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Oh My God!

Oh My God!

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Oh My God!

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316 pagine
5 ore
Editore:
Pubblicato:
May 29, 2016
ISBN:
9781310380525
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

Why are we here? Why is life unfair? Why does God allow misery, poverty, illness, crime, war and evil? Why do decent law-abiding people need Jesus? Does science really disprove or contradict the Bible? Why are prayers unanswered? Was Jesus God? Does Satan exist? What is the true message of the Bible and how does it compare with traditional centuries old teachings?
As a Christian and a scientist I have contemplated many views which appear at first to be contradictory. With greater understanding of both areas the conflicts become more complementary and even work in harmony.
This book is a personal quest for satisfactory answers to these difficult questions. I have tried to support all the answers with biblical quotes rather than the opinions of theologians. In short this book is written by a layman in a simple manner to maintain clarity and to promote understanding.
Many questions arose from my random pondering and others from individuals wishing to develop their understanding by challenging concepts often avoided by traditional Christian teaching. I have employed my experiences and a personal perspective but many of the questions are a collection from many different individuals. Some answers appear simple while others are more complex. To God we are all individuals with unique relationships. It is no surprise then that we each follow different paths on our respective journeys. What makes the Bible special is that it can be read with the confidence that the true message will remain unchanging for ever. I hope to make this message available to as wide an audience as possible in the hope that as many as possible will have the opportunity to make a decision based on their understanding rather than the opinions of others.

Editore:
Pubblicato:
May 29, 2016
ISBN:
9781310380525
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

James King is a British journalist, specialising in Film and Music. His BBC Radio 1 show James King's Movie News was nominated for a Sony Radio Academy Award in 2004. He has also contributed to numerous TV shows, and was the presenter of ITV2’s The Movie Show.

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Oh My God! - King James

O.M.G.

James King

Published by R.J.Cocking at Smashwords

Copyright 2016 R.J.Cocking

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favourite eBook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

CONTENTS

Foreword

Chapter 1 - How and Why

Chapter 2 - Christianity

Chapter 3 - Evolution V Creation

Chapter 4 - The Gnostic Gospels

Chapter 5 - The Rapture

Chapter 6 - Where did Jesus go between death and resurrection?

Chapter 7 - The rich man and Lazarus – parable, prophesy or literal?

Chapter 8 - The story of Jonah

Chapter 9 - Prayer

Chapter 10 - Bearing witness

Chapter 11 - Marriage and Divorce

Chapter 12 - Noah’s Ark

Chapter 13 - The first miracle – water into wine

Chapter 14 - The 153 Fish

Chapter 15 - Satan

Chapter 16 - The Sermon on the Mount Beatitudes

Chapter 17 - Revelation

Chapter 18 - Was Judas Iscariot forgiven?

Chapter 19 - Prophecy in the Bible

Chapter 20 - Predestination V Freewill

Chapter 21 - Did Jesus claim to be the Messiah or God?

Chapter 22 - Judgement: Ours and Gods

Chapter 23 - The narrow gate

Chapter 24 - My God

Foreword

This book is the result of a personal goal to clarify my understanding of the God of the Bible. I have attempted to attain this goal by asking difficult, faith-challenging questions and to answer these to my satisfaction, using only Bible scriptures and references to support my conclusions. The initial questions arose randomly. Some are my own ponderings; some were raised by others who also wished to test their faith and understanding by debating the meaning of the Bible message. Many questions were raised from answers to previous questions because some answers raised more questions than they answered. I like to think that the questions were influenced by guidance from the Holy Spirit. I believe that the Bible is a ‘living book’ designed to explain God's will and truth at varying levels, with some explanations being simple while others are very complex. God knows us individually and therefore it is no surprise that we each interpret and take from the Bible, slightly different individual perspectives of His message. What does not change is the truth that God imparts for all of us to access if we so wish. My writing is a personal perspective, based on my first tentative steps along my own journey through its pages. Others will have their own individual experiences and knowledge to call upon and will follow their own path to the truth. As life unfolds each of us will accumulate new experiences and knowledge which may change our perspectives and pathways. This may alter our views and our relationships with God because we can and will read His word with new perspectives and honesty. As an aid to my quest I have used other people's experiences and thoughts, alongside my own. Also, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I have tried to clarify my understanding and to strengthen my faith while developing my relationship with my God through prayer. As a result some of my earlier views and understandings have changed. I feel tempted to return to the beginning and to change them accordingly. However, to do so would detract from my original position and relate not a journey from where I was to where I am, but instead describe a destination with hindsight, which I did not then possess. This is not what I intend. This is a personal journal of my spiritual evolution and therefore it is important to establish where I came from as well as establishing where I am now. This journey is part of my life and what makes the Bible special for me is that I can read it as I change with the confidence that the message will remain constant and never change. Praise be to God.

