Archive for the ‘God and the religions’ Category

General discussion about the 10 Commandments with reflections from Herman Bavinck part 1

September 7, 2022

Bavinck the master theologian is going to take us on a road map of the 10 commandments. However, what I have learned about the numbering of the 10 commandments is different in Judaism, Catholicism and Lutheranism and then we have the other traditions too.  As well as Bavinck over a 150 years ago, this problem has been pointed out also by my former lecturer the Late Richard Coggins (In His commentary on Exodus).  The 10 commandments in Hebrew were known as the ’10 words’. Coggins pointed out that in key passages there are situations where the 10 commandments could have been used.  Instead in the Old Testament we have ‘silence’.  In the Christian traditions however the 10 commandments through the centuries has played a fuller part in the formation of the Christian society.

In the Christian traditions of the 10 commandments, it starts here:

“You shall have no other gods before Me. Exodus 20:3

According to Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs says that in Judaism the first commandment is:

 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Exodus 20:2 Judaism it starts here:

Why the difference Rabbi Sacks says:

“There was a fundamental disagreement between Maimonides and Nahmanides on the status of the first sentence: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” Maimonides, in line with the Talmud, held that this is in itself a command: to believe in God. Nahmanides held that it was not a command at all. It was a prologue or preamble to the commands.[4] Modern research on ancient Near Eastern covenant formulae tends to support Nahmanides.”

(From (I usually do not include the https on the front because I want to keep the structure of my blog.  It is enough however if you wish to follow the argument)).

By no means is the 10 Commandments a dead subject.  From a Jewish point of view there is a covenant between God and Israel.  The first sentence links the identity of God to the redemption of his people from slavery.  It is in the context of the relationship that the 10 commandments make sense.

Bavinck and the first commandment (first word)

understanding the grammar (Before me; before my face; in my presence)

“You shall have no other gods before Me. Exodus 20:3

Bavinck is going to look at the commandment in closer detail.   Below we have the LXX, NASB and the Mosoretic text.

  • 3 οὐκ2 ἔσονταί1 σοι (θεοὶ ἕτεροι3) πλὴν4 ἐμοῦ5. 
  • 3 You shall1 not2 have (any other gods3) before4 me 5
  • 3 לֹֽ֣א יִהְיֶֽה־לְךָ֛֩ אֱלֹהִ֥֨ים אֲחֵרִ֖֜ים עַל־פָּנָֽ֗יַ׃ Exodus 20:3

(On the Greek text of the Old Testament with reference to Exodus 203 I have added numbers so that you can follow the word order. You also need to remember that one reads Hebrew from right to left)

“There will not be for you other gods before my face.” Page 122

After the translation of this verse, he quotes Abraham Kuyper:

“This commandment implies: Let God be God; do not assault him in his being, but live only for him, under him, and through him.” (From Page 122)

From my point of view this was a good translation as it takes the preposition ‘al’ which can mean different things in various contexts

Herman Bavinck researched the above text and then he looked at some translations of it.

My own research for fun in Google translate gave us:

As a preposition depending on the sentence, can have a wide range of meanings:

עַל Can mean about; to onto; upon; above; by; towards; toward; unto.

Bavincks final verdict on the translation was influenced by the LXX ‘before me (πλὴν ἐμοῦ)’

The Hebrew using ‘before my face’. 

Before this conclusion however he looked at some other translations:

Jacob Alting and Nicolaus Gürtler translate this as “except before my face”—that is, my Shekinah), my Son, whereby the Son is included under the prohibition of Deuteronomy 5:7 along with the Holy Spirit. “

(The wording above gives the impression that the Son and Holy Spirit are part of the ban.  This is not the case.  The editors notes (John Bolt)clarify that the subject of the discussion is on the grammar and not the trinity, page 122)

Bavinck interprets; “Before my face” is nothing more than “in my presence” (cf. Ps. 27:8; Exod).

The Master |Theologian gets the precious nugget from the Gold Mine, which is ‘in my presence’.  Bavinck also pointed out that even some other scholars preferred to use ‘except for, עַל ’.  Bavinck however felt that ‘before’ was a better translation and I agree with him on this.

Bavinck also gives us some references to other parts of the Scriptures for ‘before Me’:

Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans. Genesis 11:28 (The word presence is the Hebrew word face)

But Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD when they offered strange fire before the LORD in the wilderness of Sinai; and they had no children. So Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests in the lifetime of their father Aaron. Numbers 3:4 (The word ‘before’ in the first sentence is ‘face’ in the Hebrew)

Thus, Bavinck shows that the word ‘face’ can be translated as ‘before’ and ‘presence’ in its customary Old Testament Hebrew usage.

The prohibition on the gods

At the end of page 123 Bavinck moves on from the presence of God to His relationship to the other gods who are not real gods. It is interesting that he says that the people should not have other gods in their hearts or hidden from other people. God is present everywhere.

When commenting on the other gods Bavinck writes:

“Other gods” may mean “others” and also “strange ones” (Ps. 81:9; Isa. 42:8).”

I think this sentence needs unpacking as the Editor John Bolt in the notes certainly has given us some key words. 

