Archive for the Willard Category

Faith vs. Knowledge (9)

Posted in Willard on April 28, 2011 by nmpreach

Willard discusses spiritual disciplines including humility, pursuit of inward transformation, constant receptivity to the “Presence”, and unqualified obedience to Jesus. 

Under this umbrella of disciplines is silence and solitude.  Regretfully, I have much to learn in this spiritual discipline.  Upon self-evaluation, I’m not very good at being silent.  I’m prone to talk to God more than listen.  In fact, silence makes me uncomfortable.  And often times, I revert back to my “default” mode of noise, noise, and more noise. 

And solitude.  I can’t think of the last time that I was alone and did nothing for lengthy periods of time.  After all, my brain tells me that I’m not being productive, I’m being lazy, or I am wasting time.  Again.  Default mode.  Do you find yourself overwhelmed by stress, being irritable, or lonely?  Check your time of silence and solitude.

Fellowship with other disciples is another discipline that must be learned.   Recently, I’ve been reading much in regards to Christian history.  It’s inspiring to read of Christians who gave everything (including their lives) for their pursuit of a relationship with Jesus.  Their writings have also been beneficial.  And of course, the example of discipleship throughout Scripture is something we must follow.

The writer of Hebrews encourages us to “not neglect meeting together…but encouraging one another” (10:25).  After all, isn’t that what the Church is about?  The fellowship we have with one another is so vital to maintaining a healthy spiritual life.  It’s important to remember that fellowship isn’t just being around one another.  It’s about growing a relationship, sharing together, and learning to love.   Too often, we equate fellowship with eating with one another or sharing recipes.  Again, it’s time we train ourselves in spiritual disciplines that cause us to grow closer to Christ and one another.  How would your own evaluation of fellowship look?  Are you investing in other believers and allowing them to invest in you?

Let’s commit to working on these disciplines – together!  What do you say?

Faith vs. Knowledge (8)

Posted in Willard on April 20, 2011 by nmpreach

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

The Apostle Paul (Ph. 3:8)

We’ve been discussing knowing God/Christ on an intimate level.  It’s now time to turn our attention to some practical things.  I appreciate how Willard offers, “Jesus is the human face on the kingdom of God.  He makes it concretely accessible” (142).  This is how we can say being a follower of Christ is not about religion.  It’s about relationship.  At the danger of sounding overly pious, I believe that statement to be true.  Willard argues, “His (Jesus’) crucifixion and resurrection announce the end of human systems and stand in judgment over them.  He is the man on the cross calling us to join him there” (147).

This Easter week, people will show up in churches because it happens to be Easter Sunday.  They will tolerate several things including family gatherings, a few songs, and even religious people.  It’s the last statement above that makes most people uncomfortable.  He is the man on the cross calling us to join him there.  What?  I thought it was over.  Jesus did it all.  There’s nothing I could ever do.  etc.

Although it’s true that Jesus said “It is finished”, He doesn’t absolve us of our responsibility.   After all, what does it mean to worship him “in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:23-24)?  Some of us might be quick to answer with “‘The Jesus Creed’ – that’s what it means to worship in spirit and truth.”  Love God and love others.  It’s as simple as that.  Right?

Willard defines “love” as “humbly and simply devot(ing) ourselves under God to the promotion of the goods of human life that come under our influence” (155).  In other words, it goes back to taking the focus from ourselves and placing it back upon God – being willing to do what Christ did – giving completly of himself.  Are you willing?

Faith vs Knowledge (7)

Posted in Willard on April 6, 2011 by nmpreach

Once we’ve determined how we can know of a supreme being and His standard of morality, Willard now moves into a discussion of Christ.  Deists believe in God – although He can’t be known, doesn’t interact with creation, etc.  But what does one do with Christ?  Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (Jn 14:9) seems pretty clear.  Jesus claims at least the same attributes or characteristics of the Father.  Based upon other texts e.g. Jn 1:1, I would go further to say the Father and Jesus are one in the same.  Therefore, those of us who are Trinitarians believe God has taken an active role in creation (in Jesus) and continues to do so through the Holy Spirit.

When we consider miracles, there are those who would disallow them based upon the miracle not following a “natural” set of laws.  As Willard so eloquently points out, “The inception of new life in the human female’s womb regularly requires the injection of sperm from a human male, dead people regularly stay dead, and on a regular basis water refuses to turn to wine even when spoken to” p. 125.  However, witnesses have recorded those very things happening in the Bible.  A virgin did conceive and give birth, the dead was raised to life, and water did turn to wine.  It’s important to note that these things were corroborated by more than a few people.

Natural laws are a reality.  But one must consider where those laws come from?  In other words, the laws didn’t create themselves or just happen.  But even so, if the law giver provides the laws, doesn’t he also have the ability to modify or counteract the laws?  If he has the ability and chooses to do so, supernatural events (or miracles) occur.

If one chooses not to believe in miracles, that is of course, their right.  However, disregarding truth simply because it can’t be explained is less than intelligent.  God has given us the opportunity to know Christ today through His supernatural events in the past and present.  I look forward to what we’ve been promised for the future.  Thoughts?

