The Blind Condemning The Blind

The Blind Condeming The Blind FB

It is common to look on other cultures, and especially past generations with some disdain. This is almost a requirement for anyone who thinks of themselves as a “modern” person.  We see their flaws so clearly, and congratulate ourselves for our clear vision in areas where they were so blind. How could they have missed it?

But to a thoughtful observer, this experience should be a little terrifying. What if I am not so very different from those barbarians? What if history repeats itself? What if my children will have the same critical thoughts about me that I have about my parents and grandparents? What if my own bias makes me blind to my own moral failings? And above all, what if God sees it all very clearly? Then what?

This was the argument of the Apostle Paul in Romans Chapter 2. He said, “you who condemn another do you not condemn yourself?”  It is too easy to limit the idea of condemnation to moralists.  Our generation readily condemns those guilty of greed, racism, environmental irresponsibility, sexism, etc.  And we do this most readily when looking at past generations. But when we make these kinds of judgments we are unwittingly conceding that there is a standard that transcends generations and cultures. That there is a standard that is not relative, and that applies even when we don’t see it or know it.  And when we are honest, we will have to admit that this law stands over us as well.

CS Lewis ruminated on this 75 years ago:

“If, then, you are ever tempted to think that we modern Western Europeans cannot really be so very bad because we are, comparatively speaking, humane—if, in other words, you think God might be content with us on that ground—ask yourself whether you think God ought to have been content with the cruelty of cruel ages because they excelled in courage or chastity. You will see at once that this is an impossibility. From considering how the cruelty of our ancestors looks to us, you may get some inkling how our softness, worldliness, and timidity would have looked to them, and hence how both must look to God.”

-CS Lewis, from “The Problem of Pain”

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Prisoners To Our Own Appetites. Now THAT Is A Story

Jail cell

This is an amazing account from Mark Buchanan. It is a strange story that illustrates how we are often prisoners to our own appetites.

“Thomas Costain, in his book The Three Edwards, relates a historical episode from the fourteenth century. Two brothers, Raynald and Edward, fought bitterly. Edward mounted war against Raynald, captured him alive, and imprisoned him in Nieuwkerk Castle.

“But it was no ordinary prison cell. The room was reasonably comfortable. And there was no lock on the door—not a bolt, not a padlock, not a crossbeam. Raynald was free to come or go at will. In fact, it was better than that: Edward promised Raynald full restoration of all rights and titles on a single condition: that he walk out of that room.

“Only Raynald couldn’t. The door was slightly narrower than a typical door. And Raynald was enormously fat. He was swaddled in it. He could not, with all his squeezing and heaving, get himself outside his cell. He might more easily have passed a camel through a needle.

“So in order to walk free and reclaim all he’d lost, he had only to do one thing: lose weight. That would have come easily to most prisoners, with their rations of bread and water.

“It did not come easy to Raynald. Edward had disguised a great cruelty as an act of generosity. Every day, Edward had Raynald served with the richest, sauciest foods, savory and sweet, and ample ale and wine to boot. Raynald ate and ate and grew larger and larger. He spent ten years trapped in an unlocked cell, freed only after Edward’s death. His health was so ruined, he died soon himself.”

Buchanan’s book “The Rest Of God” is delightful and full of great content and excellent writing. It explores something that is oddly missing from many discussions of the Sabbath, the issue of rest.

Buchanan, Mark (2007-03-11). The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath (pp. 165-166). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

One of the Biggest Lies Of Time Management

morning-time-alarm-bell

“Time management has nothing to do with the clock, but everything to do with organizing and controlling your participation in certain events that coordinate with the clock. Einstein understood time management is an oxymoron. It cannot be managed. You can’t save time, lose time, turn back the hands of time or have more time tomorrow than today. Time is unemotional, uncontrolled, unencumbered. It moves forward regardless of circumstances and, in the game of life, creates a level playing field for everyone.”- Myers Barnes

Quoted in: Maxwell, John C. (2008-11-16). Today Matters: (p. 67). Center Street. Kindle Edition.

