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Unholy Benefits of Atheism

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Examining atheism from the vantage point of Christianity motivates a Christian to ask two questions. First, “what would I gain if I convert to atheism?” Second, “is there any value to the benefits stockpiled from atheism?”

Unholy Benefits Atheims

What would I gain if I convert to atheism?

Thankfully, the “Creed” penned by the English poet and music journalist Steve Turner reflects the panoramic voice of an atheist whose godless worldview mandates an embrace of relativism:

We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin

We believe everything is OK

as long as you don’t hurt anyone

to the best of your definition of hurt,

and to the best of your knowledge.

We believe in sex before, during, and after marriage.

We believe in the therapy of sin.

We believe that adultery is fun.

We believe that sodomy’s OK.

We believe that taboos are taboo.

We believe that everything’s getting better

despite evidence to the contrary.

The evidence must be investigated

And you can prove anything with evidence.

We believe there’s something in horoscopes UFO’s and bent spoons.

Jesus was a good man just like Buddha, Mohammed, and ourselves.

He was a good moral teacher though we think

His good morals were bad.

We believe that all religions are basically the same –

at least the one that we read was.

They all believe in love and goodness.

They only differ on matters of creation,

sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.

We believe that after death comes the Nothing

Because when you ask the dead what happens

they say nothing.

If death is not the end, if the dead have lied, then it’s compulsory heaven for all

excepting perhaps

Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Kahn

We believe in Masters and Johnson

What’s selected is average.

What’s average is normal.

What’s normal is good.

We believe in total disarmament.

We believe there are direct links between warfare and bloodshed.

Americans should beat their guns into tractors

and the Russians would be sure to follow.

We believe that man is essentially good.

It’s only his behavior that lets him down.

This is the fault of society.

Society is the fault of conditions.

Conditions are the fault of society.

We believe that each man must find the truth that

is right for him.

Reality will adapt accordingly.

The universe will readjust.

History will alter.

We believe that there is no absolute truth

excepting the truth

that there is no absolute truth.

We believe in the rejection of creeds,

And the flowering of individual thought.

Postscript:

If chance be

the Father of all flesh,

disaster is his rainbow in the sky

and when you hear:

State of Emergency!

Sniper Kills Ten!

Troops on Rampage!

Whites go Looting!

It is but the sound of man

worshipping his maker.

The benefit an atheist accrues is predicated on an assumption that atheism sets him free.

If I’m an atheist, I’d be liberated from religious demands. I no longer need to love and worship God.

If I do not love God, I’d not be shackled to a morally pure life required by Christianity. As Friedrich Nietzsche thought, if God does not exist, everything is permitted. I am my own god.

Decisions abhorrent to a well meaning Christian would be desirable to an atheist. An atheist can abort his / her unborn child. Gaining wealth by hook or by crook cannot be condemned by moral relativism. Fraud and bribery are acceptable. If anyone impedes his pursuit, he can bulldoze them, figuratively and literally. Thanks to atheism.

Pleasure in all forms is acceptable to an atheist, for atheism is sufficiently undergirded by the relativistic paradigm. An atheist is free to practice adultery, polygamy, homosexuality, child sex and what not. Thanks to the power of subjective moral values.

This is not it.

An atheist could also live a depressing life, for he would suffer a constant existential struggle.

This metaphysical struggle is between moral relativism and the law of the land, which is fundamentally predicated on objective moral values (you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you cannot rape etc.).

Although moral relativism prescriptively allows an atheist to gain wealth through unholy means, the law of the land legislates various stipulations that stifles and could imprison him for gaining wealth through unholy means. So he should painfully ponder over the wisdom behind the law of the land not being predicated on moral relativism!!

Jeffrey Dahmer, an American serial killer, expressed this struggle, “If a person doesn’t think there is a God to be accountable to, then—then what’s the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges? That’s how I thought anyway. I always believed the theory of evolution as truth, that we all just came from the slime. When we, when we died, you know, that was it, there is nothing…” (Jeffrey Dahmer, in an interview with Stone Phillips, Dateline NBC, Nov. 29, 1994.).

Is there any value to the benefits stockpiled from atheism?

Atheists who wholly experience the unholy pleasures of this material world is destined to become weary of pleasure so to doom themselves into the darkened dungeons of meaninglessness.

Edward Young, in his work “Night Thoughts” ridiculed pleasure, “Sure as night follows day, Death treads in Pleasure’s footsteps round the world, When Pleasure treads the paths which Reason shuns.” And wasn’t it G.K Chesterton who said, “Meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain. Meaninglessness comes from being weary of pleasure.”?

The author of Ecclesiastes pronounced the meaninglessness of pleasure, “I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.

I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards…I amassed silver and gold for myself…I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2: 1-11, NIV).

So atheism does not set anyone free instead it imprisons its devotees to meaninglessness. Atheism offers perishable benefits, not enduring benefits.

What about those atheists who have lost faith in God because of the problem of evil and suffering? If you’re one of those atheists, please read the book of Habakkuk in the Bible.

The author of Habakkuk complains to God about evil, injustice and God’s apparent inactivity. But after hearing God’s response, he wholeheartedly proclaimed, “Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries don’t ripen, Though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted, Though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty, I’m singing joyful praise to God. I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God. Counting on God’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength.  I run like a deer. I feel like I’m king of the mountain!” (Habakkuk 3: 17-19, MSG).

To conclude, yes, atheism offers a plethora of unholy benefits. But unholy benefits cannot enrich life.

There’s a God. HE desires that we love HIM. When we love God truly and wholly, we don’t gain pleasure from anything the material world has to offer. We find pleasure in enjoying God’s presence and the peace HE offers us through the good and the bad days of our lives. Because we love HIM, we long to be with HIM forever – even beyond this earthly life.

So let’s echo the words of the author of Ecclesiastes, who after having considered everything the material world has to offer, finds meaning in God alone, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14, NIV).

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2nxaiun


The Death of a Fetal Human is Different Than the Death of a Dying Human

While hosting the Stand to Reason Radio Show on Sunday, a caller asked me how to defend an objection related to abortion. A friend asked him how he could be comfortable ending the life of a person on life support, yet uncomfortable ending a life in the womb. He was asked to imagine the scenario of a dying man who (as the result of suffering a stroke or being involved in a car accident) had no recordable brain activity. Isn’t this person just like the fetal human in the earliest weeks of development? Neither has any observable brain activity; should either been seen as a living human? If we have the right to “un-plug” one (the dying human), why don’t we have the right to unplug the other (the fetal human)?

Fetus Dyng Human

Of course the biggest problem with this description of “living humans” is that it equates mental capacity with personhood. Can a person still be a person even if they lack a certain degree of measurable brain activity?  How much activity is required before one attains personhood? Am I less a “person” if I don’t have the mental capacity of someone who is smarter? What if I am in an induced coma? What if my diminished metal condition is temporary? See the problem? But there is an even bigger problem with the scenario offered by the caller. We simply cannot equate the of lack brain activity in the unborn with the lack of brain activity in the aging or injured. We must distinguish between these two groups:

“Not Yet” Adult Humans
Fetal humans may lack brainwave activity, but if left to their own devices (if we do nothing to intervene) they will eventually become fully functioning human beings. They are “not yet” adult humans, but if you simply leave them alone, they will become adults like you and me. Ever notice the bananas on sale at your local market? Most of them are green. Many are so green that you wouldn’t even imagine eating them for a week. But we buy them anyway. Why? Because they are “not yet” ripe bananas. If we buy them, put them on the shelf, simply leave them alone and do nothing to intervene, they will become the ripe bananas we all know and love. We don’t throw away green bananas; we wait patiently for them to ripen. We understand their value even though they are green.

“Never Again” Adult Humans
But we don’t feel the same way about over-ripe, black bananas. We recognize that bananas (like all living things) have a life cycle. There is a time when a banana’s life is over. Sadly, there are times when we must also admit the same is true for humans. At the end of one’s life, when we are sure that someone will “never again” be a living adult human being, it may be appropriate to allow life to run it’s course. Aging or injured humans are not like fetal humans. When someone is aging or injured we find ourselves asking, “Should I intervene to prolong life?” When considering the fate of the fetal human, we find ourselves asking, “Should I intervene to end life?” See the important difference?

As Christians, we are consistent in our approach in these two scenarios when we say we ought not intervene. We don’t want to intervene to end the life of a fetal human, because our intervention alters the course of someone who is developing into a living adult (this is the expected trajectory that God has for all of us as fetal humans). And we don’t want to intervene to extend the life of someone who is already brain dead, because our intervention alters the course of someone who will never again be a living adult (this is the expected trajectory that God has for all of us as aging humans).  Fetal humans ought to be allowed to live, even as dying humans ought to be allowed to die.


 

Where Social Justice and Apologetics Intersect

Last week I had the opportunity of leading 30+ high school students to live at the Urban Rescue Mission on Skid Row for 3 days. We helped serve meals, paint walls, play with kids, pray for people, and much more. To say the least, it was life changing. The trip reminded me of how important it is for apologists (and really all Christians) to be involved in serving people who are less fortunate. Below is an essay on the intersection of apologetics and social justice from my book A New Kind of Apologist. It is written by my friends Ken Wytsma and Rick Gerhardt. This blog is longer than my typical post, but the content is absolutely vital for believers today. I hope you will take the time to digest it and share it with others.

Social Justice Apologetics

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Where Social Justice and Apologetics Intersect

Ken Wytsma & Rick Gerhardt

We get apologetics. We understand the need for Christians to be able to give a reasoned formulation and winsome presentation of a rational defense of the Christian world-and-life-view. Whatever ministries we have helped to birth or nurture have been grounded in our conviction that Christianity provides a uniquely accurate understanding of the real world we all live in.

We have graduate degrees in philosophy and apologetics. We have devoured the arguments of C.S. Lewis and of older apologists like Augustine and Blaise Pascal, who describe the realities of human existence with stunning accuracy. We have conducted “skeptics’ balls,” opportunities for anyone—seekers, believers with doubts or questions, true skeptics—to interact with the claims of the Bible in raw, open honesty.

Eventually, Christ called us to plant a church in Bend, Oregon, in one of the most unchurched regions of the country. From its inception, Antioch has had an apologetics component. At any given time, we are offering a skeptics’ Sunday school series, a learning group centered on apologetics, or a full-semester apologetics course at Kilns College, the school we founded during Antioch’s first year of existence. The skeptics’ balls have since morphed into Redux, a question-and-answer service that we hold most Sundays after the regular worship service.

Enter “The Justice Conference”

But a funny thing happened on our way to an apologetically grounded local church and college.

We had hosted two successful citywide apologetic conferences through Kilns College. We brought in leading apologists from around the country, and together we offered a powerful defense of the reliability of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s life, the historicity of the resurrection, the reconciliation of science and the Bible, and Christianity’s uniqueness in explaining reality and human experience.

But before we could begin planning a third such conference, another conviction took root. We were defending important aspects and truth claims central to historical Christianity, but the Lord urged us that contemporary evangelical Christianity was missing one central aspect for a true and authentic Christian witness.

One of the tasks of the Christian apologist is to accurately articulate what it is Christians believe, what the Bible teaches, and what God has revealed to us of himself. And the Lord was convicting us that our tribe had been failing to articulate—for at least most of the last hundred years—one of his essential, inseparable attributes: his concern for justice. In lieu of yet another conference offering a general apologetic for Christianity, the Lord called us to gather a wide variety of Christian scholars, teachers, pastors and leaders, NGOs, field workers, and lay people from every walk of life for a conversation about the theology and practice of social justice.

We partnered with World Relief to host the Justice Conference in Bend, Oregon, in February 2011, and we were awed and humbled by the response. In 2012, the Lord greatly multiplied the number of attendees and the overall impact as we moved the conference to Portland. Since then, there have been Justice Conferences in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong. As we write this chapter, the run-ups to Chicago 2015, Melbourne, Australia, and a second Hong Kong Justice Conference are under way.

Along the way, we have met thousands of passionate followers of Christ, and many unbelievers who, while extending the practical compassion of Christ, had not yet acknowledged him as their redeemer. Many Christians we met were already involved in efforts to relieve poverty and suffering—the results of injustices—across the world. Others knew they were called to a life of selfless service to others, but found no encouragement from their Christian communities to follow that call to the brothels of Cambodia, the villages of northern Uganda, or the complex web of social injustices in the city centers of the United States.

Indeed, many experienced a disconnect between the discipleship the Lord was calling them to and an articulation of Christianity that had everything to do with saving souls and nothing to do with redeeming the whole person, much less the rest of creation. For the Christians involved, the overwhelming success of the Justice Conference is quite simply because the form of Christianity that acknowledges that God in Christ is establishing his justice “on earth as it is in heaven” is a more holistic, truer form of Christianity than the version that, in much of evangelicalism, had come to ignore this deeply biblical truth.

Lest You Missed It…

Justice in the social realm is a thread running through all of Scripture. Justice is at the very heart of God’s character and at the core of what he desires from his people.5 According to the psalmist, “The Lord is known by his acts of justice” and “a scepter of justice will be the scepter of [his] kingdom.” The Creator executes justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry, sets the prisoner free, and watches over the immigrant, the widow, and the orphan.

The Lord says, “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land,” and he ties the future of his people to their treatment of the oppressed, the immigrant, the orphan, the widow. What he wants from mankind is that we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with him. When God’s people fail to act justly, they are disciplined or separated from him. In commending King Josiah, God equates knowledge of himself with defending the cause of the poor.

Jesus’s own mission statement incorporates healing and social justice, and his followers will be recognized by their feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, welcoming the immigrant, and visiting the sick and the prisoner. Whereas we evangelicals have sometimes made the good news all about an other-worldly heaven, Jesus’s own gospel was of the in-breaking of God’s kingdom on earth. Paul’s understanding was that Christ’s redeeming work applied to all of this creation,18 and that his followers—those saved by grace—would be ambassadors of reconciliation,19 doing the works of justice to which he calls them.

Social Justice and Apologetics

Most of us would agree that the best apologetic is a life well lived. Our character and relationships with others have a greater capacity for attracting those around us to the Christian message than do our arguments or rhetoric.

We also know that many intellectual or academic objections to Christianity usually mask deeper reasons for rejecting Christ. You may have experienced this in your conversations with friends. One such common reason to reject Christianity is the hypocrisy of his followers—failure to live according to the teachings of Jesus and to the worldview we espouse. This is reflected in many of our personal interactions, and it’s also the conclusion of a 2007 poll designed to identify the most common perceptions of Christianity among young adults—in which 85 percent viewed Christians as being hypocritical.

Our experiences throughout the United States and around the world have led us to some clear conclusions about the generation now growing up and the reasons they are suspicious of Christianity and the church. Let’s look at three of these, because they have important implications for doing effective apologetics today.

First, young people are globally aware to a degree unimaginable just a few years ago. The Internet and social media have provided the tools for keeping on top of current events around the world. These include not just the high profile and political events and issues that would always have made headlines. They include the more hidden goings-on unearthed by the isolated fieldworker, the personal friend on vacation, or the unknown blogger.

Second, what provides purpose and meaning for many is a variety of ongoing critical problems in the way people are being treated by others. Slavery and human trafficking are occurring at a greater rate than at any time in human history, and young Westerners know this. Poverty, malnutrition, lack of clean drinking water, abuse and exploitation of women and children, denial of property rights, government corruption that leads to squalor and destitution—all of these are occurring in our messy fallen world and being made increasingly visible in the flat world of modern technology. Racism is alive and well, not just in twentieth-century Germany or South Africa, but today in our own cities and towns. Issues that rightly fall into the category of social justice—justice in the realm of social relationships—are at the center of the individual and corporate consciousness of young people today.

The Justice Conference has always been organized and hosted by passionately and overtly Christian people and organizations. Nonetheless, many who are not (or were not) followers of Christ have been drawn to that conversation and have attended those conferences. The reason is simple: all humans are made in the image of the one true God, who cares about justice. All people share with their Creator (at least to some degree) a sense of right and wrong, fairness and unfairness, justice and injustice. Therefore, given the knowledge of and ability to expose social injustices with global media, it is not at all surprising that many people today find their purpose in combatting what the God of creation detests.

