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The Return of the Mormon Missionaries

The two Mormon missionaries that visited me last week returned. They had done some research on what we talked about the previous week and were ready to share. They welcomed the fact that my friend Dylan was there to add to the discussion.

The issue at hand was, is the Mormon belief of three Gods (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) contradictory to the Bible? One of the missionaries made the case that the Bible teaches the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one in will and purpose. He used verses from John 17 and 1 John 5:6-8 to make his case. When he was done I said I have no problem with the idea of the Godhead having one purpose; this is not an issue. However, I told him the discussion is not concerning purpose or will; it has to do with being or ontology. Multiple passages in the Bible, especially Isaiah 43 – 48, teach there is only one God by nature. Isaiah is not talking about one in purpose or will; he is dealing with the issue of one being. An example is Isaiah 44:6 “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me.” Once we looked at multiple scriptures in Isaiah they both agreed he was teaching there is only one God.Both admitted they had no answer to the dilemma.

I pointed out additional problems when God says He created the heavens and the earth by Himself (Isaiah 44:24) and that God is the only savior (Isaiah 43:11). Why are these passages a problem? In John 1:3 Jesus is called the creator and throughout the New Testament Jesus is called the savior. How can God be the only creator and savior if Jesus is called creator and savior? I told him the only solution to this problem was the proper understanding of the Doctrine of the Trinity; one God subsists in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He then dropped a bomb on the conversation when he told us Jesus is Jehovah and the Father is “Elohim” in the Old Testament.Dylan and I had never heard this teaching from a Mormon. He said Jesus is the one speaking in Isaiah and this solves the problem of only one creator and savior. I said that may solve one problem but you haven’t solved the issue of Isaiah teaching there is only one God. Again they had no answer.

We talked briefly about how this belief contradicts the Jewish monotheistic beliefs and about Jesus never making this claim.I then asked them, when did Jesus come to earth? They admitted they didn’t know. As we concluded both had homework to do; they had to find answers to all the passages that clearly teach there is only one God and we had to find scriptures that refute Jesus as Jehovah speaking in Isaiah. Our assignment will be easy; theirs more difficult. Hopefully, they will return.

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Visited by Mormon Missionaries

Last week as I was finishing my yard work I got into a conversation with my neighbor. After a few minutes of talking I turned around to be greeted by two young men with ties and badges; obviously, Mormon missionaries.They asked me if I was interested in an ongoing study. I told them I’d have to think about it but would they like to come into the house to talk; they said they’d love to.

These young men were the typical missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; white, college age, short haircuts, very well dressed, and extremely polite.After offering water, I asked questions about where they were from and what they would do after their missionary commitment ended.Both were from Utah and would return to Utah to finish their college degrees.They then 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 them.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? And if there is a contradiction between them, which one takes precedent?They said both books are Testaments from God and that according to their study and beliefs there are no contradictions.I told them I had done some reading on their religion and had a question about God the Father; does He have physical body according to their beliefs?They said they believe He does.They read from Doctrine and Covenants where Joseph Smith says God the Father has a body.I asked them, where in the Bible do you support that belief?First they took me to Genesis where it says we were made in the image of God.Since we are physical beings, to be in God’s image, He must be physical.I asked if the word “image” could have a non-physical definition such as the statement, “I am going to change my image.”In this statement the person is talking about a change in character and not altering his or her physical image.They both agreed image could be non-physical.They then had me go to Acts 7 where Stephen looks up to heaven and sees Jesus sitting at the right hand of God.If God has a right hand then he must have a physical body.I then asked if “right hand” could be an expression of power, such as my foreman is my right hand man.They both acknowledged that was possible.

My next challenge was to take them to a few verses that indicate God the Father is not a physical being.First I went to John 4:24 where he writes that God is spirit.They thought possibly John was talking about the Holy Spirit being referred to in v24 as a spirit.I had them read the passages in context and it became obvious John was talking about God the Father.We then went to Luke 24:38-40 “And He [Jesus speaking after the resurrection] said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 ‘See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ 40 And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.”Jesus was saying touch me because I am physical, I am not a ghost, a spirit cannot be touched because it is not physical. God the Father is a spirit and therefore, does not have a physical body.I also took them to Colossians 1:15 where it says Jesus is the image of the invisible God.God the Father cannot have a physical body if He is invisible.

They did not have an answer for these passages and said they’d have to read these passages in context to make sure I was accurate.I commended them for making sure everything I said was accurate and in context.

They said in the Godhead there are three beings the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and each was a separate God.I asked them do you believe there are three Gods and they said yes but they worship only one.I stated here is another problem; this goes against the Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity. I said as you go door to door you must hear about the Trinity from Christians.They said they do but that no one they visited was able to explain the Trinity.I asked if they would like me to give them a clear definition of the Trinity. They said yes they’d love to hear what I had to say.

First I defined the Trinity as one God subsisting in three persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.All three are co-eternal, co-equal, and share the same substance, hence only one God.I then went through the Scriptures to show them three criteria in the Bible for the Doctrine of the Trinity; 1) the Bible teaches there is only one God, 2) the Bible teaches the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct persons (non-physical characteristics such as each has a will, ability to communicate, and ability to love), 3) the Bible teaches each is God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are God but there is only one God).I restated my earlier definition: One God subsisting in three persons Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.I asked does my definition make sense and they said it did.I told them there is nothing contradictory in my definition and in my explanation.

If I understand your beliefs correctly, you have no problem with all three in the Godhead being distinct persons and all three being God; your problem is with the passages stating there is only one God.I then had them write down various passages that taught there is only one God: Deuteronomy 6:4“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” And in Isaiah chapters 43-48, multiple verses which over and over again say there is only one God and there is no other.I went through the chapters and pointed out some highlights such as Isaiah 43:10 “‘You are My witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me.’”This passage and other Biblical verses clearly teach there cannot be more than one God.The Mormon teaching there are three Gods is clearly false.They said they’d look these passages up and get back to me.

Our conversation was extremely relaxed and pleasant, but they left with a rock in their shoe.I had given them plenty to think about.You never know how God can use working in the yard as an opportunity to be His ambassador.

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What happened to the New Atheists?

Here is an interesting article looking at the rise and fall of the New Atheists.At one time they raised the banner for those who hate religion but today have faded into obscurity.What went wrong?Read on and discover the plight of this radical group of atheists.(Original article found at:http://www.wofford.edu/newsroom/woffordinthenewscontent.aspx?id=58190 )

A kinder, gentler American atheism
by Dr. Bryon R. McCane
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life

Has something gone wrong with the new atheism? For awhile, it was really on a roll. Several best-selling books aggressively attacked religion, calling it a “delusion” (Richard Dawkins), and a “spell” (Daniel Dennett) that “poisons everything” (Christopher Hitchens). Bill Maher’s movie “Religulous” warned that humankind must get rid of religion or die. New atheism looked like the wave of the future. But not anymore. “Religulous” got mixed reviews and disappeared quickly. Rebuttals to Dawkins, Dennett and Hitchens have appeared, culminating with Karen Armstrong’s new book, The Case for God. Sales of atheist books have fallen off the charts, literally. Months have gone by since one appeared on the best-seller list.

Why did the new atheists falter so quickly? Because they ignored important facts about religion in America today.

First, they dramatically overestimated the number of unbelievers. According to the American Religious Identification Survey, 15 percent of Americans are not currently members of any religious organization. This finding led to the claim that one in six Americans is now an unbeliever. But the data actually show that three quarters of the people in that 15 percent are “in between” religious commitments.

Previous studies by Robert Wuthnow of Princeton University have shown that America today is a nation of “religious migrants.” Most of us go through a series of religious commitments over the course of our lives, drawing upon various religious institutions as “resource centers” along the way. We are, Wuthnow concluded, a country of “spiritual seekers.” At any given moment, 15 percent of us may be unaffiliated, but most of those are believers. In a recent Pew Forum survey, in fact, only 1.6 percent of respondents identified themselves as atheists.

Second, the new atheists thought that books about science and logic would convince Americans to stop believing in God. They tried to use evidence and reason to change American hearts. But in the Pew survey, only 2 percent of respondents said that science and logic play any role their religious choices.

Instead, the data show that Americans are highly pragmatic about religion: We opt for religious affiliations that help us with our personal spiritual quests. When one stops working, we begin looking for another. And today, there are so many groups to choose from that Wade Clark Roof of the University of California-Santa Barbara has dubbed it the “spiritual marketplace.” Science and logic, it seems, have a very small market share.

Yet the new atheists’ biggest mistake, by far, was to be openly intolerant of religion. They mocked, derided and made fun of it. But Americans today are overwhelmingly committed to religious tolerance. In the Pew Forum survey, in fact, a whopping 70 percent of religiously affiliated people agreed that many religions can lead to eternal life. Precisely because we are “spiritual migrants,” we Americans instinctively respect the rights of others to choose their own way, too. Some of us do not believe in God, but virtually all of us agree that personal religious choices should be respected. The angry hostility of the new atheists struck exactly the wrong note.

For all these reasons, the decline of new atheism is a step in the right direction. It shows that in America today, tolerance and freedom are stronger than narrow-mindedness and prejudice. And it opens the way for a kinder, gentler, more American brand of atheism. In our spiritual marketplace, there is plenty of room for atheist groups that can attract seekers by presenting unbelief as a practical option along life’s way. Perhaps non-belief can be re-framed as a productive hiatus during the busy life of a spiritual migrant, or as a thoughtful expression of principled religious dissent. In these ways, atheists might begin to work with, instead of against, important facts about religion in America.

The new atheism is over and done, and its angry tone of voice will not be missed. But a kinder, gentler and (most of all) wiser atheism should be able to find its niche as one option among many in the spiritual marketplace.

Dr. McCane is Albert C. Outler Professor of Religion and chair of the Department of Religion at Wofford College in Spartanburg.

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Part 2 How do People Choose a Worldview?

Part one of this series we looked at the definition of a worldview; that it is a set of beliefs we have about the most important issues in life.I also pointed out problems with having a faulty worldview. Part 2 I would like to examine how many people choose a worldview.In my discussion I will use the words worldview and religion interchangeably.A religious belief can be a worldview (i.e. Christian Worldview).

