Thursday, November 24, 2016
Psalm 100:4-5 - "Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. 5For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations." This passage defines for us what it means to be thankful. To be thankful simply means to express your appreciation for seeing God's goodness.
Introduction: Thankfulness can only make sense if God exists
Why is it that believers and unbelievers alike have this expression of thankfulness? Because God has seen fit to make known the goodness of His glory, in varying degrees, in all things. Thankfulness or thanksgiving is a universal human response to that which is good, beautiful or beneficial to the overall betterment of the human condition. In all cultures we see this universal compulsion to express verbal and active gratitude. Thanksgiving is an incredible holiday that gives people the opportunity to gather with family and friends. Today's post offers what one could call a "thanksgiving apologetic" for God's existence and a lead-in to communicating the Gospel to unconverted people.
Arguing for God's existence from the standpoint of thanksgiving
People believe that it is always good in all places and times to express gratitude. The question is, why? When we speak of one's moral duties, this includes the notion of what one "ought" to do, or matters of "what is right and what is wrong". When we speak of moral values, these are principles by which we discern certain features of our world to be "good" or "bad". The following argument expresses how we can know God exists by the reality of universal moral values and duties. If we include thanksgiving as being a universal (or objective) moral value or duty, then we can off the following argument:
1. If God does not exist, then universal moral values and duties do not exist
2. Thanksgiving or gratitude is found among all cultures and language groups, and thus is a universally-held moral duty
3. Universal or objective moral values and duties do exist
4. Therefore, God exists
Illustrating further instances of thanksgiving as a universal or objective moral feature of human existence and thus our world
What are you experiencing when you see a child born, or a sunset, or a beautiful flower, or a work of art, or the Olympics, or enjoy a good meal, or enjoy time with your spouse or children? Unbelievers in God are experiencing God's goodness indirectly through relationships and created things, even when they don't put a name to it. To suppress the universal human tendency of gratitude in the face of such experiences would be viewed as unnatural. To show how thankfulness doesn't make sense on an atheistic and materialistic worldview, consider the following thoughts.
Universal gratitude presupposes that there are universal objective standards of what qualifies as "good" and "beautiful". On atheism or naturalism (the belief that our world and universe is made-up of material, physical things, and nothing else), there is no underlying purpose, design, universal morality or goodness. Such moral expressions as thanksgiving would not, on atheism and naturalism, make sense. Giving thanks would be, on such views, an outgrowth of survival instincts developed from blindly guided processes like natural selection and gene-mutation. On atheism and naturalism, there is nothing biologically advantageous to giving thanks.
As seen in the above argument, God's existence is the only explanation for why universal expressions of thankfulness are found among all human cultures. It would seem then that if anything, thanksgiving provides a potential argument for God's existence.
Putting some Bible underneath this argument for thankfulness
God's goodness is described as displaying His glory in the world around us (see Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-20). Moses prayed for God's glory in Exodus 33:18-19a and was given God's response: "18Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” 19And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you..." Therefore we see the link between thankfulness and God's goodness or glory. So To be thankful simply means to express your appreciation for seeing God's goodness.
How ingratitude leads to a destructive downward spiral
Romans 1:21-31 gives us the downward spiral that mankind experiences when they persist in their rejection of God's General revelation in creation. Ingratitude means that you have chosen not to be appreciative and that you have concluded that God's goodness is neither desirable nor real. When cultures, nations or individual human beings adopt a posture of ingratitude, we see a downward, destructive road.
1. Discernment is lost. Romans 1:21a "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations." People that choose ingratitude will experience an inability to discern or think clearly.
2. Direction is lost. Romans 1:21b-22 "and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools" Thankfulness is the first step towards enjoying God. Whenever you and I choose not to be thankful, we are in effect saying: "nothing to enjoy here". With loss of discernment, we see the next step of deterioration - loss of direction.
3. Decency is lost. Romans 1:24 "Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them." As you go down through Romans 1, the downward spiral of judgment escalates. God operates His moral and physical universe through cause/effect and influence/response. Whenever mankind has rejected Him, whether through general revelation of nature or the special revelation of the Bible, a corresponding level of darkness is allowed to grip man ever tighter that is fitting to his warped desire. With loss of discernment and direction comes the next logical step - loss of decency. Taboos are cast off, and anything goes.
4. Destructive patterns increase. Romans 1:28 "And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper". Paul reiterates the fact that mankind at large, when persisting in its refusal to acknowledge God, will be handed for to a "depraved mind". Simply put, moral and increased physical harm to one another will occur.
5. Death of a culture. Romans 1:32 "and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them." With the loss of discernment, direction, decency as well as the increase of destruction, when mankind persists in his rebellion against God, not giving thanks nor honor, the final result is the death of that culture.
Closing thoughts: respond to the God revealed in creation, in Jesus Christ and the Bible
As we have seen, thankfulness points to the existence of God. However, not just any deity is in view in this apologetic of thanksgiving. In addition to revealing Himself in creation and conscience, God has decisively revealed Himself in the historic Person of Jesus of Nazareth. 2 Corinthians 4:5-6 states: "For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." The ministry, life, death and resurrection of Jesus is predicted in the Old Testament. With respect to the New Testament, Jesus is prominently portrayed in the four gospels, preached about in Acts, explained in the New Testament letters and prominently displayed in Revelation.
We read these words in Romans 2:4 - "do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?" Such a God is worthy of our worship and thanks (Psalm 100:4-5). Lets therefore be mindful of the fact that not only does thanksgiving reveal such a God to exist, but that such a God can be experienced and known in saving faith in Jesus.