Jesus Was Not Fully God and Fully Man

One of the bigger criticisms that people tend to raise towards Christianity is the doctrine of the trinity. Specifically looking at character of Jesus Christ, one could understandably spot what appears to be a contradiction. “How could Jesus be both totally man and totally God at the same time?” This is a legitimate question, one which typically causes Christians to jump down the Isaiah 55:9 escape hatch of “God is simply beyond our understanding.”

Now, let’s not be arrogant and think that we can fully understand God and his mysterious ways. Certainly God is not limited to our perceptive abilities and narrow comprehension. However, let’s also not be theologically ignorant in an age when the internet has made ignorance less excusable. We have a great storage of theological material available to us for absolutely free, and we should use it in order to combat poor thinking. Therefore, when we come across these difficult questions, we should first do our research in order to answer them, without jumping down a theological escape hatch as our first resort.

So, how can we say that Jesus was fully God and fully man without running into a contradiction? Well, we can’t. Now it’s worth understanding that there are certain things that God cannot do. And you might say, “Well how is that possible if he’s God?” It’s actually really simple. There are certain actions that, if performed by God, he would become less God, or, not God at all. God, for instance, cannot surrender all of his power to something else. God cannot become less knowing than someone else. God cannot be both good and not good at the same time. To do any of these things would result in him giving up godship, which is absolutely impossible. Just because God cannot do certain things does not make him less God; on the contrary, it makes him more God.

Having said that, God cannot be a contradiction. As we’ve alluded to earlier, to be 100% man is to be 0% God. This is basic logic. A cannot be A and non-A. But what about in Colossians 2:9 when it says that “for in him (Christ) the fullness of deity dwells bodily”? This simply means that Jesus was absolutely God, while inside of a human body. This does not mean that Jesus was 100% man and 100% God.

So what do we say when people inquire about the nature of Jesus? We say that Jesus was truly God and truly man. This is not clever wording, this is correct theology. There is no trace of contradiction within God. For him to dwell in bodily form is no difficult task. For him to completely be a human, leaves no room for him to be completely God. Therefore, this idea of Jesus completely being a man and God is nonsensical. However, Jesus being truly God and truly man is no more a contradiction than me being truly a brother to my siblings and truly a husband to my wife.

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Comments on Morality: Humans and Apes – What is the difference?

Controversial philosopher and ethicist, Peter Singer, has argued that people with cognitive disabilities should be used for medical experimentation instead of healthy chimps.

Tommy is 26 years old. He is being held in solitary confinement in a wire cage. He has never been convicted of any crime, or even accused of one. He is not in Guantanamo, but in upstate Gloversville.

How is this possible? Because Tommy is a chimpanzee.

Contrary to the caricatures of some opponents of this lawsuit, declaring a chimpanzee a person doesn’t mean giving him or her the right to vote, attend school or sue for defamation. It simply means giving him or her the most basic, fundamental right of having legal standing, rather than being considered a mere object.

Essentially, Singer’s goal is to eliminate exceptionalism (the idea of uniqueness) from human beings; this of course can be done by considering animals—or in this case, apes—to be on the same moral plane as humans. To better understand Singer, it’s important to point out his utilitarian philosophy, which places human progress at the heart of the paradigm. To take this philosophy to its logical conclusion, this means that human beings who have become a hindrance to society, should be terminated (or used for experimentation) at will. This is why he is outraged by the idea that we would do medical experiments on healthy apes, instead of disabled humans.

This controversy raises the question: should human beings and apes be considered equal?

Should and ought

First and foremost, anytime we say that something should or ought to be a certain way, we are speaking out of a moral conviction. To say something ought to be a certain way, is to compare it to a moral standard; it is to say that one choice is of greater moral value than another. This is where many worldviews begin to collapse. If human beings are capable of recognizing and measuring moral decisions, it must mean that there is something that we are measuring them against. As CS Lewis would say, “we know a line is crooked because we have some idea of a straight line.” This moral measuring must transcend naturalistic philosophy, because moral judgments that rise above opinion also rise above naturalism. Therefore, to say humans ought or should do anything is ludicrous.

