MEET THE TEAM     |     SERMONS     |     BIBLE STUDIES    |   PASTOR’S BLOG   |   NEWSLETTER

The View From Nowhere

August 26, 2017    |    PASTOR ZACHARY PUDLO
 
 
If you are an active member of a Christian community you have probably heard many stories about different people’s conversion stories. The stories are often uplifting and memorable not only for the converted individual, but also for fellow Christians. Interestingly, for every conversion story there is probably just as many deconversion stories. I ran across one such story the other day which really stuck with me. A woman who grew up Christian began to face some difficult questions regarding why she was a Christian. These questions led her down a path of research and a quest for truth. What follows is her conclusion after going down a twisted and winding path of disinformation in a quest for truth:
 
So pretty quickly I decided that my best course of action from that point on was to stick with science. It’s not perfect but more than anything else out there it seeks out evidence and makes that its highest goal. No wishing, no hoping, no faith, no manipulation, no using people’s feelings to convince them of anything. No ancient books, no loyalty to ancient wisdom if it doesn’t hold up, no praying, no ceremonies … nothing is sacred … except truth.
 
Exclusive Rationality
This woman makes a pretty bold claim, doesn’t she? She is claiming that science has the sole possession of what is true. She goes on in other posts to claim that she is an Atheist and that there is no God. When one makes the claim that there is no god, or that there is a God, they are basing their claim one one of two things. They are claiming that 1) they have a view from outside of all reality and can see all things including whether or not there is a God, or 2) their claim is based on faith and not on proof. There really aren’t any other options. When one makes that bold of a claim they are making a claim of either knowing ultimate reality or simply having a faith.

 

But there’s a problem with this woman’s conclusion. Tim Keller says it well in Making Sense of God, “Behind many of these (deconversion) stories lies a deeper narrative, that religious persons are living by blind faith, while secular nonbelievers in God are grounding their position in evidence and reason.” Many secular people refuse to explore the claims of Christianity because they assume Christians base their lives on pure faith, while they base their lives on truth and reason. That’s far from the truth.

 

There are some unresolved issues that come along with the claim that there is no god. First off, there is no proof of this. Even Richard Dawkins, one of the most outspoken atheists said this in an interview and echoes this in his book
The God Delusion: “I can’t be sure God does not exist… On a scale of seven, where one means I know he exists, and seven I know he doesn’t, I call myself a six… That doesn’t mean I’m absolutely confident, that I absolutely know, because I don’t.” Dawkins is an atheist that many other atheists look to as their leader, and even he says he doesn’t know for certain that there is no God.
 
The other unresolved issue with claiming there is no God, is that there is no answer to some of the most foundational questions for existence as a whole. Many atheists make the claim that Christianity is a cop-out religion because when it doesn’t have the answer to an extremely foundational question about existence, it’s only answer is “because God says so”. However, despite its heavy critique of Christianity, Atheism doesn’t have the answers to some extremely foundational questions as well. In The New Atheism and the Erosion of Freedom Robert Morey makes the point that Atheism doesn’t have the answer to how the following occurred:    
  • Everything ultimately came from nothing.
  • Order came from chaos.
  • Harmony came from discord.
  • Life came from nonlife.
  • Reason came from irrationality.
  • Personality came from nonpersonality.
  • Morality came from amorality.
These are some extremely foundational questions that relate to every human being on earth and their subsequent purpose. And if science doesn’t have the answer to these questions, then clearly it isn’t the arbiter of absolute truth. In short, there really is no “view from nowhere”. There is no way to place oneself outside of reality so as to have a view of all that is true. This includes Atheism.
 
Vulnerable Truth
The truth is that we all have faiths. Whether Atheist or Theists, we all have beliefs based on assumptions. While that is a similarity between Atheists and Theists, the biggest difference is what the object of our faith is. The object of a Christian’s faith is a God who alone has “the view from nowhere”.
 
This God who has the “view from nowhere” is the object of our faith. That is possibly the scariest thing and the most comforting thing all in one. It’s the scariest thing because he is outside of everything which means he sees everything. He foresaw all the wickedness of mankind, the way humans turn their backs on him and put their faith in everything but him. He sees the deepest darkest secrets of our hearts, every wicked idea, every narcissistic selfish notion. He sees the crimes of the future. It’s scary to think that there is an all knowing all powerful creator out there who knows every wickedness of every heart. He has every power and capability to start fresh…to create a people who don’t turn away from him. We are vulnerably laid out for him to see us through and through.
 
