Honestly thinking (& rethinking) about God, the universe, and everything in between

Tag: God (Page 1 of 4)

The Pursuit of Trump: How Your Choice Could be a Faithless Act

Our “hero” surveyed the landscape.

The enemy had the upper hand. His own troops quaked with fear. Many had deserted their posts.

The consequences were dire. Our hero’s once great nation was at war, and they were losing ground. The people’s future depended on the very choices he alone made today. 

Should they lose this battle, his nation faced extinction by a Pagan enemy whose culture was bent on destroying his people’s very identity as a chosen nation of the one true God.

The time for waiting patiently had passed. Something needed to be done NOW!

What appeared on the outside to be a faithful act turned out ultimately to be…faithless.

Thus, with no other choice, Saul did the one thing he could do offer burnt offerings to God.

But what was meant as an attempt to gain God’s favor in the midst of desperation was soon met with the greatest of rebukes by Saul’s spiritual advisor.

“What have you done?!” exclaimed the prophet Samual. “You have done a foolish thing. You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you!”

The consequences of King Saul’s one single choice on that one single day were quite severe his kingdom would not endure (1 Sam 13).

What appeared on the outside to be a faithful act of Saul turned out ultimately to be…faithless.

Before continuing, let me be upfront by saying I am no less guilty of committing faithless acts. Scientists estimate that the average human makes about 35,000 choices per day, and I am quite certain that a large percentage of my 35,000 choices are committed out of faithlessness rather than faithfulness.

I am also quite certain I have been faithless at times when entering the voting booth or throwing my weight behind a political opinion. What I may have thought in the past were acts of faith, upon further reflection, turned out actually to be faithless.

But how does one determine what is “faithful” and what is “faithless?”

The Bible is full of stories of humankind committing both faithful and faithless acts, along with the consequences that follow. An examination of all of these stories reveals the following themes that are repeated throughout: Continue reading

Why the Resurrection Was Not a “Miracle”

Now before you label me a “heretic” or accuse me of preaching something “antithetical to the gospel,” let me be clear up front: I believe in the historical resurrection of Jesus the Christ, meaning I believe that he literally died on a cross and on the third day (according to the Jewish calendar) literally rose from the dead into a newly resurrected body.

Yes, this is a matter of faith versus hard evidence, but I have come to that conclusion based on a combination of historical research and personal experience with the living, risen Savior.

For all my cynicism, deconstruction, and questioning of conventional religious narratives, that is a message I am willing to commit my life to.

I also believe that all the events surrounding Jesus’s life that we customarily label as “miracles” (e.g., the virgin birth, water into wine, feeding the 5000, healings, etc.) really did happen.

I must also confess up front that my title is a bit of a misnomer. What I’m really challenging in this article is the modern Western notion of “miracle.” I suppose a more accurate title might be Why the Resurrection Was Not a Modern Western Notion of a “Miracle,” but that, quite frankly, is just not as sexy – or as good of clickbait. ????

When people in the modern West use the term “miracle” what they typically mean is something happened that shouldn’t have happened according to the laws of nature. In Christianity it usually is portrayed as God, seated in the heavenly realms, temporarily inserting himself into our natural realm in order to break those laws of nature.

We often use “miracle” synonymously with “supernatural,” meaning outside natural law.

But as I have argued many times before, in using the term “supernatural” (a term not even found in the Bible) we have created a false line separating the spiritual world from the natural.

Why is it false? Because nothing is more natural to the universe than God, and the spiritual world is every bit as much a part of the laws of nature as the observable, “scientific” world itself. Continue reading

Our Rainbow-Colored Christmas Tree

The following was originally written one year ago today. Thus, for those more familiar with my family, some timeline details may feel out of place. But for various reasons and after much prayer, I felt it needed to wait until now. Other than some updated stats, I left the writings primarily intact in order to reveal my honest thoughts at the time. They still reflect my views today.

As I write this I stare across the room at our rainbow-colored Christmas tree, still adorning our home until the beginning of the new year.

It is actually somewhat subtle with the lights on, but if you look closely, there amidst the branches are seven different colors of ornaments displayed in order (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet), mirroring the beauty of that natural wonder we see in the sky when sunlight reflects through droplets of rain.

As millions of families across the world recently filled their living rooms with their own artistic masterpieces of evergreens covered in ornaments, lights and tinsel, I cannot claim credit for this particular rendition. The artists in this case are two of my four children (who have actually now grown to be young adults).

As the rainbow in the past several years has come to symbolize certain things, it’s possible that some may find its juxtaposition against a symbol for a Christian celebration to be quite offensive (especially those in the conservative Evangelical tradition of which I am a part). 

I find it quite beautiful.

