Category Archives: Top Ten Posts of 2009

Can God Make a Rock So Big He Can’t Lift It? – #1 Post of 2009

Post Author: Bill Pratt

This is a common question that is asked by those who misunderstand the nature of God’s omnipotence.  Another humorous way of asking this question is: Can God make a sandwich so big he can’t eat it?  (I owe that jewel to my friend Greg).

When Christians claim that God is omnipotent (all-powerful), they do not mean that he can do anything.  We mean that God can do anything that is actually possible.  God’s omnipotence exists in concert with all of his other attributes, not as a stand-alone attribute.  Therefore, when we don’t understand the other attributes of God, we get stumped by questions like this.   Here is a brief list of some things God cannot do, based on his other attributes:

  1. cease to exist – a being whose very nature is being cannot cease to be; that’s impossible
  2. love evil – a being who is all-good cannot love evil; that’s impossible
  3. make a copy of himself – God is infinite, and two infinite beings cannot exist; that’s impossible
  4. change his nature – an unchanging (immutable) being cannot change; that’s impossible

So why can’t he make a rock so big he can’t lift it?  Simple.  God is infinite, and there can only be one infinite being (see number 3 above).  If there were two infinite beings, then neither would really be infinite because they would each be limited by the other.  But an infinite being has no limits, so they can’t both be infinite.

If a rock is created that cannot be moved by an infinite being, then that rock must be infinite.  But if we have an infinite being and an infinite rock, we have two infinite beings.  That is, as we said a moment ago, a logical impossibility.

Once we understand what infinity means (without limit) and once we understand that God cannot violate the laws of logic (which are based on his own nature), then we can easily understand how God cannot make a rock so big he can’t lift it.  It’s like asking one infinite being to create another infinite being.  Not possible!!

Does God Send People to Hell? – #2 Post of 2009

Post Author: Bill Pratt

God wishes every person to avoid hell and be saved from it (2 Pet 3:9).  Christians do not believe God sends people to hell.  Hell is freely chosen by those who reject God.

God gave every person the power of free will and the most important decision we will make with that power of free will is whether to embrace or reject God.  Since heaven is a place where we spend eternity with God, then for those who reject God, there needs to be a place where they can escape him.

If you are a person who wants nothing to do with God in this life, then wouldn’t it be hell for you to be in heaven with God forever?

C. S. Lewis summarizes this issue well, as usual.  He says, “The door of hell is locked on the inside.”  All those who go to hell will to be there and to stay there.  He adds, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’  All that are in hell choose it.”

Why doesn’t God force everyone to ultimately choose him so that all people go to heaven?  After all, some might say, that is the right thing to do.

The problem with this solution is that God created free human beings, and if he forces them to do anything, then he is violating their freedom.  If God forces people to choose him, it comes down to a kind of “divine rape,” a coercion.  God’s love demands that he offer people a place where they can freely reject him, forever.

Did Jesus Say Baptism Is Required For Entrance Into Heaven? – #3 Post of 2009

Post Author: Darrell

The LDS Church teaches that Baptism is required for entrance into The Celestial Kingdom (Heaven).  They often cite Christ’s conversation with Nicodemus in John chapter 3 as evidence to support their position.  However, a closer look at this conversation does not in fact support the Mormon view.  Let’s go through this conversation verse by verse.

“1Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” 3In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”  4“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

It is important to stop here and look closely at what Christ taught and what Nicodemus asked in return.  Christ said that a man must be “born again” to enter into heaven.  Nicodemus was confused by what Christ meant by “born again” and followed by asking how a man could “enter the womb” again to be re-born.  Keep this in mind.

“5Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of waterand the Spirit.”

It is at this point most Mormons will stop and say something to the effect of “See, Christ taught that you have to be born of water – Baptized – or you cannot go to heaven. ” I am willing to admit that if the conversation stopped here they might actually have a case.  Fortunately, Christ clarifies for us exactly what he means by born of water.

