I recently read an article posted by a man named Yueheng who is a teacher in the Republic of Singapore. Yueheng is a Buddhist who read my earlier post on engaging a Buddhist, and in response he wrote this article.
I welcome both his friendship and his dialogue as we seek to understand one another better for the sake of profitable conversation.This is the first opportunity that I have had to speak to someone of Chinese ethnicity that is a practicing Buddhist and is willing to dialogue about our sincerely held yet vastly different religious beliefs. I do not plan to address every issue that Yueheng brought up in his article, but I do plan to give a reason for the hope that I have in Christ and His Word. With that said, here goes.
A valid point has been brought up in relation to the many Christian denominations and the difference of opinion in areas such as contraception, the ordination of women, slavery and homosexuality. Here is what Yueheng said about these differences.
The fact is that there is no divine standard that all human beings can refer to in a clear and definitive way. What we have, amongst the theistic religions, is an overwhelming variety of doctrines purporting to have originated from God and the proponents of these doctrines have been in competition with one another for centuries.
I will agree in part that there is no exhaustive divine standard that all human beings can refer to, but there is a revealed divine standard. The whole of the mind of the creator cannot be fully known by the creation. The finite is altogether incapable of fully grasping the infinite. The One we see as the Great First Cause has, however, revealed Himself to His creation both in nature and in the Revelation (God’s Word). It is necessary that we as human beings utilize both reason and revelation when understanding the will of God and what is best.
For instance, it stands to reason that if God is, then He is the greatest and best of beings. I am assuming that we understand a simple definition of God as the infinite creator of all that is. The timeless one who stands independent and in need of nothing. If His existence is a reality, then He is the best of all beings, for there is no other being who stands atop God. In fact, even the spiritual beings we refer to as angels or demons are subject to their maker, are they not? This being my assumption, I must reason that if God is the best of beings, then He is to be worshipped and obeyed above any other, including myself. I have arrived at this point through reason.
But, my reason falls short of truly knowing the character and nature of God, unless he is revelaed to me. In part we see the Uncaused Cause in nature. The sheer complexity of things make our minds soar to conceptions of the divine, but this is insufficient for revealing God’s personal nature and character. Thus, I turn to the Bible and here I must be allowed one axiom, which is, that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible, revealed Word of the infinite personal creator God. It is in the pages of the Holy Bible that we have revealed for us a portion of the character and nature of God, as well as His will for the lives of His followers.
To Yueheng and others, revelation is the starting point for true faith. Reason comes second and is motivated by knowledge attained through study of and meditation upon the Word of God. Many things are revealed to us in the Bible, but not all things are made known. The Christian faith is just that, it is the exercise of trusting in God as He is revelaed to us in His Word. For those issues that are not fully revealed we must rely upon reason that is motivated by the whole of God’s revelation and allow the Spirit of God and His revelation to guide us. Here is a good rule of thumb for all CHristians and how to interact with those to whom they disagree.
In Essentials…Unity, In Non-Essentials…Liberty, In ALL Things…Charity
But so many fail to exhibit the spirit of Christ when they come into contact with someone with whom they differ. I posit that this is why so many can claim to be God-fearers and beleivers in Christ while they disagree about certain points of morality and society. Either we have allowed simple reason, that irrespective of divine revelation, to guide our positon; or we have misunderstood what God has communicated about Himself in His revelation. Furthermore, it could be that people simply use the name of God and the Word of God to further their own selfish and worldly desires. The Bible gives us a clearer understanding of this problem.
1 Corinthians 2:12-16Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
In the case of contraception, the Catholic church speaks not from the Bible’s clear teaching, but a deduction based upon the teachings about procreation. Early American Christians who rallied for Antebellum slavery as ordained by God, where in my mind clouded by desire, not motivated by the Spirit of God. Furthermore, they were denying the mind and heart of Christ who died to set men free from bondage and slavery. The issues of the ordination of women and homosexuality are both arguments clearly addressed in the Scriptures, but we must hold our positions with unity, liberty and charity; otherwise we too deny the heart and mind of Christ in life.
But men’s failures, in the name of God, do not nullify the trustworthiness of God Himself, nor the Bible. In fact, this goes farther to make the point that the human condition is one that is in dire need of divine intervention. I hold firmly to the doctrine of depravity which Yueheng spoke of in his article, but his citing of wikitionary’s definition falls short of the Biblical one. In Isaiah 64:6 we learn that before God, our righteousness is like a stained garment. In Romans 3 we read that “there is none righteous, no one who understands, no one who seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
Depravity means that in relation to a Holy God our worldly pursuits, even those fueled by a desire to do good, fall short of the glorious standard of God’s holiness. Our depravity has led us to the point that there is no fear of God before our eyes. When humanity, Eastern or Western, feels as though God is irrelevant and unnecessary then we have proved the definition of Biblical depravity. When men and women believe and pursue a self attained heaven or paradise or enlightenment then we prove God’s Word true, that there is no fear of God before our eyes. But Christ has not left us to our fate in this hopeless state.
2 Corinthians 4:4-64 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God… 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
In our darkened state and helpless situation, God awakens our mind to see the truth of the gospel, the good news of Christ, that we may behold our salvation. Not that which comes from our insufficient reason, but that which has come from God Himself. For Jesus is the Son of God, the lamb, who takes away the sin of the world. It is in the remission of sin that we, God’s creatures, can once again stand in the presence of our creator on the basis of Christ’s merit and not our own. This is what we call grace and this will produce in the true convert a desire for love and good deeds.
Ephesians 2:8-10For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
To Yueheng and all who read this article, I hope that it has been profitable. May God grant us all to see His mercy in Christ and the great hope of His pure grace alone. Soli Deo Gloria.