"A CLOSER WALK WITH GOD" The Practice Of Prayer INTRODUCTION 1. In our previous lesson, we discussed Principles Of Prayer, such as: a. Characteristics of acceptable prayer b. Obstacles to prayer c. Answers to prayer 2. With a desire to encourage disciples of Jesus to more diligent praying, this lesson will offer suggestions as to The Practice Of Prayer... I. WHEN SHOULD WE PRAY? A. HAVING "SET TIMES" TO PRAY CAN HELP TO CREATE THE HABIT OF PRAYING... 1. For example, consider the practice of: a. David, whom God described as "a man after My own heart" - Ps 55:17 b. Daniel, whom the angel of God described as "O man greatly beloved" - Dan 6:10 2. These great men of God made it a habit to pray at set times throughout the day; we would do well to imitate their example 3. At the very least... a. Find some time each day to be alone with God in prayer 1) Early morning may be best for some 2) Others might find it easier to be alone late at night b. Make it a special time to be alone with your Heavenly Father! B. YET PRAYERS SHOULD NOT BE LIMITED TO "SET TIMES"... 1. Special needs call for special times of praying 2. Consider the examples of: a. Jesus, praying on important occasions - Lk 6:12-13 b. Paul, praying in trying circumstances - Ac 16:25 c. Nehemiah - praying on the spur of the moment - Neh 2:4-5 C. THE GOAL IS TO "PRAY WITHOUT CEASING" - 1Th 5:17 1. Having "set times" will help develop the experience in praying 2. Praying "spontaneously" as needs arise will develop the disposition to pray in every circumstance (i.e., "without ceasing") II. WITH WHOM SHOULD WE PRAY? A. JESUS EXHORTED US TO PRAY "IN SECRET" - Mt 6:5-6 1. Private prayer should occupy the largest portion of our total life of prayer 2. Consider the value of "secret prayer": a. It forms a close union, communion and fellowship with God (it is just you and Him!) b. It is a true test of your sincerity and devotion 1) You certainly are not doing it to please men (they can't see you) 2) You can't be trying to falsely impress God (He will see right through you) c. Your Father will reward you "openly" - Mt 6:6 -- Therefore, "private prayer" should be a priority! B. JESUS ALSO SPOKE OF PRAYING WITH "TWO OR THREE" - Mt 18:19-20 1. The early Christians prayed together often... a. In times of trouble - Ac 4:23-24; 12:5,12; 16:25 b. In times of departure - Ac 20:36; 21:5 2. A sweetness of fellowship and sense of strength comes when God's people pray together -- Therefore, "praying with others" should be done as often as possible III. HOW SHOULD WE PRAY? A. JESUS TAUGHT HOW TO PRAY - Lk 11:1-4 1. The "Lord's Prayer", as it is commonly called, is a model, a guide for learning how to pray 2. A careful examination of this prayer reveals that proper prayer includes: a. To "whom" we should pray ("Our Father in heaven") b. Praising God ("Hallowed be Your Name") c. Supplication 1) For God's purposes ("Your kingdom come. Your will be done...") 2) For our physical needs ("Give us this day our daily bread") 3) For our spiritual needs ("Forgive us our sins...") 4) For spiritual needs of others ("For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us") 3. He also stressed the importance of simplicity in our prayers - Mt 6:7-8 B. A HELPFUL ACROSTIC IN LEARNING TO PRAY IS "A-C-T-S" 1. A = ADORATION a. I.e., praising God b. A good example of this is found in 1Ch 29:10-13 c. Spending time in sincere praise of God's greatness will help put us in the proper spirit of humility 2. C = CONFESSION a. I.e., acknowledging our sins before God b. When we understand how sin can break the fellowship we have with God, we naturally desire its quick remission c. Fortunately, as Christians we can be cleansed by the blood of Jesus as we confess our sins - 1Jn 1:9 3. T = THANKSGIVING a. An important part of prayer, even those in which we are making requests - Php 4:6 b. The benefits of giving thanks are many: 1) Causes us to acknowledge God's existence, love, and care 2) Reminds us of His goodness 3) Helps to shift our focus from what we don't have to what we do have c. The kind of things to be thankful for: 1) Things we can see in our lives... a) Health b) Family and friends c) God's guidance, answers to previous prayers 2) Things we may not be able to see... a) Our adoption as His children b) The forgiveness of sins c) The hope of eternal life d) The assurance of His continued presence d. God's people have every reason to be thankful, and to be known for "abounding in thanksgiving" - Col 1:12; 2:7; 3:15;4:2 4. S = SUPPLICATION a. I.e., making requests of God - Php 4:6 b. If we are faithful in including the first three (adoration, confession, thanksgiving), this last will prevent prayer from being simply a spiritual "shopping list" c. When we broaden our requests to include others, we enter into one of the most noble realms of prayer: intercession 1) Something which God wants us to do - 1Ti 2:1 2) Examples of whom we can pray for are given in the next section... IV. FOR WHAT SHOULD WE PRAY? A. IN THE SCRIPTURES, GOD INDICATES THAT HE WISHES US TO PRAY FOR: 1. Self a. For physical daily needs - Mt 6:11 b. For personal growth in Christlikeness and devotion to God - Col 1:9-12 2. Family a. For spouse, children, parents, siblings, etc. b. For their nurture and growth in the teaching of the Lord - Ep 6:4 3. Community a. For peace to prevail b. E.g., Jer 29:7 4. Church a. For love and unity to prevail - Jn 13:35; 17:20-21 b. For the spiritual growth of each member - Php 1:9-11 c. For the gospel to have free course - 2Th 3:1 5. Nation a. For national repentance and consciousness of who God is - Psa 33:12; Pr 14:34 b. For leaders to rule wisely - 1Ti 2:2 6. Nonbelievers a. For their salvation - Ro 10:1 b. For the effort of those involved in teaching them - Ep 6:18-20 7. The sick a. For their restoration to health - Jm 5:14-15 b. For spiritual strength and peace of mind - Jm 5:16 8. The poor and oppressed a. Such as the homeless, fatherless, unborn children - Pr 29:7 b. Those in other nations oppressed by their own rulers or outside influences B. IT MIGHT HELP TO HAVE A "PRAYER STRATEGY"... 