Month 11:22, Week 3:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5941:317 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Wednesday 7 February 2018
Doubt and Faith II
The Tragedy of Charles Templeton
Continued from Part 1
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el and Mishpachah - and welcome back to this series on doubt and emunah (faith). Thank you for your prayers in my ongoing struggle to reverse the rapid decline in my health and especially for the treatment I had last weekend. They help keep me going. I hope you have had opportunity to reflect deeply on what we discussed last week. My hope is that by the time we have concluded this series that you will not only have doubt and emunah (faith) in their proper persective in your own life but that you will feel more confident in helping others who struggle with them.
The Nature of Doubt
To doubt is to be uncertain or undecided, to hesitate, to consider unlikely. It is an inclination not to believe and it usually comes when we don't have enough information to convince us that something is true. We can have 'minor' doubts, such as an uncertainty about the accuracy of a newspaper report, or it can be 'major', such as a lack in confidence in the claims of the Bible. Doubt begs resolution, for when we doubt we are without a clear way - we are at a loss. But as we saw last week, the process of doubt can be positive if we come out the other end with greater conviction of belief.
The Evangelists Billy Graham and Charles Templeton
Over the last few days I have been reading about the life of the young Billy Graham, the evangelist who rose to fame in the late 1940's and early 50's (before he started compromising with catholicism and ecumenicism). What many of you may not know was that in those early days there was another evangelist called Charles Templeton, who worked with Graham, and of whom many said that he would one day outshine Graham. They were a tremendous team. So many were saved through their ministry. These two men were leading lights in the evangelical movement.
The Apostacy of Charles Templeton
How come Charles Templeton lost his faith? How did this man of Elohim (God), who walked close to the Ruach (Spirit) and knew Yah'shua (Jesus) personally ... how could he possibly fall away? Yet somewhere along the line persistant and obstinate doubts began to plague him. Billy Graham was going through a similar trial himself, thanks to his close friend Templeton. This was back in 1949. Graham was being pulled in one direction by Templeton's doubting and in the other by the deep emunah (faith) of his mentor, Henrietta Mears, who was a Christian educator, evangelist and author.
Templeton's conversion was no ordinary one. He relates how he experienced that familiar spiritual regeneration within, as guilt was lifted from him and his whole body was filled with heavenly warmth at the moment of his conversion. It seemed as though a light had turned on in his chest. I remember something similar happening to me in 1977 though I experienced it like a cascade of water pouring into my chest which in turn somehow exploded and expanded my spiritual horizon, revealing a new and hitherto unexplored inner world. Templeton described, after his new birth, the feeling of being at the centre of a "radiant,overwhelming, all-possessive happiness".
A New Standard for Mass Evangelism
Templeton met Graham in 1945 and together they served in numerous rallies, setting a new standard for mass evangelism. He founded a church that could seat 1,200 souls.
The 'Higher Critics' Start the Shake-up
Templeton claimed that his doubts arose as the result of a lack of theological training so he made the disasterous mistake of attending a liberal seminary. The testimony of atheists and agnostics just made everything worse. Whether or not that was just an excuse is impossible for us to know for sure but at any rate the challenges of the so-called 'higher criticism' of liberal theologians who denied miracles and the supernural, and in many cases were either agnostics or atheists, began to severely shake his faith, and these doubts came to buffer his co-worker Graham too. Overwhelmed by the intellectualism and scepticism of the unbelieving critics, Templeton's faith crumbled. Not only that, but he almost carried Graham along with him.
An Atheist Nearly Turns Me Away
It is all to easy to be overwhelmed by the intellectuals, especially when they leave you with the feeling that you know nothing and ought to be giving them a closer ear by some kind of divine-like, academic right. That is why a systematic training in the Davar Elohim (Word of God) is so important. There was actually, some years ago, an ex-pastor whose writings nearly turned me away. He seeemed to be so much more knowledgeable by comparison and I felt a complete idiot. It was a horrible time. This atheist was very persuasive and I then lacked the skills of critical scholarship.
The Terrible Choice We Both Faced
What happened to Graham was very similar to my own experience. I simply presented myself to Yahweh and knew that I had to make a choice between the clever arguments of this atheistic ex-pastor, and what had happened to me on 30 March 1977. That day forever changed my life. I had been reading, studying, listening to preachers, attending churches and doing Bible studies from pretty well all the denominations that were in Oxford in the 1970's. My head was full of conflicting theologies, I was confused, and I didn't know what to believe in or do. It was all too big for me, even though I was myself an academic. The story of my prayer vigil and fast is known to all of you here, and how I struggled most of the night, how Satan came and tempted me with a false vision, how he came and physically overpowered me, and how I cried out to Yah'shua (Jesus) to save me, and how I was born again. This had been my moment of trasnsformation, may first experience of Yahweh face-to-face. So my choice was stark: either I believed what this clever ex-atheist was saying and denied what had miraculously and supernaturally happened to me that night, not to mention all the witnesses that had followed over the years - the many revelations and spiritual infillings over the years - or to trust in a complete stranger, who had rebelled against the Most High, in his his undoubted cleverness.
Making the Choice and Why
That was my critical moment. I chose to believe based on what I knew. I decided I would put the atheist's arguments on the shelf and return to them after I had done more studying - not ignore them, but first acquire the intellectual tools to first enable me to properly handle them. So I chose to believe. I have never regretted that move. In time, Yahweh gave me answers to most the atheist's objections. And it's only in the last few weeks that the residue of those questions I didn't get answers to have surfaced for me to confront in the hear and now. I have got answers to most of these over the last few days which I hope, in part, to share with you in this series.
Templeton had managed to persuade Billy Graham to doubt, for a while, the inspiration of Scripture and he too faced a similar choice. He prayed hard, pondered, and finally retired to a secret place of prayer in the San Bernardino Mountains. He fell to his knees, confessed he could not answer many of the philosophical and psychological objections that Templeston and others were raising, and made a decision: and that decision was to trust that the Bible was Yahweh's Davar (Word) by emunah (faith). After he had done that, he sensed the power of Elohim (God) in him that he hadn't sensed for months. He didn't get answers to all his questions but he most definitely crossed an important bridge. He had fought a spiritual battle in his soul and won.
Graham Apostacised For Other Reasons Later
Templeton, of course, thought that his best friend Graham had committed intellectual suicide, as sceptics usually do in such situations, and equally know how to intimidate. Templeton felt pity for him. From then on their paths began to diverge. Most of you know how successful Graham would become. It was only later, we suppose, that, like Solomon, Graham tragically started losing the purity of his early his faith and embraced liberal ecumenism and Catholicism. We can only guess why and only he can answer to Yahweh for that decision. There are grave risks being propelled into the limelight. He became very famous, and began mingling with politicians and those in power, and I suspect it was there his head was somehow tragically turned. There is plenty of temptation in those circles, and mauch dizzying, high-powered man-made philosophy expertly spun by high-level Illuminati. So many have gone down that route of apostacy in our own time. But it's the early Graham that interests me today.
Reason and Faith are Important Companions
Templeton need not have chosen the route that he did because reason and emunah (faith) are not incompatible. There are those believers who do a great disservice to the Besorah (Gospel) when they claim that it has to be one or the other. Not so. There is absolutely a place for deep thinkers and the ministry they can give, and there are lots of them around today, some of them quite brilliant and highly effective evangelists, like Ravi Zacharias, Norman Geisler, James White, and John Lennox to name but a handful of those I read extensively. What's important to understand, though, is that faith must lead the intellect, otherwise salvation would be by knowledge first, which it is not. The problem starts when you reverse the rôles. There's a lot I want to share about that.
Faith is a Rational Response
I absolutely agree with W. Bingham Hunter who said:
No More Wishful Thinking
"Faith is a rational response to the evidence of Elohim's (God) self-revelation in nature, human history, the Scriptures and the resurrected Son" .
