Archive for November, 2012

Genesis 6:2, The ‘sons of God’ and ‘the daughters of man’

Friday, November 30th, 2012

God Spoke

ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

Genesis 6:2 reads:

  • ‘the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose’ (NIV);
  • ‘the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose’ (ESV);
  • ‘The sons of God saw the beautiful women and took any they wanted as their wives’ (NLT);
  • ‘the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose’ (NRSV);
  • ‘the sons of God saw that the daughters of humankind were beautiful. Thus they took wives for themselves from any they chose’ (NET).

Who are ‘the sons of God’ and the ‘daughters of men’?

1. The sons of God

Let’s canvas a few commentaries. H. C. Leupold wrote:

But who are these “sons of God”? Without a shadow of doubt, the Sethites – the ones just described in chapter five as having in their midst men who walked with God, like Enoch (v. 22), men who looked to higher comfort in the midst of life’s miseries, like Lamech (v. 29), men who publicly worshipped God and confessed His name (4:26). Such men merit to be called the “sons of God” (benê ‘elohim), a title applied to true followers of God elsewhere in the Old Testament Scriptures (Leupold 1942:250).

John H. Sailhamer stated that ‘historically there have been primary interpretations of vv. 1-4’. These understandings of the meaning of the ‘sons of God’ are: (1) Angels, which is the oldest view; (2) Royalty, also very old, meaning ‘sons of lords’, sons of judges, kings; and (3) Pious men from the ‘line of Seth’. He rejects the ‘angels’ interpretation as it conflicts with Matthew 22:30 [‘For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven’ (ESV)]. ‘The commonly accepted view is that the “sons of God” refer to the godly, pious line of Seth’ [Calvin, Scofield Bible]. His preferred understanding is that it is a summary of chapter 5 and

there is little to arouse our suspicion that the events recounted are anything out of the ordinary. As a summary of the preceding chapter, this little narrative is a reminder that the sons and daughters of Adam had greatly increased in number, had married and had continued to have children. The impression it gives is that of an interlude, a calm before the storm. For a brief moment we see a picture of man in the midst of his everyday affairs: “marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away” (Matt 24:38-39) (Sailhamer 1990:76).

Harold Stigers is adamant: ‘The “sons of God” of v. 2 cannot be angels, not even fallen angels, for that matter, for their fall would not change their physical character or any other limitations that would prevent their marrying. The emphasis is one of contrast: the “sons of God” stand opposed to the “daughters of men”…. It is a contrast of the followers of God and the followers of the ways of sinful men. Out of the marriages of those opposing groups arose the final corruption’ (Stigers 1976:98)

Stigers’ assessment seems reasonable that the ‘sons of God’ represent the followers of God and Sailhamer’s understanding that it refers to everyday marrying of people that led to the Flood.

2. The daughters of men

Some understanding of this is in the above description. So, briefly, Stiger’s understanding of ‘daughters of men’ is a referral to ‘the followers of the ways of sinful men’ (Stiger 1976:98). For Sailhaimer, ‘this little narrative is a reminder that the sons and daughters of Adam had greatly increased in number, had married, and had continued to have children’ (Sailhamer 1990:76). I do not find this a very adequate explanation.

As for Leupold, ‘”daughters of men” refers indiscriminately to all “daughters of mankind,” which were unfortunately lumped together by the sons of God without regard to their classification, whether Sethite or Cainite. When God’s children lose sight of such basic distinctions and look about only for the pretty faces and the shapely forms, then, surely, degeneracy has set in’ (Leupold 1942:252).

3. Conclusion

While there are differences in understanding the meaning, there seems to be a thread of the godly intermarrying with the ungodly and this ultimately led to the pollution (degeneracy) of the human race that led to the destruction of Noah’s flood.

References

Leupold, H C 1942. Exposition of Genesis, vol 1 (chapters 1-19). London: Evangelical Press.

Sailhamer, J H 1990. Genesis, in The expositor’s Bible commentary, 1-284, F E. Gaebelein (gen ed). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Stigers, H G 1976. A commentary on Genesis. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 May 2017.

Is the Holy Spirit’s seal a guarantee of eternal security?

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Peace Dove

ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

It is not uncommon to read statements like this one about the Holy Spirit’s sealing redemption to guarantee eternal security.

What do you do with this scripture:
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
If you are seal when you get saved, telling me how in the world are you going to be unsaved?
Can you open the hand of God, who holds us and cause him to let you go?[1]

This was my response.[2] Quoting Ephesians 4:30 as you have done as a guarantee of eternal security is dangerous.[3] Here’s why:

In Romans 4:11 the same word for ‘sealed’ is used as in Eph 4:30. If this means an unbreakable and permanent seal of eternal security, then the same must apply to Rom. 4:11 – an unbreakable and permanent seal of circumcision.

But that cannot be the situation. What does Rom. 4:11 state?

He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well (Rom. 4:11 ESV).

We know from Scripture that the sealing of circumcision could be broken through unbelief (see Rom. 11:20-23 where circumcised Jews could be broken off through unbelief). See also Rom. 2:25-29.

So, sealing of circumcision, as in Rom. 4:11, depends on continued faith. As long as a person continues to believe that person is sealed.

Therefore, because a person is ‘sealed’ does not guarantee continued faithfulness. It does not guarantee an eternal destiny that is guaranteed, signed sealed and delivered and that such a person can never fall away.

We have the same kind of situation in John 10:27-28:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand (ESV).

I had a person say to me at church recently that he became convinced of eternal security by accepting what John 10:28 stated – nobody could pluck believers out of the Father’s hand.

However, what are the conditions for not being plucked/snatched out of the Father’s hand? The words that I have highlighted in vv 27-28 are all in the Greek present tense. So the meaning is continuous action as the Greek tense emphasises the KIND of action more than the time of action.

Therefore the meaning of those 4 words in bold is: ‘My sheep continue to hear my voice, and I continue to know them, and they continue to follow me. 28 I continue to give them eternal life….’

There is no guarantee of eternal security without continuing belief – continuing to hear, continuing to know, and continuing to follow. What is God’s guarantee for this continuing belief? God continues to give them eternal life.

That is the biblical teaching on eternal security. Perseverance of the saints is necessary for sealing to be guaranteed.

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Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘falling away’, SoulBap6#16, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7699897-2/#post61859654 (Accessed 29 November 2012).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#17.

[3] I received this exegetical insight from an article by Ben Henshaw 2012. Some further reflections on the nature of the sealing of the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 1:13 and 3:30 (online), 22 March. Society of Evangelical Arminians. Available at: http://evangelicalarminians.org/?q=Henshaw.Some-Further-Reflections-on-the-Nature-of-the-Sealing-of-the-Holy-Spirit-in-Eph-1.13-and-4.30 (Accessed 29 November 2012).

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

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Does atheism have a creed or a system of beliefs?

Monday, November 5th, 2012

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(image courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

I write as a convinced evangelical Christian believer who through reason and examination of the evidence has concluded that Jesus Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice has made salvation available to all people who will bow the knee to Jesus, repent of their sin, and receive Christ by faith as Lord and Saviour, and continue in that faith. Thus, hell is repudiated, heaven is gained, and there is eternal life for anyone who repents and trusts Christ alone for salvation.

This salvation starts now and continues after death. However, this is primary biblical teaching: Jesus said, ‘No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father’ (John 6:65 ESV). The initiative for salvation comes from God the Father. That’s core biblical teaching.

I find it intriguing to see the way that atheists make their way onto Christian forums and blogs to peddle their wares. One of them promotes his ideas on Christian Fellowship Forum. He made this statement: ‘Atheism is without creed, system, formula, and/or codification, without central authority. What’s to peddle? Thinking? Free thought?’ [1]

This is a demonstration that he does not know what he is talking about. He did not know atheism very well for him to make that kind of false statement. A quick search of the www found evidence that contradicts this poster. Richard Dawkins also has stated, ‘Atheists do not have faith’ (2006:74).
This is what I’ve discovered about atheists who have placed their beliefs in an atheist’s creed. It’s time for atheists such as nullopus000 and Richard Dawkins, to bring their knowledge of atheism up to speed. Here is one atheist’s creed – yes, a Creed!

However, the composer of this Atheist’s Creed, Mano Singham, made this qualification:

An important point of clarification is necessary. When the word ‘believe’ is used in the creed, it is in the scientific sense of the word. Scientists realize that almost all knowledge is tentative and that one knows very few things for certain. But based on credible evidence and logical reasoning, one can arrive at firm conclusions about, and hence ‘believe’, some things such as that the universe is billions of years old or that the force of gravity exists. It is in this sense that the word ‘believe’ is used in the creed below, as an implicit acknowledgment of our lack of absolute certainty.

This use is in stark contrast to the way that the word is used by religious people. They not only believe things for which there is little or no evidence or reason, but even in spite of evidence to the contrary, and defying reason.[2]

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Mano Singham, adjunct associate professor in physics, courtesy Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, USA.

