≡ Menu

I will conclude my critique of Michael Coogan’s article posted on CNN.com[1].  In my previous post I showed his premise, loving your neighbor as the most important value in the Bible, was false.  Now he finishes his article indicating three individuals Rabbi Hillel, Jesus Christ, and the Apostle Paul, who he says agree with him about loving your neighbor.  Coogan writes:

“Here are three of them. The great Rabbi Hillel, who when asked what the basic principle of the Torah was, replied: ‘What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor: That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary.’ His words are echoed both by his near-contemporary, another rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, who put it this way: ‘Whatever you wish people to do to you, so you should do to them: for this is the Law and the Prophets,’ and by an early leader in the movement that Jesus started, the rabbinically trained Paul, who pronounced that ‘Love is the fulfilling of the law.’  So, I suggest, the essence of the Bible — its ultimate authority — is not in its individual pronouncements, but in its underlying message: equal, even loving, treatment of all persons, regardless of their age, gender, socio-economic status, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.”

Previously, I asked the question, who were these Jewish and Christian commentators he said agreed with him?  Now he reveals who they are in his article.  First, we have Rabbi Hillel.  He was a very influential Jewish scholar who ministered in Jerusalem around 30 BC to 10 AD.  Coogan accurately quoted Rabbi Hillel about loving your neighbor.  However, we have to understand he was speaking to a potential prospect to Judaism and was teaching him the practical aspects of the Jewish religion.  Similar to the book of James in the New Testament, he was teaching true faith in God results in good works.  Hillel always kept God number one and Deuteronomy 6:4 (loving God with heart, soul, and strength) would have been an essential element of his daily prayers.  Loving your neighbor would have been second in Hillel’s values.  What I think is happening is Coogan’s adherence to pushing his agenda is so strong he cannot even correctly quote the Jewish Rabbi in context.  If he would read the 10 commandments in Exodus he would discover the first 4 are addressed to God and then based on foundation of loving God, a follower will perform good works to family and others.  The Old and New Testaments strongly endorse God first and then, as Hillel teaches, the practical application of that belief would be loving your neighbor.

Coogan then says his second witness to loving others was Jesus Christ who he says agrees with Rabbi Hillel.  Again in my previous post I showed Coogan ignores the obvious passages where Jesus says God is number one and loving others is second.  In Matthew 22:34-40 Jesus was pointing back to the 10 commandments (and other Laws) when he made his statement loving God is first and most the important commandment.  Much more could be said concerning loving God as the essential commandment but I believe anyone, without a previous agenda, that investigates the teachings of both the Jewish and Christian religions the answer is obvious. Coogan is wrong in his analysis of the teachings of Hillel and Jesus; God was first and foremost for both and the outworking of loving God was to love your neighbor.

Finally, he appeals to the Apostle Paul, a devoted follower of Jesus and author of multiple books (letters) in the Bible.  Did Paul teach loving your neighbor was the most essential and enduring commandment?  Obviously, as a follower of Jesus Christ and an expert of the Old Testament Law, he believed loving God was the most essential and enduring commandment.  Some main themes Paul taught in his letters were how to be right with God, how we deserve God’s judgment, Christians walking with the Holy Spirit, our struggles with sin, how we cannot be separated from the love of God, how the church functions, how to love others, fixing errors of the early church, and much more.  Paul did teach to love your neighbor but in no way was this is most important theme.  Either Coogan has not read the Apostle Paul’s letters or he again is forcing his agenda.

Michael Coogan’s basic premises in his article is the Bible is a manmade document and as such, he says Christian’s fail to consistently use all the passages pro and con on issues such as slavery, abortion, and homosexuality; that we cherry-pick verses.  My series of posts I have presented a strong argument for God as the author and we do interpret the Bible accurately when verses are taken in context.  I also demonstrated Coogan’s interpretations were biased by his personal agendas.  He did what he accused Christians of doing.  Based on the article he wrote and I critiqued, I would make sure I avoid reading his book, “God and Sex: What the Bible Really Says.”  It will not be what the Bible says; it will be what Michael Coogan says and much of the content will be contrary to the actual teachings of the Bible.  Despite his multiple academic degrees he needs to go back to school and take a basic hermeneutics (how to study the Bible) class.  Maybe then he would lay aside his agenda and teach what the Bible really says.


[1] Coogan, Michael, “Bible has some shocking ‘family values’”October 26, 2010 12:53 p.m. EDT

http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/10/26/coogan.bible.family.values/index.html?hpt=C2

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

I continue my critique of an article by Michael Coogan.  He writes:

“Individual biblical texts should not be appealed to selectively: Such cherry-picking is all too easy because of the nature of the Bible as a multi-authored book. Rather, as with another formative text, the Constitution, one needs first to understand it historically — what did its words mean when they were written — and then attempt to determine what its underlying values are, not just what it says in a specific passage. Only in this sense can the Bible be considered to have timeless relevance that transcends the historical particularities of its authors.  What are those underlying values? I would argue that they are rooted in love of neighbor, which Jewish and Christian commentators over the ages have identified as the essential and enduring message of the Bible[1].”

In previous posts I have answered Coogan’s challenge concerning Christian’s cherry-picking Bible verses and I’ve shown how we are consistent in our interpretations of the issues such as slavery, abortion, and homosexuality.  Here in his CNN editorial he returns to his contention the Bible is manmade and says it should be read similar to the Constitution.  This is information we agree on; the Bible needs to be understood in a historical context.  However, I have shown he hasn’t done this.  With the issue of slavery he ignored the differences of how slaves were treated thousands of years ago verses the last few hundred years.  When referencing the Old Testament he historically didn’t keep in mind who God was communicating to during that time period.  The Old Testament laws he referenced revolved around the Mosaic Covenant, which was addressed specifically to the nation of Israel.  Christians are under the New Covenant and not the Mosaic Covenant (see part 12 for more detail).

Coogan then states, “I would argue that they [scriptures] are rooted in love of neighbor, which Jewish and Christian commentators over the ages have identified as the essential and enduring message of the Bible.”  I am not certain what Jewish and Christian commentators he spoke with but this statement is simply false.  Loving your neighbor is important in the Bible but it is not the most essential and enduring message of the Bible.  Commentators from both Jewish and Christians circles would point to loving God as the most essential message to us.  Let me quote a few passages to make my point.

Deuteronomy 6:4-6 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.”

In this scene Jesus was tested by a Jewish religious leader to see if He knew what the most important commandment was in all Scripture.  Matthew 22:34-40 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ 37 Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”

Loving God is by far the most important commandment for both Jewish and Christian religions and Jesus calls it the first and greatest commandment.  Maybe Michael Coogan should have asked Jesus what is the most essential and enduring commandment.  In the New Covenant the Mosaic Law could be fulfilled by adhering to the commandments; loving God and then second loving your neighbor.  Again we see Coogan ignoring the obvious (to love God) and cherry-picking the verses he wants to push forward.  Why does he do this?  His entire article has an agenda; he wants to use the Bible selectively to support his religious liberal beliefs.  What are some of those beliefs he is pushing?  The Bible is manmade, homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle, no Biblical case can be made against abortion, and overall Christians are inconsistent in their interpretations and cherry-pick verses.  I have shown all of those contentions are false, and I have presented in my series Michael Coogan does what he warns Christians not to do; he is inconsistent in his interpretations.  In Part 14 I will conclude my critique of Michael Coogan’s CNN article.

Go to part 14 here


[1] Coogan, Michael, “Bible has some shocking ‘family values’”October 26, 2010 12:53 p.m. EDT

http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/10/26/coogan.bible.family.values/index.html?hpt=C2

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

The Bible Teaches Abortion and Homosexuality are wrong

Michael Coogan states, “In current debates about family values, most of which have to do with sex, opponents of abortion and advocates of a woman’s right to choose both cite the Bible in support of their conflicting views, even though the Bible in fact says nothing specifically about the issue[1].”  The statement, “The Bible in fact says nothing specifically about the issue (abortion)” is false.  There are no direct statements against abortion in the Bible but a strong case can be made indirectly.  The idea the Bible can be used to support the pro-choice position is also false.  My next series of posts following “Is God the Author of the Bible” will tackle the issue of abortion from both a Biblical and scientific standpoint.  Therefore, I will not address abortion in this series (see Defending the Life of the Unborn).

Next Coogan takes on the issue of homosexuality.  He writes about Biblical writers, “…many contemporary believers would argue that, as with slavery and the status of women, it is time to recognize that the values of the biblical writers are no longer necessarily our own.”  In other words what they wrote about homosexuality is outdated.  If the Bible is manmade this could be considered a valid argument; but if it is from God, the truth of the Bible is timeless and the practice of homosexuality is a sin.  In this series I made a strong argument for God being the ultimate author of the Bible.  In His timeless truth, God says the practice of homosexuality is an abomination.

He continues talking about homosexuality, “Opponents of same-sex marriage cite Leviticus, which says that when a man sleeps with a man as with a woman it is an abomination. They’re right: It does say that. But it later calls for the death penalty for such activity, which only the most rabid opponents would insist on. The Bible also calls eating pork and a woman wearing a man’s clothes abominations, yet many would no longer enforce such prohibitions.”  Here again he ignores the clear teachings against homosexuality in the New Testament and focuses on the Old Testament.  He is charging Christians with being inconsistent by their picking and choosing verses that support their case while ignoring the rest; funny this is what he does.

The charge can be somewhat cleared up when we realize the audience for the Old Testament were the Jews.  The Mosaic Covenant or the Law was only binding on the ancient Jewish nation.  Does that mean the Old Testament has nothing to offer the Christian?  Absolutely Not!  God is the author of both the Old and the New Testaments.  The Christian can find principles, transcendent moral laws, and teachings that can have a profound influence on the follower of Christ.  Many verses from the Old Testament are quoted in the New Testament.  However, whenever the Christian reads the Old Testament, he or she must keep in mind that God was writing about and to the nation of Israel.  God had a special calling for Israel that is different for today.  He called them, blessed them, and protected them as a nation.  Today, through the power of the Holy Spirit, there are only individual believers and not a chosen nation.  There are things, such as the death penalty for homosexuality, that simply don’t apply today.

There are some verses in the New Testament that speak out against homosexuality. I believe the strongest comes from the Apostle Paul in the Book of Romans.  Romans 1:24-28 (NASB) Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.”

Paul clearly is not condemning unnatural desires but unnatural functions.  A function is the way something works.  Let me illustrate with how a car works.  If you had some important papers outside in the wind, a car could be used as a paperweight.  You could drive the tires over the papers and they would not blow away.  Is that the natural function of a car?  No!  A car is a mode of transportation and when used to get us places we are using it according to its natural function.

