Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Psalm 139 is one of those classic 'proof texts' for the omnipresence of God. But I just read it and it isn't...

Psalm 139v7-16:
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

This is an amazing statement, and I know many, many believers can testify to the truth of it, but it doesn't actually speak of the omnipresence of God. What it does speak of is that God is always with his people - wherever they go and whatever they do. The Psalmist doesn't speak of God being in places where he is not, but only says that 'wherever I go, He is there...'

Of course, Proverbs 15v3 ("The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.") extends the concept a bit further, saying that God is able to see everyone. But nowhere in the bible does it claim that God is everywhere. Why should he be between the rings of Saturn, or at the bottom of the Marianas Trench or in the heart of the Sun? (sorry for that last link ;o)

Also, 'the Lord dwells in the praises of His people' (can't seem to find the verse at the mo) which kind of implies that there are places where he isn't. He is always with us, but not always everywhere.

I believe in an everpresent God, but not necessarily an omnipresent one.

Friday, May 25, 2007


Wow! I just became the 1000th 'hit' on my own blog. Um, well, the 1000th hit since I put the counter there anyway.

ctrl-alt-del & reboot

Time for a bit of a reboot on this blog. I guess I've kind of lost track of what I'm trying to achieve with this blog. As Marcus said in a comment on a recent blog posting (which I have subsequently deleted, so no point in looking for it), this blog does give a very skewed perspective on who I am and what I believe. I'm not as heretical as some of my recent posts might imply.

There are two things about 'Doubting Thomas' that I can relate to:
  1. He wasn't prepared to accept second hand evidence - he wanted to see things for himself, and
  2. He exclaimed 'my Lord and my God' when in the presence of Jesus.
This blog has tended to lean towards the first of those points with not enough emphasis being placed on the second. I'll try to restore the balance from here on in (remind me if I forget).

In the scientific method, the accepted way to prove a hypothesis (a belief) is to attempt to falsify it. If you can't falsify it, then there is excellent grounds for believing it; for having faith in it. Just because I express questions and doubts here, it doesn't necessarily mean that I believe the unorthodox or heretical stance on the issue. I just want to understand the issue and see the truth. Sometimes this is best achieved by playing 'Devil's advocate', but not always.

So, time for a reboot.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Faith and false propositions

A very interesting question from last week's Faith and Freethought podcast:
"How can faith be epistemologically valid when it provides no method for distinction between true and false propositions?"
Hmmm. If you're anything like me, the first thing you'll be thinking is 'what's epistemology again?' - so, from those kind people at
e·pis·te·mol·o·gy (ĭ-pĭs'tə-mŏl'ə-jē) : n. The branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity.
The question is a very interesting problem, neatly expressed. How is it justigiable to 'live by faith' when there is no way of knowing if the thing you're hoping for is true?
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
(Hebrews 11v1)
But that sounds like wish-fulfillment, right? Is there any foundation but hope?


Tuesday, May 15, 2007


A long time ago (16 years to be precise) I was on the 'exec' committee of the University of St Andrews Christian Union (CU). In order to be allowed to be a member of that committee I was required to sign a 'declaration of faith' document. This 'declaration of faith' was (and still is) the one used by the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF) - an evangelical organisation to which the majority of university CUs in the UK are affiliated.

At the time I had no major issues with any of the beliefs expressed in the document and was happy to sign it (I did have minor issues, see below). If I was presented with such a document today I don't think I'd be able to sign it with a clear conscience. There are some things in there that I do not believe are fundamental to the faith and, furthermore, I simply do not believe them to be true.

Does this make me a 'backslider'?

Here I will list the UCCF declaration of faith and comment on each of the articles in turn:

The doctrinal basis of the Fellowship shall be the fundamental truths of Christianity, as revealed in Holy Scripture, including:
  1. The unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the Godhead.
    Yes, I think I can still agree on this one. It doesn't use the phrase 'trinity' which I am beginning to question, but I think 'Unity' is a perfectly acceptable word here.
  2. The sovereignty of God in creation, revelation, redemption and final judgment.
    More or less, yes. This doesn't actually use any words beginning with 'omni' which might cause me problems. It also doesn't insist on any particular meaning of 'creation' which might also bring me to the point of dissent.
  3. The divine inspiration and infallibility of Holy Scripture as originally given, and its supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.
    No! This was my only minor niggle before - the word 'infallible' - but now I really can't agree with all of this. The divine inspiration of Scripture - yes, OK, I believe that much of the bible is in some way 'inspired'. But I can't go as far as 'infallible'. The Scripture Union basis of faith is very similar to the UCCF one, except it speaks of the bible as being "God-breathed" and "fully trustworthy in all that they affirm, and are our highest authority for faith and life" - this is a much better starting point than claiming the 'infallibility' of a book which asserts that it is possible to get two of every kind of animal on the planet into a reasonably small ship.
  4. The universal sinfulness and guilt of human nature since the fall, rendering man subject to God's wrath and condemnation.
    I do have a problem with the concept of 'God's wrath' against mankind. I accept that there is a problem of sin and that it needed dealt with, but the whole idea that a blood sacrifice was required to appease an angry God goes against my world view.
  5. The full deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God; His virgin birth and His real and sinless humanity; His death on the cross, His bodily resurrection and His present reign in heaven and earth.
    Most of this, yes. Jesus is God, yes. He was a man, yes. He was crucified and rose again, yes. Virgin birth? Is this in any way an essential doctrine? It may have happened, but I remain in doubt over this one. I don't really see the need.
  6. Redemption from guilt, penalty and power of sin only through the sacrificial death once and for all time of our representative and substitute, Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man.
    Most of this, yes. However, I don't think we truly understand what Jesus did by dying on the cross. I certainly don't think his death was simply his dying instead of us - let's face it, we're all going to die anyway - but something else was achieved there which we still can't see or understand. Maybe in eternity...
  7. Justification as God's act of undeserved mercy, in which the sinner is pardoned all his sins, and accepted as righteous in Gods sight, only because of the righteousness of Christ imputed to him, this justification being received by faith alone.
    Yes. There is nothing we can do to reconcile us to God. That is why Jesus died (although, as I say, I don't think we understand what exactly his death achieved).
  8. The need for the Holy Spirit to make the work of Christ effective to the individual sinner, granting him repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ.
  9. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in all those thus regenerated, producing in them an increasing likeness to Christ in character and behaviour, and empowering them for their witness in the world.
  10. The one holy universal Church, which is the Body of Christ, and to which all true believers belong.
  11. The future personal return of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge all men, executing God's just condemnation on the impenitent and receiving the redeemed to eternal glory.
    Mostly, yes. Although there is much about 'heaven' and 'hell' which I think we have completely misunderstood.
See, I'm not as heretical as you might think... ;o)