"A CLOSER WALK WITH GOD" The Church And You INTRODUCTION 1. As we grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, as we continue in our service and walk with God, we do not do so alone 2. A wonderful blessing we have in Christ is being members of His body, the church 3. When we properly understand: a. What the church is, both in its universal and local sense b. What our responsibilities are toward the church -- Then we can better utilize this blessing to help us remain faithful in our lives as disciples of Christ I. WHAT IS THE CHURCH? A. THE WORD "CHURCH" REFERS TO PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN SAVED... 1. As we are saved, the Lord in heaven Himself "adds" us to His church - Ac 2:47 2. As His "church" (a word meaning "assembly" or "congregation"), we are members of God's "household" or "family" - 1Ti 3:15 B. THE WORD "CHURCH" IS USED PRIMARILY IN TWO SENSES... 1. The UNIVERSAL sense: all the saved throughout the world a. It is used in this way in passages like Mt 16:18; Ep 5:23; Col 1:18 b. In the "universal" sense: 1) There is only ONE church - Ep 4:4; compare with Ep 1:22-23 2) Christ is the head; individual Christians are members of His body - 1Co 12:27 3) There is NO EARTHLY ORGANIZATION; what organization there may be is spiritual in nature - Ep 2:19-20 4) The universal church never meets as such; it has no "officers" except Jesus Christ and the original apostles and prophets 2. The LOCAL sense: the saved in one particular locality a. It is used in this way in passages like 1Co 1:2; Re 1:11; Ro 16:16 b. In the "local" sense: 1) There are MANY churches - cf. Ga 1:2 2) There is to be EARTHLY ORGANIZATION within each local church a) Ideally, each church has elders (also known as bishops, pastors) and deacons - Php 1:1 (described more fully later in this lesson) b) But churches may exist temporarily until such men can be appointed - cf. Ac 14:21-23 3) Local churches meet regularly; and Christians have responsibilities in connection with their brethren in the local church II. RESPONSIBILITIES IN THE LOCAL CHURCH A. WE SHOULD "JOIN OURSELVES" TO A LOCAL CHURCH... 1. Only Christ "adds" one to the church UNIVERSAL; but one can and should "join" themselves to a LOCAL church - Ac 9:26-28 2. This enables you to benefit by the association of other Christians, and provides you an opportunity to be of service to them - cf. He 3:12-14; 10:24-25 3. There are some responsibilities Christ has given you that you cannot fulfill on your own; for example, the Lord's Supper - Ac 20:7 4. So you need to find and join a local faithful congregation of the Lord (a careful study of the New Testament can help you to identify such today; perhaps a subject for future study?) B. WE SHOULD COOPERATE WITH THE "LEADERS"... 1. In a fully developed local church, there will be "ELDERS" to oversee the people of God a. The terms "elder, pastor, bishop, shepherd, overseer" are often used interchangeably, referring to the same position - Ac 20:17,28; Tit 1:5-7; 1Pe 5:1-2 b. Their qualifications are found in 1Ti 3:1-7; Tit 1:5-9 c. Our responsibilities to them are as follows: 1) To recognize and respect them - 1Th 5:12-13; 1Ti 5:17-20 2) To obey and be submissive when they lead scripturally - He 13:17; 1Pe 5:2-3 d. Think of them as your "spiritual advisors", as "shepherds"; they are mature, experienced Christian men who are charged by God to "watch out for your souls"! 2. In a fully developed local church, there will also be "DEACONS" to serve the people of God a. These are "servants" who assist the elders in the work of the church b. Their qualifications are found in 1Ti 3:8-13 c. The work they do is a very noble one - 1Ti 3:13 3. There may also be those who serve as EVANGELISTS and TEACHERS - Ep 4:11 a. The "evangelists" concentrate their attention on teaching the gospel to the lost b. "Teachers" concentrate attention upon edifying the members c. Those commonly referred to as "preachers" or "ministers" may do both the work of evangelist and teacher d. But whether they serve as evangelist, teacher, preacher, or minister, within the local church they likewise submit to the leadership of the elders C. WE SHOULD CONTRIBUTE REGULARLY TO THE WORK OF THE CHURCH... 1. The work of the church can be divided into three areas: a. Evangelism - Mt 28:19-20; 1Ti 3:15; 1Pe 2:9-10 b. Edification - Ep 4:11-16 c. Benevolence - 1Ti 5:16 2. How the local church can raise funds to do its work is illustrated in 1Co 16:1-2 3. Principles governing such collections were discussed in the lesson, "Our Public Assemblies" 4. The financial support provided the local church enables it to do much of the work God designed it to do D. WE SHOULD DO OUR PART IN THE WORK OF THE CHURCH... 1. We cannot "pay" to have our part of the church's work done for us 2. A strong, successful congregation is one where every member is doing their part - Ep 4:15-16 3. There are different kinds of functions we might perform - cf. Ro 12:3-8 4. What is essential is that we each do what we can with the same zeal and enthusiasm - cf. 1Pe 4:10-11 E. WE SHOULD HELP KEEP THE CHURCH UNITED... 1. Unity among believers is very important to Jesus - Jn 17:20-21; cf. Ep 2:14-16 2. Division is condemned in the Scriptures - 1Co 1:10-13; 3:3-4 3. To maintain the unity we have in Christ requires certain attitudes and diligent effort - Ep 4:1-3 4. Here are some things we can do: a. Be peacemakers when brethren have disagreements - Mt 5:9 b. Avoid gossip - 1Ti 5:13,19 c. Avoid discussion of speculative questions - 1Ti 6:3-5; 2Ti 2:23 d. Avoid partiality - 1Ti 5:21 F. WE SHOULD LIVE IN A WAY THAT SPEAKS WELL OF THE CHURCH... 1. Be an example to others - 1Ti 4:12; Tit 2:7-8 a. Some people delight in finding Christians who are not living right and use them as an example to attack the church b. We are to avoid giving them opportunities to do so - Tit 2:8; 1Ti 5:14; 1Pe 2:12 2. Christians are not perfect, but we should strive to be an example of what Christians ought to be! CONCLUSION 1. More could be said on this subject, but this should suffice to make the point that with the blessings of fellowship within the body of Christ come various responsibilities 2. God did not intend for us to be "islands unto ourselves", but joined together in Christ where we can encourage one another in an atmosphere of righteousness, joy, and peace - Ro 14:17-19 SOME QUESTIONS TO STIMULATE YOUR THINKING... 1. Have you let a local church know that you wish to be identified as an accepted, working member of their group? 2. Do you know the elders, deacons and other members of the church where you attend? 3. Do you have a sense of what function you provide in the body of Christ, and are you fulfilling it? 4. If every member of the church were as faithful and active as you in your service to the Lord, what kind of of church would it be?
The Ancient Origins of Hinduism
|by||Alden Bass, Ph.D.|
The word Hindu originated, not as the name of a religion, but as a geographical marker. Hindu derives from the Sanskrit word for river, sindhu, from which the Indus River received its name. Sometime in the first millennium B.C., the Persians, who were then South Asia’s closest neighbors, mispronouncedsindhu, and designated the land around the Indus River as hindu. Over a thousand years later, in A.D.712, the Muslims invaded the Indus Valley. To distinguish themselves, they called all non-Muslims hindus; the name of the land became, by default, the name of the people and their religion (Schoeps, 1966, p. 148). Christians, upon entering Hindustan (as it was then called), committed the same error of reduction. From their perspective, the indigenous people were all idol-worshipping pagans, so they christened the Indians gentoo, a derogatory synchronization of “gentile” and “hindu.” Thus the name hindu originally was given by outsiders to denote a geographic territory, but through the encroachment of various other religious groups it came to encompass all native religions in South East Asia.
As the history of its name demonstrates, unity in Indian religion has been superimposed by outsiders, first by the Muslims, then the Christians, and much later by the British colonialists who through their censuses unintentionally reified the South Asian peoples under that banner. It has only been in the last couple of centuries that the Indian people have embraced the name Hindu as their own, though two Indians rarely use the word with the same meaning. Some scholars suggest that it is more appropriate to speak of “Hinduisms” than to risk giving off a false sense of unity.
