How Do We Know God Exists?

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Planet Saturn

By Spencer D Gear PhD


God has given us two pieces of evidence in His infallible Scriptures. They tell us the truth about how anyone (Christian and non-believer) can know of God’s existence. Whether you believe the Bible or not does not alter the fact that God provides these two pieces of evidence that are certain evidence for God’s existence.

(1) The first piece of evidence is found in natural revelation. We see it in the immensity Psalm 19:1 describes, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (NIV). Look into the skies at night-time and day-time and what do you see? To the naked eye, we see a whole array of planets in orbit. We call them the stars and they declare God’s glory. H. C. Leupold, a commentator who understood Hebrew, wrote:

“Heavens” are in an emphatic position (at the beginning of the sentence) in the Hebrew as much as to say: ‘The very heavens declare, or even, The heavens in a distinct sense declare. Since the participle follows and expresses continuous action, we must render the verb “are telling,” for they do it continually by day or night. Downright majesty is the “glory” which these heavens advertise. Since this is a truth which is apparent even to the heathen (cf., Rom. 1:19ff.), one of the most general names for God is used—‘el, “the Strong One”.[1]

Creation reveals the nature of God. He didn’t begin the Psalm with a comparison of God and evolution, or of nature versus science. For the psalmist, the heavens and the skies form the structure of knowing that God exists in the earthly and heavenly realm.[2]

NASA may give us some insight by confirming the enormity of this evidence:

NASA[3] Telescope Reveals Largest Batch of Earth-Size, Habitable-Zone Planets Around Single Star

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This illustration shows the possible surface of TRAPPIST-1f,[4] one of the newly discovered planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system. Scientists using the Spitzer Space Telescope and ground-based telescopes have discovered that there are seven Earth-size planets in the system.

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In only a few centuries, the scale of the solar system and of the universe expanded incredibly as a result of investigation and study. The telescope and the Copernican theory replaced the Earth with the Sun at the center of the solar system. The five wandering lights (called planets by the Greeks) became individual worlds. New discoveries in physics and spectroscopy made it possible to analyze and even weigh the distant stars. Still larger telescopes moved the Sun from the center of things to the fringes of the Milky Way galaxy, a huge system of 100 billion or more stars. Then the Milky Way became only one of billions of galaxies in an expanding universe. New telescopes, sensitive to radio waves, probed the universe, discovering strange objects and powerful sources of energy that our eyes could never see.[5]

Is there anything more that NASA can tell us?

clip_image006An ear for the universe.[6]
An ear for the universe. The dish antenna of a large NASA radio telescope located at Madrid, Spain is outlined against the sunset sky. The antenna is 64 meters (21 Ofeet) in diameter. It is used to track interplanetary spacecraft, to send commands to them, and to receive from them the radio signals that carry scientific information and pictures of other worlds. Other, even larger, radio telescopes analyze radio waves from distant stars and galaxies. Radio telescopes have even detected a whisper of noise from the edge of the universe, an echo of the Big Bang that formed the universe 15 to 20 billion years ago. Radio telescopes like this one could also be used to detect extraterrestrial life – by listening for the communications of other civilizations in space.

clip_image008The big blue marble.[7]
Earth, the home planet of humanity, rises above the scorched and cratered surface of the Moon in this photograph taken from the Apollo 11 spacecraft shortly before the astronauts set foot on the Moon. In addition to making it possible for to see new worlds, the Space Age gave us a new view of our own planet. Astronauts, poets, writers, and average people alike were struck by the image of the Earth as a tiny, blue, hospitable, life-bearing world, floating in a vast uncaring blackness, side-by-side with the battered and lifeless Moon.

(2) The second piece of evidence for God’s existence is found within the human person.

According to the Wise Man (King Solomon) of the Book of Ecclesiastes, he states it clearly: “He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[8] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Eccl. 3:11 NIV). We see one beauty in summer, another in autumn, a third in winter, and finally the beauty of spring and its flowers. Then the writer turns to the internal dimensions of a person:

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                                                 Royalty-free Dreamstime.

What makes human beings higher than animals is this sense of eternity that God has placed in people. My son wrote on one of his social media posts, “I don’t believe in life after death.” God has declared he’s a liar. Every human being has the sense of eternity within him or her. This is an aspect of our being made in God’s image and likeness that was not lost with the fall into sin.

“Man has a deep-seated ‘sense of eternity’ (Delitzsch), of purpose and destinies.”[9] Even though people deny it, all have eternity in their hearts. They want to live beyond what they see and hear.

Conclusion

God has placed the evidence for his existence so clearly that all human beings can see it: (1) We see his existence in the skies he has made and continues to demonstrate His evidence, and (2) Within every human being there is evidence of God’s existence in eternity in human hearts.
Nobody is without excuse when they stand before God.

Notes


[1] H. C. Leupold 1959. The Wartburg Press / Evangelical Press, London, England, p. 178.

[2] Some of these ideas are gleaned from Willem A. VanGemeren 1991, Psalms, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 5, The Zondervan Corporation, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 179.

[3] See NASA explanation of use of images and research in the public domain HERE.

