Science and God

“If everything has to have a scientific explanation and proof, then this ‘is to banish not only God from the world but also love, hate, meaning— . . . world that is self-evidently not the world we live in’.”

Timothy Keller quoting Paul Kalanithi in Making Sense of God, kindle loc 238)

Quran and the Bible

As soon as I entered the apartment, I went straight to the bookcase and retrieved my old Quran and my study Bible. I sat down on the couch and opened the Quran first. I flipped through the pages, looking for verses of comfort, at first carefully reading each page for the subject matter, then more quickly thumbing through the index, and then frantically flipping from page to page, hoping for something, anything, that would comfort me.

There was nothing there for me. It depicted a god of conditional concern, one who would not love me if I did not perform to my utmost in pleasing him, one who seemed to take joy in sending his enemies into the hellfire. It did not speak to the broken nature of man, let alone directly to the broken man in need of God’s love. It was a book of laws, written for the seventh century.

Looking for a living word, I put the Quran down and picked up the Bible…Within minutes, I found these words: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

(Qureshi, Nabeel; Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Kindle 4217)

WikiTheology: What if Jesus never existed?

Here is an explanation of WikiTheology. For similar posts, see why we have armswhy we don’t eat snowy owlswhy Hell might not be what you think, and why your stomach still growls.

¿Qué pasaría si Jesús nunca existiera?

Amigo: ¿Cómo puedes estar seguro que Jesús aún existe?

Yo: Piensas que Jesús es el Papa Noel del primer siglo? (Lo siento si todavía crees que él es real!)

Amigo: Sí. Quizá alguien le inventó intencionalmente, o involuntariamente. ¿Qué pasaría si fuera una leyenda, pero se convirtió a una realidad en las mentes de la gente? ¿Cómo sabemos que Jesús era una persona real?

Es una pregunta interesante. Si alguien supone que la Biblia fuese el único registro de Jesús del primer siglo (que hasta ahora lleva como nombre – “a.C y d.C”), sería la teoría de la conspiración del…universo.

Dejando la version histórica de la Biblia, creo que todavía existe más pruebas de la existencia de Jesús que muchos otros líderes espirituales o figuras históricas.

Dos de los historiadores más conocidos quienes escribieron algo de Jesús son Tácito y Josefo. Se podría hablar también de Julio Africano citando a Thallus, Plinio el Joven, Talmud de Babilonia, Luciano de Samosata, y Mara Bar-Serapion (para ver más puedes echar un vistazo a gotquestions.org).

Tácito, un historiador romano del primer siglo, dijo algunas cosas muy negativas de Jesús y sus seguidores. Anotó que los Cristianos fueron aborrecidos por sus “abominaciones”, eran parte de una “superstición maliciosa”, cuya religión era “malvada”, y eran parte de todo lo que era “horroroso y vergonzoso”. Ahí hablaba de Cristo, de quien recibieron los Cristianos su nombre, quien fue crucificado por Poncio Pilato. Es muy improbable que un Cristiano del primer siglo falsificara un párrafo como ese para soportar una religión falsa.

El segundo es Josefo, un historiador judío, quien escribió otros datos de Cristo. Jesús era “un hombre sabio”, “un bienhechor de obras maravillosas”, “un maestro”, “el Cristo”, matado por Poncio Pilato, y que apareció a sus seguidores después de su muerte. También hablaba de Santiago, “el hermano de Jesús, quien le llamaron Cristo”.

Es complemente aceptable (y yo diría, esencial) que evalúes a Jesús y lo que enseñaba acerca de sí mismo. También puedes decidir de creer que nunca fue un Jesús histórico, pero tienes que darte cuenta que la carga de la prueba está encima de tus hombros. Estás listo a correr este riesgo?

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What if Jesus never existed?

Friend: How can you be so sure that Jesus even existed?

Me: You think that Jesus might just be the first century Santa Claus? (I don’t mean to burst your bubble if you still believe he is real!)

Friend: Yes. Maybe someone invented him intentionally, or unintentionally. What if he was a legend, that just became real in people’s minds? How do we know he was a historical reality?

