Search results for Revelation

Why read the book of Revelation?

Why read the book of Revelation?

Why Read Revelation?

Reading and heeding Revelation brings blessing: “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (1:3).[1]

So, why read? Why care?

Because it is what is. And it tells us how to live. It tells us what to value and why.

We, essentially, are walking through life with wool over our eyes. The reality is we can’t see. We don’t always know what’s what. Satan is a great deceiver and he’s the god of this world.

Revelation is a jolt. It’s is a wake-up call. Revelation is a blind person seeing for the first time.

Revelation reveals the truth that on every forehead there is a name. We are all either aligned and carry the allegiance of Satan or Jesus our savior. We’re all ultimately marching to Satan or the Savior’s beat. We don’t always see it as it is, but Revelation says it as it is. Again, Revelation is an unveiling.

That’s what the book of Revelation is. But, what does the book of Revelation do?

What does the Book of Revelation do?

Wrestling with the book of Revelation…

1) wakes us up to the wonder & makes the unseen, seen

Have you ever said, “I’ve never seen it like that before?” That’s what the book of Revelation does.

Revelation gives us a picture of reality. A new perspective by which to see the world. John tells about all he “saw.” Revelation offers “a divine perspective on what is true, valuable and lasting.”[2]

And when we see things from the perspective of heaven it breaks the earthbound delusion of the beast’s propaganda.[3] We need to see what John saw. We need the book of Revelation to open our eyes to the unseen realities.

C.S. Lewis said, “What is concrete but immaterial can be kept in view only by painful effort.”[4] If Christians are to “resist the powerful allurements of Babylon, they [need] an alternative and greater attraction.”[5]

Revelation, as Brian Tabb has said, “reorients believers’ view of their present situation and challenges them to live by faith in the light of God’s sovereign rule over all things, which is more real and lasting than the reality they see with their eyes.”[6]

The revelation of Jesus is showing us something (v. 1). It’s showing us something we didn’t see before and we don’t see it without Jesus’ revelation. The book of Revelation is like smelling salts.

Its pictures are powerful painted to show us the point. Sin is bad but we don’t always see it as it is. I can tell you that sin is bad. I can tell you that it takes you longer, deeper, and destroys more than you’d expect and that’s true.

Sin is bad and serious. That truth, however, often fall on deaf ears. But if I tell you the story of Sméagol who turns into Gollum and ends in lava that picture is more poignant and communicates at a different level. Revelation paints a powerful picture of the awful reality of sin.

Revelation was given to John and he passed on to the churches and to us. They needed it then and we need it now. We need to see the true picture of reality.

“Revelation provides a set of Christian prophetic counter-images which impress on its readers a different vision of the world… The visual power of the book effects a kind of purging of the Christian imagination, refurbishing it with alternative visions of how the world is and will be.”[7]

We too need to see what John saw. We too need to be awakened to the wonder of it all.

Revelation helps us see that since the present world will be dissolved we should not live for this world but the next. And thus have morals shaped by the next Kingdom and not this evil one (2 Pet. 3:11; 1 Cor. 7:26, 29).

Revelation helps us see the unseen and Revelation…

2) reveals what will soon happen

Revelation tells “the things that must soon take place” (v. 1). Revelation and eschatology (the teaching on end times) are not mainly about charts and predictions. I agree with John Frame that “it is a pity that the church’s teaching on eschatology, the last days, has been concerned mostly with arguments about the order of events. In Scripture itself, the primary thrust of eschatology is ethical.”[8] Of course, that should not be a cop-out for studying the book of Revelation or eschatology though.

It is wise to be well-informed as to the major views of Christ’s return. We, however, should not be dogmatic about how and when exactly it will happen. Jesus Himself seems to clearly indicate this (cf. e.g. Mk. 13:32).

We should be dogmatic though that it will happen and will be glorious. And that it should motivate us as we seek to live faithful lives as exiles waiting for our blessed hope. We also are to constantly remind ourselves of His nearing return and of the feast we shall share with Him (cf. Matt. 26:29; Mk. 14:25; Lk. 22:16; 1 Cor.11:26; Rev. 19:9).[9]

The main point of the prophecy is that Jesus wins and all those who trust Him will dwell with God forevermore in perfect peace. The serpent that destroyed, in the beginning, will be destroyed in the end.

“The ancient serpent whose murderous lie seduced the woman and plunged the world into floods of misery (Gen. 3:1) is seen again, waging war against the woman, her son, and her other children—but this time his doom is sure and his time is short (Rev. 12; 20).”[10]

Thanos said, “I am inevitable.” We, however, know what’s actually inevitable. We know who wins.

Revelation shows us what will happen soon and Revelation…

3) helps us see the glory of the gospel 

Revelation reveals the true identity of Jesus the Jewish carpenter (e.g. Rev. 1:5-8). He’s not just a lamb, He’s a lion. He roars and devours.

We need to remember, that the end of the story, and the main point of the Revelation, is to show that God through Jesus the Christ is victorious! This truth encouraged John who was exiled on Patmos and all the churches that were being persecuted to whom the letter went. If we read the letter, especially in that context, we will respond, not so much with a certain view of how everything will happen, but by saying, “Come Lord Jesus, come”! And that is the more powerful takeaway from the book.

“What is true in heaven now will be true on earth as well. God will reassert himself as ‘King of the nations’ and will execute judgments on the beast and all rival sovereigns who usurp his praise and oppress his people (15:3; 16:5–7). Therefore, readers must heed the angel’s repeated exhortation to John: ‘Worship God’ (19:10; 22:9).”[11]

The correct response to Revelation’s “dramatic presentation of Jesus is joyous worship and steadfast loyalty fuelled by confident hope in his regal return.”[12]

As The ESV Study Bible says,

“Revelation unveils the unseen spiritual war in which the church is engaged: the cosmic conflict between God and his Christ on the one hand, and Satan and his evil allies (both demonic and human) on the other. In this conflict, Jesus the Lamb has already won the decisive victory through his sacrificial death, but his church continues to be assaulted by the dragon, in its death-throes, through persecution, false teaching, and the allure of material affluence and cultural approval. By revealing the spiritual realities lying behind the church’s trials and temptations during the time between Christ’s first and second comings, and by dramatically affirming the certainty of Christ’s triumph in the new heaven and earth, the visions granted to John both warn the church and fortify it to endure suffering and to stay pure from the defiling enticements of the present world order.”

Revelation shows us that no one can ruin the One who reigns. No one can liquidate the Lord. No one can silence the Sovereign. No one can cancel the King.

That’s reality.

And soon all will see!

I want us all to see the truth now, and live in light of it now.

Notes

[1] There are actually seven blessings, the number for completeness, listed in the book of Revelation (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7; 22:14).

[2] Tabb, All Things New.

[3] Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, 91.

[4] C.S. Lewis, Letter to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1963), 114.

[5] Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, 129. “One of the functions of revelation was to purge and to refurbish the Christian imagination… Revelation offers a different way of perceiving the world” (Ibid., 159).

[6] Brian Tabb, All Things New.

[7] Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, 17. “One of the key themes of the book is that things are not what they seem. The church in Smyrna appears poor but is rich… What appears to the naked eye, on the plane of human history, to be weak, helpless, hunted, poor, defeated congregations of Jesus’ faithful servants prove to be the true overcomers who participate in the triumph of the Lion who conquered as a slain Lamb. What appear to be the invincible forces controlling history—the military-political-religious-economic complex that is Rome and its less lustrous successors—is a system sown with the seeds of its self-destruction” (Dennis E. Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation, 9).

