Praise Is More Than Positive Thinking


A number of studies reportedly show the benefit of a hopeful attitude. Patients, for example, who expect a positive outcome in their circumstances have a higher recovery rate. Praise supposedly helps students perform better as well. So along with discouraging corporal punishment, society now pushes positive reinforcement.

This has been going on for some time. Now, in order to make all little leaguers feel loved and accepted, everyone receives a trophy. Regardless of talent or ability (or attendance at practice), all kids must play. Never mind that the idea behind competitive sports is competition—the kind that produces a winner and a loser, or a runner up, if you prefer. But clearly, not everyone playing is a winner.

Many of the kids may have shown a work ethic or the ability to cooperate or a team spirit. But in the end, some kids are better than others; one team is pronounced the champion. Others may have done their best, but their best didn’t produce enough points or enough defense to put them ahead on the scoreboard when the last out was recorded.

Praise, as it turns out, is only temporary unless it is tied to truth. I can say all day long that I’m the best basketball player in my age and gender group, but that does not make it true. I might feel good about myself because of my perceived ability, but what happens when I play against someone better than I am?

As it turns out, a study some years ago indicates a connection between “too much” parental praise and narcissism in children.

True praise will not ascribe something false to another just to puff them up.

In contrast to the fakery of parental praise—or if not feigned, then manipulative (if I tell him how great he is, then he’ll perform the way I want him to)—praise offered to God stands on the truth of God’s character. He is worthy to be praised because He genuinely is the greatest, the sovereign, the almighty.

Praising God starts with recognizing Him for who He is. He is kind, consequently He deserves praise for His kindnesses that are new every morning. He is love, consequently He deserves praise for His love that never fails. He is just and therefore deserves praise for his righteous judgments. He is merciful and therefore deserves praise because His mercies never cease.

When we recognize the truth about God—about His Person, plan, work, and/or word—either we can respond directly to Him in the form of thanksgiving (publicly or privately) or we can reflect what we see by offering Him praise (corporately or personally). Scripture refers to these responses as sacrifices—of thanks or of praise.

I will render thank offerings to You.
For You have delivered my soul from death,
Indeed my feet from stumbling,
So that I may walk before God
In the light of the living. (Psalm 56:12b-13; emphasis mine)

No, we do not live under the sacrificial system any longer. Jesus Christ died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust so that He might bring us to God.

But God delights in our sacrifice of praise:

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. (Heb. 13:15)

Jesus modeled this act of praise to God. Many who Jesus healed and even those who witnessed the miracles praised God for His marvelous work. Some of the disciples, when they were persecuted, responded by praising God with psalms and hymns.

In fact, the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving is the very mark of His Church:

you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:15)

Praising God is not wishful thinking or hoping for the best or positive mind speak or any of the other human endeavors many engage in. Praising God is anchored in the truth of His character, His promises, His acts of mercy, His way of salvation. In other words, God deserves recognition.

When the President of the US comes to California on one of his fund raising trips, nobody ignores him. He has police escorts and roads are closed off to allow his motorcade to pass. The media reports his arrival and covers his activities. People pay attention.

Recognizing someone’s existence or presence is not the same as praising them, however.

God wants more than our awareness of His existence or our willingness to meet with Him regularly. He wants us to shout our gratitude for His traits, for the wonders He performs, for the rescue He pulled off in transferring us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of His beloved Son.

The psalmist rendered thank offerings for a reason: because God delivered his soul from death and his feet from stumbling. Our praise today should be no less anchored in truth.

This article, with a few minor revisions, first appeared here in March, 2015.

BTW, have you noted today’s date: 02/20/20, 😉

Talking To Atheists


“Black holes are cosmic objects that harbour a gravitational field so powerful that nothing, not even light or radiation can escape.”

Atheists and Christians look at life and the world from diametrically opposed views, so having a conversation between those who hold to those divergent opinions is not easy. On one hand, atheists, believing only in scientifically verifiable substance, are convinced that God does not exist. Some even question the historicity of Jesus. These fundamental positions lead them to dismiss the Bible as more myth than an accurate historical source.

In contrast, Christians know that God and an entire supernatural realm beyond the scope of science, exist. This fundamental position leads us to accept the Bible not only as accurate but authoritative since the words and thoughts are God’s, written by humans through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Most of that last paragraph would be nearly unintelligible to atheists. After all, from their perspective there is no God, therefore no Holy Spirit, no inspiration, leaving the Bible to be a book of made-up stories and rules.

Generally conversation between those holding the two opposing positions means one side creates a “convincing” argument dismantling the position of the other, only to have the reverse occur during rebuttal.

