TO WHOM DO WE PRAY? — PART 1

vibrant night sky with lots of stars, beside a tree’s silhouette (from here)

Is there a God? Are our prayers empty of hope, just delusions for the foolish?

What Do Our Senses Tell Us?

Psalm 19:1-6 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Perfect Revelation of the Lord

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.

19 The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.

In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun,
Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
And rejoices like a strong man to run its race.
Its rising is from one end of heaven,
And its circuit to the other end;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

 

In a reblog, The godlessness of science so-called, we considered The godlessness of science so-called by ColorStorm. To show how obvious it is that God exists, cites Romans 1:19-22. In that passage the Apostle Paul alludes to Psalm 19. Through His Creation, it becomes self-evident that God exists. Nevertheless, The godlessness of science so-called generated much discussion. What makes a truth self-evident? Well, that’s the subject for another post, but it seems what self-evident is not necessarily obvious. Not only do we disagree about what is self-evident, we don’ agree about makes something self-evident. So we debate whether God’s existence is self-evident.

😏🤔🤨😣🙄😉😜

What is the crux of the debate? Consider the difference in meaning between two words: apprehend and comprehend.

Apprehension is the ability to understand something by relying on tangible or concrete experience. A simple example is when you touch the fire it will burn your finger. This experience can lead you apprehending that you should not touch fire. Whereas comprehension does not require concrete experience to understand, it is the ability to understand through reliance on conceptual interpretation and symbolic representation. (from here)

We cannot comprehend or understand God, but we can apprehend or sense innumerable clues that demonstrate both the fact and the significance of His existence. Some say apprehension of God’s existence is enough. Others insist upon what is impossible, that we must comprehend what we cannot begin to understand. The former accept our limitations. The latter would raise the bar far beyond our capacity to know what is true. Arguably, many of that latter group don’t even want to deal with the issue.

The Bible says we must believe, that apprehension of God’s existence is enough. Because God’ existence is self-evident, in Romans 1 the Apostle Paul said that disbelieving in God is a choice, an act of the will, a refusal to believe.

Romans 1:18-23 New King James Version (NKJV)

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

What does His Creation tell us about the nature of God? We can see stars into infinity. We can marvel at the endless details we find on just one small planet. We cannot even begin to grasp what makes life possible, but we can examine God’s Creation and be awed.

What are the invisible attributes of God? Even though we cannot see God, through his Creation we can see His infinite power and divinity. Something as complex, orderly, and beautiful as Creation could not have just happened. Someone had to make it. That Someone is our Creator. That Someone is God.

References

To Be Continued

  • Part 2: What Does Our Heart Tell Us?
  • Part 3: What Does The Bible Tell Us?

21 thoughts on “TO WHOM DO WE PRAY? — PART 1

  1. That last comment above was very well put Tom.

    As you know, Jesus was far less critical of the non believer, or even of the believer who sinned but repented, than he was of those who proclaimed a harsh and dogmatic letter of religious law rather than living the spirit of our religion with compassion and love.

    Even if the atheists in question were not my good friends, I don’t see how hostility toward them would demonstrate anything but either the same dogmatic letter-of-the-law inflated pride, or more likely, a propping of a lack of faith with an overblown rage.

    I agree with anon in that they will really know that we are Christians by our acts of love. I also agree with you that they are more likely to become Christians when they see the joy and happiness that revelation brings, rather than by our anachronistic hostility at their waywardness.

    Like

  2. @anon

    As someone who goes by the nom de guerre of “anon”, I hope that you will understand why I don’t want to out my good friends here. In her own way, the one that I had dinner with is quite famous. My telling you what she does would be to tell you who she is. I have not been given permission to publicize her here, nor do I find it important to the point. If you can’t take my word for it that even atheists can be noble, then a little reasearch will give you plenty of examples.

