7/20/16

The Sham Gods Of Orthotalksy By Allan Turner


http://allanturner.com/ss03.html

The Sham Gods Of Orthotalksy
By Allan Turner

No, it's not misspelled. “Orthotalksy” is a made-up word. It describes that which takes place when our concepts about God are wrong, but we continue to give lip-service to the “traditional,” “correct,” “accepted,” or “orthodox” ways of talking about Him. For example, even though a brother erroneously comes to the conclusion that God is no longer actively involved in His creation, he will still give lip-service to being a firm believer in God's providence. Another brother, although he has concluded there are some things God simply cannot know, will, at the same time, continue to pay homage to the “all-knowingness” of God. Yet another, while claiming to believe in the omnipotence of God, may teach that God's plan to redeem man through His Son, Jesus, could have failed. The immediate advantage of orthotalksy is that it permits one to remain in the comfortable surroundings of “brotherhood soundness” while, at the same time, advocating new and radically false ideas about God.
According to The American Heritage Dictionary, “sham” means: “1. Something false or empty that is purported to be genuine; a spurious imitation. 2. The quality of deceitfulness; empty pretense. 3. One who assumes a false character; an impostor.” Therefore, a sham god is not God at all. All sham gods are idols, and those who construct them are, quite simply, idolaters. This is true whether one is a pagan idolater involved in the construction of pagan images or a brother involved in advancing the theological and philosophical concepts of modern-day theology.
The reality of this surfaced in a written debate between two Christians over the foreknowledge of God. One argued there are some things an “all-knowing” God cannot know—specifically, the future, contingent, free will choices of men and women. When the other participant countered that this brother's position was not only wrong, but idolatrous, he responded that such a charge was absolutely preposterous and completely unbefitting a debate between two brothers in Christ. Apparently, this brother thought he was being called a pagan idolater. This was not the case. The point was that there are other kinds of idolatry than those associated with the worship of pagan gods. For example, a child of God who allows himself to get caught up in covetousness or greed is, according to the Bible, an idolater (Colossians 3:5). Further, in the first chapter of Romans, the apostle Paul makes it absolutely clear that changing “the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man” is idolatry. This is true whether it be an actual graven image or a theological construct.
This means that any one of us can be guilty of idolatry, and this is especially true of preachers. When one preaches, teaches, and writes about God and His Word, he must be willing to have what he says subjected to honest and fair criticism. Only a false teacher would object to this process. Of course, the standard for such criticism is not what I or anyone else might think. The spiritual benchmark for everything we believe and teach is the Bible—it alone is the objective standard.
A religious discussion (debate) should not be some frivolous academic exercise designed to give an audience something to do. Nor is it designed to take up space in some religious publication. It is, instead, a very serious undertaking designed to defend God and His word. Therefore, a debate, contrary to what some seem to think, is not a vehicle to showcase one's debating skills. The thing to be displayed in a religious debate should be either the truth or error of a particular position. If this is not the motive, then any such exercise would not be worth the time it takes to conduct it, or in the case of a written debate, the paper it is written on.
Serious Business
When one undertakes to expound the attributes and characteristics of Almighty God, he is treading on hallowed ground. We must approach any such undertaking with extreme reverence for the One we seek to clarify. Like Moses, we must take off our shoes, realizing we are standing on holy ground. A debate of God's word is the weightiest of matters.
To further impress us with the seriousness of these matters, the Bible makes it clear that a teacher of the Scriptures operates under a stricter than normal judgment (James 3:1). Therefore, when we preach, teach, and write about God, let us do so carefully and reverently.
I am convinced that there is nothing more important than knowing the one true God! In truth, one's eternal destiny depends upon it (John 17:3). Therefore, teachers of the Word are involved in a  most sobering endeavor. The task is to accurately communicate God and His Word. If, for whatever reason, we impose limits on the infinite God, we are engaged in idolatry. When we begin to think of God as a man, albeit a man of larger proportions, there ought to be no doubt that we are engaged in idolatry.
The God who has revealed Himself  both in nature and the Scriptures is not a creature; He is not a man (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29). He is not limited, as are His creatures, by anything outside of Himself. Consequently, He is nothing like the sham gods of paganism, nor the gelded God of modern theology.
In the study that follows, your attention will be directed to “The God Who Doesn't Do Anything,”“The God Who Doesn't Know Anything,” “The God Who Can Fail,” and “The God Who Can Quit Being God.” My intent is to expose these sham gods and the orthotalksy associated with them. In doing so, I will do my best to carefully, reverently, and honorably defend the ontological integrity of Almighty God. Realizing, as I do, that I am limited in my understanding of God's Word, and realizing that I probably always will be, I invite, and expect, criticism. I assure you that all serious criticism will be taken to heart. If anyone can show from the Scriptures that I am wrong, I would want my correction to be as public as my teaching. With this in mind, it is my prayer that God will bless us all as we reverently study His Word.

"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY" Chapter One by Mark Copeland


                     "THE FIRST EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY"

                              Chapter One

OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER

1) To notice two different kinds of teaching:  one that gives rise to 
   disputes, and the other which produces godly edification in faith

2) To consider what ought to be the goal of all teaching:  love from a
   pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith

3) To appreciate the example of Paul's conversion in how longsuffering
   Christ is to those who believe on Him

SUMMARY

Paul begins this epistle by urging his "true son in the faith" to
remain in Ephesus and charge some not to teach other doctrines, nor
give heed to fables and genealogies that cause disputes rather than 
godly edification in faith.  The goal of this commandment is love from 
a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith, from which some 
have strayed and turned to idle talk in their desire to be teachers of 
the law.  While the law is good when used properly, it is not designed
for the righteous person, but for those whose conduct is contrary to
"sound doctrine" which is according to the gospel of God committed to
Paul's trust (1-11).

Speaking of what was committed to Paul's trust sparks an expression of
thanksgiving and praise to Christ for counting him faithful and 
enabling him to be of service.  His gratitude is heightened by 
remembering what he had been prior to receiving the grace and mercy of
the Lord.  But Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom Paul
was chief, and in him Christ shows an example of His longsuffering to
those who believe on Him for everlasting life (12-17).

Paul then charges Timothy to carry out his responsibility in keeping 
with prophecies made concerning him.  The charge is to "wage the good
warfare, having faith and a good conscience".  He is reminded of two 
men, Hymenaeus and Alexander, who have rejected such things.  As a 
result they had suffered shipwreck concerning the faith and had been 
turned over to Satan by Paul that they might learn not to blaspheme 
(18-20).

