Saturday, 31 March 2012

Our resurrection bodies, and what that means for my muscles

Easter Hope: Looking Forward to Your Resurrection (Article)

I just read this post from Theology Network on looking forward to the resurrection and our new resurrection bodies.

It's a good reminder of what we have to look forward to, and as I read it, perhaps an encouragement/challenge. Next time I look in the mirror and realise that my metabolism doesn't quite let me be the bottomless prandial pit that I was a couple of years ago, or that no matter how much I'd like to play competitive sport, or at least look like I do, I'm just not that fit or talented, that's not a cause for despair but rather it serves as a reminder that even if I never achieve my physical goals, God already has something infinitely better waiting for me.

That said, I must be honest, despair is too strong a word for my stomach - I'm only 22 after all, and it's just that I'm not as thin as I used to be. The point is though, that's not going to get any better, and one day I will be decrepit, and possibly fat, but it is encouraging to remember that death is not the end, that our aging, failing, unfit bodies will be transformed into something fit for purpose and vastly superior to what they are now (who knows, maybe we will even be able to teleport?).

So that's just one thought I drew from the article, next time you go up a waist size, or someone mocks you for being ginger (maybe that's just me), or whatever it is, let it remind you of the resurrection and the life to come!

That said that doesn't mean I should let my body waste away - it's under my stewardship. So I'm off to play basketball.

P.S. This is my first post using the Blogger Android app.

Friday, 30 March 2012

God is not the 'god' of Philosophy: Part 1 Reasoning From Ourselves

I may be a computer scientist, but philosophy has been one of my casual interests for a few years. Recently, however, there's something about Western philosophy that bothers me. Western philosophy spends a lot of its time debating questions about God and whether God exists, which is fine, it's the most important topic there is, but the more theology I read, the more I feel that philosophy doesn't do a good enough job. In fact, what I've come to think, is that the approach to the question is fundamentally flawed.

It's a bit of a long old topic, so I'll do it over two posts, but I want to look at the key points that we really need to know about God that we just can't get from philosophy, and why.

Problem 1: Reasoning from ourselves
Philosophers are the intellectual descendants of the Greeks, via the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. What this means is that rationality is terribly important. In other words, if I think long enough and logically enough about something, I can work it. Well, that seems fair enough - that's basically how science works (with the addition of using experiments to establish the validity of the reasoning). But the problem is that it's actually a bit of an arrogant attitude, believing that everything is within the capacity of human thought - and so it works fine for the world around us that we can grasp, but when it comes to the transcendent, things beyond our environment, it's simply not enough.
'School of Athens' by Raphael - Aristotle & Plato in the centre. Source here.
I'll be frank, I'm fully convinced that we can establish the existence of a deity by looking at the world around us. I think it's patently obvious - and I think there's a certain degree of wilful blindness going on when it comes to thinking otherwise. However, even accepting that, it's difficult to go much further than that if we start from ourselves. Starting from me and my experience of the world, plus the experience of others, just doesn't give us enough.
Using the world and our reason as our only sources of information about a god leaves us with an open question, such as the Buddhist answer (the Buddha is quite an adept analyst of the problematic state of the world and how it seems to work, but Buddhism doesn't give us a lot of concrete answers about why it's that way), or perhaps with the polytheism of the ancient world (we laugh at the Greco-Roman ideas, but it had a certain logic to it - they were simply interpreting the world as they saw it), or perhaps the atheistic approach - which rather than explaining everything with lots of gods, tries to explain everything with no gods at all. These ideologies get some things right - they all identify that life is often full of difficulties and suffering (esp. if you live outside the shelter of the first world middle classes) - but they conclude that therefore, the ruling force behind it all is of the same temperament. The Greco-Roman gods were capricious and cruel, the blind forces of evolution are bloody and thoughtless, the machine of Karma is, whilst fair, unmerciful.
The Buddhist Wheel of Life, depicting the cycle of reincarnation. Source here.
But what if God is deeper than that? What if the state of the world as we perceive it doesn't tell the whole story? What if, in fact, this is not the way things were to start with, and the confused state of the world reflects a bigger picture?

