8/6/15

From Mark Copeland... "FOLLOWING JESUS WITHOUT DENOMINATIONALISM" Why Is Denominationalism Wrong?



              "FOLLOWING JESUS WITHOUT DENOMINATIONALISM"

                    Why Is Denominationalism Wrong?

INTRODUCTION

1. While many people are attracted to the good news of the grace of God
   offered through His Son Jesus Christ, certain questions often linger
   in their minds...
   a. Why are there so many different denominations?
   b. Can't the followers of Jesus Christ learn to get along?
   c. What can be done about the religious division that exists today?
   d. Is it possible for me to be simply a Christian, following Jesus
      without being a member of any denomination?

2. In reply to these questions, some make an effort to discount the 
   significance of religious division, suggesting...
   a. That the differences are not all that great
   b. Or that religious division is good, for it enables people to find
      a church that suits them personally
   -- But there are several reasons why I believe these answers are 
      wrong and do a disservice to the cause of Christ

3. In this series of lessons, I have several objectives in mind...
   a. To explain why denominationalism is wrong
   b. To illustrate how one can simply be a Christian, serving Jesus
      without being a member of any denomination
   c. To suggest how followers of Christ might be able "to maintain the
      unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" - cf. Ep 4:3

4. In this lesson, I wish to explain...
   a. Why denominationalism is wrong
   b. Why anyone who truly follows Christ will do all they can to avoid
      participating in it

[First, perhaps a definition of terms is in order...]

I. DEFINING "DENOMINATION" AND "DENOMINATIONALISM"

   A. WHAT IS A "DENOMINATION"?
      1. According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English
         Language:
       
         "A large group of religious congregations united under a
         common faith and name and organized under a single
         administrative and legal hierarchy."
      
      2. From Webster's:
      
         "A religious organization uniting in a single legal and
         administrative body a number of local congregations."
      
      3. In simple laymen terms, a denomination is a group of
         congregations that are joined together under some governing
         body...
         a. The number of congregations can be as few as two or more
         b. But by their tie to a governing body above the local
            congregation, by definition they are "denominated" from all
            congregations that do not submit to the same authority
      4. Some examples:
         a. The Roman Catholic Church is a denomination made up of
            those churches that submit to the pope in Rome
         b. The Eastern Orthodox Church is a denomination made up of
            those churches that submit to the patriarch of 
            Constantinople
         c. The Anglican Church of England is a denomination made up of 
            those churches that submit to the archbishop of Cantebury
         d. The Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) is made up of those 
            churches that submit to the synod in Missouri
         e. The International Church of Christ is made up of those 
            churches that submit to the Boston Church of Christ
         -- These are just a few of the thousands of different 
            denominations that now exist!

   B. WHAT IS "DENOMINATIONALISM"?
      1. According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English 
         Language, it is:
         a. "The tendency to separate into religious denominations"
         b. "Advocacy of separation into religious denominations"
         c. "Strict adherence to a denomination; sectarianism"
      2. Again, Webster's dictionary defines it as:
         a. "Devotion to denominational principles or interests"
         b. "Narrow emphasizing of denominational differences:  
            SECTARIANISM"
      3. For the purpose in this series, I will be applying the term to
         any approval of the denominational division which exists today
         a. I concede that many people in denominations today are not
            all that devoted to their denominational principles or interests
         b. But by membership in a denomination they are by implication
            advocating separation into religious denominations

[But is denominationalism really all that bad?  Am I suggesting that 
one cannot serve Christ faithfully while participating in religious 
division?  The answer to both questions is "Yes!"

To understand the reason for saying this, let's examine...]

II. WHY DENOMINATIONALISM IS WRONG

   A. FIRST, DENOMINATIONALISM IS UN-SCRIPTURAL...
      1. That is, it is without Scriptural support
         a. There is no basis in the Bible for local churches being 
            divided up into various denominational bodies
         b. There is no denomination that can go to the Bible and say,
            "See that passage? There is our church (denomination)!"
      2. In the New Testament...
         a. Local congregations were independent, self-governing
         b. Church organization was limited to within the local 
            congregation, with elders (also known as pastors, bishops,
            overseers, presbyters) appointed to oversee only the 
            congregation of which they were members - cf. Ac 20:17,28;
            1Pe 5:1-2
      3. The only authority above the local church in the New Testament
         was Christ and His apostles...
         a. Once the church began, apostles were not replaced after 
            they died
         b. But through the Word of God, the authority of Christ and 
            His apostles continues
      4. Individuals, synods, conferences, etc., that presume to usurp
         authority over local congregations today do so without
         Scriptural authority

   B. SECOND, DENOMINATIONALISM IS ANTI-SCRIPTURAL...
      1. I.e., not only is it without scriptural support, it is 
         contrary to what the Bible teaches
      2. It is contrary to the prayer of Jesus for unity among His 
         believers - Jn 17:20-23
      3. It is condemned by Paul in his epistle to the church at Corinth
         a. There are to be no divisions among believers - 1Co 1:10-13
         b. Sectarianism is a sign of carnality - 1Co 3:3-4
      4. It opposes the efforts of Christ on the cross! - Ep 2:14-16
         a. Jesus died to break down the wall of division
         b. Jesus died to reconcile man to God in ONE body
         -- Just as sinning works against the efforts of Christ on the
            cross (for He also died to put away sin), so it is with 
            denominational division!
         
   C. THIRD, DENOMINATIONALISM IS HARMFUL TO THE CAUSE OF CHRIST...
      1. Jesus knew that unity among His disciples would be "the final
         apologetic"
         a. Cf. "that the world may believe" - Jn 17:21
         b. In view of Jesus' words, we should not be surprised when 
            unbelievers are slow to accept the gospel coming from a 
            divided church
      2. Many people point to the divided condition of those professing
         to follow Christ...
         a. Atheists and agnostics often use religious division as an
            excuse not to believe in God
         b. Adherents to non-Christian religions (such as Islam, 
            Judaism, etc.) will often use denominationalism as a reason
            not to believe in Christ
      3. Denominationalism has also given support and encouragement to
         the cults
         a. Mormonism started in reaction to the denominationalism of
            Joseph Smith's day
         b. Those who call themselves "Jehovah's Witnesses" use 
            religious division to encourage people to follow their 
            strictly-controlled organization

   D. UNDERSTANDING THAT DENOMINATIONALISM IS WRONG HAS LED TO THESE
      INTERESTING STATEMENTS...
      1. From Martin Luther, the leader of the Reformation Movement:

         "I ask that men make no reference to my name, and call 
         themselves not Lutherans, but Christians.  What is Luther?
         My doctrine, I am sure, is not mine, nor have I been crucified
         for any one. St. Paul, in 1 Cor. 3, would not allow 
         Christians to call themselves Pauline or Petrine, but
         Christian.  How then should I, poor, foul carcass that I am,
         come to have men give to the children of Christ a name 
         derived from my worthless name?  No, no, my dear friends; let
         us abolish all party names, and call ourselves Christians
         after Him Whose doctrine we have." - Hugh Thomason Kerr, A
         Compend of Luther's Theology (Philadelphia: The Westminster 
         Press, 1943, p. 135)

      2. From John Wesley, another great reformation leader, among 
         whose followers are Methodists, Wesleyans, etc.:

         "Would to God that all party names, and unscriptural phrases
         and forms which have divided the Christian world, were forgot
         and that the very name [Methodist] might never be mentioned
         more, but be buried in eternal oblivion." - John Wesley,
         Universal Knowledge, A Dictionary and Encyclopedia of Arts,
         Science, History, Biography, Law, Literature, Religions, 
         Nations, Races, Customs, and Institutions, Vol. 9, Edward A. 
         Pace, Editor (New York: Universal Knowledge Foundation, 1927,
         p. 540)

      3. From Charles Spurgeon, one of the greatest Baptist preachers
         who ever lived:

         "I look forward with pleasure to the day when there will not
         be a Baptist living!  I hope that the Baptist name will soon
         perish, but let Christ's name last forever." - Spurgeon 
         Memorial Library, Vol. I., p. 168

CONCLUSION

1. Well, that day has not yet come, and denominationalism with its 
   religious division seems to be as strong as ever!

2. But all is not lost...
   a. For throughout the world, more and more people are throwing aside
      their denominational shackles
   b. They are following Jesus Christ in the freedom of gospel liberty
      that comes from being simply a Christian!
   c. And what may be a surprise to some, they are able to do so "being
      like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one
      mind" - cf. Php 2:2

3. How is this possible?
   a. That is what I hope to demonstrate starting with the next lesson
   b. But it begins with two things:
      1) A strong desire to follow Jesus Christ and His prayer for
         unity - cf. Jn 17:20-23
      2) An understanding of the carnal nature of division, and why
         denominationalism is wrong - cf. 1Co 3:3-4

Dear friend, don't you want to be simply a Christian, a follower of the
Lord Jesus Christ...?

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

Lost Symbols, Mystery Cults, and the Christian Faith by Dewayne Bryant, M.A.




https://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=13&article=3598

Lost Symbols, Mystery Cults, and the Christian Faith

by  Dewayne Bryant, M.A.

Stephen Langdon is at it again. Described as Indiana Jones in a tweed jacket, Langdon is hard at work in Dan Brown’s latest novel, unraveling the secrets left behind in Washington, D.C. by America’s Founding Fathers. He races against time to prevent an international crisis, save a dear friend from meeting an untimely demise, and uncover secret truths that will help men become gods—all in a day’s work for the fictional Harvard symbologist.
Ten months after its release, The Lost Symbol still hovers near the top of the N.Y. Times bestseller list for hardcover fiction. Like his previous novel The Da Vinci Code, Brown once again delves into unorthodox religious viewpoints. In The Da Vinci Code, Langdon stumbles across a society that includes Gnostic beliefs and goddess worship. His latest thriller finds the principal character bringing up the ghost of the ancient mystery cults in his encounter with Freemasonry. While Brown does not take orthodox Christianity head-on as in previous novels, he does offer something of a historical rewrite of the ancient religious landscape.
Brown refers to the ambiguous “ancient mysteries” constantly throughout his book, but does not specify exactly what he means. It seems to be a general description of esoteric wisdom found in ancient religion ranging from the mystery cults to the later Gnostics, but also includes universal spiritual truths found in all the world’s religions. Unfortunately for Brown, his attempt to lump Christianity in as a participant in these mysteries not only shows his lack of familiarity with Christianity, but with other religions and the ancient mystery cults as well.
Brown asserts that Christianity is home to the same religious teachings found in other religions, all tracing back to ancient esoteric wisdom like that of the ancient mystery cults, which are labeled as such because of secret ceremonies (Nash, 1992, p. 115). The problem with this is that Christianity was not secretive. It was celebrated openly and quickly reached the ears of government officials ranging from regional governors to the emperors of Rome. Official persecution of Christianity began only a few short decades after the death of Christ. Within 80 years, the Roman governor Pliny the Younger of Bithynia (in modern day Turkey) complained to Emperor Trajan that the Christian influence in his territory was so strong that pagan temples had been nearly deserted due to a lack of worshippers (Letters, 10.97).
The task of the apostles was to preach the message of Christ crucified for all (cf. Acts 4:9-11), while Paul discusses the “mystery of Christ” (Colossians 4:3; cf. Ephesians 3:3-7) in epistolary form, intending his work to be read aloud and shared with others. In the Eleusinian mysteries, celebrated near Athens, death was the punishment for anyone who revealed its secrets. The Greek playwright Aeschylus was attacked and nearly murdered by an Athenian mob while acting in one of his own tragedies because the audience suspected him of revealing the cult’s secrets.
Through the mouth of the character Peter Solomon, Brown says, “The Bible is one of the books through which the mysteries have been passed down through history. Its pages are desperately trying to tell us the secret.... The ‘dark sayings’ in the Bible are the whispers of the ancients, quietly sharing with us all of their secret wisdom” (p. 491). This vanilla spirituality quickly runs headlong into a particularly thorny problem, often referred to as the “scandal of particularity.” Simply put, this is the idea that a particular God has revealed Himself to particular people at particular times and has a particular way of doing things.
Brown asserts the basic similarity of all religions to the point of stating that all religions are little more than cosmetically altered versions of the same spiritual truths. The blending of religions in Brown’s novel is not something foreign to Christianity only, but to other world religions as well. Each one makes mutually exclusive claims that cannot be reconciled with other faith traditions. Christianity claims Jesus is the Son of God; Islam says He is a mortal man. Religions such as Judaism, Islam, and Christianity claim belief in a personal God, while Buddhism is an “atheist religion” of sorts with no belief in any deity. In order for Brown’s reconstruction to be true, each religion must give up so much of what makes it unique that essentially they all become nondescript and amorphous.
Brown seems to read modern notions of religion and spirituality backward into history. Presenting America’s Founding Fathers as believers in some kind of universal spirituality would no doubt have been strange, if not offensive, to many of them. While a few of them may have been deists, even these believed in a personal God who was active in America’s founding (cf. Miller, 2005; Miller, 2008). The vast majority of the Founders, as well as the population at large, professed Christian belief (see Bancroft, 1837, 2:456; Morris, 1864).
As in previous novels, Brown commits several major blunders, which seems to have become standard operating procedure for his writing. One of these concerns one of America’s most famous works of art. A fixture of the novel is a fresco in the Capitol Rotunda titled The Apotheosis of George Washington. Completed in 1865, artist Constantino Brumidi’s masterpiece shows Washington ascending to heaven, surrounded by figures reminiscent of the Muses from Greek mythology. When viewing this scene, the protagonist Langdon says it describes Washington “being transformed into a god” (p. 84, ital. in orig.). This point will later shed light on the purported beliefs of the Freemasons—taken from the ancient mysteries—that humanity has within it a spark of the divine and is capable of virtual self-deification. In doing so, Brown seems to confuse the differences between the definitions of apotheosis as they are used in theology and art. In theological parlance, the term does mean to attain the status of deity. In art, it means to depict a subject in exalted fashion. Figures so depicted are often those who have become immortalized as national icons and who are revered because of their personal virtue and importance in the national consciousness. Other great works of art apotheosize historical figures ranging from the Greek poet Homer to Venezuelan statesman Simon Bolivar to Confederate general Robert E. Lee, yet no one is arguing that the artists of these works were trying to conceal secret spiritual truths in their masterpieces.
America’s Founding Fathers are a favorite target of critics who deny the role of Christianity in the country’s origins. Another of Brown’s historical errors is his claim that Jefferson’s version of the Bible was presented to every member of Congress in the first half of the 19th century (p. 491). He makes a point of mentioning Jefferson’s excision of the virgin birth and the resurrection in an attempt to illustrate his point of saying that America’s Founding Fathers all believed in the hidden spiritual message of Scripture and warned of interpreting the Bible literally. While Jefferson is famous for combing through the Bible and excising anything that hinted of the supernatural, his version of the gospel accounts was presented to first-time congressmen in the first half of the 20th century—not the 19th—because it distilled the essential moral teachings of Christ. This is clearly evident in its full title: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. Writing in a letter to John Adams on October 12, 1813, Jefferson indicates that his motive for assembling his version in this manner was because he wanted to offer the “pure principles” of Jesus’ teaching, which constituted the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man” (1813). It should also be noted that in this letter, Jefferson demonstrated knowledge of Gnostic beliefs, which he called “nonsense.” It is that very knowledge which several of Brown’s novels praise.
One of the best examples of Brown’s gross religious ignorance is his connection of the word “amen” to the name of the Egyptian god Amun (p. 358). Brown is not the first to make this assertion. This kind of connection is typical among third-rate Bible critics who fail to do meaningful research and try to make connections simply based on the sounds of words. The standard Greek lexicon defines the Greek word amen as “let it be so” or “truly” (Danker, 2000, p. 53), which comes from the Hebrew word ’amen, also meaning “truly” (Brown, et al., 1906, p. 53). The word is thoroughly Hebraic and has absolutely no connection to the Egyptian god, whose name means “hidden” (Allen, 2010, p. 186)
One On-line review of the book says Brown “loves showing us places where our carefully tended cultural boundaries—between Christian and pagan, sacred and secular, ancient and modern—are actually extraordinarily messy” (Grossman, 2009). The relationship between paganism and Christianity is indeed messy for those unwilling to examine that relationship with clarity and precision. It seems to be en vogue to simply ignore the distinctive elements of particular religions, lump them together into an amorphous blob, and declare them all virtually equivalent, regardless of any claims to historicity.
The distinctive truth of Christianity will not permit itself to be classified among mythological writings because it is not mythological in character. Though the gospel accounts are routinely described as “myth” their character is closely related to ancient biographies and is distinctly different from mythology, which never concerned itself with recent historical figures (Keener, 2009, pp. 75-76). Even the ancients generally believed that their myths had no connections to actual history.
Dan Brown is an inventive writer. His stories are fast-paced and engaging, and his conspiratorial plots are entertaining. Though he is a skillful author, Brown continually presents an axe to grind against Christianity. As was seen in The Da Vinci Code, Brown is willing to manipulate the evidence to make his case. Brown’s carefully crafted language is similar to a conspiracy theory: the reader is guided along a predetermined path that offers no room for alternative explanations. Like all good conspiracies, each piece of evidence hangs tenuously upon another. Each interpretation is precariously balanced on the next. Should any one piece be removed, the entire edifice comes crashing down. The Lost Symbol, like Brown’s previous work, is similarly vulnerable at many points where he has misinterpreted or manipulated the evidence. In each of his books the “fall of the house of Brown” is inescapable, and The Lost Symbol presents no exception.