OUTLINE

I. INTRODUCTION (1-2)

   A. THE AUTHOR (1)
      1. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1a)
      2. By the commandment of God our Savior and Jesus Christ our hope
         (1b)

   B. THE RECIPIENT (2)
      1. Timothy (2a)
      2. Paul's true son in the faith (2b)

   C. GREETINGS (2c)
      1. Grace, mercy, and peace
      2. From God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord

II. TEACHING SOUND DOCTRINE (3-11)

   A. PAUL'S CHARGE TO TIMOTHY (3-7)
      1. Remain in Ephesus and charge some... (3a)
         a. To teach no other doctrine (3b)
         b. Nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies (4a)
            1) Which cause disputes (4b)
            2) Rather than godly edification which is in faith (4c)
      2. The purpose of the commandment is... (5a)
         a. Love from a pure heart (5b)
         b. A good conscience (5c)
         c. Sincere faith (5d)
      3. For some have strayed... (6a)
         a. Having turned aside to idle talk (6b)
         b. Desiring to be teachers of the law (7a)
            1) Not understanding what they say (7b)
            2) Nor the things they affirm (7c)

   B. THE PROPER USE OF THE LAW (8-11)
      1. It is good if one uses it lawfully (8)
      2. The law is not made for the righteous (9a)
         a. But for all sorts of sinners (9b-10a)
         b. And anything else that is contrary to sound doctrine (10b)
            1) According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God
               (11a)
            2) Which was committed to Paul's trust (11b)
   
III. THANKSGIVING FOR THE LORD'S GRACE AND MERCY (12-17)

   A. THANKFUL TO CHRIST JESUS (12-14)
      1. For enabling him (12a)
         a. Because He counted him faithful (12b)
         b. Putting him into the ministry (12c)
      2. Though he had formerly been... (13a)
         a. A blasphemer (13b)
         b. A persecutor (13c)
         c. An insolent man (13d)
         ...but he obtained mercy because he did it ignorantly in 
            unbelief (13e)
      3. The grace of the Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and
         love in Christ Jesus (14)

   B. THE MERCY SHOWN TO HIM IS A PATTERN FOR OTHERS (15-17)
      1. Christ came to save sinners, and Paul was one of the worst
         (15)
      2. But he received mercy, that Christ might demonstrate His 
         longsuffering to others who believe on Him for everlasting 
         life (16)
      3. Paul desires that honor and glory be given forever and ever...
         (17c)
         a. To the King eternal, immortal, invisible (17a)
         b. To God who alone is wise (17b)

IV. TIMOTHY'S RESPONSIBILITY (18-20)

   A. TO WAGE THE GOOD WARFARE (18)
      1. This is the charge Paul commits to his son Timothy (18a)
      2. In accordance to prophecies made concerning him (18b)

   B. TO HAVE FAITH AND A GOOD CONSCIENCE (19-20)
      1. Which some have rejected, and concerning the faith have 
         suffered shipwreck (19)
      2. Such as Hymenaeus and Alexander (20a)
         a. Whom Paul delivered to Satan (20b)
         b. That they may learn not to blaspheme (20c)

REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER

1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - Introduction (1-2)
   - Teaching sound doctrine (3-11)
   - Thanksgiving for the Lord's grace and mercy (12-17)
   - Timothy's responsibility (18-20)

2) How does Paul describe Timothy in his salutation? (2)
   - My true son in the faith

3) Where did Paul want Timothy to remain? (3)
   - Ephesus

4) What two things did he want Timothy to charge some? (3-4)
   - To teach no other doctrine
   - Nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies

5) Paul's concern is that such teachings would cause disputes rather
   than what? (4)
   - Godly edification which is in faith

6) What was the three-fold purpose of this commandment? (5)
   - Love from a pure heart
   - A good conscience
   - A sincere faith

7) What had some turned aside to?  Why? (6-7)
   - Idle talk
   - Because they desired to be teachers of the law

8) When is the law good?  Who is the law not made for? (8-9)
   - When it is used lawfully
   - The righteous person

9) When is something considered "sound doctrine"? (10-11)
   - When it is according to "the glorious gospel of the blessed God"

10) Why did Paul thank Christ Jesus? (12)
   - Because He enabled him, counting him faithful, and put him into 
     the ministry

11) What had Paul been formerly?  Why did he obtain mercy? (13)
   - A blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man
   - Because he did it ignorantly in unbelief

12) What is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance? (15)
   - That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners

13) How did Paul view himself? (15)
   - As chief of sinners

14) Why did Paul obtain mercy, and Christ show all longsuffering toward
    him? (16)
   - As a pattern to those who believe on Him for everlasting life

15) To whom does Paul ascribe honor and glory? (17)
   - To the King eternal, immortal, invisible
   - To God who alone is wise

16) What charge does Paul commit to Timothy?  What does it involve 
    having? (18-19)
   - Wage the good warfare
   - Faith and a good conscience

17) Who had made shipwreck concerning the faith?  What had Paul done in
    response?  Why? (19-20)
   - Hymenaeus and Alexander
   - Delivered them to Satan
   - That they may learn not to blaspheme


Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

eXTReMe Tracker 

"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY" Introduction by Mark Copeland



                     "THE FIRST EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY"

                              Introduction

AUTHOR:  The apostle Paul, as stated in the salutation (1:1).  The 
internal evidence certainly supports Paul as the author, especially
references to his earlier life (1:13), and the close relationship
between the author and Timothy (1:2; cf. Php 2:22).  Early sources in
church history that attribute this letter to Paul include:  Eusebius
(300 A.D.), Origen (250 A.D.), Clement of Alexandria (200 A.D.),
Tertullian (200 A.D.), Irenaeus (200 A.D.), the Muratorian Fragment
(180 A.D.).  References to the epistle are also found in the writings
of Theophilus of Antioch (180 A.D.), Justin Martyr (160 A.D.), Polycarp
(135 A.D.), and Clement of Rome (90 A.D.).

RECIPIENT:  Timothy, Paul's "true son in the faith" (1:2,18).  We are
first introduced to Timothy in Ac 16:1-3, where we learn that his
mother was Jewish (cf. also 2Ti 1:5; 3:14-15) and his father Greek.
Well spoken of by the brethren at Lystra and Iconium, Paul desired that
the young disciple travel with him and therefore had him circumcised to
accommodate Jews they would seek to evangelize.  This began a long
relationship of service together in the work of the Lord, in which
Timothy served Paul as a son would his father (Php 2:19-24).  Such
service included not only traveling with Paul, but remaining with new
congregations when Paul had to leave suddenly (Ac 17:13-14), going back
to encourage such congregations (1Th 3:1-3), and serving as Paul's
personal emissary (1Co 16:10-11; Php 2:19-24).  He had the honor of
joining Paul in the salutation of several epistles written by Paul (2
Col 1:1; Php 1:1; Col 1:1; 1Th 1:1; 2Th 1:1), and from such epistles we
learn that Timothy had been with Paul during his imprisonment at Rome.
Such faithful service helps us to appreciate why Paul would leave him
in Ephesus (1:3)

TIME AND PLACE OF WRITING:  Some commentators (such as Barnes) believe
that Paul may have penned 1st Timothy after his extended stay at
Ephesus and departure to Macedonia on his third missionary journey (cf.
Ac 19:1-41; 20:1-3). This would place its composition around 58-59 A.D.

