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Coffeehouse Questions

What is true freedom?

How would you define freedom?

Is it being able to do whatever you want?

There is a big theme that is going to come up this week as I start teaching my students about sociology tomorrow and how different worldviews look at it differently. One of the key ideas when it comes to Secularism is personal autonomy. This is the belief that people should have the freedom to decide what is right for their own life based on what makes them happy. The reason why this matters is that it isn’t only secular students who believe in personal autonomy. Many Christian students also think this is the correct definition of freedom. So, is this what true freedom is? Is it doing whatever makes us happy?

I don’t think it is. Dr. Sean McDowell says, “Freedom is having the capacity to do what you know is right.” You could also say that true freedom is having the ability to do what we were created to do.

Christianity teaches that there is a God who created us and gave us a moral law that we should follow. They aren’t just a “list of don’ts” like I discussed last week but are guidelines that create healthy living. They are also guidelines that give us freedom! But you may be wondering, how is someone free if they have to follow guidelines?

Think about a train for example. Is a train free when it is on or off the tracks? Even though it is “restricted” by the tracks, the tracks allow it to be free and to do what it was created to do. Leaving the tracks would destroy the train and make it useless. We also live in a free country but understand that there are guidelines. The laws of our country are what allow us to live in peace and be free to flourish.

So, is true freedom the ability to do whatever I want to do? No. We cannot do whatever makes us happy even if that is the message from our culture. Freedom is doing what we were created to do and doing what is right. This means that in order to truly be free, we first have to discover our purpose. After we know what we were created to do, we have to live it out and do what is right. This is what brings true freedom!

What are other definitions of true freedom that you have heard? Comment below!

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How To Develop a Deep Relationship with God

I recently created a new talk titled “Everyone Has To Start Somewhere.” The purpose of this talk is to recognize that we all aren’t at the same level of relationship with God. Some of us haven’t started, others are just beginning, and some have a deep relationship. I discuss this idea in the recent blog, Everyone Has To Start Somewhere – Helping Students Deepen Their Relationship With God.

Since I wrote out the main idea from the talk before, I wanted to discuss it on the podcast. I hope you enjoy this week as I walk through a plan to develop a deeper relationship with God. If you like what you hear, remember that I am available to visit your church or youth group and share with you. Just visit the Endorsements & Speaking for more information.

You can follow the Coffeehouse Questions Podcast and have it automatically downloaded to your device by subscribing on iTunes. You  can also find it and follow on SoundCloud or search “Coffeehouse Questions with Ryan Pauly” on your Android podcast player.

Listen to the Coffeehouse Questions radio show on Active Reliance Radio every Wednesday from 4:30-5 PM PT. This broadcast is also being live streamed every Wednesday on Facebook Live at 5 PM PT immediately following the radio show.

Like the Facebook page, watch live, and interact with Ryan by asking questions and commenting. Send in your questions on FacebookTwitter, or by text at (714) 989-6927 (Google Voice number only for questions).

Why Christianity Isn’t Just a List of Don’ts

One of the interesting aspects of Christianity is that it focuses on pursuing health rather than avoiding illness. This was the topic of a short discussion I had with my class today. Many times we think of Christianity only as a list of rules that help us avoid wrong behavior or keep us from having fun. This is what I hear frequently from students. However, this isn’t the goal. It isn’t focused on not doing wrong by creating a long list of don’ts. Instead, it is about living rightly and creating a lifestyle that is healthy. This is what I mean about pursuing health rather than avoiding illness.

The problem that many in our culture have with this message is that in order to create a healthy lifestyle and right living, we need things that are right and wrong, healthy and unhealthy. “Secularists, Marxists, and Postmodernists consider right and wrong to be burdensome because they hamper personal freedom.”¹ The reason for this is because most Secularists, Marxists, and Postmodernists consider themselves the highest authority. Their worldview says there is no religion or God they have to follow. This makes right and wrong relative to the individual, and no one can impose morality on another. This is what we are seeing in our culture today. “Who are you to judge?” A culture of relativism means a culture of no right and wrong, and this would allow people to have personal autonomy and choose whatever makes them happy. Is this really what is best?

I don’t think it is and here’s why.

We live in a culture with many rules that create right and wrong. And when we think about them, we see that most are in place to help us rather than hurt us. I have rules in my classroom not to limit my students’ freedom, but to create an environment of learning so that they benefit and grow. We have traffic laws not so the government can control us, but to protect us and create peace on the roads. Accidents and deaths generally happen when people are breaking the law. Take sports for example! Every sport has a long list of rules in order to make sure the payers are safe. Football has changed so much the last few years in because of their knowledge about concussions and health problems. We don’t see these rules as limiting the freedom of players but protecting them. Rules are there to pursue health rather than avoiding illness.