1. On Monday - Family a. Pray for both immediate and extended family members b. For both their physical and spiritual well-being 2. On Tuesday - Church a. For members in the local congregation b. For Christians and congregations throughout the world 3. On Wednesday - Community a. For community leaders b. For your neighbors 4. On Thursday - Nation a. For elected officials b. For efforts to bring peace and righteousness 5. On Friday - World a. For world peace b. For nations that are "closed" to the gospel 6. On Saturday - Afflicted a. For the poor, homeless, jobless b. For those in prison c. For those who are sick d. For widows, single mothers, fatherless children CONCLUSION 1. These are simply suggestions, to help us see that there is much we can be praying for; other suggestions could include: a. A "daily prayer strategy" (morning-family; noon-church; evening-community) b. When praying for the nation and the world, pray about the events described in the newspaper c. Keeping a "list" or "journal" of those for whom you are praying 2. The important thing is to PRAY, and to do so: a. "always" b. "in everything" c. "earnestly" d. "being vigilant" e. "without ceasing" 3. I hope these last two lessons will encourage us to be more diligent in utilizing this wonderful privilege of prayer! SOME QUESTIONS TO STIMULATE YOUR THINKING... 1. Do you spend time each day in prayer to God? 2. Do you find prayer an easy or difficult activity? 3. Do you pray with other people at times other than before meals, in Bible classes, or in the assembly? 4. Do your prayers include the needs of others, or just your own concerns?
Is Muhammad Mentioned in the Bible?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Islamic apologists have attempted to bolster the credibility of their beliefs by claiming that the Bible, itself, makes reference to the coming of the prophet Muhammad. Ironically, this claim comes even in the face of the prevailing Islamic contention that the Bible has been corrupted, and thus cannot be relied upon as an accurate record of God’s Word. Nevertheless, the reader is urged to weigh these claims in light of the exegetical evidence for five of these passages.
First, Muslims appeal to Isaiah 29:12—“Then the book is delivered to one who is illiterate, saying, ‘Read this, please’; and he says, ‘I am not literate.’” Muslims insist that the book referred to in this verse is the Quran, that the one to whom the book was delivered is Muhammad, and that the one who ordered Muhammad to read the book is Gabriel. They claim that Muhammad fits the description of this individual, since Muhammad was illiterate when the angel Gabriel revealed the words of Allah to him.
To understand the context of the verse, one must remember that Isaiah, who lived in the 8th century B.C., is known as the “Messianic prophet” because he prophesied so many details about Jesus—not Muhammad. Isaiah 29 is in a context in which God pronounced woes on Judah for her sins at that time, i.e., 702 B.C. The context indicates that within a year, the great Assyrian king Sennacherib would lay siege to Jerusalem in 701 B.C. (vs. 3). Jerusalem (called “Ariel”) would be attacked by her enemies and punished for her crimes against God, and then those enemies would, themselves, also receive their just desserts (vss. 4-8). God’s people were in the throes of deliberate spiritual blindness, and Judah’s false prophets/seers were not helping the situation (vss. 9-10). Notice that Isaiah then described the unwillingness of the people of his day to heed the truth by comparing them to a literate person who is told to read something, but refuses, excusing himself by saying the document is sealed (vs. 11). It then is delivered to an illiterate person, but he excuses himself by saying he cannot read (vs. 12). The point is that the people of Isaiah’s day refused to pay attention to God’s Word spoken through His prophets. They did not want it! Verses 13-16 explain that because of their closed minds, they would all suffer for their rejection of His Word when the Assyrians arrived to besiege the city. But, as usual, God revealed a better day when people would listen (vss. 17ff.). Having examined the context, it is transparently evident that these verses have absolutely nothing to do with Muhammad!
A second verse that Muslims brandish in support of their claims is the promise of a coming prophet in Deuteronomy 18:18—“I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.” Muslims claim that the prophet to whom God referred was Muhammad.
