Is Sin Original? A look at history


It seems fitting that after writing about God’s judgment here and here, I look once more at why God needs to judge and discipline us human beings.

The general belief in Western culture today seems to tip toward the idea that man is fine, thank you very much. In fact we’re better than fine. We’re good. Or we will be as soon as we learn enough, as soon as we develop our empathy gene. Or have our selfishness instructed out of us.

The Bible gives us the accurate picture—of what we once were and what we’ve become.

– – –

This post subtitle probably chased away about half the regular visitors. 😉 Of course I could change it, but I like history and I think it’s important to learn from history. So today, a look at history.

The evangelical, Bible-believing Christians I know ascribe to the doctrine of original sin. The idea is that Humankind was created in God’s image, for communion with Him, but sin changed our condition permanently.

No longer does humans bear the untarnished image of God because we are now born in the likeness of Adam. Consequently, all our righteousness is like filthy rags. Our best effort at goodness falls far short of God’s holy standard. We are born in this condition, in need of a Savior, without the internal wherewithal to please God.

Not only does this doctrine square with Scripture, it squares with Humankind’s experience. There’s a reason we have as an idiom we all know to be true, Nobody’s perfect.

But even if that weren’t the case, the reliable, authoritative Word of God demonstrates the concept of original sin starting in the book of Genesis.

In chapter one:

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;

Then the command in chapter two:

The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.

Recorded in chapter 3 is Adam’s disobedience and the consequence he would face. But then this line:

Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil;

In other words, whatever else that line means, we see that there was a fundamental shift. Humanity was no longer the way God created us when He declared all He had made to be good. Genesis 4 records the first effects of this fundamental shift—Cain’s jealousy and ultimate murder of his brother, among other things.

But chapter 5 records perhaps the clearest declaration of this shift:

This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created. When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth. (emphasis mine)

The clear implication is that Adam’s likeness and God’s likeness are no longer the same.

So what’s the point? Our culture does not believe in original sin. Ask the average man on the street and he’ll tell you Man is good, though he’ll just as likely turn right around and tell you nobody’s perfect.

Some time ago as I reread an old college textbook, Religion in America by Winthrop S. Hudson, I discovered that the roots of this cultural change (because the depravity of Man was universally understood and accepted in western civilization from some time during the 2nd century AD until the 19th century) stem from American Protestantism. Not exclusively, but in a large part.

America was a New World, with possibilities untold. Some years before independence, the colonial settlers experienced a Great Awakening that established Christianity as a way of life.

After independence the Second Great Awakening spurred believers on to hold camp revivals and send out missionaries and build more churches and colleges and schools all with the intent to bring the lost to salvation and teach the young to live godly lives.

But there began to be an added incentive. With all this hopefulness and push toward moral purity came a belief that God’s kingdom was being established physically right then and there.

And so, the shift began. Could it not be that Humanity, if given the right circumstances, could choose to live a holy and pure life in obedience to God? Could it not be that a community of such men and women would lead to a godly society? And wasn’t that the idea found in the Bible concerning God’s kingdom, when God’s law would be written on people’s hearts?

Consequently, what started as a work of God seems to have become a work of men, built upon their good works (which Scripture says are but filthy rags), to the point that men came to believe, not only in the goodness of their works but in the goodness of their being.

This is obviously a simplified, stripped down version of that period of history, but here’s the thing. Even when the two world wars in the 20th century shot to pieces the notion that the world was getting better and better, the idea that Humankind was good had become a best-loved belief. And humanism spread. Even into the church.

This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in October 2010.

God At His Best


hubble-view-of-stars_and_spaceSome doubtlessly will say God was at His best in His redemptive work at the cross. That’s where He outsmarted Satan and beat death, where He extracted triumph from defeat, where He displayed His matchless power and glory.

But a good case could be made that God was at His best when He brought the universe into being. No wonder the statement “In the beginning God created” has come under such fierce attack.

You see, the act of, the fact of, creation displays God’s character. From my point of view here’s one of the most powerful passages of Scripture. It’s the section in Isaiah 40 leading up to the “mounting up with wings like eagles” passage we know so well:

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
And marked off the heavens by the span,
And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure,
And weighed the mountains in a balance
And the hills in a pair of scales?

Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD,
Or as His counselor has informed Him?

With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding?
And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge
And informed Him of the way of understanding?

Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
And are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales;
Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust

Even Lebanon is not enough to burn,
Nor its beasts enough for a burnt offering.

All the nations are as nothing before Him,
They are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.

To whom then will you liken God?
Or what likeness will you compare with Him?

As for the idol, a craftsman casts it,
A goldsmith plates it with gold,
And a silversmith fashions chains of silver.

He who is too impoverished for such an offering
Selects a tree that does not rot;
He seeks out for himself a skillful craftsman
To prepare an idol that will not totter.

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
Has it not been declared to you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in

He it is who reduces rulers to nothing,
Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.

Scarcely have they been planted,
Scarcely have they been sown,
Scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth,
But He merely blows on them, and they wither,
And the storm carries them away like stubble.

“To whom then will you liken Me
That I would be his equal?” says the Holy One.

Lift up your eyes on high
And see who has created these stars,
The One who leads forth their host by number,
He calls them all by name;
Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power,
Not one of them is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”?

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired
His understanding is inscrutable (Isaiah 40:12-28; emphasis mine).

God’s power is matchless, His understanding inscrutable, His ways unsearchable. From eternity, He is.

Simply put, He is over all of nature—that which is here on earth and that which is in space. He is greater than the nations, which He also made, sovereign over their rulers, Judge of their judges.

Creation establishes Him as Greater.

And Satan can’t stand that.

Why wouldn’t he bend his might to undermine the fact of God’s work of creation?

Let them believe in God, he seems to say, but a god stripped of his essential power. Let him be relegated to a cheerleader, watching from the sidelines, cheering Humankind along on his journey through life. Let them think god is kind and good and loving … and powerless.

Powerless to impact the world in a meaningful way—so it’s up to people to take things into their own hands and do what they can to clean up this mess. God? He can give them a shoulder to cry on, an occasional thumbs-up atta-boy, a timely “well done” to let them know how important they are to his plans.

After all, what would he be without them? A myth, a mirage, a bit of undigested cheese.

NOTHING, NOTHING can be further from the truth, but it all starts with accepting the Word of the One who can testify about where the world came from: In the beginning, God.

This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in October 2010.

Published in: on February 9, 2017 at 6:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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Creation And The Bible


fullmoonovermountains-benjamin-child
Nothing might be more controversial today than creation. Atheists and liberals will collectively begin scoffing as soon as they read the word. Or mocking. Idiot right-wing Trumpite. She believes in creation. Ha-ha-hah! She probably believes in the Tooth Fairy, too. Or the White Rabbit.

For the record: not a Trumpite. And while I’m a fantasy writer, I have a pretty keen ability to discern what is make believe and what is true. You might even say I lean toward the skeptical.

But here’s the thing. Once you have confidence in the source of truth, you don’t need to constantly check it’s reliability.

For instance, in the course of my writing/editing day, I look up a lot of words using the Oxford-American Dictionary app on my computer. I do not immediately switch to the Internet so I can find that same word on Merriam-Webster or one of the other online dictionaries. I trust the source I’m using.

I have confidence in the Bible for a multitude of reasons which I’ve written about before (here’s one such post, the beginning of a short series, and here’s another).

I don’t mean, by saying that I have confidence in the Bible, that I don’t ask questions. I do. In fact, I’ve asked a lot of questions about the Genesis account of creation. For instance, when did God create the water that covered everything before He created the earth and all that is on it? And how did He create light before He created the sun and the moon and the stars? And the one that consumes so many people’s attention, did God really create everything in six days—the 24-hour days we know?

In some cases, in all my question asking, I come up with what I think might be the answer, but in most instances, the Bible hasn’t made a definitive statement, so I have to be content with what seems reasonable—given that God is omnipotent and sovereign and good.

What can I say about creation, then? What is categorically and uncompromisingly clear according to the Bible? Only this one thing: God created the heavens and the earth, the seas and all that is in them, the heavenly host, those who fell and those who serve him in joy and obedience. There simply is not anything made that was not made.

The Bible does not equivocate on this point. Right from the start, this is the point the Bible makes: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

God’s work as Creator is not a minor point. The Bible actually makes it clear that His work as Maker of the heavens and the earth set Him apart from pretend gods. Psalm 115 is a classic comparison between God and idols:

Why should the nations say,
Where now is their God?
But God is in the heavens.
He does whatever He pleases.
Their idols are silver and gold,
The work of man’s hands.

