New at apolo-J-etics

First, I’d like to thank my many followers for supporting this blog; whether it’s a simple follow or like or prayer, it’s all added up.  I’ve added a new page – Why Jesus? and included a feed from Ravi Zacharias on this site.  Please check it out and feedback is welcome.

In Christ,

Tim

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Apologetics and Minions 1

Check out this animation presentation of the God-Stone paradox.  Make sure you get parts 1 and 2 (Wideo restricts free usage to 45 seconds.)

Wideo Presentation

Minions and the God-Stone Paradox Part 1

Minions and the God-Stone Paradox Part 2

Read the full article here.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to find a good free/ affordable animation site.  If you know of any, please share.

Positive Omnipotence and Double Negatives

An infamous challenge to God’s omnipotence is the paradox:

Can God create a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it?

If I (the theist) answer “yes” then I am admitting that God cannot do something – He cannot lift a specific rock.  If I answer “no” then I am saying there is something God cannot do – or am I?  Let’s take a close look at the “no” response:

God cannot create a rock that is so heavy He cannot lift it.

To this, the atheist comes back with, “Then you admit there is something God cannot do!”

But is the second part of the statement really “something?”  A simple lesson in grammar will show us otherwise.  Consider the question:

You haven’t been reading no books on how to cook bugs, right?

How do you respond to this question?  If you answer “No, I haven’t” I could say, “Oh, so you haven’t been reading none of the books.”  If you answer “Yes,” I could say, “So I am right in assuming you have been reading books about cooking bugs.”  In order to clear up the confusion, we need to first resolve the grammatical error – the double negative.  There are two ways to fix a double negative: either get rid of one negative, or remove both.

Case 1:

You haven’t been reading no books on how to cook bugs, right?

OR Case 2:  remove both.

You haven’t been reading no books on how to cook bugs, right?

which becomes:

You have been reading books on how to cook bugs, right?

So case 2 makes a strong positive because “not no” book means definitely a book.  If you say, “No, I haven’t,” then it is clear that you have not been reading books on how to cook bugs.  If you answer “Yes, I have,” then it is clear that you have been reading books on how to cook bugs.

double negative 1

So, if I answer the God question with the response:

God cannot create a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it.

Then the two “not’s” cancel each other out in the case of a strong positive.  Bad grammar is resolved by saying:

God cannot create a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it.

OR

God can create any rock, regardless of its weight, that He can lift.

Another way to view this cancellation effect is through a thought experiment.  Let’s place all the rocks that God can lift on the right side of our hypothetical space.  On the left side is the set of all the rocks God cannot lift.  We are assuming an omnipotent God.  On the right side, we can place every rock in existence.  We can also place every hypothetical rock, for instance, a rock that fills the entire universe.  If God is omnipotent, He can lift it.  On the left side of our thought experiment, how many rocks do we have?  No rocks.  Nothing.  So when we make the statement,

God cannot create a rock that is so heavy He cannot lift it.

Then “a rock that is so heavy He cannot lift it” belongs on the left side, the set of rocks God cannot lift.  That set is empty, nothingness.  To rephrase:

God cannot create nothingness.

This really is a conclusive definition of a God who creates.  It is a double negative that implies a strong positive.

double negative rocks

 

The best response to the skeptic asking the God-stone paradox is to reply “Not no.”  This prevents the questioner from running away with an assumption of the word “cannot” and from assuming that an empty set is “something.”

“Can God create a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it?”

“Not no.”

“What?”

“Not no.  God can not create no such thing.”

From that point, the theist catches the atheist in his quick-witted game, and the atheist cannot run with the “cannot.” Or to correct myself, the atheist can run with the “can.”

There are other things besides nothingness that God assigns a negative value, as in worthless by His standards.  One of these qualities is lying.  Since God places such high value on truth, a lie is of no value to Him.  Therefore, God cannot lie.  This is what I call positive omnipotence.  Humans place a positive value on lying because of their finite perspective.  We cannot see that a lie will hurt in the long run, usually by opening the door to more lying.  The real test of God’s omnipotence is to measure the value of the “God cannot” statements.  “God cannot do nothing” is obviously different from “God cannot do something.”  We test by focusing on the second part of the statement and asking whether God would assign it a positive value.  If God approves, it is “something” and God can do it.  If God disapproves, as in lying or creating nothingness, it is out of character and therefore not possible for a positive omnipotent God.

The Proven-Miracle Paradox

Suppose a certain miracle does, in fact, happen. Now, every skeptic that hears of this miracle wants proof. So the miracle is repeated and proved. If the miracle is repeated to every skeptic that ever exists, is it still a miracle, considering that a miracle is a rare event?

