Can Something be True without Being Factual?

The LA Times published an editorial April 13, 2017 about the Passover, In religion, something can be true without being factual.  The article poses a question, “Does it matter if the Passover story is literally true?”

In it, the author, Eric Schwitzgebel, argues that it does matter.  However, his position is that if it is true, then Judaism has a problem.  He confronts one negative with another.  He states the problem in the following way,

“It matters,” I said, “because if the story is literally true, then a god who works miracles really exists. It matters if there is such a god or not. I don’t think I would like the moral character of that god, who kills innocent Egyptians. I’m glad there is no such god.”

That is, he claims that making the story historically factual, gives Judaism a murderous god, something he does not want to believe.  Such a false dilemma.  Therefore, one must adapt a story or myth to present values to make it powerful for today.  In other words, he celebrates a truth of values, which are adaptable to present circumstances.  Consequently, the way to escape what one considers a negative from history is to establish one’s own truth based on ever changing values.  This argument is one similar to that which many today hold,

“What is true for you may not be true for me,”

or

“Your truth may not be the same as my truth.”

These statements result from divorcing truth from historical fact and creating one’s own “facts” or not having any facts at all upon which truth rests.  That is, truth is that of convenience to do away with what one dislikes.

Several people responded to this editorial, but one specifically caught my attention.  This responder picked up on the core issue when writing,

   “As a professor of philosophy he probably knows the difference between “facts” and “truth,” as well as how much the meaning of stories matters, regardless of their empirical factuality. His “alternative” interpretations of the Torah manifest precisely this difference, in their appeal to the “moral” character of God.    He is correct to say that the meanings of the stories contain their moral lessons. Therein also lies their truth value.     No matter one’s inclination for literal as opposed to figurative interpretation, the stories of the Torah aim at truth, as do all religious narratives. More than their factuality, the truth of these narratives is what both comforts and discomforts us. Interpreting these stories and communicating their truth is what holds in tension our contemporary values with the timelessness of truth.”

What this responder claims is that truth does not necessarily have to be based on facts to hold truth.  That is, truth and facts are not necessarily the same or something can be true without being factual.

Here is the rub.  If truth and facts can be different, then why should we believe this Schwitzgebel or the responder to him?  If truth and facts can be divorced from one another, what difference does it make?  None.  One simply states a baseless opinion among many opinions for one’s faith, which does not rise to any significance, especially if truth has no foundation in reality (facts of history).  Facts are stubborn things of reality.  That which is non-factual has no correspondence to reality.  To espouse “truth” without grounding in reality makes it fictitious and without any significance.  That which is not part of reality does not exist and has no knowledge base.  Our entire existence and way of life are based on truth having its grounding in the reality of facts.  Once we dismiss or ignore facts as the basis for truth, chaos ensues.  We cannot live with such a division.  Rather, one would necessarily take a leap of faith into the dark abyss of non-existence where knowledge does not exists.  Such a leap is an attempt to escape reality itself.

How do we know Schwitzgebel is not wrong if he makes a distinction between truth and facts?  How can Schwitzgebel judge something right or wrong, whether a historical event or present circumstance which becomes history, if truth has no grounding in fact?  If truth and facts are different, how are judges to make decisions in courts?  Those who swear to tell the truth can also ignore the facts of a case.  If truth and facts can be separate, why believe anyone who presents you with a contract?  If someone swears they will do something, and they believe in the division between truth and facts, why would you believe them?  Actions are also facts, and we cannot wish them away regardless how much we try.  It is this kind of reasoning that destroys truth altogether and makes lies the bedrock of society.

However, we know that the Exodus and Passover are true because they are factual events.  Christ is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7).  He fulfilled Passover by paying the price for our sins and then rising from the dead.

Have a Blessed Easter (Paschal).

Advertisements

What is the Point in Faith?

A person in another discussion board posed the following scenario worthy of discussion, because it appears to make faith an abstraction divorced from reason and knowledge.  This article replies to the concluding question.

—————————————————

“I have a hypothetical for any believers who consider faith a virtue. Imagine a young child born to Christian parents. In circumstance A, the child is raised Christian. In circumstance B, the child is adopted and raised Muslim.

Regardless of who raises the child, by adulthood it will believe one of these religions on faith. These religions however, totally negate each other.

My question is: what is the point in faith?”

LINK: https://disqus.com/home/discussion/channel-religion/the_irrationality_of_faith/

The point in faith? To understand faith, one must drill down into its meaning. The way of and context for your question seems to focus on faith as an abstraction. It is not. Allow an example.

