Certainty and the Search for Absolute Truth
by Robert Burkhart
Wait! Before you fly into that building...
What is truth? Is it knowable? Is certainty even possible?
An account of the search for truth and meaning and whether you can be absolutely certain about anything
Copyright © Robert Burkhart 2011
All rights reserved
You’re ... different.”
I heard this from a girlfriend in high school as she was about to tell me she didn’t want to see me anymore. While I had friends and was more or less well liked, I was always a little ... odd.
Later, my wife Debbie, would sometimes refer to me as being barely human. I guess it could be construed as intelligence but Debbie was brilliant and she didn’t share the same oddness. None of the other intelligent people I’ve met over the years seemed to be this way.
While there is a temptation to call it by a clinical name like Aspergers, I just think of it as being me. There was always a disconnect of sorts between my emotions and what I thought. Everything tended to be conscious and deliberate. If a child misbehaved, I’d decide that raising my voice would be an appropriate thing to do. I hope my children weren’t scarred too badly by my premeditated bellowing. Everything was premeditated.
I really identified with the character Spock on Star Trek though unlike him, I had emotions. They were just things I tended to observe at a distance rather than just feel them and spontaneously react. I learned to act normal though. Debbie would cry when I told her that I didn’t feel love for her. Because I loved her, in a sense, and didn’t want to hurt her feelings, I learned to act the part well enough to marry.
I suppose my odd emotional wiring equips me to talk about subjective states which are important in this book about Absolute Truth. The most certain of truths are subjective. I don’t mean that “truth is subjective” in the way that the expression is used to say that everyone has their own opinion about what is correct or factual. I mean that truths like our own existence or any subsequently known truth MUST be experienced subjectively to be known.
In choosing to write a book titled The Search for Absolute Truth, I realize the effrontery that involves. Yet I searched for Absolute Truth and it found me. While others may have reached the same understanding before, my perspective is sufficiently unique to warrant this book.
I make no apologies for the answers contained here. If certain assertions are rejected out of hand because they don't fit the reader's aesthetic sense of what the truth should or shouldn't be, then so be it. I’ll try to exhibit as much logical rigor in the supporting arguments as possible but the acceptance or rejection of what’s put forward may be determined more by the reader's inclinations than logic.
Even though that last bit may sound harsh, it’s with tender regard that I write. There may be at least one who seeks the truth. I wish I had met me earlier, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble. Some aspects of the truth have taken decades for me to learn. I make no complaint though that they took so long to arrive, I was slow when faced with the obvious. I only hope that I discharge my responsibility to you well. I believe if you are armed with a better understanding of the truth, your choices in life will be better.
Since my own search for truth stretched over decades and had sort of a logical sequence to it, it’s presented here in a partially autobiographical form. My life was unremarkable in that I did nothing and achieved nothing of note that would make anyone want to read my life’s story, but I’m sure that what I’ll share will be ... different.
This book is intended to persuade the non-Christian reader to accept Christ for themselves. That, as it turns out, is the ultimate destination of any successful search for truth. The nature of that Truth is that It wants to be shared. I’ll make no apologies for what the Truth is. I would cheat the reader if I tried to obscure the direction we’re headed.
Let me state it clearly here, lest it becomes lost in the clutter of this book. Full knowledge of your Creator requires acceptance of His death on your behalf. This is both effortless and costly. The benefits include much more than mere eternal life.
This arrangement is your Creator’s way of sharing Himself with you, in the person of Jesus Christ as Master and Deliverer. The plan involved great personal expense to Him but He was glad to do it.
According to Him, there is no alternative plan, There is no other way to know Him or have eternal life. His moral right to say this is just and fair, not only because He is God, but because He earned it.
If you find yourself reading these words at a point where you’re ready to commit your life to God. All you have to do at any time is pray to seal the deal. He has already done His part and is waiting to hear you ask. If you are unsure how to ask, turn Here. There you’ll find a prayer to help guide you.
“I stand at the door and knock”
Invite Him in.
Before we start describing Truth, it’s important to recognize and discard those things which obscure it. If we’re burdened by perceptions and beliefs that stand in the way of a logical and unemotional appraisal of the arguments, then those things have to go.
In addition, for a given question, there might be only one right answer but there will always be an infinite number of wrong ones. This lopsidedness is an unavoidable part of the reality we inhabit. We need a shorthand way to throw out the wrong answers quickly or we risk being overwhelmed.
The importance of knowing the truth and tossing out falsehood is because it will help us make choices, though some choices seem more important than others. There are sometimes drastic consequences to our actions. For instance, before I strap explosives to my body in the hope of pleasing my god, I should make certain that it's the logical thing to do. Many of the choices we make can’t be undone so it makes sense to be certain before we act with a flawed understanding of reality.
Our beliefs of what’s true shape every action we take. It's an understatement to call truth important, the truth is essential! Now, if only it were attainable...
Nearly everyone who reads this has been deceived at some point by a magician. The purpose of that sort of deception was entertainment and the method used for the deception varied but there was a common feature in each instance. What we thought was true was false. What we thought we saw was wrong. While the old saying "Seeing is believing" may have merit, what we believe by seeing, in some cases may not be true.
Our senses can be fooled. The world is full of examples of our senses being deceived. Whether by artificial sweeteners or optical illusion, we all get fooled by our senses from time to time.
On occasion, a dream may leave us with the impression that something happened when in fact, it didn’t. What we remember about events that occur can be modified and merged with memories for other events that occurred. So even our memory, which is really a sense of the past, isn’t perfect.
Popular entertainment has expanded the realm of what we might consider possible. There are stories that feature futuristic methods where characters in the story are given memories of events that didn’t happen. Sometimes, the story line is built around technology that can selectively erase memories.
And most of us have probably heard someone speculate:
"What if this is all just a dream?”
We tend to dismiss such thoughts as fanciful because the world around us makes sense. We have the memory of our entire lives to serve as a backdrop to the reality we see. Common sense prevails and we go about living our lives confident that, barring the occasional magician or artificial flavor, things are as they appear.
Is it possible that there are methods of deception so flawless that we can't detect the deception? Might some deceptions be carried out for other purposes than our entertainment? Again, relying on popular culture for ideas, there are TV shows and movies that feature story lines with technology of the future or extraterrestrial beings with abilities that make perceived reality very pliable.
The Matrix series of movies is built on the notion that all of everyone’s reality is an artificial construct to keep us amused while the energy of our bodies is used by the machines creating the reality for us. Though that particular scenario may be nonsensical, there might be another that isn't. I propose that we can't be absolutely certain that reality is as it seems to be. This is true even as we dismiss all such notions as absurd. Discarding the absurd helps us function.
But even our own judgment may be suspect and not a good basis to evaluate what’s true. Right now the world is in a time of financial uncertainty and there are some very intelligent and well educated people called economists who don't agree with each other at all about the causes and cures for the current problems. Logically, at least some of these smart people are mistaken.
We’ve all been wrong from time to time. That's part of being human, but do we have reason to doubt that our judgment is fundamentally sound? The commonsense answer is no.
But our quest is for Absolute Truth here. That raises the bar a bit. To be absolutely certain that something is true leaves no room for doubt. Doubt is the destroyer of certainty and here is a simple sentence that I originally wrote in 1968 that can apply doubt to almost anything:
“No matter what I believe I know, there may be some unknown set of circumstances that is somehow deceiving me.”
What seems logical may in fact be illogical if I am insane. If I prove something to be true, how can I be sure that I am rational and that my proof was logical? Even without doubting our sanity, most of us can muster some degree of self doubt because we’ve all been wrong from time to time. It’s an acknowledged part of the learning process. Again, with the Absolute as our standard, we can’t be absolutely sure that our reasoning is sound about anything.
Without resorting to science fiction, we can easily conceive that we may be wrong about some things in our memory. With the criteria of Absolute Truth in play, our recollection of anything can be questioned and anything that relies on memory becomes uncertain. Perhaps we have the recollection of having weighed the facts and proven something to ourselves but now that we’ve done all that, it’s just a memory.
After Rene Descartes made his famous statement:
“Cogito Ergo Sum” or “I think, therefore I am”
he went on to draw several conclusions about God’s existence and His character. Descartes used faith in his memory and faith in the soundness of his reasoning ability to help him develop a belief system, but once he had proven something, how sure could he be that he didn’t pop into existence the moment before with the false memory of just having proven something? Could he be sure his conclusions were even logical?
Rene Descartes criteria for certainty was not really absolute. Even his famous statement required faith because the “therefore” conclusion required faith in his intellect. Alas, Descartes was searching for certainty and thought he had found it.
Descartes initially described the sense of despair he felt over his hopeless uncertainty. He wanted the knowledge that doing anything wasn’t a pointless exercise. If reality isn’t like we think, then whatever we do is a charade.
For Descartes, his faulty reasoning allowed him escape from the despair. While that may have helped him, there was no escape for me. Any conclusions that relied on my reasoning or memory offered no solace. In my search for certainty I came to the same basic truth as he did but I realized that the truth of my existence wasn’t dependent on my ability to prove it. I existed. No “therefore” was needed to proceed it. Try as I might to doubt my existence, I couldn’t. It was a fact that didn’t even require sanity or memory to be perceived as true.
What if I'm insane and my proof of my existence is irrational, will I still exist?
Within Descartes statement is the prime absolute truth. It's not dependent on proof and it's not even provable, it just is.
That short statement embodies an Absolute Truth fully. It’s unassailable by any possible doubt.
It is truth in the sense that it’s both absolutely knowable and absolutely true. If anyone challenges it and you come to doubt it, then who is it that is doing the doubting? But even this little proof of the I Am is absurd because the I Am needs nothing to prove its existence. I am because I am.
My perception of me being me IS me. I am the most amazing thing. I am an I Am, a being.
I hope the reader can appreciate the wonder of this truth. If you exist (and I can’t know for sure) your existence is pretty incredible. Our existence as I Ams is so certain, so knowable, that it stands out starkly against the rest of reality.
I caution the reader against philosophers who try to bury the existence of the I am under a torrent of words. If you perceive yourself as existing then you DO exist. We have here the most absolute example of Absolute Truth and there are those who for whatever reason seem opposed to it.
There is another item that shares the same spotlight here, something that is certain as well:
Our perceptions are real. They definitely exist. What they seem to be telling us about the world may be doubtful but the existence of the perceptions themselves is not.
I know my perceptions exist because I’m having them. If I try to draw conclusions based on those perceptions though, then we are entering back into the uncertain.
We can include as perceptions anything that we experience besides our I Am. Aside from the classic five senses there are senses that are derived from them. Vision for instance includes a sense of depth perception, facial recognition and balance cues. Taste may invoke pleasure or revulsion which are part of a broad category of “feelings about feeling” that are called emotions. In spite of the differences, we can lump all these various types of experience together as perceptions since they can be perceived as distinct from our I Am.
Where does that leave me then? Only with the existence of myself and my perceptions, but what hope is there of getting more certainty? Descartes felt despair at this point and he was right to be unhappy, it’s awful. If one can doubt everything, can any action be certain? There is scant hope of ever knowing since everything is subject to doubt.
I can perceive things with my fallible senses. I can infer things with my perhaps illogical mind. And I can try to remember any conclusions with my faulty memory. Certainty evades me with seemingly no way possible to ever attain it.
I felt condemned to a hazy existence where I could only go through the motions of living while hoping for the best. I could only hope that what I did mattered and that my existence was not a charade.
Often when I spoke with people about my doubts, their best answer was that I had to have faith, but faith was a logical impossibility! Was I expected to adopt a belief just because someone recommended it? I needed certainty. What are the answers to the fundamental questions? What is the nature of reality? What is my origin and destiny? Can I do anything that really matters? But along with the answers I needed to have confidence that those answers were really true. These issues didn't trouble most people but they nearly consumed me.
But lest I portray myself as a pure soul, one who went about earnestly in search of the truth, you should know that that wasn't me. In this book about the Absolute Truth, it somehow seems important to be honest.
During my quest, while I might have given intellectual assent to the importance of Absolute Truth, I formed a working assumption that things were as they seemed and went about living a rather pointless life. I pursued sexual encounters and whatever else I pleased like the self absorbed young man that I was. I had essentially given up the quest for Absolute Truth.
My virtual abandonment of the quest was because I intuitively felt that it was hopeless. I was limited in what could be known. I was trapped by what I called the Human Condition. Aside from the existence of my own I Am and the existence of my perceptions, all other things were uncertain. My own memory and sanity weren't absolutely trustworthy and any conclusions I might make about reality were just as shaky as a result. There didn't seem to be any way out. Whenever I dwelt upon it, I felt despair, so, most of the time, I tended not to think about it.
Whenever I did give the problem some thought, I reasoned that there may be a way out of the dilemma. Perhaps my thinking was indeed flawed and one day I might encounter someone who could point out my error and then I could go forward from that point with certainty. In the midst of chasing a fairly dissipative life, I discussed philosophy with whoever would engage me. This was in hope that I would run across someone who had the answer. In the back of my mind though, I ignored the sense that even this was pointless.
If I met someone who had the answers and they wanted to share that knowledge with me, then my doubts would still trump what they said. Whatever they had to share would have to come to me by my senses, be processed by my logic, and then be retained by my memory.
Even if we just choose to assume that reality is on the up and up, right away we encounter a pressing problem. We are forced to decide what we’re going to do the next moment and maybe, for the rest of our lives. Time seems to flow forward by itself and even doing nothing is a decision. The impression we get is that our time in this reality isn’t unlimited. Do nothing long enough and the opportunity to do something may disappear.
Whether someone opts to spend their life collecting bits of lint, working hard to feed a family, or flying a plane into a building, a decision has to be made. Our decision of what’s good to do is important. In fact, it’s a matter of life and death. At least it’s a matter of how we’re going to spend our lives.I can make the choices in life that will earn me a gravestone that says:
a lot of lint
But is feeding my family until I die on the job a more worthy goal? Will there really be 72 virgins waiting for me after I fly into that building?
Most people don’t consider the full impact of their decisions, but we’re deciding what seems the most important thing in the world. It’s what to do with our existence! If we choose unwisely and should have been doing something other than what seemed good at the time, it might actually be the worst of mistakes. There may be no way to undo it later.
The elusiveness of certainty is what caused me anguish. I needed it in order to know that my chosen path would be worth it, but it was the inevitability of uncertainty itself that seemed certain. If I sat before a plate of food, what would the act of eating do if my body, the table and food were all illusory?
I lacked certainty for the mundane things, I was no more certain of the weighty. There seemed no way to find meaning or purpose for anything. This thing that I termed the Human Condition thwarted me.
Many people just embrace the emptiness. An existential celebration of the pointlessness of life seemed behind the popular beer slogan:
“You only go around once in life, so you may as well grab all the Gusto you can.”
But the pursuit of pleasure, amusement or even accomplishment for its own sake didn’t appeal to me. I suppose, what I had read one time in a book of the Bible called Ecclesiastes had preconditioned me into not wanting to try all these things.
In Ecclesiastes a wealthy king does it all. He has harems, clowns, palaces, and great learning but after weighing it all, finds that everything was pointless. I suspect that “embracing the emptiness” doesn’t appeal to you either, or you wouldn’t have gotten this far.
I searched through the alternatives to see if there was a rational choice. If my logic was truly flawed then perhaps at a later time, the correct answers would come to me somehow. I didn’t doubt my logic much at least about the validity of doubting, so the likelihood of getting certainty through a future encounter with some learned person, who would impart some luminous revelation, seemed remote.
I’d searched the writings of Eastern mystics to see if it seemed like there was anything to be found there. The meditation and discipline required in order to achieve a state of what sounded very much like nonexistence didn’t appeal to me. I confess my methodology wasn’t solidly logical. I used hunches and impressions to feel my way through life.
I quickly focused upon God as a possible option. I reasoned that if there were a God and He was Omnipotent and Omniscient then He would have both the answers and the means to share them convincingly. It was the possibility of God being convincing that made me intuit in that direction, though I thought of Ezekiel's Fiery Chariot vision and knew that a repeat of that light show wouldn’t convince me. I had to know with the same level of certainty as I knew I existed.
The reasonableness of this leap of hope is a central point in this book. If it’s hard for the reader to swallow, I offer what’s called an appeal to authority. If I offer an authority on the subject of certainty who supports the truth of what I’m saying, and if you respect the authority I cite, then you’ll tend to accept the opinion being offered as valid.
The authority I’ll cite is you.
You can critique the arguments of the great philosophers and see the holes in their logic. Rene Descartes, for instance, never considered his memory or his logic as potentially flawed. Therefore, his subsequent conclusions and proofs were flawed by uncertainty. All other philosophers make the same mistake or don’t even address certainty. Armed with this perfect and total doubt, you are ready to doubt anything uncertain. Your criteria for certainty is absolute. It excludes everything doubtful.
It’s your being that’s the guide. Your “I Am” is both the standard for certainty and the perceiver of it. Sense the amazingness of you! Intuit with me now where the answer MUST lie. If there is an answer to be had then it would logically come from your creator. Whoever or whatever created your “I Am” might also have the power to make your ‘I Am” to be aware of Him and be aware of other things also perhaps.
The possibility of God is our best hope. If He exists and cares about His creations then He would know about the Human Condition and might deal with it. Anything less than the Creator wouldn’t have the power. To pursue certainty elsewhere isn’t as likely to be successful. If certainty isn’t achievable, you haven’t lost much. It’s a variant on what’s called Pascal’s Wager. This time it’s hope that’s in play instead of pious effort. You can hope that there is an answer even while you remain pessimistic.
If your intuition makes even the possibility of this seem too remote to consider, too absurd or undesirable to you, know that the Bible tells us that God’s name is I AM. That fact adds greatly to the plausibility that He might exist as the Creator of your I Am.
Know also that this God if He exists, wasn’t responsible for the Crusades, the Salem Witch trials or the even the Trial of Galileo. Groups of people using the mantle of God to justify their actions do not form a good basis to accept or reject the concept of God. It's logically sensible to explore both the possibility that God exists and that you can know it.
Use me as the authority if you like. I understand the issues involved better than most and I’ve demonstrated my regard for the truth. I have this and nothing else as my credential. I could have lied to you here but didn’t. I guess I could deceive myself about some things sometime but you also know that I know what certainty is.
So I was led to something that was inescapable. In order to function, I had to assume that reality was legit and trust that there was no deceiver somewhere playing out a stream of lying perceptions. I also hoped that there was such a thing as truth and that it was knowable. I knew that it would require something like the reality making power of the Supreme Being to go beyond what I saw as the limits of the human condition.
What I didn't fully realize was that I had the start of the answer then and there. I might have saved myself decades if I had only grasped a few simple things.
My working assumption that reality was real was a form of faith. My wanting to know and thinking that it might be possible to know was my hope.
Faith and Hope. How theological sounding! But those points were logical, inevitable and inescapable. At least they were for me. I was an agnostic. Among agnostics, my agnosticism was extraordinary. I believed nothing at all. I had no certainty about the existence or nonexistence of God. In fact, all of reality was suspect but I was willing to consider the notion that some things might be true. I just failed to take the logical action in my search.
What follows is an abbreviated account of how I floundered about in search of answers. It will take less time to read about it than I took to do it. If you want to hurry to the answer that I received then jump to Here now. If the details of how I got there myself interests you, then read on.
The truths I would want to know are kind of predetermined. While I might want to be sure what's the sum of two plus two or the boiling point of water at sea level, those facts don't seem important enough to warrant absolute knowledge.
It’s the nature of reality itself, my origin and destiny or whether there is any such thing as virtue that I'd want to know. Ultimately these questions resolved to; " Is there a God?"
I hypothesized that if there were a God then He might give the other answers I might seek. The problem is even if God gave me revelation through a vision like Ezekiel's Fiery Chariot then I would still have room for doubt.
While I saw the vision, could I know that I wasn't seeing some sort of high tech light show? And once I had seen it, would my memory of the vision be real or false? There's no way to tell. I knew I needed something more. If I was to get any more truth than I had, it would have to be as certain to me as my own I Am was.
During my own quest, I formulated the following statement:
"The only way I can believe in God is if I can be aware of Him in the same way as I'm aware of myself ."
I wrote this sentence within a philosophical paper that I hoped would get someone to engage me about the logical dilemma that I was trapped in.
Again, I focused on God there because intuition suggested that was my best hope for certainty. Perhaps a god would have the power to rise above the rules of reality. An omnipotent god wouldn't be constrained by the logical dilemma where I want to know things yet can't because all things must come to me by untrustworthy (in the absolute sense) ways.