Talking with individuals, it seems most people choose a worldview by what they like.This is especially true with religious beliefs.Many people are attracted to the Mormon faith because of the clean outer image and the focus on the family.Others may like the religious traditions of the Roman Catholic Church and desire to worship there and the set of beliefs.

Others may be attracted to a certain worldview because of a lifestyle.Individuals who are homosexual or believe the homosexual lifestyle to be natural and normal will find a religion that is very tolerant and may even promote homosexuality.I sense many in the entertainment business in Hollywood find religions/worldviews that don’t restrict their sexual lifestyles.These individuals want to continue living and enjoying sex with multiple partners, while still maintaining some sort of spiritual beliefs.

Another attraction is strong beliefs.A follower of Darwinian evolution may find the atheist worldview to be fit his or her beliefs the best.If you sense God is present and part of all creation you may moved towards a pantheistic belief (pan = all; theist = god).Many new age followers are pantheistic; god is all and all is god.

What I seldom hear from people, is the worldview true?This question doesn’t seem important.They don’t see the connection between truth and belief.Part 3 I will try to answer the questions, 1) is it important to know if a worldview is true, and 2) how could anyone know?

Go to part 3

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Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–211/216).

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–211/216). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I will finish my examination of the booklet “Should You Believe in the Trinity?” by looking at quotes from three additional anti-Nicene Fathers, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, and Origin.  These individuals are purported to be anti-Trinitarian by the booklet.   The primary argument put forth by the Watchtower is Jesus is a lesser god, a created being.  If I can show these writers called Jesus God, then the Watchtower Organization misrepresented what they truly believed.

Clement of Alexandria

Christian scholar Robert Bowman[1] is going to show how Clement of Alexandria taught Jesus was fully God.

 “The JW booklet claims that Clement of Alexandria held that Christ was “a creature” and inferior to God (p.7).  In fact, Clement held the opposite.  He taught that Christ is “truly most manifest Deity, He that is made equal to the Lord of the universe because He was His Son.”[2]

Clement also states: “There was then, a Word importing an unbeginning eternity; as also the Word itself, that is, the Son of God, who being, by equality of substance, one with the Father, is eternal and uncreated.”[3]  What I find amazing is the Watchtower Organization quotes an early church father who completely refutes their belief that Jesus was a created being.  So much of the language of Clement, such as eternal and uncreated Son, and equality of substance with the Father, demonstrates clear Trinitarian language.

Hippolytus

The booklet says Hippolytus said God was “alone by himself” and “called into being what had no being before.”  Both of these statements flow from standard understanding of the Trinity.  The Trinity teaches there is only one God and all creation was called into being from nothing.  The Watchtower then says Hippolytus taught the prehuman Jesus was called into being.    Again they alter what Hippolytus believed.  He never wrote those words.  Hippolytus writes, “A man, therefore, even though he will it not, is compelled to acknowledge God the Father Almighty, and Christ Jesus the Son of God, who being God, became man, to whom also the Father made all things subject, Himself excepted, and the Holy Spirit; and that these, therefore, are three.”[4]

Later in the same work Hippolytus writes, “God, subsisting alone, and having nothing contemporaneous with Himself, determined to create the world… there was nothing contemporaneous with God.  Beside Him there was nothing; but He, while existing alone, yet existed in plurality.”[5]  Obviously, this plurality was the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as mentioned in the prior quote.  The Trinity teaches there is only one God subsisting in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; co-equal and co-eternal.  Hippolytus was a Trinitarian.

Origen

Early church father Origen had some of his teachings eventually branded heretical by the church.  However, his teaching on the Trinity was not part of the judgment.  The church has always found some of his Trinitarian teachings helpful and other aspects false.

A few quotations from Edmund Fortman’s book The Triune God[6] might be helpful in understanding his beliefs.  As to the eternal nature of the Triune God Origen writes, “statements made regarding Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are to be understood as transcending all time, all ages, and all eternity.”[7]  Here he alludes to the eternal nature of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  This belief contradicts the teachings of the Watchtower.

Talking about all creation Origen says there is, “nothing which was not made, save the nature of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”[8]  In this quote he points to the uncreated nature of the Triune God.  He also stated, “Moreover, nothing in the Trinity can be called greater or less.”[9]  This statement contradicts the Jehovah’s Witnesses teaching Jesus is an inferior being; a lesser god.  All these quotes from Origen are solidly Trinitarian.

In conclusion I have demonstrated over and over again the Watchtower Organization deceitfully misrepresents the anti-Nicene Fathers.  This has to be intentional because the counter evidence is so easily accessed.

Dylan Valenzuela and I met with two Jehovah’s Witnesses for around a year and a half at my home.  We lovingly presented this information to them during that time.  They took home these quotes and many more from the anti-Nicene Fathers.  Neither could give an account for why the early church fathers refuted their beliefs.  They actually admitted the heretic Arius got it right, when he called Jesus a created being at the council of Nicea in 325 AD.  Their prior commitment to the Watchtower Organization forced them to reject the first 300 years of church writings and agree with a heretic, who wrote much later.

Is the Watchtower a deceitful organization?  Absolutely!  Only a devout Jehovah’s Witness would refuse to believe that statement.  Based on my series, there is no doubt Jehovah’s Witnesses have been deceived by the booklet “Should You Believe in the Trinity?”  It is time for the Watchtower Organization to admit the truth, remove this booklet from publication and their web site, and live up to their own standards of being a truth telling organization.



[1] Bowman, Robert, Why You Should Believe in the Trinity, Baker Book House Publ. March 1992, p. 30

[2] Clement, The Instructor 1.8.1.11. in ANF, 2:227, 234

[3] Clement, Fragments, Part 1, section III, 190 AD

[4] Hippolytus, Against Noetus 8, in ANF, 5:226

[5] Ibid. 10, in ANF, 5:227

[6] Edmund J. Fortman, Triune God: A Historical Study of the doctrine of the Trinity, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press 1972),  p. 58

[7] Origen, Principles, 4.28.

[8] Ibid, 4.35.

[9] Ibid, 1.3.7.

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Some Manson Followers Will Be in Heaven part 2

In my initial blog, “Could Manson’s Followers Enter Heaven,” I set up a scenario concerning two of Manson’s followers who have committed murder but are now Christians. A similar conversation actually happened with a Muslim taxi driver in Washington DC. I had finished giving him 4 illustrations of why a person cannot earn heaven and why only through faith in Jesus Christ can someone enter heaven. My taxi driver countered these illustrations by saying he couldn’t believe in a God that would allow someone who has committed murder into heaven simply because he believed in Jesus and asked for forgiveness. How could this person go to heaven and how could a Muslim like him, who has done nothing close to murder, go to hell? So what was I going to tell him?

I asked him if he was familiar with the two greatest commandments; he said no. I paraphrased Matthew 22:36-40 where the Bible states, “The greatest commandment is to love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and the second is like the first to love your neighbor as yourself.” I asked him if those were two great commandments and he said yes. So then according to the Bible, rejecting God and His Son is bad and committing murder is also bad. Then which is worse, to reject God and His Son or to commit murder?

I said if the greatest commandment was to love God, then the greatest sin was to reject God; greater than even committing murder. Remember both are extremely bad but from God’s point of view, rejection of him is greater than the murder of another human. I asked him, does that make sense? He said yes but he didn’t like it.

God can forgive a murderer; his great mercy extends to everyone who accepts his free gift of forgiveness through His Son Jesus Christ. And yet, God will not forgive someone who rejects him. Rejection of Christ, God’s Son is the same as rejecting the God of the Bible. John 3:18 Jesus says, “Whoever believes in him [Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. In John 15:23 [Jesus speaking] “He who hates Me hates My Father also.” By rejecting God the Son (Jesus Christ) you are rejecting God the Father. According to the Bible the Muslim taxi driver, whose belief system rejects the divine Jesus, will be judged for his wrongdoings and will receive punishment for his sins. God’s punishment for sin is eternal separation or hell. The two ex-Manson followers, who now follow Christ, will have their sins forgiven through faith in what Jesus did by dying on the cross. This forgiveness of sins is available to anyone who places their trust in Jesus Christ, no matter what horrible crimes you have committed.

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Could Manson’s Followers Enter Heaven?

Forty years ago followers of Charles Manson committed what many call the most shocking celebrity murders ever to hit Los Angeles. Sharon Tate, along with 6 others, was brutally killed by these individuals. On the front door, painted in blood, read the words, “Death to Pigs.” The city of Los Angeles was hit with terror in the face of this horrible crime. It took 3 months before the name Charles Manson and his followers were linked to this crime.

Today Charles Manson and the majority of his followers are still in prison; each serving life sentences. Two of these murderers, Charles “Tex” Watson and Bruce Davis, while in prison, have become followers of Jesus Christ. Currently, they are ministers and are actively meeting the needs of prisoners. The Bible teaches heaven is for followers of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-10 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– [9] not by works, so that no one can boast.” Saved in this verse refers to being forgiven of your sins and being granted heaven by the grace of God; this all comes as a result of faith. According to the Bible if Watson and Davis are Christians when they die, both will be in heaven. But how can this be? How can two murderers, who committed such heinous crimes, be allowed in heaven? Is this really what Christians believe?

I was once asked this question by a Muslim taxi driver as he drove me from Washington DC to Baltimore. We were in a spiritual discussion as we drove along and I was sharing why no one can earn heaven (Muslims believe God will weigh good deeds and bad deeds and the good person goes to heaven). He then said to me, “Steve, do you mean if I live a good life but don’t believe in Jesus I will go to hell, and a murderer who believes in Jesus will go to heaven? If this is what you believe, I cannot be a follower of Jesus Christ because this is a terrible teaching.” This was a tough question. I knew I was in trouble. At that moment my mind went blank; he had confronted me with what sounded like the most ridiculous belief possible.

How could anyone justify allowing murderers into heaven? How can the Christian God send good people to hell? Is this what we Christians really believe? How would you answer the taxi driver?

I am on vacation and I when I get back on Monday I will show how I answered the taxi driver. I would love to hear what you think.

(Today I caught a limit of good sized trout fishing at Convict Lake in Mammoth, CA. Great fishing!)

Go to part 2 here

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Jehovah’s Witnesses and the 144,000

As I conclude looking at the doctrine concerning the 144,000, I will examine the only other passage in the Bible that speaks of the 144,000, Revelation 14:1-5.  John writes, Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. 3 And they sang* a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. 4 These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. 5 And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.”

Does Revelations 14:1-15 teach only 144,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses will be in heaven?  The answer is NO!  Nowhere in this passage do we see only the 144,000 in heaven.  Do we have a description of the 144,000?  The answer is yes; in verse 4 will find additional information concerning the 144,000.  John informs us they are men who have not defiled themselves with women and are virgins.

When I asked two Jehovah’s Witnesses if only virgin men will be in heaven, they replied no.  They said verse 4 is symbolic.  How do you know it is symbolic?  They said the Book of Revelations is full of symbolism and verse 4 is meant to be taken that way.  How do you know that?  They took me to other passages they said couldn’t be read as literal.  I agreed there are some verses in Revelations that are symbolic but Revelations 14:4 seems to be a very straightforward narrative and connects well with the previous verses.  What are your reasons for taking it symbolically?  Their final answer was “It just is.”

Again we witness an example of esogesis where the Watchtower Organization instead of taking the straightforward teaching of the Scriptures, come to the text with an agenda and without scriptural warrant and makes a claim these verses are symbolic.  This opens the door to any group who comes to the Bible and when the Scriptures disagree with their beliefs announce they are symbolic.  This method violates the exegetical rules for interpreting the Bible.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses love to announce they are an organization of Biblical Truth; their claim is they let the Bible do the talking.  This is a smokescreen!  Regularly they take verses out of context to support their beliefs and when the Bible clearly contradicts their beliefs they read their beliefs into the Bible.  Don’t be fooled by this organization.  Their false teaching concerning the 144,000 is just one of many examples of Scripture twisting.  But don’t take my word for it; read the chapters yourself (Revelations 7 and Revelations 14).  You will find their belief of only 144,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in heaven is obviously false.

Not only are they wrong about the 144,000 but more importantly they believe in a false Jesus who cannot save them.  As a result, instead of only 144,000 Jehovah Witnesses in heaven, there will be no Jehovah’s Witnesses in heaven; they will spend eternity in hell.  They need to believe in the Jesus of the Bible, fully God and fully man, second person of the Trinity.  Heaven is only for followers of the true Jesus Christ; who believe Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins and bodily rose on the third day.  My hope is for any and all Jehovah’s Witnesses that read this blog to turn away from the false Watchtower Organization and turn towards the one true Jesus.

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Jehovah’s Witnesses and the 144,000

John writes, “Revelation 7:9-12 (NASB) “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, ‘Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.’”

Here we see, in addition to the 144,000 in heaven, a great multitude from every nation and all tribes.  If the great multitude, which is so large in number no one can count, is in fact in heaven, then we have direct evidence the Watchtower doctrine is false.  How do the Jehovah’s Witnesses get around this problem?

They point out in verse 9 it says the great multitude was, “…standing before the throne and before the Lamb clothed in white robes…” The Greek word for “before” enôpios means “in sight of; before.”  The Jehovah’s Witnesses say the great multitude is on earth, looking up to heaven, and are “in sight of” the throne and the Lamb.  They say this supports their conclusion that only the 144,000 are in heaven and the multitudes are on the paradise earth.  Here are three reasons why this is a false interpretation.

  1. Where in Revelations 7 does the scene change from heaven to earth?  The answer is nowhere!  The entire scene described in Revelations 4 through chapter 7 is in heaven.  Where do the Jehovah’s Witnesses come up with this interpretation?  They read their beliefs into the text.  They have been taught only the 144,000 are in heaven so they have to make the scriptures agree with them, even then they don’t.  This is a clear example of eisogesis; reading into the text something that isn’t there based on prior beliefs.  Whereas, proper interpretation is called exegesis; getting out of Scripture the meanings of the words based on the context.  Nowhere in Revelations 7 do we see the multitudes living on earth and looking towards heaven; the multitudes are clearly in heaven.
  2. Revelations 7:14, 15 John writes, “I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 “For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them.” What we see are the multitudes before the throne of God serving Him day and night in His temple.  And where is this temple?  Revelation 14:17 (NASB) And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle.” John writes the temple is in heaven; therefore, the multitudes are serving God in heaven and not on earth as the Witnesses teach.
  3. John writes in Revelation 19:1 (NASB) “After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.” Could John have been anymore clear about where the great multitude is?  This verse, clearly stating the great multitude in heaven, closes the case on the false teaching of the Jehovah Witnesses.

Revelations 7:9-17 unambiguously teaches the 144,000 and the multitudes will be in heaven.  The scene in Revelations 7 describe the multitudes before the throne of God in heaven, we see the multitudes serving God in His heavenly temple, and Revelations 19:1 says the multitudes are in heaven.  Nowhere in Revelations 7 do we see the multitudes on earth.

I will continue to explore and expose the false Watchtower beliefs concerning the 144,000.  Next I will look at Revelations 14.

Go to part 5

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Part 11 All three persons of the Trinity co-equal

Here is the definition of the Trinity I have been utilizing: One God subsists in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; co-equal and co-eternal.  Recently, while talking with two Jehovah Witnesses I was challenged on my view of Jesus and the Father being co-equal.

All three persons are co-equal

They attacked equality of the Godhead by saying the Father was greater and had knowledge Jesus lacked.  They used the verse in John 14:28 where Jesus says, “You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” I explained Jesus had two natures being fully God and fully man.  In his human nature Jesus gave up the use of certain prerogatives such as all knowledge and subjected himself to the headship of the Father.  In his divine nature He continued to have all the attributes of God.  I said president Obama and I are equal in our human natures but since he is the president I could say he is greater than me.  Jesus as a human could say the Father is greater, speaking about position, just like Obama is to me.  Jesus and the Father are equal in they share the same divine nature.  My Jehovah Witness friends struggled with the idea Jesus could be fully God and fully man.  I took them to Philippians 2:5-8 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” I said as a human Jesus didn’t desire equality with the Father because he took on flesh (bond-servant) subjecting himself to death as a human something the Father cannot do.  Philippians says he was in the “form of a bond-servant.”  I asked do you believe Jesus was fully human?  They said yes.  I said the Greek word for form is “Morphe” which means nature or essence.  Jesus had a human nature.  Just like he had a human nature, we see in verse 6 Jesus also was in the form (morphe) of God.  What that means is he also had the nature of God.  Jesus was God taking on human flesh.  As a human he didn’t use all his divine abilities.   That’s what it means “…but emptied himself.” Jesus at times became tired, ate food, and died on a cross; all things only a human can do.  On the cross the human Jesus died but the 2nd person of the Trinity, his divine nature, could never die.

They continued to challenge the equality issue by taking me to 1 Corinthians 11:2-3 Now I praise you because you remember me in everything, and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” How can Jesus be equal if God the Father is the head over him?  I said similar to a husband and wife being equal in their human natures, the Bible says the husband is to be head over his wife.  The second person of the Trinity (Jesus) is equal in nature to the Father but takes a different role by taking on human flesh, and subjects himself to the headship of the Father.  The Father and the Son can be co-equal, while at the same time the Son submits to the headship of the Father; similar to the headship of the husband over the wife.

The issue of equality depends on our understanding of how one God can subsist in three persons.  I’ve had people ask, how can we say that God is one undivided being and yet in this one being there are three persons?  First, we must understand that each person is fully God; that is each person has the fullness of God’s being in himself.  The Son is not partly God or just one-third of God, but the Son is fully God.  The Father and the Holy Spirit are each fully God.  All three persons are co-equal.  To help you understand how this works I have provided different circles to show the correct and incorrect ways to view the being of God[1].

 

If the Bible teaches the equality within the Trinity we should expect to see all three persons given equal status in the scriptures.  This is clearly communicated by Matthew in his recording of what Jesus said as he commissioned his disciples.  Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, we notice Matthew says to baptize them in the name, singular.  The conclusion is these three persons are the one God, thus we see the singular for “name.”  In other places when listing multiple names, Matthew utilized “names” plural.  In Matthew 10:2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother.” Matthew chose the singular Greek word for “name” because he was communicating the oneness and equality of one God subsisting in three persons.  Even the Jehovah Witness Bible (NWT) uses name singular, while at the same time denying the Trinity.

The very names “Father” and “Son,” drawn as they are from the family, the most familiar of human institutions, indicate very strongly the distinct personhood of both the Father and the Son. When “the Holy Spirit” is put in the same expression and on the same level as the other two persons, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Holy Spirit is also viewed as a person and of equal standing with the Father and the Son[2]. Matthew 28:19 provides strong support for the definition of the Trinity and the equality within the Godhead.

Go to part 12 here


[1] Diagrams and descriptions based on Wayne Grudem’s work in Systematic Theology pgs. 253-255

[2] Grudem, Wayne, Systematic Theology, Zondervan Publ., 1994, p. 230

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When Good is not Good Enough

A friend named Ron was a Chaplin who was called to the scene of accidents to speak to individuals who were about to die.His job was to give people a chance to trust Jesus Christ before they passed away.I asked him, “When you get to the site and the person is dying, are they open to hearing about forgiveness through Jesus Christ?”What he told me shocked me.He said, “Steve the vast majority of people he speaks to, moments before death, say they don’t need Jesus; God is going to accept them because they have lived a good life.”I asked him, “Why do they rely on their good works, instead of trusting Jesus?”He said, “I believe it is a matter of pride; they don’t need help from God; He will simply accept them as they are into heaven.”I think this is a perfect illustration of the power of sin; people clutching to their own righteousness, their own good works, and then death grabs them and separates them from God for all eternity; having rejected the only solution to sin Jesus Christ.

We all know people who are not on their deathbeds but still believe they are good enough to please God and earn heaven.With exception of Christianity, all religions believe God accepts us into the afterlife by the good works we do while on earth.They believe if your good works outweigh your bad deeds God will allow you into heaven.Only Christianity teaches that eternal life comes from trusting in Jesus Christ and Him alone.In Ephesians 2:8, 9 the apostle Paul writes, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– [9] not by works, so that no one can boast.”The Bible clearly teaches we are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and that good works will never earn heaven.Good works are a result of saving faith and not the requirement.All those people Ron spoke to on their deathbed learned too late; good is never good enough to earn heaven.  This is a message we need to share with those who need Jesus Christ.

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Transforming Power of God’s Grace – Genesis 32

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Part 1 Is the Trinity Biblical?

I am beginning a new series.  My inspiration for the title comes from the book, The Forgotten Trinity by Dr. James White.  The first four words of his opening chapter were, “I love the Trinity.”  As I read those words I realized I had the same love for the Triune God of Christianity.  If it sounds strange to you it is because you are so used to saying, “I love God” or “I love Jesus” but never “I love the Trinity.”  A possible reason many people avoid saying this is because they have trouble explaining the Trinity to someone else.  They have a vague idea about what it is but they struggle loving a fuzzy doctrine.  My hope in this series is through my writings I will clear away the mind fog and give you a new appreciation for the doctrine of the Trinity.  And if I do my job well you might even admit you love the Trinity.

In Christianity the Trinity represents who God is; one God subsisting in three persons the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  This belief in the Triune God separates us from all other religions in the world.  Islam, Judaism, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormonism, Oneness Pentecostals, and other belief systems reject the historic doctrine of the Trinity.

Is the Trinity Biblical?

Many years ago my son Jeff was in a 7th grade History GATE (Gifted & talented) class at Grant Middle School in Escondido, CA where I taught physical education.  They were studying World History and had reached the chapter on Christianity.  I read what the history book said about Christianity and it wasn’t bad.  I also read some of the handouts they had received on Buddhism, Hinduism, and other major religions.  I made a decision to ask to be a guest lecturer in the class on the topic of Christianity.  With the permission of the teacher and the principal I taught about the Bible and that Jesus was fully God and fully man.  I also gave a clear message of what Jesus did on the cross.  As the class ended I asked for questions.  Some of the questions helped me clarify the exactly what was accomplished by Jesus dying on the cross; but one question gave me trouble.  It was delivered by a Jehovah Witness student.  He asked, “If Jesus was God, then why did he pray to God in heaven?  Was he praying to himself?”  I still remember the sweat forming on my forehead as I stumbled for an answer.  I really didn’t do an adequate job and felt this was a question that needed further study.  The next day this student, who was in my PE class, handed me a booklet, “Should you Believe in the Trinity,” written by the Watchtower Organization.  I was embarrassed and knew I had to do something; so I flunked the student [just kidding].  I set out from that day forward this would never happen to me again.

It is the doctrine of the Trinity where we find out who Jesus really is; fully God and fully man.  Jesus said in John 8:24“Therefore I said to you [speaking the Jewish religious leaders] that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” If you have a false view about Jesus, the Bible says you will be separated from God for all eternity.  It is my desire to convince anyone not to follow a false Jesus.

I believe the Trinity is the most important doctrine in all of Christianity.  And yet, it is difficult to find Christian churches that teach this doctrine.  Many feel it is too difficult to teach to their people.  As a result it is misrepresented both inside the church and by organizations outside the church.  Groups like the Jehovah Witnesses can fool unsuspecting individuals because they don’t understand the truth of the Trinity and cannot refute the lies.  Their booklet, “Should You Believe in the Trinity,” attempts to show why the Trinity was invented by a corrupted church and isn’t Biblical.  I am going to challenge that belief.

Historic Christianity believes that God has revealed Himself as one God and three persons through the written words of the Bible.  My first task will be to provide the historical background for the Trinity and then show why I believe this doctrine is Biblical.

Go to part 2 here

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Main Theme of the book:  The primary theme of this book answers the questions, what is Christianity?  Christianity is a picture of reality.  

I. In the Beginning God Created the Universe (Chapter 6)

Genesis 1:1 (NIV) In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  We see the Christian story starts with a bang; God creates the universe.  Then we see later story ends with a bang; God brings forth a new heaven and new earth.  The rest of the story is what happens in-between.

 

  1. What five things does the Christian story tell us about God?

 

  1. God is Personal – The God of the universe is a personal being. What are some traits of a person?

 

God the Father does not have a physical body.  The Bible describes him as a spirit in John 4:24 (NIV) “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”  A spirit is not physical.  References to body parts attributed to God are either metaphors or using what is called anthropomorphic language. Anthropomorphic simply means applying human body parts to God.  God does not have a right hand.  The person of Jesus has been given great authority to speak for the boss.  

 

God also is eternal; he had neither beginning nor end.  The universe had a beginning but God did not.  God is the uncreated creator.  

 

  1. God is the central character of our story – The story does not start with us. It begins with God. This story is God’s story and not ours.  Greg says it like this: “The Story is not so much about God’s plan for your life as it is about your life for God’s plan1.”  God’s purposes are central, not ours.      3. God owns everything – Since God made everything out of nothing, it all belongs to him.  Therefore, God is ruler over all.  We don’t own ourselves.  God is a great and powerful king.  And yet he is our Father.  In our story we were made to be in relationship with him, to delight in him, and to completely depend on him.

 

  1. God is distinct from his creation – Some religions teach that nature is god. This is not the Christian story. In our story God is close to all of us but is distinct, separate, not found as part of all creation.    

 

We don’t respect nature; we respect the person who created nature. We don’t abuse nature because we care about others who we share the earth with and want to help them enjoy it with us.                                                           

 

Session 3 The Story of Reality 2

  1. God loves science2 –What other religious book spends the first two chapters talking about creation? It is the discipline of science we discover how amazing this creation truly is. So much can be learned about the character of God through studying the universe and its perfect design.  

 

  1. What is the main theme of the Bible?

The main theme of the Bible is God’s Rulership over His Kingdom.  A kingdom has a “King” which is God and a “dom” or domain which is us.  God is our king or our ruler.  In fact the word rulership can be substituted anywhere in the Bible you see the word kingdom. 

We see the word kingdom all over the New Testament.  It is used by Jesus, John the Baptist, and by the Apostle Paul.  To be a subject in the kingdom, you must submit the gospel; you must believe the good news that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins.  

 

  1. What are Two Major Objections to the Existence of God? (Chapter 7)

 

  1. Who Created God? How would you answer that question?

 

I recently was challenged with this question in an email conversation with an atheist friend.  He asked me, who created God?  

My final reply: I believe in an uncreated being called God.  Without a first uncaused cause you then have an “infinite regress.”  If God was created, who did the creating?   And who is the creator of the one who created the God of the universe.  And then who is the creator of the creator of the one who created the creator?  You then have to go back and back, on and on forever.  This is called an infinite regress.  An infinite regress is simply nonsense.  Who created God?  No one…God is the personal uncreated creator.

  1. What about the Miraculous?

Many ages ago most scientists thought the earth was eternal; it never had a beginning.  However, with the advances of science we have powerful evidence the universe came into existence in an instant in an event called “The Big Bang.”  Many scientists early on objected to the Big Bang.  They thought is sounded too much like a creation event.  Today some scientists still struggle with the universe coming into existence.  

Here is the problem…there are only two explanations for the universe coming into existence.  Either there is an intelligent designer or nothing is the cause.  Who in their right mind wants to say the cause of the universe was nothing?                                      

Session 3 The Story of Reality 3

Once we establish God created the entire universe and all life on earth then the controversy over miracles shrinks to almost nothing.  God creating everything in an instant from nothing makes all other miraculous signs seem pretty easy in comparison.   

III. What is Matter-Ism?  (Chapter 8)

Matter-ism says that only physical things exist and that they are governed by natural laws.  This is where their story begins and where it ends.  No God.  No creator. No heaven or hell.  No miracles.  No universal morality. 

  1. Matter-Ism is a competing story or worldview

 

What’s the problem?  Richard Dawkins explains the universe without God, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good.  Nothing but blind pitiless indifference3.”  Dennis Prager said, “Nature has only one commandment, not ten – eat or be eaten4.”

 

  1. Problems with matter-ism.

We all know something has gone wrong with the world.  Matter-ism struggles at this point.  To say something has gone wrong, your story has to point to the way things are supposed to be.  If the universe is simply molecules dancing to music of nature, then there is no ultimate right or wrong.  Things just are; no good, no evil.  

Therefore, nothing has gone wrong with the world.  Our feelings the world is a mess are just an illusion.  One writer said if atheism is true, we are no more than “coke cans fizzing5.”  Those who follow matter-ism have to deny anything is wrong with the world; it is just what it is.  

We struggle denying life is without meaning or purpose.  Matter-ism is a tough worldview to live by.  Deep down inside, we know life does have ultimate meaning and purpose.  Without a standard, the purpose of a serial murderer is no better or worse than the purpose of Mother Teresa. Without a standard to measure meaning or purpose anything goes. In philosophy this is called “nihilism.”  It means life is empty, meaningless, purposeless, cold, and void.  Who can live like this?

This is why matter-ists deep down inside live their lives as if they matter.  They have to steal from our story to make sense of their lives.  Paul writes in Romans 1:18 these people “suppress the truth by their wickedness.”  Also in Romans 2 they have to deny the moral truth written on their hearts by God.  


  •  1 The Story of Reality by Greg Koukl pg. 44.
  •  2 Not in the book.  
  • 3 The Story of Reality by Greg Koukl,
  • p. 54 4 Jewish writer and talk show host.
  • pg. 54 5 Taken from the book Stealing from God by Frank Turek

© Steve Bruecker

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I. Mind-Ism: A Competing Story of Reality

A. What is Mind-Ism? (Chapter 9)

In this view, Mind is all that exists. In the beginning there was Mind and that is where it ends.

This story is officially called “Monism.” In the Christian picture of reality God and the universe are separate and distinct. However, in the monistic or mind-ism story of reality they are one and the same, no distinctions. Greg called this view mind-ism to help us remember Mind everything.

