Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Trinity: paganism or Christianity?

A summary of the Bible Hour presentation at the Christadelphian Hall, Blackpool Street, Burton-upon-Trent on Sunday 5th December 2010.

Development of the Trinity
In the first century AD, Christianity spread from Jerusalem over the known world. Christian doctrine (teaching) was simple. “They continued in the apostles’ doctrine, in breaking of bread and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

What was the ‘apostles’ doctrine’?

The ‘Apostles’ Creed’ was in use during the first two centuries AD. It does not appear in the Bible, but it is a good summary of the basic teachings of the apostles. See e.g.

Over the following centuries, there was compromise and accommodation between Christianity and the religions and philosophies of the world. What had once been a simple faith which could be understood by the man in the street, became a complex system of theology which was the preserve of an educated elite. The Christian church became an establishment with political influence and political power. It also became divided.

The emperor Constantine saw Christianity as a potential unifying force for the Roman empire, and he adopted it as the state religion. In 325 AD he brought its divided factions together at the Council of Nicea, and there they thrashed out a theological statement that could be accepted by the majority of Christianity’s factions. This became known as the ‘Nicene Creed’. See e.g.

This was followed in the sixth century by the ‘Athanasian Creed’. See e.g.

These three creeds illustrate the development of the doctrine of the Trinity. They show how the statement of faith of the orthodox Christian church became longer and more prescriptive, more philosophical and convoluted, and less Bible-based.

With the Athanasian Creed the doctrine of the Trinity was now fully developed. Basically the doctrine of the Trinity teaches that God is three persons in one godhead – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, co-equal and co-eternal.

We suggest that it actually derives from the various triune godheads of foreign contemporary religions. The Bible knows nothing of the Trinity.

What the Bible says

Deuteronomy 6:4 – the Bible insists that God is one.

Luke 1:35 – the son of God was born when the power of God (the holy spirit) worked on the virgin Mary.

Hebrews 4:15 – Jesus was entirely human, just like us.

Acts 4:10 – Jesus died and God raised him from the dead.

Mark 16:19 – Jesus now sits at the right hand of God.

1 Corinthians 15:25-28 – God’s purpose is that Jesus will return to earth, subdue his enemies and establish the kingdom of God, then hand it to God and himself be subject to God.

1 Timothy 2:5-6 – there is one God, and one mediator between God and man (the mediator is Jesus).

The simple teaching of the Bible, which can be clearly seen in the original Apostles’ Creed, is that God is the Creator; Jesus Christ is his son; the Holy Spirit is his power at work.

Why it matters

Defenders of the doctrine of the Trinity often claim that it is a mystery which cannot be properly understood. But the message of the Bible was always meant to be clear, simple and straightforward.

It is sometimes claimed that as the majority of Christians believe in the Trinity, they must be right. However, the majority is seldom right. See e.g. the experiences of Noah, and Jesus himself.

It’s tempting to say that it’s an academic argument, and not really important. However, when you look into the detail and really think about it, the doctrine of the Trinity makes nonsense of the basic and crucial Bible teaching that God gave his son to die for us (e.g. John 3:16).

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Do you have a conscience?

A summary of the Bible Hour presentation at the Christadelphian Hall, Blackpool Street, Burton-upon-Trent on Sunday 28th November 2010.

This blog uses Bible references. If you don’t have a Bible, you can find the Bible text online.

What is conscience?If you found a purse in the street, what would you do?

You wouldn’t keep it? Why not? Because of some inner sense or instinct which we call conscience.

Where does conscience come from? Evolution theory tries to explain it in terms of altruism, putting the good of the herd in front of the good of the individual – but this isn’t a satisfactory explanation for all that our conscience makes us do. The Bible says that we are made in the image of God – we have an innate sense of what is right and wrong.

Even people who have no knowledge of God at all have this innate sense (Romans 2:14-15).

The Bible contains a moral teaching which serves to highly tune the conscience, e.g. Leviticus 19:18 “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” and Deuteronomy 22:1-3.

