Good Without God

Greg Epstein, the Humanist chaplain at Harvard University, wrote a book called Good Without God, What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe to state what nonreligious people believe. One does not have to believe in God or any gods to be a good person. Many believe that they do not need to believe in or fear a God to be good. Epstein does not believe that the alternative to religion is to live some type of debauched, degenerate lifestyle. He believes that atheists, agnostics, and nonreligious people have as much reason to live a decent lifestyle as anyone else. Certainly we all would agree that morals benefit the society we live in even if we do not all agree where those morals come from or why people choose to follow them

So can religious and non-religious people live together in harmony? Can people truly be good without God? The answer is yes. People can be good for many reasons. Not everyone is evil. None of us is as evil as we could be. And none of us is as good as we could be. We can live in harmony by trying harder to be more understanding, a little more tolerant.

That may make societal living easier for us, but another question arises. Can one be good enough to get into heaven?

A highly religious Jewish leader named Nicodemus came to Jesus one night for a private dialog. The Bible describes him as a member of the Jewish ruling council, a person of influence. He wanted to know more about Christ and so he began to compliment Christ on his accomplishments (John 3:1-2).

Jesus stopped him in his tracks and got to the most significant part of his flattery. Jesus told him how he could enter the kingdom of heaven. It is interesting what Jesus did not say to Nicodemus.

He did not say, “Nicodemus, you were born into the right nation and the right religion, therefore you are a part of the kingdom of God already.” He was Jewish, in Israel and a religious leader. That should have been good enough, but it was not.

Jesus did not say, “Nicodemus, you must be good enough to enter the kingdom of God.” He did not give him a list of behaviors he needed to cut out of his lifestyle. He did not tell him to “turn over a new leaf,” reform himself, or clean up his act. That was not good enough.

Jesus did not say, “Nicodemus, you must try harder.” He did not encourage him to spend more time at the synagogue. He did not say that he needed to spend more time reading his scrolls. He did not tell him to perform more rituals.

Jesus did not say, “Nicodemus, you must change religions.” He did not tell a Jewish leader that he had to become a Christian. No one knew that term in Jesus’ day. Christ’s followers were not called “Christians” until after the Ascension of Christ. He never knew that term and certainly did not use it. He did not tell him to be baptized, join a church, or associate with a denomination.

Jesus did say, “Nicodemus, you must be born again.” Nicodemus even recognized that as something he could not do. He asked how a person could enter the womb to be “born again.” This is something that the Holy Spirit accomplishes, not the individual. It is not something one can do through right living or religious behavior. Entering the kingdom of God is not earned by being good enough, moral enough, religious enough or philosophical enough.

Jesus’ earliest proclamation of the kingdom of God was, “Repent and believe the gospel.” He said nothing here about church affiliation or religious practices. He merely said that people should turn to God in repentance and faith. The Holy Spirit brings about the new birth. Apart from the regeneration by the Holy Spirit no one can enter or even see the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5).

If you believe you have been born again, when and how did that take place? Can the people around you tell that you have been born again? It does not mean that you will be perfect, but your life will be different. You should have the desire for God’s Word as a baby craves milk (1 Peter 2:2). You may be good enough to live a moral life without God, but you will not be able to enter his kingdom unless you have been born again.

WATCH FOR COUNTERFEITS

I took all my change to one of those change-counting machines recently, and the cashier gave me a nice, new $100 bill. Have you ever tried to use one of those? When you take it to a cashier, he or she pulls out a special marker, draws a line across it, and holds it up to the light. That is to make sure that it is not counterfeit.

Now suppose I take that new $100 bill and go to a store to use it and the cashier takes out that pen and examines my $100 bill. And I say, “What are you doing? You have no right to judge that bill. Who are you to say that bill is not legitimate? All bills are equally valid and we must accept them.” Imagine the financial chaos that would ensue if we applied the same principles to money as we do morality or religion. How dare we evaluate money! What if we had to accept all bills as equally valuable without discernment? After all, all money is the equal, right?

Consider Vincent Ruggiero’s comment in Warning: Nonsense is Destroying America. Concerning the “democratic fallacy,” “This offense against logic, the unreasonable extension of ‘all men are created equal,’ to ‘all ideas are equal,’ breeds a false sense of tolerance that discourages people from asking probing questions, particularly about the views of scholars” (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1994, p. 17). He emphasizes that we should give respect for all individuals, but that does not mean that all ideas should be equally respected as they have no inherent value. Even the idea that all men are created equal is misapplied. We all have equal dignity and should have equal rights under the law; nevertheless, we are not all the same.

