Archive | June, 2009

God as My Husband?

For those that don’t know, I have been widowed almost 5 years, since August 2004. Due to the nature of the relationship with my late husband and his chronic illness for 5 years before he passed, it feels like I have been without a husband for much longer than 5 years. While I do desire to be married again, I do understand the need for learning contentment in whatever state we find ourselves in. Honestly, that does become a challenge at times, especially lately as I have witnessed many unions around me. Nonetheless, I look to God as my source and know that my spiritual walk cannot suffer because of deferred hope.

Of course, I am not alone. I have heard many women who have either been in my position as a single mother or currently are single and have to go it alone, including parenting and bring up the reference of God as their husband, that He has to fill the void of the missing spouse. In fact, I remember prayers that were offered up on my behalf when my husband passed away, for God to be a husband to me. While I do understand the need to look to God for fulfillment, I do have a problem with this particular reference.

I believe marriage is a most special relationship, designed by God for a man and woman to share the most intimate of earthly relationships – emotionally, spiritually and physically. When God created man, he indicated that it is not good for man to be alone, so he created woman. Now, I do believe that that also has a broader application to humanity in general in that men and women are needed to balance out this thing we call life. But there is also an intimacy shared between husband and wife that I believe are unique to that marital relationship. Consider what Ephesians 5:31 says (cf Genesis 2:24-25), that a man leaves his folks, cleaves to his wife and two become one. This is a mystery, the text says, that is analogous to Christ and His church as stated in Ephesians 5:32. But I don’t think this supports in anyway drawing the analogy of God as husband. And let’s be honest, there are certain aspects of the marital relationship that God cannot fill.

Contrarily, there are characteristics about God and His relationship to His creation that are unique to Him. He is above all else and there is none like Him. He is holy, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, immutable, and depends on nothing or no one. Yet, He exercises communicable attributes with His creation: love, wrath, justice and has identified specific relational aspects towards us including,

God as Father

God as Provider

God as Protector

God as Healer

These are characteristics of God that I can look to Him and expect for Him to be. And this is applicable to those He considers His own whether they are married or single. While I can derive these benefits from earthly relationships, only God alone can be truly counted on and fulfill His role according to these attributes, purely and truly. I believe He does desire a particular intimacy with His children, made possible courtesy of the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross. Through faith and trust in what Christ accomplished, we have direct access and can enjoy His presence of God via God the Holy Spirit. There is sheer delight in this communion. The Westminster Shorter Catechism sums it up aptly. What is the chief end of man? It is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. And enjoy Him we should simply for who He is. But it is not a substitute for a husband. And particularly in His role as Father, I have a hard time drawing an equal role of husband.

But you might be thinking of particular passages that cites God as husband. Yes, the Bible does draw a comparison to God as husband but it is not in the context of a substitution for a marital relationship. Rather, it is always in the context of a covenant relationship between God and His people, namely Israel. This can be seen in Jeremiah 31:32 and also the book of Hosea, where Hosea’s unfaithful wife is likened to an adulterous Israel. The identification of God as husband is not used to show that God serves as a substitute spouse but to draw out the significance of covenant and the picture of what breaking that covenant looks like.

So to use these verses as justification for God as a substitute husband I think misses the point. I understand fully the lure to consider God as such, especially since our tendency is to look to earthly mates to fill internal voids that only God can fill. And let’s face it, there are some who might consider it spiritually immature to have such desires, that one should be so contented that they could possibly do without human companionship. No, God does not appreciate idolatry, something that our earthly relationships can quickly become as we place a higher value and affection on them than our heavenly ones. But I do believe such desires cannot be dismissed and swept under the God as husband rug. Furthermore, I think it is both unwise and Biblically infeasible to consider God husband as a substitute for a spouse. Each relationship has a special place and should not be confused with each other.

It is not easy being alone and desiring an earthly relationship, especially the most intimate form designed by God Himself. The waiting gets wary, the isolation can be numbing and the desires can be overwhelming. In these times, it is prudent and fruitful to place an increasing dependence and delight in God the Father, for who He, what He has done and what He has called us to be. I can call and count on God to be many things but I will reserve the title husband for an earthly one, should that request ever be fulfilled. Hopefully. God willing.

