Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A Conversation With An Atheist

Recently, I had a conversation with a self-professing atheist; let's call him, "Tom." As best I could tell from his profile, he is a medical doctor & if not, then at least very knowledgeable about biology, chemistry & anatomy. He joined a Christian forum that I am a member of where we often discuss creation science & how it glorifies God. He started posting & commenting there. He was very mannerly & seemingly kind but the purpose of his posts was to cast doubt on the existence of God, creation science & the veracity of the Bible. Many Christians on the forum were arguing science with him. Of course, this usually goes nowhere because the Christian will appeal to his version of the science & the atheist will appeal to his. The atheist often believes "creation science" is a pseudo-science & not even worth his time investigating.

I am nowhere near as educated as Tom. But the advantage I have (& every Christian has) is that we know God. Tom doesn't. He has denied God & actively suppresses the truth.

I've spent a fair amount of time attempting to witness to atheists & agnostics as well as encouraging my siblings in Christ to do the same. Most Christians are afraid of the Ph.D. atheists that are openly critical of Christianity. They think they are not smart enough to witness to such folks. They usually want to leave that up to other more educated believers. But this is not necessary. If you witness to an atheist the way the Bible instructs you to, it is not difficult & you do not have to be an expert in any field of science. Just a good dose of common sense will do; the common sense God gave you already.

I used to spend my time studying the sciences in order to prepare myself for witnessing to atheists. I would throw scientific pieces of evidence at the atheist (who are most often evolutionists) to show the Bible is accurate. These conversations are usually very long & difficult. They can get extremely technical & I've never had them go anywhere. I usually just got frustrated with having no success & would complain to God about it. I asked Him how this could be done? How can a man as uneducated as me, bear witness of the truth to seemingly very intelligent people who deny the existence of God?

It dawned on me. When we give evidence to someone we are asking them to take the facts & make a judgment call. Who do we give evidence to in a court of law? Answer: the judge. That answer made me take a step back. I was inadvertently putting God on trial (like I didn't believe in Him myself) & handing evidence to the professing unbeliever, making them judge over God! Yikes!

With that in mind read this passage of Scripture:
But God shows His anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because He has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities -- His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Yes, the knew God, but they wouldn't worship Him as God or even give Him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools... Romans 1:18-22
 According to this passage, no one needs proof of God's existence. Why? Because "He has made it obvious to them." In fact, it says that God has done such a good job at making it obvious, that "they have no excuse for not knowing God." So if God has already made Himself obvious to them & they have no excuse, then they will be held accountable by God for what He has shown them & what they deny. This also means it is not my job to prove the existence of God, nor prove who He is. Why? Because He's already done that part.

I'd been doing it wrong. So I asked Him how to witness to an atheist. First He pointed out to me that atheists are Biblical fools:
The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good. Psalm 14:1
OK. So how do you witness to a fool? He gave me this:
 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. Proverbs 26:4-5
I used to think this just showed it was vain to argue with a fool. But instead, God is telling us how to witness to a fool (i.e. an atheist is a type of Biblical fool). God is saying not to start where the fool starts, nor reason as he reasons, lest you become like a fool too. Instead, we should hypothetically use the fool's starting point & reasoning to show how it ends in absurdity. This will expose his foolishness.

Here is the conversation. A few other Christians on the forum participated. One of them posted an article on the amazing complexity of energy in the living cell.

CHRISTIAN#1: I would be interested in Tom's take on this.

ME: Me too. You should do one on the ATP synthase motor itself. It is most certainly a chicken-egg problem as well as irreducibly complex.

TOM: Can't read this right now but I will say that eggs existed for millions of years before chickens did.

CHRISTIAN#1: checkmate. I fold :)

ME: Tom, that is false. God created chickens only thousands of years ago. He was eyewitness. He told us the truth.

TOM: Do we have any reasons for believing that? And, Greg, Nope. :P The two subunits that joined to create ATP synthase were both fully functional on their own beforehand. One was a DNA helicase and the other was a proton-powered motor like those that are part of bacterial flagella.

ME: Tom, yes, I do have reasons. Absolute truth.

TOM: So you have concluded that it is absolutely true that a specific deity specially created a specific subspecies of a specific species of junglefowl AND that this deity told "us" about this. That is fascinating. How did you arrive at such a conclusion?

ME: I said no such thing. God created birds. He created all things. This is something He has also shown you, which you actively suppress.

TOM: You you didn't actually mean that God specially created chickens themselves? Gotcha. I apologize for taking you too literally. I'm still interested to hear how you concluded this god created birds in general, though. You've also just upped the ante by claiming that he showed me this and that I am actively suppressing it (not sure what that means, exactly). Do I have amnesia? When was I shown this?

ME: God said He has made known His existence to every person through the things He created. Not only that, but He has shown you His nature as well. He has done this to such a degree that you will be held accountable for this knowledge. When you decided you didn't want Him in your knowledge then you suppressed this revelation and now you actively campaign against Him to justify your unbelief. Give me one proof that God does not exist and that molecules-to-man evolution has occurred. Just one thing that's not based on made-up stuff.

TOM: This god said and did all that? Where? When? And I never said that your 'no gods' exist, Greg. I don't believe that. I will positively say that "molecules-to-man" evolution indeed has never occurred because that concept doesn't make any sense. Evolution is a function of biodiversity. It only deals with living organisms.

ME: Does God exist?

TOM: Which one? Yahweh? El? I don't believe so. There's no evidence to that effect. Evidence actually indicates the opposite. A vague deistic or theistic concept of a god is of course, not associated with any such evidence. In short, I have no idea whether or not any gods exist. Nobody does. I think it very likely that specific gods do not exist, however (Thoth, Anubis, Hera, Zeus, Yahweh, Ba'al, Mithras, Poseidon, Hades, El, Amun, etc.).

ME: You are being coy. The God of the Bible. This is a Christian forum. The Almighty God. The Creator of all things. The One who has revealed Himself to you. The One who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ.

TOM: Which god of the Bible? There are more than one. And I'm still waiting to hear when I was supposed to have met had this being revealed to me.

ME: Do you believe in Him?

TOM: Who?

ME: See above.

TOM: Both Yahweh and El are identified in the Bible in different places as the supreme god over other gods. I'm just asking for clarification.

ME: I don't believe you are because it won't change your answer. The Bible reveals one God. Elohim, El-Shaddai, El-Elyon, YHWH, etc. Please stop being coy. Surely you are not on a Christian forum and yet ignorant of Christianity.

