#TBTB #TBT – What You NEED to Know

 

ThrowBack Thursday

Throwback Thursdays are fun.

Well, sometimes the pictures people post are mildly disturbing, but for the most part it’s enjoyable to be reminded about how far we’ve come.

The concept of reminders are significant to God as well. So many of the traditions He ordained in the Old Testament were designed to remind His people about His power, mercy, faithfulness, and love.

The New Testament continues this theme in almost every book! Jesus told His disciples to

“Remember the word that I said to you” (John 15:20).

The author of Hebrews says,

“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7).

So, in honor of remembering and celebrating what God has done, we here at Taking Back the Bible (#TBTB) plan to celebrate Throwback Thursdays (#TBT) with you by sharing articles from the past. All you have to do is click on the title of the article and you’ll be immediately redirected.

Maybe you’ve read them, maybe you haven’t, but hopefully they will be a blessing to you either way.

Sincerely,
The Evermind Staff

What better way to start than by sharing the most important message you could ever hear?

Please enjoy “What You NEED to Know.”

What You Need to Know

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“Let’s Learn from Creation”

“Let’s Learn from Creation”

Before He made man, God made dirt.
The first job He ordained? Gard’ner.
Yet the stain we all hate
Is the substance from which we were made,
And the job we refuse
Is the one man requires for food.

Children of Light cannot grow
Without the desire to know
More about the world God created.
How sad for a child separated
From the earth his Lord proclaimed, “Good.”
Let’s all reconnect with the wood.

Let’s see in the chaff and the wheat
Lessons ordained for this week.
Let us learn from the sparrow
That our Father will not suffer
His children, forgotten to cry.
Let’s learn from the ant to be wise.

Don’t bother to hug the rough bark.
You needn’t picket or build a new ark.
But take every chance that is there
To enjoy what the Heavens declare
About God Who chose to make sand,
And from it, create His first man.

-AMBrewster-

Written for “WildHeart Adventure Camp.”

Let's Learn from Creation

“Taking Back the Bible”

“Taking Back the Bible”

 We now must wrest the Truth from teachers false;
Let shine the Light despite that vile
Veil the darkness drops to make men blind,
And give again the Word its value – stolen by Belial.
Come, brothers, join me in this needed task
Of razing lies by taking back the Bible!

-AMBrewster-

Written for “Taking Back the Bible.”

Taking Back the Bible

Please feel free to share on social media.

“To Show the Christ”

“To Show the Christ”

I’ve worn the mantle Jesus bore
Upon His frame.
I’ve shod my feet with sandals torn
From distance traveled to a score
Of unbelieving plains.
I’ve burned my skin with suns that scorch
My head. But despite the marks
They’ve left on me, my Lighted torch –
That leads men north –
Fades all their beams to dark.

I’ve spoken with the Pharisees who understand the law
So well they thought that they could trap
Within their tangled scrawls
The One Who sounded Sinai’s calls.
Their pride exposed their wisdom’s lack.
I’ve called the men who all
Left home and ship to follow Him.
I’ve washed their feet. I saw
Them preach, and fall,
And return again, lost souls to ever win.

I’ve preached the sermons, cried the prayers,
And healed the chosen nation’s
Pains. Their stares
I’ve met with His great love, and shared
Each word our Father gave to lead them to salvation.
I broke the bread and felt the glare
Of Satan in the garden.
I’ve watched as one who cared
Too much for silver dared
Betray the One Who’d pay his pardon.

I’ve even felt the tear of thorns and bite of flail
Announce that He would die.
But deeper still than piercing nail
Can drive, I’ve felt the bitter, ugly wail
That must have coursed when palm’s cried “Crucify!”
The cross is all too home to me. I fail
To justly tell its horror.
And though His death I’ve never shared
In truest form, I’ve experienced a measure.

Yet all these shared events can no more
Messiah of me make
Than simple dirt could form
The mirror of the world . . .
For I cannot pretend to save.
So, in the end, all I can hope
Is barely point back to the Light
Who stooped to earth, was born,
And lived, and died, and destroyed the thorn
Grown up from Eden. This is my goal – to show the Christ.

-AMBrewster-

Written for “Reflections on Being Jesus.”

Please feel free to share this image.

To Show the Christ

 

A Conversation with @Atheist_Deity

It was during a back-and-forth with some guys on Twitter that I had the idea to write”Is God a Jerk?”

After Part 3 was published, one of the gentlemen I debated with chimed in with his response to my conclusions. I’ve really appreciated his and my interactions as they’ve lacked the vitriol that so often accompany God-debates.

Unfortunately, social media may be a great place for passionate arguing where neither party is really interested in hearing what the other has to say, but stinks for discourse and conversation. @Atheist_Deity lives in Great Britain (as far as I can tell), so I highly doubt he and I will have the opportunity to talk for a few hours in a café.

So, I decided to write this post to answer his questions and reflect a more conversational feel. I’ve taken @Atheist_Deity ‘s comments from Part 3, and I’m going to format it as a discussion as I answer his questions. The only changes I’ll make to his original comments are formatting, grammatical (if needed :-)), and I may add a few words in italics that give the discourse a more conversational feel.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Why is he wasting his time?” I just want to be faithful to the command we have to be salt and light and to the example given to us by Paul. In Acts 17, “Paul was waiting for [Timothy and Silas] at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, ‘What would this idle babbler wish to say?’ Others, ‘He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,’ because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, ‘May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.’ Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.”

