Archive for September, 2008

Science and the Bible

September 29, 2008

Did you hear about the superconducting super collider experiment happening in Geneva, Switzerland? Earlier this month, millions of high-energy protons traveling at the speed of light were smashed together in two counter rotating beams. It’s the ultimate science project and it has scientists from around the world sitting on the edge of their seat to the universe.

What’s the point of the super-sized experiment? Apparently scientists are looking for something called the Higgs boson, an undiscovered particle that is necessary for the Standard Model in physics to work. The Higgs boson has another name. Some call it the “God particle.” As one reporter said, “Scientists in Geneva hope that the super collider experiment will shed light on the origin of the universe.”

All of this and more makes the book of Genesis more relevant than tomorrow’s newspaper. As the history book of the universe, Genesis does more than shed light on the origin of life.

Genesis is also critical to our understanding of so many Christian doctrines including the nature of God, the nature of man, and the nature and consequences of sin. In Genesis we discover the origin and definition of marriage. Could anything be more relevant today? It informs an understanding of work, the weekly day of rest and our relationship to the environment. It explains how death, disease, suffering and bloodshed came into the world. It sheds light on our dark side and the origin of evil. The book of Genesis also establishes the unifying theme of the Bible which is our need for a Savior to redeem us from the penalty and power of sin.

I’m convinced that if we stumble in our understanding of the book of Genesis, we will veer off course in a thousand theological ways.

Genesis is not without controversy. The first ten words of the Bible set the framework for a worldview not everyone accepts. It says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Do you believe you are a created being or the product of protoplasmic pond scum that evolved by random chance over millions of years into the complex creature that you are? Well, since you put it that way, right?

Some people say that science and the Bible are at odds with each other. We’ll never get the scientists and the theologians together. Is that true? The truth is that science and Scripture harmonize in the first ten words of the Bible. Let me show you how with a short lesson from high school science.

Scientists tell us that in order to understand how anything forms we need to consider five things. You might want to write these down: time, force, action, space and matter. I know, I know. That sounds about as exciting as watching paint dry. Hang with me. I promise you this gets real exciting. Now go back to Genesis 1:1 and read again how the Bible begins.

In the beginning (time) God (force) created (action) the heavens (space) and the earth (matter).

Isn’t that awesome! The next time you’re tempted to think that science and the Bible don’t mix, consider this: It might just take some time for science to catch up to what God already knows.

Imago Dei

September 24, 2008

Your life matters to God more than you think. That’s why He created you in his image. Imago Dei is a Latin term that means “image of God.” It speaks of a worldview that is rooted in the biblical account of creation, and a life that is full of redemption, meaning, purpose and joy. Join me this Sunday at Immanuel for the start of a 10-week series of messages from the book of beginnings, Genesis 1-3.

Myth or Miracle?

September 22, 2008

Is the Bible full of myth or miracle? The answer you get depends on who you ask. For a long time, critics have taken aim at the Bible for the supernatural claims it makes. Miracles don’t happen, they say. Everything in the world can be explained naturally. Reduced to myth or fable is anything that looks or smells like a miracle in the Bible.

Paul instructed Timothy not to pay attention to myths (2 Tim. 4:4), and the apostle Peter made sure that his readers understood the nature of what he wrote. “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:16).

Thomas Jefferson thought the supernatural claims of the Bible were bogus, as did most deists in his day. Jefferson took out his pen knife and edited all miracles out of the Bible and came up with something called The Jeffersonian Bible. I don’t recommend it, but you can still purchase Jefferson’s thin Bible at his Memorial in Washington D.C.

Jesus is the Son of God, the Creator of the universe, and the Savior of the world. He was also a supernaturalist by all accounts. He punctuated his Messianic claims with miracles that proved he was who he claimed to be. Of course, Jefferson’s Bible presents an emaciated Jesus who performed no miracles.

Some people want their biblical cake and eat it too. They respect the Bible and its moral teachings but deny its supernatural claims. In doing so they treat the Bible like the story of George Washington and the cherry tree. We don’t know if George actually chopped down the cherry tree, and when caught, said to his father, “I cannot tell a lie.” But it doesn’t matter because there’s a good moral to the story.

Myth has no basis in real history. The people, places and events in a fable or fairy tale are not real. But the Bible is not like Greek mythology, Aesop’s fables, or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The people and places in the Bible are real. The events actually happened, at least that’s the way Jesus viewed them.

Before the higher critics, Jefferson and others came along and denied the supernatural, Jesus spoke of many Old Testament miracles as historical fact, including creation (Matt. 19:4), Adam and Eve (Matt. 19:4-5), Noah and the flood (Matt. 24:37-39), and Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt. 12:39-41). Jesus also said (are you ready for this?) the story of Jonah and the great fish really happened.

Jesus hitched the historicity of his own resurrection to the greatest fish story ever told. He said, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:39-41). Jonah and Jesus were both “three days in the belly.”

If Jonah is a fairy tale then so is Jesus’s resurrection. But there’s no need to go there. The greatest miracle that ever happened is no myth.

Fulfilled Prophecy

September 15, 2008

Fulfilled prophecy is one of the most powerful arguments in favor of validating the Bible’s own claim to divine inspiration. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the God of the Bible is his ability to predict the future without error one hundred percent of the time. Frankly, the integrity of Scripture rises and falls on the predictions made by the Author.

The Lord God of Israel established the credentials for a true prophet of God by saying, “You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him” (Deut. 18:21-22).

Elsewhere the Lord declares, “Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it” (Isa. 46:11).

Scholars estimate that as much as 27 percent of the Bible was predictive prophecy when it was written, and that the Bible addresses more than 730 prophetic subjects. According to John Walvoord, one of the most well respected Bible prophecy experts in the twentieth century, “Half of the prophecies of the Bible have already been fulfilled in a literal way.” He believes this gives us every reason to say that remaining Bible prophecies will also have a literal fulfillment.

Scholars have identified more than 300 Messianic prophecies in the Bible. What is the probability of all 300 of them being fulfilled in the life of one person, Jesus Christ?

Peter Stoner, Professor Emeritus at Westmont College, asked this question and involved as many as 600 university students in a mathematical exercise designed to discover the answer. He writes about his well-documented findings in a book called Science Speaks Out.

Stoner began by calculating the possibility of one person fulfilling the prophecy found in Micah 5:2 that says the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Taking into consideration the population of Bethlehem from the time of Micah’s prophecy until now, Stoner concluded there was a one in 300,000 chance of this single Bible prophecy being fulfilled.

He then calculated the possibility of only eight of the Messianic prophecies being fulfilled in a single person. After careful examination, Stoner conservatively estimated that the chance of this happening was one in 10 with 17 zeroes added to the number. To put this gigantic number in perspective, he illustrated the possibility.

Suppose we collect silver dollars numbering 10 to the 17th power and spread them out evenly over the state of Texas. They would cover the entire Lone Star state as high as two feet deep. Now mark one of the silver dollars and then stir up the whole mass of them. Then ask a blindfolded man to pick out the marked silver dollar. What are the chances of him picking out the right one? You guessed it. One in 10 with 17 zeroes after it, which is the same chance that one person could ever fulfill only eight of the Messianic prophecies found in the Bible. The chances of one person fulfilling more than 300 predictions about Messiah are truly incomprehensible.

Stoner concludes his findings by saying, “Anyone who rejects Christ as the Son of God is rejecting a fact, proved perhaps more absolutely than any other fact in the world.”

Fulfilled prophecy is God’s way of authenticating himself. A study of Bible prophecy points to the kind of evidence that indeed demands a verdict. How will you respond?

The B-I-B-L-E

September 7, 2008

No book is more cherished and revered in the hearts of some and more damned and despised in the minds of others than the Holy Bible.

Perhaps you grew up in the church and from an early age learned a lyric that goes like this: “The B-I-B-L-E; yes, that’s the book for me; I stand alone on the word of God; the B-I-B-L-E.” Do you remember that tune? Can you still sing it today?

Maybe you’ve learned to live comfortably by the motto, “If God said it, I believe it, and that’s good enough for me!” You’ve settled the matter in your heart that the Bible is God’s word to modern people. It is God’s word to you!

A popular preacher in Houston, Texas begins each of his sermons by having everyone in the congregation raise their Bible high in the air and repeat, “This is my Bible. I am what it says I am. I have what it says I have. I can do what it says I can do. Today, I will be taught the word of God.” Tens of thousands of people who attend this church make this bold declaration each week.

But for some it’s not so easy. They have questions about the Bible. What about you?

The Bible (from the Greek word biblia, meaning “books” or “scrolls”) is the best-selling book of all time, written over 1500 years by 40 different authors using three different languages. It is really collection of sixty-six books that share an amazing, some say miraculous, continuity. Having roots in cultures found on three different continents, the Bible claims to be the complete revelation of God and His inspired word. It has lasted the test of time and changed millions of lives.

The Bible has been described as “the Magna Charta of the human spirit.” George Washington said, “It is impossible to righteously govern the world without God and the Bible.” Ronald Reagan, the thirty-ninth president of the United States, said, “Within the covers of one single book, the Bible, are all the answers to all the problems that face us today – if only we would read and believe.”

It shouldn’t surprise us that with millions of books in libraries all around the world, American presidents still place their hand on the Bible when they take the oath of office and say, “So help me God.”

The Bible is the book of all books and simply known as “The Book.” But is the Bible the word of God? Is it God’s word to modern people? Can we trust it? Should we believe it? Do we take it literally? Furthermore, does it have the authority to tell us how to live? It’s one thing to have great respect for the Bible; it’s another thing to do what it says even if that means you’re swimming up the cultural stream.

The Bible is the most attacked and maligned book ever. Like a champion heavyweight fighter, it has taken punch after punch, round after vicious round, and yet remains standing at the end of the fight.

For example, in the eighteenth century, a French philosopher and atheist named Voltaire boastfully declared the demise of the Bible. “Another century and there will not be a Bible on earth!” he predicted. How ironic that Voltaire’s house was later used as the headquarters of the International Bible Society, an organization that prints and distributes millions of Bibles around the world.

What do you say about the B-I-B-L-E? I’d like to hear from you.

Ron Jones is a pastor whose greatest passion is to introduce people to Jesus Christ through anointed biblical preaching that transforms lives.

 

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