Thursday, 13 December 2012

Christmas

Chocolate gifts in calendars. Indoor pine trees decorated with tinsel and ornaments and colourful lights. Santa in his jolly red suit, riding on his sleigh with bells ringing and flying reindeer, one with a red nose, and a sack full of toys made by his helper elves at the north pole. Mince pies and sherry left out next to the fireplace so he can come down the chimney and fill the stockings and leave gifts wrapped up with brightly coloured paper under the tree for all the good boys and girls, and lumps of coal for the bad ones. Shower gel, socks, Official Red Ryder Carbine Action Two Hundred Shot Range Model Air Rifles and oversized jumpers. Kisses under the mistletoe. Holly reefs hanging on the door. Flying snowmen. Turkey roast with parsnips, Brussels sprouts, and plenty of wine. Fruit pudding with brandy sauce. Doctor Who Specials and the Queen's speech.

None of these things are in the Bible. None of these things are about Christmas, despite some being named after it. Christmas is about the birth of Christ. And while we are free to enjoy most of these things as followers of Christ we must not forget the true meaning of Christmas.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

What was it like being an atheist?

It's hard to think back at what my life was like when I was an atheist, not so much because it's uncomfortable to remember, but because my life in Christ has been so eventful that the last year feels like the same length of time as the 5 years before that. I think that feeling itself speaks on something of my life as an atheist. It was pretty uneventful. I had very little social life outside of my marriage. And while I was married I was very much aware of the scientific notion that I was alone. All my thoughts, emotions, and memories were locked inside this biological mess of neurons inside my head. I was, as far as I was concerned, literally alone with my thoughts, and any interaction I had was superficial in nature. Indeed, my understanding of physics meant that contact with other people was never really possible because on a molecular level it isn't. There’s gaps between where one person ends and the other begins.

I used to fill this emptiness with worldly things that temporarily made me feel less alone. All of these things I now know are sinful things because my motivation was a selfish one. Despite that I felt like I was living the life of a zombie. I had nothing to live for. My life was the daily routine of going to work, coming home, watching TV and going to bed. Atheism had taught me that life had no meaning, and I had no purpose. This wasn't pessimism though, this was realism, the only Salvation humanity had was it’s pursuit of technology. All of life's problems would one day be solved with technology, medical science would one day reach it's goal of obtaining immortality.

Atheism and the world had also taught me a lot of lies about religion. Religion and faith were essentially the same thing. All religion was “bad”. It was something to be feared. It was the cause of all wars. All religion was pretty much the same from Scientology to Catholicism . It was all foolishness because it couldn't be observed and explained through experimentation, and experimentation was the only truth out there. Religion was something conceptually infantile and believers were necessarily uneducated and ignorant. Faith in God was no different than the belief in Father Christmas, or the Tooth Fairy. It gave comfort to emotionally unstable people, and corrupt power to those evil and manipulative enough to vain their commitment to those religions to take advantage of these vulnerable congregations. Having read some of what Richard Dawkins had written I believed his implication these people were delusional and irrational. This was care in the community, as far as I was concerned.

Despite all this I had a wife that claimed to have faith. This in itself didn't sit right with me because she wasn't stupid, or an escaped mental patient. Sure we have different strengths and different interests, however we obviously have a lot in common too. Trying to understand why it was she had faith in God when confronted with all these lies that I had no reason to doubt was something that I needed to understand. So when she suggested we find a church to go to I was interested in going because I thought it might help my understanding of why all these crazy people believe in things they can't see. They had something that I didn't have and I was very much envious of that because they could obtain freedom from the fear of absolute destruction, a freedom from fear of death, a freedom from the emptiness and loneliness that I couldn't see past as an atheist.

On my journey from a strong Atheist to a follower of Christ there were four things I had to overcome.

1. I had to understand the fallibility of science.
2. I had to unlearn all the lies that were taught to me by Atheists and the world about faith in God.
3. I had to understand myself and where I sat morally.
4. I had to understand what on earth these Christians were talking about.

I think the hardest of these for me, ironically is the one that should have been the easiest. By it's very nature science is fallible. It is merely the concept of experimentation and theory based on that experimentation. It holds no values, nor is it steadfast. Science at any particular point is merely a snapshot of the most reasonable peer reviewed explanation for events as they occur at any particular moment in time. At any moment a single repeatable experiment that can be certified and accredited can break steadfast theories that are relied on for entire scientific fields. It is the very pinnacle of instability. Scientists revel in this instability yet ironically rely on the world's trust in its reliability. After all who would invest in a technology if they were uncertain that it would work the next day?

