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The Gospel According to St William

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The Gospel According to St William


The Gospel According to St William Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, Most Excellent Theophilus, that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed. – St Luke 1-4

The Gospel According to St William


Contents Chapter 1 – Defining Terms .................................................................... 5 Chapter 2 – The Message of Jesus .......................................................... 9 Chapter 3 – The Alternative .................................................................. 14 Chapter 4 – The Religion ...................................................................... 19 Chapter 5 – God's Creative Process ...................................................... 23 Chapter 6 – The Plain Truth .................................................................. 29

The Gospel According to St William


Chapter 1 – Defining Terms Born in unremarkable surroundings in a small town located in Judea, over two thousand years ago, was, either Jesus the Man or Jesus Christ, God Incarnate. The proposition represented by the phrase Jesus the Man is the only possible logical stance for modern historians. Because of the abundance of evidence in support of his existence, they (and therefore we) need not be concerned with the notion that Jesus never existed at all. In the twenty-first century, it is untenable to plausibly hold that view, as any objective examination of the surviving evidence shows. Jesus the Man is the historical figure to be encountered within the context of academic study. However, Jesus Christ as God Incarnate is a quite different proposition; one that cannot be fully explored academically. As the word that became flesh, the proposal that Jesus Christ is both wholly man and wholly God is inherently illogical. That is why it is fruitless attempting to explore this possibility via the process of reasoning and debate. The subject of Jesus Christ, the divine, holy, Lamb of God cannot be approached logically; especially so, when the investigator does not even allow for the possibility of the existence of God. So how can we ever know the answer to this central, fundamental question about the nature of Jesus and his relevance to humankind? The answer is: through personal revelation. It is the only way! You must first encounter Jesus Christ, the living word, and only then will you be able to accept many of the things that previously seemed improbable, illogical or even impossible. My hope and prayer is that, as you read this text, you may indeed have such an encounter. The prospect of Jesus Christ as God Incarnate may be an illogical proposition but that does not necessarily make it a false one. If God is The Gospel According to St William


omnipotent, then there are possibilities that are outside of our ability as human beings to even imagine because, as an omnipotent being, God has the power to do anything. Human discussion and reasoning however, seriously restrict our ability to grapple with eternal, spiritual matters. We even have a problem with the concept of omnipotence itself. Consider the question: could an omnipotent being create a stone he could not lift? If your answer is 'yes', think again because that would mean that a stone would exist that he would be unable to lift. He would not therefore be omnipotent. So, perhaps the other answer is correct. But again, if you think about the 'no' answer, you will see it poses a similar problem. That's how easy it is to fall foul of logic when we are considering timeless, eternal and spiritual truth. Whilst using our limited human understanding, we are here considering Almighty God, the creator of the multiverse which includes many distinct universes inhabiting dimensions of reality that reside outside our concept of existence; places that may be governed by radically different and unknowable physics. As an infinite, unlimited, all-powerful being, God can do anything and the above paradox is of no consequence to him whatsoever; it is a problem for human reasoning only. God can both create a stone of infinite weight and also lift a stone of infinite weight should he choose to do either of those things. If you seriously desire to know the truth, the starting place is for you to open your mind to possibilities. You must first accept that the existence of an all-powerful God is at least a possibility. You must further accept that, as an omnipotent being, God could have chosen to send Jesus into the world as the embodiment of his own spirit, to live and breathe as a man. Finally, you must accept that the paradox of being wholly man and also being wholly God may not be an obstacle for an omnipotent being. Whenever the subject of the divine came up, perhaps during a dinner party, a dear old friend of mine who is sadly no longer with us would often say, ‘before we can discuss God, you must first define your terms’. The Gospel According to St William


