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 here to build and expand upon what has already been said in the previous essays…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/holographic 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.

Public Debates 1

When a world-renowned atheist comes into a public debate with an equally well-known and respected Christian apologist…to debate topics such as Does God Exist?…or Is God Great?…or Is God a Delusion?…the atheist enters into the debate auditorium thinking they can win…and whether they actually win or lose the debate…they leave still thinking they are right.

The idea that the issues in these public debates cannot arrive at a conclusive ending…cannot be so overwhelmingly convincing one way or the other towards a consensus conclusion…for the audience listening to the debate…as well as for the two antagonists…in an absolute resolution to the specific topic being debated…in my opinion is not only an amazing reality worthy of further thoughtful analysis…but in a subtle and counter-intuitive way is itself a positive evidence for the theistic viewpoint.

This again dives right into the complexity and integrated coherence of information question…regarding its origin and source…being clearly too complicated for material particles and fields of energy to produce…and way too complicated for human literary invention to conceive of…or to set in motion a program of the delicate balance in the area of belief and unbelief…that could stand the test of time for literally thousands of years.

From the Christian perspective…this superbly ingenious reality of the delicate balance between belief and unbelief…has a divine origin at least as ancient as the existence of “the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8)…allowed to actualize into human experience through divine foresight and foreknowledge…and adjusted and fine-tuned over the course of human history…for the highest and best reasons imaginable…at the pinnacle of moral reasoning.

It is not a blundering miscalculation…it is not a glaring oversight by God the Father, Jesus the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit…to not make the most of the resurrection of Jesus by having Him walk openly down the middle of Main Street in Jerusalem and straight into the Temple…on Tuesday or Wednesday of the first week following His resurrection.

This would be a golden opportunity to empirically demonstrate the divine status of Jesus Christ as Messiah and Savior…beyond any debatable doubt in the future.

Yet instead God skillfully moderates and calibrates the extent of the physical appearances of the risen Jesus…so as to leave just enough of a personal witness of His resurrection and Godhood to inaugurate and sustain the exponential growth of the early Christian church…and for His followers to write the New Testament…yet at the same time enables the space for the unbelief of the religious elites and a portion of the populace in Israel…to continue in skeptical unbelief in Jesus Christ…as Messiah…that coalesced and solidified in the Jewish community and in the secular Gentile world in the first-century…and is still debated up to this day.

That this delicate balance between belief and unbelief would continue down the centuries to our current time…with brilliant antagonists squaring off in public debate today over the very question that Jesus posed to His disciples two thousand years ago: “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” (Mt. 16:13) coupled with the follow-up question: “But whom say ye that I am?” (Mt. 16:15)…which from the Christian viewpoint are arguably the two most important questions in all of history…still out there and fully in play…and in the opinion of this writer defies humanistic explanation as to the precise longevity of this delicate balance.

Daniel 12:9-10 tells us that this delicate balance of belief and unbelief will continue to the end of time on this earth:

9 And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.

10 Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.

In Matthew 24:14 Jesus says: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all of the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come”…by which we can infer that the world at the end of time is still in need of evangelical persuasion…that the world is still on the fence in terms of the delicate balance between belief and unbelief…as to who Jesus Christ is.

Revelation 12:11 gives us a window into the high cost of discipleship in the last days in fulfilling this calling to take the gospel of the kingdom to all of the world…before the end: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the power of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

The fundamental divide that partially explains skeptical unbelief…is that atheists think that Christianity is a man-made religion.  Skeptical unbelief universally downgrades all religions into the horizontally flat category of fictionally created gods and mythologies.

This overarching mindset creates an impassible gulf…an unreachable chasm to cross from skeptical unbelief to belief…because the starting premise for the atheist is that the Bible is an elaborate fiction concocted out of the religious imagination of men…which then renders all of the tenets of the Bible…even the cross and salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ…as being mute, insignificant, and untrue.

The starting premise of atheism…that there is no God…thereby undermines the credibility of the Bible at the outset…creating this non-overlapping separation between the two worldviews that prevents a “meeting of the minds” between atheists and Christian apologists in debate…because no meaningful dialogue can occur when atheists think the arguments and evidences of the opposing side are universally invalid to begin with.

The Thief on the Cross 2

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 only 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 apex…at the zenith…of moral reasoning and decision-making regarding our relationship with God…can only originate from God.

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 homed-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.

The story of the thief on the cross…composed and orchestrated by God Himself…totally outside the contemplative imagination of human literary invention…tells us our salvation…that is based upon faith in Jesus Christ…in this divinely illustrated case of the thief on the cross…is eternally secure.

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 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.

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…to muddy the water regarding the real truth about God…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.

Attacks on the Bible Undermine Journeys of Faith

“…he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?”                                          (Jn. 14:9)

Skeptics and critics of the Bible attempt to separate the God of the Old Testament from the God of the New Testament, using the strategy of divide-and-conquer.

