googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word

Thursday, October 5, 2017

A Friendly Atheist Has 78 Questions for Christians: Part 2

Hemant Mehta describes himself as a friendly atheist. In his video, 78 Questions for Christians, he groups the questions according to subject. The first section dealt with heaven and hell. The next section deals with prayer. I've numbered the questions according to how Mehta numbered them but I've rearranged them in my answer.

10) Whose prayers does God answer?
11) And if it's ultimately God's will what happens, why even bother praying?

We can see from the questions that Mehta has a very rudimentary understanding of what prayer is. For example, what does it mean for God to “answer” a prayer? Judging by the Mehta's list of questions about prayer, Mehta certainly believes “prayer” means “asking God for things” and “answered prayer” means “God gives you what you ask.” I could paraphrase the two questions above as:

Who gets what he asks?
If nobody gets what he asks, why even bother praying?

It sounds a little shallow when I phrase it like that, doesn't it? That's because it is shallow. Mehta has caste God as a year 'round Santa Claus and, every day, we get to tell Him what we want in our stocking. Just think about this: what kind of relationship would you have with your child if he only ever talked to you when he wanted something? And if you didn't do everything he asks, he would stop talking to you? If my children were like that, I'd be both very hurt and very angry. Yet this is apparently how Mehta thinks our relationship with God should be. I've written about this before, people have a false idea of who God is, then claim He must not exist because they can't find a god who acts like they imagined.

Jesus gave His disciples a model of prayer, often called the Lord's Prayer. He said, “Pray like this....” If you examine the prayer, you'll see that includes things like acknowledging God as our Father, praising Him, desiring His will to be done, and asking Him to forgive our sins and keep us away from temptations. Of course, we do also ask Him to help meet our needs – our “daily bread” - but Metha seems to think that's all prayer is.

Have you ever heard the child's prayer of grace? “God is great, God is good. Thank you, Lord, for this food.” What a wonderful prayer! Praise – thanksgiving – adoration – all presented in a few simple words. If all Christians prayed like this – praising God, seeking His will, asking for forgiveness and seeking His guidance – then revival would break out in America.

James 4:3 says, Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. I know I'm not a model Christian so I can't say my prayer life is where it should be. But if I spent all my prayer time telling God what I want Him to do for me, I would feel more spoiled than edified. Unfortunately, too many Christians spend their prayer time focusing more on themselves than God.

8) If your son or daughter were dying – and I hope that never happens – would you just pray for them or would you take them to a doctor?
9) And if you say you'd do both, which one do you think has more of an impact?

Unfortunately, my son and daughter are dying. My step sons are dying, too. My wife is dying. My mother and siblings are dying. My wife's family is dying. I'm dying. Everyone reading my blog is dying. Romans 5:12 says, Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. It's not a question of if you're dying – it's only a question of when. And, yes, prayer is THE most important thing I can do for my children, my spouse, my family, and my readers – especially if death is imminent. It's my prayer that they will all seek Christ, ask for His forgiveness, accept Him as their Lord, and be saved.

If my child were sick or hurt, yes, I'd take him to the doctor. I would pray that God would help him recover, that He would give the doctors and nurses wisdom, that He would give my son comfort, and give me peace. Above all this, though, I pray that my son comes to Christ. Let's face it, doctors can't stave off death forever. One day death will claim everyone I love and, at that time, all the doctors in the world are useless. But if my prayers have been answered, then they will have had an infinitely greater impact.

12) If you have cancer right now, what's going to help you more: drugs or prayer?
13) Let's say you have an amputated limb. Would prayer ever bring it back?

Several years ago, I wrote a series in response to the video, “Why Won't God Heal Amputees?” Certainly, Jesus is able to heal us. Luke 22:50-51 tells us that Jesus healed the ear of Malchus after Peter had cut it off with a sword so I know that Jesus is able to heal even a severed limb. It's just that I don't expect Him to miraculously heal people today like He did during His ministry.

