Answering Atheists

June 16, 2015

A Short Response to Atheistic Claims about Christianity

My wife, a religious studies teacher, asked me to write an essay for her to use in her lessons. Having done that for her, it crossed my mind that here was an opportunity to create an interesting resource so here, below, you will find, the ‘Exam Question’ she gave me, my ‘Essay Answer’ and then a series of ‘Short Answer responses’ to each of the points raised in the ‘essay’. I emphasise they are short answers and each one could be expanded greatly to clarify the points being made. Further information is available elsewhere on this site and there are numerous books by distinguished and world renowned Christian scholars which, sadly, appear so often to be ignored by those atheists who wish to denigrate without having first given deep and extensive thought to the subject matter here.

The Exam Question: “There are many valid reasons which support the view of atheists”. Examine and comment on this claim.

My ‘Essay’:

Our starting point must be to ask, what is the view of an atheist? A dictionary definition of an atheist is one who denies the existence of God. A ‘valid’ reason (for holding any view) might be considered to be a reason that naturally flows out of the nature of the subject under scrutiny. In reality, therefore, reasons for rejecting the concept of ‘God’ flow out of ideas about such a ‘God’. We assume for the sake of this essay that our ‘God-concept’ is the Judaeo-Christian, supreme, divine being found in the pages of the Bible.

The first set of reasons come from atheists’ reaction to this particular picture of God. Christians (and other believers) say God is spirit and spirit cannot be seen. The atheist may say, existence is only matter and there is nothing beyond that.

Believers say God is an all-powerful, benign and loving being with personality. Atheists tend to have a fourfold response to this. First, in this century Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) and Christopher Hitchens (God is not Great) have been proponents of the view that says that the Bible reveals a thoroughly unpleasant God and reject ‘him’ on those grounds.

Second, they will add that the whole problem of suffering in the world indicates a God who is either powerless or indifferent and not the God of love and goodness put forward by believers.

Third, they will say that they are masters of their own destiny and do not need the crutch of religion which is what such a God provides (i.e. they do not like being told there is someone to whom they would be answerable).

Fourth, they will say that God or religious phenomena cannot be duplicated or cannot be tested scientifically, i.e. you cannot get God to react. It was W. K. Clifford in 1879 who said, “It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” The claim of the atheist is that that evidence is lacking.

But we must move on to a second set of ‘valid reasons’ that are more sociological, psychological or philosophical. In this group we find, a) World religion cannot agree on ‘a God’, b) so much religious belief is based on superstitious fear, c) so often religion seems to be inherited – “I believe cos my parents do”, d) religion causes more division and wars than it provides answers, e) religious belief is tantamount to magic or weird mysticism f) Christian behaviour is so often lacking that it invalidates the religion, g) religious language is unverifiable and therefore meaningless. (A. J. Ayer said, “to say that “God Exists” is to make a metaphysical utterance which cannot be either true or false.)

The final group of ‘valid reasons’ might come under the heading, ‘God is redundant’. The primary claim made by modern atheists is that science increasingly provides answers for things attributed to God. Richard Dawkins, (The Blind Watchmaker) said, “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist”, placing all his trust in the theory of evolution. Humanists (mostly atheists) put forward the assumption that mankind has come of age and so materially (within science, technology and medicine) and psychologically, we no longer need to rely on some mysterious figure in the shadows of Neanderthal consciousness.

Before we finish it is wise to check whether these reasons put forward by prominent atheists are in fact ‘valid’.  That they may so appear at first glance, there is no doubt for they have been run out countless times in different ages.  Christian philosopher, Dr. Francis Schaeffer in his extensive apologetic work of last century, maintained that we all approach these things with presuppositions already formed, mostly in reaction to childhood events. It is an interesting exercise to listen to the best known atheists talk about their childhood and see the origins of the things against which they now speak. ‘Valid’ thus, so often, becomes “what fits my world-view”.

The challenge from both sides is to make the effort to think more widely about all the issues above. As a large number of apologists, reacting against Dawkins’ The God Delusion, pointed out, his Biblical knowledge that he uses in his arguments is the equivalent of the Child’s Spotters Book of Birds that a theologian might use to critique Dawkin’s extensive and excellent work in the sphere of biology. We need to be both genuinely informed, open to all possibilities, and willing to really think through issues in the light of that knowledge.