Suppose you enter enter a marital relationship. For the sake of argument, let it be within the context of the Christian faith since you address that faith leading up to your question. Christians view such a marriage as exclusive and permanent. The question arises in that relationship: Does each spouse trust or believe in the other for faithfulness and commitment to that exclusivity? Trust and believe are simply the verb parts of speech for the noun faith. The foundation for that believing or trusting is that the relationship actually exist and is therefore based on and grounded in reality: two people are married and have established a real household. Even your example bears this out.

The outcome of the actual relationship is a family unit of the two parents and children. Christians hold to faith in the same way. Mutual faith in the marital relationship is not an abstraction. Rather it is a bond acted out in commitment and the behaviours and actions that commitment ensues.

Some people attempt to divorce faith from what exists or reason. Nothing could be further from the truth. For if that were so, then there could be faith without the relationship or in non-existence itself. However, biblical faith is not divorced from reality, reason, or what exists. It requires knowledge, and knowledge requires reason to make sense of that knowledge. Faith and knowledge do not stand independent from one another. For if they did, there would be no faith but presumption or the Kierkegaardian leap into the dark abyss of nothingness.

Those who divorce faith from knowledge and reality are not defining faith but presumption. A great biblical example of such faith is found in Hebrews 11:3,

“By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible ” (NKJV).

In this passage, the author attests faith as commitment to knowledge, that is what actually exists. It affirms two things about this reality: 1) God created what exists so that existence did not just pop up out of nothing, and 2) the visible did not create the visible (for example rocks did not create other rocks at the outset or that matter is eternal). The author of the Hebrews rejects the division of faith from knowledge and reason, for he points to knowledge and he uses syllogistic reasoning. Therefore, the whole point of faith within the context of biblical faith is affirmation and commitment to what is real and not to what does not exist.

That commitment recognizes (knowledge of reality) that God created us to be a certain way, and to be another way strains or breaches the relationship and leads to alienation. That is the reason that the Bible frequently uses marriage as a metaphor to express the relationship between God and humanity. As I said before, in this context faith is the bond for the real relationship to God in the same way that it is in the actual marital relationship. It is not irrational but very reasonable and joins with reason to makes sense of what exists – the relationship. Otherwise, faith would not be faith but presumption. Presumption is irrational and a leap.

Bloviating from Irrationalism

When in an irrational state of mind, one cannot discern irrational thoughts and words. Such a stance makes it difficult to distinguish between truth and a lie.  A person suppresses such a means of making a distinction when one divorces the foundation of one’s thinking from the Creator.  We call speech from that foundation ranting or bloviating.  These expressions arise from irrationalism.  In the world of critical thinking, such irrationalism arises from logical fallacies or defective machinations based on falsehood.

Psalm 2 provides a perfect example of those who engage in bloviating from irrationalism.  Let us listen in on a conversation with such people,

The kings of the earth set themselves,

And the rulers take counsel together,

Against the LORD and against His

Anointed, saying,

“Let us break Their bonds in pieces

And cast away Their cords from us.” (NKJV)

Is there something wrong with this scene?  The irony is laughable.  In this scene these monarchs, powerful in their own defective thinking and self-aggrandizement, brandish arrogant words in their chains.  They spew out audacious curses toward the One who holds them captive with heavy chains [cords] while in complete denial of their imprisonment and the One who holds them.  They engage in futile conspiracy [counsel] in an attempt to strategize to break free.

While they recognize God’s personal name (Yahweh, [LORD]), they refuse to subject themselves to Him.  In their derangement and insanity, they believe in their own strength to free themselves.  They look at the cords wrapped tightly around them and lash out toward the LORD of all, thinking that they can break free from their bondage.  However, their strategy and counsel is futile, defective, and delirious while they believe they think from a sound mind.

The scene pivots from them to the LORD of hosts:

He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;

The LORD shall hold them in derision.

Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,

And distress them in His deep displeasure:

“Yet I have set My King

On My holy hill of Zion.”

Their Creator and Sovereign laughs at them derisively.   He dictates to them and not they to Him.  He holds them in contempt because of their rebellion and arrogance, and informs them that their kingships were temporary fantasies based on their foolish pronouncements and not His.  The LORD then, distresses them by pointing to His Son and declares Him as King.  This act is indeed distressful for these self-appointed kings, because God’s King usurped their thrones.