Third, for most people, the truth of any worldview is logically linked to its practical applications. If Christianity is—as its apologists claim—the accurate understanding of reality, then it ought to result in practices that offer hope and solutions to the obvious brokenness of our world. If we want to remove the obstacles preventing people from following the One who cared about “the least of these” and commanded his disciples to do the same, we ought to be aligning our lives with that command.

Social Justice and a New Kind of Apologist

From an apologetics perspective, there are at least two reasons for a renewed commitment to social justice. On the positive side, justice is a fundamental attribute of God and an inseparable part of the gospel of Christ. If it is Christianity we defend, our arguments and lives must include the teaching and practice of the social justice that Christianity necessarily entails. As John Perkins has it, “Preaching a gospel absent of justice is preaching no gospel at all.”

On the negative side, inattention to social injustices and apathy toward God’s creation represent the sort of hypocrisy that prevents our defense of Christian truth from being heard.

Everything we are arguing on behalf of social justice could be urged on behalf of caring for the creation as well. As those who claim an intimate personal relationship with the Creator, we Christians—of all people—ought to respect, enjoy, and care for creation, to be concerned about and leading the conversation regarding environmental problems and potential solutions. Christ created all things, sustains all things, and died to reconcile and redeem all things, and works through his followers to actualize this ministry of reconciliation.

A new generation of Christian apologists will be able to relate to the newer generations in the language they speak and about the issues that motivate them. That means recognizing and living according to the truth that God cares deeply—and commands his people to care deeply—about justice in the social realm, about the flourishing (shalom) of whole people, communities, and nations, and all of his creation.

We have witnessed this in the lives of Christians pursuing justice all over the world, but let us share a single example, that of the Association for a More Just Society (AJS) in Honduras. In some of the most dangerous neighborhoods on earth, AJS workers minister to and fight for justice on behalf of victims of violence and corruption. As they do so, they frequently watch those victims discover (or rediscover) a vibrant Christian faith.

As they work tirelessly to reform the systems that perpetrate injustice, AJS team members present to the UN representatives, government officials, and foreign ambassadors with whom they interact a truer, more Christlike Christianity than these folks have ever seen. And many of the young people who come to participate in such justice work—whose prior church experience has offered little to attract them—find a faith worthy of the dedication of their lives.

Though the founders and workers of AJS are merely living out the call of Christ on their lives, the result is that they are frequently asked for “the reason for the hope” that is in them.

For the younger generations (and increasingly for people of all ages), our best articulation of the cosmological argument for the existence of the Creator will not receive a hearing if our actions demonstrate a disregard for the creation itself.

Our most robust defense of the reliability of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s life and teaching will fall on deaf ears if we ignore his commands to plead the cause of the poor, the orphan, the widow, the immigrant, and the prisoner.

Our clearest argument for the historicity of Jesus’s resurrection will sound hollow if we are not going forth in the promised power of that resurrection to establish his kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven.”

And our best theodicy—our most satisfactory defense of God’s goodness and power despite the pain and suffering in the world—will be seen as empty words if it doesn’t cause us to join with him in alleviating some of that pain and redressing the injustices from which that suffering results.

We believe and pray that the Lord is raising up a new generation of apologists whose rhetorical defense of Christian truth will be accompanied by just and compassionate living, and that as a result, a broken world might see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven.


Are Deathbed Conversions Fair?

By Brian Chilton

A church member approached me recently and asked a difficult question.  He told me of the story of a family member who had accepted Christ as Savior moments before he died.  While the church member was happy that his relative had made it to heaven, he still wondered how it was fair that he would work for the Lord his whole life, and his family member only lived for Christ moments before death, and they both went to the same heaven.  Are death bed conversions fair?

Deathbed Conversion

I researched this topic and oddly enough did not find anyone who has dealt with this issue.  So, to my knowledge, this is the first treatment of this particular topic.  Before we find an answer to this topic, we must cover a variety of issues that together will bring us to a reasonable answer.  We must examine the depth of sin, the importance of faith, the importance of repentance, the compassion of God, the call of God, Christian judgment, and the rewards of heaven.  First, the depth of sin must be examined.

The Depth of Sin

question2-724662

As we look at the fairness question of deathbed conversions, we must first look at the depth of sin itself.  In our culture, many possess a high sense of entitlement.  Those who possess this mentality feel that they deserve a living, deserve benefits, and deserve salvation.  Let the reader know that I am not insinuating that those who posed this question to me are in any way, shape, or form these kinds of people.  But, many in our culture do have a high sense of entitlement.  I am reminded of the word of my dad when I was young.  He used to say, “No one owes you anything.  You must work to earn a living.”  Even though there may be those who come to faith even having done some horrible things, we must ask this question, is it fair that any of us are saved?  Do any of us deserve salvation?  Have we been good enough to be saved from hell?  The answer is shocking because the answer is “no.”  None of us deserve salvation.  None of us can earn salvation.  None of us can be good enough.  This is a Scriptural fact.

Isaiah puts this in perspective as he wrote, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”[1]  So even at our best, we are not worthy of salvation.  Our very best is as a “filthy garment” to the holiness of God.  So if salvation is not by grace, it cannot be given at all, because we would have to be holy as God in order to earn salvation.  None of us are good enough to do so.  I know that is not encouraging, but it is truthful.  As the 80s band “The Human League” sang, “I’m only human…born to make mistakes.”[2]  So is anyone righteous at all?

The apostle Paul wrote to the Romans the following,

What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.”  “Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep deceiving,” “The poison of asps is under their lips”; “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”; “Their feet are swift to shed blood, Destruction and misery are in their paths, And the path of peace they have not known.”  “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” [3]

As disturbing as it may be to confess, we all meet the qualities that Paul gave.  Even the very best of us are unworthy before God.  Think about the most holy, righteous person you know…if that person is me, then you need to meet more people.  That holy, righteous person is nothing compared to the goodness of God.  So how can anyone be saved?

The only way we can know God is by the Spirit of God working in our lives.  Just like I cannot know what you are thinking unless you tell me, we cannot know the mind of God or the qualities of God unless God reveals them to us.  We then have the opportunity to respond positively or negatively to the grace that He bestows to us.  So how then are we saved?  We must have faith.

The Importance of Faith

The writer of Hebrews writes, “And 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 seek Him.”[4]  What is faith?  The Greek term for “faith” is “pisteuo.”  The term represents a “trust” and “dependency” upon something or someone.  So, the biblical term for “faith” is trust.  Without this trust, it is impossible to please God.  Why?  I think the answer is because when we trust God, we realize that He has the power to help us where we do not.  Some would call this arrogance on God’s part, but that is not the case.

I understand this need for dependency upon God more as a parent.  My son is an independent soul.  He wants to do things himself and wants very little help.  But, there are some things that he cannot do for himself.  I am more than willing to help him and give him instruction if he is willing to listen and ask for help.  No matter how hard he tries or how much he climbs, he still cannot reach the top of the refrigerator.  If he wants something from on top of the refrigerator, I have to reach down to him.

I think the same is with God.  He has reached down to us to give us something that we cannot earn and do not deserve in salvation.  God is our Master and our Creator.  Without God, we would not be here.  We need His direction and His instruction.  So, I think that is part of the reason why faith is the only way we can please God.  Plus, dependency upon His work on the cross is the only thing that can save us from the penalty of our sins.  Is it fair for a person on his or her death bed to ask forgiveness?  It is no fairer than it is for any of us to ask for forgiveness.  But it is not about justice, because if God was about serving only justice we would all be in hell.  It is about love and grace.  But, isn’t there a need for repentance?  Yes, we will examine this aspect in the next section.

The Importance of Repentance

repent

Jesus is quoted in Luke’s gospel as saying, “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.  “Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”[5]  What does it mean to repent?  The Greek term for “repentance” is “metanoeo.”  Metanoeo means “to change one’s life, based on complete change of attitude and thought concerning sin and righteousness.”[6]  So if a person is truly repentant, he or she will admit their wrong and change from his or her lifestyle of sin.  This does not mean that he or she will never do anything wrong, but that the person has a complete transformation of mind, soul, and body.  As Paul writes, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”[7]

Therefore, if a conversion is authentic before death occurs, a transformation will take place.  The guilty person will seek to reconcile the best he or she can with that time the person has left.  Forgiveness requires repentance and repentance requires reconciliation to the best of one’s ability.  Jesus said, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”[8]  So, the person should be a changed person and not simply looking for a quick fix.  None of us know that when we come to know the Lord that we will not be taken shortly afterwards.  Faith comes first, then repentance, and finally repentance brings the responsibility of reconciliation to the best of one’s ability.

When I taught a discipleship course, the Holy Spirit worked in my life and brought up reconciliation that needed to happen between one of the members of the church and myself.  The Holy Spirit would not let me rest until I at least attempted to make reconciliation.  So, I spoke to the member and we worked things out.  As a matter of fact, I believe my relationship with that member of the church is stronger now than it was before.  One other element must be remembered as we discuss death bed conversions: the compassion of God Himself.

The Compassion of God

compassion of God

Simon Peter writes in his second letter, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”[9]  The issue that Peter presents is clear-cut.  God does not desire that anyone goes to hell but that all come to repentance and faith which would lead to heaven.  So, heaven rejoices when a person, even an evil person, comes to faith because a life has been saved from eternal death.  When we think of hell, we sometimes forget the horrible eternal state that one would endure.  But, what about a person who has been very bad?  Doesn’t such a person deserve hell?  Yes, but again, all of us do.

We must remember that Jesus endured the most horrible death that anyone could suffer while bearing upon His back the sins of the world.  Luke records the following, “But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.”[10]  Jesus was able to forgive the very persons who were torturing Him while they were torturing Him.  How is that possible?

I must confess that I do not have the power to forgive like that myself, but only through the power of God.  I have had some bad things done to me in my past, but nothing like that which Christ suffered.  Yet, I have found the power to forgive through the presence of God.  It would be very difficult for me to forgive someone who harmed my family.  Honestly, I know that I do not have the power to do so alone.  But, forgiveness does not claim that something that was wrongfully committed was okay, or that something bad was right.  Forgiveness simply hands the case over to God.  Forgiveness puts the situation in God’s hands knowing that He will bring about reconciliation and/or justice in the end.  As the writer of Hebrews states, “For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.”  It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”[11]

How can there be justice for someone in the body of Christ?  Doesn’t this give a clear slate to everyone in the church?  Does this give Christians the clearance to do wrong?  Heaven forbid.  There is still a judgment for Christians as we will see later.  But before we do, let us examine the Christian’s responsibility.  You may ask, “How does this affect deathbed conversion?”  Hang tight; we will bring it all together in the conclusion.  Let us examine the responsibilities of the Christian, or rather the “Call of God.”

The Call of God

Take-the-Call

Before we examine our final segment and move towards the conclusion, let us examine the call of God for the Christian.  As we read earlier, it is not God’s will that anyone should perish but that all come to repentance.  It may be asked why some are allowed in the kingdom towards the end of a person’s life.  God does not desire for anyone to perish even if the decision is made only moments before one dies.  To exemplify this point, Jesus gave a parable about a landowner.  To understand this parable correctly, one must understand that the workers were desperate and needed money to feed their family.  It is set in a time that was similar to the times of the Great Depression where displaced workers depended on day to day work to provide for their families.  Keep this in mind in addition to the need for salvation as you read Jesus’ parable.  Jesus said,

       For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.  “When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard.  “And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; and to those he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they went.  “Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing.  “And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’  “They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’  “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’  “When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius.  “When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius.  “When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’  “But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius?          ‘Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.  ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’  “So the last shall be first, and the first last.[12]

 

From this parable, we find two great principles.  First, we find that salvation is a gift that God gives.  Like the landowner who gave money to those in need, God gives salvation to all those who receive the grace freely given.  Second, the gift offer is available until this life is over.  The only time when grace is no longer available is when the last breath of a person is taken from an unrepentant sinner.  God shows no partiality.  He loves us all the same.  But, does this mean that there is no justice to the deeds done on earth?  Does this mean that the Christian can get away with anything?  No.  The Christian will face judgment, but will be justified.  The deeds done as a Christian do matter as we will see in our final section.

The Christian Judgment: Grace Is Not a “Get Out of Jail Free” Card

get out of jail free card

In Hasbro’s famous board game Monopoly, a card exists that gets the board game player out of jail in the event that the player lands on the “Go to Jail” slot.  The card is called the “Get Out of Jail Free” card.  Christians have been charged for viewing salvation in this regard.  In other words, some believe that Christians can do anything they want without a penalty for their actions.  In fact, some Christians do view salvation in this regard.  Who is to blame for this viewpoint?  Well, to be honest, we preachers are guilty to some degree.  Preachers want to stress the forgiveness found in salvation.  While it is true that our sins are forgiven judicially, this does not give us permission to do anything we desire without repercussion.  In fact, numerous Scriptural references show that even though the Christian is forgiven, he or she will still have to stand before judgment.

One example can be seen in Jesus’ teachings.  Jesus said, “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.”[13]  Jesus shows that everyone will be judged for his or her deeds.  But, this does not mean that the Christian is no less forgiven.  Judicially the Christian has been forgiven.  But relationally, the Christian will still have to give an account for the deeds done while in the body of Christ.  We also see this in the book of Acts.

Peter, who had walked and learned from Jesus for three and a half years, told Cornelius the following at Caesarea, “And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.  “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”[14]  Notice that Peter refers to God as the Judge of all.  Everyone who trusts in Him receives forgiveness, but that does not indicate that the person will not stand before God the Judge.  Paul gives us a lot of information concerning the judgment of all men, and especially that of the Christian judgment.

Paul gives information concerning judgment in his epic theological book to the Romans.  Paul writes,

For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. [15]

 Paul continues as he writes about the judgment that we all must face.  Paul writes,

But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.  For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.  Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.[16]

 Is this judgment the same as what the unbeliever faces?  No.  Paul explains what is judged in the Christian’s life.  Paul explains this as he writes to the Corinthians,

According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it.  For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.  If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.  If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. [17]

 Paul shows that this judgment is called the Judgment Seat of Christ.  He continues this thought in his second letter to the Corinthians as he writes,

          Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight—we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.  Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.[18]

 Paul shows the importance of working for the Lord as these works will be offered as rewards and the bad things will be exposed, confronted, and removed.  Paul shows that this work is important for everyone regardless of their position.  He writes the following to the church of Ephesus,

With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.  And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him. [19]

The writer of Hebrews even shows God as the Judge of all when he writes,

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. [20]

 The obvious objection that many will pose has to do with references that our sins will be removed and remembered no more.  The question to ask is when the writers are referring to this removal and lack of remembrance.  Paul indicates that salvation is a process.  Paul writes, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”[21]  So in other words, we are saved at the moment of repentance, we are being saved as we are being forgiven, and will be saved when we are finally justified at the Day of Judgment.  God’s promises are sure.  So, even though we will face the Judgment Seat of Christ, we have the promise that we will be forgiven by the blood of the Lamb.  On the final day of salvation…when we are justified or declared “innocent”…our sins will be remembered no more.  So, in actuality, the promises of God are sure so it is a sure thing that our sins have been removed.  But, this does not give any Christian the license to sin.  Actually, salvation brings the responsibility to keep the commands of Christ.  Jesus tells us, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”[22]  Salvation brings us security so that we can pay attention to serving Christ and working for the Kingdom.  This is something that one who comes to Christ before death will not have the opportunity to do.  The issue of deathbed conversions comes full-circle when we understand the importance of the Judgment Seat of Christ: issuing rewards.

The Rewards of Heaven

Rewards in heaven

Jesus said, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”[23]  Many Christians take the position of the gospel-bluegrass song titled Lord Build Me a Cabin in the Corner of Gloryland.  In other words, the position is, “As long as I make it to heaven; that is all I am worried about.”  But really, that position is extremely arrogant.  Where is the appreciation?  Where is the Christian responsibility?  Jesus expects us to work for Him.  He gave His all to save us.  The least we can do is to work for Him.  Does Jesus show the previously mentioned lazy Christian mentality as acceptable?

