Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Justification In Job, pt. 2

Part One

Justification by faith is both an Old Testament and a New Testament doctrine.  It reads like a major theme in the book of Job, the oldest Old Testament book.  Job's friends speak to him about justification and Job answers about justification.  Is Job justified?

A related aspect to justification is a common Old Testament Hebrew word, mishpot, translated "judgment."  Forms of mishpot occur 23 times in Job.  "Judgment" and "righteousness" both have been assessed as the theme of the entire Bible.  I can't disagree with either assessment.  Over ten years ago I read a book by James Hamilton, God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology, which proposed judgment as the subject of all of scripture.  Men are judged by God as to whether they are righteous.  He judges a man righteous, who is justified.  Men also judge other men as to their justification, which is what Job's friends were doing.

Judgment, mishpot, by God is based upon His righteous nature and standard or law.  A popular recent, contemporary concept is "authenticity" or "authentic."  Job was authentic, and the normal or plain understanding of authentic has been based upon an objective standard, so outside of one's own self.  Self-authenticity is a kind of oxymoron.  Just because you're consistent with your own understanding of who you are doesn't make you authentic.  Naugahyde couldn't be said to be authentic.  Leather is.  And one can judge leather by an objective standard.  It was at one time the outer layer or skin of an animal.

Was Job justified?  Was he an authentic righteous man?  He, his friends, and finally God have this discussion.  Satan said he wasn't.  God said he was.  So what is it?

One of Job's friends, Zophar, starts his speech in chapter 11, asking and using the ninth of twenty-eight usages of a form of the Hebrew verb form tsadek (v. 2):

Should not the multitude of words be answered? and should a man full of talk be justified?

Zophar insinuates overt loquaciousness of Job, implying Job's justification of himself with his words.  Zophar is suggesting that rather than the words of Job justifying him, it be the consequences of his actions.  In other words, someone facing the hardship of Job couldn't be righteous.  In weighing Job's talk against the gravity of his situation, Zophar infers that the latter condemns him.  However, Job's guilt or righteousness could not be judged by the circumstances of his life.  Job has been arguing against the false conclusion that his trials evidenced unrighteousness.

In a second chapter of Job's answer to Zophar in Job 13:18, he says:

Behold now, I have ordered my cause; I know that I shall be justified.

Matthew Henry asserts that Job could say, "I shall be justified," not because of his works, but because he knew that his "Redeemer liveth" (19:25).  Job knew himself to be sincere in his faith in God, to lay hold on the justifying righteousness of his Redeemer, not a justifying righteousness in his own works.

Job had ordered his cause, that is, he had looked thoroughly over all that was occurring, and he says, "I know."  Certainty of justification comes from faith in the Lord, not in self.  Paul commanded (2 Cor 13:5), examine yourself whether ye be in the faith.  The trials of life necessitate reviewing our lives for the assurances of salvation.  Job did.

Later, Eliphaz confronts Job in 15:12-16:
12 Why doth thine heart carry thee away? and what do thy eyes wink at, 13 That thou turnest thy spirit against God, and lettest such words go out of thy mouth? 14 What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous (tsadek)? 15 Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight. 16 How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?
In general, his words ring true.  "What is man, . . . which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous (tsadek)?"  This conflict exists.  In his natural state, no man is just, and yet Job is righteous.  A man drinks iniquity like water, so how could he be justified before God?  Only by faith.  God can make an unclean thing into a clean thing.

Eliphaz then asks Job (22:3):
Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous (tsadek)? or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy ways perfect?
It's a rhetorical question with the implied negative answer, which is false.  God does take pleasure in Job's righteousness, which the first verse of Job (1:1) states.  God has no pleasure in self-righteousness, but Job was a righteous man on account of God.  Even Job's friends knew he was righteous.

Bildad asks Job in 25:4-6:
4 How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman? 5 Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his sight. 6 How much less man, that is a worm? and the son of man, which is a worm?
Job was not justifying himself before God.  Job knew that he was not justified by His own righteousness but by the imputed righteousness of God.  Isaac Watts asks in his hymn, At the Cross, in the first stanza:
Alas! and did my Savior bleed?
And did my Sov'reign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?
Surely, Watts thought of Bildad's words and Job would have been familiar with a necessary sacrifice for his own sins, resulting in a gracious provision of righteousness.

Job answers in 27:5-6, using tsadek twice, once translated "justify" and the other "righteousness":
5 God forbid that I should justify you: till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me. 6 My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.
Satan would tempt a righteous man to doubt.  Paul said, put on the helmet of salvation (Eph 6:17), for one because Satan wants men struggling in their minds in their spiritual warfare.  Job would not be swayed against the knowledge of salvation.  He was putting on his helmet.  He would hold fast, which is a standing in grace.  Job would not justify his accusers by accrediting their denunciations of him.  He does so in the same spirit that Paul later writes in Romans 8:33:
Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.
In his defense in 29:14, Job says:
I put on righteousness (tsadek), and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem.
Paul later writes in Ephesians 4:24, "Put on the new man."  This isn't salvation language.  This the breastplate of righteousness of Ephesians 6.  Saving, justifying righteousness, no one puts that on.  Sanctifying righteousness, someone must put on.  That's the righteousness that people see in your life, that Job put on.

When Job talked about how he lived a righteous life in Job 31, he requested (verse 6):
Let me be weighed in an even (tsadek) balance, that God may know mine integrity.
Rather than the unjust scales of his friends, Job wanted God to judge his righteousness by his own.  He trusted God's judgment.  It's easy for any of us to put our thumb on the scale in our judgment of others, but God is just in his dealings.

After Job's long speech of the previous chapters, Job 32:2 says of Elihu:
Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram: against Job was his wrath kindled, because he justified (tsadek) himself rather than God.
Elihu thought Job to put greater efforts to justify himself than He did God, that is, Job should have been exalting God's rightful judgment of him rather than his own righteousness.  This is the first speech of Elihu and he, as a younger man, had waited through all of the speeches of both Job and his friends to bring his own observations of this matter of Job.  Elihu spends more time confronting Job's friends, but he accuses Job of putting less energy into defending God as he did himself.  This criticism of Elihu is worth consideration.

