Next week we’ll start studying our doctrinal statement. We want you to have an understanding of your faith and have a better grasp on what Biblical Christianity is, unlike most people in the world today, much like the writer below:
I’ve never met a single person who became a zealous Christian after being presented an intellectual reason to believe. In fact, I would dare to say that there has not been one real conversion in history that can be entirely attributed to a simple, unemotional presentation of facts. That’s not how religion works. Religion finds fertile ground in the field of a person’s emotions.
Is an emotional experience really that reliable? Does an emotional experience provide solid enough ground on which to build a life?
Feelings. That’s really what the bulk of Christianity and religion is really all about: fabricated, fluffy, feelings.
The details of each Christian “testimony” are varied, but the root of every conversion is some sort of a spiritual (emotional) epiphany. And the “high” that religion can bring will carry a new believer along for a considerable while.
If Christianity were the only modern religion that provided powerful, life-changing, mystical experiences, then those things might add validity to their beliefs. If only Christianity provided these unexplained feelings, it might be reasonable to conclude that Christianity is unique. The problem is that disciples of other religions also have dramatic stories.
Christian conversion is emotional, much like falling in love, or going into an angry rage, or having an episode of hysterical laughter. Once the passion subsides, it’s often difficult to explain why it was ever felt in the first place. Emotional feelings can’t be proved or disproved, but they aren’t reality. Emotions exist, in essence, only in the mind.
Which brings us back to some of the questions asked earlier this year:
In the Bible, which are there more of?
…Bible verses about feeling God’s presence (so you can know He’s real), or Bible verses about knowing, teaching and following correct doctrine? (This is a trick question; there are no verses about feeling, experiencing or “being intoxicated” by God’s presence. Also, capitalizing the letter “p” in presence comes from the New Age movement.)
…Bible verses that tell us to have a “personal, intimate and emotional encounter with God,” or Bible verses that tell us we can know God through His Word and Sacraments? (This is a trick question-there are no verses telling us that we’re supposed to have a personal, intimate and emotional encounter with God.)
…Bible verses telling the church to conform to the pagan culture (in order to “win over” that culture), or Bible verses describing the church as separate and distinct from culture? (This is a trick question; there are no verses telling the church to conform to the pagan culture. The word “church” comes from the word “ekklesia” which means “gathering” or “called out ones.”)
…Bible verses that tell us it’s “all about a relationship, not a religion,” or Bible verses that tell us to repent, be baptized and become members of Christ’s body-The Church? (This is a trick question-there are no verses that specifically tell us to “have a personal relationship with Jesus,” instead, the Bible points to the establishment of the Church and it’s specific doctrine. Christianity is, by definition, a religion. You can stop being ashamed of that now. It is the only true religion-and it offers us the only true Good News!
And hopefully give everybody the ability to answer questions like these:
Question: “Why won’t God heal amputees?”
Answer: Some use this question in an attempt to “disprove” the existence of God. If God is all-powerful and if Jesus promised to do anything we ask (or so the reasoning goes), then why won’t God ever heal amputees when we pray for them? Why does God heal victims of cancer and diabetes, for example, yet He never causes an amputated limb to be regenerated? The fact that an amputee stays an amputee is “proof” to some that God does not exist, that prayer is useless, that so-called healings are coincidence, and that religion is a myth.
Assumption 1: God has never healed an amputee. Who is to say that in the history of the world, God has never caused a limb to regenerate? To say, “I have no empirical evidence that limbs can regenerate; therefore, no amputee has ever been healed in the history of the world” is akin to saying “I have no empirical evidence that rabbits live in my yard; therefore, no rabbit has ever lived on this ground in the history of the world.” It’s a conclusion that simply cannot be drawn. Besides, we have the historical record of Jesus healing lepers, some of whom we may assume had lost digits or facial features. In each case, the lepers were restored whole (Mark 1:40-42; Luke 17:12-14). Also, there is the case of the man with the shriveled hand (Matthew 12:9-13), and the restoration of Malchus’s severed ear (Luke 22:50-51), not to mention the fact that Jesus raised the dead (Matthew 11:5; John 11), which would undeniably be even more difficult than healing an amputee.
Assumption 2: God’s goodness and love require Him to heal everyone.
Assumption 3: God still performs miracles today just as He did in the past. In the thousands of years of history covered by the Bible, we find just four short periods in which miracles were widely performed (the period of the Exodus, the time of the prophets Elijah and Elisha, the ministry of Jesus, and the time of the apostles). While miracles occurred throughout the Bible, it was only during these four periods that miracles were “common.”
The time of the apostles ended with the writing of Revelation and the death of John. That means that now, once again, miracles are rare. Any ministry which claims to be led by a new breed of apostle or claims to possess the ability to heal is deceiving people.
Assumption 4: God is bound to say “yes” to any prayer offered in faith. Jesus said, “I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:12-14). Some have tried to interpret this passage as Jesus agreeing to whatever we ask. But this is misreading Jesus’ intent. Notice, first, that Jesus is speaking to His apostles, and the promise is for them. After Jesus’ ascension, the apostles were given power to perform miracles as they spread the gospel (Acts 5:12). Second, Jesus twice uses the phrase “in My name.” This indicates the basis for the apostles’ prayers, but it also implies that whatever they prayed for should be consonant with Jesus’ will. A selfish prayer, for example, or one motivated by greed, cannot be said to be prayed in Jesus’ name.
Assumption 5: God’s future healing (at the resurrection) cannot compensate for earthly suffering.
Assumption 6: God’s plan is subject to man’s approval.
Assumption 7: God does not exist.
In one sense, the question of why God doesn’t heal amputees is a trick question, comparable to “Can God make a rock too big for Him to lift?” and is designed not to seek for truth but to discredit faith. In another sense, it can be a valid question with a biblical answer. That answer, in short, would be something like this: “God can heal amputees and will heal every one of them who trusts Christ as Savior. The healing will come, not as the result of our demanding it now, but in God’s own time, possibly in this life, but definitely in heaven. Until that time, we walk by faith, trusting the God who redeems us in Christ and promises the resurrection of the body.”