Jesus did not present a lazy type of Christianity in an acceptable light.  The following is a parable that He gave that shows the importance in working for the Lord:

“For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them.  “To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.  “Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents.  “In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more.  “But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.  “Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.  “The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’    “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’  “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’  “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’  “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed.  ‘And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’  “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed.  ‘Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.  ‘Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’  “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.  “Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.[24]

Some do not like the idea of rewards in heaven or the exposure of bad deeds.  But, those who oppose this idea either are not actively working for God as they need to, or they have something in their lives that they know they shouldn’t.  It cannot be said what the rewards are or what they represent.  But, the fact that rewards are given and the stress that Jesus places on Christian service shows that they are important for the Christian.  The fact that they are important to Jesus should make it important for the disciple of Christ.  Could the rewards represent a status in heaven?  Could the rewards represent special privileges, positions, or jobs in heaven?  Only God knows for sure.  But these rewards are more important than we give them credit especially in lieu of the emphasis of Jesus’ Parable of the Talents.  Let’s bring this all together.

Conclusion:

joyful-girl1

So, is it fair for people to be saved moments before death?  It is just as fair as it is for anyone else who is saved.  Everyone is under the curse of sin.  No one is worthy of salvation.  Even the best among us is as a filthy rag compared to the holiness of God.  Salvation is a gift given by God.  God can save anyone at any stage in life who truly comes to God in trust and repentantance.  But, there is a price that comes with a person who comes to salvation late in his or her life.

The Bible gives several references to the fact that every person will stand before God in judgment.  The Christian will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ.  The problem with one who comes to Christ late in life is that the person will not have any opportunities to offer any work for Christ to be rewarded.  Remember, the works that are rewarded are done in the body of Christ.   Bottom line is that the works done for Christ during a lifetime will be rewarded.  So, the one who comes to faith moments before death will enter heaven but will have little to show for his or her life in Christ.

When people graduate from college, both thograduationse on the honor roll and those who barely scraped by will graduate.  But, those who graduate with honors have special recognition.  The same is true with the one who has worked a lifetime for Christ compared to one who was saved moments before entering heaven.  The one who worked a lifetime for Christ could be equated to the student graduating with honors whereas the person who was saved on their deathbeds are comparable to those who graduated by the skin of their teeth.  Some have honors and some do not, but they all graduate.


[1] All Scripture unless otherwise noted comes from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Isaiah 64:6.

[2] The Human League, “Human,” Crash (Virgin Records, February 1986.)  All rights reserved.

[3] Romans 3:9–18.

 [4] Hebrews 11:6.

[5] Luke 13:3–5.

[6] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament), electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

 [7] Romans 12:2.

[8] Matthew 5:23–24.

[9] 2 Peter 3:9.

[10] Luke 23:34.

[11] Hebrews 10:30–31.

[12] Matthew 20:1–16.

[13] Matthew 16:27.

 [14] Acts 10:42–43.

 [15] Romans 2:14–16.

 [16] Romans 14:10–13.

 [17] 1 Corinthians 3:10–15.

 [18] 2 Corinthians 5:6–10.

 [19] Ephesians 6:7–9.

 [20] Hebrews 12:22–24.

 [21] Romans 5:8–9.

[22] John 14:15.

[23] Matthew 5:12.

[24] Matthew 25:14–30.

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2o2mlgJ


God, The Shack, and the Christian Mind

By Adam Tucker

Unless you live under a rock, you’re no doubt familiar with the New York Times bestselling book The Shack by William P. Young that has also recently been released as a big-budget feature film. Much has been said and will continue to be said, regarding the alleged merits of The Shack as well as its reported theological (and perhaps even heretical) shortcomings. The reader can avail himself of these two articles HERE and HERE as examples of the controversy surrounding this work of “Christian fiction.” For now, I’m not interested in whether or not Christians should read The Shack or whether or not it teaches ideas contrary to historic Christianity. Rather, I want to discuss a trend that is very troubling to me which I see surrounding this debate amongst my own Christian friends.

God Shack Christians

For many years now emotion has trumped the intellect for both Christian and non-Christian alike. Christian stories/testimonies that elicit particular emotions are used over and over to draw out particular responses in people (not that that is necessarily always a bad thing). Sadly, it is often only when these emotions are stirred that someone thinks God is actually working through a particular missionary, ministry, or church. Our feelings have become the arbiter of truth, and more times than not, it is the missionary, ministry, or church that makes the most emotional impact that gets the most encouragement and support (whether verbal, prayer, or financial support). Make no mistake, we are emotional beings, but we are not merely emotional beings. We are in fact rational beings with intellects and wills, and this, I would argue, is what it means to be made in the image of God. The trend about which I am concerned is the way otherwise discerning and grounded believers, who obviously love God and desire to see others come to Christ, so easily celebrate emotionalism at the expense of the necessary, and biblical, art and science of critical thinking. The reactions I am seeing to The Shack simply serve to illustrate this point. After all, it was Jesus Himself who commanded us to love God with all of our minds (Matt. 22:37). Yet it seems too many Christians ignore this part of Jesus’ imperative.

Afraid to Grow Up

In a 2014 INTERVIEW at a church in England, The Shack author Young relayed his past life struggles, sins, and restorations. It was a very moving testimony, and no doubt God has used his past experiences for His glory and has done a work in Young’s life. But Young went on to say, “Do I understand [the success of] The Shack…this is all God’s sense of humor as far as I’m concerned. I don’t understand the purposes of God, and I don’t want to know. It took me 50 years to become a child. I’m not going back to being an adult. It’s too much work.” This is a case-in-point regarding the above mentioned trend of emotionalism. Millions upon millions of people have read The Shack and have been impacted. Because the author is a professing Christian who also has an emotionally moving testimony many Christians simply assume that this is a work of God, and that God is using The Shack in a major way for His glory. Even Young admits this when he says it’s “all God’s sense of humor.” But millions upon millions have been impacted by many other popular books that most Christians would likely classify as heresy, unorthodox, or worse. How does Young, or anyone else, know that The Shack’s success is a work of God rather than something being used by the enemy to weaken the life of believers and confuse unbelievers? Well, according to Young, he doesn’t know that because He says he doesn’t want to “understand the purposes of God.” He claims to be a “child” because it’s too much work to be an adult.

Here’s the problem. According to the Apostle Paul, we are not to be children in our thinking. We are certainly to be children when it comes to our complete dependence upon God for salvation (Matt. 18:3), but Paul says when he became a man he put aside childish thinking (1 Cor. 13:11). In fact, in 1 Cor. 14:20 he says, “Brothers, don’t be childish in your thinking, but be infants in regard to evil and adult in your thinking.” Neither success, emotional impact, nor even God’s ability to use something for His glory are adequate tests for truth. The fact is, everyone has a testimony, and God even used adultery in the life of King David to bring about the Messiah (and surely no Christian would advocate committing adultery because God can use it for His glory)! There are countless Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Hindus, New Age gurus, and even atheists who could share, and have shared, life-changing and emotionally wrenching testimonies about how their beliefs have positively impacted their lives. But virtually no orthodox Christian would claim these belief systems are true simply because their followers have a testimony. Why are these same Christians so quick to believe and celebrate most any emotionally charged thing a Christian says just because he claims God is the source? We are commanded to test the spirits (1 These. 5:21; 1 John 4:1). Lest we forget, “For Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no great thing if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:14-15).

The Necessity of Doctrine

How do we “test the spirits” as it were? How do we know whether any successful and emotionally charged story/testimony or circumstance is actually from God? Paul says in 1 Tim. 4:16, “Pay close attention to your life and your teaching [i.e. doctrine]; persevere in these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.” In other words, if a teaching/doctrine does not line up with the teaching of the Bible then it must be abandoned. When one is led by emotionalism, however, his ability to discern right doctrine becomes clouded.

For instance, in the blog linked above, My Response to Those in the Church Boycotting the Shack, author Michele Perry, a former missionary, says, “You see the Gospel isn’t a doctrine. The right doctrine alone will not get you saved.…The Gospel is a Person and it is a relationship with that Person.” While it is true that doctrine alone will not save, it is false that “the Gospel isn’t a doctrine.” The Gospel is not a Person [Jesus]. The Gospel is about Jesus and our trust in His death and resurrection as payment for our sin as Paul lays out in 1 Cor. 15:1-8. The Gospel is most certainly a doctrine! Believing the Gospel entails one having further doctrines correct. For instance, is Paul referring to the Jesus of Mormonism, the Jesus of Arianism (a.k.a. Jehovah’s Witnesses), or the Jesus of historic Christianity? If he’s referring to Jesus as God (i.e. the Jesus of Christianity), are we to hold to modalism, tri-theism, partialism, or the historic Christian doctrine of the Trinity? Why does any of that matter and what does that mean for the nature of God? All of these questions are of extreme importance and we ignore these doctrines to our own detriment. To once again quote Jesus, “Therefore I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). Who is He? The answer to that is a doctrinal issue.

We cannot feel or emote our way through these issues. We must actually think about them. That requires intense study and work. One has to actually think and act like an adult in order to wrestle with these questions. In other words, we must do just as Paul says and “[hold] to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). I would encourage readers to also ponder Eph. 4:13-14; 1 Timothy 4 and 2 Timothy 4 among other scriptures.

Yet Michele goes on to say, “To imply we can know God through an intellectual doctrine apart from experience, that my friends is a blasphemy far greater than a parable that seeks to make His heart, goodness and love known to those who have ears and hearts able to receive it.” Once again, if she means to “know” God in the salvific sense then I agree. Being in right relationship with God is much more than knowing “an intellectual doctrine,” but it is not less than that. We cannot know God in any sense if we do not believe the right things about Him in the first place! And what exactly are we supposed to “experience” beyond this knowledge of God? There is zero scriptural support for this experiential emotionalism. How do we know our “experience” isn’t demonic influence or simply the result of the tacos we ate last night? Why does my experience supersede the experience of the Mormon, etc.?

We’re right back to the absolutely essential need of thinking rightly about God. That just IS a doctrinal issue that requires much work, study, and critical thinking. And if experience is so important, why are my own experiences ignored or dismissed when I talk about how amazing thinking deeply about the nature of God can be? Digging into philosophical issues regarding the divine nature and attributes of God that we’re able to know via human reason (Rom. 1:20) is astoundingly eye-opening. It has enriched my worship and devotional life. It has helped my struggles with sin. And it is vital to our ability to properly understand the Scriptures.

On What Will Our Focus Be?

Why aren’t we celebrating the early church fathers and defenders of the faith? Why aren’t we writing blogs about the merits of the work of the early creed writers that helped us think more clearly about God? Why is someone like Thomas Aquinas, arguably the most brilliant Christian thinker to ever live besides Jesus and the inspired biblical authors, not a household name? Why aren’t Christians more often making modern day Christian philosophers and theologians New York Times bestsellers? Why aren’t churches celebrating and encouraging their bright minded congregants to pursue further study at seminary and welcoming with open arms what these bright minds can offer to the local body of believers? Why are the emotionally driven ministries the ones who receive 90% of the financial support as opposed to the seminaries and other institutions who are supposedly training the next generation of Christian leaders and influencing the intellectual life of the church? Why do we focus on pet doctrines like the age of the earth (which is a recent debate compared to most of church history) and then celebrate emotionalism elsewhere? Why can we pack out auditoriums when a Christian music group entertains us, a popular fiction writer shares his story, or a man recalls his moving testimony of his alleged visit to heaven, but we struggle to get more than a handful of believers to show up for evangelism training (that involves more than sharing your testimony) or a conference on defending the faith? Why are so many Christians afraid to be adults and think?

I know, I know. Those things don’t pull at the heart strings and they require effort to think about. Those things are for others to deal with in their ivory towers and don’t affect you. That’s not your grandma’s Christianity, and that’s not what your pastor or favorite Christian fiction author said to focus on. That’s fine. You’re free to continue to “feel” your way through the Christian life, but don’t pretend like you are doing the body of Christ any favors or offering God the worship He is due. Will you continue to withhold your mind from the whole-being worship Jesus commanded? What we feel should be judged in light of what we know and measured in the context of reality. Our will should follow our intellect, not the other way around. God is the one who said, “Come now let us reason together…” (Is. 1:18). Do with that invitation what you will.

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2nkzaWx


 

The Kalam: An Overview & Defense

By Ronald Cram

William Lane Craig is famous for resurrecting and defending the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA). The argument appeals to both philosophical and scientific evidence for the beginning of the universe. If the Kalam is sound, it seems to prove the existence of God.

Kalam Cosmological Argument

The question is raised: Is the argument sound given our modern, scientific understanding of cosmology? In this essay I will review and examine the premises of the Kalam to see if we have good reason to affirm them as probably true. The standard form of the KCA goes as follows:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

We can add the following steps:

4. The universe (all space, time, and matter) cannot cause itself.
5. The cause of the universe must be spaceless, timeless, immaterial, and uncaused.
6. This uncaused, immaterial and timeless cause of the universe is what everyone means by God.
7. Therefore, God exists.

The argument is valid, but are the premises true? Science uses Bayesian probability theory to assign a probability to a hypothesis. I will follow that procedure for each of the premises.

Step #1

All science is based on cause and effect relationships. Zero evidence exists that this premise is false and so this premise has never faced any serious or informed challenges. In our daily experience, objects do not pop into existence uncaused.

Scientists have proposed a number of possible causes of the Big Bang including colliding branes in string theory, false vacuum in inflationary theory, and quantum fluctuations in quantum mechanics. Each of these ideas propose a “universe generator” of some type that must exist prior to our Big Bang. Scientists recognize that the Big Bang must have a cause.

Some have attempted to claim that quantum fluctuations are uncaused, but this claim is untrue. Quantum fluctuations are caused by the energy in the vacuum. While no one can predict where quantum fluctuations will appear, the number of fluctuations within a given volume and time are quite predictable.

Others have proposed that while things within the universe need a cause to begin to exist, we have no reason to believe the universe as a whole needs a cause. This is special pleading of the most irrational type. If objects within the universe need a cause (when the atoms and molecules already exist), then it is even more true that the universe as a whole needs a cause to exist because an extra step is required (the creation of matter, energy, space and time). A Bayesian probability can be assigned to this premise of 99+%.

Step #2

This is more complicated. Stated simply, the standard cosmology is that the universe is 13.8 billion years old. This means the universe began to exist 13.8 billion years ago. While it is true that theorists are working on models for a past eternal universe, a Bayesian probability can be assigned to this premise of 98%.

For those who are not interested in cosmology, you may skip to the discussion of the third premise. For those interested in cosmology and a defense of this Bayesian probability, read on.

William Lane Craig often refers to BGV theorem in his debates with atheists. (The theorem is often misunderstood to be a singularity theorem. It is not. It is an incompleteness theorem. But it is completely compatible with the singularity theorems.) BGV theorem states that any universe which is on average expanding throughout its history cannot be eternal into the past but must have had a beginning. This is an extremely robust theorem. Within a classical spacetime, BGV theorem does not depend upon any particular energy condition (low energy, high energy) nor does it depend on any particular solution to Einstein’s equations. The fact the theorem is so robust makes it very difficult to evade. It applies to multiverse theories and cyclic universe theories. Any past eternal cosmological theory must evade BGV theorem.

In his debate with William Lane Craig, Sean Carroll referred to his paper titled “What if time really exists?” and its Quantum Eternity Theorem.

In Carroll’s post-debate reflections, he writes:

“Indeed, I quoted a stronger theorem, the “Quantum Eternity Theorem” (QET) — under conventional quantum mechanics, any universe with a non-zero energy and a time-independent Hamiltonian will necessarily last forever toward both the past and the future. For convenience I quoted my own paper as a reference, although I’m surely not the first to figure it out; it’s a fairly trivial result once you think about it.” (Click here)

The QET is not a “stronger theorem” in any sense. Most cosmologists believe our universe has zero net energy. So any model built on a non-zero energy is extremely unlikely. Also, the theorem has the requirement of “under conventional quantum mechanics.” But a beginning necessarily requires something other than conventional quantum mechanics. There’s nothing to prevent a beginning of our conventional quantum mechanics. In reality, Carroll’s QET is not at all helpful to his argument. Aron Wall provides a cosmologist’s assessment of Carroll’s claims and his use of QET (click here).

Proposed Models

Some models have been proposed than can evade BGV theorem. We will look at a few of these theories in greater detail.

A. The first of these is the Aguirre-Gratton model supported by Sean Carroll in his debate with Craig. Obviously, Carroll thinks this model is the strongest possible, the most likely to be true, or he wouldn’t have used it to support his position that the universe may be past eternal. But what is the Bayesian probability this model describes our universe?

