Testimonies serve to strengthen our walk with Jesus. This site includes personal testimonies from myself and others and brief articles I have written. Please enjoy the journey!
The Atheist's Dilemma
|16 January 2014|
|The Atheist’s Dilemma: Converting to Christianity at Harvard|
Jordan Monge Was a Resolute Atheist, Right Up Until Her Freshman Year at Harvard
|When Jordan Monge walked onto the Harvard University campus in 2008, she was an unwavering atheist looking forward to becoming better acquainted with the school’s motto —Veritas, or “Truth.” She couldn’t predict where her pursuit of truth would take her over the next eight months. For most of her life, Jordan was accustomed to stumping Christians with basic philosophical questions, like: Could an omnipotent God create a stone so heavy even he couldn’t lift it? What she found at Harvard, however, were Christians who were able to debate on her level. One of these Christians was a contributor to Harvard’s Christian journal, the Ichthus. John Joseph Porter became a close friend while continually prodding Jordan about the inconsistencies in her own belief system as an atheist:
Defenseless, I decided to take a seminar on meta-ethics [to reaffirm my belief in moral atheism]. …In what I now see as providential, my atheist professor assigned a paper by C. S. Lewis that resolved the Euthyphro dilemma.
Joseph also pushed me on the origins of the universe. I had always believed in the Big Bang. But I was blissfully unaware that the man who first proposed it, Georges Lemaître, was a Catholic priest. And I’d happily ignored the rabbit trail of a problem of what caused the Big Bang, and what caused that cause, and so on.
By Valentine’s Day, I began to believe in God.
Following Jordan’s belief in a supreme deity, it didn’t take long for her to take the next step.
J. Budziszewski’s book Ask Me Anything…included the Christian teaching that “love is a commitment of the will to the true good of the other person.” This theme—of love as sacrifice for true good—struck me. The Cross no longer seemed a grotesque symbol of divine sadism, but a remarkable act of love. And Christianity began to look less strangely mythical and more cosmically beautiful.
Jordan felt the emotional need for Christianity, but her mind still sought intellectual proof. She dove headfirst into apologetics, intellectual debates, and books, Christian and secular alike. But from that point forward, nothing compared to the “rich tradition of the Christian intellect.” Read Jordan’s powerful testimony here, and learn how you can get involved to help Christian Union create strategic networks of Christian leaders like Jordan to engage and lead cultural change.
Consider this simple verse in the Bible. Hebrews chapter 11, verse six says, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” Do you think God requires a blind faith? Sure, I have never seen God in person but I totally believe one day I will. My faith is based upon reliable evidence. If God requires a blind faith, whey does he tell us to seek Him?[Pro 8:17 KJV] 17 I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.[Jer 29:13 KJV] 13 And ye shall seek me, and find [me], when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
When one reads the adventures of the Israelites roaming through the wilderness in the Old Testament, it is obvious God did not expect them to have a blind faith. The Red Sea parted, Mana fell from the sky for over 40 years, and a host of other miracles occurred. Let’s consider some aspects concerning faith.
What does God mean in His Word where he says without faith it is impossible to please Him? (Hebrews 11:6) Many definitions of faith point to a belief in a deity. This definition obviously aligns with the explanation in the faith chapter of the Bible, Hebrews chapter 11, but is there more to explaining faith expressed in Hebrews chapter 11? Another definition of faith found at merriam-webster.com says, “something that is believed especially with strong conviction”. Dictionary.com adds this definition, “belief that is not based on proof”. These two latter explanations of faith provide a broader understanding of what faith is.
A quick trip back to https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/atheist reveals an atheist believes there is no god. So, an atheist has a strong conviction or belief there is no god. Even an atheist has faith. Will their faith bring profit to their lives? Some atheists may argue in favor of proof there is no God through their study of science yet some very learned scholars argue proof in God is much stronger. Is it possible atheists have no valid proof to back up their belief?
Atheists and agnostics want proof there is a God. How does one prove there is no God? Noted English philosopher and atheist, Anthony Flew, changed his mind towards the end of this life while examining scientific evidence related to the order of the universe. While Flew, a philosopher, did not convert to Christianity, he changed from the world’s most prominent spokesman against believing in a god to apparent acceptance of a universe made by a deity through intelligent design. During an interview about his book, “There is a God”, he responded to a question asking why he changed his mind:
There were two factors in particular that were decisive. One was my growing empathy with the insight of Einstein and other noted scientists that there had to be an Intelligence behind the integrated complexity of the physical Universe. The second was my own insight that the integrated complexity of life itself—which is far more complex than the physical Universe—can only be explained in terms of an Intelligent Source. I believe that the origin of life and reproduction simply cannot be explained from a biological standpoint despite numerous efforts to do so. Read more at http://strangenotions.com/flew/.