The genesis of Hinduism is nearly as elusive as its contemporary definition. Unlike Islam, which began with Mohammed, or Judaism, which began with Moses, Hinduism has no founder, nor any traditional time or place of origin; it emerges from the jungle as a continually evolving religious system. Scholars debate the primary source of what would become the Hindu religion, though all agree that several cultures had an influence. Basham, Buitenen, and Doniger suggest that ancient Hinduism evolved from at least three antecedents: “an early element common to most of the Indo-European tribes; a later element held in common with the early Iranians; and an element acquired in the Indian subcontinent itself ” (Basham, et al., 1997). The oldest of these influences are the symbols and deities indigenous to the Indus valley, part of the ancient and abstruse Dravidian culture. Archaeologists date this magnificent society to the third millennium B.C., making it one of the oldest known civilizations. This early date also places the religion of the Indus over a thousand years before the writing of the Old Testament, in the time of the Patriarchal Age. If the archaeologists’ dating is correct, the Indus civilization was established soon after the Tower of Babel incident. The archaeological sites along the Indus have revealed many terra-cotta figures resembling gods and goddesses in the Vedic literature, some of which are still worshipped. Though religious figurines abound, temples inexplicably are absent from the Indus cities. Because the Indus valley script has yet to be deciphered, much of the Dravidian culture and religion remains a mystery.
The Christian must ask how the Hindu religion fits into the biblical narrative. Islam grew out of Judaism and Christianity, and Buddhism derived from Hinduism; Hinduism is the only major religion lacking an adequate explanation as to its origin. No substantial texts exist beyond 1000 B.C., and the texts after 1000 do not contain narrative. The earliest of these is the Rig Veda, which is nothing but a collection of praise hymns to the gods rather than the record of a people as in the Bible. Unlike western cultures, which tend to view time as a linear progression, the eastern religions generally reckon time to be cyclical. As a result, they emphasize the eternal over the transient and historical. Scholars are able to piece together the earliest Indian religion only through archaeology, clues in the later texts, and by extrapolating from existing traditions. Using these same resources, Christian scholars can reinterpret the available data so that the Hindu religion fits into a biblical scheme of world history. Reconstructing the ancient history of any civilization is tentative, however, and all such projects are educated speculations at best.
Bible believers would expect all civilizations to post-date the universal Flood, which destroyed every human save the family of Noah (Genesis 7). The peoples that sprang from Noah’s sons then spread over the Earth, though the Bible is silent as to when and how. Though it is possible that some colonies were established, the text indicates that most of the people stayed together in the land of Shinar (Genesis 11:2), where they began construction on that fateful tower. The hubris of Noah’s descendents kindled the wrath of God, Who, after He had confused their languages, “He scattered them abroad over the face of all the Earth” (Genesis 11:9). Josephus wrote that “each colony took possession of that land which they lighted upon and unto which God led them; so that the whole continent was filled with them, both the inland and maritime countries” (Antiquities I.v.1). From this point the Old Testament records the history of the children of Abraham; the events of the rest of the world can be known only through secular history. We must try to trace the origin of Hinduism back to an original belief in the true God—a belief passed down from the progeny of Noah. In a passage particularly descriptive of the Indian religion, Paul argues that the ancient Gentiles knew God, but they did not “retain their knowledge of God,” instead changing “the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:28,23).
Evidence for the historical digression from the worship of Jehovah God to the worship of nature and nature-gods is found in the ancient texts and myths of South Asia. The earliest Hindu literature, theRig Veda, speaks often of “the Creator,” of “the One,” a Great God over all the other gods. He is called Varuna, and is closely related to the Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazdā (“Wise Lord”) and the Greek god Uranus (Ourania). Though an insignificant sea god in the current pantheon, Varuna was a prominent god in the ancient system, and the subject of many hymns in the Rig Veda. Zwemer writes that Varuna is “the most impressive of the Vedic gods. He is the prehistoric Sky-god whose nature and attributes point to a very early monotheistic conception” (1945, p. 86). This god is an ethical god, capable of great wrath or merciful forgiveness of sins. Note this passage from the Vedas:
I do not wish, King Varuna,
To go down to the home of clay,
Be gracious, mighty lord, and spare.
Whatever wrong we men commit against the race
Of heavenly ones, O Varuna, whatever law
Of thine we here have broken through thoughtlessness,
For that transgression do not punish us, O god (Rig Veda VII.lxxxix.1-3).
Varuna is already on the decline by the time the Vedas were committed to writing; Indra, a warrior god, takes prominence in the later Vedic period. Yet even then, Varuna is qualitatively different from Indra and all the other gods that follow him in the Vedic literature; he is less anthropomorphic and more majestic (cf. Zwemer, p. 88). Other Hindu deities act like humans in the same way as the Greek gods, yet Varuna is above that. It would seem that this god embodies many of the qualities of Jehovah, albeit diluted and removed by many hundreds of miles and years.
The myths of ancient Hinduism likewise contain echoes of the distant past similar of Genesis. There are several different, though not exclusive, creation myths in the Vedas (and even more in later literature), but in one of the earliest writings, Indra is the maker of all. “Who made firm the shaking earth, who brought to rest the mountains when they were disturbed, who measured out the wide atmosphere, who fixed the heaven, he, O folk, is Indra” (Rig Veda II.xii.2). This version of creation by a personal god is more similar to the Old Testament account than to later Hindu formulations. Hammer remarks, “In the early creation myth Indra was seen as the personal agent in creation, bringing existence out of non-existence. In later speculation the ‘One God’, described in personal terms, gives way to ‘That One’—the impersonal force of creation” (1982, p. 175). As time passed and the true God was forgotten, the creation myths became more fantastic, involving giant snakes and four-mouthed gods growing out of lotus flowers (Basham, et al., 1997).
In addition to the creation myths, a story persists in the epic tradition (written between 300 B.C.-A.D.300) of a great flood. It was so great that “there was water everywhere and the waters covered the heaven and the firmament also” (Mahabharata III.clxxxvi). The hero of the story is Manu, who is analogous to Noah in the Hebrew story. One day a fish approached Manu and asked him for protection in exchange for a blessing (later tradition identifies the fish as the god Vishnu). Manu helped the fish, who gives him this warning:
The time for the purging of this world is now ripe. Therefore do I now explain what is good for thee! The mobile and immobile divisions of the creation, those that have the power of locomotion, and those that have it not, of all these the terrible doom hath now approached. Thou shall build a strong massive ark and have it furnished with a long rope. On that must thou ascend, O great Muni, with the seven Rishis and take with thee all the different seeds which were enumerated by regenerate Brahmanas in days of yore, and separately and carefully must thou preserve them therein (Mahabharata III.clxxxvi).
Manu alone survived the great flood, and from him the world was repopulated. The connection between the Hindu story and the Genesis account is strengthened by etymological ties between the name “Noah” and “Manu” (Sage, 2004).
The evidence from India’s earliest literary traditions reveals that Hinduism is a corruption of true religion. Though for most of its existence Hinduism has been an extremely pluralistic religion—being influenced by several cultures originally, and later by surrounding religions (Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity)—it appears to have grown out of monotheism. The renowned Sanskritist of Oxford, Max Müller, wrote: “There is a monotheism that precedes the polytheism of the Veda; and even in the invocations of the innumerable gods the remembrance of a God, one and infinite, breaks through the mist of idolatrous phraseology like the blue sky that is hidden by passing clouds” (as quoted in Zwemer, p. 87).
Basham, Arthur, J.A.B van Buitenen, and Wendy Doniger (1997), “Hinduism,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 20:519-558.
Hammer, Raymond (1982), “Roots: The Development of Hindu Religion,” Eerdmans’ Handbook to the World’s Religions (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Sage, Bengt (2004), “Noah and Human Etymology,” [On-line], URL: http://www.icr.org/pubs/imp/imp-083.htm.
Schoeps, Hans-Jachim (1966), The Religions of Mankind (Garden City, NY: Doubleday).
Zwemer, Samuel (1945), The Origin of Religion (New York: Loizeaux Brothers).
Corinth in History and Archaeology
The biblical accounts of the travels of Paul often include societal information that is made more pertinent by a historical and archaeological examination of the locations of the churches founded in Acts. One such church was in Corinth in Achaia, where Paul stayed a year and a half during his second missionary journey (Acts 18:11). From Acts 18:1-18, it can be determined that there were a substantial number of Jews in the city (as evinced by the presence of a synagogue—18:4), that, likely, Corinth was the seat of government for the Roman province of Achaia (as evinced by the mention of Gallio as proconsul—18:12), and that it was a port city (18:18).
