A Matter of Wrong

Our innate response to sin is telling; we understand the concept of right and wrong, and we understand justice — that wrongdoing must be punished appropriately. (Ac 18:14) This instinct reveals the gospel through deductive reasoning.

If someone has wronged us:

  1. Then we acknowledge a moral standard. This standard is revealed in our instinct to find fault with others whether they agree with us or not; we impose an expectation of right behavior which is independent of human opinion.
  2. Then there must be a moral law Giver Who created this moral standard. Nature can’t create such a standard (since it’s metaphysical, spiritual), and Man can’t create it (since it’s independent of Man’s opinion). Therefore God created it (there are no other options).
  3. Then God will hold us accountable for violating this moral standard. A moral standard presumes a divine evaluation of human behavior, as well as a divine reaction for our obeying or violating this standard: a moral standard is meaningless otherwise.
  4. Then God has openly revealed this moral standard to Man. It is unjust for God to hold us accountable for violating His moral standard if we have no way of knowing what His standard is. We may think we know it apart from divine revelation, but this is effectively indistinguishable from making it up as we go, since our sense of goodness is impaired and compromised by selfishness. (De 4:6)
  5. Then this standard is Mosaic Law. Torah is credibly claimed to be revealed by God to Man through Israel, His chosen people; there is no other remotely credible claim here. (Is 8:20) One may argue that Israel could conceivably have created Torah on their own, but once we deduce that God has openly revealed His Law to Man, Torah is our only viable option.
  6. Then we have all violated this standard. We have not loved God with all our heart, soul and might (De 6:5), nor have we loved our neighbors as ourselves. (Le 19:18) We are all guilty of breaking God’s Law (Ro 3:19), and we’re without excuse. (Ro 1:20)
  7. So, in the same way we require just punishment for those who wrong us, God must justly punish our sin against Himself. Our instinct for justice generates anger instinctively; we’re created in His image, so we should expect this in God (Ro 2:8-9), but in a perfect way: there will be ultimate justice for God. (Ro 2:2)
  8. Yet the punishment we deserve is infinite: we can never pay it in full. Since our sin against God is entirely unjustified, offending One Who is perfectly holy, infinitely worthy of obedience and worship (Re 14:11) we’re all in a desperate case, with no alibi or escape, and there’s nothing we can do about this unless God mercifully intervenes on our behalf.
  9. So, we need a Savior to deliver us, not only from the punishment we deserve, but also from our very nature which deserves it. Seeing our need, God has kindly provided us just such a Savior (Mt 1:21), offering to deliver us not only from the punishment we deserve, but also from our very nature which deserves it. (Tit 2:14)

We can know all this by carefully observing ourselves and others. So, how shall we escape the wrath of God if we neglect so great salvation? (He 2:3) If we think this through as we should, we will see our need, repent and run to God for deliverance. (Ac 16:29-30)

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The Law of Jehovah

When someone is challenging us on our moral beliefs, accusing us of hatred, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, gynophobia and/or whatever, I find it helpful to pause for a moment and ask them to explain their moral standard.

Those who are unfamiliar with God’s ways generally find them offensive and troublesome. They may come after us in fear, resentment and/or hatred for disagreeing with their claims; they may feel condemned, offended and even harmed by our mere unwillingness to approve their manner of life. Even if we’re personally very kind toward them and pose no direct harm, our mere lack of agreement may be deeply threatening to them.

But it seems to me that few have taken the time to ask themselves how and why they’re so convinced they’re right: they have no explicit moral standard to reference, and I expect most have neglected to give this the attention it deserves.

This is likely the root cause behind their defensiveness: when all we have to support our behavior is blind emotion, feeling intimidated is perfectly natural when we’re challenged. Pointing this out can be extremely powerful and disarming in the midst of heated conversation.

For example, when a transgender male (thinking he’s female) accosts us for not referring to him as “she”, we may simply ask, “Can you please tell me what your moral standard is? How do you decide what’s right and wrong?”

