Closer To Truth: God Almighty

There is an ongoing PBS TV series (also several books and also a website) called “Closer to Truth”. It is hosted by neuroscientist Robert Lawrence Kuhn. He’s featured in one-on-one interviews and panel discussions with the cream of the cream of today’s cosmologists, physicists, philosophers, theologians, psychologists, etc. on all of the Big Questions surrounding a trilogy of broad topics – Cosmos; Consciousness; Meaning. The trilogy collectively dealt with reality, space and time, mind and consciousness, aliens, theology and on and on and on. Here are a few of my comments on the general topics that cover the concept of an Almighty God.

What is God?

Supernatural deities, including a deity commonly known as God, are figments of the human imagination. Deities were invented because they fill various needs that humans have. One need is to explain the unexplainable. If we (translated – our ancient ancestors) can’t explain something, like say lightning and thunder, well with a snap-of-the-fingers we have presto, a supernatural sky god who has a bad temper and hurls around thunderbolts. It works, at least until some better explanation comes along. A second need is to provide you with some sort of meaning and purpose because you are too damn lazy to figure out your own meaning and purpose. A third need is to get our needs fulfilled if we can’t seemingly fulfil them via our own abilities. And so we ask a magic deity for three wishes, more or less. A fisherman asks for good fishing; a childless couple wishes and prays for a child; someone else requires universal peace on Earth. There’s nothing different in principle between an adult praying to a supernatural deity and a child posting a letter to Santa Claus at the North Pole. The universal however is the need for an afterlife. Though we don’t want to die, tough! The next best option is an afterlife. But observations of death strongly suggest that when death happens, nothing else happens. The body doesn’t go anywhere; the body doesn’t come back to life. So, there is a lot to be gained by postulating a deity that via supernatural powers can give you what you cannot give yourself, not only life after death but an eternal life everlasting. So, what is God? God is just a Santa Claus for grown-ups. God is your science, until the real science comes along.

What is God Like?

What is God like? Do you mean the God who says “thou shall not kill” yet who is the biggest mass murderer in human history if the Old Testament is to be believed. If the Old Testament is really God’s word, then God, the serial killer, puts Hitler to shame. Hitler, Stalin (and related) are rank amateurs in the mass murder department compared to God. Talk about a do-as-I-say-but-not-as-I-do entity! God in fact should be tried in the International Court of Justice for crimes against humanity. Is this the God you mean when you want to know what God is like? Well now you know. The Almighty Two-Face!

Does God have Traits 1?

Does God have traits? Yes, bad ones, like mass murder. God is hardly a role model when it comes to the double standard when He says one shouldn’t commit murder while at the same time having Himself just slaughtered all of Ancient Egypt’s first born not to mention drowning Pharaoh’s army. God also has a super-ego. In fact God is really and totally up Himself when demanding that us mere mortals should have and should put no other gods before Him. God also has a lot of trouble curbing His temper. We often hear about ‘the wrath of God’. God likes to inflict punishment on those who can’t really defend themselves. God versus human is not held on an even playing field, much like the human hunter who shoots the animal that can’t shoot back. So, murder; double standards; ego; temper; relishing in the suffering of others. God indeed created man in His image since men do what God does; but equally man created God in the human image, a God who does what humans do.

Does God have Traits 2?

I’ve been reminded that yet another of God’s traits is that He lies. The proof of that pudding is in the Book of Genesis. God tells Adam and Eve that if that have a snack on that forbidden fruit they will surely die. They do and they don’t. They do eat the forbidden fruit and they don’t die. Instead, God gives them the heave-ho and their marching orders and makes them toil and sweat a little. That’s hardly an imminent death sentence. So I gotta wonder whether some of God’s other promises are akin to those sorts of promises you get from wannabe politicians close to election time. Promises that are meant to be broken after you are suckered in and vote for them. So what about God’s rainbow promise? Is that going to turn out to be yet another falsehood?

Big Pictures of God

One of the big pictures about the nature of God has been often summed up in the interviews on “Closer to Truth”. I’ve seen many a Christian theologian state that your God is an all-loving god; a friendly god; a compassionate god; a merciful god; a just god, and so on. God is warm and fuzzy. How they can say that with a straight face is quite beyond me. What planet do they live on? Have these theologians ever read the Old Testament? If they have read and studied the Old Testament then they are ignoring it as being of no consequence in telling us about the real nature of God. So God is a loving god and a merciful god? Tell that fairy tale to the ancient Egyptians of Exodus fame just to cite one example of a non-loving and a non-merciful god. What a joke these Christian theologians are. What a joke to believe in a compassionate warm and fuzzy deity when all the Biblical Old Testament evidence is totally contrary to that very concept.

