GOD IN A BOX
J. Austin Bennett
“We made God in our own image.” This statement by a well-known atheist emblazoned the cover of LIFE magazine in the turbulent 60’s. The truth of it is demonstrated every day by well meaning and ostensibly Bible believing Christians.
We try to understand God and how He works. Most important to many is the “how” rather than the “why”. After all, if man can accomplish the same things that God has done, we don’t need Him anymore. Witness the experiments in cloning and the attempts to generate the simplest life forms through bio-chemical and electrical experiments in genetic engineering. So far the result has been a series of unheralded failures along with some sensationalized near misses. These attempts have met strident railing from the pulpits of many churches parroted by the mindless condemnation of the churchgoing public.
But are those who shriek most loudly against the invasion of God’s domain innocent? . . . . Let’s take a look!
First Question: Where are we going after we pass out of this realm of existence? Jesus said that to inherit a spot in his kingdom, we must be born again. Some of the early Christian sects took this to literally mean reincarnation. The Hindus take this concept a bit farther with the idea that, depending on how you live your present life, you could come back as a lower life form. Don’t eat that steak. It might be Uncle Harry!
I don’t believe that you can earn your way into Nirvana (the Hindu version of heaven).
If that were true, Jesus went through an awful experience for nothing. And why does this same Nirvana bound faithful torture and murder Christians in India? But just in case, go ahead and spray that wasp with Raid. It might have been Adolf Hitler.
The concept of spiritual rebirth depends on a reality far bigger our three dimensional existence. More about this later.
Next, who is Jesus? Jehovah’s Witnesses claim he is the archangel Michael. The Mormons believe he is the created brother of the devil. These theories conveniently overlook the most quoted scripture in the Bible, John 3:16, which identifies Jesus as the only begotten Son of God. Both the Latter Day Saints with the Book of Mormon and Jehovah’s Witnesses with their New World Translation have rewritten the Bible to be consistent with their teachings.
The Witnesses are quick to ask the question, “Who was Jesus praying to in the Garden of Gethsemane?” It’s a reasonable question if we confine God to a three dimensional existence. And in the case of both of these religions, no dissent is tolerated and no question is allowed. That, to me at least, flies in the face of God’s request in Isaiah, “Come. Let us reason together.”
The emphasis is on distinguishing each denomination from all the others. It provides a wonderful opportunity to control a large group (or a small one in some cases) for the hierarchy of that group. We’re talking about power, folks.
Islam also denies the deity of Christ but pays lip service to “the people of the Book.” Apparently the Book was insufficient for their purposes. They came up with the Q’ran and the Hadith to justify their goal of exterminating the rest of “the people of the Book”.
That control I spoke of includes persuading (brainwashing) young men into driving airplanes into buildings to kill thousands or strapping a few pounds of C4 onto their bodies and walking into a crowded restaurant. The promise to these gullible young martyrs is a glorious life in Allah’s heaven with seventy virgins awaiting their arrival.
If the Hindus are right, their imminent future is probably another earthly life as a cockroach.
At least anyone can become a Muslim, Mormon or one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. There is a more exclusive club calling itself Christian Identity. They accept the deity of Christ and salvation due to his death, burial and resurrection, but you have to be white of European descent to join. Blacks, Asians and others cannot join, and therefore get to heaven, because they do not have souls. They are the “Mud People”. Too bad!
When confronted with the overwhelming scriptural evidence that God created all of us and He doesn’t make junk, these previously Bible believing folks cite a few passages in Strong’s Concordance and stretch them to fit. That’s their real Bible. It works so much better for them than the Holy Scriptures.
Right now, Identity members are arming themselves to the teeth and training for a soon to come race war they deliciously crave. It’s all about control and conquest.
What about the mainstream of Christendom? Well, many Pentecostal denominations deny salvation to anyone who does not speak in tongues. Yet, Paul wrote that there are many gifts of the Spirit, tongues being only one of them.
Some denominations deny that the gifts of the Spirit still operate. It sets them apart from those other “fanatical” denominations.
By the way, they are misinformed. The proof is the fact that I am able to tell them about it. The Holy Spirit healed my voice with the laying on of hands. Jesus is the Great Physician and he still makes house calls.
I really like the Baptists. I was baptized in a Baptist church. If you want to know right from wrong, there is no better authority. They don’t smoke, don’t chew and don’t hang out with those that do.
I attended one Sunday evening service that attacked the evils of gambling. The guest speaker devoted an hour to extolling the fact that he didn’t gamble (or smoke or chew, I suppose). He was specific with anecdotes about wrecked lives and cited the scriptural account of the Roman soldiers who cast lots for the robe of Jesus. Unfortunately for the unquestioning audience, he failed to explain that this was a common practice. Roman soldiers were allowed to keep the possessions of condemned criminals. It was a bonus the Roman soldiers received in addition to their normal pay, a ration of salt. He also neglected to mention that gambling was reported, not once but, twice in the Bible and neither condemned as a sin nor extolled as a virtue. It was merely observed as a human activity.
The Roman Catholic Church views gambling as a neutral act, like crossing the street or catching a bus. They have a good reason for this view. The money from Catholic Las Vegas nights keeps their parochial schools open. Think about that, you taxpayers!
And incidentally, the other gambler mentioned in the Bible was Samson. He was one of the Judges of Israel.
The same speaker was kind enough to join us the next night. On Monday, he tackled the egregious sin of drinking. I saw nodding their heads in pious agreement one church member, a car dealer, known by his peers as the rollback king (as in odometers) and another who earned enough as a loan shark to be a substantial contributor to the church.