Last call!

Just think in a few weeks I will be saying that to the patrons of Credo House. Last call … for coffee that is.

For now though it is last call for the apologetics special we have been running.

It ends this weekend!

The Apologetics Program (Special Ends Friday… no Sunday!)

Three new courses on audio CD to help you prepare to defend the

Christian faith. Taught by scholar, author, and Evangelical apologist

Robert Bowman, these courses will be a welcome addition to your

library.

Normal Price: $195

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Included:

1. Apologetics I – An Introduction to Apologetics: An introduction

to key issues in defending the faith.

2. Apologetics II – Apologetic Methods: Next, learn about the

different approaches that Christians take to defending the faith.

3. Apologetics III – Understanding Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses:

Here you will learn everything you need to know about the Mormon and

Jehovah’s Witness faith and how to give a gracious answer.

Combine The Theology Program and The Apologetics Program

Get both all sixty sessions of The Theology Program’s and all three

courses in The Apologetics Program at a special discount.

Regular Price: $909

Special Price: $545

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Introducing the Credo House of Theology

It is not quite done, but close enough to post this.Credo House of Theology

Click here to view the video on YouTube.

With the opening of the Credo House, we have taken a considerable step in the life and history of our ministry. As well, with this comes great opportunity to join with us in our mission to reclaim the mind by filling a significant need in the church today – theological discipleship. Our ministry budget has increased as we have taken this step. So many of you have taken this step with us by partnering with us through your financial support; we need many more of you to join us.

If you believe in what we are doing, please consider joining us. It is a great mission that we are on.

Give a one time gift or become a monthly supporter.

We need $25,000 to complete this month in the black. Every donation counts!
To get a .pdf copy of this post or to forward it to someone who might be interested in what we are doing, please provide the appropriate email below.

What is God (2) – Why I Look to Philosophy and Say You Should Too

We are looking at what is God? Not who is God? or what has God done? We are looking at what his essential nature must be in order to qualify for the title.

One thing I am going to do throughout this series is something that many of you might be very uncomfortable with. You should not be, but you might. However, if you have studied the history of Christian doctrine and are, like me, standing on the shoulders of giants, you will have no problem with what I am advocating necessitating for this study. I believe that we must look to nature and philosophy in order to understand the nature of God. This means that I believe that extra-biblical information is required, yea demanded, by God himself.

My reasoning is simple. There are certain things that the Bible assumes. In other words, there is an information base that God requires before we can handle the Scriptures and biblical doctrine with integrity. These things are areas that are presupposed. For example, the Bible does not teach anyone how to read. It simply assumes such an ability. The Bible does not define its words. It assumes a knowledge base that is equipped to handle the vocabulary. Epistemologically (the justification of knowing), the Bible does not argue for the the law of non contradiction (i.e. that A cannot equal non-A at the same time and in the same relationship) or that propositions have meaning. It simply assumes that you know that. Theologically, the Bible does not make a case for God’s existence, it simply assumes that there is a sufficient base from which to make such a conclusion. There are other things as well, but these examples should suffice for you to understand and follow. (I hope!)

When it comes to making a case, such as I am going to make, about the “what” or “stuff” of God, I am going to be drawing as much from natural theology as I am from biblical theology—and for this I make no apologies. Natural theology is the theology that comes through nature or general revelation. It is a theology that is rationally based and relies much on philosophical deduction.

Continue Reading →

“True for You, But Not for Me” 2.0: The Newly-Released Revised, Expanded Edition

My very first book “True for You, But Not for Me”—the one with the purple cover—came out in 1998. The reason I wrote the book was that no one was really offering an accessible, practical step-by-step guide to commonly-heard relativistic and pluralistic slogans. Thankfully, the book found its niche and has done very well, and it is used as a textbook in Christian colleges and universities as well as a book study for many small-group discussions and adult Sunday school classes. Moreover, I have been heartened and encouraged by many letters and people, informing me how instrumental the book has been in their own lives.