Beginning of Conversation

@Atheist_Deity: Sorry Aaron, I’ve read your articles, but you didn’t prove anything, not even from a logical fallacy perspective. You’re now claiming evolution isn’t true, that many scientists agree (which they don’t) and that the bible is completely consistent through its history. You also point a veiled insult in my direction regarding my use of a dull blade against your expert swordsmanship yet, you again failed to address almost any of the points I made regarding the bible being written by men.

@AMBrewster: I’m very sorry it came across that way. I was definitely not calling myself an expert swordsman. I know many men who would qualify as brilliant apologists in all matters theological, scientific, and the like, but I am not one. I wish to be, and daily train to be, but I have a long way to go. Please know that I in no way was trying to compare the two of us. But you are right about my previous assertions; I know that evolution is a false theory, I know that many scientists agree with me in that, and I know that the Bible is completely consistent. In regard to answering your observations about the Bible being written by men, let’s tackle that when we talk about Sinaiticus and Vaticanus .

@Atheist_DeityOkay, but first let’s talk about Russell’s Teapot. The Bertrand tea-pot is the perfect argument, but not one I would have used myself since it’s a little obvious, and I knew you would have a response thereto.

@AMBrewster: I agree with you for two reasons: It’s a good argument, and I did have a response. :-) You’re right to acknowledge that the burden of proof always falls in the affirmative. With that said, I’m curious if you would mind explaining why you think the Bible doesn’t teach what I say it teaches.

@Atheist_DeityI was being generic rather than specific regarding the teachings of Jesus, but if you are going to claim that he did not preach tolerance and respect then I think we read different teachings. “Let he who hath not sinned cast the first stone,” “Suffer the little children,” “Happy are the meek,” etc., etc. Yes, there are counterpoints, but that is the very reason why I chose to avoid bible quotes wherever possible since they are open to interpretation and can be easily taken out of context.

@AMBrewster: Once again, I’m sorry if I miscommunicated. I tried to point out that those teachings are not what you claimed them to be in your comments from Part 2. You stated they were the “aim” of the Jesus narrative. That I disagree with completely. They are merely a small part of a much more important whole. Let me illustrate it this way. In professional baseball the players throw, run, and hit. Children do the same things at the park every day. But if an adult is tasked by the manager of professional baseball team to play for them, the manager should expect him to show up at the games with the intention of helping the team win. But if the baseball player never goes to the game because “Everyday I play catch, hit balls, and run around with kids at the park! Why do I have to play now?” he’d be fired.

My point is simple. It doesn’t matter how respectful someone is if they reject the God who wants them to be respectful. It’s not enough to just be respectful.

In regard to “taking things out of context,” I believe the best hermeneutic to approach the scripture with is the same one we would approach any form of communication with – a literal, grammatical, historical interpretation. The Bible literally means what it literally means – it’s only metaphorical when it claims to be. The Bible uses real grammar to communicate real ideas. Historically, words were occasionally used differently and should be understood as such. That’s how you want people to understand your writing, and that’s how God wants people to understand His.

@Atheist_Deity: I genuinely think you have failed to address many of the key points I made in my comments from Part 2, and indeed you introduce a new, interesting one. How can you be so sure that Allah is fake and unreal? If you accept that god exists and that Jesus was real, the Muslims believe both of these but attribute the role of prophet to Jesus, not supernatural being. So why is their model of god any less valid than yours?

@AMBrewster: Well, as we both know, the burden of proof really falls on them, but I did make the claim, so I’ll back it up. First, I personally have to accept the Bible’s claims that there is only one God, and that He has communicated through the Bible, not the Quran. Given the perfect nature of the Bible’s truth, I can’t doubt it on that point any more than I can on any other point. If its wrong, my God clearly isn’t who He says He is. Second, you mentioned that the Quran and the Bible talk a lot about the same people. In fact, Moses is one which both books speak equally as high of. But the problem is in the five books he wrote, Moses communicated to us very clearly who God claimed to be. God introduced Himself as Yahweh, not Allah. Saying that Moses was a prophet of Allah and a good man makes no sense for a Muslim, because the five books Moses wrote show that Allah cannot be who he claims to be.

There are many more things I could say, but I don’t want to hog the conversation.

@Atheist_Deity:  The last thing I want to comment on right now is if the perfect nature of the bible is your evidence for a god, I invite you to research the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanicus. This site contains links, quotes and a reference to the book Revision Revised by a Christian scholar. I would be interested to hear your response. But I would also say that it is disingenuous to say that those who do not believe in god should be unable to use the bible as any kind of evidence or battle ground. If a believer is going to use the book to prove their point, we should be able to point out the inconsistencies.

@AMBrewster: You’ve just brought up a HUGE question with that one. I wish my friends, Alan Benson and Mark Minnick were here as they are far better “swordsmen” than I on the specific scholarly details of this discussion. But I will admit, to my own credit, that I do have a seminary degree and have spent quite a bit of time studying textual criticism/translation/etc. But before I attempt to offer a short answer, I want to address your final thought.