Although it might be useful for me to begin by attempting some kind of definition of God, there is a difficulty. God, I want to say, is infinite; unbounded by time and space; omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent and that’s just for starters. For me, that statement, whilst I believe it says some important things about the characteristics and nature of God, really falls some considerable way short of what would be necessary to provide even a cursory description. And yet, even at this first faltering attempt at finding the starting point for a definition, we have already begun to contemplate something, or someone, completely unimaginable. Whilst it is simple enough to use the word ‘infinite’ and even express the idea conceptually or mathematically (the lemniscate for example), there is absolutely nothing that exists, within our physical realm, that is infinite, not even the universe according to science. You see, if the universe is expanding as the world of science has shown to be the case, then it must also be finite; and once you recognise and accept that proposition, you must also necessarily accept that nothing within the finite universe can be infinite. Of course, this does not represent any kind of problem for the idea of the existence of God if he created the universe. Such a creator would, of course, not be bounded by the dimensions of his own creation. That’s why, intuitively, if we should, for one reason or another, come to accept the existence of a creator God, then it also follows that God must be unbounded by time and space. And so it necessarily follows that we are in completely unchartered territory having no direct first-hand experience of such a realm or plane of existence. So how do we go about describing an infinite God? Well, there are many descriptions of God, within various religious traditions, and we should recognise that whilst they may each be individually valuable, none of them can possibly be complete. For example, we have the notions of God as a father figure; God as love; God as spirit; God as truth; God as The Gospel According to St William


light. Of course, all of these ideas can be simultaneously true for an infinite intelligence whilst none of them individually represent the fullness of what it is to be infinite. Defining the term ‘God’ is therefore an impossible task and indeed, human language shows itself to be a wholly inadequate medium for such efforts. In other words, whatever you imagine God to be, you must be wrong because he is bigger, more powerful and more mysterious than you can possibly begin to imagine – that is a tiny part of what it means to be infinite. At the end of this opening, I hope you are ready to accept that human logic and terrestrial understanding are poor tools for the investigation of eternal matters that encompass dimensions of existence beyond our own. With that understanding, I humbly present to you The Gospel According to St William; the result of personal revelation, reflection and mediation; the good news God inspired me to write.

The Gospel According to St William


Chapter 2 – The Message of Jesus The message of Jesus is the good news (gospel). He chose to be born as a human and live an Earthly life in order to deliver his important message to humankind. With foreknowledge, he knew that delivering this message would cost him his Earthly life. But, out of love, that was a sacrifice he was prepared to make and a price he was prepared to pay. He specifically said that he was sent for the purpose of proclaiming the 'Kingdom of God' or the 'Kingdom of Heaven'. It is very important to understand that these two phrases have equivalent meaning in the canonical gospels. This is important because, when Jesus tells us something about the Kingdom of God, he is also telling us something about the Kingdom of Heaven and vice versa. The message of The Kingdom of God was misunderstood by the Jews at the time. The Jews were living under Roman occupation and were expecting a Messiah who would deliver them from that oppression. They were not expecting someone who would teach them to love their enemies, go the extra mile and pay their taxes. Jesus was, most notably, misunderstood by the religious people of his day; the very people who, if their hearts had been pure and their minds had been open, should have understood him. He did not mince his words when he spoke with them either. He told them they were metaphorically straining gnats (from their drinks) whilst, at the same time, swallowing camels meaning they were missing the real meaning of their own scriptures. He called them 'whitewashed walls' meaning they were just concerned with making an outward show. The teaching of Jesus made use of parables and sometimes people would not understand the meaning so he often explained things more fully, in private, to his disciples. Jesus preached mainly about the Kingdom of God and his message was not only misunderstood at the time, it The Gospel According to St William


continues to be misunderstood by many people, including some Christians, even today. Certain Christians believe that The Kingdom of God will be ushered in when Jesus returns for a second time to 'rapture' his church and take them away to live in God's kingdom, located in heaven. Others believe that The Kingdom of God will be an Earthly kingdom lasting either a literal or symbolic one thousand years with Jesus Christ at the head of the government. And there are many variations of these two ideas which have been popularised by various religious groups. When speaking of the Kingdom of God, Jesus frequently used parables and analogies to explain what the kingdom was like. Below we have the essence of the teaching of Jesus, as recorded in the four canonical gospels: Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. - Matthew 4:23 The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough. - Matthew 13:33 Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. - Matthew 13:45-46 The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found, and hid. In his joy, he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. — Matthew 13:44 Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, he replied to them by saying, "The Kingdom of God does not come with signs to be observed or with visible display. Nor will people The Gospel According to St William