Everyone believes in something or someone, even atheists! Some other prominent atheists have converted to Christianity. C.S. Lewis converted from atheism to Christianity. So did Kirk Cameron. Two other interesting atheists conversions peak this writer’s interest: Dr. Simon Greenleaf and Lee Strobel.
In the late 1800’s, Dr. Simon Greenleaf wrote a legal masterpiece still considered a brilliant work in modern legal minds. The writing is “A Treatise on the Law of Evidence”, which is still regarded as “the greatest single authority in the entire literature of legal procedure. Dr. Greenleaf helped put Harvard University on the educational institution map. When speaking of the Christian faith in the classroom, Greenleaf told his students he believed the resurrection to be nothing more than a legend and he did not believe in miracles. Following prodding from his students, Greenleaf set out to prove the resurrection did not occur. Applying his own set of rules for evidence in reviewing the facts about the resurrection of Jesus, Greenleaf concluded it would have been impossible for the disciples to persist with their conviction that Jesus had risen if they hadn’t actually seen the risen Christ. His writing, The Testimony of the Evangelists in 1874, is worth reading. Read more at the following links. http://y-jesus.com/simon-greenleaf-resurrection/; http://www.creationstudies.org/Education/simon_greenleaf.html; http://www.godrules.net/articles/simon-greenleaf-examination-testimony-gospels-pdf.pdf
In the late 1990’s, Lee Stroble, former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, used his journalist and legal skills with the intention to prove to his wife that the resurrection of Christ could not have occurred. He hoped he could convince her the Christian religion was a waste of time. After his conversion, his wife encouraged him to write a book about his journey. His book, “The Case for Christ” (1998), is not only a best seller but a movie was recently released to share his story. He was confronted in many areas but one noted attack was for not interviewing any skeptics. Strobel quickly responded he was standing in the skeptic’s shoes during much of his research. Who would have been more skeptical?
These two men (Greenleaf and Strobel) sought out to prove there is no God or more importantly, disprove the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Both of these men lived in two separate time periods but both concluded God exists and the resurrection of Christ happened based on the evidence they each examined. Does the God of the universe expect humanity to have a blind faith in Him? Is that what verse six in Chapter 11 in the book of Hebrews means by the statement, “without faith it is impossible to please him…” If Lee Strobel converted from atheism to Christianity based on evidence he reviewed, how does his experience line up with the Biblical definition of faith? Could it be God gives humanity the capacity to believe and it is up to us to decide upon examining the evidence? Let’s examine faith a bit further.
A Tested Faith
According to the book of Hebrews, chapter 11, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (no proof). What does this statement mean? This writer has never seen heaven yet one day this writer believes he will be there because of the mercy and grace of God. What this writer has read and experienced related to the creator of the universe, has strengthened his belief in his eternal home.
What about those who do not believe in the God of the Bible or for that matter, believe the Bible? As mentioned earlier, everyone has faith in someone or something. Yet, have they fully examined what they believe? Here are some examples.
God told Abraham he would be the father of many nations. He explained to Abram, as the grains of dust of the ground so shall Abrams descendants be. On another occasion, God told Abram to look up at the stars. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and further explained to Abraham if Abraham could count all the stars in the heavens that’s how many descendants he would have. Here is a key thought.
Abram was born when his father was in his 70s. Now, here he (Abraham) was in his 70s and he still has no children. Fast-forward 25 years and Abraham still has no children from his wife Sarai. God is faithful and Abraham knew that God is faithful yet Abraham encountered some failures in faith along the way. For example, he feared for his life when he went to Egypt so he told everyone, Sarah was his sister. Does this mean Abraham did not have faith in the God who spoke with him? Certainly, Abraham had faith, he eventually chose to sacrifice his promised son at God’s command. According to Hebrews chapter 11, verse 19, God had promised him a son through which many nations would be created and Abraham believed even if he killed him, God would bring him back to life to fulfill His Word.
