theology Posts

Socratease: On the Existence of God

Basic CMYK

The famous philosopher Socrates lived in Greece from about 470-400 B.C. Stories of his teaching are plentiful in students like Plato and Aristotle. Socratease is my fictional, modern-day version of a Socrates-like character using his same ironic, dialogic form of teaching and applying this method of teaching to today’s issues.

Ben is an acquaintance of Socratease who likes to think of himself as a thoughtful and deep person.

Ben: Socratease, I’m wrestling with whether I believe in a God or not.

Socratease: Who or what are you wrestling with? Are you wrestling with God, the existence of God or with the implications for your life if there is a God?

Ben: Hmm. Not sure I’ve thought about it like that. What’s the difference?

Socratease: Does your wrestling with the existence of God change the reality of whether there is a God or not? Doesn’t He either exist or not exist, no matter if you wrestle with it or believe it? It seems like your wrestling is futile, since it doesn’t change the reality one way or another.

Ben: Yes, that makes sense.

Socratease: How do you explain our existence?

Ben: I’ve always been taught about evolution. We came from a single cell life form that crawled out of the primordial ooze, and then we eventually evolved into human beings.

Socratease: If that’s what you were taught, then it must be true, of course. So the single cell life form came from the primordial ooze. That makes perfect sense. One question. Where did the primordial ooze come from?

Ben: I guess it evolved as well.

Socratease: Of course it evolved. From what?

Ben: Guess I never heard about where the ooze came from.

Socratease: That’s rather foundational, don’t you think?

Ben: Well, yes, I guess it is. I have been taught that the universe banged into existence from what they called infinite density.

Socratease: Yes, I’ve heard that too. What is infinite density exactly? I’ve known some people who are infinitely dense, but I doubt that’s what you’re talking about.

Ben: The way I’ve heard it described, the universe is expanding outward from a central point. If we could rewind the expansion of the universe, eventually it would all be condensed back into this infinitely dense mass.

Socratease: Infinitely dense mass. Could you explain that?

Ben: Well, I’ve heard that at some point all the universe was compacted even smaller than a microdot, not even visible to the human eye. Other scientists have said infinite density is a cloaked way of saying “nothing.” The universe banged into existence out of nothing.

Socratease: Very interesting. So if it banged into existence from something smaller than a microdot, where did the dot come from? If it banged into existence out of nothing, doesn’t that defy the natural science belief about cause and effect, that everything is an effect that comes from an equal or greater tangible source or cause? Isn’t something out of nothing supernatural?

Ben: Either way, something doesn’t match up, does it?

Socratease: So how do you explain the existence of the universe and everything in it now, Ben? Would the existence of a supernatural God be a plausible resolution to your logical dilemma?

Ben: I guess so. Maybe.

Socratease: Well that resonates with confidence. Why do you seem so hesitant, Ben?

Ben: It just seems like a big leap of faith to believe in a supernatural God.

Socratease: A big leap of faith, huh? But believing a single cell life form crawled out of some primordial ooze, that we can’t explain how it got here, as part of a planet called earth, that we can’t explain by natural means how it got here, isn’t a big leap of faith?

Ben: OK, sure. But there isn’t any proof for the existence of God.

Socratease: So you want proof. What kind and how much proof would you need, Ben? Again, is the issue that there isn’t enough evidence for the existence of God, or is it that you don’t want to believe in a God you would be subject to?

Ben: I want to say there’s not enough evidence. But down deep inside I also know it scares me that I would be subject to such a powerful, absolute authority like God.

Socratease: So how much have you searched for evidence for the existence of God?

Ben: Well, not at all, I guess. Why do you ask?

Socratease: From my experience, I rarely find what I haven’t even looked for. If you haven’t sincerely searched for evidence, why are you so surprised you haven’t found what you haven’t looked for? Which brings me to my original question: “Are you wrestling with God, the existence of God or with the implications for your life if there is a God?”

