Origin of the Universe

Q. Someone told me you don’t need God to create the universe. All you need is an infinite regress of causes. What do you think?

A. I am a pastor with engineering and finance background, not a philosopher. I draw my conclusions based on evidence and logic. There are many with philosophy training who can articulate the reasoning behind why an “infinite regress” doesn’t work. Just go on YouTube and you can find many clear and concise answers e.g.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4AHFBft2L8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uiq1dyKcfhU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6UW3Imn5b8

But just for fun, I cite an illustration I heard this Sunday in a sermon by Tim Barnett of Stand to Reason, on the Origin of the Universe. Tim cited that originally Einstein did not like the idea of an expanding universe, and introduced a fudge fact, the cosmological constant, in his general theory of relativity, to produce a static and stable universe. This was until he looked at the evidence from Hubble’s telescope, which showed that there is a “red shift” in the light from distant galaxies, which means that the wavelength of the light is stretched, or that the light source is moving further and further away. In other words, the universe is expanding, not static! Einstein retracted his fudge factor and called it the greatest blunder in his life!

Since the universe is expanding, it means that in the past the universe was smaller. Now if you go back further and further in time, you can go all the way back to when the universe was infinitesimally small, beyond which it did not even exist. In other words, the universe had a beginning, and a beginning requires a Beginner. Remember “infinite regress” is only a mathematical abstraction, but does not exist in the real world. This Beginner must be outside of space-time to create space-time i.e. infinite, infinitely intelligent to design this complex universe with all its order and finely tuned conditions for life to exist, and infinitely powerful to call everything into existence from nothing (creation ex-nihilo. This eternal, omniscient and omnipotent Being, the First Cause, is whom we call God. Infinite regress have no reality. It is a figment of the imagination of those who refuse to accept scientific evidence.

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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.

Is Jesus Omniscient? (2 of 2)

(Continued from yesterday)

But what about the 6 incidents raised in the question? Let’s look at them one by one:
Lk 2:46-47 Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.
Jesus was not asking the teachers questions because He did not know the Scriptures. He was using the rabbinic method of debating by asking questions, or answering questions with questions. They were amazed at His answers, not the other way around.

Mt 26:37-39 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”

Jesus was deeply grieved & distressed not because He did not know what to expect, but precisely because He knew how much He had to suffer when the sins of the whole world are placed on Him:
Mt 20:18-19, 22 Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up. … But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?”

Mt 4:3 And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
Satan was not doubting Jesus’ identity. He knew that the Son was God and therefore omniscient. But Jesus emptied Himself of the independent use of His omnipotence. Therefore Satan tempted Him precisely with respect to whether this emptying is real, whether He would use His own power to turn stones into bread to satisfy His hunger, and in doing so not fulfill the will of the Father. Of course the tempter failed.

Lk 2:40 The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
• Lk 2:52 And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

This is nothing but the humanity of Jesus. As man Jesus has a human body which grew and increased in wisdom. As God He is omniscient, but He voluntarily suspended the independent use of His divine knowledge & power in dependence on the Father.

Mt 24:36 But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.
Another example of Jesus not using His omniscience independent of the Father. He submitted to the Father in all things.

Jn 2:3-4 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.”

Jesus waited because His hour or time had not yet come:
Jn 7:6, 8, 30 So Jesus said to them, “My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune. … Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come.” … So they were seeking to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.
• Jn 8:20 These words He spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one seized Him, because His hour had not yet come.
• Jn 12:23, 27 And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. … Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.
• Jn 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, …
• Jn 16:32 Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.
• Jn 17:1 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You,

Jesus is always in communion with the Father, & knew when His time of crucifixion & resurrection was not yet or has come. There is no need to assume that He was ignorant of what’s going on.

Is Jesus Omniscient? (1 of 2)

Q. Did Jesus empty Himself of omniscience when he became a man? If He did, it would explain the following:
1. A 12-year old Jesus stayed in the temple with the teachers to ask questions (or to teach the Pharisees?).
2. Jesus was really worried the night before the cross for He did not know what was to happen during His death or because He knew the sufferings He was to go through.
3. Satan knew that Jesus was not omniscient and tried to tempt Him in the desert.
4. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:52
5. Matt 24:36 Only the Father knows. That would mean that Jesus may know now after His resurrection.
6. Mother Mary had to prompt Jesus to perform His first miracle. (or she was just used to asking Jesus to solve any problem she came across as Jesus was the eldest male of her family).

A. No, Jesus did not empty Himself of omniscience in the incarnation. Omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence are divine attributes, characteristics of the essence of God. Jesus is God and God is eternal. He does not change in His essence.
Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
If Jesus ceases to possess these attributes, He would not be God. Then in what sense did Jesus emptied Himself? In at least 3 ways:

1. He took on the limitations of being a man:
Php 2:6-8 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
For example, as human, He:
• Got hungry Mt 4:2 And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.
• Grew weary Jn 4:6 and Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well.
• Became thirsty Jn 19:28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.”
He willingly accepted the limitations of being human.

2. He emptied Himself of the glory He had with the Father:
Jn 17:5 Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
His glory was veiled during His life on earth until His resurrection, except for a moment during the transfiguration:
Lk 9:32 Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him.

3. He gave up the independent use of certain divine attributes, doing always only the will of the Father:
Jn 5:19 Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.
• Jn 5:30 I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
• Jn 6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.

But what about the 6 incidents raised in the question? Let’s look at them one by one.

(To be continued)

Why did God create Satan? (2 of 2)

Lucifer 1

(Continued from yesterday)

Yesterday we traced Satan’s blame back to himself. But why bother creating him who caused all the trouble?

In the first place Lucifer, like all angels, was created to serve:

Heb 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?