So does that mean there is no way the two can discuss the big issues of life? There certainly is a barrier. From my perspective as a Christian, I feel as if I’m trying to convince someone who is colorblind that the sky is blue. It’s an obvious fact to me, but he has no knowledge of blue and therefore considers everything I say to be nonsense.

From his perspective I imagine he has what seems to be the most obvious, basic, clear, tangible standards by which reality can be determined, but Christians claim truth on the basis of those standards plus something intangible, unclear, obscure, and convoluted.

If I’m right, both sides shake their heads at the other and say, how can they be so ignorant?

In reality, I as a Christian would like to learn to talk to atheists, but to do that means bridging this worldview divide. Oh, sure, we can talk at each other—I can quote Scripture, which they don’t believe, and they can quote “Bible scholars” who don’t believe the Bible. I can throw out names of Christian scientists and they can list three times as many atheist scientists. I can present archeological data supportive of the Bible, and they can point to detail after detail in the Bible for which no historical evidence exists. I can discuss cosmology and the need for an intelligent designer to explain intelligent complexity, and they can discuss evolution and the natural development of all life.

The point is, we aren’t actually talking to one another. Rather, I’d like to find out, beyond theory, why atheists believe as they do.

Some, of course, believe they have come to the only rational, intelligent conclusion possible, but that presupposes that the human mind can know all that is or is not in the vast cosmos, including the multiverse and the possible different dimensions, should string theory prove to be true.

Ah, but there lies the problem. We humans don’t know if string theory is true. We don’t know if there are other dimensions. And if there are? Why would those dimensions have to be like ours? Might not there be a spiritual dimension filled with the supernatural?

Humankind is still looking for evidence of life in space though we don’t know for sure if it exists or if it will be intelligent should it exist. Despite that uncertainty, atheists are certain God is not there. Life maybe; God absolutely not.

All the above to point out that claims to “the only rational, intelligent conclusion possible” are hardly sufficient to answer the question why someone is an atheist.

On the other hand, if someone asks a Christian why they believe as they do, I think the answer might also be categorical—something along the lines of, I’m convinced Jesus is who He said He is: Son of God, Savior, Lord.

And where’s the evidence, atheists will answer.

Where indeed? Within the pages of the Bible the atheist doesn’t believe in; by the witness of the Holy Spirit living in each Christian, which the atheist doesn’t believe in; through the power of a changed life which the atheist has no way to measure or to ascribe cause.

It seems we’ve returned to the impasse. But I keep coming back to the question why the atheist can’t accept what he can’t see for himself—at least when it comes to God. He can’t see gravity, but believes in it; can’t see black holes, but (most) would agree they exist.

When it comes to God, however, inferring His existence from the effect He has on life (which is how we know about gravity and black holes) is insufficient evidence. So “a cosmic accident” is a better explanation for the existence of life than is an intelligent designer.

Why?

Maybe if I understood that, I’d understand atheists better.

This article is a re-post of one that first appeared here in October 2014.

Beyond Reasonable Doubt


Years ago, here in California, reporting for jury duty was different from what it is now. Then when we would receive the summons, we had to report to the assigned venue for ten days, or, if chosen to serve on a jury, throughout the duration of the trial.

Part of that process was for prospective jurists waiting in the jury room, to be selected randomly to serve on a panel. This group would go to an assigned courtroom where we satin the spectators’ chairs. From the panel a number of potential jurists would randomly be chosen and called up to the jury box. Those twelve, and the two alternates, were then questioned by the lawyers and the judge.

More than once I was included in a panel and sat in the courtroom listening to the lawyers explain law, ask questions, and dismiss various individuals from the box. (Those folk then returned to the jury room until they were impaneled again.) A new name was then chosen and the potential jurist would take the vacated spot in the box and would undergo the same questioning.

During my ten days, first in the criminal court and then later in the civil, I learned a lot about the legal system. But my point here is not to critic the various things I saw then or have seen since from sitting on other juries.

Rather, one of the most memorable learning experiences I had was from one defense and one prosecuting attorney who explained the term “reasonable doubt.”

The trial was of someone accused of murder, so these lawyers wanted to be sure the members of the jury would understand this important term, reasonable doubt.

The defense attorney explained by using an example. Let’s say there’s a swimming pool at a park or somewhere with a sign that says, Stay out of the water. On the side of the pool are clear footprints leading from the pool to your chair. Is this evidence beyond reasonable doubt that you have violated the law? At first blush, it might seem so. But what if there was a shower stall at the edge of the pool? What if there was the possibility of rain that day? I’ll add this one: what if there was a hose lying on the grass or various other people with water bottles that may have spilled? Suddenly there are more possibilities than just the one idea that the person did in fact enter the water when they weren’t allowed to do so.

