Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Honor of Humanity Part 3 - Eternity

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on his apologetics series on The Honor of Humanity Part 3 on 13th August 2006

What is man? What is the worth of a man's life? Why do we live? Why do we die? What sort of existence do we have in eternity? These are the most important questions in philosophy. They are the most interesting and also most confusing ones.

Only God can tell us the answer through His revelation. In the 19th century, there is emergence of a lot of humanistic movement, the emphasis of science, the advancement of evolution theory and communism. It is the era in the West where most new ideas emerge. In the 20th century, we see that all these theories are bringing us to a dead end.

Today we see that science can bring us a lot of convenience but also a lot of pollution. We see that the theory of evolution gives us the idea of the survival of the fittest but also brings about imperialism and communism. And the economic policy of communism brings us to bankruptcy of economy. Existentialism places importance in individualism and brings us to anarchy.

By the end of 20th century, we no longer accept that reason is superior to all. The pendulum of history swings to the other direction. In 21st century, post modernism comes in. We begin to look inwardly to our spirit and have a new way of thinking.

Christian faith is in the midst of such changing world. What sort of correction can we bring to the world? These are not carefully thought of by many churches and leaders. The reformed evangelical movement has a lot of responsibility. While we still have today, we should fight boldly for our Lord and establish leaders for our future so that they can fulfill their potential to the fullest, till Jesus comes again.

In medieval time, the study of the image and likeness of God is a very important topic. However, at that time the study could not escape constrains of the Catholic Church doctrine. After the reformation, Martin Luther and Calvin continued to study this subject deeply.

There is a difference between Luther's and Calvin's understanding. Luther believed that the image and likeness of God has totally disappeared when men fell, so we can only discuss that we once had this, but since it has been lost we actually do not know what this image is anymore.

Calvin believed that the image and likeness of God is still there, but it has been marred. For example, a naughty child is still very intelligent but he uses his intelligence to do the wrong things. His intelligence is still part of the image of God but doing the wrong things is expression of his sinful nature.

All other theologies cannot match that of reformed theology. Reformed theology expounds Eph.4:24 to develop the doctrine on God's image in man. It says to and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

The verse talks about Truth as the foundation of righteousness and holiness. Here we see 3 elements in human beings as reflection of God's image: reason, justice and ethics. That is why every nation has its institution and law to set what is right and wrong. Every country has administration, prison and courts, rehabilitation and religious centers.

For the past 400 years, the contribution of reformed theology to the study of the image and likeness of God becomes a foundation for many aspects of human civilization.

However, the study of the image of God in man should not be constrained in these 3 things only. I (Rev. Stephen Tong) discover that everything in the nature of God has its image in men. In this manner we can break through what has been achieved in reformed theology for the past few centuries and enlarge the topic.

Last week, we deal with the first aspect of the image of God. God is Spirit. So men made in His images are living beings with spirit. We cannot compare men materialistically with God.

Today, we will deal with another aspect of God's image. God is the self-existing Eternal One. His nature is the nature of eternity. When He made man in His image and likeness, He gives us His eternity. Hence we are eternal beings. We have eternity in our hearts. Eccl.3:11 says that God makes all things beautiful in His own time and He puts eternity in the hearts of men. This verse has profoundly consolidated four important things together:

1. All things are made by God
2. God's creation is perfect
3. God made all things in His own timing
4. There is qualitative difference between humans and animals, in that humans have eternity in their hearts

So we see God's initiation in creation, the perfection of His creation, the timing of His creation, and the eternity He puts in the heart of men.

From the verse itself, we can see the error of the Gnostics. They started with the premise that material things are evil so the God who created material things must be evil. And then they never handle the issue of time and the value of men.

God made all things beautiful in His own time. This is the foundation of the theology of time. This is not yet discussed in systematic theology. This is a topic we should take note of and develop in reformed theology.

God said everything He made is good. But there is a difference between good and very good. When He sees His reflection in human beings He made in His image and likeness, He said it was very good.

