Saturday, August 28, 2021

Religious Experiences and Apologetics

There are many ways to approach the reasonableness of theistic belief. It seems possible for a person to come to believe in God as a result of coming to believe in the truth of Christianity or some other particular religion. The topic of religious experience is not limited to consideration of exceptional or mystic experiences. Genuine believers in God often feel that they are dealing with God continually in their day to day lives. The argument asserts that it is only possible to experience that which exists and the phenomenon of religious experiences demonstrates the existence of God. One important distinction is that between the kind of religious experience in which the individual experiences union with the divine and that in which the individual experiences a separation between himself and God. There are two models for understanding experience. They are the representational model and the model of direct realism. Some experiences clearly seem to be subjective and dreams are paradigmatic examples of such experiences. The direct realist claims that an experience of an object provides an impressive sort of the object’s reality.

The claim that people may have direct experiences of God has often been rejected as impossible but the reasons commonly advanced for these rejections are not very good ones. Philosophers call an experience in which the object of experience has been truly perceived a veridical experience. The task of checking experiential claims is not so easy and straightforward as it might appear to be. Even in simple cases there are more objective and subjective conditions that must be satisfied for a successful observation to be carried out. The importance of these subjective factors is at least part of what is meant by those religions that emphasize the necessity of faith to know God truly. The existence of a community of religious believers who claim to have experience of God may even provide evidence of God’s reality for those who personally do not have such experiences. A good deal of what humans know is not gained through firsthand experience but through the testimony of others.

miracles

A miracle is a special act of God which he performs at a particular place and time as an act distinct from his normal activity of sustaining the universe including its natural processes. It is true that something different happens when a miracle occurs. When God steps in specially, a new factor is added to the situation. Miracles are traditionally taken as validations of religious claims. Jesus did many miracles and his resurrection from the dead was one of the greatest miracles. According to David Hume, no matter how strong the evidence of a particular miracle might be, it will always be more rational to reject the miracle than to believe in it. Sometimes it is alleged that miracles are impossible because they are violations of laws of nature and the assumption behind this objection is that the laws of nature are necessary. In one sense, miracles are indeed violations of laws of nature but the laws of nature are most plausibly interpreted as descriptive of the actual processes of nature, not as descriptions of the way nature had to be. Some contemporary philosophers have also tried to rule out miracles through different arguments. If an exception to the law of nature occurs, this only shows that the supposed law of nature in question is not a genuine law of nature since it did not hold universally. Some philosophers claim dogmatically that miracles cannot happen. Miracles seem possible at least and it also seems possible for there to be compelling evidence for their occurrence. It seems possible that a reasonable person could become convinced that miracles have occurred even if he did not have a previously high estimate of the likelihood of God’s existence.

the problem of evil

Some philosophers have put forward arguments from the evil that purport which seems to show that God does not exist or that belief in God is unreasonable. Many people, both believers, and non-believers are bothered by evil. When faced with suffering, they may ask the question of why. This may ultimately lead to the existence of evil and suffering which is thought to undermine the rationality of belief in God. There are different types of evil and versions of the problem and many types of responses. Moral evil is a type of evil that is all the evil that is due to the actions of free, morally responsible beings. The natural evil is all the evil that is not due to the actions of morally responsible beings such as the pain and suffering caused by natural disasters and many diseases. The theistic responses to the problem of evil can be divided into two types. The more ambitious type of response is a theodicy which attempts to explain why God actually allows evil. It tries to show that God is justified in allowing evil, and it lays out the reason why God allows evil and tries to show that those reasons are good ones. A more modest type of response is called a defense that tries to argue that God may have reasons for allowing evil that we do not or cannot know.

personal faith

The term faith is sometimes used to refer to the assumptions, convictions, and attitudes which the believer brings to a consideration of the evidence for and against religious truth. Faith is all these though this must be taken to imply that there are no significant differences between the various kinds of faith. In the ongoing life of an actual person, there are simply two different moments in what might be called the faith dimension of life. The faith which we bring to our reflection embodies previous commitments and the commitment which is the outcome of the reflection is the faith that we bring into our future reflection. Faith can be thought of as prayer, conviction, and commitment. The general structure of faith has the personal commitment which both informs reflection and is shaped by reflection and is common to both the believer and non-believer.

