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Feedback archive Feedback 2013

Do Christians worship the one and only God?

Trinity.
Published: 27 July 2013 (GMT+10)

D.H. from Canada writes:

I know this isn’t science related but I’m hoping you guys can help me. I’ve been a Christian for a long time and I thought I knew how to answer most questions. Because of your ministry I can argue quite well against evolution and atheism. But today I was asked the most basic question of all, and I couldn’t answer it in a way that satisfied even myself. After pointing out that the other gods people worshiped were either man made or demons posing as gods, he asked how I knew I was worshiping the true God. I assume he worshiped a different god and wanted to know what made my God different. Aside from a personal experience of God, I couldn’t answer him. And really, if I was following the wrong god, couldn’t I have a personal experience of the wrong God? I’m not worried that I am, I’m worried that I can’t answer that.

I respect you guys and your knowledge of the Bible, so I hope that you are able to help.

Thank you.

replies:

Dear D.,

Thanks for writing in. This is actually an important question: How do we know we worship the true God? We stake our eternal destiny and live our lives based on our fundamental belief that the Bible tells us who God is and how we should worship Him and live in relation to Him. So what evidence do we have that it is true (and thus, that the God the Bible reveals is the true God)?

Jesus did what no one else in history has done; He was resurrected.

First, the Bible is an incredibly accurate historical record. Over and over, people, places, and events that only it attested to have been corroborated by mainstream archaeology. At the very least, it is on par with other ancient records (and we would argue it is quite a bit more than that!). Second, it is internally consistent, which is remarkable considering that its 66 books were written by different people in different circumstances separated by centuries and cultures. Consider: Moses, the Egyptian prince turned shepherd, agrees with the fisherman Peter and the career prophet Isaiah. The tax collector Matthew agrees with the Pharisee-turned-evangelist Paul. In all these divergent individuals, we don’t get errors cropping in–for instance, Egyptian medical superstition or the Pharisees’ oral tradition, or just common misconceptions of their day that were shared among ancient cultures.

But I think Jesus is the best witness we have. We know that the Gospels were written too soon after the events to have been fabricated; there were many witnesses still living when the Gospels were written and began to circulate; the location of His tomb would have still been common knowledge, and people would have known if there was a body in it. Jesus corroborated Scripture at every point, and pointed people to what had been written. Most of His teaching was not totally new, but based on the logical outcome of a belief and practice of what God had already revealed in the light of the coming Kingdom of God. And Jesus did what no one else in history has done; He was resurrected in a body that will never die again. This serves as the ultimate authentication of His claims, because God would never resurrect someone like that who was a liar or a false witness. And if Jesus’ claims are true, as His resurrection shows, then we can also trust His teachings, and His promise that we will be resurrected at His second coming.

I hope these few thoughts are helpful.

Sincerely,

Lita Cosner


J.N. from Mexico asks:

Is demonic possession just a mental illness?

Lita Cosner replies:

Dear J.,

First, I must start out with the disclaimer: if this is asking about a particular person and not purely hypothetical (i.e. regarding yourself or someone you know), I would urge seeking professional help; speaking to a doctor, pastor, or someone you trust. We are not in the position to give you any medical advice or spiritual counseling.

The Bible differentiates between physical ailments that are medical and those that are demonic.

The Bible differentiates between physical ailments that are medical and those that are demonic: in the Gospels sometimes Jesus healed someone with a physical complaint by casting out their demon, and sometimes by simply healing the physical malady. So I believe there is room to say that some of what is diagnosed as mental illness might be the result of demons, but some would be purely medical in nature; i.e., due to some sort of brain malfunction or ‘chemical imbalance’.