Then towards the end:

May you be blessed of the LORD,
Maker of heaven and earth.
The heavens are the heavens of the LORD,
But the earth He has given to the sons of men.

The verse of course implies that the earth is the Lord’s to give. Which makes sense if He is the Maker.

Other passages confirm this understanding, particularly the distinction between God and other gods or idols:

For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
But the LORD made the heavens. (Psalm 96:5)

Or how about Psalm 146:

How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
Whose hope is in the LORD his God,
Who made heaven and earth,
The sea and all that is in them (vv 5-6)

The passage goes on to name an impressive list of things we can praise God for, but it starts with his work as the maker of the heavens and the earth.

Here are other clear statements about God’s work as creator:

Psalm 33:6
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
And by the breath of His mouth all their host.

Psalm 148:5
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
For He commanded and they were created.

Jeremiah 10:11-12
Thus you shall say to them, “The gods that did not make the heavens and the earth will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.”
It is He who made the earth by His power,
Who established the world by His wisdom;
And by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens.

Jeremiah 32:17
‘Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You,

John 1:3
All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

Colossians 1:16
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.

Revelation 14:7
and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.”

This list is hardly exhaustive. More like it’s the first ray of morning light. But I think the point is clear: the Bible identifies God as the creator of all that has been created.

But here’s the thing: in these verses I quoted, there’s hardly agreement concerning the process of creation. The two Psalms say it was by His word and commandment. The earlier Jeremiah passage says it was by His wisdom and understanding. The second Jeremiah passage says it was by his power and outstretched arm. And the three New Testament passages made no statement about how God went about creating.

So does this difference constitute a contradiction—the Bible writers couldn’t agree with each other about the method of creation.

That, unfortunately, is how some read Scripture. They miss the poetic expressions that tell us more about God than about the creative process. He is so great that all He needed was to speak a word, but He is also so authoritative that His word was a command. All that He made was done as an expression of His wisdom and understanding, and His outstretched hand and power identify His sovereignty.

Rather than disagree, these passages of Scripture, written centuries apart in some instances, and by different men, in different circumstances, agree about the fundamental truth: God created. How, the Bible only gives us glimpses. It is not myth, but neither is it a text book, explaining the particulars one step at a time.

The big picture is crystal clear: God created.

His work as Creator sets Him apart from all other gods—all the pretenders and wanna-be usurpers, the idols that have mouths but cannot speak, and even from we ourselves and our thoughts of grandeur.

God created. God. Created. It’s the dividing line between people who believe and people who don’t.

Photo credit – Benjamin Child via Unsplash.

Published in: on February 8, 2017 at 5:32 pm  Comments (1)  
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Light And Darkness


lunar_crepuscular_rays_2Years ago when I was teaching, we took our eighth graders on a three-day science field trip to Catalina Island. One of the activities was to experience a sight deprivation maze. It’s hard to imagine a place as dark as that cramped labyrinth was.

From that experience I can tell you confidently, darkness is not beautiful. In fact, you can’t see the darkness. You simply can’t see anything. No shades or shapes, not even movement. Your eyes can’t register a single thing because of the absence of light.

Light, on the other hand, is exceedingly beautiful in its many manifestations. I thought of this again on Sunday as I was driving to church. Sunlight streamed through parted clouds, lining them with gold. Not silver, like the cliche. But it was so brilliant, I suppose you might say it was sort of silvery-gold.

And just the day before, as the sun was about to break above the horizon, its light painted a scattering of woolly clouds with pink, all but their outer gray edges. That’s nothing to the sunsets we get in the fall. Then there is the full moon climbing through the early night, or the crescent moon lingering with the last stars in the early dawn.

Light in its many forms is beautiful. Well, maybe not all artificial light can be said to be beautiful, but natural light does dramatic things. Starlight twinkles, sunlight refracts, candlelight glows, and firelight dances.

Any wonder then, that Scripture says Jesus is the Light of the world?

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life
– John 8:12

Yet, most likely, because of the little bit of physical description we have of Jesus, we don’t think of Him as beautiful. Isaiah 53:2b says,

He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.

But then this from Psalm 27:

One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD
And to meditate in His temple. (v. 4 – emphasis mine)

This morning I was listening to Awaken the Dawn, an album by Keith & Kristyn Getty. One song, “What Grace Is Mine” opens with these words:

What grace is mine that He who dwells in endless light
Called through the night to find my distant soul

The phrase “endless light” grabbed me. Not only does God dwell in endless light, He is endless light. It speaks to God’s eternal nature, but it also promises unlimited beauty. And what a contrast to the “night” through which He calls – the darkness of sin that blanks out the light. No wonder He needs to call me. My condition prohibits me from seeing even endless light. Except, He tore the veil.