    I think some people are innately religious (if one defines that as being aesthetic and compassionate) even though they lack a form religious ideology. Other people proclaim plenty of formal religion but they act selfishly. And some people are just jerks no matter what their proclaimed views on theology. It sounds like, from what you say about your parents they may have fallen into that last category. I’m so sorry that you went through that, but it seems that you’ve been blessed with compassion and good sense in spite of them (or maybe in some way, because of them).

    Like

    1. “As someone who goes by the nom de guerre of “anon”, I hope that you will understand why I don’t want to out my good friends here. In her own way, the one that I had dinner with is quite famous.”

      Understood. I would never scoff at opsec concerns. Thank you for the considered response.

      “This is probably the subject for another post, but I have been thinking and studying lately why certain categories of thought seem so historically
      out of whack lately in how they relate to one another.”

      I would be very interested in reading (and perhaps participating in) that discussion.

      Like

  3. This is probably the subject for another post, but I have been thinking and studying lately why certain categories of thought seem so historically
    out of whack lately in how they relate to one another.

    For example, it would seem that historically, the categories of idealism, aestheticism, spiritual religiosity, empathetic liberalism (in the non-classical sense), non-traditionalism and ideological radicalism would go together. On the other hand, for most of human history, it would seem that the categories of conservatism, traditionalism, secularism (or dogmatic religious orthodoxy), and pragmatism would be grouped together.

    The reason why I bring this up is because my atheist friends are (although they might not describe themselves this way) intensely aesthetic, spiritual, empathetic and idealistic even though, anachronistically, they are not religious. Whereas there are so many people right now who claim to be religious that are seemingly callous, cynical non-idealistic, and that are wary of spiritualism.

    Not trying to pick a fight or change the subject here. It is just something that I have been reading about lately and it seems apropos to anon’s question. I have some thoughts and questions, but I certainly have not come to any definitive conclusions on this yet.

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  4. Nice post Tom. I really enjoy these. The scripture examples fit nicely.

    I’ve told you about my atheist friends. I had a pleasant dinner with two of my best and oldest ones the other night. The subject of God invariably comes up, as if they feel some strange anti-missionary need to convert me away from the beauty which so elegantly explains everything for me and for so many believers and toward an ugliness that literally explains nothing.

    I just smile and tell them that their faith amazes me. As you say, God is as subtle as honey suckle softening the warm southern air, as awesome as a purple dawn cascading down over the Mississippi Sound. What an astounding leap of faith it must take to ignore all this sublimity to worship a fantastic emptiness.

    The odd thing is that my friends are artists and professors. They appreciate beauty better than most. They feel strongly for the dignity of every human soul far deeper than most people do. The love so easily and instinctively that I secretly envy them.

    However, in their profound appreciation, they still somehow fail to grasp that that beauty that they revere exists of God, that dignity that they sense reflected in every human heart is the image of God. God glimmers everywhere they focus their gaze. Their hearts swoon in His glory. But then their heads leap instead toward the void. I find that astounding and sad, and I love them all the more for their tragedy.

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    1. There is nothing wrong with thinking others better than our self. That Bible actually tells us to do that, but envy is useless sin. As Jesus observed to Peter: “You follow me.” Whether others do that or not is between them and our Lord. We can set an example, but we cannot change someone else’s heart.

      I doubt there is any one single reason why some people refuse to accept the existence of God, but i suppose the primary one is that God is a scary proposition to some people.

      What do we do when we have a problem we don’t know how to solve? What if there is no immediate pressure to solve the problem? Then we ignore the problem. There is actually a sort of logic to to that. There is not much point in wasting nervous energy or precious resource in seemingly aimless activity. So it is that I ignored God for decades.

      I made a near fatal mistake. What is the problem with ignoring God? We exist to glorify God and to enjoy Him. If we ignore Him, we lose the opportunity to do both. So I spent decades not doing what I was created to do.

      Do we lose ourselves when we believe in God? I think we worry about that. I think that is why some people ignore God.