This provides some evidence, from which can be reconstructed only a vague view of the city and people of Corinth. However, through a consideration of the archaeological and ancient historical evidence, the Corinth of Paul’s time can come alive to the readers of Acts and the books of First and Second Corinthians. Plus, the text itself becomes more significant, once a background of the city and its people is understood. The Bible speaks only briefly about Corinth, but it is obvious from what is said, that it was a very important city. The geography of Achaia, and even the geography of that part of the Mediterranean, played a major role in ancient Corinth. Greece was divided between the mainland and the Peloponnesian peninsula, with a narrow isthmus connecting the two. Corinth was located just to the southwest of the isthmus, on the peninsula, overlooking the isthmus. With this location, Corinth was able to control all the terrestrial traffic (commercial and otherwise) that moved from the mainland to the peninsula (DeVries, 1997, p. 359). Corinth was serviced by two ports: Lechaeum on the Gulf of Corinth, which was a little more than a mile to the north of Corinth and led to Italy; and Cenchreae on the Saronic Gulf, which was a little more than six miles to the east and led to Asia Minor (Harrison, 1985, pp. 83-84).
The southernmost tip of the Peloponnesian peninsula, known as Cape Maleae, was the route around Greece, and was known for being a dangerous path (Blaiklock, 1965, p. 56; Harrison, p. 83). There even came to be a saying, based on the treacherous nature of the waters of Cape Maleae: “When you double Maleae, forget your home” (Harrison, p. 83). Because of this, ships carrying goods bound for Italy often unloaded in port at Cenchreae. Their goods were carried across the five-mile wide isthmus, and then were reloaded in the port at Lechaeum aboard ships bound for Italy. Smaller, lighter boats were placed on “trolleys” and moved along the diolkos, a paved highway that joined the gulfs at Cenchreae and Lechaeum (Blaiklock, p. 56; Harrison, pp. 83-84; DeVries, p. 360). Thus, Corinth was in a geographical position to control all traffic between Asia Minor in the east and Italy in the west, and between mainland Greece in the north and the Peloponnesian peninsula in the south.
Legend records that the mythological Argo, piloted by Jason with his crew of Argonauts, was built at Corinth (Blaiklock, p. 57). Historically, the area where Corinth sat was inhabited sporadically before the founding of the city itself, which occurred when Dorian Greeks settled in the area and founded the city of Corinth around 1000 B.C. Corinth soon established colonies on the islands of Sicily and Corfu in the eighth century B.C., and reached a new position of dominance during the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. It was during this time that Periander, son of Cypselus, built the diolkos between the Saronic Gulf and the Gulf of Corinth (DeVries, pp. 360-361). During the fifth century B.C., Athens challenged the Corinthian control of commerce by attempting to take over certain trade interests and colonies. Sparta, the rival city of Athens, sided with Corinth, and the city-states of Greece were plunged into the Peloponnesian War in 430 B.C. Sparta and Corinth prevailed, but Athens and Sparta continued to fight until the conquest of Greece by the Macedonians in 338 B.C. (Blaiklock, p. 57). As the Roman Empire began its conquest of the Mediterranean world, the Corinthians tried to defend themselves, but were destroyed in 146 B.C. by the Roman general Lucius Mummius, who slaughtered the men and sold the women and children into slavery. There was no real Corinth for almost a hundred years, until Julius Caesar reestablished it as a Roman colony in 44 B.C., and it was made the capital of Achaia in 27 B.C. by Caesar Augustus. Corinth was again the center of trade in Greece between Asia Minor and Rome (DeVries, p. 362; Harrison, pp. 84-85). It is therefore no wonder, seeing the great amount of commercial trafficking through Corinth, that Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla there plied their trade as tentmakers (Acts 18:2-3).
As a city, Corinth enjoyed good land, with the prominent feature being a 1,887-foot-tall limestone mountain called the Acrocorinth. The soil near the Acrocorinth was not fertile, but to the west the land was considered good agricultural property (Harrison, p. 86). The Acrocorinth served as the citadel for Corinth, with the temple of Aphrodite perched atop it, which supposedly housed one thousand shrine prostitutes (Harrison, p. 86; Duffield, 1985, p. 22). Regarding Corinth’s economy, LaMoine DeVries wrote:
Corinth had an economy based on trade and commerce, industry, and agriculture. While the annual rainfall of the region was quite limited, the city benefited from the production of agricultural products in the fertile coastal plain nearby, especially the cultivation of orchards and vineyards. In addition to agriculture, Corinth had at least two thriving industries that produced pottery and bronze metal works that were shipped throughout the Mediterranean (p. 360).
Since 1896, archeologists under the direction of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens have been excavating ancient Corinth. They found that during the time of Paul, many great buildings were being reconstructed after their destruction at the hands of Lucius Mummius, and that many new building were being built as well. This possibly explains Paul’s use of construction metaphors in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (see Furnish, 1988, pp. 16-17). Remains have been found of a sixth century B.C.Doric temple that was restored in the first century B.C., of which seven columns are still standing. Some say that this was the temple to Apollo, but no one is certain. Just to the north of the temple of Apollo was the north market, which housed shops for the sale of foodstuffs. The theater lay to the west of the north market, and was rebuilt and renovated many times throughout the years (Furnish, pp. 22-23).
An interesting archaeological find lies between the north market and the theater in the form of an inscription. This finding probably refers to a public official of Corinth, whom Paul appears to have identified by name in his letter to the Romans. In Romans 16:23 Paul conveyed greetings to the Roman church from several people, one of whom was “Erastus, the city treasurer.” Since the apostle almost certainly wrote Romans from Corinth, Erastus was probably the treasurer of the city. Erastus is associated specifically with Corinth in 2 Timothy 4:20. The Erastus inscription, which was found in Corinth in 1929, has been dated to the second half of the first century A.D.. Originally, it consisted of letters carved into limestone paving blocks and then inlaid with metal. Only two metal punctuation marks remain, however, although most of the inscription itself is still visible in a small plaza just east of the theater (Furnish, p. 20). The inscription in the pavement is translated, “Erastus in return for his aedileship [position as magistrate—AP] laid [the pavement] at his own expense” (Furnish, p. 20). It is highly possible that this is the same Erastus mentioned in Romans 16:23, 2 Timothy 4:20, and Acts 19:22.
To the south of the theater and temple of Apollo were several other temples, religious shrines, and Roman-style public buildings. Also present was a basilica, probably used as the judicial headquarters for the city of Corinth. If this were true, then Paul likely would have appeared before Gallio (Acts 18:12-17) at the basilica instead of at the ceremonial bema in the center of the forum (Furnish, p. 23). DeVries gave a very well summarized walk-through of Corinth, based on the archaeological evidence discovered:
The major entrance to the city was from the north; the Lechaion road moved from the Gulf of Corinth and its port southward to the city. As the road entered the city, its width increased to nearly twenty-five feet. It was paved with slabs of limestone and was lined with raised sidewalks with channels for drainage, colonnades, and shops. Beyond the shops to the west was a large rectangular basilica, the great temple of Apollo, the north market, and a theater. The large basilica, often called the north basilica, with chambers at each end, apparently functioned as a large hall. It was divided by two rows of columns and was perhaps used for a variety of public meetings. The temple of Apollo, originally built in the sixth century BCE, was designed with thirty-eight columns, seven of which remain standing today. The peribolos of Apollo and the fountain of Peirene were located east of the thoroughfare. The peribolos was a large courtyard enclosed by columns and dedicated to Apollo whose statue stood in its midst. The fountain of Peirene, a large reservoir with a capacity of more than eighty-one thousand gallons, was fed by natural springs and provided the major source of water for the city (p. 364).
DeVries went on to describe the agora, or market, which was divided by a row of shops and the bema [seat or step of judgment—AP] into the lower and upper forums; the bouleuterion, where the council met; a series of shops, possibly restaurants or bars, where pits, fed with cold spring water, kept wine cool; small temples to Apollo, Tyche, Venus and Hera located to the west of the agora; the sanctuary of Demeter and Kore; a large pottery industrial area; and the Lerna-Asclepeum complex, which contained bathing, exercise, and dining areas all devoted to the healing of the infirmed and consecrated to Asclepius, the god of healing (pp. 365-366).
While dated later than the time of Paul, two archaeological finds proved that there was a significant number of Jews at Corinth. The first was an inscription that read, “Synagogue of the Hebrews,” proving that there were enough Jews in Corinth, at least as late as the fourth century, to warrant building a synagogue. Another piece, apparently from a synagogue, showed typical Jewish decorations of candelabras, palm branches, and citron (Furnish, p. 26). Other archaeological finds in the city of Corinth included a bronze mirror that had been made in Corinth, statues, a fountain with sculpted dolphins, and terra cotta models of body parts that were used in healing rituals at the Lerna-Asclepeum healing complex (Furnish, pp. 17-26).