All fear can flee for death’s dark night is overcome
My Saviour lives and reigns forevermore

This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in January 2011.

Published in: on November 3, 2016 at 5:48 pm  Comments Off on Light And Darkness  
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God’s View Or Ours


Fossil_Trees_-_geograph.org.uk_-_750298Some years ago I read a discussion between Christians about evolution. It dawned on me that those advocating this theory based on scientific observation are opting for Mankind’s view over God’s.

Science “knows” now, the reasoning goes, that life has evolved from lesser forms. We’ve “seen” this in geological findings. We have the fossil “records.” These records, therefore, are to be believed over the record handed down to us from God—His Holy Word.

The problem with choosing scientific observation over the Bible is manifold. First, science continues to change.

In addition, science presupposes that The Way Things Are is exactly The Way Things Were. In other words, science has no room for things like a perfect world without death. What would that look like? How would that effect what we observe now? Science has no room for a world with one big land mass and no rain. What would that have done to geology? What would the world have been like if the atmosphere had a layer made up primarily of water? What would that have done to the way the world formed? What if the world in a bygone era allowed for humans to live nearly a thousand years? What would that do to dating fossils?

And even more radically, what if God formed a perfectly complete world, and universe, that looked old even though it was new. After all, what would a “new” mountain look like? Or a new star, a new sun, a new Man? What would a new tree look like when you cut it down? Would there just be one giant ring?

We have no reason to believe Adam came into being as an infant. Just the opposite. Scripture would lead us to believe he was a full grown man, on the first day he lived and breathed and had his being.

Science has no room to ask these “what if” questions because their answers have no “hard evidence” that such things were possible. Consequently, science closes the book on what the Bible suggests or even states.

Some Christians who opt for this science-over-Scripture approach reason that God wouldn’t “fool” us into thinking something was one way when in fact it was something quite different.

I hardly think God tried to fool us, seeing as how He wrote down His creative process. But on another level, this argument is too weak to stand up. Humans for centuries have been “fooled.” They believed, for example, that they lived on flat land. How deceptive of God to pull a fast one and actually put us on a round(ish) planet.

Of course, He wasn’t deceptive at all since the sun is round, the moon is round, and apart from the twinkles, stars are round. It is actually more a wonder that people didn’t figure out sooner that the earth is round. But there it is. Man, believing his own eyes, when in fact the truth was something quite different.

The same could be said about men who believed the sun was the center of the universe and many more “scientific” observations that have changed when new information came along.

My question is, when will we learn to believe Omniscience instead of our own fallible, imperfect, inexact observations when we are trying to figure out The True Way Things Are?

This post first appeared here in February 2011.

Published in: on March 17, 2016 at 6:24 pm  Comments Off on God’s View Or Ours  
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The Compatibility Of Science And Christianity


Protoplanetary_diskChristians should be the first to combat the idea that science and Christianity are at odds with one another. They aren’t. In fact science, by its nature, is a limited field, contributing only to the field of observable knowledge accessed through our physical senses.

Christianity, of course, does not purport to explain DNA or the string theory or black holes, but it does reveal God and His plan and purpose for the world. It answers the big questions of life: who am I, why am I here, what is my destiny?

In reality, science and Christianity together give us an understanding of life. No one should separate the two, and yet an artificial divide is being forced onto society.

This divide would be similar to asking someone heading into a movie theater if he’s going to listen to the movie or watch it. Well, both, would be his logical reply. No, no, the pundit says, you have to choose one or the other. Sight and sound aren’t compatible.

Well, yes, they are. They reveal different things, but those things aren’t in contradiction. In fact sight and sound complement each other and give a fuller, richer movie-going experience. So too with science and Christianity.

The root to this divide seems to be in the creation-versus-evolution debate. Because the courts have ruled that evolution is science and can be taught in schools while creation is not and cannot be taught in schools, a line has been drawn in the sand. Choose what you believe, the pundits say—science or religion.

First, evolutionary theory is filled with unrepeatable parts that can’t be studied by the scientific method. Second, science is far greater than evolution. And third, Christianity is not synonymous with religion.

