Tag Archives: God

Several Myths (at least misunderstandings) Regarding the Doctrine of Predestination

In the catalog of Christian Doctrine (among Biblical based, ‘evangelistic’ Christians), Predestination is probably the one with the most misunderstandings and honest controversy. I use the word ‘honest’ in that it doesn’t seem either side of the issue is intentionally falsifying anything. Both camps use the Bible and thinking derived therefrom to form their conclusion. (Just to clarify, there are non-Christians who use Predestination as a ‘talking point’, neither understanding the real concept nor caring for honesty or integrity in the matter; I am not considering them at the moment.)

There are three major misunderstandings or myths about Predestination which seem to abound.

1. People who reject Christ (which includes salvation, grace and forgiveness) are dragged into Heaven against their will as God has already decided the matter.

Not true. God does not drag souls – people – into His loving care as they kick and scream and squirm, attempting to escape. God clearly allows people to make their own choices in nearly all cases, which explains evil actions in the history of mankind. This includes Adam and Eve’s decision regarding the apple (yes, I know; it’s an abbreviation for that whole episode) and the rather reprehensible actions of various evil man throughout history and the ‘bad’ decisions of all us ‘good’ people.

Probably the most misunderstood example of this myth is the conversion of Saul/Paul. To recap Acts 9: 1 to 22, a Jewish man named Saul was on the road (not with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby) to Damascus with the intent of physically and legally (under Jewish law and authority) prosecuting and persecuting any and all Christian believers he (Saul) could find. On the way, a bright light appeared followed instantly by a physical effect on Saul, according to the text (and in my mind), similar to the effect of a taser application or a polo mallet upside the head – but without serious effect other than temporary blindness. Saul fell to the ground and addressed the ‘force’ which effected this aforementioned sensation, asking “Who are You, Lord?” (One notes Saul quickly understood he was hopeless to resist physically.) The ‘attacking force’ immediately identifies Himself, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting…”

In another passage, Paul – as he then was identified – recounted the episode and mentioned the initial ‘attack’ was accompanied by the same voice saying “You are hurting yourself [or ‘It is hard for you’, both phrases are correct and the same in meaning in the Greek] by kicking against the goads.”

Then Jesus instructs Saul to proceed to Damascus where he will be met by a believer named Ananias who healed Paul’s blindness and gave Paul some basic instruction in Christianity and introduced Paul to other believers with the Lord’s approval.

From this, some gather Paul was ‘conscripted’ in this episode. I understand this transaction as a ‘last chance’ offer to either side with Jesus Christ as God or not. I will stipulate the encounter was enthusiastic. At no point does Jesus say, “Accept me or die, you rat fink!”

2. People who want to accept Christ (which includes salvation, grace and forgiveness) are rejected as God has already decided the matter.

No real evidence for this happening. In fact, the reverse action is claimed in various places. John 3:16 is probably the best known example. Other verses – not comprehensive – are John 6:37, Ephesians 1:13, Hebrews 7:25. There are more yet, but I see no point in transcribing neither the Bible nor other websites.

One major Biblical based argument is based on Matthew 7:21 to 23. This is the passage where, at the Judgement, some say “Lord, Lord, didn’t we … [do a bunch of religious stuff] … in your name…?” Jesus responds, “I never knew you.”

Looking at this passage, there is NO indication of an actual belief and relationship between Jesus and the rejected claimants. Those rejected are basing their justification for salvation on their ‘good works’ and not on a relationship with Jesus.

3. This isn’t fair.

From what I’ve heard – and understood and believed personally – this is the greatest criticism of the Doctrine of Predestination. Because the criteria for those who are ‘chosen’ and those who are rejected is not spelled out fully and satisfactorily to all, the impression of God arbitrarily choosing ‘this one’ and not ‘that one’ arises.

The nature of God precludes this. God is not capricious nor arbitrary. If one accepts and believes (fully embraces, not just nods and grunts) that idea of God’s nature, then Predestination is not capricious nor arbitrary, whether any of us ‘understand’ the mechanism or not.

However, allow me to present a thought on the matter I haven’t heard before in this configuration.

Part of our understanding of the ‘nature of God’, one of the descriptors of God is that He is ‘omnipresent’. Which means He is present in all places at once. God is not limited to Omaha or Poughkeepsie or Karachi or this church or such.
In my understanding – the reader is free to disagree – God is not limited in time, either. God exists and acts yesterday and tomorrow as much as He does today. So when the Bible says “…before the foundation of the world…” this limitation was only a nod to the readers of that time. It can equally mean ‘…after the destruction of the world…’ So, when does God ‘discover’ any particular person has accepted His grace and embraces a relationship with God through Jesus? Before the beginning of the world? After the end of the world? When the individual ‘does it’?

The answer is Yes. God exists in all those places – times – simultaneously.

No doubt many of the readers will say (in a gentle questioning manner) “I’ve never heard that before”. As I said earlier, I haven’t either. I bet that applies to many theologians and Bible expositors as well. However, feel free to pore over the preceding paragraphs and pick out any weaknesses in either the assumptions or logic. And for Heaven’s sake, tell me!

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Filed under Bible, Christianity, God

Book Review: A Universe From Nothing; (Why there is something rather than nothing)

A Universe From Nothing (Why there is something rather than nothing), by Lawrence M. Krauss. Atria paperback, published 2013.

From the Merriam-Webster (on line) Dictionary:

1a : a branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of the universe
1b : a theory or doctrine describing the natural order of the universe

2 : a branch of astronomy that deals with the origin, structure, and space-time relationships of the universe; also : a theory dealing with these matters

Cosmology is one of my interests. When I was a kid, my first ‘real’ book (opposed to comics) was one of the early editions of A Guide to the Planets, by Patrick Moore. I recall that was in 1959 or so (for my birthday in the Ides of March). So I was an ‘astronomy’ buff to start, then spread out into other reaches and finally decided cosmology – not to be confused with ‘cosmetology’ (look it up yourself) – was my real interest. I also have a affection for particle physics, string theory and such.

Consequently I read a lot of books on the subjects mentioned. There are nine such books on my (home) library wall with authors from Michio Kaku to Roger Penrose and two by Dr.Steven Hawking. Additionally, I read most all the books in the Torrence or Redondo Beach library – I can’t remember which. To be completely honest, I don’t speak the level of math for some of them, but I have a fair grasp of the concepts of most.

The other angle from which I approach cosmology is Christianity. I am a long-time Christian and some of the teachings attributed to Christianity relates to the origin and composition of the Universe – which is a fair working definition of cosmology.

The Bible teaches God created the Universe from an absence of everything. Not even a vacant lot. Please recall this, as it comes up later. The Bible teaches God created ‘everything’; ‘everything’ includes the basic “laws of physics”.

This “laws of physics” is a somewhat nebulous (meaning not completely defined, agreed to, and finished) term including the discovered principles of how everything works – like water flowing downhill (gravity and fluid dynamics in science jargon). The “laws of physics” also includes not yet discovered principles, such as the Grand Unified Field Theory (if there is such a thing, it is still open to debate), the reasons photons are both wave functions and particles and probably why one’s nose itches when one’s hands are greasy. Not to mention some rather serious concepts like the actual trigger mechanism and function of the expansion of the Universe and the properties and limitations of ‘Dark Matter’ and ‘Dark Energy’.

If the reader doesn’t know what the latter two items are, don’t feel bad. Neither does anyone else. However, they can be measured, just not identified. Well, not identified exactly. Sort of like why one has ‘better days’ and ‘worse days’.

The book A Universe from Nothing is an attempt to explain the history and current status of the scientific principles of why – from a mechanical standpoint – the Universe exists instead of not being. From my background in casually (and not so casually) reading about such things, it does a pretty fair job. Do not misunderstand my thoughts, motivations or conclusions about this book; it’s a good book for the intended purpose. No one with a high school education should feel terribly out classed in reading this book, nor should anyone with a Christian background feel intimidated or threatened by it. At least not any Christian who has passed into the adult realm of thought. It may be a bit confusing to someone who has stultified in the primary levels.