Short Answer responses:

Atheists’ Reasons Short Answer Responses
The first set of reasons come from atheists’ reaction to this particular picture of God. Christians (and other believers) say God is spirit and spirit cannot be seen. The atheist may say, existence is only matter and there is nothing beyond that. It is a short-sighted science that fails to ask, what is ‘material’? Is energy ‘material’? Is gravity ‘material’ My own definition for God in these discussions is “energy with personality”. Yes, it still defies understanding but Quantum theory defies understanding yet we accept the assertions of very bright physicists.
Believers say God is an all-powerful, benign and loving being with personality. Atheists … have been proponents of the view that says that the Bible reveals a thoroughly unpleasant God and reject ‘him’ on those grounds. The sadness of these arguments that have been put forward by twenty first century atheists is the obvious ignorance of what the Bible does actually say about God and why it says it. Part of the work of theology is to reason out what we find in Scripture and the person who takes the time to thoroughly read the Old Testament (as well as the New)will find the God revealed there is exactly the same as that in the New, a God described in the New as love nd full of goodness.
Second, they will add that the whole problem of suffering in the world indicates a God who is either powerless or indifferent and not the God of love and goodness put forward by believers. God is neither powerless nor indifferent but has granted mankind free will, which enables humans to choose to follow or reject Him, and choose whether to be loving and good or self-centredly unpleasant. ‘Man’s inhumanity to man’ is the primary cause of so much suffering. The fact that the earth works in a broken form since the Fall of Genesis 3, is also a primary cause of suffering.
Third, they will say that they are masters of their own destiny and do not need the crutch of religion which is what such a God provides (i.e. they do not like being told there is someone to whom they would be answerable). Theory and practice are very different.  Listen to the great philosopher and hear his fine words about the greatness of Man, but then look at the quality of his life, the way he treated his family and even abused himself with drink or drugs and so often the lie is revealed. The Bible uses the word Sin and essentially it means self-centred godlessness leading to poor behaviour. We are all tainted with it at modern scandals and so much modern life reveals in abundance. We all need help.
Fourth, they will say that God or religious phenomena cannot be duplicated or cannot be tested scientifically, i.e. you cannot get God to react. It was W. K. Clifford in 1879 who said, “It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” The claim of the atheist is that that evidence is lacking. If God is an almighty divine Being as the Bible declares, then He will not be at our beck and call. The fact is that the Bible is FULL of His words and His actions (which appear with a remarkably uniformity throughout the sixty six books of the Bible with so many different writers) which can be checked and assessed. Rather than lacking the evidence is there in abundance. In addition we might speak of Christian experience which can be observed and it is a foolish person who on examining so many Christian lives decries the goodness and the experience observed there.
But we must move on to a second set of ‘valid reasons’ that are more sociological, psychological or philosophical. In this group we find, a) World religion cannot agree on ‘a God’, The existence of a number of ‘world religions’ first of all simply highlights the fact that the vast majority of mankind seek after a divine being and spiritual experience. Judaism and Christianity portray the same God of the Bible but Christianity stands out with its unique claims based on reliable historical background.
b) so much religious belief is based on superstitious fear, Isn’t so much human life built upon superstitious fear? The ‘gods’ of history reveal a superstitious fear. Christianity comes from a God of love who banishes all fear in the light of His love. Christians are probably some of the least superstitious people on the earth, because they do not fear weird powers but trust in a loving God.
c) so often religion seems to be inherited – “I believe cos my parents do”, Heaven forbid! I’m sure this is true sometimes which only goes to highlight the need to clarify that a real Christian is only one who has had an experience of God through Jesus Christ, a real and personal encounter, not a second hand belief.
d) religion causes more division and wars than it provides answers, Actually, no, politics using the name of religious groups does. Even the famous Crusades modern historians will tell you, were not so much religious exercises as simply defensive operations to counter the ever-expanding invasions of Muslim armies into Europe. The Christian faith preaches peace and will always look for reconciliation but recognises the need on occasion to defend against invasion.
e) religious belief is tantamount to magic or weird mysticism Christian belief is grounded in carefully documented very down to earth history that is reliable. There is nothing fairy-tale or weird about it and there is nothing weird about the average everyday Christian!
f) Christian behaviour is so often lacking that it invalidates the religion, Without doubt human behaviour has so often failed its Lord and history is cluttered with such failures. This only goes to highlight that Christians are ordinary people who can still get it wrong, even though they know and experience the wonder of God, His love and His resources.
g) religious language is unverifiable and therefore meaningless. (A. J. Ayer said, “to say that “God Exists” is to make a metaphysical utterance which cannot be either true or false.) We constantly use language that cannot be verified absolutely, e.g. “I love you” (what does that really mean with its shades of understanding?) “That sky is very beautiful” When we say “God exists we are saying no more (to use one approach) than to say “Plato existed” or “Gravity exists). One of those was based on historical evidence (for which there is staggeringly more for the Bible) and the other on experience (and Christians will say that repeatable religious experience similarly points to one cause – God).
The final group of ‘valid reasons’ might come under the heading, ‘God is redundant’. The primary claim made by modern atheists is that science increasingly provides answers for things attributed to God. Richard Dawkins, (The Blind Watchmaker) said, “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist”, placing all his trust in the theory of evolution. I don’t really mind whether you believe in the theory of evolution with all its question marks or the theory of Creation with all its question marks. I am open to possibilities where there is an absence of certainty. Sadly some atheists speak where there is an absence of certainty as if it is certain. In so doing they upset a lot pf other atheists who point out that such dogmatism is arrogant and gets them a bad name collectively. That also ignores those other very clever scientists who have a strong Christian faith. Be careful with your dogmatism; it can make you look foolish.
Humanists (mostly atheists) put forward the assumption that mankind has come of age and so materially (within science, technology and medicine) and psychologically, we no longer need to rely on some mysterious figure in the shadows of Neanderthal consciousness. I actually believe that God desires us as human being to grow up! That doesn’t mean that we ignore Him but it does mean we stop being self-centred and making claims that are patently foolish. That the human race has come of age is patently untrue. We live in a world where upset, stress, and anxiety are rife, (and so our health services and social services are stretched to breaking point) whether it be in family life, local life, national life, private life or corporate life. To deny this is to reveal we live with closed eyes and closed minds. If anything, the state of the world today says we need not religious extremism, nor more political ideology, nor more education, but an intelligent faith in the wonderful loving God of the Bible.

