Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter are all valid historically. All of the events surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ are factual, so should we celebrate Easter? We suggest that we should celebrate the resurrection every Sunday.
The communion was established to assist us in doing that (1 Corinthians 11:23-30). The first century Church worshiped every Sunday. Giving (1 Corinthians 16:2) and celebrating the Lord’s Supper to remember the death and resurrection of Christ were part of that worship (Acts 20:7). We should copy their example. It is good that at least once a year the whole world recognizes the activity of God in sending His son to die as a sacrifice for the sins of all. We would urge everyone to look into the significance of the resurrection and the witnesses that give credence to the story.
Another aspect of the Easter season is that many human inventions have sprung up around the historical event. Lent was instituted as a way to focus on the Easter event. It was a reminder of the forty days Jesus fasted in the desert as He began His ministry. Abstaining from eating eggs to celebrate Lent resulted in people preserving eggs by boiling them. German Lutherans began decorating the eggs and invented the Easter Hare as a judge of children allowing gifts to be given to good children. Eastern Orthodox believers dyed the eggs red remembering the blood of Christ. The special days of Palm Sunday and Holy Friday were added to aid believers in focusing on the season.
We have all seen the tragedy of the huge fire that destroyed much of the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. In the days after the fire, we have witnessed theological discussions about why the fire happened, and whether it is a demonstration that there is no God. Should God have protected Notre Dame Cathedral?
We want to point out a few things about the fire, Notre Dame Cathedral, and what the Bible says about the Church and church buildings. Of course, the fire was a tragedy. Anti-Catholic writers and atheists have denied it was a tragedy. Those critics maintain that it was good that this religious symbol was destroyed. We would point out that Notre Dame Cathedral has great historical significance and was a testimony to the artistic expression and skill of ancient human engineers and artisans. The building was a museum and had great tourism value. A destructive event in the Louvre or the Smithsonian would be comparable to what happened at Notre Dame.
From a theological standpoint, the fire is of little or no significance. Nowhere in the New Testament was there a command or instruction to build any kind of building. The name Notre Dame means “Our Lady.” Mary was blessed to be a tool of God to bring His Son into the world, but nowhere does the Bible command us to worship her. The Bible does not portray her as an intermediary between God and man.
The word “Church” in the original Greek is “ekklesia,” meaning “that which is called out.”The Bible never uses the term in reference to a building. Passages like 1 Corinthians 3:16 tell us what the Church is. From a religious standpoint, church buildings have often been a bane to faith, consuming money that should have gone to provide for the needs of the poor and disenfranchised. Frequently buildings becoming objects of worship themselves — an idol instead of a tool.
On March 27 we posted an article about Dr. John Lennox, and yesterday we talked about Galileo. Today we have a quote from John Lennox on Galileo.
Dr. Lennox is Professor of Mathematics emeritus at the University of Oxford and an Adjunct Lecturer at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. In his book God’s Undertaker, he told about how Galileo, as a Bible believer, advanced a better scientific understanding that went against not only the churchmen but also the philosophers of his day. They were disciples of Aristotle and interpreted the Bible to fit an Aristotelian view of the universe. Referring to the refusal of the authorities to accept Galileo’s more scientific perspective, Lennox has a warning for today:
“Philosophers and scientists today also have a need of humility in light of facts, even if those facts are being pointed out to them by a believer in God. Lack of belief in God is no more a guarantee of scientific orthodoxy than is belief in God. What is clear, in Galileo’s time and ours, is that criticism of a reigning scientific paradigm is fraught with risk, no matter who is engaged in it.”
We could also point out that from the time of Aristotle until Einstein, the prevailing view of science was that the universe was eternal. That was even though Genesis, the first book of the Bible written long before Aristotle, clearly says there was a beginning. Even Einstein was reluctant to accept the fact of a beginning, and other scientists refused to accept it for many years. Today, Dr. Lennox and others point out the many problems with Darwinian evolution. Meanwhile, the science establishment continues to accept it by faith ignoring the obvious problems shown by mathematics and the fossil record.
The problem which the religious and philosophical establishment had with the heliocentric system was their interpretation of the Bible and devotion to Aristotle. The problem some scientists today have with accepting an intelligent cause for life is their rejection of the Bible and devotion to Darwinism. Another quote from John Lennox on Galileo and religious leaders is, “The important lesson is that we should be humble enough to distinguish between what the Bible says and our interpretations of it.” In other words, both sides must follow the facts wherever they lead, free from devotion to HUMAN doctrines.
Atheists frequently use Galileo as proof that religion is destructive and that good scientists don’t believe in God. In reality, Galileo is a poster child for the view that we try to present in all of our websites, videos, and printed materials.