I call this the “Proven-Miracle Paradox.”  After searching my mental database and Google’s, I cannot find this paradox; if you do find it elsewhere, please let me know.  When setting up a story-line in a previous post The God You Can See, I noticed this paradox creeping up.  Proving a miracle presents a problem by nature of a miracle.

tough questionThe problem is that miracles are defined to be an “unusual event.” Therefore, if enough people see it happening enough times, it is no longer unusual. It could even be argued that it is now a natural occurrence or phenomenon. But miracles are thought to supernatural, not natural! The Proven-Miracle Paradox reveals something about the skeptic, something about the miracle, and something about God.

About the Skeptic

For the skeptic, the Proven-Miracle paradox begs another question. Why did the skeptic ask for proof of a miracle in the first place, when universal proof only diminishes the miracle? The skeptic has not thought out the entire process. Is it fair that everyone gets to see the miracle, or does that one skeptic have a privileged advantage? But while giving proof to the one skeptic, he cannot confirm it to others without making the miraculous disappear. The skeptic is correct in saying, “I will believe in the supernatural when I see a miracle.”  But he cannot say, “I can prove to others that I have seen something besides a hallucination.”  Nor can multiple skeptics have a fair share in saying “I believe in the supernatural because I see a miracle.”  Perhaps the skeptic had already dismissed the possibility of a miracle, by making a predetermined, biased judgment. Perhaps the skeptic really did not want to accept a real God, so he devised a test that would knowingly fail.

About That Miracle

Let’s conclude that the miracle cannot be proven on a universal level. Then, in order for sensible people to accept the miracle, there must be something else about it that carries weight. One way for this to happen is to have enough witnesses gathered within the vicinity of a single rare event. Also, the miracle has to have significance; it cannot be arbitrary. If a skeptic demands to see a wooden desk float, what does it mean? Does it mean that the law of gravity is inconsistent, leading to the conclusion that physical laws are not always consistent? Does it mean that a demon is making the desk float, or a god? And which god? The god of wooden desks? Rather, if the miracle is said to be a sign, it should point to other facts or statements in a meaningful way, much like a traffic sign does. It should “connect the dots.”

Now About God

The Proven Miracle Paradox seems to be a problem for God. How can He prove Himself to be miraculous in a fair, universal way? And yet we’ve seen that miracles can carry weight through other means. If a real God arranged a miracle, how could that miracle be the most advantageous? We’ve ruled out universal proof with our paradox. Take the case of Jesus as God. The miracle of His resurrection was directly observable by more than 500 witnesses. (1 Cor. 15:3-8). Rather than dying again and again until everyone in existence could see, Jesus accomplished this miraculous feat once. The effective means was taking 500+ good witnesses, people who would testify even through the pains of death. We know for certain that the witness of the resurrection spread globally and continued to be accepted for 2000 years.

The miracle of the virgin birth of Christ takes the effectiveness of significance. It puts the “sign” in “sign-ificance.” We are not asking “What is the significance of any virgin birth,” but rather “What is the significance of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ?”

Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

This verse is one of many prophecies.  The “sign” points not only to a virgin birth, but to the name Immanuel, meaning “God with us.”  So this was one sign pointing to Jesus as God revealed.

Luke 2:12 “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

The significance of shepherds coming to see Jesus is two-fold.  Bethlehem was known as the city of David, the shepherd who became king, an ancestor king of Jesus.  The shepherds were also looking upon the one to be called “Lamb of God,” who would take away the need for animal sacrifices.

Prophecies preceded the virgin birth, and signs led the shepherds and later the wise men to worship the baby.  Then, when the baby had grown to maturity, he spoke of such things as being “born of the Spirit.”  Jesus’ many miracles were not discounted by witnesses, but they were not accepted by all.  The miracles of healing were not good enough for the more religious people.  Some were too legalistic to accept what Jesus’ miracles signified; others would have preferred a ‘miracle’ of victory in war.  Jesus’ miracles focused on life – by means of healing, feeding, and resurrection.  So the virgin birth of Jesus is not any random virgin birth.  It is not the first freak incident of parthenogenesis in humans.  Neither is it a miracle simply for the point of proving the existence of the supernatural.  The virgin birth is the birth of a sinless, immortal human fashioned in the original image of God.  Jesus would go on to exhibit his incredible trait of being immune to staying dead.  And He would make this trait available to be transferred to any who accept.  Who is the giver of life?  Who originally made a man without the use of a man?  The God of the Bible, who creates with His word. (See John chapter 1.  The perfect will of God is shown to be active both in the original creation and the special creation through the virgin birth.) This God is the supernatural agent to which all signs of Jesus point.

Summary

Let’s recap.  Based on the Proven-Miracle Paradox, we get the following conclusions.  If you repeat a miracle enough times in front of enough people, it’s no longer unusual.  A skeptic, hoping to provide proof of a miracle, would never accumulate enough empirical evidence.  A God who relies solely on miracles for proof of His existence is apparently doomed to fail in His revelations.  A God who ties miracles with logic, history, and meaning is the God who will succeed.  The God of the Bible uses all these to prove His existence.

