It’s time for a little update, not much, but I am no longer new to blogging. I have been at it a few years. Not that I have gained any particular stature. I simply can’t claim to be new at it. I still write as part of my profession, but blogging is more interesting. Blogging is my way of sharpening ideas and fleshing them out. I know I don’t always “get it right”, but it’s the journey that counts.
I have been on a journey for truth since I emerged from the haze and confusion of adolescence, much of it self-induced. Stepping out of that myopic existence I began to get an inkling that a world of truth lay in front of me to encounter, and so I set off. I didn’t realize, then, how much faith is required to seek truth. Continue reading “My Journey”→
Alright, I admit the title of this short article is a bit provocative, but I got your attention. I would actually say the Darwinian paradigm is going through something more like an evolution. The explosions are not in the paradigm, but in the facts that have been slowly uncovered in the fossil record since Darwin championed the evolutionary paradigm.
The short video at the end of this article produced by Science Uprising alludes to a number of “explosions” that elude a Darwinian explanation. Paleontologist Günter Bechly, summarizes,
“The phenomenon of sudden appearances in the fossil record is not just an exceptional case, but actually is a pattern that is found everywhere.”
The obvious example is the Cambrian explosion in which most of the phyla that exist today appeared in the blink of geological time, in a mere five to ten million year window. Charles Darwin, himself, acknowledged the problem the Cambrian Explosion posed for evolutionary theory, but he expressed confidence that future fossil discoveries would fill in the gaps and provide evidence of the precursors to the Cambrian life forms.
the carboniferous insect explosion (See Insects of the Oxygeniferous (“The number of insect families increased from 1 or 2 to more than 100 during the Carboniferous, and many of the insects were huge, and no one has been able to say exactly why.”)),
the Upper Paleolithic Revolution (See What Was The Upper Paleolithic Revolution? (describing the “significant behavioral changes” in the development of modern humans over the 40,000-year flash in a pan time period in the Late Stone Age)).
Technical scholarship is replete with the recognition of explosions (radiations or revolutions) of insects, fish, birds, dinosaurs, mammals, and the “big bang theory of human evolution” with no credible transitions in the fossil record. Many scientists, though continue to look for the precursors and clues to plug in the evolutionary gaps.
It seems that the evolutionary paradigm, which arose abruptly and transformed science overnight, is very slow in adapting to new information as it is uncovered. Not that we should be overly critical of the painstakingly slow progress. Science is slow and methodical with intention.
Explosions, though, such as the relatively sudden rise of Darwinian theory, may give way to equally sudden corrections, kind of like the mass extinction events that give way to new “radiations” or “revolutions'” in life forms. For more on the “time crunch” facing evolution, watch the short video that follows.
Jesus, of course, did not live in Babylon during the 30-some years he walked the earth. I am speaking figuratively here. Jesus urged people to follow him, to live as he did and to “walk” as he walked – to be imitators of Jesus as he was an imitator of God the Father. We follow Jesus wherever we are.
Most people reading this blog don’t live in Babylon either, as in the ancient city. Rather, Babylon is symbolic of our lives in this world. Just as the exiles found themselves living as foreign people in a foreign land filled with foreign gods, followers of Jesus today are aliens and strangers in this world living among people who do not bow down to our God.
When Jeremiah wrote to the Jewish exiles in Babylon right after they were taken captive, right after they lost everything (their homes, their lives as they knew them, the Temple around which their community was organized), his words would have difficult, perhaps, to receive.
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon….” (Jer. 29:4)
That God “sent” them into exile would have been a painful reminder of all the warnings of the prophets leading up to the final siege of Jerusalem, captivity, and long march to Babylon. Jeremiah had their attention, though. The unthinkable, that Jeremiah had long been predicting, actually happened.
In that context, this is what he said:
“Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:5-10)
I don’t think we can emphasize enough the timing of these words: this was the very beginningof the exile. They just lost everything. They just got there. Their future was uncertain, though they had hope to return to their homes because the prophets who warned them of the exile also predicted their return.
We are not “of this world” if we belong to God in Christ. We are exiles in this world. This world is our Babylon. In the rest of this blog,
I will relate those words Jeremiah wrote to the exiled Jews to our lives in “Babylon” today, and I will add in the warning, and the encouragement, that Jeremiah gave in the letter that are also instructive to us today. I believe Jeremiah’s words of instruction are how we should follow Jesus in Babylon.