Before I explain my kids’ aesthetic choice or my reception, I want to share with you two true stories – both seemingly unrelated to the topic at hand but important to the discussion. Continue reading

The Day I Became an Atheist and Believed in God

This is Part 3 in the series titled “Split-Brain and the REAL Reason People are Leaving the Church”

I remember the morning quite vividly – though I’ve never really relayed it so as not to frighten the wife and kids…nor my extended family, my church, or the ministry where I work.

There I lay in bed alone, Bible yet unopened across my lap, as I attempted to do my morning “Quiet Time” ritual of conversing with God and learning from his “Word.”

Full of doubts and questions and unable to hear much in return, I remember the thought flashing across my mind: “Oh crap, what if none of this is REAL?”

And in that moment, I allowed myself to believe it.

And it was good.

Now let me back up a bit to before that “fateful” day. Continue reading

Split-Brain and the REAL Reason People are Leaving the Church, Part 2

In July of 2019, Joshua Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and the person largely credited with advancing the “purity culture” movement, shocked the evangelical Christian world when he announced on Instagram, “I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is ‘deconstruction,’ the biblical phrase is ‘falling away.’ By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.”

Just a few weeks later, Marty Sampson, worship leader and songwriter for Hillsong, sent a second shockwave as he likewise proclaimed, “Time for some real talk… I’m genuinely losing my faith… and it doesn’t bother me… like, what bothers me now is nothing… I am so happy now, so at peace with the world… it’s crazy.”

Then in May of 2020, Jon Steingard, lead singer of the popular Christian band Hawk Nelson, posted “After growing up in a Christian home, being a pastor’s kid, playing and singing in a Christian band, and having the word ‘Christian’ in front of most of the things in my life – I am now finding that I no longer believe in God.”

Hidden behind this wave of well-known individuals is a growing number of men and women who have quietly slipped away from the church, many simply finding new ways to practice their faith and others leaving behind faith entirely. A significant number of them had spent most of their lives in the church, some of them serving as leaders and pastors, before realizing that they could no longer reconcile their actions with what they truly believed.

In revealing words, Marty Sampson went on to say, “I want genuine truth. Not the ‘I just believe it’ kind of truth. Science keeps piercing the truth of every religion. Lots of things help people change their lives, not just one version of God. Got so much more to say, but for me, I keeping it real.”

Real. A word often cited by those struggling with faith.

In Part 1 of this series I noted what I consider to be the underlying thread behind people leaving their faith communities: people have a need to believe in something that is real and they’re simply not finding it in the church.

Also in Part 1, I explained some of the neuroscience, combined with harmful theology, that I believe has contributed to this, particularly in Western society. I highly encourage you to read it before proceeding, as it will make a lot more sense of what I have to say in the upcoming sections. For those who have already read it, here is a shortened summary: Continue reading

Split-Brain and the REAL Reason People are Leaving the Church, Part 1

I had already been working on an article exploring reasons people in the Western world are leaving the Christian church in significant numbers when I learned about the fascinating case of “split-brain” surgeries – something that totally blew my mind (no pun intended).

In the 1960s Roger Sperry, Joseph Bogen and colleagues performed an experimental surgery, officially known as corpus callosotomy, on multiple patients who suffered from epileptic seizures. The procedure involved severing the corpus callosum which connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

Though the procedure is no longer performed today it turned out to be highly successful and, for the most part, patients were able to go on to live normal, healthy lives. But it wasn’t long, however, before split-brain patients noticed some peculiar and fascinating side effects.

One patient reported reaching into the closet with the right hand to pick out an outfit, only to have the left hand pick something different and refuse to put it back. A man found himself going to embrace his wife with one arm while his other arm simultaneously pushed her away.

On a more dangerous level, a female patient relayed that when she was driving her left hand would snatch the steering wheel from the right. She also reported her left hand: unfolding sheets her other hand had folded, closing doors the other had opened, and snatching money back that her right hand offered to a cashier.

In short, because each side of the body is controlled by the two different halves of the brain (the left side by the right hemisphere, the right side by the left hemisphere) these side effects seemed to indicate that the two hemispheres of the brain have two completely separate, and sometimes competing, wills.

So what does this have to do with people leaving the church?

One half of the person’s brain had faith and the other half was an atheist.

Here’s where things get even more interesting. Split-brain patients naturally became the subjects of further brain experiments. Able to selectively control input to each hemisphere, neuroscientists used the opportunity to direct various questions (via input to the left versus right eye or ear, for example) in order to determine how each half separately handles various functions or attitudes.

In one experiment, V.S. Ramachandran reportedly asked a patient, “Do you believe in God?” The response from one hemisphere was “Yes” and the other hemisphere was “No.”

In other words, one half of the person’s brain had faith and the other half was an atheist.

What does this mean? Is our faith biologically controlled and entirely dependent upon whether we are “left brained” or “right brained?” 