Bible examples of conscience at work

Genesis 3:8, 1 Samuel 24:5, 2 Samuel 24:10, John 8:9.

The Christian conscience

The Christian must obey the laws of the land (Matthew 22:21, Romans 13:1-7). Except where the law of the land conflicts with the law of God (Philippians 3:20, Acts 5:29).

Christadelphians are conscientious objectors to involvement in politics and war:

Matthew 5:39-44, don’t resist evil people; Romans 12:19, don’t avenge yourself.
John 18:36, Jesus said “My kingdom is not of this world, else would my servants fight.” It’s not that Christians are pacifists, but that they have no part in the world’s wars and politics – they belong to the Kingdom of God (Hebrews 11:13).
1 Peter 2:19, it’s commendable to suffer wrongfully for the sake of your conscience.
1 Peter 3:14-16, always be ready to explain your conscience to anyone who asks.

Some questions of conscience for the Christian

 Would you vote?
 Would you get involved in dishonest dealings at work?
 So you might not fight on the front line, but would you work in an ammunition factory?
 Would you undertake a transport contract for the MoD?
 Would you work in an abortion clinic?
 As a teacher, would you tell children about alternative sexual lifestyles?

Strangers and pilgrims

We are citizens of the Kingdom of God (Hebrews 11:13), and waiting for it to be established by Jesus Christ at his return.
The Kingdom of God will be a kingdom of righteousness and truth. Because that is where we belong, we should live according to its laws and principles now.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Evidence that God exists

A summary of the Bible Hour presentation at the Christadelphian Hall, Blackpool Street, Burton-upon-Trent on Sunday 14th November 2010.

This blog uses Bible references. If you don’t have a Bible, you can find the Bible text online.

A famous advertising campaign proclaimed the slogan: “There’s probably no God – now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Shortly afterwards another campaign used the slogan: “There probably is a God – now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

This talk put the case for there definitely being a God. Because of this we both need to worry, and have great cause for rejoicing!

Some arguments for the existence of God:

Evidence of creation. The size of the earth and its relation to the sun are just right for life. The earth’s unusually large moon, being just at the distance it is, contributes to the perfect conditions for life. The composition of the earth in terms of chemicals, the atmosphere and seas are just right. The earth teems with the most intricate and advanced life. Can you really believe it just happened this way?

If you were walking along the beach, and found a wristwatch and a crab – why would you imagine that one of them had been designed and made while the other had just developed?

Psalm 19:1-4 – “The heavens declare the glory of God …”; Psalm 8:3-4: “When I consider the heavens ... what is man that thou art mindful of him?”

The Law ahead of its time. The Law of Moses which God gave to his people Israel around 4,000 years ago contained amazingly accurate rules about hygiene, sanitation, quarantine, husbandry &c. which should not have been known about at the time.

Evidence for the Bible. When it talks about the nation of Israel and their heroes and heroines it is blunt and unflattering – it doesn’t read like a work of fiction, it has the ring of truth.

Time and again archaeological discoveries prove the truth of the Bible records – e.g. the existence of Babylon, Pontius Pilate and Jesus Christ himself were once doubted, but now no serious critic would argue that they existed.

Bible prophecies foretold events far into the future, e.g. Daniel chapter 2 foretold world history from 500 BC; Old Testament books which can be irrefutably dated to at least 200 BC foretold precise details of Christ’s life.

Who Moved the Stone? The writer Frank Morrison set out to demolish the idea of the resurrection of Christ, but when he looked into the facts he ended up writing this classic argument in favour of the Bible account.

The miracle of the Jews, God’s witnesses. (See previous talks.)

The world without God would be meaningless; the Christian faith gives life and the world meaning. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.” (Romans 6:23)

How about a new slogan: “There definitely is a God – now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Sunday, 7 November 2010

God’s offer to man: eternal life on a peaceful earth

A summary of the Bible Hour presentation at the Christadelphian Hall, Blackpool Street, Burton-upon-Trent on Sunday 7th November 2010.

God’s promise of salvation

Genesis chapter 12. God made promises to Abraham, the first Jew – that he would have descendants (the Jews), a land (Israel), that because of him not just they but the whole world would be blessed.

Much later, in Galatians 3 verse 16, we learn that these promises also refer to Jesus Christ: “To Abraham and his seed were the promises made,” and that seed (descendant) is Jesus.

The Bible’s message of good news is centred on Jesus Christ, and revolves around the fulfilment of promises God has made to his people through the ages.

Everlasting life

Daniel chapter 12 verse 1, John chapter 6 verse 40 – there will be a time when dead people are raised to life, and judged, and some will be given everlasting life.

What will this everlasting life be like?

Daniel chapter 2 – God will set up a kingdom on earth that will take the place of all other kingdoms.

Isaiah chapter 35 – the earth will be restored and beautiful, there will be ‘everlasting joy’.

Psalm 72 – there will be justice, peace and plenty.

Isaiah chapter 2 – Jerusalem will be the capital of the world.

How do we accept God’s offer of everlasting life in his kingdom?

God made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants that they were to be his people. The sign of this covenant was that every male Jew had to be circumcised.

Colossians chapter 2 verse 10 – Christian baptism is in a way the equivalent of circumcision. It is the sign that a person belongs to God. It is the beginning of a new life of service and obedience to God.

Galatians chapter 3 verses 27-29 – those who are baptised are ‘heirs of the promises made to Abraham’.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Israel proves the existence of God

A summary of the Bible Hour presentation at the Christadelphian Hall, Blackpool Street, Burton-upon-Trent on Sunday 23rd October 2010.

This blog uses Bible references. If you don’t have a Bible, you can find the Bible text online.

“Some people like the Jews, and some do not. But no one can deny the fact that they are, without question, the most formidable race that has ever appeared in the world.” (Sir Winston Churchill)

God said that the Jews are the evidence of his existence (Isaiah 43:10).
They are his chosen people (Deuteronomy 7:6) – not for any merit of theirs, but because God loves them and made promises to their ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Deuteronomy chapter 28 is a promise of what would happen if the Jews were obedient to God, and what would happen if they were disobedient. For example verses 63-67 foretell their scattering and persecution. Jesus gave detail of this in Luke 21:24.
When the Jews committed their greatest act of disobedience, killing Jesus God’s son, they brought these curses upon themselves. The nation was destroyed in AD70 and the prophecies have been coming true ever since.

However, prophecies such as Jeremiah 30:10-11 foretell the return of the Jews from their dispersion.

In the late 19th Century the Zionist movement came to prominence. This was a secular and religious movement with the aim of bringing the Jews back to their homeland. In 1948, the state of Israel was re-established after nearly 2,000 years.

“We cannot deny that [this] is an extraordinary historical achievement.” (Sir Hugh Trevor Roper)

Through the centuries there had been many attempts to find a homeland for the Jews – e.g. Kenya, Madagascar and Vietnam were all suggested. But the prophecies, e.g. Ezekiel 11:17 and Ezekiel chapter 37, had said that they would return to the land of Israel.

“The Jew is eternal. He is the embodiment of eternity.” (Leo Tolstoy)

“What is the secret of the Jew’s immortality?” (Mark Twain)

The secret is the fact that the Jews are God’s people. Not through any merit of their own – the nation is by and large as stubborn and disobedient now as it has ever been – but because of God’s everlasting promise.

The Jews’ survival and return to statehood has been a miracle. They are a witness that God is at work in today’s world.

The Bible goes on to tell what’s going to happen in the future, and the part that the modern Israeli state has yet to play in his purpose …

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The Jews, the Holocaust and the Bible

A summary of the Bible Hour presentation at the Christadelphian Hall, Blackpool Street, Burton-upon-Trent on Sunday 10th October 2010.

This blog uses Bible references. If you don’t have a Bible, you can find the Bible text online.