Most of us will never hear from God, the creator of the universe, through an audible voice while living in this life. However, God speaks to all of us through historical evidence. Those who care to search out the evidence and listen can make an educated decision about Jesus Christ just like Dr. Greenleaf and Mr. Strobel. The Bible is the key piece of evidence because the divine author speaks to all of us. The real faith test comes after making a decision for Christ.
The apostle Paul stated, “From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep” (2 Corinthians 11:24-25). If Paul was not completely convinced Jesus died for his sins and resurrected from the dead, how could he have continued through all the trials? Paul’s faith was a tested faith. Have you encountered such tests?
Christians are not exempt from trials and tests upon this Earth. Here is what Paul shared concerning some of his daily trials apart from the trials shared earlier.
“In journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness-besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:26-28)
Paul did not let any of these trials slow his ministry and change his focus on winning the lost to Christ. He endured and overcame.
So Where Does Faith Come in?
Romans 10, verse 17, says life-saving faith comes from hearing the message of Christ from the Bible. This kind of faith brings eternal life. The message of Christ begins in Genesis and ends in Revelation. Where do you see yourself in 500 years?
We Really Need God
Reading through the book of Job cast your attention towards chapter 32. For those who know the story of Job, know that Job lost everything that he had in this life except his wife. His 10 children had died, all his wealth was destroyed or stolen, and his health was gone. Readers of the story of Job know the reason Job suffered as he did. Satan said he could get Job to curse God if only he could have power over Job. God allowed the tests but imposed limitations at each of the two levels of the test.
When we get to chapter 32 Job’s three friends had spent their time telling Job why God was punishing him. Now, in chapter 32, a young man steps up and his name is Elihu. Elihu chastens Job’s three friends by pointing out all three of them had condemned Job but all three had failed to justify their condemnation. Elihu goes on explaining who God is and when he gets to chapter 34 he makes a profound statement. In summary, if God withdrew his spirit and his breath from the Earth all humanity would perish.
Science cannot find God. Earthly wisdom cannot find God. Faith in God can find Him. We exist because God exists. We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s expectation of us. We all deserve death. The type of death all deserve is not human death but rather eternal death or eternal separation from God. God has every right to turn from the Earth and from all humanity and destroy all human flesh.
So why doesn’t God destroy us all? He has every right to do so.
This commentary reveals a focus on faith. Examples of faith from the Bible and from American history were shared. This writer believes faith is the capacity to believe in something or someone. The level of capacity one attains stems from the level of research in the object of one’s belief. God expects us to believe He is and He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Jesus said in the Bible, He is the way. Nobody can come to God unless he or she goes through Him. Paul explained we must confess with our mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts God raised him from the dead in order to have eternal life. Dr. Greenleaf and Mr. Strobel both believed in their hearts after examining the evidence with their minds. What do you believe? Where is your faith?
Did you know Jesus Has Prayed for you?
Many of us have heard testimonies of God’s deliverance from drugs, sexual sins, and a host of other hopeless situations. I am convinced many of God’s miracles go unseen to the Christian eye. Jesus told Peter that Satan wanted to have him to sift him as wheat in Luke chapter 22. Jesus apparently met with Satan when Peter was not around. We know the story, Jesus let Peter know He prayed for him. I am convinced Jesus told the devil “No” you can’t have him. However, Jesus did let Peter know the choice was his in verse 32 of Luke 22. Could the greater testimony be how God kept us from sinning rather than how God delivered us from sin?
God has kept me in the Christian family for 35 years. I wonder how many times the devil spoke to Jesus about me and Jesus told him “No”?
My Spiritual Foundation is Christ
My Spiritual Heritage
My Mom and Dad divorced when I was young. I coped by focusing on the fact I had two Moms and two Dads rather than losing one or the other. My mother and step Dad raised me and my three siblings through most of our childhood. Mom taught us kids about Jesus and took us to a small Freewill Baptist Church in our community. Our family went through some trying times as we moved from Oklahoma to Kansas and back to Oklahoma a few times.
My father took responsibility for his children when I was 12. We eventually moved from Kansas to Hackett Arkansas where Dad tried to run a business. He accepted Christ about two years after taking me, my brother and sister into his home after experiencing a near-death experience. The business failed and he had a tragic accident while working for a friend that left him partially paralyzed and damaged his short-term memory. We moved back with our Mom after the accident. Dad often witnessed to me and prayed for my salvation.