Anyone interested in such matters could do much worse than to read this book. It does not have all the answers and explanations, but it doesn’t claim to have them, either. Seemingly, no one else has those answers either. So far.

The book deals with the discovery of ‘Dark Matter’ – discovery in the sense of realizing it’s there, not collecting a jar of the stuff. Also covered is the idea of ‘Dark Energy’, which explains the expansionary movement of the Universe, but doesn’t identify a particular ‘Dark Energy’ generator (and why there is no ‘Dark Energy’ generator). Dr. Krauss goes into Quantum Fluctuations, which seem like self propelled magic wands, but can be demonstrated in ‘real life’.

Some of the historical aspects include the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR) study and the verification of the age of the Universe. Not directed connected, but associated is the ‘shape’ of the Universe (flat, positively curved or negatively curved).

At this point, the Theologian in me looks up at the absence of the mention of God. Actually, the absence is not surprising, as all of the explanation so far is a mechanical explanation of how the Universe operates and changes over time. (Lots of time.) One might well not notice the mention of God in an explanation of a an internal combustion engine or a vernier caliper. Usually, no need of mentioning the Almighty when designing or constructing an automobile engine. (At least not until the wrench slips and one smacks a knuckle.)

Dr. Krauss, in the opening chapters (or introduction?) admits he is not a ‘religious’ man. He is an atheist. As mentioned on one of Ian McKellen’s tee shirts, “Some Are and Some Aren’t”. So there’s no mistake about this.

Yes, I know there are some Christians who quiver and run from the idea of reading anything by or even talking to an atheist. However, the reality is there are many atheists who have an excellent idea of their subject or field – regardless of their understanding of deity or religion or the Bible. Dr. Krauss strikes me as one of these. He is knowledgable in his field. At the same time, I would expect Dr. Krauss to convey the same respect to Christianity and Christians. Whereas I don’t expect Dr. Krauss to attend my or any Christian church every Sunday, I would not think he either commits or abets the arson of Christian church buildings. Those who fear hearing anything EXCEPT what they already believe are very, very limited. That applies to both sides of the ‘origin’ question, by the way.

However, I have – personally – some reason to suspect perhaps Dr. Krauss’ atheistic ‘bent’ may have colored some of the explanations and rationale presented in his conclusions, not his evidence. And so begins some of my observations which may lead the unwary or non-thinking to believe I don’t like the book or Dr. Krauss.

Probably my first ‘quibble’ or difference with Dr. Krauss is on page xiv of the preface. Dr. Krauss explains the question beginning with the word ‘why’ can only be handled in science by substituting the word ‘how’. In chapter 9, titled “Nothing is Something”, he expands on this subject and implies no one should ask ‘why’ questions but only ‘how’ questions. Since much of Christian doctrine – and a bit of theology – predicated on ‘why’, Dr. Krauss summarily dismisses any question not answerable by science. In other words, only scientific answers count.

This is the exact sentiment expressed by many of the Divine “Creationist” faction. If the explanation doesn’t begin with “God, in His wisdom …” they reject it out of hand. (I’ve always found it curious it applies to the origin of the Universe, but does not apply to arithmetic: They never recite, “God says, ‘Two and two make four!'” when counting change or balancing a checkbook.)

Beginning on page 125 and mentioned in other places is the “Anthropic Principle”. In dog years, this essentially says, “…if is not too surprising to find that we live in a universe in which we can live”.

Perhaps a bit more formally: Humans exist here and now because the conditions were and are right for humans to exist.

I find of note the principle applies to both ‘naturalistic’ and Divine situations. To wit: Humans breathe oxygen (in mixture, of course.)

Naturalism: Human evolved on Earth during a period when Oxygen was the primary ‘oxidizer’ in the atmosphere available; this would not have happened if the Earth had a significantly different element in the atmosphere. (I’m not a biologist, but I’m not aware of any other extant candidates for an ‘oxidizer’.)

Deist: God would not make oxygen-breathing animals on Earth IF Earth had a methane atmosphere.

The “Anthropic Principle” is not a primary principle in determining why some chemical reactions became important in the history of living things or in the mechanical functions of nonliving things; it is merely a way of simplifying concepts of potentially competing hypotheses, as above.

Mentioned in Dr. Krauss’ book is the “God of the Gaps” answer. Historically, those who objected to a non-Theistic explanation of the origin and history of the Universe have employed this answer any time a particular discipline did not have an immediate ‘answer’ to some scientific mystery. Prior to the development of Newton’s ideas and laws of gravitation, some theologians suggested God sent angels to push the planets around the Sun. (This was after the same theologians had their nose rubbed in the fact planets did indeed revolve about the Sun instead of the Earth being the center of the Universe.) The “God didit” suggestion may indeed be correct, but it gives no information mankind can use.

If mankind were satisfied with “Why does water flow downhill?” “Well, God didit!” Mankind would never have invented flush toilets and indoor plumbing.

On a similar note, we would not have two way radios, commercial radios, televisions or computers. I’m not going to argue the merits and disadvantages of those items at this point, but we would not have them.

Please note, this applies to naturalist and deist alike. (With the exception of the Amish, I suppose. They get along without flush toilets and television. But that’s a different discussion entirely.)

How different is the “Anthropic Principle” from the “God didit” principle? Both offer a rather pat solution to a problem that immediately dead ends. Of course, the “Anthropic Principle” doesn’t come with a moral code obligation.

Here and now I’ll mention this as well. The Person and intention and work of God does not remove the need to examine the ‘mechanics’ of a phenomenon. For instance, when a Christian has a flat tire, he or she accepts such as the allowed will of God. Which does not stop said Christian from looking for a puncture and attempting to repair said flat. (Or take it to the tire repair guy.) Homeowners (Christian ones) examine the roof and repair leaks (or call the roof repair guy) when the roof leaks.

In the Bible, the oldest manuscripts record men plowing the ground using animals and tools (plows) to raise crops for consumption. No where is there a commandment NOT to use technology and instead return to the ‘hunter-gatherer, living in the open’ sort of life-style. The Amish, who live a very simple life style with the intent of concentrating on God don’t eschew all technology. They build houses and sew at least. Cook food, rather than eat it raw and so forth. So the presumption God is the reason for lack of scientific progress is manifestly faulty and rather illogical.

In short, I’m a bit perplexed at the rather aggressive manner in which Dr. Krauss repeatedly concludes what has been discovered removes any consideration of the Christian God from the Universe. Dr. Krauss already said he was an atheist. One gets it without condemnation.

Dr. Krauss makes some – to me – extraordinary changes to his approach to cosmology.

Remember at the beginning of this essay I mentioned “God created the Universe from an absence of everything. Not even a vacant lot. Please recall this, as it comes up later.” Okay, it later and here it comes up.

“Nothing” is no longer ‘nothing’. “Nothing” (in this new sense) means empty space, with nothing in it, but all the laws of physics are intact. Attempting to be clear, “nothing” used to mean – and still does when used by a deist – empty space without the empty space. The word in the first sentence of Genesis (transliterated ‘bara’) implies a complete absence of everything. The Latin phrasing – a good deal later – rendered it ‘ab nihilo’ from nothing. Not even a metaphorical vacant lot.

Dr. Krauss explains the Universe could have begun resulting from ‘quantum fluctuations’ creating ‘virtual particles’ and this continuing on. That idea requires the laws of quantum mechanics already be in place. So, the Universe – according to Dr. Kraus – did NOT come from nothing, but from something. The metaphorical vacant lot.

So from what came the ‘something’ from which the Universe quantumly fluctuated? From where did the metaphorical vacant lot derive? Seemingly the ‘Bulk’. The ‘Bulk’ is a feature of M-theory and is essentially the background of our Universe, sort of the ‘container’ for the Universe. (Read up on M-theory, okay? It is too lengthy for me to write here. Not to mention it is not fully baked yet – finished – and even the proponents say there is no way to test the theory. Exactly. A very good book to understand M-theory is The Grand Design, by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow. Mlodinow is spelled correctly.)

