Yesterday we looked at the definition of the word “faith.” The Bible defines faith as the foundation (Greek “hupostasis”) of our lives (Hebrews 11:1). We mentioned that we all have faith in gravity. We also saw how the scientific faith that light is a wave and not a particle had to change as new evidence became available. All of us have foundations that rule our lives, and faith or lack of faith in God is one of them.
Even our understanding of what God is affects us in a variety of ways.* In the distant past, people thought of gods as physical beings that looked like humans. Roman and Greek gods were humans with superpowers of one kind or another. Some people today still view God as a human with human emotions and desires. Experiences in life can weaken or destroy that kind of faith. When someone rejects faith in God because of a tragedy in life, the root cause of that rejection is a flawed concept of what God is.
Faith or lack of faith in God can determine the foundation of our lives. The question that we must ask is, “What is the foundation (faith) on which I base my life?” For my father, who was an atheist, the foundation of his life was education. His father was a minister, and that faith did not appeal to him as a way to build his life. Instead, he pursued the highest level of education possible, achieving a Ph.D. in philosophy at Columbia University under one of the leading educators in his field. Then he became a full professor at Indiana University and was recognized as one of the top experts in his field.
After a long career with numerous awards and recognitions, my father retired. Did all of these achievements and recognitions provide a foundation for him? A regular activity for my father was to engage in a cocktail hour. He dealt with the stress and frustration of his work by drinking. My father was not socially active. He went to social affairs only because he had to, and alcohol was the foundation, the lubricant which enabled him to function socially.
Shortly after his retirement, my father developed leukemia. Going through the brutal treatments available at that time was tragic and agonizing to watch. The end of his life was a constant battle to survive, and the treatments eventually killed him. Death was the ultimate tragedy because he died without hope of anything better.
The other problem with my father’s faith was what his foundation did to and for my mother and my two brothers. My mother was forced to become the social director of the family. Social events were her life, and achieving recognition from her peers was her foundation. After my father died, she became the leader of the retirement center where she lived. She commanded the respect of everyone there, including the management and staff. This became her foundation, and her faith was that it would continue. When she suffered a stroke and was moved to the care center, she was not even allowed to eat with her peers, much less play a role in the retirement center’s social events. She was so mortified and miserable in her new situation that I had to move her 200 miles from the retirement center to a facility near me. She was miserable there as well.
My parents had a dependence on alcohol as a foundation for life and a faith that it would make everything else function normally. This rubbed off on the rest of the family. Like many people in today’s world, the negative destroyed not only my father’s faith but my mother and brother’s faith as well. Faith or lack of faith in God will determine the course of your life. In tomorrow’s discussion, we will look at how we can build a workable faith.
What is your faith? Some of my atheist friends will say, “I don’t have a faith,” but that isn’t true. The definition of faith given in the Bible is, “…faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). The Greek word used for “substance” in this verse is “hupostasis” which is from two words meaning “stand” and “upon.” It is literally our “foundation.” What is your foundational faith?
Each of us has things in our lives that are fundamental to our existence and that we trust even though we don’t see them. We all have faith in gravity. We don’t sit around worrying about whether gravity will suddenly fail and we will drift off into outer space. There is a vast list of things that we cannot see and yet which are foundational to our existence.
For most of us, our foundational faith has more to do with our intellectual understandings, our values, our morals, and how we make decisions. The book of Hebrews identifies some of those things with scientific accuracy and on which most of us can agree. Verse 3 says, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed … so that what is seen was not made of what was visible.” Whether you are a Christian or an atheist, you can have faith in that part of the verse. However, the middle of that verse says, “…was formed at God’s command…” An atheist would disagree that God had anything to do with it but would still agree that “…what is seen was not made of what was visible.”
That raises an important point. Is faith something that is blind?The answer is clearly “no!!” We have faith in gravity because, for all our lives, gravity has functioned in the same way. We trust gravity and have faith in it because we have seen it working. We cannot directly see that God commanded the formation of the cosmos. Having faith in the cause of the universe requires a different kind of evidence. We cannot directly observe the creation of time, space, matter/energy, and life.
Science gives us interesting examples of faith in something we can’t directly see. For many years, scientists debated whether light was a wave or a particle. Those scientists with faith that light was a wave had evidence for their faith. They proved it by showing destructive interference in light. Two light waves can intersect and cancel each other out, leaving darkness. Waves can cancel each other, but particles cannot. Experiments also show that waves can be polarized, and particles cannot. You can shine a light through certain types of crystals, and the crystals will only allow light vibrating in one plane to pass through. Reflected light turns out to be polarized, as you know if you have a pair of Polaroid sunglasses. There was massive evidence that light is a wave, and 400 years ago, that was the faith of most scientists.