Elihu does not call Job an unjust man.  He speaks of this one violation, that Job was unjust in this one action of his defense.  He continues this in the next chapter (33), especially observing verses 12 and 32, which contain the word, tsadek:
12 Behold, in this thou art not just: I will answer thee, that God is greater than man. . . . . 32 If thou hast any thing to say, answer me: speak, for I desire to justify thee.
In this one thing, Elihu says Job was not just, the action of Job in the repeated contention of his own innocence without the accompanying advocacy of God.  Elihu does not speak to condemn Job, but to justify him.  Righteous men struggle against sin too (cf. Romans 7:18-25).

As Elihu continues in chapter 34, as best he could he recounts Job's words in verse 5:
For Job hath said, I am righteous (tsadek): and God hath taken away my judgment.
His representation of Job is that Job contends for his own righteousness and accuses God to have taken away his ability to defend himself.  Even though he was just, God wasn't vindicating Job with His treatment of him, a false charge.

In Job 35:2 and 7, Elihu uses tsadek again toward Job:
2 Thinkest thou this to be right, that thou saidst, My righteousness (tsadek) is more than God's?  . . . . 7 If thou be righteous (tsadek), what givest thou him? or what receiveth he of thine hand?
Elihu is asking Job whether by Job's defending himself more than God, he was not guilty of saying that his righteousness is more than God's?  If Job was really righteous, which is not Elihu saying that Job isn't, what was Job giving God compared to what Job had received from God?  It's a good argument.  Shouldn't a righteous man, which Job was, be defending God more than himself?

In Job 36:3, Elihu continues with Job:
I will fetch my knowledge from afar, and will ascribe righteousness (tsadek) to my Maker.
Elihu compares himself with Job.  Rather than ascribe righteousness to himself, he does that to God, his Maker.  It is more of the same line of criticism of Job by Elihu.

Elihu differed with Job's other friends in their judgment (mishpot) of Job.  Elihu uses this word nine times in his speech between Job 34-36.  I commiserate with Job at least in his experience of judgment.  The Apostle Paul was judged by false teachers and defended himself (2 Corinthians and Galatians). Job defended himself too, but it is fair for anyone who is judged to consider how much defending he does in comparison to how much his exaltation of God.

The last usage of tsadek in Job is in Job 40:8, as is the last usage of mishpot, judgment, dovetailing the two.
Wilt thou also disannul my judgment (mishpot)? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous (tsadek)?
Of all of the uses of tsadek, this is the only used by God Himself, and He is speaking to Job.  God expresses His concern for Job's communication of unjust treatment of himself by God.  Rather than attempting to clear his self, He should defend God.  Whatever God is doing, it is right.  God has something to say about how Job has been talking about all he's gone through.

Despite all that Job said, in the end God came down on his side against that of his friends.  Job 42:7 says,
And it was so, that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.
Job said some things wrong, but God judges him in general as saying what was right, that is, Job was righteous.  The friends were wrong about that.  The word "right" in this verse means "the truth," that Job was telling the truth and they weren't.  Verse 9 says that God accepted Job and not Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.  He leaves out Elihu.

Job was justified before God, not because of his works, but because of the righteousness that was imputed to him by faith.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Justification In Job, pt. 1

When someone thinks of Job, the book of Job from the Old Testament of the Bible, maybe he doesn't think of "justification."  I've taught through the whole book twice, once fast and the second fairly slowly.  Recently I was reading through it the second time this year, moving through the Bible twice in this year, and the word, "justify," stuck out this time to me.

When I taught slowly through Job, I taught the theme was the security of God.  God kept Job.  Job passed the test because of God.  I taught that Job was about God and what He did, not about the person, Job.  When we look at the names of the books of the Bible, we can think about the men of the Bible.  However, the whole Bible is about God.

The Hebrew word, tsadek, that is translated, "just" or the forms of it, "justify," "justified," etc. is found at least twenty-eight times in Job.  In this post or maybe a series of two of them, I want to look at all of those usages and how they fit into the book of Job.  The word refers to something that is according to a standard that is of the nature and the will of God, so it is just, right, or righteous.  It doesn't fall short of the glory of God.  The word applies to God.  The standard for right or righteousness is God.  Whether someone is righteous or just compares to God, not a human standard.

A big part of Job is whether Job is right with God.  You could ask, Is he saved?  To be saved, you have to stand before God as righteous.  Apparently, Job was righteous, but not according to everyone.  How righteous did he need to be?  Whatever trials he went through, was it because he was not righteous or because he was?  These are important questions.  Everyone needs to think about them still.  Here's a last one.  If God is the standard, His righteousness, how is Job or anyone else to be justified before God?  This brings in the doctrine of justification.  How is someone justified?  Churches and religions differ as to the answers to these questions, and there is only one right answer.

I'm going to assume that you know, that in the story of Job (chapters 1-2), he is put through one of the most difficult trials ever for any human being in all history, losing all his children, his wealth, and his health.  God allows Satan to put Job through this test to prove whether he's really a righteous man.  Satan says, no.  God says, yes.  While going through these severe circumstances, certain so-called friends of Job give him speeches, also casting doubt on his righteousness.

In Job 4, one of the friends, talks to Job and argues essentially that people go through things like Job out of judgment for their sin.  It had to be his sin.  As further evidence, Eliphaz recounts in verses 12-16 that a spirit had given him (we know none did, that was sent by God) the following message (verse 17), which is also the first usage of tsadek in the book of Job:

Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his maker?

It's the word, "just."  Through the use of these questions, the message to Job is that he shouldn't be justifying himself before God.  Even though no angelic spirit communicated or even would communicate those questions to Eliphaz -- you can't be more just than God -- it introduces the subject matter.

Job speaks in Job 6 and says in verse 29:

Return, I pray you, let it not be iniquity; yea, return again, my righteousness is in it.

Job is saying to the friend, back away from this conclusion you're making that iniquity is the cause of my suffering, and come back to righteousness as the reason.  Job isn't saying that he is justified as righteous before God, but righteous in particular as related to the reason behind these trials.  Between iniquity and righteousness, these circumstances for Job are not due to iniquity.