say, Look here! or, See there! for behold, the Kingdom of God is within you and among you." - Luke 17:20-21 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. - John 3:5 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14 The meaning of the Kingdom of God teaching concerns the spread, like yeast through dough, of the message itself which will continue until the Earth has been completely transformed. Like a tiny mustard seed, the kingdom is constantly growing bigger and stronger; and it will, one day, occupy the whole Earth. At that time, the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray will be finally realised. "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven." The Kingdom of God is the domain of existence we enter when we are willing to submit our will to the will of God. It is not located in heaven, it is not a physical place and it is not something to be introduced at some future time. The Kingdom of God is here (is at hand); it is within and among us right now and the message demands a response. As Jesus said it, your response should be to, "repent and believe" and this act of believing changes everything. It is a moment of rebirth as the spirit of God enters your life. What does it mean to repent? Sometimes described as making an aboutturn, it really means to change your mind and, as a consequence, change the direction of your life. Everything begins with belief, or faith if you prefer. You have to abandon your logical desire to want to see the evidence and have faith first. Your proof will be subjective and it will come later, but you have to believe first. The Gospel According to St William


When Jesus himself preached the message of the kingdom, a common response from the people was: give us some kind of sign or, in other words, show us the evidence. In reply, Jesus sometimes spoke about the various miracles that he had already performed. But on one occasion, he spoke about the sign of Jonah that would follow. He said that, as Jonah had been three days in the belly of the whale, so he (Jesus) would be three days in the bowels of the Earth; a clear reference to his coming death and resurrection. The final straw came when Jesus upset the religious establishment by his 'cleansing' of the temple. Throwing out the money changers, he said they were making the house of God into a 'den of thieves'. To the religious authorities, he was a trouble-maker and he just had to be dealt with. It was not long after that event that they had him tried by the Romans on a trumped-up charge and Pilate, who cared more for keeping-in with the religious establishment than for ensuring justice was done, went along with their scheme despite actually finding no fault in him. He was, of course, crucified as the Jewish Historian Josephus confirms. The resurrection was to be a sign for all future generations including ours and, the more we look into the matter, the more we will come to realise that it represents the best objective evidence we have for the existence of God. Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. A large stone weighing several tons was rolled across the entrance and the tomb was sealed by the Romans. Finally, the Romans placed a guard at the tomb. It is claimed in the New Testament that, days later, the stone had been moved and the tomb was found to be empty. The empty-tomb claim was made, not only by the gospel writers, but perhaps more significantly, by St Paul who started writing his letters, most scholars believe, around 33 AD; within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses including those who were direct opponents of the Christian message. In addition, Jesus is said to have appeared to a large crowd of around 500 people. When Paul made this claim, the event was also within the recent memory of the eye-witnesses. If these events were not The Gospel According to St William


well accepted as facts at the time, it would have been very easy for opponents to have successfully refuted them. It seems the body of Jesus somehow just disappeared. Nobody was ever able to locate it even though it should have been a simple matter for opponents of Paul’s message to have done so and it would have certainly stopped Christianity in its tracks because the resurrection doctrine is the centre of the Christian faith. As St Paul himself said, “If Christ was not raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your trust in God is useless.� (1 Cor 15:14) Rational people who are not believers will either dismiss the miracles of Jesus, including the resurrection, as impossible events or attempt to rationalise them in some way. For example, by suggesting that the story of Jesus walking on the water might be explained by the possibility of the formation of ice on the Sea of Galilee; or the idea that people simply got out their lunches during the feeding of the five thousand; or that people had not actually died in the raising of the dead stories. As it is impossible for anyone to have died and returned from the dead, the reasoning goes, there must be another explanation to account for the facts. There have been various attempts to explain away the death and resurrection of Jesus, logically. For example, there is the 'swoon theory' that suggests that Jesus may not have actually died on the cross. However, evidence for the resurrection is there and it is indeed compelling. The resurrection is not only the most significant of the miracles of Jesus, it is also the best attested and, if you should come to accept the resurrection as a historical event, then none of the other miracles should present any subsequent difficulty. But of course, this is not proof! You cannot have objective proof; you need to have faith first.

