Rich Mullins On Happiness

Rich Mullins passed away 15 years ago today.  Here’s a favorite quote from him:

“We do not find happiness by being assertive.  We don’t find happiness by running over people because we see what we want and they are in the way of that happiness so we either abandon them or smash them.  The Scriptures don’t teach us to be assertive.  The Scriptures teach us–and this is remarkable–the Scriptures teach us to be submissive.  This is not a popular idea.”

“Give to Ceasar what is Caesar’s; Give to God What is God’s” Luke 20 Through the Eyes of the Promise

Taxes.

Giving money to the government.  It’s not a fun subject.  Most people think we pay too much in taxes.

Imagine how it would be if the we were living in a country that wasn’t ours.  This was the situation for the Jews in the New Testament.  Though they lived in their own land, they paid taxes to Rome and to Caesar.  How frustrating that would be! Continue reading

Good Without God?

One of the major contentions of modern atheism/agnosticism is that it is possible to be good without needing to believe in God.  There are plenty of people, atheists will say, who belive in God who are not good.  And of course I agree.  Simply believing in God does not suddenly change a person into a good person.  But is the opposite true?  Is it possible to be good without believing in God?

If we are simply talking about a person’s actions, then the answer is “yes”.  There certainly are atheists who do good things.  There are all kinds of people all over the range of “religiosity” that donate time and money to good, worthy causes.  Of course agnostics and atheists do good things.

But it is with the next question that everyone tends to get nervous:  Does it make sense for atheists to do good things?

I would have to answer “no”. 

So, am I saying that we need some Big Guy in the sky cracking a whip over us in order to get us to do what is good?  Nope.  That’s not what I am saying.  I don’t think people need to see God as a Task-Master beating us into submission before they will do good.  I have already acknowledged that atheists do good things.  They presumably aren’t doing good things because they are afraid of the Angry Task-Master, or else they aren’t really atheists.

The reason it doesn’t make sense for atheists to do good things is because it is impossible to define what is good without talking about God.  Without some type of god, it is impossible to talk about good and bad.  There is no way to define “good” or “bad” without appealing to something outside of oneself to for a definition.

A common argument against what I am saying is put forth by Richard Dawkins, and many others.  In his The God Delusion, Dawkins proposes the idea that morality is determined by “the selfish gene”.  Basically the idea is that what is beneficial for survival is moral.  What extends our life is good and those things that benefit the evolutionary process are good, and the opposites are bad.

But why should this be the case?  For the Christian, we believe life is good because the Creator created us and loves us and is Life Himself.  But for someone who doesn’t believe in God, why should life be any “better” than death?  Why is life any more moral than death?  The problem with atheism is, if I was holding a gun to an atheist’s head (which I would never do), there is no logical argument that atheist could give me to not shoot him.

Without a standard of morality, “good” and “bad” lose their meaning.  Without a standard of morality, why is democracy any better than tyranny?  Love better than hate?  Freedom better than slavery?  Without a standard of morality, we are left with only moral relativism, which is to say, no morality at all.

And yet I said at the beginning that I believe that atheists do good things.  Why is that?  It’s not because it makes sense in their worldview.  It is because deep down, even atheists believe there is right and wrong, there is good and bad.  Deep down, even atheists can’t get away from the need for morality.  And this need for morality must ultimately point to a standard of good and bad outside of themselves.  Perhaps a moral atheist is closer to believing in God than he or she might think.

“Saved From” or “Saved For”?

When I say “salvation”, what do you think of?  Maybe you think of being saved from your sins.  Maybe you think of being saved from Hell.  Perhaps you think of being saved from bad habits or actions that hurt yourself or other people.  If one of these things came to mind, I would say you are with the majority of Christians in America.  Christianity in America is largely viewed as being saved from bad consequences, or being saved from a list of sins.  Salvation means we don’t drink, have pre-marital sex or smoke. 

And all of these ideas are true.  We are saved from Hell, sin and bad habits.  We shouldn’t engage in sinful behaviors.  Satan and his ways should no longer run our lives as Christians.  But friends, realizing that we are saved from these things is only the very beginning of the Christian life.

I think that it is high time for American Christianity to stop focusing on what we are saved from and to focus on what we are saved for.  We are very well aware of the things we are saved from.  But what are we saved for?  What is the point of our salvation?  Is the point of our salvation simply self-focused?  Are we really saved primarily for what it does for us?  Are we saved for ourselves?

Or are we saved for the Other?  Maybe we are saved because God deserves to have a people who praise him and love him, not because they have to, but because they want to.  Maybe we are saved because there are other people who need to know the joy and hope and love that God offers.  Maybe we are saved in order to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give a home to the homeless and hope to the hopeless.

Maybe, just maybe, the whole point of salvation is not me. 

Don’t hear me wrong–I am so very thankful for what God has done for me.  I just fear that we American Christians settle for so much less than what Christianity really is.  Yes, it is amazing what we have been saved from

I have a feeling, though, that it is infinitely more exciting, amazing, thrilling, holy and Christlike what we have been saved for.

Easter

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.  There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.  The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.  Come and see the place where he lay…”  Matthew 28:1-6