The following exposition, to describe some of the weaknesses of this Creed, will show that this atheist’s view of ‘evidence or reason’ lacks a more comprehensive knowledge of the ‘evidence’ by restricting it to what ‘scientists realize’. However, there is one point on which I agree with this atheist, ‘almost all knowledge is tentative’. Historical knowledge is tentative because of the distance from the events and the limited amount of evidence from the sources. However, my understanding of the authority of the Christian Scriptures places it as superior to all human knowledge. However, we are still limited by the nature of the sources, lack of understanding of the original languages, and the human frailty in biblical interpretation (hermeneutics). I cannot guarantee 100% accuracy in my understanding. I also am a fallible human interpreter.

However, we need to remember what has been illustrated well by R. Laird Harris, in explaining the need to have authoritative original documents behind the copies, even though we currently do not have access to the originals (autographa). He wrote:

Reflection will show that the doctrine of verbal inspiration is worthwhile even though the originals have perished. An illustration may be helpful. Suppose we wish to measure the length of a certain pencil. With a tape measure we measure it as 6 1/2 inches. A more carefully made office ruler indicates 6 9/16 inches. Checking with an engineer’s scale, we find it to be slightly more than 6.58 inches. Careful measurement with a steel scale under laboratory conditions reveals it to be 6.577 inches. Not satisfied still, we send the pencil to Washington, where master gauges indicate a length of 6.5774 inches. The master gauges themselves are checked against the standard United States yard marked on platinum bar preserved in Washington. Now, suppose that we should read in the newspapers that a clever criminal had run off with the platinum bar and melted it down for the precious metal. As a matter of fact, this once happened to Britain’s standard yard! What difference would this make to us? Very little. None of us has ever seen the platinum bar. Many of us perhaps never realized it existed. Yet we blithely use tape measures, rulers, scales, and similar measuring devices. These approximate measures derive their value from their being dependent on more accurate gauges. But even the approximate has tremendous value—if it has had a true standard behind it (Harris 1969:88-89).

Now to the statement by one atheist of his creed to summarise his atheistic beliefs. Mano Singham is a male theoretical physicist who is a university teacher. See HERE. So I’m accurate in using the male pronouns in referring to him. This is an outline of his Creed:

An Atheist’s Creed[3]

1. I believe in a purely material universe that conforms to naturalistic laws and principles.

2. I believe that the life we have is the only one we will have, that the mind and consciousness are inseparable from the brain, that we cease to exist in any conscious form when we die, and that it is therefore incumbent on us to enable each person to live their one life to the fullest.

3. I believe in the power of science and reason and rationality to further deepen our understanding of everything around us and to eventually overcome superstition and erase the petty divisions sown by religion, race, ethnicity, and nationality.

4. I am in awe of the beauty, vastness, and complexity of nature and the universe, and the fact that all arose purely by the working of natural laws.

5. I believe in the power of ideals such as peace and justice and shared humanity to inspire us to create a free and just world.

6. I believe in kindness, love, and the human spirit and their ability to overcome challenges and adversity and to create a better world.

7. I believe in the necessity for credible and objective evidence to sustain any belief and thus deny, because of the absence of such evidence, the existence of each and every aspect of the supernatural.

8. I refuse to bow, prostrate myself, or otherwise cower before the deities of any religion.

9. I am neither tempted by the fiction of heaven or any other form of eternal life nor fearful of the fiction of hell.

10. I choose to live the dignified and exhilarating life of a free-thinker, able to go wherever knowledge and curiosity takes me, without fear of contradicting any dogma.

Here is another Atheist’s Creed on YouTube. On the Infidels website there is The Atheist’s Creed.

I urge atheists not to continue to peddle the ignorance of Christianity and atheism (i.e. atheist’s don’t have a creed) on Forums, including Christian forums.

However, in the midst of atheists who develop an atheist’s creed and state, ‘I believe’, leading atheist, Richard Dawkins, has the audacity to proclaim, ‘Atheists do not have faith’ (Dawkins 2006:74).

Answering an atheist’s creed[4]

Does the atheist’s creed really promote what he promises – being a free-thinker, pursuing knowledge where it leads, and not including contradictory dogma? Is the atheist’s creed self-defeating? How do I, as a Christian, answer each of these 10 points of the atheist’s creed? This will be only a brief assessment. It is a very limited response:

1. I believe in a purely material universe that conforms to naturalistic laws and principles.

This is an assumption, a presupposition, of the philosophy of naturalism. What is naturalism? Keith Augustine (2001) stated that

naturalism is the position that everything that exists within nature is itself natural and is solely influenced by natural causes. Naturalism, as I conceive it, thus allows the existence of both nature and realms that may exist outside of nature; it simply stipulates that any nonnatural realms which may exist cannot causally influence the natural world. Even the possibility of nonnatural causation is not ruled out so long as both the cause and effect reside in some nonnatural realm.

It is Keith Augustine’s view that Arthur C. Danto comes closest to his own view by clearly defining naturalism as meaning that ‘the entire knowable universe is composed of natural objects – that is, objects which come into and pass out of existence in consequence of the operation of “natural causes”‘ (Danto 1972:448).

John Blanchard rightly notes that ‘the naturalist pronounces the answer before he [or she] asks the question’ (Blanchard 2000:32). C. S. Lewis nailed the problem with naturalism when he stated: If naturalism were true then all thoughts whatever would be wholly the result of irrational causes. Therefore, all thoughts would be equally worthless. Therefore, naturalism is worthless. If it is true, then we can know no truths. It cuts its own throat’ (Lewis 1970:137)

Therefore, in the atheist’s creed, anything that is outside of ‘naturalistic laws and principles’ cannot be considered. Thus, it is impossible to assess all that happens in the universe on an inductive basis. The presupposition of naturalism means that the miracles of Jesus cannot be considered, including his bodily resurrection from the grave, because the cause and effect of Jesus’ resurrection must reside in the non-natural realm. However, the effect was in the natural world. So were the miracles of Jesus (e.g. turning water into wine, raising of the dead Lazarus). Do we discount this historical evidence from the New Testament because of a predisposition to only include answers from naturalism? This leads to presuppositional mutilation of textual evidence.

The conclusion is that ‘naturalism is not able to explain either itself or the universe on a purely naturalistic premise’ (Geisler 1999:522).

2. I believe that the life we have is the only one we will have, that the mind and consciousness are inseparable from the brain, that we cease to exist in any conscious form when we die, and that it is therefore incumbent on us to enable each person to live their one life to the fullest.

This is an outgrowth of the failed philosophy of naturalism. It has to explain phenomena from a naturalistic perspective, so any concept of the soul, spirit, mind and consciousness coming from a source outside of the natural universe is automatically dismissed as it doesn’t fit into a humanly-created framework. It cannot examine the evidence inductively and let the evidence speak for itself.

How would the atheist know that ‘we cease to exist in any conscious form when we die’? Has he been there to find out? Does he know somebody who has been through death and come back to confirm his or her belief? That’s a presupposition that excludes the evidence from the supernatural revelation in the Scriptures that state what happens after physical death: ‘Each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment’ (Hebrews 9:27 NLT). Paul, the apostle, could say with confidence as a Christian believer, ‘Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 5:8 NLT). This is the assurance we have from Jesus Christ himself, ‘For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds’ (Matthew 16:27 NLT). All people will be judged by Jesus Christ, so there must be continuing existence after death for this to happen.

What are the consequences of this atheist’s creedal statement that requires atheists to have the value that they want ‘to enable each person to live their own life to the fullest’? This is a form of ethical relativism. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy states:

Although there are many different kinds of relativism, they all have two features in common.

1) They all assert that one thing (e.g. moral values, beauty, knowledge, taste, or meaning) is relative to some particular framework or standpoint (e.g. the individual subject, a culture, an era, a language, or a conceptual scheme).

2) They all deny that any standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others (Westacott 2005).

So, if moral values are relative to a particular framework and an individual subject, this means that there are no ethical absolute values of right and wrong. There are no ethical boundaries suggested or stated here. So, if a person wants to live life to the full as a paedophile who rapes children, there cannot be any limits placed on such a person as that would be living life to the fullest as he/she understands it, and that would be suitable for that individual person.

The logical conclusion of a worldview that has libertarian relativistic ethics is that anything is possible – even the gravest violence and injustice. Jihad suicide bombers are given a free reign to do what they are doing by this atheist’s creed. That’s the logical conclusion of such a worldview and there are no moral restraints prohibited in such a view. So, relativism will lead to chaos in society. It has ‘failure’ written all over it. But it can be corrected, overhauled or dismantled by acceptance of an standard of ethical behaviour that never changes.

3. I believe in the power of science and reason and rationality to further deepen our understanding of everything around us and to eventually overcome superstition and erase the petty divisions sown by religion, race, ethnicity, and nationality.

I also believe in the power of science, reason and rationality to help to better understand my world and myself, but to talk about ‘superstition’ in relation to religion is imposing a worldview on the evidence. It is establishing an atheistic straw man logical fallacy so that the atheist can cut down supposedly superstitious religion.

The better approach would be to objectively define ‘superstition’ and see if that applies to some or all of religion. Dictionary.com defines ‘superstition’ as:

noun

1. a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge, in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, occurrence, proceeding, or the like.