Today, many make self-declarations concerning their rule.  History demonstrates that such dictators and tyrants eventually fall.  They fade into infamy after the sword or a bullet lands a fatal blow.  Individuals believe they rule their own lives and determine their fate.  They adopt the philosophy of Frank Sinatra,

And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain

I’ve lived a life that’s full
I’ve traveled each and every highway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way.” [From “My Way” by Frank Sinatra]

Those who deny God fail to recognize that He alone appoints leaders throughout history.  These deniers who refuse to even admit God’s existence return to the dust of the earth and await judgment from the righteous God.  Individuals who also deny God, want to live their lives like Frank Sinatra, that is, “my way.”  Regardless of their ideology or belief systems, those who oppose God and refuse to acknowledge His Son will face the same fate as the kings depicted in Psalm 2.

This psalm offers a way out from judgment.  It declares that those who serve the LORD will find hope.  Atheists, agnostics, and polytheists alike can find that same hope by turning from their futile faith in themselves and materialism to faith in God the Deliverer.

Understanding God’s Message or Will

Recently, I had someone ask the question,

By what process do I discern God’s message?”

This question arose from the context of a discussion on a Christian website (The Gospel Coalition, (http://bit.ly/25BQ00I) about transgenderism and God’s acceptance of people regardless of their false beliefs about themselves and God.  One person actually commented earlier in the discussion,

­
Christ accepts us in our current state (which includes any categories mentioned in regards to gender and gender change) because of grace and love. We as ministers of reconciliation are to treat all equally, offering Christs love to believers and non believers alike. Their current state is not as relevant as you might think when it comes to knowing Christ.”
The following is a reply to the question, “By what process do I discern God’s message?”
The Scriptures make clear how we discern the message (God’s will) of the Scriptures.  Both Jesus and the Apostle John inform us that a person must be born again (John 3:1-8; 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4, 18).  Without new birth that comes from God, no one can practice righteousness, repent, truly love one another and God, place faith in Christ, or overcome the evil world.  If God has not given new birth to a person, one cannot even rightly discern God’s will or the “the things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:14).  In fact, the person not born of God does not even accept God’s will.  Read the cited passage.

Afterwards, a person needs to devote oneself to the reading and study of God’s word.  That is a discovery process, a discovery of the mind of God through the agency of the authors.  That is, we must always seek the author’s intent within the contexts in which he speaks.  Scripture hoping and proof texting are not valid approaches to the Bible.  Those ways are not the ways we read a regular book.  We do not isolate a sentence or paragraph from a book’s context and then claim, “To me, in means…”

Devotion to the Scriptures does not simply mean reading and studying the Scriptures, but also applying and obeying them.  When we hold to the Bible as nothing more than a “conversation,” we devalue it for our lives and fail to understand how it applies to us.  We cannot really know God’s will, though we can understand His message, unless we live faithfully in obedience to him.  Obedience by faith gives way to true knowledge (Romans 1:5; 6:16; 16:26).  One cannot really know the things and will of God without obedience by faith.  One thing neglected in this discussion around “transgenderism” is it ignores God’s will and word, because it rejects it.  It also overlooks faithful obedience to God’s will for our identity in favor of one looking inward for a fictitious identity.  It does not seek to discover the identity God gave us but rather seeks to establish one’s own.  The entire message of 1 Corinthians 2:14 elude those who follow this path.  All the arguments in the world for attempting to justify one’s self-identity and lifestyle are arguments that reject God.  In essence, they are atheistic.  Arguments are not application or living by faith.  Arguments over the Bible, lifestyles, and philosophical speculations amount to resistance to God.

What follows the engagement of Scripture is then living by faith.  As I mentioned before, faith subscribes repentance.  If there is no repentance, there is no faith.  They are inseparable.  The faith that sets one’s sights on God involves repentance that turns to Him.  Arguing over God’s word does not lead to a life of faith but rather to a life of speculative darkness.

The gospel is clear.  Christ died and rose again on our behalf to bring about faith in Him and remission of sins.  Believing the gospel (good news) leads one from the bad news, the result of rejecting it – eternal death.  Read carefully through 1 John, and you will learn how to know God and His will: a) the new birth, b) living by faith (repentance), c) practicing righteousness, and d) loving God and others.

Resurrection and Freedom

More often than not, Easter messages focus on the gospels, the first four books of the New Testament, and rightly so.  These are historical accounts narrating the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  Less frequently do messages arise from the various New Testament letters and the Acts of the Apostles.  Luke, Paul, Peter, James, and John take up the historical event of the resurrection and bring its significance to bear on the life of faith.