Again, a simple examination of additional biblical evidence reveals that the statement made to Moses was divinely intended to refer to Jesus Christ—not Muhammad. Shortly after the establishment of the church of Christ and the Christian religion (in A.D. 30 in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost after the death and resurrection of Jesus—Acts 2), two of the twelve apostles, Peter and John, went to the Jewish temple and healed a lame man (Acts 3:1-11). When people began to gather in large numbers out of amazement at what had happened, Peter used the opportunity to preach the Christian message to them (Acts 3:12-26). He made several crucial points pertaining to the person of the Christ: (1) the recently crucified Jesus was, in fact, the One Whom the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had glorified (vs. 13); (2) God had raised Him from the dead (vs. 15); (3) it was the “name” (i.e., authority/power) of Jesus, and faith in Him, that procured the miraculous healing of the lame man (vs. 16); (4) the suffering of Christ was predicted previously by God through the prophets (vs. 18); (5) at the conclusion of human history, God will send Jesus back (not any of the prophets, let alone Muhammad)—an unmistakable reference to the Second Coming of Christ immediately preceding the Judgment (vss. 20-21; cf. Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:7ff.). It is at this point that Peter quoted from the passage in Deuteronomy and applied it to Jesus—not Muhammad (vss. 22ff.). Peter’s inspired application is unmistakable; he clearly identified Jesus as the fulfillment: “God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities” (vs. 26). Observe further that God stated explicitly that the prophet that He would raise up would come "from your brethren" (vs. 15; cf. vs. 18). In context, He was speaking to Moses, who was a descendant of Isaac. Arabs descended from Ishmael, not Isaac. Muhammad was not from the brethren of Moses and the Jews--he was an Arab. Muhammad does not fit the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18.
A third attempt by Muslims to gain credibility for their viewpoint by linking their beliefs to the Bible concerns the multiple allusions to the Holy Spirit in John chapters 14, 15, and 16. John 16:7 reads: “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I go not away, the Helper will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him to you.” Again, Muslims claim that Jesus was referring to Muhammad. Yet anyone who has spent even a minimal amount of effort examining the teaching of John chapters 14, 15, and 16 is astounded that anyone would claim that the “Helper” (NKNV), or “Comforter” (KJV), or “Counselor” (RSV, NIV)—the one who stands beside (paracletos)—is to be equated with Muhammad. The three chapters have as their setting Jesus giving His twelve apostles special encouragement and specific admonitions in view of His eminent departure from the Earth. He reassured them that even though He was about to exit the planet, He would not abandon them. They would not be left “orphans” (14:18). He would send in His place the Holy Spirit Who would teach them all things and bring to their remembrance those things that Jesus had taught them (14:26). The term translated “Helper” occurs three times in the context (14:26; 15:26; 16:7). Without question, Jesus was referring to the power and directional assistance that the apostles would receive from the Holy Spirit beginning on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:8; 2:4). A simple reading of the three chapters makes this conclusion inescapable.
Since Muslims do not believe in the notion of Trinity (God in three persons—Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14), they reject the reality of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is referred to in the Quran, it is speaking of the angel Gabriel (Surah 2:87,253; 16:102; see Pickthall, n.d., p. 40, note 3). But using their own reasoning, the “Helper” cannot refer to Muhammad since the context specifically identifies the “Helper” as the “Holy Spirit:” “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (14:26). If the Quran is correct, and the Holy Spirit is Gabriel, then John 14:26 teaches that the Helper is Gabriel—not Muhammad! No, John 16:7 does not refer to Muhammad.
A fourth passage brought forward in an effort to show biblical support for Muhammad’s claim to be a prophet of God is John 1:19-21—“Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, ‘I am not the Christ.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ And he answered, ‘No.’” Muslims claim that the Jews were waiting for the fulfillment of three distinct prophecies. The first was the coming of Christ. The second was the coming of Elijah. The third was the coming of the Prophet. Muslims point out that the three questions that were posed to John the baptizer in this passage show this expectation to be true. They further maintain that since the Jews distinguished between the Christ and the Prophet, Jesus Christ was not the prophet mentioned in Deuteronomy 18:15,18.
Muslims certainly are correct in their observation that the Jews of Jesus’ day thought that the Christ and the Prophet were two separate personages. But the meaning and proper application of the Bible does not rest on the perceptions and misconceptions of mere humans. The Bible records the opinions and viewpoints of a wide range of individuals throughout human history—including Satan himself (Matthew 4:3,6,9)—even though their opinions and viewpoints were incorrect. The Bible does not authenticate such opinions simply by reporting them. The Jews were confused.
The real question is, does the Bible indicate whether the Christ and the Prophet were/are to be understood as the same person? As already noted, the apostle Peter certainly thought so (Acts 3:12ff.). So did the great evangelist and Christian martyr, Stephen. Standing before the highest-ranking body of the Jewish religion, the Sanhedrin, and in the presence of the highest-ranking religious figure in Judaism, the high priest, Stephen recalled the words of Moses from Deuteronomy (Acts 7:37), and then forthrightly declared Jesus to be the Just One Whom they had betrayed and murdered (vs. 52). The “Just One” is precisely the same person that Peter identified as the fulfillment of the Deuteronomy passage, i.e., Jesus Christ. Likewise, Paul referred to Jesus (not Muhammad) as the “Just One” (Acts 22:14). An objective appraisal of the biblical data yields the unmistakable conclusion that the Bible identifies the Prophet of Deuteronomy 18 as Jesus Christ—not Muhammad. Jesus is both the Christ and the Prophet.
SONG OF SOLOMON 5:16
A fifth passage alleged to be a reference to Muhammad is found in Song of Solomon 5:16, where it is claimed that Muhammad is actually referred to by name in Hebrew. In English, the verse reads: “His mouth is most sweet, yes, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem!” (NKJV). A phonetic transliteration of the underlying Hebrew text reads:Kheeco mahm-tah-keem vuh-coollo ma-kha-madeem zeh dodee veh-tseh ray-ee beh-note yerushalayim. Muslims claim that the bolded word, though translated “altogether lovely,” is the name of Muhammad (Naik, n.d.). Consider six linguistic evidences that dispute their claim:
1. The second syllable (kha) utilizes the Hebrew letter heth which has a hard initial sound like the “ch” in the Scottish word “loch.” It is to be distinguished from the Hebrew letter he which is the same as the English letter “h.” If Muhammad was being referred to, the simple “h” would have been more linguistically appropriate.