We also see this with a parent and a child. I don’t know any parent that allows their child to eat candy all day long and nothing else. Parents don’t force kids to each their vegetables to limit their freedom or to be burdensome. They also don’t do it just to avoid illness. Parents should do it because they want their child to be healthy. We also recognize that the child’s opinion on that matter really isn’t important because their knowledge is limited. The child says, “It tastes good. I like it. It makes me happy. So it must be good!” This shows that they don’t fully understand how things work. Parents, with their greater knowledge, create rules to pursue health for their children even when the child doesn’t understand.

The same is true for Christianity. We often look at our decisions and think, “It tastes good. I like it. It makes me happy. So it must be good!” However, we don’t fully understand the consequence of our decisions just like the child. Not everything that feels good is good, and not everything that feels bad is bad (Injections for example). Instead of a child and a parent, the true example is God and us. God has given us a list of right and wrong. It isn’t just a list of don’ts to limit our freedom and take away our fun, but they are guidelines that allow for a good, healthy lifestyle were we pursue doing right rather than merely avoiding wrong behavior.

It’s amazing what a slight change in perspective will do for a person when looking at rules.

¹ Jeff Myers, Understanding the Times, Summit Ministries

Do we live in a secular culture, and how should Christians respond?

I had fun recording the podcast this week with my roommate, Neal Hardin. He is a former metallurgical engineer who is now a current MA Theology student at Talbot. His passion is to find where the Bible speaks about political issues and to train up the church to think about political issues biblically. For this reason, I asked him to join me to discuss the secularization of our culture this week. I hope you enjoy it!

You can follow the Coffeehouse Questions Podcast and have it automatically downloaded to your device by subscribing on iTunes. You  can also find it and follow on SoundCloud or search “Coffeehouse Questions with Ryan Pauly” on your Android podcast player.

Listen to the Coffeehouse Questions radio show on Active Reliance Radio every Wednesday from 4:30-5 PM PT. This broadcast is also being live streamed every Wednesday on Facebook Live at 5 PM PT immediately following the radio show.

Like the Facebook page, watch live, and interact with Ryan by asking questions and commenting. Send in your questions on FacebookTwitter, or by text at (714) 989-6927 (Google Voice number only for questions).

Rethinking the Hiddenness of God

Over the last few months I have been thinking a lot about the hiddenness of God. It is usually one of the main questions that I get from students and skeptics. They say something like “If God wants us to believe in him, then why doesn’t he reveal himself to us?” Now, I have written on this topic before. You can check out my previous blog titled “Why is God so hidden?,” where I talked about the difference between belief “that” and belief “in.” I also looked at how much evidence would be necessary to convince us of God’s existence. However, I want to answer the question in a little different way for this post.

God is hidden because he wants us to look for him.

Now, before you get on me for giving some pat Christian answer, I want you to really think about it and hear me out. I think there is something to think about here. We tend to be people who are really excited about new stuff but then we get bored really easy. I was excited when I bought my first car, but now it is just a normal part of my life. It is rare when I am really thinking about it when I used to. I do remember the day very clearly when my phone notified me that my car had been broken into. I sprinted to the parking lot only to realize that I had hit the panic button in my pocket. The point is that unless something crazy happens, I don’t really think about my car because it has become a normal part of my life.

The same is true for anything that isn’t lost. I could just go down the list. If something isn’t lost, then you have no need to look for it or really even think about it. The moment your cell phone or wallet goes missing, then it begins to consume our thoughts. Panic takes over when we notice something is missing, and it usually remains at some level until the object is found.

I think that the same can be true about God. He reveals himself to us enough so that we should know that he is there. However, he remains hidden so that we will look for him. God doesn’t remain so distant that we never encounter him, but there are always things that we won’t know. This is explained by God being both transcendent and eminent. The bottom line is this. God should be someone who consumes our thoughts all day because we want to discover him. We wouldn’t have a need to seek after him and discover him if he wasn’t hidden.

What do you think?