That is an interesting question. If someone assumes that the Bible is the only record of Jesus from the 1st century bearing his name (B.C. and a.d.), then I suppose this could be the conspiracy theory of the…universe.

Putting aside the Biblical account, I believe there is still more historical evidence than many other famous spiritual leaders or historical figures.

Two of the most common historians who refer to Jesus are Tacitus and Josephus. One could also look to Julius Africanus quoting Thallus, Pliny the Younger, The Babylonian Talmud, Lucian of Samosata, and Mara Bar-Serapion (for more see gotquestions.org).

Tacitus, a Roman historian from the 1st century, had some negative things to say about Jesus and his followers. He noted that Christians were hated for their “abominations”, were part of a “most mischievous superstition”, their religion was “evil”, they were part of everything “hideous and shameful”. In there he states that Christ, from whom they got their name, was crucified by Pontius Pilate. It is very improbably that an early Christian would forge something like this in order to prop up a false religion.

A second source is Josephus, a Jewish historian, who had other things to say about Jesus. He was a “wise man”, “doer of wonderful works”, “a teacher”, “the Christ”, killed by Pilate, and he appeared to his followers after his death. He also spoke of James, “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ”

It is completely acceptable (and I would say, essential) for you to question Jesus and his claims. You can even choose to believe that there never was a historical Jesus, but just recognize that the burden of proof is on your shoulders. Are you ready to take that gamble?

WikiTheology: Why is there still hunger if Jesus could solve that issue? 

Here is an explanation of WikiTheology. For similar posts, see why we have armswhy we don’t eat snowy owls, and why Hell might not be what you think.

¿Por qué todavía hay hambre si Jesús hubiera podido acabar con el hambre?

Amigo: Si el Nuevo Testamento es verdad, y Jesús pudiera alimentar a miles de personas, y hacer desaparecer al hambre, ¿Por qué no lo hizo?

Yo: ¿Por qué no dio provisiones interminables a la gente?

Amigo: Y a nosotros. Si Jesús pudiera solucionar el problema, ¿Por qué no lo hizo?

Yo: Es una buena pregunta. Sabemos que algo no es correcto en este mundo cuando hay tanta hambre. La vida no es para ser solo una lucha para sobrevivir. Si fuera así, no nos hubiéramos hecho esta pregunta!

Desde la perspectiva de la Biblia, tenemos que empezar desde el principio. En Génesis vemos que el hambre no es malo, Dios creó nuestros cuerpos para procesar comida y el hambre es la que nos indica que debemos comer. Entonces, no hay nada malo con el hambre. Pero sí hay algo malo con morirse de hambre. Si rechazamos la hipótesis de la evolución, morirse de hambre no empezó hasta que los hombres se rebelaron contra Dios. El pecado, el morirse de hambre, y la muerte vinieron como consecuencias de rechazar a Dios como rey (Génesis 3).

Cuando leemos los evangelios, los libros dedicados a la vida de Jesús, vemos que él pasó hambre porque era completamente hombre. Comió lo mismo que los demás. Le encantaba comer y conversar alrededor de la mesa. No hay nada intrínsecamente malo con el hambre, el comer, y disfrutar de la comida. Tampoco no hay nada intrínsecamente bueno si rechazamos lo bueno del mundo material. Pero Jesús veía un problema con el hambre que lleva a una persona a una angustia física. Por ejemplo, cuando alimentaba a las cuatro mil personas, él estaba preocupado en que la gente no pudiera llegar a casa por causa de su hambre (Mateo 15:32ff). Pero, ¿El hambre físico era la preocupación principal de Jesús? No. Jesús sanaba las enfermedades, expulsaba a los demonios, y resucitaba a los muertos. Pero ninguno de esos temas, ni todos, eran la preocupación principal de Jesús. Él no vino simplemente para sanar la gente de sus enfermedades. Vino para tomar encima de sí mismo nuestra rebelión contra el Creador y restablecer nuestra relación con Él mediante su muerte sustitutiva. Dijo, “Porque el Hijo del hombre vino a buscar y a salvar lo que se había perdido” (Lucas 19:10). La manera en que lo hizo fue exactamente como él dijo varias veces a sus seguidores, “Tengo que morir” (Lucas 9:22, 44; 18:31-34). Si hubiese venido simplemente para mejorar nuestras vidas, hubiera podido hacerlo sin morir.