In the Abstract of his paper “Eternal inflation and its implications,” Alan Guth writes:

“Although inflation is generically eternal into the future, it is not eternal into the past: it can be proven under reasonable assumptions that the inflating region [our universe] must be incomplete in past directions [have a beginning], so some physics other than inflation is needed to describe the past boundary of the inflating region.”

On page 14 of the same paper Guth writes:

“If the universe can be eternal into the future, is it possible that it is also eternal into the past? Here I will describe a recent theorem [43] which shows, under plausible assumptions, that the answer to this question is no.”

According to Guth, under “reasonable assumptions” and “plausible assumptions” the BGV theorem cannot be avoided. On page 16, Guth discusses the Aguirre-Gratton model with its reversal of the arrow of time and explains that this model does evade BGV theorem. The natural conclusion is that the Aguirre-Gratton model does not have reasonable or plausible assumptions. Aguirre and Gratton have not put forward any plausible mechanisms that might cause the arrow of time to reverse and no reversal of time has ever been observed.

Remember this is the best model that Sean Carroll had to represent his view that the universe is past-eternal. A Bayesian probability that the Aguirre-Gratton model applies to our universe is <1%.

B. Cosmology from Quantum Potential Model – Because the BGV theorem applies to classical spacetimes, another way to evade the theorem is to appeal to the uncertainty of quantum mechanics. One example is the paper “Cosmology from Quantum Potential.”

However, this cosmological model has serious problems. A recent paper titled “Perturbative Instability of Cosmology from Quantum Potential” has the following Abstract:

“Apart from its debatable correctness, we examine the perturbative stability of the recently proposed cosmology from quantum potential. We find that the proposed quantum corrections invoke additional parameters which apparently introduce perturbative instability to the Universe.”

Our universe is stable. This model does not produce a universe like the one we observe. The Bayesian probability of this model being correct is less than the Aguirre-Gratton model and is <1%.

C. Emergent Universe Models – This class of models successfully evade BGV theorem. The idea is that a “cosmic egg” that exists forever until it breaks open to produce an expanding universe. Proponents of these ideas include Ellis, Barrow, Campo, Wu, and Graham.

Mithani and Vilenkin show that this class of models can collapse quantum mechanically, and therefore cannot have an eternal past.

A Bayesian probability of Emergent Universe Models being correct is <1%.


Side Note: What About Guth?weird-guth-sign

Someone may mention the photo of Alan Guth holding a sign at the Carroll/Craig debate that read [The universe is] very likely eternal but nobody knows.” Why would Guth pose holding that sign when all of his scientific papers say the universe had a beginning? Some assumed Guth was going to publish a new paper that explained his change of view, but it’s been three years and no paper has been published supporting a change in the science.

Perhaps Guth posed for that picture just as a favor to Carroll.


In order to defeat premise #2, skeptics must be able to show that a past-eternal universe is more likely than a universe of a finite age. While a number of past-eternal models have been proposed, the cosmological community has rejected all of them as highly unlikely. A Bayesian probability can be assigned to premise (2) of 98%.

Step #3

The third step of the argument is the rational conclusion of the first two premises. A Bayesian probability can be assigned to this conclusion of 98%.

Step #4

The fourth premise – “The universe cannot cause itself” – seems non-controversial. However, cosmologists (driven by their dislike of the way a beginning of the universe points to creation by God) have proposed ideas attempting to challenge this premise. Lawrence Krauss’s book, A Universe from Nothing, was one of the first of these proposals to get a wide audience. The idea, first proposed by Edward Tryon, is that the universe is a quantum fluctuation. Physicist Don Page pointed out that Krauss’s idea is not really “from nothing” because quantum fluctuations require a quantum field (which is something). Since the quantum field must exist before the Big Bang, this is not a universe from nothing at all.

Alexander Vilenkin modified Tryon’s idea referring to the origin of the universe as a “quantum nucleation” that happened before the existence of any matter, energy, time or space. In order words, the quantum nucleation happened in the absence of a quantum field. Not only is this logically incoherent as things happening before time require time, but this idea is problematic for most physicists because the theory makes an untestable claim. Scientifically untestable claims are not scientific. The probability the universe can cause itself is <1%.

Step #5

“The cause of the universe must be spaceless, timeless, immaterial, and uncaused” is mostly non-controversial. If the universe is defined as “all matter, energy, space and time” and the universe cannot create itself, then it follows that the cause of the universe must be spaceless, timeless and immaterial. Some may argue that the cause does not necessarily have to be uncaused. But if a contingent being of finite age were the creator, that being would not be the ultimate answer.

The real Creator would be the one who created the intermediate being. An infinite causal regress is a logical absurdity and has been rejected by philosophers since the time of Aristotle. A Bayesian probability can be assigned to this premise of 99%.

Step #6

“This uncaused, immaterial and timeless cause of the universe is what everyone means by God” is largely uncontroversial. A Bayesian probability can be assigned to this premise of 99%.

Step #7

“Therefore God exists” is a rational conclusion. A Bayesian probability can be assigned to this conclusion of >95%.

Whether this God is the God of the Bible or some other God is a separate question and requires additional evidence and reasoning.

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2mJ8ZFg


10 Things Children Should Learn About Faith

By Natasha Crain

[NOTE: This post is 4 years old but continues to receive a large number of visitors from Google searches on teaching kids about faith. A lot has happened here on the blog since I wrote this–including having the opportunity to write a book that was released in March 2016 by Harvest House Publishers: Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith! If you’re here because you’re looking for resources to help you effectively raise your kids to follow Jesus in the midst of this secular world, please take a moment to check it out!] 

Yesterday, my 3-year-old daughter asked about the word “faith” after hearing it in the devotional book she received for Christmas. I told her that faith means we believe in God even though we can’t see Him, hear Him or touch Him. Hearing myself say that out loud, I realized for the first time just how difficult the concept of faith can be. My definition was true in a simple sense, but as my kids grow I want them to understand the greater richness of the word as used in the Bible.

This inspired me to study the different instances of the word translated as “faith” in the New Testament. Based on my (digital) study Bible, there are 245 such instances. I read each of the passages and categorized them into 10 key insights on faith that I hope to teach my children as they grow.

Children Faith God

10 Things Children Should Learn About Faith

1. Faith is what saves. Amongst the many verses that attest to this, Ephesians 2:8 clearly states, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”. Our children first and foremost need to learn that faith in Jesus is the only thing that results in salvation of our souls.

2. Faith can grow. Since the Bible clearly establishes faith as the requirement for salvation, it is natural to think of it as something we either have or don’t have. While that is true for saving faith, many verses make it clear that the faith of (saved) Christians can and should continue to grow (e.g., Romans 4:20, 2 Corinthians 10:15, Philippians 1:25, 1 Thessalonians 3:10, Romans 14:1). Our children need to understand that growing faith is a life-time process that starts with saving faith.

3. Faith can fail. In Luke 22:31-34, Jesus foretells Peter’s denial. In verse 32 Jesus says, “…but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” Our faith can fail due to our circumstances. When facing such circumstances, our children need to know they can pray for their faith to remain firm.

4. Faith is a gift. Romans 12:3 and 1 Corinthians 12:9 tell us that faith is a spiritual gift from God and therefore it varies by person.  When it first registered for me last year that strength of faith is actually a gift, I honestly felt a sense of relief; I had always thought something was wrong with my faith because it’s been more of a struggle for me to believe than for many other Christians I know.  Our children should understand that faith DOES vary amongst believers and that comparisons are fruitless. What matters is our personal faith growth.

5. Faith can move mountains.  Jesus says in Matthew 17:20 and 21:22 that if you do not doubt, your faith can move mountains; note He didn’t say that “medium” faith will move hills! Our children need to understand that the power of prayer lies in full conviction.

6. Faith means to trust. The book of Matthew quotes Jesus saying “O you of little faith” on five occasions. On all but one of those occasions, He was addressing the disciples regarding their fear or worry (6:30, 8:26, 14:31, and 16:8). If little faith results in worry, that implies great faith results in trust. When our children are worried or scared, we should help them pray specifically for God to grow their faith; faith that results in trust is the remedy for fear.

7. Faith is protective. There are two New Testament verses that use faith as a metaphor for spiritually protective armor (the “shield of faith” in Ephesians 6:16 and the “breastplate of faith” in 1 Thessalonians 5:8). Our children need to be aware of the need for spiritual protection in their daily lives, and that faith is the basis for that protection.

8. Faith results in action. Hebrews chapter 11 recalls many of the most faithful people of the Old Testament. Each verse starts with the pattern, “By faith (person) (did something)”.  It wasn’t enough for the author to point out that each of these people HAD faith; the focus was on what that faith produced. Our children need to understand that authentic faith results in action.

9. (Great) Faith is believing before you experience.  In almost every instance where Jesus acknowledged someone for having great faith, it was in the context of believing in Him prior to experiencing healing (e.g., see Matthew 8 for the “greatest” faith of the Centurion). Our children need to know that faith doesn’t require waiting for signs or experiences that lead to the “conviction of things not seen”; Jesus acknowledged great faith as first believing in Him.

10. Faith is a decision everyone makes. Even if a person does not have faith in God, he or she must have faith in another “unproven” alternative about the afterlife (even if it’s that nothing exists). Our children need to realize that faith is a decision everyone makes, not just Christians.

Original Blog Source:  http://bit.ly/2n1hiOs


5 Ways Christian Parents Fail to Prepare Their Kids to Engage with Questions of Faith and Science

By Natasha Crain

I’m coming down to the final six weeks of writing my next book and am very much looking forward to being on the other side of that deadline! I’ve missed being able to blog regularly during this intense writing time, so I had to take a break today and share a new post inspired by some of the topics my next book will address. (On a side note, watch for a new post very soon to reveal the cover and title of the book!)

Children Faith Science

My favorite section to write has been on Science and God, because I know so many parents are looking for help in talking about this subject with their kids. While writing the chapters in that section, I thought a lot about how we, as Christian parents, are collectively failing to adequately prepare our kids to engage with questions of faith and science. Today, I want to share 5 ways I believe that’s happening, and encourage all of us to consider what we can do better in our own homes.

1. We don’t talk about the relationship between faith and science at all.

This is, without a doubt, the number one way we fail our kids in this area—we fail to say anything at all. Not only do we need to say something, we need to say quite a lot. Over and over again, researchers have found that a leading reason why so many young people walk away from faith is that they believe they have to choose between Christianity and science. Meanwhile, other research has shown that only ONE percent of youth pastors address any issue related to science in a given year.

This is a giant disconnect.

Regardless of the fact that churches need to do a much better job in this area, parents need to take the reins. This is our responsibility, and there is absolutely no doubt that questions of faith and science will challenge our kids in some way…whether this is an area we feel equipped to discuss or not. If you do feel equipped, great—get started. If you don’t, that’s OK—start learning. Those are really the only two options.

2. We boil all “science versus faith” conversations down to one (or two) issues.

I find in talking with parents that when you say the words “science and faith,” most people quickly launch into a conversation about evolution. There’s no doubt that evolution is one of the most important topics in this category, if not the most important topic. But there are many other questions our kids need to understand, especially at the more philosophical level. For example, people throw out broad statements like “science disproves God” all the time. Kids need to know what to make of those kinds of assertions just as much as they need to know what to make of the subject of evolution.

The second section of my next book will address six of these broader questions:

  • Can science prove or disprove God’s existence?
  • Do science and religion contradict one another?
  • Do science and religion complement one another?
  • Is God just an explanation for what science doesn’t yet know?
  • Can science explain why people believe in God?
  • What do scientists believe about God?

3. We teach overly simplistic answers that ignore important nuances.

I understand that science is not a “user-friendly” topic for many people. The only C grade I ever received in my life was in high school chemistry and I’m still bitter about it.

Unfortunately, this leads many parents to either 1) ignore the science-versus-faith dialogue completely (see my first point) or 2) teach overly simplistic answers that can inadvertently do major damage to their kids’ faith later.

One of the most important ways we can avoid this is by taking the time to define key words. For example, consider the question, “Can science prove or disprove God’s existence?” If someone asked me that, I couldn’t even answer their question unless I first asked them: What do you mean by science? What do you mean by prove or disprove? And what do you mean by God? People use those words in many different senses today and you simply can’t have a meaningful discussion without understanding their more nuanced underlying question. They may be asking:

 Can a specific branch of science provide evidence that strongly challenges a specific historical claim of a given religion? (Answer: Yes.)

Or, they may be asking:

Can the field of science, when defined as the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the natural world, say anything about the existence of God, when defined simply as a supernatural being who may or may not have created the world? (Answer: No—and even most atheists would agree.)

While we may wish we could simply teach our kids easy answers like, “Of course science doesn’t disprove God!”, we fail to adequately prepare them for this challenging secular world when we do.

4. We teach only one of several Christian views on origins (age of the Earth and evolution).

If you’ve read my first book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side, you know how strongly I feel about this. There are eight chapters written to explain why Christians have varied views on how and when God created the world—based on both scriptural and scientific considerations. While many parents don’t teach their kids anything at all on this subject, many of the remaining parents only teach their kids one specific view (for example, young-Earth creationism, old-Earth creationism, or theistic evolution). Whatever view you teach, your kids will hear challenges from both other Christians and from atheists—a very confusing position for them to be in if you’ve never explained the issues at stake.

Note that I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t tell our kids what we believe. There’s no problem at all with explaining our own convictions. The problem lies in teaching them our views in a silo rather than taking the time to explain why fellow believers and skeptics interpret science and/or the Bible differently than we do.

5. We’re overly fearful of suggesting there’s a conflict between Christianity and science.

One of the things I found most interesting when preparing to write on whether or not science and religion contradict one another was just how quick Christians are to lay out a case for why Christianity and science are not in conflict. Much of the time, Christians jump straight to showing 1) how science can’t say anything about a Being outside of nature and/or 2) how there’s no reason to expect that science could even be done if there weren’t a God to rationally design the universe. Those things are true. But much of the time when skeptics talk about the conflict of science and Christianity, they’re talking specifically about the conflict between mainstream scientific consensus and a specific claim of the Bible that intersects with the natural world—for example, the age of the Earth (based on the young-Earth interpretation of Scripture) and direct creation (versus evolution). If we just keep insisting “there’s no conflict,” when there actually are apparent conflicts in some areas, we miss some very important discussion opportunities with our kids. Again, we have to define terms clearly.

Finally, it’s important to remember that the accurate interpretation of scientific data and the accurate interpretation of the Bible will never be in true conflict. If apparent conflicts arise, (at least) one interpretation is wrong. When we’re convicted of the accuracy of our interpretation of Scripture, we shouldn’t be afraid to acknowledge when the Bible conflicts with scientific consensus; Scientists can be wrong. On the other hand, when there is an apparent conflict, we should be willing to thoughtfully consider the scientific data; Our biblical interpretation can also be wrong.

Rather than sweep apparent conflicts under the carpet, we can help our kids significantly by 1) confidently explaining why apparent conflicts may arise and 2) studying the scientific and scriptural considerations together.

What questions about science and faith do you most have trouble discussing with your kids? If you don’t currently have these discussions, what’s your biggest barrier?

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2mouGKB


 

The Necessity of God’s Existence: Ontological Arguments Worth Considering

By Brian Chilton

One of the more difficult of the apologetics arguments to understand is that known as the ontological argument. The ontological argument finds root in Anselm of Canterbury’s famed declaration, “God is that, than which noting greater can be conceived.”[1] This is the say, God is the greatest of all possible beings. God, properly understood, is maximally great. Nothing could be greater than God. Thus, Anselm argues that if it is possible to conceive of the greatest possible beings, then that greatest possible being must exist. There is much to unpack in this argument. However, I would like to focus on arguments that provide reasons to believe that God is a necessary being.

Ontological Argument God

Before we look at some arguments for the necessity of God’s existence, we must first define a necessary being. A necessary being is a being whose existence is mandatory due to a result of that being’s existence (i.e., contingency). For example, I exist only because of the necessity of my parents’ existence. My existence is contingent (based upon) the necessity of their existence. My parents’ existence is contingent (based upon) the necessity of their parents’ existence (my grandparents). The logical line of necessity continues until one finds the necessity of a maximally great being—a being that is transcendent, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent. We know that maximally great being as God. Let’s look at three or four modern ontological arguments that make the case for the necessity of God’s existence.

