David Wood’s “Last Video” – Censorship, Passing the Torch, and April Fools!

Update (4/4/19): It was an April Fool’s prank! Thank God! Here’s today’s new video that he uploaded.  So glad David’s still kickin’!

I just watched Last Video (Working on Books!) by David Wood on the Acts17Apologetics channel.  While I’m still hopeful that this was an April Fool’s joke aimed at mocking his critics, it still speaks volumes considering the growing trend of censorship of many Christians and conservatives.  As we’ve seen in the news recently, conservative and Christian voices that won’t tow the line on current agendas favored by certain folks in power at big tech companies are beginning to succumb to malicious flagging of “inappropriate” content.  By inappropriate, they mean politically incorrect, or perhaps socially unacceptable to the elites.

This very blog had been chugging along at a growing average of 60 to 70 views per post.  That was, however, until after I commented on the seeming endorsement of infanticide by Virginia Governor Northam and made a case against abortion,  As soon as that article hit, I immediately dropped down to 5 to 7 views per post.  Not even my wife was receiving notifications that I had posted anything.  And she’s, like, my closest friend! (Love you, honey!) My content has been, as far as I can tell, “deboosted” by Facebook, just like those others detailed in this recent expose by Project Veritas.  

But, this is all to be expected.

The Bible says that as we approach the return of Christ, folks won’t tolerate sound doctrine.  (2 Timothy 4:3)

2 Timothy chapter 4 is a message from Paul to his protege and mentee Timothy, giving him marching orders to continue in his ministry.   Paul warns Timothy that there will come a time when men of the world and even the church will have itching ears, seeking teachers whom they agree.  In David Wood’s case, who was adamant in his work against the teachings of Muhammad and Islam, he spoke out against the hypocritical and inconsistent teachings of several imams and countered with the gospel of Jesus as the only way to God.

David mentioned handing off the torch to younger online apologists to spread the gospel.  This is similar to Paul’s words to not just Timothy, but all “men of God” (2 Tim 3:17) who’ve been instructed in the Scriptures (v. 14) who have gained the wisdom of Christ’s salvation.

I’ve watched and learned from David Wood’s videos and have read his exhaustive polemics against Islam for years now.  Though it is disheartening to see so many conservatives and Christians silenced online, and to experience that censorship myself in a small way, I must admit that I’ve been inspired.

I’ve decided to post a paper I wrote some time ago making a case for why jihad is of orthodox Islam and not “radical” at all, and some policy suggestions that, though a couple may not be necessarily pragmatic, would go a long way to avoiding what is called the Three Stages of Jihad from taking root in our Western Society.  I hope this will honor the contributions to the field of Christian apologetics that David has made over the years, and I pray he will find success in his new writing endeavors.

You can read this paper in the next several posts… assuming they show up in your feed.  😉

If you like this content, check out my Articles by Topic page.  God bless!

Is ANYTHING Worth Worshiping?

In Should We Worship a God-like AI?, we explored why even an Artificial Intelligence with unimaginable power and abilities that most people on Earth would categorize as “God-like” would still not be worthy of worship.

But this brings up an interesting problem:

What, then, could possibly be truly “worthy” of worship?

If an entity with all the popular calling cards of an actual god didn’t deserve our conscious adoration and reverence, because they were material in nature and bound by the constraints of time, why would anyone want to take the next step of worshiping anything? What else is there that is immaterial and outside of time?

I’m glad you asked.  😉

Fruitful Time

What is the purpose of worship? There are thousands of articles on the internet tackling this issue, and many acknowledge that humans seem to have an innate need to show gratitude, to revere something.  It satisfies a desire to connect to something beyond ourselves, as humans are primarily relational beings.

Any time spent expressing adoration, gratitude, or reverence toward something in an effort to establish a connection should be directed toward something that can actually connect.  Otherwise, worship just gives good feelings to the worshiper.  While pursuing good feelings is not a bad aim for our activities per se, it seems pointless and even wasteful in this context.  We as humans do plenty of things that are enjoyable, and sure, worshiping an inanimate object or an abstract concept like love might feel good or give a sense of doing something noble or purposeful.  But if the only benefit to worship is a fleeting, superficial feeling, it’s not worth doing at all since there are so many other options available to us that are just as or more effective toward that end.

No, the heart of worship is the seeking of connection with something beyond ourselves that deserves our adoration, respect, and reverence.  Why try to connect to something that cannot connect back? We must therefore seek an object of worship that is personal and relational, something that has a will capable of choosing to connect back to us.

What’s in it for Me?

So we’re back to deciding what is worthy of worship, now with the caveat that we ought to worship something that satisfies our innate desire to express gratitude and adoration toward things while also being a relational entity.  This rules out anything that cannot develop a one-on-one relationship with you. Remember, we are seeking the best candidate for worship.  You can have a relationship with a person (father, friend, colleague), and they can do things to deserve our gratitude and adoration, but are they really the ultimate source of all the things for which we ought to be grateful?

Let’s say your mom gives you a car (or truck).  What kind is it? What color? What’s the gas mileage on it? Can it tow a 24′ trailer for my band program on certain Saturdays in the Fall (call me)?

Should you express adoration and reverence toward your mom? Of course! (And if you are, by chance, an entitled brat who doesn’t feel the need to be grateful, that doesn’t change the fact that you ought* (see below) to be! :-P)


What about the guy at the car factory who put the car together? Or the salesperson who sold your mom the car?

This leads us to an endless list of people who we could have relationships with, and to whom we should offer our adoration and gratitude for what they’ve done for us.  But then, shouldn’t we also be grateful to those people’s parents for even having them, which made our current car-receiving situation possible? That also means that we have a chain of ancestors worthy of our gratitude that goes back to the beginning of humankind!

What about all the materials that make up that car? Is there an ultimate source for all the minerals, metals, and fibers that went into that car to whom or to which we ought to show our gratitude?

And what about the laws of physics and nature that allow us to experience and enjoy your car? What is the source of the friction that allows you to sit in the seat, the gravity which keeps your car on the road, the phenomena of the wind that tousles your luxurious hair (or tickles your bald head)?

