The Cambrian Explosion…and the Abraham Explosion 1

In the Cambrian Explosion of 530 million years ago, the information that went into the body plans of complex creatures appearing suddenly in the fossil record, without transitional, trial-and-error intermediates found in the Precambrian rock layers below the Cambrian level, represents a top-down arrangement of information…not a bottom-up arrangement of the gradually simple to the complex.

In the Cambrian Explosion, the bulk of genetic body-plan information is front-loaded at the beginning of the emergence of life-forms on earth 530 million years ago, creating most of the recognizably distinct groupings of well-defined characteristics in living creatures that form the basis for the modern scientific fields of classification and taxonomy today.

This sudden appearance of bizarre, complex, stranger than fiction, Cambrian creatures possessing most of the body-plan features of modern phyla groups still in existence today, during what scientists believe to be a 5 to 10 million year period (about 2 percent of the 530 year total for complex life on earth…starting at the Cambrian boundary line), is in direct contradiction to the macroevolution half of Darwin’s original thinking proposed in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species…the macroevolution of common descent.  

The scientific fact-based evidence for the sudden appearance in the fossil record of fully formed, discontinuous, complex creatures requiring the input of new, upfront design information…is in complete contradiction to the contrary notion of gradual, incremental genetic and physical body-plan improvements progressively generated over long periods of time…diversifying into new species.

The Cambrian Explosion likewise refutes the idea of the blind, mindless, random chance mechanism of cumulative natural selection acting upon a series of infinitesimally small genetic mutations to create the vast diversity of life on earth.

The geologically brief time period of 5 to 10 million years for generating the functionally beneficial accumulation of the large numbers of required variations, without the lead-up presence of transitional intermediates in the Precambrian rock strata as developmental precursors, is scientifically considered to be much too short for progressive, gradualistic development.

In other words, the quantum jump from tiny sponge fossil embryos in the Precambrian period, to jellyfish, sponges, and the Ediacaran creatures just prior to the transition from Precambrian to Cambrian, to the complex creatures in the Cambrian having compound eyes, spinal cords, nervous systems, skeletons, hard-shell membranes, and predator/prey relationships…with exotic names like Marrella, Opabinia, Wiwaxia, Hallucigenia, Anomalocaris, and Trilobite… should according to a naturalistic Darwinian explanation reveal a long, continuous progression of incrementally transitional, intermediate forms.

The Precambrian fossils reveal instead only a large, open void where these intermediates should be noticeably prevalent and innumerably widespread.

This top-down arrangement of complex information that is specified towards a definite function, in the biology of the living world, has to be fully in-place at the front-end of their initial existence to establish function, and not gradually and progressively developed over long periods of time as Darwin postulated in the biology of living things through common descent.

The top-down arrangement of fully formed body-plan architectures as seen in the Cambrian Explosion…turns Darwin’s hypothetical tree-of-life upside down…with the unbridgeable phyla differences…fundamental, characteristic discontinuities…in the life-forms exploding on the scene at the same time…and not expanding outward and upward from a single tree-of-life trunk.

This top-down introduction of information is likewise seen in the revelation of God-composed journey of faith life-scripts recorded in the Bible.

Like the presence of the vast amount of complex, directed, highly specified, and fully functional information contained within DNA…inexplicable and implausible through a naturalistic, random chance, trial-and-error assemblage…there is a similarly fully functional package of information in biblical journeys of faith, having complexity, specificity, and direction that is so far above horizontally conventional thinking …that this is also inexplicable in terms of random chance assemblage, of gradual evolutionary development over time, of humanistic imaginary invention.

The sample size of human thought is fixed in recorded history…in literature, archaeology, anthropology, sociology, political science, linguistics, and religious studies.

We do not have to dig up fossils going back to the Precambrian and Cambrian geological periods…because human cognitive reasoning…and the invention of writing…only goes back a few thousand years.

We do not find an infinitesimal multitude of transitional intermediate writers like Shakespeare, composers like Mozart, artists like Rembrandt, scientists like Einstein, or inventors like Edison…having incrementally progressive genius at 100, 90, 80, 70, 60, 50, 40, or 30 thousand years ago…as transitional precursors to modern achievements…or at any other past time in history.

