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Figure 2: Crick’s March 19, 1953 letter, p. 5 with a highlight (Fair use)

The Credibility of God

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A Special: Part 7

Is the gospel a credible basis for a just civilisation?

When Cayman Chief Justice Anthony Smellie recently ruled[1] to impose same-sex marriage under colour of law in Cayman, some of his underlying points suggested that tradition, religion and linked religious ethics lack basic intellectual credibility and are particularly prone to inequities. Also, in recent years, there has been a flood of articles and voices across the Caribbean that have tried to discredit and dismiss the gospel, the Scriptures that teach it and the churches that bear witness to it. Last September, in answer to one such article,  the below was submitted under the right of reply, but was unfortunately rejected by a leading regional newspaper. Given what is now so clearly at stake and given the foundational importance of the gospel message and gospel ethics, we present the below as a needed first defence of our civilisation.

Over the years, many millions have met and been transformed through meeting God in the face of Christ. This includes countless Jamaicans [and many other people across the Caribbean]. It also includes many famed scholars, eminent scientists and leaders of powerful reformations. Logically, if just one of these millions has actually been reconciled with God through Christ, God must be real and the gospel must be true. (Where, if instead so many are deeply delusional, that would undermine the rational credibility of the human mind.)

However, for some years now various voices have tried to dismissively question God, the gospel and Christians. So, it is not unexpected to see Mr Gordon Robinson writing in the Gleaner[2] recently (on Sunday, August 26, 2018),  about alleged “dangerous dogma promulgated by the Church and its many brainwashed surrogates,” “perverse propaganda spread by Christian churches,” “sycophants” and the like.

Along the way, he managed to ask a pivotal question: “Who/what is God?”

Regrettably, he also implied outright fraud by church leaders: “Either the Church has NO CLUE about who/what God really is, or it deliberately misrepresents God’s essence in order to frighten people into becoming church members and tithing. Nothing else makes sense.”

Fig 1 DNA, Showing the Genetic Code (HT ResearchGate)

In fact, a simple Internet search might give a better answer. For, thinkers such as a Thomas Aquinas or an Augustine of Hippo or a Paul of Tarsus or even a Wayne Grudem[3] or a William Lane Craig[4] have long since credibly addressed the idea of God and systematic theology at a little more sophisticated level than Sunday School lessons or Internet Atheist web sites. In so doing, they have made responsible cases that rise above the level of caricatures of the art on the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling.

We may begin with Paul in Romans 1, 57 AD: “Rom 1:19 . . . what can be known about God is plain to [people], because God has shown it to them. 20 For [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So [people] are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  [ESV]

Here, one of the top dozen minds of our civilisation first points out how our morally governed interior life and what we see in the world all around jointly call us to God our Creator. But, too often we suppress the force of that inner testimony and outer evidence. (This, predictably, leads to unsound thinking and destructive deeds stemming from benumbed consciences and en-darkened minds.)

For one, consider how for sixty years now we have known that the DNA in the cells of our bodies has in it complex, alphanumeric, algorithmic code that is executed through molecular nanotechnology to build proteins, the workhorses of biological life. That’s why Sir Francis Crick wrote to his son Michael on March 19, 1953 that “we believe that the DNA is a code. That is, the order of bases (the letters) makes one gene different from another gene (just as one page of print is different from another).”

Yes, alphanumeric code (so, language!), algorithms (so, purpose!), i.e. intelligent design of life from the first living cell on. Including, us. No wonder the dean of the so-called New Atheists was forced to admit that Biology studies complicated things that give a strong appearance of design. 

1947 saw the advent of the transistor age, allowing storage of a single bit of information in a tiny electronic wonder. We have since advanced to computers based on silicon chips comparable in size to a thumb-nail, with millions of transistors. These microchips and support machinery process many millions of instructions per second and have storage capacities of many gigabytes. Coded electronic communication signals routinely go across millions of miles through the solar system.  Every one of these devices and systems required careful design by highly educated engineers, scientists and programmers. The living, self-replicating cell’s sophistication dwarfs all of these; yet we question the all-knowing God, the author of life.

Figure 2: Crick’s March 19, 1953 letter, p. 5 with a highlight (Fair use)

Next, Mr. Robinson and others inevitably appeal to our known duty to truth, right reasoning, fairness, prudent judgement, etc.  But, where did that inner moral law (testified to by our consciences) come from? Surely, it is not a delusion; or else responsible, freely rational discussion would collapse into nihilistic chaos: might and manipulation (= “power and propaganda”) make ‘right,’ ‘rights,’ ‘justice,’ ‘truth,’ ‘knowledge’ etc. Instead, our conscience-guarded hearts and minds clearly show the Creator’s design that we freely live by the light and law of truth and right.

