Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The question that will not go away; 'Why?'

I opened my Bible at the first page today and read from Genesis 1:1-8 in the NKJV…
Minister s Bible NKJV Amazon co uk Hendrickson Publishers Books

and I thought… I wonder if this is the right paragraph heading? It reads; 'The History of Creation'.

The translators, or perhaps rather the editors of this particular version of the NKJV, have begun their translation with a presumption. They have inserted their own paragraph heading and they have presumed that Genesis 1 is answering the question 'How did it all happen?' Those who contend for a young earth would be convinced that this was the right question and that what follows is properly described as 'The History of Creation', but suppose Moses had a different question in mind.

I say Moses because traditionally we hold that Moses was the human author of Genesis-Deuteronomy. Why did he write Genesis? Well the Old Testament provides the source documents for what we might call the Old Covenant and Moses is beginning a long introduction to the inauguration of the Sinai/Mosaic Covenant. I am not disputing his historical accuracy I am asking 'why did he write this?' My NKJV editors believe he was answering the question 'How did these things happen'?

What if he was asking the question 'Why did these things happen?'

If we take a look at the few verses printed above we will notice that the noun 'God' is used in every verse. That gives us a clue as to the real thrust of Genesis 1; it is all about God. I think the question in Moses mind is not so much 'How?' as 'Why?'

Let me tell you how I got into this line of thinking. I have been dipping into various debates between atheistic scientists and Christian scientists. These are men and women of considerable reputation and mental powers and yet they come up with such different answers. If we try to be generous to all concerned and ask why they come to such different conclusions the answer is much simpler than you might have thought. It is simply that they are asking different questions. The atheistic scientists are asking the question 'How?' whereas the Christian scientists are also interested in the question 'How?' but their first question is 'Why?' Why is there anything at all? Why was there a big bang, if indeed there was? Their's is a search for meaning as well as for an explanation of the mechanics. The atheistic scientist studiously avoids the question 'Why?' He cannot provide empirical evidence. To even ask the question is 'non-sense'. But the question just will not go away and Genesis 1 is part of the answer; God planned it and created it with mankind in mind.

Some years ago Sara Groves wrote a song about a dysfunctional teenager who spends lonely hours lying on her back looking skywards; Maybe there's a loving God. There are some penetrating questions she is turning over in her mind…

I'm trying to work things out • I'm trying to comprehend • Am I the chance result • Of some great accident • I hear a rhythm call me • The echo of a grand design • I spend each night in the backyard • Staring up at the stars in the sky • •

I have another meeting today • With my new counsellor • My mom will cry and say • I don't know what to do with her • She's so unresponsive • I just cannot break through • She spends all night in the backyard • Staring up at the stars and the moon • •

They have a chart and a graph • Of my despondency • They want to chart a path • For self-recovery • And want to know what I'm thinking • What motivates my mood • To spend all night in the backyard • Staring up at the stars and the moon • •

Maybe this was made for me • For lying on my back in the middle of a field • Maybe that's a selfish thought • Or maybe there's a loving God • •

Maybe I was made this way • To think and to reason and to question and to pray • And I have never prayed a lot • But maybe there's a loving God • •

Maybe this was made for me • For lying on my back in the middle of a field • Maybe that's a selfish thought • Or maybe there's a loving God • •

Maybe I was made this way • To think and to reason and to question and to pray • And I have never prayed a lot • But maybe there's a loving God • •

And that may be a foolish thought • Or maybe there is a God • And I have never prayed a lot • But maybe there's a loving God • •

Through all her pain I think she is asking the right questions.

Maybe I was made this way • To think and to reason and to question and to pray • And I have never prayed a lot • But maybe there's a loving God.

We were made to 'think and to reason and to question and to pray'. But instead of getting bogged down in the interminable questions of 'How?' give yourself a break and start with the question 'Why?'

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Wife of Jesus?

Some folk will see the title and think 'haven't we been here before?' For some it may be new and troubling. It is really a very old story but the news-hounds who live on sensationalism have dragged it up to the top of the pile again. It has appeared in several newspapers and here on the BBC's website.

When the whole Dan Brown frenzy broke out I did an evening's teaching entitled 'from Judas to Da Vinci' which you can watch here on the Biblebase Vimeo pages.

If you want the shorter version. These documents which pop up from time to time are part of a movement known as 'Gnosticism'. (sometimes they are just modern fakes) This was a movement which tried to infiltrate and to subvert Christianity. Its first documented traces stem from the times of Irenaeus who was writing more than a hundred years after the New Testament. The Gnostics actually created their own gospels, e.g. the Gospel of Judas as a method of spreading their ideas. These ideas were never part of authentic Christianity. They do not come from the roots of the Christian message but are more like a grotesque parasitic attachment. Those who are always on the hunt for ways to discredit Christianity seize on these occasional discoveries and raise Dan Brown's cry that 'Christianity is a lie'.

Don't be disturbed. These weird lies tried to hi-jack authentic Christianity more than 1500 years ago. They failed… as will their modern imitators.

If you want more details do watch the video.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Nullius in verba (Take nobody's word for it)

The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London". (wikipedia) Its motto and modus operandi is 'take nobody's word for it'.

I have just watched a BBC programme in which Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (JS) talked to three atheistic scientists including the man he describes as 'the world's most famous atheist' Richard Dawkins (RD). In these kind of encounters Rabbi Sachs usually gives a good account of himself but I was disappointed with his latest outing. RD returned to his theme that 'one cannot disprove the existence of fairies and the existence of God is the same kind of category'. They chatted for a little while as RD insisted that belief must be based on 'evidence' and 'not tradition, religion or revelation.' He pressed JS as to whether or not he believed that God had actually had a conversation with Abraham. JS was strangely reticent to give a straightforward answer to this question but emphasised Judaism's insistence on questioning. The first duty of a Jewish father, claims JS, is to get his child to ask questions. The first duty!?! Well it depends on the question.

JS almost certainly has in mind the Passover instructions which state And it shall be, when your children say to you, “What do you mean by this service?’ Ex 12:26 NKJV. But that question is to instruct the child as to the meaning of a revelation, not a scientific experiment. We are to engage our minds in the things that God has revealed; And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. Mark 12:30 NKJV.

True science and true faith are not enemies. They have their different areas of authority. As JS puts it 'science takes things to pieces and asks "how do they work"' 'religion brings things together and asks "what does it mean"". It is in that realm of 'what does it mean?' that revelation has the last word. It is perhaps significant that the question asked on the day of Pentecost was not 'what is happening' but rather 'what does it mean?' Acts 2:12. The answer to that question demands 'revelation' which RD will not accept and which JS seems to have little to say about too.

If the Royal Institute is willing to change its motto to 'take no man's word for it' it will get my hearty 'amen' but if it says I man himself is the final arbiter of truth it usurps God's prerogatives. Faith does not come by reason but by hearing… the word of God. As He spoke these words, many believed in Him. Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:30–32 NKJV.