The general consensus, though, is that Paul wrote this epistle from
Macedonia, following his first imprisonment in Rome (cf. Ac 28:16,
30-31).  Paul was released and allowed to travel for several years
before being arrested again and finally put to death by Nero.  It is
possible to conjecture from several references in his epistles that he
went to places like Philippi (Php 1:26; 2:24), Colosse (Phm 22), and 
even Spain (Ro 15:24,28).  With more certainty his destinations 
included Ephesus (where he left Timothy, 1Ti 1:3), Macedonia (where he
wrote 1st Timothy, 1Ti 1:3), Crete (where he left Titus, Tit 1:5),
Miletus (2Ti 4:20), Corinth (2Ti 4:20), and a winter at Nicopolis (2
Tit 4:20).  Any attempt to determine the exact order of these visits is 
pure speculation, however.  If 1st Timothy was indeed written during
this period, the date would be around 63-64 A.D.

PURPOSE OF THE EPISTLE:  Paul had left Timothy behind at Ephesus with
an awesome responsibility:  to charge some not to teach anything 
contrary to the "sound doctrine" which was according to the "glorious
gospel of the blessed God" (1:3-11).  Fulfilling this charge was made
difficult by Timothy's youth and natural timidity (4:11-12; cf. 2Ti 
1:7-8).  While Paul hoped to come himself, he writes Timothy to guide
him in the meantime (1Ti 3:14-15).  Therefore, Paul writes:

   * To instruct Timothy on how to conduct himself while administering
     the affairs of the church (3:14-15)

   * To encourage Timothy by providing counsel concerning his own 
     spiritual progress (4:12-16)

THEME OF THE EPISTLE:  This letter is addressed to a young evangelist
charged with the responsibility of working with a congregation and 
guiding them in the right way.  Everything that is written is designed
to aid both him and the congregation in doctrine and conduct.  An 
appropriate theme for this epistle might therefore be:

          "SOUND DOCTRINE FOR A CONGREGATION AND ITS PREACHER"

KEY VERSES:  1 Timothy 3:14-15

   "These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly;
    but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought
    to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of
    the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."

OUTLINE:

INTRODUCTION (1:1-2)

I. CHARGE CONCERNING SOUND DOCTRINE (1:3-20)

   A. TEACHING SOUND DOCTRINE (1:3-11)

   B. THANKSGIVING FOR THE LORD'S GRACE AND MERCY (1:12-17)

   C. TIMOTHY'S RESPONSIBILITY (1:18-20)

II. GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS CONCERNING THE CHURCH (2:1-3:13)

   A. THE PRACTICE OF PRAYER (2:1-8)

   B. INSTRUCTIONS FOR WOMEN (2:9-15)

   C. QUALIFICATIONS FOR CHURCH OFFICERS (3:1-13)
      1. For bishops (3:1-7)
      2. For deacons (3:8-13)

III. ADVICE TO TIMOTHY (3:14-4:16)

   A. PAUL'S PURPOSE IN WRITING (3:14-16)

   B. REMEMBER THE SPIRIT'S WARNING OF APOSTASY (4:1-6)

   C. EXERCISE YOURSELF UNTO GODLINESS (4:7-16)

IV. INSTRUCTIONS CONCERNING MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH (5:1-6:19)

   A. MAINTAIN PROPER RELATIONSHIPS (5:1-2)

   B. CONCERNING WIDOWS (5:3-16)

   C. CONCERNING ELDERS (5:17-25)

   D. CONCERNING SERVANTS (6:1-2)

   E. CONCERNING TEACHERS MOTIVATED BY GREED (6:3-10)

   F. CONCERNING THE MAN OF GOD HIMSELF (6:11-16)

   G. CONCERNING THE RICH (6:17-19)

CONCLUDING CHARGE TO TIMOTHY (6:20-21)

REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE INTRODUCTION

1) Where do we first read about Timothy?
   - Acts 16:1-3

2) What was the name of his grandmother and mother? (2Ti 1:5)
   - Lois (grandmother)
   - Eunice (mother)

3) How did Paul affectionately regard Timothy? (1:2)
   - As his true son in the faith

4) Where was Timothy when Paul wrote this epistle? (1:3)
   - Ephesus

5) What is the general consensus for the time and place that Paul wrote
   this letter?
   - After his first Roman imprisonment, sometime around 63-64 A.D.
   - While in Macedonia, shortly after leaving Ephesus

6) What two-fold purpose does Paul have in writing this epistle?
   - To instruct Timothy on how to conduct himself while administering
     the affairs of the church
   - To encourage Timothy by providing counsel concerning his own
     spiritual progress

7) What is the theme of this epistle, as suggested in the introductory
   material?
   - Sound doctrine for a congregation and its preacher

8) What are the key verses?
   - 1Ti 3:14-15

9) According to the outline proposed above, what are the main points of
   this epistle?
   - Charge concerning sound doctrine
   - General instructions concerning the church
   - Advice to Timothy
   - Instructions concerning members of the church


Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

eXTReMe Tracker 

Christianity, Islam, and Science by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=8&article=255

Christianity, Islam, and Science

by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.

