Observations on life; particularly spiritual

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What I like about Christianity

Here’s what I like about Christianity. It deals with the most important issues and questions of life. The past, the present and the future. Origins and destinies. How to live and how to die. Our most important problem. Our purpose. Love, freedom, security, hope, joy and peace. Eternity with God. It’s good news that changes everything. And it’s based on the most important person who ever lived. The best hero.

One of the beautiful things about Christianity is that Jesus has done everything for us. This means we don’t have to strive to do anything to please God. Salvation depends on acknowledging and confessing one’s sin. It’s a gift from God (Eph. 2:8). And it’s not difficult to understand or accept.

Christians are part of a world-wide spiritual family with whom they share a spiritual life, union and inheritance that never ends. It’s a relationship that surpasses all other human relationships. It crosses racial, cultural, social, age, and gender distinctions (Gal. 3:28). As Christians are all children of God, they are all equal before God. Every believer has the same spiritual status before God. And they have spiritual fathers and mothers to encourage and help them. Spiritual brothers and sisters to share life with. And spiritual children to nurture. So Christians shouldn’t be lonely. They have a ready-made spiritual family.

Christianity is unique because:
– God reached out to us, whereas other religions involve people reaching up to God and looking for the meaning of life.
– It’s a relationship with God (initiated and maintained by God) and not a list of rules and regulations.
– It’s based on the Bible, which is the written word of God. Most of our deepest moral instincts (like equality, human rights, and justice) come from the Bible.
– Its leader (Jesus) rose from the dead and performed many miracles to prove His claim of divinity. Christians serve a living God, whereas most other religious leaders are dead.

When the Philippian jailer became a Christian (Acts 16:24-35), his immediate problem was solved (he was about to kill himself), his family was helped (they didn’t lose a husband and father), he gained new and better friends (Paul and Silas), he was filled with joy (v.34), and he was assured of a home in heaven when he died. How did this happen? First, he was convicted of his sinfulness (v.30). Then, he believed that Jesus took the punishment for his sin (v.31, 34). How about you? If you are a Christian, you can share in similar benefits. If not, then you can become a believer just like the Philippian jailer.

Written, September 2019

Conversation on God

Here is a conversation on God that is an extract from the comments after a blogpost. Check the post for the complete discussion that took place over a period of two months.

George 1 October

The new objection relates to the “proof of God” and the “divinity of Jesus”. These are big topics. I didn’t claim to prove the existence of God from the Bible. Instead, I would say that God is the most logical explanation of the existence and complex nature of the universe, the existence and complex nature of life, and the existence of the human conscience (innate sense of right and wrong). So, I agree that the Bible “is of itself not proof of God” – there’s lots of other evidence. However, the best evidence of the nature of Jesus is the historical record in the Bible. To investigate the “divinity of Jesus” one should study the most reliable ancient text about Him. Of course, one’s conclusion will depend on whether they have an open mind or not.

George 9 October

You say, “I would once again say that citing the Bible as proof of god amounts to nothing more than hearsay”. I didn’t claim to prove the existence of God from the Bible. Instead, I would say that the existence of God is the most logical explanation of the existence and complex nature of the universe, the existence and complex nature of life, and the existence of the human conscience (innate sense of right and wrong). So, there’s lots of other evidence available.

Commentator 9 October

Hi George I am curious if there is lots of other evidence that is not in the bible could you please point me in the right direction to find it?

George’s reply 19 October

You asked, “if there is lots of other evidence (of the existence of God) that is not in the bible could you please point me in the right direction to find it?”. The other evidence of the existence of God that I mentioned was: the existence and complex nature of the universe, the existence and complex nature of life, and the existence of the human conscience (innate sense of right and wrong). Look up any articles on the source or origin of these and see if they answer the question or not and see how many miracles they require.

For example, an article by Stephen Hawking on “The origin of the universe” says that the origin was due to “the spontaneous quantum creation of the universe (which) would be a bit like the formation of bubbles of steam in boiling water”. And at the more popular level the Khan Academy says, “In the beginning, as far as we know, there was nothing. Suddenly, from a single point, all the energy in the universe burst forth”. These sound like miracles to me.

On the other hand, an article by Dr Gregory Ganssle of Yale University provides evidence that:
– The existence of the universe is better explained by the existence of God, and
– The existence of objective moral values is better explained by the existence of God.

Commentator 20 October

Dear George This evidence you speak of can be interpreted in many different ways, not just yours. But thank you for your help.

Dear George in a specific response to your source of gods proof I have to point out the following holes in logic.

  1. If we see time as being linear there is no problem with the first few of Mr Ganssle’s premises but if you take into account the idea of circular time troubles pop up. (ganssle is a little goose in some German dialects 🙂). He obviously had no idea of these theories as he wrote this. But many cultures such as the ancient Mayans and Indians did. Or maybe he did understand circular time theories and choose to ignore them.
  2. This is a big one but if god created the universe what created god? How could he just spring or come into existence?
    Consider this:
    “About god, there are only three alternatives:
    1. God has always existed. and has an infinite past.
    2. God was popped into existence from nothing with absolutely no cause.
    3. God was caused to exist by something outside it.”
    By the author’s own reasoning god, herself must have an outside cause. He must have skipped his logic class as well.
    I should really just stop here because one needn’t read any further because #2 is the end of any rational discussion. In fact, the very idea of god is infinite.
    But since we are already here…
  1. Multiverse theory or the fact that every single being on this planet has an individual experience of all things based on his or her own store consciousness. This is in itself infinite. Therefore we could be living in a universe with one two, millions of gods or actually not at all. But there is no way to tell is there?

4. The idea of knowing good or bad does not presuppose a god. It simply means that humans can see the results of their actions and generally try to choose good actions resulting in good results.

  1. The authors understanding of space-time is flawed. Just because something is outside of space and time does not mean it is outside space-time. We would need to be sure that we truly understand our space with our limited sense perceptions, for example, a bat or dolphin with sonar might understand space much differently than us. Our universe does not stop at time as the last dimension. There are other dimensions as well within our universe and without further study of all of them, this argument is mute. An understanding of the fourth dimension from the perspective of someone in the second dimension is hardly trustworthy.
  2. I quote “If there is no God, there are no objective moral values.
    There are moral values which are objective.
    Therefore, God exists.
    Before I discuss this argument, I must make it clear that I am not claiming that one must believe in God in order to be moral. I am not claiming that statistically, those who believe in God are more moral than those who do not. I am also not claiming that our knowledge of morality depends upon God. This argument is to the effect that objective moral values themselves are foreign to a universe without God. They do not fit.” George Bush believed in god and said on camera that he spoke to god every day. He said this while he was directing the U.S. Armed Forces to bomb Iraq to smithereens. Did god tell him it was ok? Even with god, one’s objective moral values are out of the window. So why should this presuppose a god? He simply believed that it was morally permissible to bomb Iraq even though most of the world did not.
  3. If the author lived in a completely racist society, unfortunately by default he would also be racist whether or not it was morally right or else the society would not be completely racist. Point made?
  4. Is morality transcultural? No, how would one explain the existence of head-hunters and human offering as we know exists in our world. One famous offering was even sanctioned by god, in Genesis 22. The bible and its god was not morally sound here. Oh, but isn’t he the same god who was the standard for the objective right and wrong? oops….
  5. This essay is really crap and written by someone who only sees right and wrong through a dualistic perspective of the bible and not from an objective scientific perspective, therefore it is a fail as proof that god exists.

George’s reply

Thanks for the comment.

  1. I understand that the idea of circular time has been held by some tribes (Inca, Mayan, and Native American) and some religions (Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism). But time as we experience it is linear because:
    – Time is irreversible – we can’t travel back in time
    – Things fall apart. Things in our universe go from a state of order to a state of (increasing) disorder, and not vice-versa. This is called the second law of thermodynamics. Entropy (or disorder) in the universe increases over time.
    Although there are daily, monthly and annual cycles, time is unidirectional. This is physical reality. The idea of circular time may be a perception or a belief, but it’s not a physical reality.
  2. You ask “what created god”? The answer is your first option, “God has always existed. and has an infinite past”. You say, “By the author’s own reasoning god, herself must have an outside cause”. But you fail to note that the author was only addressing, things that have come into existence, not things that are eternal. God is in a different category to the universe. God is eternal and has no cause, whereas the universe has a beginning and so has a cause (which is God’s will).
  3. Your idea of a Multiverse (multiple universes) is pure speculation. There is no evidence of this at all. It’s a philosophical idea that cannot be falsified.
  4. You say that people mainly choose good actions because they lead to good results. If this is the case, why do we need police to maintain law and order?
  5. You question the author’s understanding of space-time. We live in the 4 dimensions of 3D space plus linear time. That’s the universe we all experience and observe. We could also add an extra (spiritual) dimension that is revealed in the Bible that includes God, angels and demons. So the author understands 5 dimensions of space-time, which is more than you identify! You only allude to “other dimensions”, but don’t say what they are.
  6. Your example about George Bush doesn’t address the author’s claim that, “objective moral values themselves are foreign to a universe without God. They do not fit”. Just because someone may believe in God doesn’t mean that they will always follow their God-given conscience. The Bible says that our conscience can be “seared as with a hot iron” or “corrupted” (1 Tim. 4:2; Ti. 1:15). These consciences are insensitive to sin; they do not work properly.
  7. Your example of “a completely racist society” is similar to the example of George Bush, it doesn’t address the author’s claim that, “objective moral values themselves are foreign to a universe without God. They do not fit”. It’s just an example of a seared or corrupted conscience. For example, slavery was accepted in society for many years until the slave trade was abolished by the efforts of Christians such as William Wilberforce (who responded to his guilty conscience when he realized that the slave trade was an abuse of the moral truth that all races are equal).
  8. You don’t believe that morality is transcultural and cite the existence of head-hunters and human sacrifices as an example. But this isn’t what the author stated, which was “there is a morality that is trans-personal, trans-cultural and trans-temporal”. He calls this objective moral truth. Is head hunting and human sacrifice still practiced? The answer is no. When it was it was a case of a seared or corrupted conscience (like Hitler). In this case the objective moral value is that it wrong to kill (murder) another person.

Of course, there are also subjective moral truths (a sense of right and wrong) that can differ according to person, culture and time. This means that all that is accepted and all that is prohibited will not be identical in all societies.

You say that human sacrifice was even sanctioned by God in Genesis 22, but you only quote half the story. After Abraham passed the test of obedience, God provided an animal sacrifice instead. So God never intended for Abraham to kill his son Isaac as an offering to God.

  1. You criticize Ganssle’s article because of its “dualistic perspective of the bible”. However, I don’t know in what sense you are using the idea of dualism:
    – Is it that our mind is more than just our brain? That it has a non-material, spiritual dimension that includes consciousness and that is eternal? Yes, that is what the Bible teaches.
    – Is it that there are two opposing forces of equal power called good (represented by God) and evil (represented by Satan)? This is false because God is omnipotent and Satan was created by God as an angel before he rebelled (Isa. 14:12-15; Ezek. 28:13-17).
    – Is it just opposite of the Buddhist idea that all phenomena inter-exist; nothing is separate? Unfortunately, I have not yet found a clear explanation of this Buddhist idea.

Commentator 19 October

As for god, god is nothing more than an idea like enlightenment both are the goal in one way or another. Christians wish to abide with god in their afterlife. And Buddhists seek to calm and abide in meditation and the all knowing truth that unites all beings. And yes one could use the word the “Devine” equally to both. Both are hard to explain and quite difficult to grasp. But nevertheless, they are both lofty but worthwhile ideals.

You said “Instead, I would say that the existence of God is the most logical explanation of the existence and complex nature of the universe, the existence and complex nature of life, and the existence of the human conscience (innate sense of right and wrong). So, there’s lots of other evidence available.” Is this already your Trump card? 😉 It is very well thought out and partly plausible. What is this evidence you have spoken of I would like to learn about it? Some would say that science is coming close to explaining the wonderful complexities of life.

“Creator – noun – a person or thing that brings something into existence”.
“James Bond’s creator Ian Fleming”
synonyms: writer, author, composer, designer, deviser, maker, inventor, producer, developer; More
used as a name for God.
noun: Creator; noun: the Creator
synonyms: God, the Lord, the Almighty, the Master of the Universe; one’s Maker
“the Sabbath is kept to honor the Creator”

“If” god is the creator and we are made in his image then we are creators as well his equals.

You have also mentioned god’s perfection in all he does. Ok so what about this. if we really were made in gods image Genesis 1:27 and yet we still are sinners, one can draw two conclusions 1. god who is perfect made a mistake or 2. god is also a sinner like us and therefore imperfect. When Christ came to fix or redeem us was god trying to fix his error? How can something so imperfect and sinful as man come from such perfection from a Christian perspective?

George’s reply 29 October

You say, “god is nothing more than an idea like enlightenment both are the goal in one way or another”. This is a poor summary of the God of the Bible. God is not only the end, but the beginning as well. He’s the source and ultimate cause of the universe. He also sustains the universe.

You doubt my statement that “Instead, I would say that the existence of God is the most logical explanation of the existence and complex nature of the universe, the existence and complex nature of life, and the existence of the human conscience (innate sense of right and wrong). So, there’s lots of other evidence available.” I will choose one part of this statement, the “complex nature of the universe”. There are two main ways to explain this observation.
Option 1:
– matter/energy came from nothing.
– matter/energy created the laws of the universe.
– The order and complexity of the universe came from an explosion of this matter/energy and the operation of these laws. This included producing life and producing the information stored in DNA codes.
Hypothetical “dark matter” and “dark energy” is proposed to explain the observed behaviour of the universe (otherwise it can’t be explained by the current laws of physics).
Option 2:
– An all-powerful God designed and created matter/energy, and the laws of the universe, and the order and complexity of the universe. This included producing life and producing the information stored in DNA codes.
Both options involve miracles. Ockham’s razor says that the simplest explanation is preferred because it involves fewer assumptions. Therefore, option 2 is preferred because it’s simpler.
A similar argument can be made for the origin of life, the origin of gender and the origin of morals (or conscience).

You ask, “Is the god of Abraham alive? Can you prove it to a 5 sigma level? Could you even prove it in a court of law?”. About 2000 BC, God promised Abraham that his descendants would be a nation that would occupy Palestine. This was fulfilled about 1,000 years later during the reign of king Solomon (970-930BC). But they were driven from the land by 586BC because they were unfaithful. And Palestine was ruled by other nations up to AD 1947. In the time of Isaiah (about 700BC), God promised that after the exile the nation would be restored in Palestine. But there was no evidence of this being fulfilled until over 2,500 years after the exile. So, the history of the nation of Israel proves that “the God of Abraham is alive”. Two promises that He made were fulfilled, one after a period of about 1,000 years and the other after a period of over 2,500 years. I know of no other god or prophet doing something like this. By the way, we are dealing with history here, not statistics (5 sigma level).

You say, “’If’ god is the creator and we are made in his image then we are creators as well his equals”. Yes humans are creative, but we don’t have the same power as God. Can we create matter/energy (from nothing)? Can we create life from chemicals? God is in charge of the universe (Eph. 1:20-22), whereas we have much smaller responsibilities (Ps. 8:6-8). And we can’t even fulfil these (Heb. 2:8). So, we are not equal with God.

When you looked at why humanity is sinful you left out the biblical explanation that Adam and Eve were created with a free will to either obey or disobey God. They were initially sinless (like God), but after they disobeyed God, they became sinful and their descendants inherited this sinfulness. So God didn’t make a mistake and God isn’t a sinner. When Christ came to fix or redeem us God was trying to fix humanity’s error (not God’s error).

You ask, how a perfect God could have created sinful people. God desires the love of His creation. But love cannot exist apart from free-will, which implies the choice to obey (do good) or disobey (do evil). So He created people in such a way that they had the capacity to choose to love and accept Him or to choose to hate and reject Him. So God Himself did not create sin, He only created Adam and Eve with the capacity to sin. So God allowed Adam and Eve the freedom to rebel and in so doing, pain-and-suffering entered the world.

The answer is that God gave humans the freedom to make choices, they are not His robots (it could be one of the ways they are made in the image and likeness of God, Gen. 1:26-27). As God knew that people would rebel against Him, He also had a plan of salvation through Jesus. Adam and Eve were not sinners until they decided to disobey God. After this time in history the universe was and is not as it was originally created by God. That’s why it’s wrong to blame God for the state of the world today. Yes, God is perfect, but the world is no longer perfect (Rom. 8:20-22). But its perfection will be restored in a coming day. In the meantime, we can be a part of this new creation by being reconciled with God (2 Cor. 5:17-21). That’s why Paul urged people to “Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). The message of the Bible is a marvellous exchange, “God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus took the penalty of our sin (rebellion), so that we could receive His righteousness (be made perfect before God).

Commentator 30 October

Now in response to your last message, how about option 3: The universe is conscious of itself and we are the result of it. How is this for simplicity?

How could god make christ if they were one and the same along with the holy spirit? This is illogical but typical for all your arguments.

George’s reply 10 November

You give a third way to explain the complex nature of the universe as “The universe is conscious of itself and we are the result of it. How is this for simplicity?”. It seems simple, but is it reasonable? Like option 1, it doesn’t explain the cause of the universe (the universe can’t create itself). According to the Cambridge dictionary, the adjective “conscious” means to be “awake, thinking, and knowing what is happening around you”. For example, “She’s out of the operating theatre, but she’s not fully conscious yet”. So, it’s usually applied to living creatures with a mind and nervous system. The Bible describes human beings as being comprised of spirit, soul and body (1 Th. 5:23). It is the spirit which distinguishes us from animals; they do not have such an eternal spirit. As the soul is comprised of the mind, will and emotions, it’s a characteristic of living creatures. To say the universe is conscious seems to be a contradiction to me. How can non-living matter, like rocks, sand, dust and dead things, be awake, thinking and knowing what is happening around it? How can it have a mind, will and emotions? I know that some people speculate about whether the universe is conscious. Whatever they mean, it’s nothing like the dictionary definition. Instead they are making up their own definition. But I would rather trust in something that is robust and reliable instead of speculative ideas.