The Bible story is largely concerned with the Jews – God’s people and the ‘apple of his eye’ (Zechariah 2:8).

To be God’s people is a privilege and a responsibility. In Deuteronomy chapter 28 they are offered a choice: to obey and be blessed, or to disobey and be punished.
God repeatedly warns and pleads with his people through the Old Testament prophets. There are warnings of punishment, destruction and exile.

In the 7th Century BC, Tiglath Pileser king of Assyria destroyed the half-kingdom of Israel (see Isaiah 14); the other half-kingdom Judah was threatened, but it was delivered because of the faithfulness of its king and people. But Judah also slid downhill, and 200 years later Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon destroyed the kingdom (see the book of Daniel).

Jeremiah 25:11-14 contains a prophecy that Judah would suffer a 70-year captivity, then the exiles would return to their land. The books of Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah show how this was fulfilled.

By the time of Christ the Middle East was dominated by the Roman empire. The Jews were in their land, but subject to Rome. The gospel records (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) show that the Jews had once again become faithless and disobedient. Jesus prophesied the nation’s downfall (Matthew 24). This happened in 70 AD: the Jews revolted against the Romans, the Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem and the Jews were expelled from Israel. The contemporary historian Josephus records how this was a ‘time of trouble such as there never was’.

Throughout history Deuteronomy 28 has come true in the experiences of the Jews throughout the world.

“The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.” (Daniel 4:17) Difficult as it is to come to terms with, this principle is particularly seen in the history of the Jews. It explains the inexplicable things that happened to the Jews: God was at work!

The rise of Hitler to power in Germany in the 1930s was improbable. His survival of a number of assassination attempts was hailed as miraculous. Meanwhile Mussolini in Italy survived seven assassination attempts, which moved the Pope to declare that he must have divine protection. Hitler and Mussolini both died ignominiously in 1945, but only after they had inflicted immense suffering on the Jewish people.
The prophecies of Deuteronomy 28 were still coming true. Also with hindsight we can see that God was at work in another way – immediately after the second world war there was a flood of Jews out of Europe to their homeland. The Holocaust was a major factor in the establishment of the state of israel in 1948, in fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy (e.g. Jeremiah 30:3, 32:36-38, 33:7).

God will never cast away his people (Jeremiah 31:35-37).

There are prophecies about the nation that are yet to be fulfilled. All the indications are that they will be fulfilled soon. Read Zechariah chapters 12 and 13.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Understanding God

A summary of the Bible Hour presentation at the Christadelphian Hall, Blackpool Street, Burton-upon-Trent on Sunday 26th September 2010.

Nobody can really understand God. He is the creator of the universe, we are puny transient creatures with limited minds. “There is no searching of his understanding.” (Isaiah 40:28)

But God has revealed himself to us in ways that we can understand. He wants us to take the trouble to understand him.

God has told us that one day the whole earth will be full of God’s glory (Numbers 14:21).

What is the glory of God? There are two aspects to God’s glory:

1. his moral glory – his character.

2. his physical glory.

These two aspects are each seen in Exodus 33 and 34. Moses asks to see God’s glory; God tells him no one can see his physical glory and live, but he hears a voice proclaiming God’s moral glory: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and fourth generation.”

Psalm 19 shows both aspects of God’s glory: verses 1 to 6 describe the wonders of creation, and the following verses describe his wisdom.

God chose Israel as a nation to show forth his glory: “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 7:6)

This covenant was later opened out to include people of all races who are faithful (Galatians 3:28-29). There are those with whom God will make his covenant (e.g. Psalm 103:17-18), and those with whom God will not make his covenant (e.g. Psalm 50:16-23). God will make his covenant with those who are faithful and obedient.

Jeremiah 9:24: “Let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.”

If we reflect the moral glory of God now (by following Christ), we can live in the hope of reflect reflecting his physical glory in the future, when Christ’s faithful are given immortality on his return. “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” (Revelation 3:21)