Let us begin by looking at the above quotations:

9 “Let there be no strange god among you;

Nor shall you worship any foreign god. Psalms 81:9

8 “I am the LORD, that is My name;

I will not give My glory to another,

Nor My praise to graven images. Isaiah 42:8

Anyway, in this section John Bolt the Editor of the Reformed Ethics gave us three words from the various translations of the Old Testament.

The LXX uses ‘’ theoi heteroi.  It means other gods but heteros is very strong.  It means completely different other (chalk and cheese different or.  St Paul used the word Heteros when he was having a shindig (argument) with the ‘Judaizers’– those people forcing Gentile Christians to be circumcised.  Peter got told off as well Galatians 16).

So then, God’s Word is very Strict, and Bavinck brings this out from the translation.  Israel has been commanded to worship the one God YHWH.  When I use the Tetragrammaton (God’s name) I will refer to him as ‘The Lord’. This is because as well as respecting Jewish believers who use Ha Shem ‘The Name’ for the Tetragrammaton, I feel in today’s Church God the Father is not honoured enough and sacred religious language is being trampled on.  As believers let us show respect to our Trinitarian God who is blasphemed in the media on a day-to-day basis.

This is a very Holy Command and God’s people are expected to live to this high covenant. Unfortunately, even though the Prophets in the Old Testament warned again and again of following foreign gods.  A lot of ordinary Israelites failed this command. In the siege of Lachish for example when Sennacherib attacked the Israelite city one can see some candle sticks that were taken as booty for the king.  In other words, some residents of Lachish were worshipping foreign gods.


Document 27 for example in ‘The Bible in the British Museum’; pages 60-64; By T C Mitchell. the picture below shows something:

The editor writes:

“To the right the defeated inhabitants are led out by Assyrian troops, some of whom carry braziers or incense stands, perhaps from unorthodox religious rites.”

This is a graphic image of the first of the 10 commandments being broken and the aftermath of God’s judgement on the people of Lachish. Sennacherib made a graphic representation of this victory to milk his pride.


From my point of view the Ten Commandments have universal value. It is an important part of Christian teaching.  I have to say though that at the time of the Second Temple when Christ walked this earth, the Ten Commandments were more important in Judaism than today.  The Lord, our Trinitarian God ought to be respected and we ought to put all of our idols of materialism, selfishness, and pride far away.  We also need to remember that these two commandments can be summed up in two.

  • Love God
  • Lover your neighbour as yourself

God wants us to come into his presence and the language of ‘face’ for ‘presence’ is very intimate and covenantal.  However, we need to remember that although there is intimacy there is ‘respect’ and God is Holy and in a sense we need to respect this and perhaps tighten our own language to show this respect.  We also need to remember that we stand before The Lord who created the whole universe and humankind.  We respect our leaders but how much more should we respect The Holy One, The Lord who gave us life and brought us into a covenant relationship through the Son by way of the Cross, the Resurrection and the Guarantor who takes us into the very presence of God, The Holy Spirit.

‘Autonomy Hits the Big Time and Duty was put on the Backburner’ What does this mean for Society?

July 21, 2022

Autonomous reason hit the big time now people wanted to put Jesus Christ onto the back burner.  This really did happen as the traditional doctrine of the atonement and allied subjects were replaced by the logic of reason. In fact, no religious tradition has escaped unfazed with the march of the new ideas.  The adventure of secularism in some ways has paved the way to more freedoms but on the other hand it has let loose old-time boundaries in Science, Ethics and Aesthetics.   In some cases, we have lost parts of our humanity through data.  We are not people anymore.  We are in fact data.  If we are out of work and want to make a claim, we need to show a number.  If we are ill, we have to show a number.  Even if we are dead numbers are still used.

Science on its own (with the wrong type of ethics and aesthetics) can be cold as it is the driver behind a lot of advances in our society. Yes, on the one hand we have more so called ‘rights’ but on the other hand we have lost our individuality and are more like a person inside a Picasso art piece.

In some of these theories, Man wants himself to be autonomous from anything outside of himself this includes morality. Man, thinks can make his own decisions and make good decisions about ethics.

However, there are many arguments, On the contrary, I mean:

  • who made the nuclear bomb?
  • Who made the wars?
  • What about deaths and pestilences?

Human autonomy also has serious problems when it comes to ethics and I think it is refreshing that we have the Master Theologian Herman Bavinck 150 years later, after he wrote this book that went into some library somewhere and only was discovered recently that he can give us fresh advice about how we ought to live as Christians.

The 10 Commandments are not a dead subject, and it never has been.  As I said earlier in one of my other blogs on in Matthew’s gospel, that even though the ceremonial law was done away with the moral law is always there the two Commandments love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind and soul, and strength and its parallel on the horizontal line love your neighbor as yourself are the summing up of the 10 Commandments.  Herman, Bavinck does us a favour when he goes through each of these 10 commandments, explaining to us what it actually means, explaining to us how the Christian man by faith is supposed to live this life.  Autonomy doesn’t work.  It’s only through freedom in obedience that works that gives us a true ethic that can actually protect our neighbour as well as ourselves. 

