Jesus’ resurrection: Mary Magdalene not to touch Jesus

File:Cobergher Christ as a gardener and Mary Magdalene.jpg ...

(Image: Cobergher Christ as a gardener and Mary Magdalene, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Why was Mary Magdalene told not to touch Jesus but Thomas could touch him? Isn’t this a contradictory message for the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus?

On a Christian forum, a poster asked:

One of the gospels has Jesus telling Mary not to touch him as he has not yet risen. Another gospel has Thomas touching him. When he died, was [he] resurrected as a spirit or did his flesh come back to life like Lazarus?[1]

1. ‘Don’t touch’ – too soft a translation

On the morning Jesus was resurrected, Mary Magdalene met the Saviour in the garden near the tomb where Jesus had been buried (John 20:17). This verse reads, ‘”Don’t cling to me,” Jesus told her, “since I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”’ (CSB).

clip_image002(Image The Resurrected Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene in the Garden, courtesy, courtesy The Cloisters Collection, 1956, public domain)

While the KJV translates the beginning of this verse as ‘Touch me not’, this is too weak a translation for the Greek verb haptomai that is used. It means: ‘to fasten one’s self to, adhere to, cling to’ (TDNT). It can mean ‘touch’ but the context here seems to favour, ‘Do not cling to me’. The Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich Greek Lexicon gives the meaning for John 20:17 as, ‘Stop clinging to me’ (1957:102).

A technical explanation from the Greek confirms this is not an experience of ‘don’t touch me’. Instead,

Touch me not (mh mou aptou). Present middle imperative in prohibition with genitive case, meaning “cease clinging to me” rather than “Do not touch me.” Jesus allowed the women to take hold of his feet (ekrathsan) and worship (prosekunhsan) as we read in Matthew 28:9 . The prohibition here reminds Mary that the previous personal fellowship by sight, sound, and touch no longer exists and that the final state of glory was not yet begun. Jesus checks Mary’s impulsive eagerness (A T Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, John 20:17).

2. Thomas did touch Jesus

While it is true that doubting Thomas touched Jesus, the language used is clear that it meant touching and not clutching:

The Second Sunday in Easter: Doubting Thomas — Saint Matthias ...Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Don’t be faithless, but believe.” Thomas responded to him, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28-29 CSB).

(image The Second Sunday in Easter: Doubting Thomas — Saint Matthias, St Matthias, Whittier)

This was a touching of and sight of Jesus’ wounds. It was not a clinging to Jesus. In his ministry, there were others who touched Jesus after His resurrection. Matt 28:9 (CSB) states, ‘Just then Jesus met them [the disciples] and said, “Greetings!” They came up, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him’.

Thus, there is no contradiction in the happenings of these two events.

 3.  Notes

[1] Christian forums.net 2020. Resurrection, Susannah#1, 14 March. Available at: https://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/resurrection.81924/ (Accessed 6 August 2020).

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 6 August 2020.

Theism vs Panentheism

https://i2.wp.com/www.rivieraucc.org/files/Panenthesim.png?resize=376%2C289

(Image courtesy riveraucc)

Is this a diagram of orthodox Christian theism?

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Panentheism means ‘”all in God.” It is also called process theology (since it views God as a changing Being) [Geisler 1999:576].

This is the person’s retort to my teaching at: Is Panentheism true Christian teaching?

Does Christianity affirm this understanding of God? This person’s responses are in red font.

1.    The Judeo-Christian God is outside the universe

The biblical teaching is that the Judeo-Christian God had to be outside the universe for him to create the universe, which is external to him.

1.1   Illogical that God is outside the universe

Regarding my statement that the God who is outside the universe created it, you stated:

This is not logical. I feel this is a lame attempt to explain how evil can exist alongside God.  What did God use then, to create the universe?  This does not resonate with me as I believe it is quite logical that God is all therefore there is nothing that is not God.  God may be “outside” the universe, however, this does not mean that the universe is not God.  He may not be in this universe, however, this universe is in him.

Take a listen to an interview with leading Christian apologist, born in India, the late Ravi Zacharias, about the problem of evil and God:

It is perfectly logical if you take the biblical text of Genesis 1 seriously. Your response indicates to me that you haven’t done an exegesis of Genesis to arrive at an understanding of how God created the heavens and the earth. In Scripture, He tells us specifically but you don’t seem to want to accept God’s view, but instead take the line, ‘This does not resonate with me’.

That sure sounds like Frank Sinatra’s worldview, ‘I did it my way‘. I’m trying to be kind in my understanding of your analysis of the origin of the universe, but I find some contradictory and nonsensical things in what you wrote here, for example:

clip_image003‘I believe it is quite logical that God is all therefore there is nothing that is not God.’ If I’m to take that at face value, there is nothing – including you and me – that is not God. I can assure you that I’m a sinful human being who has been redeemed by the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19). I am not God. My car, house and the beautiful Australian landscape are not God. They are separate from God because they are created things and are in need of creators.

clip_image003[1] If the universe is God, then this keyboard on which I type, computer screen, PC hard drive, office chair, and my meal tonight are God. Surely you know that is nonsensical thinking.

1.2 Genesis 1-2 disagrees

It seems to me you need to do some reading and study of the first 2 chapters of the Book of Genesis. I recommend H C Leopold, Exposition of Genesis, vol 1 (available online).  Genesis 1:1 (NIV), the first verse of the Bible, is teeming with meaning, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’. This sentence is so full of meaning because it declares to us:

    (a)    God did several things (all stated in this verse) at once. These are …

    (b)    God is the Supreme Being who created the universe. Before the universe came into being, there was the Person, God. We know He is a person because he created personal beings, Adam & Eve.

    (c)    God exists independently of matter and sequential time. He is independent of space and time. This is possible because some of His prominent attributes are declared in this verse.

    (d)    According to this verse, before the creation of the heavens and the earth there was nothing. ‘Theologians speak of God’s immensity, infinity, and transcendence to describe this and our minds race at the thought of it, unable to take it in. All we can do is acquiesce and worship’.

1.3 God’s creation of everything in the universe

Genesis 1:1 teaches that everything that exists in the universe was created by God. There is a special Hebrew verb used in this verse which is translated ‘God created’. For this act of creation the verb b?r? is used. When this verb appears in the Old Testament, God is always the subject, stated or implied. Yes, human beings also ‘create poetry, music, literature, construction work, etc, but there is nothing to compare with God who creates. It is used in Gen 1:1, 21, 27 and Gen 2:4.

In Gen 1:21 and 27, creation does not exclude pre-existing material. However, in all of these verses, the emphasis is on the ‘achievement of something completely new’. The point of these verses is that the All-Powerful God created the universe out of nothing (ex nihilo). Eastern creation stories from Egypt and Mesopotamia assumed their gods worked with existing materials.

Can you imagine the power of the God who created the entire universe? But there is more to the what of creation …

1.4 God and creation of darkness

Genesis 1:2 states, ‘Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters’. What does it mean that it was ‘formless and empty’? God’s initial creation out of nothing was on in its final form.

What God initially brought into being was “t?hu vab?hu,” a “formless and empty mass.” Initially, the created universe had no distinctive shape; its structure would be formed by the artistry and design of God. In this sense, we are like God. We, too, fashion and mold and make things that are often beautiful. It is, in part, what Genesis 1:26–27 means by saying that Adam was created “in the image of God.” Man, too, creates, or better, re-creates, shapes his environment in such a way as to reflect something pleasing and good. Once man fell, this capacity became as much a liability as a blessing: his capacity to fashion became a means to idolatry (Derek Thomas, Table Talk, ‘Creation Ex Nihilo‘, January 2006).

In Scripture, God doesn’t reveal Himself in anyway that resembles ‘it is quite logical that God is all therefore there is nothing that is not God‘. Your view promotes panentheism, i.e. the world is in God; nothing is not God. To be honest, this is a self-construct, although there are many followers. See the panentheist supporter, Dr Marcus J Borg (1997). The God we never knew. He died in 2015, so now knows the truth about his view of God.

News from the Diocesan Worship Adviser - The Church of England ...

(photo of Michael W Brierley courtesy Diocese of Worster, UK)

 

Other panentheists include Michael W. Brierley, a Church of England priest in the diocese of Exeter UK  and Philip Clayton, contemporary American philosopher of religion and science, Claremont Graduate School of Theology.

Imagine having a minister of a Christian church who did not accept that God who lives outside creation, created the universe. That’s what we have with Michael Brierley, an Anglican priest in the  UK. This is a demonstration of how far the Anglican church has moved away from orthodox Christianity, to accept a leader who is a panentheist.

2.    Lucifer is part of God

In my discussion about the origin of Satan, you responded:

Once again, this does not quite sit well with me.  If Lucifer created the 7 deadly sins then he truly is a part of God to be able to create at all.  There must be trillions upon trillions of different endings to this story if we have the ability to choose.  Only God knows which ending is the true ending then. How can God create what he doesn’t know?  Why was there ever a choice if God didn’t have a full understanding of the negative choices that can be made?

2.1 Subjective opinion is not good enough

clip_image005‘Once again, this does not quite sit well with me‘ is a subjective response that is open to other kinds of subjective responses, e.g. The ‘7 deadly sins’ nails areas of my life where I need to be right with God. May I suggest you move to the more objective position: What does God say about these sins in Scripture? I need to be obedient to him.

clip_image005[1]    ‘If Lucifer created the 7 deadly sins then he truly is a part of God to be able to create at all‘. This is your hypothesis. We know Lucifer did not create the 7 deadly sins. It is a misinterpretation to make the 7 deadly sins an indicator for your panentheistic theology. Besides, all sins are forgivable by God, except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28-29).

clip_image005[2]    ‘How can God create what he doesn’t know?‘ He knows everything because of his attribute of omniscience, so there is nothing God doesn’t know (1 John 3:20; Psalm 139:1-4; Acts 1:24).