Everyone Has To Start Somewhere – Helping Students Deepen Their Relationship With God

It was the summer of 2013 and I was on a family vacation in Yellowstone National Park. Family is so important to me and since moving away in 2008, I just don’t get to see them as much as I would like. So every chance we have to get together turns into a special time. While at dinner one evening my mom said something she has told me many times throughout my life. She began to tell me about this amazing girl that I would marry one day and how God had someone special in mind. Instead of responding with something like “Yeah mom, I know.,” which I had done many times before; I said something different. I remember looking at my mom and saying something like, “Where is she? You keep telling me about this girl, but I don’t see her anywhere. Can you please tell me where she is at? Does she even exist?” Then I quickly began to feel guilty because my mom only meant the best for me.

This story recently came back to mind as I tried to find an example for my new talk on the existence of God. I realized that this is often how we talk to students. We keep telling them how amazing God is and how he loves them, cares for them, and wants a relationship with them. While these things are completely true, we have students who respond just like I did. Where is he? Does he even exist? What we sometimes forget to realize is that everyone has to start somewhere, and we aren’t all at the same level. As I thought about this, I thought about four different relationship levels.

  1. Non-existence or blind faith
  2. Belief that the person exists
  3. Start the relationship and get to know the person
  4. Belief in the person leading to a deep, committed, and lasting relationship

This makes sense when you think about friendships. Everyone starts at level 1 and is not aware of the existence of the other person, or they are told that there is a special person out there for them creating a blind faith. Then one day we reach level 2 and meet the person (with students you check their Instagram). This is the physical evidence. But just because you believe that they exist doesn’t mean you have a committed relationship. You then have to move to level 3 and start to get to know the person. Many times we don’t move to level 3 because we have false ideas about the person. Maybe we think they are weird or that we wouldn’t get along. Other times we think we will be best friends, but after the relationship begins, we realize how different we are. And then there is a time where we get to know the person and it leads to level 4; a deep, committed relationship where we believe in the person and trust them. From that point we continue to grow deeper in our relationship the rest of our life.

That evening, in the restaurant with my mom, I experienced how a person’s place on the relationship spectrum affects how they hear what you are saying. My mom was at level 4. She understood how amazing level 4 was and because she loved me, she wanted the same for me. That is why she has continued to tell me about how amazing it will be my whole life. However, while at level 1, I can either choose to have a blind faith or will become tired of hearing it. It is easy to believe blindly while young, but over 20 years of no evidence led to becoming upset.

I think we do the same thing with students and God. We keep telling them how amazing the level 4 relationship is with God, but we don’t help them move from level 1 to 2. This either creates a blind faith or a bitterness. They ask for evidence and we sometimes don’t give it. We tell them to “just have faith,” but this can only last so long. The other scenario is that they hold on to their blind faith until college only to have it shattered by a secular professor. When evidence is demanded, our students come up short. This can lead to doubt and cause some to walk away from the faith.

Other people are at level 2. They believe that God exists, but believe that he is evil, judgmental, wrong, or a bully. Students think God will just make their life boring with all the rules. This false view of God keeps them from wanting to start that relationship. If this is where they are, then we need to show them the truth about God.

So, instead of continuing to only talk about God’s love or power, lets add to it the fact that Christianity is true. Lets provide intellectual reasons as well as emotional reasons. When our students begin to see the facts and the intellectual reasons for believing in God, then a deeper understanding and relationship is formed. This deeper understanding fills in the gaps and can lead to a more passionate love for God.

The same is true with every other hobby. I love watching baseball because I understand it at such a deep level. Other people only see someone throwing a ball fast. Those that understand art see brush strokes when I only see a building. Musicians can hear harmonies when others just hear sounds. Computer programmers understand the code while some just hope to hit a power button. This deeper understanding leads to a more complete love. When people only understand the basics, they get bored very quickly. Many of our students only know the basics of Christianity. God loves me, he died for me… that’s it. No wonder they’re bored!

Let us keep telling people about the amazing love that God has for them. Let us keep telling them about how God is powerful, holy, perfect, and just. But let us not forget that everyone has to start somewhere. Let us have the ability to understand where someone is at in their relationship with God and help them get to the next level. Moving closer to that level 4 relationship with God is something to be excited about!

Defending Christian Ethics and the Sanctity of Life

I haven’t been able to produce much content lately because I was taking an interterm class at Talbot School of Theology called The Church and Society. Every day from January 3rd to January 25 we had to read and discuss a different ethical issue. The topics included: secularization and privatization, types of moral reasoning, Christian ethics, the Bible and social change, abortion and stem cell research, death, dying, physician assisted suicide, infertility and reproductive technology, genetics and biotechnology, capital punishment, the morality of war, sexual ethics, economics, greed, and the theology of work. It was crazy how many topics we covered and spent time discussing in the short three weeks.