TOM: El and Yahweh were considered to be different gods at one point. See Deuteronomy 32:8-9. "When Elyon apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the gods; Yahweh's own portion was his people, Jacob his allotted share." It states plainly that El divided up people into nations according to how many gods there were (we know from other Ancient Near Eastern sources that this refers to his seventy sons). Israel is stated to be the nation that Yahweh was given.

ME: You are incorrect. But that's understandable since you deny God, you will also, therefore, be unable to understand the Bible. But you said you didn't know if any gods exist and that no one does. That's an absolute knowledge claim. How do you know that no one knows if God exists or not?

TOM: What am I incorrect about? You're asking how I know that nobody knows something? Okay, fine. Maybe somebody has some kind of secret knowledge they haven't shared with the rest of us or are simply unable to demonstrate. I amend my statement to "No evidence has ever been presented to the world suggesting anyone knows whether gods exist".

ME: You made another absolute knowledge claim. How do you know no evidence has ever been presented?

TOM: If such evidence had ever been presented to the world then I could Google it in a heartbeat. This is like me asking you to prove that nobody has ever presented evidence for the existence of orcs.

ME: You keep making absolute knowledge claims, Tom, but you have no way of knowing the things you say. How do you get truth without God? BTW, orcs don't exist.

TOM: What does the existence or nonexistence of any god have to do with our ability to understand what is true?

ME: Well you keep making absolute knowledge claims about how no one knows, or no evidence has ever been presented, etc. I just wanted to know how YOU get truth without God. I know how I get truth. I'm asking you how YOU know truth.

TOM: We arrive at what is true through objective observation. We apportion degrees of confidence to truth claims based on the quality of that evidence.

ME: How do you evaluate the observation? Logic? Induction? How can you trust your senses? Are you infallible?

TOM: No, of course, I am not infallible. How can I trust my senses, though? Are you asking how I don't know whether I'm in the Matrix or something like that? I don't. I can only assume that I'm not, but can through independent verification, demonstrate that my senses are reliable within the context of the world I inhabit, even if that world is a computer simulation. I'll ask you the same question. How do you know that your senses are reliable?

ME: So you don't know that you're not in the Matrix?

TOM: No, of course, I can't know that for certain. Neither can you.

ME: There you go again making absolute knowledge claims. I know absolutely that I'm not in the Matrix and I know absolutely that neither are you. But you don't by your own admission. You have given up knowledge. Why would you expect anybody here to ever take you seriously as you cast doubt on our God's existence or that evolution is true or that the Bible says this or that when by your own admission you may be a brain in a vat?

TOM: That's right. Because there is absolutely no way you could know that unless you are truly omniscient. Under every possible circumstance, you would only have your own experiences and could never prove that they weren't part of a simulation. Please explain how you could possibly know that you are not in the Matrix.

ME: I'm not omniscient but God is. God reveals truth. You asked earlier what belief in God has to do with our ability to know what is true. You just answered your own question. Because without God you can't know anything at all. Why? Because you are not omniscient.

TOM: And how do you know that the "truth" revealed to you is not just part of the simulation?

ME: Because God revealed it. The exact same way you know it (but actively suppress it). The all-knowing God is my presupposition. And then I discover that that presupposition works perfectly. Everything else ends in absurdity... Like not being able to know you are not a brain in a vat, for example.

TOM: I'm asking how you know that God revealing something to you is not part of the simulation, Greg. It's like you didn't even read my comment.

ME: I answered you. Are you now telling me that it is absolutely impossible for God to reveal absolute truth?

TOM: No, Greg. I never said anything like that. Nor have you told me how you know that God revealing something to you (through the Bible, an email, a fuzzy feeling, a dream, etc.) is not part of the simulation.

ME: I'll tell you again. In my worldview God reveals truth. That's how you know truth. That's how I know truth. I don't know how God does it. I just know He does. Do you not know what a presupposition is? God reveals Himself to ANYONE that humbles themselves. You can know Him too. And have absolute certainty that you are not a brain in a vat. In fact, He'll reveal to you that you are greatly loved and a creature of incredible value, beauty, and talent. Submit to Him on your knees tonight and you will find a peace that passes understanding like every Christian on this forum has. I've given you a way for you to actually experience HOW I know some things absolutely. You, on the other hand, have given up knowledge completely not even being able to discern whether you are a brain in a vat or not.

TOM: Do you understand the concept of circular reasoning?

ME: Yes. You use it all the time. Do you understand presupposition?

TOM: Yes, obviously. I already told you that I presuppose that I'm not in the Matrix. Just like you do. And just like you, although I presuppose that, I cannot be completely sure of it. That's why it is a presupposition. This is not hard to understand.

ME: I did not say I presupposed I was not a brain in a vat. I said I know absolutely I'm not a brain in a vat. So I beg your pardon, it is not just like you. So I ask you again, how do you get ANY truth without God? You have given up knowledge.

TOM: Holy crap, dude. The same way that you do. We arrive at what is true through objective observation. We apportion degrees of confidence to truth claims based on the quality of that evidence.

ME: Not true. You have not arrived at anything that is true because you aren't omniscient. You only have a degree of certainty. But you can't know how much certainty because, well, you aren't omniscient. You don't know how much you don't know. Is it possible that you could learn one more thing that could overthrow everything you think you know?

TOM: I have to be omniscient to know anything...??? I know with absolute certainty that 2+5=7. Nothing could make me not know that. Do you agree?

ME: I'm using YOUR worldview. You don't know your not a brain in a vat. So how do you know 100% that math works like you think? How do you know you're not crazy? Or mistaken? You don't. Not in your worldview. If you aren't omniscient then you could always learn one more thing. That one more thing could overthrow what you thought you knew. You said yourself, I would have to be omniscient to know I wasn't a brain in a vat. You keep making absolute knowledge claims without any way of knowing anything. Your epistemology is fatally flawed and viciously circular. You have given up knowledge. How did you come to the idea that knowledge is gained through objective observation? Did you objectively observe that object observation was the way to knowledge? Or is that just some arbitrarily chosen neural pathway in your evolved brain that you prefer?

TOM: Are you just messing with me? Math cannot work multiple ways. 2+5=7. Always. Even if the universe did not exist, two plus five would still equal seven. Please tell me you understand this.

ME: BTW, I'm getting sleepy so I'm going to bed. Thanks for the conversation. I hope you got something out of it. If you will humble yourself, God will prove many things to you. God bless you and good night. But... There you go making absolute knowledge claims again when you might be a brain in a vat. LOL... Good night, Tom.

TOM: Why would I not be able to make absolute knowledge claims if I was a brain in a vat? Are you even thinking about any of this or just reading from Sye or Eric's script?