Meet Socratease

Basic CMYK

The famous philosopher Socrates (pronounced saw-kruh-teez) lived in Greece from about 470-400 B.C. We actually have little to nothing written by him personally, but we have many stories about Socrates through four other philosophers, mainly Plato and Aristotle. Socrates is consistently portrayed in their stories as a particularly skillful teacher who took dialogue and questions to an all-new level of effectiveness.

If Socrates were alive today, dealing with current issues and events, he would assuredly use his teaching method to make people think more reasonably and logically about their beliefs. His dialogic questioning, salted with irony and sarcasm, would surely bring a smile to many a face, while making us think deeper and more profoundly about life and God and many other issues.

Since Socrates is not alive, and I don’t want to put words and beliefs into the ancient philosopher’s mouth, I am creating a modern day caricature to employ his same method of teaching to today’s world. Meet Socratease[1] and get to know him in the following interview.

Bob (the Interviewer): Good afternoon, Socratease.

Socratease: Is it?

Bob: Well, yes I think it is a good afternoon. I was just trying to be friendly.

Socratease: So how do you determine if something, like this afternoon, is good or not?

Bob: Well, I’m not sure I’ve thought about that before exactly. I guess since nothing bad has happened today, it must be a good afternoon.

Socratease: So you’re saying good is the absence of bad?

Bob: Well, I guess so.

Socratease: And I suppose you would define bad as the absence or opposite of good?

Bob: Sounds like I really haven’t thought this through very well. How would you define good and bad?

Socratease: It seems they are relative ethical terms the way we use them today. But relative to what?

Bob: I’m not sure I understand your question.

Socratease: Good and bad, the way I hear people using those words today, speak to the ethical value of something or someone. But what if I think you are bad but you’re friends think you are good? What was the basis for me saying you are bad, and what was the basis of your friends saying you are good? What is the standard for saying anything is good or bad?

Bob: Isn’t that relative to the person and situation? Depending on how someone looks at something.

Socratease: So what you are saying is each individual person determines what is good or bad, based on their own, individual perspective.

Bob: Well, yes. I mean, that’s what everyone I know says today. Everything is relative.

Socratease: So let me make sure I understand you. If I as an individual think you are bad, and I think your badness is deserving of death, then it is good if I kill you?

Bob: That’s crazy. Of course not! You’ve got to take the whole of society into account as well.

Socratease: So it’s really not the individual that determines good and bad, but each individual society?

Bob: I guess that right.

Socratease: That’s interesting. That being the case, the German society of the 1940s, under the leadership of Adolph Hitler, would have been correct in killing over 6 million Jewish people from all over Europe, because they as a society determined Jewish people were bad. Is that right?

Bob: That’s crazy talk. No, that’s not right. It can’t just be individual societies that determine good and bad; it must be the human society as a whole.

Socratease: So the human society of the world determines good and bad?

Bob: Yes, that must be right.

Socratease: You have red hair, Bob. Are you saying that if the human community could somehow agree on something and decided red-haired people were bad, and needed to be eliminated, that it would be good for them to kill you?

Bob: OK Socratease, it’s obvious there has to be another way of determining what is good and bad besides individual people and societies, or even the whole human society of the world. So what else is left?

Socratease: If there is no reasonable and equitable way we can determine what is good and bad as humans or societies of this world, then could there be someone beyond this world, who might be responsible for this world, who could determine that?

Bob: I don’t know, Socratease. That’s a pretty antiquated belief, there being someone like a God, who created this world and sets the boundaries of good and bad.

Socratease: So you’re saying old ideas and things are bad?

Bob: Oh, I can’t keep going on like this. My brain is getting tired.

Socratease: Your brain? Or is it your logic and beliefs that are getting tired? Have a “good” afternoon, Bob.

1 ©™ Dr. Rick Taylor, 2008.

Prophecy: The New Heaven and Earth



The Bible speaks about many things that are yet to come, things such as:

But after all is said and done, there is going to be a new heaven and a new earth. But why? What’s wrong with this earth?

We get a glimpse of the need for this in Romans 8:19-22:

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

This planet has become polluted by evil over thousands of years now. And after the Great Tribulation, it will be virtually unrecognizable from what it is today. And God has promised to re-create this planet and its whole atmosphere in the future.

