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Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Why is Satan Selfish?

That Isaiah 14 passage
We are not told much about Satan's origin, but Isaiah chapter 14 is often - and I believe correctly - thought to reflect his fall. Although it is a description of the king of Babylon's fall, interpreters have read in these verses an echo of that darker previous fall (Satan and his followers are not very original, and behind the fall of anyone filled with pride is the same old devilish pattern):

12 How you have fallen from heaven,
    morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
    you who once laid low the nations!

It's all about me
Nothing strikes us more in Isaiah 14 than all the personal pronouns, "I", "my" and "myself", seven of them:

This is what the once-glorious creature said in his heart: 

13 You said in your heart,
    I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
    above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
    on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.
14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
    I will make myself like the Most High.”
15 But you are brought down to the realm of the dead,
    to the depths of the pit.

It's all about number 1, all about him, all about his own concerns. This is in such stark contrast to the other-love of God, "For God so love the world."  Satan is consumed with himself and with his own concerns.

But why is Satan selfish?
But why is Satan selfish? That may seem a strange question to ask, but it is instructive. At least one reason is this: he is a unity, not a plurality. Satan is on his own, he is a unity of person, if we can credit personhood to such a twisted being.  

Satan isn't used to having to hang out with anyone else or submitting to anyone else. He is not used to talking to anyone else or taking advice from anyone else. He is not used to submitting to anyone else. He's the king of his castle. All he can think of is his own (destructive) ends.

God is a Trinity
At the other end of the spectrum (although we are reluctant to place God on the same spectrum as the evil one) is the Creator God. The true and living God is a Trinity and this doctrine has a profound effect on everything he is and everything God does. Although he rises infinitely above us in glory and majesty, and though he is beyond our thoughts to comprehend, yet we can understand a little.

From all eternity God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, has had communion within himself - we catch wonderful glimpses of this intra-trinitarian communion in John's Gospel. Father, Son and Holy Spirit have loved one another from all eternity. This is why God can be called love, "God is love" (1 John 4:8) and why "Love comes from God" (1 John 4:7)

God's vision is outward looking towards a lost world because he loves already within himself. Love comes from within the Godhead.

What does this mean for us?
God made us in his Trinitarian iamge, not the ugly image of the unitarian evil one. We must trace all self-centredness, all "me-itis" to Satan. Whenever I expect  the world, my church, my family or my marriage to revolve around me or my concerns, I should recognise the orgin of  such selfishness: not the outward seeking trinitarian Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but the all-on-his-own, unitarian self-seeking Satan. 

In fact here's a test: we know we are being formed into the likeness of Jesus, the one who did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many, when the direction of our hearts and lives and thoughts is outward looking and filled with love divine, and when we find it easy to "submit to one another out of reverence to Christ".

Monday, 19 May 2014

Can you trust the Bible?

A common question
In the West this is a common question and we ought to have to hand some ready responses. People asking the question may actually have other questions in mind, "Can you trust the science in the Bible?" or "Can you trust the historical facts in the Bible?" or, "Can you believe the miracles in the Bible?" or perhaps, "Can you trust the Bible when it talks about morals, right and wrong?"

Reasons for the question
Some are genuinely interested, but some who ask this question have been infected with the skeptical spirit of Dawkins, Dan Brown, or the universities of the world.

At these universities they adopt methodological naturalism in all their departments (otherwise they'd loose credibility as mind-only institutions and thus q-dos in the eyes of their peers and the world). Methodological naturalism says that there is no God or any such entity, everything in the universe must be explained by natural law. So when you come to miracles of the Bible, they are out, for example. Not surprisingly then, they don't think much of the Bible. After all, "no-miracle method" research leads to "no-miracle output". I mean you don't really need to study the Bible if you adopt methodological naturalism, because you know the answer before you study.

The Bible is completely trustworthy - three good reasons
The Bible is completely trustworthy in every way, and here are three good reasons to believe that.