For this reason, I think it is fair to say that the sudden appearance of the highly sophisticated and complex information contained in the life-script of Abraham…creating the novel and innovative concept of God displacing our plans with His higher ways and thinking…through a life-script inserted into our lives…being the fundamental definition of the cross of Jesus Christ…and in complete contradiction to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…can be accurately identified and called the “Abraham Explosion” in relation to the similar occurrence 530 million years ago in the natural world during the Cambrian Explosion.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.

An Introduction to Chapter Three

Over the last four to five hundred years…atheists and skeptical unbelievers have focused the big artillery of their attacks…on the miraculous events recorded in the biblical narrative stories of faith…the ten plagues in Egypt…the parting of the Red Sea…Joshua holding back the progress of the sun across the sky…the walls of Jericho falling down…and especially the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Obviously, the Bible has been critiqued and attacked from many other angles…archaeology, biology, paleontology, history, the accuracy of language translations, philosophy, religious studies, and the worldview of scientism attached to modern science…to name only a few.

But the one criticism that has seemed to stick…that has done the most damage…that has taken widespread root within our popular cultures around the world…is the idea that miracles in the Bible lower the narrative stories of faith down into the zone of children’s bedtime stories…into the category of human invented literary fiction…and thus render them bereft of their credibility to speak to a modern audience about divinely guided purpose, meaning, and direction for human life.

When I share my Christian testimony with other people…I sometimes come across people who have uncritically accepted this popular line of reasoning that says that the miracles in the Bible disqualify the narrative stories of faith…because miracles in our modern culture are considered unscientific…and for the same reason dismiss the creation account in Genesis chapters one and two as myth…because some people in Christianity still incorrectly contend that the Bible teaches a young earth of only six to eight thousand years old…thereby in their minds…the people I am speaking with…to serve as a basis to uncritically call into question the credibility of the entire Bible.

I then have to work uphill through these opening misconceptions…more often successfully but sometimes not…before I can establish the credibility of the statements about the natural world made in the Bible…and then move-on from there to share about Jesus Christ, the cross, and the resurrection.

There is actually nothing scientifically contrary or controversial in the words of Genesis chapters one and two that contradicts a modern scientific dating of the universe at 13.7 billion years old…the beginning of our earth at around 4.5 billion years ago…and the beginning of single-cell bacterial life on the slowly cooling earth at around 3.8 billion years ago.

Before the start of the Scientific Revolution, no one would have any reason to interpret the days of Genesis chapters one and two as anything other than 24-hour days.

It was the wrong interpretation by human beings of the words…that had to be corrected and updated by the discoveries of the modern sciences of geology and Charles Lyell in the 1820’s…and astronomy and Edwin Hubble in 1929…in this case.

The wording in the Genesis creation account concerning time was always accurate…is still accurate today in terms of a brilliant balance in giving just enough information without being too technically specific in details…achieving just the right sweet-spot to be functionally informative…yet carefully and reservedly economical in its information content…before and after modern science.

The four variations of the sophisticated use of the word day in the Genesis creation account have their best interpretation as periods of time that are not twenty-four hour durations (see the book Seven Days That Divide The World by John C. Lennox, pages 39-63).

The first use of the word day in verse 5 in chapter one…is not a 24-hour day…because it describes light as day and darkness as night…so day as used here is not a full 24-hour period…but is only a part of a full day.

The second use of the word day in verse 8 in chapter one…describes the evening and the morning as a day…the traditional Hebrew description of a 24-hour day.

In Genesis chapter two…verse 3…it says that on the seventh day… God rested from all of His creative work…starting a period of time in which God is still not creating…ongoing until the present time…and therefore definitely not a 24-hour day.

The fourth variation of the word day occurs in chapter two…verse 4…which says: “in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens”…describing a completely different use of the word day than a 24-hour day.

An additional argument for an old earth dating…is that the words of Genesis chapters one and two give no indication of the lengths of time between the end of day one of creation to the start of day two of creation…throughout all seven days of creation described in the Genesis creation account.

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1) has no direct correlation to the start of day one of the seven “days” of creation.

An open-minded person could ask: “in the beginning…when was that?”  The Bible does not say.

If modern astrophysics tells us that the Big Bang of the universe occurred at 13.7 billion years ago…then human scientific investigation gets a well-deserved pat-on-the-back for using our innate intelligence within the divinely created reality of the orderliness and intelligibility of the natural world…for discovering this critical scientifically fact-based evidence…fixing this “in the beginning” open question at 13.7 billion years.