Jesus overtly said that He did miracles to demonstrate His authority. In Mark 2:1-12, Jesus healed a paralyzed man to prove He had the authority to forgive sins. In John 11, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead to show Martha that He is the resurrection and the life. When Jesus appointed His disciples, He gave them the ability to perform miracles including healing the sick and raising the dead (Matthew 10:7-8). This was to show their authority to preach in God's name. But now we have the Scriptures to evidence His authority and the need for miracles has passed.

Jesus has promised us an eternity where there is no more pain or sorrow or death but paradise is not on this earth nor in these bodies. This is a cursed world where there is sickness and disease. Does Metha think we should be able to pray and no one should ever die or even get sick? I guess he does. Like I said, he has a very rudimentary understanding of prayer.

16) If you had an exam coming up, what do you think would help you more: prayer or studying for the test?

Heck, why even bother with school – or even a job? I could just stay home and pray that God mails me a paycheck! Really, Metha? God never commanded us to do nothing. In fact, He condemns laziness. Matthew 5:16 says, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. We should strive to be the hardest workers, the best students, the friendliest neighbors, etc. And, yes, we should seek God's help while doing this. There's an old saying that says we should work like it depends on us and pray like it depends on Him!

18) What matters to God more: the quantity of prayers or the quality of prayers?
19) If it's the quantity that matters, how come the most popular team doesn't always win the Super Bowl?
20) And if it's the quality that matters, how come people we really love, people who are close to us, how come they die no matter what we say to God?
21) Is it possible that your prayers have no supernatural effect and only serve to make you feel better?
22) And if that were true, would you ever admit it?

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “pray without ceasing.” If you were to walk through the mall with your spouse or drive down the road with your child, wouldn't you talk to them? Well, we're never truly alone because God is always with us so I try to talk to God just like that – like He's sitting there next to me. I tell Him I love Him. I thank Him for all He does for me. I tell Him about things I struggle with and ask for His guidance.

I believe that, as we draw closer to God, His will becomes our will. When that happens, we worry less about how things affect us. When things are going well, some Christians will say, “God is blessing me.” When things aren't going well, some Christians will say, “God is testing me.” I think if we prayed like we should, more Christians would start to say, “It's not about me.”

Lord, help my team win the Super Bowl. Don't let anyone in my family get sick or die. That's how a 5-year-old prays.

O Lord, I come to You with praise. You alone are good. You alone are worthy to be worshiped. Let me know Your will and give me the strength to be obedient. Forgive my sins and let me rest in Your mercies. Let me trust in You for everything I need and let my thanksgiving never end! Amen! These are the kinds of prayers that get answered!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

We don't have a gun problem, we have a sin problem!

I'm taking a break from my series to make a few comments about the shooting in Las Vegas. First, I join with the millions who are praying for the victims. I pray for the families of those who were killed and I pray for speedy recoveries for all those who were injured.

After a tragedy, there is, of course, a time of grief and confusion. People struggle to understand what caused this and seek some way to prevent anything like this from happening again. As usual, even before the sun had set on the tragedy, many on the left were saying guns are the problem.

I must say, I can see the lure of wanting to ban guns. It seems to be such a simple solution: take away all the guns and there can be no more gun crime. The reality of a ban, though, is far from simple. Think about Prohibition, when we tried to ban alcohol. How did that go?

We can always pass more laws, hire more police, build more prisons, and give up more liberties. We could live in a police state. Even then, though, there would still be brutal men who steal, rape, and kill. It's what people do. It's part of our fallen condition – our sin nature.

Robert Charles Winthrop said, Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled, either by a power within them, or by a power without them; either by the word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible, or by the bayonet.

If men lived only according to their passions, there is no police force great enough to restrain them.  We don't have a gun problem, we have a sin problem. I would like to see less calls for stricter laws and more prayers for revival!

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

Please, Lord, let it be! Amen!

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Friendly Atheist Has 78 Questions for Christians: Part 1

Like I said in my introduction to this series, I'm not going to write a point by point reply to every question Hemant Mehta asks in his video. Several of the questions seem to be making the same point and Mehta did a good job of grouping together questions that deal with similar subjects. The first several questions he asks deal with who is in heaven or hell.