      Do we give anything up when we turn to God? No. God made each of us to be a unique being. Why would He destroy what He created? Instead of destroying us, glorifying God — worshiping Him — and enjoying Him strengthens us. When we repent of our sins, obey God, and seek greater understanding of Him, we gain an increased capacity for faith, hope, love and other virtues. As Aristotle observed:

      After these matters we ought perhaps next to discuss pleasure. For it is thought to be most intimately connected with our human nature, which is the reason why in educating the young we steer them by the rudders of pleasure and pain; it is thought, too, that to enjoy the things we ought and to hate the things we ought has the greatest bearing on virtue of character. For these things extend right through life, with a weight and power of their own in respect both to virtue and to the happy life, since men choose what is pleasant and avoid what is painful; and such things, it will be thought, we should least of all omit to discuss, especially since they admit of much dispute.

      Aristotle was not exactly pithy.
      😆

      The Bible models God as our Father. If we want to be happy, we need to do what our Father wants us to do. Our Father wants us to be virtuous so we can be happy.

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    2. “They feel strongly for the dignity of every human soul far deeper than most people do. The love so easily and instinctively that I secretly envy them.”

      That’s quite a statement. Could you offer some examples? What would indicate to you that these people “feel more strongly about the dignity of every human soul” by comparison to others? Or “love so easily and instinctively”? To me, one shows love most obviously by helping others (platitudes are cheap and easy, and often self-gratifying)…but I see very very little philanthropy in the atheist community by comparison to the Christian one.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “Atheist community”? That phrase seems counterintuitive to me. They are just old dear friends, individuals, with long rich lives of their own. There are some commonalities, I suppose, but they don’t go to an atheistic Church or anything.

        Because they are proudly southern and proudly liberal, they exist as blue dots in a sea of red. None of them are Mother Teresa, but there is also a reason why they call liberals “bleeding hearts”.

        They romanticize the South, but they have spent their whole lives actively rebelling against its worst institutionalized cruelties here: racism, bigotry, ignorance and poverty. The beauty of this place drips from them like summer sweat and its cruelty is scabbed over but it still always bleeds just beneath the surface.

        Although I grew up here, my nature is to be the constant outsider who looks from the edges. I envy the intensity of their awareness and their emotion.

        How many religious people have you met that were all hard self righteous words without a bleeding heart? They are like birds that sing from their hearts the pain and beauty that their words cannot describe.

        Perhaps that goes too far, and I suppose you’ll scoff. But how do you describe the people you admire and love without sounding too sentimental?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I always thought the term bleeding heart liberal was intended to convey something else. All hearts bleed, after all. Look, I like plain speak. Not flowery goo. If I guy is a good guy, I say, “he’s a good dude, he does (insert whatever here)”.
          Not “oh, there lieth so much more good in their hearts than the hearts of others….I’m envious of these fine but-as-of-yet-entirely-unexplained quality”.

          I’m not trying to be obnoxious, I’m serious. This is what drives me nuts about lib-speak. Just say it straight. What do these guys do? I guess you mention above they have spent their lives fighting against “racism, bigotry, ignorance, poverty”.

          Okay…well, that’s kind of nondescript. The best person I ever met spent 30 years as an engineer in the USAF. His wife smuggled Bibles through the wall to Eastern Germany during the cold war. He had eight children who followed in his footsteps. After retirement, he spent about a year in an African village constructing a bridge to cross a crocodile-infested swamp so the villagers could get to a neighboring village within an hour, rather than several days. He was in his seventies when he did this, after innumerable hours working in other (crap hole) countries, actually doing something about real poverty and ignorance. He’s not the only one…I’ve known a lot of medical people who work gratis in third world nations, too. I volunteer, currently, with a woman who spent four or five years in Haiti, doing volunteer work with her husband after he retired from the military. They had to leave when things got “hot” over there (the Clinton years….as though I needed to add that). She said it was the best place she ever lived. Her heart remains there with the people…but, it’s a hell hole now.