The Gospel According to St William


Chapter 3 – The Alternative It is foolish to attempt to logically argue that God does not exist. Most recently, this has been the subject of a best-selling book The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. In chapter 4 of The God Delusion (Why There Almost Certainly is No God), we encounter Richard Dawkins’ central argument. Let’s first take a look at the reasoning and then we will deliberate. Here is a summary of his argument:  Humans are challenged to explain the appearance of design in the universe.  It is naturally tempting to assume there is a designer.  This is false because it raises a larger problem (who designed the designer).  Natural Selection is responsible for the illusion of design.  There is no equivalent explanation (to Darwinism) for physics but the anthropic principle will suffice.  We may yet get a better explanation for physics. The central argument turns out to be an application of Occam’s Razor; the principle of parsimony i.e. that simple explanations are to be preferred over complex ones. Natural selection is simple, God is not simple, ergo God does not exist. So let's consider his 'who designed the designer' question. Over the years, I have lost count of how many times I have heard this question asked. First, consider a hypothetical but direct answer to the question. Supposing we knew that a being from another dimension of existence outside our reality, who’s name is Xargon, created God. What would your next question be? Who created Xargon – right? Well, supposing that within a plane of vibration that is dimensionless and without form, a The Gospel According to St William


noble being called Zogonda created Xargon. What would your next question be? Who created Zogonda? Now, of course, we could go on, but somewhere along the line, you would have to realise that, if you persist with such questioning, you are also stuck with the problem of infinite regression. The same basic idea has been expressed many times in many different ways. For example, the ‘turtles all the way down’ story in Stephen Hawkins’ A Brief History of Time. A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the centre of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.” The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, “What is the tortoise standing on?” “You’re very clever, young man, very clever”, said the old lady. “But it’s turtles all the way down!” Let’s now discuss why infinite regression is a problem. Firstly, the idea of infinity itself comes with its own unique set of problems if you want to argue from the standpoint of logic and simultaneously constrain your argument to our finite universe. Secondly, the element of regression simply never leads you to any kind of answer to the question of how the universe began. So if an answer is seriously what you are looking for, the infinite regression option simply does not provide one.

The Gospel According to St William


The alternative to infinite regression is that somewhere at the beginning of things something or someone must have existed that was not created. This is not any kind of proof for the existence of God, but it does lead to one possible answer. The answer to the question of who created God is no one; he existed at the beginning. But Richard is not impressed with the proposal that God is how infinite regression is terminated. The idea that something or someone might have always existed is anathema to him. This is something that genuinely surprises me because I have no doubt that he would be wellversed in recent thinking on the subject of how the universe began. What does the most notable physicist of our time have to say about how the universe came into existence? Stephen Hawkins says that it didn’t. He says it has always existed. As we get closer and closer to the singularity usually referred to as the Big Bang, time moves gradually into a different dimension (imaginary time) and the universe exists in a circular pattern with no beginning and no end. This is the fundamental hypothesis set out in Stephen Hawkins’ A Brief History of Time. Here we have the most eminent, celebrated and well-respected living physicist who’s main theory states that something (the universe) has always existed. If we are to accept current thinking within the field of physics, it is simply not possible to argue, with credibility, that it is impossible for something or someone to have always existed as Dawkins attempts to do in his book. Finally, with regard to the anthropic principle, since Dawkins appears to acknowledge it is a weak part of his argument when he states that we may yet get a better explanation, it hardly seems necessary to comment further. However, let's look it over, for completeness. When we consider the universe and the likelihood of it existing in a state that can support intelligent life, we come to realise that there are a number of constants which need to be the exact values we find them to The Gospel According to St William


be by observation. For example, the rate of expansion of the universe needs to be the value that it is: if it were too slow or too fast, we just would not exist. In Dawkins’ The God Delusion, quoting from Martin Rees’ Just Six Numbers, he says that there are six fundamental constants that need to be just right in order for us to exist. Here are the six numbers that Martin Rees proposed represent the fundamental constants which have values apparently ‘fine tuned’ to allow for the existence of the universe:  The number of physical dimensions within which we live  The ratio of the strength of gravity to that of electromagnetism  The ratio of mass lost to energy when hydrogen is fused to form helium  The amount of dark matter  The cosmological constant  The scale at which the universe looks smooth The above facts lead theists to conclude that God must have ‘fine tuned’ these values to in order for the universe to allow life, and atheists to conclude that they are that way as a matter of chance. Richard Dawkins says that the theists answer is "deeply unsatisfying because it leaves the existence of God unexplained." Of the two possibilities (God or chance), Dawkins rules out the possibility of God based upon probability. He says that a God capable of fine tuning the values necessary for the existence of life is, "at least as improbable as the combination of numbers itself" and on that basis must be ruled out. So that leaves us with the explanation that the values of these factors are the way they are by chance. Apparently, chance provides a better explanation, and chance is a good way of summing up his entire argument against the existence of God: the universe exists by chance, The Gospel According to St William