Y quizá el propósito último de Jesús nos lleva a la razón por la cual no absolvió el hambre cuando él podía hacerlo, o ¿por qué no nos creó sin la habilidad de tener hambre? Quizá el hambre físico puede dirigirnos a algo más grande. Quizá el dolor que sentimos en nuestros estómagos nos recuerda que somos débiles. Quizá la necesidad constante de orar, “Danos hoy nuestro pan cotidiano” nos hace clamar al Gran Proveedor. Quizá el alimento básico, el pan, fue creado para levantar nuestra mirada al Pan de Vida. Quizá mi hambre es algo que Dios está usando para darnos cuenta que Lo necesitamos. Quizá.

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Why is there still hunger if Jesus could solve that issue? 

Friend: “If the New Testament account is correct, and Jesus could feed thousands, and essentially make hunger obsolete, why didn’t he?”

Me: “Why didn’t he give the people an unending food supply?”

Friend: “And us. If Jesus could fix the problem, why didn’t he solve it all at once?”

Me: I think that is a very good question. We know that something isn’t right in this world when there is so much hunger. Life isn’t meant to just be a struggle for survival. If it were, we wouldn’t be asking ourselves this question! From the perspective of the Bible, we have to start at the beginning.

In Genesis we see that hunger is not bad, God created our bodies to process food and hunger is what we need in order to remember to eat. So there is nothing wrong with hunger. But there is something wrong with starvation. If we reject the evolutionary account, starvation didn’t enter in until after man’s rebellion. All sin, starvation, and death came about as a direct consequence of rejecting God as king (Genesis 3).

As we read in the accounts of the life of Jesus, the Gospels, Jesus experienced hunger. He was hungry because he was fully man. He ate as much as everyone else. He even enjoyed food and the conversation around the table. There is nothing inherently wrong with hunger, eating, and enjoying food. Nor is there something inherently good about rejecting the goodness of the material world. But Jesus did see a problem with hunger which leads to physical distress. For example, in the feeding of the four thousand, he was worried that the people wouldn’t be able to make it home because they were so hungry (Matthew 15:32ff).

But, was physical hunger the primary concern of Jesus? No. Jesus healed diseases, cast out demons, and raised dead people. But none of those, nor all of those, were the main concern of Jesus. He had not come to merely heal people of their ailments. He had come to take upon himself our rebellion against the Creator and restore our relationship with Him through his substitutionary death. He said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). The way that he would do that was just like what he kept reminding his followers, “I have to die” (Luke 9:22, 44; 18:31-34). If he had merely come to make our lives a little easier, he could have done so without dying.

And maybe Jesus’ ultimate purpose points us to the reason why he didn’t absolve hunger when he could have, or why he didn’t create us without hunger in the first place. Perhaps physical hunger can point us to something greater. Maybe the pains we feel in our stomach remind us that we are weak. Maybe the constant need to pray, “Give us our daily bread” is meant to point us to our great Provider. Maybe the staple of bread is supposed to raise our gaze to the Bread of Life. Maybe my hunger is something God is using to open my eyes to my need of Him. Maybe.

 

What’s Your Worldview?

Book: Anderson, James N. What’s Your Worldview?: An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions. Crossway Books, 2014.

(For the full review, click the link above)

 

Point: Your worldview is the lens through which you see and interpret everything, and that is a big enough reason to question whether you have the correct worldview or not.

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Path: Anderson takes his readers through a “Choose your own adventure” evaluation of truth, questions, and worldviews. In this journey he asks questions, and points out difficulties and advantages to each way of viewing life, death, and the purpose of existence. At the end of the book he gives an evaluation of each worldview and an appendix which takes the reader to the “what’s next” questions.

Agreement: I enjoyed this book. Its simple, yet worldview-rattling, message was something that greatly appealed to me. There are many people who I plan on recommending this book to.