Atheists have created a classic example of “fake news,” and the facts are undeniable in Galileo’s case. Galileo was a firm believer in God and the Bible, and he remained so all of his life. Among his most famous statements about science and faith were, “The laws of nature are written by the hand of God in the language of mathematics … The human mind is a work of God and one of the most excellent.”
Galileo argued that the Earth revolved around the Sun, not the other way around. That was in opposition to the way the church leaders interpreted the Bible. The Pope urged Galileo to present both sides of the argument in a book. The Pope insisted that since God is omnipotent, He could create natural phenomenon any way He wanted to. Galileo wrote the book as a dialogue between the two sides. He named the character presenting the argument in favor of an Earth-centered solar system “Simplicio” meaning “buffoon.” Galileo made the Earth-centered case seem dull-witted. That caused the Pope to put Galileo in the permanent isolation of house arrest. Galileo was never tortured, and his house arrest was in the hospitality of luxurious private residences belonging to friends.
The main point here is that Galileo is a poster child for the harmony of science and faith because he was a believer in the biblical worldview who advanced a better scientific understanding of the universe. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Men became scientific because they expected law in nature, and they expected law in nature because they believed in a Legislator.” Johannes Kepler who gave us the laws of planetary motion wrote: “The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order which has been imposed upon it by God and which He revealed to us in the language of mathematics.”
As the famous scientist Michael Faraday lay on his deathbed, a visiting friend asked him what his speculations were now that he knew he was dying. His response was “Speculations, man, I have none! I have certainties. I thank God that I do not rest my dying head upon speculations, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day.”
Since Galileo is a poster child for science and faith, you could also add Kepler and Faraday and several others.
Are most scientists atheists? Many times atheists and the atheistic media have suggested that most scientists reject belief in God and the best scientists have been atheists. That is simply not true. For many years we have published a column in our printed journal titled “Scientists and God.” In that column, we have included statements by leading scientists, many of them Nobel Prize winners, expressing their belief in a Creator.
Baruch Aba Shalev wrote a book titled 100 Years of Nobel Prizes. That book contains a report on the Nobel prizes awarded between 1901 and 2000. It shows that during that period when 423 prizes were awarded, 65.4% of Nobel Prize Laureates identified Christianity in its various forms as their religious preference. Scientists who identified themselves as Christians won 78.3% of all Nobel prizes in Peace, 72.5% in Chemistry, 65.3 % in physics, 62% in medicine, 54% in economics, and 49.5% in literature.
Most of us have seen, heard of, or perhaps even witnessed psychics who seem to do some amazing things. This may include telling some detail about a person’s life that only the person or a close family member would know. Sometimes psychics turn into what debunkers call “grief vampires” in which they convince grieving family member they are talking to a dead loved one. According to financial analysts, this has turned into a two billion dollar industry.
In the old days, psychics and mentalists learned how to read body language and would give vague generalities about a person that seemed pretty amazing. They were mostly just games with little money involved and no recruitment of followers. These are called “cold readings” and don’t involve family finances. In the last few years, this has turned into “hot readings” where a psychic reveals personal information and tells the customer what to do.
Hot readings may require giving a family fortune to an unknown person because a dead uncle said to do it. Marrying someone so that a wealthy person’s estate is accessible is another example. Paying a cancer clinic for a miracle cure of cancer is a third example. The list of exploitative psychic claims that involve talking to a dead loved one is vast.
One reason for the resurgence of psychic activity using hot readings is because of technology. Psychics will focus in on a customer and review their Facebook postings for a year or more to gain information that previously only family members would know. The Week magazine (April 5, 2019) described some cases where psychics used Facebook material to build up a dossier of information that convinced people they were talking to a dead loved one such as a parent or child.
Our apologetics studies necessarily involve claims that someone has the power to talk with the dead. The Bible makes it clear that no human can communicate with the dead. First Samuel 28:7-20 tells the story of Saul contacting the witch at Endor. The witch conducted a séance to bring Samuel back from the dead. Seances are scams, and this woman was going to perform her usual scam activity when the real deal shows up – the spirit of Samuel! The woman screamed when she realized that Samuel was actually there (verse 12) and that a miracle beyond the reach of her scam activity had taken place.
No one has power over death except God, and Jesus destroyed the power of death (1 Corinthians 15:26). Revelation 21:4 shows that being with God is the antidote to death and all the bad things that can be a part of life. A group called “Guerrilla Skeptics” has been posting false data on Facebook to see if psychics would use it. They have caught so-called psychics at their own game. People who are skilled in psychic techniques can put on a convincing show, but it is just a show. No human can contact us after we die, because talking to a dead loved one is not possible.