By God’s design our sex organs were created for a certain function; a man to have sex with a woman.  According to the Bible, the natural function for two people is for sex to be reserved only for a man and woman inside the confines of marriage.  What Paul is clearly condemning is the unnatural sex act of a man and a man and woman and woman.  Paul’s main argument is against the perverted function not the unnatural desires, as some homosexual groups contend.  The unnatural homosexual sex act is condemned by the apostle Paul.

He sums up his argument in verse 27 with the statement, “men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.”   He is saying men with men (women with women) are committing indecent homosexual acts.  What is the due penalty of homosexuality?  Verse 1:18 Paul says they will experience the wrath of God when they die; they will be under God’s judgment and will be eternally separated from God.  Without turning from their sin and receiving the forgiveness which is only through Jesus Christ, they will be in hell.

It is very clear the scriptures speak out against the practice of homosexuality.  God’s wrath is upon all practicing homosexuals unless they turn to Him for forgiveness.  Thousands of homosexual men and women have turned their back on this lifestyle and have become followers of Jesus Christ.  The idea a homosexual cannot change is simply a myth; this happens all the time.

Again Coogan is wrong when saying Christians are inconsistent when they speak out against abortion and homosexuality.  Our position on these issues is supported by the clear teachings of Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments.

Go to part 13 here


[1] Coogan, Michael, “Bible has some shocking ‘family values’” October 26, 2010 12:53 p.m. EDT

http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/10/26/coogan.bible.family.values/index.html?hpt=C2

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

Balancing Good Works and the Gospel

Saint Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”  The gospel is basically Jesus dying on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and resurrecting on the third day.  This quote is an often used by pastors when speaking about doing good deeds and evangelism.   They seem to want to communicate to their congregation, do good works and you won’t need to say anything; people will ask you about your life and open a door for sharing.  Is this what Saint Francis of Assisi really meant?

I wonder how many have read a biography on the life of Saint Francis.  I read a biography called, “Saint Francis of Assisi” by John Moorman.  In this book we see him preaching the Gospel like crazy and sharing Christ all the time.  However, he also lived in poverty and daily did good works just like the Jesus did during his earthly ministry.  Saint Francis was just preaching a balance, we need to live like Jesus but we also need to verbally share the truth like Jesus.  I am glad Paul and others didn’t wait until they had done some good deeds before they preached Jesus to others or Christianity never would have gotten off the ground.  They walked into Synagogues and when it was their turn to speak, they got into debates with the religious leaders.  They shared the truth in every town they entered, even before doing good deeds.  The early Apostles showed love through their preaching about what Jesus did on the cross. 

In my casual spiritual conversations, I show love with my words as I share my faith.  Using good conversational tactics and learning how to share without shoving the truth down their throat, is a great way to show you care and still share the gospel.  Good works are important and our words are supported by living a life like Jesus.  This quote by Saint Francis, taken out of the context of balance, is a great excuse for not sharing your faith.  My paraphrase of his quote is “Preach the Gospel at all times with words and deeds.”

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

The Bible does not support polygamy

In part 10 I answered Michael Coogan’s allegations concerning slavery and now I move to the issue of polygamy.  He writes, “But the majority of modern Jews and Christians no longer accept the biblical view of women as men’s property and hence subordinate to them, as they have also abandoned the biblical practice of polygamy[1].”

Here he says Christians, who no longer practice polygamy, are abandoning a Biblical mandate.  As with slavery, what we see in the Old Testament is polygamy is again a cultural practice tolerated by God.  In the historical narratives of the Old Testament we find kings or rulers with multiple wives (King Solomon 700 wives).  And yet not a single verse commands anyone to practice polygamy nor do we see God promoting the practice of polygamy.  I would expect God to praise polygamy if Coogan is right and if it was a God ordained practice.

What we do find is the Bible sets up a few guidelines for the nation of Israel in order to protect wives involved in polygamous relationships.   In fact the practice of polygamy seemed to always end poorly for the man.  Solomon with all his wives was drawn into idolatry by the influence of their pagan beliefs.  This eventually led to the fall of the once mighty nation of Israel.

The truth is God established the guidelines for marriage soon after he created Adam and Eve.  We read in Genesis 2:24-25 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Here we see the ideal standard by God for marriage; one husband and one wife.  This was God’s plan from the beginning but man chose to disobey.

In the New Testament we see marriage reinforced repeatedly as one man and one woman.  We begin with a situation where the Pharisees tried to test Jesus about marriage and divorce: Matthew 19:3-9 Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?’ 4 And He answered and said, ‘Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, 5 and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH‘? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.’ 7 They said to Him, ‘Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?” 8 He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9’And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.’”

Jesus begins his defense of marriage by quoting the Genesis passage to reinforce God’s formula for marriage; one man joined to one woman.  He then tells the Pharisees that Moses allowed for divorce because of their sinful hearts.  Just like slavery, polygamy, and divorce, God hates these practices but tolerates them because of the sinful hearts of Israel.  Jesus finishes by saying if you divorce, except for sexual immorality, you are committing adultery if you remarry.  Therefore, it is logical to conclude marriage of more than one wife is adultery.

The Apostle Paul continues to support marriage of one man and one woman in 1 Corinthians 7:33 “…but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife.” This verse doesn’t say, how he may please his wives, but wife singular.  Paul writes in Timothy about the characteristics of male leadership: 1 Timothy 3:2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…” For a Deacon, another leadership position, Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3:12 Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households.” Finally, Paul writes about the qualifications of being an elder to the church, Titus 1:5-6 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, 6 namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.” Over and over again Paul admonishes the church to make sure the leaders of their congregation practice God’s design for marriage from the beginning; a committed relationship between one man and one woman.

Michael Coogan again tries to pull the wool over the eyes of the readers who don’t know the Bible.  He tries to show the inconsistency of Christians by pointing to the passages that give historical reports of polygamy in the Old Testament.  Slavery, polygamy, and divorce were tolerated for a period of time but denounced in the New Testament.  Christians are consistent in their opposition to polygamy.

Go to part 12 here


[1] Coogan, Michael, “Bible has some shocking ‘family values’”October 26, 2010 12:53 p.m. EDT

http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/10/26/coogan.bible.family.values/index.html?hpt=C2

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

Christians Oppose Slavery

So what about the issue of slavery?  Did Christianity abandon God endorsed slavery the same way they abandoned polygamy?  Are Christians hypocrites in the way they come to the Bible?

Michael Coogan says this:

“On issues such as slavery, no one today would maintain that slavery is acceptable, even though, according to the Bible, it was a divinely sanctioned institution. In the debates about slavery in the 19th century those opposed to its abolition cited the Bible in support of their position, but despite such biblical warrant, their views were renounced.”

I will begin with some interesting information.  Nowhere in the Old Testament do you see a verse denouncing slavery and calling it evil.  Slavery was practiced by Israel and all the surrounding cultures.  God tolerated the institution of slavery and provided laws in the Old Testament for properly treating slaves and to help them gain their freedom (year of Jubilee).   However, we need to understand the differences between the slaves in Europe and the United States over the last few hundred years and slaves from the ancient Near East.

Pastor Matt Chandler taught on the differences in how slaves were treated:

“In the ancient Near East, education of slaves was seen as smart business practice. So slaves were educated by their masters, most times to the point where they were smarter than and more educated than their owners. Let me give you two examples of where this plays out in the Bible itself. Joseph was a slave who ended up being second in power to Pharaoh in Egypt. Daniel was a slave who ended up second in power to Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. These were slaves who were so educated and so trained and so smart in how they did things that there was an acknowledgment among their owners that, “This is an extremely gifted individual. Let’s let him rise all the way up to the top if they can.” You’re not going to see that in colonial America. There is no black man who is a congressman in the 1700’s. In fact, we’re late into the 1900’s before that occurs. But in the ancient Near East, it’s not uncommon to see a slave rise to an unbelievable amount of power to be able to own land himself and even have slaves that work for him. You had the ability to save your own money, purchase yourself out from slavery and then run the business with the slaves that you had purchased, whom you were educating[1].”

More could be said about the differences of the treatment of slaves but I think my point has been made.  We mustn’t let our limited knowledge of the current state of slavery cloud our judgment of how slaves were treated during Biblical times.

In the New Testament (2,000 yrs. ago) the Apostle Paul writes against slave traders: 1 Timothy 1:8-11 (NIV) We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers–and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.” Notice owning slaves was listed alongside murder, adultery, and other sins.  Paul writing, under the inspiration of God, penned these words.  God for thousands of years tolerated slavery, provided laws to protect slaves, gave ways to release slaves, and later called people who practiced slave trading law breakers.

We must also acknowledge the work Christians did to end slavery.  Apologist Greg Koukl writes about the work of Christians:

“In the nineteenth century, William Wilberforce spent a lifetime working to abolish slavery in England and the British commonwealth.  Cairns records, ‘Slavery was ended in British possessions by an act passed just before Wilberforce’s death in 1833,’ an achievement, he adds, that ‘would have been impossible without the work of Wilberforce and his evangelical friends in Parliament.’

Opposition to slavery by Christians in America led the country into Civil War.  Their objection was based on the Christian belief that human beings are free people before God and ought not be owned by anyone else.  This conviction was the moral foundation for abolition.

David Livingston, an adventurer who charted the dark regions of Africa, was actually a missionary.  ‘By his travels in Central Africa, [Livingston] exposed the Arab slave trade as ‘the open sore of the world.’   In fact, it was Christian missionaries who entreated European powers to intervene in Africa to stop the slave trade carried on by the Arabs.

True, European countries also participated in slavery, but always under protest.  This protest, driven largely by the moral impulse of Christians, eventually prevailed.  Kane reports:

By precept and example [missionaries] inculcated the ideas and ideals of Christianity–the sanctity of life, the worth of the individual, the dignity of labor, social justice, personal integrity, freedom of thought and speech–which have since been incorporated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights drawn up by the United Nations[2].”

These Christians that helped abolish slavery knew the Bible teaches all men are made in the image of God and thus are equal in His sight.  With passion and tenacity they gave up everything, for the cause of Christ, to free the slaves.  Michael Coogan counters this with Christians have used the Bible to justify slavery.  The truth is Jim Jones used the Bible to start his cult and help hundreds of people commit suicide.  Any book can be misinterpreted by individuals to justify their set of beliefs.

Slavery was never a “divinely sanctioned institution.” It was practiced during Biblical times and God tolerated it and provided a way to end it.  Followers of Christ are consistent in their opposition to slavery.