The Bible paints a picture of a God love and mercy, who created the universe by His power for the enjoyment of the creation. The purpose: to display His glory - which is exhibited first and foremost in His love. 1 John 4:8 says 'God is love'. Love is the very essence of who God is, and He created the universe to display His love. The pinnacle of that creation? Humanity, made in His image, to enjoy a relationship with Him so that they can have the joy of marvelling at His greatness and knowing Him personally. That, however, is a far cry from the world we live in. A world of disease, disaster and death hardly seems the work of such a God. The answer in many ways is a simple one, sin. Mankind's rejection of God's love and God's wisdom, pursuing self-interest and self-gratification. Buddhism spots this problem of sin and the selfishness of mankind. Karmic justice is its answer - bad actions now mean a bad life later, good actions now, a good one. The ultimate goal? Escape the cycle into oblivion in Nirvana. However, there is no explanation (as far as I know) as to why the world is this way. The Bible tells us why - Adam sinned, and from that the whole of creation is fallen, destined for destruction - it's been ruined. But the Bible it also gives us hope. It doesn't tell us to do everything we can to escape existence, rather it gives us a promise of a new creation, populated by those who have been saved from the horror of sin. And that hope comes because of the death and resurrection of Jesus taking the place of punishment and rejection that rightly belongs to those who have wrecked God's perfect creation - in other words, us. God has not given us up to destruction - He is redeeming and renewing us. All who put their trust in Jesus and His perfect work, rather than relying on themselves, are forgiven, made new - and will have eternal joy in the new Heavens and new Earth.
And this is where philosophy fails us. It cannot tell us any of that. It can only look at a snapshot of the part of the world we can see. So you have to go a step further - rather than starting with man and reasoning to god, go to the source of knowledge - start with God and work back. To do that we need God to reveal Himself - who He is, what His plan is, what He is like. God has done just that. Through His words in the Bible, and in person and in action through Jesus Christ. Jesus claimed that if you have seen Him you have seen the Father (John 14:9-11) - in other words, Jesus is God, and thus He reveals God and His character to us.

How is that character displayed? What is God like? Jesus displays God's character and heart on the Cross. When the Son of God - through whom the very world was created (see John 1) - humbled Himself to become part of His creation and the immortal, eternal God was killed - by His creation, by those very people He came to save - in order that they could be saved from the destruction that they had wilfully brought upon themselves.
As I commented the other day, our God, the true God, is humble and powerful, but, above all, love. More on that in the next post.

Thursday, 29 March 2012


Just thought I'd try out the Share button on my phone along with blogging by email and the Facebook feed I added using Twitterfeed.

The link is to make reading this worthwhile...

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Our God is a humble God

Hi! It's been a while since I posted anything on here. I've been rather busy, frankly, blogging seems to fall fairly far down my list of priorities. I think in the time since I posted anything more than a video of drumming child quite a bit's happened. Namely, I moved to Singapore to start a PhD, and I got engaged.

Ok, enough about my life.

This year, I've started following the For The Love Of God blog on the Gospel Coalition website as my daily Bible reading. It's basically a daily blog that is made up of that day's entry from the book of the same title by Don Carson. You read four chapters, there's a short bit by The Don on one of the chapters, and you get through the whole Bible in a year. I confess I haven't kept up perfectly, but it's quite encouraging to get through so much in a short space of time.

Anyway, the point is, I was reading Philipians 2, and Don Carson comments that verse 6 is commonly interpreted as saying 'despite the fact that Jesus was God, He did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped...', which is quite correct. However, a better way to translate it from the Greek is apparently more along the lines of 'because He was in very nature God...'. In other words, it is not in spite of Jesus being God that He came to Earth as a man, but because that is God's very nature He humbled Himself to death, even the death of a Cross. Wow. That means that it is in God's very nature to do that. He is a God completely unlike any other God. That is the kind of God we worship. Indeed, that is the kind of God that is worthy of worship.

As a footnote, perhaps then it is not so surprising that the kingdom of God is described as so topsy-turvy (first will be last and the last first etc.), God has already set the pattern - the kingdom reflects what God Himself is like.

(Original article here)