The God You Can See

god in sky2

A young man named Josh sat on a park bench with his frazzled head in his hands. “If only I could see God right now. Then I’d believe in Him.”

A gentle voice responded. “I can do that for you.” The flustered man sat up. An old lady had taken a seat next to him. “I have good connections. If you want to see God, just let me know how.”

Josh laughed at first, but noticed the woman was serious. “Heck, I’ll give it a try.” He thought for a moment. “Lightning. I want to see a good lightning show, in my backyard, tonight.”

“Very well. Consider it done.”

Josh was still laughing later that evening as he eased in his recliner; still, he couldn’t help but pause and check out the back window. “Yeah, right,” he told himself after an hour. Just as Josh was about to fall asleep right there, he heard a rumble and jerked his head around. His back yard was pitch-black. CRACK! He ran to swing open the back door. CRACK! BANG! BOOM! For a good half hour, lightning danced in earth-shattering power. Josh’s jaws hung open for most the show. For the next half hour, he called everyone he knew, friends, family, neighbors, waking everyone he knew in the middle of the night just to tell them what he’d seen. “I must say, I do believe in a God,” he added. Very tired, Josh went to sleep and dreamed that lightning resumed its show for the rest of the night.

The next morning, Josh turned on the news as usual. There was quite the story. “Dan Smith reporting here from Europe. What started in Ohio has spread across the globe in a matter of hours. Lightning has covered the world. Some people think it’s because they’re asking God to put on a lightning show – This is obviously an unfounded claim. Meteorologist Steve has determined that there is a new weather phenomenon, called global lightning chains, where all lightning storms join into one global network. Steve can see the friction in the clouds, the electricity in the lightning, but he can’t see God. Psychiatrists believe that a coincidence happened in Ohio where one man linked lightning to God. After that, everyone coincidentally linked these lightning storms to God. It’s now been scientifically proven; whether you pray to God or not, there is 99% chance you’ll see lightning within two hours.” Just as Dan said this, lightning struck in Josh’s back yard.

Back at the park, Josh sat on the same bench with his head in his hands. A voice next to him inquired, “So what happened, my friend?”

Josh wouldn’t sit up this time. “I don’t understand. Lightning should have proved God’s existence, but now there’s lightning all the time. Lightning is a natural, normal, common event now. Noone thinks it has anything to do with God.”

“You couldn’t help but tell all your friends, could you? I’ll tell you what happened next. Your friends, thinking it only fair that God should answer their same prayer, demanded He put on a lightning show for each one of them. As God complied, the news spread to their friends, relatives, and neighbors. It didn’t take long for lightning to cover the world.”

“I thought I dreamt it went on all night.”

“Those rocket scientists on the news don’t see our hearts speaking to God. All they can see is the movement of water droplets and the movement of people’s mouths.”

“I bet if they saw God’s face sharp across the sky, they’d have to believe.”

“Tomorrow they will.”

“Really? You can really do that?”

Sure enough, the next day, God’s face was on the news. “I guess we have to believe in God now.” Josh jumped and clapped his hands for joy. “Thank you, God. That should shut them up for a long time.”

Josh went about town, whistling and proudly wearing a new cross necklace. The evening news would change his tune. “Dan reporting…” The somber anchorman could not seem to face the screen in the background. From a war-zone, a reporter spoke in between bombings. “It all started when one ethnic group said … God looked more like… them. The other group claimed… they saw God’s lips say… ‘No, they don’t.’ This is Amber… coming to you from Cuba.” Then another reporter came on. “What you’re seeing in this Japanese sky is another god. Some believe a new kind of hologram has been developed, a 3D hologram that puts a giant face in the sky. If this were true, it would cast doubt on the other famous ‘face of God.’”

The next day found Josh back on the park bench. He looked like the Thinker statue. “Why doesn’t it work? You’d think God showing his face would solve everything. Instead, epic fail, global backfire. Maybe I just need a god that makes me happy. Who cares what anyone else thinks?”

“Here you go. Rub it and make as many wishes as you’d like.” She placed an ancient oil lamp into his hands.

The next day, Josh came back, frustrated as ever. “You told me to rub this lamp and make wishes. Nothing happened. Nothing at all. I’m beginning to really doubt this God thing.”

The old lady seemed to be holding back a burst of laughter. “Are you looking for a God, or are you looking for a genie? Anyone with that much power isn’t going to serve at your beck and call. I knew the lamp wouldn’t work when I gave it to you. God is real, but genies are a myth.” A dog sniffed Josh’s hand, startling him for a moment. The old lady had brought a stray dog with her. “I brought something else today.”

“A dog?”

“And two choices. Two choices for our buddy Rusty here.” She handed Josh a paper bag with two items inside. One was a hunk of steak, the other a paper-back book. Josh held out an item in each hand, and Rusty didn’t take a whole second to decide on steak. The woman smiled. “As far as Rusty is concerned, you’re his God. He can see you, and you give him good things. Rusty has used the highly scientific tool of direct observation.”