1) Is Anne Frank burning in hell right now?
2) How about Mahatma Gandhi?
5) Should a kindhearted atheist be forced to go burn in hell for all eternity?
6) What about any, non-Christian, good person? Should they be burning in hell?

I dealt with this subject about a year ago in a post titled, Will “good” unbelievers go to hell? Mehta is committing the logical fallacy of appealing to emotion by making God seem unfair for sending “good” unbelievers to hell. Such questions do nothing to establish the existence (or non-existence) of God. What, God must be imaginary because He's mean? You can see how that doesn't work. Critics ask these questions for the sole purpose of trying to make Christians feel uncomfortable. They are not arguments for the correctness of atheism.

Besides their weak footing in logic, the other flaw in these types of questions is that there really is no such thing as a “good” person. Ray Comfort has a ministry called, Way of the Master, where he witnesses to people on the street. His approach is to ask a person if considers himself to be a good person. Most will say, yes. Then he asks the person to judge himself according to the 10 commandments. He will say, for example, “Is it wrong to tell a lie? Have you ever told a lie? What do you call someone who lies? Then by your own admission, you're a liar!” People lust. People steal. People envy. People hate. Even an atheist will say it's wrong to do these things yet he still does them. On what grounds does he consider anyone good?

Also, people often use extreme examples to excuse the average. Maybe Gandhi was a good person according to earthly standards – but does the critic believe he's as good as Gandhi? Probably not. So ask the critic, “You're not as good as Gandhi, are you? If God were to judge you fairly, according to the 10 commandments, do you think you'd be guilty?” Atheists know they're guilty and they desperately want to believe there is no God who will judge them.

Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Like it or not, the truth is exclusive. Everyone faces the same fate – a grave. Everyone also has the same opportunity – eternal life through Jesus Christ. You can pout all you want about it not being fair, that doesn't change the reality of it.

3) Is Fred Phelps in heaven because he believed in the divinity of Jesus?
4) Should a killer who genuinely repents be able to go to heaven?

Just as the questions above, these questions also use the same weak approach of questioning the fairness of God – this time, for God forgiving people who are bad by earthly standards. I've written about this same point before too. And, like above, Mehta is using extreme examples to marginalize the average.

God forgives sin. That's good news! And if we repent of our sins and accept Jesus as our Savior, our sins will be forgiven! That's the gospel. Why does Mehta worry about the murderers? What sins has he committed? Shouldn't he worry about those sins? It's easy to point to someone worse than you and say, “Well, I'm better than him?” What, you think God shouldn't judge you because he's a murderer and you're just a liar? You should rejoice that God can forgive every sin, including yours. God forgives teens who disobey their parents and and men who look at pornography and people who cheat on their taxes and women who have had abortions and husbands who divorce their wives and people who spend time on FaceBook when their employers are paying them to work.

Isaiah 1:18 says, Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.” Why would someone scoff because God can forgive a person who's “really bad”? Instead, we should rejoice that God can forgive even you!

As for Fred Phelps, Jesus said that not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord,” will enter heaven (Matthew 7:21). In that same chapter, He told us that we can judge people by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-20, et al). The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Galatians 5:22-23). I can't say that we saw this fruit in Phelps which makes me wonder if he really was a Christian.

Maybe Phelps believed Jesus was God. But James 2:19 correctly points out that even demons believe in God so simply believing in God isn't enough for salvation. Jesus also has to be our Lord. Did Phelps accept Jesus as his Lord? It doesn't seem like it. In Luke 6:46, Jesus asked, “Why do you call me Lord and not do the things which I say?” It all goes back to judging people by their fruits. People should see Christ in us. If they don't, maybe it's because Christ isn't in us.

At the end of the day, though, it's not me who must decide if Phelps is in heaven. It is God who searches the hearts and knows who will be rewarded and who will be condemned (1 Chronicles 28:9).

7) Would you be happy in heaven if someone you loved was in hell?