And yet having this God who has a “view from nowhere” is still the most comforting thought at the same time. Despite the failures of human beings to treat him as God, despite our turning away from him time and time again, despite the fact that he sees us as we really are, he still loves us. In having his son die in our place God showed that he would rather let his son suffer than let us perish forever. What could be more comforting than knowing that kind of a God is our God. Our hope isn’t in a God who demands morality and devotion. Our hope isn’t in a God who requires payment from us for our failures. Our hope is in a God who sees us for who we are and still lays down his life for us.
 
Conclusion
Yes, Christians will readily admit that we have a faith…a faith that cannot be proven. That’s a truth. But it’s a far different cry than the claim that science is pure and simple fact and the only absolute truth. “Faith.” Maybe that’s not the answer people want to hear, nor is it the rock solid proof some people demand before they dive into Christianity. But it is the honest truth. Christians are honest when we admit that we don’t have “the view from nowhere”. The same cannot be said of those who claim that science is the only absolute truth and has “the view from nowhere”.
 

 



Real Heroics

 

April 30, 2017    |    PASTOR ZACHARY PUDLO
 
Image of Heroes showing acts of Heroics
 
A Culture Obsessed with Heroes
 
“Without selflessness there can be no heroism.” When I heard that phrase I couldn’t help but start thinking about heroism. I’m not the only one. We see heroes all over the place in our world. Some of the highest grossing movies over the past several years have been the Marvel movies. Walk down the children’s toys isle in your local store and the number of toys revolving around those characters will shock you. Our culture is obsessed with heroes. Why is that?
 
Examining Heroism
 
On its surface, heroism seems very appealing to us. We love people standing up for their moral convictions even in the face of great oppression. But a deeper look at heroism leads to some puzzling findings.
 
Heroism demands selflessness. In every story, movie or book about heroes the main character is willing to sacrifice his or her own desires for the greater good. It’s the ultimate act of selflessness to see the hero lay down their life for the sake of the people. Fighting for the greater good the hero will do whatever it takes to win the moral battle against the forces of evil. Without the hero’s sacrifice there would be no heroism. Heroism demands sacrifice.
 
And while so many people in our culture are obsessed with the idea of heroism, it seems almost duplicitous for our culture. Personal sacrifice is not a part of our culture. Our culture is obsessed about the individual. See my notes about the Age of Enlightenment’s effect on our culture’s obsession with the individual in this post (Previous post on “Why Lives Matter”). Our culture is obsessed with individual rights. It glorifies the individual. Heroism is about an individual giving up his or her rights for the greater good of the many. Those two ideologies are completely contradictory and yet our culture is obsessed with them both! Is there any explanation for this schizophrenic culture we live in?
 
A Cosmic Need
 
One of the characteristics about heroes that we love is their unwavering commitment to their moral convictions. Ironically, our culture has no answer as to where morals originated. In a 2016 article called Where Do Morals Come From, Yale Professor, Philip Gorski, wrote
The social sciences have an ethics problem. No, I am not referring to the recent scandals about flawed and fudged data in psychology and political science I’m talking about the failure of the social sciences to develop a satisfactory theory of ethical life. A theory that could explain why humans are constantly judging and evaluating, and why we care about other people and what they think of us.
 
In short, when people claim that morals are important, they cannot explain where morals came from, what their purpose is, and why they are important.
 
And while our culture and the social sciences haven’t discovered an answer as to where morals come from any person who is in touch with world news would say that our world has a problem with morals. When you see the wars and murder of innocent people, the ruthless greed, the savage attacks and the violence in our world, it’s easy to conclude that something is wrong. Our world is lacking a clear moral path.
 
A Cosmic Hero
 
It’s no wonder we love the idea of heroes. Men and women who come as the solution to the evil of the world. One of the most famous heroes of the Bible was David. Before he became king he was just a shepherd. But one day when his father sent him to see how his brothers were as they were off at war, he faced the test of a lifetime. Just a teenager at the time, he went against the Philistines best warrior, Goliath. Goliath stood about 9 feet tall and still David fearlessly went out to slay that Giant with nothing but a slingshot and a few stones in his pouch. David was a hero because he defended not only his people, but also his God from the nonstop mocking of Goliath. He was willing to risk his life to defend what he believed in.
 