Your God is too small and has the wrong digestion system. I suggest you read a sound book of Christian theology on the attributes of God. I’m thinking of Norman L Geisler, Systematic Theology in one volume. I could never find your God in Scripture. God knows everything he created. How do we know? He told us so: Psalm 147:5; 1 John 3:20; Acts 15:18).

Are the 7 deadly sins found in the Bible? Yes and no! In Proverbs 6:16–19 you can read of 7 things that God detests.

When God created human beings he didn’t create robots. He produced men who raise cattle and work in offices, women who raise children at home while others choose to go into many occupations in the work force. Wouldn’t it be a horrible world if you or I could not make choices of what we eat and which brand of steak is preferred?

clip_image005[3]    ‘Why was there ever a choice if God didn’t have a full understanding of the negative choices that can be made?‘ Your premise is false. God had a full understanding of the negative choices people would make (see verses above), but he chose to create people with free will, knowing the consequences. Remember that the one who created everything from nothing, knew what people would do with their free will, provided a way of escape. It was redemption for sinners who respond in faith to Jesus, the one who shed his blood for our atonement (cleansing of sin).

3.    No place for evil side with God

You wrote: ‘there is no place for this evil/negative side to exist within God ‘. This causes your worldview to come crashing down in the heap of panentheism. If there is no place for evil within God, how can you justify this statement: ‘God is all therefore there is nothing that is not God ‘? If ‘God is all‘, then ‘God’s “all” includes evil and the negative side‘. Are you prepared to defend that position in the public square: Facebook, Twitter, online forums, letters to the editor that the terrorist monsters, the rapists and Hitler exist within God? Is he the holy God of justice or is he some other ‘person’ who has an image generated by panentheism?

4.    Darkness is not separate to God

clip_image007 You wrote: ‘To suggest that the darkness is separate to God would give the impression that God is up against another entity separate from him.  I can’t gel with that.

Neither does it gel with me either. Here’s why: In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus told the story of the ungodly rich man and the godly beggar. When they died, the rich man went to Hades (for punishment), while the beggar went to Abraham’s Side (heaven). The rich man in Hades was experiencing ‘agony in the fire … this place of torment’ (vv 26, 28). It was conscious punishment. See also Matthew 12:36-37 and Luke 12:47-48. This article explains the biblical teaching: Is God in hell?

clip_image007[1]  ‘I haven’t read anywhere in the Bible that in the beginning there was God and the Word and darkness‘.

I can’t believe you’ve made such an uninformed statement. Take a read of these early verses from Genesis 1: ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day’ (Gen 1:1-5).

There you have it right before your eyes that in the beginning there was God and darkness. Where does Scripture affirm that the Word was in the beginning? It’s in John 1:1, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’.

Who is ‘the Word’? ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’. So, John 1:1 teaches that Jesus was the Word who was God. However, this One who is God also became a human being, the God-man who was ‘the Word [who] became flesh’ (John 1:14) and lived on earth among human beings.

The Bible contradicts your view that there was no darkness separate to God as He created darkness. May I suggest you do more careful reading of Scripture to arrive at an accurate understanding, instead of imposing your panentheistic views on Scripture.

5.    Why I will never support panentheism

Figure 2The references you have provided do not convince me that there is something that is not a part of God that can then go up against him’.

I can guarantee you that I’m not a part of God, although I have Jesus living in me, because of salvation through Christ. I don’t expect to convince you from Scripture that the almighty God is the Creator who created the universe from outside the universe. Here is why I’m not a panentheist:[1]

a. The nature of God.

The Bible teaches nothing about the panentheist God who has two poles. The biblical God is self-existent and this includes many supernatural attributes.

b.    The nature of the universe.

Instead of the universe being processed (changing), the Christian God is immutable (changeless) and the evidence he provided in the reliable Bible (using historical criteria) is that God created the universe ex nihilo (out of nothing)..

c.    Miracles

Since your view is that the world is in God, it conflicts with the almighty God who demonstrated many miracles throughout history. He can do that because he stands outside of the universe. In your worldview, there is no need for supernatural acts and in fact they are impossible.

d.    The nature of human beings

Your worldview allows for human beings to be personal and free. But your view is that humanity was co-created with God and is of God. This is radically different to the Christian view of original sin and the need for a Saviour to cleanse us from sin through repentance and faith.

e.    Ethics

Do you believe there are absolute values? Are the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20) always true or are they in process and can change?

In the words of Dr William Lane Craig, these are three reasons why I am not a panentheist:

1) Does God act as a cause outside of nature or are acts of nature acts of God without an external cause outside of nature? The Bible teaches that God on occasion acts as a cause outside nature. The effects of such actions are called miracles. The supreme example is the creation of the universe itself. We have good evidence for such a transcendent cause, e.g., evidence for the beginning of the universe and evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, which cannot be accounted for by wholly natural causes.

2) Is the universe eternal? If the universe is eternal could God be the cause of the universe’s existence? The Bible teaches that the universe is not eternal but was created by God at some time in the past, a view that is confirmed scientifically and is eminently reasonable philosophically. Setting aside philosophical arguments against the eternality of the past, there is no reason that God could not create an eternal universe. For any time t, the universe would depend for its existence upon God at t, whether or not there were moments of time earlier than t.

3) Can God be the universe and exist apart from the universe at the same time? Obviously, if God = the universe, then since the universe cannot exist apart from the universe, neither can God exist apart from the universe! But I think the more appropriate question is whether the universe could be a part of God. Biblically, that’s ruled out, and most of the traditional theistic arguments rule it out as well. God and the world are ontologically distinct (Panentheism).

f.    The nature of biblical revelation

I consider one of your greatest issues with biblical Christianity is that you will not accept Scripture at face value. When the eternal God stated he ‘created the heavens and the earth’ from outside of the universe, you reject this and impose your panentheistic interpretation on it. The presuppositions of panentheism drive your views of reality. You seem to impose them on Scripture and don’t want to admit what you do. Nowhere in Scripture have I read anything that looks like ‘the universe is in God’.

6.    God is sinful

‘Because God is all creating does not mean He is not sinless.

By this statement, are you contending that God is sinful – He is not sinless? Sadly, you don’t understand how a sinful person could cleanse the sins of all people throughout human history who have responded to Jesus in repentance and faith.

6.1 Jesus is sinless

Your view flatly denies biblical teaching on the need for a sinless Saviour who was a sacrifice to cleanse human beings of their sins. These are but a few examples:

clip_image0092 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV): ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’.

clip_image009[1] 1 Peter 2:22 : ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth’.

clip_image009[2]Hebrews 4:15: ‘For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin’.

clip_image009[3]1 John 3:5: ‘But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin’.

So, God the Son, one person in the Trinity, was sinless.

 

6.2 What about God the Father?

clip_image011 Numbers 23:19: ‘God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind’. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfil?’

 

clip_image011[1]Deuteronomy 32:34: ‘I will proclaim the name of the Lord. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he’.

 

clip_image011[2]1 Samuel 15:29, ‘He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind’.

 

clip_image011[3]2 Timothy 2:13: ‘If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself’.

 

clip_image011[4]Titus 1:2: ‘… in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time’.

 

clip_image011[5]Hebrews 6:18: ‘God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged’.

 

clip_image011[6]James 1:13: ‘When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone’.

 

clip_image011[7]1 John 1:5: ‘God is light; in him there is no darkness at all’.

 

I could provide additional Scripture to support the teaching on God, the Holy Spirit, who is not a sinner.

7. Theism vs Panentheism

Norman Geisler has provided this helpful summary of the differences between orthodox theism and panentheism (Geisler 1999:576):

Theism Panentheism
God is Creator. God is director.
Creation is ex nihilo. Creation is ex materia.
God is sovereign over world. God is dependent on world.
God is independent over world. God is dependent on world.
God is unchanging. God is changing.
God is absolutely prefect. God is growing more perfect.
God is mono-polar. God is bi-polar.
God is actually infinite. God is actually finite.

 

Where can panentheism be found today? It can be found in Hinduism, Sikhism, certain mystical Jewish traditions, Taoism, some Christianity where it is also called process theology (including the Eastern Orthodox Church. Unitarian Universalist Church),  some Sufi Islamic saints and thinkers had panentheistic views, and Gnosticism.

8.    Main issue

In my view, your main problem is that you choose not to accept the Scripture at face value but replace it with the irrational reasoning of panentheism that does not match reality. This is called eisegesis of any form of literature. It is based on the NT Greek preposition eis, which means ‘in/into’. So, when you read your worldview into the text, you come up with an interpretation that does not come out of the text.

9. Works consulted

Geisler, N L 1999. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

10. Note

[1] These points were made by Geisler (1999:577-578).

Panentheism - Wikiquote

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 July 2020.

Abstract pink lines. Vector — Stock Vector © emaria #6500803

Abstract pink lines. Vector — Stock Vector © emaria #6500803

Is Panentheism true Christian teaching?

Process-Relational Panentheism Diagram | Pantheism, Buddha ...

(Image courtesy Pinterest)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

‘Panentheism’ may seem strange language to you. It’s not a word we hear very often from evangelical Christian pulpits. However, my view is that it ought to be explained and refuted because it promotes damaging theology.

1. What is it?

I’ve encountered it in two situations: (1) Recently, from a Christian friend who had this view presented, and (2) when I was researching for my PhD dissertation on the historical Jesus, I came across some liberal, postmodern scholars. One who was an ardent advocate was Marcus J. Borg in his book, The God we never knew (1997). He died in 2015 at the age of 72.[1]

1.1 Marcus Borg the false teacher

Borg contended that ‘how we think about God matters…. I argue that a “panentheistic” concept of God offers the most adequate way of thinking about the sacred; in this concept, the sacred is “right here” as well as “the beyond” that encompasses everything”’ (1997:VII, 5)

I agree with him on one point: ‘How we think about God matters’. However, does he have the correct biblical thinking about the Lord God of the universe?

