Testimony / Apologetic

I grew up in a home which embraces New Age theologies.  The closest label for my past personal belief system would be “esoteric Christianity/Gnosticism”.  I studied a lot of books, which fit in well with my upbringing, which was that through our own power, we could attain perfection, eventually, after many lifetimes.
It took years for me to complete the journey which I believe has shown me the fallacy of my thinking.  Slowly, God journeyed me.  It has been an awesome and painful experience as I see how I may have led people I love astray through my arrogance and hardheadedness.  Bit by bit, God has journeyed me & revealed Truths of his character and his plan. Again as I stated it was a slow process and I came to the realization that non-fiction books I had read which criticized Christianity and Jesus were actually very biased, basing their hypothesis on very flimsy data.

Through a lot of study, I came to the realization that the Bible actually has integrity, and that these writings have more integrity than most historic accounts and that God could actually be speaking to us through the Bible.  An acquaintance mentioned in passing to me a New Testament (NT) bible verse, not knowing my belief system or the journey I was traveling: 2 Timothy 4:3,4 which is:

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

Much like Jacob wrestled with God (in the Old Testament/Hebrew scripture book: Genesis 32:24-30), I would not leave God alone and I demanded that he show me his Truth, no matter where it might take me and no matter what it might reveal to me.  At his urging I suspended the belief in reincarnation, which was the hardest thing for me to do, as it was so much a part of my worldview, the way I view everything.  I was ready just to know his Truth.  The journey has led me to rest solidly in a belief in Christianity and not as one of many beautiful paths, which lead to God but as Jesus stated: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”.

This change in thinking to me is an impossibility; a 180º turn from my previous thinking and it only happened because he revealed himself to me.  I cannot state how much the expression, “The light went on” expresses what happened and it has established a heart-connection in me which I previously did not know.  I have always loved God and wanted to express that but this goes way beyond that.

Please know that I was happy in my previous belief system, and content.  I just wanted to know God better and I enjoy reading and I question motives and agendas of writers.  Slowly, I came to recognize that Esotericism would have you believe that God is basically a trickster who gave a secret message to a few because he could not trust it to the rest.  And that reincarnation depends on my own works and ability to raise myself to a condition to approach perfection.

Some of the things, which eventually led me to shift my worldview, were:

  • That there are moral absolutes which are not Relative or based on man’s perception in his context of time and space.
  • That God’s nature is holy.
  • That there is more than just a lack or absence of good in this world and that there is actually a very personal, vindictive evil.
  • That God loves us but his love will not override our free choice decisions; we can remove ourselves from his care, etc. by our actions, decisions, etc.
  • That only God is God and no matter how many lifetimes I could live, there is nothing in me that could even hope to attain his state by my own accomplishments.  There was not going to be a spiritual evolution through my own works which my previous belief system believes is necessary in order for a soul to leave the seemingly endless cycle of birth, death, birth, death, etc.
  • That no one I know or have heard of can maintain a “perfect” state on our own; it is basically a state we cannot maintain because we can’t comprehend it on an unselfish, “holy” level, beyond mankind’s tendency of selfishness.
  • That mankind is not evolving to any level of maturity with any permanency: we gain ground and eventually that ground is lost.
  • That this world is not right, and that it is broken for some reason.

So to expand on some of those points:

I believe that God manifests himself in Laws.  There is an imprint of order in our universe, whether it is the law of gravity, the law of Natural order, etc. and each “set” of laws has its own ramifications (you step off a building and you “meet” the law of gravity, whether you like it or not) and the creator of the universe expresses himself through order, which is law.

Our God is the author of Law but the attribute, which is most mentioned about Him in the Scriptures (Old & New Testaments) is God’s holiness.  It is this characteristic that is so much a part of him that it is impossible for him to lay his Holiness aside and like refined silver, when it is melted to separate & remove any impurities, his holiness cannot “tolerate” impurities.  This is a perfect analogy for God’s inability to “tolerate” sin: Impurities cannot exist in refined silver; refined silver is physically separate from impurities and they cannot mix.

1 John 3:4 4: “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. Sin separates us from God.” Mankind, unlike other animals, has a sense of right and wrong.  In the Bible,  the Hebrew and Greek words translated “sin” as either 1) a transgression which is defined: “to step across” or “to go beyond a set boundary or limit” (these would involve a willfulness on our part) or 2) as defined: “to miss the mark” and this would represent our “inherited” aspect of sin.  Every man sins.  And man in our present state cannot tolerate his Holiness.

In the Old Testament, there are many stories about our inability to be in his holy presence.   Priests prepared ritually so that they would not die when they approached God when he was in the Hebrew tabernacle, which was the only place his Holiness could dwell on earth once he had established his law in his “chosen” people: Israel.

Man may try with all of his might to be pure or holy but it isn’t possible.  I want to be good but my nature will always have a tendency to be selfish.  Man to the best of his ability will never be holy.  You have a bad day or aren’t quite on your game and our tendency is to look after ourselves often at the expense of other people.

I believe that this is our tendency because of the fall, which took place in Eden.

One of the best explanations of what the fall meant was written by author John C. Rankins in his book, “The Six Pillars of Biblical Power”, where he states:

In verse 17, Yahweh (the Lord) says: “But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat it you will surely die.”  To understand the trees of Genesis 2: 15-17, we must return to Genesis 2:9: “And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.  In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”  This phrase, “ the knowledge of good and evil,” refers to Adam’s given authority on the one hand, and possibly the use of a Hebrew idiom on the other.  Adam and Eve were created to rule over the creation, under God, and thus in accordance with his definitions of good and evil. To eat of the forbidden fruit is for man and woman to (a) say that God is not good; he must be withholding something good from us in the prohibition, that is to say, calling God evil; (b) rationalizing that will to disobey God; (c) redefine good and evil and thus, (d) lift ourselves up to the level of God, if not actually seeking to transcend him.  To challenge God’s goodness is the basic nature of unbelief.
In the letter to the Hebrews (a New Testament book), the writer speaks of faith as the quality of believing that God rewards those who earnestly seek him; God is good (see 11:1-6). Being limited within the good boundaries of time, space and number, how can we think that we can redefine God’s terms and realities, and live in his universe? To eat the forbidden fruit is to redefine good and evil over and against God.  Instead, man was to judge good and evil in the universe congruent with God’s definition of those terms, recognizing the forbidden fruit as a boundary.
Another factor is a Hebrew idiom for that which is comprehensive.  Namely, the polar opposites of “good and evil” can refer literally to the knowledge of everything.  Everything there is to know lies in the spectrum between good and evil.  The polar opposites of beginning and end are likewise comprehensive in defining time (see bible verses: Isa. 44:6, 48:12, Rev. 1:8; 21:6; 22:16).  The polar opposites of height and depth, of east and west, are likewise comprehensive in defining space (see Ps. 103:11-12). Therefore, “the knowledge of good and evil” here is a concept that equals a whole unit.  It is knowledge that only God as the uncreated Creator can possess.  As well, only God can know the totality of intrinsic evil without being tempted or polluted by it.  Evil is ethically the absence of God’s presence, the absence of true ethics, which means the absence of true relationship.  To know good and evil is to define it, in the sense of this Hebrew idiom, which is something only God can do.  Adam and Eve were called to judge between good and evil, but based on God’s true definitions.  People who seek to define good and evil differently from the way God defines them have become their own gods.”

There is a verse in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 15:44: “If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”

In the Garden and after we decided to trust in our own concepts of what was good and we sought to have all knowledge, Man became separated from not only relationship with God but also his (Man’s) own essence.  While Adam was made in God’s image, the Old Testament/Hebrew scriptures state that Adam’s son (and all of us since) was made in Adam’s image.  Sin is oftentimes a choice but sin is also a “contagious “condition.   To take this further and what a lot of people do not believe in is the personality of evil.  In the Garden story, Adam and Eve are led by Satan, a fallen angel, and they suffer the consequences of their free choice/will.   Mankind’s inclination or nature is now drawn toward & influenced by Satan as an adopted “father”.  We all recognize that it takes work to be good and hardly any not to be.  We recognize the need for law but it is outside of our ability to perfectly abide by law.

The scriptures and tradition describe Satan as a created being who became very jealous of God’s love for us, also created beings, so he does his utmost to keep us separated from that love and his greatest achievement is when a person dies without a heart-recognition of God’s ultimate love for us.  We not only battle now with our nature but also with this personified evil.

Christians believe that the damage done to our spirit by our lawlessness cannot be flushed out simply by repenting.  And wrongs must be righted; this is something we know intuitively.  Christians believe that the Law of Moses (which include the Ten Commandments) cannot override our impulse to be lawless because the fall created a fundamental change in mankind.  As mankind inherits different attributes, etc. from his ancestors, we as mankind as a whole, inherited Adam’s condition: it is a state of being but through Christ in us (1 Colossians 1:27), we have the ability to choose God over evil and no longer does God have to confine himself to a tent tabernacle: he has the Christian believer as his “holy temple” and God then can have relationship with us. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”)

Just a side note and something that I find very profound: we cannot comprehend God – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” Isaiah 55:8

I read a description of how incomprehensible God is, which was a brief reference to Exodus when Moses asks God for His name and God answers, “I am”.  Moses later says, “Show me your glory.” Which is his way of saying I need to see something tangible in order to try to understand you (the Hebrews described “Glory” as defined as your full value as in weight in gold so in this instance, God’s very essence).  God responds by directing Moses to stand on a rock because God is going to pass by and in order that Moses will survive this experience (because no one who actually sees God lives), God will cover Moses with His hand as He passes by. God then says, “I will remove my hand and you will see my back.” Basically, the ancient rabbis’ discussions of this passage is about the word ‘back’, which in the original Hebrew language can best be understood as an euphemism for “where I just was”.  In essence then, God is saying to Moses that the best we can understand of Him is perhaps a glimpse of where He just was. In other words, we CAN’T grasp Him!

And most profound to me is that even though we cannot fully comprehend him, he craves relationship with us because God loves us: The story of the prodigal son is a great example of God’s desire to show his love to us in the role of a father.

In that story which is in the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament, the father, a wealthy landowner, does not stop his younger son from leaving and then squandering his inheritance in a foreign land, only to find his self destitute, taking care of swine, an animal that was considered unclean to his people.  When the son recognizes that he has selfishly abandoned the ways of his father, he returns to ask forgiveness.  He has a change of heart towards the way of his father.  And when his father sees him, he doesn’t wait for his son’s approach so that his son can scrape and grovel at his feet.  The father instead sees his son in the distance and RUNS to his son, in great joy.  My study bible expresses it this way: The father has been watching for the son, and as he approaches the father casts aside all behavioral conventions of this time as running was considered too undignified for an older person, especially a wealthy landowner.  He literally “fell upon the neck of his son” in his joy. (ESV Study Bible)

This is an illustration which Jesus used to show us how much God loves us and is ready to embrace us when we turn or repent to him.  Repent actually means the changing of your mind & actions, turning to God.  The story of the Prodigal son is about every one of us.  God’s love is never in doubt as any good “parent’s” love is never in doubt for their child.  What people forget is that while a parent may love a child, unless he keeps the child captive, that child will suffer the consequences of his own actions.  That said, his Love is a call for us to respond and by our free choice, we respond in acceptance or in rejection.

There is a bible verse, which states that God would have everyone be saved.  It is our decision whether we are or not.

In the book, “The Gospel According to Moses” by Athol Dickson, the author states,
“Most major religions suggest that intimacy with God can be obtained by following a specific teaching, such as the four noble truths of Buddhism, or the dharma (right way of living) of Hinduism, or the five pillars of Islam.  But if relationship with the Lord is possible only by virtue of God’s grace, then the teaching of these religions simply cannot by true.  Intimacy with God can never by “obtained”; it can only be received as a gift from God. The importance of this idea becomes clearer when I realize that Jesus stands alone as the only founder of a major religion who said he was God.  Buddha, Confucius, and Muhammad never made that claim.  And of course, neither did Moses.  Jesus’ assertion that “no one comes to the Father except through me” has all the hallmarks of megalomania unless he and Father are one the same.  If he were just another holy man founding a new religion, it would be an outrageous thing to say.  But if Jesus is really the Creator of the universe, he was simply stating the obvious: the only way I can find intimacy with God is by the grace of God.”

As taught in the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures, an eye for an eye justice is the premise of returning things to exactly the way they were before the injustice.

Paraphrased from “The Gospel According to Moses”, Adam was spiritually perfect before sin attached him to death, therefore, only a perfect Adam could properly compensate and balance the cosmic scales of justice.  God then gave himself as the compensation as his son, Jesus Christ, who scripture says is God’s very essence; a perfect life for a perfect life.

God loves each of us but our free choice can open the door to that love or through our free choice, we can walk away from it.

God is a gentleman; as illustrated in the Gospel of Matthew 7:7, you are probably familiar with the verse: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”, well, God will not force himself but he is there in an instant when we want him. Matthew 7:8 states: “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”  And the reason He acts this way towards us is expressed so clearly in the Gospel of  John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes (places their faith) in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Although God expresses his love for us in many ways, this world does not show that expression because it is a fallen and broken world.

The current conditions evident in this world are not God’s will: disease, poverty, heartache, death are not God’s will for any of us but this world is evidence of Man’s brokenness and of his departure from God’s perfect, holy plan.  Thankfully, in this world, we can still see & feel residues of some of God’s goodness: love, beauty, etc.  Can you imagine how it was supposed to be and how it will one day be?