CHRISTIAN#1: Very good, Greg. Tom's worldview can't allow for knowledge, yet he'll rant about his knowledge continually. And... He fails to understand this basic idea of logic.

TOM: Knowledge is a collection of facts one is aware of. I have a lot of knowledge about a lot of things. So what are you talking about? What do I misunderstand about logic?

ME: Yes, CHRISTIAN#1, it is like the atheist that says he has morals. Of course, he has morals. God even says so. But he has no way to justify why he has the ones he has except arbitrariness. By his own worldview, he is just arbitrarily telling us which neural pathways in his supposedly evolved brain he prefers. In the same manner, Tom makes knowledge claims without realizing he has undermined his own basis for any knowledge. He cannot discern, in his own words, any objective reality at all. He may be in a simulation! Totally absurd. But that's all you get when you kick God out of your knowledge. He will oblige you and let you live your absurd life filled with contradictions.

[At this point Tom posts what he thinks will throw doubt on Scripture regarding the scientific classification of insects. Other Christians initiate responses & then Tom & I begin talking again.

CHRISTIAN#1: Are you aware we don't and never have equated "kind" with "family"? We say they get close, but never an actual equivocation. So all you blew up is a strawman.

TOM: I have heard it repeated that "kind" roughly correlates to "family" most of the time. I'm not saying anyone has claimed a firm line in the sand there.

CHRISTIAN#1: Keyword: "ROUGHLY". Keep in mind that the current taxonomy is purely arbitrary. There is no actual scientific test for what should belong in a family or genus or phylum. It's just a grouping of how Carl Linnaeus saw fit to group them. Any other criteria would have been just as valid. The Biblical kind does have a scientific test: can it or is there documentation of them being able to breed together? If so, same kind. If not, they aren't.

TOM: Well, modern phylogenetics no longer uses those terms (family, phylum). Only domain, genus, and species still have any meaning.

CHRISTIAN#1: You are aware that the entire "tree of life" and Evolutionary common ancestry is built upon the previous classification chart right?

CHRISTIAN#2: Could be family. Could be down to the species or genus. Your total lack of understanding of creationism is appalling since you claim to have studied/ believed in it.

ME: Tom could be wrong about all this. He's not sure he's not plugged into the Matrix (his words, not mine).

CHRISTIAN#2: I know. As an atheist, there's no basis for logic and there's no reason to trust that your chemical reactions and neuronal discharges are reliable at all. Anything but the God of the Bible. His/ Her excuses for unbelief are hysterical and easily knocked down. But for someone whose desire is to reject Him, any reason is a good one even if it's stupid.

TOM: And you cannot be sure of that, either, Greg.

CHRISTIAN#2: ^haha. And we're supposed to take him seriously

TOM: Christian#2, how is there no basis for logic? I'm not sure I even follow what you mean by that? And when you talk about chemical actions in the brain are you asking how I know that the reality I perceive is actually real? I can't know that. I have to presuppose it, just like you and everyone else does as well.

ME: Tom says I can't be sure of that. How does he know?

TOM: Please just think about it, Greg. How could any individual in any kind of reality actually know for certain that they are not in a simulation? every single thing they could think of that might indicate their experience is actually real could always just be part of that simulation. You reading the Bible, you getting a warm fuzzy feeling you think is God, you having a dream about God... all of it might just be part of the Matrix. You would have no way of knowing. I understood this basic epistemology years ago when I was a Christian.

ME: Tom, if we give you evidence, how will you evaluate it? With the same sensory input that you admit yourself doesn't help you to know if you're plugged into the Matrix? Can you not see how your own worldview is absurd?

TOM: I can observe evidence in the context of the reality I inhabit, Greg, even if that reality is ultimately a computer simulation. Just like you can. This has nothing to do with my so-called "worldview". It is just the most basic of epistemological axioms. Nobody escapes it.

ME: You have no basis for knowing anything. You are nothing more than electrochemical reactions.

TOM: And neither do you... That doesn't mean we have no basis for knowing anything. We call this non-sequitur, my friend.

ME: Says you who could be a brain in a vat. You make absolute knowledge claims yet admit you have no basis for knowing they're true. Welcome to atheism... absurdity.

TOM: And you could be a brain in a vat as well! You have not given one single explanation for how you know you are not. And I have never said any such thing. I am perfectly capable of making absolute knowledge claims and knowing with 100% certainty that they are true. Here are some basic examples of things I am absolutely certain of: 1. I exist. 2. 1+1=2 3. There is no such thing as a square circle.

ME: Another absolute knowledge claim from someone who has no absolute knowledge of anything.

TOM: I have absolute knowledge of many things, which I have told you something like the twenty times now.

ME: Are you a brain in a vat or not?

TOM: I have no idea. How could I or anyone else possibly know that?

ME: I rest my case.

CHRISTIAN#3: Hi Tom, do you as an atheist believe that when you die you will "experience" "nothingness" or "deadness" if you will?

[At this point Tom posts an animated GIF of a man shrugging his shoulders... for me]

TOM: Christian#3, no, I don't believe that. I don't even know what "nothingness" or "deadness" is even supposed to mean.

CHRISTIAN#3: Tom, what do you believe you will experience at death?

TOM: The same thing I experienced thousands of years before I was born. I won't exist. Therefore it makes no sense to talk about me experiencing anything.

ME: Unless of course, you are wrong about that. Which, by your own admission, could be true. You have no way of knowing.

TOM: Unless I am wrong about what?? The fact that nobody can know whether or not they are not just a brain in a vat? No, I am not wrong about that and it is impossible for me to be wrong about that. For the hundredth time, please stop shamelessly lying about what I am saying.

ME: I'm not lying. I'm using your own words. You said I can't know I'm not a brain in a vat. That's an absolute knowledge claim. How do you know that? Are you omniscient? Infallible? And if you are neither then it is logically impossible for you to know whether I can know if I'm a brain in a vat or not.

TOM: You said, "You said I can't know I'm a brain in a vat. That's an absolute knowledge claim." Correct. You said, "How do you know that?" Because it is logically axiomatic. If you were a brain in a vat experiencing a highly-advanced simulation, you would have no way to tell. That's the whole idea of the hypothetical "brain in a vat" epistemological exercise. You said, "Are you omniscient? Infallible? And if you are neither then it is logically impossible for you to know whether I can know if I'm a brain in a vat or not." What...?! You're saying that if I don't know EVERYTHING then I can't know ANYTHING? Are you even thinking about the things you are saying?