Commentator 15 November

The next one is my favourite. “the universe cannot create itself” Finally we agree on something. This is not what I said, but since you did the same must also apply to god. How does she exist? She could not create herself either, could she?

George’s reply 19 November

You ask how can God exist if something can’t create itself. The answer to this question is that God is in a different category to everything else. God is eternal and so had no beginning.

You propose that the “universe” is equivalent to “God”. This seems like a version of pantheism to me. I can’t see how the universe can be personal, holy, righteous, just, benevolent, gracious, and merciful. God is everywhere, but He is not everything. The Bible forbids the worship of anything except God and calls it idolatry.

Commentator 20 November

Dear George if god is all-powerful and omniscient it seems very perverse that all beings have to suffer and wait in this hell that he created for us for millennia in order to experience his so-called benevolence, grace and mercy and his second chance to fix it. I really mean this, it is sick to torture untold billions of beings here in hell if you have the power to fix it now, this is not in any way shape or form mercy no matter what the bible says. The only two conclusions that are possible is that he is sick and perverse or he cannot fix this because he did not make it in the first place.

George’s reply 28 November

Once again you criticize God because of the suffering in the world. I have already answered this point in detail above. God often delays judgment so that more people will repent and turn to Him. God is both merciful and just. If there was instant judgement, there would be no mercy. Your ideas of what God is like are different to the reality described in the Bible.

Discussion with second commentator

George’s reply to second commentator 11 October

You  say, “there is no current scientific proof that God exists at all”. This is not surprising because science only deals with the physical world and not the spiritual world.

George’s reply to second commentator on 9 November

You say, “You cannot prove god”. Likewise, you cannot prove that God doesn’t exist. But we can see the evidence of God’s handiwork in the complexity and fine-tuning of nature, in the genetic language in the DNA code, in the uniformity of the laws of nature, as the ultimate source of life, as the ultimate source of gender, as the ultimate source of objective moral values, and as the ultimate source (cause) of the universe. There is no other more likely explanation of these characteristics of our world. So, it’s reasonable to believe that God exists.

For example, the ultimate cause of the universe can be explained as follows:
– Whatever begins to exist requires a cause.
– The universe (space, time, matter/energy) began to exist.
– Therefore, the universe requires a cause.
So, whatever caused the universe to appear is not physical (outside space), is eternal and timeless (outside time), and is immaterial (outside matter/energy). The cause is a supernatural (because it creates nature) mind (a non-material entity that can cause a response) with immense power. The Bible says, “By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen” (Heb. 11:3).

Second commentator 10 November

George says: “You say, ‘You cannot prove god’. Likewise, you cannot prove that God doesn’t exist. But we can see the evidence of God’s handiwork in the complexity and fine-tuning of nature, in the genetic language in the DNA code, in the uniformity of the laws of nature, as the ultimate source of life, as the ultimate source of gender, as the ultimate source of objective moral values, and as the ultimate source (cause) of the universe. There is no other more likely explanation of these characteristics of our world. So, it’s reasonable to believe that God exists.”

Here you go again George. My statement is that “you cannot prove that god exists”. This is 100% true George. You cannot. Maybe someone else will be able to one day but YOU cannot. Your answer is an example of what I mentioned above. Just because Nature and DNA are complicated in no way does that mean that god must of created them. That is just your “opinion” George which differs greatly from fact. You can say that god is one of the possible explanations in the multitude of explanations that exist. There is no proof that god created anything and that is a fact!

George says: “For example, the ultimate cause of the universe can be explained as follows:
– Whatever begins to exist requires a cause.
– The universe (space, time, matter/energy) began to exist.
– Therefore, the universe requires a cause.
So, whatever caused the universe to appear is not physical (outside space), is eternal and timeless (outside time), and is immaterial (outside matter/energy). The cause is a supernatural (because it creates nature) mind (a non-material entity that can cause a response) with immense power.”

Your first statement is straight out of the Buddhas teaching “Whatever begins to exist requires a cause”. If you read the two books I mentioned above you will see that scientists question if “time” exists at all. “So, whatever caused the universe to appear is not physical (outside space)” Here you go again George making a statement as if it were fact when there is no facts backing it up. There is no proof that the universe had a beginning. The big bang is a theory George. I am sure when you are trying to argue that the world was created in 6 days that you use that very fact to support your argument. One of the possibilities is that the universe is infinite and has always and will always exist. Right now there are many theories of where the universe came from and if or how it began. I am sure that if you query most scientists, the world being created in 6 days will probably not be on the top of the list.

George’s reply 26 November

You say, “Just because Nature and DNA are complicated in no way does that mean that god must of created them. That is just your “opinion” George which differs greatly from fact. You can say that god is one of the possible explanations in the multitude of explanations that exist. There is no proof that god created anything and that is a fact!”

If there are other explanations of the cause of the complex information coded in the order of the nucleotides in the DNA molecule I would like to know one. It certainly can’t come from random processes or mutations. And it needs to be more intelligent than the human brain because we don’t understand how it works. Each nucleotide includes a particular nucleobase (adenine, thymine, guanine, or cytosine). Similar to how the order of letters in the alphabet can be used to form a word, the order of nucleotides in a DNA sequence forms genes, which in the language of the cell, tells cells how to make proteins. The human genome contains about 3 billion paired nucleotides. So each cell has 6 billion nucleotides.

Conclusion

God does not force us to believe in Him. Instead, He has provided sufficient proof of His existence for us to willingly respond to Him (Ps. 19:1-4; Rom. 1:20). There is plenty of evidence that God exists (Appendix A and B). This evidence is so strong that it’s more sense to believe in God than to believe He isn’t there. It takes more faith to be an atheist than to believe that God exists.

Appendix A: Arguments for the existence of God

The following summary of arguments for the existence of God comes from Tom Murphy.

Firstly, there are general arguments for the existence of God. These arguments don’t demonstrate that Christianity, specifically, is true. They show that belief in a supreme God and Creator is more rational for a person to believe than Atheism. These arguments include the following.

The Kalam cosmological argument

  1. All things that begin to exist have a cause of their existence.
  2. The universe began to exist.

Conclusion: The Universe has a cause of its existence.

You might wonder, where is God in this? But when you unpack what this cause must have been like, it must be outside time and space, be immaterial, extremely powerful, and most likely be a personal being. And this is a lot like the God of the Bible.

The Leibnizian cosmological argument

  1. Anything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
  2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
  3. The universe exists.

Conclusion 1: the universe has an explanation of its existence.
Conclusion 2: the explanation of the existence of the universe is God (from 2, and Conclusion 1).

The teleological (“Fine-Tuning”) cosmological argument

  1. The universe is finely tuned to make life physically possible.
  2. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
  3. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.

Conclusion: The fine tuning it is due to design. And the designer is lot like God.

These first three arguments reflect the thoughts of David in Psalm 19 and Paul’s words in Romans 1. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Ps. 19:1-4).

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

The moral argument

  1. If God does not exist, objective moral values (right and wrong) and duties do not exist.
  2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.

Conclusion: God exists.

This helps us see God’s moral nature. God is the foundation of moral values. Paul reflects the basic premise of the moral argument in Romans 2 when he says that the Gentiles who didn’t have the law of Moses, “are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them” (Rom. 2:14-15). The moral law is clearly perceived by all people.

There is an important misconception that often gets attached to the moral argument; That a person can only do morally good things if they believe in God. The moral argument does not say that a person must believe in God to be able to do morally good deeds. Indeed the verse just quoted from Romans even says this. What the argument says is that if any act is truly good or bad, it is because God exists and is the foundation of moral goodness. A non-believer can still do good things.

The ontological argument

  1. It is possible that a maximally great being (God) exists.
  2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
  3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
  4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
  5. If a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists.

Conclusion: a maximally great being (God) exists.

Here, “maximally great being” means the best possible being (person) that could ever be described. This is the kind of being that has all the qualities that make a being great and excellent, and it has those qualities to the fullest possible extent. These would be qualities like moral goodness, power, knowledge, wisdom, and self-sufficiency. These are all the qualities typically associated with being God. The term “maximally great being” is used in the argument to avoid any misunderstandings that might occur because people often have their own assumptions or ideas about God based on past experiences. The term is used to avoid all that baggage people might attach to the word God.

This is a rather abstract argument to get your head around at first, but what it shows is that if it is even logically possible that God exists, then He exists necessarily, and it would be impossible that He doesn’t exist. In order to defeat this argument and show that God does not exist, the critic of the argument would have to show that it is logically impossible for God to exist – that there is not even the slightest possibility that He exists. The most controversial premise in this argument for philosophers who specialise in modal logic is premise 1. All the other premises (2-5) are just conclusions drawn from premise 1 and the rules of modal logic.

These arguments give a very strong cumulative case for the existence of God. Something that you might notice about these arguments is that there are premises in all of them that some people might not accept; either because they don’t want to accept the conclusion of the argument, or because they haven’t really heard or considered any evidence that might make them accept the premises. What we would do when sharing these arguments with people is also share the evidence that makes us believe the premises in them are true; and therefore, that the argument is true.

Appendix B:  6 Arguments for God’s existence

  1. The universe must have a cause. It was caused by a supernatural Creator.
  2. Design demands a designer. The universe looks designed. It demands a supernatural intelligent Designer.
  3. Life demands supernatural life-giver. Life doesn’t arrive from non-lifegiving chemicals.
  4. Moral law demands a moral law-giver.
  5. Free-will exists.
  6. Human reasoning.

Written, September 2019

Also see:
How can we know that God exists?
Evidence for God’s existence
Is faith blind?

Conversation on the Bible

Here is a conversation on the Bible that is an extract from the comments after a blogpost. Check the post for the complete discussion that took place over a period of more than three months. As there were two commentators involved at the same time, the discussion with each is separated below.

Commentator 1 September

Much of the old testament is filled with violence and genocide the likes of which would keep today’s UN war crimes tribunals busy for an eternity.

How can we rely on the Christian scriptures as you have said when we have no proof only faith of their authenticity? Faith is in no way empirical evidence of the divine origin of the texts.

George’s reply 24 September

You asked, “How can we rely on the Christian scriptures as you have said when we have no proof only faith of their authenticity?” Please read my post on “Can we trust our Bibles”. It concludes that our Bibles are very close to the original because early manuscripts have been preserved, scholars have reconstructed the original text and languages have been translated accurately. Because of this and the numerous manuscripts that have been preserved, the Christian Bible is one of the most reliable ancient texts that are available today.

Commentator 24 September

Dear George, be that as it may citing the Bible as proof of its self is a non sequitur. It’s like asking the murderer if he did it and using that as the only evidence in court. I don’t doubt the Bible was written, or even has some truth, but it is in of itself not proof of god or the divinity of Jesus.

George’s reply 1 October

You claim that “citing the Bible as proof of its self is a non sequitur”. This means that “it does not follow” or it’s not logical. I answered this by saying that “the Christian Bible is one of the most reliable ancient texts that are available today”

We can find out whether to approve or disapprove of any given teaching by comparing it to biblical text. The Bible is the ultimate standard for truth.

Commentator 5 October

Should not the truth when exposed, read, or published in any Christian text speak for its self?

George’s reply 5 October

With regard to religious books, it’s the quality that counts more than the quantity. As the Bible is a message from the God who created the universe, it trumps all products of the human mind.

Truth in the Bible is simple enough to be read by anyone.

You ask, “Should not the truth when exposed, read, or published in any Christian text speak for its self?” Yes it does. But most people reject it. For example, everyone can see the beauty and complexity of life and the universe, but few consider the Creator.

Commentator 8 October

Back to the Bible, God did not write the Bible, men clearly did, as an intermediary. I would once again say that citing the Bible as proof of god amounts to nothing more than hearsay. But if you ask me today and say that some guy saw a burning bush and chiselled out 10 laws from God on a stone tablet, I would want to know what drugs he was on to have such a hallucination. I can accept that these men were inspired to do it and in turn inspired many others to do good things.

Why do most people reject the Christian teachings? Very good question. The answer is likely in the delivery, for example, “I am right, it says so right here in the good book, and you are going to hell if you don’t believe as well”. “Don’t shove that down my throat.” nothing has changed since the crusades. There is not one ounce of compassion or wisdom in this approach. It causes divisions where none previously were, it causes people to close up and move away, and what good is that?

Have I read the New Testament? Yes and not only that but the entire book from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. And I find nothing in the book that qualifies as proof of its own existence or the existence of a god. This is simply not logical. If you, however, have a personal experience of god that has in some way or another lead you to believe otherwise, I accept that you have found the truth for yourself and am happy for you. If you simply need something to believe in and find Christianity acceptable this is also good, as long as you use this for good deeds that further our human development, as this is exactly what Buddhism teaches us to do. What I read and understood in the Old Testament was nothing more than genocide and its divine justification. Granted the new Testament changed most of this but not all of it. And I can completely agree that Jesus was an extraordinary being the likes of which we could use many times more here on earth.

George’s reply 9 October

You say, “God did not write the Bible, men clearly did, as an intermediary”. This is correct. In Old Testament times God communicated to people via the prophets and in New Testament times He communicated via Jesus and the apostles. Paul wrote, “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16). Peter wrote, “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable … Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things (own mind). For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:19-21). So the Holy Spirit helped the authors write the words. But it wasn’t just dictated mechanically, because each author used their own style. In this way, the Bible is a message from the God who created the universe, and so it has more authority than any product of the human mind.

You say, “I would once again say that citing the Bible as proof of god amounts to nothing more than hearsay”. I didn’t claim to prove the existence of God from the Bible. Instead, I would say that the existence of God is the most logical explanation of the existence and complex nature of the universe, the existence and complex nature of life, and the existence of the human conscience (innate sense of right and wrong). So, there’s lots of other evidence available.

You say, “Why do most people reject the Christian teachings? Very good question. The answer is likely in the delivery”. Let’s test this with Jesus. As Jesus was divine, the delivery of His message to fellow Jews must have been perfect. But Jesus was rejected in His hometown (Mk. 6:3; Lk. 4:28-29); and in Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum where He did many miracles (Lk. 10:13-15); and in the region of the Gadarenes (Mt. 8:34). Many of His followers deserted Him (Jn. 6:66). And the Jewish religious leaders condemned Him to death. This shows that Jesus Christ’s teachings were rejected by many people. If that’s what happened to Jesus Christ, then the message about Jesus will also be rejected today. And the reason will be humanity’s sinful rebellion against God, and not the style of delivery.

You say, “Have I read the New Testament? Yes and not only that but the entire book from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. And I find nothing in the book that qualifies as proof of its own existence or the existence of a god. This is simply not logical.” Your opinion is not surprising. Paul wrote, “If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God” (2 Cor. 4:3-4). Many things (including presuppositions) can hide the message of the Bible.

Commentator 19 October

Once again I ask you what evidence do you have of the divinity of the Bible? Other than what is already said in the Bible.

Once again using the Bible as proof of its self is simply illogical. For example, “hear ye hear ye, I am the great spaghetti monster who was boiled for your sins. Trust me because I say so and look I wrote it in this big book” ??? Really, I don’t think so. This rationale is simply insulting to our intelligence as rational well-educated individuals.

George’s reply 29 October

You say, “Once again using the Bible as proof of its self is simply illogical”. … The Bible is a collection of 66 ancient documents written over a period of at least 1,500 years by 40 different authors. But it has an amazing unity. The New Testament was written by at least nine independent authors. The authors all present different perspectives, but they all proclaim the same one true God, and the same one way of salvation—Jesus Christ. And the statements made by each author can provide independent proof of statements made by the others. That’s how historical facts are determined from historical records.

All religious and philosophical systems start with presuppositions. For example, my presupposition is that the Bible is God’s written word and so it is the ultimate authority on whatever it teaches. The real tests are: is it self-consistent and is it consistent with the real world? So what do these tests show? Is the Bible self-consistent? Yes, the Bible is consistent in the claims it makes about itself. And it doesn’t disclaim divine inspiration. Is the Bible consistent with the real world? The biblical framework is the only one that provides the foundation for science (the universe is orderly because it was made by a God of order), voluntary will (being made in the image of God, people are free to make choices), logic (the universe was made by a God of order who operates consistently throughout the universe), and morality (the Bible provides an objective basis for right and wrong). This foundation is lacking in most other religious and philosophical systems.

Commentator 30 October

George, I have one final comment for you, please let us test the divinity of the Bible and modern values and morals. I have selected 6 verses to help us see how the bible’s divine wisdom that can help us lead better and more fulfilled lives in the name of god the father, the son, and the holy ghost. Let’s consider and examine this good news and call it the Humanity and Compassion Test.