Go to part 11 here


[1] Chandler, Matt “Colossians (Part 17) – Slavery and the Skeptic” Sermon August 1, 2010

[2] Koukl, Gregory, “Christianity’s Real Record,” News article from Stand to Reason, http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=9255

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

The True Christmas Story

Nativity scene
Image via Wikipedia

The movie “A Christmas Story” is a hilarious account of a family getting ready for Christmas and all their misadventures.  It is one of my all-time favorite movies to watch during this time of year.  However, it falls far short of the true Christmas story.

Another favorite Christmas movie of mine is the “Charlie Brown Christmas.”  It is one of those rare moments when television gets it right!  Charlie Brown wrestles throughout the first half of the program trying the find the true meaning of Christmas.  He finally asks Linus for help.  The classic scene is during the children’s play practice when Linus, playing a shepherd, reads the words of the Biblical writer Luke.  What is special is the Gospel is proclaimed every year through the mouth of a cartoon character.  Interestingly, Linus reads from the King James Version of the Bible.

Luke 2:8-14 (KJV)

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

My focus will center on the words Luke wrote in verse 11, For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”  Here we see the most important words to all mankind; the words of an angel bringing good news of great joy because a savior has been born.  Who is this savior born in a manger?  Why do we need a savior?

The word savior is used in the Old Testament referring to God (one possible exception).  We read in Isaiah 43:11 “I, even I, am the LORD, and there is no savior besides Me.”  In the New Testament God the Father is called savior in Luke 1:47 [Mary speaking] And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” The Bible teaches God is the only savior and yet, that title in Luke and elsewhere is applied to Jesus Christ, implying He is God.  Matthew further identifies this savior when he writes, Matthew 1:23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.”  Jesus is God taking on human flesh.  

The savior is identified by the angel as Christ the Lord.  In Genesis 12:1-3 God promised Abraham that his offspring would be a blessing to the entire earth.  Multiple verses from the Old Testament pointed to a coming Messiah who would bring this blessing.  The Jews for thousands of years had been awaiting the arrival of this Messiah.  Now the angel announces he has arrived.  The title “Christ” is the Greek word for the Hebrew word “Messiah,” which means anointed one.  The long awaited one who was going to fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant and bring blessing to the world was now been born in Bethlehem.  This was good news of great joy!

This savior is also called “the Lord.”  This very same term is used of God the Father in many verses (Matt. 1:20; 9:38; 11:25; Acts 17:24; Rev. 4:11) and of Jesus (John 20:28; Acts 10:36; 1 Cor. 2:8; Phil 2:11) all indicating equality.  Millard Erickson writes, “For the Jews particularly, term Lord suggested that Christ was equal with the Father[1].”  This baby, the savior, was fully God and fully man.

Why do we need a savior?  The Bible is very clear we are all sinners.  The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 3:23 “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”   The penalty for sin is eternal separation from God.  Paul writes in Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Death here represents spiritual death and separation from God for all eternity.  However, the free gift of God is eternal life, found only in Christ Jesus our Lord.  We need a savior to save us from our sins, so we can experience heaven for all eternity. 

This is the true story of Christmas.  It is not found in most movies, plays, and songs about Christmas.  Most of them portray false information about the Biblical story.  And don’t be fooled by the word “story” in the title.  Luke writes a historical narrative about the birth of the savior Jesus Christ.  Christmas is the true story of the birth of one who was born to die; Jesus lived a perfect life and was nailed to a cross to pay the penalty you and I deserve.  Christmas is the celebration of the giving of the gift of God and for those that follow this baby, to all of us, receive life everlasting.   

Merry Christmas

Steve Bruecker


[1] Erickson, Millard, Christian Theology, Baker Book House, G.R. Michigan 1990, p. 690-691

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

I am continuing to take on an article written by Michael Coogan.  He writes:

“Although Jews and Christians, individually and collectively, have for the last 2,000 years accepted the Bible as authoritative in principle, in practice many of its values have been rejected. On issues such as slavery, no one today would maintain that slavery is acceptable, even though, according to the Bible, it was a divinely sanctioned institution. In the debates about slavery in the 19th century those opposed to its abolition cited the Bible in support of their position, but despite such biblical warrant, their views were renounced.

According to biblical law, a father could sell his daughter as a slave, and the last of the Ten Commandments lists as off-limits a neighbor’s possessions — his house, wife, slaves, and livestock. But the majority of modern Jews and Christians no longer accept the biblical view of women as men’s property and hence subordinate to them, as they have also abandoned the biblical practice of polygamy.”  (To read the entire article go to: http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/10/26/coogan.bible.family.values/index.html?hpt=C2)

By lumping Jews and Christians together, what Mr. Coogan calls the Bible, is only the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures).  Jews do not recognize the New Testament.  When problems are raised by skeptics, it is the Old Testament that comes under attack.  The Old Testament is the account of the nation of Israel; how God dealt with the Hebrew people.  Many times God had different restrictions on the nation of Israel than on Christians today.  Knowing there are differences, skeptics attempt to show inconsistencies in the lives of believers today.  This is exactly what Michael Coogan has done.

He says in effect, the Hebrew Scriptures have been an authority for 2,000 years but many of its values have been rejected.  Mr. Coogan then moves to slavery as an example of inconsistency.

Was slavery divinely sanctioned by God?  Are Christians hypocrites?  In post 10 I will begin to answer these questions.

{ 0 comments }

How to answer a tough internet challenge: Who Created God

I received an interesting letter in response to my post “Who Created God?”  As I began to fashion a reply I saw this as an opportunity to demonstrate to others how to answer what appears to be a very intellectual comment.

I will begin by outlining what I look for in a response.  All of these strategies work when engaged in a conversation.  My first pass through the letter, I look for arguments.  An argument is a conclusion supported by one or more premises (support for the conclusion).    Questions I ask myself as I look at the letter are 1) does the writer state conclusions with or without support (an opinion), 2) does the conclusion follow from the premises, and 3) even if his argument is valid, does it contain false ideas that I need to contend.

As I go through the following letter I will be pointing out what I think are errors the writer makes in forming his case.  I will also ask questions, so that the writer can reply and clarify what he means.  Questions are a great tool for one-on-one discussions.

Dear Himangsu Sekhar Pal,

Thanks for posting an interesting answer to the question posed on the web site.  I will attempt to answer what I deem relevant to the discussion.

First is the problem of the opening three sentences.  You write the following as an answer to who created God:

“Earlier it was impossible for us to give any satisfactory answer to this question. But modern science, rather we should say that Einstein, has made it an easy task for us. And Stephen Hawking has provided us with the clue necessary for solving this riddle.”

Here Himangsu you made some strong claims.  I need to begin my reply with some questions.  Are you saying it will be easy to establish who created God?  Or are you saying it will be easy to establish God is uncreated?  How does modern science, which studies the physical, gives us answers for an immaterial God?

I am not certain what God you are alluding to.  The God of Christianity is uncreated by definition.  We have a satisfactory answer.  If there is any explanation to the creation of God then we’re not talking about the God of the Bible.  If you are creating your own god then you are certainly entitled to come up with a formula for explaining his or her coming into existence.  My post had to do with the God of the Bible and therefore, your efforts are wasted.  However, I’ve decided to work through your letter and answer some of your comments to see what else I can discover.

Your next problem comes with this statement:

“Then he [Stephen Hawking] raised the question regarding the origin of these particles, and gave the answer himself. According to quantum theory particles can be created out of energy in the form of particle/antiparticle pairs. But there the question does not stop. Another question props up regarding the origin of that energy. But when it is said that total energy of the universe is exactly zero, then all is said and done.”

Here you make an assumption, assigning zero to the total energy of the universe.  Your motivation for assigning zero is to avoid the infinite regress of explaining where the energy comes from.  What is your justification for assigning the total energy of the universe to be exactly zero?  It seems you pull the value of zero out of the air.

You write…

“It is almost a common saying that God is spaceless, timeless, changeless, immortal, and all-pervading. Here we are getting three zeroes; space is zero, time is zero, change is zero. But how to prove that if there is a God, then that God will be spaceless, timeless, and changeless?”

Again you assign space, time, and change as zero seemingly without justification.  How can space, time, and change be zero?  Later you do the very same thing to light.  Your explanation for light being assigned zero makes no sense; again another assumption.

Now you make a major metaphysical mistake, stating science has proven something about God.  You say,

“Scientists have shown that if there is a God, then that God can only be light, and nothing else, and that therefore He will have all the properties of light.”

What experiment showed God is only light?  Where did I miss that scientific discovery?  Please site the experiment that proved God is only light.  A broad definition of science comes from “Signature in the Cell” by Stephen Meyer: “A systematic way of studying nature involving observation, experimenting, and/or reasoning about physical phenomena.”   Based on this definition it is impossible for science to provide answers concerning an immaterial being let alone prove God is all light.

Later in your comments you say scientists can say there is no God.  Again based on what?  Science cannot by direct experimentation, in the physical realm, deny the existence of God.

You continue with your assumptions and assigning things zero:

“So the matter of the fact is this: if God is really there, then total mass and total energy of the universe including that God are both zero.”

Here you arrive at a scientific conclusion that God, an immaterial being, is a zero.  Again you are assigning a non-physical being with your imaginary value of zero.  How can you say God is zero is a matter of fact?  I am still looking for an argument to make your case.

You continue:

“Therefore if we say that God is all-loving, merciful, benevolent, etc., then we are also admitting that God is not alone, that there is another being co-eternal with God to whom He can show His love, benevolence, goodness, mercy, compassion, etc. If we say that God is all-loving, then we are also saying that this “all” is co-eternal with God. Thus we are admitting that God has not created the universe at all, and that therefore we need not have to revere Him, for the simple reason that He is not our creator!”

According to the Bible, there is not a second separate divine being that is co-eternal with God. Over and over again the Bible affirms there is only one God by nature or essence (Read Isaiah 43-48).  However, the Biblical God is a Triune God.  A definition of the Trinity comes from the book “The Forgotten Trinity” by Dr. James White: “Within the one Being that is God, there exists eternally three coequal and coeternal persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”  The Triune God can exercise the attribute of love, even before creation, by each person loving each other. Some additional attributes of God’s nature is He is all-loving, benevolent, good, compassionate, and merciful.

Then you jump to the conclusion that God is not the creator of the universe and therefore, we shouldn’t revere him.  Your comments on the attributes of God do not have anything to do with God being the creator of the universe; it is a non-sequitur.  Why does God’s attributes lead you to the conclusion God didn’t create the universe?

