"THE FLESH AND THE SPIRIT" The Fruit Of The Spirit - Peace INTRODUCTION 1. Another grace experienced by those whose lives are in tune with the Spirit of God is that of "peace" - Ga 5:22 2. That the Spirit of God should induce peace in the children of God should be understandable in light of the fact that... a. Their heavenly Father is "the God of peace" - 1Th 5:23 b. Their Lord Jesus Christ is called "Prince of peace" - Isa 9:6 3. But one might ask... a. What is this "peace" enjoyed by those who walk in the Spirit? b. How does one come to have this peace? c. How we can be sure to preserve this peace, and enjoy it to its fullest extent? [As we continue our study of "The Flesh And The Spirit", and especially as we focus on "the fruit of the Spirit" (Ga 5:22-23), we now turn our attention to the subject of peace...] I. DEFINING "PEACE" A. PEACE IS SOMETIMES DEFINED IN NEGATIVE TERMS... 1. As though peace were simply the absence of conflict 2. For example... a. "The only condition of peace in this world is to have no ideas, or, at least, not to express them." (OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES) b. "He knows peace who has forgotten desire" (THE BHAGAVAD GITA) B. A BIBLICAL DEFINITION OF PEACE INCLUDES POSITIVE ELEMENTS... 1. The Greek word is eirene, which is defined as: a. "peace between individuals, i.e., harmony, concord" (THAYER) b. "acc. to a conception distinctly peculiar to the N.T., the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is" (THAYER) 2. So rather than simply an absence of conflict, the peace God provides is... a. A condition positive in nature a. In which there is active fellowship, harmony and concord between individuals [Having defined peace as a blessing that ought to be desired and enjoyed by all, let's consider what the Bible has to say about...] II. THE SOURCE OF THIS PEACE A. IT COMES FROM JESUS, WHO CAME TO BRING PEACE... 1. It was prophesied He would be the "Prince of peace" - Isa 9:6-7 2. When He came, He came preaching peace - Ac 10:36 3. Indeed, He offers peace... a. That the world is not able to give - Jn 14:27 b. That one can possess even in the midst of tribulation - Jn 16:33 B. THE PEACE JESUS BRINGS INVOLVES... 1. Peace with God - Ro 5:1-11 a. Which comes when we are "justified by faith" - Ro 5:1 b. Which is accompanied with rejoicing and love, even in tribulation - Ro 5:2-5 c. Which is made possible by the loving sacrifice of Jesus' blood - Ro 5:6-9 d. And continues by virtue of His resurrected life - Ro 5: 10-11; e.g., He 7:25 2. Peace with man - Ep 2:11-22 a. Jew and Gentile, once alienated from one another, can be at peace in Jesus Christ - Ep 2:11-14 b. Made possible through the same act which makes peace with God: the death of Jesus Christ! - Ep 2:15-16 c. Thus Jesus has come preaching peace to all mankind - Ep 2:17 d. The wonders of this peace are described as Paul continues... 1) A peace that allows access by one Spirit to the Father - Ep 2:18 2) A peace where all can be fellow-citizens with the saints - Ep 2:19a 3) A peace where all can be members of the family of God - Ep 2:19b 4) A peace where all can be a temple in the Lord, a habitation of God in the Spirit - Ep 2:20-22 3. Peace with self a. Peace within one's own self is mostly a by-product... 1) Of being at peace with God 2) Of being at peace with those around us -- So when Jesus brings us peace with God and man (see above), peace within naturally follows! b. But there is a peace, one that blesses the soul from within... 1) It comes from God 2) It surpasses all understanding 3) It serves as a fortress to guard our hearts and minds ...and it comes through Christ Jesus! - Php 4:7 [When one is in Christ Jesus, enjoying the blessings of justification, along with reconciliation with both God and man, peace is a natural by-product. But is there anything we can and should be doing to preserve the peace we have from God in Christ Jesus? Indeed there is...] III. PRESERVING OUR PEACE A. MAINTAINING PEACE WITH GOD AND SELF REQUIRES... 1. Keeping our minds set on God - cf. Isa 26:3 2. Loving God's word, and heeding His commandments - Ps 119:165; Isa 48:18; cf. Jn 14:23 3. Being diligent in prayer - Php 4:6-7 4. Filling our mind with spiritual thoughts - Php 4:8-9; cf. Ro 8:5-8 B. MAINTAINING PEACE WITH ONE ANOTHER REQUIRES... 1. Being at peace with God first - cf. Pr 16:7 a. How can we hope to make peace with others when we are not at peace within? b. Making peace with God gives us the peace within whereby we are in a better position to make peace with others! 2. A concentrated effort to "pursue" peace - cf. 1Pe 3:8-12 a. Peace must be sought and pursued - 1Pe 3:11 b. Peter mentions some of the qualities necessary - 1Pe 3:8-9 1) Being of one mind 2) Having compassion for one another 3) Love as brothers, tenderhearted, and courteous 4) Not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but responding with a blessing -- Only then can we expect to "love life and see good days"! - 1Pe 3:10 3. Please note that the pursuit of peace does not require compromise of truth a. For the wisdom that is from above is "first pure, then peaceable..." - Jm 3:17 b. But if we wish to bear the fruit of righteousness, it must be "sown in peace by those who make peace"! - Jm 3:18 CONCLUSION 1. Let us never forget that Jesus, as the Prince of peace... a. Came preaching peace b. Died on the cross to make peace possible with God, man, and self c. Is the conduit through which God now grants peace to man, as pronounced the night He was born - cf. Lk 2:11-14 2. Indeed, the element of peace is a key feature of His kingdom - cf. Ro 14:17-19 a. We should therefore "let the peace of God rule in our hearts" - Col 3:15 b. And allow Jesus to give us His peace as expressed in this prayer: "Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all." (2Th 3:16) Do you wish to ensure that the Lord is always with you, that you might experience that "peace which surpasses all understanding"? Then heed what Jesus Himself said to His disciples shortly before ascending into heaven... - cf. Mt 28:18-20
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011
Is There a Place for Science and Faith in a Postmodern World?