“Oh, I get it. I’m just like a dog, because I want to see my Master and get my wishes granted.”

“No. God wouldn’t treat you like that. Yes, Rusty has a good sense of sight, a better sense of hearing, and a fantastic sense of smell. You, on the other hand, have been given other heightened senses. Your senses of conscience and rationality have been designed so that you can perceive God. And somehow I feel that you’re looking to God for more than a steak for satisfaction.” She nodded toward the book.

Josh held up the book. “The Case for Faith. We’ll just have to see how good this is. That steak didn’t look all too bad.” He shared a smile with her.

For a month, Josh didn’t return to the park. Five weeks after receiving the book, Josh came back with a woman and two small children. The old lady sat contentedly with Rusty. Josh got her attention. “Ahem. I never got your name.”

“Just call me Florence.”

“Well, Florence, I’d like you to meet my wife, Kate, and my children Ethan and Emma. Family, this is Florence. This wonderful woman helped me see God. I thought I would find him in the bright flash of lightning, or smiling across the sky, or in magical wishes. Come to find out, God did reveal Himself in human history, but it was the way He wanted to reveal Himself – when and how He wanted. The people who saw Him back then found their own crazy reasons to reject Him. So then I used my heart, mind and soul. I discovered the greatest power ever known to me, my own will-power. It was selfish but strong, inward but unchanging. If my own will could be changed, if God is indeed more powerful than that, it would be proof to me that a higher power exists. When I gave my life to Christ, I saw generosity replace selfishness. Joy replaced depression. Hope replaced fear and doubt. Passions, choices, and old habits changed. I saw God do the impossible.”

As old Florence spoke, you could hear the years of experience in her voice. “God is more concerned you know who He is than you know that He is. You find Him by developing a relationship and understanding His character. You, Josh, saw God in a way that can never be erased by anyone else. Of course, God is infinite. You’ve only seen the tip of the nose on his face, so to speak.”

“And, thanks to God’s changing power, I got back what I really wanted deep inside. The wholeness of getting my family back, and this time I really care about them more than myself. Thank you so much, Florence.”

“Oh, no problem. I’m just passing along the vision of God.”

God-is-more-concerned QUOTE


This story is mostly hypothetical – a thought experiment.  The moral of the story is found by comparing two Gods: a “seen” God who consequently bends to our will, and an “unseen” God who is more powerful than even our will.

Intro – How Did We All Miss It?! (Jesus & DNA)

Friends, thank you for following apoloJetics – apologetics with a capital ‘J’.  You might also enjoy a new blog I’m starting that discovers the amazing connection between Jesus and DNA.  At first, the two don’t seem to mix in any rational way.  My background in both Bible studies and Mathematics gives me a unique vantage point.  I’d like to challenge each of you to go beyond your memes and bounds.  There’s more to Jesus than a nice teacher giving fishing tips.

Intro – How Did We All Miss It?!.

In Christ,

Tim

Memes and Anti-Memes

Two Face

One of the claims of the New Atheists is that church-goers get disillusioned by a type of mirage called a “meme.”

According to merriam-webster.com, a meme is:

“ an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture”

Let’s take, for instance, an image where God is a father.  In this meme, we might have an image where God looks like a smiling father with a child sitting comfortably in His lap.  This image becomes a meme when we freeze the bounds, where God can be nothing other than this picture.  Yes, God is certainly like an earthly father, but he is not constrained to those characteristics.  So when we find God to be something other than that meme, we have a set of choices to make.  The options I can see are four-fold.

  1. Unwaveringly hold on to the meme. God is a charming earthly father and nothing more.
  2. Study to find what else God might be. What might a Heavenly Father look like?
  3. Replace the meme with another meme. God is not a charming earthly father, but rather an impatient, abusive father.
  4. Study to find out whether God is a product of fiction. Perhaps we cannot find a rational description of God.

Notice the other meme in option 3.  This is done by sloppy study of the God of the Bible.  By cherry-picking verses out of the Bible rather than doing serious study, we can make God out to be a very angry father.  I call this other meme an anti-meme.  Rather than taking a hard, honest look at what a Heavenly Father entails, we take a quick glance and end up with another false image.  Now we have a “raging father” meme rather than a “charming father” meme.  And if we make a false assumption that we have honestly and diligently studied Biblical history, we could skip to step 4 and state, “Perhaps we cannot find a rational description of God.”  So a false set of options would look like this:

  1. Unwaveringly hold on to the meme. God is a charming earthly father and nothing more.
  2. Study to find out whether God is a product of fiction. God is not a charming earthly father, but rather an impatient, abusive father. Perhaps we cannot find a rational description of God.

Coincidentally works out for the atheist, doesn’t it?  And yet the other options are subtly out of view.