Which one is more important, the one that comes first or last? There are two kinds of order in the Bible. The first order is where the one who comes first is more important. The second order is where the one that comes last is more important. In gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the New Testament, the first one mentioned (the Apostles, the Prophets, and so on) is the most important. In creation, the one made last is most important. The principle is that all things are made for man, and man is made for God. So God made all things first to prepare for men to have dominion over. Before a baby is born, the parents will buy many things to prepare for the baby's coming.

What is the difference between God's eternity and our eternity? God's eternity is the essence of eternity itself. It is that of the Creator. He is Eternity in itself. He is the Creator of eternity. We have a created eternity. But God's eternity is not the result of creation. Our eternity exists because the Creator is willing to put His eternity within us.

Hence the eternity of God has no beginning and no end. The eternity of men has a beginning but no end. Our eternity comes after creation.

What then has this eternity to do with our life? What does it matter? This is the foundation upon which your life has to be lived solemnly. This eternal existence is a frightening thing. Where do I spend eternity? Since I will live eternally, how should I make use of it and prepare myself for it?

If we do not have a deep understanding of this, we will live an irresponsible life. If we understand, we will remember the accountability we have to give to God. We will ask ourselves how we should live our lives.

What is eternity? It transcends time. Can we prove the existence of eternity? In fact, we can see that eternity does exist in our heart.

We have the concept of eternity but live in temporal life, so we live a very contradictory life. When we see ourselves getting older, we do not like it. We are not willing to grow old because we have a sense of eternity in our lives. We want to rebel against the decay that comes with time but we do not know how to. There are two kinds of people who are most afraid of getting old. The first is movie stars, second is the athletes because their very lives depend upon their physical well-being.

When eternity is tortured by temporal process, we are not happy. We do not like to be weakened with age. When we look at young people growing up and adults getting old, we do not want to move along with them, but time says “I will make you old”. We have no way of escaping. Animals have no such sense so they just pass through the passage of time without knowing they are getting old and die.

There are two directions of eternity. The spirit will look forward and backward (Original Rev.Tong's statement). What does it mean to say the spirit looks forward? And what does it mean to say that the spirit looks backward?

This is the relationship between eternity and time. When a person studies the past, he discovers history. When a person looks forward, he has hope. This is the two directions of the spirit. Only human beings have historical concept. It is found in our memory. But our hope enables us to move forward. This has been described by Augustine in his concept of time and eternity. He says memory is linked with eternity. Memory is also against time.

What does time mean? Augustine answered this way, “Before you ask me I thought I know what time is, but when you ask me, I realize that I do not understand what it is.” If you do not have a memory, you cannot understand eternity. When you look back, you are using your memory so that your past is not lost. Those years still exist in memory. They have not disappeared. They are linked with eternity.

The spirit can look backward and grab hold of moments that have past. The spirit looks forward because of hope. So in the progression of time, we see the eternity within us because we are made in the image of God.

Eternity is a frightening thing. It is a very solemn matter. It is a state of crisis with great potential value. In the progression of time, the way we live will determine the quality and value of our eternity. Where will you spend eternity?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Honor of Humanity Part 2 - Spirit

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on his apologetics series on The Honor of Humanity Part 2 on 6th August 2006

God created us in His image and likeness with the purpose that we will be like Him. To enable men to be like God, Christ became man to show us the way to live. He said we are to imitate Him.

From the first chapter to the last chapter of the New Testament, we see God's eternal purpose is that we might become like Him. Colossians says we have been created for God, and all things have been made for men. This is a very profound wisdom.

If we do not know God, it is meaningless no matter how intelligent and knowledgeable we might be. The true wisdom is the wisdom to live a human life. The greatest wisdom is the wisdom of God. If we can understand God's Word and allow it become a part of our lives, it will become our greatest heritage.
All things in the world are passing away so no matter how much we accumulate it will not matter. There many things that men value which are abominable in God's eyes.

If God is the original Image of all images, and all images are just duplicates of His images, then there must be a link between all the images to the original Image.