|by||Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.|
The minds of many Christians today harbor an interesting mixture of premodern and modern ways of thinking. For example, we know we have one foot planted squarely in the premodern world when we express certainty in the promises of God, and accept the authority of His revelation. At the same time, we know we have the other foot planted squarely in the modern world when we use scientific reasoning to defend our faith, and when we encourage belief based on reasonable grounds, and a careful weighing of what others have to say.
The modern creation movement is itself a seething confluence of these two worlds. In Whitcomb and Morris’ The Genesis Flood (1961), we find an attempt to synthesize science with a literal understanding of the Bible. As far as they were able, the authors strove for scientific credibility by limiting divine interventions to those instances referred to explicitly by Scripture. In the end, however, the biblical text was to have the final say.
Modernism plays a greater role when consensus positions of science define a theological position. A fine example of such a project relevant to many of our readers can be found in the work of astronomer Hugh Ross. Implicit in Ross’ approach is the idea that the Big Bang provides the best scientific evidence available for the existence of a Creator-God. It would seem, from this perspective, that if Christians were to attack the Big Bang they would, in effect, be undermining their own faith and erecting barriers to the faith of others (Ross, 1991, pp. 163-164). Here is an apologetic that integrates entirely a modernistic agenda.
Traditionally, whether we have leaned toward premodern or modern ways of thinking, most of us in the West have cherished certain crucial ideas. These would include, for instance, the concept of truth—that there is a way to know that what is, is. It also would include the idea of an intelligible Universe—an idea that itself stems from the Christian view that we live in a world created by a rational, loving, intelligent Being. However, modern science eventually concluded that nature was the only thing we could understand—God was taken out of the picture altogether. Empiricism, in its extreme form, gave way to positivism, which writes off as nonsensical any utterances that include references to the nonempirical. To say, “God loves you,” is a meaningless noise in the ears of the positivist.
Postmodernism challenges Christianity and modernity because both claim to be “true” (Fields, 1995). For the postmodernist, truth neither is revealed (as it is in Scripture) nor is it discovered (as it is in science). That absolute truth and empirical science primarily are Western concepts is reason enough to reject their universal application. Different views of reality, held by other cultures, are no less true. If a tribe in Borneo believes that a certain ritual will cure a tumor, then who are Christians with their prayer, or Western doctors with their high-tech medicine, to tell them otherwise? In other words, truth is local and relative.
This immediately plunges the postmodernist into all sorts of difficulties. What would happen, for instance, if I were to claim that truth is absolute? If the postmodernist says I am wrong, then truth is not relative after all. If the postmodernist allows that I am right, then truth really is absolute as I claim.
Nonetheless, a limited idea of truth already is well ensconced in Western society, even if postmodernism’s greatest supporters are confined at present to a narrow segment of academia. There is no reason at this point to believe that such ideas will go away merely by closing our eyes. That Christian apologetics should have to reposition itself to this fresh challenge is nothing new. The first apologists used and responded to Greek philosophy, and the apologists of the modern era did the same with the arrival of empirical science.
Despite its horrible inconsistencies and rejection of traditional biblical faith, postmodern criticism could open certain doors for Christianity. Most important, it challenges positivism by asserting that empirical science does not have exclusive rights to truth. This move away from modernism may recover a place for a transcendent God (i.e, for something beyond nature).
Although hardly a postmodernist, this is precisely the tact taken by Berkeley law professor, Phillip E. Johnson (see, especially, his 1995 book, Reason in the Balance). Rather than affirming an overt belief in a Creator, he seeks official invitations from science and philosophy departments (still strongholds of modernism), in which he then challenges the supremacy of naturalism.
Creationists also have drawn upon works that critique the way science works (Numbers, 1992, p. 247). This is borne out of a sense of frustration that scientists, as a group, will not allow anybody else to join in unless they play by the rules of naturalism. It is on this point that the controversial work of Thomas Kuhn figures significantly.
In his Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn spoke of scientists as members of a community who hold to what he called a paradigm—a shared “constellation of beliefs, values, and techniques” (1970, p. 175). A revolution in the paradigm would be accomplished only by a process of conversion (when existing scientists accept new ideas on “faith”) or replacement (when a new generation takes over from the “old guard”). Here are elements that sound almost religious and political. Certainly it is not the picture of scientists always making an unimpassioned choice of the “best” theory. Dissenters may not have much of a say in this community, but they are not wrong merely because they disagree with the prevailing paradigm.
Many scientists who believe in a creation and global flood identify with this analysis. They feel that their dissent from majority opinions should not signal their expulsion from the community. Further, it is possible that science really may benefit from what they have to offer. For example, perhaps geology should consider the possibility of global catastrophes; perhaps anatomy should investigate “vestigial” organs and structures, rather than writing them off as useless remnants of previous evolutionary stages; and perhaps questions of origins should at least include the possibility that the answer may lie beyond nature itself.