In chapter 8, Bildad confronts Job with an accusation common to the book.  In verse 3, he uses tsadek in application to God, asking, "Doth God pervert judgment? or doth the Almighty pervert justice?"  "Justice" translates the form of the word.  He continues in verse 6:
If thou wert pure and upright; surely now he would awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous.
Bildad concludes that God would have made the habitation of Job prosperous if he were righteous.  It does sound like Bildad may have believed in justification by works too.  God "would awake," respond to Job with tangible rewards, if he were "pure and upright."  It's actually the opposite, we don't wake God up.  He wakes us up.

Job answers Bildad in the next two chapters (9-10), and deals with this theme of justification in four of the verses.  Verse 2 is classic:
I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?
What Job knows is a truth is that God is just, so God couldn't be unjust to him or anyone else.  Job's rhetorical question says that through anything that a man could do on his own or by himself, he could not be just with God.  Any man on his own or according to his own merits, could not stand before God as just.

Job says in verse 15:

Whom, though I were righteous, yet would I not answer, but I would make supplication to my judge.

Even if Job were righteous, he would not argue with God about it.  When God accused him of some sin, he wouldn't answer.  Instead, he would make supplication, which is to ask for grace or mercy.  Job knows he's not worthy before God.  His justification can't be by works, but by grace, depending on God for justification.

Job continues in verse 20:
If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.
If he used his mouth to justify himself, his mouth would be condemning him.  He would by lying.  A mouth justifying self is a sinful one.  Saying you are perfect just proves you to be perverse.  He would be saying that in him is no sin, which is false.  Even if he were righteous, Job says in 10:15:

If I be wicked, woe unto me; and if I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head. I am full of confusion; therefore see thou mine affliction.

He would not lift up his head, that is, be proud about it.  Abraham could not glory in his righteousness, because it was not by works (Romans 4:1-5).  The Apostle Paul, as a genuine believer, would glory or boast in Christ Jesus, putting no confidence in the flesh (Philip 3:3). Job would know that whatever righteousness he had, it wasn't because of him.  It was nothing to be proud of.  He wouldn't want to take credit for it.

The word "confusion" is the reproach or shame that Job feels, especially at the accusations of his friends.  Rather than continuing to lay on him more pummeling, he's asking that they see his affliction.  Show some sympathy.  He's going through enough without their further hurtful words about him.

(To Be Continued)

Friday, September 24, 2021

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

An Orthodox View of Our English Bibles? Considering Fred Butler's KJVO Book and the Doctrine of Preservation

Whenever I read the word, "Bibles," I get a bit of a chill down my spine.  Which Bible is the right Bible if there are plural Bibles, not singular Bible?  Isn't there just one?  Why are we still producing more and different Bibles?  How many are there?  What I'm describing is the biggest issue today with translations, not the King James Version, but now it gets little to no coverage compared to other so-called problems.  

Many anti-KJVO books have been written, most often, and this continues to be the case with Butler's book, calling KJVO (King James Version Onlyism) "dangerous."  It's true that many KJV Onlyists do not believe a scriptural bibliology.  I would contend that most are sound, but it's true also that many are not.  That would be a worthwhile criticism of KJVO, confronting those who do not believe in the preservation of scripture, who do not believe God preserved His Words in the original languages, apparently necessitating God's correction of them in an English translation.  This happens to be the same doctrinal position as Fred Butler.  He just deals with the consequences of that belief in a different way.

I don't know how "dangerous" it is to believe in a single Bible of which translation for English speaking people is the King James Version.  How will that get someone in trouble?  What's the danger?  Even though Butler calls the position dangerous, he doesn't explain why anywhere in his book, which I find is most often the case with books of this kind.  In general, KJVO take the general position that there is only one Bible, which there is.  That is a biblical, logical, and historical position:  one Bible.  Several Bibles is not.

In his preface, recounting his own personal journey away from the King James Version, Butler says,

I found myself helping them [speaking of others also departing] think critically through KJVO argumentation, as well as develop an orthodox view of our English Bibles.

Why and how is it orthodox to refer to the Bible in the plural, "Bibles"?  Again, there is only one Bible, and historically Christians have believed in only one.  Some type of multiple-versionism, I believe, creates far more confusion and danger.  Usually orthodoxy refers to doctrine.  Is the doctrine behind multiple versions and textual criticism orthodox?  It's popular today, but not orthodox.

I'm not going to debunk most of the arguments of Butler's book.  His book is exploring zero new territory others cover much more than he.  He mainly addresses KJVO advocates of either double inspiration or English preservationism, very low hanging fruit.  He barely to if-at-all distinguishes one view from another.  He lumps Peter Ruckman and Gail Riplinger with Edward Hills, D. A. Waite, and David Cloud.  He uses a very broad brush.  I would not anticipate his persuading one person to his position.

One unique argument I had never read was that KJVO are not Calvinist.   The idea here is that if you're not a Calvinist, then you must be wrong in this position on the Bible.  The biggest movement of those who exclusively use the KJV as an English translation are Calvinists.  The Westminster Confession and London Baptist Confession, as well as many of these Calvinist confessions, hold to the perfect preservation of scripture, which is a one Bible position.

An orthodox view should be a scriptural view.  Butler doesn't establish any kind of biblical and historical view of the preservation of scripture.  Butler writes this:

It is true God calls us to have faith, but our faith is grounded upon objective truth.

What is objective truth?  Is textual criticism objective truth?  No way, and he doesn't make that connection.  It can't be made.  Scripture is the truth on which bibliological positions stand.  Butler takes the view agreed by modern evangelicalism, not based upon scripture.  He has not faced a bit of criticism from the evangelicals who interview him.  He should sit down for a talk with someone who does not take his position to see how his arguments will stand up.

Most people who use the King James believe that it is an accurate translation of a preserved original language text.  Obviously, the King James Version itself has changed since 1611.  KJV supporters know that.  This indicates that they believe that the preservation of scripture occurs in the Hebrew and Greek text.  Butler writes:

The Bible never claims God's Word is only found in one translation.  KJV onlyism is unsupported by the Bible itself.