When I first joined the church I agreed to take part in a discipleship course and it was through the continued and consistent effort on my part and on the part of my wife, and my pastor, along with attending church services and bible study that after many hours I was able to learn what it was to be a born again Christian, at least in theory.

This lead me to I consider my morality on a secular level, and how that didn't fit in with the picture that discipleship and the Bible was painting around me. I thought in particular about the inequality of resources in the world and how, while we live in effective luxury in the west, a lot more people live in malnutrition or worse starvation in the third world. It occurred to me at the reason that a lot of the false religions so readily advocate support is more because of the huge disparity of resources between the first and the third world. We’re told by political leaders that they hate us because of our political ideals, while in reality it’s probably that they think we’re evil because we steal all the worlds resources and waste them so readily.

I thought about what it was that was stopping me from helping these people. I’d had enough money in the past to afford trips across the other side of the world. So distance was no excuse. I imagined what it would be like if these starving people were here, lying in the street, and how I would walk past them, looking down saying how unfortunate it is for them while I eat my Big Mac. Of course there are homeless people living near where I live, and while the local government can sweep them out of the way in more rural areas, there were definitely occasions in the past where I had literally done this. I had literally stepped over the poor usually while shopping for something I didn't need and wouldn't really want a few weeks later.

I thought about this a bit more and I realised why it was that I wasn't spending all my time and resources helping the poor. It was because of my greed. I was so selfish and greedy that I was literally content to watch people starve to death because I didn't want to sacrifice my quality of life. Just because everybody else does it around me doesn't give me moral values. It means I’m just as evil as they are. Once I realised where I stood morally I understood that I needed that Hope of Salvation.

It was just then a matter of time, while I continued to witness the love shown by the people in the church, the efficacy of prayer and eventually and ultimately the witnessing the joy and renewal that comes through the obedience of baptism that I was able to open the door and accept Christ in my heart.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Marriage

One of my work colleagues got married last Saturday. I don't often talk about marriage, but I think maybe it's time that I should, especially in the light of the government's actions to try and change what marriage is. Marriage by far the most glorious gift that God gives us in this life. It stems from the original marriage, between Adam and Eve. Eve was created from Adam, and thus she is part of him. For them to be complete they were given this Holy Union. They were given Holy titles: "Husband" and "Wife". These are sacred terms that should be respected as such. The Holy Union they were given was a commitment for life. That commitment gives it almighty strength, it means that they will be together, no matter what, for the rest of their natural lives. With that commitment together they have security, comfort, trust, understanding, respect, support, and utmost love. Indeed, the love felt within a marriage shows us the love that God feels for us. It may pale in comparison to His love but it is still overwhelmingly glorious in the dark sinful world that we live in. Marriage works because men and women have different strengths. Men are better at toiling away from the home, and bringing home supplies. Women are better suited as the matron, nurturing the children and maintaining the household. Together, they raise strong and healthy children for another generation. The marriage is itself a symbiotic relationship of those two character strengths creating a union that is much stronger than the sum of both parts. When a man and a woman are married they were no longer the son or daughter, they are the head a of a new household and a new family. Two men living together, or two women living together won't work in the same way. They can't naturally reproduce, and if it weren't for the abundance of organisation in modern civilization they wouldn't be able to adopt. But what makes it less like a marriage is that two men or two women don't have the complimentary diversity in character strengths that a man and a woman naturally have. Polygamous relationships, typically where there is one man and many women, don't work in the same way because there is not that same ratio of character strengths that there one in a monogamous relationship. A "common law marriage" won't work in the same way either because that is just being boyfriend and girlfriend, which only has a vague promise of commitment until someone else better comes along. Even a couple that is engaged doesn't have that relationship because they have not yet made their sacred vows to commit to live together for the rest of their natural lives. Marriage is a wonderful, amazing blessing that should be protected. A wife is God's most precious gift that a man can have in this world while he is living in it; just as a wife's most precious gift from God is a loving husband, because together they are one.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Nature

Before I was born again I saw nature as an imperfect image. I looked at the plants and the animals that are full of such beauty and saw chaos. It was a mess of evolutionary decay. A series of mistakes that just happened to survive through millions of failed mutations. An imperfect world that had no meaning. I only saw order in purity of mathematics and in the machines we created to bring about that mathematical purity into our reality. Today I look with joy at the same plants and animals and see an intelligent designer that gives everything meaning and despite the same apparent chaos I see order through design. I realise that the reason I saw chaos before is I was I misinterpreted. This wasn't mathematical design I was looking at. This was art.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Anniversary

A year ago on our 9th wedding anniversary we had lunch with a wonderful married missionary couple that introduced us to the church we eventually became so involved with and are now very much a part of. The Liles explained to us their absolute belief in the validity of the Bible, and what it meant to be born again. At the time I was what I would describe as quite a militant atheist. I'd lived my life under the belief that there was no God and that the Bible was entirely fictional. However, over the space of a few short weeks in the presence of Bible believing Christians I was convinced that the Bible was true and that I needed Christ in my life.

