Who created God?

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Who Created God? And how can God be three and one? Aren’t these „mysteries,” and don’t Christians just have to say, „we don’t know”? Explore with John Lennox as he explores hard questions and objections to Christianity. First an 11 minute clip and then the entire lecture video at the bottom of the posting of John Lennox at UCLA.

QUESTION:

Daniel Lowenstein: One of the most basic difficulties for those who hold the view of a materialistic universe is the question of a beginning. And, as you pointed out, before Christianity has long claimed that the universe was created, and now we have the big bang theory that at least suggests (that) it started at a certain time. And yet, there’s always the issue, „Yes, but if there can’t be an uncaused cause, then what created God? And I guess, Christianity gives different answers to that. As I understand it, Augustine’s answer was that God was outside time. And in a way, that’s a good answer, but it seems to me that that’s a way of saying, „We don’t know what the explanation is, because none of us has the slightest idea of what it means to be outside time. Or, Christianity says that the Father, or the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three, but they are one. And from those statements, many wonderful things follow. And yet, it seems to be a way of saying, „We don’t know what it is, because we have no idea what it means to be three and be one, and of how a God as powerful and as amazing as, let’s say the God of Job, could appear in the form as a human being and be the Holy Spirit. So my point is this, I think this may be a strength or weakness, but, it does seem that many of the difficult questions are just explained by mysteries- which is a Christian word, that in a way are saying, „We don’t know.”

ANSWER:

I love this particular thing and I think about it a great deal because it’s absolutely obvious that replacing one mystery by another is not always a helpful way forward. Let’s unpack this because there are 3 or 4 questions. Let’s come to that first question which has interested me because it has become a great focus recently. Both in North America and in Europe, everybody’s talking about it. I thought I left it behind in Russia. And that’s the question:

Who created God?

Dawkins has made it the heart of his book ‘The God delusion’. I was staggered when I found it there. I used to get this all the time at the academy of sciences, when I was traveling to Russia in the late 1980’s and the early 1990’s. It was almost the first question. If you believe that God created the universe, then logically you’ve got to ask the question: Who created God? And then who created the God who created God… ad infinitum. And that was the end of God, of course. And that’s exactly what Dawkins says in the God delusion. Let’s analyze it for a moment. (Transcript continues below this video…)

VIDEO by VeritasForum website www.veritas.org

Who created God? If you ask that question, that shows you’ve immediately categorized God as created. So you’re talking about a created god. Now, can you imagine if Richard Dawkins had written a book called ‘The created god delusion’? I don’t think many people would have bought it, because I don’t need him to tell me that created gods are a delusion. We usually call them idols, incidentally.

This question is extremely interesting, because it’s an illustration of a question that rules out the explanation that’s most likely to be true because the Christian claim was that God wasn’t created. So if God was uncreated. „In the beginning was the Word..” and I am coming into your 3 in 1 (questions) now, and I’m bringing it in obliquely. „In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the word was God. He already was. So, the central Christian claim is, and in Judaism and Islam, of course, equally is that God is eternal. So, the question, by definition, doesn’t even apply to Him. And that’s immensely important. The only thing you can get out of it then, in the negative sense is to assume that everything is in the category of the created. But, that’s just begging the original question. And the Greeks were interested in it, and that’s why John’s Gospel starts with those words. „In the beginning, the Word already was.” And then it says all things came to be through Him.

The Greeks were interested in the question as two categories. The things that came to be- the created things, and the things that already were. And the question resolves down to this. Is there a thing, or a being that never came to be? And that is the Christian claim. And that is called GOD. Richard Dawkins, and I had a debate with him on this very topic in Oxford, and I said to him, „Richard, You say that who created God is a legitimate question. I don’t think that it is. But, let me assume now that it is. You believe that the universe created you. So, I beg leave now to ask you your own question: Who created your own creator?”” I am waiting still for the answer. That’s the first point.

ON THE TRINITY: Very briefly to the second point. God is three in one. Is it a mystery? Yes, it is. I was talking to about 1,000 scientists. A man came up to me afterwards, a physicist, and said, „That was very interesting, all that talk about God. But, do you know, I detect you’re a Christian.” I said, „You’re pretty sharp.” He said, „Come off it. As a Christian, you’re obliged to believe that God is a triunity. That Jesus was God and man.” And he said, „You’re a mathematician. This is absurd. Can you explain it to me?”

