It is interesting to read atheist websites and realize the basis for their atheism. In many cases, atheists say the reasons they don’t believe in God are the same reasons I had when I was an atheist. If those reasons were valid, I would still be an atheist today. Let’s consider what Christianity is not:
JUDAIZED CHRISTIANITY: Many of us do not care for ritual or ceremony. We also have little or no use for those who claim their position in life makes them of greater importance than others. The biblical concept of Christianity also rejects those things. In Acts 15:5, some wanted to force religious rituals on the gentile Christians. Verse 10 tells us the leaders rejected that idea. In Matthew 15:1-9, Christ soundly rejected human caste systems and traditions. In 1 Corinthians 7:17-24, we read that God takes us wherever we are in life. Galatians 3:26-28 makes it clear that in authentic Christianity, everyone is equal no matter what their race, sex, or ethnicity.
LEGALIZED CHRISTIANITY: As an atheist, I saw Christianity as a long list of “don’ts.” Everything I wanted to do was a “no no,” and if you engaged in it, you had massive piles of guilt heaped upon you. It took me a long time to understand that you don’t earn salvation in the Christian system. It is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). In 1 Corinthians 13, we find that there are three things a Christian should have – “faith, hope, and love but the greatest of these is love.” Legalism is what Christianity is not.
LAWLESS CHRISTIANITY: Closely related to legalized Christianity is “lawless Christianity,” in which a person or a group of persons spell out what is okay and what is not okay. There is no written authority in lawless Christianity. Instead, the rules are laid down and interpreted by a religious leader. The “clergy/laity” system is not logical or biblical. Humans are not only selfish and ignorant, but they are prone to power struggles. In many cases, lawless Christianity has turned the Christian system into an entertainment business. I can get better entertainment in the secular world than any human or group of humans can produce in a church building.
Don’t reject God because of what Christianity is not. Read James 1:27, Matthew 25:31-40 ,and Acts 2:38-47. There you will see that Christianity changes people, makes the world a better place to live, and fulfills one of the most important needs we all have. That is the need for a reliable and functional spiritual experience, because we are created in the spiritual image of God.
One characteristic of many people today is the deliberate denial of evidence. In a recent discussion with a big-name pro-abortion politician, I asked when he believed a fetus became a human – conception, birth, or somewhere in between. He responded that he had not considered the question. I asked if he would be willing to consider scientific evidence that could answer the question. Again, he responded that he would not.
Some of my female friends who are loud proponents of “a woman’s right to choose” have given me a similar response. How can you make a decision about abortion if you don’t know when a fetus is a human?
This deliberate denial of evidence is not new. People in Jesus’ day watched Him perform miracles, but still rejected and even killed Him. I have presented many atheists with credible evidence that the God of the Bible is real. In a recent discussion with a young college student, she proudly declared she was an atheist. When I presented a series of facts to show there is a God, she jumped up and screamed at me, “I just don’t want to believe!” There was a deafening silence, and I saw tears streaming down her face. She was desperate to justify her disbelief.
Jesus was aware of the human tendency toward deliberate denial of evidence that we don’t want to accept. Mark 9:17-24 tells the story of a man who brought to Jesus, his son who had a convulsive spirit. The man said that Jesus’ disciples could not drive out the spirit, and Jesus indicated the reason was a lack of faith. The father said to Jesus, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” Jesus responded by repeating the man’s words, “If you can?” Then he told the father that he needed to have faith, to which the father replied, “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.”
Humans want to maintain control over what they believe, even if it requires a deliberate denial of evidence. Like the father who brought his son to Jesus, a person must be open to the evidence and willing to accept it, rather than denying the evidence and even refusing to hear or see it.
One of the facts of life is that eventually, we will all die. Many of us have seen people endure enormous pain over a long period before death finally came. I am thankful that my wife Phyllis and my son Tim did not go through months of intense pain before passing on. Medical science has made great progress in extending life but has not been as effective in relieving pain. That is part of the reason we have seen a movement for legalizing physician-assisted death.