If the Bible appears to have contradictions, those should be called out. Unfortunately, what happens is someone will address what appears to be an inconsistency, then a highly qualified individual will explain in very clear, logical, and scholarly ways how the apparent contradiction is, in fact, not one at all . . . but then people ignore the data and continue to propone the falsehood! That’s what I was arguing needs to stop. Though I may not have all of the answers myself, I am not aware of a single biblical critique that actually reveals a flaw in the Bible. So, 1. If there’s an issue, address it. But 2. If the issue is put to bed, drop it. And since there are no attacks that have been levied against the Scriptures that are actually, verifiably legitimate, I wonder when people will finally get tired of losing that battle and try to argue God’s inexistence some other way.

So, I suppose I have to ask the question, “If I were able to prove to you that the apparent issues with Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are not what they seem and have no bearing whatsoever on the doctrines of inspiration and preservation, would you believe me?” Given the track record of other people who attack the Bible, I’d have to say you probably won’t. But, I believe the most loving thing I can do is give you the benefit of the doubt. So here goes . . .

  1. The doctrine of inspiration has no effect on the doctrine of preservation. The Bible says that God breathed out His Word as the original authors were borne along like ships on a sea. They weren’t in a trance or being dictated to, they wrote, and God imbued their writing with divine truth. I agree that this is the most vulgar description of inspiration ever given, but inspiration isn’t the focus here. I mention this merely to point out that directed inspiration applies only to the original authors of the original autographs. The doctrine of preservation is never said to work the same way. There is no perfect, unbroken line of word-for-word manuscripts . . . and God never said there would be.
  2. The doctrine of preservation is not proven wrong by the existence of textual variants. This is true for two reasons: A. The unique textual variants are soooooo few and far between. I realize your author made it sound like Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are two completely different books, but he’s not a textual critic and he has an axe to grind. Let me quote a very well known textual critic, Fenton John Anthony Hort, who worked for over thirty years with all of the extant texts. It’s a little lengthy, but it has significant bearing on the discussion.

“With regard to the great bulk of the words of the New Testament, as of most other ancient writings, there is no variation or other grounds of doubt, and therefore no room for textual criticism; and here therefore an editor is merely a transcriber . . . The proportion of words virtually accepted on all hands as raised above doubt is very great, not less, on a rough computation, then seven eighths of the whole. The remaining eighth therefore, formed in great part by changes of order and other comparative trivialities, constitutes the whole area of criticism. If the principles followed in the present edition are sound, this area may be greatly reduced. Recognising to the full the duty of abstinence from peremptory decision in cases where the evidence leaves the judgment in suspense between two or more readings, we find that, setting aside differences of orthography, the words in our opinion sill subject to doubt only make up about one sixtieth of the whole New Testament. In this second estimate the proportion of comparatively trivial variations is beyond measure larger than in the former; so that the amount of what can in any sense be called substantial variation is but a small fraction of the whole residuary variation, and can hardly form more than a thousandth part of the entire text [emphasis mine].”

So, all of the variants between all of the texts of New Testament Scripture that require true textual criticism make up less than one tenth of one percent! This leads me to my second observation, B. The textual variants in question have no bearing whatsoever on any doctrinal system or truth claim in the Bible. In McDowell’s book Evidence that Demands a Verdict, he reminds us that Julius Caesar’s The Gallic Wars has only 10 manuscripts extant, with the earliest one dating to 1,000 years after the original autograph. Pliny the Younger’s Natural History has only 7 manuscripts with 750 years elapsed. Thucydides’ History has 8 manuscripts with a stunning 1,300 years elapsed. Herodotus’ History has 8 manuscripts with an equally astonishing 1,350 years elapsed. We accept Plato’s works with only 7 manuscripts and 1,300 years between them, and Tacitus’ Annals have a comparatively remarkable 20 manuscripts, but there’re still about 1,000 years between the autograph and the copies we have. But when it comes to the Bible we have over 25,000 manuscripts, of which over 5,000 are fragments that are written in the original Greek! In fact, some of the manuscripts we have were written only 40-60 years after the writing of the autograph. We have more textual evidence for the Bible than we do any other ancient book, and the disagreements are negligible.

When you take these two points together, it’s easy to see that God has kept His word concerning the preserving of His Word, especially in light of the fact He never detailed for us exactly how He would do it.

You make the observation that men wrote the Bible. But once again I have to use Bibliologic here. Logically speaking, if God is who He says He is, then it’s completely understandable that an omnipotent, promise-keeping God could keep man from messing up His revelation. And if He’s too impotent to do that . . . then He’s not worthy of our worship.

What do you think?

Here the conversation ends . . . for now. 

Is God a Jerk? (Part 3)

Is God a Jerk

In Part 1 and Part 2 we looked at who God claims to be, what He claims to do, and compared it with our common experience. Through that study we saw some of the necessary (and logical) conclusions do not allow us to view God as a jerk (or whatever word you fancy most).

But I stated at the end of Part 2 that we had not yet mined all of the necessary observations from this discussion. I would like to tackle two of those today and start by saying . . .

Don’t Fight Allah With the Allah

Two or three times in my life I’ve heard people (who say they believe in God) judge God as being unfair. Once I heard someone (who claimed to be a Christian!) call God a very inappropriate name which can be loosely interpreted as “jerk.”

