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Faith renewed

Answers for an initially skeptical correspondent who changed his tune

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Brendon G. from the UK wrote to CMI, asking some questions about the separation of light from darkness in Genesis 1. His messages expressed skepticism about “accepting the Bible as the literal Word of God”. After Gavin Cox of CMI–UK wrote back to him with a couple of responses, Brendon sent two more messages. The first shows some softening but continues to raise doubts and objections. Happily, the second shows a significant change of heart. We post Brendon’s latter two messages below (with his permission) along with a reply by Keaton Halley of CMI–US.

Thanks! It does help. Parts of me really want to believe, as it’d be so convenient & good if the real God & Creator DID leave us a written record to know Him better. Other parts don’t want to believe as it’s so exclusionary & eternal Hell seems unreasonable.

It’s hard to believe there were zero righteous enough people in the whole WORLD except Noah & his family.

His OT law seems so very “human”, eg Lev. 21:20, someone with “damaged testicles” may not be a priest. Another seeming contradiction is liars, adulterers etc won’t go to Heaven, yet somehow ALL believers will. What if you’re a lying believer?

I believe in One Creator God, reject evolution, but there are SO MANY assumptions I’d have to make/cross to believe that the God of the Bible is that very Creator, and that it’s all 100% True.

Christians can’t move mountains Matt 17:20, Mark 9:1 didn’t happen.

If Earth stopped spinning Josh 10:13, everyone on Earth would be launched@1000mph. No orbit, the Moon would crash to Earth. These miracles sound like fables.

Days later, before we responded, Brendon submitted the following.

Just wanted to let you know that if you prayed for my soul, thank you, it was effective. And thank you for your replies that helped me along. I have now returned to God, by faith in Him and His Word, thanks to His great grace and patience with me.

We are grateful to read about Brendon’s renewed faith. But it is still worthwhile to address his expressed doubts. Keaton Halley replied:

Hi Brendon,

I see that Gavin Cox has replied to you a few times previously, and since you have sent in two new submissions, I decided to combine them and answer them together.

I’m so glad to hear that you say that you have “now returned to God”! Hopefully that means you have fully trusted in Christ to forgive your sins and reconcile you to your Maker. I will share this with Gavin so he can rejoice with you and know that his responses were helpful to you.

I’ll also chime in with my own thoughts about your earlier question, regarding how God can separate light from darkness. Notice that the light is called ‘Day’ and the darkness is named ‘Night’, according to Genesis 1:5. This suggests that what God created is not merely physical light, but the period in which there is daylight on earth, and the night period which is characterized by darkness. Before God created the light and separated it from the darkness, it would have been perpetual darkness (Genesis 1:2). The separation means that light and dark would each have its own time period during which it is present for a local observer on Earth, as opposed to perpetual twilight or something like that. Thus, in my understanding, God made this cyclical time separation of light and dark periods that make up a day, not a physical spatial division of things formerly mixed or intermingled. Hopefully that helps to further alleviate your difficulty with the creation account.

But let me give some brief responses to the other doubts you expressed.