There is no conflict here between science and biblical scripture on this point.

The totally inaccurate dating of the creation of the earth at 4004 B.C. by Bishop Ussher is understandably excusable…made centuries before the start of the modern science of geology in the early 1800’s with Georges Cuvier, Charles Lyell, and Louis Agassiz…and long before the 1929 discovery by Edwin Hubble of an expanding universe

When interpreted correctly…in my opinion…the Genesis creation accounts in chapters one and two have no conflict with the modern scientific dating of 13.7 billion years ago for the beginning of the universe…4.5 billion years ago for the formation of the earth…and 3.8 billion years ago for the start of primitive life…and is an argument for the divine origin of this wording in Genesis chapters one and two.

Is God under some obligation to reveal all that He knows about the creation of the universe…and the varied life-forms He created prior to mankind?

Or is the extraordinary presence of the orderliness and intelligibility of the natural world enough evidence…that God intended to encourage scientific investigation into the marvels of His creation.

In my opinion…this is part of the pride-filled hubris of humanism…that God must tell us about dinosaurs, mass extinctions, Ice-Ages, geological catastrophes, plate tectonics and continental drift, and the mystery of the origin of life…in the Bible…or He does not exist.

Would a two or three-volume appendage at the start of the Bible…explaining the past billions of years of the existence of the earth…which would still have to be in general terms and not at the level of absolute mathematics, physics, and chemistry…would this be a help or a confusing distraction?

The Bible was written over a 1,500 year span from 1,450 B.C. to around 90 A.D.

The observations in the Bible about the natural world are phenomenal…they are based upon what we observe as phenomenon…the sun rises and sets…a flat plot of ground has four corners.  These types of observations make no commitments as to the correct scientific discovery that the earth actually orbits around the sun…or that the earth is not flat but is actually spherically round.

These two examples are absolutely correct phenomenal observations.

The irony in this objection by skeptics that God did not tell us everything about the natural world…upfront in the Bible…is that the natural world is orderly and intelligible by design…so that we can discover these fact-based evidences through the practice of scientific investigation.

With the benefit of an excellent, undergraduate university level history of science class I took a few years ago…plus several decades of studying both sides of the Bible and science/evolution debate…and following closely the roughly two to three decades-old Intelligent Design arguments…I sense along with many Christians…a major shift in the accumulation and direction of the empirical data…and the conclusions this data now point toward.

I must disclose here that my bias and presupposition is for a divine fiat creation by God…ex nihilo…out of nothing…for the universe…and for all living things on the earth…according to the model of the Cambrian Explosion…the subject of the next topic.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.

The Thief on the Cross 2

The thief on the cross could never have orchestrated the cascade of events that placed him that fateful Friday on a cross of execution alongside Jesus Christ the Son of God…with the opportunity to go along with the crowd in verbally mocking Jesus (Lk. 23:35-39)…or amazingly for the first and only time in his life…to discover the power, conviction, courage, and liberated audacity to resist the peer pressure in the moment…and to instead proclaim publicly through the Holy Spirit a faith in the God/man Jesus crucified alongside him…to his fellow thief and to any and all others standing around the crosses and listening…that would pass the test of saving faith for time eternal (Lk. 23:43).

On that fateful day…and over a few short hours…the soul of the thief on the cross was measured…and found brilliantly passing the test for salvation…according to God’s terms and standards.

The point I want to make here is monumental in its importance.

We need God-composed journey of faith life-scripts to actualize for us a context of life-events wherein our souls are measured…precisely so that we can succeed on God’s terms and by His standards…and not through the futility of good-works and self-realization according to our ways (Isa. 55:8-9).

This is the record of the biblical narrative stories of faith…including this incredibly inspiring story of the thief on the cross.

Choosing amongst the smorgasbord buffet of the wants and aspirations of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…a great education, a good job, high salary, good marriage, a big house, luxury automobile, European vacation, a stock portfolio, good health, and sending our kids to Harvard or Oxford…will not measure our souls in the way that the life-scripts of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Peter, Paul, and the thief on the cross…were measured.

The thief on the cross could not have orchestrated the events that led to his salvation that day…any more than Abraham could have orchestrated his life-script of faith…any more than Paul could have orchestrated the events that led to him becoming the premier Christian evangelical missionary to the first-century Greco-Roman world.

