LOGOS – Faith on the Frontlines
Riverlife [formerly] Kenmore Baptist Church, Brisbane, Australia
Message Outline, October 2, 2016 (Logos Team)
“LOGOS – Faith on the Frontlines”
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
Tough questions always come when least expected. They put you on the spot. They can make you sweat over your intellectual, ethical, and emotional responses to pressing problems that you know are important — wars, poverty, humanity’s origin, God’s existence, globalization, climate change, other religions, and eternal destiny. Today’s message came out of the types of experiences where people ask hard questions and you only have an opportunity to respond for perhaps a couple of minutes. What we want to look at are some of the biggest barriers to beliefs.
How can we know there is a God?
Perhaps the best short answer you can give to why you believe in God, or why you are a follower of Jesus, is your own personal testimony. You all will have reasons of your own for being Christians.
Two well know reasons for believing in God include that He provides a basis for understanding why there is a universe rather than nothing and how moral values can exist.
(1) God provides an explanation for the existence of the universe.
The first reason for thinking there is a God is that He is the best explanation for why anything exists at all. Perhaps one of the most profound and important questions of life is why is there a world and why are we in it? Why is there something rather than nothing?
The answer really comes down to two possibilities – chance or providence. The universe and humanity are either here by accident or we are here by design. The thought process in this argument can be explained with two premises and a conclusion. 1. The universe began to exist.
1. The Universe began to exist
Today if you pick up a science text you will read that the universe began to exist in an explosion called the big bang around perhaps 13 billion years ago. In that explosion you have the beginning of all matter and energy in the universe as well as space time.
2. Everything that has a beginning needs a cause.
From nothing comes nothing. No one has shown something coming out of nothing without any cause.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
So you have here evidence from science and philosophy that the beginning of the universe surely requires a cause. And that cause must be greater than the universe which means the cause is timeless, immaterial and powerful. Which is a round about way of describing God.
To learn more you can watch Dr William Lane Craig and Dr Lawrence Krause discuss the topic “Why is there something rather than nothing” that took place in Sydney in 2013.
(2) God provides an explanation for the existence of the objective moral values.
The second reason for thinking there is God is that God is the best explanation for the existence of objective moral values. The heart of this issue is whether moral values are objective in nature or subjective. And by objective moral values what is meant is that they exist independent of people’s opinions.
The Earths’ shape as a sphere is an objective fact and is independent of people’s opinions. Whether a person likes chocolate or vanilla ice cream as the ‘best’ flavour is a question of individual subjective preference and is dependent on a person’s opinion.
If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. Many famous atheists would agree with this. Richard Dawkins has said that “in a world without God there can be no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”
Yet most people accept things like rape really are wrong but often don’t appreciate there is no good basis for believing that if they do not accept God exists.
To learn more on this you can watch or read the debate between Dr William Lane Craig and Dr Sam Harris ‘Are the foundations of moral values natural or supernatural?’
How can we know Jesus was God’s son?
The central claim of Christianity is that God sent His son Jesus to be punished to death by crucifixion for our wrong doing. Jesus demonstrated He was divine by resurrecting from the dead and offers all people the chance at life after death.
Many people will make claims that ‘Jesus didn’t exist’ or ‘His disciples stole His body from the tomb’ or that He was taken off the cross alive. Scholars today accept though a wide range of facts about Jesus’ life regardless of their backgrounds.
Virtually all scholars regardless of their backgrounds will accept that Jesus died by crucifixion and that His disciples and others had experiences of Jesus after His death and believed He had risen from the dead.
A majority of New Testament scholars would also accept:
* that after Jesus’ burial, His tomb became empty;
* the church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed into the church’s best missionary as he genuinely believed he met a risen Jesus;
* that Jesus’ sceptical half-brother James was suddenly transformed and became a leader of the early church.
To learn more on this you can listen to or podcast a discussion between Dr Gary Habermas and Dr James Crossley from the UK radio show Unbelievable that took place on 1 August 2015.
Has science made faith in God pointless?
Science and faith are not in conflict and fit beautifully together, both uncovering truth sometimes in different ways and other times in overlapping ways. As science honestly probes the natural world, it encounters problems and questions which are philosophical in character and cannot be resolved scientifically.
