Watch Aaron in the film Holy Wars

Friday, November 24, 2006

Why should I be interested in God?

I would like to share an insight that I must admit does not come from my own ingenuity (which should come as a surprise to no one). I have my friend Rudy Tan, a British Christian, to thank for this one.

Why should I be interested in God when God is associated with people who don't like me?

Let me repeate this one more time so that my Christians friends will not miss the point.

Why should I be interested in God when God is associated with people who don't like me?

That was Rudy's response when I asked him why so few young people in his country were interested in church. I was rather shocked when I walked around one day asking young people where I could find a particular church and most of them looked at me like they didn't even know what a church was. According to Rudy, there is a huge generation gap between the older people and the younger people in British society. Young people are viewed as wild, rebellious, and destructive-not the kind of people that dignified church folks would like to have around in the Lord's house.

I realize it may look like I am flip-flopping on this one, but I really do believe that churches should provide a way for young people to express themselves in ways that are meaningful to them. The issue, though, is much deeper than the style of music and the way the preacher dresses. The issue is a matter of the heart.

Let me repeat one more time what unchurched people are telling us church going folks:

Why should I be interested in God when God is associated with people who don't like me?

Now let me add a little of my own insight...(yes, it does happen from time to time)

How could I like someone without seeing good in them?

14 comments:

Pete said...

Welcome to the current generation's philosophy. Why should I do something that isn't popular? It's funny that the mentality is to shun anything popular, but in doing so there is a new popular culture that everyone follows. I will stick my neck out here and say that there is a much larger underlying problem. Through pop culture and the lack of fathers in the home, kids are growing up with no back bone more and more. They simply aren't willing to stand for something that may leave them standing alone. However, I'm not excusing the church from trying to reach them on their level.
Pete

Aaron D. Taylor said...

Pete,

Pete, I don't disagree with what you're saying, but I'm not sure what your response has to do with what I am saying. What I am saying is that we Christians need to change the way we view the lost. We are commanded by Jesus to love everyone, but how can we love someone (much less like someone) if we don't see any goodness in them?

Elijah said...

Romans 3:
9What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10as it is written:

"None is righteous, no, not one;
11no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one."
13"Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive."
"The venom of asps is under their lips."
14"Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness."
15"Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16in their paths are ruin and misery,
17and the way of peace they have not known."
18"There is no fear of God before their eyes."


19Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.



I believe that this negates the theory that ther is "good" in everyone. Arminius was wrong.

Aaron D. Taylor said...

Elijah. Your response is exactly what I was expecting,
Romans 3 is a description of man in his natural state apart from the grace of God.

Would you say that fallen man is entirely incapable of doing what is right (which would be goodness)? If so, you may want to read John 1:9 and Romans chapter 2 (Some gentiles by nature do what is right). These verses would be barely scratching the surface of what I am trying to say. I'm not saying that good works are enough to save, nor am I saying that the goodness in fallen man is good enough to meet God's perfect requirements. What I am saying is that the belief that only Christians are capable of goodness is neither scripturally nor experientially credible.

Elijah said...

12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good, not even one."

It would appear then, that Paul contradicts himself?

Romans 3 is a description of man, period. God's grace has been here since the beginning, therefore the prophets wrote these passages about man under grace.
If good works cannot save, and the goodness of fallen man is not good enough, then what is the point?
Whether or not Christians are the only ones capable of goodness, is irrelavant. All men need salvation. The fall was total.

Pete said...

Aaron,
I understood exactly what you're saying, but I took a look a little deeper into the problem. You see, we can see that there is a problem and try to fix it, but unless we understand why the problem arose, our fix will simply be inadequate. It's much like noticing that your front right tire is very worn and needs replacing, but when a mechanic looks at that, he understands that the underlying issue is the alignment of the car being off. First we must understand them, then we can adjust our approach.
Pete
P.S. Elijah, I'm having trouble understanding how you can say that there isn't good in everyone. Being a creation of God, that sounds an awful lot like you're saying that God made something that is without worth. I don't believe that He does that.
Also I would like to point out that the first 11 chapters of Romans are inducive- purposefully raising exactly the questions that you are asking. Chapter 12 on is how Paul addresses the issues raised. That's at least, how the scholars approach it, and I have to agree with them on this one.

Elijah said...