In other words, evolution requires a great deal of faith to believe—more so, in my opinion, than believing God designed the universe and brought it into being.

Regarding the first point, because evolution is a theory and not provable by the scientific method, it takes faith to believe it. Did you know, for example, that a single strand of DNA contains 3.1 billion bytes of information? A single strand. Three point one billion! And yet we are to believe, according to evolutionary theory, that an accidental concussion of matter and energy is responsible for the process that ordered all of life. Not just a single DNA strand, but all of life! The improbability of such a thing happening is incredibly high—astronomically high, you might say. Truly, it is more feasible that an explosion in a print shop resulted in Webster’s Dictionary.

The second point is equally important. Science that actually adheres to the scientific method does contribute knowledge about the physical world—knowledge which does not contradict the Bible. As a matter of fact, a host of early scientists were Christians, from Francis Bacon, Galileo Galilei, Johann Kepler, Blaise Pascal to Isaac Newton, Samuel Morse, Louis Pasteur, and many others.

A great number of Christians working in the fields of science exist today, too, men such as the following:
# Dr. Larry Vardiman Senior Research Scientist, Astro/Geophysics
# Dr. William Arion, Biochemistry, Chemistry
# Dr. Paul Ackerman, Psychologist
# Dr. E. Theo Agard, Medical Physics
# Dr. Steve Austin, Geologist
# Dr. S.E. Aw, Biochemist
# Dr. Thomas Barnes, Physicist
# Dr. Geoff Barnard, Immunologist
# Dr. John Baumgardner, Electrical Engineering, Space Physicist, Geophysicist, expert in supercomputer modeling of plate tectonics

Last point: Christianity is unique among religions because of Jesus Christ—no other religion has a person at the center of its faith as opposed to a system. No other religion offers grace and mercy instead of rules and regulations. Sadly, Christianity has been lumped in with those that play on superstition, guilt, and fear. Christ, in fact, brings peace and joy and hope and help. Christianity is not about a way to appease an angry God. It’s a realistic understanding of the human condition and the need of the human heart.

In no way does science step on Christianity’s toes. The idea that is incompatible with truth is the dismissal of God as the One who is before all, created all, and rules all. But if you accept God for who He is, study science all you want. The two are not mutually exclusive.

This post first appeared here in March 2013

Published in: on March 16, 2016 at 6:35 pm  Comments Off on The Compatibility Of Science And Christianity  
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Critical Thinking and the Evidence for God


Hubble view of stars_and_spaceThe argument against the existence of God commonly came into play with the advent of Modernism, the Age of Reason, and the rise of science. Hence, what people for centuries had known by instinct now needed to be proved. And how can you prove the unseen? How can you put the Supernatural to a natural test?

People believing in God were slow to respond, in my opinion, perhaps not realizing the enormity of the consequences for answering science with “But I believe.”

Such a slow response, however, does not mean there are not some very specific, scientific evidences that point to the existence of God.

Here are some to which I ascribe, in no particular order.

  • The origin of the universe. Those who do not believe in God commonly believe in evolution and the big bang theory. This idea is flawed. First, it leaves unexplained where the material for the big bang came from. To date, all matter decays, which argues against some kind of eternal matter. Also, energy dissipates, which argues against energy being of an eternal nature. So what existed before the universe to bring it into being?

    Then, too, even if such a big bang did occur, belief that life came about as a result is contradictory to the Second Law of Thermodynamics: order does not come from disorder (layman’s translation – 😉 ). In the words of Dr. Henry Morris, Institute of Creation Science:

    the universal scientific law of entropy specifies the “downward” tendency of all things toward decrease of organized complexity.

    Finally, the idea that the big bang is scientific is fallacious. The scientific method requires a repeated result to verify a theory. None such is possible.

    In reality, the theory of the big bang is merely an idea formed as an alternative to God.

  • The design of the universe. From molecular structure to the path of the countless solar systems, this universe is intricately woven.

    In a paper entitled, “The Current State Of Creation Astronomy,” Dr. Danny R. Faulkner of the Institute of Creation Research says the following:

    Much evidence of teleology (design in nature) exists in the universe. For human, animal, and plant life this is very easy to see. If certain changes are made in the physiology or the chemistry of organisms, then life becomes impossible. The same could be said about the universe as a whole. If certain constants of nature are changed, then the chemistry necessary for life becomes impossible, and the universe begins to appear very suited, or designed, for life. The same is true for the earth: if we change its size, composition, distance from the sun, tilt of its axis, or any number of characteristics, then the earth becomes uninhabitable.