So what brought this on?
So what is THIS all about? It’s an attempt to remove a beginning to existence. Ever since the theory of Fr. Georges Lemaitre – which became the offensively termed ‘Big Bang’ theory – there has been a movement among certain scientists to disprove it. This was first spearheaded by the late Fred (later in life Sir Fred) Hoyle who proposed the Steady State Theory. Now the ‘alternative’ is M-theory. The basis for the objection to Lemaitre’s concept and thinking? With the Universe having a starting point, the Biblical explanation has too much credence. According to Hoyle (smug smile) Lemaitre’s theory is ‘too close’ to the Biblical account. So obviously, it has to go.

What happened to simply following the facts? In fact, Dr. Krauss says in more than one place we must follow the data and see where it leads. Unless it leads to God, it seems.

Incidentally, science history has a number of emotional and ego driven ‘clashes’ between ‘this’ faction and ‘that’ faction. Check out the concept of ‘phlogiston’ for one example. Another clash occurred when Dr. A. Einstein published his General Theory of Relativity. The ‘classic’ physicists went ‘hostile’ for a while. There are other events. It’s almost like scientists think like theologians, isn’t it. (Actually, yes it is; far too many ‘religious’ conflicts have been based on who – individual or group – got the power and money; not to mention the conflicts over who got to be Pope or pastor of “First Church of the Open Wallet”. I find squabbles of this sort distasteful among scientists and disgusting and sickening among those who claim Christ. “Differences”, even some resistance from say – Buddhists – is to be expected and reasonable. I’m off on a tangent again.)

Has anyone read about M-theory yet? This is a quick and brief (emphasis on ‘quick’ and ‘brief’) synopsis on what has happened so far.

M-theory posits a background setting, the “Bulk”. (This can be identified by other titles depending on the scientist doing the explaining. Other terms with which I am familiar is ‘mega-verse’ or ‘omni-verse’.) Whatever it is, it has existed eternally. There is no beginning and no end to the ‘Bulk’. This demands then it is immune to (or does not have) entropy. (This Universe has entropy, and will therefore end some day. Look up “Heat death of the Universe” for details.) If the ‘Bulk’ had entropy, it could not last eternally; it would finally lock up from ‘heat death’. Since that hasn’t happened, the ‘Bulk’ could not have existed eternally in the past, or ‘heat death’ would have set it. The same argument applies to our Universe.

But even though the ‘Bulk’ does not have entropy, it has quantum fluctuations. This is one of the assumptions I really have to question: If the [greater part, by any name] of the Universe has some of the rules of physics – quantum effects, for instance – they why – there’s that hideous word again – does it NOT have entropy? I suppose the Anthropic Principle could apply, “IF the Bulk had entropy, then it wouldn’t exist eternally” but that strikes me as a bit pat. And please forgive me Dr. Krauss, I just couldn’t resist.

One of the other ideas Dr. Krauss mentions on more than one occasion is that of Occam’s Razor.

From the Wiki entry:

Occam’s razor is a problem-solving principle attributed to William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347), who was an English Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher and theologian. The principle can be interpreted as stating Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.

Or, as I learned it, the simplest explanation is probably the best choice – unless it cannot work.

Frankly, M-theory has far too many assumptions and one too many huge contradictions for me. And the quantum fluctuation explanation hangs on M-theory.

Finally. The book is a good book on the subject and worth reading. I am not against Dr. Krauss (albeit I’m not above demonstrating some logical fallicies) nor am I against either Cosmology as a science or science in general. Nor am I a (shudder) Young Earth Creationist. If anyone thinks this essay is rough on the subject, read one of my criticisms of the mindless followers of James Ussher, Bishop of Armagh.

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Filed under Books, Cosmology

Some Random Observations Regarding God

Following is a rather unconnected and rambling list of thoughts. They are all based on statements or questions presented by non-believers – and a few believers in some cases – and have demanded my explanation. Some of these items have been addressed before in this blog. Perhaps not in exactly the same manner, but hopefully with the same mindset and arguments.

Giving the same old answer to the same old question is to be expected. Asking the same old question after the answer has been provided – and explained, ad infinitum – is rather childish.

1. Dying isn’t the worst thing that can happen.

The stimulus for this is typically a complaint along the lines of someone dying when the speaker didn’t want them to die. The speaker/complainer feels rather victimized because someone – a child, one’s parent or other relation, one’s dog, a favorite actor or singer – has died. Not only has the someone died, but in the opinion of the speaker/complainer, at the improper time or instant. “Why did the little girl (or boy) die because a drunk ran them over? Why didn’t God – obviously God’s fault – stop it?”

In some cases, the dead person died far away and possibly long ago. For instance, “Why did all the various Christians die in the Roman circuses?” Or “Why did God allow the [pick an evil group] to kill such and such a Christian?”

Where I cannot clearly answer all details of all questions, I do have some basic information about the phenomenon.

First, everyone dies. It’s a rule. Not only everyone, but everything. Horses, trees, governments, ideas (perhaps not all ideas, but the ‘fad’ ones anyway), and so on. So even if Uncle Cletus had survived the automobile accident, the cancer would have killed him anyway. Or his age. Or his lifestyle (drank whisky like a fish and smoked like a steam engine). Perhaps an angry husband. But die he would have.

Every so often – less currently – the attack of 11 September, 2001 is mentioned. God is berated for the death of around 3,000 people. Sometimes Moslem terrorists are mentioned in passing, sometimes not. Allow me to point out, had that not happened, would those people have lived forever? Probably not. Dying is often a tragedy and nearly alway inconvenient. But it happens to everyone, sooner or later.

When one accepts the concept of God’s sovereignty and omniscience together, one understands it is God who determines when everyone – anyone – dies; and when it happens, it was the ‘right time’. Just to be sure everyone has a chance to get this, it was the ‘right time’ as far as God was concerned. It may not be the ‘right time’ for the grieving survivor – including me – but it was the right time in God’s plan. If one of the survivors don’t agree, it makes little difference in the long run. One might as well be mad Rembrandt didn’t ‘lighten up’ the painting “Man with a Golden Helmet”. It is decided and done.

Not to mention we haven’t mentioned the sometimes imbecilic decisions which preceded the death. Why blame God when a child is never taught not to run out in the street? Why blame God when a relative abuses his health for years? Why blame God for being God? Some of this thought will be further discussed in section five.

2. Denying God’s existence will not make Him go away.

Many of the non-believers which whom I have discussed the matter justify ignoring God by the simple and circular reasoning of “I just don’t believe it”. One gets the feeling because what I have said does not convince the non-believer on the spot, it is not valid.

I haven’t been convinced of many things, but neither my ego nor faith is enough to convince me they cannot exist simply because I’m not convinced. It seems the non-believer’s faith is great enough to convince them they are the ultimate arbitrator of validity in the known universe.

It really isn’t, of course. It is the near ultimate form of denial. As long as one keeps repeating “Not real…” to themselves, they are safe from any consequence of the entity to be avoided. No doubt someone will post a reply to this essay, denying what I just said. Which proves they really don’t believe and they’re safe from God.

By the way, this denial doesn’t work with many other things in life. The death of a loved one, a diagnosis of cancer, a deadline, insufficient balance in the checking account or a flat tire. Nothing in reality ‘leaves’ just because one is not thinking about it or even honestly unaware of it.

3. The significant difference between ‘love’ and ‘approval’.

“Does God love homosexuals?” Variously, this is phrased as “Does God love [fill in blank of a person or group in opposition to God]?” Examples coming to mind are: Adolf Hitler, NAZIS in general, abortionists, women who abort babies, telephone salesmen, ‘sinners’ (non-specific) and so forth.

It is a ‘trap’ question. If one answers ‘no’, the questioner immediately pounces and announces, “Aha! So God doesn’t really ‘love’ everyone!”