But most of the time I hear people refer to God in less than favorable ways, it’s coming from self-professing atheists. They’re the ones who will frequently cite the four life experiences we discussed earlier as evidence that the God of the Bible isn’t everything Christians say He is. The four experiences I’m referring to are:

  1. He demands loyalty to Him alone.
  2. He’s anything but tolerant.
  3. He allows evil and wickedness to abound – especially to good people.
  4. He allows destruction, pain, sickness, and suffering (again, often ravaging the good of the world).

But the thing that stupefies me the most is that they even bother. Let me explain.

A Poor Choice of Weapon

I’ve never wasted a moment of my life being mad at Allah. I’ve never blamed him for anything. And when I’ve had the opportunity to talk to people about the fact that Allah doesn’t exist, I didn’t waste my time quoting passages from the Quran to point out its inconsistencies (of which there are plenty).

Allah isn’t real. He has no effect whatsoever on my life, and though I think belief in Allah is wrong and destructive, I’ll probably never try to argue away his inexistence with the Quran. I have better weapons at my disposal.

My point it this . . . if you say you don’t believe in God, don’t use His Word to argue He doesn’t exist. It doesn’t make sense because any and all of the potential doctrinal, textual, and/or logical inconsistencies of the Scriptures have been repeatedly shown to be erroneous by professionals in every field. Every word of the Bible is consistent with who God reveals Himself to be in Scripture, and there isn’t a shred of verifiable evidence that the world isn’t functioning exactly how He said it did and would.

An Inaccurate Handling of the Weapon

If two people are dueling with swords, and one of them has no idea what he’s doing, is it possible that he may wound his attacker? Yes. But that neither means he’s any good at what he’s doing or that he’s going to win. Furthermore, the more competent his attacker, the more impotent his own defense will be. To the same degree, if someone’s going to argue against God using the Bible, they had better use it correctly.

It would be completely inappropriate for me to argue that the U.S. government is flawed because the constitution celebrates anarchy. Why? Because the constitution doesn’t make that claim.

The Bible also doesn’t say what many of its detractors attribute to it. @Atheist_Deity commented on Part 2 by saying that . . .

“If the aim of the Jesus story is to preach tolerance, respect and being good to thy neighbour then someone who lives by those values without believing in god would be more worthy of entering heaven than a sinner who believed and repented before death. A god who rewards those who love him but act against him more than those who live well despite not believing is not an entity capable of creating a universe or guiding billions of years of evolution. That creature would be jealous, insecure, demanding of attention and petty.”

I would agree with his observations about God if, in fact, the Bible taught what he claims. But nowhere is it the ultimate aim of any part of Scripture to teach tolerance, respect, or even merely being good to your neighbor. If that were true, then God would be unjust to condemn tolerant, respectful people who are kind to their neighbors. But, that’s not what the Bible says.

So, why do atheists choose to wield a rusty weapon they’ve had no legitimate success with?

Don’t Fight Teapots with Negativity

Prove that God doesn’t exist.

Every debater knows it’s a rookie mistake to be tricked into trying to prove a negative.

Russell’s Teapot addresses this issue. Bertrand Russell wrote in an unpublished article that . . .

“Many people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.”

On the surface, this quote may seem to be working at cross-purposes to me, but it’s not.

The fact of the matter is that no person in the cosmos can prove that God doesn’t exist. Oh, some try, but atheists much smarter than they know it’s impossible. Yet despite this insurmountable task, the ones dead-set on proving God never existed still grab at any weapon they can to swing around. And the only weapon they have to discredit God is the one marked “Proof the Bible’s Wrong.”

You will find that every argument against God’s existence is a direct attack against the validity of Scripture. Sometimes it takes the form of, “The Bible says people were created, but we know scientifically that people evolved. See, the Bible is wrong.” Or sometimes it’s, “The Bible says you shouldn’t kill, but then God commands the Israelites to kill a bunch of people. See, God’s a jerk, and that type of God isn’t worthy of our worship.” A little harder to recognize is the, I’ve-just-used-a-reasoned-argument-to-disprove-his-existence-weapon. Nevertheless, like its dented cousins, this blade attempts to clang away at the foundational precept that reality is what the Bible says.

Unfortunately for its wielder, these weapons are quite dull and ineffective against a skilled swordsman. There isn’t a single claim made by atheists that legitimately contradicts the Bible. Even the evolution argument falls flat, since there are many atheistic scientists who argue that the theory of Darwinian evolution is “spurious” at best.

In Conclusion

If Russell were right, it’s my responsibility to prove that God exists instead of demanding the atheist to prove He doesn’t.

And that is what all of this has been about.

  1. When you take the Bible for what it actually says and actually means (use the proper hermeneutic), and
  2. Compare what it says to life and the experiences in it,
  3. You find that it is 100% reliable and consistent.

But that would be impossible for a book written . . .

over a period of roughly 2,000 years by 40 different authors from three continents, who wrote in three different languages.”

So, if it did happen that one Book could be written that would stand in the face of whatever attack was brought to bear on its pages – and which is completely unified, consistent, cohesive, and accurate – one may start to think that such a thing is impossible. In fact, there would be no other legitimate, logical explanation than the Bible is exactly what it claims to be . . . the infallible words of an infinitely perfect God.

Well, we’ve just found our proof that God exists.

And He’s not a jerk.

Is God a Jerk? (Part 2)

Is God a Jerk

In an effort to decide whether or not God is a jerk, we’ve looked at who God claims to be, what He claims to do, and observed some of the world events that lead us to believe God isn’t who He said He is (a.k.a.: Jerk).