[4] “NASA announced the discovery of the most Earth-sized planets found in the habitable zone of a single star, called TRAPPIST-1,” Largest Batch of Earth-size Habitable Zone Planets Found Orbiting TRAPPIST-1, Exoplanet Exploration, available at: https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/trappist1/ (Accessed 27 September 2022).

[5] NASA, “The Unfolding Universe,” available at: https://history.nasa.gov/EP-177/ch1-2.html (Accessed 27 September 2022).

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] The NIV footnote is, “Or also placed ignorance in the human heart, so that.”

[9] H. C. Leupold 1969. London: Evangelical Press, p. 91.

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 September 2022.

How Do I Know God exists?

By Spencer D Gear PhD

There is no need to guess as God has provided at least two pieces of evidence in Scripture. They are:

1. Look to the skies, Psalm 19:1 declares, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (NIV). Look to the heavens and you’ll see the majesty of what God has created in the skies. C. S. Lewis wrote, “I take this to be the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.”[1]

Since the time of the Book of Psalms, NASA (the USA space agency) has discovered some amazing pictures of what is in the heavens:

Like most NASA astronomical satellites, Compton would go on to far exceed its expected mission lifetime. Designed to last for two years, Compton served as an orbiting sentinel for more than nine years.

Compton made a series of remarkable discoveries. It found dozens of galaxies that are shooting black-hole-powered jets directly toward Earth at virtually the speed of light. Fortunately, these galaxies are so far away that they cause no harm, but their power and sheer numbers flabbergasted astronomers. Closer to home, Compton mapped out vast clouds near the center of our galaxy where particles of ordinary matter are smashing into and annihilating their antimatter counterparts.[2]

Birthplace of stars – A Hubble Space Telescope image of a star-forming region of interstellar hydrogen gas and dust in the “Eagle Nebula” 7,000 light-years away in the constellation Serpens.clip_image001

2. Look within yourself to determine what God has placed in the human heart. “He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Eccles 3:11 NIV).

A better possibility, and the one that is the typical interpretation, is that olam [eternity] refers to God’s placing an eternal longing or sense of eternity in the human heart. Taking this understanding to be the correct one, Ecclesiastes 3:11 affirms the idea that humans operate in a different way than other forms of life. We have a sense of eternity in our lives; we possess an innate knowledge that there is something more to life than what we can see and experience in the here and now.[3]

Conclusion

There is more than adequate evidence for God’s existence if human beings are open to receiving these two pieces of evidence. They are available all the time. There is no time when their evidence ceases.

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 25 September 2022.

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[1] C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, p. 63.

[2] Robert Naeye, NASA, “Astronomy: NASA’s Eyes on the Heavens,” available at: https://www.nasa.gov/50th/50th_magazine/astronomy.html (Accessed 25 September 2022).

[3] Got Questions, “What does it mean that we have eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11)?” Available at: https://www.gotquestions.org/eternity-in-our-hearts.html (Accessed 25 September 2022).

Rationalists hack into Australia’s “no religion” in census data

By Spencer Gear PhD (New Testament)

Free census - Vector Art

This article was first published in On Line Opinion, 4 July 2022.

Hugh Harris did it as a Rationalist in his Opinion piece on the census in 2017: ‘MORE Australians ticked “No religion” in the 2016 Census than any other belief category’ (Courier-Mail, June 27 2017).

Further ‘religion bashing’ came in 2017 from another Rationalist, Tosca Lloyd: “The pressure, then, for governments to take seriously the need for our society to secularise is more powerful than ever. But we still have a long way to go. While the requirement of all parliaments in Australia, state and federal, to cite the Lord’s Prayer at the opening of their deliberations is manifestly at odds with the notion of a secular government, there are less symbolic reminders of religious bias” (Sydney Morning Herald, June 27, 2017).

What tune did the anti-God pundits play for the 2021 census? They are on message: ‘The proportion of Australians identifying as Catholic declined from 23 to 20 per cent over the past five years while self-identified Anglicans dropped from 13 to 10 per cent. By contrast, the share of Australians identifying as “non-religious” has surged. Thirty-nine per cent of Australians now identify as non-religious, up from 30 per cent in 2016.

A representative of the anti-God Humanist Society, Heidi Nicholl, could not get away from harping on the “no religion” theme, ‘The 2021 Australian census results have shown a significant rejection of religiosity with the proportion of people choosing “No religion” increasing from 29.6 per cent in 2016 to 38.4 per cent in 2021, in figures released by the ABS.’ The title of the article was, ‘Census results mean religions should stop getting special treatment.’ Why should minority groups refuse to receive special treatment? A public outcry should follow if people claimed the Stroke Foundation should not be supported as it provides for a minority group of victims. The same should happen for the support of a third of the population with disabilities.

This census data indicates a decline in support for religion, which I find to be a good thing, and a decline in support for Christianity. As an evangelical Christian, I ask:

So what?

What is religion and do we need it? Religion is ‘the belief in and worship of a superhuman power or powers, especially a God or gods.’ There is nothing especially Christian about religion, particularly when it relates to serving ‘gods.’ Religion is easily contaminated.

The demise of religion could be a step in the right direction if it related to worship of the true God. We need to make it clear what will replace this breakdown of religion.

