Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The Facial Hair Congregation and the Church of Knitters

It's very worrying that he thought it was a good point, but even more worrying that his audience did too.  They actually applauded the point!  I'm referring to a statement by Richard Dawkins in response to a question about evil done by atheist dictators in the 20th Century.  I will tell you what he said in a moment, but how anyone could deem it an intelligent response let alone adequate and applaudable is beyond me.  Maybe they were the type of people who would accept and applaud anything Richard Dawkins said - great examples of "free-thinkers", hmmmm.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Blind faith

He went by the name "Mulch" or "Munch" - I can't quite remember, but we had a very spirited but good natured conversation about the Gospel.  I challenged him about the resurrection of Christ and asked him to give an account of how the tomb was emptied.  He had an answer, here it is, are you sitting comfortably?
He claimed that Jesus had a twin brother, and either the twin was crucified and Jesus appeared to His disciples telling them He was risen, or Jesus was crucified and the twin appeared telling them he was Jesus - there you go, problem solved.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Who's to blame?

It's amazing how clever people can say such foolish things.  I will write about some of these things over the next wee while but the issue that has got me writing now is something that Christopher Hitchens said in a written debate with a Christian, Doug Wilson.  He said,
"if Christianity is to claim credit for the work of outstanding Christians or for the labors of famous charities, then it must in all honesty accept responsibility for the opposite." 

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Sorry doesn't remove the stain

Richard Dawkins, straying outside his field of expertise (noticeably), has made many dogmatic but juvenile and mistaken assertions about religion in general and Christianity in particular.  In one of his attacks he asked the question, If God wants to forgive people why doesn't He just forgive them, why does He need blood?  Now Richard Dawkins was voted one of the top three intellectuals in the world, and it may surprise you to know that I am not one of the other two, but I can answer the question - the answer is because God is righteous and sin matters. 

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Guess work or God's Word?

Without doubt it was the longest and most interesting visit I have ever had to a petrol station in my life.  I had just been preaching the Gospel in a portable hall adjacent to the petrol station and called in afterwards to buy some victuals to last me the 15 minute journey home!  The woman serving at the till asked me what I had been up to so I took the opportunity to tell her about the wonderful message of the Gospel and the greatness of the salvation that God offers through Christ.  She was totally underwhelmed!  I asked her what she thought about such matters and she told me she was an atheist.  When I asked her why she was an atheist she said, "Because of science", although the tone of her voice conveyed another word, "Because of science, stupid!"  So this led to an interesting conversation about science, and resulted in her saying that neither of us know enough about science to say whether it proves or disproves God.  Despite the faulty thinking she evidenced by that statement, I let it go, just reminding her that she was the one who said her atheism was because of science. 

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The Bible - Good Book or God's Book? Part Three

We have been looking at the fact that the Bible is a book we can rely on, but we would miss the point of the Bible if we thought it was merely a book giving us information on the ancient world – it actually claims to give us information about the present world and the world to come. It is not just a book that tells us about historical figures, but a book that tells us about ourselves and about God. Its proven reliability on matters of science and archaeology should lead us to investigate its message for us today, and would forbid us from lightly dismissing its weightier claims.

But how could we know that the Bible is actually the Word of God? The question has many answers, and we will not pursue them all, but here are a couple:

The Bible - Good Book or God's Book? Part Two

In the first post on this subject we saw that to any fair minded person there can be no dispute that we do have what was originally written.  It is one thing knowing that we have what was originally written, but a further question is whether what was originally written is actually true. The answer to this question is most definitely yes. While the Bible is not a scientific text book, it does not in any way contradict scientific facts, and furthermore, when it speaks on scientific matters it is always correct (often far ahead of its time!) While people throughout the ages were concocting theories about the world and the universe, the Bible stated (long before science confirmed it) that the universe had a beginning (Genesis 1 v 1; 1Peter 1 v 20), that the earth is round (Isaiah 40 v 22 – the Hebrew word translated “circle” indicates something spherical) and hangs on nothing (Job 26 v 7), that at one moment it is daytime in one place and night time in another place (Luke 17 v 34-36), that there is a water cycle (Ecclesiastes 1 v 7) and that “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Leviticus 17 v 11). These are just a few of the many remarkable indications of the accuracy of Scripture on subjects that science has only relatively recently come to investigate.

