reign over men, as they have from the beginning (look at Genesis 3).

I am a woman.  I did not protest because I disagree with the worldview held by many women who did protest.  These are my views and my beliefs, and they are the reason why to the media, my voice does not matter.

 

What Love is This?

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I write this as I mourn for the heart of a lost friend.  I am in the first semester of my freshman year of college and I have learned more about God and my faith than in my whole life.

This summer, I went on a mission trip which opened my eyes to the scope of God’s unconditional love.  I fell in love with kids I had only known for a few days and really bore their struggles with them and desired for them to have relationships with Jesus.  I cried for joy when I saw two of the girls come to salvation and wept after I left the camp with my family.  I remember thinking that if my love for these kids could be so great after being with them for a few days, how great is God’s love.  He created us and knows us intimately and desires a relationship with us.

I was hit by this truth later at summer camp, when the Spirit made me truly believe that God cares about every little detail in our life.  “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”  God created the stars and put the earth in motion.  He knew exactly which stars we would see and when we would live.  He puts each person and event, even the small moments, like a hug from a friend or a beautiful ray of sunshine in the afternoon, in our lives purposely.  Nothing escapes his notice.  “Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:3-5)  It is amazing to think that he made each of us differently, with unique lives and circumstances, and yet he is ultimately in control.  I cannot wrap my mind around it.

Flash forward to my third month in college.  I have just finished a conversation with a friend I have been praying for from the first day I met.  I have been waiting on the Lord, trusting for his promised salvation.  I crave the faith that Abraham had, “when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance.  And he went out, not knowing where he was going…For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:8, 10)  He waited for the promised son for twenty five years.  I have been waiting to see my friend’s salvation for three months, and I wrestle with discouragement.  But God has been showing me something greater.

I thought I had learned a lot about God’s love on my missions trip, but I have learned even more in the three months that I have been in college.  God calls us to love the people that will never love us back, or who cannot love us the way we love them.  Even when those people hurt us when we are trying to be an example of Christ to them, we are still to love them.  I have found that while it is hard to love those people, it is nearly impossible not to.  This is a supernatural love from the Spirit.  I have felt such a burden as this for several people, but three stand out in my memory.  One of those, and the one I am closest to has never really experienced unconditional love.

For the past two days I have felt a greater pain because of the sin of someone else and a greater burden for that person’s salvation than I have ever felt in my life.  It hurts, but it is a hurt filled with hope.  My efforts will not save this person, but God is still using me.  As he is using me, he is revealing to me his love.  Not only does he love this person more than I do, he loves everyone with this type of love.  I am astounded at the love Christ felt when he went to the cross.  Did he cry when he was being nailed to the tree?  I believe he did, not just because of the physical pain, but because his heart was broken for the people he saw.  In the garden of Gethsemane, he prayed for those who would come to know him.  In the darkest moment on the cross, Jesus cried, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)  He was not just asking for those mocking him at the cross, but for every person who mocks the love of the Savior.  For every person who has let their heart be hardened to God’s unconditional love, Jesus asks forgiveness.  That is incredible love, and it brings me to my knees.  It comforts me and strengthens my faith.

At a time in my life, especially in my faith, where it looks like I should be under extreme pressure in stress, I feel more peace and love than I have ever known.  Yes, I struggle.  Yes, I feel pain, but hallelujah!  I feel the love of my Savior.  This is how I know that though my circumstances look bleak and the future is uncertain, I can rest in my God.  He is my rock and my refuge.  He is my ever-present help in time of need.

“I believe

that I shall look upon

the goodness of the Lord

in the land of the living.”

-Psalm 27:13

 

Marriage: It’s not all about you

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It’s time for a long-overdo post addressing a controversial, relevant topic.  Marriage, specifically, homosexual marriage.  The recent Supreme Court decision over SCOTUS stated that a homosexual marriage recognized in one state must be recognized in all states.  In this post, I will not address the unconstitutional nature of this decision (violates the 9th and 10th amendment, in summary: individual Constitutional State laws cannot be overridden by the Federal government, and all rights not given to the Federal government are reserved for the individual States), and instead address the issue of marriage itself.

I am approaching this topic with a bias (for all you skeptics who like to make comments about bias), I am a Christian who believes that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, but I am going to use as much logic as possible and examples, historical and Biblical, in this post.

I realize that the title of my post will immediately cause one to be defensive of their motives for getting married, for who gets married with selfish motives?  According to many many people, Christian or not, marriage is a partnership, right?  This is true, marriage is a partnership, but it is a special and sacred partnership.

