Observations on life; particularly spiritual

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The greatest miracle

Michelangelo painted “The creation of Adam” and other biblical scenes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome (1508-1512). It seems to reflect the idea that humanity has been created in the image and likeness of God. And, as discussed below, Adam is shown as a male adult. Why is the first miracle in the Bible the greatest?

Creation

The Bible begins with, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1NIV). This is the absolute (not relative) beginning of space-time. It begins with a creative act of God and rules out many false ideas that people have today (Appendix A). This creation is a reason to praise God (Appendix B). “The heavens and the earth” is a figure of speech called a merism in which two opposites are combined into an all-encompassing single concept. For example, a shop that is open “day and night” is open 24 hours per day. “The heavens and the earth” means the universe (or everything that has been created). It’s mentioned in the ten commandments as, “in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” (Ex. 20:11). Then God describes how He created everything (Genesis 1:1 – 2:25).

Isaiah says that God is the one and only Creator,
“For this is what the Lord says—
He who created the heavens,
He is God;
He who fashioned and made the earth,
He founded it;
He did not create it to be empty,
but formed it to be inhabited—
He says: ‘I am the Lord,
and there is no other'” (Isa. 45:18).
God created the earth and the heavens and everything in the earth, which was made to be perfectly suited for humanity.

And an angel said that God “created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it” (Rev. 10:6).

A miracle

This is the first miracle in the Bible. It was creation out of nothing. The word “Creator” is synonymous with God. No one else can create something from nothing. According to the Macquarie dictionary, a miracle is “an effect in the physical world which surpasses all known human or natural powers and is therefore ascribed to supernatural agency”. Miracles display God’s power.

Other great miracles in the Bible are the incarnation of Christ (His coming into the world), the resurrection of Christ from the grave, the salvation of sinners and the new creation.

If we can believe the first verse in the Bible, no other verse in the Bible should be a problem. If God can create the universe out of nothing (the Bible says, by His command, Ps.148:5), then raising people from the dead and causing a virgin to conceive would be easier. If God can do the greater, then He can also do the lesser. If God has the ability to create everything, then the other biblical miracles are consistent demonstrations of His power.

Apparent age

The Bible says it took 6 days to create the universe, whereas science says it took about 14 billion years. Did you know that they are both right? And the Bible says it took 6 days to create the earth and its inhabitants, whereas science says it took about 4.5 billion years. Did you know that they are both right?

The vegetation that was created on the third day of creation was unique because it didn’t come from seeds and had no seedling stage. Instead of developing from a seed, it began life as mature plants with fruit so that it could be eaten by the animals and Adam and Eve on the sixth day of creation (Gen. 1:29-30; 2:16-17). As it can take an apple tree about ten years to bear fruit, on day six the apple trees had two ages: 3 days actual age and at least 10 years apparent age (if they grew from seedings).

The creatures that were created on the fifth and sixth days of creation were unique because they didn’t come from eggs and had no juvenile stage. Instead of developing from an egg, they began life as mature creatures so that they could reproduce and be named and enjoyed by Adam and Eve on the sixth day of creation. As it can take a male elephant 25 years to be sexually mature, on day six the male elephants had two ages: 1 day actual age and at least 25 years apparent age (if they grew from infancy).

As God created mature plants and mature animals during the days of creation, this implies that He also created mature ecosystems. All the cycles of nature were established and in equilibrium by the end of the sixth day of creation. They didn’t have to develop from simple to complex as imagined by the uniformitarian hypothesis. As it can take say 100 years to produce a mature ecosystem after a volcano erupts, on day six the ecosystems had two ages: 1-3 day actual age and at least 100 years apparent age (if they developed from a bare landscape).

Adam and Eve, who were created on the sixth day of creation, were unique because they had no mothers and no childhood. Instead of developing from a zygote, they began life as mature adults who could reproduce (like in Michelangelo’s painting). This is an example of irreducible complexity (Appendix C). As it can take people about 20 years to reach adulthood, on day seven Adam and Eve had two ages: 1 day actual age and at least 20 years apparent age (if they grew from infancy).

Similarly, on day six the earth had two ages: a few days actual age and about 4.5 billion years apparent age (if it developed according to the uniformitarian hypothesis and if Adam and Eve could use current scientific methods). And on day six the universe had two ages: a few days actual age and about 14 billion years apparent age (if it developed according to the big-bang model and if Adam and Eve could use current scientific methods). They are both right because God created a mature earth in a short period of time. He did it suddenly, not gradually and piece by piece.