the laws of physics are friendly to life by chance, we are in a lifefriendly zone of the universe by chance, life began by chance, even the processes that develop life (including evolution) exist by chance. But does chance really provide a better explanation? It is certainly not a convincing argument and it does not help to explain anything by giving the multiplication of chance events a fancy name (the anthopic principle) either. The anthropic principle i.e. that it is unremarkable that all those coincidences or chance events happened because we are here to contemplate them, is a poor argument. The fact that Dawkins invokes the anthropic principle to show that chance is a good explanation for the existence of the universe and that theists have advanced exactly the same argument to show that God exists should surely tell us one thing: the anthropic principle is a poor argument because it actually proves nothing.

The Gospel According to St William


Chapter 4 – The Religion A world without religion would certainly have no grounds for religious persecution, that’s true, but would that equate to less conflict? Personally, I don’t think so. It is a fallacy that ‘most wars are caused by religion’. An academic study on the subject of the role of religion in 73 major conflicts over the past 3,500 years concluded that 60% of wars had no religious motivation whatsoever and only 4% were viewed as truly religious wars. Any identifiable ‘set’ to which you might belong – family, colour, creed, nation, class and a myriad other separate allegiances – defines two basic groups: an ‘us’ group and an ‘other’ group. Our human tendency is to want to bond with the ‘us’ group and part of that bonding process involves an equivalent distancing of ourselves from the ‘other’ group. If conflict should arise between such groups, potentially escalating all the way up to warfare, that bonding alone will, in many cases, be powerful enough motivation to dictate human behaviour. There are many issues that governments choose to resolve by means of conflict and there are, undeniably, cases in which governments have sought to make use of existing social divisions, including religious divisions, in order to pursue their own agendas. As an example, consider the demonisation of the Jews in Germany during the 1930s achieved via a massive propaganda campaign following the seizing of power by the Nazi party. This was a necessary precursor to the subsequent attempt to eradicate the population in the ‘final solution’. The purpose of the campaign was to get people to view the Jews, not as human beings, but as vermin. The Holocaust was an example of what has more recently become known as ‘ethnic cleansing’ – a phrase I personally find unpalatable – but the reasons behind this attempt at genocide were basically not religious. The Jews were used as a scapegoat for the failure of the The Gospel According to St William


country up to and including the First World War. In the act of rebuilding the country and uniting the nation, they were identified and labelled as the ‘other’ group. The distancing of the vast majority of the population from the ‘other’ group resulted in a strengthening of allegiance with the ‘us’ group which, in this case, was the nation; and that was the desired result. The Jews were not persecuted by the Nazis because of their religious beliefs. They were persecuted because they were identified by a ruthless administration as a dispensable and relatively defenceless minority that was also easily recognisable as the ‘other’. What would Hitler have done in the same situation had religious division not been a tactic available to him i.e. if religion simply did not exist? In the conclusion to Mein Kampf, we may read the following: A state which, in this age of racial poisoning, dedicates itself to the care of its best racial elements must someday become lord of the Earth. – Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler In those few words we have a central tenet of the Hitler philosophy. His struggle (kampf) was not primarily about religion; it was about race. If religion had not been available as a tool to assist his administration in the identification of a scapegoat group (the other), there were plenty of other races ranked in the lower echelons, in his grand order of things, that might have equally well sufficed. Personally, I believe it is naive to conclude that without religion there would be less conflict though it is true that there would be one less social division that might be manipulated by those in positions of power. Quite simply, war is a frequent consequence of one society seeking to dominate another for whatever purpose. Over the years, when I have been asked if I am religious, I have often replied 'no' and it has sometimes surprised people. In my view, you can The Gospel According to St William