The history of marriage starts with the Creation of the world.  God, the Creator, desired to create an organism (for lack of a better term) in his image, one who could create, have emotion, have intellect, and desire relationships.  Therefore, he created man, “in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them,” (Genesis 1:27).  Instead of speaking this new creature into existence, as he had for everything else, God got down in the dirt, and formed man from the dust, breathing life into his nostrils, (Genesis 2:7).  God then placed man in a beautiful garden and gave him the special job of naming all the animals and cultivating the garden (Genesis 2:8, 15, 19).

This man, God named Adam.  At this point, God had not created woman, because God wanted Adam to learn something.  As Adam was naming the animals, he noticed that they came in pairs, male and female.  He also noticed that there was not another creature like him, no creature fit to work with him, (Genesis 2:20).

Why had God not given Adam a partner?  God wanted Adam to realize that he needed a partner, to desire a relationship.  “So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man,” (Genesis 2:21-22).  When God brings the woman to Adam, Adam is amazed and full of joy at this perfect partner.  Adam and his wife, Eve, enjoy the first marriage, completely without shame or dishonesty, (Genesis 2:23, 25).

A few observations from this passage.  First, relationships, especially marriage, are necessary for a society to thrive.  Adam and Eve worked together in the garden, and would eventually parent children that would marry and have their own families and populate the earth.  Secondly, Eve, the woman, was created from Adam’s rib, symbolizing her status as Adam’s partner and equal.  Eve was not created from Adam’s head, symbolizing dominance, or foot, symbolizing servitude, but from his side, a very carefully planned action by the Creator.  Finally, God did not make another man for Adam, but a woman.  This is significant in two ways. One, that God’s creation was not complete with a man, but with man and woman, woman is necessary.  Two, that though Adam and Eve were created equally, they were created with different roles and functions which compliment each other.

God created marriage for several good reasons.  Marriage was created for the procreation of children and the pleasure of the married couple.  Marriage was created to secure the family.  there are several reasons why marriage was created, but the most important reason is that it reflects the Unity of the Trinity, and this is why marriage is sacred.

Our culture has believed many lies about marriage and the family, but the biggest one is this, that marriage is about being happy.  While happiness should come with marriage, it should not be the focus of the marriage.  This sounds completely crazy in our world, but it is true.  Making happiness the focus of the marriage will ruin the marriage.

Two hard truths for me to accept as a romantically minded girl who grew up watching Disney movies were that there is not “One” out there for me and that romance is not everything.  One does not have to feel that special spark to marry someone, and there is not one person alone who can give one the perfect feeling.  While this principle seems super unromantic and boring, it actually helps marriages last.

Why does the principle of “no one true love” make marriages last?  Because feelings change.  One could feel the “spark” from another person and think that because he/she felt that it means that he/she is supposed to be with that person.  All cares are tossed to the wind, and the romantic relationship begins.  The couple lives happily ever after, right?  Wrong.  What happens when that romantic feelings fades, or one partner lets the other down?  Does that mean that he/she is not the “one” and that its time to end the marriage and move on?  That is what Hollywood would have us believe.  However, this is just not realistic.  A couple that can work through the hard days will have a better relationship afterward.  Yes, there are circumstances when one partner is abusing the other, but could that be because the relationship was initially based on a “spark” instead of on something more foundational, like trust?

That is my reasoning why feeling romantic about another person does not justify marrying them, no matter how “in love” one is.  True love is demonstrated by sacrifice, its not just a feeling.  The idea of getting married for love is actually a very modern one, and not a completely perfect idea.

For thousands of years of history, marriages were arranged.  In many pagan cultures, these were not good arrangements for the wife, who was often much younger than her husband, and usually one of several wives.  In cultures such as Mesopotamia, the husband could send his wife away just with the charge of adultery.  A man could accuse his wife of adultery, and even if the charge was false, the woman was executed.  This was a tragedy, but it was not because the marriages were arranged, but because the people who practiced this were immoral, and evil.

The ancient Hebrews also practiced arranged marriage.  However, because of the laws of Yahweh, the God of the Bible, these marriages lasted much longer and were much happier than many in other cultures.  The eighth commandment states, “You shall not commit adultery,” (Exodus 20:14), but in the Hebrew law, if a man or woman committed adultery, unlike in other cultures where typically just the wives were punished, both the proven adulterer and adulteress were put to death.  All other sexual immorality was also punished by death.  This is because God considers marriage sacred.

In the New Testament, Jesus points again to marriage as God created it, “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.  Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate,” (John 10:5-9).  In this verse, Jesus talks about how special marriage is by saying that a marriage is a man and his wife becoming one flesh, and that a marriage should not be separated.