The problem with that faith was that there were things that light could do that waves could not do. Light could shine on certain materials and knock electrons out of those materials. This is called the photoelectric effect, and we all use it in photo-sensors and solar-cells. Waves such as sound waves cannot go through a vacuum because they need something to “wave.” Particles can go through a vacuum. Some scientists had such strong faith that light was a wave they explained how light reaches us from the Sun by saying that space is not a vacuum. They made up a substance they called “aether” which they said filled the universe and which waves could pass through.
Scientists today have faith in the dual nature of light. It is both a wave and a particle, and aether doesn’t exist. The point is that our faith can change when we see new evidence. What is your foundational faith, and how has it changed during the last few years? If you are a Christian, has your faith grown? We’ll talk about that tomorrow.
Throughout history, many men have founded religions which gathered large followings. Here is a list of some of them and a list of questions to ask religious founders.
RELIGIOUS FOUNDERS IN HISTORY 1-Zoroaster or Zarathustra – Born between 1700 and 500 BC, Zoroastrianism 2-Gautama Siddhartha (the Buddha) – Born c.563 BC, Buddhism 3-Confucius – Born in 551 BC, Confucianism 4-Jesus Christ – Born c. 4 BC, Christianity 5-Muhammad – Born in AD 570, Islam 6-Guru Nanak – Born 1469, Sikhism 7-Mirza Husayn Ali Nuri (Bahaullah) – Born in 1817, Bahai 8-Charles Fillmore – Born in 1854, Unity School of Christianity 9-Gerald Gardner – Born in 1884, Wicca 10-A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada – Born in 1896, Harre Krishna 11-L. Ron Hubbard – Born in 1911, Scientology 12-Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – Born in 1918, Transcendental Meditation 13-Sun Myung Moon – Born in 1920, Unification Church
QUESTIONS TO ASK RELIGIOUS FOUNDERS Were your message and the details of your life prophesied before your birth? Were your followers instructed to bring peace and love to others, or did you lead them into war? Was your message primarily spiritual or political? Did you teach and practice the equality of all human beings? Did you promise an existence beyond this life? Was your life one of sacrifice or pleasure for yourself? Did your religion bring you wealth and prosperity? Is your burial place in existence today? Was your message confirmed with miracles? Were you raised from the dead? Was there peace and cooperation among your disciples after you were no longer present in the flesh?
Considering these questions to ask religious founders, some of the founders could answer some of the questions in a positive way. None of them would answer all of these questions in the way Jesus Christ would. We are not attempting to denigrate any religion. We are only saying that we follow Jesus Christ because of what He did, how He lived, and what He taught. We also do not base our faith on the actions of any human who claims to follow Christ.
It’s an avoidable “pandemic.” I put the word “pandemic” in quotes because using a drug is not a virus or bacteria. It is also not self-replicating and does not afflict innocent people. The pandemic we are talking about is cannabis hyperemesis syndrome.
As I write this article, eleven states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and 30 states have decriminalized it. One rarely publicized consequence of repeated marijuana use is recurring attacks of painful and protracted vomiting. It can continue until the esophagus rips, and the person bleeds to death. Since medical experts first identified this condition in 2004, the number of U. S. cases of hyperemesis has grown to over two million per year.
Your body stores cannabinoids in fat tissue, so weight loss, fasting, or alcohol consumption can trigger their release, resulting in hyperemesis. Colorado legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2009. Since then, visits to emergency rooms for hyperemesis have doubled. The cannabis plant contains 100 different cannabinoids, but selective breeding has contributed to the hyperemesis surge. The THC content in marijuana tripled from 1995 to 2014, but the CBD content has been cut in half. CBD is supposed to decrease pain and anxiety.
Our society has turned away from God and the joy, fulfillment, love, and security He gives us. We will not find spiritual contentment in any chemical or alternative lifestyle. The acceptance of marijuana in our culture is one more tool of Satan to bring pain and destruction. As Christians, we must oppose it and this avoidable pandemic.
November started with a debate about religion, LGBTQ rights, children, and the courts. It began with Pope Francis saying that “gay people are children of God and have the right to be in a family.” In the past, the Pope has said that a “family” is a man, a woman, and their children. In 2016, the Pope said, “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.” The issue becomes critical for Catholic social service organizations that refuse to place foster children with same-sex couples.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been serving abused, neglected, and orphaned children for more than 200 years. Because of a court ruling that the Archdiocese was discriminating against gays by refusing to place children with them, they no longer are allowed to care for children in need. The Archdiocese is suing on the grounds that the government should not force them to violate their sincerely held beliefs. The suit has gone to the U.S. Supreme Court.
This issue will impact all religious groups that are involved in caring for children. Like many court cases, the decision is going to be based on secular research information. Do children need a mother and father image to have a stable and productive life? Those of us who work with children have seen the struggles that single-parent children have. Some do very well, but they struggle. Many secular psychologists and sociologists maintain that it makes no difference, and the courts have listened to their testimony. Those of us in the “trenches” would disagree.