 

Stars: 4.5 out of 5

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

  • wants to evaluate their own worldview
  • wants to engage with others about their worldview
  • wants to think and live more consistently

 

 

Why did God create man as he did and not differently?

Friend: “When you imagine a robot, what do you imagine?”

Me: “Metal arms, legs, etc.”

Friend: “Something sort of human then? But why? Why not something different? My question is, if there is a Creator, why did that God create man as he did and not differently?”

That is a good question. The Bible doesn’t exactly tell us why God created us with two ears and not three, two eyes and not one, or even one mouth and not two.

It does tell us that we are made in his image, but that is not necessarily how he looks, since we know that God is spirit.

One could also say, “It is the best way,” which is true. God knows how to create an eye, and he made ours because it was a good idea. But he also made the eye of the spider, which is very different from our own. Both sets of eyes were made by a perfect God. He knew what he was doing, and he had the liberty to be creative with his designs. But I believe there is another part to the answer that can help us with the main question.

I have an idea, and it is mostly just an idea (and I can vaguely remember reading something about it from someone way smarter than I). It also answers only part of the question.

Do you know how Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd (John 10), and John the Baptist called him the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29)?

Do you think that Jesus thought, “Sheep are a good picture of humans who stray, I am going to call myself a Shepherd so my hearers will have a better understanding of myself”? Or, “Sheep are innocent animals and used as sacrifices, so I will take this image on myself”?

If God instituted the sacrificial system with lambs, don’t you think that He would have planned on picturing Jesus’ sacrifice before having engraining in his people the idea of sacrificial lambs? The book of Revelation states that the “Lamb [was] slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8). The Jesus/Lamb picture was not an afterthought. In other words, he was preparing his people for Jesus by giving them 1500 years of sacrificing meek animals in order that they could clearly understand what Jesus was going to do on the cross.

God created sheep so they could be a future metaphor for Jesus.

Now back to the question about why we have fingers.

The Bible is full of anthropomorphisms,

  • “The eyes of the LORD”
  • “The arm of the LORD”
  • “The LORD heard their cries”
  • Etc.

I think that the Creator knew that his position as a transcendent God would be beyond our comprehension, so he wanted to make it clear to us.

If an artisan wants to communicate a truth to his child he could do so in a couple different ways. He could take an object and relate the truth to it, or he could take the truth and make an object to image it.

With the Creator, I think he chose the second. He wanted us to understand his omnipresence, so he gave us eyes and said that he sees everything. He wanted us to understand his strength, so he gave us arms and said that his are powerful.

But he didn’t stop there. This Creator God, apart from whom nothing was made that was made (John 1:3), took on flesh and became one of his created order (Phil 2). Jesus Christ humbled himself in order to die for us.

I think that is part of the answer to why we look the way we look…and not like an octopus.

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¿Por qué creó Dios el ser humano como lo hizo, y no con un aspecto diferente?

“Cuando imaginas un robot, en que piensas?

“Pues, brazos de metal, piernas, etc.”

“Algo semejante a un ser humano, no? Pero, ¿Por qué? ¿Por qué no algo diferente? Mi pregunta es, “Si haya un Creador, ¿Por qué este Creador creó el ser humano como lo hizo, y no con un aspecto diferente?”

La pregunta es buena. La Biblia no dice directamente porque nos creó con dos orejas, y no tres, o una boca y no dos.

Pero, la Biblia habla que nos creó a su imagen, pero “su imagen” no significa necesariamente fisicamente, porque Dios es un espíritu.

Se podría decir, “Nos creó perfectamente.” Es la verdad. Dios sabe como construir un ojo, y lo hizo para nosotros porque es una buena idea. Pero, Dios también creó el ojo de la araña, que es muy diferente del nuestro. Y todavía el ojo de la araña fue creado por el Dios perfecto. Entonces, supo lo que hacía, y también tiene la libertad de ser creativo con sus diseños. Pero, creo que hay otra parte de la respuesta que puede ayudarnos con la pregunta principal.

Tengo una idea, aunque solamente es una idea, y nada más. Y solamente responde a parte de la pregunta.