(1) It comes from God - and there are good reasons to accept that
The Bible is a human book in that it was written by real people whose personalities, life experience and outlook played a full part in what they wrote, but supervising and inspiring them was the Spirit of God, in such a wonderful way that they ended up writing what he wanted them to write. Consider these evidences of divine authorship:
  • they all speak with the same voice though spread over 1500 years. Ask one author what sin is and then another author, and they all give the same answer. How could this be so unless behind the human book was a single Divine Hand?
  • they make predictions which come true. No human being could predict into the future, only God, who knows can. But the authors make all kinds of predictions, such as where Jesus would be born, what tribe he would be from, that people would cast lots for his clothes and so on. Daniel predicts future world powers. They must have been under the influence of the future-knowing omniscient God
  • they teach doctrines the human mind can't understand! Such as the Trinity, such as two natures one human one divine combined in one Person, Jesus Christ. It is impossible to invent something you cannot understand. You can describe something you cannot understand, because that thing was outside of yourself, there already, and you just stumbled upon it and you seek to describe it (there are many such things in the natural world), but you cannot invent something you do not understand. With humans, understanding must precede invention.
(2) The Bible has always influenced societies an civilisations for good.
Wherever the Bible has gone - or should we say wherever people have responded to the message of the Bible, the Gospel, and sought to live out those teachings - good  has come. So take the book by the Indian writer Vishal Mangalwadi, "The Book that made your world". Having lived in both India and the West he has seen the enormous differences between the two and credits this with the influence of the Bible. This is a well known fact - the Bible influences culture for the good.

Plenty of books have changed societies - for the worse. But a book that changes cultures for good must surely make us wonder about its origin, since no other book has had that influence. 

(3) The message of the Bible transforms lives for the good.
 Wherever the message of the Bible, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, has been believed it has changed lives. Drunks have been freed of their drink, the down-hearted lifted up, the depairing brought hope, and the empty filled. There is no earthly message that transforms lives for the good. Which should make us wonder if this message is from God.

In the end it requires faith which comes from God to trust in the Bible - not because faith is against reason, but because the fall has so twisted reason that it is no longer a reliable guide to truth. And that miracle of Faith comes by reading or listening to the Bible.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Why I will never believe in the theory of evolution

Four insurmountable reasons
There are four reasons (at least) why I will never (ever) believe in the theory of evolution. These are not problems which might one day be solved by future findings, they are insurmountable infinite problems, which no future knowledge could ever resolve. They are category problems. I present them simply here and hope to expand in the future.

1. The origin of the first cell - or any cell
Poor Darwin just didn't know what a cell was, how complex it is, how unbelievably complex it is. As one professor explained, a cell is a "suite of chemical factories" that has the ability to reproduce itself. The unspeakable complexity of any cell renders a first one by anything other than a mighty designing hand a simple impossibility.

2. The Cambrian Explosion
Around 550mya (again, if we assume...) there was a sudden explosion of most of the existing categories of life on earth. Before that era life forms were simple, after that complex. Even the evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould recognized this as a pretty big obstacle to the gradualism of evolution.

3. The amazing mind/heart/soul of man
It may be possible to trace a gradual upward incline if we run from amoeba to apes. But then when we come to man we have a sharp discontinuity, infinite in step size. In spite of all the attempts to bring apes up to man and the other attempts to bring man down to apes, the gap remains infinite. The brightest chimps are as "thick as two short planks" compared to mankind. It is nothing short of the blindness imposed by Darwin that enabled National Geographic to bequeath the title about some dumb chimps, "Almost Human". What did they find in the forest? Chimps making fire? Playing musical instruments? Doing Algebra? Painting pictures?  No, they found dumb apes doing nothing more than being dumb apes. Don't get me wrong Apes are wonderful creatures, but the difference between them and us is an infinite - and here's the point - and unexplainable (in Darwinian terms) chasm. None of our remarkable, unique powers are necessary or advantageous to survival - the ability to make a decision, for example, rather than to respond instinctively to an event, could be a disastrous disadvantage and result in immediate death.

4. The theory is upheld by naturalism, the most unscientific science ever devised
Most people  who believe in evolution also believe in naturalism, the idea that there is no such thing as a God or any such entity and that EVERYTHING can be explained by natural law. Thus, they never consider alternative explanations when they are "in the corner", "against the ropes" or "up a gum tree". Their boxed up minds can only run in the boring old  intellect-quenching, imagination-destroying, theory-stopping channel of "it must be natural"; they are unable to think outside this tiny  steel box and even imagine that there could be another way to explain the marvels (1-3 above)  they see. If that's "science", the sooner it belongs to history, the better. True science is prepared to consider all possibilities in its free spirit of enquiry, including "this required intelligence."

Those committed to methodological naturalism are like the alien atheist who lands on planet earth after the third world war, visits the amazing Rushmore stone carvings and goes to work trying to figure out how the winds (or water) carved the faces of presidents over thousands of years. If you think this is an outrageous or fanciful analogy, you are entirely mistaken. The complexity of the simplest cell is infinitely more complex than any rock carving and yet it is deemed the work of natural forces. A physicist would struggle immensely to come up with a "just so" theory as to how something like Rushmore was formed "naturally" by water or winds, and we're talking exceedingly simple stuff in the case of Rushmore.

These objections are not quantitative doubts which future findings could one day dispel, they are qualitative doubts, which can't by their very nature be explained away. Ever.