Postmodernists have raised objections in other areas of interest to the believing scientist. For example, in the field of medical technology, some have questioned whether researchers should do anything merely because it is possible. In 1993, Robert Stillman and Jerry Hall reported the “cloning” (test-tube twinning) of human embryos. Stillman received approval for this work from an institutional review board, but he neglected to tell the board that the work already had been done because he thought it would “bias their judgment” (Science, 1994, 266:1949). Earlier, Hall admitted that pushing the ethical envelope was a prime motivation for doing the experiment (Kolberg, 1996, 262:652). Today, this aspect of modernism—pursuing the truth at any cost, regardless of what the rest of society thinks—seems terribly arrogant to many people outside of science. Christians can enter the discussion by upholding concern for others and valuing life itself.
On a similar vein, postmodernism perceives technology as driving a wedge between humanity and nature. Christians may be able to explain this sense of detachment by showing that while technology is useful, it is necessary only because sin separated us from an ideal state in which the first man and woman worked intimately with nature and in communion with God (Genesis 2:8; 3:8). Humans were granted a very special place in the order of things, but their role is one of stewardship, not exploitation (Genesis 2:15). Further, humans are uniquely situated to experience the wonders of creation in the world around them (Psalm 8).
It is too early to announce a winner in the debate between modernism and postmodernism. Christians may end up benefiting from the exchange, but there are some pitfalls to avoid. Principally, Christians should not feel compelled to defend the prevailing views of any historical period. Their prime concern is to preach Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). To depend on, rather than judiciously employ, the tools of culture is to make the Faith vulnerable to the sort of attacks leveled by postmodernism against systems established on its older rivals. If modernism really is adopted as the “Christian” way of thinking about our Universe, with God playing less and less of a role in His creation, then Christianity may fail to transcend culture. In something so impermanent as culture there is no foundation for concepts such as eternal truth (Psalm 119:52).
What would really happen to Ross’ apologetics if (and this is not a very big “if ”) the Big Bang were relegated to the trash heap of unfashionable scientific theories? Is this to be the best solution that theism can offer after more than two centuries of wrangling over faith and science? Perhaps Ross will succeed in reaching fellow modernists, but what will it tell them about God, and what will it do for the rest of society? In fact, we already have had ample lessons to teach us that matters of faith should not rest on prevailing scientific opinion. Few Christians today, for instance, would take up the cudgels for something like geocentrism. Surely scientific knowledge can grow, and benefit humanity, without dictating the content of religious belief.
Finally, if Christians expect to use the methods and findings of science as a testament to the Creator, then they must take care not to diminish the possibility of doing good science. There is always room for taking a second look at how science works, but making a mockery of it may confuse the real issue (i.e., questioning the assumptions and interpretations of the scientists themselves). Science arguably is the greatest tool bequeathed to us by the modern period. It is no friend of theism in its positivistic guise, but the master whose hands have been bitten should, nonetheless, foster those worthy aspects of science that may be used in the service of faith.
Johnson, Phillip E. (1995), Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law, and Education (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity).
Kolberg, Rebecca (1993), “Human Embryo Cloning Reported,” Science, 262:652-653, October 29.
Kuhn, Thomas S. (1970), The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, second edition).
Numbers, Ronald (1992), The Creationists (New York: Alfred A. Knopf).
Ross, Hugh (1991), The Fingerprint of God (Orange, CA: Promise, second edition).
Science (1994), “Embryo Cloners Jumped the Gun,” 266:1949, December 23.
Whitcomb, John C., and Henry M. Morris (1961), The Genesis Flood (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Geography as the Most Important Predictor of Religion?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.A.|
Seven and a half minutes into his 10-minute rebuttal speech during our February 12, 2009 Darwin Day debate, Dan Barker noted that “there are other reasons besides reason and truth that people come to their faith.” He continued:
The most obvious one is geography. Geography is the greatest single predictor of what religion a person will have. If you were born in Baghdad, you can pretty much predict what religion that person will have. If you were born in Tennessee, you can pretty much predict what kind of person you are going to be with your religion, generally. It’s the highest predictor (Butt and Barker, 2009).While it may be true that geography is the highest predictor of a person’s religion, it is important to understand what Barker is trying to say and why it has no bearing on the truth of the proposition that God exists. The implication is that if most people in an area hold a certain religious belief, then the mere fact that it is the “traditional” belief of that area should cast disparaging light on the belief, or at least should call into question the honesty and intellectual rigor of those who hold the belief.
When Barker’s statement is studied critically, however, it becomes apparent that his point is moot. So what if the biggest predictor of a person’s religion is geography? Does that mean that when geography is the biggest predictor of those who will hold a certain belief, then that belief is false? If that were the case, we could simply lump atheism in with all other “religions” and say that geography is the single biggest predictor of whether a person will claim atheism. Polls indicate that those born in China or the former Soviet Union, and certain other areas of Europe, are much more likely to be atheists than other areas of the globe (“Major Religions of the World...,” 2007). So what does that mean about atheism? We are forced by rationality to agree that it means nothing, other than the fact that most people, including atheists, adopt the beliefs of the people nearest to them. It says nothing whatever about the truth of the beliefs.
Suppose we were to suggest that geography is the single biggest predictor of whether a person will know his or her multiplication tables by age 12? Would that mean that all those who learned their “times tables” hold an incorrect view of the world? Of course not. Would it mean that the local knowledge of multiplication casts suspicion on the truth of the math being done? No. It has absolutely no bearing on the accuracy of the multiplication tables. Again, suppose that we said that geography is the single most important indicator of whether a person understands how germs are passed. Does that mean that all those people who wash their hands because that is “what their mothers taught them about germs” have been taught wrong? Certainly not.
In truth, everyone knows that geography has nothing to do with truth claims. Is it the case that truth seekers often break away from their culturally held beliefs, forsake false ideas, and embrace the truth that God exists, the Bible is His Word, and Jesus is His Son? Yes. It is also true that many forsake the cultural truths that they were taught as children, reject the reality of God’s existence, and exchange that belief for false worldviews like atheism and agnosticism. Yes, that happens as well.
