[Note: The full title should be (it would have been too long): The Root of All Sin: Why Atheists Can’t Be Happy and Many Christians Aren’t]
Most Christians are familiar with Jesus’ answer to the Pharisee’s question about the greatest commandment. The question and answer are found in Matthew 22: 36b-40.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.
And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Based on this text John Piper has a penetrating analysis on the root of all sin. It is worth reproducing below:
“The root of our sinfulness is the desire for our own happiness apart from God and apart from the happiness of others in God…ALL SIN comes from a desire to be happy cut off from the glory of God and cut off from the good of others. The command of Jesus [to love others as yourself] cuts to this root, exposes it, and severs it.”
Piper goes on and equates this root of all sin with PRIDE. At first sight, it is difficult to see the connection, but it is clear that he is on the right path because pride is historically considered the most deadly sin in Christianity (it is the sin that we find in Lucifer himself).
Piper explains the connection:
“Another name for this root of sinfulness is PRIDE. Pride is the presumption that we can be happy without depending on God as the source of happiness and without caring if others find their happiness in God. Pride is the contaminated and corrupted passion to be happy. It is corrupted by two things:
1) The unwillingness to see God as the only fountain of true and lasting joys, and
2) The unwillingness to see other people as designed by God to share our joy in him.
If you take the desire to be happy [which is good and put there by God Himself] and strip away from it God as the fountain of your happiness in God, what you have left is the engine of PRIDE. PRIDE is the pursuit of happiness anywhere but in the glory of God and the good of other people for God’s sake. This is the root of all sin.”
I think that Piper is right on and this analysis was eye-opening for me. Pride has to do with misguided self-love. And this means at least two things:
1) Atheists cannot be happy (for they do not even believe in God who is the real fountain of joy and happiness).
2) “Christians cannot be happy either.” They cannot be happy unless they understand that the greatest commandment can only be made visible in the second. It is not enough to say that you love God, this love must find its true and normal (visible) expression in our love for the neighbor.
Piper explains in greater detail the root of all sin and the path to real happiness. It is a service that he does for every human being. For Pascal was right when he said:
“All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end…This is the motive of every action of every man, even for those who hang themselves [of course – this is a classic case of a misguided act of self-love].”
Have you been looking for happiness and satisfaction in the wrong places? Consider going to the Source. All other streams get lost in the desert.
It is worth reading the rest of Piper’s article. See here (chapter 32). He explains very well the importance of God and of loving one’s neighbor.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
I like to read books on preaching and hermeneutics/exegesis. In fact – as a pastor I really should read at least one of each every year (and I usually do). This is for at least two reasons: I am not a very good preacher/exegete, and I should do everything to grow in these areas.
These days I picked up The Sacred Anointing: Preaching and the Spirit’s Anointing in the Life and Thought of Martyn Lloyd Jones. It is a great book which emphasizes the importance of “unction” – the necessity of Holy Spirit’s anointing for preaching.
What strikes me here (something that I like and totally agree with) is that Lloyd does not emphasize the manner/delivery of the sermon. He concentrates on the importance of the anointing (see also the quote from Spurgeon below).
Lloyd was meticulous in his study and preparation, but he also stressed the need for freedom in the pulpit:
Sometimes I feel back at home in Romania. That is the land where I was born and where I grew up in a communist and largely atheistic society. However, I was brought up as a Christian (thanks to my parents, grandparents etc).
Of course – being a communist/atheistic society – you could/should not bring your Bible to school. You could read it at home (if you were blessed enough to have access to one – most of them were smuggled into the country), but you could not even dream about bringing it to school or giving a Bible to someone else, for you probably would have landed in jail.
Today I felt like I was back in my childhood days (ok – I AM exaggerating :)) after I read this piece of news: here.
As I was checking the SBL site (looking for a review of Keel’s book on Song of Songs) I found out that David Noel Freedman died. It is sad news, but I believe (and hope) that he died as a Christian (?).
David Noel Freedman was my professor while I studied Computer Science at UCSD. Few know that my first major (my B.S.) was Computer Science.
Well – after much praise and (perhaps) much more criticism, “EXPELLED” opened in theaters (c. 1000) throughout USA. Here is how it did at the box office:
“Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” a rare documentary opening in wide release, debuted at No. 9 with $3.1 million. Released by Rocky Mountain Pictures, the film features Ben Stein as he challenges Darwinian theories that prevail in academic circles and suggests that life could have emerged through intelligent design.”
Thanks to wordpress I just discovered a ‘new’ preacher. He is not really new, because he has been preaching for many years, but he is new for me (he is also a graduate of Gordon-Conwell and WTS). Apparently Tim Keller “promotes a Reformed Christianity that has a vision that encompasses not only doctrinal statements, but also our piety, evangelistic outreach, and missions of mercy.”
He seems to be a new sensation in Christianity and has been compared to C.S. Lewis. I intend to get to know more about him, mainly by reading his sermons. Here is a brief sketch of his biography:
Some advice from Chofetz Chaim. I also posted this at www.rabbinics.wordpress.com
One of the students became very wealthy after he was married. But at the same time, he also became stingy. The newly married wealthy man came to ask the Rabbi [Chofetz Chaim]: “why have I become so stingy and what advise can you offer me for this predicament?”