The way the law reads, according to this lawyer, the jurist was bound to assume innocence—meaning that, if there were these other possible explanations, they were obligated to assume one of them, not the one indicating a law had been broken.

I was a little stunned (so much so that I remember the illustration all these years later). Who could ever be found guilty? Almost, it seemed, you needed an eye witness—well, more than one, and a camera would even be better—if you were to find a defendant guilty.

Then the prosecutor took his turn. He stood behind a podium with a microphone so everyone could hear. As all the attorneys, he looked the part of the professional: neat; nice shirt, tie, suit coat; well groomed. He had not walked to the podium because it was positioned in front of his table. In addition, he faced us. He brought our attention to his clothing, then said, What if someone told you I was wearing boxer shorts and not my suit pants, would you believe it to be true? We didn’t have eyewitness evidence that he was not in his boxer shorts. It was a possibility. Did that mean that we now had doubt that would prevent us from making a decision about how he was dressed?

No, he said, because of he word “reasonable.” There were no other attorneys in boxer shorts. In fact no other people in the courtroom or jury room or anywhere else in the courthouse wearing boxer shorts. To think that he was doing so, stretched the concept that there was reasonable doubt as to what he was wearing. In other words, he said, jurists can and should use deductive reasoning and not think they had to be at the crime scene and witness the crime if they were to arrive at a guilty verdict.

That long explanation applies not just to jurists. It applies to anyone who wants to know if God exists or not. There is abundant evidence that God exists, just not eyewitness evidence. I’ve written on this subject countless times (here’s one I recommend: “What Creation Tells Us About God”).

In one recent-ish post, I made a list of things that point to God’s existence. The first item is the intricacy, the complexity of life—of all the world, the universe, really. Nothing we know of, anywhere, came into existence unless something or someone made it. When we see a canyon, for example, we don’t think, Wow, an anomalous dent in the earth. No, we ascribe a means by which it was formed: by erosion from a river, by a flood, by wind or a meteor. Something.

Only the universe, according to atheists, has no cause. Oh, sure, the “Big Bang.” But what initiated the thing that initiated all the universe? Science has no answer. We don’t know, they say.

Which brings us back to reasonable doubt. I can see that atheists doubt God’s existence. But is it reasonable?

All known complex things — created by someone or something;
the universe — no idea how it came about (but it wasn’t God.)

Is the latter a reasonable position? I don’t see how it could be considered reasonable. Like the attorney who was in fact wearing suit pants, we potential jurists could make that conclusion without having to see him. It simply was not reasonable to believe otherwise. Logical deduction makes it clear.

Published in: on August 28, 2019 at 5:40 pm  Comments (9)  
Tags: , ,

Not An Accident


Structure of DNA double helix

Some atheists tell us that life is an accident and any circumstantial evidence humans come up with to the contrary is simply a trick of the mind that wishes to find patterns where none actually exist.

But I have to wonder—how do they know that no pattern exists? It seems to me, the belief that no pattern exists is a result of believing that there is no designer to formulate a pattern. Otherwise, when element after element after element aligns in a pattern, why would you think, Yeah, but that’s just a coincidence.

For instance, “DNA is a three-billion-lettered program telling the cell to act in a certain way. It is a full instruction manual.” (See “Is There a God?”) What are the chances of such an intricate “instruction manual” just happening to develop—for each cell of the human body?!

But DNA is a quite new discovery. Long before technology allowed us such a close look, we saw designs. Humans have a small set of eye colors and hair color and skin colors, but we have an infinite number of finger prints. Can that uniqueness happen by accident?

We could look at seasons and the hours of sunlight in the day and the rings inside a tree and weather patterns and the digestive system and breathing—we’d see evidence of design at every turn. All these particulars have such a long shot probability of happening accidentally, we might as well say it’s impossible.

Why is it a plane can fly? Because air pressure is a constant.

Why is it that meteors don’t fall to earth and crush us? Because our atmosphere is the right thickness to protect us.

How can we measure time? Because the earth rotates at a constant speed and travels around the sun at a rate that doesn’t fluctuate.

In fact, we have a set of “natural laws” that allow us to predict and study the way our universe works, including our bodies. We know that gravity pulls things toward the earth’s core. That’s an immutable law. Drop a pencil ten times, a thousand times, a billion billion times, and it will fall to the ground.

We have laws of physics, laws of biology, laws of chemistry, laws of botany, laws of geology, laws of meteorology. And then there is math. Two plus two is always four, not sometimes four and sometimes six.

Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize winner for quantum electrodynamics, said, “Why nature is mathematical is a mystery…The fact that there are rules at all is a kind of miracle.”
(Ibid)

There is order to the world that points to anything but an accident.