Maybe that confronts Ruckmanism, but I've never heard a single person attempt to defend single-translationism from the Bible. The French, Spanish, Russian, etc. can all have a translation from the same text as the King James Version.  Butler knows this, but he makes this claim anyway, and it's a strawman.  It doesn't help anyone.  More than anything it gives fresh meat to evangelical friends in an evangelical bubble.  On the other hand, he never lays out what the Bible does claim.

There are varied views on preservation among evangelicals.  I don't know of one modern version supporter, who believes in perfect preservation of scripture.  Daniel Wallace doesn't believe scripture teaches the preservation of scripture and he has many supporters. That is now a very common view.  He believes in the preservation of the Word, but not the Words.  Butler takes a view that might be the most common for evangelicals.  Most evangelicals in the pew don't know this position, but perhaps the majority of conservative evangelical leaders take the position Butler describes:

Yes, I believe God preserves His Word, but I believe it is in the totality of all the available manuscript evidence, variants and copyist errors included.

Try to find that in historical bibliological literature.  You won't find it.  It really is a reactionary position to textual criticism among evangelicals.  It isn't a biblical position.  Nowhere does the Bible teach it.  It's very much like what you might read on creation today.  Confronted with science, professing Christians invent a day age theory for old earth creationism. 

Almost all of what Butler finds are theologians, often unbelieving ones, willing to admit that there are copyist errors, which produce textual variants.  He and others act like KJVO don't know that or don't believe it happened.  The history of God's preservation of scripture is not the same parchment and ink making its way down through time in a pristine condition.  God preserved His Words.  This physical copy view is not taught in the Bible and it's only made up as a straw man to create a faux argument.

When you read Butler's view in his above quote, look carefully at what he says.  First, he says God preserves His Word, not God preserved, completed action, like Jesus said, "It is written," in the perfect tense.  He doesn't say "Words," because He would never say that.  It's God's Word in a very ambiguous sense.  Jesus said, my words shall not pass away (Matthew 24:35).  Where does the Bible or even history present this "totality of available manuscript evidence" position?

For Butler the text isn't settled, like the Bible speaks about itself. He doesn't know what the Words are.  He doesn't know all of the ones by which He is to live by.  I would contend he doesn't even believe the position he espouses.  How would he account for new evidence, which is still coming?  What does he do with a passage like 1 Samuel 13:1?  I've never read an evangelical, who takes his position, who believes that we possess a manuscript with the very words of that verse.

What motivated me to write this post was one aspect of Butler's book and that is his attack on the teaching of preservation in scripture.  Among everything that he writes, I want to deal only with Psalm 12:6-7, mainly to show how men like him deal with these preservation texts.  He writes:

The one passage that nearly all KJVO advocates use for establishing the promise argument is Psalm 12:6,7. . . . The immediate antecedent for the plural pronoun them is the plural pronoun, words. Thus, it would seem to make sense that we can conclude God has promised to preserve His words in a physical text.

The Hebrew language, however, is sharply different from English in that it has grammatical gender, something not common to English.  In Hebrew, the pronouns will match the antecedent nouns in both number and gender.  Here in Psalm 12:6, 7, the two thems of verse 7 are masculine in gender and with the second them being singular.

The closest antecedents in our English translation, the two nouns words found in verse 6, are feminine, so they do not match the masculine thems.

Butler goes on to say that "them" refers to the poor and needy back in verse 5 because they're feminine.  Butler's argument here has been thoroughly debunked.  He's wrong.  First, however, there are many verses in the Bible that teach the perfect preservation of every Word of God.   Psalm 12:6, 7 are two of many.  There is a great chapter on these verses by Thomas Strouse in Thou Shalt Keep Them, our book on the preservation of scripture.  I've also written a lot on it (here, here, and here).

Here's the short of it.  Repeatedly in the Old Testament, and as a part of Hebrew grammar, a masculine pronoun refers to a feminine Word of God.  You see it again and again in Psalm 119, the psalm entirely about the Word of God (verses 111, 129, 152, 167).  There are many other examples.  You can find this very rule in Gesenius's Hebrew grammar, which I used in second year Hebrew in graduate school.

The number argument doesn't work either, which is why the KJV translators translated the pronoun, "them," the second time.  That's also Hebrew grammar.  It is very common after a plural pronoun for a singular to follow in order to particularize every individual in the group.  A collective plural is suggested by the singular.  This is also why the NKJV translators, who are not KJVO, translated it "them."

The Hebrew grammar says just the opposite of what Butler writes.  Critical text and modern version men continue to trot out this argument, when they should well know that it's been answered many times.  I've never had one of them attempt to deal with it, because it is irrefutable.  It's why many, many preachers and theologians through the centuries, including Jewish scholars, have said that "them" in verse seven refers to God's "words" in verse six.  The gender disagreement argument is a moot point.  Without gender, the rule reverts back to proximity, and "words" is the closest antecedent to "them."

Either Butler didn't know the gender disagreement argument or he assumed that his readers wouldn't know any better.  Knowing the Hebrew grammar and reading what he wrote, it reads like he was just borrowing from the writings of other people.  I've read this argument from Douglas Kutilek online.  He's been confronted with the Hebrew grammar and he's never answered me or anyone else on it.  He does not know what he's talking about.

So much more could be said in review of Fred Butler's book, but rest assured that God has preserved every one of His Words in the language in which He inspired them, and made them available for every generation of believers.  The King James Version is an accurate translation of those Words.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Cosmology, the Big Bang, and the Creation Description in Isaiah 40:22

See This Post As a Part One

Cosmology is not a degree in cosmetics, even though distantly related; it means "the science of the origin and development of the universe."  Kosmos is the Greek word for "world."  All forms of that Greek word are found 187 times in the New Testament, translated, "world."  With this in mind, I ask you to consider Isaiah 40:22 and 45:12 (also Is 42:5, 44:24; Jer 10:12, 51:15) :

It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.

I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.

Scientists look at space, "the heavens," and what they see there looks, acts, and interacts like Isaiah 40:22 and 45:12 describe.  If you start with what you see, the physical universe, you would say that Isaiah 40:22 and 45:12 describe it.  How did Isaiah know?  He didn't have the information that modern day astronomers and physicists possess.  He didn't own a telescope.  However, I will say that he had the information.  It was given to him by God, because God stretched out the heavens as a curtain.

