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Saturday, 30 March 2013

"Easter Again!" Says the Atheist.

Easter to me is more than seeing off the end of a cold, miserable winter, and seeing and feeling the weather become warmer, the days become longer, and the sun floating higher in the sky rather than briefly hugging the horizon. It is more than putting away the heavy coat, thick woollen jumpers and wellington boots for the next six months or so. Spring brings promises of warmer days, milder nights and the mental images of barbecues on the beach, swimming in the sea, hiking through glorious nature trails and being out in natural surroundings at its best, with the sun beating down as I pull out a bottle of sun lotion from the rucksack...

Except of course, that here in the UK, we Brits need to first head for the airport to fly south to some foreign country to experience all these things. At least this year, the UK winter is prolonged, it's bitterly cold as we are about to enter the month of April, and there are still snow flurries drifting through the air. And the only source of heat is the gas central heating system in our home, the thick duvet over our bed and, not forgetting, my weekly walk to the public sauna.

To the atheist, Easter originated from some ancient pagan festival celebrating the start of new life - the budding of tree leaves, the blossoming of flowers, the lambing season and the promise of fairer weather ahead - and attributed to some god or deity without the scientific knowledge that the two Poles of the Earth are lopsided by some 23 degrees, and as the planet swings around the Sun on its orbit, its tilt being the cause of the seasons.

Little wonder, that deprived of this scientific truth, the ancients worshipped some deity, with the Sun being reborn each day, seen by them as a deity riding across the sky in a fiery chariot.

Therefore what the ancients believed fuels the atheist's opinion of the ridiculous. But unfortunately, this applies to the Christian faith as well. As a matter of fact, the Christian faith has become the target for the sceptical arrows above all other faiths. Only today I was reading in the Daily Mail newspaper an essay about the decline of the Christian faith in Britain, based on Archbishop Carey's criticism of the Government's endorsement for our faith to be obliterated by the secularists, the latter being the end result of the writings of such authors as Simon Cowel and Richard Dawkins.

For me, of course, the Easter weekend is all about the crucifixion, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, which makes Easter the most important holiday of the whole year, more so than Christmas (although the retail outlets may not agree on this.) I firmly believe in the historicity of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah who died on the cross to atone for our sins. Indeed, this is tremendous news - about the God whose love for us is strong enough to put his Son through such agonising suffering. Furthermore, God had given me the wonderful privilege to spend time in the Holy Land, a total of 23 weeks in five separate visits spanning 24 years, with my last visit together with my wife Alex in the year 2000.

Orthodox Jews ushering the Sabbath, 1993

Visiting the Holy Land had brought the Bible to life in such a way that one has to be there for the experience. Back in 1993 for example, and as a lone backpacker back then, I felt my emotions deepen as I stood just outside the forecourt of the Western Wall on a Friday evening, and watching Orthodox Jews celebrate the ushering in of their Sabbath, on a Friday evening during and after sunset, as with the Hebrew clock, the new day always begins at sunset. To me it was Friday, to them, Saturday. Then as I walked the next day through the deserted streets of West Jerusalem, the area of city occupied by Jews, not a car was to be seen, let alone buses and trucks, and every shop closed, along with offices and every private and Government institution. The whole city being empty of life certainly looked as if the whole of mankind was obliterated, leaving the planet's population of zero (or just one - myself.) It was an extraordinary experience, yet a testimony of the truthfulness of the Bible.  And yet, believe it or not, shortly after sunset Saturday, the whole city was alive and bustling like any Saturday afternoon here in the UK. It also seemed strange to me that Sunday was a normal working day right across Israel and the West Bank alike, yet still attended a church service while the shops were busy trading alongside.

Modern Israel is a testimony of the Bible's truthfulness. But as a Christian, I somehow feel apologetic to the atheist about my firm belief and conviction of the Bible. Richard Dawkins, for one, calls the God of the Old Testament the most savage and cruel, infanticidal bully he had ever known. It would be natural for any Christian to wonder how anyone could address God in such a manner. Yet how would I feel or re-act if Dawkins approached me, aware of his excellent knowledge of the Bible?

Take, for example, Numbers 16. From verses 27 through to 34, there is a narrative of the destruction of the families of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. It was these three men who sinned against the Lord although their wives and adult sons most likely co-operated and gave their blessings. But in verse 27 there were mentioned of "little ones" - most likely their grandchildren. Dawkins can argue that these were far too young to understand any implication of their transgression, yet perished screaming with the rest of the family by pure divine justice.

Another striking example of infanticide can be found in 1 Samuel 15:3 where God through Samuel, instructs King Saul to annihilate the whole of the Amalekite nation, not just adult men and women but also children, infants and sucklings too, along with all their livestock. Although King Saul did sin in sparing the livestock, he did obey the Lord in slaying every human being - including infants and sucklings.

Dawkins would have the perfect right to ask me where is the justification in such innocent infants to be slain. He would ask, how was it possible for such children to be slain for the sins their ancestors had committed against Israel? All they were concerned were for their mother's maternal love and comfort and to be breastfed. What does the suckling know about some transgression committed by some great grandfather? It is like saying that both my wife, daughters and myself be punished for the crimes of the Crusaders committed 900 years ago, who happen to be my Mum's ancestors. How would I answer Dawkins?

Then American atheist Sam Harris takes up the issue in questioning the validity of the Bible being God's word by calling into question the measurements of the huge circular bath, or sea, constructed by King Solomon to be set up by the Temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 7:23, 2 Chronicles 4:2.) Both narratives gives the measurements as ten cubits from rim to rim and thirty cubits in circumference. To Harris, this was the most crudest approximation for PI as it could have ever gotten, a strange thing for Almighty God to give through his inspired writer. Even the ancient Babylonians, a thousand years before Solomon, had a far more accurate approximation for PI than what the Bible allows, according to Harris.

Indeed, Harris would be right. Ten cubits times PI would give a result of over 31.4 cubits, nearly one and a half cubits more than what the Bible had given. But if you look carefully at the above pic, (I know it's rather small - there is little I can do about this) - you will notice a recess just below the rim. If this recess was four inches deep, then the diameter would have been eight inches less than the actual rim. Considering that the measurement would be made much easier if taken at the recess than from the rim itself, assuming that one cubit was 18 inches, this would have given a circumference a tad over 540 inches, or almost exactly thirty cubits. The Bible wasn't too far out after all.

I perhaps can give a plausible answer to Harris on the approximation of PI, but in the New Testament there are issues that would have thrown me back, even to this day. For example, Matthew quotes a prophecy which he says that it was from Jeremiah, but it is actually from Zechariah (Matthew 27:9-10 with Zechariah 11:12-13.) If Matthew wasn't able to check his resources properly, then how could this piece of Scripture be inspired of God? So Harris also asks. True enough, Jeremiah did buy a field (Jeremiah 32:6-9, also 19:1) which might have given enough inspiration for Matthew to quote, nevertheless, the actual quote was from Zechariah, not Jeremiah.

Then there seems to be a disagreement between Mark's and John's accounts on the timing of the crucifixion, an issue which bothers me to this day. Mark has Jesus being nailed on the cross by nine in the morning (15:25) while John has Jesus still before Pilate by noon (19:14) when Pilate cries out, "Behold your king!" According to John, by noon Jesus was still with Pilate, while Luke, like Mark, has Jesus not only on the cross by noon, but also the start of the darkness which was to last three hours, i.e. until three in the afternoon. Luke also recorded the meeting of Jesus with Herod. Even if Herod was in Jerusalem at the time, if Jesus was already on the cross by nine in the morning, then his meeting with Herod must have been brief indeed. Atheists by the likes of Dawkins would have a field day. Given credit that the Sanhedrin had delivered the Lord to Pilate as early as six in the morning, with an hour spent with Herod, both quite plausible, it does not solve the discrepancy between Mark's and John's accounts.

I'll be honest here: If Dawkins, Harris or for that matter, Cowel, confronts me with these issues, I must admit that I'll be at a loss on how to answer them. For me, these are serious issues on which my faith in Christ rests upon. In fact, the Bible is the sole authority on which the whole of the credibility of the Christian faith rests. Our salvation depends on it.

In my blog, Good Friday? I'm Confused, written two years ago, I dealt on when Jesus was crucified, and I advocated a Thursday Crucifixion, based on one sole verse, found in Matthew 12:40. It was Jesus' own saying, tying his duration of his burial to that of the prophet Jonas, who was in the belly of a whale for three days and three nights. At the Good Friday service, one of the Elders mentioned in his sermon that in two days time we would be back here (in the church building) to celebrate his resurrection. Two days from Friday. In Hebrew numeracy, there is no zero. Therefore Friday itself would have been counted as day one, Saturday as day two, and Sunday as day three, even if the day began at sundown Saturday, giving a complete first twelve hours of Sunday for Jesus to remain entombed. But even with no zero in Hebrew counting, this does not add up to three nights as well, as there would have been only Friday night and Saturday night (or Saturday morning and Sunday morning, both before sunrise.) A Thursday crucifixion makes better sense, but this does not only go against the grain of my church at Ascot, but the whole of Christian tradition. Another area where the atheist would have had his day.

But also in the Bible there is much to credit for its inspiration. Just read Psalm 22, Isaiah 53 along with Zechariah 9:9 and others. There was no way that these writers imagined the future from their standpoint without divine inspiration. Despite some difficult bits, the Bible is still trustworthy and the Holy Word of God. And because of it we can trust the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our salvation and celebrate Easter as well.

Happy Easter to you all.


Any comments shedding light to the issues mentioned above would be most welcome. True, I have a modification system set up, but this is to keep out advertisers (e.g. Click on this link to see my great product etc.) and it's is not to discourage discussion. God bless.  

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Our Unchangeable English God

We are into late March, Easter is just a week away and Spring Equinox is already behind us. That is, here in the Northern Hemisphere, the days are already longer than the nights, and therefore by this time we should be enjoying milder, if not warmer weather. Yet it has so far been a very cold month, compared with March last year, when temperatures hit a high of eighteen degrees Celsius. This year temperatures struggle to get past four degrees, way below average for this time of the year. A chilly blast from the North-East keeps the air bitingly cold, day in, day out while much of the country is under a layer of snow, disrupting communications and other public services as we all gasp in surprise at the unseasonal weather. After all, 2012 had an extremely wet summer which ruined many crops across the UK, pushing up the price for the weekly groceries. In a domino-effect, a large number of High Street retail businesses went into administration as consumers tighten their budget belts. The resulting fall in our Economy transferred our once bustling High Streets into near ghost towns, with a large number of outlets boarded up.

Then on top of this, the Media, both on television and in our newspapers, warn us that the Apocalypse is just around the corner for the UK, as the persistent cold weather has caused households right across the land to turn up their heating. Our gas supplies are running out, and our reliance on foreign imports are pushing up fuel prices, where those with lower incomes will be hit the hardest. This is the result of poor foresight by previous Governments in the last four or five decades to ensure that we have adequate storage to meet a long, harsh winter. Gas and even electricity rationing looks to be on the cards, unlike the rest of Europe and the United States where their politicians had far better foresight, and at present, a more adequate storage facilities.

The news of the threat of shortages in fuel storage came less than a week after England was thrashed by Wales in the final of the Six Nations Rugby Tournament. (For the record, the six nations were England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, France and Italy.) As for Football (i.e. Soccer) England had only won the World Cup once, in 1966, and since then the team had never lifted the trophy since, while Brazil had lifted it five times in the tournament's history while the much-maligned Italians lifted it four times. In the early 1980s a game between an English side (Liverpool) and an Italian team (Juventus) was aborted after a crowd of English fans ran amok and caused violence, street battles and wreckage of property in the host country, Belgium, if I recall. So severe was the disruption that the Prime Minister at the time, Margaret Thatcher, ordered troops to be flown in to repatriate the troublemakers. Since then, or at least, up to recently, English football fans carried a bad reputation wherever an international match was staged. This goes to show how high patriotic emotions international sport can generate - exuberance and joy - or anger, frustration and tears. Sport plays a very big role in English life, a chance to show the world how patriotic and loyal to our country we can be. Despite our inability to win, at least we can take comfort that the organising of the London Olympics and Paralympics in 2012 were a flying success, despite predictions of a disaster levelled by the critics.

All this detailed above has got me thinking about our nation being "God's Country." Am I being silly or even prejudiced here? Rather, I know at least three Christians of my generation who heartily believe that England has a special place in God's heart, with one of them insisted that the British Empire's invasion into foreign soil was ordained and overseen by the Almighty. Two of these guys used to attend our church in Ascot, while the third attended a nearby parish church before moving to the West Country.

This is nothing new. The idea that England is God's country goes back generations. It is even believed that World War II was won by the Allies against Hitler's Nazi Party, which was the result of a day of national prayer undertaken by the entire nation, when it was thought that Hitler's armies was close to all-out victory, and Britain was about to be taken over by the Nazis.

But the idea of England being God's country goes back at least to the beginning of the nineteenth Century. One of England's most popular hymns is Jerusalem, originating from a poem written by William Blake, and printed in 1808. Then in 1916, during the Great War, Sir Hubert Parry put the poem to music, and created one of the nation's most famous hymns, still sung today at Women's Institutions, some sport events - particular Rugby League, the wedding of Prince William to Catherine in 2011, and other special occasions. These are the lyrics of the first verse:

And did those feet of ancient times
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the Holy Lamb of God,
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

It seems ironic to read that Blake was not impressed with the Church of England, or any other organised religion during his lifetime, due to their repressive attitude towards sexual desires and other pleasures and in support of the Industrial Revolution. Rather, there is a speculation that Blake was a follower of Emanuel Swedenborg, an academic who had weird ideas that the Last Judgement towards all churches had already occurred in 1757, as a result of occult visions which he experienced, with the result that Swedenborg's followers founded the New Church, an offshoot from the Lutherian churches.

William Blake

The rather crazy idea that the young Jesus Christ arrived at Glastonbury with Joseph of Arimathea seems very appealing, even though they were both Jews. Certainly, to have Almighty God walk along England's green mountains and pleasant pastures makes this country unique and close enough to God's heart to support the Empire and to look down on foreigners with a degree of disdain.  However, not only that there is not a shred of evidence that Jesus had ever set foot on these isles, but the development of Darwinism brought in ideas that the English were racially superior to those of other nations, particularly over non-whites.

And such of my experience as a British-born Italian who lived in England all my life. As an adolescent in the 1960s I was called "Spaghetti Face" many times by my fellowmen, along with seeing National Front offensive messages addressed to blacks and Asians to "go home" along with other hostile responses. As for the three Christians who were also patriotic, throughout the early to mid nineties, two were in the church I still attend at Ascot, and I wondered just how often Jesus himself must have shook his head sadly as he watched divisions arise in his church. No matter how hard they tried to hide their feelings towards this Italian, I could instinctly feel the division. The atmosphere between us was tense. I was even teased, and I had this awful dread whenever England played Italy at any international friendly or qualifier. I knew full well that if England had won, then it would have been much wiser to stay at home on the following Sunday than to face a group of gloating smirks.

Around 1994 or 1995 these two ran a midweek youth club with the blessing of the church elders. When the club broke for the summer, a series of slides were shown to the whole congregation. One set of slides showed the youth group outside on a field, playing a version of It's A Knockout, which was an obstacle race where a number of tasks had to be completed to get to the finishing line. Nearby was a giant Union Jack flag, erected on a frame to make it clearly obvious. I was shocked, and I believe, so were the rest of the congregation. When these two appealed for support for the start of the Autumn term, none were offered. Eventually the club was dissolved and both left Ascot for other churches not long afterwards. If only these two had set out to glorify God instead of England! They might have had a much more positive outcome.

The idea that our God is the God of England is not only a lie, but it brought hostility even among church members, if my experience had anything to go by. With it came arrogance and a sense of national superiority. To add to this, our salvation cannot be certain if our God is the God of England.

Yet the Bible informs us that our God is the God of Israel. This is very assuring. It means that God never changes and if he makes a covenant of grace, it is set to stand for eternity. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit made a covenant within the Godhead itself concerning man's salvation, according to John 17. He also made a covenant of grace with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that their descendants will always be God's people. God has provided witnesses to this covenant with Israel. First, a clue can be found in the name Israel itself. The proper name of this country is Erech Yisrael. The name Erech means "Land of." But Yisrael is actually an acronym of initials of three couples who were literally the founders of the nation of Israel. By unscrambling the code, we get this:


Elohim is the name of God himself, and is here seen in the midst of his people, rather than at the front or back. The other names are of men and women, with poor Leah, the least loved by her husband Yacob (renamed Israel) therefore becomes part of the name of God himself. Even in the name itself, God shows his special grace for the weak and the unloved, as well as having seven letters - seven being the number for God. Maybe it is interesting to add that the letters EL making the last two letters of the name Yisrael may indicate that God is the founder and finisher of the nation, just as Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. Just a hunch.

All six of these people were buried together in the Cave of Machpelah which Abraham bought with the field it was at from the Hittites soon after Sarah's death, according to the record of Genesis. By 6 BC, Herod the Great completed a fortress surrounding the entrance of the cave, and it stands intact to this day.

The fortress seem to me to be a kind of sentinel, as if reminding the rest of the world that this land on which it stands belongs to the Jews, the direct descendants of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Yacob (renamed Israel) and Leah. It had survived the destruction of the nation and its capital, Jerusalem, when the Romans launched an attack under General Titus in AD70. After the Temple was razed to the ground, the fortress at Hebron remains standing to this day, even if that portion of the world remains troubled by war and unrest for decades, even centuries. Our God is the God of Israel and he will always be. He is forever unchangeable.

If God was the God of Israel, then became the God of Rome, then of England because both Israel and Rome were unfaithful, then what is stopping the Lord from withdrawing our salvation whenever we become unfaithful or not live up to his requirements? Furthermore, there has been a wide departure of the nation as a whole from faith in God. Our academics, who the nation holds in high regard and reverential respect almost to the point of worship, keep on denying the existence and the power of God by constantly pushing Darwinism. The truth of the Bible, particularly Genesis, is now become something of a laughing stock and a fading book of myths. England now trust in science and in themselves and God is consigned to empty, archaic Gothic church buildings, lost in bygone days of medieval history.

No wonder we in the UK are facing adverse weather, the threat of fuel shortage, skyrocketing prices and a failing economy. Maybe, just maybe, if the English really believe that they are God's people and his particular nation, then this advice would be beneficial to the whole of the UK, not just England:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven,and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14.

National prayer of repentance could well lead to the solution to major problems our Government is unable to solve. And this includes repentance from national and ethical superiority.  

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Of Great Concern - Fiction, Pt. 2

I was shocked to the core when the Lord passed judgement on me.
Sorry Larry, you can't come in here guilty as you are. Depart from me, ye who work iniquity.
Terror gripped my soul. I had just watched my new friend Geoff receive a hug from the same Lord and was escorted to the beautiful city spread out in front of me. What extraordinary work had he done?

Desperately, I asked the Lord if he could hear me out, for I have a number of questions to ask him.
"I'm all ears," the Lord answered. "Fire away, I'm in no hurry whatsoever."
"Then tell me, where did I go wrong? I thought I believed in you and called on your name while still alive in the aeroplane. Furthermore, Geoff assured me that I was saved."

"You weren't baptised." The Lord responded.
"WHAT?" I exclaimed. "There was no opportunity for baptism on the 'plane. I was keen to be baptised this very day, at Geoff's venue. I said, 'Geoff, please baptise me when we are in New York.'"
"That you did." God responded. "Tough luck for you that you had a bomber on the 'plane. Had you been baptised, you would have been following Geoff into the city."
"That is crushingly unfair!" I exclaimed.
"So it is." The Lord agreed. "But it's the condition of the New Covenant sealed the moment I died on the cross."
"That is new." I responded. "Can you tell me more?"

"Yes, indeed." The Lord answered. "In Mark 16:16 I specifically instructed my disciples to go out and preach the Gospel to the nations. I then added, 'whoever believes and is baptised shall be saved, but he who believes not shall be damned.'"
"Yes, I recall that at Sunday school." I said. "But the Scripture does not indicate that missing out of baptism indicated condemnation, but the unbelief, so the teachers said."
"AH!" The Lord replied. "What the Father, the Holy Spirit and I were originally intended for Mark to write was,
He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth not, or misses out on baptism, shall be dammed. But we decided to leave out that statement to test the faith of all who believe."
"Blimey!" I exclaimed. "That doesn't even sound honest, but more like those insurance companies which always finds a hidden clause whenever a claim is submitted."
"I am the Lord, my ways are not your ways, neither my thoughts your thoughts."

"But I recall the faith of Abraham." I protested. "I have learned that Abraham believed the revelation you gave him and your righteousness was imputed to his account, just by merely believing."
"Yes, that is true." The Lord agreed.
"Then the apostle Paul used this example as a yardstick for our own faith, mainly in your death and resurrection, and the same imputation takes place. Isn't this the verdict of 'not guilty' declared on the believer, also known as 'Justification by Faith'?" I asked.
"That is perfectly true." Jesus answered. "In fact all Old Testament saints were justified in exactly the same way, by faith alone. Great works proceeded from this faith and by no means earned their salvation, as Hebrews chapter eleven teaches."

"What about the rite of circumcision?" I then asked.
"Circumcision was an outward sign of Abraham's faith, an instruction given to all male Hebrew infants eight days old. But without faith within the individual, the ritual had no effect on his salvation."
"I suppose infant baptism was also ineffective among those who never believed." I surmised.
"Absolutely true!" The Lord agreed.
"But if baptism is a rite done after believing, isn't that the same as showing your faith to others?" I asked.
"There is some truth in this." The Lord responded. "But in the New Covenant, one must be baptised for the remission of sins."
"But, Lord," I protested, "it is equally valid to say that I'm paid for the work done, or he is receiving a trophy for winning the race, or even that Johnny was sent to prison for the crime already committed, not put behind bars in order to commit a crime. Doesn't this apply equally to baptism?"