Accidents don’t produce advanced technology. As many times as those automobile safety tests have a car hit a brick wall, not once has the car come out in an advanced state.

This just scratches the surface. I haven’t mentioned moral law or aesthetics. Each would need a post of its own.

The fact is, order exists in our world. Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding themselves.

And order does not come from disorder—that’s actually one of those laws of science.

So something (or Someone) ordered—not randomness, chaos, chance, or accident—brought an ordered world into being. It’s only logical—which is also based on immutable laws. That someone looks at order and says, Caused by chance, reveals more about that someone than it does about the world.

What kind of person would look for an answer to the question, How did an ordered world full of intricate life—balanced ecosystems and complex organisms and natural laws—and conclude that the aggregation of it all came about by happenstance? Is that a logical conclusion? Or is that a conclusion someone would reach who has already ruled out the possibility of Someone great enough to design it all perfectly?

Take a look at just one fact about our planet, its distance from the sun:

The Earth is located the right distance from the sun. Consider the temperature swings we encounter, roughly -30 degrees to +120 degrees. If the Earth were any further away from the sun, we would all freeze. Any closer and we would burn up. Even a fractional variance in the Earth’s position to the sun would make life on Earth impossible. The Earth remains this perfect distance from the sun while it rotates around the sun at a speed of nearly 67,000 mph. It is also rotating on its axis, allowing the entire surface of the Earth to be properly warmed and cooled every day. (Ibid)

What are the chances?

Well, some will tell us, given the vast number of galaxies in the universe, there’s a pretty good chance that there’s another planet just like ours with all the properties necessary for life.

And if there is such a place, why would we think it accidentally came into being any more than the Earth? If it’s unlikely that an accident produced one orderly biosphere, how much more unlikely would it be if there are two? In other words, a second habitable planet would increase the likelihood of design, not decrease it—given the incredibly improbable odds of all the right components being present to allow for life with respiratory systems and circulatory systems and digestive systems and cognition.

In all seriousness, I believe it takes wishful thinking to conclude that our planet, the solar system, the universe came about as a result of an accident instead of as the creation of an all powerful designer.

This article is a copy of one that appeared here in July 2015. So if you recognize it, you’re right, you have a good memory, and you’ve been stopping by for some years now. Thank you!

Published in: on August 26, 2019 at 5:08 pm  Comments (5)  
Tags: , , , ,

Evidence For God’s Existence


I’ve been putting this post off because I don’t feel as if I can do the subject justice. I don’t know enough, can’t explain well enough. But I’ve felt the need to put into words what I know, so I decided to give a stab at it.

The question, how do Christians know there is a God, or some version of it, has come up more than once. There are two layers of this question, I think. And two ways of looking at it.

First, I can try to remember back when I first believed in God. What convinced me then? Second, I can look at what keeps me convinced now. Those are the two ways of looking at the question. Since I was young and can’t factually trace my thoughts when I first put my trust in Jesus, I’ll have to look at the question from the perspective of what keeps me convinced.

As to the two layers, I want to start with what evidence there is for God from the created world. Of course, I’ve tipped my hand by the wording of the last sentence, because those who don’t believe in God don’t think the world was created. But I do, and here are some of the reasons, in no particular order.

1) According to evolutionary theory, life began with single celled organisms. But even those single cells, we now know, have very complex DNA codes with tiny “machines” involved in DNA copying. So at it’s basic, most simple form, life is amazingly complex. How could such complexity come into being apart from a complex designer?

2) The existence of language. I’m not even referring to human language here but rather genetic code. From Wikipedia: “The genetic code is the set of rules used by living cells to translate information encoded within genetic material (DNA or mRNA sequences) into proteins.” Translate information. The whole process of “pre-existent” information that needs to be translated and passed along indicates an intelligent mind that has that information to begin with.

3) According to the Wiki definition, the genetic code is a “set of rules.” So, not random. In fact science identifies any number of natural laws, and mathematics works because 1+1 always equals 2. Not sometimes. Not most of the time. It’s a fixed “truth.” Like the Law of gravity or the laws of thermodynamics. These are true factually, for all time and space, true. How could anything but order produce such order? Nothingness could not. Randomness could not.

4) Beauty. The aesthetic claim is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but that isn’t completely true. When beauty appears as a rainbow in the sky, or captured by a lawn sprinkler, no one says how ugly it is. Some may ignore it, but if they are called to see the rainbow, they universally admit it is beautiful. Same with sunsets and sunrises. Snow covered mountains. Red-breasted robins. The first tulip of spring. On and on. The beauty of nature is inexplicable. Well, I’m sure there are scientific reasons why light refracts and so on, but why do we humans find them beautiful? There’s something in our makeup that responds to the aesthetic of color and light and shadow and shape, and there is nothing “functional” about it. Truly, only a being who enjoys is capable of giving us humans the ability to appreciate beauty.