Ranting against Christianity and God

June 16, 2015

Ranting against Christianity and God

Recently my wife, an RE (or RS) teacher, wrote a mini-essay portraying what you so often find on websites of those who have a problem with God. It was to show her students how NOT to compile an answer to an exam question but it struck me that it would be helpful to provide some short answers to the things that are so often said. They are only short answers but each one has extensive intellectual support if you want to go looking for it.  I hope you find them useful. Here was the ‘exam question’, the ‘rant answer’ and then my responses.

Question: ‘There are many valid reasons which support the view of atheists.’ Examine and comment on this claim.

Rant Answer:

Christianity is not a religion that is worth believing in if one wishes to maintain any kind of moral integrity. After all it is based on a book which has so many contradictions in it that no one with any intelligence would believe it. The Bible is very biased as it is written by people who already believe that God exists and so they have made up stories which support this idea. There is little proof that Jesus lived so once again we have a collection of stories written by people who wanted to stir up a rebellion against the Roman government of the time. Miracles cannot be proved scientifically so therefore probably have other explanations (see Mackie’s ideas). Also if the God who is described in the Bible existed there wouldn’t be any suffering. Also the God of the Old Testament appears to be a very different God from the God of the New Testament. More people are atheists than believers which is another good reason to support Atheism. Lots of highly intelligent people have written books about the non-existence of God e.g. ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins, which is another good reason not to believe he exists. Science has proved that the earth was created by a Big Bang – so where was God in that? You can’t prove God exists scientifically so therefore it is meaningless to talk about his existence. Which brings me to another point – why ‘His’ existence and not ‘Hers’? Where are dinosaurs in the Bible? How could a boat fit all the animals in the world on it? What about 9/11? What about the Holocaust? As already stated, Christianity is only for weak-minded, non-thinking people.

Some Short Answer responses:

The ‘Rant’ Claims Short Answer Responses
Christianity is not a religion that is worth believing in if one wishes to maintain any kind of moral integrity. A strange claim as Christians are some of the most ‘integrity-conscious’ people of any society. Assuredly this may not include every believer but it does include a very large number for whom the integrity of their faith is of great importance.
After all it is based on a book which has so many contradictions in it that no one with any intelligence would believe it. In reality it is very difficult to find anything which could be considered a contradiction. That one person records certain pieces of information at one specific event, and another person at the same event records different pieces of information does not mean a contradiction unless it is in the form of A saying a certain thing happened and B denied it happened.
The Bible is very biased as it is written by people who already believe that God exists and so they have made up stories which support this idea. The only problem with this assertion is that there are so many people believing he exists, many of them with a very high level of integrity. You may argue with what they believe they experienced but not that they did experience something.  So many people (in a non-word processor age) bothering to write with such uniformity demands attention.
There is little proof that Jesus lived so once again we have a collection of stories written by people who wanted to stir up a rebellion against the Roman government of the time. Although the evidence outside the Bible is limited it is there and no serious historians today deny the existence of the person of Jesus Christ as a genuine historical figure.
Miracles cannot be proved scientifically so therefore probably have other explanations To deny the possibility denies the scientific approach which is always open to investigate with an open mind whatever phenomena occur. Theologically, if there is an all-powerful Creator God then there would be nothing to stop Him stepping in and changing the things we call laws of nature.
Also if the God who is described in the Bible existed there wouldn’t be any suffering. The Bible shows God giving mankind free will. To overcome the actions of evil, bad, or even slightly bad people to prevent them inflicting suffering on others would mean we would require Him to deny us our free will. We can have it only one way or the other.
Also the God of the Old Testament appears to be a very different God from the God of the New Testament. This assertion is born out of ignorance of the two Testaments and ignorance and lack of thinking in respect of specific things that occur in them both.
More people are atheists than believers which is another good reason to support Atheism. Actually this is completely false. The number of those following some form of religious belief outnumbers those who declare they are atheists, thousands to one.
Lots of highly intelligent people have written books about the non-existence of God e.g. ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins, which is another good reason not to believe he exists. Actually a limited number of people have so written. A considerable number of equally intelligent people have written of their certainty that he exists.
Science has proved that the earth was created by a Big Bang – so where was God in that? Science believes in the theory of the Big Bang but accepts that they are no further than a millisecond after such an event. The biggest problem that science has is that it believes that something cannot come from absolutely nothing.
You can’t prove God exists scientifically so therefore it is meaningless to talk about his existence. There is a sense by which you cannot ‘prove’ anything that occurs in history but you can weigh the clear evidence and draw reasonable conclusions. The historical evidence that shows that in the Bible we have reliable testimony to what actually happened is overwhelming. Indeed it vastly outweighs the historical evidence for any other ancient documents. It is also reasonable to examine the lives of Christians throughout the last two thousand years and draw some very logical and valid conclusions that point towards the existence of God.
Which brings me to another point – why ‘His’ existence and not ‘Hers’? The Bible conveys the picture of God as a loving Father figure but there are also instances where ‘He’ in shown as having feminine characteristics also.
Where are dinosaurs in the Bible? The simple answer to that is almost certainly in an era before mankind and therefore before the Biblical record.
How could a boat fit all the animals in the world on it? Whether it was of “all the world” or of just the Middle East has always been a question mark. Whichever the answer, the enormous size of the ‘ark’ would accommodate two of each species according to a number of scientists.
What about 9/11? What about the Holocaust? What about “man’s inhumanity to man” you are asking. You simply reinforce the point that God has given us free will and we so often choose to use it hurting other people – not only in big wars or terrorism, but also in our families. We need help!
As already stated, Christianity is only for weak-minded, non-thinking people. Quite to the contrary, Christianity is for those who will really think about the human situation and the clear evidence for a Divine Being and all that that implies for us. There have been millions of very intelligent people who have acknowledged the existence of God and come to know Him through the means of Jesus Christ.