„Well,” I said, „can I ask you a question first?” He said, „Sure.” So I said, „Tell me, what is consciousness?” And he thought for a second and he said, „I don’t know.” I said, „That’s ok, let me try an easier one. What is energy?” „Well,” he said, „I’m a physicist, I can measure energy, I can use it.” „You know,” I said, „that’s not my question. What is it?” He said, „I don’t know.” „Oh,” I said, „that’s very interesting. You don’t know. Tell me, do you believe in consciousness?” „Yes,” he said. „Do you believe in energy?” „Yes,” he said. „So, you believe in these 2 things and you don’t know what they are. Should I write you off as an intellectual?” And he said, „Please don’t.” And I said, „That’s exactly what you were going to do with me five minutes ago.” I said, „If you don’t know what energy is, nobody does- and if you don’t believe that read Richard Fineman. If you don’t know what energy is, don’t be surprised if energy, light, gravity and consciousness are a mystery. Don’t be surprised if you’re going to get an element of this in God. You’re bound to get it.”

But, now I pushed him a bit further. And I said, „Why do you believe in these things if you don’t know what they are?” That was a bit difficult and I tried to help him out. And I said, „You believe in these things because of their explanatory powers concept.” And he said, „That’s exactly right.” I said, „Look, of course I can’t explain to you how God became human. But, the only explanation that makes sense are the evidence as I see it. I’ve got a simple analogy that might help you. It’s a low level analogy, but at least it’s biblical. I’m married. I’ve been married for 42 1/2 yrs, to the same person. And my wife and I are in a sense one. We’re two persons in one flesh, the Bible would say, but in one unit. And it seems to me that in the very least (don’t misunderstand me when I say this) that this mystery is telling us something magnificent about God. God is not a monolith, who to put it crudely was lonely, so He made a few people, so He could have somebody to talk to.  God is Himself a fellowship.” Now that’s undimensioned and we can’t grasp it, but there is a sense, I feel it’s got to be something like that.

And here is the full video. Description:

Children believe in the tooth fairy until their reasoning capabilities mature and they recognize this belief is neither grounded nor relevant. Does belief in Jesus Christ require a suspension of logic? Can Christianity be proven to be true? UCLA law professor Daniel Lowenstein interviews Oxford mathematician John Lennox with honest questions about Christianity and the grounds for faith. This will be followed by audience Q&A.

Johnn Lennox full lecture 2011

[official] Christianity and the Tooth Fairy

How badly did the early scribes corrupt the New Testament? Daniel B. Wallace

Reminder: One primary reason I transcribe important lectures is because of our international readership. You can pass along this article to non English speaking readers, as they can use the Google translate widget in the sidebar (first widget at the top, on the right side of every page of this blog).

Daniel Wallace:

The New Testament has been under a barrage in the last few years. The Old Testament has been sieged. The biggest apologetic question used to be: „Is it true?”

Now, the question that is on the horizon, and is increasingly so, is: „Did God really say that?” „Is that what the Bible really says?”

Daniel Wallace, answers 4 important questions:

  1. How many textual variants are there?
  2. What kinds of textual variations are there?
  3. What theological beliefs depend on textually suspect passages?
  4. Is what we have now what they wrote then?

Daniel Wallace is a professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary and the founder of The Center for the Study of the New Testament Manuscripts, an institute that seeks to study and preserve the manuscripts of the New Testament. Wallace is an expert in biblical Greek and in textual criticism, the academic study of ancient manuscripts. Daniel Wallace’s personal website – http://www.danielbwallace.com/ The following lecture was given at Watermark Community Church of Dallas Texas on September 29th, 2012.

Here are some points from the lecture:

  • Dr. Wallace begins with a preliminary question: Don’t we have the original New Testament anymore? The answer is ‘no’. It turned to dust… probably by the end of the second century. These were originally 27 documents, sent to a variety of churches in the ancient world, that got collected later on. But, the originals must have worn out within 100 years of the writing of them. The reason I say that is because they were all written on papyrus. Papyrus doesn’t last real long. It’s actually stronger than paper. It’s kind of got the consistency of a paper grocery sack (bag). Now, these papyrus texts, they would have been copied and copied, and handled. The early church would have disseminated these documents, they would have worn out. So, we don’t have the original New testament anymore.
  • But, of the copies we do have, don’t they all say exactly the same thing? Our 2 closest, earliest related manuscripts have between 6 and 10 differences per chapter. Because of the disappearance of the originals and the difference in the manuscripts we cannot say that we have the original New Testament. Textual criticism is necessary because of these differences and because the originals don’t exist anymore.

Definition of textual variance: Any place among the manuscripts in which there is variation in wording, including word order, omission or addition of words, even spelling differences.