If one answers ‘yes’, the clever questioner immediately pounces and claims, “Aha! Since God loves them, you must be wrong in condemning them as sinners!”

It’s the old ‘heads-I-win, tails-you-lose’, ‘unanswerable question’ gag. Much on the order of ‘Have you quit beating your wife (or husband, I suppose) yet?’

I have provided the answer on several occasions. Yes, God loves everyone, even ‘them’; however, that does not equate to approving or endorsing their actions. This of course is a ‘weasel out’ answer; it doesn’t play into their ‘gotcha’ game. They pretend the answer is artificial and doesn’t make sense, or they don’t quite understand it.

The mistake is in assuming evidence and definitions not given in Holy Writ. Nothing in the Bible suggests that one who rejects God can also ‘claim’ God’s protection.

4. The distinction between a moral code and peer group consensus.

God presents a code of ethics for His followers. In the Mosaic Law, it was seemingly formulated and specific. In Christianity, it is fairly loose in specifics and instead a general set of principles rather than a list of “do and don’t” articles. In fact, the Mosaic Law – the Ten Commandments and associated instructions for living life – was fairly general until the Holy Men of the Rabbinic league decided to specify what everything meant and issued – over a period of time – what everything meant.

This is not to point fingers at the traditional Jewish Rabbis. They did their work with great trepidation and with little monetary gain. Most of them did not get any pay as such for working as a rabbi. The great bulk of them served the Creator to the best of their knowledge and attempted to make others aware of what the Creator – The Name as usually used – wanted everyone to know.

So it has been in Christianity. Since the time of Christ, there have been people who claimed to speak for the Lord, as representatives of Christ and/or the Creator who further defined what Jesus instructed His followers to do. Rather than the formalized teachings of Mishnah and Gemara (look them up), Christianity has issued various documents of instruction in various forms and levels of authority.

The formal, organized, orthodox groups have demanded attendance at certain church functions during the year. Certain dress codes were published, especially for church attendance.

Protestant – as they are called – groups also issued ‘group specific’ rules of conduct and decorum. When I was a young man, a proper Christian was not to drink, smoke (cigarettes), dance, go to movies or engage in any form of sexual conduct with the ‘opposite’ sex. (Hardly anyone really knew if they were the ‘opposite’ sex or the other person was.) Card playing was usually forbidden; whether stud poker or bridge.

Other groups – church denominations – had either more strict or lax sets of rules. Some were very specific and demanding – like no female of any age could use make up or color their hair – and some allowed most everything. This is a whole study in itself and I won’t try to get more specific, other than to say Christianity as a whole has no less ‘commentary’ on what the Bible says than Judaism. It might be mentioned here that Judaism has a few distinctions between ‘groups’ as well. They range from the very Orthodox Jewish to essentially a ethnic, social society.

In the past one hundred years – more or less, it’s been a rather creeping process – many non-believers have set up a parallel belief system to Christianity, but one largely without Christ. The main thrust of the concept is “Christ doesn’t really matter, what He TAUGHT is what matters.” Except for the part about Christ being God, a relationship with Him as the key to salvation, miracles and that sort of thing.

For instance, Christ did teach about helping the poor. Therefore, in the Christianity without Christ religion, ‘giving to the poor’ is of greater significance than knowing and recognizing Christ as God. This ‘giving to the poor’ is also attached to various political systems who claim to assist the poor. For this reason, socialism is deemed to be more friendly to the poor than capitalism. Even if empirical, historic data shows otherwise.

This leads to the view that everyone should be removed from and protected from the results of their actions. “Freedom” is construed as action without limits or constraint. Therefore, birth control and abortion must be available to all women and at public expense. By the same token, medical treatment for sexually transmitted diseases – which could be easily prevented by ‘chastity’, the ‘old fashioned’ idea of only engaging in sex with one’s own and single partner – should now be provided to all at public expense. Recognizing a person brought some disaster – either legal, economic or medical – on themselves by their own choices – misdeeds in most cases – is considered ‘judgmental’ and forbidden.

On the same line, ‘environmentalism’ is a holy and required view; espousing ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change’ is far more important than other considerations. This is now to the point where evaluating ‘climate change’ and realizing the claims made are insubstantial and non-substantiable is considered heresy. Seemingly punishable by burning at the stake or at least a total and complete excommunication from society.

All these things – and many other associated – are now ‘assumed’ to have equal – indeed, preferential – standing with the moral code promulgated by God. Therefore, ‘free’ (public funded) abortions are now more important than celibacy or chastity and ‘environmentalism’ is more important than ‘thou shall not steal’.

In this logic, the God who said “Thou shall not steal” is wrong and the pretend god who who said ‘Gaia is the Earth Mother’ is right. Consequently, anyone who recognizes the Creator of the Universe is, at best, out of date and in error.

5. The significant difference between ‘holy’ and ‘happy’.

God commanded His people to be Holy, as He was Holy. This is recorded in the Mosaic Law and re-stated by Christ in the New Testament teaching of Christ. Whereas there are writings and poems or songs in the Old Testament book of Psalms about wealth and prosperity, the record of both Old and New Testament writings demonstrate God does NOT guarantee His followers with health, wealth, prosperity and “a rose garden” at all times. The story of Job, the history of the nation Israel and the deaths of Jesus and many of His followers demonstrate this concept.

What it – the message of God – does teach and guarantee is God keeps His followers in a positive state of mind through bad times. The Bible teaches those who rely on God will be ultimately rewarded in eternity, not immediately.

If it hasn’t been mentioned before, or no one has noticed, one is not issued a Rolls-Royce, a mansion in Beverly Hills and a wardrobe from the most fashionable designer immediately upon becoming a Christian.

Nor have I been protected from injury or illness due to my belief in God. I have to admit, I thought I was dead a couple of times, but God has preserved me. I expect to die at some point. All my grandparents – both sides – and my parents have died. Most of them were better Christians and probably better people than me. I have to replace the tires and oil in my car periodically. My dog got old and had to be put down.

The idea God makes life perfect for His followers is simply NOT part of Christian (or Jewish as I can tell) doctrine. Those who expect all their wishes fulfilled and a perfect life are confusing Christianity with a 1960 television show with Barbara Eden or a Disney movie.

6. “I don’t like it!” is not a valid criticism.

When dealing with those non-believers who justify their non-belief on what God ‘fails’ to do or does wrong, I’ve noticed a commonality. All of them are upset that God doesn’t do things they would do, or not in the way they would do them.

The conversation invariably comes around to ‘God shouldn’t do [such and such] – or allow [fill in the black here] to happen’. In other words, God didn’t follow this person’s wishes and is therefore wrong.

Not only that, but the person objecting demands God comply with their wishes in order to gain the objector’s favor.

So, just exactly is God in this case? Or more properly, who assumes they are God? If I had a nickel for every time some nitwit with a runny nose and no kleenex told me God was in error – I’d have a bunch of nickels.

So what is to be done?

God is going to win. I read the book all the way to the end. God wins. (Go figure.)

For those intellectually honest, admit to yourself God is really God and ask Him to show you the reality. Then have the intellectual honesty to understand God is telling you the reality and listen.

You will NOT have to start dressing like me, or get rid of everything you have. You won’t have to make any ‘specific’ changes prior to becoming a follower of Jesus. You won’t have to exile your girlfriend or boyfriend (regardless of participant’s sex). You won’t have to divest yourself of all your worldly possessions and become a monk or nun and live in a cave or anything.

You may have to make some changes in your life. However, you will not have to change anything until after you become a believer – and only then when God instructs you to do so. You will not have to change anything to placate me. Nor to placate the local pastor or priest. Placating your Mom is up to you and her. I would expect most everyone to change something in their life; but not everyone the same thing. Mostly what a follower of God needs to change are the things which stand between the follower and God.

