Biblical answers to five common questions
This post comes from Philip Nunn who lives in The Netherlands.
This corona crisis affects all of us in different ways. Some are feeling tired of being quarantined or are losing patience with their bored children. Others are in hospitals, struggling themselves or helping those who find it difficult to breathe. Where is God in this crisis? What is an appropriate way to talk about our experience with COVID-19? We can learn from how the Lord Jesus dealt with a family disaster as described in John 11. Lazarus had died. When Jesus arrived, Martha went out to meet Him. “Lord” she said, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (11:21NIV). What follows is a theological discussion that ended with a deep revelation: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (11:25-26). Then Mary arrived. She fell at Jesus’ feet. She expressed her pain and frustration with the exact same words as her sister Martha (11:32). Towards Mary the response of Jesus was different. “He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” And then, “Jesus wept” (11:33, 35). That is what Mary needed to see: the tears of her Master. Which is more important: the theological or the pastoral approach? Clearly both are. But we need sensitivity and the Lord’s guidance to know which approach is needed in each situation. (more…)
The disease COVID-19 is spreading rapidly across the world. By 11 April 2020 over 103,500 deaths have been attributed to the virus and secondary pneumonia.
What does the Bible say about a global pandemic like COVID-19?
This post is based on an article by the US theologian and author, John Piper. (more…)
A message from Europe
The world is at war against the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19.
This post comes from Philip Nunn who lives in The Netherlands.
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. They have been causing problems for a number of decades now. The new version we are currently fighting was first transmitted to humans in Wuhan, China, towards the end of 2019. Since then it has remained in the headlines of all our newspapers and news bulletins. Last month the World Health Organization gave this coronavirus disease the new name COVID-19, and five weeks later declared it a pandemic. Presidents, Prime Ministers and others in authority are now busy closing national borders, events, shops and schools. They are imposing restrictions on our freedom of movement which have never before been used in peacetime. You may still think it is all fake news, you may think the restrictions are too strict, or far to slow and too lax. Like it or not, the world is now at war with this coronavirus! How are you reacting? Are you fearful or frustrated? Is your faith in God strengthening you in this time of worldwide crisis? Perhaps with a little more time on your hands, it may be worthwhile taking some time to consider what the Bible has to say about the spreading of bad things. (more…)
More orally transmitted Aboriginal stories
A message can become unreliable if it passes through many intermediate speakers between the original speaker and the final listener. This is demonstrated in the telephone (Chinese whispers) game in which one person whispers a message to the ear of the next person through a line of people until the last player announces the message to the entire group. What usually happens is that the statement announced by the last player differs significantly from that of the first player. Obviously, if a message (or story) has been retold by many people, some of it can change if people forget parts of what they are told. (more…)
At our family Christmas party, my Christmas present was a book titled, “Remembering Bob” (Pieters-Hawke, 2019). It’s a collection of stories and memories about Bob Hawke, who was the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) President in 1969-1980 and the Australian Prime Minister in 1883-1991.
They say he was an outstanding leader and a great storyteller. His achievements included:
– preserving the Antarctic for peace and science
– contributing to the end of Apartheid in South Africa
– significantly raising the high school completion rate,
– strengthening healthcare, education, work life, and housing, and
– elevating environmental issues in political decision-making
But he regretted failing to deliver a treaty with Indigenous Australians. (more…)
How to read the Bible in chronological order
The Chinese government intends to rewrite the Bible to ‘reflect socialist values’. This order was proposed in November, 2019, during a meeting held by the Committee for Ethnic and Religious Affairs of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which oversees ethnic and religious matters in China. New editions of religious texts must not go against the beliefs of the Communist Party. Any parts deemed wrong or challenging by the censors will be rewritten to match communist values. They claim that this will prevent ‘extreme thoughts’ and ‘heretical ideas’ from eroding the country. In this post we look at the contents of this ‘heretical’ book.
The Bible describes events that occurred over a period of about 5,000 years. But the 66 books in the Bible are arranged according to categories like history, poetry, prophecy, gospel (good news about Jesus Christ) and letters. (more…)
Roy Morgan’s 2019 survey found that Australians regard environmental concerns as the major problem facing the world. This included climate change, water conservation, pollution, rubbish, famine, and cutting down rainforests. And economic concerns came next.
What does the Bible say about the natural environment? Should Christians care for the environment, or doesn’t it matter?
