Thinking Out Loud

November 10, 2018

Environmental Social Contract

Either my memory is fading, or the version of “social contract theory” that I was taught in university had less to do with the role government, and more to do with the individuals in a society — even a local neighborhood — acting in practical ways toward mutual deference to each other.

Dictionary.com offers this:

1. the voluntary agreement among individuals by which, according to any of various theories, as of Hobbes, Locke, or Rousseau, organized society is brought into being and invested with the right to secure mutual protection and welfare or to regulate the relations among its members.

2. an agreement for mutual benefit between an individual or group and the government or community as a whole.

In my view, when I’m driving down an undivided highway I am trusting that the car coming the opposite way will stay in its lane, and he or she is trusting that I will do the same.

When the neighbor across the road is changing his oil, I’m trusting he won’t pour the old oil into the municipal sewer system which goes into the lake, from which we get our drinking water.

But I’ve seen that done, close up.

When the other neighbor, who runs the chemical pesticide lawn treatment business needs to empty the tank on his truck, I’m trusting he won’t just drive to the abandon lot and dump the contents onto the soil.

But I’ve seen that done, relatively close up.

On a macro scale, I’m also trusting that the industrial and commercial businesses in our region won’t release toxins into the air through their smokestacks and won’t discharge carcinogenic chemicals into our lakes and rivers.

But we know that happens.

This may be a bit biased, but in the case of those macro infractions, I think that factories and manufacturing plants in America are more likely to see their legislators avert their eyes than what we see in my country. In the U.S., profit is king. The rights of business take precedence.  Which is interesting because, nominally at least, Americans would claim a much higher percentage of people identifying as Christians, and one view of scripture teaches that we ought to be caring for (stewarding) the earth, while another (possibly overlapping) view teaches that while the earth as we know it may be destroyed, the planet itself won’t be and in fact becomes a “New Earth” that we will inhabit in eternity.

Realistically, there doesn’t seem to be a solid entrenchment of environmental social contract in place. While themes like water pollution and air pollution don’t dominate either our conversations or our pop songs like they once did, we still treat the earth with relative disdain.

 

 

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June 11, 2017

What Will We Do in Heaven (Part 3)

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:15 am

…From there, the discussion moved on to look at the question of why “do things” now?

I think the answer to that question is because we were commanded to.

Luke 19:13b:
“Engage in business until I come back.” CSB
“See what you can earn with this while I am gone.” GNT
“Occupy til I come” KJV

— the KJV, in today’s context hasn’t got the business-specific reference. We obviously use occupy differently today but in its contemporary vagueness it makes allowance for creative projects as well.

It’s odd because sometimes we talk in terms of “doing great things for God” and yet his mandate in these verses has more of a “carry on” tone to it.

The apostle Paul talks about making good use of the time: (there’s that word again!)

Eph 5-15-16
Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.

It strikes here that we’ve been given a stewardship, not of the earth but of days, to use our talents; for God to see how we glorify him (this is, you’ll remember, the chief end of man) through labor and vocation with the gifts we’ve received.

A chapter later he writes:

Eph 6:7 NLT
Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

This is where we get the idea to “do everything as unto the Lord;” the KJV translation.

The Bible is also clear that things don’t have to continue even within the confines of a lifetime. Things can be for a season.

Eccl. 3:1
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens

I’ve found Skye Jethani’s writings and podcast episodes to be helpful here in two different ways. First, he’s written and spoken at conference on the idea of “the theology of work,” but it wasn’t in the sense here, but rather the opposite, that the Millennial generation is obsessed with it. (Search his name also with respect to vocation.)

Second, he has written on “the myth of continuance;” the idea that things will always be as they now are; and I think that mindset may be creeping into the question of wanting to see things we do on earth carry forward into eternity. Personally, I see the next life as operating on an entirely different paradigm, with an entirely different set of measurements for fulfillment, accomplishment, etc. I think heaven should come with a welcome disclaimer: ‘Any similarity between this and your past life is purely coincidental.’

So we try not to read Ecclesiastes too often or become too philosophical about our current projects vis-a-vis what comes after this life. We carry on. We work hard. We rest well. We create beauty. We pursue excellence. We seek truth. We treasure friendships. And we try to honor God in all of these things. 