You should probably catch up with all of that from Part 1 if you didn’t already read it.

So, continuing on, let’s see if we can reconcile God’s truth-claims with our experiences.

What Do His Claims Mean?

Let us start by assuming that everything listed in Part 1 is completely true. Does it logically follow that . . .

. . . a holy being would not be able to tolerate anything that is not in line with His character (sin)?

. . . an immutable being would never change His mind concerning His stance on sin?

. . . a righteous being could not simply overlook the sin He’s cast judgment on?

. . . a loving being would only ever want what’s truly best for us; a.k.a. not to sin (whether we understand His design or not), and would be able to provide a perfect substitutionary sacrifice to simultaneously appease His righteousness and proclaim us justified?

. . . an omnipotent being is 100% capable of accomplishing exactly what we need for life and meting out judgment when we reject Him?

. . . an omniscient being would know exactly what needs to be done to accomplish His perfect will and our best interest?

. . . a sovereign being must needs be involved in our lives?

If we put it all together, doesn’t it logically follow that a holy, immutable, righteous, loving, omnipotent, omniscient, & sovereign being would forever hate sin, and not only be compelled to judge it in perfect wisdom but also be capable of judging it as He is all powerful and in control of everything, and yet simultaneously provide the perfect way to be justly forgiven for our sins in a way we could never earn because He loves us?

If you remove any one of these truth-claims about God, then we can easily see how He may accidentally or purposefully let the ball drop. But assuming He is who He says He is, some of the things we think are out of line with His character are actually a necessity of His character.

What About His Exclusivity?

Let’s use yesterday’s first two critiques of God. Some say He’s a jerk because . . .

  1. He demands loyalty to Him alone.
  2. He’s anything but tolerant.

If everything we saw above is true, God by necessity must be consumed with His own will and jealously passionate about it being accomplished above everything else (man’s plan and aspirations included). This is necessarily true because . . .

. . . if God chose to tolerate sin because man thought He should, He would cease to be holy.

. . . if God changed His mind about sin to accept a person into heaven who rejected Him as savior, He would cease to be immutable.

. . . if God simply overlooked our sin because He loves us, He would cease to be just.

. . . if God allowed things to happen that were not in our best interest because we didn’t think losing our house in a tornado could possibly be good, He would cease to be loving.

. . . if God were unable to bring about His will, He would cease to be all powerful.

. . . if God didn’t know what was best to accomplish His plans, He would cease to be all knowing.

. . . if God walked away from His creation, He would cease to be preeminent.

If any of that happened, or if God made some other plan (i.e.; man’s plan) a higher priority than His own . . . He would cease to be God. You see, God is the only one in the cosmos Who can be jealous for His plan, for it is His plan alone that matters. He can be angry when He does not receive the worship that is due Him because man has no higher calling than to worship God. He is the only one who can rightfully define terms as they are His to define. It really is all about God. If God were all about anything other than Himself, He could not biblically nor logically be God. Whatever God makes more important that His own will becomes God.

Let’s test this premise: If someone lives a moral life, constantly doing good for his fellow man, but dies without believing in God, is God a jerk for sending him to hell?

Logically, no. It would be inconsistent with His holy, just, immutable character to simply give someone a pass because they weren’t as bad as someone else. The subjectivity of that scenario would actually be extremely jerkish to those of us who disagree with his criteria. He’s especially not a jerk in this situation because He clearly stated the guidelines for a relationship with Him, and did the humanly-impossible to provide us a way to have that relationship with Him (the sacrificial death of Jesus).

Conclusion: If God is who He says He is, He cannot be considered a jerk for requiring faith in Him alone as the only way to a relationship with Him (salvation).

But what about that issue of evil and pain in the world? That’s still pretty lame, right?

What About Sin and Suffering?

  1. He allows evil and wickedness to abound – especially to good people.
  2. He allows destruction, pain, sickness, and suffering (again, often ravaging the good of the world).

Again, assuming that God is who He says He is, is the “problem of sin and suffering” really a problem? The people who invented football designed rules for how it would be played. They paid referees to enforce the rules. When players broke the rules, there were consequences. No one struggles with this illustration.

The very first rule laid out in Scripture is that Adam and Eve not eat of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. What happened? They ate. Evil is now in the world by hereditary right. So, how many of you would be happy if the ref decided to let the other team keep the touchdown they scored while their player was clearly out of bounds? How’s that sitting with you?

Evil is a consequence of sin. Suffering and death are consequences of sin. Both of these realities are explained in the first few chapters of Genesis.

Once again,

“If God made some other plan (i.e.; man’s plan) a higher priority than His own . . . He would cease to be God. You see, God is the only one in the cosmos Who can be jealous for His plan for it is His plan alone that matters.”

His justice requires that the consequence of sin stand, but His love allows that He provide a righteous substitute for the punishment we deserve.

Let me quickly address the concept of bad things happening to “good” people. Given God’s definitions of sin/holiness/evil/good, can someone who rejects God’s perfect truth be good? The biblical answer is, “No.” Isaiah 64:6 tells us that our best good is the same as soiled menstrual rags. Eww. Philippians 2:13 tells us we need God Himself to do (and even desire to do) good as He’s defined it. Furthermore, if I reject and rebel against the only perfectly good being in the universe . . . can I really say I’m good?

