Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Posts tagged “Creation

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?


Jesus and marriage

Thousands rallied at Sydney Town Hall to campaign for same-sex marriage. And there are new laws against hate speech during Australia’s same-sex marriage postal survey. The survey, which is being mailed out now, asks the question: “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?” The current marriage law says that marriage is between a man and a woman. But what did Jesus say about marriage? To investigate this topic, we will look at the books of Matthew to John in the New Testament.

I have previously written a blogpost on what the Bible says about gender and marriage, which shows that the early church taught that marriage is between one man and one woman. We will see that Jesus taught this truth as well.

Husband and wife

The Greek noun translated “man” (aner Strongs #435) means a male human being or a husband or a group of people, with the preference being indicated by the context. According to the ESV, it is translated “husband” or “husbands” in 8 verses in Matthew to John.

The Greek noun translated woman (gune #1135) means a female human being or a wife, with the preference being indicated by the context. According to the ESV, it is translated “wife” or “wife’s” in 37 verses and “wives” in one verse in Matthew to John.

Is heterosexual marriage a command, a model or a report?

The contents of the Bible can be divided into commands, models to follow and reports of events. A command is mandatory (not optional) and prescriptive (not descriptive). A model to follow is a practice that is described that is worth following today. Whereas, a report is a description of events (like in the news media) that is not necessarily worth following today. For this post, all the verses in the ESV that included any of the words, “husband”, “wife”, or “marriage” were examined.

Heterosexual marriage commanded

When Jesus was asked about divorce He replied, “at the beginning of creation God ‘made them (people) male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together (in marriage), let no one separate (in divorce)” (Mt. 19:4-6; Mk. 10:6-9NIV). Jesus goes back to the time before sin came into the world to show God’s original intention for marriage. Then He says that humanity was created in two genders: male and female (Gen. 1:27). That should be obvious to us. When a baby is born, it’s announced as being either a boy or a girl. There’s no gender ambiguity at birth! Our gender is determined by our genome and we can’t change that. Then the two genders are given as the reason (“For this reason”) why marriage is between a man and a woman. It’s easy to understand. In this way, marriage is linked to God’s creation. “United” means that there is a strong bond between husband and wife. “One flesh” means sharing all of life together, like a body that doesn’t separate until death. God designed husband and wife to complement each other. Jesus recognizes that the first marriage was between Adam (a man) and Eve (a woman). It wasn’t between Adam and Steve or between Madam and Eve! The pattern of marriage was established in the Garden of Eden, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). So according to the Bible, marriage is the union of a man and a woman. Jesus quotes this verse and adds that because God has joined the couple together in marriage, it’s meant to be a lifelong union (“let no one separate”). Jesus showed that God’s original intention for marriage still applied in a sinful world. In fact, it applies until we go to heaven (Mt. 22:29-30; Mk. 12:24-25; Lk. 20:34-36). So, Jesus answers the question on divorce in the context of marriage being heterosexual.

This is Jesus’ definition of marriage. And same-sex marriage isn’t included.  Jesus never discussed same-sex marriage because the way he defined marriage already excluded it! So the term “same-sex marriage” is a contradiction, an oxymoron.

Adam and Eve were commanded to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Gen. 1:28). This means that one of the important functions of the first marriage was to produce and nurture children. This is the example of marriage that Jesus tells those in the first century AD to follow. Of course, it only makes sense in the case of heterosexual marriage. There was no way to produce children from homosexual relationships.

Whenever Jesus taught about adultery (Lk. 16:18) and divorce (Mt. 5:31-32; 19:3-9; Mk. 10:2-12; Lk. 16:18), He assumed that marriage is between a man and a woman.

But what about models of marriage in the gospels that aren’t commands?

Heterosexual marriage modelled

There are other verses that indicate that the pattern of marriage in the time of Jesus was monogamous and heterosexual and that Jesus approved of this pattern for marriage.

Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were the parents of John the Baptist (Lk. 1:5-24). And Jesus’ family had a father and mother, Joseph and Mary (Mt. 1:20, 24). One of the woman near the cross was Mary the wife of Clopas (Jn. 19:25). And when Jesus listed a man’s family He included a wife and children (Mt. 19:29; Lk. 14:26; 18:29).