Irrelevant relevance

I admit to finding his arrogance irritating, but I was trying to persevere in order to listen to his points - he was a liberal theologian and he was debating a Christian by the name of Adrian Warnock (who did a very good job), on Premier Christian Radio's show, Unbelievable?  The subject being discussed was the resurrection of Christ, with the liberal taking the view that it was spiritual, not physical.  He claimed Luke's account of the Lord saying, "Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have" (Luke 24 v 39), was Luke merely pointing out that the physical body isn't evil (as if that couldn't just be stated instead of making up a story that he claims is real history!)
I will maybe go through some of the other issues and objections he brought up some other time, but the point I want to address here is this - he claimed that if we want to be relevant to society we have to stop insisting on physical resurrection and miracles etc.  The problem is, denying these things may mean that society allows you to speak, but unfortunately you've got nothing to say!  They may think you're relevant because you believe like they do, but you are actually irrelevant believe like they do!  If Christ isn't risen we really have no message for this world.  However, I did think it was a bit strange that he said that the preaching of the physical resurrection of Christ made you irrelevant - it seems to me that in a world filled with burdened souls, broken hearts, suffering, death, and hopelessness, the physical resurrection of Christ is the most relevant message we could possibly present. 

Monday, 9 August 2010

The Bible - Good Book or God's Book?

It has had a massive effect upon our society, our culture, our politics, even our language, but is the Bible just a book of great influence or is it a book of divine inspiration?  How seriously should we take it?  There are two questions that need to be addressed and we will address these questions in this post and the next.  The two questions are these:
Is the Bible reliable?
Is the Bible relevant?
Many people dismiss the Bible as unreliable mythology, others think it is irrelevant history, but let's look at the evidence.
Is the Bible reliable?
To investigate the reliability of the Bible we will address two issues:

1. Do we have what was originally written?
2. Is what was originally written really true?

1. How can we be certain that what we have in the covers of our Bible is the same as what was originally written? After all, the books of the Bible were written long ago, far away and in different languages. How can we be sure the message hasn’t been lost or corrupted over time? We don’t need to wonder or worry! The Bible stands head and shoulders above any ancient literature in terms of its reliability. Just consider the following facts:

Friday, 6 August 2010

Indifferent or incapable, or...something else?

I want to follow up on the previous post regarding the suffering in the world, and draw from an incident in the ministry of the Lord Jesus, as found in John 11. In this chapter we see the classic atheistic argument, that is, if God loves us and is all-powerful then why is there suffering?

The situation in the chapter is that one of the Lord's friends, Lazarus, was sick. Lazarus' sisters sent word to Christ to tell Him of this, and He delayed until Lazarus died, then went to the village of Bethany where all this happened. As the Lord witnessed the sorrow of the bereaved He wept. This baffled the spectators: as they saw the Lord Jesus weeping they said, “Behold how He loved him!” Then, “could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?” They saw His love and His power, so the question they arose – why didn’t He preserve Lazarus’ life? Surely He would, given His love, and surely he could, given His power. But the indisputable fact was that Lazarus was dead! The problem was, they supposed they were at the end of the story, but they weren’t! The story would end with resurrection, reuniting, greater glory to Christ, greater joy to His own, and an appreciation of Him that the avoidance of the sorrow would not have yielded. So it is with this world – we are not at the end of the story – this world will be free from the curse, and Christ will be glorified and His people blessed at the end of the story in a way that would not be possible if troubles had been avoided. You can book your place in that Paradise by receiving the cleansing and forgiveness that Christ provided by His death and resurrection and offers to the repentant.

If God's so good why is the world so bad?

"Things ain't what they used to be" - true - according to the Bible things used to be perfect, but they aren't (or ain't) now.  The presence of evil and suffering in the world is the number one (or only one?) argument atheists have against the existence of God.  It is an argument to be reckoned with, but it is an issue the Bible certainly does not duck, it faces it and deals with it.

There are a couple of things that need to be distinguished: the existence of moral evil committed by humans, and natural evil, or disasters, experienced by humans.

As regards moral evil, if we believe it really exists then we must believe that God exists, because if there is no God then there is no such thing as evil or injustice, for what determines that the acts are evil or unjust? By what immovable, unchangeable, transcendent standard can we say that certain actions are evil or unjust. If there is no God then there is no standard except ones we make up ourselves, and why should they be binding upon anyone? So the fact that we recognise things as really evil is an implicit acknowledgement of God's existence. 

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Granny & Hitler, or, What good are good works?

"So you mean to tell me that a man like Hitler can say a wee prayer a minute before he dies and go to heaven, while my dear old granny who didn't pray the prayer goes to hell, even though she never hurt a fly? Can you be serious?" It's a common objection to the teaching that salvation is by faith alone, not of works at all - let's have a think about it.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Too bad to be true?

I was invited into the gentleman's home because he wanted to talk about his problems with the Bible's teachings. (He was a pleasure to talk to because he actually wanted to talk with me about his objections rather than rant to me about his objections.)