The Roman Empire was terminally ill by the end of the second century A.D. It had used its skills in administration, engineering, and military strategy to dominate a region spanning three continents. But its heart was weakened by the rise of an absolutist monarchy led, all too frequently, by weak, ineffectual emperors. Slowly, the Roman armies abandoned the most distant outposts and could not prevent the Vandals, Goths, and Huns from penetrating the innermost parts of the Empire. The Goths sacked major Greek cities in 268, gave the same treatment to Rome in 410, and in 476 deposed the last Western Roman Emperor. Deprived of Roman law and economy, much of the region plunged into disorder and poverty.
Lost from the scene was a significant portion of classical Greek science, including Ptolemy’s astronomy, Euclid’s mathematics, Galen’s anatomy, and Aristotle’s naturalistic writings. But it hardly could be said that nothing was going on in these “Dark Ages,” as some are inclined to characterize the next few hundred years. In particular, the establishment of monasteries in the sixth century provided a means for religious training. Literacy improved because instruction depended on readings from the Bible, commentaries, and works of the church Fathers.
Monasteries also provided access to the relatively scant classical works available in Latin. Through the writings of Augustine (354-430), scholars were especially familiar with Plato’sTimaeus. This work lent itself to Christian interpretation because it argued that the Universe had a first cause—an eternal self-mover—that created motion and order. Further, because Plato’s god was good, he created a world that was good for us, the creature. Unlike the Christian God, this self-mover was not a personal god; he did not love man, he was not omnipotent, and he was not the object of worship. However, Plato’s arguments for a Creator-God, combined with biblically based expectations of seeing God’s handiwork in creation (e.g., Psalm 19:1, Romans 1:20), encouraged medieval theologians to affirm the fundamental intelligibility of God’s creation. Although Augustine frowned upon the systematic study of nature, the concept of nature’s basic orderliness provided an important key to the development of modern science (Jones, 1969, p. 133).
During this same period, Arabic-Islamic science had reached tremendous heights. It led the world in mathematics, physics, optics, astronomy, and medicine. The stability and wealth brought by the spread of Islamic power in the seventh and eighth centuries fostered patronage of higher learning. In 762, al-Mansur established Baghdad as his new capital, and “cultivated a religious climate that was relatively intellectual, secularized, and tolerant” (Lindberg, 1992, p. 168). Over the next few generations, Arab scholars enhanced their own knowledge with medicine from Persia, mathematics from India and China, and the classical Greek heritage preserved in Byzantium. Much emphasis was given to knowledge that had special utility for Islamic culture. For example, the Chinese abacus, and the Hindu system of numbers and place-valued decimal notation, were used to advance trigonometry and Ptolemy’s astronomy. These, in turn, could be used to determine the direction to Mecca and the times of prayer for any town in the Muslim world.
Crucial to the development of Arabic science was a massive translation program begun by Hunayn ibn Ishaq (808-73), a member of the Nestorian Christian sect. Arabs filled their numerous libraries with tens- or hundreds-of-thousands of books, whereas the Sorbonne in Paris could boast of a paltry two thousand as late as the fourteenth century (Huff, 1993, p. 74). Despite this clear superiority, why did modern science arise in Western Europe, and not in the Islamic world?
Some Muslim leaders, like some of their counterparts in early medieval Europe, had a low regard for the study of nature. Academic pursuits were tolerated, but learning was divided into traditional studies based on the Qur’an, and “foreign” studies based on knowledge obtained from the Greeks. Although there were Arabic rationalists, there were also those who saw in this rationalism a threat to the authority of the holy writings. A conservative reaction in the late tenth century, together with a decline in peace and prosperity, impeded further scientific advance in the Muslim world (Lindberg, 1992, pp. 180-181). According to the emerging Islamic orthodoxy, man was not a fully rational creature, and no room was allowed for a purely rational investigation of God’s creation (Huff, 1993, pp. 100,115).
It was in this very early period of decline that the baton of science began to pass gradually into the hands of the Europeans, especially those who came into contact with the wealth of Islamic knowledge in Spain. Perhaps the next most significant event was the fall of Muslim-held Toledo in 1085. Many important Arabic and classical works from its vast library were translated into Latin. Within a century, these had begun to filter into centers of learning all over Europe. They arrived at a time when scholars such as Anselm (1033-1109) already were reviving the role of reason in faith. Their arrival coincided also with the development of the university as a legal entity with political and intellectual autonomy (Huff, 1993, p. 335). No similar institution appeared in the Arabic world until the twentieth century due, in part, to the orthodox Muslim concept of nature and reason. Religious constraints also played a role in late medieval Europe, but an academic world committed to the biblical views of man’s rationality and freedom of choice provided a fertile ground for the rise of modern science.

REFERENCES

Huff, Toby E. (1993), The Rise of Early Modern Science (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press).
Jones, W.T. (1969), The Medieval Mind (Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, second edition).
Lindberg, David C. (1992), The Beginnings of Western Science (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).

The Five Manifestations of Natural Phenomena by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=13&article=751

The Five Manifestations of Natural Phenomena

by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.

For over a century, scientists have recognized that all natural phenomena in the Universe can ultimately be divided into interactions between five basic, fundamental “manifestations.” In 1882, staunch evolutionist Herbert Spencer, an English philosopher, biologist, and sociologist who was a prominent classical liberal political theorist of the Victorian era, recognized “likenesses and unlikenesses among phenomena…, which are segregated into manifestations…, and then into space and timematter and motion and force…” (Soylent Communications, 2011, emp. added). In First Principles, under the chapter heading, “Space, Time, Matter, Motion, and Force,” he wrote, “These modes of cohesion under which manifestations are invariably presented, and therefore invariably represented, we call…Space and Time,…Matter and Motion [action—JM]” (1882, 1:171, emp. added). “Though Space, Time, Matter, and Motion, are apparently all necessary data of intelligence, yet a psychological analysis…shows us that these are either built up of, or abstracted from, experiences of Force” (p. 169). So, time, force, action, space, and matter are the five manifestations of all scientific phenomena.
This truth—fundamental to understanding science—was articulated by an agnostic in the 19thcentury, and yet these fundamental principles were articulated in the very first verse of the Bible millennia ago. “In the beginning [time], God [force] created [action] the heavens [space] and the Earth [matter].” It is truly amazing that a renowned apostle of agnosticism would be the one to verbally articulate this discovery from science—a discovery which gives significant weight to the contention that one can know there is a God and that the Bible is His inspired Word. And further, it is notably ironic that the very man from whom Charles Darwin took the phrase, “survival of the fittest” (Spencer, 1864, 2:444), would be the man that unknowingly found evidence specifically supporting the inspiration of Genesis chapter one—the very chapter of the Bible that relates the truth about man’s origin. Acts 14:17 rightly says, “Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good…” (emp. added).

REFERENCES

Soylent Communications (2011), “Herbert Spencer,” NNDB: Tracking the Entire World, http://www.nndb.com/people/013/000094728/.
Spencer, Herbert (1882), First Principles: A System of Synthetic Philosophy (New York: D. Appleton and Company), fourth edition.
Spencer, Herbert (1864), Principles of Biology: A System of Synthetic Philosophy (London: Williams and Norgate).

The Omnipotence of God by Caleb Colley, Ph.D.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=1397

The Omnipotence of God

by Caleb Colley, Ph.D.