Borg defines panentheism as

God is the encompassing Spirit; we (and everything that is) are in God. For this concept, God is not a supernatural being separate from the universe; rather, God (the sacred Spirit) is a nonmaterial layer or level or dimension of reality all around us. God is more than the universe, yet the universe is in God…. This way of thinking about God is found among many of the mot important voices in the Christian theological tradition (Borg 1997:12).

He claims that these statements from Scripture support panentheism.

bronze-arrow-small ‘The whole earth is full of God’s glory’ (Isaiah);

bronze-arrow-small ‘The earth shining with God’s glory’ (Ezekiel);

bronze-arrow-small ‘The heavens declare the glory of God’ (Psalm 19).

1 Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name;
worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness.

3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is majestic.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon leap like a calf,
Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord strikes
with flashes of lightning.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’ (Psalm 29:1-9 NIV; Borg 1997:34-35)

That these verses should be misinterpreted to divert attention from the LORD of glory who created the universe and calls us to praise the Lord of glory for his nature and actions in the universe, is a mockery of justice.

For a further critique of panentheism, see my article, Differences between orthodox theism and panentheism.

2. Down-to-earth questioning

A friend sent some questions to me from a discussion he had with a colleague. These are the colleague’s issues:

Here the issues are in red font:

clip_image002  ‘If there is nothing outside of God….’

This is a false premise as it promotes the heresy of panentheism that can be diagrammed as,

clip_image004

(Image from Facebook, ‘Christian Answers for the New Age’, 18 March 2019)

In biblical Christianity, God is outside the universe which he created. The Scriptures teach that God reigns over the nations from His holy throne in heaven (see Psalm 47:8; Isaiah 6:1, 66:1; Hebrews 4:16).

clip_image005‘Why did Lucifer have thoughts of rebellion?’

“With both the angels and humanity, God chose to present a choice. While the Bible does not give many details regarding the rebellion of Satan and the fallen angels, it seems that Satan—probably the greatest of all the angels (Ezekiel 28:12-18)—in pride chose to rebel against God in order to seek to become his own god.

Satan (Lucifer) did not want to worship or obey God; he wanted to be God (Isaiah 14:12-14). Revelation 12:4 is understood to be a figurative description of one third of the angels choosing to follow Satan in his rebellion, becoming the fallen angels—demons” (GotQuestions 2020. Why did God allow Satan and the demons to sin?)
There is not enough biblical information in the inspired Word to give a definitive answer to this question.

clip_image002[1]‘These negative thoughts would have to be part of God’s nature?’

That could never be so because of God’s absolute holiness (Isaiah 6:5), absolute justice (Deuteronomy 32:4), and absolute sinlessness (Habakkuk 1:13).

clip_image005[1]‘If time is just a construct for the human mind…’

Biblically, we know this is false because it was God who created everything and that included time. See Genesis 1:1; Ecclesiastes 11:5; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16–17. God needed nothing external to himself to create the universe (Acts 17:24–28). There are many more Bible verses in support of these teachings.

clip_image005[2]  ‘… God would know and see everything instantaneously, therefore, Lucifer’s fall would have all been part of the big picture to come?

This is exactly right. It’s called God’s omniscience. God knows everything, past, present and future, seen and unseen. The Bible confirms this in 1 John 3:20; Isaiah 46:9-10; Psalm 139:1-3, 15-16; and Acts 1:24.

clip_image005[3]‘Lucifer’s fall would have all been part of the big picture to come?

This is correct. But that is because of the nature of God’s omniscient attribute. God knows even the number of hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:29-30).

See the next installment of the person’s retort to my reply in, ‘Theism vs Panentheism’.

clip_image0073.  Works consulted

Borg, M J 1997. The God we never knew. New York, NY. HarperSanFrancisco.

4.  Notes


[1] See the obituary in the Los Angeles Times, ‘Marcus Borg, scholar who challenged literal view of Jesus, dies at 72’, 24 January. Available at: https://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-marcus-borg-20150125-story.html (Accessed 9 July 2020).

Jenn 3d

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 10 July 2020.

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clip_image009

Is God in hell?

If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.

clip_image002

(Image courtesy PublicDomainPictures.net)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

While blogging on a Christian forum, I met a person who wrote: ‘I don’t believe God dwells in Hell. That’s what Jews believe’.[1]

Is that true or false?

1. Hades and God’s omnipresence

God’s omnipresence means

God is everywhere present at once (omni=everywhere = present). Negatively stated, there is nowhere that God is absent [from]…. It is helpful to see what omnipresence does not mean. It does not mean that God is creation; this is pantheism…. In theism God made the world; in pantheism God is the world. Nor does omnipresence mean that God is in creat6ion, which is panentheism (Geisler 2003:169-170).

The Bible teaches God is omnipresent (Prov 15:3; 1 Kings 8:27; Jer 23:23-24; Matt 18:20; Ps 139:7-12). He is everywhere all the time and that means he will be present forever in hell as the Judge and perpetrator of punishment.

Proverbs 15:3 (NIV) supports this view: ‘The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good’. The wicked are on earth and also in Hades/Hell. The Lord is active in watching them.

2. What is Hades?

It is ‘the place of the dead’ (Eccl 9:10; Ps 55:23; Acts 2:27) or ‘the place of departed souls/spirits’ (Eccl 12:7; Isa 14:9-10, 19).

There does seem to be a contradiction in Scripture regarding God’s presence in Hades or not. Paul speaks of being ‘shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might’ (2 Thess 1:9 NIV).

However, Scripture also teaches in Revelation 14:20 (NIV) that anyone who receives the beast’s image

will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.

How can the damned be shut out from God’s presence and still experience fury from God, in the presence of the Lamb? They seem to be conflicting statements.

These verses are best reconciled, in my view, by recognizing that judgment consists in being excluded from God’s presence as the source of all blessedness, but not from God’s omnipresent lordship (Michael Horton, Hell is not separation from God).

Psalm 139:7-12 (ESV) destroys the view that God is not in Sheol/Hades:

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.


Seamless Realistic Fire Border...

3. Works consulted

Geisler, N 2003. Systematic theology, vol 2: God, creation. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

4.  Notes

[1] Brian100 #587. Christianity Board, ‘Atheist objections to evidence for God’s existence’, 8 July 2020 (Accessed 10 July 2020).

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 10 July 2020.

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Buddhist, Rohingya and Christian lives matter

Why must I go to alternate media for information about persecution?

(Image of Christian girl, Orissa, India  who was bruised and burnt during the anti Christian violence in Orissa in August 2008. It occurred when a bomb was thrown into her house by extremists; Courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Two men on an asphalt surface, behind a black police SUV with the city name "MINNEAPOLIS", and a license plate that reads "POLICE" (some letters are obscured in this frame). One man has light skin, a blue shirt with identifying badges on his chest and shoulder, black pants and boots, and black sunglasses pushed to the top of his close-shorn head. He is kneeling with his left knee and upper shin resting on the neck of the other man, and his right knee out of sight behind the van. The other man is lying prone, with his left cheek pressed against the asphalt close to a painted line. He is dark-skinned, with similarly short hair, and is not wearing a shirt; His mouth is slightly open, his eyes are closed with his eyebrows raised, and his arms are down, not visible behind the van. The kneeling man has his left hand in a dark glove, with his right arm hidden behind the van, and is looking at the viewer with his eyebrows slightly lifted and mouth slightly open.(Frame from witness video, showing Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd‘s neck. Image courtesy Wikipedia).

This article was published in On Line Opinion, 25 June 2020.

There have been 8:46 rallying cries across the USA to coincide with the length of time it was assessed for George Floyd to die on 25 May 2020. Others conclude it took 7 minutes 46 seconds.

The police officer, alleged perpetrator of the crime, Derek Chauvin, has been sacked from the police force. However, Floyd’s death has propelled rallies for ‘Black lives matter’ across the world – in the USA, Great Britain, across Europe, Australia, and in other countries.

This Rohingya crisis caught media attention.

I honestly support these protesters and their reasons. A policeman killing a man by putting so much pressure on his neck he could not breathe, if convicted, should be called a murderer.

However, there are other situations as serious that have had some mass and social media coverage. In recent years, mass media outlets have reported on the persecution of the minority sect that Rohingya Muslims have been persecuted in Myanmar (Burma) and have fled to Bangladesh.

BBC News (23 January 2020) gave details on the genocide of the Rohingya Muslims.

(Rohingya refugees in refugee camp in Bangladesh, 2017; Image courtesy Wikipedia)

‘The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered measures to prevent the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar (formerly Burma)….

Thousands of Rohingya died and more than 700,000 fled to Bangladesh during an army crackdown in 2017.

UN investigators have warned that genocidal actions could recur.

How have Myanmar people responded?

Tun Khin tweeted the ICJ ruling was ‘a crucial moment for Rohingya justice, and vindication for those of us who have lived through this genocide for decades’. He is the president of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK and continued:

‘The court’s decision clearly shows that it takes the allegations of genocide seriously, and that Myanmar’s hollow attempts to deny these have fallen on deaf ears’ (BBC News).

Human rights organisation Amnesty International said the ICJ decision ‘sent a message that the world would not tolerate Myanmar’s “atrocities”’.

The extent of Rohingya sprawling camps near the Bangladesh border for those fleeing Myanmar’s violence has been captured by a camera on a drone (BBC News 2017).

The Australian Government has explained its position but it hasn’t been updated since 14 June 2018. The Sydney Morning Herald (2017) reported: ‘Australia must act on Rohingya genocide’ which relates how ‘Almas saw her seven children and husband murdered during a wave of massacres in Myanmar. She and thousands of other survivors now face new threats as they languish in refugee camps’. ABC News, Brisbane Qld, ‘Aung San Suu Kyi denies genocide, says Rohingya Muslims caught up in armed internal conflict’.