Clearly, these folk have a VERY strong sense of morality, but they’re evidently making it up as they go. Their feelings are so powerful that questioning and challenging their emotions is unthinkable.

Yet if we can engage them in civil dialogue, we might be able to point out that simply because we happen to want something to be true doesn’t make it so. They would likely agree with this (else, they should concede that all other opinions are as valid as theirs).

Then, observe with them that they’re already instinctively acting this way; in rejecting our feelings and treating our opinions as invalid, they’re claiming the existence of a universal moral standard, independent of human opinion, which we should all obey. They can’t intelligently disagree with this; no one can.

Since they’re already doing this right in front of us, acting as if they’re passionately following a universal moral standard, ask them to explain this standard so you can study and understand it. Ask them where it came from and who revealed it.

Point out that any universal moral standard, being independent of any and all human opinion, must by definition be a divine standard, revealed to Man by God Himself: Nature cannot create such a standard. Ask them what evidence they have that their moral standard is inspired by God.

The point is this: those decrying hate may hate Jehovah’s standard and trash it all day long, but without an explicit, divinely inspired moral standard, they’re being fundamentally inconsistent. No one can live as if there’s no universal moral standard: we can’t just make it up as we go; it’s not how we’re designed. Doing so creates emotional imbalance, intellectual dishonesty and personal instability.

The law of Jehovah, His perfect standard (Ps 19:7), is the only one which has any remotely credible claim to being divinely revealed (De 4:6-8), and it’s right. (Ps 19:8) Asking those who hate it to tell us about theirs might be a good first step forward in helping them see.

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They Chew the Cud

God often gives us commands without explaining why; He doesn’t owe us an explanation. Obeying Him simply because He says so is likely the highest form of respect and love. (1Jn 5:3)

Even so, many ask why we keep certain laws for which they see no good reason; such as dietary laws. Since I also like to understand why God’s laws are good I try to provide some reason in addition to, “God says so.”

I see an indication from the dietary detail that we shouldn’t eat carnivores or scavengers, and have often cited this as a possibility; it is the kind of food generally discouraged by cardiologists and other health professionals. However, recently, when asked why we don’t eat horses, I found a more interesting and inciteful explanation: efficiency.

Horses are unclean because they don’t have a split hoof and because they don’t chew the cud. However, horse flesh is quite nutritious, it’s less fatty than beef, and they’re vegetarian, so why aren’t they on the menu?

As it turns out, animals which chew their cud are more efficient at turning food sources into nutrition for humans; they’re a more economical source of food: they consume less nutritious food themselves and produce a better meal for us. So, cultures who eat beef will tend to prosper and thrive more than those who eat horses.

God has a good reason for every one of His laws; they’re holy, just and good because He is. (Ro 7:12)

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All Things Are Lawful

The concept of sin, violation of moral law, is a complex matter. It’s often unclear whether some act or thought is sinful, or to what degree it’s sin.

And there are statements in Scripture which might lead one to reason that God’s definition of sin has changed over time, and even that sin no longer exists, such as, “all things are lawful for me.” (1Co 10:23) This means something, and it’s evidently very important.

The statement, by itself, could mean several different things. It could mean, for example, that God’s Law no longer applies to the author, or to certain people, or to everyone, in which case there’s no more moral law and therefore no more sin. Yet this begs asking what lawful means; in order for something to be in accordance with the law it seems there must, in fact, be a law with which to be aligned. And this we all know, that there is still a moral law, and we reveal this when others wrong us. We cannot live otherwise.

It could also mean that every thing which isn’t explicitly forbidden by God is lawful: since being contrary to God’s Law isn’t a thing for one who fears God.

The first rule of interpretation in scripture (hermeneutics) is to respect context: first the local, immediate context of the surrounding verses, then the chapter or book of the Bible containing the text, and ultimately the whole of Scripture.

