IS ANYONE OUT THERE? THE BIBLE HAS AN ANSWER

The Lagoon Nebula, shown in a photo taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope (from here).

In is anyone out there?,violetwisp gives four reasons for her Atheism.

I can’t deny that there’s a tiny, tiny chance that one of the other religions in the world is true. But there are four main reasons it’s logical to dismiss them all without spending the rest of my life trying to find out for sure:

1. Even with a basic understanding of just a few religions, we can be fairly sure that they developed to fill gaps in our knowledge and their existence can logically be explained by our need to assign agency. They are essentially superstitious stories that developed structure over time.

2. The stories demonstrate some common themes (invisible powers making things happen that we can’t explain, thinking outside of ourselves) yet have enough differences to show they don’t come from a unique external source.

3. On the 0.01% (or near) chance that the above is wrong and there are creator gods out there, it would be clear from what we have in front of us that there are natural explanations for everything here – that must be part of the ‘design’. It would also be clear from the mess of assorted religions that have developed that the gods don’t really care about sending a useful or even coherent message.

4. So many people have spent so much time dedicated to these questions and all of them have come to different conclusions. Either there is no truth, or the truth doesn’t need to be found.

When I read ‘s post, it occurred to me that not so long ago I could have written something much the same. Therefore, I thought it might help if I addressed her four main reasons.

1. Christianity stands out as unique, not as just another gap filler. One reason for that is that the Bible is not something men would have written unless God inspired them to do so. It does not flatter us, not at all, but it does tell us of our sins and our need for a savior.

As a historical figure, Jesus’ influence is unsurpassed. Given the claims made for Him in the New Testament, that’s no surprise, not if He is who He said He is. Given the affect Jesus and the Bible have had on Western Civilization and the rest of the world, no one can rightly call themselves well-educated unless they have carefully studied the Bible.

2. God is not unique, external source? The real problem with miracles is separating the “miracles” performed by charlatans and our over-active imaginations from those we can only attribute to God. Nothing of that sort is ever easy.

3. There are natural explanations for everything here? Actually, science doesn’t have answers for the most important questions. The Bible does.

  • Why am I here?
  • What is right and wrong?
  • What brings me meaning
  • What happens to a human being when I die?

Ravi Zacharias (an expert in Christian apologetics) says there are Four Questions To Answer In Life.

Science does not have the tools to deal with those questions. Scientists are just human; they cannot experiment with God.

We can observe the miracle of birth. We can fret over the decay of death, but what happens to that spark — that soul — that made someone special to us? Where did it come from? Where has it gone?

4. The fact that different people come up with different answers for those four questions doesn’t mean that we should not seek the Truth. The fact that we come up different answers just means God did not make us with a cookie cutter. Yet if we don’t want to know the Truth, it does help if we do not look for it, and that is one of the answers we come up with.

If there is a God (I believe we can know something about Him through Jesus.), then we exist for His purposes, not our own. We are His creations. We did not create ourselves. So what are God’s purposes? If there is a God, how would we know? Would it not depend upon what He wants us to know? Would it not depend upon how He wants us to learn? The Bible provides some answers, but no one knows the mind of God.

What do we know? Soon after we begin to perceive it, we begin to comprehend Creation as beautiful, marvelously complex, and outrageously big. The notion someone made Creation is astounding. The notion that Creation just is — that it just happened — is absurd. Hence, Atheism is not a good answer.

SEARCHING THE BIBLE FOR WISDOM

The garden of Eden with the fall of man
(from here)

What Got This Post Started?

Your Biblical Belief is 42 years old … by Jamie Carter illustrates why I consider debating the Bible worthwhile. This is actually a form of Christian fellowship. The subject is God, and we share our understanding of Him.

In her post, comments on Susan Foh‘s 1975 article, WHAT IS THE WOMAN’S DESIRE? What is that about? Well, consider how  ends her (guessing since I am not certain of ‘s gender) post.

Before Foh pioneered this meaning for the word desire in 1975; the main school of thought was that ‘desire’ referred to a woman’s sexual desire for her husband; though Calvin thought that it meant that a woman will desire what her husband desires and will have no desires for herself. Some thought that women will be plagued with desire itself bordering on a disease. What wasn’t up for debate was that whatever it meant, men had to rule over women as a result of desire.

So if you believe that a man is the head of his family, that the curse on women was to be in rebellion against her husband’s headship because her desire was to be contrary to his headship and the man would rule over his wife, your Biblical belief is somewhat older than I am. Ain’t that something? (from here)

Apparently, thinks that what complementarians believe about the Biblical basis for the relationship between men and women is of relatively recent origin, and that the recent origin Biblical basis for Complementarianism undermines the argument.

What is Complementarianism? It is the counterpart to Egalitarianism.

Summarized by “The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,” complementarianism is the viewpoint that God restricts women from serving in church leadership roles and instead calls women to serve in equally important, but complementary roles. Summarized by “Christians for Biblical Equality,” egalitarianism is the viewpoint that there are no biblical gender-based restrictions on ministry in the church. With both positions claiming to be biblically based, it is crucially important to fully examine what exactly the Bible does say on the issue of complementarianism vs. egalitarianism. (continued here)

What Is This Post About?

After I first read ‘s post, I found myself digging into what Susan Foh had written and the debates she had engendered, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that while gender issues are quite important to  they were not the subject of her post.  Her issue is how complementarians arrived at their version of Biblical truth. Hence, I am not going to try to resolve the debate between complementarians and egalitarians. The subject here is how we search for Biblical wisdom.

Consider something Isaac Newton said.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. — Isaac Newton (from here)

We build understanding by building upon the wisdom of the people who went before us. That is, what we know depends upon what the generations before us taught us, especially our parents and grandparents. That includes our understanding of the Bible.

People have studied and debated (sometimes quite unpleasantly) the meaning of the Bible since God started inspiring men to write it. If we look up the history of universities, we soon find that medieval monks started them in Christian cathedrals. Of course, theology was the big focus. In fact, if we go back further and look up the Church Fathers, most of what they did was study, debate, and preach scripture.

Most of us think for ourselves. Even when we are trying to obey God, most of us think for ourselves. That independent spirit both causes problems and helps us in seeking God.  When Eve bit into the apple and Adam followed her example (Genesis 3), instead of obeying God, both sought to be like God. That did not please God. When we study the Bible diligently and try to understand it so we can understand, love, obey, and seek God; we please Him.

What Is The Debate Over Genesis 3:16 About?

So what about the difficulty of interpreting Genesis 3:16? Consider some different translations.

Here the word “desire” is used. That is more common.

Genesis 3:16 New King James Version (NKJV)

16 To the woman He said:

“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.”

Here the word “control” is used. Some adopted that translation after 1975.

Genesis 3:16 New English Translation (NET Bible)

16 To the woman he said,
“I will greatly increase your labor pains;
with pain you will give birth to children.
You will want to control your husband,
but he will dominate you.”

Another version of the Bible, one developed by Catholics, provides a relatively unique translation.

Genesis 3:16 Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)

16 To the woman also he said: I will multiply thy sorrows, and thy conceptions: in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children, and thou shalt be under thy husband’s power, and he shall have dominion over thee.

Here, from Bible Hub, is a listing of various translations of Genesis 3:16. If you are particularly interested in this verse, I also suggest reading the commentaries on Genesis 3:16 at Bible Hub. Of course, those commentaries predate Susan Foh‘s 1975 article, WHAT IS THE WOMAN’S DESIRE?

What Causes Our Disagreements About The Bible?

So why do the various translations differ, sometimes significantly.  Well, the Bible is only the Word of God in the original language. Once we start putting the Bible in our language we have to put up with translation errors and the biases of the translators. This is no secret. It is one of the reasons why the Catholic Church was reluctant to have the Bible translated and to let the people read it for themselves. The Bible Translation That Rocked the World, for example, discusses the challenges that Martin Luther encountered when he translated the Bible into German.

What does a word represent?  When we think of a word, we generate a concept in our mind.  When we speak a word to someone else we compel whoever is listening to generate the concept they associate with that word in their mind. Therefore, when we translate words from one language to another, finding the best match between the words in the source language and the target language involves finding the word or phrase that correctly portrays the desired concept in the mind of the reader.