The Bible says God is Spirit. This declaration shows that God's image cannot be understood in material or physical terms. The Scriptures says God is Light, Spirit and Truth. This is not just mere attributes, but essence. The Scriptures also says that God is Love. This is also not a question of attribute, but of essence.

Would Spirit have a spiritual image then? We need to see from God's Revelation. God is the Truth Himself. So if God refuses to reveal we cannot know anything.

The Bible is God's Special Revelation. But even the most fundamental human knowledge is from God's revelation, like 2+2=4. Reformed theology divides God's revelation into two parts: general and special revelation. So all other knowledge in the world are also part of God's revelation (general revelation). All truth is God's truth. As God has not revealed to animals, they do not understand biology, chemistry, art, etc.

To understand what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God, there are two questions we want to deal with.

The first question is how then do we understand “God is Spirit”?

The second question is, are there differences between image and likeness?
If they are the same why does the Bible use two terms? Is this just a matter of language style? If they are different, are there other biblical references? Either stand we take, there are biblical difficulties.

Jesus only said to imitate His likeness, not image. Paul said we are to wear our new self made in the image of God; he does not use the term likeness. There seems to be differences.

Genesis 1 uses both in describing how God created man. Both image and likeness become important essence of human make-up.

Personally, I (Rev.Tong) believe that image is more about potential. Likeness is more like an objective to achieve. We have the image of God so we can be like Him. When God created us, He created us in His image and likeness. And God called us to become like Christ.

Likeness of Christ is our ultimate goal. It means as we look back to our past and look forward to the future we have the direction of pursuit. When a person has a comprehensive value of his past and future the quality of his life will be elevated.

As God is Spirit, we must have been created with spirit within us. God used the dirt in the ground to create our body and then breathe into us and we become living being. We are made of two different parts, our body and our spirit.

But there are two theories regarding the make-up of human nature, dichotomy (man is made up of two parts, body and soul or spirit) and trichotomy (body, soul and spirit).

Since the first two centuries of Christianity, other than the teaching of the Apostles, there are also false gospels from the Gnostics. The Gnostics divide human being into 3 parts: body, soul and spirit.

The Gnostics believe that there are 3 kinds of people, i.e. those who live in the center of their body, their soul or their spirit. But Paul only divides into two kinds of lives, i.e. life according to the flesh or to the spirit.

Before a person is saved, soul is the center of his life. When a person is saved, he has the Holy Spirit within him. He can still listen to the flesh but can choose to listen to the spirit. This is the basic trichotomic explanation of Gnosticism.

But does that teaching truly have biblical backing? The Bible does not record God putting 3 parts of human beings together. We have a physical body made of dust and a spirit breathed by God.

Watchman Nee wrote the book on the Spiritual Man that talked about trichotomy. His theory influences many Chinese till today. Watchman Nee believes that God create human body from the dust. Then God give a spirit by breathing into his nostrils. And the combination of body and spirit produces a soul. It sounds very creative but this is the emergence theory of the soul. That means human soul is not created but emerges.

How can we explain death then? According to the trichotomists, when spirit leaves the body, soul disappears since the soul does not exist originally. But there is no biblical backing.

Trichotomy is also often used to explain the fundamental differences between animals and human being. Animals and humans both have body and soul, but animals do not have a spirit. So animals are living beings because they have a soul. But humans are different from animals as humans are made in the image of God, and since God is Spirit, humans also have a spirit.

The theory seems right and easy to understand, but there are a lot of difficulties with it.

Since animals have no spirit, where would the soul of animals come from if the soul of man comes from the combination between the body and spirit? Maybe God gives souls only to animals, but for human beings soul emerges and is not created.

However, Ecclesiastes 3 records a verse that say, “Who knows that the soul of animals descend while the spirit of man ascends?” This shows the difference between human spirit and animal souls. But the Hebrew word used for both is the same in Hebrew which means ‘spirit’. This is the only time in the Bible where the animals to be said to have a spirit.

How would the trichotomists explain the constituents of human body, soul and spirit then? What is human body made of? What is soul made of? And what is spirit made of?

To know about our physical body, it is better to ask a doctor than a theologian as the knowledge is part of general revelation.

As for the soul, Watchman Nee explains it as constituting of 3 parts: reason, emotions and will. Therefore, man can rely on his soul to live. When he talks about the spirit, it consists of two parts: conscience that controls our ethical direction and the part that enables us to worship God.

So the function of the body is world consciousness. British empiricism believes that knowledge of the world comes from our senses. The function of the soul is self consciousness while the function of the spirit is God-consciousness.

Is this true?

If emotions, will and reason are function of the soul, then understanding of the truth might not part of the spirit. Does that mean there are no emotion, will and reason in the spirit?

Is God Spirit or soul?

If God is Spirit and not soul, does God have reason? God is Truth. The Spirit is Truth. Therefore the Spirit not only can reason, but is the Truth. How can reason be confined in the soul?

Does God have emotion? God is love. It is the greatest emotion and it is in the Spirit. Jesus loves righteousness and hates evil. And the Holy Spirit will be jealous if we sin against God. How can emotions be confined in the soul?

Does God have will? Not only does He have a will, He is the Source of all wills and giver of all wills. The whole creation come into being because of His will. He is the highest of all will. How then can the will be confined in the soul?

Reformed theology teaches that human beings receive the spirit that is made in the image of God. When God made man, He made man in His image and likeness, so our spirit has God's image and likeness. He is Spirit and not material, so we cannot attempt to understand the image and likeness of God in physical way. The duplicate of God's image and likeness in us can only be understood in the human spirituality.

We must understand the meaning of the image and likeness of God in this manner in order to understand the dignity and honor in which we are created. Psalms 8 says that God crowns man with honor and glory, not from the physical sense, as we are so small compared to all other things He has created, but from our value in spiritual sense.

Physical body can deteriorate and grow old, but the honor of humanity is not affected by physical decay. And conversely, it is possible to be a beautiful movie star but not living an honorable life.

We need to return to the revealed Word of God. May the Lord help us that we not only understand what it means to be made in His image and likeness, but that we will also walk our lives in His likeness.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Honor of Humanity Part 1 - In the Image and Likeness of God

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on his apologetics series on The Honor of Humanity Part 1 on 30th July 2006

Some revision over the previous topic:

Our thought and reason are not qualified to understand all truth. It is not normal for our mind to understand all truth. It is very normal that we cannot understand all because we are so finite. But if we could understand just a portion, we would be greatly helped in our lives.

Science is not equal to the truth. The truth is greater than science. The truth will never change while science is always changing. And life is greater than science. Science wants to understand life but is still very limited in the scope that it can reach. Recently there is great development in genetic coding but this is only an attempt to understand what is already there. The creation of art, on the other hand, is inspiration of the time. It is the moment that cannot be repeated. Academics, however, only explain but do not create.

Arthur Schopenhauer said the world is the phenomena of the will. Many people do things not because they have thought through everything thoroughly. Often the will moves forward first and reason follows behind. We use our reason and academic backing to support our will.

Science is just following behind the truth and tries to understand what can be understood. When people develop natural science that damages the understanding of life, science can become a tool for evil. Science can create both constructive and destructive technology. The question of when to use and not to use and how to use is beyond the realm of science itself.

The topic today is on the honor of humanity. Humanity is the greatest topic, the greatest difficulty, the greatest enjoyment, the greatest mystery, the greatest importance and the greatest curiosity.

Augustine said that there were only two things he wanted to know in life. The first is to know God and the second is to know his own soul. Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? Humankind has been asking the same questions for 1300 years since Augustine.

Kant summarizes the essential knowledge of life into 4 parts:

1. What is man? This is anthropology.
2. How much can man know? This is epistemology.
3. What are the principles on which man should live by? This is ethics.
4. What hope does man have? This is religion.

Kant researched into all the four huge topics but died before he completed that last one. The root of this question can only be found in the Word of God.