REFERENCES

Allen, James P. (2010), Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Bancroft, George (1837), History of the United States (Boston, MA: Charles Bowen).
Brown, Dan (2009), The Lost Symbol (New York: Doubleday).
Brown, Francis, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs (1906), The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody, MA, Hendrickson).
Danker, Frederick William, ed. (2000), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), third edition.
Grossman, Lev (2009), “How Good is Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol?” Time, September 15, http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1923182,00.html. Accessed March 3, 2010.
Keener, Craig S. (2009), The Historical Jesus of the Gospels (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Jefferson, Thomas (1813), “Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, October 12, 1813,” The Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1. General Correspondence. 1651-1827, Library of Congress, [On-line], URL: http://tinyurl.com/38dmuqm.
Miller, Dave (2005), “Deism, Atheism, and the Founders,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/650.
Miller, Dave (2008), “The Founders: Atheists & Deists or Theists & Christians?” Reason & Revelation, 7[12]:45-R, December, http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/240010.
Morris, Benjamin (1864), The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2007 reprint).
Nash, Ronald H. (1992), The Gospel and the Greeks: Did the New Testament Borrow From Pagan Thought? (Richardson, TX: Probe Books).
Pliny the Younger (no date), Letters, trans. William Melmoth, http://ancienthistory.about.com/library/bl/bl_text_plinyltrstrajan.htm.

God Did Not Condone Rape by Kyle Butt, M.A.




https://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=2333

God Did Not Condone Rape

by  Kyle Butt, M.A.

Militant atheists of the 21st century delight in accusing God of condoning the most heinous immoralities. They insist that the God of the Bible, especially of the Old Testament, was a murderous villain guilty of far worse than His human subjects. Richard Dawkins accused God of being a “misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully” (2006, p. 31).
One attempt that has been made to bolster these unfounded accusations is to suggest that in the Old Testament God condoned rape. Dan Barker commented: “If God told you to rape someone, would you do it? Some Christians, ignorant of biblical injunctions to rape, might answer, ‘God would never ask me to do that’” (Barker, 1992, p. 331, emp. added). If the honest truth seeker were to ask to see the “biblical injunctions to rape,” he would be struck by the fact that no such injunctions exist.
The passage that is most often used to “prove” that God condones rape is Numbers 31:25-40. In this passage, the young women who were taken captive after Moses destroyed the Midianites were divided between the Israelites and the priests. The priests were given responsibility for 32 of the women. Skeptics often suggest that these women were supplied so that the priests could abuse them sexually and rape them. But nothing could be further from the truth. The skeptic errs greatly in this regard either due to his ignorance of God’s instructions or willful dishonesty.
In Deuteronomy 21:10-14, Moses specifically stated what was to be done with female captives:
When you go out to war...and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and desire her and would take her for your wife, then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails. She shall put off the clothes of her captivity, remain in your house, and mourn her father and her mother a full month; after that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife (emp. added).
It is important to understand that God has never condoned any type of sexual activity outside of a lawful marriage. The only way that an Israelite would be morally justified in having sexual intercourse with a female captive was if he made her his wife, granting to her the rights and privileges due to a wife. Notice that the Israelite male could not “go in to her” (a euphemism for sexual intercourse) until she had observed a period of mourning and cleansing, and he could only “go in to her” with the intent of being her husband.
When the skeptics’ allegations about God condoning rape are demolished by the very clear instructions in Deuteronomy 21, the attack is usually shifted, and God is accused of being unjust for allowing war prisoners or slavery of any kind, regardless of whether or not rape was permitted. While these allegations about slavery have been dealt with decisively in other places (Butt, 2005a), it is important not to lose sight of the fact that shifting the argument to slavery is a red herring to draw attention away from the original accusation that God condoned rape.
For the skeptic to imply that God condoned rape, using Numbers 31, without mentioning Moses’ instructions in Deuteronomy 21, is unconscionable. It is simply another instance of dishonest propaganda designed to discredit God and the Bible. The irony of the skeptics’ position is that if atheism is true, the skeptic has no grounds upon which to claim that rape is morally wrong (Butt, 2005b). In fact, in my debate with Dan Barker, Barker admitted that fact, and stated that under certain circumstances, rape would be a moral obligation (Butt and Barker, 2009).
In reality, God’s ways and actions have always been fair, equitable, and just. But the errant thinking and self-contradiction of the skeptical worldview continues to show itself to be unjust in its criticism of God, and immoral in its practical application.

REFERENCES

Barker, Dan (1992), Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI: Freedom From Religion Foundation).
Butt, Kyle (2005a), “Defending the Bible’s Position on Slavery,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/368.
Butt, Kyle (2005b), “Rape and Evolution,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/306.
Butt, Kyle and Dan Barker (2009), The Butt/Barker Debate: Does the God of the Bible Exist? (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Dawkins, Richard (2006), The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin).