[8] Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb, 13.

[9] “We are called to be a people of memory, who are shaped by a tradition that is millennia older than the last Billboard chart. And we are called also called to be a people of expectation, praying for and looking forward to a coming kingdom that will break in upon our present as a thief in the night” (James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, 159).

[10] John Frame, The Doctrine of God, 277.

[11] Tabb, All Things New.

[12] Tabb, All Things New.

What is the book of Revelation?

What is the book of Revelation?

What is Revelation?

If Revelation were a movie what genre would it be? Comedy? Nope. Definitely not. What kind of movie?…

It would be in the genre of apocalyptic. The apocalyptic genre is about disaster and destruction. As far as movies go, it’s kind of a serious and science-fiction-ish genre.

Interestingly, these types of movies are getting more and more popular. In the pre-1950s there were 4 movies in that genre. In the 1960s there were 25. And from 2010 through 2019 there were 101 movies in that genre.

So, the genre of the book of Revelation is really popular right now. But the book of Revelation tells us the true story.

“The book of Revelation is the ultimate action thriller. Anyone who loves a great novel will certainly love this book. It contains drama, suspense, mystery, and horror. It tells of rebellion, unprecedented economic collapse, and the ultimate war of human history. Revelation is a book of astounding drama and horror, but also of hope and joy. It culminates with a happy ending, as sin and death are banished forever (21:4; 22:3).”[1]

Revelation is the last book of the Bible. Therefore, there’s a lot that came before it. And a lot that is important to understand, from Genesis to Jude, that informs our reading of Revelation.

I know some people that read books and go straight to the back and read that first. I don’t understand that. It doesn’t make sense to me. I do, however, eat pizza crust first so maybe you think I have no room to talk…

But the point is understanding the beginning parts of the book is important to understand the conclusion. This is especially important when we consider that there are some 278 allusions to the Old Testament in the book of Revelation, and that’s in a book that is 404 verses long (some commentators say over four hundred allusions)!

Revelation is a revelation, prophecy, and letter

Revelation 1:1–3 shows us a few important things about what kind of book it is. It tells us who the divine author is: “Jesus Christ.” We already talked about if it was a movie what type of movie it would be, but as a book, it is actually in three different genres…

Revelation (Apocalypse)

Revelation 1:1 says, “The revelation of Jesus Christ…” The term revelation (Greek ἀποκάλυψις, apokalupsis) here means “uncovering” or “revealing.” And that’s what the book is, it’s “an ‘unveiling’ of unseen spiritual forces operating behind the scenes in history and controlling its events and outcome.”[2]

Brian Tabb says,

“Apocalypses have two principal functions: (1) they encourage and comfort believers during severe trials… and (2) they challenge readers to adopt a new perspective on reality in the light of coming judgment and to live accordingly.”[3]

Prophecy

Revelation 1:1 goes on to say that it is also a prophecy in part by saying that it is about “the things that must soon take place.” Richard Bauckham says that

“Biblical prophecy always both addressed the prophet’s contemporaries about their own present and the future immediately impending for them and raised hopes which proved able to transcend their immediate relevance to the prophet’s contemporaries and to continue to direct later readers to God’s purpose for their future.”[4]

So, Revelation was both for the contemporary audience and for us the future audience.

Letter

John wrote “to the seven churches that are in Asia” (Rev. 1:4). So, Revelation is addressed to first-century churches. It’s a letter. But it’s also a revelation. It’s revealing the truth of the spiritual cosmic battle that’s unseen by the physical eye. Revelation is also prophecy. It’s telling us what is and what will happen.[5]

Revelation’s Wild Imagery

In the book of Revelation, you have beasts and you have Babylon. You have terrible bowls and a terrible dragon. You have persecution and plagues. You have what is pure and what is putrid. You have what is right worship and what is wrong. You have death and the second death. You have earth and the new earth. You have now and you have later. You have the Lamb that’s the Lion.

In the book of Revelation, you have things as they really are. Revelation is a revelation of the way things are. It’s a disclosure. A revealing. It’s the truth made literally seen through symbols.

It’s the uncovering. The unwrapping of a Christmas present. The truth of what was inside was hidden and unclear until the package is unwrapped and opened.

“Revelation is not a riddle to be decoded by experts or marginalized by those in the pews. It is a book – indeed, the final book – of Christian Scripture meant to decode our reality, capture our imaginations and master our lives with the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”[6]

That’s what Revelation’s wild imagery is for. It paints a true picture for us through powerful symbols.

Revelation “is not a secret code that allows believers to decipher the timeline of Jesus’s return.”[7]

Notes

[1] John MacArthur, Because the Time is Near, 25.

[2] The ESV Study Bible.

[3] Brian Tabb, All Things New.“Revelation, with regard to both content and construction, is one of the most exquisite of all apocalypses both Jewish and Christian” (J. Massyngberde Ford, Revelation: Introduction, Translation and Commentary, 3). 

[4] Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, 152.

[5] “The book of Revelation was written to seven churches as both encouragement and challenge. An apocalyptic letter, it relies on visions, symbols, and Old Testament references to reveal the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise given to Abraham in Genesis” (https://bibleproject.com/learn/revelation/).

[6] Brian Tabb, All Things New [New Studies in Biblical Theology]. InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition).

[7] https://bibleproject.com/learn/revelation.

Photo by Sincerely Media

Quotes from Richard Bauckham’s The Theology of the Book of Revelation

Revelation

Here are ten quotes from Richard Bauckham’s book, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, that especially stuck out to me. And if you’re interested in eschatology (the doctrine of last things) you can also see my post “Eschatology and Ethics.”

“Revelation provides a set of Christian prophetic counter-images which impress on its readers a different vision of the world… The visual power of the book effects a kind of purging of the Christian imagination, refurbishing it with alternative visions of how the world is and will be” (Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, p. 17).

“Creation is not confined for ever to its own immanent possibilities. It is open to the fresh creative possibilities of its Creator” (Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, p. 48).

“A God who is not the transcendent origin of all things… cannot be the ground of ultimate hope for the future of creation. It is the God who is the Alpha who will also be the Omega” (Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, p. 51).

“The polemical significance of worship is clear in Revelation, which sees the root of the evil of the Roman Empire to lie in the idolatrous worship of merely human power, and therefore draws the lines of conflict between worshippers of the beast and the worshippers of the one true God” (p. 59).

“Who are the real victors? The answer depends on whether one sees things from the earthly perspective of those who worship the beast or from the heavenly perspective which John’s visions open for his readers” (p. 90).

“The perspective of heaven must break into the earthbound delusion of the beast’s propaganda” (p. 91).

“There are clearly only two options: to conquer and inherit the eschatological promises, or to suffer the second death in the lake of fire (21:8)” (p. 92).

If Christians are to “resist the powerful allurements of Babylon, they [need] an alternative and greater attraction” (p. 129).

“God’s service is perfect freedom (cf. 1 Pet. 2:16). Because God’s will is the moral truth of our own being as his creatures, we shall find our fulfillment only when, through our free obedience, his will becomes also the spontaneous desire of our hearts” (p. 142-43).