Likewise, today the earth has two ages: about 6,000 years actual age and about 4.5 billion years apparent age (if it developed according to the uniformitarian hypothesis). And today the universe has two ages: 6,000 years actual age and about 14 billion years apparent age (if it developed according to the big-bang model). They are both right because God created a mature universe in a short period of time. He did it suddenly, not gradually and piece by piece.

Is this deceptive?

So while the universe is actually about 6,000 years old, to scientists it seems to be about 14 billion years old. Is the fact that it can have two ages (actual and apparent) that differ by billions of years deceptive? The answer is “no”, because God has given us the actual age of the universe in the Bible. The Bible says that Adam was created on the sixth day of creation and it gives a detailed chrono-genealogy of his descendants to Abram (Gen. 5:1-32; 11:10-26). The way the Bible is written enables the determination of the dates of some important ancient events.

The Bible is a historical book and it gives an outline of the history of the world. As it’s written from God’s perspective, it’s an accurate history that we can trust.

Discussion

Christians accept many miracles in the Bible, but they may doubt some like creation. How can we make such a judgment? For example, they usually accept that Jesus made wine out of water at a wedding (Jn. 2:1-11). As it was “choice wine”, the wine was mature. In those days it took 1-3 weeks to produce wine. So although the time it took to produce this wine was actually less than one hour, it would have appeared to have been 1-3 weeks in age (if it had been produced in the usual way).

Likewise, Christians usually accept that Jesus fed a crowd of 5,000 men (plus women and children) with five loaves of bread and two fish (Mt. 14:15-21; Mk. 6:35-44; Lk. 9:12-17; Jn. 6:6-13). The fish taken from the Sea of Galilee for human consumption may have been at least one year old. So although the fish that were eaten were actually less than a few hours old, they would have appeared to have been at least one year in age (if they grew from infancy).

These are examples of how, because of divine miracles, things can have two ages; actual and apparent. The same is the case for the creation at the beginning of time. But in the case of creation there are differences between our knowledge of things that can and can’t be studied by observational science.

The lifetime of vegetation (plants), creatures, ecosystems, and people can all be studied by observational science. But the lifetime of the earth beyond history and the lifetime of the universe can’t be studied by observational science. So observational science can’t be used to determine the age of the earth or the universe. This means that the Biblical record is the most reliable record of the age and history of the earth and the universe.

This situation has implications for scientists who extrapolate backwards in time past recorded history. Obviously, according to the historical record in the Bible, the earth’s real history is no longer than about 6,000 years and scientists shouldn’t extrapolate backwards past then. If they do, there is something wrong with their assumptions and their findings are purely theoretical and don’t match reality.

This is a boundary condition problem. Theoretical models always assume certain boundary conditions and the model only applies within these constraints. The problem with the big-bang model is that it violates a boundary condition imposed by God. If we extrapolate backwards in time for 6,000 years we reach the initial condition after God created the universe. Beyond that we are making assumptions about a miracle which is nonsense! So the supposed 14 billion age of the universe is nonsense. It’s purely hypothetical.

Conclusion

Creation is the greatest miracle in the Bible because it rules out many false ideas that people have today and it’s one of the main reasons to praise God.

Furthermore, creation is the greatest miracle because it has the greatest difference between the actual age and the apparent age. Also, it’s the original miracle and the others are later consequences.

Appendix A: False ideas

The following ideas are shown to be false because they are inconsistent with Genesis 1:1:
– Atheism (there is no God). God created the universe and has existed from before this time.
– Agnosticism (it is impossible to know whether God exists). God has revealed Himself in Scripture as Creator.
– Pantheism (everything is god; god and creation are the same thing) – God is distinct from His creation because He created it.
– Panentheism (everything is in god). God transcends what He created.
– Polytheism (there is more than one god). Only one God created all things.
– Materialism (mass-energy is the only reality) and naturalism (natural laws describe all things). God created mass-energy and nature.
– Humanism (humanity is the measure of all things). God created humanity, so God is the measure of all things.
– Evolutionism (all life originated from matter by natural processes). God created all things.

Appendix B: Creation is a reason to praise God

The fact that He is the all-powerful Creator is a reason to praise God. In heaven He is praised,
“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for You created all things,
and by Your will they were created
and have their being” (Rev. 4:11).
God deserves our praise. Because God is Creator of everything, He is Lord of all. He is sovereign (supreme ruler) over history.

And Paul described God as “the Creator—who is forever praised” (Rom. 1:25). Those who don’t praise the Creator worship His creation instead, which is an act of idolatry.