Some may be neither ‘medical’ nor ‘demonic’ but primarily ‘psychological’ in nature, i.e. where certain behaviors and attitudes (or experience) can lead to emotional suffering, for instance. Post-traumatic stress syndrome might be an example, although obviously, there is a bit of blurring at the boundaries between the psychological and spiritual and the ‘medical’. Repeated exposure to stressful situations, for instance, might actually have a physical influence on brain functioning. The more we find out about that amazing organ, the brain, the more it becomes clear that it is very complex, and that it can even rewire itself in adulthood. The same might apply to the choice to practice certain sinful behaviors; after a time they can become ‘addictive’, so that physico-chemical changes might make it harder to break the pattern, but nonetheless the physical changes in question have been initiated by the choice to engage in the behavior in the first place. And then what makes it even more complicated is that someone might have a genetic predisposition, which can make it more likely, though not necessarily inevitable, for the person to suffer that particular mental illness in the first place,

Some helpful principles:

  1. Believers cannot be possessed by demons, and can counter any spiritual attack by calling on the name of Jesus: “greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). This is most dramatically seen, for example, in the accounts of people who have had alien abductions or other demonic experiences halt in the name of Jesus (Gary Bates documents this in the book Alien Intrusion). If something persists in a believer despite appropriate authoritative action, it is therefore unlikely to be demonic.
  2. A spiritual attack on a believer cannot continue indefinitely: “Your adversary the devil prowls like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:7–10). In context, Peter was talking about the persecution of the Church, but I believe this applies to all attacks which are ultimately spiritual in nature.
  3. Some mental illnesses cause hallucinations which can appear very much like true demonic possession. However, if the symptoms respond positively to medication, then it is unlikely to be demonic.
  4. People who practice, or whose families practice, spiritism or any occult activity are especially susceptible to spiritual influence.
  5. A believer should never be ashamed to seek medical help for any perceived mental illness. This can be life-saving. But it’s not an either/or thing; certainly we should be examining ourselves to see if there’s sin in our lives that may be causing us to suffer.

Sincerely,

Lita Cosner

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Readers’ comments
Terry P., Australia, 27 July 2013

Do Christians worship the one and only [true] God?

This is how I have satisfied my conscience that I am on the right path:

        ‘Is there a father among you who will offer his son a snake when he asks for a fish, or a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you, then, bad as you are, know how to give your children what is good for them, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’ — Lk§11:11-13

Do I trust the Father to keep me from falling into error when I ask that of him?

Jon E., Norway, 27 July 2013

@D.H

I would ask;

what other God(s) is as consistent with the world we live in?

Not the materialistic one, not Allah, not Zeus.

Only the Biblical God.

Richard L., United Arab Emirates, 27 July 2013

Regarding demonic dynamics, if I may give a thought from an additional angle:

(About 25 years ago, I heard a theologian talk about spiritual warfare, and he made an enduringly useful point.)

Much demonic activity is ‘low-level’ harassment. Proof: Many scriptures caution against spiritual enemy activity against a large number of geographically diverse believers in scattered 1st-generation churches. Satan cannot do all that himself. To say otherwise is to wrongly imply that Satan is omnipresent—a uniquely divine attribute. Therefore, demons have to do the vast majority of that Bible-referenced harassment.

An opportunity for such harassment is the EXACERBATION of PREVIOUSLY existing problems. For example, a demon can be expected to exacerbate a marriage under strain. So, if a Christian counselor meets with such a Christian couple, God should be asked—through the shed blood of Jesus—to remove any demonic presence in the situation. After this is done at the start of the discussion, the underlying marital-strain issue STILL needs to be addressed. (Don’t blame Satan for everything!)

A like protocol should be useful when mental health issues are involved—with very real underlying psychological (and sometimes organic) factors.

Doug T., United States, 27 July 2013

re: Demonic possession or mental illness. Well written responses. I think it's noteworthy that the Bible itself distinguishes between the two. Note Matthew 4:24b; ... and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.