“Only a purified vision of the transcendence of God… can effectively resist the human tendency to idolatry which consists in absolutizing aspects of this world. The worship of the true God is the power of resistance to the deification of military and political power (the beast) and economic prosperity (Babylon)” (p. 160).

Revelation: Triumph of the Lamb

Dennis E. Johnson’s book, Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation, has a lot of important and relevant things to teach us. Here are a few highlights from the introduction… 

1. Revelation Is Given to Reveal.

2. Revelation Is a Book to Be Seen.

“One of the key themes of the book is that things are not what they seem. The church in Smyrna appears poor but is rich… What appear to the naked eye, on the plane of human history, to be weak, helpless, hunted, poor, defeated congregations of Jesus’ faithful servants prove to be the true overcomers who participate in the triumph of the Lion who conquered as a slain Lamb. What appear to be the invincible forces controlling history—the military-political-religious-economic complex that is Rome and its less lustrous successors—is a system sown with the seeds of its self-destruction” (p. 9).

3. Revelation Makes Sense Only in Light of the Old Testament.

“The ancient serpent whose murderous lie seduced the woman and plunged the world into floods of misery (Gen. 3:1) is seen again, waging war against the woman, her son, and her other children—but this time his doom is sure and his time is short (Rev. 12; 20)” (p, 13).

4. Numbers Count in Revelation.

For example, “The number seven symbolizes the Spirit’s fullness and completeness” (p. 15).

5. Revelation Is for a Church under Attack.

“Our interpretation of Revelation must be driven by the difference God intends it to make in the life of his people. If we could explain every phrase, identify every allusion to Old Testament Scripture or Greco-Roman society, trace every interconnection, and illumine every mystery in this book and yet were silenced by the intimidation of public opinion, terrorized by the prospect of suffering, enticed by affluent Western culture’s promise of ‘security, comfort, and pleasure,’ then we would not have begun to understand the Book of Revelation as God wants us to… Always, in every age and place, the church is under attack. Our only safety lies in seeing the ugly hostility of the enemy clearly and clinging fast to our Champion and King, Jesus” (19).

6. Revelation Concerns “What Must Soon Take Place.”

7. The Victory Belongs to God and to His Christ.

“Revelation is pervaded with worship songs and scenes because its pervasive theme—despite its gruesome portrait of evil’s powers—is the triumph of God through the Lamb. We read this book to hear the King’s call to courage and to fall down in adoring worship before him” (p. 23).

Health and Healing, Sickness and Suffering

Health and Healing, Sickness and Suffering

Health and Healing, Sickness and Suffering

When it comes to health and healing, and sickness and suffering, there are a lot of questions and a lot of confusion.

This topic hits home for me because I serve as Care Pastor at Crossroads Church. But, more than that, it hits home because it is home. All the time. My wife has various diagnoses all adding up to making her chronically ill.* That is, she’s sick. She’s sick a lot; more or less all the time.

Does God want us to be healthy and happy? Then why is there suffering and sickness? And why are some people healthy and some people sick? Why is my wife sick? Did she do something to deserve it? Did I do something? Do we lack faith?

The answers to these questions are not simplistic. They are complex. And they are mysterious. It’s always good to remember that God as God is not like us. His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Is. 55:8-9). That shouldn’t be surprising for us since He’s God, but it is vital that we remember that truth.

So, why sickness and suffering?

Sickness and suffering?

First, we should acknowledge how big and how relevant that question is. People have been asking this question for eons. The Bible gives some very valid and convincing reasons (especially when understand in the context of redemptive history).

Why sickness?

The Fall (sin in general, natural evil)

Sickness was introduced into the world as a result of sin (Gen. 3). When God made the world, it was very good (Gen. 1:31). So, sickness is an intruder. Sickness is not welcome and will not always be in the world. But it is certainly here now. Now in the natural course of the fallen world, people get sick and they die, and people die as a result of old age (Gen. 5 [notice the refrain of “and he died”], 48:1, 21).

Individual Sin (specific personal sin, moral evil)

Sometimes sickness is a result of a specific personal sin (1 Cor. 11:28-30). Of course, all sin leads to separation from God and death. But some sins bring especially pungent consequences. Some sins, as 1 Corinthians says, are against our own bodies (1 Cor. 6:18). Some sickness results from disobeying God (Ex. 15:26). It seems king David himself experienced the physical consequences of sin (Ps. 32:3-4; 38:3-5).

Demonic Forces

From reading the New Testament it seems clear that some sickness is a result of demonic forces. The Gospel of Mark talks about a young boy that has “a spirit that makes him mute” (Mk. 9:17-18 cf. Lk. 11:14). The Gospel of Luke talks about a woman that had a disabling spirit for 18 years (Lk. 13:11). Acts 10:38 tells us that Jesus “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (cf. Matt. 8:16). Yet, Luke also distinguishes between the casting out of demons and healing (see Lk. 4:40-41) and thus shows that not all sickness is due to demonic forces. When we take into account the points below, it is clear that not all sickness comes from demonic forces.

For God’s Glory

Scripture also explicitly tells us that some sickness is for the glory of God. The most cogent and explicit is the story of the man born blind. Jesus says that the man was not born blind because of sin but instead “so that the works of God would be displayed in him” (Jn. 9:3).

Even the death of Lazarus was for the glory of God, so that Jesus might be glorified through it (Jn. 11:4). And Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” whatever it was, was so that the power of Christ would rest upon him (2 Cor. 12:7-9).

In these examples, sickness was not a result of sin or a lack of faith. Sickness was for the glory of God.

We don’t always know why

At other times we simply do not know for sure what the reason for the sickness is. In Philippians 2:25-30 we see that Epaphroditus, a faithful co-laborer of Paul, was so sick he nearly died. Yet, we are not given a reason for his sickness. And we have no hint at all that it was because of lack of faith or because of a personal sin. And in 2 Timothy 4:20 we see that Trophimus is left in Miletus.

Paul was an apostle, had faith, and had healed others (Acts 19:11-12; 2 Cor. 12:12) and yet that didn’t guarantee that people—even his close and faithful co-workers—would be healed. We know God, by His Spirit, can heal and we can certainly pray that He will. But prayer and even the gift of healing is not a mechanism that we can simply push and guarantee that healing will be the result. God is sovereign over sickness. And for whatever reason, He doesn’t always heal. We don’t always know, as Paul the Apostle didn’t know, why some are healed, and others aren’t. But, just like Paul, we must trust God. He is good. And He has explicitly and repeatedly demonstrated His goodness.

So, sickness is clearly not always a result of sin or a lack of faith. 

What should we do when we’re sick?

Look at James 5:13-18. Notice first that before it talks about healing it talks about patience in suffering (v. 7-11). So, even in the context of asking for healing, there is an expectation of suffering.

Next, notice that whatever situation we are in, good or bad, we are always to go to the LORD in it, with praise or lament (v. 13). Then we see what we are to do if we’re sick. First, we need to realize our need. That is what leads to the calling of the elders. So, humility is necessary. When we are sick, we should realize our need.

Second, we are to realize that our need is not just physical, but spiritual. That is why we call for the “elders of the church.” And that is why we ask for prayer. Prayer is a supernatural beseeching of God; it’s going to God as Father and asking for help.

