We have been examining the Christian concept of God for the past several days. The Bible tells us that God is beyond time, space, and matter/energy because He created them. As science goes deeper into understanding the structure of matter/energy, it becomes increasingly evident that there are forces beyond our familiar physical laws. Quantum mechanics and studies of the nature of matter show that creation has not been merely a physical process.
Heaven and hell are not physical places with physical rewards or punishment. When we die, our soul, that part of us created in God’s image, will no longer be limited by time. All the bad things that time brings will be gone, “…there will be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying. Neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
We struggle to understand metaphors in the Bible that use physical pictures of things that are not physical. The result is that when we approach them with a physical understanding alone, we become confused. If we understand the biblical Christian concept of God, these metaphors become much clearer, and our freedom as Christians is greatly enhanced. Christ’s promise of life after our physical life is over gives us joy and comfort beyond physical understanding. We can rejoice in knowing that the things that afflict us in this life will be gone, and our future will be secure and filled with joy in spiritual union with our Creator.
For the past few days, we have been looking for the biblical Christan concept of God. We have observed that atheists, and even people who call themselves Christians, fail to understand what God is. We are familiar with the physical world, so we look for God to bring a physical earthly kingdom.
The New Testament calls for us to understand that Christians serve a God who is not a man—or woman. Galatians 3:28 tells us that “there is neither male nor female” in Christ’s kingdom, the Church. This same message appears in Romans 10:11-13 and Colossians 3:11. In John 18:36-39, Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world,” making it clear that He was not bringing in a physical earthly kingdom. Yet, even today, some Christian groups interpret Christ as a military leader who will defeat all other belief systems and establish a physical kingdom in Jerusalem.
This struggle to understand God goes back to Genesis 1:1, describing the creation of time, space, and matter/energy. When Peter describes the end of the world in 2 Peter 3:3:10-12, he says that time will end and the physical cosmos will “dissolve in fervent heat” (verse 12). God is in a higher dimension than time or the material cosmos. He created the human soul in His image–not our physical bodies.
In 1 Corinthians 15:35-55, Paul conveys the concept of a kingdom not of this world. People in that day didn’t understand it, and still today, many Christians don’t understand it. The fact that Christ’s kingdom is not an earthly kingdom makes it, unlike any human system. That brings us back to the biblical Christian concept of God, and that is where we will conclude tomorrow.
Yesterday, we said that understanding what God is and what He desires for us can help us understand the meaning and importance of prayer. There is nothing wrong with praying to God for our physical needs. You can see that in the model prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). However, it is illogical and unbiblical to get upset when God doesn’t answer our physical requests in the way we desire. Failure to receive the things we pray for is rooted in a failure to understand what God is and what He desires for us.
When I was an atheist playing football in high school, one of my teammates asked God for victory in every game. We played a team from a Christian high school late in the season. One of their team members told me that he knew they would beat us because they had prayed to God for victory. Unfortunately, we lost that game, and my teammate, who had been praying for us to win, decided he needed to be an atheist like me because, clearly, God didn’t answer prayer.
There have been wars between cultures that worshipped the God of the Bible. Examples are the American Civil War and the Irish wars between Catholics and Protestants. Both sides prayed to the same God for victory. However, winning a victory would mean killing people who were Christians on the other side of the conflict.
When I gave my lectures in Ireland, people expressed great interest in my message that science supports belief in God. However, many people wanted nothing to do with the Church because of the history of religious warfare. A Catholic priest in full clerical garb attended one of my lectures and informed me that he was an atheist. He was still conducting mass because that was the source of his income, but he didn’t believe in God. The things we pray for reflect our concept of God.
It becomes clear that even “religious” people often do not understand the Christian biblical concept of God. We will continue with that thought tomorrow.
What is God? Is God male or female? What race is God? Is God bisexual, lesbian, trans, homosexual, or heterosexual? Is God on the Earth or in the stars or the air? Does God dwell in animal life? Are animals reincarnated humans who are in the image of the natural gods? All of these questions are ones we have received and have done our best to answer.
Part of the confusion problem is due to what people say about God on television or radio, in books and magazines, and how movies and video games portray God. Some world religions present gods active in sexual relationships or military conflicts. Some people propose God as a solution to climate or agricultural problems, disease pandemics, or infertility. Others present God as a cause–or solution–to losses or victories in war or athletic competition.
Is there any wonder that many people don’t believe in God? Why is there so much confusion and people asking, “What is God?” The Bible plainly shows the Christian concept of God. We will examine that tomorrow.
One of the major issues in understanding the Genesis account is the issue of Bible ages and time. Any attempt to bring the biblical account in line with the scientific evidence has to deal with the time when creation occurred and when God created humans. A careful study of the Hebrew words used in Genesis 1 makes it clear that being dogmatic about Bible ages and time creates a conflict with the evidence and is not taking the original language literally.
