Warren Christian Apologetics Center
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Articles - God

Articles concerning the existence of God.

DIVINE PURPOSE AND DIVINE DECISION

The planet earth is our earthly home. We ask often, “Why things happen as they do?” This is a fair question. This is a deep question. To begin to answer the question, we reason there are several active players. We may not admit all of them, but they all exist. Denying any of the players exist is poor reasoning and produces an unclear picture of the cause and effect in life. Consider the players: First, God who created all things. Second, man is the apex and made in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). Man is created a free moral agent; therefore, man is capable of good as well as bad. God gives man a biblical worldview adapted to the dispensation in which he lives, yet working in harmony to its ultimate end—Christianity. Third, Satan who rebels against God (Revelation 12:7-9) and who opposes God’s plan and man (Genesis 3; John 8:44; 1 John 5:19). He will do so until the final judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).

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“In The Beginning GOD . . .”

INTRODUCTION

In order to adequately know himself, man must know God. To know himself, man must know of his own origin. (“How is it that I am here?”)

To know how one is here, he must know of his origin. Was he created or did he evolve from some non-human thing? A proper analysis of and valid reasoning concerning one’s own body, mind, and spirit (including his conscience) will result in the conclusion that he (man) was created by the infinite Being (God).

To know why he is here, man must know God and His Will.

In order to know what to do with his own life (how to be saved, how to live as a saved person), man must know God (John 17:3) and His will.

In order to know of his eternal destiny, man must know God (Matthew 25:46; Mark 9:43-50; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; Matthew 7:13-27; et al.). This study is about knowing God.

 

MAN CANNOT KNOW EVERYTHING

ABOUT GOD—BUT HE CAN KNOW WHAT HE

MUST DO TO BE SAVED

The Bible teaches that men can know that God does exist (Romans 1:18-32; Acts 14:17; Psalm 19:1-5; 14:1) and that man can know that God has certain attributes (John 17:3; 3:16; Deuteronomy 29:29). But the fact that man can know much about God does not mean that man can fully comprehend everything about every attribute of God which he can apprehend (Job 5:8; 9:10; 11:7; 37:5, 23; Psalm 139:6; 145:3; 1 Corinthians 2:10-11). But it is a very serious error (one which denies crucial truth) to hold that we can neither know that God does exist nor that He possesses certain attributes.

This means that man can learn (come to know, cf. Luke 6:46; John 8:32) what God’s word (the Bible) plainly teaches about Him. It is—obviously—altogether fitting that the very first sentence of the Bible should refer to God and His work of creation (Genesis 1:1; cf: John 1:1-3).

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The Rights of God

Dr. Barnhart says that he recognizes the essentiality of punishment, but that he doesn’t know what punishment should be given! This is indeed a great admission that the theory of Bentham is false because—according to Bentham’s theory—under these two sovereign masters, pleasure and pain, they will guide you and make you do things because of your natural constitution—what you ought to do and you shall do.

In my closing remarks I want to call your attention to the fact that the great God of heaven has certain rights in regard to man in the world.

According to Luke 13:69, which sets out the parable of the fig tree, there are certain things that we should learn.

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The National “Tradition” of Belief in God

Watching a televised Fourth of July presentation of a “Salute to America” was impactful and insightful. The sights and sounds were impressive. Much of the focus centered on the nation’s military, which should exist to protect the citizenry, especially those who seek to be, and do, good (cf. Romans 13:3-4). The presentation included an array of tanks, precision military units, and powerful weaponry such as multiple aircraft displayed in impressive flyovers performed by units such as the U. S. Navy’s Blue Angels.  Watching those Blue Angels soar above in a six-plane delta formation while unleashing a display of white smoke was a special sight to behold. However, there was more than military prowess on display. Hearing the names of great American heroes, some of whom we have been aware of since childhood, was inspirational. There were such names as George Washington, Betsy Ross, John Glenn, Martin Luther King, and numerous others. Some of the individuals may have been lesser known such as Dr. Emil Freireich whose work in oncology has resulted in successful treatment of childhood leukemia. All were American heroes. Hearing the U. S. Armed Forces Chorus sing service songs adopted respectively by each of the five branches of the United States Armed Forces was powerful.

