Precious in His Sight

The Bible states in Psalm 116:15, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”

In late March of 2017, I saw this verse in a new light. My family and friends had gathered in the church of my childhood for my mother’s funeral. One of the pastors spoke from this passage.

Frankly, this verse had never sat well with me. The grief that we go through being separated from our loved ones by a force as unpredictable, unstoppable, and sinister as death—how could that be precious to God?

By all human accounts, my mother was taken unexpectedly. Her passing hurt in a way I had never felt. My father lost his wife. My brother and I lost our mother. My children lost their grandmother.

Again, I ask—how could that be precious?

But, here’s the thing…

It’s precious because it’s merciful.

Viewed from God’s perspective the whole scene changes. He sees us born into a sin-filled world with sin-filled hearts, living sin-filled lives. The Holy Spirit moves with the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we become God’s own, turning to him in repentance and faith. We become his saints.

But the battle is far from over. We spend the rest of our lives fighting the good fight of faith, failing often. We press toward the mark of a higher calling, but we stumble along the way. We live our lives afflicted at every turn, fights on the outside and fears on the inside. We see our fair share of evil, much of which is our own doing. Meanwhile, God looks on, comforting through his Spirit and guiding through his Word, but the struggle continues. God watches. He sees every moment, every tear. He sees every regret and all the sorrow. What is more, he knows how bad it all feels, because his Son went through worse.

Until one day, our Father calls us home—to himself. After all the suffering, all the trials, all the pain, he is finally able to rescue us from it all. This is not just healing; it’s merciful deliverance.

As Tim Keller wrote, “All death can now do to Christians is to make their lives infinitely better.”[1]

There are few words more appropriate for a father’s opportunity to deliver his children from suffering. It is precious.

It’s precious because it’s meaningful.

Death means something to everyone. Philosophers have spent thousands of years pondering how to live well but also how to die well. The two go hand in hand. To quote Epicurus, “The art of living well and the art of dying well are one.”

This is particularly true for the Christian. When we say with Paul that for us to live is Christ and to die is gain, we mean it. Spurgeon once said, “The best moment of a Christian’s life is his last one, because it is the one that is nearest heaven.”

The Christian possesses real hope in the face of death. Other worldviews offer little by comparison. Naturalistic worldviews at their best offer us usefulness as fertilizer. Pantheistic worldviews at their best offer us oblivion. Other theistic worldviews at their best offer a checklist of ordinances, sacraments, and rituals by which we can try our best. However, Christ offers infinitely more. He offers us, not just healing, but resurrection. He offers not just enlightenment, but glorification. He offers not just merit, but redemption.

My mother is absent from the body and therefore present with the Lord. Meanwhile, our memories of her live on with us, pointing to he who is the resurrection and the life. At my mother’s funeral my family and I experienced a peace that passes understanding. It is a peace that is precious.

It’s precious because it’s motivational.

No matter your worldview, no matter your perspective, no matter your opinions or background, biases or intuitions—one thing we all have in common is that we ultimately have no clue what tomorrow holds. Oh, we have good guesses. We are often almost certain. Almost.

Naturalistic worldviews at their best motivate us with the urgency to not waste our few moments of consciousness between bookends of nonexistence, but they never fully explain what that life should look like or why we should fear such a waste. Pantheistic worldviews at their best hasten us on to oblivion past the illusion of this life, death being “like a magician sweeping aside a curtain, [as the] soul reveals what lies beyond.”[2] In the Christian worldview, however, there is a Father to love because we are loved by him. There is king to be served because he served us. There is a “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

A year before my mother passed away, she did not know she had a year. Forgive me if this seems morose, but neither do we. We are charged by Jesus to not be anxious about tomorrow. Tomorrow’s anxiety will come soon enough. We are to first seek the eternal kingdom. The death of loved ones reminds of that truth. And a precious reminder at that.