Faith vs Knowledge (6)

Posted in Willard on April 1, 2011 by nmpreach

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name ‘Immanuel’   Is 7:14; Matt 1:23

Jesus said to him,…’Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.’  Jn 14:9

He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  Col 1:15

Millenia after Peter declares his belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (cf. Matt 16:16), readers were once again asked to do something with Jesus.  Jesus made audacious claims (especially in regards to divinity).  We must then decide for ourselves.  Either Jesus was Lord, a liar, or a lunatic.  Those really are the only options.  What’s even more astounding is Jesus taught that humanity could have a personal relationship with God.  He speaks of another Counselor, a comforter, one who goes between mankind and God (cf John 14).  To quote Willard: “If there is such a God as this, it obviously has tremendous implications for ‘worldview’ issues and for individual lives – that is, it makes a huge difference in how we can and should live” (97).

Knowing God includes recognizing God through nature.  In Psalm 8, David declares, When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?  Perhaps you can think of other verses that point to the existence of God through nature.  Think about the transformation a caterpillar goes through to become a butterfly, the intricate details of a flower and how fertilization takes place.  It’s these and other things that lead Paul to declare, For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them (Rom 1:19).

Secondly, God can be known through one’s experiences.  My experiences include times of faith.  When I intentionally develop a relationship with God (through prayer, faith, loving others, etc.), I’ve found God’s promises to ring true.  Although relationships in my life have faltered because mankind is involved, God is the only constant.  Just as God was with Joshua, so He will be with us (Josh 1:5; Heb 13:5).  We’ll talk more about Christ in our lives next time.

What are your thoughts about knowing God – through nature?  experiences?  If one is never told about God, do they have an excuse?

Faith vs Knowledge (5)

Posted in Willard on March 29, 2011 by nmpreach

Knowing Christ today, according to Willard, involves putting aside all the superstition and the religious paraphernalia to focus on the humanity of Christ.  In other words, if one moves quickly past the historical Jesus and into the spiritual realm, they miss what Jesus actually stood for (and what He stood against). 

When it comes to morality, Willard offers it has been slowly redefined, so that even the standards once set by God are now called into question.  Just take a look at the supreme court docket and what they are asked to “decide”.  Just a few short years ago, some of those things were considered untouchable.  Now, everything is open for debate.  Science, psychology, and the idea of “If it feels good, do it!” have also led to the absence of moral knowledge throughout the last few centuries.

It seems to me that Willard is on to something.  The decline of morality didn’t happen over night.  Question is: As believers hoping to affect change in our society, is all a lost cause?  In other words, is anything salvageable or must we start from scratch again.  Lord, how we need your help!

Faith vs. Knowledge (4)

Posted in Willard on March 22, 2011 by nmpreach

Socrates once said, “If we only know the good, we will do it.”  In other words, education is the solution to the problem.  At a cursory glance, that seems  to be the case.  After all, what we consider to be civilized societies, make education a large part of who they are.  But is Socrates correct through out?  Does knowledge prevent all problems?

We all know people who have experienced trouble because of ignorance.  A lack of knowledge always carries consequences.  On the other hand, many live their lives with the mantra “Ignorance is bliss.”  Perhaps this is because we realize when we know something, we’re expected to use that same knowledge.  Knowledge means responsibility or certain expectations.  Do you ever notice a homeless person on the side of the road and act like you’re busy?  Willard points out, if you look, your knowledge has required you to deal with the present circumstance.

The prophet Hosea writes, My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me.  And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.(4:6)

It’s clear that we must be about obtaining the knowledge God makes available – not only for our sake, but for the sake of those who follow.  What will you learn today for the sake of those who follow you?

Faith vs. Knowledge (3)

Posted in Willard on March 16, 2011 by nmpreach

We’re on now to considering Willard’s argument of Christianity – especially in the West – encouraging a new definition of knowledge.  In modern times, we have allowed science to redefine what it means to know something.  Religion is relegated to mere belief or commitment (23).  Need proof?  Check out Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion or Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great

Of course the idea of religion being seen as simple superstition didn’t happen over night.  The Church was at one time the center of the community (local or at large).  Policies and laws were once installed only after consulting with the Church.  However, that is no longer the case.  In fact, the Church is often seen as the “enemy” or “behind the times.”  Willard believes the Church becomes impotent when there is no longer a discussion about what constitutes knowledge.  In other words, within education, secular schools are believed to have knowledge.  But Christian schools are uncomfortable claiming the same knowledge.  Again, it goes back to the Church buying into the definition of knowledge being altered.  Eventually, the Church no longer had a place around the table for an honest discussion.  Does Willard make his case?  It seems so.

During the Enlightenment – a period when man believed he became much smarter – liberal theology divorced itself from knowledge and claimed faith was much greater than what could be proven.  Eventually, this led to social ethics.  On the other end of the spectrum, knowledge and religion were perceived as works, which leads to a whole new set of problems.  You might be picturing a slippery slope in your mind.  If so, it would be accurate.  Religion and faith had been pushed aside even by Christians.

Willard then turns his attention to the tolerance/intolerant discussion.  If one believes they have knowledge no one else has, they are seen as fundamental, dogmatic, and intolerant.  Others are seen as simply ignorant or infidels.  Although I don’t have the space to adequately offer what Willard says here, I would encourage those of you with the book to review pages 26-29.  Although it is true that many intolerant people claim absolute knowledge, the blanket statement/idea is a straw man at best.

Here is the point:  Christians have bought into the idea that knowledge is only knowledge if it can be proven by today’s modern scientific analysis.  We’ve done this to our own detriment.  That’s why it is imperative that we define knowledge not based on scientific data but on what we know by experience. 

Next Time: Gain Knowledge or Perish