As we were studying and discussing Jesus’ demand to love our enemies I ran into a problem. I could not find any enemies. I considered it out of the question that there were enemies out there who were enemies because I hated them, so I tried to think if there were some who hated me. And I could not find any. I am not aware of any people that hate me and that consider themselves my “enemies.” There may be some (?), I just don’t know who they are.
This morning, however, I read a short note on Hillary Clinton and the issue of faith in the Democratic camp (see here). It pointed me to an editorial in Christianity Today titled ” “Hating Hillary: Getting to the bottom of a cultural trend that has seeped into the church.” You can find the editorial here.
Here we are continuing the eye-opening and challenging study of John Piper’s book – What Jesus Demands of the World. We are making slow progress (2-3 chapter per week), but we are passed the half point (we are on demands 30 and 31 of a total of 50).
Since Jesus has “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18) he can make the demands that He wants to – despite the rebellious spirit and the revolt of the modern man.
He not only demands what He wants, but He demands the impossible. The impossibility of Jesus’ demands is seen most clearly in the demand to love one’s enemies (Matthew 5:44-45; Luke 6:29-35 etc.).
I recently found a very useful website for electronic Biblical Resources. It is ‘housed’ at Gordon College (where I used to work part-time in the mail room while studying at Gordon-Conwell) by Ted Hildebrandt:
What is relevant for this website is the info on Song of Songs. He has a couple of articles posted, but more important, he has posted 4 audio lectures of Dr. Lloyd Carr. Dr. Carr was a professor at Gordon (I assume he is retired) and wrote a very valuable commentary on Song of Songs in the Tyndalle series.
I hope that you will enjoy his lectures. I have not had the time to listen to them yet, but I read most of his book :):)
This post also appears at http://www.songofsongs.wordpress.com
A question that is of considerable interest to people today has to do with the relationship between Islam and democracy. I personally (from my somewhat limited study) believe that they are incompatible.
In other words – Quranic Islam is not compatible with democracy. More specifically – it does not allow equality for women and religious freedom (especially to convert).
I recently heard a perspective from someone who was born as a Muslim. Her name is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a writer who is already popular in the world and infamous in the Muslim world (she is an atheist now).
While this is a long interview – I think that it is worth watching if you are interested in this subject:
Of course- we both could be wrong. I really hope so!
Here I am a US citizen (ok – Canadian too) born in Romania and living in Korea. How am I adjusting? I think I am adjusting pretty well. I am learning about Korea and Koreans, and I am catching a bit of the language too (though I love languages, I do not have much time these days).
A few things about Korea and Koreans helped me see parallels with Romania and Romanians.
First of all is the location of our countries and the size. Both of our countries are relatively small (even NK included) and we are both surrounded by three great empires which seek and sought to control our territories. Romania is surrounded by Turkey, Russia, and Hungary. Of course – with the exception of Russia (which now doesn’t even have a border with Romania), Turkey and Hungary are relatively weak contries. However – I am talking about the past. At one time or another – Romania was under the influence (and even oppression) of the Ottoman Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire, or Russian Empire (Soviet Union etc).
One recent person accused God of being a narcissist. She said in a comment:
“…and believing in god ( your higher power) is stupid because he paints a superior image of himself. when really all he is is a narcissist.”
This is an understandable accusation – and people like John Piper (and other Reformed people) have been accused about worshiping a narcissist God. The reformed people, in line with the Reformed tradition – teach that “the chief end of man is to glorify God.”
President Bush is in Romania (where I was born) for a meeting with NATO allies, and he is calling for NATO expansion. More specifically – he is trying to convince the other allies that Georgia and Ukraine should be allowed to join. There is opposition both inside and outside. The most vocal opponent – not surprisingly – is Russia. Other countries (e.g. Germany) also seem to be against this expansion – for “the sake of balance.”
In my opinion – Bush is right. The Cold War is over – and the expansion is not a threat to Russia. At least – it is not an offensive threat. The only “threat” is defensive. What do I mean by that?
Wow – sometimes I almost feel like I am back in communist Romania. At least that is how I felt when I read that the Texas Board of Education approved an elective Bible course for High School (see the link below). Is this supposed to me a major breakthrough?
When I grew up in Romania you were barely allowed to teach the Bible in Churces. After the fall of communism – it became an elective in most schools (as far as I know). I guess that Texas now follows in the same direction.
Frankly – I do not see why some have any objection to the teaching of this course. After all – the course is clearly elective. If you do not want to take it – you can go to the gym!
Then again – in a country where “the separation between church and state” is used in many cases to limit religion to one’s private bedroom (as if religion is not an integral part of one’s whole life), perhaps this is a breakthrough. The Bible is back in (s0me) schools. Of course – only if you want to study it. And that is the way it should be.
As some of you know – I am currently teaching a course on Rabbinic Hebrew. To help with this course – I started a new website (www.wordpress.rabbinics.com) with some resources and rabbinic stories. The latest story deals with hospitality, and teaches a nice lesson of humility. It is a lesson from Chofetz Chaim on how to welcome a guest.
Hebrews 13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.