  1. 1 Timothy 2:12, says: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, she must be silent.” When we stand in front of a woman Judge and she passes a sentence do we get to ignore it as she is a woman and I am I man? Is a woman President out of the question biblically speaking? How should a mother or a woman teacher discipline or direct male children? Is this scripture an example of god’s compassion and humanity? How should the Queen of England and women like Margret Thatcher and Oprah Winfrey interpret this?
  2. 1 Samuel 15:3: “This is what the Lord Almighty says … ‘Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’ ” Does god give us permission to commit genocide in situations where he deems it acceptable? How should this scripture help us find peace and stability for all in this world? What shall we say to the violence and utter destruction this poses should this be a model for us to use in future conflicts? How should one balance this with “thou shall not kill”? Is this what you are talking about when you speak of the bible’s congruency with itself over the time it was written?
  3. How about Psalm 137, which puts an interesting spin on revenge: “Happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us / He who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” This finds god at odds with Gandhi and his “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” When would such revenge stop, and how on earth should this make anyone happy? Reading stuff like this really makes me sick.
  4. This might be a repeat of #1 but I want to know after reading Genesis 16-21 and Exodus 20-21 When I can have my slaves, wives, and concubines? Are the Mormons correct and did the wrong side in the eyes of god lose the civil war in the US? Does god’s divine plan for man include servants and whores who are at my disposal if I believe in him?
  5. Exodus 35:2 – ” For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it must be put to death.” When shall we start the execution of all the McDonalds and Burger King employees who have to work on Sunday? Do we do anything with the boss who is at home but required them to work? Once again why all the killing?
  6. Luke 14:26, ” If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.” I am not even sure what to say here except that my Sunday school teacher ever so slightly and skillfully passed over this one.
  7. Numbers 5:11-31 – ”Then the LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him by sleeping with another man, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure—or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure- then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder offering to draw attention to guilt. ‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the LORD. Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. After the priest has had the woman stand before the LORD, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, ‘If no other man has slept with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have defiled yourself by sleeping with a man other than your husband’ here the priest is to put the woman under this curse of the oath, may the LORD cause your people to curse and denounce you when he causes your thigh to waste away and your abdomen to swell. May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells and your thigh wastes away.’ Then the woman is to say, ‘Amen. So be it.’ The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. He shall have the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water will enter her and cause bitter suffering. The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the LORD and bring it to the altar. The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water. If she has defiled herself and been unfaithful to her husband, then when she is made to drink the water that brings a curse, it will go into her and cause bitter suffering; her abdomen will swell and her thigh waste away, and she will become accursed among her people. If, however, the woman has not defiled herself and is free from impurity, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children. This, then, is the law of jealousy when a woman goes astray and defiles herself while married to her husband, or when feelings of jealousy come over a man because he suspects his wife. The priest is to have her stand before the LORD and is to apply this entire law to her. The husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing, but the woman will bear the consequences of her sin.” Wow, what is this? Drink this poison and if you live you were innocent and when you die, you die because of your sins? How is this Love? Where is the wisdom here? How many women would be left standing today if we still did this?
  8. Leviticus 21:17-24 – “Say to Aaron: ‘For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; no man with a crippled foot or hand, or who is hunchbacked or dwarfed, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the offerings made to the LORD by fire. He has a defect; he must not come near to offer the food of his God. He may eat the most holy food of his God, as well as the holy food; yet because of his defect, he must not go near the curtain or approach the altar, and so desecrate my sanctuary. I am the LORD, who makes them holy.’ ” So Moses told this to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites. So I take it that there is no handicapped entrance ramp to the temple, only an exit. If there is a handicapped entrance to a church, is the church in violation of the holy scriptures of god? Is this how we express compassion and wisdom to those of us who are less fortunate than ourselves?

So these questions are an attempt to qualify the divinity of the holy scriptures and god’s plan for us here his servants on earth. Or is this just an absurd plan from psychopathic tyrant hellbent on destruction and control. I find no love, no compassion, and no humanity in these “holy” words of some supposed god that will condemn me to hell if I don’t believe in him, how is that for unconditional love? In fact, I find only great understanding after reading this and similar scriptures in the Quran and the Torah, of the great plague that began in the middle east and now is infecting the whole world with violence and death as Christian and Muslim pit their versions of god against one another much like you, have pitted the supposed words of god against the Buddha Dharma. This is not a message of love in any way shape or form, this is not self consistent with a message of love and good news. Result FAIL!

George’s reply 10 November

You quote eight passages from the Bible for testing against “modern values and morals”. I have written a post on how to understand the Bible. And I have applied this to 1 Samuel 15:1-3 (passage #2 above). This includes consideration of the text, the historical-cultural context and the literary context. There are two main divisions in the Bible – the part dealing with the Old Covenant (up to AD 30) and the part dealing with the New Covenant (after AD 30). Jesus overlaps these covenants as He lived under the old one but also taught about the new one.

Because, “Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given” (Rom. 10:4), even Jews are no longer under the law of Moses (Gal. 3:23-25). Jesus ended “the (Old Testament) system of law with its commandments and regulations” (Eph. 2:15). He fulfilled the law of Moses and the writings of the prophets by accomplishing their purpose (Mt. 5:17). Because Jesus never sinned and was the only one who obeyed the law, He was able to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind. This means that God’s justice is met while at the same time He can show mercy to sinners. So, these laws were for the people of Israel (Jews) living under the Old Covenant, but under the New Covenant the people of God (Christians) are no longer an ethnic group, but people from all nations.

Looking at the passages, numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 8 were written to Israelites living under the Old Covenant. This historical context means that they are not relevant to Christians living under the New Covenant. Therefore, they are also not relevant to “modern values and morals”. See my exegesis of passage #2. If you want to compare them with something, then it should be with other nations of that era. Otherwise you are comparing apples against oranges and not like against like.

Looking at the other two passages (numbers 1 and 6). The context of 1 Timothy 2:12 (“I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly”) is that Paul is writing to Timothy with instructions for the church at Ephesus. It is preceded by instructions on corporate prayer (2:1-10) and followed by instructions on church leadership (3:1-13). So, the topic being addressed in 1 Timothy 2:12 is teaching scripture and listening to teachers of scripture in a corporate church setting. It has nothing to do with the behaviour of female judges, presidents, mothers, school teachers, queens, prime ministers, or talk show hosts.

When a large crowd followed Jesus He said to them, “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:26-27). This could be a hyperbole (an obvious exaggeration) meaning that one must love Jesus even more that one’s immediate family and one’s own life. Or the word “hate” could have a particular meaning. Either way, it’s a rhetorical technique to get their attention. And then He explains His statement (v.27-33). He was looking for followers who were willing to live devotedly and passionately for Him, and even die for Him if necessary. So He describes the cost of true discipleship. No consideration of family ties or self-centredness must ever be allowed to deflect a disciple from a pathway of full obedience to Christ. Christians are to love Him supremely, more than their family and more than their own lives. His followers are required to reset their priorities and put God first. Jesus is teaching about the cost of following Him, “So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own” (Lk. 14:33).

A similar thought is given in, “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine” (Mt. 10:37). By comparing with Luke 14:26, we see that in this context, the word “hate” could mean “to love less than”. And this could be the particular meaning that Jesus intended. Also note, “Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity” (Jn. 12:25).

Commentator 8 November

Dear George, if your beliefs on christ are based on what the Bible says, and not on what was decided at the council of Nicaea, how can you say that the Bible is authentic and factual according to history when in fact what the Bible says was in part decided at the council of Nicaea? Your argument is not logical.

George’s reply 17 November

You ask, “how can you say that the Bible is authentic and factual according to history when in fact what the Bible says was in part decided at the council of Nicaea?” The main topic considered at Nicaea was whether Jesus was human or divine. Is He a created being (just a human being) or equal with God (divine)?

Let’s look at the historical evidence. The Bible says, “In the beginning the Word [Jesus] already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word [Jesus] was God. He [Jesus] existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through Him [Jesus], and nothing was created except through Him” (Jn. 1:1-3).

“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He [Jesus] existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through Him [Jesus] God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He [Jesus] made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through Him [Jesus] and for Him. He [Jesus] existed before anything else, and He holds all creation together” (Col. 1:15-17).

“Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors [Jews] through the prophets. And now in these final days, He [God] has spoken to us through His Son [Jesu]). God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son He [God] created the universe. The Son [Jesus] radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and He [Jesus] sustains everything by the mighty power of His [Jesus] command” (Heb. 1:1-3).

From these three passages about Jesus, it’s clear that Jesus is divine, and not just a human being. These were written at least 200 years before the Council of Nicaea. That’s what the historical record says. The fact that Jesus was divine means that He was greater than any other person who ever lived. And it is dangerous to ignore the good news about Him in the Bible.

Jesus was crucified because He claimed to be divine (Lk. 22:67-71). And He said, “unless you believe that I AM who I claim to be, you will die in your sins” (Jn. 8:24).

The Council of Nicaea upheld the doctrine of Christ’s true divinity, rejecting Arius’s heresy. The council did not invent this doctrine. Rather, it only recognized what the Bible already taught over 200 years earlier. Therefore, the Bible is authentic and factual in itself. And it’s meaning doesn’t rely on the findings of the Council of Nicaea. It just happens that in this case, the finding was consistent with what the Bible clearly teaches. It seems logical to me.

Commentator 8 November

Dear George, have you personally read and studied these other books or extra writing in order to determine their authenticity yourself or do you have faith in man and trust that he had no other ulterior motives in including or dismissing said sacred and inspired texts from god?

George’s reply 17 November

You ask, “have you personally read and studied these other books or extra writing in order to determine their authenticity yourself or do you have faith in man and trust that he had no other ulterior motives in including or dismissing said sacred and inspired texts from god”.

No, I haven’t studied many of these extra-canonical books. I trust Christians in the first few centuries of the church to be able to distinguish the truly canonical from the false. After all, they lived in the era when these books were written, so they are more qualified than anyone today. To test their judgment I have just read “The gospel of Thomas”. This is a disjointed collection of 114 sayings. Many of them have obviously been derived from the gospels in the Bible. But some are strange (see below). In this case I agree with the early Christians, this book isn’t inspired by God.

(11) Jesus said, “This heaven will pass away, and the one above it will pass away. The dead are not alive, and the living will not die. In the days when you consumed what is dead, you made it what is alive. When you come to dwell in the light, what will you do? On the day when you were one you became two. But when you become two, what will you do?”

(18) The disciples said to Jesus, “Tell us how our end will be.” Jesus said, “Have you discovered, then, the beginning, that you look for the end? For where the beginning is, there will the end be. Blessed is he who will take his place in the beginning; he will know the end and will not experience death.”

(22) Jesus saw infants being suckled. He said to his disciples, “These infants being suckled are like those who enter the kingdom.”
They said to him, “Shall we then, as children, enter the kingdom?”
Jesus said to them, “When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the female; and when you fashion eyes in the place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, and a likeness in place of a likeness; then will you enter the kingdom.”

(80) Jesus said, “He who has recognized the world has found the body, but he who has found the body is superior to the world.”

(105) Jesus said, “He who knows the father and the mother will be called the son of a harlot.”

(112) Jesus said, “Woe to the flesh that depends on the soul; woe to the soul that depends on the flesh.”

(114) Simon Peter said to him, “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.” Jesus said, “I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Commentator 15 November

Now I did quote you a verse from the Bible that I believe empowers Christianity to wage war and 1 Samuel 15:3 sounds like war to me. And “if” god really did inspire these scriptures then he IS THE PROBLEM. It is also irrelevant what part of the bible this comes from when it is the holy inspired truth. If this scripture is no longer valid or void because it is part of the Old Testament then your argument for the validity, authenticity, or divine authority of the whole bible is very questionable. How does this work? Do we now have Synod of George and those that think like him who now get to say that part of the bible is no longer valid and we like this part instead? If so then Islam seems to have the most uncorrupted book. If Jesus ended the old testament system how did we end up with all the crusades? Perhaps we need some new prophet to come forth again and end all this religious violence we have now. Lord knows we need it because as long and Jews, Muslims, and Christians are fighting none of us will ever know peace. If the bible cannot inspire us to “be peace” then it is no longer relevant to human beings and should be discarded in the annals of history.

Your comments on the use of the word hate in the new testament are interesting. But “could be a hyperbole” sounds like you are really out on a limb and grasping for something to hold onto. Could that have a particular meaning as well? How much license does one have in interpreting this book? How much licence for interpretation has been used over the years version after version synod after synod, you must get my drift here, don’t you? This does not bode well for the bible’s divine authenticity. My critical and logical western mind has a real tough time swallowing this and this is a fail in my books.

George’s reply 19 November

The message of the Bible is simple. It explains the past, the present and the future. And it tells us what to do and how to live. God created a perfect universe where there was no sin. But people rebelled (disobeyed) against God bringing sin, pain, suffering and death into the world. Our world is different to what God originally intended. We live in the time period between the fall (into sin) and the restoration. But God sent Jesus to take the punishment for sin by dying for us. God is the greatest example of love. Those who accept His rescue plan become part of His new creation where there will be no sin. This gives lasting joy and love. Those who don’t accept His rescue plan, will pay the penalty for their rebellion against the God who sustained them through life on earth. This gives lasting pain and regret. Which option will you choose?

You say that Christianity is one of the causes of the world’s problems and believe that 1 Samuel 15:3 empowers Christianity to wage war. Here is the passage where this verse occurs in the Bible, “One day Samuel said to Saul, ‘It was the Lord who told me to anoint you as king of his people, Israel. Now listen to this message from the Lord! This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has declared: I have decided to settle accounts with the nation of Amalek for opposing Israel when they came from Egypt. Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys’” (1 Sam. 15:1-3). See my exegesis of this passage.

This is a message to Saul the king of Israel who lived about 1030BC. Christianity began when the Holy Spirit indwelt believers on the day of Pentecost in about AD30. The portion of the Bible that describes early Christianity (Acts to Revelation) was written after AD30. The message in 1 Samuel 15 was written to Israelites living in the land of Israel over 1,000 years before Christianity began. I don’t see how this event in Jewish history is relevant to Christianity – it isn’t mentioned in the New Testament. It’s more relevant to Jews than to Christians.

Saul also offered animal sacrifices (1 Sam. 10:8; 13:8-10). Does this mean that Christians should offer animal sacrifices to God? Of course not. Christians follow the new covenant, not the old one which was made with the Israelites. That’s why the Bible is divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament. We need to take into account who the text is written to. This is basic biblical hermeneutics (principles of interpretation) and exegesis (interpretation of a specific text).

You say, “If Jesus ended the old testament system how did we end up with all the crusades?” From about AD 200, the land of Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey was inhabited primarily by Christians. But once Islam became powerful, Muslims invaded these lands and brutally oppressed, enslaved, deported, and even murdered the Christians living in those lands. Besides conquering the Middle East, the Muslims aggressively conquered portions of Europe, northern Africa and Spain. The march on Europe was stopped in what is now France by Charles Martel in 732, at the Battle of Tours (Poitiers). And by 732 they swept over Persia into India. This all happened within 100 years of the death of Muhammad in 632. This conquest was unparalleled in human history. The initial Islamic jihad captured four of the five centres of Christianity at that time. These are now in the Islam world. The largest of these former Christian centres was Constantinople.

And Christians didn’t respond for 450 years. The first crusade was a response to an appeal from the Byzantine Empire and a threat to Christian residents of Palestine and to pilgrims visiting Palestine and to the destruction of churches in Palestine. The aim was to allow pilgrimages to Palestine. The Crusades were a defensive action that was delayed and small scale. This was a limited military action in response to a series of massive military actions. There was no attempt to recover any of the other lands that had been conquered.

In response, the Roman Catholic Church and “Christian” kings/emperors from Europe ordered the crusades (AD 1095 to 1230) to liberate the land of Palestine so that pilgrimages could be made once again. Although the Crusades were primarily pilgrimages rather than military operations, the actions that many so-called Christians took in the crusades were deplorable. They did some terrible things. There is no biblical justification for conquering lands, murdering civilians, and destroying cities in the name of Jesus Christ.

Christianity doesn’t have the idea of a holy war. Fighting wasn’t something that got you into heaven. And Jesus said His kingdom wasn’t maintained by military might – “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world” (Jn. 18:36).

You criticize my explanation of the word “hate” in Luke 14:26. You say, “How much license does one have in interpreting this book?” There is no license in interpreting the Bible because the meaning is usually given by the context. In this case Jesus gives an illustration about a man who builds a house without counting the cost and finds that he cannot follow through with what he set out to do (v.28-30). The point of the passage is to count the cost of following Jesus. In order to be a disciple, we must be willing to give up everything for Jesus. Therefore, if our parents will not follow Jesus, or if they disown us for being Christians, we must still choose Him over them. It is in this sense that we are “hating” our family members who reject the Lord or reject us because of the Lord. God requires total commitment from His followers, to the point of not being diverted by any natural family members who reject Jesus. The cost of following Jesus is that we must be prepared to put everything else second.

Commentator 20 November

Dear George, once again your argument is simply illogical. You say that god created a perfect universe. lol, this simply cannot be. If this said universe was perfect then it is completely impossible that man could rebel and sin. What on earth or in this universe would we have to rebel against if it all was perfect? This presumption of yours is not realistic. Are we to believe the Lucifer was walking around one day in a perfect heaven and accidentally fell through some hole in a cloud and fell to earth? Some perfection, full of holes. And then to top it off we are to believe and trust in him and his so-called rescue plan, to fix his messed up first attempt at perfection and wait in pain and suffering for his second attempt.

You claim yourself that the writings in 1 Samuel 15: 1-3 are irrelevant because of the passage of time and the coming of Jesus. If the bible is the true and correct inspired word of god what power do you have to declare it non-pertinent? The entire book is the inspired word of god or none of it at all, there is no room to interpret this any other way.

If there is no license in interpreting the bible we must then see the meddling of man in early years of the church when the Catholics redid or rewrote the bible. The words of which now serve to enslave and control man at the behest of the church’s powerful control. You may also not interpret the bible to say that the old testament is no longer valid.

