Store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven
where moth and rust cannot destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

An atheist asks, “How can a Christian know what's good?”

In my discussion with Hugo regarding my post, “Greta Christina and the 1st Church of Atheism,” I stated, “Behaviours that are right and good, are right and good only if they cohere to the character of Creator God, from whom all aspects of objective morality flow.”

  Hugo replied, “you completely dodge the REAL question: how do you determine what's good or not?” 

  Seriously? Hugo doesn't know how Christians determine what thoughts and behaviours are right and wrong, good and evil? Seriously?

  I told Hugo yesterday that the first way that we can know what are good vs. wrong behaviours is to study the example of Jesus – God the Son. God / Jesus is not just a loving Being. God IS Love. God does not just convey truth. God IS Truth. God does not just command justice. God IS Justice. Both God the Father and God the Son are prime archetypes of these characteristics.

 The second way we are able to know what are good behaviours is to study the teaching of Jesus. 
Because the type of people who would ask the question above are of the same type who make the preposterous and unsupported claim that a defensible reading of the Bible could lead to acts of violence, I'll present this from that angle.
. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the meek
. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
. Blessed are the merciful
. Blessed are the peacemakers
. You’ve heard it said that you shouldn’t murder but I’m telling you to not even be angry.
. Treat women with respect instead of just sexual objects
. You have heard it said and eye for an eye, but I tell you, don’t resist an evil person.
. Turn the other cheek
. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
. Forgive others as you have been forgiven by your Heavenly Father
. Don’t judge others in a hypocritical manner
. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
. So that we may not offend [the rulers] go and pay our taxes
. Don’t forgive the person who sins against you only seven times, but every time.
. Love your neighbour as you already love yourself
. Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be your slave - just as I did not come to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.
. I will welcome everyone with open arms, no matter how evil they have been or what wrongs they have committed if they will only turn from their sins and follow me.
. O Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets sent to you. How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.
. Why are you harassing this woman [a prostitute]? I will forgive her sins.
. On the night before He was killed, Jesus washed the feet of all His disciples, even the one who He knew was about to betray Him and have Him killed and even though He knew that all of them would desert Him before the night was over.
. Filled with compassion Jesus healed the man with leprosy.
. Jesus had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd
. Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honour your father and mother.
. Father forgive those who are killing me for they don’t know what they are doing.
. Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even pagans love those who love them back. And if you do good to those who are good to you what credit is that to you? Even pagans do that. Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.
. Do not judge. Do not condemn.
. Do to others the kind of things you would like others to do to you.
. "I am willing to heal you." "I have compassion for you and I’ll heal you." "When Jesus saw her, His heart went out to her and He said, "Don’t cry." "I tell you her many sins have been forgiven. Go in peace." "Don’t be afraid." "Whoever welcomes a little child in my name welcomes me." "Then neither do I condemn you." "Peace be with you." "Dear woman [His mother] here is the person who will take care of you when I die."
. Everyone who does the will of God, I will consider the same as members of my own family.
. When they hurled their insults at Him He [Jesus] did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats.
. If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.
. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
. “Put your sword away [Peter]. Shall I not go through the very thing for which I came to the world to do?” Jesus allowed no one to fight for Him.

These are just a few of the things that Jesus taught regarding peace. But what of His closest followers? We’ve already seen that Peter was ready to violently defend Jesus. If Jesus preached violence and hatred, one could expect that message to be found in the letters / propaganda that was later published by these followers.

These are an example of Peter’s writings, one of Jesus’ closest followers
. Don’t conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.
. Rid yourselves of all malice and slander of every kind.
. Live such good lives among the pagans that though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God.
. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men.
. It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.
. Do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil.
. Show proper respect for everyone.
. Husbands, be considerate as you live with your wives and treat them with respect.
. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult but with blessing because to this you were called.
. Whoever would love life must seek peace and pursue it.
. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Hmm. Looks like being with Jesus caused quite a transformation in Peter’s life.

  Well, how about John, the one that used to be called the ‘‘Son of Thunder.’’
. Love one another
. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him.
. Let us not love with words but with actions.
. Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love.
. Whoever loves God must also love others.
. [Jesus'] command is that you walk in love.

  How about James, one of Jesus’ brothers and former sceptic?
. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble
. The wisdom that comes from Jesus is peace-loving, considerate, full of mercy.
. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
. Do not slander one another
. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.
. Love your neighbour as you already love yourself.
. Do not show favouritism.
. Mercy triumphs over judgement. If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.
. Everyone should be slow to become angry for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

  How about the writer of Hebrews?
. Do not forget to do good and to share with others
. Make every effort to live in peace with all people.

  And of course, how could this close without quotes from the most diligent follower of Jesus, a former sceptic, a man who, before Jesus came into his life was a violent torturer and killer of Christians, the great apostle Paul.. Warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.
. Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
. You know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God.
. We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children
. Do not lie to each other
. In Christ everyone is equal, none better than another.
. Therefore as God’s chosen people, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
. Fathers, do not embitter your children or they will become discouraged.
. Let your conversation be always full of grace.
. For then in Christ, be overflowing with thankfulness.
. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And if you do this, the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is praiseworthy, think about such things and if you do this, the God of peace will be with you.
. This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless.
. We preach the gospel of peace
. Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
. Each one of you must love his wife
. Fathers do not exasperate your children
. In your anger do not sin for anger gives the devil a foothold.
. Be completely humble and gentle; bearing with one another in love.
. Love your neighbour as yourself. If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
. The outcome of living by the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrong. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
. A husband must not divorce his wife.
. The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?
. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we all stand before God’s judgement seat.
. Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
. Do not take revenge, my friends.
. If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink
. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

  Now, if this is too difficult for you Hugo, if you still don't know where we Christians get our ideas of correct behaviours, well, I guess I'm the wrong person to ask. 

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