There are no easy solutions to this dilemma. The constitution tells us that everyone has rights that are protected by the government. The problem comes when those rights collide with someone else’s rights, such as in the conflict between LGBTQ rights, children, and the courts. The real solution to this issue is to eliminate the need for agencies to provide child-care and protection. While that is not possible, every step to educate people and lead them to God’s plan will reduce the pain for all concerned.
The 2020 voting is finally over, and we can learn many lessons from the elections, the candidates, the party platforms, and the conduct of politicians in general. It would be nice to have someone running for president that a Christian could vote for instead of having to choose between the lesser of evils.
We have seen false statements to such an extent that there are “fact finders” who do nothing but point out lies, misrepresentations, and exaggerations of the candidates. “Survival of the fittest” seems to be the moral code of our time, or more accurately, the non-moral platform. Someone asked one political speaker who supported abortion, “When does a baby become a human, at conception, at birth, or at what stage of the pregnancy?” The response was, “I don’t know. I haven’t considered that issue.” The question that should be clear is, “How do you take a position on that issue if you’ haven’t considered that issue’?”
Lessons from the elections show us the difference between Christ’s spiritual teachings and the political speeches and party platforms based on the physical beliefs of today’s culture. When Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s,” He was speaking of a political system very similar to America today. The Roman government provided some physical stability, which Paul refers to in Romans 13. Paul took advantage of his Roman citizenship on numerous occasions, but he certainly did not endorse the morality of the Roman rulers. They allowed prostitution and allowed unwanted babies to be thrown into the streets to die.
The message for Christians in the 21st century is that we can enjoy the blessings of American citizenship but not endorse our culture’s morality, which is sanctioned by the politicians. The use of recreational drugs, the endorsement of prostitution and abortion, and the destruction of the environment are all at odds with what the Bible teaches. When Jesus and the apostles talked about rejecting the world, they were referring to similar destructive practices.
The one bright spot in the lessons from the elections is that we can be shining lights in a world that is getting darker and darker. We remember Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:14-16: “It is you who are the light of the world. A town cannot be hidden if it is built on a hilltop. Neither do men light a lamp and put it under a bowl but rather on a lampstand so it gives light to everyone who is in the house. In a like manner, let your light shine before the eyes of your fellow-men that they may see the good that you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.”
All of us have known or read about people we can take as role models. For some, it’s a fictional superhero, and for others, it is a historical figure like Abraham Lincoln or Madam Curie. Christians tend to hold up biblical characters like Moses or Esther or Peter or Mary, the mother of Jesus. Holding on to any of those is a ticket to discouragement. That’s because most of us don’t have the tools or opportunity to be an Abraham, Paul, or Peter. However, in the New Testament, we can find biblical role models for us ordinary people to emulate. Here are some examples:
MARY MAGDALENE. This woman had been cured of her disease by Jesus (Luke 8:2), and her association with Christ completely changed her life. Luke 8:1-3 tells us that she and several other women handled the logistics of Christ and the disciples. They funded the group as they traveled, spreading the message. We can enable the spread of the message of Christ through our giving and logistical support.
BARNABAS. We meet Barnabas in Acts 4:36-37, where he sells some property to help needy people. In Acts 9:27, it is Barnabas who brings Paul to the congregation in Jerusalem. Barnabas had to convince the church that Paul had been converted, and they should not be afraid of him. Barnabas was a helper to Paul in his missionary journeys (Acts 11-15). We can be encouragers and help support missionary efforts.
ANDREW. Peter’s brother Andrew brought Peter to Christ (John 1:41-42). When some Greeks sought to see Jesus, it was Andrew who brought them to Him (John 12:20-22). Andrew brought the boy with five barley loaves and two fish to Christ so that He could feed the five thousand. We can bring people to Christ by sharing what He has done for us.
Most of us cannot preach, teach, or be the mother of the Savior. But all of us can do what these “behind the scenes” biblical role models did. We can introduce others to Christ, and we can fund mission works. We can do what Jesus described in Matthew 25:34-40:
“I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a wandering stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.”
Paul wrote in Galatians 6:10, “As much as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” This is real Christianity, it is something we can all do, and we have biblical role models to follow.
Bible passages such as 1 Thessalonians 5:23 indicate that humans are both physical and spiritual. We consist of a physical nature (our bodies) and a spiritual nature (our spirit). The physical body makes sense, but how can we understand the spiritual? How can we have two human components of spirit and body?
In quantum mechanics, things like photons (light), electrons, protons, and neutrons are governed by principles that are very different from the familiar physical world. In some experiments, these subatomic particles behave like particles, but they act like waves in other experiments.