Scientists see an effect that is what Isaiah 40:22 and 45:12 describe, but with a naturalistic presupposition or bias, the Big Bang as the hypothesis.  All the scientists see is the effect.  There is no proof a big bang occurred.  Before the Big Bang theory, Isaiah 40:22 and 45:12 were written.  However, supernaturalism answers all the questions, connect all the dots.

The language of "stretcheth out the heavens" in Isaiah 40:22 and 45:12 affirm an expanding universe. It is from a Hebrew term, which was used in tentmaking.  If any of you have erected a tent, you know that part of the process is stretching out or expanding outward the tent material. If creation is treated as a hypothesis or theory, there is epistemic support in the beginning of a finite, expanding universe.   Concerning the big bang, the physicist who won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of cosmic background radiation, Arno Penzias, said:

The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the first five books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole.

I like to compare what we see to walking on to a crime scene.  No one but the one who committed the crime knows what happens.  Everyone else is looking at the same evidence.  No one is neutral.  With the science, a creationist still approaches the physical evidence like a scientist.

One illustration I've read is a wet car in the drive way.  Why is it wet?  It's wet, but the road is dry.  The sky is blue.  Not only that, but a bucket with a wet sponge sets beside the car on the driveway.

The more evidence we get, the more clues we have, the better or the more likely the explanation of divine creation.  It doesn't get easier to give a naturalistic explanation.

Why is the Holy Spirit called the Holy "Spirit"?

 Why is the Holy Spirit called the Holy "Spirit"? Find out the reason for the glorious Name of the third Person of the Trinity in my newest post here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

John 1:9-13 Say That Faith Precedes Regeneration

Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9), meaning that it is not by works (Titus 3:5-6)  It is by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).  It is a gift of God (Romans 6:23).

Faith is not a work.  The following are my two favorite places that teach that:

Philippians 1:29, "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake."

2 Peter 1:1, "Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ."

First, it is given unto you to believe on Christ.  Second, people obtain like precious faith.  Salvation is by faith, not by works.  If faith was a work, that wouldn't make any sense.

How does someone obtain faith from God?  It starts with revelation.  What is to be known of God is manifest in people (Romans 1:19) and then clearly seen in creation (Romans 1:20), which is general revelation (Psalm 19:1-6).  Next comes special revelation, the Word of God (Psalm 19:7-11).  As Romans 10:17 says, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."  This fulfills the message of Titus 2:11, "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men."  What I'm describing in this paragraph is what precedes faith.  Much more could be said on this.  The revelation of God is the grace that appears to everyone that gives faith that people obtain to be saved.

With all that said, here is John 1:9-13:

9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Becoming a child of God and regeneration are essentially the same thing.  Look at verse 12.  Which comes first?  Receiving Jesus Christ or becoming a son of God?  It's plain.  What comes before receiving Him?  Look at verse 9.  "The true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."  I know that Calvinists or the Reformed, not all of them, but many, say that regeneration precedes faith.

The idea that regeneration precedes faith does not come from scripture.  Why is that doctrine taught and believed then?  In my opinion, it is a man-centered reaction to salvation by works.  A metaphor for this is a pendulum swing.  We're not saved by works like Roman Catholicism and other religion teaches.  The light coming, revelation producing faith, that isn't good enough.  They've got to go one step further to show how salvation does not depend on man.  They are men and they have invented this doctrine though.  The doctrine depends on them.

I'm writing on this because I read the article by Andy Naselli, published in the Master's Seminary Journal, entitled, "Chosen, Born Again, and Believing:  How Election, Regeneration, and Faith Relate to Each Other in the Gospel According to John."  Long title.  Does Naselli get his position from the passages or does he come to the passages with his presupposition?  You can read his section on John 1:9-13, the first one.  He comes to the text with assumptions and forces the text into them.  Naselli says that this text does not say that faith causes the new birth.  He says "being born of God [is] logically prior to receiving Jesus."  Is that what you read?

If faith comes from the light, that means it comes from God.  If faith comes from the Word of God, then it comes from God.  If faith comes after the knowledge that manifests in people, then it comes from God.  Faith does not require or need regeneration in order to be from or of God.  Faith does not come by blood, by the will of the flesh, or by the will of man, because faith is given by God and obtained from God.  It is not a work.

Naselli doesn't say it, but I've read enough elsewhere to know.  Many Calvinists cannot say that faith precedes regeneration, because they see faith as a decision or a choice.  You can read that in his article.  He says, "The basis of the new birth is not . . . what you desired."  He is equating faith with the "act of a human."  He is saying that faith is our will and since the new birth or regeneration does not come "by the will of man," then it also cannot come by faith.  The problem is that isn't what the passage point-blank says.

Is the teaching of Naselli and others like him enough to mess up the doctrine of salvation?  It is perverting what the passage says.  What kind of damage is this teaching doing?  It can lead to an extreme where someone does not want to receive Christ, delays receiving Christ, because he is waiting for regeneration.  I've seen that many times through the years.  I'm saying I've seen it personally over twenty times with individuals with whom I've talked.

I agree with some that this doctrine from Naselli affects what people think of the love of God.  God must regenerate to believe.  If someone does not believe, then God did not regenerate.  This person did not apparently receive irresistible grace, Christ did not atone for him.  God foreordained him to Hell.  If scripture taught this was the love of God, I would happily believe it.  It isn't what the Bible says is the love of God.  It also isn't what grace is.  The grace that saves appears to all men.

Yes, there is a mystery as to why some are saved and some are not.  The mystery for the Calvinist is why God chooses some and He rejects others before they were ever born.  The mystery for others, like myself, is why some receive Christ and others don't.  The latter at least has some teaching about that.  Jesus says that it's the condition of the soil in Matthew 13.  Paul says that the god of this world blinds men's minds (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Naselli teaches at Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minnesota, John Piper's school.  I've read John Piper's explanation of the five points of Calvin.  The word "decisive" is a very important word to him.  What I'm saying, Piper would say is the sinner, assisted by God, providing the decisive impulse.  He would say, I'm saying, that "the decisive cause of faith is self-determination."  Scripture says nothing about "decisive cause."