I happened to stumble upon an interesting lecture on YouTube the other day that in my opinion passes perfectly to our discussion. George if you have a free 51 min of spare time have a listen to what Alan Watts a respected philosopher, writer and speaker has to say about what we have been discussing. It can be found here. youtube.com/watch?v=GbO0t3srgE4 I am interested to hear what you or anyone else might have to say about this, thank you once again for your openness and your forum for discussion. It is truly a gift to speak with you.

George’s reply 28 November

Unfortunately, your statements about the Bible seem to be based on your presuppositions. There needs to be a lot more exegesis and a lot less eisegesis if you want to understand what the Bible says and how it applies today. For example, I have already stated that the Old Testament was written to Jews, while the New was written to Christians, and the Old Testament is the precursor of the New Testament, but you don’t seem to understand this statement.

You ask, what did Adam and Eve have to rebel against in a perfect world? Their sin was that they wanted to be like God and because of this they disobeyed God (Gen. 3:5-6).

You allege that “the Catholics redid or rewrote the bible”. I would like to know specifically what passages you are referring to here. Can you name the chapter and verses? What evidence can you give?

Alan Watts seemed to speak like a guru who was his own authority. But he falsely claimed that the Scriptural canon was decided by the Roman Catholic church. The New Testament clearly tells us that the apostles were identifying scripture as it was being written (2 Pt. 3:14-16). That’s in the first century AD. The New Testament books were being distributed by the apostles to the various churches to be read (Gal. 6:11; Col. 4:16; 1 Th. 5:27; 2 Th. 2:2; 3:14). That’s in the first century AD. By the time the apostles died (in the first century AD), the New Testament had been written and its books were known. The Muratorian Fragment (AD 170) and several of the early fathers have left us a list of books that were identified as belonging to the New Testament. The main criteria for the New Testament canon was that it was comprised of books written in the first century AD by the apostles and their associates, and whose doctrine was consistent with each other. The church didn’t need to wait until AD 382 to decide which books satisfied these criteria. They already knew this over 200 years earlier. The apostles and their associates were the authority, not the Roman Catholic church which began hundreds of years later. So the authority of Scripture is based on the authority of the apostles and their associates and not on the authority of the Roman Catholic church.

Watts imposes his presuppositions on the Bible. He believes that Jesus was a mystic who experienced cosmic consciousness to come into union with God. Watts is a pantheist who believes that we are all divine. He bases this on John 10:34-36, which says, “Jesus replied, ‘It is written in your own Scriptures that God said to certain leaders of the people, ‘I say, you are gods!’ And you know that the Scriptures cannot be altered. So if those people who received God’s message were called ‘gods,’ why do you call it blasphemy when I say, ‘I am the Son of God’? After all, the Father set me apart and sent me into the world”.

This passage refers to Psalm 82:6 where unjust human judges are called “gods” because they represented God in a theocratic kingdom. It doesn’t imply that they were divine (because they were corrupt and mortal). Since Scripture called human beings “gods” simply because God commissioned them, how much more may the “Son of God” be called by a divine title? If the judges can be called “gods” in Scripture, how much more is this term appropriate for the genuine Son of God who God sent into the world and who is divine (holy and immortal)? So Jesus had every right to claim equality with God.

Watts also believed that Jesus was similar to other gurus who had experienced mystical episodes. But this belief is wrong. Jesus rose from the dead, while the other mystics are still dead. Jesus had power over death, but the other mystics didn’t. And that’s a radical difference.

Watts seems to be attempting religious syncretism between Christianity and eastern religions to create a religion of his own making. But in this process he discards the core aspects of Christianity (the divinity and resurrection of Jesus). So what’s left is essentially eastern mysticism. Unfortunately, Watts died an alcoholic. So he’s not an example of a guru that I would follow.

Commentator 2 December

George, eisegesis is not necessarily applicable here. for several reasons.
1. Are we qualified to “interpret the WORD OF GOD?
2. There are way too many authors of the Bible all of them lived over 1000’s of years and all have a slightly different spin on the events.
Personally, I think if it really is the WORD OF GOD it does not matter who what or when GOD SAYS do this and it should be done. You seem to think we can or are able to interpret this. I think it is our interpretation that is the problem we take all this way too literally…. this Precursor idea does not in any way mean that the old is less than the new. I completely understand what is being said here. It is your logic that is left wanting. You seem to be saying now that there are actually two words of god now. One for the Jews and one for the Gentiles, but that is quite different from what you first argued. Hence the aforementioned comment on circular logic.

Commentator 8 December

Hi George happy advent to you. I just wanted to share with you that the Catholic Church is changing the Bible again. Pope Francis wants Lord’s Prayer changed
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-42279427

Maybe he has a point but should this be allowed to happen to the holy and god inspired word?

George’s reply 15 December

Thanks for your recent comments. We have discussed many topics. But it’s the most important one that counts – “Christ died for our sins … He was buried, and He was raised from the dead” (1 Cor. 15:3-4).

Jesus died (an historical fact):
– Jesus died by crucifixion.
– Roman soldiers don’t take the bodies of criminals off a cross until they are dead. That’s why they broke the legs of those crucified with Jesus (Jn. 19:31-34).
– Bodies don’t get placed in sealed tombs unless they are dead.
– Bodies don’t get embalmed unless they are dead (Jn. 19:39-40).
– Joseph of Arimathea, who buried Christ, was a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin (supreme court). He was too well known for the account to be fictional.

Jesus rose back to life (an historical fact):
– No-one could find a dead body – in the tomb or elsewhere.
– The Jews (hostile witnesses) acknowledged that the tomb was empty. The Jewish religious leaders tried to explain the empty tomb by spreading a rumor that the disciples had stolen the body (Mt. 28:11-15). But the disciples had no motive for doing this as they were persecuted and killed because of their preaching on the resurrection. Why would they go through all this for a deliberate lie?
– The empty tomb was discovered by women. If the empty tomb story was a legend, then the more reliable male disciples (according to the custom of that time) would have been made the first to discover the empty tomb.
– Twelve separate occurrences are recorded in the Bible of Jesus interacting with people after His resurrection. Six are recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:5-7. The disciples had several interactions with the risen Christ. Jesus provided them a breakfast of bread and fish after they fished overnight (Jn. 21:9-14).
– Over 500 people witnessed Jesus alive at the same time. And they weren’t all hallucinating!
– The disciples record eating and drinking with Jesus, as well as touching Him. This cannot be done with hallucinations. And hallucinations can’t explain the empty tomb.
– The disciples were martyred for their Christian faith. But they wouldn’t give their lives for something they knew to be a lie. Therefore, the resurrection account wasn’t a lie.
– A church persecutor (Paul) and the skeptic brother of Jesus (James) were suddenly changed.
– Early Christians were persecuted and martyred for believing Christ’s resurrection. They could deny it and live. But they didn’t.
– Christ’s resurrection is the main explanation of the origin and the growth of Christianity in the Roman Empire despite persecution. The Christian church was established and grew as a result of the disciples preaching about the resurrection of Christ. Most movements die after their founder dies (Acts 5:33-39). But Christianity started and grew after its founder died.

Jesus died for our sins (the reason for Christ’s death and resurrection):
– Death is punishment for rebellion against God.
– All people die because they are sinful.
– Because Jesus was the unique sinless Son of God, He was the only one who didn’t deserve to die.
– Christ’s death was payment for the sins of humanity. It was vicarious (taking the place of others; like a substitute).

So history affirms that Jesus rose from the dead. We can trust the teachings of Jesus because He rose from the dead. No other religious leader has done that. And no other person or scholar or scholar or skeptic can claim that. Who would you believe?

Commentator 15 December

The whole point here is the while the Bible has many correct historical facts it is at best a work of factual fiction. Not everything is true and as you have admitted not everything is applicable to today’s life and world. (The Old Testament or more than half of the book) And the Bible has once been, by Jesus, improved upon and could be improved upon yet again today. It has been 2000 years since the last update. I get a Facebook update every week because even they want to remain up to date and relevant. Anything that can be improved upon was NOT from the very beginning PERFECT or the work of an infallible omniscient all powerful being. Nor is it proof of such beings existence. These doubts are too big to use to tell everyone else that they are wrong about their beliefs. Other religious writings far older such as the Vedas are over 7000 years old have many scientific facts, wisdoms, and historical facts that are written and also proven. Your bible does not stand up to your own bible test because of your circular logic and own admissions. The Bible was never meant to be used as a tool to judge and condemn other religions. By it’s own admission only god himself can be a judge Matthew 7:1-3. This is what I am doing, judging you and your beliefs because you have judged me and the beliefs of many other religions. Nobody can win this my friend. Who do I believe, certainly not you. The end.

Discussion with second commentator

Second commentator 1 October

As has been pointed out you start from an unsustainable point when your only argument is, “it says in the Bible”. Because of your attachment to the Bible I would assume you are a Bible believing Christian vs a Catholic, am I right? If that is the case that makes the “it says in the Bible” argument more tenuous.

You do realize, I hope, that the Bible was not originally one book. It is a collection of different books written by different authors that were later put together in one book. The collection of books was agreed upon at the Synod of Hippo. The point here is that they were agreed upon by men. There were a multitude of books available at that time that could have been selected but those men selected some and discounted others. They had a motivation to do so. They wanted to do as you do and ensure that only their interpretation of Christianity would be known to future generations. Furthermore much to the dismay of many Bible believing Christians, that think Catholics are evil Idolaters, it was the Roman Catholics and Orthodox churches that first put this collection of books together as the Bible that we know.

At the time of Christ’s death there were a variety of different “Christian” groups that had very different views on Christ, his divinity, and his relationship to God. After the discovery of the Dead Sea and Nag Hammadi scrolls we now have a collection of other books that represented some of these peoples beliefs. The reason these were hidden away was that the Roman Catholics persecuted these other groups and killed them off and destroyed their writings so they would not be around to compete with their Christian world view. If it wasn’t for this persecution we would have even more Christian denominations then we have today.

So historically the book that you keep using as the authority for all anyone one knows may not be the correct ones. That is unless you agree that those evil idol worshiping Catholics were inspired by God. But then if they were inspired by god that would mean that there use of idols and their interpretation of the Sacrament must be true also.

George’s reply 2 October

You state that the canon was “agreed upon by men” and “the collection of books was agreed upon at the Synod of Hippo”. You also claim that the books in the canon “may not be the correct ones”. As it was “Roman Catholics and Orthodox churches that first put this collection of books together as the Bible that we know”, you state that if I accept the New Testament canon, then I need to accept the Roman Catholic faith because they selected the books in the canon.

In the first century AD, the Apostle Peter regarded the Pauline epistles as Scripture (2 Pt. 3:16). The scriptural quotes of early Christian writers (patristics) dating from the second through the fourth century show that the early church had a working knowledge of the New Testament Scriptures. So portions of our present New Testament were in circulation, as early as the latter part of the first century. These books were used in the early church and confirmed as being the canon by church councils such as the Synod of Hippo in 393.

The main criteria for the New Testament canon was that it was comprised of books written in the first century AD by the apostles and their associates, and whose doctrine was consistent. This ruled out most of the apochryphal New Testament writings as they were written after the first century AD. It also ruled out other religious books, such as Gnosticism and Marcionism, because their teaching was inconsistent with the canon.

So the New Testament canon was already being used by Christians during the second through the fourth century AD. But when heretics wanted to add extra books to the canon, the church met to confirm the canon and so declare that the extra writings were not canonical.

Because I accept the New Testament canon doesn’t mean that I necessarily accept all that the church believed in AD 393 or all that the Roman Catholic church teaches today. The canon is the standard, not the Roman Catholic church.

For example, I use a plumber to maintain my water system, regardless of their religious faith. And I use a Bible that has been influenced by the results of textural scholarship by non-Christians, without accepting their religious (or secular) faith. Just because I accept something that a person (or a group) does, doesn’t mean that I accept everything that they believe or do.

Second commentator 3 October

As far as the Bible is concerned I am not saying that your version is incorrect. I am saying that if you take faith out of it and look at it from a historical point of view you have no way of knowing that those particular books were the only ones that were correct because of the existence of the other books that were not included.

Because of this you can not use what it says as your only evidence of it’s truth or correctness. You yourself say: “The main criteria for the New Testament canon was that it was comprised of books written in the first century AD by the apostles and their associates, and whose doctrine was consistent.” What was the doctrine in consistent with? The beliefs or doctrine of the people that put it together, the Roman Catholics! Most Bible believing Christians believe that it is the inspired word of god.

You say, “And I use a Bible that has been influenced by the results of textural scholarship by non-Christians, without accepting their religious (or secular) faith.” How can the Bible that you use be the inspired word of God if the men how put it together were not inspired?

The Book of Enoch was one of the books found with the dead sea scrolls and was not included in the Bible. It was written during that time period and thought to be an inspired book by many but was not included in the cannon. “R. H. Charles was the leading expert on the subject (The Book of Enoch) in the early part of the 20th century. He argued the book of Enoch was written over a period of years. The latest portions were written in 64 B.C.E.”

As far as the Gnostic gospels are concerned dating them is some what dubious because the originals that they were copied from were most likely destroyed. So it is impossible to date the originals.

You can proclaim your faith in the accepted cannon, that is fine, but because of all these other historical facts that question if those books were the only books accepted be Christs Apostles you can’t use it for what you are basing your critique on. There is no way of knowing other than your faith. You cannot compare the truth of one faith to another based on only your faith in what you believe. This especially applies when you are questioning other faiths. It is kind of like Christians claiming that those who practice Wicca are devil worshipers when there is no devil in the Wicca religion. The figure known as the devil to Christians is not part of Wicca so it is by default that they can not be devil worshipers.

George’s reply 3 October

I stated that “The main criteria for the New Testament canon was that it was comprised of books written in the first century AD by the apostles and their associates, and whose doctrine was consistent.” You ask, “What was the doctrine consistent with? The beliefs or doctrine of the people that put it together, The Roman Catholics!”. By “consistent”, I meant that each book was consistent with the other books. It would be confusing if this wasn’t the case. This means being consistent with the teaching of the apostles and their associates. They were the authority and not any other group of people.

You ask, “How can the Bible that you use be the inspired word of God if the men who put it together were not inspired?”. I was referring to textural scholars who study ancient biblical manuscripts to reconstruct the original text (autograph). Like language translation, it’s a technical skill that doesn’t require inspiration from God. The inspiration happened when the authors wrote the original text. The Bible came to us through the following steps: inspiration, preservation, scholarship, and translation.

It’s not surprising that there are other religious books around between the first and fourth centuries AD. This is probably the case in all eras. The New Testament warns about false teachers (Acts 20:28-30; Rom. 16:17-18; 1 Tim. 1:3-6; 4:1-7; 6:3-5; 2 Pt. 2:1-22; 1 Jn. 4:1-6).

I find it puzzling when people today question the composition of the New Testament canon. Who would you trust: people living in the first few centuries AD when the canon was compiled or people living about 1,600-1,900 years afterwards (including R. H. Charles)? Surely those living in that era would have much more information available to make this decision, whereas we only have fragmentary historical records. And they would be aware of many more “other religious books” than we will discover.

Also, with regard to your objections about the canon, the same question could be asked of any ancient philosophy or religion. For example, if we looked at Buddhism from the same historical point of view we have no way of knowing that the particular books that comprise the canon of a branch of Buddhism were the only ones that were correct because of the existence of other Buddhist books that were not included! So historically the books that a Buddhist uses as their authority may not be the correct ones. This approach would put any philosophy or religion that originated in the ancient world (such as Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam etc.) into doubt.

You seem to be asking me to base my Christian faith on a mixture of canonical and non-canonical books. But how can one derive a non-contradictory faith from contradictory sources? This only works if parts of the books are selectively ignored or if contradictions are viewed as being unimportant compared to areas of agreement.

Second commentator 10 October

You say, “As all religions and philosophies rely on presuppositions (assumptions, axioms, premises), these presuppositions can be tested. For example, are they self-consistent and are they consistent with the real world?” As I have explained that Buddhist faith is based on exactly that. We are supposed to question and test for ourselves the truth of anything. This is were I have to tread carefully George because I do not mean any disrespect to you or your faith. But you are making the statement so I feel I have to at least reply. Can you honestly say that Christians “test” the Bible to determine it’s spiritual or historical accuracy?

You say, “I would be more interested to know if you have found the message in the Bible to be true or not.” “After all, it was written by God (who created life and the universe).” George I personally have found the Bible to be a beautifully written book. I have read it multiple times. There is very much wisdom in the Bible about how we should live our lives. This is especially true with the new testament. I think it would be very difficult both historically and scientifically to prove that God was the one who actually wrote the Bible.

Even using the fact that the Apostles wrote some of the books in the new testament in no way confirms the accuracy or truth of them. Saying that twelve people who lived 2000 years ago believed in them so we should as well is not a very scientific method. If it is a scientific method of testing then we should be able to apply it to other similar things. There were 11 witnesses (twelve including Smith) to the gold tablets that Joseph Smith translated into the book of Mormon. In fact they even signed their name to a document that said so which actually is more than can be said for the books of the new testament (there is still much argument with scholars over who wrote which books). So can we derive from this document that the Golden tablets or the Book of Mormon are true?