Jeremiah wrote a letter to the Jews in Babylon. The Jews were exiled by God’s doing. He has been warning them about it regularly. Then, it happened. I am sure they were stunned anyway. Jeremiah opens his letter saying:
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon….”[i]
God put you and I where we are, also. What God says to the Babylonian exiles then is instructive for us today, wherever we are.
I am going to break what Jeremiah says down and apply it to our world today, but first we need to set the stage. We need to step back and consider the big picture.
“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this [marking out our appointed times and where we live] so that [we] would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” (Acts 17:26-27)
Nothing in all of human history has caught God off guard. God saw the sweep and the details of that history from before time. He also knew you.
He knew where you would be born. He knew the hairs on your head. He knew the smiles and frowns on your face, your thoughts and every word that would slip from your mouth before they were even said. (Echoing Psalm 139)
God saw the United States of America, and all the nations of the world before they were established, their course in history and their demise. What we call future isn’t future to God. He exists outside of time. He existed before time began to tick. He exists now, and He exists in our future.
God is orchestrating the people, the times, the events in history for one end. John caught a glimpse of that end when he saw people of every nation, tribe and tongue gathered around the throne of the Lamb. (Rev. 7:9) Has Paul described God’s plan and purpose this way,
The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
All creation is in on the purposes of God and is waiting for the fulfillment of God’s plan
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it,
Our present conditions are part of God’s plans and part of the ultimate purposes of God to be accomplished in the world He set in motion
in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
God’s plan and purpose is for creation to be freed from the present futility to which He subjected it as we obtain the freedom of becoming His children.
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
It was so from the beginning. When Eve fell in the garden, God increased her pain in childbirth….
And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies
When we are born again, by faith in God’s grace, and receive the Spirit, we taste the fruit of the life God offers and look forward to our ultimate redemption.
God’s Ultimate Plan
God marked out the appointed times in history of all the peoples of the earth and the boundaries of their lands throughout time, and that history is part of the larger creation that is waiting in eager expectation for the plans and purposes of God to be worked out in us and, ultimately, in creation. We are part of that plan.
We are at the center of the plans and purposes of God, who made us. Of all the creatures God created, we alone are created in His image. The creation waits eagerly for us to engage in that plan and purpose of God – each one of us and us, and us collectively.
Like the people of Judah in Babylon, we find ourselves exiles and strangers in the earth (1 Peter 2:11), if indeed we have been born again, born from above. When we are born again, we are born of the Spirit (John 3:1-21) by which we gain entry to the kingdom of God, which kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:36).
“But to all who … receive him, who [believe] in his name, he [gives] the right to become children of God, who [are] born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12)
When we receive Him, He gives us “the right to become children of God”. Though God knew us and “chose us in Him from before the foundation of the earth” (Eph. 1:4), He gives us, at the same time, the right (exousia, the right or authority) to become His children – it isn’t a forgone conclusion – at least not from our perspective.
We have to receive it, to begin with, and to believe (trust and commit to) it. In more popular parlance, we have to walk in it. Indeed, Jesus calls us as disciples to follow after Him, to “walk” the way he walked, to live as he lived. Paul says it this was:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men.And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:1-8)
Jesus is no longer with us to demonstrate in person how to walk as he walked, but we have Scripture and the Holy Spirit as our guide. Indeed, all Scripture “is God-breathed” (inspired), and it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”, so that we can be “thoroughly equipped for every good work”. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) The people who first heard these words would have thought primarily of what we call the Old Testament.
What we find in Jeremiah’s words to the people of Judah exiled in Babylon are instruction for those of us today who are exiled as aliens and strangers in this present world (if indeed we have truly been born again). What he says may not fit the modern Church narrative and example, though – or at least the poplar notion of what that is.
“Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” Psalm 1:5-6 ESV
What does this mean? The Lord knows the way of the righteous. Doesn’t God know everything? Doesn’t God know the way of the wicked also?
God sees everything, and He knows everything. God numbered the stars. (Ps. 147:4) God doesn’t just number the stars; He knows each star by its own name! (Is. 40:26) He can count every hair on every person’s head. (Luke 12:7)
God knows our thoughts, our paths and our ways, and He even knows the words we speak before we say them. (Ps. 139:2-4) Why does Psalm 1 say God knows the way of the righteous (and not the wicked also)?
He certainly knows the way of the wicked. Nothing is hidden from God. (Luke 8:17 & Heb. 4:13) The statement that God knows the way of the righteous doesn’t necessarily mean that He doesn’t know the way of the unrighteous. I think He certainly does.
This passage is not talking about bare knowledge. Clearly God is all knowing. This is not a statement contrary to the omniscience of God. God must know the way of the wicked to judge them, which this verse says He will do.