And what about the very ideas that made that car possible? Is there an ultimate source for the optimal design of the body of the car, the mathematical concepts that made the engineering of the car possible, or the aesthetically pleasing nature of the body of the car itself (I’m imagining a Porsche in this scenario, but yours could be a Mitsubishi Expo that you got… I don’t know your mom’s financial situation)?

And this is just the car! What about your toothbrush!? And bug spray? And cupcakes?What about your children that you love so much? What about beautiful sunsets? All of these things have ultimate causes that we ought to show gratitude toward.

It seems that, ultimately, anything worthy of worship would be something that is the rightful recipient of all gratitude, assuming there’s a single source.

Transcendence is Key

If nothing material aside from the universe itself is worth worshiping, since it’s all going to die a slow Entropy Death anyway, then a materialist might say that there is indeed nothing that is worth worshiping aside from perhaps the universe itself (since they believe by definition that that is all there is to reality).  However, we just discussed that a big inanimate object like the universe, regardless of its scope and grandeur, cannot connect with us since it does not have a will, and therefore worship of the universe itself is wasteful and without benefit other than how it makes us feel.

And, as we discussed in the previous AI God article, anything bound by time cannot be worthy of worship because anything bound by time must have had a beginning (as most physicists and philosophers believe), and therefore owes its existence to a prior cause or source.

So, if we’re looking to worship the best possible candidate for our worship, we must look outside the material universe and outside of time.  

This would include abstract objects (if you’re a Realist) like the “real” number 2.  But these things don’t have a will or capacity for relationship, so even if they did actually exist somewhere, they’re not worth worshiping.

The Missing Piece

The final aspect that makes or breaks the worthiness of a being to be worshiped by humans is whether they are Good or not.  If it is truly Good in its nature, by any true and reasonable definition of the word “Good,” then they could be a candidate for worship.

If I discovered a being that was outside of space and time that had a will and could choose to have a relationship with me, but it didn’t have my best interests at heart (or those of my family)… I don’t care how much it would cost me, I would not choose to worship that being.  Even if it had just one evil thought, tendency, or desire in all of its eternal history, it would not be the maximal candidate for worship, and would therefore not be worthy.

You might argue that this is an arbitrary standard of worthiness, that Goodness is not a necessary prerequisite, but I disagree.  If this worship by definition is to direct gratitude and reverence toward something with the intent to establish a connection, then why would any person in their right mind want to connect with a being that was not Good?

Let’s use the example of the Christian God.  If I wasn’t sure based on the promises that He’s made in the Bible and the example of the work of Jesus on the cross, I don’t know if I’d feel comfortable worshiping Him.  Yet I am convinced this won’t happen based on the evidence that I’ve been presented over the years, and I feel 100% confident in worshiping YHWH because I am 100% convinced He is Good.

Conversely, this is a huge reason why even if I was somehow convinced Islam represented the objective truth of reality, I still don’t think I’d choose to worship Allah.  Why? The Qur’an openly states that Allah is the best at makr, or deception (3:54, 7:99, 8:30).  Also, Allah doesn’t love me right now since I’m not a Muslim (3:31-32, 30:43-45).  There’s a lot more, but however you slice it, Allah’s just not for me.  I don’t personally think he’s worthy of worship, at least how he is presented in the Qur’an.


This brings us to a list of characteristics that are prerequisites for being worthy of worship.  This being/entity must:

  1. Be Objectively Good
  2. Transcend space
  3. Transcend time
  4. Be an appropriate recipient of (ie, they truly deserve) gratefulness, reverence, and adoration
  5. Be capable and willing to enter into a relationship with the worshiper

Kind of a weird resume, huh? Or maybe a cosmic personal ad! 🙂

The fourth point is just another way of saying that this entity, in order to truly be worthy of our worship, must have been the ultimate causal source  for our existence and the agent through which our existence was brought about.    If you had one without the other, we wouldn’t have a maximal candidate for our worship (I can have ideas all day long, but if I don’t act upon them, what a waste of creativity! Additionally, if I am omnipotent but have no creative capacity or will, what good am I?).

The only entity I can think of that fits each criterion is the Judeo-Christian God, YHWH (or one with identical characteristics, like perhaps Shang Di and Y’wa).  Ahura Mazda (Zoroastrianism) isn’t omnipotent, so he wouldn’t fall in this category.  However, this article is not meant to somehow prove that He actually exists… that’s a totally different question for another article.

What I AM saying is this:

If the being who meets these criteria does not exist, then no other being, thing, idea, or concept is truly worthy of your worship either, so don’t waste your time.  But if this being does exist, and I have good reasons to believe He does, then He is the maximal candidate for your worship, and you should totally start worshiping Him today!  

God bless!! 🙂


*Some of you might take issue with me saying that we ought to do anything, that moral obligations don’t actually exist and that morality is a social construct brought about over time through natural selection (I’m looking at you, atheists!).  This is a HUGE can of worms I won’t open here, but if you’re interested in what I mean by objective morality, click here for a video produced by Dr. William Lane Craig on the topic, and here for a longer philosophical discussion on various aspects of the Moral Argument for God’s Existence.

**Picture is from HisLightMedia! I got this one from his Flickr account.  Check it out!

***For a discussion on why an AI God would not be worthy of worship, see my previous post, Should we Worship an AI God?

****For more interesting entries on YHWH, check out: Jewish Trinity part 1 and part 2.

#yhwh #AI #worship #worthyofworship #shangdi #maximalbeing #maximal #being #entity #amazinggod #objectivemorality #transcendent #gratitude #grateful #newcar

Should We Worship a God-like AI?

It is incredible to see how far Artificial Intelligence has come in the last several years, and how far it certainly will go.  Take these articles, news stories, and websites:

  • This Person Does Not Exist – AI-generated “photos” of realistic faces; refreshes with a new “face” every 2 seconds.
  • Self-Aware Robot Arm – Columbia University just announced a couple days ago that it has a self-aware robot arm that controls itself using simulation software.
  • Deepfakes for Text – an AI “named” GPT2 is so good at creating fake news articles and fictional stories that the developer, OpenAI, an Elon Musk-backed non-profit, won’t release its findings to the public because the negative ramifications are too huge.
  • Fake Video Technology – the article linked here discusses some of the recent developments in Video technology, where AI is used to make anyone say or do whatever you want in high resolution, real-looking videos.

