Crashing through Barriers

Why do you think did Matthew started his Gospel with a boring list of so-and-so begat so-and-so? Consider just the women mentioned in this genealogy. There are four of them before you get to Mary. Matthew introduces their glorious Messiah.. as descending from two harlots, one born out of incest and an adulterous. And they are the only four ladies mentioned in the genealogy other than Mary.  

He came crashing through the barriers that said “You have to be born spiritual out of the ‘right kind’ of people.” 

And today, he comes crashing through barriers you’ve erected too. The barriers that place God in a nice comfortable corner where you can keep and eye on him. He breaks down those excuses that say “God, you can’t use me. You can’t love me. I’m a sinner.”

God built a monument to grace on that genealogy. That’s why you shouldn’t shy away from admitting your past for what it was. It can be a monument to God’s grace in our lives. That’s when God can use us the most- when we realize who we are were we come from and how much are lives are dependent on God grace. On receiving it and giving it to others. 

Don’t hide from the past and pretend it didn’t happen. By admitting who we are, acknowledging how God completely changes us, he is able to bring us further than he could otherwise and use us more.. just like those people in the genealogy.  

You stack up a row of harlots and liars and murderers and cheaters and what do you have?  You have Jesus. That’s the way God works.  

Stephen Goforth 

and THIS is love

“In this is love..” or “In this way is seen the true love” (1 John 4:10). God didn’t look down and say, “Boy, I see you love me. I think I’ll love you.” Or “You’re a nice guy, I really like that.”

Instead: You were rebellious, arrogant, self-centered. God said, “I love you.”You ignored him, fought him, were bored with him. God said, “I love you.” You spit in his face, yelled at him, shook your fist.

God said, “I love you.” That’s what John means here.

We see what real love is by looking at what God did. He loved us with a desire to restore us, to make us whole.What separates real love from the pretenders is the aim. Real love aims at spiritual growth.

Stephen Goforth

Game Theory

Pascal’s argument (written in the 1600’s) went like this: Suppose you concede that you don’t know whether or not God exists and therefore assign a 50 percent chance to either proposition How should you weight these odds when decided whether to lead a pious life? If you act piously and God exists, Pascal argued, your gain – eternal happiness - is infinite. If, on the other hand, God does not exist, your loss, or negative return, is small – the sacrifices of piety. To weigh these possible gains and losses, Pascal proposed, you multiply the probability of each possible outcomes by its payoff and add them all up, forming a kind of average or expected payoff.

In other words, the mathematical expectation of your return on piety is one-half infinity (your gain if God exists) minus one-half a small number (your loss if he does not exist). Pascal knew enough about infinity to know that the answer to this calculation is infinite, and thus the expected return on piety is infinitely positive. Every reasonable person, Pascal concluded, should therefore follow the laws of God. Today this argument is know as Pascal’s wager.

Pascal’s wager is often considered the founding of the mathematical discipline of game theory, the quantitative study of optimal decision strategies in games.

Leonard Mlodinow The Drunkard's Walk, How Randomness Rules Our Lives

So much straw

It is said that on 6 December 1273, while he was celebrating mass, a great change came over Thomas Aquinas. At the age of 49, his Summa Theologica ("Summary of Theology" – nearly 1300 pages) unfinished, he stopped writing. To his faithful secretary and companion Reginald of Pipersno, he said, ‘Reginald, I can do no more; such things have been revealed to me that all that I have written seems to me as so much straw. Now, I await the end of my life of my works.’ Aquinas died three months later.

All our talk about God is halting, partial, hopelessly inadequate. This does not mean we should not hold firm beliefs about God or do the best job we can as philosophers and theologians. It simply means that no matter how much skill or effort we bring to the job, God always remains in part a mystery. The gap between God and our ideas about God was, we believe, salvifically narrowed by God’s revelatory initiative, but not closed.

Like Aquinas, all Christians can see that human talk about God ultimately comes to an end. It’s best efforts are like straw.

Stephen T. Davis, Logic and the Nature of God

Ultimate Reality

Is the universe an impersonal mass of energy functioning according to a set of unbending laws? An illusion? A collection tradition built on our relative perspective of the world? The random result of a primordial cosmic sneeze? The purposeful work of a master Designer? Or something else altogether? Not all of these options can be true, so we have to make choices.

First, how does God communicate his ethical desire? Are God’s demands somehow imprinted in our minds at birth, so that knowledge of right and wrong is something like an intuition? Perhaps God’s will comes to us through nature, and we pick it up through careful observation and processing of the world around us. Maybe God sends the message through Scripture or his church. Or perhaps the means by which God communicates his truth is more like a story that gives us a new identity. Ethical theory involves discussion of how we gain moral knowledge, and where we come out on this decision will determine the source we look to for authority.

A number of ethical theories we will consider might be called “God-optional.” They can accommodate belief in God, but they may be (and often are) outlined without any mention of God.

If a person believes that God does not exist or that God’s existence is irrelevant to ethics, this opens the issue of where right and wrong come from. If we reject God as the ultimate reality, we eliminate one possibility of explaining the origin of right and wrong, and will need to decide among the remaining options. Is human thought the most fundamental reality of the universe? If so, does something become right by our determining it to be right or by collective decision?

Or we may conclude that traditional ways of thinking about ethics are wrong-headed. Perhaps right and wrong are words we use to modify the actions of people. Nothing is actually good or bad in a moral sense. These are simply labels we attach to actions we want to encourage or discourage. In short, we need to recognize that in every ethical system there is a connection between a concept of ultimate reality and the origin of right and wrong.

Getting the right answer depends on asking the right question.

Steve Wilkens, Beyond Bumper Sticker Ethics