As a major influence in the Roman Empire, Corinth was able to control all east-west commerce, and all Grecian north-south commerce. Many buildings and inscriptions have been found that confirm the biblical record of Corinth, and which prove that the accounts found in Acts and First and Second Corinthians are true and accurate. The more archaeologists dig into the deep, dark earth, the more they shed light upon the Bible and its accuracy.
Blaiklock, E.M. (1965), Cities of the New Testament (London, England: Revell).
DeVries, LaMoine F. (1997), Cities of the Biblical World (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Duffield, Guy P. (1985), Handbook of Bible Lands (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Furnish, Victor Paul (1988), “Corinth in Paul’s Time—What Can Archaeology Tell Us?” Biblical Archaeology Review, 14:15-27, May/June.
Harrison, R.K. (1985), Major Cities of the Biblical World (Nashville, TN: Nelson).
Atheism: Contradictory at Best, Hideous at Worst
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Many atheists often describe certain things as being “deplorable,” “atrocious,” or “wicked.” Arguably the most famous atheist in the world in 1976, atheistic philosopher Antony Flew, confessed that the Nazis committed real, objective moral atrocities during the 1930s and 1940s when they slaughtered six million Jews (Warren and Flew, 1976, p. 248). Many atheists admit that it would be morally wrong to rape a woman or to sexually abuse and torture a four-year-old child. Richard Dawkins, the most recognized atheist in the world today, has even boasted that someone who does not believe in evolution may be “wicked” (1989).
Such recognition by atheists of anything being morally wrong begs the question: How can an atheist logically call something atrocious, deplorable, wicked, or morally wrong? According to atheism, we are nothing but matter in motion. We allegedly evolved from rocks and slime over billions of years. We supposedly arose from animals—living organisms that have no sense of morality. Animals eat their young, kill their mates, and steal the food of any animal from which they can successfully take it—whether friend, foe, or family member. Atheists allege that “we are animals…. We like to think of ourselves as elevated above other creatures. But the human body evolved” from animals (Marchant, 2008, 200:44, emp. added). Thus, the fact is, as Dr. Thomas B. Warren concluded in his debate with Antony Flew, “[T]he basic implication of the atheistic system does not allow objective moral right or objective moral wrong” (1976, p. 49).
Atheistic philosopher Jean Paul Sartre summarized godlessness well when he said, “Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist” (1961, p. 485, emp. added). If atheists refuse to admit that real moral objectivity exists, then they are forced to admit that when the Jews were starved, gassed, and experimented on “like the animals” they supposedly were (cf. Marchant, 2008), the Nazis did nothing wrong. If human life really is as worthless as bacteria (as atheist Eric Pianka said naturalism demands), then there would be nothing truly wrong with systematically spreading the ebola virus for the purpose of eliminating 90% of the human population, which Dr. Pianka suggested needed to happen in order to save the Earth (see Mims, 2006). Atheists who theoretically take atheistic evolution to its logical conclusion, are forced to admit what Dan Barker acknowledged in his debate with Kyle Butt in February 2009: that, if need be, he would rape millions of girls to save the rest of humanity (Butt and Barker, 2009, pp. 33-36). After all, if we are nothing but advanced ape-like creatures, and “our male ancestors became ancestors in part because they conditionally used rape,” then, as evolutionist Randy Thornhill confessed, “rape is evolutionary, biological, and natural” (2001; cf. Thornhill and Palmer, 2000)—a sickening thought.
Atheists can say, “We don’t like that,” or “We would never do that,” but they can never logically say that something is objectively wrong or right. If they do, they are making a self-defeating statement. They would be contradicting the very naturalism they espouse. If they actually admit that for atheism no objective standards for “good” and “evil” can exist, then rape could just as well be right, while a virtue like bravery could be bad. Either way, atheism loses. It is either contradictory, and thus self-defeating, or it is too horrible for even the most contemptible to contemplate.
“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good” (Psalm 14:1).
Butt, Kyle and Dan Barker (2009), The Butt/Barker Debate: Does the God of the Bible Exist?(Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Dawkins, Richard (1989), “Book Review,” The New York Times, section 7, April 9.
Marchant, Jo (2008), “We Should Act Like the Animals We Are,” New Scientist, 200:44-45, October 18-24.
Mims, Forrest (2006), “Dealing With Doctor Doom,” The Citizen Scientist, www.sas.org/tcs/weeklyIssues_2006/2006-04-07/feature1p/ index.html.
Sartre, Jean Paul, (1961), “Existentialism and Humanism,” French Philosophers from Descartes to Sartre, ed. Leonard M. Marsak (New York: Meridian).
Thornhill, Randy (2001), “A Natural History of Rape,” Lecture delivered at Simon Fraser University, March 16, http://www.d.umn.edu/cla/faculty/jhamlin/3925/Readings/Thornhill_on_rape.pdf.
Thornhill, Randy and Craig T. Palmer (2000), A Natural History of Rape (Cambridge: MIT Press).
Warren, Thomas B. and Antony Flew (1976), The Warren-Flew Debate (Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press).
"But What About David and Bathsheba's Marriage?"
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Jesus’ views of divorce and remarriage are really quite concise and comprehensible. Putting a mate away and marrying another can be undertaken honorably in God’s sight only on the grounds that that mate has been sexually unfaithful (Matthew 19:9). Despite the simplicity of such statements from God, there have always been individuals who would rather try to justify themselves or others instead of humbly submitting to divine standards (cf. Luke 10:29; 16:15). In the case of the Pharisees, they stubbornly threw up to Jesus their Old Testament justification for refusing to accept the stringency of God’s law of marriage, divorce, and remarriage: “Why then did Moses...?”(Matthew 19:7). In like manner, in an effort to side step the clear thrust of New Testament teaching regarding the sinfulness of adulterous marriages and the need for the parties involved to sever the sinful relationship, some today stubbornly appeal to the Old Testament case of David and Bathsheba: “If God requires marriages to be severed today, why was David permitted to keep Bathsheba?”
The following observations merit consideration:
First, there is no parallel between the adulterous marriages being defended today and the relationship sustained by David and Bathsheba. It is true that David’s affair with Bathsheba while her husband was at the battle front constituted adultery. However, he did not further complicate or solidify his adultery by marrying her. She returned to her own home (2 Samuel 11:4). The two apparently had no intentions of further complicating their sin by forming an adulterous marital union. Instead, when Bathsheba notified David that she was pregnant, David made every effort to hide the sin by making it appear as if Uriah was the father of the child (2 Samuel 11:6-13). Repentance at this stage of the situation would entail David’s confession of his sin and his determination to never repeat such illicit behavior. David could have devised some other plan, say, the banishment of Uriah for some breach of military regulations. With Uriah expelled from the land, he could have then taken Bathsheba as his own wife. In such a case, David would have been living in adultery, and the only divinely-approved course of action would have been to sever the marriage relationship. But David did not do this. When his efforts failed, he decided the way he could “cover his tracks” was to bring about Uriah’s death (2 Samuel 11:14-15). To the sin of adultery, he added murder.
Notice that David was not going through all this rigmarole in order to free Bathsheba to be married to himself, but to keep Uriah from finding out that his wife was pregnant by another man. Thus the argument that states, “You’re saying a person ought to murder the mate of the individual that they wish to be married to,” holds no validity in this discussion. By definition, adultery entails sexual relations with a person whose scriptural mate is still living. Notice God’s own words on this matter:
For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man (Romans 7:2-3, NKJV).
However inappropriate David’s action after the death of Uriah may have been, his marriage to Bathsheba was not adultery and is therefore not parallel to the illicit marriages contracted by so many today whose former mates are still living.
Second, why would we wish to go to David and Bathsheba for insight into acceptable divorce and remarriage practices, anyway? Even when Scripture does not specifically condemn a certain action, we should not necessarily assume that God condones or approves it. There are numerous instances of improper behavior in the Old Testament that are in no way intended to be used today as justification for similar behavior today. Abraham (Genesis 12:13), Isaac (Genesis 26:7), and Jacob (Genesis 27:19) all behaved deceptively. Judah committed fornication (Genesis 38:18). Moses failed to trust in God as he should have (Numbers 20:12). Are these instances appropriate examples to emulate? David, himself, was guilty of additional violations of God’s law. He desecrated the tabernacle by entering and unlawfully consuming consecrated bread (1 Samuel 21:1-6; Matthew 12:3-4). He neglected Mosaic regulations concerning proper transport and treatment of the ark (2 Samuel 6; 1 Chronicles 15:13). His reliance upon troop strength (as evidenced in his military census) cost 70,000 people their lives (2 Samuel 24:15). Such instances as these are intended to remind us of the necessity to adhere strictly to God’s instructions (Romans 15:4). They are certainly not designed to encourage us to relax our own ethical behavior on the grounds that others did so in the Old Testament! Though at one time David was truly “a man after God's own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22), his behavior later in life demonstrates that he drifted from this ideal.
