Category: Columns

Is God an ethnic cleanser?

In The God Delusion, atheist Richard Dawkins vents:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

It seems odd that Dawkins, who has made a career out of pillorying a God he says does not exist, charges this fictional character with a plethora of crimes, including ethnic cleansing.

But the question itself is a valid one. When God instructs the Israelites to annihilate seven nations inhabiting the Promised Land to make room for His chosen people, He uses unambiguous terms.

In passages like Deut. 7:1-2 and 20:16-17, God tells the Israelites: “you must completely destroy them … you must not let any living thing survive.”

And the biblical narrative suggests the commands are taken quite literally: “They [the Israelites] completely destroyed everything in the city [Jericho] with the sword — every man and woman, both young and old, and every ox, sheep and donkey” (Josh. 6:21).

Does Dawkins have a point?
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Persecution and the perfect man

November 5 is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. North Korea continues its run as the nation most brutal toward its Christian citizens, but the vast majority of the top 50 persecutors are Muslim-dominated nations, according to the 2017 World Watch List.

Which begs the question: Is Islam hostile to Christianity?

Many Muslims worldwide condemn the violence done in the name of Allah, especially to Jews and Christians. They desire peaceful coexistence with their neighbors. Further, they cite passages from the Qur’an that support freedom of religion, and they embrace Jews and Christians as “people of the Book.”

Other Muslims, of course, follow a more violent path to achieve the goal of Islam: Bringing the world into submission to Allah.

All Muslims, however, honor Muhammad as the al-Insan al-Kamil, or “the person who has reached perfection.” Further, they seek to pattern their lives after him based on his words and deeds as revealed in the Qur’an, Hadith, and Sira.

So, it’s only fair to explore what Muhammad said about Jews and Christians, and how he treated them. After all, if he is indeed the ultimate role model, his life should exemplify how every Muslim thinks and acts toward others.
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Why the world is broken

Nearly everyone admits the world is broken, at least to some extent. There’s a disconnect between “what is” and “what ought to be.”

People pursue happiness, only to die sad and alone.

Our stuff wears out, loses its luster, or gets stolen.

Buses run late, baristas can’t make a decent latte, and the wrong team wins the Super Bowl.

Worse, evil runs rampant. ISIS bombs innocent concert-goers. Governments starve their people, even in resource-rich countries. Twitter wars trash reputations.

And on it goes. When we stop to ask our friends why they believe the world is broken, we get a variety of opinions.
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What Christians can learn from the cults

Counterfeit forms of Christianity — most notably Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses — thrive on deception.

This is nothing new. The apostle Paul warned the Corinthians about false prophets who proclaimed “another Jesus … a different Spirit … a different gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4).

While Christians should seek to correct the false doctrines of our Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness friends, we might also consider learning from their admirable qualities, including:

(1) Their zeal for witnessing. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses believe they have recaptured true Christianity after centuries of apostasy. They not only stand behind their convictions; they put feet to them.

Today, there are nearly 71,000 Mormon missionaries carrying the message of Joseph Smith around the world — at their own expense, or the expense of their families. Meanwhile, Jehovah’s Witnesses boast 8.3 million “publishers” in 240 countries.

They may be faulted for their false teachings, but certainly not for their faithfulness to them.

As Anthony Hoekema has written in The Four Major Cults, “It would appear that the cults are generally pursuing a much more diligent and systematic program of witnessing, both at home and abroad, than are the churches.”
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How to make a universe

This is the second in a two-part series on Stephen Hawking’s contention that science has resolved the need for God.

In the previous column, we examined the logical fallacies theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking employs in the Discovery Channel series, “Stephen Hawking’s Grand Design.”

Now, let’s turn our attention to how a universe is made. While Scripture tells us that God spoke the world into existence (Gen. 1:3-26; Ps. 33:9; Heb. 11:13), Hawking contends that nothing more than matter, energy, and space is needed to craft a universe.

But where did these ingredients come from? The Bible describes the creative act of God as ex nihilo — out of nothing. The eternally existing God created everything, visible and invisible, as an act of divine will.

Science tells quite a different tale than the biblical account, according to Hawking: “We can use the laws of nature to grasp the very origins of the universe and discover if the existence of God is the only way to explain it.”

A universe may materialize out of nothing through purely natural processes, he says. The laws of physics demand the existence of something called “negative energy.”

When the Big Bang produced vast amounts of positive energy, it also produced an equal amount of negative energy, says Hawking.

So, where is all the negative energy today? In space, he says. Space is a vast storehouse of negative energy, ensuring that all positive and negative energy adds up to zero.
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