So what happens if we explore option 2 out of the 4 options?  I’ve been reading a book by Paul Copan, “Is God a Moral Monster?”  If we read books like this in light of the new atheists’ claims, we’ll at least have a balanced view.  Taking this in addition to my own study of the Bible, I can consider what a Heavenly Father might look like.  For starters, He’s got billions of children over the course of thousands of years in various cultures of various ages.  Consider that some of His children are tyrants, while others cry out for deliverance.  A Heavenly Father’s patience may last for hundreds of years, and yet cries for help cannot be ignored.  And how did ancient Biblical people view things?  From my own research, ancient Middle-Easterners would look at modern Westerners as a bunch of softies.  But don’t take my word for it; do your own research and find for out yourself.  You’ll find their situation is no easy picture, no quickly-forming meme.

The word ‘antimeme’ or ‘anti-meme’ does not have a definition according to the latest Merriam-Webster results.  By ‘anti-meme’ I refer to:

“a fresh meme that is invented to replace another diametrically-opposed meme”

This meme will probably not behave like the original meme, since it is new or falsely presented as new.  Therefore, it will not appear mindless or viral, rather as fresh and original.  Like a meme, an anti-meme will have some reasoning behind it, reasoning that supports the opposing viewpoint.  However, like the meme, the anti-meme will depend on assumptions and caricatures.

A popular anti-meme says that Jesus’ crucifixion was a form of cosmic child abuse.  What images come to your mind when you think of ‘child abuse?’  The first image I get is a child in elementary school that wears long sleeves in summer to cover her bruises.  I confirm the moral injustice, the unethical treatment within the situation.  Abusing a child is certainly wrong.  So does the crucifixion fit this profile?  Let’s read from Jesus’ own words to His Father before the crucifixion:

John 17:1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was…”

From an eternal perspective, the focus shifts from the word ‘child’ to the word ‘cosmic.’  Jesus is a child to God only in the sense that He is a Son; not in the sense of being younger or less mature.  Often the Biblical reference to the word ‘child’ is misinterpreted due to the strength of family tradition.  You could be 70 years old and be the ‘child’ of a 100-year-old, because your father would always be your father.  On top of this, we have an infinite son of an infinite father.  How meme-shattering the ‘cosmic child’ proves to be!

So should we hastily throw away all our memes?  No.  Memes are a good starting point, like intuition to a child.  Think of memes like icons on your computer.  What If instead of small pictures that represented the entire programs on your computer desktop, you had the entire programs all running simultaneously on your screen?  Actually, this would waste a ton of memory and keep the other icons out of sight.  I suggest that instead of totally blowing all our memes away, we should investigate them one by one.  We might just enrich each one.  God is a very loving Heavenly Father, one that has an eternal plan in mind for each one of us.  Yes, it is more complicated and sometimes quite bewildering.  It ties in a multi-dimensional love woven through times and cultures.  It defies a simple explanation, and yet ultimately becomes a reality in a future world.  Let’s be careful not to hastily adopt memes or anti-memes.  For the serious Bible student, this means to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Copyright 2014

The Conclusive Teapot in Space

teapot space

Bertrand Russell  proposed the concept of a teapot in space, somewhere between the Earth and Mars.

 If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. [1]

The unpleasant dilemma is that an unobservable teapot can neither be proved nor disproved.  I can go about shouting from the rooftops “There’s a teapot floating in space,” and no one can prove me wrong.  If all I do is go about shouting, I could be considered a lunatic.  But shouting is not all I shall do.  

Scenario 1: A Teapot Floats in Space

I propose that I can conclude a teapot floats in space without observing a teapot in space, as long as I have two other things.  The first thing would be a diary I happen upon.  On the last written page of the diary, in beautiful cursive, I find written:

“I love my tea set almost as much as I love my grandson.  He is a bright, gifted man, and I always told him he could be anything he wanted to be.  Often I would tell him this over a cup of tea.   I suppose he believed me.  He’s an astronaut, and he’s about to board the space station.  My tea set is also special and dear to my heart.  It has a hand-painted rose on the teapot and on each of the cups.  It is my dying wish to see both dreams realized, that my grandson should always be remembered, if only my tea set were sent traveling through space.”

Of course, having only the written account could be babbling nonsense if taken by itself.  There is one more item to satisfy my conclusion.  Supposing I lift my telescope and spot a rose-printed teacup floating just beyond the orbit of the space station.  Now I have a second item (the cup) to confirm the first (the diary), to assume a teapot in space without ever seeing a teapot in space.  Assuming the 2 things, I now have a reason to scour the heavens for a rose-print teapot, and should I one day spot it, I will not be the least bit surprised.

Now I begin to wonder why this was never publicized before my observation.  I would love to get my name in the headlines as the one who first observed the teacup from Earth, but wouldn’t NASA or the news be weeks ahead of me?  I begin to formulate a theory on the release of the tea set.  Mack, the grandson, knew of his grandmother’s dying wish and made it his own living wish.  Noone else in NASA would understand.  He would sneak the tea set inside his space pack, sacrificing room for his own nutrition and medication.  After he was aboard the space station, and as soon as he was given a task outside the station, he would release the tea set.  The teapot and most of the cups must have been flung out farther, beyond the reach of my telescope.  Perhaps one cup hung behind, suspended along a lower orbit.  Then Mack would simply wait for the discovery to be made, for his grandmother’s dream to be immortalized.

