August 14, 2016
Part 2 of 3
Is There a Creator and Do Christians Take Him on Blind Faith?
When Jesus was asked which of the commandments is the most important, He answered, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself." Please note, He invites us to use our mental faculty as well. He is not afraid if we do; He actually invites us.
Richard Dawkins, a hardened atheist – who inexplicably hates a god who does not exist for him – wrote, “Faith, being belief that isn’t based on evidence, is the principal vice of any religion.”
In what was His fifth appearance, Jesus was in the midst of his apostles and one of them – Thomas – was not present. Later when the others told Thomas, “We have seen the Lord,” this was his reaction: "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." When Jesus appeared again at the same venue, Thomas was present. And this time Jesus asks Thomas to feel his wounds. It is then that Thomas declares, “My Lord and my God.”
It appears that Richard Dawkins, and others who believe the Christian faith is blind, would be correct since it was Jesus who told the Apostle Thomas after he accepted Jesus as Lord and God, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:28). Did Jesus really mean that people should believe blindly? No, it is far from it.
Verification by tangibly seeing and touching is only one kind of evidence. Believing in the testimony of the ones who have seen is another kind of evidence and it is admissible in courts throughout the world. You don’t see or get to touch, but you believe (or not) what others have told you. In this case, 10 Apostles told Thomas, “We have seen the Lord.”
A judge who presides in a case does not see a crime taking place. He relies on the testimony of the eye witnesses, forensics, and correlates it with the crime. In order to believe, it would be absurd for any judge to ask for a live replay of events.
It is an interesting coincidence that even as I was writing this article, I received from the Consumer Court the verdict – in my favor - of my case against Sony Corporation. The judges weighed what I had brought against Sony and the response from Sony. They also looked into the various communications I had had with Sony and Sony’s response to my emails. Not once did the judges ask to see the professional, expensive, camera - which I claimed the camera to be - that I had purchased from Sony 4 years ago. They were able to establish that there was a camera involved that Sony neither took responsibility of repairing, nor paying compensation for, by looking at the documentary evidence.
If Thomas had believed the other Apostles’ testimony, it would NOT have been considered blind faith. Jesus, while rebuking Thomas, is also telling us that we cannot insist on physical evidence after an event has occurred; He wants us to accept the testimony of those who have seen Him and were with Him when He worked all those miracles; and who also witnessed his death and resurrection. Jesus rebukes Thomas, not because Jesus has anything to lose, but Thomas. At the same time, if Jesus did not care about Thomas, He would have been indifferent to Him. Jesus does not want to lose anyone – that is His magnanimity.
That is why John pleads, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life... that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us.” (1 John 1:1, 3)
John makes it clear he doesn’t intend non-believers to become members of Christianity with blind faith. He is offering his testimony, along with the testimony of the other apostles, as evidence and reason that calls for rational belief. To the non-believer who questions, why should anyone believe, John is saying, “Because we saw him risen from the dead, we talked to him, we touched him…” This is a far cry from Christianity endorsing blind faith.
It would be legitimate to ask why anyone should believe the testimony of the Gospel writers. This is where the HISTORICAL CONTEXT of what they have testified comes into play. We can then know if the Gospel writers were all hallucinating or even lying. But, if proven right, we have something that is worthy of RATIONAL belief.
Dawkins and people like him who play the same atheistic tune should know that everything they call scientific is not what they themselves have seen or touched. Nobody has seen the big bang, but so many theories are built around this, well, theory. Dawkins admits that he has no clue of the origin of life and yet he insists that life came after the big bang. Mr. Dawkins, if you are an honest person, you will soon see it is atheism that requires blind faith, not Christianity. As Paul Davies writes, “Even the most atheistic scientist accepts as an act of faith the existence of a law-like order in nature that is at least in part comprehensible to us (1995 Templeton Prize Address).” Science has not created any law and order in the universe; science has only discovered what is already there.
When Isaac Newton discovered gravity, he did not say that now he had discovered gravity, there was no need for God. On the other hand, Stephen Hawking says "Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing." Yes, Mr. Hawking, now that we have cooking gas, it can and will create food by itself from nothing.
I saw one response to Hawking’s claim that I find very apt. “Is it not circular logic? I mean, how can gravity exist if there is no universe? And if there is no gravity, how can it be the reason for the creation of universe? Also, if the universe doesn't exist, how can it create itself? The very sentence doesn't make sense to me. It seems so absurd and illogical that I've never heard such sentences even in philosophy. On what ground, Stephen Hawking claims this?”
