(Questions for you or your group to try to answer are in red, my suggested answers or notes are in blue, Bible quotations are in italics.)
You will also have to prepare some items for later – even if you are doing this study for yourself the visual aid will help you understand!
You will need a piece of dowel about ¾” (15mm) diameter and 3ft (1m) long. Also for later you will need a piece of timber roughly ¼” (6mm) x 1” (25mm) and 3ft (1m) long. Mark on them about 16 divisions (in the middle, in the middle of the two halves, in the middle of the four quarters etc.).
Topics I hope to cover are God, the Trinity, Creation, Time and Eternity, Life and Death, Predestination (Calvinism and Arminianism) and Free Will.
I’ll be putting forward ideas that I believe, but that doesn’t mean they are complete, nor does it mean that they are right. I’m afraid it is up to you to question everything and make up your own mind whether or not what I suggest is possible or true.
These studies are designed for those who can accept that there is a supreme being that we call God. However if you can’t be sure, or are certain there isn’t a God, then you are still welcome. But everyone will need to come with a mind open to possibilities that perhaps we haven’t considered yet.
Also be prepared to find that some questions will have no answer, or more than one conflicting answer.
There will be many threads that we will follow, sometimes we will have to jump sideways and follow a different thread in order to build a more complete picture.
But first I mentioned the term ‘Supreme Being’.
What do we understand by the word ‘Being’?
God has attributes which indicate to us that he is alive. Not an intelligent machine but living; although not having a physical body. ‘God is spirit and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.’ (John 4:24)
I will be asking many questions that will be difficult to answer.
Here’s the first one – we say that God is living: what is life? (Many philosophers and scientists have struggled, and are still struggling with this!)
I had a pear tree growing in the garden. It had leaves, and flowers, then fruit. One day I went into the garden and it was dead. Every part of the tree was still there, roots branches, leaves, fruit; the cells that made up its structure were all still in place.
One day it had been alive, the next day totally dead. What was the difference?
We know what life is, and we recognise immediately when it is gone, but we find it hard to explain it. How about another question – where does life come from? For those who believe the Bible that is easy – the Breath of life comes from God.
(Genesis 1:30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.’ And it was so.
Genesis 2:7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
Isaiah 42:5 This is what God the Lord says –
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it:
Revelation 11:11 But after the three and a half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them.)
Scientists that deny the Biblical account of creation and its statements on the origins of life are actually no longer satisfied by Darwin. They are now looking for answers to two questions that they now consider to be truly fundamental.
At the Royal Society on 31 May 2019, Perry Marshall and investor Kevin Ham announced the $10 Million Evolution 2.0 Prize .
The prize will be given to anyone who can answer these questions:
Where did life come from?
Where did the genetic code come from?
(This LINK contains some of the discussion that led to the prize being offered.)
Going down this route will divert us into questions on creation so I will resist this for now and return to questions about God.
I started by mentioning a ‘Supreme Being’.
We looked at ‘Being’ and life, but what do we understand by ‘supreme’?
(Usual answers are ‘highest’ and ‘best’.)
But when talking about God we often use a set of words that perhaps need looking at:-
Omnificent. Creating all things; having unlimited powers of creation.
Genesis 1:1, John 1:1-4, Colossians 1:15-17
Omnipresent. Present everywhere, at the same time
1 Kings 8:27, Jeremiah 23:23-24
Omniscient. Knowing everything
Psalm 147:5, 1 John 3:20, Isaiah 40:28
Revelation 1:8, Jeremiah 32:27, Mark 14:36
I really wanted to make this easy, but in order to do that it seems that I can’t avoid stepping sideways and looking at Creation first. Much of what follows is taken from the studies on Genesis 1 and 1 Corinthians 16.
And in order not to tread on too many toes I hope we can all agree that the Universe as we know it had a beginning and will eventually have an end. I know there are those who think we are in some sort of repeating cycle, but I think that is simply trying to avoid the difficult questions of how and why.
Take the piece of dowel and place it on the floor or table in the centre of the room.
This is a timeline of the universe.