Now you could say that what is moral is what is in favor of human progress (which is a blind extrapolation in of itself)–however, not all decisions that we would consider to be moral are in favor of any kind of progress. There is no basis for the claim that morality is tied to human progress or personal well-being.

Are humans on a different moral plane?

Consider this: anytime a moral judgment is made, it is made by a person, about a person. I would not call a tree immoral for falling onto my house, or a tiger immoral for killing a young zebra. We prosecute other human beings because we think they ought to know better. A man can be tried for killing puppies, but a dog cannot be tried for killing a child. The same scenario applies to apes. It would be immoral for me to rush into a fire and save my dog instead of saving my brother. It is an axiom that human beings are of greater value than other creatures. It is no more arrogant to believe this, than it is to believe in the law of gravity.

Robin Williams, Brittany Maynard, Suicide and Suffering

29-year-old Brittany Maynard was diagnosed in January with glioblastoma—a terminal brain cancer—and was given only 6 months to live. She has recently moved to Oregon, where the law allows terminally ill patients the option of assisted suicide. “I will die upstairs in my bedroom that I share with my husband, with my mother and my husband by my side, and pass peacefully with some music that I like in the background.” She is currently campaigning to remove laws that prohibit euthanasia to terminally ill patients in other states. Naturally, this has raised a lot of attention, and has yet again thrust the issue of suicide back into the spotlight.

I was hesitant to write a post on suicide after the death of Robin Williams back in August. Anytime the subject of human suffering emerges, it’s very important to choose your words carefully (if you choose any at all). And because of the emotional stir-up surrounding the issue of suicide in particular, there are many things that must be first considered.

Now Brittany’s case varies from Robin’s in a number of ways that are clear. Brittany is terminally ill, Robin, to our knowledge, was not. Robin was chronically depressed, Brittany, to our knowledge, may not be. But the one thing that both suicide cases have in common is a desire to escape from human suffering. The question that we raise is this: Is it right for a suffering person to commit suicide?

From a Christian perspective, we see that human beings are given special, inherent value by God in ways that no other creatures compare. They are created in his image (Genesis 1:27), he pays special attention to them (Psalm 139), and he sympathizes with their suffering (Hebrews 4:15). In fact, Christ comes down, suffers through torture and ridicule for humanity, and dies (innocently) the death of the worst criminal, out of his love for the very people that did this to him. To say that God is indifferent to suffering is to ignore the central theme of the New Testament.

For Christians, the reason we live, as Piper would say, is “to reflect back to God the radiance of his worth.” We do this through worship. Worship in Christianity is not just an activity that takes place in the presence of music—worship takes place everywhere, all of the time. Even working a job that you do not naturally enjoy can be used as an opportunity to worship. We worship through giving thanks to God (Ephesians 5:20) in all circumstances. Think about marriage vows. When you say your vows, you are essentially say that “regardless of the condition that you are in, I will love you and stay with you—in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, etc.” Now remember that human marriage is a representation of Christ’s relationship with his church. When we become Christians, the same message is essentially given: “I will love you regardless.” So when I am chronically ill, my faith abides in the promises and mercy of God. When I am depressed, my hope is in the Lord.

As someone who struggles on and off with deep depression from time to time, I can assure you that these things are easy to say when the sun is shining. But when the light seems eclipsed by the darkness, it can be very difficult to recognize the promises and the hope of God. That is the case for all human suffering. It’s easy to critique and give advice while on the outside of it, but when you are in the thick of it yourself, it is drastically different. However, our circumstances do not determine what is true. Truth is true, regardless of my experiences. When our judgment is clouded by pain and suffering, it is an evidence based faith that we lean on. CS Lewis describes it in this way: “Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.” As Christians, are lives are centered on God’s purpose for his glory. We use the short amount of time we have here to worship him, and to point others to him. So even in the worst circumstances, through depression and illness, we have a purpose for living that fulfills us.

