Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Creator

Darkness was upon the face of the deep

When first created the earth was tohu and bohu  – “without form and void,” as the AV translation has it. The words could also be translated “confusion and emptiness.” And there was darkness over all this chaotic mass – not a physical darkness, which would be meaningless before the vision of the Creator – but spiritual darkness was present here from the very beginning and would soon begin to manifest its subversive presence in God’s creation.

“And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” I much prefer the “moved” of the AV to the “hovered” found in many newer translations. “Moved” indicates a purposeful surveying of the chaos below with a plan for what it would become. The first indication of that purpose was shown when He said “Let there be light,” and instantly there was light, and a clear demarcation between light and darkness.

Not much later, God caused the dry land to rise up out of the water, then proceeded to populate the land with vegetation, animal and bird life and finally humanity. The sequence of the events in the days of creation are significant. The conflict between light and darkness, between the sea and the dry land, are themes that play out all through the narrative of the Bible, and these conflicts existed before man made his appearance on the earth.

I will not say much about darkness and light, for I suspect the concept of the powers of darkness and the God who brings light are at least somewhat familiar to most people.  Water and the sea are often used in the Bible as symbols of the  unstable state in which most of the people of the world exist. Consider the following verses:

Revelation 17:15 – And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
Psalms 18:4  – The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.
Psalms 65:7 –  Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people.
Isaiah 8:7  – Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks.
James 1:6  – But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

There are fearsome creatures in this water, of which leviathan appears to be the chief. The description of leviathan in the book of Job led many commentators in past years to identify leviathan as a crocodile. Fearsome though a crocodile may be, the turmoil and devastation caused by leviathan goes far beyond the powers of a crocodile. More recent writers conjecture that leviathan was a water-dwelling dinosaur. Perhaps that gets us a little closer to the physical description, but the Biblical passages describing leviathan go beyond even that. They appear to describe a mighty spiritual power that is behind the stirring of the waters and the tossing of the waves of this world – Satan himself.

Isaiah 27:1  – In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.

The dry land – eretz – is meant to be a place of safety and stability for those who put their trust in God. Nevertheless, the book of Revelation shows us the prototypes of two forms of false religions. One arises out of the sea of confused humanity that does not know God and its power comes from the dragon, or Leviathan. This is paganism and all forms of false religion. The other arises out of the earth, has the appearance of a lamb, yet speaks as the dragon. This is counterfeit Christianity and is as dangerous as the first.

God promised a land to His Old Testament people – eretz Israel. They did possess it in peace for a short time. The teaching that some near day God will once again rule from eretz Israel is fantasy and delusion. He has something much better in store for his people. The description of the new Jerusalem shows a land where there is no more darkness and the sea is now a solid and safe sea of crystal . There are no more monsters; there is no evil, no sorrow. The redeemed of all the ages shall dwell there in peace and joy in the presence of their Lord and Redeemer.

 

The love of God

[The following words were written 19 centuries ago, not long after the time of the apostles. It is part of what is known as The Letter to Diognetus. Neither the author of the letter, nor Diognetus, have ever been satisfactorily identified, but the letter breathes an authentic and dynamic faith. Shouldn’t those two qualities still go together?  Is it just me, or is it really so that those today who profess a dynamic faith are lacking in authenticity? And those who rigorously seek an authentic faith are lacking in dynamism (or vitality)?)

VII. For this is no earthly discovery, as I said, which was delivered into their charge; it is no mortal idea which they regard themselves bound so diligently to guard; it is no stewardship of merely human mysteries with which they have been entrusted.

2. But God Himself in very truth, the almighty and all-creating and invisible God, Himself from heaven planted among men and established in their hearts the Truth and the Word, the holy, incomprehensible Word, sending to men not a servant, as one might imagine, or an angel or ruler, or one of those who administer earthly things, or of those who have been entrusted with the ordering of things in heaven, but the very Artificer and Creator of the universe Himself, by whom He made the heavens, by whom He enclosed the sea within bounds of its own, whose mysteries all the elements faithfully observe, from whom the sun has received the measure of his daily courses to keep, whom the moon obeys as He bids her shine at night, whom the stars obey as they follow the course of the moon, by whom all things have been ordered and defined and placed in subjection, the heavens and things in the heavens, the earth and things in the earth, the sea and things in the sea, fire, air, abyss, things in the heights above, things in the depths beneath, things in the space between — He it was whom God sent to men.

3. Did He send Him, as a man might think, on a mission of domination and fear and terror?

4. Indeed He did not, but in gentleness and meekness He sent Him, as a king sending his own son who is himself a king; He sent Him as God, He sent Him as man to men, He sent Him with the idea of saving, of persuading, not of forcing; for force is no part of the nature of God.

5. He sent Him as inviting, not as pursuing man; He sent Him in love, not in judgment.

6. For He will send Him in judgment; and who shall stand before His presence? . . .

7. (Dost thou not see them) flung to the wild beasts, to make them deny their Lord, and yet unconquered?

8. Dost thou not see that the more of them are punished the more their numbers increase?

9. These things look not like the achievements of man; they are the power of God; they are the proofs of His presence.

VIII. Who among men understood at all what God is, before He came?

2. Or dost thou accept the vain and foolish theories of those famous philosophers, of whom some said that God was fire (giving the name of God to the element into which they themselves are destined to go), and others that He was water, and others again some other of the elements created by God?

3. And indeed if any one of these theories deserves acceptance, each of the remaining creatures might just as readily be proved to be God.

4. But these notions are but the trickery and imposture of magicians.

5. No man ever saw God or made Him known; God revealed Himself.
6. And He revealed Himself through faith, to which alone it has been granted to see God.

7. For God, the Lord and Creator of the universe, who made all things, and set them in order, proved to be not only loving unto man but also longsuffering.

8. Such indeed He ever was and is and will be, kind and good and dispassionate and true — in fact He alone is good.

9. But He conceived a great and unspeakable thought, and this He communicated to His Son alone.

10. While therefore He kept and guarded His wise counsel as a mystery, He seemed indeed to be negligent and careless of us.

11. But when He revealed it through His beloved Son, and made manifest what had been prepared from the beginning, then He bestowed upon us all things at once — to partake of His benefits, and to see and understand things which none of us could ever have expected.

IX. Having therefore planned the whole dispensation already in His own mind in union with the Son, He permitted us during the former time to be carried along by disorderly inclinations just as we wished, and led astray by pleasures and desires, not in any way taking delight in our. sins, but bearing with them, nor again assenting to that age of unrighteousness, but creating all the while the present age of righteousness, so that we, having then been by our own works convicted of our unworthiness of life, might now be rendered worthy by the goodness of God, and having plainly proved that we were unable of ourselves to enter into the kingdom of God, might be enabled so to enter by the power of God.

2. But when our unrighteousness had now been fulfilled, when it had been made completely manifest, that its retribution was awaited in chastisement and death, when the time came which God had ordained to manifest His own goodness and power (O the surpassing kindness and love of God for man!), He did not hate us or reject us or take vengeance upon us, but showed His longsuffering and forbearance; in His mercy He Himself took up the burden of our sins, He Himself gave His own Son as a ransom on our behalf, the holy for the lawless, the innocent for the guilty, the just for the unjust, the incorruptible for the corruptible, the immortal for the mortal.

3. What else could cover our sins but His righteousness?

4. In whom could we lawless and ungodly men be justified but in the Son of God alone?

5. O sweet exchange! O inscrutable operation! O unexpected blessings, that the lawlessness of many should be hidden in one righteous person, and the righteousness of one should justify the lawless many!