2. a system or collection of such beliefs.

3. a custom or act based on such a belief.

4. irrational fear of what is unknown or mysterious, especially in connection with religion.

5. any blindly accepted belief or notion.

So is Christianity a belief ‘not based on reason or knowledge’? Is atheism practising a superstition because it might have an ‘irrational fear of what is unknown or mysterious, especially in connection with religion’? Is Christianity or atheism based on some ‘blindly accepted belief or notion’? Let’s examine this briefly:

a. Christianity, reason and knowledge.

This dimension of an atheist’s creed wants to contrast science, rationality and reason with the superstition of religion. Of course, Christianity is included in religion. What is the place of science and reason in Christianity? Are science and reason antithetical to the Christian faith?

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Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

Early scientists did not think that way. Sir Isaac Newton’s work comes to mind. He was a thoughtful Christian and phenomenal mathematician and scientist. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge University, in 1661 where his curriculum included Aristotelian philosophy (logic, rhetoric, and ethics). This enabled Newton to develop arguments to counteract anyone who disagreed with him. His courses included mathematics, Latin and Greek (Hummel 1991). Hummel’s assessment of this genius of the 17th and 18th centuries was that ‘Newton became one of the leading mathematicians and scientists in Europe. How did he do it? Among other abilities was the unusual gift of holding in his mind a mental problem for hours, days, and weeks until he had solved it’ (Hummel 1991). Isaac Newton’s ‘epoch-making work’ was

in three major areas: mathematics, optics, and celestial dynamics. Having invented the binomial theorem, Newton devised a method of calculation that later developed into calculus. He also discovered that white light contains the whole spectrum of colors, and he formulated the inverse square law for orbiting heavenly bodies.

In short, during this period Newton became one of the leading mathematicians and scientists in Europe. How did he do it? Among other abilities was the unusual gift of holding in his mind a mental problem for hours, days, and weeks until he had solved it (Hummel 1991).

In 1669, at the age of 26, Newton was appointed to the prestigious Lucasian chair of mathematics at Cambridge University, a professorship he held for 30 years.

He had a brilliant mind for mathematics and science, but he was also a committed Anglican Christian. Hummel (1991) wrote:

He spent more time on theology than on science; indeed, he wrote about 1.3 million words on biblical subjects. Yet this vast legacy lay hidden from public view for two centuries until the auction of his nonscientific writings in 1936.

Newton’s understanding of God came primarily from the Bible, which he studied for days and weeks at a time. He took special interest in miracles and prophecy.

Professor Arthur Anderson described Sir Isaac Newton as ‘the greatest scientist who has ever lived. It is, in fact, generally accepted that he is the greatest scientist who ever will live, since no one, no matter how brilliant, will ever again be in such a unique historical position’ (Anderson n d) .

“Yet Newton seldom made public pronouncements regarding his theology. He is remembered instead for his pioneering scientific achievements” (Hummel 1991)

Newton’s theology profoundly influenced his scientific method, which rejected pure speculation in favor of observations and experiments. His God was not merely a philosopher’s impersonal First Cause; he was the God in the Bible who freely creates and rules the world, who speaks and acts in history. The biblical doctrine of creation undergirded Newton’s science. Newton believed in a God of “actions [in nature and history], creating, preserving, and governing … all things according to his good will and pleasure” (Hummel 1991).

Alexander Pope’s eulogy to Newton was:

Nature, and Nature’s Laws, lay hid in Night.
God said, Let Newton be! and All was Light (in Hummel 1991).

How did a leading, atheistic scientist, Stephen Hawking, assess the science of Isaac Newton? Hawking,[5] a mathematical physicist, stated this when he was Lucasian professor at Cambridge,

Newton’s theory will never be outmoded. Designed to predict the motions of the heavenly bodies, it does its job with unbelievable accuracy … it remains in daily use to predict the orbits of moons and planets, comets and spacecraft.… Newton is a colossus without parallel in the history of science (in Hummel 1991).

Here is a further list of ‘famous scientists who believed in God‘. It is a foreign, Enlightenment philosophy that wants to label the Christian faith as ‘superstition’, as in this atheist’s creed.

b. God’s call for Christians to renew the mind

One of the third century’s church fathers, Origen (ca. AD 185-254), wrote that it is of

much more importance to give our assent to doctrines upon grounds of reason and wisdom than on that of faith merely, and that it was only in certain circumstances that the latter course was desired by Christianity (Origen n d).[6]

This quote led to Newsweek magazine’s assessment: ‘For the religious, the lesson is that those closest to Jesus accepted little blindly, and, in the words of Origen of Alexandria, an early church father, “It is far better to accept teachings with reason and wisdom than with mere faith”‘ (Meacham 2005).

The importance of the mind for the Christian faith is demonstrated by these emphases on the need to renew the mind:

blue-arrow-small Romans 12:2, ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will’ (NIV).

blue-arrow-small 1 Corinthians 2:16, ‘for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ (NIV).

blue-arrow-small 2 Corinthians 10:5, ‘We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’.

blue-arrow-small 1 Peter 1:13, ‘Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming’.

Reason and rationality are important dimensions of the Scripture’s exhortation for Christians to use their God-given reason:

arrow-small  Isaiah 1:18 states, ‘Come now, let us reason [or dispute] together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool’ (ESV).

arrow-small James 3:17 is clear that the Lord does not oppose the use of reason: ‘But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere’ (ESV).

arrow-small The ministry of apologetics requires a defense, ‘but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense [apologia] to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect’ (1 Peter 3:15 ESV).

A reasonable, rational defence of the faith is in the league of every Christian who explains the ‘reason for the hope’ that is in them. Christians are required to reason with people in providing a defence of the faith.

I recommend a careful examination of, “What is truth?” by Douglas Groothuis.

c. Atheism as a religious creed and its ‘irrational fear of what is unknown or mysterious’ about Christianity.

From the evidence above, atheism’s fear of the unknown or mysterious about Christianity can be linked to its a-theism. When people do not have an understanding of a fundamental of the Christian faith, they have massive holes in their worldview. This is so fundamental for a holistic view of life in this world, ‘I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible’ (The Nicene Creed).

This statement from the Creed is supported by these Scriptures: Gen. 1:1; Deut. 6:4; Isa 40:28; Rom. 1:20; Col. 1:15.

Devotional writer, A W Tozer, wrote that ‘what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…. The gravest question before the Church is always God Himself” (1961:1).[7]

Evangelical scholar, Don Carson, set out to show new ways people now use to try to gag God by silencing him, marginalising him or dismissing his revelation. Then he sought to demonstrate that ‘what God has disclosed of himself in Scripture does not permit us to pick and choose’, but it mandates that Scripture be interpreted within the constraints God has imposed, including ‘full recognition of the developing plot-line in Scripture, and of Scripture’s highly diverse literary genres’ (Carson 1996:189).

In Scripture, God gives us a clear understanding of why anyone, including an atheist, might have a fear about an aspect of the Christian Gospel. Romans 1:18 makes it clear:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness (NIV).

See also, ‘God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth’.

4. I am in awe of the beauty, vastness, and complexity of nature and the universe, and the fact that all arose purely by the working of natural laws.

This is a clear example of the blindness of a worldview. When one looks at the universe, its beauty and complexity, and sees it only through a naturalistic, atheistic worldview, that kind of statement is consistent.

But it fails to consider all of the evidence. This view is excluded from the atheist’s worldview:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth (Psalm 19:1-6 NIV).

The New Testament gives a similar message:

Since what may be known about God is plain to them [godless, wicked people, v. 18], because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse (Romans 1:19-20).

From God’s perspective, there is no such person as an atheist. All people, no matter how wicked or resistant to Christian perspectives, know of the existence of God, his power and nature. Perhaps that is why renowned atheist, Richard Dawkins, is now admitting that ‘”I can’t be sure God DOES NOT exist”: World’s most notorious atheist Richard Dawkins admits he is in fact agnostic’ (Daily Mail, 24 February 2012). The UK newspaper, The Daily Mail, reported:

Professor Richard Dawkins today dismissed his hard-earned reputation as a militant atheist – admitting that he is actually agnostic as he can’t prove God doesn’t exist.

The country’s foremost champion of the Darwinist evolution, who wrote The God Delusion, stunned audience members when he made the confession during a lively debate on the origins of the universe with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Professor Dawkins, the former Oxford Professor for the Public Understanding of Science, is a dedicated admirer of Charles Darwin, regarding the Victorian pioneer of evolution as the man who explained ‘everything we know about life’.

It is amazing that one of the leading and outspoken atheists in the world has now admitted he is an agnostic instead of an atheist because ‘he can’t prove God doesn’t exist’. That most assuredly is a compromise by Dawkins, but it is not honest with God’s view according to Scripture (see Psalm 19 and Romans 1:19-20 above).

5. I believe in the power of ideals such as peace and justice and shared humanity to inspire us to create a free and just world.