The grand irony here…that is far beyond the contemplative imagination of human literary invention…is that the Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers, and scribes standing around and mocking Jesus on the cross…who attempted to self-craft “perfect lives” according to their way (Mt. 6:2, 5; 9:12-13; 10:33; 11:16-19; 15:7-9)…end up unknowingly killing Jesus their Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin (1 Cor. 2:8).

The grand irony is that the one person who obtained on that day on Calvary Hill the assurance of the eternal security of salvation…for the short but priceless few hours from sometime around mid-morning to when he died at dusk that late afternoon…was the thief on the cross alongside Jesus.

There are two massive takeaways from this dramatic scene taking place in Jerusalem in the first-century.

Imagine in our mind’s eye the religious elites standing around the three crosses…mocking Jesus…the Roman soldiers who carried out the execution nearby…the women disciples of Jesus including His mother at the base of His cross weeping over what has occurred…and the two thieves crucified on each side of Jesus.

The first massive takeaway from this scene is the huge gulf between the two opposing outcomes of going our own way in self-sovereignty…in contrast to God-sovereignty.

Jesus is the perfect, blemish-free Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin.  To qualify to be the atonement for sin…Jesus must be perfect.  A flawed sacrifice…in terms of moral performance in life…would be unacceptable.  Wealth, popularity, and political influence are not qualifiers in this Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin.

The problem of human sin…is the precise target honed-in on by the blemish-free moral life of Jesus Christ…perfectly lived according to a life-script composed by God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit.

The perfect life and the perfect life-script of Jesus…lead to the cross on Calvary Hill.

But trying to be perfect…our way…as demonstrated by the religious elites mocking Jesus…leads to placing Jesus on the cross.  These two outcomes could not be more diametrically opposite.

The second massive takeaway from this scene on Calvary Hill two thousand years ago…is that the thief on the cross…immovably stuck there and not going anywhere or able to do anything…secular or religious in the slightest way…surprisingly and unexpectedly experiences that fateful day in his life the “joy unspeakable and full of glory” assurance of the eternal security of salvation for the otherwise physically agonizing hours he spends being executed by Roman crucifixion…through the sure words of promise spoken to him by Jesus the Son of God being crucified alongside him.

If we incorrectly believe that we can lose our salvation…this opens the door ever so slightly for self-achieved good-works and self-realization to creep in as the sustaining justification for maintaining our salvation.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.

The Thief on the Cross 1

The story of the thief on the cross recorded in Luke 23:39-43 is the minimum baseline example given to us in the New Testament gospels…that defines faith plus our good-works for salvation…that will pass the test of fire (Jn. 6:28-29; 1 Cor. 3:13; 1 Pet. 1:7).

This baseline example is illustrated through an actual event in history…spread-out over the short interval of a few hours…rather than a doctrinal concept given to us in explanatory…expository words alone.

This baseline standard for measuring salvation is given to us by no less an authority than Jesus Christ Himself…the Passover Lamb of God atoning sacrifice for sin…at the precise moments of that sacrifice…and from the very instrument…the cross on Calvary Hill…that procured our salvation.

This condemned thief is not coming down off the cross to start a positive, God-composed journey of faith life-script for the remaining years of his life.  His wrists and feet are immovably pinned by long metal spikes to the wooden cross-beams of Roman crucifixion.  He will die there in a few more hours.  There is no time left to do anything good or bad from that moment forward…in any major way.

The thief on the cross at that moment in time…has nothing by way of reformed, future good-works to offer to God on behalf of his salvation…to qualify himself before God.  There is no second chance for him to come down off the cross with the promise to live a better life going forward.

Yet when Jesus says to the thief on the cross…crucified alongside Him and sharing His fate that eventful Friday in history: “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise”…this thief can then confidently take this promise “to the bank.”  He can “bet the farm on it”…in utter and complete assurance.

This is not just the word of a great prophet…declaring a future event.  This promise comes from Jesus Christ the divine Son of God…the very Word of God in the flesh.

The thief on the cross can rest in the inner peace and assurance of eternal salvation for the remaining few hours he has on this earth…from the extremely privileged position of observing the exemplary character of Jesus Christ the Son of God in action…dying next to him as the Passover Lamb of God for the sins of the world.