In the parable of the unmerciful servant, Jesus said that the servant had a wife and children (Mt. 18:25). In the parable of the ten virgins, the women were waiting to celebrate a wedding banquet. As a bridegroom is mentioned, the marriage was between a man and a woman (Mt. 25:1-10).

Jesus performed a miracle (turned water into wine) at a wedding feast in Cana (Jn. 2:1-11). As He attended the feast with His mother and disciples, Jesus clearly approved of marriage. Also, because the marriage involved a bridegroom (v.9), it was between a man and a woman. Jesus also used weddings in His parables and metaphors (Mt. 9:15; 22:1-12; 25:1-10; Mk. 2:19-20; Lk. 5:34; 12:36; 14:8). And John the Baptist used a bride, bridegroom and best-man in an illustration (Jn.3:29).

But what about when marriage is reported in the gospels and it isn’t necessarily an example to follow?

Heterosexual marriage reported

The prophetess Anna became a widow after seven years of marriage to her husband (Lk. 2:36). And when Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman, they both assumed that a woman like her usually had a husband (Jn. 4:16-18).

When they asked Jesus about divorce, the Jewish religious leaders assumed that marriage was between a man and a woman (Mt. 19:3; Mk. 10:2). And the Sadducees asked Jesus a hypothetical question which involved a woman marrying seven brothers in turn under the levirate marriage law (Mt. 22:23-28; Mk. 12:18-23; Lk. 20:27-33). Although this looked like serial monogamy, in each case the woman was widowed  before she remarried.

John the Baptist denounced the marriage of Herodias to Herod Antipas, after she had been married to Herod Philip (Mt.14:3; Mk. 6:17-18; Lk. 3:19). Pilate was married (Mt. 27:19). And Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household, was married to Joanna (Lk. 8:3).

These verses indicate that the most common pattern of marriage when Jesus was alive was monogamous and heterosexual, where a man was married to a woman.

Other types of marriage?

I am not aware of any other verses between Matthew and John in the Bible that are related to marriage. So, the Bible doesn’t teach any other pattern for marriage besides a man and a woman. This means that homosexual marriage is a human invention, whereas heterosexual marriage is God-ordained.

Discussion

Clearly, all the marriages referred to above involved the union of one man and one woman. It involved both genders (heterosexual marriage), and not only a single gender (homosexual marriage).

How do we know what Jesus thought of same-sex marriage (or homosexuality) when it’s not mentioned specifically in the gospels? We can find out from the Old Testament because it describes the principles and practices of Judaism. Jesus was a faithful Jew who lived under the Old Testament law. He obeyed the law of Moses (Jn. 8:29,55) and He didn’t sin in any way (Heb. 4:15; 1 Pt. 2:22). So, He would have followed the laws of Moses about unlawful sexual relations, such as:
“Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable” (Lev. 18:22).
“If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable” (Lev. 20:13).
So Jesus would have prohibited any homosexual sexual activity as it was against the laws of Moses for sexual relationships.

Conclusion

We have seen that according to Jesus, marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman. Consequently, the term “same-sex marriage” is an oxymoron.

Written, September 2017

Also see: Gender and marriage
Same-sex marriage
Marriage equality


God: Fill the earth and subdue it

July-17_WhenGodSaid 400pxThe earth is in trouble. Forests are disappearing. Rates of extinction for animals and plants are 1,000 times greater than before the industrial revolution. Every minute a garbage truck’s worth of plastic slips into the world’s oceans. By 2050 the amount of plastic by weight floating at various depths will equal the total amount of all fish (World Economic Forum report).

Recently, scientists have started calling our age the Anthropocene era – the first point in history in which humans have become the major environmental influence on the planet. Sadly, so much of our impact on the world is destructive of other forms of life.

Are we pleasing God? When God told us in Genesis – back in the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, that we were to: Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground”.  … did God want us to care for creatures other than ourselves? Did He want us to care for plants and ecosystems? Or should we just focus on increasing the human population?

The answer to these questions is found in the same chapter of Genesis. As God looked at each part of His creation He declared it to be good (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25) and very good (Gen. 1:31). Which means creation is not just good because it helps humans survive and thrive. It is also good in and of itself – having both instrumental and intrinsic goodness. And because we humans have been given the task of ruling creation it’s our responsibility to safeguard this intrinsic goodness. Which is terribly difficult. But then, making hard decisions is the lot of all rulers. As we balance competing interests, sacrifices will be inevitable.