In attempting to impugn the character of Jehovah, for example, by citing the God-directed military tactic of the complete destruction of certain groups of peoples and cultures during the Israelite conquest of Canaan…one indirect, by-product casualty of this critical interpretation…is the undermining of the moral authority of the biblical narrative stories of faith in the Old Testament.

I find this particular line-of-argument in biblical criticism to be short-sighted historically, and simplistic in its naïve appraisal of human nature.  As such, it distorts the real truth about God.

Looking backward in history as recently as World War II, few people I think would critically question the military tactic of the Allied forces—British and American—of conducting day and night aerial bombing of the major cities of Germany toward the end of the war…indiscriminately killing hundreds of thousands of civilians…in a concerted effort to bring the conflict to an end.

If sympathy and compassion for civilians tempered and scaled-back this aerial bombing campaign…adding possibly 6 to 12 months to the duration of the war…allowing Hitler to perfect an atomic bomb, destroy the cities of London and Moscow, and change the outcome of the war…the verdict of history now in hindsight would be most severe.

One particular episode in the Victory At Sea documentaries chronicling WWII shows scores of stranded Japanese sailors floating in the Pacific Ocean, shipwrecked following a major naval battle, fanatically refusing to be rescued by an American ship.  Elsewhere in these documentaries, as Allied forces moved north up the chain of South Pacific islands toward Japan, defeated Japanese soldiers left behind and stranded on these islands…refused to peaceably surrender.

Is it reasonable, out of a misdirected sense of humanity, to ask American, Australian, and New Zealand soldiers to risk their own lives to “rescue” fanatical Japanese soldiers who refused to lay down their guns and surrender?

The correct tactical military calculation was made at the time to leave tens of thousands of Japanese soldiers behind to die of starvation and disease on these isolated Pacific islands…rather than to expend thousands of Allied soldier’s lives and to tie-up needed resources in a costly effort to “forcibly” get these enemy soldiers to surrender.

The evil of fascist domination of the world…originating from spiritual darkness…was totally expiated by the overwhelming defeat of World War II Germany and Japan.

Both Germany and Japan today are strong allies of the free-world.  But would a remnant of undefeated Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japanese regimes…still in existence up to our present day…be allies for political and economic peace and security for the free-world…given their initial worldviews of domination and oppression of freedom?

The history altering conflict of WWII was fought over restoring and maintaining the essential free-world principles we value and cherish.

I understand the bias of unbelief that does not think the God of the Old Testament exists.  That cynical bias is expected.

It is the weakness of this particular argument railed against the God of the Old Testament that is surprising…given the clarity of the very recent global struggle of WWII in terms of moral absolutes…to thoroughly and decisively rid the planet of the threat of tyrannical fascism…a struggle my own father participated in as a B-17 crew member of the American 8th Air Force…flying bombing missions over Germany, stationed out of England.

If we value our way of life…as opposed to dictatorial fascism…to the point of justifying the massive aerial bombing of civilian cities in Germany to avoid the unimaginable evil of Adolph Hitler possessing and using atomic bombs to perpetuate his regime of terror from 1945 onward in time…due to not diligently prosecuting the Allied war effort to the fullest extent…would it be unreasonable to allow the morally and culturally advanced Israelites and their armies the same benefit-of-the-doubt in prosecuting their war effort to the fullest extent in Canaan…to continue their way of life?

This ancient strategy of cultural survival in the Old Testament…finds an exact parallel in recent modern history.

Bible skeptics and critics blithely assume that the Canaanite folks were all reasonably good and kind fellows posing no threat to the existence and survival of the monotheistic culture of the newly forming nation of Israel…approximately 3,200 to 3,400 years ago…with its beautiful Mosaic system of laws.

In our current culture of postmodern relativism regarding truth, World War II argues contrarily that being in the right means something…that there is such a thing as goodness in this world and that it is worth fighting for…to borrow a line spoken by Samwise from the movie series The Lord of the Rings.

Why is this line of discussion important to Christians?

If journeys of faith are indeed factually supernatural creations of God first inaugurated through Abraham (Gen. 12:3), then the last thing that “spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12) wants is for people to enter into their predestined, God-composed journey of faith life-scripts…as the divinely crafted, functional vehicle leading to the discovery of the all-truth of John 16:13 and the liberated freedom of John 8:36.

If the false notion that Jehovah in the Old Testament is not of the same high moral caliber as Jesus in the New Testament…as a result of biblical interpretation biased by radically skeptical unbelief…this notion will permeate our culture and seep its way into the Christian church…undermining the value and worth of the narrative stories of faith in the Old Testament as powerful examples for stepping out into God-led adventures of faith today.

A Delicate Balance in our Journeys of Faith

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”                                                                    (Prov. 3:5-6)

Genesis 3:4-5 reads: “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:  For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

Genesis 3:4-5 violates a fundamental reality of the natural moral law…coming from two directions.

First, God is slandered and mischaracterized by Satan in the most subtly deceptive way…through the character assassination of unsupported, untrue innuendo.

Second, Adam and Eve violated the natural moral law by not exercising commendably patient and inquiring faith, confidence, and reliance upon God and the truthfulness of His word…not giving God the benefit of the doubt…in essence calling into question God’s character and moral integrity.