However, from where does the atheist draw his or her definitions and understandings of peace and justice? Why would the peace and justice of the Soviet Union under Stalin, China under Mao, Cuba under Castro, or North Korea under Kim Jong-il, be the aim to which we should aspire? And we haven’t included the slaughter under Cambodia’s Pol Pot and Uganda’s Idi Amin.

Peace, justice and freedom are then anyone’s decision. There needs to be an absolute standard by which to judge Australian (my home country) justice, peace and freedom, as well as the justice, peace and freedom of a North Korea, Iraq, Syria or the Sudan.

Anything-goes relativism may not be the choice of a given atheist, but he or she couldn’t stop the relativism chosen by Mao if each person is allowed to define peace, justice and freedom according to individual humanistic standards – even if those standards are according to the ‘best’ atheist in the world or the ‘best’ communist or capitalistic government.

All human beings need help in defining standards. This is where the Almighty God comes to the rescue – BIG TIME! What is God’s view of justice? How about God and peace? What is freedom according to God’s standard? A fundamental of the nature of God is that ‘I the LORD do not change’ (Malachi 3:6. See also Psalm 102:27; Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17).

The absolutely unchanging Lord God of the Almighty defines justice, peace and freedom this way:

God’s justice

Congregation Shema Yisrael has summarized this attribute of God beautifully in, ‘God’s attributes: The justice of God’:

What is right? How do we determine what is just? When the words “righteousness” or “justice” appear in the Bible, they are usually some form of the Hebrew word “tzedek.” The original root idea of tzedek conveyed the idea of being stiff or straight. In a religious context, tzedek means that which is morally straight, that which is as it should be. It embodies the idea of equity, fairness, and impartiality. Justice is the application of fairness to moral situations.

Justice, when applied to God, describes the way God is. God’s justice is not something external to Him. He is infinitely righteous within Himself. When God acts justly He is not doing so to conform to some outside criteria; some law or principle or standard outside Himself. He is simply acting like Himself in any given situation. God is His own self-existent principle of moral equity. God’s perfect law comes from within His own nature….

God’s justice is foundational to the way He governs the universe and everything in it. When the Torah declares that righteousness and justice is the foundation of His throne (Psalm 89:14), it means that the Lord is always fair in His dealings and always does what is right. The universe as we know it could not exist apart from this attribute of God. Our existence would be a moral nightmare that would be arbitrary and unfair.

In fact, the gods of the other nations were often described as being unfair, capricious and arbitrary. But the concept of the God of Israel held by the prophets of Israel is one of an all powerful Ruler and King, high and lifted up, reigning with complete fairness: The Lord abides forever, King David declared, He has established His throne for judgment, and He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgement for the peoples with equity (Psalm 98:9). Moses, at the end of his long life, with all his many dealings with God in a multitude of situations, could write: Ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He (Deut. 32:3-4). God is always just. He always acts uprightly. He always is perfectly fair. He always “shoots straight” for He cannot do otherwise. He must always do what is right, because that is His nature (emphasis in original).

God’s peace:

arrow-small Romans 15:32-33, ‘So that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed. The God of peace be with you all. Amen.

arrow-small Romans 16:20, ‘The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you’.

arrow-small 1 Thessalonians 5:23, ‘May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the  coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’.

So he is ‘the God of peace’ according to Scripture, but what does that mean? Is it anything like peace after war or the peace of peace-time in any country?

In Romans 15:33, the God of peace is

“the God who gives peace.” Paul refers in Romans to the peace of a new harmonious relationship with God (cf. 2:10; 5:1; 8:6) and to the peace that should characterize the relations of believers with one another (cf. 14:19)…. “Peace” like the Hebrew shalom, embraces the panoply of blessings God makes available to his people in the age of fulfillment (cf. also 1:7) (Moo 1996:911).

That is what God gives to people. However, what is God’s peace as an attribute of God? What is his permanent nature of peace? We get some idea of this from 1 Corinthians 14:33, ‘For God is not a God of disorder but of peace’. So the God of peace is in contrast with the God of ‘disorder’ (Gk. akatastasia). This latter Greek word means ‘disorder, confusion, unrest’ (Grudem 1994:202). After a thorough examination of texts in both Old Testament and New Testament regarding the nature of the attribute of the peace of God, Grudem provides this definition, based on Scripture:

God’s peace means that in God’s being and in his actions he is separate from all confusion and disorder, yet he is continually active in innumerable well-ordered, fully controlled, simultaneous actions’ (Grudem 1994:203, emphasis in original).

It is the purpose of the God of peace, the one whose actions do not bring confusion, to cause peace to reign within Christians and for them to be at peace with one another. One of the fruit of the Spirit is peace (Gal. 5:22-23). When God’s people are committed followers of the Lord God, this will be their experience: ‘For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ (Rom. 14:17).

Christians know that the God of peace, whose attributes never change, dwells in them by faith in Jesus Christ and what will be the outcome? ‘And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Phil. 4:7).

God’s freedom:

The freedom of the sovereign God could not be more beautifully expressed than in Psalm 115:3, ‘Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him’. However, this attribute of God cannot be separated from God’s justice (see above).

What happens to human beings who are redeemed and changed by this unchanging God? ‘So if the Son [Jesus Christ] sets you free, you will be free indeed’ (John 8:36). When one repents and turns to Jesus Christ for salvation, true freedom comes. It is nothing like the bondage of atheism. If you don’t believe me, check out the oppression under all Communist regimes. See what is happening in North Korea today. Atheism brings bondage as all Communist regimes have demonstrated.

See ‘The freedom of God and the free will of human beings’ (Ben Witherington).

The first verse of Shirley Erna Murray’s hymn, ‘God of freedom, God of justice’ (Oremus Hymnal), is pointed in its application here:

God of freedom, God of justice,
God whose love is strong as death,
God who saw the dark of prison,
God who knew the price of faith:
touch our world of sad oppression
with your Spirit’s healing breath.

God’s unchanging justice, peace and freedom are available to all who put their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. This is a radical contrast with the atheistic view of freedom in The Atheist’s Creed and those who have tried to practise atheism in their nations.

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Another statement of The Atheist’s Creed is:

6. I believe in kindness, love, and the human spirit and their ability to overcome challenges and adversity and to create a better world.

However, how does one put content into the meaning of kindness, love and human spirit, if one does not have a fixed standard from which to judge the meaning of these human attributes?

Here is this challenge to atheism and its values from a Jewish worldview, ‘A Plea to Atheists: Pedophilia is next on the Slippery Slope; Let us turn back before it’s too late’:

It is axiomatic that in the world of the atheist there is neither morality nor immorality, only amorality. This is often misunderstood to mean that atheists have no values. That conclusion would clearly be erroneous. To associate atheism with amorality is not to say that atheists have no values, they certainly do; amorality is a commentary, not on the existence of values, but on the significance of those values. Since in the atheistic worldview we are nothing more than upright walking primates, our value systems have no more significance than those of our jungle dwelling relatives. In the Darwinian view, the human is to the cockroach as the cockroach is to the paramecium. To imagine that we are something “more” is just that: a product of the human imagination.

It would be absurd then for the atheist to suggest that the pronouncements of any individual or society obligate others to behave accordingly. For the atheist, morality is simply a word that is used to describe the type of system that an individual or society subjectively prefers. Each society establishes, maintains, and modifies its values to suit its own needs.

Morality is the custom of one’s country and the current feeling of one’s peers. Cannibalism is moral in a cannibalistic country.” (Samuel Butler)[8]

Who is Samuel Butler? He was a British novelist (AD 1835-1902). However, his point is valid. If there is no absolute standard for values, they are decided by countries and individuals. This is one of the problems with the atheistic worldview. Its understanding of kindness, love and the human spirit comes from frail humanistic and fallible sources – from individuals, groups and cultures.

Love

It needs to be admitted up front that when kindness and love are defined from a Christian perspective, there are Christians who may not reach those high standards. But the fact is that the standards are based on God’s absolutes. We know what love is because God has shown us his nature in action.

What does he say about kindness and love? ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law’ (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV). So kindness and love are fruit that grow in a Christian’s life once they are born again and grow to be more like Jesus.

How do we define this kind of ‘love’? Please note that it is the very first of the fruit that Paul mentions and this is appropriate because this agape love comes from God himself as ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8). In 1 Corinthians 13:13 we learn that out of ‘faith, hope and love’, we know that ‘the greatest of these is love’. So when we love someone in God’s way, that love to the other is unmerited – not based on the qualities in the other person (see Romans 5:8) and is an unchanging kind of love (see Romans 8:35-39). James Montgomery Boice wrote that

it is this love that sent Christ to die for sinful men [meaning human beings] and that perseveres with men in spite of their wilfulness and love of sin. Now because the Spirit of Christ (who is characterized by love) is living within the Christian the believer is to show love both to other Christians and to the world. By this, men are to know that Christians are indeed Christ’s disciples (John 13:35) (Montgomery 1976:498).

Therefore, the unchanging standard for love for the Christian is not determined by culture or humanistic values but by God himself. God’s agape love that should shine through the Christian’s actions will demonstrate unmerited, unchanging, unconditional love for even the unlovely. Thank God for a standard of love that does not change.