  

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Evans, C. Stephen and R. Zachary Manis . Philosophy of Religion: Thinking about Faith. New York: HarperOne, 2009.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Spiritual growth in an efficiency-focused world


Note:-  This article was published in Goodnews Online Illuminer.

Currently, there is a lot of focus on improving productivity and efficiency. There is an endless race for transformation that will increase efficiency and maximize profits. Digital and customer experience is an essential factor, and a lot of money is spent on it. As new technologies bring improvements in many areas of life, it has resulted in a continuous flow of information and engagement. It has resulted in information overload and has made people busier and hurried in general. There is a lot of stress and anxiety, resulting in strained family relations and complacency in spiritual life.

 

"Complacency is easy, and it is a deadly foe of spiritual growth." - A. W. Tozer

 

Many try to apply efficiency principles to spiritual growth, and it has not worked the way people expected. In general, shortcuts taken to bring spiritual growth have not yielded desired results, which has resulted in many people not pursuing personal spiritual growth as an essential matter. Lack of character transformation is no more seen as a serious issue. When moral and ethical standards mentioned in the Bible are violated or ignored, nowadays, we see a growing tendency to move on with no regret, thought, or action.   

  

At times people hide under what they do for God to cover the failure to become what God desires from them. According to Dallas Willard, "The most important thing in your life is not what you do; it's who you become. That's what you will take into eternity." We can be so busy for God that we do not have time to spend with Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to transform us. Have we reached a point in our spiritual life where we have quietly said to ourselves that, "I am like this, and I will remain like this? I do not think God can transform me internally."  

Paul talks about a Christian becoming mature in the Lord and measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ (Eph. 4:13). Are we willing to pursue spiritual disciplines in our life which will help us become more like Christ?

 

We should not neglect our daily devotion time of prayer and Bible reading. We should not form a habit of neglecting our devotions by thinking that we will do once we are done with all the other pressing needs of daily life. We must give it a top priority and have a set time and place for it. We should look at adding spiritual disciplines that will help us grow in our devotional life and challenge us to be intentional with our activities.

 

When it comes to our spiritual life, we must be intentional that we do not become a Consumer Christian. 

"Consumer Christianity is now normative. The consumer Christian is one who utilizes the grace of God for forgiveness and the services of the church for special occasions, but does not give his or her life and innermost thoughts, feelings, and intentions over to the kingdom of the heavens. Such Christians are not inwardly transformed and not committed to it." - Dallas Willard.

 

A statement from John Ortberg has challenged me a lot. He says that "Spiritual growth doesn't mean a life of doing what I should do instead of what I want to do. It means coming to want to do what I should do." Are we committed to genuine spiritual growth, which will transform our character in this efficiency-focused world? If we invest time, we will reap rewards that will last for eternity.

 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

KINGDOM ETHICS: JUSTICE

There is a secularizing split between the private realm of inner attitudes ruled by the gospel and the public realm of actions ruled by secular authorities which causes a painful problem in Christian ethics and Christian living. We skip over the huge biblical emphasis on justice as central in God’s will. Christians not only neglect but believe that justice is inferior and unimportant. There is no split between Jesus and justice.

 Justice has four dimensions:

1.     Deliverance of the poor and powerless from the injustice that they regularly experience.

2.     Lifting the foot of domineering power off the neck of the dominated and oppressed.

3.     Stopping the violence and establishing peace.

4.     Restoring the outcasts, the excluded, the Gentiles, the exiles, and refugees to the community.

Justice is an important subject mentioned by Jesus in the New Testament. Skipping over the biblical meaning of justice creates a vacuum. Many Christians see biblical love as superior to justice and view it as an abstract principle. They ignore the thousand biblical teachings on justice and believe it is inferior and unimportant. They have no answer to the secular ideologies which tempt them to do unjust practices. They become unbiblical and move in the opposite direction from the way the bible says God is moving. We have to understand that there is not split between Jesus and justice. Justice is one of the central virtues in Jesus’ teachings.