We have already established that man is a special creation and is different qualitatively from all other creation. God said, “I will make man in My own image.” So the creation man has a different purpose from all other creation.

We can also see the book of Genesis from the book of Colossians. Man is higher than all other living beings. All things have been created for man and man is created for God. So between God and man, and man and things, there are to big gulfs. If we are clear about this order, we will not be easily confused in life.

In the book of Genesis, God did not say how He created, He simply said “Let there be…” and it was accomplished. So when God’s Word is pronounced, His will is manifested and His power accomplishes His will. The world comes into being because of His power.

In Genesis 1:26-27 God said, “Let Us make man in Our image and likeness.” Here the supremacy and sacredness of humanity is shown.

Many dictators assume they are different from the rest of humanity and treat them like objects because they do not know the dignity of humanity, the limit of human freedom and much less the responsibility of human beings before God. We can only understand this through God’s revelation of His creation.

Many people live their lives without knowing that they need to understand themselves and this is humanity's biggest problem.

God said, “Let US make man in our image.” Middle Eastern theology attempted to understand this “US” as majestic plural, which means that God is too big to use a singular term. This interpretation has a problem because God is conversing with Himself here.

Is it dialogue between God and other beings then? If angels are co-creators, then God is not the only Creator and this violates the Scripture principle.

This “US” is the communication among the Triune God. God said, “Hear, O, Israel, I am the LORD Jehovah, the ONLY GOD (Plural for more than 2 persons).”

John Paul Sartre explained existence in 2 areas: being in itself and being to itself. Being to itself means that we objectively view ourselves, so we become both the subject and the object and have self-dialogue with ourselves. This is a very important aspect of character building. We all have this experience with ourselves.

God manifested His will in creation and created man in His image and likeness. We can self-dialogue because we are made in God's image, God who self-dialogues with Himself.

When you see what man can make, his greatest achievement is his representative. For example, Mozart wrote a lot of symphonies but it is his works written in the last 3 years of his life that represented him more fully. His spirit is seen in all these works which are the mark of his entire character. It is like a shadow, a duplicate of his image. Similarly Kant is represented in his critique on philosophy, Beethoven is represented by his 3rd, 5th and 9th symphonies, and Shakespeare by Hamlet which is the climax of all his creativity.

Human being is the greatest of all His creation. God created many things and all creatures has a part of God's image in some ways but only human beings represented the whole image of God. All the potential hidden in man is the mark of God's ethics.

When we see a person, we see God's image. But do people really see God in us? What is God's image and likeness?

God is Spirit, how then can He have an image? We have to breakthrough the understanding of image and likeness beyond the concept of time and space. In Chinese, we often say someone is “不像样” (bu4 xiang4 yang4) but what is this “样” (yang4)? We use character, ethics and quality. So we say Confucius is the model, the “样” (yang4) for the Chinese. Other countries have their own heroes too, like Gandhi is the model for India. So who is the best example?

From the first chapter of Genesis, we are already shown that we are made in the image of God. Chinese has many words attached to “像”, but they all have something in common, that is, how to copy from the original. Image can be intangible. For example, character is intangible. We cannot limit it to the physical. There is also image of voice and sound, such that by hearing the voice of someone or the sound of footsteps, we already know who the person is. In this way, we have leapt into the intangible.

To understand the image of God, we need to understand through His Spirit. God is holy, just, loving, compassionate, kind and powerful. In all these qualities, we become the representation of God. Through Christ that God has given us, we can see God, as Christ is the image of the Invisible God.

But is there a difference between image and likeness? Generally they may refer to the same thing, but sometimes they are segregated and become another subject of study.

Jesus said that we are to follow His likeness. Yet there is no recording of how Jesus was like physically, so following Him must mean something else. With God's image within us, do we live our lives in His likeness?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Creation Vs Evolution Part 4 (Last Part)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on his apologetics series on Creation vs Evolution Part 4 on 23 July 2006

Some fossil discoveries are used as evidence to close the missing links between man and ape. To accept this is not a statement of science but a statement of faith. These fossils have no voice cord which is a very essential part of human body. Language expresses meaning. Meaning is related to the truth and truth is rooted in the Word.

