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Protection of religious freedom

“NSW needs freedom of speech laws, even for its own MPs. And also new laws for the protection of religious freedom”, Mark Latham claimed in his first speech to the New South Wales Parliament.

“Many migrants came to Australia to escape religious persecution. Now they are saying the problems in their home country have followed them here.

I’m not a Christian but I recognize the vital contribution of Christianity to our civilization: its vast social and charitable work; its teaching of right and wrong in civil society.

I stand with Israel Folau. In his own private time away from his job playing football, he’s a preacher at his community church and naturally, he quotes the Bible. He believes, as millions of people have believed for thousands of years, that sinners go to Hell. As per his valid religious faith, he loves the sinner but condemns the sin.

Yet for his beliefs, his Christianity, he is not allowed to play rugby, to chase the pigskin around the park. How did our State and our nation ever come to this?

I was on Folau’s list of sinners, more than once actually. But as I don’t believe in Hell, there was no way I could take offence. Those claiming outrage have fabricated their position solely for the purpose of censorship.

This is not an argument about diversity. The Wallabies (Australia’s rugby union team) have no female players, no disabled, no elderly, no middle aged. They are selected from a tiny fraction of the young, fit, athletic male population. By excluding a committed Christian, they are making their game less inclusive.

And as for Folau being a role model for young gay men, one only needs to state this proposition to understand its absurdity. Footballers are not role models for anyone, other than in enjoying their sporting ability. I say to any young person: if you are looking for guidance and inspiration in life, study Churchill, Lincoln, Ronald Reagan and Roosevelt, not Todd Carney (a rugby league footballer).

I believe that no Australian should live in fear of the words they utter. No Australian should be fearful of proclaiming four of the most glorious words of our civilization: “I am a Christian”. No one should be sacked by their employer for statements of genuine belief and faith that have got nothing to do with their job.

The Folau case exposes the new serfdom in the Australian workplace: how big companies, the corporate PC-elites are wanting to control all aspects of their employees’ lives – their religious and political views, how they speak and think, how they behave, even in their own time away from the workplace. This is a stunning intrusion on workers’ rights. Yet far from condemning the new serfdom, Labor and the trade unions have been cheering it on.

As per our One Nation election commitments, I will be moving legislation for the protection of free speech, religious freedom and the privacy rights of workers.”

He also blogged: “Quoting the Bible should not be a workplace crime. The ARU should respect the rights of those who preach valid religious beliefs. They cannot make their game more ‘inclusive’ by excluding committed Christians. I will be moving Protection of Religious Freedom Laws in NSW Parliament later this year. The culture war on Christians must end.”

His motion on religious freedom –
“The House agreed to:
(a) support the basic human right of NSW workers to express political, cultural and religious opinion in their private time, away from their place of work, without suffering employment penalties; and
(b) support Article 18 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political rights, covering the right of each citizen to have freedom of religion.”

Acknowledgement: Extract from a speech by Mark Latham (Member of the Legislative Council) to NSW Parliament, Australia, on 8 May 2019.

Posted, June 2019

Also see: Selective tolerance: Folau verses Rugby Australia
Is the Bible “hate speech” because it’s not “inclusive”?


Is the Bible “hate speech” because it’s not inclusive?

Rugby Australia have sacked their best player because of the religious views he expressed on Instagram. Since then Israel Folau has begun legal proceedings for unlawful dismissal. As his views were based on the Bible, the Court case could involve an assessment of Christianity and the Bible. It’s possible that parts of the Bible could be deemed to be “hate speech” or homophobic because they aren’t “inclusive”.

Hate speech

Hate speech is language that expresses prejudice against a particular group, especially on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, or physical or mental disability.

But who decides what is “hate speech” and what is not? This is a very subjective topic as the answer could depend on the worldview of the person making the decision. For example, my views which are influenced by what the Bible says, will be different from those of an LGBT advocate.

We live in a day where biblical truth is considered hate speech. Israel Folau says, “The word of God hurts, and that’s a good thing because it’s meant to turn us away from our sin and turn us to God” and “We should never compromise God’s word in order to make people feel comfortable!!!”

