The Perfect Savior 2

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”                                                              (Heb. 11:1)

To close out the book, as I read the biblical narrative stories of faith in both the Old and New Testaments…I see basically two things happening in terms of journey of faith life-scripts, direction in the lives of Christians, eternal purpose and meaning, and God speaking to us.

The first is the calling of people like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, David, Ezra, Nehemiah, Peter, and Paul…who had major promises of God…or very clear missions, goals, or final outcomes to aim for…given to them by God as guidance and hope-filled inspiration at the very beginning of their difficult and challenging journeys of faith.

We naturally tend to write-off these spectacular callings as if they only apply to the superstars of the Bible…too far above our experience to be a viable pattern to apply to our own lives…on a much lesser scale.

Becoming the “father of faith,” becoming the governor of Egypt, liberating the Israelite slaves from Egypt, conquering militarily the Promised Land, becoming king in Israel, rebuilding the walls and the temple in Jerusalem, and becoming the premier Christian evangelists to the Greco-Roman world in the first-century…these are things that seem too big for most of us…and therefore the concept of the displacement of our ways by God’s higher ways in conformity to the cross of Christ…and the gap that is created in a God-composed adventure of faith life-script having a humanistically unattainable goal according to the definition of faith described so brilliantly in Hebrews 11:1…can both be lost in the magnitude and grandeur of the callings of the storylines of these biblical characters.

These displacement and gap elements in the biblical narrative stories of faith could hypothetically seem to raise the bar…the standard…too high for the average Jew in Old Testament times…and the average Christian (Jewish Christian or Gentile) in New Testament times.

The recognition of the displacement of our ways with God’s higher ways and thoughts…and the gap in a journey of faith that separates what we can do from what we cannot do…setting up the context for genuine biblical faith to actualize…this could potentially cause an anticipation and expectation problem for many Christians who are faithfully following God and going about their normal Christian practices of prayer, reading and studying the Bible, being active in fellowship with other Christians, and sharing their faith with others…simply because God has not spoken directly to them regarding a specific calling upfront like the examples of the major biblical characters listed above.

But the second thing that I see that is happening in the Bible…probably more often…is that God also works unseen in people’s lives who are trying to be faithful and do the right things…even though God does not at first reveal directly to them…by speaking to them in the Spirit…a major promise, mission, or goal upfront at the very beginning of their journey of faith.

This second type of biblical character can see God’s hand at work over time in hindsight…part-way through their journey of faith…or looking backwards after it has finished and all the dust has settled.

Examples of this type of experience with God…in the biblical narrative stories of faith…might include Ruth, Hannah, Esther and Mordecai, the three Hebrew young men in the fiery furnace of King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel, and the ten apostles other than Peter and Judas Iscariot.

Ruth is interesting in this regard…in that she does not even know that by marrying Boaz, she has become part of the royal line that produces the future King David in direct line to Jesus Christ the Son of God…born far ahead in the future in the first-century A.D.  How could God…in this case…reveal more information to Ruth in-the-moment…without possibly jeopardizing giving away the future plans of God for mankind in the kingship of David and the royal line leading to Jesus the Son of God and eternal King in heaven?

In fact, I think that every positive biblical character did not have a full and complete understanding of the unique and critical role they played in the unfolding saga of God’s eternal plans and destiny for mankind.

It is safe to say that there is not a single person on the planet today that has a complete macro and micro grasp of the higher ways and thoughts of God.

The point I want to make here…as has been repeated many times throughout this book…is that as Abraham gets his calling from God to go from the city of Haran to the Promised Land of Canaan…with each step that Abraham takes God is displacing whatever normative plans Abraham might have otherwise had back in Haran…with a new life-script beyond anything Abraham could or would have dreamed up…beyond anything Abraham could self-compose, contrive, or self-orchestrate.

This worldly unconventional element of displacement of our ways with God’s higher ways…illustrated in the biblical narrative stories of faith according to the two general patterns described above…of callings large and small…embedded within God-composed journey of faith life-scripts starting with the detailed and highly specific life-story calling of Abraham and continuing throughout the Bible all the way through to the New Testament first-century…down to our current “church age”…is in my view as big as anything else in the history of mankind.

This is as big as the discovery by Copernicus that the earth revolves around the Sun, or Einstein’s theory of general relativity, or the discovery of Edwin Hubble of the Big Bang expansion of the universe, or the discovery of antibiotic medicines to combat disease, or our discovery and understanding of DNA…the “language of life.”

This biblical concept is as big as the American Declaration of Independence…the American Constitution…the Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery…the women’s suffrage movement…and the victory over despotic tyranny during World War II.

This biblical concept of the displacement of our ways with God’s ways…and the gap we see in genuine biblical faith between what we can do and what we cannot do on our own…integral and fundamental to a journey of faith following Jehovah in the Old Testament and Jesus Christ in the New Testament…is as big as the discovery by Martin Luther that “the just shall live by faith” rather than works-salvation through pilgrimages, relics, and indulgences…and the monumental realization that common people should have access to the Bible translated into their own languages…that started the Protestant Reformation.

The concept that the living God…the brilliant Creator of the universe…can play a pivotal role…indeed take the lead in crafting and shaping a journey of faith for each one of us…that bears the stamp of divine imagination and innovative creativity in being one-hundred percent contrary to the opposite worldview of pursuing…on our own…our self-validation and acceptance according to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…entirely outside of the zone of human literary invention…how can this eternally valuable and applicable biblical concept not be as large or larger than any other concept or event in the history of mankind?