Is God Perfect?

What does it mean to be perfect? Well in our world there are usually textbook standards that define what perfection is or what you need to achieve to be considered perfect, as in pitching a perfect baseball game, or achieving 100% on an examination, or in being crowned Miss America, or experiencing the perfect storm. What does it really mean to be supernaturally perfect? Since it is impossible to ever be absolutely supernaturally perfect since there is no sort of agreed textbook standard on what absolute supernatural perfection is and no such agreed textbook standard probably ever will exist, we really don’t know what one would have to measure up to in order to achieve absolute supernatural perfection. Perhaps achieving supernatural perfection probably means just being the best at what you supernaturally do. Unfortunately, legend has it that there is only one such supernatural entity, so by default that one entity has to be crowned the most perfect, just like if there were only one contestant in the Miss America beauty pageant that one person would have to win by default. Now things would be interesting if there were more than one supernatural entity and then one could compare or rank them and their relative degrees of perfection. One could pit Zeus or Odin or Quetzalcoatl against God. Perhaps Zeus is more perfect than God and Odin but less perfect than Quetzalcoatl with respect to this or that trait, but when all traits are summed up – just like a beauty pageant isn’t just awarded on the grounds of just beauty – one of the quartet would emerge as the most perfect of the supernatural deities.

Is God All Knowing?

No, God, assuming there is such an entity, is not all-knowing assuming you put stock in God’s word, the Bible. In fact you need go no further than the first couple chapters of Genesis in the Old Testament to read that God asks questions of Adam, Eve and Cain. Why does God need to ask questions if He is all-knowing? Perhaps God asks questions for the exact same reasons that we ask questions. We ask questions to learn something that we don’t know; ditto God. In any event, wouldn’t it be a horrible existence to know in exacting detail every damn little bit and piece about the future? If you knew every detail of what would happen second by second for the rest of your life, right down to how and when you would kick the bucket, would there be any point to getting out of bed in the morning? In a similar vein, what would be the point of God doing a creation if He was all-knowing and thus knew in advance exactly how everything would turn out. It would seem pointless.

Does God Know the Future?

Does God know the future? What would be the point of doing anything if you already knew in exacting detail what the outcome would be? Of course you would have to do it since you already knew you would do it. Talk about being a robot! If God knew the future in advance, would there be any point in telling Adam and Eve to behave and not snack on that piece of fruit? God would already have known that Adam and Eve would snack on that fruit no matter what He told them, so what’s the point in telling them? Why create vast hoards of humanity when you already knew you were going to drown nearly every damn last one of them? Translate that concept into your own life. If you knew, down to the last dot of the “I” and cross of the “T” exactly what every future second of your existence would be like, exactly what would happen by you and to you with every tick of every second you had yet to live, wouldn’t that be boring? Would there be any point in getting out of bed at all, other than of course you already would have been aware that you would stay in bed since there would have been no point in getting out of bed and going through all those motions you already knew you would do. If you knew the future in exacting detail, there could be no such a concept as free will, and that would apply to God too. Most people don’t want to know in intimate detail what tomorrow will bring or exactly when and how they will die. There’s pleasure in living a somewhat uncertain life and not always knowing what lies over the crest of the next hill.

Perhaps Even God Doesn’t Know the Future?

If God doesn’t know the future, then it makes a joke of the phrase an ‘all-knowing God’. If God created the laws, principles and relationships of physics, those cause-and-effect relationships, relationships that require the cosmos to be a clockwork cosmos, then God of necessity must know what He has set in train and the outcome. If He doesn’t, then something is screwy somewhere. If on the other hand there is no supernatural God, then the whole question becomes moot.

Is God All Powerful?

Some things are indeed impossible for God. I’d like to see Him make a spherical cube, or a cubical sphere! Can God travel faster than the speed of light? Seriously, if God is all powerful, why didn’t He just snap His fingers and condense all of those six days of creation into one nanosecond? Why drag things out? If God is so all powerful, why did He need to rest of the seventh day? Of course given God’s personality and behavior, the statement that power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely seems to apply to God, and imply that God indeed has absolute power.

Can God do Everything?

If logic has any meaning at all, then God, assuming a supernatural God exists of course, has His hands tied behind His back when it comes to trying to violate anything Mr. Spock would hold near and dear. I mean not even God can draw more than one straight line between two points of a flat piece of paper. Not even God can calculate a definite value to Pi. Not even God can get around the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. God can call a dog a cat, or a cat a dog, but that doesn’t make it so. God couldn’t even make Adam and Eve toe the line!