Conclusion: God is not a jerk because He allows sin and suffering in the world. It is an unfortunate reality that is consistent with His nature. We are not good, and therefore deserve the consequences of our sin. And if we are going to critique His truth claims, we cannot conveniently neglect how extremely loving He is to make provision for our salvation even though we have done nothing to deserve it!

We men mess-up every day. We selfishly work all day to fulfill our own desire, all the while ignoring God’ truth and love, and then we get mad at Him when bad things happen to us, or we’re incensed when someone suggests we’re making bad choices by rejecting God. How dare He give us the punishment we deserve for rebelling against His revealed truth?!

Is God a jerk?

No.

When we take Him at His Word we see that His expectations and our experiences are both perfectly consistent with His nature.

But have we truly concluded this mined this question for all of its worth?

I’m going to publish Part 3 tomorrow where I hope to address any comments you may leave which challenge my conclusions. I’d love to have you join tomorrow!

Is God a jerk?

Continue to Part 3

Is God a Jerk? (Part 1)

Is God a Jerk

A few days ago I shared that someone tweeted that God must be a complete jerk if He would send “good” people to hell just because those people don’t believe in Him. Other’s have made the same statements concerning the presence of evil and pain in this world.

Is that true? Is God a jerk? Is He selfish, is He jealous? Is @Atheist_Deity right to question the thought,

“so you live a good life, look after your fellow man & never act in an evil manner but don’t believe, god will send you to hell?”

kill everyoneI’d like to look at this question from a bibliological perspective. I want to do this because someone who reads this but does not believe in God will not take anything the Bible has to say as truth. But they do hold their own reasoning skills in very high regard. This, of course, make sense if absolute truth doesn’t exist.

So we will evermind the biblical data concerning God’s supremacy, rule, and reign of the universe, and then we will use logic and human reasoning to see if His truth makes sense given what He’s disclosed and how He’s acted (if at all) in this world.

Please note: While I encourage conversation and debate, I would ask that it be done in a spirit of mutual-respect. This does not mean that we have to agree, it simply means that we do not stoop to name-calling.

Who Does God Say He Is?

I believe this is an incredibly important first step because if we’re going to judge God, we should do it by two things: 1. What He says about Himself, & 2. What He does as compared to what He said He’d do. At this point, it really doesn’t matter what other people say about Him.

Of course, I  don’t desire to be exhaustive in answering the question “Who is God?” because the whole of nature and Scripture is a testament to His person. But I do want to highlight a few key attributes and passages that are relevant to this discussion. I’ve turned to Ryrie’s Basic Theology for concision.

  1. Holy – God is not only separate from all that is unclean and evil, but also that He is positively pure and thus distinct from all others (Leviticus 11:44; Joshua 24:19; Psalm 99:3, 5, 9; Isaiah 40:25; Habakkuk 1:12; John 17:11; I Peter 1:15; I John 1:5; Revelation 4:8).
  2. Immutable – God is unchangeable and thus unchanging (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). A Twitter acquaintance of mine brought up the common rebuttal that if God doesn’t change, why does the Bible say He “repents.” Ryrie explains, “Most understand these verse as employing anthropomorphism; i.e., interpreting what is not human in human terms. However, this can only be said to be so only from the human standpoint, for His eternal plan is unchanging.”
  3. Loving – God seeks the perfection of holiness and all that the concept implies for the object loved (I John 4:8).
  4. Omnipotent – God is all powerful and able to do anything consistent with His nature (Genesis 17:1; Exodus 6:3; II Corinthians 6:18; Revelation 1:8 7 19:6).
  5. Omniscient – God knows everything, things actual and possible, effortlessly and equally well (Acts 15:18; Psalm 147:4; Matthew 11:21; Psalm 139:16).
  6. Righteous – God is just; there is no law, either within His own being or of His own making, that is violated by anything in His nature (Psalm 11:7, 19:9; Daniel 9:7; Acts 17:31).
  7. Sovereign – God is in complete control of all things, though He may choose to let certain events happen according to natural law He has ordained (Psalm 135:6; Proverbs 16:4; Acts 15:18; Ephesians 1:11, 1:14).

What Does God Say He’ll Do?

Again, this question is one that can only be fully answered by the completed cannon, but I believe these are the three most important considerations:

  1. He promises to provide everything we need for life and godliness in His Word (II Peter 1:3).
  2. He promises to do everything for our greatest good if we love Him and follow His Word (Romans 8:28).
  3. He promises to save us if we ask, and punish us if we don’t (Romans 10:13).

What Does It Look Like God is Doing?

Now isn’t this the stinger? It’s one thing for someone to tell us they love us, but if they don’t act like it . . . we won’t believe them. Why do so many people believe that God is a jerk? Here are a few reasons (I’m sure some of you could easily add to this list):

  1. He demands loyalty to Him alone.
  2. He’s anything but tolerant.
  3. He allows evil and wickedness to abound – especially to good people.
  4. He allows destruction, pain, sickness, and suffering (again, often ravaging the good of the world).

In partial conclusion, if God is to be judged, we must first understand what He claims to be, what He claims to do, and then we need to compare that to what He’s actually doing (or allowing to be done).

Tomorrow we will see what His claims necessitate, and we’ll discuss the logical and reasonable end of these attributes. Therefore, I ask of you two things:

  1. Be thinking about this today. Does what God says about Himself line up with our experiences in this world?
  2. Come back tomorrow as we continue to consider whether or not God is a jerk.