New Jersey passed a “Medical Aid-in-Dying” law two years ago, and last year 33 terminally ill people in the state ended their lives. Since 2016, California has had “The End of Life Option Act.” New York has a “Good Death” Act moving through the legislative process. The movement to legalize physician-assisted death is not confined to America. Holland was perhaps the pioneer of physician-assisted death in Europe. Columbia became the leader in South America back in 1997. The “Colombian Pain Institute” administers euthanasia for “intense physical or mental suffering due to an injury or incurable illness.”
The Week magazine for October 22, 2021 (page 8) carried a report demonstrating the difficulty of legalizing physician-assisted death. In Colombia, a 51-year-old woman named Martha Sepulveda has ALS and was scheduled to be euthanized. She would be the first person in Colombia to receive physician-assisted death without a terminal prognosis. However, the Colombian Pain Institute concluded that “her condition had improved” so she is no longer qualified for the procedure. Now she has a lawyer fighting for her right to die because she “is not willing to continue to live.”
Christians have concerns in this matter. In 1 Corinthians 3:16, we read that our body is “the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in us.” The next verse tells us not to defile the temple. This concept is continued in 1 Corinthians 6:15-20, which teaches why a Christian should not be involved in prostitution. In ancient times, death came more quickly than in today’s world with modern medicines. Therefore, a person near death today deserves special attention and Christian compassion. In Proverbs 31:6-7, we read, “Give strong drink to those who are ready to perish, and wine to those who are of heavy hearts.” When David was near death, he was chilled, and a woman came to warm him not for sexual purposes but to relieve his discomfort. (See 1 Kings 1: 1-4).
The doctors I know are horrified at the prospect of deciding to end someone’s life. It is hard to assess the collateral damage of someone saying, “I choose to die rather than blessing others, especially my family.” In many cases, financial concerns are a significant motivation for ending life, and there are horror stories of involuntary euthanasia in Holland. Christians should lead the charge to develop medical steps to relieve suffering and pain. Financial problems should not be an issue in a wealthy country like the United States.
From an atheist’s viewpoint, death is the end, and physician-assisted death is merely the solution to suffering. However, I continue to be reminded of my son’s last words to me before he died. He said, “Dad, I am going to see Mom, and I will actually be able to see her and be with Jesus.” These words were from a blind, mentally challenged, COVID-ravaged young man who had battled muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and schizophrenia all of his life. He was ready to move on to something better.
Is Satan real? When you hear the name “Satan,” what do you visualize? Some people think of a man in a red bodysuit, with horns, and holding a pitchfork. Many years ago, the movie “Damn Yankees” presented Satan as a human who wore a three-piece suit and made deals with humans. Charlie Daniels had a hit song titled “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” in which he told of a fiddle contest between “Johnny” and the “Devil.” Great music, but very little theological credibility. The comic strip “Far Side” frequently had a picture of Satan and people in hell, making it a childish belief to ridicule.
The biblical concept is very different and very real. The Hebrew word “satan” comes from a word meaning adversary or accuser. First Chronicles 21:1 says, “Satan rose up against Israel and excited David to take a census of Israel.” This is clearly not a physical person but a spiritual being with a purpose to incite David to oppose God’s will. In Job 1 and 2, Satan afflicts Job not as a physical person but by causing natural forces to bring pain and misery.
In the New Testament, two Greek words in Greek become relevant. “Diabolos” is translated as the devil. “Beelzebub” means “Lord of the flies” and is based on the name of a pagan Philistine deity. The Jews of Jesus’ day used it to refer to the chief among evil spirits. They accused Jesus of doing miracles by Beelzebub (See Matthew 12:24, 27). Ephesians 2:2 and 43 other passages, Satan is used to describe the sinful ways of the world. Is Satan real? The answer is YES, and here are five biblical concepts of Satan that we need to understand:
# 1. There is a war going on between good and evil. Atheists such as Ricard Dawkins deny that good and evil exist, but most of us have seen it first hand. Ephesians 3:10 and 6:12 tell us that God’s purpose for the Church is to join the spiritual conflict between good and evil.
