Eyes That See

“I Once Was Blind”

“Proudly, Guiltlessly, Confidently, Joyously Alive”

Is there a difference between “living” and “living.”  I think so.  A guy that I used to play basketball after church with when I was in high school used to ask me if I was going to “show up” or just “show up.”  The implication there was that everybody who goes to the gym “shows up,” but only a few actually “show up,” or make an impact, or dominate.  I think that is a subtle difference that can be translated into the difference between “living” and “living.”

One of Ayn Rand’s characters in her novel “Atlas Shrugged” described another character thusly:

“[You were] proudly, guiltlessly, confidently, joyously alive.”

Now, do you want to merely be “alive,” or do you want to be “alive” like that?  I think that the answer to that question is obvious, so we will move on to the next one: How do you get there?  There are several possibilities to ponder, but I have chosen three, those put forth by Ayn Rand, Joel Osteen, and the apostle Paul, and we will use the line from Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” as the litmus.

Rand believed that objective reason in the pursuit of one’s own happiness was the means to a full life.  She believed that the mind was the motive power of the world, and that purpose and reason and motivation fueled the world as the diesel fueled the trains on the tracks of her heroine Dagny Taggart’s Taggart Transcontinental Railroad.  However, I do not believe that Rand’s philosophy satisfies even her own standards.  I believe that a life driven by objective reason could very well lead a person to be proudly, confidently, and joyously alive, but what about guiltlessly?  What about the times when a person has faulty reasoning or forgoes reason altogether?  The short-term vs. long-term conundrum alone throws a wrench into her ethics.  If we are to, by means of objective reason, pursue our own happiness, what do we do when our short-term happiness comes at the sacrifice of our long-term happiness?  We all face that situation nearly every day, don’t we?  The happiness from eating something deliciously unhealthy vs. the happiness of physical fitness and/or appearance; the happiness of buying the temptor in front of us vs. saving for the big purchase in our sights six months from now; etc. 

So, as we contemplate the word “guiltlessly,” and how it fits into Rand’s recipe for life, we have a discrepancy.  With as many decisions as we all make every minute of every hour of every day, how can living a life driven by objective reason be “guiltless”?  In one of two ways, I believe:  either by never making a mistake, or by seperating mistakes from consciousness.  Sure, you could somewhat atone for a mistake by either repaying whatever loss your mistake caused to other people and/or learning from the mistake and not repeating it, but I do not believe that either of those options erase the guilt of a mistake.  So, in order to be guiltless, an objective reason-ist, assuming he or she has made at least one mistake, must seperate any and all mistakes from their conscious awareness.  But, I do not believe that anybody could, especially from an objective viewpoint, call such a person guiltless.  The only solution would be to turn to subjective measures, which I assume Rand would oppose, and feel “guiltless” because he or she is not as “guilty” as the next person.  None of those options provide true guiltlessness, so we must move on to other sources.

On to Mr. Osteen.  I might not know enough about Joel Osteen to be as critical as I am of him, but I am not very fond of what I do know of him.  He is a pastor who forsakes what the Bible instructs of pastors.  But, he has written two books that warrant him for consideration in pondering the pursuit of being alive.  The titles of his two books are “Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential” and “Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day.”  With book titles like that, it would seem as though Joel Osteen knows how to be “proudly, guiltlessly, confidently, joyously alive,” right?  I haven’t read his books, but you can google “Joel Osteen” and preview them both.  There you can find both of his seven-step processes to “Your Best Life Now” and to becoming “A Better You.”  If Osteen had a road map to being alive, then I would think that his seven steps would not change as much as they did from ’04’s “Best Life” to ’07’s “Better You”:

“Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential”
1. Enlarge Your Vision
2. Develop a Healthy Self-Image
3. Discover the Power of Your Thoughts and Words
4. Let Go of the Past
5. Find Strength Through Adversity
6. Live to Give
7. Choose to Be Happy

“Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day”
1. Keep Pressing Forward
2. Be Positive Toward Yourself
3. Develop Better Relationships
4. For Better Habits
5. Embrace the Place Where You Are
6. Develop Your Inner Life
7. Stay Passionate About Life

Who knows whether or not his seven steps will change just as drastically in the next three years as they did from ’04 to ’07?  Regardless, I think we can use these fourteen steps to decide whether or not Osteen can lead us to being “proudly, guiltlessly, confidently, joyously alive.”  With all of the goodness that can be garnered from Osteen’s fix yourself, Dr. Phil-esque self-help books, I think that he, like Rand, fails to address the issue of guilt.  So regardless of whether or not Osteen can lead us to be “proudly, confidently, joyously alive,” he cannot lead us to be guiltless simply by ignoring guilt.  So, at least by Rand’s litmus line, Osteen cannot lead us to our full potential.

So what does the apostle Paul have to say about this matter?  We’ve taken a look at Osteen’s modern attempt and Rand’s attempt from her philosophy, which she put forward in the form of a novel in 1964 with “Atlas Shrugged.”  Now lets go back almost two-thousand years to the Jewish genius Paul, and see what he thought about living.

According to Paul, those who are justified in the eyes of God, by faith in Jesus Christ- faith that His perfection and His righteousness were imputed to us, in exchange for our sins which were imputed to Him; faith that His death on the Cross paid the penalty of our sins, so that we don’t have to pay that penalty with our death- are sons of God, fellow heirs with Christ, and will inherit the world.  What could bring more pride, confidence, and joy than knowing that you are a child of God and that you will inherit the world?  And what guilt can a person have when God, who is the ultimate victim of every sin we commit, declares us guiltless?  And the justification by faith that Paul taught provides both the eternal joys of being a child of God and being with God for eternity and the present joy and contentment and satisfaction of being a child of God and a citizen of heaven here on earth.  And although Christianity has become associated with the negative connotation of sacrificing one’s desires for the good of another, I agree with John Piper that true Christianity does not see anything as a sacrifice if it is in the name of Jesus Christ and for the benefit of His Kingdom.  And, any such sacrifice would be made in love and would be no sacrifice because the rewards dwarf any benefits or desires that are given up.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Matthew 13:44

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January 5, 2008 Posted by | Ayn Rand, child of God, Christ, God, happiness, Jesus, Joel Osteen, joy, justification by faith, Life, living, perfection, potential, pure, righteous, Satisfaction, the apostle Paul | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Glory of God in Allowing Christians to Sin and in Allowing the Holocaust

I wrote a blog about evolution being taught in public schools and my belief that it should either be taught differently or not taught at all. An extremely intelligent atheist named Ron responded to my blog, and we began a discussion that has accounted for most of the 60 comments on that blog.

The discussion with Ron, along with my thoughts on why God allows Christians to sin, led me to contemplate both why a loving God would allow Christians to sin and why He would allow enormous tragedies such as the Holocaust, as well as how I could declare that God is just although He allows both sin and tragedies to happen.

The short answer to the “why?” on both issues is for the glory of God. I would have given that answer before the discussion with Ron, because I have been told that all things happen for the glory of God and I believe that to be true. But I could not have begun to answer how allowing those things to happen glorifies God. I believe that I can now answer the “how?” on both of those issues in a way that is at least satisfactory for me and hopefully will benefit others.

How does allowing Christians to sin glorify God? God hates sin. God would prefer for us not to sin. God could prevent us from sinning if He wanted to. But we do sin. Why? God can do all that He pleases, therefore it must be pleasing to God for some reason and in some way to allow Christians to sin. A better way to say that, I believe, is that there must be something that is more preferable to God, for the sake of which God allows Christians to sin. There must be another variable that comes into play, and for the sake of that variable, God prefers to allow us to sin. That variable, I believe, is God’s honor, or to say it in another way, His glory and His name.