Why don’t the people take to the streets with this slogan: ‘Rohingya Muslim lives matter’?

Why do I need to go to alternate media for other deaths?

George Floyd’s death is in the news, and rightly so. Have you heard much on the following?

Release International Voice reported on Indian Christian believers who were ‘taunted, beaten and forced to pose “like Christ on the cross” in police custody when extremists accused them of “forced conversion”’.

‘Pastor Indresh Kumar Gautam and four others were arrested after 30 Hindu extremists broke up their Sunday service in Pratapgarh district, Uttar Pradesh’. Australian mainstream media gives this persecution a flick pass as it doesn’t seem to have the worldwide implications of a George Floyd murder.

Why haven’t we heard a media campaign, ‘Indian teens’ lives matter’, following the death of a 16-year-old by stabbing and stoning? What was his crime? He was a Christian and wouldn’t renounce his faith. What was the crime he committed?

If it were not for alternate news’ sources I would not know of this persecution to death by Hindu extremists.

He refused to abandon his faith in Jesus Christ. Where were Australia’s news outlets to report this with catchphrases such as, ‘Indian Christian lives matter’?

It’s time for the ABC, SBS, Fox News, Sky News, Channels 7, 9, and 10 to wake up to international news’ responsibilities. I commend The Guardian Australia edition for reporting in February 2020 on the Australian ambassador’s meeting with the Myanmar military chief who was accused of Rohingya genocide. ‘Human Rights Watch has said Australia’s decision to take the meeting risked giving legitimacy and credibility to a military accused of mass atrocities’.

Other Australian news sources may have given limited coverage to some of the examples which follow. However, as a regular news reader and watcher, I have not seen any kind of uprising like ‘black lives matter’ in association with the deaths of other ethnic minorities – except Rohingya Muslims.

According to The Gulf News (01 March 2020) in Pakistan, 22-year-old Saleem Masih was ‘tortured to death for taking a dip in a village tube well in Pakistan, his fault was that he was a Christian’ and ‘polluted’ the water he bathed in.

Masih’s father said Saleem claimed the men who attacked, abused and cursed him did it because he was a ‘filthy Christian’. Social media users were furious about Saleem’s treatment and spread the word through #JusticeForSaleemMasih. ‘Pakistani Christian lives matter’.

The Buddhist minority in Vietnam has been under threat for decades in fear of persecution. At the Taiwan International Religious Freedom Forum in Hsinchu City in June 2018, Vo Tran Nhat, executive secretary of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, a nongovernmental organisation founded in Paris in 1975, explained his views as a non-religious person: ‘He cares a great deal about the Buddhists and minority Christians, who raise their voices against oppression and injustice. If Buddhists lose their religion, Vietnam would lose its “soul,” he warned’.

What has Australia’s main-stream media reported about these situations?

There are many other examples that the mass media choose to ignore. I’m thinking of a Syrian refugee in Lebanon who maintains his allegiance to Jesus in spite of suffering unemployment, persecution from Muslim family members, and homelessness.

An Egyptian woman is another case in point. She was kidnapped by extremists, forced to convert to Islam and marry a Muslim man. It is exceedingly difficult to bring such women back home to a normal life when they live in an honour-shame culture.

In April 2020, a Christian pastor, his wife and 15-year-old son were attacked by a Muslim neighbour in Pakistan. They were severely injured by machetes, sticks and pistols and they were treated in hospital. The case was reported to a local police station. Pakistani Christians face severe maltreatment. Often it comes from family members, radical Islamic groups, and even the government.

North Korea is a closed country and distribution of unapproved literature is a capital offence that could lead to forced labour or execution.

However, in 2014 Natasha Moore from the Centre for Public Christianity (a Christian organisation) published an opinion piece for the ABC’s, The Drum, Why don’t we hear about persecuted Christians? She gave an example of ‘the plight of Mosul’s Christians [that] has been noted by a growing number of news outlets, from The Independent to The New York Times. It has broken the surface of the international news cycle in a way that other atrocities – the fire-bombing of churches in Nigeria, the summary execution of North Koreans caught with Bibles – have not’. She does not consider the media were covering up the global persecution, but it reveals the media’s blind spots. As an example of the seriousness of the situation, she stated that Christians were persecuted in139 countries and about four or five acts of religious discrimination are against Christians.

Countries that were moderately secular and are now ‘avowedly secular’ have stepped up their hostility towards Christians. Turkey and Egypt join with post-communist, Islamic and some South Asian countries, Moore wrote. She referred authors to the 2008 book, Blind Spot: When Journalists Don’t Get Religion (Paul Marshall et. al.).

Farce of injustice by media

I find it to be a pretence against fair journalism when the media can so promote ‘Black lives matter’ when we have examples of Buddhist lives matter, Rohingya Muslim lives matter, and Christian lives matter around the world.

When will we see major, objective reporting on the Christian, Buddhist, Rohingya and other persecutions?

(Image courtesy fssx.news. An 11-year-old Christian child was beaten to death by his Muslim employer on July 11, 2019, in Faisalabad, in northeastern Pakistan.)

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 24 June 2020.

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Pornography: “One day you’ll beat it”

Conquering porn addiction

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Sadly, the title of this article is a typical response from those who have not been therapists and had to deal with tough cases, especially when helping those with a desire for more and more porn. Many Christians take this approach. My experience is that these people who love the Lord don’t know practical ways to help the person battling pornographic addiction.

My experience as a long-term therapist is that most people are out of their depths in offering practical help to those battling addiction, including pornography.

So, they brush it aside with unhelpful slogans like the title to this article. This is an unsupportive response as it prevents the person from travelling down the road to recovery. In counselling, I’ve heard people tell me that their friends say: ‘Hang in there mate. You’ll get over it one day. You’ll grow up and become a man who doesn’t need that kind of sexual junk’.

None of these clichés is a caring response like: ‘I’ve never had that problem, but I’ll seek some ways to find you help. It might mean going to a counsellor’.

1. Fundamental principles

With any of the emotional disorders such as anxiety, depression, addiction, anger, worry, procrastination, and smoking, people tend to think that something causes the emotion: e.g.

  • ‘I’m anxious about swimming in the ocean when large sharks have been seen in the water’.
  • ‘My wife has left me and got into bed with a close friend’, so that has made me deeply depressed.
  • ‘Watching that porn on my Tablet has caused me to go back and back to watch porn and become addicted. I don’t know how to get this out of my mind’.
  • ‘I smoke because it relaxes me after a hard day at work’.

2. A basic approach

With all of the emotional disorders, I use Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT). It’s a form of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). Some of its core principles include:

· ‘For as people calculate in their souls, so are they’ (plural from footnote in Prov 23:7 ESV). ‘What he thinks is what he really is’ (GNT).[1]

clip_image002(Image courtesy Pinterest)

Albert Ellis, founder of REBT, often quoted the Greek philosopher, Epictetus who taught the same kind of thing: ‘Man is disturbed not by things, but by the views he takes of them’ (The Enchiridion §5).

clip_image004(Image courtesy Inspirational Quotes)

Both statements from the Bible and Epictetus agree with the fundamental of short-term REBT. Large sharks in the ocean cannot make anyone anxious. A wife committing adultery is not the cause of deep depression by the husband. Watching porn on a Tablet cannot cause anxiety about its danger and possible addiction.

How come? Things do not cause emotional disturbance. It’s our view of things (thoughts or beliefs about them) that bring on emotional issues.

You might find it hard to believe that this works. Research has confirmed the effectiveness of REBT with children and youth.

2.1 Practical ways to deal with pornography

clip_image006Block every porn site on your PC, phone, Tablet and any other electronic device you access. If you don’t know how to do this, check it out with an IT geek.

If you try to get around this by using tricky ways to find other sites, you are not being honest with your thoughts for seeking help. Why are you doing this when you know pornography is harmful to you and your relationships?

clip_image006[1]That’s only the first step to deal with what your mind is doing. Here is a biblical and cognitive-behavioural way to overcome the problem. It will mean discipline by you and accountability to one other person who is serious about helping you. He or she can ask you nearly every day how your thoughts are changing. You have to be 100% honest with him or her.

Guidelines for the accountability person are in ‘Job description for accountability partner’ in the agreement below: ‘COMMITMENT TO CONTROL MY USE OF PORNOGRAPHY (contract)’.

clip_image006[2]Unless you conquer your porn addiction, you will take it into your marriage and your spouse will never be able to perform according to the porn actresses or actors.

2.2 The ABCDEF model to conquer porn addiction

This is the ABCD model[2] of dealing with your emotions and pornography involves your emotions.

A    Activating event for your anxiety (watching porn online or wherever);

B    Beliefs about addiction and why you need to watch porn.

Remember, it is not the porn itself that causes you to go back again and again and to repeat it in your thought world. Porn has no power to make you an addict.

Something else does have that power. These are your thoughts about porn. You’ll need to fill these in, but many addicts believe …

clip_image008 I MUST view porn to bring satisfaction in masturbation.

clip_image010 I MUST use porn techniques in the sexual relationship; otherwise it will lack satisfaction;

clip_image012 My mates will think I am weak if I’m not into exciting pornography. They get sexual excitement that way and I need their approval.

clip_image014 I’m depriving myself if I flunk the porn test with friends.

What are your beliefs or thoughts about why you need to go back to porn, over and over?

2.3 Three MUSTs in your thinking

In this form of therapy, there generally are 3 basic MUSTs in your thinking. Applied to pornography, they are:

clip_image016I must do well and win others’ approval (especially with the person who introduced me to porn) by continuing this addiction, otherwise I’m no good.

clip_image018Others must treat me fairly and kindly and in the same way I want them to treat me – even though I’m battling pornography. If they do not treat me this way, they are not good people and deserve to be punished.

clip_image020I must always get what I want, when I want it. I must beat porn addiction NOW. Also, I must never get what I don’t want. If I don’t get what I want (instant stopping of porn), I’m miserable. It’s awful when I can’t conquer the urge to watch and think about porn images.