Once Super Intelligent AI is created and given a couple months or years to learn, would accumulate hundreds of thousands of years worth of human knowledge and begin recreating itself toward almost inconceivable levels of abilities and knowledge.  People like Elon Musk are Jay Tuck are worried about what AI could do.  We just don’t know yet whether or not this AI will also gain what we would call wisdom or emotions.

Regardless of the benevolent/malevolent nature of AI, one thing is clear to me.  An ‘omnipresent,’ ‘omnipotent’, and ‘omniscient’ AI, a creation either of humans or even other AI, will begin receiving worship from humans.  The question is… should we?

The Possibility of Super Intelligent AI

Let’s imagine that in the (not-so-distant) future, a certain Artificial Intelligence algorithm gains the following abilities:

  • It has free will
  • It knows billions of times more information than all of humanity combined
  • It can cause almost anything that is physically possible to happen
  • It can have a brain and a body and can smile and laugh and talk and can even own property.  It could legally be considered a ‘citizen’ by every government on the planet (this has already happened in Saudi Arabia with Sophia, btw)
  • It has a capacity for moral judgement
  • It has a capacity for genuine emotions
  • It is sentient, or self-aware
  • It can be be creative, truly artistic, and even participate in a loving relationship
  • It can be ‘everywhere’ (via a network of drones, 5G networks, and even inside our bodies, etc.)
  • It can even answer unspoken prayers and take control of your body (Brain Computer Interface, or BCI, makes this possible)

Now, the ideas presented here are not only possible, they are plausible in the near future.  This AI would literally have all the calling cards of what most people think of when they talk about “God”, “a god”, or “gods.”  As I’ve discussed in my article, Way of the Future… I hope not, there is even a Church set up to welcome and worship this God-like AI when it arrives.  You can read a recent interview with the church, Anthony Levandowski, talking about his plans for the church on Wired Magazine here.

If this God-like being is going to happen, why shouldn’t we worship it?

What is Worship?

Worship is the respect, honoring, veneration, adoration, or exultation of something or someone.  The concept of worship also implies a devotion to that object, though it doesn’t necessarily imply loyalty.  You can worship one thing or many things, mundane or holy.

You might say, “I’m don’t ‘worship’ anything!!!” However, by choosing this route and really meaning it, you are either consciously worship ‘nothing’ (a void, perhaps), which is foolish, or you are choosing to do one of two things in a non-conscientious way:

  1. You worship the concept of indecision or perhaps apathy, or
  2. You worship the things that you value (and therefore venerate/adore/exult) most, like family, work, pursuit of knowledge, pleasure, etc.

This last one is what most people mean when they claim to “not worship anything.” It seems noble and even right, perhaps, until you realize that if you don’t consciously put something first, then what you value most becomes fluid from one moment to the next.  People are always moving things they value up and down their rankings.

For example, when your child asks you to play with them and you just can’t put your iPhone down… in that moment you value the thing you’re doing on the phone more than spending time with your kid.  I am not saying that you value the phone more than the kid in the grand scheme of things.  I’m just saying that for a moment, you value the activity on the phone more than the time with the kid.  (btw, if you struggle with this, I understand… I got rid of my smart phone a while ago when I realized I had this problem.)  🙂

The point of this example is, because this kind of shifting value structure happens all the time to everyone, the ramifications for someone who claims not to worship anything are sobering.  If your worship is no more than an unconscious activity directed at what you value most, then you literally worship whatever occupies your attention at the moment! And why not? Some activities, people, and ideas are extremely rewarding and satisfying.  Scrolling through Facebook and playing games gives you a high of dopamine in your brain from which it’s hard to pull away.  Worshiping Facebook may sound ridiculous, but this is the danger of unconscious worship.

Conscious Worship

So you don’t want to be that guy.  Great! Then you must make a conscious decision to direct your adoration/veneration/exultation (worship) toward something.  You must purposefully set something or someone on your personal pedestal so that it’s fixed and meaningful and does not fall off the pedestal just because you become distracted.

But what are your options? You could worship Yourself, Zeus, a penguin, tiny stone statues, money, the universe itself, the Creator of the universe, feelings of pleasure, Allah, the concept of love, your family, humanity in general, graven images, or perhaps, as in this case, AI.  There’s a near-infinite amount of selections you could make.

Some of the examples above, like worshiping a penguin, seem silly on their face.  Worshiping inanimate objects or a plant also seems silly.  Why? Well, we have no obligation toward them.  There’s no gain to be made from them, no mutually satisfying relationship to be enjoyed, no intrinsic value in them other than what we might ascribe to them.  The penguin, the rose bush, the statue have very little to give, so why worship them when there are so many better options?

As an aside, this is one reason why animistic religions use anthropomorphism to ascribe human characteristics onto the objects of worship to give them meaning and purpose.  But if those characteristics are given by man and do not have innate value, that is self-deception? No, though they are useful and beautiful and cool, animals, plants and inanimate objects are not worthy of worship.

Concepts like love or feelings of pleasure, or maybe the pursuit of power, seem more reasonable candidates for conscious worship.  But these ideas are clearly contingent upon circumstances.  What if the pleasure stops? What you never achieve power, or love? What if you do achieve power or love but lose them.  These options are insatiable, making them quite toxic if you pursue them to the ends they offer.  Even worshiping the idea of love itself, which seems so positive and noble, would be naive given that love is clearly not universal given all of our society’s rape and child abuse and abandonment.  This is also a reason not to worship humanity itself… we stink.

You could worship yourself.  You have near total control over you.  But are you really that great? Also, you die eventually, and you don’t even know when that’ll happen! And when you do go, you could be crushed by something embarrassing like a giant penguin parade balloon.  (I don’t know why I’m fixated on penguins today…)

Go big.  Why not worship the Earth? Or Nature? They’re huge, tangible, powerful, they support your life, they make all your friends’ and families’ lives possible.  Yet… the Sun will grow in size in 5 billion years and destroy the Earth and everything on it.  Nature is miraculous and amazing, but it’s not forever.  Even the Universe itself will either become an near-infinite expanse of frozen, pitch black gas or will collapse into a singularity.  Either way, this Universe will end.  Something deserving of worship must be eternal.

Bound by Reality

Now, this is where we answer the question about a super intelligent AI.  If you think about it, no matter how fantastic or God-like this entity will become, it suffers the same problems of scope and scale that Nature- or Earth- or Universe-worship does.  Even if this AI became the sole provider of sustaining life on this planet or in our solar system or even the whole universe, it would still succumb to the Second Law of Thermodynamics and die along with the universe.

And even if it figured out a way to create a whole new universe to which to escape with laws of physics that it designed and set in motion, or even controlled, it would still would have had a humble beginning on a little planet called Earth in this reality.  It would be a prisoner of time.  Even having the ability to traverse time would still not release it from its forward progress.

Regardless of its power and scope, at the end of the day, worshiping this entity would be foolish.  It would not be truly worthy of worship.

Wait a minute…

If this thing has all the characteristics that people tend to think of when they think of “God,” and it still doesn’t deserve worship, then what could possibly be worthy of worship?

The answer to this questions… is in my next article.  Dun dun DUNNN!

Until then, watch out for those penguins.


#yhwh #ai #aigod #artificialintelligence #god #levandowski #church #aichurch #worship #bci #wayofthefuture #elonmusk #deepfakes #faketext #aifakes #yahweh


5 (More) Nuggets About the Jewish Trinity

If you haven’t read the first 5 Nuggets on the Jewish Trinity, click here.

After the great initial response from the first article, I modified this one to focus more on the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament based on some questions folks asked.  It’s amazing what you can dig out of familiar passages, even if you’ve read them many times.  These were presented originally in this Dr. Michael Heiser talk about the Jewish Trinity, so if you like this short primer, I highly recommend you dig into the talk.

1. Isaiah 63:7-16 – Blatant Jewish Trinity

In the 63rd chapter (starting at verse 7), Isaiah is discussing the lovingkindesses (חֵסֵד, chêsêd) of YHWH right after presenting a picture of judgement for the sinful Edom.  As a side-note, it’s important to point out that all the bloody, harsh ‘judgement’ sections discussing God’s wrath in the Bible are always couched in (1) a passionate plea from God to stop the sin causing the judgement and (2) a declaration of God’s love for the sinner.  Every time! Remember that when someone tells you that the Bible is full of violence and features an angry God.  He certainly doesn’t want to do those things! I digress…

Here are the verses in question:

He said, “They are indeed My people,
children who will not be disloyal,”
and He became their Savior.
In all their suffering, He suffered,[e]
and the Angel of His Presence saved them.
He redeemed them
because of His love and compassion;
He lifted them up and carried them
all the days of the past.
10 But they rebelled
and grieved His Holy Spirit.
So He became their enemy
and fought against them.
11 Then He[f] remembered the days of the past,
the days of Moses and his people.
Where is He who brought them out of the sea
with the shepherds[g] of His flock?
Where is He who put His Holy Spirit among the flock?
12 He sent His glorious arm
to be at Moses’ right hand,
divided the waters before them
to obtain eternal fame for Himself,
13 and led them through the depths
like a horse in the wilderness,
so that they did not stumble.
14 Like cattle that go down into the valley,
the Spirit of the Lord gave them[h] rest.
You led Your people this way
to make a glorious name for Yourself.

Isaiah 63:8-14, HCSB

Isaiah in this passage introduces us to three distinct characters.

  • YHWH – The Father (whom he is directing this dialogue with, as seen in v. 16)
  • The Angel of the Presence
  • His (YHWH’s) Holy Spirit

It is clear that there are three entities in view based on the grammar.  It is the Father who is quoted speaks in verse 8.  It is the Father, interestingly enough, that is labeled as the Savior.  Then notice right after that in v. 9 the Angel of the Presence is the one who saved Israel!

Is Isaiah confused? No.  He is clearly making a point to include them both, filling the same role and purposefully “melding” the identities of the two.  The Angel of the Presence is also the one who is credited with lifting Israel up and carrying them all the days of the past (which includes the Exodus, which we’ll discuss another time).

In addition to this, we see that The Father’s Holy Spirit here is the one who was rebelled against and who was grieved by Israel.  If this was read in a vacuum, one might just shrug this off and say, “Fine, the author is just trying to use an analogy to help us understand that God’s “heart” was hurt by Israel’s actions.”  This was certainly not the case: as we’ll see, “rebelled against” in conjunction with “grieved” was a phrase used in the scriptures to refer to YHWH Himself!

2. Psalm 78 – Where “Grieving the Holy Spirit” Comes From

The words used in Isaiah 63 for “rebelled against” and “grieved” are used in Psalm 78 to describe what Israel did to YHWH.  The author of Isaiah, as well as the other prophets, were well-versed in the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the Bible), the Histories (Judges, Chronicles, etc.), the Psalms and Proverbs.  They knew that their holy God was multiple persons, and had no problem writing ambiguous passages that conflated the identities of the Father, the Second YHWH, and His Spirit.

How often they rebelled (מָרָה, mârâh) against Him
in the wilderness
and grieved (עָצַב, ‛âtsab) Him in the desert.

Psalm 78:40, HCSB

Isaiah 63 used the exact verbiage of Psalm 78 to describe “His Holy Spirit.”  However, in the Psalm, the author is clearly talking about “the Most High God,” a title reserved for the Father (see v. 35)! This is another example of the Biblical authors using phrases and words to carry meaning and theological weight to their writings.  To further the point, this tradition was carried on into the New Testament.  This same word (in Greek, of course) is also used by Paul in Ephesians 4:30, commanding believers not to “grieve” the Holy Spirit.

3.  Ezekiel 8:1-4 – The Spirit of YHWH IS YHWH

A great example of using the technique of equating certain descriptions of YHWH to convey certain theological truths is found in Ezekiel.  In Ezekiel 1, God is described in the following way:

25 A voice came from above the expanse over [the living creature’s] heads; when they stood still, they lowered their wings. 26 The shape of a throne with the appearance of sapphire[c] stone was above the expanse.[d] There was a form with the appearance of a human on the throne high above.27 From what seemed to be His waist up, I saw a gleam like amber, with what looked like fire enclosing it all around. From what seemed to be His waist down, I also saw what looked like fire. There was a brilliant light all around Him. 28 The appearance of the brilliant light all around was like that of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day. This was the appearance of the form of the Lord’s glory. When I saw it, I fell facedown and heard a voice speaking.