I believe this real-life example…spelled-out for us through an action event recorded in the Bible…resolves the controversial theological issue of the eternal security of our salvation while we are still in this life and engaged in our journey of faith…by combining in this specific example both ends of a short time-interval defined as biblical faith in Hebrews 11:1…”the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”…in this salvation story of the last final hours of the thief on the cross.

A fundamental problem here with the general biblical interpretation…believed by some people today…that we can lose our salvation…is that as Jesus at that moment in time is telling the thief that later that same day he will be with Jesus in His kingdom…Jesus…as the divine Son of God either possesses Himself…or is perfectly exercising through God the Father…timeless foresight.

In my opinion…the part that confuses the issue of eternal security is the seemingly incoherent blend of a God who exists in a timeless environment…and human beings that live in the four dimensions of time and space.

These two things do not appear on the surface…at first glance…to easily mix.  But both these realities…God’s timeless existence and our lives spread-out within the forward march of the God-created dimension of time…are absolutely essential for developing confidence in the wisdom and leadership of God…and our placing trust in a God-composed journey of faith for our lives…that have this Hebrews 11:1 risk-element of elongated and stretched-out time.

Our future actualized promise of salvation…the “evidence of things not seen” regarding eternal life…does not occur yet in this current lifetime.  This culminating event occurs at our resurrection…at the last trumpet sound…at the great Judgment Day and our entrance into heaven.

This is what introduces an element of confusion…which in actuality is instead another strong apologetic evidence for the existence of God and the truth of the Bible.

This interval of time…the gap in practical, lived experience between where we are now and where we need to get to…this unique feature of biblical faith as defined by Hebrews 11:1…is an inseparable part of the storyline of every positive person in their biblical-quality journey of faith life-scripts…whether we are Moses, David, or the thief on the cross.

Whether our destiny-of-faith moment in history spans years, months, or a few short hours on the cross alongside Jesus the Passover Lamb of God of Isaiah 53…like this thief…the surety of our salvation is not dependent upon any specific duration of time…or more importantly is not dependent upon our performance over that period of time…because with a timeless God having divine foreknowledge…there is no future earthly span of time that conditionally determines our salvation…years, months, or hours.

The simplistic yet powerful lesson of the thief on the cross…is that he cannot “mess-up” his salvation during his remaining few hours…this short interval of Hebrews 11:1 time remaining for him…the brief entirety of his faith-journey…on his cross of execution alongside Jesus…as the sky overhead darkens and the earth rumbles that Friday afternoon.

Why…because the promise of the assurance of eternal salvation…comes from the mouth of the divine Son of God…Jesus Christ of Nazareth…from the cross…in the very act of being the Passover sacrifice for sin.  Jesus that moment on the cross…either has Himself or is exercising from God the Father…divine timeless foresight.

This pivotal moment in time and the dramatic circumstances of this historic event…could not be more definitive and decisive on the topic of eternal security.

That Jesus Christ our eternal Savior and King…and this remarkable human thief on the cross having no merit or achievements to argue on his behalf for salvation…should come together in this moment in history…is not an accident (Isa. 53:12).

The promise of entering shortly into paradise…coming from the timeless foresight of Jesus Christ the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for the sins of the world…while He is suffering and dying on the cross…to the thief also suffering and dying alongside Him…is an iron-clad, irrevocable, unalterable event that cannot change within the span of a few short hours…for both Jesus and the thief on their respective crosses.

The word of God is sure…not only because it is based on the high-quality of His character…but also because it is timeless.

This is a product of the timeless nature of God (Isa. 46:9-10)…and the functional nature of the limitations of time and space that God created for us…so that we might experience and discover the knowledge of good and evil…not in split-second, instantaneous flashes of time…but spread-out over longer intervals of time…sometimes only hours as in the case of the thief on the cross…as expressed in Hebrews 11:1 and as so beautifully told in Luke 23:39-43.

The scriptural arguments…for and against eternal security…have already been written and fill entire books.

But for the purposes of this book…the biblical narrative stories of faith are the God-designed vehicles that actualize the context of events…wherein our souls are measured.”

This is an apologetic argument for the divine origin of the Bible.

The events and circumstances of the narrative stories of faith recorded in the Bible…unlike any other form or genre of human literature…measure our souls on the basis of our faith and relationship with God.

