"THE FLESH AND THE SPIRIT" Infractions Of The Law Of Love - II INTRODUCTION 1. As we continue discussing the "works of the flesh" as found in Ga 5: 19-21, we are focusing on that large group of sins that can be categorized as "Infractions Of The Law Of Love" 2. They include "hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy" (NKJV) 3. Our last study examined the first two: a. "hatred" (echthra) - hostility that one may harbor in one's heart toward another b. "contentions" (eris) - strife or quarreling that results from such hostility 4. In this lesson we will focus on two more sins... a. "jealousies" (zelos) - Ga 5:20 b. "envy" (phthonos) - Ga 5:21 5. Though not together in the same verse, they sometimes occur together in the Scriptures... a. There are cases where one has to be defined in contrast to the other b. And it helps to better understand them when we consider them together [With that in mind, let's take a look at the first one...] I. ZELOS (jealousies, emulations) A. THIS WORD CAN BE USED IN BOTH A GOOD SENSE AND A BAD SENSE... 1. Examples where it is used in a good sense a. Isa 9:7 - "The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" b. Ro 10:1-2 - "...they have a zeal for God..." c. 2Co 11:2-3 - "For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy." -- In these and many other such passages, it is used to describe an excitement of mind, ardor, fervor of spirit, for something that is good 2. Examples where it is used in a bad sense a. 1Co 3:3 - "For where there are envy..." b. 2Co 12:20 - "For I fear...lest there be...jealousies..." -- In such cases, there is a fervor of spirit that is misdirected, resulting in a form of envy and jealousy that is destructive of personal relationships B. IN GA 5:20, "ZELOS" IS CLEARLY USED IN A BAD SENSE... 1. When we find ourselves swelling up with zeal for something which is not good or right to desire, then that is "zelos" 2. Zeal that is misdirected is mostly directed toward self, i.e., "selfishness" a. When we are zealous for God, that is good b. When we are jealous in behalf of others' good welfare, that is good c. But when we are jealous for selfish reasons, it is wrong! 3. We saw where such jealousy was a mark of carnality in the Christians at Corinth - cf. 1Co 3:1-3 4. In view of the coming of Christ, "zelos" (envy) is one of the "works of darkness" we need to cast off - Ro 13:11-14 5. Indeed, remember "that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God" - Ga 5:21 [We learn a little more about "zelos" when we compare with "phthonos", so let's move on to consider that word...] II. PHTHONOS (envy, envyings) A. COMPARED WITH "ZELOS"... 1. William Barclay offers this distinction between the two: a. "zelos" is the envy which casts grudging looks b. "phthonos" is the envy which has arrived at hostile deeds 2. We might also add this distinction: a. "zelos" is less serious, less bitter, less malignant than "phthonos" b. But "zelos", left unchecked, can result in "phthonos" 3. Whereas "zelos" has both a good and bad sense, "phthonos" is always bad B. EXAMPLES OF "PHTHONOS" IN THE NEW TESTAMENT... 1. It was "phthonos" that moved the Jewish leaders to deliver Jesus to Pilate - Mt 27:18; Mk 15:10 2. "phthonos" is indicative of a reprobate mind that has denied God - Ro 1:28-29 3. It is often the result of striving over words - 1Ti 6:3-4 4. It is typical of our lives prior to salvation - Tit 3:3 5. But it is part of that which we are to "lay aside" - 1Pe 2:1 C. AN EXAMPLE TO HELP US BETTER UNDERSTAND "PHTHONOS"... 1. Some were preaching Christ "even from envy..." - Php 1:15 2. Their motive was to cause Paul harm - Php 1:16 a. Thus "phthonos" is more than a desire to have something which someone else has (that would be "zelos") b. It is a desire to have it at the detriment or loss of the other person 3. I.e., "phthonos" describes that strong desire of something... a. Not just because someone else has it (again, that would be "zelos") b. But because we don't want that person to have it (this is "phthonos") 4. It is therefore a sin which generates harmful actions toward others CONCLUSION 1. Once again I hope we are impressed with the high standard of conduct to which Christians have been called... a. The world thinks lightly of such things as jealousy and envy, often considering it to be normal behavior b. While it may be normal behavior for the unregenerate, such sins have no place in the hearts and lives of those who have been "born again"! - Tit 3:3-5 2. As we realize this high standard of godly living expected of Christians... a. I hope we will not be discouraged, even though we often fall short b. But rather that we will accept the challenge placed before us c. And remember that it is only as we "walk in the Spirit" that we will not "fulfill the lust of the flesh" - Ga 5:16 Let us therefore encourage one another to put away "jealousies" and "envy", and instead to... "...put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts." (Ro 13:14)
Inspired Writers and Competent Copyists
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
If you were to open your Bible and read Mark 14:16, you would learn that Jesus’ disciples went into Jerusalem to prepare the final Passover meal before His crucifixion. The wording of the verse is as follows: “So His disciples went out, and came into the city, and found it just as He had said to them; and they prepared the Passover” (emp. added). The highlighted conjunction “and” (kai in Greek) is found in the Greek manuscripts of Mark. It also appears in most English translations of the Bible. However, in one particular copy of the Bible that I possess, the stem of the “d” in “and” is missing, causing the word to be misspelled: “So His disciples went out, ano came into the city...” (emp. added).
Most people who read Jesus’ parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-14) learn of the king asking one particular attendee a very specific question: “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?” (vs. 12, emp. added). A colleague of mine has a reliable translation of the Bible that words Jesus’ question as follows: “Friend, now did you come in here without a wedding garment?” Obviously, the “now” should be “how” (Greek pos). Similar to how the “d” in “and” was skewed so as to look more like an “o”, the “h” in “how” lost its stem, causing it to look more like an “n.” Question: Whose fault is it that “and” has been incorrectly printed as “ano,” and “how” has been copied errantly as “now”?
Surely no one would blame such errors in a modern English copy of the Bible on God or His inspired penmen (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Almost everyone recognizes that publishing companies are responsible for such minute mistakes. Although the accurate reproduction of books nearly has been perfected during the past few centuries (thanks in large part to the invention of the printing press), still, for various reasons, slight errors can creep onto the printed page. God did not intervene and miraculously keep the aforementioned errors from appearing in copies of His Word. Instead, He gave humankind the ability and resources to understand that such errors can be resolved rationally without assuming the inspired writers erred. We know that “ano” should be “and” in Mark 14:16 and “now” should be “how” in Matthew 22:12 partly because millions of other copies of the Bible (in both English and Greek) have the correct words “and” (kai) and “how” (pos), and also because we easily can see how a printing press might occasionally leave off the stems of certain letters.
COMMON SENSE AND COPYISTS’ ERRORS
Whether one is referring to secular works or the Bible, prior to the invention of the printing press, copies of books were made by hand, and thus were susceptible to errors. In the 19th century, respected Christian scholar J.W. McGarvey noted: “There is not a writing of antiquity which has come down to our age without many such changes” (1886, 1:7-8). In fact, “[a] large part of the labor of the editors of Greek and Latin classics consists in correcting as best they can the erroneous readings thus introduced into these works” (McGarvey, 1:8). Take, for instance, the comedies of Terence (c. 190-158 B.C.). Seventeenth-century English scholar Richard Bentley noted how Terence’s works were some of the better preserved classical texts, yet Bentley testified that he had witnessed “twenty thousand various lections [readings—EL] in that little author, not near so big as the whole New Testament” (as quoted in “The Text...,” 1822, 15(37):476; see also McGarvey, 1886, 1:8). Consider also the writings of Tacitus. They are known to contain at least one numerical error that Tacitean and classical scholars have acknowledged as a copyist’s mistake (Holding, 2001). Scholars recognize that, at some point in history, a copyist accidentally changed a number (from CXXV to XXV). Although such copyists’ errors are known to exist, historians around the world cite such ancient works as Herodotus, Josephus, Pliny, Tacitus, Suetonius, etc., and consider them trustworthy, educational, and worthy of study.
