I Don’t Believe in God!

Q. “Don’t tell me about your religion. I don’t believe in God.” How would you answer that?

A. There are many ways to approach this. Let’s start by defining what, or who, we mean. The Oxford Dictionary defines god as “the creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being”:
• Creator means “a person or thing that brings something into existence”;
• Ruler and source of all moral authority implies, as a minimum, intelligence and goodness; and
• Supreme being means the highest person.

For people who don’t believe in God, even though they may not say it, essentially they are denying:
A creator or First Cause. The Law of Cause and Effect states that every material effect must have an adequate antecedent or simultaneous cause. If you trace our physical universe to its beginning, it must be caused by something or someone outside of itself. It cannot cause itself into existence, otherwise it would violate the law of non-contradiction. This is because the universe must exist in order for it to create anything, and it must not exist such that it has to be created. But self-creation requires both to be true simultaneously, and it simply can’t be, otherwise logic breaks down and there is no basis for reasoning. So a transcendent First Cause must pre-exist our universe, whom we call the Creator.
A designer. If you examine our universe, you will observe order (e.g. planetary orbits), symmetry (e.g. structure in organisms), and intricate design such that things work together. Just as a building requires an architect and a painting requires a painter, so this careful design requires a highly intelligent Designer who planned and executed everything.
A person. Not only is the First Cause all-powerful in order to create the universe, and all-knowing to design all living and inorganic matters, He must have personality as we have intellect, emotions, an innate sense of right and wrong (morals), and a will to decide, as that which is created, namely us, cannot be greater than the creator.

So simple logic tells us that an omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), moral being (person) exists, and we call this First Cause Designer God. To say that you don’t believe in God simply tells us that you do not want to accept the evidence, which are plenty. It does not change the fact that God exists, who you can know if you care to find out.

Are you Smarter than a First Grader? (4)

1st grader 5

My wife joined the reunion of her high school classmates, and they gave her the following problem:
1111 = 0 | 5555 = 0 | 2222 = 0 | 8193 = 3 | 7662 = 2
8096 = 5 | 9313 = 1 | 4398 = 3 | 0000 = 4 | 9475 = 1
6666 = 4 | 9038 = 4 | 7172 = 0 | 3148 = 2 | 2889 = 5
1964 = ?

They did not say what grade this is, but supposedly it can be solved by a first grader. And unlike the previous two problems which require logic and deduction, this one is really simple, so simple that we who are so complicated often overlook the solution since it is so obvious. What does 1964 equal to? Can you guess?

The answer is 2! Why? Need a hint? Don’t try to see if there is a secret code hidden in those 15 four-digit numbers. I was stumped when I tried to discern any relationship between them, or between the digits that made them up. In vain did I try to sum the digits in each number, or do all sorts of mental gymnastics to “massage” the data! There is no need for any of that. Mt 11:25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. (also Lk 10:21) We who consider ourselves wise are too intelligent for our own good, and the simplicity of things just eludes us.

Still clueless? What shape do little children like, that parents feel safe about? “o”! Count how many “o”s there are in each of the numbers and you’ll get your answer! Now do you see? I have two degrees, with distinction, but I hadn’t got a clue! Humbling isn’t it? Reminds me of Jas 4:6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (also 1 Pet 5:5).

Mt 18:3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (also Mk 10:15; Lk 18:17) Hope we all have the simple faith of children totally dependent on their parents.

Are you Smarter than a First Grader? (3)

1st grader 2

Q. AB – CD = EF; EF + GH = PPP. A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, and P are unique digits different from each other. What’s A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, and P?

A. For sure you can’t solve 9 unknowns with only 2 equations with algebra alone. But you can use logic and trial and error. One method is as follows:

1. First, the sum of any two 2-digit numbers can never be greater than or equal to 200. Hence P must be less than 2. It cannot be 0 because otherwise E, F, G, and H must all be 0, which is not allowed by the problem definition. Therefore P must be 1.
2. Secondly, since EF + GH = 111, therefore F + H must = 11, carrying 1 to E + G and E + G must = 10, thus making it 11.
3. E + G =10 possibilities include 8+2, 7+3, 6+4, 4+6, 3+7, 2+8. It cannot be 9+1 or 1+9, as 1 = P already. Nor can it be 5+5, as each alphabet can be used only once.
4. F + H = 11 possibilities include 9+2, 8+3, 7+4, 6+5, 5+6, 4+7, 3+8, 2+9.
5. Since each digit appears only once, each EG combination would preclude those FH combinations in which the EG digits are already used e.g. for E+G as 8+2 precludes the four F+H combinations of 9+2, 8+3, 3+8 and 2+9.
6. As there are six EG and eight FH combinations, four of which are precluded by each set of EG digits, there is a total of 6 X (8-4) = 24 possibilities, which are listed as follows:
a. 87 + 24 = 111, 86 + 25 = 111, 85 + 26 = 111, 84 + 27 = 111;
b. 79 + 32 = 111, 76 + 35 = 111, 75 + 36 = 111, 72 + 39 = 111;
c. 69 + 42 = 111, 68 + 43 = 111, 63 + 48 = 111, 62 + 49 = 111;
d. 49 + 62 = 111, 48 + 63 = 111, 43 + 68 = 111, 42 + 69 = 111;
e. 39 + 72 = 111, 36 + 75 = 111, 35 + 76 = 111, 32 + 79 = 111;
f. 27 + 84 = 111, 26 + 85 = 111, 25 + 86 = 111, 24 + 87 = 111.
7. Thirdly AB – CD = EF. Since A to H and P are all digits between 0 to 9, A must be > C and A > E as negative numbers are not allowed.
8. For each of the EF + GH = 111 listed in 6a to 6f, only the digits not already used by E, F, G, and H can be assigned to A, B, C and D to fit AB – CD = EF. For example, in 6a for 87 + 24 = 111, only 9, 6, 5, 3 and 0 remain to be used. In this particular case, only 93 – 06 would satisfy AB – CD = 87.
9. One can go through all the 24 possibilities in 6a to 6f, and by trial and error find out all the solutions that would fit each equation. Note that not all possibilities have a valid solution. For example, for 6f, while there is a solution for 27 + 84 = 111 (90 – 63 = 27), no combination of 9, 6, 5, 3 and 0 would satisfy AB – CD = 24 such that 24 + 87 = 111. Thus there are multiple solutions for AB + CD = EF, EF + GH = PPP. Perhaps you can write an algorithm to test all combinations.

Now, given the problem’s complexity, do you expect the average first grader to solve it? Or has the zealous examiner gone way overboard? Even though most people are not into mathematics and few would read this post, I wrote it not only because I enjoy mental challenges, but because there are similarities between this and bible study. As I said before, sometimes you need good detective skills to interpret the Bible properly.

First there is observation, noting all the details and the relationship between them. Some people just notice the prima facie evidence and jump right to conclusion. That would not do. Then there is interpretation. Some interpretations are possible until precluded by other observations not yet taken into account. You need to consider all biblical evidence and accept only the solution(s) that harmonize everything, because God does not make mistakes. Finally, sometimes you just have to accept the fact that there are no solutions this side of heaven, because God had chosen not to reveal everything to us. The mysteries belong to God. So come to the Bible with a keen but humble mind, ready to apply everything you learn and you will have a marvelous time learning from the Word.

Are You Smarter than a First Grader? (2)

1st grader 1

My brother sent me two math exam questions, supposedly grade 1. Let’s see if you are smarter than a first grader.

(Q1) ABCD X 9 = DCBA. Each of the 4 alphabets A, B, C, and D represents a different digit. What’s A, B, C and D?
(Q2) AB – CD = EF, EF + GH = PPP. Each of the 9 alphabets represents a different digit. What are A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H and P?

As far as I can remember, algebra wasn’t taught until high school. But that was over half a century ago. Maybe today’s kids are much smarter. But for Q1, there are 4 unknowns and only one equation. For Q2, there are 9 unknowns and only 2 equations. You need as many equations as the number of unknowns, so how do you solve the problem algebraically? Algebra won’t work in this instance. But a little logic might.

In Q1, the reasoning could be as follows:
* Each of A, B, C, D could be any unique number between 0 to 9.
* For a 4 digit number ABCD to be multiplied by 9 and still remain to be 4 digits, A can only be 1. It cannot be >1 as then the product would be 5 digits, not 4. A cannot be 0 either as then BCD X 9 could not produce a 4-digit number ending in 0.
* So for now we have 1BCD X 9 = DCB1. But the only multiple of 9 that produces a number ending in 1 is 9 i.e. 81. Therefore D = 9.
* Now we have 1BC9 X 9 = 9CB1, and B, C, could be 0, or a number between 2 to 8.
* But if B is any number between 2 to 8, when multiplied by 9 it would carry over from “hundreds” to “thousands”, which is not permissible by the previous steps. Hence B can only be 0.
* Now we have 10C9 X 9 = 9C01, with C being a number between 2 to 8.
* By trial and error, the only number that fits is 1089 X 9 = 9801. Therefore C = 8.