My Paternal Grandmother continually prayed for her children and grandchildren. My Grandfather and Grandmother were poor by worldly standards but Rich in Christ. Fond memories flood my mind concerning their service to God. They frequently took in evangelists and other young Christians providing them a place to stay and food to eat. They both gave me a preview of serving God. My Grandmother was an Assembly of God Evangelist.
My Deliverance from Sin
My Mom, my Dad, and My grandparents all had a human side that revealed human failures. Still, all of them had a God side that shined the love of God and testified to the Goodness of God. I too had a human side full of failures but I had no Godly side until I reached the age of 23. In 1980, my life hit rock bottom. My wife left me for another man taking my son with her. My goal of never putting my family through a divorce failed. Trying to do things my way led to miserable failure. In my despair I turned to the One who my mother promoted as the best avenue to follow in this life.
My Journey with God
In this life, my needs have always been more than met. As I look back through my life, I recall the following highlights that molded me into the man I have become.
- At the age of 4, I experienced a devastating head and shoulder injury. The accident gashed my forehead and broke my shoulder. My Mom later told me the doctor held out little hope I would survive. Later, the doctor told my Mom that the Lord must have something special for me in this life because God allowed me to live through the injury.
- A few months after attending an Easter service in 1980 and raising my hand indicating a need of salvation, I went through a series of human failures until I reached the point I felt I had lost everything in life that mattered. I did not accept Christ during the Easter service but God got my attention in the weeks that followed by allowing me to go through a low valley. One day in August of 1980 I left work and went to see Pastor Kenneth Brandon at the little Freewill Baptist church my mother attended. I fell on my knees and gave my heart to Christ. God not only restored what I lost but He gave me much more. No, my wife did not return. God gave me a wonderful wife that worshiped the ground I walked on and then he gave me another little boy to compliment the precious little girl my wife Raylene bought into our marriage.
Over the past 34 years, God has given me opportunities to provide for my family and share the good news of life in Christ in ways I could never imagine.
I continue to walk hills and valleys but God is with me as He promised. I have trusted Him this far into the Journey, I want to continue with that trust through this life into the life to come.
A Glimpse at Atheism by Wayne Wedge
Atheists Katharine Hepburn, Isaac Asimov (author of the book “I Robot”), and Madalyn Murray O’Hair have either discovered they were wrong, or they do not exist in the afterlife because they are dead.  If Christians are right and these famous atheists do exist in an afterlife, what are their beliefs now? Atheist and Illusionist Penn Jillette made an interesting statement in a CNN article relating to famous atheists.
“If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true, and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.” 
Jillette’s comparison between religion and science brings an interesting twist to the science/religion debate. Science and religion seeks answers to different questions so what was Jillette really implying about religion in comparison to science?
On the surface, Jillette appears to point out science is more reliable than religion because science is not man-made. Of course, even some science scholars would take issue with that argument. What about the scientific fact that the earth is flat? Spontaneous Generation was also a fact for hundreds of years. These days Spontaneous Creation (a relative of Spontaneous Generation) is the rave of those who reject a Supreme Being created the universe. Science studied by men presents challenges too and, in my opinion, takes more faith than believing in a supreme deity.
Penn implies if Christianity was wiped out Christianity would never be created the same way again. Big problem! Unless the Living God with His divine plan and Judaism are wiped out along with Christianity, Christianity would come about exactly the same way the divine Author intended. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has not changed for over 2,000 years and has continually had fierce enemies trying to destroy Christianity.
Dr. Simon Greenleaf, principle founder of Harvard Law School, was certain he could prove the resurrection of Jesus did not occur if the evidence was placed in a court of law. After his extensive research, he concluded the resurrection did occur.
Man-made creations in the world are pure nonsense. Erasing any man-made creation would probably prevent this type of creation from coming back in the same exact form because a man-made creation has a man-made beginning. So Penn Jillette apparently concludes all forms of religion are man-made therefore, wiping them out completely prevents an exact duplication. However, he cannot prove his claim as a global truth and he cannot prove all religions are man-made.
Judaism and Christianity, are God-made, not man-made. Yes, ungodly men and women have placed their slant on both religions. Can these two religions be confirmed to be God-made? This author could offer lots of evidence but there is no need to prove God exists or prove Judaism and Christianity are both God-made. This author knows God exists and that settles the matter for him.