My answer is that it’s a bit more complicated than that. But what I hope to demonstrate throughout the rest of this article is what I have come to believe is the root cause of the mass exodus from the church in Western society – we are all operating out of a “split-brain” mode, largely dominated by left-brained only thinking.

Such thinking has infiltrated the Christian church itself for years, creating an unsustainable belief system largely removed from the type of lived-out faith that Christ intended. The consequences are that the jig is up, the dominoes are now starting to fall and people no longer see the God who has been presented as something that is real. Continue reading

9 Signs You Might Be Arrogant and Not Know It

I am the most arrogant person in the world.

Really, it’s true. Don’t believe me? Then clearly you aren’t nearly as intelligent or wise as me to be able to figure it out.

And being the #1 most arrogant person in the world, I figure that makes me the world’s topmost leading expert on the subject.

The truth is God has really been kicking my butt over the last few years (especially this last year), progressively revealing my level of arrogance. Like peeling layers of an onion (each producing a few more tears), I’ve come to discover areas of egotism I never knew existed before.

We are all familiar with the braggadocios, narcissistic personality types – the ones who very openly make every conversation and outward action about themselves. But what we are not as acquainted with is the much more subtler symptoms of pride – the ones that often go undetected but are ultimately just as destructive to you and those around you.

In discovering these signs, I’ve learned that they are detectable when you analyze your motivations and ask yourself if they are centered around one or more of the following: self-importance, self-preservation, or self-empowerment. Each one, of course, makes it all about you. And as I’ve come to find out, I’ve made life a lot more about me than I previously realized.

The thing is, while you will never surpass me in arrogance (not even close), it’s possible that as you analyze the three motivators in relation to your life, you might discover you too have arrogance and didn’t realize it.

Thus, I present to you at least 9 Signs You Might be Arrogant and Not Know It: Continue reading

The Leading Cause of Death

I need to inform you all about something fairly significant…

I’m dying.

I’ve actually known about this for quite a while, but the timing seems right for me to let you all know now.

It’s from an illness that’s acronym is T.O.K.G.E (which I will explain later). It’s about as dangerous of a disease as any known to humankind, and its symptoms are quite severe…

So serious that it affects every area of my life. Continue reading

Confession: I Know Practically Nothing About God

Confession: I just wrote an entire book trying to explain and define God, but I actually know practically nothing about him.

I hope you will forgive me for it.

Of course, I’m in good company, as plenty before me have tried to do the same.

Add in the fact that each of us individually have all sort of made up our own ideas about God without really having much of a clue and likely shared them with others along the way.

“But wait a second, Steve,” you say, “there’s plenty of evidence out there telling us exactly what God is like.”

But God himself begs to differ:

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9, ESV)

In context, the “heavens” here refers to the celestial bodies way out in space (planets, stars, etc.) that people in Old Testament times would have observed (at least partially) as they gazed up into the night sky – in other words, the whole big universe.

So just how high is the universe? And how much can we even comprehend? Continue reading

Is Stephen Hawking’s Claim There’s “No Possibility” of God Possible?

Artist’s illustration of how a black hole system could look. Image Credit: Dana Berry, NASA

World-famous cosmologist Stephen Hawking’s newly released book Brief Answers to the Big Questions, compiled from years of speeches, interviews and essays prior to his death, is a fascinating read.

In the very first chapter he tackles the big question of, “Is There a God?” Ultimately, he concludes that the laws of science are such that the universe didn’t need a God to create it. “If you accept, as I do, that the laws of nature are fixed, then it doesn’t take long to ask: what role is there for God?” he queries.

Furthermore, he argues that because it can be shown that time did not exist prior to the Big Bang, there was no time for a cause and, therefore, no God: “For me this means that there is no possibility of a creator, because there is no time for a creator to have existed in.”

He proposes, consequently, that it’s scientifically “possible that nothing caused the Big Bang. Nothing.”

Now, to establish up front, there is a tendency for some people of faith to try to villainize people like Hawking for daring to speak such notions – or to arrogantly try to “shut them down” by proving how ignorant that person really is.

I have no such intentions. I hold the greatest amount of respect for Mr. Hawking and recognize the amazing contribution he has made not only to science in general but to me personally in helping provide a greater understanding of our universe and how it works. I also do not pretend to even come close to holding the intellectual prowess and knowledge that he has.

On his own part, Hawking confesses that he doesn’t “have a grudge against God” and has “no desire to offend anyone of faith.” To me, he is merely attempting to speak truth as he sees it.

That said, I do believe he is ultimately incorrect in his assertions on God’s existence because he, like the rest of us, is the victim of false assumptions about God – many of which have been purported for years by theologians and scientists alike.

The following are the reasons his conclusions fall short:

Continue reading

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