Some may say that, since God promises ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ when Jesus returns, we shouldn’t be too bothered about this world. After all, isn’t it going to pass away? Yet that would be ignoring both God’s command and basic common sense. You see, since we have no timetable for Jesus’s return we must plan for both the short and long term. Indeed, our wait for Jesus could be a long time. Are we really happy to leave a toxic and treeless planet for our children’s children?

If you’ve only just realized the extent of your responsibility to God’s creation then please take action where you can. It’s your duty.

Bible Verse: Genesis 1:28 Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground”.

Prayer: Dear God, please help me to be a wise ruler of your creation every day as I wait for Jesus to return.

Images and text © Outreach Media 2017

Posted, July 2017


Snakes and Ladders

Sin is our greatest problem

oblivious 6Our world can be a dangerous place. But sometimes we are unaware and oblivious of the dangers. Using a smart phone can be dangerous if we are not aware of what’s happening around us. After a woman died recently in Sydney when she was run over by a bus, police issued a warning about people using their phones when walking.

Not only are there physical dangers, but there are spiritual dangers. Are we aware of the spiritual dangers we face? Like ignoring the God who made the universe by living as though there is no God? Or are we oblivious of these like someone using a phone when crossing a street? Today in a survey of the first 11 chapters of the Bible we will see that sin against God is our greatest problem, and the source of all our problems.

Context

This passage was compiled and written by Moses 700–2,500 years after the events occurred. Some of this information was passed down from his ancestors and some was revealed to him directly by God. Note that most of this time is covered by two generations – the lifetimes of Adam and Noah cover about 1,900 years. When he wrote it, Moses was “carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pt. 1:21NIV). “Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians”, so he could write and keep records (Acts 7:22).

Snakes and ladders1The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt where people worshiped many pagan gods (Polytheism). In order to understand their situation and their world, they needed to know about the earlier history of the world. This helps us understand our world as well.

Genesis covers the origins of the universe, the earth, humanity, marriage, sin, languages, the nations, and the Israelites as God’s chosen people. The first eleven chapters summarize the highlights of world history up to the time of Abraham. This history includes four crises.

A crisis in the first generation

Chapters 1-2 describe the creation of the universe, the earth, the plants and animals, and Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. God spoke and it happened over a period of six days. They were given one restriction: “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Gen. 2:17).

The first crisis occurs when Adam and Eve are tempted by Satan to disobey God (Gen. 3:1-5). What will they do: follow God or Satan? This is a unique situation, because they lived in a perfect world and didn’t have a sinful nature. It was an external temptation. After they chose to disobey God and eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they are banished from the Garden of Eden. This first sin affected the whole creation including child birth, relationships between husband and wife, work and agriculture. Life was now a struggle with conflict, suffering, disease, decay, spiritual death and physical death. They went from a life in paradise to a life of problems. Their problems were a consequence of their sin. Sin was their greatest problem and the source of all their problems.

The Bible teaches that we have all inherited this sinful tendency – “everyone has sinned, we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Rom. 3:23NLT). Everyone is guilty; we are all self-centred, and so we were all affected.

However, in the list of God’s punishments there is a promise. He said to Satan “I will put enmity between you and the woman (Eve), and between your offspring and hers; he (Eve’s offspring) will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen. 3:15NIV). So there is a hint of good news amidst the bad news. A suggestion of an end to the conflict between people and Satan, when Satan is crushed.

snakes & ladders boardgameIt’s a bit like the old game of “Snakes and Ladders” (“Chutes and Ladders in the US”) where you roll a dice to get a number and move that many spaces along the board. When you land on the head of a snake you slide backwards, and when you land on the bottom of a ladder you jump ahead. The consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin hindered their life and moved them away from God, like the snakes hinder a player of snakes and ladders. The sin sequence is: temptation, followed by sin, and spiritual death. But the promise of victory over Satan is like a ladder to help them and move them towards God.

Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed Satan the snake (Gen. 3:12-13). Like Adam and Eve, we often blame our problems on others or our circumstances. Do we realise that our sin is our greatest problem? Do we ignore God by living as though He doesn’t exist?