In logic, there is a common fallacy known as a “red herring.” The term comes from the idea of dragging a fish across an animal’s scent trail in an attempt to throw the hounds off the scent. In logic, a “red herring” is a device used to divert the attention of the audience from the real point that is being addressed. When we look at Barker’s use of the “geography” idea, something smells very fishy.
“Major Religions of the World Ranked by Number of Adherents” (2007), [On-line]: URL: http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html#Nonreligious.
Biomimicry, Butterflies, and Bank Fraud
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
From cocklebur-inspired Velcro® to robotic lobsters, scientists are increasingly looking to imitate the wonders of life. In the field of biomimicry (derived from the Greek words bios, meaning “life,” and mimesis, meaning “to imitate”) scientists, researchers, and engineers worldwide turn their attention to God’s creation to inspire new, intricately designed, man-made products to improve human life and solve various dilemmas.
Recently, professors Mathias Kolle and Ullrich Baumberg of the University of Cambridge studied the microscopic structures in the wing scales of the Swallowtail butterfly in hopes of mimicking its magnificent colors (see “Vivid...,” 2010). The colors of these tropical butterflies are strikingly bright because of the shape of the microscopic structures and because “they are made up of alternate layers of cuticle and air” (“Vivid...”). Amazingly, Kolle and Baumberg have been successful at making “structurally identical copies of the butterfly scales,” purportedly even with “the same vivid colours as the butterflies’ wings.” How exactly do Kolle and Baumberg believe these “color copies” could be used for the benefit of mankind? They believe the artificial structures “could be used to encrypt information in optical signatures on bank notes or other valuable items to protect them against forgery.... [W]e could see structures based on butterflies’ wings shining from a...note or even our passports.”
It is entirely appropriate for scientists to look to nature for the inspiration of their inventions. After all, “the whole Earth is full of His [God’s] glory” (Isaiah 6:3, emp. added). The infinite, omniscient Creator made marvelous, living creatures, including butterflies, for man to use, study, and learn from in this life (Genesis 1:28). Sadly, many scientists today refuse to consider the most important thing to be learned from all of the animals and plants they study and seek to imitate: they all declare the glory of God. Nature did not assemble itself (as Kolle proposed in his discussion of the Swallowtail butterfly). Mindless matter and the random, chance processes of evolution fail on every account to explain the intricate design of even the smallest of living creatures. The designs in nature that intelligent human beings seek to copy demand an adequate explanation; they demand a grand Designer.
For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God (Hebrews 3:4).
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20).
Deism, Atheism, and the Founders
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The standard claim by those who wish to minimize the role that Christianity has played in the establishment and propagation of American civilization is that the architects of American political institutions were deists and atheists who did not subscribe to religion in general or Christianity in particular. It is further claimed that they insisted that religion be confined to private life, excluded from public life, i.e., public schools and government. Of course, abundant proof exists to refute this outrageous, though widely believed, claim. But one must go back to the original documents—not history books written in the last fifty years—to allow the Founders to speak for themselves.
Were the Founders “deists”? A standard dictionary definition of the word is: “The belief, based solely on reason, in a God who created the universe and then abandoned it, assuming no control over life, exerting no influence on natural phenomena, and giving no supernatural revelation” (American Heritage..., 2000, p. 479). One would be hard-pressed to identify a Founder that fits this description. Indeed, the writings of the Founders are replete with their belief in and promotion of the Christian religion in its enlarged sense. Even Thomas Jefferson, who probably questioned the deity of Christ, nevertheless advocated and defended true Christianity. In a letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush on April 21, 1803, he wrote:
Dear Sir, In some of the delightful conversations with you, in the evenings of 1798-99, and which served as an anodyne to the afflictions of the crisis through which our country was then laboring, the Christian religion was sometimes our topic; and I then promised you, that one day or other, I would give you my views of it. They are the result of a life of inquiry & reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others (“The Thomas Jefferson Papers...,” n.d., emp. added).Among the small handful of those who were not particularly whetted to the Christian religion, Thomas Paine is conspicuous, especially in his production of Age of Reason. Though he challenged the inspiration of the Bible, denounced the formal world religions, including the perversions of Christianity that were in abundance, and opposed the promotion of any national church or religion, nevertheless he was not an atheist. He claimed to believe in God and afterlife: “I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life” (1794). He also wrote: “Were man impressed as fully and as strongly as he ought to be with the belief of a God, his moral life would be regulated by the force of that belief; he would stand in awe of God and of himself, and would not do the thing that could not be concealed from either” (1794). Paine not only believed in “the certainty of his existence and the immutability of his power,” he asserted that “it is the fool only, and not the philosopher, or even the prudent man, that would live as if there were no God.” In fact, he stated that it is “rational to believe” that God would call all people “to account for the manner in which we have lived here” (1794).
Nevertheless, Paine styled himself a “deist” and hurled some rather uncomplimentary epithets against the Christian religion. But the real issue—one that has been largely ignored by the revisionist historians of the last fifty years—is whether Paine’s views were representative of the Founders and the citizenry of America at the time. The historical record proves that they were not. In fact, Paine’s production of Age of Reason nearly two decades after the Declaration of Independence drew heavy fire from several of the Founders who expressed strong aversion to Paine’s ideas in no uncertain terms. Consider the following examples.