Cells—“Design Modules” by the Trillions by Nathaniel Nelson





https://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=1367


Cells—“Design Modules” by the Trillions

by  Nathaniel Nelson

The seemingly invisible cell is a magnificent, microscopic world all its own. It quietly goes about its business, carrying out each of its various functions in utter silence. Yet it lives its life in service to the creation and maintenance of a larger, superior organism.
Cells, it probably will not surprise you to learn, come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and have different functions and life expectancies. For example, some cells (like male spermatozoa) are so small that 20,000 would fit inside a capital “O” from a standard typewriter, each being only 0.05 mm long. Some cells, placed end to end, would make only one inch if 6,000 were assembled together in a straight line. Yet all the cells of the human body, if set end to end, would encircle the Earth over 200 times. Even the largest cell of the human body, the female ovum, is unbelievably small, being only 0.01 of an inch in diameter. Some cells (like platelets in the blood) live a mere four days, while others (like brain cells) can live 100+ years. Certain cells (like the reproductive cells) have a single purpose, while others (like blood cells) serve multiple functions.
Yet in spite of the cell’s incredible complexity, and in spite of the impressive feats it is able to carry out, evolutionists stand firm in their belief that the cell owes its ultimate origin to chance forces operating over vast stretches of geologic time reaching billions of years into the past to a “primordial soup” that “somehow” was responsible for giving rise to the cell’s “simple” prokaryotic ancestor. German anatomist Ernst Haeckel, Charles Darwin’s chief supporter on the European continent in the mid-nineteenth century, once summarized his personal feelings about the “simple” nature of the cell when he wrote that it contained merely “homogeneous globules of plasm” that were
composed chiefly of carbon with an admixture of hydrogen, nitrogen, and sulfur. These component parts properly united produce the soul and body of the animated world, and suitably nursed became man. With this single argument the mystery of the universe is explained, the Deity annulled, and a new era of infinite knowledge ushered in (1905, p. 111).
Haeckel’s theory turned out to be little more than wishful thinking on his part, because as scientists began to unravel the secrets stored within the cell, and the fascinating biochemical code that it contained, they learned that within its infinitesimal boundaries, there lies a microcosm of activity that not only boggles the mind, but also exhibits spectacular complexity and intricate design. As Lane Lester and James Hefley put it in their book, Human Cloning: “We once thought that the cell, the basic unit of life, was a simple bag of protoplasm. Then we learned that each cell in any life form is a teeming micro-universe of compartments, structures, and chemical agents…” (1998, pp. 30-31).
The “micro-universe” that we refer to as a cell can be described in a variety of ways. In Genes, Categories, and Species (2001, p. 36), Jody Hey described cells in a broad sense as “well-bounded entities”—i.e., masses of life contained within biological bubbles (i.e., plasma membranes) that selectively protect their contents from the harsh nonliving elements surrounding them. Franklin M. Harold, in The Way of the Cell, described cells in this manner: “We may think of a cell as an intricate and sophisticated chemical factory. Matter, energy, and information enter the cell from the environment, while waste products and heat are discharged…” (2001, p. 35). Thus, according to these two descriptions, the individual cell would appear to have many of the same features as an entire organism.
In fact, the cell does possess many of the features of a whole organism. As it turns out, the cell is a veritable bastion of unimaginable complexity and design, in which the individual components collaborate to give the cell function and purpose of such intricacy that evolutionary theory is at a complete loss to explain it. As proof of that, I would like to offer the following.

THE ORGANELLES OF THE CELL

Most organisms are composed of multiples of cells. A human body, for example, is composed of over 250 different kinds of cells (red blood cells, white blood cells, muscle cells, fat cells, nerve cells, etc.—Baldi, 2001, p. 147), totaling approximately 100 trillion cells in an average adult (Fukuyama, 2002, p. 58). Yet each of those cells, in a similar fashion, is composed of a variety of microscopic units known as “organelles.” The cell is indeed the sum of its parts. And those individual parts, on their own, exhibit creative complexity and demonstrable design. Consider, as just a sampling of the organelles found within a normal cell, the following.

  1. Nucleus
  2. Nuclear envelope
  3. Nucleolus
  4. RNA and protiens
  5. Nucleoli
  6. Chromatin
  7. DNA packaged in chromosomes
  8. Rough endoplasmic reticulum
  9. Ribosomes
  10. Smooth endoplasmic reticulum
  11. Mitochondria
  12. Peroxisome
  13. Centrioles
  14. Golgi
  15. Lysosomes
  16. Cytoplasm
  17. Cell membrane
Body cell with common components labeled

The Nucleus

The nucleus is the central control center of the cell. In order to guide its development, the cell stores and uses a special chemical message known as deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). This helically shaped substance stands apart as the “captain” of the cell. It directs the growth and reproduction of the individual cells, and contains all of the information needed for creating more new cells. One of the many marvels of DNA is the complexity of the hereditary information contained within it. It is doubtful that anyone today, mindful of the facts, would speak of the “simple” genetic code. British scientist A.G. Cairns-Smith has explained why:
Every organism has in it a store of what is called genetic information.... I will refer to an organism’s genetic information store as its Library.... Where is the Library in such a multicellular organism? The answer is everywhere. With a few exceptions every cell in a multicellular organism has a complete set of all the books in the Library. As such an organism grows, its cells multiply and in the process the complete central Library gets copied again and again.... The human Library has 46 of these cord-like books in it. They are called chromosomes. They are not all of the same size, but an average one has the equivalent of about 20,000 pages.... Man’s Library, for example, consists of a set of construction and service manuals that run to the equivalent of about a million book-pages together (1985, pp. 9,10, emp. in orig.).
A.E. Wilder-Smith, of the United Nations, concurred with such an assessment when he wrote:
Now, when we are confronted with the genetic code, we are astounded at once at its simplicity, complexity and the mass of information contained in it. One cannot avoid being awed at the sheer density of information contained in such a miniaturized space. When one considers that the entire chemical information required to construct a man, elephant, frog, or an orchid was compressed into two minuscule reproductive cells, one can only be astounded. Only a sub-human could not be astounded. The almost inconceivably complex information needed to synthesize a man, plant, or a crocodile from air, sunlight, organic substances, carbon dioxide and minerals is contained in these two tiny cells. If one were to request an engineer to accomplish this feat of information miniaturization, one would be considered fit for the psychiatric line (1976, pp. 257-259, emp. in orig.).
It is amazing to learn that even what some would call “simple” cells (e.g., bacteria) have extremely large and complex “libraries” of genetic information stored within them. For example, the bacterium Escherichia coli, which is by no means the “simplest” cell known, is a tiny rod only a thousandth of a millimeter across and about twice as long, yet “it is an indication of the sheer complexity of E. coli that its Library runs to a thousand page-equivalent” (Cairns-Smith, p. 11). Biochemist Michael Behe has suggested that the amount of DNA in a cell “varies roughly with the complexity of the organism” (1998, p. 185). There are notable exceptions, however. Humans, for example, have about 100 times more of the genetic-code-bearing molecule (DNA) than bacteria, yet salamanders, which are amphibians, have 20 times more DNA than humans (see Hitching, 1982, p. 75). Humans have roughly 30 times more DNA than some insects, yet less than half that of certain other insects (see Spetner, 1997, p. 28).
It does not take much convincing, beyond facts such as these, to see that the genetic code is characterized by orderliness, intricacy, and adeptness in function. The order and complexity themselves are nothing short of phenomenal. But the function of this code is perhaps its most impressive feature, as Wilder-Smith explained when he suggested that the coded information
...may be compared to a book or to a video or audiotape, with an extra factor coded into it enabling the genetic information, under certain environmental conditions, to read itself and then to execute the information it reads. It resembles, that is, a hypothetical architect’s plan of a house, which plan not only contains the information on how to build the house, but which can, when thrown into the garden, build entirely of its own initiative the house all on its own without the need for contractors or any other outside building agents.... Thus, it is fair to say that the technology exhibited by the genetic code is orders of magnitude higher than any technology man has, until now, developed. What is its secret? The secret lies in its ability to store and to execute incredible magnitudes of conceptual information in the ultimate molecular miniaturization of the information storage and retrieval system of the nucleotides and their sequences (1987, p. 73, emp. in orig.).
This “ability to store and to execute incredible magnitudes of conceptual information” is where DNA comes into play. In their book, The Mystery of Life’s Origin, Thaxton, Bradley, and Olsen discussed the DNA-based genetic code elucidated by Crick and Watson.
According to their now-famous model, hereditary information is transmitted from one generation to the next by means of a simple code resident in the specific sequence of certain constituents of the DNA molecule.... The breakthrough by Crick and Watson was their discovery of the specific key to life’s diversity. It was the extraordinarily complex yet orderly architecture of the DNA molecule. They had discovered that there is in fact a code inscribed in this “coil of life,” bringing a major advance in our understanding of life’s remarkable structure (1984, p. 1).
How important is the “coil of life” represented in the DNA molecule? Wilder-Smith concluded: “The information stored on the DNA-molecule is that which controls totally, as far as we at present know, by its interaction with its environment, the development of all biological organisms” (1987, p. 73). Professor E.H. Andrews summarized how this can be true:
The way the DNA code works is this. The DNA molecule is like a template or pattern for the making of other molecules called “proteins.” ...These proteins then control the growth and activity of the cell which, in turn, controls the growth and activity of the whole organism (1978, p. 28).
Thus, the DNA contains the information that allows proteins to be manufactured, and the proteins control cell growth and function, which ultimately are responsible for each organism. The genetic code, as found within the DNA molecule, is vital to life as we know it. In his book, Let Us Make Man, Bruce Anderson referred to it as “the chief executive of the cell in which it resides, giving chemical commands to control everything that keeps the cell alive and functioning” (1980, p. 50). Kautz followed this same line of thinking when he stated:
The information in DNA is sufficient for directing and controlling all the processes which transpire within a cell including diagnosing, repairing, and replicating the cell. Think of an architectural blueprint having the capacity of actually building the structure depicted on the blueprint, of maintaining that structure in good repair, and even replicating it (1988, p. 44).
You will notice that such things as diagnosing, repairing, and reproducing are all functions normally associated with entire organisms. Yet DNA, as small as it is, performs these functions every day on the molecular level. The genetic code is a veritable masterpiece of design. An investigation into the structure and function of the DNA molecule shows that the prospect of DNA originating via natural processes is simply unreasonable.