A crisis in the second generation

Cain and Able were Adam and Eve’s first two sons. Cain becomes jealous of Abel. The second crisis occurs when this develops into hatred and he is tempted to kill Abel. What will he do; follow God or his anger? His parents would have told him what happened after they disobeyed God. But he murders Abel and is banished to be a nomad and “went out from the Lord’s presence” (Gen. 4:1-16). Cain’s problems were a consequence of his sin. This incident would have devastated Adam and Eve. The first boy to grow from infancy to maturity was a murderer! Their greatest problem as a family was caused by Cain’s sin.

But once again, it’s not all bad news. Because Cain was worried about his safety, “the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him” (Gen. 4:15). This is a promise of God’s protection. We can see a pattern developing here. God punishes sin, but provides some relief in the form of a promise.

Also, it is an example of the conflict between Satan’s offspring and Eve’s godly offspring (Gen. 3:15). In this case Cain was Satan’s agent who killed Abel, who is commended for his faith in God (Heb. 11:4; 1 Jn. 3:12). But God replaced Abel with Seth and the godly line of descendants was re-established (Gen. 4:25-26).

So in the history of humanity, Cain is like a snake in the game of snakes and ladders and Seth is like a ladder. Cain’s descendants moved away from God and lived as thought He wasn’t there, while Seth’s descendants moved towards God and followed Him. Who are we like; Cain or Seth (Jude 11)? Cain ignored God, but Seth followed God.

According to the Bible, The fool says …, “There is no God”. They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good” (Ps. 14:1). If we live as though there is no God, then we become god. We claim to know everything everywhere – otherwise God could exist somewhere, but we could be ignorant of Him. The Bible says this is foolish and leads to sinful behavior.

A crisis in the 10th generation

During the 1,600 years after the first crisis, the earth’s population grew, being comprised of cities and societies. We have seen the crises and problems in the early history of our earth for individuals and for a family. Now we will look at society as a whole.

Wickedness increased with time. It became a part of their normal way of life. They were oblivious to its danger. In the days of Noah, society was characterized by violence and corruption (Gen. 6:1-7). “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Gen. 6:5). It is a crisis where a society of people turns away from God and go their own way. They reject the message of Noah, the “preacher of righteousness” (2 Pt. 2:5). He warned people to turn to God or face God’s judgment. So they had a choice to make.

God’s judgement on their sin was to destroy the original creation with a global flood. The death of these people was a consequence of their sin. Their greatest problem as a society was caused by their sin.

But once again, it’s not all bad news. Noah’s godly family was protected on the ark (Gen. 7:1 – 8:19) and given a promise that the earth would never be destroyed again by a flood (Gen. 8:21 – 9:17). Here we see that God punishes sin, but some are rescued.

Noah’s family is like a ladder in the game of snakes and ladders. They followed God. The rest of the people are like a snake. They moved away from God and lived as thought He wasn’t there. Who are we like; Noah’s family or the rest? The rest ignored God, but Noah’s family followed God. Their choice determined their destiny.

A crisis in the 15th generation

In God’s covenant with Noah, He commanded the people to “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” (Gen. 9:1). They obeyed the first part but not the second. They increased in number and built the city of Babel, but resisted being scattered across the earth (Gen. 11:1-4). They proudly built a tower as a monument to celebrate their achievements. This is another crisis where a society of people turns away from God and go their own way.

God’s judgement on their sin was to cause the people to start using different languages (Gen. 11:7-9). Now because they couldn’t understand each other, they scattered across the earth into different nations that spoke different languages. This would have been a tough time. They lost technology and homes that were in the city, becoming nomads and settling in new areas. Some probably lived in caves at this time. The scattering of these people was a consequence of their sin. Their greatest problem as a society was caused by their sin.

Once again we see that God punishes sin, but where is the promise? It’s like a game of snakes and ladders without the ladders. The promise is given to Abraham in the next section of the book of Genesis.

Are we alert or oblivious?

What can we learn from these four crises in early history involving Adam, Cain, the flood and Babel?

At each crisis the people had a choice, but the choice wasn’t unlimited. Because we are finite, we are only free to make decisions within God’s limits and boundaries. God is the only one without boundaries – He is infinite. He gave us a free will and choice, but within certain boundaries. God sets the standard for human behaviour. It is a sin to cross those boundaries.

