Saturday, November 30, 2019

No One Talks About it Series: Week 7 - At the Heart of the Matter

I have three kids, each precious in their own way. Each one has a very outgoing personality, and all have their own unique traits. And since they were little, I have heard the same thing from people, “They’re so cute.” After a while I started replying, “From a distance.” Because the reality is, they are cute from a distance. Their personalities are fun, and when you don’t have to be around them all the time, they’re really fun. 
But then when they get comfortable with you, they’re not so much as cute, as they are cute mixed with chaos. But every time I say, “From a distance,” I inevitably get the response, “Oh their angels and you know it. Well I have a response for that too, “Lucifer was an angel.”
But there is something good about young children. They may lie, but their lies are usually so ridiculous that you can’t help but laugh. When they’re upset, they really are upset, with tears that cold fill a small pond. And when they’re tired, they just curl up, and you think to yourself, glad that’s over for the day. But children seem to have this innate goodness that a lot of us gravitate to. 

And it’s this idea of the innate goodness of people that brings us to the end of our “No One’s Talking About It” series. In the past six weeks, we’ve covered some of the ex-worship leader and song writer for Hillsong church, Marty Sampson’s reasons for why he is leaving the Christian faith.
We’ve talked about how he says no one talks about preachers who fall, and so we responded with how we need to be praying for people.
We’ve talked about how no one talks about there not being many miracles today, and so we responded how we need to seek God for who he is rather than what we can get from him.
We’ve talked about supposed Bible contradictions, when the reality is, the Bible is actually harmonious when we allow it to be understood in the context in which is was written.
We’ve talked about how God doesn’t send people to hell on a whim, but rather hell is the last action of a loving God to a person who completely rejects him.
We’ve talked about how all of humanity has sought truth for thousands of years, yet Jesus says he is truth, the only way to truth, and only in him can we experience truth.
And finally, last week, we talked about how modern science isn’t piercing the Bible, making it obsolete, but rather, science is finally catching up to the deep hints that the Bible points to about creation.
Six weeks we’ve talked about those things that Sampson says are not being talked about in the Christian Church. And to each one, we have given a response to Sampson’s reasons to why he is leaving the faith.

So the obvious question then is, if we were able to answer these questions, why wasn’t he? He says no one talks about these topics, but just doing a quick Google search, we can find page after page, and video after video, addressing each and everyone of these. So why is Sampson walking away from his faith based on easily answered objections?

To answer this question, I want us to go to the last part of his online post, because it’s in that quote that I think we will find the real reason why he is leaving the faith.

Sampson writes, “Lots of things help people change their lives, not just one version of God. Got so much more to say, but for me, I keeping it real. Unfollow if you want, I’ve never been about living my life for others.
“All I know is what’s true to me right now, and Christianity just seems to me like another religion at this point. I could go on, but I won’t. Love and forgive absolutely. Be kind absolutely. Be generous and do good to others absolutely. Some things are good no matter what you believe. Let the rain fall, the sun will come up tomorrow.”

There are several statements that he makes in the last part of his post. “I’ve never been about living my life for others.” “All I know is what’s true for me right now…” “Some things are good no matter what you believe.” “Let the rain fall, the sun will come up tomorrow.”

Statements like these reveal something, that I don’t think Sampson intended to reveal. By saying these things, Sampson thinks that he is trying to communicate that he is living the life that best suits him. Love, forgiveness, kindness, generosity, and just doing good, are all things that he thinks we all do no matter what our religion, and so Sampson is saying that life is just about doing what is good, no matter the god you believe in and that’s true living. And to top it all off, he gives a little worldly wisdom of there’s always a brighter tomorrow.

Sampson’s intent is to show that he isn’t a bad guy, and that all of us just need to be good to each other. It doesn’t matter what or who we believe, because it is all the same. And in his trying to be inclusive, he reveals that he truly doesn’t understand the God of the Bible, and the world around him.

I’ve run into this belief a lot. People talk about the innate goodness of humanity, never realizing that the goodness they see, is actually a result of the goodness of God. We touched on this idea back when we talked about hell. Hell is the absence of God’s goodness. In this world, we experience good things, because God originally created it to be good. And so even in this world’s fallen state we still get to experience moments of that goodness. But hell, is the complete absence of the goodness of God, that means, even on a bad day here, there’s still God’s goodness. Whereas hell is the worst day of deep dark depression multiply by thousand every moment.