#2. Angels are not a useful tool for this war. In 2 Peter 2:4, we find that some of them sinned, but they cannot repent since repentance needs time, and they don’t experience time.
#3. Satan’s attacks are primarily spiritual, not physical. Matthew 16:23 tells us that Satan entered Peter, and Luke 22:3 says the same about Judas. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 Satan masquerades as an “angel of light,” and his servants masquerade as “servants of righteousness.” #4. Satans methods involve lying and sowing bad seeds. (See Matthew 13:24-30.) He also imitates and twists God’s blessings – sex twisted to porn, faith twisted to politics, drink twisted to intoxication, etc. James 4:7 tells us resisting Satan makes him flee, and God promises in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that there will always be a way of escape for Christians.
#5. Is Satan real? Logic and common sense make it foolish to deny Satan. Good and evil do exist. There is a spiritual force in evil. However, God is also real. First Peter 5:6-9 tells us that we have a purpose for our existence. Atheistic denial of evil leaves no purpose for human existence. Revelation 21:3-5 describes the ultimate result of following Christ. For those who oppose God, there is no future beyond the present.
One of our atheist friends asked why God commanded the Israelites to commit genocide in 1 Samuel 15:3. “Now go and attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.”
The atheists say there was no reason to kill babies and innocent animals in retribution for what the Amalekites had done to Israel. With that argument, many atheist and skeptic articles and websites use this passage to prove that the God of the Bible is a violent, merciless, abusive, genocidal tyrant. Is that a valid argument? Is it true that a ruthless God commanded the Israelites to commit genocide?
Before they entered the promised land, God warned the Israelites to avoid the practices of the people who lived there. You can read that in Deuteronomy 18:9-13. Leviticus 18:1-30 goes into more detail about what practices to avoid. The actions warned against include sacrificing their children by fire to pagan gods.
God also commanded the Israelites to avoid divination, sorcery, witchcraft, spiritualists, and black magic. The passage in Leviticus also warns Israel against illicit sexual relationships, including sex with animals. The passage concludes by saying, “This is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. For all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you and the land became defiled … Do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came.”
Archaeological studies have confirmed what was going on in these cultures. Excavations in Gezer and Carthage have shown that children were placed alive and screaming in pain into the fire as a sacrifice to the pagan gods. Archaeologists have found tombstones and headstones detailing how people died. The forensic studies of bones and burial tissue confirm STDs in the people and animals. Our recent battle with COVID should make it easy for us to understand how disease transmission from animals to humans could happen. The moral instructions, dietary practices, and quarantine commands God gave to Israel avoided those diseases.
So how could God take care of the awful situation? As terrible as it was, the only solution was to completely destroy the practices and all possible diseases of the Amalekite society. God had no choice. Even today, with all of our medical knowledge and expertise, we are having great difficulty managing STDs, COVID, and destructive dietary practices.
God is a God of love and mercy. The first and second of the ten commandments involved love, and Jesus taught that people would know His disciples by their love. (See John 13:34-35.) Those who argue that God commanded the Israelites to commit genocide don’t know the whole story. The tragic consequences of ancient pagan living required a drastic response. It was not abject cruelty but an unfortunate necessity.
We often get objections from atheists who say that suffering disproves God. They say that God cannot exist because there is pain and suffering in the world. Actually, the opposite is true. Suffering makes more sense under the Christian concept of reality. Therefore, suffering does not disprove God.
For atheists to make the moral judgment that suffering is bad, they are deciding what is good and bad while at the same time saying that in reality, there is no ultimate good or bad. The atheist is only saying that he does not like things that he has determined are “bad.” Since suffering is bad, suffering disproves God.