Unfortunately, even if the translator well understands both the source and target languages, sometimes there isn’t a good word match. Sometimes, in the case of a language that has not been spoken for a long time, scholars have to work quite diligently to understand what concepts the words in the source language were meant to generate in the minds of the people who spoke that language.  So it is we get translations that are mostly the same, but some differ significantly.

What Is The Word In Question?

What is the word in question? It is the Hebrew word teshuqah. Google produces about 3200 hits (click on teshuqah). So that word has generated much commentary.

Most of the translations of teshuqah use the noun form of the word “desire”.  Let’s look at the origin of the word, “desire”.

desire

v. early 13c., from Old French desirrer (12c.) “wish, desire, long for,” from Latin desiderare “long for, wish for; demand, expect,” original sense perhaps “await what the stars will bring,” from the phrase de sidere “from the stars,” from sidus (genitive sideris) “heavenly body, star, constellation” (but see consider ). Related: Desired ; desiring.

n. c.1300, from Old French desir, from desirer (see desire (v.)); sense of “lust” is first recorded mid-14c.

Curiously, the word “desire” was first associated with the stars. Sexual lust is an element of desire, but “having” is the primary emphasis of the word, and that something is from the stars.  What we desire we want. What we desire is something we long to have in our possession and under our control.

Is desire the wrong word? Maybe not. “Covet” is a synonym for “desire”, and covetousness is a sin. What we desire — what we put at the forefront of our life — rules us.

What Is The End Of This Discussion?

I tend to enjoy John Wesley’s concise commentary. What did he have to say about Genesis 3:16?

Verse 16
[16] Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

We have here the sentence past upon the woman; she is condemned to a state of sorrow and a state of subjection: proper punishments of a sin in which she had gratified her pleasure and her pride. (1.) She is here put into a state of sorrow; one particular of which only is instanced in, that in bringing forth children, but it includes all those impressions of grief and fear which the mind of that tender sex is most apt to receive, and all the common calamities which they are liable to. It is God that multiplies our sorrows, I will do it: God, as a righteous Judge, doth it, which ought to silence us under all our sorrows; as many as they are we have deserved them all, and more: nay, God as a tender Father doth it for our necessary correction, that we may be humbled for sin, and weaned from it. (2.) She is here put into a state of subjection: the whole sex, which by creation was equal with man, is for sin made inferior. (from here)

Wesley saw Genesis 3:16 as being about punishment, and for thousands of years the social standing of women has been lower than that of men. Among the Jews, women were generally treated better, and with the advent of Christianity, the social standing of women began to slowly rise. However, that verse was about sin and punishment. Because they had sinned — because they would continue to sin — Adam, Eve, and their progeny would suffer from sin.

Other verses in the Bible call upon men to love their wives as they love themselves. Other verses call upon women to love their husbands and submit to the love of their husbands. What all those verses mean, not just one, Christians and non-Christians study and debate.

Can I resolve this debate? Of course not, but I can suggest that each of us needs to ask God what He wants us to do and do it. Whether God made us a man or a woman, He did not do so to curse us. Our own sins do that, and that is what most people get out of Genesis 3. What Genesis 3 tells us to do is to love and obey our Creator. That Adam, Eve, and we have too often failed to do.

What about punishment God inflicted upon Adam, Eve, and all of humanity? Just as God punishes us, don’t we punish our children to teach them to behave? In spite of the fact we punish our children, is not most of the punishment they receive — we receive — self-inflicted? When we sin, don’t we suffer from our sins? If a 120 pound woman totally desires 180 lb man, who is going to be controlled? Oddly, because the man wants to rule over the woman, it doesn’t always work out the way one might expect.

And so it is that for the sake of a tempting piece of fruit, Adam and Eve gave up paradise and their selfless love for each other.