In this case, the context is about eating food dedicated to idols. (19-21) The entire context is about how this is not expressly forbidden by God (1Co 8:4); dedicating food to an idol changes nothing about the food itself: it doesn’t make the food unfit to eat.

However, as the context bears out, though it may be lawful to eat food sacrificed to idols, it may not be expedient; in other words, it may not be suitable for achieving a godly purpose. If others are tempted to go against their conscience through lawful behavior, then this behavior is harmful and violates the higher law of love, even though it’s not unlawful in itself.

This second way of interpreting the text is consistent with the whole of scripture, whereas the first is not only explicitly contrary to scripture, it’s self-deception, missing the truth altogether. (1Jn 1:8)

If we’re picking and choosing texts out of context to support our position, we’re very likely heading for destruction. (2Pe 3:16) If all scripture is given by inspiration (2Ti 3:16), any interpretation must be consistent with the entire Scripture. To find the truth we must rightly divide the Word of Truth and not handle God’s Word deceitfully. (2Co 4:2)

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Vengeance Is Mine

The question of evil and suffering in the world is perhaps the strongest argument against the existence of God. The reasoning is that since a good and loving God wouldn’t allow so much evil and suffering, either God is not good or there is no God. Many are deceived by this line of thought.

There are two basic problems with this argument. The first lies in a presumption that no ultimate good can possibly come of all of the evil and suffering God allows; that He simply cannot have a good reason for doing so. This is merely arrogance, claiming to have ultimate knowledge of what constitutes a good outcome, and defining the meaning of life in terms of human innocence and suffering. It is a man-centered view of existence and presumes to know better than God.

One obvious benefit from God allowing evil is that it provides a context in which God may fully reveal and glorify Himself. If there were no sin we would know very little about the love, wrath, faithfulness, justice and amazing character of God. God does promise He will eventually deal justly and perfectly with all sin (Ro 12:19); nothing will go unresolved. If we don’t find this a sufficient motive for God allowing evil and suffering, if we don’t value God’s response to sin, perhaps we don’t rightly value the glory of God.

The second major problem with this argument lies in how to define evil itself if there is no God. Plants and animals aren’t evil; only Man is evil. Animals don’t violate moral law as they impose suffering – they live according to their design and aren’t punished for this; justice is irrelevant in the realm of Nature. Man is evil because he violates a moral standard or code which define his actions as wicked and inappropriate; the victims of evil therefore require justice.

For any moral standard to be legitimate and binding, one to which we may rightly hold people accountable, we intuitively understand that this standard cannot be sourced in Man himself, merely our opinion or preference. Apart from a divine standard, one man’s opinion about good and evil is just as valid as any other. Yet we act as if our understanding of morality is binding on others whether or not they agree with us; it doesn’t matter how many people hold a certain moral belief, a standard doesn’t become legitimate just because we like it.

This is inherent in our understanding of morality itself and we cannot escape it; we impose our definition of evil on others irrespective of whether they agree, as if moral law were a divinely revealed, universal standard.

The very fact that we accept the existence of evil in the world is actually then very strong evidence that there is a God. In other words, the argument we are considering here must borrow God’s definition of evil in order to even be an argument.

We cannot live as if evil doesn’t exist, or as if it’s merely a matter of preference or opinion: all of us believe in God in this sense –  we act as if there’s a divine being with a moral standard which He uses to evaluate human behavior, a standard to which he holds all people accountable.

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Write in a Book

When Christ reveals His ultimate purposes and plans to His church, to prepare her, guide her into all truth, edify and comfort her, He doesn’t simply send a prophet, an apostle or a teacher; Christ reveals the message to a trusted apostle and enables him to write it down in a book. (Re 1:11) This may seem uneventful to us at first glance, but I think it’s significant.

As we pursue truth, particularly in spiritual things, we have very few options:

    1. We may trust God to speak directly to us to confirm what’s true.
    2. We may trust other “selves” to tell us what God has revealed to them.
    3. We may trust what we read in a book which claims to be inspired of God, a text which bears up under the most intense scrutiny over time.