Ten years later, I started working on a second edition (the one with the white cover), not realizing how much effort would be required to pull this off. “True” 2.0 has been significantly expanded (half a dozen or so new chapters) and completely overhauled; I left very few sentences unrevised. The result is, in my estimation, a much stronger, updated book that more effectively cuts through today’s thickening relativistic and pluralistic haze, offering a defense of objective truth and morality as well as of the uniqueness of Christ in the face of the world’s religions. I have posted an study guide online for small-group discussion at my website, www.paulcopan.com.

I hope you’ll help spread the word and put in a good word for the book in places like Amazon.com. To make the job easier, I’ve included the new table of contents as well as endorsements from Lee Strobel, J.P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, Josh McDowell, Gary Habermas, Mark Mittelberg, and Kenneth Samples. Thanks to many of you for contributing to the success of the first edition. May God’s Spirit use the second edition as well for the advancement of His kingdom! Continue Reading →

Doing Business with Christians

I don’t know about you, but over the last few years I have had some bad experiences with Christians in the business world. This may get me in hot water, but I have come to the point where I would rather do business with unbelievers than with believers. I have been burned one too many times.

Building on this, I have found that the world often does things better than the church. At least they take many things more seriously and don’t think that there is an assumed liberty of tolerance.

However, this all has a lot to do with my theology. I work under the presupposition that culture (including the business world) in-and-of itself is amoral (neither good nor bad). Along with this is the further assumption that culture can and has evidenced the characteristics of God. This comes from the truth that all people, fallen and redeemed, retain God’s image. Whether they realize it or not, all people can and sometimes do give God glory, even if it is against their will. Often times, the glory that the secular culture presents before the Lord is better than that of the church.

Remember when Christ was entering Jerusalem just before the crucifixion and his followers were saying “Blessed is He who comes in the name of God”? The account is worth posting:

Luke 19:37-40 As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, 38 shouting: “BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” 40 But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”

Christ said, if His people do not glorify Him, the rocks will. Christ did not literally mean that the rocks will miraculously receive cognition and the gift of verbal articulation. He was speaking in hyperbole. He meant that if His people don’t glorify Him, then the rocks will. In other words, God will receive His glory. If it does not come from the most likely source (His people), then it will come from the most unlikely source (the rocks). If this does not humble us, I don’t know what will.

How about you? Have you ever been burned by Christian’s in the business world?

What Does the Credo House Have to Do with the Blog?

Not much, just that it is keeping me from writting any blogs as we are finishing things up. I don’t think I have ever been so busy and so tired before. But we are having fun.

We should pick up on the blog in the next couple of weeks.

Oh, also, if you want, stop by the Credo House this week. Although we still have a lot to do, it looks great and is ready for a soft opening.

Where We Live

I came across this article in Christianity Today on ending homelessness in 10 years.  I mused considering that for the past several years, this is the professional field I have been involved in.  In fact, in my position back in Rhode Island, I was responsible for managing one of the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) homeless funding program for the state, worked with most of the homeless service agencies statewide and coordinated and packaged the annual funding application to HUD for the state.  As noted in the article, every geographic region that receives these funds has to include in their funding application to HUD, a description on how they are going to end homelessness in 10 years through a coordinated effort with major public-private stakeholders.

More specifically, HUD has been focused on ending chronic homelessness, which comprises approximately 15% of the homeless population roughly.  These are the more severe cases of homelessness – folks that have been continually homeless for at least a year or experienced continual cycles of homelessness (at least 4 episodes in the past 3 years) and suffer from some type of disabling condition, including mental illness and substance abuse.  The idea is that since these are the high end users of emergency services, it is more cost efficient to put them into permanent supportive housing, which provides a team of licensed professionals to address the barriers to independent living.  In other words, stabilize them in housing first, then provide intensive services so they will stay there.  So the person who has lived ensconced in a particular state of existence for an extended period of time will now be moved to a different state of existence and expected to succeed.

