Why does God Allow Evil? Click here: /Apologeticshtml/Why Does God Allow Evil 0908.htm
Should God’s existence be proven? /Apologeticshtml/Should the Bible and God Be Proven Fideism vs WCG.htm
Does God Intervene Through Chance Events? What Is the Right Way to Interpret the Bible? Are Humans Divine Now or in the Future?
There are deep theological and philosophical issues raised by the question about whether God intervenes in what seem to be chance events, such as who wins a lottery or a coin toss. God is so great and glorious compared to us humans, especially when we consider how utterly vast and complex is His creation. But does the utterly almighty and sovereign God intervene routinely in mundane small events? It would seem that He doesn't even based on normal perception: Daily life, at least in my perception, doesn't seem to be a string of daily miracles. Of course, God can veil his power behind what seem to be natural events. But in this case, we have one clear text that eliminates the idea that God intervenes in all daily events all the time (Ecclesiastes 9:11): "I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all." So let's not think that God directly causes all natural events or statistical processes to have a particular outcome.
Now, is there a way to figure out if our own
interpretations of the Bible are correct? Let’s now consider how we individually can work at
interpreting Scripture ourselves, without depending so much on the experts,
whether they be Catholic, Protestant, etc. Biblical interpretation is a
complex, important subject because it involves how one will understand God’s
word and then select a church as having the doctrines that match up best with
it. And then people can interpret the Bible different ways in order to
find evidence for (preconceived) notions.
One principle for general exegesis is to use clear texts to establish doctrine and then explain the unclear or vague texts in the light of the clear ones. For example, if a given text says "Six days you are to labor and do all your work, but on the seventh day, a sabbath to the Lord your God, you must not do any work at all . . ." (Ex. 20:9-10), then a straightforward literal interpretation indicates people (at least) shouldn't engage in profit-making activities on the seventh day of the week (meaning, Friday sunset to Saturday sunset). To say this law is abolished or changed to another day requires a clear text doing so, not something vague.
Another principle of Bible interpretation is to use the Bible to interpret itself, using other passages from other books of the Bible if necessary, to explain various terms. This is especially true when it comes to interpreting various symbols in prophetic books. We must not read into Scripture the meaning for the symbol that makes the most sense to us. Instead, check to see if another book (such as using Daniel) helps us to figure out another book's passage (such as Revelation 13). Checking the context of an individual verse can be very important in figuring out its real meaning. Also using such tools as exhaustive concordances such as Strong's is of great value when one wants to do original research rather than rely on what a given minister or theologian says. For example, consider all the ways Paul uses the word "law": Does he always attack it as invalid? Or does he still regard it as valuable for guiding Christian conduct, although it's worthless as a tool for giving sinners justification.
Another principle is to examine what the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic really means as the ultimate decisive factor in determining doctrine, not its translation into English, for that can be mistaken, especially in loose, meaning-for-meaning translations (such as the Good News Bible or the New Century Version) that are easier to read, but inevitably the meaning the translator(s) perceive predetermines (and thus limits) the possible meanings the English would have. A literal translation is more apt to be ambiguous in English, such as the New King James Version or New American Standard Bible.
Another approach would be to do some historical research, and see what doctrines were taught by the earliest Catholic Christian writers before 313 A.D., when the church (true or apostate) was still sometimes persecuted by Rome. In some cases, what they taught lines up with the Bible better than what was taught in the Middle Ages and afterwards. Although they can't used as ultimately determinative for doctrine, since tradition isn't binding (i.e., the old standard interpretation by a given churches leaders or pastors of Scripture could be wrong) against Scripture itself, it still could be useful to learn about. For example, if church members and writers were normally against war before the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine, but then was willing to allow it after the church increasingly became unified with the state, opportunism has to be suspected as the reason for the doctrinal change. After all, is there any way one could love one's enemy, yet kill him on the battlefield, when he still wants to live? A straightforward interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount indicates true Christians can't go around killing others who would still want to live at the barest minimum. But it could be even these earliest writers are wrong on a given subject (such as Origen, to name someone especially dubious), when influenced (say) by the prevailing pagan religions or philosophies of the ancient Roman Empire.
Also, we should be wary of thinking the majority view is necessarily the right view. We know from the Bible that Satan has deceived the whole world (Rev. 12:9). We also know that (given such a passage as Eph. 5) that a woman represents a church in prophecy, and that the true church will be small but the false church large, when looking at such passages as Rev. 12 and 18. So if a straightforward interpretation of Scripture contradicts a given church's interpretation of Scripture on a major teaching, we should be wary of accepting it. Further research would be necessary first before accepting it. We shouldn't just accept a teaching or interpretation on someone's authority once we are adults, but God expects us to do research on our own to check out what we've been taught if we're at all able to do so (i.e., we're literate and can read a Bible in our own native or (if necessary) second language).
The Bible is clear that men aren't gods now. Pantheism, the main teaching of Hinduism, is simply false. Pantheism says that everything and everyone is God. Therefore, all people are God right now, but (most likely) haven't realized it yet by an experience of enlightenment. On the other hand, the future destiny of mankind is to become fully divine members of God's family.
When Jesus asserted that He and the Father were one, the Jews immediately interpreted that as a claim to Deity. Because they saw His statement as blasphemy, they picked up stones again to stone Him (John 10:30-31). He then noted that men were called “gods” in Psalm 82:6 as a way to parry their objections. In this general light, consider then the words of Jesus’ prayer for His disciples present and future the night before His crucifixion (John 17:21-23, NASB used throughout): “That they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me. And the glory which Thou has given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity.” Now, if it was “blasphemy” for Jesus to proclaim His oneness with the Father, wouldn’t this prayer be even more blasphemous? For it describes in detail the Father and Son’s future unity with Christian men and women.
The “glory” (verse 22) that Jesus promised them in the future is a defining attribute of God, as research using a concordance will help show. Arians and Unitarians clearly do have major trouble with Jesus’ request earlier during this same prayer (verse 5) to have back the glory He had with the Father before the world was. So what should we think of Christians’ future status when they are promised to have glory also? Verse 22 can’t be ducked by pointing out the past tense, which appears to be like a “prophetic perfect,” in which God’s prediction of the future was so certain it was stated in a past tense (cf. Isaiah 7:14; 9:5-6): After all, these future Christians weren’t even yet Christians when Jesus prayed, but they had glory because God was totally certain He was going to give it to them.
A passage that promises Christians future glory like Christ’s is Hebrews 2:6-11. Verse 7 is even stronger in the original Hebrew of Ps. 8:5: “Yet Thou has made him a littler lower than God [Elohim], and dost crown him with glory and majesty.” So if, by this translation (the Greek can be translated two ways) when combined with the Hebrew original, we are “a little while lower than [Elohim, not merely just “the angels”],” what will we be when the “little while” ends? Furthermore in verses 9-10, “Jesus, because of the suffering of death [was] crowned with glory and honor” is in the process of “bringing many sons to glory.” The ultimate condition of salvation involves total unity with God in His Family (verse 11): “For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Verses 14, 17-18 then reveal that Jesus became like an average man. Most astonishingly, God became man so that man could become God!
Now Christians are supposed to become just like Jesus. If Jesus is God (as per John 1:1, 14; 5:18, 8:58-59, 10:30, 33-34; 20:28; Col. 2:9), what is implied by such as text as Eph. 4:12-13? “To the building up of the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.” If we’re ultimately fully like Christ, wouldn’t we fully be like God? Likewise, by loving our enemies, we “are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt. 5:48).
At the time of the resurrection, our bodies will be raised in powerful glory: “It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power” (I Cor. 15:43). As Paul explains, Adam was from the earth, but Jesus from heaven. Then he reveals (verses 48-49): “As is the earthy [man], so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. And just as we have born the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” Likewise, Christians are (Romans 8:29) “predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren.” The Greek word translated “image” in such passages (“eikon”) doesn’t just refer to a superficial likeness, but refers to an underlying similarity, even identity, in essence and substance. (See Hebrews 10:1, which compares “a shadow” with “the very form [eikona] of things.”) After all, we today are of the same species, the same category that Adam was in. Therefore, after the resurrection, we shall be of the same “species,” the same category of Being that Jesus is presently in.
In this light, we should indeed see Genesis 1:26 as a kind of thematic text for the entire Bible and God’s plan for humanity: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.’” We should then go on to behave and live more like God does after becoming “partakers of the divine nature” (II Peter 1:4) since Christ is in us, “the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27) by the Holy Spirit God puts into us (II Cor. 3:17-18). So then, people aren't God, but are destined to become part of God's family, and so become divine as well.
Eric V. Snow
Click here to access essays that defend Christianity: /apologetics.html
Click here to access essays that explain Christian teachings: /doctrinal.html
Click here to access notes for sermonettes: /sermonettes.html
Why does God Allow Evil? Click here: /Apologeticshtml/Why Does God Allow Evil 0908.htm
May Christians work on Saturdays? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Protestant Rhetoric vs Sabbath Refuted.htm
Should Christians obey the Old Testament law? /doctrinalhtml/Does the New Covenant Abolish the OT Law.htm
Do you have an immortal soul? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Here and Hereafter.htm
Does the ministry have authority? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Is There an Ordained Ministry vs Edwards.html
Is the United States the Beast? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Are We the Beast vs Collins.htm
Should you give 10% of your income to your church? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Does the Argument from Silence Abolish the Old Testament Law of Tithing 0205 Mokarow rebuttal.htm
Is Jesus God? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Is Jesus God.htm
Will there be a third resurrection? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Will There Be a Third Resurrection.htm