1 John 2:17 reads: “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”

I hope this book has been a blessing, an inspiration, and an encouragement to you.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.

Some Closing Thoughts…One

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”                                                                                                        (Rom. 8:18)

A part of me wishes there was a smoother coordination and integration of the perfection of God’s plan for my life…with the very real question of the fallibility of my half of the performance…in a current crisis.  A part of me wishes it was not necessary to exercise overcoming faith in God’s ability to help close the gap…the remaining distance to cover…while the particular current life challenge is still up in the air and in doubt.

A part of me unrealistically wishes that in a biblical-quality adventure of faith there was a much lower risk of failure…with all of its negative consequences…and that a journey of faith incorporated less faith and a greater reliance upon the safe and more familiar route of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…that the leap across the gap from worldly conventional self-reliance…to unconventional risky faith in God…was not so great.

A part of me wishes that the reality of the Christian life in the dangerous zone of faith…did not from time-to-time bring me again to the seemingly impassable banks of the expanse of the Red Sea, being hotly pursued by Pharaoh’s chariot army, needing God’s divine deliverance to part the waters and to create a safe passage forward…to surrender all…to let go of my ways…to drift freely in the waters of the present uncertain circumstances…trusting in the promises of God to see me across and safely out the other side.

Every Spirit-born Christian today…every foreign missionary, every pastor, every street evangelist, every called-out person engaged in one form or another of Christian outreach ministry…can relate to this on some level (2 Cor. 4:7).

But the reality is that there has to be the profound test of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ before there can be the glorious triumph of the resurrection.  There has to be the component of a deep despair…for the disciples…in the seemingly catastrophic failure in the death and burial of Jesus Christ…before there can be a God-engineered outcome of colossal, world-shaking proportions in the resurrection three days later.

The enormous contrast between the death on the cross and the LIFE in the resurrection…like that between the darkest starless night and the brightest summer day…creates the separation…the gap…between the low-level of mediocrity of worldly conventional aspirations, and the elevated ways of God leading to life-transforming salvation in the highest and broadest sense…beyond human imagination (Isa. 55:8-9; 1 Pet. 1:3; Jn. 8:24).

The resurrection of Christ…and the Day of Pentecost…radically changed the disciples from being fearful and defeated by the appearance of negative circumstances…to becoming courageously uninhibited, roaring lions of the new Christian faith.  This powerful transformation that “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) comes from a divinely created territory of experience…an elevated domain of reality…that is far, far above the life of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

The better half of me does not want my God-composed journey of faith life-script to be merely about God automatically coming through to successfully provide me with the secure mediocrity of worldly conventional normalcy.

The better and more courageous half of me wants my biblical-quality adventure of faith following Jesus Christ…to reveal to me a living God who is brilliantly smart enough to channel the events of my life towards a meaningful purpose and outcome that has the power of the resurrection and the triumph of the premeditated foresight of God …written all over it.

The better half of me does not want my life to be a throw-away life…a disposable life…does not my life to go according to my limited and shortsighted will and way…controlled by the strong desire for comfort and security rather than adventure and discovery.

This then involves an information-rich journey of faith…an infusion of complex and highly specific information into my life-script…and thus requires that my own plans and schemes must get out of the way.

No one could or would make this up.  It is beyond human imagination or invention.  If fiction…if false…it would not even get to “first base” in baseball.  If an airplane, it would “crash and burn” on take-off…falling apart before it can get off the ground…if it did not in truth have the corresponding participation of the living God.

Without divine foresight and premeditated planning…a journey of faith would be like trying to assembly an airplane while in flight.  A journey of faith following God must be perfect at its inception…before take-off…before the perils and adventure of flight.

Without divine participation…a journey of faith simply does not work.  A journey of faith with a fictional God who does not exist…is a nonsensical literary impossibility…a non-starter.

More than anything the better half of me (Rom. 7:15-25) wants to discover that God knows what He is doing…and I am willing (keeping in mind the lesson of Peter’s statement of Matthew 26:33) to pay any price in my journey of faith now to obtain this priceless discovery (Mt. 13:44-46).

I think this may become the universal, motivating theme of every Spirit-born Christian in the challenging events of the upcoming end-times (Acts 2:17-21; Joel 2:28-29).

Abraham’s adventure of faith is not about staying comfortably behind in worldly conventional complacency in the city of Haran.

Moses is not sent to Egypt with the mission to merely procure better living and working conditions for the Israelites there.  Moses is commissioned with the monumental task of delivering an entire nation of peoples out from under the despotic control of a worldly-savvy and tyrannical Pharaoh…a wholly complete salvation out of the horizontally mediocre existence the Egyptians had incorrectly determined for the Israelite slaves.

This salvation deliverance is as worldly unconventional as is imaginable…on a colossal scale…and fore-glimpses the equally complete and thorough salvation deliverance from the bondage in sin (Mk. 15:38)…that the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ provides through faith in Him.

The difficult and challenging training regime set-up by God for Joseph…for Joseph at the time puzzlingly contrary to his two earlier prophetic dreams back in Canaan…culminates in an unanticipated “resurrection” from Pharaoh’s prison to instantly becoming the governor over the land of Egypt during the great famine.

When all of the pieces of Joseph’s life finally come into clear focus as his half-brothers stand before him in Egypt, the realization of God’s guiding hand even amidst all of the many heartbreaks and set-backs…causes Joseph to publically break down into uncontrollable weeping (Gen. 45:1-2).

The discovery that God knew what He was doing all along…that it all made sense in hindsight towards a brilliantly conceived outcome…meant everything to Joseph within his adventure of faith.