Outside of Christianity, I cannot ultimately justify a reason to continue living. That does not mean that all non-Christians should end their lives—absolutely not. What that means is that, outside of a theistic framework, there is no ultimate purpose in life. William Lane Craig points out in his book Reasonable Faith, Dr. L. D. Rue’s address to the American Academy for the Advancement of Science in 1991, the sad predicament that a non-theistic framework presents to mankind: “There is no final, objective reading on the world of the self. There is not universal vocabulary for integrating cosmology and morality.” Our purpose comes from a Noble Lie, one that “deceives us, tricks us, and compels us beyond self-interest, beyond ego, beyond family, nation, and race.” It is a noble lie, because it claims that we ought to act a certain way, but gives no reason for us to act a certain way. One cannot deny absolute truth, and assert it at the same time. Subjective morality raises the question of why we should be upset about suicide in the first place. After all, who are you to say what is right and wrong? From inside of this framework, I have no comment at all on suicide. Subjective morality, as Peter Singer points out, reduces the value of men to that which is no higher than the value of pigs.

But we believe that human life is intrinsically more valuable than pigs. This is why we raise our eyebrows at the Maynard or Williams case, but would pay little attention to the suicide of an animal. God has created us as moral beings with purpose. Without God, this is no absolute morality, and no absolute purpose. Within a godless framework, we have no right to be outraged—there is no right or wrong, good or evil, should or ought; as Richard Dawkins points out, “Nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” Nature may view us with blind, pitiless indifference, but God does not. Our lives find their meaning and fulfillment in worshipping him.

Christianity says this: Human beings do not belong to themselves. “You were bought with a price. So glorify God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20) But we were not bought into some kind of sick slavery; we were bought into the bondage of the love of God displayed in the gospel. Tim Keller describes it this way: “This gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

The Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect

For every action there is a reaction. Every cause has an effect, and every effect has a cause. Ravi Zacharias tells his story of lying on a hospital bed after attempting to take his own life as a teenager. One can imagine the sobriety of those moments, realizing that your attempt at suicide had failed and you had been given a second chance at life. While Ravi was lying there in his bed, a man walked in with a little pocket-sized New Testament and tried to hand it to him. “I couldn’t reach out because my body had been so dehydrated,” he said. So his mother reached for the Bible and said, “You really can’t stay here, my son is in critical condition.” “Ma’am,” he said, “Your son needs this more than anything else.” He then opened up to John chapter 14 where Jesus is talking to Thomas, and there in verse he says, “Because I live, so shall you live.” As Ravi prepared to leave the hospital five days later, the doctor looked at him and said, “You know, young man, we have given you your life back. But we cannot make you want to live.”

Fast forward to 2014. Ravi Zacharias is the president and founder of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM). In the past 42 years he has spoken all over the world, including at some of the world’s most prestigious universities, answering the difficult questions of life. He is one of the most important Christian apologists of the 21st century, and has written a handful of books on religion, philosophy, and apologetics. He has several doctoral degrees, and serves as a visiting scholar at Cambridge University. According to his biography page,

“Dr. Zacharias has direct contact with key leaders, senators, congressmen, and governors who consult him on an ongoing basis. He has addressed the Florida Legislature and the Governor’s Prayer Breakfast in Texas, and has twice spoken at the Annual Prayer Breakfast at the United Nations in New York, which marks the beginning of the UN General Assembly each year. As the 2008 Honorary Chairman of the National Day of Prayer, he gave addresses at the White House, the Pentagon, and The Cannon House. He has had the privilege of addressing the National Prayer Breakfasts in the seats of government in Ottawa, Canada, and London, England, and speaking at the CIA in Washington, DC.”

In 2013, Ravi received a phone call from the man who had given him that little pocket-sized New Testament in the hospital. He was dying. “I wanted to fly out and visit him, but he wouldn’t let me,” he said. “No Ravi, it’s okay. I just wanted to let you know that sometimes I watch you on YouTube, and the tears run down my face, and I think to myself, the main reason God brought me into this world, was to bring that Bible to you.