I bought a book while the Late Lord Sacks was alive and, in that book, he explains to us that we went from ‘We’ to ‘Me’, ‘I’.  (Morality; John Sacks; page 77) Obviously, the rot in society set in a long time ago.  We know exactly when this malaise set into our society.  One of the big philosophical ideas was done by the work of Kant with his categorical imperative.  There is a section in my late professor’s book from KCL (Colin E. Gunton; The One the Three and the Many; pages 114-119) As Gunton says the big problem today is that in culture; science, ethics and aesthetics have been ripped apart!   Herman Bavinck was warning us about these things over a 150 years ago. 

As Herman Bavinck is closer to the time of these so-called great ideas in Western Culture it is very helpful to go down Memory Lane.  Obviously, I take a Trinitarian position, but I think Bavinck’s Ethics Book 2 speaks to Western Culture now in the 21st century!  Even if you do not believe in God or hold another view, you have to agree that something is seriously wrong in Western Culture.  We have forgotten how to be truly human and to be a real person.  Perhaps through John Sacks, Colin E. Gunton and Herman Bavinck, they can help us to find our way in a broken society. Anyhow as you can see, I have received my second volume of Ethics by Herman Bavinck so I will be focusing on his writings.

So, we can pick up where we left off.  In the last blog we are reminded that ‘Duty’ presupposes ‘Law’.  This then become a minefield in the scholarly world.   We proved this in our last blog.  Herman Bavinck also proved to us that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfil it.  This raises all sort of questions for the Christian. Some theologians put all the emphasis on Gospel and go as far to say that the Old Testament has been superseded (Heresy).  Others put all the emphasis on law at the expense of our Christian freedom in Christ.  Before Herman Bavinck even looks at the 10 commandments he goes into the minutest details of precepts and councils and adiaphora.  

  • What we have to do (precepts)
  • What we ought to do (counsels)
  • The area of actions that are outside of ethics such as touching one’s beard. (adiaphora)
  • Do duties collide?

(The above are found in volume 2; Reformed Ethics; Herman Bavinck chapters 13 and 14; pages 1-89)

This has been a minefield since the Reformation including Protestants and Roman Catholics.  I am just mentioning this, but I will not go into detail because it isn’t such a hot issue for ordinary Christian believers.  I am more interested in the nitty gritty of why the 10 commandments are important to the Christian community.  There is indeed a relationship between the law and the Gospel, but it would be nice to understand why this relationship is so important.  For Reformed Christians they hold a tension that it is by faith through our Trinitarian God that we are saved and because we are indebted to what our Lord Jesus did for us the fruit of this is good works (loving in a practical manner our fellow human neighbour no matter who they are.) the list above are underpinning questions Bavinck answers before he goes into the 10 commandments proper from page 119. 


Our society has become more individual based and our relationship to one another is not emphasized as much as it ought to be.  In the newspapers I read recently that Boris the prime minister should have gone to a Cobra meeting (to do with the heat wave) but instead he was a British fighter jet enjoying a once in a lifetime experience before he stops being prime minister.  We all have to make moral choices and perhaps it is sometimes a good thing to reflect on the relationship of the Gospel to the law.  As Christians we know that decisions, we make here will determine what happens in the eschaton on Judgement Day. 

I would go a stage further and say that no matter what our background; Do we not have a duty to our neighbour as they have a duty to us.  What should have Boris done? Should he have gone for a joy ride or spent time thinking about human lives?  What moral choices do you make on a day-to-day basis, where you live and who you spend your time with? (Friend and family)

Whatever we believe we are under some natural law (the law of nature).  For Christians the natural law goes back to the creation of Adam and Even.  If you do not accept this story, you still are under the natural law (the law of nature) because you are a natural being.

These first two chapters I have to say have been a rather dry subject (but necessary for any theologian).  After the ‘collision of duties’ and the ‘classification of ‘duties’ we will find ourselves in part A ‘No Other Gods, no images.’  I am getting excited about this as we return to our Creator and find out what he expects of us.

The Teleological Argument and Herman Bavinck

June 5, 2022

Objections to the teleological argument

Bavinck saw that there were scholars who denied the teleological grounds and purpose of creation:

“First of all, materialism asserts that there is no purpose in things, and the teleological interpretation of nature must give way to the mechanical one. Pantheism, moreover, affirms that the presence of order and purpose in the universe gives us absolutely no warrant to posit the existence of a conscious, intelligent cause since, both in the case of the individual human and that of the world as a whole, the unconscious functions with more wisdom and certainty than conscious reflection and deliberate calculation. Finally, Kant raised the objection that this argument at most leads to a world-shaper not to a World creator” (pages 82 to 83)

Bavinck Replies to these objections

In this section Bavinck answers the objectors firstly through Jewish Christian writings.  After this he will show that the Ancient Greek Philosophers held to idea that nature has purpose.

The Jewish Christian World view as found in Scripture

Bavinck the Master Theologian begins by turning to Scripture and here we see that there is purpose in Creation:

Genesis 1 shows us that God gave creation a purpose and ‘it was good’:

The Creation

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

6 Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 God made the expanse and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. 8 God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

9 Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. 13 There was evening and there was morning, a third day.