The quantity of Variants:

  • In the Greek NT we have approx. 140,000 words
  • Textual Variants in the manuscripts approx 400,000

So for every word in the NT we have about 2 1/2 textual variants. The reason we have a lot of textual variants is that we have a lot of manuscripts.  If there was one copy of the New Testament today, it would have no variants. As soon as you have a second copy, you will have variants. (Yet) the more manuscripts we have, the better we are in getting back to reconstructing the original. And the reason we have a lot of textual variants is that we have a lot of manuscripts. There’s nothing in the ancient world that compares to the number of variants that we have for the New Testament, nor to the number of manuscripts. (11:19)

Let me go back 300 years ago to the famous scholar- Richard Bentley, and author of the book  „Remarks Upon a Discourse of Freet Thinking” (1713). He said:

If there had been but one manuscript of the Greek New Testament at the restoration of learning about two centuries ago, then we [would have] had no various readings at all… And would the text be in a better condition then, than now [that] we have 30,000 [variant readings]?

It is good therefore… to have more anchors than one; and another MS, to join the first would give more authority, as well as security.

  • Greek manuscripts: The latest number of how many Greek New Testament manuscripts we have: 5824 By the way, the average sized Greek New Testament manuscript is more than 450 pages long. We’re not talking of little fragments. Yes, there are some that are little fragments and there are some that are huge manuscripts. But, the average size is over 450 pages.
  • Latin manuscripts: The New Testament was translated into various languages as well, early on- latin swept across Europe and starting in the second century, the New Testament was translated into Latin. We have more manuscripts in Latin than we do in Greek: The count is over 10,000+.
  • Ancient languages manuscripts: It (NT) was then translated into other ancient languages- Syriac, and Coptic, Armenian, Georgian, and Gothic and Old Church Slavonic, Arabic, the list goes on and on-Our best guess is that there is at least 5,000 manuscripts in these other ancient translations.
  • Quotations from NT: Even without these manuscripts, there are over 1 million quotations from the New Testament by church fathers.The New Testament itself has just under 8,000 verses in it. We can sometimes reproduce the New Testament many times over just by the quotations of the church fathers.

How does this compare with other ancient literature?

  • The average classical Greek writer has less than 20 hand written copies of his works still in existence. If you were to stack them up they would be 4 foot high.
  • If you were to pile all the existing New Testament manuscripts they would be 1 mile high.

Skeptics will say: How can you possibly tell what the New Testament originally said? It’s been translated, copied so many times?

Yes, but, we are not relying just on the latest versions of it? We can go back in time and we can see earlier copies and see many, many, many copies. If we’re gonna be skeptical about what the New Testament originally said, that skepticism, on average, needs to be multiplied at least 1,000 times any other classical Greek or Latin author.

Herodotus was the historian of Alexander the Great. Suetonius was one of the 3 historians on the Caesars. If we don’t have the New Testament texts, or if we have doubts about that, we should be 1,000 times more skeptical about these other texts. Maybe Julius Caesar never existed. Maybe there never was an Alexander the Great. Let’s play fair with the evidence. The New testament is phenomenal in terms of how much we’ve got in manuscripts. But, it’s also earlier than these other texts.

In the first millennium, till about AD 1,000 we have about 15% of our New Testament manuscripts. We have multiple copies of the entire New Testament within the first 300 years.

Has the Bible been translated and retranslated so many times that we don’t know what it originally said? If we go back to 1611, when the first King James Bible was published, we discover that the New Testament was based essentially on 7 Greek manuscripts that a scholar had published about 100 years earlier. The earliest of these manuscripts is from the 11th century. Today, in 2012, we have over 5800 manuscripts, almost 1000 times as many manuscripts and our earliest go back to the second century.

As time goes on, we are not getting farther and farther away from the original texts. We are actually getting closer and closer to them. 

We haven’t lost those manuscripts that the King James translators used.

The nature of the variants: What kind of variants are there?

  • 99% of the variants make virtually no difference at all. They are spelling variants that don’t change the meaning.

One of the common variants that we have among the manuscripts is the use of the article, the word „the”. (With) proper names, you would see in Luke chapter 2 ‘the Joseph and the Mary left Jerusalem’. Well, that’s in Greek. We don’t translate it that way. The word ‘the’ occurs 20,000 times in the Greek New Testament.

  • The smallest group of variants are those that are both meaningful and viable, that do affect the meaning of the text and they have a good chance at being authentic.
  • Less than 1% of all textual variants fit this group. Actually the number is approximately 1/4 of 1%.