God is the only being Who possesses omnipotence. In the Oxford English Dictionary, “omnipotence” is defined as “all-powerfulness,” or “almightiness.” In other words, when God wants something to be done, it is done. God has all power in heaven and on Earth (Matthew 28:18), so unlike the limited power of humans, which is constrained by time, space, and force, God’s capabilities are limited only by His own character (see Miller, 2003). Paul wrote of God’s omnipotence in the sense that He is “above all, and through all, and in you all,” (Ephesians 4:6). God is preeminent for many reasons, not the least of which is His great power.
God has complete power over the Earth. The very first chapter of the Bible (Genesis 1) is full of references to God’s power. The words of His mouth brought the Universe into existence; He spoke the Cosmos into existence with only a word (Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 11:3). In order to create the Universe, God needed no pre-existing matter with which to work; rather, He Himself spoke the very first matter into existence (see Thompson, et al., 2003a2003b). After He created “the heavens and the Earth,” He spoke “light” into existence on Earth (Genesis 1:3). After creating light, He created the firmament, and much more, all by the power of His word.
God has complete power over the spiritual realm. Just as the first chapter in the Bible reveals that God created light on Earth, the last chapter in the Bible reminds us that God’s power will be responsible for the eternal light in heaven (Revelation 22:5). Christ repeatedly cast out devils during His earthly ministry (Matthew 8:16; 9:32-33; 12:22), and James revealed that the demons believe in the one God of the Bible, and that because they are aware of God’s omnipotence, they tremble (Luke 8:31; James 2:19). God now limits Satan himself, keeping him from directly inhabiting people or causing people physical pain (Zechariah 13:1-2).
Only God can perform “wonders,” and only God can furnish that capability to others (Job 5:9; Psalm 72:18; John 3:2). Christ again revealed His power over the spiritual realm when He brought Lazarus’ soul back from the realm of departed spirits, and returned it to Lazarus’ body (John 11:43). Similarly, God will resurrect all the dead one day, having already determined the fate of their souls (Mark 12:26-27; Romans 6:4; 1 Corinthians 15:15,32; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; 1 Peter 1:3-5).
God has complete power over the affairs of men. John Waddey observed: “God was known to the patriarchs as El-Shaddai, God Almighty (Exodus 6:2-3). The term Shaddai, when connected with the Hebrew word El (God) means, ‘the mighty One to nourish, satisfy and supply.’ Thus we see His power to send forth blessings for He is the all-bountiful One” (1987, p. 1). It makes sense, then, that when Moses spoke to the entire assembly of the children of Israel the lyrics of a lengthy song, he included this line: “Nor is there any that can deliver out of My [God’s] hand” (Deuteronomy 32:39). Of course, just as God has the power to bless us and deliver the righteous from spiritual harm, He also has the uncontainable power to destroy the wicked, as can be seen in His utter destruction of the world through the global Flood of Noah’s time (except eight souls; see Thompson, 1999a).
The plural form of ElElohim, brings to light the fullness of God’s power, in that it highlights the Trinity (Psalm 38:75). Still another Old Testament expression used to denote omnipotence isAbhir, or “strong One” (Genesis 49:24; see Vos, 1994, 3:2188-2190). Jesus said that God is Spirit, emphasizing that God is not limited by impotence of flesh, as are humans (Isaiah 2:22; 31:3; John 4:24).
God’s power over the nations of the Earth is evident. Though God used the children of Israel as His means for bringing Christ to Earth, God’s power over large groups of people has never been limited to Israel. God has authority over all nations, and frequently has used them to accomplish His purposes (Isaiah 10:5; Jeremiah 25:9; Amos 1). Job said: “He makes nations great and destroys them” (Job 12:23). Kings have their dominion only because God allows it (see Custance, 1977, p. 134). Vos observed: “The prophets ascribe to Jehovah not merely relatively greater power than to the gods of the nations, but His power extends into the sphere of the nations, and the heathen gods are ignored in the estimate put upon His might (Isaiah 31:3)” [1994, 3:2189]. The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar was warned:
This decision is by the decree of the watchers, and the sentence by the word of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men…. This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses (Daniel 4:17,24-25, emp. added).
God has complete power over the devil, whom He created (though the devil was not evil at the time of his creation; see Colley, 2004). While the devil has certain powers that humans do not possess (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; see Thompson, 1999b, pp. 11-12), Satan is not omnipotent. During his temptation of Christ, Satan admitted that whatever power he possessed had been “delivered to him” (Luke 4:6). Satan had to ask for God’s permission to harm Job (Job 1:7-12). Jesus said that Satan had desired to sift Peter as wheat; that is, Satan sought the express permission of God. Without it, Satan would be powerless to tempt Peter. While God never had a beginning, Satan was created (Colossians 1:16). For this, and other reasons, Satan is not omnipotent, and his power is far less potent than the power of God. John wrote: “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He Who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
If we were to try to imagine someone whose power approached God’s might, we might think of Satan. Yet, the Bible reveals that nothing is too hard for the Lord—even defeating Satan (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:17). In fact, Christ already conquered the devil, and eventually will punish him everlastingly in hell (Matthew 25:41; see Thompson, 1999b, pp. 12-13). Hebrews 2:14 reads: “He [Christ] Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” Milton, in Paradise Lost, wrote of Satan: “Him the Almighty Power hurled headlong flaming from th’ ethereal sky…Who durst defy th’ Omnipotent to arms” (1.49).
God’s complete power is unending. Because God would not be God if He were not omnipotent, and because we know that God will never end, we can know that God’s power will never cease or diminish (see Colley, 2004). Furthermore, Isaiah plainly stated: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable” (40:28).

CONCLUSION

God’s omnipotence reassures us, because it is through the Divine power that His servants know that “nothing will be impossible” to those who faithfully serve Him (Matthew 17:20; Mark 9:23; Philippians 4:13). Those who are not faithful to the Lord should be terror-stricken by God’s omnipotence, because, in the Day of Judgment, the very force that created the Universe will condemn them to an everlasting punishment. Vos commented that omnipotence
evokes a specific religious response. This is true, not only of the Old Testament, where the element of the fear of God stands comparatively in the foreground, but remains true also in the New Testament. Even in our Lord’s teaching the prominence given to the fatherhood and love of God does not preclude that the transcendent majesty of the Divine nature, including omnipotence, is kept in full view and made a potent factor in the cultivation of the religious mind (Matthew 6:9). The beauty of Jesus’ teaching on the nature of God consists in this, that He keeps the exaltation of God above every creature and His loving condescension toward the creature in perfect equilibrium and makes them mutually fructified by each other. Religion is more than the inclusion of God in the general altruistic movement of the human mind; it is a devotion at every point colored by the consciousness of that Divine uniqueness in which God’s omnipotence occupies a foremost place (1994, 3:2190).
Little wonder that the multitude of Revelation 19:6 cried: “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!” The fact that God so willingly uses His omnipotent capacity for the ultimate benefit of His servants should motivate everyone to obey the Gospel (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). We will not escape the vengeance of God if we neglect the great salvation offered us (Hebrews 2:3).

REFERENCES

Colley, Caleb (2004), “The Eternality of God,” [On-line], URL:http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2565.
Custance, Arthur C. (1977), Time and Eternity and Other Biblical Studies (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Miller, Dave (2003), “Things God Cannot Do,” [On-line], URL:http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2292.
Lockyer, Herbert (1997), All the 3s of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Thompson, Bert (1999a), The Global Flood of Noah (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), second edition.
Thompson, Bert (1999b), Satan—His Origin and Mission (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press, 2001 reprint).
Thompson, Bert, Brad Harrub, and Branyon May (2003a), “The Big Bang Theory—A Scientific Critique [Part I],” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/22.
Thompson, Bert, Brad Harrub, and Branyon May (2003b), “The Big Bang Theory—A Scientific Critique [Part II],” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/26.
Vos, Geerhardus (1994), “Omnipotence,” The International Bible Encyclopaedia, ed. James Orr, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Waddey, John (1987), “The Omnipotence of God,” Firm Foundation, 104[18]:1,4, September 22.

Wearing Gold and Braided Hair? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1210

Wearing Gold and Braided Hair?