Third, by employing the same logic as those who fumble for the case of David and Bathsheba to justify the continuance of adulterous unions today, one could just as easily make a case for the permissibility of polygamy today. Bathsheba was only one of several wives (cf. 1 Samuel 18:27; 25:42-43; 1 Chronicles 3:2-5). Maybe Joseph Smith, with his 28+ wives, was nearer to the truth than we have previously supposed?
Fourth, David and Bathsheba are not intended as models for ascertaining God’s requirements concerning divorce and remarriage today in any sense. For the Scriptures are exceedingly explicit concerning God’s feelings about the whole sordid affair: “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord” (2 Samuel 11:27). He did not have to sever the marital relationship with Bathsheba since her husband was dead and she was released from that law (Romans 7:2). However, God brought down upon David untold misery and unpleasant consequences to punish David, as well as instruct us concerning His true view of such iniquity. Three direct consequences were inflicted upon David: (1) Nathan said the sword would never depart from David’s house (2 Samuel 12:10), fulfilled in the successive violent deaths of at least three sons—Amnon (2 Samuel 13:29), Absalom (2 Samuel 18:14), and Adonijah (1 Kings 2:25); (2) Nathan also declared to David that his own wives would be shamefully misused in broad daylight before all Israel by someone close to him (2 Samuel 12:11), distastefully fulfilled when Absalom “lay with his father's concubines in the sight of all Israel” (2 Samuel 16:22); (3) Further, Nathan pronounced the fatal fate of the son conceived by David’s sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:14), fulfilled seven days after Nathan’s judgment sentence (2 Samuel 12:18). All of this detailed narration suggests that we have missed a major point if we seek to justify illicit behavior today on the grounds that “David did it.”
Friends, let us not scrape the bottom of the proverbial barrel in a desperate attempt to come up with just any argument to defend our position. Let us weigh biblical data fairly, rightly handling the Word of truth, and drawing only those conclusions that are warranted by the evidence (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Only then can we be approved in God’s sight (2 Timothy 2:15).
Isaiah and the Deity of Christ
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
It has become popular in recent years to consider the divine nature of Christ as simply a doctrine invented by Christians long after Jesus’ death. In his blockbuster book The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown alleged that Jesus’ deity was concocted 300 years after His crucifixion (2003, pp. 233-234). Jehovah’s Witnesses also frequently distribute literature espousing that Christ’s divine nature is a trumped-up teaching of men, rather than an actual doctrine of God (see “What Does...,” 1989, pp. 12-16). Although many New Testament passages could be consulted to demonstrate the deity of Christ (e.g., John 1:1-5,14; 20:28; Philippians 2:6; Hebrews 1:5-13; etc.), of particular interest is the fact that long before Jesus appeared on Earth in the form of man in the first century, the Old Testament prophet Isaiah foretold His Godhood.
In approximately 700 B.C., Isaiah prophesied about many things concerning the Christ. Hebrew scholar Risto Santala wrote: “The Messianic nature of the book of Isaiah is so clear that the oldest Jewish sources, the Targum, Midrash and Talmud, speak of the Messiah in connection with 62 separate verses” (1992, pp. 164-165), including Isaiah 9:6. “For unto us,” Isaiah foretold, “a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6, emp. added). The Messiah, Isaiah wrote, would be not only the “Prince of Peace,” and the “Wonderful Counselor” (NASB), but also “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father.” [NOTE: “The Targum elucidates this verse, saying: ‘His name has been from ancient times...’ and, regarding the ‘Everlasting Father’ part, that ‘the Messiah has been for ever’” (Santala, 1992, p. 196), or that He is “the Father of eternity” (see Jamieson, et al., 1997)]. What’s more, Isaiah also prophesied of the virgin birth of the Messiah, and that His name would be “Immanuel” (7:14), which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23, emp. added). Why would Isaiah call the Messiah “Mighty God,” “Everlasting Father,” and “Immanuel,” if He was not God?
Interestingly, more than 100 years before Jesus allegedly was “made God” at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 (cf. Brown, pp. 233-234), Irenaeus quoted from Isaiah 9:6 and applied the divine names to Christ, Who “is Himself in His own right...God.”
...this is Christ, the Son of the living God. For I have shown from the Scriptures, that no one of the sons of Adam is as to everything, and absolutely, called God, or named Lord. But that He is Himself in His own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, and Lord, and King Eternal, and the Incarnate Word, proclaimed by all the prophets, the apostles, and by the Spirit Himself, may be seen by all who have attained to even a small portion of the truth. Now, the Scriptures would not have testified these things of Him, if, like others, He had been a mere man. But that He had, beyond all others, in Himself that pre-eminent birth which is from the Most High Father, and also experienced that pre-eminent generation which is from the Virgin, the divine Scriptures do in both respects testify of Him: ...that He is the holy Lord, the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Beautiful in appearance, and the Mighty God, coming on the clouds as the Judge of all men;—all these things did the Scriptures prophesy of Him (Book III, Chapter 19, emp. added).
Isaiah not only referred explicitly to Jesus as “Mighty God” in 9:6, he also alluded to the Messiah’s divine nature in a prophecy about John the Baptizer in 40:3. “The voice of one that crieth, prepare ye in the wilderness the way of Jehovah; make level in the desert a highway for our God” (ASV, emp. added; cf. Malachi 3:1). According to the New Testament, this “preparer” (or forerunner) was John the Baptizer (John 1:23). He prepared the way for Jesus, as all four gospel accounts bear witness (Matthew 3:1-17; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-23; John 1:15-34). Notice that Isaiah wrote that John would prepare “the way of Jehovah;...our God” (40:3, emp. added). Thus, Isaiah claimed that the Messiah is God.
Truly, long before the Christian age, even long before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah provided inspired testimony of the nature of Christ. He is Jehovah, Mighty God, Immanuel (“God with us”), Everlasting Father, “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 1:8; cf. Isaiah 44:6).
Brown, Dan (2003), The Da Vinci Code (New York: Doubleday).
Irenaeus (1973 reprint), “Irenaeus Against Heresies,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Jamieson, Robert, et al. (1997), Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Bible Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Santala, Risto (1992), The Messiah in the Old Testament: In the Light of Rabbinical Writings, trans. William Kinnaird (Jerusalem, Israel: Keren Ahvah Meshihit).
“What Does the Bible Say About God and Jesus?” (1989), Should You Believe in the Trinity?(Brooklyn, NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society).
17-Year-Olds, Evolution, and Atheism
|by||Bert Thompson, Ph.D.|
“[I had] great fervor and interest in the fundamentalist religion; I left at seventeen when I got to the University of Alabama and heard about evolutionary theory” (E.O. Wilson, Harvard professor and the “father of sociobiology,” 1982, p. 40).
Some time ago, I received a telephone call from a distraught Christian mother. Her teenage son came home from school that very day and sat down at the kitchen table to have a snack and began to talk to his mom—as he did practically every day after school. Then, in the midst of their conversation, he announced in a very matter-of-fact tone, “Mom, I think I need to tell you—I don’t believe in God any more.”
It was—literally—every parent’s nightmare. This woman’s precious heritage—the child who was the fruit of her womb and the light of her life—was in danger of losing both his faith and his soul. The mother, as you might expect, was shaken, distressed, and forlorn. With tears flowing down her face, she managed to recover from the initial shock just enough to speak a single word: “Why?”
Her son’s answer? It was essentially the same as another one-time 17-year-old by the name of Edward O. Wilson—except her son didn’t even make it to college before beginning to lose his faith. “My biology teacher,” explained the youngster, “has been telling us all about evolution, and has shown us scientifically that it is true. If evolution’s true, you don’t need God. I’ve seen the proof for evolution—which is why I don’t believe in God any more.”