The first eleven chapters are foundational. They are not a “leading argument". From 12 to the end is how we live it out. Paul does this in just about every letter he wrote. I also view the Bible as if God wrote it with His own hand.

Of course God did not create anything that was inherently without worth. This was caused through the fall, which is complete.


I am saying that outside of God no one is good.

Luke 18:
18And a ruler asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 19And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'" 21And he said, "All these I have kept from my youth." 22When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." 23But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24Jesus, looking at him with sadness, said, "How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." 26Those who heard it said, "Then who can be saved?" 27But he said, "What is impossible with men is possible with God."



Also “good works “ in, and of themselves, are worthless, unless they are the predetermined good works of faith that only the regenerate are able to do.


Matthew 5:
43"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


Eph 2:

8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.


James 2:

14What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?

18But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
26For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.


My point then is, our “good works” do not reflect “goodness”
(Matthew 7:11a; 11 (“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,”)
. So how can this be a common ground for evangelizing? I did not come to faith until I knew that even my best will never be good enough. I do not see the apostles and prophets, or Jesus Himself struggling over how to approach sinners. The rich young ruler would always lack something. Erven those who are capable of loving their own and doing occasional good will never cut it. We are called to a transcendant life which can only be lived through Christ in us. The “Sermon on the Mount” tells me that I am most assuredly damned as I can never live the life described there by myself. In fact Paul’s statements in Romans 5 and 6 tell me that He must live and I have assuredly died, else none of Christ’s commandments could be kept.
Matthew 28: 19-20

Pete said...

Elijah,
I actually believe that the first 11 chapters are the "leading argument" or the "questions" and the following chapters are the "answers". Sorry, it's what I've been taught and it makes sense to me. YMMV
I think you stated it well that even you're very best does not cut it without Christ. I would agree that even your best WITH Christ does not cut it. You are every bit as undeserving as you were before with the only difference being that you have been forgiven. That is unless you lead a perfect life now that you are saved. It hasn't worked that way for me though. I think that the "goodness" in people that we must see is their inherent ability to love once they have been shown love. Everyone has the potential to be a great Christian once they have been shown the grace and love of God,understand it, and accept it. The "good" therefore is their potential to have a life/world changing relationship with God. I think that is what God himself sees in "them" and that is what we must see if we are to love.
If you don't see that Jesus ever struggled to approach sinners, it's probably because he didn't. He DID however, change his approach so that it would be more effective to the audience and I think that is the essence of what Aaron is trying to say. Jesus was a genius of knowing his crowd and was a very adaptive speaker. A broad approach that says each sinner can be reached and taught in the same way is foolish in my mind.
Oh well, I'm chasing rabbits now.
Pete

Aaron D. Taylor said...

Thank you Pete and Elijah. This is the discussion that I have been wanting to have.

Elijah, I do not dispute that man in his natural state is totally depraved. What I am contending for is that God has left no man to his natural state. The Bible says that Jesus is "the true light which lighteth every man coming into the world." Jesus also said, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself." God's grace is present everywhere drawing people to Himself. This is why even Gentiles outside the covenant can "by nature do what is right."

Paul is not contradicting himself. Romans 1 gives one side of the story (fallen man is wicked), Romans 2 gives the other side (some do what is right by nature, even those outside of the realm of special revelation), Romans 3 tells us that all, whether Jew or Gentiles are sinners, and have not obeyed the law perfectly,
Romans 4 emphasizes that God has provided righteousness apart from works, and Romans 5 emphasizes that Christ's obedience is far more effective in justifying "all men" than is Adam's sin to condemn "all men". (Read Romans 5 carefully, you may find a few surprises)

Ultimately, all of us are responsible for the light that we have. We do not have to see ourselves as the only ones who can "by nature do what is right" to maintain the essentials of the Christian faith. Yes Elijah, I agree. No one can be good without God. Even the "goodness" that I maintain fallen man is capable of can only be because of God and His loving grace.

Elijah said...

