Category Archives: Love

Are Knowing Facts about God Enough?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Since I write an apologetics blog where we frequently discuss theology, doctrine, philosophy, science, and reasoning, it may seem like my view is that all a person needs is the facts about God, and that is all. Let me straighten this misconception out: I believe facts are not enough.

God, as a personal being, as THE personal being, is not satisfied with someone who knows a bunch of facts about him. That’s nice, but more is needed. If your spouse knew several important facts about you, but didn’t love you, would you be satisfied with that relationship?

David Baggett and Jerry Walls describe Paul Moser’s insightful views on this subject:

God both reveals and hides himself, and Moser argues, consistent with Christian theology, that the reason for this is that God’s purposes aren’t just to generate propositional knowledge of his existence, but a more deeply personal sort of knowledge. God is a loving Father who, in his filial love, speaks to us all but in different ways and at different times, in an effort to invite us into a loving personal relationship with himself.

Moser argues that a relational God of love is not content merely to provide discursive evidence of his existence in order to elicit cognitive assent or function as the conclusion of an argument; rather, God desires to be known for nothing less than this robust end: fellowship and morally perfect love between him and human beings.

So what are the implications for a person who believes that mere facts or evidence should suffice in their search for God?

Moser . . . suggests that evidence for God cannot be mere spectator evidence, but something both more authoritative and volitional than that. God, on Moser’s view, hides from those who do not desire a relationship or life-changing knowledge of him. God conceals himself from those who do not recognize the existential implications of belief in God, whereas he does reveal himself to those who recognize and desire to live with the implications of knowing God.

Baggett and Walls add:

A theistic conception of reality fundamentally alters everything. For if God is the ultimate reality, our quest for wisdom is a quest for him, a personal being, not just principles or platitudes. And if the context in which we find ourselves involves God drawing us into loving relationship with him, then a logic of relations more than a logic of propositions reigns.

As C. S. Lewis put it, “If human life is in fact ordered by a beneficent being whose knowledge of our real needs and of the way in which they can be satisfied infinitely exceeds our own, we must expect a priori that His operations will often appear to us far from beneficent and far from wise, and that it will be our highest prudence to give Him our confidence in spite of this.”

Your search for God must not only include facts about him, but a relationship. At the very least, while you’re collecting facts about God, you must be genuinely open to having a relationship with him. God will reveal himself to you if that is your approach. If not, he may stay hidden.

How Do You Love Your Neighbor?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

For each of us there is one person who we always forgive every time they do something wrong.

There is one person who we always give the benefit of the doubt.

There is one person who we always judge with their intentions in mind rather than just their actions.

There is one person who we continue loving, even when they sin.  We hate this person’s sin, yet we keep loving them.

There is one person who we always wish to be happy.

There is one person who we always wish the good for.

Who is this person?  Who else but ourselves.  Jesus told us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Of course the word neighbor includes both our friends and our enemies, as was illustrated in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  So how do you love your neighbor?  Just insert them as the “one person” described in all the sentences above.

It is absolutely possible to hate the sin and love the sinner.  We do it every single day, with ourselves.  We just need to extend that to all those around us.

Why Are We So Divided?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

A couple of years ago, I asked one of my good atheist friends what he thought the biggest problem facing mankind was.  His answer: our propensity to form exclusionary groups.  He explained that everywhere he looked, people were grouping themselves and casting everyone not in their group as “the enemy.”  He especially felt this to be a problem with religious people, as he was excluded from these communities because he was an atheist.

I’ve often thought about his assessment of the human tendency to exclude and to label outsiders as enemies.  Recently I encountered some thoughts on this human predisposition, captured by Tim Keller in The Reason for God.  Keller’s answer is drawn from the great theologian Jonathan Edwards.

In The Nature of True Virtue, one of the most profound treatises on social ethics ever written, Jonathan Edwards lays out how sin destroys the social fabric. He argues that human society is deeply fragmented when anything but God is our highest love.