The butterfly flaps its wings on one side of the world, and causes a tidal wave on the other. A mere drip of water in the ocean, and the ripples are carried off into infinity. There is no telling the impact that Ravi Zacharias has (and will have) had in our world today, and in the future. Reverse the ripples, and towards the center you have a man willing to be used by God to carry out the simple task of placing a Bible into the hands of a suicidal boy. The result of this simple action would crack the solid heart of a lost young man who wanted to end his life because of it’s seemingly purposelessness; it would introduce him to the Way, Truth, and the Life. The gospel would later be spread to some of the most difficult places in the world, and it all started with a drop…

Too often we live our lives waiting for the big moments. Yet, as Paul Tripp tells us, “Life is lived in the little moments.” Within each life, only a miniscule number of big moments will take place. Jobs, graduations, marriage, children, grandchildren, milestones etc. Very few, when compared to the amount of small moments we face every day. You do not realize the capacity you have for impacting those around you in the small moments. Make the most of them. Live for something greater than yourself.

Because I live, so shall you live.

Should Christians Participate in Halloween?

Many conservative Christians are pondering whether or not it is appropriate to participate in Halloween because of what it might symbolize. Understandably so, since as Christians we inherently believe in the supernature of good and evil entities, both of which inhabit and transcend the natural world. It would be unwise to celebrate or participate in any event that might go against what would be pleasing to God (not to mention, unbeneficial). It is important, however, to determine whether or not what we’re doing is truly against what we find in scripture, and whether or not we have a right to protest fellow Christians in participating in such events. That being said, what is Halloween truly about?

To boil the story down, Halloween is a mash-up of the Celtic pagan holiday Samhain (pronounced sow-ayne) and the Christian holiday All Hallows Eve. Samhain occurred from October 31st to November 2nd, and it symbolized the embrace of the final harvest, death, and the introduction of winter. Many believed that during Samhain, the spirits of dead would roam the earth and visit the living. The tradition of wearing masks comes from the idea that a person could disguise himself/herself as a way of tricking a spirit into thinking that he/she was also a spirit—thus causing the spirit to overlook the person and leave them alone. The idea of trick or treat comes from the tradition of offering goods (treats) to the spirits so that they will take the gift and restrain any kind of harm. Failure to offer up goods to the spirit could result in a trick where the spirit may antagonize the person for not complying.

All Hallows Eve represents the beginning of the celebration of All Saints Day where Christians would remember the martyrs of the past. As you might have guessed, we have derived the name Halloween from All Hallows Eve, which was traditionally a Christian holiday.

So is Halloween an evil holiday? Well, like most things, it isn’t that simple. You have the emergence of a superstitious, pagan holiday with a Christian holiday celebrating their Christian martyrs. You have a semi-resemblance of certain Samhain practices, though void of spiritual content. But is it wrong to celebrate? Here are a couple of things to remember. 1: Christ is triumphant over the dead (1 Cor. 15:55-57, Col. 2:15, Rom. 6:9). 2: Evil is everywhere, and there is no reason to suspect it is more present on Halloween (1 Pet. 5:8). 3: We are told to be in the world but not of the world (John 15:19). 4: We are told to spread the good news of the gospel (Mark 16:15). You won’t find a verse in the Bible that explicitly says that it is wrong to participate in Halloween. Therefore, we gather the truth of scripture as a whole, and against it, we measure our convictions, intentions, history as we know it, and considered ideologies. From there we make our judgment.

The bottom line:

Whether or not you chose to participate in Halloween is left to your own convictions. It should go without saying that Christians should not participate in any kind of witchcraft, divination, or anything else where there is an attempt to communicate with spirits. These are things that people can get themselves into at any time during the year, not just Halloween. We should approach holidays with an understanding of what they represent—being careful to do our research and being hesitant to be overly-dogmatic about our opinions, lest we disguise our opinions as truth. Halloween has roots in both a pagan holiday, as well as in a Christian holiday. We should use our good judgment, partnered with the solid truths of scripture and the guidance of the Spirit to determine what is harmful, and how we should engage the culture that we live in.