Karlo Broussard, in a recent article has put it so brilliantly, “The faith Christians are called to have in Jesus is not belief without evidence but a RESPONSE TO THE EVIDENCE. It is not ‘a blind impulse of the mind,’ because there are ‘motives of credibility’ - e.g., miracles, prophecies fulfilled, the Church’s growth, the Church’s holiness, and the Church’s stability.”
Broussard adds, “Even belief in God is not a blind impulse of the mind, for there are many good arguments that make God’s existence more REASONABLE than not - even some that demonstrate God’s existence. Unfortunately, many atheists fail to distinguish warranted belief and unwarranted belief, thinking all belief is unwarranted. As a result, some Christians think they have to leave reason at the door of faith, but nothing could be further from the truth.”
One Way or Many
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” There is no ambiguity in what He is saying. Jesus did not say that He is saying something truthful or that He knows the way. He is saying HE IS those things.
Did He make it difficult for his followers by removing all other doors, when He narrowed the path to God through one single door – Him? The answer depends on your perspective. If you reach a point and see a fork with three or four roads, it is bound to raise a lot of questions about the road you should be taking.
In a recent episode of Masterchef Australia, a contestant was pitched against a professional chef. Normally they are given ingredients to work with. In this contest, they were told the “pantry is wide open, and the garden is wide open.” This sounds so much better than constricting you with a few ingredients. However, the amateur contestant was heard murmuring, “it is usually easier when we are given ingredients and told what to do.”
One road makes it simple, not difficult – even to Christians who sometimes spend a lot on palmists, astrologers and the like. Jesus’ claim is worth looking into, especially if you are interested in experiencing an intimate relationship with God in the present, and meet Him in the hereafter.
Is God Immutable?
Why it is important to know what religion is the true religion? I think more than at any point of time in history, it is important today. Particularly, as innocent people are pointlessly murdered by people who believe it is willed by God. Again, if God is one, then He can’t be saying two dramatically different things. The Holy Bible says that man is made in God’s image – God does not make a distinction in the religion one is born in. And since this is true, it is important for each of us to accept the other regardless of their religion, gender, color, social standing, and other factors.
Many, especially for whom God and religion does not play such an important part in their lives say that all religions teach the same thing. They don’t. At best, all religions are superficially similar, but they are different at the core level. These same people will also tell you that God is one so what does it matter which religion you follow? If God is, indeed, one then He could not have revealed different laws at different times. God’s laws have to be perfect; not subject to trials and errors.
Unless you establish the True God and, therefore, His laws you will see all kinds of harsh punishments meted out to people, without a sliver of tolerance and forgiveness even for the smallest of crimes – worse, even for things they do that their religion considers immoral.
Jesus once said, “Heaven and earth may pass away, but my Word shall not pass away.” Luke 21:33. He could not have put it in stronger terms that He is immutable. The Word, which contains His law, is from eternity, and for eternity. He is making it very clear that there can be no change. Furthermore, since God is absolute, His character cannot be different over the ages. This is crucial to understand because if God did not know what He was doing right from the beginning, then He is fallible and that does not bode well for his title!
What About the God of the Old Testament and the Killings
One of the strongest attacks against God is defining the God of the Old Testament as a genocidal maniac who took pleasure in killing people. This one is actually easy to answer, but requires a lot of convincing.
First thing first, there is one God. There is no such thing as a God of the Old Testament and a God of the New Testament. Jesus Christ weaves through both eras. He is the God of the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. I have already established why God necessarily has to be immutable. So, why was He so harsh in his punishments? That’s the right question to ask.
The Old Testament is full of extraordinary miracles; but, the scale, magnitude and drama cannot be found in the New Testament. Even God’s might was evident in those miracles as He helped the oppressed get to freedom.
Contrary to what people might say, God tolerated the ill treatment of the Jews at the hands of the Egyptians for more than 400 years. When God finally decides to get the Jews free from bondage, He uses Moses as His instrument.
All kinds of miraculous signs were given to Pharoah and his men of God’s power, but to no avail – Pharoah believed that he was god. Pharoah had been sufficiently warned and only after all avenues were exhausted, did God decide to punish Pharoah. And the punishment comes when they are hot on the heels of the fleeing Jews.