ME: You said, "If you were a brain in a vat, experiencing a highly-advanced simulation, you would have no way to tell." How do you know that? You said, "You're saying that if I don't know EVERYTHING then I can't know ANYTHING?" That's what you indicated to me. Let's say I ask you if 2+2 always equals 5. Let's say, just for the sake of argument you answer, yes. You go through your entire life thinking that. Then suddenly you learn one thing more... you are a brain in a vat and the simulation was purposefully deceiving you the entire time. So because you spent your entire life in a simulation, you had no idea that 2+2 actually equaled 4 all the time. So logically you must be omniscient to know anything absolutely to a 100% accuracy. You would also have to be infallible. So, you don't know you're not a brain in a vat. You have zero basis for knowing ANYTHING. i.e. Your worldview is absurd.

TOM: You said, "You said, 'If you were a brain in a vat, experiencing a highly-advanced simulation, you would have no way to tell.' How do you know that?" Are you serious right now? BECAUSE THAT'S THE WHOLE FREAKING IDEA OF THE MATRIX/BRAIN IN A VAT HYPOTHETICAL. A manufactured reality that the inhabitants have no way of knowing is not actually real. You said, "You said, 'You're saying that if I don't know EVERYTHING then I can't know ANYTHING?' That's what you indicated to me." You are a liar. I never said anything remotely like that. You said, "Let's say I ask you if 2+2 always equals 5. Let's say, just for the sake of argument you answer, yes. You go through your entire life thinking that. Then suddenly you learn one thing more... you are a brain in a vat and the simulation was purposefully deceiving you the entire time. So because you spent your entire life in a simulation, you had no idea that 2+2 actually equaled 4 all the time." Two plus two equaling four has ****NOTHING**** to do with whether anyone is a brain in a vat or not. Even if the universe did not exist, two plus two would still equal four. Therefore it is *****NOT POSSIBLE***** for a simulation to deceive someone into thinking 2+2=5. Greg said, "So logically you must be omniscient to know anything absolutely to a 100% accuracy. You would also have to be infallible." NO. No no no no. Like I just said, 2+2=4. I can know that **FOR CERTAIN** even if I don't know everything. Get that through your skull. Holy crap, man.

ME: Did you not tell me I would have to be omniscient to know if I was a brain in a vat?

TOM: Yes! But I DID NOT SAY that you would have to be omniscient to know anything at all.

ME: But I do know I'm not a brain in a vat.

TOM: How do you know that?

ME: God reveals truth. He is omniscient. He is infallible. He says He created all things. He cannot lie.

TOM: Even if I were to accept that you literally saw God appear in front of you and verbally tell you a bunch of stuff, how would you know that wasn't just part of a simulation you're in?

ME: That's YOUR worldview, dude. I don't live in the absurd worldview you hold to.

TOM: I asked you a question, dude.

ME: I answered.

TOM: Umm.... No, you didn't? I asked specifically how you could know that your experience of having anything revealed by God wasn't part of a simulation.

ME: OK. I'll retype it. God reveals truth. He is omniscient. He is infallible. He says He created all things. He cannot lie. That's how I know.

[At this point Tom posts an animated GIF of the character Squidward (from Sponge Bob Square Pants) removing his brain and throwing it in the trash can]


ME: See above.

TOM: You are the most dishonest person I have ever met on the Internet. And I would have told you that as a Christian as well.

ME: How do you know what honesty is? You could be a brain in a vat.

TOM: How the heck would that affect my ability to know what honesty is????????

CHRISTIAN#2: Atheism is a self-refuting worldview. That's obvious.

ME: Tom, lather, rinse, repeat. Are you actually talking? Am I real? Is that a keyboard you are typing on? By your own admission, you don't know what is objectively real.

TOM: Christian#2, atheism is not a worldview. It is literally nothing more than the non-acceptance of any claims to the existence of gods. Greg, I cannot PROVE that my keyboard is real. Neither can you. That does not mean I cannot know anything, for the billionth time.

CHRISTIAN#2: Tom hates God and wants to spread that around. He's got no actual evidence-based rationale for that (although he'll say he does and give lame, totally explained for hundreds of years nonsensical reasons). He's delusional and can't even see how absurd his own worldview is (because that would require he change it). Tom, not a worldview? You must be joking.

TOM: Christian#2, what is absurd about my so-called "worldview"? Be specific. If I need to correct myself on anything, I want to do that.

CHRISTIAN#2: Right. It's been explained. Perhaps Greg was talking over your head.

ME: Tom says, "Neither can you." That's your world of absurdity, not mine. I know what's objectively real because God reveals truth. I happen to agree with Him. You don't. You'd rather accept the absurdity of possibly being in a simulation than accept the reality He has shown you. You have to suppress the truth in order to maintain your absurdity. That's why I keep pointing it out to you. We are not in the same boat. We don't have common starting points either. You hate God. I don't. You call Him a liar. I refuse to. It is actually very simple.

CHRISTIAN#2: Tom, Greg has taken you to school repeatedly and the funny thing is you have absolutely no idea.

CHRISTIAN#4: None so blind than he that refuses to see. Tom can't even see his own contradiction.

CHRISTIAN#3: Christian#4, yes and there really are no contradictions when one's source of authority/logic is subjectively based as is Tom's. I'll be praying for him

[Tom disappears.]

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Prevenient Grace For All People

When I tell a Calvinist that I believe in a prevenient grace (the grace of God that comes before regeneration or conversion) they are usually shocked simply because most of them are grossly unaware of what classical Arminians believe. The assumption is usually made that all Arminians are outright Pelagians or at the very least, semi-Pelagians. But Jacob Arminius (b:1560, d:1609) refuted that assertion clearly in his writing called Works, showing the freewill of fallen man is completely broken:
"In this [fallen] state, the Free Will of man towards the True Good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost: And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no power whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace." 
So once the shock has worn off that Arminians believe in prevenient grace, Calvinists usually try to argue against it by oversimplifying the issue and saying something like, "Prevenient grace is not taught anywhere in the Bible." Ironically, Calvinists themselves believe in prevenient grace with the difference being they believe God's grace is irresistible whereas Arminians do not. But, of course, other vital and orthodox doctrines are not explicitly represented in Scripture, e.g. the word, "trinity" is not in the Bible, but it can be logically, reasonably and rationally derived from many passages and no Calvinist (or Arminian) would deny its veracity or orthodoxy.