As I've written about this subject in the past, I've said that God is sovereign about His own sovereignty.  We can't make God more sovereign than what He says He is.  John 1:9-13 as it reads in its plain meaning does not contradict a scriptural understanding of the sovereignty of God.  It does not make salvation by works.  Piper adds this layer of "decisive cause," and in that sense is adding to the teaching of scripture.  He speaks where scripture is silent.  He reads into the text.  This is also what Naselli is doing.  Naselli fills in the blank by quoting Calvin, writing:

Faith is not produced by us but is the fruit of spiritual new birth.

Then Naselli fills in this silence even more by quoting Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

The act of regeneration, being God’s act, is something that is outside consciousness.

Do you understand what he's saying?  He's saying that a person becomes a child of God outside of his own consciousness.  Is that what John 1:9-13 say?  Of course not. 


I was fine with the ending of this post, especially time-wise.  However, since I wrote it, other thoughts came, especially as it related to regeneration outside consciousness.  You go evangelizing in obedience to the command of Jesus Christ.  You do your best.  No one is saved.  Why?  None of the preaching audience was regenerated outside of their consciousness.  Obviously, if God had regenerated any of them outside of their consciousness, they would have believed.

I read a book about evangelizing Mormons, entitled I Love Mormons, and the PhD evangelical who wrote it gives a lot of strategy related to success with Mormons, understanding their culture, knowing their doctrine, taking a proper approach, etc.  I'm not saying I even agree with him on all of it, but isn't the key for success that God arbitrarily regenerates outside of their consciousness?  If God does, your Mormon evangelism can't but succeed.  Automatic success.  How does loving Mormons affect unconscious regeneration?  Not at all, because that would make man a decisive cause of faith.  I'm sure many passages come to your mind that do not fit this thinking.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Reality and Truth: Celebrity Conservatives Versus True Bible Believers

Perhaps you, like me, as a Christian, pay attention to certain celebrity conservatives, who take many of the same or similar viewpoints as you.  You know there are differences.  Where is the overlap?

In diagnosing a worldview, there are various components to understanding it, as some people have or might put it, to see the map of the world.  Some of them are knowledge, ethics, purpose, and epistemology, but among the others, I want to explore two of them, reality and truth, as they relate to celebrity conservatives versus true Bible believers.  In general, very often true Bible believers are interested in the celebrity conservatives without their being interested in them.  Part of their "fan base" are Christians, who listen to their podcasts and watch their shows.

One of the celebrity conservatives, Jordan Peterson, the famous PhD professor, author, and public intellectual and speaker from Canada, doesn't even call himself a conservative.  Celebrity conservatives today might call themselves classic liberals (you can look up classical liberalism).  Maybe he really isn't conservative, but you also shrink your audience if you call yourself one.  As well, "liberal" might mean you keep your job and other opportunities.  Peterson does resonate with true Bible believers and they listen to, watch, and read him.

When I write, celebrity conservatives, I'm especially saying, Peterson, Ben Shapiro, Charlie Kirk, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, the late Rush Limbaugh, Dennis Prager, and Candace Owens.  There are many others.  There is overlap between their worldviews and the worldview of a true Bible believer.

Before Covid hit and also before he had major health issues, my wife and I and another couple got tickets to hear Jordan Peterson in person in San Francisco, sponsored by the Independent Institute.  As I was listening to him, I enjoyed many things he was saying.  However, I knew he and I did not have the same worldview.  I was glad he could say what he did in public, but it wasn't nearly enough for me either.  The celebrity conservatives like him are disappointing.

In the last week, I was thinking about the difference between the worldviews of celebrity conservatives and true Bible believers.  Even as I write this, I think about how a true Bible believer could even be a celebrity in our world.  I don't think it's possible.  The greater the celebrity status, the more you must be doing something wrong, and that includes evangelical leaders who have their own celebrity. They in part got there through capitulation and compromise.  Their greater celebrity doesn't speak well.

The common ground in worldview, I believe, is that there is more proximity between celebrity conservatives and true Bible believers in their view of reality.  I would say that they both attempt to function according to reality, even if it means abandoning the truth.  The truth and reality do go together.  They overlap completely for a true Bible believer, but they don't for celebrity conservatives.  Even actual reality and the reality of celebrity of conservatives don't overlap identically.  To stay a celebrity, like everyone else who isn't a true Bible believer, celebrity conservatives forsake actual reality and even more so, the truth.  Let me explain.

I want to use Jordan Peterson as an example.  Jesus either rose from the dead or He didn't.  Jesus can't be the greatest figure who ever lived if He wasn't truth and He lied about the resurrection.  Peterson says that he's not sure if he believes Christianity, but he tries to live like one.  He's also saying, he's not committing to the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, while living like Jesus did resurrect from the dead.  He borrows a reality based upon the truth without actually believing the truth.  Other conservatives do that, and it's easy to see.

The world we live in is the real world.  Celebrity conservatives more than the mainstream culture try to explain positions according to reality, even if they deny much of the truth or many truths, depending how you want to put that.  You may live a reality of Jesus and defend a life that fits His existence and deny the pivotal truth of His resurrection.  Peterson does that.

Complementarianism is the truth and celebrity conservatives borrow from a complementarian reality without the truth of complementarianism.  Gender fluidity proceeds from egalitarianism.  God designed men and women differently.  That's the truth.  Celebrity conservatives deny complementarian truth while defending a complementarian reality.

Let me get more simple.  Whether you think he's a conservative or not, let's consider President Donald J. Trump as if he were a conservative.  Trump operates according to a certain Christian reality that results in Christian support, including from true Bible believers.  Trump thinks that one thing is better than another.  Certain behavior is wrong.  He believes that America as a standard of living better than other countries, which can be and should be protected at the border.  This is one of the most fundamental conservative beliefs and it is a reality that borrows from the truth.

Former President Trump doesn't believe the truth, but he functions as though there is truth. He is a realist in that we must have standards.  Things won't be better when we can't discern the differences of one thing from another.  This is a reality according to a Christian worldview.  The truth is more important.  However, people who eject from reality are much further away from the truth. These either practical or positional nihilists must be rejected for something short of the truth, if that's the choice.  The path to the truth won't come through their relativism.  It can come through someone who at least embraces reality, even if it doesn't mirror actual reality.