The Perfection of God

January 23, 2014

It is very easy when reading the Bible to pass verses or words by with little thought – especially when we don’t like the word and  “Wrath” is one of those words.  May I deal with our psychological or ethical hang-ups about this word.  We’ll accept from the outset that it means righteous anger, but I want to remind you of a particular teaching that comes out again and again in the Bible – that God is perfect.  Now be under no illusion that perfect means complete and faultless, and cannot be improved upon. Therefore whatever God thinks, says or does is perfect, is faultless and cannot be improved upon.

We need to let this truth sink in.  Let’s see it as it crops up through the Bible:

“He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” (Deut 32:4 – song of Moses).

“As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless.” (2 Sam 22:31 – song of David).

“From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.” (Psa 50:2 – song of Asaph).  “O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvellous things, things planned long ago.” (Isa 25:1 – Isaiah).

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48 – Jesus).

“You will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Rom 12:2 – Paul).

“Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb 5:8,9 – writer to the Hebrews)

There you have it: Jesus was begotten and was thus perfect because he was God.  God is perfect and everything He says or does is perfect – they cannot be improved upon!  Now start thinking about the difficult subjects  of God’s anger and God’s judgement from that angle or through that lens if you like.

If God is angry about something then it is right, proper and appropriate to be angry and we can even go further and say it would be wrong not to be angry. We tolerate wrong and shrug our shoulders over it, but God sees it and sees it spoils the Creation that He made which was “very good” (Gen 1:31) and if God says something was “very good” you may take it that it was perfect. And now sin spoils it. The wonder and the beauty and the perfection has been spoiled and marred and desecrated.

Imagine you were a master painter and you had spent months creating a most beautiful masterpiece and a teenager, say, comes in spits on it, writes on it in felt pen, throws paint on it and finally cuts it to pieces with a Stanley knife. Would you still be as calm and equitable about it as we so often are about wrongs in our world? No, we would be livid that this wonderful masterpiece with all its beauty has been utterly desecrated.

Why don’t we get angry? It’s all a matter of perspective. If we could see the whole picture with the completeness and perfection of God our emotions would be different. It is right to be angry, it is right to be upset and indeed, to go further, it is wrong not to be. Righteous anger is, as a dictionary puts it, “passionate displeasure”. Please distinguish angers from hostility or revenge.

Righteous anger is simply an objective emotion that responds rightly to wrong. What follows, when it is God, is a dispassionate objective assessment of what to do about it. God’s judgement is His dispassionate objective  assessment of what to do about the wrong which has been highlighted by His anger. Anger is instinctive. Our passionate displeasure rises up in the face of something awful, something wrong.

If it is us, we react and may over-react and get it wrong but God, we saw, is perfect so He looks and He assess what is the right thing to do, the perfect thing to do, the thing to be done in the light of ALL of the facts of both past, present and future, for only He can do this, for He knows all things and He knows how things could work out and how they can work out and how they will work out, and all the differences depend on His actions now. He chooses that which is perfect.