So saying prevenient grace is not "in the Bible" is really not a good argument against it. Neither are other ad hoc doctrines Calvinists teach "in the Bible" (e.g. limited atonement, evanescent grace, reprobation, etc.). But when any of us attempt to systematize our theology and give Scripture its proper and highest place of authority in our doctrine, we are inevitably going to have to extrapolate to ideas like these that are not expressly in the Scriptures in order to even have a hope of explaining what we believe to others. 

So, I'm OK with a doctrine not being explicitly "in the Bible" as long as it can be logically, reasonably and rationally derived from the Bible and not hold it in contradiction.

I offer the following as a short list showing how God is always at work drawing all men to repentance and faith in Christ. It is by no means a complete list; merely exemplary of the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace. Notice that the things stated in these passages of Scripture are applied universally to mankind and not just to believers (the elect).


    "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image" (Genesis 9:6)


    For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:14-16)


    For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)


    "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." (John 12:32)


    "Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you. And when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged." (John 16:7-11)


    Or do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)

    How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!' But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, 'Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?' So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:14-17)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Two Bodies of Philippians 3:20-21

An Easy & Clear Refutation of Full Preterism

Full preterists teach that Jesus Christ returned in His Second Coming in AD 70 when the Romans surrounded Jerusalem and then destroyed both the city and the Temple. Their emphasis is to take the "time statements" of the New Testament literally and then interpret every single other New Testament passage through that lens. This inevitably results in the twisting of other plain scriptures and ends up undermining (often unknowingly to them) the very foundational doctrines of Christian orthodoxy. In fact, it changes every single one of them. I was caught in this horrible doctrine for more than 15 years. But there was one question that kept bothering me. And when this question was finally emphasized and asked to me out loud, it saved me out of this mindset and literally saved my mind from its pollution. That question is now the first and only one that I ask every full preterist or those considering its doctrines:

Is Jesus Christ still a man?

The answer to this one question will destroy the very foundation of full preterism. If you answer "no" then you have not only contradicted scripture but also 2000 years of Christian orthodoxy and it proves you are not aware of the rich history of this question. If you answer "yes" then you cannot be a full preterist any longer.

The following is an actual dialog I had with a full preterist trying to deal with the Philippians 3:20-21 passage that absolutely demolishes the foundation of full preterism. Full preterism cannot handle Jesus Christ maintaining His eternal glorified immortal physical body He received at His resurrection. In attempts to maintain their doctrine they must have Jesus somehow sloughing off His physical body (thus making Him no longer a man) at His ascension. Why? Because their doctrine demands they must maintain Jesus' Second Coming occurred in AD 70 which, consequently, would require that Jesus return invisibly (i.e. not in a physical body), since, obviously, no one saw Him in bodily form at that time. Actually, no one saw Him at all, but that's another discussion.

The problem Philippians 3:20-21 presents to the full preterist is exemplified in the following dialog. The passage has two simultaneously existing bodies not lending itself for full preterist interpretation. The passage says:
"But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself."

This transformation occurs at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ which the full preterist tries to maintain as having already occurred in AD 70. But there are two bodies simultaneously existing before the transformation, and two bodies simultaneously existing after the transformation. One body is not being transformed into the other as the full preterist tries to say, but rather the one is being transformed to be like the other.

Watch how the full preterist tries to progressively answer the issue. Here is the sequence of answers he gives after he notices the failure of his previous answer:
  1. It is not a physical body; dismissal.
  2. "His glorious body" is the redeemed church; New Jerusalem.
  3. "Our lowly body" is the old body of Israel & it is being transformed into "His glorious body" (the Body of Christ)
  4. The passage represents the alread-but-not-yet idea in the New Testament.
  5. No response...
Again, each of his answers fail for the simple reason he does not see paul is not describing the transformation of one body into the other body but the transforming of the one body to be like the other body; two simultaneously existing bodies are maintained in the passage.

The real answer is very simple and falls out of the orthodox doctrine of Jesus Christ being eternally incarnate; a doctrine that has been affirmed by mainline Christianity (Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox) for 2000 years. This doctrine maintains that Jesus Christ is still a man of flesh, albeit that flesh is immortal & glorified. At the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, "our lowly body" (our physical mortal flesh) will be transformed to be like "His glorious body" (His physical glorified immortal flesh). That clearly did not happen in AD 70. Paul is speaking of the physical resurrection in our future. Our lives of death and resurrection are to follow the pattern set by our Savior. He lived for God; so should we. He physically died; so will we. He was physically resurrected; so will we be. He is a man forever; so will we be.

ME: Jesus Christ is still a man; eternally incarnate. This one fact drew me out of 15+ years of full preterism and the dozens of books and hundreds of articles I'd read and studied during that time. This one fact destroys the entire foundation of full preterism. This one passage will defy every full preterist exegete: "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself." (Philippians 3:20-21). Let the ad hominem and tap dance begin...
ME: There are two bodies in the above passage:
1. His glorious body
2. Our lowly body 
Which one is the "wrong body"?
FULL PRETERIST: Your understanding of the nature. His glorious body is the redeemed church; the New Jerusalem.
ME: With that in mind, now read Philippians 3:20-21 again. Here, I'll help you...
"But our citizenship is in heaven and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ who will transform our lowly body to be like his [redeemed church; the New Jerusalem], by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself."
How is "our lowly body" (which is the church) to be transformed into the redeemed church? In other words, how is it that Paul is saying that the church is being transformed into the church? 
FULL PRETERIST: My fault. I was not clear enough. The old body the body of Israel is transformed into the new body which is the body of Christ. Both are corporate. If it is to be understood individually then it is not for anyone today. And it only applied to first-century Saints. 
ME: So Paul and his fellow believers were not yet the body of Christ when he wrote this? Please show me in scripture where Paul tells his fellow believers that they are not yet part of the body of Christ. 
FULL PRETERIST: They were in the already not yet. 
ME: Since when is the body of Christ called a "lowly body"? And regarding the "already not yet", make that fit in the passage please. Here, I'll help you again... 
"But our citizenship is in heaven and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ who will transform our [currently existing] lowly [not yet] body to be like his [currently existing] glorious [already] body by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself." 
Do you still not see it? There are two simultaneously existing bodies when Paul wrote this before AD 70. One already exists on earth (the lowly body) and one simultaneously exists in heaven (Jesus' glorious body). The two bodies coexist when Paul wrote. But the lowly will be transformed into a body just like the glorious body (Jesus') that already exists as Paul wrote. One is not being transformed to actually become the other one which didn't exist yet; instead it is going to be transformed to be like the other one. Two coexisting bodies when Paul wrote and two coexisting bodies when the transformation is done at Christ's return from heaven. 
Try again. 
I realize nothing that I say will change your mind because... well... 'THE TIME STATEMENTS!!!!" Trust me, I understand; I was a full preterist for more than 15 years. This passage will set you free if you let it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Basic Bible Chronology


For many years I've had great interest in Biblical Chronology. I like to read the Bible every year in chronological order because that is how my brain works. I love knowing when stuff happened and in what order. In fact, if you have never read the Bible like this I highly recommend it. The Old Testament prophecies just come to life when you read them in their historical context of the Kings & Chronicles.