One of our readers pointed out that we need to recognize that there are three different ages to consider. They are (1) The age of the universe, (2) The age of man, and (3) The age of civilization. We have often pointed out that the Bible does not tell us the universe’s age. That’s because Genesis 1:1, which deals with the creation of time, space, and matter-energy, is undated and untimed.
When considering Bible ages and time, are the ages of humans and civilization the same? The biblical answer is apparently “no.” Genesis 1 and 2 describe the creation of Adam and Eve and the animals people were familiar with. Genesis 2:8-9 tells us God planted a garden and made the trees grow. In verse 15, the man is assigned the task of dressing and keeping the garden. It would be logical to assume the planted garden grew, and Adam had to take care of it as it grew. Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t tell us how long that was.
In Genesis 4, Cain and Abel are born in another time period as they raise crops and livestock. When Cain kills Abel, God places a curse on him. Cain says, “…I will be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth and everyone who finds me will slay me” (Genesis 2:14). There must have been other humans around, or that statement is meaningless. In verse 17, Cain builds a city, but you can’t have a city without a population. In Genesis 2:20-22, we read about the first formation of musical instruments and the smelting and working of copper, brass, and iron. These are items of civilization, and they are all undated and untimed.
Conflicts of Bible ages and times are resolved if we assume that Adam and Eve may not be the first humans God created. It appears that either humans were born in the Garden of Eden or God created them at an earlier time and place. Cain got his wife from those individuals, and they are the ones who would have been a threat to Cain. This also resolves the issues connected with the remains found of humans going back long before Adam and Eve. The age of civilization may be in the 6,000 to 10,000-year time frame, but the age of the cosmos certainly is not.
To take the Bible literally, one needs to look at who wrote the passage, to whom they wrote it, why they wrote it, and how the people it was written to would have understood it. One especially interesting and complex area is the meaning of numbers in the Bible. Throughout the Bible, numbers are used in different ways. In the Old Testament, numbers become confusing when we look at the patriarchs’ ages, the number of people involved in an event, and the timing of events. In the New Testament and much of the Old, prophecy is rooted in symbolic numbers. Many bizarre interpretations of the book of Revelation result from a mistaken understanding of the meaning of numbers in the Bible.
The Mesopotamians were the first people to develop writing, astronomy, algebra, geometry, logarithms, a calendar, and accounting. Archaeological evidence shows that Mesopotamians used numbers for architecture as early as 5500 B.C. In these ancient cultures, people used real numbers for everyday business, but they had sacred numbers with a different base for religious purposes. For example, Sargon II wrote, “I built the circumference of the city wall 16,283 cubits, the number of my name.”
We see the symbolic use of numbers in many ancient documents. In Egypt, for example, the number “110” was used to commemorate a life considered to be “perfect,” meaning lived selflessly and benefitting others. Moses, Joseph, and Joshua are said to have died at age 110, which could be an Egyptian tribute to their character, not their longevity.
The writers of the Hebrew Bible gave special meanings to numbers. The number 3 symbolized completeness, while 7 and 70 exemplified fullness and completion. The number 12 and multiples of it, such as 144, had special meaning. The number 40 usually represented a generation.
There is still debate about the ages of the patriarchs. Was Methuselah’s days of 969 a real number or symbolic? If you say it was a real number, then you have all kinds of contradictions between the ages of the patriarchs and the time of Noah’s flood. Few would suggest that Methuselah died in the flood and that Abraham and Noah lived concurrently for 58 years. However, assuming real numbers produces those conflicts.
How the ancients used numbers and what the authors of the Bible intended for people of their day to understand about the significance of the numbers is a matter of debate. The ancients understood what their culture meant by the given times and ages, but for us to understand requires careful study. God could have performed a miracle and let Methuselah live 969 Gregorian calendar years. However, forcing modern time measurement on ancient writings is not taking the Bible literally. Tomorrow, we will look at Bible ages and times.
In his book “On Guard,” William Lane Craig tells about a remark a woman made to him when she learned he teaches Christian apologetics. She remarked indignantly, “I’ll never apologize for my faith.” I have had similar experiences several times. In a society where we see a significant denial of God’s existence and the credibility of the Bible, apologetics is not apologizing for our faith.
The word” apologetics” may sound like “to apologize,” but it is not telling someone you are sorry that you are a Christian. “Apologetics” comes from the Greek word apologia, which means defense, as in a court of law. Craig says that Christian apologetics involves making a case for the truth of the Christian faith.
Many Christian preachers and Church members feel that there is no reason to be involved in apologetics. In their view, giving evidence in apologetics weakens faith. “If you have faith, you don’t need evidence” is a statement I frequently hear. The fact is that the Bible account shows that Christ and the apostles used apologetics. Examples of Jesus using evidence are when He appealed to miracles and fulfilled prophecy to prove that what He said was true. Read Luke 24:25-27 and John 14:11 to see this. When Jesus dealt with “Doubting Thomas,” His method was to show him the evidence.