Can God Change?

If I recall Biblical tales accurately, there are several instances where God either changed, or nearly changed His mind. I recall that Adam and Eve were sentenced to die if they snacked on some forbidden fruit. Instead, God changed His mind and didn’t impose the death penalty rather evicting them off the garden premises. Then I seem to recall that God hemmed and hawed being rather undecided about zapping Sodom and Gomorrah before making up His mind. So, it would seem that God, assuming a God of course, can change, or think about changing, the colour of His spots just like a human can, which makes logical sense if humans were made in the image of God.

Evolution and God?

For those who have a conflict between biological evolution, survival of the fittest, natural selection, and related Darwinian concepts, vis-a-vis answers in Genesis, all I can say is that the data for Darwinian evolution, the evidence for natural selection, has been placed on the table in the public arena for all to see and digest and come to conclusions about. The same cannot be applied to Genesis. You cannot examine the data and evidence as presented in Genesis. The evidence for Genesis is not available up on the table, in the public arena, for scrutiny. So, are you going to trust data on the table that you can examine; are you going to trust those whose hands are out in front for all to see, or are you going to trust in Genesis which provides no data or evidence that you can cross-examine; where God’s hands (as the author of Genesis) are hidden behind His back for nobody to see? When and if God comes front and centre and provides His evidence and data the way biological evolutionists do, well then, and only then, will there be a bona-fide debate on the two contrasting points of view. Till then, up front honesty resides and only resides with the evolutionists.

Did God Make Animals Suffer in Evolution 1?

Leaving God aside for the moment, I get upset when I see an animal suffer at the hands of another animal, be it a fly in a spider’s web or a lion that chases down and kills an antelope, or the mouse that’s consumed by the snake, but then I have to reflect and say that if the spider doesn’t catch the fly the spider suffers by starvation; ditto the lion and the snake. The saving grace for me is that the killing is of necessity and not just for the sake of killing. Which brings me back to God and animal suffering. God, assuming a God of course, apparently has a bone to pick with human beings. At least that’s God’s story and He’s sticking to it. God does not have a bone to pick with animals. Regardless, 99.99% (add a few more 9’s here) of animals were slaughtered by God in Noah’s flood event. A lot of animals suffered at the hands of God in those ten Egyptian plagues. Speaking of the Exodus, a lot of Pharaoh’s horses must have been drowned after the parting of the Red (or Reed) Sea. God apparently relishes animal sacrifices unto Him. God should not only face judgment for crimes against humanity, but also for animal abuse and cruelty. One other point, if God created all life, then God created all those microbes and bacteria and viruses that cause lethal diseases that kill animals and that make their animal victims suffer greatly prior to death. The bacteria, and related microbes don’t really benefit because once their host is dead, they die too. Microbes can inhabit environments, even living environments without causing disease. Humans play host to billions of microbes that cause us no harm and might even be essential to our well-being. So death by disease (as apart from old age or serving as a food source) really is an unnecessary facet of God’s creation. The one personal example I can cite is the beak-and-feather disease in cockatoos which is absolutely hideous and once seen, never forgotten. If God exists, that’s God’s doing, and God’s doing for no apparent reason. God, it would seem, likes to make animals suffer – cancer is another common example – even though animals are supposedly 100% innocent of any wrongdoing in God’s eyes.

Did God Make Animals Suffer in Evolution 2?

As an afterthought, an all-powerful God could have designed all animals to be plant eaters and ensure that there always was an adequate vegetative food supply for them so they wouldn’t suffer via starvation, then as well ensuring their reproductive prowess would only result in a near one-to-one replacement rate to maintain the carrying capacity of the environment to sustain the population, thus again ensuring no starvation came to pass due to population growth. God could have done all of this, but as we should all realize by now God’s not very good at thinking things through when it comes to the intelligent design portfolio He assumes responsibility for.

The Death Angels and Our Guardian Angels

This article is in response to questions asked of me concerning what happens to us during our time of death. What is the role of the angels of God at this time? I apologize that I have to be extremely brief. As you read this, it may interest you to know that recently, I have been diagnosed, for a second time, with small cell cancer in my second lung. Second lung meaning, I’ve already survived small cell cancer in my other lung. Death is a great possibility for me – actually, I expect it. I say this to let you know that what I’m about to say, I do so knowing I will sooner than later prove what I teach.