C. V., United States, 27 July 2013

I am a Biblical believing Christian as well as practicing psychiatrist. I love your article. Just one thing re "if the symptoms respond positively to medication, then it is unlikely to be demonic." I think this is difficult to know for sure but it seems to me that the spiritual world can influence the physical/chemical world - and fighting back includes not only on the spiritual level (with Prayer and the Word) but also on the physical level as well (in certain cases) with medications that can reduce psychotic symptoms.

Thanks for the article,

Chris

R. C., United States, 27 July 2013

Don't forget we are attacked by the world the flesh and the devil. The world consists of people, persons who have certain belief systems example the medical field, the pharmaceutical companies, other companies etc. made up of persons with different world views and are lacking in true scientific evidence with which we are being flooded moment by moment.

Lita Cosner responds

Your reminder re the flesh (sinful, fallible) and the world (composed of sinful, fallible people) as co-opponents along with the devil is well taken, as is the important issue of worldview. However, I have a problem with the singling out of doctors and the pharmaceutical industry. I know of many Christians in the medical profession, including keen proponents of biblical creation. CMI’s Dr Carl Wieland was one such, Second, though greed and corruption are ever-present issues in any enterprise involving human beings, the driving force of pharmaceutical corporations is profit. They ultimately will only make profits if they are seen to ‘deliver the goods’ in terms of producing treatments that overall are of net benefit. Doctors, too, will not get very far professionally or financially if they are not striving to produce better and better results. Few would deny the enormous benefits to mankind that both industries, regardless of any shortcomings, have generated and the advances that continue to take place. This is all part of the heritage of science and technology in the post-Reformation West, with its biblical roots, as even many secular scholars now recognize.

murk P., Canada, 28 July 2013

Lita your answer is good but not thorough

it grants that reason is reasonable but this can only be if God exists and has revealed himself to all men so we know it for sure (as Romans 1 says He made it plain)

At face value arguing with the unbeliever as per your response is granting him/her that his ability to reason is the ultimate standard (and all the necessary things this entails like contradiction / uniformity / existence of truth are accepted as true without accounting for them - not honoring only possible source )

If the Bible is not true we cannot know anything for history is an expression of God's will

We can only know anything if we start with God (Prov 1:7) knowledge is thus preceded by rectitude / humility / submission (John 7:17, John 8:32)

this rectitude is in turn supported by Faith (2 Peter 1:5)

and faith is a gift from God that requires a complete turn around in thinking (repentance)

as summarized in 2 Tim 2:25

if we can reason to God we can reason away from Him

If we admit we can do nothing apart from Him, (John 15:5) therefore including reasoning then He gives us a sound mind that can never be shaken.

The unbelieving worldview asks foolish undisciplined questions that if taken at face value lead to quarrels.

We must expose to them that on their own assumptions they cannot know anything

eg. if everything is chance then everything is ultimately mysterious and therefore unknowable

Yet they do know things because God is true and they are image bearers and He has revealed Himself clearly

anyway i appreciate what you do and thank you for your work and many thoughtful and excellent responses

i desire only to perhaps aid with what God has shown me.

As you and CMI have done and continue to help me improve my reasoning to be more Christlike

Lita Cosner responds

Radical presuppositionalism would agree that "if the Bible is not true then we cannot know anything." But I can know that 2+2=4 regardless of what the Bible says. And Romans 1 seems to condemn unbelievers for what they should have perceived from creation. But surely they can only be judged if they could have, in principle, seen it.

We're aware that some Christian authors, including a popular creationist author, promote this sort of thinking. But we believe that while God's thoughts are infinitely higher than ours, He has given us the same logic. So God's reasoning is not inherently of a different kind than ours; His is simply perfect and omniscient, while ours is limited and flawed at times. See Loving God with all your mind.

All the same, the article was not really about this issue, so let's not stray too far into left field with this topic.

graham P., New Zealand, 29 July 2013

Excellent. Also, ultimately the message of the bible is that our minds are fallen and therefore not to be trusted: we can only rely on the revealed Word of God, so we can't discover anything really true outside of the bible's umbrella.

