Does God Know His Own Future Decisions?

This is another in a series of questions, criticisms, and attacks posed by skeptics.

Question: How can God know His future decisions? If God is all-knowing, how can He make any decisions at all, or choose one thing over another? If He were all-knowing, He would not be able to make a future decision, for He would already know everything. He would not even be able to think.

Response: Perhaps criticisms like this are the root of the claim that atheists do not understand God. Nevertheless, the question is confused and has a rather straightforward answer.

Here, the skeptic is half correct. Since God is all-knowing, it is correct that He does not make future decisions. Further, since time is a measure of change, and God does not change, He is timeless and does not experience before and after as we do. Thus when God acts, He acts from timeless eternity in one unified act. This unified act of God results in many sequenced effects that we experience as present and future.

A simple analogy can illustrate. A doctor can give a single prescription to give medicine three times per day for a week. The one order from the doctor results in many future effects that happen in sequence. There is no logical contradiction in a timeless, changeless God acting from a timeless eternity, yet multiple effects happening in seqence in a changing world.

As for God making decisions and thinking, I have already answered this, which you can find here and also here.

 

 

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Brought to you by Ratio Christi
DEFENDING THE FAITH IN TURBULENT TIMES 

A Conference for Christian Apologetics
This event is designed to help prepare you to make a defense for the Word in turbulent times.
  • How can we reconcile Christianity and Science?
  • Does scripture tell us we are in a battle of ideas?
  • How can God be good when there is so much evil?
  • Are ancient texts reliable?
  • Can we defend the faith and still tell the good news?
Speakers:
Dr. Clay Jones is a writer, speaker, pastor, professor, and radio host. His talk will be on “Why Does God Allow Evil? An Apologist’s Perspective.”
J. Warner Wallace was a professional police officer, working his way from patrol officer to SWAT Team to homicide detective. He will speak on “The Case For Truth: A Detective’s Perspective.”
Dr. Sarah Salviander holds a PhD in  astrophysics and specializes in quasars and supermassive black holes. She will speak on “How Did God Create The World in Six Days? A Scientists Perspective”
Dr. Dan Wallace is arguably the foremost living expert on ancient New Testament document research. He will speak on “In a Modern World, How Can Ancient Be Reliable? A Scholar’s Perspective.”
Glenn Smith is regional director for Ratio Christi. He will speak on “Why Do We Need Apologetics? A Practical Perspective.”
TWO DAY EVENT

FRIDAY 26 SEPTEMBER 7:00 – 9:00 PM
SATURDAY 27 SEPTEMBER 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM

 

Austin Ridge Bible Church
9300 Bee Cave Rd
Austin, TX 78733

 

To register, click the link below. Don’t miss this opportunity. Please forward this message to anyone who might be interested.
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The Book of Daniel

The Biblical book if Daniel is particularly attacked by skeptics and critics, both inside and outside the church. The attacks are due to the very detailed prophesies found in the book, telling precise things about four major world kingdoms. Liberals inside the church attack Daniel by denying miracles before they get to the text, and skeptics outside the church tell us historical details are incorrect — they tell us Darius the Mede was not emperor when Daniel says he was.

As background, Daniel makes clear prophecies about kingdoms which will follow Babylon. These prophecies are quite detailed, and the predictions align with Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.

I happen to trust the good scholarship that holds to the early date and inerrancy of Daniel. But if we were to take the minimal facts method of defending Daniel, we can accept merely the most undisputed facts about the book and still have Daniel as a valid book.

The dead sea scrolls have parts of Daniel that date to at least 150 BC, possibly a bit earlier. With that date, even if we take the most skeptical approach, Daniel predicts the disintegration of Rome and the rise of Christianity. Such a prediction given hundreds of years before the event supports the divine origin of Daniel.

As to details such as Darius, several responses can be given. First, whenever the skeptics see the slightest disagreement between the Bible and secular historians, they are quick to blame the Bible. Why not hold the Bible true and the other historians false? Given that the Bible is demonstrated true in so many other places, it is reasonable to consider that there might be an explanation, rather than being quick to blame the Bible. At the very least, it does not follow that we should automatically dismiss Daniel and accept other accounts without carefully balancing the rest of the evidence.

Second, reasonable explanations are possible. The Bible Knowledge Commentary gives at least four possible explanations for Daniel’s account of Darius, all of which are reasonable and fit well into the historical account.

Third, even if we have no explanation for the existence of Darius, it is not reasonable that Daniel merely invented a world leader that the readers of the day would identify as a fairy tale. The Jews especially would have discounted the entire book. Instead, they held Daniel to be a true prophet.

Fourth, even if we were to have no explanation for some details in Daniel, it does not follow that the whole of the book, indeed even the whole of the Bible, should be discounted. As we demonstrated above, taking the most skeptical of approaches and considering even the most minimally true facts, we still find Daniel’s key prophecies to be true.

Lastly, there is some external support for Daniel. The historian Josephus tells of Alexander the Great laying siege to Jerusalem, only to be invited in by the priest and shown the prophet’s account of him. Alexander is said to be so impressed that he spared the city.

In reality, Daniel is complete and inerrant, was written early, and predicts accurate details of history. We would all do well to read Daniel afresh and heed the words God has revealed to us.

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Science and Faith: Who Wins?

Scientists who happen to also be atheists tell us that we must not consider God into the research, for if we do we will kill science. They tell us that by definition, science deals with natural causes and that if we mix in God as a cause or a designer or even as an idea, we have mixed in religion and done away with the foundations of science.

John Lennox, in his book God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? points out that there were many scientists in the history of their fields which were also solid Christians, and it helped their research, and did not hinder it. When Newton published his work on gravity, he did not say “I’ve shown one more reason why we don’t need God.” Rather, just the opposite; he felt that he had shown one more proof of God’s handiwork. Lennox also points out that just because we understand a few things about how the mechanism works, we cannot then conclude that the mechanism was never created by anyone, that it came to be without an ultimate cause.

Lennox also points out the differences in worldview, and how it was theism that made scientific research prosper.

In considering what science is and what it can do, we have scientists who tell us that science only deals with natural things in the world, and in our science we must not consider anything outside of the natural order, since then we are no longer doing science. Actually, this is all well and good, and we have no issues with this. If the scientists wants to define his work as only dealing with natural things, great, have a nice day, those in the Christian camp have no issues with this viewpoint. We do not even have fundamental issues if they try to deal with claims Christians have made about the natural order; this is just the free exchange of ideas. We only have issues when the scientists cross the line they have made and start telling us things about God. For many modern atheist scientists are running around telling us they have started with limiting themselves to exclusively natural things, then concluded things about God, who is outside of the natural world. Men like Dawkins and Harris write books telling us that somehow they have started with observing natural effects and concluded that God does not exist. Not only is this logically absurd, but it violates the rules of the game that they created. They seem to be worried that religion will creep into science, while they are busily hustling science into religion. If they want to keep their science separate, stop making claims about God

In reality, as many have shown, we can view things in the natural world and draw a few, admittedly limited, logical conclusions about what is outside the natural world. We can know, for instance, that the world did not get here by itself, something outside the world caused it. Whatever this cause is, it is powerful and not created. You can find more on this in a great book called Natural Theology by William Lane Craig.

In the end, it is a mistake to view science and faith as in a contest for power, for they are not in a ball game together that has a winner and a loser.

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Atheists Look for Miracles

I have been reading an excellent book titled True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism. The book is a collection of articles by Christians who respond to modern atheists, showing that Christianity is more reasonable than atheism.

One of the chapters by David Marshall points out that when atheists are asked what they would hold as valid evidence for God, they often look for a miracle. If they could witness a fantastic, irrefutable miracle, they would believe. Or so they say. Yet they then attack Biblical miracles as not being reasonable, or as David Hume does, define them out of existence before considering the evidence.

The Biblical writers often give examples of miracles they have witnessed as evidence of the truth for miracles. Regardless of whether someone today believes the eyewitness testimony, we cannot hold the Biblical writers as irrational or illogical, for they provide the very type of evidence that the modern skeptic asks for, and they use the only means available to them at the time to document the evidence.
So whether or not you hold the Biblical evidence to be sufficient, we have the Biblical writers being reasonable by providing what evidence they have to prove a logical point, and the modern skeptics being illogical when they demand evidence, then criticize the Bible for providing just that.

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Why Learn Apologetics?

I sometimes encounter those inside Christianity that do not believe that Christianity should be defended. I was once told by a minister at Rice University that using apologetics was not only wrong, but hurtful to the cause of Christ. Leaders of churches have told me that they did not believe faith should be defended, but that if we merely study the Bible, we will adequately prepare people spiritually for anything they will encounter outside the church. I respectfully disagree for the following reasons.

The Bible Commands Us to Defend Christianity

  • Jude 3 tells us to “earnestly contend for the faith,” with the word contend meaning to fight vigorously. The context is clear, since the remainder of the small book speaks about false teachers who have crept into the church and done much damage.
  • 2 Timothy 2:23-26 tells us to not argue about foolish things, but to gently “correct those who are in opposition” which is then defined as non-Christians who are in need of salvation (v.25-26). We are commanded to correct lost people who oppose us.
  • Colossians 4:5-6, speaking of those outside the church, tells us we must always be ready to answer each person.
  • 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks us about the hope that is within us.
  • Acts 18:27-28 tell us that Apollos “powerfully refuted the Jews in public” which encouraged the Christians there.

Therefore not only are we commanded several times to defend the faith, we are given examples in the New Testament that clearly defend Christianity against those who attack it. In this context, not defending Christianity is direct disobedience.

We Know the Harmful Results of Not Defending Christianity

We have clear evidence of what happens when we do not defend Christianity. First, those who feel that Bible study alone will guard Christians against attack will rarely teach the whole counsel of God. Church leaders often teach the parts of the Bible which deal with practical living skills, but ignore the key theological concepts that protect their flock from the lure of the cults. For example, in the first 300 years of the church, there were more than a dozen heresies about how the two natures of Christ relate to each other and salvation. Many of these false teachings are still around today in various heretical groups. Are we to ignore these teachings, hoping that our church members do not have to deal with these issues?

Second, while the arguments of the modern atheists are not logical, their rhetoric is quite effective. For example, here are some definitions that are commonly used by atheists to explain the term faith. Here are a couple that are taken from online atheist discussion boards, and are representative:

Faith is simply belief without evidence. No matter who you are or how you word it, that’s what it is.

Faith is essentially a gut instinct that something is true in the absence of evidence. I would expand upon it by saying that faith often appears to include belief in things for which there is directly contradictory evidence.

Such statements are mirrors of the concepts found in best-selling atheist books such as Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. So, if we inoculate our children with Bible memory verses and Bible study, will they be immune from such attacks?

Jesse Kilgore was not. Jesse grew up in a Christian home and went to a church that was likely similar to yours. Yet when he was challenged by a professor to read The God Delusion, he lost all his confidence in Christianity. Just before he committed suicide, he was calling around to friends and family members, telling them of his disillusionment. Upon learning of Jesse’s losing all hope in Christianity, one family member responded to him by saying this:

I told him it was my relationship with God, not my knowledge of
Him that brought me back to my faith. No one convinced me with facts. … it was a matter of the heart. (see article here)

So when this young person hears the atheists, whose books are more often rhetoric and opinion than anything else, he does not recognize the logical fallacies and feels lost. He believes Dawkins’ arguments that Christianity is built upon blind faith that is contrary to facts. Then when he reaches out, Christians answer him by saying that faith is not a matter of fact, but an emotional response of the heart. Such answers confirm Dawkins’ rhetoric, and he falls under the atheist spell.

I am not saying suicide is common, for it is not, and I do not pretend to give simplistic answers. Most do not commit suicide, but merely walk away from the church.

I understand the desire by church leaders to instill a deep walk with the Lord and Bible literacy in their congregations, which are lofty and necessary goals.  But our leaders are very incorrect when they think that somehow their church will be different, that through studying only certain parts of the Bible, and those only as a personal interpretation, their members will somehow grow so much that they will be immune to the siren song of false teachers and social immorality. Why could not someone tell Jesse Kilgore to read one of the many responses to Dawkins? Alister McGrath has written a couple of excellent responses to Dawkins, one of which is The Dawkins Delusion. Many more exist. Why is it that no one around Jesse seemed to know these responses existed?

