Do you ever bother with atheists, I have a friend back in New Zealand (where I'm from) who does not want to know what we know as the truth. I've fired everything I can towards him. How long should one waste breath for?
When it comes to people with whom we have no personal bond, the principle of being wary of throwing pearls before swine is very salutary to keep in mind. It is usual evident very early on in a conversation whether or not someone is much interested in having a conversation about the Lord. On the other hand, when it comes to long time acquaintances or family members with whom we continue to have some sort of bond irrespective of spiritual differences, it is good to keep in mind the contravening principle that where there is life, there is hope. The Lord has melted many a hard heart over the centuries, and often in people we would least suspect at times we would least expect it.
That said, atheism is a tough one, because atheism is a religion a religion of self-willed and arrogant rejection of the truth. Regardless of what anyone may say, scripture teaches that every human being comes to the point in his/her life, usually very early one, of recognizing 1) that God exists; 2) that He is righteous and we are unfit to stand in His presence; and 3) that we will die and, absent some miraculous divine intervention, be condemned (e.g., Rom.1:18-25; cf. Ps.8). The fact that many dislike these universal truths and refuse to respond to them appropriately means nothing to God it certainly doesn't change the truth. However, for those who so vehemently reject them as to make a religion out of that rejection, this usually represents the third stage of the hardening of the heart from which there is (most often) no recovery (see the link). As I say, I would "never say never" as long as a person is still drawing breath; on the other hand, I would not waste much of my own breath trying to convince someone who makes a profession out of calling lies "the truth" to change their mind. I have written a good deal about all of this. You might have a look at these links:
Unbelief and its Consequences.
How do you prove the existence of God?
"My son just announced his adherence to atheism - any ideas?"
How to be Saved (in BB 4B - includes "Natural Revelation" and "The Hardening of the Heart")
Best wishes in all of your efforts on behalf of our dear Lord Jesus Christ,
Thanks for the answers, will re-read them. Have attached a short note that I have sent (numerous times) to this friend of mine, the message is so simple.
Yet he chooses to take the wrong path.
In Life you need to seriously consider forming a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, because firstly you ARE going to die and secondly you don't know when! How can anyone lose who chooses to become a Christian? If when he dies there turns out to be no God and his faith was in vain, he has lost nothing! - in fact he has been happier in life than his non-believing friends. If, however, there is a God and Heaven and a Hell, then he has gained Heaven and his skeptical friends will have lost everything in Hell.
You're very welcome. I'm not gifted in the area of apologetics. That seems to be a gift unto itself. Evangelism certainly is, and that is also not my particular strength. So please take this comment with a grain of salt inasmuch as people who do have these gifts (as you may) will possibly take different approaches. I'm not much on "if/if not" presentations. There is a God. Heaven is real. So is hell. And in my reading of scripture, everyone knows these truths through the process of natural revelation, regardless of what they may say. And to the extent that anyone really does not know that there is a God, e.g., it is only because they have put that truth to death in their hearts through the process of hardening. So I have little patience on this score. However, God is merciful, and Jesus died for every sin of every single person, including those who reject Him. So if you can reach your friend (or anyone else) through these means, and if you are led to do so, it would certainly not be my place to object!
In any case, I commend you for your efforts in behalf of your friend and in the cause of Jesus Christ our dear Lord.
I wanted to again ask you for guidance. Apart from your website, I read the Bible daily. So far I have used my Polish translation, but I feel it is time to move away from it and increase the depth of this study. I am very sad to say that my Polish translation show that Bible is often completely misunderstood by RC Church and I can see it even with my limited understanding. The chapter introductions, the footnotes and the rendering of the text itself is often misleading and often proceeds, to use your expression, from a low view of inspiration (just yesterday when reading about the documentary hypothesis in the introduction to Genesis I thought that enough is enough). I would like to ask you how should I go about my Bible reading. I don't mind moving away from Polish. I am not reading in Polish anyway and if I know the Bible well in English, I will be able to locate the passages in native translations. I would like to, or perhaps need to, study the Old and New Testament at the same time and ideally, be provided with at least some explanations while I'm going through the process. I feel that even though my familiarity with the Bible is growing (audio Bible to which I listen at every opportunity really helps me here), I lack structure in my understanding. I would like to know more about each book, when it was written, how can it be divided into parts (if it can at all), who was it written by and at least some exegesis would be much needed. I would like the Bible to start becoming an ever clearer entity. How would you go about the process? I have a strong desire to be a teacher and I know this part of daily study needs to be taken very seriously, so you help would be much appreciated, as always.
Also, I have recently had a conversation with a friend, who considered himself a Christian in the past, but no longer does so. He wrote me an email outlining his beliefs and reasoning that lead him away from the faith. I read this email and made notes and there are two issues where your guidance would be much appreciated:
1. It is believed that God has the ability to give us choice (the process called subchoice), but we can also ask the question "did God give itself the power to choose? Or, like humans, did it not have any influence on how that decision was made?"
Putting aside the lack of inherent logic in the statement that "God gives Himself the power to choose", I believe that God has got the ability to choose by His very nature, as He is sovereign.
2. But consider this question: "Can God choose to kill itself?" If the answer is 'yes', then obviously God is not 'immortal' in the sense we know it. If the answer is 'no', then not only is God not omnipotent, but it is subject to the same powerless existence as us humans, with an illusion of choice and subchoice.
This is another frequently quoted paradox. Would you say that God's omnipotence is governed by certain rules, such as logic or truth? For example God cannot lie or deny Himself?
With continuous prayer for you and your ministry,
Always a pleasure, my friend!
Translations are always a problem in any language. None of them can be anywhere near perfect by definition, and they are largely linked in terms of their usefulness to the theological and spiritual status of the translators (in addition to the linguistic and methodological issues). That said, I would counsel you to find a version which speaks to you and concentrate on that for a while. If you are interested in "flow", the NIV is good (but it has "issues" with accuracy in some places); the NLT is better in some regards, but worse in terms of letting misinterpretation of the meaning completely befuddle the translation in many places. In recent years I have become less and less enamored of the NASB and more and more partial to the NKJV. In all these matters, Christians should always have a backup version or versions to "test" particular passages when something in a given passage seems "different" from what they had understood previously about any biblical point. As to specific approaches, it seems you are doing it just right. The more we read the Bible the better, and the more regular we are about it, including having set times and set quantities, the better. It is the repetition over a long period of time that causes this holy material to "sink in" in the way we would like it to do (under the influence of the Spirit of course). And that is very important too, especially for those who are interested in serious Bible-teaching ministry. In addition to my work on this ministry, I try to read some in the Hebrew everyday and also in the Greek NT. I also try to read chapters in English in both testaments (rather more in the Old than the New because of the relative volume, and because I read through the Greek NT fairly often); I try to read some from Psalms everyday. But of course anything a Christian does on this score out of love for the Word will be beneficial.
As to your friend's questions, it is a sad but not unfamiliar perspective. Everyone understands that there is a God early on in life, and understands something about His majesty. Later, when individuals decide that they are not willing to accommodate themselves to Him, that regardless of His greatness and regardless of His mercy in Jesus Christ and regardless of their sinfulness and mortality and the impending judgment they would still rather be free to do as they please, this truth begins to dim. Indeed, it is deliberately dimmed, and armor is taken on to ward off the truth that would otherwise shout at them from every corner of creation. This armor, otherwise known as the hardening of the heart, comes in many forms, but it often revolves around the sorts of false ideas your friend advances. The key element here is making God smaller in one's thinking. For if God can be made small enough, He will not need to matter in a person's life. And if He can be made smaller still, when then perhaps He can be made to disappear altogether. This is what Satan every one of his follower's desires: a world without God. But of course there could be no world without God, and He cannot be diminished from what He actually is, even though He has given us all free will and the ability to turn these truths into lies if that is what our heart desires.
Human beings cannot really know what it is to be someone else. Even when it comes to our closest friends and family members we don't really have a clue about what it would be like to "be them" not just be "in their shoes as us", but actually be them. Since this is true of other people we know well, how is not exponentially true when it comes to God? Therefore to make the claims and ask the questions reported here is more than the height of blasphemy it is the height of self-deception. We are creatures, and we exist only in a created universe which is, despite it size, finite, bounded by time and space, and kept in existence only by the continued WILL of God (e.g., Heb.1:3). If we could imagine existence without time and space, without creation, then perhaps we would have the necessary fundamental philosophical perspective to consider questions like this. But since we cannot, how can we even hope to limn the first part of the depths of the glory of God? We have free will only because God gave it to us. He has WILL something different in quality and quantity to degrees unfathomable. He cannot not exist. And, indeed, the same is true in truth for human beings too. We can only die physically, but our spirits are eternal ever since God created them even though we are finite creatures who can only exist in a finite, created universe. Since there is so much then even about our own existence present and future we can only dimly comprehend, debates about the glory of God which proceed beyond scripture from faulty logic are more than just a waste of time.
As every teacher knows, it is impossible to teach someone who has absolutely no humility. For those who imagine themselves on an existential par with the Creator, I fear there is no hope of betterment unless and until God graciously grants some life-changing experience that restores a measure of that essential humility and makes them teachable again.
We can, however, pray.
Thank you as always, my friend, for all of your prayers on my behalf. I keep you in daily prayer as well.
May the Lord continue to bless your spiritual advance and preparation and put you into service at the right time and place.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Hello Sir. Im sure you have read it countless times, but thank you very much for the website and the information and ministry that you provide. Its been a breath of fresh air to read and study. While Im fairly certain this will take years to ever answer, I thought Id get my question on the waiting list. I am a Christian myself and believe in Jesus. I was reading through some comments on a website somewhere and a viewer commented with a link called, http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/.
Snorting at such a website and a dumb idea, I clicked and read it. Now I wish I hadnt. My beliefs are not removed. I trust in God and believe in him and love him with all my heart. I mean without him, what's the use of living? This article did seem to plant a small seed of question, or possible doubt. It seemed that he has some very valid (in a worldly sort of view) questions. If anyone would be suited to offer a rebuttal to this insane website, it would be you Sir. Any chance you can offer some insight for myself and anyone else whos had the misfortune to stumble upon this? If this is something not worth reading, then I apologize. Just thought I'd give it a shot.
Good to make your acquaintance. I did have a look at this website you reference in your email. Although I make no pretense of having read and digested everything it has to say, it seems to me to be pretty typical of the sort of thing that one can expect from atheists, that is, those who have come to terms with their personal, willful rejection of God and His desire for them to be saved.
Many Christians as well as many people who are not Christians but who, while they are (at least as yet) unwilling to accept Jesus as their Savior, have not yet willfully rejected Him, often become disturbed by this essential question embodied in the approach on the website you reference. By "this question" I mean the "Why, God?" question.
The world is filled with evil. And every once in a while the reality of that evil impacts on the consciousness of uncommitted individuals and marginal Christians whether through a difficult personal experience or the contemplation of some horrible or unjust event or events which move them. Of course, truly committed Christians who are striving day by day to walk closer to Jesus Christ have dealt with and are dealing with the question of why-is-this-happening or why-did-this-happen all the time. That is because on the one hand the devil singles out Christians who really are growing spiritually for special opposition, and on the other hand we know that without serious testing we will never grow up to the point of maturity God wants us to reach nor will we be prepared for the ministries and special production which earns top rewards before Christ's bema or judgment seat on that glorious day to come (see the link).
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1st Peter 1:6-7 NIV
Why do bad things happen? That is a question which for Christians with any significant level of spiritual maturity it is possible to answer but seemingly impossible for those who are immature and over-involved with the world since they do not want to accept the reality of undeserved suffering and no worries there, since only those who are indeed moving forward with Jesus are able to endure these sorts of satanic assaults and they are also the only ones privileged to receive them (see the link). Job was the (or at least one of the) greatest believers of his day. Those who were marginal were neither targets of the devil's interest to the degree he was nor were they blessed to be allowed to suffer and demonstrate that their faith was greater than what they saw or heard or felt in their bodies and with their emotions. Job loved the Lord more than life. His suffering was for God, and he trusted that God "knew what He was doing" even when it didn't seem to make any sense. True, in the end even Job had trouble with this, tripped up by his friends whose ministrations were so poor and whose understanding of such things so inadequate that they have earned the proverbial name "Job's comforters". But as long as he held to the truth, Job's faith in God and His truth was more real to him than anything he saw or heard or felt.
That is really the issue here. We can certainly give a detailed theological explanation for every bad thing that happens in life. As Christians we understand that this is the devil's world and that if we fall into the seductive and wrong way of thinking to the effect that "life is good" we are really loving the world and only being lulled into a false sense of security. God is our only security. Jesus Christ is our only true strength and protection. If it were not for God, the devil would blast us off the earth in a micro-second, and even as it is he and his followers are allowed to do all manner of things to try and trip us up and throw us off and make us suffer when we refuse to slow down our walk with Jesus and focus on the world instead. None of this can happen without God's say so, and we can certainly trust Him that what He is doing is right and good in every way.
In the crucible of life "bad things happen" both to ourselves, to those we love and care about, and to third parties whose suffering may seem (and may indeed be) "unfair". On the superficial, physical level, life most certainly is unfair. That is the way the devil wants it and, with the help of all the evil in the hearts of mankind, is mightily helped in keeping it. And when God does intervene, His actions are often wrongly considered to be unfair by those who arrogantly assume that they know more about the actual facts of any given case than our omniscient, all-loving and merciful Lord.
The truth is, what is important in this life is not what unbelievers imagine and, sadly, not even what believers in many cases really understand. We are here to choose for God, or not. Once we do, as believers, we are left here instead of being immediately transferred to be with the Lord for whom we have chosen through faith in order for that faith to be vetted, to find out if we really do in our heart of hearts want Jesus more than the world. In the process of life after salvation, we also have a series of unique opportunities to continue to accept God's WILL in a manner similar to the pattern of salvation: just as we trusted Him and accepted Jesus to be saved, so now we are called upon to trust Him and accept the truth of Him who is the truth in order to grow up spiritually, to pass the tests that God brings our way in this life, and to minister to our brothers and sisters in this world and help them to endure the hardships of life and thrive spiritually as well.
In other words, God loved us and gave us Jesus; we are still here in order to show just how much we are willing to love Him back. Everything else is only noise. To the extent that we are determined to "love the world", to get over-involved in all the problems of this life, personal or general, problems which are not fixable until the Lord's return, problems which are really only obstacles put here for us to overcome by God's grace and for His glory, to the extent that we are going to allow these weeds of money and health and troubles and pleasures to grow high and stunt our growth, progress and production, to that extent we are just wasting our time in this world, squandering the opportunity and the opportunities which we have been allowed to remain in this life to exploit.
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Ephesians 5:15-16 NKJV
There has never been a hard thing or a sad thing or a tragic thing or a horrible thing that has happened in this life of which God was unaware. Indeed, nothing can happen in this life but for the fact that God has decreed it. What is often overlooked in discussions of this sort is that God's decree was necessary in order for any of us to exist and to have genuine free will. His foreknowledge which resulted / was followed by His decreeing of creation and creature history perfectly takes into account every free will action and intention of every moral agent He created in the perfect sum of all such agents. We could not exist without His creation and His creation could not have come to pass without His decree which in turn was based upon His perfect prior understanding of how all things would work out and come to pass, were He to so decree it. God's plan, therefore, does not preempt free will; God's plan guarantees it and was the only possible way in which there ever could have been such a thing as creatures allowed to choose for themselves whether or not to live with God on His terms in perfect eternal life.
And the terms are simple: accept His WILL. And the means to do so are also simple. For the angels, the acceptance (or not) of His authority in not rebelling against Him was a very straightforward and (one would think) a very easy choice to make. For human beings, born in sin as we are, returning to Him through Jesus Christ, through faith in God's Substitute for our sins provided in perfect grace, is likewise for us very simple and very easy but it does require accepting His WILL over our will in this fundamental matter of recognizing and accepting Jesus and what He did for us, and that most human beings are unwilling to do at any price (as shocking as that appears to us who have believed).
It will be shown at the Last Judgment that every single detail of every single life was perfectly arranged and made to play out perfectly by our merciful God so as to maximize the chances that those who rejected Jesus Christ in this life would not do so but would come to salvation. Even so, most refuse. No better test of genuine free will could therefore be imagined that what we are presently witnessing to unfold in the course of human history. In myriad circumstances at various times and places individuals of every culture and every circumstance have and will face the issues which God's natural revelation (see the link) makes clear to all: He exists, He is perfect, He made all things but we are mortal, we are imperfect, and we will have to stand before Him and render an account with no excuse. All know this; believers respond with the desire to be saved from the consequences. Unbelievers show by their refusal to come to Jesus, or, in the case of the person behind this website that has troubled you, by their adamant rejection of Jesus, that their absence from the New Jerusalem will not be God's fault but was entirely the result of their own choice, and occurred in spite of everything God did to wean them away from their self-willed folly. After all, Jesus paid the penalty for every one of their sins! That is true of those in perfect health and amputees and everyone else. All they had to do to avoid condemnation was "not say no" but that was too much to ask, because it would have compromised their will in submitting to God's WILL.
The answer to the underlying question here is "free will". We are sinners. We are inherently "unlovely". We are born in depravity and "every inclination of the thoughts of [our] heart [is] only evil all the time" (Gen.6:5 NIV). God owed and owes us nothing. If all He ever did for the human race this side of Eden was allow us to have a short life wherein we took our chances as to whether "bad or good" happened to us then died and were condemned, even that would have been merciful in the extreme (for what does a perfect God have to do with corrupt humanity?). But of course He did more, and so much more that we can scarcely hope to appreciate a scintilla of it this side of eternity: He judged His one and only dear Son Jesus Christ in our place so that He could in justice forgive our sins and offer us eternal life in place of the lake of fire. Even so, how many throw that right back in His face! How many, like this website, imply that He is unjust in offering us salvation, a salvation He paid for at the highest and actually unimaginable price, or even go so far as to insanely suggest He does not exist because He is not ordering the world in the way that they would like it ordered!
When the Sadducees thought they had a clever way to refute our Lord by throwing at Him the hypothetical "problem" of the seven brothers married sequentially to the same woman, our Lord deftly pointed out to them that they were greatly misguided because they were fundamentally misunderstanding the nature of the resurrection. The fundamental misunderstanding of this website is its overlooking of Satan's revolt and Adam's fall. The world is imperfect because it is a battlefield, at present, not a paradise. In fact, at present this is the devil's world. It cannot be fixed. Indeed, if God made it exponentially "better", then the vast cadre of individuals who are making full use of it to the exclusion of any concern for God would be even less likely to come to their senses and understand that this world is nothing and that it is really only what is coming next that counts. This will be demonstrated most perspicuously at the end of the Millennium when after a thousand years of perfect rule by Jesus Christ Himself and with no satanic presence, the world of that time will quickly turn away from all this "good" and rally to the devil's banners at the first opportunity (Rev.20:7-9; cf. Ps.2:1ff.).
Apart from God and our relationship to Him, this world doesn't count for anything, but that truth is only fully appreciated and exploited in the case of believers who understand the above and are willing to subordinate their will to Jesus' WILL and serve Him in obedience after salvation in a way analogous to the way in which we came to Him for salvation. We are here to be saved by Jesus and to serve Jesus. Everything else is merely dust, and rust, and lust.
I feel sorry for amputees and for all who suffer from whatever disease or catastrophe or injustice. To suggest that God has not anticipated everything, however, is to believe in a very small God. In fact, our God is "bigger" than even we who love Him have any real idea, and He is "better" than even the most spiritually advanced of us who do in truth appreciate Him can hope to comprehend before we meet Him face to face. No one has ever experienced the slightest disagreeable event without the plan of God anticipating it. Indeed, everything that happens, good or bad or indifferent, is carefully orchestrated by the Lord to draw us to salvation or, in the case of believers, to prune us for better service. As Romans 8:28 affirms, He works all things together for the absolute good true good, not what we human beings from our terribly limited perspective may proclaim to be good. And in fact all of these "things" which work together perfectly for the good have been entered into His decree from eternity past taking into account perfectly and completely every single choice and decision we and every other moral creature would ever make.
I would never dream of trying to downplay any disease or catastrophe or injustice experienced by anyone. I do know, however, that God knows and has always known how good and bad affect the hearts of those who experience it. To take an example, no one wants to experience financial collapse. However, if a person is an unbeliever, and if it turns out that only a financial collapse will get his/her attention, and if God allows such a collapse to happen and the result is that the person turns to Jesus and is saved whereas if such had not occurred he/she would have put off coming to Him until it was too late, in what sense then is that instance of going broke "bad"? In the eyes of the world, it is terrible; in God's eyes and at least in eternity in the eyes of this new believer too it is a very good thing in that it worked things out for the greater good.
I only offer the above by way of example. There certainly are all sorts of horrible things that happen in this world where a believer would be ill-served by trying to explain to an unbeliever (especially a hostile one with no intention of really listening) how a particularly egregious disease or catastrophe or injustice they have suffered might be "good". We believers know that this is true because everything that happens is in God's plan and His perfect WILL is being worked out in all things so that if we do "walk by faith, not by sight" we are going to accept this principle even when the "bad equals good" happens to us or those we love or have empathy for.
Let me take my example one step further. What if the person who suffers financial collapse doesn't accept Jesus as a result and in the perfect knowledge of God was never going to do so no matter what happened absent compromising his/her free will but what if someone on the periphery who observed his/her misfortune "got it" and did come to Christ as a result? The point is, that everything that happens in this life is interrelated in every way to a degree beyond our comprehension. Unbelievers will always find this ridiculous (so there is no point arguing with them about it), but believers know for a fact that this is true, if only they stop to think about it, if only they apply just a little bit of truth about the perfection and grace and mercy and power of our God, if only they have read just a little scripture or committed just a little doctrine to their hearts. And for those of us who are doing more than "just a little", the truth of these things is a blindingly bright light which we cannot fail to see even as we are amazed that most of the world fails to see it at all. In fact, the world refuses to see it, and deliberately so (for more on all this please see the link: "God's Plan to Save You").
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
John 3:19 NIV
Unbelievers of the type who put together this website you report often have the ridiculous idea (at least subconsciously) that if they can just prove to themselves that God is "unfair", then He will not be able to judge them and they will be safe after death even though they refuse to bend their will to His in this life. That was exactly Satan's thinking in precipitating the rebellion against God. It didn't work for the devil, and it won't work for these people either. In the end, the true thoughts and motives of their hearts will be revealed, and it will be shown that they knew very well that God existed and that He was just and fair; it was only that they didn't want to have anything to do with Him. In fact, persons like this website's author and atheists in general know better than most what God is like. It is just that they are frightened by the prospect of facing Him. Being fundamentally unwilling to relent in their course, they feel that if only they can just "put the truth to death", they will be safe. And on top of that, they feel that if they can only just get others to buy into their lies that somehow the lies will become the "new truth" and that then the actual truth they dislike will be repealed. This is incredible folly, but then arrogance always blinds a person to the truth and what could be more arrogant than claiming that God who is Righteous in His very essence is behaving unjustly, or that God in whom and through whom and by whom we have our existence and without whom we could not exist does not Himself exist?
The "why?" question will be answered. Jesus Himself will answer them when He evaluates them at the Last Judgment just before they are cast into the lake of fire. The really appalling thing to me is that, truth be told, they already know the answer and still insist on asking the question instead of accepting God's one and only answer in Jesus Christ so as to be saved.
In Him in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Good morning Sir,
It was very nice to make your acquaintance as well. After reading your response, all I can say is . . . WOW. I am ashamed and embarrassed. You are 100% correct. I should have known better than to not bother clicking on a website such as that, but also for even considering any part of it as a possibility. I don't remember how I originally came across your ministry, but it's fantastic. Granted, some of the topics you have require multiple readings from me to grasp the entire thing, but it certainly does make the love of God, and his plan for salvation much easier (at least for me) to understand. I'm sure you are a very busy man and must get questions all the time and it's because of that Sir that I wanted to let you know how much I really, really appreciate the quick and very detailed response. It was a good feeling to know that someone of your caliber (knowledge and faith) took the time to not only read my question but to give a personal and thorough answer. For what it's worth, you have a faithful reader in Dallas Texas who appreciates what you do. Feel free to contact me any time (I don't know what I could possibly assist you with) but if I can do it, I will.
Thanks so much for your good words no reason for regret at what you wrote at all. I'm happy to hear that your faith is strong and that you have dedicated yourself to learning the Word of God. That's what this ministry is here to try and help support.
As far as assistance goes, I am always very grateful for prayer support. That is always helpful and, at present, needful.
Yours in Jesus our dear Savior who is the living Word of God,
Dear Dr. Luginbill,
Traditionally, we Christians are very eager about the return of Christ. Christ even knew our anxiety when He was speaking about His return: And he said unto the disciples, "The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it," (Luke 17:22 AV). If we were to see Christ establishing His kingdom on Earth tomorrow, we would probably think, Phew! What a relief! We can now see Christ! But what would kids born during the millennium think about having faith in Christ? Would they be inclined to think that God exists because we can perceive and feel God with our senses, and otherwise it would be foolish to think that God exists? Would these kids think any differently from today's atheists, who presently say that God does not exist because they cannot feel His presence? Let us remember that many of these atheists would believe in God if He were to demonstrate an undeniable miracle, such as the ones Christ preformed, as it is written, if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day, (Matthew 11:23 AV). These kids will undoubtedly be inclined to believe in the Bible due to the undeniable evidence, but I fear that their philosophy and epistemology would not be based on the Bible, but rather on the works of Sextus Empiricus.
So, is the millennium a vindication of atheism, and proof that the nature of faith is fundamentally bankrupt? God forbid! The millennium, first of all, is not nearly as concerned with us as it is with justice. The millennium will be the time when the true King of Kings will take away from Satan his illegitimate spoils, and take His place as the true king of the universe. It is because of God's mercy that He will give us His presence and grant us 1000 years of rest.
However, by thinking about the contents of the first paragraph, I know why God constructed human history in this manner. The previous six millennia of human history are to expose the folly of human experience, and instead to contrast it with building a foundation based on faith. And the reason that the most intense period of trial will occur before the period of rest is so that the societies of the millennium will have the fresh history of the most intense trial, so that the kids of the millennium can learn from history the importance of faith, and so as to realize that having the privilege of being able to experience Christ is /not/ the foundation of faith. Furthermore, it is clear why the believers from the previous six millennia will be given a special role of overseers and princes that won't be available to the millennial kids: it is because they had to learn this important lesson from grueling experience, as opposed to the children who will be sheltered and instead given this knowledge from grace.
Now, instead of thinking how bad it is that we are not in the millennium, I think of how blessed we are instead. We know what is meant when it is said, whatsoever is not of faith is sin, (Romans 14:23). We understand by the temptations of Satan's minions and by his lies that the righteous way to knowledge comes from faith. We have the most powerful relationship with God, and we understand that wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord.
Good to hear from you. I was brought up in an amillennial tradition and I do have memories of wondering when Christ was returning. Now of course I realize that we will have to go through the Tribulation first and will be resurrected first if we do and make it through so no worldly relief in store, short of the end of this world for us when we receive our eternal life.
Another thing that makes me personally glad not be a "millennial" is that a thousand years is a long time to put up with this world and this corrupt body even under a perfect world government run by Jesus Christ Himself. I would rather get it all over with sooner, but we have to follow His will. Blessedly, none of us who are believers in Him now have to face the prospect of lingering in this life for another ten centuries, as we will either die, be martyred, or be resurrected while yet alive before that can happen.
As to atheism, my view of that "ism" is that it is completely intellectually dishonest and not any kind of a theological issue. God makes it clear to all through natural revelation that He exists. Even the demons know that and shudder (Jas.2:19). During the Millennium, in spite of the presence of Jesus Christ and a perfect world, the human beings in it will still be imperfect (the non-resurrected ones, that is). They will not be able to be atheists because God will be manifestly present, but most of them will not put their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation even so. Faith is not merely a matter of knowledge but is the essential free-will choice all human beings face, namely, whether or not to accept the Father's Substitute for their sins. That requires a tiny subordination of their will to His WILL, and it is a "sacrifice" that most human beings in the history of the world have been absolutely unwilling to make. That is a function of human nature and the result of genuine choice, and neither of those two critical aspects of the human condition will change short of eternity, even under the perfect conditions of the Millennium. For the minute Satan is released, the majority of that period's population will try to overthrow Christ (Ps.2:1ff.; Rev.20:7-9). On all of this, please see the link: BB 4B: Soteriology.
In breathless anticipation of our Savior's return,
GOD: I have sent my spirit, my revelation, and my own son to you, and you still reject the truth.
ATHEIST: What is truth?
Thanks for this. Yes, this is the essence of atheism alright. Just like Pilate, when confronted with the truth they reject it outright and in a condescending way. It is in the nature of all disbelief to resist God's truth, but when people get to the point of rejecting the fundamental truth of His existence, they have crossed a huge barrier in the breaking down of all rational restraint. They have put truth to death and replaced it with their own pseudo-truth. They have proclaimed themselves the arbiters of what is true and what is not true. In their minds and with their words they have "eliminated God" from His universe. And believe me if it were in their power to actually "kick Him out", that is precisely what they would do. That is what Satan is trying to do, after all. Since it is not in their power, they merely pretend that it is. Nothing could more galling, in my opinion and nothing could be more self-destructively idiotic.
Keep fighting the good fight of faith, my friend!
In Jesus Christ our dear LORD and Savior,
Another thing, regarding evolution, which is often seen as the biggest proof by atheists that there is no God, and the control of truth. If anyone took a time machine and saw how microbes became microbiologists, or if anyone saw bonobos developing languages and making up their own God, or if anyone saw humans reproducing with chimpanzees, then doubt regarding the purpose and beginning of man would be well-founded and completely honest. But as it is, nobody can approach the evidence of evolution without dictating to God what he did when he laid the foundations of the earth (Job 38:4). In other words, none of the "inquiry" is really honest, but is a result of their own hard heart. (An aside: note that I did not mention extraterrestrials. This is because I would consider it far more likely for such "visitors" to be possibly the Antichrist himself). Right here we see atheists engaged smash-mouthed rebellion, throwing railing accusations against God, and then storming out while claiming that "science" has washed their hands clean of blood. It is clear that, in the 19th century, man really made his first attempt to invent his own truth without God. And the reason why this occurred in the 19th century isn't a mystery either. After the revolutions of the turn of the century, the enlightenment's attempt to engineer their own society, people believed that humanity was on a progressive spiral upward to a sexy, shiny, secular utopia. So what better way to commemorate this than to say that all of biology was a part of this? In fact, this is the only thing humanism and Christianity have in common: a belief that humanity is marching forward to an inevitable point in history. The difference is that humanists believe this to be a sexy, shiny, secular utopia where everyone will be completely free to follow their own will, while Christians believe it to be a sudden outpouring of fire from heaven and the destruction of earth. In fact, they may both be right.
Very well put indeed! The only minor quibble I would have has to do with the quality and character of things during the soon-to-come Tribulation. I don't find anything "shiny" about it (et al.); that may be the promise (no doubt it will be), but it will not be the reality on any level.
I wait [in hope] for your deliverance, O Lord!
Yours in our soon to return dear Lord Jesus,
The more I think about it, the more I believe that there is a moral system all atheists believe and cherish: one where no one has to fear any accountability for his actions.
Without question, when a person gets beyond the point of theism, and beyond the further point of agnosticism, and reaches all the way to atheism, by that point the heart has been hardened to an incredible degree (see the link). That is because one can only get to that far reach of self-deception by opposing and denying fundamental truths that every person knows as truth from very early on in their lives. These three "isms" correspond roughly to the three satanic lies I have written about which themselves chronicle a progression of spiritual degeneration:
lie #1: "I don't need God" (so I may or may not acknowledge other "gods" but regardless I don't need to be concerned about them in any meaningful way beyond the show of religion if it suits me).
lie #2: "I am like God" (so I am free to relegate any notion of "god" to the realm of mere possibility only in the incredible and near total authority over the truth I possess).
lie #3: "God needs me" (so I am free to replace Him entirely even to the point of banishing Him from my own personal universe and proclaiming in doing so His "non-existence").
When people actually go so far as to announce their "beliefs" on this score to the world and proclaim the truth of the lies they have invested in, then, indeed, such atheism is really more of a "religion" than most other religions, one that, as you rightly characterize it, frees them from all divine restraint so as to be able to invent any sort of code they wish and adopt any sort of conduct they wish. That is true even for those whose system is "moral" in terms of the way the world sees these things. The main point of the universe they have conceptualized and in which they wish to dwell is that it is one bounded only by the limits of their own free will not in any way by the God who created them and who sent His Son to die for them. It is therefore no wonder that atheists (and all unbelievers) are not going to be in eternity. They wouldn't enjoy it because they don't want to share it with God.
Here are some other links on this subject:
Satan's Tactical Doctrine (in SR 4)
Satan's System of Propaganda (in BB 2A)
The three satanic lies (in BB 3A)
Progression of the three lies (in CT 3A)
The three lies at the last judgment (in CT 6)
Synopsis of the three satanic lies
Yours in the One through whom and in whom and by whom and for whom we live, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
"Bertrand Russell With Hypatias death, Christianity sapped the intellect of the people and all Pagan learning vanished for a thousand years. This period became known by historians as The Dark Ages. Only a few candles of reason burned in a world lit by the fire of superstition.
Regarding the link and its content, it's really no wonder these people feel so defensive. They know in their hearts that they have rejected the only way to eternal life. They are unwilling to worship God, preferring to worship themselves. The prospect of what is coming is so uncomfortable, therefore, that elaborate lies are always erected to stave off consideration of the oh-so distasteful truth. It is a mark of the degree to which the human heart can be hardened that people not only come to believe their own lies they also apparently are under the impression that they can actually defeat the truth.
The last judgment will be nothing if not interesting.
Yours in Jesus our dear Lord, the only Way of salvation,
In respect to the three satanic lies, I'm not sure if you meant 'by what they think they do for God' at the end of this sentence:
'Like Cain's righteousness, many people in this world "do good" entirely apart from God, seeking in reality to promote their own righteousness by what they think to do "for God".'
That's not exactly how I phrased it, but the point is that unbelievers who move past ignoring God, then past feeling equal to God, in accordance with the three satanic lies may actually get to the point of thinking they can somehow "help God" as if He needs any help! Not only does this thinking betray a very poor respect for and understanding of the character and power of the Almighty, but it also bespeaks an utterly blind and intense self-righteousness.
You wrote: 'This sequence can be seen in the system of the three satanic lies above, where first the person declares his or her independence from divine standards (rationalization ignoring divine authority), second, the person frees him or herself mentally from feelings of guilt (re-programing the conscience according one's own standards on the basis of putative equality with God), and third, the person begins to justify his or her acts by claiming that his or her standards are superior to God's (so that he or she is actually "helping" God through this pattern of godless behavior).'
I think this type of 'progression' can certainly occur among people, who get lost in hypocrisy, but often people will 'progress' in different directions - it seems that lie #3 doesn't always have to follow lie #2 - some, having started to perceive themselves like God can also deny God's existence and fall deeper and deeper in this way of thinking and acting. This may not result in lie #3, but can obviously be extremely damaging and it's a pattern that is becoming increasingly popular in the world today, where people think they can separate themselves from the conflict that Satan started, often denying its existence altogether.
It's a very good observation. I have been struggling with explaining these three lies and their progression for some time (see also for example at the link the explication in SR 4 "Satan's Tactical Doctrine", and in the discussion "The Gender of God"). My view of all religion (in stark contrast with Christianity which is a relationship) is that it is meant to "help God" whoever or whatever "God" is defined to mean, and much definition away from the truth is necessary for this even to seem like a possible or a "good" idea. Atheism is a turning on its head of the truths of the universe which all human beings see clearly enough until they deliberately and willfully pervert their own inner life. So to even be an atheist a person has to have progressed to stage three in my view: they have diminished the truth and separated themselves entirely from the truth becoming instead the arbiters of truth. You have to "put God to death" in your heart to be an atheist. At that point, the "God needs me" may be "humanity needs me" or some other object, but there is an element of confirmed evil by the time the third lie is reached so that such individuals are generally "motivated" (to attack and destroy God so as to "help Him" just as Satan claims to be doing redressing His unfairness in being supreme and in holding the guilty accountable). For this reason, atheists and all such anti-God individuals tend to be activist evangelists for their position. It is not enough for them just to refuse to believe in God; they seem to need the confirmation of their position by convincing or browbeating others into it. Here is something on this by way of synopsis from BB 4B (see the link under Phase 3 Hardening of the Heart), and it might be helpful to look at the three phases of hardening described there in conjunction with the three lies:
Phase three hardening finds the person in question not only considering him or herself independent of God (in accordance with satanic lie #1), not only asserting his or her equality with God (in accordance with satanic lie #2), but now in effect claiming superiority over God (in accordance with satanic lie #3).
Denying that God even exists is a fairly definitive way to assert superiority.
Reading your response and texts in the links you forwarded me about the three satanic lies and hardening of the heart really helped me. I think I finally 'got it'. Please check if my understanding is correct:
According to satanic lie#3, we put ourselves above God, regardless if we acknowledge His existence or not (atheism, as you wrote, is the same thing in that respect - one has to put God to death in their heart first to become one). As a result of this perversion of the truth and perceived superiority arises the desire to impose or 'teach' one's own standards to others - hence the 'motivation' you mention (this mechanism taps perfectly into what we observe in the world - people not only separating themselves from God, but often doing their best to separate others too). One thing that prevented me from grasping this concept earlier was the name of the lie - 'God needs me' and you could maybe consider adding in brackets something like 'God (or whatever I perceive as my own 'god') needs me'. It was a sort of stumbling block for me to fit into my head on one hand the fact that God has been replaced, on the other hand that He still needs me, which is why I couldn't fit atheism into this paradigm. As you explained, atheism does fit into this scheme very well and, like you wrote in your response, one has to first usurp the right to be an arbiter of the truth to become an atheist. At that point 'God needs me' may be replaced by 'humanity needs me' or 'nazism needs me', or 'whatever I myself nominate (as I m superior to God and this is how this superiority is expressed - I make that choice) needs me'. It's this process of 'nomination' that I didn't recognize in your explanations of the third lie and maybe some readers ('some' here is just a gentle way of saying - readers as limited as me!) would benefit from a brief explanation what 'god' here may mean (it may mean 'God' in cases of extreme religious hypocrisy, like Pharisees, it may mean a political system or any self-designed model of righteousness) and how this perceived superiority over God gives one a (perceived right) of choosing this 'god' (which, because I choose him, is not really a 'god', because I'm making the choice - hence effectively I have replaced God).
I apologize for this wordy explanation - I just thought I would write how I understand it and ask you to amend wherever necessary and maybe consider including a couple of thoughts to aid readers, who understood this idea like me, provided that obviously this understanding is correct.
Yes I think you explain this quite well! As I mentioned to you last time, the precise formulation of these three lies in all of their aspects and implications has exercised me for some time, and I am still "tinkering". I think anyone would benefit from your explanation here, and look forward to the time (somewhat distant in the future) when I get around to posting these things. As to changing the "God needs me", I am sensitive to what you are saying. Part of the problem I have here is that the three lies, like the three phases of the hardening of the heart, are visible enough in scripture in all sorts of case studies and biblical descriptions in both testaments, however these concepts, as in much of the theology which swirls around Satan and his rebellion, are not laid out in scripture in the manner of a text-book. They to be carefully distilled, organized, and explained.
In the case of the three lies, the three essential assaults on the truth involved are, respectively, the assertion of independence from, equality to, and superiority over God and we see these attitudes plainly enough throughout the world as we observe individual unbeliever behavior and consider their statements. Atheism certainly belongs to the third because it involves "putting God to death" in one's thinking (something impossible to conceive of without a predisposition to feeling oneself superior to Him and the truth He has emblazoned upon all He has created). In terms of the internal changes these progressively negative attitudes bring on, there is a direct connection to the darkening, rejection, and perversion of the truth in the three phases of the hardening of the heart wherein a person who is turning away from the Lord first allows the light of the truth to be dimmed (he does not need God's truth independence from God), then willfully rejects the truth (he challenges the veracity of God's truth he is God's equal in being to say what is true and what is not), and finally perverts the truth (he intends to cram his own truth down God's throat or in His absence as a target down the throats of other human beings, preferably believers now he is God's superior and will order the universe according this new truth of his own making). Of course in all these things human beings who follow this course are not independent actors to even a small degree although they imagine themselves to be but only following the same path the devil did and only serving the devil and his purposes to their own eternal harm instead of humbly accepting God's genuine truth and mercy to their eternal salvation and ultimate good.
Regarding the hardening of the heart (I mean in particular hardening the heart of Pharaoh - hardening as a process influenced by God), I think months after I first asked you about it, being unsure what exactly it means, I finally 'got' it. For a long time I couldn't conceptualize what God did, and in fact can, God play in this negative process, but an interpretation finally occurred to me. Let's assume that Pharaoh at a certain point in time was at point 'A' on the axis of sin or evil and point 'B' is even further on that axis - meaning more sin and more evil and the heart being even harder than at point A. My take on it (and as always, please correct me where you find appropriate) is that God has taken Pharaoh from point A to point B. Pharaoh would have most probably done exactly the same thing even without this intervention, even though the time taken could have been different. In that sense, God has used Pharaoh for, what we could almost call, 'illustrative' purposes, showing His glory. If we assume that Pharaoh was left without God hardening his heart, maybe at some point certain opportunities would arise when he could recognize God's truth - but Pharaoh didn't want these opportunities, in a sense, he wanted to be taken to point B straight away and so in all likelihood, he wouldn't have taken these opportunities anyway, leaving the potential to repent unfulfilled. In this respect hardening of the heart is something we want and get for our own demise and fall and something that God, according to His wisdom (beyond ours, so this interpretation I offer to you in full humility - I just hope I understood it), may just give us.
Then the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt and he pursued after the Israelites, although the Israelites were going out boldly.
Please let me know you think.
On Pharaoh (see the link), the key point is that there are limits to what human beings can do, and that includes what we may term psychological limits as well as physical limits. If a human being were allowed to enter the presence of God the Father in his/her physical body and yet not die, was allowed to see Him in all of His glory and in all of His power and majesty, it would be impossible for that person to be an atheist (at that moment); it would also be impossible for that person to make a fair choice about obeying the WILL of God faced with the overwhelming reality of Him as He pointed to the Lamb, it would be entirely impossible not to obey the divine command "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!" (Matt.17:5 NASB). John, after all, could not help falling down on his face on two occasions before the angel who was showing him the Revelation (Rev.19:10; 22:9), even though of course he "knew better" as one of the greatest believers who has ever lived. So if an unbeliever saw God, "believing" at that point would not be a true choice or a true test of free will. The "plausible deniability" which we have in this world seeing the wonders of creation which speak of Him and having the gospel which promises life through His Son yet not being forced to acknowledge either is an important part of the test of free will which is what life here on earth is absolutely all about (covered in detail in BB 4B Soteriology).
It is also true that after unbelievers find themselves in torments beneath the earth and later when they are even worse off in the lake of fire it would not be a true test of their free will to ask them then whether or not they believe and are willing to bend their will to God's WILL in accepting Jesus. That is clearly because at that point anyone would probably say anything to gain momentary relief (cf. Lk.16:19-31). But even after doing so, if they had the option, these unbelievers, if restored to physical life on earth, would revert just as soon as they had gained enough breathing space to put the unpleasant memory to death (in the same way that convicts seldom learn their lesson and return to prison as soon as they are caught again only with more certainty for unbelievers since there would be no tangible reminder here on earth of what is to come). And unbelievers would do this a thousand times if they were given a thousand opportunities. God made us who we wanted to be, and unbelievers want to be "captains of their own fate" and will always choose against God if the choice is really a genuine one and not in any way coerced.
In the case of Pharaoh, we really have both of the above. True, he didn't see God face to face but He did see His power exercised repeatedly in ways no one else ever had or since has. True, he didn't experience hell but the tremendous punishment and loss inflicted on him was also unprecedented in history to that point or since. Without the divinely extended hardening, no human being would have been able to say no to God in such circumstances both because of the overwhelming display of His power and also because of the horrific nature of the judgments. Had God not given Pharaoh a unique ability to say "no" in the face of the revelation of both of these aspects of His divinity, Pharaoh would have relented not because he wanted to, but because as a mere human being he would not have had the will to be able to do so in the face of the majesty of God. Therefore we see in God's hardening of Pharaoh's heart not the removal of his free will but a special empowering of it, allowing him to do what he really wanted to do but otherwise would have been unable to do because of human psychological limitations: paralysis of will in the face of overwhelming and stupefying divine power and presence.
Praise God that He has in His mercy given us supple hearts to respond to His Son and believe His truth so as to be saved!
Yours in the One who died that we might live forever with Him, Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,