Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Good News of Christmas

"So just because I don't believe in Jesus I'm going to Hell?"

This is one of those questions where answering "yes" or "no" does more harm than good. If you answer "no" you run the risk of heresy. But if you answer "yes" you might have made Christianity more offensive than it needs to be. And sadly, that's probably the case among non-believers. They ask that question, receive an apologetic "yes," get incensed at the pettiness of the religion, and then storm off into the darkness, deeper in unbelief.

There may be a better way to answer. I think most people believe in absolute morals, that there are things you ought to do and things you ought not to do, no matter the context. Murder, torture, rape, for example. These things, in and of themselves, are wrong, regardless of whether a majority thinks otherwise (like Nazi Germany) or whether we're incapable of judging someone to have committed them (like our fallible court system). They are violations of some moral law that no human ever created, and so in a real sense, can be called moral crimes that this Nonhuman will eventually exact justice for. So here comes the bad news. We've all committed moral crimes. We've all done things we know we oughtn't to have, whether it was cheating or stealing or hurting someone, in action or in thought. That's why we have pangs of guilt. We know we did something bad, that we've committed some sort of moral crime, and the only reasonable conclusion is that we deserve punishment. Just like how a murderer, unless he receives a pardon, gets jail time as punishment, so will we, unless we receive a pardon, get jail time as punishment. It's unfortunate that this latter sort of punishment is an eternity without God, but that just means God is all the more serious about moral crimes, as one can only expect from a morally perfect and just God.

By now you might see that technically the answer to the original question really is "no." You don't have to believe in Jesus to go to Heaven. You just have to never commit any moral crimes. Ever. You must be perfectly innocent on the day you die. But if you're not, if your record is blemished in the slightest, sorry to say, you will be punished. You can't pull yourself up by your moral bootstraps, cleanse your record with your own hands. The only way to avoid the punishment you deserve is for the sovereign power to offer a pardon, and equally important, for you to accept it. That's the good news. There's a pardon dangling in front of you. His name is Jesus Christ.

I understand that even this response, though in keeping with orthodoxy, may not be very palatable. And though Truth is not meant to appease any sort of palate, there is a degree to which it should at least resonate with the human condition. I'm no great writer so I probably have missed the mark for some of you. If so, I'd encourage you to read the first several chapters of C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, which does a much more masterful job of conveying the message without compromising the fundamentals. Then judge for yourself how well Christianity, both rationally and intuitively, compared with your current worldview, explains the world before you.

To sum up the Good News: Grace is necessary and Grace has been given. I hope that maybe this Christmas season we can all reflect on this Grace just a little more than we normally would. After all, this Grace is the very reason for the season.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dawkins, an Atheist

"If there is a God, it's going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed."

Anyone who read the "God vs. Science" cover story in the Nov. 13, 2006 issue of Time will recognize this to be the last sentence of the entire article. It was spoken by Richard Dawkins, one of the more prominent and vocal atheists of our time. This statement is so characteristic of the atheistic mindset that I think it's worth diving into, to see how they think. And in so doing, maybe we can all have more fruitful discourses when it comes to the topic of God.

First of all, Dawkins, along with all atheists, doesn't believe in the existence of God. That's his underlying belief and where he gets his foot off in all arguments. So, if he believes there is no God, of course every religion that posits one is a manmade religion. If you start with Jesus as only a mortal, then of course Christianity will be, to you, manmade. Bombasting tautologies during debates is useless, especially when presented as a positive argument for your side, which then makes it disingenuous.

On the flipside, Christians have reached the conclusion that Jesus was not just a man. As such, Christian theologians only attempt to understand what God revealed to us through His Work and His Word, the Scriptures. Theologians don't intend to propose anything new. Now how they reached that supernatural conclusion is the question and what should be discussed. Same goes for the atheist. How have they come to their conclusion? Little ground will ever be covered if we neglect the "how" and simply spew begging-the-question consequences of our view.