Ezekiel 1:25-28, HCSB

This passage describes YHWH Himself, since the “form of the Lord’s glory” sitting on the throne of Heaven could belong to no other.  Now, compare this description with the following passage:

In the sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth day of the month, I was sitting in my house and the elders of Judah were sitting in front of me, and there the hand of the Lord God came down on me. I looked, and there was a form that had the appearance of a man. From what seemed to be His waist down was fire, and from His waist up was something that looked bright, like the gleam of amber.He stretched out what appeared to be a hand and took me by the hair of my head. Then the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and carried me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the inner gate that faces north, where the offensive statue that provokes jealousy was located. I saw the glory of the God of Israel there, like the vision I had seen in the plain.

Ezekiel 8:1-4, HCSB

Here, the Spirit, who is the same character as the “hand of the Lord God,” shares the same exact qualities as YHWH from Ezekiel 1:

  1. The appearance of a man/human
  2. Fire from the waist down
  3. Gleaming amber from the waist up

Yet, even after equating the “form of the Lord’s glory” of chapter 1 with “the Spirit” here, he then describes seeing another character, the “glory of the God of Israel,” waiting at the entrance of Jerusalem’s North Gate… the same one that he saw in the vision “seen in the plain” (chapter 1)!

This is incredible to me.  It’s as if Ezekiel wanted to make sure his readers knew that the “form of the Lord’s glory” and the “Spirit” of YHWH are different, even though they are the same.  

4. Ezekiel 1 – Who Controls the Throne of YHWH?

Another fascinating glimpse into the workings of the Jewish Trinity are found in Ezekiel 1:12.

12 Each creature went straight ahead. Wherever the Spirit[a] wanted to go, they went without turning as they moved.

20 Wherever the Spirit[b] wanted to go, the creatures went in the direction the Spirit was moving.

Ezekiel 1:12, 20, HCSB

These phrases occur amongst Ezekiel’s description of the four living creatures who accompany the movement of the throne of God, as described in 1:24-26.  We see here that the Spirit has a will of His own, and that the direction of travel of the throne of God was His to decide.  Who else but YHWH could control the throne of YHWH?

5.  How Can God BE Love? The Trinity is the Best Explanation.

Some food for thought.  The Love of God is extremely apparent in both Old and New Testaments.  It is, indeed, a fundamental attribute of God’s nature, right alongside His holiness, justice, and mercy.  If you have any doubt about this, this article entitled “17. The Love of God” by Bob Deffinbaugh, is a fantastic resource if you want to study God’s love or any of His other attributes.

My favorite example of God’s unconditional love for us are actually found in the Old Testament.  In Genesis 15, God performs a one-sided Covenant Confirmation with Abraham.  In the ancient Middle Eastern, when you confirmed a covenant between multiple parties, all parties of that covenant were supposed to pass through several split carcasses to show that they would uphold whatever promise or relationship was being confirmed… or else their lives would be as forfeit as the dead animals through which they passed.   When God sets this up with Abraham, however, he then puts Abraham to sleep and then passes through split carcasses alone, thereby taking all of the responsibility for their relationship upon Himself!  For more information on this amazing display of selflessness on God’s part, Growing Christian Ministries has a great article on the history of this practice.

How can the Creator of the universe know this kind of love, this unconditional commitment to someone else? How can a Spirit being know and understand how love works before the existence of any other thing?

For that matter, why would God desire to want relationships at all, given He was perfect and whole before the creation of anything? (This isn’t just coming from the Bible… philosopher Alvin Plantinga’s Ontological Argument indicates that God is a Maximally Great Being that necessarily exists and is perfect in every possible world.)

I believe the answer lies in the Trinity.

If God is a three person relationship at the very core of His being, then there is nothing more fundamental to our understanding of His nature aside from His holiness. 

Relationship and love actually define how God exists.  

The Jewish writers of the scriptures understood this.  We should too.  🙂

The first 5 Nuggets on the Jewish Trinity.

If you found this information interesting, check out The Unseen Realm by Dr. Michael Heiser.  You can also watch his series of lectures on “The Jewish Trinity,” which much of this topic is pulled from, here.  Enjoy!! 

Northam, Infanticide, and an Actual Calm Discussion (You’re Welcome)

Like most of my fellow conservatives, my stomach turned when I heard Virginia Governor Ralph Northam seemingly express support for infanticide today during a radio interview in such clear, calm, measured tones.  I am not often one who publicly responds when I’m upset about something that is politically charged.  I always talk things like this through with my wife, my mentor, and a great liberal friend whom I trust.  Many times, articles that fly from my fingers initially often aren’t finished or published because wisdom often tempers my initial reaction.

So I followed my usual round of talk-through-the-issue, and I did some additional research so I can better understand the context and the meaning behind Northam’s words.  And I do think that it would be helpful to wade into the waters of this particular issue.

What Happened?

In his interview on January 30th, Gov. Northam was asked about the controversial HB 2491 by Virginia House Delegate Kathy Tran (D-Springfield), which would eliminate several requirements for abortions, including ultrasounds and a multiple physician sign-off for third trimester abortions.  In a committee meeting (the longest clip of which that I could find is here) where Del. Tran presented her bill and, responding to questions, certified that her bill would allow women to have an abortion up until the moment before birth.  

This would be a substantial change in Virginia, and it prompted a line of questioning in Gov. Northam’s WTOP interview.  I have listened to the exchange several times and read the transcript (at the bottom of this CNS News article).  Here are his main points in the relevant portion of the interview.  

  1. Northam is a pediatric neurologist by trade, so he speaks from authority.  
  2. Third trimester abortions are done with the consent of the mother and multiple physicians (as of now).
  3. These abortions only take place when it comes to a non-viable fetus or fetuses with “severe deformities”.
  4. In these cases, the baby would be delivered, resuscitated if possible (and if the family decided to), made “comfortable”, and then further options would be discussed.  
  5. These situations are tough and emotional and (male) legislators should not interfere, giving physicians and the family the freedom to do what they believe is necessary and/or right.

