On prosperity theology

Even in the case that prosperity theology is true, then I still do not see how the believer is left with a reason to “chase God’s blessing.”

If the truth is that obedience to God will attract material blessing towards you, then this could only be a reason precisely not to chase wealth. For “it will chase you.”

The believer’s only task, then, would be to simply obey God by being generous towards others with their wealth.

It seems to me that any person who is storing up for themselves treasures on earth is not living a life that is consistent with prosperity theology.

A Quick Thought on Abortion

There are many arguments given for the permissibility of abortion. Most of them seem to be concerned with the rights of the mother to have control over what happens to her body. I personally find these arguments to be callously cold and inhumane in their thinking towards unborn children. However there are also some arguments that appeal to the rights of the unborn child – the right not to live a life that would not be worth living.

This kind argument came out pretty loud this week with Richard Dawkins’ tweets saying that it would be “immoral” to bring a child into the world if you knew it had Down’s syndrome. I take it that he is not worried about the child being more of a cost than a benefit to society – I think he is worried about the suffering the child is expected to go through if it is allowed to be born and grow up. Of course, this argument isn’t limited to concerns about children with Down’s syndrome but extends to other diseases, as well as socio-economic conditions that would mean the parent is unable to provide what we might consider an adequate life for the child.

I just think this is the most absurd argument; it surely cannot stand up to scrutiny. Here’s what I don’t understand. We’re saying that it would be cruel to bring into the world a child whose life would be so full of suffering that it wouldn’t be worth living, right? Have we ever thought of asking the children what they want? Well of course, the children we’re talking about can’t speak; they’re fetuses. But we can speak to the millions of people who have been born with diseases, or born into poverty, and have grown up into adults. Here’s what’s so remarkable: there are millions of these people whose lives pro-abortionists say would are not worth living, and yet for some reason, the overwhelming majority of them choose to continue to live. Don’t you think that’s noteworthy? I mean, if their lives really were so much more painful than they were pleasurable that they would have been better off not to have been born, wouldn’t they just go ahead and kill themselves? But they generally don’t kill themselves, do they? In fact many of them, particularly those born into poverty, go to extreme lengths just to survive. The fact that so many people born in life’s unfair circumstances wind up living lives of crime is so often given as a reason why they shouldn’t have been born. But really I see it as a testimony to just how desperately these people wish to continue living. They will do almost anything, it seems, to stay alive.

Of course, you will probably say that this is just the result of natural instinct: it is incredibly unnatural for a person to end their own life – they generally have to be experiencing an incredible amount of suffering for them to consider it better that they should die. And I would say… Ah, yes; precisely. Maybe that should make you reconsider how lightly you are willing to end someone’s life. Let’s not forget – it’s very, very easy to kill oneself. There’s nothing physically hard about it. What makes it so rare is that people almost never want to die. It’s simple logic: If people actually didn’t consider their own lives worth living, they would kill themselves. And thus, given the enormous sample size of empirical evidence showing that people born in disadvantaged circumstances usually choose to continue living, the rational thing to do is to assume that an unborn child with Down’s syndrome will most likely prefer to live.

Doesn’t it seem tremendously paternalistic to decide, before someone has the capacity to choose for themselves, whether someone’s life is worth living? If what you’re really concerned about is the quality of life for the unborn, why not let the child be born, and then if they decide that their life isn’t worth living, let them kill themselves? How presumptuous, how autocratic, that we would think we know better than someone whether their own life has enough joy that it would be worth continuing, given that whenever we actually give a fetus in a disadvantaged position the chance to live, they almost always take it, holding on to it like nothing else! It is unthinkable to me that our assumption would be that they wouldn’t want to live when everything we know about real life tells us the exact opposite.

Almost everybody who’s ever been born with Down’s syndrome, or with difficult economic circumstances, has chosen to keep living. How about we give them a chance to make that choice.

Therefore, if we recognise the great and precious things which are given us, as Paul says [Rom 5:5], our hearts will be filled by the Holy Spirit with the love which makes us free, joyful, almighty workers and conquerors over all tribulations, servants of our neighbours, and yet lords of all.

Martin Luther – Freedom

What is it to be free?

It is a question of who’s in control. The World thinks that we will be free when we’re the ones with autonomous self-governance.

But the Bible teaches that to be controlled by our self is to be in slavery, and to give control over to God is freedom.

Stations on the Road to Freedom

Suffering

A change has come indeed. Your hands, so strong and active,

are bound; in helplessness now you see your action

is ended; you sigh in relief, your cause committing

to stronger hands; so now you may rest contented.

Only for one blissful moment could you draw near to touch freedom;

then, that it might be perfected in glory, you gave it to God.

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Tears of Tyrants: letter to a postmodern world

Let us teach our people that there is no God.