            God cares deeply for the justice of the poor, the powerless, the outcasts, and the victims of the violence. This theme is emphasized by the prophets of the Old Testament and is continued by Jesus. Jesus came proclaiming the reign of God and announced God’s justice as the deliverance of the outcast, the poor, and the oppressed from the dominion of greed and concentrated power. Justice and righteousness are what God wills and does. God enacts and carries out justice. Even in the preaching of John, the Baptist, the deliverance of the poor from the extortion of the powerful was the central theme. Jesus confronted the wealthy for their greed and there are many parables spoken by Jesus regarding it. Jesus taught that God cared deeply for the poor and the powerless. Jesus enacted it and fed the poor and hungry and taught the disciples the practice of sharing with those in need. Jesus often confronted the injustice of domination and sought to bring out deliverance through the practice of mutual servanthood. Jesus confronted anyone who would exclude enemies from the circle of love by teaching that we should love not only our friends but also our enemies. Confronting the exclusiveness of the Pharisee, Jesus called Matthew, the tax-collector to be his disciple. Jesus’ practice of table fellowship with outcasts and the unclean was a deliberate demonstration of his fundamental disagreement with the central practice of the Pharisees.

            Those who do not suffer injustice frequently get lulled into a lack of concern for those who do suffer it. At the heart of Christian discipleship is the overcoming of the privileged lull. We need to enter into the pain and injustice of the suffering world. When we see how Jesus fought for justice and died when the powerful whom he was confronting for their injustice conspired to kill him and the disciples betrayed him. We need to ensure that we are not hiding or ignoring justice while focusing on love. We need to follow what the Bible teaches us regarding justice.

 

ETHICS: The concepts involved

According to Bonhoeffer, the concept of state is foreign to the New Testament. It has its origin in the pagan world and its place is taken in the New Testament by the concept of government which holds power. The term “state” means an ordered community and the government is the power that creates and maintains order. The term “state” embraces both the rulers and the ruled while the term “government” refers only to the rulers. For the New Testament, it is an eschatological concept; it is the future city of God, the New Jerusalem, the heavenly society under the rule of God. The term “government” does not imply any particular form of society or any particular form of state and it is divinely ordained authority to exercise worldly dominion by divine right. The concept of government and not the concept of state can have a theological application. In using the term “church” and its relation to the terms “government” and “state” we have to distinguish between the spiritual office or ministry and the congregation or the Christians. The spiritual office is the divinely ordained authority to exercise spiritual dominion by divine right and it does not proceed from the congregation but from God. A clear distinction must be drawn between the secular and the spiritual authority but at the same time Christians are citizens and they are also subject to the claims of Jesus Christ. Bonhoeffer is arguing that the relationship of the spiritual office is different from then government for Christians.  

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Stassen, Glen H. and David P. Gushee. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Ethics. New York, NY: Touchstone, 1955.

 

Saturday, August 21, 2021

PowerVision Family Empowerment Episode - Spreading Hope


A few months ago, I had the privilege of doing an episode for the Agape Partners Family Empowerment program broadcast on Powervision TV.

We live in difficult times, and people are dealing with #anxiety and fear. Many times, anxiety gets spread from one system to another. People are anxious about themselves, their families, finances, etc. Trusting in Jesus and His teachings is the protective factor during these difficult times. God knows everything about us. We need to spread #hope and faith among our dear ones. Enjoy each day as a gift from God and live with an eternity perspective based on what Bible teaches us.  In this session, Dr. Tinku Thompson, Director of Operations, ICPF International, and Pastor of Minnesota Pentecostal Assembly Church speaks on the topic of  Spreading hope during difficult times.


 

Theology and AI Thesis Link

In a previous post, I shared about my other site TheologyAI.com which is an outcome of my Doctorate Degree Thesis on the topic CREATOR GOD, HUMANS, AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: FRAMEWORK TO ADDRESS THEOLOGICAL AND RELATIONAL ISSUES.

The link to the full report is posted here - https://www.theologyai.com/2021/08/published-thesis-link.html




Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Spiritual Growth Bible Study in Malayalam

Malayalam Bible Study - Audio Links

Pastor Tinku Thompson

Topic - Spiritual Growth

Part 1 - What is Spiritual Growth? -  https://youtu.be/96p3EEr1tz8

Part 2 - Challenges with Spiritual Growth - https://youtu.be/8yFvPXRRuEI

Part 3 - Practical Steps for Spiritual Growth - https://youtu.be/fB2NdcSqEaU

The Trinity

  I believe in the Trinitarian view of God. [1] I affirm that the doctrine of the Trinity is crucial and it concerns who God is and whom we...