5) God gives life coherence. What is truth? Why are we here? Where did we come from? What is our destiny? Only a belief in God gives logical, consistent answers to these kinds of questions. Science simply has nothing to contribute. The honest scientist will say, from science we don’t know.

6) Morality. Humans believe in right and wrong. Where did that idea come from, if not from a being who is just.

7) Evil. How could humans know evil if good does not exist? Without good, there would be no contrasting opposite. Hence, God, because we do know that good and evil exist.

8) Worship. The nearly universal sense that there is a spiritual force or forces at work in the world. Whether Hindus or Buddhists or Jews or pagan idol worshipers, humans down through time have had what Christians refer to as a God-shaped vacuum in our souls. Far from “no god” being the default position for a person, as some atheists claim, history bears out that “there is a god” is the default position. The question then becomes who is he and does he matter?

9) Joy. C.S. Lewis in Surprised by Joy explained this far better than I ever could. The idea is that at times something seems so perfect—so beautiful, moving, uplifting, peaceful, “right”—that we simply want to capture it and stay in that moment for always. He identifies this as “joy.” But in fact the sense of perfection is fleeting. Nevertheless, it shows us that there is something more. And if we experience the taste of more, it’s likely we were made for more, God being that “more.”

10) Revelation. The only way we can move from an awareness of God’s existence, which is pretty easy to do, given the preponderance of the evidence, is for God to reveal Himself to us. And He has. Of course various religions claim revelation (which should be a clue that there is revelation), and our task is to know which is the true revelation. That discussion is different from this one, of course, so I won’t tackle it here.

I have no doubt there are other points I have overlooked when it comes to presenting evidence for God’s existence. But what I find is that God’s existence as He has revealed Himself in the Bible is the most logically consistent explanation of the existence of life, our universe, our world. He brings coherence to the various pieces of evidence I mentioned above.

Published in: on February 25, 2019 at 5:59 pm  Comments (5)  
Tags: , , ,

Atheist Arguments: God Is Cruel


Often atheists claim that God, if He exists, is cruel, even evil, because look at the people who died in the flood (which they also don’t believe in), or how about all those Egyptian soldiers who died when the Red Sea closed over them (another account atheists claim is nothing but myth). A third example are those Amalekites Saul was supposed to wipe out (yes, those would be people atheists don’t actually believe ever lived). The war against the Amalekites, according to these atheists, shows that God is genocidal.

Taken out of context those examples do make God look bad. But here’s the truth.

First, God’s nature. Scripture reveals the character of God throughout. He identifies Himself as merciful and true, good and kind. There are many other traits revealed and demonstrated, but most pertinent to this question raised by the atheist argument is that God is righteous and He is just.

Psalm 7 contains one such revelation:

The LORD judges the peoples;
Vindicate me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and my integrity that is in me.
O let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous;
For the righteous God tries the hearts and minds.
My shield is with God,
Who saves the upright in heart.
God is a righteous judge,
And a God who has indignation every day.
If a man does not repent, He will sharpen His sword;
He has bent His bow and made it ready.(vv 8-12)

Notice that God’s job as judge is actually a hedge, a safeguard, a shield for the upright, to protect them from the wicked.

Here’s another passage in the Psalms that makes the point that God deals with the wicked. He won’t let them hurt others with impunity:

The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked,
And the one who loves violence His soul hates.
Upon the wicked He will rain snares;
Fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup.
For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness;
The upright will behold His face. (11:5-7)

See? some atheists might say. There God is, hating and raining fire on people. Such a view misses the context again. The recipient of God’s wrath is the wicked who loves violence. As it happens even we fallible humans, with our imperfect laws and legal system and law enforcement officers, sometimes use deadly force to stop a violent person. We should not be shocked if God treats unrepentant oppressors and violent men in the same vein. After all, His knowledge is complete. His judgment is never wrong. So He doesn’t sometimes bring down His fire on innocent people. He gets the judgment right every single time.

The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. (Ps. 19: 9b-10)

Psalm 119 repeats the truth about God’s righteousness more than once:

5 Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
Yes, our God is compassionate.

75 I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are righteous,

137 Righteous are You, O LORD,
And upright are Your judgments.

Psalm 145 declares a number of God’s attributes, including His righteousness:

8 The LORD is gracious and merciful;
Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.
9 The LORD is good to all,
And His mercies are over all His works. . .
17 The LORD is righteous in all His ways
And kind in all His deeds.
18 The LORD is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.
19 He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
He will also hear their cry and will save them.
20 The LORD keeps all who love Him,
But all the wicked He will destroy.