So when we look at His acts of judgement in the Bible, realise you don’t have all the facts, your emotions are stunted, your emotions are biased, you see imperfectly, but God has seen, God has assessed perfectly and even though you cannot see it, know that what He has done has been The best, The only right thing to be done.

Bear ALL of this in mind when you think of the Judgment of God.  This may give us a great deal of fuel to ponder on WHY God brings a particular judgement and why having made a dispassionate objective assessment of what to do about it, God’s judgement is this particular thing – which, with all the facts and information available to Him, is faultless!


A Unique Faith

August 22, 2013

Matt 11:4,5   Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.

People struggle with belief. We live in an age where cynicism reigns, because so many times people in authority have let us down and we are no longer sure if there is anyone out there we can trust.. If I suggest trusting in God, I sometimes hear people say, “Well surely all religious beliefs are the same aren’t they? Who should we believe?”  My answer, as gently as possible, is, “Actually no. I don’t want to speak about any other religion but if you examine the Christian faith you will find it is unique and, moreover, provides a basis for life that IS verifiable. It just needs checking.”

Let me repeat that claim that is outrageous in today’s world, but it does stand and is worth checking: the Christian faith is unique. Let me list for you the things in it that stand out as unique. These are the claims of the Christian faith:

1. The Bible
We may take it for granted but the Old and New Testaments of the Bible reveal to us, over a two thousand year period of history, workings of God. Contrary to popular opinion it is not full of contradictions and anyone who will take the time will find that its origins are thoroughly trustworthy. The Christian faith declares it is inspired by God; He prompted people to write the 66 books that go to make it one harmonious whole. Nowhere else in the world do you find such a resource.

2. God
Now the Bible, again contrary to much popular opinion, is very specific about God and shows ‘Him’ as a unique being who is the Creator of all we know, who is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-wise – and perfect. More importantly for us, He is utterly good and utterly loving. This is not the place to justify those statements but they can be checked both in the Bible and in the experience of millions down through the last two thousand years.

3. Jesus Christ
In the historical person of Jesus Christ, the Bible (and the Christian Faith) claims that he was and is unique in a whole variety of ways:

  • He was and is God in human form; he came down from heaven where he had existed in eternity, being born in the form of a baby at Bethlehem, and we refer to him as the Son of God.
  • He lived a normal human life for about thirty years and then went about the countryside, teaching about God as his Father, and performing all kinds of wonderful miracles (see the summary verse above)
  • After three years of this, (and the records are there in the four Gospels in the New Testament) he allowed himself to be arrested by the authorities, falsely tried, condemned to death and executed.
  • After three days, he was seen alive again, i.e. He rose from the dead, and met with his followers for a number of weeks before returning to heaven.
  • The Bible teaches that his death was him, as the Son of God, dying to take the punishment that is due to each of us for the things we do wrong.

4. Christian Believers
Remember, these are simply the beliefs or claims of Christianity, originating in the Bible and verified over the last two thousand years by millions of people. The Christian experience includes the following:

  • Surrender to God, confessing our failure, asking for his forgiveness on the basis of what Jesus has done for us.
  • By the working of His own Spirit, He empowers us and new believers are so often heard to declare, “I feel like I am a new person”, which is exactly what has happened; hence the  expression that comes from John’s Gospel in the New Testament, of ‘being born again’. It means starting life all over again with a wonderful new relationship with God, knowing His love, His power, His guidance and direction.
  • When we do this, God forgives us and declares us righteous and His children.

Now you may not understand all this and you may challenge it (and it does stand challenging) but this is what makes the Christian Faith unique. NO WHERE else in the world, will you find any claims from any other belief system that come anywhere near this.

This is not to denigrate believers of those other world religions, simply to acknowledge the fact that we don’t all believe the same things, and it is both silly and disrespectful to suggest otherwise. We should not be afraid of having different beliefs – politicians do it all the time – and having a different belief system does not disrespect others who have different beliefs.

These are the claims and they are worth investigating, and as millions have found, they are life transforming. Goodness and love become the new currency and the new experience.


Isn’t the Law of God weird?

June 10, 2010

Question: Aren’t the laws in the Law of Moses outdated and weird? Is there any value is studying them?

Reasonable: The Law of God that He gave through Moses is not weird. Read, for example, Exodus 21 and 22 and see how reasonable these laws were. These laws reveal a society that could order its behaviour by God’s design.

Dealing with Failure: The laws recognised that the Sin in men or women would mean they offended or harmed other men or women and so guidance was given how to deal with such things. Where the sin was expressly against God, the sacrificial law gave a way for the Israelite to approach God through a prescribed way to receive His forgiveness. Guidance was given to maintain health and a healthy life.