Without Spencer and Huxley, Darwin's theory of evolution would not have become so widespread. Yet these two men believed that people of all races must come from a single couple (the same parents). This is also a summary from the field of psychology and social study. They both also believe that conscience and reason are not the product of evolution. So there is no answer as to how human beings evolve from having no reason to having reason.

Aristotle said that reason segregates human beings from animals. This becomes the mark of western civilization. As for the east, conscience is the segregating point between humans and animals (Meng Zi). Both human reason and human conscience then post great difficulties to the validity of the theory of evolution.

For Christians, this is not an issue because Christianity holds that man is made in the image of God. Strictly speaking, there are a lot more difficulties in accepting evolution than creation. Fossils can at best tell us that there were once creatures like that, but one would need a lot of faith to believe that they are our ancestors. This is close to superstition. Christianity is a reasonable faith although it cannot be proven by science. In fact, science is not worthy to prove it because science cannot prove things beyond matter.

Darwin would never have expected that communists would use his theory of evolution as a basis of atheism. The side effect of his theory is very great. Even Lenin also admitted that about his reign in Russia. He said that there is no future unless there are 50 saints who would rebuild the ethics of Soviet.

At the height of western civilization, imperialism and colonialism prevailed. A lot of this came due to the influence of evolution theory as imperialists used it as a basis for whatever they did. As nationalism emerged in the 20th century at the end of World War I many countries declared independence and the harm of evolution theory were stopped temporarily.

Adolf Hitler also accepted the theory of evolution and considered Germans to be the superior race. Hitler based his action on the principle of evolution that the strongest survive. Very few people understand the tight link between the theory of evolution and events of history. There are a lot of grave political, social and interpersonal consequences of this theory.

Only when we return to the Bible and understand that humans are made in the image of God will we find our restoration.

Christians have to be clear and not just get trapped in one concept but learn to base their thinking on God's revelation. And those taking on the culture mandate must not take narrow-minded approach in bringing people back to the truth. We must do it with gentleness and respect, not in defensiveness and self-righteous attitude. This will bring shame and makes it harder to preach.

But when humanity truly discovers that there have been too many loopholes in the theory they have held so dearly, would they be courageous enough to throw it away?
The past 150 years there have been in fact great difficulties in the theory of evolution. The way people determine the age of an object has also come into question. The original method of Carbon-14 gives a much older date than the new method. The sediments of the earth suggest that human history is not that long after all.

Ernest Hackel attempts to use the foetus development in the womb as a demonstration of evolution. However there is no strong basis for his theory and most people cannot accept it. He also claims that 95 organs in human body are redundant and this is an evidence of the residue of evolution. One example is the appendix. But it is later discovered that appendix has its use when a baby is still in the mother's womb. Hence, many theories supporting evolution are discovered wrong and become a joke of history.

Christianity is not a religion to fool the ignorant and Christians should never be content just giving simplistic solutions to superficial problems, like instant healing without seeing the doctor. Christianity is a religion that can critique problems in politics, philosophies, economics, culture and all important aspects of life.

Based on geological study, the earth is billions of years old. But can God create it in 6 days? Absolutely. We can see that in our generation we can produce a lot of things within a much shorter time than generations in the past using the advancement of technology and our creativity, which we have because we are made in the image of God. Why can't God do it then? Creation is the manifestation of God's power and is part of the accomplishment of His will. But do we have to accept theistic evolution where God simply initiated creation and let it evolve billions of years? Not necessarily.

Asher believed that the world is 6000 years old based on his speculation that the millennium years is from year 6000 to 7000. He calculated that it is 4000 years from Adam to Jesus and from Jesus to present is another 2000 years.

But the numbering in the Scriptures often cannot be taken literally. In genealogy account, the Scriptures often skipped a few generations. Sometimes the father-in-law and elder cousin use the same word although they belong to different generations. In many other passages, numbers have some representative meaning.