Third, I think the “anointing” with oil could have at a least a twofold significance. In the Old Testament the king would be anointed with oil and that symbolized the Spirit’s presence and blessing. Oil was also used for medicinal purposes (Mk. 6:13) or used as shorthand for medicine as we see when the Good Samaritan took care of the wounded man (Luke 10:34). Therefore, in anointing with oil we are calling on the Spirit to work and we are also confirming the goodness of medicine and imploring God to make it effective to heal.

Fourth, sickness uniquely reveals that we are but dust, that we soon pass away and are no more (Ps. 39). Yet, the “prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up” (v. 15), even if it is on the last day that he is raised up (Jn. 6:39-40, 44, 54). I don’t believe this passage means that just because the elders prayed over someone, and they had faith, they will be healed. But I do believe the prayer of faith saves. I believe this because that’s what the Bible teaches elsewhere (Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 1:9). Also, as we have said, some sins uniquely lead to sickness. If someone commits one of those sins, they too can be forgiven (v. 15), but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be healed.

But, fifth, we do have a strong encouragement to confess our sins and pray for one another that we may be healed (v. 16). We know from elsewhere that sin can hinder our prayer (1 Pet. 3:7). It is the prayer of a righteous person that has great power (James 5:16). Just because people are not always healed when we pray does not at all mean they cannot be healed when we pray. James 5:17-18 goes to great lengths to tell us that Elijah was a normal enough guy and yet God moved mightily through his prayers.

So, when we’re sick, we must realize our utter need; we certainly cannot heal ourselves. We should realize the nature of our need as well as who it is we need help from: supernatural help from God. And we should realize that medicine although good, is no good apart from God’s intervening grace. So, even in our use of medicine we must be reliant and thankful to the Lord. If we have unconfessed sin we should confess and repent, knowing that sin can lead to sickness. Lastly, we should pray in faith knowing that God can and does heal.

We should seek the Lord and medical help

I believe that it’s important that we seek the Lord and medical help. We must remember that every good gift comes from the Father (James 1:17). And so, we should receive our Father’s good gifts with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:4).

Yet, it is vital that we not just seek out medical help and not seek the help of God. He’s God! He holds every molecule together. It would be utterly foolish to seek out the help from a person who has limited knowledge on a limited number of things, and not seek out God—the All-Knowing-One.

As great as Asa king of Judah was, this was one of his main sins. Second Chronicles 16:12 tells us that “Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians.” That’s sad. And that’s foolish.

We should not follow Asa’s example. Rather, we should follow what I propose is the biblical example. We should seek the Lord and we should seek out the good physicians He has graciously provided. Paul even tells Timothy to make use of wine for help with a stomach problem (1 Tim. 5:23).

Does God promise health and healing? 

Yes and no

In the story of Scripture, the story of Christ’s cosmic rescue, it starts out and the world is flawless, there’s no suffering or sin. But then the cosmic problem comes in. There’s a tear in time, a warp in the world, a curse in the cosmos. And it’s all because of sin.

Yet, the story of Scripture is the story of Jesus—God in flesh—coming to fix the broken world. The story starts in the Garden with God, and it ends in the Garden with God. It starts with no pain, suffering, sin, or sickness, and it ends that way.

Revelations 21 tells us of the glorious reality of God the Father wiping ever tear from all of His children’s faces. We, however, are not at that place in this true cosmic story.

Yes, that will happen—no suffering, sin, sickness, sadness, or death. But we are not there yet.

Yes

Yes, the LORD both forgives iniquities and heals our diseases (Psalms 103:3-5), but that doesn’t mean that the effects will be fully felt at the same time. For instance, the LORD has not yet brought “justice for all the oppressed” (v. 6). But that will happen. Jesus will bring complete justice. Jesus will satisfy His people with good thingsand He will renew our youth (v. 5). But not yet.

We are forgiven and welcomed into the Kingdom in and through Jesus Christ and yet we are not yet in the full realization of the Kingdom. It is true that Jesus has “took our illnesses and bore our diseases” (Matt. 8:16-17; Is. 53:4). And our main illness and disease is that of sin and in taking that on Himself He enables access to the New Creation in which there is no illness or disease.

As Sam Storms has said, “To whatever degree we experience healing in this life, it is the fruit of Christ’s atoning death.” It is by Jesus that we receive the undeserved grace of God, and God taking our illnesses and diseases is certainly undeserved. “But it doesn’t necessarily follow that where there is atonement there is immediate healing.”

That’s a biblical and verifiable reality. Paul, Epaphroditus, Trophimus, and many other faithful Christian brothers and sisters have had their sins bore by Jesus and thus been accounted righteous (Is. 53) and yet died with various sicknesses. Therefore, Jesus’ atoning and propitiatory death does not equal healing in this life.

There’s also another real sense in which “yes, God wants us to be healthy and happy.” That’s part of why God gives His good commands, so that it may go well with us (Deut. 4:40; 5:29, 33; Eph. 6:3). Yet, following God’s commands does not in any way guarantee that things will go well with us from an earthly perspective. Just look at Jesus’ 12 disciples…

No

Does God promise health and healing? No. Not in this life. However, because of the love of God in Christ Jesus we know that in spite of sickness we have a surpassing hope. We know that all things will actually work together for good (Romans 8:28, in context).

“This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor. 4:17-5:4).

God does not promise health in healing in this life. In fact, persecution and plague are very likely to await us. That’s what Jesus repeatedly said (see The New Testament on Suffering). Yet, we are “waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13). This place is not our home. And our current bodies are not our final bodies (1 Cor. 15:35-49).

Conclusion

As you can see, a simplistic answer to the question of sickness and healing will not suffice. Yet, God gives the answer. And the answer is Jesus Christ the Lord. But the answer may be “yes” now, and it may be “no” now, but for all who trust Jesus it’s a “yes” later. Healing will happen. Suffering will cease. But that doesn’t mean it will happen now.

____

*Lyme disease, POTS, EDS. And as of this writing, she has COIVD-19 which is not good to mix in with all of her other health issues.

My Ten Favorite Books I read in 2021

My Ten Favorite Books I read in 2021

Here are my ten favorite books that I read in 2021:

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

It was my second time reading it but enjoyed it more this time.

Carl R. Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self

I found Trueman’s account very helpful and accessible. I appreciated the sweeping nature of the book, taking into account court cases, philosophers, pornography, and entertainment. Not exhaustive but a fair and I believe accurate overview. Overall, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self was definitely one of the best books I read all year.

J.P. Moreland, Scientism and Secularism

Moreland gave a helpful and accessible explanation of the problems with scientism.

John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath transports you back to the sad and seemingly hopeless story of a family of “Okies” during the Dust Bowl. It paints a picture of what life was like for a lot of people and thereby cultivates empathy and understanding of other people and their varied journeys.

Paul David Tripp, Lead

Tripp is one of my all time favorite authors and now he has written one of my favorite books on leadership. I have a bunch of highlights in this book, perhaps more than any other book I read this year. Tripp offers a lot of timely wisdom for leaders in Christian ministry.

Randy Newman, Questioning Evangelism 

Perhaps the only thing I think is a little unhelpful about this book is its title. When you read the title you might think the book is calling evangelism into question. That, however, is not the purpose of the book. The book is about the important place that questions play in evangelism. I found the book quite helpful.

Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation

I read a few books on the book of Revelation this past year and this one sticks out to me as the most helpful. I’m thankful for Richard Bauckham and his scholarship.

Sam Alberry, Why does Gos care who I sleep with?

