How Can the Church Impact Our Communities

In his book “Core Christianity: What is Christianity All About?” Elmer Towns utilizes chapter nine to teach us about the purpose of the church. The church was created to continue the ministry of Jesus Christ on earth. The Holy Spirit was sent to the believers to aid them in spreading the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The church exists to create a community of believers who are reaching the lost and discipling new believers. Unfortunately, the church has not always been successful at the task. There have been many times throughout its history where the church has succeeded at freeing those in bondage, feeding those who were hungry, protecting those being abused, and sharing the good news of God’s forgiveness of sin. Today, the church in North America finds itself dealing with an identity crisis. We became so consumed with creating an alternative culture to our society that we convinced the world we were irrelevant. And now the church is faced with the dilemma of breaking back into the culture. But how do we convince our society that we are here to help?

I believe the first task at hand will be dealing with our differences and our disagreements. Christianity is a reasonable religion, and because of this we do often find ourselves in debate and discussion over some points. These discussions are important and even healthy for our faith, but we cannot allow secondary arguments to become dividers. By this I do not mean we must all agree on everything, but that those things of which we disagree cannot become greater than the things that unite us. Of this I am not speaking of primary things. There are foundational principles of Christianity that believers must not waiver on, but it is the secondary (and sometimes even tertiary) things that we must not allow to create divisions of animosity and anger between believers. Jesus said the world would know us by our love for one another. But what the world sees is a divided religion that cannot agree on the small things. The truth is we need to accept that the teachings of Jesus allow for a great diversity within the body of Christ. The words we read in our Bibles are not as important as the accuracy of the message, our styles of music are not as significant as the praise that it should encourage, and we have not all been called to champion the same causes. We all have differing gifts, abilities, and passions that are to be used in ministering the gospel of Jesus. It is ok that some prefer an organ playing our music, there is nothing wrong with praising God with a rock band, and many have found themselves led to the feet of the Father while listening to a praise team. The Bible does not speak against these things, and within the covers of scripture Christ’s church is allowed to be diverse. Elmer Towns writes, “The glue that bonds them as a community is their transformation by Christ – Christ indwells each one, and they share this common experience with one another (102).” When we unite, not under the same roof but under the same message, we will reach the world.

Once we unite against the enemies of the gospel, and by that I mean Satan and his minions, we would begin to experience a revival in North America. Why is it that our society continues to degrade into immoral behavior? Why do we see depravity all around us, despite our pleas? Why do they not hear our screams and threatening of God’s coming judgment? The simple truth is because they do not understand that we care. The world only sees a group of people who want everyone else to conform to their way of life. And for the most part that is our fault. Instead of love we have leveraged our power, our numbers, and our governmental system to keep so-called Christian values in a position of prominence. And now, we have lost all of those things. America may have been founded on Christian principles, but the America of today is a long way from a Christian nation. Jesus did not instruct his followers to impose him on their society and they were never encouraged to enforce his teachings on those who did not believe. Jesus taught that all of his followers are to live life openly and seek those who are in desperate need of God’s love. Towns writes, “To Christianize a nation is not to pass Christian laws, or force Christian baptism on everyone. Christianization does not start at the top and move down. Rather when Jesus Christ transforms individuals, they begin living for Christ in their homes and in their churches; then they begin to influence the larger society (124).” We are to teach God’s laws, humanity’s need for redemption, and Jesus’ success as our salvation. We do this by earning an audience with those around us. The church has been equipped to meet the needs of the abandoned, the hungry, the abused, and the lost. When we stop focusing our time and effort on enforcing our belief, we will see that the world is very open to the idea of Jesus followers. Jesus followers not only share the good news of Jesus, but meet the needs of society. It was not often in Jesus’ ministry that he had a receptive audience without first meeting someone’s physical needs. If we want the world to hear what we have to say, we must first make sure they realize our motive is love.

In closing, the church has become very misunderstood but much of the problem is our own doing. I spent this post talking about our shortcomings, but the church has been successful on many fronts. I believe on these two things we are in need of repentance and revival. We cannot allow our differences to make us opponents and we cannot view the world as our enemy, it is our mission. Through loving each other and those around us, we can find opportunities to meet the needs of those who are destitute. And in those moments of love, the gospel shines the brightest.

Reference:
Towns, Elmer. “Core Christianity: What is Christianity All About?” 2007. AMG Publishers. Chattanooga, TN.