These last lines bring up the next salient point in the answer to the atheist argument that God is cruel. In His righteousness, in His justice, He saves those who call upon Him, which obviously pits Him against those who are doing harm. How can you keep people safe who are being oppressed without dealing with the oppressors?

As it happens, in the three Biblical examples atheists like to use to claim God’s cruelty, He did in fact deal with oppressors.

First the people in Noah’s day. Too often we forget why God sent a flood. Yes, judgment but why did the people have to be judged?

Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.

Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth. (Genesis 6:11-12)

As I read this, I think, Man would be extinct today if God had not stepped in and saved Noah and his family. Maybe not, but why wouldn’t Noah have eventually become a target for these violent people whose thoughts were only evil, all the time?

Then there were the Egyptians. These would be the people who ordered and enforced the killing of the Hebrew male babies, who kept them under slavery for 400 years. They would hardly qualify as innocent. When God judged them, He did so as part of the process of freeing His people from captivity. They were no match for the trained Egyptian army and chariots. So God intervened and stopped the potential slaughter of all the descendants of Abraham.

Which brings us to the Amalekites. This people group harassed Israel on their way to the Promised Land. Waited and watched and picked off the weak and the vulnerable. God did not send judgment on them right away. He gave them time to do the right thing, to turn from their wicked ways. He gave them a good 200 years! But throughout the exodus, throughout the time that judges ruled Israel, the Amalekites oppressed Israel. When God allowed Israel to select a king, He turned the punishment of the Amalekites over to him. As it happened, Saul didn’t complete the job. As a result, years later, a descendant of the king Saul had spared—a guy named Haman—hatched a plot to wipe out any and all Jews. He would have succeeded, too, if Queen Esther had not intervened.

Atheists see God’s intervention, His judgment of evil, His protection of the ancestors of the coming Messiah, as cruel?

I see the violent men in Noah’s day as the cruel ones. I see the Egyptians who were exposing babies and keeping a people in subjugation for 400 years, as the cruel ones. I see the Amalekites who were intent on destroying the Hebrews, starting with their weakest people, as the cruel ones.

I see God as He’s described in the Psalms and elsewhere: He is a righteous judge, who administers justice, which He always gets right.

Published in: on February 15, 2019 at 5:31 pm  Comments (28)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

God And The Why Game


When I was little, we kids used to play the “why” game from time to time. It’s not an actual, formalized game, but really a way to get under somebody else’s skin. Why? Because virtually every answer can then be subject to the question “why?” It doesn’t end until the ask-er wants it to end.

Except . . .

Eventually the answer in our house ended up being, because God made it that way.

So it goes like this:

Why do cats purr? Because they’re happy.

Why? Because they like to be petted and pampered.

Why? Because cats like comfort.

Why? Because God made them that way.

Of course there can be a lot more questions, depending on the one who is answering and how much time he wants to put in.

I realized the other day that for atheists, they’d never get to the “God” answer. I’m not sure what their end game would be. I suppose it would be something about DNA or the arrangement of molecules, though I think a good ask-er could push the question beyond that point.

But here’s the cool thing I discovered when I started thinking about this. . . well, let me show you with another illustration.

Why is snow cold? Because it’s frozen water?

Why? Because the air temperature drops so low that the water in the atmosphere freezes.

Why? Because there’s low pressure sweeping down from the Arctic and the air there is very cold.

Why? Because God made it that way. [This answer-er is in a hurry. 😉 ]

Why? Because He knew our planet would work best with cold poles, not warm ones.

Why? Because He knows everything.

Why? Because He is God.

Or, restated from His point of view: Because I AM.

This post is a reprint of an article that appeared here in February, 2013,

Published in: on February 1, 2019 at 5:02 pm  Comments (4)  
Tags: , ,

Can Grasshoppers Judge Humans?


At one point in his prophecy, Isaiah compared people and God, concluding that we are like grasshoppers in His eyes. That got me thinking about the vast disparity there is between humans and grasshoppers.

Let’s pretend, for the moment, that grasshoppers are thinking, reasoning beings. Would that change their ability to judge humans or even determine our existence? How could it? They are simply too small. They could never apprehend an entire human, let alone our plans for one hour or one day. They wouldn’t understand why we charge cell phones, for example. They wouldn’t know what happened to us, if they could conceive of us at all, when we get into our cars and go to work. They wouldn’t understand about building houses or putting money into a bank or reading a book or spending time on the internet.

In fact, grasshoppers would be in no position whatever to judge humans. Is that human good? I mean he’s cutting back our habitat so that predators can more easily see us. Or something is. Because it’s only rumored that humans exist.