The idea is that it represents the timeline of the Earth from God’s perspective – from its creation to its end. Starting at one end, each division is 500 years and points to an important date – very roughly!
(Indicate leftmost end) Here is creation – we really don’t know when that was. (Now point to the fourth line, then fifth, sixth etc). Let’s assume here is the flood, then Abraham, here are the Israelites, leaving Egypt. Here is David. Here is the Exile. Next is Jesus. (Now skip 3 lines) And this is us at 2000 ad.
If you are an evolutionist you may prefer to have the first division a bit longer to represent 4.5 billion years but we’ll come back to that later.
Now you have to imagine that you are God.
This is going to be very difficult because God is Omnipresent – present everywhere, at the same time. For now ignore your constraints – imagine you are God and everything around you is eternity – you are in heaven.
This timeline is the world, from creation to the end. As God you can get up and walk around, you are free to travel to and fro in eternity. Look out of the window. Go outside if you like and look up. Eternity goes on for ever, and you are unrestricted (Encourage people to actually get up and walk around – then sit down again).
In God’s eyes, has the world begun yet?
If yes, has it finished yet?
Where in eternity does God call ‘now’?
It’s hard to talk about time in eternity because time doesn’t exist, and God is free to move about in eternity.
Can God be in a place where the world has not yet come into being?
Can God be in a place where the end of this World is long past?
Before I move on, I just asked questions starting ‘Can God…’.
It is very important that we understand something here about God – he can!
Think hard. Do you agree that because God is God he cannot be restricted in what he chooses to do?
(‘chooses to do’ because God cannot go against his own nature – he can, but would not choose to.)
For God to be God nothing or nobody could restrict him.
Does God have the power to do anything?
God is Omnipotent – he is all-powerful
If God could do anything perhaps now would be a good time to look at creation.
To do that we need to understand a little about particle physics. But only a little! Basically everything we can see around us is made of particles (or atoms), and they too can be broken down into subatomic particles – when I went to school these were simply protons, electrons, and neutrons.
However nowadays we have to talk of subatomic particles which are either "elementary", i.e. not made of multiple other particles, or "composite" and made of more than one elementary particle bound together.
But what are all these particles made of?
In special relativity, the energy of a particle at rest equals its mass times the speed of light squared, E = mc2. That is, mass can be expressed in terms of energy and vice versa.
Fundamentally, everything that physically exists (matter) is a form of energy – and ‘power’ is scientifically described as the rate at which energy is used.
At this point I have to ask a personal question.
How big is your God?
Is he truly Omni-everything?
Is he an infinite source of energy?
Can he make a subatomic particle?
Remember I asked you to imagine you are God.
Now imagine that you are on earth in the form of Jesus of Nazareth.
Read Matthew 12:9-14
9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shrivelled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’
11 He said to them, ‘If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’
13 Then he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other.
14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.
As Jesus, using your infinite divine power, can you make enough subatomic particles, then combine them together to make Carbon, Oxygen, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Calcium and Phosphorus and a few other bits and pieces, and then put them all together to make enough cells to rebuild a shrivelled hand?
How long would it take you?
(Wait, but don't expect an answer!)
As God, using your infinite power, can you make enough subatomic particles, then combine them together to make Carbon, Oxygen, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, and a few other bits and pieces, and then put them all together to make up this timeline rod?
How long would it take you?
You can see where this is going!
As God, can you make enough Carbon, Oxygen, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, and a few other bits and pieces to make a universe?
So if you had ultimate power you could create a physical universe.
Then, one day, you could withdraw that same power leaving nothing.
Whether you believe in creation or evolution, you probably agree that there was a time when the universe did not exist. Also, from Isaiah 34:4 (and Revelation 6:14) we are told that a time will come in the future when All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll.
And Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.
We will leave this study here, but before we stop let me ask a question without an answer:
Before the universe existed, or later, when God has reclaimed his energy and removed everything from Space, What and where is space? How can you describe it?
(The intention is that people stretch their imaginations. The answers might include ‘Space is nothing so it can’t actually exist’ or ‘Space is an idea God had to build his universe in’ or ‘actually part of eternity’)