Continue to Part 2.

A Wrong View of Grace

It’s been said that we personify God based off of our human father. This may be true, but I hope it’s not. I’m a father. I have a father. Neither of us are even remotely capable of giving a good picture of our Heavenly Father.

But if the above is true, that would explain why so many of us have a distorted view concerning the relationship between us and God.

Here on earth, a father’s love can be capricious. He smiles more when we please him, but he threatens to disown us when we don’t. Thankfully my father never threatened to disown me, but we must understand that no matter what your earthly father is like, God does not operate the same way.

On his blog, David Crabb quotes Holiness by Grace (a book by Bryan Chapell). In the article we are encouraged to realize that nothing we can do will ever cause God to love us any more or any less.

The reality of the redeemed’s situation is a glorious one! God does not love me because of me . . . He loves me because of Christ! Christ’s blood has covered my sins. His righteousness has replaced my wickedness. By His blood I have been pardoned before God. When God looks at me, He does not see Aaron Brewster. He sees His son, Jesus Christ. And because of this beautiful substitutionary atonement, God loves me the exact same amount as He loves His only Son. Wow!

Therefore, no amount of sin on my part can separate me from His love. At the same time, no amount of holiness will ingratiate me to Him more. He loves me with a perfect, undying love!

Demons Among Us?

Demons Among Us

A naked man in Miami was shot and killed when he refused to stop eating the face of his victim. Sources say he continued his gnawing even after being shot the first time.

We acknowledge that our society is filled with the abnormal, the aberrant, and the anomalous, but the only answers society can point to are the elusive “mental illnesses” or chemical imbalances. Of course the “professionals” have a hard enough time defining the mind let alone an illness of it, and they have no tests to prove the chemical balancing act. But since the Bible provides all we need for life and godliness, let us turn to the Scriptures for an explanation of deviant behavior. We will find there prevalent answers on the subject. Some of which are direct explanations and others are vivid illustrations.

The answer to the question, “where does aberrant behavior come from” is always sin. Scripture tells us that we are born sinners because Adam first sinned. We are informed that sin is anything that misses the mark of God’s standard. Since God’s standard is pure perfection, sin is the cause of anything that deviates from God’s holiness. This is why it’s impossible for humanity to please God with sin in our lives. This is why we need a Savior (see What You Need to Know for more information about your sin). Further we are told in God’s Word that sin is not only inherent in all of us, it is also present in the world because of us, and propagated by Satan to destroy us.

The first and second sources are easy for most believers to understand, but the third root of sin (Satan and his demonic followers) gets a few more quizzical looks. One reason satanic/demonic activity strains our head muscles is that everything they do seems to dwell in that “unknowable” spiritual realm. Another reason is the lack of “Demons for Dummies” sections in the Scriptures.

If you couldn’t already tell, I believe the type of behavior experienced recently in Miami (and on every continent, in every country, and [I would argue] in every city of this world) probably finds it roots in demonic influence. I would like to “take back” two key ideas with this article: 1. What demons are, and 2. What they do. I believe Satan succeeds the most when affluent, “intellectuals” deny his existence and work in this world. If nothing else, I hope we will be able to see through Satan’s lies concerning his henchmen . . . demons.

Side Note: This is not the only occurrence of what they are calling cannibal/zombie behavior. More and more situations like this one are popping up in the media every day, and every time it’s discovered that a new drug called “cloud nine” is the culprit. These bath salts are being blamed for the deviant behavior of the perpetrators. But here is the point I would like to make before continuing our discussion on demon activity: drugs have always been used in conjunction with demonic rituals. I believe there is more than enough evidence to prove that even though these (and other) drugs can alter the abuser’s reality, their presence does not disprove demonic activity.

What Are Demons?

We must go all the way back to Genesis via Revelation to understand what demons are. Simply put, they are the fallen angels that were swept out of heaven when Satan was cast out (Revelation 12:4). We are told that a third of the heavenly host followed the Devil to his destruction. They are the same as angels with one major difference; instead of choosing to commit themselves to God, they chose to reject Him. Therefore, everything the Bible has to say about angels, their characteristics, and abilities can be applied to demons as well. The main point I would like to confirm here is that they did and do in fact exist. Christ Himself dealt with many demons. His acknowledgment of their existence should be good enough for anyone who is trying to take back the Bible. For this reason, I do not intend to branch off into a full-out discussion on Angelology. Beyond that, many amazing men have written volumes on the subject for our personal study. Charles C. Ryrie deals with angels and demons in detail in his work Basic Theology (I will be relying on some of his thoughts for our discussion here). To the same degree, any theology book will deal with the angelology/demonology. The real hot-point of this discussion is going to revolve around the second and third questions concerning the work of demons and whether or not they are doing anything today.

Still, so that we are all on the same page, let me say that there is no biblical evidence to support that demons are deceased individuals. In like manner, the ideas that demons are the disembodied spirits of som pre-Adamic race or that they are the offspring of Angels and men, is extremely tenuous and rely heavily on the wide extrapolation of certain biblical texts. So, it is safe to say for our discussion that Genesis’ account of the fallen angels are, in fact, the demons of today’s talk.

What Did Demons Do Back Then?