For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him. –Romans 1:21

And because “they” did not honor God as God or give thanks to Him, God gave “them” over to all this. So when people do not honor God as God and give thanks to Him, God allows them to sin. This applies to Christians and non-Christians alike, and in all people this glorifies God. The question then is: “how does this glorify God?” This glorifies God because when we honor Him as God and give thanks to Him, He gets the glory; not us. When we do not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, we get the glory. Therefore, it is just and good and loving of God to allow people to sin when they do not honor Him as God and give thanks to Him, because He is worthy of honor and He is the giver of all. If we were able to abstain from sin apart from God, then we would do so at the expense of God’s name and God’s glory. If we were able to overcome sin apart from God, on the basis of some quality that we possessed, then we would not need God.

If I overcome sin on my own and apart from God, then my name and my glory are inflated, and God’s name and God’s glory are insignificant and unnecessary. Therefore, for the sake of His name and His glory, God must allow us to sin when we do not honor Him as God and do not give Him thanks. Although He hates sin, allowing us to sin is preferable to the defamation of His name and His glory. And that is why each and every strategy for overcoming sin that is not centered on honoring God as God and giving Him the thanks that He so greatly deserves will fail.

So we now move on to the Holocaust.

I believe that all evil in the world that is performed by the hands of men is an example of what I have just discussed. And, I believe that the rest of Romans 1:21 and verse 22 shed more light on this subject:

For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools

Futile thinking and foolish hearts. Does that sound like Hitler and the Nazis? Did they not claim to be wise? The blood of the victims of the Holocaust is unquestionably on the hands of Hitler and the Nazis. However, if there is a loving God, then He either refused to prevent the Holocaust from happening or He was unable to. This is the issue that Ron brings up, and it is a big one. I can very easily identify with Ron on this one. If He didn’t have the power to prevent it, then He’s not worthy. And if He had the power to prevent it but didn’t, then He’s not worthy. I believe that He is worthy, so I have some reconciling to do.

Some might try to “get God off the hook” here, so to speak, and say that God didn’t want the Holocaust to happen. That angle leads to what I just mentioned- if God didn’t want it to happen, then He was either unable or unwilling to prevent it from happening. Saying that God was unable to prevent it from happening, either based on evil in the world or the free will of man that God cannot interfere with, paints a picture of God that I really don’t like. That view of God implies that God is at the mercy of evil in the world or the free will of man, and if that is the case I might have to side with Ron and say that that God is unworthy.

However, I do not believe that to be the case. I do not believe that God was unable to prevent the Holocaust from happening. Which leads us to the question: “If God was able to prevent the Holocaust, why didn’t He?”

I believe that the answer to that question is the same as the answer to why God allows Christians to sin. Just as God allows us to sin, even though He hates sin, when we fail to honor Him as God and give Him thanks, He allowed the Holocaust, even though He hated the Holocaust, because Hitler and the Nazis failed to honor Him as God and give Him thanks. His name and His glory are so important to God, that He allows both sin and tragedy to take place when He is not given the honor and thanks that He deserves.

So, God allows us to sin when we fail to honor Him as God and give Him thanks, even when our sin will affect others who had nothing to do with the sin. And when governments and leaders fail to honor God as God and give thanks to Him, the results of their sins can affect a great number of people.

Just as Pharaoh did not honor God and let the Israelites go, until His refusal brought down plagues on His people that culminated in the death of the firstborn of every Egyptian, so Hitler and the Nazis’ failure to give honor and thanks to God resulted in the Holocaust. And just as Pharaoh and Hitler’s decisions resulted in an unfathomable amount of innocent bloodshed, so the failure of America to give honor and thanks to God has resulted in the murder of 40 million innocent babies in the name of Roe v. Wade. Pharaoh, Hitler, and any leader who believes that “the woman’s right to choose” supercedes the life of an innocent, defenseless, unborn baby may believe that they are wise, but they are fools, with futile thinking and darkened hearts.

Honor and thanks be to God, who is the Creator of all and the Giver of every good and perfect gift!

December 29, 2007 Posted by | Christ, Christian, Creator, Giver, glory, God, Hitler, holocaust, honor, Jews, Nazi, Religion, sin | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments