Tag Archive: Faith


THE TERROR OF GOD

Sometimes God really is “terrible”. In fact, in some ways He’s the ultimate terrorist…

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Don’t worry, fellow believer, I’m not about to intentionally engage in any kind of blasphemy. I’m sure it’s true that, God is light; in him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5 NIV).

However, in contrast the Bible warns us that:

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10 : 31 KJV).

How can God be said in his own book to be all “light” and yet at the same time cause fear? We have in the Scriptures what is either a serious contradiction, or a strange paradox which we need to come to terms with. In the latter case, which I’ll demonstrate is the correct alternative, the fact that God is “light” doesn’t exclude the reality of his fearful attributes: the terrible, fearful side of God’s nature does not equate to “darkness”.

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I noted in a recent post* that Richard Dawkins stated in his book, “THE GOD DELUSION” a number of extremely derogatory and insulting terms to describe the God of the Bible. I commented that none of his assertions were valid. However, in some fairness to the God-hating professor, I must say that anyone who’s done any serious thinking about life, the universe and everything, and anyone who’s lived for any length of time, and anyone who’s honest, will have questioned the goodness of God at some point in their life. If there is a God (and I’m convinced there is) and if he’s good and loving as the Bible claims he is, then why do so many terrible things happen in our lives and in our world?

More than that, anyone who’s read a sizable portion of the Old Testament couldn’t fail to notice some very heavy-handed dealings by God with his people and those around them. As an example, consider the punishment of Korah, his family and all who rebelled against Moses with him:

“…the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all who belonged to Korah…and the earth closed over them…And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up”. And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men offering the insense…” (Numbers 17:31-35 ESV).

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Now, that’s terrorism in its purest form. If we only had a very shallow knowledge of the God of the Bible, we might read that passage and conclude that God is a mean, terrifying ogre. But I’d like to here reiterate a regular theme of mine, which is that if God is God-our creator and our sustainer-he has every right to do what he wants with his creation just as surely as a potter has every right to remake a buckled vessel on his wheel. Were he really a mean ogre, he would have every right to be so. We in contrast and in comparison have no rights and no way of enforcing any claims to rights.

God in the Old Testament was aware of his potential to inflict terror even on his own people, and made a habit of passing out warnings in advance, against any behavior which would lead to his anger flaring up. Think of the warning He gave to the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai, telling them not to set foot on the mountain:

And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to look and many of them perish…” (Exodus 19:21)

It’s as though God was telling the people, “Please don’t come too close to me, because I won’t be able to help myself, and I don’t want to make you suffer or to destroy you…”

Our problem in this age is that we’ve forgotten about the holiness of God. He is perfect, he is infinite, he is mighty, and he must be multi-dimensional-if dimensions can be applied at all to an eternal, omnipresent being. We in contrast are imperfect, flawed, weak and very limited in our capacities, particularly our spiritual capacity. We can no more stand next to God and chat with him-in our natural state-than we can stand next to the sun: it’s impossible. And we can no more ignore and neglect the characteristics of God than we can ignore the properties of the sun: travelling at night to land a space ship on the sun to avoid the heat would be a futile, foolish operation.

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We believers tend to metaphorically brush under the carpets of our minds the numerous “B.C.” events such as the crushing of Korah’s rebellion, choosing instead to focus on the God of the New Testament and his loving, merciful attributes. My own dad, an otherwise godly man in every way, could not accept much of what was written in the Old Testament, and made the decision that God had been misrepresented by its authors, because God clearly wouldn’t condone the killing of anyone let alone thousands of men, women and children. It was the New Testament, in his eyes and the eyes of many others, which is the inspired Word of God: not the Old.

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The problem with that approach is that by dismissing the OT you are also bringing into question the entire New Testament. You can’t read any one of the gospels without finding numerous examples of Jesus Christ quoting the Old Testament as though he believed it were true, and the letters are similarly packed with references to it. In fact, putting the Pharisees on the spot as he loved to do, Jesus said:

For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me (John 5:46 NASB).

You can’t have one without the other, said Jesus: the Old Testament and his words go together.

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus who were talking to Jesus without knowing it were given a Bible study (Luke 24:13-35). He demonstrated from what we call the Old Testament-there was no written New Testament at that time- that the prophesied Christ had to suffer and be raised. Why would he have reasoned from the Old Testament if it’s not to be accepted or believed?

So what about my outrageous assertion-coming as it does from a believer-that God is terrible? Am I now attempting to insult the Lord Almighty in a similar vein to the renowned and exalted prof.? Am I sowing seeds of dissent and rebellion? No. I’m using the word “terrible” in the context of being “dreadful”, “unspeakable” and “awesome”. I’m simply facing up to the reality of God’s nature.

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“But…” you may protest…”God is different in the New Testament!”

Is he really? I agree that Jesus Christ was and is “meek and mild”, and merciful, though a time is coming when the other side of his nature will be seen. Leaving that aside for the moment, I want to stress that God is “the same yesterday, today and forever…” Consider the words of New Testament writers, who spoke not only of God’s mercy but of his fearful side:

…let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28 KJV).

It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God… (Hebrews 10:31 NIV)

Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off (Romans 11:22 ESV)

If this were not enough evidence of the disciples’ awareness of the terrible nature of God we can read in the Revelation and the words of Jesus himself about how the entire world is going to be judged-by his holy standards and not ours-the same kind of holy standards that we see in the Old Testament. Paul wrote:

This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 NIV). 

The terror of God will fall on imperfect mankind. But there is hope. Part two of my article will offer you the good news: the way of escape from the terror of God.

Thanks for reading this far!

This post in both its parts serves as an introduction to my forthcoming series on the subject of suffering as it relates to the God of the Bible, titled “Why Do We Suffer?”

* https://nickyfisher.com/2017/04/29/wrath-and-mercy/

Some people who loosely associate themselves with the Christian faith but deny its power, and those who want us all to dilute or deny our convictions are becoming easily convinced that Jehovah and Allah are one. So what about it-is the Judeo-Christian God the same as the god of Islam?

The truth which is so conveniently covered over is that Islam vehemently (and in many parts of the world violently) asserts that Allah has no son:

“Allah is only one God. Far is it removed from His transcendent majesty that He should have a son…” Quran [004.171 ]

“They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them”. Quran [005.073]

In contrast as stark as it could be, the Bible (written centuries before), declared Jesus Christ to be the Son of God. More than that, those who deny the Son are “anti-christ”:

“Such a man is the antichrist-he denies the father and the Son. No-one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:22-23).

Jesus’ relationship to the Father was a clear teaching of Jesus Christ to his disciples:

“…before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58 ESV).

Deny the Son, and you are denying the Father also, and two contradictory statements cannot both be true.

 

WRATH AND MERCY

Sometimes God gets some pretty bad press. Sometimes God is accused of some pretty bad things. In fact, it may be true to say that God has probably taken just about every criticism that could be made about anyone, not to mention the slander, mockery and blasphemy…

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If you’re a follower of the Biblical God, have you ever found yourself questioning God, getting upset with God because you think he’s failed his obligations, or even accusing God of something? I wrote an article once titled, “How to Shout at God and Get Away with it”, in which I confessed to having done all of the above, and suggested that God is big enough to take it.

I predict that if you haven’t done the same, once you’ve been a believer for some time a situation will arrive in which you will find yourself doing one or all of the same. I’m not saying that I hope this will happen to you, but that while life is full of trials in which our faith is tested and honed, such situations are bound-even-designed to test our faith. Don’t believe me? Try reading the book of Job.

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Perhaps you’ve pointed a finger at God even if you aren’t a follower. It’s amazing how much time and effort some people go to to mock and berate a God they don’t even believe exists. Take Richard Dawkins, for example, who said:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

(Richard Dawkins: The God Delusion)

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I could go into a lengthy answer to disprove every single one of Dawkins’ accusations: our God is none of the above, and anyone who can suggest that he is doesn’t know him at all, and is clearly manifesting a deep hatred for him. By the way, how can you know that God does not exist, unless you yourself know everything there is to know about the universe, both seen and unseen? And if you did, you yourself would be God.

There’s no doubt that the Biblical God is indeed “a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28). He is a terror to his enemies who will have no chance of resisting him or of changing his mind. But let’s give the great professor a little slack, and just pretend that God is one of those things that Dawkins accuses him of being: let’s pretend that God is genocidal. The important thing to consider is that God would have every right to be genocidal, if that’s his wish, because he is God. God is God, and we are not. God made all things, and sustains all things. He can do whatever he wants, and we have no right at all to question him. Neither do we have any ability to stop him. He does what he wants, when he wants, for his own reasons.

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Our only reasonable response, therefore, is not to attack and malign our Creator, or to become hateful of him, or to reject him and put him out of our minds. Because if he is all he claims to be, and one look into the night sky tells us that he is, it is an inescapable fact that we will one day have to face up to who he is in all his power and glory. We will have to give an account for how we’ve treated him, how we’ve spoken about him, and what we’ve thought about him.

The miracle of the gospel is that despite the fact that God is that “consuming fire”, as seen in the Old Testament, he has provided a way for us to escape his perfect, terrible justice. By associating ourselves with his son Jesus Christ we pass from being objects of God’s wrath to being objects of his love and mercy:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24 ESV).