George’s reply 11 October

You ask, “Can you honestly say that Christians ‘test’ the Bible to determine its spiritual or historical accuracy?” Christians continually “test” the spiritual accuracy of the Bible because they endeavour to live by its spiritual principles. It’s their spiritual guide for everyday life. But most Christians don’t “test” the historical accuracy of the Bible because they are not historians or archaeologists. Because of the age and number of manuscripts available, the Bible is one of the most reliable ancient texts that are available today. So the text we have today is believed to be an accurate representation of the autographs. But confirming ancient history is more difficult because of the fragmentary evidence and the influence of presuppositions (such as timing). For example, in 2009 archaeologists found a clay seal inscribed “Belonging to Hezekiah, (son of) Ahaz, king of Judah”. It was found in a collapsed 10th century BC royal building in the Ophel in Jerusalem and features a two-winged sun, with wings turned downward, flanked by two ankh symbols symbolizing life. According to the Bible, King Hezekiah reigned from about 715 to about 697BC. Hezekiah is also mentioned in Assyrian documents and his water supply tunnel was discovered in Jerusalem in 1880. All these findings are consistent with the Biblical record.

You say, “I think it would be very difficult both historically and scientifically to prove that God was the one who actually wrote the Bible”. The books of the Bible were written by about 40 different authors over a period of about 1,500 years. Yet it has incredible unity which binds the books together and it does not contradict itself. And many of its predictions have been fulfilled. This is consistent with it being inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16-27; 2 Pt. 1:20-21). How could someone know that God was not involved?

You say, “Even using the fact that the Apostles wrote some of the books in the new testament in no way confirms the accuracy or truth of them”.
Because of the age (the manuscripts are closer to the original autograph than for other ancient texts) and number (there are more manuscripts than for other ancient texts) of biblical manuscripts available, the Bible is one of the most reliable ancient texts that are available today. This means that we have accurate translations of the autographs. The books of the New Testament are based on eyewitness reports, which are best for historical accounts. Since the New Testament documents were written within 30 years of the events they record, other eyewitnesses would still be around to correct errors or exaggerations. Copies of biblical manuscripts throughout history show that the New Testament has been transmitted accurately. There are minor differences in manuscripts, called variants, but none of these variants impact or change key Christian beliefs or claims.

With regard to the Old Testament, the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) provided textual critics with ancient manuscripts against which they can compare the accepted text for accuracy of content. As there were only minor differences between the book of Isaiah in the DSS (dated about 100BC) and in the Masoretic text (dated in the 10th century AD), the Jewish scribes had faithfully copied this text over this thousand-year period. As these texts were nearly identical, the DSS provide evidence that the Old Testament had been accurately and carefully preserved.

You say, “Saying that twelve people who lived 2000 years ago believed in them (the New Testament books) so we should as well is not a very scientific method”. As operational science can’t deal with the past, I would say it was a historical method, not a scientific one. As each case would need to be assessed on its own merits, I wouldn’t accept the Book of Mormon even though it may be similar in some ways to the New Testament.

You say, “You cannot use quotes from the Bible to prove the truth of the Bible. It is circular logic”.
I have shown that the Bible is one of the most reliable ancient texts that are available today. And this was done by not using quotes from itself. Therefore, it’s reasonable to quote from such a source.

Second Commentator 12 October

You say, “I have shown that the Bible is one of the most reliable ancient texts that are available today.” George with all due respect you have not shown that the Bible is one of the most reliable text. Just because men have copied it correctly does not mean that what it contains is true or reliable. It just means that it is consistent with the original source. I do have to point out that it was the old testament that you were referring to and not the new. The Bible is made up of both. It is also somewhat subjective to say that “As these texts were nearly identical” as if it wasn’t a matter of interpretation as to whether those differences mattered.

George’s reply 13 October

You say, “I do have to point out that it was the old testament that you were referring to and not the new. The Bible is made up of both”. I apologise for the ambiguity. I made a statement about the New Testament, “Because of the age and number of manuscripts available, the Bible is one of the most reliable ancient texts that are available today. So the text we have today is believed to be an accurate representation of the autographs”. And then gave an example of archaeology confirming the existence of a character mentioned in the Old Testament (king Hezekiah’s seal).

You say, “It is also somewhat subjective to say that ‘As these texts were nearly identical’ as if it wasn’t a matter of interpretation as to whether those differences mattered”. This related to my statement that, “As these texts were nearly identical, the DSS provide evidence that the Old Testament had been accurately and carefully preserved”. This is based on investigations by textural scholars. For example, James C VanderKam Professor of Hebrew Scriptures at the University of Notre Dame says, “The differences between the Judean Desert texts (DSS) and the Masoretic text (which forms the basis of the modern Hebrew Bible) are indeed numerous though frequently very slight, often ones that do not affect the meaning of the text for most purposes (e.g., spelling changes, omission or addition of a conjunction)”.

Second commentator 28 October

What you are doing is ignorant George. There is absolutely no scientific proof that Jesus was anything more than a man.There is no way to prove that he rose from the dead except the claims of his own followers. Yet you bash everyone elses faith making claims about the truth of your faith other than quoting a book that MEN wrote.

George’s reply 9 November

You say that the Bible is “a book that MEN wrote”. But if you read the books in the Bible you will see that it claims to be written under the inspiration of the God who created the universe (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pt. 1:19-21). So it’s God’s words (in the original text).

Second commentator 31 October

“Bible, Creation of the World and Story of First Man Not True, Claims Israeli Newspaper”
By Cristina Silva On 10/29/17 at 8:39 PM

The Bible and its stories about the first man and the creation of the world are not true because there is no physical evidence to back it up, according to a new lengthy investigation from one of Israel’s top newspapers. Spanning roughly 5,000 words the article from left leaning Haaretz compares accounts in the Bible, from ancients Jews fleeing Egypt to descriptions of King David, and dismisses them all as fables.

“Is the Bible a True Story,” the headline asks. “Despite feverish searching with Scripture in one hand and cutting-edge technology in the other, evidence backing the Bible remains elusive.”

It goes on: “No evidence of the events described in the Book of Genesis has ever been found. No city walls have been found at Jericho, from the appropriate era, that could have been toppled by Joshua or otherwise. The stone palace uncovered at the foot of Temple Mount in Jerusalem could attest that King David had been there; or it might belong to another era entirely, depending who you ask.”

Researchers have long questioned the authenticity of the Bible’s version of human history, often struggling to find evidence of, say, Noah’s ark or even the possibility of Eve and Adam, the first woman and man. Young-Earth creationism, for example, directly fails science’s demands for coherence and hypothesis testing.

The mounting evidence against the Bible means fewer Americans than ever before are trusting scripture as gospel. Only 35 percent of Americans read the holy book at least once a week, while 45 percent seldom or never do, a Pew Research Center report in April found. About 36 percent of Christians said the Bible should not be taken literally, while 40 percent say it is the word of God. In all, only 24 percent of Americans said the holy book was “the actual word of God, and is to be taken literally, word for word,” a Gallup poll conducted in May concluded.

“This is the first time in Gallup’s four-decade trend that biblical literalism has not surpassed biblical skepticism. Meanwhile, about half of Americans — a proportion largely unchanged over the years — fall in the middle, saying the Bible is the inspired word of God but that not all of it should be taken literally,” the poll said. “From the mid-1970s through 1984, close to 40% of Americans considered the Bible the literal word of God, but this has been declining ever since, along with a shrinking percentage of self-identified Christians in the U.S. Meanwhile, the percentage defining the Bible as mere stories has doubled, with much of that change occurring in the past three years.”

Well George it appears that not everyone is as sure of the Bibles authenticity as you have been trying to claim. So suddenly there are other claims that maybe the Bible isn’t so true based on archaeology and science. So how do you counter that argument George, by saying the Bible says so??

George’s reply 14 November

This is an example of biased journalism from Newsweek magazine. The original article by Nir Hasson says that some archaeologists believe that archaeology supports the Bible (the maximalist view) and some believe that it doesn’t (the minimalist view). But Cristina Silva only mentions the latter. Hasson presents evidence (or lack of evidence) that supports both the maximalist view and the minimalist view. So, the original article is more balanced than Silva indicates. If possible, it’s good to check the primary source.

Silva also leaves out the following statement from the heading “But there are some surprising anomalies”.

She then dismisses the Bible up to the time of David as being comprised of fables. But when Hasson answers the question “Did the Bible really happen?”, he says, “So far, what discoveries there are, tend to indicate that at the least, the timelines are off”. So, he is not as dogmatic as Silva.

An example of the difference in timing is the statement that “No city walls have been found at Jericho, from the appropriate era, that could have been toppled by Joshua”. Note the qualification that I have highlighted. Beside the fact that mudbrick walls would be eroded, they are not saying there are no walls, just that they don’t think the timing matches (there is a 4% difference in elapsed time). This is not surprising given the uncertainty in dating archaeological findings and the influence of one’s presuppositions on these dates. And such dates are always subject to revision.

Here’s Jericho’s walls as found by Watzinger (1911), Kenyon (1958) and Nigro and Marchetti (1997). The lower wall (black) bounded a sloped rampart (yellow) and fallen mudbricks (red) were evident. There had been a mudbrick parapet wall above the retaining wall and a mudbrick wall at the crest of the embankment.

The lack of “physical evidence” is a straw man argument with regard to the Israelites because they lived in tents and nomadic people don’t leave relics of buildings for archaeologists to discover. Hasson uses a subheading, “Invisible nomads”. Because nomads leave no evidence, they are invisible to archaeologists.

Finally, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Especially with regard to the topic of ancient history. They are assuming that if a certain event had occurred, evidence of it could be discovered by qualified investigators. But this presupposition isn’t always true like the journalist is assuming it to be.

George’s reply 17 October

I would like to make a comment on the “Book of Enoch” and the “gnostic gospels” you referred to on 3 October. You wrote,
– “The Book of Enoch was one of the books found with the dead sea scrolls and was not included in the Bible. It was written during that time period and thought to be an inspired book by many but was not included in the cannon.”
– “R. H. Charles was the leading expert on the subject (The Book of Enoch) in the early part of the 20th century. He argued the book of Enoch was written over a period of years. The latest portions were written in 64 B.C.E.”
– “As far as the Gnostic gospels are concerned dating them is somewhat dubious because the originals that they were copied from were most likely destroyed. So it is impossible to date the originals.”
– “You can proclaim your faith in the accepted cannon, that is fine, but because of all these other historical facts that question if those books were the only books accepted by Christ’s Apostles you can’t use it for what you are basing your critique on. There is no way of knowing other than your faith”.

The “Book of Enoch” is pseudepigraphical (books written in the names of ancient heroes) as it claims to be by a biblical character (but this is unfounded). It was not included in either the Hebrew or Christian biblical canons. If the Jews didn’t accept it as canonical, then neither should we. It’s not even in the Deuterocanonical Apocrypha. If the Christians didn’t accept it as canonical, then neither should we. A Jewish scholar called it “mystical speculation about Enoch”. And it contradicts scripture.

The book of Enoch was never referred to by Jesus or any of the New Testament writers as scripture. It is commonly misunderstood that the content of the Bible developed over time. But the New Testament clearly tells us that the apostles were identifying scripture as it was being written (2 Pt. 3:14-16). The New Testament books were being distributed by the apostles to the various churches to be read (Gal. 6:11; Col. 4:16; 1 Th. 5:27; 2 Th. 2:2; 3:14). By the time the apostles died, the New Testament had been written and its books were known. The Muratorian Fragment (AD 170) and several of the early fathers have left us a list of books that were identified as belonging to the New Testament. The book of Enoch was never included. Although a few early church fathers highly valued the book of Enoch, they never referred to it as scripture. It might be inspiring, but it is not inspired by God.

Oard says, “the gnostic gospels were well known to the early church fathers, especially Irenaeus (AD 115-202), who wrote ‘Against heresies’. He refuted the heresies in these alternate gospels. They were written by the gnostics in the first few centuries after Christ. The gnostics believed they had secret knowledge that was only for certain elites. These gospels were unmasked as obvious forgeries, being written well after the time of Jesus and the Apostles, and completely inconsistent with Hebrew scripture and all the writings of Paul and the eye witnesses of Jesus. It goes to show what many people will believe what they want to believe with little or no regard for the truth.”

Today Christians read other books beside the Bible. But this doesn’t make the other books canonical. The same applied to Jews – they read other books beside the Old Testament. But that didn’t make these other books (such as the Book of Enoch) canonical.

Where are “all these other historical facts that question if those books (the canon) were the only books accepted by Christ’s Apostles”? They don’t exist. There is no evidence that the book of Enoch was accepted as scripture by the apostles. And there is no evidence that the gnostic gospels were accepted as scripture by the early Christians. So, we can know what is in the canon because of authorship and usage, which is based on scholarship and not faith.

Second commentator 10 November

You keep mentioning the eye witness accounts. Mark was not an eyewitness of Christs life but was a disciple of Peter. Luke was not an eyewitness to Christ’s life but was a companion of Paul who was ……wait for it…….also not an eyewitness to Christ’s life. So this is second hand information. Since these people can be proven to not be eyewitnesses then I guess we would have to be consistent and admit they there is no way to prove the truth or the authenticity of these books. Sorry George, you have to throw out at least two books of the Bible just based on that!

George’s reply 26 November

You say, “You keep referring to the autographs in the books of the bible that just do not exist”. In this context, an autograph is “a manuscript in an author’s own handwriting”. It’s the original manuscript (text), not a signature. As with all ancient documents, the original text (autograph) is no longer available, but copies are available.

You say, “there are so many things in the bible that cannot be proven by science or that science disproves”. This is a poor statement. As science only deals with the present, it can’t prove anything about the past. History is the discipline that you should be appealing to, not science. We can’t do an experiment to prove anything about the past.

You dispute my claim about “eye witness accounts” in the Bible. Matthew and John were eyewitnesses because they were disciples of Jesus for about 2.5 years. John Mark was a close associate of Simon Peter (1 Pt. 5:13). His material would have come from the preaching of Peter (some is reported in Acts). So he is like a reporter documenting an interview with an eyewitness. Papias (~AD125) records John’s claim (~AD90) that Mark recorded accurately all of Peter’s teachings about Jesus and compiled them into a single document.

Luke was a companion of Paul (Col. 4:14; 2 Tim. 4:11; Phile. 24) and wrote the books of Luke and Acts. He wrote, “many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught” (Lk. 1:1-4). Luke was a reporter who investigated and documented “eyewitness reports”. He also travelled with Paul and so was an eyewitness of Paul’s second and third missionary journeys and Paul’s journey to Rome. So Luke was an eyewitness of many of the events he recorded in the book of Acts.

Paul wrote several books of the New Testament and was an eyewitness of events in the early church.

Your dismissal of “second hand information” is very weak. Most eye witness accounts that we come across today are from by a reporter who has interviewed one or more eyewitnesses.

Second commentator 30 November

George says “you dispute my claim about ‘eye witness accounts’ in the Bible.” George you are the one who claimed they were eyewitness accounts. If you are an eyewitness then that means that you saw or experienced the event. “Mark was not an eyewitness of Christs life but was a disciple of Peter. Luke was not an eyewitness to Christs life but was a companion of Paul who was also not an eyewitness to Christs life.”

So now you want to define what “eyewitness” means George! A reporter is not an eyewitness. Can a reporter come into a courtroom and testify against a criminal that they committed a crime because somebody else told them that the criminal committed the crime? Of course not! That is called hearsay George. In the case of Luke it was third hand information because Paul was not a witness to Christs life either. You cannot make your own definitions of commonly used words George. Eyewitness means just that, you saw it with your own eyes.

George says “your dismissal of ‘second hand information’ is very weak”. No George your claim that someone (Luke) who hears some information from another Paul, who also has heard the information from others qualifies as an eyewitness account is “VERY WEAK”!

Conclusion

The Bible has been translated into over 2000 languages and is one of the most widely printed and studied books in the world. Despite its claim to be a message from the God who created everything, this discussion shows that it’s difficult to convince some people of its importance.

Written, September 2019

Also see:
Can we trust our Bibles? How the Bible came to us.
Is the New Testament reliable?
Mind the gap
Do we have the right Bible?

Conversation on the Trinity

Here is a conversation on the Trinity that is an extract from the comments after a blogpost. Check the post for the complete discussion that took place over a period of more than three months.

Commentator 11 October

George I have to tread carefully here. My intent is not to say that Christianity is untrue or that the Bible itself is untrue. That would be disrespectful to you. I am only concerned with how you are evaluating other religions and your methodology. But you keep making statements about the Bibles accuracy that are based on your own faith and one particular interpretation not historical or scholarly fact. This is why when we started this conversation instead of attacking Christianity in any way I was pointing out that there were more than one interpretation of Christ, his teachings, and his relationship to God at the time of his death. What that means is that one particular group cannot really claim theirs as the only true understanding. To many historians, archaeologists and scholars the Bible has many contradictions. The Bible is interpreted by many groups differently. So saying that there is only one understanding or interpretation is just not accurate. So as a way to demonstrate I will go back to one of those differences I mentioned earlier, the Trinity. There were some groups of Christians (and still are) that view God, Christ, and the holy spirit as separate beings. If I am correct George you do not believe in this interpretation. So to kind of show that each individuals understanding of the Bible is based on their or their denominations interpretation of the Bible in reference to any particular topic. So here are several quotes from the Bible that if you read them and do not interpret them through your own denominations lens they clearly say that God the Father and his Son Jesus were separate. Jesus himself is referring to himself and God as being separate in each one of them. To say that is not what he is saying is in my opinion linguistically impossible. It would certainly twist reason. To show that this is a matter of interpretation I would like for you to explain how they do not say that they are separate without referencing other passages. The reason I am saying that is, is that I can list out three times as many of these that support the idea that they are separate. Because of space I did not want to list them all. So it really makes no logical sense that you can refute these by just listing a number of other quotes that you interpret as saying that God, Jesus, and the holy spirit are one. If you choose to give a list of quotes that support your interpretation then effectively all you have done is prove an inconsistency.