Secondly, Dawkins appears open to the possibility of God, but only one that is "a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible" than anything we have today. That is, if there is a God, it is one that leaves less room for reason and more room for faith. Isn't that odd? As a man who appears to champion human reason above all else, he is arguing (i.e. using his reason) that if there is a God, he would have to take a pretty big leap of faith to accept it. Sounds like a New Ager to me.

Lastly, I think his statement is partly a complaint that religious people claim to know it all. If this is true, then maybe Christians need to change their style of communication. Perhaps more humility is in order. But does Dawkins, or any atheist for that matter, really believe that Christianity is completely comprehensible even to the most spiritual, say the Pope, or St. Peter himself? I certainly don't think so. I don't think any honest Christian can say, "My finite mind has penetrated the infinite God." Now, I believe that there are many good reasons to believe Christianity is true, but that in no way implies I believe I understand Christianity through and through. In my lifetime, I will be as far from that as any number is to infinity. Christians understand a lot, to be sure. They have a clue to the answers of the big questions: Who am I?, Where did I come from?, and Why am I here?. But they don't claim much more and never have. Indeed, much of how to live life flows from the answer to these questions.

And just for the sake of clarity, Christianity is not something anyone could ever have guessed or proposed. The words of C.S. Lewis rarely fail, here speaking of the central tenet of Christianity, of God becoming a Man to save us:

"Indeed, if we found that we could fully understand it, that very fact would show it was not what it professes to be--the inconceivable, the uncreated, the thing from beyond nature, striking down into nature like lightning. You may ask what good it will be to us if we do not understand it. But that is easily answered. A man can eat his dinner without understanding exactly how food nourishes him. A man can accept what Christ has done without knowing how it works: indeed, he certainly would not know how it works until he has accepted it."

Sunday, November 05, 2006


I stepped outside into the courtyard and noticed a deep orange sun crouching on the horizon, making it seem larger than usual. The air was clear and warm and people were strewn about in small groups exchanging pleasantries. As the time drew near more people were arriving and the level of noise increased a great deal, though at first I didn't notice much because I was with my friend and we were engaged in a little small talk of our own. We didn't know anyone, except maybe several people but only superficially, so we were glad of the other's company. We finally took our seats and sat there patiently because there was nothing for us to hurry to. It was really quite nice. Then, during one of the many long and pleasant silences between us, my friend and I seemed to simultaneously perceive the loud chatter all about, because when it reached its peak, he said something like, "Shoulda drank something. Need a little something to get me through this." I looked at the orange sun and the blue ocean and the green trees, then looked at all the people, and then looked back at him, and nodded.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Of Marriage and Mysteries

I went to a distinctly Christian wedding recently and, for more reasons than I'm aware of, I felt I was privileged with a glimpse of something not just majestic and beautiful, but entirely mysterious. Of all the things that humans can do--command armies, build Babels, step on stars--nothing comes close to the mystery of one man uniting with one woman. We tread on holy, sacred grounds when we speak of marriage. The Catholic Church understands this, and many Protestants (myself included) would do well to follow suit. How unfathomable is it that two people can become one flesh--that they can have a relation of such love and perfect understanding that two can indeed be called one? As unfathomable as the Trinity. True, no marriage on earth embodies this, because if one did there would be no mystery. And yet we see a flash of it during a wedding. Even more profound, we see that it was intended for us. We know this not just by revelation through His Word, but also by example when in the flesh He gave Himself up for the Church, and how in return the Church to this day is joyfully striving to present Herself as a pure spotless bride, though mysteriously, She already is.