Next you write:

“It is usually said that God is good. But Bertrand Russell has shown that God cannot be good for the simple reason that if God is good, then there is a standard of goodness which is independent of God’s will. (Book: A History of Western Philosophy, Ch: Plato’s Utopia). Therefore, if God is the ultimate Being, then that God cannot be good. But neither can He be evil. God is beyond good and evil.”

Here we see a reproduction of Plato’s, “Euthyphro’s dilemma.”  All Bertrand Russell did was to give his twist.  The “horns” of the dilemma can be stated this way: 1) if morality or goodness is above God, then He has to obey it and is not sovereign; morality reigns.  Or 2) if morality or goodness are expressed through the commands of God, then they are arbitrary; God can say today one thing is good and tomorrow change His mind.  If either of these “horns” of the dilemma is true, then either God is not good or sovereign.  How does the Christian answer this problem?

The problem is presented with two choices and ignores a third.  The answer is found in the third option.  Morality is not above or below God but emanates from His very nature or character.  In his article on Euthyphro’s dilemma, Greg Koukl says this, “The third option is that an objective standard exists (this avoids the first horn of the dilemma). However, the standard is not external to God, but internal (avoiding the second horn). Morality is grounded in the immutable character of God, who is perfectly good. His commands are not whims, but rooted in His holiness.”  (Greg Koukl article: http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5236#fn3)  The ground for all morality and goodness is found in the nature of God.  Therefore, your conclusion that God is beyond good and evil is simply false.

Since you think you’ve established God is beyond good and evil you then reach this conclusion:

“Like Hindu’s Brahma, a real God can only be nirguna, nirupadhik; without any name, without any quality. From the point of view of   essence also, a real God is a zero. Mystics usually say that their God is a no-thing. This is the real God, not the God of the scriptures.”

Since your premises were false your conclusion is therefore false.  You continue with your assumptions and again make God a zero and call Him a no-thing.  I am having trouble following how you conclude God is a no-thing.   I believe it was Aristotle who once said, “Nothing is what rocks dream about.”  If you are arguing God is nothing, then He doesn’t exist.  Are you trying to make a case for a pantheistic god?

Your last paragraph doesn’t make sense, especially, since I have shown your prior premises are false.  You are welcome to disagree and I would love to hear your thoughts.

Steve Bruecker

To all who are reading this post, I hope I have made my case and dealt with what many people call a difficult letter.  It was my desire to help you improve your ability to contend for the faith.  In my next post I will continue my series, “Is God the Author of the Bible?”

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 10 comments }

In part 1 I began to answer a CNN article by Michael Coogan who contended the Bible is a manmade document.  Over the next seven blogs I made a case for God as the ultimate author of the Bible.  I presented 6 lines of evidence, which included:  Prophecy: The Bible is the only book with precise, detailed, and accurate predictions of the future.  Unity: Over 44 authors, written over 1,500 years, covering controversial topics, and it fits together perfectly.  Writer’s testimony: They wrote about supernatural events and supported their claims with their lives.  Historical investigation: Archeology and ancient manuscripts demonstrate the accuracy of the Bible.  Transformed lives: Lives have been changed by the power of the Holy Spirit through the words of scripture.  The Bible has stood the test of time: Critics continue to attack and yet the Bible still stands strong.

Many more evidences could have been presented to demonstrate the Bible is from God.  The case I’ve made over the last few weeks is great to share with people who don’t agree with your convictions.  However, the evidence may not convince someone the Bible is from God; I doubt it would convince Michael Coogan.  It is not enough for the other person to say he or she disagrees; the person has to first refute your evidence and then make an argument why the Bible is manmade.

Michael Coogan has to give answers to each of my 6 evidences.  His only reason the Bible is written by men was because each book had a human name attached to it; this is weak.  With all his scholarly credentials he should have known the arguments.

The rest of his CNN article assumes the Bible is a manmade document.  Once you state the Bible is manmade, it is an easy target for attack.  Beginning with part 9, I will continue to answer to Coogan’s contentions.  He has to answer mine but I don’t think that will happen.

Go to part 9 here

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

Is God the Author of the Bible Part 6 Evidence of history

The evidence supports God as the author.

I am continuing to present 6 lines of evidence that God is the ultimate author of the Bible.

4.  Evidence from historical investigation (index finger).

The index finger moves as if filing through pages of history.  The Bible is historical and is open to historical investigation.  Both archeology and the manuscript evidence support the historical accuracy of the Bible.  Renowned archaeologist William Albright said, “There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of the Old Testament tradition.”

Archaeologist Nelson Glueck adds, “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference.”

An example of an archaeological find is detailed in John chapter 5.  Here we find a story of Jesus healing a man at the pool of Bethesda.  John writes that 5 colonnades, which we would call columns, surrounded this pool.  Now this seems to be an insignificant detail.  Why write about such a trivial matter as to how many columns surround the pool?  Many scholars say John wrote his gospel 40-50 years after the death of Jesus.  Personally, I would have had a hard time after 50 years remembering a healing took place by a pool.

A few years ago an archeological dig uncovered a pool like the one mentioned in John 5.  And guess what?  It had 5 columns surrounding it.  Now this doesn’t prove the Bible is historically accurate but don’t you think it is significant that John didn’t write the pool had 3 or 4 columns but that it had 5 columns, just like the archeologists found.  Why would John go to such detail to describe the scene where Jesus healed a man?  I believe God was guiding his writing and detail is important to God.  Archeology has provided many such examples of historical support for the Bible.

Additional support comes from the ancient Biblical manuscripts.  We have over 5,700 partial or full ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament.  Textual critics examining these manuscripts and comparing them tell us the Bible is 99% accurate and that no historical account or theological doctrine that is in doubt.  God supernaturally protected the Bible and we can trust it.

As Christians we can feel confident with the help of archeology and the manuscript evidence, we have the words of Jesus.  Being historically accurate is what we would expect if God were the author.  The index finger stands for filing through the pages of a historical investigation.

{ 0 comments }

What about global warming?

Global warming seems to be a hot topic (no pun intended).  I just read the following article and thought it was worth posting.  I felt it was a balanced look at the issue from a Christian perspective.  It comes from the organization called Reasons to Believe and may spur some comments.

Read and enjoy: http://www.reasons.org/what-about-global-warming 

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 1 comment }

The evidence supports God as the author.

I am continuing to present 6 lines of evidence that God is the ultimate author of the Bible.

2.  Evidence from unity (ring finger).

The marriage ring represents an unbroken unity between a man and a woman; a complete circle that has no end.  For our study unity stands for how well the Bible fits together.  There are many variables in the Bible: sixty-six books, written over 1,500 years, 40+ authors, a variety of circumstances (some in dungeons, jail, palaces, in the midst of battle), different people (lawyers, generals, rabbi, kings, doctor) and three different languages.  Each of the 66 books deal with a great number of controversial topics and doctrines:  Only 1 God, Jesus is fully God and fully man, man is a sinner and to be judged, God is loving, just, and holy, we are saved by grace and not by works, Jesus rose from the dead, detailed descriptions of heaven and hell and much more.

In spite of all the variables and the great number of controversial topics, when we look at the Bible we find a unified whole as if it was written by one author.  It is similar to a finished puzzle with all the pieces fitting perfectly together.  If ten different people in your neighborhood wrote on how to raise children, what would you get?  You’d probably get 10 different opinions, especially in today’s society.  However, start asking people the parenting question over 1,500 years, on 3 different continents, and different walks of life and you would get an incredible diversity of answers.  And parenting doesn’t compare to explaining who God is or how you get to heaven?  Many times the authors didn’t have a clue what each other was writing and yet the theological harmony of the scriptures defies explanation.

A good question to ask someone is, “How is this unity possible?”  It isn’t!  This is truly a miracle of the highest order.  Over 40 authors agreeing on anything seems impossible yet the Bible looks like one book written by one author.  The incredible unity of the Bible in my opinion can only be explained by the direct actions of a supernatural author working through human writers.  The ring finger stands for the unity of the Bible.

3.  Evidence from the writers testimonies (thumb & middle finger).

Connect the middle finger and thumb and make a writing motion.  The Biblical writers wrote about supernatural occurrences such as divine healings, miracles, raising people from the dead, and the resurrection of Jesus.  From all the historical evidence we have, the writers of scripture were honest and sincere men of integrity.  Honesty and integrity are always assumed in evaluating historical literature unless you have evidence otherwise.  The Biblical writers wrote what they believed was the truth; much of the time these were eyewitness accounts.

So why would they write about miracles?  If they were making it up what would be their motivation?  An atheist friend named John said the New Testament writers made up the miracle stories so they could bask in the glory of starting a new religion.  I asked him what the writers received for writing about the miraculous.  They were whipped, lived in poverty, spent years in jail and almost all of them eventually paid for their writings with death as martyrs.  Who dies for a lie they know is a lie?  The only motivation to write about the miracles in the Bible was they actually happened.  Liars make lousy martyrs.  They died for the truth!

The writers wrote about supernatural miracles and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  They gave their lives in defense of what they knew was true.  The middle finger and the thumb together move in a writing motion to represent the writers’ testimonies.

{ 0 comments }

The evidence supports God as the author.

I am going to present 6 lines of evidence that God is the ultimate author of the Bible.  This is a cumulative case. The evidences I will present stand together and form a powerful case.

I will help you remember the material by using one hand.  Using the hand was an idea I got from a teaching called, “Has God Spoken[1],” by Greg Koukl President of Stand to Reason.  He is an author, speaker, and radio talk show host in Southern California.  Greg is also a personal friend.  You will learn evidences I have shared with non-Christians multiple times.

  1. Evidence from prophecy (pinky)

The little finger, your pinky, stands for prophecy.  Prophecies are predictions of the future that are precise, detailed, and accurate.  The Bible is the only religious book in the world to provide prophecies that are fulfilled in the future[2].

One prophecy pertains to the birth of the Messiah.  Matthew 2:1-6 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2 “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:      6 ‘AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.'”

The long awaited Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.  The religious leaders knew this based on the Old Testament book Micah.  Incredibly this prophecy or prediction from Micah 5:2 was written over 700 years before the birth of Jesus.  The coming Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem and Jesus perfectly fulfills this prophecy.

Another example of a prophecy could be found in Isaiah 53 about the suffering servant.  Long before Jesus was born, the Jewish people wondered who this servant was.  Some Jewish interpreters understood the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 was the Messiah.  However, most Jewish scholars expected a conquering Messiah, not one of many sorrows.