With this new information, or maybe just a new way of thinking about these issues, I wanted to record this week’s podcast as a short introduction. I think that these are all issues that we will either deal with personally or we will walk with a friend or family member through. It is for that reason that we need to be prepared to think about these important topics well.

So, I hope you enjoy this short introduction to Christian Ethics. My professor, Dr. Scott Rae, has agreed to come on the show and discuss any questions that you all have. I hope that you listen to the show, think of questions, and then send those in to be discussed at a future date.

You can follow the Coffeehouse Questions Podcast and have it automatically downloaded to your device by subscribing on iTunes. You  can also find it and follow on SoundCloud or search “Coffeehouse Questions with Ryan Pauly” on your Android podcast player.

Listen to the Coffeehouse Questions radio show on Active Reliance Radio every Wednesday from 4:30-5 PM PT. This broadcast is also being live streamed every Wednesday on Facebook Live at 5 PM PT immediately following the radio show.

Like the Facebook page, watch live, and interact with Ryan by asking questions and commenting. Send in your questions on FacebookTwitter, or by text at (714) 989-6927 (Google Voice number only for questions).

How is an eternal hell an example of a loving God?

Last week I wrote Vengeance: A Lesson From Captain America Civil War. In this post, I talked about how we should stop letting vengeance consume us and instead trust that justice will come. That justice is promised to us by God. We see this in Romans 12:19 which says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Vengeance is the Lords and we need to trust in him and his perfect justice.

However, this may cause problems for some people. The problem for some is that God’s justice means that many people will go to hell. This seems to make God’s love and God’s justice be in conflict. “If God is love,” they might say, “then hell wouldn’t exist.” How is an eternal hell an example of a loving God?

Well as Greg Koukl states in his new book, The Story of Reality, people who ask this question are on to something. “Hell is not an example of God’s love. It is an example of his justice. His love is demonstrated by his free offer of pardon from hell, which many decline. But they will not be able to decline his justice.”[1] It is important to be able to separate these two characteristics of God. God is completely loving and completely just. His love is made perfect through the death of Jesus on the cross by which all are offered a free pardon from hell. If we refuse the free offer of God, then we will face his justice. And as Greg says, “They will not be able to decline his justice.”

Finally, it is important to point out that God is not sending people to hell. Instead, people go to hell as a result of their sin. Without Christ’s forgiveness, we are guilty. It’s like being sick with a curable disease and refusing to see a doctor. When we die, we cannot blame the doctor for our death. We also don’t say that the doctor killed us. It was instead the disease that killed us, and it is our own fault for not accepting the doctors help and curing us. In the same way, we are guilty and have to go to God to be forgiven. Those that reject God’s help cannot blame him. It is a free gift that is offered to every person, yet many reject it. When we reject God’s love, then we will face his justice.

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Discussing The Story of Reality with Greg Koukl

[1] Greg Koukl, The Story of Reality, 162.

 

Discussing The Story of Reality with Greg Koukl

Today, I had the great privilege of spending an hour talking to Greg Koukl, the President and Founder of Stand to Reason, about his new book. The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between was released yesterday and it is a must read! This incredible new book will introduce you to the most important topics of the Christian story (God, Man, Jesus, Cross, and Resurrection), explain them in a way that is clear and accessible, and then put the pieces together so you can see the complete picture. You will learn something from this book no matter if you have been a Christian your whole life, you’re new to the faith, or you don’t even believe in Christianity. This book will help you see Christianity in a new way and help you make sense of reality.

“If you are a Christian, this is your story. If you are not a Christian, this is also your story, because this isn’t a religious fairytale. This is the Story of the way things really are.” – Greg Koukl

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Get your copy at STR.org

Enjoy my two part discussion with Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason.

You can follow the Coffeehouse Questions Podcast and have it automatically downloaded to your device by subscribing on iTunes. You  can also find it and follow on SoundCloud or search “Coffeehouse Questions with Ryan Pauly” on your Android podcast player.

Listen to the Coffeehouse Questions radio show on Active Reliance Radio every Wednesday from 4:30-5 PM PT. This broadcast is also being live streamed every Wednesday on Facebook Live at 5 PM PT immediately following the radio show.

Like the Facebook page, watch live, and interact with Ryan by asking questions and commenting. Send in your questions on FacebookTwitter, or by text at (714) 989-6927 (Google Voice number only for questions).

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