The Christian narrative starts with God, who is eternal, creating the universe. God creates people in his image, with particular purpose, moral codes, and values. Which accounts not only for our normal intuitions, but also explains other religions. Romans 1 says that God gave created things to humanity to be good gifts, and we turned them into gods.
“Actually, we believe that Christianity started at the creation of the world.”
I was going back and forth with one of my friends who was giving his account of why he didn’t believe in any religion. He spoke generally about the age of religions. About how Islam was predated by Christianity which was predated by Hinduism which was predated by various forms of paganism.
This is where I felt that I needed to interrupt him. India is a context where there are many coexisting religions. So there is power in a narrative that not only lays out your beliefs, but the reasons for the beliefs of those who don’t believe like you. And for that, you don’t just need moral systems, you need a cosmology.
Cosmology is just the story of how the world came to be. This matters because it frames all of our other discussions. And because culture is so pervasive, even in our own thoughts, we can assume the secular story without even realizing it. To say that Christianity begins in Genesis 1 is to derail the secular cosmology. It is to respectfully say, “you believe certain things about the nature of the universe that I do not believe, and both of us cannot be correct.”
The secular cosmological narrative goes something like this. There was the Big Bang, which started the universe. As the gas and pieces of rock cooled, they formed into galaxies, solar systems, and planets.
You Might also like
By Patrick J. OBanion — 4 months ago
Written by Patrick J. O’Banion |
Tuesday, August 2, 2022
Works like Calvin’s masterpiece don’t belong to a small subset of trained pastors and theologians, much less to the secular academy. They belong to the church. And reading them ties the church of this century to all of those that have come before.
In his recent book Breaking Bread with the Dead [read TGC’s review], Alan Jacobs offers advice for achieving a “more tranquil mind”—a thing devoutly to be wished. At the heart of the book is the following insight: the more substantially we’re in touch with the past, the more effectively we’ll avoid being “trapped” in the “social structure and life patterns” all around us (14).
Like C. S. Lewis, who famously urged us to “keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds” by reading old books, Jacobs argues that “you can’t understand the place and time you’re in by immersion” unless you regularly step away from it (23). For Christians, this means attentively reading (and rereading) the great works of the church’s history.
But, let’s face it, reading Augustine’s City of God, Aquinas’s Summa Theologica, Dante’s Divine Comedy, or Milton’s Paradise Lost can be hard work. Helpful resources exist for potential readers, of course. You’re more likely to hang in there with the great, big books if those who have gone before us can reduce the friction (as it were) by telling you what to expect.
In that spirit, I’d like to point out some landmarks from a recent reading of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (1559), one of those great works of the Christian past and a daunting tome to encounter. Think of the following as lessons learned—things I wish someone had told me before I took the plunge.
1. Calvin had a vast knowledge of Scripture.
Calvin often used the Institutes to address issues that didn’t fit into his sermons or commentaries. Scholars suggest interacting with all three genres—Institutes, commentaries, and sermons—to get the full picture. No doubt they’re correct, but Calvin’s interaction with the Bible bleeds over from his exegetical labors into the Institutes. Watch for his wide and deep knowledge of Scripture. Seeing it operate in a work of this scale is marvelous to behold.
2. Calvin engaged church history deeply.
Calvin understood that being a Christian meant being connected to all Christians who had gone before. In addition to theologians of his own day, Calvin read (widely) among the church fathers and (not quite as widely) among the medievals.
This allowed him to bring the debates of the past into conversation with the controversies of the present and, by considering how the church and her theologians had previously engaged those issues, to move his readers through confusion toward conclusions.
By Doug Eaton — 1 year ago
Those who come to the Father by faith, in repentance, will receive all the kisses of God. He gives us the kiss of a new heart and a new spirit. Our hearts of stone are turned to hearts of flesh by the grace of God. We are kissed with strong assurance. Though the prodigal may have intense fears of walking away again, we see that the father is not apprehensive that the son will disgrace his mercy and forgiveness. For the Father knows that of those who are His, He will not lose one of them.
But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. – Luke 15:20
The kiss of the father in the parable of the prodigal son is full of meaning. The prodigal has returned home, but only after forsaking his father and laying waste to his inheritance. Living comfortably in his father’s house, the son wells up with pride and renounces his father’s authority. He requests his estate and leaves. Filling his life with evil, he takes harlots as his companions, feeds his lusts, and squanders his father’s precious gifts. Oh’ but the child of God is never outside their Father’s providence, and famine hits the land. The prodigal’s hopes are soon dashed upon the rocks of vanity and sin, and he finds himself in bondage.
He is joined to a citizen of that country where he is required to feed pigs. In this state, the lords of this country offer him nothing but to eat and sleep in the pig stalls. For a Jewish man to live with pigs is but another image of his descent into spiritual impurity. Sin brings temporary satisfaction but piles on long-lasting burdens, impossible to remove. The prodigal is in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction and delusion, but the grace of God is far-reaching, and the prodigal comes to himself and says, “It would be better to be a slave in my father’s house than to live here.” What a shame it is that many never come to themselves and never feel the burden of sin on their back, and what a pity many who do feel it never venture to go home. They die in their despair, seeking some way to have the burden removed. They sink ever slowly into the “slough of despond.” What a shame many have even taken their own lives in this despair.