This being admitted, it's a take it or leave it scenario: the individual bits of the bible can't be confirmed by humanistic testing because, by definition, humanistic testing isn't capable of returning a meaningful confirmation.

IE. "I know that science is true" is a meaningless statement because 'science' involves concepts that are only found within the bible, like a rational universe, objective meaning, actual physical existence. If we deny the bible, we can't then make scientific statements with any consistency.

Pat G., United States, 30 July 2013

I am unaware of ANY pharmaceutical drug that corrects a chemical imbalance that led to mental illness, or provides any kind of meaningful remedy. I have seen these drugs in action, and I have experienced some of the milder ones myself. They are TRASH, not appropriate for people to inflict on their bodies that are the temple of the Holy Spirit. I hope any Christian that has gotten a degree in psychiatry will re-examine their advocacy of these drugs. There are natural remedies that help restore balance, and some genetic tendencies may cause a person to require much more of a nutrient than average, but some drugs even lead to violence. See Peter Breggin MD's books. Other than that, I agree with the article. Be careful not to advocate these drugs, whatever you do.

Lita Cosner responds

Pat, thanks for writing in and sharing your view. It is certainly possible to argue that these medications are over-prescribed, that at times they’re used to try to deal with issues that are ultimately spiritual in nature, and so on. However, in certain circumstances, medication for anxiety or depression can work in the same way that insulin works for someone with diabetes. And of course, if there is some other psychological or spiritual issue, simply dealing with the symptom of anxiety or depression, while not the final step in the treatment, can allow someone to deal with the issues causing the depression or anxiety in the first place, for instance. In some cases, medication for depression or anxiety is life-saving. A colleague of mine used to be a medical practitioner. I pass his comments on this subject on for what it’s worth. He wrote on one occasion:

“I had not only considerable experience of patients with the genetically determined (i.e. mutational, post-Fall) disorder bipolar illness (previously called manic-depressive psychosis), I happened to have sufferers in my own extended family. In some people, the maintenance medication (then commonly the simple mineral compound lithium carbonate) was both life-saving and life-transforming. When the persons concerned were on the medication, they were essentially normal and leading happy, productive lives. When they went off their medication, (which such well-meaning advice often leads to) the effects were catastrophic for them. It involved dramatic deterioration of both their physical as well as mental health (huge jump in traffic accidents, for example, as a result of the frequently totally reckless behaviour, thus risking their lives) and traumatized their family structures, marriages and definitely damaged their livelihoods (they went from being highly competent workers, professionals, etc. to being totally unemployable—all reversed once the medication was re-established). Sometimes this re-establishment had to be compulsory, because part of the flareup of the disorder was a lack of recognition that there was a problem. But invariably the person concerned was subsequently immensely grateful once normality was re-established. Of course, I am aware of the potential side-effects, which highlight the fact that in a fallen world there are selcom magic bullets but often only tradeoffs. One of my relatives, after many years on lithium, suffered kidney damage from it, which eventually killed her. But not once did she or anyone in her family suggest that she would have been better off without it; they all realised that not only would her life have been not worth living, but in fact it would almost certainly have been much shorter.”

So in certain cases, we certainly would not agree with a blanket ban on their usage, while praying for the new heavens and earth where no medications of any sort will be necessary.

Dominic S., United Kingdom, 31 July 2013

“Believers ... can counter any spiritual attack by calling on the name of Jesus.” This is too simplistic. In fact, the Bible teaches that we oppose the spiritual forces of evil by putting on the whole armour of God (Eph. 6:10-18). Moreover, v. 13 implies that, without the armour of God, we will not be able to stand.

“If something persists in a believer despite appropriate authoritative action, it is therefore unlikely to be demonic.” I do not agree with this statement either. Very often, a demonic influence remains in a person’s life despite “authoritative action” (such as “calling on the name of Jesus”). This is because there is a need for repentance. For example, a person may need to forgive someone who has wronged them. Failure to do this will result in evil spirits maintaining a foothold (Eph. 4:27).