If scholars defend the integrity of ancient authors partly by acknowledging that many of the mistakes contained within their writings are the result of copyists’ errors, it is only reasonable for these same scholars (whether atheists, agnostics, skeptics, or Christians) to recognize that alleged problems within the biblical text may be the result of scribal errors rather than mistakes on the part of one or more of the original Bible writers. Just as those who copied secular historical documents sometimes made mistakes (e.g., misspelling names, omitting words, etc.), scribes who copied the Bible from earlier texts also had the opportunity to err. As Gleason Archer observed: “Even the earliest and best manuscripts that we possess are not totally free of transmissional errors. Numbers are occasionally miscopied, the spelling of proper names is occasionally garbled, and there are examples of the same types of scribal error that appear in other ancient documents as well” (1982, p. 27).
Norman Geisler and William Nix have mentioned several ways that a scribe might accidentally change the biblical text, including: (1) omissions or repetitions of letters, words, or lines; (2) reversals (transpositions) of letters or words; (3) divisions of words in the wrong places (since words in the early manuscripts were not divided by spaces); (4) errors of hearing (such as when scribes copied the Scriptures by listening to someone read them); (5) trusting in memory instead of relying on exactly what the text says; (6) errors of judgment (possibly caused by insufficient lighting or poor eyesight); (7) poor penmanship; etc. (1986, pp. 469-475). Recently, I wrote a note asking an assistant to send a package to a Mrs. Ward. Unfortunately, the package got mislabeled “Mrs. Word,” either because my handwriting was too poor to distinguish adequately between an “a” and an “o,” or the assistant simply misread the name. This example shows how easily copyists’ mistakes can occur, even in modern times.
How many Bible students have memorized passages of Scripture and quoted them for months or even years without realizing that at some point in time they mistakenly changed, added, or omitted a word from the text. I once memorized 2 Peter 3:9 (“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness...,” emp. added), only to find, several years later, that at some point I had incorrectly made “promise” plural, and had quoted it that way for months. One of the occasional mistakes copyists made was to trust too much in their own memory. Instead of carefully noting every letter in every word on every line, some copyists might have memorized too much at a time without looking back at the text. Keep in mind that scribes did not have computer keys that made the same letters every time, or that allowed them to copy and paste a paragraph of text with the push of a few buttons. Copying the Bible in ancient times was a painstaking, tedious job that required constant attention and care even in the best of circumstances.
CAINAN, SON OF ARPHAXAD: A CASE STUDY IN COPYISTS’ ERRORS
One important thing we learn from the various genealogies in Scripture is that sometimes they contain minor gaps—gaps that are both intentional and legitimate (see Matthew 1:1; see also Thompson, 1989, 9:17-18). Thus, just because Luke 3 contains a name that is not recorded in Genesis 10 or 11, or in 1 Chronicles 1, does not have to mean that someone made a mistake. The fact is, terms such as “begot,” “the son of,” and “father”—often found in genealogies—occasionally have a much wider connotation in the Bible than might be implied when such words are used in modern-day English (cf. Genesis 32:9; John 8:39). Simply because one genealogy has more (or fewer) names than another genealogy, does not mean that the two genealogies are in disagreement.
Still, the insertion of the name Cainan in Luke 3:36 most likely has a far different explanation—one that may be more plausible, yet at the same time is more complicated to explain, and thus less popular. It is very likely that the “Cainan problem” is the result of a scribal error made when copying Luke’s gospel account.
Realizing that the New Testament originally was written in Greek without punctuation or spaces between words, the insertion of the name Cainan easily could have crept into Luke’s genealogy. Notice in the following chart, what the original text (in agreement with Genesis 10:24, 11:12, and 1 Chronicles 1:18,24) might have said:
Although some apologists reject the idea that the insertion of Cainan in Luke 3:36 is a copyist’s error, the following facts seem to add much credence to this proposed explanation.
- As stated earlier, this part of Luke’s genealogy also is recorded in Genesis 10:24, 11:12, and in 1 Chronicles 1:18,24. All of these Old Testament passages, however, omit the Cainan of Luke 3:36. In fact, Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, is not found in any Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament.
- Cainan is omitted from all of the following ancient versions of the Old Testament: the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Syriac, the Targum (Aramaic translations of the Old Testament), and the Vulgate (a Latin translation of the Bible completed between A.D. 382 and 405) (see Hasel, 1980, 7(1):23-37).
- Cainan’s name is absent from Flavius Josephus’ patriarchal listing in his historical work, Antiquities of the Jews (see 6:1:4-5).
- The third-century Christian historian, Julius Africanus, also omitted Cainan’s name from his chronology of the patriarchs, and yet he had copies of the gospels of both Luke and Matthew (1971, 6:125-140).
- The earliest known copy of Luke (a papyrus codex of the Bodmer Collection dated between A.D. 175 and 225) does not contain this Cainan (see Sarfati, n.d.).
This manuscript of a portion of Matthew dates to about A.D. 350.
|Credit: The Schøyen Collection MS 2650|
MORE EXAMPLES OF POSSIBLE COPYISTS’ ERRORS
Jehoiachin’s Age When He Began to ReignIn 2 Kings 24:8, we read that Jehoiachin succeeded his father as the 19th king of Judah at the age of eighteen. However, 2 Chronicles 36:9 informs us that he was “eight years old when he became king.” Fortunately, there is enough additional information in the biblical text to prove the correct age of Jehoiachin when he began his reign over Judah.
There is little doubt that Jehoiachin began his reign at eighteen, not eight years of age. This conclusion is established by Ezekiel 19:5-9, where Jehoiachin is described as going up and down among the lions, catching the prey, devouring men, and knowing the widows of the men he devoured and the cities he wasted. As Keil and Delitzsch observed when commenting on this passage: “The knowing of widows cannot apply to a boy of eight, but might well be said of a young man of eighteen” (1996). Furthermore, it is doubtful that an eight-year-old child would be described as one having done “evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 24:9).
The simple answer to this “problem” is that a copyist, not an inspired writer, made a mistake. A scribe simply omitted a ten (the Hebrew numeral letter ח [yod], which made Jehoiachin eight (Hebrew י) [heth]) instead of eighteen (Hebrew יח). This does not mean the inspired penmen erred. Rather, it indicates that minor scribal errors have slipped into some copies of the Bible. Indeed, if you ever have seen the Hebrew alphabet, you doubtless recognize that the Hebrew letters (which also were used for numbers) could be confused quite easily.
The Spelling of HadadezerShould the king’s name be spelled with a “d” (2 Samuel 8:3; 1 Kings 11:23) or an “r” (2 Samuel 10:16; 1 Chronicles 18:3; KJV and ASV)? It would appear that the difference in spelling came about through the mistake of a scribe. Most likely Hadadezer (with a “d”) is the true form since, “Hadad was the chief idol, or sun-god, of the Syrians” (Barnes, 1997; cf. Benhadad and Hadad of 1 Kings 15:18; 11:14; etc.). As William Arndt stated, “D and R may be distinct enough in appearance in English, but in Hebrew they are vexingly similar to each other” (1955, p. xv). The Hebrew daleth = ד, while resh = ר. There should be little doubt in our minds that Hadarezer simply is a corrupted form of Hadadezer. One can see how easily a copyist could have made this mistake.
When Did Absalom Commit Treason?When David’s son Absalom finally returned after killing his half-brother Amnon, 2 Samuel 15:7 indicates that “after forty years” passed, Absalom left home again and committed treason. Anyone who knows much Israelite history quickly realizes that Absalom most certainly did not spend 40 years at home during this time, for David’s entire reign was only 40 years (2 Samuel 5:4). The number given in 2 Samuel 15:7 likely should be four years, which is more in keeping with the lifetime of Absalom, who was born in Hebron after David’s reign as king began (2 Samuel 3:3). The number “four” also agrees with such ancient versions as the Septuagint, the Syriac, the Arabic, and the Vulgate. There is little question that the number “forty” represents a copyist error.
They concerned themselves with the transmission of the consonantal text as they had received it [Hebrew has no vowels—EL], as well as with its pronunciation, on the basis that the text itself was inviolable and every consonant sacred.
The detailed statistical work that the Massoretes undertook on each book included the counting of verses, words, and letters, establishing the middle of the book (a procedure which was useful in the case of bifid, or two-part, compositions) noting peculiarities of style, and other similar matters (1969, pp. 212-213, parenthetical item in orig.).By taking such precautions in the copying of letters, words, and verses (by sections and books), it could be known if a word or letter had been omitted or added. Indeed, as Eddie Hendrix affirmed: “Such minute checks contributed to a high degree of copying accuracy” (1976, 93:5). No other group of ancient copyists is more renowned than those of the Old Testament.
Although much less is known about New Testament copyists, according to Philip Comfort, who wrote The Quest for the Original Text of the New Testament, paleographic evidence has revealed that “several of the early manuscripts were copied carefully with precision and acumen...,” no doubt “by educated and professional scribes” (1992, p. 51,50). New Testament copyists also had grave motivation to copy the Scriptures with care. Although not typically quoted with copyists in mind, consider the words of Revelation 22:18-19:
For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.In the second century A.D., Irenaeus applied this condemnation to copyists who knowingly contribute to the initiation and perpetuation of textual errors (5:30:1). Undoubtedly, due to the grace of God and the conscientiousness of copyists, “[t]he New Testament...has not only survived in more manuscripts than any other book from antiquity, but it has survived in purer form than any other great book” (Geisler and Nix, p. 475).
NO AUTOGRAPHS? NO PROBLEM.
It is highly unreasonable to think that truths can be learned only from autographs. Learning and forming beliefs based on reliable copies of various written documents, objects, etc. is a way of life. To conclude that a driver in a particular state could not learn to drive adequately without having in hand the original driving manual produced by the state years earlier is absurd. To assert that no one could measure the length of one yard without having the standard yard in hand from the National Institute of Standards and Technology is ridiculous. Even if the standard yard was lost, the millions of copies of the yard in existence today would be sufficient in finding (or measuring) exactly what a yard is. Consider also McGarvey’s example of an autograph, which eventually was destroyed.
A gentleman left a large estate entailed to his descendants of the third generation, and it was not to be divided until a majority of them should be of age. During the interval many copies of the will were circulated among parties interested, many of these being copies of copies. In the meantime the office of record in which the original was filed was burned with all its contents. When the time for division drew near, a prying attorney gave out among the heirs the report that no two existing copies were alike. This alarmed them all and set them busily at work to ascertain the truth of the report. On comparing copy with copy they found the report true, but on close inspection it was discovered that the differences consisted in errors in spelling or grammatical construction; some mistakes in figures corrected by the written numbers; and some other differences not easily accounted for; but that in none of the copies did these mistakes affect the rights of the heirs. In the essential matters for which the will was written the representations of all the copies were precisely the same. The result was that they divided the estate with perfect satisfaction to all, and they were more certain that they had executed the will of their grandfather than if the original copy had been alone preserved; for it might have been tampered with in the interest of a single heir; but the copies, defective though they were, could not have been (1:17).Everyday, all around the world, individuals, groups, businesses, schools, etc. operate with the conviction that autographs are unnecessary to learn the truths within them. Copies of wills, articles, books, etc., can be gathered, inspected, and scrutinized until new copies are published that virtually are identical to the original. “[A]ccurate communication is possible despite technical mistakes in copying” (Archer, 1982, p. 29). So it is with the Bible. Even though copyists were imperfect in their transcription work, more than enough copies of the Scriptures have survived so that, as Sir Fredric Kenyon remarked, “it is practically certain that the true reading of every doubtful passage is preserved in some one or other of these ancient authorities. This can be said of no other ancient book in the world!” (as quoted in Lightfoot, 2003, p. 204).
EVIDENCE OF RELIABLE BIBLE TRANSMISSION
The Old TestamentThe Dead Sea Scrolls make up one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all times. In 1947, a number of ancient documents were found by accident in a cave on the northwest side of the Dead Sea. This collection of documents, which has become known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, was comprised of old leather and papyrus scrolls and fragments that had been rolled up in earthen jars for centuries. From 1949 to 1956, hundreds of Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts and a few Greek fragments were found in surrounding caves, and are believed by scholars to have been written between 200 B.C. and the first half of the first century A.D. Some of the manuscripts were of Jewish apocryphal and pseudepigraphal writings (e.g., 1 Enoch, Tobit, and Jubilees); others often are grouped together as “ascetic” writings (miscellaneous books of rules, poetry, commentary, etc.). The most notable and pertinent group of documents found in the caves of Qumran near the Dead Sea is the collection of Old Testament books. Every book from the Hebrew Bible was accounted for among the scrolls except the book of Esther.
One of the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered
The New TestamentHow confident can Christians be that the text of the New Testament is essentially the same today as it was in the first century? Could it be that one of the central tenets of Christianity (e.g., Jesus’ deity) is the result of a person’s manipulation of the New Testament text centuries ago, as is alleged in Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code (2003, pp. 233-234)? Did someone come along in the Middle Ages and drastically change the text of the New Testament? Just what evidence do we have for the reliability of the New Testament?
Twenty-first-century Christians can be confident that the New Testament has been transmitted faithfully through the centuries in large part because of the vast amount of manuscript evidence in existence today, some of which goes back to the early second century A.D. When F.F. Bruce published the sixth edition of his classic book The New Testament Documents—Are They Reliable? in 1981, he noted that “there are in existence over 5,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament in whole or in part” (p. 10). Nearly 25 years later, Michael Welte of the Institute for New Testament Textual Research in Munster, Germany, indicated that the number of Greek manuscripts stood at 5,748 (2005). This number represents a far greater body of manuscripts than is known to exist for any other ancient volume (cf. Westcott and Hort, 1964, p. 565; Ewert, 1983, p. 139; Kenyon, 1951, p. 5). For example, The Histories of Herodotus, Caesar’s Gallic Wars, and the Annals of Tacitus, three well-known and oft’-quoted ancient historical works, are backed by a combined total of 38 manuscripts (Geisler and Nix, p. 408). The most documented book of antiquity next to the New Testament is Homer’s Iliad. Some 643 manuscripts of the Iliad are in existence today (p. 475), which is still 5,000 less than the number of extant copies of the New Testament.