When I speak of mystery, though, I don't mean something that is beyond all understanding, or worse, irrational. (Heaven forbid if people these days still hold onto the fancy that Christianity is a mindless crutch because either they don't want to think through the superficial absurdities and contradictions, or they're afraid of what they might find. Fine if they reject it for other reasons, but I hope not for those two.) Rather, these mysteries, though incomprehensible in themselves, are actually loose manifestations of something we know to be far grander--much like inferior copies issued from their pure Platonic forms. And precisely because of that, these mysteries can work to guide us towards that grandness, towards truth, clarity, and understanding. It's somewhat like reading a great poem for the first time: though not at once understood, you know something great has been communicated, and that more greatness is to come. Or like marveling at the brightness of the moon in the clear dark sky and realizing at the end of time that it was the Sun that gave light to all. In this way, mysteries serve as great big signposts on that narrow road of righteousness, without which we'd quickly lose our way. And isn't that a nice little summary of mankind's history thus far? Every time we've ignored these mysteries and tried to figure it out all on our own, as we so often have done, the result has just been another lost philosophy of destruction and despair, of which we have much. That's why revelation is needed and that's why it was given. That's why we get to witness nature in all its raw mystery; or the birth of a child; or one joyfully bearing the burden of another. Or matrimony. Though these are all mysteries and forever will be until the end, for our time on earth, they're absolutely enough. Enough for what is entirely up to us.

Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11

Five years ago today, many men were awake. Though we wish some weren't (maybe because they had been awake so long they finally needed sleep), many others were. And many, for the first time ever. They woke up wide-eyed because they had been asleep for so long. They had plenty of rest. Everyone was awake that day. Sometimes it makes you wonder if the world would be better off with everyone asleep. Then no one would be awake to care; no one would care enough to kill. If you're asleep, you can't step on someone else's toes. But don't think like that. Everyone should be awake. Did you see the way New York got out of bed? Just remembering that makes me want to slap myself and wake up. Doesn't that make you want to wake up? If remembering and reflecting upon this day does anything, I hope and pray that it wakes us up from our sweet and sorry slumber. People may or may not die by those awake, but certainly by no one else can people be saved.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

God Is Never Silent

Beauty in beauty is nothing but a tautology, but beauty in suffering must needs fly to God and God alone. It is an amazing revelation indeed when one sees how out of terrible suffering the greatest act of love was performed. How much more hope can we have if and when we suffer a little in this lifetime?

Tonight I saw a man of God suffering, but I also saw a beauty never before seen--beauty in his love for his wife, in our love for him, and most of all, in His love for us, from which we were first taught to love. And how were we so privileged? Because a brother was broken. But God was certainly there, for where there is beauty there is love, and where there is love, God. God was there, and He was not silent, and may the love He thundered stir and move us all.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Tomorrow's Triathlon

the water can't touch me
i'm too smooth
then i sprout wings
and fly above the grooves
last i alight
to begin the last fight
and in the end
the better man i prove

haha, that was fun. but hopefully not as fun as tomorrow's real thing!

May everyone present marvel at the gifts possessed and joyfully used, and in so doing, marvel at Him who gave them.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


She needed to escape the city. Throngs of wooden men crowding the broad and winding streets suffocated her. Metallic air forced her to take short, stunted breaths. The glassy eyes of everyone around her reflected no humanity, only herself. She was alone and wanted to be more alone, so she took off her shoes and stockings and started towards the setting sun, the last chance at light.

It was the roar of the sea that finally beckoned her to stop, and so she did. She stood facing the water, looking into the empty richness of the horizon, and the knot in her soul began to unravel. The loving wind caressed her face and gently loosened the yellow scarf around her neck; the tired sun reaching for repose still tenderly warmed her skin; and the sea, the friendly sea, began to speak to her. But, before long, realizing her guard was drawing down, she had to make sure.

She asked the sea, "Do you have an opinion of me?"
The sea answered, "I crash here and ripple there but you, I love you as you are, and will let you be."
She asked the sea, "Will you disappoint me?"
The sea answered, "I am what I am, wild and free, beautiful as can be, and will always be."

