Friday, March 31, 2017

Health and Stewardship

In charting my spiritual growth (as it might be said), I’ve experienced a kind of revelation. Often, I’ll do things or not do things due to consequences. If I think there will be a negative consequence for an action, then I won’t do it; or if I think there will be a positive consequence for an action, I will do it. But this doesn’t always work. If I’m the type of person—and I am—who often doesn’t immediately experience these consequences, or if I think I can live with them, or something along those lines, then I’ll do the action (or not do it, whatever the case may be).

This is a fundamentally wrongheaded way to go about life. In fact, it’s almost a focus on the exterior. If this consequence happens to me, then I won’t look good. I want to look good in front of others; therefore, I should avoid that consequence.

It is better, instead, to be the type of person that God would have you to be. I had to come to grips with a lot of things lately (and I still am) about what kind of person I am and what I am doing. Scripture and prayer really do act as mirrors to show us these things! Through this and recent study of the Ten Commandments, I am slowly realizing how much things come down to stewardship of the resources God has given us. God has given me a family—take care of them. God has given me a job—take care of it. God has given us financial resources—take care of them. God has given us bodies—take care of them.

This last one especially has been a problem for me (well, all of them have, but I’m choosing to focus on this one). I have been ignoring my health for quite some time, and recently discovered that I was quite unhealthy. This occurred due to an anxiety attack brought on by way too much caffeine intake. I hadn’t even been keeping track of how much I had consumed that day, but when I recounted, it wasn’t good. I’m also pretty sure my blood pressure is too high. In response (well, I didn’t really respond much when that happened, but I’ve felt jittery again since then at lower amounts of caffeine), I’ve finally cut out caffeinated beverages altogether (going strong at 11 days), and only just now am realizing that sodium and sugar are really easy to far exceed the maximum amount. I’m doing some lighter exercise to burn calories and limiting my intake, as well as trying to stay balanced and healthy. It’s a consequence issue, sure. But given stewardship, it’s a right-and-wrong issue!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Eternal, Ultimate Happiness

Many people are often concerned about happiness. “Do what makes you happy,” they will say, or perhaps something like “Follow a path that leads to happiness.” Sometimes, we as Christians will pronounce this as too self-centered, or point out that this is not the main point of existence (that would be to worship God). And while this is correct, especially as it relates to our current culture, there is still something to be said about happiness.

My contention (and this is hardly original to me) is that true, eternal, ultimate happiness is only found in Christianity. That is to say, we are only truly, eternally, and ultimately happy when we are fulfilling our purpose. This purpose is to love and worship God. But notice that a loving relationship between two parties only works when both sides love the other. Thus, we fulfil our purpose by being loved, not just loving. That loving relationship is only found in following our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He paid the penalty for sin in his life and death on the cross, and God vindicated Jesus by raising him from the dead. If we believe this, and desire to be saved, and trust God for that salvation, we will be forgiven, and we will be saved.

Now I have said that this kind of ultimate, eternal happiness is only found in Christianity. Why do I say that? For two related reasons. First, Christianity is true. If Christianity is true, then its doctrines are true, and this means eternal happiness is found in worshipping God and fellowshipping together for all eternity. Second, other worldviews either do not have a coherent account of eternal, ultimate happiness or else the coherent accounts they do have tend not to reflect eternal or ultimate happiness. For example, in Islam, eternal, ultimate happiness is found in collecting 72 virgins, amongst other things. In Mormonism, it is found in becoming god of your own planet. It’s not wrong to have things to look forward to in Heaven. However, God is the only thing that can be eternal, ultimate happiness. And Christianity fulfils the truth condition. Think about that today.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Being a Servant of Others

We normally read my son a bedtime story or two, to help get him in a bedtime routine and wind him down a little. He’s far too young to understand what’s going on, but we’re sure to read a Bible story from his children’s Bible storybook each night. Tonight’s story came from John 13, when the Last Supper was taking place. Jesus washed all of the disciples’ feet in an act of sheer humility. This he did as an example. In fact, Jesus specifically instructed them to serve each other (vs. 14-17). This has much broader application than foot-washing. It got me thinking: what are we currently doing to serve others?