Kindness

From Galatians 5:22, ‘kindness’ (the Greek chrestotes) is based on God’s ‘divine kindness out of which God acts toward men [human beings]. It is what the OT means when it declares that “God is good,” as it so frequently does. The Christian is to show kindness by behaving toward others as God has behaved toward him [or her]’ (Montgomery 1976:498].

In contrast to the fickle human standard of a sinful human being or a sinful culture as the atheist is determined to use, God has enabled the Christians to have an absolute, unchanging standard from God Himself by which to judge the content of a Christian’s actions of love and kindness towards individuals, groups, and society.

The human spirit

Mano Singham, in this articulation of his atheist’s creed, did not state what he meant by ‘the human spirit’. Another atheist website stated that ‘the human spirit encompasses many things including emotions, character, beliefs, convictions, and personality’.[9] Another example is from an atheist who stated, ‘I think that the idea of the “human spirit” can be a real one when taking it to mean the will, passion, and initiative for progression within a human or in a society. But this kind of spirit is internal, coming from nothing but humanity’.[10] In other words, our humanity – frail, fallible humanity – gives the definition of the meaning of the ‘human spirit’.

From God’s perspective, God’s absolute standards determine the content of the human spirit/soul. Most people I have met have some kind of sense that human beings are more than a fleshly body and that there is some kind of ‘immaterial part’ that continues to live after a person dies physically. This immaterial, internal part is sometimes called ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ in the Scriptures. With the creation of human beings in the beginning, we have this description of what happened when God made the first man: ‘Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7 NIV). ‘Living being’ is the Hebrew, nephesh, which means soul, the animate dimension in human beings that makes them alive. However, this animation of the soul of human beings is not of the order of the animation of animals. According to Gen. 2:7, the soul is that portion of the human spirit that is breathed into a human being. I join with H. C. Leupold in affirming that ‘nor can we for a moment hold that air or human breath was what God breathed into man’s nostrils. It was His own vital breath’ (Leupold 1942:116).

We know from Genesis 1:27 that this is associated with human beings (mankind) being made in the image of God: ‘So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them’.

We know from other Scripture that ‘soul’ (Hebrew nephesh, Greek psyche) and ‘spirit’ (Hebrew ruach, Greek pneuma) are interchangeable terms (cf John 12:27 and John 13:21; Luke 1:46-47; those who have died and gone to heaven or hell are called ‘spirits’ in Heb. 12:23, but ‘souls’ in Rev.6:9; 29:4). The soul/spirit is that dimension of human beings that survives death.

While there may be some challenges in interpreting the nature of human beings in the differences between dichotomy (body and soul) and trichotomy (body, soul and spirit), it is nothing like the challenge of the atheistic invention of the meaning of the human spirit. This is not some human invention that is subject to the whims and fancies of individuals, groups and cultures. It is defined by God himself and is thus an absolute standard. For an examination of dichotomy vs trichotomy, see Matt Slick, ‘Man’.

But what does it mean that human beings are made in the image of God? This is a basic definition, ‘The fact that man is in the image of God means that man is like God and represents God’. According to Genesis 1:26, ‘Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness’. The Hebrew word for ‘image’ is tselem and the Hebrew for ‘likeness’ is demut and they both ‘refer to something that is similar but not identical to the thing it represents or is an “image” of. The word image can also be used of something that respresents something else’. Therefore, Grudem’s exposition makes it clear that much of the discussion about a narrow meaning of ‘the image of God’ is unnecessary because ‘it simply could have meant to the original readers, “Let us make man to be like us and represent us’ (Grudem 1994:442; emphasis in original). While there may be discussion amongst theologians about the minute details of the meaning ofimage or likeness of God, there is no need for this as Grudem’s explanation is more than adequate.

Differences among theologians in their interpretation of Genesis 1-2 is nothing like the humanistic invention of the atheistic understanding of the ‘human spirit’. From God’s perspective there is an absolute standard from which to determine the meaning of ‘human spirit’.

7. I believe in the necessity for credible and objective evidence to sustain any belief and thus deny, because of the absence of such evidence, the existence of each and every aspect of the supernatural.

Of course the atheist would claim the ‘absence of alleged credible, objective evidence’ for the acceptance of belief in God and the rejection of the supernatural. However these are presuppositions made by atheists before they examine the evidence. In claiming there is no credible, objective evidence to support the existence of God, what evidence do they accept and what do they reject?

Alister McGrath is a former atheist. He has two doctorates from the University of Oxford, a DPhil in molecular biophysics and a DD in theology. He explains his move to consider Christianity:

I can still remember the turbulence that I found myself experiencing on making the intellectually painful (yet rewarding) transition from atheism to Christianity. Every part of my mental furniture had to be arranged. Dawkins is correct – unquestionably correct – when he demands that we should not base our lives on delusions. We all need to examine our beliefs – especially if we are naïve enough to think that we don’t have any in the first place. But who, I wonder, is really deluded about God? (McGrath & McGrath 2007:2)

In his refutation of Dawkins view of God, McGrath, in The Dawkins Delusion, explains his response when he read Dawkins’, The God Delusion:

When I read The God Delusion I was both saddened and troubled. How, I wondered, could such a gifted popularizer of the natural sciences, who once had such a passionate concern for the objective analysis of evidence, turn into such an aggressive anti-religious propagandist, with an apparent disregard for evidence that was not favourable to his case? Why were natural sciences being so abused in an attempt to advance atheist fundamentalism? I have no adequate explanation (McGrath & McGrath 2007:x-xi).

After the publication of McGrath’s 2004 book, DawkinsGod, he was invited to speak regularly on the themes from the book throughout the world in which he explained Dawkins’ views on religion and rebutted the views, point by point. Then he relates what happened at one of those events:

After one such lecture, I was confronted by a very angry young man. The lecture had not been particularly remarkable. I had simply demonstrated, by rigorous use of scientific, historical and philosophical arguments, that Dawkins’ intellectual case against God didn’t stand up to critical examination. But this man was angry – in fact, I would say he was furious. Why? Because, he told me, wagging his finger agitatedly at me, I had ‘destroyed his faith.’ His atheism rested on the authority of Richard Dawkins, and I had totally undermined his faith. He would have to go away and rethink everything. How dare I do such a thing! (McGrath & McGrath 2007:1-2; emphasis in original).

When one starts with presuppositions, (1) There is no God, and (2) There is no such thing as supernatural interventions by the supernatural God, it is only natural that one would come up with these points in the atheist’s creed: (a) There is no credible and objective evidence for the existence of God, and (b) There is no credible and objective evidence for the existence of the supernatural.

If you are seriously interested in examining the evidence, I recommend a read of this debate between William Lane Craig and Douglas M Jesseph, ‘Does God exist?

8. I refuse to bow, prostrate myself, or otherwise cower before the deities of any religion.

This is a self-refuting statement from Mano Singham who wants to put ‘religion’ into another category to atheism. His articulation of ‘an atheist’s creed’ automatically places him in the religious category of a set of beliefs that makes up a creed.

Is atheism a religion? This agnosticism/atheism website states that it is a myth to state that ‘atheism is just another religion’. David Lose asked in his article for the Huffington Post, ‘Has atheism become a religion?’ (26 May 2011) He provides four piece of evidence to show that atheism does have religious beliefs. In summary, he stated:

Taken together, these four elements suggest that Atheists regularly demonstrate attributes — desire for spiritual sustenance, the importance of self-identification, offering their worldview as an alternative to other religious systems, and an assertive if not competitive style of engagement with other religious points of view — usually exhibited by religious folk of all persuasions.

To which deities do atheists bow? David Lose provides this evidence:

While Atheism as a movement doesn’t have the formal structure, celebrations, or creedal dogmas[11] of organized religions, we might at least identify Atheism as it exists today as an increasingly vibrant faith tradition. Still, when speaking of Atheists, why use the f-word (for “faith,” silly) rather than speak of a worldview or personal philosophy? Three reasons suggest themselves.

1) It conveys that both a conventional religious worldview and atheistic worldview require a measure of faith. I don’t mean this simply about the rather limited question of whether God exists, but rather about whether the material, physical dimension of life immediately apparent to our senses is all there is. The question can’t be reduced, as Atheists regularly have, to observing that there are many beliefs – in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus as well as God – that can’t be proved and must be taken on faith, but rather to ask whether there is a dimension of existence that supersedes or eludes our physical senses. Ultimately, any speech about God implies such a dimension that conversation about the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus do not.

2) Religious faith – and I’d argue atheistic faith – doesn’t begin and end with the question of God or a spiritual dimension to life. One needs also to construct an interpretation of life (describing its purpose, goal, worth) and set of values by which to live that life. Ethics and values are not self-evident from religious creeds – witness, for instance, the distinct values of the varieties of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam that run the gamut from liberal to fundamentalist. Similarly, there is no self-evident value system shared by Atheists and projecting such a system requires imagination, critical reflection and, yes, faith.