We read in Isaiah 53:12b “…because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.” We begin with the phrase, “and interceded for the transgressors. Interceded in this case means the suffering servant pleaded for God’s mercy upon the people who killed him.  Here we find fulfillment in Luke 23:34 where Jesus dying on the cross cries out, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus is making intercession for those who were committing the sin of executing an innocent man.  He is forgiving his murderers just like what was written in Isaiah “and interceded for the transgressors.”

Next we look at the words, “Yet He Himself bore the sin of many.” The suffering servant took on the sins of others.  This is really at the heart of the Christian message.  Christianity teaches that Jesus died on the cross for our sins.  1 Peter 2:24 “He himself [Jesus] bore our sins in his body on the tree…” Jesus paid the penalty for our sins on the cross; He bore our sins.  Who could bear the sins of many?  I couldn’t pay for the sins of another person; I have to pay for my own sins.  Only Jesus, God in human flesh, could fulfill this prophecy; only a sinless Jesus could bear our sins.  Many Jewish hearts have trusted Jesus because these verses in Isaiah 53.

I could go on finding more verses in Isaiah 53 and other Old Testament books that point to Jesus.  The crucial question is; when was Isaiah written?  Just like Micah, Isaiah was written 700 years before the birth of Christ.  What are the odds of Jesus fulfilling these prophecies and many others?

Dr. Peter Stoner studied the mathematical probability of one man fulfilling 8 major prophecies concerning the Messiah.  His concluded one man fulfilling 8 Messianic prophecies was 1017.[3] So how big is 1017?  First you start by covering the state of Texas with silver dollars 2 ft. deep.  Then you mark on one silver dollar with an X and drop it from a plane and then mix it around.  You take a blindfolded person and have a helicopter drop her where she wants to land in Texas.  She walks around and when she is ready she bends over and reaches among the billions of silver dollars and pulls out one.  Finding the one silver dollar with an X on it among 2 feet of silver dollars spread over the state of Texas is the same odds as one person fulfilling 8 prophecies.

After examining the findings, the American Scientific Affiliation confirmed the accuracy of Dr. Stoner’s findings.  In the Bible we find that Jesus fulfills not just 8 prophecies, but over 60 messianic prophecies (found in the Old Testament pointing to the coming Messiah).  I believe such incredible odds can only be possible with a supernatural explanation.

Remember the Bible is the only religious book with true prophecies of future events. A prophecy must be precise, detailed, and accurate.  The pinky stands for prophecy.  In the next 3 posts I will complete my 6 evidences for God as the author.

Go to part 5 here


[1] Koukl, Greg, “The Bible: Has God Spoken,” Audio teaching http://www.str.org/site/PageServer

[2] Geisler & Nix, General Introduction to the Bible.  Moody Press, 1986

[3] Ankerberg & Weldon, Ready with an Answer. Harvest House Publ., 1997

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

Twenty-five years ago, while reading the Bible, God miraculously changed my life.  He communicated through His Word I was a sinner and needed forgiveness. This experience convinced me God is the author of the Bible.  But could I persuade someone else?  Can I convince you?

I will begin by letting the Bible speak for itself.  Some people will object to allowing the Bible to standup for itself.  However, in a court of law a man can testify in his own behalf.  Why shouldn’t the Bible be a witness to who wrote it?

The Bible claims God as the author.

What would we expect if God were the author?  We would see scriptures like Exodus 5:1, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says:” and then God warns Pharaoh.  Throughout the Bible we would see God quoted over and over again and this is exactly what we find.  In Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you.” Many verses can be sited with God speaking to various individuals.

The Bible is also crystal clear on its claim scripture comes from God through the work of men.  In 2 Timothy 3:16 it says in the New International Version (NIV) “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” A different translation, like the New American Standard Bible (NASB), instead of “God-breathed” it says, “All Scripture is inspired by God…”

The words God-breathed or inspired means the content of Scripture are the very words of God given through the Spirit-moved writers.  God was the origin, the source, and the producer of the Bible.  Peter, one of the disciples of Jesus, further explains inspiration.  We read in 2 Peter 1:21 “…for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

The writers of the Bible didn’t write whatever they wanted—it was not by their own interpretation. They were “carried along” or “moved” by the Holy Spirit. This is the same word that is used to describe the wind blowing in the sail of boat. When the wind blew, the boat moved. When the wind stopped so did the boat.  The writers were moved by God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jeremiah was reflecting on his encounter with God; Jeremiah 1:9 “Then the Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.” The very words from Jeremiah in order to warn the nation of Israel came from God.  He not only spoke what God desired but also wrote the very words of the LORD.  Jeremiah 1:1-2 “The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, [2] to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah, the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.” Jeremiah’s words were God’s words.

The writers of the Bible weren’t like a court reporter writing down every word God said.  Rather, He used their minds, personalities, vocabularies, and life experiences to bring life to His book.  They communicated exactly what God wanted.

Now the Bible claiming God as the author is not evidence for God as the author.  What I have established is if God is the author then this is what we would expect; God inspiring human writers to reveal what He wants.  However, any book can make this claim.  The Book of Mormon claims to be from God through Joseph Smith; Muslims believe the Koran speaks the very words of God.  Both these books contradict the Bible and each other, so they all cannot be from God.  I will have to provide supporting evidence to demonstrate the Bible is from God.

The opening paragraph, in the article written by Michael Coogan, is going spawn a series of evidences in the support of the Bible being God’s Word.  He is either ignorant of the Christian position or he thinks he can fool the average reader.  With his scholarly background, how he can be ignorant of the Christian position is beyond me.  But since I don’t know his motives, I don’t want to accuse him of intentional deception.  I’ll just move forward to my next series of posts and let you be the judge.

{ 0 comments }

Is God the Author of the Bible Part 2 Under attack

In my first post we saw the author of a CNN.com article Michael Coogan assert pastors, popes, and politicians assume God wrote the Bible. He said it was easy to establish the Bible is man-made based on the fact the books were written by men like David, Paul, Peter, and others.With his scholarly background I have a hard time understanding why he doesn’t know the standard Christian position concerning authorship.I will try to help him.

First I acknowledge he is not alone in his opinion; most people believe the Bible is a man-made book.The History or Discovery Channel love to produce programs to expose the Bible as just another religious book written by men, no better than any other.One special, “Banned books of the Bible,” took cheap shots at the Bible.They said certain books were included or banned from the Bible because of political reasons.As I watched the program I realized the producers assumed the Bible was written by men and that God was not involved.The program made no attempt to give evidence for why they believed it was a human invention.

Today even some churches believe the Bible is a man-made series of books.This belief has allowed them to remove teachings that make their people feel uncomfortable.If you don’t like the verses that teach homosexuality is a sin, simply say those verses don’t apply today because the Bible was written by men who didn’t have today’s scientific knowledge.Or if you don’t like the doctrine of sin just get rid of it all together.All you have to say is the Bible was written by men thousands of years ago and what they thought was sin, really isn’t; times have changed.

Is the Bible a book written by men about God or is the Bible a book written by God using men?Where do you stand?Can you support your answer?

Picture in your mind, you are sitting on a lawn chair in your front yard, under a tree, reading your Bible and sipping on lemonade.Your neighbor walks up and asks what you are reading.You casually say you are reading the Word of God.He says isn’t that a Bible?And you say yes.Then he says, prove to me that book comes from God.How would you answer him?Well my pastor says said it is!His reply would likely be, “Is that the best you got?”

I would like to present evidence God is the author of the Bible; that it is God’s revelation to mankind.My contention is that if this is a book from God then it should bear the marks of the supernatural.It should show evidence that it came from God.If it is not, then it should show evidence that men wrote this book about God based on their perspective.It is one or the other; a book by men about God or a book by God through men.

The next series of posts I will present evidence for why I believe God is the ultimate author of the Bible.Along the way I will also continue to answer the article written by Michael Coogan.

{ 0 comments }

Evolution and the Origin of Life

I was sent an email from Bob Stuart of Reasons to Believe that I thought had great information concerning the origin of life on earth.Here is what he wrote…

No Prebiotic Soup: Life appeared under harsh conditions. Science has discovered there was no prebiotic soup, that when charged with a spark, formed the amino acids necessary for proteins and ultimately life molecules. Science shows there were at least 50 astronomically generated extinction events occurring through cometary or asteroidal collisions with the earth that sterilized the planet. In spite of the harsh conditions life persisted over and over again. God’s multiple creation of life is the only explanation.

The Origin of Life: Life arose quickly several times. As Carl Sagan used to state, the appearance of life had to occur with multiple origins, not just once, because of the aforementioned sterilization impact events. There is no explanation from the evolutionists of how life went from inorganic to organic in spite of 150 years of trying to discover the process. Also the Darwinian model depends on gradual changes over a long period of time. The record of life is sudden and static. Rather than changes within species once they appear there is stasis (no significant changes in real time). This again points to the Biblical model of multiple special creation events.

First Life Appears Early, Suddenly, and is Complex: Life in its minimal form is complex. The Darwinian model would propose life to be simple in its minimal form. The existence of complex bacterial life at the early stages of earth’s history is what science has discovered. To add to the problems of the Darwinian paradigm is the appearance of the Cambrian Explosion. Over 70 phyla of life appeared in a 2.5 million year or less period of time 543 million years ago. The most complex species of that era are found at the onset of the Cambrian period not at the end of it as would be predicted by evolutionists. Since the Cambrian Explosion extinction has depleted the number of phyla to around 30. This is evolution going in the wrong direction as Dr. Paul Chen has stated. Again the Biblical model of multiple special creations of not only life, but the proper environment and ecology to sustain that life, is the only rational explanation. This involves supernatural timing for the creation of life’s species. In fact secular British astronomer Brandon Carter stated that complex life as we see it today in mammals and humans has only a 41,000 year window for its existence. He further states that to prepare for this window took close to 15 billion years.

The Origin of Humanity: Begins recently and in one region.Evolutionary Dead-ends for the hominids – no direct links to modern humans.The discovery of Mitochondrial Eve and Y-Chromosomal Adam are both in the recent past.The big bang of language, music, art, religious expression, hybridization of crops and livestock, sophisticated tool kits all arise with modern humans.

 

Sincerely in Christ,

Bob Stuart

Reasons To Believe – Apologetics Training Coordinator

This is great material to share with an evolutionist.Darwinian evolution is falsified if it cannot give a naturalistic origin of life.Does anyone have good answers to these points?