  • If you don’t obtain MUST #1 you’ll probably feel anxious, depressed and perhaps guilty.
  • If you don’t achieve MUST #2, you are most likely to feel angry and act aggressively.
  • If MUST #3 is not fulfilled, you may procrastinate and feel self-pity.

Therefore, the key to dealing with porn is to change the thought patterns in the 3 MUSTs. Remember, things such as porn do not cause addiction. Your thoughts about porn DO.

clip_image022(Image courtesy Pinterest)

C    Consequences: emotions and behaviours associated with porn addiction.

Effects of thinking include emotions, behaviours and other thoughts. The behaviours for the person with problems with porn are the regular desire to pursue thoughts about current porn or porn seen in the past.

D    Debate the beliefs at B.

  • How rational is it that you MUST bring porn into your mind when you masturbate? (Can I presume you masturbate? Most males do.)
  • How will you expect your spouse to perform in sex to compete with the sex actresses? What about you in comparison with the male actors?

Here are some helpful questions to help you dispute/debate the irrational beliefs at B:

flamin-arrow-small “Where is holding on to this belief getting me?

flamin-arrow-small “Is the belief helpful, or is it self-defeating?

flamin-arrow-small “What do I get out of while holding on to this belief?

flamin-arrow-small “Where is the evidence to support my belief?

flamin-arrow-small Is my belief consistent with actuality?

flamin-arrow-small “Is my belief rigid or flexible?

flamin-arrow-small “What’s another way I could look at this?

flamin-arrow-small “What other helpful belief can I use to replace this unhelpful belief?”[3]

E    Effective new thoughts replace old beliefs at B.

  • For the Christian, Philippians 4:8 (ERV) is a key in beating all kinds of anxiety, depression or addiction: ‘Brothers and sisters, continue to think about what is good and worthy of praise. Think about what is true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected’.
  • You will be successful in getting porn out of your thinking if you change (by your choice) your thinking to what is good, worthy of praise, true, honourable, right and pure, beautiful and respected.
  • Who will hold you accountable for putting off the old beliefs and putting on the new?

F New Feelings

I will make sensible decisions about pornography. I will not beat myself and have anxiety if I relapse for a time or two. I accept that battling temptation is a normal part of the Christian life.

So give yourselves to God. Stand against the devil, and he will run away from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. You are sinners, so clean sin out of your lives. You are trying to follow God and the world at the same time. Make your thinking pure (James 4:7-8 ERV).

The difference between Christians and non-Christians who battle with pornography is that Christians know they battle on two fronts: (1) Against their irrational and ungodly thoughts, and (2) Against the devil, whom they must name and resist him. He will not give up easily in dragging you down.

To better understand the REBT model of cognitive-behavioural therapy for various counselling issues, I recommend Dr. Michael R Edelstein and Dr. David Ramsay Steele, Three Minute Therapy (lulu.com 2019).

3. How to be an effective accountability person

See the contract below for details:

COMMITMENT TO CONTROL MY USE OF PORNOGRAPHY (contract)

Because I care for myself, my family and others, I (write name), …………………………………………………………………………………..……………………………………………

commit myself to do the following things to control my use of pornography:

1. Block every pornographic site on whichever device I use to access the Internet or magazines.

2. Accountability to one person with whom I’ll be 100% honest about my use and images of porn.

3. To pursue the biblical therapy of, ‘For as people calculate in their souls, so are they’ (Prov 23:7 ESV). This is fleshed out in a REBT model of therapy (Rational-Emotive Behaviour Therapy), i.e. your actions will be determined by what you think about an issue.

4. Effective new feelings will come when you practise biblical thinking, ‘Brothers and sisters, continue to think about what is good and worthy of praise. Think about what is true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected (Phil 4:8 ERV).

1. Accountability

I agree to the following person to hold me accountable to check on the above actions once per week:

(1) Name: …………….……………………………………………………………………………………………

Address: …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Phone & email contact: ………………………………………………………………………………………….

2. Job description for accountability partner

(a) Ask the porn user what his/her thoughts have been since you last saw him/her.

(b) How much porn has he/she watched?

(c) What anxiety has he/she experienced from porn use?

(d) What did he/she do about the anxiety?

(e) Make sure you understand that what people think they become (Proverbs 23:7).

(f) Therefore, how is the porn user practising the ABCDEF model of therapy? You need to be clued up on this approach to cognitive-behavioural therapy. It’s a short-term method of therapy.

(g) Make sure to ask the user what he/she is finding the toughest area in which to change. Help the person in this area by using the ABCDEF model.

Often people have problems with identification of Beliefs. Some say to themselves: ‘I must never have a single relapse. Since I had a relapse that proves I’m powerless to beat this. Or, I must get these images out of my mind immediately or by the end of the month, otherwise I’m a failure’.

At D you will debate these statements with the user: Why must I not have a relapse? Where is the evidence for that? What evidence is written in God’s laws of the universe as to how long it will take for you to gain self-control of your porn? We know that one of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control and that means as you grow in your Christian faith, the Holy Spirit will help you gain control (Gal. 5:22-23).

What Effective new thinking is needed? As long as you are a person, you will battle with your sinful nature (Gal. 6:1-5; 1 John 1:8-9). The Scriptures have given plenty of techniques on how to deal with sin.

In putting Philippians 4:8 (ERV) into practice, what has been your thinking in these areas?

‘Continue to think about what is good and worthy of praise. Think about what is true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected’.

To change your thinking, these questions need to be answered in regard to things that have no relationship to thinking on porn:

  • What good thoughts have replaced the porn thoughts?
  • What are you praising God for, instead of thinking on porn images?
  • What are truthful and honourable things in your circumstances? What have you said to yourself about these?
  • What thoughts have you had about what is right?
  • What beauty surrounds you? What have you thought about this?

Remember to pray with the person being healed from porn involvement: ‘Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective’ (James 5:16 NIV).

3. Porn user’s commitment

I will be absolutely honest, co-operative and share to the best of my ability with my accountability persons I will do this for the benefit of:

1 .……………………………………………………………………..…….……………………..……..…………………..

2 .……………………………………………………..…………………..….…………………………..…………………..

3. ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

I understand that my behaviour has not happened suddenly and that the turn-around may take some time to correct. I commit myself to attend a minimum of 6 counselling sessions. I will not participate in anything dangerous or illegal.

Name of client: …………………………….……………………………….……………………………..

Signature of client: ……………………………………………………………………………………….

Date: …………………..…………..…….…

Name of accountability person: ………………………………………………….……………………………………………………….……….

Signature of accountability person: ………………………………………….……..

Date: …………………………….………


Notes

[1] Good News Translation.

[2] It was originally developed by psychologist, Albert Ellis (Wikipedia 2020. s.v. Albert Ellis).

[3] These questions are from The Liberation Place n.d. Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy: Disputing Irrational Beliefs (online). Available at: http://www.theliberationplace.com/images/PDF/Session-2.pdf (Accessed 11 June 2020).

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 June 2020.

clip_image023clip_image023

Some Christians unacceptable in Australian sport

When diversity has come to mean exclusion in sport

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Two situations have highlighted this recently in Australia and both relate to the one sportsman:

clip_image002

(Israel Folau image courtesy Wikipedia)

clip_image004Rugby union champion, Israel Folau, a Christian,[1] had his 4-year contract cancelled by Rugby Australia (RA) in May 2019. In making the announcement, Rugby AU CEO, Raelene Castle, stated:

This has been an extremely challenging period for rugby and this issue has created an unwanted distraction in an important year for the sport and for the Wallabies team. But our clear message to all Rugby fans today is that we need to stand by our values and the qualities of inclusion, passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork (Newman 2019).

clip_image006Peter Beattie, Australian Rugby League Commission chairman, told AAP Folau was ruled out of playing for rugby league again because

our position on Israel Folau remains the same…. We are an inclusive game with respect for all. Israel has social media posts online that go against what our game stands for (Zemek 2019).

One of RA’s major sponsors, Qantas, said of Folau’s Instagram post, ‘These comments are really disappointing and clearly don’t reflect the spirit of inclusion and diversity that we support’ (Decent 2019).

1. What is diversity Peter Beattie?

The Cambridge Dictionary (2019. s.v. diversity) defines diversity as:

(a) ‘the fact of many different types of things or people being included in something; a range of different things or people:

(b) ‘the fact that there are many different ideas or opinions about something’.

The Collins Dictionary (2019. s.v. diversity) gives similar meanings:

(c) ‘The diversity of something is the fact that it contains many very different elements’.

(d) ‘A diversity of things is a range of things which are very different from each other’.

Diversity does not mean acceptance of a range of things, except what we don’t like or consider unworthy of a sportsman or sportswoman. Diversity is diversity. clip_image008

No ifs, buts and exceptions.

Based on these definitions of ‘diversity’, Mr Beattie of ARL diversity includes different things, people, ideas, opinions, theologies and values. It includes the Christian values of Israel Folau. He should never be excluded if ‘diversity’ is one or ARL’s guiding principles – as you state it is.

To be consistent with ARU’s values, diversity means acceptance of Christian values, including Folau’s values, even though you might not like them. Would you allow him to make this personal post on Instragram without sacking him?

clip_image010

(Image courtesy WikiIslam)

2. Ms Castle: What is ‘inclusion’?

Dictionary definitions are:

(a) ‘The act of including someone or something as part of a group, list, etc., or a person or thing that is included (Cambridge Dictionary 2019. s.v. inclusion).

(b) ‘The idea that everyone should be able to use the same facilities, take part in the same activities, and enjoy the same experiences, including people who have a disability or other disadvantage (Cambridge Dictionary 2019. s.v. inclusion).