Finally, I believe that marriage between a man and a woman is special and Biblical because it reflects the relationship between Christ and the Church, (Ephesians 5:22-33).  This passage also describes the roles of the husband and wife in correlation to the Church and Christ.  The best marriages have Christ at the center, with the husband and wife serving each other, praying for each other, and sacrificing for each other.

On side note, although marriage is not for everyone, God commands that everyone who remains unmarried remain celibate.  In fact, the apostle Paul preferred to be single, because he believed that he could do more ministry that way. (1 Corinthians 7:25-40).

In conclusion, I believe that according to the scriptures, the only true marriage is that between a husband and a wife.  Marriage is a sacred covenant and should not be entered into lightly.  Romance is not everything, although it is part of the pleasure of marriage.  All in all, the unity of the marital relationship is something created by God to reflect the unity of the Trinity, thus it is sad to see it lose its value in divorces, adulteries, and other sexual immorality.  However, there is always healing for the broken, so even if a person has had a broken sexual past, he or she can find redemption at the cross, with Jesus’ sacrifice of love for all.  That is the greatest example of love in history, and it was done for every person who ever lived or will live.  That day, love won.

Why Christians Can’t Reject Genesis

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Some Christians today believe that the Bible is fallible, at least some of it.  A particular book that several Christians think can be rejected is the book of Genesis.  Because modern “science” argues that the Earth is more than six thousand years old and that the world was formed by macro-evolution, some Christians reject the idea of a six-day creation.

I would argue that all scripture is inspired by God and is therefore infallible.  I would also argue that the book of Genesis, especially the first three chapters, is essential to the Christian faith and therefore cannot be rejected by Christians.

Herbert Spencer, a brilliant philosopher and proponent of Evolution of the late 19th/early 20th century, stated that all matter could be divided into five categories: time, force, action, space, matter.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”-Genesis 1:1

In the first verse of Genesis, all elements of reality are introduced.  Time: “In the beginning,” when time was first created.  Force: “God,” the greatest force in the universe.  Action: “created.”  Space: “the heavens,” the cosmos and all they contain, as well as literal space.  Matter: “and the earth,” the first matter discovered by man.  Men have tried but cannot deny what stands obviously before them, truth.

Genesis is a book of origins, and it starts with the origin of the universe.  God spoke everything into existence.  What I do not understand is why people do not want to believe that God created everything in six days.  God is God, and as God, he can do incomprehensible, amazing things that only God can do, like creating the entire cosmos in six literal days.  In six literal days, the universe and all life was created.  First light and night and day, then water in heaven and in the seas, then the land and plants, then the planets and heavenly bodies, then sea creatures and birds, then land creatures and man.  Six days.

Not only does Genesis talk about the origin of creation, but it also talks about the origins of order and complexity, man’s love for beauty, marriage, culture, government, nations, and much more.  Genesis 3, all the way at the beginning of scripture, tells of the origins of evil, judgement, and salvation.

The man and the woman were tempted and succumbed to temptation, doubting God and allowing sin to enter their hearts.  Knowing that they had sinned, they hid from the God with whom they had been able to directly communicate and have a relationship.  Adam and Eve were punished and  sent from the garden, knowing that they were mortal and doomed to death.  However, God spared them from death that day and gave them hope for a savior.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head; and you will strike his heel.”

-Genesis 3:15 

The “he” referred to in this passage is the savior, Jesus Christ, who was not due to come for four thousand years.  This gave Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, hope that someday, their relationship with God would be restored, that the savior would crush sin and death, bringing humanity back to its God.

The reason Genesis is so important is that it gives us the story of where we came from and why things are the way that they are.  In it is the story of a holy but loving God and his relationship with man.  I will not tell the whole story, because the believer must read it for himself.

If the Church tries to fit its faith to the world by twisting it and taking away fundamentals, nothing will be left of Christianity.  Thus, we must hold fast to the word of God, the inerrant scriptures.

Worldview/Church History: 4 Emerging Churches

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This week for my worldview class, my teacher had us watch a couple videos.  One was a Nooma video by Rob Bell, about trusting in God through the storms of life, the other was by Mark Driscoll, where he talked about his views on what he calls the four lanes of Emerging churches.

The Rob Bell video was done well, with a good intro that set a comforting mood, and a positive theme.  It was appealing to me that Bell started his conversation with a story that served as an analogy to a certain aspect of the Christian life.  He talked about him and his son being caught in a storm, and the comfort that he had to give his terrified young son in that time.  This, Bell says, is like what God does to us, comforting us in the hard times and holding us close.