This ministry is designed to reach out to the common man, not the intellectual giants of our time. By “common man” I mean men and women who work every day, raise families, and live from paycheck to paycheck. They don’t have a Nobel prize or a Ph.D., but they pay taxes and vote, and they don’t fall for self-defeating materialism.
One of the intellectual giants of our day is Dr. John Lennox, and he has something important to say. Dr. Lennox is an emeritus professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford. He has written several books on the compatibility of science and religious belief. A recent quote from Dr. Lennox was a response to atheist writer Peter Atkins. Atkins had claimed that “there is no reason to suppose that science cannot deal with every aspect of existence.”
Lennox referred to this as “a self-defeating materialism.” Here is his explanation:
“The scientist’s confidence in reason ultimately depends on the existence of a rational and purposeful Creator. Otherwise, our thoughts are nothing more than electro-chemical events, the chattering of soul-less synapses. If you take the atheistic, naturalistic, materialistic view, you’re going to invalidate the reasoning process, because, in the end, you’re going to say that the brain is simply the end product of a blind, unguided process. If that’s the case, why should you trust it? The materialist view inevitably gives birth to a form of determinism that appears to mock our essential humanity. Biological determinism robs human beings of any claim to dignity and freedom. Free will, we are told, is an illusion.”
You don’t need a Ph.D. to understand the point Dr. Lennox is making about self-defeating materialism. If you want more wisdom from John Lennox, we recommend that you read his book God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?
We live in a world of violence and senseless killing. When Jesus walked the Earth, not only did the Roman government control by violence, but even the Jews practiced stoning. One of the strengths of Christianity is that the teachings of Jesus Christ stood in total opposition to the violence of His day. When the Romans and Jews came to crucify Jesus, he told Peter, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword shall die with the sword” (Matthew 26:52). You can’t read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 – 7 and get the picture of Jesus advocating or tolerating violence in His name. But today a group called Christian Identity promotes hatred.
Because we have some 4000 prisoners taking our Christian Evidences correspondence courses all over the country, we get letters indicating that a group calling themselves Christian Identity is very active in prisons. That group teaches that the Bible says salvation in Christ Jesus is only available to those in the white race. The consequences of such teaching should be obvious. Those teachings are not biblical and contradict everything that Jesus and the apostles said and did.
Just briefly let us point out some of the most egregious errors promoted by Christian Identity:
–They claim that “Adam” means “to show blood in the face” which is a characteristic of the white race only. Actually, the word “adam” in Hebrew means “out of the ground” indicating man’s origin. (See Genesis 3:19.)
–They say that white men governed all nations of the Earth. We have mummies, paintings, genetic studies and written testimonies that contradict that teaching. The Bible shows us that dark skin was a thing of beauty and is desirable. Read Song of Solomon 1:4-8 where one of Solomon’s wives begs him to love her for something other than her black skin. Biblically, humanity originated in the fertile crescent. (See Genesis 2:10-15.) People who are native to that area are dark skinned.
–Christian Identity invents words to fit their hate-filled message. They claim that the word “beast” used in Jonah 3:8 refers to inferior races of humans. The Hebrew word is “behemoth” which refers to a quadruped and never to a human of any kind.
Genetically we all have one common female ancestor proven by mitochondrial DNA research. Skin color is a function of latitude. If you move away from the equator, what happens to skin color? The basic principles of Christianity wipe out any claim of racial superiority. Galatians 3:27-29 is hard to misunderstand.
The Sermon on the Mount spells out the message of Jesus, and nowhere in it is there any justification for relegating secondary importance to any group. The woman at the well in John 4 was a Samaritan–a race despised by the Jews of Jesus’ day. (See John 4:9.) Jesus not only talked with her but stayed in her city for several days.
Christian Identity is a racist hate group hiding behind a corrupt presentation of Christ and the Bible. In our day of violence and hate, it is essential to know the enemy and his workers. Satan will have a field day with this group, especially in the prison population.
Stephen Hawking’s search ended one year ago today. He was perhaps the most famous scientist in the world until his death. Hawking was a British theoretical physicist and cosmologist. In 1963, when he was 21 years old, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The doctors gave him two years to live. He far exceeded the life expectancy of an ALS patient, even though the disease gradually stole his ability to move.
By the end of his life, Hawking spoke using a computerized voice that he controlled with his cheek muscles using a slow process of selecting words and letters. In spite of his disability, he gave lectures and wrote best-selling books. His motto was “There are no boundaries.” Although he had previously written that God was not needed to explain the creation, in 2014 he openly declared himself to be an atheist.