The legal debate

Rugby Australia claims the sacking was for a breach of their Code of Conduct (Appendix A) and Inclusion Policy (Appendix B), which are part of a player’s employment contract. But Folau claims his sacking was unlawful  because section 772 of the Fair Work Act prohibits terminating a worker on the basis of religion. Apparently there is no other law to protect religious freedom in Australia. Section 772 of the Act says that an employer must not terminate an employee’s employment for any one of a list of unlawful reasons, including “religion”. If the parties don’t agree to arbitration by the Fair Work Commission, the employee can make an application to the Federal Court to deal with the matter. In this case they may need to rule on the limitations of an employer’s power to prevent discriminatory expression.

The common understanding of the Fair Work Act is that workers cannot be sacked for expressing their religious views. But Rugby Australia must think that their Code of conduct can over-ride the Act. This is a case where an employer code of conduct appears to contradict an act of parliament. One possible outcome could be a ruling that codes of conduct must not contradict an act of parliament. But this is unlikely because it goes against the prevailing secular sympathy for the LGBT cause!

There is also the aspect of an employer controlling people’s private life. An employer is entitled to regulate out of hours conduct of an employee when it has a relevant connection to the employment. But what if this action contradicts the Fair Work Act? The case has already been referred to the Fair Work Ombudsman by a Liberal senator seeking a ruling on whether an employer can sack an employee for expressing their religious beliefs on social media outside the workplace.

I have previously written about Folau’s Instagram post.     

Does the post target homosexuals?

The answer to this question is “Yes and no”. No, because it targets everyone (we are all “idolators”)! And yes because “homosexuals” are included in a list along with “drunks, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, and idolators”. As the post isn’t only addressed to homosexuals, it doesn’t specifically target homosexuals. So the post isn’t homophobic.

Why have there been no protests about the other categories of people mentioned in the post besides homosexuals? If it is unacceptable for homosexuals, then it should also be unacceptable for drunks, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, and idolators!

Does the post harm homosexuals?

The answer to this will depend on your worldview. I think it doesn’t harm homosexuals (or others) because it tells the truth according to the Bible. It warns about a destiny that can be avoided. It offers help, not harm. A warning isn’t harmful or hateful. So the post isn’t homophobic. But the response by Rugby Australia to the post isn’t in keeping with Folau’s intention.

However, an LGBT advocate, who is ignorant of the Bible or who disregards what it says, would probably think that it was criticizing homosexuals. But this view fails to take the context into account. The post doesn’t target homosexuals directly. Instead it targets everyone. In that case, everyone should be upset, not just homosexuals!

Test case for free speech

Some see the sacking as a threat to free speech and freedom of religion. Are we becoming more restrictive on religious views?

Next weekend the “Religious freedoms at the crossroads conference – The rise of anti-Christian sentiment in the west” is being held at Perth in Australia. As a sign of the times, Facebook has censored this legal conference because it violates their “community standards”! So Facebook refuses to allow anyone to post information about this conference. This shows that our freedom of speech and religious freedom is already under threat. Recently, Open Doors—the global authority on Christian persecution—predicted the end of religious freedom in western nations.

China blocks more than 3,000 foreign websites, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And there is increased censorship of religious discussions on WeChat. In this way freedom of speech and freedom of religion is curtailed in China.

Now the Christian view is being censored. It’s a world where evil is called good and good is called evil. And Christians are like Daniel in Babylon because community standards are against those in the Bible.

Will this trend lead to the Bible being classified as discriminatory hate speech that’s homophobic and not inclusive? Will it be banned from usage in public and be restricted to private use? How ironic! The law of our land, which was based on laws of the Bible, could be used to condemn the Bible! And will Christians be persecuted for their faith like in some Muslim countries?

A similar matter arose in the UK in 2012 when an employee was demoted and lost 40% of his wages after he questioned on his Facebook page about whether churches should be required to perform same-sex weddings. In this instance, the High Court held that the workplace code of conduct could not restrict the employee’s free speech (Smith v Trafford Housing Trust [2012] EWHC 3221).

As you can see, this is a complex situation! And there can be conflicting views. But we can always pray for a good outcome that is fair to all concerned (if that’s possible!).