The big issue was the subject of hell - his point was that he felt 70 years of sin didn't deserve eternal punishment - it just seemed to him like it was totally disproportionate - maybe it seems the same to you. The objection as put is an example of confused reasoning, think about it - punishment for crimes is never based on how long it takes to commit them, for example - how long does it take to murder someone? How long should that person be imprisoned? See the problem? The punishment is not based on the length of time it took to commit the crime but on the gravity of the crime. People may then say that the sins we commit are not serious enough to merit eternal punishment. But when we consider that if God exists then He must be absolutely righteous and infinitely holy, (if that weren't true then it would mean that there is some standard of holiness that He falls short of and a level of righteousness that He fails to meet - where would that standard come from?). It is therefore a crime of infinite gravity and seriousness to sin against such a God. So just reflect on this, how could there be a finite time set on the punishment?

My host then asked me would annihilation not satisfy God's requirement because it is an eternal punishment? My answer was no, for two reasons - my first objection is moral - it wouldn't be righteous because then there's no differentiation in the punishment for different sins – those who have committed most sins would have the same treatment as those who have committed less sins. My second objection to annihilation is scriptural - the Bible simply does not offer that as a possibility. The teaching of Scripture in general (Old Testament and New Testament) and the teaching of the Lord Jesus in particular is clear – there is eternal, conscious punishment for those who don't have their sins forgiven.
Although hell is what we deserve, it isn't what God desires, and you don't have to go there (1Timothy 2 v 4-6; 2Peter 3 v 9; John 3 v 16.)

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Science has what?!?

It's often aggressively stated, and dogmatically shouted that science has disproved God, but is it true? The short and simple answer is no, and to suppose that it could be true betrays one of two things, either that people are dreadfully misinformed about the facts, or that people are deliberately misleading about the facts. Consider what science is – it is the study of the physical, material universe – how could it ever be that studying the physical universe could prove that there is something non-physical? When someone armed with a microscope or telescope proclaims they can’t see God, or someone armed with a balance says they can’t weigh God, why should anybody think this is a significant statement? It is like searching every square inch of your house and then declaring at the end of it that there was no builder because he isn’t in the bricks, mortar, tiles, paint or wallpaper. The application of the illustration is obvious – the builder isn’t a part of the thing he has built, he’s outside it. If you want to find the builder you need to go beyond an examination of what he has built. So it is with the universe. God is outside of creation, He’s not a physical being, and therefore science can’t examine Him, and certainly can’t disprove Him. Indeed, the more we learn about the universe, the more we see science pointing towards a Creator. Consider again the example of you searching your house for the builder: as you search your house and notice the ordered layout, the structure, the materials etc. at the end of your search you won’t have found the builder but you will have lots of evidence that there was one, and you will have learnt some things about him – you’ll have learnt about his skill (or lack thereof), and the level of his attention to detail, and so on. So it is with science: as the universe is investigated we find it pointing to a source outside of itself, and there are things we can learn about that source. Let’s briefly consider a few ways in which creation points outside itself to an external source, and then see what we can learn about the Creator.

The Narrow Way - narrow minded?

"Jesus said unto him, 'I am the Way...'" (John 14 v 6)
He was a colleague of mine - a fellow civil engineer, and he was telling me about the voluntary work he had been doing in Guinea. He told me he had been staying with an American missionary couple. His problem was this - the people in the country weren't eating their young, beating their wives or mistreating their elderly or anything like that, so why did these Americans feel they had the right or the need to go to their country and interfere with their beliefs? My friend isn't the only one who has raised this issue. It just seems so unfair and intolerant – no matter what kind of a life you have lived, no matter how good you have been, how hard you have tried, you get these Christians telling you that unless you believe just like they do you are going to hell. Surely if God is at all fair He's not going to exclude people from heaven over some point of doctrine, after all, how you behave is bound to be far more important than what you believe.

This objection seems perfectly reasonable and totally unanswerable, but is it? Was the Lord Jesus being egotistical when He said He was the only way? Where His apostles being bigoted when they said that there was salvation in none other than Christ? Are Christians today narrow minded or arrogant when they say you will perish if you aren’t a Christian? Let’s just back up in our thinking, because it seems that the outrage people have over Christ’s exclusive claims stems from them getting off on the wrong foot.

Monday, 2 August 2010

What's it all about?

Welcome to my blog - this is my first post and I invite you to be a regular visitor here to see what is being added.  The site has a specific purpose - it will not be my ramblings about my life, but it will include reflections about life - its origin, object and outcome.  Life throws up a lot of questions, but I'm convinced that the Bible has the answers.  This site will contain the answers to questions I have asked, as well as questions I have been asked, and it may be the case these are questions you are asking yourself. 
Just so as you know, I am a Christian in the Bible sense of the word, i.e. I have received forgiveness of sins and new life through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (see Acts 26 v 18 & 28).  I want to briefly tell you why I'm a Christian (I will be going into these things in more detail in subsequent posts).