(c) ‘Inclusion is the act of making a person or thing part of a group or collection’ (Collins Dictionary 2019. s.v. inclusion).

(d) ‘The act of including or the state of being included’ (Collins Dictionary 2019. s.v. inclusion).

Therefore, …

3. To exclude Folau’s pro-Christian view is censorship and exclusion.

It flies in the face of promoting a diversity and inclusion of views in RA and ARU. It is time for Rugby Australia and the Australian Rugby League to accept and promote genuine diversity that includes Folau’s Christian values.

This has nothing to do with whether you like what he stated or whether you find it offensive. Folau paraphrased Scripture (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) with his Instagram post.

clip_image012

(Image courtesy The Roar)

This accurate meaning of diversity and inclusion includes athletes who speak their values into the public square, whether they are secular, atheistic, humanistic, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian or Tao.

To be truly diverse, these two codes of sport need to realise that their current positions practise censorship of a player’s Christian values – and it must stop because it goes against the meaning of diversity and inclusion. Christianity is included in inclusion and is part of the incorporation of diversity.

The Samoa News reported:

A former Australian rugby international says anyone who believes Israel Folau has a right to publicly express his views on sexuality has no place in the sport….

But the former Wallaby and now journalist Peter FitzSimons said if other players are offended by the sanctions handed down to Folau and support his views their time in the sport may also be up.

“The answer to those Pacific Islanders is two-fold. Number One: We love you blokes. You’re terrific, you’re wonderful people and you are great rugby players,” he told Morning Report.

“Number Two: If you’re deeply offended and you’re on Israel’s side on this and you feel so strongly you’re going to leave we’ll miss you but Rugby Australia and the Australian rugby community are not going to have people wearing the Wallaby jersey that put up public posts that say that gays are going to burn in hell.

“The gays have had centuries of vilification – we’re not doing that anymore….[2]

4. It is hypocrisy

In my view, what is currently named and practised by ARU and RA as diversity and inclusion is falsely named. It is factually against true diversity and amounts to uniformity with the politically correct views within the sport. Genuine inclusion means ‘the act of including someone or something as part of a group, list, etc., or a person or thing that is included’ (Cambridge Dictionary 2020. s.v. inclusion).

Margaret Court - Wikipedia(Image Margaret Court 1970, courtesy Wikipedia)

 Therefore, to exclude Israel Folau for religious reasons, is not inclusion, but exclusion.

What has been done to Margaret Court is hypocritical as it has opposed and excluded her because of her views on the Christian position on homosexuality.

When will these sporting bodies agree with the truth that what they do in excluding Folau and Court amounts to discrimination of these two sports’ champions.

5.  Christians not acceptable in Australian sport

See other examples of vilification against her Christian views for Margaret Court in my articles:

6. Conclusion

The appeal to reject the intolerance of Israel Folau and Margaret Court falls flat because the folks who want tolerance and inclusiveness in sport actually practise intolerance and exclusiveness.

They have redefined tolerance and inclusiveness to agree with their politically correct views.

(This image of professional rugby league player for Fiji, Australian teams, and English teams, Kevin Naiquama. Courtesy NT Times.)

He is unashamedly Christian with this crucifixion tattooed across his back. He has John 3:16 on his chest. The back tattoo took 40 hours to complete. These Christian symbols have not been a cause of opposition by the rugby league community – to my knowledge. Why?

‘From the bottom is The Last Supper going into Jerusalem City, then finishing up the top with Jesus Crucifixion’ (West Tigers Forum).

Sport Confidential: Kevin Naiqama spent 40 hours getting back ...7. Works consulted

Decent, T 2019. Rugby Australia set to sack Israel Folau for anti-gay social media post. The Sydney Morning Herald (online), 11 April. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/sport/rugby-union/rugby-australia-set-to-sack-israel-folau-for-anti-gay-social-media-post-20190411-p51dar.html (Accessed 14 June 2019).

Newman, B 2019. Israel Folau “considering options” after “landmark” decision to terminate his contract. Rugby.com.au International (online), 17 May. Available at: https://www.rugby.com.au/news/2019/05/17/folau-verdict-castle-hore (Accessed 14 June 2019).

Zemek, S 2019. ‘We are an inclusive game’: Chairman Peter Beattie slams the door on Israel Folau’s NRL plea. News.com.au (online), 5 June. Available at: https://www.news.com.au/sport/nrl/we-are-an-inclusive-game-chairman-peter-beattie-slams-the-door-on-israel-folaus-nrl-plea/news-story/047903812065e9d52b68baec328937b8 (Accessed 14 June 2019).

8.  Notes


[1] He is a non-Trinitarian, so promotes heresy. See my article: Israel Folau teaches false doctrine

[2] Samoa News 2019. Players who support Folau ‘have no place in Australian rugby’ (online), 5 August. Available at: https://www.samoanews.com/regional/players-who-support-folau-have-no-place-australian-rugby (Accessed 8 March 2020).

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 May 2020.

Wave Line Clipart

Responding as a Christian to opponents

Atheists Want a World Without Christianity. Here's How It Would ...

(Image courtesy ChristianWeek)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

As I was having my devotions today and was working through the Book of Proverbs, the Lord drew to my attention a portion from Proverbs 9. I’m working through Isaiah and Proverbs at this time of the year in my ‘Two-year Bible reading plan‘.

This is what caught my attention.

Should we answer a fool?

After only being online for 12 hours, my article on God, evil and the Coronavirus had attracted real hostility in some of the Comments. Many of the people who comment don’t deal with the content of my articles but dump their presuppositions on the reader and use a Red Herring Logical Fallacy.

This is where the folks don’t deal with my topic but attempt to redirect the conversation to a direction in which they are more comfortable to address. It is similar to the ‘Avoiding the Issue Fallacy’. However, the red herring is an intentional attempt to seek to abandon my argument in the article. Many posters also throw in an Ad Hominem Fallacy. This abuses me or the God I write about.

This message hit me like a ton of bricks. As I was having my devotions, the Lord drew to my attention a portion from Proverbs 9. I’m working through Isaiah and Proverbs at this time of the year in my Two-year Bible reading plan‘.

Should we answer a fool?

After my article had been uploaded to On Line Opinion on 30 April 2020, within 12 hours it had attracted real hostility in some of the Comments.

The relevant Scripture the Lord prompted me with was:

“Criticize a person who is rude and shows no respect, and you will only get insults. Correct the wicked, and you will only get hurt. 8 Don’t correct such people, or they will hate you. But correct those who are wise, and they will love you. 9 Teach the wise, and they will become wiser. Instruct those who live right, and they will gain more knowledge.

“10 Wisdom begins with fear and respect for the Lord. Knowledge of the Holy One leads to understanding. 11 Wisdom will help you live longer; she will add years to your life” (Prov 9:7-11 ERV),

I have wasted so much time on forums over the years trying to answer those who show no respect towards me and will insult my God. Here Wisdom (God) commands me not to correct the wicked, as that will lead to hatred of me. Instead correct the wise; they will love me, and gain more knowledge and wisdom.

Thank you Lord for teaching such a profound lesson after 50 years as a believer.

Some of you may not be familiar with the ERV, the Easy-to-Read Version of the Bible I have used. It originally was a translation for the deaf who were used to sign language.

Version Information

The Easy-to-Read Version (ERV) is an accurate translation of the Bible created by the translation team at Bible League International. New readers sometimes struggle with reading older standardized translations of Bible text because of their unfamiliarity with the Bible. The ERV uses simpler vocabulary and shorter sentences while maintaining the integrity of the original texts.

One of the basic ideas that guided the work was that good translation is good communication. In 2015, a major revision was completed in the English text. It uses broader vocabulary and it is revised to reflect new cultural perspectives. The ERV is now in the process of revision for the other language texts while continuing to stay true to the original Biblical texts. In this process of revision we are committed to keeping the text fresh and applicable to the global community of Bible readers.

The ERV uses the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (1984) as its Old Testament text with some readings from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Also, it follows the Septuagint when its readings are considered more accurate. For the New Testament, the ERV uses the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th revised edition, 1993) and Nestle-Aland Novum Testament Graece (27th edition, 1993).

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date:30 April 2020.

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Why I oppose use of the COVIDSafe app.

Warning sign Covid-19

By Spencer D Gear PhD

The Australian government has spent a lot of time and money on encouraging all Australians with a mobile phone to download COVIDSafe app.

The COVIDSafe app is part of our work to slow the spread of COVID-19. Having confidence we can find and contain outbreaks quickly will mean governments can ease restrictions while still keeping Australians safe.

The new COVIDSafe app is completely voluntary. Downloading the app is something you can do to protect you, your family and friends and save the lives of other Australians. The more Australians connect to the COVIDSafe app, the quicker we can find the virus….

Your information and privacy is (sic) strictly protected (COVIDSafe app, Dept. of Health).

My reading led to my being not so sure of the privacy and security of the app, so I sent the following information to my friends by email and on Facebook.

1. Questioning COVIDSafe

I emailed my son, Paul, on 27 April 2020 to get this advice on downloading the COVIDSafe app to my phone. He’s an IT professional.
His response was: “My expert opinion is that this app will create far more problems than it solves, and it was very irresponsible of the government to even attempt it.  Stay far away”.

My personal view is that COVIDSafe app is the kind of approach of a totalitarian Communist government and not that of a democracy. I won’t be downloading it.

2. Taken to task

One of my respected Christian friends with a PhD in his discipline responded to the ‘Questioning COVIDSafe’. He wrote:

We’ve actually taken the opposite position.

COVIDSafe app logo(Image courtesy Australian Government, Dept of Health)

I’ve seen that there are experts such as Paul who are against it and there are experts for it. They might be right. They might be wrong; I think it’s a risk worth taking.