Such considerations – and many more – point us to the only serious candidate for the source of reality that can bridge IS and OUGHT: the inherently good (and wise) Creator God, a necessary and maximally great being. Who is fully worthy of our loyalty and of humble, responsible, reasonable service through doing the good. Then, we may readily draw out the classic understanding of God described in scripture and studied in systematic theology: all-good, eternal, creator and Lord with sound knowledge and full capability to work out his good purposes in the right way at the right time.

Moreover, what we most of all need to know about God is taught by Jesus the Christ, recorded in scripture within eye-witness lifetime then accurately handed down to us for 2000 years now, at fearsome cost: the blood of the martyrs. Martyrs, who had but one incentive: that they directly knew and must peacefully stand by the eternal truth – cost what it will. They refused to be frightened by dungeon, fire or sword, much less mere rhetoric. Why would thousands die horribly to promote a known lie?

Their record is that Christ is the express image of his Father, Logos – Cosmos-ordering Reason himself, prophesied Messiah, the Saviour who in love died for us on a cross. He rose from the dead as Lord with 500 eye-witnesses, precisely fulfilling over three hundred prophecies that were long since recorded in the Old Testament. (See esp. Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12, c. 700 BC.[5]) He ascended to his Father in the presence of the apostles. He shall return as eternal Judge, before whom we must all account. (Yes, professing and “backsliding” Christians too.) The Bible also records Jesus’ prayer for us: “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and [“thy Son”] Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.” [John 17:1- 5, cf. 3:16.]

That is the truth witnessed by the church, whether it was 33 AD in Jerusalem before an angry Sanhedrin, or 50 AD before the laughing Athenians (who had built a public monument to their ignorance of God), or today.  We therefore confidently invite Mr Robinson et al. to join with us in a serious-minded, substantially informed discussion about “who/what God really is” and about why the gospel is just that: God’s good news that brings salvation, blessing and hope for the positive transformation for our nation.


[1]See TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/cayman-islands-chief-justice-smellie-tries-to-redefine-marriage-fails/

[2]Cf. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/focus/20180826/gordon-robinson-gospel-according-gordon

[3]See: http://www.waynegrudem.com/

[4]See: https://www.reasonablefaith.org/

[5]See: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isa+52%3A13+-+53%3A12&version=AMP

Posted in Columns, De Ole Dawg, Education, International, Local, News, OECS, Opinions, Regional, Scriptures0 Comments

Workmen look at the clockface on the Queen Elizabeth Tower, commonly referred to as Big Ben on April 2, 2019 in London, England.

Today in Brexit: Give Us Just a Little More Time—Seriously, Please?

The Slatest

By Elliot Hannon – April 05, 2019 The Slatest

Workmen look at the clockface on the Queen Elizabeth Tower, commonly referred to as Big Ben on April 2, 2019 in London, England.
Workmen look at the clockface on the Queen Elizabeth Tower, commonly referred to as Big Ben on April 2, 2019 in London, England. Animation by Lisa Larson-Walker. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

Today in Brexit is a daily feature that will attempt to keep track of the chaotic mess playing out in the U.K. If you’re just tuning in, here’s a brief explainer on what you’ve been missing. 

Welcome to Brexit purgatory, which on Friday started to look like it might last even longer than previously thought possible. With the U.K. set to depart the EU in exactly one week and no agreement in Parliament on what the relationship between the two should look like after the breakup, Prime Minister Theresa May formally requested from Brussels another extension to the Brexit deadline, proposing a new drop dead date of June 30.

Today in Desperation: Will Brussels agree to the 11-week extension for the U.K. to try again to reach consensus on a deal? It looks increasingly like not. The British prime minister requested the very same June 30 extension the first time around, and the EU shot it down, opting for a shorter reprieve. It appears likely to say no again, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be an extension of some kind. European Council President Donald Tusk is pushing a full-year extension! He’s pitching it as a “flextension,” meaning that the U.K. would have the full year to come to some sort of decision but could pull out earlier if it got its act together. In this scenario, the U.K. is a harried student begging a teacher (the EU) for one more day after pulling an all-nighter to finish an essay—and failing. And the teacher, after taking a look at the state of the paper, replies: “How about you take a week. Trust me, you’ll need it.”

Today’s Emergency: What now? EU and U.K. leaders are scheduled to meet for an emergency summit Wednesday that will almost certainly revolve around the terms of an extension, rather than the nature of Britain’s exit. It is not a certainty, however, that the EU will grant an extension at all. There are rumblings from within the European member states, the loudest coming from France, that granting another extension won’t do anything other than kick the can down the road—yet again. It’s a hard argument to counter considering the lethargic pace of the Brexit negotiations until a deadline focused the mind. Those deadlines haven’t yet produced any new results, but they have sufficiently motivated British parliamentarians to engage on the issue.

Today’s Reminder This Is Still a Negosh: It’s important to remember that Brexit is a negotiation, and rumblings from France, for instance, could be a “bad cop” routine, serving as a stick to keep the U.K. moving. The European Union’s line has generally been that it would like the U.K. to stay as closely aligned with the bloc as possible, and as the deadline nears, British parliamentarians have been drifting toward a more centrist compromise that would see the country more closely aligned than even under May’s negotiated withdrawal. Would the EU want to halt this momentum just to prove a point about deadlines? Seems unlikely.

The brinkmanship of sticking to the current April 12 deadline or bust, without the ability to grant some sort of extension, might help keep British leaders on task. But it also makes very real the as possible the U.K. would be unable to come to an internal agreement about its future relationship with the EU and would leave the bloc with no deal at all. A no-deal Brexit, which would see the country revert to WTO trade rules, is favored by a sizable and vocal portion of the right wing of British politics. This non-negotiated style of Brexit, however, is seen as carrying substantial economic risks, as it would essentially rip the U.K. economy from the European economy in one week’s time, requiring new customs arrangements, trade deals, and on and on. The operating assumption is that the EU will do what it takes to avoid that scenario, even grant an extension that perhaps wasn’t exactly earned.

Today’s Lame Duck: Complicating matters on Friday’s extension request is the fact that European parliamentary elections are set to be held on May 23. That puts the U.K. in the potentially awkward position of going to the polls to elect representatives to a government they don’t plan participating in, long-term. May has assured Brussels the country will go through the steps to hold the election, a move that has laid the groundwork for a longer extension. From the EU’s point of view, having lame duck British MEPs isn’t all that appealing for the obvious reason that they may have different long- and short-term interests on matters before the European Parliament. This may seem like a far-fetched threat of internal sabotage by British MEPs should Brexit negotiations stretch on through another session of parliament in Europe, but it’s one that right-wing pro-Brexit MP Jacob Rees-Mogg made explicitly on Friday.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Elections, International, Local, News, Politics, Regional, Scriptures, UK - Brexit0 Comments

Letter: Mental liberation

Written to CaribbeanNewsNow

By Rev. Buddy Larrier

Dear Sir:

Freeing our minds is an appeal for African peoples to pay particular attention to unprecedented world events taking place at such a rapid pace. The Mayans, our indigenous ancestors of the Caribbean, had informed us that December 2012 would usher in a new dispensation (era), during which truth, justice and righteousness would be experienced in the world.

Within the first two months of 2013 there have been a number of events that will seriously impact our people and will affect future generations negatively if we are not conscious. Some of these events have had a personal impact, causing me to reflect deeply on my life’s experiences over the past 35 years (since 1977). As an African Barbadian living in England this was when I became conscious of who I was not, and began my long search for self. “Man know thyself” (African proverb), “know the truth and the truth shall set you free”.

In my search for self, three recent events have caused me to recall a question put to me in 1977, of which I am only now beginning to appreciate its significance: “What hope is there for black Christians living in a world controlled by white racists, and what if those racists are also called Christians?”

These events are as follows:

On Thursday, January 10, I was invited to visit St George’s Parish Church with some Caucasian Christian visitors from England and we went to see an original painting that represents the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This unique masterpiece — the only one of its kind — is set among five other outstanding paintings of stained glass windows. The power of indoctrination and mental manipulation portrayed in these images is overwhelming.

Immediately on observing the subtlety of manipulation at this level, I thought of making an appeal to all Barbadians to visit this church to see this original piece of art. Then do as I did, ask yourself this question: if Barbados is less than 400 years old as a British colonial outpost, why is it that this original painting that captures the essence of a colonial religion of 2,000 years is held here in our island paradise?