    It is mathematically improbable that happenstance can create such design.

    Simple experiments prove this. Take ten red checkers and ten black checkers, scramble them in a large plastic bag, then begin to shake them to see how long it will take to order them again with all red together and all black together. If a person were to shake the bag continuously for twenty-four hours, day after day, the probability that those checkers would again align by color is one chance in all the years of that individual’s lifetime, and beyond.

  • The existence of intelligent life. Humans reason, compare, contrast, synthesize, analyze, and criticize. Humans also communicate logically and extensively. The existence of intelligent life suggests a source of equal or greater intelligence. How can a substance formulate that of which it does not consist?
  • Humans sin. At first blush, that fact might have two arguments against it: How is sin an evidence of God? on the one hand and Is that a true statement? on the other. Let me take them in reverse order.

    First is it, true Man sins? We know that humans do things animals don’t do, negative things, like start wars and hold other people in concentration camps. Clearly, Man has a capacity for harm to others that sets him apart from the rest of creation. One word for that capacity is sin.

    How, then, is this evidence that God exists? In order for man to sin, he needs to violate certain natural laws. Who established these laws?

  • Man has inalienable rights. Our Constitution says it. Our freedom is staked on the truth of that statement. Who gave us these rights? The Creator who is involved with His creation.

    If it were not true, then there is no right of one person over another except the right that is earned, either by overpowering others or outsmarting them. Instead, we believe (though we don’t act consistently in accordance with what we say we believe) that the weak has just as much right as the strong and, in fact, should be protected and nurtured.

    The incongruence with “survival of the fittest” should be apparent.

  • Man has a conscience, a moral compass that cannot be explained by evolution. Some people believe society teaches that certain actions are wrong. That’s true to an extent, but there are some actions we know are wrong instinctively.

    Take child abuse, for example. Even in prison, where hardened criminals reside, and no one is teaching against the behavior, a child molester is hated. Why? Why would people with seemingly no moral constraint react negatively to such behavior?

    Or cannibalism. When was the last time someone taught against cannibalism? And yet, the thought is disgusting. Why? Not because of teaching. Because it is against a Man’s conscious.

    I submit that a number of things we now accept were once reprehensible, grating against our moral sensibilities, but society taught us they needed to be tolerated, even accepted and embraced.

    So where does a moral sensibility come from? A moral Creator.

  • Personal experience. I know this is probably the hardest to understand and to accept and is the weakest of the arguments, but it’s still true, and therefore adds to the body of facts: I know God, first hand.

    When you put all the pieces together, it does make sense. The universe has a Creator—one who is pre-existent, orderly, intelligent, and moral, one involved with His creation.

    We have a book that claims to be from Him. It reveals Him as pre-existent, orderly, intelligent, moral, involved with His creation, and, in fact, loving. To prove the latter, His Son entered the world to show us what science could not.

    Because I know the Son, I also the know God who sent Him.

    Let me illustrate. I know a lot of people through the media of the Internet, either from visiting their blogs, engaging in discussions on Facebook, or from reading their comments here. I know them because I’ve read a record of their thoughts.

    Much the same way, I know God. However, there’s more involved than just knowing facts about Him because I know what He has chosen to say about Himself.

  • This post first appeared here in August 2006.

    But The LORD


    While we live in the physical world, we simultaneously live in a spiritual world. For starters, we have spiritual natures. In addition, whether we recognize it or not, God is not the only supernatural person. Other spiritual beings exist all around us. This is why Elisha could say to his servant in 2 Kings 6:16, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” The “those who are with us” consisted of chariots of fire filling the mountain which the servant couldn’t see until God opened his spiritual eyes.

    In talking about creation, Paul refers to rulers and authorities, thrones and dominions, the latter being part of the invisible world he mentions in Col. 1:16.

    For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.

    Who all these spiritual beings are is of interest to a good many people, but the truth is, the Bible tells us very little about them. We know there are two basic camps, however—those who do God’s bidding and are good, and those who stand in opposition to Him and are evil.

    These spiritual forces have real power. Two angels, for example, were involved in the destruction of Sodom. Satan himself apparently decimated Job—destroying his property, killing his children, and striking him with disease.