Those who will inherit salvation are men and women who trust God, to which angels were sent to render service e.g. Gabriel as a messenger:

Dan 8:16 And I heard the voice of a man between the banks of Ulai, and he called out and said, “Gabriel, give this man an understanding of the vision.” (See also Dan 9:21; Lk 1:19, 26)

So Lucifer was created for a purpose, as the villain in God’s plan of salvation, which plan was only partially revealed to us in the Bible:

Eph 1:4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world,
• Rev 13:8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. (Also 17:8)
• 1 Pet 1:20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world,

Secondly, God chose some but not others to be saved through Christ before the foundation of the world, but did not explain the basis, except that it was His sovereign will. By the same token, He ordained Lucifer to become Satan, but did not give the reason why him and not another. Had God chosen another fallen angel to be the villain in the salvation plan, we could have asked why that angel instead of “why Lucifer”.

Third, notwithstanding Satan coming to steal and kill and destroy (Jn 10:10), God overrules his plans to accomplish His purpose, and will destroy his work:

Gen 50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.
• 1 Jn 3:8 The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.

For example, ISIS committed heinous crimes against humanity, but many Muslims are turning to Christ in reaction to their monstrous, wicked acts.

In short, God knows how Lucifer will turn corrupt and profane others, his unspeakable evil acts, but turns his vilest deeds around to save many lives. Those who question “can’t He come up with a better plan?” are in fact saying they know better. Their limited knowledge and power can concoct a better world and a better plan than the omniscient and omnipotent God can, and that allowing Satan to exist is foolish and unwarranted. I dare not make that claim, nor should anyone with sense.

Why did God create Satan? (1 of 2)

Lucifer 2

Q. Why did the omniscient God create Satan?

A. The question is “Why would God, knowing all the terrible havoc Satan would cause, still create him? Why not just don’t create him and avoid all the trouble?” That’s a fair question, so let’s tackle it step by step.

First, strictly speaking, God created Lucifer, who turned into Satan. God created angels, among whom was one called Lucifer:

Job 38:4, 7 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? … When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
• Job 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, …
• Job 2:1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, …

The morning stars, sons of God, were angels, who were created prior to God laying the foundation of the earth. One of them, an anointed cherub named Lucifer, sinned and was cast out by God:

Isa 14:12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations!
• Ezk 28:14 You were the anointed cherub who covers, and I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain of God; you walked in the midst of the stones of fire.
• Ezk 28:16 By the abundance of your trade you were internally filled with violence, and you sinned; Therefore I have cast you as profane from the mountain of God. And I have destroyed you, o covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.

What was Lucifer like and why did he sin?

Ezk 28:12-13 You had the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: the ruby, the topaz and the diamond; the beryl, the onyx and the jasper; the lapis lazuli, the turquoise and the emerald; and the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets, was in you. On the day that you were created they were prepared.
• Ezk 28:15, 17-18 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteousness was found in you. … Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I put you before kings, that they may see you. By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries. Therefore I have brought fire from the midst of you; it has consumed you, and I have turned you to ashes on the earth in the eyes of all who see you.
• Isa 14:13-14 But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’

Although some scholars pointed out that Ezk 28 and Isa 14 referred to the kings of Tyre (Ezk 28:12) and Babylon (Isa 14:4) in their respective context, many commentators believed that the narratives went beyond a description of mere human beings (perfect, in Eden, blameless) and referred figuratively to the cherub who sinned. What was his sin? In a word, pride:

• heart was lifted (Ezk 28:17)
• elevation of self (“I will” five times in Isa 14:13-14)

God described this sin as unrighteousness, corruption, iniquities, and profanity. Who caused it? Lucifer himself did, not God. Pride was the first, and still most deadly, sin. So in reality God created a perfect angel who corrupted himself and turned into His adversary, Satan. Just as we can’t blame a drunk driver’s parents for giving birth to those who drink and drive and cause accidents, we can’t blame God for Lucifer’s fault. But why create Satan in the first place?

(To be continued)

God Omniscient?

omniscience 2

Q. God already knows how many righteous men were in Sodom and Gomorrah. Why did He have to come down and check?

A. The omniscience of God is well established in Scripture e.g.
Ps 147:5 Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite.
• Heb 4:13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
• 1 Jn 3:20 in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.

God is all-knowing or omniscient.

Yet that had not stopped skeptics from attacking the Bible and discrediting God. Gen 18:21 is one example:
I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know.
They claimed “Didn’t God know? How can He be omniscient if He didn’t?” So how are we to understand this verse?

First of all, while we subscribe to a literal interpretation of the Bible generally, we also acknowledge that the Bible uses figures of speech. One such figurative use is anthropomorphism, the attribution of human forms or attributes to non-human entities, including deities and inanimate objects. God is a Spirit and omnipresent, so He does not literally go “down” from heaven. He does not have human eyes to see as we do; He just knows. When the text says “see if they have done … if not, I will know”, it implies:

1. God will examine the facts of the case before He judges. He is not seeking information that He didn’t already have, but is demonstrating that He ascertains the accused’s guilt before sentencing. The Judge of all the earth deals justly (Gen 18:25):
Gen 11:5 The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.

2. God’s “going down to see” is not a fact-finding mission for Himself, but for Abraham’s benefit. He had chosen him so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice (Gen 18:19). Doing righteousness includes making intercession on behalf of others. God already knew there were less than 10 righteous men in Sodom, but Abraham did not. By “going down to see” He is giving Abraham an opportunity to petition, and to teach him how wicked Sodom really was.

God is omniscient, but atheists don’t know Him and resort to foolish arguments. Pray for them as Abraham did.