Now, although this was a good message, I would not rely on that instead of going to church.  Bell did not give an application to life or incorporate the gospel into his message very well.  Also, it is important to have a church family to be in fellowship with, so although I think that the video I saw was good, I wouldn’t replace the church experience with it.

Next, I watched the Mark Driscoll’s video on the four different churches, and he mentioned Rob Bell in his lecture.  Driscoll says that there are four types of emerging churches, three of which he thinks stay on the right doctrinal path, whereas the fourth goes off a bit.

The first type church, the Emerging Evangelicals, is pretty much the original evangelical church updated a bit.  This church tries to be more relevant to the culture while still holding to most traditional doctrine.

The second type of church is the House Church of Evangelicals, this type of church, Driscoll says, has good doctrine, but rejects the typical big church with a pastor.  This church thinks it is better to meet in smaller groups.

The third type of church is the Emerging Reformed church.  This type of church holds to reformed theological positions, but wants to be more relevant to the culture.  This church is especially concerned with missions in daily life.  I would say that this is the view that my church holds.

The last type of church, the Emergent Liberal church, is the church that Driscoll says has gone off the road a bit.  They call into question foundational Christian doctrine and dodge the difficult questions.  Some of these churches don’t hold to the whole Bible, says Driscoll, but only take some of it.

If I was to make a church, I would base it on the Bible, making sure that it holds to the infallibility of the scriptures, the doctrines of hell and heaven, the doctrine of salvation, the supremacy of God, the Trinity, etc.  I would probably lean more toward the reformed view, since that is more  what I see from the scriptures.  I would definitely say that my church should be culturally relevant and missions minded, and hold fast to prayer and service.  My church would most likely not be perfect, but what church is?

The Doctrine Debate

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Here is a post by one of my friends: Calvinism & Alternative Ideas

Now, while we don’t agree on the subject of election and freewill, and we know that we will not agree, we still argue about it.  I find that pointless!  Why are we arguing about something that we will never agree on?  I personally think it’s because we are both stubborn human beings who like to be right.

I have that Christians make a huge deal over the freewill/election debate, but I do not believe that it should split congregations.  Yes, how you believe that you came to salvation does somewhat affect your view of God and the role of the church, but I do not think that the issue is big enough to create conflict in churches.  It is like in 1 Corinthians, where Paul is rebuking the church for dividing because the people are arguing over whether Paul or Apollos is better.

Please Christians, encourage each one another and build each other up!

You Can’t Deny It

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Throughout their lives, many people deny various truths.  They do this because they are uncomfortable with or threatened by the truth.  In the end, it helps no one to deny the truth.

A truth that people have denied throughout the ages is that there is a fundamental problem with them and the world around them, the problem of sin.  Even if they acknowledge this truth, they deny that sin has consequences, or even if they accept this truth, they deny the way to be freed from the consequences of sin.  In short, people deny the gospel.

Men deny the gospel because of their hardened hearts, they do not want to have to admit that they have to rely on a savior, Jesus Christ, for salvation.  This is why, people over the ages have denied that Jesus is truly God.  If Jesus is truly God, then men must acknowledge that they are sinful and that they need the salvation of Jesus.  People just say that Jesus was a good man.  One should automatically know that this statement is false if one knows anything about Jesus or what he said.

Jesus claimed to be God, so he could not simply be a good man.  He was either lying, and was therefore a bad person, not God but believed he was, thus insane, or he was telling the truth.  This is the simple argument put forward by philosopher and apologist C.S. Lewis.

Was Jesus a liar?  Besides claiming that he was God, all of Jesus’ statements have been recognized as truth.  Furthermore, Jesus was a humble and truly good person.  Liars are not humble people, nor are they known for doing good deeds.  What did Jesus have to gain by claiming to be God?  In fact, he made a lot of enemies and was eventually crucified because of this claim.  A wise man would have recognized the consequences of such a claim.

Was Jesus crazy?  Afterall, he claimed to be divine!  Surely that is an insane statement.  However, Jesus showed himself to be wise in his discussions with the Pharisees and Saducees.  He was able to answer every one of their challenges.  Jesus also performed astounding miracles, miracles that would have to come from God when put with such truthful teaching.  Therefore, it does not make sense that Jesus was a lunatic.

In conclusion, one can see that Jesus fit one of three categories, he was either a liar, insane, or God.  As shown above, Jesus was neither a liar nor insane.  Therefore, Jesus must have been and still is God.

“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” -John 8:58

What is Man?

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Throughout the ages, humankind has asked the question, “What is man’s role in the universe?”  Overtime, four different answers have presented themselves.  What a person chooses to believe depends on his worldview.

Basically the four views are:

1) Man is subject to fate and the will of the universe.