Old, worn page of a papyrus document
But, that’s not all. To the manuscript evidence, one also can add the ancient versions of the New Testament (e.g., Old Syriac, Old Latin, Coptic, etc.), as well as the “more than 36,000 patristic citations containing almost every verse of the New Testament” (Geisler and Nix, p. 467). Non-inspired Christian writings from the first few centuries (by men such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and many others) are saturated with quotations from the New Testament apostles and prophets. “Indeed, so extensive are these citations,” wrote the eminent New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger, “that if all other sources for our knowledge of the text of the New Testament were destroyed, they would be sufficient alone in reconstructing practically the entire New Testament” (1968, p. 86). These witnesses, along with the ancient versions, speak voluminously on behalf of the integrity of the Bible’s transmission.
Is there ample evidence from surviving manuscripts, versions, and early quotations of the New Testament documents that indicates the New Testament is essentially the same today as it was in the first century? Most certainly. The former director of the British Museum, Sir Frederic Kenyon, summed up the matter: “The Christian can take the whole Bible in his hand and say without fear or hesitation that he holds in it the true word of God, handed down without essential loss from generation to generation throughout the centuries” (as quoted in Lightfoot, 2003, p. 126).
Archer, Gleason L. (1982), Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Arndt, William (1955), Does the Bible Contradict Itself? (St. Louis, MO: Concordia).
Barnes, Albert (1997), Barnes’ Notes (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Brown, Dan (2003), The Da Vinci Code (New York: Doubleday).
Bruce, F.F. (1981), The New Testament Documents—Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), sixth edition.
Comfort, Philip (1992), The Quest for the Original Text of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Comfort, Philip W. and David P. Barrett (2001), The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House).
Ewert, David (1983), From Ancient Tablets to Modern Translations (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Fairbairn, Patrick (1957 reprint), “Genealogies,” Fairbairn’s Imperial Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Geisler, Norman L. and William E. Nix (1986), A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody), revised edition.
Hasel, Gerhard F. (1980), “Genesis 5 and 11: Chronologies in the Biblical History of Beginnings,” Origins, 7:23-37, [On-line], URL: http://www.ldolphin.org/haselgeneal.html.
Harrison, R.K. (1969), Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Hendrix, Eddie (1976), “What About Those Copyist Errors?” Firm Foundation, 93:5, April 6.
Holding, James Patrick (2001), “Copyist Errors,” [On-line], URL: http://www.tektonics.org/copyisterrors.html.
Irenaeus (1973 reprint), “Irenaeus Against Heresies,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Josephus, Flavius (1987 edition), The Life and Works of Flavius Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews, trans. William Whiston (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch (1996), Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Kenyon, Sir Frederic (1951 reprint), Handbook to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), second edition.
Lightfoot, Neil (2003), How We Got the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), third edition.
McGarvey, J.W. (1886), Evidences of Christianity (Cincinnati, OH: Guide Printing).
Metzger, Bruce (1968), The Text of the New Testament (New York, NY: Oxford University Press).
Morris, Henry M. (1976), The Genesis Record (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
“The Official Website of #1 National Bestselling Author Dan Brown” (no date), [On-line], URL: http://www.danbrown.com/meet_dan/index.html.
Paché, Rene (1971), The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Pierce, Larry (1999), “Cainan in Luke 3:36: Insight from Josephus,” CEN Technical Journal, 13:75-76.
Sarfati, Jonathan D. (1998), “Cainan of Luke 3:36,” CEN Technical Journal, 12:39-40.
Sarfati, Jonathan D. (no date), “How do You Explain the Difference between Luke 3:36 and Genesis 11:12?” [On-line], URL: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/3748.asp.
“The Text of the New Testament” (1822), The North American Review, 15(37):460-487, October, [On-line], URL: http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/ncps:@field(DOCID+@lit (ABQ7578-0015-27)).
Thompson, Bert (1989), “Are the Genealogies of the Bible Useful Chronologies?” Reason and Revelation, 9:17-18, May.
Welte, Michael (2005), personal e-mail to Dave Miller, Institute for New Testament Textual Research (Munster, Germany), [On-line], URL: http://www.uni-muenster.de/NTTextforschung/.
Westcott, B.A. and F.J.A. Hort (1964 reprint), The New Testament in the Original Greek (New York: MacMillan).
Freethought: Not So Free After All
|by||Kyle Butt, M.A.|
One of the most popular terms used by atheists and agnostics to describe themselves is the term “freethinker.” Accordingly, their self-styled brand of reasoning, known as “freethought,” is hitting the upper echelons of academia as the in vogue way to think. From the ideas contained in this compound word, its advocates are attempting to lead people to believe that freethinkers are free to think as they like. Supposedly, freethinkers can go where the evidence leads them, since they are not bound by traditional ideas on morality, deity, the inspiration of the Bible, and other “wayward” notions that have “hindered” freedom in the past.
One of the most outspoken defenders of freethought is a man named Dan Barker. Prior to his “deconversion” into freethought, he was a zealous denominational preacher and missionary. In his most famous written work describing his new-found atheism, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist, he includes an entire chapter titled, What is a Freethinker? At the end of this chapter, Barker says, “Freethought allows you to do your own thinking…. Freethought is truly free” (1992, p. 136). Obviously, Mr. Barker wants everyone who comes in contact with freethought to believe that it is an avenue of thinking that allows each individual to go where his or her thoughts lead.
Upon further investigation, however, freethought is not so free after all. On the very first page of his chapter on freethought, he contends, “No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah.” So, according to Mr. Barker, since he and his group of freethinkers do not think they see enough evidence for the Bible’s inspiration, then all “freethinkers” must reject conformity to the Bible. What happened to the idea that freethought allows “you to do your own thinking.” Again, on the same page he wrote, “Freethinkers are naturalistic” (p. 133), meaning that freethinkers cannot believe in anything outside the realm of what can be measured scientifically using the senses. What if certain evidences compel a person to believe in a supernatural deity? According to freethought, a person is not free to follow that type of evidence. Once again, freethought proves to be much less “free” than we have been told.
Another telling statement from Barker’s pen comes on page 134, where he says, “Individuals are free to choose, within the limits of humanistic morality.” Freethought, then, allows a person to choose freely any set of ethical and moral standards, as long as those standards conform to the “humanistic morality” adopted by Barker and his fellow “freethinkers.” But what if those moral standards fall outside the realm of “humanistic morality?” Then a freethinker must choose some other standard—or cease to be a freethinker.
In one of his concluding paragraphs, Barker states: “A multiplicity of individuals thinking, free from the restraints of orthodoxy, allows ideas to be tested, discarded or adopted” (p. 135). Barker subtly omits the other restraints such as naturalism and humanism, from which freethinkers are not free. In essence, freethinkers, according to Dan Barker, are those people who think like him and his fellow freethinkers. If a person does not think like the humanistic, naturalistic Dan Barker, then that person must be an enslaved thinker, not a freethinker. In reality, “freethought” is a misnomer and is not free after all. In fact, it is one of the “least free” ways to think that is available in the marketplace of ideas. In actuality, the only thing that can ever make a person free is the truth (John 8:32). From the statements quoted above, it is evident that Dan Barker and his fellow freethinkers are not really interested in freedom but, rather, are interested in forming a group of “freethinkers” that toes the party line on such false concepts as naturalism and humanism.