How so?  Can’t we dedicate our lives to our family, to our nation, to our own interests?  Keller continues:

If our highest goal in life is the good of our family, then, says Edwards, we will tend to care less for other families. If our highest goal is the good of our nation, tribe, or race, then we will tend to be racist or nationalistic [Bill’s note: the Nazis dedicated their highest love to national Germany]. If our ultimate goal in life is our own individual happiness, then we will put our own economic and power interests ahead of those of others.

So how does making God our highest love solve the problem?

Edwards concludes that only if God is our summum bonum, our ultimate good and life center, will we find our heart drawn out not only to people of all families, races, and classes, but to the whole world in general.

Since God created each of us in his image, since we are all equally valuable in his eyes, since he desires that every one of us spend eternity with him, it is easy to see how the proper Christian response to every man, woman, and child, regardless of race, nation, or creed, is love, not exclusion.

Maybe you’re not convinced that setting our sights on other things cannot bring unity and break down divisions among people.  Can’t politics or ethnicity or socioeconomic status or tolerance or morality fit the bill?  Aren’t these worthy objects of our highest love?

If we get our very identity, our sense of worth, from our political position, then politics is not really about politics, it is about us. Through our cause we are getting a self, our worth. That means we must despise and demonize the opposition. If we get our identity from our ethnicity or socioeconomic status, then we have to feel superior to those of other classes and races. If you are profoundly proud of being an open-minded, tolerant soul, you will be extremely indignant toward people you think are bigots. If you are a very moral person, you will feel very superior to people you think are licentious. And so on.

There is no way out of this conundrum. The more we love and identify deeply with our family, our class, our race, or our religion, the harder it is to not feel superior or even hostile to other religions, races, etc. So racism, classism, and sexism are not matters of ignorance or a lack of education. Foucault and others in our time have shown that it is far harder than we think to have a self-identity that doesn’t lead to exclusion. The real culture war is taking place inside our own disordered hearts, wracked by inordinate desires for things that control us, that lead us to feel superior and exclude those without them, and that fail to satisfy us even when we get them.

I think Keller and Edwards are right.  The solution to my friend’s problem is to make God our highest love; everything other answer is a dead end.  I hope that some day he will agree with me.

Does God Love You Just the Way You Are?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In one sense God loves you just the way you are, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.  Let’s unpack this statement.

God loves each of his children unconditionally, wherever we are, whoever we are.  Even if we are sinning, living a dissolute life, He still loves us.  But what does love mean?  The classic definition of love is to desire the good of another.  God most definitely desires the good for all his children regardless of who they are.  As human parents, we strive to love our children in the same way.  Even though they are behaving badly, we still desire their good – we still love them.

The implication of the person who says that God loves them just as they are is often that they do not need to change anything about themselves; God will be perfectly content for them to be the same forever.  Here is where they are making a serious error.

The very fact that God loves you, that He desires your good, entails that He will not be satisfied with you until you are perfect, until you become the perfect creature He had in mind when he created you.  The current version of you that lives today is nowhere near what God planned for you when He conceived your existence in His divine mind.

Your body is decaying, you suffer physically and emotionally, your thoughts are wicked, you behave selfishly, you make immoral choices every day, you neglect to think about God, you don’t pray to Him – you have a long way to go!

When God creates the new heaven and new earth, all of your flaws will be history.  You will have an imperishable body, your suffering will end, your thoughts will be good, you will put others before yourself, you will make all moral choices, you will think about God all the time, and you will commune with Him unceasingly.  At this time, God will be completely satisfied with you, but not a moment before.

God certainly does love you just as you are, but He wants so much more for you and He will not be satisfied with you until you are perfected.  Never use the fact that God loves you as an excuse for maintaining your evil thoughts and behavior.  The good that God desires for you is far beyond where you are today; it is past the horizon that you can immediately see.  There is no higher love.

A Valentine's Day Post

Post Author: Jennifer Pratt

On Valentine’s Day, it seems fitting for me (Jennifer) to write about how to have a secure and successful marriage.  Billy and I have been married for 15 years (we have been a couple for almost 20 years).  I can honestly say that each year gets better!  When I think back to our first few years of marriage, I cringe.   We had no idea how to make a marriage work.

