|The Orion Nebula (NASA)|
How did God create the universe? You might be surprised to find out. The description in Genesis 1 could not use the specialized vocabulary we have today to talk about physics and astronomy. So it used the closest available equivalents to bring its point across.
An example is the word “waters” in Gen. 1:2. What do you think when you read “the Spirit of God was hovering* over the surface of the waters” (Gen. 1:2)? Do you get a picture of a sea or ocean that looks pretty much like the earth looks today? But the Bible says the seas were not made until the third day of Creation (Gen. 1:10). If these waters were not seas, what were they?
This may sound like an odd idea. For more than a thousand years, Christian theology has been almost unanimous in affirming that God has no parts and cannot have parts. The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) says, for example, “There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable…”
The claim that God is without parts is not due to any statement in the Bible. The Bible itself constantly mentions parts of God: his ears (2 Sam. 22:7, Psa. 18:6, etc.), his eyes (Gen. 6:8, Psa. 17:2, etc.), his feet (2 Sam. 22:10, Psa. 18:9, Isa. 41:2, etc.), his hands (Gen. 49:24, Exo. 15:17, etc.), his arms (Deut. 33:27, Isa. 51:5, etc.), his mouth (Deut. 8:3, Psa. 33:6, etc.), his breath (Gen. 2:7, Psa. 33:6, etc.), even his bowels (Isa. 63:15, Jer. 31:20) are mentioned. These are not always just figures of speech. Sometimes these body parts were actually seen: Moses and the elders on the mountain “saw the God of Israel , and beneath his feet….” (Ex. 24:10). Micaiah saw the LORD sitting on a throne (1 Kings 22:19, also Isa. 6:1). Isaiah saw him wearing a robe (“the lower edges of his robe were filling the Temple,” Isa. 6:1). This is not the description of a formless spirit.
On the contrary, God himself (God the Father) is described as having a spirit, the Spirit of God. When we use a similar expression to describe a human being, “the spirit of a man” clearly refers to a part of that man. So what about the Spirit of God? Does that refer to a part of God? Christian theology has uniformly insisted that God the Father does not have a spirit as a part of who he is, but rather that the Spirit of God is a distinct entity—or rather a separate identity—within the Trinity of God.* Here again, there is nothing in the Bible that requires this counter-intuitive understanding. So why have Christian theologians insisted that God cannot have a part of himself that is his Spirit?
Is global warming really happening? Global warming “advocates” claim that rising temperatures endanger the earth and our lives. Warming “deniers” claim there is no global warming at all. Who’s right? Is there any way to know what’s really going on with the climate? Most of the evidence you hear in the media comes from meteorological data (weather records). But there are only about 150 years of reliable meteorological data to work with. That’s a pretty small database to forecast what will happen in the future, or even to understand what’s going on right now. Is there any way to get a longer-term view of the problem? Yes, there is. Just ask a geologist.
|The Harbor at Paphos, Cyprus|
Someone asked me recently about an article posted on Messiah’s Mandate.org, “Why Did Paul Change His Name?” (http://messiahsmandate.org/why-did-paul-change-his-name/). The point of the article is to challenge the idea that Saul’s name change to Paul was a rejection of his Jewish identity, which is how many Christians understand it. As the article correctly states, the idea that Paul would reject his Jewish identity to follow the Jewish Messiah makes no sense at all. It’s the result of hundreds of years of anti-Jewish thinking in the Church.
But the fact remains that in the earliest accounts of his life, this famous apostle is called Saul, while in the later accounts he’s called Paul. Why the change?
|Birds of Prey in Israel|
“Where the dead body is, there also the vultures will be gathered together” (Luke 17:37, also Matt. 24:28).
Have you ever wondered what this verse means? The picture it paints is familiar from old Western movies: vultures circling in the sky over a dead body that slowly descend to feed on it. Yes, vultures do gather around a dead body. But Jesus mentions this at the end of some teaching about the time of his return (Luke 17:22-37; also in Matt. 24:23-28). A dead body and vultures don’t seem to fit the subject. Even the disciples had trouble following him. The full verse says (in Greek), “And answering, they said to him, ‘Where, Lord?’ But he said to them, ‘Where the dead body is…’” (Luke 17:37). They were expecting an answer to their question. But instead he mentioned a dead body and vultures.