Even Christians can be wrong in their interpretation of the Scriptures. There is a gap between the Truth and the understanding of the Truth. There is another gap between the understanding of the Truth and the deliverance of the Truth. Then there is yet a gap between the deliverance and the reception of the Truth. So communication of the Truth is not easy.

In one of the latest calculations, John Urugrahat in his book How Old is Man, calculated the time from Adam to Jesus to be 8167 with the consideration of the generation skips. So the earth could be about 10,000 years.

People often ask how Christians could explain their faith when geology study believes the world to be a few billions years old while they believe it to be only a few thousand years old. However, the onus is on the people who believe the world to be a few billion years old to explain how they can substantiate their claim.

If the world has indeed existed for billions of years, why then culture only develops the past few thousand years and from the early civilizations there were already brilliant achievements? Can we really say the world has been a few billion years?

Can engineers and architects today construct what the ancients did like the pyramid in Egypt? In the past 4000 years, there has not been much qualitative progression. If evolution is true, doesn't that mean that modern thinkers should be much better than the ancient thinkers?

But how many great artists have there been in human history? Other than Greek sculptors and someone like Michelangelo, how many more have emerged in recent history? Ancient Greeks in fact had greater understanding of the content of gold than the people today. Why? If evolution is true, why has history not produced moralists greater than Socrates and Confucius? And there will never be anyone of greater ethics than Jesus Christ. We may push away our responsibility by agnosticism but the logical conclusion is that God walked on earth at one time in history and we were created by Him.

For the past 10,000 years, the achievements of mankind have been very great from the start. Although technology has improved, humankind has not improved much qualitatively. We have only piled up more and more things in our generation but the essence of our accomplishments might not have been greater. Only in material success are we greater than the past history.

So why was there no civilization over so many millions of years and once it appeared it became so great immediately? Evolution could not explain this.

But creation can explain this. It is God's intervention in history that brings civilization into beings. We do not need millions of years to make it happen. Even in the law of justice, the same principles in one of the oldest civilization Hammurabi is still used by our civilization today. However, the greatest standard has been God's Revelation. The last 6 commandments of the 10 commandments become the basis of the law of the society we live in today. For example, the last law becomes the basis for the protection of private property. The sixth law becomes the basis for interpersonal relationship. The fifth law becomes the basis for family preservation.

God made us in His image and likeness and has given us His wisdom to walk out our lives as His creation. His creation, salvation and revelation surpass our thinking.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Creation vs. Evolution Part 3

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on his apologetics series on Creation vs Evolution Part 3 on 16 July 2006

Christianity holds that God is unchanging in the changing history of mankind. Evolution vs. creationism is the view of the natural vs. the supernatural. Metaphysics refer to things beyond the physical world. From the 18th century onwards, the rise of rationalism and empiricism caused changes in people's minds and metaphysics were no longer considered very important.

Kant believed that human beings could not understand the absolutes so he denied the absolutes and this paved way for agnosticism. According to Kant, no matter how we think we can never understand the essence. The essence is in the neumonal world. But the way we reason is based on physical phenomena. This is similar to the view of Buddhism and Plato.

Plato said that although every tree is different, we still call it a tree. So there must be the essence of a tree that enables us to recognize something as a tree. Another example is the circle. Does true circle really exist? If it exists, why can't I draw it? Perfect circle is in the world of ideas (neumonal) while imperfect circles are in the world of phenomena. So Plato believed that perfection cannot exist in the physical world but it exists in our heart. Deep inside of us there is a real existence, IDOS, i.e. the ideal. All else are images.

We often say, “A human being should not be like this.” So we use IDOS within us to check and judge how things ought to be like. We live imperfect lives in imperfect world. But if we have no idea of the ideal, there is no way we can communicate with others.

The German idea of the ideal comes from Kant. Kant called it the “thing in itself.” Kant divided knowledge into two parts, i.e. physical phenomena where we can understand with our reason and the neumonal world where reason cannot understand though reason knows that it exists. Kant believed that 3 things belong to the neumonal world: God, incorruptibility and freedom.