That’s a fair bit of logical and arithmetical thinking. Do we expect that from a first grader, a six-year old? And if you think that’s hard, try Q2. Any math teacher out there who can offer some help?

The Incarnation a Contradiction?

hypostatic union 6

Q. I don’t understand you Christians. You say Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. Isn’t that a contradiction? 100% God leaves 0% man. 100% man means 0% God. You can’t have 200% of a single person. Don’t you mean 50-50, or some other combination adding up to 100%? You can’t have it both ways!

A. I’ve heard the accusation that the Incarnation is a contradiction in other forms. For example, as God Christ is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent etc. As man, Christ is not omnipotent, not omniscient, not omnipresent etc. You can’t be both at the same time. Isn’t this a contradiction? You can’t have your cake and eat it too!

No, this is not a contradiction. When we say Jesus is fully God, we mean He has all the fullness of Deity:
* Col 1:19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him,
* Col 2:9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,

Although fullness means 100%, it is not additive. For example, I am 100% my father’s son, and 100% my children’s father, but that does not mean I am 200% of a father-son hybrid. You cannot sum them.

Secondly, according to the law of non-contradiction, in order for there to be a real contradiction, something needs to be both true and not true at the same time in the same respects. Otherwise you only have an apparent contradiction or paradox, not a true one.

hypostatic union 7

The Incarnation states that Jesus the Son of God took on human flesh i.e. became man. He thus has two natures, a divine nature and a human nature. His divine nature has infinite power, knowledge, and is not limited in space and time. His human nature, however, is finite and has limited power, knowledge, and subject to limitations of space and time. So He is at the same time God in His divine nature, and human (not God) in His human nature. There is no contradiction as we are referring to two different natures. It would only be a contradiction if He is both God and not-God at the same time within His divine nature, or both man and not-man at the same time within His human nature, but that’s not what the doctrine states, hence no contradiction.

The Trinity a Contradiction?

trinity 10

Q. You Christians believe in three Gods: the Father is God, Jesus is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. Yet you say there is only one God. You are contradicting yourself and totally confusing! How can anyone believe you?

A. Christians believe in one God who exists in three persons, not three Gods. There is no contradiction. The answer involves classical logic, the law of non-contradiction, which states that something cannot be both true and not true at the same time when dealing with the same context.

Those who say that the Trinity is a contradiction misunderstand what the doctrine actually said. They think that it said:
* God is one being and God is three beings, or
* God is one person and God is three persons
at the same time and in the same respect, in which case it would indeed be a contradiction. However, that’s not what the doctrine states.

trinity 6

The doctrine actually says that God is one being in three persons. Being is the essence or nature. It is who you are. God’s essence is that He is deity, that which makes Him God. Persons means independent individuals, distinct from each other. The Bible teaches that there are three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who are distinct from but equal to each other. Rightly understood, the doctrine of the Trinity states that there is one God, one essence, and this one essence exists in three Persons. God is one in one sense (being), and three in another sense (persons). It does not state that God is one and God is three in the same sense at the same time. There is no violation of the law of non-contradiction once you define everything clearly.

Are You Smarter than a First Grader?

numbered parking a

Received a quiz in my email yesterday. It is supposed to be a Hong Kong Elementary School First Grade Student Admissions Test Question, “What parking spot # is the car parked in?” Please answer within 20 seconds.

My mind kicked into hyper-drive right away. “16, 06, 68, 88, ?, 98” Hmmm … what might the missing number be? I immediately think of possible relationships between one number and the next, scanning first from the left and then from the right. No success. The seconds ticked away. No clue! How hard can it be, if it is a grade one problem? Then all of a sudden time’s up. Still no answer.

I am not as smart as a first grader, until I looked at the picture as if I were driving and looking for a parking space. Since I am north of the parking spaces and looking south, reading the numbers from my left to the right, the sequence is a simple “86, ?, 88, 89, 90, 91”! The missing # is 87! Elementary! My dear Watson! Why didn’t I think of that!

numbered parking b

The problem is one of perspective. When I first looked at the picture, I automatically assumed “me” as the point of reference, since I am at the center of my universe. I therefore read the numbers from left to right, which did not make any sense. I was reading them upside down! However, once I put myself into the picture as a driver, I am to the north of the numbers. Now all the numbers are in sequence and made perfect sense.