2. Muslims claim that the eem (or im) in ma-kha-madeem in the Hebrew language was “added for respect” (Naik). This claim is untrue and unsubstantiated. The letters constitute the standard form for changing a singular to a plural—like adding “s” or “es” in English (cf. Weingreen, 1959, pp. 35ff.). As the eminent Emil Rödiger (who was professor for oriental languages at the University of Halle and the student of the well-known German Orientalist, H.F.W. Gesenius) noted in his editorial comment in the prestigious Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar: “The use of the plural as a form of respectful address is quite foreign to Hebrew” (p. 418).
3. The meaning of the Hebrew ma-kha-madeem is different from the meaning of the word “Muhammad” in Arabic. According to Sheikh Abd al-Azîz, Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, the word “Muhammad” is derived from the Arabic root word hamd meaning “praise.” It is the emphatic passive participle of that root and can be translated as “the Oft-Praised One” (n.d.). However, the Hebrew term (makh-mahd) in the passage under consideration has a completely different meaning. It refers to “grace, beauty” (Gesenius, 1979, p. 464), “a desirable thing, delightfulness” (Brown, et al., 1906, pp. 326-327), “a pleasant thing” (Payne, 1980, 1:295), or “precious” (Holladay, 1988, p. 190). English translations render the term “altogether lovely” (NKJV, NIV), “wholly desirable” (NASB), and “altogether desirable” (ESV, RSV). No reputable English translation would render the underlying Hebrew as “Muhammad.” All Muslims have done is happen upon a Hebrew word that phonetically sounds somewhat like “Muhammad” and have erroneously concluded the word must be referring to him. Such handling of linguistic data is irresponsible.
4. Further, the claim that Muhammad is intended in the verse completely disregards the context and message of the book of Song of Solomon. The book consists of a dialogue between Solomon, his Shulamite bride-to-be, and the “daughters of Jerusalem,” with perhaps even God interjecting His comment (5:1b), as well as the Shulamite’s brothers (8:8-9). The term used in 5:16 that Muslims claim refers to Muhammad is also used in 2:3 to refer to the Shulamite’s beloved—“Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down in his shade with great delight.” “Great delight” is the Hebrew word also used in 5:16; in both cases the words of the Shulamite refer to her beloved—not Muhammad.
5. Forms of the same Hebrew word are used elsewhere in the Old Testament, yet Muslims do not claim that those passages refer to Muhammad. Rightly so, since those verses cannot be forced to fit the notion that Muhammad is under consideration. For example, Isaiah 64:11 mourns the destruction of Jerusalem: “Our holy and beautiful temple, where our fathers praised You, is burned up with fire; And all our pleasant things are laid waste.” “Pleasant things” is a form of the same word in Song of Solomon 5:16. Would the Muslim contend that Muhammad was “laid waste” in Jerusalem? Additional occurrences of the same word—which dispel the misuse of the term by Muslims—are seen in 1 Kings 20:6; 2 Chronicles 36:19; Lamentations 1:10,11; Ezekiel 24:16,21,25; Hosea 9:9,16; Joel 3:5; et al. (Wigram, 1890, p. 687).
6. Even if the Hebrew word “lovely/desirable” in Song of Solomon were the Hebrew equivalent of the Arabic word “praised one,” it still would not follow that Muhammad is being referred to in the Bible. Instead, it would simply be an indication that the underlying word stands on its own as a term used for other applications. For example, the Hebrew word for “bitter” is mah-rah. It is used throughout the Old Testament to refer to the concept of bitter. Yet, due to her unpleasant circumstances in life, Naomi (meaning “pleasant”) requested that her name be changed to “bitter” (mah-rah) to reflect her bitter predicament. It does not follow, however, that when the Hebrew word “bitter” appears in the Old Testament it refers to Naomi. If parents today were to name their child John, it would not follow that they intended to reflect an association with others in history who have worn the name John. Muslims have the cart before the horse. Their claim is equivalent to parents naming their child “wonderful” or “special”—and then claiming that an ancient writer had their child in mind when the writer used the word “wonderful” or “special” in referring to another person contemporary to the writer.
All of the above verses may be understood with a little study and consideration of context. Those who would attempt to use these verses to apply to Muhammad demonstrate that they have a very superficial, cursory understanding of the Bible. The truth is available for anyone who cares to “check it out.” But searching for the truth requires effort. It requires proper motivation, sincerity, and honesty. Yet it can be done. As Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
al-Azîz, Sheikh Abd (no date), “The Meaning of the Prophet’s names ‘Muhammad’ and ‘Ahmad,’” Islam Today, http://en.islamtoday.net/quesshow-14-738.htm.
Brown, Francis, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs (1906), The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2000 reprint).
Gesenius, William (1847), Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979 reprint).
Holladay, William (1988), A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Naik, Zakir (no date), “Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the Bible,” Islam 101,http://www.islam101.com/religions/christianity/mBible.htm.
Payne, J. Barton (1980), hamad in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason Archer, Jr. and Bruce Waltke (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Pickthall, Mohammed M. (n.d.), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
Weingreen, J. (1959), A Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew (Oxford: Clarenden Press), second edition.
Wigram, George W. (1890), The Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1980 reprint).