Many will look at the story of David and Goliath as giving us examples to follow. It’s a story about how we must summon the faith and courage to fight the giants in our lives. But when we do that the story really becomes about us. And there are times in our lives when we will face giants too big to handle only reminding us that we are no heroes at all…we are failures.
 
There is a temptation to do the same with Jesus, the ultimate hero of the Bible. If you read the Bible and the message you take away is that Jesus is an example of how to be loving and accepting of all people then the Bible really becomes all about you. It’s about how you can be the hero. You can overcome evil with good, hatred with love, anger with kindness, impatience with patience etc… The problem with this is that we all have moments of evil, hatred, anger and impatience. When we read the Bible this way we are only reminded of our failures and how we contribute to this world filled with wickedness.
 
The very point of the story of David and Goliath is that the Israelites needed a hero, someone to rescue them. And the very point of the Bible is that we all need a cosmic hero to save us from ourselves. God uses the heroics of the substitute to save the Israelites and us.
 
Tim Keller puts it well in his book on Preaching,
Jesus faced the ultimate giants (sin and death) not at the risk of his life but at the cost of his life. But he triumphed through his weakness and now his triumph is ours—his victory is imputed to us. Until I see that Jesus fought the real giants for me, I will never have the courage to be able to fight ordinary giants in life (suffering, disappointment, failure, criticism, hardship). How can I ever fight the “giant” of failure, unless I have a deep security that God will not abandon me? If I see David only as my example, the story will never help me fight the failure/giant. But if I see David as pointing to Jesus as my substitute, whose victory is imputed to me, then I can stand before the failure/giant. In Jesus I am already loved and acclaimed by God. No worldly success can approximate that. I am no longer petrified by failure, because I triumph in Jesus, our true David. Unless I first believe in the one to whom David points, I’ll never become like David at all.
 
We’re obsessed with heroes because God has placed a cosmic longing for one in our hearts. But that longing can only be satisfied by Jesus, our ultimate hero. When the enemies of your world make you feel like you’re defeated, look to your ultimate hero. Look to Jesus and see how God will never let you be defeated. He will never let the ultimate enemy of Satan take you to his home. Look to Jesus and see your home already prepared in heaven.


Cutting Up Jesus

March 31, 2017    |    PASTOR ZACHARY PUDLO
 
 
 
Current Views on Jesus

Barna Group, a Christian polling firm, conducted a poll of adults in 2015 as to their views on who Jesus was. The results are worth noting. Over half of all adults believed Jesus was God. However, the younger the generation, the more that generation believed Jesus wasn’t God. In fact, the majority of Millennials believes Jesus wasn’t God. That means a majority of the upcoming generation believes Jesus was merely a man, or that he wasn’t even an historical figure at all. In the same poll, 13% of Millennials believed Jesus didn’t even exist and isn’t even an historical figure.
 
 
How We Got Here
 
How did we get to this point in history where countless people are not only denying the deity of Jesus but even his historicity?
 
No more than two hundred years after the Christian Reformation a Biblical interpretation movement began from within the Christian church. This movement can be described as an attempt to answer one important question: Who was the real Jesus? Biblical scholars began to question whether or not the descriptions of Jesus in the Bible were accurate. For many of them the answer was, “No”. The Bible describes Jesus as the Son of God incarnate…a man who walks on water, heals the sick, brings the dead back to life and even rises from the dead after being crucified and laid in a tomb for three days. Since this is humanly impossible, scholars began a movement in which they tried to “reconstruct the historical Jesus”. This movement which tried to portray Jesus apart from a supernatural worldview. In the mid 1800’s many scholars dubbed any account of miracles or the supernatural taking place as incredulous. In doing so the authority of the Bible took a huge blow.
 
By the early to mid 1900’s a majority of the Bible was considered myth. Rudolf Bultmann is a pioneer of the movement to classify the Bible as myth.
 
Can the Christian proclamation today expect men and women to acknowledge the mythical world picture as true? To do so would be both pointless and impossible. It would be pointless because there is nothing specifically Christian about the mythical world picture, which is simply the world picture of a time now past which was not yet formed by scientific thinking. It would be impossible because no one can appropriate a world picture by sheer resolve, since it is already given with one’s historical situation. (New Testament and Mythology and Other Basic Writings, pg. 3)
 
Bultmann is saying that the Bible was written from a mythical worldview and a majority of the Bible is itself a myth. At one point in his life Bultmann even admitted that it isn’t even a worthwhile endeavor to study the Bible. All we can really know is that Jesus lived and that’s good enough.
 