God is like the grandmother’s teapot.  He made his wish known, His desire for us to be made in His image, in His written Word.  He even went so far as to become one of us and demonstrate that this was literally His dying wish.  Truly we bear a similar imprint.  In the Bible we find wisdom, logic, passion, compassion, and all the invisible qualities that we see both in ourselves and in God.   God’s spirit, like tea from a teapot, is poured into the vessel of man.  Denying God is denying a greater capacity for a greater relationship.

Scenario 2: The Teapot Rests in the Expected Place

What of others who cannot see the teapot?  And would they really find it in orbit around the sun between Earth and Mars?  We could attempt a mathematical formula based on masses and gravitational forces within the solar system to determine the placement of a teapot’s orbital path.  Or we could use a simpler mathematical solution, sets and probability.  The set proposed is the set of all objects orbiting the sun, which we will call set S for sun.  We can easily place planets and comets into this set.  The teapot, however, is at a low probability of being in this set.  We know this, not simply because of our lack of finding a teapot orbiting the sun, but rather because we find teapots somewhere else.  The other set includes all objects found in the dining room, set D.  Since we expect to find a teapot here with a much higher probability than anywhere else, we can safely assume the teapot exists in set D rather than in set S.  In other words, I could point a telescope out the dining room window and never see a teapot until I take my eye out of the telescope and look within the room.

So now we have a different scenario to consider.  Let’s assume the diary is a fraud and I hallucinated the teacup.  Considering our sets S and D, the first question to ask becomes, why limit the placement of the teapot?  We will easily find one if we look in the dining room, won’t we?  If, however, an egotistical dictator determined that the warm feeling of tea threatened the loyalty of his subjects, and if he banned tea or any related objects from ever touching his territory, then a citizen of such a country might never even consider finding a teapot sitting exactly where it belongs, in the dining room.  The same could be said of God.  Characteristically, He is a spirit.  He belongs in a set of immaterial things, which includes ideas and principles and so on.  We could look into every physical atom and never see His existence until we look into the immaterial realm. We would hardly find Him if we lived in some communist country.  Nonetheless, as it has happened in history, even the banning of religion cannot remove the desire to find the same Spirit that gives all of us life.

1. Russell, Bertrand. “Is There a God? [1952]” (PDF). The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell, Vol. 11: Last Philosophical Testament, 1943-68. Routledge. pp. 547–548. Retrieved 1 December 2013

If Santa’s Not Real, Who Took the Milk and Cookies?

cookies milk

A young boy, upon finding his present under the tree Christmas morn, paused on the floor.

“Is everything okay, Michael?”  His father asked.

“Father, I’ve never seen Santa.  How did he get the presents in the house?”

“Well, he slides down the chimney, of course.”

“But this is a big present.  How could Santa and the present both fit down?”

“Oh, it wasn’t easy.  Magic dust can shrink things down a size.”

“Then, Father, how does Santa get back to normal?”

“By hopping up on the chair next to the table and eating the cookies we left.”

“But what about the present growing back to size?  And what about kids who don’t have a chimney in their house?  And how does Santa do it all in one night?”

“My dear son, I see you’re getting older and wiser than you were a year ago.  But if Santa didn’t take the milk and cookies, then who did?”

Michael proceeded to open his present very slowly.

“It’s wonderful, Father!”

“I’m glad you like it.”

“How did it get wrapped?”

“Son, you are a young man of many questions.  The gift-wrap was cut to the right size, folded around the right-sized box, folded at the ends and then taped.  Nothing would give away its contents.”

“I love this robot!  How does it work?”

“Here.  You use this remote to give commands to the robot.”

“But there are no wires.  How does the remote send commands?”

“Invisible waves are sent through the air as signals.”

“Sent to where?”

“A receiver on the robot’s head takes the signals and delivers them to a circuit board.”

“Father, what’s a circuit board?”

“My dear Michael, you are a very inquisitive five-year-old, but I’m afraid a lesson in circuit boards will have to wait.  Now, listen.  This robot can bring you a cup of water.  It can alert you when someone is sneaking up on you.  It can read for you, warn you of danger, and retrieve some of your things.”

“Father, I know who took the milk and cookies.”

“And who would that be?”

“Someone I’ve never seen.  But someone very wise.  Someone who knows all about wrapping presents and robots and remote signals.  Someone who picked the perfect gift for a boy like me.  And that someone is you.”

“Son, I knew this robot would be a great help and that you would figure out how to use it.  For a boy born without sight, you have a great deal of insight.  Merry Christmas, and thank you for helping with the milk and cookies.”

large or in charge

The shrinking God of the gaps.