Re the totalitarian approach:  Certainly, the Chinese government and other totalitarian regimes will use this new app (they already have their own version up and running in China) to exercise population control in the same way that they already do with the internet and all manner of gadgets. But this doesn’t mean that the app itself is evil. This is important. 

If you were to be consistent in not using systems, equipment or approaches taken by the totalitarian regimes, then you would not use the internet, security cameras to all manner of things. But you do use these things, and benefit from them. In the hands of properly-motivated people, these systems are OK. 

My view is that if there’s anything we can do to reduce the risk of the spread of this virus, then we should do it. We have four phones in our home … and all four of us have downloaded the app (email received 28 April 2020).

3. Consider this response.

It’s important because my friend engages in some erroneous reasoning in his reply. I sent this email to him (29 April 2020).

Thank you for sharing your perspective on the COVIDSafe app. From your line of reasoning, it appears to me that you have committed two logical fallacies:

  1. Cherry Picking. This is also called the fallacy of suppressed evidence: ‘When only select evidence is presented in order to persuade the audience to accept a position and evidence that would go against the position is withheld. The stronger the withheld evidence, the more fallacious the argument’. I’ll explain the suppressed evidence below.
  1. Red Herring Fallacy: ‘Attempting to redirect the argument to another issue to which the person doing the redirecting can better respond. While it is similar to the avoiding the issue fallacy, the red herring is a deliberate diversion of attention with the intention of trying to abandon the original argument’. I’ll discuss below.

3.1 Cherry Picking

In saying experts could be right or wrong, you provided no evidence to demonstrate your point. I was staggered by your comment, ‘It’s a risk worth taking’. You’re a bright and respected man who should not be entering into the gamble of using an app that some experts have many questions about.

Let’s check a couple examples:

Here are some links with information from experts who are recommending against it:

clip_image002Who can access our data? Does digital contact tracing even work? Five questions about the government’s new Coronavirus app.

This is from ABC Science, 20 April 2020. This article and a link in the article provide this information.

clip_image004 I don’t understand how over a million have downloaded the app while ‘the Government hasn’t yet released the app’s source code and new legislation governing its use has yet to be shared. But that hasn’t stopped researchers from digging into both the technical and legal implications of this unprecedented bit of software’.

clip_image005[4] ‘The Digital Transformation Agency did not respond to detailed questions about how it will work’.

clip_image005[4] ‘We also need to know if the data the app collects will be treated in a centralised or decentralised way, said Vanessa Teague, cryptographer and chief executive of Thinking Cybersecurity’.
‘In Dr Teague’s view [cryptographer and chief executive of Thinking Cybersecurity], this model raises problems of both reliability and privacy’.

How do you download the COVIDSafe app and will it drain your ... (Image courtesy abc.net.au/news)

clip_image005[4]‘Before rolling out technology built for a pandemic, we need to know if and when it would be “switched off”. Technology that records who we’ve been physically near, even if that information is encrypted, raises serious implications, and may be tempting to use in other contexts like terrorism cases. “This has to be absolutely limited,” said Kimberlee Weatherall, technology law professor at the University of Sydney. “It has to have sunsets, and some real-time limits”‘.

clip_image005[4]‘Will your employer force you to use the app?’

There are other reasons in this article recommending against downloading this app yet. I encourage you to read this ABC News Science article to gain a contrary view by other experts, instead of cherry picking some experts on your side.

Another link that expresses concerns about the app is:

clip_image002[1]Tracing the challenges of COVIDSafe (Why GitHub?)

The opposition includes:

clip_image007  ‘The Australian app instead downloads a new UniqueID only every two hours. It has no batch capacity, so if it cannot reconnect to the Internet within two hours it simply keeps using the same UniqueID. This has serious privacy implications that are not adequately addressed in the PIA [Private Impact Assessment]’.

clip_image007[1]  ‘This does not frankly describe the opportunity for the national data store to check, regularly, whether a particular individual has the app up and running’.

clip_image007[2]  ‘It greatly increases the opportunities for third-party tracking’.

clip_image007[3]  ‘Like TraceTogether, there are still serious privacy problems if we consider the central authority to be an adversary. That authority, whether Amazon, the Australian government or whoever accesses the server, can

  • recognise all your encryptedIDs if they are heard on Bluetooth devices as you go,
  • recognise them on your phone if it acquires it, and
  • learn your contacts if you test positive.

These are probably still the most serious privacy concerns for some COVIDSafe users. None of this has changed since TraceTogether.

Note: I have not included the experts who support COVIDSafe as my friend was aware of them. I’m not cherry picking by leaving those sources out, but sharing a perspective from the professionals that is opposed to his view.

3.2 Red Herring Fallacy

My friend stated:

Certainly, the Chinese government and other totalitarian regimes will use this new app (they already have their own version up and running in China) to exercise population control in the same way that they already do with the internet and all manner of gadgets.  But this doesn’t mean that the app itself is evil.  This is important.  If you were to be consistent in not using systems, equipment or approaches taken by the totalitarian regimes, then you would not use the internet, security cameras to all manner of things.  But you do use these things, and benefit from them.

When you bring into our conversation issues such as the app in China and it is not evil. Then you bring in an agenda of getting rid of the Internet and all manner of gadgets because the Chinese use them. It is a Red Herring because …

  • I opposed acceptance of COVIDSafe and gave my reasons.
  • Then you introduced another argument of how the Chinese government exercises population control and that would mean I should not use the internet and all manner of gadgets.
  • Then you abandoned my evidence for why I won’t support COVIDSafe.

It is fallacious reasoning and we won’t progress in discussions when you do this.

You say your view is: ‘If there’s anything we can do to reduce the risk of the spread of this virus, then we should do it’. That’s pragmatism as a world view, but without a careful analysis of the pros and cons of the app.

I shared your information with Paul and one point he made was: It is not ‘a neutral piece of technology like the Internet or security cameras or whatever.  It was created with the sole purpose of tracking people, and that makes it something that’s 1) more likely to be abused, and 2) easier to abuse’.

4. Breaches of data have happened before.

Could this happen with the COVIDSafe app?

A prominent university professor has quit after the health department pressured her university to stop her speaking out about the Medicare and PBS history of over 2.5 million Australians being re-identifiable online due to a government bungle.

In 2016, Vanessa Teague, a cryptographer from the University of Melbourne, and two of her colleagues reported on a dataset, published on an open government data website by the federal government, of 2.5 million Australians’ Medicare and PBS payment history dating back to 1984 that had supposedly been de-identified so people were anonymous.

Teague and her colleagues reported that the dataset had several samples where people were able to be identified breach (The Guardian Australia Edition, 8 March 2020).

5. Conclusion

There are too many ifs and buts about the privacy and security of this app. There are professionals in the field who consider it is safe enough. Others oppose this view and give their reasons.

Until better information is available to guarantee the security and privacy concerns of COVIDSafe, I will not recommend its downloading on any mobile phone.

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 April 2020.

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Why does the good God allow COVID-19?

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Published in On Line Opinion (30 April 2020)

Thoughtful people can have honest questions about God’s goodness because of COVID-19, the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, Cyclone Tracy (1974), the Nazi Holocaust during World War 2, and the September 11, 2001 disaster in the USA. So …

What makes him a good God?

Everything he does is ‘worthy of approval’. God is the final standard of goodness, holiness and righteousness. It is his very nature – as demonstrated through Scripture and the world around us.

Dr David Jeremiah explained:

God’s goodness conveys His generosity. His goodness means far more than His generosity, but it certainly includes His infinitely generous attitude toward us. By nature, He longs to bring joy and blessing to all His creatures.

The Bible repeatedly presents goodness as a core quality of our Lord.

clip_image002[4](Image courtesy Turning Point: Dr. David Jeremiah)

Jesus said ‘no one is good but God alone’. After he had created everything in the beginning he declared ‘it was very good’. We may find it hard to understand but the truth is that ‘The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made’.

Consider how this is worked out in a Covid situation. We are dependent on God for every breath we breathe. He made plants to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. Human beings mainly breathe in nitrogen and oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. So the God-given cycle continues with God maintaining it.

He created the universe in the beginning and provides light through the planets. The scientific discipline of astronomy has helped us gain a much better understanding of the enormous universe. He sustains the cosmos. Life and death are in his hands. Is this pandemic causing people to consider how short life can be and what lies beyond death? God patiently waits for people to come to him in remorse for their sins against him.

Adam and Eve fouled it up for the whole universe.

When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, he gave them the choice to eat from any tree in the garden except ‘the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die’.

They ate from that tree and death and sin entered the human race with disease like we are experiencing. There was increased pain in childbirth, cursing of the ground with thorns and thistles. Its origin is from our first parents who disobeyed God’s command.

What were the consequences of sin-disobedience entering the human race? Romans 8:19-21 explains that creation is waiting for God’s children to be revealed. Until then, creation is subject to God’s curse (including COVID-19, SARS, Ebola, rabies, the plague, and Black Death). ‘Glorious freedom from death and decay’ awaits God’s future kingdom.

Bill Gates, writing in The New England Journal of Medicine, considers ‘Covid-19 has started behaving a lot like the once-in-a-century pathogen we’ve been worried about. I hope it’s not that bad, but we should assume it will be until we know otherwise…. It can kill healthy adults in addition to elderly people with existing health problems…. Covid-19 is transmitted quite efficiently. The average infected person spreads the disease to two or three others — an exponential rate of increase’.

I disagree about the origin. The great harm to creation brought on by Adam and Eve’s sin resulted in the curse of disease for plant and human life. Yes, there may be transmission from animals to human beings but the origin is not with Mother Nature but with the first human beings.

Fadela Chaib, spokesperson for the World Health Organisation, told a news briefing in Geneva: ‘All available evidence suggests the (Covid) virus has an animal origin and is not manipulated or constructed in a lab or somewhere else’.

The media and Mother Nature

Who are the media blaming for the virus?