¿Sabes que Jesús se llamó a si mismo el Buen Pastor (Juan 10), y Juan el Bautista le llamó “ el Cordero de Dios, que quita el pecado del mundo (Juan 1:29)”?

¿Piensas lo que Jesús pensó, “Las ovejas son animales sencillos y son un buen ejemplo de humanos que se pierden porque quieren seguir su propia senda. Voy a llamarme, ‘Pastor’ para que mis oyentes sepan mas de como soy”? O, ¿“Las ovejas son animales inocentes y usados como sacrificios, pues, usaré esta imagen para mostrar mi sacrificio”?

Si Dios inició el sistema de sacrificios de ovejas, ¿No piensas que hubiera planeado la representación del sacrificio de Jesús antes de enseñar a su pueblo la idea de un sacrificio? En el Apocalipsis dice que “el Cordero fue sacrificado desde la creación del mundo” (Apoc 13:8). La representación de Jesús como Oveja fue algo planificado, Dios estaba preparando su gente durante 1500 años de sacrificios de animales de mansedumbre para que pudieran entender claramente lo que Jesús iba a hacer en la cruz.

Dios creó las ovejas para que pudieran ser una metáfora de Jesús.

Ahora, la pregunta principal de por qué tenemos dedos.

La Biblia está llena de imágenes antropomórficas,

  • “Los ojos del SEÑOR”
  • “El brazo del SEÑOR”
  • “El SEÑOR escuchó las quejas de su pueblo”
  • Etc.

Creo que el Creador entendió su posición como el Dios transcendente y que en nuestro entendimiento no tenemos la capacidad de comprenderlo. El nos creó para tener una relación con el, entonces quería ayudarnos a entenderle.

Si un artesano quiere comunicar una verdad a su hijo, podría hacerlo de diferentes maneras. Podría usar un objeto y asociar la verdad al objeto, o pensar en la verdad y hacer un nuevo objeto para explicar o demostrar la verdad.

Creo que el Creador escogió la segunda opción. Quería que entendiéramos su omnipresencia, entonces nos dio ojos y nos dijo, “Yo veo todo.” Quería que entendiéramos su fuerza, entonces nos dio brazos y nos dijo, “Los míos son poderosos.”

Pero no lo deja allí. Este Dios Creador, “Por medio de él todas las cosas fueron creadas; sin él, nada de lo creado llegó a existir” (Juan 1:3), “se rebajó voluntariamente, tomando la naturaleza de siervo y haciéndose semejante a los seres humanos” (Filipenses 2:7). Jesucristo se humilló a ser parte de la orden de su creación. El se humilló para morir por nosotros.

Creo que nos explica un poco porque tenemos el aspecto que tenemos…y no como pulpos.

WikiTheology

One of the things that I love about living in a different culture is the exposure to new friends and different ideas. I am energized by sitting down and discussing two opposing viewpoints. Over the past few months I have been compiling a list of questions that have arisen during conversations with various friends here in Spain. Some of those are as follows:

  • What if Jesus is just a helpful liar, giving people a false hope so they live better?
  • Why do bad things happen to good people?
  • What if religion is just a filler for the one human constant – uncertainty?
  • Didn’t God just force Judas to betray Jesus?
  • Should humans have a responsibility in protecting animals from extinction?
  • If God knew that the first people were going to sin, why did he give them a choice
  • If God is clearly known through creation, why don’t people realize it?
  • What is the difference between an animal and a human?
  • And many more

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What I would like to do is periodically take some time to write out my response to the question as I would probably say it in the discussion. I am tagging this as “WikiTheology” because I am not going to be writing research papers, but giving a popular level response. That means no footnotes (or few!), no research beyond what I have already done, and more in a conversational tone.

I will also be trying to post them in Spanish.

On Monday I will be giving my WikiTheology answer to: Why did God create man as he did and not differently?

Jesus is enough

“Though most spiritual seekers start their search afraid of disappointment, Jesus says that he will always be infinitely more than anyone is looking for. He will always exceed our expectations; he will be more than we can ask for or imagine.”

(Keller, Encounters with Jesus, Kindle 347)

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