Pray for those in authority

Paul told Timothy, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all people” (1Tim. 2:1-6NIV). So we need to pray for those in authority “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness”. If Folau loses his court case it will be difficult for Christians to live peaceful and quiet lives because their Christian views will no longer be acceptable by society. Instead they will be censored.

Conclusion

Rugby Australia sacked their best player because he quoted and paraphrased the Bible. He lost he freedom of religious expression. This could lead to further discrimination against Christians and the censorship of Christian views.

I wonder if Rugby Australia would sack a Muslim player for quoting or paraphrasing the Koran on Facebook or Instagram? They would probably celebrate their multiculturalism instead.

Appendix A: Extract from Rugby Australia, Code of conduct

“Treat everyone equally, fairly and with dignity regardless of gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, cultural or religious background, age or disability. Any form of bullying, harassment or discrimination has no place in Rugby.”  (1.3)

Appendix B: Extract from Rugby Australia, Inclusion policy (August 2014)

Rugby Australia’s inclusion policy, which was adopted in 2014 and states, “Rugby has and must continue to be a sport where players, officials, volunteers, supporters and administrators have the right and freedom to participate regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race or religion and without fear of exclusion. There is no place for homophobia or any form of discrimination in our game and our actions and words both on and off the field must reflect this.” (1.6)

“The overriding objective of this Policy is to make our position on inclusion clear. By doing so, we are signalling our commitment, as the governing body of Rugby Union in Australia, to make a stand to eradicate discrimination in all forms, including harassment and bullying toward gay, lesbian and bisexual people, individually and collectively with other sports codes.” (1.7)

“While this Policy has a focus on homophobia and makes specific reference to gay, lesbian and bisexual people, the overarching principles and intention of the policy is to make a positive statement on the importance of inclusion for all, and the importance of eliminating all forms of discrimination in our game.” (1.8)

Written, June 2019

Also see: Selective tolerance: Folau verses Rugby Australia
Protection of religious freedom


A major problem

Last week I climbed Uluru (Ayers Rock) in central Australia. On the way down there was a man who became very unwell around 3/4 of the way up the climb chain. He was being assisted by two off-duty police officers and two off-duty paramedics. This turned into a major problem when he suffered a heart attack. They performed CPR and used a defibrillator to shock his heart back into a survivable rhythm, saving his life. A few hours later the man was carefully moved down the steep face of the rock on a stretcher using ropes and pulleys. He was treated at Yulara Health Centre before being flown to Alice Springs Hospital by the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and then to Adelaide for specialist heart surgery.

This post looks at a major problem faced by a commander in the Syrian army, which is described in the Bible. We will see from this that God can deliver us from our major problem.

Text

Naaman’s problem is described in 2 Kings 5:1-15 (NIV):

1 Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram [Syria]. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.

Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet [Elisha] who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”

As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”

When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

11 But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.

13 Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

15 Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.”

Context

Author – An unknown Jew wrote 1&2 Kings under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Pt. 1:20-21).

Audience – 1 & 2 Kings was written to fellow Jews who were in exile in Babylon.

Content – 1 & 2 Kings is a selective history of Israel from the time of king Solomon (970BC) to the Babylonian exile (586BC). This is about 384 years of history.

When written (or complied) – 1 & 2 Kings was written after the conquest of Judah in 586BC, probably during the Babylonian exile (say about 550BC).

Kingdoms of Israel and Judah – After the reign of Solomon, the Hebrew nation was divided into two kingdoms: Israel was in the north whose capital was Samaria, and Judah was in the south whose capital was Jerusalem. Israel lasted 210 years until it was conquered in 722BC, and Judah lasted 345 years until it was conquered in 586BC. They were conquered because of their idolatry and disobedience of their covenant with God (Dt. 28:32-37, 47-57, 63-64).

Aram (Syria) – Aram was a Gentile nation north-east of Israel whose capital was Damascus. It was an idol worshipping enemy of Israel.

Date of incident – Naaman was healed in about 850BC, which was about three years after the king of Israel (Ahab) was killed in a war between Aram and Israel.

What happened before? – The incident is preceded by examples of Israel’s sin (idolatry), which was followed by God’s judgment (defeat in battle and death). There are also examples of Israel’s faithfulness, which is followed by God’s reward (victory in battle).