At each crisis the people had a choice to follow God or Satan. And their choice determined what their life was like afterwards. Likewise, our choices have physical and spiritual consequences. They determine our destiny in many ways.

Snakes and ladders2But in each crisis people acted as though God wasn’t there; they ignored the possibility that they would be punished for disobeying God. They were unaware and oblivious of this danger. It’s like they were asleep or unconscious or there’s a malfunction of the brain and nervous system. My nephew is in a hospital brain injury unit. He can see and hear and is starting to speak a little, but he can’t respond with the rest of his body. If there is danger, he can’t react to it. For our safety, let’s be alert and aware of spiritual dangers instead of being oblivious. The dangerous sin sequence is: temptation, followed by sin, spiritual death, physical death, and eternal death in hell. It’s the snake to hell that Satan promotes. It’s the choice of those oblivious to temptation. Here death is the door to hell.

God made us with a conscience, an inborn sense of right and wrong (Rom. 2:15). It’s like an alarm to remind us when something is wrong. It worked for Adam and Eve when they felt guilty and hid from God after they sinned. Then they confessed their sin. Is your conscience working or broken?

Our greatest danger is spiritual death, which leads to eternal punishment in hell. This is the consequence of our sin if we don’t accept God’s promise of eternal life with Him in heaven (Jn. 3:16). That life is possible because Jesus took the punishment that we deserve when He died on the cross. It is ours if we confess our sin and repent by turning around to follow God. Have you done that?

Snakes and ladders3This salvation is like the promises that we found in the passage. It is an example of God’s grace and mercy and like the ladders in snakes and ladders, which move us closer to God. The salvation sequence is: Conviction of our sinfulness – our conscience alarms, followed by confession, and repentance, followed by God’s forgiveness, spiritual life, physical death, and eternal life in heaven. It’s the ladder to heaven that Jesus Christ provides. It’s the choice of those alert to temptation. Here death is the door to heaven.

According to the Bible, there are no other chances to follow God after we die. We only live once, and die once. We only have one life to follow Jesus and then the opportunity will end. There is no reincarnation. Also, the way of salvation is not through good works, or superior knowledge, or acts of worship or devotion. We can’t get to heaven by being good. It’s not through what we do, but accepting what Jesus has already done for us.

But sin has consequences for Christians as well. We can also be oblivious and live as though God isn’t there. This destroys our fellowship with God. It can be restored if we confess our sin and repent by turning around to follow God once again (1 Jn. 1:9). This pattern is like snakes and ladders, with sin being a snake that moves us away from God and restoration a ladder that moves us towards God. The sequence is: Temptation, followed by sin, loss of fellowship with God, conviction of our sinfulness – our conscience alarms, confession, repentance, followed by God’s forgiveness, and the restoration of fellowship with God. It’s the snake and ladder of daily Christian living. It’s the choice of those oblivious to temptation, but whose conscience alarms later.

Snakes and ladders4Of course it is better if our conscience alarms at the stage of temptation than that at the stage of conviction. So temptation is a critical stage. A healthy alert conscience short circuits the cycle and saves a lot of anguish.

Christians still experience the conflict between Satan and humanity (Gen. 3:15). When we pray it’s good to include spiritual concerns like temptation, sin, conviction, confession, repentance, and salvation, not just physical concerns.

Because we are all sinful, there will be crises in our life. There will be choices to make. In this respect, life is different to the game of snakes and ladders: it’s about choice, not chance. When facing a crisis, we need to realise that sin is our greatest problem. The first step in dealing with a problem or an addiction is to acknowledge that we have a problem. Then we can deal with the sin and get right with God.

Some say Genesis chapters 1-11 is just a story to illustrate that God made the world. It really took billions of years, not six days. It’s not real history. It’s a different genre. Adam and Eve didn’t exist, there was no global flood. The genealogies aren’t true. It’s an ancient myth. But such a viewpoint undermines the whole Bible. This part of Genesis is quoted extensively by both Jesus and Paul. Adam and Noah are both mentioned 8 times in the New Testament. They were real people.

Conclusion

So let’s remember these lessons from the early chapters of Genesis. Let’s be alert and aware of our sinfulness and not oblivious like someone using a smart phone when crossing a street. We ignore it at our peril because God punishes sinners. But it’s not all bad news, the good news is that God promised to help sinners like us and the rest of the Bible describes how He did it.