The first two options are obviously problematic because we’re all flawed and tend to misunderstand and misrepresent truth, even when God clearly reveals it to us. Even when we’re trying our best we often get it wrong, much less when we’re actually trying to deceive ourselves and others. This makes even written materials suspect, since they’re likely just more permanent variations of the same.

To be rightly grounded in truth, we need a book which not only claims to be inspired by God, but which proves itself out to be so over many generations, generally received as God-breathed by those loving and pursuing God, based on how its words encourage, strengthen and direct us.

And, ideally, this would be a book written down by holy people who both love God supremely and also suffer greatly in providing it to us, who receive its message under persecution and difficulty, who actually do suffer in their own pursuit of God, and who have no hope of profiting personally in any way from writing it.

And if this book actually is inspired by God, we expect to find those who aren’t pursuing God to be careless with it, taking it out of context and using it for their own benefit. And we find those hostile to God relentlessly and irrationally attacking it, opposing it, maligning and mocking it, blind to their own irrationality in the process.

The Bible, the Word of Truth, fits this expectation to a “T”, and it’s the only book which does. It’s the foundation of Western civilization, an ongoing miracle for us all to discover and cherish. Many who won’t claim to be Christians take it as truth on a moral and spiritual level, astonished at how such a book could have come to us by any natural means.

And those who attack and denounce it must inevitably take it out of context, twisting its words as they would no other text to which they’d give an honest read. It’s clear they hate its Author and cannot give it the chance it deserves. (Ro 8:7)

To love God is to love His word; it becomes the joy and rejoicing of our hearts (Je 15:16), just as He is. (Php 4:4)

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His Own Purpose

Humans are distinct from animals in that we must have purpose in our lives, meaning, a reason to be alive. We act as if we’re aware that we’re designed with some objective in mind, and that we expect to be evaluated according to some standard, related to how well we’ve realized our purpose.

The existence of a design standard further implies someone, the Grand Designer, Who is evaluating us, and that there are real consequences for neglecting or resisting our design, rewards and punishments involved in this life and the next, due to our performance. (Php 2:12) This is all instinctive, built deeply into our very physiology; we know it’s true, and we can’t escape it. (Ro 1:20)

To pretend we are the ultimate judge of ourselves is to miss the whole point; we didn’t design ourselves so we can’t give ourselves purpose. We know the standard isn’t arbitrary, it’s not something we can simply make up as we go. And no other created person can tell us our purpose any more than we can.

We may try to obtain some semblance of meaning by taking up responsibility, putting ourselves together and trying to make the world a better place. The fact this actually works is telling; it must be somewhat aligned with our true purpose. (1Ti 5:8) If there weren’t an ultimate Designer, this might be the best we could do.

Yet our instincts reflect reality; we’re fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:14), and it’s our Creator Who gives us meaning: if God says we’re missing the point in some way, ignoring this isn’t helpful. God is love, and His design is best.

God has set specific, unique objectives for each of us (Ep 2:10); this is our calling, which we must discover in Him and pursue. (2Ti 1:9) It’s an invitation to challenge and adventure, to discover beauty and fulfillment of indescribable value; though there are shadows all about us pointing us to this reality, there’s no earthly parallel.

The genius of God’s Way is that it not only perfectly suits our individual design, it places each believer within the context of a cosmic team, part of a divine body pursuing an eternal goal together, for which we’re all perfectly suited. We aren’t struggling through this life, enduring all its suffering and malevolence, alone. (1Pe 5:8-9)

It is only within this context that suffering itself can truly be called a gift (Php 1:29), when we’re voluntarily suffering for a higher purpose. (Mt 5:11-12) What He has called us to is unspeakable glory in Him. (Ro 8:18) Perfect fulfillment and satisfaction on every conceivable level.