Biblical Wisdom Still Relevant
|by||Kyle Butt, M.A.|
About 3,000 years ago, one of the wisest men to have ever lived penned through divine inspiration this statement: “A merry heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). Solomon’s statement speaks to the fact that in many cases, it is the emotional and spiritual attitude of an individual that sustains his or her physical existence as much or more than physical factors. On March 28, 2006, a brief article on loneliness provided some excellent modern scientific documentation for Solomon’s sentiments.
The study was in no way exhaustive since it only looked at information from about 229 adults. But the results were quite interesting. In a nut shell, the study showed that loneliness can be a potential factor that increases blood pressure. The study further indicated that when individuals became more emotionally connected to others and less lonely, their blood pressure can decrease. In fact, the authors of the study suggested that the “magnitude of the effect of loneliness on blood pressure is comparable to the magnitude of reduction that can be achieved through weight loss and exercise” (Hawkley and Berry as quoted in Minerd, 2006). Thus, one can see that the physical factors of losing weight and exercise can potentially be matched or eclipsed by the emotional attitudes of an individual, exactly as Solomon suggested.
Drs. Hawkley and Berry noted that many factors in the culture of the United States tend to increase the opportunity for loneliness and that, “under these circumstances risk of loneliness increases, and along with it so does risk of morbidity and mortality” (Minerd, 2006). In other words, emotional distress “dries the bones.”
Solomon’s ancient wisdom is as relevant to today’s society as it was to his three millennia ago. The Bible’s timeless nature is exactly the product that what would be expected from an all-knowing God Who can declare “the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10).
Minerd, Jeff (2006), “Loneliness Weighs Heavily on the Heart,” [On-line], URL: http://www.medpagetoday.com/Cardiology/Hypertension/tb/2947.
American Astronauts: From Belief to Unbelief
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The “space race” between the Soviet Union and the United States was in full swing. I was four years old when my father took me outside on a dark Arizona night in October 1957, to peer upward in hopes of catching a glimpse of the first manmade object to orbit the Earth—Russia’s Sputnik 1. Sure enough, it streaked across the heavens as a pinpoint of light. By April of 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel into space aboard Vostok 1. Peering through the window of his spacecraft, Gagarin was reported to have made the comment, “I don’t see any God up here” (“Yuri Gagarin...,” n.d.). [NOTE: Yuri’s colleague and good friend, Colonel Valentin Petrov, later insisted that Yuri never made such a statement, though it came to be attributed to him, but was actually the result of a comment by Russian Premiere Nikita Khrushchev in an anti-religious propaganda speech before the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party: “At that time Khrushchev gave all the Party and Komsomol organizations the task to promote this propaganda and said: ‘Why should you clutch at God? Look, Gagarin flew in space and saw no God’” (“Gagarin Never Said...,” 2006).] Russian astronaut Valery Bykovsky told newsmen in 1963 that no Soviet cosmonaut believed in God and none of them had seen anything to change their minds during their space flights (“Soviet Cosmonauts...,” 1963, p. D7, emp. added). At the time, the spiritual and religious sensibilities of most Americans were shocked by such blatant, unmitigated unbelief.
Indeed, a sharp contrast may be drawn between the Russians and their American counterparts. For example, it was Christmas Eve,
|Apollo 8 crew just after splashdown|
Photo Credit: NASA
December 24, 1968 when Apollo 8 entered lunar orbit on the first manned mission to the Moon. Before retiring that evening, the astronauts did a live television broadcast to Earth, showing pictures of the Earth and Moon seen from their space capsule. They concluded the broadcast in the following fashion. Lunar Module Pilot William Anders said: “For all the people on Earth the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you.” He then began reading from the Bible, specifically Genesis 1:1-4. Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell then continued the reading with Genesis 1:5-8. Finally, Commander Frank Borman completed the reading with Genesis 1:9-10, and then closed the broadcast with the words, “And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you—all of you on the good Earth” (Williams, 2007).
Seven months later, on July 20, 1969, with the largest worldwide television audience in history watching, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong became the first two humans to visit another world when they stepped onto the Moon from their Apollo 11 Lunar Module Eagle. Since the infamous atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair had filed suit against NASA (a suit eventually rejected by the courts) due to the Apollo 8 crew reading from Genesis, Aldrin was asked to forego his plan to read publicly from the Bible while on the Moon’s surface. Nevertheless, while still on the Moon, he radioed to Earth the following: “Houston. This is Eagle, the LM Pilot speaking. I would like to request a few moments of silence. Over. I would like to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his own individual way” (“Apollo 11 Astronaut...,” 2007). While still on the Moon, Aldrin read John 15:5 to himself and then observed the Lord’s Supper (2007). During a television broadcast by the astronauts the evening before splashdown, Aldrin quoted Psalm 8:3-4—“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou has ordained; What is man that thou art mindful of him? And the Son of Man, that thou visitest Him?” (2007).
Two years later, astronaut James B. Irwin walked on the moon during the Apollo 15 mission in July 1971. Concerning that lunar mission, Irwin declared, “I felt the power of God as I’d never felt it before” (Wilford, 1991). At the end of the first day of exploring the rugged lunar highlands, Irwin said he was reminded of “my favorite Biblical passage from Psalms,” which he then quoted by radio to Mission Control in Houston: “I’ll look unto the hills from whence cometh my help” (Wilford).