Common Dreams’ assessment (2 April 2020) had nothing to do with God: The coronavirus may not, in retrospect, prove to be the tipping point that upends human civilization as we know it, but it should serve as a warning that we will experience ever more such events in the future as the world heats up…. In so many ways like these, Mother Nature strikes back when her vital organs suffer harm’.

With the Ebola virus, it is known that villagers became infected when ‘a number who had carried, skinned, chopped or eaten a chimpanzee from the nearby forest.

Channel 9’s ’60 Minutes’ programme reported in March 2020: ‘“This is Mother Nature’s revenge”: Coronavirus expert calls for shut down of Asia’s wildlife markets…. The Coronavirus is believed to have originated at a wildlife market in China’s Wuhan city’ and ‘it is suspected that the virus crossed to humans from the pangolin’.

What is Mother Nature? It is a personification ‘used for referring to nature and natural forces’ (Macmillan Dictionary 2020. s.v. Mother Nature). This is how the meaning of Mother Nature is skewed, with an example from the Macmillan Dictionary: ‘We hope Mother Nature will save the crops by bringing rain’. This is an example of mistaken identity for God the Father who sends the rain (see Matthew 5:45). The invented Mother Nature has not a skerrick of power to create rain or send the sun.

The stupidity of human beings

It started with the defiance of the first human beings. We know God sends judgments on people and nations for disobedience to his commands. We’ve seen it through Noah’s flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. That’s not where it will end. God has set a day when all people will be judged by Jesus: ‘He will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead’.

‘Scientists from multiple countries have published and analysed genomes of the causative agent, SARS-CoV-2, and they overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife, as have so many other emerging pathogens’ (ABC News, Brisbane, Qld, 18 April 2020). Would this virus have originated without contact through ‘wet markets’?

WetmarketHK.jpgA wet market in Hong Kong

This folly is seen in how human beings transmit HIV/AIDS. It is spread through certain body fluids of an infected person. Mostly it is from sexual behaviours and sharing injection needles. However, it can also be proliferated through ‘blood, semen, pre-seminal fluids, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids and breast milk’.

Research by Deo et.al. (2009) confirmed the hypothesis that human beings who cleared the land of native vegetation had a ‘significant effect on climate extremes including the duration and severity of droughts in eastern Australia’. Could we call this an example of raping the land and experiencing the cost?

Don’t expect transparency from a Communist government.

At the beginning of January 2020, the mayor of Wuhan admitted there was a lack of action but when 100 cases had been confirmed by 23 January, ‘city-wide restrictions were enacted’. About that time a whistleblower, Dr Li Wenliang warned colleagues of a Sars-like virus. He was silenced by the authorities and later died of COVID-19.

The Lancet medical journal reported Dr Li’s message was ‘meant to be a private message, he encouraged them to protect themselves from infection. Days later, he was summoned to the Public Security Bureau in Wuhan and made to sign a statement in which he was accused of making false statements that disturbed the public order’.

Wuhan, sub-provincial city, China

File:Montage of wuhan(2017).jpgBBC News reported on 17 April 2020 that the ‘China outbreak city Wuhan raises death toll by 50%’. On 27 March 2020, Radio Free Asia estimates the death toll in Wuhan is much higher than 2,500. ‘The city’s seven crematoriums should have a capacity of around 2,000 bodies a day if they worked around the clock’.

This isn’t the first time the Communists misrepresented the facts. Remember the Tiananmen Square massacre in June 1989; the persecution of the Muslim Uighurs in western China, and Hong Kong’s core freedoms to continue after the British handing over of the colony in 1997?

China-based media support the deceit of the Chinese regarding the pandemic: (1) According to Chinese authorities, the death toll from COVID-19 in Wuhan (population 11 million) is a little over 2,500. (2) Those figures don’t add up as Caixin investigative journalism discovered ‘one native crematorium within the metropolis was working for 19 hours a day and in simply two days, 5,000 urns [for ashes of the dead] had been delivered to the institution’.

The principles of Marxist atheism are demonstrated in China. COVID-19 has exposed the lie at the heart of Communism. Eminent Soviet dissident and writer, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, put it bluntly in his Nobel Laureate lecture for literature. His Soviet experience demonstrated the root of Communist totalitarianism ‘is invariably intertwined with the lie…. Violence cannot conceal itself behind anything except lies, and lies have nothing to maintain them save violence. Anyone who has once proclaimed violence as his method must inexorably choose the lie as his principle’ (Nobel Lecture 1970)

Tragedy sent to shake our priorities

Before COVID-19, how long has it been since you considered the shortness of life and the possibility of dying? Has this loss of income and job caused you to re-evaluate how dependent you are on God’s mercy and compassion? When did you last thank him for the food in the fresh food market or the supermarket?

Over the last 12 months, Australia has been subjected to horrific drought. Where has been the call from Christian politicians and churches for the Lord to break the drought? He has answered our prayers in many areas but March rainfall was below average across the country. ‘Water storage levels in the northern Murray–Darling Basin remain low despite some inflows’. Drought continues in SE NSW.

Reasons why God allows suffering

Pope Francis spoke to God about the COVID-19 pandemic, saying it was not a time of God’s judgment ‘but of our judgment: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others’.

I’m not as confident as he about God’s justice allowing wickedness to continue worldwide without consequences when Scripture states, ‘God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness’. How can we as a nation live with clear consciences before God when we kill 80,000 unborn children a year, legalise euthanasia, brothels and same-sex marriage?

This is God’s recipe for Australian greatness: ‘Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people’. In Isaiah’s day, king Cyrus the Great, was anointed as leader of a non-Jewish nation by Isaiah who confirmed that the Lord forms the light, creates darkness, brings prosperity and creates disaster. ‘I the Lord do these things’ (Isaiah 45:7). So, we could be in the midst of a pandemic created by God to shake up our values to get us on track with the Lord of the universe.

Conclusion

Evidence provided above indicates evil began with Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden. The diseases among human beings, animal and plant life are related to the effects of disobedience.

No person or thing, no tsunami, September 11, or the Qld floods, can ruin the nature and actions of the sovereign will of God. They may cause people to doubt God but we need to get back to the fundamentals of God Himself. ‘I am God, and there is no other’. Will we scoff at Him, blame disasters on Mother Nature, or will we bow before Him who could be the one sending this debacle?

C S Lewis’s words from 70 years ago ring with a contemporary sound if we replace ‘atomic bomb’ with ‘COVID-19’, which I will do in some places. We think too much of COVID-19. How can we live in a pandemic age? We could have lived through it before with the London plague, the Viking raiders from Scandinavia, the age of cancer, STDs, strokes and paralysis, heart attacks, and terrorism.

‘You and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was discovered…. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty’.

If we are going to be destroyed by the atomic bomb and these other calamities, including COVID-19, we ought to be sensible people – praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about a pandemic. ‘They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds’ (Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays 1948).

For a case study on suffering, read the Book of Job in the Bible. I have gleaned these principles:

gold foward button  Job 1:8-12 (ERV) gives a powerful message that provides the meaning of suffering for Job:

8 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him. He is a good, faithful man. He respects God and refuses to do evil.”

9 Satan answered the Lord, “But Job has a good reason to respect you. 10 You always protect him, his family, and everything he has. You have blessed him and made him successful in everything he does. He is so wealthy that his herds and flocks are all over the country. 11 But if you were to destroy everything he has, I promise you that he would curse you to your face.”

12 The Lord said to Satan, “All right, do whatever you want with anything that he has, but don’t hurt Job himself.”

God used Satan to test a good man to determine if Job would continue to serve the Lord while experiencing horrific suffering. Will we go on living the Christian life in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis? Suffering is meant to test the tenacity of our faith in the Lord. For unbelievers, God can use suffering as a ‘rattling of the cage’ to get them to consider God’s call. It also confirms that in God’s world, bad things happen to good and godly people.

gold foward button

According to Job 1:21 (ERV), Job bowed before God and said: ‘“When I was born into this world, I was naked and had nothing. When I die and leave this world, I will be naked and have nothing. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of the Lord!” In other words, no matter what happened to Job (and he lost everything), the Lord God was sovereign and he accepted God’s actions in his life.

gold foward button  There are about 25 ‘why?’ questions in the Book of Job. Job wanted to know why God did this to him. No answer came from God, but Job continued to serve Him.

gold foward button  Job stood strong in the middle of this atrocity:

10 But God knows me.
He is testing me and will see that I am as pure as gold.

11 I have always lived the way God wants.
I have never stopped following him.
12 I always obey his commands.
I love the words from his mouth more than I love my food.

13 “But God never changes,
and who can stand against him?
He does anything he wants.
14
He will do to me what he planned,
and he has many other plans for me
(
Job 23:10-14 ERV).

gold foward button  Imagine you were in Job’s shoes: horrific loss and suffering beyond imagination and you got this message: ‘Then he said to humans, “To fear and respect the Lord is wisdom. To turn away from evil is understanding”’ (Job 28:28 ERV). So, COVID-19 suffering is the Lord’s wisdom that we need to respect. It is wise to turn away from evil to bring understanding. This is profound wisdom from the Lord, through Job’s ministry: Suffering sent by God has a purpose to make us wise and bring understanding. That’s a higher knowledge than the esteemed Cambridge Dictionary.

gold foward button  The human race doesn’t have all the answers about suffering. Job gives us a peep into God’s view. However, Job was so angry with what was happening to him that he cursed the day he was born:

I wish the day I was born would be lost forever.
I wish the night they said, ‘It’s a boy!’ had never happened.
4 I wish that day had remained dark.
I wish God above had forgotten that day
and not let any light shine on it (
Job 3:3-4 ERV)

Will COVID-19 cause more people to think about how quickly people have died across the world? Will they seek God and his revelation that happens after death? Is eternal salvation on their minds?

(image courtesy OCHA)

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 April 2020.