“6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

Christ answers Nicodemus’s question of what born again is… how can a man “enter the womb” to be reborn.  Christ tells us that flesh gives birth to flesh when we are born the first time – of water from our mother’s womb.  Mormons get confused by what Christ meant by “born of water”.  It has nothing to do with baptism…. He was referring to being born of our mother.  However, Christ goes further to contrast this first birth with being “born again” of the Spirit.  This is the requirement for entrance into Heaven not baptism.

As you can see, this conversation does not teach that we must be baptized to enter Heaven.  Don’t get me wrong… I am not saying that baptism is a bad thing.  In reality it is a wonderful ordinance that we should all follow once we accept Christ as our Savior.  Christ most certainly taught that it is something we should do as an outward manifestation of a changed heart.  However, He did not teach it as a mandate for salvation.  Only one thing is required for salvation… a sincere and humble expression of faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior which leads to being Born Again of The Spirit.

What a beautiful concept this is!  Christ’s sacrifice is a gift we should all receive… it enables all who do so to enter The Kingdom of God.  I will praise my Savior forever for what He has done for me.


What is Social Darwinism? – #4 Post of 2009

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Social Darwinism is the theory that persons, societies of people, and races develop and evolve in much the same way that biological organisms evolve due to natural selection.  It is frequently described by the phrase, “survival of the fittest,” which was coined by British philosopher Herbert Spencer just a few years after Darwin wrote Origin of the Species.

The theory speculates that those people groups who are superior in intelligence, creativity, and industriousness would naturally overcome their weaker neighbors.  In doing so, they would become more successful as measured by wealth and prosperity.  This view led to a belief in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that human “class stratification was justified on the basis of ‘natural’ inequalities among individuals, for the control of property was said to be a correlate of superior and inherent moral attributes such as industriousness, temperance, and frugality.”

The ethical ramifications of social Darwinism are immense.  Following its logic, if nature is removing the inferior races of men in order to preserve the superior races, then mankind ought to cooperate.  Even though this is a clear example of the is/ought fallacy, the social Darwinists employed the theory to justify all sorts of behavior.  At the individual level, there was a moral obligation to not help those people who were biologically unfit.  After all, evolution is attempting to remove these people from the population pool.  If a person is born blind, let her die of starvation rather than fit her for glasses.  If she reproduces, she is weakening the gene pool.

With regard to ethnic groups, there arose an ethical basis for racism and nationalism; if a person’s society is shown to be socio-economically superior to others, then ignoring the plight of the inferior races and societies is completely justified.  “At the societal level, social Darwinism was used as a philosophical rationalization for imperialist, colonialist, and racist policies.”

Social Darwinism saw its greatest impact in the Nazi and communist regimes of the twentieth century.  According to Sir Arthur Keith, a strong proponent of biological evolutionary theory, “We see Hitler devoutly convinced that evolution produces the only real basis for a national policy. . . . The means he adopted to secure the destiny of his race and people were organized slaughter, which has drenched Europe in blood. . . . Such conduct is highly immoral as measured by every scale of ethics, yet Germany justifies it; it is consonant with tribal or evolutionary morality.”

Nazi Germany is generally thought to have exterminated about twelve million innocent people and the regime largely based its policies on the idea that the Aryan race was superior.   It was the duty of the German people to populate the world and eliminate the inferior races.

Marxist regimes also believed that Darwinism could be used to build a legitimate philosophical framework.  Karl Marx was heavily influenced by the writings of Charles Darwin and believed that the dethroning of the bourgeoisie was completely justified to bring about the evolution of mankind that he envisioned.  Marxist governments were responsible for murdering tens of millions of people during the twentieth century.  Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao Tse Tung massacred their own people in order to create a new order that they based ultimately upon the concept of “survival of the fittest.”

Although few people claim to be social Darwinists today, the ideas of social Darwinism still surface from time to time.  Our next post will analyze this theory of ethics to see whether it can be grounded in the seven aspects of morality we discussed in What Do We Know About Morality?

[quotation references can be provided on request]

Why Don’t We See Miracles Today? – #5 Post of 2009

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Many people wonder why we don’t see miracles such as the parting of the sea, the raising of the dead, and people walking on water.  It seems like miracles were pretty common in the Old and New Testaments, but today nothing like that seems to happen.  Why?