I fail to understand why church leaders deny the obvious, that under the guise of piety we are failing to teach the next generation to think critically. We build the walls of our churches thicker, put more locks on the door, then send our young out as lambs before wolves, and they are being destroyed before our eyes. I fail to see how our leaders could have missed the clear commands of scripture to put our minds in gear and defend the faith.

The atheist arguments are hollow and shallow, but are expressed with bluster and force, and deceive many. By contrast, we have the solid ground of truth on our side, and have no reason to shy away from the most difficult public discussions. C. S. Lewis described it well:

If all the world were Christian it might not matter if all the world were uneducated. But, as it is, a cultural life will exist outside the Church whether it exists inside or not. To be ignorant and simple now—not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground—would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defence but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.

 

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Did the Bible Copy From Pagan Virgin Birth Myths?

I bought a copy of atheist Christopher Hitchens’ book God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. I always buy these books from used bookstores, mainly because I refuse to have any of my money go to support the atheists. In this particular used copy, the person who had it before me made some notes on a slip of paper and left it in the book. One of the notes says “p. 23 Cites 11 virgin births from various mythic histories, including an Aztec case.”

To summarize, Hitchens completely misses the facts on almost all of his points and may have plagiarized the entire passage.  Even if his facts were correct, which they are not, he is guilty of not drawing valid arguments and conclusions. Supporting details are as follows.

On p. 22-23 of the book, Hitchens’ passage is as follows. He first quotes Matthew 1:18 then adds some comments.

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was in this wise. When his mother, Mary, was espoused to Joseph, before they came together she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.” Yes, the Greek demigod Perseus was born when the god Jupiter visited the virgin Danae as a shower of gold and got her with child. The god Buddha was born through an opening in his mother’s flank. Catlicus the serpent-skirted caught a little ball of feathers from the sky and hid it in her bosom, and the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli was thus conceived. The virgin Nana took a pomegranate from the tree watered by the blood of the slain Agdestris, and laid it in her bosom, and gave birth to the god Attis. The virgin daughter of a Mongol king awoke one night and found herself bathed in a great light, which caused her to give birth to Genghis Khan. Krishna was born of the virgin Devaka. Horus was born of the virgin Isis. Mercury was born of the virgin Maia. Romulus was born of the virgin Rhe Sylvia. For some reason, many religions force themselves to think of the borth canal as a one way street . . . 

Hitchens continues on in what reads like a magazine-grade rambling article without benefit of much of a point. He does seem good at insults, with such language as accusing Christians during the crusades as having “tempests of hatred and bigotry and bloodlust.”(p.23). Such is his revisionist history.

Although Hitchens does not make much of a conclusion, he seems to be implying, and the previous reader of my copy of his book appears to have understood, that there were many virgin birth stories, the one in the Bible being one in a long line, and therefore we have no use for such mythological rubbish. His idea seems to be that since there are many other stories of virgin births, therefore the one in the Bible is surely false.

The reasoning would not pass undergraduate logic class, for even if these other accounts did exist, what does this prove? That many other accounts are false have no connection on the one at hand, which is the eyewitness accounts in the Bible. Are we to prove the case at hand by looking at many other cases not connected to this one? Since no other general in history has put together two armies soon after two major defeats, does this mean Napoleon did not either? The logic is flawed beyond repair.

The larger problem is that Hitchens theory is beat up by a brutal gang of facts. The list he gave, when we examine it more carefully, presents a different story. According to the myths:

Perseus did indeed come from Jupiter and Danae. But according to the myth, Zeus came upon Danae through an open roof, in the form of physical gold, which then physically impregnated Danae, who is not described as a virgin after the impregnation.

Buddha’s mother, Queen Maha Maya, became pregnant in the normal way from her husband, King Suddhodana. Buddha never claimed to be a god, and in fact denied there was a god. Many modern Buddhists are atheists, a fact of which Hitchens seems to not be aware.

Catlicus: Hitchens got the story basically correct, but left out the small detail that she had 400 other children, which would seem to be primary evidence against her being a virgin. Nevertheless, I suppose one could argue this one was miraculous. But Chris also left out the part about the birth happening when her head got chopped off. The pressing question is where did Hitchens get this story, especially when the typical spelling is Coatlicue? See the possible answer below.