It is ironical and even interesting that we cry out for justice even for the smallest of crimes and, yet, call God evil when He actually carries out justice. The Jews were crying out for justice for hundreds of years and while they suffered – and God appeared to look indifferent – He finally does it only when He knows that there is no other way.
Imagine as a president of a country you are told that the ship heading towards your country’s harbor is carrying people who have all been infected by a virus so deadly that if they set foot on soil, every single citizen of your country will be fatally infected. Let’s take it for granted that it has been established beyond doubt that the report you receive is true and accurate, before we get into subjective debates. As a responsible person, would you let those people set foot on your country’s soil, knowing that every single citizen of your country will be dead within months, or destroy that ship and everyone on it? It is a hard, very hard, choice.
God also finds it hard to decide to destroy entire tribes. That is why He waits and waits for people to change their ways before He takes what seems like a cruel step.
In Genesis 18, verse 16 onwards, we see that God has decided to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible tells us that the people were soaked in sin. Abraham, a man righteous in God’s eyes, begins his pleas of mercy for the good people of those cities. Knowing that He is asking an all-powerful God, He humbles himself and asks God if He would spare the cities if there were 50 good people and comes down to 10 good people. Even with the last plea, God tells Abraham, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”
Abraham stops after that, but there is just one righteous family in that place and God tells them to leave everything and move out. Only after that does God destroy that place with brimstone and fire.
God does not take such an extreme step, unless He is fully convinced. To know this, we need to look at what God says before Abraham’s pleas begin. “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”
Couldn’t God spare the children? We need to answer two questions: (1) Will the children, whose parents had turned to so much evil, grow into righteous people? (2) Is it not timely for God to allow their deaths to take place and ensure a place for them in heaven before they lose their innocence? We can keep debating this, but an all-knowing God will always know better.
It is important to note, that God not just looks at sin, but the severity of the sin. If based His judgement on every type of sin – big or small – then none of us would survive. LORD, if you were to record iniquities, Lord, who could remain standing? Psalms 130:3
Lastly, and this is very important to note, God did not give anyone blanket permission to kill an entire race or tribe whenever or wherever people were found committing a sin. ONLY God passed judgement, gave sufficient warnings and only then did He order the killing if there was resistance. The orders were against specific tribes; and, once the order was carried out, that was the end of it. Nowhere has God in the Holy Bible ordered future generations of followers to kill sinners or non-believers.
As populations have grown exponentially, I believe God will not order the killing of any nation because He will easily find “10 people” who are righteous in His eyes! After all it is a promise He has made.
Of Those Who Don't Accept Christ
Another question that I am challenged with is, “What about people who don’t know about Christ? Can they be saved?” C.S. Lewis, initially an atheist and a late comer to Christ, has analyzed this question very well. He said that Jesus spoke and warned about hell to religious hypocrites, not children. In fact, Jesus even said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to children because of their innocence. Clearly, God is not a tyrant. God does not condemn people on the evidence they don’t have and this is seen throughout the Holy Bible. And let Christians not forget that all the prophets who did God’s work did not know Him after He came to earth in the form of Christ. No one can seriously think that Abraham, Moses, and others like them are burning in hell. Because the God they worshipped is the same Christ who is from eternity. John 1:1-3 says of Jesus, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made.” Notice the emphasis made about Jesus as the Creator, “without Him nothing was made that has been made.”
What about those who reject Christ? Here again, it depends on why they are rejecting Him? Let’s consider the healing of the blind man and what ensues (found in John 9:1-41). The healed man is joyous, but the Jewish leaders are full of doubt. It is interesting to see how the healed man’s faith progresses through common sense. First he speaks of Jesus as a man, then a Prophet, and then the Son of God. He applies a simple logic that the learned, self-righteous Pharisees refuse to accept: “If this man (human) were not from God (prophet), He (God) could do nothing.” John 1:33
In John 1:41, Jesus tells the adamant Pharisees, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” What He is saying is clear: if we don’t have the evidence about Him, we cannot be held guilty; but, if we know and still look the other way, then we are. Only He knows what’s inside our hearts. The best judge in this matter, therefore, is Christ.
The second coming of Christ before the world – as we know it - ends is to be found both in the Holy Bible and the Qur’an. A lot of people ask when His second coming will be and in vain many cults give different dates – dates that have come and gone, and they are still working up dates.