One day every human on the planet will know God exists beyond doubt so consider this thought. Jesus Christ (the one and only Son of the living God), came to His creation and walked among His creation. According to the Bible, He ultimately offered His life for the lives of all humanity in payment for a debt nobody on Earth or in the Heaven could pay. Three days after his death, His Father proved His Son’s place in the Universe and Jesus became qualified to be humanity’s Savior when he raised His Son back to life. 
Penn Jillette and all other humans on the planet have the right to reject God. Who do you believe, Penn Jillette or Jesus? I wonder if Katharine Hepburn agrees with Penn Jillette now?
 Famous Atheists and their Beliefs, http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/25/living/gallery/atheists/?hpt=hp_c4
 Famous Atheists and their Beliefs, http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/25/living/gallery/atheists/?hpt=hp_c4
 Steven Hawking: God was not needed to create the universe, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/7976594/Stephen-Hawking-God-was-not-needed-to-create-the-Universe.html
 Testimony of the Evangelists by Simon Greenleaf http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/jesus/greenleaf.html
 Bible, King James Version, Acts 17:31
Who is the God of Abraham by Wayne Wedge
The Old Testament in the Bible records some very detailed historical events that distinctly defines the God of Abraham. This article will share a brief glimpse at the faithfulness of the God of Abraham, the mercy of the God of Abraham, and what the God of Abraham required from those who followed him.
The God of Abraham made a promise to Abraham. First, he told Abraham to leave his comfort zone and go to a place he did not know. God knew where he was going even before he got there. This writer is persuaded God had already been where he sent Abraham. In short, God promised Abraham he would be the father of many nations, and his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan.
God did not give Abraham a son until he and his wife were well beyond childbearing years. When his son Isaac was born there was no doubt it was a God thing. Yet Abraham did not inherit Canaan or see his son inherit Canaan. In fact Isaac’s son Jacob did not inherit Canaan. Several hundred years after Abraham had died the promise of inheriting the land of Canaan came to pass. The Bible records events carried out by Abraham’s sons and grandsons. These men had flaws and many of them did not have the relationship with God that Abraham had. This brings us to the second part of this article’s focus, God’s Mercy.
The God of Abraham is a merciful and loving God. God did not go back on his promise because Abraham’s sons and grandsons did not follow Him with the same faith that Abraham displayed. Jacob stole his brother’s blessing. Joseph’s brothers try to kill him and eventually sold him into slavery. Yet God had promised Abraham he and his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan. Four hundred years later, we find Moses a descendent of Jacob’s son Levi leading God’s people towards the promise made to Abraham.
The road was not easy reaching Canaan. The Pharaoh was a huge obstacle to Moses. In fact, Moses was a huge obstacle to Moses. Moses did not see himself as a capable leader or qualified speaker. God’s mercy kicked in and God brought Moses to appoint where Moses could see through faith. Ten plagues gave Moses the opportunity to lead God’s people towards the promise. The miraculous crossing of the Red Sea should’ve convinced everyone in the nation of Israel the time for inheriting the promise had come.
In the desert, after the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, we see the necessary component the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, requires for all those who follow Him. This necessary component is plastered all over the Bible and this writer is convinced still exists today.
Who was Shamua? Who was Sethur? Many of today’s preachers could not instantly tell you what story from the Bible these two men play a role in. There are 10 other men in the story but two of them many are familiar with. Have you ever heard of Joshua and Caleb? Moses sent 12 men to look over the land of Canaan, to bring back some of the fruit of the land, and bring a report of those who live in Canaan. These 12 men went to Canaan and they brought back some awesome fruit of the land. They testified the land was flowing with milk and honey. However 10 of those 12 men reported it was not possible for Israel to take the land of Canaan from the Giants and other threatening inhabitants that filled the land of Canaan. Joshua and Caleb on the other hand, acknowledged the Giants, but strongly suggested with God all things are possible. Joshua and Caleb encouraged the nation of Israel to be obedient and go forth and inherit the land.
Unfortunately the crowd was convinced by the other 10 men that success was out of reach. As a matter of fact, they are ready to stone Joshua and Caleb. Then God stepped in. The Bible records a conversation between Moses and God in Numbers, Chapter 14. In this passage, God asked two questions to Moses. First, how long with the people treat Him (God) with contempt? Then God asked an amazing question. “How long will the people refuse to believe me in spite of all the signs I have performed?” There are two parts to this latter question worthy of consideration. First, God understood it would take people a while to believe. There were 10 plagues that plagued the nation of Egypt yet the children of Israel were not affected by these plagues while living in Egypt. Additionally, when they were hemmed in by Pharaoh at the bank of the Red Sea, the Red Sea parted and Israel walked across the sea on dry land. Finally, the Egyptian army was totally destroyed as the parted water of the Red Sea came back together.