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A Professor’s Problem

In the March 25 edition of the New York Times, Professor Peter Atterton, in his article entitled “A God Problem,” concluded that the concept of God, as viewed by most in the Western World, is an incoherent one. This is an exceedingly bold claim, and it will here be shown to be an incoherent one.

Mr. Atterton asks, “Does the idea of a morally perfect, all-powerful, all-knowing God make sense? Does it hold together when we examine it logically?” And then Mr. Atterton proceeds to discuss the concepts of omnipotence, omniscience, and moral perfection, but he does so in a glaringly illogical way.

He asserts that if God cannot create a stone that he cannot himself lift, he is not all powerful because he couldn’t create it, but on the other hand if he can create such a stone, he cannot be all-powerful, because he would not then be able to lift it. And Mr. Atterton seems to think that this supposed dilemma is destructive of the very claim that God is all-powerful! But such an assertion is much misguided. And furthermore, the assertion is based on a most non-philosophical definition of “omnipotence.” Mr. Atterton’s definition of “omnipotence” is that it is applicable to anything of which a person can conceive even if it makes no sense! Mr. Atterton’s definition of “omnipotence” is incoherent!

Has he not yet considered this? To say that God, to be God, would have to be able to do that which is not possible in the first place, and then to say that, when the impossible act was accomplished, the act would be understandable by humans in the second place, would be to define “omnipotence” so as to make it nonsensical! Mr. Atterton’s definition of “omnipotence” is a clear overreach. It applies to the ontologically impossible and the intellectually irrational. That is not “omnipotence.” That is the irrational contemplation of ontological chaos.

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WHO IS THE JEHOVAH OF THE OLD TESTAMENT?

There are a number of passages which indicate that Jehovah appeared to men (in some form) in the Old Testament (e.g., Genesis 18:1ff; etc.).   Yet, there are also numerous passages which say that no man has ever seen God (cf. John 1:18).  What are we to make of this phenomena?  Should we understand such passages to suggest that no man has ever seen the entire Godhead at one time?  Probably not, but this has been suggested.  Should we say that men did not see God Himself, but rather, only some shadowy manifestation of Him, or, some physical manifestation that is not to be identified with Him?  That this is not satisfactory will become apparent in a short time.  Some passages say that men saw Jehovah, and others just as clearly say that no man has seen the Lord.  How should we understand what appears to be a serious problem?

The Problem Stated

            Numerous passages indicate that no man has seen God at any time.  For instance, John says in John 1:18 (all Scripture references are from the American Standard Version, unless otherwise noted):  "No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him."  Scripture is clear to show that those who had seen the Christ had seen the Father (cf. John 10:30; 14:9; etc.).  But, the same Bible is just as clear to point out that the Father has not been seen by mortal man at any time.  In John 5:37, Jesus Himself said: “And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me.  Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.”   John says further, in 1 John 4:10-12, 14, 20:
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.   Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.   No man hath beheld God at any time: if we love one another, God abideth in us, and his love is perfected in us: . . .  And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father hath sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. . . .  If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen. 

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My Dad Knows God!

   There is the story of three little boys who, playing as backyard buddies, got into one of those “my Dad is better than your Dad” routines. One of the boys declared, “My Dad knows the mayor of our town!” The second boy responded by saying, “That’s nothing! My Dad knows the governor!” Then the third boy exclaimed: “That’s nothing! My Dad knows God!”

   There is no greater legacy a father can leave his children (son or daughter) than the memory of a father who has lived by faith in, and fear of, God. The Bible reports, “[A]nd the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’—and he was called a friend of God” (James 2:23; cf. Genesis 15:6). [All Scripture references are from the English Standard Version, ESV Text Edition 2011.] Surely Isaac was a rich son, because he was able to correctly recall that his father was “a friend of God.” Likewise, Jacob could rightfully say, “If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed” (Genesis 31:42). What a legacy has been bequeathed when one can say, as Alexander Campbell reportedly said of his father, Thomas: “I never knew a man of whom it could be said with more assurance that he walked with God. . . . Whatsoever good I may have done under God, I owe it all to his paternal care and instruction, and especially his example.”