Let’s be like Noah’s family and make good choices and follow the God who made the universe, instead of living like He isn’t there. Realizing that sin is our greatest problem and Jesus is God’s solution.

Written, February 2014


Big history or little history?

Big History projectA pantheistic creation story

“Big History” is a modern origins story that is being developed online for school students and is supported by Bill Gates, one of the world’s richest men. The objective is to develop a framework for learning about anything and everything that includes a deeper awareness of our past. It claims to tell a story that our children need to know. But what will they learn?

History of the universe

“Big History” is based on eight “threshold moments” when the universe increased in complexity:

  1. Origin of the universe billions of years ago as explained by the big bang theory.
  2. Stars light up from the remnants of the exploding gases.
  3. New chemical elements form when stars die and create new types of atoms.
  4. Rocky planets such as the earth and the solar system form around stars.
  5. Molecules combine to form single celled living organisms that evolve into multi-celled organisms.
  6. Human beings appear as a consequence of evolutionary processes.
  7. After the last ice age about 10,000 years ago, humans develop agriculture.
  8. The modern revolution, characterized by the use of fossil fuels and global communication.

Although “Big History” is based on humanity’s current scientific and historical understanding, the following questions come to mind.

Big assumptions

Although Big History states these as facts, it assumes that:

  • The origin and development of the universe can be explained by the laws of science.
  • The early universe was simple.
  • The universe has become more complex with time.

Once these are assumed, the rest follows as a consequence. So the course is teaching that these assumptions are facts. Instead they are scientifically unprovable.

As history trumps science when dealing with the past, the Bible surpasses science with regard to the origin of the universe and the nature of the early universe. In particular, the assumption of the uniformity of scientific laws isn’t valid past the creation of the universe about 6,000 years ago. So history shows the first two assumptions are false.

The assumption that “The universe has become more complex with time”, goes against common sense and the law of cause and effect. How can an inanimate object gain increasing complexity and increasing information by using the laws of science alone and not outside intelligence?  How can an animal or plant gain increasing complexity and increasing information by using the laws of science alone and not outside intelligence?

Big miracles

This secular origins story is based on miracles than can’t be explained by science. Yet it claims to be scientific!

Before the beginning of time it assumes there was nothing – no time, mass, energy or space. After the beginning of time a tiny particle smaller than an atom appears that contains everything in today’s universe. This means that something appears from nothing, which is not allowed in the laws of physics! In a science where there is no place for miracles, this is certainly a miracle. How was all the mass and energy within the universe created out of absolutely nothing using only the physical forces within the universe? How could the universe create itself?

According to Big History, the universe can create complexity and information. This happens as a series of stages, each of which produces something utterly new. Each of these threshold moments is a miracle as the increase in complexity and information cannot be explained by the laws of science. How could the universe increase complexity and information by itself?

How does the universe create complexity despite the second law of thermodynamics, which says that “The general tendency of the universe is to move from order and structure to lack of order and lack of structure”? This is never explained. There is just a statement that it can create complexity, but with great difficulty! So the universe builds itself, which is pantheism. The universe is god. So intelligence and intent is attributed to inanimate objects or concepts, such as “Life interjects” and “DNA learns”.

It is interesting to note that the example of increasing complexity used in Big History was our modern society and not a biological example such as the DNA molecule or the human mind.

Circular reasoning

Big History is guilty of circular reasoning. It states assumptions and ideas as facts. Its key findings are based on its assumptions and presuppositions. For example, it reveals how complexity slowly evolved. But this is also an assumption.

Big history is speculative. It says, “We can imagine the early universe breaking up into billions of clouds”.

Big history is a product of the secular paradigm or worldview that has rejected the God of the Bible.

Conclusion

Big History is certainly ambitious. It has big assumptions, big miracles, big extrapolation and big imagination. Although it claims to be big on history, it actually includes little recorded history.

As “the story of how the universe creates complexity” and the “unifying story that gives a sense of the whole of history”, it is a pantheistic creation story that replaces the Bible.

Do our children need to know this? How much better if they knew the Bible and accepted its message as the unifying story that gives a sense of the whole of history?

Written, October 2013

Also see – Using history and science to investigate ancient times
Big history


Can a person go to heaven if they have not heard about Jesus before they die?