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Most people who have read the Bible have at least been mildly perplexed after reading 1 Timothy 2:9-10 and 1 Peter 3:3-4. These two portions of Scripture read as follows:
…in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works (1 Timothy 2:9-10).
Do not let your adornment be that outward adorning of arranging the hair, of wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God (1 Peter 3:3-4).
At first glance, these two passages seem to set down strict commandments that women should wear no gold jewelry, and should never braid their hair. However, when these verses are taken in their proper context, and are compared with other verses in the Bible, their seemingly strict prohibitions of gold and braids become more lenient in one sense, and ironically, more strict in another.
When the apostle Paul wrote to the young preacher Timothy, he gave the young man several instructions about how certain groups of people ought to conduct themselves in public worship assemblies. In 1 Timothy chapter 2:9, Paul offered some guidelines for how women ought to dress. Paul said that women should wear “modest” apparel. The Greek word for modest iskosmioi, which means “respectable, honorable, or modest” (Arndt, 1958, p. 445). This word basically entails all apparel that does not call undue attention to the wearer through show of flesh or through gaudiness. The type of apparel is defined by the phrase, “with propriety and moderation.” Then, Paul described the converse of “modest” by mentioning three things that many first-century women were using to draw undue attention to themselves: braided hair, gold, and costly clothing.
In the first century, many women were plaiting elaborate hair designs that would take hours to “construct” and weave. One writer, in describing such first-century hair designs, wrote:
Talk about high maintenance! During the late first century, the Flavian style of Julia, daughter of Titus fashioned the court with curls arranged on crescent-shaped wire frames. The back hair was divided into sections, braided, then curled. Sometimes the hair was coiled without braiding (see Roman…, 2002).
Apparently, some women were turning the worship assemblies into fashion shows, attempting to “one-up” their contemporaries with flashy, expensive clothes and costly gold jewelry. Instead of this gaudiness, Paul instructed the women to adorn themselves in that “which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.”
In this passage, we see a literary construction that is common in the Bible—the comparison and substitution of one less desirable thing for another more profitable thing. In this particular case, the gaudy clothes were to be rejected in favor of good works and modest clothes. Jesus used a similar construction in John 6:27, when He stated, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you…” At first glance, this statement from Jesus seems to be saying that a person should not work for physical food. However, we know that is not the intended meaning, because 2 Thessalonians 3:10 plainly says, “if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” What, then, was Jesus’ point? He simply was saying that spiritual food is more important than physical food, and as such, should be given ahigher priority.
Another instance of a similar situation is found in 1 Corinthians 11:34. In this chapter, the apostle Paul had been reprimanding the Christians in Corinth for abusing the Lord’s Supper. The rich brethren were bringing lots of food and drink, and were eating their fill, while the poor brethren were not getting enough to eat. Paul explained to the Christians that the Lord’s Supper was not designed to be a feast to fill the belly, but a memorial to commemorate the death of the Lord. In verse 34, he wrote: “But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment.” Once again, taken in its most literal sense, this verse would demand that every person who is hungry should eat at home—not in a restaurant, at a friend’s house, or outside. Of course, that was not Paul’s intention at all. He simply wanted the Christians to eat to fill their stomachs at some other time than during the memorial feast of the Lord’s Supper.
After considering these examples, let us now look back to Paul’s instruction to Timothy concerning women’s apparel. If we were to take the passage in its most literal reading, then women should not wear braided hair, any gold, or any costly clothing. However, how much would an article of clothing have to cost in order to be “costly?” Many of the clothes we wear in the United States would cost a person in a third world country an entire year’s salary (Jackson, 2000). Should our women come to worship in burlap sacks and cardboard flip-flops? To ask is to answer. In fact, in 1 Peter 3:3-4, the parallel passage to 1 Timothy 2:9-10, the actual Greek text omits the word “fine” before “apparel” so that it actually says that a woman’s beauty should not come from “putting on apparel.” Yet, taken in its most literal sense, this particular sentence would delight those of the nudist persuasion, and confound the most astute Christians.
Summing up the meaning of these two passages, we see that Paul and Peter were not forbidding a woman from wearing a golden wedding band or having her hair modestly braided. They were, however, instructing the women to concentrate on good works and a right attitude instead of trying to impress others with immodest clothes that were inappropriate or excessively gaudy.
Therefore, these verses are more lenient than their strictly literal sound, in the sense that they do not forbid all wearing of gold, clothes, or braiding of the hair. They are more stringent, however, in the fact that some things not specifically mentioned by the writers would be prohibited. For instance, a woman could not wear thousands of dollars worth of platinum jewelry, and then contend that the verses never mention platinum. Nor could a Christian woman strut into an assembly wearing multiple carats of diamonds worth tens of thousands of dollars, and argue that diamonds are not mentioned in the text. The verses echo the sentiment of Christ, when He scolded the Pharisees for cleansing “the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence” (Matthew 23:25).
[As an endnote, the modest-apparel criteria were not specifically addressed to the first-century men, because they apparently did not have a problem with this. However, in any situation where men might have a problem with such, the same rules certainly would apply to them as well.]

REFERENCES

Arndt, William, F.W. Gingrich, and Frederick W. Danker (1979), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press), second edition revised.
Jackson, Wayne (2000), What About Braided Hair? [On-line],URL: https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/206-what-about-braided-hair.
Roman Hairstyles (2002), [On-line], URL: http://oldworld.sjsu.edu/ancientrome/living/fashion/hair02.htm.

Isaiah and the Deity of Christ by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=10&article=30

Isaiah and the Deity of Christ

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

It has become popular in recent years to consider the divine nature of Christ as simply a doctrine invented by Christians long after Jesus’ death. In his blockbuster book The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown alleged that Jesus’ deity was concocted 300 years after His crucifixion (2003, pp. 233-234). Jehovah’s Witnesses also frequently distribute literature espousing that Christ’s divine nature is a trumped-up teaching of men, rather than an actual doctrine of God (see “What Does...,” 1989, pp. 12-16). Although many New Testament passages could be consulted to demonstrate the deity of Christ (e.g., John 1:1-5,14; 20:28; Philippians 2:6; Hebrews 1:5-13; etc.), of particular interest is the fact that long before Jesus appeared on Earth in the form of man in the first century, the Old Testament prophet Isaiah foretold His Godhood.
In approximately 700 B.C., Isaiah prophesied about many things concerning the Christ. Hebrew scholar Risto Santala wrote: “The Messianic nature of the book of Isaiah is so clear that the oldest Jewish sources, the Targum, Midrash and Talmud, speak of the Messiah in connection with 62 separate verses” (1992, pp. 164-165), including Isaiah 9:6. “For unto us,” Isaiah foretold, “a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6, emp. added). The Messiah, Isaiah wrote, would be not only the “Prince of Peace,” and the “Wonderful Counselor” (NASB), but also “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father.” [NOTE: “The Targum elucidates this verse, saying: ‘His name has been from ancient times...’ and, regarding the ‘Everlasting Father’ part, that ‘the Messiah has been for ever’” (Santala, 1992, p. 196), or that He is “the Father of eternity” (see Jamieson, et al., 1997)]. What’s more, Isaiah also prophesied of the virgin birth of the Messiah, and that His name would be “Immanuel” (7:14), which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23, emp. added). Why would Isaiah call the Messiah “Mighty God,” “Everlasting Father,” and “Immanuel,” if He was not God?
Interestingly, more than 100 years before Jesus allegedly was “made God” at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 (cf. Brown, pp. 233-234), Irenaeus quoted from Isaiah 9:6 and applied the divine names to Christ, Who “is Himself in His own right...God.”
...this is Christ, the Son of the living God. For I have shown from the Scriptures, that no one of the sons of Adam is as to everything, and absolutely, called God, or named Lord. But that He is Himself in His own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, andLord, and King Eternal, and the Incarnate Word, proclaimed by all the prophets, the apostles, and by the Spirit Himself, may be seen by all who have attained to even a small portion of the truth. Now, the Scriptures would not have testified these things of Him, if, like others, He had been a mere man. But that He had, beyond all others, in Himself that pre-eminent birth which is from the Most High Father, and also experienced that pre-eminent generation which is from the Virgin, the divine Scriptures do in both respects testify of Him: ...that He is the holy Lord, the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Beautiful in appearance, and the Mighty God, coming on the clouds as the Judge of all men;—all these things did the Scriptures prophesy of Him (BookIII, Chapter 19, emp. added).
Isaiah not only referred explicitly to Jesus as “Mighty God” in 9:6, he also alluded to the Messiah’s divine nature in a prophecy about John the Baptizer in 40:3. “The voice of one that crieth, prepare ye in the wilderness the way of Jehovah; make level in the desert a highway for our God” (ASV, emp. added; cf. Malachi 3:1). According to the New Testament, this “preparer” (or forerunner) was John the Baptizer (John 1:23). He prepared the way for Jesus, as all four gospel accounts bear witness (Matthew 3:1-17; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-23; John 1:15-34). Notice that Isaiah wrote that John would prepare “the way of Jehovah;...our God” (40:3, emp. added). Thus, Isaiah claimed that the Messiah is God.
Truly, long before the Christian age, even long before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah provided inspired testimony of the nature of Christ. He is Jehovah, Mighty God, Immanuel (“God with us”), Everlasting Father, “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 1:8; cf. Isaiah 44:6).