Appendix C: Irreducible complexity

The Bible teaches that God created a mature fully-functioning universe, not one that was primitive and that need to develop piece-by-piece. This is consistent with the fact of irreducible complexity. The earth and the universe is more complex than scientists imagine (Job was taught this fact). There are complex systems and cycles and interactions between the components. An ecosystem is a small example of this.

For example, Adam was a real person who was created suddenly out of nothing (Gen. 5:3-5; Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:22, 45; 1 Tim. 2:13-14; Jude 1:14). As mentioned above, he began life as a fully functioning adult human being. All the processes of the human body were present and fully developed at the beginning. Otherwise, Adam would not be able to function as a human being. For example, blood must be circulating as soon as he was created.

Reference

Sarfati J. (2015), “The Genesis account”, Creation Book Publishers.

Written, May 2019

Also see: God created a huge universe

Where were you?

If you had the opportunity, what question would you ask God? After tragedy in his life, Job had many questions for God. But when they finally met the tables were turned and God asked Job “Where were you when I created the world”? Job was silenced because the answer was “Nowhere”.

Question and answer

The context is that God says that Job needs to be educated on mysteries that surpass his understanding (38:2). He should have realized that many things known to God are hidden from humanity.

The first question that God asked was:
4“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7NIV)

God used a metaphor of building a house to describe His work of creation. Verse 7 is a poetic description of the angel’s joy in God’s creation. The implication is that Job didn’t exist when God created the world, so how could he understand it? And who was Job (finite and created) to question the God (infinite Creator) of the Universe?

Job’s answer was:
“I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth.
I spoke once, but I have no answer—
twice, but I will say no more” (Job 40:4-5).

Job didn’t answer the question in 38:4 because the answer was “Nowhere” – Job hadn’t been born when God created the world. He had no other answer to give. God’s questions were unanswerable. Job was reminded that there were many things that he didn’t know. He didn’t have the wisdom and knowledge to run the world and was ignorant of most of its processes. So he shouldn’t tell the Creator and Sustainer how to run the world.

In Job 38 God asked a series of questions about the earth (v. 4-7, 18); the sea (v.8-11, 16); the sun (v.12-15); death (v.17); light and darkness (v.19-20); the weather (v.22-30, 34-38); astronomy (v.31-33); and animals and birds (38:39 – 39:30). It was like a science examination! These questions show that God’s sovereignty, power and wisdom is evident in the created (natural) world. God is saying, “Before you criticize me, you should ask yourself if you could manage the creation as well as I do”.

Job couldn’t answer any of the questions because he felt powerless, ignorant, insignificant and unwise compared to God (Job 40:3-5). He was humbled. Job felt the immense difference between divinity and humanity. And if Job didn’t understand the natural world, how could he understand God’s dealings with humanity?

What about today?

Does this lesson still apply today as science can answer some of the questions in Job 38-39? Yes, scientists know more today than Job knew. But there’s also a lot that they don’t know. They know many secondary causes, but they are ignorant of primary causes (God’s role). And like Job, we should be overwhelmed with our ignorance, and not impressed with science.

Do we  tell God how to run the world? Some say that the existence of suffering negates the existence of God. But like Job they are judging how God rules the world. Instead, they need to learn from Job’s humility.

When scientists study a subject it would be  good for them to be mindful of God’s role. This could moderate their claims and introduce an element of humility as they consider the assumptions being made, the degree of extrapolation and the limits/uncertainty of the findings.

In particular, we have seen recently that scientists need miracles in their naturalistic explanations of the creation of the universe and the creation of life. They sound confident when they should be embarrassed. But one day God will ask them, “Were you there?” and the answer will be “No” (it’s not observational science). They didn’t observe God’s acts of creation. “Do you know anyone who was there?” “No”. The next question will be “Did you listen to my account of what happened (in the Bible)?” and the answer will be “No”. God was there – and He has given us an eyewitness account. How can they expect to understand creation if they only use the human mind and ignore the best information available on these historical events?

Written, May 2019

An evolutionary miracle

The theory of biological evolution is the current scientific explanation of life on earth. This assumes that life has developed from simple to complex over time. So if we extrapolate backwards in time, we eventually reach the first living cell. As this theory relies on natural selection, it only operates on populations of species, and not on the original members of the species (like the first living cell). So where did the original living cell (which is assumed to be the ancestor of all life on earth) come from? It’s assumed that life originated from non-living chemicals via chemical evolution.  Did you know that this theory includes a miracle that can’t be explained by modern science? According to the Macquarie dictionary, a miracle is “an effect in the physical world which surpasses all known human or natural powers and is therefore ascribed to supernatural agency”.

Complexity of life

In the 19th century many people believed the theory of spontaneous generation; that life arose from non-living matter. This is understandable because they knew little about the cell’s structure.