This post looks at the natural environment from an understanding based on the Bible, which is God’s message to us. This leads to different understandings compared to if we reject what the Bible says. It’s a theistic viewpoint, not an atheistic one. The Bible says that the universe was formed miraculously by God’s command (Ps. 33:6-9). People can look at the same world, but their interpretation depends on their worldview. It’s like wearing glasses. For example, clear glasses give a brighter view than sunglasses. (more…)
The concept of geologic (or deep) time is now part of our culture. It’s a product of a secular worldview that rejects biblical history and is the foundation of atheism. And it’s so popular that I expect few people will read this post or question the status quo.
The methods used to determine the geologic time scale are summarized in Appendix A. And the main differences between the geologic time scale and the biblical time scale are summarized in Appendix B. Despite its seemingly scientific basis, there are many reasons to be skeptical of the geologic time scale. Some of these are summarized below.
According to the biblical time scale (Appendix B), after the ice age the oceans would have reached their current level about 3,800 years ago, which is 3,200 years less that according to the geologic time scale. This implies that Australian Aboriginal stories describing times when sea levels were lower than today were probably 3,700 years old, which is more credible than the 10,000 years quoted by researchers. It also represents about 148 generations, which is more realistic than the supposed transmission of these stories over 400 generations. So the biblical time scale provides a more credible explanation of these orally-transmitted Aboriginal stories than the geologic time scale. (more…)
In 1994 an experienced bushwalker and rock climber abseiled into a remote gorge in Wollemi National Park, west of Sydney and found himself in a narrow canyon. He realized that the trees growing along the creek were unusual. The large, glossy evergreen trees had bark that peeled from young stems in red-brown scales and the older bark resembled bubbling chocolate (or coco puffs). Male and female cones were found at the tips of branches on the trees, with a majority of the female cones at the top of the trees.
They proved to be a tree new to science and, prior to this discovery of living trees, the genus was known only from fossils. The Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis) belongs to the ancient conifer family Araucariaceae. The other two genera in this family are the Araucaria (that includes the bunya, hoop pine, monkey puzzle tree and Norfolk Island pine) and the Agathis (that includes the kauri). The Wollemi pine has some structural characteristics of the Araucaria and the Agathis, but it also has some unique features. The genus is thought to be about 100 million years old under the uniformitarian (geologic) time scale. So prior to this discovery, these pines were thought to be extinct for millions of years. (more…)
The Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland has 37,000 gigantic, geometrically perfect polygon columns. Have you been there? They’re extraordinary. But back before photographs, television and the Internet, it was hard to believe in and imagine far off places. “Surely you’re exaggerating about those columns?” “Surely they were made from concrete molds?” Or else, “They don’t really exist and you’re making it all up!”
It’s a bit like that with heaven. Because we haven’t been there we’re tempted to doubt it’s goodness or wonder if it even exists. The writer C.S. Lewis had a helpful and funny insight about this in his book, Miracles,
I think our present outlook might be like that of a small boy who, on being told that the sexual act was the highest bodily pleasure should immediately ask whether you ate chocolates at the same time. On receiving the answer ‘No,’ he might regard absence of chocolates as the chief characteristic of sexuality. In vain would you tell him that the reason why lovers in their carnal raptures don’t bother about chocolates is that they have something better to think of. The boy knows chocolate: he does not know the positive thing that excludes it. We are in the same position. We know the sexual life; we do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in Heaven, will leave no room for it. (more…)
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. (more…)
Scientists believe that the Earth goes through cycles of climatic change. Periods of lower temperatures are assumed to result in long-term periods of glaciation, which are known as an ‘Ice Age’. As the causes proposed for these Ice Ages seem to be deficient, there is reason to believe that there was only one Ice Age.
This post is based on a children’s book by Hughes and Cosner (2018).
Was there really an Ice Age?
Evolutionists say that there have been many Ice Ages throughout history (Appendix A). Actually there was only one Ice Age, and it was caused by Noah’s Flood. Though the Flood lasted only one year, its effects on the climate lasted for centuries! Hot underground water was a major source of Flood waters, so even after they retreated back into the oceans, the water stayed warm. Also, massive volcanic eruptions would have poured ash into the air, which blocked out much sunlight over the land. So the land would have been much cooler. Then some of the warm water evaporated into clouds which then dropped much snow over the cold land. Over centuries, this packed into huge ice sheets covering a third of earth’s land. We can even see the effects the snow and ice had on the earth today; the ice at the North and South Poles is left over from this (about 10% of the earth is covered in ice); the alpine glaciers; and the glacial landforms and sediments. Because these effects are seen on the current land surface, it is clear that the Ice Age occurred after the Flood. (more…)
Can the Bible’s miracles be explained away by science? Many people who refuse to believe in God think they can explain away His existence and miracles using scientific explanations.