But let’s back up and take a look at the goodness of the world without God. Taking God completely out of the equation, what do we have? Atheist William Provine in his book, Scientists, Face it! Science and Religion are Incompatible, says, “No inherent moral or ethical laws exist, nor are there any absolute guiding principles for human society. The universe cares nothing for us and we have no ultimate meaning in life…”
In his debate with Christian apologist Frank Truek, atheist David Silverman stated, “There is no objective moral standard. We are responsible for our own actions….The hard answer is it [moral decisions] is a matter of opinion.”
In his book, Atheism: A Very Short Introduction, atheist Julian Baggini writes, “If there is no single moral authority [i.e. if there is no God, then] we have to in some sense ‘create’ values for ourselves… that means that moral claims are not true or false in the same way as factual claims are… moral claims are judgments [that] it is always possible for someone to disagree with… without saying something that is factually false… you may disagree with me but you cannot say I have made a factual error…”
Finally, atheist John Steinrucken, in his book Secularisms Ongoing Debt to Christianity, writes, “Those who doubt the effect of religion on morality should seriously ask the question: Just what are the immutable moral laws of secularism? Be prepared to answer, if you are honest, that such laws simply do not exist!”

There is a consensus among atheist scholars and philosophers that without God as a  moral standard, morals or what we say are good and bad, are merely a personal or social belief. Having no absolute authority over anyone.
So what does the absence of God from the world look like, when all we have to go on is the goodness of humanity? Well, you get people like Josef Stalin who said, “Gratitude is a sickness suffered by dogs.” Or Vladimir Lenin, “Russians are too kind, they lack the ability to apply determined methods of revolutionary terror.” That flies in the face of Sampson saying, being kind absolutely.

What about the physical results of such belief? Well, you get 61,911,000 murdered in the Soviet Gulag; you get 35,236,000 murdered in communist Chin;, 20,946,000 murdered under the Nazis; and if you combined just the communist regimes in the world, you 131,501,000 people killed in the 21st century alone. Why are we focused on these regimes? Because at their heart they’re atheistic. Vladimir Lenin once said of Marxism, “Atheism is a natural and inseparable part of Marxism. Of the theory and practice of scientific socialism. Our program necessarily includes the propaganda of atheism.”
See the absence of God results in a goodness that is based solely on the whims of people, which tend to lead to the deaths of those who are deemed expendable.

Now a common objection that is out there is, “Well this might all be true, but religion has caused more wars than any other reason in the world.” But the reality is, that’s completely false. In their three volume set called the Encyclopedia of Wars, Charles Phillips and Dr. Alan Axelrod reviewed 1,763 major wars over the course of written human history. As they categorized all these wars, religion only occurred in about 7% of those wars, but had additional factors as to why they were being fought. That means 93% of wars throughout history were based, not on religion, but on the supposed goodness of humanity.

In other words, religion is a small reason for the wars in all of human history, what is the main cause? You and I. We are the cause of war, why? And this is where Sampson misses the God of the Bible. 
God calls us out of war and conflict and into his goodness. Jesus says in Mark 10:18, “No one is good—except God alone.” James later in the New Testament writes, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (1:17)”

God is good, and things that Sampson brings up, Love, forgiveness, kindness, generosity, those things only come from God, and without who he is, being left to ourselves, we reject all of them.

In an interview on the youtube channel Unbelievable, the agnostic author Tom Holland reveals his realization of where his morality comes from. He speaks of the Roman world and how alien it is to him, even though, the thought his morality came from it. Listen to how he describes it.

Sampson doesn’t realize that the goodness that he thinks comes from an innate human ability, really only comes from the God of the Bible. And he shows that his goodness is really a self serving one, when he states, “I’ve never been about living my life for others.” In the context, he’s saying that if people want to unfollow him, that’s fine, he’s not putting on a show for them. But with those words, Sampson reveals that his desire isn’t the true goodness of God, because the true goodness of God is a servant attitude. As Paul writes in Philippians 2, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”

After spending these past seven weeks reading and re-reading Sampson’s words about leaving the faith, I have come to this conclusion: None of the reasons he gives are the real reason he is leaving. Instead, it it his desire to follow himself, rather than God, that he has decided to leave the Christian faith. He either has lost sight of who God is, or never understood him in the first place. Either way, this should break our hearts. We need to be in prayer for those who are struggling in their faith. We need to find ways to build them up, and show them the love of God, curbing our judgment for grace.
And for ourselves, we need to cultivate a servant’s mindset and heart. We need to have the attitude of Christ, because when we serve others, we see the true goodness of God.

As we wrap up this series, my challenge for you this week, is to pray for those struggling in their faith, please start with Sampson. Then, seek God to create in you a servant’s attitude that reflects him. Every question has an answer, but the the greatest answer is what Paul says about you and I, when he writes to the Colossian Church, “27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Let us be revealers of Christ, who is in us, to the world around us, so that those who seek goodness, would find it in the only place it can be found, which is Christ Jesus. Amen.

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