The sort of god that I chose as a working hypothesis was something like the God of the Bible, the omniscient, omnipotent Creator God formulation familiar to someone raised and exposed to Christianity like I was. That was as good as anything else.
Belief in that particular God had been problematic for me during most of my life. While immersed in a culture that espouses Christian belief, I didn't believe. Admitting that fact on occasion brought me parental concern and some unconvincing forced counseling. I had a hunger for the certainty that belief in God seemed to include, but I wrestled with the notion of God for years.
As a child I eagerly tuned my AM radio to hear a preacher called Garner Ted Armstrong. I had heard him announce that his next radio broadcast would prove that God exists. I was disappointed to hear proofs that weren't logical.
He pointed out how well designed humans were and how well suited the Earth was for life. I could grant that we were improbable, yet I could imagine the absurd situation where the creatures that lived on the more probable planets lamented their poor luck to be born where it's so searingly hot that metals melt or so cold that gases freeze.
"If only we had an immune system so infections wouldn't kill us all the time!" they might say " If only this atmosphere wasn't so poisonous, then maybe this place would be nicer."
The illogical arguments only proved that I, a kid, had a better understanding of these weighty matters than the adults that supposedly had the answers. After reading a few quotes from a famous philosopher called Bertrand Russell, I thought that maybe he or another philosopher had the answers.
I searched the works of Russell in the library but discovered he had no real answers either.
Even the other philosophers that claimed to have the answers were also disappointing.
St Thomas Aquinas wrote that since things exist they must have a causer and since the idea of an infinite succession of causers is ridiculous then there must be an Uncaused Causer. Therefore God exists. Since Goodness exists also, the Uncaused Causer must be good. Descartes used almost the same arguments as Aquinas and Garner Ted Armstrong. I was unconvinced.
Other philosophers were promising though. Kant in a work titled "The Critique of Pure Reason" seemed intriguing, but Kant like many other philosophers spent page after page on the careful definition of terms to make points that had little to do with the answers to the basic questions I had. My intuition told me the answer would be simper, elegant even.
That same intuition kept me returning to the question of God though. Again, if answers were to be had, I would find them with someone who was omniscient. If the knowledge can be shared, then it logically, could be shared by someone who was omnipotent. I had no proof that God existed but I also had no real proof that He didn't. The question became, how could I get God to tip His hand?
I was fairly young when I thought that if I could amass the wealth and power to destroy the world by the push of a button then God would have to stop me and reveal himself.
It occurs to me now that there was a simpler and less destructive method to get God’s attention. If God exists and He is omnipotent/omniscient then He can read my mind! If I formulate a thought or say it out loud or whisper it, then the omniscient God, if He exists, would know all about it.
Of course, if he really is omniscient and omnipotent, I wouldn't be able to force His hand by blowing up the Earth. He could use His omnipotence to thwart my plan before it started. I guess He did just that, because this twelve year old kid never got the chance to enact his plan.
If God existed and if he cared whether I knew the answers, he could make certainty happen for me.
I wrote my plea for help while I was in an Army jail cell back in 1968. It was in a paper describing the same logical dilemma that I've presented here. Since it was at it's core a theological question, I took it first to the prison Chaplains. First I tried a Baptist then a Catholic. Since it was so out of the ordinary and dealt with questions about the nature of reality itself, I was referred to a social worker and then to a psychiatrist.
At least the psychiatrist seemed to understand what I was saying and was familiar with things like Aquinas' Uncaused Causer argument, but since it isn't the job of the Army to answer basic questions about the meaning of life, I ended up being released early from the Army and prison. I forgot and left the paper detailing my logical dilemma in my cell as I went.
When you send out a message to God, it’s called prayer. Some prayers get written on slips of paper and placed in cracks in the wailing wall in Jerusalem. My plea for help wasn't really directed at God though since I didn't really believe in even the possibility of God. In fact, I didn't really believe anything. I only went through the motions. I've later seen my like only as characters in some science fiction but nowhere else.
Whenever I encountered anyone who seemed certain about their beliefs I would engage them and challenge those beliefs. I'm sure I was quite tiresome in this. Often, the people who seemed most certain about their beliefs were the ones who called themselves Christian. Generally, when the conversation touched on core beliefs and I raised my customary challenges, they would say:
"You just gotta have faith",
at which point I would slap my forehead because I'd heard it so often; that answer had become such a groaner for me.
Faith? I had no faith! Faith was impossible! Whatever I ended up believing, I had to be certain. Didn't they get it?
Here, I would tend to break off the conversation. Usually, I just went through the motions and lived what appeared to be, a normal life.
You may have noticed how I’ve switched to using “I” and “me” a lot and what I write is more narrative. This is because the quest for Absolute Truth was very personal for me. I lived it for decades. As it turned out the writing it on paper method worked for me but it took over twenty five years the full answer to come. A recap is in order.
I’m not proud of what I'm about to share. My life is not to be admired in any sense. Those who obeyed the law, served their country or otherwise did their duty are better than me. I account for my life here to give background to the tale being told.
When I was young, I enjoyed a television show called "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” One episode featured a captured enemy agent who was under the influence of a hallucinogenic drug. The spy was depicted with superhuman senses as a result of the drug.
This was a new class of drugs on the American scene. LSD was new and not yet illegal. Timothy Leary and the San Francisco flower children got a lot of press, most of it positive. Even the negative press later was so ill informed that it seemed to be just anti-drug propaganda. LSD was frequently termed a consciousness expanding drug and I was intrigued.
Leary advocated the use of the drugs as a means of reaching a higher level of consciousness and greater levels of existence. I was lucky, I suppose, that I lived where I did because my interest was academic and not practical. One clean cut high school classmate had used marijuana once and described the experience to the rest of us. I absorbed all that I heard.
After a few years the hallucinogenic drugs became illegal and the press coverage became consistently negative. I recall reading that some people that took LSD were in danger of having a "Bum Trip". That was described in one article as "seeing your ego stark and alone against the empty backdrop of reality". I thought at the time:
"That's it! I want a Bum Trip!"
Tales of people who jumped out of windows thinking they could fly didn’t shake my interest in "consciousness expansion" though I never saw any actual drugs there in suburban Indianapolis.
I was at an age were I chafed at parental authority. I wanted away from the power of my parents to control what I did. I started to do poorly in school because I didn't see any point to it. At seventeen, in the middle of my senior year of high school, I persuaded my parents to let me join the Army as a drama free way of leaving home.
In the Army, I was free of the parental authority I hated, but was in a situation even more arbitrary and authoritarian than at home. I went AWOL and that earned me some time in the Fort Campbell Ky stockade.
While in the stockade, one prisoner ordered me to shine my boots and I refused. What drove this was that when we got into formations to take turns going inside the mess hall for meals, the group that looked the most military was chosen first.
Since it was cold, waiting in the courtyard outside was uncomfortable, and my comrade wanted our cell block to be chosen first, so he organized people to start putting a mirror like "spit shine" on their boots. I balked and he ordered again saying:
"Because, I said so!"
to my wondering why. I refused, whereupon he had no choice but to punch me.
Since fighting was an offense, we were both put into segregation as punishment. In segregation, I had a small cell to myself and no work details to go on so I wanted to stay. Another prisoner had been in segregation a long time and told me how he did it.
When I was to be released back into the regular population of the stockade, I refused to leave my cell. I was then ordered to leave by an officer. My second refusal was enough of an offense to keep me in segregation so I stayed like I wanted.
Again, I am not proud of my actions. I joined the Army, I took a solemn oath to obey orders and better young men than I were fighting and dying in Vietnam. Yet here I was, playing my games because I didn't like being told what to do.
In segregation, we were housed in five small cells. Any fellow prisoners who were also in segregation were kept in those adjacent cells. Though we couldn't see each other, we could talk. I met people from areas of the US that I had no contact with before.
In those rambling conversations sometimes we spoke of prior drug use. The junkie types talked about heroin and downer pills and others spoke of methamphetamine and LSD. One fellow from Chicago spoke fondly of a hallucinogen he called synthetic psilocybin. I interrogated any one who came through who had any experience with drugs on the nature of their experience. I was getting a lot of second hand knowledge.
The Army base was on a huge tract of land on the Kentucky/Tennessee border. I was told that the land was rented to the Army for one dollar per century.
The matriarch of the family who did this act of generosity was pretty much allowed to go wherever she wanted. So one day I saw a frail old woman in the segregation cell block handing out Bibles to whoever wanted one.
I took one mostly as a pillow since we were allowed no bedding for our steel slab beds until nighttime.
I also did some reading. Ecclesiastes was full of despair over the futility of life which resonated with me. The person of Jesus was noble as portrayed in the Gospels with His teaching of peace and love in the Sermon of the Mount. The Epistles were too preachy to get into. Some Old Testament books like Joshua were full of battles and whatnot and read like rousing adventures. Some parts of the Bible were very dull but it all helped pass the time.
In a few weeks, I was released to go back to my unit but was put under a work detail and guard. The guard was lax that evening and I escaped to go AWOL again.
This time I stole a car I found unlocked on base but made the mistake of running a traffic light right in front of the MP station. I was caught before getting anywhere and this time my crimes were severe enough to send me to the Ft Leavenworth KS prison.
Leavenworth was like the Fort Campbell stockade in that there were little work details doing various jobs that passed for the hard labor component of our sentences. On one such detail, a fellow prisoner decided that I should do a certain task. When I asked why, he said the magic words:
"Because I said so"
and so I, shovel in hand, refused. He, of course hit me and we both got put in segregation.
Again I discovered that I liked segregation more than the general prison. This time we were allowed out of our cells part of the day. I was invited to hang around with a group of people who called themselves Heads.
Heads was a slang term derived from Acid-Heads which denoted LSD use. Heads identified with the counter culture and I suppose they saw in me a kindred spirit though I had never used any drugs. They were a source of more information about drug use and different types of drug experience.
There were old magazines to read and I was outraged to learn from Time Magazine about the police riot at the Democratic Convention in Chicago. My reading lead me to identify more with the Hippie Movement. I think it was Time magazine again that quoted the counterculture spokesman Alan Ginsburg as saying:"Psilocybin is a psychic Godsend"
Prisoners have a lot of spare time and I ended up musing about some of the philosophy I'd read. I thought how Socrates’ analysis of the inherent selfishness of virtue was logically inescapable. We all act because of motive. To choose to do something we had to WANT to do it. I agreed with Socrates that this undermined the virtue of everything we might choose to do because that turned it into self gratification. Could I take any action without wanting to do it? Could God? Was virtue even possible?
Such were the issues that I thought about at night. People who did their duty didn’t have the time for such nonsense but I did. One night, as I lay in bed, I came up with something that I felt was fundamental and Earth shattering. It was statement of universal doubt: covered here already:
“No matter what I believe I know, there may be some unknown set of circumstances that is somehow deceiving me.”
The paper expressing that doubt got me released from Leavenworth and thrown out of the Army. My paper had set me free from the institutions that held me but I still had no answers.
When I got out of the Army, I lived with my sister and brother-in-law in Birmingham Alabama. I worked with them there at a restaurant but a company move made them managers in New Orleans where a new restaurant was opening. I moved with them. While at my new job, I would regale anyone with any beliefs on why they shouldn't believe. Everyone's criteria for certainty was less stringent than mine.
In time, the family moved back to Birmingham but I decided to stay on behind in New Orleans After a while though, I grew tired of restaurant work and wanted to change jobs. I had an apartment and some money on hand so I quit.
Days later I was visited by detectives investigating the murder of a young man who also had worked at the restaurant. I had no alibi since I was alone at home when the murder occurred but what really made me a suspect was my answer to the following question:
"Are you absolutely sure you were here alone all last night and you didn’t go anywhere?"
I felt that I had to answer as honestly as possible so I said that I wasn't absolutely sure of anything. I said that I didn't think that I went anywhere else.
That did it for the detective. He said:
"I've been on the force for seventeen years and I can tell when someone is holding something back."
I was arrested on the spot on a charge of vagrancy because I told them I had quit my job. They told me that they were sure that I was holding something back and knew something I wasn’t telling. A couple of days later I was released, for lack of evidence, I suppose, and went home.
Later that day, detectives stopped by my apartment again and asked if I would come down to the station for a few questions. I went along and at the station I was taken to a room where I was hooked up to a polygraph machine.
The examiner asked a bunch of routine questions but one question he asked sticks out in my mind. After the polygraph, I was told that he saw a strong emotional response to the question:
"Are you sure you're not holding anything back here?"
The correlation of falsehood with emotion in polygraphs is very poor and that's why to this day, I consider polygraph examiners on the same level as witch doctors. The fresh suspicion that I was holding something back got me arrested again, This time I was charged with “Accessory After the Fact of Murder” Later that day I was transferred to the Plaquemines Parish jail.
The police officers who searched my apartment after my arrest must have found my electronic paraphernalia in a closet and told the jailer of the prison what they saw. I remember him coming to the big cell block full of prisoners and calling out my name. He took me into his office and we talked electronics and I helped him fix TVs for his sideline business. I later worked for him as an electronic tech which more than anything else set me on my career in electronics.
As weeks passed, I asked the jailer what was happening with my case. When he called the Sheriff’s office for me, they told him that my charge had become First Degree Murder. He let me see a copy of an affidavit from a waitress at the restaurant where she swore that she had seen me driving towards the murder site with the murdered boy on the night of the murder.
Hearing this, a sort of macabre fatalism swept over me. First the detectives, now this. I had a growing sense of resignation that I might be executed over this. It was as if the universe was conspiring to kill me.
I was in the jail for about a month and a half without ever seeing a judge. This was highly irregular and my sudden and odd release may have had something to do with the fact that the probable culprit was a Jefferson Parish deputy (Now Deceased) who used to hang around the restaurant. He was very doofus and the very personable young man that was murdered, I was told, didn’t get along with the cop. I never saw them together myself.
I worked at various jobs before I was hired to work at the jailer's TV shop. After about a year though, he closed the shop when his wife left him. Then I looked up a friend I had known from the restaurant. He told me he was staying in a commune and invited me to stay there also.
What the commune actually turned out to be was the apartment of two young girls that were a little too hospitable and a loose knit group of people had moved in on them. My first night there, about a dozen of us were sitting around listening to music as some marijuana joints were passed around.
It was my first contact with drugs and I don't recall being affected then. Probably I didn't get much since I didn't know how to smoke yet. What I do recall was the arrival of Debbie who was working late that evening.
Debbie was one of the girls whose apartment had been turned into a commune by my friend’s tendency to invite strays to come stay at someone else's place. She was nonplussed to see that there was yet another strange face in her house.
Debbie knew my dog though from when my friend had looked after him while I was in jail and she was pleased to see him again. Next thing I knew, this girl sat down and started playing guitar and sang with a lovely silver bell voice, a song that instantly riveted my attention on her.
The song was called “Isle of Islay” by Donovan. I had heard it on the in house intercom in Leavenworth one night two years earlier and had purchased multiple Donovan albums in vain attempts to find it. That girl became mine then and there and for the next thirty years until breast cancer took her.
With her encouragement I did drugs on occasion. The few times that I took LSD were interesting in the type of altered perception the drug caused. Hallucinations allowed me to look at perception itself as something to be observed.
LSD was unpleasant for me though in that as the drug wore off, my thoughts would became chaotic and annoying. It also seemed that new modes of thinking could be learned with LSD and those modes wouldn't necessarily be good. My tendency to stammer became more pronounced for days after taking LSD.
Whenever there was somebody who had just purchased some drugs or was about to purchase some drugs or had some drugs for sale, I would ask if they had any psilocybin. No one ever had any and it was somewhat of a joke that I would always ask for it.
One day, when Debbie and I had been together for a couple of years, another person that was living with us at the time asked:
"Who wants to go hunt mushrooms?"
"Mushrooms?" We asked.
"Yeah, Psilocybin mushrooms. It just rained and the fields should be full of them"
I was stunned to learn that psilocybin mushrooms grew wild in the New Orleans area.
We piled into the car and went hunting mushrooms. Once there, the one who came up with idea showed everyone in our party what the mushrooms looked like and where they could be found.
There were occasional poisonous toadstools that looked similar to the psilocybin mushroom and I saw a couple of mushrooms that were called Death Angels.
I was told that the Death Angels were extremely poisonous but that didn't concern me much since they were so distinctly different with their slender stalks and powdery white caps.
We gathered quite a few and each person’s bag was combined into one large bag for the return home. I learned that another group of really young kids that were out in the same field we were showed their bags to our resident expert and he said afterwords:
"Boy! Those Teenyboppers had lots of poison toadstools! I picked through their bags and think I got them all."
I remember thinking that there were some in our group that were in the Teenybopper category and that gave me some concern.
When we got back to the house we discussed when we would try the mushrooms but since it was already evening, no one wanted to be up all night tripping. No one but me that is. I wasn't about to wait. I opted to finely chop some of our haul, lightly saute them in butter and have them on toast. Quite acceptable.
Everyone hung out in the living room and talked and I lay on a pillow in front of the TV and waited to start tripping. There was a program on the TV that featured a woman who was, of all things, a mycologist or mushroom specialist. I saw a scene in the show where two men were in a field and one held a Death Angel mushroom and said, with a British accent:
"One of these, properly divided, will kill a battalion of men."
The thrust of the show was that the scientist’s husband planned to kill his wife by poisoning her and her house-guests with a Death Angel he put in a wild mushroom salad served at a dinner party.
As I watched the closeup shots of people’s mouths as they ate forkfuls of assorted mushrooms I thought to myself:
"This is an interesting coincidence, that this show about mushroom poisoning would be on right now after I just ate my own batch of wild mushrooms”.
I wondered if any of the wrong mushrooms got into one of our bags by mistake.
I don't know what else happened in the show because I went to bed soon after this and Debbie joined me. She lay quietly sleeping on my shoulder as I lay there tripping. After a while, I had a vague feeling of nausea. As the feeling grew, I wondered if maybe the mushrooms were at fault. Debbie stirred, sensing my tensing as waves of discomfort swept over me.
I lay there and speculated that I might have eaten something that caused me to be feeling as I was. After all, didn't we see Death Angels as we hunted mushrooms? Weren't some people in our group less reliable than others? Was I sure that what I ate was harmless?
Suddenly, I felt the sensation that my body was shutting down but I fought the feeling off. I wondered at what I’d felt and why, but within seconds, I felt a return of the sensation. I accepted with resignation that it was death and surrendered to it. It was as if the control rods of a reactor were being pushed in. I let the darkness take me.
But then I opened my eyes and was alive. There was a stillness and clarity that I had never felt before. I was alive! More than just alive. I felt more alive than I ever knew was possible. I recall saying with surprise and wonder :
I felt like Adam must have felt when he was first alive and he looked at his own hands with wonder and marveled at his existence. The first hand absolute knowledge of my own existence was heightened immensely. I was! I was alive! So much so that before, I was in a haze by comparison. I exulted in it. I became aware that much of my life and the daily grind of it had kept me from being truly alive.
In my head, another's voice spoke to me. It wasn't hearing but it spoke as an intrusion into my thoughts "You are My Beloved Son." it would say" The words from the Bible I had read before became part a rapid fire stream of consciousness conversation with this voice.
It's difficult to describe the sense of who the voice was. In addition to my own “I Am” there was an unmistakable, kindliness emanating, person that I also sensed besides myself. It was definite, I recall that it was like sensing the sun as it shone on my back. That was what came to mind as I sensed this person that was clearly my father.
Thinking back, I would tend to discount the experience I was having because of the drug angle, but the nature of what I was experiencing was beyond doubt. It wasn't subject to hallucination and I wasn't hallucinating. I remember again marveling out loud:
"I am Christ!"
I felt, what I would call, Holy!
When morning came, the sense I was the Christ was still present so I told Debbie and the others. Confronted with the obvious contradictions associated with me being Jesus, I theorized that perhaps the drug was a gateway to a higher consciousness that could be shared with others.
The next day I could convince only two of my friends to try the mushrooms. Afterwords, they reported experiences where they felt irrational paranoia or performed actions that were just plain irrational. Debbie and I took the mushrooms together and she thought I was out of my mind but she had a normal (if that is the word) and benign experience.
I want to emphasize the clear nature of the experience to me. While I may have had ideas that were false, the sense that I existed as an I Am was beyond dispute. I existed so strongly, so vividly that my existence before was zombie-like in comparison. It was certain. I knew what certainty was.
I also knew what hallucinations were. Indeed, I’d studied them. I was intrigued at the way my perceptual systems could be changed by the presence of drugs to allow the grouping of random visual detail into interesting but nonsensical patterns. Denim became covered with a shifting pattern that resembled cuneiform writing. Aggregate concrete came to resemble what I’d seen in a microscope view of red cell circulation in the capillaries of a goldfish tail.
There were similar pattern forming hallucinations with sounds and with other senses and with thoughts as well. What I experienced with this wasn’t like a thought or hallucination at all.
I couldn’t take any drug without experiencing the same thing. Sometimes, I would go for walks and the communion would resume with no drugs taken. It seemed that taking drugs had changed forever though. Whatever the normal drug experience had been was replaced by something else.
Nevertheless the sense of my Christness seemed linked to the drugs and suspiciously seemed to wane after a drug wore off. This fact allowed me to still entertain that what I was experiencing was purely drug induced. Even now as I write this I am struck by how easily dismissible this is. My best guess is I needed to be discredited or I would go about trying to convince people I was Christ. That would be a valid concern because, in spite of the clear contradictions, for a brief time, I tried.
In time the voice that wasn’t a voice, the thoughts which weren’t my own, let me know that I should stop doing drugs.
Again, I’m resisting the impulse to minimize or obscure the facts here. The irony of someone writing dishonestly about Absolute Truth doesn’t escape me.
I've described my experience and how I was directly aware of God, but what makes me credible? Is the fact that I say that my criteria for certainty was more rigorous than anyone I’ve ever heard of make what I say believable? Even if my experience was valid, can it be any help to someone else who is looking for certainty?
I’ll admit further that along with what I’ll term my “Christ Consciousness” there were strange beliefs and assertions. I not only knew that I was Christ, I also believed that circumcision was the enabler of selfless love and an uncircumcised male couldn’t really love. I thought that the nature of my relationship to the world was essentially sexual. My moving though the world was like a caress and I, in turn, was caressed by it.
Surely there’s enough evidence here to discount whatever I say. If it hadn't been alloyed with drugs, if it hadn't been associated with bizarre ideas, I might expect you to take my word that what I experienced of God was real and available to you.
But the biggest obstacle to you accepting my experience as valid was the fact that it was my experience and not yours. No matter how well I describe a piece of fruit you won't taste it til you do so for yourself. I warned the reader earlier where this book was headed. The object here is to convince you to accept Christ for yourself.
I'll admit to the apparent lunacy of getting advice about reality from someone who hears voices in his head and who walked around convinced he was Christ. Even though I got past all that in time, the typical skeptic will have their own reasons for disbelief that are independent of me and my bizarre tale.
To many, the notion that we need a savior and that He could die for our sins is absurd on many different levels. Belief in God is doubtful, so how could they believe and trust in Jesus? Trusting in Jesus is often sold as a form of fire insurance that can save a person from hell. To the unbelieving community, everything about this is ridiculous.
It’s often described as something like the philosophical exercise called Pascal’s wager. That's where acting pious toward God (if He exists) might get you into Heaven so it’s prudent to go through whatever the motions are just in case God really does require them. That way you can make sure that your bases are covered and you won't wind up in Hell if it turns out that Hell exists..
God is portrayed like a fearsome version of Santa Claus, giving presents and Heaven to the good little children and lumps of coal and Hell to the bad ones, but, shouldn’t we "be good for goodness sake" and not for the sake of a reward or out of fear of reprisal?
But there is an odd story from the Bible that seems relevant here. Leaving aside arguments about the validity of the Bible or the claims by some that they've found ancient graveside inscriptions that support the historicity of the account, let’s consider the story for what it says about human nature and what may be the God of the Bible’s opinion of Fire Insurance.
In Numbers 21, the Bible account says that the Jewish people were living in the desert after fleeing bondage in Egypt and they began to complain to Moses. They said there was no water or bread and they were really starting to hate the miracle food, manna.
In response to their murmuring, God sends what are described as “fiery serpents” to afflict the offending Jews. The serpents would bite the people and they would die. When the people complained to Moses about the serpents, he was told by God to fashion a brass replica of one of the snakes and place it on a high pole in the midst of the camp.
God had Moses tell the Jews that if anyone was bitten, all they had to do was look at the brass snake on the pole and they would live, otherwise they would die. The story ends by saying that the predicted results came to pass. Those that were bitten but looked at the brass snake lived.
The implication here is that there were some who didn’t look and died. It makes sense that in a large crowd you would wind up with at least a few skeptics. After all, how ridiculous is it that looking at a brass snake on a pole is a cure for snakebite? Maybe some stood on principal and refused to look because after all, God created the fiery serpents. For them to have to rely on a silly remedy for a problem that they felt that God caused might be too much to ask. These were intelligent people dealing with what one would think was a sensible God, but it was the foolish ones that lived
There is a fine distinction that needs to be pointed out here. People needed to more than just believe that the brass serpent existed. They had to look at it. That act required some expectation that looking at the snake might help. Without an inkling that it might work, they wouldn’t have bothered to get to a place where they could see the snake. Without trusting themselves to the silliness of looking at a brass snake on a pole they would have died
For centuries, trusting in Jesus has been viewed by skeptics as foolishness. Perhaps the fact that my initial encounters with God involved drugs will give the reader even more license to treat it as more foolishness. That’s a recurring pattern with God. If you’re inclined to disbelieve, He’ll go out of His way to give you the opportunity to do so.
As for the fire insurance aspect of trusting in Jesus, the idea of using it to avoid Hell may seem morally shallow to some.
It IS morally shallow.
It’s inevitable though. It would be great if we could all be moral and upright, with our lives governed by the Golden Rule. It also would have been good for the Jews to avoid being bitten by the snakes, but if had been possible to avoid the snakes, the brass serpent wouldn’t have been needed. If we could live sinless lives, a Savior wouldn’t be necessary. The fact that one was provided is God’s admission that we can’t be good. Our accepting Jesus as Savior is our admission of the same thing.
In Chapter 15 “Reality: How Things Work”, we’ll answer some of the troubling questions that naturally arise from what I’ve just said. For now we can just say:
“Get the insurance!”
Look upon the Messiah hanging on the Cross. You can’t please God by trying to get to Heaven some other way.
After all, the insurance was His idea.
After God let me know that He existed, I started to consider the Bible as factual. The epistles of Paul I thought, must have came out of his head, but where I really had problems was in Genesis. I tried to make sense out of the Creation account by spiritualizing it and trying to interpret it figuratively. Doing this was sloppy thinking I know and I wasn’t comfortable with it.
A Christian friend of mine got me to attend a debate that was being held at the University of New Orleans on the subject of Scientific Creationism. Dr Morris and Dr Gish of the Institute for Creation Research were pitted against a couple of the university’s professors who were willing to participate.
The evolutionary side of the debate was represented by a Dr Herzberger and another professor I can’t recall. Dr. Herzberger was venerated at UNO since he was a onetime protege of Albert Einstein. As a physicist specializing in optics, Dr. Herzberger was ill equipped to deal with the merits of biological evolution. As a doddering old man with a thick German accent, he was outmatched as a debater.
Dr. Morris made the argument that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is the Law of increasing entropy, and that entropy was a measure of disorder in a system. Therefore the Second Law is the law of decreasing order. Morris went on to say that this is why machines wear out, we grow old and rooms get messy. He said that all things are subject to the Second law but living things are highly ordered therefore the evolution of complex life from simpler life would be contrary to the Second Law. Hence evolution is false and we were created.
Dr Herzberger rose to defend physics but chose an illustration that didn’t really hit the target. I was uncomfortable when Morris went into debate mode and tried to score points on Herzberger for his poor choice of example.
While most of the other creationist arguments had merit this one did not. I realized that the Second Law dealt with energy flowing downhill in various types of system and not with any subjective sense of order. During the open Q&A at the end of that night’s debate, I pointed out that crystal growth was both an apparent increase in order and sometimes an increase of the entropy in a system. My comments didn’t change Dr. Morris’ fondness for the Second Law argument.
The next night, Dr Gish went head to head with the other professor who was also ill prepared to face these Creation Science professionals. The university professors were also disadvantaged by the Creationists having the better position logically. Even with the flawed Second Law argument and the instance of ungentlemanly behavior, the Creation Science view was right.
The absence of fossils for the transitional forms between major types of animals was a problem for evolution. The lack of fossils that showed the type of changes needed to give reptiles feathers is a good example. We’ve never seen fossils that are covered with sceathers which is what we might call something that was half feather and half scale.
The gradual nature of evolution would require millions of years worth of creatures wearing sceathers while the change from reptile to bird was occurring. Where was the fossil evidence? More than this, how could these hypothetical creatures survive with scales that didn’t function as scales, and feathers that didn’t function as feathers? The evolutionary pressure that favors the fittest would turn such odd and ungainly creatures covered with clattering sceathers into food for something else.
I just checked the web and the Wiki article on transitional forms boldly called the fossil find archeopteryx a transitional form between reptiles and birds. It had teeth, claws, a long tail and feathers. What, no sceathers? What makes this a transitional form then? That some people want it to be a transitional form is what makes this transitional more than anything.
I’m quoting the expertise of other people but here are a few facts. There were several varieties of extinct birds with teeth. There are reptiles with teeth and those without. There are birds alive that have claws but most do not. There are things about Archeopteryx that suggest reptile at first look but a more detailed look says bird.
Bird and reptile teeth are different from the root up. It’s wishful thinking that one could evolve from the other. Also scales and feathers are too different as structures for feathers to have evolved from scales. While scales are a feature of the skin and shed in patches containing many scales, feathers grow one per each from follicles. Feathers shed singly too. The structure of feathers and scales is radically different except in the imagination of someone who wants the Archeopteryx to be transitional.
But Archeopteryx is the best that the evolutionists can do as evidence of a transitional form.
I hope the following website still exists when you read this. It’s very compelling in it’s presentation of this. It has the ring of truth. What we know is that the Archeopteryx was fully a bird and now it’s extinct.
I give one small example here but pick anything. The fossil evidence for the intermediate animals isn’t there. The evidence to support his theory was missing in Darwin’s day. He had faith though that when the fossil record was more complete, the transitional forms would be there. Over a hundred years later and millions of fossils later we’re still waiting.
What is defined as a species sometimes helps obscure the issue though. Darwin observed the bird skeletons in owl droppings in caves and discovered that the five or so species of Galapagos Finches all evolved from the same parent population of birds. This evolution occurred within a few thousand years which was sort of fast for what evolution requires supposedly.
Darwin worked before DNA was discovered and the mechanism of heredity was unknown. Traits of living things were just thought to be a quality of livingness and all life was part of a continuum. There really was no separation between types of living things except for the labels naturalists imposed. Darwin is even quoted as saying
“A species is whatever a competent naturalist says it is”.
Back then, with the understanding Darwin had, the definition of species was completely arbitrary.
Without question, living things evolve. Natural selection is a mechanism of that evolution. Yet still I'll assert that evolution as taught and preached by it’s true believers is fallacious.
The Gray Wolf is common while another type, the Red Wolf is a protected endangered species. The canid species commonly called Coyote is so plentiful and has adapted to human presence so well that it’s widely regarded as a pest. All these animals can breed together and produce fertile offspring. It’s even believed that the protected and endangered Red Wolf is actually a crossbreed of the more common Grey Wolves and Coyotes.
In essence, the situation is that you can go to jail for disturbing the habitat of the Wild Pomeranian.
The wolves, coyotes, dingoes and jackals of the world all have the same number of chromosomes as each other and the dogs we keep as pets. Let’s say it. They’re all dogs! They can all interbreed and produce fertile offspring.
If fossilized skeletons of our domestic dogs were found, we’d tend to arrange them in a sequence resembling the horse sequence. We'd have the most primitive proto-dogs, the Chihuahuas, through the Terriers and Hounds, with isolated branches of the tree for failed evolutionary experiments like the Pekingese and Pug, but it would all culminate with the modern day Labrador Retrievers. They would all get Latin names too.
Dr. Stephen Jay Gould spent a large part of his life as a professional anti-creationist. He also demonstrated that certain varieties of similar snails were related. They differentiated recently into what were called distinct species. The nature of his research made one doubt the species distinction for his snails. Again quoting Darwin:
“A species is whatever a competent naturalist says it is.”
The arbitrariness of this has allowed some unscientific and misleading labeling of species divisions that fallaciously support evolution. If we’re free to call beagles and collies separate species from each other, then we can claim proof for evolution whenever we develop a new breed of dog.
Even Darwin’s Galapagos finches have been observed to interbreed. If we selectively choose the characteristics we like in our livestock or pets, we don’t call it evolution of the species. Why do we think anything different is going on in the wild? The finches were identified as separate species by characteristics like the width of their bill. Muzzle length and body shape in dogs vary widely but we don't call it evolution.
Both natural selection and artificial selection use the natural variability present within a species to come up with new varieties of that species but there are lines that don’t get crossed. Dogs will always produce dogs. Finches will always produce finches.
Let me be bold here and say that if we tried to cross a frog with a bird, we would be unsuccessful. Likewise a Chihuahua and Great Dane aren’t going to make puppies but their problem is different than that for a frog and bird. The questions that follow are: What is the mechanism of the reproductive isolation of species in a given case ? and: Is there a definition of species that would make the term meaningful?
The use of the word species has been hopelessly confused. For too long it was arbitrarily applied on the basis of sometimes very minute anatomical characteristics without regard to reproductive isolation and there’s no going back to fix it. Actually, the Biblical term “kind” is more valid scientifically since it included reproductive isolation in the usage of the term from the start.
It’s important to realize that the loose meaning of the word species allows confusion on what is really happening. Ring species are when a population of a certain type of wildlife (birds usually) live around a large geographic feature like a lake or mountain. The species of bird will differentiate into several species living in adjacent areas around the obstacle until we get all the way around. At the endpoint there are two populations of birds that do not interbreed. This situation is heralded as proof of evolution, but is that a frog/bird problem of genetics or is it a Chihuahua/Great Dane problem?
There are animals that can’t interbreed because of anatomical difference like our dogs, but perhaps also variations in courtship behavior or plumage interferes enough to prevent breeding of our ring species birds?
The notion is that over time the isolated species will diverge enough to be grossly incompatible genetically and become a new species in actuality and not just in name. This certainty comes from faith in evolution and not observational data. I’ll admit my certainty that they won’t comes from faith in the Bible, but who’s faith is scientific? Neither! It’s faith!
Our frog and bird are incompatible in ways that are vast. People will often compare the genetic difference between types of living things. Humans and chimpanzees have 98.5% of their genetic information in common we’re told, but chimps, like the rest of the primates, have 48 chromosomes and humans have 46 so the 98.5% figure seems strangely derived.
Stalin’s attempts to manufacture a race of man/chimpanzee workers failed because of some basic genetic incompatibility. Seems like the different chromosome counts might be one problem.
The similarity of man and chimp DNA is usually mentioned to bolster an evolutionary view of humans. The 98.5% figure seems to confirm familial relation. We’re told that while we might not be directly descended from chimps, we’re closely related and share a common ancestor. This is a required article of faith. Humans HAD to come from some sort of extinct ape variety.
But when the switch from 48 to 46 chromosomes occurred, how would a 46 chromosomed mutant ape find a mate to reproduce with? The accepted answer is:
“We don’t know but we know it did because we know evolution is the truth.”
That sort of assertion is too religious to be called science.
I may give more but it’s enough to say that being exposed to compelling arguments for supernatural creation of living creatures allowed me to stop making excuses to myself for Genesis and take the Bible literally. I was starting to be a Fundamentalist. I even saw how miraculous the Pauline Epistles were eventually.
There were problems with being a Fundamentalist and also believing in Creation. One was that awful Second Law argument. I knew that the Second Law of Thermodynamics dealt with the downhill flow of energy and the semantic progressions employed in the creationist arguments were just tricks with words. Worse, the creationist community was in love with this argument anyway.
Not that I thought that the people using this argument were deliberately dishonest. I realized in their eagerness to prove the point that God exists, they embraced certain falsehoods uncritically. Whenever this occurred I got upset. We should hold ourselves to higher standards. Let the other side have all the falsehood I felt.
When I read the story of the fossilized whale that was standing on it’s tail, with supposedly millions of years worth of sediment layers deposited around it, I filed this away mentally as another evidence supporting the rapid deposition of strata. I had become convinced of the literal flood too because the facts seemed to compel it. Rapid deposition of sediments that would bury a whale carcass in multiple layers would be expected as an occasional aftermath of the global flood and the seismic upheavals described in the Bible.
But people who believed the Bible can be gullible. Even when they were right they often wanted to be more right. On an atheist website I ran across a short account from someone who had seen the whale on it’s tail fossil. The account had the ring of truth and what he described was much different from what I’d read earlier.
There was the fossilized carcass of a whale but instead of standing on it’s tail, it was tilted just a few degrees. Instead of penetrating layers of sediment, the fossil was entirely encased in one thick sheet of diatomaceous earth. The slow rate at which diatomaceous earth normally builds up was, I’m guessing, the initial inspiration for this falsehood.
The whale carcass had apparently come to rest in a depression on the sea floor and was buried by a mudslide before it decomposed. The man saw it after some geologic activity had raised the specimen above sea level and given it a slight tilt. He lamented that the site was weathering away and a tree was growing through the skull of the whale.
Who would lie about such a thing? Does God need lies? Or do people want to discredit Christians as fools just because they can? In any case, people trustingly repeated this falsehood and even wrote books named after it without checking it out. I suppose that sort of thing happens but it shouldn't.
Micheal Behe is a biochemist who authored an influential book called “Darwin’s Black Box” that questioned the validity of evolution from a biochemical basis. He introduced a concept he called “irreducible complexity”.
The premise of this concept is that within living things are biochemical systems that have multiple separate but vital components. For evolution to be true, those components would have to come into existence simultaneously or they would have no purpose collectively if any one part was missing. No precursor steps were logical since there would be no natural selection type advantage in creating parts to an incomplete and therefore useless system.
It was a very enjoyable and even funny read. He got a lot of opposition from evolutionists for the book even though he said he believed in Darwinian Evolution to explain much of life on Earth. I think Behe was confident that the evolutionary biologists and the paleontologists knew their business well enough to know what they were doing and he therefore trusted them. In reality though, those soft scientists were clueless about Behe’s world of complex biochemical machines as they busily categorized their findings, confident that the biochemists like Behe had confirmed evolution for them.
When attempting to qualify a miracle as a miracle, we would look for a natural explanation for the miracle candidate, then not finding any, we could conclude Goddidit. Goddidit is a derisive term used by atheists to refer to a “God in the Gaps” style of proof where a theist encounters something that’s hard to explain, and then immediately ascribes it to God. In spite of the derision, let’s go there.
It used to be a common belief that if you left a piece of meat out in the sun, maggots would arise. Spontaneous generation of fly larvae was borne out by hundreds of years of observational evidence.
I’m pretty sure that sometimes, a villager figured out that adult flies were needed to lay eggs to make the baby flies, but after that heretic was burned at the stake, the notion was squelched.
The idea that maggots could be the product of spontaneous generation was believed because it was believable. After all, the maggots looked like they were just bits of goo, wallowing in more of the same. Not having microscopes, the villager’s ignorance was understandable.
Since supernatural creation is excluded as a possibility, we are left with no viable alternative than to believe in spontaneous generation ourselves. Life had to “just happen” on earth. Such a view is understandable too. The prevailing view is that there is no God or at least if there is one, He doesn’t work miracles. Life HAD to come from somewhere. In the vastness of the universe and the vastness of time, the admitted improbability of life springing forth becomes a certainty. It’s even likely to have happened more than a few times.
In the hypothesized conditions of the early earth, some cell like structures formed due to the nature of the chemicals involved and eventually by accident, some of those structures took on the properties of life. Once that happened, natural selection took over and left us with the biosphere we see today. It’s easy to think this could happen because those proto-cells that we’ve seen in our laboratories resemble living cells visually. Living cells are just little bits of goo after all.
Ignorance is often what makes things look simple. Cells are biochemical machines and factories. We’re just beginning to see the complexity in cells. One scientist, was trying to find a word that conveyed the vastness of the cell. Groping,he said the world of a cell was like a galaxy. When we know more than we do now, will they get simpler?
I’ll offer no real arguments. I leave it to the reader to decide. Look for a beautiful eight minute YouTube video called “The Secret Inner Life of a Cell” to get a glimpse of the vastness in cells. And yet It’s fairly clear also that the animation was simplified. The biochemical signaling cascades are alluded to in the commentary but for simplicity sake were omitted from the animation. All the complex biochemistry that regulates the processes shown is absent. Presumably that was omitted for simplicity also.
I defy you to find anything that you can call a simple cell. Life supposedly began as what were termed “simple” one celled organisms. The simplest bacteria we can find today has nearly half a million base pairs of DNA. What would those supposedly simple proto-cells look like? Bits of Goo? How would they work biochemically? When confronted with the staggering complexity in supposedly “simple” life the logical conclusion is Goddidit.
To believe that these beautiful and subtle machines could arise spontaneously requires an ignorance greater than those who believed that maggots just happened. Today we have the electron microscopes and other tools to know better.
I await the torches and pitchforks. I can’t run fast.
As I went through my life, there were other occasions where I had more of the inner conversations. Often such things were triggered by things that made me upset and want to take a walk. Often, it was an argument with my wife. What happened though is that gradually, the awareness that I was the Christ and the associated direct awareness of God was less frequent. I still had the inner conversations, but without the intense state of awareness. I recall being assured that all was well but that I shouldn't seek the experience. It was as if I was being weaned of these experiences.
“He who seeks his life, shall lose it"
was something that I heard in my mind. I interpreted this as referring to the intense sense of livingness that was associated with “being in my awareness”.
It seemed that I was being taught faith. It was as if a child was told by his father.
"Here, Sit in this chair. I'll be leaving the room for a few minutes. I still love you. I'll be right back. Be good, Okay?"
The child in faith believes that his daddy still exists even when he can't be seen. He also believes what his daddy said when he said he would be back shortly. The affection the child feels for his father may make him obey the admonition to be good. Maybe fear would make him obey, but the knowledge that daddy would be back is based on the boy's understanding of who his father is, his father's character. In a way, it’s a compliment that he trusts his dad to do whatever he said. He waits because he knows it won't be for long. He waits because his dad wants him to.
Such were the lessons that I learned while I had the conversations.
Debbie had become Christian at a tent meeting and we began to go to church. My world view and beliefs were entirely compatible with Christianity except for the minor matter that I believed that I was somehow, the Christ.
I kept the matter to myself at church and only Debbie and our friends from our drug use days knew the whole story. I was comfortable at church except for a few things. While I might go through the motions well enough to fool people, I wasn’t inclined to outright lie. I didn't take communion. When people were prayed for, I tended to hang back rather than be one of the ones to lay hands on folk and pray. (ours was a Pentecostal church) I didn’t want to impart any of my weirdness.
I still prayed for people from a distance and the timing of events made me believe that that my prayers were being answered. The joy I felt over people who had salvation experiences or other visible touches from God let me know that even though I was strange, I belonged.
Debbie had a gift for teaching small children and I was pretty good with puppets so we were steered towards a children's ministry. If I was to be involved with a formal ministry with children, I felt that it was time for me to reveal what I termed my inner weirdness to our pastors. I told them everything and to our surprise they said to go ahead anyway. They had known me long enough and trusted me.
Our own small children were in the church too and I knew that they should be encouraged to be Christian without regard to whatever I was. What exactly I was was an ongoing source of turmoil though and on more than one occasion I responded to "give your heart to Jesus” type of appeals and even got baptized because I was willing for God to just take it away and let me be a normal Christian.
Debbie was creative in offering solutions to my dilemma but usually they involved my being crazy. Even I couldn’t accept what I believed because it made no sense but I couldn’t abandon it either. I felt like I was being taught more about the meaning of faith but whenever my faith waned such that I doubted that the experience was real, the absolute knowledge returned.
I was torn, I acknowledged that where I was was untenable. Jesus was sinless and I sinned. He was anointed and my words generally fell to the floor. I worked no miracles and didn’t arrive in the clouds. Even my twice broken arms should have ruled me out but whenever I prayed, there was the assurance that came that I was His Son and that everything was well, just wait.
We moved, changed churches and the story repeated. Once, some wolves in sheep’s clothing pastors looked to discredit Debbie and even accuse her of witchcraft and child molestation because she began to see the pastor’s wife for what she was. They used my earlier confidential revelation about my bizarre inner life to make their accusations against Debbie seem plausible to the church council.
It was odd I felt, that they had heard my admission years earlier, and even had me lead worship in the prior week, but now when the pastor’s wife was challenged by Debbie for a manipulating deception. My inner life became suddenly relevant. It was as if they said to themselves:
“Once they hear about Dobbin, they’ll believe anything we tell them about Debbie.”
I felt that they might resort to this and we decided in advance that this would be our signal to change churches again. Our kids were teenagers and would need an explanation for wrenching them away from their friends so my twenty year secret was out.
Our next church was a big one that had been recommended by friends. I told the pastor about my problem beforehand and he was appropriately appalled and wanted my wife and kids to disavow me in writing before they would be allowed to participate. This pastor’s recurring theme was God’s grace and the finished work of Jesus.
Each week his messages seemed to be fine tuned for us even though there were hundreds of other families there. There was a sweetness and dynamism to the worship that I’ve not seen before or since. It made my heart ache that I couldn’t really be a part. It had taken some persuasion to the pastor to even let me in from the parking lot of this wonderful place. He didn’t even want my tithe. Nevertheless, I settled in to stay.
Some time later, Debbie and I were having another argument and as usual it was over something inconsequential. As usual also, the offenses piled up during the argument were more hurtful than the original issue. Debbie and I were both gifted in the use of the sarcastic barb. She wanted to spend some time away and was thinking that probably my spiritual condition was the source of the conflict. She was also thinking of ending our marriage.
It was Summer break at school so she took the children and left Maryland to stay with her family in New Orleans. I stayed behind. I must have worked at my job but all I can remember was going to church. I remember there was another service with stellar worship and a custom tailored message. It was custom tailored to tear me apart.
Near the close of this message there was a call to service. People were encouraged to find where they belonged in the body. I, of course, belonged nowhere. As I dwelt on my pathetic situation, I scrawled my lament to God on the blank pages in the back of the Bible I had with me. I still have it here somewhere but the gist of the lament was my frustration of always being on the outside.
July 4th 1996.
On this auspicious day I was as alone in my home in suburban Maryland, right on the edge of DC. My wife had left with the kids and was considering making it permanent. I had no life that mattered to me. It was in the aftermath of another service at church that made me want to toss my revelation aside and just be normal.
I had tried before. The number of times that I tried to toss it aside and just be like any other Christian were many. I had even been persuaded to be re-baptized in various churches. I had rededicated my life multiple times and always there was the gentle tug back to the revelation. That was real too and I was unable fool myself and pretend it wasn’t.
Over the years people (mostly Debbie) offered explanations of how I might have experienced what I did. Mostly, the explanations discounted it as a drug induced hallucination. Others called it a false mystical experience of some sort probably involving demon possession. I discarded those myself because I knew what I had experienced of God initially and over the ensuing years.
I even tried to resolve the conflicts myself. I thought for a while that I might really be the Christ if God made the past my future. My obvious personal flaws flew in the face of any such reconciliation. I cast about for some way to make sense of everything that I knew was true. In the days before she left for New Orleans, Debbie offered another science fiction inspired theory:
“God knew that you had no faith and that you couldn’t have any. You said that the only way you could believe was to know Him in the same way as you know yourself. Maybe it was kind of like the Vulcan Mind Meld. God joined your consciousness to His and since Jesus is God, you would come away with the impression that you were Jesus.”
I discarded this latest idea like all the rest of the glib explanations people had offered over the years and went on to other matters, probably to my ongoing argument with Debbie, but now here I was, alone in my house and fresh from frustration at church and I decided to pray. Debbie’s idea came to mind and this time I didn’t dismiss it. It seemed plausible. The more I thought about it, the more plausible it became. It would explain a lot and now as I approached the point of accepting the explanation I realized the enormous implications and became apprehensive.
Death by crucifixion was a terrible form of torture. I’d heard the medical analysis and now I had to confront the reality of it. I’d said the words accepting Jesus before, but my unshakable conviction that I was somehow the Christ, kept me from really committing to it. Each time I asked God to take the contradictory impression away, he just reaffirmed it and let me know that everything was OK and I should wait. Now I suspected His answer would be different.
I didn’t like charity. I wanted to pay my own way but now I had to confront the fact that somebody would suffer horribly for me. Die for me. Was I supposed to embrace that fact? I sensed that was where this was taking me. The apprehension itself was a confirmation. The sense of anguish and dread was terrible as I cried out what I felt. Face down on my living room rug I wailed:
“But I don’t want you to DIE!”
Instantly, clearly, the answer came back as a thought that wasn’t mine.
“But I already DID die, and I want you to want it”
This was God talking! Could I tell Him no? I hesitated a moment because I didn’t want to cry, but say the words accepting His death I did. I blubbered.
I could claim Jesus as my Savior and call myself a Christian without reservation. It was finished.
I had a fairly severe stroke in July of 2010. Before my stroke I had wanted to make it on my own, and I didn’t want to cry. Now I’m a funny talking cripple living on the charity of others. I cry at the drop of a hat too. I struggled for years to write this book so the stroke must have given me focus. Along with a having a sense of humor, God had a plan.
It's widely believed that the Bible is just a bunch of semi mythological writings of uncertain authorship and little relevance, but some people contend that it is truly the written word of God.
There are websites that have extensive lists of contradictions they’ve found in the Bible but for now, lets focus on the issue of mythology. If most or all of the Bible is fiction, it doesn’t matter what inconsistencies are found. If it can be established that God had a hand in putting the Bible together, then the authorship and relevance issues should fall into place.
It’s all about miracles. Miracles get people’s attention. Jesus, Moses and several prophets worked miracles that mainly served as signs that God was involved in what they did. If there were no miracles described in the Bible, people wouldn’t have bothered compiling those lists of contradictions. There wouldn’t be any point.
A lot of people have no objection to the idea of God provided that He’s distant enough. Miracles mean God is more up close and personal. A miracle working God is involved in His creation. Such a God might have something to say about how we live our lives. It’s the miracles of God that people try to explain away as something else.
If only Jesus had come to a time such as we have now though. With the mass communications we have today, many more people could have seen Him work miracles and believe, but wait, there were those who lived in Jesus time, who witnessed some amazing things and still THEY weren’t convinced. The Bible never drove the point home, but there seem to be some people who are unaffected by what they see God do.
One Sabbath day a group of religious leaders brought a man with a deformed, crippled hand to Jesus. Their intent wasn’t a controlled experiment to see if Jesus’ healings were real or some fakery was involved. They wanted to see if Jesus was going to heal this man’s hand on the Sabbath. They had a very clear idea of how a Godly person should act.
Knowing what these men had on their minds Jesus asked:
“Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”
When they remained silent and didn’t answer, Jesus seemed to get impatient and told the man with the withered hand to step forward. Jesus went ahead and healed the man. The religious leaders were indignant. They decided at that moment that they should kill Jesus.
There was no chicanery involved. The man really had a useless and deformed hand. He had been selected on that basis by the religious leaders. This story gives us quite a glimpse into human nature and hard hearted blindness. These men saw something truly amazing up close yet had no comprehension of what they had just seen.
There were those who saw His miracles and believed. There were some who believed after they heard from eyewitness accounts and judged them credible. Others couldn’t be convinced at all. In distant countries second hand or third hand accounts were all there were. Again some believed and some didn’t. Was God at fault for those who decided not to believe? Should He have made a more convincing display?
The inevitable way that miracles are identified is by excluding natural causes for what we see. If we see a withered hand suddenly inflate and become functional we might look for the trick and if we failed to see it, conclude that God did it. But what if someone doesn’t believe in God? He might go on looking for the trickery involved, and then if he failed to find it, walk away in faith that some sort of sleight-of-hand was used but it was apparently too clever to see.
I’ll tell you what, we can avoid that problem. You can experience a miracle right now, right here. You’ll still have the option to disregard what you see. Be careful though, I don’t know if those religious leaders got more chances.
The miracle is subtle, I would even say supernaturally so. The source of the miracle and the power of the miracle worker is evident in the miracle itself.
There is a Golden Thread woven into the Bible. It’s existence is in of itself a miracle. That it was placed in the Bible as some sort of ruse is untenable. The Thread is in effect, a time capsule. It’s been kept safe for some thousands of years so you can witness it for yourself. It’s challengingly subtle and the message the capsule contains is about Jesus so be warned.
I’m about to cite what may be some familiar Bible stories. It doesn’t really matter at this point whether you believe these stories to be true. There are a lot of people who call themselves Christian who don’t believe that these stories describe real events either. Try not to get distracted by your reaction to any stories you doubt. The important issue for the sake of what follows, is that the stories themselves exist.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, whereupon they realize that they’re naked and they become ashamed. They make aprons out of leaves to cover their nakedness. Later, Adam and Eve try to hide from the presence of God, but He confronts them and kicks them out of the garden. Before they go though, God kills some animals and uses the animal skins to cover their nakedness.
After some more generations, a man called Abram found favor with God. God tells Abram that his descendants would be so numerous they could not be counted. Since Abram and his wife were old and childless he asked God how this promise would happen. In response God has Abram prepare an avenue of sacrificed animals. Then God caused a deep sleep to fall over Abram and God appeared as a fiery cauldron which passed down the avenue of the sacrifices.
Abram traveled to Egypt and mislead the King there about his wife Sarah’s marital status by calling her his sister. After the king tried to take Sarah as wife, he found out about the ruse and has Abram leave, taking Sarah and a huge parting gift of flocks, servants and gold, with him.
After some more time, God made good on His promise to Abram and gave him a son. Abram’s name was changed to Abraham. When Abraham’s son Isaac was older, God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham seemed willing to comply without objection. On the way to the place where the sacrifice would occur, Isaac wondered aloud about the sacrifice planned since they had fire and fuel, but no animal was evident. Abraham answered vaguely, “God will provide the sacrifice.”
On the mountaintop, Abraham tied Isaac with cords and was going to slit his son’s throat and truly sacrifice Isaac. At the last moment God sent His Angel to intervene and who pointed out a ram with it’s horns tangled in a bush as the sacrifice.
Isaac had two sons but the second supplanted the first. This second son was called Jacob but God later changed his name to Israel. His story was marked by deceit and dealing with people underhandedly. Yet God seemed to single him out for blessing.
One day Jacob was cooking some vegetable stew when his brother Esau returned empty handed from hunting. When Esau asked for some of the stew, Jacob said
“Sure, for your birthright as firstborn”. Esau said yes to get the food.
Much later when Isaac was old and near death, Jacob disguised himself as his brother Esau in order to fool Isaac. Jacob gets the paternal blessing that Isaac had meant for Esau.
Later, Jacob connived by trickery to get most of his father-in-law’s flocks then takes his family and runs.
On the way, he encountered a person who is just identified as a man and insisted that he bless Jacob. In the most outrageous example of Chutzpah imaginable, Jacob wrestled with this man til dawn insisting on the blessing. After this, Jacob’s name was changed to Israel and he walked with a limp. Israel claimed to have seen God and lived.
Israel’s children became the twelve tribes of Israel and their stories were also marked by less than upstanding behavior that God seemed to bless anyway.
And there you have it. The Golden Thread was summarized here. Read on to see it clearly.
The Bible is old. Just how old it is and who authored which portion is subject to debate. These stories were taken from what is called the Torah or books of Moses. The origin of these books can be placed well before Jesus time even if the scholars you trust don’t ascribe the books to Moses.
The ministry of Jesus was heralded by some as the coming of the Jewish Messiah. Contrary to some people’s expectations for a Messiah perhaps, Jesus was a figure of a “suffering” Savior. Numerous messianic prophesies found in what were ancient writing to them were cited by Jesus in the Gospels and by the disciples in their letters.
In these letters, they depicted Jesus as the Savior that saved people from their sins by dying for them. The one sidedness of God’s plan for us was manifest. Jesus would die on the cross for us and we would let Him.
The term Grace is introduced. This is often translated “Undeserved kindness” or “Unmerited Favor” but it boils down to God’s one sided love that we don’t deserve and we can’t earn. It is all about God’s willingness to give us everything and accept nothing in return. We only need to accept the gift. God’s unselfish love is what was hidden in the capsule for thousands of years.
God used the history of Jewish people to make a point. You really have nothing to offer God except your willingness to receive benefits from Him.
In the rituals of the Old Testament sacrifices, the atonement was called a covering for sin. The first covering for sin was supplied by God for Adam and Eve when God killed animals so the First couple could wear the skins that would cover their nakedness.
The result of Abram’s cowardice and deceit in Egypt was that he became a rich man.
Then Abram’s faith was being tested it seems, but what we were being shown was what God was willing to do with His own Son. Even Abram’s words:
“God will provide the sacrifice”
shout through the pages of history what God had in mind for the Messiah.
When God promised Abram to be His God and bless him materially, Abram’s side of the contract was just faith. The typical contract was unto the death with the parties locked arm in arm as they walked down the bloody avenue of animal carcasses.
The sentiment for contracts was “If I don’t honor my terms of this contract, may I and my children be as these animals are and be split asunder. Since there was no government to enforce civil contracts, the covenant was as binding a promise as they could make it.
By passing though the avenue of the sacrifice alone, God proclaimed. I will keep my end of the contract if it kills me. If you can’t keep yours, I won’t require it of you. Instead I will bind myself unilaterally unto the death for you and your children’s sake forever.
God honored Jacob for wanting as much as he could get. Jacob wanted God’s blessing and he didn’t care how he got it. God singled Jacob out for blessing because Jacob seemed to understand the nature of God’s one sided love.
The Jewish history is full of liars, cheats and antiheroes. Who put the word out that they needed to highlight the most unlaudable of behaviors? Who decided that the teams of fiction writers working with a separation of hundreds or even thousands of years, would promote the future Christian notion of a God of freeloaders?
Later the passover was instituted to commemorate God’s method for deliverance of the Jews from captivity, but like Abraham and Isaac’s mountaintop encounter, it shouts through the ages about God’s plan of deliverance with the Messiah, the Lamb of God. God commanded the Jewish people to remember.
Who would have thought that It was all about God’s unilateral love? Just as God appeared as a man to wrestle with Jacob, God appeared as a man to be our sacrifice. It was inconceivable that the God of the Universe would so contrive Reality that He could die for us. Yet God had committed Himself, unto the death, to Abraham and his descendants forever, out of Love.
The Jewish scribes who lived before Jesus were ignorant of this theme as they copied these stories that spoke of Jesus. The scribes who came after the time of Jesus were just as ignorant but many were also hostile to the idea of Jesus as Messiah, but they still faithfully preserved the hidden messages that they didn’t realize were there. To believe that this founding history of Judaism was contrived is absurd.
Contrived by who? When? Why?
Unless you admit that the Bible narrative is the history it claims to be. The alternative is to believe that someone made it up. The recurring hidden theme of God’s “Unmerited Favor” raises people’s assertion that the Bible is fiction to the level of the greatest conspiracy theory of all time.
Read on in the book of Genesis for yourself to see how God continues this theme of unmerited favor. It’s an interesting read. The story continues into Exodus. You’ll see the same theme all over the Bible though if you’re looking for it.
In Leviticus, the ordinance of the scapegoat is established but it’s contrary to common sense. Two goats are selected and upon one all the sins of the people are conveyed symbolically by laying hands on it. That goat is then set free and called the scapegoat because it gets to “escape”. Then the other goat is killed as a sacrifice for the sins laid upon the scapegoat.
In our modern usage, the term scapegoat applies to one who is falsely accused and punished but that is almost entirely backwards from its original meaning. The original meaning seems wrong. It’s our sense that it’s illogical that the accused one should be set free and the unaccused and innocent one is killed that perpetuates our backwards usage of the term scapegoat.
Grace is an illusive concept. Even many Christians and Christian groups miss it. There is too much emphasis on righteousness and “Godly” codes of conduct in churches to believe otherwise.
The theme is about God’s love for us. It’s all from His side because we have so little to offer God. The Bible is replete with people who were thieves, prostitutes, cheats and cowards but were nevertheless heroes of the faith. People who knew what they were but were willing to approach God to get blessings from Him.
The sacrifice of Himself as Messiah was God’s plan to deal with our lack. All we have to offer is our acceptance of Him. It’s simple. It’s also what God wants most.
Jesus once said:
“I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it “
I used to believe that this referred to the idealized qualities that I ascribed to children. They were innocent, gentle and without guile.
Nonsense! Children can be spiteful, selfish, stubborn, and cruel. If they weren’t so cute, we’d probably kill them all! What children DO have going for them with regards to the Kingdom of God IS their selfishness. They will quite happily accept a gift without regard to how much it cost the giver. They have no pride in this:
“What? You traded BOTH your kidneys for this gift? Cool.”
That’s apparently the way it has to be with God. We can’t offer Him a thing except ourselves. Even we aren’t worth much unless He causes us to be something. That’s the good part though. He can cause us to do great things. He can start right away.
Turn Here and see.
The Earth is believed to be 4.5 billion years old. This figure is derived from the evidence seen in the geologic record. All over the Earth there is the geologic column, which consists of layer upon layer of strata. Each layer will often represent millions of years of Earth’s history.
Simplistically stated, by observing current processes and the rates of deposition of various types of mineral, one can determine a time-line for Earth’s geologic history. Overall, a philosophy called uniformitarianism prevails.
The consensus makers admit that some catastrophes may have occurred and that some changes happened quickly. For instance, they believe a catastrophic impact event was responsible for the moon’s formation, but that was in the remote past. The possible asteroid event that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs was hardly a blip geologically speaking. The global flood as described in the Bible is the stuff of children’s stories and myth. The scientific consensus is that the flood never happened and the world came to its present state very gradually for the most part. It took eons of time and it wasn’t a catastrophe that came as a judgment from God that gave us what we see in the Earth today.
Here’s the first paragraph of the WikiPedia article on uniformitarianism.
“In the philosophy of naturalism, uniformitarianism assumes that the same natural laws and processes that operate in the universe now, have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere in the universe. It is frequently summarized as 'the present is the key to the past,' because it holds that all things continue as they were from the beginning of the world.”
I found the same paragraph in many different sites so I can’t tell who wrote it first. I assume I might find something similar in any standard geology textbook. Earlier in this book I tried to get the reader to witness something miraculous. Here is another miracle. Either by accident or as a much too clever attempt at derision, a prophesy is being fulfilled.
Almost 2000 years ago the following words were written:
2 Peter 2:3-7
Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying:
“Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”
For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:
Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:
But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
Here, in the middle of a letter of encouragement to some first century Jewish Christians, Peter, an apostle of Jesus, tosses out a little prophesy. Notice the underlined phrases even after translation are almost identical. This 2000 year old message also accuses these same scoffers of being “willingly ignorant” of the Creation and that there was a global flood.
I can say to those responsible for the “scientific consensus”:
God knew you were coming. What you say and think was predicted long ago. You are being “willingly ignorant” about the flood. There is abundant secular evidence of the flood and the young earth, yet you refuse to see it. Repent of walking after you own lusts. Stop scoffing and deceiving yourself and others. Otherwise judgment awaits.
The Answers in Genesis website is one of the better sources for a non-ignorant interpretation of the evidence. Since there is no shortage of literature that argues well in support of a young Earth and the flood, I’ll steer this back to my own pursuit of truth.
When I first became convinced of the existence of God I was inclined to accept the Bible but at first I only regarded the red words as inspired. In the Bible I had, the words of Jesus were printed with red ink, but Jesus mentioned Adam and Eve, the creation and Noah’s Flood as though they were fact. The Bible says what it says and if it’s not true, there’s no saving it. Jesus’ endorsement of these scriptures had put Him on the hook too.
But if I was to take the Bible literally, God creating “the Heavens and the Earth and all that in them is” in six literal days with the astronomical objects being created on day four was clearly stated in the Bible. No figurative interpretation or spiritualization of the account made sense.
This required a young age for the Universe and the Earth if my world view was going to withstand logical inquiry. Evidence that the Earth was young though was plentiful and I was confident that the Bible chronology was more supported than not, but there were two things that were a problem and they seemed inescapable.
One was the travel time of light. If there were objects that were 15 billion light years distant and we see them, then the Universe would have to be at least old enough for light to make the trip.
Interpreting the scripture so that God created light in transit when he created the Earth would make it possible to see these distant objects.
That was perhaps being suggested by the Bible’s use of the phase “The Lord stretched out the Heavens...” when it referred to creation, but that would mean that the “stretched out” light also depicted events which never occurred.
A supernova seen in 1987 was supposedly 170,000 light years away. If we saw the image in the light that was created “in transit” then Supernova 1987A never really happened. This didn’t “feel” right in that it would make God into a deceiver. If God had created the light and subatomic particles from all the distant objects already in transit, then He was involved in deception on a massive scale. I discounted this theory because that seemed out of character for the God I knew.
It was knowing God that was my anchor in it all though. Atheists accuse theists of the unscientific practice of trying to make the science fit their beliefs. That’s true we do, but It’s more than a belief when you know God. You can’t disregard what you know.
Another possible reconciliation was that the curvature of space-time might correspond to an unusual Riemannian geometry. Then, the maximum travel time for light in the Universe would be about 16 years, even from the most distant objects. While this seemed like a possibility, it didn’t have the ring of truth to it either but I would be harder pressed to say why. It seemed contrived I guess. For a few years, this was the best I had though. I hoped that the extreme pointing accuracy of one of the space observatories would be used to measure the curvature of space to confirm or deny this theory.
I realize that this was an a priori style of thinking that went into the evolution of my favored explanation. As precedent, I offer the evolution of the scientific consensus explaining the formation of the earth/moon system. The currently favored theory is that a large object struck the Earth in the remote past and the material ejected then coalesced into the moon. The large impactor theory only became popular when the previously held theory of capture was demonstrated to be problematic and then somebody thought up the large impactor theory as an alternative. That’s the way all minds work be they theistic or not.
There was even about two hours time that I was enthusiastic about the findings that the speed of light was decaying from infinity in the past to the constant that we see now, but when I saw the data in Australian scientist Barry Setterfield’s paper where he advanced the decay of the speed of light theory, it required that God was playing cat and mouse with us. That seemed out of character too.
The measured decline in the speed of light came from a plot of all the historical measurements for the speed of light right up to the present day. The rate of change stayed tantalizingly close to the resolution limits of whatever the measurement technology was at the time. Once we had the ability to accurately measure C, the speed quit declining and settled down to a constant. This too lacked the ring of truth for me.
After the brief two hours I was back to the curvature of space theory as the best explanation that ‘fit’ all the things that I knew as true.
I guess my behavior with this was similar to a secular person’s clinging to a favorite theory explaining the predetermined spontaneous generation of the first cell until a better theory comes along. Faith that there is no Creator requires a materialist explanation for life.
Again my belief that God’s word was true was something that derived from a given. It was more than just a belief or opinion. I knew my Creator personally. In the Universe of those who know Him, He is a constant more certain than the speed of light.
Then I ran across a book called “Starlight and Time” by Russell Humphreys. His relativistic explanation and unapologetic use of the scripture was something unique. His scenario had the Earth at thousands of years old with the rest of the universe older, courtesy of God’s use of the gravitational field from a vast but moving expanse of matter, water according to Humphreys. This created a moving event horizon with the characteristic of a white hole. This would allow the clocks to run at drastically different rates in separate regions of the universe.
I thought that the “waters” referred to in the account could be fluids like a plasma mix or even hyper-matter or something else but Humphreys was on to something. What really clinched it as THE explanation of the creation was when I recently saw photos of galaxies in collision. I was writing this book when I first saw pictures of intersecting galaxies with obvious signs that they were gravitationally interacting and then I knew.
These galaxies were old. They had been tearing each other apart for hundreds of thousands if not millions of years. Odd that I hadn’t run across these images earlier. They would have been just as compelling whenever I saw them.
There was a sober realization that the Galaxies were old and that God may have done the work of the creation of the Cosmos in such a manner that there was no overt miraculous evidence.
Conjecture about whether or not there was dark matter or “the missing mass” was less significant now. The fact that the Virgo cluster appeared to be young and flying apart if it didn’t have fifty times as much invisible matter as visible didn’t matter as much since I had to acknowledge the antiquity of the universe.
But with God being able to use relativity as a tool to fashion things with differing ages, it became feasible that he created the stars, galaxies and quasars on day four of the creation week and yet still have these things billions of years old also. There may yet be some observational evidence that is overtly miraculous about the creation of the Universe other than just its existence. We’ll see.
Humphreys’ approach had the requisite “ring of truth” to it to me. None of the earlier explanations had it. Perhaps it was from Humphreys’ willingness to use God’s own description of the creation as the starting point. That was surprising and refreshing.
The previously enigmatic description of God creating the firmament and calling it Heaven made it clear that what was being referred to was space or the second Hebrew Heaven. That he used an expanse of fluid matter as a means to do this is more than suggested. On day four the expanse of matter and the event horizon was moved outward creating the objects we see in the universe. Possibly our solar system but definitely the Earth required a fiat creation during the creation week of seven literal days.
Dr. Stephen Hawking proved to his own satisfaction, that when viewed on a small enough scale, there is enough energy and turbulence in the quantum flux to spawn our universe.
The obvious answer to that is to say that if it happened once, it can happen again and probably did. There may be an infinite number of universes being spawned every instant and in every infinitesimal subatomic point. If life is improbable then surely having an infinite number of universes would make it inevitable. Belief in the infinite parallel universes has been advanced repeatedly to counter arguments against naturalism and evolution. We are just lucky to live in one of the universes where we happened along I guess.
Choose your creator, the God who loves you enough to give up His life for you, or the quantum flux?
Fortunately, there are clues to the correct choice here so you won’t have to flip a coin. One clue is the age of the Earth. If the Earth is just thousands of years old then the supernatural creation happened. A young Earth implies that the rest of the Bible is true also.
If you add up all the information given in the genealogies found in Genesis and in the Jewish New Testament, you’ll come up with an age of the Earth that’s measured in the thousands of years. Some latitude in interpreting the genealogies is appropriate since the genealogies seem to omit a generation or two. The figure is often rounded up to seven thousand years which is still way less than 4.5 billion.
Contradicting the idea of a young Earth were the Greenland and Antarctic ice cores. Here we had what seemed like undeniable proof that the Earth was much older than the Bible allowed. With 800 thousand years as the age of the oldest cores, while it wasn’t enough to prove the 4.5 billion years as fact, it was enough to discredit the Bible account as having any relevance.
The ice cores showed visible layers each representing a year’s snow fall. They had even been correlated with the global tree ring record or dendrochronology. The two mile depth of the ice in some places seemed like proof of vast ages.
The tree ring data extended back 8000 years and the ice core data went much farther. Even the tree ring data went further back than a literal interpretation of Genesis would allow. The hundreds of thousand year ages for the glaciers seemed insurmountable.
In the tree ring data, by counting the rings in a core sample taken from the trunk of a living tree, you can see the age of the tree. For long lived varieties like the Bristlecone pine, this may go back many thousands of years. The oldest tree alive is some 4700 years old.
Further, the width of the rings can be correlated to global weather events like volcano eruptions or what has been called the mini ice age that occurred starting in the 1600s. Samples of wood from dead trees can be matched using overlapping features to construct a continuous chronology that goes back 8000 years
Since every tree is different in the way it grows and there were micro-climates that had an effect, there is a degree of art and guesswork in correlating samples. Since finding the correlations among hundreds or thousands of rings is such a massive undertaking, computer programs are used to look for matching patterns. The same artful guesswork is hard coded into the programs.
What I didn’t realize was that subjectivity and bias figured very prominently in both kinds of data. This is best demonstrated in the findings of D. K. Yamaguchi taking tree ring data from a 290 ringed tree that was known to live between 1482 and 1668. His software used settings that were more exacting than the more approximate settings that were used to build the accepted chronologies. He was able to get a positive match for his sample as starting life at several different dates ranging over hundreds of years. If the sample hadn’t been identified historically, any of the false matches would seem to be right.
“Yamaguchi found 113 different matches having a confidence level of greater than 99.9%
Other scientists have been surprised to learn how unscientific the field of dendrochronology is. The raw data is not shared and conclusions go unchallenged which is atypical compared with the rest of scientific practice. The sequences are calibrated against carbon 14 data but carbon 14 is elsewhere calibrated against tree ring data which is an example of circular logic. The 8000 year chronology that is generally accepted is not just doubtful, it’s scandalous.
The fact that the first layers of ice cores have been correlated with tree ring data is meaningless. The software gives results that are dubious while reporting near certainty and there is scant means to test them.
One test that was accidentally performed was the 1992 recovery of a WW2 P38 aircraft that had come down on a glacier in 1942. It was buried under 260 feet of ice with many hundreds of layers. The 50 year burial was expected to result in fifty wafer thin layers the way ice growth was understood.
This winter in Michigan, I watched as a heavy snowfall piled a drift against my porch window. The drifting produced a dozen or more very visible layers per foot. Add in the likelihood of frequent avalanching off the nearby mountains at the glacier sites, the notion that the layers represent years becomes very untenable. Deeper down in the pack the visible layers disappear and layers only appear in cores as small regions of differing electrical resistance which are machine counted.
The assumptions behind equating these invisible layers with years come from a uniformitarian bias that contradicts observational data.
Global warming has done us a service here. Regardless of whether we say that the warming is man made or if it’s going to continue, we were in a warming period during the 1990s and part of the first decade of this century. There was some melting of long standing glaciers that caused a lot of alarm. The rate of melting had a lot of the science establishment convinced that the glaciers would disappear within a thirty year time frame, but thousands of years ago above the Arctic Circle in Canada and Siberia there was even warmer weather for some time.
Along with the Woolly Mammoths there were sub tropical plants and animals. That was a time that was even warmer than any warming we see today and that near tropical warming supposedly lasted thousands of years.
Could Greenland’s glaciers have survived such a warming of the Arctic when the recent modest warming trend caused such drastic changes in glacier melt rates? Could the Antarctic ice have lasted untouched by global warming on such a scale?
The same sort of computer induced pattern forming hallucination that created the erroneous tree ring correlations would apply to these visible layers in the ice.
People believe what they want to believe and see what they want to see regardless of their worldview.
I did a Google search for “Bible Error” and “Bible Errors” and it would be a big job to answer the critics of the Bible fully because there’s no shortage of people critical of the Bible. They’ve demonstrated to their own satisfaction that the Bible is error laden. There’s also no shortage of sites where people have undertaken the job of answering the criticisms. Sometimes the refutations are well done and sometimes not, but to list the controversies here would be a pointless duplication of effort.
Instead I’d like to respond to the fallacies common to all the atheist Bible error lists that I looked at. I considered what sort of tone would be best.
Should I be derisive, matter of fact or gracious? I’m leaning towards derision. While I would never make fun of the genuinely unintelligent, those who demonstrate their contempt for Christians and Christianity are another case. When they proudly offer up their own form of stupidity with smug mockery, they’ve earned all the derision they can get.
I was sort of disappointed that the best and the brightest of the atheist community could only put forward the weak and ignorant arguments I saw. I use the term ignorant to describe criticisms that would be easily dismissed by almost any believer if the critics had only asked.
They are fools. The Bible puts it rather succinctly:
“The fool says in his heart there is no God”
Having no belief in God is fairly reasonable. If you don’t know whether there is a god or not, then you don’t know, but those who assert positively that God doesn’t exist are irrational fools and willfully so.
About a decade ago, the atheist clubbers on Usenet's alt.atheism paid me their highest tribute by voting for something I said in an online discussion to receive their Theist Quote of the Month Award. The award was meant to highlight the most stupid or nonsensical thing a theist posted to their group. In the course of discussing the absurdity of positive atheism I wrote:
“If it has been divinely revealed to you, that there is no God, then your atheism makes sense.”
I refuse to insult the intelligence of my readers by using smileys or <sarc> tags to state the obvious. I was amused to read comment after comment noting how stupid my statement was. If my irony challenged friends wanted to embarrass themselves by giving me an award that commemorated their thick headedness, then more power to them. By an acclamation vote from these geniuses, I won.
I’m still proud.
Here is a quote from the first website that came up in my Google search. I selected the site also for how well packed with material the following was:
“Gen 32:30 states, "...for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." However, John 1:18 states, "No man hath seen God at any time..." Both statements cannot be true. Either there is an error of fact, or an error of translation. In either case, there is an error. And if there is an error, then infallibility of the Bible (in this case the King James Version) is falsified.
A typical defense used here is to look up the meaning of the original Hebrew / Greek, read that one of the words can have multiple meanings, and then pick the meaning that seems to break the contradiction. For example, the Christian might argue that "seen" or "face" means one thing in the first scripture, and something completely different in the second.
The logical flaw in this approach is that it amounts to saying that the translator should have chosen to use a different word in one of the two scriptures in order to avoid the resulting logical contradiction that now appears in English—that is, the translator made an error. If no translation error occurred, then an error of fact exists in at least one of the two scriptures. Appeals to "context" are irrelevant in cases like this where simple declarative statements are involved such as "no one has seen God" and "I have seen God." Simply put, no "context" makes a contradiction or a false statement, like 2 = 3, true.
If one is prepared to allow for the possibility of translator or transcriber errors, then the claim of Biblical inerrancy is completely undermined since no originals exist to serve as a benchmark against which to identify the errors. Left only with our error-prone copies of the originals, the claim of infallibility becomes completely vacuous. Pandora's Box would truly be open: You could have the Bible say whatever you want it to say by simply claiming that words to the contrary are the result of copying or translation/interpretation errors, and nothing could prove you wrong”
This tells us more about the author of this fallacious spiel than about the Bible. The Genesis 32:30 quote is from the passage describing Jacob’s encounter with a man who Jacob wrestles with til dawn, insisting that he be given a blessing. The line spoken in verse 30 was either spoken by Jacob or it wasn’t. Since we have no proof that the line wasn’t said by Jacob we may as well say the Bible is accurate when it says that Jacob did say the line. That would make the scripture accurate.
There, I didn’t have to resort to playing tricks with language as my “typical defense”. Surely our atheist realizes that there is a difference between the assertion of scripture in John and the narrative quoting someone like it does in Genesis. What if the person quoted is in error? Does that mean the Bible can’t tell us what they say because the quoted inaccuracy would make the Bible wrong? How about where the Pharisees said that Jesus “casts out demons by the Prince of demons” If what the Pharisees said was false, does that make the Bible false for reporting accurately what they said?
Let’s assume though that the quote is accurate and Jacob did say the line and that in this case, a narrative quote of someone’s speech is an endorsement by God for whatever they said and that what Jacob said was itself accurate.
With all these assumptions, the contradiction is back. Now is the time to ask any Christian the question:
Who was the “Man” that Jacob saw?
Let me ask the atheist “When Thomas said to Jesus:
“My Lord and my God”
when Jesus told him to touch His wounds was Thomas wrong or did he have his eyes closed whenever he was around Jesus? Otherwise we’ve got another conflict with that scripture that said :
“No man hath seen God at any time”
Or how about at the opening of the Gospel of John where it says:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God... and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” John 1:1;14
How many examples of people seeing God are recorded in the Gospel’s would that make if Jesus was God like it says clearly in this verse? The Apostle John sure was doofus when he states four verses later that:
“No man hath seen God at any time”
Didn’t John read what he had just written?
Didn’t our atheist? He sounded all authoritative when he said:
“Both statements cannot be true. Either there is an error of fact, or an error of translation”
Is he entering into the fray between the Trinitarians and the Jehovah’s Witnesses and siding with the J.W.s in the dispute? See the section on the Trinity if you need this explained.
His accusation that I might do some illogical sleight of hand to deal with the contradictions he found has come back upon him. I won’t accuse him of sleight of hand though. I’m sure he was being honest. He honestly believed his drivel meant something.
Further, his general form of attack on the Bible is a straw man argument. He set up an illogical, indefensible position as representing a fundamentalist Christian. Then he shows some examples that demolishes the beliefs of this hypothetical Christian and with that also he claims to demolish the Bible’s authority for anything.
Hey it’s a big world. He doubtless could find someone who believes just like he wants for an opponent. He’ll just need to disregard the grass leaking out of the little guy’s sleeves and collar and punch away.
For example, near this he cites another contradiction:
In 1 Kings 4:26 says:
"And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots...
In" 2 Chronicles 9:25 says:
"And Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots "
So which is it? Were there 4,000 or 40,000 horse stalls? I need to know or I can’t trust the Bible about anything! Why, this invalidates my whole belief system as a fundamentalist! A very rational man told me so. What am I to do?
No wait. I believe the Bible is true. I believe the Bible is under the direct control of God. Because of this I believe that God will take care of His Word. It will continue to function as a light unto my feet and I will never have to just wing it, picking and choosing what I need to believe. So far this has worked well.
In my entire life I’ve run across only one instance of a verse that seems to contradict itself and also deals with a point that’s halfway important. That’s in 1 Cor 14:22-24, but fortunately, the context makes it clear what’s being said. If a decimal point was shifted in a comparatively unimportant bit of detail, it wont shake my faith in the Bible for the important stuff. I don’t pick and choose. I’ve never had to.
But most of the atheist’s discrepancies would disappear if they would just READ the verses that they’re saying contradict each other. For instance, David’s childless wife Michal, King Saul’s daughter, ended up raising five sons for somebody else. It says it right there in the verse in question.
My atheist’s point about translations is a poor one. There are about 20 English translations and not all of them are good. It really seems that part of the straw-man belief system that they plan on knocking down requires fundamentalists to believe that all of the translations are perfect. I bet they won’t find anyone who’d embrace that notion.
We’re in a pretty weird area when atheists start weighing in on the merits of one translation against another. They will only demonstrate their ignorance. If they try to say that we think that all translations are perfect and we don’t agree, isn’t it pointless to argue against a belief that no one has? But wait, doing that helps them make the next point that the Bible is unreliable.
But lets revisit the number of stalls issue. There is a credible argument that since there seems to be “horse AND chariot” stalls mentioned in one verse and “horses FOR the chariots” stalls or “horse only” stalls in another that both verses may be accurate. Again our atheist friend failed to actually read the scriptures he was quoting.
But let’s call it a discrepancy. Lets say that somehow somewhere along the line a decimal got shifted during copying or maybe one originating document differed with another originating document in the other. Say they had the king’s household inventories for different years perhaps that were used as a reference to write the separate scriptures we see, but lets say that a discrepancy, whatever the mechanism of its arrival, is really there in the scripture.
What does that say about the process back then? While we have some modern translations where the translators have taken it upon themselves to “fix” the scriptures and have changed the 40000 to 4000, the oldest documents were handled by guys who thought differently.
They were scribes. They lived by a code. Writing was sacred to them and you didn’t change anything. That would profane the sacredness of writing to them. They applied this ethos to the most mundane of documents.
In effect, the scribes guild made the making of faithful copies itself into a religion. By this code they turned themselves into human xerox machines, but a xerox faithfully reproduces whatever it sees, even errors. The extremely rare but faithfully replicated errors that persisted for thousands of years could be construed as validation for the integrity of the copy process.
With the interpretation of finding a few comparatively meaningless errors in the Bible becoming something that validates the process, we have the notion that perhaps God orchestrated insignificant errors into the Bible for that purpose.
Nothing smacks of lying and collusion quicker than having testimony from multiple witnesses match perfectly. These were separate documents written by different people at different times. If they did agree perfectly then we could be sure that one was copied from the other.
God is very much in control after all and nothing sneaks past Him, even errors in the text would HAVE to be allowed and enabled by Him for whatever His reasons. Of course we don’t have to say that this is what He did with the Bible because most of these supposed contradictions disappear if you ACTUALLY READ the scriptures that you see the contradictions in.
I’m not going to deal with these guys about how ignorant and illogical they are with things like ridiculing the references to four legged insects, rabbits that “cheweth the cud” and the “cleaveth the hoof” distinctions for animals. I wouldn’t have to twist the scriptures at all but it would mean more derision for my atheist friends and my heart really isn’t in it.
It’s hostility to God that drives a person to be a positive atheist. An irrational opposition to the Bible, Christianity and believers is all part of the package. I suppose that it’s kind of a compliment that they attack the Gospel so. They don’t bother to expend nearly the same effort on other beliefs. They also can’t help being irrational in the way they go about it either. If you’re going to oppose the Truth, then what choice is there but the irrational?
Jesus was a Jew. Eleven of the disciples were Jews. That Jesus spoke Hebrew as well as Greek and Aramaic is generally accepted. The early Christian Churches were so Jewish that there was even controversy that Gentile new converts had to be circumcised and eat Kosher when they believed so they could be brought into the Jewish Religion. That practice was squelched early on but it testifies to the Jewish character of Christian belief at that time. Jesus kept Torah. The Jewish believers and the Jewish Disciples continued being Jewish after they acknowledged Jesus as Messiah.
It was the proclaiming of a Gentile form of Christianity as the official religion of Rome by Emperor Constantine near the year 300 that really started the rift between Judaism and Christianity. Subsequent crimes against Jews in the name of Christianity cemented the wall between the two. Even Nazism wrapped itself in Christian garb on occasion.
Did Abraham exist? Is the history of the Hebrews as recorded in the Books of Moses factual? Does God really have a chosen people that He watched over and blessed miraculously because of the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? The short answer is yes.
I believe the scriptures are true because they bear the hand print of God on them. The scriptures live in my heart and have shaped my life, but even before I had any awareness of the Book of Genesis, I knew Jews.
In public schools I had Jewish classmates. I knew a Cohen in the Army. I’ve had coworkers who were Jews. They were rare in my life but they all stood out in bold relief compared to everyone else. They had a specialness that I saw nowhere else. I think I was allowed to see that they were The Chosen.
Islam claims to confer choseness upon its adherents. It’s inevitable that Islam is hostile to the Jewish people. Nazism claimed choseness for the Aryan people, they in turn tried to eradicate the living contradiction of their evil cult. The existence of the Chosen People, the Jews, flies in the face of any other group that tries to claim that they are the REAL chosen people.
God used other nations to afflict the Jews for turning away from God. The Assyrians, Persians, and Romans had their turn to be used this way before the Aryans. God help them all. They touched the apple of God’s eye. Through the ages, the nations have been blessed by the Jews in their midst. No other group compares with them for leadership in learning and achievement. You would think that any nation would be pleased to have Jews live among them but instead the Jews are persecuted.
We might assert that the Jews “had it coming” with regard to the persecutions. Perhaps the third Reich was used by God to smite the Jewish people for being stiff necked and rejecting their Messiah, but:
“Can a nation be born in a day?”
God used the holocaust to fulfill prophecy and create the Nation of Israel in 1948.
If the Jews as a nation had embraced the Jewish Jesus as their Messiah would things have been different? Perhaps, I really can’t claim to know the mind of God, but I DO know mine. I would gladly die to protect a Jewish person who was being persecuted. I’ll say it again, Heaven help those who raise their hand against Israel. And even if God WAS smiting the Jews. I would die to protect them anyway. Many others feel the same way.
A group that is widely persecuted today are the Evangelical Christians. That’s according to Amnesty International which states that world wide, the Evangelical Christians are the most persecuted group on the planet Yet it’s these Evangelicals who are the most fervent supporters of Israel. Even Jews in the US aren’t as pro-Israel as this sect of Christians. They’re the ones that believe God is real. They celebrate the Jewish Messiah and they believe that every word in the Torah came from God. Their love for God gives them a love for His people.
A Jew called Saul of Tarsus wrote letters to encourage the small congregations throughout Asia. As a well educated Jewish scholar, his insight into the Jewish Bible was extraordinary. As someone whose life was changed forever by the briefest encounter with God, he ended up penning half of the New Testament.
He spelled out in simple words the secret plan of God. A plan that was hidden in plain sight in the Hebrew scriptures. I’ve experienced the wonder of being familiar with a piece of scripture from the Torah and then have it suddenly come alive after I had seen this plan spelled out. It’s the plan of grace and redemption through the anointed one, the Messiah, Jesus.
One part of Saul’s writing makes me excited. It’s in what was a letter of encouragement to the Gentile Christians in Rome. It describes how wonderful Jewish acceptance of the Jewish Messiah near the last days will be. It warns the Gentile Christians not to boast themselves as somehow higher in the things of God than the Jews. The Gentile Christians were adopted into Abraham’s covenant. The Jews BELONG there. See Rom 11:24
The time is ripe. If you are Jewish you will find this current day and what is to become of the Jewish people outlined in the scriptures. Those scriptures include the Jewish New Testament.
The fullness of the Gentiles is near.
When Moses received his mandate to return to Egypt and lead the Jewish people out of captivity there, he asked God, who was speaking from a burning bush at the time, what His name was. Moses wanted to tell the Jews back in Egypt who sent him. The answer given was:
And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”
In Hebrew tradition the Name was never pronounced. The letters YHWH are written in some English Bibles to denote the statement above and corresponding Hebrew letters were regarded as “The Name” or the “Hashem” in the Hebrew scripture. In the Greek text the Hashem is replaced by Adonai which is translated “The Lord” in English. A lot of mischief has come from people trying to extract the name from this passage. Bible scholars who are well versed in the Biblical languages can’t agree on what the name is. In English, they translate the sentence as one of the following:
I AM WHO I AM
I AM THAT I AM
I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE
I AM THAT WHICH I AM
Each of these is generally accompanied by an explanation about why a particular form was chosen but all this ignores what comes next in the Bible account:
And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.
That was simple and direct. You would think this restatement to Moses of the name would have prevented all the confusion we have today.
The most confused are those who try to say it in Hebrew and declare themselves the “Church of Yahweh” or such. It isn’t the combination of sounds in any language, it’s the meaning. In Holland, for instance, the best way to pronounce the name would be:
The various versions of the statement listed above are no doubt a result of the unusual sentence that must have been written originally:
I am I AM
This sentence is just like the one I might say when asked my name:
I am Robert.
The sentence isn’t my name, it CONTAINS my name.
The fact that eminent linguists disagree widely on the correct translation lets us know that translation isn’t the best place to find the answer. The answer is best found in the context and that context says God’s name is I AM. It’s significant that this is how we would express the most absolute of truths from our perspective. God’s name embodies the central fact in my universe and yours.
That’s not accidental. We were created in His and the Messiah’s image.
But also God wishes to be known by a name that speaks of His love and that the relationship to His people is important to Him. He said His name forever would be:
The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob ”
He isn’t going to forget His covenant with Abraham. He swore unto the death.
I wrote a philosophical paper while in the Army’s Fort Leavenworth Prison. In it I said that I didn’t know whether God existed; that I was unsure about almost everything. I said that whatever I witnessed with my senses was untrustworthy so no miracle or vision from God would convince me of Him.
In it I made this statement:
“The only way I can believe in God is if I can be aware of Him in the same way as I'm aware of myself”
Yet the Bible says
“Without faith it’s impossible to please God”
I could have no faith, I had painted myself into a philosophical corner.
Later in my life God revealed Himself to me such that I DID become aware of Him in the same way I was aware of myself. Now I’m reminded of the doubting disciple, Thomas, saying similar words. When he heard the other disciples report that Jesus was risen, Thomas said:
“Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
But when Jesus appeared again to His disciples and Thomas was with them, Jesus singled Thomas out and said:
“Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
“My Lord and My God!”
Thomas’ outburst here lets me know that he was humbled to realize that the God of the Universe was acquiescing to the demands he made before he would believe.
Jesus also said to him:
“Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
I said that I wasn’t going to believe too. That God would have to do a special trick to convince ME.
In a world full of people with faith, I had none. There were others who trusted God without knowing Him. They were better than me. Yet my Lord and my God came for me. To save me! Save me from my intellectual arrogance and pride!
Thank you Jesus for acquiescing to MY demand for belief in You!
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me”
Mere belief in someone’s existence doesn’t guarantee a relationship. If you’ve never trusted Him, then open the door to your heart. He lovingly had you in mind even before you were in your mother's womb.
Be better than me. Love Him back. It’s an easy thing to do. Embrace the following words as your own:
Jesus, I don’t know you but I want to. Please forgive me for my sins. I turn away from them. I accept your sacrifice for me. Come into my heart and be my Lord.
Even as I write this I'm learning more about what was going on in my life. I had shared my testimony in churches before I understood it. I now realize that as I made a jailhouse request for help getting the certainty I sought, I was asking anyone except the one person that even I admitted would be the only one who could help.
Was I being thick headed or prideful? Uh, I’d like to pick both please Alex. The twenty year wait for the full answer was more than fair. I'm lucky He loved me enough to even partially answer the question that I refused to ask. I was always talking about God but never tried talking TO Him. I acknowledged that His existence was probably my only hope, yet I lived with the assumption that He didn’t exist. I could of at least tried to avoid sin as an act of good faith. As a seeker of truth I was a hypocrite.
I’d shared my abridged story in the little Pentecostal Church that my wife and I attended for years after she became Christian. The church where the unstructured prayer of believers for each other was so powerful that it seemed to make the carpeted concrete floor wave like ocean swells. There were adults and children weeping before God for each other's needs. I cautiously stayed back during these times of prayer lest I profane this Holiness, this presence of God with whatever I was.
I limited my self to peripheral roles in church usually. I’d work on technical things or help with puppets. I’d fervently sing certain songs but when it came to a time of God’s Presence during corporate prayer, I would watch. I would stand back and pray and watch.
If I did lay hands on people to pray, it would be a layer or two back. I prayed for the people who were praying. I felt unworthy to be “where the action was”. I didn’t trust what I was to really be a part.
We moved to DC when jobs in New Orleans became scarce. After trying a few different churches in DC, we joined a small Pentecostal church similar to the one in Louisiana. There was nothing there to compare to the dynamic of the altar calls I had seen before. We did children’s church again. My wife, Debbie, had a real gift ministering to small children. Again, I mostly helped.
My being essentially absent cheated the children out of the real leadership that a genuine and vital Christian man would provide. There was no one else and I was often inappropriately drafted even though I made a point to always tell pastors my strangeness. Because I could sing they’d ask me to lead worship. Nobody seemed to notice that I avoided songs that had the name Jesus in them. I’d sing heartily in God’s praise but felt uncomfortable singing to Jesus.
Even though Debbie was great with small children, taught in public school and felt called to children’s ministry, we were drafted to lead the teen youth group when its leaders moved. Again, I felt the kids were being short changed by not having a true Christian man to run the group. This was most apparent when we all traveled to a youth convention for our denomination. There were kids from all over the country who were enthusiastically praising God, taking part and crowding the stage. The kids in our group only wanted to sit in the empty nosebleed seats at the top of the stadium, where they would talk and try to get us to leave and take them to a shopping mall.
My testimony was heartfelt and convincing enough enough that people felt I was Christian. Also I tried to BE Christian. I’m sorry for my lack. Being Christian was never supposed to be about being good. It was about Jesus. May God bless these now grown individuals with joy and the knowledge of Him.
That youth convention stands out as another of many glimpses into Heaven that I’ve had over the years. A combination rock concert and church service, the convention was marked by a playful celebratory flavor. Amid tumultuous praise and worship, these kids were having fun. They didn’t want to be somewhere else.
After my conversion experience in 1996, I told the pastor of another church we attended that finally, I had no reservations about myself. He didn’t either. This man who at first wouldn’t let me attend his church now trusted me and that was all there was to it. I had nothing to prove. He said that trust is given, not earned. I could go on for pages on what there was to love and admire about this man, but the presence of God among us would be more important to him than promoting himself.
When I first got involved in the sound system support for this big church I was thrown headlong into the fire. For my first task there was to be a one man show concert and I was alone without help or supervision during prep and the performance itself. As I entered into the bowels of that church building to hook things up I could see our pastor’s gentle form of perfectionism reached there in the way things were done “just so”. I narrowly got things configured for this unusual night and recruited my wife to improvise on lighting while I did the sound.
Where shall I start? It’s clear that the star of the show was the congregation. While the artist running the show was talented and had a heart for the Lord, it was the spontaneous participation of the audience that transformed the performance. Instead of just a lone performer on the stage there was an audience that strained forward to burst out at every chance with exuberant praise.
There were portions of the performance that had costumed dancers with banners who were to lend pageantry to the event. The fact that these people were volunteers from this congregation must have given them freedom to really throw themselves into what they were doing. It was clear that they were having fun celebrating the Lamb of God.
Two or three times a week they did the same sort of thing in the regular services. There were flags and banners to grab if people wanted them. I never saw it get out of hand. People were too busy enjoying their God to be interested in making spectacles of themselves. This congregation could take a staid, hundreds of year old hymn and transform into something vibrant and powerful. I’d heard these songs before in the main denominational churches. This place was different.
Even though the weekly worship at this church was extraordinary, this concert was more so. So much so that, in the middle of the performance, the artist paused to breathlessly exclaim:
“I know a man... Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know...”
Within the first few words we recognized this allusion to the disciple Paul’s writing that he knew of someone who had been taken to Heaven somehow, physically or not he wasn’t sure.
Laughing, we understood and agreed. The sweetness of God’s presence was palpable.
A year later this same performer came back. They apparently wanted to recapture the magic, as it were. In an attempt to get everything just the same, I was asked for again even though I hadn’t been doing sound. My work had kept me from being someone they could count on being there during services. For whatever reason the performance while good, wasn’t a repeat of the first. I interpreted the earlier concert for what it was, a glimpse of what Heaven will be like.
When I first read of Albert Einstein’s Miracle Year, I was fascinated that any person could do what Einstein had done. Within the year 1905, Einstein published four papers that answered fundamental questions about the universe. Armed with only his intellect, Einstein puzzled over certain facts which others had seen but had failed to consider their significance.
I feel we should inspire our children with stories of Einstein’s accomplishment so that perhaps more than a few would be encouraged to think like him. I was about thirty years old when I read a synopsis of his work. I felt kinship with him then. Not that I had his intellect or skill in mathematics but I understood his curiosity.
Whenever I ran across a problem that had seemed to have no answer I felt compelled to find it. I remember that my brother once told me that nobody understood how gravity worked and that started me to think. At nine years old, as I lay awake in my bed I thought about the problem until I understood that gravity must be a property of all matter attracting all other matter.
I recall the elation at my new understanding how the Universe worked. A few days later I learned that this Newton guy had already pretty much figured it out before me. It was just as well since I learned later that I lacked the aptitude to even DO Calculus let alone invent it.
The rule was, to dwell on a puzzle that interests you until you figure it out. Understand how a thing works and the world will make more sense. With me it was even less voluntary than it sounds. I HAD to figure certain things out but it was seldom anything earthshaking. Why did a broken piece of electronics act just so? Why did the lightning flash last less than a second but the sound of the thunder last much longer? Why did Jesus say that He couldn’t do certain things?
It was this last type of question that intrigued me most. There were some things about the Godhead that are relegated to the category of mystery. Generally, the belief that certain things were imponderable mysteries was contradicted by the fact that there were passages in the Bible that illuminated those very things. Much of what is regarded as unknowable is in fact clearly spelled out.
We won’t go after the answers here as a vain information for information sake exercise though, we’ll have an end in mind.
Nowhere in the Bible are we encouraged to NOT try to understand the things of God. While I’ll freely admit that there is more to God than my mind can grasp, there are things about God and Heaven that are explained in the Bible and are understandable. At least two thirds of the Trinity mystery aren’t quite as mysterious as we commonly think.
First you have to work from the perspective that the whole Bible is true. If the Bible makes a statement that seems contradictory or hard to understand then our understanding is where we should look first because the Bible is not going to be the problem. Experience has shown this to be a rational presumption because the errors in the Bible are very few and far between. See Chapter 12 for more discussion on the subject of Bible errors.
At the baptism of Jesus we have a scene where Jesus is in the water, God is heard as a voice from above and the Holy Spirit is observed like a dove, landing on Jesus. Clearly anyone reading this passage would see these three entities as separate. Jesus and God used second and third person pronouns to refer to each other. There is even a point at which Jesus admits that He doesn’t know something that God does. There are abundant evidences of separateness.
It’s certain statements by Jesus and others that create the dilemma. Jesus said:
‘I and the Father are one”
“He who has seen the Son hath seen the Father”
Jesus even referred to Himself using the name that Moses was given when He made the unusual statement:
“Before Abraham was, I AM”
The disciples in talking to Jesus and about Him after the Crucifixion called Him God repeatedly.
Here we have the apparent contradiction. We have decided that calling the Bible account erroneous won’t be our first resort.
Spiritualizing the answer is not an option either. Saying something like the following popular formula used to explain the Trinity:
”God is one in essence, yet he subsists in three distinct persons.”
doesn’t do it for me. I want something more than a bunch of cleverly strung together words to deal with this concept. That won’t help us wrap our heads around the apparent contradiction. Perhaps these not so clever words will help.
God created time and space. When talking about relativity, we are introduced to the concept of the Space-time Continuum. The notion of a hypothetical Fourth Dimensional Observer is introduced to help us conceive of all of time and space as a single conceptual unit. The jury is still out on whether time and space are bounded or not but most assume that they are. With this assumption, time becomes finite and space is limited. From our own frame of reference, the universe appears boundless and time seems to stretch forever in both ways.
Relativity has shown us that Time and Space are also local phenomena, with things like black holes or their cousins, white holes, doing extreme things to space-time, but taken as a whole, our Universe and all of time past and future thrown together is the Space-Time Continuum. This was created by God one day about 7000 years ago. Relativistic effects allows differing ages for different things but 7000 years is from the Earth’s frame of reference.
It may seem absurd to say that time was created. What was the day like before there was any such thing as days, for example? Just remember the Fourth Dimensional Observer though who is outside of it all. That would be God.
Of course if there really are nine dimensions like some people now claim, we should think of God as the X Dimensional Observer to denote that He is outside of whatever type of universe he made.
Some have entertained the notion that there are multiple, even infinite, parallel universes as a way of dealing with the improbabilities against the evolution of life. For some, faith in these unseen parallel universes is more palatable than the existence of God.
Likewise the prevailing view explaining the origin of the Universe is that there was a minute fluctuation in the quantum flux that had such a macroscopic effect that 15 billion years later, astrophysicists arose. Am I alone in thinking this is foolish? As if it were some sort of inherent property of reality that universes tend to spawn themselves?
Well shucks, maybe this happens all the time and there truly are an infinite number of universes spawned everywhere, every instant. To which some people will no doubt agree saying : “Sure. Why not?”
Why is it that sometimes fanciful notions are more acceptable intellectually than the existence of a creator? The answer is that even though belief in these ideas involve belief in things that are unseen, that we really have no evidence to support, ideas that border on the ridiculous, they don’t involve someone who wants to interfere in our lives.
Lets say it, its our sexuality at stake here. We don't want God's rules about anything but certainly not what we do with our bodies. Because of this there is a bias towards impersonal causation. People will often go to great lengths ignoring the evidence that God exists. Even when that evidence is staring them in the face. Our existence itself is the most unexplainable thing there is.
The most intractable problem in all of science is how we exist. By what neurological mechanism does the “I Am” work? Most scientists admit their cluelessness about how to even approach the issue. The problem has been so intractable, for so long, that it has been given a special name. It’s called the “Hard Problem of Consciousness”, but here’s the answer to the Hard Problem:
We were made in the image of Him whose name is I AM
You are unexplainable because you are a MIRACLE.
Along with this Universe another realm was created. Just as we cannot travel to or observe the proposed parallel universes the place called Heaven is not subject to scrutiny. The Bible describes the creation this way:
“In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth.”
The word “Heavens” is plural here because in Hebrew, there are three places referred to as Heaven. To denote the realm that we mean when we speak of Heaven it was the custom to refer to it as the Third Heaven. The atmosphere was the first and outer space was the second. Hereafter, though when I refer to Heaven, I mean the third one.
We know some things about this place called Heaven. Jesus told us a few things and there were people who had visions that gave us glimpses into Heaven. We know that concepts analogous to our own Universe seem to apply there. The linear dimensions of length and width, spacial terms like over, under and below are used. Though the essence of such terms seems to hold more significance in Heaven. There may be a reason that one thing is above or next to another but it seems there is space there. There is also a flow of time with one event that follows another. Durations of time are recorded. Moreover, the time seems locked to our own. When Jesus described the reaction in Heaven to events on Earth, He showed us that there were causal links between the two realms.
Matter is never described as dusty or smudged and armies of domestics aren’t mentioned so the matter that’s described apparently isn’t made of particles. Instead, the essence of things seem to take physical form. I believe that the fact that God undergirds and maintains reality is more apparent in Heaven.
Gold is described as pure, having a lustre, or even being transparent. Possibly the old pre-atomic theory view of matter being a homogeneous stuff of various types of substance could be a way to think of it, but more likely, objects themselves may be indivisible and unmovable.
This might just be me forcing my ideas on the interpretation, but I believe things are SOLID there. Here in our Universe, matter is very tenuous. For example, If a hydrogen atom were modeled with a basketball denoting the single proton in the nucleus, a single marble could then represent the lone electron circling it.
To get the scale right, the distance between these two would be about a mile. The matter that seems so solid to us is almost entirely vacuum. Even the electron and the particles in the nucleus aren’t solid like we would think. They are more like the eddies shed off the edges of a canoe paddle in water. Subatomic particles exist as swirling interactions of various types of forces. Heaven is often depicted as ethereal and insubstantial, but it is we and the other objects in this Universe that are like vapor and wisps of smoke.
Heaven is where most people believe God lives but apparently he isn’t contained by it. When Solomon was dedicating the Temple he had built, he asked God to inhabit the temple saying:
“But will God really live on earth among people? Why, even the highest heavens cannot contain you. How much less this Temple I have built”
The Psalmist David also said that Heaven was not the abode of God:
”Who humbles himself to behold the things that are in Heaven, and in the Earth”
To paraphrase, God has to stoop down to even LOOK at Heaven and Earth. He may be present in Heaven in a significant way, but it’s wrong to think that Heaven holds God.
Heaven and our Universe were created. Even though His omnipresence means that God is present in His creations, He isn’t completely contained by them.
It’s noteworthy that this short coming seems to be the reason that God let us know at the end of Revelation that Heaven and Earth will pass away to be replaced by a New Heaven and a New Earth. Apparently God will remake reality so He CAN be with us in a way that He cannot in Heaven now.
According to the Bible, God’s plan for eternity is to spend it with us just as close as He can get us. In John’s vision in Revelation, after the New Heaven and Earth and the New Jerusalem are established, the following announcement is heard:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
Jesus is in Heaven now. He was on Earth. Many people have a problem with the idea that Jesus could be God because they think of it as an instance of man becoming God. It’s the opposite that occurred however, God became a man. He had the power to do so. Even when Jesus saw Andrew supernaturally from afar, Jesus was not omnipresent. Here is what can be inferred.
When on Earth, Jesus was temporal. He experienced the flow of time linearly with one second following another. I believe that while in Heaven Jesus is temporal also but His speed of thought may be infinite. At least it’s very fast.
Jesus’ I AM is the same I AM as the Father. In defense of this assertion, consider the following:
Is God capable of creating a body that could house His I AM and live in it as God? That sort of sounds like that old question “Can God create a rock too big for Him to lift?” There is no paradox with Him creating a body to live in though. In fact, on the sixth day of creation God said:
“Let Us make Man after Our Image”
Why did He say ‘“Our”?
The answer is found here (In a passage that clearly refers to Jesus):
Col 1:16- "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth”
So Jesus was there at the creation and was actually the Creator.
Yet God is well established in scripture as the Creator.
That tells us that there WAS a body extant that could and did hold the I AM of God because the answer most accepted to the conflict is that God and Jesus are the same person.
Some people have problems with accepting that one person could be in two different places and doing different things at the same time. This is actually the answer to 2/3rds of the Trinity mystery though. The key is the phrase “ At the same time”
We can have the same person, the same I AM, in two places at once, BECAUSE IT ISN’T THE SAME TIME! Even the expression “at once” is misleading. God, like Einstein’s hypothetical Fourth Dimensional Observer, is outside of time and Space.
Jesus is the same I AM, the same Person as the Father but HE exists within time. Time related concepts like past, future and now don’t apply to The Father. They DO apply to Jesus.
The scripture that refers to Jesus being the same yesterday, today and forever relate to His constancy of character, not whether He experiences the flow of time.
While Jesus was on Earth, He was fully human. He had supernatural insights that He shared but He also said that He didn’t know the exact time when He would return. Detailed knowledge of the future only belonged to the Father. That same limitation may be present in Jesus’ current form in Heaven. We can’t say for sure. We do know that a few things changed about Jesus.
Shortly after Jesus was resurrected, He told His disciples not to touch Him because:
“I have not yet ascended unto My father”
On another occasion, in answer to the disciples objection to Jesus’ predictions of His death:
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send him to you”
Jesus was here alluding to a constraint that reality seemed to impose.
Even though the Comforter or Holy Spirit was imparted to the disciples by Jesus already, apparently, He had something more in mind. What makes the most sense is that Jesus ability to send the Comforter whenever to whomever needed to be increased. In the scripture it says of Jesus now:
“He ever liveth to make intercession for us”
Apparently He is still dedicating His time to us and intercedes for us individually and constantly, For this remarkable fact to be true, Jesus has to have a throughput greater than any human. Jesus right now, is busy hearing all prayers and praying for us. In His Heavenly form, He apparently has the ability to handle it. We can presume that His pre-incarnate form was similar, since the infinite minutiae of the Creation would have required the standard attributes that we use to describe the Father. Jesus would need to be Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent. Some exclusions like the detailed knowledge of the future may apply.
What exactly is it about the relationship that creates the role of sonship? It apparently did though. The Father invested His own life, His I AM, into a body within time a space and that is how Jesus came to be. Whether that was 7000 years ago, 15 Billion years ago or Eternity Past I can’t say. The Son is subordinate to the Father as a consequence of the greater to lesser, begetter to begotten nature of the relationship.
One scripture seems to hold out the prospect that some form of a sense of certainty and awareness of our God lies ahead for all of us:
“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”
That sounds remarkably like the first hand knowledge of God that I said I needed in order to believe in Him but had no clue what it would do to me if I got it. I do know that our awareness of the Presence of God and of the Lamb will be the main thing that makes Heaven Heaven.
Until that time we have the Holy Spirit. Until we have the direct awareness that He will share with us in the Heaven that there is now and in the New Heaven and the New Earth to come, there is the indwelling and Baptism in the Holy Spirit. This Baptism is called the Promise of the Father. Terms like Pledge, Seal and Earnest are used too. They all imply the same thing. We have a foretaste of what’s coming our way in Heaven.
This is an answer to our search for Absolute Truth. I said, somewhat predictively as it turns out, that the creator of our I Am would have the power to make us aware of Him and make us aware of other things besides. Apparently in the New Heaven and New Earth, God plans on remaking reality to do just that more fully. For now, the Holy Spirit is our down payment on what’s to come.
Through the Holy Spirit have access to one form of Absolute Knowledge. What I experienced that set me on a twenty year struggle with who I was was like it but apparently different. I’ve not received this Baptism before. The Holy Spirit was the main example that Jesus gave as something that you could safely ask of God when Jesus gave us the Lord's Prayer.
Until today I never asked. It hadn’t occurred to me to ask since my final conversion experience. It may be that due to my “oddness” that this experience is not for me. I Do know that what I’ve determined from the scripture is that the nature and purpose of this Baptism is about Miraculous Power. The Power to act, Power to live, and Power to know and the Power to share, all as an instrument of God’s will and always pointing to Jesus. I’ve never had these.
In the final chapter we’ll revisit this issue and it's impact on Certainty.
Hollywood has depicted Heaven as a serene place where we'll play harps and walk around on clouds with God off in the distance somewhere. Islamists have described Heaven as a place to fulfill all your fleshly desires, a combination bordello and all-you-can-eat buffet. From the description of Heaven found in Revelation though, I think that the glimpses I've seen in Spirit-Filled worship are closer to the truth.
If the prospect of going to a place where one spends a lot of time enjoying the presence of God doesn’t appeal to you, then you probably aren’t ready to be there. God has the ability to make you alive after your body is gone. How God can do that is a mystery, but the real burning question is where?
There is a popular teaching in some Christian churches that Hell is the separation from God’s presence. This teaching further states that Jesus’ crying out on the cross:
“My God My God Why hast Thou forsaken me?”
was a reference to God turning away from Jesus on the cross. The teaching points out that Jesus became sin in effect as He hung on the cross and that God is so holy that He cannot let sin into His presence. According to the teaching, God is so holy that He cannot even look upon sin. Jesus’ dread before the crucifixion wasn’t fear of torture and death. He feared the coming abandonment by God that He was facing when God would be forced to turn away.
Much of this teaching is wrong.
Just as it's the presence of the Lord that makes Heaven Heaven, it’s the presence of the Lord that makes Hell Hell! God is Omnipresent. The scriptures tell us that God’s presence extends into Hell. God is not a weakling. He can look at sin. It’s sin that can’t stand to be in HIS presence. Right now our perception is insulated from a searing view of God partly by our view of this world. The presence of God would be excruciatingly painful to the non blood washed if they couldn’t escape His presence.
The outer darkness would actually be a kindness for them, if the alternative is being naked and exposed to the light of the Lamb of God.
Many people have a problem with the idea that God would send anyone to Hell. They say that a loving God wouldn’t torment someone for all eternity just for not accepting Jesus, but what if it’s God’s presence that would cause the torment? What if it’s the presence of God that makes Hell Hell? That understanding makes the torments of Hell the inevitable consequence of rejecting God and not the whim of a cruel and capricious tyrant.
“And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power”;
The verses above are used as a proof text for the separation doctrine but actually they say that the presence of the Lord is what causes the destruction. In some Bibles the word “away’ is inserted between “destruction” and “from” making it
“destruction (away) from the presence of the Lord”
If that made sense to do, then a few verses earlier in the salutation in this same letter Paul must have meant to say:
“Grace to you and peace (away) from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”
What is actually apparent from the scripture is that just as grace and peace would emanate from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ as in the greeting, so the destruction of the wicked also emanates from the presence of the Lord. His presence is what causes the destruction of the wicked!
According to the Bible, God is going to make a New Heaven and a New Earth for the express purpose of sharing His Presence even more. How unpleasant would that be for the wicked? What's God supposed to do, create a world where the non-bloodwashed would be hidden from the searing presence of God? A place where they would be free to pretend that there is no God? That’s what we have now. Apparently, God doesn’t plan to maintain this Earth as a playground for the ones who want no part of Him or His sacrificial, all out effort to save them.
The overwhelming presence of God is what lies ahead for all of us. Since Jesus and the Father are the same I AM, refusing to accept Jesus and His atonement is rejecting the Father also. It's whether someone allows themselves to be refashioned into God's own image, Jesus Christ, that determines whether the hereafter will be joy or torment.
If you’re not ready for what’s to come then get ready. You don’t have any guarantee that you’ll be here tomorrow so take action now. It’s such a simple thing there’s no valid reason not to.
Turn and ask the Lamb of God to come into your heart. His forgiveness and covering for sin is available to all who ask.
Don’t be caught in His presence without it.
When you enter this question as a search string into a search engine you will find out that many people have felt that there is a mystery here. Many have offered up answers that were satisfying to them. Nothing I have read “feels right” to me so far. Let me say up front that I don’t pretend to know the answer to this one. I do believe that Jesus' death was unavoidable to achieve our salvation. Moreover, I believe the cruel nature His death by torture on the cross was also necessary. I've still felt compelled to wonder why.
If we needed to be forgiven from our sins couldn’t that forgiveness have come without Jesus’ death? In the famous Christian allegorical tale “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis the story refers to some “Deep Magic” where the sacrifice of an innocent for the sins of another carries a tremendous power. Lewis alludes to what appears to be a cosmic mechanism or rule that God is subject to.
The idea that God would be bound by an external rule that created the requirement for the crucifixion makes someone like me uncomfortable because it denies the omnipotence and sovereignty of God, but like the scriptures say:
“I know Whom I have believed...”
My knowledge of my God and my confidence in Who He is carries more weight than any uncertainties I may have. I am confident that whatever the answer is will just reveal more of God’s transcendent Goodness and Holiness, a more complete view of His limitless love for us. I know that the finished work of Jesus is something that we'll want to celebrate for eternity.
Perhaps part of the answer is that we couldn’t bear to stand before God in Heaven unless we were clothed with Jesus, in effect, taking on His nature.
Adam and Eve were naked and hid from the presence of God. Like they were clothed by God with the skins of animals to cover their nakedness, so Jesus was provided by God to be our covering.
Adam and Eve’s covering required the animals to give up their lives. There wasn't an arbitrary rule at work there. The animals HAD to die to give up their skins.
For us to have Jesus and His nature as our covering so we could stand before God, His death may have been the only way, but why did He have to suffer so horribly? I’m not comfortable with the idea that it was just to prove the point that he REALLY loves us. We would have taken His word.
It did enable Jesus to act contrary to motive. He was able to act without His action being contaminated by self interest in that He gave up His life knowingly to a very horrible death. I sense though that there is a deeper answer.
I’m somewhat hesitant to delve into this issue too much. The fact that Jesus prayed fervently the following:
O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou [wilt]
indicates that even Jesus had to defer to the Father on this. Jesus knew the agony of the cross was in His future and as the time approached, experienced dread. Can I hope to figure out something that even Jesus didn’t know? I sense that I shouldn’t even try.
Since I have no resolution that neatly resolves this dilemma, I will end this here. I shared my ignorance of this because I wanted to be honest with you and even in this I have kept faith with you. This is the mystery of mysteries and I can’t tell you the answer.
Yet I do feel that the answer must ultimately hinge upon God’s Love. In my search for Absolute Truth I've learned that His love for us is a central and defining fact of reality.
It’s all about us.
Where in the spectrum of human experience do we place emotion? Since emotions are things that you can feel and perceive, I would call them a type of perception. There can be a sense of revulsion triggered by a smell or a sense of pleasure associated with taste, It could be a sense of how irritating something is. Or it could be a sense of happiness over a pleasing circumstance. They could be defined self referentially as the sense of how things affect us emotionally.
Whatever the definition, emotions flavor and color our experience. They seem to come without our direct conscious control and interact with our thoughts. They include the primal instinctive reactions to stimuli like fear and anger that help guide our actions to insure survival. Revulsion to a smell may tell us that something would be bad to put in our mouth. The basic animal reactions can become more subtle when combined with our intelligence and the complexity of our needs to maintain complex social structures.
Aesthetic appreciation or distaste can be lumped in as emotions as well. Our regard for the beauty or ugliness of a sight or sound we’ll include as emotion. Any sentiment associated with any thought can be labeled the same way. In all, there is an infinite tapestry of feelings about feelings that we have.
Let’s call all these perceptions of perceptions that aren’t directly part of our physical senses emotion. These things that are called emotions are what give us good/bad, pleasant/unpleasant evaluations of experience. Emotions provide us with information about the essence of things. Along with the sight of an approaching lion may come the Certain and Absolute Knowledge that the image is terrifying to us.
Like all perceptions, the existence of emotional perceptions cannot be doubted. You can question whether there is an underlying reality that justifies a given emotion. For instance you might say to yourself:
”Am I right to feel rage right now at my next-door neighbor?”
but there's no denying that you feel anger while you are feeling it.
Temple Grandin is a remarkable woman with a form of Autism called Aspergers Syndrome. A biographical movie was made of her life and from her commentary within the movie she endorsed the accuracy of its depiction of her. Her life was marked by occasions where she became panicked by things that didn’t have a rational basis as threats.
Her memory was almost exclusively visual and even as an adult, automatic sliding doors conjured up images of guillotines and she couldn’t help being so terrified that she couldn’t pass though these doors. Whenever she was distressed, she could be comforted by the sensation of being hugged by a mechanical device that would squeeze her thorax, This, in effect, gave her an impersonal hug.
There were very clear primal links revealed by Miss Grandin’s curious emotional reactions. While we might say that her reactions were irrational or incorrect, there is little dispute that she had them.
Emotions give us motivation. We probably wouldn’t act without them. No matter how rational a course of action appears, we’re not likely to follow that course without some goal seeking satisfaction in mind. Our sense of pleasure in its various forms can be regarded as an emotional response. We always seek emotional rewards.
Emotions have received a lot of disdain as being the opposite of the intellect. Yet without the impetus we get from emotions we would do nothing. We are complex creatures so the exact nature of the goal seeking behaviors can be so complex that we might be hard pressed to answer why we do certain things but I am convinced that emotion is inescapable.
We seem to include certain emotional responses as basic parts of our make up. We will recoil from pain and tend to avoid it. Revulsion to various smells seems hardwired and conveys a survival benefit. Stranger face reactions and comfort / familiar reactions likewise have pretty obvious survival benefits. For lack of a better term I will say that these innate responses are part of our design.
If we are willing to entertain the notion of a designer and we adopt as a working hypothesis that God exists and that He may want us to choose a certain course of action then let me say that the natural place for Him to hide signposts to guide us where He wants us to go are in our emotional makeup. That makeup may have come about through a combination of innate and learned responses and it really doesn’t matter for our purposes which applies more.
Without emotion we wouldn’t act. It’s what we favor and abhor that determine the types of things we gravitate towards or avoid. If God wants us to DO anything. He HAS to use our emotions. We have to want something before we act.
Once, my wife, daughter, son and I were able to attend a stage production of Sandy Duncan’s “Peter Pan” at the theater in New Orleans. My son was about six years old at the time and had never been to the theater before and it was quite a treat for him. We knew this because of what we saw from him.
At the midpoint of the play there was a brief intermission. My wife and I stood up to stretch our legs but our little boy began to put on his jacket. He was sitting between us during the show and we could tell from his expressions how much he was enjoying the play. He was still smiling and talking excitedly about parts of the play as he got ready to go home. When we told him that they had only paused the play to give everybody a little rest, my son’s eyes became wide with wonder and then his huge gaping smile got even larger and his eyes glistened. He asked incredulously in a hushed and awed tone:
“You mean there’s MORE?
I cannot convey the aspect of boundless joy I saw on his face. Moments like that are the payoff that parents are hoping for when they lavish gifts on their children. We delight in seeing the look of unalloyed joy on the face of our children. Their joy causes us joy.
A clueless theatrical producer might look at the popularity of this play and say to themselves:
“If having a small person in a green suit flying over the audience was a hit, then having twenty dwarfs in green costumes flying around can’t miss!”
He then goes off to start production of the sequel.
I could have been equally clueless if I had looked dismissively my son’s emotional display:
“The play wasn’t really THAT good. He only enjoyed it because he was little and unsophisticated and didn’t know any better.”
Would my taking such a stance though make my son’s experience of joy less real?
The experience of having emotions is absolute knowledge. My son would have no doubt that he was happy. Whether the happiness had a rational basis or not someone may question, but that an emotion is being felt is certain. Since emotions generally arrive in our consciousness without our control we can add them to our list of things included in a working assumption.
Our creator, if He exists, may have set these emotions up as part of reality in order to communicate with us information about the essence of things.
I believe times of tenderness with your parents and with other loved ones were hints to your psyche. They said to our young minds:
“This is good. You want more of this.”
Hopefully your childhood and life experiences encouraged you with pleasant experiences.
“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.”
He says further:
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!
Jesus implies that He will exact a terrible revenge on anyone who offends or misleads a little child. I’m guessing he would reserve the worst for anyone who causes a child to associate cruelty and torment with the things of God.
There are people who are convinced that there is no God. It’s seldom just an indifferent and matter of fact opinion though. It’s usually a profound dislike and there is a very negative emotional reaction to anything that has to do with God. I’ve talked to a number of what are called strong atheists that despise church, God, Christians and religion. A good percentage of those suffered abuse in some religious context. My own anecdotal evidence leads me to believe there is a connection at least in those cases.
It’s impossible to prove that anything, let alone God, doesn’t exist. The existence of an extra-logical sense of certainty that there is no God must inevitably have an emotional component. Of course, the often seen counter to this argument is that the belief in a Deity is beyond illogical, it’s absurd. To highlight the absurdity of belief in a Deity, “The Cult of the Pink Unicorn” is often offered as a belief that makes as much sense to the atheists.
But I’ll say it again, whether it’s from sense of the absurd, revulsion at TV evangelists or bitterness for those “religious” people who abused them, then it’s still emotion that’s the source of the opinion that there is no God. Emotion isn’t a bad thing though, so my pointing out its role in the forming of opinions isn’t meant to invalidate those opinions. I just offer that some different life experiences might have led the atheist down a different path. People are complex though. There’s no predicting belief from upbringing
My own upbringing exposed me to religion through parents, two sets of grand parents and other relatives. I can say that the experience was free of trauma. While I liked all my relatives well enough, the experience of church was somewhat of a bore. I guess this might have contributed to my expectations from the idea of God being neutral emotionally. I had very little emotional reaction pro or con on the subject. Things have changed now.
I would like the reader to avoid the temptation to regard what follows from a disdainful perspective. To take an anthropological or sociologically detached stance will cause you to miss the essence of what’s here. There is something beyond magical that I want you to see. Don’t be clueless.
There are people who describe intense pleasurable emotions associated with what they claim is contact with God. Like our clueless producer example above, anthropologists attempt to explain religious experience by looking at meaningless superficial characteristics and draw conclusions from what they see. If you are inclined to dispute the validity of religious experience merely because it IS religious experience, then you are planning to miss the clues.
If you have a disdain for emotionalism then you might as well shake your fist at the sky because emotion is the only source of clues to the Truth that the Universe has for you. Be advised though that the disdain is itself an emotional response. Emotions are an inescapable part of our makeup. Within that makeup are all the clues you’ll need to find the truth. Again, don’t be clueless.
When my youngest daughter was in her Junior year of High School, my wife heard of another family who were friends of friends, where the parents had made a deal to motivate their High School aged son. The pact was that, if he managed to keep a perfect grade point average of 4.0 until graduation, then his parents would give him a new Corvette sports car.
Reportedly, their son pulled it off and got the Corvette. My wife heard that as a result, the boy had offers of full scholarships from several universities. The parents said that the $30,000 price tag for the car had been cheap because the scholarship offers he received were worth far more.
It was too late for us to offer any sort of inducement to our older daughter, she seemed internally motivated anyway. Our youngest daughter’s mostly “A”s with the occasional “B” could stand some improvement though. She didn’t seem to be interested in cars so I asked her:
“What would it take for you to get Straight “A”s from here on out until you graduate High School?”
She looked down and thought for a moment and then said:
“How about because you want it?”
I was floored! I suddenly felt unworthy of such an expression of love as this. My wife and I were interested in not paying tuition, and our daughter had turned it into an opportunity to show us that she loved us. Upon graduation, with the help of some extra credit courses, her GPA was higher than 4.0.
I still feel unworthy.
The history of the Congressional Medal of Honor is full of examples of men who sacrificed their lives for the sake of their comrades, but what of the soldiers who’s lives were saved by the actions of these heroes? I wonder how I would feel if a soldier that I had just made fun of and insulted his parents had minutes later given up his life to save mine?
That awareness of the enormity of the love of Jesus for us is what lies ahead for anyone who becomes born again. What could be more amazing than realizing the undeserved kindness of God’s love? I offer this experience as contrast to all the competition.
No sense of the Eternal that you can achieve by arduous study and meditation can compare to the realization that your creator loves you. Any sense of harmony and “Oneness with Nature” you may feel ignores that all of nature is really a scene of constant life and death struggle. Even the trees are in pitched battle for their lives. It’s too slow for us to see but there nonetheless. The perception of harmony and balance in nature is just wishful thinking. In any case, a sense of harmony is less sublime and beautiful to attain, and less joyful to experience than the knowledge that the God of the Universe considers you worthy of the ultimate sacrifice.
This experience of the love and forgiveness from God is attainable without a lot effort on your part. In fact, that’s the idea. His work on your behalf has already been performed. The experience of that love is only seconds away.
By fervent and repeated prayers and some forms of self flagellation a Muslim can whip themselves into a frenzy and attain a spiritual experience but the God of the Bible won’t be the source of it. If Allah causes children to learn how to kill themselves then Allah is a false pagan god more like Molech than the Creator of the Universe. Allah has a different name, a different history and is quoted as saying and doing different things than the God of the Bible. They aren’t by any stretch of imagination the same God.
The experience of a relationship with the Messiah, Jesus is more pleasant and joyful, intellectually satisfying and logical than all the rest of religious experience. Aside from the awareness of being loved associated with being born again there is more.
When the apostle John was penning the Book of Revelation he said at the start of it:
“I was in the Spirit in the Lord’s day...”
Implying that he was in a state that was beyond normal when he had the vision that was recorded in the Book of Revelation.
Within John’s account occasionally there are places where his emotional reactions to what he sees is evident, but what is being described by him when he said “I was in the Spirit...”?
In the Book of Acts the disciples are told by the resurrected Jesus that they should wait for the “Promise of the Father”. This was a reference to something that was about to happen in a few days. It was an experience that was called the “Baptism in the Spirit”. It’s elsewhere referred to as the Pledge or Earnest of the Spirit. From all indications there was a strong emotional component to this Baptism. People were observed speaking in tongues and praising God.
Foreign born observers marveled at the miraculous nature of the tongues phenomenon because the people from the Galilee area shouldn't have known the languages that they were speaking. It was apparently an emotional experience also because the people involved must have felt some compulsion to speak. The subject matter of the miraculous speech was praise and worship for God.
As a result of what people saw that day, 3000 people were convinced to become believers
The sect of Christians called Charismatics believe that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is still relevant today. From what is to be gathered from people who claim to have this Baptism, the subjective experience is undoubtable. Many describe a pleasant physical sensation like an electric tingle along with the purely emotional. I ran across multiple individuals who said that the Baptism feels like Truth. Apparently, they were pre-wired to recognize that particular emotion. How else would they know what to call it and do so independently?
Often I’ve observed people impacted by this Baptism of the Spirit, they may become jubilant and start enthusiastically extolling God. From all appearances, they are experiencing intense joy. Their faces communicate this internal state so well that they seem to glow.
The Greek word “charisma” meaning “gift” was used by the non-Christian neighbors of the early believers to describe the glow that the early Christians seemed to have. It’s from this usage of the term that we came to use the word “charisma” in modern English to describe a more generalized attractiveness. People were drawn to the early Christians by this charisma quality.
I witnessed this charisma in the faces of Christians before I had any other religious experience. Though I wasn’t converted at the time, I found that I was unable to shake the sense that I was seeing something real. This quality spoke to something in my agnostic heart. I now realize that it was a clue that helped point me toward God.
The Holy Spirit is referred to as the Comforter. Aside from jubilant worship the Holy Spirit provides a miraculous enabling in sharing the message of God’s goodness. Sometimes healings or other miracles occur through the Holy Spirit. The focus always seems to be bringing people to a knowledge of Jesus Christ.
After I became a believer I witnessed groups of people all extolling God corporately. If seeing one face filled with joy can evoke a response in me, the sight of a jubilant crowd is compelling too. What’s more, in the few glimpses into Heaven afforded by the Bible reveal that an enhanced version of this same experience is part of what will make Heaven Heavenly.
Now as I continue writing, I wanted more to offer you in the way of proof so that you might believe. I knew that when people share the stories of their own first contact with Jesus, that the sharing had a quality that spoke to the heart. Since the believability of my own experience was discredited so thoroughly by my drug use and “revelations”, I went on a search for a “normal” testimony that I could cite for you.
What I found is going to change my life. After I complete this book and make it available to people, I intend to become more available to God. Whether he uses me as I am or heals me or even discards me is His concern. I was bought with a price and I’m His property. I also know Him well enough to trust His judgment.
In 1983, Mao’s China was going through a period called the Cultural Revolution. All religious expression was forbidden or tightly controlled. Holding an impromptu prayer meeting in a person’s home was considered a dangerous counter revolutionary act. Unapproved copies of the Bible were illegal and even having one was a crime. A leader of the house church movement was imprisoned multiple times and endured severe torture but survived to tell his tale for western ears in 2002.
In this quote from his autobiography “The Heavenly Man” he is going home for what turns out to be a brief respite from torment at the hands of his government. The “Heavenly Man” nickname stuck when he was refusing to provide even his own name to arresting authorities who were marching him into his home village to arrest his “co-conspirators”. When asked for his name, instead he loudly shouted:
“I've been arrested by the security police! I don't know where the meetings took place because I'm a heavenly man! I'm not from this earth!"
He was shouting to warn anyone in the houses to stay hidden.
“It was 25 January 1988 - four years to the day since I’d been driven back to Nanyang in the police van, painfully handcuffed to a steel rail and spattered with my own blood. And it was four years to the day since I began my 74-day fast. I was finally released from prison!
Just before midnight I was let off near my village I walked along the dark, icy path toward my home. I was excited and nervous at the same time. I knew my family had suffered much during my absence.
I hurriedly followed the narrow pathway, past a row of houses with smoke rising from their chimneys, the fires inside protecting their homes from the chilly winter air.
I saw my home. I paused, taking in the moment. It was like a dream.
I had experienced so much in those four years, but God had been faithful. I’d suffered some horrible tortures, but God had been faithful. I’d been dragged in front of judges and courts, but God had been faithful. I’d been hungry, thirsty, and had fainted from exhaustion but God had been faithful.
Though it all, God was always faithful and loving to me. He had never left me nor forsaken me, His Grace was always sufficient and he provided for my every need.
I didn’t suffer for Jesus in prison. No! I was with Jesus and I experienced his very real presence, joy, and peace every day. It’s not those in prison for the sake of the gospel who suffer. The person who suffers is he who never experiences God’s intimate presence.
In a way, even though I was now free, I found it difficult to leave the prison. Inside, the spiritual fellowship with my fellow Christians had been very deep and sweet. The bonds we made were very very strong. We served one another in love, and shared our whole lives with each other. In the outside world people are busy and have many things to do. Most of our relationships are little more than skin-deep.
My family wasn’t expecting me. They knew approximately when I was meant to be released, but had received no news from the authorities. I found the front door of my house was locked. I knocked, and my precious wife Deling, with a completely astonished expression, opened the door and welcomed me inside. My little boy Isaac was already asleep. Deling woke him up and together they stared at me with their eyes wide open, trying to believe it really was me, and not a dream or vision.
Isaac was four years old, but we’d never seen each other before. He clung to his mother and asked, “Who is he? He’s not my father! Who is he?” This cut to my heart, but over the next few days my son warmed to me and came a little closer.
We all knelt down and thanked God for bringing us back together again. Then Deling and I hugged, laughed and cried through the night, as we shared stories of the struggles we’d endured and of God’s goodness to us.
The torture that the author endured is described in horrific but still partial detail in this autobiography. The sense of God’s presence in it is unmistakable. The notion that he was deluded or mistaken about the presence of God sustaining him in his circumstance is absurd. While I searched for something compelling and evocative to share with you, I found something that has shaken me to the core. While I dabbled at being a Christian before, I now want to truly live the life. Read it for yourself if you dare. His story will change you.
The skeptics contemptuously refer to anything that Christians offer as the bleating of sheep. I counter that they’re right. It is through the testimonies of these sheep that you will receive the tug at your heart to draw close to God.
That’s the way it must be. It’s not with the intellect but with the heart that you can really know the Truth. The human condition, the way reality is or whatever else you may call it, precludes any certainty but what the heart reveals about the essence of things.
Jesus is knocking at your door. It is up to you to respond. It's a small step that will lead to a fulfilling life and an eternity of enjoying the presence of God. With your heart pray the following words. Jesus is waiting to hear from you.
Jesus, I don’t know you but I want to. Please forgive me for my sins. I turn away from them. I accept your sacrifice for me. Come into my heart and be my Lord and Master. I trust you with my life, use me as you want.
Again there is more.
All you have to do is ask. Ask God to give you the fellowship of other believers so you can be encouraged and grow. Get into His Word.
Memorize portions of it if you can. If it’s hard, ask God for help. Ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit so you can bear witness to the Truth more effectively.
He’ll give you the desires of your heart.
All you have to do is ask
There is some interest in the resolution to an argument with my wife that gets mentioned in passing in the course of my testimony. We eventually got past the argument but how we did so is another proof of God.
The exact start of the argument is foggy but it had to do with my stirring technique with some pasta I was helping to cook. We had squabbles often enough that a few patterns had become evident. Debbie was into the minutiae of things where I tended to be lackadaisical. I resented what I felt were orders. Where she was confrontational, I would tend to walk away.
But some times it seemed that our views of reality were so different that arguments were destined to escalate. With sarcastic barbs punctuating our conversation as each one would try to get the other see things our way, talking about it only seemed to make it worse. That’s why I was inclined to just walk away. Seething with resentment after “sweeping it under the rug” was what Debbie wanted to avoid” So we even argued over how to argue.
This argument had escalated to the point of me being physical, not that I would ever hit Debbie. Boys never hit girls in my Roy Rogers western world. I upended our heavy dining room table in the midst of heated discussion.
I’m guessing that and Debbie also perceiving that my view of reality was different than hers made her regard me as crazy. I felt about the same about her but I ascribed it to her being female, to someone sufficiently sexist, that’s saying the same thing. My wife’s decision to leave with the kids to spend time at her parents house and possibly get a divorce had more of a prelude than me turning over the dining room table.
Because inserting the whole story in the midst of my telling how I finally came to the Lord would be too cumbersome, I’ll put it here. The resolution of this one argument was another demonstration to me that God was indeed God. I can say truthfully that something happened that transformed our fiery relationship. Not only did we stay married, but as my wife of 25 years was dying of cancer, I thought Disneyland, Paris, the Taj Mahal or whatever, I was going to make it happen, but what she wanted to do most was get married to me again.
I said that our relationship was fiery, that Debbie couldn’t stop herself from dealing with a conflict. She was focused like a laser on emotional intimacy. As we talked into the night so many times we marveled how good it felt to enjoy each other as much as we did. As we giggled in the dark being clever and silly, we wondered if our parents had anything like what we had.
When we experienced this wonderful emotional intimacy and I would lapse out of it and say something in character and aloof, then her mercurial face would get this concerned puppydog look and she’d say disappointedly:
“Aw, you’re Dobbin again.”
Whereupon I’d recoil at the thought that I had been someone else but I knew what she meant. It was an egoless rapport. It was both pleasant and otherworldly. We wondered how we could keep it.
Debbie wondered if there could be something we could say that would snap us to attention whenever we lost that sense of intimacy. We came up with a special word to do just that, but we were usually too caught up in our day to day lives to try it. Sometimes, we would try to use it to end an argument, but it never worked. After a very brief trial, we gave up on the idea of the secret word.
Now twenty years later there we were having a protracted argument that soured our relationship more each day. The mega-church we were attending had an eminent PhD relationship specialist on staff. Debbie and I got an appointment for marriage counseling with him.
In the meeting, the expert shared some conflict resolution tools that we had already tried. Debbie liked that kind of thing because she always wanted to talk through any problem. When we each started making our points in an “I’m right, they’re wrong” sort of way, our expert seemed to agree with me. This didn’t please Debbie and even I had some inkling that there was another way. We gave up on the counseling after one visit.
When Debbie came back from her stay in New Orleans she wasn’t overjoyed to hear of my conversion experience. I had gone through the motions of “giving my heart to Jesus” before. I had been baptized multiple times and I had tried to be “normal” before. I guess she thought that her threat of divorce had brought on some new act. But I had an idea. I got Debbie to sit on our bed with me while I pitched it to her. This is it. If you believe the Bible it should work for you too.
We know certain things to be true.
God is all powerful TRUE
He said you have not because you ask not TRUE
Is there any thing beyond God’s power? NO
Then is there anything beyond prayer? NO
Can you pray about an argument in progress? YES
Can God deal even with an argument? YES
I made a solemn promise to Debbie to talk about any issue we had, The only caveat was that either of us could interrupt the conversation for a time of prayer if it seemed the conversation needed God.
More than seeking vindication we acknowledged that God’s perspective mattered more. Wherever Debbie and I differed, compared to God, we were both wrong.
After the prayer we would resume the conversation to be interrupted by prayer again as needed. I, as spiritual head of our household, would be the one to lead the prayer usually but either partner could pray as they felt the need. As the head of the household, I felt that I should be foremost in contrition and ask that God would give me His heart for my wife, that God would make me sorry for my offenses in the argument, that God would have his way in our conversation and in our relationship.
In our case, the invocation of this solemn promise to each other to pray was to be the word “Parbar”. It’s from an obscure Bible verse and wasn’t likely to ever be heard outside of our covenant. The word Parbar was to be a command that either of us would grant the other the right to impose at will. We agreed to stop everything and pray upon hearing this command.
After I pitched the idea of praying to Debbie, she reluctantly went along. I asked God to give me His heart for Debbie. I asked that He make me sorry for offending her. I asked that He would have His way in the conversation and in our marriage.
It was miraculous. Weeks of hard feelings evaporated in an instant! Instead, I felt grief over what I had said to Debbie. My apologies were heartfelt. After a little more discussion and another prayer when the discussion threatened to become heated, we were soon in each others arms, crying and saying we loved each other. I think the elapsed time was about ten minutes.
Our previously fiery relationship had been forever changed. We didn’t have many occasions to do the Parbar thing. It was almost as if Satan decided to lay off our relationship lest we pray.
The speed with which I experienced the change of heart that this prayer asked for was more convincing proof of the power of God and His Goodness. That He could so effortlessly transform our tempestuous interaction was a miracle of the first order.