Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Cosmological Argument for God's Existence

Response to the claim:  "Creation science begins with God, and thus invalidates itself by making a priori assumptions which it fails to substantiate."


Image result for stone
We don't start with the assumption that God did it and then work forward from there, we start with the assumption that something, anything, now exists and ask where it came from.


So this rock (R1), for instance.  This rock exists.  Science loves rocks.  Where did this rock come from?  It had a cause(Cr)... whatever that cause may have been... but where did that cause (Cr) come from?  From whatever caused it (C1).  And where did C1 come from?  from C-1, of course.  And C-1 comes from C-2, and so forth.

But this cannot go on forever.  You cannot postulate an infinite regression of causes because it is logically impossible to traverse an actual infinite.  That is, if each iteration of C requires only a single second in the history of time to both become and to cause the next iteration, but there are an infinite number of causes, then there are an infinite number of seconds prior to this one.

We could never arrive at this second right now, then, because there would always be an infinite amount of seconds prior to it.

Thus, an initial cause is philosophically necessary.

Image result for big bangThis cause CANNOT be the Big Bang.  Why?  Because matter, space, and time all came into existence at the same moment.  Since the Big Bang is a physical event, it cannot cause itself.

Therefore, whatever caused time, space, and matter to come into existence must itself be timeless, spaceless, and immaterial.  It must also be immensely powerful to cause time, space, and matter to come into being, and further, it must be personal, because it makes the choice to begin the act of causing these things to come into being.

That is, it is philosophically necessary for there to BE an initial cause, which itself needed not to be caused.

Now, why can't that initial cause be the universe itself?  Because of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, which states that everything is winding down, like a clock.  If the universe itself were infinitely old, we would already have experienced the eventual heat death that science predicts, on top of the logical impossibility of an infinite regression of causes.

So if the uncaused initial cause is timeless, spaceless, immaterial, powerful, and personal, what would we call that?

We'd call it God.


NOTE:  Many thanks to Drs. Gerald Schroeder, Frank Turek, Ravi Zacharias, and William Lane Craig, among others, for their work on the Cosmological Argument.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Why the Qur'an argues against the corruption of the Bible

Links provided, so these verses can be verified.  I have not changed any of them.

Sura 29:46 (LINK)
And do not argue with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is best, except for those who commit injustice among them, and say, "We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. And our God and your God is one; and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him."

Sura 3:3-4 (LINK)
He has sent down upon you, [O Muhammad], the Book in truth, confirming what was before it. And He revealed the Torah and the Gospel.
Before, as guidance for the people. And He revealed the Qur'an. Indeed, those who disbelieve in the verses of Allah will have a severe punishment, and Allah is exalted in Might, the Owner of Retribution.

Sura 18:27 (LINK)
And recite, [O Muhammad], what has been revealed to you of the Book of your Lord. There is no changer of His words, and never will you find in other than Him a refuge.


Premise 1: Allah revealed the Torah and the Gospel.
Premise 2: No one can change Allah's words.
Premise 3: Therefore, the Torah and the Gospel are not corrupt.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Trinity Sunday 2016 Sermon Notes

Trinity Sunday 2016 Sermon Notes

Primary Text

John 16:12-15


12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.


1 John 4:7-9

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  (agape, divine, perfect love) 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.


John 3:16

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.


The Greatest Commandment

Matthew 22:35-40


35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”



Here again, the word "Love" is a conjugation of the Greek word "Agape."


"Love" in the Bible

The New Testament uses two primary words for "love."


The word "Love" appears 286 times in the English Standard Version,


258 times, it uses a form of the Greek word "Agapeo," which means "to love, to show love, or to take pleasure in."  This is a selfless love, and this is how God loves us, but also how He commands us to love one another.


25 times, it uses a form of the Greek word "Phileo."  This is a kind of brotherly love, between people, and is used less than 10% of the time.


Likewise, the Old Testament uses two primary words for "love."
Love occurs 458 times in the ESV translation of the Old Testament:

247 times, the word "Love" translates the Hebrew word "Ahav." It means: "To like, to love, to endear, to flirt, lovable, love.


245 times, the word "Love translates the Hebrew word "Chessed."  It means "Loyalty, joint obligation, faithfulness, goodness, graciousness, Godly action."


Example: Agapeo

Luke 11:42


42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.