At the end it’s all measured. Some of it is wood, hay and straw, but hopefully some of it is gold, silver and precious stones. While “it’s all gonna burn” may be discouraging to some, trying to hold on to a sense of what we’re doing here and now as “taking it with us” then and there I think will seem rather silly. You can’t take it with you because in a glorified body in the presence of God, you wouldn’t want to take it with you.

 

 

 

June 10, 2017

What Will We Do in Heaven? (Part Two)

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:36 am

…So the conversation continued:

I find it kinda weird to think of heaven as not having growth or progression to it, in general and in regard to the new creation having a fixed population in the end apparently. I find it difficult to get excited about a place where things don’t continue to unfold.

Of course, the first thing I thought about was the article by the late Christian musician Keith Green, “Will You Be Bored in Heaven.” You can read that online at this link. Here’s a sample:

The Lord made me realize recently that if I do not absolutely relish His company now, desiring to be with Him more than anyone in the whole world, then I would not really be comfortable in heaven at all – for it is there that we will spend all eternity in the company of the Holy One who made us…

Be honest, would you be thrilled for the Lord to come back right before you get that college degree, or if you had your choice would you prefer He wait until right after graduation day? Maybe you’re engaged to be married. How would you like to go to heaven the day before your scheduled wedding? See what I mean? Paul really desired more than anything else to go to be with the Lord. We desire long, fulfilling “Christian” lives on earth – but we’re willing to die and go to heaven … when we really have to!

As the discussion continued however it occurred to me that some of the problem is that we’re currently trapped in linear time.

Progression = distance traveled (literal or figurative or incremental) over time.  OR  d/t
where the distance could be referring to a journey including accomplishments, learning, etc.

I then continued:

But if time as we know it — linearly — has ended, then the whole notion of progress collapses. If you “find it difficult to get excited about a place where things don’t continue to unfold” then your vision of the next life is too stuck in linear time. 

C. S. Lewis’s analogy of a train is helpful here. I tried to find the exact quote, but essentially it concerns the difference between being stopped at a level crossing waiting for a very long freight train to pass. One by one, the cars click by; you’re counting them; there’s been 150 so far. But up above someone is watching the entire scene from an airplane. They have a very large picture in front of them, and they are aware that there is a train on the tracks, but from that height, it does not appear to be moving at all.  

The person on the ground experiences the train linearly, but to the person in the plane the train is perceived differently; they see the first car and the last car all at once.  

Speaking of Lewis, our oldest son got involved in the discussion by email and noted, “C.S. Lewis would not concur with the idea that there isn’t progression in Heaven (see The Last Battle).”

One website offered this:

The linear nature of time can be summarized by the concept of the “arrow of time,” a phrase coined in the 1930’s. It turns out that there are many obstacles to overcome when studying the arrow of time, the first of which is to figure out why it exists to begin with. Why do people recognize a past separated from a present time, which is, in turn, separated from the future? So far philosophers and physicists have not established a definite reason.

Why does it exist to begin with? I think the Bible addresses that:

Gen 1:4 “Then he separated the light from the darkness God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” — this where John Walton says we can read this as “And God created time.”

I shared an email with John Walton once about this:

…When you were a guest [on the Phil Vischer show] you mentioned the distinction in Genesis 1 with the words used, “And God called the light day;” and said basically this verse could be read, “And God created time.”

And then took it one step further:

In one of the ‘heaven’ verses, there is a reference something like, “We do not need the light of the sun…” because God is that light.  (Sorry, I’m writing this in a hurry!) I’m wondering if in that verse we’re witnessing the end of time; that the sun is extinguished and things return to the original order.

This would give greater meaning to the phrase, “passing into eternity.”  That at a certain point time stops in the same kind of crisis moment in which it began.  If so, this would also give some help to the “Will I be bored in heaven?” people who are continuing to think of the ‘afterlife’ in terms of linear time, and therefore aren’t wrapping their heads fully around the new order that ‘life’ becomes.

Professor Walton wrote me back and said,

You are referring to Revelation 21:23 and yes, I believe you are on the right track

So from there, the subject drifted to, “Then why do anything now?” Why indeed? If there’s no permanence to it, if it [itself] doesn’t continue into eternity, what’s the point?