The biblical pattern is always first the confronting of a seemingly overwhelming crisis requiring picking up our cross…followed by a divinely crafted resolution of the crisis by God…making a narrow way…opening up an unseen door…best described in New Testament terms as a life-transforming “resurrection” that builds faith, confidence in God, and renewed determination to carry on.

The cross and the resurrection skillfully interwoven into these ancient biblical stories of faith…not only serve as a model for hope as we press forward in our own unique adventures of faith…but also serve as a powerful apologetic argument for the authenticity of the divine origin of these stories that contain cross-of-Christ themes that are beyond human contrivance to manipulate…or even beyond human literary imagination to invent.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ was beyond the hopeful and faith-filled contemplation of the early Christian disciples between Passover Friday evening and the following Easter Sunday morning three days later…for a very good reason.  God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and God’s ways are higher than our ways.

If it were not so…if God is incapable of opening up the Red Sea or of raising Jesus from the dead…then there is no hope of salvation, deliverance, and redemption in this fallen world…we are then doomed to the foibles and caprice of self-sovereign self-rulership.

In our heart-of-hearts we would not want salvation to be any other way…any less powerful…any less real…even when it comes with the high cost of setting aside worldly conventional normalcy in favor of a risk-filled adventure of faith…in order to obtain all of the benefits of salvation (Col. 3:1-3).

The calling of the first-century Christian was not to settle into a complacent, conventional normalcy in Jerusalem after Pentecost.  The calling of the early Christian church was to boldly proclaim the utterly unconventional gospel message of salvation, energized by the spectacular, paradigm-shifting resurrection of Jesus from the dead…a momentous event of such transforming power that it enabled the first Christians to essentially change the world…from that time going forward.

The resurrection…that Jesus Christ is risen…is the God-engineered epiphany that energizes all Christian callings and missions.

A resurrection requires the painful and disruptive reality of the cross…not worldly conventional normalcy.  The power of the resurrection in our lives…that only God can perform…adds the meaning, purpose, direction, and fulfillment to our lives that will climb any mountain, cross any sea, endure any hardship, and overcome all obstacles as we follow Jesus Christ.

This is the ingenious record of the narrative stories of faith in the Bible from beginning to end…supernatural to the core.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.

The Perfect Savior 2

The commendable and admirable aspects of the current “American Dream” might be culturally defined as going to a prestigious college, getting a high-paying job that we enjoy working at, having a happy and fulfilling marriage, living in a beautiful house in a desirable location, having a family, having good friends, participating in sports, being active in our community, making a positive contribution to the world, being able financially to support worthwhile charities and to help other people, to send our children to college, to have grandchildren, to live long and healthy lives free of illness, and to be able to travel and to enjoy financial security in our retirement.

Certainly people who are born with easily recognizable gifts…such as the athletic talent to someday run 9.6 seconds in the 100-meter dash in track-and-field…or to play professional sports in the NFL, NBA, World Cup soccer, and the MLB…for example…should pursue these God-given talents…with everything they have in terms of time, effort, and determination.

The same thing goes for people who show promise at an early age on a musical instrument, or display the outgoing people-skills to run for political office, or demonstrate the argumentative skills to become a courtroom lawyer, or have the intelligence to be able to earn a PhD in mathematics.

I have friends who knew in late grade school or early high school that they wanted to become a medical nurse…or work in landscape gardening…or work in commercial building construction…or have a family and be a stay-at-home mom.

But the critical observation within the broad array of moral concepts…is that the biblical narrative stories of faith…the God-composed life-scripts for the people of faith recorded in the Bible…have little or nothing to do with the otherwise positive and commendable aspects of the American Dream…however these universal aspects are translated back in time to the various ancient cultures and geographical locations of the fully detailed, biblical life-scripts of Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and David all the way through to Paul.

This is the painfully offensive part of the biblical gospel message that infuriates worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

This is the novel and innovative feature of the biblical narrative stories of faith that creates the fork-in-the-road detour away from the narrowly exclusive emphasis by worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…aimed solely upon the pursuit of the current, culturally defined American Dream…through the means of our God-given talents to achieve self-validation and individual achievement…on our own…apart from God.

A God-composed journey of faith life-script…specifically tailored to each of us by the God who created us…is much better than pursuing the positive and enticing features of the current, culturally defined American Dream.

God displacing our ways with His higher ways…as actualized within God-composed journey of faith life-scripts…is not a negative…but is the most positive reality imaginable.

Unbelief in the realm of worldly conventional thinking will reject Jesus Christ…but Christians today must comprehend within their discipleship callings…the meaning of the concept of picking up our cross to follow Jesus.

No matter what are our varied career paths and the individual specifics of our unique callings and mission-plans…the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ applied to our lives…is better than the American Dream procured through self-effort and autonomous individualism (Mk. 8:34-38).

Finally, the rejection of Jesus Christ leading to the cross…is in part…the result of the worldly conventional offense of Jesus not in the slightest way satisfying the expectations of the religious leaders in Jerusalem…that they incorrectly assumed they were entitled to…for the Messiah to provide the new worldly context to inaugurate all of the positive aspects of the first-century version of the American Dream…starting with the military and political expulsion of the Roman occupiers of their country Israel.

But the amazingly divisive and differentiating character of the fully scripted and detailed mission-plans for Abraham through Paul are not about fulfilling the worldly aspects of the past and present versions of the American Dream.

The biblical narrative stories of faith are about enabling God to set-up and manage a program throughout human redemptive history…that allows God to actualize events and circumstances into reality…to fix our world and our lives.

This is an elevated program…that will run above and often contrary to the culturally accepted direction of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking (Mt. 5:3-12, 6:25-34).

This element of elevated unconventionality explains Abraham waiting in faith for the birth of Isaac…Joseph’s unusual MBA preparation in the house of Potiphar and the prison of Pharaoh…the Israelites in bondage in Egypt…the advance preparation of Moses as a shepherd of sheep in Midian…David being pursued for his life by the jealous King Saul…Peter utterly failing in the courtyard of Caiaphas during the night trial of Jesus…and the incredible conversion of Saul/Paul on the road to Damascus…creating the radical humility needed for a highly educated Pharisee to take the gospel message that Jesus is the Messiah to the larger Greco-Roman world…without looking down his nose in disdain at the polytheistic, idol-worshipping Greeks and Romans of his day.

These are the scenarios composed by God to fix our world and the problem of sin in our lives.

The cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ cannot be the invention of human literary fiction…because this divinely composed life-script does not come within miles of the aspects of any universally defined American Dream (Mt. 4:8-10).

The cross on Calvary Hill is the absolute worst thing that can happen to the long-awaited Messiah…the epitome of human failure as defined by the positive aspects of the American Dream.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the absolute best thing that can happen to any person…overcoming and defeating death.

The mission-plan of the Jesus Christ the Son of God…the Passover Lamb of God…”slain from the foundation of the world”…is to experience the absolute worst and the absolute best…in unselfish service to mankind…filling-up and encompassing the entire spectrum of human experience…for our sakes.

If the gospel message of salvation was aimed at…and accessible only…to the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the beautiful, and those few people gifted to be leaders…then we could easily judge in hindsight today that the appeal of Jesus Christ would have been to the religious and political elites in Israel…bypassing and disregarding altogether the common people…and attracting an entirely different retinue of followers than the apostles and disciples that make-up the early Christian church in Jerusalem.

But Jesus Christ instead is lethally rejected by the worldly-minded religious leaders (Jn. 11:47-48)…thus setting-up the context of the cross of Calvary…wherein God validates both the worst and the best events in terms of the worldly perception of absolute failure and success…divinely separating-out and parsing for us the key moral issue within the broad array of moral concepts…of God-sovereignty within the entire range of human experiences…above and outside of the aspects of the American Dream.

The brilliant creative capacity of God to get His arms around the vast stretch of human experience…maintaining fidelity to God-sovereignty in the midst of the lowest failure and the highest success… allows every person of faith that accepts Jesus Christ as Savior and King…to get to know God personally from the least to the greatest…as prophesied roughly 2,600 years ago by the prophet Jeremiah…in anticipation of new covenant believers (Jer. 31:31-34)…all energized by God-sovereignty rather than being fueled by the pursuit of individual achievement according to the tenets of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

The cross and the resurrection of Jesus were in service to mankind…at the peak and pinnacle of moral perfection…the purest essence of virtue.

The cross and the resurrection of Jesus were and are radical measures in the extreme…designed by God to fix the human problem of sin…of going our own way in autonomous individualism.

When this is separated-out and highlighted from amongst the broad array of moral concepts…this provides compelling evidence for accepting Jesus Christ into our lives…as the blemish-free Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin…being morally perfect and having sinless virtue.

The humanly inconceivable test of the consistency of God-sovereignty in the Garden of Gethsemane and on Calvary Hill…falls outside of and is entirely immune to the worldly wrong value-judgments placed on the appearances of failure and success.

This means that the human life lived within a God-composed journey of faith life-script…is independent of the otherwise commendable goals, aspirations, and worldly standards of the American Dream.

This validates the argument that the Bible cannot be the creative invention of human literary imagination.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.

The Perfect Savior 1

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in al points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”                                                                           (Heb. 4:15)

In all of the accounts of the intense opposition from the religious and political leaders…the Pharisees, scribes, Sadducees, and lawyers…that Jesus reacts to as recorded in the four New Testament gospels…in His miraculous examples of healing and deliverance…of preaching to hundreds and thousands of people…in His interactions with His disciples and the common people…we see what we would expect to see in the moral attributes and traits of virtue in a person claiming to be the divine Son of God and long-awaited Messiah…truth, honesty, kindness, tolerance, forgiveness, humility, and uncompromising courage…to name a few…that give Jesus a grade of A-plus…of perfect 100 percent test scores across-the-board…within the broad array of moral concepts we can use as standards for judgment.

We can agree with Pilate the Roman governor in Jerusalem…after examining Jesus: “I find in him no fault at all.” (Jn. 18:38).

But the one area where we can…with solid confidence… conclude that Jesus Christ is operating at the cutting-edge of divine perfection…above anything that any other human being has ever been able to achieve…is that Jesus Christ is living-out His God-composed life-script to be the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin…to the limits of absolute perfection…because the life-script mission of Jesus Christ would require perfect adherence to the uniquely biblical, moral concept of God-sovereignty…Himself being the Second Person of the Trinity…which would be humanly impossible for anyone other than the messianic God/man Jesus Christ.

Every positive person of faith in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible…other than Jesus Christ…have God-composed life-scripts that take into account…that have built-in allowances for human error (Rom. 4:6-8)…for the fact that all of these people are morally imperfect and are not perfectly virtuous…like us…in the many categories of the broad array of moral concepts…but also in their inability to perfectly follow…without stumbling and bumbling at certain points along the way…within their God-composed life-scripts…in pursuit of their divinely created callings and destinies.

Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Esther and Mordecai, Ruth, Hannah, Daniel, Peter, and Paul…none of these people are morally perfect and sinless…and their life-scripts are based upon Holy Spirit empowered grace-through-faith…and proceed according to their individually exceptional gifts and abilities…plus the creative imagination of God their Creator…as life-script Writer…and not based upon the misguided and inadequate self-realization of autonomous individualism built upon good-works…that as human-driven and human-directed must fall far short of moral perfection and sinless virtue.

But the God-composed life-script for Jesus Christ the Son of God…intentionally exploits and utilizes to the fullest His uniquely divine nature to the maximum extent…to be able to perfectly succeed in the one area wherein God knows we will have the most difficulty…the area that is the definition of sin…and that the cross on Calvary Hill focuses upon…the area of God-sovereignty versus self-sovereignty…of following God’s leading in our lives…compared instead to going our own way in shortsighted self-rulership (Isa. 53:6).

God singles-out and highlights this key element within the broad array of moral concepts…honestly and candidly revealed in the difficulty that Jesus has in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion.

Matthew 26:36-46 and Luke 22:39-46 record…that in the Garden of Gethsemane…the night of His arrest and preliminary trial…that Jesus asked His disciples to “watch and pray”…that His soul was “exceedingly sorrowful”…that He received the assistance from an angel from heaven to strengthen Him…that He went back a second time to “pray more earnestly”…and that He sweat “great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

The remarkable words of Jesus spoken that night: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Lk. 22:42)…tells us that God has brilliantly written a life-script for Himself…for the second Person of the Trinity living in a human body…that manages to challenge Himself in the one humanly inaccessible zone of moral perfection and sinless virtue…yet still comprehensible within our capacity for moral reasoning…in the unconventionally inconceivable test-case scenario in the Garden of Gethsemane…of God-sovereignty consistent within God Himself…within the Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

If Jesus does not say in perfect faith…without skipping a beat: “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done”…but instead decides to go in another direction…at that precise moment in time God-sovereignty would have been split in two…introducing autonomous individual rebellion into the God-head of the Trinity…Jesus the Son of God going His own way apart from the Father…and away from His ancient destiny as the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8).

This unimaginably unconventional development…of the testing of divinely sinless unity-of-purpose between God the Father and Jesus the Son of God…of unerring fidelity to the one right course of action no matter how difficult it is or how high the cost…in the Garden of Gethsemane…separates out God-sovereignty as the most important and the highest of issues in all of reality…because all of the other moral concepts and virtues are secondarily derivative to the primary concept of God-sovereignty…of following God’s leading in our lives…rather than going our own way as autonomous independent agents (Isa. 53:5-6).

The blood that Jesus Christ shed on the cross is not just to improve our moral performance in the areas of honesty, integrity, tolerance, and the capacity for unselfish love…because the ancient goal…the prime target…the primary reason for the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice is to focus and hone-in on the remedy and removal of sin.

If God is not internally consistent in this fundamental moral concept of freely choosing God-sovereignty over self-sovereignty…within the Trinity of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit…then justifiably God could not ask us to make the difficult transition from self-sovereignty to God-sovereignty in the course of our lives (Jn. 3:14-21)…of allowing God to displace our ways with His higher ways and thoughts (Isa. 46:9-10; Jn. 12:24)…after the pattern of the biblical narrative stories of faith.

God identifies for us in the Garden of Gethsemane…that Jesus Christ is operating at the apex…at the highest pinnacle of morality and virtue…when God reveals with incredible honesty and candor His own difficulty…performed at the far outer-edge of virtuosity…the unique and singular challenge in all of time…past, present, and going forward into eternity…of offering Himself as the loving sacrifice for our sins…in order to restore our severed relationship with Him…on the highest terms yet at the greatest cost…the death of Jesus Christ on the cross and His resurrection three days later.

Because this entire scenario of truth, challenge, and drama soars far above the capacity of human literary imaginative invention…in my opinion…this answers the question of how we would know that Jesus Christ is the Passover Lamb of God atoning sacrifice for mankind’s sins…being morally perfect and having sinless virtue.

A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity should start at some point…with the biblical uniqueness of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ…within the broad array of moral concepts.

God-composed life-scripts for the people of faith in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible…eventually over time lift them up into the victorious positions of becoming overcomers (1 Pet. 5:10)…but not in the worldly conventional sense of self-validation and worldly pride…that is centered upon oneself.

God’s elevation of people into high positions…Abraham the “father of faith”…Joseph the governor of Egypt…Moses the great prophet and deliverer…Joshua the military leader…the Israelites conquering their homeland…Peter the leader of the early Christian church…and Paul the missionary evangelist to the first-century Greco-Roman world…to name a few…is for unselfish service to other people…and not for self-validation and personal achievement.

God-composed life-scripts in the biblical narrative stories of faith…are designed to fix things…to the most radical extent required…at all costs…at the micro-level in the moment…and at the macro-level over the long-range duration of human redemptive history…extending into eternity.

From a Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.

The Broad Array of Moral Concepts 2

In Galatians 5:22-23 Paul lists some of the positive fruits of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”

Earlier in Galatians 5:19-21, Paul lists some of the negative “works of the flesh”: “Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.”

To these two lists of moral attributes and characteristics we could add the concepts of truth, honesty, dignity, loyalty, friendliness, honor, humility, dedication, forgiveness, mercy, compassion, humor, flexibility, empathy, forbearance, consideration, self-sacrifice, gratitude, persistence, commitment, discernment, rationality, logical thinking, being organized, being a peace-maker, fairness, generosity, passion…and a number of other distinct and precise words that describe finely differentiated moral characteristics…and that could be expanded further by listing their negative counterparts.