There are many leading contemporary scientists and engineers who believe that their faith provides a framework or undergirds their scientific inquiry. Kepler famously said that science was thinking God’s thoughts after Him. Boyle, Faraday, Pascal and many others were amazing minds that transformed our world – none needed to reject their faith for scientific inquiry.
To learn more try the works of Dr John Lennox such as the book ‘God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God’ or his 2015 lecture ‘Science and the God Question Faith and Science’ on YouTube.
How can God allow so much suffering in the world?
Our answer begins with a belief that God values authentic relationship, and like any good relationship where love exists there is freedom in how we act towards one another. Rather than creating mindless robots so nothing ever goes wrong, God designed life in such a way that we can freely accept or reject His love. This gift of freedom is also something we share with one another. Haven’t we each experienced a moment where we have done the wrong thing in a relationship? Did God stop us with a lightning rod and thunderous voice? No. There was a freedom to choose because at the heart of God’s love we have choice. When asked “what’s wrong with the world today?” G K Chesterton responded, “I am”. To a greater or lesser degree (no pointing to the person next to you), we have each played a part in the suffering we see in the world. God made us to love Him, love each other and lovingly care for this world. Instead, at times we have despised God, abused each other, and vandalized our planet. In a world designed for relationship, our choices affect others. Blaming God for this is to miss our personal responsibility. Maybe a better question is “how can we allow so much suffering in the world”, but the good news is that God has not left us to suffer alone without hope.
Christianity makes sense of why our suffering is not the way it’s supposed to be. We are in a good world gone bad, a world in process of restoration. But to speak of ‘God-and-suffering’ is to miss the heart of our story, for God entered the story to set things right. The problem looks radically different when we speak of ‘God-in-Jesus-and-suffering.’ Did Jesus sit idly by and watch our pain? No. He healed the sick, set captives free and comforted those grieving. He is still doing this today. When we are in pain, smart answers don’t help. We need a wounded healer to stay by our side. So God suffers too. He enters into this mystery. Even more, He defeats death and grounds our hope that one day He will resurrect the whole cosmos and us with it to a world without suffering—no more tears, no more brokenness, just a loving embrace.
To learn more try the Unbelievable podcast ‘Why Does God allow suffering?” between Vince Vitale and Julian Baggini.
Why should I believe in a God who tells me what to do and a religion like Christianity that will restrict my freedom and fun?
True freedom is more than just the absence of constraints.
Freedom always comes with a form. A river must have its banks to flow freely and with purpose. Without them, it is a giant puddle at best, and a destructive flood at worst. Likewise, our form is in God, for whom we were created, and it is only in Him that we truly come alive.
Jesus Himself said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” It’s not that God doesn’t want us to have a good time; it’s that He wants us to have abundant life. He wants us to experience the fullness of His love, to enjoy the majesty of His creation, to prosper in the community that He designed for us to be part of and to reach our greatest potential.
God offers freedom from the slavery that sin traps us into. So it is only in Jesus that we have truly found life and truly found freedom.
Isn’t an ancient near eastern faith now outdated and irrelevant in this modern world?
The most important questions in life are timeless. Where did I come from? Why am I here? What am I supposed to be doing? Where am I going? What happens when I die? Christianity now, as it has done for centuries, offers the most satisfying answers to these age old questions.
Christianity has been making itself relevant in other countless ways now, all over the world and through past history. The Church is the largest single provider of healthcare and education in the world, with an overwhelming presence in places of poverty. In some countries the Christian Church is the largest financial contributor to both non-government and government forms of education, including schools and universities.
The church provides aid all over the world through agencies like Tear Fund, Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Compassion, World Vision, Samaritans Purse – feeding the poor, housing the homeless, caring for the sick, the abandoned and the destitute. At the centre of society’s values, ideas, laws and institutions is Christianity and its gospel message. Christianity is made relevant wherever Christians go transforming the world for the better.
The challenge for Christians is to continue to show Christianity relevant in the world today
Riverlife [formerly] Kenmore Baptist Church Senior Leadership Team
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