Cosmological and Anthropological Arguments For The Existence of God

Introduction
The Bible begins in the book of Genesis with these words, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Bible does not begin by arguing for the reality of God, but assumes His existence. The people of Israel accepted the truth of an eternal God, so the biblical authors rarely spent time dealing with an argument for His existence. However, today in our humanistic society it is often necessary to begin explaining the gospel by establishing a foundation with an argument for God’s existence. 1 Peter 3:15 instructs believers to, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” For the believer it is good to have an understanding of the arguments for God’s existence. It is important to note that we cannot prove God’s existence, but we can make a good argument that is supported by both scripture and reason. For this paper we will look at the Cosmological and the Anthropological arguments for God’s existence, and how they explain the necessity of a greater being.

Part One
The Cosmological Argument
The cosmological argument for God’s existence is an ancient philosophy that has been contemplated for centuries. The argument attempts to prove God’s existence by observation of the world around us. It begins with the acknowledgement that in order for things to exist they must have a beginning and all things with a beginning must have a cause. Today it is accepted by many within the scientific community that the universe must have had a beginning. When we peer into the reaches of space it is evident that the universe is expanding and this means everything is moving away from a single point in time and space, that point was the beginning. If the universe had a beginning, it had a cause. It is rational to determine that if the universe had a cause that cause must either be a something or someone. However, further scrutiny will reveal that the cause cannot be a something or you are simply adding to the chain of events and that something would require a cause. This is best illustrated in the example of a tree. A tree is a plant that comes from a seed, and that seed is produced by a tree. To get a tree you must have a seed and to get a seed you must have a tree. However, we know this sequence must be finite. At some point trees came into existence and the series started, a series by definition has a beginning and end. So the universe had a first cause, and that first cause must be an infinite, eternal, and powerful someone who exists outside of our space and time otherwise that someone would just be another cause demanding a cause.

A second aspect of the cosmological argument is a bit more complicated and becomes very philosophical, but it is very powerful because it not only explains that God created the universe but that He must also be causing it to continue to exist. Going back to the concept that things exist, we must further analyze what it means for something to exist. If I described a creature to you that had the body of a woman but instead of legs the creature had a tail like a fish, you would likely guess that I was describing a mermaid, however mermaids do not exist. The fact they are definable does not grant mermaids existence.

Let’s try another example but with something that can exist. If I were to describe a two-dimensional shape, constructed of line segments connecting three points, that are not in a straight line; I have rightly described a triangle. But that description does not require the triangle to exist. Triangles by nature do not require existence; triangles are actually caused to exist by something else that already exists. And that thing would require something to make it exist, and so on and so on. Just as the cosmological argument concludes there must be a beginning and therefore a cause, so it demands a source that continues to cause things to exist. And in order to end the loop, that cause must be without cause. Meaning its existence cannot be determined by the existence of something else. It must exist to give existence to everything else. So not only did the universe require a cause to begin, but it requires a cause to continue being. That thing would be existence itself, it would always exist, it would have no beginnings and no cause, and to be that it must be outside of the world as we know it. The next question is, does the God of the Bible fit that description?

Biblical Foundation
The purpose of world religions is to provide man a purpose in life. Christianity is different from all the world religions because it goes beyond our necessity for purpose and explains the cause of our existence as well as our purpose. No other religion, other than Judaism (which God used to provide the messiah of Christianity) and Christianity, bothers to provide a detailed account of the history of the universe and mankind. The Old Testament account of Genesis begins with God’s creation of the universe. He created time and space, and filled them with the earth, the sun, moon, and the stars. The God of Christianity is no small God who was unhappy with the world around Him and reshaped it to his liking. No, the God of Christianity spoke and created the entire universe from nothing.

One of the Hebrew poems attributed to Israel’s King David says in Psalm 19:1-4, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” The God of the Bible claims to have displayed his glory in the mysteries of the universe. Another of the psalms reads, “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God (Psalm 90:2).” There is no mistake, the Bible claims God to have existed eternally and in order for that to be He must be without cause.

In fact, one of the writers of the New Testament, Paul, wrote in his letter to the Romans that, “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse (Romans 1:20).” Paul was saying that what we cannot see in this life is revealed to us in what we can see. That for the universe to come into being and to continue, it must have been caused by a great and mighty God. The Bible ends with the book of John’s revelation of Jesus Christ. In this letter to the church, John (one of Jesus’ disciples and closest friends) describes a scene in heaven where a multitude can be seen worshiping God and declaring, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being (Revelation 4:11).” No other religion declares their deity to be so powerful to be the very existence of the universe. Such a claim would demand the most amazing feats such as changing the very molecular composition of water into wine, defying the physical laws of gravity to walk on water, and raising the dead to life. No other “god” has claimed to be so powerful and proven themselves to be true. Only the God of Christianity can be our Cause.