One thing I am absolutely certain of is that emunah (faith) must be consistent with reason. True emunah is not irrational. Faith built on what Lee Strobel calls "a paper-thin foundation of wishful thinking or make-believe"  is just as dangerous as a world-view based on intellectualism alone. Look at the antitheist intellectuals like Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens and to where their unfettered minds have led them. People have the right to expect an emunah (faith) consistent with reason that's grounded in reality, something I am at pains to remind flat-earthers currently caught up in our time's latest delusion, because these people mostly ignore the evidence of science because they don't like doing hard work - flat-earthism mostly a sensationalist, irrational religion that willynilly tries to fit scientific facts into it when it serves their interest. We must be grounded in reality especially in this anti-truth, post-modernist age of subjectivism and existentialism.
The Problems of Each Age Must be Addressed
In short, our emunah (faith) must be able to stand up to scrutiny, and for it to be able to do that, we must do some hard groundwork. We live in a scientific age, all of us have learned science at school, so we really have no excuse. 'Oh, but that's easy for you to say, you're a scientist!' True, but I am not a linguist but I have been forced, as a minister, to learn lots of language I would otherwise have shyed away from! The point is, souls are at stake, and that should be motivation enough to do things we don't feel very good at doing. We have to address the problems of our age and not just brush them under the carpet. Laziness and flippancy simply play into the Enemy's hands in all ages, whatever the issues of those ages may have been.
Biblical Resources for Evangelism
We can't obviously all of us duplicate the giftings of Zaccharias, Geisler, White, Lennox or other talented believers like them. Yahweh gives His giftedness to whomsoever He will, and that's why we have to work as a Body together in our witness. Nevertheless, we have got to learn to close the gap between ministry and laity because everyone is a witness, everyone has to wear the same spiritual armour. This is the reason I saved up to buy a copy of The NKJV Evidence Bible, with evangelist Ray Comfort's commentary notes, for every member of my family. Those who are witnessing to scientists and scientifically-minded students might prefer something like Dr.Henry M. Morris' KJV Defenders Bible which has lots of creationist commentaries. My point is, there are so many resources available and we must not expect others to do for us what we can do for ourselves.
Templeton's Struggle With Bigger Life Questions
But to return to Charles Templeton's story. I wasn't specifically researching his life but fell upon it, as it were, quite by 'chance'. What I read quite shocked me. I have mentioned his forray into liberalism and how he came to doubt the inspiration of Scripture. But this was not his only source of doubt and objection. If his intellectual objections were in the realm of scholarship, then his emotional objections were in the very reality and experience of life itself.
The Curse of Alzheimers
Two things stick out in my mind which I think made him angry. First, he was rightly appalled by Alzheimer's disease, which is ironic because this is what he himself would eventually contract and which killed him in 2001. It is an awful condition, as any of you who have worked with Alzheimer's patients will know. It's hell for the sufferes who progressively lose their memory and its hell for loved ones whom they no longer recognise and whom they may start abusing whom previously they had loved, respected and cherished. Their whole character seems to change. They become different people. Most of you here will remember how we looked after an old lady with Alzheimer's, one of our retired ministers, and it was exhausting physically and emotionally. And, to my great shame, before we knew she had Alzheimer's, I onced accused my eldest son of stealing from her after she had falsely accused him in her disturbed state of mind. She had been of impeccable morality when she was well so I had no reason to doubt her. As it was, my son was entirely innocent and she - or the dark powers which seized her mind - falsely accused my boy. I hope he will forgive me of that one day. Anyway, this was the way Templeton himself ultimately went.
The Mother and Her Dead Baby
The one thing that Templeton himself says that stuck like shrapnel in his brain was a picture in Life magazine he had seen of an African mother holding her dead baby. It had died because of drout. A lack of water had been responsible for taking her son away from her. Why? WHY?? was his enraged question. Why did the mother or baby deserve that? That's what made Templeton angry - the indiscriminate killing of the ordinary, the decent, and the wicked all together. It's what made him accuse Yahweh of being a cruel and nasty Elohim (God). And I am sure you can think of many who have turned to atheism because of similar circumstances, because of all the depravity and heartache in the world that makes no apparent distinxtion between the good and the bad.
Hell Just Makes It Worse
Today, if there is time - next week if there isn't - I want to take the bull by the horns and deal with this in the best way I know how. This is not going to be a mere apology, though. I have wrestled with anger and grief over similar circumstances, and I have desperately sought answers myself. And I don't think anyone is immune from this question. It's something every living soul has to face and make a choice over. Of course, this led Templetonm to the traditional picture of eternal hell which only stoked up the fires of his anger and unbelief even more.