The answer for humanity is still the truth.  It isn't the reality of celebrity conservatives.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Mormon or LDS Visions or Revelations a Consideration for Their Danger as a Source of Authority for Everyone Else, Including Baptists

The "visions" or "revelations" of Joseph Smith came about in America at a time in this country when many others were receiving their own "visions" or "revelations," paving the way for Smith's and the acceptance of his by others.  The United States was a land of equality, equal opportunity, and populism.  It despised a king and state religion.  It liked, loved really, democratic society, where everyone's voice was heard, and it was, therefore, acceptable to get your own personal revelation from God as a part of your personal relationship with God.  That spirit is still very alive in America.  Americans distrust their own institutions and this is woven into the fabric of being an American.  That includes the institution of the church.

In early nineteenth century, especially on the frontier, people operated in many unconventional ways, depending on superstitions in medicine, farming, and predicting the weather.  It was not unusual to use dowsing to find water with a special, forked stick.  People could see signs everywhere, giving them guidance from above or within.  Snake oil salesman got their name in this era, literally selling snake oil, promising cures to almost anything, circumventing the conventional manner of tending to one's health.

Joseph Smith was 14 years of age when he had his first "vision" or "revelation" from God, and the Smiths, Joseph Smith Sr. and mom, Lucy, weren't members of a church.  Joseph Jr. didn't come up with the idea of getting visions.  It was a thing to have.  Only special people had them.

The Smiths couldn't find a church they liked or agreed with, were still "looking," and then Joseph 'heard from God' that there was no true church to join.  Convenient.  Churches have set beliefs and if you are a rank and file non-clergy, you might disagree, your opinion probably doesn't count for much, and you don't have a means of having your own in those situations.  You might not want the church doctrines and practices imposed on you and also their financial obligations.  You want a church where perhaps everyone could share, like is seen in the first church in Jerusalem in Acts chapters 2 and 5.  That's what churches should do, accept your way and then take care of you with little expectation.

On top of everything above, even though there was freedom, it was tough to navigate the new world, especially if you were not born into wealth, grinding it out to earn a living.  Many made it through subsistence farming, sometimes succeeding, perhaps enough to invest in a cockamamie get-rich-quick scheme, lose everything and start over again.  People still are very allured by the suggestion of some easier path to success, willing to subject themselves to whatever comes along that promises to work better, reinventing the wheel.

Joseph Smith lived in an environment, a culture, that someone could believe that God was talking to him directly.  All of the new, astounding doctrines and practices of Mormonism or LDS came by this manner, contradicting doctrines and practices hitherto already established in the history of Christianity:  the preexistence of human souls or spirits, God was once a man on another planet before being exalted to Godhood, celestial marriage, polygamy, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not the same being, God organized the world but did not create it from nothing, and proxy baptism for dead people.  It was also revealed to him through a story that all of these beliefs were the original truth that had been lost and buried for 1400 years.  On many occasions, Joseph Smith and then other Mormon leaders received revelations at a time that fit whatever it was they needed to hear from God to make a pronouncement to deal with that situation.

Matthew Bowman writes in The Mormon People:  The Making of an American Faith (pp. 10-12):

The Smiths had unwittingly moved into an ideal location for a family with unresolved spiritual yearnings, the center of what one historian has called "the antebellum spiritual hothouse" and another "the burned-over district." . . . . The optimism, instability, and freedom of the New York frontier were life's blood to the eclecticism and experimentation always to be found at the margins of mainstream Christianity.  The Shakers, for instance, so named for their physical worship services, had fled to America from a disapproving Britain under the leadership of Ann Lee, whom they believe to be Christ reincarnated.  In the United States, they found fertile ground for both converts and settlement, and in 1826 they established a colony less than thirty miles from Palmyra. . . . North of Albany, the farmer William Miller sat by the fire in his home in Low Hampton, New York, feverishly working out the precise date of the Second Coming from the book of Daniel for his thousands of followers, who were convinced that they needed no trained pastors to interpret scripture for them.

But the Smiths had always been drawn -- particularly Lucy -- not to such visionaries but to the more mainstream ecstasies of evangelical revivalism.  The force behind revivalism was the Methodists, who . . . urged potential converts to embrace Christ in a personal divine encounter.  At Methodist camp meetings, itinerant preachers, though frequently uneducated and even unlettered, learned how to muse the Holy Spirit among their listeners.  Between rousing and sometimes raucous gospel hymns, they offered not prepared sermon on doctrinal topics but emotional appeals, promising forgiveness, warning of hell, reaching their hands to the heavens, and pleading with the crowd to leave sin behind and walk forward to be saved in the arms of Christ. . . . "Men are so spiritually sluggish," declared Charles Grandison Finney, the great revivalist of the age, "that they must be so excited that they will break over their countervailing influences before they will obey God."  Finney's talents shone in a month-long revival in 1830-31 in Rochester, a few miles from Palmyra, in which he converted hundreds. . . .

The sort of spiritual manifestations the Smith family had already experienced were not new to most revivalists.  Portentous dreams were common particularly among itinerant Methodist preachers, as were the type of healings and providential manifestations Lucy had experienced. . . .

It was in this atmosphere that Joseph Jr., then a young teenager, began thinking about religion.

The ecstasies and visions of revivalism were the seedbed or hothouse for Joseph Smith and the new religion.  What makes this acceptable?  Some might say, because what they revealed was not false.  I don't know that they can say, that what they're saying is in fact true.  How do you know it's true, if it is?  Someone could say, it's scriptural.  Well, then you don't need a vision or a revelation from God.  It's already in the Bible.  If cannot be proven to be false, then it is an acceptable vision or revelation.

If someone can hear revelations from God, how do those differentiate from scripture?  If they are from God, that is equal to scripture.  One cannot accept visions and revelations as from God.  That opens up Pandora's box.  It's not acceptable.  And yet it is today.  You really can't question it.  You've got to accept whatever version of it.  How does a Mormon today distinguish evangelical visions from their Mormon ones?  It really just buttresses the point of Mormon visions and revelations, that God is still talking to men.  He's still talking to Mormons.