Is Australia becoming a nation to be evangelised?

The Rationalist, Humanist and Atheist may become excited by this failure of religion, but I look to the future with much hope because of the power of the Gospel to change lives for the better. These figures from the census are God’s call to evangelical (those who believe the Gospel) Christians to proclaim the Gospel.

Sign of the fish vectorI’m old enough to have read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress in high school. This John Bunyan classic was looking forward to the celestial city, the City of God. Bunyan was thrown into prison for three months for refusing to follow an Elizabethan Act against religious freedom. In all, Bunyan spent 12 years in prison, giving him time to write 60 books. Since its writing, Pilgrim’s Progress has been translated into more than 200 languages.

All societies, whether rationalist, humanist, atheistic or Christian need to understand that their freedom to express their views is based on a worldview obtained from the Christian Bible: ‘And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”’ (Mark 8:34 ESV). The Old Testament also supported this view of freedom: ‘But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord’ (Joshua 24:15 NIV).

The Rationalist can choose a rationalist’s worldview because God has given all people the freedom of choice. My experience is that few secularists are prepared to admit this freedom to believe whatever they choose came from God. If they want to give up God from the Aussie culture, be prepared to forego freedoms.

If the ‘no religion’ category falls further in future census data, Australia is moving closer to where the early church was with a preponderance of religions in the first century. However, this was a fertile field for this kind of Gospel proclamation.

Christians remained the largest religious group in the world in 2015, making up nearly a third (31%) of Earth’s 7.3 billion people, according to a new Pew Research Center demographic analysis. But the report also shows that the number of Christians in what many consider the religion’s heartland, the continent of Europe, is in decline.

Australia needs a widespread proclamation of this Gospel for positive numbers to increase and for God to be exalted:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV).

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 4 July 2022.

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Preachers as Poor Public Speakers

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By  Spencer Gear PhD

Some of the worst regular public speakers I have heard are Christian preachers. It is sad for me to admit this as I also am a Christian preacher – not as regular now that I’m retired. These preachers don’t speak loud enough for me to hear them in the congregation. This does not apply to all of them.

What are the problems?

Please understand that this is a personal perspective and I wish this article was not necessary. I write it to help preachers improve their communication skills. Unless these are improved, people will turn away from attending the church. My observation is that poor communication does not bother the club mentality.

These are some of the problems I observe and it’s happening in the church I presently attend.

1. Learn to properly project the voice

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary provides this definition of to project one’s voice: “to speak loudly and clearly. You need to project your voice better if you want to be an actor.” I add: “If you want to be a better preacher, learn to speak loudly and clearly.”

The last Sunday I was in church, the female leader was so poor at projection that I walked out of the service in the last hymn before the preacher. I could not hear or understand the leader. She could have been helped if the person at the sound desk wound up the volume for the leader. There is no excuse in the day of microphones for a leader not to be heard. However, a weak and feeble voice is an impediment for listeners to that speaker. Two men led the Lord’s Supper without microphones and I found them impossible to hear – even with my hearing aides in.

10+ Preacher Clipart - Preview : A Female Preacher | HDClipartAll2. Cool Communicators’ Recommendations on Projection:

Learn How to Project Your Voice

How to Project Your Voice in a Loud Setting

1. Put Yourself in Situations Where Getting Loud is Required

2. Talk to People From a Distance

3. Use an App to Visualize Your Volume

4. However Loud You Think is “Too Loud,” Speak Louder

5. Breathing and Airflow

6. Speak From Your Diaphragm

7. Straight Posture and Open Body Language

8. Wherever Your Audience is, Target a Point 20% Further Away, and Speak to That Place

These links should provide anyone with tips on how to project your voice. However, I recommend you join a public speaking club for critiques of your presentations.

3. People with Quiet Voices Should Not Be Leaders in a Church or Any Other Service.

For the above “Cool Communicators” reasons, quiet voices are made for sharing in a small group but not for leading a church service or sharing around the Lord’s Supper. Even in a small group, some projection of the voice is necessary.

4. Join a Public Speaking Club.

Toastmasters Brisbane  |  Public Speaking & Leadership | Alpha-Endeavour Club – Celebrating 50 Years  Paying jobs for me, after a short stint as a cost clerk, were as radio DJs at two radio stations and then as a TV newsreader. When I was hired at 4BU, Bundaberg, Qld., Australia, the manager recommended that I join a public speaking club, Rostrum (for males) to help my ad-lib ability and projection of my voice. Forum was the club for women, but now includes men.

Since my time in Rostrum, they seem to have gone out of favour and have been replaced by Toastmasters Clubs which allow both women and men to participate. I’m too old and without transport to be able to check out these clubs. However, the online material suggests joining such a club would enhance one’s speaking and leadership potential.

5. Homiletics Plus Public Speaking Club

Homiletics is “the art of preaching or writing sermons” (Oxford English Dictionary). In theological colleges, I recommend that all students who look forward to a public speaking/preaching ministry in the church should attend a public speaking club while in college and especially while learning homiletics.

Well-constructed sermons are useless unless the preachers speak loudly and clearly in projecting their voices. The sermon can be assisted by a person who knows how to moderate the volume at the sound desk.