One cannot read these letters without recognizing the resurrection’s strong strand.  It weaves through the message of the authors as they show how this historical event proclaims liberty to the captives and “the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (Isaiah 61:1) as Jesus announced (Luke 4:18).

2016-02-24 10.24.18 (800x600)
The Empty Tomb

One of the great truths of the resurrection is freedom.  Before the resurrection of Jesus, His disciples failed to understand such freedom.  They viewed it in terms of a material kingdom rather than spiritual life.  Tradition dictated their view of the external rather than the internal.  However, afterwards, they could not hold back this lofty truth.

Historical Basis for Freedom

A walk through the New Testament reveals narration of the historic event of the resurrection and its application to a life of faith.  Truth stands on history and not fiction.  History builds a mountain of evidence on which biblical faith rests.  Without historical evidence, faith would be futile and freedom would be a mirage or relative to how one defines it.  Biblical faith leads to freedom because God intervened in history, interacted with humanity through Jesus, and brought Jesus from death to life through His unsurpassed power.  Freedom stands on this mountain of evidence.

What then is this freedom?  The gospels narrate the events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  Jesus also left traces of the meaning of freedom through His sermons (Luke 4:18-19).  However, the apostles expanded at length on this freedom arising from Jesus’ resurrection.  Throughout their letters, resurrection dominates.  It is the center of their messages.  However, how does resurrection link to and bring freedom?

In the middle of presenting the gospel to the Church at Rome, Paul gives a sublime example.  He takes the reader from an intentional self focused to a resurrection focused excursion. This self focus serves to make a point at the conclusion of the chapter,

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)

What death?  The death to which Paul refers is that which prevents him from living upright, good, and pleasing to God.  This body of death is that which sin rules.  Notice the number of times Paul uses “I” and “me” prior to crying out this statement and question.  Immediately following these, he pivots from the “I” and “me” to gratitude for the resurrection.  He boldly pens,

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1-4).

He crowns his declaration of freedom with the following statement,

If the Spirit of a him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (8:11).

Resurrection is the pinnacle of the argument Paul applies and the foundational doctrine for living the Christian life.  The resurrection means no longer being in debt to the flesh but living by the  teaching and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Resurrection life now is a mere taste of the glory reserved for us when we meet our Savior face to face.  The song “Blessed Assurance” highlights this taste in its lyrics:

“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!  Oh what a foretaste of glory divine!

The resurrected Jesus imparts to us the resurrected life to whet our appetite for all God has prepared for us in His presence.

Beginnings of True Freedom: Resurrection and Salvation

Resurrection brings life and liberty.  Easter is an everyday occurrence and not just once yearly.  The same power that raised Jesus from the dead brings about a different life than the self-focused one.  The old life bound us to the disdainful beatings we may give ourselves of hopelessness, despair, shame, dread, and trash talk under which we bury others and ourselves.  At times, the old life also attempts to elevate us above our peers through boasting, smugness, strife, anger, envy, greed, and division.  This, too, is bondage to fantasy and self.  However, Paul claims that the same power that raised Jesus from death enables us to be free from those things that hold us in bondage.

When we cry out like Paul, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” the answer immediately registers, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ out Lord!” (7:25).  The answer does not stop there, just as the Easter message does not stop with one day,

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do” (8:1-3).

How often do we live under self-condemnation, ripping others and ourselves apart when others or we fail, fall, or falter?  Christ’s resurrection took care of this condemnation and corresponding way of life.  While in this present body, we continue to struggle with these burdens of our existence.  However, hope in the Easter message illustrates faith in Him for continued deliverance and assurance that Christ paid the price for all our sin.  The Easter message proclaims that through the new birth we possess resurrected spiritual life from God.  Consequently, the power of resurrection and its corresponding new life increasingly energizes and spurs us to live for Him.  “Increasingly” suggests missteps along the way, but these missteps do not stop God from conforming us to the image of His resurrected Son.

Freedom begins with salvation.  Salvation is almost a lost word, because many have lost sight of what precedes it: the gravity of the human condition.  Humanity is in bondage.  We understand bondage from looking out on our world.  It exists visibly in human slavery that still prevails in many nations.  People take others into captivity and strip them of everything they have.