believe in God and go to church and not be religious. I think there is a big difference between religion and spirituality. Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. - Wikipedia As I would define religion, it is the effort of humankind to contact and/or appease the God(s). It consists of specially appointed agents (priests) who perform various rituals for the purpose. It may surprise you to learn that this kind of religion is something that God does not like either. For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. – Hosea 6:6 For Thou dost not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; Thou art not pleased with burnt offering. – Psalm 51:16 I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not take delight in your solemn assemblies. – Amos 5:21 That does not mean to say that it's unspiritual or wrong to go to church, but there is a difference between religious observance of feasts, fasts and other rituals and the kind of relationship that God wants to have with us. Here is how St James describes the kind of worship that is acceptable to God:

The Gospel According to St William


Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. - James 1:27 You see; no mention of temples, churches, singing or sermons. As I said, none of those things are wrong, but they are the kind of things that religious people tend to focus upon and they are not the kind of things that God wants people to focus on at all. God wants to change the world for the better and he wants you to be a part of that process.

The Gospel According to St William


Chapter 5 – God's Creative Process It took me about three or four months to read The Bible from cover to cover once I had determined to do so that way. Before then, I had often dipped in and was already very familiar with certain passages. Over the years, I had studied various sections, but reading very quickly from book to book like that gave me a perspective on the central themes that has always stayed with me and stood me in good stead when speaking with people who want to take verses out of their proper context. Personally, I think you would be much less likely to take the view that the whole of The Bible should be taken literally after reading it in its entirely. For example, there is a section in the Gospels that says we should cut off our hand or pluck out an eye, if they ‘offend’: Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. – Matt 18:8-9 It is always worth taking a look at these passages within context for yourself, as I mentioned, but in this passage, I don’t think Jesus is seriously telling Christians to cut off a hand or pluck out an eye. He is attempting to impress upon his disciples the seriousness of committing certain ‘offenses’. Now this is an important point. Because either this passage is meant to be taken literally or it is not - and if it is not (as I believe) then we have a precedent for interpreting the remainder of the scriptures.

The Gospel According to St William


If you are a Christian, you may receive teaching at your local church to the effect that The Bible should be taken absolutely literally. But if there is one thing you should learn to do for the benefit of your own spiritual growth, it is to engage in your own thinking especially on this matter. Understand that you are as well-connected with the divine as anyone who stands behind a pulpit or lectern. Begin to listen to that still small voice and let the answer to this question come to you from within. Once you have learned this important lesson on how to interpret The Bible, you will be well equipped to read, learn and enjoy the scriptures in the way they were intended. For fundamental Christians, being liberated from feeling the necessity to defend a literal creation within six days, for example, allows the true meaning of Genesis to begin to emerge. It was never intended as a history book. The Bible is an extraordinary book. Actually it is really a whole library of ancient literature, composed over thousands of years; sixty six books in total. When we read it, we need to engage our brains and meditate (think) about what it means. Always remember there is an important difference between ‘what it says’ and ‘what it means’ and you can always discern the difference by first considering the central themes of The Bible as a whole and by learning to listen to that inner voice. One time, I remember watching a TV program The Genius of Charles Darwin. In that program, Richard Dawkins visited a school and spoke with some children about the subject of evolution. The program offered some of the familiar evidence for evolution including Darwin’s wonderful specimen collection, put together during his voyage on the Beagle, his pigeon breeding experiments and a look at a whole variety of fossils. Dawkins actually took some schoolchildren to a beach to search for fossils and they discussed the sequence of creation as recorded in the fossil record. Surprisingly, at least to me, quite a number of the children he spoke with had rejected the idea of evolution and were convinced that The Gospel According to St William