In 1924, French physicist Louis de Broglie introduced wave-particle duality. That is the idea that any matter, whatever its size, has an associated wavelength. Photons can knock electrons out of a material in the photoelectric effect used to generate electricity from light energy. That process requires light to have physical properties because only particles can move other particles. In a different experiment, photons show diffraction properties explainable only if photons are waves. Electrons produce the same effects as light, yet we can measure their mass. How can they be both particles and waves?
There is also a principle of complementarity in quantum mechanics. It tells us that the result of an observation is dependent on the focus of the observer. In other words, in experiments when our attention focuses on one variable, this precludes the simultaneous observation of its complement. Wave and particle-related properties are complementary variables. We can’t observe both at the same time.
The Bible presents the notion that body, soul, and spirit are not separate entities, but they are distinct dimensions of a person. Although we are one person, we understand that we have two human components of spirit and body. The presence of these dimensions means that we are capable of dual behavior.
Understanding quantum mechanics allows us to understand this duality. Ranjit Thuraisingham, a research scientist, describes it this way: “The science of quantum objects teaches us why we fail to discern this spiritual dimension in ourselves. In quantum objects, focusing only on one variable precludes the observation of the complementary variable. Thus, the absence of observing the spiritual is related to our focus solely on the material.”
In other words, we struggle with our spiritual nature because of our fixation with the material world in which we live. In Galatians 5:16-26, Paul distinguishes between the actions of the spirit and the flesh (body). The actions of the spirit include love, joy, and patience. The actions of the flesh are immorality, hatred, and envy. As in quantum mechanics, we can’t focus on one without losing sight of the other. When we understand the two human components of spirit and body, it becomes clear why our actions are not what they should be.
Most of us know the wonderful parable in Luke 15:11-32, in which Jesus describes a forgiving father to teach about God’s forgiveness. Buck Griffith, who runs the most wonderful prison ministry in the world today, has a 21st-century version of that parable in a booklet published by Unbound Word (www.unboundword.com). He picks up the story when the prodigal son returns to the father’s house. It’s a story of the forgiveness deficit in the 21st century:
“The prodigal son dragged himself to his father’s house and knocked on the door. A servant answered. The son told him that he was the younger son and to tell his father he was home. The servant had him wait at the door while he went to tell the father about the ragged and wasted man at the door. Upon learning that the intruder claimed to be his son, the father told the servant ‘that man cannot possibly be my son. If you look out this window, you see my only son who is hard at work. I once had another boy, but he demanded his inheritance. I gave it to him under great stress. It nearly caused me to go bankrupt. He took his money, and he wasted it. Now, as far as we are concerned, he is dead. Now go back and tell the imposter at the door – whoever he is – I have only one son. If the imposter is not gone within ten minutes, we will turn the dogs loose on him.’”
Read the parable in Luke 15 again and tell me which version of the story fits our world today? Each of us needs to ask what our attitude would be if we faced the situation Luke 15 describes. How do we react to the contriteness of another – even a family member – who has wounded us in some way. Is there a forgiveness deficit in your life?
There is a psychological war going on today that is at odds with the principles Jesus taught. In Matthew 23:4-7, Jesus described religious leaders who would put emotional, moral burdens on people and do nothing to help them: “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be carried and lay them on men’s shoulders: but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers, but all of their works they do to be seen of men…” In the same way, many people mishandle the major moral issues of our day by pressing others to correct their behavior. We call it emotional mind games.
Galatians 6:1-2 describes how Christians should act: “If a man is overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual should restore such a one in the spirit of meekness considering yourself lest you should also be tempted. Bear you one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Years ago, I knew a religious leader whose son had engaged in a sexual act that resulted in a pregnancy. The religious leader had been a prominent opponent of abortion, but when he learned of the pregnancy, he encouraged the young woman to have an abortion, and he paid for it. This kind of hypocrisy reflects the lack of empathy in our culture today. I would blame it on our society’s drift away from God and from what Jesus taught.
There is a cemetery in Rome known as the Flaminio Cemetery. A religious group in Rome secretly obtains the remains of fetuses from abortion clinics and hospitals. They bury these aborted babies in a place they call the Flaminio Cemetery. At each grave, they place a cross with the name of the mother who terminated her pregnancy. The idea is to use emotional mind games to shame the women who gave up their children.
While we oppose abortion, we also know from experience how difficult the decision can be. We regularly receive letters from women who are struggling with guilt feelings years after having had an abortion. When Jesus dealt with the woman taken in adultery, he did not condone what she had done.,However, He said to the religious people who were ready to punish her, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her” (John 8:3-12).
We tend to rate sin. The wrong I do is a minor offense, but your sin is a major one. We must stop the emotional mind games and follow the example of Jesus. He told the woman, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.” We will accomplish much more with empathy and compassion, working to provide alternatives to destructive behaviors instead of trying to shame people into rejecting sinful choices.