As the conversation in Chapter 14 of Numbers continued, God told Moses he was going to destroy the nation of Israel and make a mighty nation out of Moses and his descendants. Moses interceded for the nation of Israel and he begged God in accordance with his great love to forgive the sin of unbelief of His people and their lack of obedience. God forgave the Israelites but there were consequences for their unbelief and disobedience. God told them not one man over the age of 20 would see the promise of inheriting the land of Canaan fulfilled except Joshua and Caleb. The 10 men who went to Canaan and came back and spread the bad report died of a plague before the Lord.
Then the Israelites decided they could inherit the land. There is sorry for their disobedience. They set forth to go and take the land of Canaan. However, Moses pointed out they would not succeed because they had missed that opportunity. Nevertheless the group went up to the highest point in the hill country and inhabitants there attacked him and beat them badly.
God is an awesome God. He can use a huge fish to convince a man that obedience is the best way. He can even use a talking donkey to convince a man obedience is the best way. In the book of 1 Kings, chapter 13, we even see God use a lying prophet to tell a man his disobedience is unacceptable. Had the man of God in 1 Kings chapter 13, listened to God’s instruction given to him before he started his mission and not stopped and ate or drank anything until he had returned to his home, all would have been well. Instead, he listened to a lying prophet and it cost him his life. The same prophet that lied to the man of God was used by God to pass judgment on the man of God. God will use what it takes to get his point across. What people do with God’s instructions becomes a matter of life and death.
Christian Economics by Wayne Wedge
I taught principles of economics at the college level for over 5 years. The purpose of this writing is to consider how economic decision principles relate to everyday decisions and life changing decisions and encourage Christians to walk in the Spirit. Reading the Bible, praying every day, and seeking the things of God are important steps in our daily decision-making.
The Apostle Paul said
1Cr 15:25 KJV – For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.
1Cr 15:26 KJV – The last enemy [that] shall be destroyed [is] death.
1Cr 15:27 KJV – For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under [him, it is] manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.
1Cr 15:28 KJV – And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
1Cr 15:29 KJV – Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?
1Cr 15:30 KJV – And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?
1Cr 15:31 KJV – I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.
1Cr 15:32 KJV – If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.
Gregory Mankiw is the Professor of Economics at Harvard University and served on the President’s staff for President George H. W. Bush as the Chief Economic Advisor. Mankiw defines an economy as an act of managing one’s household. He goes on to point out that economics is the study of managing society’s limited resources. This author will attempt to tie the economic decision principles and economic interaction principles presented in many basic economics courses to principles of Christian decision-making and Christian interaction. While there are three different sets of economic principles presented by Mr. Mankiw, this writing will only focus on the first two sets of principles: decision principles and interaction principles.
The first set of principles deals with how people make decisions. There are four of these decision principles and each one provides a view of how we make decisions when managing our day-to-day lives. Each decision we make shows the presence or absence of these principles. As Moses prepared to hand the leadership of Israel to Joshua, he reminded the people of God’s commandments. Moses challenged the people of Israel to follow the commandments of God. In Deuteronomy, Chapter 30 Moses shares the blessings for following the commandments of God and the curses of not following God’s commandments. Then, Moses makes this statement:
Deuteronomy 30:19 KJV – I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, [that] I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
Jos 24:15 KJV – And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that [were] on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
The children of Israel had choices to make in those days just as you and I have choices to make today. First, let’s consider examples of these four decision principles presented my Gregory Mankiw.
Principle Number One, People Face Trade-Offs: Most of us have heard of the old adage there’s no such thing as a free lunch. In other words we have to pay something for that lunch even though it might not be money. We find ourselves continually trading one goal for another to get what we want. When we’re at church we could be at home watching a football game or on the lake fishing. One important point concerning trade-offs is it’s important to understand the impact of our decisions to help us make a good decision. A man once told his wife, “I’m not going go to church today.” His wife immediately replied “oh yes you are!” The man firmly said “no, I have thought it over and I am not going to church today! I’m going to go play golf or something I enjoy.” The wife pleaded “but dear, you are the pastor.”
