Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ready, Set, Answer

Is it the job of a Christian to prove to a non-believer that God exists?

It depends who you ask.

In II Timothy 2:15 [NKJV], believers are told to "be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." In I Peter 3:15 [NKJV], believers are also told to "always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you." Do these verses imply that a believer is to provide extensive evidence of God's existence, though? Or does the burden of proof lie with God Himself?

In Romans 1:20, Paul talks about evidence for God being found throughout creation. In Psalm 19:1, it states "The heavens declare the glory of God." Often, though, I've heard the statement that someone refuses to believe in God until they have sufficient evidence. I've also heard that many do not want to believe on the basis of the natural world alone.

Although these are understandable positions, what, then, is the threshold for intellectual belief? If one hundred people came up to them and offered their testimonies of what God had done in their lives, would there be one hundred explanations as to why it could not have been God?

To put it another way, if a person goes to the grocery store and picks up a case of soda pop, do they first have to visit the bottling plant and speak with all the representatives of the bottling company? Do they have to visit the factories where the aluminum and cardboard are produced that is used in the final packaging? Or is it important to go one step further and visit a bauxite mine, speak with all the employees of the mining company, and tour the forests which are cut down (and eventually turned into cardboard)?

What about all the equipment used in logging and all the machinery used in mining? What if the cardboard is made up recycled materials?

At some point, it comes down to faith. In Hebrews 11:6 [NKJV] it reads, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." In the parable of the mustard seed Jesus talks about how even a tiny amount of faith can produce much in the hands of God.

To take it a step further, in John 14:21 [NKJV], Jesus states, "And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him." In Jeremiah 29:13 [NKJV], God told the Israelites, "And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." It is interesting to note here that God was not asking them to go halfway in their faith or to build their faith on a set of lengthy conditions. Either the Israelites were going to go "all in" and find God, or they weren't.

Perhaps underneath all of these debates it really comes down to a matter of trust.

Trust is needed in so many aspects of life in our world that without it, it would be impossible to do something as simple as going into a grocery store and picking up a case of soda pop. It would be impossible for countries to stay at peace and impossible for scientific progress to move forward. The difference between the case of soda pop and the Bible, however, is that God will provide continuing evidence of the truth of His Word and His existence long after the twelve pack is gone.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

ePubs, Procrastination, and Metallic Ants

I have a confession to make.

Until yesterday, I had been procrastinating on editing my upcoming science fiction short story collection. In fact, I was hoping to have it done this month. It's strange, considering it is the most dynamic and diverse book I've written yet. There will be fourteen tales in all, including stories about metallic insects, attempts at transhumanism, an adventure on Mars, building cathedrals on the Moon, and a computer that writes novels.

So why did I not want to work on it anymore?

For the life of me, I could not figure it out. The manuscript sat on top of a filing cabinet for weeks, and every so often I would take it down, sit down at the living room table, and flip through its contents. I jotted a couple notes here and there, but that was it. They say procrastination can sometimes be a form of anger, but in this case it was more like a form of veiled frustration.

Yesterday, however, I realized I was looking at the book all wrong. Some of the stories have minor problems, while four or five of them have major plot issues. In the plot-problem cases, there was a great setting, decent characters, but no real story line. There was no emotional investment on the part of any of the characters and the stories essentially went nowhere fast. Meanwhile, some of the other stories are done or nearly done. There's even a story about metallic ants, who by themselves do little, but as a group organize and overcome multiple obstacles in a matter of hours.

Yet whenever I looked at the book as a whole, the negative aspects stuck with me, and not the positive ones. Instead of looking at it with a "glass half full" mentality, it looked like the glass was half-empty, and the remaining contents were evaporating by the hour!

It was then I realized I needed to focus my efforts on the main plot-problem stories first. Instead of fourteen problems to solve, I needed to look at is as four or five managable obstacles to overcome. Once those problems were solved, Only then could I look at the book as a whole set of small, but easy problems to solve. Inch by inch, and all that.

In instances like these it also helps to sometimes swap out elements of a story that may or may not be working in an effort to jump start the story. In the case of a short story titled "Corridors", it started as a cargo ship passing through the solar system, only to find a barren planet Earth and a giant, cubic ship attempting to land on it. That in of itself seemed to be a workable idea, but the story went nowhere.

So I started swapping out bits of the story for other ideas. I turned the cargo ship into a passenger spaceship. I turned the cargo ship crew into a bunch of traveling musicians who are blown away by the music eminating from the giant cubic ship (which is actually the New Jerusalem as found in Revelation 21) and ultimately inspired by it. Suddenly, the story sprang to life and well, you'll see the results in a few weeks.

One problem solved, three or four big ones to go. Suddenly, the urge to procrastinate has been replaced by the urge to write. Writer's block is something that can be overcome, but sometimes it's best to break the project into workable little pieces instead.

In other news...progress is being made on ePub versions of my books An Echo Through the Trees, Gathering the Wind, and Horizons. Theft at the Speed of Light is already available on iTunes and Barnes and Noble, however. Depending on how things go, I may also release some free "singles" in the form of short stories here and there over the coming months, too. As always, stay tuned.