The Reconstruction Problem
 
That is where we still find ourselves today. Many people view Jesus as an historical figure who taught some really good things. Why would a group of people try to reconstruct the historical Jesus? What’s wrong with the Biblical account of Jesus? Well…the Biblical Jesus is offensive. Some of the teachings of Jesus are very offensive to our modern individualistic culture. Don’t gossip, love God more than everything and everyone including your own family, don’t look at someone with lust in your heart. These are just a few of the teachings that are very offensive in our society. So how should we respond to these offensive teachings? We discard them. “They must be part of the mythical worldview.”
 
What happens when you cut a physical part of a person out of them? You don’t have more of that person, but less of that person. The same is true of cutting out the offensive teachings of Jesus from the Bible. The movement to reconstruct the historical Jesus has not given us a clearer picture of who Jesus was, but it has given us a less clear picture. It has given us less of Jesus. It has, in essence, cut up Jesus and taken out all the inoffensive parts of him. What we have now is not a real Jesus but a caricature of him, an extremely inoffensive one.
 
However, a reconstructed inoffensive Jesus ISN’T an historically accurate Jesus. The inoffensive Jesus that we have in our society is almost on par with the Care Bears. The Care Bears are fictional bears whose entire purpose was to spread love and kindness for the whole world. They are, quite possibly, the most inoffensive characters in the history of the world. So the question one has to ask is this: Who would kill the Care Bears? No one. No one kills another person for being kind and loving and completely inoffensive. And no one would worship them either. If Jesus was all about love and kindness…if he really was extremely inoffensive, who in the world crucified him? Why would anyone have crucified him for being loving, kind, and inoffensive? Interestingly, it is a consensus even among these reconstructionists that Jesus was crucified.
 
The point is this: an inoffensive Jesus isn’t an historically accurate Jesus. He had to be offensive to be cut to pieces by a whip and torn apart by the nails piercing his hands and feet. If he wasn’t offensive, he never would have been murdered. N.T. Wright put it this way in his book The Day the Revolution Began. “‘Young Hero Wins Hearts.’ Had there been newspapers in Jerusalem in the year we now call AD 33, this was the headline you would not have seen. When Jesus of Nazareth died the horrible death of crucifixion at the hands of the Roman army, nobody thought him a hero.” In short, Jesus was no hero. He was no political revolutionary trying to win the hearts of the people and a place on the throne. And he was no cute cuddly care bear whose only goal was to spread love and kindness. He had to be offensive. If he wasn’t he never would have been sentenced to death by his own people.
 
The people that cut up and crucified Jesus 2000 years ago aren’t alone. People still cut Jesus up today by discarding and disregarding his offensive teachings.
 
The Truth About Cutting Jesus Up
 
The truth is there are times we are offended by Christ…offended because he reminds us of our failures, offended because he cuts open our hearts and reveals our pride and aversion to the truth. So what options are we left with? 1) Avoid the truth. We can avoid the offensive statements of Jesus. But that will not leave us with the real Jesus. It will leave us with a cut up fragment of the man he really was. Or we can 2) face the harsh reality. One of the characteristics of a Christian is being dedicated to the truth. There is a proverb that says “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” This proverb is saying that it is foolish, even stupid to avoid the truth. And so the only way to uphold intellectual integrity is to face the truth. We are offended by Jesus because he is God, and we have failed him over and over again.
 
The results are far better when we face the truth. David writes in Psalm 32 that he wasted away when he hid the truth. When he didn’t confess his sins he felt like he was dying a slow painful death. But then he writes this. “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’ and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” When we face this truth, we will also see another beautiful truth… that Jesus didn’t come to rub our faces in our failures. He didn’t come to demand perfect obedience. He didn’t come to offend us and then leave us with no hope of pleasing God. Instead, his entire purpose was to take the punishment for our failures. He came to please God for us. In every other religion it is up to the individual to make up for their personal failures by offering works of service to God. But in Christianity, we see God become man, endure suffering, cuts, thorns, nails. He is cut to pieces for the world to see his love. He is put to death to take our punishment. There is no truth as beautiful as seeing God die for us. Without facing the truth about our failures we will never see that beautiful truth of Jesus taking cuts and wounds for us.