I’ll give you a couple that are pretty meaningful texts:

  1. Mark 9:29 –  Jesus’s disciples try to cast out a demon and they can’t. So they come to Him and He says: „This kind can come out only by prayer [and fasting].” Well, I put ‘and fasting’ in brackets because the earlier manuscripts don’t have ‘and fasting’. But, most of the manuscripts which are later, do have ‘and fasting’.  This is a meaningful variant and a viable variant and it is the only place in the New Testament that says that fasting may be required to exorcise demons. So, it’s meaningful ad viable and it does change the text. But, how significant is it?
  2. Here’s one that may be more relevant to you: Revelation 13:18- „Let the one who has insight calculate the beast’s number, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.” Now, everybody knows the antichrist’s number is 666. Not so fast. In the middle of the 19th century, in Paris, a manuscript was deciphered that had never been deciphered before, by a scholar who spent 2 years on it had found that Revelation 13:18, the number of the beast was 616. Now, I had the opportunity to examine that manuscript a couple of years ago and sure enough it says 616. Well, that’s just one manuscript. But, it turned out to be our second most important manuscript for Revelation. It’s text is terrific in almost all of Revelation. Maybe it’s one that was wrong, for there were no others that said 616, until 1998 when at Oxford University, the papyrologists were going through all these papyri that for the majority had never been published and they came across a small fragment, actually 26 fragments  that spread out over 9 chapters, one of them the size of a postage stamp with this verse on it. And it had the number of the beast as 616. Well, that’s just one manuscript. But, it’s also our earliest manuscript for Revelation.  Now, even with all that evidence which is really significant, most scholars today would say, „We believe that the number of the beast is 666. When all the dust will say, we will probably say, „We’re not sure”.  But, here’s the point about Revelation 13:18: I know of no church, no denomination, no Bible college, no theological seminary of any sort that has as its doctrinal statement: We believe in the virgin birth, We believe in the deity of Christ, and we believe that the number of the beast is 666. It may be important, but not that important.

What theological beliefs do depend on textually suspect passages?

Teabing, the character in the Da Vinci Code says that Constantine, the emperor actually invented the deity of Christ in A.D. 325. Dan Brown actually believed this. It was based on another book that said (that) there are no New Testament manuscripts form before the 4th century. Well, there were at least 48 of them before the 4th century, but, they didn’t do their research. There’s a lot of misinformation that’s going on nowadays. But, here’s the point. Here in this book, they’re claiming that the deity of Christ came later, 300 years after the time that Jesus lived.

There is a papyrus # P66, written about A.D. 75. It is the first leaf of John’s Gospel. It says in John 1:1- „In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Every New Testament manuscript says that. Every single one in every single language. It’s not just the deity of Christ, we see go all the way back to the original. But, it’s all of our essential doctrines. In fact, here’s some evidence. In Bart Erhman’s ‘Misquoting Jesus’ paperback edition, in the appendix the publishers wrote this: „Why do you believe these core tenets of Christian orthodoxy to be in jeopardy based on the scribal errors you discovered in the biblical manuscripts?”

Ehrman’s response is: „Essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants  in the manuscript tradition of the New testament.” This is a skeptic saying this. This is the guy on whose works, Moslems and atheists are basing their wild flames that the orthodox have so corrupted the texts, that it must not have been orthodox at all originally. They don’t know what they’re talking about. But, they’re basing it on Dr. Ehrman’s work.

In conclusion: When it comes to essentials, we have absolute certainty that this has not been affected.Even a skeptic like Bart Ehrman could not deny that. No essential Christian belief is jeopardized by any viable variant.

The Word Was God and Became Flesh by John Piper

You can listen to the John Piper sermon audio here.

John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. 6 There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. 9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John testified about Him and cried out, saying, „This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.'” 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION

We began the last decade of the 20th century by putting up a building for exultation; God willing, we will begin the first decade of the 21st century by putting up a building for education. That is the order of priority, but it is not the order of life. Exultation in God is first in the order of importance. But it doesn’t come first in life. In life, true education precedes true exultation. Learning truth precedes loving truth. Right reflection on God precedes right affection for God. Seeing the glory of Christ precedes savoring the glory of Christ. Good theology is the foundation of great doxology. That’s the order of life.

So we call the vision behind and beneath this new building, EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION. The word „for” means that what we know and believe and teach about God is foundational for all our worship – not just the corporate worship in this building, but the exultation in God that overflows in lives of love, where others will see the glory of God (Matthew 5:16). Our education of children and youth and adults aims at exultation. Or, which is the same thing, it aims at „spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.”