Christ, our perfect example (1Pe 2:21), perfectly exemplified how to find and fulfill our purpose: He didn’t come to make everyone happy, or even Himself (Ro 15:3); He came to do His Father’s will, and to finish His work. (Jn 4:34) In the same way, we’re to prove the will of God for ourselves, and then do it. (Ro 12:2)

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Strong Delusion

In his work, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins asserts that belief in God qualifies as a delusion: a fixed false belief which persists in light of conflicting evidence. Atheists often exude this conviction, that any belief in God is blind superstition, confident that science, logic and reason are entirely on their side.

When we’re at fault, we may find ourselves projecting our own error upon others, and then judging them mercilessly. (Rom 2:1) We find it so with many atheists, Dawkins being typical.

Just how difficult is it to prove God exists? If we’re honest with the facts, it’s relatively simple.

Consider the claim of the late Stephen Hawking, that there are only two possibilities for the origin of the universe: Either [P1] God created it ex nihilo, or [P2] The laws of physics did.

Being a committed atheist, Hawking chooses P2, positing that the laws of physics exist as creative forces independent of Nature. “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing,” he writes. “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”

The obvious flaw in P2 is that the laws of physics actually don’t exist: they are not creative forces, merely abstract concepts describing patterns we consistently observe in Nature. So, P2 is a delusion in the proper sense of the word: a claim explicitly contrary to science.

However, Hawking is so confident in P2 that he offers no third possibility. So, in his inestimable brilliance, Hawking leaves us with a very simple choice: Deity, or Delusion. He sides with Delusion; anything but Deity, no matter how absurd. This is atheism, at its very best.

I anticipate 3 possible responses:

[R1] Hawking is no expert in this field and should not be trusted. This is easily dismissed; Hawking was an eminently reliable authority, knowing the valid options on origins and distilling them for us.

[R2] I have misrepresented Hawking’s claim. Also easily refuted with commonly available facts.

[R3] Fall back on “God of the gaps” (GOTG), and assert that P2 is a valid choice, merely one scientists can’t fully support just yet. The problem here is that GOTG is reasonable only when bridging the “gap” in question does not require contradicting all known science. Claiming we might eventually discover how something which does not exist could create everything which does exist – ex nihilo, from NOTHING — does contradict all we know from science. In this case, GOTG isn’t an argument; it’s a cop out, a refusal to consider any evidence for God at all. (Ro 1:20)

If we have already presumed there can’t be a god then we must confidently choose P2, and never P1, no matter what the data say. Though the heavens declare the glory of God (Ps 19:1), our presupposition blinds us to the obvious. This is the essence of delusion.

God will eventually send strong delusion upon all who don’t love the truth. (2Th 2:11-12) There may be thousands of poorly framed arguments for the existence of God, but this is not one of them. It only takes one to convince the honest soul. What say you: Deity or Delusion?

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They Could Not Believe

When we present reasonable evidence for a spiritual concept to someone who believes differently, why is it so rare for people to grow and change?

When our assumptions or reasonings are flawed, people should point this out with a carefully reasoned position, especially when we invite them to do so and listen intently to their concerns. So when people persistently reveal shallow, inconsistent, irrational reasons for unbelief this can be frustrating, until we consider the inherent nature of the carnal mind. (Ro 8:7)

Take for example the overwhelming historical evidence for the Resurrection of Christ. The proof is straightforward and unanswerably sound, yet it’s generally unconvincing to those who aren’t raised in church. It’s hard to fathom a more reliable testimony than the apostles have passed on to us. What does it take to convince people?

One might think miracles would help, but this is untrue historically: miracles never have convinced the masses. (Jn 12:37-38)) Neither has earnest, rational debate.  (Ac 6:10-11) There isn’t much left.