  1. Necessity of God Found in Logical Necessity.

As we already unpacked the argument from necessity, we have found that God’s existence is mandatory. However, the logical necessity of God’s existence is found in the following argument presented by Douglas Grootius:

  1. God is defined as a maximally great or Perfect Being.

  2. The existence of a Perfect Being is either impossible or necessary (since it cannot be contingent).

  3. The concept of a Perfect Being is not impossible, since it is neither non-sensical nor self-contradictory.

  4. Therefore (a) a Perfect Being is necessary.

  5. Therefore (b) a Perfect Being exists.[2]

The first premise notes that God is defined as a maximally great being, or Perfect Being. Premises 2 and 3 demonstrate the logical necessity that a Perfect Being is either an impossibility or a necessity. Since the existence of a Perfect Being is neither impossible, nonsensical, nor self-contradictory, the existence of a Perfect Being is shown to be a necessary concept. The atheist would need to demonstrate that God’s existence is impossible (which itself is impossible), nonsensical (which is actually found in a worldview that postulates that things magically pop into existence without any cause), or self-contradictory. The only means that the non-believer has to disprove the necessity of God’s existence in my humble opinion is to show that there is a self-contradiction in God’s existence. Yet, it appears to me that there are greater self-contradictions in viewing the universe without the existence of God, thereby strengthening the necessity of a Perfect Being. The former is an impossible task, the middle is a task that some have attempted…and failed, and the third is inherently flawed.

Looking at this model from a different perspective, consider Alvin Plantinga’s take on Norman Malcolm’s argument, presented by Norman Geisler:

  1. If God does not exist, his existence is logically impossible.

  2. If God does exist, his existence is logically necessary.

  3. Hence, either God’s existence is logically impossible or else it is logically necessary.

  4. If God’s existence is logically impossible, the concept of God is contradictory.

  5. The concept of God is not contradictory.

  6. Therefore, God’s existence is logically necessary.[3]

Let’s unpack this argument. If God did not existence, his existence would be a logical impossibility like the existence of magical unicorns. If God does exist, then his existence would be a logical necessity—like the example of my parents’ existence as given above. Thus, God’s existence would be logically necessary if he exists or logically impossible if he does not exist. If God’s existence is impossible, then the idea of God is contradictory. God’s existence is not a contradiction; therefore, God is a logical necessity.

I personally like these arguments as I find the existence of God an absolute necessity. Non-theistic arguments often lead to bizarre absurdities which are at times irreconcilable. Christian theism is the most coherent of all worldview, thus the existence of the Christian God is a logical necessity. There is another take to this argument that demands consideration: the necessity of God found in possible worlds.

  1. Necessity of God Found in Possible Worlds.

A possible world is a hypothetical scenario that describes the various ways that the world could be. We live in the actual world, however the would could have been much different. With that in mind, consider Alvin Plantinga’s ontological argument from possible worlds.

  1. It is possible that a maximally great being exists.

  2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world. That is, God’s existence is not impossible (logically contradictory), so we can conceive of a world in which God does exist.

  3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world. (Otherwise, it would not be maximally great.)

  4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.[4]

Let’s unpack Plantinga’s difficult argument. Nearly everyone would agree that it is at least possible that a maximally great being exists—that is, God. Since God’s existence is not impossible, then it is conceivable that God exists in some possible world. If it is possible that God exists in one possible world, then it is possible that he exists in every possible world including the actual world in which we live. Some will argue, “But yeah, it is possible that magical unicorns exist in some possible world. So, does that mean that magical unicorns must exist in this world?” Absolutely not! The existence of the magical unicorn is not a necessity. Since I am a contingent being, it is necessary in all possible worlds that I have a reason for my existence (by my parents or another set of parents). If God, being a necessary being, is possible in some possible world, he is possible in all possible worlds and is in fact found in the actual world. Confusing? Yes. But logically coherent? Absolutely!

Let’s now look at the last ontological argument of God’s necessity as it pertains to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

  1. Necessity of God Found in Second Law of Thermodynamics.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that entropy increases as time progresses. Entropy is the disorder that occurs over time. Think of a wind-up toy. The wind-up toy is wound up and allowed to wind itself down. The winding down of the toy is the state of entropy. The same occurs with heat. Over time, heat cools until all heat is lost (i.e., heat death). The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the universe is losing energy as it continues to exist. This will ultimately lead to a complete loss of heat unless there is an intervention from outside the universe. The following modus Tollens argument, presented by Groothius, notes how the Second Law of Thermodynamics argues for the finite nature of the universe and the necessity of God’s existence.

  1. If the universe were eternal and its amount of energy finite, it would have reached heat death by now.

  2. The universe has not reached heat death (since there is still energy available for use).

  3. Therefore, (a) the universe is not eternal.

  4. Therefore, (b) the universe had a beginning.

  5. Therefore, (c) the universe was created by a first cause (God).[5]

Let’s unpack this argument. If it were possible that the universe is eternal with finite energy (which is observable), then the universe would have reached a heat death already. However, that has not occurred. Due to the absence of such an event, this proves that the universe is finite and had a beginning. If the universe had a beginning, the cause is most plausible to have been attributed to God. “Wait!” the skeptic may say. “Isn’t it possible that a multiverse gave birth to the universe?” Yes, it is possible. However, it has been shown in the BVG Theorem (named by its discoverers Borg, Vilenkin, and Guth) that all physical universes must have a finite past and an absolute beginning. So, the skeptic does nothing by arguing for a multiverse outside of pushing the necessity of God’s existence back a step or two.

Conclusion

It is true that these arguments are quite complex. But if one takes the time to evaluate and understand these versions of the ontological argument, I think one will find the necessity of God’s existence is rooted in a wealth of logical and philosophical certitude. Logically speaking, God’s existence is a necessity as it is demanded by logic and the data of causal relations in the actual world.

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2npUHen


Did Man Invent God?

I have recently become aware of a video on the internet that is making its way around the campus of the local university. Several college students told me that after viewing the video, it really made them question their faith. Now, this might surprise you, but I am all for questioning one’s faith (I encourage atheists to do the same), but if one is to question what they believe, it should be for good and logical reasons!

Did Men Invented God

In my experience, it is usually Christians who present arguments utilizing the laws of logic with premises that lead to deductive conclusions. Most (not all) of the atheist arguments I find on the Internet are usually based in emotion as opposed to logic, and therefore, they rarely put their thoughts into logical argument form. After watching this video, I decided to put the statements of this atheist into a deductive syllogism. Let’s see if it is a logically valid argument or not.

1- According to the Bible, God has always existed and predates the universe itself.
2- According to the evidence, the idea of God began evolving 14,000 years ago.
3- Therefore, God has not always existed since man invented the idea of God, the Bible is false and atheism is true.

Now the first two premises are direct quotes from the atheist in the video. Let’s quickly examine them. Premise (1) is true. The Bible does teach that God exists necessarily, eternally with no beginning, and that God brought all things into being (including the universe). Here are two verses from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament to consider:

Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Hebrew for universe).

Psalm 148: 1-5 “Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for at his command they were created.”

John 1:1-3 “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”

Colossians 1:15-17 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.”

However, this proposition is not only “according to the Bible.” In fact, a logic-based argument that is supported by scientific data suggests the exact same thing! This is known as The Kalam Cosmological Argument. Moreover, arguments such as the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument and the Ontological Argument also logically conclude the same. The Kalam and Leibnizian arguments both rationally infer that there is ONE timeless, beginningless, eternal, necessary, spaceless, immaterial, volitional and personal mind that the universe (and all of its contents) is contingent upon. What is more, the Ontological Argument demonstrates that a Maximally Great Being exists and therefore, monotheism must be true as it is incoherent to have multiple “maximally great beings.”

So, yes, the Bible does make these monotheistic claims; however, even if the Bible didn’t exist, we would still come to these conclusions by thinking according to the laws of logic and the rules of rationality. Since the Bible makes claims that are in line with the laws of logic, it ought to be considered as a plausible explanation of reality. So far the argument is good, because premise (1) is true and is backed up by the laws of logic and modern science. Let’s look at the second premise:

(2) According to the evidence, the idea of God began evolving 14,000 years ago.

This is a controversial premise that historians can argue; however, I am not interested in attacking the supposed “evidence” this atheist thinks he has; rather, I am interested in arguing logically. So for the sake of argument, I will actually grant this premise (I’m not affirming it at all). Here’s the big question: Since I affirm the first premise and grant the second, does the conclusion follow? No, it does not follow because although the premises may be true, the argument is invalid because the conclusion does not logically follow from the two premises. Let’s look at the conclusion again:

(3)Therefore, God has not always existed since man invented the idea of God, the Bible is false and atheism is true.

Premise (2) seems to assume that if we can show why or how humanity started believing that God exists, then, we can logically conclude that these theistic beliefs are false. However, this line of thinking makes a big mistake in reasoning called the genetic fallacy. This mistake is made when someone argues against a proposition by pointing out why someone believes the proposition is true. While it is correct that people can believe propositions for bad reasons, it does not logically follow that the propositions they affirm are therefore false.

The truth or falsity of a proposition is independent of how or why someone came to believe the proposition.

For example, atheistic naturalists believe that all that exists is nature, and therefore, they hold that everything is determined by the laws of nature and past events receding all the way back to the initial conditions of the big bang (this includes all of our thoughts, beliefs, and actions). So, if I told an atheistic naturalist that the only reason he believes in atheism, naturalism and determinism is because he was determined by physics and chemistry to do so, and therefore, these positions are false, I would be committing the genetic fallacy. My objection does not show that the naturalist’s beliefs are false, they only show that he cannot rationally affirm his beliefs and therefore his beliefs do not count as knowledge (a.k.a. justified true belief). The determinist’s belief that determinism is true could luckily happen to be true, even if he does not have reason, warrant, or justification in affirming his propositions.

Back to the argument in question: the atheist is assuming that human ideas about God evolved from pantheistic ones a relatively short and finite time ago. He argues that these are not good reasons to believe in Christian monotheism, and therefore, Christianity is false. His entire argument is based on the genetic fallacy and therefore the whole thing must be discarded as any argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all. He claims we have come to believe Christian monotheism is true for bad reasons; therefore, Christian monotheism is false. However, the objective truth-value of the propositions of Christianity is true or false regardless of how we came to hold these beliefs. Remember the other arguments I listed above are good reasons to think monotheism is true independent of what the Bible does or does not say. These arguments are used without touching the Bible and only rely on the laws of logic with support from scientific data. Therefore, in regards to the Bible’s claims about monotheism, it is exactly right and in line with the rules of reason. Moreover, these arguments also prove the negation of this atheist’s invalid conclusion – atheism is therefore, false!

Premise (2) is not only controversial, but it implies the propositions Christians affirm are false because of how we came to hold these beliefs. Let me reiterate this again for the sake of clarity: This commits the genetic fallacy, and therefore, this entire argument is invalid.

One last thing: this video only attacked the Old Testament’s views of God. It is important for Christians (and non-Christians alike) to realize that the truth of “mere” Christianity requires only two key ingredients: 1- God’s existence, and 2- the resurrection of Jesus. That’s it! We don’t even need the Old Testament to reach the conclusion that Christianity is true (logically speaking). I’m glad we have it and it helps make sense of many things, but we don’t need it to conclude Christianity is true. Therefore, any attacks on it, or its infallibility, are completely impotent if their hope is to demonstrate Christianity is false. To do that, one must either demonstrate one of the two premises in the following argument to be false, or that the conclusion does not logically follow deductively from them:

1- God exists.
2- God raised Jesus from the dead.
3- Therefore, Christianity is true.

Premise (1) is reached by a cumulative case of logical arguments such as:

– The Kalam
– The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument
– The Moral Argument
– The Ontological Argument
– The Teleological Argument
– (And many more)

Premise (2) is reached via the historical method and inference to the best explanation. If God raised Jesus from the dead, it seems that God is validating everything that Jesus said, taught, and exemplified. Therefore, Christianity is true!

For more on some of these specific arguments, start here:

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/does-god-exist-1

Stay reasonable (Phil 4:5)

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Biblical Faith VS. Blind Faith

By Evan Minton

Many Christians when asked by unbelievers why they should believe anything The Bible says, the most common response is “Just have faith!”. And this “just have faith” line is pretty much the answer to every single objection one could possibly raise against the Christian.

Blind Faith

Far too often people are turned away because of intellectual doubts that plague them. “If God is all loving and all powerful, why does He let so much suffering go on in the world?” “How could a loving God send people to an eternal Hell?” “How do I know Yahweh is the one true God instead of these thousands of other gods in these other religions that contradict Christianity? How do I know The Bible is true and not The Koran or the Hindu Scriptures?” And when a Christian or a pastor responds with “Just have faith” that translates in the mind of the unbeliever as “in order to be a Christian, you need to commit intellectual suicide.” This blind faith approach is so, so, so very unbiblical. Many places in The Bible command us to tell others WHY Christianity is true.

“Always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have, but do so with gentleness and respect.” – 1 Peter 3:15

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:5

In Jude 1:3, Jude urges his readers to DEFEND the faith (that’s what we call “Christian Apologetics”).

In Phillipians 1:16, Paul says that he was appointed to DEFEND the good news (i.e do Christian Apologetics).

“Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” – Colossians 4:5-6

In 2 Corinthians 12:12 Paul says he gave the Corinthians PROOF that he was indeed an apostle from God because he performed many signs and wonders when he was with them. If God really wanted us to have blind faith, why would Paul give evidence for his credibility?

In 2 Corinthians 13:3 Paul says he is willing to offer the Corinthians PROOF that Christ speaks through him. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa whoa! Hold the phone, Paul! Paul, buddy! Don’t you know that if you offer the Corinthians proof that Christ speaks through you that they won’t have legitimate faith? Why would you deprive them they opportunity of having faith, Paul? Maybe faith isn’t what people think it is.

Objection: If you need evidence, you don’t have faith.

This is an objection often proposed by Christians (as well as atheists) who think that the word “faith” means to believe something without any reason to and/or even to believe something in the face of reasons to not believe it. This distortion of the meaning of the word “faith” has had very bad consequences on the church because it makes a person think that Christianity requires you to be an undiscerning airhead who doesn’t like reason.

Here is a Bible verse that gives an example of a person placing their faith in God in spite of having evidence for His existence. I tell ya, reading The Bible is like going into a spiritual gold mine and mining all the good stuff you find. BUT you gotta dig for it. Usually, I’m not looking for stuff like this, I just happen to stumble across it while reading through the verses. I found this one night when reading through Exodus. I think it does a good job of arguing against Christians who think that apologetics is wrong because you’re supposed to have blind, undiscerning belief.

“When the Israelites saw the mighty power that The Lord had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before Him. THEY PUT THEIR FAITH IN HIM and His servant Moses.” – Exodus 14:31

Clearly, the Israelites had evidence that God existed and was helping them escape Egypt and yet the text says they put their faith in Him anyway (for a little while at least. we all know they lost faith a bunch of times after this). They ESPECIALLY had evidence that MOSES existed and the text says they placed their faith in him as well. So given this piece of scriptural evidence we know that a Christian can still base his belief THAT Christianity is true on the basis of evidence and still be able to have faith in God. You see, faith means the same thing as the word “trust”. Or as I’ve said before “Faith is when someone is holding you over a ledge and knowing in your heart that not only will they not let you fall, they’ll pull you up to safety”. You know that the person holding onto you exists. You have very powerful evidence that that person exists, yet all the evidence in the world is not going to make you trust that that person will help save your life. This is the real definition of the word “faith”.

I like using an analogy. Let’s say you discovered you had heart disease, and need a risky surgery. You have sufficient resources, so you research doctors, anesthesiologists, etc. until you have the best team possible assembled. You now have a group of people that you believe will give you the best chance of survival. Even though you have researched extensively, you still show your faith in this team when you allow yourself to be put under. Faith does not mean not researching and exploring the truth. Jesus even says as much when he tells us to love God with our heart, soul, *MIND* and strength.

http://bible.cc/exodus/14-31.htm <– Here you can look at other translations of Exodus 14:31 to see all the different words that are used other than “faith”. The NLT uses “faith”, the NIV used “trust”, the KJV uses “believed” that is; they believed IN God and His promises even though they had just witnessed good evidence THAT He existed and was helping them. This is the difference between belief THAT God exists, THAT Jesus rose from the dead and belief IN His character and His promises to you.

