Friday, June 28, 2013


Wednesday evening, Uni and I watched NOVA on PBS.  The title of the program was "Earth From Space."  Part of the blurb for the program was "Satellite data is transformed into visual sequences that detail interwoven forces that sustain life on earth."  That describes it pretty well.

We watched and heard the impressive evidence that the earth is a fine tuned machine.  Weather and climate in every area of the globe affect and are affected by weather and climate in every other area of the globe.  We both commented on how these matters showed the wisdom and evidence of a Creator/Designer.

And yet I'm told that Atheism is based on a lack of evidence for God.  No evidence!  Zip!  Nada!

Excuse me, but it would seem to me that the burden of proof lies with those who would have us believe that somehow all of this simply happened -- that there is a design without a designer.  But I'll back away from demanding that; I'd simply ask my Atheist friend(s) to reconsider the assertion that there is a lack of evidence and consider instead in what direction the evidence points.

I should note that belief or unbelief in God is not a matter of intelligence or lack of the same.  Brilliant people could be quoted on either side of the question.  However, it seems to me that this idea is a card often played by Atheists (and sometimes also by Theists).  One of the problems of quoting the learned opinions of brilliant people is that they occasionally change sides.  And there is the old saying (I forget the source) that the trouble with a clever argument is that it is always at the mercy of a cleverer argument.

Having made the above assertion, I still believe there is a place for the following statements, made by reasonably intelligent persons who did examine the evidence.

Anthony Flew, philosopher and former well-known Atheist, author of more than 30 books, "I now believe that the universe was brought into existence by an infinite Intelligence.  I believe that this universe's intricate laws manifest what scientists have called the Mind of God.  I believe that life and reproduction originate in a divine Source.

Why do I believe this, given that I expounded and defended atheism for more than a half century?  The short answer is this:  this is the world picture, as I see it, that has emerged from modern science.  Science spotlights three dimensions of nature that point to God.  The first is the fact that nature obeys laws.  The second is the dimension of life, of intelligently organized and purpose-driven beings, which arose from matter.  The third is the very existence of nature.  But it is not science alone that has guided me.  I have also been helped by a renewed study of the classical philosophical arguments."  (There Is No A God, 2007, pages 88, 89.)

Francis S. Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project, currently Director of the National Institutes of Health:  "In this modern era of cosmology, evolution, and the human genome, is there still the possibility of a richly satisfying harmony between the scientific and spiritual worldviews?  I answer with a resounding yes!  In my view, there is no conflict in being a rigorous scientist and a person who believes in a God who takes a personal interest in each one of us."  (The Language of God, 2006, pages 5, 6.)

Hugh Ross, Ph. D., astrophysicist.  "All of the scientific and historical evidences I had collected deeply rooted my confidence in the veracity of the Bible and convinced me that the Creator had indeed communicated through this holy book.  I went on to become an astronomer, and my investigations into both the cosmos and the Bible have shown me a more wondrous, personal God behind nature than I could ever have imagined."  (The Creator and the Cosmos, 1993, page 17.)

I quote these men, not as authorities, but as themselves a demonstration that there is evidence that points to a Creator and that there are some who have examined the evidence and come to the conclusion that there is a God.

"The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky proclaims His handiwork."
Psalm 19:1

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


I've been pondering some things in Canadian Atheist's comment on my previous post.  He was generally gracious but disagreed with me on one point.  He begins his disagreement by quoting me:

Bill said: So parents, if your children have rejected God, if they claim that they do not believe in Him, my advice is to love them.

Then he continues:

It's the word 'rejected'. I find many Christians use these terms for some odd reason. Atheism isn't always a rejection of anything. It's a lack of evidence. It would be like me saying you reject Zeus or some other figure someone else believes in. For example, in Iceland, some people believe in Elves and they will change building codes to accommodate that belief. I doubt you 'reject' the belief in elves, you simply see no evidence that elves exist. Until such evidence arrives, you don't believe. You're essentially an elf atheist.

I'm glad he did use the word "always."  That leaves open the possibility that Atheism may sometimes be a rejection of something and gives me a foot in the door.  We've covered similar ground before.  (See:  ATHEIST FAITH.)

I'll stick with my word "rejected" because I think it is a fitting word.  This is especially so when God is perceived as one of the family, as He is in many Christian homes.

People who turn to Atheism do not necessarily make their choices due to "a lack (or perceived lack) of evidence."  Perhaps Canadian Atheist did, but as with Christian believers there are varieties of conversion (or un-conversion) experiences and varieties of motives.  I've heard or heard of a few. 

·       There are those who reject a belief in God due to conscious choice; they say they cannot reconcile the idea of a loving God with the suffering they see around them or experience themselves.  I suppose they would argue not that there's a lack of evidence for God, but that the evidence is stacked against Him.  And so they reject God, often with a statement such as, "I can't believe in a God like that!"  While I greatly sympathize, I have to say that I disagree, God's existence is not contingent on my approval or disapproval of His behavior. 

·       There are those who reject the Bible, especially as it is often presented, and see it as a book of myths.  The conclusion seems to follow that its purported Author and main Character is also a myth. 

·       And for young people raised in religiously rigid homes, I suspect that a professed Atheism can be a position chosen simply in order to close off arguments. 

·       And while I am not saying (as Christians are often accused of saying) that Atheists are immoral or even less moral, a rejection of God can give one the freedom to reject or reinvent his moral code.  As Dostoevsky said, "If there is no God everything is permissible." 

·       Now to this so-called "lack of evidence."  Pardon me, but I find claims such as these, not only condescending, but a convenient excuse for not considering the evidence that is there.  To claim that one has examined the evidence and come to the conclusion that there is no God is one matter, but to totally disregard any evidence that points to a Creator or Designer is another.  To compare belief in a Creator God with a belief in elves is simply a dodge, a red herring.  (by the way, wouldn't one who doesn't believe in elves be an A-elfist?)         

When one bases his arguments for the non-existence of God solely on materialistic, neo-Darwinian concepts, he is really begging the question.  He is saying:  Nothing exists except the material world -- that which can be perceived with the senses.  God is not part of the material world.  Therefore God does not exist.  Commitment to this view is a matter of choice and a rejection of the alternative.  Or to put it in different words, it is a faith commitment.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Sunday morning, I decided to check out the blog of my friend Mike (Canadian Atheist).  I found the post entitled:  BURN IN HELL:  Coming Out as an Atheist in which he discussed the crises that occur when kids reveal to their parents that they are atheists.  Reading the post was painful, especially since it was Fathers' Day and Facebook was filled with peoples' greetings to and praises for their Fathers.  The first thing that came to mind was the need for an apology for the actions of my fellow believers.  I apologize.  And I thank you Mike for recognizing that not every Christian family goes through this.

I felt I had to say something further and at first I thought of posting a comment on Mike's blog.  As I considered what to say, I concluded that I needed to post my comments on my own blog, because I would like my readers, as well as Canadian Atheist's readers, to read them and interact.

Though I am not personally familiar with particular situations like those described -- stories of atheist kids being kicked out of their homes -- I am familiar with similar situations:  parent/child conflicts leading to the parents ejecting their children (usually teenagers, but sometimes younger) from their homes.

·       The child reveals that he or she is gay.
·       The parents discover that their child is using drugs or alcohol.
·       The parents discover that their daughter is pregnant.
·       The child is caught having sex (whether with someone of the same or opposite gender).
·       The child makes a religious or denominational choice differing from their parents.
·       Back in the 60's and early 70's it was dress and/or hair style.

Though my sympathies lie mostly with the young people, I feel I need to say a few words for the parents, not to defend their actions, but at least to try to understand their viewpoints.  After all I am a parent and have gone through some crises of my own.

Most of us, I believe, live a lifestyle that we are comfortable with.  We've made choices (consciously or unconsciously) about what are proper beliefs and practices.  And we want the same or better for our children, especially when these involve their eternal destiny.  When they choose different beliefs or practices than ours, we feel they've made bad choices and we want to do what we can to redirect them.  But we may also understand (usually incorrectly) their choices as a rejection of us.  What we may fail to see is that our children are individuals with personality make-ups differing from ours.

I see this happening very early on in the parenting process and continuing into the teen years, with a sort of cumulative effect until it builds up to a crisis.

Add to this the social pressure.  Young people are often accused of conforming to peer pressure, but I believe that much of the problem for parents is the pressure felt from their peers.  If our children don't conform to the standards that our peers  have set, then we are perceived as failures.

An example that may seem trivial to some.  Our son attended high school in the 70's.  Some of our friends were uncomfortable with our tolerance of his shoulder-length hair.  "Isn't long hair a symbol of rebellion?" I was asked.  My reply was, "Who is he rebelling against?  The school permits it and all his friends wear their hair the same way.  He's not a rebel, he's a conformist!"

Mike's post began by saying, "One of the things I find to be so destructive about Christianity ... is its ability to use fear to tear apart families in the name of love."  I disagree.  Christianity as taught in the New Testament does not do this.  Christianity if practiced the way Jesus taught it does not do this.

We in America (including Canada) live in a quasi-Christian culture.  The statistics and surveys all tell us that a majority of Americans profess Christianity, attend church (at least occasionally), even have had a "born-again" experience.  But an examination of our behavior and ethical systems tells me that there is quite a gap between them and New Testament Christianity.

I cannot judge whether the Christian faith of the parents in the cases given, was genuine or not.  I cannot judge the faith of another.  But the actions certainly were not "Christian" actions.  Nowhere in the New Testament is this behavior justified.

"Fathers don't provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4).

"Fathers don't exasperate your children, so that they don't become discouraged" (Colossians 3:21).

And in Jesus' story usually entitled "The Prodigal Son," as the son is returning, " ... while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion and ran and fell on his neck and was kissing him" (Luke 15:20).  And that was before the son said that he repented!

Jesus warned that following Him could lead to family conflicts (see Matthew 10:34-39), but these were seen as the conflicts that result from following Christ in a hostile world.  In many countries today the rejection that these young atheists experience is also being experienced by followers of Christ.

So parents, if your children have rejected God, if they claim that they do not believe in Him, my advice is to love them -- whether or not they ever return.  And don't be concerned about what other people think of you.  It's not about you or about your peers.  It's about your kids.

And if you are a child who has felt rejection by your parents, I have to agree with most of the advice found on Canadian Atheist's blog.  I'd also like to ask you to try to see the difference between what Jesus taught and what you may have been taught.  And please, love your parents.  Perhaps you can help to restore that broken relationship and see your parents seek to do what Jesus would do.

Friday, June 14, 2013


As I've mentioned at times in my blog, the first church that I attended as a teenager was a little church, where the Gospel was preached.  We were told clearly from the pulpit that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead.  His death took care of the penalty for all of our sins.  We were told that all that was required of us was faith in Christ  (though that faith was at times defined by strange expressions -- see WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?).

But even though the message was clear that our eternal salvation was totally the work of Christ and that our works had nothing to do with it, we found ourselves (at least some of us) oppressed by a very works oriented religion as far as our daily lives were concerned.  There were so many activities we were not permitted, some of which could be sinful or harmful, but many of which seemed to be banned simply because they were fun.

God providentially moved us out of that church and as we grew, we gradually shed ourselves of many of those rules and took on personal convictions of our own.

However, I've found that there are always new rules popping up, rules that are used to define proper Christian behavior.  Of course, many of these are quite properly arrived at through study of the Scriptures and have to do with ethical or spiritual behavior.  But not all are, or at least their derivation and value is questionable.  As I have moved around, as I have pastored or attended various churches, as I have interacted with students while I taught at the College of Biblical Studies, I have been exposed to a great number of these rules.  Some people's rules contradict other people's rules.  Many would be laughable if they weren't so oppressive.

As just one example, rules about dancing.  As a young teenager I loved to dance, but when I joined the above mentioned church, I had to stop.  (I got "saved" from that.)  No one was clear why, though the unexpressed understanding was that it had something to do with sex.

Years later in a class discussion on Christian behavior, one student said that dancing was permitted in her church but nowhere else.  Another student in all seriousness said that dancing is permissible outside the church but certainly not in church.

Of course, there's the old joke:
Question.  Why don't __________ (fill in the blank) believe in having sex standing up?
Answer.  Because it could lead to dancing!

But the question that bothers me most doesn't have to do with what the various rules are, or with how appropriate or inappropriate they may be, but with why so many of us choose to be bound by man-made rules, rather than by grace.

We may come up with a number of answers:  tradition, someone else's conviction, external pressures, fear of offending others, fear of offending God.  Or the attitude, "This works for me, so it should work for everyone else."  But I suspect that the main reason is that it is easier to live under law than under grace.

I know that many would not only disagree with the above statement, they would accuse me of talking nonsense.  After all, many laws are oppressive, or at least hard to observe, whereas those who live under grace can do what they please.  True, but:
·       Rules, while they may be difficult to observe, save me from having to think.  And thinking is hard work!  It's easier to simply follow the rule -- to do or refrain from some action -- then to actually ask myself why in this particular instance, I should behave in a certain way.
·       And the keeping of rules frees me from other obligations.  If we can simply check off items on a list -- "did this, did that, didn't do this, etc.' then I can feel free from any responsibility that's not listed.
·       Rules not only give me something to live by, they give me criteria for judging the behavior of others.  I can compare myself to their behavior as spelled out in my rule book.
·       A list of rules spelling out appropriate behavior is also an excellent means of maintaining control -- not only in parent child relationships (where to a great extent it is appropriate) but also in spousal and church relationships.

The New Testament does give many commands and instructions having to do with ethical/moral behavior and character.  It contains many do's and don'ts and grace doesn't allow us to escape those.  However, most of these commands are not related to how to behave in particular situations; they have to do with seemingly vague concepts such as following, submitting, "walking in the Spirit."  So the person who lives under grace does not simply have a list of do's and don'ts to live by; he or she has to analyze behaviors in various situations in the light of biblical principles.  Even more, they must develop habits of following which may or may not change with time and various situations.

I realize that the word "relationship" is one of those overused words; however, I can't think of a better one in this instance.  Just as one grows in a relationship with one's spouse, so one grows in a relationship with God.  Though there are ethical rules behind the marriage relationship it does not consist of rules, but of a desire to please the partner.  Thus with God and thus with our neighbor.

"Owe no one anything except to love one another.  For the one who loves the other has fulfilled the law.  For this:  'You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,' and if there's any other command, it is summed up in this word, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (Romans 13:8, 9).

Might I say that if God-given laws can be summed up in this way, can't we sum up man-made laws in a similar fashion?

Monday, June 3, 2013


Among the popular buzzwords, used by the news and entertainment media are "icon" and its derivative, "iconic."  Rock singers are iconic, as are movie stars, sports figures.  Anybody who's anybody is ether "iconic" or  "an icon."  Frankly, this sort of trivialization of a fine old word has started to bug me!

As a person who has a little knowledge of biblical Greek and of church history, as well as one who is a lover of words, I felt compelled to post a few of my thoughts on these words which do have some precise meanings.

My Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary gives the following definitions:  Icon, also Ikon, n. (Latin from Grk Eikon, for Eikenai to resemble).

1:  a usu. pictorial representation - image.
2:  a conventional religious image typically painted on a small wooden panel and used in the devotions of Eastern Christians.
3:  an object of uncritical devotion:  idol.
4:  emblem, symbol.
5a:  a sign (as a word or graphic symbol) whose form suggests its meaning.  b:a graphic symbol on a computer display screen ...

The word "iconic" was simply given without definition.

Just to be sure I know what I'm talking about, I checked the word on Wikipedia to see if it agrees with my Webster's.  It basically did, but what struck me was the following comment:

"Some writers say that the term 'icon' and 'iconic' have been overused ....  The Christian Examiner nominates 'iconic' in its list of overused words, finding over 18,000 'iconic' references in news stories alone, with another 30,000 for 'icon,' including its use for SpongeBob SquarePants."

I'll say Amen to that!

Though Greek dictionaries elaborate much more, a brief definition of the word eikon as used in the New Testament is "image," "likeness," "form," "appearance."

The first use of eikon in biblical Greek is in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, ca 200 BC) in Genesis 1:26, where it is used to translate the Hebrew Tselem - "image."

"And God said, 'Let us make man according to our image (eikon), and according to our likeness" (also 1:27; 5:1).

The word eikon is used in biblical Greek of various images:  the image of Caesar on a coin, idols made in the image of man and other creatures, but the idea of the image of God is used again in the New Testament, though with some new emphases.

In Genesis 5:1, we are told again that God made man in His image (eikon), but in verse 3 we're told that Adam "begot a son in his own likeness and image (eikon).  Something seems to have changed after the fall.  Something apparently happened to that eikon of God.  There has been much theological ink spilled discussing this image.  Questions like, in what way(s) was the first man the image of God?   Has that image been lost?  Is man today still the image of God?

The usual answers to these questions seem to have to do with the fall.  When the first humans sinned, their image was in some way marred or defaced.  But man cannot lose the image; man IS the image, the representative likeness of the Creator within His creation.  This is what we are; this is what I am.

In the well-known story of the question of the lawfulness of paying tribute to Caesar, Jesus points out to His questioners that it is Caesar's image (eikon) which is impressed on the tax coin.  "So then pay back to Caesar the things of Caesar, and to God the things of God" (Matthew 22:16-22 and parallels).  Is this an allusion to the image of God in man?  As Caesar's image reminds of his sovereignty and ownership, so God's image reminds of His sovereignty and ownership.

But the Apostle Paul gives us some new information on this question.  Though man is still the image of God (1 Corinthians 11:7), there is a new Man who does not bear that marred image.  It is Jesus Christ.

" ... Christ who is the image (eikon) of God" (2 Corinthians 4:4).

" ... the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, who is the image (eikon) of the incorruptible God ... " (Colossians 1:13-15).

So while the image of God in me is in many ways less than perfect, there is one in whom that image IS perfect.  But here's the good stuff.  I will someday bear that perfect image myself!  Every one of us who knows Jesus Christ has this promise.

" ... whom He foreknew, He also predestined conformed to the image of His Son ... " (Romans 8:29).

"And even as we have borne the image of the man of dust (Adam) we will also bear the image of the heavenly Man" (1 Corinthians 15:49).

Of course, we recognize that that promise is aimed at the future, when Jesus returns and we are raised bodily.  But wait!  There's more!

"But we all, with face unveiled, as we gaze on the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, are being transformed into that very image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18).

This passage is telling us that this is a right now situation.

So, to sum up. The first human beings were created in God's image as His representatives on earth.  However, through their original sin, the image that Adam passed on was in some way marred.  He passed on his own image which we, his descendants bear.

Then God's incarnate Son came as the perfect image of God.  And we who know Christ will at His coming, be restored to His image.  But we, right now are in the process of transformation into that image.

If I were a rock star, movie star or sports star, I think I would resent being called an "icon" - - a representation of the real things.  But I can take comfort in being and becoming an icon of Jesus Christ.  Though I still must wonder how well I am representing the real thing.