Our souls are not measured by courage in battle, or the resilience to bounce back from numerous defeats to accomplish greatness, or by an epiphany that changes us from being a crass, self-centered person to becoming a loving person through character growth…the theme of countless books, plays, and movies.

The quality of life-script events that will measure our souls at the height of moral reasoning and decision-making regarding our relationship with God…can only originate from God.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.

The Unassailable Platform of Humility

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”      (1 Pet. 1:3)

One of the great life-secrets that is hidden in the biblical narrative stories of faith…yet is out there on the surface for all to see…confirms again from another angle the divine origin of the Bible.

This concept…uniformly displayed within every positive biblical character of faith…to a greater or lesser degree…is that once a person walking through their journey of faith following God…hits rock-bottom in terms of discouraging appearances, challenges, failures, or suffering (Jn. 12:24)…this creates a new platform for humility that can be beneficial for the remainder of their lives and their ministries.

For example, once Peter in the courtyard of Caiaphas the high priest…during the night trial of Jesus…discovers the bitter reality of utter failure in not being able to courageously stand alongside Jesus…in Peter’s own character strength without the assistance of Holy Ghost power…Peter from then-on never has to leave this low state of humility as a useful working platform for the rest of his ministry…as recorded in the book of Acts and articulated so brilliantly in his two New Testament letters.

This divinely crafted and engineered entrance into an attitude of humility that is unattainable through worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…serves as an ongoing life platform for godly service that has the helpful analogy popularly known and easily understood in Christianity…as an empty clay pot or jar “vessel”…that God can fill with His plans, His ways, His purposes, and His power for the blessing of all.

This is another subtle yet compelling argument for the divine origin of the biblical narrative stories of faith life-scripts…because this concept runs so diametrically opposite to worldly conventional thinking and norms…that could not, nor would not, compose by chance or by intention the ingeniously devised scenarios of life-events and circumstances…that would generate rock-bottom, genuine humility that is life-giving…life-renewing (Jn. 12:24-25)…rather than destructive.

The apostle Paul is another example in the New Testament that comes quickly to mind.

If the highly educated Pharisee Saul/Paul is to acquire the essential non-prejudicial attitude of humble acceptance toward the idol-worshipping, polytheistic Gentiles in the Greco-Roman world of the first-century…difficult for any Jew at that time raised from birth to avoid fellowship with the loathsome Gentiles…then Saul/Paul must go through the extraordinary shaking-up of his worldview and his self-confident pride when he meets Jesus as Messiah and Lord in that blinding light on his way to the city of Damascus.

Working from this uniquely novel platform of humility divinely engineered by God for practical usage as a missionary evangelist…Paul from then on does not have to worry about his culturally inherited attitude of looking down his nose in arrogant pride at these misguided Gentiles…understanding immediately he was misguided in a much worse way in persecuting the early church…and seeing how quickly the turnaround in his life through grace by faith in Christ…could also be theirs as well.

Another biblical example that clearly stands out in this regard…of people working from their God-created platform of super-humility…interwoven into the costs of their God-composed journeys of faith…would be Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice his only “son of promise” Isaac on Mount Moriah…after years of being schooled in patient waiting in the rock-bottom zone of God’s will…over and above our own will-and-way.

Certainly Joseph in Egypt hits rock-bottom in outward negative appearances in Potiphar’s house and in Pharaoh’s prison…yet at this great personal cost (picking up his cross to follow Jesus…for the sake of the future gospel) a character trait of super-humility in Joseph enabled him to interact with the Egyptians…as a foreigner in a foreign land…with skill, discretion, and wisdom that opened up for Joseph a winning strategy to become an effective servant/leader and thus successful as governor during the great famine.

The long years of waiting in the land of Midian as a shepherd for Moses…emptied him of his self-reliant pride as only a long period in exile could…and as he stood before God at the burning bush it can accurately be said that Moses was then an empty, clay jar “vessel” ready for a massive calling and a mission second to none…other than that of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

The best example of operating from the platform of divine humility…an interesting blend of terms…is Jesus of Nazareth…who started from a lowly worldly position and never left it…dying naked and penniless on the cross of Calvary…yet giving away eternal salvation of priceless value to multitudes of believers through His limitless gift of LIFE from the cross and the resurrection…brilliantly exemplifying in the same moment of time the most thoroughly emptied vessel (Lk. 22:42) and the most invaluable ministry…from one Person through one God-crafted life-script.