Romans is the "courtroom" so to speak; so all objections to leading arguments and leading questions are "sustained". Such argumentation is not allowed. Therefore 1-11 are foundation (evidence) i.e. absolute, immutable truth, and 12 through the close are how we are to live out this truth.
This leads me to Aaron's statement that Romans 3 is speaking of man in his natural state and men no longer reside in their natural state. Where does it say this?
Romans 3 is speaking of post-fall man since Paul and the prophets he quotes wrote post-fall. If they are speaking of a state which does not even exist, then why bring it up at all?
All men are not saved. All men will not choose Christ. I do not adhere to the idea of prevenient grace.
Romans 1 is speaking of all non-Jews, none are righteous. All are without excuse.. Romans 2 is speaking of the Jews, to Jews. None are righteous. All are without excuse.
Therefore in the reference to gentiles having the Law written on their hearts, he is talking about the gentiles who are saved by grace through faith which, is why he later gets into Abraham and the post circumcision belief in chapter 4 and the whole issue of a Jewish remnant in 9-10-11.The remnant of Jews are those who come in like the gentiles, by grace alone, through faith alone, i.e. just as Abraham did who is the spiritual father of all who come into the Kingdom. Therefore Israel are all who come to Christ in this way.
No man has ever kept the Law perfectly and fulfilled it, save Jesus of Nazareth. Therefore men were not keeping the Law before Christ came. All have sinned and fall short. That is the current condition of all men, until Christ and His atoning death which we participate in; because one died, all died. This is not metaphor. We reckon ourselves to be dead because we literally are. (logizomai in the Greek; Romans 6:1-11) This is the point of 5-6-7-8
Jesus said” if I be lifted up” The condition is, that He must be lifted up. That does not speak of just the actual moment of crucifixion. It is as Paul states elsewhere, I preach Christ and Him crucified. That is the lifting up which is performed by the Church. Therefore only those who hear the Word will come to faith. (Romans 10:17)
Men are not “predisposed” to salvation. No man seeks God. This is why Romans 3 is part of the letter.
So the original issue of good works is moot. Jesus said in Matthew 5 that even the
Gentiles and sinners are capable of loving their own. That is no evidence that they will come to Christ.
All must be shown of their need for salvation outside of their “surface goodness”.
The issue is natural man vs. God, not sins vs. good works.

Aaron D. Taylor said...

Elijah,

I agree that the Gentiles in Romans chapter 2 were saved by grace through faith, but, have you thought through the implications of this? Paul is referring to Gentiles outside the realm of special revelation. He is not referring to Christians living under the New Covenant. Is God somehow less merciful after Easter than He was before?

Also, I think you are playing scriptural gymnastics by interpreting John throught the lens of Paul. The "If I be lifted up" passage should be taken in its own context, not imposed upon by an outside passage that has its own context.

It's been fun discussing this with you. I appreciate you reading my blog. Friends?

Pete said...

Agree to disagree.

Elijah said...

Of course.
I hope that I did not give the impression that I was being antagonistic.

My thought is that all scripture is interpreted in the light of the whole Bible. I do not apply Jesus' words separate from Paul. It is all God's speaking. It all fits together.
I also do not see that scripture apply only to their specific times and cultures. The Word is living and active.
Are you sure Paul was not referring to christians under the new covenenat?
I am not aware of scripture teaching that salvation occurs outside of Christ.

Aaron D. Taylor said...

Elijah,

Thank you for your question. Now we are getting somewhere. Yes, I am sure that Paul is not referring to Christians living under the New Covenant in Romans chapter 2. He is describing those outside the realm of specific revelation.

Notice he says in verse 14 "for when gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law unto themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts." This could not possibly be a reference to Christians under the New Covenant because we have a revelation of the law. Not only are we aware of the Law on Mount Sinai, but we also have the Law of Christ specifically revealed to us (as in the Sermon on the Mount).

Paul is referring to Gentiles under the Old Covenant who did not have the law (unlike the Jews) but they obeyed the law anyway. (Notice he said, they did so "by nature") Based on verses 7-9 of the same chapter, I would agree that these Gentiles were saved by faith on the basis of what Christ would do for them in the future. So, they were not saved without Christ. They were, however, saved by their faith which was expressed in the moral lives that they lived. These same Gentiles would have certainly believed in Christ had they been given the opportunity (but, hence, they couldn't because Christ hadn't come yet).

The question is-can such an arrangement be made today for those who live outside the realm of specific revelation? Aka..those who have never heard. The Bible doesn't give a definitive answer on this, but it would be very strange if God were less merciful after the cross than He was before, especially in the light of the fact that Jesus is the propitiation "not only for our sins (the Church), but for the sins of the whole world."