Not so long ago I was invited by the University of Wales Bangor to one of its graduation ceremonies. Present in the imposing main hall of the University, and about to receive their degrees, were hundreds of graduands from a number of the University's various faculties.
In his address to the gathered assembly the Vice-Chancellor of the University spoke about changes that would occur during their professional careers.
He talked about things that had not as yet been discovered in all kinds of fields, and how difficult it is to foresee the long term effects of things that will be discovered or invented in the future.
He gave an example of this by quoting what Alexander Graham Bell said after he had invented the telephone some years after emigrating from his native Scotland to Canada and later to America. The professor said, "Alexander Graham Bell, when he invented the telephone in 1876 stated:
'I do not think I'm exaggerating the possibilities of this new invention ...when I tell you that it is my firm belief that one day there will be a telephone in every major town in America' ".
As one who worked for the Engineering Department of the General Post Office, and later its privatized successor British Telecom, for thirty years, what was said by the Vice-Chancellor was, naturally, of interest to me
After all, without the invention of Alexander Graham Bell my career would have been in a totally different field.
After considering what Alexander Graham Bell had said regarding his invention, along with what I already knew about the background of the man and the telephone, three things came to my mind.
Firstly - and this is not unusual with inventors and researchers in various fields - the telephone to all intents and purposes came into existence by chance or by accident.
You will recall another famous Alexander from Scotland, I'm sure, Alexander Fleming, who discovered Penicillin, accidentally, in 1928.
But coming back to Alexander Graham Bell, the early part of his career was devoted to helping people, such as his mother and his wife, who were profoundly deaf, to comprehend by various means what was being said through the sounds of normal speech. And it was his work in this field, especially one of his inventions to help the deaf visualize sound, which evolved into what we now know as the telephone.
Secondly, Alexander Graham Bell had a very limited vision for his new invention. He had not grasped at all the enormous potential his device had: Only one telephone, one day, in the major town (only) in America.
Alexander Fleming, also, had concluded after some time of experimenting with Penicillin that it would not be important in treating infection. In fact, by 1940 Fleming had abandoned Penicillin, and it was left to others to carry on with further research work and the mass-production of this wonder drug as it has been called.
And thirdly, the telephone is still developing, with mobile or cell phones in particular offering all kinds of technical facilities that would astonish Alexander Graham Bell. And it is a fact that no one, even today, knows where the journey will end as far as these remarkable gadgets are concerned.
Given these three observations, what can we say about the most complex device that has come into existence on earth, and also its inventor? That is, if we can use such terms as device and inventor for humanity and our Creator.
First, we must ask this question: Did humankind come into existence by chance or by accident?
Well, if you asked this question to Professor Richard Dawkins, the famous evolutionary biologist, who is also a very dogmatic and strident atheist, you would get the answer: 'yes' and 'no'. 'Yes' in the sense that everything has come into being following the 'Big Bang', accidentally to all intents and purposes, billions of years ago, and nobody can explain what caused that initial explosion.
It certainly wasn't God as far as Dawkins is concerned as a belief in such a view in his opinion is nothing but irrational, superstitious nonsense.
Then 'No', when one considers the coming into being of mankind out of the first elementary life form that came into existence on this planet out of non-living matter almost four billion years ago, and some ten billion years after the Big Bang, if we accept the latest theory on these issues.
Dawkins is a firm believer in Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, and this is what an article on his views says:
"Dawkins shares the view generally held by scientists that natural selection is sufficient to explain the apparent functionality and non-random complexity of the biological world, and can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, albeit as an automatic, non-intelligent, blind watchmaker."
Therefore, he does believe that mankind had a maker which operated in accord with a natural order, but this maker possessed neither life nor intelligence.
Our maker, according to Dawkins, is merely a blind, non-intelligent, automatic process. Not all scientists who accept Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, of course, agree with Dawkins in this regard. Many do believe that God himself was the First Cause behind the 'Big Bang', and that he intervened again in the process of evolution by breathing a living soul into an evolved homosapien.
This would have happened either some 200,000 years ago, the date given for modern humans in terms of anatomy, or around 50,000 years ago when the transition to behavioural modernity with the development of symbolic culture, language, and specialized lithic technology occurred, although some suggest a gradual change in behaviour over a longer time span. (Human Evolution- Wikipedia 15/5/13)
Their view of the first chapters of Genesis is that they contain profound truths, but not literal truths, They can therefore claim that neither the universe nor humankind were accidents but were planned by God himself.
This of course is true from a Scriptural point of view, but there is no necessity whatever for Christians to swallow lock, stock and barrel unproven and unprovable explanations as to how and when the universe came into existence, and how and when humankind first appeared on this earth.