While contemplating on such an appeal to Barbadians, I took into consideration the fact that this Christian religion was the primary source that underpinned the transatlantic trade in Africans and was forced on black African peoples. In light of this, I would like, in particular, to appeal to black people in Barbados, who do not see themselves as Africans but accept that they are Christians, to visit St George’s Parish Church to see this original painting, and while at the altar ask yourselves a few questions: (1) is the image in this unique piece of art a true representation of the God-Man who came down from Heaven and sacrificed his life for us; (2) what message is intended when the image of your oppressor is also that of your deity; and (3) what does this image do to the mirror image of oneself?

The second event was on Sunday, January 20, when along with over 5,000 other people I attended a national service of blessing and spiritual renewal at the Garfield Sobers Gymnasium, in Christ Church. The featured speaker of the event was an international evangelist named Reinhard Bonnke, a Caucasian German national, who proved that he is a very effective storyteller. Reverend Bonnke is spearheading a movement to have the continent of Africa “washed in the precious blood of Jesus”. His crusade to save Africans from ourselves is similar to that used by his missionary forefathers 500-plus years ago, which ended with the continent being owned by Caucasians. With this as a backdrop you may well imagine what thoughts went through my mind when this evangelist introduced another Caucasian man to be his successor in this mission for Africa. It was at this point I felt in my spirit that, in 2013, any action for the continent of Africa to be washed in the “blood of Jesus” when African people are reclaiming the continent is nothing more than a second phase of Eurocentric imperialism.

The third event on February 11 is the most profound. My understanding of the significance in the resignation of a pope, the first time in 600 years, with Pope Benedict XVI the most powerful man in the world “The Vicar of God on Earth” stepping down from that office on February 28, 2013. The main reason given is that the burden of the office has become too much for him; “he simply no longer has the strength in mind or body to carry on”. If Creator God is whom African peoples believe him to be then truth and justice would have been a burden on every pope from as far back as 1493. This is when, following Columbus’ arrival in the Americas on October 12, 1492, Pope Rodrico Borgia through a ‘Papal Bull’ sanctioned the transatlantic trade in Africans. The burden of injustices would have been increasing over the years, in particular, since the United Nations deemed the transatlantic trade in Africans, slavery and colonialism all as crimes against humanity in 2001. If the Mayan prophecies for December 2012 are accurate and a new dispensation to bring about meaningful changes has started, those who are guilty of crimes against humanity will become exposed and burdened until truth and justice become a natural priority of society.

Truth and justice are being pursued through the International Reparations Movement, which is gaining momentum. It is pleasing to know that the government of Barbados has now officially taken a seat at the table of this international movement by establishing a reparations task force. The island has an important role to play in promoting truth and justice to counter the equally important role it played during colonial times as a centre for untruths and injustices. In light of this, since Barbadians are given this opportunity to raise their consciousness, it means that African peoples globally are ready for healing and reconciliation, taking into consideration that the United Nations has designated a Decade for People of African Descent for recognition, justice and development commencing this year, and has also recommended that there be an annual International Day for People of African Descent that captures our experiences. There is a proposal that 12th October is the most appropriate date for this annual event.

In light of the forgoing, it is therefore understandable why the pope’s office has become overburdened and is made public during Black History Month. The changes that are required for the Church and Christianity to transform itself from the original belief and practice (lie) that black people could not be saved because we had no souls, to advocating the cause for reparations, restoration and restitution would take a super effort from the Vatican. Let us pray that the successor to Pope Benedict XVI is able to do what is righteous.

Rev. Buddy Larrier

 

Posted in Features, International, Letters, News, Regional, Scriptures2 Comments

Our Scripture verse today – So Little?

All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. – Romans8:14 (NRSV)

Every morning on my way into the city I drive past a corner shop situated in a busy part of the city and above its

busiest section. Usually before 8:00 am, the owner of the business stands outside on the pavement, exchanging cheerful greetings with passersby.

Many of these are pupils on their way up to a primary school located on the slopes of the mountain just above the center of the city of Cape Town, South Africa. On one particular morning, I witnessed the shop owner helping two young ones cross the street. The children laughed as he playfully pretended to give them a gentle push to help them on their way.

This act of kindness and care reminded me of a shepherd keeping a watchful eye on his sheep. In this season of Advent, we remember that God is always with us – watching over us, guiding us, giving us a sense of security, just as the shop owner on the corner brings a sense of assurance to those school children each day.

Especially at this time of year, we yearn for God’s guiding Spirit to give us open hearts and minds to change whatever in our lives needs changing.