Thus ends the Christmas tale of Michael, the non-superstitious boy.  He’s sharp in spite of his disability.  Michael had a barrage of questions to press into his father, but there was still a gap in understanding his gift.  There’s a philosophy that holds God is as mysterious as Santa, better known as the God-in-the- gaps concept.  Not only has the God-in-the-gaps mentality stuck, it has stuck hard.  The idea is that we use God to explain only the things we can’t explain through science, and science is the only explanation of how the universe works.  You can foresee this kind of God shrinking every time a new scientific discovery comes out, kind of like the fictional Santa shrunk to fit down the chimney.

 Atheists have grown impatient lately, accusing Christians of believing in this type of Santa-like God.  For all appearances, science has explained so much that we don’t need to fill our gaps with a miraculous God.  The flaw in this thinking could be seen if little Michael made a further assumption.  Michael’s first hypothesis was that Santa left the present under the tree.  His second hypothesis was that his father left the present under the tree.  A third hypothesis could be that the present came together by natural processes over time.  Considering the complexity bundled into the robot, Michael would have a whole new set of questions to propose.  As long as Michael excluded the second possibility, his father, the boy might be forced to conclude the third possibility of natural causes.  Atheists and theists must be careful not to go for a fallacy where either God is all mystery or science explains everything.

Of course, knowing the second option satisfied Michael.  Even though there were gaps in his understanding, the wise boy accepted an intelligent giver.  The giver wasn’t as mysterious as magical Santa.  Father worked through physical means, and he also put heart and thought into his work.  This meant that Michael could be more engaged, approaching the giver with intelligence and not trust alone.  Much could be explained to Michael, but not everything could be explained at that time.  As long as Father remained wiser, Michael could gain more understanding but never reach a full understanding.  A correct view of God means that we can understand how he used intelligence to frame the universe.  Furthermore, we can see God clearer when we don’t restrict Him to either all-naturalistic or all-spiritual means.  God is a spiritual being who created and governs the physical domain, earning the right to suspend the physical laws when a higher law is required.

Michael couldn’t see Santa because Santa is a fictional character (or an exaggerated description of the historical Saint Nicholas.)  Michael couldn’t see Father because of his blindness.  There are many good reasons we can’t see God.  I recently began reading a book by Ravi Zacharias, where he gives such reasons.  A God with physical features permanently affixed would attract superstitious traditions rather than worship, ethnic claims of supremacy rather than reverence, and commercialism rather than relationship. 

From my years of Bible study, I would say that God wants us to approach Him at a level deeper than flesh and blood.  Although we may have some encounters in this manner, God is a Spirit.  Our spiritual blindness blocks not only a deeper existence of the Divine, it blocks our view of a deeper part of ourselves.  In Matthew 22:37 Jesus brings an old commandment to life.  “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’”  Nothing in there says to grab the lower end of God’s beard, or feel the bulge in His muscles.  Instead, there’s a pursuit that engages the heart, soul, and mind.  The soul-relationship gets mocked by the atheist for carrying fake emotions.  The heart-relationship strikes fear in the commitment-phobe inside every one of us.  The mind-relationship often falls away into explaining creation without a Creator.  And if you think the brain is merely a lump of chemical mass, you’ve committed another fallacy.

The milk and cookies showed gratitude, endearment, and respect.  Who took the milk and cookies?  Father.  Who receives our worship?  Somewhere outside a vanishing Santa, a thoughtless force of nature, and a religious statue, there stands a better option, a living God.  In a letter to the Corinthian church is a promise that we will know the greater side of an existence we don’t yet see.

1 Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”

We replace our childish ideas with a deeper perspective into the unseen.  One day we will clearly face the living proof, the Divine Spirit who set our material existence into place.  Remember when you were a child, and you began to put together the pieces and realize Santa wasn’t real?  But did you exchange that belief for one where the present was randomly selected and blown in by the wind on exactly the right time on December 25th?  Or did you deduce that another source  of intelligence, one who knew your needs and desires, selected and placed the present for you to find?

Some atheists are crying out to dismiss the Santa God.  But they have thanklessly excluded a wise Father as an alternate giver.  Instead, their trade-off is coincidental assembly as an explanation for the gift of creation.  Milk and cookies represent the sacrifice that disappears at the destructive hands of a mocking atheist.  Unless, of course, the Father already took the sacrifice unbeknownst.