John Adams played a central role in the birth of our nation, as evidenced by a string of significant participatory activities, including delegate to the Continental Congress (1774-1777) where he signed the Declaration of Independence, signer of the peace treaty that ended the American Revolution (1783), two-time Vice-President under George Washington (1789-1797), and second President of the United States (1797-1801). Yet, Adams’ sentiments regarding Paine’s writing were, to say the least, blunt: “The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity, let the Blackguard Paine say what he will” (3:421, 1856). “Blackguard” was an 18th century term for a thoroughly unprincipled person—a scoundrel.
Zephaniah Swift, who was a member of the U.S. Congress from 1793-1797, offered a strong reaction to Paine:
[W]e cannot sufficiently reprobate the beliefs of Thomas Paine in his attack on Christianity by publishing his Age of Reason.... He has the impudence and effrontery to address to the citizens of the United States of America a paltry performance which is intended to shake their faith in the religion of their fathers.... No language can describe the wickedness of the man who will attempt to subvert a religion which is a source of comfort and consolation to its votaries merely for the purpose of eradicating all sentiments of religion (1796, 2:323-324).John Jay was another brilliant Founder with a long and distinguished career in the formation and shaping of American civilization from the beginning. He not only was a member of the Continental Congress from 1774-1776, serving as President from 1778-1779, he also helped to frame the New York State Constitution and then served as the Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court. He co-authored the Federalist Papers, was appointed as the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court by George Washington (1789-1795), served as Governor of New York (1795-1801), and was the vice-president of the American Bible Society (1816-1821). In a letter dated February 14, 1796, he affirmed:
I have long been of the opinion that the evidence of the truth of Christianity requires only to be carefully examined to produce conviction in candid minds, and I think they who undertake that task will derive advantages.... As to The Age of Reason, it never appeared to me to have been written from a disinterested love of truth or of mankind (Jay, 1833, 2:266).Several of the Founders were severe in their denunciations of Paine. John Witherspoon, member of the Continental Congress (1776-1782) and signer of the Declaration of Independence, insisted that Paine was “ignorant of human nature as well as an enemy to the Christian faith” (1802, 3:24). Another signer of the Declaration, Charles Carroll, pronounced Paine’s work as “blasphemous writings against the Christian religion” (as quoted in Gurn, 1932, p. 203). Yet another Declaration signer, Benjamin Rush, called The Age of Reason “absurd and impious” (1951, 2:770). William Paterson, signer of the federal Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court justice appointed by George Washington, became so indignant over those few Americans who seemed to agree with Paine, that he declared: “Infatuated Americans, why renounce your country, your religion, and your God? Oh shame, where is thy blush? Is this the way to continue independent, and to render the 4th of July immortal in memory and song?” (as quoted in O’Conner, 1979, p. 244). [NOTE: Observe that Paterson believed that independence depended on loyalty to the Christian religion and God.] In a similar vein, John Quincy Adams, referring to Paine’s Rights of Man, insisted that “Mr. Paine has departed altogether from the principles of the Revolution” (1793, p. 13). Patrick Henry asked: “What is there in the wit, or wisdom of the present deistical writers or professors…? And yet these have been confuted, and their fame decaying; in so much that the puny efforts of Paine are thrown in, to prop their tottering fabric, whose foundations cannot stand the test of time” (as quoted in Wirt, 1817, pp. 386-387, emp. added; cf. Arnold, 1854, p. 250), and the President of the Continental Congress, Elias Boudinot, published The Age of Revelation in direct rebuttal to The Age of Reason (1801).
Even Benjamin Franklin, one of the least religious of the Founding Fathers, though a longtime friend of Paine, viewed Paine’s thinking with great disfavor, as evidenced by Franklin's critique of a previous manuscript written by Paine:
I have read your Manuscript with some Attention. By the Arguments it contains against the Doctrine of a particular Providence, tho’ you allow a general Providence, you strike at the Foundation of all Religion: For without the Belief of a Providence that takes Cognizance of, guards and guides and may favour particular Persons, there is no Motive to Worship a Deity, to fear its Displeasure, or to pray for its Protection. I will not enter into any Discussion of your Principles, tho’ you seem to desire it; At present I shall only give you my Opinion that tho’ your Reasonings are subtle, and may prevail with some Readers, you will not succeed so as to change the general Sentiments of Mankind on that Subject, and the Consequence of printing this Piece will be a great deal of Odium drawn upon your self, Mischief to you and no Benefit to others. He that spits against the Wind, spits in his own Face. But were you to succeed, do you imagine any Good would be done by it?.... I would advise you therefore not to attempt unchaining the Tyger, but to burn this Piece before it is seen by any other Person, whereby you will save yourself a great deal of Mortification from the Enemies it may raise against you, and perhaps a good deal of Regret and Repentance. If Men are so wicked as we now see them with Religion what would they be if without it? I intend this Letter itself as a Proof of my Friendship.... (1840, 10:281-282, emp. added).Sadly, friendless and shunned due to his irreligious views, Thomas Paine died in Greenwich Village, New York City, on June 8, 1809. At the time of his death, most U.S. newspapers reprinted the obituary notice from the New York Citizen, which read in part: “He had lived long, did some good and much harm.” Only six mourners came to his funeral (“Thomas Paine,” n.d.).
The overwhelming majority of the Founders and the bulk of the American population at the beginning of our nation held strong convictions regarding the primacy of the Christian religion over all other religions (as well as no religion at all). What a change has come over the country. God has blessed America in the past—undoubtedly due to the willingness of the Founders and the citizenry to acknowledge Him as the one true God and Author of the one true religion. Now that so many are rejecting the one true God, while accommodating false religions and ideologies, we can well expect that the bestowal of God’s blessings on our national well-being will come to an end. In the words of George Washington:
I am sure there never was a people who had more reason to acknowledge a Divine interposition in their affairs than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe that they have forgotten that Agency which was so often manifested during our revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God who is alone able to protect them (1838, 10:222-223).The psalmist was even plainer: “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17).