Third, characterizing both organized religion and emergent Atheism as distinct faith traditions invites a measure of mutual regard and even respect that is sorely lacking in present discourse. Professing belief in God, as well as rejecting such belief, each requires equal measures of imagination and nerve. As it turns out, doubt is not the opposite of faith; certainty is. For this reason, we can hold out the hope that religious and non-religious believers alike may recognize in each other similar acts of courage and together reject the cowardice of fundamentalism, whether religious or secular. Being able to disagree respectfully is a small but significant step that believers and non-believers could take as they, together, contemplate admiring, understanding, and preserving this wondrous world we share (David Lose 2011).

So, atheists do have faith in ‘deities’ of their own making. The do place their faith into a humanistic, relativistic value system that provides for them a reason for the ultimate atheistic position. Now, they won’t like the association with a ‘deity’ but I’m using deity in the sense of an ultimate value. One of the definitions in Australia’s Macquarie Dictionary for deity is ‘the estate or rank of a god’ (The Macquarie Dictionary 1997:570).

In the Sociology Guide (2011) on ‘means values, ends values, and ultimate values’, it stated that

Values tend to be hierarchically arranged. This may be shown through use of the concepts of means values and ends values. As the words themselves imply, means values are instrumental values in that they are sought as part of the effort to achieve other values. Ends values are both more general and more important in the eyes of the groups who are doing the valuing…. Regardless of which way the question is answered, it is obvious that one is about to arrive at an ultimate value that can no longer be justified in terms of other values.

So, whether we call the ultimate, ‘ultimate values’ or a ‘deity’, all people cower before some ultimate that cannot be justified in terms of other values. In my discussions with atheists, I have not met any who have been able to live consistently with their value system. They claim there is no God, no life-after-death, and they are responsible to no deity, but they still want meaning in life – they want a purpose for living. A naturalistic worldview will not give that ultimate purpose.

Do you remember the nihilist (some would say atheistic), German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche (AD 1844-1900)?[12] He related the story of a madman who in the early hours of the morning burst into the marketplace with his lantern and cried out, ‘I seek God! I seek God!’. Because many of those present were atheists, the madman got lots of laughter. The crowd taunted him, ‘Did God get lost? Or is he hiding? Or maybe he has gone on a voyage or emigrated!’ There was much yelling and laughing. Then Nietzsche wrote that the madman turned on them and with piercing eyes said:

‘Whither is God?’ he cried, ‘I shall tell you. We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night and more night coming on all the while? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? . . . God is dead. . . . And we have killed him. How shall we, the murderers of all murderers, comfort ourselves? (Nietzsche 1954:95).

Nietzsche was instrumental in some of the ideology of ‘the death of God’ movement. However, he was asking, through the madman, how those who have killed God could comfort themselves (with meaning?) without God. So even the killers of God couldn’t get away without seeking comfort – in Nietzsche’s view.

Atheists may run from any association with a deity, but they still have to find some comfort for themselves when things go wrong. From where do they get their ultimate meaning?

Ken Samples has made this succinct observation:

Naturalism as a worldview seems unable to offer the kind of meaning, purpose, and hope that humans require and yearn to experience. Instead, the ultimate fate of the individual, humanity, and even the universe will inevitably be the same regardless of what any person may do. Nothing that anyone thinks, says, or does will change the fact that each individual person, all of humankind collectively, and the universe itself (due to entropy) will someday be utterly extinct, lifeless, and cold. The outcome of naturalism is an inevitable hopelessness (Samples 2007:217).

There is no cowering before the deity of a religion for this Atheist’s Creed, but where does the atheist go for ultimate meaning? Puny human beings with their limited understanding and resources?

9. I am neither tempted by the fiction of heaven or any other form of eternal life nor fearful of the fiction of hell.

This could also be interpreted as: ‘I am neither tempted by the desire to examine the evidence, wherever it leads. The historical evidence does not interest me as I’ve already made up my mind about heaven, hell and eternal life. I have a presuppositional bias against such stuff so evidence is no interest to me’.

It is amazing the conclusions people will reach when their starting point is really their conclusion. If atheists were honest about the evidence, they would follow it wherever it leads –including the historical sources of the Christian Scriptures and the evidence for heaven, hell and eternal life.

Take a listen to some evidence from: Near-death experiences;

On the ‘Arguments for Atheism’ page it is stated that ‘The Argument from Lack of Empirical Evidence argues that there has not been any reliable, testable evidence to support the hypothesis that God exists despite many attempts, and it is therefore not rational to believe that there is a God. If God interacts with our universe in any meaningful way, then the effects of his interaction must be detectable and measurable, but no such interactions have been reliably demonstrated’. It goes on …

The scientific method was developed centuries ago to prevent the assertion of unproven or unprovable theories: first a hypothesis is formulated as an explanation of a particular phenomenon, based on observation or experimentation, and then that hypothesis must be tested repeatedly to provide firm evidence for its truth (sometimes requiring in the process the refinement of the original hypothesis) before it can be accepted as true. Unless repeatable empirical evidence can be presented for a claim such as “God exists”, it remains an unproven hypothesis in which belief is unwarranted.

If the only way to gather evidence was through hypotheses that are formulated and there were observations with repeated experimentation, there is no way that anything in history would be known. We would not know of the evidence for Aristotle, Plato, Jesus Christ, Augustine of Hippo, the founding of the nations in Africa, Asia and South America; the history of the founding of Great Britain, The Pilgrim Fathers leaving England in 1620 on the ship, the Mayflower, for the new world in 1620; Captain Cook visiting Australia in 1770, The Fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, the evidence for World Wars 1 and 2 in the twentieth century. We could go on and on. The atheist worldview is very short-sighted when it comes to the examination of evidence.

It is especially myopic when it comes to an examination of the evidence in the special revelation of the Old Testament and the New Testament.

There is evidence from the mouth of Jesus for an afterlife, but the scientific method promoted by this atheist would not find it because his or her methodology is contorted. It is not designed to provide a method that enables anyone to sift all of the available evidence.

Yes, it is able to discern if warfarin is a useful drug for the treatment of my artificial heart valve condition and if a treatment for the Hendra horse virus can be found. It is used for all kinds of repeatable experimentations in the scientific laboratory in the present time. But from this understanding of the scientific method, an unknown person would not be able to determine the first primary and secondary schools I attended. But when it comes to examining historical evidence, this Atheist’s Creed uses a straw man logical fallacy.

Let us be very clear about the evidence for heaven, hell and eternal life. The scientific method of the laboratory is not suitable for examining this historical evidence from Jesus Christ and other biblical writers.

Often when I engage with atheists and other antagonists to the Gospel message, including the subject of heaven, hell and eternal life, they have had tendencies to change the topic. This is known as the red herring logical fallacy.

10. I choose to live the dignified and exhilarating life of a free-thinker, able to go wherever knowledge and curiosity takes me, without fear of contradicting any dogma.

Antony Flew, a celebrated atheist, also was living the celebrated life of a free-thinker who pursued knowledge wherever it took him. Have a guess what? Throughout his life he was an outspoken atheist, but when he examined the evidence carefully, he had to give up his atheism. I have summarised Flew’s arguments in, ‘Some of Antony Flew’s arguments for an uncaused God rather than an uncaused universe’. Read about it in Antony Flew (with Roy Abraham Varghese), There is a God: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind (2007. New York: HarperOne).

Alister McGrath was an atheistic scientist, but when he pursued the evidence, he left atheism for a relationship with Jesus Christ and became a committed evangelical Christian. See a discussion of McGrath’s new-found faith in A passion for truth: The intellectual coherence of evangelicalism (McGrath 1996).

Conclusion

The Atheist’s Creed is too flimsy for belief. It has holes in it that are so big that one could drive a logical and evidential ‘truck’ through them. I hope that this short expose, with its many limitations and time constraints in writing, will provide some evidence to reconsider the atheistic worldview as not matching reality.

References

Anderson, A B n d. Sir Isaac Newton and the Bible. Reformation. Available at: http://www.reformation.org/newton.html (Accessed 10 January 2012).

Augustine, K 2001. A defense of naturalism (MA thesis submitted to the Graduate School of the University of Maryland, College Park). The Secular Web, available at: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/keith_augustine/thesis.html (Accessed 9 January 2011).

Blanchard, J 2000. Does God believe in atheists? Darlington, England/Auburn MA, USA: Evangelical Press.

Boise, J M 1976. Galatians, in F E Gaebelein (gen ed), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol 10, 407-508. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Carson, D A 1996. The gagging of God: Christianity confronts pluralism. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Danto, A C 1972. Naturalism, in Edwards, P (ed), The encyclopedia of Philosophy, vol 5. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 448-450.

Dawkins, R 2006. The God delusion. London: Black Swan.

Geisler, N L 1999. Naturalism, in Geisler, N L, Baker encyclopedia of Christian apologetics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 521-522.

Grudem, W 1994. Systematic theology: An introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press / Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Harris, R. L. 1957, 1969. Inspiration and canonicity of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Hummel, C E 1991. The faith behind the famous: Isaac Newton. Christian History, April 1. Available at: http://www.ctlibrary.com/ch/1991/issue30/3038.html (Accessed 10 January 2012).