Example: Phileo

Matthew 6:5


5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.


Example: Ahav

Exodus 20:5b-6




for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.


Example: Chessed

Genesis 24:12


12 And he said, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham.


God is Love

So we said earlier, in 1 John 4:8, that "God is Love." And we mentioned that in that passage, John uses the word "Agapeo" to describe this essential nature of God.


This is a selfless love, and this is how God loves us, but also how He commands us to love one another.


But here is a question for us:  If this kind of selfless, giving love is an essential nature of God, that is, if God is defined by His ability to love selflessly, who did God love in this manner before He created us?


And while we ponder that...



The Atonement

Let us consider the Act of Atonement.


This question is often raised by those opposed to Christianity, and it goes something like this:

If God is Just, then that means that God is fair.  But God is presented with billions and billions of sinners.  If Jesus is truly going to pay for the sins of each one, wouldn't He have to live billions and billions of sinless lives, and then be sacrificed billions and billions of times?

How can one death, even the death of a perfect man, pay for more than one sinful life?

The Jews have adopted the position that each man's death pays for his own sins, but that is problematic as well.  In that instance, the lamb is spotted.  An imperfect lamb cannot be the sacrifice to cover sin, according to the Torah.


Yes, Jesus lived a perfect and sinless life, but is His one death enough to cover all sins?


A Third question

Since this is Trinity Sunday, and the message is about the nature of the Trinity, I'm going to stick with our theme here and ask a third question:


If, in the New Testament, Jesus does not speak directly to an issue, does that mean the issue is not important to us?

For instance, only once does Jesus come close to addressing the issue of homosexuality, when He says, in Matthew 19:3-6


3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”


Since we follow Jesus, shouldn't we only listen to His words?  Should we ignore what came before, in the Old Testament, and only focus on what the Master specifically addresses?


Trinity

The answer to all three of these objections is the Trinity.


Unless we have some understanding of the idea of the Trinity, we cannot reasonably answer these objections.


Before the creation, who did God love?  The Father loved the Son and the Spirit, the Son loved the Spirit and the Father, and the Spirit loved the Father and the Son.  Three persons in one Godhead, selflessly loving and being loved in eternity past.


And the death of one man to pay for all men?  They're right, it's insufficient.  But they don't understand the Trinity.  You see, Jesus wasn't JUST a man.  He was God, made flesh.  He was the earthly representation of the infinite.  It wasn't just a man who died that day, it was God, who loved selflessly and gave Himself for us.  An infinite payment for a finite debt.


And what about the words of Jesus in the New Testament?  Should we only listen to those, at the exclusion of the Old Testament?  Not if we believe in the Trinity.  What the Father has spoken in the Old Testament, the Son and the Spirit do not disagree with.  Indeed, since the Three exist in Trinity, Jesus spoke everything in the Old Testament too.


The Trinity

The Trinity is an essential doctrine of the Christian faith.  Without an understanding of it, we cannot understand the atonement, the scriptures, or the very nature of God.


So how do we define the Trinity?


My favorite definition is this:


The Trinity is a mystery which cannot be comprehended by human reason but is understood only through faith and is best confessed in the words of the Athanasian creed, which states that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance. That we are compelled by the Christian truth to confess that each distinct person is God and Lord, and that the deity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is One, Equal in Glory, co-equal in majesty.



Saturday, July 8, 2017

Don't Arabic-speaking Christians also use the word "Allah?"

NOTE: This is a re-post of this blog.  The earlier post, after being edited, suffered formatting problems which I could not, for some reason, correct.


I've been seeing this argument somewhat frequently, and I wanted to address it here:


 

While this is absolutely true, it is somewhat misleading.  The word "Allah" in the Arabic shares a linguistic origin with the Hebrew word "אֱל֫וֹהַּ" (eloah) That is the base word, "אֱלֹהִ֣ים" (elohim) is the plural of that. 

Eloah, and Elohim, are not names. They are the generic terms for "god" or "gods." For example, in Deuteronomy 6:14-15, we read

14 You shall not go after other gods (אֱלֹהִ֣ים), the gods (אֱלֹהִ֣ים) of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the LORD your God (אֱלֹהִ֣ים) in your midst is a jealous God (אֵ֥ל) —lest the anger of the LORD your God (אֱלֹהִ֣ים) be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth. 