14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. 17 God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. 19 There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

20 Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.” 21 God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. 25 God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to everything that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. 31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” Genesis 1

We then have Wisdom calling out to us!

“Does not wisdom call,

And understanding lift up her voice? “Proverbs 8:1

All things belong to Christ:

“So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.” 1 Corinthians 3:21-23

As believers in Christ God’s purposes are working themselves out in His love every day:

“28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

The ancient Greek philosophers

Here are some Greek philosophers that Bavinck points to who actually used the teleological arguments.

  • Anaxagoras
  • Socrates
  • Plato
  • Aristotle

At this point he just gave these names as a matter of fact.  If you want to follow this through you can read the notes below taken from Wikipedia.  I included the notes here though for those who wanted to know what the Greek philosophers were thinking.  

In his argument Bavinck reminds us that purpose can be seen in such things as:

  • The seasons
  • Water temperature
  • Fertilization of Plants
  • Blood circulation
  • Organisms such as the hand or the eye

We could go on with his examples, but he says that Homers Iliad could not have come into being by chance.  This means other things too.

Before continuing into Bavinck and his view on Darwin’s natural selection arguments.  We need a basic idea of what it is.   In a nutshell:

“Darwin proposed a theory of the survival of the fittest by natural selection. The fittest, healthiest members of a species survive, and their characteristics become a part of the character of the species.” (From

This theory of evolution has been a bomb shell as it gives a reason not to believe in a deity.  Having said that I don’t think even Darwin envisaged this and how this idea of the ‘fittest surviving’ could lead to the atrocities committed by Germany in WW2. 

The Nazis milked Nietzsche’s idea of the “Superman” for themselves:

“The Italian and German fascist regimes were eager to lay claim to Nietzsche’s ideas, and to position themselves as inspired by them. In 1932, Nietzsche’s sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, received a bouquet of roses from Adolf Hitler during a German premiere of Benito Mussolini’s 100 Days, and in 1934 Hitler personally presented her with a wreath for Nietzsche’s grave carrying the words “To A Great Fighter”. Also in 1934, Elisabeth gave to Hitler Nietzsche’s favourite walking stick, and Hitler was photographed gazing into the eyes of a white marble bust of Nietzsche.[23] Heinrich Hoffmann’s popular biography Hitler as Nobody Knows Him (which sold nearly a half-million copies by 1938) featured this photo with the caption reading: “The Führer before the bust of the German philosopher whose ideas have fertilized two great popular movements: the national socialist of Germany and the fascist of Italy.”” 


Following this recipe of the Superman deifies Man as ‘divine’ and gives him control over the elements.  Whenever man is made divine the world runs into serious problems. 

However, we also need to remember that natural selection was never a new idea.  The Greek philosophers of Ancient Greece looked at its philosophical implications and was rejected by Aristotle, one of the greatest minds of the ancient world. Aristotle fell on the teleological side of natural selection:

“   So what hinders the different parts [of the body] from having this merely accidental relation in nature? as the teeth, for example, grow by necessity, the front ones sharp, adapted for dividing, and the grinders flat, and serviceable for masticating the food; since they were not made for the sake of this, but it was the result of accident. And in like manner as to the other parts in which there appears to exist an adaptation to an end. Wheresoever, therefore, all things together (that is all the parts of one whole) happened like as if they were made for the sake of something, these were preserved, having been appropriately constituted by an internal spontaneity, and whatsoever things were not thus constituted, perished, and still perish.

    — Aristotle, Physics, Book II, Chapter 8[7]

But Aristotle rejected this possibility in the next paragraph, making clear that he is talking about the development of animals as embryos with the phrase “either invariably or normally come about”, not the origin of species:

    … Yet it is impossible that this should be the true view. For teeth and all other natural things either invariably or normally come about in a given way; but of not one of the results of chance or spontaneity is this true. We do not ascribe to chance or mere coincidence the frequency of rain in winter, but frequent rain in summer we do; nor heat in the dog-days, but only if we have it in winter. If then, it is agreed that things are either the result of coincidence or for an end, and these cannot be the result of coincidence or spontaneity, it follows that they must be for an end; and that such things are all due to nature even the champions of the theory which is before us would agree. Therefore, action for an end is present in things which come to be and are by nature.

    — Aristotle, Physics, Book II, Chapter ” From

Darwin Summarized his ideas on Natural Selection:

   “ If during the long course of ages and under varying conditions of life, organic beings vary at all in the several parts of their organisation, and I think this cannot be disputed; if there be, owing to the high geometrical powers of increase of each species, at some age, season, or year, a severe struggle for life, and this certainly cannot be disputed; then, considering the infinite complexity of the relations of all organic beings to each other and to their conditions of existence, causing an infinite diversity in structure, constitution, and habits, to be advantageous to them, I think it would be a most extraordinary fact if no variation ever had occurred useful to each being’s own welfare, in the same way as so many variations have occurred useful to man. But if variations useful to any organic being do occur, assuredly individuals thus characterised will have the best chance of being preserved in the struggle for life; and from the strong principle of inheritance, they will tend to produce offspring similarly characterised. This principle of preservation, I have called, for the sake of brevity, Natural Selection.