People, in general, seem to assume that if there is a God, then His purpose is to make us happy as if God is our servant. On the contrary, Christians believe that the primary purpose of life is not happiness but knowing God. Human suffering may not make us happy, but it may very well give us a deeper knowledge of God and His love.
In times and places where the hardships have been the greatest, faith in God and Christianity have grown the most. Also, we have to realize that humans are in rebellion against God and His purpose. As long as people are in rebellion against God, there will be evil in the world, and we will all suffer as a consequence.
If God is not limited by our time dimension, then His purpose for us will not be limited to this present world and the life we are living. As someone said, we are in the cramped entrance foyer opening into the Great Hall of Eternity. If there is a God, as I believe there is, to know Him is the greatest of all goods. Any suffering in this life cannot compare with the good that God has in store for us.
While the atheist says that suffering disproves God, Christians can face the problems of life and say, “God is good all the time!” Perhaps there is no “earthly” reason for the catastrophes we face. But perhaps there is a “heavenly” reason that we are not yet equipped to see. As John Clayton has often said, “For the atheist, this life is the best he will ever experience. For the Christian, this life is the worst we will ever have to endure.”
Critics of the Bible say that it describes many disgusting stories. However, they are missing the point that God tolerates human actions He does not desire.
Polygamy is a good example. We all know that many biblical characters had more than one wife–especially in the Old Testament. In Genesis 2:24, God said the man was to have one wife, and that man and wife were to become one. Despite that, Lamech takes two wives in Genesis 4:19-22.
In Deuteronomy 17:17, God commands one wife, but Solomon takes hundreds of wives as God pleads with him not to do it (1 Kings 11:1-10). God is tolerant and does not force the issue, but the Bible shows the problems created by having multiple wives and refusing to do what God said.
In the New Testament, Jesus tells the Jews that God tolerated these things “because of the hardness of your hearts” (Matthew 19:3-9). However, when God gave instructions for the church leaders called bishops and deacons in 1 Timothy 3:2, 12, He specified that they were to have only one wife. What God wanted for marriage is described in Ephesians 5:22-33 and 1 Corinthians 7:2-5.
God never commanded polygamy. He warned against it and tried to teach humans what a wonderful thing marriage could be with one man and one woman for life. Tragically, that concept has been lost today, but God tolerates human actions He does not desire.
Human actions are often contrary to God’s will. We will continue along this line of thought tomorrow.
One of the challenges we face in 21st century America is the growing rate of mental illness cases. Every day the media informs us of a tragedy caused by someone who is mentally ill. Closer to home, many of us have had a loved one afflicted with some form of mental illness. Is there a connection between mental health and faith?
Mental illness has many causes. A small percentage of mental illnesses result from a medical condition. For example, my son’s schizophrenia resulted from a congenital condition. Because he was adopted, we don’t know all of the factors leading to his multiple illnesses, but his birth mother had German measles during pregnancy. Brain injuries and drug abuse can also result in mental illness.
A far more common cause of mental problems involves life experiences. Some of us were forced to witness the horror of war, and many others have suffered abuse. Those things have caused a variety of mental issues. We frequently hear atheists claim that religion causes mental illness by heaping guilt on people over something they have done in their lives. Indeed, some preachers have used guilt to motivate people to change behavior or convert to a doctrinal view.
The reality is that there is a connection between mental health and faith. Christianity is a guilt-removing belief system. The Christian message is designed to free people from guilt and promote a healthy and mentally stable lifestyle. The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5–7 gives guidelines to a healthy mental attitude. There you will find these keys to mental health: loving others, not exacting revenge or retaliating, caring for others (even your enemies), not being religious for show, and not being obsessed with material things.
We all fail in life, but the Christian system brings forgiveness. When Peter asked Christ how often he had to forgive, Christ’s answer indicated forgiveness should be infinite (Matthew 18:21). Carrying a grudge can cause enormous mental pain, which John compares to walking in darkness, but loving others brings us into the light (1 John 1:7-11). James gives insight into how we can endure hardships and help one another gain a positive perspective on life (James 5:10-16).