Practical Reasons: Sometimes the laws were very obvious in the practical outworking. Sometimes they were to keep Israel from becoming like their pagan neighbours. On a few rare occasions the reason for a law was unclear and we await scientific evidence to clarify what we don’t see at the moment. Some of the ceremonial law is repetitious as it seeks to convey the details of what needed to be done to restore a broken relationship with the Lord. For that reason it may not be the most edifying reading, and because it no longer applies to us (because Jesus has come and fulfilled the Law – see the New Testament) that should not deny value in our studying it to see how it worked in the lives of this embryonic people.

Variety: Some of the laws we find integrated within our own modern laws. Some of them fly contrary to the philosophical position we have taken today in the West (e.g. death penalty) and some of them would no longer have any relevance in our modern Western societies (e.g. laws on slavery, or the ceremonial or sacrificial laws).

Value: These were God’s laws for that society at that time. The Ten Commandments span history in their ongoing application but it is difficult to apply laws for a primitive agricultural society to our modern, highly technological society. The value in examining them is twofold: to see God’s wisdom for that nation and to observe principles that should under gird any society on this world that belongs to God.

(The above is abstracted from the book “God’s Love in the Old Testament” referred to on the blog. Use the link to go to the book for a detailed working out of this answer)


A New Approach

December 6, 2009

Since adding the last post, I have added a new link to a new book.

Possibly the greatest number of  questions I receive are about God’s love in the Old Testament. To that end I have written a book covering this subject from an apologetics stance. Please see the website link on this page if you are a serious seeker of the truth and would like to think about this subject more fully..


A Killer God – update

October 9, 2009

Over the time that this blog has been in existence, one of the greatest source of questions and comments has been the subject of how a loving God can possibly require the wiping out of a nation or nations, as in the case of Israel being required to ‘remove’ the inhabitants of Canaan.

How can God require the deaths of men, women and innocent children, the questioners ask. My original assumption that my answers on this blog were sufficient has been proved to be false. People still ask the same old questions.

Now one of the things that does need to be said is that very often I find people are  selective in their reading and so don’t take in parts of what I have said. It is also quite clear that prior bias often blinds people to be open to consider alternatives, and so for these reasons hostile questions flow.

However, I am concerned to meet the needs of genuine seekers and to that end I have written a book entitled “God’s Love in the Old Testament” which can be found by following the following link: CLICK HERE

I hope this will prove more satisfactory for genuine seekers. It seeks to review what the Old Testament teaches about God and justice, then reflects on what justice is, and finally examines exactly what took place when God  instructs Israel to take Canaan. Hopefully the truth will shed fresh light in worried minds.


There is no truth?

February 25, 2009

Question: Surely there is no such thing as truth?

Some simple thoughts that confront our intellectual dishonesty

Modern Western cultures have come to think about ‘truth’ as something that in reality probably doesn’t exist.


A. A Starting Point:

Assertion 1: Everyone is concerned with truth until it comes to morals or religion.

Now IF that is so then we have to ask why, to which we have another assertion:

Assertion 2: Our rejection of moral or religious truth is on grounds of our will and not our intellect.

i.e. we choose not to believe in moral or religious truth because it makes demands on us.

Let’s check it out.


B. Observe Everyday Life Situations

Observe this conversations or part conversations:

Example 1:

“Mummy, it’s not fair. Alice had more sweets than me!”

i.e. an appeal to the truth of what happened, for justice to be done! Even at age 5!!!!

Example 2:

“Jack, have you been sleeping with your secretary?”

i.e. a wife’s demand for the truth about her husbands unfaithfulness

Example 3:

“Doctor, I want to know the truth. Have I got cancer?”

i.e. a patient’s demand to know the truth about their health

Example 4:

“Mr. Jones, as our lawyer, can you explain the small print in this contract we’ve been given, please.”

i.e. a client’s demand to know the truth about the implications of an agreement.

Example 5:

“Geoff, will you give this car a look-over for us please. The guy who’s selling it says it’s perfectly OK but something about him makes me wonder.”

i.e. appealing to a mechanic to determine the truth about a car’s roadworthiness.

Example 6:

“Excuse me, Mr. Brown, but I understand Janet is getting £3 an hour more than me for the same job.”

i.e. an appeal to an employer for the truth about pay differentials.

Example 7:

“We will be setting up an independent investigation as to the cause of the rail crash.”

i.e. a requirement to find the truth about what caused an accident.

Example 8:

“Well, yes, the producers did choose the winners, and it wasn’t anything to do with the phone-in”

i.e. confessions of abuses which offend our desire for truth in TV games-show management, of which there were a large number in 2007 in the UK.

Example 9:

“Well yes, I’m afraid your pension plan hasn’t left you with as much as we thought.”

i.e. confession of insurance salesman trying to appease our demand for the truth as to why original projections were wrong. Again, familiar in the early years of the 21st century.

Example 10:

“Well the label on the bottle didn’t say anything about additives that my child is allergic to!”

i.e. demand for the truth of labelling on bottles

Example 11:

“You’ll see a gritting sign on the southern road, but don’t worry, they’re not doing gritting; it was just left there after they did it three weeks ago.”

i.e. acknowledgement that some road signs don’t always tell the truth – but we want them to!