 

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

Is God the Author of the Bible? Part 1

A friend sent me an article by an author who believes the Bible is man-made and not from God.   He says Christians need to face this fact and interpret it with that truth in mind.  I’ve decided to respond.  It should prove to be interesting.  Here is the link if you want to read the full article: http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/10/26/coogan.bible.family.values/index.html?hpt=C2

Some background on the author of the article: Michael Coogan is a lecturer on Hebrew Bible-Old Testament at Harvard Divinity School, professor of religious studies at Stonehill College, and director of publications for the Harvard Semitic Museum. Editor of “The New Oxford Annotated Bible,” his most recent book is “God and Sex: What the Bible Really Says.” He has impressive credentials and what he writes should reflect his scholarly background.

My approach will be to tackle each of his points and provide a response; similar to what is done in a debate.  I will try to avoid any personal attacks and focus on the issues he presents.  Here is his opening statement, which sets the foundation for the rest of the article:

“When talking about so-called family values, pastors, popes, and politicians routinely quote the Bible as if it were an unassailable divine   authority — after all, they assume, God wrote the Bible, and therefore it is absolutely and literally true. But that is a misconception. As the Bible itself makes clear, its authors were human beings, many of whom are named: David, Isaiah, Luke, and Paul. These human writers wrote over the course of more than a thousand years, and their writings reflect their own views and the values they shared with their contemporaries. So it’s not surprising that inconsistencies are frequent in the Bible, both trivial and profound.”

His first criticism is that pastors, popes, and politicians quote the Bible, assuming God wrote the Bible.  By use of the word “assuming” the author is stating these people believe God is the author by blind faith; lacking any evidential support.  How does he know that?  He doesn’t provide reasons for this conclusion; he simply asserts it to be true.

He then says the Bible makes it very clear the authors were obviously men!  The Bible itself said people like David, Luke, Paul, and Isaiah were the writers.  Therefore, since human names were on the books, it isn’t surprising to find inconsistencies.  How does he know God didn’t use human authors?  He simply assumes God had nothing to do with the books, since the names of men are linked to them.

I have set the scene and in my next post I will begin to flesh out my response.

Go to part 2 here

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

Part 2 Rejecting the Jesus of Mormonism

Last Wednesday I got the opportunity to share the Luke passage (concerning counting the cost) with my new Mormon co-worker.  I had him read it from the Bible I keep in my desk.  Luke 14:25-33 “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: [26] ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. [27] And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. [28] Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? [29] For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, [30] saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ [31] Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? [32] If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. [33] In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”

I asked him, what did Jesus communicate to the crowds?  He said if you are going to follow Him, you’d have to make Him number one.  I said when Jesus used the word “hate” he couldn’t have been teaching we have to despise parents, wife, and children; this would go against the clear teaching of the Bible.  One of the 10 commandments teaches we are to honor our father and mother, not hate them.  There are verses that teach to love God and others.  Many verses indicate we are to take care of our families, not to detest them.  So what did Jesus have in mind?  He was telling his audience to love parents, wife, and children less than Him; to make him your highest priority.  Luke was using a Semitic idiom.  He was literally using Old Testament language of when you love someone less, you “hate” them (Genesis 29:30, 31 RSV).

In the verses that follow, Jesus supported this line of reasoning with examples of counting the cost of being a follower.  If you build a tower will you not estimate the cost before you start?  Or if you go to battle will you not weigh whether you can win or not?  If you want to be a follower of Jesus Christ you have to make Him your highest priority; He has to be more important than anything.  Jesus goes on to say to be His disciple you have to give up everything.

My Mormon friend said this was not the Jesus he was willing to follow; his family meant too much to him.  He then went after the accuracy of the Bible by saying it not accurate because of the multiple translations.  I spent time letting him know how accurate the Bible is and how we can trust what it says.  However, it didn’t seem to matter to him.  This was not the Jesus he wanted to follow; he preferred the Jesus of Joseph Smith.  The cost of following the Biblical Jesus was too high.

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 2 comments }

As I was finishing my Mormonism series, I began to work closely with a new teacher who happened to be Mormon.  God again demonstrated His sovereignty and sense of humor to send people my way when I am working on equipping others to share.

In a short amount of time we began to dialogue about spiritual issues.  He said he had been extremely self-centered and prideful and it was costing him his family and marriage.  Everything revolved around him.  He said his wife had a Mormon background and so he decided to investigate the Mormon Church.  He needed help to save his family.  What he found was exactly what he needed; a church that emphasized family over the individual.  In his mind it didn’t matter whether it was true or not; it only mattered if it worked.  This pragmatic view enabled him to ignore the claims of Joseph Smith and plunge headlong into the religion.  He said he loves being a Mormon because it has given him meaning and purpose and saved his family.  He would probably be divorced if it wasn’t for Mormonism.

I told him my story and how I had some similar experiences with my marriage and that I too sought religious answers.  However, when my wife and I considered the Mormon Church I had some reservations that something was not right.  I eventually I came to know Jesus Christ and my life dramatically changed for the better.  After becoming a follower of Christ, I knew it was the right decision to reject the Mormon Church.  I told him I’ve learned many things that are damaging to that belief system.  He said it didn’t matter if the Joseph Smith stuff was true or not; it only mattered if it worked.

I told him if the Mormon Church is the wrong about Jesus, it would have eternal consequences; that when you die you will spend eternity separated from God.  He said he doesn’t worry about eternity; if he was to change from the Mormon Church he would lose his family and his family was more important to him then eternity in hell.

I acknowledged the possibility of losing his family if he accepts what I say is the Biblical truth about Jesus.  However, I told him if he is wrong about Jesus his family would be doomed also; they would spend eternity in hell.  I asked him wouldn’t it be the most loving thing to try to find the truth and share it with his family?  He had his doubts that I had the truth and even if I did, he wasn’t willing to risk destroying his family.

I mentioned I am currently blogging on the errors of the Mormon Church.  He said he wasn’t interested in looking because I could be right and he’d be in trouble with his family.  I told him it seems we have different priorities in our lives.  My priorities are Jesus first, then my wife, kids, and work in that order.  I said Jesus taught his disciples, you have to make him the highest priority, so high that it is as if you hate your family.  Jesus said in order to follow him we need to count the cost; and family might be one of them.  He said he couldn’t believe in a Jesus that would ask him to place his family second and Him first.

We were running out of time, so I had to wrap things up.  Since it was Friday, I told him next week I could show him the scriptures where Jesus said that.  In Luke Jesus would challenge my new friend.  Jesus said all who follow Him must count the cost.  In my next post I will write about my experience of sharing the truth of Luke 14:25-33.

Go to part 2 here

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 2 comments }

Part 27 Defining success when sharing with Mormons

As I close this series, I’d like to review a few of the key points concerning tactics in sharing with Mormons.

We must always keep in mind all Mormons have been deceived by Satan and are deceiving others.  We need to share the truth in the love and help them walk away from Mormonism.  As we discuss beliefs we can relax because it is God that brings people into His kingdom and not us; we can celebrate the opportunity to talk about our favorite subject—Jesus Christ.

Remember to apply the five Principles for sharing with a Mormon.  My first point was we need to be relational.  Don’t think of the person you are talking to as a project; rather they are a person who cares enough about you to come to your door and share Jesus.  As written in 1 Peter 3:15, treat them with gentleness and respect.  Second be patient when sharing.  Think in terms of a long term relationship and don’t shove information down their throats.  Stop when they’ve had enough.  Third we need to be courageous.  Have the fortitude to share with the person at your door.  Over time as you share, bring up more difficult and controversial issues that may make them uncomfortable.  Remind them this is not a personal attack but an attempt to show the contradictions in their belief system.  Fourth study what you believe and what they believe.  Practice what you’ve learned by role playing with a trusted Christian friend.  Fifth realize we share and God saves.  By relying on the power of the Holy Spirit you can relax and share in a loving manner.

So what is success in sharing with Mormons?  In my story about the Mormons that came to my door, success was the day two new missionaries showed up at my door while I was in my office preparing lessons to teach about Mormonism.  They came because of the love my friend Dylan and I demonstrated 9 months ago with the previous 2 missionaries.  Success was the fact these two missionaries kept returning week after week.  They told us they were excited to talk with us.  Success is having the privilege of being a witness for Christ and leaving the results to God.  Do you want to enjoy the experience of success?  This week do as Paul did, pray for opportunities to share and wisdom to say the right things and then step up to the plate.

God has given us the challenge in Acts 1:8 “…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”   Jesus was telling the disciples, when you share your faith, you will not be alone; your power as a witness will come from the Holy Spirit.  God has given us the opportunity to be a witness for Christ.  The challenge is to start this week.

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 1 comment }

How to Persuade Others Part 2

Acts 17: 4 (NASB) “And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women.

Some Christians say you cannot argue anyone into the kingdom of God.  Have you ever heard this?  It is a silly statement that goes against what the Bible teaches.  In verse 4 Luke writes, many Jews, gentiles [Greeks], and women were persuaded by Paul’s arguments and joined them.  Here is a perfect example of many people coming to know Jesus Christ through persuasion.

God uses good arguments all the time to bring people to Christ.  He loves when we stand up for Him and show people good reasons why they should believe.  As it says in Acts, Paul used reasoning, explaining, giving evidence, and persuading as a means of honoring God.  However, even good arguments without the power of the Holy Spirit are not compelling and people will not trust Christ.  Yet, without the Holy Spirit, showing acts of love won’t convince them either.  All sharing, persuading, and acts of love need the power of the Holy Spirit to be effective.  Obviously, here in the Book of Acts the Holy Spirit was using Paul’s arguments to convince his listeners.

As believers in Jesus Christ we need to learn how to be more persuasive.  Remember an argument is simply explaining why you believe what you believe.  Anytime you make a statement and they ask you why you believe it, you are making an argument.  Another way to say it, an argument is simply a statement or opinion followed by support.  Here are some things that may help your thinking.

1.  Arguing teaches you how to think clearly about what you believe.  It forces you to clearly articulate a position and to do so in a convincing manner.  You will quickly find out how sound your arguments are when you try them on someone who doesn’t agree with you.

2.  Avoid silly arguments (2 Tim. 2:14).  Example:  If you are arguing for God creating the earth, don’t argue with a non-Christian concerning the age of the earth; focus on what is important.  If you try to convince him the earth is 6,000 years old, he is going to immediately think you believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and a flat earth; he will dismiss any points you make.  We have better points we can make without discussing the age of the earth.  Avoid arguing for things that are not vital to the discussion.

3.  We should not to be argumentative.  Humble and respectful attitude needs to be developed.  Shouting at someone never wins arguments.  In fact the person who loses their cool usually is the one with the weakest case.  Keep your emotions under control.