Being also a science-math major, I was also extremely interested as to how the Bible fits into historic and scientific theories. I've learned to trust scripture primarily because it should be obvious to anyone that historic and scientific theories change every year. What was "fact" last year, may be relegated to the trash heap next year. But God's Word never changes.

I set out to figure out when the first man Adam was created. I've always noticed the BC dates given in the margins of many Study Bibles, but no one ever reveals how they know these dates to be correct, nor how they are determined. I'm going to show you!


There are 4 places in scripture where Biblical dates cross with popular historical dates:

Biblical/Historical Crossover Table
  1. The 1st year of the reign of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar = 4th year of the reign of the Judean king Jehoiakim = The Battle of Carchemish (Jeremiah 25:1; Jeremiah 46:2).
  2. The 19th year of the reign of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar = 11th year of the reign of the Judean king Zedekiah = Destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon (Jeremiah 32:1; Jeremiah 52:12-14).
  3. The 1st year of the reign of the Babylonian king Evil-Merodoch = 37th year of Judean king Jeconiah's (Jehoiachin's) captivity in Babylon (2Kings 25:27; Jeremiah 52:31).
  4. The 15th year of Tiberius Caesar = 30th year of Jesus Christ (Luke 3:1; Luke 3:23).
Now, think of it. If we can establish how far Adam is from one of the above dates using the Bible, and then figure out when on our calendar one of the above dates happens, then we would be able to date on our calendar when Adam was created. This was an exciting idea to me! So I tried to do just that.


First we need to see if we can use just the Bible to reach one of the key crossover points listed above. A summarized Biblical chronology is listed here using AC (my own term, meaning After Creation):

  • 0 AC: Creation (Genesis 1:1)
  • 1656 AC: The Flood (derived by adding up the genealogical data of Genesis 5:1-32 and Genesis 7:6 and Genesis 11:10).

    - Seth born when Adam was 130: 0 + 130 = 130 AC
    - Enosh born when Seth was 105: 130 + 105 = 235 AC
    - Cainan born when Enosh was 90: 235 + 90 = 325 AC
    - Mahalalel born when Cainan was 70: 325 + 70 = 395 AC
    - Jared born when Mahalalel was 65: 395 + 65 = 460 AC
    - Enoch born when Jared was 162: 460 + 162 = 622 AC
    - Methuselah born when Enoch was 65: 624 + 65 = 687 AC
    - Lamech born when Methuselah was 187: 689 + 187 = 874 AC
    - Noah born when Lamech was 182: 876 + 182 = 1056
    - Flood happens when Noah was 600: 1056 + 600 = 1656 AC
  • 2083 AC: Abraham enters Canaan at age 75 (derived by adding the genealogical data of Genesis 11:10-32 and Genesis 12:4).

    - Arphaxad born 2 years after the Flood: 1656 + 2 = 1658 AC
    - Salah born when Arphaxad was 35: 1658 + 35 = 1693 AC
    - Eber born when Salah was 30: 1693 + 30 = 1723 AC
    - Peleg born when Eber was 34: 1723 + 34 = 1757 AC
    - Reu born when Peleg was 30: 1757 + 30 = 1787 AC
    - Serug born when Reu was 32: 1787 + 32 = 1819 AC
    - Nahor born when Serug was 30: 1819 + 30 = 1849 AC
    - Terah born when Nahor was 29: 1849 + 29 = 1878 AC
    - Abram (at 75) left Haran when his father Terah died (at age 205): 1878 + 205 = 2083 AC
  • 2513 AC: The Exodus (2083 AC + 430 years; Genesis 12:10; Exodus 12:40; Galatians 3:17).
  • 2992 AC: Solomon's Temple started (2513 AC + 479 years; 1Kings 6:1; notice the ordinal number "480th", thus we only add 479 to get to the 480th year).
  • 3029 AC: End of Solomon's reign of 40 years; Kingdom of Israel splits in two (2992 AC - 3 years + 40 years; 1Kings 6:1; notice it is "the fourth year of Solomon's reign" thus the minus 3 to get to the 1st year; 1Kings 11:42 says, "Solomon reigned... forty years" thus the plus 40).
  • 3418 AC: Fall of Judah (destruction of the Temple & Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar; 3029 AC + 389 years; Ezekiel 4:4-6, we only add 389 and not 390 so we can reach the year of the Fall of Israel and not the year after, thus the +389).

Notice that at 3418 years after Creation is the same as #2 in our crossover table above (the destruction of Jerusalem in the 19th year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon).


Concerning a fixed date on the secular calendar much astronomical data is available from ancient Babylonian records and other sources. Astronomical events were very important to most ancient peoples because they worshiped the heavenly bodies. So they meticulously recorded things like lunar and solar eclipses and planetary motion through the stars.

I discovered that ancient kings' reigns are determined mainly by a single man, an astronomer by the name of Claudius Ptolemy. He lived around AD 90-168 and published a work called the Almagest. In the back of this publication is a list of kings and their lengths of reigns (no dates). He gives no details or references for why he assigns these numbers to these kings (which is really bad), but just a bare list; a king name and a length of years of his reign. Even though his list is just a list, archaeologists and historians have learned to depend on it because it seems to keep coming up as very accurate though, not indisputable. This list is the primary source for ancient kings and the length of their reigns for all published dates of ancient history in textbooks and Study Bibles! Ptolemy's King List shows kings from the first Babylonian king to the last Roman Caesar before Ptolemy died. The whole list doesn't concern us at this moment, but merely a portion of it near when Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylon as the Bible mentions:
  • Nabopolassar: 21 years
  • Nebuchadnezzar: 43 years
  • Evil-Marduk: 2 years
  • Neriglissar: 4 years
  • Nabonidus: 17 years [last Babylonian king]
  • Cyrus: 9 years [king of Media/Persia]
  • Cambyses: 8 years


Adad-Guppi Stela
Next, I discovered there were stelae found in Haran, some of which are the tomb inscriptions of a woman named Adad-guppi who is stated as being the mother of Nabonidus – the last king of Babylon (in agreement with Ptolemy as shown above). In one of the stelae it is stated a lunar eclipse occurred in the 5th year of Nabopolassar (king of Babylon). Claudius Ptolemy knew about this eclipse and calculated it to an absolute date of April 22, -620 (Julian calendar).