Of course, America’s brave astronauts merely reflected the religious convictions shared by the bulk of American culture at the time—extending all the way back to the beginning of the country. Tragically, that spiritual conviction, so characteristic of American civilization then, has since experienced extensive erosion. Contrast the astronauts in the early days of America’s space program with more recent ones. Returning from a 16-day mission in March 2008, crew members of Endeavor stated that as space exploration forges ahead, they believed the human race will find life elsewhere in the Universe (“Astronauts Say...,” 2008).
|Buzz Aldrin on the Moon|
Photo Credit: NASA
Mike Foreman, a mission specialist on the Endeavor, said, “If we push back boundaries far enough, I’m sure eventually we’ll find something out there” (“Astronauts Say...”). Such thinking is typical of evolutionists who must look elsewhere for their faltering theory of evolution (cf. Richard Dawkins in Expelled; Stein and Miller, 2008). Foreman continued: “Maybe not as evolved as we are, but it’s hard to believe that there is not life somewhere else in this great universe” (“Astronauts Say...”).
Another astronaut, Gregory Johnson, asserted: “I personally believe that we are going to find something that we can’t explain.... There is probably something out there but I’ve never seen it” (“Astronauts Say...”). The crew commander, Dominic Gorie, compared their space adventure to explorers in past eras who knew not what they would encounter when they sailed the uncharted seas of the Earth. “As we travel in the space, we don’t know what we’ll find. That’s the beauty of what we do. I hope that someday we’ll find what we don’t understand” (“Astronauts Say...”). Richard Linnehan, a fellow mission specialist, admitted that it could take a while before human beings come into contact with extraterrestrial life (“Astronauts Say...”). Here is yet another indication of America’s drift from God in exchange for fanciful theory and meaningless pursuits. Rather than being dazzled by the marvels of the Universe and acknowledging God as the great Creator, some of our astronauts now are filled with thoughts of little green men. Paul’s words form a sad commentary on the transition that has transpired:
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because,although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:20-22, emp. added).
“Apollo 11 Astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s Notes on Handwritten Card Offered by Auction House” (2007),International Herald Tribune, September 19, [On-line], URL:http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/09/19/america/NA-GEN-US-Astronaut -Auction.php.
“Astronauts Say There Must Be Life in Space” (2008), Space Daily, May 12, [On-line], URL:http://www.spacedaily.com/2006/080512063010.m60tu6xh.html.
“Gagarin Never Said He Did Not See God in Space—His Friend, An Air Force Colonel” (2006),Interfax, April 12, [On-line], URL: http://www.interfax-religion.ru/orthodoxy/?act=interview&div=73 &domain=1.
“Soviet Cosmonauts Called Unbelievers” (1963), The Washington Post, p. D7, December 11, [On-line], URL: http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/washingtonpost_historical/access/179980282 .html?dids=179980282:179980282&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&date= DEC+11%2C+1963&author=&pub=The+Washington+Post&desc=Soviet +Cosmonauts+Called+Unbelievers&pqatl=google.
Stein, Ben and Kevin Miller (2008), Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (Premise Media).
Wilford, John N. (1991), “James B. Irwin, 61, Ex-Astronaut; Founded Religious Organization,” The New York Times, August 10, [On-line], URL: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE3DD173DF933A2575B C0A967958260.
Williams, David (2007), “The Apollo Christmas Eve Broadcast,” NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, [On-line], URL: http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/lunar/apollo8_xmas.html.
“Yuri Gagarin Biography” (no date), Biography Base, [On-line], URL:http://www.biographybase.com/biography/Gagarin_Yuri.html.
Did Moses Make a Scientific Mistake?
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
The Bible speaks of two animals, the coney and the hare, as “chewing the cud.” Isn't the Bible mistaken on this point? These animals do not actually chew the cud, do they?
An infidel once wrote: “Something that has long perplexed me is the way that inerrancy proponents can so easily find ‘scientific foreknowledge’ in obscurely worded Bible passages but seem completely unable to see scientific error in statements that were rather plainly written.” This skeptic then cited Leviticus 11:5-6, where the coney and the hare are said to chew the cud, and boasted that since these animals do not have compartmentalized stomachs like those in ruminants (e.g., the cow), Moses clearly made a mistake. What shall we say to this charge?
First, no scientific mistake can be attributed to the Bible unless all of the facts are fully known. In such an alleged case, the biblical assertion must be unambiguous. The scientific information must be factual. And an indisputable conflict must prevent any harmonization of the two. Do these criteria obtain in this matter? They do not.
Second, we must note that the words “coney” (Hebrew shaphan) and “hare” (arnebeth) are rare and difficult words in the Old Testament. The former is found but four times, and the latter only twice. The etymology of the terms is obscure. In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament), shaphan is rendered by dasupoda, meaning “rough foot,” and arnebeth becomeschoirogrullion, literally, “swine-pig.” Hence, identification becomes a factor. It is commonly believed, however, that the arnebeth is some species of hare, and that shaphan denotes the Syrian hyrax.
But, so it is claimed, neither of these chews the cud. A number of scholars have noted that both of these animals, even when at rest, masticate, much like the cow or sheep, and that Moses thus employed phenomenal language (i.e., describing something as it appears), for the purpose of ready identification, inasmuch as these creatures were ceremonially unclean and thus prohibited for use as food (Archer, 1982, p. 126).
That is not an impossible solution. Bats, for example, are listed along with birds in Leviticus 11, not because both are mammals, but simply because both fly. The Scriptures do not necessarily follow the arbitrary classification systems of man. When Christ said that the mustard seed is “less than all seeds,” (Matthew 13:33), He was speaking from the vantage point of the Palestinian citizen—not that of a modern botanist. We today employ phenomenal jargon when we speak of the Sun “rising and setting.” Technically, it is not correct to refer to a woman’s amniotic fluid as “water,” and yet doctors employ this language frequently. Why do we not allow the biblical writers as much literary license as we ourselves employ? The bias of agnosticism is utterly incredible.