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An Agnostic Is Neither an Atheist Nor a Theist

Some Simple Definitions

Although these words have been defined with various shades of meaning by some thinkers, I wish to use some simple, brief definitions of three crucial terms: agnostic, atheist, and (Biblical) theist. An agnostic is a person who holds that there is not sufficient evidence available to man to warrant the deduction that men can know that God exists. (The agnostic holds that there is not evidence available so that man can answer either “yes” or “no” to the question as to whether God exists.) An atheist is one who claims that there is sufficient evidence available to man to warrant the deduction that men can know that God does not exist. A (Biblical) theist is one who holds that there is sufficient evidence available to men to warrant the deduction that men can know that God does exist. I am concerned in this article to show that while some men who espouse the basic agnostic viewpoint may classify themselves as theists, such a classification is unwarranted. To be an agnostic relative to, say, X is to hold that men cannot know X. In this article, I am concerned especially with agnosticism relative to the existence of God, the inspiration of the Bible, and the correct interpretation of the Bible.

 

“Kinds” of Agnosticism

Relative to the existence of God, there are at least two kinds of agnostics. The kind of agnostic who “leans toward” theism (such as Blaise Pascal) says that no one can know whether God exists but claims that “it is more reasonable” to believe that God does exist than that he does not. But the fact that this type of agnostic “leans toward” theism does not make him truly a (Biblical) theist. The other kind of agnostic is one who “leans toward” atheism (such as Bertrand Russell). This kind of agnostic holds that no one can know whether God exists, but he claims “that it is more reasonable” to believe that God does not exist than to believe that he does.

 

An Agnostic Is Neither an Atheist Nor a Theist

There are numerous philosophers who claim not that they know that God does not exist, but that there is not sufficient evidence available to men to enable anyone to know whether God does or does not exist. It is manifestly incorrect to refer to such men as atheists, and it is surely the case that at least most of them would resent anyone referring to them as atheists. There is a definite distinction made between being an atheist and being an agnostic. While we thus recognize the distinction between an agnostic and an atheist, we also must recognize that it is incorrect to refer to an agnostic as a (Biblical) theist. If a given person says that there is not sufficient evidence available to men for them to know whether God exists, even if he does claim that it is “more reasonable to believe” that God does exist than to believe that he does not exist, such a person is not a (Biblical) theist–he is an agnostic! This is the case simply because so long as one holds that the evidence available to man is not sufficient to warrant the deduction that men can know that God exists, even if they do say that it is “more reasonable” to believe that God exists than that he does not exist, then they are not theists but agnostics!

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THE ABSOLUTE OF GOD AND MORAL VALUE

In 1943, following his historic BBC radio talks of 1941-42, C. S. Lewis published an essay titled, “The Poison of Subjectivism.” Lewis wrote: “Until modern times, no thinker of the first rank ever doubted that our judgements of value were rational judgements or that what they discovered was objective.” However, as Lewis goes on to explain, today’s modern view is that when someone says a thing is good he is merely expressing his feelings about it. By “judgements of value” Lewis meant moral judgments about right and wrong. He called this “practical reason” and said if we “grant that our practical reason is really reason and that its fundamental imperatives are . . . absolute . . . then unconditional allegiance to them is the duty of man. So is absolute allegiance to God. And these two allegiances must, somehow, be the same.”

Absolute moral judgment goes hand in hand with the absolute reality of God. And, the absolute reality of God goes hand in hand with absolute moral judgment. Without absolute moral judgment there is no absolute truth. Without absolute truth there is no absolute moral judgment.

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The Last Night of the Year

New Year’s Eve. Someone has described it as a sanctioned party that makes way for another 365 days of drudgery and responsibility. December 31 is the night the civilized world steps on the gas and blows last year’s gunk out of its carburetors.

   The above reflects a perspective of the shallow and misguided nature of the secular life. The end of the old year and beginning of the new year should be a time to focus on more than the tinsel and confetti of the world symbolized in a sparkling ball that falls from Times Square. The old year passes with its success and failure, sunshine and sorrow, and triumph and trial. Such, in conjunction with the dawning of a new year, can be a purposeful time of deep reflection on the real issues of life.

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