Practical Application
What does the existence of a Creator who simply spoke the universe into existence and who alone causes all things to exist mean for mankind? If the universe had a beginning, than the universe had a cause, and that cause must exist outside of our space and time. Our response to this truth is to acknowledge that we are not alone. There is something greater than mankind, and it doesn’t come from the stars, but beyond them. Once we have come to belief in a creator, scrutiny of the Christian bible will further reveal the cause as not only our creator, but our God. We are the workmanship of a God who has chosen to pursue us, and if He has chosen to reach out to us our response should be to pursue Him. Our response should be complete devotion and worship.

Part Two

Anthropological Argument
The second argument for the existence of God that we are going to explore is the Anthropological argument. Anthropology is the study of mankind, and the subject of this argument are the qualities that separates us from other forms of life. We must ask ourselves why we are different from the rest of our planets inhabitants. Are we, as evolutionists propose, simply the highest evolved animal on our planet? Or is it possible that we are the dominant species because we are in fact different from the animals? This question deals with who we are and how we relate to God. Humanity differs from earth’s other occupants because we are self-aware, we think rationally, and we are imaginative. No other species on earth displays our level of intelligence, creativity, and emotion. So this raises the question, are we the dominant form of life because we possess these qualities? Or do we possess them because we were created to be dominant? How could mankind have evolved into a rational, creative, and emotional being from the chaotic process of microbe to man evolution?

One aspect of the anthropological argument reveals that mankind is so widely different from our world because our creation was different from that of the rest of the universe. We were created in the image of God, and because of this we have been given certain attributes that separates us from all other forms of life. We were not made in God’s likeness in appearance, for scripture tells us that God is spirit and we should not infer that God’s physical appearance is that of a man’s. It is our non-physical attributes that were granted to us by being made in the image of our Creator. Our intelligence, imagination, emotion, creativity, and morality are many of the attributes of God that He has blessed us with.

A second aspect of the Anthropological argument demonstrates that it is impossible for mankind to be a personal beings made from an impersonal universe. We are beings that desire to be free, we long for intimacy, we acknowledge morality, and we seek significance. This is what it means to be human. But this world does not feed our desires, and they cannot come from the universe. Allow me to explain, we hunger for food and thirst for drink. The universe in which we live includes an environment that supplies the necessities to satisfy these desires. But our environment is not personal; it is not rational, loving, moral, or purposeful. Our environment does not meet these needs. They are only met by a personal, rational, loving, moral, and significant Creator. It is these desires that lead us to the truth that satisfaction can only be found in God. And again we must ask ourselves, does the God of the Bible satisfy this argument.

Biblical Foundation
To find why mankind differs so greatly from the animals that we co-populate the earth with, we must look no further than the first book of the Bible, Genesis. Genesis 1:27 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” It is this belief that mankind was created by his creator to be different that best explains why we are the dominant species and why there is no competition from other animals. In the account of creation we see that God gave man many of his attributes and placed him in a position of dominance over the animals. Also in the Genesis account we see how God satisfies man’s desires. In Genesis 2:18 we read, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” This is indication that in God’s perfect creation (before man’s rebellion and his fall from paradise) man’s environment and God himself were able to meet all of man’s desires. Man is a foreign creature that differs greatly from all other life in his environment. Those attributes that separate us also lead us to question if we have a creator. It is these qualities and their existence in man alone that argue for a creator who modeled man after himself.

Practical Application
The anthropological argument is convincing in that humanity has always searched for other intelligent, emotional, and hopefully moral beings. The thought that we could be one of a kind seems foreign to us. Man’s desire for such a relationship is further proof of the existence of a creator who is seeking to have a relationship with his creation. Who we are, how we think, how we love, and how we create are all reflections of a personal God who is looking to have a personal relationship with us. If this creator has reached out to us our response must be to run to Him. It is clear that this is what we were created for.

Conclusion
It is true that we cannot prove the existence of God, but the cosmological argument provides us with very convincing evidence that He exists. God has chosen to reveal himself in a way that requires faith but He has provided many “proofs” of his existence; such as the expanding of the universe, the need for the universe to have a cause, the miracle of life itself, His involvement in the lives of the Israelites, in the life of Jesus our Messiah, and the creation and divine protection of His Church. Often times people ask for proof in God outside of the text of the Bible, and both the cosmological and an anthropological arguments provide a great deal of reason to the discussion.

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