4.  We have to take the life of the mind seriously.  We are told by Jesus Christ to love God with our minds.  Study what and why you believe what you believe.  Read good books and listen to good speakers over the internet who can equip you to make a stand for what you believe.  You cannot be persuasive without content knowledge.

Bottom line, we need more soldiers for Christ who take their beliefs seriously.  The average Jehovah Witness can make a doctrinal pretzel out of the average Christian. We need to do for the truth what the cultist will do for a lie.  The cultist spends hours of study to refute us and we need to do the same.  All of us must continue to learn and argue with those who disagree.  Only by doing both can we refine what we believe and become a more persuasive witness for Jesus Christ.

 


Enhanced by Zemanta

{ 0 comments }

Part 26 Strategy 5 when sharing with Mormons

Here is my final principle for sharing with the Mormons at our door.

5. Be Dependent on the Holy Spirit

Colossians 4:2-3 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; 3 praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned…” The Apostle Paul was in prison as he wrote to the Colossian Church.  He challenged the church and us to pray for opportunities and the right words in sharing.  Most of the time in situations with non-Christians this is my prayer.  The Apostle Paul was no different; as brilliant as he was he was asking for God for wisdom and opportunities to share.

In Acts we see a clear example of the work of the Holy Spirit.  Luke writes about a woman who listened and responded to a Gospel message by Paul.  Acts 16:14-15 A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. 15 And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.’ And she prevailed upon us.”

Who opened her heart to the message?  The LORD!  This is why when we share we are dependent on the work of the Holy Spirit.  Our solid arguments go nowhere without God opening their hearts.  However, God loves to use good arguments to bring people to Christ.  Our challenge is to be prepared to share and then be dependent solely on the work of the Holy Spirit.

Here are four things you can pray when thinking about Mormons or anyone who needs Jesus.

  • For God to give you opportunities
  • The right words when sharing
  • God to move in their hearts and minds
  • For the person to commit his or her life to Jesus

While I am sharing with Mormons I am in prayer before, during, and afterwards for the power of the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts.  The majority of the time I see the wall of unbelief blocking my words. In spite of their resistance to the Gospel, I still rejoice at the opportunity to share the truth.  I continually remind myself I share and God saves.

{ 0 comments }

Part 25 Strategies 3 & 4 when sharing with Mormons

I am continuing to share 5 principles for sharing with the Mormons at our door (see parts 23, 24).

3. Be Courageous:  2 Timothy 1:7-8 For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God,”

Courage is needed to get into a conversation.  The Apostle Paul states we are not to be weak when talking about the Gospel because we have the power of the Holy Spirit.  He says fear comes from being ashamed of the Gospel of our Lord.  Are you ashamed of the Gospel?

Courage is also needed to turn up the heat and strongly challenge them to face contradictions in their beliefs.  In both cases we cannot be afraid to offend.  I’ve heard it said, “We don’t need to be offensive, the Gospel is offensive enough.”  Be gentle and respectful but show courage when confronting your Mormon friends and over time share more difficult truths.

4. Be Prepared: 1 Peter 3:15 “…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;” Peter tells us at all times to be ready to make a defense.  This will take time and effort.  Confidence and calmness comes from preparation and experience.

Know how to lead someone to Christ

Here are some scriptures you should know and be able to share in this order; Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Romans 5:8, and Romans 10:9.  I am assuming you know how to share the Gospel utilizing these verses.  We all need to be prepared for those times when someone wants to commit his or her life to Jesus.

Know your personal testimony

Make your story short about 3 minutes maximum.  Too many Christians get into unnecessary gory details.  Short and sweet is the best.  Make sure you include a Gospel presentation as you tell your story; such as “When I finally decided to follow Jesus I told God I believe Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins so I could experience forgiveness and the love of God.”  Realize personal testimonies have limited effect; every religious person has a testimony.  However, it helps in relationship building and is an easy way to share the Gospel.

Know what you believe and why you believe it

Here are some resources to help you understand what you believe.  I will share examples of books and web sites I use.

  • Theology Books: One or more of these should be on the shelf of all Christians.

–       Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology

–       Wayne Grudem, Christian Beliefs [easier version to read]

–       Millard Erickson, Christian Theology

Understanding Mormon Doctrines:

  • Recommended Mormon Apologetic Books

–       Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Mormons

–       Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods

–       B. McKeever & E. Johnson, Mormonism 101

  • Web sites

−       Mormon: http://www.lds.org/ (LDS official site).  Good for reading their books (Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, etc.).

−       Mormon Apologetics

As Peter challenged us always be prepared to share what you believe and understand what they believe.  Work with a friend to practice how to answer common questions.  Role playing is a valuable tool.  A military quote works here, “The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle.”   There are no short cuts to preparation.

{ 0 comments }

Part 20 Design of the universe reveals God

Design of the Universe Reveals God

It turns out the universe is delicately balanced and extremely sensitive to change.  If that balance is upset even slightly in any one of a number of critical restrictions, the basic conditions necessary for life would never be produced.  The universe hangs balanced between life and death.  There are over 100 factors present in the universe that if one small change occurred, life on earth would be impossible.

Prior to 1980 these were referred to as the amazing coincidences of the universe.  Now they are referred to as “design parameters,” giving tacit recognition to the fact that the universe has been designed. Such design requires an intelligent designer.[1]

Today there is a term for describing the purpose of this amazing design; it is call the anthropic principle.  Simply refers to the fact the universe seems to be designed for humans to exist.  Anthro refers to man.  This principle comes from science not Christianity.  The anthropic principle was first popularized by American physicists, John Wheeler and Frank Tipler and British astronomer, John Barrow.  Wheeler writes “A life giving factor lies at the center of the whole machinery and design of the world.”[2]

Harvard educated Patrick Glynn in God: The Evidence:  “Modern thinkers assumed that science would reveal the universe to be ever more random and mechanical; instead it has discovered unexpected new layers of intricate order that bespeak an almost unimaginably vast master design.”[3]

A whole host of books have documented the anthropic principle.  There’s not much debate on this anymore.  The experts in the field are saying that the evidence for design is beyond question.  Many astronomers, physicists, and mathematicians today are theists; atheism doesn’t work in the face of so much evidence for design.

I will share a few of the evidences that shows the earth seems designed for life.  For example:

  • In our solar system the number of star companions must be right for life to be possible.  The sun must be a bachelor star.  If instead it was a binary system (two stars) that would severely disrupt the orbit of the earth and destroy the possibility of life.
  • Our sun must be the right age.  It must be middle-aged, about 5 billion years old. This is its most stable phase of burning.  A young star (first billion years) increases its luminosity rapidly because it’s burning by gravitational collapse, not nuclear energy. This cause the temperature to be erratic.  An older star burns by more exotic nuclear reactions and this also destroys its stability, making life on earth impossible.[4]

In my next post I will share additional evidences for the design of the universe needed for life to be possible on earth.

Go to part 21 here


[1] Gregory Koukl “ABC-Why I’m Not an Evolutionist” 1999 www.str.org

[2] Wheeler, John A., “Forward,” in The Anthropic Cosmological Principle by John Barrow andFrank

Tipler (Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press, 1986), vii., quoted in Hugh Ross, The Finbgerprint of God

(Orange, CA: Promise Publishing, 1989), 120

[3] Patrick Glynn, God: The Evidence (Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1997), 19.

[4] Gregory Koukl “ABC-Why I’m Not an Evolutionist” 1999 www.str.org

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 15 comments }

Part 24 Strategy 2 when sharing with Mormons

I am continuing to share 5 principles for sharing with the Mormons at our door.

2. Be Patient: Focus on sharing with people as a long term process.  Don’t close doors by condemning or mocking the person at your door.  I’ve talked with some Christians who are proud to tell the Mormons “You are going to hell,” and then close the door.  This type of encounter is not being an ambassador for Christ and is not supported by the Bible.

Think of your sharing Jesus as part of a team that is involved in moving someone towards accepting Christ; you don’t have to finish the job.  During a meeting judge when they’ve had enough and stop.  Each meeting you are moving the missionaries closer to the truth.  Just move slowly and demonstrate love.  No one should feel guilty if the person does not pray to receive Christ.  Someone else may have the privilege of leading the person to Christ.  We do our part and leave the final results to God.

  • Don’t overwhelm them with too much information

Focus on one main point each meeting.  One way to slow you down and not overwhelm is to ask questions. Let them share their story of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.  There is so much to learn about what they believe by listening and asking questions.  Remember to try to keep the relationship ongoing.

  • Do not tell them what they believe

Don’t assume they understand the doctrines of the LDS Church.  I’ve had to send missionaries back to their places of worship to get their doctrines straightened out.  Recently, I had missionaries who didn’t know their official church teaching is God the Father was once a man like us and then became the god of the earth.  Actually, these missionaries believed God is eternal and was never a man (aligns with Biblical Christianity).  This is not what Mormonism teaches.  I helped them with their Mormon doctrines so I could show how their belief contradicts the Bible.  Going back to their church and being corrected I hoped would cause some internal problems with their beliefs.

We hate when others tell us what we believe.  For example some people say, “You believe if you can work your way to heaven.”  That is not what Christianity teaches and it frustrates us when someone falsely tells us what we believe.  An example is to accuse the Mormon of believing Adam was God.  Most Mormons don’t know Brigham Young taught this doctrine.  Better to ask, “Do you believe Adam was God?”  When they say no, you can gently let them know this is what Brigham Young taught.  Is it normal to disagree with your prophets?

  • Work on issues of the heart and faith

Their belief is dependent on the accuracy of the Holy Spirit confirming in their hearts Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and the Book of Mormon is true.  Many Mormons struggle with the idea of faith being based on knowledge and evidence.  They want to point towards a leap of faith when it comes to spiritual issues.  You need to move them away from a belief based on their heart experience (how to do that part 16).  They think somehow evidence destroys faith.

A few days ago I told a Mormon “blind faith” or a “leap of faith” is what the Mormon Church wants you to hold.  The leaders know the evidence from multiple sources goes against the church and so they discount building a personal faith on evidence.  I told him Biblical faith is different; it is knowledge supported by evidence (Hebrews 11:1).  I said you need to follow where the evidence leads.  He said he didn’t want to do that, he had too much to lose.  He said if I was right he’d lose his family and he wasn’t willing to do that.  For him Mormonism worked pragmatically and looking at my blog was too risky for him and his family.  I told him this decision could have eternal consequences for him and his family.  He said he’d worry about eternity after he dies.