Templeton Becomes an Agnostic
The more Templeton preached, the less he came to believe in what he was saying. In the end, he quit the ministry and became an agnostic openly. By agnostic he did not, as most do, mean that he didn't know whether Elohim (God) existed but that one cannot know, since you can only ever say that Elohim (God) doesn't exist if you know everything. So I have to agree with Templeton there at least: you're either a believer or an agnostic.
Gnosticism and Science
By the same line of reasoning, you can't become a Gnostic ('Knower') of Elohim (God) either - a 'Gnosto-theist' if you like - since you would have to also know everything to know absolutely that He existed. Even science operates to a large extent by faith since no scientist knows everything. The creation of a hypothesis is an act of faith since you hope the data will valitate it and establish it as true. A ball-shaped earth in a heliocentric solar system is by this method established beyond any reasonable element of a doubt. And whilst we don't know everything about our solar system or universe by a long shot, we can honestly say that it requires less faith to believe in a round earth than in a flat one because there is virtually no science to back flat-earthism up at all. It is, to requote Hunter, "wishful thinking". Most of the things we deal with in this world as human beings are just different degrees of faith with different smatterings of knowledge.
The Strobel Interview
Journalist Lee Strobel's interview with Templeton when he was very old floored me. Strobel was a sceptical agnostic who was only searching for the emet (truth) about Christianity because his wife had became a believer. He went to Templeton to find out why this once strong man of Elohim (God) had lost it all. Well, I have outlined the basic reasons already, so now for the shock.
Not an Antitheist Like Dawkins
Now Templeton was not an Antitheist like Dawkins & Company - he did not believe in evangelising to atheism and destroying religious faith. He didn't want to interfere in anyone's life at all. Indeed he was of the opinion that if religion made you a better person that that was not a bad thing even if it was built on a myth. He still viewed such people as crazy. For him, then, faith was simply fooling yourself into becoming a better person - a workable if illusiory motivation. He even complimented his old friend Billy Graham, describing him as a first-rate human being, a genuine, wholesome Christian, a sincere believer.
Templeton's Eulogy of Yah'shua
The conversation came around to Yah'shua (Jesus). Templeton didn't think He was a very good preacher - too simple, hadn't thought about things deeply enough. And then Templeton's guard started coming down - he relaxed as though he were now comfortable talking about a long lost dear friend. Even his tone softened as he spoke. Let me tell you what this 'agnostic' said:
"I Adore Him!"
"He was the greatest human being who ever lived. He was a moral genius. His ethical sense was unique. He was the intrinsically wisest person that I've ever encountered in my life or in my readings. His commitment was total and led to His own death, much to detriment of the world. What could one say about Him except that this was a form of greatness?"
Like Strobel, I was stunned - taken aback - by what Templeton said. When Strobel remarked that it seemed he really cared about Yah'shua (Jesus), he replied with some considerable emotion:
Everything Good, Decent and Pure
"Well, yes, He's the most important thing in my life. "I...I...I know it may sound strange, but I have to say...I adore Him!"
He went on:
"I Miss Him!"
"Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Yah'shua (Jesus). Yes...yes. And tough! Just look at Yah'shua (Jesus). He castigated people. He was angry. People don't think of him that way, but they don't read their Bible. He had a righteous anger. He cared for the oppressed and exploited. There's no question that He had the highest moral standard, the least duplicity, the greatest compassion, of any human being in history. There have been many wonderful people, but Yah'shua (Jesus) is Yah'shua (Jesus)"
Wow. Like Strobel, I was shocked. Strobel suggested the world would do well to emulate him to which Templeston replied:
There was a long pause, and then he continued:
"Oh, my goodness, yes! I have tried - and try is as far as I can go - to act as I have believed He would act. That doesn't mean I could read His mind, because one of the most fascinating things about Him was that He often did the opposite thing you'd expect."
His voice then cracked up and he broke down in a flood of tears, and concluded:
"In my view, He is the most important human being who has ever existed. And if I may put it this way..."