A more insidious bondage survives that of human slavery: bondage to internal evil we afflict on ourselves and others resulting from spiritual death due to natural rebellion against God.   This natural rebellion results in known and seen characteristics in everyone throughout the world: hatred, greed, rebellion, immorality, murder, strife, deceit, and maliciousness.  The Bible calls this sin.  It all begins from within us.

Salvation is deliverance from all this sin and the power to live right with God.  This is a liberty greater than freedom from human slavery, because it is spiritual freedom exceeding the material and lasts for an eternity.  The power God gives to live in freedom is the same power God exercised for raising Jesus from death.  When God imparts a new spiritual life (resurrection) from spiritual death within us, He gives the power to live that new life.  Freedom begins for us with that power.

The Good and Freedom

Good Friday precedes the resurrection, just as our good God existed from eternity before He pronounced His created works good.  Goodness in God precedes the greatness of His works, especially the grand finale of the resurrection.  The Apostle Paul declared this resurrection arrived at the proper time, in the proper place, and through the proper Person – Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5-6).  Goodness does not stand alone, but it is bound to our good God.

On that first Good Friday, the tragic circumstances of the death of Jesus left the disciples in deep despair.  All they could think about immediately following Jesus’ death was themselves, their predicament of being a dead man’s disciples, and their own prospects of death.  That despair festered like an ulcer.  They initially saw no good in Jesus’ death but certain bondage to chains and ultimately the grave.  They forgot their good God and His sovereign hand.  They cast aside all they heard from Jesus.  Fear ransacked their spirits.  They could not fathom how Jesus’ words could ring true: His return, His Father’s house, His kingdom.  Good Friday was not good for them.  They later discovered the truth of resurrection.

God’s goodness transcends despair, tragedy, hopelessness, weakness, tears, fear, failure, and frailty.  Just as God raised Jesus from the dead the third day, His power also raises us up from the bondage of emotional turmoil, doubt, dismay, and unbelief.  Liberty means God refocusing our eyes off ourselves and on the resurrected life He gives when He raises us from spiritual death to new life He promised in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Easter celebrates the resurrection life and turns despair and dismay into hope and joy:

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5)

Easter is that morning that took the disciples ( and us with them) from mourning to joy.  God wakes us up through a new life to smell the freedom air of the resurrection.

Did Jesus Come Back to Life?

While some assert that Christianity stole the idea of resurrection from various mystery religions featuring a dying and rising figure, the Gospel accounts breathe a far different air – the air of factual actuality, of datable, verifiable history” (Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics).

Consider the claim of theft.  Someone in the distant past develops a religious teaching about people coming back to life.  Another religious teacher elsewhere at a different time or concurrently speaks of people returning to life.  Still another guru or religious master passes on what he heard from another about  a cycle of death and life then death again and life in another form.  Today, we refer to this type of teaching as reincarnation.  As oral traditions arise from the past from a number of sources, the stories in those traditions change through secondary and tertiary retelling of the stories.

Inseparable Essentials: God and Resurrection

cropped-2016-02-24-10-12-12.jpgWhile these secondary sources arise from an original, the primary thought of someone returning to life is a common theme.  Is the theme just as false as the stories surrounding the theme?  Is there any evidence for the original claim although details change over time through a variety of sources?  Was there an actual event that gave rise to the various stories?  If not, how did the idea of someone returning to life enter individual thoughts?

These questions about resurrection from death is similar to the question, “If God did not exist, would we have to invent Him?”  That is, if the idea of resurrection did not have its source in reality or history, would someone have to imagine it and spin it into a legend, fable, or myth?  If nothing existed to give rise to the idea of resurrection, how could one spin a legend, fable, or myth around non-existence?  The same thinking arises concerning God.  If someone invented God, as atheists claim, how did the notion of God even arise in our thoughts if He were simply an invention and not part of existence?  The parallel between an actual resurrection and the existence of God are worth exploring for arriving at the truth about them, especially the resurrection of Jesus.  They are two indispensable claims underlying the Christian faith.

If they can be shown to be valid, then such faith has solid and sure support.  If no evidence exists for either, then the Christian faith would be vain as Paul noted (1 Corinthians 15:13-17).  Both claims depend on history and not imagination or fiction.  Truth cannot arise from fiction.  Such foundations are unlike other world religions because historicity is not so instrumental to them.  One could remove the idea of reincarnation (fiction) from the religions that claim it, and those religions would not necessarily fall.  They would simply revise their teachings to accommodate another idea and integrate this idea with existing beliefs.  That occurs frequently in religions over the span of time as religious teaching change over time.  Their tenets change to integrate current philosophies.