But today we know that even the simplest living single-cell organism is extremely complex, including numerous, complex machines and instructions to build them, all stored in a way that can be both decoded for use by the organism and passed on to offspring. In fact, a single cell is vastly more complicated than anything human minds have ever engineered.

Scientists agree that the first living cell possessed DNA, RNA and proteins, a universal genetic code, ribosomes (the protein-building factories), ATP and a proton-powered enzyme for making ATP. The detailed mechanisms for reading off DNA and converting genes into proteins were also in place. So it must have been like a modern cell. This is called “irreducible complexity” – all these components are required for a cell to function and reproduce. Because this complexity could never arise by chance, it was either designed or it was a miracle. Life can’t evolve from chemicals by chance.

Information

Living cells are comprised of hardware and software. The software is information stored in the DNA molecule. Enormous amounts of coded information are stored in DNA. Each of the thousands of genes on a DNA molecule contains instructions necessary to make a specific protein that, in turn, is needed for a specific biological function. All the detailed chemical and structural complexity associated with the metabolism, repair, specialized function, and reproduction of each living cell is a realization of the coded messages stored in its DNA. This information is read by a RNA molecule and used to make proteins. But the RNA is also encoded in the DNA, which is a “chicken and egg” problem! And the energy to do this is produced by the nano-motor ATP synthase which is also encoded on the DNA and is decoded by machines needing ATP! So there are multiple “chicken and egg” problems.

ATP synthase is one of many enzymes which are biological catalysts that speed up vital chemical reactions. Without them many reactions essential for life would be far too slow for life to exist. These enzymes, as well as other processes, must exist in the first replicating cell in order for that cell to survive and pass on the DNA, and the DNA must code for the proteins required for those processes!

The naturalistic explanation of the origin of life from non-living matter has a problem because there is no known natural process which can cause information to originate by itself in matter. Information cannot arise by naturalistic processes. The DNA code within all plant and animal cells is vastly more compact than any computer chip ever made. Therefore, the originator of the information must be supremely intelligent.

The theory of the chemical evolution of life assumes that this information is produced by physical processes. But the chemical workings of the cell are controlled by information which does not reside in the atoms and molecules of that cell. For example, the order of the DNA base pairs (like letters in a message) cannot be predicted from the chemical characteristics of the individual base pairs (letters). And as there is no law of physics about creating information from nothing, this assumption is equivalent to a miracle.

Extra-terrestrial life

Because of the impossibility of chemical evolution on earth, some have suggested that life began in outer space. In order to be able to start the evolution of life on earth, it has been proposed that life was seeded on earth by meteorites, comets or extra-terrestrials. Of course, there is no evidence of this and it doesn’t answer the question of the origin of life. It just transfers it to another place in the universe.

Discussion

Besides the above, the theory of chemical evolution goes against the law of biogenesis (Appendix A).

And the Milller-Urey experiment, which is often quoted to support the theory of chemical evolution didn’t produce the amino acids necessary for life (Appendix B).

Conclusion

The theory of chemical evolution of life on earth involves a miracle that can’t be explained by operational science. This is a fatal flaw for a model that doesn’t accept miracles! But the theory of biological evolution can’t start without this miracle.

I’m skeptical of a model that claims to be based on naturalism, yet requires miracles! It’s like pulling a rabbit out of a hat! This kind of historical science isn’t consistent.

But the Bible is consistent when it attributes the creation of plant, animal and human life to the all-powerful spiritual God (Gen. 1:11-12; 20-27).

Appendix A: The law of Biogenesis

The law of biogenesis says that all life comes from life. Lois Pasteur disproved the idea of spontaneous generation (that life could come from non-living material). He demonstrated that life does not arise from matter that has not been contaminated by existing life. This means that life has never come from non-life.

Appendix B: The Miller-Urey experiment

This was a chemical experiment that simulated the conditions thought at the time to be present on the early Earth. In this experiment a mixture of water, methane, ammonia and hydrogen was exposed to an electrical current. It resulted in the production of amino acids that were claimed to be the precursors of life. But this experiment relied on the lack of oxygen in the atmosphere, whereas more recent studies indicate that oxygen was present in the earth’s atmosphere earlier than had been believed. And if there was no oxygen, there would be no ozone and the amino acids would be destroyed by ultraviolet solar radiation. Also, they had to isolate the amino acids from the mixture to stop them being destroyed (by hydrolysis, for example). And the amino acids produced were a mixture of left-handed and right-handed, which would be detrimental to life because all the proteins in animals and plants are only made up of left-handed amino acids. So this experiment didn’t produce the amino acids necessary for life.