Mark 10:18 (KJV): “And Jesus said unto him, why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is God.”
Mark 13:32: “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”
Mark 15:34: “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
John 5:19: “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do.”
John 5:26: “For the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.”
John 7:16: “Jesus answered them, and said, my doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.”
John 7:17: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”

George I am still not trying to say that you or your interpretation is wrong. What I am saying is there is room for more than one interpretation and only you through your faith can decide what is right. The truth is absolute but no ones interpretation of the Bible is absolute.

Well at least you can see that I do own a Bible and have read it.! Take care George!

George’s reply 14 October

Thanks for the comment. You say, “To many historians, archaeologists and scholars the Bible has many contradictions”. I am aware of this, but I understand that these apparent contradictions can be harmonized. If you know of any that are not able to be resolved, please let me know. By the way, different eyewitnesses will not give identical accounts of the same event unless there has been collusion.

You say “The Bible is interpreted by many groups differently. So saying that there is only one understanding or interpretation is just not accurate.” That is true and it’s why I rely on the Bible as an objective source of Christian belief. The main message of the Bible is clear and it is stated repetitively. It’s not ambiguous. Jesus came to reconcile humanity with God and to ultimately restore His creation. If we don’t personally accept that He took the penalty that we deserved, we face eternal punishment in hell. I don’t want you (or anyone) to face a future like that!

You say that some Christians believe that God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are “separate beings” and quote seven Bible verses that seem to support this. The answer is that they are separate (distinct) persons, but one essence (being). Each of the verses quoted refer to God the Father and Jesus Christ as separate persons.

Commentator 15 October

George said, “You say that some Christians believe that God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are “separate beings” and quotes seven Bible verses that seem to support this. The answer is that they are separate (distinct) persons, but one essence (being). Each of the verses quoted refer to God the Father and Jesus Christ as separate persons.”

So George you are saying that they are “but one essence (being)” in other words one “being”. “You say that some Christians believe that God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are “separate beings” and quotes seven Bible verses that seem to support this.” The distinction is that you say one being and others say three separate beings. And these verses do not “seem” to show this, they emphatically show this.

Definition of Trinity: the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one Godhead according to Christian dogma.

Definition of godhead:
1 divine nature or essence
2 God

The definition above agrees with you George, Jesus , the holy ghost, and God are one being called God. The problem is that the Bible does not.

Mark 13:32: “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”

If you take this sentence apart man, the son (Jesus), and the angels do not know the hour. Only the father knows the hour (they are separate otherwise they would both know). If they are the same being this is impossible. If they were the same being Jesus and the father would know what the angels and man do not. The Bible says that they are separate beings not one. Bible believing Christians want to take the Bible literally until they get to passages that cause them a problem. There is no amount of linguistic gymnastics that you can do to make this statement mean that god and Jesus are one being.

George’s reply 28 October

Thanks for the comment. With regard to the trinity you say, “you say one being and others say three separate beings”. It’s what the Bible says that counts, not what I or someone else may say. In exegesis, it’s dangerous to interpret a verse without considering its context and what the Bible says elsewhere on the topic. The Bible is an integrated book, not isolated verses.

The Bible says that Jesus is God (Rom. 9:5). He is the exact representation of God’s being (Jn. 14:9, Heb. 1:3).
“Anyone who has seen me [Jesus] has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9NIV).
“The Son [Jesus] is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His [God’s] being, sustaining all things by His [Jesus’] powerful word” (Heb. 1:3NIV).
“The Son [Jesus] radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and He [Jesus] sustains everything by the mighty power of His [Jesus’] command” (Heb. 1:3NLT).

The Bible also says that Jesus is equal with God the Father:
“I [Jesus] and the Father are one” (Jn. 10:30).
“I [Jesus] am in the Father, and the Father is in me [Jesus]” (Jn. 10:38, 14:10-11).
“He [Jesus] was God” and so Jesus had “equality with God” (Phil. 2:6).

The God of the Bible is monotheistic, not tri-theistic. Trying to understand the trinity is like Job trying to understand God. God said that Job was speaking “ignorant words” or “words without knowledge” (Job 38:2). Job was ignorant about God. After a revelation of God’s wisdom, power, providence and sovereignty in nature (Job 39-41), Job repented of his pride and acknowledged “surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job. 42:1-6). When Job was trying to understand God, he was talking about things he knew nothing about. Likewise, when we are discussing the trinity, we are discussing things we know very little about. We don’t understand God’s power (it’s infinite). We don’t understand God’s goodness (it’s perfect). And we don’t understand God’s composition (one being but three persons).

Here’s a verse that shows that Jesus is both the same as God and separate from God in some way, “In the beginning [of time] the Word [Jesus] already existed. The Word [Jesus] was with God, and the Word [Jesus] was God” (Jn. 1:1). It’s perplexing to us because this mystery is beyond our human experience. As an ant is ignorant of the universe, we are ignorant of the unseen spiritual world (except for what is revealed in the Bible). After all, we can’t assume that the unseen spiritual world is like our physical world.

When Jesus said He didn’t know when He would return to earth to set up His kingdom (Mk. 13:32), it shows that He wasn’t always omniscient. Whereas, on another occasion He was omniscient (Jn. 1:48). This could be an example of a divine power that He gave up when He came to earth – “He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave” (Phil. 2:7NLT). Also, see my blogpost for another possible explanation of Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32.

Commentator 28 October

George, you still don’t get it. All you do is repeat bible quotes that if I really had the desire and the energy I could use the very same bible to refute them.

George’s reply 9 November

Thanks for the comment. You say you could use the Bible to refute bible quotes. You imply that the Bible is contradictory. But the only case presented in all your comments relates to the trinity, which I have answered in some detail. The main points were that the Bible is an integrated book, not isolated verses. And because we are finite, we don’t understand God’s composition (one being but three persons).

Commentator 10 November

George says: “You say you could use the Bible to refute bible quotes. You imply that the Bible is contradictory. But the only case presented in all your comments relates to the trinity, which I have answered in some detail. The main points were that the Bible is an integrated book, not isolated verses. And because we are finite, we don’t understand God’s composition (one being but three persons).”

As I have repeatedly stated I am refuting your methodology in attacking other religions not claiming your religion is false. I gave you 7 verses that anyone with a elementary school level education in the English language would say after reading them that they are referring to separate beings. Your answer is “And because we are finite, we don’t understand God’s composition (one being but three persons)”.

No George this has nothing to do with us not understanding God. We understand the English language just fine and understand what those verses say. You are giving these verses a meaning that they don’t say, one being but three persons. You can argue that these verses say “one being but three persons” all you want but it is just in your imagination because no where in them do those words appear.

This has been one of the problems with this discussion from the beginning. You like to make statements as fact that just are not fact at all. When you do not have an answer for what I give your answer is that you just do not answer.

Commentator 21 November

I gave you 7 bible verses where in plain English it says that the Father, son, and holy ghosts were separate. You ignore this fact and claim otherwise.

Commentator 22 November

You say that the bible is consistent. I brought up before the different views on the trinity and you, like usual, came back in an authoritative way proclaiming that the bible clear teaches the trinity but that I just did not understand it. Well here is a write up by a fellow Christian that uses the bible to disprove the notion of the trinity and gives 74 reasons why, oddly taken right from …………wait for it…………………the bible (see Appendix A)! His name is Michael A. Barber, in fact he has written a whole book on it! Funny George I thought that this argument was settled? I guess there is more than one interpretation of the Bible isn’t there.

George’s reply 26 November

Thanks for the previous three comments. You used seven verses about the trinity to claim that the trinity is comprised of three separate beings, which is different to the traditional explanation that the trinity is one being but three persons. Why the difference? You use a biased sample that leaves out verses that imply that the trinity is one being. A biased sample gives a biased interpretation. We can’t find the truth if we ignore some of the evidence.

The Bible teaches that there is only one God (monotheism) (Dt. 6:4; 1 Cor. 8:4; 1 Tim. 2:5). Nevertheless, it is clear in the Bible that the Father is God (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:3; 1 Cor. 8:6; Phil. 1:2), Jesus is God (e.g., Jn. 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-20; Tit. 2:13), and the Holy Spirit is God (e.g. Acts 5:3-4; 1 Cor 3:16). When these verses are considered along with the others, it’s clear that the trinity is one being but three persons. There is one God who exists as three persons. The Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are different persons (or minds), but these three minds all exist as one being—God. And all three persons of the godhead are associated together on an equal basis in the Bible (Mt. 3:13-17; 28:19; Eph. 3:14-21; 1 Pt. 1:2; 2 Cor. 13:14; 2 Th. 2;13).

One of the principles of biblical hermeneutics is to use the Bible to help interpret itself (use Scripture to interpret Scripture). To interpret a passage without taking into account other passages that deal with the same topic can cause a poor interpretation. Ask, what other passages are related to the subject of this passage and how do they affect the understanding of this passage? We can practice this principle by using a Bible with cross-references in the margin.

Since the Bible is the Word of God and God cannot lie or contradict Himself (Num. 23:19; Heb. 6:18), then one passage will never contradict another passage. If we incorrectly interpret a given passage, by studying other passages on the same topic, we can recognize our error. Human beings are fallible, but our mistakes of interpretation do not mean that the Bible is flawed. Usually it is our flawed interpretation that is the problem.

Commentator 30 November

George said “He uses a biased sample that leaves out verses that imply that the trinity is one being.” In reference to the 7 verses that said that the trinity was not one being.

Well George you have claimed that there is no contradiction in the bible. If you have multiple verses that clearly say that the trinity is three separate beings and then you have multiple verses that say that the trinity is one being that is the epitome of contradiction! You can’t have it both ways George! Nice try!

George says “The Bible teaches that there is only one God”. This is why the Christians had to tie themselves in a knot trying to explain that God had a son. It is simple logic that if God had a Son he would also be a god. That doesn’t sound very monotheistic now does it? That is why they had to come up with the Trinity in the first place. The Jews of the time would not accept a polytheistic religion like Christianity. I do not have my Bible with me right now but we will get back to the concept of the bible teaching only one god when I do.

George’s reply 17 December

Thanks for the last three comments. You criticize the Bible because you can find some people who make different interpretations of it and you can find ancient books that make statements that differ from it. But by using this method, other religions like Buddhism could also be criticized for the same reasons.

Commentator 18 December

This is no longer a discussion. Sadly you do not answer any of the questions I ask you and take my words and turn them around to try and score some sort of points. It began as a good discussion and I hoped that it would continue. It is a sad day! Hopefully during our discussions god has opened your eyes to be more tolerant of other faiths and that you can see that attacking them bears nothing but bad fruit. My god give you wisdom George. Well I am finished here. Merry Christmas to you and your family! I hope you have a pleasant holiday celebrating the birth of your lord.

George’s reply 25 December

Thanks. May God also give you wisdom. And may you also have a happy festive season over Christmas and the New Year.

Appendix A: Is the Trinity Taught in the Bible?
Link provided by commentator to a web page by Michael A. Barber.

In 1550 AD, in England, Joan Bocher was sentenced and burned to death. Her crime? The Encyclopedia Britannica (1964) says: “She was condemned for open blasphemy in denying the Trinity, the one offence which all the church had regarded as unforgivable ever since the struggle with Arianism.”

On October 27th, 1553 AD, Michael Servetus, a medical practitioner, was burned at the stake at Geneva, Switzerland, for denying the doctrine of the Trinity.

In 1693 AD a pamphlet attacking the Trinity was burned by order of the House of Lords, and the following year its printer and author were prosecuted.

In 1697 AD Thomas Aikenhead, an 18 year old student, was charged with denying the Trinity and hanged at Edinburgh, Scotland.

In 1711 AD Sir Isaac Newton’s friend, William Whiston (translator of the works of Jewish historian Josephus), lost his professorship at Cambridge for denying the Trinity.

An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture, detailing Sir Isaac Newton’s condemnation of the Trinity teaching, was first published in 1754, twenty-seven years after Newton’s death, due to the controversies surrounding the doctrine and the church’s treatment of those who denied it.

What is it about the doctrine of the Trinity that has created such extreme examples of religious intolerance? Moreover, what was it that the above people, and others like them, saw in this teaching that impelled them to deny it at such great cost?

The following questions help to identify clearly the issues involved in this article’s title. By examining these questions, and consulting the cited scriptures, the nature of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as taught in the Bible, will become clear.