We see the most detailed description of this in Revelation 21:1-8:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Here are some observations:

  1. The earth and its atmosphere, as part of this solar system, will come to an end.
  2. There will be a re-created heaven and earth.
  3. There will be 71% more land mass, since there will no longer be a sea.
  4. There will be a new Jerusalem that will be three-dimensional.
  5. God Himself will dwell among mankind.
  6. There will be no pain or sorrow by those living in this eternal state, and no death.
  7. This new heaven and earth will only be inhabited by believers.

This will truly be a “heaven on earth” experience. Heaven is where God dwells, and He will dwell on this new creation with us, in our midst, without any wants or needs, no crying or pain and no death, eternally!

Prophecy: The Antichrist


Ever since Satan declared, “I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:12-14, NASB), he has been about the business of accomplishing that goal. One of the ways he plans to attempt to supplant God and make himself greater is to trick the world into believing that he is “like God.” (See this described in a dramatic form in Revelation 12.)

In yet to be fulfilled prophecy, one of those planned deceptions is to raise up a counterfeit Christ. We see quite a bit about this antichrist in Scripture. For instance, we are told in Daniel what happens after the true Messiah is cut off and killed:

…the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city (Jerusalem) and the sanctuary (Temple). And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. And he (this substitute prince who is to come) will make a firm covenant with the many for one week (7 years), but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate (this antichrist is destroyed). – Daniel 9:26-27 (NASB, parentheses added)

Most of the Jewish people who are part of the nation of Israel today are looking for the Messiah to come as a political, military figure who will rescue them from those who would destroy them. There are about 6-7 million Jews in Israel today surrounded by more than 50 million Muslims, many of whom want to see Israel destroyed. Satan will one day provide a substitute messiah who will come as a political, military leader, offer peace and sign a 7-year treaty with the nation of Israel. Many will undoubtedly embrace him as their promised messiah.

But after 3½ years this fake messiah will turn on the nation of Israel, and destroy Jerusalem and the Temple, until his own predicted demise at the hands of the true Messiah, who is coming again.

This antichrist will be a leader from the western part of the world, related to but not the same as the Old Roman Empire. Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 mention the 4 (plus 1) kingdoms that are to come. They are described in unmistakable detail: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and another kingdom that is related to Rome but weaker and not under one ruler – yet. This last kingdom is detailed even further in Revelation 17-18.

And it is in The Revelation to John the Apostle that we see even more details of this antichrist. For instance, we get a glimpse of him in Revelation 6:2 where he is described as having a crown (a national leader). He will go out from his own nation to conquer others, and he will be successful.

In Revelation 13 we see this antichrist dramatically described as a beast that came out of the sea (or from across the sea?). He will be able to move fast militarily and will be overwhelmingly powerful. Satan will give this beast, the antichrist, his own power, a throne to rule from and great authority. He will be Satan’s puppet king on the earth.

This antichrist is described as being one who spoke and was listened to as he will make great promises, and will speak against God for the last 3½ years of the Great Tribulation. He will become a whole world ruler (Revelation 13:7) and he will work to bring about the demise of all who call on the name of the one true God. And many in the world will worship him instead of God.

We also see in Revelation 13 and elsewhere that this antichrist will have a high priest accomplice. And when the antichrist receives a death blow (Revelation 17:8), this false prophet will raise him from the dead. Remember, Satan is trying to make himself like the Most High, and God raised His Son from the dead.

This false prophet, along with the antichrist, will establish not only a worldwide empire, but also a one-world religion (Revelation 17:1-6, 15). The antichrist will be the god figure of this worldwide religion (Revelation 13:15) that will be gaudy, elaborate, brazen and ornate (Revelation 17:4). It will be a religious system that is bloodthirsty for all who profess faith in Christ (Revelation 17:5-6).

The antichrist will move from this short-lived seventh kingdom of the west. The first 7 great empires described are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, followed by this yet future seventh that will be this coalition of 10 (plus 1) nations who are either part of or related to the Old Roman Empire. Daniel 2:40-43 speaks of the establishment of this eighth empire, a worldwide kingdom that will be headquartered back where it all began: Babylon in south central Iraq (Revelation 17:9-13).