We’ll look at that tomorrow in Part 3.


Image: Last Days Ministries

 

 

June 9, 2017

What Will We Do In Heaven? (Part One)

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:43 am

If you’re a Type-A personality, you thrive on busy-ness and activity. When you think in terms of heaven — by which I mean more accurately new earth — you want to know there will be projects, and programs, and goals; oh my!

This was the topic we were wrestling with in a one hour phone conference call last night involving my wife and myself and our youngest son.

Part of it had to do with the completion of things we’ve been involved in here and now; a carry forward of the things we enjoy doing or are gifted in doing.

When it started out, we were looking at the continuation of marriage in heaven. (Though the conversation later expanded to include vocation.)

“If marriage ends in heaven, what’s the point of marriage on earth”

I did some searching online and came up with these:

Focus on the Family:

Jesus did say that life in the world to come will not include “marriage” as we know it here on earth. When questioned by the Sadducees about this, He said, “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven” (Matthew 22:30). Your friend may lack sensitivity, but her comment does have a strong biblical basis.What Jesus did not say was that “all earthly relationships will be nullified in heaven.” There is no good reason to put such a negative spin on His words. We will most certainly be together with those we love in the next life. We just don’t know precisely what form that “togetherness” will take.

Look at it this way. Human relationships will certainly be different in heaven. But they cannot possibly be less than what they have been on earth. They will have to be different in the sense of being something more, something better, something far more fulfilling and satisfying than we can presently imagine. That’s part of the glory of the resurrected life.

GotQuestions.org:

Most likely, there will be no marriage in heaven simply because there will be no need for it. When God established marriage, He did so to fill certain needs. First, He saw that Adam was in need of a companion. “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’” (Genesis 2:18). Eve was the solution to the problem of Adam’s loneliness, as well as his need for a “helper,” someone to come alongside him as his companion and go through life by his side. In heaven, however, there will be no loneliness, nor will there be any need for helpers. We will be surrounded by multitudes of believers and angels (Revelation 7:9), and all our needs will be met, including the need for companionship.

Second, God created marriage as a means of procreation and the filling of the earth with human beings. Heaven, however, will not be populated by procreation. Those who go to heaven will get there by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; they will not be created there by means of reproduction. Therefore, there is no purpose for marriage in heaven since there is no procreation or loneliness.

I do prefer the first answer.

But then the conversation shifted to looking at things like works of art, writing, etc. Does any of that carry forward?

I thought of a couple of scriptures:

Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away.   (Matthew 24:35 NIV)

Without exception every single translation in BibleGateway.com preserved the word words. Personally, I’ve always interpreted this as having to do with God’s laws and principles; so I read this as ‘but my truth will remain.’ (Apparently I’d make a bad Bible translator.)

The other scripture was:

Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. – (1 Cor 3:12-13; KJV is how I learned this, you can substitute straw for stubble.)

The idea of this present world ending in fire is found in Revelation and has several interpretations, including a nuclear fallout resulting in a reordering of everything from plant life to continents, including even the tilt of the earth which causes the seasons. (As a Canadian, I want to be done with winter.)

Frankly, I think most of what I produce in a day falls into the wood, hay and stubble category. Especially when seen from an eternal perspective. But the original question had to do writings.

Now if we are “known as we are known” in heaven — which doesn’t actually mean what most people think it does, but let’s assume some identity carries forward — then as surely as I might walk up to David and say, ‘That was cool how you got Goliath on the first stone;’ someone might walk up to me and say, ‘I really liked that particular blog post you wrote about [subject]; it changed my life.’1

So in a sense our writings — if we are part of the one-third of the world which commits things to print — could survive in a sense.

Tomorrow we’ll get back more directly to the idea of progression in heaven; of building — I want to avoid the word working — toward a specific objective. Type A people stay tuned.


1 Maybe not this blog post.

 

 

 

March 27, 2011

Howard Jones: What is Hell Anyway?

Earlier this week, I decided to go out on a limb on Christianity 201, my devotional blog, and introduce a few readers to Greg Boyd, pastor of Woodland Hills Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  But before I embedded Greg’s sermon on Hell — spread out over three videos — I decided to write what was probably the largest disclaimer I’ve ever done.