This curious and uniquely biblical reality of hitting rock-bottom in our adventure of faith…through challenges, adversity, the outward appearances of failure, and suffering…to produce a workable platform of humility…is not an apologetic argument to be taken lightly or casually dismissed as being of secondary importance.

In David’s beautiful and powerful Psalm 23…he walks with God through the valley of the shadow of death…and comes out the other side having the hope and the courage to be king in Israel…in a geographical region at that time that had tumultuous and highly hostile neighboring countries in continual warfare with Israel.

When we likewise hit a similar God-generated rock-bottom in our own journey of faith (1 Pet. 4:12)…out the other side comes a useful platform…for us and for the benefit of others…of humility, hope, clarity of purpose, and direction that is unknown and unavailable through worldly conventional self-rulership and self-sovereignty…outside of the living God of the Bible.

Another way of describing this uniquely biblical experience is to simply say that when we lose control and management of our discipleship program…our hearts may be temporarily broken (Mt. 21:44)…but the entire through-line…the main point…of the biblical narrative stories of faith is the supernatural transition from self-sovereignty to a joint-venture of God-sovereignty plus our free-will choice to follow God’s lead.

One incalculably invaluable by-product of this process is the obtaining of a measure of divine humility wherein we can operate as servant/leaders of God…like the servant of Abraham searching out a wife for his master’s son Isaac (Gen. 24:1-28).

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.

Laying Down Our Lives for Our Friends

John 15:13 reads: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

No greater love than giving our life for our friends…is a self-existent moral principle.  It is independent of us.  We did not invent it.  It is a part of the natural moral law that governs all right behavior.  We cannot claim the credit for its existence.  It is just there…part of reality.

We do find varying degrees of expression for this character trait within the broad, expansive zone of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…in the self-sacrificing bravery of risking one’s life for others found within the bond of the “brotherhood of soldiers” in warfare…or the person diving into a raging river risking their own life to save someone from drowning.

Other examples on a lighter and non-dangerous level might be found in team sports when players sometimes give up their own individual glory for the sake of the overall team win…or as commonly seen in the “soccer mom” sacrificing her own time and interests by shuttling her children from one activity venue to another day-after-day…and in the father giving up his time on weekends to coach the little league baseball team or to be active in his son’s Boy Scouts troop.

As Abraham travels from the city of Haran towards the Promised Land of Canaan…with every step he takes his normative plans for life back in Haran are being displaced by a new and higher plan devised within the imaginative mind of God…above and beyond anything Abraham could or would have come up with.

Within the higher ways of God…Abraham will grow in character to become the “father of faith”…having a close personal relationship with God…and through faith Abraham will give physical and spiritual birth to multitudes of descendants as numerous as the stars in the night sky (Gen. 15:3-6).

As Abraham travels from Haran to Canaan, and much later in his life on Mount Moriah with Isaac, God inaugurates through Abraham a theme for living…the cross of Christ…”not my will, but thine, be done” (Lk. 22:42; Jn. 5:30)…that ingeniously blends a personal relationship with God and the “no greater love” of laying down our lives for our friends.

Within this God-composed life-script for Abraham is the cost of leaving behind “worldly conventional normalcy and thinking” in Haran.  Integral with each step Abraham takes towards Canaan and away from normalcy in Haran, Abraham unknowingly is “laying down his life for his friends”…the future multitudes of people who would likewise engage with the living God through the coming centuries.

In the life-scripts of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Ruth, Hannah, Samuel, David, Esther and Mordecai, Elijah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Peter, John, James, Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Luke, and Timothy…to name only a few…this component of laying down their lives for their friends…after the pattern of the cross of Jesus Christ…is integrally interwoven into the fabric of their lives.

It is vitally important for Spirit-born Christians today to recognize that in the God-composed journey of faith life-scripts we find recorded in the Bible…the precise circumstances and situations are designed by God to actualize in our lives the context for the “greater love” to find expression…way above the level of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

In every biblical-quality adventure of faith then and now…there is an element of the cross of Jesus Christ that materializes into real action…this giving up of our lives for our friends.

God writes into our life-script this elevated character trait so that we also can experience a portion of divine, self-sacrificing love (Eph. 2:10; 1 Pet. 2:9).

A journey of faith God-script for our lives is written for us…and for the people God can minister to through us.