In Genesis 11:1-9 we see all the peoples of the earth, repopulated after the flood, gathered in this same area, where they built a tower into the heavens. This was a ziggurat built much like a pyramid, only with clay bricks. The very top of this ziggurat was a throne room that was uninhabited. Remember, Satan said:

“I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north.
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.” – Isaiah 14:13-14 (NASB)

This ziggurat was the Tower of Babel, where the eventual city of Babylon would be built, and it still exists today. Most likely, the people of the earth were gathering to build a throne room for Satan into the heavens, and that is why God confounded their languages, as a means to separate them into diverse nations so they couldn’t fulfill Satan’s desires. This same place will be rebuilt into grand fashion by the antichrist and will serve as the capital of his worldwide kingdom and religion. Satan is and will be working to bring the entire world of nations together once again, to follow and worship him.

The antichrist will be a bigger than life personality that will promise peace to Israel and the world, but instead he will use his power to turn the world over to Satan.

Eventually, God will thwart Satan’s and the antichrist’s plot, and in an unimaginable battle, defeat the antichrist, the false prophet, the gathered armies of the world and Satan at the battle fought in the Valley of Megiddo (Revelation 17:15-19:21). In the end, God wins!


Prophecy: The Church


The church is referred to with various images in the New Testament. It is called “the body of Christ,”[1] “the bride of Christ,”[2] “the gathering,”[3] “the flock,”[4] “the household of the faith,”[5] “the pillar and bulwark of the truth”[6] and “the Way.”[7] But there is another expression used in the New Testament to describe the church: the Mystery.

Different things are labeled a mystery in the Bible, but clearly in Romans 11:25 and Ephesians 3:3 Paul reveals the mystery that God has set the nation of Israel aside for a period of time until the time of the Gentiles, His church, is finished.

The reason the church is called a mystery in the New Testament is because the full extent of God’s plan to set aside the nation Israel for a period of time and work in and through Gentiles all over the world was not so clearly revealed before. Paul explains:

By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel…. – Ephesians 3:4-6 (NASB)

In this same passage Paul goes on to explain that he was called by God to preach to the Gentiles “and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden…so that the manifold wisdom of God might be known through the church…” (Ephesians 3:8-10, NASB). Paul also says, “Of this church…that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints…” (Colossians 1:25-26, NASB).

Just as the nation Israel has been and will be part of God’s prophetic message, so the church is living out its prophesied role in God’s plan. The church is living in the prophetic present right now. This is the first prophecy regarding the church. But there is more foretold about the church.

Regarding the prophetic future of the church, there are certain promises yet to come. In another prophetic promise we are told the church will be raptured, caught up to meet the Lord in the air – both living and dead church saints – to be with the Lord forever:

But we do not want you to be uniformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up (raptured) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NASB, parentheses added by author)

Here Paul is writing the church at Thessalonica informing them there will be a time when those who are part of the church – both those who have died and those who are still living at the time – will be raptured up to meet the Lord in the air. This is distinct from other resurrections. (More on those later.) It is not the picture we will see later of the return of Christ to the earth. This is meeting Him in the clouds. This is a promise to the church, unlike any promise to anyone else.

There is no little amount of debate about when this rapture will take place. I will not delineate all these positions and their arguments. However, I will say most biblical students who hold to a normal, literal historical and grammatical interpretation of all the Scriptures agree the text seems to point to this rapture taking place before the Great Tribulation described in Revelation 4-18. This is the view I believe best takes into account all of the Scriptures on the subject.

A third prophetic promise regarding the church, after we are raptured, is we will stand before the Lord to receive our rewards, as athletes stands on a platform to receive their medallions. Notice these words of Paul to Timothy:

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done…. – 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NASB)

The church is presently living out the past prophetic promise that it would come into existence as a mystery revealed. But it is promised yet in the future that it will eventually be raptured to meet the Lord in the air, be rewarded, and in their glorified bodies, they will reign with Christ forever (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 22:5).