LDS do not have a kind of canon of scripture.  They have their continued visions, their continued revelations, even if they don't like the Mormon teachings, which almost every Mormon's got a problem with, and with their prophets.  What has pushed LDS along is their continued revelations.  I had a long talk last Saturday to a Mormon man, coming out of the garage of his big house, a CEO of a small software company, and he disconnects from Mormon doctrine, but he's got his own testimony, his own experience, his own way of connecting with God, so he can pick and choose.  LDS is fine with that.  They encourage it.  They might call it "the burning in the bosom."  Before Joseph Smith got his first vision, he prayed James 1:5, and that's become the pattern of LDS since then.

I estimate that a majority of Baptists still get direct messages from God.  They call it different things, but these impressions are authoritative, nonetheless, very often for some of the major decisions of their lives. When they give testimony to the important decisions, they don't say, it was scriptural, my church was fine with it, so I had the liberty to do it, so I did.  They say, I knew, God told me.  Sometimes God also told the spouse, as a validation.  Both knew.  Both heard.

The one who questions the experience is the one who says he's in authority, he's a king, taking away from the egalitarian nature of receiving visions. Some kind of exegesis of an authoritative book is not sufficient for a genuine Christian experience.  Obviously there are contradictions, because many have been excommunicated for contradicting the vision of someone in authority, Smith or Brigham Young.  The acceptance of a democratic community fine with your receiving your vision or revelation is the level playing field.  Revelations aren't just for the elite few, but for anyone.  This is the "antebellum spiritual hothouse" that we still live in.

Sunday, September 05, 2021

The Big Bang Didn't Happen But It's A Useful Hypothesis

The universe started with a big bang, but not a Big Bang.  It will end with a Big Bang though.  The following line didn't originate with me, but I still like to say, "I believe in the Big Bang; it just hasn't happened yet."  It's a laugh line.

The science world talks about the Big Bang theory.  It's big to them.  That world says that this event occurred about 14 billion years ago.  Not quite 14 billion.  I understand that timeline to grate on believers, a finger-nails on chalkboard effect that makes them deny it loud and vehemently.  And then scientists add that 'life began 600 million years ago' and 'humans one million years.'  The Bible contradicts all this.  It might gnaw at you.  I understand.  For me now, when someone mentions Big Bang, it doesn't bother me so much.

When I hear Big Bang now, I think of a couple of different ideas, true ones.  To start, if I hear Big Bang, I exchange it in my head for creation.  Big Bang equals creation.  That's not what the scientists think.  It's what I think.  I'm also not saying that God used a Big Bang or something like that.  Stay with me.

The Big Bang Hypothesis is science that says that the universe had a beginning.  What's considered to be the best science right now, the best explanation of cosmology, the Big Bang Hypothesis or Theory, admits that the material universe does not go back interminably.  There must have been a beginning, had to be.  The scientific proof behind the Big Bang hypothesis says that everything began with a Big Bang.

Okay.  The universe had to begin.  That is what happened.  When the scientists look at the evidence, they see the movement of everything outward, starting with what they call a singularity and then a very rapid expansion, which means it all came from some beginning point.  It had to.  There are more technicalities to that explanation, which complement it, but that's the gist of it.

If you then open your Bible to Genesis 1, you see that the essence of a Big Bang did occur at the beginning.  Scientists vary on calling the singularity, the beginning, either an expansion or an explosion.  Whatever they want to call it, it was an explosion.  Some call it one, saying that "an extremely dense point exploded with unimaginable force, creating matter and propelling it outward."  The hypothesis or theory says that there was cosmic inflation and the hot universe expanded exponentially, but decreased in density and cooled in temperature, which then slowed everything down.

The Big Bang says the explosion sent matter on an outward trajectory.  Genesis 1 says that all matter, "earth," was also altogether in one mass without form and void, including waters, until the addition of energy, described as the Spirit of God moving.  The Hebrew word "moved" in Genesis 1:2 has the understanding of "vibrated."  Energy waves start with vibration.  The energy is God or the power His omnipotence.

The Big Bang is a hypothesis based on the evidence.  It must have been an explosion.  But how and why did the explosion take place?  Where did the energy come from?  The hypothesis doesn't provide the answers.  It's got other problems too, because there is too much organization, precision, and fine tuning for an explosion as an explanation, even if they want to call it a very hot, rapid expansion.  It's why they won't use the word explosion.  Even though it was first called a big bang, now many say there was no bang, just a vast, rapid expansion of extremely condensed material.  The technical definition of explosion still though is "a violent expansion in which energy is transmitted outward as a shock wave," so same thing.

To fit or correspond to the known universe, the beginning must have been from great intelligence, power, immensity, beauty, love, and wisdom, which fits a description only that goes along with the God of the Bible.  The Big Bang Theory offers some kind of power, that is unexplained, some kind of cosmic accident.  It doesn't tell us where the power or even the matter that exploded came from.  Physicists and astronomers look at the results and with a naturalist presupposition, they hypothesize the Big Bang.  It isn't science.

If you have a naturalistic universe, which was caused by another natural thing, you haven't explained the origin.  You've got to have an explanation for the natural thing that originated the natural thing, which doesn't provide the intelligence, power, and other factors necessary for such an origin.  The major questions remain unanswered.  A natural thing originating another natural thing by accident is philosophical.  It isn't scientific.  It doesn't explain such an outcome either cosmologically or biologically.

The scientist asks about time, how long the original material that exploded took to get where it is now.  The first cause must be supernatural and uncaused, so time isn't an issue.  That first cause is all powerful.  Time doesn't have to be a consideration.  I wrote recently about the age of the fish and bread with which Jesus fed to the 5,000.  There was no process.  The fish and bread appeared instantly.  The time aspect is another attempt to divert to a naturalistic explanation.  It's philosophical, not scientific.

The Big Bang didn't happen, but when someone talks about it, you at least understand the theory based on the information relied upon.  It's getting back to a beginning.  This isn't good enough, but it is scientists dealing with the truth of a beginning.  That's at least a starting point.  That's a truth that we can work with, when we want to talk about God to the world.