This post comes from a children’s book by Hughes and Cosner (2018).
What is a miracle?
A miracle is an unusual event from God that He uses to tell us about Himself. Examples from the Bible include healings, raising from the dead, and displays of power over nature. This is different from God’s providential care over creation, which can be described scientifically (Col. 1:15-17; Heb. 1:3). For instance, the laws of physics partially describe how God is upholding creation in an orderly way (1 Cor. 14:33). (more…)
“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. (more…)
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 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. (more…)
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.
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. (more…)
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?
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). (more…)
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.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7NIV) (more…)
Suppose there’s a man in a town with a history of shady business practices and fraudulent dealings. He also happens to be a regular church-goer.
Many people where he lives know the man to be shonky and would say they’ve been ‘ripped off’ as would people in other towns. What’s terrible is that some people where the man lives say, ‘If that man is a Christian, then I don’t want any part of Christianity’. And, at one level, their reaction is understandable.
The story raises questions about what it means to be a genuine Christian and what churches and other Christians should do when people say they are Christian but their actions clearly aren’t. You can imagine that the answers aren’t always easy. (more…)
If we took a closer look at Easter, what would we find – a chocolate fantasy or important history?
In the 8th Century, the English monk, Bede, spoke of how the name of the pagan goddess ‘Eostre’ was used for the ‘Easter month’. Bede’s words have long been seen as proof that Christians simply replaced existing cultural rituals with their own. But the problem is that there isn’t much hard evidence for the English Goddess ‘Eostre’ or her Spring pagan festival. However, there’s lots of evidence that Christians throughout Europe, from the medieval period onward, used eggs and rabbits as symbols of new life.
As for the chocolate versions, well Joseph Fry of Bristol made the first chocolate Easter egg in 1873. Ever since then Easter has been very chocolaty and run, almost entirely by the major supermarkets. (more…)
Applying the Bible to our lives
These days many of us get our sense of right and wrong from movies. Although some of our superheroes may act like a self-sacrificing Messiah in battles to save the world, the lessons in movies are usually determined by ungodly people who want to entertain us.
When I googled “How to live”, there were 20 billion results on the internet! If I took five seconds to read each one, it would take over 30 years of reading continuously! How can we know which is the best way to live our lives? These are all the subjective opinions of many people. We can save wasting a lot of time by following the objective opinions of the God who made the world and who knows all about us. And it doesn’t take years to find because He has communicated to us in the Bible. The Bible is often called “God’s word” or “the word” because it’s a message from God. (more…)
Was the universe small at the beginning and then grow to be huge or was it huge at the beginning? A common view is that because the universe is very large, it needed a long time to form.
What does the Bible say about this topic? We will look at the creation of vegetation, living creatures and people before looking at the creation of stars and galaxies.
Plants grow when a seed germinates. The seed grows to be a seedling, which grows to be a budding plant, which grows to be a flowering plant, which grows to be a ripened mature plant with seeds/fruit.
On the third day of creation, “The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds” (Gen. 1:12NIV). So the plants had seeds and the trees had fruit, indicating that they were mature. (more…)
Four days ago Cardinal George Pell was sentenced to six years in prison for sexual misconduct involving two boys in the 1990s. After terms as the Archbishop of Melbourne and the Archbishop of Sydney, he held senior positions at the Vatican. Pell was the treasurer of the Vatican and the Holy See in Rome, a high-ranking position that makes him among the world’s most powerful Catholics. He is the Roman Catholic Church’s most senior official to be convicted of child sexual abuse.
The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was dominated by abuses perpetrated in the Roman Catholic Church. The scale and nature of abuse uncovered in Catholic institutions was staggering. Between 1980 and 2015, 4,444 people reported allegations of child sexual abuse to Catholic authorities. There were 1,880 Catholic leaders subject to allegations of abuse in over 1,000 separate institutions. In total, 7% of Catholic priests in Australia between 1950 and 2010 were accused of child sexual abuse. (more…)