[Edit] To clarify, it is certainly possible to cross a line where certain traditions, though not necessarily inappropriate in themselves, can be used as an excuse for inappropriate behavior. I would certainly agree that there are Halloween practices and costumes that can cross the line into inappropriate behavior, and we should use our better judgement in order to identify them. We find this to be the case with nearly all pop-holidays. Wearing green on Saint Patrick’s Day isn’t likely going to fly the flag of immorality, whereas irresponsible drinking would. Putting up a Christmas tree isn’t likely to be sinful, whereas excessive materialism would be. Giving love-themed Valentines Day gifts isn’t likely to be sinful, unless those gifts are lecherous.

Additional information:

http://www.loc.gov/folklife/halloween.html

http://www.livescience.com/40596-history-of-halloween.html

http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/a123/christians-and-halloween

http://www.amazon.com/The-Facts-Halloween-On-Series/dp/0736922199/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413904186&sr=8-1&keywords=the+facts+on+halloween

The Pornographic Heart: A Feeling vs Intimacy

If you grew up in a conservative background, and especially if you grew up in the church, it’s likely that you’ve been warned about the dangers of pornography. Typically it’s frowned upon with little explanation as to why it might be bad for you, and what issues can/will arise as the result of viewing it. I think this has been a shame, because simply telling someone “don’t do this just because” isn’t really helping anyone grasp a firm reason as to why they should avoid something. It’s along the same lines as “believe that God is there, just because” without ever really giving them a single reason. Sure, that explanation works on a child, but what young person hasn’t come to the day when they realized that maybe God isn’t there? Now some people will argue any point for the sake of argument itself. As a child, that was certainly the case for me, to which my parents understood that feeding the machine (me) with more arguments wasn’t getting me closer to truth, because I wasn’t looking for truth in the first place; I was looking for a fight. When a kid asks “why” he should clean his room, he probably isn’t interested in why organization and cleanliness are beneficial, instead, it’s likely he’s just looking to question the system and hopefully get out of a chore. But as we grow into adults, we still want to know why things are harmful or beneficial, or why it makes sense to believe in God but not in the tooth fairy. These are legitimate questions. Hopefully we’re asking them with a sincere heart and not just looking to get out of “chores.” So for those who legitimately want to know why pornography doesn’t have you in its best interest, let me give you a reason to think about.

Pornography leads you to seek a feeling, instead of a person.

It’s easy to see how destructive this is in a practical sense. Nobody thinks that it is virtuous to use people as a means to an end. Pornography teaches me to pursue a feeling over intimacy. Within marriage, once your partner is no longer “exciting,” you’ll be ready to click on the next video for the next partner. But there is no next video in real life. Instead of sex becoming a way to form a deep bond of intimacy, I’ve successfully stripped it of its deepest value, and reduced it down to mere excitement—which I can find anywhere. And just like the nature of excitement, it has diminishing returns. A baby laughs over and over again when you tear a piece of paper in front of him, but we’re not babies, and we’re far harder to keep entertained. The more we indulge, the less exciting an activity becomes. There is nothing wrong with excitement itself, until you begin to treat relationships as means for your excitement. At this point you’ve reduced yourself to a social vampire, draining people of their entertainment value and moving on to the next once you have what you want. Because pornography teaches me to pursue a feeling over intimacy, it will kill your desire for your spouse.

Now, let me say that pornography is not placing something into your heart that wasn’t already there in the first place. It doesn’t place in us the desire for excitement—if that were true, then we wouldn’t have any reason to watch it in the first place. That desire is already there. Pornography doesn’t teach me to use people as a means to an end—that selfishness is already inside of me. It doesn’t teach a person how to lust—lust entices me to pursue pornography. Pornography is a magnet to the heart. When applied, it surfaces and nurtures some of the deepest issues that we may not even be aware of. This is why when Christ talks about lust, he isn’t simply telling us to try harder. He’s telling us that there are deep issues there, and that we need a new heart (Matt 5:28). We need a heart of flesh in order to live; a heart of stone won’t do it (Eph 2.1). What is dead, cannot try. A stone can’t improve upon itself. God’s promise is that he will remove the stone and replace it with a real, beating heart of flesh (Eze 36:26).

Christ did not come to make bad people good, he came to make dead people live (John 10:10).