Lewis, C S 1970. God in the dock: Essays on theology and ethics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

McGrath, A E 1996. A passion for truth: The intellectual coherence of evangelicalism. Leicester, England: Apollos (Inter-Varsity Press).

McGrath, A 2004. Dawkins’ God: Genes, memes and the meaning of life. Oxford: Blackwell.

McGrath, A with McGrath, J C 2007. The Dawkins delusion: Atheistic fundamentalism and the denial of the divine. London: SPCK.

Meacham, J 2005, From Jesus to Christ’, Newsweek (in The Bulletin), March 29, pp. 40-48, p. 44. Available at The Daily Beast, http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2005/03/27/from-jesus-to-christ.html (Accessed 10 January 2012).

Moo, D 1996. The epistle to the Romans (The New International Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Friedrich Nietzsche 1954, from The Gay Science, W Kaufmann, W, The Portable Nietzsche, 93-102. New York, New York: Penguin Books.

Origen n d, Contra Celsus, I.13. Available from New Advent at: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/04161.htm (Accessed 10 April 2005).

Peake, A 2011. Stephen Hawking: Heaven is a fairy story. The Sun [UK], 17 May. Available at: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3583956/Stephen-Hawking-on-death.html (Accessed 10 January 2012).

Samples, K R 2007. A world of difference: Putting Christian truth-claims to the worldview test. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

The Macquarie dictionary 3rd ed 1997. Delbridge, A; Bernard, J R L; Blair, D; Butler, S; Peters, P & Yallop, C (eds). Sydney, NSW: The Macquarie Library, Macquarie University, Australia.

Tozer, A W 1961. The knowledge of the holy (online). San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers. Available at: http://www.ntcg-aylesbury.org.uk/books/knowledge_of_the_holy.pdf (Accessed 12 April 2012).

Westacott, E 2005. Relativism, in Internet encyclopedia of philosophy. Available at: http://www.iep.utm.edu/relativi/ (Accessed 9 January 2011).

Notes:


[1] Christian Fellowship Forum, Contentious Brethren, ‘Atheist Christopher Hitchens dies of cancer’, nullopus000 #22, available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=17&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=120930 (Accessed 18 December 2011). I’m OzSpen and I commenced this topic. My comments follow under that name.

[2] Mano Singham 2005. An Atheist’s Creed’. Machines Like Us, available at: http://machineslikeus.com/news/an-atheists-creed (Accessed 9 January 2011; emphasis in original). I have numbered the points in the creed. The numbering is my own.

[3] Ibid.

[4] This critique is of an atheist’s creed by Mano Singham op cit.

[5] Hawking claimed that heaven was a ‘ fairy story for people afraid of the dark (Peake 2011).

[6] Origen n.d., ‘Contra Celsus’, I.13, available from New Advent at: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/04161.htm (10 April 2005).

[7] In the hard copy of this publication, the quotes are on p. 1 but with this online edition they are on p. 4.

[8] Samuel Butler 1912. The Note-Books of Samuel Butler. The Gutenberg Project, transcribed from the 1912 edition. Available at: http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext04/nbsb10h.htm (Accessed 3 November 2012).

[9] ‘Atheist spirituality’, available at: http://www.squidoo.com/Atheist_Spirituality (Accessed 3 November 2012).

[10] Maritova, ‘Atheists: What does “human spirit” mean to you? Yahoo! Answers, available at: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080522170205AACtj7j (Accessed 3 November 2012).

[11] Here I have provided contrary evidence that some atheists promote their own ‘Atheist’s Creed’.

[12] I was alerted to this information from Nietzsche by William Lane Craig in ‘The absurdity of life without God’, Reasonable Faith, available at: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-absurdity-of-life-without-god (Accessed 4 November 2012).

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 7 July 2016.

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Do evil doers experience eternal destruction or annihilation at death?

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

Bad Computer

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

In understanding the Old Testament, when compared with the New Testament, there is a fundamental principle of biblical interpretation that must be remembered. I learned it in Bible College in the 1970s and in Seminary in the 1980s. This is the principle of progressive revelation.

1. The principle of progressive revelation

What does it mean? Norman Geisler explained:

According to the doctrine of progressive revelation, God does not reveal all His truth at once, but only part at a time, progressively, over a period of time. For example, God did not reveal explicitly from the very beginning the doctrine of the Trinity: he first revealed that He was one (cf. Deut. 6:4) and then later that there are three persons in this one God (cf. Matt. 28:18-20. The same is true about God’s plan of salvation; it was unveiled only a piece at a time from the beginning (from Gen. 3:15 to John 3:16)….

Revealing only part of the truth is not necessarily a lie. At no time in this progressive revelation did God affirm what was false. All that He said was true, but He did not say all from the very beginning. He told the whole truth about part of what He wanted to reveal, but He never revealed the whole of what He wanted to say at once (Geisler 2003:366).

In the very first book I ever used on biblical interpretation in Bible College, Bernard Ramm wrote of progressive revelation:

By progressive revelation we mean that the Bible sets forth a movement of God, with the initiative coming from God and not man, in which God brings man up through the theological infancy of the Old Testament to the maturity of the New Testament. This does not mean that there are no mature ideas in the Old Testament nor simple elements in the New Testament. Progressive revelation is the general pattern of revelation (Ramm 1970:102).[1]

So when it comes to understanding life after death, God does not reveal all his truth on this topic in the Old Testament. More details were given progressively over a period of time but a fuller blossoming in the New Testament. We will see this as we examine….

2. Psalm 92:7 and eternal destruction

Let’s see how the Hebrew of Psalm 92:7 should be translated at the end of the verse. Psalm 92:6-7 in the King James Version[2] reads:

A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this.

7 When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever:

The American Standard Version of Psalm 92:6-7 reads:

A brutish man knoweth not; Neither doth a fool understand this:

7 When the wicked spring as the grass, And when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; It is that they shall be destroyed for ever.

This is how one person on Christian Forums reacted to this verse as translated in the King James Version and American Standard Version:

YUCK!
The nice thing about the translations other than KJV and ASV, though, is that they are actually written in English as we read it and understand it. The word “brutish,” for example, in the KJV/ASV is simply grotesque. And words like “knoweth” or “do flourish” are abysmal. And what does it possibly mean to be destroyed “forever”? Are we talking cycles of destruction or continual destruction or what? It could mean that the destruction is so final that such people will never see the light of day again. The phrase is not only unclear, but almost comical since it seems to imply that what is “destroyed,” is not quite destroyed yet. There must be a better way of understanding the temporal markers than “destroyed forever” (whatever that means). Rather, I think, the temporal markers are an answer to the problem at hand….

So here is how I translate it:
The incompetent one does not know,
the fool does not comprehend this:
when the wicked sprout like weeds
and all troublemakers flourish,
[it is] only until their extermination [Psalm 92:6-7].[3]

Here are examples from a few other translations:

3. Various translations

These are some translations of the last Hebrew word in verse 7, with the translated word in bold:
The ESV of Psalm 92:6-7 reads:

The stupid man cannot know;
the fool cannot understand this:
7 that though the wicked sprout like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction forever;

The NIV of Psalm 92:6-7:

Senseless people do not know,
fools do not understand,
7 that though the wicked spring up like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they will be destroyed forever.

The NLT of Psalm 92:6-7:

Only a simpleton would not know,
and only a fool would not understand this:
7 Though the wicked sprout like weeds
and evildoers flourish,
they will be destroyed forever.

The NRSV of Psalm 92:6-7:

The dullard cannot know,
the stupid cannot understand this:
7 though the wicked sprout like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction for ever,

The New American Bible of Psalm 92:7-8:

A senseless person cannot know this; a fool cannot comprehend.

8 Though the wicked flourish like grass and all sinners thrive, They are destined for eternal destruction;

The New Jerusalem Bible of Psalm 92:7-8:

A senseless person cannot know this; a fool cannot comprehend

8Though the wicked flourish like grass and all sinners thrive, They are destined for eternal destruction;

The New Jerusalem Bible of Psalm 92:6-7:

Stupid people cannot realise this, fools do not grasp it.

7 The wicked may sprout like weeds, and every evil-doer flourish, but only to be eternally destroyed;

NET Bible of Psalm 92:6-7

The spiritually insensitive do not recognize this; the fool does not understand this.
7 When the wicked sprout up like grass,
and all the evildoers glisten,
it is so that they may be annihilated.

I asked Paul, my son, who is a Hebrew exegete, for his view on the meaning of the last word in Psalm 92:7, shamad. I asked:

I have a question about how some of the Bible translations have translated the last word(s) of Psalm 92:7. I’ve highlighted in bold. Most of them have an equivalent of “destruction forever” or “eternal destruction” but the NET Bible translates it as “annihilated”. Would you be able to do some Hebrew exegesis to help me to understand which of these is the correct translation?
I have not been able to get any help from my Old Testament commentaries by Plummer. Leupold, and Keil & Delitzsch.