The bible is God’s written story, his Word, of his progressive revelation to Mankind.  There is the record of his forming the world and declaring it “Good” and there is the record of Man’s fall and the rest is the unfolding of his plan of redemption: a way back to his “garden” and perfect relationship with him.

In the Old Testament/Hebrew scriptures, God gives Man the law so that we could better know his nature, he chooses and fellowships with a people from whom his King, the Messiah (his anointed savior), would come and finally, God offers us his gift of deliverance through his son, Jesus Christ.

To paraphrase Church father, Athansius (4th century) in the book, “Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers” by Christopher A. Hall:
“A mere creature can save no one.  No creature possessed the ability or prerogative to save from sin.  Salvation was the prerogative, privilege and potential act of God alone. “The Maker must be greater than what he makes…and the giver has to bestow what is in his possession.”

Larry Richards, bible teacher and author, states:
“In his own person as true God and fully man, Jesus links God and man in indissoluble union.  Thus Jesus is able to perfectly represent God to man, communicating to us by his living Word in a voice we can recognize in our every “today” (Hebrews 3,4).  At the same time he stands in God’s presence to guarantee access, forgiveness and aid.”
Romans 10: 8-11:
“But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (NIV)

Basic Christianity teaches that Jesus, the very essence of God, in a plan known and progressively revealed in the Bible, was born of a virgin in paradoxically poor circumstances, revealed himself as first the expected Messiah and then as God incarnate.  Many times, in the New Testament, the religious of his own religion, stooped to pick up rocks in order to stone him.  It wasn’t because he claimed to be the Messiah.  There were many claimers in the first and even second centuries and many Jews died backing their favorites.  They wanted to stone him because what he was saying was outrageous and blasphemous: He was claiming to be God.

I encourage you to read the Gospel of John; you may already be very familiar with it.  In Chapter 6, Jesus’ claims are exemplified and many among the Jews are disgruntled, even to the point where most of his followers, state: “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” And many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”

It is a hard message and it is only through faith that one is able to accept it.  I know that it is difficult for people to comprehend how Jesus is the only son of God and God, part of the Trinity.  Esoteric Christianity/Gnosticism would have you believe that he is an archetype and an example of how we can evolve ourselves to perfection.

In a way, he is our example but that comes once a person becomes “justified” which is through their faith in Jesus, who he is and what he has done, because then begins the “sanctification” process which trains us to be more like him.  I can tell you it is a painful, humbling experience but one I would not trade for the world because it is through it that you truly feel God’s fellowship and presence.

I so appreciate you giving me this opportunity as I try to state a Case for this belief system.  This is long and I wonder if you’ve had the patience to bear with me.    Before closing, I’ve included a few pages from the classic Christian book, “Mere Christianity” by C. S. Lewis, because he articulates the Trinity so well, in his Chapter, “Beyond Personality: or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity, 4. Good Infection”.  I hope it makes sense:

“I begin this chapter by asking you to get a certain picture clear in your  minds. Imagine two books lying on a table one on  top of the other. Obviously the bottom book is keeping the other one up-supporting it. It is because of the underneath book that the top one is resting, say, two inches from the surface of the table instead of touching the table. Let us call the underneath  book A and the top one B.  The position of A is causing the position of B. That is clear? Now let us imagine-it could not really happen, of course, but it will do for an illustration-let us imagine that both books have been in that position forever and ever. In that case B’s position would always have been resulting from A’s position.  But all the same, A’s position would not have existed before B’s position.  In other words the result does not come after the cause. Of course, results usually do: you eat the cucumber  first  and have the  indigestion afterwards. But it is not so with all causes, and results. You will see in a moment why I think this important.


I said a few pages back that God is a Being which contains three Persons while remaining one Being, just as a cube contains six squares while remaining one body. But as soon  as I begin  trying to  explain how these Persons are connected I have to use words which make it sound as if  one of them was there before the  others. The First Person is called the Father and the Second the Son. We say that the First begets or produces the second; we call it begetting, not making, because what He produces is of the same kind as Himself.  In that way the word Father is the only word to use.  But unfortunately it suggests that He is there first-just as a human father exists before his son. But that is not so. There is no before and after about it. And that is why I have spent some time trying to make clear how one thing can be the source, or cause, or origin, of another without being there before it. The Son exists because the Father exists: but there never was a tune before the Father produced the Son.


Perhaps the best way to think of it is this.  I asked you just now to imagine those two books, and probably most of you did. That is, you made an act of imagination and as a result you had a mental picture. Quite obviously your act of imagining was the cause and the mental picture the result. But that does not mean that you first did the imagining and then got the picture. The moment you did it, the picture was there. Your will was keeping the picture before you all the time.  Yet that act of will and the picture began at exactly the same moment and ended at the same moment. If there were a Being who had always existed and had always been imagining one thing, his act would always have been producing a mental picture; but the picture would be just as eternal as the act.