REFERENCES

Brown, Dan (2003), The Da Vinci Code (New York: Doubleday).
Irenaeus (1973 reprint), “Irenaeus Against Heresies,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Jamieson, Robert, et al. (1997), Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Bible Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Santala, Risto (1992), The Messiah in the Old Testament: In the Light of Rabbinical Writings, trans. William Kinnaird (Jerusalem, Israel: Keren Ahvah Meshihit).
“What Does the Bible Say About God and Jesus?” (1989), Should You Believe in the Trinity?(Brooklyn, NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society).

Unnatural Causes by Jerry Fausz, Ph.D.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=3831

Unnatural Causes

by Jerry Fausz, Ph.D.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: A.P. auxillary staff scientist Dr. Fausz holds a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from Georgia Tech.]
The most fundamental axiom of science is Causality: the belief that every material effect observed must have a sufficient cause preceding or simultaneous with it (Miller, 2011). The observed motion of a cart is difficult to explain, for example, unless we assume the existence of an appropriately placed horse (figuratively speaking, of course).  Scientific philosopher Sir Karl Popper wrote that the “rule” of causality “guides the scientific investigator in his work” (1968, p. 61). Actually, Popper refused to accept causality as a scientific “principle,” per se, but instead stated as a “methodological rule” that we should never “give up our attempts to explain causally any kind of event we can describe” (p. 61). I will not be so picky, as I believe that causality has been so thoroughly and consistently demonstrated by observation to be readily considered axiomatic, i.e., accepted without proof. Popper clearly indicates by his comments his belief that causality is heavily embedded in scientific thought and method. Nobel Laureate Erwin Schrödinger, upon defining causality, commented:
This postulate is sometimes called the “principle of causality.” Our belief in it has been steadily confirmed again and again by the progressive discovery of causes that specially condition each event (1957, p. 135).
The thoughts expressed by Popper and Schrödinger certainly support the idea that without an assumed “cause,” the scientific search would be quite aimless, if, indeed, possible at all.
The scientific importance of causality can be further illustrated with an amusing story related by noted theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking:
A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.” The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, “What is the tortoise standing on?” “You’re very clever, young man, very clever,” said the old lady. “But it’s turtles all the way down!” (1988, p. 1).
Hawking’s anecdote invites several immediate observations regarding causality:
  1. Causality is fundamental to scientific reasoning. Note the scientist’s question in response to the lady’s statement. Why assume the tortoise is standing on anything, if not for the sake of causality?
  2. The principle requires effects to be natural or material (thus, observable to us). This is a somewhat trivial inference, for should an effect be unobservable in nature, then we would certainly not be concerned with knowing its cause. The observation implied in the story is nothing less than the existence of the Earth and its perceived place in the Universe.
  3. The statement of causality does not of necessity require a natural or material cause. Causes need only be sufficient and antecedent to/simultaneous with the effect to satisfy causality. For example, as a direct consequence of causality, the lady’s hypothesis in the story (a giant tortoise holding up the Earth) resulted, according to her explanation, in an infinite tower of turtles. While this conclusion is not natural by any means (and, arguably, not logical), it is admissible from the standpoint of causality. (For further interesting discussion of the “tower of turtles” analogy, see Davies, 1992, pp. 223-226).
The third statement, while last, is certainly not least important. Note that even miraculous events recorded in the Bible produced effects that were observable or measurable (e.g., water becoming grape juice, the Red Sea visibly parting, people who were observably dead becoming alive again, etc.). Otherwise, miraculous causes would probably be of little interest to us.
It turns out, though, that the admissibility of non-natural causes is the only way to avoid a serious dilemma in the causality assumption. Consider the following: if a cause is, or is assumed to be, material (observable) then, like its effect, it is also contingent—the cause itself must be the effect of yet another cause according to the scientific axiom of Causality. Consequently, a predetermination to assume only material causes will, necessarily, lead to an infinite sequence of them. For example, strict material causality dictates that the existence of life at its present state of complexity may only be explained by some form of evolution (special creation, while an admissible cause, is not material). In order for life to evolve to its present state of complexity, life had to develop from non-living matter; non-living matter had to somehow organize in a very specific way to provide the necessary constituents for life to generate (assuming, of course, this is even possible); in order to so organize, this matter had to have existed under certain special conditions; and so on.
The dilemma in this reasoning is clearly illustrated by the turtle analogy. If one assumes that the Earth rests on the back of a giant turtle, then the turtle needs to be supported by something. And, since the lady in the story was inclined to make the turtle assumption to begin with, why not just assume that it is standing on the back of another turtle, which is exactly what she did. But, what is the second turtle standing on? As long as one has predetermined to accept the turtle hypothesis, like material causality, the turtles will continue to pile up, like material causes, until we have an infinite number of them. To avoid this dilemma, an assumption must be made at some point in the chain that does not involve a turtle, or by analogy, does not conform to strict materialism.
A related principle has been demonstrated within the most logically consistent subject of study known to mankind—mathematics. In 1931, Kurt Gödel, an Austrian mathematician, proved a theorem holding that “for any consistent mathematical system there exists within the system a well formed statement that is not provable under the rules of the system” (Overman, 1997, p. 27). Commonly known as Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem, this result simply implies that to make progress within a mathematical system, certain facts need to be accepted axiomatically (that is, they cannot be proven from other facts in the system).
This principal also holds in other fields of reasoning. In fact, Paul Davies makes use of this idea when he proclaims:
I would rather not believe in supernatural events personally. Although I obviously can’t prove that they never happen, I see no reason to suppose that they do. My inclination is to assume that the laws of nature are obeyed at all times (1992, p. 15).
Here Davies assumes something to be true that, he admits, cannot be proven within his system of reasoning: the assumption that supernatural events do not occur. A tacit assumption in Davies’ statement, however, is the existence of time. While the natural laws may hold “at all times” (and supernatural events may not occur), we have already seen that assuming this to be true back to the beginning of time will lead to the equivalent of an infinite tower of turtles (an infinite causal sequence).