God Is Alone and God Is Sovereign

I said last week that my task in these next ten weeks is to relate this vision of EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION to the larger picture of what we are about here at Bethlehem. What do we as a church exist for, and how does this vision – this plan and this building – fit in to that larger picture? We began with the foundation of the foundation. We began with God. And in particular with the deity of God – the God-ness of God – or the sovereignty of God. „You are My witnesses, declares the LORD (Yahweh), and I am God. Even from eternity I am He, and there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?” (Isaiah 43:12b-13). „I am God . . . I am He” – that’s the deity of God. „I act and no one can turn it” – that’s the sovereignty of God (see also Isaiah 14:27; 45:5-7; 46:9-10). And of this, God says, „You are my witnesses.”

This is the foundation of our EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION. We will teach that Yahweh is God and that God is sovereign, and that this is wonderful news because it is the foundation of all his grace and all his promises. Therefore, it is the foundation of true and high and passionate exultation. We will say to our children and to our youth and to each other and to anyone who will listen the words of Deuteronomy 4:39, „Know [!] therefore today, and take it to your heart [!], that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.” That is the foundation of EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION: God is God alone, and God is sovereign.

Jesus Is God

Today, I add one thing to this, one huge thing: Jesus is God. When we say EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION – IN GOD, we mean EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION – IN JESUS. When we say „We exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples,” we mean, „We exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of Jesus Christ in all things for the joy of all peoples.”

To see the basis of this from the Bible, look with me at our text and let’s make three observations.

1. Jesus Christ, who is called „the Word,” is the eternal God.

John 1:1-3, „In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”

The main thing to see here is the statement at the end of verse 1: „The Word was God.” Here Jesus Christ is called „the Word.” We will see that in just a moment from verses 14 and 17. Verse 3 clarifies what it means for „the Word” to be God. „All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” In other words, he did not come into being. All that did come into being came into being through him. He has always existed.

This clarifies what is meant by „in the beginning.” Not just „at the time of creation,” but at the time before anything came into being. The Word was with God and the Word was God because the Word never had a beginning. The Word is co-eternal with God the Father. He is not the Father, because he was „with God” the Father. But he is equally God with God the Father because „the Word was God.”

That is the first observation.

2. The Word became flesh; that is, God was united with a human nature in one Person, and was truly man and truly God who lived in history as Jesus Christ.

Verse 14: „And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Then in verse 17 this Person called „the Word” is named: „For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” So Jesus Christ is „the Word” who was in the beginning with God and who was God.

3. If you receive him, you become a child of God and enjoy everlasting waves of grace.

Combine verses 12 and 16: „But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name. . .. For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” If you receive him for who he really is, you are granted to be a child of God and that means receiving „grace upon grace” that corresponds to his fullness -which is an infinite fullness. And so the waves never cease. And so our exultation in Jesus Christ will never cease. His fullness is inexhaustible and it will overflow with waves of grace forever and ever and never run dry or become stagnant.

This is because, as Colossians 2:9 says, „In Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” His fullness is the fullness of „deity”. Therefore, it is an infinite fullness, and the grace that flows from infinite fullness is infinite grace. Therefore, we will exult in Jesus Christ with ever-new and ever-increasing joy forever and ever. This is the aim of all our education – namely, exultation in Jesus Christ, who is God – forever and ever.

The Price We must Pay

We will talk next week about why the Word was made flesh – why Jesus Christ came: the central act of history, the death of the Son of God for sin. But this morning I want to draw attention to a price we must pay if we are going to pursue EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION in Jesus as God. The price is going to be controversy. On the way to exultation in Jesus, education inevitably leads to disputation. Why is this?

We live in a world of sin and futility and finitude. 2 Timothy 4:3 makes it clear that „the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” In Acts 20:30 Paul warns the elders of Ephesus, „From among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” And 1 John 4:1-2 says specifically, „Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God. . . . By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.”

If you believe in Truth and make it the foundation of your education, you will have adversaries. I say this because I want you to have a realistic view, and not a romantic one, about what it will mean in the coming years to be a part of Bethlehem Baptist Church and a part of EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION. Most of us love exultation. But we don’t love disputation. We would love to move straight from education to exultation all the time. From learning the truth to leaping with joy. From meditation to celebration without any disputation. That would be wonderful. But it would be cheap and short-lived, perhaps a generation or so. And then true celebration would collapse.