In the same way we must think of the Son always, so to speak, streaming forth from  the  Father, like  light from a lamp, or heat  from a  fire,  or thoughts  from  a  mind.  He is the self-expression of the Father-what the Father has to say. And there never was a time when He was not saying it. But have you noticed what is happening? All these pictures of light or heat are making it sound as if the Father and Son were two things instead of two Persons. So that after all, the New Testament picture of a Father and a Son turns out to be much more accurate than anything we try to substitute for it. That is what always happens when you go away from the words of the Bible. It is quite right to go away  from them for  a moment in order to make some special point clear. But you must always go back. Naturally God knows how to describe Himself much better than we know how to describe Him. He knows that Father and Son is more like the relation between the First and Second Persons than anything else we can think of. Much the most important thing to know is that it is a relation of love. The Father delights in His Son; the Son looks up to His Father.


Before going on, notice the practical importance of this. All sorts of people are fond of repeating the Christian statement that “God is love,” But they seem not  to notice that the words “God is love” have no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons. Love is something that one person has for another person. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, He was not love. Of course, what these people mean when  they say that God is love is often something quite different: they really mean “Love is God.”  They really mean that our feelings of love, however and wherever they arise, and whatever results they produce, are to be treated with great respect. Perhaps they are: but that is something quite different from what Christians mean by the statement “God is love.” They believe that  the living, dynamic activity of love has been going on in God for ever and has created everything else.


And that, by the way, is perhaps the most important difference between Christianity and all other religions: that  in Christianity God is not a static thing-not even a person-but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama. Almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance. The union between the Father and Son is such a live concrete thing that this union itself is also a Person.  I know this is almost inconceivable, but look at it thus. You know that among human beings, when they get together in a family, or a club, or a trade union, people talk about the “spirit” of that family, or club, or trade union. They talk about its “spirit” because the individual members, when they are together, do really develop particular ways of talking and behaving which they would not have if they were apart. (*) [Footnote*] This corporate behavior may, of course, be either better or worse than their individual behavior.


It is as if a sort of communal personality came into existence.  Of course, it is not a real person:  it is only rather like a person. But that is just one of the differences between God and us. What grows out of the joint life of the Father and Son is a real Person, is in fact the Third of the three Persons who are God.


This third Person is called, in technical language, the Holy Ghost or the “spirit” of God. Do not be worried or surprised if you find it (or Him) rather vaguer or more shadowy in your mind than the other two. I think there is a reason why that must be so. In the Christian life you are not usually looking at Him: He is always acting through you. If you think of the Father as something “out there,” in front of you, and of the Son as someone standing at your side, helping you to pray, trying to turn you into another son, then you have to think of the third Person as something inside you, or behind you. Perhaps some people might find it easier to begin with the third Person and work backwards.  God is love, and that love works through men-especially through the whole community of Christians. But this spirit of love is, from all eternity, a love going on between the Father and Son.


And now, what does it all matter? It matters more than anything else in the world. The whole dance, or drama, or pattern of this three-Personal life is to be played out in each one of us: or (putting it the other way round) each one of us has got to enter that pattern, take his place in that dance. There is no other way to the happiness for which we were made. Good things as well as bad, you know, are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire:  if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prizes which God could, if He chose, just hand  out to anyone.  They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very centre of reality. If you are dose to it, the spray will wet you: if you are not, you will remain dry. Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever? Once a man is separated from God, what can he do but wither and die?


But how is he to be united to God? How is it possible for us to be taken into the three-Personal life?      You remember what I said in Chapter II about begetting and making. We are not begotten by God, we are only made by Him: in our natural state we are not sons of God, only (so to speak) statues. We have not got Zoe or spiritual life: only Bios or biological life which is presently going to run down and die. Now the whole offer which Christianity makes is this: that we can, if we let God have His way, come to share in the life of Christ. If we do, we shall then be sharing a life which was begotten, not made, which always has existed and always will exist. Christ is the Son of God. If we share in this kind of life we also shall be sons of God.  We shall love the Father as He does and the Holy Ghost will arise in us. He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has-by what I call “good infection.” Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”

 

Lastly, (finally!), I’ll end with this bible verse from 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” He would that all draw close to him, and not suffer the consequences of their sin which separates us from him and everything we recognize as Good.

May God draw you closer to him; may you feel his loving, holy presence.

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