Revelation 20 talks about a grim event commonly called, the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev 20:11-15), where those people who rejected Christ in life will be judged according to their works. If they thought they were “good,” this will be their chance to prove it. Verse 12 says their works will be judged according to the things written in “the books” - which I believe are the books of the Bible. Every lie the person told, every careless act, every evil thought will testify to his guilt. It says also that another book will be opened, the Book of Life. Every Christian's name is in the book and every sinner who's name is not written in that book will be cast into the Lake of Fire.

No, I will not be happy seeing this happen – especially to someone I love. Knowing this is their fate should make us try all the more to reach them. Charles Spurgeon said:

If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Friendly Atheist Has 78 Questions for Christians: Introduction

There's a YouTube channel called, The Atheist Voice, hosted by a guy named, Hemant Mehta. He calls himself, “The Friendly Atheist” and he really is kind of friendly. I say, “kind of” because he still uses a lot of the same, frustrating arguments that other atheists use – like creationists don't believe evolution because they don't understand it – but he's much less snarky and condescending than the truly obnoxious atheists like Dawkins and Nye.

I knew that friendly atheists exist because a frequent visitor to my blog, Steven J, is one. Even so, they're sometimes hard to find. According to a recent Gallup poll, only 10% of Americans don't believe in God. Many of them are just your average Joe who may be a neighbor or coworker but they aren't militant about their atheism. It's only those atheists who are very vocal about it, like starting a blog or having a YouTube channel discussing atheism, who are confrontational so these are the ones that seem to represent the group.

I like to watch videos made by atheists. Well, maybe I don't actually like to but you could say it's part of the job. If I want to change the mind of an atheist or evolutionist, I have to really understand what he's thinking. The problem is that too many atheists' videos are posted by the militant, smarmy kind of atheist and their condescending tone, incessant insults, and frequent use of profanity make the videos uninteresting and difficult to sit through. Mehta, however, besides being friendly, is also articulate and sums up typical atheists' arguments fairly well. Most of his arguments aren't original (which is fine) but he presents them concisely and it's much easier to listen to him than many of his partners in crime.

Anyway, Mehta has one video titled, 78 Questions for Christians. Kudos to him for not calling it, “78 Questions Christians can't answer” or something like that. I've always been annoyed by titles like that – not just because they're incredibly presumptuous but I have yet to see such an article that lives up to its title. Of course, even though Mehta didn't say these questions have no answers, he clearly seems to think they are difficult to answer. His motive appears to be to make Christians uncomfortable which might lead them to question their beliefs. It's a common tactic.

Since I'm all about defending the faith, my first thought was to do a series answering all 78 questions. Then reality smacked me on the forehead. There's no way I'm going to write a 78-posts-long series. Still, he does have some interesting points I'd like to discuss. Instead of a point by point reply, I'm going to address his questions in general. Several of the questions he asks make duplicate points anyway so I can answer many of the duplicates with a single post. I can probably get cover the video pretty well in about 6 posts. We'll see.

Answering the questions will begin in my next post but here is some food for thought about the series: First, it's not unusual for someone, especially a lay person, to not understand everything about a subject. If someone isn't able to calculate the acceleration rate of a falling object, for example, that's not evidence against gravity! Likewise, if a Christian isn't sure how to answer some critic, it's not evidence against Christianity.

Next, some of Mehta's questions are pointless or are poorly premised. Think about the old, gag question, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” To say either yes or no condemns the person who answers. The correct response is point out that the premise of the question is flawed: “Your question assumes that I used to beat my wife.” When engaging with a critic, don't get trapped by their logical fallacies.

Finally, I want to be clear that the point of me doing this is as much about equipping saints as it is about answering critics. We are commanded to study (2 Tim 2:15) and to be ready to give an answer (1 Pet 3:15). The questions Mehta asks are the same questions atheists ask all the time. Mehta is trying to provoke us to doubt but some unbelievers ask these questions in earnest. They want to know, for example, if God would send “good” people to hell. If you can give well thought out answers to their questions, they may be more open to accepting Christ.

Keep checking back for part 1!!