This statement is about a different kind of knowing. It is a statement of familiarity and identification. God is familiar with and identifies with the righteous because the righteous have adopted God’s ways. God knows them in the sense that he knows his own ways.
It is a statement of intimacy. God is intimate with the righteous. The righteous turn to God in good times and bad. They have opened themselves to God, and God knows them as someone knows a confidant.
It is a statement of connection. God connects with the righteous. The righteous are aligned with God in their ways. Thus, God knows them. Jesus prayed that we would be one with him as he is one with the Father. (John 17:20-23) God establishes connection with the righteous.
What connection does this knowledge have with judgment, perishing, or eternal life? (Which is the focus of the majority of this passage ) God’s knowing is somehow tied into the judgment, the wicked perishing, and implicitly the righteous not being judged and not perishing.
God is eternal. He always is, always was, and always will be. If we are aligned with God, connected with God, we partake with God in his eternal life through Christ. This was the good news (Gospel) that Jesus preached.
Abraham was counted righteous by the grace of God because of his faith (trust and commitment to God). Through Abraham’s seed came Jesus, his seed, who blessed all the nations of the earth.
In Jesus was God incarnate, emptying Himself of His glory and privilege (Phil. 2:5-7) to “connect with” us on our level. In Jesus, God demonstrated His love and character for us to see and connect with. (1 Jn. 1:2)
That blessing God promised to Abraham is the right to be called sons of God (Jn.1:12), to be born again (Jn. 1:13 & Jn. 3:3-8), to die with Christ and to live eternally in him in connection with the Father. (Rom. 6:6-8)
I think of Paul’s great words, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Cor. 13:12) These are words of intimacy and personal connection. “Then we shall see face to face.” (Id.) This was God’s desire and his plan all along that we might have personal intimate connection with him and He with us.
God not only desires to “know” us – to have intimate connection with us; He desires to be known by us!
God the Father can seem distant and unapproachable. but He became one of us to connect with us and invite us to connect with Him in the form of Jesus. Jesus, in turn, leaves us the Holy Spirit, who is God who remains with us in intimate form who connect with us, and provides a way for us to connect with Him.
The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised…. (Eph. 1:14)
[He] has given us the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the guarantee of all that he has in store for us. (2 Cor. 1:22)
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God…. (Rom. 8:16)
Francis Chan said in a recent interview that many people walk away [from Christianity, faith, religion] because they have never really had an encounter with God. They walk away from their belief system or their parent’s belief system.
“If you really encounter God”, he says, “You don’t do that.” Moses didn’t walk off Mount Sinai arguing about a belief system. Job didn’t return to his belief system or his parents’ belief system. They had real encounters with God, and those encounters changed them.
I have thought for several years about the odd fact that Job had a million questions for God until God appeared. When God showed up, He didn’t provide a single answer to any of Job’s questions, but Job no longer had any questions!
Job’s questions didn’t matter anymore after God showed up!
When Job demanded answers, he wasn’t looking for a belief system. He was desperately seeking an encounter with God, though he might not have known it at the time. If Job had settled for a belief system (or a systematic theology as we might call it), his questions would have continued.
People will argue about belief systems, but we don’t argue about an encounter with God. You might not understand my encounter with God, but you can’t refute it. You might question my experience, but I know what I know.
Belief systems don’t change people. Encounters with God change people. A belief system is not the crux of Christianity. If we think it’s all about having a systematic theology, we are missing the forest for the trees. We are accepting a shadow of the real thing, which is God Himself.
Francis Chan ended his train of thought with the words of Isaiah in 29:13:
“[T]hese people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men….”
Christianity has no life or vitality if it is nothing more than a commandment taught by men. The essence of Christianity is Jesus. Jesus is God who became man. In Jesus, we encounter God. Jesus said,
“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:0)
We do not know God if we have never encountered Him. Mental ascent is not the same thing as an encounter with the living God!
Jesus urged people to seek God. He didn’t urge people to seek to know the truth about God. He urged them to seek God, the Person!
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” He didn’t say, “I can show you the way”; or “I can teach you the truth”; or “I can give you the life”. He said, “I AM the way, the truth and the life!”
The way, the truth and the life resides in the person of Jesus Christ, who is one with the Father, who offers himself to us through the Holy Spirit, that we might know God intimately and personally.
We settle far too often for mere knowledge and belief systems. What we need is encounter and relationship with the Living God. What we need is the Living Water and Living Bread Jesus offers to us in himself.