Reference

Sarfati J. (2014), “The origin of life”, Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels, Creation Book Publishers, p.79-111.

Written, May 2019

Also see: Two Big-bang miracles

Two Big-bang miracles

Big band model 2 400pxThe big-bang model is the current scientific explanation of the universe (Appendix A). Did you know that this mathematical theory includes two miracles that can’t be explained by modern science? According to the Macquarie dictionary, a miracle is “an effect in the physical world which surpasses all known human or natural powers and is therefore ascribed to supernatural agency”.

A model is a mathematical explanation of something. Models that describe a current process can be tested experimentally against the real thing. Their predictions can be compared with observations. This is operational science which is reliable. But models about the distant past can’t be tested in that way because we can’t directly observe the past (and human records are fragmentary). This is historical (or forensic) science which is more speculative and unreliable than operational science. It involves the construction of tentative historical narratives to explain past events. And models about the distant future can’t be tested in that way because the future hasn’t occurred yet. This is futuristic science which is also more speculative and unreliable. Historical and futuristic science often rely on unreliable assumptions and extrapolations. But just because operational science is reliable, doesn’t mean that the others are also reliable. In fact, because they can’t be tested by experimentation, historical and futuristic science will always be less accurate than operational science. So operational science is more robust than historical and futuristic science.

Modern science is naturalistic and rejects the possibility of miracles because miracles defy explanations within the realm of nature. According to science, miracles don’t occur (they are supernatural) because it is assumed that there is a naturalistic explanation for everything. But we will see below that modern science isn’t consistent because it includes miracles in the area of historical science.

Something from nothing

The big-bang model assumes that the universe started in a hot, dense state and has been expanding over time since then. This is the beginning of space, time, and matter, which means that the universe had a cause. If something had a beginning, then it had a cause. But the cause of the universe could not have been spatial, temporal, or material because something cannot cause itself to come into existence. It’s absurd if something existed before it brought itself into being! This rules out naturalistic causes for the existence of the universe. Therefore, the universe had a supernatural cause.

According to operational science, we can’t get something from nothing (not anything). A vacuum remains a vacuum for eternity. But according to the historical science of the big-bang model, something (like a “quantum fluctuation”) came from nothing at the beginning of time. And that sounds like a miracle to me, because quantum mechanics never produces something out of nothing. Theories that the universe is a quantum fluctuation must presuppose that there was something to fluctuate. So this aspect of the big-bang model is inconsistent with naturalistic operational science.

Cosmic inflation

The big-bang theory had a horizon problem (the universe is isotropic, it appears to be the same in all directions), a flatness problem (the density of energy/matter in the universe is fine-tuned) and a magnetic monopole problem (none have been observed). To fix these problems, a cosmic inflation theory was developed where there was a brief (less than one-billionth of a second) rapid expansion of space in the early universe (to say about 50% of its size today).

This hypothetical cosmic inflation defies all known laws of physics – it’s a miracle invoked to help the big-bang model. And what caused this rapid expansion to start and stop? No one knows.

Discussion

The big-bang theory also includes hypothetic “dark (unseen) matter” and “dark (unseen) energy”. Like hypothetical inflation, scientists have added these to the theory to make it work, but they have never been observed! To explain the accelerating expansion of the universe, they proposed “dark energy”, that was a seeming anti-gravity force pulling the cosmos apart. Dark matter and dark energy are said to compromise about about 96% of the mass-energy content of the universe! Because of the need of such large fudge factors, the big-bang model is a poor theory for the structure and origin of the universe. There are at least six major assumptions that are accepted by faith in the Big-bang model (Appendix B).

These aspects of the big-bang model of creation defy all known laws of physics and involve speculative ideas. And the model has other unverifiable assumptions like that the universe has no center or edge. So, it takes a lot of faith to believe the big-bang model!

Conclusion

The inflationary big-bang model includes at least two miracles that can’t be explained by operational science. The first is how something came from nothing in the beginning. And the second is how there was a minute burst of supernatural cosmic inflation soon after the beginning. This is a fatal flaw for a model that doesn’t accept miracles! But the big-bang can’t start without these two miracles.

I’m skeptical of a model that claims to be based on naturalism, yet requires miracles! It’s like pulling a rabbit out of a hat! This kind of historical science isn’t consistent.

But the Bible is consistent when it provides the cause of the universe as the all-powerful spiritual God (Gen. 1:1). He isn’t spatial, temporal, or material. But at the beginning of time at the creation of the universe, He created space, time and energy/matter as we experience it today.