Though Strobel wanted to probe him and find out why he missed Him so deeply, Templeton regained his composure and changed the subject. He was once more in his anti-Elohim (God) mode.
The Choice to Split Down the Middle
Brethren and sisters, in the heart of every hardened atheist and agnostic is the knowledge, however deeply buried, a knowledge about the emet (truth) and reality of Elohim (God). Everybody knows deep down. But when we make the choice not to believe, we literally split down the middle - we divive into two contrary personalities: the soft, loving part that Templeton revealed to Strobel, and the hard, angry, intransigent part that could not accept that Elohim (God) could possibly exist because He would never permit all the horror going on around us.
The Moral Compass
Of course, Templeton denied that Yah'shua (Jesus) was Elohim (God) - He could only accept the human side, whom He was irresistably attracted to, not because this is what all men and women are capable of being like in the natural condition but only if Messiah dwells in them. And, yes, there is a little bit of that in every human being to be sure, and this on account of the fact that a portion of the Light of Messiah that accompanies everyone being born into this world (Jn.1:9), serving as a kind of moral and spiritual compass or conscience to lead us to the place where Yah'shua (Jesus) may be found in the fullness where we are then compelled to make a choice for Him - Yea, or Nay.
Even Unbelievers Admire Him
So here we come to what is for me the central question: an honest, sensitive person cannot fail to be impressed and attracted to the loveliness of Yah'shua's (Jesus') character. He cannot but admire it. He cannot but wish he were the same kind of human being himself. I have known lots of people in my life - atheists, socialists, Buddhists, Hindus, and even some Moslems - who like Yah'shua (Jesus). They just make excuses not to follow Him, for whatever fleshy reasons. And so they have to attack Elohim (God) and therefore Messiah's Deity too.
The Unanswerable Question Has to Remain Unanswered
So here, then, is the 'biggie' - that which I have discovered or realised these past days. The place at which atheists are made or believers are confirmed is over the issue of suffering in this world. I'm sure that many of you, like me, have wrestled long and hard over this question, and what I'm going to say now you're probably not going to like ... for crying out aloud, I don't like it! And it's this: THERE IS NO SATISFACTORY ANSWER TO THIS CENTRAL QUESTION (ABOUT SUFFERING) IN THIS LIFE NOR ARE WE GOING TO BE GIVEN ONE. Job wasn't, and he held out in such a way we probably wouldn't, so why do we suppose we're going to get the answer? Are we more faithful than Job? And more importantly - and this is the next question I intend to answer - I now know why were's not going to get an answer in this life.
A Way Better than Yahweh's?
Templeton knew Yah'shua (Jesus), he had a personal relationship with Him - no question of that - what he denied was that Yah'shua was Elohim (God) because Elohim (God) refused to answer the question of suffering that he wanted. Is there an answer to that question? Oh yes, absolutely! Morally there has to be if Yahweh is an Elohim (God) of ahavah (love) and justice, and He absolutely claims to be both loving and just. A reason so many refuse to equate Elohim (God) with this cruel world is because they believe they know better that the Creator and could do it better. However you cook it, man is making himself out to be more moral than Elohim (God). or to put it another way, man is making himself out to be Elohim (God). He thinks he would make a better job of things were he the cosmic boss.
The Need For Resolution
It's actually astonishing - astonishing because of its arrogance and presumption - that man, who knows practically nothing about existence, dares to presume to know so much. Alright, we still have not got to the kernel, because here, at the heart of the matter, lies the answer which alone can give us the shalom (peace) and resolution we so desperately crave.
We return to the question of AGENCY and through it, and it alone, can we understand why man cannot have the answer to the question about apparently random suffering he demands an answer to while in this life. Why the Alzheimers? Why the baby killed by drout? Why the good people abducted, tortured, murdered? Why this disaster or that one? Why the millions who never get a chance to hear the Besorah (Gospel). We can wax very philosophical and just ask and endless stream of unanswerable questions. Yah knows, I have done it - not once, but many times.