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How to become a better listener

By Spencer D Gear PhD[1]

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(Source)

This article was provoked by the need to deal with a woman who sits at our dinner table (I’m in aged care). No matter what I or others discuss, her constant comeback is to give examples from her own life. She doesn’t seem to notice how self-centred her conversations become. Her conversations go something like this:

John: I have a bad chip in my thumbnail that looks as though it will tear away. I need help with somebody to clip the nail and not tare the skin underneath as I take a blood thinner.

Betty: That’s easy. Get one of your carers to do it. Look at my thumbnail that was clipped by a carer. That’s your best step. Another person at the table agreed with Betty.

Whenever I raise a topic, Betty most often goes to her own agenda and is very egocentric in how she responds.

Personal tips

These are my observations of what poor listening does to my communication:

I need eye contact to be maintained. If Betty’s eyes wander, it’s an indicator

she’s not listening. She is on track to give me her examples and not deal with my issue.

One of the best ways for me to know she is listening is for her to engage with me by questioning. I’ve raised the topic of the thumbnail. She could ask: “Since you have problems with the thumbnail on your left hand, why can’t you use the nail clippers yourself?” I’ve tried that but the nature of the nail tear caused me to not cut the nail. That led to her mentioning the need for a carer to do it for me. I’m reluctant to ask a carer as that has led to rejection previously.

I generally find the best way to keep the subject focussed is by questioning the other people. This also keeps the other people on task. Open-ended questions are the best, e.g. What would you consider is the best approach with this thumbnail crack?

Hal Gregersen, executive director of the MIT Leadership Center, said, “It’s really hard to walk into a conversation without my agenda being written on my forehead and your agenda written on yours,” he says. “Unfortunately with the hectic, chaotic, complicated pace of work life today, people are even more committed to getting their own agenda accomplished.”[2]

Tips for better listening

Young Caucasian Woman Isolated On Blue Background Listening To Something By Putting Hand On The EarThe keys to better listening are to keep the discussion on the other person’s topic and not on your response. Stephanie Vozza gives “6 Ways To Become A Better Listener.”[3]

If you want to get something done, remember that human beings have an 8-second attention span.[4]

It’s difficult to join a discussion, without taking my agenda with me.

Stephanie’s 6 Tips are:[5]

1. Listen to Learn, Not to be Polite.

2. Quieten Your Own Agenda.

3. Ask More Questions.

Listening with real intent means I’m going to be open to being very wrong, and I’m comfortable with that in this conversation, says Gregersen. “In a world that’s getting more polarized, being able to listen is critical to reducing unnecessary conflict at any level, within a team, organization, or on a broader political country level,” he says.[6]

4. Pay Attention to Your Talk/Listen Ratio.

Strive for a 2:1 ratio of listening to talking, says Eblin. “If you’re a note taker during meetings or conversations, try keeping track of how much you listen versus how much you talk,” he says.

5. Repeat Back What You Heard.

6. Actually Wait Until Someone is Done Talking Before You Respond.

This is the message of the Bible in James 1:19, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (NLT). I have broken this command personally, with its severe repercussions in my relationships.

Notes


[1] http://www.wright.edu/~scott.williams/LeaderLetter/listening.htm.

[2] Stephanie Vozza, https://www.fastcompany.com/3068959/6-ways-to-become-a-better-listener (Accessed 25 May 2022).

[3] Fast Company, “6 Ways To Become A Better Listener,” Available at: https://www.fastcompany.com/3068959/6-ways-to-become-a-better-listener (Accessed 25 May 2022.)

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 31 May, 2022.

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How to Ruin Your Education and TV Viewing: Five Lessons from John Dominic Crossan

Here is my first book published by Wipf & Stock:

How to Ruin Your Education and TV Viewing: Five Lessons from John Dominic Crossan by [Spencer D. Gear]How to Ruin Your Education and TV Viewing: Five Lessons from John Dominic Crossan

by Spencer D. Gear (Author)


See all formats and editions

What will you do as a parent if your fourteen-year-old comes home from school and says, “You and the teachers have been telling me Columbus discovered the Americas. You’ve lied to me because that isn’t true. There are no such things as facts, and I decide the meaning of what is written in my textbooks. I’m the one who chooses the interpretation of any writing, including history and the stories of Columbus”? How are you going to answer, especially in light of what the Encyclopaedia Britannica states about Columbus?

This book examines how historical Jesus scholar John Dominic Crossan has dismantled education, TV viewing (by application), and religious studies with his postmodern deconstruction of the text. His theme is “I formulate it here as I see it.” Texts and interpretations are out of the mind of Crossan.

Using a hypothesis testing technique, the author challenges Crossan’s perspective that Jesus’s resurrection was an apparition and not a bodily resurrection. Even though he calls on others to “First, read the text,” that is not what he does. The philosophical crusher has found him out to be contradictory in his assessment of history in his autobiography and his own writings on the historical Jesus.

Read more


  1. Print length

    380 pages

  2. Language

    English

  3. Publication date

    April 17, 2022

  4. File size

    4428 KB

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 09 May, 2022.