We are never told to have a blind faith. Paul commended those in Berea for checking the Scriptures daily to see if what he was telling them was so. Jesus showed Himself alive to make sure those believed on Him, especially Thomas (John 20:28)

Paul also said to “Test everything, hold onto the good.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:21

1 Thessalonians 5:21 seems to be telling us to have just the exact opposite of blind faith.

Objection: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly” – Hebrews 11:6

I agree with this. Without faith it is impossible to please God. But then again, it’s impossible to please ANYONE without faith. It is not possible to have a good relationship with any human being without faith. What is faith? Remember, the word “faith” is synonymous with “trust”. If you’re constantly distrusting God, you’re not going to have a very good relationship with Him just as you wouldn’t have a very good relationship with your wife/husband if you were always distrusting her/him. If you’re constantly suspecting your wife of cheating on you, I “suspect” that it’s not going to be very long before she hands you the divorce papers telling you “I can’t live with someone who distrusts me so severely”. Although sometimes that kind of suspicion is warranted.

I walk by faith, not by sight. This doesn’t mean I believe God exists without any evidence or reason. It means I trust in Him even when I don’t know what He’s up to. Sometimes our circumstances can have deceitful appearances. Sometimes it looks like God has abandoned us when He really hasn’t. Sometimes it looks like God won’t keep His promises. Sometimes we think our suffering has no good purpose to it. It is in times like these that we have to have faith in (i.e to place our TRUST in) God. That His plans are for ours or someone else’s ultimate good.

Having evidence for God’s existence does not mean you’re not walking by faith. Faith is placing one’s trust in a person. Just because you have EVIDENCE for that person’s existence does not mean you don’t trust them. Moses had PLENTY of evidence for God’s existence, but He still had to trust that God was going to lead Him and the Jews where He said they were going to. Many times it looked like Yahweh was leading them on a wild goose chase, but Moses continued to have FAITH in the God which he had plenty of proof existed. Although many of the people did lose faith. They got impatient and started worshipping false idols, and constantly complained.

Objection: Do Apologists forget the work of The Holy Spirit?

Anyone who does apologetics knows the Holy Spirit has to play an integral part of the entire process. As Ergun Caner says, “It is impossible to be effective in apologetics without the work of the Spirit in both the apologist and the hearer.” (2) No mature apologist forgets that the Bible stresses that humans are blinded by sin. Therefore, sin has damaging consequences on the knowing process (Is. 6:9-10; Zech. 7:11-12; Matt. 13:10-13; 2 Cor. 4:4). How people respond to God’s revelation depends on several factors such as his/her personal history (both past and present). People can be hardened towards God; sin certainly dampens an individual’s ability to being receptive to God’s invitation to them. The Holy Spirit works through apologetics just as He works through preaching.

Objection: Shouldn’t we just preach the gospel?

This is true. By all means, “Preach the Gospel!” But guess what? What do you do when you try to open the Bible and use it with someone who doesn’t think the Bible is an authoritative or inspired book? This happens all the time to Christians. And did you know Muslims and other people think their holy book is just as inspired and authoritative as the Bible? The Hindus think their scriptures are inspired. The Buddhists think their holy scriptures are inspired. If you keep trying to quote the Bible, you would be “begging the question.”

“Begging the question” is a form of logical fallacy in which a statement or claim is assumed to be true without evidence other than the statement or claim itself. When one begs the question, the initial assumption of a statement is treated as already proven without any logic to show why the statement is true in the first place. In some cases, you may be able to go quote the Bible to many people without any objections, like when you’re trying to witness to Mormons and Jehova’s Witnesses. If you’re witnessing to Jews, you can show them all the messianic prophesies and how Jesus fulfilled all of the prophesies. But in other cases (like when witnessing to atheists and agnostics), you would need to show the individual the Bible is a reliable historical document before trying to use it as an authoritative text in these types of conversations.

Avoiding Apologetics can have dire consequences.
Christianity is under a severe attack in this day and age. In fact, I’ve never seen the Christian faith under attack more than I have in the 21st century. “The New Atheist” movement has set a goal to eliminate religious belief from the face of the Earth. High School teachers and College professors endorse Darwinian evolution and try to convince your kids that a Creator was not needed for advanced life to come into being.

Christian philosopher William Lane Craig concurs. He said “In high school and college Christian teenagers are intellectually assaulted with every manner of non-Christian worldview coupled with an overwhelming relativism. If parents are not intellectually engaged with their faith and do not have sound arguments for Christian theism and good answers to their children’s questions, then we are in real danger of losing our youth. It’s no longer enough to simply teach our children Bible stories; they need doctrine and apologetics. It’s hard to understand how people today can risk parenthood without having studied apologetics.”

If Jesus wants us to have blind faith, then why did He have to fulfill so many ancient prophesies? 
If God required us to have blind faith, then why did Jesus have to fulfill so many prophesies to PROVE to the Jews that He was the true messiah? Why couldn’t Jesus just come onto the scene and say “Hey, I’m the Messiah, follow me!” Maybe because so many other people were claiming to be the Messiah at the time period and they were NOT the messiah. The Jews needed the ability to tell truth from falsehood. The Jews needed the ability to tell the difference between the TRUE messiah and a phony. Blind Faith can’t give you that. God gave the Jews a test for the real messiah to take and if He was able to get a perfect score, then their conclusion would be that He was and is the messiah. Lee Strobel calls this “The Fingerprint Evidence” in his book “The Case For Christ”. Jesus had to fulfill each and every one of the messianic prophesies. If He did, then that proved He was the genuine article.
 
Blind Faith can actually be dangerous!
Blind Faith can actually be dangerous. How are you going to “beware of false prophets” like Jesus said if you don’t exercise some discernment? Back in ancient Judaism, the way to tell if a prophet was truly from God was if he gave evidence that he came from God. How’s that? Well, if his prophesies came true then he was truly from The Lord but if his prophesies were false then everyone knew he was a false prophet and they had him stoned. 1 John 4:1 says “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Yet another verse telling us that blind faith is wrong. This verse is telling us that we should “test the spirits” to see if they give evidence that they are indeed from God.

NOTEWORTHY QUOTES:
“I do not feel obliged to believe that same God who endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect had intended for us to forgo their use.” – Galileo Galilei

“As I speak around the country, I often encounter devoted, committed Christians who are hesitant to embrace an evidential faith. In many Christian circles, faith that requires evidential support is seen as weak and inferior. For many, blind faith (a faith that simply trusts without question) is the truest, most sincere, and most valuable form of faith that we can offer God. Yet Jesus seemed to have a high regard for evidence. In John 14:11, He told those watching Him to examine ‘the evidence of miracles’ (NIV) if they did not believe what He said about His identity. Even after the resurrection, Jesus stayed with His disciples for an additional forty days and provided them with ‘many convincing proofs’ that He was resurrected and was who He claimed to be (Acts 1:2-3 NIV). Jesus understood the role and value of evidence and the importance of developing an evidential faith. It’s time for all of us, as Christians, to develop a similarly reasonable faith’.” —J. Warner Wallace

“The “I just take Christianity on (blind) faith” attitude can’t be the right approach. It leaves the Bible without defense, yet Peter directs us to make a defense for the hope that is in us. Also, the biblical word for faith, pistis, doesn’t mean wishing. It means active trust. And trust cannot be conjured up or manufactured. It must be earned. You can’t exercise the kind of faith the Bible has in mind unless you’re reasonably sure that some particular things are true. In fact, I suggest you completely ban the phrase “leap of faith” from your vocabulary. Biblical faith is based on knowledge, not wishing or blind leaps. Knowledge builds confidence and confidence leads to trust. The kind of faith God is interested in is not wishing. It’s trust based on knowing, a sure confidence grounded in evidence.’ – Greg Koukl


Any and every other belief you hold, about anything whatsoever, if it is to be taken seriously, if it is to be of any value or worth anyone’s consideration, it must have in its favor more than your emotions, personal history or external circumstantial factors. It must have reasons.” —Clint Roberts (from the article, Believing for No Reason)
 
 “Question with boldness. Question even if the very existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.” – Thomas Jefferson

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How to Leverage Moral Outrage for the Gospel

By Michael C Sherrard

It is good to acknowledge the appropriateness of ones anger in the midst of evil and pain. It is right to be angry over injustice. It is right to be sick at crimes against children. It is good for you to feel a hole in your stomach as you look upon the devastation and loss of life caused by a natural disaster. It is right to think, “This is not how life is supposed to be.” The key is for anger to be directed rightly whereupon your steps follow the right path of action.

Moral Gospel Christianity

Acknowledging an individual’s sense of justice can lead them to repentance. When we are angry at evil, we are acknowledging that life has purpose. We are recognizing that there is a difference between good and bad. We are affirming that bad should be punished. But what does that mean for my bad actions? And from where did my sense of justice come in the first place?

If life is the result of an accident, how can life have a purpose? And if life has no purpose, why am I angry at what I think is unfair? My sense of oughtness is an indication that I believe in a standard of life. But what standard, an arbitrary one set by changing cultures driven by natural selection or a transcendent one that never changes even though societies might? Mankind’s sense of justice can point them to the good Judge. Affirm their outrage and direct it properly.

If you take people down this road, you will see how mankind’s universal sense of justice is to the gospel’s advantage. There is only one worldview that provides a justification for belief in inherent human value and thereby true morality. It is theism. A transcendent creator is needed for our sense of justice to have any value. Existence must have been intentional for life to have intrinsic and objective worth. And simply, when we look at the world and say, “That is wrong!” there has to be an eternally fixed “right” for our moral indignation to have any value. Leverage this understanding that all naturally possess and direct them toward the One who is not only the standard of life, but its very essence.

This blog was originally published at MichaelCSherrard.com


Necessary Existence of God

By Prayson Daniel

Judeo-Christians understand God as a being that is perfect in knowledge (Ps. 147:5), power (Job 42:2), presence (Ps. 139), acts (Ps. 18:30) and has none greater (Heb. 6:13) nor equal (Ps. 40:6).

Following Anselm’scredimus te esse aliquid quo nihil maius cogitari possit“¹, God is understood to be a Being that exhibits maximal perfection. God is, borrowing Alvin Plantinga’s words, a being “having an unsurpassable degree of greatness—that is, having a degree of greatness such that it’s not possible that there exist a being having more.” (Plantinga 2002: 102 emp. removed)

Necessary Existence of God

God is thus understood to be a being having maximal excellence with respect to power (omnipotence), knowledge (omniscience), presence (omnipresence), and is morally perfect (this is why, for example, God cannot lie or be unrighteous).

From S5 modal logic the existence of such a being(God) is either impossible or necessary. The concept of contingent existence of God is a contradictory idea since (i) necessarily, “a being is maximally great only if it has maximal excellence in every world” and (ii) necessarily, “a being has maximal excellence in every world only if it has omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection in every world.” (2002: 111)

Thus either the existence of God is impossible or necessary. The existence of God is not impossible. Therefore it is necessary. Therefore God, as understood by Judeo-Christians, exists.

Is this a persuasive case for existence of such a Being? I think it is not persuasive. Nevertheless it does show that Judeo-Christians’ understanding of God is rationally acceptable. Theists do have warrant in believing in a being with unsurpassed degree of greatness (God).

_____________________

¹ Anselmus Cantuariensis Prologion: Trans. [W]e believe that You[God] are a being than which nothing greater can be conceived.

Plantinga, Alvin (2002) God, Freedom & Evil. First published by Harper and Row., 1974. Reprinted 2002.

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Rapid Response: “Did Jesus Think Jesus Was God?”

In our Rapid Response series, we tackle common concerns about (and objections to) the Christian worldview by providing short, conversational responses. These posts are designed to model what our answers might look like in a one-on-one setting, while talking to a friend or family member. What would you say if someone said, “I’ve read some of the Bible and I can’t find a place where Jesus actually said, ‘I am God’. I’m not even sure Jesus thought he was God.” Here is a conversational example of how I recently responded to this statement:

Did Jesus Think Jesus Was God

“You know, this is one of the claims I used to make with the Christians I knew because I wasn’t a careful reader of scripture. It wasn’t really until I started to use my expertise in forensic statement analysis (where we look at every little word a suspect says, his use of pronouns, how he introduces things and how he describes people), that I started to see things I used to miss. But you don’t have to be an expert in Statement Analysis to read between the lines of Scripture. In fact, anyone can do this by carefully reading the Bible.

Let me give you an example: When I first looked at the gospels and the Old Testament, I noticed the stark contrast between Old Testament prophets (I don’t care if it’s Ezekiel, or Isaiah, or if it’s a minor prophet like Amos), all these prophets in the Old Testament, when announcing a truth claim from God, would say, “Thus the Lord Almighty says” or “The Lord God says” or, they would always announce that this information is coming from the Lord Almighty.

But Jesus never ever did that. There’s not a single time you’ll find him in the gospels saying, “The Lord Almighty says.” Instead he’ll say something, at least in the King James, “Verily, verily, I say to you” or in the NASB, “I tell you the truth.” Jesus never says, “God says this.” Instead, Jesus says, “I am telling you this.” Think about that for a minute. The people who heard Jesus in the 1st Century were accustomed to the prophets in every generation announcing a proclamation from God as “Thus the Lord God Almighty says to you.” When they heard Jesus proclaim, “I say this to you,” they understood what he meant. Jesus’ words gave him away. Even if you didn’t have a direct claim from Jesus where he said, “Hey, by the way guys, I’m God,” he used statements that included personal pronoun use indicating that he considered Himself to be God. He never felt compelled to say, “God’s telling you this.” Instead, he said, “I’m telling you this.” Jesus understood himself to be the God of the universe, the Being who created everything.”

This brief answer was modified from my interview with Bobby Conway. To learn more and watch many other short answers to difficult questions, please visit the One-Minute Apologist website.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case ChristianityCold-Case Christianity for Kids, and God’s Crime Scene.

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Rapid Response: Who Created God?

In our Rapid Response series, we tackle common concerns about (and objections to) the Christian worldview by providing short, conversational responses. These posts are designed to model what our answers might look like in a one-on-one setting, while talking to a friend or family member. What would you say if someone asked, “If you think God created everything, who created God?” Here is a conversational example of how I recently answered this question:

Who Created God

“Well, when you work criminal investigations, you’re always looking for the ultimate cause of any crime. So, in the end that, that person who is the cause of this crime is the suspect you’re trying to identify. So I understand the impulse people have when they ask this question.

But I want to offer this: even as an atheist (I wasn’t a theist until I was 35), all of us are looking for the first ‘un-caused cause’. So if I’m an atheist today who believes in a primordial, quantum vacuum from which our universe came into existence, I would be offering the vacuum as the eternal ‘un-caused cause’. All of us believe in an eternal ‘un-caused cause.’ Theists aren’t the only people who ae arguing for this. The only question is: is the uncaused, first cause of the universe personal or impersonal?

As a Christian, I obviously believe the cause of the universe is personal: God. And as a Christian, I hold a very particular definition of God. He is the un-caused creator of the universe. So, to ask a silly question like, “Who caused the un-caused creator of the Universe” is a bit silly. He is uncaused by definition. And once, again, all of us have the same dilemma. Whether you’re an atheists or a theist, you are looking for the first, un-caused cause of the universe. I would simply argue that, given the nature of our universe (the appearance of design in the universe and in biology, the existence of humans who have minds and free-agency, and the existence of transcendent, objective moral obligations), the best and most reasonable inference for this cause is God.

So, I do think, in the end, the choice is clear. Is the first uncaused, cause of the universe personal or impersonal? If it’s a personal cause, then we’re stuck with a Being very similar to what we see described in the scripture as God. A transcendent, non-spatial, immaterial, a-temporal, intelligent Being who is responsible for the fine-tuning of the universe, the origin of life, the appearance of design, the existence of mind and free-agency and the source of all transcendent, moral obligations. That’s why I believe Christianity is true, and that why I reject the idea that the un-caused, first cause of the universe is something other than a personal God.”

This brief answer was modified from my interview with Bobby Conway. To learn more and watch many other short answers to difficult questions, please visit the One-Minute Apologist website.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity,Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, and God’s Crime Scene.