Yah'shua Claimed to be Elohim
Templeton was impressed by the perfection of Yah'shua's (Jesus) humanity. But why didn't he believe Yah'shua's (Jesus) own testimony:
Templeston knew what Yah'shua (Jesus) said. He even wrote a book based on the sayings of Him in the four Gospels.
"Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in Me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in Me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves" (John 14:9-11, NIV).
The Moral Perfection of Father and Son
If Yah'shua (Jesus) only did what the Father did, if the Father lived in Him to such a full and perfect extent, that whoever knows and sees Yah'shua (Jesus) knows and sees Yahweh the Father - then you have a perfect image in human form of what Elohim (God) is like in nature. Everything that Templeton loved so much about Yah'shua (Jesus) was just a duplicate of the perfection of the Father's own perfect morality and goodness. Indeed, Yah'shua (Jesus) was telling the talmidim (disciples) that in His person they had Elohim (God) in their midst as an incarnation.
Tripped by the Liberal Theologians
Of course, Templeton had already shot himself in the proverbial foot and crippled his thinking by believing the liberal theologians who denied miracles and largely denied Elohim (God) even existed, so he would have picked and selected those scriptures which the liberals 'left behind', as reductionist 'higher critics' are wont to do. Like humanists, he would have reinvented Yah'shua (Jesus) in his own projection of non-divine perfecftion.
Liberal theologians believe that the Scriptures gradually 'evolved' and were progressively added to over time, becoming more and more embellished, transforming Yah'shua (Jesus) from a mere human being into a Divine Creature. So liberals imagine there is an original 'core' which they seek to recover before priests and other religious people got hold of the original story and reinvented it. And of course no two theologians agree as they cast their own personal 'Jesus' stripped of wonder-working and any claims to be Elohim (God).
Deciding to have Faith in the Scriptures
You'll find lots of theologians treating Scriptire as mere folklore as they search for these mythical 'cores'. Candian theologian Sydney Temple tried to do this with the Gospel of John in his book, The Core of the Fourth Gospel. That why we, like the younger Billy Graham, have to make the decision early on that we are going to accept the reliability of the Scriptures as historical and theological emet (truth). That's where modern scholars like James R. White and others become important to give us a good foundation in coming to understand the reliability of the Bible and its faithful transmission over the centuries. We have to establish that, decide on versions, and all the other things believers do. That's why there is such a concerted attack on the historicity of the Scriptures and why equally scholars like Bill Cooper become so important, establishing as he did (amongst other things) the authenticity of the Book of Genesis in his book of the same name. That's why Genesis and Creationism - and good science - become important too. Indeed, once you've established the reliability of Genesis you have pretty much blown away the crooked pillars of liberalism and the field is clear.
Things You Don't Need for Salvation
I learned all I know about theology, liberalism and the rest mostly to sharpen my apologetic teeth but also out of curiosity to understand people, creation and the Creator better. I do not rely on any of it for my salvation. You don't need these things to be saved but you may need them to help others to overcome their ignorance and so find their Saviour. That's one reason we have this ministry with its large, ever growing database of resources. My salvation comes from my emunah (faith) alone - from my trusting in the resurrected Master, trusting that the Scriptures have been faithfully preserved without embellishments and with minimal scribal commentary or editing...and all through Yahweh's undeserved loving kindness, His grace. It's not primarily an intellectual exercise but the intellect can become a prized tool in Kingdom service after salvation.
There is a Surplus of Evidence Sufficient for Faith
Yahweh says that He gives us plenty of evidence to believe in Him - to make that leap of emunah (faith). Doubt only comes when we fail to stop long enough to observe all the evidence. And when doubt turns to a lack of trust, we are in danger of ignoring Elohim (God) altogether. Again, what we, who were not physical witnesses of the resurrection, see now, does not create or enable emunah (faith). It may bolster emunah (faith) after it has been exercised, but not before.
Miracles and Evidence Can Only Support Faith, Not Create It
Miracles do not lead to true conversion - they can be but stop-gaps until a real in-depth heart-choice has been made for the Person of Yah'shua (Jesus). So emunah (faith) does not come from seeing but from believing. Thus Yahweh could rebuke the Israelites, saying:
Keep on Believing!