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What a combination! Easter eggs, scavenging dogs & crucifixion

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Christ Falling on the Way to Calvary, Raphael, 1516–1517

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This article was first published in On Line Opinion, 14 April 2022.

I visited my local shopping centre recently and saw all the Easter attractions. This is the time for Easter eggs but it has other ingredients that make it an attractive season. Of course, there’s the long weekend, plenty of sport on tele and the opportunity for gorging lots of chocolate. Talk about options!

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On 25 March 2022, Roy Morgan Research estimated “over four million Australians are planning a trip away this Easter with $7.1 billion to be spent on holidays, while around $1.5 billion will be splurged on food and chocolate, in a major boon for tourism operators and retail businesses.”

But why are there special eggs at Easter? Eggs symbolise new life and fertility. This Christian festival comes with little to frighten anyone in an era of religious extremism. Who could ever be offended by a cute chocolate bunny? Time Magazine reported: “The original story of Easter eggs starts in Medieval Europe, but it may or may not have originated with Christians.”

It could be very different if John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar were leading the agenda. For him, the cross spoke.[1] Jesus was not buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, as indicated by all four Gospels (Matt 27:57; Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50-56; and John 19:38-40). Instead, Jesus was buried in a shallow grave to be eaten by scavenging dogs.[2]

From where did he gain that provocative information? It originated from the method he used – postmodern deconstruction – by which he engaged in free-play of interpretation. The reader of a narrative determines the meaning of a text. It does not come from the intent of the original author.

The paradox

But there’s a paradox here. Have you thought how strange it is that Easter eggs are identified with one of the most horrific ways of killing a person? This is the time of remembering the most famous death by crucifixion in history – that of Jesus Christ.

To be crucified for crime, the victim was lying on the cross on the ground and held down. They were nailed on that cross with crude, rough nails.

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The 17th-century painting Christ Crucified by Diego Velázquez, held by the Museo del Prado in Madrid

They were lifted up on the cross and it was dropped into a hole in the ground. They experienced unimaginable thirst and found it difficult to breathe.

Medical doctor, C. Truman Davis MD, explained that as fatigue came to the arms and cramps to the muscles, the victim experienced deep throbbing pain.

There were hours of pain, cramps, and partial suffocation as tissue was torn from the person’s lacerated back as it moved up and down on the rough timber. This trauma impacted the chest and began to compress the heart.

Mocking crowds

To make it worse for Jesus, the crowds would mock the victim (Matthew 20:19, Mark 10:34, and Luke 18:32).

But how does our culture remember Christ’s crucifixion at Easter? With chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies and jewellery! It’s almost impossible to walk down the street without seeing a version of the cross. Generally it’s on a chain around somebody’s neck or as ear rings. This is a far cry from the actual Easter event.

Malcolm Muggeridge

Malcolm Muggeridge, the famous British media personality, soldier-spy and later Christian convert, called this death the most famous one in history. He said that no other death than Christ’s has aroused one-hundredth part of the interest or been remembered with one-hundredth part of the intensity of concern. Muggeridge shocked the world with his conversion to Christianity later in life. St. Mugg”, as he was affectionately known, was clear in his new-found faith: “It is the truth that has died, not God,” and “Jesus was God or he was nothing.”

We are continuously confronted with troubles. Troubles in wars like the Russian-Ukraine conflict, troubles in families, and even disturbed personal souls.

Into the midst of this repulsion in our world, at Easter we remember the Jesus of the cross who died for our sins was resurrected. Why? So that we can have the opportunity to be set free from the guilt of our souls. Hence the association with eggs and new life!

Louis M. Lepeaux, French philosopher, politician and bitter opponent of Christ at the time of the French Revolution, once started a religion that he hoped would be superior to Christianity. He sought the counsel of the great French diplomat and statesman, Charles Maurice Talleyrand.

The originator of a new religion came to the French diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perlgord and complained that he could not make any converts. “What would you suggest I do?” he asked. “I should recommend,” said Talleyrand, “that you get yourself crucified, and then die, but be sure to rise again the third day.”

Why should you bother to embrace the Christian message this Easter? The Christ of the cross changed the agnostic, Malcolm Muggeridge, into an active Christian who published Jesus Rediscovered. Millions of people have made the same life-changing commitment and discovered the joy that Muggeridge found.

Any old resurrection will not do.

Today, the religious and other media are dominated by the burial and resurrection of Jesus that diverge from the narratives in the New Testament Gospels. John Dominic Crossan objects to a Jesus who rose bodily. His claim is that Mark created the empty-tomb story and the sleeping disciples in Gethsemane.[3] This means Mark created the burial narrative involving Joseph of Arimathea.

When historical Jesus’ scholar, Crossan, stated that Jesus’ resurrection appearance was an apparition and not a physical appearance, was it possible to test this conclusion? To what degree are a scholar’s conclusions affected by the scholar’s presuppositions? That is what I attempted to do in my PhD dissertation, “Crossan and the resurrection of Jesus: Rethinking presuppositions, methods and models.”

For Crossan, Jesus was not buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea in the garden but was placed in a shallow grave to be eaten by dogs hunting for food. As for Jesus’ resurrection, it was an apparition (phantom) and not a bodily resurrection.