What happened afterwards? – The incident is followed by Gehazi’s (Elisha’s servant) sin (greed), which is followed by God’s punishment (leprosy).

How did God usually communicate to people in those days? God communicated via prophets, whose message is recorded in the Old Testament.

What happened?

Naaman had a major problem – a skin disease like leprosy. This was a serious skin disease that covered his body for everyone to see. As this was incurable, he would have been dismayed and depressed. And he would have felt like someone who had terminal cancer.

But this isn’t the end of the story. The Biblical account describes how, with the help of God, Naaman was delivered from his problem. This involved traveling about 250 km (155 miles) from Damascus to Samaria to receive instructions from the prophet Elisha.

What did it mean then?

What’s the main point?

God healed a Gentile, who was outside the promises given to Israel! All Naaman had to do was to obey the Lord’s message given by Elisha. Jesus explained that when Israel rejected God, a Gentile received the covenant blessing instead (Lk. 4:24-27). For the Israelites, obedience led to physical blessings (Dt. 28:1-14). And disease was one of the punishments for disobedience (Dt. 28:21-22, 27-29). This was a lesson to the disobedient Israelites that they would only receive God’s blessing if they obeyed God.

This shows that God cared for people outside His special people (the Israelites). For example, God also cared for the people of Nineveh who were Assyrians, one of Israel’s enemies (Jon. 4:11). These Gentiles were “without hope and without God” (Eph. 2:11-12). But God’s kindness and grace is shown when He helps those like Gentiles who don’t deserve His help.

What other things did we notice?

There were a chain of people involved in Naaman’s healing: the servant girl-Naaman’s wife-Naaman-the king of Aram (Syria)-the king of Israel-Elisha-Elisha’s messenger-Naaman’s servants. We see that God uses people to carry out His purposes on earth. This includes both the godly (servant girl), and the ungodly (king of Israel). As God intended for Israel, she was a witness to God’s power (1 Ki. 8:41-43). Meanwhile, the king of Israel was worshipping idols.

There was only one way to be healed. Naaman had to overcome his pride and follow God’s instructions to be delivered from leprosy. Naaman thought his cure could be bought with wealth, but Elisha refused payment for what God had done. And Naaman thought that Elisha would heal him in a dramatic way, but it was clear that Elisha was not a healer but God’s messenger. Instead he was healed by the power of God.

After he was healed, Naaman changed from worshipping idols to worshipping the true God. This shows that he knew who had healed him and he was grateful and thankful.

What does it mean now?

What has changed since when Naaman lived?

How has the Bible changed? We now have the New Testament. Since the time of Naaman, Jesus has come and fulfilled the promises in the Old Testament of a Messiah.

Who are God’s people today? They are believers in Jesus Christ who are also called Christians, or the church. They can be from any nation – Jews have no special privileges, and Gentiles have no special barriers. They live under the new covenant given in the New testament, and not under the old one given to Moses. The books of Acts to Revelation in the Bible were written to the early church.

Under the new covenant, God promises spiritual blessings to those who follow Him, and not physical blessings like those in the old covenant (Dt. 28:1-14; Eph. 1:3).

What’s the main point?

What’s our major problem today? Is it poverty? War? Terrorism? Global warming? The economy? Destruction of the natural environment? Overpopulation? Or, inequality? Like Naaman’s disease, these are all physical problems.

The Bible says that the root cause of all these problems is human sin. We have all sinned and the consequence is separation from God (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). So sin is our major problem. It’s all-encompassing. It’s like terminal cancer. And it keeps us from going to heaven, which is God’s perfect place for us. But unlike the other problems, it’s spiritual and not physical.

Naaman was healed after he humbly obeyed God’s instruction. At first, he arrogantly wanted to wash in the rivers of Damascus, instead of washing in the Jordan river in Israel. But after he changed his mind and washed in the Jordan river, he was delivered from the leprosy. Likewise, if we obey God’s instruction in the Bible, God can deliver us from our major problem of sin.

What’s sin?

The word ’sin’ can mean different things for different people including the following:

– Something naughty but fun (not too serious – like pornography – even adultery), or
– Something completely normal which religious weirdo’s think is wrong (like dancing), or
– A list of don’ts that an angry fictional God keeps score over, or
– Big ticket moral failures (like murder, theft etc.).