Alberry wrote a very relevant and helpful book. I hope this book is read widely. I think a lot of people will be helped by it.

Timothy Z. Witmer, The Shepherd Leader

I recently transitioned to Care Pastor at my church and found this book very helpful in looking at what the Bible says on pastoral care.

Vivek H. Murthy, Together 

I read the lion’s share of this book in 2020 but only recently finished it. It is a timely and well written book on the importance of relationships.

I try to track my reading on Goodreads. If you want to “be friends” on Goodreads you can do so here.

Laser Beam Focus on Jesus (not distracting speculation)

Laser Beam Focus on Jesus

The world that we live in is riddled with evil. It’s full of foul and wicked plots. There are many theories and conspiracy theories that tell stories about this world that we live in. Many of these tales are attention-grabbing and even deeply disturbing. How should we respond?

God tells us how we should respond. Here are a few things He tells us:

Laser Beam Focus on Jesus

From the beginning to the end, the story of Scripture is a story about the Savior; our need for a Savior, the coming of the Savior, and the coming quick return of our Savior. Scripture says testify about the Savior! He is who the world needs!

The world does not need just more knowledge or secret knowledge. It doesn’t need to uncover all the plots of man or Satan. The world needs the experiential life-transforming knowledge of Jesus the Messiah and Savior.

Satan portrays himself as an angel of light. He’ll even quote God Himself. He’ll give what appears to be secret knowledge as he did to Eve in the Garden. But, that work of Satan is a distraction and diversion from the truth—from Jesus the Savior, answer, and solution.

Do you know who really knows what’s going on behind the scenes?! Not the person on YouTube; no matter what they say or how many followers they have.

We don’t want to be guilty of “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). Instead, we want to follow Paul’s teaching, conduct, aim in life, faith, patience, love, steadfastnesses, and persecutions and sufferings (v. 11).

We also need to remember that all Scripture, all the promises of God, find their fulfillment and answer in Jesus. We need to see Jesus, not more videos on various theories. Jesus is the hope and protection of the earth, not some person with some so-called “secret knowledge” of what’s really going on behind the scenes.

That being said, there are evil and deceitful plots going on in the government—in every government. We should not be naive and think there isn’t. But there always has been. There was when Jesus physically walked the earth and Moses too. But what does the Bible say the solution is? And what should be our focus?

People clearly do follow “the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). This world is often a wicked place where people creatively carry out wickedness. That is true. But what’s the solution?

It is certainly true that “ we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Yet, the solution is not some secret knowledge. It’s being “strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (v. 10). The solution is taking “up the whole armor of God” (v. 13), not knowing the intimate and hidden details of what the spiritual forces of evil are up to. Colossians 2:15 tells us that Jesus is the one who defeats the wicked powers.

Amid a crooked and perverse generation and while the antichrist or antichrists walk the earth, how are we to respond? How do we steel up ourselves to endure and persevere? It’s not through secret theories that we discover on the internet. No. It’s through holding fast to the word of truth, tenaciously seeking Jesus, and lovingly telling of Him and His goodness.

Jesus has the “words of life.” Jesus is our “first love” and it is He that we need to return to (Revelation 2:4). Notice what 2 Peter 1:3 says: “HIS divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of HIM who called us to his own glory and excellence.” It is in Jesus that “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). And the riches of blessing found in Him are limitless.

Thus, we need a laser focus on Jesus. Satan as the great deceiver and destroyer would have us distracted from Jesus by any means possible.

Don’t Waste Time on Old Wives’ Tales

1 Timothy 4:7-8 says: “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths [some translations say, “Old Wives’ Tales.”]. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

In John 17:17 Jesus says we are made holy by the truth and then He says God’s word is that truth. It is all Scripture—not secret theories—that is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

We need the words of life to live the life we’re called to live. We need to consume that truth every day and be able to “rightly divide the word of truth” and be like the Bereans and weigh what is said against what the Word of God shows us (Acts 17:11). And we need to be in tight relationship with other Christians so we can be accountable and encouraged by them.

In 1 Timothy 1 Paul urges that people not “teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith” (v. 3-4). Paul goes on to say, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion” (v. 5-6).

In 1 Timothy 2 Paul tells us what we are to do instead of engaging in “vain discussion,” internet searches, and YouTube consumption: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (v. 1-2). So, instead of reading and watching conspiracies about the government, we are to pray for the government. That’s productive, biblical, and God-honoring.[1] So, if you have concerns about what’s going on in our world and in the government—which you should!—the thing to do is pray, not feed on loads of news and theories about “what’s really happening.”

Paul says that when we pray in this way, it “is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (v. 3-6).

God loves people and wants them to receive salvation through Jesus. So, we pray for them and we share with them. We don’t waste time on speculation and silly myths. Instead, we should seek to be continually captured and enraptured by Christ Jesus, knowing there is solace, depth, mystery, and beauty there to sustain us a thousand lifetimes.

Spend Your Time on the Greatest TRUE Tale

Paul said, “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.” And Paul also said, “Him [Jesus!] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Col. 1:28-29).

Read 2 Timothy 4:1-5. What Paul says there is the priority. That’s what “fighting the good fight” (2 Timothy 4:7) looks like.

Paul strove and struggled to share the message of the Savior, not a secret message about something going on in the world. Satan would have us distracted from the good news of Jesus—the good news of hope and salvation to a broken and needy world.

When the chaos of wickedness ratchets up in the book of Revelation, what is it God’s people are to do? Protect the world and keep it from destruction through knowing what’s secretly going on behind the scenes and through sharing those hidden things? Is that how the book of Revelation exhorts us to persevere? No.

Revelation is about Jesus and the victory of Jesus. It’s the true story of His final triumph over every evil plot and wicked foe. It holds before us the truth that we are in a cosmic battle, that there is a god of this world who is presently working ruin, but also the truth that the Lion and the Lamb will conquer. That’s the “secret knowledge,” the revealing, the REVELATION we need. We need the true message of Jesus’ victory. We don’t need distracted by lesser stories. Instead, we need again and again to return to and be tethered to Jesus.

So many tales are a distraction from the true and greatest tale. Brothers and sisters, we don’t need new and secret knowledge. We need the old old story again and again. We need to be smothered with the truth of the Savior of the world, not suffocated by secret theories. The hope of the earth is Jesus, not some locked away thing we can learn about on a website somewhere.

We need laser beam focus on Jesus. And we need to share the true story about Him in love. We need to be evangelistic about the good news of Jesus Christ! Not any conspiracy theory.

Notes

[1] I think of Chuck Colson. If there was a theory about the watergate scandal it wasn’t just a conspiracy theory. It was true. But the answer wasn’t information, it was prayer. God brought Chuck Colson to salvation when he was in prison. Colson has gone on to lead a ministry to those in prison. So, prayer is powerful.

*Photo by Mika Baumeister

Care in the Church

Care in the Church

The Conviction to Care in the Church

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers,
to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).
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The conviction to care in the church, must come before care in the church. It is vital that one has conviction to care before they set out to care. This is true for many reasons.
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For one, caring can be difficult.[1] Also, as Albert Mohler has said, “deep beliefs drive visions and plans”[2] and “leadership is all about putting the right beliefs into action, and knowing, on the basis of convictions, what those right beliefs and actions are.”[3] So, it is important that convictions come first.
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What does Scripture say about shepherding care?