This was his response:

The answer is probably both.  Hebrew is an approximate language.  If you have a look through your tools, the word is Strong’s number 8045.  http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=H8045 shows the range of meaning is quite wide, and possibly includes annihilation.  Not only that, to be “destroyed for ever” might have the implication of “destroyed completely”, as in “destroyed for good” or “destroyed for all time”.

4. Various words used by the King James Version for ‘hell’

4.1 Three Words as “Hell”[4]

In the New Testament, the KJV translators used the word “hell” somewhat generically to represent three different Greek words. The Greek words are (1) gehenna, (2) hades and (3) tartarus. Gehenna is found 12 times in the New Testament (Matthew 5:22,29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15,33; Mark 9:43,45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6). Hades is found 11 times (Matthew 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13,14) and tartarus 1 time (2 Peter 2:4).

4.1.1 Gehenna, Hell Proper[5]

Gehenna had its origin in association with the valley of Hinnom, actually meaning this. In the Old Testament times, when Israel went into idolatry, human sacrifices took place in this valley next to Jerusalem in the worship of Molech as they would “burn their sons and daughters in the fire” (2 Kings 23:10; 2 Chronicles 28:3; Jeremiah 7:31). The valley was looked upon as being polluted and unclean, and in New Testament times was used somewhat as a city dump with continual burning, we understand. It was with that backdrop the term gehenna was adopted and applied to the place of eternal punishment. Such is its coinage and use. This is hell in what the modern usage of the term “hell” conveys.

4.1.2 Sheol, the Old Testament place for the righteous and unrighteous at death

The following examples of the use of Sheol, where people went at death, in the OT use figurative language to explain the conditions there. These include:

1. Sheol has “gates” to enter and “bars” to keep one in (e.g. Job 17:16; Isa. 38:10). Thus, by use of this figurative language, Sheol is described as a realm from which there is no way to escape.

2. Sheol is described as a shadowy place, a place of darkness (Job 10:21-22; Ps 143:3).

3. Sheol is regarded as being “down”, “beneath the earth”, in “the lower parts of the earth” (Job 11:8; Isa 44:23; 57:9; Ezek 26:20; Amos 9:2). These figures of speech are designed to tell us that Sheol has another existence – it is not part of this world that we live in. But there is another existence that has a different dimension. It is not sending the dead into non-existence or to be annihilated.

4. It is a place for reunion with ancestors, tribe or people (e.g. Gen 15:15; 25:8; 35:29; 37:35; 49:33; Num 20:24, 28; 31:2; Deut 32:50; 34:5; 2 Sam 12:23). Sheol is the place where all human beings go at death. Jacob looked forward to his reuniting with Joseph in Sheol. These OT references confirm that death meant separation from the living, but reunion with the departed.

5. There are indications that there could be different sections in Sheol with language such as “the lowest part” and “the highest part” (Deut 32:22).

6. What are the conditions for a person who goes to Sheol? At death a person becomes a rephaim, i.e. a ghost, shade, disembodied spirit, according to the Hebrew lexicons and dictionaries of the OT (see Job 26:5; Ps 88:10; Prov 2:18; 9:18; 21:16; Isa 14:9; 26:14, 19). Instead of saying that human beings pass into non-existence at death, the OT states that a person becomes a disembodied spirit. Keil & Delitzsch in their OT commentary define rephaim as “those who are bodiless in the state after death” (Keil & Delitzsch n d:52).

7. Those in Sheol converse with each other and can even make moral judgments on the lifestyle of those who arrive (Isa 14:9-20; 44:23; Ezek 32:21). So, they are conscious beings when in Sheol.

8. Those in Sheol do not have knowledge of what is happening for those who are still alive on earth (Ps 6:5; Eccles 9:10, etc.)

9. Some of the spirits in Sheol experience the following:

a. God’s anger (Deut 32:22). Here, Moses states of the wicked that “a fire is kindled by my anger and it burns to the depths of Sheol” (ESV).
b. Distress and anguish (Ps 116:3);
c. There is writhing with pain; they are trembling (Job 26:5). Here the Hebrew word, chool, means to twist and turn in pain like a woman giving birth to a child.

From the OT revelation, we know that the righteous and the wicked went to Sheol at death (Gen. 37:5), but the OT believers did not have a clear understanding of what to expect in Sheol. That was left for the progressive revelation of the NT to reveal more for us. Because of this principle of progressive revelation, the OT believers did not have the information that was needed to approach death with peace and joy (see Heb. 2:14-15).

Not once does Sheol in the Old Testament mean non-existence or annihilation.

Now we move to an understanding of Hades. Robert Morey considers that

this word forms a linguistic bridge which takes us from the Old Testament view of death to the New Testament position. The importance of a proper interpretation of this word cannot be stressed.

In the Septuagint [the Greek Old Testament], Hades is found 71 times. It is the Greek equivalent for Sheol 64 times. The other seven times it is found in the Septuagint, it is the translation of other Hebrew words, some of which shed significant light on what Hades meant to the translators of the Septuagint (Morey 1984:81).

4.1.3 Hades, The Unseen World [6]

We are told that Hades, in its etymology, properly means unseen. The basic stem of the word means ‘seen’, but it has the little a privative before it, thus making it signify unseen. All behind and beyond the veil of death is unseen. Thus, it is fittingly called Hades. At death the spirit enters into the unseen world of the dead. The word itself does not necessarily specify whether this state is bad or good. By itself it is generic, but it can be more specific, according to the context and other Scripture. Interestingly, in the account of the rich man and Lazarus, it is said that in “hell” (Hades, KJV) the rich man lifted up his eyes being in torment. With his death, Jesus is said to have gone to Hades (Acts 2:27,31). (This is the word behind the KJV’s translation of “hell” here). Jesus had earlier said to the thief on the cross, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Evidently, the story of the rich man and Lazarus unveils the situation as it was (and perhaps is). The good and the bad are partitioned by a great gulf, it would seem, one being in comfort and the other in discomfort. All of this anticipates the Day of Judgment when eternal heaven and hell will begin.

4.1.4 Tartarus, The Abyss[7]

Tartarus is only referred to in one place in the New Testament, 2 Peter 2:4. It is found in the words “cast them down to hell” (to send into Tartarus). It is the bottomless abyss, the confinement place of the wicked, fallen angels.

5. The English Word “Hell” [8]

But what is the actual and literal meaning of the English word “hell” used repeatedly in the KJV of the Bible? This may come as a surprise to many, but the English word “hell” back in 1611 meant about the same as hades, that being covered or unseen. The Cyclopedia of Biblical Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (John McClintock and James Strong) that first came out in 1867, says this of the term, “Hell, a term which originally corresponded more exactly to Hades, being derived from the Saxon helan, to cover, and signifying merely the covered, or invisible place—the habitation of those who have gone from the visible terrestrial region to the world of spirits. But it has been so long appropriated in common usage to the place of future punishment for the wicked, that its earlier meaning has been lost sight of.” This does not negate the teaching of a place of future punishment and fire as seen in the word Gehenna and the umbrella word, Hades. It just throws more light on the use of the word “hell” in the King James Version.

I’m grateful for this excellent summary of this material that I’ve used above and refer you to Gibbons’ article.

6. Conclusion

Based on Psalm 92:7, evildoers, the wicked, at death will be doomed to eternal destruction or annihilation.

However, it is important to understand that the destiny of unbelievers at death is not described by one verse and that destiny is progressively revealed as we move from the Old Testament into the New Testament. Other dimensions include those described by Sheol, Hades, and Gehenna above.

With the more detailed evidence on life after death in progressive revelation from the Old Testament to the New Testament, the context of 2 Thess. 1:7-9 (ESV) tells us:

  • unbelievers will be repaid with affliction;
  • In this affliction, God is inflicting vengeance;
  • This vengeance is called ‘eternal destruction’;
  • And it means being ‘away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might’.

References

Geisler, N 2003. Systematic Theology: God, Creation, vol 2. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House.

Keil, C F & Delitzsch, F n d. Commentary on the Old Testament: Job, vol 4. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B Eerdmans Publishing Company.[9]

Morey, R A 1984. Death and the Afterlife. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers.

Ramm, B 1970. Protestant Biblical Interpretation: A Textbook of Hermeneutics (3rd edn). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Notes:


[1] Then Bernard Ramm proceeds to give examples of this from the New Testament.

[2] This is probably from the 1769 revision of the KJV. It is not from the original 1611 edition. This is how the KJV 1611 edition reads for Psalm 92:6-7: ‘A brutish man knoweth not: neither doeth a foole vnderstand this. 7 When the wicked spring as the grasse, and when all the workers of iniquitie doe flourish: it is that they shall be destroyed for euer’.

[3] Christian Forums, Bibliology & Hermeneutics, ‘Anyone else here reads the American Standard Version?’, childofdust #60, 2 November 2012. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7691817-6/ (Accessed 3 November 2012).

[4] The following material is based on the exposition by J. Gibbons, ‘”Hell” in the King James Version’, available at: http://jgibbons.8m.com/HELL-in-King-James-Version.html (Accessed 11 October 2012).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] This is from the 10 volume Old Testament commentary.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 9 June 2016.