6. Having therefore proved in the former time the powerlessness of our nature to win life, and having now revealed a Saviour powerful to save even the powerless, in both these ways He wished us to believe His goodness, to regard Him as guardian, father, teacher, counsellor, physician, mind, light, honour, glory, strength, life, and not to be anxious about clothing and food.

X. If thou, too, desirest this faith, first obtain the knowledge of the Father.

2. For God loved men, for whose sake He made the world, to whom He subjected all things that are in the earth, to whom He gave reason and intelligence, to whom alone He granted to look upward to Him, whom He formed after His own image, to whom He sent His only-begotten Son, to whom He promised the kingdom that is in heaven, yea, and will give it to them that have loved Him.

3. And when thou hast attained this knowledge, with what joy, thinkest thou, wilt thou be filled? Or how wilt thou love Him who so first loved thee?

4. Loving Him, thou wilt be an imitator of His goodness. Wonder not that man can be an imitator of God; by the will of God he can.

5. For happiness consists not in exercising lordship over a neighbour, nor in wishing to have advantage of weaker men, nor in possessing wealth and using force against inferiors. Not in ways like these can a man imitate God; such ways are far removed from I lis majesty.

6. But whosoever takes up his neighbour’s burden, whosoever is willing to use his superiority as a means of benefiting another man who is in this respect his inferior, whosoever bestows upon the needy what he himself holds as a recipient of God’s bounty and so becomes a god to the recipients of his bounty, he is an imitator of God.

7. Then though thou art yet upon earth thou shalt behold that God ruleth in heaven, then shalt thou begin to speak the mysteries of God, then shalt thou love and admire them that are punished for their refusal to deny God, then shalt thou pass judgment upon the deception and delusion of the world, when thou hast learned to know the true life that is in heaven, to despise the seeming death here, and to fear the real death there, which is reserved for them that shall be condemned to the eternal fire which shall punish them that are delivered over unto it, even unto the end. Then shalt thou admire them that endure for righteousness’ sake the fire that lasteth but for a time, when thou hast learned to know that fire yonder. . . .

The God who loves us

People who trust in pagan religions believe there are many gods. These gods spend so much time squabbling among themselves that people need to make great efforts to get their attention.

The religions of the native peoples of North America are much like that, but many of them have a creation account that sounds remarkably like the one in the book of Genesis. In most cases these people believe the Creator is not much interested in their daily lives. The Great Spirit is the one that they pray to. Some tribes believe the Great Spirit is the same as the Creator and wants to help them. Others believe the Great Spirit is a powerful spirit who might do them good, but is just as likely to trick them.

Islam teaches that there is only one god. Allah sent his angel to Mohammed to dictate the words of their holy book. Their holy book is called the Koran, or Qur’an, which means recite. The whole duty of man is to submit to the teachings of the Koran. Islam means submission. Allah is far away and does not give personal answers to prayer.

Judaism believes in the God who is revealed in the Old Testament, the God who loves His people and performed many miracles for them in ages past. Now they are waiting for Messiah to come and restore them to their rightful place of glory in the world.

Christians believe in the same God as the Jews, but the New Testament reveals aspects of God that were only hinted at in the Old Testament. God loves all mankind and sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer and die on the cross for the sins of all mankind. Now the way to heaven is open for anyone who will believe in Jesus. Not only that, but God has given the Holy Spirit to guide each believer through every day of his or her life.

The teaching that there is only one God, but He is three persons in order to better relate to us, is difficult to understand. Really, it is impossible for our human minds to understand just how it can be. But this is what the Bible teaches, and if we could understand everything about God, then we would think ourselves as great as He is.

The Trinity, the reality that God relates to us in three different ways, as three different persons, is what makes Christianity different than all other religions. It is what allows each one of us to know that God loves us personally, every day, wherever we are.

Will the Paris climate conference save us from the dastardly Chinook wind?