Refutation of Crossan views are found in the biblical text

Crossan admits his view is non-historical as a postmodern deconstructionist. His presuppositions are fixed, so he’s unable to listen to the text’s content. We know that Jesus’ resurrection was historical because of people’s seeing and touching Jesus after the resurrection, which cannot be accommodated in Crossan’s framework. The New Testament Gospels explained that Luke’s second appearance story of Cleopas and an unnamed companion (Lk 24:36-49), ‘in contrasting juxtaposition to the Emmaus story, emphasizes the “physicality” of the risen Jesus. Jesus invites them to touch him: “Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and blood as you see that I have.” He also shows them the wounds in his hands and feet. Then he eats a piece of broiled fish. The point is that this is not another ghost story.

The emphasis in 1 Corinthians 15 is on a future resurrected body that is different from that which is experienced in earthly existence, but there is continuity – it is a s?ma (body), indicting some dimension of physicality.

Earle Ellis noted that I Corinthians 15 lacks a stress on the empty tomb. However, he contends that Paul did not have to say “empty tomb” because it is implicit in his term resurrection, anastasis. ‘The rising on the third day [1 Cor 15:4] can hardly refer (only) to “appearances”. Most probably it presupposes and implies the “empty tomb” traditions. Also, the seed analogy [1 Cor 15:36-38] presupposes a continuity between what is buried and the raised body. “Spiritual
body” refers to the vitalizing principle and has nothing to do with immateriality’ (see 1 Cor 15:4, 37, 44).

This is what we remember at Easter. He is the Jesus who died, was resurrected bodily, and changes people’s lives. He was buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb and not in some invented creation by Crossan or somebody else. The resurrection body of Jesus could be touched and he ate broiled fish with the disciples (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:24-29).

Jesus’ resurrected body guarantees victory over death and it will be only apprehended when the same physical body that died is risen from the grave (see 1 Corinthians 15:54-55). That’s why it’s important to understand the risen Jesus was a physical body.

Bibliography

Crossan, J D 1988. The Cross That Spoke: The Origins of the Passion Narrative. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock.

Crossan, J D 1998. The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately After the Execution of Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D with Watts, R G 1996. Who Is Jesus? Answers to Your Questions about the Historical Jesus. New York: HarperPaperbacks.

Notes


[1] Crossan 1988, The Cross That Spoke.

[2] “Jesus’ burial was not in a tomb hewn out of stone but was in a shallow grave where his
body became prey to scavenging dogs” (Crossan & Watts 1996:152-153).

[3] Crossan, The Birth of Christianity, 557.

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 08 April 2022.

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What is heresy?

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By Spencer D Gear PhD

I was blogging on Christianity Board on the topic, “Heresy?” where the person asked:

“Every denomination has some teaching or doctrine that we would not agree with.
How would you explain the difference between an incorrect teaching and
a heretical teaching…?
IOW,,,when does an incorrect teaching become heretical? Thanks.”[1]

In the Septuagint (LXX) – the Greek translation of the Old Testament – hairesis is found occasionally as meaning free choice or voluntarily (e.g. Gen 49:5; Lev 22:18).[2]

Like hairesis in Josephus, [the word] denoted in the first instance the trends and parties within Judaism. But soon, when certain minim separated themselves from the orthodox Rabbinic tradition, it came to be used only of trends within Judaism opposed by the Rabbis. . . . The term thus stigmatised certain groups as “heretical.” This sense is found in Rabbinic writings belonging to the end of the 1st and early part of 2nd century A.D. . . . At the end of the 2nd century the term acquired a new meaning, being applied not so much to the members of a sect within Judaism as to the adherents of other faiths and esp. Christians and Gnostics.[3]

New Testament and heresy

For the Christian who takes the Bible seriously, heresy is based on the Greek noun, hairesis. The Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich Lexicon gives the foundational meaning as “sect, party, school” (BAG, 1957, p. 23).

It was used to describe the “party of the Sadducees” in Acts 5:17; the Pharisees in Acts 26:5 were described as “the strictest sect of our religion.” In the secular literature of the first century, it meant “heretical sect.”

In a later sense they were called “a dissension, a faction” (1 Cor 11:19; Gal 5:20). They also were called an “opinion, dogma . . . a way of thinking” (2 Pet 2:1).

clip_image004Schlier considers heresy must be understood ‘against the Hellenistic and Jewish background. The usage in Acts corresponds exactly to that of Josephus and the earlier Rabbis [Ac 5:17; 15:5; 24:5, 14; 28:22]. . . . In these passages the term has the neutral flavour of “school.”’[4]

Schlier concludes:

“Against this background, it is impossible to solve the problem of the derivation of the special Christian sense of heresy. . . . The separation of non-orthodox groups, the heterdox parties, came to be designated heresy. . . . The basis of the Christian concept of hairesis is to be found in the new situation created by the introduction of the Christian ekklesia. Ekklesia and hairesis are material opposites. The latter cannot accept the former; the former excludes the latter. This may be clearly seen in Gal 5:10 where hairesis is reckoned among “he works of the flesh, along with [sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition]. Yet neither here nor else in the NT does hairesis have a technical sense. In 1 Cor. 11:18f we see even more clearly the impossibility of hairesis within Christianity.[5]

Heresy in the early church

In the age which followed NT hairesis, it

was still understood as an eschatologically threatening magnitude essentially opposed to the ekklesia. . . . Within Christianity hairesis always denotes hostile societies and there is always consciousness of an inner relationship between heretics and the secular philosophical schools or Jewish sects . . . which they also describe by the term hairesis. What the Church usually has in view is Gnosticism. As seen by the Church, the Gnostics form schools.[6]

So anything that was taught that was contrary to that for the early church – opposing Scripture – was called heresy.