Satisfied with his answers, she spoke with him for a while longer, enjoying a warmth of company she had long forgotten. When she returned to her flat that night, she began speaking to the chair, and found the same comfort.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

a smile

entering the community center i feel a salient breeze and almost close my eyes to enjoy it before i notice a clustering crowd of round tables facing the stage. this makes me slightly uneasy because i have to choose a table, a table that may or may not populate, all depending on what i look like and where i sit. i'm pretty early so most of the tables are empty, making the choice even more anxious, and the people i do see have their backs to me so all i can judge is the colors of their hair and clothing, and maybe their posture. welling up with a sudden pseudo-boldness i choose to sit down at a blank table directly center of the place. it's also close to the front so as people stroll in i have to turn around to make my silly silent pronouncements. i notice they're predominantly rich white folks in their golden years, which makes me think i'll end up sitting alone. seven o'clock rolls around and i'm right; everyone seems to have sat at all the tables except mine, making me like the center of a starfish. i feel special. i also feel nervous because if we have to form groups i'll have to get up and announce my isolation. yet, a couple minutes later, i'm saved. a pleasant elderly couple sits down next to me. they're a beautiful pair and i muse that they were high school sweethearts. their silver hair and deep wrinkles try to tell me more of the story but something stops me. it's their smiles--her smile. i forget the story and steal into the smile, and for a while i'm at peace. then the seminar starts.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

We should respect grass!

No potheads, I'm not talking about weed. At least not yet. Read on and see!

Imagine that a universe existed which was made up only of liquids and solids, and no free gases. A fish was swimming in this universe. This fish, quite naturally, was conformed to its environment, so that it was able to go on living. But let us suppose that by blind chance, as the evolutionists would have us believe, this fish developed lungs as it continued swimming in this universe without any gases. Now this fish would no longer be able to function and fulfill its position as a fish. Would it then be higher or lower in its new state with lungs? It would be lower, for it would drown. In the same way, if man has been kicked up by chance out of what is only impersonal, then those things that make him man—hope of purpose and significance, love, motions of morality and rationality, beauty and verbal communication—are ultimately unfulfillable and are thus meaningless. In such a situation, is man higher or lower? He would then be the lowest creature on the scale. The green moss on the rock is higher than he, for it can be fulfilled in the universe which exists. But if the world is that these men say it is, then man (not only individually but as a race), being unfulfillable, is dead. In this situation man should not walk on the grass, but respect it—for it is higher than he!
Now, of course the evolutionists wouldn't have us believe that the fish would develop lungs. Natural selection is a far cry from "blind chance." Nevertheless, I think this is a good illustration of some kinks in the evolutionary theory. We consider ourselves the most evolved creatures on the planet, and yet those things that separate us from the animals are precisely those things that are ultimately unfulfillable and without meaning. Why would Nature have us evolve in such a way? Why would Nature evolve in me a desire to regress? Because if those things that make me man really are meaningless, I'd truly rather be a mary jane. At least then I'd have multiple purposes instead of none.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Superman Returns

"Even though you've been raised as a human being you're not one of them. They can be a great people, Kal-El. They wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all -- their capacity for good -- I have sent them you, my only son."

Obviously, that's Superman's dad speaking in the trailer for the new Superman Returns movie. When I first heard it the other day, I was shocked. At least in The Matrix or Spiderman, the Christian allusion was more subtle, but this is pretty conspicuous. Regardless, I'm beginning to realize the amazing consistency of Christian elements appearing in all classic stories, from Homer's all the way to the Wachowski Brothers'. It certainly makes you wonder why the Greatest Story Ever Told, even if only bits and pieces of it, appeal to all people at all times, including those who've never heard of Him. Perhaps the answer is because it's true. It reminds me of C.S. Lewis' own joyful "surprise" that the greatest myth -- the myth of God becoming man to save mankind -- is actually true; that it happened on Christmas Day in the small town of Bethlehem during the reign of King Herod.