Let us teach our people that they were not made with intention or purpose.

Let us teach our people that their actions will not ultimately be judged.

*                      *                       *

Let us teach our people that there is no such thing as truth; that there is no right way.

Let us teach our people that they should believe any doctrine, except for the doctrine of objectivity, so long as it makes them happy.

Let us teach our people to let the self reign supreme.

Let us be our own dictators over truth.

*                      *                       *

Let us then be shocked and disgusted when individuals refuse to behave according to our moral principles.

And let us panic as we find ourselves powerless to convince them into obedience.

Let us shout out words of which we have stripped all meaning and power.

Let us compose arguments with no atmosphere through which to transmit them.

Let chaos silently sweep the nations as we observe at a helpless distance, locked inside our vacuous void, having successfully removed the possibility of human connection.

*                      *                        *

Let, then, our blood boil with anger as we strike down our enemy.

Let us lock him up for his crimes against us,

And weep tears of tyrants.

Solitude.

Only if someone exceeds your ability in something can they fully appreciate the extent of your own ability.

If someone isn’t as intelligent as you, they will never really understand exactly how much you have achieved in your thinking; never comprehend the thoughts you’ve thought. If someone isn’t as skilled on the piano as you, they can never completely know how it is that you play the way you play; how much effort it took to reach that level. They were not able to share in that journey. They had to stay behind where you kept on going.

How lonely it must be, to be the best…

…sitting atop their mountain of accomplishment, with nowhere to look but down.

The Creation of Evil.

– Written 7th Febuary 2010

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I’ve heard a lot of questions people ask to try to point out flaws in the idea of God. And we get pretty used to a lot of them, even bored of them (I know I do). But there’s one question I occasionally hear which is just an odd question, really. Here it is:

Let’s assume God exists.

He created everything, right?

And evil exists, therefore God created evil.

So doesn’t that mean God is evil?

Now I know that technically and grammatically, questions can’t be either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but seriously, the question is wrong! On many, many levels it is wrong and I honestly find it odd that it still gets asked.

The first thing is pretty simple. The question half-defeats itself with its bias. It says God created evil, but forgets that God must have created good as well. So it would be better to say, after all the question’s premises, that God is half evil, half good. Or he is not completely good. That just makes a lot more sense than, “he’s created a little bit of evil therefore he is completely evil”.

But if we let that slide, we get to the second level of wrongness – and the textbook answer to this question. That answer in a nutshell is that in the way that darkness is the absence of light, and cold is the absence of heat, evil is simply the absence of good. So God created good, and evil is in all the places where good isn’t. Therefore God didn’t actually create evil. I like the elegance and simplicity of this answer. And I think the answer is mostly right, but when you really think about it, even this answer is being pretty generous to the questioner.

Because there’s a really fundamental problem about this question which totally neutralises it, but that for some reason, I have never heard raised before. And for that reason, I’m gonna raise it.

I would want to ask the questioner how they define the concept ‘evil’. What they think evil is. What is it really? The best answer they, or anyone, will be able to come up with is “absence of or opposition to good”, which I would agree with. But then you must ask – is that really something that one could create? I mean, think of all the things God created: atoms, stars, planets, oceans, rocks, trees, animals, people. And then you’re trying to say God created “the opposition to good”. You soon realise that this whole thing doesn’t make any sense, and the atheist’s entire question has fallen apart.

It’s because we’re treating the word wrongly. We’re treating ‘evil’ as an object, which it clearly is not. Evil doesn’t fit into the same class as stars or trees. So in defining ‘evil’, we really need to step back and look at what type of thing evil is: not an object, but a characteristic. Evil is a characteristic, not a thing in itself. Things in themselves can have the characteristics of good or evil. So the noun, the concept of ‘evil’ is really subsequent to, and derived from, various things having been described by the adjective ‘evil’.

It’s similar to ‘yellow’. God didn’t so much create ‘yellow’ as he created things that are yellow. And according to the way the laws of logic and reason work, ‘yellow’ naturally formed itself into a concept as well. But the concept is secondary. The concept of yellow doesn’t really exist. It’s not actually independently there.

So in the same way, there is no actual creation called ‘evil’, but there are creations, things, that are evil, or that perform actions that are described as evil.

And THAT is why the answer to the question really lies in free will. God didn’t create evil. In fact, to take the last few paragraphs to their logical conclusion, God didn’t create good either. He didn’t. What God did was he created the Heavens, the Universe, and us. And to us he gave purpose and preference. God gave us the ability to act in any way we choose. But he told us how he would prefer us to live, and the purposes he designed us with. It is these preferences that are definitionally good – they are the desires of God. And all the different ways we can choose to act that oppose his preferences are definitionally evil.

That is the true origin of good and evil.