Appendix A: Summary of the Big-bang theory (from John Harnett)

A “quantum fluctuation” produces the matter and energy of the future universe, which then goes through a brief period of “inflation”. This inflation produces “flatness” in the energy distribution and prevents the universe from collapsing in on itself. After stars form, “dark matter” is required to explain the shape of galaxies and “dark energy” is required to explain the apparently accelerating expansion of the universe. The cosmic microwave background radiation is the afterglow of the post-inflation fireball, but the light is extremely red-shifted due to the stretching of space.

This theory assumes that the distribution of matter throughout the universe is homogeneous (uniform) and isotropic (the same in all directions).

Appendix B: Six assumptions accepted by faith in the Big-bang model

These are assumptions that can’t be verified by scientific experiments. None of the proposed entities can be measured directly (using operational science) because of the limitations of time and space.

  1. A “quantum fluctuation” produced the matter and energy of the future universe.
  2. Galaxy redshifts are explained by “expansion of space”.
  3. Cosmic microwave background radiation is explained as the “afterglow of the big-bang”.
  4. Rotation curves of spiral galaxies are explained by “dark matter”.
  5. As distant supernovae are dimmer than expected, the universe is assumed to be accelerating, which is explained by “dark energy”.
  6. Flatness and isotropy are explained by “inflation”.

Reference

Harnett J. (2014), “Exposing the Big Bangs fatal flaws”, Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels, Creation Book Publishers, p.215-231.

Written, May 2019

Also see: An evolutionary miracle

When to praise God

Emotions are a powerful part of our lives. But do we control our emotions or do our emotions control us? For example, do we only praise God when we feel like it?

Job was a wealthy man with a large family who lived before the time of Moses. One day four separate disasters wiped out all his possessions and children. His oxen, donkeys and camels were stolen and his sheep were killed by lightning. This was a total loss because there was no insurance in those days. And his children died when a house collapsed on them in a severe storm.

How did Job respond to these calamities? He would have been devastated and stricken with grief and loss. Did he stop trusting in God in such trying circumstances?

The Bible says, “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”
In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:20-22NIV).

Job mourned for those who died. He expressed his grief. But he didn’t follow his feelings. He didn’t rebel against God in anger, give up on God, grumble and complain, or wallow in self-pity. Instead, he fell to the ground and praised and worshipped God. Job still trusted God in difficult times (Job 2:10). The Hebrew word shachah (Strongs #7812) translated “worship” means to bow down in homage. Although he was tested and tempted to respond emotionally, Job choose to keep praising and worshiping God. God was more valuable to him than family and possessions.

Then He recognized that God controlled his life; including the good (his previous prosperity) and the bad (his loss of possessions and children). Indeed the book of Job shows us that God rules Satan. There are no accidents or surprises (to God) in His universe. So Job praises God instead of blaming or rejecting Him. He doesn’t sin by accusing God of wrongdoing.

The Bible says that trials are inevitable in our lives, but they have the benefit of producing Christian character, perseverance and endurance (Jas. 1:2-12). Paul shows that acceptance is the godly response to trials – “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10). “My [God’s] grace is sufficient for you” ( 2 Cor. 12:9).

How do our circumstances and feelings affect our Christian life? Do we only read the Bible, pray, and go to church when it is convenient or when we feel like it? What will we decide to do? How will we choose to spend our time? Let’s keep reading the Bible, praying, and going to church regularly whatever our circumstances and feelings.

When we remember “that in all things [good and bad] God works for the good of those who love Him [believers]” (Rom. 8:28) and that nothing can separate believers from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:35-39), we can praise and worship God in all circumstances and situations.

Written, May 2019

Selective tolerance – Folau versus Rugby Australia

Israel Folau has gone from being one of the best players in Australian rugby, to an outcast. How did this happen?

On 10 April 2019, Folau quoted the Bible on his own Instagram page. Because the post mentioned homosexuals, it looks like he is being terminated from his livelihood of playing professional sport, will miss playing in the Rugby World Cup later this year and is being persecuted across Australia, the UK and New Zealand.

When Tasmania passed new legislation making gender optional on birth certificates, Folau commented on Twitter, “The devil has blinded so many people in this world, REPENT and turn away from your evil ways. Turn to Jesus Christ who will set you free”. And He posted the following on Instagram.

The Post

There was an image stating: “Warning – drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolaters – hell awaits you. Repent! Only Jesus saves”.

There was a statement: “Those that are living in sin will end up in hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to Him.”

And three passages were quoted from the Bible:

“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21NIV).

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).