First, the word “pastor” comes from the Latin word pastor, meaning shepherd. A pastor is a “shepherd” or “one who cares for a flock or herd.” That’s why “pastor” sounds like the word “pasture.” The two words are connected. “The concept of the leader as a shepherd is a theme with deep roots in God’s written revelation with its foundation in the Old Testament and fulfillment in the New.”[4] We are going to briefly consider some of the passages about God’s call to leaders to provide shepherding care.

Care in the Old Testament

God has always shepherded His people (Gen. 48:15; Ps. 23:1; Ps. 71:17-18; 77:20; 78:52, 72; 80:1; 95:6-7; Is. 40:11; Mic. 5:4). Further, He has provided under-shepherds to lead and care for His people. He has told people that serve as leaders to shepherd His people (2 Sam. 7:7). Ironically, before Moses and David shepherded God’s people, they shepherded a literal flock of sheep (cf. Ps. 78:70-71).

God, for example, knows that unexperienced challenges come with age (2 Sam. 19:35; Eccl. 12:2-5) and He cares that His people are helped with those challenges. Scripture even says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Ps. 116:15). God deeply cares for His people and wants to see them cared for.

When God’s people are not rightly cared for, He is upset. God says, “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture” (see Jer. 23:1-4)! And Ezekiel 34 shows that God takes the failure of His under-shepherds very seriously. He pronounces judgment on them (Ezek. 34:1-10). He promises He Himself will care for them (Ezek. 34:11-22).[5] And He promises that the Perfect Shepherd will come and care for them (Ezek. 34:23-31). This brings us to the New Testament and pastors serving as Jesus’ under-shepherds.

Care in the New Testament

First, is Paul’s powerful exhortation to pastor/elders to “pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). What a high, precious, and important calling! Pastors are to care for what Jesus bought with His very blood. If it is that important to Jesus, how can it not be important to us?

Paul himself provides a powerful example of pastoral care. Paul visited people to “see how they are doing” (Acts 15:36).[6] And his letters showed his shepherding care. His letters were part of his care. So, Paul sought to make disciples and care for disciples. These are complementary callings of church leaders.

Paul shared pastoral concern for God’s people. He wrote “I have you in my heart” (Phil. 1:7) as well as “being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8). But Paul didn’t just write letters, he also visited people(Acts 15:36). So, Scripture would have us see the importance of ministry both “publicly” and “house to house” (Acts 20:20).

Second, Peter passed on what he heard from Jesus: “shepherd the flock” (John 21:15-17). Peter relayed the command that we are to shepherd the flock of God that is among us (1 Peter 5:1) yet Peter also reminds us of our motivation: that the chief Shepherd when He appears, will give us the unfading crown of glory (v. 4).

Third, Acts 6:1-7 shows us we must make plans, delegate, and ensure the practical needs of people in the church are taken care of. And Ephesians 4:7-16 shows us that it is not just pastors that are to do ministry, but a big part of pastoral ministry is equipping the saints to do ministry. The church is the body, and each member is to do their part if the body is to function as it is supposed to (1 Cor. 12:4-31). Each member is equipped with gifts from the Spirit (Rom. 12:3-8) and is supposed to employ them for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7). Sadly, a Gallup survey found that only 10% of church members in America are active in any kind of personal ministry.[7]

Fourth, Jesus has compassion and cares for people when they helpless like a sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). Jesus holds church leaders responsible to care for His precious sheep. The leaders of the church are to keep watch on Jesus’ sheep knowing that they “will have to give an account” (Heb. 13:17). In fact, Jesus sees the care of those who are “down in out” as though it was done for Him. So, as we visit people, Jesus sees it as though we were visiting Him (see Matthew 25:35–36).

King David, before he was king, risked his life for mere sheep (1 Samuel 17:34-36). King Jesus gave His life for His sinful people. He’s the Good Shepherd that lays down His life of the sheep (John 10:11). And His under-shepherds are to lovingly and practically care for those for whom He gave His life (Acts 20:28).

Thus, in summary, we have seen King Jesus, the Great and Sovereign Shepherd, laid down His life for the sheep and calls the church to care for His sheep. So, we must do so.

Biblical Delegation of Care

As Acts 6:1-7 and Ephesians 4:7-16 show us, the delegation of care within the church is not only wise, practical, and necessary, it is also biblical. Exodus 18 also shows us the important of shifting care to the congregation. If the church is going to care well as God would have it, care cannot just be left to one pastor or even a team of pastors.

The New Testament teaches that God equips believers. It teaches the “priesthood of all believers” (1 Pet. 2:4-5). That is, those who are new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21) not only have access to God through Christ but they are also equipped to do ministry by the Spirit of God. Therefore, the care of the church is to be done not just by a pastor or pastors, but by the church itself. The pastor is to be the “lead carer” and to equip other “carers” but he is not to do it on his own. Nor can he. So, one of the many things Christian leaders must do, is equip the church to do the ministry of the church.

The church is described in various ways, but the main image of the church is body.[8] And each part of the body is vital. It won’t work as it is supposed to without each part functioning. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12). We are people in need of care, helping people in need of care.[9]

The biblical and effective church will be the church that mobilizes, equips, empowers, and supports Christians in ministry.[10] Many people can do most of what pastors do, pastors must do what most people can’t do.[11] One of the main tasks of pastors is to equip people to do what they can do.

One Christian leader has said, “Caring for 30 people personally is possible. Caring for 230 is not.”[12] So, we must structure bigger to go bigger. That’s essentially what Jethro’s advice was in Exodus 18. “The pastoral care model of church leadership simply doesn’t scale.”[13] So, to care for the church well, as God has told pastors to do, we must do something biblical. We must “equip the saints for the wok of the ministry” (Eph. 4:12).

So, once again, the conviction to care in the church, must come before care in the church. I hope this has helped you towards the conviction part. In a future post, I hope to lay out the specifics of implementing that care.

Notes

[1] “Upon leaving seminary, many a young man discovers that his love for the Chief Shepherd does not extend to a love for God’s sheep. Without dispute, difficulties in dealing with people is the number one cause for ministry dropouts (85 percent according to one denomination)” (David C. Deuel, “The Pastor’s Comoassion for People, ”176 in Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Bibically.

[2] Albert Mohler, The Conviction To Lead: 25 Principles For Leadership That Matters (Bethany House, 2012), 53

[3] Mohler, The Conviction To Lead, 26.

[4] Timothy Z. Witmer, The Shepherd Leader: Achieving Effective Shepherding in Your Church, 9.

[5] The LORD says “I will…” twenty four times in Ezekiel 34. He will shepherd His sheep. The chapter also says “LORD” sixteen times and “Sovereign LORD” eight times.

[6] And remember, John longed to see his people “face to face.” He was not satisfied with letters. He  wanted to visit.

[7] Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, 365-66.

[8] The church is a family (Eph. 2:19; 3:15), temple (Eph. 2:20-22), army (Eph. 6:11-18; 2 Tim. 2:3-4), and bride of Christ (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25-32; Rev. 19:2-8).

[9] Taken from the subtitle of Paul David Tripp’s book, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People In Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change.

[10] Robert E. Slocum, Maximize Your Ministry (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1990), 9.

[11] See Barry G. Lawson, “Lay Shepherding: Developing A Pastoral Care Ministry for The Small To Mid-Sized Church,” 13.

[12] Carey Neiuwhof, “How Pastoral Care Stunts the Growth of Most Churches.”