Neither are all ideas, philosophies and religions equal. They do not all teach the same thing, and some, in fact, contradict one another. How do we determine what is valuable and what is counterfeit? Here is where the trouble begins. Because we live in an age of absolute tolerance, we will absolutely tolerate anything except absolute truth. Many would even argue that we cannot know anything absolutely. (My response: “Are you absolutely sure that we cannot know anything absolutely?”)

So how do federal agents learn to recognize counterfeit bills? By handling every kind of phony money possible? No, they train by studying the real deal intensely. When they come across a counterfeit bill, they are so familiar with the real money that they notice the flaws right away because they have spent innumerable hours handling and observing the real bills.

So if you want to be able to recognize counterfeit philosophies and religions, you do not need to spend years learning all the intricacies and nuances of everyone. New ones arise all the time. It would be a never-ending task. Instead, become so familiar with the true gospel that when a false gospel or a false prophet comes along, you will recognize immediately. Isn’t that being judgmental though? Jesus said that in the last days false christs, false prophets and false messiahs would arise to deceive many and lead them astray (See Matthew 24:24). He told us to watch for wolves in sheep’s clothing (See Matthew 7:15). How can we distinguish which is which without discernment? Christians are to use the standards of the scripture to measure beliefs and philosophies. That’s what the word “canon” means when referring to the “Canon of Scripture”. A canon was a measuring rod like a piece of cane. It set the standard.

Only two religions exist in the whole world. First is biblical Christianity and then there is everything else. Every other religion in the world makes three basic claims. 1) Jesus Christ is not God in the flesh. 2) Everyone must perform some kind of religious works to be saved. 3) The Bible alone is insufficient to teach you how to be saved. All religions hold to some variation of those three things.

Biblical Christianity teaches: 1) Jesus Christ is God in the flesh—John 1:1, 14. 2) No religious deeds can save anyone—Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:5. 3) The Bible makes one “wise unto salvation”—2 Timothy 3:15. Only Jesus Christ died for your sins. Only Christ rose from the dead. Everything else is counterfeit.

For the Christian, God’s word sets the standard, not the world. Philosophies, religions, and behaviors are to be compared to the Canon of Scripture. Whatever does not measure up should be treated as counterfeit. To be able to discern the false, you need to become so familiar with what is true that you recognize the false immediately. Being discerning is not being judgmental; it is being prudent. Get involved in a Bible study at your church. If you do not have a church home, you are welcome to come to Belvue Baptist Church.

Is God Good?

The last time I wrote, I considered the question: “Is Death Good?” This time I want to look at the question as to whether or not God is good. Some would say not because there is so much evil in the world. The mistaken assumption is that God caused the evil and that he is either helpless to do anything about it, he is not a good God, or he simply does not care.

When Darwin looked at the world, he had a difficult time trying to reconcile the carnage found in the natural order. In addition to the natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods, he tried to understand how species could destroy one another to survive. He concluded that God could not make his creation this way and be a good God at the same time. Cornelius Hunter writes in “Darwin’s God”: “…Darwin repeatedly argued that God would never have created the world the way that the nineteenth century naturalists were uncovering…Darwin wrote to a friend: ‘there seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the [parasitic wasp] with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that the cat should play with mice.’” (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2001, p. 12) Darwin observed correctly, but he started with a faulty, uniformitarian presupposition. God did not make creation this way. Things have not always been as they are now. That was the point of my last article. When God finished creating everything, he declared it all to be very good. (See Genesis 1:31).

If God used evolution, even theistic evolution, along with uniformitarian geology, then death, disease, destruction, and suffering have always been a part of nature since the beginning. Rather than a biblical creation week, all that remains is millions of years of suffering. Then how could God look back at all his creation filled with death, disease, destruction, and animals devouring each other and call it “very good” after “creating” mankind through theistic evolution?

So if God called death, disease, and suffering “good,” we need to ask ourselves, “Is God good?” What does the word “good” mean in the original language? Dr. Henry Morris writes in the book “Creation Basics and Beyond” that good is “the same Hebrew word each time and it means just what would be expected: good, pleasant, agreeable, excellent, of benefit, etc. That word is used over 500 times in Scripture” (p. 14). Can we apply those characteristics to death and disease?

Morris lists three of God’s attributes: Holiness, Omniscience, and Goodness. He also states that God’s goodness is flawless. Because of that, “goodness” could not include malfunction, sin, or death. Those are all contrary to God’s nature. This is where Darwin and many other skeptics have a problem with the concept of God.