But what if a human captured a grasshopper, placed it in a secure place away from birds and other predators, fed it, and then one day released it. Perhaps that grasshopper could go back to his fellow grasshoppers and report his experience with this mysterious, massive being who cared for him. Would the other grasshoppers believe him?

No, they might say, we have never seen such a being—even though humans walk by the flower bed where they live every day.

The point is, the grasshoppers would be too small to identify the many humans in their world. Unless a human “appeared” to the grasshopper. Unless he revealed himself.

What if a human went one step further. What if he had the power to become a grasshopper so that he could let all the other grasshoppers know about humans. What if he wanted to steer them away from flowers in formal gardens so that they wouldn’t be in danger of insecticide that gardeners often use? What if he wanted to inform them about the habits of birds so that they would know how to keep themselves safe?

Would the other grasshoppers believe him?

Some might. But a lot of others could easily say, there’s no evidence for these humans. We’ve never seen a human. Your experience is no more valid than the experiences of all these other grasshoppers. But what if the human-turned-grasshopper could point to places and ways that the garden had been cared for, to things like sprinklers that had been provided to produce water? What if he would tell them about the shadow humans make when they pass by? Surely some would believe the truth.

Why not all?

Probably some would trust their own senses more than they trust the experience of the grasshopper who claimed to have been a human, who in fact said he would become a human again, who said he’d only become a grasshopper because he wanted to tell them ways to care for themselves. What if he said he loved them?

Loved a grasshopper?

How could a grasshopper ever know a human loved him unless the human told him and showed him?

And what if the grasshopper didn’t believe what that human said or did?

What if the grasshopper persisted in believing that humans didn’t even exist?

I’d suggest, the grasshopper would not avoid the places the gardener would spray with insecticide. They would not stay out of sight when birds were searching for food. In other words, they’d put themselves at risk in the very ways the human wanted to save them from.

Yes, Isaiah, we are very much like grasshoppers in God’s eyes. Too bad more people don’t see how crazy it is for a grasshopper to judge a human, let alone, to judge God.

– – – – –

Photo by Tudsaput Eusawas from Pexels

Published in: on January 11, 2019 at 5:44 pm  Comments (6)  
Tags: ,

Atheist Arguments: God Is A Delusion


Years ago I watched a PBS Masterpiece Contemporary movie called God on Trial. In essence it was the story of a group of Jewish Auschwitz prisoners who decided to put God on trial because He broke His covenant with Israel by not protecting and blessing the nation as He said He would.

If it weren’t for the death-camp setting, the story would have seemed rather silly to me. Here were several rabbis, one who supposedly had memorized the Torah, discussing God, and yet they didn’t get the fact that Israel broke the covenant and God fulfilled the clear warnings He gave.

At one point, one of the men brought up that possibility, but the discussion turned to why “good Jews” were suffering for the sins of the “bad ones,” defined as those who no longer had faith in the Torah. As it turned out, they found God guilty, yet as the German guards hauled off the group designated for the gas chamber, the man who instigated the trial said something like, Now that God is guilty, what are we supposed to do? And the answer was, Pray and believe in the Torah. They then began quoting a passage from it, and continued to do so as they marched to their deaths.

Some time after seeing the PBS movie, I started reading a book called The Dawkins Delusion? by Alister and Joanna Cullicut McGrath (InterVarsity Press). Apparently atheist Richard Dawkins in his book The God Delusion, which the McGrath book is clearly answering, is most critical of what I’ll call the Faith Factor.

God is a delusion—a “psychotic delinquent” invented by mad, deluded people. That’s the take-home message of The God Delusion. Although Dawkins does not offer a rigorous definition of a delusion, he clearly means a belief that is not grounded in evidence—or, worse, that flies in the face of the evidence.

Dawkins would seem to be describing a “faith” such the Jews of Auschwitz had, as depicted in God On Trial.

The McGraths make an essential point:

Dawkins is right [about this point]—beliefs are critical. We base our lives on them; they shape our decisions about the most fundamental things. I can still remember the turbulence that I found myself experiencing on making the intellectually painful (yet rewarding) transition from atheism to Christianity. Every part of my mental furniture had to be rearranged. Dawkins is correct—unquestionably correct—when he demands that we should not base our lives on delusions. We all need to examine our beliefs—especially if we are naive enough to think that we don’t have any in the first place. But who, I wonder, is really deluded about God?

Well, I already know the answer, because I read the Book—the one written by the All-Knowing Creator God. Anyone who puts God on trial and finds Him guilty, or absent, or dead is deluded. I could have said, anyone who puts God on trial is deluded. The idea that we can judge God shows our delusion.