    Of course these beings are not operating independently. The angels are carrying out God’s commands, and Satan is doing only what God has given him permission to do. He was, for example, expressly forbidden to take Job’s life.

    But still, Satan is active and so are any number of evil spirits. The New Testament records one man with evil spirits who had supernatural strength so that he could break free of chains meant to restrict him. Then there was the girl who had an evil spirit which made it possible for her to tell fortunes. Others caused a person to be mute or to lose control of their body so that they would be thrown into the fire.

    The fact that we don’t see overt manifestations of evil spirits as a part of normal life here in North America doesn’t mean they don’t exist or aren’t active.

    The Bible tells us we need spiritual armor, so my supposition is that much of the spiritual activity we face has little to do with the physical, though possibly there is far more than we recognize as coming from spiritual causes. But that’s going astray from the point I want to make in all this.

    Men and women throughout history have worshiped, but many have chosen a god instead of the LORD. For much of their history, the Jews dabbled with polytheism, though the LORD had specifically told them to have no other gods before Him. Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome—they all worshiped various gods. They were religious, and they recognized the existence of power that was beyond the physical.

    The problem was, they credited created beings with supreme power and authority—whether Zeus or Baal or Molech or some other idol.

    Interestingly, Isaiah wrote a stirring passage about idols being nothing but a man-made construction with no power. In chapter 44 he describes the process of cutting timber, burning half for fuel or for a fire to cook over, then fashioning from the other half an idol he bows to and worships:

    No one recalls, nor is there knowledge or understanding to say, “I have burned half of it in the fire and also have baked bread over its coals. I roast meat and eat it. Then I make the rest of it into an abomination, I fall down before a block of wood!” (v. 19)

    So which is it—are idols blocks of wood or are they evil spirits with actual power? I suppose spirits can inhabit the blocks of wood, but why would they? The wood itself, as Isaiah pointed out, is blind and dumb. Regardless, I conclude the physical idol, whether possessed or not possessed, is nothing but a chunk of matter. The people who worship idols however, are indeed worshiping a spiritual being—a false god.

    So I came across this verse, and I thought, here’s the line of demarcation, the point that clearly separates false gods from the One True God:

    For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;
    He is to be feared above all gods.
    For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
    But the LORD made the heavens. (Ps. 96:4-5—emphasis mine)

    Creation, as Romans 1 states so clearly, points to the One True God. It is in what He has made that His invisible attributes can be seen:

    For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (v 20)

    As I realized anew the significance of God’s creative work, I understood more clearly why Creation is such a battlefield. To discredit God, Satan aims to distort the work that inexorably points to Him.

    There are a few key issues like that—the Bible as God’s authoritative word, the person of Jesus, and creation. Isn’t it interesting that these are the critical means of God’s revelation of Himself to Mankind, creation being the first and Jesus being the final and ultimate revelation, with the Bible being the authoritative source that explains both.

    Praise God for loving us so much He has made Himself known.

    This article with some revision is a reprint of one by the same name that appeared here in February 2012.

    Published in: on March 2, 2016 at 6:35 pm  Comments (1)  
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    The Majesty Of Music


    There are a few things that transport me to another level of worship. One is nature. Not just any nature, either. The ocean, with waves crashing against cliffs is pretty good, but better is the high country—beyond timberline. I’ve only been there a few times, but it’s like a different world.

    Coming out of the darkness created by evergreens growing in tight clusters, you discover fields of wildflowers, glacier patches, blue-green lakes, and a sky that’s such a rich blue it looks like you could eat it. Oh, and rocky peaks that look more like cathedrals. And crystal cold streams. All I can think is, This is the world God created.

    Music has that same effect on me. Not all music. Just like nature, there are pieces and then there are pieces. Some I enjoy because they are fun or they fit my mood or they are performed well. Others feel as if a piece of my soul is drifting on the sound waves. And still others feel as if my soul is reaching up to God.

    Some years ago my church hosted a nearby university (California Baptist) choir and orchestra in concert. They were spectacular, and I had one of those majesty of music moments. What’s more, I bought one of their CD’s, Glory, and have played it frequently. The songs run through my head when I wake up, and I can hardly wait to put on the CD again.

    In fact, I posted one of the songs some time ago with Sandi Patty performing it. The song is spectacular and Sandi Patty is … well, Sandi Patty.

    But here’s the choir I listened to—an older version of it, but fittingly, they are singing Majesty. I hope you enjoy.