What they fail to understand is that God did not create the world as it is today. That belief comes from evolutionary brainwashing and uniformitarian thinking rather than revelation or even by observable science. A biblical concept better fits what we actually observe in nature and the revealed attributes of God. He created the universe to function flawlessly. Death was not a part of it. Because Adam sinned (Romans 5:12), death entered the world through that sin, and Paul states that the entire universe (“creation”) is “groaning” because of it (Romans 8:22).

When Christians claim to believe the Bible, but say that God could have used millions or billions of years to “evolve” mankind, they send a mixed message about God as well as themselves. First Morris says, “If physical death is part of the design of God in the original creation, that makes God the Author of death…The Bible calls death the ‘last enemy’ and insists that the Lord Jesus will destroy it. If God Himself created death, then why would he destroy it later? Did God deliberately confuse us?” (p. 17) For that matter, if God created death, why would he call it an enemy?

“If death is not the judgment for sin as the Bible insists, then the whole of the gospel message is foolishness. What would salvation rescue us from? If death is not the judgment for sin, then the death of the Lord Jesus on the cross at Calvary is nothing more than a foolish end to an idealist—a martyrdom for an illusionary cause” (Ibid.).

Yes, God is good. He is also holy and cannot let sin go unpunished. The good news is that Christ took the punishment that you and I deserved and paid the debt for us. Peter says that Christ “Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). And he writes in 1 Peter 3:18 “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.”

This same Peter preached about the “restoration of all things” (See Acts 3:21) where God will reverse the curse. This good God will one day remove creation’s curse and finally destroy the last enemy, death. This good God will create a new heavens and a new earth where “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Are you ready for that day? Have you believed the good news?

IS DEATH GOOD?

Many theologians today seem to find no contradictions between the teachings of science that the world is 4.5 billion years old and what the Bible says. They say that it makes no difference and does not affect the central teachings of Christianity. That means that death and decay occurred in nature for millions of years before mankind ever appeared on this planet. What does the bible teach about creation?

“Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” –Genesis 1:31

So ends the sixth day of Creation when God had finished all his work. When God rested on the seventh day, it was not because his creative worked had exhausted him. Like a great artist, he stepped back to look at his work and to appreciate it fully. He celebrated his creation. He looked at everything he had made and declared it “very good.”

On the sixth day of creation, he created both men and all the “beasts of the earth.” If God took millions of years before mankind came along, that would mean that death, decay, disease, destruction and devouring of animals were part of his creation before he finished creating mankind. Now if death were a normal part of creation; and death, disease, decay and suffering were a part of God’s creation, then he would be declaring that it was good. After 4.5 billion years of experimenting and trying to get things right through theistic evolution, he finally got it all perfect and then said it was very good.

According to many interpretations of the fossil record, most of the earth’s species became extinct millions of years before humans ever evolved. The fossil record is not a record of new life forms emerging from their common ancestors. It is actually a record of millions of life forms simultaneously being snuffed out by mud and buried rapidly; otherwise, they would not have fossilized. They would simply have decayed the way animals and plants do today. All of this supposedly happened some 65 million years before the first humans evolved.

Genesis 2:2 states that at the end of the sixth day, God “ended his work,” and rested from “all the work which he had made.” There was no more creation after that point. That leaves no room for theistic evolution, but it does leave room for species to develop within the kinds that God had made.

If death is not good, then what is it? Death is an intruder. Romans 5:12 states: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Death invaded when the first man, Adam, sinned. God cursed the earth and all creation with it. “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” (Romans 8:20-22).

There is a new world coming. Both the Old and New Testaments teach this. Isaiah 65:17 and Revelation 21:1 tell about the new heavens and the new earth. In that new creation, “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (verse 4). Sin will have been removed from the equation in the new creation. It will be as it was before sin entered through Adam’s sin.

Does this mean that a sick person is evil? No, but the sickness itself is evil. One day God will remove all evil. The curse will be lifted. Death is the last enemy (1 Cor. 15:26), and Christ will destroy it forever. All who put their trust in him pass from death to life (John 5:24). In Adam, all die; in Christ all will be made alive (see 1 Cor. 15:22). Are you in Christ? To be in Christ, you must be born again. Have you been born again?

You may take the approach that the earth is 4.5 billion years old and that all this suffering has always been just a natural part of it. You may believe that God created the heavens and the earth recently and that death and disease were not a part of it, but do not take an approach that tries to form a hybrid view. The Scripture does not allow for that. If you do not believe the Bible just admit it.