    — Darwin summarising natural selection in the fourth chapter of On the Origin of Species”


Natural selection is not the problem.  It becomes a problem when the theory is used to deny the existence of God.   We are now ready to turn to Herman Bavinck and think about what he has to say.

Bavinck says that the initial characterization of Darwinism was one of substitution.  Substituting purpose for cause.  This brought to the fore how important teleological views are. As Bavinck continues one of natural selections goals was to explain how things worked (‘functionality of things’). ‘Matter, force and motion’ fails to explain everything rather direction is needed too.  As Bavinck says, ‘direction is inconceivable without purpose.’ The latest research around the turn of the century ‘Teleology and causality certainly do not exclude each other’.

Bavinck goes on to say that there is also room for the teleological world view for ‘mechanical causality’.  However, Bavinck warns that trying to explain ‘all phenomena’ found in our world would be a serious mistake.  There are limits then even for teleology. Teleology can be used for:

  • Matter
  • Metabolism
  • Conscious
  • Mental

However, Bavinck explains to us that not all intelligentsia agree with teleological arguments but rather there are those who try to disprove teleology.  

Bavinck points to a scholar from 1900 Von Hartmann who took the opposite view to teleology. ‘Instinct’ as ‘an unconscious lack of cogency’ is argued by Hartmann.  However even in the product of instinct it still points to a preconceived purpose.

Bavinck makes the point that even if teleology points to a World-shaper this is going in the right direction.  {With the context I think Bavinck may mean World shaper = One who forms creation from something already there instead of ex nihilo (the Christian view of God the Creator.  I’m not 100% sure at the moment)} There are other objections but on a practical level:

“Everything here depends on the presence of purpose in the world.  Once this is established the existence of consciousness of a Supreme Being are implied.”

Reformed Dogmatics; Herman Bavinck; Volume 2; page 83


Darwin could not see the big picture on how the world works and how his natural selection fits in.  Sad to say, the idea of ‘natural selection’ when divorced from the existence of a Creator put Man in the driver’s seat. This ideology led to the Holocaust tempered with anti-Semitism. 20 million Russians also died because of Stalin.

When the Creator is denied something else has to fill the vacuum and we know from human history that death and destruction follows. 

With teleology a relational harmony takes place between God and nature; between the Creator and creature.

With God as Creator, ethics is tempered by God’s revelation from Scripture and nature that the world has purpose and reason to exist.

Bavinck reminds us that by God’s grace the world runs.  The world is not an accident and as custodians of nature here on earth we have a responsibility to put God in his rightful place by better taking care of the natural world.

Notes on the Greek Philosophers and the Teleological argument


(Taken from ://

“Anaxagoras brought philosophy and the spirit of scientific inquiry from Ionia to Athens. According to Anaxagoras all things have existed in some way from the beginning, but originally they existed in infinitesimally small fragments of themselves, endless in number and inextricably combined throughout the universe. All things existed in this mass, but in a confused and indistinguishable form. There was an infinite number of homogeneous parts (ὁμοιομερῆ) as well as heterogeneous ones.

The work of arrangement, the segregation of like from unlike and the summation of the whole into totals of the same name, was the work of Mind or Reason (νοῦς). Mind is no less unlimited than the chaotic mass, but it stood pure and independent, a thing of finer texture, alike in all its manifestations and everywhere the same. This subtle agent, possessed of all knowledge and power, is especially seen ruling in all the forms of life.[d] Its first appearance, and the only manifestation of it which Anaxagoras describes, is Motion. It gave distinctness and reality to the aggregates of like parts.”

Socrates and the pre-Socratics

(From ://

“The argument from intelligent design appears to have begun with Socrates, although the concept of a cosmic intelligence is older and David Sedley has argued that Socrates was developing an older idea, citing Anaxagoras of Clazomenae, born about 500 BC, as a possible earlier proponent.[13][14][15] The proposal that the order of nature showed evidence of having its own human-like “intelligence” goes back to the origins of Greek natural philosophy and science, and its attention to the orderliness of nature, often with special reference to the revolving of the heavens. Anaxagoras is the first person who is definitely known to have explained such a concept using the word “nous” (which is the original Greek term that leads to modern English “intelligence” via its Latin and French translations). Aristotle reports an earlier philosopher from Clazomenae named Hermotimus who had taken a similar position.[16] Amongst Pre-Socratic philosophers before Anaxagoras, other philosophers had proposed a similar intelligent ordering principle causing life and the rotation of the heavens. For example Empedocles, like Hesiod much earlier, described cosmic order and living things as caused by a cosmic version of love,[17] and Pythagoras and Heraclitus attributed the cosmos with “reason” (logos).[18] In his Philebus 28c Plato has Socrates speak of this as a tradition, saying that “all philosophers agree—whereby they really exalt themselves—that mind (nous) is king of heaven and earth. Perhaps they are right.” and later states that the ensuing discussion “confirms the utterances of those who declared of old that mind (nous) always rules the universe”.”