An Illustration of the Cost

Let me give you just one illustration so that you can count the cost, whether you want to be a part of a fellowship that will have to pay the price of controversy. Last September I wrote an editorial that was printed in the Minneapolis StarTribune. It had to do with the deity and supremacy of Jesus Christ, and specifically, it had to do with whether Christians should try to win Jewish people to Christ. In it I said,

According to the New Testament, Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all the hopes of Israel. He is the yes to all God’s promises (2 Corinthians 1:20). He is the Messiah (Mark 14:61-62; Matthew 16:16; John 20:31; Acts 9:22; 1 John 2:22; 5:1). To reject him is to reject God the Father, and to confess him as Lord of your life is to be reconciled to God. „Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23). . . . Even though it is perceived as offensive by many Jewish people, the . . . call for prayer that Israel would believe on her Messiah is a profoundly loving act. For „he who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (1 John 5:12).

In other words, if you don’t worship Jesus, you don’t worship God. „He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23). This is what it means to educate on the basis of the radical truth that Jesus is God. And if we do this, we will bring out strong opposition.

Four pastors of major, influential churches in Minneapolis (three Protestant and one Catholic) signed a letter to the editor that said this:

The Rev. Piper . . . claims that the . . . appeal [to pray that Jewish people accept Jesus as their Messiah] is a „profoundly loving” act. But genuine love does not harbor the kind of aggressive agenda that is implicit in visions of „Christianizing” the world. Love, including the agape that lies at the heart of the Christian gospel, is more respectful and less intrusive, more open and less controlling than that. Unfortunately, „arrogant” is the right word to describe any attempts at proselytizing – in this case the effort of Christians to „win over” their Jewish brothers and sisters. Thoughtful Christians will disassociate themselves from any such effort. (Letter submitted to the Editor of the StarTribune, Oct. 12, 1999, and faxed to me. Part of it was published in the paper.)

The saddest thing about this letter is not that it puts you and me in the category of arrogant, unthinking, and unloving people (which it does), but that the shepherds of major Christian churches do not believe faith in Christ is essential for salvation.

True Education Is Founded on Biblical Truth

So let’s be very clear as we move forward in the vision of EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION. We love exultation. That is the goal of all things: joyful, loving, humble, soul-satisfying exultation in Jesus Christ, „who is over all, God blessed for ever” (Romans 9:5). We don’t love disputation and confrontation. We long for the day when controversy will no longer be necessary for „the defense and confirmation of the Gospel” (Philippians 1:7). But until then, true education will be founded on Biblical truth. And Biblical truth will include the glorious realities that Yahweh is God and God is sovereign and Jesus is God. And „he who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23). And „he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (1 John 5:12).

So in the coming weeks, as you ponder whether you want to be a part this vision of EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION, weigh seriously whether you believe it is loving or arrogant to say that Jesus is God and to call all people who don’t believe in him to be reconciled to God through him. Don’t be naive. Christianity is a life and death issue. It is not a therapy to make things go better. It is a conviction about reality and a faith that in some places can get you killed, and in other places will get you criticized. We are not playing games.

At stake in EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION are the lives of our children and our own lives and the lives of many others. But we have learned as a church from hard experience and from Romans 5:3 to „exult in tribulation” because it produces hope. And so, even the tribulation of controversy can lead to deeper and sweeter exultation in God. John Owen put it like this, over three hundred years ago: „When we have communion with God in the doctrine we contend for – then shall we be garrisoned by the grace of God against all the assaults of men.”* Communion with God. There’s the key. We will not just argue about Christ or discuss him or analyze him. But we will know him and trust him and commune with him and exult in him. That’s the goal of EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION. And not for us only, but for the whole world. Pray earnestly as we move toward it, and ask God to show you where you fit.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

A.W.Tozer on John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word… (a must read!)

John 1:1

The Word Became Flesh

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

An intelligent plain man, untaught in the truths of Christianity, coming upon this text, would likely conclude that John meant to teach that it is the nature of God to speak, to communicate His thoughts to others. And he would be right. A word is a medium by which thoughts are expressed, and the application of the term to the Eternal Son leads us to believe that self-expression is inherent in the Godhead, that God is forever seeking to speak Himself out to His creation. The whole Bible supports the idea. God is speaking. Not God spoke, but God is speaking. He is by His nature continuously articulate. He fills the world with His speaking Voice.