Could we add another 20 more words to describe moral attributes and virtues?  Could we list another 50 such words?

Could we compile a long list equal in number to the known elements in the chemistry Periodic Table…as a comparative analogy to the breadth, depth, and wealth of the atomic elements that enables an accurate exploration and comprehension of the natural world?

Modern science tells us that the elements in the Periodic Table are consistently and uniformly present throughout the known universe.  The carbon atom…for example…is defined by its exclusively unique number of protons, neutrons, and electrons.  No other element can be a carbon atom…and a carbon atom cannot be anything else.

What specifically defines a carbon atom or a hydrogen atom here on earth…also defines a carbon or hydrogen atom on the far side of the universe.

We may over time discover new previously unknown elements…but these will be relatively obscure…because the uniquely defined elements that have fixed numbers of protons, neutrons, and electrons…are already identified and occupy their established, fixed locations in the Periodic Table.

No newly discovered elements will bump the carbon or hydrogen atoms out of their places…because what defines their unique characteristics…is fixed and firmly established.

Modern science can therefore say with relative confidence that we have a nearly complete and exhaustive list of the elements and their defining characteristics…in their exact atomic descriptions in terms of whole numbers…of protons, neutrons, and electrons…because any additional elements that we have not discovered so far…should be within a reasonably close physical reach…accessible to scientific discovery…based upon the general rule of the universality of the elements of the Periodic Table…existing everywhere in the cosmos.

Using the known elements of the complete Periodic Table…we can unravel many of the mysteries of the physical universe…starting at the atomic level.

The incredible human capacity to discover, classify, and organize the elements into the highly specified and coherently integrated Periodic Table…studied by beginning chemistry students worldwide…aligns in parallel with the dual realities of the orderliness and intelligibility of the natural world…which makes advanced scientific investigations possible…which makes our natural world accessible to human comprehension…in a truly marvelous way.

In a similar sense…what other basic and fundamental moral traits are undiscovered still…beyond what we can currently observe, experience, admire, and loath…within the tool-kit of moral reasoning…functionally operative for human beings…that allows us to analyze the life and ministry of Jesus Christ…to determine if His claims to moral perfection are justified…as Savior, Redeemer, King, Judge, and Leader…now and for all eternity?

The mere idea that human beings can adjudicate moral performance at the outer-limits of brilliant pure light, absolute goodness, and perfect virtue as demonstrated in the accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ recorded in the biblical New Testament…renders the gradualistic development component of naturalistic materialism…to be plausibly inadequate…to fall far short as an all-encompassing explanation-of-origin for the richness, diversity, and functional coherence of the broad array of moral concepts and virtuous characteristics.

Why is this important?

When anyone…born-again Christian, Bible college student, Christian theologian, atheist, skeptic, or curious truth-seeker…begins an examination of the perfect and sinless life of Jesus Christ…by doing so they are acknowledging the existence of the very tools…the myriad of sophisticated and varied concepts available that precisely define moral characteristics…that make such an examination possible…a reality that in and of itself argues as compelling evidence for their divine origin.

Without a complete and exhaustive tool-kit of concepts by which to judge moral characteristics…a personal decision for or against accepting Christ as Savior would fall short of being meaningful…would not have all of the richly differentiated choices to support a valid decision…one way or the other.

This would be like a partially incomplete Periodic Table of the elements…inhibiting an accurate investigation of the natural world.

We could not accurately and realistically produce an oil-painting depiction of a rugged seascape shoreline with waves crashing against rocks…or of forest trees, blue skies, brilliant white clouds, and a peaceful lakeshore…using only three colors.  To create a masterpiece landscape painting, we need the full palate…the full array…of oil-paint colors.

Like the distinctive and well-defined characteristics of the elements of the Periodic Table…adequate in number and quality to support a scientific investigation of the natural world…that strongly suggests an intelligent designer as their source of origin…the question can also be raised as to who or what is the origin of the wealth of diverse and distinct moral concepts…delineated in the brief list of words given above…that would support our ability to make an informed decision regarding the truth-claims of Jesus Christ to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

For a God-less interpretation of reality to be valid…it would require some reasonable explanation for the creative origin of the extremely complex and nuanced definitions of the many words that describe the advanced moral concepts that human beings use and understand every day…that define the essence of what it means to be human.

The complexity, specificity, and integrated coherence of the life-story of Jesus Christ…in support of His being the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin…requiring moral perfection within the context of a human life…not only requires a reasonable explanation for the origin of this remarkable concept…but also by necessity raises humans up into the elevated zone of being able to cast their informed votes…for or against…the placing of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.

The foregoing analysis removes from consideration the gradualistic question of which came first…the chicken or the egg?

The three required categories…the existence of the broad array of moral concepts…our capacity for moral reasoning…and the divinely composed life-script for Jesus Christ…must all be mature and fully developed in-time for the appearance of Jesus Christ into this world…in the first half of the first-century A.D.

In my view, this far surpasses the capacity for an invented, literary fictional Person and life-script for Jesus Christ…and by process of elimination…leaves only a divinely creative origin.

Jesus died on the cross for all of our shortcomings in all of the areas of morality and virtue…listed above.

But this discussion opens the door into a better and fuller understanding of the uniqueness of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ…validating the life of Jesus to be at the top-most point of moral perfection…the topic of the next essay.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.

The Broad Array of Moral Concepts 1

If the Bible and Christians contend that Jesus Christ is the blemish-free, Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for mankind’s sins…that He was perfect and without sin during His life and ministry on earth…by what or by whose standard do we judge the existence of perfect moral character?