Plato and Aristotle

(Taken from ://

Plato’s Timaeus is presented as a description of someone who is explaining a “likely story” in the form of a myth, and so throughout history commentators have disagreed about which elements of the myth can be seen as the position of Plato.[15]: 132  Sedley (2007) nevertheless calls it “the creationist manifesto” and points out that although some of Plato’s followers denied that he intended it, in classical times writers such as Aristotle, Epicurus, the Stoics, and Galen all understood Plato as proposing the world originated in an “intelligent creative act”.[15]: 133  Plato has a character explain the concept of a “demiurge” with supreme wisdom and intelligence as the creator of the cosmos in his work.

Plato’s teleological perspective is also built upon the analysis of a priori order and structure in the world that he had already presented in The Republic. The story does not propose creation ex nihilo; rather, the demiurge made order from the chaos of the cosmos, imitating the eternal Forms.[22]

    Plato’s world of eternal and unchanging Forms, imperfectly represented in matter by a divine Artisan, contrasts sharply with the various mechanistic Weltanschauungen, of which atomism was, by the 4th century at least, the most prominent… This debate was to persist throughout the ancient world. Atomistic mechanism got a shot in the arm from Epicurus… while the Stoics adopted a divine teleology… The choice seems simple: either show how a structured, regular world could arise out of undirected processes, or inject intelligence into the system.[23]

    — R. J. Hankinson, Cause and Explanation in Ancient Greek Thought

Plato’s student and friend Aristotle (c. 384 – 322 BC), continued the Socratic tradition of criticising natural scientists such as Democritus who sought (as in modern science) to explain everything in terms of matter and chance motion. He was very influential in the future development of classical creationism, but was not a straightforward “creationist” because he required no creation interventions in nature, meaning he “insulated god from any requirement to intervene in nature, either as creator or as administrator”.[15]: 204  Instead of direct intervention by a creator it is “scarcely an exaggeration to say that for Aristotle the entire functioning of the natural world, as also the heavens, is ultimately to be understood as a shared striving towards godlike actuality”.[15]: 171  And whereas the myth in the Timaeus suggests that all living things are based on one single paradigm, not one for each species, and even tells a story of “devolution” whereby other living things devolved from humans, it was Aristotle who presented the influential idea that each type of normal living thing must be based on a fixed paradigm or form for that species.[15]

Aristotle felt that biology was a particularly important example of a field where materialist natural science ignored information which was needed in order to understand living things well. For example birds use wings for the purpose of flight.[24] Therefore the most complete explanation in regard to the natural, as well as the artificial, is for the most part teleological.[25] In fact, proposals that species had changed by chance survival of the fittest, similar to what is now called “natural selection”, were already known to Aristotle, and he rejected these with the same logic.[25][26][27][28][29] He conceded that monstrosities (new forms of life) could come about by chance,[30][31] but he disagreed with those who ascribed all nature purely to chance[32] because he believed science can only provide a general account of that which is normal, “always, or for the most part”.[33] The distinction between what is normal, or by nature, and what is “accidental”, or not by nature, is important in Aristotle’s understanding of nature. As pointed out by Sedley, “Aristotle is happy to say (Physics II 8, 199a33-b4) without the slightest fear of blasphemy, crafts make occasional mistakes; therefore, by analogy, so can nature.”[15]: 186  According to Aristotle the changes which happen by nature are caused by their “formal causes”, and for example in the case of a bird’s wings there is also a final cause which is the purpose of flying. He explicitly compared this to human technology:

    If then what comes from art is for the sake of something, it is clear that what come from nature is too […] This is clear most of all in the other animals, which do nothing by art, inquiry, or deliberation; for which reason some people are completely at a loss whether it is by intelligence or in some other way that spiders, ants, and such things work. […] It is absurd to think that a thing does not happen for the sake of something if we do not see what sets it in motion deliberating. […] This is most clear when someone practices medicine himself on himself; for nature is like that.

    — Aristotle, Physics, II 8.[34]

The question of how to understand Aristotle’s conception of nature having a purpose and direction something like human activity is controversial in the details. Martha Nussbaum for example has argued that in his biology this approach was practical and meant to show nature only being analogous to human art, explanations of an organ being greatly informed by knowledge of its essential function.[25] Nevertheless, Nussbaum’s position is not universally accepted. In any case, Aristotle was not understood this way by his followers in the Middle Ages, who saw him as consistent with monotheistic religion and a teleological understanding of all nature. Consistent with the medieval interpretation, in his Metaphysics and other works Aristotle clearly argued a case for there being one highest god or “prime mover” which was the ultimate cause, though specifically not the material cause, of the eternal forms or natures which cause the natural order, including all living things.[citation needed] He clearly refers to this entity having an intellect that humans somehow share in, which helps humans see the true natures or forms of things without relying purely on sense perception of physical things, including living species. This understanding of nature, and Aristotle’s arguments against materialist understandings of nature, were very influential in the Middle Ages in Europe. The idea of fixed species remained dominant in biology until Darwin, and a focus upon biology is still common today in teleological criticisms of modern science.

Petra and just after jahiliya

April 5, 2020

I think this is an interesting archaeological film about the early years of Islam.  Indeed some of the earliest Mosques did not point to Mecca but they pointed to Petra…

The question is why?

The link below will take you to the site.




How should Christians read the Qu’ran?