Immediately, if I trust this stele, I can perform a calculation. The Julian calendar date given as -620 is actually 621 BC on a regular calendar. This is because there is no 0 year on our calendar. For instance the next year after 1 BC is AD 1, not 0.

So, trusting Adad-Guppi's data, and Ptolemy's calculation:
  • 5th year of Nabopolassar = 621 BC
  • If Nabopolassar reigned 21 years, then he had 16 years to go before the accession year of Nebuchadnezzar.
  • Thus 621 BC + 16 =  605 BC
  • According to the Bible, the destruction of Jerusalem happened in the 19th year of Nebuchadnezzar.
  • Thus 605 BC + 19 = 586 BC
  • According to the Bible, the destruction of Jerusalem happened 3418 years after the creation of Adam.
  • Thus 586 BC - 3418 = 4004 BC
But there's more confirmation.


Being the suspicious character that I am, I wanted to find out how Ptolemy calculated that this particular lunar eclipse happened on April 22, -620 (Julian date). So I did my own investigation of the stele and its data. I really did... LOL! I won't go into the details, but it is remarkable. I used my own astronomy programs (RedShift & Dance of the Planets) and calculators to do the same. I was convinced Ptolemy wasn't just whistling Dixie.

Another important tablet was found. It is called VAT4956 (you can Google it). The astronomical data on it is of such meticulous detail that there is only one year (in millions) that such astronomical data could be true. That year is 568 BC. And on that tablet it mentions:
  • Nebuchadnezzar by name and says specifically it is his 37th year!
  • 9 measurements of moonrise & moonset
  • 5 conjunctions of moon & specific stars
  • 1 conjunction of Mercury & specific star
  • 2 conjunctions of Venus & specific star
  • 3 conjunctions of Mars & specific star
  • 1 conjunction of Jupiter & specific star
  • 1 conjunction of Saturn & specific star
 Thus, if this tablet is to be trusted, then:
  • 568 BC = 37th Year of Nebuchadnezzar
  • The destruction of Jerusalem happened in the 19th of Nebuchadnezzar.
  • 37 - 19 = 18 years before the date on this tablet.
  • 568 BC - 18 years = 586 BC
  • Again, according to the Bible, the destruction of Jerusalem happened 3418 years after the creation of Adam.
  • Thus 586 BC - 3418 = 4004 BC.
This tablet agrees with the Adad-Guppi data and Ptolemy as well.


To further verify, another cuneiform tablet was found (called by 3 different names: Strm Kambys 400LBAT 1477 or BM 33066). The astronomical data on it is of such meticulous detail that there is only one year (in millions) that such astronomical data could be true: 523 BC! The interpretation I studied of this tablet mentions:
  • It is the 7th year of a certain "king" (name not mentioned)
  • 2 lunar eclipses
  • Conjunction of Mercury & Venus
  • Conjunction of Saturn & Venus
  • Conjunction of Mars & Jupiter
  • Conjunction of Saturn & Jupiter
  • Conjunction of Venus & Jupiter
  • Conjunction of moon & Mercury
  • Conjunction of moon & Jupiter
  • Positions of Venus, Mars, Jupiter & Saturn to stars or constellations
Thus, if this tablet is to be trusted, let's see if this 7th year of a king fits with a 7th year of a king on Ptolemy's King List.
  • 523 BC = 7th Year of "king." 
  • Assume 568 BC = 37th Year of Nebuchadnezzar as shown in VAT4956
  • Ptolemy said Nebuchadnezzar reigned 43 years.
  • 43 - 37 = 6 more years to reign.
  • 588 BC + 6 = 562 BC would be the accession year of Evil-Marduk.
  • Ptolemy said Evil-Marduk reigned 2 years.
  • 562 BC + 2 = 560 BC would be the accession year of Neriglissar.
  • Ptolemy said Neriglissar reigned 4 years.
  • 560 BC + 4 = 556 BC would be the accession year of Nabonidus.
  • Ptolemy said Nabonidus reigned 17 years.
  • 556 BC + 17 = 539 BC would be the accession year of Cyrus.
  • Ptolemy said Cyrus reigned 9 years.
  • 539 BC + 9 = 530 BC would be the accession year of Cambyses.
  • At this point 530 BC is 530 BC - 523 BC = 7 years into the reign of Cambyses.
  • Thus, the "king" in whose 7th year is 523 BC is, according to Ptolemy's King List, Cambyses.


Let's plug BC dates in for each of the Bible Chronology dates we first derived above.
  • 0 AC: Creation = 4004 BC
  • 1656 AC: The Flood = 2348 BC
  • 2083 AC: Abraham enters Canaan at age 75 = 1921 BC
  • 2513 AC: The Exodus = 1491 BC
  • 2992 AC: Solomon's Temple started = 1012 BC
  • 3029 AC: Kingdom splits in two = 975 BC
  • 3418 AC: Destruction of the Temple & Jerusalem by Babylon = 586 BC
Thus, a straightforward reading of the Bible puts the creation of Adam in Genesis 1 at 4004 BC and will not allow for billions of years. God is the Eyewitness, and He told us the truth. There is no need to try to harmonize the beliefs of evolution and the popular Big Bang Theory of the origin of the Universe. These so-called scientific theories have their own serious problems without even worrying about their conflict with Scripture. So let's read God's own story of how He created all things and mankind and accept them. Life just gets easier that way, IMHO.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ezekiel 28 - Was Satan the Anointed Cherub?

Traditional View

Traditionally, the passage of Ezekiel 28 is thought to refer to Satan. This is based mainly on two premises:
  1. Ezekiel 28:1 refers to the "prince of Tyre" whereas Ezekiel 28:11 refers to the "king of Tyre." It is said the "prince of Tyre" is a mere man because Ezekiel 28:2 says, "...yet you are a man", but Ezekiel 28:16 says the "king of Tyre" is a "covering cherub" and therefore is not a man but must be a heavenly being.

  2. Ezekiel 28:13 says the "king of Tyre" was "in Eden, the garden of God" and this cannot be said of any man alive at the time of Ezekiel's prophecy so therefore it must refer to Satan.
Thus, it is concluded by some, since the "king of Tyre" is a "cherub" and not specifically referred to as a man, and this being was "in Eden, the garden of God" and also wicked, it can be none other than Satan himself. Then after reaching this conclusion, the rest of the characteristics describing this king of Tyre are ascribed to Satan. This is how we end up with some of the traditional views of Satan.