[13] Neiuwhof, “How Pastoral Care Stunts the Growth of Most Churches.”

*Photo by Antonello Falcone

Does science disprove miracles?

Does science disprove miracles?
Are miracles possible? Does science disprove miracles?
 
We must first ask, ‘What even is a miracle?’ We must also consider our assumptions as we ask the question. Then we’ll be in a better position to consider miracles.
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What is a Miracle?

David Hume, a skeptic philosopher believed a miracle is a violation and even a transgression of a law of nature. That view assumes the impossibility of miracles at the outset. It makes sense that someone who doesn’t want to believe in God, or God’s interference with our affairs, wouldn’t want to believe in the possibility of God’s intervention.[1] So, I understand where he’s coming from. 

His view, however, is not the only option. People have explained what miracles are differently. And not all of them think miracles violate the laws of nature.
 
C.S. Lewis said a miracle is “an interference with nature by supernatural power.” Lewis’ approach allows for the possibility of miracles. Lewis explains that when God performs a miracle He does not suspend “the pattern to which events conform” but instead feeds “new events into that pattern.” Just as an airplane does not violate the law of gravity but instead nullifies its effect with its power.[2]
 
Though it seemed impossible for a long time to a lot of people we know now that airplanes can fly. And airplanes do not violate or momentarily do away with the law of gravity. Instead, they in a way ‘overpower’ gravity. Airplanes don’t suspend gravity but exert force to overcome the effects of gravity.
 
It seems to me to make sense that God can “interfere” with or “overpower” the regular operation of the world. It would seem God is able to affect His own creation since He is simply, as Lewis said, writing in “small letters something that God has already written… in letters almost too large to be noticed, across the whole canvas of Nature.”
 
Some people object that they’ve never seen a miracle or that miracles don’t agree with what we know about the universe in which we live. John Frame says, “In almost all our experience, things happen in regular patterns, to some extent describable by scientific law.” That is true. “But,” Frame goes on, “there is nothing in this experience to persuade us that irregularity is impossible, or that everything always behaves naturally and regularly. Experience tells us what is happening; it does not tell us what is or is not possible, or what ‘always’ happens. We have not seen what everything always does, for we have neither seen everything nor seen things always.”[3]
 
So, different people think about miracles differently. Augustine, instead of saying a miracle was a violation of nature or contrary to nature, said miracles were something outside our knowledge of nature. Thomas Aquinas explained that a miracle is not contrary to nature but goes beyond the order that is typically observed in nature.
 
Why do people think about miracles so differently?
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The Importance of Starting Places

If you start with just nature you end with just nature. If we start without God, we end without God. And if God is not, then He’s not able to act in the world we live in. So, if all there is, is natural, there is no supernatural. No miracles.
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Can an outside hand reach into the fishbowl of our universe? How we answer that depends upon the assumptions that we have before we answer. Our starting place matters.
 
If God is, then He is not constrained to rigid patterns but is free to carry out His intentions.[4] Who or what is there to constrain the Creator? As Peter Kreft has said, God has more power in one breath than all the winds of war, all the nuclear bombs, all the energy of all the suns in all the galaxies.[5]
 
The laws of nature beginning in space and time are limited and finite. God, however, as the Creator of space and time and the laws of nature is infinite and unlimited. God certainly is not limited by His creation. If God made the Big Bang bang, He can certainly make miracles.
 
If, as Greg Bahnsen has said, the “God depicted in the pages of the Bible actually exists, then it would be preposterous to try and rule out the possibility of miracles.”[6]
 
Also, if a person believes in a competent Creator that is wise and involved, then it makes sense for them to believe in the consistency of the laws of creation. If, however, that is not one’s belief about the Creator, then it doesn’t seem like it makes sense to expect that consistency. Instead, profound surprise would be in line. Why is the world controlled, not chaotic?!
 
For a person that believes in a competent Creator, it would also make sense that they would believe that the Creator could intervene with the laws of nature. Again, if that’s not one’s belief, it would not have to be intervened with for things that seem out of the ordinary to happen because in that case, there wouldn’t be reasons to believe in ordinary. If there are no laws of nature, no ordinary, then how could one have an idea of what a miracle would even be? If there are laws of nature, wouldn’t it make sense that the Law Giver could supersede those laws?
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Is Science able to Disprove Miracles?

As we think about science and miracles there are a few questions we should ask. What science could disprove miracles? How? By what proof?[7]
 
Science can neither prove nor disprove miracles. “Science is unable to investigate unique events. Because science depends upon repeatability, and unique events don’t have repeatability, science is, in a certain sense, powerless to prove the presence or absence of a miracle.”[8]
 
“Science does not tell us what always happens. It certainly does not tell us what can or cannot happen. Science’s laws are only generalizations from our observations of how nature usually works. They do not forbid exceptions. Miracles do not contradict the laws of science any more than a gift of extra money contradicts a bank balance. It is an addition, not a subtraction… Supernatural events do not contradict natural events.”[9]
 
Therefore, no. It seems science does not rule out the possibilities of miracles.
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Should we Believe every Miracle Claim?

Although airplanes can fly, we still know that it is not the regular pattern that objects fly.
 
No. We should not believe every miraculous claim. Just because science does not disprove the possibility of miracles doesn’t mean they’re common. The existence and effectiveness of science in some ways prove that miracles are uncommon.
 
Christianity gives us reasons for both believing in miracles and being hesitant at claims to miracles. Christianity gives us reasons for believing in the incredible even while making us only believe things if they’re credible. How so?
 
First, the Bible gives actual reasons for believing in incredible things like Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. You can count the reasons. And it doesn’t say we should just have faith in random outlandish things. Second, we should only believe things that are credible because many people, and certainly the wicked one, would have us blinded to the truth. So, we should only believe things if they prove to be credible. Faith is never to equal foolishness.
 
In the time of the Bible, people didn’t just willy-nilly believe everything without question. Jesus’ first followers often doubted Him and had to be shown proof. Things in that day seemed too fantastical to believe too. Even if they didn’t have the scientific method as we know it today, it doesn’t mean they had no sense of the way the world typically worked.
 
Jesus’ followers knew it was not typical for a person to die and rise from the dead. They didn’t expect to see a person walking on water. There were a whole host of things that were confusing and unexpected surrounding Jesus.
 
Yet, if Jesus was truly God as the Bible states, then it makes sense that miraculous events accompanied Him. Jesus’ original followers had doubts. I sometimes have doubts too.
 
One of the most difficult things for me to believe is that God is going to remake the world. He is going to fix every wrong and make everything right—physically, emotionally, spiritually. That’s hard to fathom. But, that’s what the Bible says (e.g. Revelations 21). 
 
Yet, as I think of what God must be capable of if He made and sustains the world, it bolsters my faith.
 
It may blow a one-year-old’s mind that after they eat and wildly enjoy one “smash-cake-cupcake” I can pop another one out of the fridge and into their face. They certainly don’t have categories for how I could do that, but just because they, with their limited capacity cannot comprehend, does not mean that I cannot do it.
 
In the same way, I honestly cannot comprehend how God could rework and remake the world and fix every wrong and make everything right—make a new creation, a new heaven, and a new earth in which perfect rightness just always is. But, I’m the equivalent of a little baby with a happy birthday bib on. So, it makes sense that it doesn’t make sense to me.
 