If one does not believe God exists and continues in that belief; go ahead. No lightning bolt will strike – usually. In eternity – after you die – God will demand some explanations. It is up to you, obviously. I will still talk with you, share with you and even like you – depending, on how we ‘mesh’; there are some Christians with whom I don’t really get along. If you don’t shower often and never change your socks I may not ‘hang around’ as much.

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The Argument for the Triune God

The concept of Trinity is an accepted tenet of Christianity. The concept is widely accepted among almost all groups of Christianity. It is supported by the Bible – normally accepted by all those groups of Christianity. Christians accepting this concept are lumped into the heading of Trinitarians.

The opposition to this concept is the doctrine of Arianism. This should not be confused with Aryanism – the racial theory behind the NAZI ethnic purity belief. Arianism stems from the teachings of Arius; a Christian living about A. D. 250-336. This belief teaches Jesus, called the Christ, was not a person of the God-head, but a created being. (The same teaching dismisses the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost in similar manner.)

The conflict between the Trinitarian and Arian or Non-Trinitarian faction of Christianity is long and detailed in various records. I shall not pursue it further other than to acknowledge the conflict.

The term ‘Trinity’ does not appear in the Bible. Not in Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek. It is a term later adopted by the aggregate followers of Christ to describe a number of concepts described in the Bible. This is seized upon by the non-trinitarian faction as ‘evidence’ supporting their position.

For clarity, the concept of the Trinity does NOT assert or imply more than One Single God. In actual fact, the Trinity states there is only One God. However, Trinitarians recognize God in Three “Persons”.
God the Father
God the Son
God the Holy Spirit (Ghost in the King James Version).

All three are God in God’s entirety; yet they are individual in perception and function to some degree. (I refer those who do not grasp this or find it contradictory to the modern physics problem of the photon’s nature; is the photon a particle or a wave form?)

I personally have a problem with the term ‘persons’. In modern English (which may be the problem) ‘persons’ implies three different beings, people or entities. Assuredly a superficial view agrees with this implication. (As is the case with Islam and many other of the non-trinitarian views on the subject.) But it is the accepted term and I’m not going to change it here. The usage has a long tradition behind it and probably no other word fits, either. “Facets” or “parts” are even more likely to imply separate existences.

Christians recognize the Bible – in its entirety – to be the message (‘word’) of God to mankind. Therefore, the entire Bible is to be considered in determining the validity of the Trinity. Any faction, denomination or sect refusing to accept the entirety of the Bible are suspect in terms of Christian adherence.

Starting with the Creation account recorded in Genesis, one finds:

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning  God*  created the heavens and the earth.
This frequently used Hebrew word – God (אֱלֹהִים,’elohim ) is plural. When it refers to the one true God, the singular verb is normally used, as here. The plural use in Hebrew does NOT indicate either a committee of gods, or God and angels, nor does it indicate the Trinity. The plural form indicates majesty much the same as various secular Kings and Queens use the “royal ‘we’ “.

Then in Genesis 1:2 …but the Spirit of God* was moving over the surface of the water.
Yes, I did take only a selected part of the verse using the phrase “Spirit of God”. Those desiring to check, please read Genesis 1:2 in situ and note the meaning is not changed nor altered.
Spirit of God is a much discussed phrase. The word in Hebrew translated ‘spirit’ in many translations of the Bible, in Hebrew also can be translated ‘wind’ or ‘breath’. In some translations this phrase is translated into English as “wind from God” (the Jerusalem Publication Society in their 1985 translation of the Tanakh – the traditional Jewish rendering of what is termed the “Old Testament” in English language use Christianity – translates the phrase in this manner. But a footnote indicates other translations render the same phrase “Spirit of God”.) Of value in this difference of translation is to be seen in other parts of the Hebrew Tanakh where the same Hebrew word (transliterated ‘ruwach’) refers consistently to the divine spirit that empowers and energizes individuals (see Gen 41:38; Exod 31:3; 35:31; Num 24:2; 1 Sam 10:10; 11:6; 19:20, 23; Ezek 11:24; 2 Chr 15:1; 24:20).

Here now, there is a problem. In the first two verses of the Bible, “God” creates “…the heavens and the earth” (which is no stretch to consider the entire Universe), BUT, the “Spirit of God” is moving over the surface of the earth. The wording suggests, implies, two entities. But Christians and Jews at least superficially agree the God of Creation is One.

In Genesis 3:8, (please read the entire section, Genesis 3:8-19) the “Lord God” walks in the Garden with Adam and Eve. Not only does the “Lord God” walk, but He makes noise – evidenced by Adam and Eve hearing movement of the “Lord God”. A conversation (rather uncomfortable for Adam and Eve) transpires.

Which indicates God was present with Adam and Eve in a physical form. God uttered sounds – it seems – which registered on Adam and Eve as conversation and words.

This record of God is surely not the ‘Spirit of God’ mentioned other places in the Bible. Nor does it seem to be the Creator God who created the Universe.

Switch attention to John 4:23-24 Jesus, in speaking the Samaritan woman, tells her (23) But a time is coming – and now is here – when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be his worshipers. (24) God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
The full account is from verse 4 to 24; at least verse 19-26 to avoid charges of taking the quotation out of context.

Jesus states God – the Father, the first Person of the Trinity – is a Spirit. Not physical. Which is problematic for those who claim God appears in person in various sections of the Old Testament. (See following.)

Genesis 32:24-30 recounts the incident of Jacob (son of Isaac, son of Abraham) ‘wrestling’ with “…a man”. The word in the text (verse 24) leaves no doubt; Jacob and ‘the man’ (as Jacob thought at the time) were in fact flopping about on the ground, pushing each other around and getting sweaty and dirty. When Jacob’s adversary in this decided to leave, ‘the man’ dislocated Jacob’s hip, putting Jacob out of serious action. But Jacob will not let go. Jacob refuses to allow ‘the man’ go free. Jacob demands a blessing.

‘The man’ tells Jacob his name (Jacob’s) name is changed to Israel. The name is a play on words in Hebrew and means – at least in one form – “Strives with God”. At this point, Jacob demands to know ‘the man’s’ name; One could interpret this question of Jacob as “Who (in the world) ARE you?”

‘The man’ refuses to give his name – other than the above- but does bless Jacob and leaves. Jacob names the place of the encounter “Penuel” literally meaning “Face of God”, and explained “Certainly I have seen God face to face and have survived.”

So either Jacob met God face to face (and hand to hand), or ‘the man’ lied to Jacob and Jacob was in error. Or the Bible was made up much later and fraudulent. Take your pick.

As a Christian, one must presume the Bible is correct and accurate in the records of what participants saw, did and understood.

However, this appearance of God does not agree with the appearance of God in Genesis 1:1. This was apparently a man. A human being. (The text gives no hint of Jacob wrestling and talking with anything else.) However, this cannot be the First Person of the Trinity according to Jesus’ statement in the Gospel of John.

This also applies to several other sections of the Old Testament. Specifically Judges 13, where the ‘messenger of the Lord’ appears to Manoah and wife. The messenger announces the birth of Samson (not yet identified by name) to the yet infertile couple. Later, Manoah tells his wife (Judges 13:22) “We will certainly die, because we have seen a supernatural being!” This verse is translated And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God. This from the KJV. The word translated ‘God’ is ‘elohim’ and can be translated into English in various ways, all dealing with supernatural beings; most commonly “God”.

One is reminded of the statement made to Moses on the mountain in Exodus 33:20 “You cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live.” Other passages that teach this are Deut 4:33, 5:24, 26; Judg 6:22, 13:22, and Isa 6:5. Manoah has the idea that he will die, having seen God.

Probably the over-riding teaching of the idea of the Trinity is Jesus claiming to be God. Either Jesus is telling the truth, or He is not.

If Jesus is telling the truth, the discussion is over.

If Jesus is not telling the truth, then Jesus is in the same category as those who claim to be Napoleon or a chocolate cream pie. Or the text is so contaminated by additions, edits and fabrications the whole fabric of Scripture is useless.