So what convinced me as a Bachelor of Science that this 2000 year old book was the truth and God is real?

I can point to a number of reasons as to why I was convinced that being born again was necessary in my life. However those are not evidence of my faith, only of my disillusionment with my secular lifestyle once I was exposed to the joy, safety and warmth of the lifestyle brought about by being born again; and an understanding that my personal view on morality is subjective, because conceptually God's morality is steadfast.

I can also point to the fact that I have personally experienced prayers being answered. Although I would have to admit scientifically that these are extremely subtle in their appearance and could easily be explained as an attentional bias.

My faith is truly based around my understanding of what God is and a metaphysical belief in that understanding. God's existence is in my view a scientific hypothesis that theorises that He is the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent creator of the universe. Not only did he create time and space, but He planned out the quantum state of every single particle at every single moment of time in the existence of the universe. This means that God has the power to conceivably do absolutely anything. If this theory is correct then it means it undermines the foundation that science is built on. If there is no control, because it can be manipulated on the subatomic level by God then it means that all scientific experimentation is meaningless. It means that God can create a virgin birth to send himself in the form of Christ. It means He can give everyone a soul at conception. It means He can have everything planned out and the same time give us freewill. It means He can grant us Grace from our sin. It also means He can give us eternal life if we have faith in Him. In my mind God can be thought of as causality, albeit an intelligent causality, but also as a being with emotions that we can relate to, with His love and His wrath both being absolute. All these things can be conceivable if this hypothesis is true, and everything in the Bible can be true.

While a metaphysical belief in a God hypothesis means that the Bible can be the truth, it still doesn't necessarily mean that it is the truth. So why do I believe that the Bible is true? Especially given there are so many other texts that claim to be the truth.

It is true to say that I have been exposed primarily to the Bible and not any other texts. However from my limited understanding of other texts the logic behind their fundamental reason behind our faith is being able to perform good deeds while we're here on earth. And then when we die we are judged based on the things we've done. The Bible gives an entirely different message from this. It says that eternal life is a gift offered to us by faith and faith alone because Christ died for us on the cross. This in my mind makes more sense because it emphasises the magnitude and disparity of our disposition in relation to God. Anything that claims our condition is effectively more powerful than God’s undermines the omnipotence of God and therefore does not correlate to the hypothesis of His existence.

I also have to look at the secular argument. As they move away from Biblical morality their motivation is to create and improve society that exists without God. They generally therefore attribute progressive liberalism to be an improvement to society. The main driving forces being concepts like equality and environmentalism are because they claim to know better than any ancient texts. After all what is the harm in sex without marriage for the purpose of procreation if God doesn’t exist? What is the harm in murdering babies in the womb if there is no soul to worry about?

This secular enlightenment movement really is a misdemeanour. There are consequences for actions even if they are under the illusion that there aren’t. Clearly we have so many more broken homes today in an age that supports single parenthood as a normal and morally unquestioned lifestyle. Clearly we undermine biological procreation if we allow for homosexual relationships to be morally the norm. Clearly we undermine nature if we interfere with IVF technology, contraception and abortion. We only need to look at the depopulation in Japan and their breakdown of nurturing children into healthy natural relationships to see the consequences of unhealthy sexuality in a society. Somehow they have manipulated society into believing that not only is this liberalism the way forward, but they have convinced an entire generation that there are no consequences for their actions. In less than two decades we have gone from a society in the UK that would have politicians forced to resign if they were caught engaged in sex outside of marriage in whatever form to a society that sanctions and welcomes that conduct.

This progressive secularism that atheists purport to be the way forward is fundamentally broken in concept and in reality. The idea that the way we have been doing things for hundreds of years is wrong, is laughable, because we wouldn't have been able to continue existence as a society if we had always thought of sex as merely a recreational pursuit.

Of course even the fact that in my mind secularism is philosophically and morally bankrupt it still doesn't answer the question of why I believe in God when so many others don't. When put simply the reason I think that I believe in God and the Bible is because I choose to do so. The choice to be made is believing in an old dead universe or a new living universe, that of being the optimist or the pessimist, to chose eternal life, or a short meaningless empty existence. I choose life, not because it has any more or less scientific credibility but because I can. And that wonderful ability is in itself a testament.