As discussed in detail in a previous chapter, each Christian has a host of guardian angels assigned to him or her, at the time of their birth to the time of their death. They have been – in most cases unseen – but extremely busy in a thousand different ways in our lives.

Please understand: guardian angels do not keep us from making wrong choices in our lives. We always have our free will and the choices we make today is the life we will live tomorrow – often making the role of the guardian angel much more difficult.

Perhaps there is no other time in our lives when our guardian angels are more active or needed than at the moment of our earthly demise. Death, the event we always cloak in a shroud of mystery, and fear, eventually comes to all of us. Hiding from it, never speaking about it, or being ignorant of it, does not help us at all.

We generally characterize the Angel of Death as a gruesome and ugly creature. We habitually think of him as a person of dread – someone to fear. While that makes for good theatrics and novels, that is hardly the true Angel of Death. As in all illustrations like this, we must discover what the Scripture has to say concerning this particular agent of God.

Before we get to the biblical view of this angel, I want to give you a number of non-biblical views concerning the Death Angel. The electronic Jewish encyclopedia reads, It is said of the angel of death that he is full of eyes. In the hour of death, he stands at the head of the departing one with a drawn sword, to which clings a drop of gall. As soon as the dying man sees the angel, he is seized with a convulsion and opens his mouth, whereupon the angel throws the drop in to it. This drop causes his death; he turns putrid, and his face becomes yellow.

Many regions and religious teachers identify the Angel of Death by the names of Samael, Azrael, and Sariel and of course the most common of all, Satan. By searching many ancient texts, we can find other names for this angel. This is the Christian biblical view, which informs us they are quite involved in continuing to minister and comfort us at the time of our death. No other religion or faith I know of, acknowledges angels ministering to humanity during the event of our separation from our bodies in death.

Learn what I am about to teach you about death and you will understand the worldly view of the Death Angel is mythological, not godly. I am convinced the Children of God should never fear death. I understand the unknown (no matter how much we study the Bible, it remains a truly unknown area) is always frightening. However, the more you learn about guardian angels the less you are going to fear.

The first lesson we need to learn, we (God’s children) do not face death, alone. We did not come into this world alone, and we do not leave it alone. When an heir of God completes this metamorphous and departs this earthly kingdom for the heavenly one, there is a flutter of angelic activity surrounding that soul like never before. Those beings who have been given the custodial care over us for all the years we live on this earth – now with tenderness – ever so carefully deposit their charge into the protective care of another group of angelic beings called The Chariots of Israel. They are the angels who are charged with the mission of safely moving us from this realm to that other we often refer to as Heaven.

There is a good chance you have never heard of these angels. Nonetheless, twice the Scripture speaks of them. We see them once in the Old Testament, and again in the New. The New Testament portion is from one of the teaching of Christ, and the Old Testament reference more-or-less paints the picture of what Jesus is teaching. So let us look at what Jesus had to say first.

Luke chapter 16 contains the information of two individuals who died. The one was a beggar, but godly individual by the name of Lazarus, who was, according to this world a poor, miserable mistake. He had no money, no fame and to the best of our knowledge, his job was one of those homeless persons we see on the street. No one wept at his death, and I could not even guess who paid for this funeral. One more for us taxpayers, I presume. On the other hand, we have Dives, as the old teachers called him. By all accounts, he was the kind of person we all admire. He was a man of wealth, power, and prestige. The kind of person we venerate as being a success. His funeral was the fancy one where everyone mourned.

The great equalizer of all humanity in this world is mortality. It makes no difference who or what we are, there comes a time when we must leave it all behind in death. However, if you are one of God’s own, we do not face death alone because as we learn from Jesus, the angels were at work in the death of Lazarus. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried (Lk 16:22).

Jesus is teaching us that when a child of God dies, he/she is instantly delivered into the hands of a group of angels (and please notice he uses the plural for angels), and they are in charge of delivering that person safely into the presence of God’s rest. We must understand that chance is never a part of the life of the godly. We are always under the sovereign care of God by the means of His angels, and so luck has no role to play in death either. You, dear child of God, are far too precious to go through this experience alone. God understands that our greatest fear is death. In His tender compassion, He has made every provision to comfort and protect us through the unknown by giving a multitude of angels charge to carry us to Him.

Armed with the information Jesus has given us, we can understand the action that actually takes place at the time of our death from this Old Testament illustration. Second Kings, draws back a piece of the curtain far enough for us to get a glimpse of what is happening behind the scene at death. The eminent prophet of God, Elijah, is about to go home i.e. die. In his death, God is going to allow Elisha, his disciple, and us, to observe a small glimpse, of how the angels of God take care of us at the time of our death. As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel, and its horsemen!” And he saw Elijah no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces (2Ki 2:11-12).