Speaking of the beginning of time, the most widely accepted theory for this event is the so-called “Big Bang.” This was hypothesized subsequent to the discovery that the Universe is expanding (Hawking, 1988, p. 38). Specifically, what astronomers discovered was that the light spectra of most of the stars in other galaxies were “red-shifted” (reducing in frequency), by which they assumed this indicates that those stars were moving away from us with increasing velocity. If the assumed expansion is extrapolated backwards in time, then one might suppose that there is a point in time at which all of the matter in the Universe was collocated (existed at the same point). This, of course, requires the highly non-trivial assumption that time actually extrapolates back to that point. Note that the expansion assumption does not necessarily follow since one might hypothesize other possible causes for the red-shift of the stars, such as nonlinear changes in the “elasticity” of space-time itself, perhaps as if the Universe was “stretched out” at its beginning (cf. “stretched out” [Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 45:12; Jeremiah 10:12], or “spread out” [Job 9:8; Isaiah 40:22]).
For now, though, consider what science thinks it knows about this assumed beginning point, called the Big Bang singularity. The term singularity in this context denotes a point at which some fundamental property ceases to exist or certain processes are undefined. For example, in mathematics dividing by zero creates a singularity because division by zero is undefined. To state this more precisely mathematically, the mathematical operation of division is undefined at zero, so the origin (zero) is called a singularity point with respect to the operation of division. In the case of the Big Bang singularity, the assumed reverse time extrapolation creates a point at which all of the matter in the Universe is collocated, or has “zero size” (Hawking, p. 117). This would necessarily imply infinite mass density which, according to general relativity, implies infinite curvature of space-time (Einstein, 1920). Physicists Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose have studied the properties of singularities predicted by general relativity quite extensively. Hawking observed that at such a point, “the laws of science and our ability to predict the future would break down” (p. 88). Since the laws of science as we understand them are undefined at this point, the point is called a singularity or, in this case, the Big Bang singularity.
So it seems, perhaps not unsurprisingly, that if the chain of causality could be followed back to a beginning of time as defined by the Big Bang, it would take us to a point in which natural laws do not apply. Hawking goes on to say: “[T]his means that one might as well cut the big bang, and any events before it, out of the theory, because they can have no effect on what we observe” (p. 122).  However, cutting the singularity out of the theory just serves to bog the theory down once again in the dilemma of material causality. When the ultimate conclusion of causality turns out to be an unnatural cause, and we cut it out of our theory simply because we desire to stick with material causality, then our reasoning can only lead us, again, to an infinite tower of turtles. Note that Davies points out that it doesn’t make sense to talk about “before” with reference to the Big Bang singularity since time presumably had its beginning there (p. 50).
All of our imagination and reasoning, as well as our experience and observation, point to a necessary break-down in strict material causality. Theories of an infinite Universe, mathematical incompleteness, and space-time singularities testify to a physical reality that cannot be completely deduced by the rules of the system. The logical conclusion is a cosmological model that admits unnatural cause.
Furthermore, if we are forced to assume an unnatural cause for the beginning of time, as the evidence suggests that, indeed, we are, then why should we necessarily presume, specifically, that in order to pinpoint the beginning of time, we should extrapolate back to a point in which all the mass in the Universe is collocated? As we have seen, Hawking suggested discarding the Big Bang singularity because its effects cannot be predicted by science. However, Hawking also points out that the singularity theory implies that space-time had a beginning and a boundary, prompting him to ask “What were the ‘boundary conditions’ at the beginning of time?”  He then comments: “One possible answer is that God chose the initial configuration of the universe” (p. 122).
Such boundary conditions as these could specify any of an infinite number of initial configurations and states for space-time and the matter that it contains. Indeed, boundary conditions are, by definition, these types of specifications. I see no particular reason to assume that these boundary conditions start with a point of infinite mass density and equally infinite space-time curvature, other than a predetermined desire to push material causality to its unnatural limit. These boundary conditions may, with equal probability, specify a Universe at the beginning of time that is not much different than what we now observe, thus implying that time has not progressed as far as some have conjectured. Perhaps that is why Hawking, using a mathematical contrivance he calls “imaginary time,” has more recently endeavored to create a consistent model of space-time that is finite but does not have a boundary, therefore would presumably not require any boundary conditions. Hawking, however, points out that this idea is “just a proposal: it cannot be deduced from some other principle” (p. 136).
The biblical Old Testament records that God said to Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth? Tell me, if you have understanding” (Job 38:4). Job understood well the rhetorical nature of God’s question, for he had already proclaimed to his companions:
But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its value, nor is it found in the land of the living. The deep says, “It is not in me”; and the sea says, “It is not with me.” It cannot be purchased for gold, nor can silver be weighed for its price (Job 28:12-15).
Clearly, Job observed that complete understanding does not lie in materialism or nature and, if he did not know it before, God pointed out to him that neither does the knowledge of how “the foundations of the Earth” were established. Even what understanding we do have contains immutable evidence of its own hard-coded limitations in explaining the observable Universe.
Our observations and reasoning tell us that the foundations of the Universe could not possibly have been laid through strictly material or natural causality. Theories of cosmology, physics, and even mathematics point to the necessity of a Cause that operates independent of the rules of the system. These theories, however, while they can point to the necessity of unnatural causes, are impotent when it comes to explaining those causes. The Bible closes this gap in our theories by telling us of an omnipotent and omniscient Creator who is capable of operating outside of nature to make everything we observe out of what we cannot observe. The divinely guided Hebrews writer articulated this very concept in his striking statement against strict material causality: “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (11:3).
If we pay attention to what all of our observation and reasoning are telling us, then our mind’s eye will “see” the foundations of the Universe being laid, not by material or natural causality, but by the omnipotent Creator, God, working outside of nature to set the boundary conditions, bringing natural laws on-line to shape and direct His creation. And our reasoning will, in turn, no longer require an infinite tower of turtles.

REFERENCES

Davies, Paul (1992), The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for a Rational World (New York: Simon & Schuster).
Einstein, Albert (1920), Relativity: The Special and the General Theory (New York: Barnes & Noble).
Hawking, Stephen (1988), A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (New York: Bantam Books).
Miller, Jeff (2011), “God and the Laws of Science: The Law of Causality,” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=3716.
Overman, Dean (1997), A Case Against Accident and Self-Organization (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield).
Popper Karl (1968), The Logic of Scientific Discovery (New York: Harper & Row).
Schrödinger, Ernst (1957), Science Theory and Man (New York: Dover Publications).