Then, some jerk had the temerity to ask our guest an embarrassing question. “What about the first miracle Jesus performed? He changed the water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana.”
Our fountain of purity was unfazed. His ready answer, “Oh. That wasn’t real wine. It was grape juice.” He went on to explain that Jesus would never drink wine. H’mmm . .
Overlooked was the fact that Jesus was called a “glutton and a winebibber” by his critics of that time. I guess Jesus and all those with whom he dined consumed a lot of grape juice. Thankfully, no one brought up Paul’s advice to Timothy to drink some wine for his weakened stomach. As for those terrible anecdotes, it’s obvious that anything done to excess is harmful. The Lord told us to lead balanced lives.
This business of making God conform to our conception of right and wrong is not new.
As good as the Baptists are at legalisms, they are pikers compared to the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. God wrote ten commandments (which no one can keep). The Pharisees added over six hundred more. I guess they wanted to save God from writer’s cramp.
All they got by way of thanks was that Jesus called them Vipers.
If God Himself is not immune to the distortions of man’s opinions, His word is certainly fair game. Sticking with those most fundamental folks, the Baptists, there is a significantly large group within that denomination who will only accept the King James Bible as God’s word. Anyone who doesn’t go along with this premise is probably headed for hell.
The King James Version was written in 1611 in the modern language of its day. The problems begin when we try to understand it in the context of the 21st century. The English language itself has changed remarkably over the last five hundred years. If you don’t believe me, try to read Chaucer’s Beowulf. We’re back to the idea of the authority figure in your group telling you what God said. Or like Supreme Court Justice Holmes once stated, “We all know what the Constitution means. It means whatever WE say it means.”
It gets worse. The KJV is an early 17th century translation of the Textus Receptus, a manuscript roughly six hundred years more recent than the Septuagint. In this document at Isaiah 7:14 is the statement that the coming Messiah will be borne of a young woman. No mention of the miraculous virgin birth promised as a sign in the earlier text and a basic cornerstone of the Christian faith. Not a problem.
The people who translated the Textus Receptus in 1619 simply replaced that portion with the writings of the Septuagint. Now it fits!
With several hundred other inaccuracies and lost meanings, the King James only gang won’t give up. Despite the fact that Jesus quoted directly from the Septuagint during his earthly ministry, these hardheads hold that no matter what discoveries archeologists unearth, the KJV is the only word of God to be accepted. They have their precious box and are determined to stuff God and His word into it.
SO HOW DO WE UNDERSTAND THE NATURE OF GOD?
The disturbing answer is, we don’t. He said in His word, “My ways are not your ways and my thoughts are not your thoughts. My ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts.”
The preeminent theoretical physicist of our time, Stephen Hawking, mathematically postulated that there are eleven dimensions. I don’t know if there are eleven, or five or fifteen. I know there are more than three. The events described in the Bible clearly demonstrate that.
One of the major limitations of our three dimensional existence is that we are bound by time. Yet we accept the fact that God isn’t. He knows the end from the beginning. He promised Abraham a great nation. He also told Abraham in Genesis 15: 13-16 that his descendents would inherit the land of Canaan where Abraham was at the time, but not until after four hundred years during which Abraham’s offspring would be enslaved. The reason God gave for the delay was that the sin of the Amorites who lived there had not yet reached its full measure.
In Isaiah 45:13, God promised the people of Israel that Cyrus the Mede would provide the means to rebuild their temple. Since the Isaiah the prophet lived about two hundred years before the rise of Media-Persia and before Cyrus was born, this had to be confusing to the people of Isaiah’s time. Especially when they could gaze upon their glorious temple standing before them in fine shape. They must have thought Isaiah was crazy.
Add to that the over eighty prophesies identifying Jesus as the promised Messiah, all literally and visibly fulfilled and the evidence is overwhelming. God is not time bound.
The renowned physicist Albert Einstein proved the correlation between time and space in his Theory of Special Relativity published in 1905. Jesus bore physical witness to it when he suddenly appeared to Thomas and the disciples in a locked room.
He also spent a few hours on the road to Emmaus with two men and then sat down to dinner with them. When they recognized him, he simply disappeared.
I can’t walk through walls or disappear in one place and immediately reappear somewhere else. Philip did that when he witnessed to the Ethiopian.
The Apostle Paul spent some time in the desert with the Lord after his encounter on the Damascus road. He was taken to places we have never been and saw things we can only try to imagine. His comment was, “We see but though a glass darkly.”
It’s as if we are the ants in a small anthill located in the middle of the Taj Mahal oblivious to our surroundings. We strive for control of the anthill, completely unaware. The anthill is all we know. It is our life.
I don’t know how many dimensions there are. Perhaps the number is infinite. I know my God owns them all!
We try in our minds to make God conform to our desires and limit Him to our perceptions. Is your God a genie to be released from the bottle when you need to have a wish granted? We even put the words in His mouth and speak for Him as if we are the ventriloquists and He is the dummy.
Rulers throughout the ages and politicians today start wars resulting in the death of millions and untold devastation with the rationale that, “God is on our side.” They aren’t all lying. Most of them believe in the rightness of their cause and any reasonable God should agree with them. After all, it’s their box. My God isn’t in there!
One day for all of us, that dark glass will be lifted as it was for Paul. Until then, “Love the Lord with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.”
Be kind to each other – And trust Him!
May 2, 2006 Your Brother the Cab Driver
J. Austin Bennett Copyright © 2006 Use with credit.
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