Nana: The possible origin of this alleged connection was a book called The Golden Bough by Jame Frazier, a terribly confused book. The explanation is a bit graphic, but here goes: The god Agdistis had both male and female organs. The Greek gods cut off the male organ and threw it away, where it grew to be an almond tree. Nana placed one of the almonds in her bosom and became pregnant. So the imagery of the almond and the seed is clear, and could be argued to not be a virgin story.

Genghis Khan: Here, Hitchens again makes a mishmash of the story. One of the few sources for Genghis Khan has him being the result of his father taking his mother into the tent, and says nothing more. Perhaps the confusion is in the story of one of Khan’s distant ancestors, Alan Gua, who was found with child when her husband was away, and she described a yellow man coming in “by the light of the hole” at the top of the tent, rubbing light into her belly, and leaving by the beams of the sun or moon. But even this was not of a virgin, for the text describes her having had two older sons by her husband, Doben Mergen. (see The Secret History of the Mongols, vol. 1, 4, 13-14)

Krishna: The mother and father were locked in a prison cell, where Krishna was born the eighth child. No virgin birth.

Horus: This is particularly laughable, since the only valid account describes the parents mating for five days straight. I have dealt with this at length, which you can read here.

Mercury:  Both the Greek and Roman myths have Mercury (or Hermes) being the result of normal physical relations between his parents. Sure, the parents were gods, but the accounts tell of them having relations. No virgin birth.

Romulus: Which version do we want to consider? The one where Mars has sex with Rhea Sylvia, Amulus has sex with her, or Hercules has sex with her? We will pick the Mars version, since it is mentioned most often.

So with all of this, of the 11 stories of virgin births, none fit the comparison clearly, and only a couple could be compared by stretching one’s imagination. Most are completely factually incorrect. Therefore there is no connection between pagan myths of a virgin birth and that of the Bible, for none of the ones Hitchens mentions are pagan virgin birth myths. But again, the logic is completely flawed. The truth of the Bible is not determined by whether or not it sounds similar to other stories, but whether it stands on its own merits.

Where did Hitchens get these stories? One author seems to have shown the connection, and accuses Hitchens of rank plagiarism. See the article here. The author compares Hitchens work to an old atheist book, Essays in Freethinking by Chapman Cohen. The citations given seem to show a clear source for Hitchens writings, and therefore do not appear to be original to Hitchens. The words are misspelled similarly and the factual inaccuracies are the same.

If Hitchens did plagiarise this part of his book, it will not be the first atheist who has read something and repeated it without checking the facts. The former owner of my copy of the book seems to have been just as gullible, taking statements at face value without checking the sources. It amazes me that the modern atheist accuses the Bible of being guilty of poorly copying from outside sources and not being reasonable, when in fact the modern atheists are more guilty of these sins than most writers, ancient or modern. Popular atheist writings are sprinkled with hefty doses of unreasoned, unsupported attacks that are without benefit of truth.

It is astounding that Hitchens would write a book specifically about religion, that is so widely read by atheists, and would so grossly misrepresent even obvious religious claims, such as calling Buddha a god. Hitchens apparently included this list of 11 myths without even checking them, for the only other option is that he intentionally misrepresented them, an idea I reject.

It is very easy to throw out false statements that read like tasty morsels to atheists who already have their minds made up. It is much harder to take the time to dig through the sources to see if these things are actually true. In the case of Hitchens’ virgin birth connections, we find them entirely false, and the Bible once again is supported with truth. While revisionist history may be common, it is not scholarly. However, it does sell books and appeals to those who are not skilled in building philosophical arguments.

 

 

For sources, see the following:

Perseus, et al: http://www.theoi.com/
Buddhism: http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/buddhism/001bio.htm
Rhea Sylvia:  http://mythology.wikia.com/wiki/Rhea_Silvia
Mercury: http://www.theoi.com/Olympios/HermesMyths.html
Krishna: http://hinduism.about.com/od/lordkrishna/p/krishna_birth.htm
Genghis Khan: http://www.livescience.com/43260-genghis-khan.html

http://altaica.ru/SECRET/cleaves_shI.pdf

Hitchens: http://ronaldvhuggins.blogspot.com/2013/09/christopher-hitchenss-plagiarism.html#!/2013/09/christopher-hitchenss-plagiarism.html

 

 

 

 

 

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