If believers only had an accurate translation of the Scriptures, and using a pattern of sound words, they would not have to struggle to reconcile scientific theories to what the inspired Word of God actually says. And they could confidently accept the Genesis account of creation, as it does allow for the earth to be very old, for there was a period of time - perhaps lasting millions of years - between the original creation of the heavens and the earth as given in Genesis 1, verse 1, and the chaos and darkness mentioned in verse 2.
However, as to living things coming into existence out of non-living material, not only is this contrary to the law of biogenesis (attributed to Louis Pasteur), which states that "life only comes from life", but we can also add Pasteur's further comments, following the results of his scientific experiments in 1864 (five years after Darwin published his theory), that
"spontaneous generation is a dream" (Spontaneous generation - Wikipedia 16/5/13).
However, I'm afraid that our schoolchildren are asked to believe this fairytale as more and more school books are now claiming that there once was an exception to this basic principle of science; that a first living cell came about as very complex chemicals evolved and formed life without the help of a Creator. The scientific term for this is abiogenesis.
They are further taught that over a period of roughly three and a half billion years, this one cell evolved into intelligent man. What an insult to God this really is, and to His Word which says that "All is out of Him" (Romans 11:36), the living God.
Beyond this, the Scriptures says that God has a purpose for His entire creation, something that you really cannot find in the evolutionary theory, and that He is
"operating all in accord with the counsel of His will",
as Paul says in Ephesians, chapter 1, verse 11. And what is God's will for humanity? The answer is
"our Saviour God ... wills that all mankind be saved and come into a realization of the truth"
(1 Tim. 2, verse 4).
But before mankind is saved we have to be justified (Romans 5:18) and reconciled to God (Colossians 1:20). This is only possible through the peace that was made through the blood of Christ's cross (Colossians 1:20) - the precious blood of Christ, which was foreknown of God before the disruption of the world, as Peter says in his first letter, verse 20.
This being so, mankind could not have been an accident or come into existence by chance, otherwise there would not have been any reason for God to have any foreknowledge of the means by which He was going to accomplish something on behalf of mankind in the future, if the creation of mankind had no part in His overall purpose for the whole of creation.
Therefore, our first question is more than adequately dealt with in Scripture: mankind was by no means an accident.
The second point I made was to highlight the fact that Alexander Graham Bell failed to appreciate the potential of what he had devised and created.
In fact, in retrospect, Bell considered his most famous invention an intrusion on his real work as a scientist and refused to have a telephone in his study.
What about our Creator? Did he fully understand when he created humanity what exactly he had brought into being, considering that in a very short time he also banished Adam and Eve from the Garden in Eden? Was man an intrusion on God's real work, or what?
Well, since we have already established the fact that mankind was not created accidentally, we also need to understand that God's purpose is being worked out in a way which is quite different to how mankind operates. We are all familiar with those words in the Book of Isaiah, chapter 55, verses 8 and 9, where we are told something that we need to constantly bear in mind when considering the operations of God:
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts." (NKJV)
Earlier, I said that the precious blood of Christ was foreknown of God before the disruption of the world, but let us note that the Lamb was slain from the disruption of the world, and not from the moment of Adam's transgression (for this see 1 Peter 1, verse 20, and Revelation 13: 8).
In other words the Lamb was slain proleptically or anticipatory from the disruption; and in actuality, of course, at Golgotha. (God's Celestial Purpose by John Essex, p.13) This being so, the banishment of mankind from Paradise was in accordance with God's plan, and the moment Adam transgressed the dying process began in his body and we have all inherited from him this bodily corruption which accounts for our sinning and our death.
Well, someone will say: Is not man's ways in that case better than God's, in that when mankind invents or creates something, he further develops it to make it even better?
This has been the case with all kinds of human inventions from the telephone itself to aeroplanes to powerful computers, and so on. It is true to say that mankind has been very successful in discovering, creating and developing things that have been of great benefit to mankind.
This shows us that humanity is still unique on earth in that within the limitations placed upon him by God since his banishment from the garden in Eden, and in his corrupt state, he still has extensive creative abilities which are God-like and are lacking in all other earthly creatures.
However, man cannot confine himself to just inventing and creating good things. No, with the good comes the evil inventions too, a direct result of the knowledge that Adam gained from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And, whilst none of us can resist making use of the knowledge of evil to some extent for our own selfish purposes, many however down the centuries have gone to horrific extremes.
I'll never forget my visit to the York Dungeon some years ago and seeing the devilish equipment invented by man to torture his fellow human beings. Of course, many may argue that this is sufficient reason to conclude that there is no loving God, for how could such a being allow such evil? With others saying that God is similar to Alexander Fleming, in that he brought mankind into existence but now lacks the ability to take his creation on to perfection.
Whilst, on a human level, we can understand what is being said, the truth however is that knowledge of good and evil is in accord with the counsel of God's will.