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Tetragrammaton And Jehovah’s Witnesses

By Prayson Daniel

Unwarrantedly Watchtower Society’s Translation Committee added “Jehovah” in 237 places in New Testament. By doing so, New World Translation (NWT), Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Bible, blurs many passages that depicts Christ Jesus as Lord (Kyrios) of Old Testament.

Tetragrammaton And Jehovah's Witnesses

In Journal of Biblical Literature, Kurt Aland showed that the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, does not appear in any of the 5,255 known New Testament Greek manuscripts (Aland 1968: 184). The Tetragrammaton is also absent in the writing of the early Christians. For example, Clement’s epistle to the Corinthians written ca. 100 A.D quoted Joshua 2 cf. Heb. 11:31(“I[Rahab] know assuredly that the Lord(“κύριος”) your God hath given you this city […](1 Clement 12), Ezekiel 33:11 “For as I live, said the Lord (Ky′ri·os), I do not desire the death of the sinner so much as his repentance”.(1 Clement 8). NWT’s unwarrantedly added “Jehovah” in front of “Lord”.

In the same period, the author of the epistle of Barnabas quoted Exodus 24:18, 31:18, 32:7; Deut. 9:12. and Isa. 42:,6-7, 61:1- 2 in just chapter fourteen and in all times he used “κύριος”(Lord) . While years later Irenaeus quoted Matthew 1:20; 4:10, Romans 11:34, and Acts 2: 25 in Against Heresies using “Lord” and not “Jehovah”, contrary to Watchtower Society’s Translation Committee. Both Philo and Josephus, like New Testament writers and early Christians, probably used the complete Septuagint (LXX ) which had “κύριος”(Lord). Some of older fragments of LXX do contain the tetragrammaton while others simply had blank spaces in place of the tetragrammation (e.g. Papyrus Rylands 458 )

Even though Watch Tower Society do know as entailed by their own question , viz., “[w]hy, then, is the name absent from the extant manuscripts of the Christian Greek Scriptures or so-called “New Testament”?”(Watchtower 1971: 887) that the tetragammaton does not appear in any known Greek manuscripts, they, without warrant, press forward and reject the use of Kyrios (Lord) in 5000+ Greek manuscripts dating from 2rd century and early Christians’ writings as corrupted. Watch Tower Society found their support, that New Testament must have had tetragammation, in 25 Hebrew J Versions of the Bible and 2 non-version (J1 to J27), the translations of New Testaments into Hebrew , which came to scene earliest late 14th century onwards

New World Translation translators should be commend for restoring the tetragrammation in Hebrews Scriptures(Old Testament) but I think from their own reasoning which is in a form of a question and answer, namely:

How is a modern translator to know or determine when to render the Greek words κύριος and θεός into the divine name in his version? By determining where the inspired Christian writers have quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures. Then he must refer back to the original to locate whether the divine name appears there.(Watchtower 1969: 18-19)

With the use of Lord and not YHWH (tetragrammaton) in all known copies of copies of originals (since historians have no surviving original or copies of originals) of New Testaments Greek manuscripts, contrary to Watch Tower’s Society, adding of thetetragrammaton in New Testament would not be restoration of God’s name but distorting and blurring the author’s meaning.

Blurring of 1 Corinthians 10:9: Who Is Put To The Test?

One of the passage which I believe Watchtower Society’s Translation Committee blurs with this maneuver is 1 Corinthians 10:9: “Neither let us put Jehovah to the test, as some of them put [him] to the test, only to perish by the serpents.”(NWT). With this move Jehovah’s Witnesses are led to believe that it is Jehovah the Father that the Israelites put to test and not Christ Jesus who is the rock to which Israelites drank a spiritual drink (v4).

Faithfully Watchtower Society’s translators added a footnote in their translation of this verse. They explained that “Jehovah” appears in Hebrews J Versions of the Bible 18, 22and 23, while Codex Sinaiticus(א), and Vatican ms 1209(B) both of 4th century and Codex Ephraemi rescriptus(C) of 5th century have ton Ky′ri·on (Lord), Papyrus 46 of 3rd century and Bezae Codices(D) of 5th and 6th century have “the Christ” and last Codex Alexandrinus(A), of 5th century has “God.”

“On closer examination,” The NET Bible Bible First Edition Notes explained, “the variants appear to be intentional changed.”

Alexandrian scribes replaced the highly specific term “Christ” with the less specific terms “Lord” and “God” because in the context it seems to be anachronistic to speak of the exodus generation putting Christ to the test. If the original had been “Lord,” it seems unlikely that a scribe would have willingly created a difficulty by substituting the more specific “Christ.”(Biblical Studies Press 2006)

They argued that scribes were likely “to assimilate the word “Christ” to “Lord” in conformity with Deut 6:16 or other passages”.

The evidence from the early church regarding the reading of this verse is rather compelling in favor of “Christ.” Marcion, a second-century, anti-Jewish heretic, would naturally have opposed any reference to Christ in historical involvement with Israel, because he thought of the Creator God of the OT as inherently evil. In spite of this strong prejudice, though, {Marcion} read a text with “Christ.” Other early church writers attest to the presence of the word “Christ,” including {Clement of Alexandria} and Origen.(ibid)

If The NET Bible First Edition Notes is correct, which I believe it is, then Watch Tower Bible translators blurred 1 Cor. 10:9 that depicts Christ Jesus as the Yahweh of the Old Testament by selectively embracing a late 14th century J version of the Bible when convenient. Watch Tower Society ignored places in J versions, for example J14’s reading of 1 Corinthians 12:3, “[…] no one can say “Jesus is Lord Jehovah, except by the Holy Spirit.” and J7 and J8’s reading of Hebrew 1:10; J13 , J14 and J20’s reading of 1 Peter 2:3 which all applied the tetragrammaton to Jesus.

Question To Jehovah’s Witnesses: If the name “Jehovah” was changed to “Lord” in all 5000+ Greek manuscripts ranging from 2nd century, why don’t we have even a single early manuscripts with “Jehovah” nor do the first Christians make use of it?

Note: >> Scroll all the way down to get a Free Resource << To know more about NT Greek Manuscripts, here is a table with a name of a manuscript, its branch, category, content and location arranged by date.

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Bibliography:

Aland, Kurt (1968). Greek New Testament: its present and future editions. Journal of Biblical Literature 87.2: 179-186.

Biblical Studies Press. (2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (1 Co 10:9). Biblical Studies Press.

Watchtower Society (1969) Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scripture. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.

____________________ (1971) Aid To Bible Understanding. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.

_____________________ (1984) New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures – With References. Rendered from the Original Languages by the New World Bible Translation Committee. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.

______________________ (1989) Reasoning From the Scripture. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. Brooklyn, New York.

Are Miracles Metaphysically Impossible?

By Tim Stratton

Are Miracles Metaphysically Impossible?“It’s impossible for God to interact in the physical world. For example, say we have a material object and God wants to move it. Newton made it clear: every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Therefore, since God is an immaterial being He could never cause anything to happen or occur in the material/physical universe. Therefore, miracles are impossible!”

Mr. Skeptic


I spend much of my time arguing against naturalism; specifically against the idea that only the physical universe exists. This is accomplished by utilizing logical arguments reaching deductive conclusions that demonstrate the existence of both God and the human soul. Many times the best discoveries in modern science support premises in these deductive arguments reaching supernatural conclusions.

One of the most common objections I receive on the internet is known as the interaction objection. I previously wrote an article regarding this specific kind of objection in regards to the human soul [1]. The objection above is quite similar, but specifically against the idea of God not only being able to create the universe, but especially to act in it (miracles).

One of my lecturing professors at Biola University was the eminent philosopher, JP Moreland. I chose to attend Biola University basically for two reasons: William Lane Craig and JP Moreland. Not long ago my wife and I had the privilege of having dinner with JP Moreland. I learned more that night than from any class lecture. We discussed many things that evening and this topic of God interacting in the world was included. Based on that conversation, I believe that the objection above fails for at least three reasons.

Empirical Observations & Metaphysical Principles

First of all, Newton’s 3rd law is not a metaphysical principle; rather, it is an empirical one. The problem here is that one cannot logically derive metaphysical principles from mere empirical observations. Moreland said, “Any freshman philosophy student should know that you cannot derive deep modal or metaphysical conclusions from empirical laws.”

Empirical laws or observations merely tell us what is true in this world — nothing more. You might grant that empirical laws tell us what is true in all relevantly similar worlds that are physical worlds, but they do not tell you what must be true in this world. That is to say, you cannot derive deep modal conclusions (what is possible or impossible in any world) from empirical laws because empirical laws are too thin of a basis to support this kind of overreaching generalization.

Knowledge & Conceivability

The second problem with this objection is that modal judgments are known a priori (from the earlier) as opposed to a posteriori (from the latter). We know about necessity and possibility a priori. We know about physics from experience via the scientific method. This is a posterioriknowledge. Newton’s 3rd law might be physically necessary, but this is not metaphysically necessary. There is simply no evidence for that because those kinds of statements are known a priori.

The best epistemic test for a priori knowledge is conceivability. Moreland said that one “might not like this, but it’s about all we’ve got!” If something is conceivable, then it is possible; if something is inconceivable, then it is impossible. This is a defeasible criterion of knowledge. This is not with Cartesian certainty by any means, but nevertheless, it is defeasible.

Moreland offered a great example:

The reason I think it is metaphysically possible for little green men to exist on the surface of Mars is not because I’ve been there to check it out, but because I can conceive of little green men on the surface of Mars. With that said, however, I cannot conceive of married bachelors in Montana. Therefore, I don’t even need to make the trip to check it out because I know this is impossible.

The Problem of Proving Too Much

Finally, the third problem with this objection is that if this objection is right, then it proves too much as it also rules out human libertarian free will. If an immaterial substance cannot interact in the material world, then the same problem God supposedly has is also a major problem for human beings. That is to say, if God cannot act on matter, then neither can a human soul.

Every time a human makes a free choice (which include both moral or rational decisions) we are performing (for lack of a better term) “mini miracles.” Because humans are immaterial souls with material bodies, we have the ability to intervene in and override the laws of nature. This ability gives us a respons-ABILITY to not behave as mere animals.

Libertarianism (libertarian free will) is the opposite of compatibilism (compatibilism is a form of determinism). Libertarianism states that when one acts freely, then nothing else causally determined that thought or action. It was “up to you” completely. This is not to say that we have libertarian freedom in all things, or that we cannot be influenced by other things, but influence and causal determinism are two different kinds of things. When humans freely think, then we can make rational choices and decisions. When humans act freely, we generate motion in the universe from the available energy to use, or not to use.

Consider when I choose to raise my arm, nothing causally determined my arm to rise but me; not the prior states of my brain. If my arm is caused to move by the state of the brain, then there is a causal link between the brain state and what determined my brain to exist in the specific state (which is not up to me if naturalism is true). This can go on and on back to the initial conditions of the big bang (which is another example of a physical thing being caused by a non-physical or immaterial substance).

Moreland said,

Behind each chain of events, if there is libertarian freedom, is a first mover — me! I might choose to exercise my power and that might cause a nervous system event to go down and raise my arm — I don’t have any problem with that — but at the back of that sucker is me interacting with matter!

This means that the objector proves too much! If this objection is right, then libertarian free will is impossible, and if there is no libertarian free will, then rationality is not just false, but impossible. That is to say, if there is no free will, then there is no freethinking! However, isn’t the objector claiming to make a rational objection? If so, then his argument is self-defeating!

Bottom line: We have scientific, philosophical, and historical justification to believe in miracles. Moreover, the interaction objection fails as a defeater for this justified belief for the three reasons listed above. Therefore, given the three reasons to believe in miracles and the three reasons to reject the objection to miracles, it is perfectly rational to state, “I believe in miracles!”

Stay reasonable (Philippians 4:5),

Tim Stratton (Visit Tim’s Website @ FreeThinkingMinistries.com)


NOTES

[1] In a previous article I demonstrated that it is impossible to doubt the existence of your mind, but there is some scientific reason to doubt the existence of your brain. It follows that if one really thinks that it is impossible for an immaterial mind (God or the human soul) to interact with the physical universe, then they ought to become a theistic idealist and reject matter before rejecting mind. One way or the other, naturalism/physicalism is false. Mind is fundamental and ultimate reality.


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Is God’s Jealousy a Negative Attribute?

By Brian Chilton.

The Bible attributes several attributes to God. Many of the more popular attributes are God’s love, holiness, and grace. Any serious theologian will know the four core “omni” attributes: omniscience (all-knowing), omnipotence (all-powerful), omnipresence (all-presence), and omnibenevolence (all-loving). While these attributes are all positive, many critics pinpoint another attribute of God as being greatly problematic: God’s jealousy.

Critics charge that jealousy is a bad trait to hold. Famed atheist Richard Dawkins claims that God breaks “into a monumental rage whenever his chosen people flirted with a rival god.”[1]Paul Copan notes that “Oprah Winfrey said that she was turned off to the Christian faith when she heard a preacher affirm that God is jealous.”[2] Jealousy is condemned for the human being. One of the Ten Commandments states that a person should not “covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17).[3] Thus, jealousy seems to be a negative trait. But wait! Doesn’t the Bible claim that God is jealous? It does.

The Bible states at least 13 times that God is jealous for His people. For instance, Moses notes that “the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24). Later in Deuteronomy, God says, “They have made me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are no people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation” (Deuteronomy 32:21).

What do we make of this? Jealousy seems to be a negative trait. The Bible presents God as jealous. Therefore, it would seem that God holds negative traits. One is left with three options: 1) One could claim that God holds negative attributes meaning that He is not completely perfect; 2) One could claim that the Bible is erred in its presentation of God; 3) One could claim that our understanding of God’s jealousy could be misunderstood.

The first option demerits the Bible’s presentation of God as valid. If God exists, then God must be a maximally great Being. If the God of the Bible is not a maximally great Being, then the God of the Bible is not really the God of the universe at all.

The second option devalues the Bible, the Word of God. The New Testament writers extracted their understanding of God from the Old Testament. Therefore, if the Old Testament is erred in its presentation of God, then that would carry over into the New Testament. This causes a serious problem for the believer. If we cannot accept the presentation of God in the Bible, then can we accept the God of the Bible?

The third option is best. Our understanding of God’s jealousy must be defined. There must be some misunderstanding that we hold as it pertains to the idea of divine jealousy. In fact, the third option is the only real valid option on the table. When one honestly evaluates God’s jealousy, the person comes to the understanding that God’s jealousy is actually rooted in love. Thus, God’s jealousy becomes a positive trait for three reasons.

God’s jealousy over His people is positive as it relates to God’s passion.

God has a passion for His people. Let’s go back to the passage in Deuteronomy. We all know that Scripture is often taken out of context. Placing Deuteronomy 4:24 in context, one will find that Moses was addressing the issue of the peoples’ covenant with God. God had already blessed the people immensely. God brought them out of slavery. God was about to bring them to a special place prepared for them. God was going to build a great nation out of them. However, the people kept cheating on God. God poured out His love to the nation. He was eventually going to bring the Chosen Messiah, the Savior of the world, in their midst. But they kept cheating on God. Moses says in Deuteronomy 4:23, “Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you.”

The marriage analogy is often used to describe God’s jealous passion for His people. Paul Copan rightly notes that “A wife who doesn’t get jealous and angry when another woman is flirting with her husband isn’t really all that committed to the marriage relationship. A marriage without the potential for jealousy when an intruder threatens isn’t much of a marriage.”[4] God had a passion for His people. While Dawkins may think that God’s jealousy is a negative attribute due to the peoples’ “flirting with other gods,” it should be remembered that idolatry is adultery against God.[5] Thus, God’s jealousy is rooted in His love.

God’s jealousy over His people is positive because it relates to God’s purpose.

God’s jealousy is also rooted in His purpose. Wayne Grudem defines God’s jealousy by “God continually seeks to protect his own honor.”[6] Critics may charge, “See! God only concerns Himself with His own glory and elevated role. This means that God is not humble.” But not so fast. Let’s put this in perspective.