He’s right, you know—about there being no need for God if evolution is true. E.O. Wilson himself weighed in on this same theme in his book, On Human Nature, when he commented on the very first page: “If humankind evolved by Darwinian natural selection, genetic chance and environmental necessity, not God, made the species” (1978, p. 1, emp. added). The late evolutionist of Harvard, George Gaylord Simpson emphatically stated: “Evolution is a fully natural process, inherent in the physical properties of the universe, by which life arose in the first place and by which all living things, past or present, have since developed, divergently and progressively” (1960, 131:969, emp. added). British atheist Sir Julian Huxley once boasted:
Darwin pointed out that no supernatural designer was needed; since natural selection could account for any known form of life, there was no room for a supernatural agency in its evolution…. The earth was not created; it evolved. So did all the animals and plants that inhabit it, including our human selves, mind and soul as well as brain and body. So did religion…. Darwinism removed the whole idea of God as the creator of organisms from the sphere of rational discussion (1960, pp. 46,252-253,45, emp. added).
Huxley even went so far as to compare God to the disappearing act performed by the Cheshire cat inAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland when he wrote: “The supernatural is being swept out of the universe.... God is beginning to resemble not a ruler, but the last fading smile of a cosmic Cheshire cat” (1957, p. 59). Or, as Brown University evolutionist Kenneth Miller put it in his 1999 volume,Finding Darwin’s God:
My particular religious beliefs or yours notwithstanding, it is a fact that in the scientific world of the late twentieth century, the displacement of God by Darwinian forces is almost complete. This view is not always articulated openly, perhaps for fear of offending the faithful, but the literature of science is not a good place to keep secrets. Scientific writing, especially on evolution, shows this displacement clearly (p. 15, emp. added).
Yes, the “scientific writing on evolution” does show this “displacement” clearly! The 17-year-old young man had no trouble understanding that point, did he? To Huxley, Simpson, Wilson, and thousands of others like them, “the God argument” has been effectively routed. And along with it, has gone the faith of many a 17-year-old!
The sad thing is, this young man’s name is “legion.” If you could see the correspondence (coming in the form of both regular mail and e-mail) that arrives in my office on practically a daily basis, you would understand just how serious this problem really is. Several years ago, I received an especially well-written letter from a young Christian who was in a graduate program in the physical sciences at a state university, which had led him to study under a man he termed “a giant in his field...rocket-scientist intelligent...and a devout evolutionist.” In his letter, the student said:
...working this closely with one who thinks as he does is beginning to cause not a small amount of cognitive dissonance in my own mind with regard to evolution v. special creation. I really need your help, both as a Christian and a scientist, to clearly see what it is. Hundreds of thousands of scientists can’t be wrong, can they? Consensual validation cannot be pushed aside in science. How can that many people be following a flag with no carrier, and someone not find out? The number of creation scientists pales in comparison.... I do not want to be a fool.”
This young writer expressed what many young people experience, yet are unable to enunciate so eloquently. It is not uncommon to encounter those who once knew what they believed and why they believed it, yet who now are terribly confused. “Cognitive dissonance” is the internal struggle one experiences when presented with new information that contradicts what he believes to be true. As he struggles for consistency, he must change what he believes—or disregard the new information. This young Christian who once knew what he believed, and why he believed it, no longer knew either. He stated: “I am a confused young man with some serious questions about my mind, my faith, and my God. Please help me sort through these questions.”
He’s not alone! Just last month (March 2003), I received an e-mail from a mother, begging for help with her 17-year-old son, who was experiencing similar (but even worse) problems. She lamented: “But what really concerns me most is how he’s drifting so far away from God. I’m fearful of him dying in a lost state. I’m in a tug of war with the devil for his life.”
Yes ma’am, you certainly are! And you are not alone. If the volume and content of the correspondence (and phone calls) that my staff and I are receiving are good indicators (and I have every right to believe that they are), there are many other parents “out there” who are experiencing, to a greater or lesser degree, problems similar to those experienced by these two mothers. It was that e-mail (as you probably have guessed by now) that prompted me to write this article for our Web site.
The young Christian graduate student who had written some time earlier, admitted to being “a confused young man with some serious questions about my mind, my faith, and my God.” While he may indeed have been “confused,” there were two things he did know. First, he recognized that the beliefs he once held were inconsistent with those he was being taught (which is why he was experiencing “cognitive dissonance”). Second, he recognized that if he accepted these new teachings, then not only his beliefs, but also his actions would be inconsistent with his Christianity. His plea—“help me sort through these questions”—has been echoed countless times through the centuries by those who have languished in the “cognitive dissonance” that results from replacing the wisdom of God with the wisdom of man.
The mother (mentioned above) who e-mailed me, cried plaintively: “I’m not sure what the answer is and how you could help. I just felt like reaching out. Can you help me jolt [my son] back into some sense of reality? Thanks again for your time and concern.” The other mother who called me some time ago pleaded with me to meet personally with her son, in a last-ditch effort to help restore his belief in God. A day or so later, in mid-week, I boarded a jet (at no cost to her or her family) on a mission of mercy to a faraway city to do just that. Who among us could refuse such a plea? Who among us—if our child were in the same situation—would dare hesitate to cry out for help in a similar fashion? “Time and concern” may be two of our most valuable weapons! [I also offered to fly to meet with the second mother’s son—an offer she is considering, even as I write these words.]
During His earthly ministry, Jesus taught His disciples an important lesson regarding the precious nature of a child’s soul. Matthew (19:13-15), Mark (10:13ff.), and Luke (18:15-17) all record a conversation between Christ and His disciples on the subject of children. He rebuked those disciples who wanted to prevent the children from coming to Him (Mark 10:13), and warned: “See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I tell you, that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10). Jesus wanted children near Him. That has not changed. R.W. Lawrence said of this instance: “And so the invitation of Jesus stands clear: ‘Parents, relatives, loved ones, friends of the little children: bring them to me!’ The invitation never has been modified or rescinded” (1976, pp. 22-23, emp. in orig.). It is the task of parents and grandparents to bring these children to Christ. If we fail in this task, we will lose our children, and our children will lose their souls.
The psalmist wrote: “Children are a heritage of Jehovah; and the fruit of the womb is his reward” (127:3). Our children are, quite literally, gifts from the Lord. As God’s heritage, they are sent to us for safekeeping, which is why we are commanded to rear them “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). The spiritual instruction of a child is not an option. It is not something we do “if we have the time” or “if we find it convenient.” God has given us, as parents, the awesome responsibility of introducing our children to His covenant, and of teaching our children His Word.
But what is the ultimate goal of this daunting task? Is it not safe to say that the object is to see the soul of a child safely returned to the God of heaven from Whom it was sent originally? Is this not why the psalmist stated that children “are as arrows in the hand of a mighty man” (127:4)? Children, just like arrows, are to be launched toward a singular goal. That goal, in the case of an arrow, is a bull’s-eye. That goal, in the case of a child, is heaven—and we are God’s archers. Without our careful sighting of the goal, and without our purposeful aim, our children most likely will not return to the God Who created them.
Is this responsibility sobering and weighty? Yes. Is it sometimes burdensome or difficult? Yes. But is it impossible to accomplish? No! God never gave a command that we, with His aid and assistance, cannot carry out successfully. Christ, in speaking to the people of His generation, stated that “with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). He was not suggesting that the illogical could become logical. He did not mean that God could make such things as a round square, or an acceptable sin. In the context, He was making the point that with God’s help, obstacles that at first glance appear to us to be insurmountable can, in fact, be overcome. Tasks that seem too arduous can, in fact, be completed.
And so it is with the successful rearing of a child. God has given us, as parents, the responsibility of ensuring the safety of our children’s souls. Fortunately, He also has given us tools equal to the task, and the instruction booklet we are to employ as we go about completing our assignment. The tools include such things as love, parental authority, wisdom, and experience. The instruction booklet is His Word, the Bible. Granted, there may be times when parents use both the tools and the instruction booklet to the best of their ability, and yet still fail because a child employs his or her God-given free will to rebel against heaven’s admonition. Samuel and Eli provide just such an example. Both of these men had ungodly children. God chastised Eli (cf. 1 Samuel 2:12,27-36; 3:13), but within the Scriptures there is found no condemnation for Samuel. Why the difference? Both sets of children possessed free will, and both used that free will to rebel. Apparently, however, Samuel attempted, to the best of his ability, to restrain his children, while Eli did not (1 Samuel 3:13). We should not condemn dedicated, godly parents who attempt to turn their children unto the paths of righteousness, but who fail through no fault of their own. At the same time, however, we should not attempt to defend parents who neglect their children, and who thus contribute to their spiritual delinquency.
