Friday, March 25, 2011

Reflecting the Generosity of God Likely Means Giving Up on the Old "Tithe"

I have really been enjoying Kelly Kapic's book, "God So Loved, He Gave: Entering the Movement of Divine Generosity" (on sale now at Westminster).  Kapic has a great turn of phrase, but far more than this, he has packed this book with fresh and winsome observations on the free giving of God centered in the Gospel.  There have been nuggets all along that have profoundly challenged me and caused me to go back and re-read.

Thinking through Abel's model of giving away his best stuff to God as an expression of his love to God reminded me of this quote from Kapic:
Overemphasizing the tithe above everything else the Bible says about generosity can lead wealthy Christians (including most Americans) into a false sense of self-righteousness; it can also burden those who are truly poor with inappropriate feelings of guilt. By way of contrast, the New Testament praises people who cheerfully and voluntarily express love for God and neighbor by giving at great cost to themselves (Mark 12:33-44; 2 Cor. 8:1-7). In this way they pattern themselves after Christ: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).

Thus, emphasizing a 10 percent tithe as the basic gauge for giving can prove problematic as it can ironically end up distracting from God’s purpose in making us more like him.

(from page 152)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Will Rejecting that God Made the World in 6 Days Make Me Lose My Faith?

I suggested to my flock on Sunday that a person’s view of the origin of life would have a direct effect on now well their faith perseveres through opposition. This concept seems to be taught in Hebrews 11:3 where the author describes persevering faith in this way:

“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”

Here are some important observations on this verse.

1. Understanding comes after faith. Did you notice that? Believing that God created the universe is something that can only be fully understood post-faith. People who are not Christians yet may believe God made the world, but that understanding is not complete until God has saved them.

2. That which exists (all seen and yet-undiscovered matter) was made ex nihilo, that is, not out of things that are visible. When I create anything, all I can do is manipulate matter into something else. God is the author of all matter.

3. The word used for “created” is perhaps translated a little more accurately by the phrase “put into order.” God made all matter out of nothing (Genesis 1:1) and over the next six days He “put it into order.” What Hebrews is suggesting is that “understanding” this, coming to a mental agreement with these facts as presented in Genesis 1, is a result of faith.

4. The efficient cause (to steal a phrase from John Owen) of this creative act was the word of God. Reading the Genesis account makes clear that all God did to make light, when light had never before existed, was say, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light.”

5. This all relates to having a faith that perseveres through opposition. If you take God at His Word, and come to understand that in six literal days He put in order all creation, then you will be sure of these things when opposition comes:
  • God is powerful.
  • God’s Word is powerful.
  • God is faithful to His creation.
If you believe that matter just happened, or that God used a process of natural selection to make all things, then you have already had your confidence in God’s Word shaken. You do not take the words of the Genesis account as accurate or true. That means you are probably much less likely to turn to that Word in trials and persecutions and this in turn leads to faith that does not persevere well.

Someone will likely ask, “Are you saying that people who do not believe in a literal six day creation are not Christians or that they will apostasize?” No. But I am saying that there is a reason the world so often works harder at disproving a six day creation than at insisting on another origin theory. Disproving God’s revealed Truth about how He made everything (an event to which there were no human witnesses), will work against our confidence in the all the hard truths God tells us in the Bible.

For me, this was never much of a debate. Likely because I am not very smart nor do I have a particularly scientific mind. But I have friends who have agonized over it. So I offer these observations to encourage you to wrestle with this text. Your decisions about the origin of life have a lot more effect on you than just your own mental consolation.