          Now, none of the above people are atheists. I don’t know any atheists like that. My parents weren’t giving toward others. I actually was home alone for a week when I was 16 (they were in Vegas), and our home was hit by a tornado. The pasteur of the local church came over and boarded up my windows which had been blown out, and I spent a couple of days at their home as mine was uninhabitable. When my parents got home, they barely even thanked them.

          I cannot judge your friends but you’re offering awfully high praise (which is fine, I believe you feel this way). I’m only asking you to explain why their hearts are so so much better than others. I wouldn’t necessarily say that of the above personal examples I gave…because although those are all very very good people, I don’t know what is in their hearts. I only know what they do.

          Liked by 1 person

      2. @anon

        I chose to ignore that aspect of tsalmon’s comment. Don’t know tsalmon’s friends.

        Don’t necessarily disagree with your observations, but I find it easier to promote the benefits of turning to Christ than explaining the disadvantages of being an agnostic/atheist.

        Does the American agnostic/atheist see himself as completely autonomous? Does he think he can do with his life as he wishes?. Then it is ironic that agnostics/atheists often promote big government in order to shape our country to their wishes.

        When do agnostics/atheists confront the question, “Is that all there is?” Is it when the fact that this world is not our oyster becomes obvious? Here is our grave. In Satan’s kingdom we cannot avoid death.

        I suppose the difficulty of explaining the futility of agnosticism/atheism is why I think everyone needs to read and study Ecclesiastes. King Solomon knew how to explain why life without God is a vain pursuit. King Solomon well knew how to do what I find difficult.

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        1. Sorry Tom,
          I know I’m being argumentative. I was raised by atheists. Are there nice atheists? I’m sure. Are there bad people who call themselves Christians? Of course. But I’m going to make that assessment based on actions, not words. Not what would nice (“gee if we all could get along”), but what is (“okay, this is what I personally can do to make it better”).

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          1. @anon

            You know the difference between reality and perception. Our perceptions reflect our prejudices. If to an Agnostic and or an Atheist we sound hostile, that is their reality.

            In Ecclesiastes King Solomon talks about his personal experience and make it clear that anyone who does what he did will experience the same futility of purpose if they attempt to obtain happiness and fulfillment the same way.

            What King Solomon did is kind of like making our self the butt of our own joke. Everyone may have done something just as dumb, but there is still a big difference when we invite people to laugh with us instead of laughing at someone else.

            Observe that King Solomon was not an Agnostic or an Atheist. Yet the things he attempted to achieve happiness and fulfillment apart from God are all that Agnostics and Atheists can do. Apart from God, life is futile.

            So does God exist? The evidence suggests He does. When there is nothing to gain by believing He does not exist, what is the point of believing that He does not exist? That is something we all have to figure out for ourselves.

            Like

  5. I like that idea of the fire being known by observation and experience. Where it gets dicey is relying on the words of a good man who has both observed and experienced………..while I have seen neither perhaps.

    Is it then any less true because I have not experienced it? Nope. Fortunately, God gave us all the tools needed to know OF Him through the world around us, and a conscience that we may experience Him.

    ‘That someone is the Creator.’ Short and sweet. Nice.

    Tkx for the head’s up, and hope you have a fine discussion that softens hearts CT.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you.

      When we read the Bible, we are relying upon the observations and experiences of others. With nothing more than such testimony, we put people in jail and even execute a few.

      The Bible is corroborated by the historical record. It is consistent with itself. Those who believe have their lives positively changed. The Word comforts us. When we read it, we recognize the voice of our Shepherd.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. :Looking forward to you posts on this subject. I read a blog today of a young woman who became a follower on my blog.

    She appears typical of many young minds with apprehension and comprehension issues on this topic.

    Young minds are future minds in our nation and communities.

    If she replies to my comment, I will recommend your blog.

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The passages you quote in both Psalm and Romans are Scriptures that have been on my mind a lot lately. It was weird reading this actually…it’s like you’ve been listening in on my own devotions. Good stuff though.

    Liked by 1 person

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