NT Teachers

1. Teachers are those who themselves have been taught (Tit.1:9)
2. They hold fast to the faithful word they have been taught (either by word or epistle (Tit.1:9; 2Thess.2:15) observing the pattern of sound words (2Tim.1:13))
3. They are rooted and built up, abounding in the Word (Col.2:7; Jude 1:20; Matt.7:24)
4. Teachers are skillful in the word of righteousness (Heb.5:13)
5. Teachers are mature (Heb.5:14)
6. Teachers have trained senses to discern both good and evil (Heb.5:14)
7. Teachers have their spiritual eyes opened (Luke 6:39; Eph.1:18)
8. Teachers are perfectly trained (katartizo) (Lk.6:40; Eph.4:12)
9. Teachers will receive stricter judgment (Jas 3:1)
10. There are elders who rule and elders who especially labor in the word and doctrine. Teachers, especially, are to be counted worthy of double honor (1Tim.5:17; Gal.6:6)
11. Teachers rightly divide the word of truth (2Tim.2:15)
12. Spiritual Teachers bridle their tongue (James 3:1-18; Eccl 12:11)
13. Spiritual Teachers don’t engage in foolish disputations of words (2Tim.2:23)
14. Spiritual Teachers are patient in teaching (2 Tim.2:24)
15. Spiritual Teachers are meek like their Master (2 Tim.2:25, Matt.11:29)
16. Spiritual Teachers don’t load students with burdens they themselves cannot carry (Matt.11:30; 23:2-4). True wisdom brings rest.

Christ, Truth, and Politics

Published in the Souvenir of Central India Theological Seminary of October 2005.

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? (John 18:38)

It is interesting to note that the only instance where Christ ever met Pilate in recounted history was at His trial. The ensuing dialogue between both of them is intriguing. It heavily concentrates on the urgency of Truth in a world mismanaged by humans.

The trial of Christ at Jerusalem reminds us of the trial of Socrates at Athens. Tertullian might have been too quick to retort “What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” The unjust sentence of Socrates explicitly points out the fact that the greatest problem with humanity is not that it has not known the truth but that, to the contrary, having understood the ramifications of truth it has suppressed it and chosen to put an end to any voice that speaks on behalf of it. Weren’t there at least 80, of the earlier 220 who voted Socrates as innocent, who also later voted for his death penalty? Truth had less significance in the democratic Athens, whose laws Socrates himself highly respected. In Jerusalem as well, though Christ’s sentence was not decided through a Jury based on votes, yet it was the voice of the mob that prevailed against the truth.The obvious truth was that Pilate had found nothing worth condemning in Jesus. Yet, however, he talked of the Passover custom of releasing a prisoner and had Christ whipped despite the evidence that Christ was not a criminal.

The contrast between Socrates and Jesus is high at the point where Jesus begins to speak of a kingdom beyond this world and of His coming to bear witness to the truth. While for Socrates, truth had to be discovered through rational analysis, Christ claimed to know the truth and be a witness to the truth. While Socrates didn’t find any meaning in a world beyond Athens, Christ talked of a kingdom that transcends all spatial-temporal existence.

Pilate’s question to Jesus as to what was truth insinuates several meanings. He might have meant “Does truth mean anything at all?” or “What is truth in this situation?” or “Is truth absolute or relative?” or “Do politics and truth go together?” or “Even if there is something called Truth, is there any significance to it?” or “What truth are you talking about?” Whatever the import of the question was, the fact remains that Pilate found nothing appealing in any understanding of truth in a world that relativized everything to suit its selfish purposes.

Pilate had already become infamous for his hard ways of dealing with mobs. Josephus tells us of Pilate’s aversion of Jewish religious interference in his political moves. For instance, when he brought Roman banners with Caesar’s image on them, the Jews protested. He tried to put them down by deploying his troops only to find out that these people were committed to their religion more than they were committed to Caesar. In another instance, he sent his soldiers dressed in tunics to infiltrate the crowd and beat the offenders with clubs. They had protested against his secular employment of temple treasure. And so, now, when the Jews come to him with Jesus, he straight away dismisses them with the words “Take ye him, and judge him according to your law.” When they insist that he was a political malefactor, he takes him aside and asks him some questions only to find out that the Jews who once protested against the images of Caesar were now using the name of Caesar to get rid of Jesus. Later, Pilate finds himself accused of enmity against Caesar on grounds that he wished the release of Jesus. Understanding the breadth of experience Pilate had in politics, it is not amazing that his famous question “What is truth?” comes in response to Jesus’ statement that He was a King and had come into the world to bear witness to the truth. How could one be a King and also bear witness to the truth at the same time. Was the Roman Empire ready for such news?

Several centuries later, an Italian political philosopher by the name of Machiavelli was to write that a ruler is not bound by traditional ethical norms and is free to use whatever means available for his political purposes. His principles of power politics came to be known as Machiavellianism. Machiavelli proposed that it was better that a ruler be both loved and feared; but, since a combination of both was too difficult, it was desirable that a ruler be feared though not loved. His formulation of such principles was allegedly drawn from studies in Roman political history and the politics of his age. Unquestionably, tyranny and despotism are perfect possibilities in a political system that doesn’t recognize the sovereignty of God. Assuredly, every Nebuchadnezzar still needs a Daniel.

When questioned about His Kingship, Jesus promptly replied: “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” This clearly recognized that force was indispensable to kingdom. Puzzling, however, is the way Jesus uses the concept of kingdom. He distinguishes between two kinds of kingdom: one, of this world; another, not of this world. He claimed to be the King of the latter with an additional comment that His servants didn’t help Him now because His kingdom was not from here. The word used for ‘world’ here is kosmos (world, order), not aion (age, course). It denotes this very physical world order that we live in. Important is also the phrase not from here, which is to mean that Christ’s kingdom didn’t have its origin or basis in this world. It is from above even as Christ is from above (the second man). And the King of this other-worldly kingdom is a witness of truth. His passion for truth led Him to come to this world confused by raging falsehood and deception. He said that everyone that belonged to the truth heard His voice. He was the King of the Kingdom of Truth. A few chapters earlier, He claimed to be the personification of Truth itself so that anyone who believes in Him and follows Him is delivered from the falsehood of this-worldly glory (which truly is darkness) and transferred to His kingdom of light. Knowing Him is far more urgent than knowing several diverse truths. He is the Truth that connects together all truths of past, present, and future and fills them with transcendent and eternal meaning. Pilate could not hear Christ’s voice. Dazed by Christ’s statements, he retorted “What is truth?” and left without waiting for an answer.

Immediately, he goes out and declares to the Jews: “I find in him no fault.” That was the truth. However, he added: But ye have a custom that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?” That was the falsehood. Why talk of releasing Christ as a criminal when no fault indicting Him had been found in Him? The ethical relativism of this-worldly politics thickens still further when the crowd demands the release of a notorious robber (they could endure physical robbery as long as their spiritual status was left untouched and their religiosity approved of). Pilate scourges Jesus and lets his soldiers humiliate Him thinking, perhaps, that this would soften the violent temper of the crowd. He still tries to stick closer to justice and truth though the current is tearing him away from it.

Jesus had told him earlier that His kingdom was not of this world. Pilate still seems to be out of touch with the import of His word. He asks Him: “Where are you from?” Jesus gave no reply. Pilate says: “Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to crucify you, and I have authority to release you?” To which Jesus replies: “You could have no authority against Me unless it were given to you from above. Therefore he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” The relating of political authority to a transcendent Rulership above is significant. Hegel in his Reason in History writes regarding the role of the Divine in politics:
Religion is the sphere where a people gives itself the definition of what it regards as the True. Such a definition contains everything which belongs to the essence of the object, reducing its nature to a simple fundamental characteristic as focus for all other characteristics – the universal soul of all particulars. The idea of God thus is the general fundament of a people.

...secular existence is temporal and moves within private interest. Hence it is relative and unjustified. Its justification can only be derived from the absolute justification of its universal soul, its principle. And this is justified only as determination and existence of the essence of God. For this reason the State is based on religion.
Of course, Hegel writes of God, Religion, and Truth within the framework of his Phenomenology of the Spirit. But his insight into the necessity of truth and God as the unifying fundament of a people is great. Biblically speaking, God is the creator of man, and is the giver of not only political authority but also vision and direction to a nation. A nation which loses sight of God, will soon lose sight of practical value in truth and honesty. Private interest and engrossment with the present would reign high and become the ground for the release of despotism and tyranny. Jesus, by reminding Pilate that his authority was from above, was telling him that he was not autonomous in his field of politics. He was accountable to God. However, it is the one who handovers Jesus to Pilate that has the greater sin. Pilate has an opportunity to be just. He tries to release Jesus but is backfired by the crowd with the words: “If you let this man go, you are not Caesar's friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.” Threatened by such accusation, Pilate gives in to the demand of the crowd and handovers Jesus to be crucified, at the same time referring to Jesus as the King of the Jews, to the chagrin of the priests who, themselves having succumbed to the relative situation, ironically exclaim that they have no king but Caesar. Pilate, however, doesn’t stop here. He inscribes on the title on Jesus’ cross the words JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS and refuses to change it despite the chief priests’ protest. Somehow, Pilate seems to be attempting to stick close to the truth despite his obvious distance from it. He had already fallen prey to the public appeasement of secular politics. Truth had fallen in the earthly city.

But Christ, the Truth of God, did not die forever. He rose again on the third day. By His physical death on the cross, He put an end to the falsehood of this world order and rose again as the Firstfruits of a new world order founded on the very fulfillment of truth (His life and teaching), righteousness (His obedience), and justice (His sacrifice). If He didn’t arise humanity would have been left without any hope of justice and a life eternal that transcended this world. But He rose again. And one day, He will come back to judge the world according to Truth (Romans 2:2). He will return in the glory of His kingdom (Mt. 16:28; 2 Tim. 4:1) to inaugurate a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness (2 Pt. 3:13).


Cognitive Voluntarism of James F. Ross

Excerpted from Epistemics of Divine Reality (2009, 2011)

In his paper Reason and Reliance: Adjusted Prospects for Natural Theology (1990),[1] James Ross defines ‘Cognitive Voluntarism’ as the view that ‘humans, for  the  most  part,  believe  not because they  are  compelled  by  the  evidence,  but  because  they  want  to  (sometimes  even   being  compelled by wants operating as “convictors”) because assenting appears to advance their ‘apprehended good”.’ Cognitive voluntarism is seen as our willing reliance upon people, feelings and outcomes, directed to our own fulfillment. According to Ross, it has reemerged as a basis for rational certainty, not only in empirical cognition generally, but in the most important commitments of our lives.

Ross begins by saying that rational certainty about God is more plausible than was believed in the fifties. The fact is that, the notion of what constitutes rational certainty is now better understood. The most important achievement, however, has been the rehabilitation of faith. Faith is seen as willing  reliance  on  others thought better placed  to  know, as well as willing  reliance on the regularities  we  find in  nature  and  people,  to indicate what we should  believe. Ross goes on to say that faith is undeniably a source of knowledge.

Faith is undeniably a source of knowledge, often more efficient than finding out for oneself, as the telephone book makes clear.  And  where  faith  falls  short  of  knowledge,  it  often supplies rational  certitude, even about the most expensive and conservatively entered  human undertakings, especially  in  engineering (bridge and theater design),  naval architecture (hull design), applied  science (nuclear power plants), and sometimes  even  in  our  formal  logical and mathematical disciplines. Faith is a foundation for rational certainty, maybe not a rock‑bottom one, but an indispensable one.  In fact, trust is the very fabric of social conviction and the golden thread of science.[2]

Thus, according to Ross, rational certainty finds its basis on faith, and faith is indispensable to it. The truth is that rational certainty is more a contextual thing than a universal thing. Thus, what is handed over down to the next generation is voluntarily accepted as truth with rational certainty since voluntary reliance is part of the sociology of knowledge. Everyone has his own system or framework of rational certainty. Here we may pause to consider that Paul on Mars Hill did not quote the Old Testament Messianic prophecies to the Greeks; the Old Testament was a framework of rational certainty chiefly and significantly for the Jews and not for the Greeks. Therefore, one cannot be in the position to judge anyone unless one is able to see from the other’s viewpoint. As Ross puts it,

You cannot get into a position to evaluate until you become an insider. There is no  access to the reliability of the “system” from the outside, not any more than there is access to the standpoint of musical, philosophical or aesthetic mastery of judgment, except by discipleship, first.[3]

This is reminiscent of Wittgenstein’s language games and forms of life. One cannot be in a position to even understand, far be to judge someone else’s position, except by participating in the other’s form of life that grants meaning to his position.

In addition to the significance of faith, the cognitive role of feelings to ground rational certainty has also been recognized. Ross says that feelings ‘are knowledge-making.’ It is the satisfaction and stability of deep feeling that ‘hardens belief into rock-bottom commitment.’ Feelings play an important role in both faith and reason. Statements like ‘I feel I can trust him,’ or ‘This argument is elegant,’ or ‘This argument is flimsy,’ demonstrate that feelings are not separate from the cognitive process of faith and reason. Thus, rational certainty is not cold. It is charged with feeling and reinforced with faith.

Ross points out that much of the stuff we believe in, and which is crucial to make sense of this world, is convictions beyond all data. For instance, belief in the origins, salvation-history, final judgment, after-life, etc. all go beyond empirical data but are voluntarily believed to make sense of the data at hand. In other words, a leap beyond is crucial to make sense of the present ground. Such ‘going beyond’ provides rationality to life. However, on finding such convictions directly refuted by experience, adherents do replace them with the ‘nearest tenable facsimile.’ Thus, faith has become crucial to make sense of any knowledge in this world. Further, a sense of the sociology of knowledge as the rationality of relying on those who ought to know has been recognized. For instance, we sit on a train with a feeling of security and satisfaction that we will reach the destination, because we rely on the railways, including the driver as the one who ought to know to drive the engine. This sense of certainty can only be lost by recurrent failure of the railways. Similarly, a worker follows the directions of the engineer, even as a soldier follows the directions of his commander out of reliance in people and the pattern of things.

“Faith”  is  no  longer   the  paradigm of “unjustified belief”  or  “belief  that  contravenes the evidence”, or “belief held against the demands of reason” as Locke and Hume, and even C.J. Ducasse (Nature, Mind and Death. 1948) thought, but  rational  trust in those who ought to  know and, equivocally but relatedly, reliance on the patterns in things.  Even non-thinking animals display what Santayana called “animal faith”, staking their lives hour by hour until they lose.[4]

Hints of Kierkegaard’s ‘infinite passion’ that seeks satisfaction can also be found in Ross’ cognitive voluntarism. We trust because we want something, he says. ‘Reliance is, itself, a mode of satisfaction.’ As an example, he refers to the hunter who relies on the flight pattern of turkeys because he wants to eat some. Thus, an internal urge, the will, for satisfaction may be considered as the engine of believing.

Augustine  says, “nemo credit nisi volens” (“no one  believes  unless  he wants to”); not that you can believe at will or even  disbelieve at will, though the power of the unconscious is awesome  at   rejection,  and  impressive  at  accommodation, regardless of the evidence.  Nevertheless, the will is the engine of believing, not the understanding (except in the few cases of the “manifest vision of truth”, of compelling obviousness, as Aquinas explained it). And even the compelling obviousness of one’s mortal wounds can be willed away, say, as a medic urges one to live, sometimes with success. The rest of the time evidence does not compel belief, the will supplies the commitment.[5]

Regarding the contention that the truth about the existence of God must be demonstrated before being believed in Ross, responds that ‘there is nothing knowable by a demonstration that cannot be known with certainty without one, and that includes mathematical and logical theorems.’[6]  Demonstrability cannot be considered to be the gateway to knowability. Ross argues that a genuine demonstration will rule out all counterpossibilities. However, such genuine demonstration has never been and cannot be given; since counterpossibilities from the other side are expected seeing that belief is more a matter of will than of reason. Further, a common ground regarding the validity of some demonstration is not agreed on because of contextual arrangements.

As has been said earlier, it is not simply data at hand but feelings urged by a desire for meaning that play an important role in the forming of convictions. However, feelings cannot be blindly left unrestrained. The refinement of feelings is important for a proper channeling in of knowledge. Practical wisdom, thus, is the ability to live wisely and well, and is the product of good training and example, internalized by one’s mimesis (imitation, e.g., of father by son) of refined understanding, feeling and even passion. Ross points out that a life without passion is feeble and furtive. Similarly, philosophy without feeling is philosophy without springs. When it comes to making sense of life, it is not science but practical wisdom that is more appropriate. Thus, one cannot ground his life on dry empirical proofs. According to Ross, feeling creates ‘conviction by combining satisfaction (fulfillment in some respect) with reliance (which is itself a kind of satisfaction in dependence, like lovers holding hands) into an outcome that is our conviction.’ Reliance on the community that says it has found out the truth (sociology of knowledge) and personal practice, mimesis, or imitation of it that brings satisfaction and rewards lead to convictions.

There are in-built wants that operate as convictors. Convictors convert data into conviction. Thus, according to cognitive voluntarism, people believe not by the force of evidence but by the force of wants that operate as convictors. Ross contends that this approach to knowledge is not something new but was recognized long back. For instance, both ‘Augustine and Aquinas (with differences) think our cognitive powers have basic drives (of which the rational appetite, the will, is the chief drive), and thus, have a targeted finality that is no natural end, but rather, life with God.’[7] It may be added that this view is also reflected in William James’ concept of ‘will to believe.’ In his The Will to Believe and Other Essays, he wrote:

…our non-intellectual nature does influence our convictions. There are passional tendencies and volitions which run before and others which come after belief, and it is only the latter that are too late for the fair; and they are not too late when the previous passional work has been already in their own direction.[8]

He also adds that in ‘truths dependent on our personal action…faith based on desire is certainly a lawful and possibly an indispensable thing.’[9] However, James qualifies such freedom to believe what one wills with the condition that this freedom ‘can only cover living options which the intellect of the individual cannot by itself resolve….’[10] In other words, faith becomes inevitable where intellect cannot go on. So, one is compelled to choose from among the living options available. Since religion is a live hypothesis which may be true it cannot be left ignored. James’ view, however, is more pragmatical and similar to Pascal’s Wager. He says, ‘If religion be true and the evidence for it be still insufficient, I do not wish…to forfeit my sole chance in life of getting upon the willing side – the chance depending, of course, on my willingness to run the risk of acting as if my passional need of taking the world religiously might be prophetic and right.’[11] Evidently, the William James’ view doesn’t sufficiently take into consideration the existential motif of ‘infinite passion’ and the ‘sense of meaningfulness.’ However, it is quite close to the main idea of cognitive voluntarism.

According to cognitive voluntarism, then, the rational certainty of faith in God is more a contextual thing. There is an inner urge in man that attempts to find meaning out of all that he knows. Revelation provides the data, usually in the form of traditions passed on by the community, which makes sense of life. Practical wisdom holds on to such beliefs through pragmatic experience that refine the feeling and passion. Feeling combines with reliance to produce conviction. Reliance on verbal testimony is a very important source of knowledge.

Feeling creates conviction by combining satisfaction (fulfillment in some respect) with reliance (which is itself a kind of satisfaction in dependence, like lovers holding hands) into an outcome that is our conviction. Two kinds of satisfaction suffuse something we assent to. That's how we, those who did not discover anything or even repeat the inquiries, know that there are micro‑particles, electrons, molecules, atoms.  We rely on the community that says it did find out, and we get satisfaction and rewards by doing so.  Thus we are convinced.[12]

Subjectivity of truth, as in Kierkegaard, thus, is paramount. But, in addition is voluntary belief, in the sense that one believes what one wants to believe, or what one is satisfied with. No one stands in a position to evaluate anyone’s belief unless he enters the ‘form of life’, to use Wittgenstein’s term, of the other. Reliance and satisfaction, i.e., faith and feeling, thus are crucial to the noetic event. Faith is the foundation of rational certainty, and things are believed in because they make sense of life. Achieving this sense and meaning of life is the goal of practical wisdom, which goes beyond mere science and evidentialism.

Critique of Cognitive Voluntarism

Ross’ capture of the spirit of knowledge is excellent. Philosophy without feeling, he says, is philosophy without springs. Surely, ‘deep answers the deep’; humans have an inner and infinite urge that can only find satisfaction through faith in an infinite and living God. Therefore, we do go beyond available data to make sense of the available data. The question of origins, meaning, and destiny are unavoidable. Any nearest hint that carries at least some certainty (within the cognitive contextual framework) is immediately converted into a conviction. However, as Ross has pointed out, the danger of falsity can be there. Therefore, he stresses on the refinement of feeling through mimesis, which is observation and practice of those who can be relied on for knowledge of truth. This, obviously, calls for the openness and boldness to change on finding the convictions refuted by experience.

In conclusion, it may be said that Ross’ epistemology is very much of subjective experientialism. Though it is true that one’s experience can never be refuted by another, it still stands whether someone’s experience can comprise reason enough for another to rely on it. According to Ross, the answer is ‘yes’, if pragmatically satisfaction is visible, and this to the extent that mimesis of it becomes justified. For instance, a son sees his father walking and imitates in order to learn walking; he imitates the experience of his father to become an insider of the experience. Similarly, faith in God as demonstrated in a community life of moral righteousness, devotion, generosity, and other facets of religious life can be experienced through mimesis.

However, what about the possibility of being led into the wrong belief through such imitation? Ross answers that still this does not undermine the value of the social institution as a source of knowledge. Accordingly, a ‘social system that hands along truths about food and mixed truths and errors about health and how to live, and superstitions about God and “science”, might do perfectly well to hand along an improved product.’ In other words, there is no social institution or tradition that can lay claim to perfection in all fields of knowledge. Disagreements among sects over doctrinal points, within the major religions, are ample proof of it. However, some products have only one source and the only way to test the workability of the product is by ‘becoming an initiate and making it work.’ Thus, one can only experience the power of God’s love in Jesus Christ by saying ‘yes’ to the Gospel of Christ. There is no alternative source to it. Practice and experience itself justifies belief.

Though incapable of providing an absolute and standard test for truth, Ross’ cognitive voluntarism does demonstrate the relativity of rational certainty. The star over Bethlehem was proof of Royal birth to the Magi; it might have not been so to many others. The miracles of Jesus were proof of His divine authority to Nicodemus; it might not have been to some others. Proofs and demonstrations are only relatively significant; often, they follow faith. Thus, rational certainty is more a subjective issue. Moreover, Ross’ grounding of rational certainty on the will to believe is a significant step. He has also showed that the will to believe is prompted by the inner urge, feeling, and passion for sense and meaning in life. The existential motif, thus, can also be seen in Ross. Thus, cognitive voluntarism attempts to put faith and feeling into their proper place in the noetic event. This, however, is done at the expense of any absolute criteria for truth. The only reference point is the will. Will is prompted by feelings and wants that act as convictors. Thus, truth is more a matter of the subjective will than of objective reality. But, Ross is at least right in saying that in matters of ultimate value, that is, in convictions that go beyond data to infuse life with meaning, one cannot let go his convictions unless they are directly contradicted by experience and replaceable with some other hypotheses that seem to be more reliable. Thus, a Christian cannot throw away his belief in Jesus Christ, since it not only infuses his life with meaning but he also doesn’t find it refuted by experience. However, even if it is refuted by experience, he will not cast that belief out unless it is replaceable by some other more reliable belief; he cannot do so because the will to believe urged by the infinite passion within cannot rest calm without finding some source of satisfaction. Thus, faith is rehabilitated in cognitive voluntarism.

[1] James Ross, “Reason and Reliance: Adjusted Prospects for Natural Theology”, June 1990 (http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40)
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] William James, “The Will to Believe,” Philosophy of Religion, 2nd edn. (ed. John Hick; Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1970), p.219
[9] Ibid, p. 228
[10] Ibid, p. 230
[11] Ibid, p. 229
[12] James Ross, “Reason and Reliance: Adjusted Prospects for Natural Theology”, June 1990 (http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40)

Angels at Prayer - Some Witnesses

Incident 1: Place – Makhu, Punjab
In 1994, Pastor Surinder of Makhu, a genuine man of God whose life and ministry I personally witnessed, told us an incident from his life. He had the practice of kneeling by a chair and praying every morning or during any part of the day when he got any free time. There were two chairs there besides a bed in that single room where he and his family lived. And, because they didn’t have any church building then, people would bring the sick and demon-oppressed for prayers there. On Sundays, they would pull up a tent for the 600-800 people who joined the services. Once, Pastor Surinder was on a mission trip. His mom was sleeping on the bed at night. Sometime during the night, she awoke and was terrified by what she saw. She saw two persons kneeling by those chairs that were at the foot of the bed. When they saw her terrified, they rose up and came to her and asked why she was so afraid. They said that they come here to pray because her son used to kneel here and pray everyday and today was out somewhere ministering.

Incident Two: Place – Sanjaynagar, MP
Back in the 90s, we were once having a prayer time in the church building. There were only around 10 of us sitting in a semicircle and praying. Suddenly, my cousin Benny (around 4-5) shrank close to his mom all terrified. When his mom asked him what had happened, he said that while we were praying a shining being in white suddenly swept by my side. No one else but he saw this vision.


Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.  And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly… (Luk 22:43-44)


Toward the Tithe and Beyond | John Piper - Review


John Piper presents 7 Biblical reasons for tithing in this article. Quite contrary to the teaching of John MacArthur that Christians don’t need to tithe since they pay taxes to the government, Piper sees tithing as vital to a Christian’s being part of the Kingdom work. Tithing is also an antidote against covetousness, he says. Piper’s 7 Reasons reminded me of David Jeremiah’s 7 Reasons for tithing. Clearly, again contrary to what MacArthur teaches, Jesus made a distinction between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God. The book of Malachi that encouraged tithing against robbery of it so that there would be food in the house of God was not written to people in the theocratic times before the monarchy. Clearly tithing is not tax-paying. Piper’s article and appeal is a needed one in an age when Mammon tries to steal the true and total devotion that only belongs to Christ. Piper’s illustration from John Wesley’s life is touching indeed.

Take John Wesley for example. He was one of the great evangelists of the 18th Century, born in 1703. In 1731 he began to limit his expenses so that he would have more money to give to the poor. In the first year his income was 30 pounds and he found he could live on 28 and so gave away two. In the second year his income doubled but he held his expenses even, and so he had 32 pounds to give away (a comfortable year’s income). In the third year his income jumped to 90 pounds and he gave away 62 pounds. In his long life Wesley’s income advanced to as high as 1,400 pounds in a year. But he rarely let his expenses rise above 30 pounds. He said that he seldom had more than 100 pounds in his possession at a time.

This so baffled the English Tax Commissioners that they investigated him in 1776 insisting that for a man of his income he must have silver dishes that he was not paying excise tax on. He wrote them, “I have two silver spoons at London and two at Bristol. This is all the plate I have at present, and I shall not buy any more while so many round me want bread.”

See Also
Should I Give Tithe


Some Self-Defeating Philosophical Positions

Scientism – The principle that only scientifically verifiable statements are true is itself not scientifically verifiable.

Skepticism – The statement that truth cannot be known is itself a statement considered to be true, which by its own verdict cannot be known.

Logical Positivism – The principle that only empirically verifiable statements can be true is itself not empirically verifiable.

Kantian Phenomenalism – If causality is just an a priori mental category imposed on sense data, then the whole enterprise of trying to account for what causes the experience of phenomena becomes self-defeating.

Relativism - The statement "Only relative truths exist" poses as absolute truth, which is self-defeating.

Subjectivism - The statement that we cannot know the objective world is itself an objective claim.

Religious Pluralism - The view that all religions are fundamentally the same is itself an exclusivist, not pluralist, position.


The Joy Of A Boy

That surge of joy
In the heart of a boy
At the sight of his toy
Is greater than
The smugness of man
Who won't understand
That life isn't a game
Of dime, dame, or fame;
We leave as we came.


Some Maxims of Wisdom

  1. Character is Carved by Choices
  2. Faith Flourishes by Favor
  3. Love Looks Beyond Lacks
  4. Truth is Tested on Temperance
  5. Silence Succors Sometimes
  6. Fear Fills up Folly
  7. Reverence Reflects Royalty
  8. Reliance Reassures Rest
  9. Intent Inspires Imagination
  10. Godliness Goes Before Glory
  11. Pride Precedes Perdition
  12. Discipleship Demands Denials
  13. Honor comes by Honoring
  14. Suretyship is a Sure Snare
  15. Frame no Thought on Fragmentary Talk
  16. Snobbery Secures Segregation
  17. The Devil's Patience Doesn't Postpone his Perdition
  18. Doubt Confuses, Faith Convicts
  19. Battles are won by Bravery and Belief
  20. Seduction can Steal the Stand
  21. The Sagacious Save in Summer
  22. Companionship Constructs or Corrupts
  23. Excellence comes through Endeavor
  24. Faith is Foundational; Doubt, Demolitional
  25. Prejudice Prevents Perception
  26. Bitterness Breeds Bitterness
  27. Thanksgiving is the Language of Trust
  28. To Love means To Listen
  29. Humility is the Health of one's Heart
  30. To Love a Neighbor Means To Be a Neighbor
  31. The Wicked are not Won by Words
  32. Self-Examination Heals Several Hurts
  33. Volume doesn't Validate
  34. Chattering can be Shattering
© Domenic Marbaniang, 2008

Should the Genesis Account of Creation Be Taken Literally Or Figuratively?

Ever since the dawn of Darwinism and the subsequent rise of Evolutionism, theologians have tried to wrestle with objections posed by science to the Creation account. The enormous amount of fossil records and proven accuracy of dating methods that try to figure out dates of each fossil along with other scientific researches are seen as a real issue that intellectual Christianity cannot be blind to. Many of the modern theologians and apologists have given in to some form of accommodation of evolutionary thinking, though trying to keep God in picture as the Prime Cause of all things. Most of them prefer a mythical or figurative interpretation of the Genesis account.

The Catholic Church doesn't ignore the possibility of biological evolution; however, it makes it clear that the theory of biological evolution cannot explain the creation of the human spirit that distinguishes humans from beasts. In his Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Oct 22, 1996, Pope John Paul II said:

...the theories of evolution which, because of the philosophies which inspire them, regard the spirit either as emerging from the forces of living matter, or as a simple epiphenomenon of that matter, are incompatible with the truth about man. They are therefore unable to serve as the basis for the dignity of the human person.

Catholic.com explains the position:
Concerning biological evolution, the Church does not have an official position on whether various life forms developed over the course of time. However, it says that, if they did develop, then they did so under the impetus and guidance of God, and their ultimate creation must be ascribed to him.

Concerning human evolution, the Church has a more definite teaching. It allows for the possibility that man’s body developed from previous biological forms, under God’s guidance, but it insists on the special creation of his soul.

British New Testament scholar, N. T. Wright, has no interest in the literal interpretation of either Genesis 1-2 or a literal historical Adam. In his Surprise by Scripture (2014), he writes:
...just as God chose Israel from the rest of humankind for a special, strange, demanding vocation, so perhaps what Genesis is telling us is that God chose one pair from the rest of early hominids for a special, strange, demanding vocation. This pair (call them Adam and Eve if you like) were to be the representatives of the whole human race, the ones in whom God's purpose to make the whole world a place of delight and joy and order, eventually colonizing the whole creation, was to be taken forward.

Notable apologist William Lane Craig opts for Progressive Creationism. In his words:
It seems to me that so-called progressive creationism would provide a nice model that would fit both the scientific evidence as well as the biblical data. Progressive creationism suggests that God intervenes periodically to bring about miraculously new forms of life and then allows evolutionary change to take place with respect to those life forms. As for grand evolutionary change, this would not take place by the mechanisms of genetic mutation and natural selection if undirected by God. Rather, we would need miraculous creationist acts of God to intervene in the process of biological evolution to bring about grand evolutionary change. So we would have a kind of progressive creationism whereby God creates biological complexity over time.

...some sort of a progressive creationist view, I think, would explain the evidence quite well. It would allow you to affirm or deny if you wish the thesis of common ancestry and it would supplement the mechanisms of genetic mutation and natural selection with divine intervention. I find some sort of progressive creationism to be an attractive view.

However, Craig is not dogmatic on this stance which he qualifies by saying, "I want to reiterate that on these issues I am like many of you a scientific layperson.... So these opinions are held tentatively and lightly and are subject to revision."

Irish theologian Alister McGrath also favors the non-literal interpretation, not just because of the scientific challenge but because he finds that the literal interpretation was not so popular in early church history. He finds, especially, Augustine's view quite liberating:

What I noticed in the earlier period of the Christian church is that people didn’t read Genesis in that way. I think we have more freedom about how we interpret these passages than some might think. There is no doubt [the Scriptures] teach God made all things. I don’t think they necessarily teach that God made all things instantaneously at one moment in time so that what we now see is the way things always have been. I think it’s more complex than that. Augustine of Hippo gives us a useful theological framework, which means we can begin to engage questions of evolution. You can’t simply say, “It’s the Bible or evolution.” Certainly, I would challenge certain interpretations of evolution—above all, Richard Dawkins’ idea, which is atheistic. I think we need to understand both evolution and Scripture rightly. (An Interview With Alister McGrath, DTS, Dec 2012)

Unsurprisingly, Augustine approaches the text with the culturally prevalent presupposition of the fixity of species and finds nothing in it to challenge his thinking on this point. Yet the ways in which he critiques contemporary authorities and his own experience suggest that, on this point at least, he would be open to correction in light of prevailing scientific opinion. ("Augustine's Origin of Species," CT, May 2009)

My Responses

The literal view of Genesis 1 and 2 may look quite embarrassing to theologians who wish to be or appear intellectually honest in face of surmounting scientific evidences that seem to favor anything but the literal biblical account of creation in Genesis. Some would better prefer to look at the two accounts as more poetic or figurative rather than factual narratives. Of course, the way the narrative is given does not give any hint of it being just a clever poem or illustrative myth.

I think the message of the cross is more foolish and scientifically impossible to the secular intellectual mind than the literal take of Genesis 1 and 2. What scientific mind can find the message of a Man (God Incarnate) being crucified for religious and political reasons on the cross as being the Sacrificial Atonement for the sins of all mankind?

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1Co 1:18)
...we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, (1Co 1:23)

But, the scientific understanding based on whatever dating technology (as accurate as these may be), and other discoveries, is not "necessarily" conclusive, given its inductive nature and the open possibilities of exceptions. We may laugh at Young Earth Creationists for trying to find evidences for a young earth, but do we know what we are actually doing by questioning the literal historicity of the Genesis account? You cannot sit on the outward end of a branch that you are actually sawing off.

We come to the question of Authority now. The enamor with intellectualism is somehow tied up with universities, professor quotes, appeal to authority fallacies, and various other forms of "authorities" that seem to stand against the authority of Scripture. It is not surprising that such enamor may lead to either seminaries becoming engulfed by universities (through affiliation or absorption) or becoming emptied by universities because they cannot any more retain students who they have educated to favor the universities. But, when it comes to intellectual honesty with faith, I do not think it is really honest to favor some parts of scripture as literal and others as probably figurative based on contemporary scientific understandings on the same theme. If you allow the camel to put his feet inside the tent, obviously, he is going to kick you out of the tent before dawn.

The literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 may look foolish and dumb to many. To many it does not. It makes better sense than the all the various theories of evolution put together. And the latter are certainly not unintelligent and dumb believers. They find it more consistent to believe in Scripture as inerrant and absolutely authoritative for all deductive interpretation and understanding of faith than allow the unstable darts of human wisdom to trouble them with ideas that are perpetually in a flux.

1. If Scriptural inerrancy is superfluous, then biblical faith has lost its basis. The same Scripture that gives an account of creation in six days states the event as the historical basis for the law of the sabbath or rest for the Israelites:
For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. (Exo 20:11)
2. If it is scientifically unacceptable that God created Adam out of the dust literally, it should also be scientifically unacceptable that God incarnated as Man in Jesus.
The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. (1Co 15:47)
3. If Genesis 1-2 is taken figuratively only, it would follow that most of the book, if not at least till Genesis 11, cannot be taken literally anymore.

4. The non-literal view challenges the New Testament Gospel of Christ as our Saviour:
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. (1Co 15:22)

For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:17-19)
5. If the authority of Scriptures is subjected to the authority of "science" or intellectual elitism, God becomes subject to the imagination and formulations of the human mind; in short, idolatry.
6. Jesus didn't talk of the Genesis account as merely figurative but as historical and foundational to human values:
"But from the beginning of the creation, God`made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,and the two shall become one flesh'; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh.' "Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." (Mar 10:6-9)

See Also
Evolutionism & Living Reality
Problems of Evolutionism
A. E. Wildersmith - Media Library on Science & Bible
Australopithecus Deyiremeda: Strong Argument for Evolutionism?
Chesterton on Darwin's Missing Link
On Church and On Evolution - G K Chesterton
Creation & Evolution
The Anthropic Principle and Epistemic Issues

Origin of the Poem "When God Wants To Drill A Man"

The poem as quoted in Oswald J. Sander's (not to be confused with Oswald Chambers (1874-1917)) Spiritual Leadership (1967) credits it to an "Author Unknown". The poem as he quotes it is as follows:
When God wants to drill a man
   And thrill a man
   And skill a man,
When God wants to mold a man
   To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
   To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
   Watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
   Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
   And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which
   Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
   And he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends but never breaks
   When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses
   And with every purpose fuses him;
   By every act induces him
To try His splendour out--
   God knows what He's about!
                                    (Author Unknown)

Some have credited the poem under the title "Whom God Chooses" to Rev. Henry Francis Lyte (1793–1847), an Anglican hymnwriter and poet. But, I wasn't able to find it in any major collection of hymns written by him (See Hymntime, Cyberhymnal, Hymnary). But, there should be a reason why someone first credited it to him before many others copied the information.

Some others think it is a Christianized form of a poem originally written by an American poet Angela Morgan (1875-1957). Angela's poem "When Nature Wants A Man" is found in pages 92-95 of her anthology >Forward, March (1918), published by John Lane Company, New York. The poem is as follows:

When Nature wants to drill a man
And thrill a man,
And skill a man,
When Nature wants to mould a man
To play the noblest part;
When she yearns with all her heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall praise
Watch her methods, watch her ways!
How she ruthlessly perfects
Whom she royally elects;
How she hammers him and hurts him
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which only Nature understands
While his tortured heart is crying and he lifts beseeching hands!--
How she bends, but never breaks,
When his good she undertakes . . .
How she uses whom she chooses
And with every purpose fuses him,
By every art induces him
To try his splendour out--
Nature knows what she's about.

When Nature wants to take a man
And shake a man
And wake a man;
When Nature wants to make a man
To do the Future's will;
When she tries with all her skill
And she yearns with all her soul
To create him large and whole . . .
With what cunning she prepares him!
How she goads and never spares him,
How she whets him and she frets him
And in poverty begets him . . .
How she often disappoints
Whom she sacredly anoints,
With what wisdom she will hide him,
Never minding what betide him
Though his genius sob with slighting and his pride may not forget!
Bids him struggle harder yet.
Makes him lonely
So that only
God s high messages shall reach him,
So that she may surely teach him
What the Hierarchy planned.
Though he may not understand
Gives him passions to command--
How remorselessly she spurs him,
With terrific ardour stirs him
When she poignantly prefers him!

When Nature wants to name a man
And fame a man
And tame a man;
When Nature wants to shame a man
To do his heavenly best . . .
When she tries the highest test
That her reckoning may bring--
When she wants a god or king!--
How she reins him and restrains him
So his body scarce contains him
While she fires him
And inspires him!
Keeps him yearning, ever burning for a tantalising goal--
Lures and lacerates his soul.
Sets a challenge for his spirit,
Draws it higher when he s near it--
Makes a jungle, that he clear it;
Makes a desert, that he fear it
And subdue it if he can--
So doth Nature make a man.
Then, to test his spirit s wrath
Hurls a mountain in his path--
Puts the bitter choice before him
And relentlessly stands o er him.
"Climb, or perish!" so she says . . .
Watch her purpose, watch her ways!

Nature's plan is wondrous kind
Could we understand her mind ...
Fools are they who call her blind.
When his feet are torn and bleeding
Yet his spirit mounts unheeding,
All his higher powers speeding
Blazing newer paths and fine;
When the force that is divine
Leaps to challenge every failure and his ardour still is sweet
And love and hope are burning in the presence of defeat . . .
Lo, the crisis! Lo, the shout
That must call the leader out.
When the people need salvation
Doth he come to lead the nation . . .
Then doth Nature show her plan
When the world has found--a man!

The "Christianized" theory, obviously, seems more plausible.


The Original Division of Light From Darkness (Genesis 1:4)

And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. (Gen 1:4)

The usual way has been to look at this along with the statement that "God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night." (Gen.1:5). So Barnes notes:
God then separates light and darkness, by assigning to each its relative position in time and space. This no doubt refers to the vicissitudes of day and night, as we learn from the following verse: Gen 1:5 Called to the light, day, ... - After separating the light and the darkness, he gives them the new names of day and night, according to the limitations under which they were now placed.
But John Gill saw this division as original division of light and dark particles: "and God divided the light from the darkness: by which it should seem that they were mixed together, the particles of light and darkness"

Of course, the scientific views in the 17th century were quite different from the views now. Today, scientists hypothetically talk also of something called dark matter and dark energy. According to NASA,
We know how much dark energy there is because we know how it affects the universe's expansion. Other than that, it is a complete mystery. But it is an important mystery. It turns out that roughly 68% of the universe is dark energy. Dark matter makes up about 27%. The rest - everything on Earth, everything ever observed with all of our instruments, all normal matter - adds up to less than 5% of the universe. Come to think of it, maybe it shouldn't be called "normal" matter at all, since it is such a small fraction of the universe.
By fitting a theoretical model of the composition of the universe to the combined set of cosmological observations, scientists have come up with the composition that we described above, ~68% dark energy, ~27% dark matter, ~5% normal matter. What is dark matter?

We are much more certain what dark matter is not than we are what it is. First, it is dark, meaning that it is not in the form of stars and planets that we see. Observations show that there is far too little visible matter in the universe to make up the 27% required by the observations. Second, it is not in the form of dark clouds of normal matter, matter made up of particles called baryons. We know this because we would be able to detect baryonic clouds by their absorption of radiation passing through them. Third, dark matter is not antimatter, because we do not see the unique gamma rays that are produced when antimatter annihilates with matter. Finally, we can rule out large galaxy-sized black holes on the basis of how many gravitational lenses we see. High concentrations of matter bend light passing near them from objects further away, but we do not see enough lensing events to suggest that such objects to make up the required 25% dark matter contribution.

Is Genesis 1:4 talking about the division of light and normal matter from dark matter and energy? I am not in a position to immediately draw any conclusions now. But, I find the very statement of God dividing light from darkness quite stunning.

I think it was Emil Brunner who emphatically noted that God not only created light but also created darkness, based on the Biblical declaration in Isaiah 45:7 - "I form the light, and create darkness."

Obviously, if God didn't create darkness, where would it come from?

The Augustinian view of darkness as the absence of light emphasizes the significance of light as the reality and darkness as mere absence of that reality. By definition, this dualism appears certain as it is. Where there is no light, darkness is; where there is light, darkness cannot be. But, this doesn't explain how God could divide light from darkness.

Of course, we are not trying to depend on scientific hypotheses to help us understand this. But, isn't it remarkable that scientists are talking of dark matter and dark energy in opposition to the phenomenon of light?

Interestingly, the Scripture tells us that in the new creation and in the City of God, there will not be night anymore:

And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever (Rev.22:5)


The Shack (2017): Movie Review

There are a number of Christian movies that have tried to tackle the issue of human suffering in the face of faith in an all-good and all-powerful God. The Shack, based on the 2007 novel by William P. Young, is a serious attempt towards the same. The movie shows Mack who is in deep shock from the sudden loss of his youngest daughter struggling with the issue of faith and forgiveness. By a turn of events, He meets the Trinity which manifests to him in a homely setting as Mother-Son-Sarayu (a young lady as the Spirit). The Trinity don't look European (white) in this movie. The traditional image of the Father as someone aged (here, first shown as Mother (Papa) and later as Father-figure ) is kept intact. Of course, we may think the Ageless One need not be depicted as an old aged. But, the movie maker tried to not disturb the traditional imagery too much. The movie draws a very homely, friendly, and lively scenery of the conversations between Mack and the Trinity.

There are a number of theological and apologetic reasoning strewn into the conversations, most of which are familiar in Christian responses given to the problem of evil. Themes of freewill, divine sovereignty, moral choice, and the suffering of God feature well in the discussions. However, Mack cannot be helped by any of these until Wisdom shows him his daughter Missy happy in heaven. It is at this moment when hope, faith, and love combine in Mack and he is healed of the sting of suffering. Later on, of course, he also needs to learn to forgive the murderer of his daughter. He needs to forgive and say it out aloud that he has forgiven that man in order to be delivered.

The movie has made a great attempt at trying to make a sense of human suffering in light of the revelation of God in the Bible. In the final state, it is the vision of hope that he can meet his Missy again that has the greatest panacea for Mack's suffering. Then, it is an act of love - to forgive - that finally emancipates him. Of course, it also involves his remorse, repentance, and love to Triune God.

Of course, underlying all is a deep religious experience of personal encounter and a remarkable vision.


What Was the Light On Day 1 Of Creation And How Come There Was Night When The Sun Was Created On Day 4?

Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.

And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.

God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day. (Gen 1:3-5)

Then God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth"; and it was so.

Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the fourth day. (Gen 1:14-19)

On Day 1, pure physical light was created. The earth was covered with waters and deep darkness. The only movement was the movement of the Spirit over the face of the waters.

When God created light on Day 1, darkness was still there. Light was divided from the darkness in the sense that where light shines, darkness cannot be - light travels, darkness can't. Light is energy. The creation of Light signified the beginning of the Time-Clock. The time run down begins here. This is when the clocks begin to first tick. This is when the ancient symbols of time run - night and day - take charge. It doesn't mean that day is day because of the sun and night is night because of the moon. It signifies the beginning of physical time in the universe with the first act of God.

Of course, there are many opinions and suggestions given regarding the identity of this light. For examples, Dr. Rabbi Zev Farber documents a few rabbinic views such as the buried light view (that the original light got buried and withheld from sinful men), the unfixed lights view (that the lights on day 1 and 4 are identical but not fixed yet on day 1), and the placed in the sun view (that the light was placed in the sun to limit its radiance and heat on day 4). But, these are mere opinions and conjectures.

The fact stated is clearly that God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. It doesn't say "lights", but "light" signifying the creation of the generic light.

Gospel in Words and Gospel in Deeds

Jesus ministered in word and in deed. He said His works testified of Him.

The Gospel is not only communicated by words but also by deeds. Preaching, talking, apologetics, discourse, conversations exemplify the Gospel in words. But, the Gospel can and is expected to also be communicated by deeds.

One may confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord (Rom.10:10). But, they may deny the Lord by their works.
They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work. (Tit 1:16)
Many times, the Gospel is more effectively communicated with great conviction by actions, without words.
Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, (1Pe 3:1)


Life is an interweaving of stories. We hear stories all the time and stories help us to experience the experiences of others, though vicariously, though in a personal way feeling together with the other. One of the greatest gifts given to humanity by God is the gift of imagination. It is saddening when this is used vilely and foolishly, but humans need imagination to transcend their own world-frame and enter another world-frame to experience learning and benefit from the experiences of others. Stories cannot be told or listened to without the use of imagination.

Stories can help to shed light on ideas. Jesus used stories to teach great truths in simple terms. The Bible is filled with stories to help us understand God, this world and ourselves better. Stories can be realistic or fantastical. Unrealistic fictions may not always be useful. Educators such as Plato tried to suggest state censorship on stories that could confuse citizens on issues of absolutes, truth, and values.

If it wasn't for stories, we would just be limited to our own experiences. Stories help us to benefit from the experiences of others. A good story actually helps us feel with the characters portrayed in the story and identify with or learn from the tale being told.

There are good stories and there are evil stories. There are also evil-intentioned stories. Slandering, gossiping, and tale bearing are examples of evil-intentioned story-telling.

Stories are entertaining, which means that they can appeal to itchy ears. What one desires for reveals one's nature. The kind of stories that one is amused with reveals the kind of heart that one has. The kind of stories one believes in and likes reveals the kind of faith that one has. Stories can communicate holiness or sin, virtue or vice, happiness or sorrow.

Stories also reveal our inner heart, whether it stands on the side of evil or on the side of good.

Stories can influence worldviews and the way we perceive things. Stories can instill fear or make us courageous.

The Bible instructs us:
"Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly." (1Tim.4:7)


Creation-Faith and the Value of the Cosmological Argument

The cosmological argument takes off from the common-sense idea that every effect must have a cause. From a rational point of view, the idea of something being created or effected out of nothing is absurd. Therefore, in many religious cosmologies, God is seen as either the material cause or the formal cause or the final cause of the world. In many cosmogonies, the universe is looked at as created out of something (and not nothing), many times the body of God (the eternal One). The idea of creation out of nothing does not originate in reason, though it may seem sensible to the imagination.

Immanuel Kant had raised an important issue with the cosmological argument that looked to God as the source of the chain of cause-effect phenomena (or the world). He said,
"If the supreme being should itself stand in this chain of conditions, it would be a member of the series, and like the lower members which it precedes, would call for further enquiry as to the still higher ground from which it follows. If, on the other hand, we propose to separate it from the chain, and to conceive it as a purely intelligible being, existing apart from the series of natural causes, by what bridge can reason contrive to pass over to it? For all laws governing the transition from effects to causes, all synthesis and extension of our knowledge, refer to nothing but possible experience, and therefore solely to objects of the sensible world, and apart from them can have no meaning whatsoever." [The Critique of Pure Reason, Trs by NK Smith, 518-19)
While there has been much significant work done on the cosmological argument, the argument itself is not supposed to function as the proof for the existence of God. Of course, attempts to debunk the cosmological argument do not accomplish much than the popular "If God created the world, who created God?" or "If God could be eternal, why can't the universe be eternal?" And, apologists have devised strong arguments as an answer.

Perhaps, the greatest value of the cosmological argument lies in exposing the irrationality of cosmogonies that are bereft of the idea of an uncaused, transcendent cause. For instance, it argues that an infinitely temporal universe would be impossible. It would certainly be too hasty for cosmologists to find evidence in a big bang theory or the similar. The cosmological argument, however, does allow a rational anticipation of the belief in a creation out of nothing.

Ultimately, the idea of creation out of nothing is not a mere common-sense tenet of reason, but is a tenet of faith. And the revelation is particular to the Biblical account of creation. Therefore, we are told:
"Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." (Heb 11:3)

The Significance of Miracles

Jesus told the Jews to believe in Him, if not because of His words, then because of His works. The book of Acts records signs and wonders that accompanied preaching. The Bible talks also about lying signs by the devil in the last days. Obviously, as human experience proves (in all anthropological cultures), miracles play an important role in the area of faith and worldview formation.

Despite the Enlightenment euphoria challenging the possibility of miracles, chiefly David Hume's criticism of them, reports of miracles have only increased. Of course, there is the need to investigate the reports.

A notable deed of miracle cannot not be ignored, whether people believe the message or not. The Bible does show the supremacy of the divine deed in cases like Moses' confrontation with the Egyptian magicians, Elijah's confrontation with Baal priests, and Philip's preaching in Samaria where Simon the Magus was baptized.

One important aspect of the Christian Life is prayer. The very reality of prayer affirms the reality of divine intervention. A miracle is nothing but a direct divine act of intervention. While miracles may sometimes be notable and these become talk of the day, we must not miss the acts of God that are regularly experienced in our lives.

Jesus told His disciples that the world stands in greater accountability because of the works He has done. This means that miracles make our lives more accountable to God. In fact, the totality of miracles that have been done till now far exceed the number in the days of Christ. The world has a higher accountability.

It will not be a surprise if miracles meet with skepticism. The Jews didn't accept Christ's miracles as divine. There are those who wish to rationally explain a miracle. But, every human does have a divine encounter with an invitation to either accept or reject the supremacy of God.

In Surprised By Joy, C.S. Lewis doesn't describe his conversion as the result of logical arguments. He talks of having a divine encounter and given the time slice of choice, to decide to believe or reject. Of course, he chose to believe.*

I have seen cases where a young boy brought in a completely vegetable state, turned down by doctors, was healed completely in few hours through prayers. Another guy with a putrefying waist condition, incapable of even standing, was totally healed through prayers alone and came bicycling the next week. Another girl with blood flowing from her forehead was healed when the demon was cast out. Now, one can try to come up with a rational explanation, but it would be a miracle if any natural explanation of a supernatural work can obtain the same results.

But, one must remember, a miracle is not the result of following some laws of miracles or some formula. A miracle is an act of God's sovereign will and grace.

* Lewis mentions a number of events that preceded his conversion moment and were instrumental in compelling him to this free choice. His dissatisfaction with the writings of non-theist writers (who seemed "tinny" and shallow) and with the falsity of chronological snobbery (the fallacious view that the most modern view should be the most accurate and updated), along with his reading of Christian writers, especially Chesterton, played an important role in shedding light on the path he was walking on and the path that the Gospel offered. However, in all these, Lewis discerned God's move in his life and recorded the final divine move as a checkmate that drove him to his knees, "the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England", as he called himself.


Interview with J. P. Moreland (June 20, 2008)
PR: What is lost when the good news of the Kingdom is shared unaccompanied by the Spirit’s power?

JP: We lose the ministry of Jesus. He taught, proclaimed and demonstrated the Kingdom’s power and we should, too. We also lose the distinctively supernatural aspects of our religion. Finally, we lose intimacy with God because the power and presence of God are often two sides of the same coin in scripture.

PR: In Kingdom Triangle, you give some advice about how churches can encourage growth in the miraculous. Have you seen these ideas work out in churches newly open to the contemporary ministry of the Spirit?

JP: I have seen this. What is important is for each church to locate where they currently reside regarding these issues and be who they are, yet with an eye on growing a bit in this area. Then each church must be willing to take some risks and step out in faith such that God may not show up but if He does it will be obvious. Finally, each church must learn from its failures and continue to go forward.

A Witness To The Goodnews by J. Rodman Williams
In the charismatic movement there are clear evidences that the contemporary endowment of the Spirit is making for more effective witness, both personal and social. It is apparent on many charismatic fronts that there are both a fresh kind of "reality evangelism"- -a joyous, often indirect but highly potent, form of witness about the new life in Christ- -and many vigorous and creative expressions of concern for the manifold disorders in personal and corporate life.


If God Is Love Means The Father Eternally Loves The Son, Does God Is Judge Means He Eternally Judges The Son?

Augustine in the eighth book of On Trinity begins to talk of love as involving three substances: the lover, the loved, and love. Modern apologists like Ravi Zacharias have argued that the statement God is Love could only be true if God is essentially and eternally a Triune being: the Father eternally loves the Son through the Holy Spirit. Thus, it was not that God was all alone (a monad) before the creation and had nothing to love, but being the Triune inter-personal God, He ever existed as Love.

Of course, Augustine also talks about the possibility of loving oneself and sees three things involved in this as well: "when the mind knows itself and loves itself, there remains a trinity: mind, love, knowledge; and this trinity is not confounded together by any commingling". However, in this mono-love, there is only one person, though one may divide the experience into the lover, the loved, and love. Loving oneself is not inter-personal, and therefore possesses no love act of self-giving and submission. Therefore, the concept of the Triune God as Love is considered significant.

One objection raised to this argument goes something like this: If God is love means the Father eternally loves the Son through the Spirit, does God is Judge means the Father eternally judges the Son through the Spirit? And this applies to all statements such as "God is jealous" or "God is a consuming fire". Is the Father eternally jealous or eternally consuming the Son? The objection tries to reduce the argument to ad absurdum.

A few clarifications are necessary. The objection misses the difference between love and the other mentioned predicates. "Jealous" here is an adjective, not a noun. "Consuming fire" is metaphorical for the righteousness of God in His judgment. "Judge" is an office which stands in relation to the created world. The statement "God is Love" is not the same as "God is Loving". When one says that "God is Love", there is an identity of substance and not just participation in or possessing of an attribute. This cannot be predicated of any other being. For instance, one cannot say that Mr. A is Love; we only say Mr. A is loving in nature. To say God is Love is to speak in absolute and infinite terms. The statement "God is Love" points to God as the ground of all morality and personality. Note the following excerpt from a previous post:
There are at least three approaches to understanding Trinity.

The Rational Approach. ... personality finds its best explanation in the personal nature of God, whose existence as three persons (I-YOU-HE Sufficiency) in one Godhead is the ground of personhood.

The Moral Approach. It seeks to find in the doctrine of Trinity a rational ground for the absolute nature of moral virtues, such as love, goodness, and joy. If God didn’t eternally exist in a subject-object relationship, then He would be amoral and morality would not be absolute. The doctrine of Trinity provides a rational ground for any discussion of morality with respect to its absolute nature.... [See Illustrating Trinity]
Love is the summation of morality and personality and morality cannot be dissected of each other. To be a person is to be moral. Therefore, the reality of personality and morality must find an ontological ground in an infinite inter-personal Beginning and End of all things. The Triune Persons cannot be FOUR since inter-personal sufficiency is sufficed by the I-YOU-HE tri-personal Sufficiency), or else infinitude would be reduced to finite polytheism without any essential unity. Thus, the revelation of God as Love is crucial to our understanding of every other contingent reality of moral personhood.


Does the Moral Law Require a Moral Lawgiver?

One popular version of the moral argument for the existence of God has been that the reality or rational necessity of the moral law proves the existence of a moral lawgiver. However, we must admit that there are religious philosophies, especially in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism that do not find a leap from moral law to moral lawgiver necessary at all. In fact, in these, the moral law exists independently to any concept of deity. So, how justified is the argument from law to lawgiver?

I believe that the concept of a moral law and God are inseparable. Perhaps, the name God is better than the term Lawgiver, because the moral law doesn't exist because of an arbitrary command of God (as in divine command theories). Certainly, the moral law doesn't exist apart from God as if He only discovered or knew the principle and gave interpretations to humans in the form of rules and norms. The moral law is not just a set of commandments. It is the law of relationship between persons. Persons have the faculty for self-awareness and self-determination, which takes into account inter-personal relationships. A natural law is a law of relationship between elements or forces of nature. But, the moral law is the law of relationship between moral beings.

To say that the moral law can exist independent of God (Triune Inter-personal Being) is to claim that the moral law is not personal, or if it is personal, it isn't absolute and eternal. Obviously, it couldn't be absolute and eternal if it were restricted to just the flux of this-worldly phenomenon.

Also, this argues against the idea of an impersonal God. If God is impersonal, only impersonal laws would exist. The Eastern views consider personal consciousness as imperfect and impersonal existence as perfect. Thus, in their ultimate argument, the moral law would be very illusory. However, they cannot establish how such an idea could be justified by a "person" whose status of existence is "personal" and not "impersonal".

We know that the moral law exists by the fact that moral beings have concepts of justice and retribution. It is another thing if some call evil as good and good as evil. People usually resort to moral reasoning to settle these differences. However, moral reasoning about what is just and what is unjust would be baseless if there is not a law above the cultural or political "commandments", "traditions", and "customs" of men. Morality would then be highly relative, as some already accept so. But, to say that morality is relative is to make an absolute statement with the normative implication that relative laws ought not to be regarded as either good or evil. The relativist position is self-defeating.

This implies that the moral law does exist eternally and absolutely, not somewhere in the outer space but in the way in which persons are naturally inter-related. This involves the emotional-attitudinal-actional inter-relationship between persons. Such inter-personal relating cannot be the result of impersonal forces-- for if it were, then the idea of personal justice would be ultimately absurd. This effect of moral inter-relations cannot be caused by amoral causes. The cause must be Absolute, Eternal, and Inter-Personal. Therefore, we say that the reality of the moral law invites us to acknowledge the reality of the Triune God.


Is Fallenness Present As Opposite Sex Attraction In Some And Same-Sex Attraction In Others?

Sometime back, a pastor and leader in a reputed apologetic ministry commented that temptation to him occurred in the form of same-sex attraction, emphasizing that Christians must not regard temptation as sin but fight against temptation. He then went on to state that the fallenness of humanity is common to all and that while depravity may be manifest as opposite sex attraction in some, it appears as same-sex attraction in him and others. His comments went viral on social media. However, I disagree with his latter theological comment. Let me clarify the reasons:

1. Opposite sex attraction is considered natural in the scriptures and in common human history as well. Perversions exist with regard to this in the form of incest, adultery, sadism, and the like. However, this is not the case with same-sex attraction. It is by nature unnatural and cannot be put in the same terms as opposite-sex attraction. The statement made by the apologist hints at an understanding of same-sex attraction as something that exists as congenital perversion, i.e.present from birth as a pervert orientation. I believe that this is theologically inaccurate. It not only suggests that perversion is not uniform but also that it is diversely transferred as particular sin-acts and not just principle at birth. The blame is thrown on original sin. The Bible, however, states that God fashioned all hearts alike, but humans have perverted their ways. Romans 1 doesn't say that people became homosexuals because they were wired in that way. It says that they became so because they rejected God.

2. One must distinguish between addictive slavery to acts and dispositions of human nature. For instance, nobody is created with orientation to smoking. They get addicted to it by beginning to try smoking. Later, they turn slaves to it. Then, even after some accept Christ, the temptation to smoke may exist unless one is completely delivered. But, for one who has never smoked, this temptation doesn't exist. It is not due to congenital depravity but due to bondage inflicted by acts. The same applies even to sexual attractions. The one in bondage needs deliverance from that form of perverse and unnatural bondage. Nobody is wired to specific acts of sin at birth. They get snared by their choices. Some bondage could even have resulted from not being able to recover from abuse.

3. The Bible also talks of evil spirits and temptation by the devil towards greed, murder, pride and sin. If someone is in bondage because of giving in to evil powers, that person needs deliverance by the Holy Spirit. One cannot resist the devil, however, unless one has submitted to God. And, when that happens, the devil will flee.

The only true kind of deliverance is spiritual. The battle, whether of attraction or addiction, is in the mind. The Bible calls for renewal of mind. It means to reject any psychological or pseudo-theological opinion that tries to shift blame on a "sinful nature" that cannot be removed. Deliverance is real. There are many cases of people who have been delivered and have absolutely no desire for say smoking or alcohol anymore. They can't stand these. The songs of worship which were boring to them once are now sweet and refreshing to their souls. They can't sit with the scornful talking worldly things. There has been a change of nature, change of appetite, change of disposition. But, they had to first take that first step, though seemingly weak, towards repentance and faith in the Savior. They also must choose to be renewed in the spirit of their mind.

Four Religions That Originated In India - Chart

India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bali, Fiji, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, West Indies
Name derived from River Sindhu
Originally, Arya Dharma
Vedic Age (2000-600 BC)
Protests Age (600-200 BC)
Epics & Puranas (200 BC-AD 1000)
Bhakti Age (AD 1000-1750)
Modern Age (AD 1750-)

6 Schools of Philosophy: Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisesika, Uttara Mimmsa, Purva Mimamsa

Sects: Saivism, Saktism, Vaishnavism
Modern Movements: Arya Samaj, Ramakrishna Mission, Brahmo Samaj, Guru Cults
Sruti (Vedas); Smriti (Puranas, etc)
Vedas (Rig, Sama, Yajur, Atharva): Consists of Mantras, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, Upanishads
Itihasas: Ramayana & Mahabharata
Bhagavad Gita
Agamas: Manuals of Worship

4 GOALS OF LIFE: Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha
4 STAGES OF LIFE: Brahmacharya, Grihasta, Vanaprasta, Sanyasa
3 WAYS OF SALVATION: Jnana, Karma, Bhakti

Karma, Punarjanma, Bhakti
Diwali, Durga Puja, Dasara, Ganapati Puja, Navratri, etc

Idol Worship

Ashrama Dharma (4 Stages of Life)
Varna Dharma  (Caste Duty)
State religion of Burma, Thailand, Tibet, Cambodia and Laos.
Great following in Sri Lanka, China, Japan, South Korea.
6th c. BC: Birth of Siddhartha, Prince of Kapilavasthu
The 4 Sights: Old man, Sick man, Dead corpse, Hermit
At 29, leaves wife Yasodhara and son Rahul to become a hermit
At 35, attains Enlightenment
At 80, dies at Kusinara on a full-moon day

Sects: Theravada Buddhism: Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand
Mahayana Buddhism: Northern countries
Lamaism and Tantrik Buddhism: Tibet
Zen Buddhism: Japan
Theravada Scriptures in Pali Language
Tripitaka (Three Baskets)
Vinaya-Pitaka (Discipline)
Sutta-Pitaka (Discourse)
Abhidhamma-Pitaka (Metaphysical Basket)

Mahayana Scriptures in Sanskrit
Four Noble Truths: (a) Dukkha (suffering) is universal (b) Tanha (Desire) is the cause of suffering (c) Nirvana is the state of emancipation (d) 8-Fold Path of Emancipation: Right views, aspirations, conduct, livelihood, efforts, awareness, meditation
Anatta: No-soul. The “I” (ego) is a delusion formed by the 5 skandhas of nama-rupa (name-form): (a) material attributes (rupa) (b) feeling (Vendha) (c) Perception (Samjana) (d) mental dispositions and will (samskaras) (e) Reason (Vijnana)
Karma and Punarjanma:  Karma is the law of cause and effect. Cycle of Samsara: the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth
No need of God-hypothesis
Ahimsa: non-violence
Vesak (month of May): Birth of Buddha, Enlightenment, death
Monasticism: bhikkus
Sangha: The monastic order “community”
Mahayana: Worship of Buddhas and goddesses
The Three Refuges (Buddha, Doctrine, Brotherhood of monks)
Offerings, Prayers and Invocations, Transference of Merit, Pilgrimages
Relic Worship
599 BC: Birth of Vardhamana (Vaisaliya) in Magadha (Modern Bihar)
After 12 years of penance, attained Keval Jnana (omniscience)

Sects: Svetambara, Digambara

Agamas (Ganipitakas)
Angas (12), Angabahyas
Vows: (1) Not to take life (Ahimsa) (2) Not to lie (Satya) (3) Not to steal (Asteya) (4) Not to own property (Aparigraha) (5) Chastity (Brahmacharya) (6) Confession

Cycle: Utsarpini, Avarsarpini

7 Principles: Jiva, ajiva, asrava, bandha, samvara, nirjara, moksa.

Ajiva (pudgala, dharma, adharma, akasa, kala)+Jiva= 6 substances (dravyas)
Paryushana Parva, Mahavir Jayanti, Diwali, Gyana Panchami, Pausha Dashmi, Varshi Tapa, Maun-agiyara, Navapad Oli, Mahamastakabhisheka
Idol Worship of Tirthankaras, Yaksha and Yakshini
Meditation and Chanting of Mantras

15th c. AD: Founded by Guru Nanak (1469–1539)
1539: Guru Nanak chose Lahina (Guru Angad) as successor
Persecution under Aurangazeb
1699 : Rise of Khalsa under Guru Gobind Singh

Guru Granth Sahib
Adi Granth, Dasam Granth, Janamsakhis
Monotheism, Influence of Kabir, Salvation by grace

Kesh, Kanga, Kaccha, Kara, Kripan
Gurpurbs, Visakhi

Kirtan, Satsang, Langar

Prohibitions: Cutting hair, intoxication, priestly class

© Domenic Marbaniang, 2014

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