According to the Bible, sin is anything that we think, say, or do that displeases God or that breaks His laws. And it includes not doing what we know we should. Sin is a symptom of humanity’s rebellion against God.

Lessons for us

What’s the application to unbelievers?

Like Naaman, unbelievers have a major problem. It’s called sin. But they can be delivered if they obey God’s instructions by confessing their sin and trusting in Christ’s vicarious payment of the penalty. Like Naaman, there is only one way of deliverance. It’s good to know that God can deliver us from our major problem. But we need to seek His help.

We’re all rebels and God is entitled to hold us to account for our treatment of Him. But judgment isn’t the last word with God. The good news is that, whilst “the wages of sin is death [separation from God]” … “the free gift of God is eternal life [in heaven] through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23NLT). So, while there’s still time, stop and ask Jesus for help.

What’s the application to believers?

Like the servant girl, Christians know about God’s solution to people’s major problem of sin. But do we share God’s way of deliverance with others?

After Naaman was healed, he offered thanks and praise to the real God who delivered him from a major problem. Do we regularly thank and praise God for delivering us from the penalty of our sin?

Written, June 2019


Sin is not as much fun as you think

Why do we sin? Because it’s a chore – of course not! Actually, we do the wrong thing because it’s fun, satisfying or seems too difficult to resist. Why would we bother if it weren’t any of those things? Lowering the car window and letting rip at the stupid person blocking our way… how good did that feel? Revealing that choice morsel of information … everyone in the office deserves to know what happened! Mostly, our sin reveals a lot about the kind of person we really are.

Some years back a newspaper article named seven high profile males (mostly politicians) found to be adulterers. Collectively they had fathered 24 children. The article pondered the damage caused to those 24 lives and the sad ending to public careers.

Why did those men behave so destructively? It’s tempting to excuse their actions by finding fault with sexless or unsatisfying marriages. But let’s not forget the ‘fun’ part. They gave in to what the Bible calls ‘the fleeting pleasures of sin’ (Hebrews 11:25). And even if their marriages were rocky and difficult, was adultery the solution? Had they worked hard, with counsellors, to make their marriages work? Unlikely. But now there was a social stigma to be borne. And not just by them. Wives and children are always caught up as well. Life after sin can be an eternity of regret.

There’s another more important answer to the question, ‘Why do we sin?’ And it’s this. We haven’t taught ourselves to hate what is evil. Are we feeling downcast about sin because we’ve been caught out? There needs to be a better reason. We need to hate evil because it’s evil. And we need to care about pleasing God. If that’s our mindset then, when temptation presents, we’ll feel alarmed, even nauseous at the prospect of betraying God.

There’s a letter in the Bible written by the missionary, Paul of Tarsus to Christians in the city of Rome. It contains a great challenge.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:2).

A little later on in his letter Paul writes:

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong [evil]. Hold tightly to what is good (Romans 12:9).

None of us have the strength to do this perfectly. We need God’s help. Let’s pray to Him about this.

Prayer: Dear God, give me the strength to say, ‘No’ to temptation so that I can honor you and protect both myself and those around me.

Bible verse: Romans 12:9 “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong [evil]. Hold tightly to what is good“.

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

Posted June 2019


The greatest miracle

Michelangelo knew that Adam was created as an adult & not an infant, but most scientists don't know that the earth was created "adult" and not "infant" as is assumed in the big-bang idea

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

Creation

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

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

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

A miracle

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

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

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

Apparent age

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is this deceptive?

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

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

Discussion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Appendix A: False ideas

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

Appendix B: Creation is a reason to praise God

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

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

Appendix C: Irreducible complexity

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

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

Reference

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

Written, May 2019

Also see: God created a huge universe


Where were you?

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

Question and answer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about today?

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

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

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

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

Written, May 2019


An evolutionary miracle

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

Complexity of life

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

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

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

Information

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

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

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

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

Extra-terrestrial life

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

Discussion

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Appendix A: The law of Biogenesis

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

Appendix B: The Miller-Urey experiment

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

Reference

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

Written, May 2019

Also see: Two Big-bang miracles