As the father of two precious sons, I sympathize with the plight of the two mothers whom I described earlier—mothers who stood to possibly lose their sons, even as their sons stood to lose their souls. I, as the friend in whom they had placed their hope for their boys’ souls, trembled at the prospect of failure. In the ninth chapter of Mark’s gospel, the story is told of a father who came to request help from Jesus on behalf of his demon-possessed son. The youngster, who had endured this situation “from childhood” (vs. 21), was in desperate need of a cure, as is evident from the symptoms described early on in the account (vss. 18,22). Jesus—having compassion on both father and son—said to the man, “All things are possible to him that believeth” (vs. 23). With an abiding love for his son in his heart, and a cry of desperation on his lips, the father pleaded, “I believe; help thou mine unbelief ” (vs. 24).
How many people throughout the millennia since then have echoed that same refrain? How many people today—with the same cry of desperation—are pleading for help with unbelief? How many “out there” are groping in intellectual and spiritual darkness for answers to questions that hinder their belief? How many of our friends, relatives, neighbors, loved ones, acquaintances, or children are experiencing the same mental anguish that the father of that son experienced twenty centuries ago? As you read this, are you not thinking of someone—young, old, male, female, former friend, current friend—who is struggling in their own personal battle against unbelief? And would you not like to be able to help them fight that battle—and win?!
At Apologetics Press, we deal with various aspects of unbelief on a daily basis. One of our main goals always has been, and still is, to be able to assist those who cry out, as that father did in earnest almost two thousand years ago, “Help thou mine unbelief.” Those of us associated with this work want you to know that we are committed—unreservedly and wholeheartedly—to the protection of the precious heritage that is our children.
Surely none among us professes to have all the answers. At the same time, however, surely none among us is willing to throw up our arms in defeat, nestle our heads in our hands in quiet surrender, and simply give up. While it is not my prerogative to speak for others, speaking for myself I wish to say: No! I will not accept defeat. I will not walk away in quiet surrender. I will not give up! The costs—a child’s soul and a parent’s grief—are far too high. The consequences—an eternity away from the presence of God—are far too grave.
Christians always have served God in an anti-Christian environment. That was true in the first century, and it is true in the twenty-first. Similarly, parents always have had to rear children in such an environment. While parents taught one thing, the world taught another. The key to success was, and is, helping children understand that while Christians exist and function in the world, they are not of the world (Romans 12:2; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15). Blurring that distinction in the mind of a child has disastrous results. We can be, however, “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37)—if we will not give up. And so, let us make up our minds, here and now, to do everything within our power to protect our children. Let us teach them diligently the evidences for God’s existence, the deity of Christ, the uniqueness of His church, and their special place in His creation.
Somewhere along the way, it appears that we forgot one important point—it is not a matter of if our children are going to be taught; it is only a matter of what they are going to be taught, and who is going to do the teaching. The question is: Who will we allow to do the teaching, and what will they be allowed to teach? The late Rita Rhodes Ward, a public school teacher with more than fifty years’ worth of classroom experience, knew this firsthand. She once observed: “When a Christian mother leads her 6-year-old to the first grade room or her 5-year-old to kindergarten, she leads him from the sheltered environment of the home into the cold, pagan environment of secular humanism. From that day on, the child will be taught two contradictory religions...” (1986, p. 520).
Certainly it is not the case that all public school teachers are humanists. There are those who approach their job from a Christian perspective. [My own late mother, Mary Ruth Thompson, was among that number.] Nevertheless, the public school environment often creates an atmosphere of hostility toward the belief system that Christian parents attempt to instill in their children. In their volume, The Evolution Conspiracy, Matrisciana and Oakland authored a chapter titled “Children at Risk,” in which they suggested: “Traditionally, the schoolroom has been an open forum of learning. Today it has become a pulpit for the aggressive conversion of impressionable minds. It is the battlefield where war is being waged against the Judeo-Christian God, His principles, His morality, and the Bible” (1991, p. 125).
There is ample evidence that this assessment is correct, and that it has been for quite some time. Dr. C.F. Potter was an honorary president of the National Education Association. As long ago as 1930, he authored the book, Humanism: A New Religion, in which he offered the following assessment:
Education is thus a most powerful ally of Humanism, and every American public school is a school of Humanism. What can a theistic Sunday school’s meeting, for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of the five-day program of humanistic teaching? (p. 128, emp. added).
At a seminar on childhood education some years ago, Dr. Chester Pierce, professor of education and psychiatry at Harvard University, told those in attendance:
Every child in America entering school at the age of five is mentally ill, because he comes to school with certain allegiances toward our founding fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural Being, toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It’s up to you teachers to make all of these sick children well by creating the international children of the future (1973, p. 24, emp. added).
The truth is, some school teachers have a “hidden agenda,” their objective being to destroy our children’s faith. This situation represents a real and present danger to a child’s spiritual well-being. If we allow evolutionists to influence our children—and if they do their job better than, and before, we do ours—our children will lose their faith, and we will lose our children.
Surely, one of the most important causes of unbelief in the world today relates to the kind of education a person receives. [Please notice that I did not say unbelief “relates to the education” a person receives; rather, I said unbelief “relates to the kind of education” a person receives. I do not mean to “throw the baby out with the bath water” by suggesting that all education results in unbelief, for that most certainly is not the case and is not representative of my position.] Generally speaking, the educational system in America is the end product of John Dewey’s “progressive education movement.” Renowned humanistic philosopher and historian, Will Durant, wrote that “there is hardly a school in America that has not felt his influence” (1961, p. 390). But it was not just American schools that Dewey influenced. In his book, The Long War Against God, Henry Morris discussed how the progressive education movement “profoundly changed education not only in America but also in many other countries” as well (1989, p. 38).
Dewey, who was a socialist and materialistic pantheist, was one of the founders (and the first president) of the American Humanist Association, formed in 1933. I have discussed Dewey’s atheistic views elsewhere (see Thompson, 1994, 1999). At this juncture, I simply would like to make the point that as a result of Dewey’s efforts through the educational establishment, the kind of education now being offered in many public schools has the potential to discourage or destroy faith in God, while at the same time encouraging and promoting unbelief. One of the most important tools employed by Dewey and his intellectual offspring to cripple belief was, and is, organic evolution. As Samuel Blumenfeld stated in his classic text, NEA: Trojan Horse in American Education:
An absolute faith in science became the driving force behind the progressives.... The most important idea that would influence the educators was that of evolution—the notion that man, through a process of natural selection, had evolved to his present state from a common animal ancestry. Evolution was as sharp a break with the Biblical view of creation as anyone could make, and it was quickly picked up by those anxious to disprove the validity of orthodox religion (1984, p. 43, emp. added).
Morris quite correctly assessed the post-Dewey situation when he wrote:
The underlying assumption of progressive education was that the child is simply an evolved animal and must be trained as such—not as an individual created in God’s image with tremendous potential as an individual. A child was considered but one member in a group and therefore must be trained collectively to fit into his or her appropriate place in society (1989, p. 48).
The child’s “appropriate place in society”—specifically the humanistic society that Dewey and his cohorts envisioned—neither included nor allowed for belief in the God of the Bible. Thus, every effort was made to use the educational system to gain new recruits. Alfred Rehwinkel discussed just such a situation.
The shock received by the inexperienced young student is therefore overwhelming when he enters the classroom of such teachers and suddenly discovers to his great bewilderment that these men and women of acclaimed learning do not believe the views taught him in his early childhood days; and since the student sits at their feet day after day, it usually does not require a great deal of time until the foundation of his faith begins to crumble as stone upon stone is being removed from it by these unbelieving teachers. Only too often the results are disastrous. The young Christian becomes disturbed, confused, and bewildered. Social pressure and the weight of authority add to his difficulties. First he begins to doubt the infallibility of the Bible in matters of geology, but he will not stop there. Other difficulties arise, and before long skepticism and unbelief have taken the place of his childhood faith, and the saddest of all tragedies has happened. Once more a pious Christian youth has gained a glittering world of pseudo-learning but has lost his own immortal soul (1951, p. xvii, emp. added).
Such a scenario is not merely theoretical, but practical. Henry Morris, former professor and department head at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, observed that he “spent over twenty-eight years teaching in secular universities and saw this sad tale repeated in many lives” (1984, p. 113).