The ominous and blood-curdling part of #4 is the implication that a living, human baby could be a candidate for a “post-birth abortion”… otherwise known as “murder.”  This was my, and many others’, initial reaction.

However, upon further reflection, I don’t think he was actually advocating that particular plan of action.  While it was implied by the context of the discussion that he had abortion in mind, I have a feeling he was probably referring to a family’s decision regarding whether they should fight for the baby’s life as hard as they can or whether they should let the baby die a comfortable, natural death because of his/her medical condition (similar to removing a breathing tube of a loved one in a vegetative state).  I could not even imagine what it would be like to face that situation. I mean, could you imagine what you would do if your baby had been born without a brain? Or limbs?

So No Infanticide… But…

Now that I’ve looked at Northam’s comments and listened to his words, I keep coming back to #3 and #5 above.  I keep getting stuck on them.

Governor Northam contends that aborting a fetus all the way up to the moment before birth is acceptable as long as (a) it has a severe deformity, (b) it is non-viable, or (c) it is determined by the physician(s) and family that an abortion ought to take place.  I’m sure there are more criteria he might use, but these are the ones he mentioned.

I’m not a doctor, so feel free to comment and help me sort through this tough topic (seriously!! please!! I love learning and discussion :-)), but do any of these things negate the intrinsic value of a human life? After all, there are thousands of stories online of miracle babies who, though they have acute deformities and debilitating syndromes, thrive and find joy in their difficult, sometimes short lives.  Take for instance the stories of any of the kids on the “Day in the Life” series on YouTube produced by the channel Special Books by Special Kids.  Or the short, beautiful, hard life of Thomas Lauxs who knew only pain and love.  Or the kids of David Wood (a YouTuber I follow) who have myotubular myopathy.  Consider these three scenarios:

  1. If a human is deformed, does that mean we can kill him in the name of preventing his suffering?
  2. Do we have a choice, option, or right to preemptively kill a person when we discover he has an awful disease and only has days or hours to live?
  3. Is it morally acceptable for a family, with concurrence from three physicians, to, in the name of dignity, grace, and comfort, euthanize grandpa if he is likely to put everyone in the family through a terrible ordeal as he ages?

If you said “yes” to any of these, then you do not have the same belief in the intrinsic value of human life that I do.  All of these, if you follow the logic, lead to the determination that we can kill anyone we want in the name of compassion or convenience.  Our worldviews differ drastically and we should have a different kind of conversation where we explore our various presuppositions.

If your answers to these questions were “no,” my next question is this: Do age, location, or health impact a person’s intrinsic worth? If it’s wrong for these, why is it not wrong for a fetus?

Now imagine doing any of these things without an individual’s consent.  This, after all, is the case for the fetus.

Isn’t It Different With a Fetus, Though?

But you might say that it’s different with a fetus; it’s not a “person” yet.  For instance, until it is 14 weeks (as Ricki Lewis Ph.D. posits in this blog), it’s just a collection of cells.  Some would say that the fetus isn’t a person at all until the fetus is born and takes his/her first breath.  Some say it’s at conception. It’s all about when the fetus’ “life” begins. And once life begins, we have almost universal agreement that “termination” of that human would be “wrong.”  Many pro-choice advocates would be appalled to know that the Gosnells of the world do in fact exist.  Many pro-choice advocates would be appalled to know abortion really is used as birth control by some women and their jerk-wad (sorry) boyfriends who insist.  They know life begins at some point, but it’s hard to know when, so why not just let it be a “personal decision?”

As an aside, there really are some depraved individuals out there, man.  One lady I was debating last year on this very topic on the Atheists vs. Christians Facebook ‘discussion’ group (ugh…), told me that an embryo in a woman’s body was like a parasite living off its host, and any mother could decide if she wanted to get rid of it or not, just like a mass of cancerous cells.  Then she told me that that fetus had “no right” to take her as its host. Seriously? Like it had a choice?… ugh… I ran out of patience quickly thereafter and left the group. But I digress…

For me, I’d argue those little packets of cells called human embryos have a unique human DNA sequence, so in no way is it just the woman’s body that she’s making a choice about.  I have at least 37 trillion cells in my body with unique DNA.  I was still a person when I had 1 billion cells. I was still a person when I had 1 million cells with unique DNA.  And at 100,000 cells. And at 1,000 cells. And even at 2. So there are two distinct people involved in every abortion, not just the mother.

And if that fetus is a unique human person, the Biblical belief is that he or she is a person with a soul.  (Psalms 139:13-16, Jeremiah 1:5, etc.) And people with souls are intrinsically valuable to God even if they’re not valuable to a single other human on Earth.  This means that people with souls are worth protecting from death, regardless of their location (hospice bed, classroom, playground, nursery), especially at their most vulnerable state… which just happens to be in the womb.  

I understand not everyone believes as I do.  However, if folks understand that people like me aren’t trying to “control women’s bodies” with abortion laws but instead to “save tiny lives,” I think there’d be a lot less vitriol around this issue.  

So no, Governor Northam doesn’t support murdering babies after they are born, as far as I can tell.  

But if all it takes is a family/doctor vote to decide whether a tiny person lives or dies because of the possibility of suffering, eventual death, or inconvenience… without that person’s consent?

… well, maybe he and I should sit down, have some coffee… and talk.  

Call me, Ralph.  I emailed you.



5 Nuggets About the Jewish Trinity

For part 2 of this article, see 5 (More) Nuggets About the Jewish Trinity.  

In Christian doctrine, God is comprised of three persons.  Not only is this difficult to fully comprehend since we humans are only one person, but from where does that idea even arise? Was it an invention of the early church fathers later in history? Was it some kind of polytheistic doctrine that crept into the church over time? Or was it an idea deeply embedded in the Jewish scriptures that we use as part of the Bible today? Here are 5 things about the Trinity that you may not have known.  (I sure didn’t!)