The word "gods" in this passage is the Hebrew word "אֱלֹהִ֣ים" (Elohim), except in one instance where it is shortened to simply "אֵ֥ל". It's the generic term for "god." 

So yes, while Arabic-speaking Christians use the word "Allah" to mean "God," so do Arabic speaking Hindus and Arabic speaking pagans who worship Zeus or Thor or Loki.

If the argument, then, is that since both Muslims and Christians use the word "allah" to mean "god," that must mean they worship the same god, then the Muslims also need to accept the Hindus and Pagans as serving the same god they do. 

This is the logical conclusion of this argument. If you're fine declaring the Muslim god to be the same god as the Hindu gods and also the Pagan gods, feel free to continue making it.

CLARIFYING EDIT:
The argument is usually that since Christians also use the word, then Allah is also the God of the Christians. 

The problem with that argument is that Arabic speaking Hindus or Pagans would also use the word Allah. So if the linguistic similarity is the criterion by which we determine which god is which, we must also conclude that Hindus and Pagans worship the gods of both Muhammad and Abraham. 

Since no Muslim is willing to carry the argument that far, it falls flat.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Conversation on Free Will


NOTE:  The formatting on this is a little bit rough.  
It originated as a conversation I had with a 
seeker on the topic, but I liked this format so 
well I thought it would work here.  I realize this 
is not an academic format, and would never 
pass it off as such, but if it is too distracting or 
too difficult to follow, please comment 
below and I'll fix it.
Thanks.



God not only knows the future, He knows all possible futures.

God not only knows this reality, but all possible realities.  Further, He knows which of those possible realities we are in, and therefore, knows what we will do.

But, as I'm fond of saying, "God's foreknowledge is not determinative."

That is, by knowing what WILL happen, God does not CAUSE that to happen.

For example,

God knows that tomorrow, I will commit a sin.

God does not CAUSE me to sin, but He knows it will happen.

ok.  So now we must ask "Why?"

Why did God create a universe like this?

Why does the possibility for evil exist?

Why do children get bone cancer and high school girls get raped?
because of sin

But what is Sin?

Sin is our disobedience to God.

That disobedience corrupts everything.

So God did not create a world where people could get cancer
but sin corrupted the world God created.

But why did God give us the capacity to sin in the first place?

Why did He not create us incapable of sin?

Love.

Suppose you really love a girl, and you want her to love you back.
So you send her cards and flowers and candies
you ask her out, you buy her gifts
but over and over again, she rejects you

Now, you're a big, powerful, 6 foot 4 inch, 300-pound man, and she's a little tiny 4 foot 9 inch, 98-pound woman....
so you decide you're going to force her to love you

Is that possible?

Can you force her to feel love for you?
not at all

You might be able to force her to SAY she loves you, but it won't be genuine love.

Because love cannot be forced

If love is forced, it ceases to be love.
it becomes something else.

Next question:  What does God own?

God owns absolutely everything, including our bodies and our possessions
not to mention the rest of the universe

But God does not own our love.

He DESERVES it, to be sure

But He cannot take it.

For us to love, we must also be free NOT to love.

Otherwise, that love is not love, but something else.

What is it?

I don't know, but it is not love.

My sister had a doll when we were kids.

When you push a button on its back, it would say "I love you."

It was kind of neat, but I never felt an emotional attachment to it.

Why?  Because it had no choice in the matter.

It could not do anything BUT say "I love you."

But it didn't really love me, and I intuitively knew this.

God cannot force us to love Him.

But that is what He wants.

That is the only thing, in all of existence, that He cannot seize for himself.

So, in order for us to actually love God, we must be free to not love Him.  That is why He has given us free will.


Free will is the thing that makes real love possible.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

New Testament Textual Criticism

We have so many ancient manuscripts we can compare them and find out what the truth really is. it's not a big deal. The argument some are making is that since there are mistakes in various manuscripts, the whole of the Bible is corrupt. This is very much not the case. For example...

1.   I c_n do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
2.   I can do all things thr_ugh Christ who gives me strength.
3.   I can do all things through Christ who gives me stren_th.
4.   I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
5.   I can _o all things through Christ who gives me strength.
6.   I can do all thi_gs through Christ who gives me strength.
7.   I can do all things through Christ w_o gives me strength.
8.   I _ do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
9.   I can do all things through Christ _.
10. I can do _ things through Christ who gives me strength.