Advent reminds us that God is always with us, helping us to become more like Christ.

Dear God, in preparation for the birth of Jesus in our hearts, we pray for the gift of a new beginning where we need it most.

Amen.

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Unanswered Prayers

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways. — Isaiah 55:9

The apostle Paul had one overriding desire: that fellow Jews would embrace the Messiah he had encountered. “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart,” he said. “For I could wish that I myself were . . . cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers” (Rom. 9:2-3 NIV). Yet in city after city his fellow Jews rejected him and the Christ he preached.

In his most elegant letter, Paul set as his centerpiece (Rom. 9–11) a passionate passage in which he struggled openly with this great unanswered prayer of his life. He acknowledged one important side benefit of this distressing development: The Jews’ rejection of Jesus led to His acceptance by the Gentiles. Paul concluded that God hadn’t rejected the Jews; to the contrary, they had the same opportunity as Gentiles. God had widened, not closed, the embrace of humanity.

Paul’s prose began to soar as he stepped back to consider the big picture. And then came this burst of doxology:

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! (Rom. 11:33).

The unsolved mysteries and unanswered prayers all fade to gray against the panorama of God’s plan for the ages.

In the end, unanswered prayer brings me face to face with the mystery that silenced Paul: the profound difference between my perspective and God’s.

Posted in Features, Scriptures0 Comments

Pleading the Lord’s Cause

I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. —Philippians 1:17

Charles Finney, a 29-year-old lawyer, was concerned about his soul’s salvation. On October 10, 1821, he retreated to a wooded area near his home for a time of prayer. While there, he had a profound conversion experience. He wrote: “The Holy Spirit . . . seemed to go through me, body and soul. . . . Indeed it seemed to come in waves of liquid love.”

The next day, he met with a client who had come to him for legal representation. Finney told him: “I have a retainer from the Lord Jesus Christ to plead His cause and cannot plead yours.” He left his law practice and entered the ministry. Later, he would be used mightily of God to bring others to Christ.

The apostle Paul was also called to plead the Lord’s cause. He wrote, “I am appointed for the defense of the gospel” (Phil. 1:17). The word translated “defense” was used in the ancient world for an attorney pleading his case in a court of law. All believers are called to share the wonderful news of the saving grace of God. “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).

What a great privilege to be used of God to bring others to Christ!

Posted in Scriptures0 Comments

Pleading the Lord’s Cause

I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. —Philippians 1:17

Charles Finney, a 29-year-old lawyer, was concerned about his soul’s salvation. On October 10, 1821, he retreated to a wooded area near his home for a time of prayer. While there, he had a profound conversion experience. He wrote: “The Holy Spirit . . . seemed to go through me, body and soul. . . . Indeed it seemed to come in waves of liquid love.”

The next day, he met with a client who had come to him for legal representation. Finney told him: “I have a retainer from the Lord Jesus Christ to plead His cause and cannot plead yours.” He left his law practice and entered the ministry. Later, he would be used mightily of God to bring others to Christ.

The apostle Paul was also called to plead the Lord’s cause. He wrote, “I am appointed for the defense of the gospel” (Phil. 1:17). The word translated “defense” was used in the ancient world for an attorney pleading his case in a court of law. All believers are called to share the wonderful news of the saving grace of God. “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).

What a great privilege to be used of God to bring others to Christ!

Posted in Features, Scriptures1 Comment

Radiating Joy

Look to (the Lord) that you may be radiant with joy, and your faces may not blush with shame. Psalm 34:6

Happiness is often mistaken for joy. A new dress, a glimpse at the Grand Canyon, a night at the movies may bring fleeting happiness but not necessarily genuine joy. Joy comes from the depths of a person, lights up their eyes and bubbles out through their whole being. If we would “look to the Lord,” we would exude joy, for what else can God radiate?

Whenever I think of joy, I think of Teresa whose eyes sparkled and whose whole face lit up whenever she spoke of God in her daily life. Whereas the sorrows she experienced in her life may have momentarily dimmed her happiness, they only deepened her joy as well as her trust in all that God was doing in and through her. By temperament, some persons are more effusive than others, but joy transcends temperament. Jesus was God’s joy incarnated. When you stop to think about it, is our mission any less lofty?

Prayer: Grant me the grace this day, Lord, to not only radiate your joy but to be that joy for those I encounter this day.

Posted in Features, Scriptures2 Comments


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