There is, however, another factor that must be taken into consideration. Rumination does not necessarily involve a compartmentalized stomach system. One definition of “ruminate” is simply “to chew again that which has been swallowed” (Webster’s Dictionary). And oddly enough, that is precisely what the hare does. Though the hare does not have a multi-chambered stomach—which is characteristic of most ruminants—it does chew its food a second time. It has been learned rather recently that hares pass two types of fecal material.
In addition to normal waste, they pass a second type of pellet known as a caecotroph. The very instant the caecotroph is passed, it is grabbed and chewed again.... As soon as the caecotroph is chewed thoroughly and swallowed, it aggregates in the cardiac region of the stomach where it undergoes a second digestion (Morton, 1978, pp. 179-181).
This complicated process provides the rabbit with 100% more riboflavin, 80% more niacin, 160% more pantothenic acid, and a little in excess of 40% more vitamin B12 (Harrison, 1980, p. 121). In a comparative study of cows and rabbits, Jules Carles concluded that rumination should not be defined from an anatomical point of view (e.g., the presence of a four-part stomach); rather, it should be viewed from the standpoint of a mechanism for breeding bacteria to improve food. Cows and rabbits are similar in that both possess a fermentation chamber with microorganisms that digest otherwise indigestible plant material, converting it into nutrients. Some of the microorganisms in these two animals are the same, or very similar. Carles has stated that on this basis “it is difficult to deny that rabbits are ruminants” (as quoted in Brand, 1977, p. 104). Dr. Bernard Grzimek, Director of the Frankfurt Zoological Gardens in Germany, likewise has classified the hare as a ruminant (1975, pp. 421-422).
On the other hand, the hyrax also is considered by some to be a ruminant, based upon the fact that it has a multiple digestive process.
The hyrax has a very long protrusion, a caecum, and two additional caeca near the colon. At least one of these protrusions participates in decomposition of cellulose. It contributes certain enzymes necessary for breakdown of the cellulose (Morton, 1978, p. 184).
Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia (1975) considers the hyrax as a ruminant. Professor Joseph Fischel of the University of California has suggested that the biblical allusion to the coney as a cud-chewer probably was due “to the structure of its digestive system, the protuberances in its large stomach together with its appendix and maw possibly being regarded as analogous to a ruminant’s four stomachs” (1971, p. 1144). In his significant study of the intestinal microflora in herbivores, scientist Richard McBee observed that the hyrax has a fermentation chamber for the digestion of grass by microorganisms (as quoted in Brand, 1977, p. 103).
Finally, the precise meaning of gerah, rendered “chewing the cud” in most versions, is uncertain. Many orthodox Jews consider it simply to mean a second mastication, or the semblance of chewing. Samuel Clark stated that the meaning of gerah “became expanded, and the rodents and pachyderms, which have a habit of grinding with their jaws, were familiarly spoken of as ruminating animals” (1981, 1:546).
In view of the foregoing facts, it is extremely presumptuous to suggest that the Mosaic account contains an error relative to these creatures. A sensible interpretive procedure and/or an acquaintance with accurate information would have eliminated such a rash and unwarranted conclusion.
Archer, Gleason (1982), Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Brand, Leonard R. (1977), “Do Rabbits Chew the Cud?,” Origins, 4(2):102-104.
Clark, Samuel (1981), “Leviticus,” The Bible Commentary, ed. F.C. Cook (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Fischel, Joseph W. (1971), “Hyrax,” Encyclopedia Judaica (New York: Macmillan).
Grzimek, Bernard, ed. (1975), Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold).
Harrison, R.K. (1980), Leviticus (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press).
Morton, Jean Sloat (1978), Science in the Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody).
“How Come Earth Got All the Good Stuff?”
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Stuart Clark, of New Scientist magazine, recently asked the question, “How come Earth got all the good stuff?” Of all the planets in our solar system that allegedly formed naturalistically “from the same cloud of gas and dust that surrounded the sun more than 4.5 billion years ago,” why is “Earth...so suitable for life” (Clark, 2008, 199:29)? Stuart acknowledged:
We know that its distance from the sun provides the right amount of heat and light to make the planet habitable, but that alone is not enough. Without the unique mix of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulphur that makes up living things, and without liquid water on the planet’s surface, life as we know it could not have evolved. Chemically speaking, Earth is simply better set up for life than its neighbours. So how come we got all the good stuff? (p. 29).
How did Earth get to be just the right distance from the Sun so that it receives “the right amount of heat and light to make the planet habitable” (emp. added)? How did Earth get such a “unique mix” of all the elements that make up living things? How did Earth “acquire its life-giving water supply?” (p. 29). Did Earth become the “just-right” planet by happenstance?
Clark said that our best hope to find clues about Earth’s origin is from meteorites, since “they formed at the same time as the planets” (p. 29). However, he admitted: “[T]here are subtle differences that are proving tough to explain. For example, the mix of oxygen isotopes in chondritic meteorites does not match those found on Earth. So far no one knows why, but since oxygen is the most abundant element in the Earth’s crust...it is a mystery that cannot be ignored” (p. 29, emp. added). Regarding Earth’s “life-giving water supply,” Clarke suggested that “[t]he most popular explanation is that the water arrived later, in the form of icy comets from the outer solar system that rained down in the period known as the ‘Late Heavy Bombardment.’ As yet, though, there is no firm evidence to confirm this as the source of Earth’s water” (p. 30).