Everything infinite is in the neumonal. Reasoning power is limited. We need to admit in humility that we do not know. So we need not investigate beyond phenomena. This becomes the foundation for the agnostics.

Christianity, however, has a special reformed thought.

The things that we can know and understand with our reason, God allows us to seek. These belong to the general revelation and we are all responsible to discover and understand.

The things that we cannot know and understand, God reveals through His special revelation, that is, His salvation for humanity.

Therefore, Christians need not become agnostics just because they cannot understand the infinite. In the realm of knowledge then, Christians are the most blessed. Darwin also did not have such concept so he was confused. He did not know the source so while studying nature he ended up with theory that could not be considered as pure science as he used over 1100 sentences containing words like “If”, “Assuming”, “Suppose”, etc. Without reformed theology, in our pursuit of knowledge we will be deceived.

Evolution became a system of thought and Christian leaders were not prepared. At that time the church could not respond properly but only knew how to hold on to their tradition and challenged the theory in a very immature way. As a result, there was a movement against the church to defend the scientists who were being despised.

One year after the publication of the Origin of Species, Karl Marx wrote to Darwin and used his theory as a support for communism. Marx is one of the most brilliant thinkers in economics. He was not only good in economic theory but also wanted to understand how humanity progresses. He believed in purely materialistic world and dialectical method of analyzing history. This idea first came from Ancient Greek. It was developed by Kant and later on Hegel formulated the history of change which comprises of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. So human history swings like a pendulum. A thesis is challenged by an antithesis, and later on synthesis will bring both together to become a new thesis. Marx is a student of Hegel who later proposed this idea to explain history and dialectical materialism then becomes the foundation of communism. Marx saw the process of change from system of slavery all the way to communism. Marx is a genius who combined great systems of thought together. One of his greatest quotations is that philosophy is not a lesson taught in the classroom, but it is the power to change history.

In 1860, Marx wrote to Darwin to thank him as he thought that his theory of economics finally had found support in biology. He deeply appreciated Darwin and felt that Darwin had given him the last key needed to conclude his theory. However, Darwin would not accept Marx's appreciation and theory of communism.

Something important we can observe from history is that frequently the side effects overwhelm the positive effects. This could probably be written as a new theory called “side effectology” (Reverend Tong’s original words). A lot of people work so hard all their lives only to find out before they die that people use their work to promote a lot of bad things which they never imagine. On one hand, they feel that they have not accomplished what they want and on the other hand their hard work is being misused greatly for causes they personally would never support.

Although Mao Zedong wanted to accomplish great things for China, the result was that more than 70 million people died under his reign. This is an example of side effect overpowering the positive effect. Hegel said that the greatest lesson we learn from history is that human does not accept the lesson from history.

Within 70 years, communism conquered one third of humanity (1917 – 1989). Darwin would not have imagined that his theory would be used as support for communism but today all communist government uses evolution. We need the wisdom of God to evaluate history.

There are accounts that at the end of his life, Darwin read the Bible and told lady Hobbe (a missionary) that when he was a young man with unformed ideas he threw away miracles, but he was astonished that people make his theory a religion that burnt everywhere. He also wrote a letter to Oxford to express his doubt in his own theory, saying that there is no sufficient evidence for the theory of evolution and it must need greater grounding.

Hence, evolutionists are always looking for the missing link between apes and human beings. But many fossils that have been discovered such as the Javanese man, the Peking man, the Neander man, etc. only tells that there is such creature at a certain time of history and it would take a leap of faith to believe that these are human ancestors. One main problem with these fossils is that they do not have the cavity for human voice.

Human voice is a very integral part of human body as it is the organ that enables us to express language which is a medium of meaning. Human beings are different from all other animals in that we have reason, morality and the concept of eternity. We should not look down on ourselves by linking humanity to non-human beings and denying our creation. It is our glory that we are made in the image of God.