B. What are some conclusions based on mind-ism?

1. We are gods.

Popular New Age book The Secret we read this: “You are God in a physical body. You are spirit in the flesh. You are Eternal life expressing itself as you. You are a cosmic being. You are all power. You are all wisdom. You are all intelligence. You are perfection. You are magnificence. You are the creator, and you are creating the creation of You on this planet.”

The reason we don’t know we are gods is we have forgotten that fact.

2. We need to be enlightened.

We have lost our way and we need to find our way back. There are many spiritual paths that bring us to our ultimate destination.

Enlightenment takes many lifetimes to achieve: It will take thousands of lifetimes, as we come back and try again over and over again to work off Karma (the consequences of our past actions). Re-incarnation fits the mind-ism story of reality. We need to keep coming back to work off our moral wrongs. Mind-ism completely rejects grace.

Mind-ism is an exclusive belief: When someone gives you the mountain illustration to show how all religions are equal here is a standard response. “If I say Jesus is the only way to heaven, am I right or am I wrong?” If he says I am right then Christianity is the only way to heaven. If he says I am wrong, then we know at least one road doesn’t lead to heaven; the Christian road.

The only response is to say, well that is true for you. When they do this, they are forcing their belief on you. Don’t let them do that. When they try to force their belief on you, politely tell them this is not what you believe. Tell them you believe Jesus is the only way for everyone, everywhere, and for all time. Then repeat, is Jesus the only way to heaven? Am I right or am I wrong?

Everything is an illusion: The only thing that is real is this God and therefore everything else is an illusion. All life is a dream in the Mind of God. All life is part of this illusion.

3. Mind-ism claims we are everything.

The Secret that celebrates our common divinity. “The earth turns on its orbit for You. The oceans ebb and flow for You. The birds sing for You. The sun rises and sets for You. Take a look around. None of it can exist without You. You are the master of the universe. You are the heir to the Kingdom. You are the perfection of Life. And now you know The Secret.”

If we are an illusion and then how can we be the masters of the universe, heirs to the kingdom, and the perfection of life? This must be a heck of an illusion.

Mind-ism is high on individual freedom and low on responsibility. Gods answer to no one. As CS Lewis once wrote about the New Age, “All the thrills of religion and none of the cost1.”

The New Age adherents don’t need to investigate if it is true. Religions are to be enjoyed and not defended. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die and get another chance to try again.

C. The New Age story is not the Christian story

1. New Age teachers use our language

They love to use the terms “The Christ,” the Kingdom of God within you,” “eternal life,” “the way, the truth, and the life,” and more. They will talk about Jesus and reference the Bible.

Even though they use our language our stories are not the same. And yet many Christians fall into the trap of adding new age beliefs to the Christian story. The primary reason is many socalled Christians don’t understand our story of reality. As we talked about earlier, re-incarnation fits the New Age story but not ours. It is similar to taking pieces from a puzzle and trying to fit it into a different one. It doesn’t work.

According to Christianity, after death comes judgment, not re-incarnation. The writer of Hebrews says, Hebrews 9:27 (NIV) Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. Re-incarnation is eliminated in our story. But it fits perfectly in the New Age story of reality.

Mormons have a different story of reality and yet they use the same terms we use. When Mormons or New Age followers use our terms, what can we do? Simply ask the question, what do you mean by that?

Bottom line, when the New Age uses our language they are simply trying to steal from our story. Our pieces don’t fit in their puzzle and their pieces won’t fit ours.

2. Problem of evil is a major problem for mind-ism

The major weakness of this type of belief system is the problem of evil. If God is all and all is God then evil is part of God. CS Lewis in his classic Mere Christianity:

“You [mind-ist or pantheist] do not take the distinction between good and bad seriously, then it is easy to say that anything you find in this world is a part of God. But, of course, if you think some things really bad, and God really good, then cannot talk like that. You must believe that God is separate from the world and that some of things we see in it are contrary to his will. Confronted with cancer or a slum the Pantheist can say, “If you could only see it from the divine point of view, you would realize that this also is God.” The Christian replies, ‘Don’t talk damned2 nonsense.’ For Christianity is a fighting religion…it also thinks that a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.”

If God is above good and evil, then there is no difference between good and evil. Remember differences are an illusion. That means ultimately there is no difference between Mother Teresa and Adolf Hitler if there is no difference between good and evil. Good and evil are part of God.

II. Why are we here?

1. Matter-ism: We all know things should be a lot better but the matter-ist cannot say that. According to their beliefs there is no way the world is supposed to be. There isn’t a problem of evil because evil cannot be universally defined. And there is no good because there is no standard by which it can be defined.

2. Mind-ism: Remember mind-ism teaches there is only a Mind. God is all and all is God. Therefore, it teaches a cosmic unity and there are no distinctions. Differences are simply an illusion. Therefore, there is no difference between good and evil and they are part of God. Mind-ism provides no good answer as to why the world has gone bad.

3. God-Ism: What God-ism entails is there is someone behind it all, a personal Mind who created the universe, is distinct from it, and rightfully rules over it. God’s ultimate answer to the question of where is God when people are suffering; He is right there with us in the person of Jesus Christ; fully God and fully man.


  • 1 Greg Koukl, The Story of Reality, pg. 60.
  • Session 4 The Story of Reality 3
  • Session 4 The Story of Reality 2

    © Steve Bruecker

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Are there Lost Books of the Bible?

Question: What about the extra books?  Why aren’t they part of the Protestant Bible?  And what about the so called, “Lost Books” of the Bible?

Answer:  The Apocrypha were the extra books added to the Bible by the Catholic Church.  This set of books was written between the 3rd century B.C. and the first century A.D.  They were never accepted by the Jews as Scripture and are not included in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).  Even though the New Testament may allude to some of them they are never called the Word of God.  No apocryphal book claimed to be inspired.

The Apocrypha was officially added to the Catholic Bible at the Council of Trent in 1596.  It is interesting to note these books were added 29 years after Martin Luther challenged the Catholic Church to come up with Biblical support of their doctrines of salvation by works and praying for the dead.  The doctrine of salvation by works is soundly refuted in the Bible by the Apostle Paul in Galatians and Romans.  The doctrine of praying for the dead was never mentioned in the Bible.

The passages from the Apocrypha the Catholic Church used to answer Luther were 2 Maccabees 12:45-46 and Tobit 12:9.  They added these books and others so that they would be considered Scripture and support their unbiblical doctrines.  We read in 2 Macc. 12:44-45 (NJB),  “For had he not expected the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead, [45] whereas if he had in view the splendid recompense reserved for those who make a pious end, the thought was holy and devout. Hence, he had this expiatory sacrifice offered for the dead, so that they might be released from their sin.”  We find here a description of a so-called event and no command to pray for the dead.  Since the Apocrypha was rejected by the early church, the Protestant Bible does not consider them Scripture and are not part of the canon.

Concerning the issue of faith and works we read Tobit 12:9 (NJB) Almsgiving saves from death and purges every kind of sin. Those who give alms have their fill of days.”  Here we see from the Apocrypha a justification for giving to the Catholic Church to rid oneself of sin.  This clearly contradicts the teachings of the Bible.  The Apostle Paul writes against saving works in Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”   If giving alms could purge sin then a person could boast I can save myself.  Paul says no one can boast because we are saved by faith alone.

Secondly, there are no lost books of the Bible.  If the Bible is a supernatural book do you think God could lose a book?   Even for the sake of argument, if it is a man-made book, then the Christians who made the decision to accept these books had the authority to do so.  It was their religion and what books belonged and which ones didn’t was up to them.  Rejected books do not qualify as “Lost Books.”[1]

What standard did the early church utilize to measure which books would be included in the canon and would eventually be called the Bible?  Canon means measuring rod, and it signifies a standard that all scriptural books must meet.  We believe the Holy Spirit not only inspired the content of the writings but also what books qualified to be part of the canon of scripture.  It was the job of the early church to discover what books God inspired.  Some of those tests were: 1) Was it written by a prophet of God? (Scripture is only written by men of God); 2) Was the writer confirmed by an act of God? (Miraculous confirmation); 3) Does it tell the truth about God? (Cannot contradict); 4) Does it have the power of God? (Life transformation); and 5) Was it accepted by the people of God? (Quoted by others as from God, called scripture, or received as God’s Word). [2]

With years of study and discussion eventually 66 books were accepted by the early church fathers as the Bible.  A few books were challenged for years but eventually added as part of the official canon of Scripture.  At the end of the process the books that were accepted were received by all.  There was never a category of books that was initially accepted and rejected later.

The Gnostic gospels and writings related to them, written after the New Testament books, were called the “pseudepigrapha,” which means false writings.  They were called this because the authors utilized the name of some apostle rather than their own name.  For example the gospel of Thomas or Peter was added as the author.  These books were not written by the apostles but by men writing in the second and later centuries, long after the apostles had died.  These writings reflect the beliefs of Gnosticism and not Christianity.  Gnosticism teaches that the material world is evil and the spiritual world is good.  Salvation is not by grace or works but upon the acquiring of special knowledge (gnosis) of one’s true condition.  The “pseudepigrapha” writings contradict the teachings of scripture, which was one of the primary tests of canonicity.  These books were rejected by the early church.


[1] Greg Koukl, “No Lost Books of the Bible,” STR Commentary January, 29, 1994

[2] Norman Geisler & Ron Brooks, When Skeptics Ask, Baker Books, 1996, p. 153-154

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Who I am in Christ

I grew up in a non-Christian family and only went to church as a child. I hated it! Most of my life I didn’t have time for any religious beliefs due to my obsession with sports. I played baseball in college and between getting drunk at parties and participating in sports; I had little need for God. After marriage I made a family decision that we would go to church since this was a great place for kids to learn good morals and be around good people. I still didn’t believe in God. My wife and I had to find a church I would feel comfortable at; one that didn’t use the sin word.