Evidently, our values determine what we notice, what we’re receptive to, and what we find credible. A temporal value system disvalues eternal things and obscures them, so Christ tells us to align our value system with God’s so we’ll be able to rightly value and perceive spiritual truth. (Mt 6:19-21) This is where we must begin: it’s the fear of God. (Pr 1:7)

When our eyes focus properly we’re able to see clearly (Mt 6:22), but when improper focus impairs our vision the light we’re seeing might as well be darkness. And if we’re mistaking darkness for light, thinking we can still see, we’re worse off than if we knew we were blind. (23)

Further, when we don’t love truth we open ourselves up to deception (2Th 2:10), inviting supernatural wickedness to further restrict our vision and perception. (2Co 4:4) No one imprisoned like this can overcome and believe on their own. (Jn 12:40)

Lack of love for the truth equates to love of the lie, which leads to making and receiving lies, which ultimately damns the soul. (Re 22:15) This disposition is evidenced in part by preferring Man’s praise to God’s, rendering us unable to perceive and receive the reality of His Son. (Jn 5:44)

Evidently, God must give us a love for truth and open our eyes in order for us to believe in and follow Him. (Jn 1:12-13) Without Him we’re dead, lifeless, oblivious to Him. (Ep 2:5) If we happen to find ourselves aware of Him, and of our need for Him, and if we’re willing to seek His face and submit to Him (He 11:6), this itself is the gift of God. (2Ti 2:25) If we pursue Him, He will give us the evidence we need and lead us into all truth (Mt 7:7-8), into Himself.

The blindness of the fallen nature is no excuse to be imprecise or irresponsible in our thinking, or in our efforts to reason with others. We should do our level best to present the truth as clearly and as articulately as we are able. (1Pe 3:15) Yet we must keep in mind that it isn’t the power and wisdom of our argument that will win the day, but the power of God. (1Co 2:5) He will enlighten those He chooses according to His pleasure and in His time.

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In Six Days

Evolutionists assert that Earth is billions of years old, so we expect some to try to interpret Scripture to accommodate an old earth. How might they do so?

Primarily by allegorizing the Creation myth and considering the days of Creation to be geologic ages, making each day as long as we like.  The general pattern of a lifeless earth (Day 1), then plants (Day 3), followed by sea creatures (Day 5), land animals and finally Man (Day 6) seems to more or less follow evolutionary sequence. It’s called the Day-Age Theory.

Obvious problems include the fact that the planet itself is created before light (Day 1), Earth, light and plants (Days 1-3) all appear before the sun, moon and stars (Day 4), birds (Day 5) come before all land animals (Day 6), and God blessing the 7th Day to start an ongoing 7-day rest cycle based on Him completing Creation in 6 days. (Ex 20:11)

Further, Adam is said to be the very first man (1Co 15:45) and his life-span is stated explicitly (Ge 5:5), along with those of all the antediluvian patriarchs (8-30) in the lineage of Christ (Lk 3:36-38), placing Creation around 4000 BCE.

So, to be consistent, we can’t simply allegorize the Creation account in isolation, we end up corrupting the integrity of Scripture throughout; its authors evidently understood the Creation account literally: if they were mistaken, they weren’t inspired. If the Day-Age Theory had any real basis in scripture, it’s difficult to explain why it appeared so late in history, only in the last 200 years. The interpretation thus appears forced in order to accommodate recent, opposing scientific claims.

Another approach, the Gap-Theory, allows for a literal interpretation of the Creation account, yet postulates a large gap between the first two verses; between the creation of the planet (Ge 1:1) and it being found formless and void. (2) This view harmonizes nicely with most scripture while providing for any age of the earth we like. However, it’s also inconsistent with the Sabbath Command (Ex 20:11), and begs the question of whether an old planet with no light or atmosphere, no sun or moon or stars, or any life form whatever as we know it, helps much to square the Word with evolutionary claims. What’s the point then?

We all choose an authority for determining what’s true, and if we earnestly want to know the truth we should insist on having no contradictions in our world view, no inconsistencies. If we accept God’s Word as Truth, in it’s entirety (Ps 119:160), then we must try to interpret it consistently, and discount unverified scientific claims, such as evolution, which contradict it. (1Ti 6:20-21)

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