Ribosomes

One of the functions of DNA is the production and maintenance of proteins. To accomplish this, the DNA requires the assistance of special organelles known as ribosomes. In order to prepare the DNA to be received by the ribosomes, specialized enzymes (RNA polymerases and certain proteins) break apart the DNA, and form a modified version of the DNA message, known as messenger RNA (mRNA). The mRNA then can be sent to the ribosomes for protein formation. For our purposes, we will think of ribosomes as fax machines, and the mRNA will be the paper that is fed through the machine. The ribosomes then will bind with another type of RNA known as transfer RNA (tRNA), based on the sequence of mRNAs that are being fed through the ribosome. Attached to these tRNAs are amino acids—the basic building blocks of proteins. In order to amalgamate the amino acids and form a polymer, each individual tRNA must bind with a specific site on the ribosome, and the amino acid must detach from the tRNA and bind with other amino acids on the ribosome to form a long chain. The ribosomes’ task is a lengthy, complicated process, and yet, fortunately, they make few mistakes, because such mistakes can result in a deformed, useless mass. Without the meticulous workings of the ribosome, structures such as hair and nails would not develop. Also, no proteins could be manufactured for the cell or the rest of the body. The mind-boggling complexity exhibited by DNA, ribosomes, proteins, and their molecular counterparts defy explanation via time, chance, and naturally occurring processes.

Mitochondria

Whence does the cell draw its power to drive the work of the ribosomes, as well as the myriad of other functions it is required to perform? The answer lies in the mitochondrion—the energy-producing organelles within the cell. Mitochondria are elongated structures with a smooth outer covering. Within the organelle, there are numerous convoluted folds, called cristae, which increase the internal surface area. This surface area is extremely important, because it provides a larger base for the mitochondria to use in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)—the primary energy source for the cell (see “Mitochondria,” 2003). How does evolutionary theory explain this incredible interdependency of the cell’s organelles? How did they “learn” to cooperate? These questions can never be answered by simply suggesting small changes over time.

Plasma Membrane

The plasma membrane that I mentioned earlier is the security system of the cell. This membrane is a fragile lipid bilayer, with each component being a mirror image of the other. The hydrophilic [water-attracting] portions face inward toward each other, and the hydrophobic [water-repelling] portions face outward. The cell’s membrane can perform many essential functions with this structural format. In their book, Essential Cell Biology, Bruce Alberts and his colleagues observed:
A living cell is a self-reproducing system of molecules held inside a container. The container is the plasma membrane- a fatty film so thin and transparent that it cannot be seen directly in the light microscope. It is simple in construction, being based on a sheet of lipid molecules… Although it serves as a barrier to present the contents of the cell from escaping and mixing with the surrounding medium… the plasma membrane does much more than that. Nutrients have to pass inward across it if the cell is to survive and grow, and waste products have to pass outward. Thus, the membrane is penetrated by highly selective channels and pumps, formed from protein molecules that allow specific substances to be imported while others are exported. Still other protein molecules in the membrane act as sensors to enable the cell to respond to changes in its environment (1998, p. 347).
This cell membrane is extremely thin, and yet it can perform such functions as helping nerve cells to function (via sodium-potassium pumps) and aiding in breathing (red blood cells must expel and absorb certain ions in order for the body tissues to receive oxygen and remove carbon dioxide). Thomas Heinze commented on this arrangement when he wrote:
Which came first? A first cell could not form without the specialized membrane holding it together and maintaining livable conditions inside, or the membrane that is only produced by a living cell? Remember, neither the lipids of cell membranes nor the proteins that make up their pumps and channels will form in nature apart from living cells (2002, p. 47).
How could such a complicated covering as the plasma membrane come into existence via purely naturalistic forces?

Lysosomes

Amidst all of this production, waste is continually produced. The cell’s lysosomes are the means by which this waste is processed and expelled. Specific enzymes are carefully retained within the membrane of the lysosomes, which can digest practically any waste product. Interestingly, the lysosomes serve a dual purpose by also ingesting the food that is taken in by the cell. When a cell needs to digest nutrients, the lysosome’s membrane will fuse with the membrane of a food vacuole. The lysosome then can insert enzymes into the food vacuole in order to break it down. As a result, the digested food diffuses through the vacuole membrane and enters the cell to be used for energy or growth (“Lysosomes,” 2001).
If the enzymes contained within the lysosome were to be released, the cell would digest itself, essentially committing cellular suicide, which brings us to another important aspect of the cell—automatic cell death. Science writer Jennifer Ackerman made the following important observation with reference to cell death:
In the late 1982, the biologist Bob Horvitz made a bold suggestion: cells die as a natural result of the process of growth because they have a built-in program to take their own lives. Just as cells carry within them the seeds of their propagation, they also harbor the means of their end, a little program to dismantle their lives, to commit suicide (2001, p. 100).
An example of this seemingly odd feature can be found in the frog. As it begins to transform from a water-dwelling tadpole to a land-dwelling frog, its tail begins to disappear. Where did it go? The frog’s tail cells stopped receiving a message from the body telling them to “stay alive!” At that point, the lysosomes released their digestive enzymes, destroying the cells, and eventually causing the tail to disappear.
Where, in the history of evolution, would scientists place a program that actually kills cells? The mantra of evolution is “survival of the fittest.” According to this function of the cell, would not that dictum be changed to “suicide of the fittest?”
But there is another point here that should not be overlooked. The cell’s organelles frequently cooperate for the cell’s ultimate protection. As Ackerman later mentioned: “To protect against accidental cell death, pieces of a cell’s apoptotic machinery are sequestered in different places—in the membrane of the cell and in its mitochondria” (2001, p.102). This “sequestering” is essential for the cell’s well-being. Yet it also works to the cell’s ultimate planned destruction. If, in the beginning of life as evolutionists know it, separate organisms came together to form a cell, how could they learn to cooperate? And if they did, why would they work together to form a system that allows cellular suicide?