One of the great realities with which we have to deal is the Voice of God in His world. The briefest and only satisfying cosmogony is this: “He spake and it was done.” The why of natural law is the living Voice of God immanent in His creation. And this word of God which brought all worlds into being cannot be understood to mean the Bible, for it is not a written or printed word at all, but the expression of the will of God spoken into the structure of all things. This word of God is the breath of God filling the world with living potentiality. The Voice of God is the most powerful force in nature, indeed the only force in nature, for all energy is here only because the power-filled Word is being spoken.

The Bible is the written word of God, and because it is written it is confined and limited by the necessities of ink and paper and leather. The Voice of God, however, is alive and free as the sovereign God is free. “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” The life is in the speaking words. God’s word in the Bible can have power only because it corresponds to God’s word in the universe. It is the present Voice which makes the written Word all-powerful. Otherwise it would lie locked in slumber within the covers of a book.

We take a low and primitive view of things when we conceive of God at the creation coming into physical contact with things, shaping and fitting and building like a carpenter. The Bible teaches otherwise: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. . . . For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.” Again we must remember that God is referring here not to His written Word, but to His speaking Voice. His world-filling Voice is meant, that Voice which antedates the Bible by uncounted centuries, that Voice which has not been silent since the dawn of creation, but is sounding still throughout the full far reaches of the universe.

The Word of God is quick and powerful. In the beginning He spoke to nothing, and it became something. Chaos heard it and became order; darkness heard it and became light. “And God said — and it was so.” These twin phrases, as cause and effect, occur throughout the Genesis story of the creation. The said accounts for the so. The so is the said put into the Continuous present.

That God is here and that He is speaking — these truths are back of all other Bible truths; without them there could be no revelation at all. God did not write a book and send it by messenger to be read at a distance by unaided minds. He spoke a Book and lives in His spoken words, constantly speaking His words and causing the power of them to persist across the years. God breathed on clay and it became a man; He breathes on men and they become clay. “Return ye children of men,” was the word spoken at the Fall by which God decreed the death of every man, and no added word has He needed to speak. The sad procession of mankind across the face of the earth from birth to the grave is proof that His original Word was enough.

We have not given sufficient attention to that deep utterance in the Book of John, “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Shift the punctuation around as we will and the truth is still there: the Word of God affects the hearts of all men as light in the soul. In the hearts of all men the light shines, the Word sounds, and there is no escaping them. Something like this would of necessity be so if God is alive and in His world. And John says that it is so. Even those persons who have never heard of the Bible have still been preached to with sufficient clarity to remove every excuse from their hearts forever. “Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing Witness, and their thoughts the mean while either accusing or else excusing one another.” “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”

This universal Voice of God was by the ancient Hebrews often called Wisdom, and was said to be everywhere sounding and searching throughout the earth, seeking some response from the Sons of men. The eighth chapter of the Book of Proverbs begins, “Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice?” The writer then pictures wisdom as a beautiful woman standing “in the top of the high places, by the way in the places of the paths.” She sounds her voice from every quarter so that no one may miss hearing it. “Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of men.” Then she pleads for the simple and the foolish to give ear to her words. It is spiritual response for which this Wisdom of God is pleading, a response which she has always sought and is but rarely able to secure. The tragedy is that our eternal welfare depends upon our hearing, and we have trained our ears not to hear.

This universal Voice has ever sounded, and it has often troubled men even when they did not understand the source of their fears. Could it be that this Voice distilling like a living mist upon the hearts of men has been the undiscovered cause of the troubled conscience and the longing for immortality confessed by millions since the dawn of recorded history? We need not fear to face up to this. The speaking Voice is a fact. How men have reacted to it is for any observer to note.

When God spoke out of heaven to our Lord, self-centered men who heard it explained it by natural causes: they said, “It thundered.” This habit of explaining the Voice by appeals to natural law is at the very root of modern science. In the living breathing cosmos there is a mysterious Something, too wonderful, too awful for any mind to understand. The believing man does not claim to understand. He falls to his knees and whispers, “God.” The man of earth kneels also, but not to worship. He kneels to examine, to search, to find the cause and the how of things. Just now we happen to be living in a secular age. Our thought habits are those of the scientist, not those of the worshipper. We are more likely to explain than to adore. “It thundered,” we exclaim, and go our earthly way. But still the Voice sounds and searches. The order and life of the world depend upon that Voice, but men are mostly too busy or too stubborn to give attention.