On the other hand, the teachings of God and resurrection have never departed from biblical faith.  Granted, many who bear the name Christian have ceased to believe in the historical resurrection (i.e., Paul Tillich (1886-1965, John Hick (1922-2012), John Shelby Spong (1931-)).  However, it does not depart altogether.  Resurrection echoes from the beginning of time.  This article will later explore this fact.  In many Christian segments that reject the historical resurrection, it still remains as a symbol and attaches to a belief system within those Christian segments.  However, does such symbolic attachment discount or rule out God’s existence and the resurrection?

God, Resurrection, and Naturalism

Let us consider these two claims.  One, the resurrection, depends on the other, God’s existence.  According to naturalists, both seemingly defy the way the natural world works.  Notice the disclaimer in the previous statement: “seemingly.”  Does the material order refute God and the resurrection?  Do the laws of the natural order rule out God and resurrection?  Douglas Groothuis does not believe the natural order rules them out.  He makes the following statement:

But miracles do not break natural laws. The day Christ raised Lazarus, people all over the world were still dying and staying dead. The law of nature had not changed. But natural laws speak only to natural events. Supernatural events are outside of their purview” (Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, IVP Academic, 1988, Kindle, Location 5764-5765).

C. S. Lewis expands on the issue of miracles of which the resurrection of Jesus is one,

“The divine art of miracles is not an art of suspending the pattern to which events conform but of feeding new events into the patterns” (C. S. Lewis, Miracles, Harper, 1974, Kindle, p. 95).

Lewis provides the example of natural law’s pattern of cause and effect to support his claim. That is, one of the laws of nature is cause and effect (If A then B).  He claims that a miracle does not suspend this law but rather has a cause with a corresponding effect and therefore abides by it.  The “new event” is not A in this case but A2, that is God as the cause with the corresponding event as the miracle (B2).  This miracle occurs “according to Natural law,” Lewis claimed.  However, he goes on to say,

Its peculiarity is that it is not in that way interlocked backwards, interlocked with the previous history of Nature” (p. 95).

He adds that naturalists have a problem with and cannot tolerate such logic.  The reason why is that they begin with rejecting God as the Creator and believe that Nature is the sum of existence.  In rejecting His existence, they refuse to accept that this God they consider non-existent could intervene in Nature with an event consistent with Nature (birth, death, and life).  Consequently, they lock themselves into a closed system that excludes anything that does not fit their materialist worldview.  That is, material is the sum of all existence, and there is nothing beyond the material.  That means the supernatural.

What About Resurrection?

Let us consider the question, “How did the idea of someone returning to life enter individual thoughts?”  We know that ideas of resurrection came about prior to Jesus.  Religious leaders (Pharisees) of His time believed in it.  Did the resurrection of Jesus arise from myth or was it a true historical event given the preexistence of the idea of resurrection?  We need only return to the beginning of creation to discover seeds of resurrection.  Consider the creation.  God created life from nothing (lifelessness) by speaking (Genesis 1-2).  We read of a parallel when Jesus spoke and raised Lazarus from death (John 11).  Abel presents a motif of resurrection.  The letter of Hebrews reads,

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4).

We also discover the theme of resurrection in the historical account of Abraham of which the letter of Hebrews also testifies,

Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore” (Hebrews 11:12).

Again, the author writes of Abraham,

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”  He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead” (Hebrews 11:17-19).

Elijah brought a widow’s son back to life (1 Kings 17:17-24).  The creation was not myth.  Abel, Abraham, and Elijah were not myths.  History left traces of resurrection that all pointed to the single historic event of Jesus rising from death.  Individuals embraced the resurrection because God Himself left traces of it in His own works and through actual events.   Creation, Abel, and Abraham represent God’s works while Elijah exhibits an actual ancient biblical event.  Jesus’ resurrection did not depend on myths, fables, or legends.  God intervened in events prior to Jesus’ resurrection.  The history of the resurrection of Jesus rested on God and His intervention in historical events.  This intervention confirms that God works in history to demonstrate His power not only in events that preceded Jesus but also with the resurrection of Jesus..