REFERENCEBarker, Dan (1992), Losing Faith In Faith—From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI: Freedom from Religion Foundation).
Big Bang Inflation Officially Bites the Dust
|by||Jeff Miller, Ph.D.|
Article in Brief...
The pronouncement last year that proof of Big Bang inflation was discovered in the form of gravitational waves has now officially been retracted. The media and the cosmological community has, once again, proven themselves to be irresponsible and rash in their boisterous claims. Inflationary theory, fundamental to the Big Bang Theory, remains without evidence, making its adherents possessors of a blind faith.
The Rise and Fall of Bogus EvidenceIn March of 2014, a wave of media attention was given to an announcement by cosmologists who gathered data at the South Pole using a special telescope (BICEP2). The headlines were bold.
- “Theory No More? Scientists Make ‘Big Bang’ Breakthrough with Find” (2014, emp. added).
- “Space Ripples Reveal Big Bang’s Smoking Gun” (Overbye, 2014, emp. added).
- “Big Bang’s ‘Smoking Gun’ Confirms Early Universe’s Exponential Growth” (Vergano, 2014, emp. added).
- “Scientists Find Cosmic Ripples from Birth of Universe” (2014, emp. added).
- “First Wrinkles in Spacetime Confirm Cosmic Inflation” (Cho and Bhattacharjee, 2014, p. 1296, emp. added).
- “The recent discovery of gravitational waves emerging from the Big Bang may point a way forward” (Afshordi, et al., 2014, p. 40, emp. added).
- “Detecting primordial gravitational waves is the closest thing to a proof of inflation that we are ever going to get” (Clark, 2014, p. 34, emp. added).
Under the Big Bang model, the Universe is theorized to be expanding outward from the point in space where the cosmic egg allegedly “exploded.” During the first moments after the Big Bang, Universal expansion occurred faster than the speed of light, according to the theory, and this is known as inflation. However, no direct evidence has ever substantiated the claim that the Universe inflated in the violent way implied by the Theory—only circumstantial evidence. According to the model, gravitational waves would accompany the initial, rapid expansion immediately after the “bang,” but no direct evidence has ever surfaced for their existence. The new discovery was hailed as the “first direct evidence” of Universal inflation (“Theory No More?...,” 2014; “Scientists Find Cosmic Ripples…,” 2014; Landau, 2014).
Subsequently, we published an article responding to the claims (cf. Miller, 2014). In typical fashion, we highlighted the rashness of modern naturalists and the media, who make wild claims without adequate evidence. The announcements are loud, and the retractions tend to be soft. Sure enough, within three months, by June of 2014, the alleged findings were studied further, and the excitement of the celebration began to rapidly evaporate. Nature published an article titled, “Big Bang Finding Challenged,” arguing that the signal from the alleged gravitational wav
was too weak to be significant, studies suggest…. [T]he new analyses suggest that the twisting patterns in the CMB polarization could just as easily be accounted for by dust in the Milky Way…. [W]hen the dust is fully accounted for, the signal that can be attributed to gravitational waves either vanishes or is greatly diminished (Cowen, 2014, emp. added).Theoretical physicist of New York University and the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, Raphael Flauger, examined the evidence and concluded that “there’s no evidence for the detection of gravitational waves” (as quoted in Cowen, 2014, emp. added). Based on two independent analyses of the evidence, Nature concluded, “The astronomers who earlier this year announced that they had evidence of primordial gravitational waves jumped the gun” (Cowen, 2014, emp. added). In Nature, theoretical physicist and professor at Princeton Paul Steinhardt said that “serious flaws in the analysis have been revealed that transform the sure detection into no detection” (2014). In an October follow-up, Nature reported in an editorial titled “Dust to Dust,”
More than six months after the initial announcement that scientists had found evidence of gravitational waves—echoes of the Big Bang itself—the claim is hanging by a thread. Subsequent analysis showed that much of the signal could have been contaminated by galactic dust. The predictions of Nobel prizes for the team have faded. The champagne has gone flat. Extraordinary claims, as the saying almost goes, demand more scrutiny than usual to make sure they stand up (2014, emp. added).The other major science news magazines gradually weighed in as well, distancing themselves from the claims made by the researchers. In June, New Scientist had conducted an interview with Andrei Linde, who is credited as one of the originators of cosmic inflationary theory. Linde said “they were a bit over-optimistic, and claiming the discovery of gravitational waves may have been premature” (as quoted in Schilling, 2014, emp. added), although he was quick to allege that the growing skepticism about the gravitational waves discovery in no way disproves his theory of cosmic inflation. Then in October, 2014, New Scientist reported that the data results from the Planck telescope “suggest that dust could indeed account for the pattern BICEP2 detected” (Slezak, 2014). The article, titled “The Rise and Fall of Cosmic Inflation,” stated, “Inflation is dead, long live inflation! The very results hailed this year as demonstrating a consequence of inflationary models of the universe…may now do the exact opposite. If the results can be trusted at all, they seemingly suggest inflation is wrong” (Slezak, emp. added). David Parkinson of the University of Queensland in Australia studied the waves to determine if they were the correct kind of waves to fit inflationary theory and discovered that they were not. “Contrary to what the BICEP2 collaboration said initially, Parkinson’s analysis suggests that the BICEP2 results, if legitimate, actually rule out any reasonable form of inflationary theory. ‘What inflation predicted was actually the reverse of what we found,’ says Parkinson” (as quoted in Slezak, emp. added). Not good for the Big Bang Theory, which relies on inflation to fix the Horizon and Flatness problems inherent in naturalistic cosmological theories.
In September, American Scientist chimed in, reporting that
cosmologists say the much-heralded claim may have been premature. The findings, if true, would provide the first direct observational evidence for cosmic inflation, a theory that posits that the universe expanded exponentially during the first fractions of a second of its existence…. New observations indicate that the team may have underestimated polarization from relatively nearby dust in our galaxy. Some or all of the signal originally attributed to primordial gravitational waves could be due to effects of local dust (Burke, 2014, emp. added).Also in September, Science ran an article titled “Evidence for Cosmic Inflation Wanes,” with the sub-title, “The biggest result in cosmology in a decade fades into dust” (Cho, 2014, emp. added). In the issue, Princeton cosmologist David Spergel said, “We’ve gone from ‘They can’t prove that it isn’t dust’ to ‘It’s probably dust’” (as quoted in Cho). Cosmologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland Charles Bennett, mercifully said, “They just got overenthusiastic, but it’s tough to know when you really have something” (as quoted in Cho, emp. added).
Nature, New Scientist, American Scientist, Science, and finally, Scientific American jumped into the fray, reporting in October concerning the alleged gravitational waves discovery that
in the intervening months, the Planck satellite has reported new measurements that indicate the Milky Way may contain more dust than assumed by the BICEP2 team. Several groups have…concluded that it is possible that dust could reproduce all (or most of) the claimed BICEP2 polarization signal. Although these developments have dampened the exuberance of many in the physics community regarding the BICEP2 result, the BICEP2 team stands by its estimates—but it now admits that it cannot rule out a dust explanation (Krauss, 2014, p. 66, emp. added).The printers were relatively silent over the next few months until late January, 2015, when Nature announced the official demise of the gravitational waves discovery under the title, “Gravitational Waves Discovery Now Officially Dead” (Cowen, 2015, emp. added). The team of astronomers that thought they had found the waves withdrew their claim, acknowledging that what they thought was gravitational waves from the Big Bang “can be entirely attributed to dust in the Milky Way rather than having a more ancient, cosmic origin” (Cowen, emp. added).