Earth globeAs there will be people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” in heaven, it seems that some of these would not have heard about Jesus before they died (Rev. 5:9-10). I believe that infants go to heaven when they die because they are not accountable for their sin. We will look at other people in two categories, those who lived before and after Christ.

Before Christ

The Bible says that those who trusted God in Old Testament times go to heaven. Although most of the promises they were given were physical, they also had a heavenly hope. They realised that this earth was not their final home: “admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth” (Heb. 11:13NIV). Instead they were looking towards heaven: “they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:16a). We are told that God “has prepared a city for them” (Heb. 11:16b). In particular, Abraham “was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).

These people are commended in Hebrews as those who lived by faith. The Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). The Jews were told, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13). This faith was based on a revelation from God.

“Enoch walked faithfully with God” (Gen. 5:22, 24).  So did Noah (Gen. 6:9). This means they obeyed God. “Noah did everything just as God commanded him” (Gen. 6:22). “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Heb. 11:8). Job repented after God revealed His power through nature (Job 38-41; 42:6).

So those who trusted in God’s revelation to them before the formation of the Israelite nation go to heaven. In their case, God usually spoke directly to them.

God spoke to the Israelites “at many times and in various ways” (Heb. 1:1). It is stated that Moses accepted “disgrace for the sake of Christ” (Heb. 11:26). But as Moses lived about 1,450 years before Christ, this seems to be a figure of speech. It means that Moses choose to be loyal to God and to associate with his fellow Israelites. The reason given is that “he was looking ahead to his reward”. As Hebrews was probably written about 65AD, the writer knew that the Messiah was the one through whom God guaranteed their promised future.

So the Israelites who trusted in God’s revelation to them in Old Testament times go to heaven. In their case, the revelation was usually miracles and the law given through Moses.

We know God revealed Himself to the Israelites as they were His people during this period of time. But what about the Gentiles? The Israelites were told to follow the laws that God gave them through Moses so that other nations would come to know God: “Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?” (Dt. 4:6-8).

Rahab is a Gentile who trusted God (Heb. 11:31). She told the Israelite spies, “I know that the Lord has given you this land …  for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Josh. 2:9-11). Because of what she had heard of the Exodus and the defeat of the Amorites, she realised that the God of the Israelites was greater than the Canaanite gods. So she rejected the Canaanite gods to follow the God of the Israelites.

Also Ruth the Moabite told her Israelite mother-in-law, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). Likewise, she rejected the gods of the Moabites to follow the God of the Israelites. God’s interest in the Gentiles is shown in the book of Jonah where Jonah was sent to Nineveh with a message of God’s judgment and the people repented of their sin (Jon. 3:1-10).

So the Gentiles who trusted in God’s revelation to them in Old Testament times go to heaven. God revealed Himself to them through the Israelites when they heard about their law and the miraculous preservation of their nation.

All the above are examples of people who go to heaven without hearing about Jesus. But the Bible says the following about Jesus, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12NLT). And Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6). This means that the only way to get into heaven is through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Before Christ’s death people were saved according to their acceptance of God’s revelation to them. It was based on the future work of Christ. So those who trusted in God’s revelation in Old Testament times go to heaven because their faith in God was equivalent to faith in Jesus Christ. They were saved on credit. “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of His blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished” (Rom. 3:25). In this way God overlooked the sins of those who trusted in Him before Christ’s death and resurrection.

After Christ

In Romans, God reveals that we are all sinners (Rom. 3:23) and we can only get to heaven through trusting in Christ’s sacrifice for us (Rom. 3:22-26). But it also says that people are judged according to God’s revelation to them: “All who sin apart from the law (Gentiles) will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law (Jews) will be judged by the law” (Rom 2:12). The two main ways that God reveals himself to people who haven’t heard about Jesus are creation and conscience.

Firstly, the physical world demands a Creator. Its design requires a Designer. The laws of nature require a Lawmaker. By looking at our universe, anyone can know that there is a creator God. “The truth about God is known instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see His invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God” (Rom. 1:19-20NLT). Enough of God is revealed in His creation that there is no excuse for not believing in Him. Those who reject this revelation follow idols and practice sinful behavior and suffer God’s judgment (Rom. 1:18-32).