Viewed from God’s perspective, the whole scene changes. My mom was a lady that had a wonderful life, but not an easy one. For over two decades she worked a demanding job. She raised two ornery boys who gave her grief every step of the way. She had bad knees and diabetes. She felt her share of pain and suffering as does every child of God. And God watched. He saw every moment, every tear. He saw every regret and all the sorrow. And he knew how bad all of it felt, because his son went through worse.

Then he brought her home. He delivered her from all the difficulty, pain, and sorrow of this world by bringing her to the next. God rescued her from a sin-cursed death-bound world and brought her into his eternal kingdom, never to hurt again. How precious that must have been. Precious indeed.

[1] Tim Keller, Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical, p. 166

[2] Deepak Chopra, Life After Death: The Burden of Proof, p. 25.

Four Things Christianity Allows Us to See 20/20

(I know, I know. We’re all already tired of the “2020 Vision” themes. But this opportunity only comes twice in the timeline of human history–and the first time we weren’t even counting years the same way, nor were we measuring vision the same way. So humor me.)

Few ideas have made an impact on me more than this quote by C.S. Lewis:

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

It is a profound thought with many implications. But it mainly points to the simultaneous testimonies of the evidential weight and explanatory power of the Christian worldview. In other words, Christianity is not only a worldview for which there is much evidence. It is a worldview that offers an explanation for everything we see and experience in life.

Here are four things Biblical Christianity allows us to see:

A More Satisfying Vision of Our God

People have all sorts of ideas about God, but these ideas tend to leave us dissatisfied with God.

I find that misconceptions about God are often due to a shortsighted obsession with one of God’s attributes to the neglect of all the rest. For many, God is too loving to be wrathful. For others, God is too wrathful to be loving. For some, God is too elusive to be knowable. For others, God is too confounding to be real.

Each of the world’s religions present their own imbalanced view of God. He is too transcendent to be personal, and too holy to love. Or He is too erratic to be exalted and too complacent to be decisive.

With all the poor explanations of who and what God is, it is no wonder so many people have a hard time believing in God at all.

As Christian apologist Greg Koukl puts it:

If that’s the kind of God they don’t believe in, then I agree with them. I don’t believe in that kind of God either.[1]

The Bible stands apart from all these dissatisfying presentations of God. The Biblical picture of God displays the cumulative force of every attribute of God. As such, Christianity has an understanding of God that is maximally dynamic in every attribute— and because of every attribute.

In the Bible all God’s attributes stand in balance with one another. God’s righteousness is balanced by his love. Wrath is balanced by mercy. Condemnation is balanced by grace.

All man-made visions of God will forever be too small. In Christianity, we find that God is bigger than any caricature with which skeptics portray Him. God is more complex than any misrepresentation by which the religions of the world present Him.

This is because in the Bible we are not given a manmade vision of God. The Biblical vision of God is one given by God Himself. The Christian understanding of God is more satisfying because God is more satisfying.

A More Lofty Vision of Our Humanity

Misconceptions about God almost immediately result in misconceptions about us. Whenever we recast God in our thinking, it will always be a demotion from who and what he has revealed himself to be. And because humans were made in his image, humanity will be demoted in our thinking as well.

Christian philosopher Nancy Pearcey stated it this way:

When a worldview exchanges the Creator for something in creation, it will also exchange a high view of humans made in God’s image for a lower view of humans made in the image of something in creation.[2]

Some worldviews describe humans as a feature of an exclusively physical universe. As such, we are the result of random mutations, highly intelligent animals, living on oasis of life-permitting good luck. Some worldviews describe humans as a manifestation of an exclusively spiritual universe. As such, we are the delusional manifestations of a universal over-soul, working our way toward oblivion.

As much as biology influences the human experience, we are so much more than an accidental pack of neurons. As much as people long for spirituality, we are meant for more than nirvanic nothingness.

The Bible stands apart from all these presentations of humanity. The Biblical explanation of humanity tells a story in which a personal God decisively creates us for the purpose of, and with the capacity for, a relationship with him. Unlike all other creatures in his creation, we were made like him to be with him.