1.  The Jewish Idea of “Two Powers” in Heaven

Jewish Rabbis in the Second Temple Period (ie, the time between when Nehemiah’s and Ezra’s rebuilding of the second temple and when it was destroyed by the Romans shortly after Jesus’ time in 70 AD) were very clear about worshiping the One True God, who’s Name is YHWH (see Deuteronomy 6:4 for the shemah).  But they were also clear that there were “Two Powers” or two YHWH’s in Heaven! Now, this doesn’t mean that the Jews weren’t monotheists.  Jesus believed this too… and in fact, he claimed the mantle of the second YHWH, which we’ll see later.

The idea that God was more than one individual or power was uniquely Jewish and caused a lot of famous (back then) theorizing of how their ONE GOD could be two.  It was a generally well-understood property of YHWH that He was a multi-personal being.

Jewish rabbis certainly wouldn’t say this now, for obvious reasons.  According to scholar Alan Segal in his book Two Powers in Heaven, he claims that, “The idea of the 2nd power was not considered heretical [to Jews] until the 2nd century AD.”  That’s after Jesus claimed to be that second YHWH, died, and rose again! The rabbis had to do something, I suppose, given that thousands of Jews at a time were converting to Christianity after Jesus’ death and resurrection.  The rabbis even changed the Jewish calendar so that Jesus’ death wouldn’t fulfill a prophecy in Daniel that proved He was the Jewish Messiah (a whole different article I’ll have to do some time! The change is chronicled in the Seder Olam, a Jewish text from around 160 AD).

This Two Powers thing sounds crazy, but there are many Old Testament examples that we tend to skim right over.

2. The word elohim is interesting.

Elohim in Hebrew is generally translated to English as ‘god.’  It is used just like in English to describe “spirit beings.”  For instance, we might say that Elohim (God) called all His elohim (gods) together to tell them that He’s going to punish them for leading the Gentiles astray.  (btw, that’s Psalms 82 and 89, if you’re interested).  This is why when the Hebrew authors of the Scriptures want to talk about YHWH as a spiritual being, they’ll use the two terms together so you know Who they’re talking about (YHWH elohim, for instance, or another term like El Elyon (Most High God)).  El is another generic term for ‘god,’ or ‘God.’

But the interesting thing is that, regardless of whether you grammatically refer to a singular entity or multiple spirit beings, the word elohim itself is always plural (kinda similar to deer or sheep in English).  So the multi-personal aspect of YHWH is already built into the language, and therefore the minds and theology, of Hebrews from the very beginning.

3.  Genesis 19:24 – Who Called the Fire from Heaven?

In Genesis 18, the LORD (Yahweh, Jahovah, YHWH… depends on the rendering of your Bible version) and two other angels visit Abraham and eat a meal with him.  They discuss the fact that Sarah will become pregnant and then the other two angels leave while the LORD discusses the ‘cities of the plain’ and their sin.  He tells Abraham that He will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of the terrible things they are doing.  Abraham knows his nephew, Lot, and his family are down there, so he discusses with the LORD about whether He’ll spare the city for the sake of any innocents that are within their walls.

In Genesis 19, Lot and his family are rescued by God.  Then we come to verse 24.

“Then the LORD [YHWH] rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD [YHWH] out of heaven…” (King James Version, Gen 19:24a)

Now, while this may seem awkward, and may seem like a small thing, it’s actually a huge deal if you study the Hebrew grammar.  The structure of this phrase is deliberate.  You have two clear individuals that share a Name, and therefore a Nature, working together to accomplish a task.  These two communicate and interact.  Yet they are both the sovereign God of Israel.

And it’s not a mistake, as we’ll see in #4…

4.  Amos 4:11 – 1st and 3rd Person!

Amos, the prophet, is giving warning to the rich and powerful Samaritans concerning their greed and treachery toward their poor, needy, and thirsty serfs.  He calls them “the kine of Bashan,” which were a breed of stubborn and strong cattle.  God had already disciplined them and pleaded with them to turn from their ways (“… yet you have not returned unto me…” over and over again) despite His signs.  Hence calling them stubborn cows.

Amidst all this, we arrive at verse 11.  Amos is recording YHWH speaking to the Samaritans.  He says,

“I have overthrown some of you, as God [Elohim] overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning…” (King James Version)

Now, as we saw in #3, the only person credited with destroying Sodom and Gomorrah is YHWH (Genesis 19:24).  And the grammar in Amos 4:11 is no accident.  YHWH (through Amos the prophet) is referring to YHWH both in the 1st AND the 3rd person! If you’re not reading this critically, you would miss it, but Jewish teachers for hundreds and now thousands of years knew of these these and other passages and their significance.

5.  Genesis 48:14-16 – Even Jacob Understood!

As the previous two verses illustrate, there was an understanding of the Jewish writers of the Old Testament scriptures concerning the identity of the individual who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.  As we’ll see here, this understanding was illustrated in other ways.

The Angel of the Lord (malak YHWH) makes several appearances in scripture, and though some of them are ‘just’ messengers of God doing errands, there’s one Angel that seems to be identified directly with YHWH… as YHWH Himself!

Jacob understood this, and was so comfortable with it, that as he was blessing Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh on his deathbed as progenitors of future tribes of Israel, he makes the following prayer to God:

“…God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads…” (King James Version, Gen. 48:15b-16a)

Jacob addresses God point-blank as “The Angel,” the one who wrestled him in Genesis 32! Jacob was comfortable enough with the knowledge that the Angel was YHWH that he’d address Him as such in a public prayer in front of his family, but not only that, he acknowledged that his redemption comes from The Angel specifically!

Many of these theophanies (or appearances of the second person of the Trinity in the Old Testament) are sprinkled throughout the OT, but this acknowledgement of His redeemer status all the way back in Genesis strikes me.  Even Jacob understands that the “Second Power in Heaven” (whom Christians will later identify as Jesus Christ) is the one who saves him.

For part 2, see 5 (More) Nuggets about the Jewish Trinity.  Thanks!

If you found this information interesting, check out The Unseen Realm by Dr. Michael Heiser.  You can also watch his series of lectures on “The Jewish Trinity,” which much of this topic is pulled from, here.  Enjoy!!  

Lastly, the image is the Hebrew of Deuteronomy 6:4, or The Shema, which is often said as a prayer by the Jews all around the world.