Example 12:

“The Secretary for State was required to appear before the House this afternoon to say why he had denied they had been any misdoings in his department.”

i.e. recognition that we demand truth be told publicly by our senior government ministers.


C. Claims of a Modern Cynic

These are the things that are so often said today:

“Truth does not exist.”

“What’s right for you may not be right for me.”

“It’s all a matter of opinion.”

“You shouldn’t judge.”

“Religion is about faith, not facts.”

“Religion is all right in private, but shouldn’t be brought into the public arena.”


D. Look at the truth about these

1. We don’t live like we say

The twelve examples above challenge these cynical statements.

“What’s right for you may not be right for me.” Really? Try telling the police that?

“There’s no such thing as right or wrong.” Really? I’m not sure you’ll still think that when your house is burgled or if a loved one was raped or murdered!

“You should be tolerant of different people’s behaviour.” Really? Even when that behaviour is evil?

2. We speak self-defeating statements

“There is no such thing as truth”   Really, so is that true?

“All truth is relative. There are no absolutes.” Really? So that’s not an absolute statement and it’s not true? Are you absolutely sure?

3. Contradicting Beliefs cannot both be true

This is why all religions are NOT the same, in just the same way that all political parties are not the same.


E. Why these silly ways of speaking?

Going back to the beginning we said that “Our rejection of moral or religious truth is on grounds of our will and not our intellect.”

The main reason we say these silly things that are not true (the claims of the cynic above) is because we don’t WANT a belief system that makes demands of us. We don’t like being told we’re wrong. We like to be able to do what we want, even if it is self-destructive.


F. To Summarise

  • we do all believe in truth
  • we deny it when it is inconvenient
  • we uphold it when it serves our purposes
  • yet we do all believe in truth, whatever we say!

This, therefore, is simply an appeal for intellectual honesty.


God and Satan

January 9, 2009

Question: Why in the Bible does God allow Satan to do what he does? If God is all powerful why didn’t He just destroy Satan?

It is clear from the Bible that God USES Satan for His own purposes. The following are some of those purposes as shown in the Bible (you will need to look up each of the references in your own Bible to catch the full meaning):

1. To reveal men’s hearts

  • 1 Chron 21:1 Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel – he was to reveal David’s underlying sin of pride – in the parallel verses (2 Sam 24:1) it is seen as God who was behind it (to deal with the sin)

2. To bring judgement on unbelievers

  • Rev 9:11 They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon. (both names mean “Destroyer”)

3. To bring discipline to believers

  • 1 Cor 5:5 by putting this sinful believer out of the church’s protection, it enabled Satan to come against him and humble him and bring him to repentance

4. To subjugate unbelievers

  • 1 Jn 5:19b the whole world is under the control of the evil one
  • Satan is allowed to rule where there is unconfessed sin, i.e. over unbelievers

5. To maintain humility in our lives

  • One of the key things God does with his children is to seek to develop character in them.  As pride is always lurking, sometimes God allows us to be attacked so that we maintain our reliance upon Him and realise that of ourselves we are nothing.
  • 2 Cor. 12:7 Because Paul received wonderful revelations from God, to keep him from getting puffed up, he was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment him and keep him from getting proud.

6. To develop faith & righteousness in our lives

  • Faith is one of the key elements God wants to develop in our lives, and so often He does this by allowing us to encounter trying circumstances where our faith is both revealed and developed.  Similarly, such testing times are to reveal and bring about greater righteousness within us.
  • 1 Peter 1:7 – trials are testings, and testings reveal our faith – such revelation of our faith brings honour in heaven
  • 1 Peter 5:8-9 – Satan seeks to attack us, but we are to learn to resist.
  • 2 Peter 1:4-8 – the testing of our faith develops our lives in many ways

7. To bring about trials whereby we can be rewarded

  • These trials, that involve Satan, make us rely upon God, His word and His Spirit and so the outcome of the battles we fight is that we appreciate Him, His word and His Spirit more and more.
  • James 1:12 God blesses the people who patiently endure testing – testing develops us and God blesses through it
  • 1 John 2:13,14 – it is a battle with Satan which we can win with God’s word, as we battle we rely on that word more and more
  • 1 John 4:1-6 – our battle is also with Satan’s agents; we are to overcome in the mind and we overcome by the Holy Spirit within us, as we overcome we realise the wonder of who it is within us more and more.
  • Rev. 2:17 – our reward, as we overcome Satan’s attacks, will be intimacy with Christ
  • Rev. 2:26-28 – as we obey Jesus and have the victory so he is preparing us to take authority, both in this world and the next.

8. To teach us how to fight

  • As we face such trials we learn how to overcome.
  • Judges 3:2 God did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience.
  • Israel grew in their knowledge of the Lord and how to fight as they opposed the enemy. We do the same in the spiritual sphere.