Christianity has the greatest possible view of humanity because it holds that humans were made in the likeness of the greatest possible Being.

A More Accurate Vision of Our Problem

I think everyone can agree on at least one thing: the world is not as it should be.

Turning the pages of world history, it’s easy to see that humanity has a problem. On one page we are doing fantastic things—exploring frontiers, creating art, and splitting atoms. On the next page we are doing terrible things—exploiting people, producing filth, and dropping bombs.

What is our problem?

Over the years, important thinkers have devised explanations for why the world is out of whack. Buddha taught that physical desires were our problem. Karl Marx taught that economic oppression was our problem. Sigmund Freud taught that repression of our physical desires was our problem.   

Some believe we are simply uneducated. Our problem is that we do not know enough about the universe and each other. We are not lost. We are ignorant and confused.

Some believe we are simply unenlightened. Our problem is that we are off-center and out of touch with deeper reality. We are not lost. We are unconnected and distracted.

What do all these views have in common? They describe what is wrong with the world as something that has happened to us. Something ‘out there’ is our problem.

As the story goes, The Times in England once asked several prominent intellectuals, “What’s wrong with the world today?” Christian author G.K. Chesterton responded simply,

Dear Sir,
I am.
Yours, G.K. Chesterton

The Bible presents the most accurate diagnosis of our problem—sin. It is a problem that resides in each and every one of us. We do not do what we should because we are not what we were meant to be. The problem is very much ‘in here.’

A More Hopeful Vision of Our Salvation

When you survey the philosophies and religions of the world, you notice that each one has its prescribed list of things to do in order to attain salvation. Whether by education or meditation, sacraments or sacrifices, removal from the world or involvement in it–there are things we must do to fix the problems we have. Because the problem is something ‘out there,’ the solution must be as well. All we have to do is go out and get it.

Christianity on the other hand offers a unique hope. Philosopher of religion Albert C. Wolters tells us:

As far as I can tell, the Bible is unique in its rejection of all attempts to either demonize some part of creation as the root of our problems or to idolize some part of creation as the solution.[3]

In other words, because we are the problem, the solution is out of our grasp. We cannot attain salvation; it needs to be given to us. Like criminals in a court of law, or a terminally ill patient, if we could have saved ourselves then we would not be in this predicament in the first place. Our exoneration must come from a righteous judge. Our cure must come from a great physician.

In the Bible, there is only one solution presented: Jesus Christ. The entire Old Testament anticipates his sacrificial death. The New Testament celebrates his miraculous resurrection. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that is the power of God unto salvation. He has done for us what we are desperately incapable of doing for ourselves.

Christianity offers infinitely more hope because Jesus is infinitely more capable of saving us than we are of saving ourselves.

Here’s the thing…

When it comes to the battle of ideas, there is no such thing as neutral ground. There is no “view from nowhere.” We all believe something, and we all believe what we believe based on assumptions we cannot prove.

As I see it, there are then two questions:

1. How well can you see the beliefs you have?

This is where most people begin and end. They find the evidence to support their belief, and that is that. They believe it because they “see it.” But, a second questions must be asked.

2. How well do your beliefs help you see everything else?

Do your beliefs involve a misconception of God? Do your beliefs diminish your vision of humanity? Do your beliefs confuse your vision of our problem? Do your beliefs present hope in your vision of salvation?

We Christians believe in Jesus Christ, because in him we see God of very God, the fullness of the Godhead bodily. In him we see humanity the way it was meant to be. In him we see our sin identified, paid for, and defeated. In him we see hope for the eternal life for which we were made.

We Christians believe in Christ, not only because we see him, but because by him, we see everything else.


(Footnote links are affiliate links for Amazon.com. If you click or purchase from these links I will receive a small commission. So, thanks in advance!)

[1] Greg Koukl, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, p. 163.

[2] Nancy Pearcey, Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes (p. 98).

[3] Albert C. Wolters, Creation Regained: A Transforming War of the World, p. 50.