  1. Advocates of the Trinity doctrine believe that the words of Jesus at John 10:30, “I and the Father are one,” refer to the teaching that Jesus is God. But how does John 10:30 harmonize with John 17:22, where Jesus says, “in order that they [that is, the disciples] may be one just as we are one”?
  2. In what sense, then, are the Father and the Son “one”?
  3. The Greek language has three words that correspond to the English word “one” using three genders, (1) masculine, (2) feminine, and (3) neuter. If the oneness of the Father and the Son was a reference to the “persons of the godhead,” which gender would be used in this context: masculine, feminine, or neuter?
  4. Which gender is used for “one” at John 10:30 and at John 17:22 in the Greek text of the inspired scriptures?
  5. What did Jesus mean when he said, “He that has seen me has seen the Father”?—John 14:9.
  6. How does the above scripture harmonize with Hebrews 1:3, where Jesus is referred to as the “exact likeness” of his Father (Today’s English Version)?
  7. How do some believe that the following scriptures — as read from the Authorised (King James) Version — support the Trinity: Philippians 2:6; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 John 5:7?
  8. Why do most other Bible versions not agree with the above renderings?
  9. The discovery of the Sinaitic manuscript (held at The British Library, but sometimes on view at the British Museum) shows how a “later hand” corrupted 1 Timothy 3:16 to read “he” rather than “who” — completely altering the sense of the verse. Would a sincere Bible student agree with the original, or with the corrupted version?
  10. Which version does the King James (AV)translation use?
  11. What did Jesus mean by his words “Abraham your father rejoiced greatly at the prospect of seeing my day”? — John 8:56.
  12. Why did the Jews then reply to Jesus, “You are not yet fifty years old, and still you have seen Abraham?” — John 8:57.
  13. What was the meaning of Jesus’ response in verse 58, “Before Abraham was, I am”? (King James)
  14. Is the expression translated “I am” in this verse the equivalent of the expression found at Exodus 3:14?
  15. Why do the following versions render John 8:58 thus:
    “I have existed before Abraham was born.”
       Moffatt, Schonfield, and An American Translation
    “Before Abraham came to be, I was.”
         Stage
    “Before there was an Abraham, I was already there!”
         Pfaefflin
    “Before Abraham was born, I was.”
         George M. Lansa, from the Syriac Peshitta
    “Before Abraham existed, I was existing.”
         ‘Sacred Bible’, Catholic Bible Center
  16. How does the authoritative work on Biblical Greek Moulton’s Grammar of New Testament Greek (Vol. III, page 62) explain the use of the Perfective Present (“I have been”) at John 8:58 where the Greek word EI.MI’ is used?
  17. When John the Baptist used the same Greek word (EI.MI’) at John 3:28, how does the context demonstrate that the Good News Translation rendering of “I have been sent ahead of him,” is superior to “I am sent before him” (Authorised Version)?
  18. Consequently, was Jesus not referring to the fact of his having existed since before the time of Abraham?
  19. Although Trinitarians claim there is a connection between what Jesus said at John 8:58 and what Jehovah said at Exodus 3:14, how does an examination of the original inspired language text reveal otherwise?
  20. Whilst the Hebrew term at Exodus 3:14 (EH.YEH’) is rendered “I am” in some translations, why is it that in every other instance of the rendering of this term in the Bible, these same Bible versions correctly translate it using the future tense: “I will be”?
  21. When Jehovah used the same expression, EH.YEH’, in Exodus 3:12, “certainly I will be with thee,” why do translations correctly use the future tense for verse 12, but choose the present tense when the same word is used in verse 14?
  22. Is it not clear that, in Exodus 3:14, Jehovah is referring to his future purposes, whereas at John 8:58, Jesus is referring to his past, his prehuman existence during the time of Abraham?
  23. In Daniel 7:13, 14, who is it that is referred to as the “Ancient of Days,” and also, who is the “son of man” who was given “dominion and glory”?
  24. Who granted the “son of man” this “dominion and glory”?
  25. Was the vision of an earthly, or a heavenly scene?
  26. Why was the Holy Spirit not mentioned?
  27. In Psalm 110:1, two “lords” are referred to (Authorised Version). What is the identify of each “lord”?
  28. How can God and Christ be “coequal” when Jesus said that his Father was greater than he is?—John 14:28.
  29. At Proverbs 8:22, 23, who is the “Creator” and who is the one “created” as the beginning of God’s works?
  30. Does the above scripture harmonise with Colossians 1:15, 16 and Revelation 3:14 concerning Jesus’ being the first of God’s creation?
  31. Mark 13:32 says that “no-one knows” the day or the hour of God’s coming judgement, not even the son “but only the Father.” How is this possible if Jesus is God?
  32. Further, why is it that the Holy Spirit does not know the day or hour?
  33. The 144,000 bear the name of the Father and the Son on their forehead, why not also the name of the Holy Spirit?—Revelation 14:1.
  34. Just before the disciple Stephen was stoned to death, he saw a vision of Christ standing at God’s right hand. Why didn’t he also see the Holy Spirit?—Acts 7:56.
  35. How did Jesus cause the disciples to receive Holy Spirit by blowing upon them?—John 20:22 (see Genesis 1:2).
  36. Does the use of a masculine pronoun (“he”) by itself prove that something is a person?—Joshua 24:27; Luke 7:35; Romans 5:14, 21; Revelation 16:7.
  37. Are Jesus, or his father Jehovah, ever referred to in the Bible by the impersonal pronoun “it”?—John 1:32; John 14:17; Romans 8:26.
  38. When the Bible uses the expression “the Holy Spirit said,” does this mean that the Holy Spirit is a person?
  39. Why, then, does Acts 4:25 say “the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David thy servant, didst say…”?
  40. When someone uses the expression “look what it says here in the newspaper,” do we conclude that the newspaper is literally speaking?
  41. As God’s Word is produced by his Holy Spirit, is it not clear that the “speaking” is done whenever we read his Word?
  42. When the Bible uses the expression “the Holy Spirit said,” who else in fact sometimes does the actual speaking? — Acts 19:6; 21:4.
  43. Which scriptures show that Jesus Christ was subject to his Father before his coming to earth, upon his coming to earth and lastly, after returning to heaven?
  44. The Bible repeatedly says that Jehovah is one God. How is this possible if he consists of three persons?
  45. Is Jesus also this one God?
  46. Does this “one God” consist of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as the “three persons in one God”?
  47. Why, then, did Paul speak of the one who is one God as being “the Father”? — 1 Corinthians 8:5, 6.
  48. Also, why, in the above scripture, is the “one God” separate and distinct from the “one Lord,” Jesus Christ?
  49. Why does Jesus refer to the Father as “my God” even after his return to heaven, if Jesus is said to be God? — Revelation 3:2, 12.
  50. Why does the much-used expression “God the son” not occur even once throughout the Bible?
  51. Though some translations use John 1:1 to support the Trinity, why do the following versions render it thus:
    “The Logos [Word] was Divine.”
    James Moffatt
    “The Word was Divine.”
       Smith-Goodspeed
    “The Word was itself of Divine Being.”
         Stage
    “And God [=of Divine Being] the Word was.”
         Menge
    “And God of a sort the Word was.”
         Thimme
  52. From a biblical perspective, can a human be called a god? — Psalm 82:1, 6; Acts 28:6.
  53. Can an angel be called a god?— Psalm 8:5.
  54. Can Satan be called a god? — 2 Corinthians 4:4.
  55. If the Hebrew word for God (E.LO.HIM’) can be used to mean something less than a god (for example, “great,” “mighty”), why is it so unusual that Christ is referred to as an E.LO.HIM’ at John 1:1 (using the Greek THE.OS’)? — Genesis 23:6; 30:8; Deuteronomy 28:32; 1 Samuel 14:15; Job 41:25 (v.17 in the Masoretic Text); Psalm 29:1; 36:6; 50:1; 82:1; 89:6; Ezekiel 17:13.
  56. What reason does Bible Translator William Barclay give for the absence of the definite article [“the”] before the “Word” at John 1:1?
  57. How does John 1:1 harmonise with John 1:18, where “the only-begotten god,” Jesus, is described as being in the bosom position with the Father?
  58. How does the above understanding further harmonise with Jesus’ statements explaining that he has not originated anything, but speaks only what his Father taught him to speak? — John 5:19, 30; 8:28.
  59. If Jesus and his apostles had taught the Trinity, why did unbelieving Jews, who bitterly and passionately opposed Christianity, not attack a doctrine that to them would have been abhorrent?
  60. If the Father and the Son are both said to be co-eternal and co-equal, why are there many references to the subordination of the Son to the Father (John 5:19, 30; 7:28; 8:28, 42; 12:49; 14:28; Romans 15:6; 1 Corinthians 15:28; 2 Corinthians 1:3; Ephesians 1:3; Colossians 1:3; 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 Peter 1:3; Revelation 3:14, etc.) but no references to the subordination of the Father to the Son?
  61. Why, when a certain ruler called Jesus “Good Teacher,” did Jesus refuse the title, saying that “nobody is good, except one, God”? — Mark 10:17, 18.
  62. At Matthew 4:1, Jesus is spoken of as being “tempted by the Devil.” But how could Jesus be tempted to be disloyal to God if he was God?
  63. When the apostle Paul described Jesus’ sacrifice as a “ransom” at 1 Timothy 2:6, he used the Greek term anti’lutron for “ransom.” However, the word for ransom is simply lu’tron (for example, as used at Matthew 20:28).  What do Greek scholars say about the term anti’lutron?
  64. As Jesus’ sacrifice bought back (repurchased) what Adam had lost (for example, Jesus himself is referred to as the “last Adam” at 1 Corinthians 15:45), if Jesus was God, how could he be the equivalent of the man Adam?
  65. How can Jesus be “co-eternal” with the Father if he is at the same time referred to as the “only-begotten Son”? — John 1:14; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9.
  66. Why did the Roman soldier say of Jesus “certainly this was God’s Son” if the disciples had taught that Jesus was God? — Matthew 27:54.
  67. Who is the “one mediator between God and men”? — 1 Timothy 2:5.
  68. Trinitarians point to Isaiah 9:6 where Jesus is called “Mighty God” in support of their teaching. But, although the expression “Mighty God” is here applied to Jesus, inasmuch as he is certainly the powerful “only-begotten god” (John 1:18), why is it that the Father is the only one to whom the expression Almighty God is used? — Genesis 17:1; Exodus 6:3; Job 34:10; Ezekiel 10:5.
  69. If Jesus was God, to whom did he ascend according to his own words to Mary Magdalene: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”? — John 20:17, RS, Catholic edition.
  70. What reason did Jesus give for his “going to the Father” at John 14:28?
  71. If Jesus himself taught that “the Father is greater than” the Son, how can the Son be co-equal with the Father, as the Trinity doctrine teaches? — John 14:28.
  72. At John 5:18, the Jews (in this case, the Pharisees) accused Jesus of “making himself equal with God.” Did the Pharisees accuse Jesus of claiming to be God?
  73. Jesus made a reply to the above accusation when he said: “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do” (Authorised Version). How does this statement completely refute the claim of Jesus being “equal with God”?
  74. As Trinitarians sometimes use John 5:18 in support of their teaching, which of the following should be more important to Christians: the accusation of the Pharisees, or the response of the Lord Jesus Christ?

This is an extract from “The Trinity – In Light of the Harmony of the Holy Scriptures”, Michael A Barber (2017).

George’s reply

Barber’s comment on Isaac Newton is deceptive. Newton only addressed two verses (1 Tim. 3:16 and 1 Jn. 5:7) and his textural findings have been adopted in the modern critical text of the New Testament. But they have no implications on the Trinity because the teaching of the Trinity is mentioned many times in Scripture and doesn’t just rely on a few verses. Since early times (over 1,200 years before Newton) Christians have understood that the Bible teaches a triune God (see Appendix B).

Appendix B: Early Christian Creeds

Extracts from early Christian Creeds that mention the Trinity. These creeds were developed to counter Arianism (the heresy of denying the divinity of Christ).

Apostles Creed (AD 200)

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit …

Nicene Creed (AD 381)

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made;

And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.

Athanasian creed (AD 500)

We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.

Written, September 2019

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves

The media in Australia and other community gatekeepers treat abortion as a settled question. As a consequence, that’s how most Australians view the issue. We’re encouraged to think that, in the past, an important victory was won for women. And now, instead of being bullied to bear and care for children they never wanted, women have the right to make decisions about their own bodies – because, ultimately, abortion is a woman’s issue.

But abortion is not and never will be a settled question.

Firstly, it is not just a women’s issue. It’s fundamentally a community issue. When you live in a community you belong to that community – whether you’re a man, a woman or a child. So mothers aren’t allowed to kill their children after they’re born on the basis that they came from their body. The community would rightly punish that. And the argument that a woman has ‘a right to decide what happens with her body’ is scientifically flawed. At conception, a new body with its own, unique DNA is formed. Why doesn’t that special, growing human have its own rights?

Secondly, abortion is dehumanising. We don’t think twice about describing an unwanted pregnancy as an, ‘accident’ (a consequence of devaluing and ‘casualising’ sex). Then, to deal with the ‘accident’, babies that would be viable and treasured outside the womb are depersonalized with terms and phrases like ‘foetus’, ‘products of conception (POC), ‘clump of tissue’ or ‘uterine debris’. When the medical community are asked (or required) to perform abortions they’re placed in a terrible bind. Since ancient times doctors have pledged to ‘do no harm’. Now they must harden themselves in order to dismember beautiful, growing, living, precious beings. Afterwards, countless women are left with feelings of guilt and regret. Many spend the rest of their lives asking, “What if…?”

Thirdly, abortion is at odds with Australia’s egalitarian spirit and our defence of the underdog. Every day our media encourages us to feel compassion for the oppressed or those with no voice or those denied rights. Regularly, we’re asked to feel sympathy for the poorly treated in nursing homes or the cause of asylum seekers, or endangered animals. Yet, our media has nothing to say in defence of the unborn human. Instead, we’re offered expedient justifications. We’re told young mothers shouldn’t pay a life-long price for an early mistake. But since when have ‘two wrongs made a right’? And why should the child suffer for the poor choices of the parents? We’re told the community must not be burdened by deformity. But who are we to say that a child with a birth defect would prefer not to live? Or, that such a life has no value? Or, that the community won’t find great joy in this new life?

The statistics are staggering and so desperately sad. If data provided by Right To Life Australia is correct, there are in Australia, 80-90,000 abortions each year… or 250 per day… or 1 for every 2.8 live births… which translates to 1 in 3 Australian women having an abortion at some point in their life.

Unfortunately, many Australian Christians seem to have joined the settled majority. Perhaps bearing the media’s stigma of ‘hard right’ or ‘religious fanatic’ is too uncomfortable? Why is it that the most vocal critic of abortion in this country is a secular organization? (Right To Life Australia) What’s stopping us from speaking loudly and vigorously? Is it just too easy to get on with the joy of living our own lives? After all, a foetus has no name or face.

Yes, we must be compassionate and sensitive towards women who’ve had abortions. But if sensitivity stops us from speaking out then, ironically, we’ll never see a decrease in sad, regretful women or abortions. Meanwhile, every year, nearly an entire Melbourne Cricket ground’s worth of Australians citizens are killed.

Have we Christians forgotten our heritage? In ancient Rome we spoke up against infanticide until it was outlawed. Why? … because the Bible challenges us to speak. Here’s what it says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves” (Proverbs 31:8).

Prayer: Dear God, please give me the courage to be both bold and gracious as I speak against abortion in Australia and elsewhere.

Bible verse: Proverbs 31:8 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves“.

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

Context: This month, the parliament of New South Wales will vote to decriminalise abortion. If the proposed legislation is passed it will be the last state in Australia to do so. Here are three arguments against abortion that don’t require acceptance of the Christian scriptures. They may be a good starting point to show people that their presuppositions are not as firmly grounded as they may have thought.

The context of Proverbs 31:8  is advice given to a king by his mother (Prov. 31:1-9). The first two topics are warnings against sexual immorality (such as having a harem), and drunkenness. The third is the obligation to defend the poor and needy (Prov. 31:8-9). It says,
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
This means that kings were to defend the poor and needy (who were unable to defend themselves) and to ensure they receive justice. Elsewhere they are told to “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (Ps. 82:3-4).

An application today is that the unborn are needy and unable to defend themselves. Who will ensure they receive justice? Unfortunately the rulers of today are not defending the rights of the unborn. Those in power need to be reminded of this God-given responsibility.

Posted, September 2019

Lots of limestone

Recently I’ve visited limestone caves in Maastricht (in the Netherlands) and Paris (in France). These are man-made tunnels and underground caverns where the rock was mined centuries ago for building purposes.

Maastricht limestone

The North Caves tunnel goes deep below the St Pietersberg hill (Saint Peter’s Mount) at Maastricht. The network of thousands of tunnels is over 80 km (50 miles) long and includes charcoal drawings and inscriptions on the walls. Miners started excavating the mountain some 1,000 years ago, and in recent years open-cut mining has been used as well. This yellowish limestone was used in the Netherlands and Belgium as a traditional building material from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.

These caves were used as a refuge in wars and when Maastricht was under siege. During World War II, 780 paintings, including Rembrandt’s “Night Watch”, were kept safe in the caves for three years. And the tunnels were used to smuggle Jews to safety during this period.

The temperature inside the caves is 11 0C (53 0F) and the relative humidity is 98%. A generator was used to heat the cavern where the paintings were stored to reduce the relative humidity and protect the fragile paintings.

The caves were originally dug to mine marl, which is a mixture of calcium carbonate and clay. Limestone is a carbonate sedimentary rock comprised of crystal forms (mostly of calcite and aragonite) of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). It‘s often composed of the skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral, foraminifera, and molluscs.

The layer of Maastricht limestone in the Netherlands and Belgium is 30-90 m (100-295 feet) thick. Our guide said it was 70 m (230 feet) thick at Maastricht and that it was part of the chalk layer across northwest Europe, which includes the White Cliffs of Dover.

Paris limestone

The tour of the limestone catacombs (tunnels) beneath Paris includes macabre displays of human bones, which had been relocated from ancient cemeteries between 1780 and 1960. The network of tunnels is more than 250 km (155 miles) long. The light beige limestone quarried from these tunnels from 2000 years ago until the 17th century was used to construct many buildings in Paris.

Limestone was also evident at the Buttes Chaumont Park, which was formerly a gypsum quarry. Gypsum is calcium sulfate dihydrate (CaSO4·2H2O). Quarrying ceased by 1860 and then the area was transformed into a park with a mountain 50 m (164 feet) high, cliffs, a grotto and arches, and an artificial lake.

The limestone of the Paris sedimentary basin covers a large surface area. This valuable building material has been mined from either open cut quarries or underground quarries. The underground mines commenced in the Middle Ages (from AD 1200). In Paris, the limestone was mined from two layers, each about 4 m in thickness. The deeper mines reached a depth of 30 m (100 feet). In the 20th century, open-cut limestone quarries were developed in the Oise region of France, about 40 km north of Paris.

Paris underground mines 1908 400pxA large gypsum deposit at Montmartre in Paris led “calcined gypsum” (roasted gypsum or gypsum plaster) to be commonly known as “plaster of Paris”. Gypsum plaster is produced by heating gypsum to about 150 °C (300 °F). It hardens when moistened and allowed to dry. Plaster is a mixture of gypsum (or lime), water, and sand that hardens on drying and is used for coating walls and ceilings of buildings.

So limestone was generally mined south of the Seine river and gypsum was mined to the north. This was because the gypsum layer was above the limestone layer and the layers were deeper on the northern side where the limestone was below the water table. These sedimentary rock layers were deformed by the Meudon anticline whose axis is aligned west-east, which is roughly parallel to the direction of the Seine river in central Paris.

Limestone buildings

They say that limestone was the first rock to be quarried in human history. Due to the widespread occurrence it was easy to find, and its softness and layered structure meant it was easy to work.

About 10% of all sedimentary rock is limestone. It’s more resistant to erosion than most other sedimentary rock, but less resistant than igneous rock. Limestone is an excellent building material that has been used for many years. It’s relatively easy to cut into blocks or use for more elaborate carving. The ability to carve limestone was developed to a very high level on many cathedrals built in medieval France. The outside layer of the great pyramid of Gaza was also made of limestone. It was a popular building material in the Middle Ages. Many medieval churches and castles in Europe are made of limestone.

Lots of houses, the inner fortification of Maastricht and the Sint-Janskerk (the big red church on the Vrijthof Square) have been built using local limestone.

Many buildings in Paris were constructed from limestone. This includes the light-coloured, 6-7 story high apartment buildings (decorated with balconies and ornaments), Notre Dame, the Louvre Museum, Place de la Concorde, Les Invalides, and the many gothic monuments. Haussmann’s grand renovation of Paris (1853-1870) relied on buildings faced with Paris limestone from the Oise valley north of Paris.

Portland cement is made by heating limestone (calcium carbonate) with other materials (such as clay) to 1,450 °C (2,640 °F) in a kiln. The most common use for Portland cement is to make concrete, which is a composite building material made of aggregate (gravel and sand), cement, and water. Concrete hardens into a durable stone-like material that has many uses. Most concrete is poured with reinforcing materials embedded to provide tensile strength, yielding reinforced concrete. Concrete is one of the most frequently used building materials.

Fossils in limestone

Fossils of dinosaurs, mammals and mosasaurs have been found in Maastricht limestone. The most common fossils are bivalves, corals, sea urchins, and shark teeth. Mosasaurs are very large extinct marine reptiles. The larger mosasaurs reached sizes of 10–15 m (33–49 ft) long. The first mosasaurus (the lizard from the river Meuse) fossil remains were discovered in a limestone quarry at Maastricht on the Meuse in 1764. Soft tissue has been recovered from some mosasaurus fossils. And fossils of a prehistoric mosasaurus and turtle discovered in Maastricht limestone are on display at the Maastricht Natural History Museum.

Many marine fossils (particularly bivalves and gastropods) are present in Paris limestone, including the sea snail Campanile giganteum, the largest gastropod ever found, which can measure up to 70 cm (28 inches) long. And the Buttes Chaumont gypsum quarry yielded mammal fossils, including Palaeotherium, which is like a small horse.

Near Reims, 129 km (80 miles) east-northeast of Paris, there are many marine shells in Paris limestone (which is part of the Paris sedimentary basin) including cephalopods, gastropods (such as the Campaniles giganteum), and tiny seashells, that haven’t fossilized. This has been explained by the homogeneity of the calcified rock and an impermeable clay layer above the limestone. In some places, the shells are stuck together in a tangled lump.