I don’t mean to suggest that one ought to simply busy themselves and hope that they work sufficiently to satisfy this command of Christ. Instead I mean to inquire as to whether or not I have a servant’s heart. When we hear of a need, what is our reaction? Do I hope that someone else will do it, so I don’t have to? I have to say, that is a very natural reaction for me. Sometimes acts of service, in whatever form they may take, can help to reform our hearts. Sometimes it’s prayer, or reading Scripture. It may be some combination of all of these things. But I suspect it begins with repentance.

This repentance may entail a need for us to ask God to place the mind of Christ in us. Just as in Philippians 2, this mind entails a humble attitude. Isn’t that interesting? You don’t—even can’t—have a proper servant’s heart if you don’t have a proper attitude of humility. What are some ways we can serve our brothers and sisters that might not be so obvious? I’d like to hear from you in the comments section!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Culpable in Unbelief?

Most people are in agreement that what is known as doxastic voluntarism is false. This is, in its common and strengthened form, the idea that we choose all of our beliefs. Surely that seems false. However, an interesting challenge (one that I’ve written on before) to Christian belief can be placed by the skeptic:

1.     I cannot choose my beliefs.
2.     If I cannot choose my beliefs, then my belief that Christianity is false or unjustified is not under my control.
3.     Whatever is not under my control is something for which I am not morally responsible.
4.     So I am not responsible for believing that Christianity is false or else unjustified.

The conclusion seems to be an undesirable consequence for the Christian. After all, if she wants to claim that those who reject Christ are morally culpable in doing so (which the Bible seems to indicate, cf. John 3:18-19), then one or more of the premises are going to have to be denied. In the past, I have challenged premise 1. However, for our present purposes, I will let that premise stand.[1]

Instead, I challenge premise 2. Suppose that it is true you cannot choose any of your beliefs. It still seems conceivable that your present beliefs could be under your control—at least to a degree sufficient to confer moral responsibility. This is because you could be in control of at least some of your cognitive attitudes. In other words, how open you are to the Gospel of Christ can be a matter of your attitude concerning God. Suppose you find yourself not wanting to deal with the claims of God (it interferes with your lifestyle, perhaps), and so you simply dismiss it out of mind, never to think about it again (except for in pesky internet debates). Or suppose you choose instead to try to scour the internet to find arguments and evidences that back up your desired conclusion. It may be that the conjunction of your cognitive attitude with your decision to dismiss the claim or engage in confirmation bias against it is enough to result in your present state of unbelief. While that present belief (or lack of belief) is not directly chosen by you, it seems you are responsible after all, since your attitudes and your earlier decisions lead to the present state of unbelief.

There is an analogue in drug addiction. Suppose there is someone so thoroughly addicted to a drug that he cannot will to stop abusing it. It hardly follows necessarily that he is not responsible for his drug addiction. For it is conceivable that he chose to use the drug, knowing it was highly addictive, and that his decision led to his current addiction. So, even though he cannot choose not to be addicted, nonetheless his choices are responsible for his present condition.

This, or something like this, I think is the story with unbelievers. Please feel free to share your thoughts below!

[1] It’s not at all clear that from the falsehood of doxastic voluntarism it follows that none of our beliefs can be chosen. See Jonathan L. Kvanvig, “Univeralism and Hell,” in Destiny and Deliberation: Essays in Philosophical Theology (Oxford University Press, New York), 2011, 49.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Making Things Useful

I don’t really have a thought for today that’s very deep, personal, or necessarily philosophical. In light of that, I wanted to share a bit from my reading today.

Philemon 10-11

I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:
Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:


What’s great about this passage is that this is a guy whose name means “profitable.” Paul’s play on words got me thinking: what or who has been or can be redeemed from being something that was not profitable or useful to being profitable or useful? To take an easy example, consider natural talents or gifts. While these can be used for purely selfish reasons, after conversion they can be used to promote the ends of Christ, and the glory of God. In what ways can you take something that was formerly useless and make it useful, due to God’s work in your life?