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Thankful for Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving! I love the rest. I love the time with family. I love the food–way too much.

Thanksgiving is a time of reflection, which is always a good thing.

We all can point to ways in which our lives could have been vastly better. However, this is a time when we recognize that there are just as many ways, if not more, in which our lives could be devastatingly worse. This is a season in which we express how we are thankful that it is not.

The attitude and act of thanksgiving is a universal human experience. Gratitude is as human as an emotion as we can show. Whenever someone has a positive influence on our lives, by nature we have an appreciative response. Sometimes it is internal and unvoiced; sometimes its external and expressed. The point is that everyone, regardless of religion or worldview, can be—and should be—thankful to other people for their impact on our lives.

But, here’s the thing…

There is a difference between being thankful to and being thankful for.

This may seem like petty semantics, but the shift between these two prepositions, in this context anyways, is significant and worth our attention. Continue reading “Thankful for Thanksgiving”

Say It with Me: Plausibility Structures

This is the second installment of a series, introducing terms and ideas that may be unfamiliar to most but are increasingly necessary for the thinking Christian to understand.

The term will probably not work its way into your casual conversation any time soon. However, it may play a part next time someone talks to you about your faith. It should play a part next time you talk to someone about yours.

Continue reading “Say It with Me: Plausibility Structures”

Say It with Me: Worldview

worldview apologetics

This is the first installment of a series, introducing terms and ideas that may be unfamiliar to most but are increasingly necessary for the thinking Christian to understand.

At first glance, worldview seems like an arcane topic reserved only for the more philosophically minded. Discussing worldviews can get tedious and sometimes downright arbitrary. However, worldview thinking is becoming increasingly necessary for Christians to understand the world around them properly. Continue reading “Say It with Me: Worldview”

Both Sides of Every Story

open book apologetics worldviews

As quotable as C.S. Lewis is, my favorite quote of his has to be the following:

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

As was his style, in this one statement he says so much. The Christian worldview is not without its evidence. However, multitudes of skeptics over the centuries, to include Lewis, have been convinced, not only by the truth they see in Christianity but also by the truth that it enables them to see.

Ultimately Ultimate

We can categorize worldviews at the most general level by their concept of ultimate reality. They may be defined by how they answer questions about the nature of being, namely “What is there?”—what philosophers call ontology—and “Where did it come from?”—what philosophers call cosmology. Based on their answers to answers to these questions, every worldview essentially falls under one of three categories: naturalism, pantheism, or theism.

There are worldviews that affirm ultimate reality as ultimately physical. That is to say, “there is nothing more to the mental, biological and social realms than arrangements of physical entities.”[1] These worldviews are often grouped in the category of naturalism.

There are worldviews that affirm ultimate reality as ultimately spiritual. That is to say, there is only “a single spiritual entity, of which the physical world must be understood as a partial manifestation.”[2] These worldviews are often grouped in the category of pantheism.

Finally, there are worldviews that affirm ultimate reality as ultimately “owed to one supreme Being, who is distinct from Creation.”[3] That is to say, there is “a dualistic relation between God and the world,”[4] typically asserting that God is both transcendent, existing outside of and being sovereign over the physical universe, as well as immanent, existing inside of and being involved with the physical universe.

These descriptions are massively oversimplified by necessity. Each category includes a long list of specific philosophies and religions, many of which have precious little in common with others in the same category. Some seem to be more viable options than others. Some have many more adherents than others. However, the one thing that unites them is their view of reality, what is ultimately ultimate.

The question we have now is, which one is ultimately right? Continue reading “Both Sides of Every Story”

No Blind Faith Here

A Popular Misconception

For many people, the term “blind faith” is redundant. The assumption about religious faith is that a sort of blindness is inherent, and often intentional.

Nonreligious people cite famous quotes to confirm this concept of faith. Mark Twain once quipped, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” Ayn Rand wrote, “Faith is the commitment of one’s consciousness to beliefs for which one has no sensory evidence or rational proof.” In his book, A Manual for Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian identified his two favorite definitions of faith as “belief without evidence” and “pretending to know things you don’t.”