First of all, I believe there are indeed miracles being performed by God today, as I have certainly heard many accounts from Christians that I know and trust.  Most of these accounts, however, are hard to verify as true supernatural events, and they are never captured on CNN for the whole world to see.  So even though miracles seem to be occurring today, they still aren’t typically the public displays of supernatural power displayed in the Bible.

I think one reason we don’t see these public miracles is that God is not confirming new revelation today.  You see, the Bible records some 250 miraculous events, but they are concentrated, according to Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, in three time periods: 1) the time of Moses, 2) the time of Elijah and Elisha, and 3) the time of Jesus and his apostles.

According to the Bible, God used miracles as signs to confirm his messengers (prophets)  to skeptical populations.  Read the Gospel of John to see how John records seven miraculous signs performed by Jesus to prove he was from God.  Likewise, consider Elijah on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18).  One of the ways God confirmed his messengers was through miracles.

There were hundreds of years recorded in the Bible with no miracles, so it is false to say that miracles occurred all throughout biblical times.  They did not.  They primarily occurred when God was confirming a new revelation from his prophets.  By the way, this is one reason why Jews and Christians rejected Muhammad as a prophet of God while he was alive.  He did not perform any miracles (Sura 3:181–184).

So, today we do not have new revelation coming from one of God’s prophets, because Jesus and his apostles were the final revelation from God.  Everything God wants us to know about himself, through his prophets, is recorded in the Holy Scriptures.  Since there is no need for new prophets to tell us new things about God, then the need for public displays of supernatural power is absent.

Can God do miracles today?  Of course.  But we should not expect the same kinds and numbers of miracles today as when Moses, Elijah, and Jesus lived.

Nehemiah’s Wall: Found – #6 Post of 2009

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In the latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Eilat Mazar reports that she has discovered a portion of Nehemiah’s Wall.  These are the walls that were described in the book of Nehemiah in chapters 3 and 4.

Nehemiah's Wall

The wall was discovered as Mazar continued excavations of King David’s Palace.

Mazar's Excavation

If this was not fascinating enough, Mazar also discovered two small seal impressions in the same excavation.  These seal impressions actually contain the names “Gedaliah son of Pashhur” and “Jehucal son of Shelemiah.”  Both of these seals are dated to the time period of King Zedekiah, who ruled from 597-587 B.C.

Why are these names important?  Both of them are named by the prophet Jeremiah as court officials in Jeremiah 38.  Mazar discovered actual impressions of the names of biblical figures!  I concur with her exclamation: “How amazing these finds are!”

The Palace of David, Nehemiah’s Wall, court officials mentioned by Jeremiah – truly impressive finds which further corroborate the historical accuracy of the Bible.

Does God Give Every Person a Chance to Be Saved? – #7 Post of 2009

Post Author: Bill Pratt

I say “yes.”  I believe that God does give every person a chance to be saved.  Why do I believe this?

All men are given the chance to accept or reject God because God loves all men and desires all men to come to him.  According to 2 Pet. 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  According to 1 Tim. 2:3-4, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” And of course, John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

God will freely offer the gift of salvation to everyone, but each person must decide to accept or reject this free gift.

There are many ways that a person can receive the gospel message.  Through a sermon, through a book, through the Bible, through a missionary, through a dream, or through a vision.  God is not limited in how he can offer salvation to men.  We are all held responsible for what we know of God, so there will be no excuses once we stand in front of him.

Some Great Pascal Quotes – #8 Post of 2009

Post Author: Bill Pratt

I am reading Pascal’s Pensees right now and couldn’t help but stop and record some of the wonderful quotes I’ve run across.

Blaise Pascal

With regard to the interaction between faith and reason, Pascal said:

The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.

With regard to the search for God:

There are only three kinds of persons; those who serve God, having found Him; others who are occupied in seeking Him, not having found Him; while the remainder live without seeking Him and without having found Him.  The first are reasonable and happy, the last are foolish and unhappy; those between are unhappy and reasonable.

With regard to belief or non-belief in God:

I would have far more fear of being mistaken, and of finding that the Christian religion is true, than of not being mistaken in believing it true.