Adams, John Quincy (1793), An Answer to Pain’s [sic] “Rights of Man” (London: John Stockdale).
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000), (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.
Arnold, S.G. (1854), The Life of Patrick Henry of Virginia (Buffalo, NY: Miller, Orton, & Mulligan).
Boudinot, Elias (1801), The Age of Revelation, or, The Age of Reason Shewn To Be An Age of Infidelity (Philadelphia, PA: Asbury Dickins).
Franklin, Benjamin (1840), The Works of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Jared Sparks (Boston, MA: Tappan, Whittemore, & Mason).
Gurn, Joseph (1932), Charles Carroll of Carrolton (New York: P.J. Kennedy & Sons).
Jay, William (1833), The Life of John Jay (New York: J.&J. Harper).
O’Connor, John (1979), William Paterson: Lawyer and Statesman (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press).
Paine, Thomas (1794), Age of Reason, [On-line], URL: http://www.ushistory.org/paine/reason/singlehtml.htm.
Rush, Benjamin (1951), Letters of Benjamin Rush, ed. L.H. Butterfield (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).
Swift, Zephaniah (1796), A System of Laws of the State of Connecticut (Windham, CT: John Byrne).
“The Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1. General Correspondence. 1651-1827” (no date), Library of Congress, [On-line], URL: http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=mtj1&fileName=mtj1page028.db& recNum=190&itemLink=%2Fammem%2Fcollections%2Fjefferson_papers%2Fmtjser1. html&linkText=6.
“Thomas Paine” (no date), Wikipedia, [On-line], URL:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Paine.
Washington, George (1838), The Writings of George Washington, ed. Jared Sparks (Boston, MA: Ferdinand Andrews).
Wirt, William (1817), Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry (Philadelphia, PA: James Webster).
Witherspoon, John (1802), The Works of Reverend John Witherspoon (Philadelphia, PA: William Woodard).
God's worst enemy? Himself or us?
Suffering is an experience of the entire human family. It isn’t confined to any segment of society. It afflicts babies in the womb and the newly born, the aged, the impenitently wicked people and the devoutly righteous people, the people whose theology is bizarre and those who have “all the truth”.
Those who fervently believe in God, particularly those shaped by the Hebrew—Christian scriptures, argue a lot even among themselves, trying to figure out how God relates to human suffering. Aside from some Joban figures among us, most of vigorously reject the view that human suffering is the result of God’s peevishness or vindictiveness. We don’t hold that we’ve sinned against him so he just lashes out in unbridled anger. We think a God like that would be unworthy of the name “God” and, besides, he has finally revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ and there’s nothing vindictive in that life!
Some of us toy with the idea that God can’t do anything about human suffering because much of it is the result of people freely choosing to injure someone else. If God can’t do anything about truly “free” will (whatever its limits) then he can’t do anything about the pain that sinners inflict on one another.
Of course he could immediately strike dead all the vicious sinners, that is, all those who make little or no attempt to live decently and neighbourly. I suppose he could, but then that would generate pain for their dependants as a human judge often does when he sends a criminal to jail or death and breaks the hearts of his children.
In any case, that might work for a lot of human suffering but it leaves untouched the natural disasters that in each generation leave us wide-eyed in horror. Then there’s the countless diseased and dead that are ravaged by parasites and murderous microbes. We might get God off the hook with the free will argument but we can’t do it with when it comes to cyclones, famines, earthquakes, tsunamis and the like.
Some of us are sure that all this has nothing to do with God. He made the world and it just so happens that these things happen. It’s just bad luck that these things happen and we get caught up in them. [Should we conclude that without meaning to he built a pathetic world that, like a faulty machine, breaks down frequently and injures those around it? Or should we conclude that he deliberately made it to break down frequently? Either way it doesn’t appear to speak well of him as a creator.]
In the face of natural calamities we’re sure that decent people, people who are able, should pitch in to help the sufferers and that those who are able and simply won’t—why they’re not decent humans. That line of thinking leaves us with a niggling uneasiness about what a decent God would do. Would he not miraculously fix everything if he could? It’s true that that would mean he would ceaselessly be working miracles. So? If he’s a decent God with an ounce of compassion would he not go to the trouble to work a ceaseless stream of miracles? [Do we not think he wants humans to work ceaselessly for the betterment of their fellows? Why, then, wouldn’t he?]
Better still, why didn’t he make a world where such things couldn’t happen? Or since he has already made it the way it is, why does he not now change it into a world where such things can’t happen?
Some among us think that all suffering is God punishing the personal sin of the people who are suffering. When we remind them that innocent babies are suffering they tell us that even the innocent babies sinned in Adam and deserve what they get. I suppose that’ll satisfy a certain kind of people.
All of this and more we say to try to get God off the hook, to save him from bad press. But maybe we're not able do that and maybe he neither wants it nor feels the need for it.
The biblical God is the kind who will say things like (Exodus 4:11): “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I the Lord?”
He’s the kind of God who says (Amos 4) he sends drought and famine and pestilence—calamities that engulf the innocent as well as the impenitently wicked.
A public relations manager would say that God was his own worst enemy and that he should keep his mouth shut and let us talk him out of the trouble he’s in.
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
The World English Bible
2 chronicles 16-18
2Ch 16:1 In the six and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa, Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah, and built Ramah, that he might not allow anyone to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah.