Of course, Richard Dawkins echoes the sentiment: “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”

By definition—at least by popular definition—faith is blind.

Consequently, faith and reason are often seen as incompatible, mutually exclusive terms. They are treated as opposite approaches to finding the truth about the big questions of life. On a popular level, many unbelievers assume that if a person is rational, they have no need for faith. On a personal level, many believers assume that if a person has faith, there is no need for reason.

But why do we assume that there is this great divide between faith and reason?

Here’s the thing…

I don’t know.

The Bible describes a marriage between faith and reason, not a divorce. Besides, everyone accepts some set of foundational ideas by faith, no matter how much reasoning comes first.

A Biblical Definition

The Bible is incredibly clear in its definition of faith.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1

Notice the parallel use of the terms substance and evidence in connection to that which is hoped for and that which is not seen. According to the Bible, faith is a substantiated assurance of what we hope is true. It is a justified confidence in what we cannot see.

The modern misconception of faith drops these two key qualifiers. Faith is misrepresented as merely something that we hope for but cannot see in the absence of substantial evidence. But, this is not the Biblical concept. The Bible defines faith as hope substantiated by evidence for that which we cannot see.

Not every element of Christian belief is seen as clearly as a science experiment or understood as plainly as a mathematical proof. Nevertheless, that does not mean Biblical faith is blind. In fact, it is concept with which we are very familiar.

Every day in courts of law, judges and juries observe substantial arguments and examine evidence for events they did not see. Justice may be blind in the sense that it is impartial and objective, but we would certainly hope that our justice system is not blind in coming to a verdict.

Everyone accepts some set of foundational ideas by faith, no matter how much reasoning comes first.

Many Christians grow uncomfortable when there is talk of evidence and rationality in support of faith. They assume the misconception that there is an inverse relationship between faith and reason. They feel that if they depend too much on arguments for their faith, then they must not have much of it. They feel more like the Apostle Thomas and less like the Apostle John.

However, Biblical faith is not weakened by substantial evidence; it is strengthened by it. The more evidence a jury hears, the more assurance they have in their verdict. Similarly, the more we examine the evidence and rationality of the Christian faith, the stronger our assurance becomes.

Christian theologians have always been careful to define not only what we believe but also what we mean when we say we believe. For centuries, theologians have outlined faith using three Latin words:

  • Notitia (as in, to take notice of) refers to the content that one must be aware of in order to believe.
  • Assensus (as in, to assent to) refers to the assent to the truth of that content.
  • Fiducia (as in, to place faith in) refers to the commitment of trust in that belief, what we call faith.

A perfect example of this outline in Scripture is found in 1 Thessalonians 2:13:

For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us (i.e., notitia), ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth (i.e., assensus), the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe (i.e., fiducia).

It must be said that saving faith is not simply notitia and assensus, knowing of and agreeing with the gospel. James warns us (almost sarcastically, I might add) that it’s great if we believe there is one God, but so do demons (James 2:19). The step that raises belief to to the level of saving faith is the trust in what we have known to be true.

Nevertheless, Paul reminds how important notitia and assensus are:

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord (fiducia) shall be saved.
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? (assensus) and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? (notitia)

Romans 10:13-14

Presumably, blind faith would be fiducia without notitia and assensus, trust with no content or evident truthfulness. It is certainly possible for a person to claim Christianity in blind faith. However, blind faith is not Biblical faith.

A Universal Application

What is amazing about the Biblical definition of faith is that it has a universal application. Every belief system has its way of seeing the world, the content of its worldview. What’s more, every worldview reaches the point at which they commit to their beliefs in faith, stepping out in hope toward things unseen.

This, of course, applies to religious people. But it also applies to the nonreligious.