The response

Rugby Australia intend to terminate Folau’s contract, because they say the post is a breach of their inclusion policy which states: “Rugby has and must continue to be a sport where players, officials, volunteers, supporters and administrators have the right and freedom to participate regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race or religion and without fear of exclusion. There is no place for homophobia or any form of discrimination in our game and our actions and words both on and off the field must reflect this”. They claim Folau’s post is a breach of the player’s code of conduct because “he cannot share material on social media that condemns, vilifies or discriminates against people on the basis of their sexuality”.

The decision about Folau’s future is being made today. The accusation is that the post “condemns, vilifies or discriminates against people on the basis of their sexuality”. They say “The content within the post is unacceptable. It does not represent the values of the sport and is disrespectful to members of the Rugby community”.

Media commentators are calling it “hateful”, “hate speech”, “harmful”, “homophobic”, “anti-gay comments” and “offensive”. A sponsor said, “These comments are really disappointing and clearly don’t reflect the spirit of inclusion and diversity that we support”. This persecution was swift and severe. And the attack has been relentless. In the name of inclusion and diversity they will not tolerate and include Israel Folau! There is no tolerance today towards outspoken Christians!

This is not surprising. Both Jesus and Paul were persecuted for teaching the Christian faith (Appendix A). Paul was imprisoned and Jesus was executed. So it’s unsurprising that the Christian message given in the Bible isn’t tolerated today.

Jesus told His disciples: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first … If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (Jn. 15:18, 20). And Paul told Timothy that “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).

The Christian message

The Bible says that all people are sinners and they are all heading to eternity in hell unless they repent. That’s why God sent Jesus to earth. By taking the punishment we deserve upon Himself, Christ has made a way for people to be reconciled to God. So people must be warned. And that’s what Folau is doing.

Some people are upset about his reference to hell. Hell is the judgement for sinners who refuse or ignore God’s free gift of eternal life. The Bible is full of references of the punishment of the wicked (Rom. 2:5-12; Gal. 6:7-8; Heb. 10:29-31; Rev. 20:11-15). Hell is mentioned 14 times in the New Testament (Mt. 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15; 23:33; Mk. 9:43, 45, 47; Lk. 12:5; 16:23; Jas. 3:6; 2 Pt. 2:4). It has more references to hell than it does to heaven. And Jesus Christ often warned about hell and the judgment to come.

Folau quotes Galatians 5:19-21 that lists some sins. The people who practice such sins are not believers and are bound for hell (eternal punishment). This message is repeated in Corinthians, “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). The Bible says that some lifestyles are sinful and displeasing to God.

Did you know that tolerance is a Christian idea (Appendix B)?

Discussion

This is an example of selective tolerance. There is no tolerance to outspoken Christians. And an example of selective inclusion. There is no inclusion for outspoken Christians. How is rugby showing its “inclusiveness” by excluding an outspoken Christian?

What’ s wrong with sharing our Christian beliefs in public? Suppose a person went to a doctor and the doctor discovers they have a deadly cancer, but he sends them home, telling them that they are healthy. That’s not loving. They are refusing to share a life-giving truth. Or suppose you see a child playing on the street and a big truck hurtling their way, if you cared at all, you would yell, scream, jump up and down and do all you can to save them. The most loving thing we can do for sinners is to tell them the truth about sin, hell and Jesus.

It’s been noted that Folau’s actions suggest he’s more inclusive than his critics. Despite his personal views, he’s still happy to play with the many rugby players who are gays, drunks, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists or idolaters. And note the contrast in how Israel Folau is being treated compared to Tiger Woods! It reminds me of Jesus and Barabbas.

This is an erosion of free speech and free religion. Can we have real democracy without freedom of speech and freedom of religious belief? Christians are the only ones attacked for their religious beliefs. It’s spiritual warfare.

It reminds me of the thought police in the novel “Nineteen eighty-four” by George Orwell who persecute independent thinking and spy on people’s private lives. Are we becoming like a totalitarian state with a high degree of control over citizens and no tolerance of different views? Could this trend lead to parts of the Bible being classified as discriminatory hate speech that’s not inclusive? If this eventuates, parts of the Bible could banned from usage in public and be restricted to private use.

Of course, sharing Christian truth will always offend some people. Jesus alienated people because He spoke truth. And the truth about ourselves is confronting.

The Bible teaches that Christians should obey governing authorities because they are instituted by God (Rom. 13:1-7). But when the Jewish religious leaders told Peter and John “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus”, they disobeyed because “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 4:18-19; 5:27-29). So the Bible allows disobedience if the authority orders them to sin or to compromise their loyalty to Jesus Christ. If there is a conflict between the will of an authority and the will of God, then believers give precedence to the will of God.