Your Anxiety Is Ruining Your Furniture

old chair

A fascinating anecdote from Mark Buchanan about stress and anxiety:

“Anxiety and stress are our number one killers. I heard recently a story about Meyer Friedman, the psychologist who devised the Type A/ Type B personality profiles— where Type B is placid and limber, taking life as it comes, and Type A is two-fisted and bristling, taking life by the horns. Friedman’s initial insight that led to his personality theory came after a discussion with a chair upholsterer. The upholsterer said that most of his business came from replacing the upholstery on the chairs in cardiologists’ offices, the chairs wore first, and quickly, on the front edge. Apparently, heart patients are so impatient that, even while listening to their doctor’s life-threatening diagnosis or lifesaving prescription, they sit taut and restless, poised to flee, chafing at the delay. At the edge of their seats. The very reason their hearts are sick is written in that threadbare upholstery.”

Buchanan, Mark (2007-03-11). The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath (pp. 109-110). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

A Prayer with Insight

%22Help me know how to obtain relief from

The Valley of Vision book of Puritan Prayers is a goldmine.  I pick it up from time to time.  I read (and prayed) this one this morning and found a section that is worth sharing.

“Grant that I may never trust my heart,
depend upon any past experiences,
magnify any present resolutions,
but be strong in the grace of Jesus:
that I may know how to obtain relief
    from a guilty conscience
  without feeling reconciled to my imperfections.”

Emphasis mine.

You can read the whole prayer here at the Banner of Truth website.

Absolute Goodness

Beware

“God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies. Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger—according to the way you react to it. And we have reacted the wrong way.”

CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

 

Photo Courtesy of James Quinn. Some rights reserved.

Sawing Off The Limb That Holds You

Sawing

The problem of evil and suffering is a real problem. We struggle with it from a rational/philosophical standpoint and also from an emotional perspective. Christians often struggle more with the emotional dimension than just wrestling with the logic behind the question because we believe that God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil and suffering that is in the world.

But atheists can bring this up in debate as a trump card. And it often “works” because of it’s strong emotional appeal.  Ravi Zacharias does a good job treating this in this in his book “Jesus Among Other Gods.”  He says that often this issue is raised with a list of the worst atrocities in history. This is fine,  and is actually part of my point here. The way those atrocities are discussed suggests that the person really believes they are wrong.  The world should be different than it is. The argument is a kind of protest.  And sometimes it is a protest against a god they believe should have prevented this. This outrage is used to show that an all loving and all powerful God couldn’t exist.  The conclusion: There is no god.

What they don’t realize is that the problem of evil is not just a problem for Christians. It is a problem for every philosophy and worldview.

What they don’t realize is that the problem of evil is not just a problem for Christians. It is a problem for every philosophy and worldview.  And unwittingly by removing idea of God, the atheist has removed any absolute standard of right and wrong. Now the very list of atrocities no longer wear the label “wrong” or “evil.”  The atheist may dislike them, but it is no more than personal or societal preference. These things are not examples of either justice or injustice because those things do not exist except in our minds.  The world just IS.  That is just the way things are.  And yet the very protest is making a plea that the world should be different than it is.  At the very lease, the atheist believes it is wrong for christians to believe what they do. It could be phrased in some other way,  but there is an “ought” in the protest that could only be true if there were some greater moral imperative.  In the end, the protest defeats itself.

Zacharias quotes GK Chesterton, who has made the point with a flourish:

“All denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind and the modern skeptic doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women, and then writes another book, a novel in which he insults it himself. As a politician he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then as a philosopher that all of life is waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. A man denounces marriage as a lie and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie.

“The man of this school goes first to a political meeting where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts. Then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic, is forever engaged in undermining his own mines. in his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt becomes practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.”

The atheist wants to use the problem of evil to disprove the existence of god. But in the process he ends up disproving the existence of evil.  And this is not just a rational problem, it is an existential problem without compare.

G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1959), 41

Photo cropped and used by Permission Jo Jakeman. Some rights reserved