 

  

Here’s the long-awaited third part of my series, “Why I Believe in God”, outlining some of the supporting reasoning behind my faith. There are some believers who think you should “just believe”. Looking for evidence, they say, is “not of faith”, therefore it’s sin. With respect, I disagree…

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Didn’t Jesus reason with his disciples on the road to Emmaus, when he “interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27 ESV)? God created an orderly universe in which facts can be established. Truth is verifiable, and since God is Truth, truth cannot be sinful. Faith and reason go hand in hand.

So here’s my third acronym, designed while I’m in good shape, as a hedge against the days when I will not be. The third acronym, like the second, specifically concerns the God of the Bible.

66 JELL WAST-MUSH! Is it an insect repellant, a conducting lubricant, or hippy face paint? Is it a video game based on Darth Sidious’ ascent to power? No!

66!

The opening part of my acronym is borrowed from the introduction to Chuck Missler’s radio show (“66/40”), since it succinctly and eloquently captures a profound truth missed by those who ignore the possibility of divine authorship of the Bible:

The Bible contains sixty-six books written by forty different authors over thousands of years, and yet it’s an “integrated message system” from beyond our own time domain.

The Bible wasn’t contrived by one man sitting down on a boring Sunday afternoon, wondering how he could start a new religion and fool everyone. It was experienced, contributed to and recorded by many generations of people from different backgrounds, yet it tells one incredible story: the story of the Messiah and the nation he entered the world in. The Bible claims in many places to be inspired by God himself, and authenticates that claim in ways such as those I’ve outlined in all parts of this series.

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J!

J IS FOR JUSTICE. Biblical justice works beautifully, when it’s applied.

Yes, astute reader, the word “justice” was in my first acronym, but there it referred to the fact that we can only have an innate sense of justice if we are more than animals, and if we’ve been designed and created to love truth and fairness. Here the word “justice” refers more specifically to the Biblical model. God is given a bad rap these days by those who want us all to forget about Him. They say he’s vengeful, hateful, misogynous, and a whole host of other derogatory terms which really do not stand up to honest scrutiny. They ignore the fact that since God is the creator and sustainer of all things, he has every right to do as he pleases: we have no rights but only his mercy and kindness, and we are entirely at his mercy. I’ll outline a few examples.

First, those who claim that God must be vengeful and hateful to have told the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites aren’t looking at the whole picture. God reluctantly commanded the eradication of the Canaanites only after hundreds of years of mercy and patience towards them (Genesis 15:16) because they had descended to such degrading practices as burning their own children as sacrifices to their idols. The time had come for their evil to be stopped, and God has every right to judge.

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Biblical justice is said to be hard in the Old Testament-the time of the Law, and soft in the New: this is seen as a contradiction. The truth is that the “Old Testament God” while setting hard and fast guide lines, showed his mercy in many ways. For example, the establishing of “cities of refuge” (Numbers 35:6-34), where people who had either accidentally killed someone in a fight or an accident, or who were accused of murder falsely, could go to be immune from vengeance. God sent a prophet to a decadent and violent Nineveh because he did not want to judge the city (Jonah 4:10-11), and when Cain killed Abel and feared retribution from his brothers, God put his seal of protection on Cain as an act of love and mercy (Genesis 4:15).

The “New Testament God” actually warns of the same ultimate judgment upon his enemies as the OT God did, but extends his mercy to its greatest extent by making a way for anyone willing to respond to escape that ultimate judgment, through the sacrificial death of his own Son. Jesus forgave the adulteress, the thief on the cross, and Paul who had persecuted Christians to the death.

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Through the gospel of Jesus Christ God’s love and mercy are clearly seen to be available to all of us-until the final Judgment. The same love is supposed to be seen in his followers, by way of forgiveness, mercy, kindness, compassion and so on, without negating the fact that wrong is still wrong and must be corrected, disciplined or even judged if not repented of. Love and mercy come first-consequences only follow if there is no change in our hearts. This is real love and fairness. I would say it’s fairer that any human system of judgment. If the police catch you breaking into a bank once, you’re going to prison, and the judge isn’t going to forget your crime even if you say you’re sorry and that you won’t do it again.

However, our judicial system is based on the Biblical notion that some things are wrong and that other people are to be protected from criminals: you pay for your crime. How many other “animals” have such a system?

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The Bible adequately Explains the meaning of Life, and the origin and reason for evil, suffering and death. Without claiming to have all the answers (I do not), I wrote about these extensively in a recent post, “The Meaning of Death” and in an eight part series I wrote called “Why Do We Suffer?”

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L is for Literature. The Bible has been seen by millions over many centuries as the apex of all literature, and more copies of it have been printed and sold than any other book despite the endless attempts to eradicate it. Again, it claims to be the inspired Word of God: his message to humanity. So many examples could be picked, but here’s a well-known one:

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

He leadeth me beside still waters.