What Can Be Learned From This Debacle?It was fun while it lasted,” New Scientist reported in February (McKee, 2015), but what do we learn from the bumpy ride? At the risk of beating a dead horse, let us say yet again: the modern scientific (i.e., naturalistic) community and the liberal media are consistently rash in their claims to have found evidence for naturalistic theories,
and sadly, the general populace is quick to believe whatever they say. By the time the retraction is made, the damage is done. Mainstream Americans, whose attention spans are shockingly short due to the many distractions in our lives, have already moved on, believing that the truth has been officially determined. Many times, the “truth” being proclaimed is contrary to the Bible. The result: more and more individuals distrust the Bible, when all the while, the story that instigated the disbelief was wrong in the first place.
Even the evolutionary scientific community has had to admit its rashness in this instance. In September, 2014, Science reported, “A beleaguered claim that appeared to reveal the workings of the big bang may instead say more about how science is done in an age of incessant news coverage” (Cho). Science, which was one of the first to announce the alleged discovery, proceeded to pass the blame to the researchers. “Some researchers say the BICEP team made its result seem much stronger than it was by announcing it in a press conference and a press release that proclaimed the ‘first direct evidence of cosmic inflation’” (Cho). The BICEP2 team returned fire, arguing that they “felt pressure from the media to stake a definite claim, [University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, cosmologist Clement] Pryke says: ‘They’re trying to translate this into something that the public can understand, and they want a yes or no’” (Cho). In line with what we have long argued, Steinhardt concurred: “The sudden reversal should make the scientific community contemplate the implications for the future of cosmology experimentation and theory” (2014). Chiding the irresponsibility of the scientific community and the media for their rashness in reporting the gravitational waves discovery, he admonished that next time,
announcements should be made after submission to journals and vetting by expert referees. If there must be a press conference, hopefully the scientific community and the media will demand that it is accompanied by a complete set of documents, including details of the systematic analysis and sufficient data to enable objective verification (2014).We are not holding our breath that the scientific community will listen to his admonitions. First, it is critical that researchers and media gain attention for their discoveries or stories if they want to gain grant money, Nobel Prizes, or Pulitzers (and fame). And second, if solid, empirical evidence were required for every claim made by naturalists, the majority of evolutionary biological information would cease to exist, as well as all of Big Bang cosmology, modern paleoanthropology, and uniformitarian geology. Nature, acknowledging the blunder by the media in how the supposed discovery was handled, but simultaneously claiming innocence, reported a meeting in October of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, at which a panel of scientists and journalists would “search for ‘lessons learned by scientists and science writers involved with the BICEP2’ story” (“Dust to Dust,” p. 274).
After citing the official retraction by the BICEP2 team, New Scientist summarized the state of Big Bang inflation as it currently stands:
The discovery of the apparent gravitational waves was hailed as the “smoking gun” for a theory that the infant universe experienced an epic growth spurt known as inflation. Physicists popped corks in elation and dreamed of a Nobel prize. But 11 months later, this smoking gun has itself gone up in smoke, and researchers are nursing a hangover. “We are pretty much back to where we were before,” says Alan Guth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who proposed the theory of inflation in 1981 (McKee, 2015).So where were we before?
In the midst of the fray in 2014, Paul Steinhardt, “who helped develop inflationary theory but is now a scathing critic of it” (Slezak), wrote a stinging critique of inflation and its alleged evidence from the gravitational waves. He argued that “[p]remature hype over gravitational waves highlights gaping holes in models for the origins and evolution of the Universe” (Steinhardt, 2014). He said,
The BICEP2 incident has also revealed a truth about inflationary theory. The common view is that it is a highly predictive theory. If that was the case and the detection of gravitational waves was the “smoking gun” proof of inflation, one would think that non-detection means that the theory fails. Such is the nature of normal science. Yet some proponents of inflation who celebrated the BICEP2 announcement already insist that the theory is equally valid whether or not gravitational waves are detected. How is this possible? The answer given by proponents is alarming: the inflationary paradigm is so flexible that it is immune to experimental and observational tests…. [T]he paradigm of inflation is unfalsifiable…. [I]t is clear that the inflationary paradigm is fundamentally untestable, and hence scientifically meaningless (2014, emp. added).And that, folks, is the state of inflationary theory—and, we might add, the Big Bang Theory, upon which it rests.
REFERENCESAfshordi, Niayesh, Robert B. Mann, and Razieh Pourhasan (2014), “The Black Hole at the Beginning of Time,” Scientific American, 311:36-43, August.
Burke, Katie (2014), “Big Bang Breakthrough Disputed,” American Scientist, 102:329, September-October.
Cho, Adrian (2014), “Evidence for Cosmic Inflation Wanes,” Science, 345:1547, September 26.
Cho, Adrian and Yudhijit Bhattacharjee (2014), “First Wrinkles in Spacetime Confirm Cosmic Inflation,” Science, 343:1296-1297, March 21.
Clark, Stuart (2014), “The End of the Beginning,” New Scientist, 222:32-35, April 26.
Cowen, Ron (2014), “Big Bang Finding Challenged,” Nature, 510:20, June 5.
Cowen, Ron (2015), “Gravitational Waves Discovery Now Officially Dead,” Nature.com, January 30, http://www.nature.com/news/gravitational-waves-discovery-now-officially-dead-1.16830.
“Dust to Dust” (2014), Nature, Editorial, 514:273-274, October 16.
Krauss, Lawrence M. (2014), “A Beacon from the Big Bang,” Scientific American, 311:58-67, October.
Landau, Elizabeth (2014), “Big Bang Breakthrough Announced; Gravitational Waves Detected,” CNNTech On-line, March 18, http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/17/tech/innovation/big-bang-gravitational-waves/.
McKee, Maggie (2015), “Big Bang Discovery Crumbles to Dust,” New Scientist, 225:10, February 7.
Miller, Jeff (2014), “Was the Big Bang Just Proven by Astronomers?” Reason & Revelation, 34:81-83, June, http://apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1156.
Overbye, Dennis (2014), “Space Ripples Reveal Big Bang’s Smoking Gun,” New York Times On-line, March 17, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/18/science/space/detection-of-waves-in-space-buttresses-landmark-theory-of-big-bang.html?_r=0.
Schilling, Govert (2014), “Making Cosmic Waves,” One Minute Interview, New Scientist, 222:27, June 21.
“Scientists Find Cosmic Ripples from Birth of Universe” (2014), Fox News On-line, March 17, http://www.foxnews.com/science/2014/03/17/major-discovery-smoking-gun-for-big-bang-expansion-found/.
Slezak, Michael (2014), “The Rise and Fall of Cosmic Inflation,” New Scientist, 224:8, October 4.
Steinhardt, Paul (2014), “Big Bang Blunder Bursts the Multiverse Bubble,” Nature, 510:9, June 5.
“Theory No More? Scientists Make ‘Big Bang’ Breakthrough with Find” (2014), Fox News Mobile, March 18, http://www.foxnews.mobi/quickPage.html?page=22995&external=2582508.proteus.fma#quickPage_html_page_22995_content_102688773_pageNum_2.