  1. Regarding Hell, I’m not sure why you said it seemed unreasonable. We have addressed this concern in several articles like: Is God unjust for sending people to Hell?, Poor reasons to reject Christianity, and Hell questions answered. You also mentioned Christianity being “exclusionary”, but if you meant that it claims other perspectives are wrong, this is unavoidable for any worldview. Even if pluralism were right (that all paths lead to ‘God’), that would mean that all exclusivist views (that there’s only one way) are wrong! But more likely you meant that salvation through Christ excludes those who don’t place their faith in Him. But this is not unfair since Jesus is the only one who solved the problem! He died for our sins so that we could be forgiven and be reconciled to our Creator. Other religious figures did not do this. This is why the Bible says “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” It is actually a tremendous grace that God saves sinners, and God isn’t unfair to punish anyone since the only people that God punishes are those who deserve it. Indeed, everyone deserves it, but God has made a way for us to escape judgment through Christ.
  2. Regarding no righteous people in Noah’s day, why should this be hard to believe? None of us are really righteous apart from Christ. We might look clean on the outside to people who have a fairly low standard for what constitutes goodness. But by God’s standard of perfection, none of us are truly good. Jesus himself said there is none good but God (Mark 10:18). And apart from God’s restraining hand, it’s easy for society to descend into moral chaos. Just look at the present state of the world! If we view things from God’s righteous perspective, people in general are very wicked, and encourage one another to do evil.
  3. Regarding OT laws, I’m not sure why they seemed to you to be merely human constructs. The law about damaged testicles and the priesthood illustrates that God’s standard is perfection. Although there is nothing inherently morally wrong in having damaged testicles, God required that a person who suffered such an injury should not serve as a priest, perhaps in order to illustrate a biblical truth about God’s holiness or our need for a perfect intermediary. I don’t see why that would be inappropriate. There is no moral principle that required God to allow all people to be eligible for the Levitical priesthood. It wasn’t a human right but a special calling.
  4. You also raised an alleged contradiction about a “lying believer”, but here I think you’ve just misunderstood the meaning of the text. When the Bible says that a liar won’t go to heaven, it implicitly means an unredeemed liar. If someone puts his faith in Christ, he may still commit the sin of lying, but he won’t be characterized by that sin. He will be seen as pure in God’s sight, because Jesus paid for that sin. God judicially bestows on believers the righteousness of Christ (Romans 4:5; 1 Corinthians 1:30).
  5. You seem to have difficulty with the idea that the Bible is completely trustworthy. But a biblical worldview makes far better sense of the evidence before us than any other worldview. It is the Bible that tells us human beings are all equally valuable, for example, being made in God’s image. But if the Bible as God’s Word is rejected, on what basis is human value derived? See The positive case for creation for more examples. So, it is important to compare Christianity with the alternatives, and not just consider difficulties you have with Christianity in isolation. See Confident Christianity and Nagging doubts for more on this point. Then, if you do come to the conclusion that the Bible is necessary to make sense of significant aspects of human experience, then it only makes sense to embrace the Bible as error-free. This is because it claims to be God’s Word (meaning that God said these things), and God does not make mistakes. If you encounter Bible passages that you find difficult, you can address them on a case-by-case basis. But if you reject the Bible’s inerrancy, it is important to realize that this has drastic and far-reaching effects. Your view of reality has already been shaped by Christianity in countless ways that you probably haven’t even recognized. For more reasoning along these lines, I’d encourage you to read Glen Scrivener’s book, The Air We Breathe.
  6. You say Christians can’t move mountains as Jesus claimed in Matthew 17:20. Well, I think on this occasion Jesus was speaking non-literally. It’s most likely an example of hyperbole—using exaggeration for the sake of emphasis. Of course, I think the One who Created all things could easily move mountains and give His followers the ability to perform such miracles if He wanted. But I don’t think that’s what God literally wants since He acts with purpose and does not perform miracles for show. What would be the point of throwing a mountain into the sea? It would not advance God’s kingdom. To say that we can move mountains is a way of saying that we can do really incredible things with just a little faith in God (such as, in context, casting out demons). And I do think Christians have moved mountains in that metaphorical sense. Think of William Wilberforce’s efforts to abolish the slave trade, for example. That mountain was overthrown by faith.
  7. You say Mark 9:1 didn’t happen. But it did, since the very next verse begins to tell how these words were fulfilled only six days later. Jesus’ inner circle watched him transfigured before them, and this is almost certainly what He meant when He said they would see the Kingdom of God come with power. Theologians often talk about how the Kingdom of God is both ‘already’ here and ‘not yet’ here in its fullness. But the context of this verse helps us to interpret it properly.
  8. Finally, you said miracles like Joshua’s long day “sound like fables”, but this is only if you have a bias against the miraculous. If you had searched our website, you could have read the article Joshua’s long day, which offers insight on this subject. Scripture does not record how God performed this feat of making the sun and moon appear to stand still in the sky. It was a miracle so, by definition, we cannot give it a naturalistic explanation. There are options however of what God may have done, including a localised refraction of light. If God decided to stop (or slow) Earth spinning on its axis, He could also have simultaneously prevented catastrophes like tsunamis from resulting, and stopped everyone (and everything) on Earth’s surface from being “launched” at 1,000 mph (horizontally). By the way, it’s only at the equator that objects are moving at 1,000 mph, not at every latitude. The article further explains why nobody would be launched into space (vertically) either. You also stated: “No orbit, the Moon would crash to Earth.” Presumably you mean here the Moon’s orbit around Earth? But most of the Moon’s apparent motion in the sky is caused by Earth’s rotation, so I don’t know that God would have needed to stop the Moon’s revolution too. Assuming He did, however, this was a miracle too, so God could also have supplied the necessary forces to temporarily prevent the Moon from being gravitationally pulled toward Earth. (It would take more than a day for the Moon to reach Earth anyway.) Remember, miracles are supernatural, so it is not merely natural causes and effects at work. God is all-powerful and can do whatever He pleases within His creation as long as there is no logical contradiction. See Miracles and science.

Again, it’s great to hear that God has already been working in you even since you sent in this series of questions. I hope the answers we’ve offered will continue to strengthen your walk with the Lord.

Blessings,Keaton Halley

Postscript: Afterward, Brendon sent yet another encouraging note.

Dear Keaton,

You’ve just been an answer to my prayers. To be honest I was flip-flopping between wanting to believe and not, and still not fully convinced about the “separation” of light from dark issue, until just now reading your more thorough reasoning and explanation.

I believe. I truly believe, and pray God doesn’t let me fall back into doubt ever again. Either I wasn’t saved before and just thought I was years ago, or I was majorly hugely backslidden, either way I prayed to the Lord to save me and fill me with His Spirit if I wasn’t already saved, or as mentioned prevent me from backsliding ever again, praising Him as your message reached my eyes, as answer to prayer.

Bless you all abundantly!

I will check out all of those links, and I have The Air We Breathe sitting on my bookshelf unread.

Thank you so very much,
Brendon

Published: 17 December 2022

Helpful Resources

The Air We Breathe
by Glen Scrivener
US $17.00
Soft cover
Christianity for Skeptics
by Drs Steve Kumar, Jonathan D Sarfati
US $12.00
Soft cover