A more-than-cursory study, however, will reveal there are many very good reasons to believe that the above interpretation is erroneous.

Satan as a Cherub?

The biblical description of a cherub is a very odd-looking creature and hard to imagine. Ezekiel himself describes cherubs (or cherubim as a plural in Hebrew) in Ezekiel 1:5-28 and 10:-5. There we see cherubs have the likeness of a man but have four faces (man, lion, ox & eagle), four wings (two above, two to cover their body), straight legs and calve's feet. They are burnished bronze in color, have hands under their wings and looked like burning coals of fire; like torches. Nowhere in scripture is Satan described in this manner. Instead Satan is always referred to the serpent, devil and dragon:
  • Genesis 3:1 - "serpent"
  • 2 Corinthians 11:3 - "the serpent [who] deceived Eve"
  • Revelation 12:9 - "the great dragon..., that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan"
  • Revelation 20:2 - "the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan"

Prince VS King

The Hebrew words translated "prince" (nagiyd) and "king" (melek) in Ezekiel 28:1 and 11 respectively are used interchangeably in many other places in scripture to refer to the same person. For instance, Saul is called nagiyd in 1 Samuel 10:1 and melek in 1 Samuel 12:1. So, just because two different words are used does not necessarily mean it is not the same person. Of course, it could simply refer to two men; one the prince and the other the king... exactly like it says.

Eden, the Garden of God

The phrase, "Eden, the garden of God" is used by the prophet Ezekiel in another prophecy. It is clear in that passage (Ezekiel 31) that taking this phrase as a literal reference to the garden of Eden in Genesis is a mistake. Instead it is a metaphor used to describe the nations of the world (God's garden called 'Eden') in which trees (nations; e.g. Assyria & Egypt) are planted by God and either flourish, making provision for trees around them, or are cut down (divine judgment) and left to die. Here are some examples:
  • Ezekiel 31:3-7 - Assyria is described as a tree: "Assyria was a cedar in Lebanon, with fine branches that shaded the forest, and of high stature; and its top was among the thick boughs...".
  • Ezekiel 31:8 - Other nations are described as trees: "The cedars in the garden of God could not hide it; the fir trees were not like its boughs, and the chestnut trees were not like its branches; no tree in the garden of God was like it in beauty".
  • Ezekiel 31:8 - Notice that Assyria and all other nations are located in "the garden of God".
  • Ezekiel 31:9 - This garden of God's is called "Eden" showing all other nations planted there: "I made it beautiful with a multitude of branches, so that all the trees of Eden envied it, that were in the garden of God".
  • Ezekiel 31:12 - The fall of Assyria is likened as a tree cut down: "...the most terrible of nations, have cut it down and left it; its branches have fallen on the mountains and in all the valleys; its boughs lie broken by all the rivers of the land; and all the peoples of the earth have gone from under its shadow and left it".
  • Ezekiel 31:16-18 - The nations that see the fall of Assyria are said to be trees of Eden: "I made the nations shake at the sound of its fall, when I cast it down to hell together with those who descend into the Pit; and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, were comforted in the depths of the earth. They also went down to hell with it, with those slain by the sword; and those who were its strong arm dwelt in its shadows among the nations. 'To which of the trees in Eden will you then be likened in glory and greatness? Yet you shall be brought down with the trees of Eden to the depths of the earth; you shall lie in the midst of the uncircumcised, with those slain by the sword. This is Pharaoh and all his multitude,' says the Lord GOD".
As can be easily seen, it is impossible to take the expression of "Eden, the garden of God" in Ezekiel 31 passage literally as referring to the Garden of Eden of Genesis. Assyria, nor Egypt were ever in the Garden of Eden of Genesis. The phrase is clearly a colorful metaphor used by God to describe the nations of the world and their flourishment or their demise.

Ezekiel Chronology

Another important characteristic of the Ezekiel 31 VS the Ezekiel 28 passage is that chronologically speaking, Ezekiel 31 was given before the prophecy of Ezekiel 28. The book of Ezekiel is not arranged in chronological order. However, the prophecies it contains are dated by the prophet himself and can therefore be arranged in order. Most scholars agree Ezekiel seemed to date his prophecies based on the year of Jehoiachin's Captivity because that is the same year in which Ezekiel himself was taken captive from Judah to Babylon. Ezekiel dates his prophecies in the following order:

(Jehoiachin's Captivity)


Ezekiel 1-7 "thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month" 05-04-05 592 BC This is thought to be the 30th yr of Ezekiel's life, but the 5th yr in Babylon.
Ezekiel 8-19 "sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth day of the month" 06-06-05 591 BC
Ezekiel 20-23 "seventh year, in the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month" 07-05-10 590 BC
Ezekiel 24-25 "ninth year, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month" 09-10-10 588 BC
Ezekiel 29:1-16 "tenth year, in the tenth month, on the twelfth day of the month" 10-10-12 587 BC
Ezekiel 30:20 - 31:18 "eleventh year, in the first month, on the seventh day of the month" 11-01-07 586 BC
Ezekiel 26-28 "eleventh year, on the first day of the month" 11-05-01 586 BC Scholars agree this is the 5th month.
Ezekiel 33:21 - 39:29 "twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month, on the fifth day of the month" 12-10-15 585 BC
Ezekiel 32:1-16 "twelfth year, in the twelfth month, on the first day of the month" 12-12-01 585 BC
Ezekiel 32:17 - 33:20 "twelfth year, on the fifteenth day of the month" 12-12-15 585 BC Scholars agree this is the 12th month.
Ezekiel 40-48 "twenty-fifth year of our captivity, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was captured" 25-01-10 572 BC Scholars agree this is the 1st month
Ezekiel 29:17 - 30:19 "twenty-seventh year, in the first month, on the first day of the month" 27-01-01 570 BC

So the metaphorical use of "Eden, the garden of God" as given in Ezekiel 31 is established before the Ezekiel 28 prophecy is given, thus establishing the contextual precedence. In other words, God uses the phrase originally as an obvious metaphor and then immediately uses it again in Ezekiel 28. Why, therefore, would the original use of the phrase change from metaphor to literal? I don't believe it would.


The Ezekiel 28 passage is not referring to Satan at all. Instead it is referring metaphorically to the rulers of the actual city of Tyre in Ezekiel's day that was to be mostly conquered by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and finally finished off by Alexander the Great of Greece to complete the fulfilling of the prophecy. This helps expel many traditional beliefs about the spiritual being called "Satan."