Hawking married Jane Wilde in 1965. Over the years his illness and his celebrity put a strain on the marriage. Also, Jane Hawking was a Christian and Stephen was an unbeliever, which added to their differences. In 1990 Stephen left Jane for one of his caregivers. In 1995 he divorced Jane and married the caregiver, Elaine Mason. Stephen divorced Elaine in 2006. Hawking then resumed a closer relationship with Jane and his children and grandchildren. Jane wrote a book about their renewed relationship, and it was made into a movie The Theory of Everything in 2014. Eddie Redmayne played Stephen Hawking in the film, and the role won him the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Speaking of the “Theory of Everything,” that is what Stephen Hawking’s search was about. He and other scientists have spent years trying to discover that theory. On January 8, 2018, a new episode of the series “Favorite Places” premiered on CuriosityStream.com. In the show, Stephen Hawking was shown traveling through space to visit some of his favorite places including Venus, the Sun, and the star Proxima Centauri. Narrating the adventure with his computer-generated voice, he told about his search for the “Theory of Everything.”
“I have been searching for something my whole life. Something to explain the world that is by turns kind and cruel, beautiful and confusing. A single all-encompassing idea that can explain the nature of reality—where it all came from and why we exist at all—the Theory of Everything.”
Perhaps in Stephen Hawking’s search, he was overlooking the real answer to his questions. Is it possible that he left out the key to that answer—God. Perhaps his ex-wife Jane had the answer all along in her Christian faith. He acknowledged that the universe is amazingly fine-tuned for life. He attempted to explain that by the idea that this is only one of an almost infinite number of universes with different parameters, and we just happen to live in the one universe with the right parameters and laws to allow life to exist.
Instead of an accidentally fine-tuned universe, what if God created a perfect universe. What if God is love and He created us so that He could love us and so that we would love and serve Him. What if our failure to do so explains why the world is “by turns kind and cruel.” That would explain “where we came from and why we exist at all.” It would also explain “the nature of reality.” That is where Stephen Hawking’s search was leading for his “whole life.”
Sadly, Stephen Hawking never found what he was searching for. We think that the “Theory of Everything” is written in the Bible ready for each of us to discover for ourselves.
For the past two days, we have examined two reasons why atheism makes sense to some people. As we said before, many people genuinely believe that there is no God and there can be many reasons for that. Today we want to examine a third reason why atheism makes sense. It involves a failure to see God working in the lives of people who claim to be Christians.
REASON 3. Christianity does not work. If there is a God, why does He not act when things get rough? Why do even the best Christians find themselves afflicted with disease and loss and even death? Why do so many Christians have nervous breakdowns, broken marriages, hostile children, alcohol and drug problems, and all of the other bad things which are a part of the world today? One man recently wrote to me, “Christianity only works for those who would do okay without it.” Another wrote, “The only thing I can see in prayer is its therapeutic value. Certainly, those who are afflicted and are Christians do not have a better survival rate than those who are afflicted and are atheists.” A third said, “I do not know of any Christian man in my community that does more good, is more generous, or is more successful than my neighbor who is an atheist. If God is real and Christianity is really worth anything, why is that true?”
RESPONSE. This challenge gets to where most Christians live. Can our friends tell any difference between us as Christians and our neighbors who are not? There are two major problems here. The first is that erroneous claims by some religionists have fouled the air. There are those who wear the name Christian who convey to the world the idea that Christians have diplomatic immunity from all problems. They preach what some call a “health and wealth gospel.” They teach that no person who is a real Christian will ever be sick or fail.
The truth is that God never gave Christians diplomatic immunity from problems. The emphasis on present-day miracles and the use of television to promote the claims of “faith healers” have given atheists much to criticize. Atheists, and even many believers, do not understand the advantages a Christian enjoys. When the Word of God says things like, “Seek and ye shall find, ask and it shall be given to you,” it is not speaking of physical and material things. God has not promised that Christians will have health, wealth, and freedom from problems. What He has promised is that He will bless those things we do to serve Him. There is no greater joy, greater fulfillment, greater satisfaction, or greater thrill than to see God work through us to accomplish something we could not possibly do alone.
The difference between an atheist and a Christian in dealing with infidelity in a mate is that the Christian can rebuild that marriage. The difference between the two in dealing with an alcohol or other drug problem is that the Christian can overcome it with God’s help. In dealing with death or tragedy, the Christian can cope and go on and continue to have a fulfilling life. In dealing with failure, the Christian can be secure and confident that it does not affect our eternal destiny.
ADVICE. It is vital that we convey to the world around us that when Christ lives in us, and we are spirit-filled people, we are not walking around two feet off the ground behaving as mystics. We Christians need to let the world know how much of a positive change God has made in our lives. Too often non-Christians view the Church as a group of somber, unhappy, irrational, mystical, illogical, unintelligent, hypocritical people who are out of touch with reality. This third reason why atheism makes sense is one that we can easily disprove as we can laugh, love, enjoy life, and logically and rationally defend our faith.