June 4, 2017

On Face book I have seen videos and text from
the Koran Surah 2 verses 190-196

The thing that happened in London last night was murder
and I think that overwhelmingly the Muslim
community deplores what happened as murder.

I have put the following together for mainly Christians
who want to have a go at reading the Qu’ran and to be
a bit more sympathetic as far as it is possible
Before I start St Paul in Romans 12 said

Love in Action

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but
be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
As Chrsitians we need to have a particular attitude an attitude of love
towards all people because they were also created in the image of God.

When looking at any ‘holy Scripture’ even if we don’t agree, we need to show a
bit of respect. If we show respect to Shakespeare which isn’t seen
as holy scripture shouldn’t we show other ancient texts the same respect.

From the Christian tradition especially with Calvin who is seen as the
father of modern day biblical exegesis he would have a rule we all follow today.
To find the real meaning using exegesis of the text… Asking questions such as
who wrote it? why was it written? To whom was it written for? What did this word mean
to the original readers and so forth. That way we get back to the real meaning

Or eisegesis… I don’t agree with this text because… I had a dream and God
showed me that this text is evil…

One method is scientific the other is dream land. We have to be careful.
So there are tools that the ulama (Scholars of islam) also use
and ways of thinking.
some of them are


The consensus of the Muslim community
Who wrote it? What did the early Muslim community make of it?
How should it be interpreted today?

The consensus of the scholars

Ijmāʿ (Arabic: إجماع‎‎) is an Arabic term referring to the consensus or
agreement of the Muslim scholars basically on religious issues.
(Taken from Google- I already knew about this and other facts)


Deductive analogy of the Koran and Hadith

In Islamic jurisprudence, qiyās (Arabic: قياس‎‎) is the process
of deductive analogy in which the teachings of the Hadith are
compared and contrasted with those of the Qur’an, in order
to apply a known injunction (nass) to
a new circumstance and create a new injunction.



Having said all this Surah 2from verses 190 – 196 was
in context of the Battle of Badr. The Muslim community
I think at that time were more interested in survival.
The other fact is the battle was between polytheists and
theists who were at war. Yes there was an enemy…

The situation in London is different: It is murder and
the consensus of the Islamic community as a whole sees it
as murder. There was no enemy, and no one carried a weapon.
The murderers didn’t take into account anyones point of view
as it was cold blooded murder.

I found this interesting:

This is a commentary on those verses


I also found this interesting:
This is a cartoon version of the Battle of Badr

My Lord and Saviour is Jesus Christ and I serve him.
We are commanded by God to live at peace with everyone
as far as it is possible.

Let us show love and respect for other communities
as well as our own



Which God is the true God?

October 8, 2016

Earlier this week I posted a picture of myself in a mosque and at prayer.
It caused some indignation, horror and shock in some believer’s
eyes that I should have done such a thing.

So Why did I go into a mosque in the first place… I was on holiday
and I decided to go into a Mosque that used to be a cathedral. In this
mosque in the past they annointed kings and queens. It was
interesting that while I was there a Greek tourist came upto me
and spoke to me and why it was of interest to him from a
theological perspective. He was from a Bible College in Greece somewhere.

I wanted to reach out in prayer, love, compassion and empathy
to my Muslim relatives. I became a target
for their theological view points and none of them really cared
about my feelings.

One version was that there are two gods… A good Christian one
and a bad Muslim one… I suppose it is a modern form of
gnosticsm. Another one was that the Muslim God was the Devil.
Another version was that the Muslim God is the anti-Christ. That
I am worshipping some sort of idol.

All of these were full of prejudice and discrimination and
I reject all of them.

Firstly there is only One Creator… Genesis 1 verse 1 says
in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…
I start from here as it puts all people on a single level playground.
We were all created in the image of God as Psalm 8 says.

It is interesting that when Calvin starts his theology he says that
we don’t know which came first the knowledge of God or of ourselves.
This is an important point as there was a time when there were
no holy books but nature. Even a pagan can feel a force in nature
that is greater than themselves. Religious people call it God.

My starting point is here with Calvin and revelation is progressive.
Monotheism accepts this fact. Jews Muslims and Christians accept this
fact. If it was not the case then there could be no dialogue between these
three great relgions. This is how the Apostolic Creed starts: We
believe in One God the Father, Creator of Heaven and earth. So there is
knowledge of God here.

Then the Apostolic Creed moves on to the Son and then the Holy Spirit
thus we have some knowledge of the economy of God. I suppose as a
Christian I will always be the black sheep in the family of God as I
can and do move in two religious communities. Without empathy and
compassion religion is like a barren tree in the desert where there
is no water.

For me I have chosen the Christ path but that doesn’t mean
that I have to be a stereo typical Christian because I’m not. I don’t
accept a lot of stereo typical ideas about God although I am
completely Trinitarian.

Yes I believe God is one and that he has revealed himself in three
Persons namely, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As a believer I
believe that God created everything.

At the moment it is very popular in Christian thaught to attack Muslim
theology by saying the God of the Bible and the God of the Koran
are not the same God… This is missing the point. God is not a book of this
or that. He is the Living God. He is bigger than the Bible and the Koran.
Johns Gospel is interesting in that at the end John says that if all
the works of Jesus were written down he supposed that the whole
world could not contain them. I’m talking in terms of creation
not this book or that book.