Lita Cosner responds

Thanks for these thoughts, Dom, it's a position I hadn't considered before. I'd always considered the armor of as more 'preventative' measures; i.e., if someone is righteous, has faith, etc, then they are protected to a much greater measure when faced with spiritual warfare. I do believe it is very dangerous to try to engage in any sort of spiritual confrontation (i.e. engaging in authoritative measures like calling on the name of Jesus) when there is unrepented sin in one's life.

John B., Australia, 2 August 2013

Do we have a monopoly on truth? The Lord Jesus thought so..."I am the way, the truth and the life". But how do I know that the Bible is true? Well I have a thinking friend (he happens also to be Muslim) who I discuss this very question with regularly. My conclusion after 8 months talking with my friend every day, is that only the Lord can convince anyone (me??) of His truth. My friend sent me a list of "contradictions" from and atheist website and asked me to answer them. I responded "Well, if I answer the first 5 and can show that the Bible is consistent, will that do? Or do you want 10 or do u want 50....? " I then turned the tables around on him...I emailed him and said, "So here is a website (there are many) purporting to show that the Koran has many inconsistencies and contradictions. See what you can do with that". I then called to see him an hour later. He was feverishly beavering away trying to answer the 1st question in the list. And he was exhausted by the effort, but was enjoying it too. I said, "My friend, I can tell you the answer now as to what you will find. YOU will find no inconsistencies in the Koran. And I will find no inconsistencies in the Bible. Because if we truly believe that our books are the Word of God, then by necessary consequence they cannot contain any contradictions."

So, what can change my friend's mind about the Koran or Bible? I can tell you now. None of the arguments of any atheist or skeptic. My friend will work feverishly to defend his belief academically. Does that mean I will not share the Bible with him any more because it's essentially a lost cause? Never! Will he ever try and give up on me about the Koran? Never!:)

But there is Someone else who can raise dead sinners... John 1:11, 12 "....They were born of God". Heb.11:6 HTH

EJK, Australia, 2 August 2013

Demon\Satan, listening to christadelphians,they claim that demon is a sickness( mental illness) that those days was not understood properly- Satan is an adversory, there is no such thing as satan, it is our mind that is filled with sin\ sinfull thinking- they say when Jesus was in desert for 40 days, satan, most likely was a pharesie. What do you think ?

Lita Cosner responds

The Bible clearly teaches that Satan and fallen angels/demons exist, and they interact with the physical world and human beings. Jesus addressed demons as real beings when he cast them out of people.

Amanda T., Australia, 2 August 2013

I am replying to the article on mental illness/demon possesion. I am a Christian who has been diagnosed with depression from the age of 18 I am now 54. I at one time thought that it only took my faith to conquer this and subsequently blamed myself or the devil for this. I do believe that there is demon posession but also that it is the cruellest thing for some Christians to blame everything on Satanor that people may be lacking somehow in their faith which is "why they are suffering" We must remember that we ALL live in a fallen world and this of course includes us Christians. With medication my condition is managed and I know that when I am with the Lord all these things will be in the past. I long for this day but until then will endure. My God is sufficient for me.

C. A., Australia, 2 August 2013

I am very grateful for the medicines that have kept me mentally well for several years now. Having recently been involved in very stressful times I was able to identify thinking that was not 'normal'. This was because I had been mentally well and could now tell the difference. I thank God for giving us brains and curiosity that allows us to learn more and more about creation.

Rick L., Canada, 2 August 2013

My wife is bipolar. On medication she is well. Off her medication life is hell. Thank God she has been well for several years. Thank God for doctors, psychiatrists and medications.