their own religious views offered better explanations of how life came to be. However, although descriptions of creation within certain religious texts may appear to be diametrically opposed to natural selection, evolution actually is God’s creative process. Of course, I am aware that such a statement raises other important questions. For example, as Dawkins and others have pointed out, the whole subject of animal suffering and its relationship to the idea of a creator God. However, before we look at the question of animal suffering, let's first concentrate on the question of why evolution does not contradict The Bible and how it is possible for two apparently contradictory views to be simultaneously true. Perhaps the best place to begin this deliberation is with a little analogy, so let’s talk about the subject of light. According to scholars, sometimes light behaves like a wave and other times it behaves like a particle stream. It is neither a waveform nor a particle stream, but both at the same time even though this idea appears to be invalid, counterintuitive and plain wrong. As best as we can understand the matter, the fact is that light has a dual nature. Exactly the same is true about The Bible’s description of God’s creation process. Yes, it is true that The Bible employs different language to describe the creation process, but none of this description is at odds with what scientists have found from fossils. What it is necessary to understand is that different perspectives on the same subject are often valuable in allowing us to form more complete and richer overall pictures. This is an important principle. Quantum mechanics tells us that it is impossible to know the position and momentum of an electron at the same time. So what? Well, science has actually proved that, firstly, we simply cannot know the answer to some questions, and secondly, whilst we focus on either one of these characteristics of an electron, the other must remain uncertain. This is The Gospel According to St William


not because of any kind of deficiency in our ability to measure; it is a statement about the nature of reality. When different perspectives provide separate but equally valid descriptions of reality, just as with the uncertainty principle, whilst we focus on one particular perspective, the other necessarily becomes increasingly uncertain. That is what happens when broadcasters such as Richard Dawkins insist that The Bible suggests a recent creation date for the Earth, within thousands of years; which, of course, it does not. It is the exactly same issue, though from the opposite perspective, when some Christians say that God created the fossils to ‘test our faith’ or that they are the imprint of the animals that didn’t make it after the flood; comments which have no real place in an educated society. When we accept that evolution is God’s creative process, we liberate ourselves from trying to reconcile two different perspectives on the same truth. Moreover, we can begin to focus on the purpose of The Bible, which was never meant to be read as a scientific document to be compared and contrasted with modern scientific explanations of the creative process. Let's now turn to the subject of the presence of suffering in the world. With regard to the suffering inflicted on human beings by other humans, I have personally always found it sufficient to recognise that such a possibility is the natural consequence of a reality in which we all have the ability to choose our actions. I have always believed that humans have the responsibility of free will and therefore we can choose to do good or we can choose to do evil things. Before we continue, we should recognise that not everybody subscribes to the view that we actually have free will. This view is known as determinism, and it is a big subject in its own right, but essentially, determinism states that all our apparent choices are just illusions and are really the product of past events, conditions or circumstances; the product of a myriad cause and effect relationships. The Gospel According to St William


Intuitively, I have come to reject the idea of determinism. Personally, I believe I genuinely have the ability to choose and with that power comes a certain responsibility to behave in a way that does not deliberately cause pain and suffering for my fellow human beings. I also accept the laws of nature are there for a purpose, so if someone walks off a cliff they are likely to be injured as a consequence; and I also accept that it would be wrong for me to push someone over a cliff, though I might have the power to do so. The above reasoning has often been advanced to explain the existence of suffering caused by other humans. The difficulty is that such reasoning does not provide a sufficient explanation for the existence of other kinds of suffering such as that caused by natural disasters like earthquakes or that it does not explain animal suffering. These are very good questions. The existence of animal suffering is evidence enough, for me, that physical suffering is not there so we can learn and improve, as C.S. Lewis pointed out. The classic Biblical text on the subject of suffering is the book of Job, believed to be one of the oldest books in The Bible. It describes the suffering of a righteous man and completely debunks the idea that suffering is some kind of payment for wrongdoing. Job’s comforters all believe that he must have sinned for such terrible suffering to have come upon him, but if there is one very clear message in this book it is that such a proposition is completely untrue. At the end of the book, we have God speaking to Job. It is a beautifully poetic passage that is full of inspiration. It puts humankind right in its place. We know so very little about the process of creation and the nature of reality and that’s what I find so wonderful about it. Despite tremendous advances in knowledge over the 3,000 years since the book of Job was written, the same is true today.