Allow me to read to you a small portion of what A.E. Knoch says in an article he wrote carrying the title "The First Offence" (UR, volume 92, number 5; September, 2001).
"The knowledge of good is one of our most precious assets. What a dreary life we would live if we appreciated nothing that is given us, and were utterly devoid of thankfulness! "A few spoiled children are like that to some extent, and are a trouble to themselves and a trial to others. "This [the wish that Adam had not sinned] might have resulted in endless misery, not only for the race, but for the Creator Himself. How valuable, therefore, is the knowledge of evil! "It may not be pleasant or prized for itself, but it is the essential prelude to the enjoyment of good and the worship of the Supreme. "Good, by itself, cannot be appreciated unless contrasted with evil".
Therefore, in response to the question: Was man an intrusion on God's real work? The answer is quite clear, God's work and purpose centres on man, especially One, and He is in full control of where humanity is headin.
And this leads us to the last point I made. That is, nobody, even today, 137 years after the telephone was invented, knows where the journey will end for this device, especially the remarkable mobile or cellular versions.
Therefore, the question in terms of humanity and our Creator is this: Is man's present condition his final condition, and, if not, does God know what his final condition will be and when this will be realised? There is a natural curiosity in man to know the future and his place in it - all the science fiction books and the films being made on this theme being a confirmation of this.
Even the disciples of Jesus wanted to know when the conclusion of this eon would be and the realisation of the kingdom. "Tell us", they said to Jesus, "when will these things be? And what is the sign of Thy presence and of the conclusion of the eon?" (Matthew 24:3)
Jesus gave them a prophetic outline of events to come before the kingdom is established, and based on what he said to them, they expected his coming to Israel to be in that generation.
They were not to know that due to Israel's unbelief and the setting up of the present secret administration of God's grace, that the signs would be for a future time.
Jesus himself at that time did not know the day and hour of his coming again, but he did reassure them that the Father knows (verse 36).
Therefore, God does have a timetable for the plan he has set in motion from the beginning, not only in relation to Israel, but also the present ecclesia, and mankind in general. This plan includes the whole of creation, and God is not unaware of its final outcome. In fact the final outcome is what he has purposed from the beginning, and it will not fail. Do you recall these words from Isaiah, chapter 46, verses 9 and 10:
Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, I make known the end from the beginning, From ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please." (NIV)
Yes, God knows when the secret administration of grace will come to an end. It will come when all who were chosen are called out of the nations (Romans 11, verse 25)
Only a few, comparatively, are being saved among the nations at this time, but when Israel again regains its proper place, all Israel shall be saved.
"Then the whole nation, from the least to the greatest, will know God. And they will become the light of the world, as they were always intended to be" (a quotation from the Concordant Commentary of the New Testament, p.242).
As for the few out of the nations and believing Jews in this administration of grace - i.e., the present ecclesia, we have a celestial destiny which will be realised when Christ Jesus descends from heaven with the trumpet of God (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
As for our present corrupted bodies, they will be changed and will enjoy incorruption and deathlessness. We will have glorified bodies corresponding to that of Christ himself.
What an improvement God has in mind for us; but there was a need for us to have our present bodies of humiliation in order that we can fully enjoy and appreciate what God always intended for us.
As for the rest of mankind, after Christ returns to the Mount of Olives, as promised in Zechariah, chapter 14, verse 4, and repeated in the first chapter of the Book of Acts, verse 11, God has already planned two further eons.
The first will last a thousand years, but there is no length given to the final one which is to be enjoyed on the new earth. Those who are Christ's will not die during the thousand years, but there will be a judgment at its close for all the dead who have not believed in Christ.
They will all receive their just deserts, according to their acts, and as all fall short of God's standard, they will die again.
In the final eon, when God himself will be dwelling amongst his earthly creatures, there will be no more death, as all humanity will at that time be reconciled to God.
Although no length is given to this eon, it will also come to a close, as all eons by definition have a beginning and an end. They relate to time and not to eternity. However, this eon leads us to the consummation spoken of by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthian ecclesia, chapter 15:22-28. Here Paul says that death is to be abolished.
The only death that could be in view here is the second death. Therefore, even those who have been judged and died again will be brought back to life at the consummation, for by this time all enmity towards God will have ceased and all humanity and the whole of creation will have been reconciled to God.
All of humanity will then have glorified, incorruptible and immortal bodies, and God will have accomplished the purpose he had from the very beginning; that is of being at peace and in a loving relationship with all his created beings.
"My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please".
And what pleases the God of love and the God of mercy more than anything, through His untraceable ways, is to guide all His creatures so that, eventually, He will become their All (1 Corinthians15:28). To Him, therefore, be the glory for the eons! Amen! (Romans 11: 36)
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