For that one however, I skipped the Howard Jones reference.   But if someone’s got the time, I think “What is Hell Anyway” would be a timely song parody…

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past three weeks, you’re well aware that a popular Christian author has caused there to be much discussion on the doctrine of hell.   Sample topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Is hell a physical reality or is it figurative language?
  • What determines who goes to heaven and who goes to hell?
  • Is hell eternal; does it last “forever?”
  • Are there people who initially reject Christ who will somehow “accept” Him after death?
  • How is the concept of hell consistent with the loving, gracious nature of God?

…and so it goes.

Who engages in these discussions?  Again, the list includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • People who have their minds made up, and militantly defend their position and refute all other views;  some of whom view themselves as somewhat ‘contaminated’ by merely listening to other viewpoints.
  • People who simply like a good argument; people who enjoy the endorphin release that comes with lively, passionate debate, or enjoy the ‘game’ of just asking the awkward questions.
  • People who are genuinely seeking answers; people new to faith; people confused by the variants of doctrinal positions.
  • People who are relatively established in their faith, but are interested in exploring how others interpret scripture and how that affects their beliefs in other doctrinal areas.
  • People who don’t regard their views on secondary doctrinal matters as
    “set in stone” and would be open to reconsider their position of the points raised by those of different opinions were persuasive.

I think we need to ask ourselves, “Which kind of person am I?  Do I just like a good fight?  Or am I truly seeking for some answers?  Or am I simply open to hear how those with different takes reconcile other doctrinal matters?”

At that point, I introduced the videos, which you’re welcomed to watch.  T.O.L. readers can leave comments here at this post.   Link here for the sermon videos.


March 4, 2011

More on Rob Bell: Love Wins Chapter by Chapter

HarperCollins has a hit on its hands. To read some accounts, people will be buying the books just so they can burn them. But the hot topic trending on Twitter is still very much based on hearsay and speculation. Never have so many blogged so much material from so little.

And I’ll be the first to admit great curiosity as to how the item I mysteriously have had in my hands since January 19th actually resembles the finished product.

Let me just say a few things.  First of all, I have a very rough copy, but you’ll be glad to know that Bell isn’t one of these writers who types “their” when he means to type “they’re” and just lets the editors catch it.  I noticed some stylistic things that I expect will be changed in print, but for the most this was a straight-forward enough manuscript that could almost have been published as I saw it.

Here’s what the innards look like:

Table of Contents

Preface                Millions of Us

Chapter 1             What About the Flat Tire?

Chapter 2             Here Is the New There

Chapter 3             Hell

Chapter 4             Does God Get What God Wants?

Chapter 5             Dying to Live

Chapter 6             There Are Rocks Everywhere

Chapter 7             The Good News Is Better Than That

Chapter 8             All at the Same Time (Repent of course)

Chapter 9             28 Years

I list these chapters here only to point out that much of the current excitement centers on the material in chapter one — which appears on the video — and material from chapter three which is the object of greater speculation.

So what about the rest of the book?

Chapter two isn’t all that shocking if you’ve had your dreams about a heaven that’s “up there somewhere” already affected by reading Heaven or 50 Days of Heaven by Randy Alcorn.  I heard someone say it this way, “God has too much invested in this real estate to just walk away from it.” Bell also states that the Kingdom of Heaven is not a “when” or a “then” but a “now.”

Chapter four is the one the critics may actually find more disturbing that the one about the nature of hell, which precedes it.  It’s about the idea of ‘eternity’ and what happens over a long period of what we call time to those who initially rejected Christ. What happens if and when they finally wake up and smell the coffee, so to speak. Reviewers will not obvious parallels to othere religions. I’ll leave that for now.

Chapter five is — to avoid spoilers — a chapter that starts to bring us back into more familiar theological territory, except that now Bell is building on the foundation established in the first four chapters. In other words, he’s already lost some people, perplexed a few others, and he’s about to make amends to those who gracious enough to hang in there thus far by giving them a chapter they can more easily connect with. And just in time for Easter.