Every one of us has had experiences which we have not been able to explain: a sudden sense of loneliness, or a feeling of wonder or awe in the face of the universal vastness. Or we have had a fleeting visitation of light like an illumination from some other sun, giving us in a quick flash an assurance that we are from another world, that our origins are divine. What we saw there, or felt, or heard, may have been contrary to all that we had been taught in the schools and at wide variance with all our former beliefs and opinions. We were forced to suspend our acquired doubts while, for a moment, the clouds were rolled back and we saw and heard for ourselves. Explain such things as we will, I think we have not been fair to the facts until we allow at least the possibility that such experiences may arise from the Presence of God in the world and His persistent effort to communicate with mankind. Let us not dismiss such a hypothesis too flippantly.

It is my own belief (and here I shall not feel bad if no one follows me) that every good and beautiful thing which man has produced in the world has been the result of his faulty and sin-blocked response to the creative Voice sounding over the earth. The moral philosophers who dreamed their high dreams of virtue, the religious thinkers who speculated about God and immortality, the poets and artists who created out of common stuff pure and lasting beauty: how can we explain them? It is not enough to say simply, “It was genius.” What then is genius? Could it be that a genius is a man haunted by the speaking Voice, laboring and striving like one possessed to achieve ends which he only vaguely understands? That the great man may have missed God in his labors, that he may even have spoken or written against God does not destroy the idea I am advancing. God’s redemptive revelation in the Holy Scriptures is necessary to saving faith and peace with God. Faith in a risen Saviour is necessary if the vague stirrings toward immortality are to bring us to restful and satisfying communion with God. To me this is a plausible explanation of all that is best out of Christ. But you can be a good Christian and not accept my thesis.

The Voice of God is a friendly Voice. No one need fear to listen to it unless he has already made up his mind to resist it. The blood of Jesus has covered not only the human race but all creation as well. “And having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” We may safely preach a friendly Heaven. The heavens as well as the earth are filled with the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush. The perfect blood of atonement secures this forever.

Whoever will listen will hear the speaking Heaven. This is definitely not the hour when men take kindly to an exhortation to listen, for listening is not today a part of popular religion. We are at the opposite end of the pole from there. Religion has accepted the monstrous heresy that noise, size, activity and bluster make a man dear to God. But we may take heart. To a people caught in the tempest of the last great conflict God says, “Be still, and know that I am God,” and still He says it, as if He means to tell us that our strength and safety lie not in noise but in silence.

It is important that we get still to wait on God. And it is best that we get alone, preferably with our Bible outspread before us. Then if we will we may draw near to God and begin to hear Him speak to us in our hearts. I think for the average person the progression will be something like this: First a sound as of a Presence walking in the garden. Then a voice, more intelligible, but still far from clear. Then the happy moment when the Spirit begins to illuminate the Scriptures, and that which had been only a sound, or at best a voice, now becomes an intelligible word, warm and intimate and clear as the word of a dear friend. Then will come life and light, and best of all, ability to see and rest in and embrace Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord and All.

The Bible will never be a living Book to us until we are convinced that God is articulate in His universe. To jump from a dead, impersonal world to a dogmatic Bible is too much for most people. They may admit that they should accept the Bible as the Word of God, and they may try to think of it as such, but they find it impossible to believe that the words there on the page are actually for them. A man may say, “These words are addressed to me,” and yet in his heart not feel and know that they are. He is the victim of a divided psychology. He tries to think of God as mute everywhere else and vocal only in a book.

I believe that much of our religious unbelief is due to a wrong conception of and a wrong feeling for the Scriptures of Truth. A silent God suddenly began to speak in a book and when the book was finished lapsed back into silence again forever. Now we read the book as the record of what God said when He was for a brief time in a speaking mood. With notions like that in our heads how can we believe? The facts are that God is not silent, has never been silent. It is the nature of God to speak. The second Person of the Holy Trinity is called the Word. The Bible is the inevitable outcome of God’s continuous speech. It is the infallible declaration of His mind for us put into our familiar human words.

I think a new world will arise out of the religious mists when we approach our Bible with the idea that it is not only a book which was once spoken, but a book which is now speaking. The prophets habitually said, “Thus saith the Lord.” They meant their hearers to understand that God’s speaking is in the continuous present. We may use the past tense properly to indicate that at a certain time a certain word of God was spoken, but a word of God once spoken continues to be spoken, as a child once born continues to be alive, or a world once created continues to exist. And those are but imperfect illustrations, for children die and worlds burn out, but the Word of our God endureth forever.

If you would follow on to know the Lord, come at once to the open Bible expecting it to speak to you. Do not come with the notion that it is a thing which you may push around at your convenience. It is more than a thing; it is a voice, a word, the very Word of the living God.

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