Those Boring Genealogies

boring book

An old man couldn’t wait to sit down with his granddaughter and watch a classic movie together.  The girl’s mother smiled as she watched her father pop the bulky cassette into the old VCR player, then sit down with an overflowing bowl of buttery homemade popcorn.  His granddaughter got drawn into foreign lands, captured by heart-pounding adventure, and wondering about the complexities of romance.  When the classic movie came to its profound conclusion, the girl wiped away tears of joy.  Just as she was about to get up and stretch, the grandfather put his arm out in a motion to stop.  The girl didn’t understand.  The movie was over.  Nothing showed on the screen except for the usual roll of credits, jumbled letters sinking into oblivion.  One name got the attention of the grandfather and knowing mother.  An old, wrinkly finger pointed it out, and all six eyes followed the name as it graced the screen.  Until now, the granddaughter had not known, that her grandfather once was a famous actor.  His name in the line of credits became the living proof that she was now directly related to a man of grandoise dreams, that same man who had poured his heart into the spell-binding adventures of a movie screen.  Looking deeply into the old man’s eyes, past the wrinkles, she could still see the dancing fire.

Have you ever heard the complaint that the Bible is boring, especially those meaningless genealogies?  A movie’s long list of credits might be the modern version of this boring list.  Another modern source of genealogies is a website like ancestry.com.  When you go on a site like this one, do you type in the last name of a complete stranger?  Don’t you instead go there and type in your own last name?  And when you track down the noble accomplishments and titles of your own ancestors, do these not become the hope of your own future dreams?  Now turn back to thousands of years ago, set wandering in the deserts of the Middle East.  Among the great empires, an underdog of a nation sprouts up.  Its heroes become captured on carefully preserved parchment, the stories recited day and night.  A mother reads her children one such tale, then refrains along the lines of a genealogy, pausing at a specific name.  With pursed smile she waits for her child to shout, “That’s grandfather!”  With straightened posture, she confirms, “That’s right.  And the same shining courage sparkles in your wide eyes, my child.”  Herein we find a gem of a moral.  No matter what millennium we inhabit, it’s not the genealogies themselves that bore us – the level of excitement hinges on whether we are or are not a part of that noble lineage.  The tracing of the names either establishes us or escapes from us.

If you find those Biblical genealogies boring, first ask yourself two soul-searching questions.  1. Are you adopted into this great heritage?  2. Have you taken the time to research the names and discover their inspiring stories?  The adoption process is a spiritual one, obtained by salvation through Christ.  There is another establishing of lineage written in the Bible, that being the confirmation of the Messiah, as introduced in the Gospels.

Child of the one true kingHebrews 11 gives a set of names, each with their own short bio.  The whole chapter is filled with the repeating phrase, “by faith.”   The following chapter encourages us as if we are a part of this great legacy.  Hebrews 12:1    “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  These witnesses are like the markings of DNA, reminding us who we are.  Those before us have firmly handed us a baton with which to carry toward a prized finish line.  As children of a Heavenly Father, we are no longer held captive by the sins of our earthly fathers.  We go to the database of the Bible and search not for our commonly-held surname, but for the name “By Faith.”  Mister Byfaith, Miss Byfaith, noble descendants of the historical Byfaith family.  One ginormous family with ginormous tales to tell.

Many of us have found a new way to mark our place in history, within the web-pages of social media.  You can even broadcast yourself on sites such as Youtube.  But consider the reality of your daily life.  Let’s pretend that itself is a screen, a screen viewed by your co-workers, your neighbors, your friends, your relatives, and even strangers.  Every choice you make in the open becomes another view in the view-counter.  Beneath the screen lies another button, the opportunity to “LIKE” your action or reaction to life’s demands.  So what story do you present in the grand drama of real-life?  The bad news is that you can’t edit out the bad parts.  The good news is that you can humbly ask forgiveness and do better.  Seriously, would viewers really LIKE what they see?  As a Christian, do you season your words and actions with desirable salt?  Do you walk with uncompromised quietness and confidence?  Or is it with hypocrisy?  Or with a holier-than-thou trot?  Do you tell the truth in genuine love?  Do you present the Gospel as enjoyable?  You don’t have to do jumping jacks and play the kazoo.  Just stay faithful in a meaningful Christian walk.  Even if viewers go for the other screens, the ones with more noise, when they come up empty-handed, they’ll be looking for something real.  Will you still be there?

There’s an aspiration greater than the hope of getting someone to find your name gracing a screen.  When I see a blockbuster hit composed with stunning orchestration, I don’t want to know the actors as much as I want to know who the director is.  Acts 4:13 demonstrates how our God-given attributes become overshadowed by the name of Jesus.   “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.”  There’s a point at which we realize, God knows when we are ready, to relinquish the credit to whom credit is due.  The miraculous over-performance is readily explained by His name, and thereby all men are drawn to Him.  Not to worry, though.  Just as any noble parent would, God the Father proudly exhibits all His children to show what they have done with their gifts.  So stop being bored!  Read Hebrews 11 as a partaker rather than a spectator.  Be encouraged and inspired, brother/sister.  Look up the path, reaching behind only to grab the baton of the Byfaith heritage.

Did you know that the creative force behind Apolojetics is the same author of the inspirational fantasy A Hummen in Spiral Gorge?  You can support T. William Watts AND read more great stuff!  Thank you so much for your prayer and other support.