Willing to Do God’s Will

January 31, 2015

I could describe my life as one of faith seeking answers. I was blessed with a believing mother and grandparents. I was able to lead with faith. But I relate to the father of the demon possessed boy who was challenged by Jesus with these words: “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23, ESV). The father gives a wonderful reply, “I believe; help my unbelief.”

Faith is like that. It is difficult for humans to have faith completely unmixed with doubt. We are given the encouragement that even faith as small as a mustard seed can do great things. Faith can grow!

Jesus says, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority” (John 7:17, ESV). Willingness to do God’s will is necessary. This kind of willingness can be instructed. It too can grow.

Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli provide an interesting analysis about psychological motives for unbelief in a footnote near the end of their Handbook of Christian Apologetics.

    The most powerful psychological motive for unbelief, as distinct from the most effective argument to undermine belief, is a different matter. The answer to that question is almost always moral rather than intellectual. That answer is addiction to sin and selfishness, usually in one or more of the following areas:
  1. Addiction to power in this world. How often have you heard about the value of detachment or otherworldliness lately? Yet all the saints extol this as indispensable.
  2. Addiction to lust, our society’s favorite pastime. A sex addict is hardly more capable of objectivity than a cocaine addict.
  3. Addiction to greed, the sin Christ spoke against the most frequently, and the one our consumerist society relies on for its very survival.
  4. Addiction to worldliness, that is, acceptance and popularity, not being distinctive, like the prophets or the martyrs.
  5. Addiction to freedom, defined as “doing your own thing,” “accepting yourself as you are,” “self-assertiveness,” “looking out for Number One”—in short, acting like a self-centered child and calling it the psychology of maturity.1

Unbelief is not just about intellectual problems. Moral issues can get in the way of coming to faith. My own observations in life would confirm Kreeft and Tacelli’s observations. Faith requires someone willing to do God’s will.

1Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers to Crucial Questions (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 202–203.

The One Who Came from Heaven

January 28, 2015

In 2004 at the age of six Alex Malarkey was in a horrible car accident. The accident left him paralyzed, and he was in a coma for two months with questions about whether he would survive. But when he awoke from his coma, he talked about having been to heaven. This became the basis for the book, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven. The book lists Alex and his father as co-authors, although I suspect that six year olds don’t really author books. The book became a New York Times Bestseller.

But the bestseller has become a recent scandal. Alex, now a teenager, has recanted the story. In fact, he has attempted for the past two years to get the publisher and booksellers to listen to him. This is what he wrote to the publisher, booksellers, and what he calls “the Marketers of Heaven Tourism.”

I did not die. I did not go to Heaven.

I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth.1

The scandal has more to do with when did the publisher and booksellers know. Emails would seem to indicate that in the case of one bookseller, they knew and did nothing. They have subsequently agreed to pull the book, and the publisher has agreed to stop selling the book (although the book had a reprint in 2014 and is still on Amazon.com). I feel badly for Alex. He was a child and is still a minor.

But why bring up a scandal? Partly because it is in the news. Partly because stumbling blocks to faith exist, and we need to be prepared for them. Christian scandals are not new; they go back all the way to Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). We need to be reminded that our faith must be in Christ. People can disappoint.

I appreciate Alex’s statement: “They should read the Bible, which is enough.” I believe in heaven because of Jesus. He is the one with Old Testament prophecies pointing to him. The New Testament teaches that he had an existence prior to conception, that he came to us from heaven (John 1:1-14, John 3:13, Philippians 2:5-11). He is the one with witnesses to his resurrection and ascension, who were transformed and persecuted. I can have confidence about heaven, because Jesus is truly the one who came from heaven.

1“The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven” Recants Story, Rebukes Christian Retailers