The Gospel According to St William


Many commentators have taken the rebuttal in Job to mean that we cannot know the mind of God and, whilst that is undoubtedly true, I personally believe there is much more to God’s reply. God asks Job, for example, where he was when the foundations of the Earth were laid and he also asks Job why the ostrich should exist – a bird that is flightless and not very careful about her eggs. The inference, for me, is that there is an answer to the question of suffering to be found in making that analysis. At the time of Job, he would have been unable to talk about tectonic plates, but if he had known about them, he would also have known the cause of earthquakes (natural suffering). Similarly, had he understood something about the business of natural selection, he might have understood how the ostrich came to be flightless. For me, in this passage, God is explaining that there is a kind of free will in nature which is a consequence of the processes that built and now maintain the Earth. Inappropriate use of human free will remains the best available answer to the existence of suffering imposed on human beings by others and, by extrapolation, the action of natural law (what we might call free will in nature) is the best answer to the question of animal suffering and suffering caused by natural disaster.

The Gospel According to St William


Chapter 6 – The Plain Truth So we come to the end of this little book in which I have set out my personal beliefs. There is a good chance that this text may annoy both Christians (at least some anyway) and atheists alike. But, if you have read with an open mind, regardless of your personal opinions, perhaps this document may have provided you with some food for thought. To those who are completely bought-in to the literal interpretation of The Bible, try to understand that position is exactly what hampers the progress of the important central message of Christianity today. Whilst you hold that view, you will have to constantly contend with those who wish to not only point out, but also provide the evidence, that such a view is misplaced. We earlier considered the views of Richard Dawkins as being representative of such thinking. The fact is that The Bible was never intended as a scientific document or a history book. At the time the earliest texts were written, the conventions of literature that, today, we take for granted had not been properly established. That means that poetry, allegory, history, wisdom literature, songs, prophetic and apocalyptic literature are intertwined, not just within the library of books that make up the canon, but actually within the books themselves. It therefore takes a good deal of patience, investigation and meditation to properly interpret the scriptures. Don't allow other people to do this important thinking on your behalf. To those who conclude that God cannot exist because of the existence of suffering, the vagaries of religion or the illogicality of the Christian message, I hope that in this book I have engaged with you on your own terms. When we consider eternal truth, we are necessarily dealing with matters that transcend our own physics, are beyond our time and space, beyond our ability to fully comprehend and therefore beyond the realm of science. Paradoxically, this proposal does not turn out to be entirely unscientific. When scientists contemplate the possibility of the existence The Gospel According to St William


of the multiverse, for example, they are engaging in exactly the same kind of thinking. Perhaps, the biggest difficulty for many people, when it comes to opening the mind to the possibility of the existence God, is to continually encounter others who are so entrenched in their traditional religious views that they are unable to think for themselves. But the fact is that there is nothing in the entire Bible that contradicts science in any way and to argue about individual verses taken out of context is to miss the whole message. Whether God exists or not is not something that can ever be successfully, logically argued, either way. That is the plain truth of the matter. But there is, nevertheless, an answer to that question; it is not a matter of opinion. In closing, I would like you to try to bring to mind some occasion when you knew in your own mind that something was true. Some situation in which, despite there being no reason for you to come to the conclusion and no supporting evidence for it either, nevertheless, you inwardly knew the truth of the matter. It was later that the irrefutable evidence became available and validated your intuitive knowledge. If you really try to think about this, I am sure you will be able to bring such an instance to mind. It is by that same process that you will come to know the truth of the proposition relating to the existence of God; you will first know it intuitively, not logically. When you come to that place, the seed of faith will have been planted in your heart and, the good news (the gospel) is that after that, everything changes.

The Gospel According to St William


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The Gospel According to St William


About White Dove Books Will Edwards is the founder of White Dove Books the internet’s leading website for Self Improvement and Personal Development. A graduate of the University of Birmingham, he develops and teaches Personal Development workshops and is a published author. Within its first three years, White Dove Books was recognised as one of the internet’s leading sites for self help and personal development; breaking into the top 100,000 sites on the internet at the end of 2005. The INSPIRATION newsletter was started in 2005 as a way of providing helpful information including tips, articles and free inspirational eBooks to our visitors. Today White Dove Books works in partnership with many authors and on-line publishers of inspirational material to provide a quality on-line service that serves thousands of people in many countries across the world. Our mission is to help people to develop their own unique talents, abilities and passion in order that they may lead more meaningful, joyful and fulfilled lives.

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