How much worse, when those who judge God and find Him wanting, then turn around and profess faith in Him or in His Word. It is the biggest delusion of all. This “belief despite the evidence” position is not unique to the Jews of the movie. I’ve had some contact with individuals who identify as progressive Christians or agnostic Christians, and I can’t help but wonder why they cling to this delusion. They say straight out, they don’t believe in the Bible. One person said he thought Jesus was a sinner. Others say we simply can’t know, but they believe anyway.

Sadly, these positions give weight to the atheist arguments about Christianity and faith. But they are not representative of Christianity.

From the beginning, our beliefs were grounded by the early Church fathers in the revealed word of God. Of course many of those same people had the advantage of having walked and talked with Jesus and of seeing Him alive after His resurrection. They experienced the confirming “signs and wonders” and the “various miracles” and “gifts of the Holy Spirit” the writer to the Hebrews mentioned in his letter.

No, the thought that Christianity was built on a delusion was a false idea countered by the New Testament writers from the start, and the idea that God Himself was a delusion was never something they considered (or didn’t find credible enough to address). I come back to my earlier statement, reworded: only those who think they are worthy to judge God are delusional.

Much of this article is a revised version of one that appeared here in November, 2008.

Published in: on January 7, 2019 at 5:19 pm  Comments (22)  
Tags: , , ,

Atheist Arguments: Suffering Proves God Doesn’t Exist


Since I first started having discussions with atheists, I’ve heard the claim that suffering proves God does not exist, so not surprisingly the topic came up today in my FB atheist group. This time the suffering had personal ramifications: the loved one of an atheist member of the group is going through a difficult time—a form of suffering. The twist is, the loved one is a devote Christian.

So the way atheists view suffering, God, if He exists, is either not powerful enough to do something about the suffering or He’s not good enough, not loving enough to change things. Which essentially means He is not God, or He does not exist at all.

Ten years ago I wrote on this subject in response to a commenter who asked the question about suffering by taking the discussion out of the hypothetical and general into the real and specific:

you should ask yourself sometime how is that an all powerful-all knowing god would allow a young girl in Sudan to be repeatedly raped, and then murdered? Do you think that she was begging a god to save her, but didn’t get his name right? Or perhaps this all knowing, full of love and mercy god has another plan, and we ought to all rejoice in this senseless death . . . it was the god’s will? Great, he heard the screams and prayers but was unmoved?

My edited response follows.

I want to turn the question around. How does an atheist explain such heinous behavior as the rape and murder of a child? If God does not exist, who is to blame for one person mistreating another?

The obvious answer is, Man himself is to blame. We humans hurt and misuse and abuse one another.

Why should belief in God change that obvious truth? Because God exists and is omnipotent, does Man stop doing terrible things to his fellow man?

My remarks from another discussion:

I believe that Man is sinful and that at some point God lets Man go the way he wishes to go.

Here’s an example. God was the authority of the fledgling nation of Israel, governing through prophets and judges. The people saw other nations ruled by kings and demanded a king of their own. God said, not a good plan, but OK. Actually this is the quote: And the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.” There’s more, but you get the gist. Thing is, God also gave them rules to follow—things the kings weren’t supposed to do . . . even though it was His desire to remain their King.

Here’s another example. Jesus was talking, telling the people that they were to have one wife, not to divorce. The people said, but Moses made provision for divorce, and Jesus answered, “Because of the hardness of your heart Moses permitted you to divorce . . .”

Later Paul spelled this out in one of his letters: “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts . . .”

The reality is, omnipotent, sovereign God lets Man have a say-so in what happens.

But here’s how I know what God’s true character is: Jesus was His perfect representative—God come to earth. And when He was asked, What’s the most important commandment, He answered by saying, Love God and the second is like it: love your neighbor. All the law and prophets are summed up by these two.

So, no, suffering doesn’t disprove God. In fact suffering confirms Mankind’s nature and the truth of the warnings God gave against sin.

To believe the contrary is like a little child cutting herself on the knife she is playing with after her dad told her not to touch it, then saying something like, “I don’t have a dad because if I did, he would have taken the knife away from me.”

Faulty reasoning.

Of course not all suffering comes from humans mistreating one another. But the reality is, when sin entered the world it began its corrupting influence on all of creation. Enter sickness and death and destruction.

The sad thing for atheists facing suffering is that they do not have a place of comfort or help or hope to which they can turn. They do not have God to fall before and ask for mercy. In truth He “is gracious and compassionate / Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness / And relenting of evil.” But how can atheists know this? Since they do not believe God exists, they won’t come to Him in the day of trouble. They’re essentially on their own.

A large portion of this post is revised from an article that appeared here in November, 2008.

Published in: on January 4, 2019 at 5:31 pm  Comments (20)  
Tags: , , ,
%d bloggers like this: