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

Alexander Pruss's Blog: The blink of an eye response to the problem of evil

Alexander Pruss's Blog: The blink of an eye response to the problem of evil

I want to confess something: I do not find the problem of evil compelling. I think to myself: Here, during the blink of an eye, there are horrendous things happening. But there is infinitely long life afterwards if God exists. For all we know, the horrendous things are just a blip in these infinitely long lives. And it just doesn’t seem hard to think that over an infinite future that initial blip could be justified, redeemed, defeated, compensated for with moral adequacy, sublated, etc.
It sounds insensitive to talk of the horrors that people live through as a blip. But a hundred years really is the blink of an eye in the face of eternity.
Wouldn’t we expect a perfect being to make the initial blink of an eye perfect, too? Maybe. But even if so, we would only expect it to be perfect as a beginning to an infinite life that we know next to nothing about. And it is hard to see how we would know what is perfect as a beginning to such a life.
This sounds like sceptical theism. But unlike the sceptical theist, I also think the standard theodicies—soul building, laws of nature, free will, etc.—are basically right. They each attempt to justify God’s permission of some or all evils by reference to things that are indeed good: the gradual building up of a soul, the order of the universe, a rightful autonomy, etc. They all have reasonable stories about how the permission of the evils is needed for these goods. There is, in mind, only one question about these theodicies: Are these goods worth paying such a terrible price, the price of allowing these horrors?But in the face of an eternal future, I think the question of price fades ......
Here is an interesting response to the problem of evil. Certainly, humans don't look at "good" as always a total absence of any "pain". For instance, sacrifice is not considered an evil but a good; hard-work is praised as a good and not as an evil. But, when it comes to a much greater recompense of good that is done (be it the good of enduring pain to do something noble), the future glory infinitely outweighs the present pain.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. (Rom 8:18,19)
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2Co 4:17-18)
See Also:
The Problem of Evil as Evil
The Problem of Evil

What Is Wrong With Homosexuality?

Sodomites trying to attack Lot are striked blind by angels
The contention of being "oriented" argues from a supposedly ontological basis. Just because a person claims to be so oriented, gives him/her justification to act in the way he/she claims to be oriented. The premise is: Whatever is natural (or the nature of one) is moral and justified. However, there is a problem with this premise.

First of all, the objective nature of the claim has to be conclusively established -- the claims themselves being subjective and the nature of the investigation being empirical makes this quite unrealistic.

Secondly, it is quite superfluous to assume that within members of the same species, opposed "natures" or "orientations" exist. Obviously, that defeats any attempt to definition. Originally, one understands what a man or a cat or an elephant is by nature. If any member of a particular species seems to be behaving differently or contrary to this nature, the behavior is considered to be unnatural. But, if a multiplicity of "orientations" were allowed as natural, the definition of what is natural suffers.

The Bible calls homosexuality as being "against nature".
For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.
Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. (Rom 1:26-27)
Those who have no interest in the Biblical pronouncement, however, must explain their grounds for basis a moral argument for homosexual rights. Obviously, it will be self-defeating for them to accept the subjective "orientation" arguments. For, if they accept that, they would also be legitimizing every other form of sexual "perversion" (as we understand all such acts that are contrary to nature). [Check the Wikipedia List: List of Paraphilias]

For an atheist, the issue might be quite subjective and moral norms a matter of majority judgments. For instance, Bertrand Russel, in his debate with Father Copleston, argued that cases such as Hitler's in which he felt his actions to be right may be compared to people who have jaundice and so saw things as yellow. But, if the jaundiced were the majority, their view would be considered "natural" and the others "unnatural". Such an argument is ultimately self-defeating. How would a society in which everyone believed that murdering each other was good and protecting each other was considered evil be like? How about a society in which homosexuality is considered natural because the majority are homosexuals and heterosexuality is considered unnatural? In both the cases, if all other implications of the argument are worked out, there should be no human left to sustain the argument. Everybody will kill each other and sincere homosexuality would put an end to human reproduction, wouldn't it? Certainly, something is wrong here.

Sadly, the "think-tanks" of liberation only want to sing the chorus of feelings and independence. These are their only absolutes that they fight for. But, how can one claim to have an answer without first working out all the implications of a problem? How can one have arrived at a conclusion without first following all the necessary steps involved in working out the solution of a problem? These are not "think-tanks"; these are choruses.

The word "homosexual" is malakos in the Greek Bible. It means:
1) soft, soft to the touch
2) metaphorically, in a bad sense
    2a) effeminate
        2a1) of a catamite
        2a2) of a boy kept for homosexual relations with a man
        2a3) of a male who submits his body to unnatural lewdness
        2a4) of a male prostitute

The word "sodomites" is arsenokoites in the Greek Bible. It means "one who lies with a male as with a female, sodomite, homosexual."

The Bible gives the judgment:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. (1Co 6:9-10)


Can Somebody Accept Jesus And Yet Be Opposed To The Holy Spirit?

The Jewish leaders and teachers, during the days of Jesus on earth, were looking to the coming of the Messiah. However, when Jesus the Messiah appeared, they crucified Him. They judged Him as being blasphemous and attributed His miracles to the devil. Jesus commented on their acts saying that He drove out demons by the Spirit of God, and that sin against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven.

Mat 12:28. "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Mat 12:30-31 "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad. Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy [against] the Spirit will not be forgiven men.

I wonder if this is also not true of people who claim to know Christ but reject and oppose the works of the Holy Spirit. Would they really receive Jesus if He appeared today and did the miracles? Or would they reject Him for not fitting in to the doctrine of Christ that they teach?

Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice. They recognize His voice not because of being prepared to recognize Him by human doctrines. They recognize Him because they are His sheep. (cf. John 8, 10)

Certainly, miracles done in the Name of Jesus cannot be attributed to anything "strange" to Him?

But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. (Mark 9:39)

The counsel of Gamaliel may be wiser here for some:

"And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it -- lest you even be found to fight against God." (Acts 5:38-39)

However, those who really know Christ will certainly be able to also recognize His works. If His works seem "strange fire" to them, is it because they serve another Christ?!! This is something to really ponder upon.

It is impossible to have received Christ and yet be opposed to the gifts and workings of the Holy Spirit, because one can only accept Christ through the Spirit.

1Co 12:3. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.

Again, it is evident that one who does miracles in Christ's Name is not against Him. Also, one who accepts Christ through the Spirit cannot just accept Christ and reject the Spirit. This is self-contradictory. So, logically as well, those who are opposing the works done in the Name of Christ (which obviously are not anti-Christian) are opposing the works of Christ, the works of the Spirit.

Also, it must be emphasized that those who take the Name of Christ genuinely (not fraudulently) will also genuinely depart from iniquity. This is definitely characteristic of the separated and redeemed life.

2Ti 2:19 Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity."

But, there is no excuse of partial or progressive revelation here; as some say, that the Lutherans didn't know about water baptism, but Baptists got this advanced revelation; but, Pentecostals have received an even higher revelation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. But, if this was so, the Pharisees and the Sadducees should have been excused. It is not a matter of "how much" they know, but "what" they know. The Israelites in the wilderness were as much guilty of rejecting Christ and resisting His Spirit as would anyone today be who does so.

1Co 10:9 nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents

Heb 4:2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard [it.]

Certainly, it is impossible to receive Christ and genuinely be opposed to the works of the Spirit. Isn't it so?

Liberty in Preaching Vs Power in Preaching - Billy Graham

Quote Location: 10m 6secs
You know, in preaching I like to have liberty in preaching- we call it. But, that has nothing to do with power. Many times when I have not had liberty in preaching, there has been the power of the Holy Spirit in service. So, God doesn't go according to my feelings as to what I have liberty enough; He goes according to the power of the Spirit of God in answer to prayers of many people who have prayed. But, it is a wonderful feeling for a preacher to have liberty. But, sometimes when the wind is blowing and things are going wrong, and it's raining, and... you are tired and you haven't prepared well... you don't have liberty. But, God can take even that and use it for His glory. There is a difference between liberty and power.

Six Strategies For Teaching (NCTQ Report)

The National Council on Teacher Quality has pointed out six strategies that help in the promotion of learning among students.1 They are as follows:

Strategies To Help Take in Information
1. Pairing graphics with words.
Hearing and Seeing are two important channels of receiving information. Teaching must pay attention to both.

2. Linking abstract concepts with concrete representations.
Every abstract thought can be explained with a concrete example. Teachers must use illustration and examples generously to help shed light on the teaching material.

Strategies To Help Connect Information
3. Posing probing questions.
Asking students questions can help them think and process information.

4. Repeatedly alternating problems with their solutions provided and problems that students must solve.
"Explanations accompanying solved problems help students comprehend underlying principles, taking them beyond the mechanics of problem solving."

Alternating problems with solutions (Solve one and then ask the student to solve the next) helps the student to learn better.

Strategies to Help Remember
5. Distributing practice.
"Students should practice material several times after learning it, with each practice or review separated by weeks and even months." Repeated practice and feedback are essential to progress in learning.

6. Assessing to boost retention.
"Beyond the value of formative assessment (to help a teacher decide what to teach) and summative assessment (to determine what students have learned), assessments that require students to recall material help information “stick.”

1 NCTQ, Learning About Learning, January 2016

Happy Independence Day India! 2017


Today, we celebrate once again the fact of India becoming a sovereign nation, free from the rule of the British Monarchy. Colorful decors, hoisted flags, patriotic songs, happy children will flood schools, streets, and stadiums.

We celebrate our political freedom today. But, we are not blind to the sight of oppressed and marginalized fellow citizens. We are not deaf to the cries of orphans and widows. The nation still bleeds and groans in agony from bruises of internal hurts. The external chains have fallen. But, there are wars within.

Social evils, terrorism, naxalism, false gurus, evil rackets, kidnappings, rapes, murders, employee injustice, abuse, drunkenness, thefts, crowd fury, human trafficking, educational corruption, bureaucratic corruption, bribery, cheating, faking, lying, infidelity, forgery, drug abuse, unnatural acts fill the content of daily newspapers. They paint a sad, dismal picture of the nation.

But, there are several groups and organizations that are fighting against these evils. Some of them have achieved tremendous success. They have helped women, children, and men find justice and dignity in the world. On this Independence Day, we laud their combined efforts.

There have also been millions of alert and responsible citizens who have been  alert and have helped rescue children, women, men from dangers, from trafficking, from exploitation. Some of them may not have done very big heroic deeds. They only have been cautious to keep our environment clean, to not litter, to not cause pollution. These simple deeds have contributed to the infinity of drops that have made the ocean of goodness in our nation resplendent as the morning sun. We appreciate and honor them on this day!

We laud every gesture of kindness, every eye of mercy, every helping hand, every act of goodness, every labor to excel in that which is noble and philanthropic. We laud every voice of gentleness, every demeanor of politeness, feet that have gone the extra mile to do others good.

We praise those who have borne pain with strength and refused to return evil for evil, who have chosen to put an end to evil by bearing its scourges on their backs. They are the true heroes of our nation.

We celebrate the Independence of the truly independent Indian!

Happy Independence Day!


Multilingual Churches

There are various ways in which linguistic issues are being tackled by churches. For instance, there are those who wish to reach out to their own linguistic community and so traverse land and sea to reach their own community. Examples of such would be Hindi or Sindhi or Malayalee congregations making efforts to establish linguistic church communities in other nations. There are others who wish to only have their linguistic denomination in the foreign country they are living in. Sadly, not many of these may be willing to reach and draw in disciples from other linguistic communities.

However, there are examples of churches that hold services in a particular vernacular or more common language, but are not known as a Hindi church or a Chinese church or an English church. These are more open to reach out everyone around and when they feel the need to have services in more languages, they do so while keeping intact the vision of the one flock.

In Acts 2, we have a very vivid example of God's way. When the disciples were filled with the Spirit, they spoke in tongues, but the Scripture testifies that people from various language groups heard in their own respective languages the words that the disciples were uttering by the Spirit.
And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs-- we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God." (Act 2:6-11)

Paul says to the Corinthians: "unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air." (1Co 14:9)

Truly the Church is redeemed by Christ's "blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Rev 5:9) and Christ wants all to hear the words of His Gospel of liberation in words that can be understood. It is very important for people to hear the words distinctly and understand their meaning.
So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading. (Neh 8:8)

Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played? ...So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air.... Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me. Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. (1Co 14:7-12)

Paul here talks about speaking in tongues and the importance of the gift of interpretation. The principle, however, is that people should be able to understand the meaning of the words in worship service. Of course, this also means that preachers shouldn't use jargon and words (no matter how elite it may make themselves feel) that make no sense to the congregation. On the other hand, it also means that where the best possible solution is procuring the help of an interpreter to translate the message (as in bi-lingual or multi-lingual single services), the preacher must try to facilitate ease of translation rather than make it trying to the interpreter.

Pokémon Go, Safe Or Unsafe?

Snipshot from Wikipedia

We observed this evening around 15-20 people crowded in a place to catch a Pokémon. Seems like Pokémon Go, invented by Japanese company Nintendo, was successful in bringing the game lovers to this location. The game has already been lauded by some for contributing towards combining virtual game framework with physical activity in real locations. The term used is "augmented reality"--one has to find the pokémon, invisible in the real world but visible in the virtual world of the game, in real locations. Some think a game that augments by inviting physical activity is much better than video games that are sedentary in nature. But, there have been incidents when game players were so focused on the phone while walking to catch a Pokémon that they weren't aware of speeding vehicles. The website provides some cautionary guidance:
* When you’re out and about playing Pokémon GO, stay aware of your surroundings at all times—especially when traveling alone...
* To make sure you and those around you are safe, do not play Pokémon GO while riding a bike...
* If a Pokémon appears in an inaccessible location, or in a place where it might not be safe to approach it (for example, on a construction site or on private property), do not try to catch it...
* When using the camera function in Pokémon GO, make sure everyone in the photo is OK with having their picture taken and that there isn’t anything personal in the photo that you wouldn’t want to share.

About a year ago, someone asked me if this game wasn't demonic in nature. People were going to find "ghostlike" characters that could not be detected without the use of the game app. Of course, the pokémons are not demon spirits. However, there certainly are concerns with regard to both the concept and the content of the game. A year ago Michael Snyder in Charisma News addressed some of the concerns:

Nintendo is now worth billions of dollars more than it used to be. But is there a dark side to Pokemon Go? Is it potentially evil, dangerous or demonic?

Many people would dismiss such questions as complete nonsense. Unlike most video games, Pokemon Go actually requires people to leave their homes, get some exercise and visit real places. This type of game is being called "augmented reality," and it is bringing people together in new and interesting ways. In fact, the Washington Post is reporting that a lot of people are actually ending up in church as they hunt Pokemon creatures....

However, he also hinted that the content of the game could encourage active interest in occultic themes and evolutionary ideas:

But much more alarming to many is the content of the game itself. As Mena Lee Grebin has pointed out, "Pokemon" actually comes from two Japanese words that mean "Pocket Monster"...

Even the Washington Post admits that there are creatures such as "a flaming demon" in Pokemon Go. As players progress through the game, they collect these monsters and demons, train them, and have them fight against Pokemon owned by others. Here is more from Ricky Scaparo...

The Pokemon are supposed to be "monsters" that have special powers and share the world with humans. The idea of the game is to have the children learn how to collect as many Pokemon as possible, train them, and use them against other people's Pokemon by invoking the various abilities of each Pokemon creature. Pokemon can evolve and pass through various levels, 100 being the highest. Colored energy cards are sometimes used to aid the Pokemon....

According to occult expert Bill Schnoebelen, Pokemon players engage in all sorts of activities that would be considered deeply occult if they were done in real life...

Like many video games, Pokémon is riddled with occult concepts. Concepts like "magical stones," teleportation, ghosts, all-seeing eye, psychic power and using spirits to achieve results in the real world are all givens in this game realm. All of this is contrary to scripture. The Pokémon games and comics, etc., teach what I have called a magic worldview that is completely opposed to the Bible.....

Of course, Michael concluded that though others may have reasons to play the game, it is not for him.

Adam Holz in Focus on the Family suggests a not-forbidden-but-watch approach:

Pokémon's overarching worldview is a magical, vaguely Eastern-inspired one paired with nods to evolution (creatures can, essentially, become bigger, better versions of themselves throughout the game). That worldview is definitely one that parents of young fans should be aware of and talk about, especially if Pokémon Go spurs interest in diving deeper into the myriad other Pokémon video games, TV shows, movies and trading cards out there.....

Pokémon Go offers families an opportunity for exercise and relationship … but only if we pay attention together to wise boundaries and guard against becoming so engrossed in an imaginary world that we lose sight of the real one.

But, Matt Slick at CARM wonders if the game is even safe to be given entry into Christian homes:

I do not see how allowing children to play with games that encourage fighting, reading of minds, use of poison, mimicry, taunting, teleportation, hypnosis, and evolution can be a good thing.  This is not training a child to righteousness. It is accepting the occult and secular evolution.  Is this what we, as Christians, want our children to meditate on?  Of course not.

If children are conditioned to accept these things in youth, then they will be more likely to accept these ideas in adulthood.  This leads people away from God's word and truth, not toward it.  This is dangerous to a person's eternal destiny.

For those believers who wish to know for themselves if they should be playing this game or any other game, I recommend the following questions to ponder upon:

1. Why do I want to play this game?
2. What makes this game interesting to me?
3. How does it help me redeem my time for the days are evil?
4. Can I be filled with the Spirit and praise God making melody in my heart as I play this game?
5. Can I do whatever I do, I do to please Christ when I play this game?
6. Does this game help me to ponder on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy? (Phil 4:8)
7. Can I be better without this game?

We Have Toiled All Night And Caught Nothing

He said to Simon, "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." But Simon answered and said to Him, "Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net." And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. (Luk 5:4-6)

Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We are going with you also." They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. (Joh 21:3)

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. (Jam 4:13-17)

And they rose early in the morning and went up to the top of the mountain, saying, "Here we are, and we will go up to the place which the LORD has promised, for we have sinned!" And Moses said, "Now why do you transgress the command of the LORD? For this will not succeed. Do not go up, lest you be defeated by your enemies, for the LORD is not among you. For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and you shall fall by the sword; because you have turned away from the LORD, the LORD will not be with you." But they presumed to go up to the mountaintop; nevertheless, neither the ark of the covenant of the LORD nor Moses departed from the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who dwelt in that mountain came down and attacked them, and drove them back as far as Hormah. (Num 14:40-45)

I returned and saw under the sun that-- the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all. For man also does not know his time: like fish taken in a cruel net, like birds caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them. (Ecc 9:11-12)

Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up. But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, "Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying,`Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.' Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. (Act 27:20-25)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the LORD and depart from evil.
It will be health to your flesh,
And strength to your bones. (Pro 3:5-8)

This heart, a sail of Your wind
Finds direction and purpose
When You blow in!

We've labored all night
We've toiled sleeplessly,
But, Lord we've caught nothing!

We thought of many solutions,
We came up with many plans,
We've toiled unceasingly,
Lord, but we've caught nothing!

Our night of labor
Has come to an end,
We've come to our end;
Then, we saw You walk in,
Light of God, the Morning Star!
You said,
"Come to me, all you who labor,
And I will give you rest!"