CONCLUSION

The cell, in all of its complexity and purposeful design, can be attributed only to the workings of a Supreme Designer. Even renowned evolutionists have conceded the difficulty of accounting for the ultimate origin of the cell via naturalistic processes. Russian biochemist Alexander Oparin commented: “Unfortunately, the origin of the cell remains a question which is actually the darkest point of the complete evolution theory” (1936, p. 82). Klaus Dose, as president of the Institute of Biochemistry at the University of Johanes Gutenberg, stated:
More than thirty years of experimentation on the origin of life in the fields of chemical and molecular evolution have led to a better perception of the immensity of the problem of the origin of life on Earth rather that to its solution. At present all discussions on principal theories and experiments in the field either end in stalemate or in a confession of ignorance (1988, p. 82).
These confessions are characteristic of the troubles that evolutionary theory has encountered in explaining the origin and decisive design of the cell. God’s omnipotence can be seen throughout His creation—a creation that continually defies any and all evolutionary explanations.

REFERENCES

Ackerman, Jennifer (2001), Chance in the House of Fate (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin).
Cairns-Smith, A.G. (1985), Seven Clues to the Origin of Life (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Dose, Klaus (1988), “The Origin of Life: More Questions than Answers,” Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 13[4]:348.
Haeckel, Ernst (1905), The Wonders of Life, trans. J. McCabe (London: Watts).
Harold, Franklin M. (2001), The Way of the Cell (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Heinze, Thomas F. (2002), How Life Began (Ontario, CA: Chick).
Hey, Jody (2001), Genes, Categories, and Species (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Lester, Lane P. and James C. Hefley (1998), Human Cloning (Grand Rapids, MI: Revell).
“Lysosomes” (2001), San Diego City Schools, [On-line], URL: http://projects.edtech.sandi.net/miramesa/Organelles/lyso.html.
Margulis, Lynn and Dorion Sagan (1986), Microcosmos (Berkely and Los Angeles, CA: University of California).
“Mitochondria” (2003), Cells Alive, [On-line], URL: http://www.cellsalive.com/cells/mitochon.htm.
Muncaster, Ralph O. (2003), Dismantling Evolution (Eugene, OR: Harvest House).
Oparin, Alexander I. (1936), Origin of Life, (New York: Dover)
Skoyles, John R. and Dorion Sagan (2002), Up from Dragons (New York: McGraw-Hill).
Thaxton, Charles B., Walter L. Bradley, and Roger L. Olsen (1984), The Mystery of Life's Origin (New York: Philosophical Library).
Wilder-Smith, A.E. (1976), A Basis for a New Biology (Einigen: Telos International).
Wilson, Edward O., et. al. (1973), Life on Earth (Stamford, CT: Sinauer).

Embryos are People by Dave Miller, Ph.D.






https://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=7&article=1883


Embryos are People

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

The polarizing national debate over the use of embryonic stem cells for the purpose of seeking solutions to medical ailments continues to rage. The most recent development entailed the passage by the Senate of a bill to permit government funding for research using human embryonic stem cells (Babington, 2006a). President Bush vetoed the bill on the grounds that such research entails the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others (Babington, 2006b). At the formal signing of the veto, the President was surrounded by babies and young children who began life as frozen embryos that were created for in vitro fertilization, but who remained in suspension after the fertility treatments were complete.
What further proof is needed? Nothing was done after conception to change these children from embryos into humans. They became human at conception. From that point onward, they were merely allowed to grow—transferred to the womb to continue their development. No difference exists between a pre-birth infant and a post-birth infant—both are simply at different stages of human growth and development. As the children produced from “adopted” frozen embryos encircled the President with their parents, proof that embryos are people was staring the nation and the world in the face. How blind can we be? Are we of those who “seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matthew 13:13)?
Apart from the fact that the scientific community’s insistence that embryonic stem cells will be the panacea to cure disease remains both unproven and highly suspect, and despite the fact that adult stem cells have, in fact, shown the most promise and have been used successfully (Harrub and Thompson, 2004; Harrub, 2006), the only concern in the discussion ought to be the moral, ethical, and spiritual implication. On this basis alone, the entire matter ought to be—and can be—settled.
If the God of the Bible exists, and if the Bible is His Word, then human life begins at conception. To deliberately terminate that life—for whatever purpose—is the taking of human life, identified in Scripture as murder. David insisted that his development as a human being, his personhood, was achieved by God, prior to his birth, while he was yet in his mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-16). Elizabeth’s pre-born baby is represented as a living human being (Luke 1:39-44). In fact, the term “baby” used in verses 41 and 44 to refer to the pre-born John is the exact same term that is used in chapter two to refer to Jesus after His birth as He laid in the manger (Luke 2:12,16). So, in God’s sight, whether a person is in his or her pre-birth developmental state, or in a post-birth developmental state, that person is still a baby! John the Baptizer is referred to as “a son” from the very moment of conception (Luke 1:36). All three phases of human life are listed in reverse order in Hosea 9:11—birth, pregnancy, and conception (see Miller, 2003).
The national discussion regarding the use of embryonic stem cells is “cut and dried” for those who believe in and respect the God of the Bible: “[D]o not kill the innocent and righteous. For I will not justify the wicked” (Exodus 23:7). God hates “hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:17). The fact that we even are debating this subject demonstrates the extent to which the nation has strayed from its commitment to and reliance on the God of the Universe—yet another unmistakable manifestation of America’s downward spiral into moral and spiritual depravity.

REFERENCES

Babington, Charles (2006a), “Senate Passes Stem Cell Bill; Bush Vows Veto,” Washington Post, July 19, A01, [On-line], URL: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/18/ AR2006071800182.html.
Babington, Charles (2006b), “Stem Cell Bill Gets Bush’s First Veto,” Washington Post, July 20, A04, [On-line], URL: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/19/ AR2006071900524.html.
Harrub, Brad (2006), “False Marketing of Embryonic Stem Cells,” Apologetics Press, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2976.
Harrub, Brad and Bert Thompson (2004), “Presidential Elections, Superman, Embryonic Stem Cells, Bad Science, and False Hope,” Apologetics Press, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2621.
Miller, Dave (2003), “Abortion and the Bible,” Apologetics Press, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1964.

From Jim McGuiggan... SELMA, AUSCHWITZ & GOD as JESUS CHRIST


SELMA, AUSCHWITZ & GOD as JESUS CHRIST

“And the Word became Flesh,” says John. He didn’t say the Word liked flesh or that the Word looked like flesh or that the Word visited flesh or even (in this text) that the Word made flesh—he said the Word became flesh!
In his poem The House of Christmas GK Chesterton adds homey warmth to John’s astonishing truth of God’s incarnation and the imagery he uses brings down to earth what could become a mere doctrinal statement. His poem allows us to imagine ourselves—all of us—all living in the same town and house where God lives—an “open” house where is everyone is welcome; a house we go “home” to.
To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.
 