Chet Raymo serves as an excellent example of a person who once cherished his belief in God, but who ultimately lost his faith as a result of the kind of education he received. Raymo is a professor of physics and astronomy at Stonehill College in Massachusetts, has written a weekly column on science for the Boston Globe for more than a dozen years, and was reared as a Roman Catholic. In his book, Skeptics and True Believers, he wrote:
I learned something else in my study of science, something that had an even greater effect upon my religious faith. None of the miracles I had been offered in my religious training were as impressively revealing of God’s power as the facts that I was learning in science (1998, p. 20, emp. added).
Little wonder, then, that the thesis of Raymo’s book is that there is an unavoidable dichotomy between educated people of science who empirically “know” things, and those in religion who spiritually “believe” things—with the educated, scientifically oriented folks obviously being on the more desirable end of the spectrum (and winning out in the end).
There can be little doubt that many today believe in evolution because it is what they have been taught. For the past century, evolution has been in the limelight. And for the past quarter of a century or more, it has been taught as scientific fact in many elementary, junior high, and senior high schools, as well as in most colleges and universities. In their book, The Truth: God or Evolution?, Marshall and Sandra Hall offered this summary.
In the first place, evolution is what is taught in the schools. At least two, and in some cases three and four generations, have used textbooks that presented it as proven fact. The teachers, who for the most part learned it as truth, pass it on as truth. Students are as thoroughly and surely indoctrinated with the concept of evolution as students have ever been indoctrinated with any unproven belief (1974, p. 10).
In their book, Why Scientists Accept Evolution, Bales and Clark confirmed such an observation.
Evolution is taken for granted today and thus it is uncritically accepted by scientists as well as laymen. It is accepted by them today because it was already accepted by others who went before them and under whose direction they obtained their education (1966, p. 106).
Further exacerbating the problem is the fact that evolution has been given the “stamp of approval” by important spokespersons from practically every field of human endeavor. While there have been men and women from politics, the humanities, the arts, and other fields who openly have defended evolution as factual, in no other area has this defense been as pronounced as in the sciences. Because science has produced so many successes in so many different areas, and because these successes have been so visible and so well publicized, scientists have been granted an aura of respectability that only can be envied by non-scientists.
As a result, when scientists champion a cause, people generally sit up and take notice. After all, it is their workings through the scientific method that have eradicated smallpox, put men on the Moon, prevented polio, and lengthened human life spans. We have grown used to seeing “experts” from various scientific disciplines ply their trade in an endless stream of amazing feats. Heart surgery has become commonplace; organ transplants have become routine; space stations are being built in the heavens.
Thus, when the atheistic concept of organic evolution is presented as something that “all reputable scientists believe,” there are many people who accept such an assessment at face value, and who therefore fall in line with what they believe is a well-proven dictum that has been enshrouded with the cloak of scientific respectability. As atheistic philosopher Paul Ricci has written: “The reliability of evolution not only as a theory but as a principle of understanding is not contested by the vast majority of biologists, geologists, astronomers, and other scientists” (1986, p. 172). Or, as the late paleontologist of Harvard, Stephen Jay Gould, put it: “The fact of evolution is as well established as anything in science (as secure as the revolution of the earth around the sun), though absolute certainty has no place in our [the scientist’s—BT] lexicon (1987, 8:64; parenthetical comment in orig.). [Dr. Gould reiterated this point in a guest editorial in the August 23, 1999 issue of Timemagazine when he wrote that “evolution is as well documented as any phenomenon in science, as strongly as the earth’s revolution around the sun rather than vice versa. In this sense, we can call evolution a ‘fact’ ” (1999, p. 59).]
Such comments are intended to leave the impression that well-informed, intelligent people dare not doubt the truthfulness of organic evolution. The message is: “All scientists believe it; so should you.” As Marshall and Sandra Hall inquired: “How, then, are people with little or no special knowledge of the various sciences and related subjects to challenge the authorities? It is natural to accept what ‘experts’ say, and most people do” (1974, p. 10). Henry Morris observed: “...the main reason most educated people believe in evolution is simply because they have been told that most educated people believe in evolution” (1963, p. 26). Huston Smith, a leading philosopher and professor of religion at Syracuse University commented on this phenomenon as follows:
One reason education undoes belief is its teaching of evolution; Darwin’s own drift from orthodoxy to agnosticism was symptomatic. Martin Lings is probably right in saying that “more cases of loss of religious faith are to be traced to the theory of evolution...than to anything else” (1982, p. 755; Lings’ quote is from Studies in Comparative Religion, 1970, Winter).
The truthfulness of that last statement—that “more cases of loss of religious faith are to be traced to the theory of evolution than anything else”—haunts the mothers of the two young men I mentioned earlier. These mothers (and their sons!) can tell you, from firsthand experience, just how accurate such an assessment really is!
We must impress upon our children, however, that truth is not determined by popular opinion or majority vote. A thing may be, and often is, true, even when accepted only by the minority. Furthermore, a thing may be, and often is, false, even though accepted by the majority. Believing something just because “everyone else” believes it, often can lead to disastrous results. As the late Guy N. Woods remarked: “It is dangerous to follow the multitude because the majority is almost always on the wrong side in this world” (1982, 124:2). Or, as Moses warned the children of Israel: “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil” (Exodus 23:2).
Will Durant, was an avowed atheist, yet he wrote: “The greatest question of our time is not communism vs. individualism, not Europe vs. America, not even the East vs. the West; it is whether men can bear to live without God” (1932, p. 23, emp. added). Dr. Durant was absolutely correct.Beliefs have consequences! Prominent humanist Martin Gardner devoted an entire chapter in one of his books to “The Relevance of Belief Systems,” in an attempt to explain that what a person believes profoundly influences how a person acts (1988, pp. 57-64). The question is: If our children are taught, and then ultimately come to believe in, evolution, what will be the end result? Perhaps we should allow Charles Darwin himself to answer. In speaking of his abandoned belief in God, Darwin admitted:
I had gradually come, by this time, to see that the Old Testament, from its manifestly false history of the world and from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos [sic], or the beliefs of any barbarian (see Barlow, 1959, pp. 85-86).I found it more and more difficult, with free scope given to my imagination, to invent evidence which would suffice to convince me. Thus disbelief crept over me at such a slow rate, but at last was complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress (as quoted in Francis Darwin, 1898, 1:277-278; cf. also Greene, 1963, pp. 16-17, emp. added).
The 17-year-old boys discussed in this article did not simply awake one day, get up, take a shower, dress for school, eat breakfast, and decide to no longer believe in God. Their change in heart was a slow, calm, day-by-day process—during which, they “felt no distress.” A teacher taught them that evolution “is a fact that nobody with any sense denies.” A school textbook presented handy, easy-to-remember arguments (such as how humans and chimpanzees share 95% of their DNA—which “proves” they must have come from a common ancestor). National Geographic displayed for them full-color pictures of their alleged hominid ancestors (as it did on the front cover of its August 2002 issue when it presented “Dmanisi Man” from the Republic of Georgia in the former Soviet Union). TheDiscover channel on television “wowed” them with a professionally produced extravaganza that explained how life got started on Earth via naturalistic processes, and how, once it did, it evolved into a one-celled amoeba which, over billions of years, evolved into—17-year-old boys! Etc. Etc. Etc. Finally, the process was complete—and yet another mother’s son had become an unbeliever as a result of having been taught evolution.
The prophet Hosea, speaking on behalf of God, observed: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (4:6). The truthfulness of that statement has not dimmed across the centuries. Where knowledge is lacking, wisdom always will be in short supply. A generation ago, we taught diligently on such topics as the existence of God, the inspiration of the Bible, the importance of the creation account, the uniqueness and singularity of the church, etc. But, ultimately, we taught less and less on these matters and, as a result, our children’s faith began to rest on sand instead of rock. When the winds of trial and tribulation came, that faith collapsed, and we lost our children to evolution, atheism, agnosticism, skepticism, infidelity, and similar false concepts.
And at what cost? If you have never heard the uncontrollable sobbing of a mother whose 17-year-old son has just said to her, “Mom, I don’t believe in God any more,” I doubt that you can fully understand that cost. I, on the other hand, do understand. And as a result, I have vowed to do everything in my power—as long as there is a breath in my feeble body—to stanch the loss of our children at the hands of evolutionists and those sympathetic with them. I urge you to join hands with me in this never-ending, extremely crucial battle. We cannot afford to fail, for if we do, our children will lose their souls, and we will lose our children. We can be—we must be—“more than conquerors.”
As always, if there is anything that those of us at Apologetics Press can do to help you in the midst of this warfare, please call on us. That is why we are here, and it is the reason our work exists.
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