I think this is a great theory in concept.  I don’t think anyone reading this post, especially me, wants to see people homeless.  But I had a major philosophical conflict in that I recognize, no matter how attractive you make housing, no matter how much you demonstrate that this would be something beneficial, there will be some, who for whatever reason are more comfortable on the streets.  It’s not that they want to be homeless but they don’t want to be uprooted from a way of living that they have become comfortable with.  The comfort of where they are supersedes the discomfort of being uprooted.  Now some of my professional colleagues might disagree, but information that I have received from front line workers would suggest otherwise, not to mention, the human nature factor.

I cannot but help consider this application pertinent to where we live doctrinally and theologically.  We have learned.  We have studied.  We have drawn conclusions.  We find our nest and settle in.  And it is great, isn’t it, when we draw conclusions about what the Biblical text says and perchance take sides with notable theologians who have gone before us, especially considering the effort they put forth?  Or maybe, we have found comfort in that fact that we have followed no man but instead have relied on our own interpretations of Scripture, guided of course by the Spirit.  Or perhaps we have allowed our particular church denomination or tradition to influence and shape the body of facts we call truth.  Whatever our course of action has been, there is a certain degree of comfort that we can rest it.

I suppose that our comfort has very much to do with our epistomology, how we have come to know and understand what we consider truth.   There has been a determination made on the best avenue to discover what truth is, and we have followed that. And whatever that path is, whether through “academic” study, experience, tradition or a particular hermeneutic (yes everyone has one but not everyone uses the same hermeneutic), following that course can in and of itself, transition us into an ease of understanding.  After a while, we can proudly say that we have arrived at truth.  However, it does beg the question, ‘is it that we have arrived at truth OR that we have satisfied the mechanics of whatever epistomology we have used to arrive at truth?  The latter will certainly not guarantee the former but probably will make us more comfortable about the process.

The truth is that nobody likes tension.  Nobody likes to be uncomfortable and definitely, nobody wants to be wrong.  The guy on the street doesn’t resist moving from his abode because he loves waddling in the mire.  He won’t move because he doesn’t want the tension.   Nor do we.  It is uncomfortable to wrestle with ideas and the internal conflict that ensues when our sense of satisfactory knowledge has been disrupted.  It is far easier to stay in the bed we’ve made than to rip the sheets off and move it; it is far easier to rely on the truth we know than the contradiction we don’t know, or rather, don’t really want to know.  So we set up our fortresses, load the arsenal known as proof-texts, strawmen and maybe even historical data and throw them to protect our fiefdoms of knowledge.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think there are some truths that are absolutely essential to Christianity, truths that have been tested and stamped with the historical seal of approval of which Christianity would not exist without.  I also believe that within the mysteries of God, what He has revealed is meant to be understood (Deuteronomy 29:29), not cumbersome or burdensome and maybe even a little logical.

But it can be arduous to bridge the communication gap between God’s revelation, which is what He has made known and our understanding.  It is no small task to engage in a process of grasping who is God, what has He accomplished, what He has planned and where do we fit into that picture, in a way that acknowledges our abilities to apprehend but denies our prejudices and presuppositions.  There is tension.  There is discomfort.  Often, there are no easy answers.  Yes, the Spirit is involved but so is our fallibility.  This is not an easy place to live because it will always encourage running for cover and resorting to safe and tension free harbors.

So I think where we live doctrinally and theologically has so much to do with the level of resistance we can tolerate.   If we’ve wrapped our arms around conclusions so tightly that no amount of historical or Biblical evidence could sway opinions, especially those that deviate from Christianity’s historical roots, then I fear intended truths might be missed for the sake of ease.  And yes, I do think fear can be involved, fear of losing, fear of failure, fear of humility.  Then where we live can become a prison rather than a place of freedom.  It is no different for that chronically homeless individual who refuses to give up his abode for something better.

But just as the guy on the street must go through the tension of disruption for the greater goal of a warm and safe place of permenency, so must we.  There is a prize at stake of knowing what God has so graciously revealed to that we can know Him, His plan and ourselves better.  We’ll never arrive but must always learn and be willing to be a little disrupted in the process.