"For there your ancestors tried My patience; they courted My wrath though they had seen My many miracles" (Ps.95:9, NLT).
There are miracles enough in your own life to be convinced of His existence and reliability if you'll look long enough to notice them. Then you have all the miracles in the Scriptures - they didn't happen to you but they happened to lots of other believers and their emunah (faith) was built up, their trusting made stronger, if they chose to keep on believing. So choose to keep believing!
Power is Involved
"Don't be faithless any longer. Believe!" (Jn.20:27ff., NLT)
It may seem a little thing but that choice makes the difference between a Graham and a Templeton. There is a huge consequence in how you choose and therefore very real power is involved - the power to radically have your life changed for the good or for the evil. One of Satan's tactics, as in the garden of Eden (Gen.3:4-6), is to get you to doubt Elohim's goodness, just as he did with Templeton through liberal scholars and the suffering in our world. You have to make a choice without all the cosmic data. That ought to be common sense but people seem to expect it.
You Still Have to make a Decision
If Yahweh is good like Yah'shua (Jesus) so obviously was, and as Templeton so clearly saw, and if people get Alzheimers, and babies die in drouts, and horrid things happen to good people, you still have to make a choice - a decision - about the nature of Elohim (God). So make it carefully because it will absolutely affect your whole life and your eternity, for good or evil.
The Two-Sided Tapestry Illustration
Do these terrible things happen because Elohim (God) is evil (and therefore, in your mind, that creates an apparent unresolvable contradiction (since Elohim must be good by definition, forcing you to deny He actually exists) or is there another possible explanation? Do you need to know what the other explanation is in order to know who Elohim (God) is and what He is like, save in the most general terms? What, if in trying to explain all the 'bad stuff' going on, you demand that Yahweh explains a reality you could not yet possibly grasp, like living on the back side of a piece of tapestry and not being able to see the front side? What if the front size as a whole is only visible in eternity? What if we can only see small glimpses of it down here?
Always a Heavenly and an Earthly Perspective
That's where emunah (faith) comes in, for you must trust the Great Tapestry-Maker to know what He's doing even if you don't, but first you must understand that there are always two perspectives - the earthly one and the heavenly one, just like two people observing someone making a tapesty - one behind and one in front. Each will see two apparently different realities even though they both see the needle of life at work - the pleasant and painful - piercing the canvas of your existence, disappearing and reappearing.
Back-End of the Tapestry
That is what emunah (faith) in large part consists of trusting that there is another, ordered and beautiful side that cannot be apprehended in this life, just glimpsed occasionally. That is what we choose to believe or not to believe. If you refuse to believe, like Templeton, then all you will see is the tangled web of threads having no apparent order or purpose, like the backside of this tapestry of a bird in a tree:
The Satanic Agenda
You may be assured that Satan, consistently and relentlessly, tries to get us to forget about all that Yahweh has given us and to instead, to our huge detriment and well-being, focus on what we don't have and think we need, or on the bad things instead of the good. If you spent much of your time thinking about what you don't have, or obsess the bad things that have happened to you, you will fail to understand why the weave of life must happen that way for you in particular, and so only slip into unhealthy doubt.
Careful Explanation Needed for the Serious Questions of Life
Now I know I did not answer the 'biggie' as I hoped I would as there hasn't been enough time and I have already overrun my time, but I promise we will return to it next week in the final installment. This is a subject that not only excites a great deal of interest - understandably - but also demands very careful explanation, because these are not trivial matters. In the meantime, until next sabbath, remember this. Never doubt your salvation once you have received it. Once you have made the decision to trust, and to keep on trusting no matter what, Satan can never snatch you away. For as Elohim (God) has said:
And as Paul testified:
"I will never fail you. I will never forsake you" (Heb.13:5, NLT).
"Indeed, Elohim (God) is ready to help you right now" (2 Cor.6:2, NLT).
May His grace and peace go with you until next sabbath and to my concluding word on this subject. Amen.
Continued in Part 3
 W.Bingham Hunter, The God Who Hears (Intervarsity Press, Downer's Grove, Illinois: 1986), p.153
 Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan: 2000), p.11
 Lee Strobel, ibid., pp.17-18