Nature is a testimony of God. “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). Also, Paul said “We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. In the past, He let all nations go their own way. Yet He has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” (Acts 14:15-17).

So if people haven’t heard about Jesus, they can be judged according to their response to the revelation of God in creation. If they turn from idolatry and seek the true God, then God may give them additional revelation. For example, Cornelius was a Gentile who sought God. So God sent Peter to tell him about Jesus and salvation (Acts 11:14). God can appear to people in many ways throughout their lives. He can send people to inform them (Rom. 10:14-15). Because God doesn’t want anyone to perish in hell and wants everyone to repent of their sin, we must trust that He has made a way for those people (2 Pt. 3:9).

Secondly, everyone is born with a conscience. We all have an instinctive knowledge of right and wrong. For example, most people know it is wrong to lie, steal, and commit adultery and murder. The Bible gives God’s standards for humanity. But for those who are ignorant of this it says: “They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right” (Rom. 2:15NLT). Anyone who has not heard about what the Bible says will be judged according to their conscience. God will say, “What did you think was right and wrong?” The next question is, “Did you always do the right and not the wrong?” By that standard, of course, everyone fails. The conscience proves that we are sinners like the law does for the Jew.

The issue is their response to a guilty conscience. If they were sorry for their behavior and would repent then they would probably go to heaven. This reasoning is based on the fact that God is just and wants all to be saved. He has made a way for all, but few accept it.

Like those who lived before Christ, the issue is whether they responded to God’s revelation to them. So through the creation and our conscience, God gives everyone the opportunity to turn to Him and be saved from the penalty of their sinfulness and go to heaven.

Lessons for us

Like the Israelites, a Christian’s behavior can influence an unbeliever to repent and follow God and go to heaven. “Live such good lives among the pagans (your unbelieving neighbors, NLT) that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Pt. 2:12).

Although people can to be saved without hearing about Jesus, it isn’t likely to occur in very many instances. The usual way to go to heaven is to respond to hearing about Jesus. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?” (Rom. 10:14). That’s why it’s important to tell people about Jesus as much as possible and support others in this work.


Two messages

No excuse

Recently the world received messages from the planet Mars that came in the form of photographs taken by Curiosity, the NASA Mars Rover. Psalm 19 contains two messages from God, about His power and His love.

God’s power

In the first, the songwriter, David, personifies (gives human attributes to) the universe: “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. 19:1-4aNIV). When David was a shepherd, he lived outdoors and would have seen God’s creation power in the sun, moon and stars (Ps. 8:3; 19:4b-6).

What message does the universe “declare”, “proclaim”, “reveal” and “voice” to us? That all of it is “the work of His hands” alone. God created the universe. Great knowledge and power would be required to provide the countless stars, the immense distances and the warmth of the sun. By looking at the universe, we see abundant evidence that God is a very powerful Creator.

God’s love

When the songwriter David turns to describe Scripture (which at that time comprised portions of the Old Testament written before 1000BC), he changes the title of God from “El”, which means the powerful One behind creation (Strong’s #410), to “Yahweh”, which means the personal loving One who cares for His chosen people (#3068). Scripture is a written message from God to us: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God’s people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

David’s Scripture message largely contained God’s dealings with the Jews and their ancestors. He said that His words were “refreshing” and “wise”, “giving joy” and “light” and “great reward” (Ps. 19: 7-11). In particular, God made covenants with the children of Israel in the days of Abraham, Moses and David (Gen. 12:2-3; Ex. 19-24; Lev.; 2 Sam. 7:5-16). In these He showed His love for them. Although they would reject Him, He would not reject them (Lev. 26:43-44). When we read the Old Testament, it becomes evident that God lovingly cares for His people, the descendants of Abraham. When we read the New Testament we discover this same care is ours as Christians.

Lessons for us

Today we still have the visible message of the created universe and the written message of the Bible. We have no excuse for not knowing what God has done for us: “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).

In the New Testament Paul quoted Psalm 19:4 when he wrote that people had heard the message of God’s power and love as shown by Jesus: “Did they not hear? Of course they did: ‘Their voice [of the heavens, declaring the glory of God] has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Rom. 10:18; Ps. 19:4).

Seeing God’s power and love in Psalm 19 should bring us to say with the psalmist, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care” (Ps. 95:6-7)?

Written, August 2012