Once we found a church I got involved helping with the high school group and soon the church’s youth pastor left for another job leaving me in charge. Here I am leading a church group and I have no clue what the Bible teaches. I did what I thought was logical; I began reading the Bible at Genesis 1. As I read through the Bible God was working on my heart. Through the power of the Holy Spirit I realized I was a self-centered, egotistical person who needed forgiveness. Somehow and someway God had convicted me of my sin and I prayed to receive Christ. I confessed that I was a sinner and that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins. I made a decision to follow Jesus for the rest of my life and to serve Him with my gifts and talents.

Soon after I had made that decision I attended a Christian summer family camp where I heard my first apologetics (defending Christianity) teaching; that the Bible was reliable, there was evidence for the resurrection, and Jesus was fully God and fully man. Something happened over those 2 days of listening to the speaker that changed my life forever. Since then I have been committed to studying the Bible and defending Christianity in the public square and equipping other Christians to do the same. I went back to seminary (Biola University) and got my Master’s Degree in Christian Apologetics. All this was accomplished by the transforming power of God’s grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Steve Bruecker

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When I wrote my blog “Lacking Biblical Knowledge,” I based it on an encounter with Jehovah Witnesses at my door. What I didn’t realize was how I would stir up comments from followers of the Watchtower Organization. As I read through the posted comments, I realized how much this organization violates basic principles of Biblical interpretation. Since this is an equipping site for Christians, I thought I’d address issues that surfaced and how to properly interpret the Bible.

The Apostle Paul, writing to Timothy, encouraged him to make sure he handled God’s Word accurately. In 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB) Paul writes, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” I believe this verse from Paul was not only for Timothy but for us as well.  We need to do the hard work of studying and interpreting the Bible, so we can be confident we are accurately handling the word of truth.  This will be my desire as I respond to their materials and interpretations.

Over the next few weeks, I will seek to show how the Watchtower Organization fails to meet this standard.  I will begin with interpreting the key verses in Psalm 37.  They used this Psalm to demonstrate their desire for me was to spend eternity on a paradise earth. They don’t believe people like me, who are followers of Jesus Christ, will enter heaven; they think that is reserved only for the 144,000.  As I work through Psalm 37, I will include their teachings on the 144,000 outlined in the Book of Revelations.

I realize by doing so I will likely incur responses from the Witnesses. I have no problem publishing their comments as long as they are respectful. I love disagreement; it is one of the best ways to learn how to defend your beliefs. I too will follow my own guidelines of writing in a respectful manner; this is what a good ambassador for Jesus Christ would do.  Peter writes to believers under persecution, “…to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15b (NIV).

Go to part 2 here

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Lacking Biblical Knowledge

A week ago I answered my door and two Jehovah Witnesses dressed in ties wanted to share their beliefs with me. They announced we’re in the end times and through their organization I could enjoy life on a paradise earth forever. They read from their Bible Psalm 37:29 “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.”  I told them I was familiar with Psalm 37 and it speaks of two classes of people on the earth; the righteous and the wicked. I said your organization adds a 3rd class of people called the 144,000.  I said if the Bible says there are two classes of people, where do the 144,000 fit in?  Are they wicked or are they righteous?  And if they are righteous, according to your beliefs, they will reside on earth forever and not spend eternity in heaven (they believe the 144,000 will reside in heaven).  I waited for an answer.  Instead of answering me they said, “Wow someone actually knows their Bible! We spend days, weeks, and months going door to door and we almost never meet someone who understands the Bible.” We spoke for a few more minutes before they graciously moved on. As they left they said they wanted to start a Bible study with me. As they walked away I reflected on their statement about not finding people who understand the Bible.  Here are some of my thoughts.

1.    It doesn’t surprise me non-religious people lack knowledge of the Bible. Over the years, especially recently, secular society has attacked the Scriptures and the result is people don’t trust the Bible. Why read something you think is unreliable and make-believe. The anti-Bible position of the media poisons the minds of our culture creating a road block to opening a Bible and studying it.

2.     However, it is also a sad reflection of the Christian church today. If 70% of the population says they are Christians, how can so many answering the door know so little about their Bible? This certainly is an indictment against the church in how it views Bible study and spiritual growth. The church has moved away from knowledge and study and more towards experience and doing. This is one of the reasons why the Jehovah Witness enterprise has been successful. Some statistics say 75% of all Jehovah Witnesses come from a Christian church. People who don’t know what they believe can be easily swayed by the slick presentation of a knowledgeable Jehovah Witness. They are easily fooled and join a false belief system.

3.     Lastly, even though the Jehovah Witnesses seem to have a great knowledge of the Bible, the truth is they don’t. They study their Bibles but the main study materials are provided by the Watchtower Organization in either their Watchtower publications or frequent Kingdom Hall meetings. In multiple conversations with Witnesses, when they cannot support their views with scripture they tell stories or give illustrations to fill in the gaps. These stories or illustrations seem possible to them and they cling to them even when the Bible teaches otherwise. And why do they cling to them? Because these stories or illustrations come directly from the Watchtower Organization and they believe these people speak for God.

So what are my conclusions from this meeting?

  • It’s time the Christian church woke up and changed how it approaches the Bible and spiritual growth. This was one of the motivations behind the Biblical Worldview Academy development of God’s Unfolding Plan. This is a comprehensive overview tracing God’s plan from Genesis to Revelations giving people the big picture of the Bible and providing a framework to read and study the Bible. Currently, this curriculum is in developmental stages and is being taught at a few select churches.
  • Jehovah Witnesses love to present, to unsuspecting listeners, their out of context teachings distorting the truth of the Bible.  In a blog series called “Accurately Interpreting the Scriptures,” I will expose the false interpretations of the Watchtower Organization.
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In the previous post I looked at what historic Christianity teaches concerning heaven and hell.  Heaven is an eternal celebration for believers in Jesus Christ and hell is eternal punishment for those who reject or worship a false Jesus.  Next I will explore…

  • What do Mormons believe about heaven and hell?

Mormons believe there are three levels of heaven.

1. Telestial kingdom: Lowest kingdom level where the wicked of the world will spend eternity.  They will be deprived of the presence of God the Father and His Son but will be ministered to by angels and the Holy Ghost.

2. Terrestial kingdom: Second level where honorable people will be, including “lukewarm” Mormons.  They will receive the presence of the Son but not the fullness of the Father.

3. Celestial kingdom: Consists of 3 different levels.   This is the place where God the Father dwells and is the goal of all sincere Mormons.  To gain the highest level, exaltation, one must keep all the commandments of the Lord.  Once this level is reached on earth, upon death, a person becomes a god.

Outer darkness (hell): Located outside the 3 “kingdoms.”  Reserved for Satan and his demons and the extremely wicked, including apostate Mormons.  This is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to leave Mormonism.  Once a person leaves, he is taught he will dwell in outer darkness.  However, for some there will be a second chance after death.  Those that have not committed murder or are not an ex-Mormon, they will be given a second chance to move up a level and enter the Telestial kingdom.

One of the reasons missionaries will walk away from the house of a good Christian is they don’t worry about our eternal destiny.  Yes, they would love us to join their church and reach a higher heavenly level, but we’ll be okay in their eyes.  We will at least be at the Terrestial kingdom and will be in heaven with the Son of God.  We just will not experience the fullness of the Father.  So they can leave our home feeling they did their best to help us reach a higher level.

A second reason Mormons will easily walk away from our houses is because they believe you can become Mormon after death; you get a second chance.  This is why they have baptisms for the dead.  Only through a Mormon baptism can you be a true Mormon and this can happen by proxy; a Mormon can pray you into Mormonism.  This is why they create detailed genealogies.  They believe after death that not only can you become a Mormon, individuals can continue to progress upward to higher levels.  However, godhood can only be reached in this life on earth.  This second chance belief is counter to what the Bible teaches.  After death there is no second chance.  Hebrews 9:27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment…” All Mormons will be in for a major surprise after death when they realize Joseph Smith deceived them and they don’t get a second chance.

Mormonism’s false views of heaven and hell can have eternal consequences.  If they walk away from the Jesus of the Bible, when they die, they will encounter the horrors of hell; they will spend eternity away from the presence of the Triune God.  This should motivate us to have both passion and compassion for our Mormon friends and relatives.

Go to part 14 here

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Introduction

Getting Started

Welcome to the Biblical Worldview Academy web site. The launch date for this site was today June 8, 2009. You may be asking, who are you and what is your purpose?

The Biblical Worldview Academy is basically a discipleship group under the guidance of leader Steve Bruecker. I (Steve) have a MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University extended studies program and I am currently finishing work (my day job) training physical educators for a national middle school obesity and type 2 diabetes study. I will be returning to teaching middle school physical education students next year.

The discipleship group was formed to develop teaching skills and content to help equip the local churches in Escondido, CA and possibly the church worldwide. This past year our group developed a Biblical overview curriculum, called God’s Unfolding Plan. This course was taught Feb. – May 2009 for the first time at two churches. These materials are based on content developed by Greg Koukl, President of Stand to Reason, called “The Bible Fast Forward.” Greg is aware of our efforts and has been supportive of our goals. He will be meeting with us this month to discuss the future of this project.

Our current vision is for this web site to be a place where our team can post information that would be helpful for you, as you seek to become a better equipped ambassador of Jesus Christ. The team of disciples I have assembled are extremely talented and knowledgeable. You will be challenged by what they have to offer. Personally, I have multiple lessons that I have written and recorded over the years of teaching at local churches and secular organizations that I will eventually post here. My hope and desire is you will grow through the posted content.

Please be patient as we slowly over the summer months develop this site. This is not what I do for a living and so I have to find time to invest in its upkeep.

One last thing…the truth is I have a sense of fear and trembling as I post my thoughts, as I am not a professional writer. Blogging can be intimidating but I see it as a labor of love and will do my best to keep it updated and useful to assist in your spiritual growth.

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All About Biblical Worldview Academy

The purpose of the academy is to equip Christians to give a reason for their faith in the public square (1 Peter 3:15). The content for the defense will come from the Bible, philosophy, science, historical writings, and archeology.