Life is often like that. We looked at things from one point of view and can’t make heads or tails of it. Sometimes we even argue with others who looked at it from another angle, and have a different set of assumptions or presuppositions. What if we are humble enough to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes and looked at things his way? May be it will start to make sense and the problem is solved! Wouldn’t that be nice?

Can Jesus Sin? (1 of 2)

impeccability 2

Q. I know Jesus did not sin, but can He? If not, how is His temptation real? If you say He couldn’t sin because He is also God, wouldn’t that be the same logic as saying He couldn’t die because God can’t die? But Jesus did die.

A. In theology the question you posed is called the “peccability” (can sin) or “impeccability” (cannot sin) of Jesus. Both sides agree that Jesus did not sin:
2 Co 5:41 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
• Heb 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
• 1 Jn 3:5 You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.

But could He? Those who think He can sin feel that for His temptation to be real, He must be capable of falling under the temptation; otherwise why bother? It’s just for show! They emphasized the true humanity of Jesus, and humans can fall.

Those who feel He is incapable of sinning emphasized His deity within His dual nature. God cannot sin, so Jesus can’t sin. I believe this side is correct, for the following reasons:

1. Logic
Jesus has two natures – He is fully divine (100% God) and fully human (100% man):
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
• John 1:14 And the Word (Jesus) became flesh (man), and dwelt among us,
• Col 2:9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,

Now which of these two natures submit to the other? Obviously the human nature submits to the divine nature, otherwise what kind of deity would it be? Can it even be deity if it submits to humanity? So if His deity always dominates and His humanity submits, He cannot sin.

2. Attributes
People sin usually for two reasons:
a. they do not have the power to resist the temptation,
b. they were deceived – they do not have the knowledge.
But Jesus as God is omnipotent and has infinite power to overcome any temptation. He is also omniscient and has infinite knowledge so He can’t be deceived. So He cannot sin.

An objection could be raised that Jesus as man was not omnipotent and omniscient, so He could have failed. But the counter-argument is that even though He emptied Himself (Php 2:7) i.e. He laid down the independent use of His power and knowledge, His attributes are part and parcel of His nature and cannot be eradicated.
Php 2:6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,

To give a trivial example, my car can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.5 sec. Just because I pick up speed gradually and do not use all that power, it does not mean that the power is not there. Besides, as man Jesus always do the Father’s will and kept His commandments:
John 14:31 but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me.
• John 15:10 just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
• Heb 10:7 “THEN I SAID, ‘BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD.’” (also v 9)

Therefore He cannot sin.

(To be continued)

Disproving God?

rock 5

Q. My junior highs asked “Can God create a stone so heavy that He cannot lift it?” If He can such that He can’t lift it, then He’s not omnipotent. If He can’t, then He’s not omnipotent as well. Either way God is not omnipotent. How would you answer them?

A. Elementary. This is a common question posed by skeptics who think they can disprove God’s omnipotence or His existence, but it only betrays their ignorance.

The Bible asserts that all things are possible with God:
Mt 19:26 And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
• Mk 10:27 Looking at them, Jesus *said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”
• Lk 1:37 For nothing will be impossible with God.
• Lk 18:27 But He said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.”

But the same Bible also asserts that there are some things which are impossible for God:
Lk 6:18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, …
• Tit 1:2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago,
• 2 Tim 2:13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

So it is impossible for God to lie, and for Him to deny Himself. The superficial would claim that the Bible is self-contradictory, but the correct understanding is that with God all things that are consistent with His nature are possible. God cannot act against His nature. Because God is the “God of truth” (Ps 31:5; Is 65:16), therefore He cannot lie. Because God is the “faithful God” (Deut 7:9), He is faithful (1 Co 1:9, 10:13; 2 Co 1:18) and cannot deny Himself.

God gave us the ability to reason (Is 1:18), to use logic, therefore He will not do something that is self-contradictory, because that would be against His nature. Just as God will not draw a square circle, or make a two-sided triangle, He will not create a stone too heavy for Him to lift, because these things are non-sensible, contrary to His nature. God does not do things that are absurd to Him, though some things may be enigmatic to us who know so little.

So the short answer is “No”. God does not do self-contradictory things, because to do so would be to deny His nature. The issue is not a matter of power, His omnipotence, which is infinite because God is infinite. The issue is a matter of man’s limited knowledge, who thinks he can stump God with illogical contradictions when God gave him the ability to think in the first place. Such is the arrogance of man.