While no one is certain about the year or date in which He will come, one thing is certain: He will not come until His message becomes known to every single person on this planet. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, AND THEN THE END WILL COME." Mathew 24:9-14
Jesus’ final judgement will be fair – it will not be before everyone knows about Him and His message. He will, through His people, ensure that His message reaches everyone. The Holy Spirit has been active through the centuries and continues to be active to this very day. In His own way, God is touching the most hardened of hearts. That is the extent of His love.
Every single prophecy made in the Holy Bible has come true. I don’t see any reason why this prophecy will not be fulfilled. And there is already evidence of the events mentioned in the prophecy.
We are already witnessing the growing persecution of the Church and Christians throughout the world. But, the rise in number of those who are coming to Christ is still growing in leaps and bounds. Official statistics mean nothing. Many want to join Christianity, but are scared of the draconian laws in their countries, where embracing another faith means death. Jesus ultimately looks at what is in the heart of man, not what it says on the birth certificate. And there is hope for such people.
Today every conceivable type of sin is being committed by men and women for money and power. Some men and women have stooped to such depths that just listening to what they are doing for pleasure makes the blood curdle.
Richard Dawkins’ atheistic campaign can be seen on buses in London. His message, “There is probably no God, so stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
We are left with the choice of following these false prophets, or the God of whom we can know so much.
If I were to summarize it, Jesus – in essence – made the following claims:
1. He is God
2. He is The Way, The Truth and The Life
3. He would be put to death
4. He would rise bodily
If Jesus claimed that He is God, then either He was an impostor, or a person suffering from some severe psychological disorder, or He is who He said He is - God. The possibility that He was an impostor is ruled out immediately because no one would deliberately go through the suffering He went through for claiming to be God, with nothing to gain but death. A person with a mental disorder could not have come up with The Sermon on the Mount, considered even by his detractors as the most profound teaching to come from the mouth of any teacher. All other teachings on ethics appear like footnotes.
That leaves us with the other two possibilities. Could He be suffering from some psychological disorder and honestly believed that He is God? This would be accurate if the claims and the prophecies He made about Himself, and others who made about Him - would not have been fulfilled.
Although Einstein did not have a problem that the universe had to come from a superior intelligent being, he had a problem accepting that God was interested in people’s welfare. Here is an excerpt of the interview that appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1929:
"To what extent are you influenced by Christianity?"
"As a child I received instruction both in the Holy Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene (Jesus was raised in Nazareth)."
"Have you read Emil Ludwig’s book on Jesus?"
"Emil Ludwig’s Jesus is shallow. Jesus is too colossal for the pen of phrasemongers, however artful. No man can dispose of Christianity with a bon mot (good word)!"
When asked if he accepted the historical existence of Jesus, Einstein answered, "Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life."
Did Jesus Claim Divinity?
I was once watching Dr. Zakir Naik, a Muslim preacher, on YouTube. He challenged the people in the crowd to show him one verse where Jesus claimed divinity. He also added that he would accept Christianity if this could be shown. He used quotes, taken out of context (where Jesus speaks as a mere man) from the Holy Bible, to “prove” otherwise. The fact is, there are many verses.
Take for example Jesus’ words in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” We need only to look at the Jews’ reaction to His statement to know He was claiming to be God. They tried to stone Him for this very reason: “You, a mere man, claim to be God” (John 10:33). The Jews understood exactly that Jesus was claiming deity. When Jesus declared, “I and the Father are one,” He was saying that He and the Father are of one nature and essence.
Let’s look at what happens between some Jews and Jesus in John 8:57-59. “Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and You have seen Abraham?” “Truly, truly, I tell you, Jesus declared, “before Abraham was born, I AM! At this, they picked up stones to throw at Him.” Why did the Jews respond by taking up stones to kill Him? It was blasphemy for anyone who declare themselves God and according to the Mosaic Law the penalty was death (Leviticus 24:16).
When God spoke to Moses in the burning bush, he answered Moses’ question by saying that He is “I AM.” Jesus used the same name declaring that He is God.
Moreover, Jesus forgave sins, something that only God has exclusivity to (Matthew 9:2; Mark 2:5; Luke 5:20–21), said He was the Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5), claimed he was God's Son (Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:61–62; Luke 22:70), allowed himself to be worshipped (Matthew 28:9, 17), said He sends forth "His" angels (Matthew 13:41; 25:31) as well as other prophets (Matthew 23:34; see God doing this in 2 Chronicles 36:15), made a direct claim to divinity as the Son of God as mentioned in the book of Daniel (Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:61–62; Luke 22:70).