Paul writes in Philippians 3:10 “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection…”

Salvation through Christ, and a subsequent Holy Spirit led faith-journey through life…solves our failing half of the Genesis 3:4-5 problem for all eternity…because it places our faith, confidence, and reliance in a person…God…who merits and can capably sustain the high quality of this trust relationship for all time.

It is the divine quality of the object of our faith and confidence…God…that solves our half of the fall in the Garden of Eden.

This helps us to clarify and to understand John 8:36: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”

A faith-journey that establishes a relationship with God…to know Him…protects us from the temptation of autonomous rebellion (Isa. 53:6) in the kingdom of God for all eternity…possessing forever after the free-will capacity and seasoned good judgment to follow the leadership of God…rather than disastrously going our own way.

The certainty of absolute knowledge produced by Jesus walking into the temple after His resurrection…for example…extending down through the centuries to modern times…does not support or equate into a faith-journey into the “all truth” of John 16:13…because we could still remain in self-sovereignty sitting atop the thrones of our lives…even while having this certain knowledge.

The possibility of success or failure within a journey of faith does not exist within knowledge that is certain (Heb. 11:1).  Trust and faith generated within a personal relationship needs the uncertainty of lived experience…having risk…thus the need for a delicate balance of belief and unbelief.

In my own journey of faith following Jesus Christ, my problem is not that I do not have faith in God…my problem most of the time is that I do not have faith in myself. 

My doubt…in the middle of a personal challenge…is that my own faults and shortcomings will sabotage God’s will and way for my life…that I can somehow manage to mess-up the straight and narrow way that I know is in my best interests.

There is therefore not only a delicate balance between belief and unbelief in the outside world as a whole…in accepting or rejecting Jesus Christ as Savior…but there exists also a fine-tuned, delicate balance between belief and unbelief in my personal journey of faith with God.

This is a zone of active inquiry…divinely set-up by God in a delicately balanced, dynamic relationship between two people…a person and God…wherein we can obtain a knowledge of good and evil that could not possibly actualize on the cheap by impulsively eating some fruit from a tree in the Garden of Eden.

Human nature strives to create stability and security in our lives.  We want to work in one career…preferably for one company, build-up a “nest-egg”…saving enough money for retirement, live in the same home in a safe community, have a happy and stable marriage and family-life…within a long and healthy life-span free from external political turmoil, natural disasters, and the threat of foreign wars.

These are all commendable and praise-worthy goals in compliance with the commandment to “occupy till I come” (Lk. 19:13)…but that can never generate the tension between belief and unbelief in our journeys of faith that will unearth the subtle issues underlying good and evil.

God does not reveal the entire details of His life-script for Abraham…in crafting Abraham into the father-of-faith for multitudes of people as numerous as the stars in the night sky…including the long wait for the birth of Isaac and the culminating challenge of faith on Mount Moriah.

God does this for the best and highest of long-range reasons…not out of malice or ill-intent.

The two dreams of Joseph as a teenager in Canaan (Gen. 37:5-10) did not specify…left out entirely…the thirteen-year period of apprenticeship for Joseph in Potiphar’s house and in Pharaoh’s prison…in preparation to capably become governor in Egypt during a great famine.

I would posit the notion that all of the narrative stories of faith in the Bible have this element of incomplete revelation of information… so that God can set up and maintain the tension between belief and unbelief in our relationship with Him.

This brilliantly and skillfully produces the delicate balance between belief and unbelief that will lead and motivate us into the discovery of all truth…a possession of individual discovery in joint-venture with God…of incalculable value we can enjoy forever.

If we have the entire program upfront…all of the details of the playbook…of our God-composed life-script…then the “leading” part of the Holy Spirit leading us into all truth (Mt. 16:13) falls downward a level into the unexceptional and unremarkable category of mere factual knowledge…a program of “paint by the numbers” self-works to earn salvation…rather than the eternally beneficial process of getting to know God…like Paul in Philippians 3:10…that will set us free from the temptation of autonomous self-rulership for all time to come.

Matthew 6:19-38, in the Sermon of the Mount, beautifully encapsulates the departure from worldly conventional normalcy that is the demarcation point into a “risky” zone of discovery…when Christians take up their cross to follow Jesus.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt. 6:33)…is the core, basic root of every adventure of faith in the Bible.  It is the diametric opposite of “seek ye first your own way” and to take care of “me, myself, and I”…first before anything else.

This delicate balance between belief and unbelief in the practical, everyday working-out of the details in our personal walk of faith following God…again is a transcendent reality that validates the divine inspiration of the Bible…and a God-composed journey of faith.  It is far outside of the reach of human creative invention and imaginative contemplation.

That this concept of the delicate balance of belief and unbelief…in the outside world as a whole and in our Christian adventures of faith…could or would be the product of a naturalistic explanation…is an issue worthy of exploration.

But in my opinion, any naturalistic causation here falls far short of a rational worldview…when taking into account our innate, transcendent capacity for moral reasoning.