How would we determine that the life of Jesus was at the outer edge of moral perfection…at the peak and the pinnacle of absolute goodness and virtue…having no additional room or space at the highest top-most point of the vertical, graduated spectrum-line of virtue and morality …for further improvement?

What would explain the existence of the diverse categories of moral criteria…defining virtue…of the numerous moral concepts broken down into individual words…accessible to human contemplation…that would enable and support a valid determination of the moral credentials of Jesus Christ?

And finally, where would our highly-advanced capacity to comprehend…to divide, separate-out, and parse these varied conceptual virtues and vices…consisting of finely differentiated realities that are true-to-life?  Where would these originate from?

Yet by simply asking the question and examining the evidence…this in and of itself declares at the outset that Jesus…the person we are investigating…is in fact within the zone of moral perfection and sinless virtue…by reason of the question being seriously entertained at all.

We would not even open such an investigation into the life of any other exceptional person…past or present…because we already correctly acknowledge that only one person in all of history has made a serious claim to have lived a perfect life…and that one person is Jesus Christ.

No sane person in all of recorded history has made a viable and well-substantiated claim to embody and demonstrate the moral attributes of brilliant pure light, absolute goodness, and perfect virtue…of being, speaking, and acting like a Deity…proactively anticipated for centuries in the biblical Old Testament messianic prophecies…and documented and fulfilled later in the life, teaching, and ministry of Jesus Christ…recorded in the New Testament gospels.

This raises the probing apologetics question into the divine origin of the Bible, Old Testament Judaism, and New Testament Christianity…of how…in the first place…we would “come by” the capacity to accurately judge whether the life and ministry of Jesus Christ exhausts the extent of the possible outer-limits of moral perfection.

How would we determine that our current tool-kit of known virtuous characteristics…of well-defined moral attributes…is absolutely exhaustive, adequate, and complete enough for the in-depth moral reasoning needed to evaluate the life of Jesus Christ?

How would we know whether there are not some additional, outstanding moral characteristics that we are unaware of in this current earthly context…above and beyond those demonstrated and exemplified in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ…that would raise the bar higher…that would call into question the impeccable qualifications of Jesus…to be the blemish-free and sinless atoning sacrifice for our sins?

The point here is not whether God has some additional, divine characteristics applicable in heaven…that would not concern us presently…that are not relevant here on earth…but whether or not Jesus the Son of God in a human body (Isa. 7:14, 9:6-7)…exhausts the limits of moral perfection as the God/man in order to qualify as the Passover Lamb of God, one-time atoning sacrifice for sin?

But the equally important point in this discussion is the fantastic notion that we would have the moral reasoning tools…in terms of human capacity but also in the broad array of concepts defined in discreet and distinctive words…to be able to make a valid decision for or against salvation faith in Jesus Christ…at this highly advanced level.

The mere existence of this question blows-away the key element of naturalistic materialism…the element of gradualistic development…out of the water…because of the easily recognizable wealth of complex and finely differentiated concepts defining moral characteristics…that are a fundamental and established part of the human reasoning capacity from the dawn of human history.

The critical human invention of writing…as the tell-tale indicator of human intellectual progress…is dated to as recent a time as 3,200 B.C. in the wedge-shaped cuneiform lettering of Egyptian hieroglyphs, in the cuneiform alphabet in Syria around 2,000 B.C., and in the 22-sign Phoenician alphabet dated around 1,000 B.C.

The Greeks adopt the Phoenician writing script around 800 B.C.

The invention of human writing…of widespread, functional written communication…that locks into time-and-place the human capacity for mature and fully developed moral reasoning…starts only 5,200 years ago.

We do not have to be a professional anthropologist, sociologist, paleontologist, biologist, or historian to know that there exist no contemporary, eye-witness, written accounts by human authors of the retreat of the Ice-Age glaciers covering the northern continents of America and Europe…starting around 12,000 to 10,000 B.C.

There are no written, eye-witness accounts…by the actual participants…of humans battling wholly mammoths or saber-toothed tigers…during the Pleistocene Ice-Age time-period…prior to the invention of writing.

Are we then to uncritically swallow whole the theoretical paradigm of gradualistic development…as an explanation for the origin of sophisticated and discreetly defined moral characteristics…proposed by the atheistic philosophy of naturalistic materialism…in support of Darwinian macroevolution?

Words have meaning.

Is Albert Einstein more intelligent in terms of higher I.Q. than Isaac Newton, or Leonardo Di Vinci, or Aristotle, or the Egyptian engineers who built the Great Pyramids…going backwards in time?

The great advances in recent history that define the modern Scientific Revolution and the two major Industrial Revolutions are not the product of gradual improvements in the evolution of human mental capacity.

These rapid advances of development are the product of the progressing accumulations of information…spawned by the discovery of the scientific method of investigation.

Einstein is not smarter than Aristotle simply because Einstein comes along later in the historical time-line than Aristotle.  Positive progression over time in human intelligence is not a factor as an explanation for the advancements of learning, technology, and the very recent explosive expansion of knowledge over the last three to four decades…called the new Information Age.

The mental capacity to technologically problem-solve at the advanced level to take us to the moon in 1969…and the moral reasoning capacity to differentiate and comprehend complex moral concepts…are two realities that define the essence of human beings.

The point here is that human beings possess a complete and exhaustive array of tools within the broad assortment of moral concepts …from which to make an intelligent and reasoned judgment as to the divine quality of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

Is it therefore more plausible…to recognize that the origin of the entire array and panoply of moral characteristics…appearing suddenly, fully developed in scope and range, and without precursors at the beginning of human cognitive reasoning…front-loaded and operable within human experience that would roughly be concurrent with the invention of writing…that this recognition represents a sharp vertical upward spike on any conceivable graph-line for the time-duration of the human race…and not anything like gradualistic development?