2) Man controls the universe.

3) Nothing is certain and man is only subject to chance.

4) Man is created by God with a purpose.

A person who believes that man is subject to fate might try to figure out his destiny and influence the way he wants to, always battling the universe for control.  This view has influenced many movies and novels where the heroes try to live their lives in such a way as to avoid their destiny and it’s consequences.

A person who believes that man controls the universe would believe that he has the duty and empowerment to make certain decisions.  This person would be very driven and aspire to do great things.  However, this person would also be very proud.  This view must have dominated much of the Western world in the late 19th – mid 20th century.  Men like Friedrich Neitzsche believed that man would eventually become superhuman and could control all his actions and the world around him.

If someone believed the third position, that man is subject to chance, this person could be very apathetic.  After all, if one’s actions do not really do anything to influence his life, and only chance affects his life, why would one be moved to do anything?  A person could go from poor to rich or rich to poor with the snap of his fingers.  The philosophy of that person would be to “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die.”  This view has dominated the West today, for many people, especially of the millennial generation, waste much of their time enjoying themselves.

The final view states that God is in control and that every man has a purpose.  In this view, men do make choices which affect their lives, but ultimately, God knows what is in store for them.  In some ways, this is similar to the view that fate controls everything, but fate is unpredictable, and God is unchanging.  The Bible outlines God’s plan for the world as a whole.  It says that all things work together for the good of those who love God.  Even though that does not mean that everything will always be easy, in the end, those who place their hope in God will receive a reward.  This is probably the most hopeful of all four views.

These views are all different, and have different ramifications.  For example, one’s view of authority is influenced by one’s view of the place of man.  If one believes that man is in control, then man is the ultimate authority.  If everything is controlled by chance, there really is no authority.  If everything is controlled by fate, then fate is the ultimate authority.  If God directs the lives of men, then he is the ultimate authority.

So which is the right view?  Does God control the world, does man?  Is everything subject to fate?  These are important questions that each person must answer at some point in his life.

Nature and Grace

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Philosophy sounds boring, but is a very deep profession.  The truth is, everyone is a philosopher to some degree.  Have you ever thought about why you think?  Have you ever considered how you think?  This is called epistemology.  Many philosophers have taken up this study.  They study whether or not there is a supernatural realm and whether or not we can find it.

 Thomas Aquinas described the world as having two realms, the concrete and abstract, the upper story and lower story.  Contained in the upper story is all things unseen, love, grace, God, heaven.  Within the lower story are things like man, earth, and nature.  The upper story is the supernatural and illogical, and the lower story the rational and material.  Basically, man can fully understand the lower story but is unable to comprehend the upper story.  Thus, it is easy to see how man would either obsess completely over the supernatural, or focus only on the material.

There are different views people interpret the material and supernatural realms through, and these views were introduced by philosophers such as Herodotus, Parmenides, Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle.

Herodotus thought that nature was constantly changing, and thus almost impossible to understand.  The truth of nature in his view was not objective, but changed constantly.

Parmenides, on the other hand, believed that nature was fixed, but that our senses could not get truth from nature.  Instead, man must rely on reason to discover truth.

Socrates was another case altogether, for he completely dissected the process of thought until he arrived at the conclusion that he really knew nothing.  His method involved questioning of oneself and one’s beliefs.

Then comes Plato, who was a student of Socrates.  He believed that the world had a layer which could be perceived by the senses, and a layer that could only be perceived by reason, a world of universals.

Aristotle was one of the first to believe that the world of universals is one that man can know.  By studying nature, particulars, one can find truth, universals.

Finally, Aquinas organized the universals and particulars into the upper and lower stories of the world.  He divided the lower story into cognitive and empirical thought.  Cognitive thought is that which man has always had, intuition.  The knowledge of sin, instincts, and law is cognitive thought.  Empirical thought is that which is taught through education and experience, such as how to read and write.

The upper story could not be found through empirical or cognitive thought but through revelation, revelation by God.  This reveals to man the things of heaven, the things which “the angels wish to look into.”

During the Platonic period, man was focused completely upon the things of the upper story, or the things of grace.  Man and nature were almost completely disregarded as unimportant, while God and grace were the only things reflected beautifully in architecture and art.  This all changed during the Renaissance, when nature was incorporated into art and architecture.  Eventually, nature was held above grace, impacting theology and philosophy.  Philosophy was no longer based on revelation, but became based on the thought of man.

The Reformation finally brought the balance of nature and grace that the world had been wanting.  The beauty of nature was still incorporated, but grace was the overlying theme.

That is my overview on the history of epistemology and the “upper story” and “lower story.”  I hope you learned something new!