    This article first appeared here in April 2012

    Published in: on November 23, 2015 at 5:42 pm  Comments Off on The Majesty Of Music  
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    Reprise: Have We Neutered God?


    Aerial_view_of_damage_to_Kirikiri,_Otsuchi,_a_week_after_a_9.0_magnitude_earthquake_and_subsequent_tsunamiThe day after the 2011 earthquake in Japan, a couple Christians started taking bets on when the first Christian “leader” (the qualification is theirs) would say something about God’s judgment on this Buddhist nation. Undoubtedly they had in mind what Pat Robertson said after the Haitian quake in January 2010.

    As reports came in about the tsunami that same day, every TV station seemed to have a segment of their earthquake coverage devoted to a geophysicist with a diagram of the Pacific Ring of Fire and a second diagram of two tectonic plates under the ocean moving toward one another with one slipping under the other (subduction). The resulting movement, one expert said, displaces water, sending waves surging to shore.

    On one hand, a good scientific explanation from the media about what causes an earthquake and a tsunami.

    On the other, a backhanded repudiation from Christians that God would “send” the earthquake against Japan.

    That’s it then. We’ve moved God aside to let Nature take its course. Nature, we understand. After all, the experts have studied these tectonic plates. They’ve created devices to measure the energy an earthquake releases. They can pinpoint where the epicenter is, and the hypocenter, and how deep within the earth’s crust the event occurred.

    God? We can’t study Him. Don’t know what He might be thinking or why He would choose Japan over, say, Libya, or, for that matter, the U. S. Besides, God just wouldn’t do something so randomly devastating. I mean, good people undoubtedly died in the quake and its aftermath. How could we possibly believe this event was something He sent? It would be unjust, cruel, not something a loving God would do.

    Or so we think as we peer through our world-colored glasses.

    For the moment, set aside the fact that Scripture records God using a natural disaster to wipe out the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, expressly because of the extent of their wickedness. Instead, ask this question. Supposing the geophysicists are right and the quake happened because one tectonic plate slipped under the edge of another, what caused the slip?

    Subducting tectonic plates

    Scientists have a number of theories. One idea is that the variation in topography and density of the crust result in differences in gravitational forces that drive the seafloor away from the spreading ridge which combines with drag (think, water drag against a speedboat) and downward suction.

    A second explanation is that different forces generated by the rotation of the Globe and tidal forces of the Sun and the Moon create movement.

    A third idea suggests that mantle convection (“the slow creeping motion of Earth’s rocky mantle caused by convection currents carrying heat from the interior of the Earth to the surface” Wikipedia) is tied to the movement of the plates.

    Behind these possible explanations, however, is the question, what causes the convection currents or the tidal forces or the drag or the downward suction or the variation of the topography or the thinner oceanic crust? In other words, in a cause-effect scientific study, what is the first cause?

    Ultimately, those of us who believe in God will answer, He is that first cause.

    But are we saying that He, in watchmaker-like fashion, started the processes and has since, stepped back and is looking on to see what will happen next?

    Or do we believe He who created the world and understands all its make up and function, who set down in Scripture the fact that the earth divided (something corroborated by the continental drift theory now widely held), and who has prophesied an increase in seismic activity as the day of the Lord draws nearer and nearer, is intimately involved in this world?

    Sadly, throughout time man has declared that God is dead or irrelevant or nonexistent. But perhaps worst of all is this Christian version of this theme—that He is, but He is not powerful. He might have something to say about spiritual things (and then, only if it’s related to love and forgiveness), but the physical is beyond His reach.

    This view, of course, contradicts Scripture. First is the clear revelation of His nature—He is omnipotent. He demonstrated this by His act of creation:

    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
    – Gen 1:1

    Since then, He has sustained what He made:

    For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
    – Col 1:16-17 [emphasis mine]

    How He holds things together is coincidentally similar to how He created the world in the first place:

    God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.
    – Heb 1:1-3 [emphasis mine]

    And yet we are to believe He is standing by, wringing His hands, grieving over the uncontrollable events foisted on the human race by nature?

    If God is God, that idea is absurd. And if God is God, we had better start paying attention to what He’s said in His word, because acts of God are not accidents of God. He has a purpose, and it would be wise of us to start talking in an intelligent way, informed by Scripture, about what that purpose might be.

    With some minor changes this article is a reprint of one that appeared in March 2011.