[1] Ephesians 4:12

[2] Ephesians 5:24-27

[3] Acts 1:15

[4] 1 Peter 5:2

[5] Galatians 6:10

[6] 1 Timothy 3:15 (NRSV)

[7] Acts 24:14

Prophecy: Why Study Prophecy


When I was a senior in high school I saw a book on my dad’s bookshelf titled, The Millennium. I asked him what it was about and he said, “You’re too young to understand. Maybe someday we can talk about it.” It didn’t take long to realize my dad’s response was code for, “I don’t have a clue what it’s about and I sure can’t explain it.”

I remember hearing other adults speak about future things. There were some common themes: It’s too hard to understand. It’s not that important. It doesn’t really matter. I guess we’ll find out in the end.

Contrast those statements with the words spoken to Daniel regarding the meaning and understanding of the prophecies he had proclaimed, “…many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.” When Daniel pressed for more answers, he was told, “…none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand” (Daniel 12:4,10). God wants us to understand. Even in The Revelation, admonitions are given to listen carefully and pay attention to what is being said of the future (Revelation 1:3, 22:7).

Those words to Daniel and John are compelling to me. Is God saying that as time progresses these prophecies will become clearer and clearer, and those who spend time studying these prophecies will increase in understanding? It seems that is a major part of what God is conveying to Daniel, and I have found it to be true in my own life. Every time I study a prophetic passage, I make new and clearer discoveries.

There are some common dangers of delving into the study of the future. It can merely become an academic adventure, or it can become an obsession to salve our curiosity. Some can watch the news and see the end of the world just around the corner from every world event.

Yet there are a number of very good values in studying what the Bible teaches about future things. It helps us look at the world more through God’s eyes and less like the rest of the world. It helps us see the progression of evil before it happens. It reminds us that there is a spiritual battle going on in this world, and we are reminded that in the end, God wins! Believers win! Sin and its impact on us and the rest of the world will be done away with. It gives us hope with pictures of no pain, no suffering, no tears. God has a plan and it is ultimately for good (Revelation 21:4).

Near the end of my years in seminary I learned another good reason for understanding prophecy. My wife and I were among four couples who would have a professor and his wife over for dinner and get to know them while picking their brains for crumbs of wisdom that might impact our own lives. One of those professors we invited was the president of the seminary, Dr. John F. Walvoord, who has long been recognized for his study and writing in the field of prophecy.

One of our friends asked Dr. Walvoord, “Why have you devoted so much of your life studying and writing about prophecy?” The sage among us paused and then responded with words very close to these, “Well, I’ve lived and learned enough at this point in my life to recognize that prophecy is often the crucial turning point for many students of Scripture. It can be the place where many begin to compromise the way they interpret the whole Bible.”

That was a totally unexpected answer. As we pressed for clarity, he told us story after story of students, professors, theologians and pastors who once had a solid way of interpreting the meaning of the biblical texts but then went away from that when it came to prophecy. They might say prophecy should be interpreted in a different way than other Bible literature. It’s all allegorical or figurative, generalized statements that don’t really mean what they say. They couldn’t believe those kinds of things could happen today. It didn’t fit their preconceived ideas or a predetermined theology.

Then he related how these once solid students of Scripture eventually began to compromise how they interpreted other parts of Scripture. And over time they either abandoned the faith altogether or compromised their theology so it would fit what they wanted the Scriptures to say. Personal beliefs and theological presuppositions became the source of authoritative truth for them, rather than the Scriptures themselves. But how we handle prophetic literature in the Bible will eventually dictate how we interpret all of Scripture.

This series is a glimpse into my study of prophecy over the last 40+ years. I will make no claims that I have it all figured out. I will do my best to let the Scriptures be the authoritative source of truth. Not my theology. Not my preconceived ideas. Not my idea of what seems plausible. Not my fears of what others will think. I hope you will be challenged, as I have, to be one who understands more and more, to listen carefully and studiously, and pay attention so we can respond appropriately to what God is doing progressively in His overall plan.