Chapter six is an appeal to the idea that people are entering the Kingdom of God who don’t necessarily look like us or talk like us or even find their way to the Kingdom the way we did.  In a way, this chapter is a microcosm of all the talk that’s going on this week over Rob’s book.  Nicely played.

Chapter seven is rather interesting. What would the full implications of universalism be to those of us who have believed that “straight is the gate and narrow is the way” only to find that everyone is getting in? (My words, not Bell’s.) Hmmm.  And what better metaphor for that than “younger brother” juxtaposed with “elder brother” in the story we know as “The Lost Son.”

Chapter eight is partly autobiographical and talks of the need — Bell’s need and in his view, our need — to deconstruct the mystery, the paradoxical nature of Jesus; the nature of God. In many ways it could have served as an introduction to the book, as it invites us to break down our defenses.

Chapter nine is quite short. Enough spoilers already. Though you could say that, in the end…

…This is a really quick tour of some of the rest of the book in the form that I was blessed to receive it.  I’ve tried to remain somewhat neutral here, a perspective that is somewhat lacking online where the subject of this book is concerned.  The original title of this post, “More On Rob Bell” was left there so the critics had something to work with (!) but no matter what you’re starting place, you’ll have to agree that all the attention has made this necessary reading.

It’s possible that the copy I have will differ enough from the finished product that in such a way that also adds to the pre-release anticipation surrounding its publication. I’m open to that possibility, but I thought it was worth sharing what I’ve been reading while everyone else is dealing in speculation. I probably won’t get a chance like this again!!

Here is a link to my “review” of the book a few days ago.

Comment moderation:  My system will be offline for about 36 hours on the weekend, but I’ll try to get your comments on Saturday night; so you don’t need to post twice. Be patient!!

June 13, 2010

The “Apparent Age” of the Earth

Filed under: Faith, issues — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 3:13 pm

*  Today I’m also guest-blogging as part of a month-long “blogapalooza” over at Rick Apperson’s blog, “Just a Thought.”  To read that post, click here.

Today’s post is a repeat of one from June, 2008. It’s meant to get your brain going; but in the end, faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ doesn’t rest on tangential discussions of Bible & Science issues.

One of the most difficult aspects of the various debates in creationism has to do with the young earth / old earth issue. Some believe that God took his time to make the earth, that the “days” of Genesis 1 are really “ages” and by this reasoning, “theistic evolution” is possible; the idea that God used evolution.

This means that when we look at the garden of Eden we see a tree and the tree is mature. It looks like it might be at least 20 years old. (Though counting the rings would be interesting!) Underneath the tree is a rock. The rock appears to be 20,000 years old. Adam himself becomes more problematic. He’s clearly a man, not an infant. Today, Jewish boys become a man at 13; in North America we use 18; it used to be 21; Jesus began his ministry at 30. Any one of those ages denotes the idea of “man” and not “boy.” From the earliest times, our earth seems to have either aged considerably or has some age built into it.

This morning I started thinking about Jesus’ first miracle, turning water into wine. Wine needs fermentation and fermentation takes time. A batch of homemade brew would need at least six months, I think; aging only improves the quality, and they did say at the time that the host of the wedding had “saved the best wine until last.” Did Jesus press a “pause” button, and everyone froze in place for a year while the batch brewed, or did he simply do a creative miracle in an instant?

The former suggestion is something I just made up; I’ve never heard it suggested. If you believe in this miracle at all; it’s the latter you believe in. If that’s the case, it’s interesting that Jesus’ first recorded creative act in the New Testament; and God’s first recorded creative act in the Old Testament should involve things that have apparent age; things that seem to have been created outside the constraints of time as we know it.

And if the earth is as young as some believe, then we are still witnessing the miracle of something created with apparent age, for each time the light of a star is seen at night, we know that scientifically, the light of stars that Adam, and Abraham, and Moses saw left those distant suns thousands of years before the earth was created. Which I know doesn’t make sense to many people. But next time you’re wrestling with this issue, either personally or in discussion or with someone else, step outside Genesis for a minute and consider the water-into-wine miracle of the New Testament. Fermentation takes time. The wine definitely had an apparent age. Could this principle extend back into Genesis?

~ Paul Wilkinson


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