"No, baptism is required for salvation." The Lord answered. "Remember, I inspired Mark to write,
He that believeth is baptised shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned.
Remember I said that the clause, or misses out on baptism...was omitted to test the faith of the believer."
"It doesn't sound honest to me."
"But it was effective!" Jesus exclaimed. "Just think about it. For nearly two millennia the Roman Catholic Church believed in this, then most other groups - Jehovah's Witnesses, the Mormons, Church of England, Church of Christ - ah yes, they are the people really doing my will. They are firm believers of Baptismal Regeneration, the only way of salvation in the New Testament, a doctrine which was upheld in churches, particularly Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, for much of Christian history. Only a few, like Geoff, thought otherwise, and sad to say, he was wrong. Nevertheless, he submitted to baptism and was saved."
"If I remember rightly, wasn't the Church of Christ founded on the teachings of one guy, Alexander Campbell?"
"Yes," Jesus answered, "that's the guy."

But Lord, this leaves me with a dilemma."
"Go on." Jesus prompted.
"I had a chance to look into the teachings of that group." I responded. "Basically, it taught four stages in order to get saved. They were 1. Believing, 2. Repentance, 3. Confession and 4. Baptism. Therefore one can be saved after all four are completed, which, they say, could take as little as twenty minutes to two hours. But if the candidate was unfortunate enough to die before completion of all four stages, then he would still go to Hell. Very much like my situation. Is this true?"
"Yes, it's all true." Jesus answered. "That is New Testament Christianity."

"Then that really creates a massive problem." I said.
"What problem?"
"Well, when you died on the cross and rose from the dead three days later, instead of opening the gate of Heaven for all believers, you had added clauses and complications. What was one requirement before, now there are four. Please tell me, Lord, did your death on the cross really atoned for the sins of the whole world? Or is there still a space where your 'atonement', fell short and we have to fill in the remaining gap?"

"Yes, that is true." Jesus answered. "The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches taught this for the last 1,700 years and they were right all along."
Then I asked, "So a woman, such as Rahab the prostitute, or Hannah, the mother of Samuel, believed without baptism and they were saved. But today's female has to go through the four stages as taught by other churches to be saved?"
"That is true." was his answer. "and according to Roman Catholicism, a heck of a lot more than four stages - it was at least seven."
"That is incredulous!" I almost shouted. "You died and rose again to atone for our sins, but really all this weren't that effective without the meticulous obedience on our part. Next you'll be telling me that you have a preference for the middle classes!"

"What makes you think that?" Jesus asked.
"Oh come on!" I exclaimed. "I don't know about on a worldwide scale, but in England the vast majority of church-goers were educated, middle class folk - like Geoff, for example."
"I do have a preference for middle and upper class folk." Jesus answered. "Remember, Larry, the Father chooses those who he wants to choose and brings them to me as a gift, and I will never cast them out."
"Yea, John chapters six and seventeen." I said. "I recall during Sunday School days, of two individuals, one was a devout Englishman who believed that his God was the God of England rather than of Israel, and the other insisted that the great British Empire was instituted and controlled by the Almighty. Both believed that England was God's country and the English only were truly God's people, regardless of lifestyle and behaviour."

"Yes," Jesus agreed, "I ordained what those two guys had said. England is my country and its people, replacing Israel because of their unfaithfulness."
"Yet your disciples were mostly fishermen." I protested.
"But among them was a taxman and a scholar." Jesus answered.
"But the scholar grassed you up!" I cried. "If it wasn't for him..."
"Now now," Jesus answered, "it was all part of God's plan. That is why the greater part of the New Testament was written by two scholars, Paul and Luke. I never liked the working class - always swearing, talking smut, telling coarse jokes, even getting into fights - along with drug rings and a high prison population. Working class - ugh! I don't want them in my Kingdom. Give me the better educated anytime. They are much nicer people."

"You know what, Lord," I almost shouted, "I don't think I want to enter your kingdom any more! After talking to you like this, all I can see is a cruel, malevolent God, petty, unjust, an unforgiving control freak, a vindicative, hypocritical ethnic cleanser, an infanticidal and genocidal bully! No wonder atheists like Richard Dawkins were right! No wonder the vast majority of the population now spit on religion and embrace science! Little wonder that Charles Darwin was more of our messiah than you could ever be! You call yourself the God of England, but it's the very English who are spitting at your face! And I'm not surprised! Send me to Hell then! I'll be better off there!"

With that, the Lord threw me out of his presence, into thick outer darkness. It was so dark and so deathly silent that I was not able to see my own hands, yet they were there as I clasped them together. I felt myself being filled with intense anger and hatred, these feelings becoming more and more intensified. Hatred of God and hatred of the bomber who blew up the aeroplane. Hatred of Geoff too, for deceiving me. My mind became crushed with intense emotional torment, from which I'll never be freed from for ever and ever...


Should any reader think that I'm pushing heresy or blaspheming the character of our Lord Jesus, this is a fiction story based on what I have seen, read and heard over the past forty years of being in the faith. For example, the two English guys mentioned are real and still alive to this day. The only difference from the story is that in reality, they are a few years my junior.
In true biblical reality, Larry was saved without doubt from the moment he believed during mid-flight. The Lord is merciful and would have embraced him at his death and heartily welcomed him into his Kingdom, without the baptism. Also, Mark 16:16 is the true word of God with no hidden clause intended. To conclude, the story highlighted the reality brought on by false teaching or false interpretation of the Bible.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Of Great Concern - Fiction, Pt.1

In the last months, years even, both on this website and listening to sermons, something keep occurring which has brought out my concerns. At this point I won't say anymore, instead this week and the next, I wish to write a fiction story which carries an important point. Read and enjoy.
The characters are fiction and bears no relation to anyone alive or dead.

Ah, the glorious moment had arrived. After spending more than two hours wandering restlessly around the airport departure lounge, at last our flight came up on the overhead computer, Flight 3246 New York, Boarding.

After the Wait in Lounge, was displayed for a seeming eternity, the message Boarding has set my adrenaline active in my bloodstream, and I among others, made our way to the boarding gate. As the crowd gathered to be let through to the walkway which would take us to the door of the 'plane itself, I took a quick glance at a young Asian looking-fellow. He was rather tall, extraordinary handsome with clean-shaven high cheekbones and a thin neck with a prominent Adam's Apple, descending into the open collar of his white shirt. His upper body features certainly gave the impression of slimness to the point of scrawniness, yet sported a generous waistline which seem to belie his rather undernourished appearance.

He was several paces ahead of me, and how he attracted my attention was that instead of facing the door which was due to open at any minute, he was looking back at the crowd behind, as if  surveying, looking rather uncomfortable, maybe even scared as he fidgeted about instead of keeping still.

Ah! I can understand how this poor chap must have felt. I recall the day I boarded my first flight ever. It was with a college mate and the flight to Spain was just two hours in duration. Back then I was still nervous, wondering how it felt being sealed, literally, in an airtight bottle suspended over thirty thousand feet above ground. This guy is alone, about to board a long-haul flight, most likely without any previous experience. No wonder he looked restless. He was jumping in the deep end, so to speak.

At last the door opened, and we all filed in to take our reserved seats as given on our boarding passes. The young Asian gentleman took his seat a few rows behind mine, and as he sat down, he was instantly out of sight, and quickly forgotten.

As more people piled on to the 'plane, another young man, this time brunette, wearing a tee-shirt, approached my row, checked his boarding pass and satisfied, took his seat right next to mine. I did not take much notice at first, as sitting by the window, I looked out to watch the last of the passengers board, then the closing of the 'plane's door as the exit of the walkway was retracted, resembling the mouth of a large snake retreating as if to strike.

At last, the 'plane taxied to the runway and took off. Below, the houses, streets and traffic appeared tiny, then the fields and rural areas were directly below us. Eventually the land gave way to sea as the clear, cloudless sky allowed a spectacular view of the jagged coastline. After a while the whole of the UK vanished out of sight as the 'plane began its journey over the Atlantic.

The expanse of water beneath brought in boredom with the scenery below, so with some taking of courage, I dared asked the fellow next to me if he, like me, was flying to New York to backpack the rest of the United States.

"No, I'm not backpacking," he answered cheerfully. "I'm flying to New York to spend a couple of weeks with my older cousin, a church minister."
"Oh, so you're Christian? Which denomination?"
"Baptist, but really it doesn't matter, as denomination is not as important as knowing the Lord personally."

Wanting to change the subject, I then asked, "What's your name? Do you have a job? Or are you studying?"
"My name is Geoff, and I'm studying Medicine at Oxford. The Uni is now out for the summer."

"I'm Larry, Larry Osgood, and I work in a factory, packing cases. I was a failure at school, and I resent that. But oh, how I LOVE to travel! Therefore I took a whole month off to backpack the USA. I will be staying in hostels for backpackers, the first being HI AYH New York City which, I believe, is the largest in the world with over six hundred beds."

HI AYH New York City

"There is nothing to resent." Geoff replied as he tried to comfort me. "Everyone of us has a purpose to fulfil in life." He turned to me and as he looked in my direction, I could not help seeing his eyes flooding with compassion. That has moved me. "Yes, I'm training for Medicine, but take away the plumbers, electricians, builders, refuse collectors and manufacturing industry, where would we be?"

"You are right. But I simply hate the British social class system!" I answered. "The way the guy in a suit thinks he's up there while we in turn are beneath him, so he looks down at us while he acts arrogantly. Yet whenever there is an inch of snow on the ground, our airports and railways grind to a halt and schools close. Yet despite their sheer incompetence, these men in suits act as they are rulers of Empire.  That's what I dislike." After a pause, I added, "Sorry, I just got worked up."

"Please listen, look at me." Geoff then exhorted, "God loves you so much, that he sent his dear Son to die and atone for your sins."
"Yea," I replied. "I attended a church Sunday School when I was a boy. I learned quite a bit about the Bible. But it's no use. I just can't be good enough. Surely this Jesus has given up on me."

"Not at all!" Geoff exclaimed. "God's command is that all men everywhere should repent."
"Oh, one of those sanctimonious words, repent." I replied. "Turning from sin, I believe. I tried that at Sunday school, but of no avail. I still ended up sinning one way or another. I recall making a promise to the teacher always to honour my parents. A couple of days later, Dad and I had a massive row, and I was sent to my room. So you see, this repenting lark doesn't work. Dark feelings lurk in me to this day."

"You don't understand, Larry." was Geoff response. "To repent simply means to change your mind over something, here referring to the death of Jesus Christ on the cross to atone for our sins and three days later, rise physically from the dead."
Geoff went on, "You see, this is the crux of the matter is the Resurrection. Jesus Christ was the only human ever to rise from the dead. As with all other men, many in the Bible were made great and famous, yet their remains are with us to this day. But the grave was not able to keep Jesus Christ in its bonds. His resurrection proved that He is God."

I responded, "Great men in the Bible? I recalled the series of lessons about Abraham, his faith in God and the promise of a son who would be the father of Israel."