Vergano, Dan (2014), “Big Bang’s ‘Smoking Gun’ Confirms Early Universe’s Exponential Growth,” National Geographic Daily News, March 17, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/14/140317-big-bang-gravitational-waves-inflation-science-space/#.UymgsYXDWRg.
Cows, Kids, and CO2
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The fundamental fallacy of the modern environmental movement is its inherent denial of supernaturalism and metaphysical reality. Rather than acknowledging that the entire Universe was created by the transcendent God of the Bible, Who both prepared and perpetuates the Earth for human habitation (Genesis 1:1-2:19; 8:22; Hebrews 11:3), the environmental movement posits an eternal Universe that must be protected and preserved by humans in order for life to continue. The future of the Earth is viewed as dependent on mankind. If man damages the fragile environment, he is hastening its imminent demise.
It was one thing for those young people who embraced this perspective to march in the streets in the 1960s and promote their wacky ideas. But now that they have moved into powerful political positions, their ideas permeate policy and literally wreak havoc on people’s lives. First it was the “deadly” ozone-depleting hairspray aerosols. Then it was the evil internal combustion engine. Two recent instances demonstrate the absurd extent to which environmentalists are willing to go.
A 400-page United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization report has identified rapidly growing herds of cattle as the greatest threat to the environment (Lean, 2006). We are told that the 1.5 billion cattle of the Earth are responsible for 18% of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming—more than cars, planes, and all other forms of transportation combined. More than a third of the greenhouse gas, methane (which warms the world 20 times faster than carbon dioxide), is emitted by cows and their manure. And it’s not just methane, since cattle also produce more than 100 other polluting gases, including more than two-thirds of the world’s emissions of ammonia—one of the main causes of acid rain (Lean, 2006). That’s right, gaseous expulsions by cows do more to damage the planet than cars. The environmentalists are beside themselves.
But it doesn’t stop there. While it is common for environmentalists to blame mankind as the prime perpetrator of environmental destruction, now one environmentalist insists that, more specifically, children are significant culprits in the human assault on the natural order. Parents, we are told, should limit their offspring to no more than two children in order to reduce carbon dioxide output. The report published by the environmentalist group, Optimum Population Trust, insists that the greatest thing one could do to help the future of the planet would be to have one less child (Templeton, 2007).
The arrogance of measly man thinking he can control the forces of nature by his paltry tinkering with the created order—as if he even had the knowledge and wisdom to do so. Ultimately, this feeble, faltering faux pas manifests willful ignorance and a lack of faith in the Creator. The environmentalists need a healthy dose of spiritual reality—the same one Job received when he thought it necessary to question God’s superintendence of the Universe:
Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me! Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, who set its measurements, since you know? ...You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!....Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it.... Then I will also confess to you, that your own right hand can save you (Job 38:2-5,21; 40:2,14, emp. added).If there is no God and evolution is true, then humans are no more valuable than rocks, cockroaches—and, yes, cows. So if we really want to get serious about saving the planet, simply kill all the cows and kids. When humans eliminate God from their thinking and jettison the biblical worldview, insanity begins to sound sensible. That’s the real “inconvenient truth.”
Templeton, Sarah-Kate (2007), “Children ‘Bad for Planet,’” The Australian, May 7, [On-line], URL: http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,21684156-5009760,00.html#.
GOD, GUNS & BIBLE STUDIESWhoever first said it spoke the truth: “To every complex question there’s a simple answer and it’s always wrong!” We acknowledge the truth of that every time we shake our heads when we hear someone say about some critical social problem, “All we have to do is…” .
David Hume, the 18th century Empiricist (died 1776) said what looks like complete nonsense until you give him a hearing on his empiricist terms. He said something to this effect, “We say sugar is sweet and water is wet only because we are too lazy to pursue the matter.” He insisted that we experience what we call sweetness and wetness but we don’t experience the substances themselves—what we experience is our body’s response to water and sugar. Physicist and mathematician, Bertrand Russell, said: “John Locke made Empiricism credible but inconsistent; Hume made it consistent but incredible.” Scientists continue to ignore him but they never deal with him and his work on “causation” though their entire work is built on empiricism (the witness of the physical senses).
All right, so you’ve had enough of that. Hume himself got fed up with it every now and then and, he said, he went and played backgammon with his friends. But the questions are not without interest and importance—at least some of them are important.
What’s a wooden chair made of? Wood! What’s wood made of? Atoms! And what are atoms made of? Nucleons! And what are they made of? And on we go (beyond alleged “dark matter” and “dark energy”) until we have “string theory” as the alleged “explanation of everything.” Keep on breaking these down until there is nothing there to break down—until the ultimate form of matter no form at all—it no longer exists. It’s then that the biblical claim comes into its own—matter/energy exists as nothing other than the will of God 1.
The biblical doctrine of creation is more than that God created everything at some point called “the beginning”; its claim is that it continues to exist because he continues to will it to exist. Furthermore, he didn’t make it out of pre-existing material; he willed the material into existence and continues to will it to continue to exist. Matter doesn’t have a material basis—its existence is the result of someone willing it to exist! It’s what physicist James Jeans is said many years ago to have likened it to, the expression of a mind.
If science came up with the ultimate microscope they’d turn and look at each other and say, “There’s nothing material there to see or measure or describe.” At that point those shaped by the Hebrew—Christian Scriptures (without a sneer or a jeer, we hope) would say, “That’s because matter is the expression of God’s mind and will. He simply wills it to be and that you can’t measure with microscopes or mathematical formulations.”
I mention the above only to make the point that everything, no exceptions, ends in mystery and there’s nothing more mysterious than the God who has revealed himself ultimately in the one Christians call the Lord Jesus Christ.
And why did God want there to be something (including humans) other than himself? Psalm 136 would offer the direction we should go but let me move on from there and take that for granted.
God chose to create humans. In creating humans he created them to image him. 2 It doesn’t matter that we as a human family chose not to and choose not to—as a human family that is the destiny and commission God created us with. Once more, the fact that we—as a human family—have not chosen and do not choose to live as his image does not obliterate the truth of why he created us and the commission imbedded in that creation purpose. He made us to image him whether we will do it or not!
But what kind of creature did he create when he created us? To what kind of creature did he give the destiny and commission to image him? Out of joy-filled love and fellowship in the Land of the Trinity God chose to share that quality of life with beings he would create; he would look at the earth and see humans live in joy and righteousness and unity—in that he would see himself imaged. He chose to create beings with the capacity to freely choose and why he chose to do that precisely (rather than another kind of being) is an interesting question but it’s not a question he chose to answer. In light of the biblical witness the one thing we’re certain of is this: his motivation is love and his purpose was to be worked out in the long term (see Colossians 1:15-16, where all things were created for Christ as well as in and by him).
God wasn’t ignorant of what his free-choosing human family would choose.
If he knew that the human family would refuse to image him why did he create them? This is another interesting question but it’s not a question he chose to answer. Being a Creator Father he chose to do so. It’s vitally important that we keep in mind that the Holy Father is not revealed as a tyrant! Nor is he revealed in the Bible as one whose single and ultimate center, behind and shaping everything else about him, is raw will; he is not a God of hyper-Calvinism whose final and all-encompassing word is: “I am God and because I am God I will do as I choose—that is what being God means.” 3
God has chosen to work among and with free-choosing humans. His purposes prior to creating humans are geared to work with the creatures he has created. He didn’t create free-choosing humans and then make decrees as if they were puppets nor has he chosen to allow them to be free-choosing humans but to cleverly “work around” their freedom so that in fact they have no God-given freedom.