How could a mosasaurus be fossilized? Dead marine creatures often float on water rather than sinking to the bottom. And in both cases they are usually devoured by predators within a short period of time. But what if a mosasaurus was left at the bottom of the ocean to decay? If we assume that the mosasaurus was 1 meter thick, under current rates of deposition, it would take thousands of years to cover the body with sediment. In the meantime, nothing would be left because the body would have decayed (Appendix A). Are similar creatures being fossilized today? No, I don’t think any dolphins are being fossilized today.

As mosasaurus fossils have been found in limestone, they must have been formed under conditions that are not present on earth today. In this case, the present is not the key to the past and the assumption of uniformity is erroneous. Instead, the mosasaurus must have been buried rapidly to slow down the decaying process.

How was limestone formed?

The traditional secular (uniformitarian) explanation is that limestone forms slowly from animal skeletons and shells deposited at the bottom of a sea. For example, it is claimed that the Parisian sedimentary basin was formed when the erosion of mountains and the dislocation of the supercontinent, Pangaea, enabled the sea to deposit some 3,000 meters of sediment over a 300 million-year period (Robin et al., 2014). This is an average deposition rate of 0.01 mm per year (10 mm/kyr).

Following the sedimentation, the rock layers were uplifted and then eroded so that the limestone was either exposed at the surface of the earth, or was close enough to the surface to be accessible by open-cut or underground mining methods.

But the existence of mosasaurus fossils shows the presupposition that the rate of geological processes have been uniform over time is erroneous. When I asked a geologist why they use this assumption, he replied that it’s because otherwise there could be a multitude of scenarios for the rate of geological processes in the past! Clearly the rate of sedimentation when the fossils were buried was significantly greater than the current rate of sedimentation.

Discussion

Robin et al. (2014) note that the sedimentary rock layers in the Paris region supplied building materials such as: sand for mixing mortar; sandstone for paving stones; clay for bricks, tiles and roofing tiles; limestone for building stone and lime production; and gypsum for plaster. This reminds me that God made the earth to be inhabited – “He [God] who fashioned and made the earth, He founded it; He did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited” (Isa. 45:18NIV). Although this was a promise that Jerusalem and the towns of Judah would be rebuilt and inhabited after the Babylonian exile (Isa. 44:26, 28), it also reminds us that God has provided all the resources for humanity to thrive on earth. In this post we have seen that sedimentary rock layers can supply building materials. Furthermore, the valuable resources of coal, oil and natural gas can form in sedimentary rock basins.

If gradual sedimentation can’t explain the occurrence of fossils in sedimentary rock (such as limestone), the most likely biblical explanation is that most of them formed during the global flood in the time of Noah. This would have been associated with rapid sedimentation, rapid uplift of mountains and deepening of oceans, and rapid erosion. And all of this would have occurred on a large scale. This is consistent with:
– sedimentary rocks covering most of the Earth’s rocky surface (although they only make up a very small percentage of the planet’s crust), including some mountain tops.
– marine and terrestrial fossils within these rocks, including on some mountain tops.

One implication is that the sedimentary rock layers and the fossils within them, and the topography of the mountains and the oceans formed rapidly over a short period of time, rather than gradually over a long period of time. How do we know this? There is no calendar or clock in the sedimentary layers, the fossils, or the topography of the earth! But there is a clock in the Bible. It says when the flood began – “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights. (Gen. 7:11-12). And it says when the flood ended – “By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry” (Gen. 8:13-14).

Another implication is that the formation of sedimentary rock layers and the fossils within them, and the topography of the mountains and oceans of the earth was a unique event. The rate of the formation of these today is insignificant compared to the rate that occurred during the flood (and during the ice age after the flood). How do we know this? God promised Noah, “Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth” (Gen. 9:11). We should be reminded of this whenever we see a rainbow (Appendix B).

Another implication is that the sedimentary rock layers and the fossils within them are thousands of years old, and not the millions of years old as is assumed under the assumption of uniformity of geological processes. How do we know this? There is no calendar or clock in the sedimentary layers or the fossils! But there is a calendar in the Bible. The most accurate genealogies (called chronological genealogies) occur near the beginning of time in the Bible (Gen. 5:3-32; 11:10-26).

Another implication is that the order of sedimentary layers and the fossils within them is the order of sedimentation and burial during the flood, and not the order of a hypothetical evolutionary development from simple creatures to more complex creatures. This means that all these creatures were living somewhere on earth at the same time thousands of years ago. Since then some of them have become extinct and the others remain much the same, except for the variations we see within the families of creatures today.

Conclusion

Limestone was mined for building purposes in the Netherlands and in France. These layers of limestone extended across large sedimentary basins. Many of the grand buildings constructed in Paris since the Middle Ages were built or faced with limestone.

Limestone contains marine fossils which can’t be explained by the current rate of sedimentation or by the assumption of uniformity of the rate of geological processes. The most likely biblical explanation for the limestone and the fossils is that most of them formed during the global flood in the time of Noah. So it’s interesting to note that what was a time of punishment for the wickedness of humanity resulted in the provision of many resources for humanity thousands of years later within sedimentary rocks.

This means that:
– Sedimentary rock layers and the fossils within them, and the overall topography of mountains and oceans, formed rapidly over a short period of time, rather than gradually over a long period of time.
– This was a unique event.
– It occurred thousands of years ago, and not millions of years ago.
– The order of sedimentary layers and the fossils within them is the order of sedimentation and burial during the flood, and not the order a hypothetical evolutionary development from simple creatures to more complex creatures.
– The geologic time scale used by geologists and palaeontologists to relate geological strata to time and to describe the timing and relationships of events that have occurred during earth’s history is an example of poor historical science because it’s assumption of uniformity is incorrect.

Appendix A: Is oceanic deposition able to fossilize creatures?

Fossils of marine creatures occur in many sedimentary rocks. The usual uniformitarian explanation given for these is that they were preserved by being covered in sediment while they lived in the ocean. Today the greatest sedimentation rate in the open ocean is said to be 5cm/kyr and that for continental shelves is said to be 50-100 cm/kyr.  Most sedimentation rates are lower than these peak rates. This means that it would take at least 20kyr to cover a 1 meter thick mosasaurus in the open ocean and at least 1-2kyr to cover in a continental shelf.

But how long would a mosasaurus carcass last on the ocean bottom before it disappeared? According to observation, whale carcasses on the ocean floor can disappear quite quickly thanks to the efforts of bone devouring organisms. In many cases, the bones will have disintegrated within a decade.

The same chemical, physical, and micro-organic processes that break down tissues will also cause bones to decompose. If a body is exposed to water then bacteria and fungi will be able to invade that porous network, and seek out the proteins of the collagen within the bones, which causes those bones to break down and eventually crumble to dust!

So oceanic deposition, as it is observed today, is NOT able to fossilize large creatures like a 1 meter thick mosasaurus.

Appendix B: The symbol of God’s promise to all creation

After the flood, the rainbow was a sign of God’s covenant with Noah, all humanity and all creation (nature). Genesis 9:12-17 says:

12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you [Noah] and every living creature with you [all animals], a covenant for all generations to come [all humanity]: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

17 So God said to Noah, “This [the rainbow] is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

Reference

Robin S, Gély J, Viré M (2014), An underground world. The catacombs of Paris, Paris Musées.

Written, September 2019

The benefits of forgiveness

Most of us avoid forgiveness like the plague because we do not want to look at our wounds. Wounds are scary, they are nasty, they are icky, it is why most of us look away when we donate blood. It is way easier to take all of that emotion and channel it into rage at another person.

In a stunning example of forgiveness, the Muslim father of one of two eight-year-old boys killed when a car crashed into a school in Sydney in November 2017 publicly forgave the woman who killed his son. He said, “We have a special message here for the lady that was involved in the accident. We want to sit with her and talk with her and tell her ‘we forgive you’. No retaliation is coming from the family of the boy, they have forgiven”. The boy’s family also disapproved of any harassment of the driver involved in the accident that killed the boys.

This blogpost is a summary of a presentation on Forgiveness by Dr. Xavier Lakshmanan. It’s not an easy topic because we live in a broken guilt-driven community. But it shows the benefits of living a forgiven life – forgiveness is an act of love and strength that leads to wellbeing.

Forgiveness is a readiness to pardon offenses, to overlook personal wrongs against oneself, and to harbor no desire for retaliation. It implies reconciliation, peace, tolerance and considering others.

According to the Bible, forgiveness brings many blessings. It speaks about God’s act of individual and corporate forgiveness. God gives us the opportunity to ask for forgiveness and to forgive others. Groups and communities can also come to forgiveness. The New Testament also puts a very special emphasis on believer’s mutual forgiveness. God forgives us and asks us to forgive others.

The Bible says to believers, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:32NIV). It says:
– God forgives, while believers receive God’s forgiveness. Their guilt is removed and they can live well in this world and in the world to come.
– Believers are commanded to forgive others as God forgave them in Christ Jesus. This is the standard of a forgiven life.

Christian forgiveness is like a coin; it has two sides. One side of the coin is accepting God’s gift of forgiveness. The other side is extending that gift of forgiveness coming from the Lord to others wherever we are. So forgiveness is both a divine gift and a task involving our relationship with others.

Forgiveness is a gift

Forgiveness is a gift from God. The Old Testament uses the following Hebrew words for forgiveness in relation to salvation.

Kapar means “God covering human sins by offering a sacrifice as a substitute for the life of a sinner”. It’s not accepting a sin and saying “that’s alright”, or “let’s forget about it”. It’s an act of God taking everything seriously. Saying sin offends. Sin brings chaos and calamity. Sin has consequences. In the Old Testament, the whole idea of atonement is based on sacrifice; the shedding of blood for the remission of sins. This means that sin is a serious offence. Forgiveness is a serious virtue which God is providing. The greatest example of this is when Jesus died for our sins and we can accept that offer and be free from the guilt and penalty of our sin.

Nasa means “guilt being taken away from the sinner. It’s removal of the burden of guilt when we accept God’s gift. While sala means the “function of forgiveness”.

Maha expresses God “wiping away” sins and kasa conveys the idea of “covering or concealing the person”. When God judges sin, He protects forgiven sinners.

The New Testament uses the following terms of forgiveness.

Apolyo expresses the analogy of sin as debt and it means “God removing the debt and releasing the sinner from it”. It involves sacrifice, payment and freedom. That’s what we see on the cross of Calvary.

Paresis means God “passing over” sin. God doesn’t consider the days of ignorance, but passes over them. When we come to Jesus, His death, covers everything that we have done. While aphesis conveys God “putting away sin completely and unreservedly”. Forgiveness brings us to an unconditional standing with God, including the privileges of God’s kingdom, the privileges of God’s promises, and the privileges of God’s children.

Charizomai expresses “the graciousness of God’s pardon” and God’s “act of blotting out sin” and granting the sinner freedom. God isn’t going to recall our sin; “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He [God] removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12). Do not live in guilt. If you trust in Jesus Christ, you have peace, reconciliation, and restoration with God. And you can celebrate your life in Christ Jesus. Relax in the presence of God.

So Christian forgiveness is the once-for-all pardon that we receive when we accept God’s promise in Christ Jesus. It’s as simple as that. And it’s also the way to maintain a close living fellowship with our Lord and His people. You forgive yourself and you forgive others and you accept the forgiveness of God. God’s act of forgiveness is a gift of grace that displays God’s love, freedom, deliverance, care, perfection, cleansing and restoration. Forgiveness involves everything that we need to live as children of God.

One of the greatest passages on forgiveness as a gift is, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Col. 2:13-15). This is a summary of the salvation experience. As God has taken away our sin and brokenness, we are called to live for His glory. We not only receive God’s forgiveness, but we must give that forgiveness to others. Then our relationships can be heaven-like. An unforgiving spirit is a weakness.

Karl Bath exclaimed, Christians “live by forgiveness” and every Christian should begin a day with a confession: “I believe in the forgiveness of sins”. At death, one has nothing to confess but “God’s gracious act of forgiveness”. Hence a genuine Christian life is lived in full awareness of forgiveness, accepting that God sees me anew and adopts me anew in His light. Bath recognized that believers are also commanded and enabled by God to be merciful to forgive their debtors, to comfort others, and to outshine the light of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a task

Giving forgiveness is a command that brings to others what believers have received from God. Christian forgiveness is a gift that commands practice. So it is a task that should be a way of life. Forgiveness frees us from bitterness and replaces bitterness with joy. Forgiving someone brings joy. Christians are commanded, called and enabled to enjoy forgiveness and live daily with its benefits.

Jesus taught that forgiveness is a duty of the forgiven. No limit can be set on the extent of forgiveness and it must be granted without reserve.   Jesus said, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them” (Lk. 17:3-4). It’s hard isn’t it? But it’s more than this.

In another passage “Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times’” (Mt. 18:21-22). Jesus increases it to 77 times a day! That’s a pattern of life.

And Paul wrote, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13). The standard that we are to forgive others is the forgiveness of the Lord to us. How many times does the Lord forgive us in one hour? That’s how many times we are to forgive our spouse, our brothers, our sisters, our friends, our neighbors, and those we fellowship with in church. Showing forgiveness is like bringing heaven down to earth.

The condition of forgiveness is repentance and confession on behalf of the offender. But Jesus says that if the offender fails to repent, the offended is not released from the task of forgiving. Jesus said, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Mt. 18:35). Whether someone is repenting or not, we are obliged to forgive them. It’s very difficult.

Jesus said, “if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Mt. 5:23-24). Forgiveness isn’t only when you have done something wrong. It’s also for when someone else has wronged you. That’s what we are commanded to do.

Michael Bird says, “this form of forgiveness does not mean that I do not continue to feel the hurt from someone’s sin. But I forfeit my right to show my hurt at someone’s painful actions”. It’s a choice that we make. At the cross Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34). That’s love and mercy rather than resentment, anger and a desire for the punishment of His persecuters. Jesus was a model for His followers by willingly forgiving those who persecuted Him.

That’s what Mrs Gladys Staines did after her husband Graham and two sons were burnt to death in India in 1999. She made a choice to forgive them. It’s the choice of the strongest, not the weakest.

Forgiveness is a destiny

Forgiveness is the destiny for human life. The forgiven life that we have been given is going to continue. Believers are going to become like Jesus Christ. The purpose of God’s gift of forgiveness to fallen humans is to create a new being; “to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). This is Christ-likeness. So forgiveness has implications for this life and the life to come. God’s work of salvation saves sinners from the guilt, penalty, power and the presence of sin to the presence of God. It starts here and takes us to eternity. It’s the same with forgiveness; the healing begins here and brings restoration and freedom and it takes us to eternity to be like Christ in perfection. Forgiveness is a gift given and a task practiced to bring an amazing outcome of wellbeing and wholeness to human existence. This is the ultimate destination of salvation and God’s gift of forgiveness.

The greatest problem in extending forgiveness today is an unforgiving spirit. This can show in many ways. And it can control us. It’s part of our fallen nature. Jesus said, “if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Mt. 6:14-15). Refusing to forgive doesn’t grant us power. Instead it enslaves us to further sin like bitterness, greed, and discouragement.

Mahatma Ghandi said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong”. For example, God is all powerful and He is happy to forgive us.

And Frederic Luskin of Stanford University exclaims, the spirit of unforgiving is a spirit of timidity. He argues, why are we afraid to let go of our grievances when forgiving can bring healing and wellbeing? He says, unforgiveness is like being trapped in a jail cell of bitterness, serving time for what someone else committed. Forgiveness is something we do for ourselves as well. We are freeing ourselves of burdens by taking power over situations and managing them well to “become a hero rather than a victim”. Otherwise we will feel unnecessarily victimized. Forgiveness makes us heroes, while unforgiveness makes us victims.

The benefits of forgiveness

Many psychological studies have been done on the benefit of forgiveness of others. Luskin calls forgiveness a “trainable skill of the strong”, not the weak. Moreover, he claims that forgiveness “reduced anger, hurt, depression, and stress while increasing feelings of optimism, hope, compassion, physical vitality, self-sufficiency (power), and confidence”. Forgiveness also improves physical and mental health, reducing hypertension.

The IDEA Fitness Journal stated that “people who are forgiving tend to have not only less stress but also better relationships, fewer general health problems and lower incidences of the most serious illness, including depression, heart disease, stroke and cancer”. So forgiveness is an act of love and strength that leads to wellbeing.

Lisa Firestone concludes, “forgiveness is the final act of love” and “the greatest gift you can give yourself and someone else in psychology today”. Yes, forgiveness is the most beautiful form of divine-human love that reflects a person’s greatness, goodness, inner wellbeing, soundness, confidence, and wholeness.

So extending forgiveness has tremendous benefits to the self. There are benefits in the forgiven life. Forgiveness is worth it. This is where Christianity excels.

Conclusion

Forgiveness is a gift that God freely lavished on us when we were sinners. And forgiveness is a task that God commanded us to practice in our relationships with others. Forgiveness is an act of love and strength that leads to wellbeing. Finally, forgiveness is the believer’s destiny. God wants them to live well here and in eternity in Christ-likeness. They are being transformed every day into Christ-likeness.

If you have forgiveness, give it! If you don’t have it, you can’t give it! But you can seek the gift of forgiveness which is available through Jesus Christ.

However, if this post doesn’t work for you, you can follow the advice of Oscar Wilde, “Always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them so much”!

Acknowledgement: This blogpost was sourced from a presentation by Dr. Xavier Lakshmanan on this topic. Dr. Lakshmanan is Head of Theology in the Australian College of Christian Studies.

Posted, August 2019

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