"Yes, that's right!" Geoff answered. "Abraham believed, and God credited righteousness to his account through faith. Let me show you the Scripture."

Geoff reached into his bag he placed under his seat and pulled out a small Bible. Turning to Genesis 15 and pointed to verse 6: And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him as righteousness. Geoff then explained,
"You see, God told Abraham that he will have a son through his wife Sarah, despite being stricken in years. Abraham believed in the revelation and immediately God pronounced him not guilty of any sins committed. It was a judicial justification, a verdict that was declared in the Heavenly Court. Abraham did not do a single work to earn it, neither did he make any promises to modify his life in order to receive it, as you did at Sunday school."

Geoff continued,
"Paul the Apostle referred to this justification in applying to us. In his letter to the Romans, he harked back to Abraham's justification as applying to us. See, here is the Scripture."

Geoff opened his Bible and I read chapter four. He emphasised verse 5 which reads,
But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justify the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

I sat back at my seat, then the penny dropped.
"Yes, Geoff, I believe! Jesus Christ was crucified and he rose again physically from the dead. Yes, Jesus Christ is Lord!" I exclaimed.

Geoff then showed me another Scripture which confirms what I have just done. Turning further into Romans, he pointed out verses 9 and 10 in chapter ten:
That if you confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Geoff then advised that all who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved, so says verse 13. I bowed my head and thanked the Lord for saving me.

"How do you feel about water baptism?" Geoff asked.
"Is it to do with earning or keeping my salvation? I responded.
"No, not at all," Geoff answered. "It's to outwardly demonstrate your faith before other people. As far as I can see, you are already saved."
"Then yes, I would love to be baptised. But there is no opportunity here."
"When we arrive at New York, why not come round to my cousin's house. He has a swimming pool in his back garden, and I was told before boarding that in New York it's thirty degrees Celsius."
"May I check in at the hostel first?" I asked. "The bed is reserved and paid for. Is your house far from the city?"
"About an hour's ride on the subway."
"Then yes! Please baptise me."
"We should be all done by this evening." Geoff assured.

We had hardly finished talking when there was a scuffle a few rows behind. Some passengers had risen from their seats and was as if restraining someone. Geoff, driven by his medical experience, rose up to see if he was needed, and I too, got out of my seat to see what was going on.

Two or three passengers were attempting to restrain the Asian man who I saw ahead of me back at the airport. The passenger restraining him yelled, "HE HAS A BOMB!"

Some women screamed, panic within the aircraft turned serenity into chaotic confusion. The air crew also rushed to the scene with an attempt to section the bomber off and place him under arrest, where at New York Airport, police and security would escort him away.

The device, which was wrapped around the man's waist, was fully exposed as his white shirt was lifted up. A detonation cord was attached to the device and the bomber was trying to reach for it, although stalled by the restraint from the other passengers. Then in a split moment, his arm was released, and he grabbed the cord and pulled.


The explosion was so intense that there was no physical sensation as the aeroplane was suddenly non-existent. The hull literally exploded, like a balloon popping, due to the normal air pressure within and the extremely low pressure outside. Large fragments of metal, plastic, glass, upholstery, belongings, clothing and human flesh rained down from the sky to fall into the Atlantic Ocean. However, both of the wings and the tail fins hurtled into the ocean intact, as they were each still attached to a large fragment of the hull.

In heaven, I saw Geoff being embraced by the Lord Jesus himself. The Lord then told him,
"Well done, thy good and faithful servant. As you have been responsible over little, I shall put you in charge over much. Enter into the joy of your Lord."
I watched Geoff being escorted to the pearl gate of the most beautiful city man could ever behold. Not only was the city astounding in its beauty, but it was a place of holiness, joy and everlasting happiness in the presence of the Lord.

Then the Lord Jesus approached me and said,
"Sorry, Larry, but you can't come in here, guilty as you are. Depart from me, ye who work iniquity."


Saturday, 2 March 2013

Is God Like A Computer?

I remember when I first became involved with the Internet and e-mailing. It was the beginning of an exciting chapter of my life, one like a foreign land waiting to be explored. With this, I started to email my friends who were a lot more experienced with technology, and I was amazed on how quickly the message arrived at the other end, even if it was halfway round the world.

Then not long after, I tried to send an email to someone living just a few miles away. About ten minutes later a report came back to me announcing that the message failed to reach its recipient and was returned to me. A visitor came round and I showed him the failed email. Apparently, although the recipient lived locally, the visitor showed me that the email completed a journey as far away as Germany before returning to my computer. When I spoke to the recipient in person a week later, it dawned on me that I left out a dot in his email address!

A tiny dot missing and the message endured a trip through the cables across Europe, then back to me, instead of arriving at a terminal locally. And according to forty years of my Christian experience, I tend to think that God is a bit like that when it comes to salvation and how to receive it.

What do I mean by this? I once read in a Christian booklet about how one author believed on what other churches were thinking:
We are the people. We are hearing from God. We are obeying God. We are doing his will.
So churches of all different denominations, according to the author, were at competition with each other on who was most pleasing to God. He then went on to stress that he and his group were the ones living and preaching what the Early Church practised under the Apostles.

I have seen this many times over the decades. As a young Christian, I have gotten involved with both Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons, each insisting that they, and they alone, were the true followers of God as patterned by the first church in Jerusalem. Puzzled and should I say, rather confused, in the early to mid 1970s I visited a Christian bookshop in London (right next to St. Paul's Cathedral, the city's most famous landmark) and bought and studied books on this subject. These pieces of literature revealed many more groups: Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism, Christian Science, Unitarianism, Christadelphians, Theosophy, to name a few. Each insisting that they are right while all others were wrong and of the devil. Then on top of this, the more "orthodox" denominations: Anglican, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Pentecostals, United Reformed - Wheeee! The list seems endless. Little wonder I was confused, after debating with Jehovah's Witnesses who insisted that they were in God's will while all other churches and groups were followers of the Devil and will be destroyed.