God and Nature

We may ask those who reject God to explain chance and accidents and how the principle of these events is any different from explaining miracles.  Are “accidents of nature” and chance just as inexplicable as a miracle from their perspective?  Many new occurrences today baffle scientists and doctors just as others did centuries ago.  However, new discoveries explain the inexplicable of a century or two ago, but today’s undiscovered or unknowns remain just as puzzling as unknowns did to those in the past.  However, one variable could always exist: there may never be a discovery that explains all unknowns due to the temporal restraints of our finite being and the limitations of the tools available now or in the future. Speculation rules over unknowns among the finite.  Just because the resurrection cannot be explained today by known natural laws does not mean that it can never be explained by any existing laws.  God’s laws of all existence exceed natural laws.  If scientists cannot explain chance and accidents they consider within the the natural world, how then can they explain laws beyond the natural existence?  To reject God is just as irrational as believing in chance or accidents.

His intervening acts with us are of a supernatural sort that requires a different kind of explanation, the supernatural, just as those beyond our grasp as so-called accidents or chance does to the naturalist.  By the very definition of accident and chance, naturalists seem to suspend cause and effect, whereas miracles do not.  Chance cannot cause anything unless it has intelligence to give direction and will things to happen.  An accident is its corollary.  Neither can cause anything.  Yet naturalists want us to believe that chance prompted (caused) an evolutionary outburst (effect).

All the while, they reject the source (God) that gives way to the natural law of cause and effect.  They reject Him while calling Him to mind and making mention of him.  One cannot think or speak of that which does not exist.  Thinking assumes knowledge.  There is no knowledge in non-existence.  However, when those who reject God think of Him, they affirm what they deny.

The rejection of God in favor of chance places those who reject Him in the precarious position of also rejecting and suspending the laws of nature (that is, cause and effect).  God does not suspend the laws of nature with the resurrection of Christ from death.  Rather, He worked within those laws.  Douglas Groothuis asserts that people still die.  That law remains the same.  God (the supernatural Cause) intervened to raise Jesus from death.  On the other hand, chance remains chance regardless what naturalists desire to impute to it – some sort of causal agent.  We must ask ourselves which is the most rational, the causal agent of God or an event lacking cause and effect – chance.

Since God is the Creator, He is beyond the entire created order.  As the Creator, He then holds sway over the created (natural) order and its corresponding laws.  He created those laws.  Therefore, the natural order and the supernatural order both exist.  God consists of the supernatural order .  With such a scenario, chance and accidents are not options.  Cause assumes a determinant, which is an agent that places something in motion for the desired effect.  God has not endowed some event called chance with directional capacity.  Accidents do not just happen, because all things are within God’s purview and control.

God and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

God is not only the Creator but also the Redeemer.  What is a Redeemer?  Redeem means to purchase back.  The Law of Moses revealed the meaning of this kind of purchase (Exodus 13:13; 34:20; Leviticus 25:25-26; Numbers 18:15).  Why redemption?  The human condition called for it. All chose to go their own way, away from God.  God took the initiative to intervene and revealed His redemptive hand in the Law of Moses.  He also revealed the way through a Redeemer, His only Son, whom He sent into the world to purchase back those sold to slavery to rebellion and their waywardness.  Their penchant for rebellion and condition prevented them from coming to God on their own.  They needed a Redeemer.  Jesus came and lived in the form of man, was executed, and came back to life.

The resurrection affirms two truths for those who believe in Jesus.  First, death has died.  Jesus showed He had life in Himself by rising from death (John 5:26).  Death had no hold on Him.  This truth is a “far different air,” as Groothuis claims, than mythical stories of resurrection.  No material being has life in itself.  All life derives from God.  All other so-called stories of resurrections were myth while having their roots in historical reality.  There was no theft from other religions.  Rather other religions distorted the truth and created fiction.  That truth resided in historical events with the grandest truth being Jesus’ resurrection.

Second, Jesus’ resurrection was the true life from death, the historical event that changed all history.  Given His resurrection as a true historical event God determined from all eternity, what weight does that carry with us?  Faith in Jesus means all the world and eternity for us, for that faith also transports us to new life from spiritual death and after death.  Chance has no basis in history.  There would be no history by chance.  The living God controls history and set the course of redemption in motion with its fulfillment in Jesus’ resurrection.  The living God and the resurrection are inseparable essentials.  Are you willing to bet the rest of your life and eternity on chance?  Paul wrote,

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).

Paul discusses two outcomes resulting from the resurrection of Jesus: judgment for those who reject Him and assurance of life for those who believe Him.  Place your wager.

Who is God? Part 2

In the previous article, “Who is God? Part 1,” we examined approaches to God and how the biblical God offers the only true choice for a real and personal God with whom humanity can relate.  However, humanity has decided to pursue its own set of gods deriving from the created order, one who is limited and impersonal.  These are imitations and straw man perversions of the one true God.