The truth is we all get to the point when we want make a decision to make us happy and we do not consider the impact of that decision. The darkness of this world does not want us to consider the impact of our decisions. King Saul chose to listen to the people rather than the command of God. It cost him his kingdom. What are your decisions costing you?
Elijah stood on Mount Carmel and challenged the prophets of Baal. Elijah told the people there could only be one God. He said if Baal is God follow him. However, if God is God follow him. We all know the story, Elijah told the prophets of Baal to prepare a sacrifice and he would do the same. Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal by demanding the God who answered by fire and consumed the sacrifice, was to be God. The prophets of Baal took on Elijah’s challenge offered their sacrifice but their God did not respond by fire. They spent many hours begging their God to accept their sacrifice to no avail. Elijah poked fun at them by asking them to yell a little louder maybe their God was hard of hearing or possibly he was away on vacation. Maybe their God was a heavy sleeper and sound asleep. When it became Elijah’s turn, he prepared the sacrifice, said a short prayer to the living God, and the God of this universe responded with fire and consumed the entire sacrifice.
As we review this story it’s easy to understand which decision was the right decision. Had we participated in the story, whose side would we have initially been on? The prophets of Baal decided to follow their false God for whatever reason and their time was consumed in their religion. Please note these false prophets were among God’s people, the living God, yet they had no regard for the God of this universe. Elijah, on the other hand, walked with the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God of the living! He had been in hiding for three years and it had not rained since his last public prayer. The king and queen of Israel hated Elijah but God is more powerful than any king or queen on this Earth.
Here’s a question worth considering why had the king of Israel forsaken the God of Israel? What caused King Ahab to decide the prophets of Baal were the right prophets to follow and the prophets of God were to be avoided? Could it be he saw the immediate pleasure presented by following this false god and was not considering God’s promise of curses for not following God’s commands? The reality of his decision was while he followed Baal and led God’s people down the path to following this false God, he was bringing the curses of God on the Israelite nation.
Principle number 1 is either in our decisions or absent from our decision but principle number 1 plays a huge role in our making the right decision.
Principle Number Two the Cost of Something Is What You Give up to Get It: when we think of cost our minds immediately focus on money. Quite often there are other costs making a decision that goes far beyond monetary value. Consider the preacher who gave up a high-paying job to put more focus on his ministry. The obvious cost is a loss of income. What would the cost of been had he chosen not to give up the job but rather give up the ministry.
Important cost to consider in making decisions is opportunity cost. In opportunity cost is what you give up to get something. In my illustration of the minister given up his job for the ministry the opportunity cost is obvious. When someone chooses to go to church on Wednesday night instead of staying home and watching TV what was the opportunity cost?
Principle Number Three Rational People Think That the Margin: a famous quote that stuck with me for many years if one fails to plan their obviously planning to fail. Principle number three considers those making decisions are rational people. Rational people consider the fact that rarely is a decision in life black and white. My plan may be to be in church every time the doors open. However I might have to make a small incremental adjustment to that plan should the need arise. Should a doctor refuse to perform a life-saving surgery merely because it’s Sunday and she needs to be at church. Should a factory manager refused to stay late on Wednesday not because it’s 7 PM every Wednesday night he is in church. There are two things to consider in thinking at the margin. These two things are marginal cost and marginal benefits.
Principle Number Four People Respond to Incentives: an incentive is something that causes a person to act. Children might obey their parents in order to avoid punishment. Those participating in a sport played to win a trophy. Higher prices at the gas station and supermarket causes us to adjust other areas in our life such as the type of car we own or the kinds of foods we eat.
These four decision principles help us better understand how we make decisions and how others make decisions. What happens to our decision making when we slack off on our walk with God?
When we share Christ with others it’s important to be aware we are helping others make decisions whether we like it or not. When others see decisions we make and how we make them do they understand what went into making that decision? Here’s an example, when we decide to tell off-color joke or listen to an off-color joke how are we affecting the way others and in our circle of life decide to follow Christ?
A common argument when we make a decision in a gray area is “just because you can’t do it doesn’t mean that I can’t.” Or “where does it say you can’t do it in the Bible?”
Consider the four principles: What is the trade-off? What is the cost? Does the fruit from the decision line up with God’s word? Where is the incentive?
Examples for discussion: smoking, overeating, credit card debt.
Mankiw’s decision principles can be viewed at the following sites.