2Ch 16:2 Then Asa brought out silver and gold out of the treasures of the house of Yahweh and of the king's house, and sent to Ben Hadad king of Syria, who lived at Damascus, saying,
2Ch 16:3 There is a league between me and you, as there was between my father and your father: behold, I have sent you silver and gold; go, break your league with Baasha king of Israel, that he may depart from me.
2Ch 16:4 Ben Hadad listened to king Asa, and sent the captains of his armies against the cities of Israel; and they struck Ijon, and Dan, and Abel Maim, and all the storage cities of Naphtali.
2Ch 16:5 It happened, when Baasha heard of it, that he left off building Ramah, and let his work cease.
2Ch 16:6 Then Asa the king took all Judah; and they carried away the stones of Ramah, and its timber, with which Baasha had built; and he built therewith Geba and Mizpah.
2Ch 16:7 At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said to him, Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on Yahweh your God, therefore is the army of the king of Syria escaped out of your hand.
2Ch 16:8 Weren't the Ethiopians and the Lubim a huge army, with chariots and horsemen exceeding many? yet, because you relyed on Yahweh, he delivered them into your hand.
2Ch 16:9 For the eyes of Yahweh run back and forth throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein you have done foolishly; for from henceforth you shall have wars.
2Ch 16:10 Then Asa was angry with the seer, and put him in the prison; for he was in a rage with him because of this thing. Asa oppressed some of the people at the same time.
2Ch 16:11 Behold, the acts of Asa, first and last, behold, they are written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel.
2Ch 16:12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet; his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he didn't seek Yahweh, but to the physicians.
2Ch 16:13 Asa slept with his fathers, and died in the one and fortieth year of his reign.
2Ch 16:14 They buried him in his own tombs, which he had dug out for himself in the city of David, and laid him in the bed which was filled with sweet odors and various kinds of spices prepared by the perfumers' art: and they made a very great burning for him.
2Ch 17:1 Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his place, and strengthened himself against Israel.
2Ch 17:2 He placed forces in all the fortified cities of Judah, and set garrisons in the land of Judah, and in the cities of Ephraim, which Asa his father had taken.
2Ch 17:3 Yahweh was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David, and didn't seek the Baals,
2Ch 17:4 but sought to the God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel.
2Ch 17:5 Therefore Yahweh established the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah brought to Jehoshaphat tribute; and he had riches and honor in abundance.
2Ch 17:6 His heart was lifted up in the ways of Yahweh: and furthermore he took away the high places and the Asherim out of Judah.
2Ch 17:7 Also in the third year of his reign he sent his princes, even Ben Hail, and Obadiah, and Zechariah, and Nethanel, and Micaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah;
2Ch 17:8 and with them the Levites, even Shemaiah, and Nethaniah, and Zebadiah, and Asahel, and Shemiramoth, and Jehonathan, and Adonijah, and Tobijah, and Tobadonijah, the Levites; and with them Elishama and Jehoram, the priests.
2Ch 17:9 They taught in Judah, having the book of the law of Yahweh with them; and they went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught among the people.
2Ch 17:10 The fear of Yahweh fell on all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, so that they made no war against Jehoshaphat.
2Ch 17:11 Some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents, and silver for tribute; the Arabians also brought him flocks, seven thousand and seven hundred rams, and seven thousand and seven hundred male goats.
2Ch 17:12 Jehoshaphat grew great exceedingly; and he built in Judah castles and cities of store.
2Ch 17:13 He had many works in the cities of Judah; and men of war, mighty men of valor, in Jerusalem.
2Ch 17:14 This was the numbering of them according to their fathers' houses: Of Judah, the captains of thousands: Adnah the captain, and with him mighty men of valor three hundred thousand;
2Ch 17:15 and next to him Jehohanan the captain, and with him two hundred eighty thousand;
2Ch 17:16 and next to him Amasiah the son of Zichri, who willingly offered himself to Yahweh; and with him two hundred thousand mighty men of valor.
2Ch 17:17 Of Benjamin: Eliada a mighty man of valor, and with him two hundred thousand armed with bow and shield;
2Ch 17:18 and next to him Jehozabad and with him one hundred eighty thousand ready prepared for war.
2Ch 17:19 These were those who waited on the king, besides those whom the king put in the fortified cities throughout all Judah.
2Ch 18:1 Now Jehoshaphat had riches and honor in abundance; and he joined affinity with Ahab.
2Ch 18:2 After certain years he went down to Ahab to Samaria. Ahab killed sheep and cattle for him in abundance, and for the people who were with him, and moved him to go up with him to Ramoth Gilead.
2Ch 18:3 Ahab king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, Will you go with me to Ramoth Gilead? He answered him, I am as you are, and my people as your people; and we will be with you in the war.
2Ch 18:4 Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, Please inquire first for the word of Yahweh.
2Ch 18:5 Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, four hundred men, and said to them, Shall we go to Ramoth Gilead to battle, or shall I forbear? They said, Go up; for God will deliver it into the hand of the king.
2Ch 18:6 But Jehoshaphat said, Isn't there here a prophet of Yahweh besides, that we may inquire of him?
2Ch 18:7 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of Yahweh: but I hate him; for he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil: the same is Micaiah the son of Imla. Jehoshaphat said, Don't let the king say so.
2Ch 18:8 Then the king of Israel called an officer, and said, Get quickly Micaiah the son of Imla.
2Ch 18:9 Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah sat each on his throne, arrayed in their robes, and they were sitting in an open place at the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets were prophesying before them.
2Ch 18:10 Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made him horns of iron, and said, Thus says Yahweh, With these you shall push the Syrians, until they be consumed.