In stressing the glory of Jesus, the writer of Hebrews pays special attention to his humanity. It was God’s purpose to bring humans to glory and because that was so the Savior didn’t come as an angel (2:16). The writer tells us this:
 
 “In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers…Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (2:10-15)
 
To be faithful to the gospel we must make the cross of Jesus central, crucial but not even the cross is to be isolated as though it is the entirety of the gospel. The resurrection and the glorification of Jesus are indispensable parts of the gospel Story. But none of these are possible without the truth of the Incarnation; it was God incarnate who lived among us, who was crucified, who rose again from the dead and who ascended to glory and who came in and as the Spirit to indwell a chosen nation of gospelers.
It is the Word incarnate that tells all; it is in the man Jesus that God finally and fully says to the human family, “This is what I have purposed for you. humans; life in and with me, life lived gloriously, evil known and exposed for what it is, righteousness as a joy, freedom from sin and fear, peace and adventure without end! All this I show you in the man Jesus Christ whose life is your model, whose death exposes and condemns visible evil and the invisible satanic forces that show themselves in the corruption and brutality and oppression of humanity by humanity and whose resurrection and exaltation says that all wrongs will be righted!”
Quoting Martin Luther King as he raged against satanic blindness and brutality, Charles Campbell has this: “Let them get their dogs and let them get the hose, and we will leave them standing before their God and the world spattered with the blood and reeking with the stench of their Negro brothers… (it is necessary) to bring these issues to the surface, to bring them out into the open where everybody can see them.” (1)
King and all who endured the humiliation and brutality of this era not only exposed the slavery of African-Americans, they also exposed the slavery of all and any who approved, silently or overtly, this blatant and cruel injustice. African-Americans in America rightfully raged against a visible and felt enslavement while the powerful White culture worked as slaves to invisible and malevolent forces and justified their slavery. (2)
It’s at this point that the message of the incarnate Word speaks with such clarity. God, as the man Jesus Christ identified himself with all the victims of brutal injustice before and since his own crucifixion. He exposes “the world” for what it is and brands as satanic and demonic the spirit that leads to all that is unlike the God who has come to us as Jesus Christ. (3)
The brutal killing of Jesus was not as painful or as horrible as the deaths of multiplied millions! That’s never the point of the Gospels witness! You only have to read the NT to see that Jesus’ mistreatment, at the physical/social level, was little indeed when compared with the countless sufferers down the ages. Preaching and teaching that makes more of the physical pain of Jesus than the NT does is not helpful. Now and then we hear the gory details dwelled on in a way no one in the NT does and while it can make some of us squirm because we have been blessed to escape prolonged humiliation and cruel physical mistreatment. But there have been multiplied millions who would gladly have swapped Jesus’ passion experience for what they went through. Simply Google the history of punishment and think of Auschwitz, the Gulag, the Death Marches, ancient and modern. Think of those who are even now enduring torment that defies description.
No! The central truth in the suffering and death of Jesus has its power in who it is that suffered and why he chose it.
The Christian will tell you that Jesus Christ is God being a man and that one of the things he does is to hang in solidarity with every man, woman, girl or boy in any age, in any part of the world who is being tormented, humiliated, imprisoned and used. In him, God as a man not only condemns the evil and exposes it for what it is—he does that by sharing it.
It’s wrong for preachers to say he suffered more than others—to say he did is not only nonsense; it’s needlessly offensive to those who know it is false. But it is profoundly and vitally important for teachers to make it clear that in coming into our world and choosing to share our pain (daily in anguished love at the sight of world agony and finally in death) God walked from Selma, he lay on operating tables in the Nazi camps, he sat for years in freezing cold and stink in cells in the Gulag and now huddles with women, little girls and boys in filthy cellars and cattle-cars—terrified by heartless and willing slaves of the satanic and demonic.
Whatever else the incarnation and the cross mean—they mean that much. And in exposing “the world” for what it is God meant not only to generate rage and outrage against injustice and cruelty he threw his weight into the struggle to open the eyes of the drones of malevolence and bring them into the light also. The way Selma did! The way the holocaust did! These events that to some degree opened some eyes that will not close again are shadows of what the resurrection of Christ says will be finally and fully accomplished in a day yet to come.
 
      1.    Charles L. Campbell, The Word Before the Powers, WKJ, 2002, page 63
2.    This evil was/is practiced by Africans against Africans in Africa to this very day; it was practiced by Jews against Jews—OT record—Chinese practiced it against Chinese, Irish against Irish, English against English, Muslims against Muslims, Russians against Russians and on and on. This demonic behavior is as old as Cain and Abel.
  3.   John 12:31, where Jesus is speaking of his death. “The world”           is used often in the NT as evil in its organized wholeness
      1 John 2:15-17 and James 4:4. That’s how I mean it here.