Recently, I read a book entitled The Marriage Code by Bill and Pam Farrel.  Reading this book helped me to understand why we struggled during our first few years of marriage.  First and foremost, the book states that the best way to have a healthy and vibrant marriage is to have a growing, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.  Fifteen years ago, Billy and I did not have an intimate, growing relationship with Jesus Christ.  We were Christians but we were more concerned with pleasing ourselves than with a growing relationship with Jesus.  To put it mildly, we were both very selfish.

Mistake #2 in our relationship was the notion that saying “I do” was enough to make our marriage successful.  As The Marriage Code puts it, “You have to know the access code that keeps the heart-to-heart connection to your spouse alive and well.  Knowing your mate’s code–the core needs he or she longs to have met–will give you ready access into the other’s heart.”  The problem was that Billy and I were so selfish (we were ruled by our flesh) that we didn’t take the time to figure out what the other person’s needs were.  All we did was complain that our needs weren’t being met.

Here is an example of a username and password that I should use in order to access Billy’s heart:

Username: Wife

Password: Success

I need to create an environment that makes Billy feel successful in our relationship.  In the early days of our marriage, I did not realize that if Billy did not think that he could be successful in our marriage then he would just stop trying.  He needs to get the message from me, “I love the way you live and I love the way you love me.”  If he gets that message, his heart will be drawn towards me, and he will gain confidence in our relationship.

Here is one of the access codes to my heart:

Username: Husband

Password: Security

One of a woman’s greatest needs is to know that she is loved unconditionally.  I need to know that Billy is going to love me no matter the circumstances and that our relationship is secure.

Mistake #3 in our marriage was understanding that men and women are different.  I know this sounds obvious but even though we knew this intellectually it is not how we lived.  We have different needs and we express love very differently.  Reading marriage books such as The Marriage Code remind me that I have to put effort into finding out how to access the code to Billy’s heart.

The bottom line is that I know marriage is hard.  Honestly, Billy and I would be divorced if it wasn’t for our relationship with Jesus Christ.  Through an intimate, growing relationship with Jesus, we both learned to put each other’s needs ahead of our own.  We both made a decision that we would love each other unconditionally and that we would work to find the “access codes” to each other’s hearts.  I must confess that some days are better than other days. We don’t have a perfect marriage, but overall it is a successful marriage relationship.  I want to encourage you to seek hard after God and keep working on your marriage.  It is so worth it!!

What Does a Loving Person Look Like?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

This post is a little bit off the beat and path for Tough Questions Answered, but here goes anyway!

A couple nights ago, famed author and speaker Gary Chapman spoke at our church about his recent research and book project.  The subject was how to live a loving life.  Chapman interviewed people and asked them who the most loving people were that they knew.  He then asked them what it was about those people that made them loving.  He found that he could group their answers into 7 categories.

The first category is kindness.  Kindness is doing or saying something that is beneficial to others.

The second category is patience.  Patience is accepting the imperfections of others.

The third category is forgiveness .  Forgiveness is the ability to release someone who has wronged you to the justice of God, and not continue to hold on to the pain they caused you.

The fourth category is courtesy.  Courtesy is good manners and polite behavior.  Chapman listed several examples of courtesy, such as saying “thank you,” asking others if they need help, or looking people in the eye when you talk to them.  He stressed that the best way to be courteous is to think of every person you encounter as your friend.  We don’t treat friends badly, but we often are discourteous to strangers.

The fifth category is humility.  According to Chapman, humility is “stepping down so others can step up.”  Put others’ interests before your own.  Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.

The sixth category is generosity.  Generosity is the giving of your time, abilities, and money to help others.

The seventh category is honesty.  Honesty is, quite simply, telling the truth, even when you know it might hurt the person you’re speaking to.

If you want to be a loving person, and every Christian should, then these are the areas for you to work on.  I know I need to work on them, and I thought maybe I would share them with you, so that you, too, could become a more loving person.  With Christ’s help, it’s possible!