Leonardo DiCaprio was filming in Calgary in January of this year when a Chinook wind came up. It terrified him. “We would come and there would be eight feet of snow, and then all of a sudden a warm gust of wind would come.” “…it was scary. I’ve never experienced something so firsthand that was so dramatic. You see the fragility of nature and how easily things can be completely transformed with just a few degrees difference. It’s terrifying, and it’s what people are talking about all over the world. And it’s simply just going to get worse.”

He claims that some local on the film crew told him “This has never happened in our province ever.” There is a serious misunderstanding here, nobody could live in Calgary and be ignorant of the Chinook winds that visit southwestern Alberta dozens of times every winter.

A Chinook begins on the Pacific and comes ashore laden with moisture. This moisture falls as rain in the coastal regions and as snow further inland and on the western slope of the Rockies. When the wind comes over the top of the mountains it has shed all its moisture and flows down the mountain and across the prairie as a warm dry wind. Chinooks have been known to melt a foot of snow in an hour.

There are numerous folk tales about Chinooks. In one case, a farmer in pioneer days is said to have been going to town in a sleigh drawn by a team of horses and just keeping pace with the front of the Chinook. The horses were belly deep in snow, the sleigh was in mud up to the buckboard and the cow tied behind the sleigh was kicking up dust on the road.

This is climate change all right – and it has been happening many times every winter as far back as anyone can trace the history of the area. The First Nations people have legends about how the Chinook came to be.

The real problem here is that people have been told so many scary stories that anything that is not familiar to them becomes evidence of impending doom. I have more confidence in the Creator than in all the world powers and experts who were gathered in Paris to try to save the planet.

What will it profit a man to save the planet and lose his own soul?

 

Intellectualism, reason and faith

Intellectualism is the idea that all truth can be discovered by reasoning. René Descartes started with “I think, therefore I am,” and proceeded down this line of reasoning to discover all that was worth knowing, to his own satisfaction at least.

The fatal flaw in this is that God is considered as irrelevant and thus the reasoning is based on the false premise that the human mind is able to comprehend the meaning of all things. Reason is not contrary to faith, but reasoning based on false premises does lead away from faith.

The rage against faith by many intellectuals of our day should be seen as an acknowledgement that they know they are on shaky ground. Their fine sounding reasoning has not brought the fulfillment and happiness they anticipated, but they are determined to never admit that. Hence the furious attempts to ridicule, vilify and silence anyone who has the temerity to point out the weaknesses in their reasoning.

There is nothing about Christian faith that is contrary to reason; there is no evidence in the way that things really are and how they work that contradicts the revelations given in the Bible. Christian faith puts us in harmony with the way things really are. That is to be expected if we are in harmony with the Creator of all things.

It is enough for Christians to patiently and humbly point out the reasonableness of Christian faith. We should never be the ones on the attack, with ridicule and harsh words. We should avoid all triumphalism and above all avoid all fables that purport to offer proof of Christian faith. The Bible is enough.

Lazy thinking

The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason (Proverbs 26:16).

My mother told the story of a poor farmer extolling the virtues of socialism to his neighbour who was even poorer.

“If everyone who has more than they need would share with those who do not have enough, what a wonderful place this world would be!”

“Sooo, does that mean that if you had two cows you would give me one?”

“Of course.”

“If you had two horses, you would give me one?”

“Certainly.”

“And if you had two pigs, you would give me one?”

“Oh come on now, that’s going too far. You know I have two pigs!”

That is the thinking of a sluggard. Sharing is a wonderful thing, if it means that you are giving to me. If I have to give something away, that is quite a different matter.

We all know people like that. If McDonald’s charges them five cents too much for a coffee, they are filled with indignation for days. If they see an opportunity to pick up a dollar that does not belong to them, it does not seem to cause the slightest twinge to their conscience.

Still, the majority of the people around us are honest; if they see a dollar laying around, they will try to find the owner. Why? Why is it that so many people still have a clear sense of right and wrong, even though they believe that we are just random agglomerations of protoplasm that appeared for no particular reason or purpose?

Isn’t this the reasoning of a sluggard? If there is a purpose for my existence, then there must somewhere be Someone who is the reason behind all that exists. The sluggard does have a sense of what is right and what is wrong, but wants to believe that this sense is just an evolutionary survival instinct. He would rather believe that he is doing the best he can under the circumstances and that he will never have to give account for cutting corners in life to the Lord of all that exists.

This is lazy thinking. If one seeks to search the reason for our sense of right and wrong, it quickly appears illogical that it could simply have arisen in response to the survival of the fittest in a dog eat dog world. Where then does our conscience come from? Evolution cannot even explain consciousness, let alone conscience.

There are people around us who appear to have stilled their conscience. Have they really succeeded? Or have they simply chosen to live with the terrors that dwell in their mind, hoping with all their might that death will be the end of it?

One of the greatest arguments for the existence of God is that those who have repented of the wrong they have done are blessed with a peaceful mind and a heart that forgives others who have wronged them.

Heaven and hell

Atheists consider the teaching in the Bible about a place called hell to be a conclusive argument against Christianity and its belief in a loving God.  As a Christian, I consider hell to be part of the good news.  I don’t any vindictive feelings against other people, but if heaven is to be a good place, there must also be a place for all the bad things in this world.

And the world is full of bad things: hatred; envy; jealousy; greed; lust; terror; anger; bitterness; and the pain. suffering, sorrow and grief that they cause.  We understand from the Bible that these things have their origin in Satan, who rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven, along with the host of angels who followed him.  It was for them that the everlasting fire of hell was prepared.

The hatred of Satan and his demon angels for God and all that is good drives them to attempt to destroy all the works of God.  But they do not present themselves to us as enemies, but rather as our most reasonable friends.  “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

Atheists have no explanation for the existence of evil.  Nor do they have any explanation for good.  Since man is purely an accident of natural forces, there can be no objective moral basis for right and wrong.  All is rationalized as man’s instinct for self-preservation.  Thus it would be perfectly natural for me to try to preserve myself at the expense of someone else.  Societies therefore must make laws to create order and protect the weak, but their is no objective moral foundation for those laws.

Thus our world becomes more and more chaotic, with numberless special interest groups shrieking out their demands for recognition of their rights and for protection from everyone else.  The Bible’s claim that all this is happening because the devil knows that his days are numbered and has sent out his spirits to deceive the whole world begins to seem the best explanation for what is happening.

Hope is offered to us in a most paradoxical way.  God sent His Son into this world who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; therefore Satan stirred up so much hatred against Him that He was nailed to a cross and left to die.  Yet it was precisely by His death on the cross that Jesus won the victory over Satan and his powers.

“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;  And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:14-15).

This is the source of the hope of heaven for a Christian who has repented of his allegiance to the forces of evil and turned with all his heart to follow Christ.  However, in order for heaven to be a place that is holy and pure, free from all the toxic effects of Satan’s realm, there must also be another place for all these spirits that have had such a toxic effect on mankind.  Unfortunately, this means that in order to maintain the purity of heaven, all people who have willingly contaminated themselves by their allegiance to these toxic forces must also be sent to hell.

This is not vindictiveness on God’s part.  He has made a way for all mankind to avoid such a doom, He is calling all men, everywhere and not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.  The most horrible part of the eternal torment of hell will be the knowledge that one is there by his own choice.  The memory of the time, or times, that the way of escape was offered in this life will be forever engraved upon the memory of the damned.

Yet this terrible reality is not the reason that most people turn to God for salvation.  It is not the fear of hell, but the longing for something better than this world has to offer that leads us to search for answers to the troubles of this life.  And the only answer that makes any sense is that we are made in the likeness of God and there is something within us that continually searches to be reunited with our Creator.  To attempt to deny this leads to alienation from anything that would give life meaning and purpose.

 

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