When I was in my twenties, as a result, I had developed an idea what the Last Judgement may be like, with all members of every group standing at the Throne, each group carefully arrayed, a bit like that of blades of a fan or propeller radiating from the Throne. Then God says, "The group who has done my will and receives eternal life is...that one." So this one group marches into Heaven while all the rest gets pushed into Hell, shouting, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? In which the reply from the Throne would be, I never knew you, depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
That was how I perceived the Last Judgement to be like back in the 1970s.

The Last Judgement

So among this plethora of different faiths and beliefs came the reasoning that God would only respond and grant eternal life if I came to him in the right way, then attend a church which taught exactly the right things and conducted exactly the right form of service, or else God would shut the door on me. A bit like the email. Minus the dot and it doesn't reach its destination.
Of course, by now I have grown out of this mentality. Yet in browsing the Internet, the debate among believers rages on, and supposedly mature Christian writers and preachers denouncing the other as "devilish doctrine." I felt myself getting sucked in once again towards the 1970s mentality. But before I continue with this article, I was thinking over the past week - does the average reader understand some of the terms I use so readily in my other blogs? It's a bit like a doctor telling me that I have gastroenteritis.
"Er, what?" I asked.
"A stomach bug."

Therefore I shall give the meaning of the terms I have used so readily in my other blogs, so that the uninitiated reader will understand my jargon a lot easier (I hope!)

Eternal Security of the Believer, also Once Saved Always Saved, Calvinism.
The belief that once a person has been declared righteous by God, he is forever saved and is eternally adopted into God's family. He cannot lose his salvation regardless how much or little he falls into sin. This was highlighted by John Calvin.

Arminian, Arminianism, Arminius.
James Arminius disputed John Calvin's emphasis on the Sovereignty of God and divine grace in favour of human choice. The end result was that by human choice salvation can be lost by the believer if he either let his sins accumulate and/or turns from his faith. The conclusion from this that after believing, a Christian can still end up in Hell.

Imputed Grace
A sinner declared righteous by God without the sinner needing to first reform himself. This righteousness is a declared verdict pronounced by God the Judge in the Heavenly Court from the moment a sinner believes. It was the central truth of the Protestant Reformation.

Infused Grace
A supernatural power given by God for the sinner to reform himself to an acceptable standard of behaviour before God can declare him righteous. Committing a serious sin forfeits this power, making the believer in danger of Hell unless he undergoes penance. A central Roman Catholic teaching.

Having given a brief glossary of definitions, as a Calvinist myself, I have in the past week been reading some Internet websites, particularly by Calvinist writers. I felt my heart fall rather than feeling assured or edified. The reason being is that these writers on Eternal Security sees God like a computer, accepting those who hold certain doctrines and denouncing or rejecting those who don't. One writer denounced all Arminians as holding on to a false gospel and are heading for Hell. To be honest, I too have called forfeitable salvation a false gospel. Why was this? Because any human work done to either achieve salvation or to keep it is a denial of imputed grace. Salvation is a free gift given by God to a sinner through faith without prior reforming of himself to modify his behaviour.

But I believe that God is far more merciful than what these Calvinist writers allow. For example, in my younger days I thought that I had to believe in the Holy Trinity before I could be saved. But take a read of Acts chapter 2, and there is nothing about the Trinity in Peter's discourse to the Jews. In fact, this doctrine was vertically unknown, yet it is the central doctrine of the Christian faith.

What Peter exhorted his listeners to do was to believe in the Resurrection of the One they had crucified, this Jesus. His resurrection proved that Jesus is indeed the Christ and forgiveness of sin was available if one changed his mind (repent) and believed this truth. Paul in Romans 10:9-10 says exactly the same thing, that whoever confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in his heart that God has raised him from the dead, he will be saved. That's it. First the heart belief that God raised him from the dead. This trusting belief will cause the person to declare, "Yes, Jesus Christ is Lord." And God in Heaven declares him righteous from that moment on.

Faith in the truth of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is what saves a person. Knowledge of the Trinity comes afterwards, when he learns that the Holy Spirit is also God, in the lifelong process of sanctification, which means to modify the believer's heart after salvation. The same applies to eternal security. That is realised after one is saved. But one may be taught not to believe in eternal security. The person is still saved.

I sincerely believe that many Arminians are truly saved. Also, a proportion of Roman Catholics, despite what they are taught to believe, had enough faith for God to save them. In fact, the idea that the entire population of France, Italy and the Iberian Peninsula are totally lost without hope because of Catholicism, I find to be ludicrous. Surely, among the multitudes who attend church, there must be hearts who believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and had fully trusted in this truth. Would God really leave such a huge multitude spiritually blind, after giving of his Son to atone for their sin?

Faith here, I'm talking about trusting, not merely intellectual belief. For example, world renowned atheist Richard Dawkins is fully aware of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But he ridicules it as a fancy story, an opiate for people unenlightened by science. Dawkins believes intellectually, but he has no faith, and remains an atheist.

Richard Dawkins

Calvinist writers have no right to pass judgement upon those who don't agree with them. Nor for that matter, Arminian writers passing judgement on Calvinists. God is not a computer. Rather, he accepts anyone who has faith in Jesus Christ as saviour, regardless of background, status, dot or no dot.