Though atheistic scientists have attempted to answer these and similar questions for many years, still no one has a legitimate naturalistic explanation for what New Scientist calls our planet’s “biggest mysteries” (p. 28). To conclude that Earth received just the right amount of “carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulphur” by time, chance, and non-intelligence is irrational. When does time, chance, and non-intelligence ever produce such wonderful effects? To conclude that the estimated 326 million cubic miles of water on Earth (“How Much Water...?,” 2008) are the result of “icy comets from the outer solar system” raining down on Earth millions of years ago is equally absurd.
The fact is, adequate non-intelligent, random, naturalistic causes for the “just-right” Earth do not exist. The only rational explanation for the precise design of Earth, the cosmos as a whole, and life on Earth is an intelligent supernatural Creator.
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork (Psalm 19:1).For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:20-22).The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).
Clark, Stuart (2008), “How Come Earth Got All the Good Stuff?,” New Scientist, 199: 29-30, September 27.
“How Much Water is on Earth?” (2008), Livescience.com, [On-line], URL:http://www.livescience.com/mysteries/070621_llm_water.html.
Abortion and the Twin Towers
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Undoubtedly, every American who was old enough to be aware of life’s circumstances, will forever remember where he or she was when news spread that first one, and then a second, airliner had crashed into the World Trade Center, followed by a third collision into the Pentagon. The images and the scenes that followed for days, weeks, and months are forever imprinted into our thoughts and seared into our memories. So are the feelings and the impressions: disbelief, fear, uncertainty, anger, disgust, sadness, and sympathy.
The spectrum of emotions, thoughts, and attitudes that most Americans felt are so diverse and complex that putting them into words may not be easy or adequate. The average American surely felt a great sense of outrage at the injustice of what had been perpetrated upon large numbers of innocent people. The American sense of patriotism was offended, which elicited a corresponding desire for vengeance and due retribution. One of the most heart-rending features of the collapse of the twin towers was the original estimate of anticipated dead: 5,000. However, in time, the final tallies—though terribly tragic—were much lower: 266 died in the ill-fated hijacked airliners while 2,823 died in the twin towers—a total death toll of 3,089 (Feldner, 2002).
Many other horrifying spectacles riddle human history in which thousands, even millions, of people have been slaughtered by their fellowman. The human mind has difficulty in grasping the Jewish holocaust of Hitler’s Nazi regime, which resulted in the extermination of a staggering estimated six million men, women, and children. Reflect upon the torture and killing of multiplied thousands by dictators like Stalin or Saddam Hussein, not to mention the killing fields of Cambodia. How can man’s inhumanity to man possibly be so extensive in its magnitude?
Is the repulsion and revulsion that is evoked by these travesties due simply to the loss of life? Or is humanity’s outrage due to the fact that lives were snuffed out unjustly and unfairly—that those lives were “innocent” of any wrongdoing that their persecutors alleged as justification to terminate their lives? If the former is true, why is no great issue made of the death toll that takes place in the United States everyday? That figure stands at 6,674 (Sutton, 2003)—more than two and a half times as many people as those who died on 9-11. That’s how many people die every day in America—not to mention the thousands who die every day around the world. Why do we feel no great heartache for these multitudes—akin to that which we felt on the occasion of 9-11?
If the latter is true, i.e., that we are outraged, not at the mere loss of life, but at the fact that innocent human beings had their lives taken from them unfairly, and that they had done nothing to deserve such, then where is the outrage concerning the termination of innocent babies by means of abortion? We view with great indignation those “terrorists” who dared to attack and destroy the unsuspecting objects of their callous brutality. Yet, since 1973, abortion clinics and doctors have been slaughtering the unborn population of the United States to an extent that makes the perpetration of previous atrocities in all of human history seem trivial. In the United States alone, more than 43 million babies have been aborted! In 2000 alone, more children died from abortion than Americans who died in the American Revolution, the Civil War, World Wars 1 and II, the Korean War, Vietnam, and the Gulf Wars combined (“Abortion,” 2003). In fact, one American baby was killed by abortion every 24 seconds.
The number of adults who died on 9-11 is surely tragic. But the number of innocent, unsuspecting children who never are permitted to complete their development, to proceed with their lives, to make their own choices, and to pursue their potential as human beings created in the image of God, is more than tragic. At least the terrorists thought they were pleasing their god and achieving his will against what were perceived to be Western degradation and spiritual corruption. But to snuff out the lives of innocent children for the economic and social convenience of mothers is despicable and inexcusable. Those who extinguish these innocent lives are without justification.
The mind has difficulty even comprehending 43,000,000 murdered babies—let alone envisioning the lost potential for good for the entire human race. Make no mistake, the “hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:17) will one day face the consequences of their actions (Ecclesiastes 12:14; Hebrew 9:27).
“Abortion in the United States: Statistics and Trends” (2003), [On-line], URL: http://www.nrlc.org/abortion/facts/abortionstats.html.
Feldner, Emmitt (2002), “9/11: Search For Survivors Began Almost Immediately,” [On-line], URL: http://www.wisinfo.com/sheboyganpress/news/911/911_5775905.shtml.
Sutton, Paul (2003), “Births, Marriages, Divorces, and Deaths: Provisional Data for October-December, 2002,” [On-line], URL: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr51/nvsr51_10.pdf.