On a sidenote, but related, those who claim to worship God yet question the authenticity of the Bible are very curious. Claiming to believe in God, an Infinite, Omnipotent and Omniscient being and simultaneously thinking He fails or is incompetent to preserve His message to mankind is self-contradictory. Either God keeps what He claims to be His message as He intended, or He is less than omnipotent and omniscient.

John 10 (22-39) Jesus claims to be God. In a confrontation with the Jewish leaders, Jesus announces (verse 30) “…The Father and I  are one.” The NET has a foot note on this verse and word ‘one’ as follows: The phrase ἕν ἐσμεν ({en esmen) is a significant assertion with trinitarian implications. ἕν is neuter, not masculine, so the assertion is not that Jesus and the Father are one person, but one “thing.” Identity of the two persons is not what is asserted, but essential unity (unity of essence). (Provided by bible.org)

This is NOT one single person, not the same person, not the same purpose or goal, but the same essence. To spell it out, the essence is Divinity.

In John 8:57-59 Jesus is hounded by the Judeans (Jewish people in Jerusalem at the time), challenging Jesus’ claim of elating Abraham by stating Jesus is too young; Jesus replies “I tell you the solemn truth, before Abraham came into existence, I am! “ The term “I am” is a direct quote from Exodus 3:14 and is therefore Jesus statement He is God. If anyone doubts this, the next verse removes all doubt: Then they [the Judeans] picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out from the temple area.

The Judeans took Jesus’ statement as claim to Godhood and were going to stone Jesus for blasphemy. Please note Jesus ‘hid himself’, while speaking to a group of people who were in the process of stoning Him to death. Harry Houdini couldn’t do that without some preparation and equipment.

In Matthew 16 (verses 13 to 20) Jesus asks His disciples their opinion or belief as to Jesus’ true identity. Peter answered (verse 16) You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Rather than deny or correct Peter’s bold statement, Jesus tells Peter You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven!

Note in Hebrew usage, the term “… son of …” was an idiomatic phrase meaning ‘the same as’ (similar to the modern English idiom of ‘chip off the old block’) and does not denote family or genetic relationship. The missionary and partner of Paul “Barnabas” means “son of Encouragement”. Not that Barnabas’ daddy was named ‘Encouragement’, but that Barnabas was a great encouragement to other Christians. When Peter identified Jesus as ‘Son of the Living God’ Peter is saying Jesus IS the Living God.

It is interesting to note that while Jesus is accepting Peter’s recognition of Jesus as God, Jesus is simultaneously speaking of ‘my Father’. Either Jesus has multiple personalities or Jesus is speaking of the Father as the First Person of the Trinity, with Jesus being the Second Person.

I leave out much. However, what I have presented here is enough information to show the reasoning behind the Trinitarian view of God.

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The Sinner’s Prayer

I was listening to the radio this morning and heard a disturbing sermon or exposition. The radio station and speaker will remain nameless – to protect the guilty, innocent or as yet undetermined. The main thrust of the message was the gospel being preached and taught in many churches was wrong. That what is commonly taught about salvation is inadequate and sometimes misleading.

That did pique my interest and I listened for the entire program. I am concerned enough to write this exposition.

I must confess, I’m not sure if the speaker is ill-advised, flat wrong or simply meandering in his thinking. Some points he made were valid and reasonable, others sounded fallacious and indefensible. However, I shall reserve my final judgement.

Yes. I do have judgement. I do get to judge teachings and doctrines of others. I am commanded by the Lord God of Armies to ‘judge’ spirits in 1st John 4:1. The word used in the text is translated ‘test’, but it means to “to make a critical examination of someth[ing,] to determine genuineness, put to the test, examine.” If that doesn’t mean ‘judge’, I’ll be switched.

The text in Matthew 7 (verses 1 to 7) reads
7:1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.1  7:2 For by the standard you judge you will be judged, and the measure you use will be the measure you receive. 2  7:3 Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? 7:4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own? 7:5 You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 7:6 Do not give what is holy to dogs or throw your pearls before pigs; otherwise they will trample them under their feet and turn around and tear you to pieces.

Jesus in this passage is warning about criteria of judgement. Further He is talking about judging people, not issues, doctrine, logic or purported ‘facts’. So, when Jesus says in verse 2 the standard ‘we’ use to judge others will be the standard by which we are judged. Consider that Christians are judged in the light of mercy and forgiveness; should we judge other people without mercy?

On the other hand, First John 4:1-3 commands us – Christians – to ‘test the spirits’. In short, John, inspired by God to write this, is saying to double check anything that sounds contrary to Biblical teaching. This is why Christians do not put much stock in ‘reincarnation’ or ‘good luck charms’ or such. The teaching is contrary to the Bible message and discredits the power of God.

I don’t think it is out of line to read it as saying we are to analyze various sorts of claims – including sales pitches. I used two dabs of Brylcream for years and women NEVER chased me. (Which is not to say it didn’t work for keeping hair in place within reason.)

However, ‘judgement’ in terms of theology, doctrine and Christian dealings is not only allowed, but commanded.

“Gospel” is an interesting word. As most readers probably know, it comes from the Greek word “euaggelion” (pronounced ‘you-an-ghel-ee-on’ with a soft ‘g’ in the middle syllable; not like ‘hair gel’) and literally means ‘good news’. In the Greek, this could mean any good news, like “You got the raise” or “Our team won the playoff” or “Mother and child are doing well” and so forth.

In Christianity, the New Testament, it refers usually to the ‘good news’ of Salvation. Rather than me re-type it all, please go to BlueLetterBible.org; find the Strong’s Lexicon and check entry G2098.

What the speaker was attacking in the guise of poor gospel was specifically the evangelical concept of ‘The Sinner’s Prayer’. I have to admit, the attack has some merit; but it can be misleading.

The Sinner’s Prayer usually takes on some variation of the following:

“Lord, I admit I am a sinner. I know I cannot save myself from the eternal penalty for my sin and poor conduct. I know you sent your Son Jesus to die as a sacrifice for my sins. I accept the atonement of Jesus on my behalf and accept Your forgiveness. I will live according to your commandments to the best of my abilities and allow You to control my life.”

As mentioned, this is one variation, but it hits the high points. Some variations are shorter and some are longer and more detailed.

This usage has been attacked in the past few years as inadequate. Again, there is some merit to the attack. Yet the usage is not completely without effect or merit, either.

Here’s the explanation:

The Sinner’s Prayer is not, nor ever has been, promulgated as a “Magic Spell” which binds God to our will, or ‘forces’ God to save anyone from sin. Secondly, this approach seems to end the matter of the Christian life with salvation, only.

However, it does seem to be advertised that way at times. The impression one gets is that if anyone merely repeats these words, God is forced to act and all is well. Not ever spoken, but somewhat inferred is reciting this ‘spell’ is all that is required and one can go back to normal life – whatever that may be – and has a total and unrestricted ‘get out of jail – or hell – card’ for the remainder of one’s life. And, this is the goal and end of the matter.

This concept is simply not so.

The Sinner’s Prayer is also attacked in that it is not specifically recorded in the New Testament (or anywhere else in the Bible, for that matter.) This is correct, as far as it goes. No where is Jesus – or any of the other writers of the New Testament – recorded uttering these words. Nor do any of them suggest reciting a particular order of words (in any language) to secure forgiveness of sins. Of course, the composite ideas are espoused and with some repetition.

Just for the record, the term ‘Trinity’ does not appear, either. All Christian fellowships, denominations, groups, sects, sub-divisions and so forth concur on the triune nature of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The composite ideas are espoused and with some repetition.

So how does the Sinner’s Prayer work? It is the outline of an oral contract. Some object to the word ‘contract’. Too bad.

Presumably, the reader has heard the terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament” on occasion? Further presuming, the reader has heard the terms Old and New Covenant as well?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary (look on line, it’s easy to find) lists ‘testament’ as having an archaic (for example, A. D. 1611) meaning of “…a covenant between God and the human race”. Testament and Covenant both in this context mean “…a usually formal, solemn, and binding agreement”. A compact. A contract.