John reiterates the concept of Jesus’ deity: “The Word [Jesus] was God” and “the Word became flesh” (John 1:1, 14). These verses clearly indicate that Jesus is God in the flesh. Acts 20:28 tells us, “Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” Who bought the church with His own blood? Jesus Christ. And this same verse declares that God purchased His church with His own blood. Therefore, Jesus is God!
Scriptures reveal that the terms used in the Old Testament by God, were used by Jesus in the New Testament. Jesus made some pretty extraordinary claims about himself that were recorded and circulated during a time when those who heard him speak could have easily disputed what was written down if they were false. But no one did.
In short, Jesus claimed he was equal to God. Just look at some of these examples of how He referenced statements made about God in the Old Testament (OT) and applied them to Himself in the New Testament (NT):
The Sower (Jeremiah 31:27 OT; Matthew 13:3-9 NT)
The Shepherd (Genesis 49:24, Psalms 23:1 OT); (John 10:11 NT)
The Rock (Psalms 18:2 OT); (Matthew 7:24 NT)
The Saviour (Psalms 18:2 OT); (Luke 19:10 NT)
The Bridegroom (Isaiah 54:5, Hosea 2:16 OT); (Matthew 25:1 NT)
I AM (Exodus 3:14-15; Isaiah 48:12 OT); (John 8:58 NT)
The light (Psalms 27:1 OT); (John 8:12 NT)
Ruler of all (Isaiah 9:6 OT); (Matthew 28:18 NT)
Judge of all nations (Joel 3:12 OT); (Matthew 25:31-46 NT)
God's Word never passes away (Isaiah 40:8); (Mark 13:31)
Or Was He Only Man?
A person who has studied the Holy Bible may be confused with some of the things Christ said about Himself. For example, if He is God, why did He say "The Father is greater than I" in John 14:28? Jesus says repeatedly that He is doing the Father’s will, thereby implying that He is somehow subservient to the Father. The question then becomes how can Jesus be equal to God when by His own admission He is subservient to the will of God? The answer to this question lies within the nature of the incarnation.
During the incarnation, Jesus was temporarily “made lower than the angels” (Hebrews 2:9), which refers to Jesus’ status. The doctrine of the incarnation says that Jesus took on human flesh. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, Jesus was fully human and “made lower than the angels.” However, Jesus is fully divine, too. By taking on human nature, Jesus did not relinquish His divine nature – GOD CANNOT STOP BEING GOD. How do we reconcile the fact that Jesus is fully divine yet fully human and by definition “lower than the angels”? The answer to that question can be found in Philippians 2:5-11. When Jesus took on human form, something amazing happened - He “MADE HIMSELF NOTHING.” In essence, what it means is that Jesus voluntarily relinquished the privilege of freely exercising His divine attributes and subjected Himself to the will of the Father while on earth.
Another thing to consider is the fact that subservience in role does not equate to subservience in essence. For example, consider an employer/employee relationship. The employer has the right to make demands of the employee, and the employee has the obligation to serve the employer. The roles clearly define a subservient relationship. However, both people are still human beings. The fact that one is an employer and the other is an employee does nothing to alter the fact that these two individuals in ESSENCE RE HUMAN BEINGS. The same can be said of God the Father, and God the Son (Jesus). Both are equal in essence because they are both divine in nature. However, in the grand plan of redemption, they play certain roles, and these roles define authority and subservience.
Therefore, the fact that the Son took on a human nature and made Himself subservient to the Father in no way denies the deity of the Son, nor does it diminish His essential equality with the Father. THE “GREATNESS” SPOKEN OF IN THIS VERSE, THEN, RELATES TO ROLE – NOT TO ESSENCE.
Only God Can Perform Miracles
There's more. Jesus not only claimed equality with God, he did things only God can do. For example, Jesus demonstrated sovereignty over birth defects (Matthew 12:9-13; Mark 3:1-5), disease (Matthew 8:2, Luke 7:1,Mark 3:1), nature (Matthew 14:25), creation (Matthew 14:13-21; Luke 9:12-17), Satan/demons (Matthew 8:28, Luke 8:26, Mark 1:34), and death (Mark 5:22, Luke 7:11) WITH HIS OWN AUTHORITY. Never once did He call upon God to perform a miracle, but instead He acted on His own.
(Continued in Part 3 of 3…)
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