This is a passage from Philippians 4. I have copied the same sentence ten times. There are 11 words in the passage. There are ten errors in the text I have presented, indicated by _. Some of those errors are significant, removing whole words or even phrases. Some of them remove single letters.

But can you compare all ten and find out what the original said? Yes, you can, even though every single one of them is, in some way, corrupt. Where there is an error in each one, there are 9 or 10 other ones with the correct reading. Each of those errors (_) is called a "textual variant."

Now, my illustration if flawed. I only gave you ten sentences and ten textual variants. How many textual variants are there in the New Testament documents? Nearly 400,000. That is more variants than the total number of words in the New Testament (Dr. Bart Ehrman loves to point this out).

But how many manuscripts do we have? That is, what is the size of the sample which contains these 400,000 variants? Roughly 1.2 MILLION pages. This means that there is approximately 1 variant per THREE PAGES, not one variant per sentence.

You'll see in my illustration above ten variants in ten sentences. This is a SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER CONCENTRATION OF ERRORS than we find in reality.

But was it hard to understand what the original said? Not at all. We can do it almost instinctively.

The New Testament is the single best-attested document of ancient history. NOTHING else comes remotely close to its attestation. The New Testaments we have today are reliable and accurate.

For more information on this topic, see the work of Dr. Daniel Wallace.

Dr. Daniel Wallace on New Testament Textual Criticism

Monday, June 19, 2017

Three Days and Three nights

The "Three days and three nights" issue stems from a failure to understand Jewish holidays.  The Bible says Jesus was crucified on the day before the Sabbath.  If you don't know anything at all about Jewish holidays (like the Passover) you have to say the Crucifixion was on Friday.

But if you have a Jewish holiday in the mix, you can add additional Sabbaths to the week.  Jesus was crucified on Thursday.  Friday and Saturday were both Sabbath days that week.  For example, Leviticus 23:26-32 speaks of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and verse 32 fixes a Sabbath day on the 9th day of the month... regardless of what day of the week that is.

Leviticus 23:32
It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict yourselves. On the ninth day of the month beginning at evening, from evening to evening shall you keep your Sabbath.”

Jesus was crucified, then, on the day before the Sabbath, but in this case, it was not the weekly Sabbath, but rather the High Sabbath for the Passover.

So Jesus was dead on...

Thursday NIGHT............................  Friday DAY,
Friday NIGHT...............................Saturday DAY,
Saturday NIGHT...and a portion of Sunday DAY.

Why do I say just a portion of Sunday?  Because He was raised ON the third day, not AFTER the third day.

Matthew 17:22-23a
As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.”

Why do we have Good Friday celebration, then?  The same way we remember Memorial day on a Monday, or we observe a holiday that falls on a Saturday by taking Friday off.  It's more convenient for a civilized society.

But very few educated Christians believe that Jesus was crucified on a Friday.

There are two common errors people make with this:  One, they try to force it to fit the "Good Friday - Resurrection Sunday" narrative.  When they do that, they are forced to make the argument that "counting is cultural," and "any part of a day or night counted as a whole day or night."  Even if that's the case, we do not see the third night, even partially.  We see Friday Day, Friday Night, Saturday Day, Saturday Night, Sunday Day.... but even with the most generous counting method possible, we only see three days and two nights between Friday and Sunday.

The other mistake people commonly make is to insist that "Three days and three nights means three full days and three full nights.  72 hours exactly!"  But I have already answered this objection above:  Jesus did not complete the third day in the tomb.  The Scripture says he rose "on the third day," not after it.

That is why I hold to a Thursday evening crucifixion.  Jesus died on the day of preparation, as Matthew 27:62 indicates.

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 

That is, they do this the day after the crucifixion, which Matthew tells us is also the "next day," the one after the day of Preparation.

The Day of Preparation is the day when Jewish households would do extra work to prepare for the rest of the Sabbath.

Mark 15:42 agrees:
42 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath,

Also, John 19:14-16:
14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 15 They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. 

But if Friday was the High Sabbath (probably of Unleavened Bread) and Saturday was the Weekly Sabbath, then the women, who were obviously eager to anoint the Body (they began their journey to the tomb before sunrise) would have had to wait two full days of Sabbath observance before they could defile themselves by touching a dead body.