Go to part 25 here

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

OBJECTIONS TO THE CAMBRIAN EXPLOSION EVIDENCE

Many scientists argue the lack of transitional forms in the fossil evidence is not an indictment against evolution, only an acknowledgment concerning the incompleteness of the fossil record.  After Darwin published his findings paleontologists sympathetic to evolution made tremendous efforts to find the missing fossil evidence in the Precambrian strata.  This Worldwide search for the evidence was met with incredible disappointment.  The scientific community has had to formulate new explanations for the lack of fossil evidence.

One explanation is the reason transitional forms didn’t survive was because they were composed of soft body parts.  They lacked shells and exoskeletons needed to survive the millions of years in the ground.  Therefore, as we search the Precambrian strata we should not expect to find transitional forms because soft bodied organisms don’t leave fossil remains.

This hypothesis has problems.  It is true soft bodied organisms do not preserve as well as hard bodied but there is enough evidence to put this explanation in jeopardy.  Some of the Cambrian phyla identified are soft-bodied and we do have organisms with soft-bodies identified in the Precambrian strata.  Plus the idea that soft-bodied ancestors are the precursors for hard-bodied Cambrian organisms seems to fall short on anatomical grounds.  So many of the hard bodied organisms depend on their shells for protection and would never have survived without them.  Instead what we should see in the fossil record, if Neo-Darwinian evolution or punctuated equilibrium is true, is a series of hard-bodied transitional organisms in the Precambrian strata leading up to the Cambrian.  The fossil evidence does not support either of these theories.

Another explanation is the early transitional organisms were too tiny to be preserved.  This seems plausible but the problem arises with the existence of microfossils found imbedded carbonaceous cherts.  They have been estimated to be between 3.3 billion to 3.5 billion years old.  Species of single-celled algae and the appearance of cells in formations that are far older make a case that while investigating the Cambrian strata we should have found the Precambrian precursors somewhere in the over 500 million years of sedimentary strata below the Cambrian.[1]  With the existence of smaller and much older fossils in other locations, this explanation seems to fall short.  Overall, the two arguments for the absence of transitional forms based on soft-bodied and small sized organisms, is countered by the lack of fossil evidence in the Precambrian and Cambrian strata.  There doesn’t seem to be a viable hypothesis for explaining the lack of transitional forms.

An additional attempt has been to demonstrate that the existing fossil remains in the Precambrian strata were sufficient evidence as precursors to the Cambrian phyla.  In particular, scientists point to late Precambrian (Vendian) multicellular organisms as representatives of the transitional forms to the Cambrian animals.   Studies summit the date for the first appearance of the Vendian fossils at about 565-570 million years ago and their last appearance at the beginning of the Cambrian geological time period.  There are four types of Vendian fossils and are mostly soft-bodied and identifiable by the human eye.  On paper this seems to be a possible argument for what we see in the later strata.  However, there are some problems.

First, what we find in the pre-Cambrian fossil remains doesn’t bear resemblance in body structure with the Cambrian fossils.  Examples include the Ediacaran organisms, such as Dickinsonia and Springinna, which do not have eyes, mouths, or anuses.  Many paleontologists doubt these organisms belong in the animal kingdom.[2]  Second, the Precambrian strata only documents at most 3 or 4 phyla as compared to the 19 or more phyla attributed to the Cambrian strata.  Thus taken as a whole the Precambrian fossils are inadequate to explain the vast array of novel body structures that exist in this strata.  Not only does this evidence work against Neo-Darwinian evolution and punctuated equilibrium but also the fact that the precursors to the Precambrian organisms are questionable transitional forms.  Both Neo-Darwinian evolution and punctuated equilibrium need evidence of transitional forms to be adequate explanations.  Upon close inspection those organisms that do exist seem to fall short of meeting that standard.  Neither theory can explain the existence of organisms that suddenly appear in the Cambrian strata with novel body-plans.

SUMMARY

The goal of these posts was to make the case that neither Neo-Darwinian evolution nor punctuated equilibrium could explain the fossil evidence found in the Cambrian strata.  Neo-Darwin evolution and punctuated equilibrium needed to demonstrate: 1) A gradual move from simple to complex with multiple transitional forms leading to new phylum-level body plans; 2) we should have found small-scale morphological diversity coming before large-scale morphological disparity; 3) we should have observed a steady increase in the number of phyla over time (accounting for extinctions along the way).   The evidence instead demonstrates all three key criteria to be false.  Plus, I answered two additional objections. 1) the fossil evidence is incomplete because the soft-bodied fossils don’t preserve or they were too small to leave evidence and, 2) the existing fossils in the Precambrian strata are the precursors to the Cambrian animals.  My conclusion is neither Neo-Darwinian evolution nor does punctuated equilibrium adequately explain the fossil evidence of the Cambrian strata.


[1] John Angus Campbell and Stephen Meyer, eds., Darwinism, Design, and Public Education (MichiganStateUniversity Press, 2003) pg. 357

[2] Ibid. pg. 360

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

Part 23 Strategy 1 when sharing with Mormons

I will share 5 principles built upon Ephesians 6:12 and Romans 1:16, 17 (see part 22), to help you understand how you can love the Mormons at our door.

Five Principles for sharing with a Mormon:

  1. Be relational
  2. Be patient
  3. Be courageous
  4. Be prepared
  5. Be dependent on the Holy Spirit
  1. Be Relational:

Most Mormons who leave their church do so through friends and close relatives.  The most effective means of sharing with Mormons is through establishing a relationship.  It is vital to see Mormons as individuals, made in the image of God.  We need to see them as people we want as friends; individuals we want to hang out with.  As we meet with them we can love them through kind words and actions. Here are some ways to do that.

Relax: With Mormons at your door keep in mind they are coming to you to talk about Jesus; you don’t have to work to get into a spiritual conversation.  Remember these individuals are taking time out their busy schedules to talk with you because they love you and are concerned about your eternal destiny.  Love them back!  Keep in the back of your mind who the battle is against and who saves (Ephesians 6:12, Romans 1:16, 17).

Share an effective non-confrontational opener

–       Where is your hometown?

–       (With young missionaries) Are you in college?  Which one do you attend?  What is your major?

–       If they ask me if I want to discuss spiritual issues, here is what I say: I have strong religious beliefs but if you can prove me  wrong in what I believe, I am willing to change my beliefs.

Ask questions about what they believe

–       Why did you become a Mormon?  They will tell their story and guaranteed they will talk about feelings in their heart.

–       How do you know the feeling in your heart is true?

–       What is your definition of faith?  Biblical faith is Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

  • Assurance is a strong word that means we have solid knowledge our beliefs are true.
  • Conviction means our faith is evidence based and not wishful thinking.  KJV says, “…the evidence of things not seen.”
  • Many Mormons don’t think evidence is important for faith.  You have to help them understand Biblical faith is not blind but built upon the foundation evidence based knowledge.

Utilize inclusive and non-threatening language

–       When you finish a statement ask, what do you think?  Does this make sense?  Ending statements with a question is powerful.

–        Once they give a response you can say, that’s a great answer, have you ever thought of this?

{ 0 comments }

Part 22 Scriptural support for sharing with Mormons

Here are two important questions to remember when sharing with Mormons.

1. Who is the battle against?

Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

This passage should shape our attitude towards Mormons.  They are deceived and are deceiving others.  The battle is against the forces of darkness, not the Mormon at your door.  We need to show love through our actions and our words.  A nasty attitude has no place when encountering Mormon missionaries.  The actual enemy deceiving the Mormon is Satan!

2.  Who does the saving?

Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.’”

Paul says he is not ashamed of gospel; what is the gospel?  Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin we deserve.  Through the saving power of Christ anyone can experience eternal life.  God has opened a door to His kingdom through His Son Jesus Christ.

Who does the saving?  Paul says it is the power of God for salvation.  We need to remember we save no one!  This should take the pressure off when you talk with a Mormon or anyone about Jesus.  What this means is we can rejoice at the opportunity to talk about spiritual issues and don’t have the pressure to lead someone to Christ.  God saves we don’t; the ball is in His court.  If the person doesn’t accept Christ, we can still celebrate having the privilege of being a witness for Jesus.

Always remember who the enemy is and who saves.  This knowledge will help you relax.

{ 0 comments }

Part 21 Starting a conversation with missionaries

I will finish my Mormonism series by talking about conversational tactics.  These strategies will be useful when speaking with Mormons or anyone else that doesn’t agree with Christianity.  The content I will share is simply good people skills, something too many Christians lack when discussing spiritual issues.  I hope the next few posts will be helpful in this area.

On Sept. 9, 2009, as I was finishing my yard work, I turned around and was greeted by two young men with ties and badges; obviously, Mormon missionaries.  They asked me if I was interested in an ongoing study.  I asked them if they would like to come into my house to talk and they said yes.  After offering water, I asked questions about where they were from and what they would do after their missionary commitment ended.

They asked me if I had any questions about their beliefs.  I told them I have strong religious beliefs but if they could show me I was wrong, I’d be willing to change.  I suggested they should be willing to do the same and they said they would.  I asked them about their beliefs concerning the Book of Mormon and the Bible; do you believe they are both revelations of God?  If there was a contradiction between them, which one would take precedent?  They said both books were Testaments from God and that according to their study and beliefs there were no contradictions.

My friend Dylan joined me on the next two visits.  The two of us made a strong case for the Bible contradicting the teachings of Mormonism.  After listening to our strong case against their beliefs, they again went back to their hearts and reemphasized their stories.  One of the elders got emotional telling how “god” works in his heart.  After pleasantries they left without the true Jesus.  Religious belief for them was of the heart and evidence was unnecessary.

I’d like to fast forward to June 12, 2010.  It was a Saturday morning and school was winding down.  One task I needed to work on was my four part series on Mormonism I would teach at church during the summer.  Around 10:30 am the doorbell rang.  Two young men with ties and white shirts were standing at my door.  I hadn’t been visited by missionaries for 9 months and the incredible timing of this event seemed to be more than a coincidence.  They asked me if I was Steve and I said yes.  They said they were left a note from the previous missionaries that I had shown a positive interest in discussing spiritual issues.  They wanted to know if I was still interested in talking.  I said absolutely and invited them in.  I asked them where they were from; one was from Utah near Salt Lake City and the other from Washington.  We then set-up a date to meet the following week and they left to talk to others.  As they walked away I praised God for providing such a timely visit.

By the 3rd meeting Dylan joined us.  We met many times and I would like to share what I’ve learned from these experiences and others. My objectives are to 1) Give you 5 principles or strategies, based on study and experience, for sharing with a Mormon, and 2) Give you resources that will help you in your preparation.

{ 3 comments }
About Us | Statement of Faith | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Site Map
Never Miss an UPDATE Simply Enter Your Best Email 
x