Human jealousy is wrong because one covets something that he/she holds no claim in holding. It is wrong for me to covet my neighbor’s car because I hold no claim to the car. In like manner, human pride is bad because it elevates a person’s position higher than what the person possesses. I can think all day that I am the President of the United States. I can walk around like a peacock telling everyone about my successful presidency. The reality is, however, that I am not the President and will most likely never be. But what if someone who holds the office claims to be President? Right now, the President of the United States of America is Barack Obama. Regardless of your thoughts of him and his presidency, let’s ask: is it wrong for Obama to claim to be President? Is it wrong for him to demand respect for his position? Is it wrong for him to do presidential things? No. Why? It is because he is the President. Is it, therefore, wrong for God to call Himself God and to expect to be treated like God? No. Why? It is because He is God. Paul Copan rightly notes, “Is God proud? No, he has a realistic view of himself, not a false or exaggerated one. God, by definition, is the greatest conceivable being, which makes him worthy of worship.”[7]

Simply put: it is not wrong for God to be jealous over His purpose and glory. Such purpose and glory belongs to God and God alone.

God’s jealousy over His people is positive because it relates to the human protection.

I am a big brother. My sister is about 7-years-younger than I. Big brothers normally have a protective instinct. I most certainly do. My sister is a loving, free-spirited woman who always sees the good. I, in contrast, see the world the way it really is. My son is much like my sister. I find that my protective juices flow overtime being a parent. Without guidance, it would be easy for my son to take the wrong path as the first shiny, attractive thing gets his attention. As a parent, it is my job to help keep him on the right track. I have a jealous love for my son because I want what’s best for him.

God’s jealousy works in much the same way. God’s jealous love is actually for the benefit, not the detriment, of human protection. God is omniscient. That means that God knows all things. God is also omnisapient, meaning that God possesses all wisdom. Going back to Copan, he notes, “God seeks to protect his creatures from profound self-harm. We can deeply damage ourselves by running after gods made in our own image. God’s jealousy is other-centered.”[8] I agree wholeheartedly with Copan’s assessment. God’s jealousy is actually for the greater human good.

Conclusion

God’s jealousy is not the same as human jealousy. The difference primarily lies in authority. It is wrong for people to be jealous over something that someone else holds because they hold no true claim to such thing. God, in contrast, having the greatest, supreme authority and power is completely justified in being jealous over His people. His jealousy is actually rooted in His love, purpose, and even human protection. Thus, God’s jealousy is not a negative attribute. It is actually a gloriously positive one.

© August 22, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Sources Cited

[1] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 243.

[2] Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011), 34.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from theEnglish Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[4] Copan, Is God a Moral Monster?, 35.

[5] See the book of Hosea for a full treatment of this analogy.

[6] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 205.

[7] Copan, Is God a Moral Monster?, 28.

[8] Ibid., 40.


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7 Questions from “Who is God”

By Brian Chilton

This past Sunday, the third episode of Morgan Freeman’s show The Story of God as aired on the National Geographic Channel. The third episode dealt with how God is understood to be in various cultures and religions. Again, I am profoundly surprised at how well this show has been made. The show has not attacked any particular worldview, as I feared that it would. Rather, the show has taken a fairly neutral position while evaluating some major topics. This episode was no different. The third episode dealt with the issue “Who is God?” This article will seek to answer 7 questions that were raised during the show from a Christian perspective.

 

  1. Is there one God or several gods?

By sheer necessity, there is only one ultimate uncaused cause. If there were several gods or goddesses, one would have to ask “How did such a number of gods arise?” It seems to me that one would be forced to accept a first uncaused cause. While it is possible to accept a multiplicity of gods and goddesses, it makes better sense to accept that only one God exists. Why? Well, I think Thomas Aquinas answers this well. Aquinas states,

 “When the existence of a cause is demonstrated from an effect, this effect takes the place of the definition of the cause in proof of the cause’s existence. This is especially the case in regard to God, because, in order to prove the existence of anything, it is necessary to accept as a middle term the meaning of the word, and not its essence, for the question of its essence follows on the question of its existence. Now the names given to God are derived from His effects; consequently, in demonstrating the existence of God from His effects, we make take for the middle term the meaning of the word ‘God.’”[1]

From sheer necessity, only one God must exist. Thus, God could manifest himself in several ways, but in the end there is but only one God.

 

  1. How does one connect to God?

If by connecting, one means relating to God, then one can connect with God in various ways. Morgan Freeman is right when he notes that it is sometimes difficult to relate to a transcendent God. However, God has given us means to relate to him. One way people connect with God is through prayer. Prayer is a means by which we can communicate with God and a way that God communicates with us.[2] Another way a person connects to God is through the written Word of God. The Scriptures are God’s revelation to all humanity. A third way a person can connect with God is through the intellect. A person can connect with God by learning more about God. Fourth, a person can connect with God through nature. As the psalmist notes, “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).[3] Lastly, a person can ultimately connect with God through a relationship with Christ. When one receives Christ, the Bible tells us that the believer is filled with the Holy Spirit of God (John 14:15ff).

 

  1. Has God revealed himself to several people throughout the world?

There is but only one ultimate truth. However, this is not to say that God has not been trying to reveal himself to various peoples throughout the world. Solomon writes that God “has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). So, I am not saying that all religions are the same. Such is not logically possible. However, I feel it is quite possible that God has been trying to reveal himself throughout all of history. Ultimately, the full revelation came through Jesus of Nazareth, the “only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16).

 

  1. How do we know what’s divine?

Only God is truly divine in the purest sense. However, human beings are made in the image of God (Genesis 1-2). Thus, human beings bear the mark of divinity (although we are not divine). But in fact, all things bear the mark of God in reality because “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). So, only one person is truly divine (God), yet all things bear the imprint of the divine as God created all things.

 

  1. Can we imagine God?

In a way, yes. In a way, no. I think Norman Geisler puts it best. Geisler notes that “Although God can be apprehended, He cannot be comprehended.[4] Paul writes, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away” (1 Corinthians 13:9). Thus, we cannot say that we know everything about God. If we could, we would be God.

 

  1. Does God indwell us?

We all bear the image of God (Genesis 1:26). However, God indwells each person who receives Christ as Savior. This person is known as the Holy Spirit.

 

  1. Can we experience God?

Yes! Absolutely we can! We experience the blessings of God every day. However, the only way to fully experience God is through a relationship with Christ Jesus. See also the answer to the second question.[5]

 

Much more could be said about God. In reality, the third episode of Freeman’s documentary as well as this article has focused more upon how humanity knows God. Such a knowledge of God is called revelation. God has revealed himself both through natural revelation (available to all) and special revelation (delivered to those of faith). If a person has not experienced God, it is highly advised that the person seek God and ask God to reveal himself.

 For more articles like 7 Questions from “Who is God” visit Brian’s website at BellatorChristi.com

© April 18, 2016. Brian Chilton.


 

[1] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica I.2.2., in Thomas Aquinas, Summa of the Summa, Peter Kreeft, ed., Fathers of the Dominican Province, trans (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990), 59.

[2] Some individuals have argued that God does not communicate with a person through prayer. With all due respect, I have found such arguments greatly lacking. God has spoken to a vast array of individuals in the Bible through the means of prayer (e.g. Habakkuk, Job, Elijah, Isaiah, and so on). To claim that God cannot speak to a person in prayer discredits the power and personal nature of God. However, I agree that one should always “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1) to ensure that one is truly hearing from God.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[4] Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology: In One Volume (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011), 529.

[5] Also, check out the discipleship program Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby, and Claude V. King.

Stuff Atheists Say: Believing in God Is Like Believing in Santa

By Timothy Fox

Welcome to the second installment in my series, Stuff Atheists Say! (Read part 1 here.) This series is dedicated to bad arguments and statements that some atheists (the internet troll type) make to derail a conversation and avoid having to put forth any arguments or evidence of their own. My intention is not to smear every nonbeliever as there are many thoughtful and honest questions that skeptics ask which need to be answered. In fact, there are many atheists who are just as tired as these nonsensical statements as I am! That’s why I want to clear up some of these pointless slogans once and for all. So on to the second one:

Stuff Atheists Say: Believing in God Is Like Believing in Santa

Bad “argument” #2: Believing in God is no different than believing in Santa Claus.
Or maybe you’ve heard it stated: “I don’t need to disprove God any more than I need to disprove the existence of leprechauns.” Or fairies. Or any other type of mythical creature. The point of this statement is to equate God with any other imaginary being that is ridiculous to seriously believe in.

The Santa Delusion

So is believing in God really the same as having an imaginary friend? An invisible sky daddy? Maybe, if believing in a fat man in a red suit who delivers presents in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer to every child in the world is the same thing as believing in a God who created the universe from nothing, brought life from non-life, and grounds objective moral values and duties. If so, then yes, they’re exactly the same.

But if believing in God is so ridiculous, you know what’s even more ridiculous? Giving lectures against his existence. Having debates about it. Trolling blogs and internet chatrooms. Writing popular-level books promoting unbelief. Meanwhile, I don’t see anyone penning The Santa Delusion or The Tooth Fairy Is Not Great.

And I guess that the overwhelming majority of humans throughout all of time are as deluded as little children. Because every culture across history has had some kind of religion or believed in a deity of a sort.  We discuss God’s existence in the classroom, at the dinner table, and over a coffee (or beer). From philosophers to scientists, with believers, skeptics, and everyone in-between. Silly humans.

No, Seriously

But let’s take this argument seriously. Is belief in God really no different than belief in Santa? First, how justified are we in believing in Santa Claus? What would it take for someone to actually think that he exists? Evidence. And here the atheist says “Correct! There’s no evidence for either of them! That’s why it’s ridiculous to believe in God or Santa!” But is the evidence for Santa Claus and God really the same? Well, if Santa does exist, we would know what to look for: a fat man in a red suit delivering presents Christmas Eve. But what about God? If God exists, do you know what you would look for? Before stating that there is no evidence for something, make sure you know what kind of evidence there should be if that thing does exist!

For it to be reasonable to believe that Santa Claus exists, he would have to be the best explanation for the existence of Christmas presents. But is there another, better explanation? Perhaps someone else put the presents under the tree, like parents. Maybe the gifts just popped into existence from nothing. Or maybe they’ve been there for all eternity! You can probably see where this is going. How did the universe get here? Did it just pop into existence uncaused, has it always been here, or is it reasonable to believe that something, or someone, caused it to begin to exist? God is the best explanation for all of reality. And even if you disagree, it’s still a legitimate option, is it not?

But maybe Santa exists and he’s just hiding. That’s why he has never been observed, just like God! Again, what are the reasons to believe that Santa exists? Are there any? Because there are very good reasons to believe that God exists, such as the cosmological argument, moral argument, fine-tuning argument, etc. Can you honestly say the same about Santa? Of course not.

Furthermore, what are the consequences if Santa doesn’t exist? Then kids must get their Christmas presents another way, because we know from experience that presents exist (unless you were on the naughty list, I guess). But if there’s no God? Then the universe came into existence uncaused from nothing for no reason. Life came from non-life and consciousness from non-consciousness. There are no objective morals and values. Exactly the same? No. Not a chance.

Conclusion

I hope we can all see how ridiculous it is to equate God with some imaginary or mythical being. It’s not as trivial as who delivers Christmas presents or trades cash for teeth; we’re talking about the First Cause who created and upholds the entire universe. There are good reasons and arguments for God’s existence. So to those who say that belief in God is no different than belief in Santa Claus, please stop. You’re the ones making ridiculous claims, not us.

For another good and thorough treatment of this issue, check out the Reasonable Faith article Is God Imaginary?

 

For More Articles like Stuff Atheists Say: Believing in God Is Like Believing in Santa visit Tim’s site at FreeThinkingMinistries.com

An OUGHT From An IS

By Tim Stratton

Does objective truth apply to morality? This question has major ramifications depending on how you answer it, because it ultimately asks, “DOES GOD EXIST?” We can see this demonstrated through the use of logic in a deductive syllogism known as “The Moral Argument.”[1] Here it is:

1- If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.

2- Objective moral values and duties exist.

3- Therefore, God exists.

To avoid this theistic conclusion, those committed to their atheistic presuppositions desperately seek to find a way to refute at least one of these premises. Many wind up stating that objective moral values and duties do not exist. By making this move, however, they affirm that there is nothing reallywrong with Hitler’s Holocaust, the molestation of young boys in the Penn State locker room by Jerry Sandusky, or the murderous actions of ISIS. Since rejecting premise (2) tacitly affirms the atrocities of these evil men, they feel the pressure to either find another way to ground objective morality, or become theists. Some atheists, such as Sam Harris, have attempted to find a logical way to ground objective morality in the “science of human flourishing,”[2] stating: “Whatever advances the flourishing of humanity is objectively good and whatever hinders human flourishing is objectively bad.”

Harris has failed on several accounts. For instance, even if (and that’s a very big “IF”) moral values could be grounded via this “science of human flourishing,” it would be powerless to explain why the flourishing of humans is objectively good. After all, in the movie, “The Matrix,” Agent Smith referred to the flourishing of humanity as a “virus,” and a “cancer of the planet.”[3] Is Agent Smith objectively wrong, or do we simply have differing subjective opinions? It would be circular reasoning to argue that the flourishing of humanity is objectively good because one assumes it is objectively good when humanity flourishes.

I’ve also heard it said that human flourishing is objectively bad for the earth and all other forms of life. A fellow human actually argued, “If all insects on earth disappeared, within fifty years all life on earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the earth, within fifty years all (other) forms of life would flourish.”[4] So perhaps it is objectively bad for humans to flourish, at least from the perspective of “all other forms of life.” The question then becomes, why is it good for humanity to flourish, even if human flourishing hinders other forms of life?

Atheism cannot answer why the flourishing of humanity is objectively good. All the atheist can do is simply presuppose and assume it is. On the other hand, if God exists and created humanity on purpose and for the specific purpose to know, love, and enjoy a relationship with God for eternity, then it is objectively true (independent from human opinion) that it is objectively good (and right) for humanity to flourish.

Moreover, atheism is impotent to explain why we are obligated to fulfill or align our lives with any of these moral values that lead to human flourishing. If one were not to carry out any of these moral codes leading to human flourishing, and instead devoted their lives to kidnapping, rape, murder, etc., the worst they could be accused of is merely acting unfashionably, nothing more![5] The last time I checked, no one has made a case that it is objectively wrong to be considered “uncool,” or a “nerd” by the subjective opinion of the majority. Although it seems implausible that objective moral values can exist apart from God, it is logically impossible to ground objective moral duties if atheism is true.

On top of all of this, to make matters worse, this atheistic philosophy is ultimately self-refuting! Harris, as a naturalist (the view that only nature exists), holds to “scientific determinism,” which means he believes our thoughts and actions are causally determined by natural forces like physics, chemistry, and the initial conditions of the big bang. All of these things are outside of human control. Harris makes his view clear:

Free will is an illusion. Our wills are simply not of our own making. Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control. We do not have the freedom we think we have. Free will is actually more than an illusion (or less), in that it cannot be made conceptually coherent. Either our wills are determined by prior causes and we are not responsible for them, or they are the product of chance and we are not responsible for them.[6]

Therefore, humans could never freely choose any action, including actions with supposed moral properties. Given these objections to the idea of a scientific foundation for an epistemology of objective morality, we must come to the conclusion that science cannot derive an ought from an is, and therefore, cannot tell us anything about how we must conduct our lives in any ethical or moral sense. If naturalistic atheism is true, we have no logical grounds of objective moral values, no logical grounds of objective duty to align our lives with any set of subjective code of ethics, and no ability to do otherwise since all would be determined by outside causal forces. Since ought implies can, and there is no ability to do otherwise in a cause and effect/determined universe (on atheistic naturalism), it follows that it is completely nonsensical for the naturalist to talk about how we ought to think, act, or behave.

Bottom line: If moral values and duties are objective, God must exist!

Stay reasonable my friends (Phil 4:5 ESV),

Tim Stratton

Visit Tim’s Website: Free Thinking Ministries

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Notes:
[1] The Moral Argument: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/moral

[2] Sam Harris vs. William Lane Craig debate: https://youtu.be/yqaHXKLRKzg

[3] The Matrix, https://youtu.be/L5foZIKuEWQ

[4] This quote was attributed to Jonas Salk; however, I cannot find the source. Be that as it may, some people actually believe it is better for insects to flourish than it is for humans to flourish.

[5] William Lane Craig, http://www.reasonablefaith.org/navigating-sam-harris-the-moral-landscape

[6] Sam Harris, Free Will, (Free Press, New York, 2012), Page 5