God, I have to believe, is capable of more than I can fathom.
.

Does Science Disprove Miracles? 

So, no. Science certainly doesn’t disprove miracles.
 
Honestly, for me, I think it proves God is certainly capable of intervening. He is always upholding the very laws that allow for the very existence of science. If there weren’t typically regularity, we wouldn’t possibly even notice irregularity. It wouldn’t exist.
 
If God didn’t uphold the laws of the universe with His power, randomness would reign. In which case, we wouldn’t observe miracles but instead complete unpredictability. Sometimes light is X speed, sometimes light is Z speed. Sometimes gravity is crushing, sometimes we float off into an endless void. 
 
Science is actually more and more showing the vast extent that is required for intelligent life to exist in the universe. Thus, if anything, science is showing us that God has been intervening the whole time.
.

Notes

[1] See e.g. Francis S. Collins, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, 51.
 
[2] Michael F. Bird and James G. Crossley, How Did Christianity Begin?: A believer and non-believer examine the evidence, 22.
 
[3] John M. Frame, Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2015), 146-47.
 
[4] Frame, Apologetics, 73.
 
[5] Peter Kreeft, Back to Virtue, 105.
 
[6] Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith ed. Robert R. Booth (Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Press, 1996), 226.
 
[7] Peter Kreeft, Fundamentals of the Faith Essays in Christian Apologetics (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 1988), 64.
 
[8] Ian H. Hutchinson, “Miracles and Science” 6 in The Dartmouth Apologia: A Journal of Christian Thought [2019 Spring Edition].
 
[9] Kreeft, Fundamentals of the Faith, 65.
Photo by Casey Horner

Doesn’t science show that the scriptures are stupid and inaccurate? 

Doesn’t science show that the scriptures are stupid and inaccurate? 

Doesn’t science show that the scriptures are stupid and inaccurate?

Scripture is in line with science in various important ways.

Science has found Scripture to be correct in various regards way before its time. The Bible is not a scientific textbook. Yet it is accurate scientifically. That is, it concurs with all sorts of scientific discoveries. The Bible also, as we have seen, lays the groundwork for scientific research to be carried out.

The Bible is also accurate or predictive in connection with science. For example, the Bible clearly says that the universe came into being at a finite time. “Not until the twentieth century did any other book—whether science, theology, or philosophy—even hint at”[1] this reality. We now know that the universe is accelerating at ever faster speeds. If we were to reverse the accelerating expansion of the universe we would see that there was a point at which it did not exist. That is, the universe came into being—ex nihilo—out of nothing, as the Bible says. The “big bang” demonstrates empirically what the Bible has said for hundreds of years.[2]

So, although many people ridicule the Genesis creation account, the Bible’s accuracy in fact predates many scientific discoveries. It’s almost like the Bible had access to special information. There is currently debate regarding the days of creation. I do not currently have a dogmatic answer to that question, however, as we have seen, there are various plausible explanations.

Astrophysicist Hugh Ross has said,

“The Bible accurately and uniquely described the major features of the origin, structure, and history of the universe thousands of years before any scientist discovered them… The predictive success of biblical cosmology affirms the reliability of Scripture’s message about why the universe exhibits the characters it does.”[3]

Also, the Bible talks about the expanding universe. It doesn’t quite say “the universe is expanding” but that’s the picture we get. The Bible says that God “stretched out the heavens.”[4] The Bible talks about what we know as the “laws of nature,” it refers to the “fixed order of heaven and earth.”[5] We now know, as the informed modern people that we are, that the world is made up of a bunch of tiny things that we cannot see (atoms). The Bible does not contradict that truth but states nonchalantly that “the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3).

The Bible explains the “happenstance” that trillions upon trillions of electrons have the identical electrical charge as one another. It explains the many “Goldilocks,” just right, factors that are necessary for life, such as, the earth’s position in relation to the sun.

Therefore, the Bible, far from being out of line with science, fell in line with scientific discoveries before they were discovered. Further, the biblical worldview provides a framework for the pursuit of scientific knowledge. So, when we consider the Bible’s relationship to science it ends up lending credibility to the trustworthiness of the Bible.

Christianity and Scientists

We should also understand that there have been many good scientists who are Christians, and they didn’t see a contradiction between their science and Christianity. If anything, many of them believe the two are complementary.

Christianity far from being filled with hacks has had a history of cultural contributions. Sophisticated calculations, diatribes on causation, and beautiful cathedrals are part of the Christian legacy. Christianity is based on the word made flesh and the words of the Bible, so, not surprisingly, it is a life philosophy with a rich history of books. Christianity even talks about two main books known as general and special revelation. That is, Christians believe that God reveals Himself and His will through both His word and His world. Christians have a long history of believing both matter and both are good. Christians have a long history of supporting literacy, scholarship, and science.

Here are some scientists that have had a massive impact that seemed to have believed in at least part of the Christian view of the world. Or “Christians of various stripes,” as Eric L. Johnson put it.[6]

  • Blaise Pascal was a mathematician, physicist, inventor, and philosopher. He is behind Pascal’s principle, the syringe, and the hydraulic press.
  • Robert Boyle is “the father of chemistry.”
  • Isaac Newton is one of the greatest and most influential physicists and scientists of all time.
  • Andre Ampere is where “amp” and our language of electrical measurement comes from.
  • Michael Faraday discovered electromagnetic induction.
  • Gregor Johann Mendel was an Augustinian monk whose work led to the concept of genes.
  • Louis Pasteur was a chemist and microbiologist famous for pasteurization, principles of vaccination, and research that led to greater understanding as to the causes of and prevention of diseases.
  • Lord Kelvin is where we get the Kelvin scale of absolute zero and why we say the sun is 6000° Kelvin.
  • George Washington Carver was born into slavery and yet became one of America’s greatest scientists.
  • Francis S. Collins recently led the Human Genome Project.

Thus, we can see Christians have a rich history of thought and scientific discovery. Of course, that does not at all mean that Christianity is true. But, I do believe it means that it deserves thoughtful and honest consideration.

And no. Science does not show that the scriptures are stupid and inaccurate.

Notes

[1] Hugh Ross, Why the Universe Is the way It Is, 133.

[2] The phrase “big bang” makes it sound as if the beginning was just a disordered explosion. That is wrong. Instead, “there must be an incredibly precise amount of order at the Big Bang. We know that the universe is moving from a state of order to a state of increasing disorder (this is the Second Law of Thermodynamics), and it is the case that you needed a lot of order at the beginning for the universe to be able to produce… the ordered structures we see” (Rodney D. Holder, “Is the Universe Designed?” Faraday Paper number 10).

If I’m shooting pool and I want one ball in the pocket, there is some complexity. I must hit the ball at roughly the precise spot for it to be knocked into the pocket. With every additional ball the complexity and thus precision is more crucial. If I was breaking up all the balls and wanting all the stripes to go in and none of the solids it would take a phenomenal amount of both calculation and precision. And it would be the initial hit that set a chain of cause-and-effect reactions into place.

[3] Ross, Why the Universe Is the way It Is, 15.

[4] Job 9:8; Ps. 104:2; Is. 40:22; 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; 48:13; 51:13; Jer. 10:12; 51:15; Zech. 12:1.

[5] Jer. 33:25 see also Ps. 74:16-17; 104:19.

[6] Eric L. Johnson, Foundations for Soul Care, 63.

Photo by Kitera Dent

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