In his unworthy state, covered in the stains and wounds of the foreign land, the prodigal walks slowly home, crestfallen, seeking only servitude in the house of his father. However, he is not even worthy of that, for dishonoring your father and mother is a crime worthy of death under the law.
When he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion. Our Father’s eyes are ever on us, even when we cannot see Him. When our heads hang low, dejected from our sin, He looks and has compassion: even when our pain is self-inflicted. The prodigal’s father then ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. Before the son could say a word, the father had placed his lips upon his son. He did not wait until the filth was washed away. Nor was he concerned with any of the scoffings that the community might bring.
Oh, the kiss of the Father says so much. Charles Spurgeon, in his sermon on this parable, highlights what this kiss shows us. Here are a few of his points. The kiss shows much love for the son. There has been no loss of love in the heart of the father. No uncertainty in the love for his child has occurred due to his son’s crimes. The kiss demonstrates complete forgiveness, as it speaks of absolution. The debt the son incurred has been forgotten, and the burden of sin and guilt is gone. In the kisses of God, we see full restoration. The son is as much a son as he had ever been; the thoughts of servitude in his father’s house are to be rejected. No more food fit for swine, nor clothes fit for prisoners. There shall be a feast fit for royalty, a new robe is to be placed upon him, and a ring to signify to the world that he is part of his father’s family. The son has complete restoration, and all this happens before the son can speak his confession, which he has undoubtedly been rehearsing.
There is a beauty in true humility, for it does not flow from our natural self. It is the direct result of the working of the Spirit of God.
By Gary L. Welton — 8 months ago
Written by Gary L. Welton |
Monday, April 18, 2022
Data collected from individuals in about 150 countries through the Gallup World Poll, and summarized by the World Happiness Report, provides an answer to this question. In at least one way, we have changed for the better. This survey, conducted annually since 2006, includes three questions about altruistic behavior. Respondents are asked to indicate their behavior in donating to charity, helping a stranger, and volunteering. Answers to all three questions, across every part of the globe, increased by about 25%. During these challenging times, we have become less self-focused, and behaved in ways that showed more love and concern for others.
For the first time in our lives, we have experienced a universal international event, known as Covid-19. The World Series doesn’t come close to being a global event. The World Cup and the Olympics are much more global, but even these events bypass certain parts of the globe (and many around us have no interest in these sporting events). All of us, however, have been impacted by Covid-19. We have all, at times, been wearing masks, monitoring our social distancing, and discussing the pros and cons of various treatments and vaccines.
This pandemic has wrought tragedy in so many ways. We have seen more than six million Covid deaths across the globe, with a disproportionate number in the United States, where we are approaching one million deaths. In addition, there was a surge in alcohol-related deaths in 2020. We have seen heightened levels of anxiety and depression associated with the social distancing, an increased sense of vulnerability, and a loss of perceived control. This has occurred in conjunction with issues of social justice, an opioid crisis, and Putin’s attack on the country of Ukraine.
It is certainly a troubling time to be alive, yet my mother always said that above every cloud, the sun shines. Where can I find that silver lining?
Data collected from individuals in about 150 countries through the Gallup World Poll, and summarized by the World Happiness Report, provides an answer to this question. In at least one way, we have changed for the better.
This survey, conducted annually since 2006, includes three questions about altruistic behavior. Respondents are asked to indicate their behavior in donating to charity, helping a stranger, and volunteering. Answers to all three questions, across every part of the globe, increased by about 25%. During these challenging times, we have become less self-focused, and behaved in ways that showed more love and concern for others.
I have observed such behavior as I saw people donating their stimulus checks to those who needed the money more than they did. I have seen offering numbers within my local church and across my denomination increase in unexpected ways. This survey indicates that we have become more willing, not only to help our brother, but also to help strangers. Yes, I am my brother’s keeper, but also, “we are the world,” and we have indicated that our concerns and behaviors have broadened to the helping of strangers at this difficult time.
Now, as we are anticipating yet another Covid wave in the United States, based on increases across Europe and in certain parts of Asia, and as we see inflation approaching 10%, we realize that our struggles pale in comparison to the citizens of Ukraine. European countries in general, and Poland in particular, have risen to the challenge, welcoming refugees by the hundreds of thousands, even by the millions, demonstrating that not only are we our brother’s keeper, but we are also a keeper of the strangers across the globe.
The Covid years have been a deadly era, and I speak as one who lost a close family member, and as one who grieves with students, classmates, church colleagues, and many friends. In comparison, the Ukraine invasion has totally disrupted the lives of an entire region of Europe. This is an era that will live in infamy.
Yet, there is a silver lining. If we respond by reducing our radical individualism, to demonstrate more concern for our brothers, our neighbors, and the strangers around the world, there will be a lasting positive impact, in the midst of human tragedy. Let’s all accept this challenge.
Dr. Gary L. Welton is assistant dean for institutional assessment, professor of psychology at Grove City College, and a contributor to the Institute for Faith & Freedom. He is a recipient of a major research grant from the Templeton Foundation to investigate positive youth development. Use with permission.