Here we witness the true Scriptural Angel of Death only to discover he is not one being, but an entire squadron of angels. The fact is, I do not know of any time where the Scripture ever hints that any Child of God is ever in the care of only one angel. To cling to that old superstition is to belittle your standing in the Kingdom of God and to disparage God’s love for you. I am stunned at seeing an entire squadron of death angels coming to our side at our demise. This detail springs like a leopard into my soul in amazement. The primary question I ask, is why? What is the reason for putting us into the protective care of all these angels? Most of us would be thrilled to know one angel escorts us into the presence of God. We may find the answer in Scripture if we look carefully. According to Holy Scripture, when we close our eyes in death in this earthly home, we are born into a new heavenly world. We can liken our death to the birth of a baby who leaves the world of his/her mother’s womb and now enters this other world where there are so many gathered around to applaud this child’s arrival. Every child of God entering this new realm comes into the protective care of the second and first division of angels. (I’m sorry but I cannot elaborate in this small article.)

Matthew Henry, the scholarly commentator of the past century suggests these angels are a combination of both the Seraphim and Cherubim class. He says, The angels are called in scripture cherubim and seraphim, and their appearance here, though it may be below their dignity, answers to both their names; for (1) Seraphim signifies fiery, and God is said to make a flame of fire, (Ps. civ. 4.) (2) Cherubim (as many think) signifies chariots, and they are called the chariots of fire. Matthew Henry is not wrong in his analysis. The term seraphim does indeed mean burning ones while the title cherubim are always associated with the glory of God.

From what we can glean from scripture, the seraphim and the cherubim are the most powerful angels the Bible speaks of in the heavenlies and these may make up this company. It is into the hands of these powerful heavenly angels that our earthly guardian angels pass us. As a host of angels walked with us throughout our lives, so to a host of different guardian angels carry us to a new home filled with angels, God, and those who have gone on before us.

Yes, the unknown if always fearful-, but I want to try to comfort you who fear, by saying; we will not face death alone. Christ indeed conquered death and cleared the way for us. We are going to conclude our study of the guardian angels, but I can promise you, there is a wealth of biblical information I could not offer due to limitation. Seek and ye shall find, if you have that desire.

Importance of Religious Education in School Curriculum

Where to place religious education in the academic curriculum, is one of the renewed discussions currently highlighted throughout the US. This debate has been motivated by developments planned to minimize provisions by providing a framework for religious education that can advance good practice in teaching and learning and alleviate some of the issues of training teachers and providing high quality resources when each local area may have a different syllabus for the subject.

It has been recognized that the production of high-quality resources for religious education is challenging when publishers cannot be as confident as they are in other curriculum areas that all pupils in a particular key stage will be studying the same topics. Seeking agreement on what might constitute a national framework for religious education has been a protracted and carefully negotiated process requiring decisions to be made regarding what should be recommended and with what degree of prescription. Determining the curriculum for any subject is bound to be fraught with difficulty, as choices have to be made concerning what to include and so inevitably what to exclude. In religious education the process has always been regarded as particularly sensitive, given the potential for controversy when there is a need to take account of more than one major religious tradition and limited curriculum time available. The emerging consensus as to the desirability of a national framework has been challenged by moves to go beyond the establishing of a set of guidelines to advocating a national syllabus for religious education that would more closely mirror the provision for other subjects in the English National Curriculum.

At the same time as this issue has preoccupied religious educators, other advancements in the syllabus have challenged the addition of religious education as a compulsory subject. The strengthening of personal, social and health studies in the National Curriculum and the introduction of citizenship as an additional compulsory subject has led people to question the worth of religious studies to the education. Religious studies provide a heavy set of arguments that demand serious attention of religious educators, not only in the US but also across other international communities.

Few years ago, there were only four departments of religious studies in British Universities. The recent decision by a university in the UK that was a pioneer in establishing the academic study of religion, as opposed to theology or divinity, to close its department of religious studies and offer staff a merger with a department of theology in a neighboring institution indicates that the claim of the discipline to have a unique contribution to make is still not generally understood and may not be sufficiently convincing to secure its status in the modern university. Nevertheless, religious studies have been regarded as a significant influence on the teaching of religious education in schools. The impact has perhaps been overstated and was in any case largely confined to one aspect of religious studies; the phenomenological approach. Much remains to be done to develop understanding of the relationships between religious studies, theology and religious education.