The Biblical View of Marriage is not Destroyed by Gay Marriage

My social media news feed has blown up with articles and opinions about gay marriage being legalized in North Carolina this week. The vast majority of these posts are from conservative Christians, though I have a handful of friends who are either homosexual or supporters of homosexuality. I value both sides tremendously because it enables me to witness the responses from two drastically different perspectives. There’s no question in my mind that for many homosexuals, this legalization represents a victory for them. In contrast, most evangelical Christians see this as a major loss for the sanctity of marriage, and many even believe that we are quickly cascading down a slippery slope into darkness. Realizing that most of my readers are probably evangelical Christians, I typically gear my posts towards things that I see them talking about. Therefore, I want to remind my conservative friends of a couple of things to remember in the wake of the gay marriage legalization in North Carolina (or anywhere else for that matter.)

1: The Biblical view of marriage is not destroyed by gay marriage

Why? Because mankind does not define what constitutes as marriage, nor do we possess the power to destroy it. Remember that Christ said “What God [not man] has joined together, let no man separate.” (Matthew 19:6). This doesn’t just apply to homosexuality, but divorce as well. Many churches speak openly about their outrage of homosexuality, but glance conveniently over divorce. Why? For reasons you already know. The church is full of hypocrites and cowards (which likely include you and I) who condemn certain sins, and flee from others. This is the elephant in the room that nobody will acknowledge. Some conservatives will justify divorce by saying “If you had seen what I have seen, you would think different.” Some homosexuals will say “If you knew what it was like, you would think differently.” Both arguments are the same. I know this will upset many people, but it has to be said. Evangelicals are just as guilty of distorting marriage as anyone else. I say this as a Christian who holds to a traditional view of marriage. Marriage is not ours to destroy.

2: Your citizenship is not in this world

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t participate in politics or speak out about your beliefs. This means that you shouldn’t get too comfortable where you are. Christians have enjoyed so much freedom in the United States that we forget that this country doesn’t belong to us. As the US embraces pluralism on a wider scale, we begin to see equilibrium in ways that will challenge us. I believe that marriage is intrinsically a Biblical concept that demonstrates Christ’s relationship to his church; men taking on the role of Christ in sacrificial headship, and women taking on the role of the church as the supportive body. Both roles are equally important, and both roles are embracing Christ’s example. We look at marriage this way, but there is no reason for non-Christians to look at marriage in this way. We are free to teach the Biblical perspective of marriage to each other, and give reasons to the outside world why we believe it to be a certain way. Let’s continue to do this, while understanding that the rest of the world will not see it the way we do. Nor should we expect them to.

3: Beware of hyperbole

Someone once said that we live in an age of hyperbole, where everything is either “the best thing ever” or “the worst thing ever.” This isn’t too far off. As a confession, I’m prone to exaggerations. I understand how difficult it is not to exaggerate when something excites you (in a good or bad way). But we need to be very careful with our words when we talk about homosexuality. That does not mean that we condone it, or refuse to state what we believe to be true—but it means that we don’t go out of our way with unnecessary words to condemn people that aren’t Christians. That is not a way to reach people. Christ had dinner with prostitutes, tax collectors, and probably homosexuals too. These people were drawn to him; and not because he approved of their lifestyle. He certainly didn’t. But the people that Christ really fought against were the hypocritical religious elite, who lacked a drop of compassion in their hearts for the outside world. I rarely see prostitutes or homosexuals drawn towards Christians. If we’re really projecting Christ, I wonder why this isn’t happening.

We need to be very careful to remember that marriage is not in our hands to define or destroy. It is in God’s hands and his hands alone. We need to remember that when we do not approve of the way that things are, that this world isn’t ours, nor should be expect it to be. We need to remember to be careful with our words regarding others. We should speak the truth, but always in love. We should be especially cautious how we address people who do not believe the same things that we do. I can be critical of my Christian brother for his lifestyle in ways that I cannot be critical of my non-Christian friend. If I lack the wisdom to treat them differently, then I can cause irreparable damage. My hope is that Christians will be recognized for their love and wisdom, rather than their condemnation and ignorance. This is something I am working on myself—and I see a disturbing lack of it in the church.

(Thoughts? Comments? Feel free to contact me at zacklocklear@outlook.com)