The Bible attributes various satanic duties and responsibilities of demons:

1. They afflict man. The Bible says they are able to inflict diseases (Matthew 17:15-18), cause deviant thinking (Mark 5:5), and they can bring death (Revelation 9:14-19). I must say, though, that not all physical illness can be attributed to demons (much like what Christian Scientists believe), because Christ often distinguishes between the two.

2. They bring perversion to man. They twist God’s perfect standard. They promote idolatry and false religion (Deuteronomy 32:17, I John 4:1-4, I Timothy 4:1-3).

3. They possess people. It is easy to tell from the ministry of Christ that demons possessed unbelieving individuals. They appear to have the power to completely take over the actions and words (and presumably the minds) of human beings. Many times the possessed person acted very strangely, but it is important to note that extreme behavior was not always a consequence of demon possession.

What Do Demons Do Now?

Here lies the crux of the issue. Do demons have the same duties and influences on the modern world that they had thousands of years ago. Some would quickly point to our nude friend in Miami and say, “If anyone was possessed, he was.” Third world tribes still dabble in demonology on a regular basis. Yet there are those who would say the whole thing is ridiculous, and yet a fourth group lives like it doesn’t matter. I believe my audience is probably in the first or last category.

The first truth we must grapple with is that nowhere in the Scriptures does it say that angels of any stripe have ceased their activities on this earth. In fact, we know that they have been working and will continue to work right up until the point where God throws the evil ones into eternal bondage in the Lake of Fire (with a brief 1,00 year hiatus right before that). Demonic influences on this earth are just as real and active as they were when one-third of the created angels fell like a lightning bolt from heaven. We cannot deny this point, and no amount of makeup will hide it.

What’s the Application?

As you can probably tell from my opening illustration, I do believe the example in Miami is indicative of demonic possession. Without being there and witnessing it first hand, I would still say it has all the earmarks: extremely deviant behavior (unnecessary nudity, beating a man, eating his face), and superhuman power (continuing his actions despite a bullet lodging in his body). But this is not the main focus of this discussion. Even though I hope your eyes might be opening to the fact that Satan uses his minions to pervert the world, extreme examples like the one above are probably in the minority. The real scary stuff hides behind the mundane.

Satan’s stupid (he dared defy God), but he’s not an idiot. He knows the best way to deceive men’s hearts. He knows that few people today actually believe in him, he knows that generally only primitive people still go for the whole possession-thing, but he also knows that he cannot stop his work of perversion and possession lest more people be won to the cause of Christ. So, he’s had to change his tactics a bit. But sin is still sin. Sin always destroys and it always produces behavior that falls short of God’s perfection. Sin always creates abnormal behavior . . . even today.

Let us see if we can think of some contemporary forms of aberrant actions. Hmmm. It doesn’t take long before we realize that our TV’s provides us with the answer. Shows like “Hoarders” and “Obsessed” show us that even unsaved people find certain behaviors awkward. Then there are the plethora of sitcoms and movies that make fun of certain “personality disorders” and “mental illnesses.” The Big Bang Theory and Monk are perfect examples. Of course, we cannot forget the media outlets that treat these disorders like something to be victimized by. Doctor shows, shrink shows, and talk shows cannot stop talking about ADHD, ADD, ODD, OCD, schizophrenia, phobias, and the eating disorders plaguing our society. But what do all of these shows have in common? Regardless of what the cure is, regardless of whether or not we think it’s funny or scary, the vast majority of people in America agree that these individuals are exhibiting aberrant, abnormal, and/or anomalous behavior.

Before I continue, let me say again that not every disease is a product of demon possession, so I must be careful being too dogmatic about every case. But being a counselor, I do know that the medical community has absolutely no empirical evidence to diagnose someone as having a “mental illness” beyond simply observing the patient’s behavior. There are no blood tests, brain scans, or urine samples that can help us detect a “mental illness.” But that is no excuse. To blithely label a behavior as the symptom of an otherwise improvable “disease” is foolish at best. At worst, it betrays the fact that unsaved men and women deny the existence of the spiritual. Therefore, even though they don’t understand it, they reason there must be some physiological reason behind the abnormal behavior. Unfortunately for them, just because you ignore the spiritual doesn’t make it disappear. Neither does medicating the physical.

Satan does exist. His demons still work in the lives of men today. Sin and Satan always produce destructive, aberrant behavior. Ladies and gentlemen, we are left with the profound conclusion that demon possession (and at least the effects of sin in general) are at the basis of every self-destructive and deviant behavior known to man.

So what do we do? We know that Satan is trying to tear us apart like a famished lion. We know that his henchmen are actively working in the lives of people all around us. In fact, demons may well be at work within the four walls of our own homes. If doctors can’t “cure” us, what do we do?

We take back the Bible! We choose to believe every line of God’s Word! We must accept that there are answers for all of life’s questions and trials within the pages of the holy Scriptures. We must take It back from those who would have us believe it’s not applicable and outdated. We must stand firmly on It’s promises and search it diligently for It’s answers.

This post and The New Me: Part 6 are the grand introduction for this site. My ministry this fall is going to make conversations like these a daily occurrence. By God’s grace I will be helping others wrestle with life-changing truths from God’s Word, and I want this site to be an off-shoot of that. I hope you will continue with me in this endeavor. There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors when those counselors take God’s truth and apply it to our lives.