In our secular culture, many people reject ideas about God as meaningless, only accepting ideas that have been scientifically proven. At least, that is what they would like to think. But there is a problem. The idea that only empirically verifiable statements can be true is itself not empirically verifiable. It is a belief that must be assumed…wait for it…by faith. This is a major dilemma for those who claim to need no faith.

Even when someone attempts to build a worldview with no need for a step of faith, it is a step of faith to believe they can do so.

As if that were not enough irony, those who assume that faith is merely a belief in the absence of evidence do not have much evidence for that assumption. Sure, there are those “you just need to have more faith” believers, but they are an unfortunate exception and not the Biblical or historical rule. Just consider how Christian thinkers over the centuries have discussed the correlation between faith and reason.

Reason directs those who are truly pious and philosophical to honor and love only what is true. – Justin Martyr

But they are much deceived, who think that we believe in Christ without any proofs concerning Christ. – Augustine of Hippo

The supreme function of reason is to show man that some things are beyond reason. – Blaise Pascal

He that speaketh against his own reason speaks against his own conscience, and therefore it is certain that no man serves God with a good conscience who serves him against his reason. – Jeremy Taylor

Faith is not a blind thing; for faith begins with knowledge. It is not a speculative thing; for faith believes facts of which it is sure. It is not an unpractical, dreamy thing; for faith trusts, and stakes its destiny upon the truth of revelation. – Charles Spurgeon

Regularly, the Prophets appealed to evidence to justify belief in the biblical God or in the divine authority of their inspired message: Fulfilled prophecy, the biblical fact of miracles, the inadequacy of finite pagan deities to be the cause of such a large, well-ordered universe compared to the God of the Bible, and so forth. They did not say, “God said it, that settles it, and you should believe it!” They gave a rational defense for their claims. – J.P. Moreland

Blind faith? Not here.

A Hopeful Correction

Christian apologist Greg Koukl, explains further why there is no conflict between faith and reason:

Reason assesses, faith trusts. No conflict. The opposite of faith is not reason; the opposite of faith is unbelief, or lack of trust. The opposite of reason is not faith; the opposite of reason is irrationality.

So, what can we do to correct the popular misconception of faith?

Proclaim our notitia.

Several times over the course of his ministry, Charles Spurgeon compared the Bible and the gospel to a caged lion. He noted a pattern that the less people preach and teach God’s Word, the more concerned they seem to be with protecting it. He painted the picture of how silly it would be to put a lion in a cage out of concern for its protection. Spurgeon’s point: you don’t defend a lion; you let it loose. At the end of one of these illustrations, he stated, “The way to meet infidelity is to spread the Bible. The answer to every objection against the Bible is the Bible.”

If we don’t want people to think we have blind faith, we ought to show them the object of our faith.

Demonstrate our assensus.

William Lane Craig is a world-class philosopher, a renowned apologist, and a Baptist Sunday school teacher (which is awesome!). He commented on the importance of Christians understanding the truthfulness on which their faith rests.

Our churches are filled with Christians who are idling in intellectual neutral. As Christians, their minds are going to waste. One result of this is an immature, superficial faith. People who simply ride the roller coaster of emotional experience are cheating themselves out of a deeper and richer Christian faith by neglecting the intellectual side of that faith. They know little of the riches of deep understanding of Christian truth, of the confidence inspired by the discovery that one’s faith is logical and fits the facts of experience, of the stability brought to one’s life by the conviction that one’s faith is objectively true.

Amen, Dr. Craig. Amen.

If we don’t want people to think we have blind faith, we ought to show them the results of our faith.

Embrace our fiducia.

Everyone everywhere ultimately has faith in something. The pantheistic East has faith that everything is spiritual, and that reason is largely useless. The secular West has faith that everything is physical, and that spirituality is largely pointless. Yet both sides only see half of reality.

The gospel of Christ is powerful enough to break through that which blinds both sides and to fulfill that which both sides lack. We ought to embrace our faith and take it to the world.

If we don’t want people to think we have blind faith, we ought to show them the way to our faith.


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