When Peter gave his sermon in Acts 2, he appealed to the miracles of Christ in verse 22. In verses 25-31, he appealed to fulfilled prophecy, followed in verse 32 by using the resurrection of Christ. The apostles showed that apologetics is not apologizing when they used the handiwork of God to prove His existence (Acts 14:17). Romans 1:20 finds Paul referring to the evidence seen in the natural world. Paul also used eyewitness testimony of the resurrection of Christ in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.
The world has entered what scholars are calling “the post-Christian era.” As a result, Christianity is becoming a minority belief system worldwide. In Europe, the number of Christians compared to the general population is very small – estimated to be under 25% and going down. In the United States, statistics show it is under 40%.
Apologetics is not apologizing, and the need for it is massive. This apologetics ministry believes that science is a tool to show the nature and actions of God and is not an enemy of faith. That message is biblical and logical. It is the purpose of this website. We hope you will see the need for apologetics in today’s society.
Yesterday, I mentioned that I sometimes get people to think by saying that I believe in evolution. For some, the word only brings to mind the concept of “man from monkey.” However, evolution has multiple meanings. We looked at three of them yesterday, and none of the definitions say anything about the existence of God. So here are two more evolution concepts.
#4. MICROEVOLUTIONARY CHANGE. These are changes in a biological population over time, usually in response to environmental factors. We see this in viruses evolving to become resistant to drugs. Humans have created new breeds of dogs and cattle through microevolution. In the Bible, Jacob used microevolution in dealing with Laban’s flocks. (See Genesis 30:31-42.) Microevolution, change within a species, is the basis of modern agriculture.
#5. MACROEVOLUTION. This is a process of change from common descent. The key word is “process” and describes how, over time, it can lead to a new species. In microbiology, a microbe may get its DNA mixed up with the DNA of another microbe and produce a new species. Farmers in California can tell you about insects that evolved with the ability to cause damage to crops. Some plants have changed to the point where they are no longer fertile with the original plant from which they came. Fish have also speciated.
Is macroevolution a tool God uses to produce the massive numbers of new species in the world today? To suggest that macroevolution happens only by chance requires more faith than believing that God built a system allowing new plants and animals to exist on a changing Earth.
So, we see that evolution has multiple meanings. But, no matter what definition we use, it simply describes how God has operated and continues to operate. So, when I say that I believe in evolution, you must know what I mean by that. As we noted yesterday, everyone believes in some form of evolution, but that does not disprove God’s existence.
I have, on occasion, made the statement that I believe in evolution. My purpose for saying that is to get people to think. What does “evolution” mean? For many people, the statement means “man from monkey,” and that is as far as they go. There are at least five ways in which people use the word” evolution.” None of them have anything to do with the existence of God. Think about the ways people use the word “evolution.”
#1. ANY CHANGE OVER TIME. We talk about stars evolving from blue hot stars to red dwarfs. We speak about an athletic program evolving. This is simply change over time and has no relevance to our faith.
#2. CULTURAL EVOLUTION. A cultural group may change radically over time due to many things. America has evolved from a country made mostly of immigrants to a country made of people born in this country. Our nation has evolved, and even our vocabulary recognizes this. When I was a kid, America was perceived as a “melting pot” where we could all be one and leave our ethnicity behind. That has evolved into a pluralistic society where people determine their ancestry and try to retain it. That evolution has brought enormous political implications,
#3. PROGRESSIVE EVOLUTIONARY REVELATION. Our understanding of the atom has evolved in my lifetime. My chemistry class in high school and college taught me that the atom had a nucleus with electrons orbiting it in concentric circles around that core. Now, when I teach chemistry, I talk about orbitals and electrons moving in figure eights and cloverleaf patterns in various numbers. Knowledge can change understanding, and that is evolutionary revelation. The Bible uses evolutionary revelation, with the Old Testament introducing the nature and operation of God and progressively revealing the nature of Jesus Christ and the future of believers.
So, when I say that I believe in evolution, you must know what I mean by that. If anyone says they do or don’t believe in evolution, ask them to define what they mean by “evolution.” The truth is that everyone believes in some form of evolution. Tomorrow, we will look at the two remaining primary uses of the word.
One of our readers sent us a quote that contains a great piece of advice we want to share with you. The statement was made by preacher and author Chuck Swindall. It has been quoted many times on the internet and elsewhere, but we see it as relating to a person’s attitude toward the existence of God:
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church…a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude….I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how to react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes.”
As Jesus talked to the people of His day, He frequently said, “how do you think” or “what do you think.” He wanted them to look at what they believed and why. The parable Jesus told of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9-14 dealt specifically with attitude and how it affects how we think and act. A person’s attitude toward the existence of God determines whether or not they are willing to examine the evidence. Furthermore, believing in God’s existence and accepting His love through Jesus Christ can change our attitude toward others and toward life itself. How is your attitude?