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.

Public Debates 2

I want to attempt in this essay to articulate what it is about the nature of skeptical unbelief that can boil-down and decompose into the self-interest of autonomous individualism…the life apart from God lived in self-sovereignty…that is the core ideology of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…and conversely…what is so critically important about the nature of faith and trust in the God of the Bible…that places such a high value in connecting personally with God within the biblical narrative stories of faith…that demonstrate biblical faith in action…which is the fundamental characteristic of the Bible…the underlying issue of the existence of God debated in public forums.

I would like to build and expand upon what has already been said in Chapters One and Three on the delicate balance between belief and unbelief.

After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead…it is succinctly and brilliantly recorded in John 11:45-48:

45 Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.

46 But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.

47 Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.

48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.

This narrative story of Jesus…leading up to His rejection and crucifixion…tells us that there was no overlapping middle-ground between letting Jesus “thus alone”…or the huge extreme on the other side of the spectrum of accusing Jesus of the capital offences of blasphemy before the Jewish Sanhedrin court and political treason before the Roman authorities…resulting in His execution on the cross.

Were these religious leaders acting for the good of the nation of Israel in removing Jesus from the scene…or were they acting out of the most worldly self-centered self-interest?

Like the scriptural example of the resurrected Jesus not walking down Main Street and into the Temple…even though Jesus moved freely and openly amongst these religious leaders during His time of public ministry…sharing His message and outreach to them as well as to the general populace…Jesus does not appear to compromise in the slightest regarding the components of faith and trust in Him.

Jesus gives not the slightest hint of surrendering His status and position as the Son of God and eternal King in order to reach a common-ground conciliation regarding self-sovereignty versus God-sovereignty…of giving-in on principle to these religious leaders in the biblically critical point of self-governance as opposed to God-governance (Jn. 5:36-47)…even though…and by God’s deliberate intention…this principled stand leads to the cross of Calvary.

This tells us that the importance of the components of faith and trust within a personal relationship…are non-negotiable elements that reside at the peak…the pinnacle…the apex of moral reasoning and righteous character.

Paul writes about the faith component in a relationship with God…in Hebrews 11:6…”But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

Skeptical unbelief cannot enter into a biblical-quality journey of faith today, following the leading of Jesus Christ…through communication in the Spirit through the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:13)…because the atheist does not believe at the outset that God even exists.

The atheist is no more likely to pick up their cross to follow Jesus…than they are to enter into a contractual business agreement with a fictitious and non-existent person.

This explains in part the inability in Christian versus atheist public debates of reaching a common middle-ground of overlapping engagement on the issues…or any semblance of an overwhelming resolution to the specific topic being debated…because the fundamental natures of the worldviews of belief and unbelief are so far apart…they themselves in relation to each other are non-overlapping.

This explains in part why the two people debating the issues in a Christian apologetics public debate…often appear to be talking past one another…each person capably presenting their side but being miles apart in terms of finding common ground.

The contention in this essay is that this reality is by the deliberate and creative intention of God…in order to expose through the dimensions of time and space the un-admirable and non-commendable outcomes of going our own way (Isa. 53:6) both in this current life and in the eternal heavens where God is King and Ruler.

The combination of the delicate balance between belief and unbelief…with the complete absence of a happy center between the two opposing sides of belief and unbelief…having a huge hole between these two worldviews…cannot plausibly be the product of human literary invention.

This cannot be over-stated.

Finally, once a person gets past the huge gulf between unbelief and belief…and enters into faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God as our Savior and the Lord of our lives…the equally important question then arises as to why faith is often so difficult and that it must be “tested” and refined within a God-composed adventure of faith life-script (Jas. 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 1:7)…as previewed for us today in the biblical narrative stories of faith.

Once a person is spiritually born-again (Jn. 3:1-21) and receives salvation and eternal life…the journey is just beginning as the new believer steps into their God-composed journey of faith…designed individually and specifically for them…to create a context of life events and circumstances that will produce a personal relationship with God…based upon mutual faith and trust in each other…God-ward toward us…and us-ward toward God.

The delicate balance between belief and unbelief takes us up to the pinnacle of moral reasoning…because mutual faith and trust are critical components within personal relationships.

Going our own way in autonomous rebellion is at the heart of the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden…Satan in the spiritual form of a talking serpent calling into question the faithfulness and trustworthiness of God’s character in His setting of parameters of do’s and don’ts regarding the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…slandering God by inferring that God’s motivations were suspect.

Atheists and skeptical critics can choke on the idea of a past angel of God…Satan… transforming himself into the spiritual form of a beautiful serpent possessing enticing speech…but the issues at stake in this classic confrontation in the Garden of Eden are simply too profound and way too complex in their spot-on application to human nature…to be the mere product of human literary fiction writing…to be mythology…in the composition of the first book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible…our modern Old Testament…in ancient times around 1,450 B.C.

This delicate balance between belief and unbelief…makes a subtle case for the divine origin of the Bible and of Christianity…because this issue of faith and trust…that goes both ways between people and God…is the central through-line of the biblical narrative stories of faith…which is inaccessible and incomprehensible to people choosing to be skeptical unbelievers living in self-sovereignty…but which is the priceless gift of God to believers through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross…prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-34 to occur for new covenant Christians…knowing God personally from the least to the greatest.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.