So, this gives a wide field for relevance and challenge, especially in light of how denominations add to Scripture in topics such as baptism, the Lord’s Supper, allegorical interpretation of Scripture, etc.

Applications

To sum up: A heresy in today’s understanding is a sect whose way of thinking is dogma that promotes theology contrary to biblical Christianity – an heretical sect. This includes infant baptism, the Lord’s Supper as Real Presence, Covenant Theology, Once-Saved-Always-Saved, and worship of Mary.

An example would be the Jehovah’s Witnesses today who do not believe Jesus is God and they reject human beings as having an immortal soul. Mormonism fits the same category as heresy.

From a Christian perspective, Islam is heretical as it does not promote the Trinitarian God. Islam rejects Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

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(Burning of heretics during Spanish Inquisition)

Works consulted

Arndt, William F. and F. Wilbur Gingrich, tr. & adapt. of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur, 4th and aug edn 1957. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edn licensed to Zondervan Publishing House for sale only in the United States of America).

Schlier, Heinrich 1964. In Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol 1. Ed by Gerhard Kittel, tr & ed Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Notes


[1] Christianity Board, “Heresy?” November 21, 2021. Available at: https://www.christianityboard.com/threads/heresy.44320/ (Accessed 7 February 2022).

[2] Heinrich Schlier 1964. vol. 1, hairesis, p. 181

[3] Schlier, 182.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 182-193.

[6] Ibid., 183,

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 07 February 2022.

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Living as an evangelical Christian in a secular society

The Honourable

Scott Morrison

MP

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Morrison in 2021

30th Prime Minister of Australia

Incumbent

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Taking a stand for biblical values on sexuality

Citipointe Christian College, Carindale, Brisbane, has taken a stand for biblical sexual values and that has meant telling the truth about homosexuality. The effect has been fury of the secular agenda piled by the pro-LGBTIQ+ community and media against this Christian College.

ABC News, Brisbane reported: ‘A parent and teacher at a Brisbane Christian college that is demanding parents sign a contract affirming students identify as their birth gender and that homosexuality is “sinful”, says she is looking for another school for her child to attend’ (“Brisbane’s Citipointe Christian College defends demanding parents sign contract on student gender identity, homosexuality”).[1]

The News item continued: ‘In an e-mail to parents . . , principal Pastor Brian Mulheran said the new clauses in the enrolment contract were included to “ensure that we retain our Christian ethos, which is the foundation of what has made the College what it is today”’.[2]

The contract states “the college will only enrol the student on the basis of the gender that corresponds to their biological sex” to maintain consistent with the college’s “Christian Ethos Requirements”.

It goes on to state that the college “acknowledges the biological sex of a person as recognised at birth and requires practices consistent with that sex”.

Another clause states the college has the right to “exclude a student from the college” should they not adhere to the “doctrinal precepts including those as to biological sex”.

To keep their child enrolled at the school, parents must agree with a set of “religious beliefs” laid out in a “Declaration of Faith” attached to the contract.

Part of the declaration states that “any form of sexual immorality (including but not limited to; adultery, fornication, homosexual acts, bisexual acts, bestiality, incest, paedophilia, and pornography) is sinful and offensive to God and is destructive to human relationships and society”.[3]

Morrison’s view when it becomes law

Now that homosexual marriage has been legalised in Australia, what is Morrison’s view? Notice how he dodges the journalist’s questions:

Scott Morrison says he supports the law of the country but wouldn’t say if his personal opposition to same-sex marriage has changed since it was legalised. . . .

Mr Morrison abstained from voting for marriage equality when it passed the House of Representatives in 2018, and he voted “no” in the national survey.

When asked if he is still personally opposed to same-sex marriage, the prime minister replied: “It’s law. And I’m glad that the change has now been made and people can get on with their lives. That’s what I’m happy about.”

When pressed on whether his opinions have changed, he told reporters in Perth: “I always support the law of the country” (SBS News 2019).[4]

So, he supports Australian law but didn’t own up to his personal beliefs about homosexuality in 2019. I wonder, as a Pentecostal Christian, whether he accepts the Bible’s view on the topic. See Romans 1:25-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.

God’s view is different from Morrison’s. Those who practise homosexuality (male & female) will not inherit the kingdom of God. Whether ScoMo is a PM or an ordinary Christian, he should support the Bible’s view.

Scriptures: Christians must obey government, but not at the expense of biblical teaching.