Even though in the modern world we think of contracts as documents to be signed, current U. S. law – and the world in general – recognize oral contracts where both parties agree on a specific agreement.

The Sinner’s Prayer can – should – be used to outline a specific and binding agreement between an individual human being and Almighty God.

The individual human being – called the ‘sinner’ for brevity – agrees to depend upon God for life, both temporal and eternal. Further the sinner agrees to follow God’s will, commands and directions for the rest of his life.

God agrees to remove the guilt and penalty of sin from the sinner. God further agrees to remake the sinner into the ‘reflection’ (image) of God in this life and for eternity. God also promises not to impose a ‘breach of contract’ penalty upon the sinner.

So why the Sinner’s Prayer for this?

A quick review of the elements of the Sinner’s Prayer, as presented here.

“Lord, I admit I am a sinner.”
The simplest verse to justify this statement is Romans 3:23; “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” However, this is merely a snippet and if anything, is rather understated. A couple verses prior, (verse 20 of the same passage) reads “For no one is declared righteous before him   by the works of the law…”
Romans 10:9-10 reads, “…because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10:10 For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation.”
So, some declaration of the matter is recommended in the matter.

“I know I cannot save myself from the eternal penalty for my sin and poor conduct.”
See the above paragraphs. Note the passage in Romans 3 again. There is no declaration of righteousness other than by the Grace of God.

“I know you sent your Son Jesus to die as a sacrifice for my sins.”
One of the keystones of Christianity.
Romans 5:6 and following (entire paragraph): “5:6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 5:7 (For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die.)  5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 5:9 Much more then, because we have now been declared righteous by his blood,* we will be saved through him from God’s wrath.  5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, since we have been reconciled, will we be saved by his life? 5:11 Not only this, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation.”
* “blood” is used here as a euphemism for death.

“I accept the atonement of Jesus on my behalf and accept Your forgiveness.”
This is the meaning of the word ‘believe’ in the New Testament. To rely upon and depend on the subject for what is needed. More than mere assent of existence, ‘belief’ includes acceptance and full dependence upon the subject of ‘belief’.

“I will live according to your commandments to the best of my abilities and allow You to control my life.”
First Corinthians 5:11-21 speaks of the ‘change’ concurrent with the transformation from non-believer to Christian. Christians are a ‘new creation’, yet there is a progression of the individual involved.

So, there is nothing in the Sinner’s Prayer which contradicts Jesus’ teaching or the doctrine of the New Testament.

The only potentially misleading concepts are two. One, it can be misinterpreted as a ‘magic spell’ which binds God to grant the speaker forgiveness. It is not. Second, it should never be presented in such a way to suggest this transaction – even as a binding, oral contract – is the end of the matter. This is the beginning of the Christian life and a transition to recreation in the image of God.

************************
The following is a bit of further explanation of some the issues involved herein. It is a bit random in organization, but are important in a general knowledge of the Bible fashion.

In the NET Bible website search function, I find twenty-eight pages of Bible references using the word ‘saved’. I counted a random page and found twenty verses using the word ‘saved’. That is 560 verses (more or less). In the words of a famous television commercial from a number of years ago, “I think I’m going to need a bigger box.”

The verses range from Genesis to Revelation. Some verses refer to physical salvation – as in “…saved us from the Philistines…”. Many refer to spiritual salvation and quite a few have double meanings – both physical and spiritual. Obviously I didn’t use all of them in this essay. Hopefully I’ve hit the main points.

The NET.Bible website also shows this definition:
Webster’s
SA’VED, pp. Preserved from evil; injury or destruction; kept frugally; prevented; spared; taken in time.

A favorite text of those who seek to impose greater restrictions on Christians is in Matthew 7, verses 21 to 23.

“21 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven – only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons and do many powerful deeds?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’

These are the words of Jesus indeed. However, they aren’t as vague as some suggest. Look at the actual wording; those denied are all claiming to have done things in their own power. “…didn’t WE …” do this or that. Nor do any of those herein denied come to the Lord and say, “I gave You my allegiance and obedience. I trusted Your death and resurrection for my forgiveness.” This seems to be the key to the unspoken lesson of the passage.

None of this is to say prophesy and demon casting are NOT important. However, the only important work in Christianity is that work which is individually directed and empowered by God.

Another aside.
The words ‘belief’ (noun) or ‘believe’ (verb) and the word ‘faith’ (noun or verb depending on usage) are rather weak words in the modern English language. They were stronger words in Greek usage of Jesus’ day.

All to often, the term ‘believe’ is equated with ‘casual opinion’. Something like “I believe Jingles will win the third race at Hialeah today.” A closer meaning is “I believe I’ll have another beer”. The latter suggests a certainty of and intent of action which is a bit stronger than mere opinion or whim.

Strong’s Lexicon shows the Greek word to be G4100 pisteuo, (pes-too-oh). Strong’s reports as meaning:

To think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in [a ‘thing’ either physical or intellectual] in general life.
When used in a moral or religious reference:
* used in the New Testament of the conviction and trust to which a man is impelled by a certain inner and higher prerogative and law of soul
to trust in Jesus or God as able to aid either in obtaining or in doing something: saving faith
mere acknowledgment of some fact or event: intellectual faith.
This last alternative is used as a comparison to the ‘belief’ which is steadfast.

Likewise the word ‘faith’ does not in the Greek signify ‘wishful thinking’. There are two words in Greek translated ‘faith’ in the KJV and can be misleading.

The stronger word is G4102 pistis (pis-tis). It is linguistically connected to G4100 (above) and is similar in meaning. “Conviction of the truth…”
The weaker Greek word is G3640 oligopistos (ah-lee-gawp-ess-toss) and refers to ‘little faith’ or something akin to wishful thinking or a neutral acceptance, not amounting to full support.

One should also note that both ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ are much like strength and ability. They all come in degrees or levels. All of these concepts grow over time and use. The more pushups one does, the stronger one’s arms and shoulders become. The more one knows and relies on God, the stronger belief grows.

End of aside regarding faith and belief.

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On Prayer (Part One)

Okay, I’m not mad at anyone or anything particularly. Truthfully, I’m probably mad about something – I typically am. My anger is one of the things I would dearly like to control, to mitigate, to suppress in the sense of controlling it, not just stuff it down and allow it to fester. But right now, I feel the need, the impulse, the direction by Almighty God to discuss prayer.

Prayer in the proper sense is communication with God. Communication suggests a dialog, not a monologue. If one prays in the proper way, one also hears from God, as well as directing thoughts merely to God.

This essay is primarily directed to Christians, but non-Christians are encouraged to read it as well. Perhaps not all the concepts herein will be fully clear to non-Christians; it is my expectation that some degree of clarity will transmit to all. In any event, the Lord has made it clear I should write this.

Why do Christians pray?

One obvious answer is that Christians are directed to pray. The words of Jesus and the writers of the New Testament rather expected followers of Jesus Christ – therefore, of God – to pray. However, that simple answer, as technically correct as it is, can be misleading. Christians are not to pray simply to check off one of God’s commands.

When we were children, or perhaps adults in a new and rather strange to us relationship with God, most of us prayed simple prayers of requests. Something on the order of “Forgive me for [fill in the blank yourself]; Bless Mom and Dad and so on and so forth”. Then usually follows (or proceeds) the list of ‘godgimmes’. “God, give me a new bicycle; God, give me new shoes; God, gimme the answers to the test at school” and such things. At meals, as ‘young’ (in some sense) we are taught to thank God for the food.

Allow me to point out all these things are valid in some sense. We are to pray and express remorse and contrition for sinful behavior. We are to pray ‘intercessory’ prayers for others. We are to express our needs and hopes and goals, and seek Divine assistance in these things. We are to be thankful.

But comes the question as we gain maturity, both as a person and as a Christian, why is this needful? God is omniscient, and therefore knows all these things before we do. What is the point of telling God what He already knows? Why does God command us to pray? What’s the point?