As long as God chooses humans to be humans (which is what he created and means to bring to glory through Jesus Christ) his eternal decrees work within that purpose; they take into account humans as truly human; he did not and does not work with humans as if they were not humans. When he came in and as Jesus to redeem humans and bring his creation purpose to a glorious finale he came as one “made in the likeness of sinful flesh.” 4
So when we hear God’s truths in texts like Daniel 4:32 & 7:2 that God gives authority to whoever he chooses we’re not to suppose he cancels the humanity of humans—he superintends the movements of humans and gains his purpose through their purposes. 5
Governments and structures that shape the communal life of people were God’s gifts to the human family 6 and they function within and are experienced through the exercise of human freedom. 7 When a psalmist says, “God is good” he often has in mind the blessings of life and peace and prosperity but doesn’t stop to explain that God’s goodness is expressed through wise and God-fearing leadership, wise farming methods 8 and so forth. You understand that these realities are also expressions of God’s goodness but he doesn’t open skulls and pours in information—he works with humans as the creatures he made.
When a psalmist groans under oppression (as multiplied millions even now groan) and wonders where God is there’s nothing mysterious about his agony but in his pain he forgets that God works with humans as humans—of course the psalmist at that moment isn’t interested in philosophy or theology! Where oppression, in all its many forms, exists we have the distortion of human freedom, we have powerful humans rejecting their destiny and commission—they refuse to live in the image of God.
This kind of talk settles nothing but that’s not surprising—it didn’t settle matters for prophets and psalmists who were devoted servants of God; they too wanted to know why God wasn’t doing something about oppressive evil. But even prophets are humans and they feel pain.
It’s a mistake to think that that military tyrants or political villains were born that way. In the beginning they were innocent babies like everyone else and then the world they grew up in shaped them, their DNA and their nurture and their environment pushed and pulled and persuaded them and when the moment arrived they acted as another member of the sinful family—and they exercised their moral freedom to choose in a way that rejected why they were created. They rejected their destiny and commission to be the image of that God, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. To be the image of God wasn’t enough—like the rest of the human family they chose to be a god 9 only they gained power beyond what the rank and file of us ever had reason to imagine for ourselves.
A young man walks into a Bible study and takes the lives of his fellow-humans. He is responsible for his action and must be held accountable for it but such an action could not have happened in a world where the human family lived as the image of God. The killer didn’t grow up out of the ground like a toadstool in some dark cave and then stumble into the light like a vicious terminator.
There was a time when the parents rejoiced at his arrival, smiled over him and cared for him, then as he grew he heard and saw things in school, at work, in literature, online, movies, from friends, video-games, politics, government, shrewd banking, militia in foreign lands and war—war, where killing violence was felt to be the “final solution” (and good arguments were made to support that view). These and more (name them) and we have the makings of a murderer; these and more and we have another currently interesting case where human moral freedom is corrupted and corrupting; another event that will be forgotten by the media in a month or so.
Now we’re hearing (yes!) of believers who are talking about the “heat” they're packing while in their Bible classes; 10 now we have believers with weapons holstered under their jackets while in the presence of Christ they worship his Father. To hell with the next stranger who carrying a gun walks into an assembly gathered for worship. The days of Christians walking into arenas singing are long gone. The cross-carrying business is confined to God's unique Son; it has nothing to do with his sons and daughters now. Long before the South Carolina wickedness believers were "packing heat" to worship places and eating the bread and drinking the wine of God's self-giving. I'm well aware that killers can walk into assemblies--it happened more than once when the "troubles" were at their height at home in Ireland. But what are the odds of it happening? I know policemen who leave their "heat" in a safe and secure place when they enter to Supper with the uplifted Christ. They simply can't pack heat (on the off-chance that...) while they hear the Eucharistic word of Christ who "ON THE NIGHT WHEN HE WAS BETRAYED" took bread...and said, This is my body which is given for you." I'm not attempting to "settle" anything here; I'm not even offering an opinion at this point. But is there not something incongruous about eating and drinking that bread and wine in that setting and having a weapon prepared and a heart willing to kill. I have in mind the societal ethos that enables us to even joke about putting the would-be killer down (as I read on a blog very recently). AND THEN the South Carolina city leads the nation in an entirely different direction.
(Is it easy to draw a distinction between what a soldier is doing in Afghanistan with his/her weapon and what a man/woman at home will do with his/hers? Sure, some differences are obvious enough but is the underlying and basic philosophy different?)
Then there’s this. Some of those who suffered the murderous loss of loved ones have spoken forgiveness to the murderer. And I heard more than once from readers, asking if the forgiving ones had the moral right to offer forgiveness to someone who has yet to express even the slightest remorse. I understand the generalized theological question but isn’t it marvelous that the ones who suffer the agony of the loss offer forgiveness and those who suffer no such agony are questioning the morality of the offer?
(To be continued perhaps, God enabling)
1. John1:1-2; Colossians 1:15-16, 17; Revelation 4:11
2. Genesis 1:26-27; James 3:9
3. There are those who quote Romans 9:20-22 claiming that the text supports that view of God . Read for yourself Isaiah 29:13-16 and then Romans 3:3-8 and get the sense of Paul’s point. Paul speaks (as does Isaiah whom he quotes) of people bent on evil and God making use of them in their evil to gain his holy and loving purpose. John Piper, following his hero, Johnathan Edwards, insists that the essence of God—what makes God God is his sovereign will; God’s choosing/willing must be isolated from all else as the definition of “Godness”. Islam shares a similar viewpoint. God’s essence, Piper holds, is a single and solitary thing—he wills! Nothing else makes God to be God. Other things can be said about God but they are beside the point if we want to know what God's essence is. If you stripped away everything else (his love, compassion, mercy, grace, righteousness and so forth) you would discover the center of God, the thing that makes God God—he wills. This isn't based on texts, of course; it's philosophy and logic. You don't read the Bible and learn about God as God. You go to it with a philosophy and logic and rad the Bible in light of that. That might not be a bad thing unless your philosophy is false and that philosophy and that form of hyper-Calvinism are false.
4. Romans 8:3
5. Genesis 37:11-36; 45:5-8 illustrates this well and see Acts 2:23
6. Colossians 1:16-17; Romans 13:1-7
7. The question of “free will” is another complex question. The idea that free will is an absolute is clearly untrue. There are things we will not will because being humans it makes no sense to will but beyond that there are limits to our freedom. Our make-up, our nurture and environment shape us and either diminish or enrich our thought and feeling and behavior so that what we will think or want to choose is shaped. People living in abject poverty and with children starving will be driven to sell a child to feed the others, or sell a child’s kidney to keep the others alive (after the mother has sold one of her own perhaps). We use the word “choice” in such circumstances—“she chose to sell the child’s organ” but the word “choice” doesn’t mean the same thing as it means in other settings. I need to leave the discussion here but write me if you wish to further pursue the matter.
8. See Isaiah 28:23-39 that tells us that even the wisdom of a farmer comes from God.
9. Genesis 3:4-5
10. Think of Peter “packing his heat” (a sword) during or after the Supper and Jesus telling him, “Get rid of that thing!” And Jesus telling Pilate, “My kingdom isn’t established (or sustained) with weapons as yours is.” John 18:36
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.