Carolyn P., Australia, 2 August 2013

When I was agnostic I found belief in any God difficult because of this question. How could I know I picked the "right' God because each religion seemed so certain of their "true' God? I figured I would just do my best to live a moral life and hope it was good enough to keep me from any nasty surprises when I die. Then one day, almost out of the blue, Jesus put his hand on me and said I could believe in him. I immediately began to read the bible and search for a church community. I've still not picked a church but I've met some wonderful Christians who patiently answer my questions and websites like this one which support my study. Besides being certain that Jesus called me on that day I have looked for the pivotal reason to believe the God of the bible is the one true God. For me it is 1. Jesus Christ is a historical figure, many non-Christian sources attest to his life and death. 2. His disciples and converts were so convinced of the miracles, the resurrection and truth of his Word they were prepared to die for it and go to great lengths to keep the faith. 3. Prophesy of details of The Messiah hundreds of years before his birth in the OT. 4. Jesus said we can believe in Him and if we know him we know God. 5. God told us He is The One and He is a jealous God. Many others but not enough space.

Elizabeth S., Australia, 3 August 2013

I agree that the brain is a most remarkable organ. I also agree with the cautionary remarks re brain disabling drugs. A common condition which Christians need to understand is Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) or Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) now being renamed as Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In this condition a person has developed 'alter' personalities in response to severe, ongoing trauma in order to survive. I have observed that some 'alters' of a sufferer can be carrying demonic attachments even while the prime personality is a Christian believer.

jack M., Canada, 3 August 2013

Your answer concerning whether Christians can be possessed by demons misleads the enquirer. First, a Christian, and only a Christian can encounter spiritual warfare. Why? Because they alone have enlisted in the war as a follower of Jesus Christ. Prior to conversion they were in the enemy's camp.

"Possession" is a loaded word that confuses the issue of whether a Christian can encounter demonic attack. Christians can be attacked (see Ephesians 6:10ff). Christians can be troubled by demonic spirit beings through willful sin and/or involvement in occult and drugs and numerous other doorways. This is not the same as possession. But may appear to some like possession. Voices can be heard. Sin and addiction can be controlling. All these are overcome in Christ's Name and Blood. But the troubled Christian must confess the Lord's dominion, pray and renounce sin. There's much more to be said, but not enough space for a proper answer. Blessings to you and your ministry.

Angela G., Canada, 4 August 2013

Mental Illness is not in any way demon possession. Mental illness, which is now being referred to as brain disorder, is about the physical structure of the brain. Neurologists are now being consulted and joining the mental illness (brain disorder) team in treating/caring for patients with this disorder. It's about the brain's chemical and physical not being what it should be. If you were diagnosed with diabetes for instance, you would take insulin. That doesn't mean you are demon possessed. It means your body is lacking and is in a state of imbalance. This is the same with mental illness (brain disorder). I hope this is helpful :-) God bless.

V. M., New Zealand, 6 August 2013

A few proofs that Jesus (Yeshua) is God are necessary to articulate in terms of our hope that is otherwise in vain (1 Cor. 15:17; 1 Pet. 3:15). The first witnesses of the empty tomb and the resurrected Messiah were women, most notably Mary Magdalene – in all probability a former prostitute (e.g. Mark 16:9; Luke 24:10; John 20:14-18). If the gospels were a hoax, the narrative would not have included women (let alone one of disrepute) in its account, as their testimony carried no weight in Jewish custom. Furthermore, Jesus’ disciples (apostles) would not have died martyr deaths for a lie. John was the exception, but rumour has it that he was put in boiling oil and miraculously survived, hence his exile to Patmos. The apostles genuinely believed that Jesus rose from the dead, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah and Jesus himself (e.g. Isa. 49:7; Matt. 16:21). An obvious proof is the Roman guard (Matt. 27:66) of 100-600 soldiers who would’ve faced execution for their perceived failure, as borne out in Matthew 28:11-15. Therefore, apart from a personal conviction by the working of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 1:13-14), our faith in Christ is well founded indeed!

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