Objectives of the Biblical Worldview Academy

Equip followers of Jesus Christ to…

1. Know the basic beliefs of the Christian Worldview

2. Understand why they believe what they believe

3. Intelligently engage in spiritual conversations

4. Share their beliefs with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15)

5. Understand beliefs of other worldviews

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The following are posts by a young man, Nathan Apodaca, who I have had the privilege of discipling over the last few years.  He has a passion for making a case for Christianity wherever he can.  In this series he will talk about sharing on a college campus.

In my last post I discussed whether or not miracles can actually happen, and whether supernatural events have any credibility. I will continue my argument for miracles and in the process give an analogy to one of the most famous arguments in apologetics.

Just the other day, as I was waiting to pick up my brother from a class at our church, something interesting happened. While I was parallel parked in front of the building, I had my head bent down looking at a book I was reading. When I looked up, I noticed I had been boxed in by a minivan that I had not seen or heard pull up. At first I was annoyed, thinking to myself “Come on! How am I supposed to get out of here?” Then I got to thinking “Well, where did the van come from?” I decided there must be four possibilities:

1.  The van came into existence out of nothing. This could explain why I did not hear or see it arrive and box me in. Theologian and scholar Jonathon Edwards said if things can come from nothing, then why don’t we see this happen all the time? Good point! Our everyday experience says the van couldn’t come out of nothing.

2.  The van is one out of an infinite number of vans that have spawned one another. As I looked around I noticed the parking lot was full of vehicles. Perhaps the van was merely one out of an infinite number of minivans parked here. But wait a moment, that can’t be. After all, if a van was created by another van, there must have been a first van to get the process started. You cannot keep looking backward to infinity; you would commit what is called an infinite regress. If there was a beginning van, where did that come from?

3.  A quantum fluctuation produced the van. Similar to point number 1, some people have proposed on the sub-atomic level, a quantum vacuum that can produce particles of matter. So, perhaps there was a fluctuation of energy that caused the van to pop into existence out of “nothing.” There are several reasons to doubt this theory. First, as philosopher William Lane Craig and physicist Alexander Vilenkin have pointed out, a quantum vacuum is something (some argue this vacuum is no-thing). Secondly, I find this idea hard to believe because it is a part of the observable universe, which the majority of scientists say came into existence. Third, I also reject it because even if we don’t know why something is happening, should we automatically assume that it is caused by nothing? After all, there could be a material explanation we haven’t discovered yet. Plus Craig says there are at least 12 different interpretations of quantum mechanics. To point to a process that is scientifically controversial as to how something can come from “nothing” seems to be reaching for any answer, so as to avoid a supernatural one. So, it seems a quantum fluctuation doesn’t make much sense if we are asking why something came into existence (in this case, the minivan).

4.  Someone put the van here: Considering there are no good natural explanations for why the van is there, I propose someone put the van there. After all, the van physically boxed me in, so it must have been placed there by someone outside the van. Thus, it seems obvious that the van was placed by someone who exists independently of the van. In this case, there must have been a driver.

 You may be wondering “What does this have to do with the existence of God?” Well, ask yourself this question: If the universe had a beginning, did it have a cause? Logically speaking, anything that begins to exist must have a cause. And since we would not expect the above mentioned natural phenomena in the case of the van coming from nothing, then why would we expect the universe to come into existence in the same way? It’s clear that God as creator makes the most sense of the beginning of the universe.

 In conclusion, it seems pretty reasonable to believe that if the universe couldn’t come from nothing, then God exists. So, my second premise stands, God exists. So, since the first two premises are reasonable, the conclusion logically follows:

 “Therefore, miracles are possible.”

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The following are posts by a young man, Nathan Apodaca, who I have had the privilege of discipling over the last few years.  He has a passion for making a case for Christianity wherever he can.  In this series he will talk about sharing on a college campus.

In my last post, I discussed whether or not evil done in the name of religion is a good excuse for rejecting that particular belief as true.  I also dealt with whether or not science is at war with religion. As we saw, evil acts done by adherents of a religion do not disprove the claims of that belief system. Here I will discuss the second objection a bit further.  Is science at war with religion? And can we trust a miracle claim?

 Recently, I heard an argument against the supernatural from one of my professors. The argument went like this:

 “We cannot prove a supernatural event, because if we could, then it wouldn’t be a supernatural event, right?”

 Phew, at face value that sounds powerful! If this is correct, then no supernatural event that someone has ever claimed to have witnessed in history, could be shown to be true. This includes events like the resurrection of Jesus or Joseph Smith’s visions or any other miraculous claims. This has huge implications on supernaturally based religious beliefs. After all, if there is no real reason to believe something, then why bother believing any religion that makes miraculous claims?

 Fortunately, there is an answer. When I heard the above statement, my initial reaction was to ask “Well, why not?” After all, if there is evidence to support a supernatural event, doesn’t that make it possible?

 Plus if supporting evidence exists, then there are further implications. After all, if miracles can and did happen, then the idea that only the physical world exists (naturalism) is therefore false.  This seems to be the motivation many naturalists have for trying to dismiss the supernatural.

 Many books and articles have been written that provide a good defense of miracles. However, rather than review their work, I will instead briefly give a quick argument in defense of miracles themselves. It goes like this:

1.  If God exists, then miracles are possible.

2.  God exists

3.  Therefore, miracles are possible.

 Beginning with the first premise it seems obvious that if God exists, then He can interact with our world as He sees fit. Also, if God can create a world, then He should, by definition, be able to interact with the world. After all, His creating a world would, by definition, be a miracle in itself. Thus, the first premise is true. Now, the question remains, is the second premise true? I will discuss this in my next post.

Go to part 4

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College Life and Apologetics: Part 2

The following are posts by a young man, Nathan Apodaca, who I have had the privilege of discipling over the last few years.  He has a passion for making a case for Christianity wherever he can.  In this series he will talk about sharing on a college campus.

The first encounter I experienced towards the beginning of my first semester in college. As I was waiting for my first class that morning, I overheard two men talking nearby. As I listened, I realized they were talking about religion. Now, if you have never been on a college campus, particularly a state college, religion is a common subject of talk; primarily focused on attacking religious beliefs. In particular, these two men were talking about violent acts done in the name of religion.  In their minds this was a good reason to reject all religious beliefs. I initially decided not to interrupt but moments later I changed my mind. During our conversation, these gentlemen brought up a couple of  points I would like to discuss.

1.  “Religion causes violence. Just look at the Crusades or 9/11!”

While many evil things have been done in the name of a particular religion, the two questions that need to be asked are 1) “Is this belief true?” and 2) “Is the fact of religious violence a good reason to reject this belief system?”

This may not sound very tolerant, but think about this for a moment. What if you turned on the news tomorrow and you saw a report saying that an evil act was done by someone claiming that all religions are equal? Or that everyone should be tolerant?  It sounds silly, but you can see my point. If an evil act is done in the name of a particular belief, then is that a good reason to reject that belief? The answer is obviously no.

Does religion cause violence? Well, to find out, we need to look at the texts that are used to support the religion’s beliefs. For Christians it is the Bible, and for Muslims, the Qur’an. Are there verses that order followers of that worldview to commit evil acts? Are those verses being used in the proper context? Is encouraging followers to commit violence the author’s original intent?

I am not going to go through both belief systems and examine those texts. My primary point is, if the writing (whether the Bible or the Qur’an) doesn’t support violence, then just because a few adherents do evil, that is not a reason for rejecting it as true. (Good book: Paul Copan’s book Is God a Moral Monster? It biblically demonstrates that Christianity does not teach violence.)

2.  “I’m just going to trust in science.”

 This is a very popular objection.  They imply by this statement, science and religion are at odds. My first response to a statement like this would be to ask, “What do you mean by that?”  Most likely, the person means that nothing is true unless determined by science. This means that all propositions based on philosophy, religion, or ethics cannot be true unless they can be proved scientifically. Sounds reasonable, right? But there’s a problem; is the statement “Nothing is true unless it was proved by science” provable by science? After all, how do you use science to find out if science is useful in the first place? And if you can’t prove science using scientific methods, then how can you trust it? It seems obvious science cannot give us all the answers to the questions we face.  Many need philosophy or religion or ethics for a better understanding. For instance, questions like, why are we here? Why is murder wrong? How do we know anything at all?

 In conclusion, while these two statements may sound great, they are obviously flawed. In my next series of posts, I will answer the question is Christianity true? This was a popular question I’ve dealt with over the last school year.

 Go to part 3 here

 

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Is it Unloving to Call Someone’s Beliefs False?

Question:  Why do Christians spend so much time and effort calling other beliefs wrong?  It would be better if they spent their time studying their religion and leaving others alone.

Answer:  This criticism is leveled at everyone who thinks they have the truth and are confident all other belief systems are false. When this particular accusation is aimed at me, it reveals some information about the questioner’s belief system.  No one is neutral and everyone has a worldview.  This question assumes some information that I need to expose.

I will use three worldviews to demonstrate how people view religious belief.   I will examine this question from the viewpoint of an atheist, pantheist, and a Christian.  In “bold” will be the assumption of the person asking the question.

1.   All religions are made up by the individual.  Atheism believes there is no God.  In the mind of the atheist since God doesn’t exist, all religions are manmade. They are created to satisfy a need such as life beyond death or to give purpose and meaning to existence.  They see God as some sort of theological Santa Claus giving all good gifts to his followers.

If all religions are made up then to tell someone their beliefs are false is the height of arrogance.  Who are you to say?  It would be similar to telling someone who loves chocolate ice cream he is wrong.  All religions become personal preferences.  Who are you to tell someone their mythical beliefs are false.  Fiction or make believe cannot be true or false.

The questioner is assuming his viewpoint is true and all other religious beliefs are false.  Is the atheist unloving?  I love to point this out.  In order for this assumption to be true, the atheist has to make his case God doesn’t exist.

2.   All religions worship the same God but have different ways of expressing that belief.  The pantheist holds this viewpoint.  Pantheism teaches that all is god and god is all.  Every material and immaterial thing is god.  The chair I am sitting on as I write this is god.  Since all is god then any distinctions we observe are simply illusions.