Chapter 1....... How or Why?

How can there be a God – why would a God allow wars? Why would a God allow suffering and misery? None of my prayers are answered. Science proves that the Earth is millions of years old, not thousands. I am a decent, caring, hard-working, law–abiding citizen so why do I need Jesus? The Universe was created in the ‘Big Bang’, just before the period of expansion, about 13.8 billion years ago, not by God in six days as the Bible says. Why does the Universe exist? What is the purpose of life? Since our earliest history humans have pondered over similar questions, often without reaching satisfactory answers. Some invented religions to explain them, others turned to science to provide explanations, others have simply accepted without questioning how and why. Science may explain how, while religions often address why. Have you asked similar questions? If you have, then I want to share some of my thoughts. If you haven’t, then I hope you may be inspired to become curious and ask such questions.

Most people are agnostics, wanting to believe in a loving God and an everlasting paradise after death. The problem is they want proof. Asking God to prove himself is a little like looking for proof in quantum mechanics – as soon as we focus on one aspect of evidence, it instantly changes or leads to even more challenging questions. It’s as if quantum mechanics has a mind of its’ own, preventing us from acquiring knowledge of it. The best we can do is to observe effects and invent mathematical patterns, which can then be applied to predict the likelihood of something happening in the real word. Not really a satisfactory conclusion.

Of course, God could prove himself, but if he did, he would destroy our freedom to choose. He promised us freewill to choose. If he provided us with empirical proof of his existence, would that affect our choice? How would you react if you saw a man walk on water, raise a dead person, turn water into wine and then proceed to feed a crowd of thousands with just five loaves and a few fishes? Of course we would all be influenced. This action would affect our choice. God wants us to believe in Him of our own free will. To achieve this He provides us with evidence and guidance to strengthen our faith in Him. If we have knowledge of His message, it will lead us to a better understanding of Him. His ultimate aim is to encourage each of us to choose to enter into an eternal relationship with him, in his kingdom. His message and guidance is laid out fully in his Word – The Bible. Unfortunately there are many different translations and interpretations of The Bible. This often leads to confusion and misunderstandings. Fortunately the Bible was written for everyone to be able to access the Truth and to decide for themselves. However, if you have never read and understood the Bible, how can you make an informed decision?

We all take risks - in our relationships, our daily routines, finances, decisions, health and almost all other aspects of life involve some degree of chance. Most of us think little of having a flutter on the Grand National or buying a lottery ticket, despite odds of many millions to one against winning. Despite this, we are reluctant to ‘gamble’ on God's existence. The jackpot could not be higher – eternal paradise; or the stake lower –freely accepting Jesus as our Saviour. Surely the rewards massively outweigh any lottery win and the cost of the stake is nothing - it’s free! Is this not the greatest bargain of our lives? Looking at it logically the truth is: we can’t lose! We can optimistically accept Jesus and everlasting paradise, or pessimistically believe that our massive and complex Universe, billions of years old, is all the result of a freak accident of nature and that we are limited to a few decades of existence for no other reason than to replicate our species, followed by an eternity of nothing. Being optimistic or pessimistic will not change the outcome one iota, but the optimist has a much better time waiting for it!

Science can help explain how things work very well, but not always why they are as they are. Children struggle to understand our world and frequently ask ‘why’ questions. As adults we often struggle even harder to answer them. If you understand Science and Christianity, then you realise that there is no conflict between the two – after all God was the greatest ever scientist. Problems are caused by people who know a little about both or a lot about one and little of the other. The Belgian priest Lemaitre was able to cope with both science and spirituality. Being a dedicated Catholic priest and a brilliant mathematician he invented the ‘Big Bang’ model to explain the expansion of the universe, whilst proclaiming Gods’ reasons for why it existed. Science cannot explain why the universe exists or what the purpose of life is..........Christianity can. Science can explain the age of the universe, how a star works (well, almost), define the forces that bind together every atom in the universe and how things obtain mass. The Bible tells us nothing of these things, but tells what comes after life. Rather than explaining the mechanics of our present universe which will eventually ‘die’ –albeit in trillions of years’ time, (which is still a drop in the ocean compared to eternity), the Bible illustrates how and why we can attain an eternity of paradise.

Chapter 2.......... Christianity

Christians believe that God always was and always will be. The Christian God is the perfectly righteous creator. God created the universe from His infinite spiritual energy, as evidence of His greatness and to provide Christians with an independent state in which to exercise their freewill. God shares Himself through His physical creation and spiritually through prayer as He encourages and develops a loving relationship with Christians everywhere. According to His perfect standard He gifted all people freewill to choose their eternal destiny. Satan was allowed by My God as an alternative choice so that Christians could make a fair choice according to His perfect unbiased standard. My God knew that Satan would tempt all and that their spiritual weakness would succumb to sin. All souls were destined never to share God's kingdom. To redress this, God gave His word, the Bible, to explain His will, His standard and His plan. God then sacrificed Himself for Christians as Jesus, providing an alternative way for their souls to be redeemed and saved. His perfect sacrifice atoned for all their sins. This is the good news of the Gospels. Christians do not need to live a perfect life to acquire salvation but they do need faith in Jesus, their God and to believe that His perfect sacrifice paid the price on their behalf, to enable them to be with God forever. His sacrifice redeemed their souls so that they will be viewed as sinless on judgement day. No sin can reach Heaven in souls saved through Jesus. God expresses His message through His word, the Bible, using the Holy Spirit as a guide. His created universe allows Christians to witness His omnipotent power, love and wisdom. However, the final choice is theirs. God must judge them fairly by His perfect Holy righteousness. If God chooses to reveal himself in a special way to help a person believe, but they then reject Him after fully knowing Him, that person will have committed the only unforgiveable sin and will be excluded from God in a state called Hell. This fate is reserved for the devil and his followers who all knew God once, but chose to reject Him. On judgement day we must each account for ourselves and we will be judged accordingly. Our efforts will fall short of God's standard, but by accepting the gracious gift of Jesus’ offer, Christians will be able to enter. The Christian faith that Jesus died to save us will result in our reward in Heaven. Religion and self righteousness will not save a single soul.

Is Christianity a religion?

The difference between Christianity and other faiths, is that all other faiths employ 'invented religions' consisting of beliefs, codes of conduct, prescribed acts, laws and traditions to reach up to their Gods and their eternal destinies. Christianity is different. Christians are not required to undergo any religious paraphernalia as our God lovingly reaches down inviting us to join Him. As Jesus He graciously paid the ultimate price on our behalf thereby gifting everyone the right to freely accept or decline His offer of salvation. He does not demand that we conform to any religious code or ritual but instead encourages us to place our faith in Jesus as the only prerequisite to eternal life in His presence. Christians know that they cannot 'work' or 'pay' their passage to heaven by adhering to any religion, but must instead form a relationship with God through prayer and the Bible to strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ. No other requirement is called for and hence Christianity cannot be classed as a religion. My conclusion is: that no religion will lead to God, only faith in Jesus, as He says, ' I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.' (John 14:6).

Chapter 3.......Evolution V Creation

This is one of the biggest sources of conflict between Christians and science, with one faction continually arguing against the other in an attempt to discredit the other and to bolster their own case. Many of the arguments used are unsupported by credible evidence and are used incorrectly by both sides, more in emotional desperation than a genuine attempt to establish the truth.

In my experience evolution and creation cause many differences of opinion. Furthermore, I think that most ‘conflicts’ are results of misunderstandings, rather than contradictory evidence. This is not surprising. To present an objective case, both sides need to fully understand the others’ point of view in order to judge and assess the validity, of both questions and answers. Persons possessing equal qualifications and experiences in science and Christianity are rare. As a consequence most exchanges are driven more by emotion than logical thinking, leading to irrational questions and responses. Such debates are, in my opinion, better reserved for magazines where opinion is valued irrespective of how valid or accurate the source is. I do value opinions, but the quote, ‘opinions are like bellybuttons, – we all have them but they don’t hold much water’, seems to put them into perspective when trying to use them as useful arguments.

Returning to evolution I wish to explain what evolution means to me. I think of biological evolution as meaning ‘a gradual process of change in the characteristics of a population of organisms over successive generations’. I would now like to examine the Biblical account of The Creation.

Depending on which version of the Bible you read, some words and phrases may differ. The Bible is a collection of books, written over a span of more than 1500 years, by at least 40 different authors, originally using Hebrew dialects. These were then translated into Greek before being written in our modern languages. Little wonder then, that variations have resulted. Some words and expressions have changed or disappeared altogether since it was first recorded. The origin of The Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible (the Pentateuch, meaning five scrolls), – can be traced back more than 3400 years. It was completed about 1900 years ago. So how can we test its accuracy? Science can help here. Radio Carbon dating has confirmed that the Dead Sea Scrolls were written on papyrus which is more than 2000 years old. When comparisons were made on the accuracy of the text on the scrolls, the results gave an accuracy of greater than 95% when compared to the modern text. The 5% error is accounted for by spelling errors or words having changed slightly in their construction. For example the Dead Sea Scroll version of Isaiah 53 contains 166 Hebrew words. When compared to the accepted modern text, there are only 17 differences in letters, including 10 spelling errors, 4 stylistic changes and 3 letters added for the word meaning light. None of these changes affect the context or meaning in any way. The account we read today is then likely to be almost identical to the original text when it was first recorded.

The creation account is attributed to Moses and appears in the book of Genesis, chapters 1 and 2. Most people are familiar with the first chapter, in which God created the Universe in 6 days and rested on the 7th day. Fewer people are aware of the account in chapter 2. Many readers react from ignorance and assume that by comparing the two, apparent contradictions arise. However, these differences are dispelled when both accounts are read with knowledge and understanding. To reach an unbiased and truthful conclusion it is necessary to approach with understanding and knowledge. The alternative is to regurgitate opinionated views of others, who may be intellectually gifted, but who may not possess an adequate understanding of Christianity. Even though they may convince themselves and others that they are amply qualified to enter into a debate, I would argue that they are more likely to be expressing an opinion, rather than an educated and reasoned argument.

A noticeable difference exists in the writing styles used in each account. The first chapter describes events in a factual and prescriptive manner, whilst chapter 2 employs a more personal style. This change in style has led to speculation that the two accounts were written by different authors. The name used for God is different in each account. Chapter 1 uses ‘Elohim’ and chapter 2 uses ‘Jehovah or Yahweh’. These differences have led some to suggest that the first chapter dates from the time when the Israelites were held captive in Babylon and that chapter 1 was written in the 9th century B.C. Neither the changes in writing styles, or using different names for God, prove these accounts were written at different times or by different authors.

The Hebrew name ‘Elohim’, reflects a physically strong characteristic – which seems to fit well with a creator capable of constructing a Universe in six days. The name ‘Jehovah’ implies moral and spiritual strength and seems very appropriate with the more personal account in chapter 2. These two sides of my God are in keeping with the contexts of both chapters. I am only too well aware that people change as they mature and this may well be reflected in the writing styles of an author as he or she matured.

There is an inference that in Genesis 1, God is a distant creator but in Genesis 2 he takes on more personal human traits. For example the words ‘formed’, ’breathed’ and ‘planted’ are all descriptions of human activity. This argument does not hold up well upon a closer inspection of chapter 1 which includes words such as ‘called’ ‘saw’ and ‘rested’ which are also descriptions of human activities.

More compelling differences are cited when comparing the order of events in each account. For example Genesis: ch1:11 states that plants were created on the 3rd day and man on the 6th day. Genesis: ch2:5 ‘when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up – for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground:’ suggests that plants were not created until after man appeared. Is this a contradiction or a mistake? One account states that plants appeared on the 3rd day, the other infers that plants arrived after the 6th day, when man also appeared. However the original Hebrew Bible uses different words to describe plants in each chapter. Chapter 1 uses the Hebrew for plants in general (vegetation), whereas the word for plants used in chapter 2, refers specifically to agricultural or farmed plants. This knowledge then gives the reader a true translation of the two chapters. God created plants in general first, followed by plants which required farming, after he created Man. This makes perfect sense and also fits with archaeological findings which date the start of agriculture. Overall this is a reasonably accurate account, written simply, for simple people to understand, nearly 3500 years ago.

Another similar misunderstanding occurs with the timing of animal creation. In the King James Version (KJV), God created animal life on the 5th day (Genesis 1:20 – 22), before he created Man. Verses 24 and 25 then describe the creation of specific species, including cattle on the 6th day – the day Man was created. Looking at chapter 2 verse 19 we read ‘And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air: and brought them unto Adam.’ This phrase clearly suggests that these animals were created after Adam (Man), yet the first chapter tells us that animals were created on day 5, a day before Adam. Isn’t this a discrepancy? No, animals in general were created on day 5 but, on a later date the specific animals suitable for farming, such as cattle and fowls, were created on day 6, after Adam, and then brought before him to be named.

Other versions of the Bible, including the ESV and the Tyndale version (which predates the K.J.V,) both include a subtle grammatical difference. The word ‘had’ is included so that Chapter 2:19 reads: ‘And out of the ground the Lord God HAD formed every beast of the field and every fowl of the air....’ The word ‘had’ is a pluperfect verb, which means that it refers to the past of something which has already happened. Many argue that the word ‘had’ should be included in order to give chronological order to chapter 2. The early Greek language, from which the Bible was translated, contained no punctuation. It was often the translator who chose if and where to include commas and full stops. Placing even commas in different positions can dramatically change the whole meaning of sentences. It is no wonder then, that some versions are grammatically different and may be interpreted to mean different things, even if they were translated from the same documents. Wherever possible it is best to refer to the original Hebrew text for an accurate source.

Even the order in which Heaven and Earth were created is challenged. Genesis 1:1 states ‘In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the Earth’, while in Genesis 2:4 the order is repeated and then reversed in the same sentence. ‘These are the generations of the Heavens and of the Earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the Earth and the Heavens.’ Is this a slip or intentional and does it really matter?

Another area of contention focuses on the creation of Man. In Genesis 1: 27 we read ‘so God created man in his own image’ but there are no further details. We do not know if the word ‘man’ refers to a solitary being or to mankind in general. If the verse refers to a solitary being, I would expect it to read ‘so God created a man’. Genesis 2:7 tells us a little more of the process ‘And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground’. This may be a simple way to explain that we and the Earth are all made of the same atomic elements.

In short, each of the chapters has a different emphasis. Chapter 1 is a statement, containing the story of creation in a chronological order of events. Chapter 2 is a more developed and topical narrative, adding details about man, with a special focus on his environment. This procedure is quite common, for example Matthews’ account of the ministry of Christ is more topical whereas the account by Mark is more chronological.

What did Jesus say? Jesus combines quotes from both Genesis 1 and 2. In Matthew 19:4 he said, ‘he which made them at the beginning made them male and female’ from Gen.1:26. And in Matthew 19:5 ‘for this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh.’ From Gen.2:24. Surely, if the two accounts were separate writings, Jesus would have stated this. By combining them into one phrase without referring to two authors, he may be inferring that both quotes were by the same author or at least were meant to be read together as one account.

I think that both accounts were written to be read together. They are not contradictory but complementary. Gen.1 is a chronological account of events, whist Gen. 2 gives more detail on the specific topic of mankind and his environment.

I find it perplexing that Gods’ first creative instruction was, ‘Let there be light’. Why was light chosen as the important starting point? Today, 3500 years later, it is intriguing that Einstein, and many subsequent scientific experiments, conclude that the speed of Light is constant throughout the Universe. It is time and space which fluctuate. Until recently who would have believed that time speeds up or slows down, depending on how fast we move? By contrast, the speed of light is constant everywhere. Could this have been known by the author of Genesis? I doubt it, but what a remarkable coincidence that God created Light on the first day and that Jesus describes himself as ‘the Light’. Maybe the purpose is to underline the attribute of light as a constant, reflecting Gods character as unchanging. We can depend on his Love, grace and words as surely as we can depend on the constancy of light.

Is love real or an illusion? Science cannot answer this. Science demands empirical evidence to prove or disprove theories. Some things exist even though we cannot measure or prove them – for example emotions like love and hate cannot be determined and measured by scientific experiments, yet we know they exist through experience and effect. Asking the Bible to prove evolution is a bit like expecting to learn German by listening to Beethoven or to understand the rules of cricket by looking at Constables’ ‘The Hay Wayne’. Neither is designed to achieve the task for which it is being incorrectly used.

Many quantum mechanics theories are as yet unable to be tested and may indeed be impossible to test, due to their nature. Does this mean that they are unreal and not credible? No, we know of their existence through their effects on the natural world. Instead of measurable data we use mathematics to infer some of their properties. In a similar way we can never prove or disprove God or life after death. We need to use the evidence we do have and to use this to reach our own conclusions. It is God's wish that we believe in Him by faith alone. He gave us free will to choose. God wants all of us to believe in Him by choice. If God provided proof of His existence, he would be influencing us and affecting our freedom to choose. However, He reserves the right to leave supportive evidence, in the shape of the Bible (His word), Jesus’ ministry and all the things in

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