2Ch 18:11 All the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramoth Gilead, and prosper; for Yahweh will deliver it into the hand of the king.
2Ch 18:12 The messenger who went to call Micaiah spoke to him, saying, Behold, the words of the prophets declare good to the king with one mouth: let your word therefore, Please be like one of theirs, and speak good.
2Ch 18:13 Micaiah said, As Yahweh lives, what my God says, that will I speak.
2Ch 18:14 When he was come to the king, the king said to him, Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth Gilead to battle, or shall I forbear? He said, Go up, and prosper; and they shall be delivered into your hand.
2Ch 18:15 The king said to him, How many times shall I adjure you that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of Yahweh?
2Ch 18:16 He said, I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd: and Yahweh said, These have no master; let them return every man to his house in peace.
2Ch 18:17 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, Didn't I tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?
2Ch 18:18 Micaiah said, "Therefore hear the word of Yahweh: I saw Yahweh sitting on his throne, and all the army of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left.
2Ch 18:19 Yahweh said, 'Who shall entice Ahab king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth Gilead?' One spoke saying after this manner, and another saying after that manner.
2Ch 18:20 There came forth a spirit, and stood before Yahweh, and said, 'I will entice him.' Yahweh said to him, 'How?'
2Ch 18:21 He said, 'I will go forth, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' He said, 'You shall entice him, and shall prevail also: go forth, and do so.'
2Ch 18:22 Now therefore, behold, Yahweh has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these your prophets; and Yahweh has spoken evil concerning you."
2Ch 18:23 Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near, and struck Micaiah on the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of Yahweh from me to speak to you?
2Ch 18:24 Micaiah said, Behold, you shall see on that day, when you shall go into an inner chamber to hide yourself.
2Ch 18:25 The king of Israel said, Take Micaiah, and carry him back to Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king's son;
2Ch 18:26 and say, Thus says the king, Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction, until I return in peace.
2Ch 18:27 Micaiah said, If you return at all in peace, Yahweh has not spoken by me. He said, Hear, you peoples, all of you.
2Ch 18:28 So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead.
2Ch 18:29 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, I will disguise myself, and go into the battle; but you put on your robes. So the king of Israel disguised himself; and they went into the battle.
2Ch 18:30 Now the king of Syria had commanded the captains of his chariots, saying, Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king of Israel.
2Ch 18:31 It happened, when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, It is the king of Israel. Therefore they turned about to fight against him: but Jehoshaphat cried out, and Yahweh helped him; and God moved them to depart from him.
2Ch 18:32 It happened, when the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, that they turned back from pursuing him.
2Ch 18:33 A certain man drew his bow at a venture, and struck the king of Israel between the joints of the armor. Therefore he said to the driver of the chariot, Turn your hand, and carry me out of the army; for I am sore wounded.
2Ch 18:34 The battle increased that day: however the king of Israel stayed himself up in his chariot against the Syrians until the even; and about the time of the going down of the sun he died.
Jul. 28, 29
Act 17:1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue.
Act 17:2 Paul, as was his custom, went in to them, and for three Sabbath days reasoned with them from the Scriptures,
Act 17:3 explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ."
Act 17:4 Some of them were persuaded, and joined Paul and Silas, of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and not a few of the chief women.
Act 17:5 But the unpersuaded Jews took along some wicked men from the marketplace, and gathering a crowd, set the city in an uproar. Assaulting the house of Jason, they sought to bring them out to the people.
Act 17:6 When they didn't find them, they dragged Jason and certain brothers before the rulers of the city, crying, "These who have turned the world upside down have come here also,
Act 17:7 whom Jason has received. These all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus!"
Act 17:8 The multitude and the rulers of the city were troubled when they heard these things.
Act 17:9 When they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.
Act 17:10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Beroea. When they arrived, they went into the Jewish synagogue.
Act 17:11 Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.
Act 17:12 Many of them therefore believed; also of the prominent Greek women, and not a few men.
Act 17:13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Beroea also, they came there likewise, agitating the multitudes.
Act 17:14 Then the brothers immediately sent out Paul to go as far as to the sea, and Silas and Timothy still stayed there.
Act 17:15 But those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens. Receiving a commandment to Silas and Timothy that they should come to him very quickly, they departed.
Act 17:16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw the city full of idols.
Act 17:17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who met him.
Act 17:18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also were conversing with him. Some said, "What does this babbler want to say?" Others said, "He seems to be advocating foreign deities," because he preached Jesus and the resurrection.
Act 17:19 They took hold of him, and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new teaching is, which is spoken by you?
Act 17:20 For you bring certain strange things to our ears. We want to know therefore what these things mean."
Act 17:21 Now all the Athenians and the strangers living there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell or to hear some new thing.
Act 17:22 Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus, and said, "You men of Athens, I perceive that you are very religious in all things.
Act 17:23 For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I announce to you.
Act 17:24 The God who made the world and all things in it, he, being Lord of heaven and earth, doesn't dwell in temples made with hands,
Act 17:25 neither is he served by men's hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he himself gives to all life and breath, and all things.
Act 17:26 He made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the surface of the earth, having determined appointed seasons, and the boundaries of their dwellings,
Act 17:27 that they should seek the Lord, if perhaps they might reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
Act 17:28 'For in him we live, and move, and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also his offspring.'
Act 17:29 Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold, or silver, or stone, engraved by art and design of man.
Act 17:30 The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked. But now he commands that all people everywhere should repent,
Act 17:31 because he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he has ordained; of which he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the dead."
Act 17:32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked; but others said, "We want to hear you again concerning this."
Act 17:33 Thus Paul went out from among them.
Act 17:34 But certain men joined with him, and believed, among whom also was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.