He restoreth my soul:

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…” (Psalm 23: 1-4).

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WA

The Bible tells the stories of “warts-and-all” characters. If the Bible were written by men to draw converts to a club or religion its central characters would all be faultless, unfailing supermen. There is no attempt to whitewash the sins of its heroes and heroines: we hear about their weaknesses as well as their triumphs and their righteous acts.

As examples, read about God’s mercy towards Cain who killed his brother Abel. Read how Abram lied about his wife being his sister in order to save his own skin. Jacob deceived his father and essentially robbed his brother of his inheritance. Moses fell into a bad temper a few times. Elijah, the powerful and bold prophet, was afraid of a female ruler and fell into a depression. David had an innocent man killed and committed adultery. His family was “dysfunctional” because of his many relationships and, his bad example, and his inability to control his step-children.

In the New Testament Peter, the most enthusiastic disciple of Jesus, denied him in his hour of need, and Paul and Barnabas fell out during their missionary journey together.

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ST IS FOR STORIES.  Though the Bible was written by many different authors over a long period of time, it has several central themes running all the way through it, including both testaments. The most significant is the story of the Fall of man and God’s plan of redemption-his commitment to providing salvation for humans who would otherwise be beyond his perfection and holiness. The first mention of the gospel, known as the “proto-evangelion” appears immediately after the Fall (Genesis 3:15), and the gospel message continues all the way to the end of Revelation.

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M IS FOR MORALITY. The Bible’s brand of morality is hated by the secularist, the atheist, the polytheist, the pluralist, the evolutionist, the Universalist, the existentialist, and just about every other “ist”, yet it’s loved by those who’ve accepted God’s mercy. God’s standards of right and wrong were loosely followed by Western culture until the last few decades. They are the “glue” which will hold everyone together, and they worked as far as they were followed. God’s plan for human relationships reflect true love and commitment. It included love and commitment within families; faithfulness within marriage; the recognition that each life-including the unborn-is to be protected and valued; honor and dedication towards community; religion and country, and the rejection of all that threatens the moral fiber of society and all that God said he hated. How dramatically things have moved in the opposite direction.

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U

U IS FOR UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is one of unconditional love from God to us-available for anyone who will accept it. This is not a human idea or quality: it’s entirely divine.

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S IS FOR SIN. The Bible exposes man’s true nature. Yes, this one was in the first acronym also. But more specifically, the Bible describes the origin of sin, its effects and consequences, and its remedy. The answers the Bible gives are, for me, adequate, believable, true to life and beautiful in the light they shine on the human condition.

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H IS FOR HOPE. The Bible not only describes man’s condition but provides the answer for it. It offers hope for everyone, not just for this life, but for eternity. Please see my post on the gospel of Jesus Christ.

HOW TO BE OFFENSIVE

Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you I’m not quite like other people. And I know from experience that when people don’t fit easily into a stereotype, others attempt to either squash them into one or just write them off as being “weird”.

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Some claim to approve of weird and unusual types, until they come across one whose weirdness doesn’t fit their understanding of what weird should be.

From an early age, having realized and been told that I was “not normal”, I made a point of not fitting any molds, even though I didn’t really need to try. And having perplexed many before being a Christian, I increased my powers of perplexation once I became one (I’m developing a habit of creating my own words-how do you like that one?)

Being human, Christians also put other Christians into boxes or stereotypes, upset or offended when they don’t fit the available boxes. Consequently I detect a considerable amount of recoiling going on when I meet people. Not that I’m trying to offend or repulse-it just happens, even when I’m trying to be friendly…

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The herd mentality is prevalent in human nature because nobody wants to be rejected or spurned, and this is why political correctness almost succeeded in getting a stranglehold on all of us. Even though it’s fashionable today to be individual and unique, people tend to be individual and unique in all the same ways, though I don’t want to name some of those ways for fear of treading on toes. I think I’m long past any compulsion to follow the herd, and I’m really determined not to shape my personality, my tastes and my habits just to fit into acceptable boxes.

I have no desire to be offensive, and we believers are supposed to do all we can to be at peace with all men. However, if I’m offensive to someone simply because of who I am, then so be it. Churchill said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” 

The one good way to be offensive is in what we profess, and in adherence to the cross of Jesus Christ. Paul referred to the “offense of the cross” (Galatians 5:11), and explained that the message of the cross is “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:22). It was that very message which Paul was intentionally preaching, and which we are also called to preach.

So let’s be offensive for God. I don’t mean get in someone’s face and be an intentionally irritating and self-righteous embarrassment: I mean let’s believe and profess the good news without shame or reservation. Let’s winsomely stand up for the one thing which is most worth standing up for. If that’s offensive to someone…so be it.

 

 

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