At one point belief diverges but no one can deny that Jews, Chistians
and Muslims believe in a Creator… At this point all monotheistic
religions hold the same tenet. I don’t have time for those
that attack Islam as Monist. That just shows how some theologians
haven’t looked at the small print of creation enough.

Theology diverges at the point at which we talk about
Jesus as the Son of God. At this point my path stays within
the Biblical tradition….

Another argument is given that Allah and the God of the Bible is different.
To tell you the truth this argument doesn’t hold out because the
name Allah is used by Coptic Christians and Turkish Christians as
well as Muslims. The name Allah has very ancient roots that go
back to El but this is another story I don’t have time to go into.

So I pray at home, On the train, in church, at the mosque. Who cares???
If there are those who don’t agree with me then that is not my problem. I
love my Muslim relatives and friends.

For me what is important is to be genuine about my faith in God and
show compassion to my fellow man no matter what his religious background.
Words are just words and empty if there is no compassion. Why should a
person listen to someone on the opposite viewpoint if that view point
sees itself as superior to another viewpoint. Isn’t this a form of
arrogance. Being genuine is ‘I believe… but I still have time to
refelct on what you want to say without judgementalism’. Obviously
according to the rules of logic both cannot be right but we
can both be sincere and humble.

Some will find my views shocking but I have chosen the Christ path.

The limits of power and the problem of atheism.

October 22, 2014

Atheism which literally means ‘no god’ has the notion that God doesn’t exist.

With this notion comes other reasons that the moral stance loses its limits. So from a political stand point why cannot the atheist and the religious agree.?  Quite simply, there is no balance of scripture tradition and reason. There is only reason.

Some say that scripture is antiquated because it was written too far in the past. My answer to that is human nature doesn’t change from generaton to generation. In fact in the 21st century bad things happen on a bigger scale than they did in the past.

My contention is this, the religous community have a history, have a tradition and the reasoning of some of the greatest minds the world has ever had.

For the religious, God is and there is a reason for life… For the atheist; What is the reason for life or is it no reason?   What do you think?


The importance of renewing our mind and treating people with respect

May 21, 2014

Racism and its allied prejudices is a great evil in our society. It is something that has been passed down through the generations.

• To deal with racism we first need to understand some concepts.

• We then need to look at ourselves and see if any of these things are ingrained in us.

• We then need to change our mindset and in humility accept that no one is perfect.

• We then need to come to a place and be disgusted about it.

• We will then stop doing it ourselves and encourage the less enlightened from doing it.

• A lot of atheists and religious people have different ways of dealing with this evil.

• In the near future I will give a set of discussion on this topic

Obviously I have a Christian bent on this which works with repentance and with the work of Christ and the Help of the Holy Spirit, we mature.

For Muslims the Hajj reminds people that all are equal in the sight of God. Whether rich or poor, every man is supposed to wear white so you cannot tell who is rich or poor or what nationality a person is for the Umma is one tribe.

For atheists, modern science and psychological practices help to get someone in the right frame of mind.

For Jews, they remember that they were slaves in Egypt and that it is wrong to put someone down who is a foreigner or Jew.

I could go on but as you can see, respecting people with differences is a bench mark of what it means to be truly human.

Why secularism isn’t the answer

August 17, 2013

Before I start on my discussion on secularism I want to say that whoever we are. We all share the same world, breathe the same air and share our lives in the theatre of this humble earth. We cannot escape this fact. We all have to make sense of our existence and our being and we all have to get on and if we don’t get on it doesn’t make a very pretty site.

We live in a multi ethnic world and this world is shrinking all the time. Technology is moving at a rapid pace and things are changing. On one level it scares me. It used to be the case that scientific discovery made breakthroughs in a time of war but in these days breakthroughs happen every day.

Religion is marginalised by certain groups and is made out to be some type of pariah. A dinosaur from the past, a dead rat. The reason for this is that science is seen as the thing that will free us from our bondages. Science is seen as the great saviour of the human race. Progress marches on whatever the cost.

I don’t accept this thing about scientific progress. The technology that gave us the hospitals also gave us the atomic bomb. Secularism is no saviour of our modern state. It has a hidden agenda and it is a beast that turns to and throe to see who it can devour. It doesn’t respect the person. It only respects its own agenda which is run by humans who have all their own suppositions. It is no friend of mine!

The many down to earth religious people in this world remind us that we are moral beings. We can discuss issues as grown ups and make decisions about our future. In the late 1990s I remember reading through the Tower Hamlets Religious Studies syllabus and I was fascinated by how much the six major religions including Buddhism agreed on.

I’m not ashamed to call my self a Christian a follower of Christ (with all of my faults). The Christian community and the other religious communities including Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism have a lot of wisdom to give to our society. I am talking political here.


June 4, 2013

Faith is a very small word but it is a very powerful word.  It has the idea of reliance.  For me and my faith, reliance is on Christ  and what he did for us.  Christ’s death and resurrection gives us us hope.

I want to focus however on the love of neighbour aspect because we can’t achieve our potential without love. We all need it sometime in our lives.