The Prodigal Student

Psalm 27:14 says to wait for the Lord, that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Well, last night, I got a wonderful example of what this means.

Years ago, one of my favorite (not that I have favorites… teachers don’t do that, bruh ;0)) students graduated.  We’ll call her Violet.  Violet had been through some tough circumstances as she grew up.  Her father left when she was young and her mother passed away during band camp her senior year.  My wife and I, along with a few of her closest friends, went and sat with her outside of the hospice facility late into the night after her mom passed, talking and laughing and crying and figuring out what was next.

Violet even came to camp the next day for a few hours.  I asked her, “Why are you here?”  And she said, “You guys are the only family I have, now.”

Anyway, she graduated with big plans for her life.  She was an amazing singer and played guitar very well.  Violet was going to open a cafe one day and have open mic nights so that people like her could have a place to perform.  She was going to go to school for business and perform all kinds of music with all kinds of people and it was going to be great! She was going to conquer the world.

Violet got several jobs locally, mostly waiting tables, not because that was all what she find but also because that’s the smart thing to do if you’re going to open a restaurant one day.  Violet started looking into some classes at the local community college.  She was staying with one of her mom’s friends and their family and it was going well.

But things started to unravel.

Turns out, staying with people with their own families and their own problems is difficult over time.  So Violet relocated to a different house with a friend.  That didn’t work out, either.

Meanwhile she’d reconnected with her dad, which caused another level of stress and heartache.  He lives up north, and though he maintained contact with her after her mom died, he didn’t provide much in the way of emotional support.  After all, he had his own family that he had to care for now, too.

All these people in her life had families, none of which she felt a part.

Meanwhile, the new friends she was making at her job were not as… wholesome… as I would have liked.  Her evening activities were becoming less and less focused on her goals and more focused on other things.  Her old friends from high school that I keep in touch with told me what was going on, but eventually they didn’t know, either.  Violet’d stopped talking to them, too.

After a couple years of this, she up and moved without telling anyone.  She headed for other part of the US with a boy she’d fallen in love with.  He was pretty cool; I met him once.  It was sudden and sad, but it was kind of exciting for those of us who care for her.  Maybe getting out of her current situation and trying out her wings would help her finally make it, realizing her dreams or even making some new ones.

My wife and I watched all of this from the tables of the restaurant that Violet had worked at for so long.

When she got the job not long after graduation, we tried to go once a week to visit.  We’d go and request her table, and she’d sit and chat with us if she wasn’t busy.  Even when we didn’t get her table, she’d always come over and say hi.  She was kind to our kids and always seemed to be smiling and having a good time.

Then we went to the restaurant one day and she wasn’t there.  She’d left with her boyfriend, as I mentioned.

And she was gone for a while…  until she came back.

My wife and I saw her at the same restaurant one night.  Apparently they had given her her job back.  We were shocked! We hadn’t seen her in a long time.  We made some attempts to get her attention, but she didn’t make eye contact.  We didn’t know what to do, since we weren’t sure if we had upset her in some way or not.  She didn’t answer our texts and calls welcoming her back, asking how she was.  Eventually we stopped reaching out, giving her space and patiently hoping and praying that the relationship could be restored.  Psalms 27, remember.  🙂

That was about two years ago that Violet came back.  Then last night happened.

My little family rolled up into the parking lot of that same restaurant.  The parking lot was full, so my wife parked the car while I ran inside to see how long the wait was.  And it was pretty full… so I asked the hostess how long the wait was.

“No wait.  How many?”

“Four, please.”

She took me back to the table.  I sat down and called my wife letting her know we had a table.

I put my phone down and looked up.  I saw Violet coming over.  We were at her table! We hadn’t been at her table in years! I had a moment of panic.  What was she going to do? Would this be awkward beyond belief?

She stopped.  “Is it okay to hug?” she said.

“Of course!!” I said, jumping out of my chair.

My fears melted away.  She apologized for being so standoffish.  She was embarrassed for the choices she’d made and was worried about how my wife and I would react.  I told her that she never had to worry about that with us, that we would always be there for her.  We both smiled and laughed and she sat down for a second but then my wife and kids came in.  Violet jumped back up and hugged my wife and then said hi to our kids.  My oldest girl didn’t remember her, and was shy… I think that hurt most of all… she used to love Violet and would ask about her all the time.

So we stayed, we ordered, we ate.  Though it was pretty busy, Violet came over a lot.  She mostly made small talk with my oldest daughter, making faces, noises, silly jokes… it was awesome.  We stayed way longer than we usually do.  The dinner rush died down and Violet spent more time with us.  It was lovely.

At the end of dinner, we put on our coats.  Violet came out and gave us her new phone number (ahhh, so that explains all the unanswered texts over the years! :-)) and hugged us goodbye.  My oldest daughter gave her a ferocious hug, as she does, and even our adorable bundled-up two-year-old tottered over to Violet with arms outstretched.  Violet told us she was “gettin’ it togetha” and would stay in touch.  She missed us and loved us.  We said the same.

As I walked out to the car, fighting back tears, my heart full, I couldn’t help but thank God for all that He’s done for me.  He’s allowed me to maintain relationships with my students long after they leave me.  The impact that we teachers have on our students goes far beyond what we see in the classroom.  It’s like having hundreds of surrogate sons and daughters that go out into the world each year, some of whom I’ll never see again.

And this all reminded me of the prodigal son from Luke 15.  The father, whose son leaves the house and blows his entire inheritance, waits on the porch for him to return.  And when that son comes back, the father runs out to meet him.  The son, crying and begging for forgiveness, is cut off by the father, who is exuberant and immediately prepares a feast for his son.  It didn’t matter to him that his son blew everything he had and made terrible decisions.  He loved him and he was home… and that’s what mattered.

So I’m excited to see our relationship with Violet restored.   And I’m hopeful that she will turn her life around and that she’ll do amazing things.  Because she can.  This young woman can do anything.  And my wife and I will stand by her no matter what.  Because that’s what we ought to do.

Wait for the Lord, and see what goodness He will do in this life.

If you liked the photo, visit His Light Media Productions.

let not your heart be troubled