As Americans turn away from the teachings of Christ and rely on pop psychology and drugs to achieve sound mental health, the result has been the opposite. Pill popping and drug use have skyrocketed, and so has the number of people in desperate mental stress. Living the Christian life brings stability and fulfillment and the knowledge that there is a place of peace and love when this life is over. Mental health and faith in Christ go together.
Do you realize that from virtually every standpoint, you should not exist? Philosophers debate the question of, “Why is there somethinginstead of nothing?” However, the physics of your existence is much more of an issue than a philosophical debate. Modern scientific discoveries have added to the evidence that you should not exist. We know that matter and energy are directly related. We can turn matter into energy, as evidenced by the atomic bomb. Scientists have now shown that energy can be turned into matter. Einstein’s equation E = mc2 can work forward and backward.
The complicating factor is that two kinds of matter are always produced when energy is turned into matter. In addition to the ordinary matter we are made of, there is also a mirror image of it called “antimatter.” Antimatter consists of positively charged electrons (positrons) and negatively charged protons (antiprotons). When matter and antimatter are combined, they destroy each other, reverting to the energy from which they came. The cosmic creation event should have created equal amounts of matter and antimatter. How did they not destroy each other?
Another physics principle that says you should not exist is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. It says that in a closed system, things tend to move to disorder. This law allows diffusion to happen. It is why we, and everything else, fall apart with age. The cosmos, by definition, is a closed system. Carl Sagan used to say, “The cosmos is everything that is or ever was or ever will be.” The physical world is slowly dissolving, and disorder (called entropy) is increasing. The stringent conditions needed for you to exist are becoming less and less likely. The Bible writers recognized this fact. Isaiah wrote, “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the Earth beneath. The heavens will vanish like smoke, the Earth will wear out like a garment, and its inhabitants will die like flies, but my salvation will last forever…” (Isaiah 51:6). The spiritual realm is not affected by entropy, but the physical realm is. We exist because God created us. How He separated matter and antimatter is a mystery to science. How life came into being with the massive increase of order can only be explained because God designed our existence for a purpose.
When you take the position of the atheist, you should not exist. Existence is a vast mystery that philosophers and scientists can’t answer. From a biblical perspective, we are major players in the struggle between good and evil. (Read the book of Job.) We have a purpose, and we exist to fulfill that purpose. Being created in the image of God answers many of our questions. COVID, climate change, and the struggles between good and evil in our world remind us that our existence is temporary. There is a new existence coming that will verify why we exist in the present.
Deaths due to drug overdoses have skyrocketed. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that in 1970 there were fewer than 7,000 deaths in the United States due to drug overdoses. In 2019 there were 72,000, and in 2020 there were 93,000. Whether or not there is a problem is not the issue, but people question why overdose deaths are increasing?
Some suggest that it is because of the availability of painkillers, especially opioids. When I graduated from high school in 1955, many drugs were available, and I knew people who had died from overdoses. Even in those days, we learned how to get whatever drugs we wanted. There were those available on the street and others we could make ourselves. For example, I remember a cough syrup named “Hadacall” that we used to get high because it contained a higher alcohol content than the booze we could get. Harder stuff was available if you looked for it.
We suggest the fundamental reason why overdose deaths are increasing is the removal of Christian values from our culture. If you do not see a purpose for your life and things go wrong, what is the natural response? For the Christian, there is the promise of Romans 8:28 – “All things work together for good to those that love God and who are called according to His purpose.” Christians know that whatever happens to them has some kind of purpose or connection to a purpose. There is also the ultimate hope which is beyond this life. When you discard that, what is left? We don’t always understand what good can come from tragedy in our lives. But, as Christians, we know that if we hang on, we may eventually see a purpose or at least some ultimate good in our loss. Opioids and drugs provide an escape for unbelievers from whatever bad things have happened in their lives. Therefore, overdose deaths are increasing because they feel that life without purpose or hope is not worth living.