And with that, I'll leave you with some more thoughts by Francis Schaeffer on why Christianity, among all the world views out there, seems the most realistic and rationally satisfying:

Christianity is realistic because it says that if there is no truth, there is also no hope; and there can be no truth if there is no adequate base. It is prepared to face the consequences of being proved false and say with Paul: If you find the body of Christ, the discussion is finished; let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. It leaves absolutely no room for a romantic answer. For example, in the realm of morals, Christianity does not look over this tired and burdened world and say that it is slightly flawed, a little chipped, but easily mended. Christianity is realistic and says the world is marked with evil and man is truly guilty all along the line. Christianity refuses to say that you can be hopeful for the future if you are basing your hope on evidence of change for the better in mankind. The Christian agrees with the people in genuine despair that the world must be looked at realistically, whether in the area of Being or in morals.

Christianity is poles apart from any form of optimistic humanism. But it also differs from nihilism, for nihilism, though it is correctly realistic, nevertheless can give neither a proper diagnosis nor the proper treatment for its own ills. Christianity has a diagnosis and then a solid foundation for an answer. The difference between Christian realism and nihilism is not that the Christian worldview is romantic. We should be pleased that the romanticism of yesterday has been destroyed. In many ways this makes our task of presenting Christianity to modern man easier than it was for our forefathers.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Paradise Lost

For anyone who's never read Paradise Lost, read it! It's an epic poem (already sounds cool right?) with all the ingredients for entertainment and edification: the gallant Devil rebelling against all-mighty God; colossal battles in heaven among the angels (they start throwing mountains at each other); sublime story-telling in the creation of Adam and Eve; unfallen romance and love between the first husband and wife; and of course the tragic temptation and Fall of mankind. (Don't worry, there's a happy ending in his sequel Paradise Regained).

Here be some quotes to whet your appetite:

God praising Abdiel for standing up to the Devil...

Servant of God, well done, well hast thou fought
The better fight, who single hast maintaind
Against revolted multitudes the Cause
Of Truth, in word mightier then they in Armes;
And for the testimonie of Truth hast born
Universal reproach, far worse to beare
Then violence: for this was all thy care
To stand approv'd in sight of God, though Worlds
Judg'd thee perverse:
And one of Satan's many laments...
While they adore me on the Throne of Hell,
With Diadem and Scepter high advanc'd
The lower still I fall, onely Supream
In miserie; such joy Ambition findes.
How cool is that? You've just heard God and the Devil speak. You know you want more...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


I would've fallen from the sky
Til you
Parachutes have opened now
Pearl Jam on July 7th! I really hope Eddie sings this song at the concert...

Monday, June 12, 2006

Can we get along?

People use certain tactics to see if they'll get along with certain other people. For example, they'll talk about their hobbies or passions or tastes in literature; if they match, it's a lock, and they'll get all excited having found someone to share their core with. In fact, the other morning, I had carpooled with a recent acquaintance to the library. The minute she stepped into my car, she began leafing through my music collection to "see if we could get along." Sad to say I failed her test; I put in some hip-hop (courtesy of Benheezy's hip-hop mix) and her response was quick: "ewww!"

Haha. I actually think the most accurate test involves humor. If he/she can laugh at your jokes, and vice versa, you guys will get along just fine, laughing all the way to the grave. So all you peeps out there, if you don't laugh at the following joke, I guess it wasn't meant to be.

There were two muffins sitting in an oven.
One muffin says, "Hey man, we're really bakin' in here."
The other muffin, a little stunned, says, "What the crap! A talking muffin!"

Sunday, June 11, 2006


Wow, never thought this day would come, but here's my first blog to...whomever stumbles across. Anyway, so I thought the quote below would be fitting for my initiation.

There is no logical impossibility in the hypothesis that the world sprang into being five minutes ago, exactly as it then was, with a population that "remembered" a wholly unreal past. There is no logically necessary connection between events at different times; therefore nothing that is happening now or will happen in the future can disprove the hypothesis that the world began five minutes ago.
— Bertrand Russell
Even though Bert is spewing craziness, it's still kinda neat thinking that each present minute really could be a new beginning with an irrelevant past. Wishful thinking, I know, but a good way to look at the world--at least sometimes. So for whatever reasons I had to not blog, see ya! And let's see what craziness the 5-minute-old Albert brings.

Craziness #1: I have finals next week. Why did I choose to start blogging now?