Conclusion

No matter what happens at the code of conduct hearing today, Israel Folau says, “It’s obviously a decision that’s in the process right now but I believe in a God that’s in control of all things. Whatever His will is, whether that’s to continue playing or not, I’m more than happy to do what He wants me to do. First and foremost, I live for God now. Whatever He wants me to do, I believe His plans for me are better than whatever I can think. If that’s not to continue on playing, so be it. In saying that, obviously I love playing footy and if it goes down that path I’ll definitely miss it. But my faith in Jesus Christ is what comes first.”

What a great example of a follower of Jesus!

Appendix A: Persecution of Paul

Paul described the persecution and suffering he endured when he shared the Christian message to sinners as follows,
“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).

Appendix B: Tolerance in the Bible

Tolerance is a Christian idea. It says, “I disagree with what you’re saying, but I allow you the right to say it”. The Bible calls Christians to do more than merely tolerate our neighbors. We’re called to love them.
– “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt. 5:44).
– “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Lk. 6:27).
– “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Lk. 6:31).
– “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lk. 10:27).
– “do good to all people” (Gal.6:10).
– “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12).
– “be ready to do whatever is good … slander no one … be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone” (Tit. 3:1-2).
– “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Pt. 3:15).

But the Bible says that there is no other way to God and heaven than other than through Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6). So the Bible is intolerant about sin and the way of salvation.

Christians are to tolerate other people, but be intolerant towards the postmodern idea that all religions lead to God or that everyone’s beliefs are valid. We don’t have to agree with their opinions. Tolerance of something or someone doesn’t mean we condone it. Of course, there are limits to tolerance, we don’t tolerate terrorism, violence, child abuse, or neglect of the elderly.

Postscript: The hearing

The hearing is being held in Sydney on 4-5 May 2019. In one of the most significant legal battles in Australian sport’s history, Folau’s team is expected to argue that Rugby Australia did not include a specific social media clause in his contract and that his posts were merely passages from the Bible and not his direct words. And Rugby Australia is likely to contend that Folau has seriously breached its code of conduct policy and its inclusion policy.

7 May 2019: “A hearing has found rugby union player Israel Folau committed a ‘high-level breach’ of the Professional Players’ Code of Conduct over controversial social media posts”.

17 May: “Israel Folau’s Australian rugby union career appears over, after a three-person panel ordered that the Wallabies star’s four-year contract be terminated as punishment for his breach of the players’ code of conduct”. “Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle said the decision had not been directly communicated to Folau”.

Acknowledgement

This post has been inspired by Bill Muehlenberg’s (Culture Watch) commentary on this topic.

Also see: What is hell like?

Written, 4 May 2019

Don’t let Christians put you off Jesus

Suppose there’s a man in a town with a history of shady business practices and fraudulent dealings. He also happens to be a regular church-goer.

Many people where he lives know the man to be shonky and would say they’ve been ‘ripped off’ as would people in other towns. What’s terrible is that some people where the man lives say, ‘If that man is a Christian, then I don’t want any part of Christianity’. And, at one level, their reaction is understandable.

The story raises questions about what it means to be a genuine Christian and what churches and other Christians should do when people say they are Christian but their actions clearly aren’t. You can imagine that the answers aren’t always easy.

Certainly the Bible says that those people whose lives are grossly hypocritical and who refuse to change ought to be excluded from church. But what if they keep calling themselves Christian in the community? Or they just move to another church and start again?

Or what if a church or a whole movement of people begin to do things in the name of Jesus that are just plainly at odds with the Bible? History is full of appalling things done in the name of Jesus. Some are well known: the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, people burning each other at stakes. Thankfully, it’s simply not possible to justify these kinds of things from the Bible.

So where does the problem lie? Not with God. The very reason Jesus came to earth was because we’ve got a major issue. It’s called sin. And sin is in every person. We all think, say and do things that we should rightly be ashamed of.

Jesus said this about His coming into the world: God’s light [Jesus] came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil (John 3:19).

What we mustn’t do is use the bad example of some ‘Christians’ as an excuse for not worshipping Jesus and coming into the light ourselves. That’s because the only people who can join the Christian movement are sinners willing to repent. So any person in church will always be a moral failure. Including you!

So yes, Christians should be people who try to live changed lives full of joy and good deeds. All of them will struggle in doing this. And yes, occasionally you’ll find some that seem to be really just pretending. But don’t let Christians put you off Jesus.

Bible verse: John 3:19 “God’s light [Jesus] came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.”

Prayer: Dear God, please help me to leave behind evil works and worship you in the light.

Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2019

Posted, May 2019

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