If all is god then all religions are equal.  Pantheists believe all roads lead to heaven.  An illustration they like to use points to multiple dirt roads that lead to the top of a mountain.  At the base of the mountain each road gives the impression they are vastly different and are headed in various directions.  However, if you view it from the top you’d see that all roads lead to the same peak.  This illustration attempts to show that even though all religions seem to vastly different, if you viewed them from above you would see all lead to the same god.  They also like to use the blind men and the elephant illustration to show all religions worship the same god.

If all religions are equal then to say one is superior to another is wrong and could be labeled unloving.  This violates the tenants of religious pluralism.  I once asked a pantheist what she thought of the statement Jesus is the only way to heaven.  She called that view primitive.  That was her “polite” way saying my view was wacked.  By her comments she demonstrated my road doesn’t lead the heaven.  What this exposes is all views that say they are the only way, cannot lead to heaven.  This demonstrates the pantheist assumption is self-refuting.

3.   There is only one religion that worships the one true God and all others are false.  Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and classic Christians hold this view.  It could be labeled an exclusivist viewpoint.

From the classic Christian standpoint it was Jesus who said He is the only way to heaven.  Speaking to Thomas and the rest of His disciples in John 14:6, Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”  There are at least 100 verses in the Bible that either directly or indirectly teach Jesus is the only way to heaven[1].  According to Christianity those who reject Jesus are destined for eternal punishment in hell.

Is it unloving for the Christian to tell someone their religious beliefs are wrong?  If the Christian worldview is true (matches the world as it really is) then the most loving thing a Christian can do is warn anyone who rejects the Biblical Jesus.  It is out of a heart of love the Christian shares his or her faith and tries to warn others of the dangers of their false beliefs.

Atheist magician Penn Jillette (Penn & Teller) had some kind words for a Christian gentleman who, after a show, shared his faith and gave Penn a Bible.  He said he was a kind man and was incredibly genuine in both his love for the show and his beliefs.  Penn said that if you really believe someone is going to hell, how much do you have to hate someone to not proselytize?  I think everyone should see this interview.  (Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhG-tkQ_Q2w )

Penn Jillette

Cover of Penn Jillette

Jesus commanded all Christians to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19).  He said we are to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8).  The Christian sharing the truth about Jesus is the most loving thing we can do for someone.



[1] Greg Koukl, Jesus the Only Way 100 Verses, Stand to Reason, 1995

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Intelligent Design as Science Part 2 Arguing for Design

An Argument for the Design of the Universe

In the Bible, King David attests to the designer when he writes in Psalms 19:1-2 (NIV) The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” We learn the design of the universe displays God’s glory.  They display His handiwork.  As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1 people who reject the God of the universe are without excuse; they will be judged for their moral wrongs because the knowledge of him has been displayed throughout creation.  Instead asking for forgiveness, they suppress the truth about God in their unrighteousness.

Christian philosopher Dr. William Lane Craig regularly debates atheists on the existence of God.  In his opening arguments he almost always begins with the cosmological argument (God is the cause of the universe), followed with the teleological argument.  The teleological argument uses the design of the universe to establish the existence of God.  The Greek word “telos” means design.  The argument goes like this:

  1. Every design had a designer
  2. The universe has highly complex design
  3. Therefore, the universe had a Designer

The conclusion #3 follows logically from the first two premises.  Therefore, to defeat this argument a person would have to show either premise #1 or #2 were false.  I am going to assume #1 is true.  I will spend rest of my time defending premise #2, demonstrating the universe has a highly complex design.

Way back in the 18th century, William Paley (1743-1805) made the argument for design famous with his illustration concerning a watch.  Supposed you are walking along the beach and you find a watch.  What do you conclude?  Was it created by the ocean waves moving it forward and backwards?  Did the sun and wind help make it into a watch?  The answer of course is no.  Nobody questions the fact that a designer made the watch and someone accidently dropped it along the sea shore.

The universe displays a similar design.  Scientists say the universe is very delicately balanced and extremely sensitive to change.  If that balance is upset even slightly in the basic conditions necessary for life, it would never have been produced.  There are over 122 factors present (number continues to increase) in the universe that if one small change occurred, life on earth would be impossible.

Today there is a term for describing the purpose of this amazing design; it is call the anthropic principle.  This principle 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, 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.”[1] 

Harvard educated Patrick Glynn in his book, God: The Evidence, said this: “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.”[2]

A whole host of books have documented this phenomenon.  There’s not much debate about the anthropic principle 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 struggles with the vast amount of evidence for design.

My science teacher friend John said the anthropic principle was the most powerful argument I presented to him.  He said he didn’t have a good explanation for what we see in the universe.  What are these critical factors of design that have caused atheists and scientists to wonder about the universe?

Go to part 3 here



[1] Wheeler, John A., “Forward,” in The Anthropic Cosmological Principle by John Barrow and Frank

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

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

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

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College Life and Apologetics Part 1

The following are posts by a young man, Nathan Apodaca, who I have had the privilege of discipling over the last few years.  He has a passion for making a case for Christianity wherever he can.  In this series he will talk about sharing on a college campus.

I was home-schooled through a private Christian school in my hometown, where I learned many key ideas of the Christian faith. I am currently a sophomore in college where I am working on my B.A. in Criminal Justice.

I got involved in apologetics in high school after encountering several of the arguments for atheism from an online blog. At the time I was writing a paper on the creation vs. evolution debate for a high school project. As I was doing my research, I came across the website, Talk Origins.org , which happens to be a pro-Darwin evolution website. As I was reading through the articles, they made what seemed like convincing arguments that trusting the Bible was based on the notion of blind faith and faulty reasoning.  I began to question my faith. However, due to my stubbornness, I decided to look for answers to the questions the site posed.

Thankfully, I found many of the answers I was looking for. I then bought a copy of the book Is God Just a Human Invention?  by Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow (I highly recommend it ).  This book answered many of my questions. I was also fortunate enough to attend an Apologetics class, hosted by my youth group at church, using the curriculum from Focus on the Family called True-U. At this point, I became very interested in the discipline of apologetics (making a case for Christianity).

As I have gone through my first year of college I have had many interactions with people where I have been able to discuss the truth of the Gospel, and the reasons why I think Christianity has the answers to life’s questions. In my next few posts I will discuss some of the arguments I have heard on my college campus in San Marcos, California.

Go to part 2 here

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Helping Our Youth Pastors

Surveys show high school students raised in the church are turning their back on Christianity once they enter college.  The percentages range from 60 – 75%.  Even at the low end, this is way too high!  Many churches have youth pastors, who have the tough job of helping high school students grow in their faith.  If you love apologetics there are ways you can be supportive of these individuals.

Brett Kunkle of Stand to Reason posted a short blog[1] on how we can come alongside the youth pastor and help them identify where their students are at.

Number one, we can have youth leaders test their students. It can be a written test or a role-play. Figure out ways to test students so that parents and youth leaders can see just how little their students really know. Work with your youth pastor and come up with a basic theology test. I might say to my youth pastor, “What are the essential things you think our kids need to know?” Do they need to know something about the trinity? Do they need to know some basics about the cross? Create some questions, and then have a written test that students take. Collect the tests, and then look at them.

The typical Christian kid is going to fail that test miserably. Hopefully that will help our youth leaders and parents to wake up to see that our kids don’t know more than “love Jesus and be good.” They have almost no theological depth.

You can also do it apologetically. You can role-play with the students, and let the youth pastor see that the students can’t answer some of the most basic questions and challenges.

Another thing I would suggest is to get a book in your youth leader’s hands. Have parents read a book called Soul Searching by Christian Smith. It gives a snapshot of where our young people are, and it’s not good news. What they found is that our young people are completely inarticulate about what they believe and why they believe it. Hopefully, when our leaders and parents see that, it will wake them up to see the importance of seriously training our young people.

Hopefully, this post is a place to start.  This issue is much bigger than just what goes on in high school ministries.  What is the ministry philosophy of the entire church?  How are parents equipped to understand what they believe and why they believe it?  If we as parents are called to pass on the faith, are we up to the task?

With the efforts of the entire church, maybe this percentage of students leaving will lower.  It is up to us to be effective agents of change.  We need to be like Jude when he writes, Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”Jude 1:3 (NIV)  By using our gifts and encouraging key players in this task, we can contend for the faith by equipping our youth to understand what and why they believe what they believe.

[1] http://www.str.org/blog/how-do-we-wake-up-the-youth-leader-to-see-the-need-for-waking-up-our-youth-video#.VD0oefldV8E

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Sharing Christ on an Airplane

     A few years ago I was flying out of Chicago after speaking at a teacher’s conference.  Plane flights are great for getting into spiritual conversations because you have a captive audience.  On this flight I was seated next to a young lady named Linda who was returning to San Diego to be with her boyfriend.  The flight was showing the movie Contact and after some friendly conversation she started watching the film.

     Contact is a science fiction drama I knew would open the door for a spiritual conversation.  All I had to do was read my book, wait and pray.  Once the movie was over I knew in my heart that I was going to be given a chance to share Christ.

     I started right in and to my surprise she really wanted to talk about God.  An even bigger surprise was every question she asked, when I answered, she said things like, “wow I never thought of it that way” or “that really makes sense now.”  I was bewildered because most spiritual conversations I have, the other person never agrees with me.  In fact I was so astonished I was at a loss for words, which is strange for me.

     During the next 30 minutes we talked about Christ, sin, punishment, and the church in general and I soon realized we were about to land and I needed to move her towards salvation.  So we went through some key passages, such as Romans 3:23 “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  I used these verses to show her the need for forgiveness.  Finally, as we were taxing on the runway and I recited from memory Romans 10:9-10 “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

     When I finished she said she believed what those verses said and that “Jesus was Lord.”  At that point the airplane came to a stop and I had to say goodbye.  Even though I had no opportunity to follow-up on her decision I am trusting in the work of the Holy Spirit that she made an eternal decision for Christ.  Maybe someday I will see Linda in heaven.

     The only thing I would have done differently was I would have shared contact information so I could have followed up on her commitment.  At the time of the flight my web site didn’t exist.  My point is after sharing Jesus on a plane, bus, taxi ride, or other situation leave them with someway to take that next step.  On flights today I am much more prepared to share something as we part company.

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