This heart, a sail of Your wind
Finds direction and purpose
When You blow in!

It is not our talents,
It is not our repentance,
It is not our trying to mend things our way;
It is only in our living by Your word
That we find healing and health
For our bones,
And rest for our souls.


Existential Challenges of A Mega Church

The challenges of a megachurch are not a few. But, the most disturbing challenge is the challenge of defining what true "shepherding" really is. One "church" in the south of India uses membership card swipes to track attendance of church members. If a card is not swiped, the member will get a call from the church office the next day to inquire if all things are fine. There are also various plans and prizes being offered all the time to attract financial involvement. On the member's birthday, gifts would be sent to them to express how personally valuable the member is. In a way, this group tries to make sure that the members are active, at least in attendance and financial contributions.

Another pastor of a fast growing congregation confessed the dilemma that he experienced. He met a young man during the week who expressed how happy he was to finally find this church. The pastor wanted to hear more. The young man replied that he was trying to find a church in which people would not ask him any questions or try to bother him with anything, a place where he could just go in and come out. This mega church offered him the very thing he wanted: attendance, enjoying worship and sermon, but no personal member identity. Of course, no pastor will be happy to hear such a "happy" confession from anyone. The services from this assembly are also live streamed so that those who cannot attend the services can watch them online and also pay offerings and tithes online.

The questions to ponder upon are:

  • What does it mean to be an overseer of God's flock?

  • What does it mean to make disciples and teach?

  • Is it just about opening an office and preaching from the pulpit?

  • What does it mean to be a flock?

  • Should churches follow corporate business organizations in their patterns of employee or customer relations?

  • What does it mean to comfort each other and edify one another (1Th 5:11)?

Probably, the answers to some of these questions are not in any textbook or seminary classroom but in the heart of a true shepherd.

"My Church" "Your Church" - How Right Are These Expressions?

With the growth of denominational and non-denominational groups, the expressions "my church", "our church", "your church", and "their church" have also become part of many a church jargon. Of course, none of the users of such expressions intend to mean that the church "belongs" to them in the sense of "ownership". Usually, users of these phrases only may mean to say "the local church group that I am going to or am part of". Or do they?

Certainly, only Christ has used the expression "My church" and "My sheep" in the Bible. He said,
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:18)
Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep. (Joh 21:17)

The apostles only used expressions such as "the church in Jerusalem" and "the church in your house" (Acts 11:22; Philem 1:2). When talking to the Ephesian elders, Paul said:
Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. (Act 20:28)

Notice, he says "the church of God".

Usually, pastors may be using the phrase "my church" in the sense of "the flock I am made accountable of". However, many servants of God consciously refuse to use such phrases. They feel grieved when anyone would use such a phrase and will humbly correct it as "Christ's church" or the "church of Jesus", and so on; rightly so.

But, in a highly fragmented world, where at times one may find several "churches" in the same location, or even the same building(!), people wish to identify with some name to distinguish between the groups, and these pronouns sound very meaningful and useful to them in such contexts. But, these phrases also often express the sense of fragmentation.

One danger of possessiveness is to forget that the Chief Shepherd is the one who cares for each His flock. The other danger of fragmented identities is that one may not feel so much at one with a member going to another group. But, if one cannot love his neighbor whom he sees, how can he love the Lord whom he doesn't see? How real is this sense of "belongedness" to some group? Could it be cultic or communal to some extent? The same question can also be asked of para-church missionary movements and groups.

The flock is essentially the flock of God. The church is the sheep of God. Pastors and elders are only overseers entrusted with the care of the sheep. This doesn't mean that they become restricted in their accountability for just flocks of one "denomination" and "group". This responsibility is not man-appointed and doesn't have boundaries imposed by men. It also doesn't end with retirements imposed by man. Their accountability is primarily to God and for whoever the Lord appoints them to take care of.
Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. (1Pe 5:2-4)

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