I suggest the point is that God wants us to be aware of these things ourselves, and to allow His feedback to appreciate all of life and our relationship to Him more fully.

As an example, when I pray over a meal and savor the thoughts, I realize many things I tend to skip in the normal course of the day. I provide my own meals in the sense I pay for them. However, to pay for a meal (either at home or ‘out’) I have to have money in my account (or pocket). That means I have to have a source of income. Neither food nor money falls from the sky to feed me.

My income these days comes from the retirement annuity from the years I worked. My annuity is based on roughly twenty-two years of working at a job I generally liked, but sometimes loathed. I dealt with idiotic supervisors and managers, idiotic co-workers and idiotic ‘customers’ while bound to enforce sometimes idiotic laws and regulations. Not all of them, of course. But enough to have regularly considered telling them all to shove it and walk out the door. I didn’t. But in retrospect, I didn’t because of the Grace of God who strengthened me to do the job. Not just to perform the appointed tasks and duties, but also to avoid insubordination, rebellion, physical violence and probably hardest of all, my rather sarcastic and vengeful mouth.

Thank you, My Lord. Thank you for keeping me from destroying myself in terms of career and earning power. Thinking back, this effort of the Lord was NOT a single occurrence. My dear Lord intervened in my life many times a day; probably more while at work.

When I pray over a meal, the Lord reminds me none of it came from chance or luck. All manner of food, meat, vegetables, fruits, cereal grains, coffee, water, beer and apple pie is the result of other people’s work. A normal breakfast for me involves a farmer – probably farmerS – who planted, watered, fertilized, weeded, harvested and transported potatoes and wheat grain to those who further process such things. My normal breakfast also demands some grower who put up with chickens, and the sacrifice of those chickens of their eggs. And a rather ultimate demand upon a pig or two.

Then there are the people who turn raw products into foodstuffs. Bakers come to mind. The people who grind coffee for brewing. Not to mention the staff at a restaurant who serve it. Even the many people who make sure the grocery store functions properly.

That’s just from giving thanks over a meal. (I’ve probably missed something in this. Forgive me.)

When I ask for ‘blessings’ on those I love, if I’m paying attention to what I’m saying, God reminds me of my responsibility for ‘blessing’ those I mention. What can I do for my children? They’re all grown up, but I still have a responsibility to encourage, comfort and assist them at need. My Lord reminds me I cannot merely mouth a ‘blessing’ and not seek out manners of assistance for them.

The same goes for ‘starving children in [fill in the blank]’. How can I say words of blessing for them and not be concerned about their needs? The Lord reminds me of this. How much can I send to reliable charitable organizations for the purpose? Are there children in my town – neighborhood? – in need? I must act in some manner, or my prayers are just self-righteous murmurings. If nothing else, God reminds me I ought to be about the business of helping others in need.

This same phenomenon occurs when I consider and pray for all those who do not know, who do not have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I understand there are far too many people who do not have such. I can help feed children and adults who lack sustenance. However, they will eventually all die at some point – then what? As a Christian, I am aware the Grace of God extended to me as a sinner is not a corporate affair. Christianity, the following of Christ unto eternal relationship with Almighty God is an individual matter. Those are the rules set by God; everyone must acknowledge dependence on The Lord individually.

From Paul’s letter to the Romans (chapter 10) How are they to call on one they have not believed in? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them

It’s not like specific directions ‘just occur’ to non-believers. Christians are directed by Jesus Himself to Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

When I pray with attention to God, He reminds me. I need reminding, it seems.

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Big Mistakes People Make About God (Part Two)

There is a common thought to the effect God is a hard-hearted, vengeful, spiteful, nasty fellow who looks for any opportunity to punish people. The idea is God has a long list of ‘sins’, forbidden acts; things like drinking, smoking, dancing, going to movies, doing ‘it’ with anyone not a spouse, scratching in front of one’s mother, being homosexual, not recycling, not attending church constantly, wearing stripes with other patterns and perhaps even parking in a handicapped zone.

God is constantly watching all of humanity to see if He can find anyone doing any of that stuff. When God spots a violator, He immediately swoops down – or at least dispatches a swooper in His place – and beats the violator – ‘sinner’ – about the head and shoulders and in other ways makes their life miserable. So there.

No. It ain’t that way.

Anyone know what ‘sin’ really means? What the concept really is? What’s the big deal about it?

There are two words in the Old Testament (written in Hebrew until about the 8th Century B. C. and Aramaic – a Semetic dialect very similar to Hebrew thereafter) which translate into the verb ‘sin’.

I am leaving out a good deal of detail. Should one wish to read the full entries,
חָטָא
Strong’s listing H2398
Transliterated to English “chata’ ” and pronounced as “khat·tä’ “. This word is a verb and means “to miss” or commit error.

The over-riding concept is ‘error’. To miss the mark and not perform as expected. This is the foul up, the negligent error causing a problem. It is still the problem of the person in question; if one misses the nail and hits oneself on the thumb, it was not intentional, but the thumb still objects. This is also the condition of being taken by temptation unaware; of being seduced while distracted.

עָבַר
Strong’s listing H5674
Transliterated to English “`abar” and pronounced as “ä·var’ “. This word is a verb and means to pass over or by or through, alienate, bring, carry, do away, take or take away. This is an intentional action, done not by misadventure or mistake but by design.

One might think of chata’ as being seduced while `abar is seducing.

Both, however, have the end result of not being right. One way or another, one has done wrong. One has done contrary to God’s wishes or commands.

Please note, there is no list attached.

So what? So what if I have done contrary to God’s will? What happens?

For the purpose of this discussion, there are two types of people in the world: Those who have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ and those who don’t.

For those who do not have a relationship with God, there is no ‘punishment’ consequence. That’s right, no punishment at all. The bad news is anyone without a relationship with God is already condemned to an eternity of Hell. That is the penalty for not having a relationship with God.

So; no one goes to Hell for drinking, smoking, homosexuality or homosexual behavior, heterosexual behavior, rape, treason, murder, smoking near a hospital or sassing one’s mother. The only reason, and I say again, ONLY reason anyone goes to Hell is for failing to, neglecting to, refusing to or just putting off establishing a relationship with Almighty God.

This is not to say there are no consequences in life. Lung cancer seems to be a side effect of smoking. AIDS seems to be a side effect of indiscriminate sexual behavior. Smashing one’s skull at the bottom of the Grand Canyon seems to be a side effect of gravity. I fell and bruised the inner workings of my left knee a week ago. God wasn’t punishing me for falling, or being stupid – for which I am extremely grateful! – it’s just what happens when one slips on ice and falls in an awkward manner.

For those with a relationship with God, the consequences are a bit different and a bit more complex.

The primary result of either sin or trespass in the life of a believer – which hereinafter will be shorthand for ‘one with a relationship with God through Jesus Christ – is a barrier to fellowship with God. A non-believer or deophobe might claim at this point, “This is where God gets mad and sulks because He doesn’t get His way!” No. What happens is a little more unbelievable; God is Holy and cannot exist in the presence of wrong. Probably more correct to say ‘wrong’ – of any sort – cannot exist in the presence of God. So – as far as I can tell – to protect the sinner from being destroyed by the conflict, God does not allow that sin and that sinner to come into His presence.

The result is the sinner feels a loss of contact, a separation from the Eternal. One is isolated from God.

So what?

In some ways, nothing. Life goes on. One continues to breathe. God does not prevent one from functioning. But – as a believer – one notes a missing element in one’s life. The ‘difference’ is much like a rift between friends. Two people can be friends and have a broken relationship for a time. The friends do not speak or associate over some disagreement or argument – but they both miss each other and the relationship. Until they can reconcile. God always seeks reconciliation with believers. Typically, believers realize they need the reconciliation and return to ‘normal’ relations.

Just as a note of transparency: I began this post nearly three years ago. I got stuck a bit and then sort of forgot about it. Sometimes stuff just takes longer.

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