This article focuses on the question,

“Why is God as a personal God an important and strategic truth?”

The personal biblical God is indisputable and unanswerable from the view of unbelieving evolution, atheism, and all other idolatrous religions. None of them can explain how humanity can possess the nature of personality (being a person) apart from a personal God. All that other religions and philosophies can do is offer speculation about how impersonal and inanimate matter can ultimately become a person. Speculation is no substitute for truth. This speculation fails because other religions and philosophies cannot identify a clearly defined trajectory from the impersonal to the personal.

God as Personal

While God transcends the created order and our experiences in it, He has a personal nature and is immanent with us.  We do not project on God a personal nature because we are personal beings.  Such a projection is merely speculation and cannot define a clear trajectory from the impersonal to the personal.  In other words, there is no clear and definite answer for explaining the personal nature of human beings except through a personal God.  Rather, He shares this nature of person-hood with humanity because He created us in His image.  The personal God created us in His image with person-hood being a major part of that image.  This creation alone explains how we are persons.

Importance of a Personal God

The personal God provides the only reasonable explanation for the personal nature of humanity.  Humanity’s personal nature is unanswerable from evolution, atheism, impersonal theism, polytheism, and all other idolatrous religions or philosophies. People are unable to relate with the impersonal god(s) of these religions.  None of these provides an adequate religious or philosophical model for explaining how we came to be persons.  Furthermore, the sciences has no means of explaining how we assumed personality. They simply discover the observable and offer an interpretive best guess.  Even then, clashing and competitive interpretations exist among scientists, the social sciences, and philosophies.  We could never know or comprehend love, mercy, forgiveness, justice, patience, gentleness, or other personal qualities apart from God as a person. Individuals defines such qualities in so many conflicting ways.  Without God, these qualities are simply open to interpretation from clashing philosophies.

FOCUS ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE PERSONAL TRIUNE GOD

It is easy to overlook the importance of the Triune God. Many people do, and end up concluding God to be other than who He is, one arising from the created order or from a myriad imaginations.  One of the most crucial and fundamental characteristics of the image of God in which He created us is the capacity for personal relationship. This characteristic exists as fundamental to the being of the Triune God.  When God created us in His image, that image implanted in us the capacity for relationships.

There is another extremely important reason for understanding why we relate to and worship a personal God. God is a Triune God.  To know the living God is to know the personal Triune God. It is impossible to relate with something impersonal. You cannot have a relationship with a rock, but you can sell them. There is no reciprocation and no capacity to relate. Additionally, humans as personal beings cannot arise from an impersonal state or an impersonal god. The speculation and conjecture of evolution proposes that humans as personal beings can arise from an impersonal source by chance. However, such speculation fails to explain how our person-hood came into existence and how chance alone brought us about.

Let us return to statements from the previous article:

  • When there is a rejection of a personal God and the desire to know Him, this leads to a breach between God and humanity as the historical account of the Fall demonstrated
  • When a breach between the personal God and humanity occurs, worldviews with impersonal gods arise (pantheism, polytheism, animism, agnosticism, atheism).  Atheism and agnosticism assumes the impersonal.  Atheism stands for no god or gods.  There is then no source for relationship resembling the personal and no explanation for the person-hood in humanity.
  • Such worldviews turn men and women inward toward self (isolationism) rather than outward toward God (relational)
  • When other worldviews minimize a personal God, they also tend to minimize the person-hood of humanity. This minimization shows up in the devaluation of individuals in treating them like numbers, statistics, or sources of profit
  • Minimizing the person-hood of humanity leads to devaluing life altogether or valuing life in terms of monetary gain: abortion, human trafficking, and slavery serve as examples of individual devaluation

These statements show why it important to trust a personal God.  Such trust is a personal attribute and demonstrates how the rejection of the true biblical God leads to the devaluation of humanity in various forms: abortion, human trafficking, and slavery.  Some may claim, “Well now, here is a Christian who speaks of value but ignores what Christianity has done in the past.”  This statement raises a straw man “Christianity,” one that is man-centered and not God-centered and biblically centered.  It is easy to point fingers when one pointing them is guilty of the same thing.  The one thing that does away with finger pointing and criticism is humility and faith in the one and only God of which the Bible speak, because He alone informs us of Himself and exposes us for what we really are – those separated from Him, living in darkness from the truth, and in need of Him.