I’ll examine two biblical passages relating to Christians and government. They are:

(1) Romans 13:1-5 (NIV):

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

Let’s apply this to what is happening at Citipointe Christian College where the College has been forced to remove its statement on homosexuality from entry requirements.

The Guardian Australia reported:

While Citipointe Christian College says it “deeply regrets” that the contracts made students feel discriminated against, the principal says the school has the right to maintain its ethos and the “freedom to continue to provide an education based on our shared beliefs”.

Rom 13:1-5 is not addressing a local issue but the laws of the State and nation. God sets up authorities. He is in control of them – no matter how bad they are. I struggle to understand these verses in light of the Nazi governments, and those of Pol Pot, Idi Amin, etc. However, I have to accept that God allows these horrific regimes to punish the people.

These verses point to the danger of getting too close to government in dependence on school funding. Citipointe demonstrates how Big Brother could have influenced the changing of the values of a school’s ethos.

(2) Matthew 22:19-21 (NIV),

19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

The obvious application is to paying taxes but its impact may stretch further with Caesar’s requiring Christian institutions to change their values.

We must obey God rather than human authorities.

‘But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority”’ (Acts 5:29 NLT).

This sums up the Christians responsibility to government, especially when the values of Christians clash with those of regimes. I consider that is what we have with Citipointe Christian College and its values that clash with those of government.

In my view, Acts 5:29 is causing some potential clashes when private schools receive so much funding from federal and state governments. There is a temptation to toe the government line rather than being true to their Christian heritage.

Governments who want to trash or compromise biblical values.

See my articles:

clip_image003Tolerance, homosexuality and not inheriting the Kingdom of God

clip_image003[1] Homosexual unions, homosexual marriage, mass media & politicians

clip_image003[2]Why should we oppose homosexual marriage?

The personal disappointment for me is that our Pentecostal Prime Minister is not standing beside the Citipointe Christian College’s leadership in the promotion of sexual Christian ethics.

Notes


[1] Accessed 1st February 2022.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] SBS News (AAP) 2019. Gay marriage is the law: PM Morrison, 13 May. Available at: https://www.sbs.com.au/news/gay-marriage-is-the-law-pm-morrison (Accessed 5 February 2022).

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 05 February 2022

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Scott Morrison, Christian colleges, & biblical Christianity

The Honourable

Scott Morrison MP

Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison.jpg

Morrison in 2021

30th Prime Minister of Australia

Incumbent

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This article first appeared in On Line Opinion, 14 February 2022.

I was shocked to read our Prime Minister’s reported view that he does not support the Citipointe Christian College’s promotion of the ethics of biblical Christianity. He did not say it in such straight-forward language but stated,

The federal government will seek to amend a contentious section of the Sex Discrimination Act alongside its Religious Discrimination Bill, in a move that follows lengthy discussions between the Prime Minister’s office and key backbenchers over the past week (The Sydney Morning Herald, “Church schools will lose right to expel gay students as PM deals with moderate Liberals,” (February 3, 2022)

Let’s make it clear: “Moderate liberals” are not supporters of what the Scriptures state about homosexuality. The Coalition government wants “to lock in the support of moderate Liberal MPs ahead of a potential vote on the bill in the next sitting fortnight” (“Church schools will lose the right . . .”

Wouldn’t it be amazing to read a mass media press release that states the Coalition wants to woo Bible-believing Christians in the community and support their views on sexual (including homosexual) ethics – straight from the Bible?

blue-corrosion-arrow-small  “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Romans 1:18).

blue-corrosion-arrow-small  “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another” (Rom 1:24)

blue-corrosion-arrow-small  “God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Rom 1:26-27).

blue-corrosion-arrow-small “Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice” (Rom 1:28-29).

Citipointe Christian College Aerial View(photo Citipointe Christian College campus)

Elsewhere in the New Testament, the Bible states that these acts of homosexuality have this consequence:

Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Instead of trying to save his political backside for the next election and satisfying the LGBTIQ+ people, he should be representing ALL people and telling the truth about where homosexuality will take people. Bible-believing Christians have been betrayed, in my opinion, and should see the political craftiness of Morrison and give up on him at the next election. I’m not convinced an Anthony Albanese led government will present a better option but at least its ethics will be secular and not in the guise of Christianity – as with Morrison.

The truth about sexual and other sins

Where are the Bible-believing MPs who will speak God’s truth on the eternal penalty of that sexual aberration? Will they speak up when voting on the Religious Discrimination Bill?

Morrison admitted, “My kids go to a Christian school here in Sydney, and I wouldn’t want my school doing that either,” he told Brisbane’s B105.3 radio (Church schools will lose right to expel gay students). He was addressing the Citipointe Christian College issue. So, is he saying he doesn’t want a Christian school to tell the truth of the homosexual lifestyle and its eternal ramification?

Citipointe Christian College should feel let down by a Christian Prime Minister who seems to be playing political games for the next election so he can save “soft” Liberal Party seats. He has lost my vote to one of the minor parties that supports and practises biblical standards.

In my view, Morrison has practised reverse discrimination by compromising biblical Christianity and its ethics on sexuality and sucking up to the LGBTIQ+ community to make it look like support for that view. It is a politically correct view that may cost him at the next election.

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 04 February 2022.

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