A God-composed adventure of faith for our lives takes this attribute of self-sacrificing “greater love”…and lifts it ingeniously and brilliantly to a higher point on the vertical graph-line spectrum of goodness and light …above what is found and experienced within worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

This entire scheme of reality is above and beyond what humanistic thinking and contrivance could or would imagine or self-orchestrate…in terms of being interwoven into a precise life-script of complex, ordered, and detailed events and circumstances having purpose.

A God-composed journey of faith life-script is for us…ourselves and others…as a gift from God to us in keeping with the same self-sacrificing love when God gave Himself to us in the Person of Jesus Christ to the world:

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Lk. 2:13-14).

This very real discovery of the “greater love” of laying down our lives for our friends…interwoven into the life-scripts of every biblical narrative story of faith…patterned after the cross and the resurrection in the life of Jesus Christ the Son of God…is inexplicable other than as compelling and persuasive evidence for a divine origin of the Bible.

What possible frame of reference within worldly conventional normalcy and thinking could produce the origin of journeys of faith following the living God…beginning with the “father of faith” Abraham sometime around 2,200 B.C.?

This concept of God displacing our ways with His higher ways…the essence of the cross of Christ…is not even fully understood or taught in orthodox Christianity today.

Every day across the globe…Christians are challenged by the difficult transition from self-sovereignty to God-sovereignty…which is the essence of a genuine walk of faith.

What random assemblage of life experiences, therefore, would or could inspire the first Jewish writers…at the time of the Exodus…to invent this radical concept of a living journey of faith following the real God…built around the unconventional theme of “not my will, but thine, be done” of the cross of Christ…that did not actualize until approximately 1,450 years later in the capital city of Jerusalem in the first-century (Ps. 22; Isa. 53)?

If we grant the notion that we were not created as robots…and if we concede that the depravity of man is clearly seen in history and in current daily events around the world…then it is reasonable to postulate that the intelligent designer who crafted people with the innate capacity for experiencing personal relationships and for moral reasoning…would in fact insert into this world an alternative way to actualize our created potential.

That way is a God-composed journey of faith life-script…as patterned for us in the narrative stories of faith in the Bible.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.

Bible Studies 101

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”                                                     (Jas. 1:17)

Another typical approach of skeptics and critics to separate the God of the Old Testament from the God of the New Testament…to attempt to divide-and-conquer…is to point out clearly amoral actions in the Old Testament…and then incorrectly imply that the Bible’s honest recording of bad human behavior is tantamount to endorsing such behavior.

Anyone taking Bible Studies 101 as a general elective from the Religious Studies Department in a college or university will quickly learn the standard biblical interpretation concept…that merely because the Bible records an action does not mean it endorses that action.

Bible critics cite the examples of some bad decisions made by Abraham, some huge moral failures in David’s life, the obvious moral outrage involving the Levite and the concubine in Judges 19, among other examples, as flagrant cases of the moral shortcomings of some key biblical actors…impugning the overall character of the Old Testament and thereby the God of the Old Testament…Jehovah…as if God should only select and call already upright and perfect people.

The mistake made here by skeptics and critics is fundamental…and has no application in an argument for or against the existence of the God of the biblical Old Testament.

The Bible honestly identifies and records the shortcomings of mankind…even in the lives of the people of faith…which the Bible calls sin.

Abraham is called the father of faith, not the father of righteousness.  The biblical record of human redemptive history is not whitewashed or sugar-coated with the false pride of the modern nonsense of “I’m okay, you’re okay.”

We all have the free-will capacity to make choices that can potentially produce a great amount of good…and conversely to make choices that can produce a great amount of evil and suffering.

The Bible faces the reality of good and evil head-on with foursquare honesty…not electing to sweep under the rug the faults and failures in human life…precisely because the Bible boldly and unapologetically has the one right answer…the solution… to the problem all of us face…which is sin.

A God-composed journey of faith life-script is divinely designed to produce genuine character growth.  Nowhere in the biblical narrative stories of faith is perfection of performance assumed or expected out of these real-life human actors, except in the singular sin-free life of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

I cannot think of a more down-to-earth, hard-boiled, realistic approach to human nature than the honest portrayal of people on their journey from purposeless, under-performing self-autonomy…to becoming new, improved people within their uniquely predestined, God-composed journeys of faith.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.