Additional References

Empathy is Not Forgiveness — Reblogged

Cheyenne moccasins (from here)

insanitybytes22 writes posts that hit at the gut level. Such is what Empathy is Not Forgiveness does. What I write I like to think appeals to the intellect. That informs people, I guess, but is more likely to get to the heart and persuade.  So it occurred to me it might be worthwhile to reblog ‘s post and just include my comment.

Empathy is not forgiveness. That was a real stumbling block for me, but empathy can be a bit like trying to rationalize away sin. We’re seeking a logical explanation for human behavior, some cause and effect, and trying to walk in someone else’s shoes compassionately. That all sounds very good, very charitable on the surface, but it is not the supernatural grace of forgiveness.

You will wind up extending mercy to everyone but yourself. We’ll call it “self-abuse,” because you’ll be filled with forgiveness, confusion, frustration, while attempting to rationalize away the entire world’s poor behavior.

Battered women do this all the time. He doesn’t mean it, it’s not his fault. People married to alcoholics do it, they rationalize, it’s just the addiction talking. We do it in crime, bad childhood, lousy neighborhood, poor job training. What winds up happening in the end is that you are surrounded by totally irrational people doing stupid things for what seems to be good reasons and all of this somehow becomes your fault. Also, now you’re even more bitter and unforgiving because everyone in the entire world has an excuse for treating you poorly…. (continued here)

So what do I have to add? A little Bible study.

Excellent post! It inspired me to do a little Bible study.

It is a curious thing. Empathy is supposed be a Christian thing, but anyone would be hard put to find the word in the Bible.

Empathy sounds like a great idea. There is that old Indian proverb (=> http://grammarist.com/phrase/walk-a-mile-in-someone-elses-shoes/), but forgiveness and empathy have different purposes. When we walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, we don’t do it to forgive them. We do it to understand them, to perceive what motivates them. When we understand the motives of another, we can react more appropriately.

What is forgiveness? It is not holding a grudge (Leviticus 19:18). It is continuing to love another. As this passage puts it, it is overcoming evil.

Romans 12:9-21 New King James Version (NKJV)
Behave Like a Christian

9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The person who cannot forgive cannot give up vengeance, but vengeance does not belong to us. We don’t have the wisdom or the right. Because we belong to God, vengeance belongs to God.

We don’t punish criminals out of vengeance. We punish criminals to discourage crime. Our job is to love each other. If we don’t forgive each other, we cannot love each other.

Because God requires justice, however, He does take vengeance.

Psalm 99:8 New King James Version (NKJV)

8 You answered them, O Lord our God;
You were to them God-Who-Forgives,
Though You took vengeance on their deeds.

We cannot thank God enough for taking upon Himself the full measure of vengeance we deserve.

 

PUTTING THE END AT THE BEGINNING

How should a book be organized?  I just finished reading the Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli. When I got to the end, it occurred to me that the end should have been at the beginning.

What did the authors put up front? It was proper and perhaps the best thing. The title of the first chapter is: “The Nature, Power, & Limitations of Apologetics”. Since  most people probably don’t even know the meaning of the word apologetics, that chapter has to be up front. Still, when we don’t know where we would be headed, there is not much reason to start the trip. I suppose that is why some people check out the last chapter before they buy the book.

What is at the end of this book? The authors call that chapter “The Bottom Line”. It is about the four steps to becoming a Christian.

  1. The first step is mental belief. This is the point of apologetics. This is why Kreeft and Tacelli wrote their book.
  2. Next is repentance. Once we believe in Jesus Christ we turn from sin.
  3. After repentance, we must put our faith in Jesus. Whereas repentance involves turning from sin, faith requires us to turn toward Jesus.
  4. Finally, we must live out the teachings of Jesus Christ.

How do we put all that more succinctly? I believe Pastor Randy

at Kingdom Pastor has just written a post that explains that, 3:16. Here is the verse that he writes about (for the sake of providing a different emphasis, I cited my preferred translation).

Colossians 3:16 New King James Version (NKJV)

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Once we believe in Jesus, that He is real, that He is our savior, then we must make Colossians 3:16 central to our life. Then we must accomplish what Kreeft and Tacelli call steps 2 – 4.

Want to understand Colossians 3:16 better? Read post. Read 3:16.