With regard to the person who hears the gospel and immediately believes without ever reading the Bible:

Those who believe without having read the Testaments, do so because they have an inward disposition entirely holy, and all that they hear of our religion [Christianity] conforms to it.  They feel that a God has made them; they desire only to love God; they desire to hate themselves only.  They feel that they have no strength in themselves; that they are incapable of coming to God; and that if God does not come to them, they can have no communion with Him.

And they hear our religion [Christianity] say that men must love God only, and hate self only; but that, all being corrupt and unworthy of God, God made Himself man to unite Himself to us.  No more is required to persuade men who have this disposition in their heart, and who have this knowledge of their duty and of their inefficiency.

Does God Take People’s Lives? – #9 Post of 2009

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Clearly, yes He does.  Many people express shock over the fact that God took human life in the great flood or that He commanded Israel to kill Canaanites.  There are many other instances in the Bible where God either directly or indirectly takes lives.  There is no getting around this fact.  It makes us uncomfortable to read these passages in the Bible and some of us try to avoid these passages altogether.

It’s not just an Old Testament issue either.  Anybody remember Ananias and Sapphira?  Have you ever read the book of Revelation?  No, we can’t escape the reality of God taking human life by fleeing to the New Testament.

So, as Christians, how do we deal with this fact?  Is it wrong for God to take life?  Do we have to cringe every time a critic of Christianity raises this issue?  No, we don’t.  If we truly understand who God is, then we shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that He takes people’s lives.

The Bible teaches two things about God that helps us understand why He takes human life.  First, He is ultimately just.  He hates sin and evil.  God is perfect in righteousness and goodness, so the existence of sin and evil repulses Him.  As the ultimate judge of the entire universe, He must punish sin.

If God did not punish sin, then what kind of God would He be?  A God who winked and nodded at sin would be like a deranged trial judge who lets every murderer, rapist, and child molester go free, regardless of their guilt.  Is that really the God you want?  Every single person yearns for justice, and if the ultimate Being never administered it, there would be no ultimate justice.  We’ve all sinned.  If God is going to judge sin, then all people come into His court.

Many people say that they want a God who doesn’t punish sin, who is a big, cuddly, teddy bear in heaven.  But what they really mean to say is that they don’t want a God who punishes their particular sin.  As soon as they are wronged, they immediately call for justice!  They think God should let them cheat on their taxes, but they are outraged if they are ever cheated out of money.  We all want justice, so don’t believe anybody who says they don’t.

Fine, so God has to punish sin, but why does He sometimes punish sin by ending lives?  Isn’t that murder?  Isn’t God breaking the sixth commandment?  “Thou shalt not murder.”  The truth is, God created all life, and therefore it is His right to also take life.  When you couple God’s right to take life with His justice, you start to see what is going on with those “difficult” Bible passages.  In each instance in the Bible, when God ends earthy lives, He is always punishing heinous sin.  He is meting out justice to those who are reveling in evil.  As Judge and Creator of life, He is doing what only He can do.

Here are a couple other things to remember.  First, God takes every person’s life because every person dies.  The only question is when, where, and how a person dies.  These things are in God’s hands, as they should be.

Second, when God takes life, He can bring it back.  In fact, the Bible promises that we will all be given resurrected bodies.  God can bring life back, but humans cannot.  Therefore, you cannot apply the command to not murder to God.

God is just, and He must punish sin.  God creates all life, and so it is His right to take it.  If you remember these two things, then you’ll understand how to deal with God’s command to kill the Amalekites, or the great flood, or Ananias and Sapphira.  In the end, if humans weren’t constantly producing evil, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.  Let’s take a look in the mirror instead of criticizing God for cleaning up the mess we make.

Update on Well-Known Young Earth Creationist – Post #10 of 2009

Post Author: Bill Pratt

GeoChristian posted an update on Kent Hovind (Dr. Dino), a well-known young earth creationist who is serving jail time for tax evasion.  I once saw Hovind on the John Ankerberg Show and thought he was extremely rude to Hugh Ross, whom he was debating.  If you are interested in Hovind and what he teaches, don’t be.  His credibility as a leader and teacher are gone.  I will pray for him as a person whom God loves, but I quit listening to his arguments a long time ago.