9. To demonstrate God’s power over the enemy

  • We need reminding who is who in the battle. Jesus IS Lord!
  • Eph 3:10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made  known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.
  • As we triumph God is glorified in the heavens.
  • Mk 1:21-27 As Jesus cast out a demon God was glorified.
  • Acts 13:6-12 As Saul triumphs over Elymas God was glorified.


Conclusions:

Although Satan was apparently not created for these express purposes, God takes and uses his rebellion for His purposes.

As Joseph once said, (Gen 50:20) “You intended to harm me but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Thus it is that in this fallen world where sin dominates, Satan is allowed access for the sake of God’s overall purposes.

We, therefore, need to maintain a right perspective so that we see:

  • Where the enemy is being allowed activity because of man’s unrighteousness, and therefore the unrighteousness is the thing to be dealt with.
  • Where the enemy should be resisted because he is simply seeking to expand his arena of control, and here we need to look to seek what God is wanting us to learn or develop in resisting the enemy, so we can co-operate with Him.

(J8) Discipline & Judgment

November 28, 2008

Question: What is the difference between God’s discipline, correction and judgment?

These three concepts occur many times in the Old Testament and again, they are often confused or misunderstood. The wise person examines the Bible before making rash comments about God and exposing their own lack of understanding.

1. Discipline

Discipline means training that develops self-control and character.

Reminding Israel what had happened to them, Moses said, “You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other. From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you.” (Deut 4:35,36).

In other words God’s intention, through speaking to Israel, was to train them to become His people who lived according to His design-laws. [The Laws that God gave to Israel simply reflected the way He has designed humanity to ‘work’ best.]

Indeed later in Deuteronomy He reminded them that part of their training was observing how He had moved in power on their behalf to save them out of Egypt (Deut 11:2-7).

We often think of discipline as punishment, but God always views it as training. It is not destructive but formative.

In the New Testament, the writer to the Hebrews was to comment about God’s discipline:

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Heb 12;11)

Note God trains for a good outcome.

2. Correction

The concept of correction is very similar – action taken to bring about change of behaviour.

“The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.” (Prov 29:15)

The whole point of God’s relationship with Israel was so that He could train them, correct them and bring them into a place of understanding where they could see that God had designed the world in a particular way and that He had designed us to ‘work’ in a particular way.

When they ‘worked’ or lived like that, then blessing flowed, partly because God brought blessings, but more simply because they were operating or working (if you will excuse the mechanical sense) as they were meant to, i.e. according to design. Because God is good and God is love, that way meant it is enjoyable and for our pleasure and benefit.

Yet, the truth is that Israel displayed the same sinfulness that is seen in all of mankind and foolishly turned away from God, rejecting all the goodness that is available when we live as designed!

In Leviticus we find God challenging Israel: “in spite of these things you do not accept my correction but continue to be hostile toward me.” (Lev 26:23). The “these things” had been a variety of punishments which were being used as forms of discipline to bring correction (change of behaviour)

3. Judgment

Judgment refers to an act of judging. When it is God bringing judgment there are always two aspects to it:

i) the act of assessing wrong or determining wrong and rendering a just verdict, and

ii) the act of bringing the decreed punishment, where there was an ongoing, established wrong.


Now there is nothing strange about this because we are very much aware of the law enforcement aspects of our own nations:

  • lawmakers who decree the Law,
  • police who apprehend apparent lawbreakers,
  • judges who determine the truth of the situation and determine punishment, and
  • prisons that implement the punishment (or whoever is involved in whatever other form of punishment is applied).


In respect of God, He is lawmaker, judge and executioner.

Executioner is in fact NOT the right word but we use it for the moment because it is what many think!

We need to observe, therefore, that punishment can be one of two forms:

i) death – where God sees and knows the person or group are so set in their ways that nothing

will change them,

ii) painful activity not involving death (often another hostile, godless nation) – where God sees that this will act in a corrective manner to bring about good change in them.

God’s Righteousness

Something to be noted along the way is the description of God that occurs again and again in the Bible: that God is righteous and everything He does is righteous.

This simply means that everything about God – His thoughts and His actions – are always exactly right. Because He has total knowledge and total wisdom He never ever makes a mistake.

Now obviously that is a faith statement which is in line with the Scriptural teaching and if you say, “Can you prove that?” I have to reply, “Yes, but only when you die and face God.”

However with a little thought and consideration, understanding can be gained from the study of the Bible in a far greater way that is usually found in people. Mostly we prefer to read little, study even less, and then make shallow comments that only reveal our lack of understanding.

Our difficulty is that we do not have total knowledge and we are so often motivated by self-centred emotions, so that our ‘judgment’ is often wrong – but God’s isn’t!

If we don’t understand the grounds on which God declares judgment (and He always does make it clear in Scripture WHY He is bringing punishment), it is simply that we don’t understand the awfulness of an attitude or action of an individual or group. Instead we foolishly blame God for what we assume (wrongly) is injustice.