From Gary... Bible Reading August 6


Bible Reading 

August 6

The World English Bible


Aug. 6
Ezra 7-8
Ezr 7:1 Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah,
Ezr 7:2 the son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub,
Ezr 7:3 the son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth,
Ezr 7:4 the son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki,
Ezr 7:5 the son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest;
Ezr 7:6 this Ezra went up from Babylon: and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which Yahweh, the God of Israel, had given; and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of Yahweh his God on him.
Ezr 7:7 There went up some of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinim, to Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king.
Ezr 7:8 He came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king.
Ezr 7:9 For on the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon; and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God on him.
Ezr 7:10 For Ezra had set his heart to seek the law of Yahweh, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and ordinances.
Ezr 7:11 Now this is the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priest, the scribe, even the scribe of the words of the commandments of Yahweh, and of his statutes to Israel:
Ezr 7:12 Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect and so forth.
Ezr 7:13 I make a decree, that all those of the people of Israel, and their priests and the Levites, in my realm, who are minded of their own free will to go to Jerusalem, go with you.
Ezr 7:14 Because you are sent of the king and his seven counselors, to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of your God which is in your hand,
Ezr 7:15 and to carry the silver and gold, which the king and his counselors have freely offered to the God of Israel, whose habitation is in Jerusalem,
Ezr 7:16 and all the silver and gold that you shall find in all the province of Babylon, with the freewill offering of the people, and of the priests, offering willingly for the house of their God which is in Jerusalem;
Ezr 7:17 therefore you shall with all diligence buy with this money bulls, rams, lambs, with their meal offerings and their drink offerings, and shall offer them on the altar of the house of your God which is in Jerusalem.
Ezr 7:18 Whatever shall seem good to you and to your brothers to do with the rest of the silver and the gold, do that after the will of your God.
Ezr 7:19 The vessels that are given to you for the service of the house of your God, deliver before the God of Jerusalem.
Ezr 7:20 Whatever more shall be needful for the house of your God, which you shall have occasion to bestow, bestow it out of the king's treasure house.
Ezr 7:21 I, even I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers who are beyond the River, that whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done with all diligence,
Ezr 7:22 to one hundred talents of silver, and to one hundred measures of wheat, and to one hundred baths of wine, and to one hundred baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much.
Ezr 7:23 Whatever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be done exactly for the house of the God of heaven; for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?
Ezr 7:24 Also we inform you, that touching any of the priests and Levites, the singers, porters, Nethinim, or servants of this house of God, it shall not be lawful to impose tribute, custom, or toll, on them.
Ezr 7:25 You, Ezra, after the wisdom of your God who is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges, who may judge all the people who are beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God; and teach him who doesn't know them.
Ezr 7:26 Whoever will not do the law of your God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed on him with all diligence, whether it be to death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment.
Ezr 7:27 Blessed be Yahweh, the God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to beautify the house of Yahweh which is in Jerusalem;
Ezr 7:28 and has extended loving kindness to me before the king, and his counselors, and before all the king's mighty princes. I was strengthened according to the hand of Yahweh my God on me, and I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me.
Ezr 8:1 Now these are the heads of their fathers' houses, and this is the genealogy of those who went up with me from Babylon, in the reign of Artaxerxes the king:
Ezr 8:2 Of the sons of Phinehas, Gershom. Of the sons of Ithamar, Daniel. Of the sons of David, Hattush.
Ezr 8:3 Of the sons of Shecaniah, of the sons of Parosh, Zechariah; and with him were reckoned by genealogy of the males one hundred fifty.
Ezr 8:4 Of the sons of Pahathmoab, Eliehoenai the son of Zerahiah; and with him two hundred males.
Ezr 8:5 Of the sons of Shecaniah, the son of Jahaziel; and with him three hundred males.
Ezr 8:6 Of the sons of Adin, Ebed the son of Jonathan; and with him fifty males.
Ezr 8:7 Of the sons of Elam, Jeshaiah the son of Athaliah; and with him seventy males.
Ezr 8:8 Of the sons of Shephatiah, Zebadiah the son of Michael; and with him eighty males.
Ezr 8:9 Of the sons of Joab, Obadiah the son of Jehiel; and with him two hundred and eighteen males.
Ezr 8:10 Of the sons of Shelomith, the son of Josiphiah; and with him one hundred sixty males.
Ezr 8:11 Of the sons of Bebai, Zechariah the son of Bebai; and with him twenty-eight males.
Ezr 8:12 Of the sons of Azgad, Johanan the son of Hakkatan; and with him one hundred ten males.
Ezr 8:13 Of the sons of Adonikam, who were the last; and these are their names: Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah; and with them sixty males.
Ezr 8:14 Of the sons of Bigvai, Uthai and Zabbud; and with them seventy males.
Ezr 8:15 I gathered them together to the river that runs to Ahava; and there we encamped three days: and I viewed the people, and the priests, and found there none of the sons of Levi.
Ezr 8:16 Then sent I for Eliezer, for Ariel, for Shemaiah, and for Elnathan, and for Jarib, and for Elnathan, and for Nathan, and for Zechariah, and for Meshullam, chief men; also for Joiarib, and for Elnathan, who were teachers.
Ezr 8:17 I sent them forth to Iddo the chief at the place Casiphia; and I told them what they should tell Iddo, and his brothers the Nethinim, at the place Casiphia, that they should bring to us ministers for the house of our God.
Ezr 8:18 According to the good hand of our God on us they brought us a man of discretion, of the sons of Mahli, the son of Levi, the son of Israel; and Sherebiah, with his sons and his brothers, eighteen;
Ezr 8:19 and Hashabiah, and with him Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, his brothers and their sons, twenty;
Ezr 8:20 and of the Nethinim, whom David and the princes had given for the service of the Levites, two hundred and twenty Nethinim: all of them were mentioned by name.
Ezr 8:21 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek of him a straight way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.
Ezr 8:22 For I was ashamed to ask of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way, because we had spoken to the king, saying, The hand of our God is on all those who seek him, for good; but his power and his wrath is against all those who forsake him.
Ezr 8:23 So we fasted and begged our God for this: and he was entreated of us.
Ezr 8:24 Then I set apart twelve of the chiefs of the priests, even Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brothers with them,
Ezr 8:25 and weighed to them the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, even the offering for the house of our God, which the king, and his counselors, and his princes, and all Israel there present, had offered:
Ezr 8:26 I weighed into their hand six hundred fifty talents of silver, and silver vessels one hundred talents; of gold one hundred talents;
Ezr 8:27 and twenty bowls of gold, of one thousand darics; and two vessels of fine bright brass, precious as gold.
Ezr 8:28 I said to them, You are holy to Yahweh, and the vessels are holy; and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering to Yahweh, the God of your fathers.
Ezr 8:29 Watch, and keep them, until you weigh them before the chiefs of the priests and the Levites, and the princes of the fathers' houses of Israel, at Jerusalem, in the chambers of the house of Yahweh.
Ezr 8:30 So the priests and the Levites received the weight of the silver and the gold, and the vessels, to bring them to Jerusalem to the house of our God.
Ezr 8:31 Then we departed from the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and the bandit by the way.
Ezr 8:32 We came to Jerusalem, and abode there three days.
Ezr 8:33 On the fourth day the silver and the gold and the vessels were weighed in the house of our God into the hand of Meremoth the son of Uriah the priest; and with him was Eleazar the son of Phinehas; and with them was Jozabad the son of Jeshua, and Noadiah the son of Binnui, the Levite;
Ezr 8:34 the whole by number and by weight: and all the weight was written at that time.
Ezr 8:35 The children of the captivity, who had come out of exile, offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel, twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven lambs, and twelve male goats for a sin offering: all this was a burnt offering to Yahweh.
Ezr 8:36 They delivered the king's commissions to the king's satraps, and to the governors beyond the River: and they furthered the people and the house of God.
 
Aug. 5, 6
Acts 21

Act 21:1 When it happened that we had parted from them and had set sail, we came with a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara.
Act 21:2 Having found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard, and set sail.
Act 21:3 When we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left hand, we sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre, for there the ship was to unload her cargo.
Act 21:4 Having found disciples, we stayed there seven days. These said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.
Act 21:5 When it happened that we had accomplished the days, we departed and went on our journey. They all, with wives and children, brought us on our way until we were out of the city. Kneeling down on the beach, we prayed.
Act 21:6 After saying goodbye to each other, we went on board the ship, and they returned home again.
Act 21:7 When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais. We greeted the brothers, and stayed with them one day.
Act 21:8 On the next day, we, who were Paul's companions, departed, and came to Caesarea. We entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him.
Act 21:9 Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied.
Act 21:10 As we stayed there some days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.
Act 21:11 Coming to us, and taking Paul's belt, he bound his own feet and hands, and said, "Thus says the Holy Spirit: 'So will the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and will deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.' "
Act 21:12 When we heard these things, both we and they of that place begged him not to go up to Jerusalem.
Act 21:13 Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus."
Act 21:14 When he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, "The Lord's will be done."
Act 21:15 After these days we took up our baggage and went up to Jerusalem.
Act 21:16 Some of the disciples from Caesarea also went with us, bringing one Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we would stay.
Act 21:17 When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly.
Act 21:18 The day following, Paul went in with us to James; and all the elders were present.
Act 21:19 When he had greeted them, he reported one by one the things which God had worked among the Gentiles through his ministry.
Act 21:20 They, when they heard it, glorified God. They said to him, "You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law.
Act 21:21 They have been informed about you, that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children neither to walk after the customs.
Act 21:22 What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come.
Act 21:23 Therefore do what we tell you. We have four men who have taken a vow.
Act 21:24 Take them, and purify yourself with them, and pay their expenses for them, that they may shave their heads. Then all will know that there is no truth in the things that they have been informed about you, but that you yourself also walk keeping the law.
Act 21:25 But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written our decision that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from food offered to idols, from blood, from strangled things, and from sexual immorality."
Act 21:26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purified himself and went with them into the temple, declaring the fulfillment of the days of purification, until the offering was offered for every one of them.
Act 21:27 When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the multitude and laid hands on him,
Act 21:28 crying out, "Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, and the law, and this place. Moreover, he also brought Greeks into the temple, and has defiled this holy place!"
Act 21:29 For they had seen Trophimus, the Ephesian, with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple.
Act 21:30 All the city was moved, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple. Immediately the doors were shut.
Act 21:31 As they were trying to kill him, news came up to the commanding officer of the regiment that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.
Act 21:32 Immediately he took soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them. They, when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, stopped beating Paul.
Act 21:33 Then the commanding officer came near, arrested him, commanded him to be bound with two chains, and inquired who he was and what he had done.
Act 21:34 Some shouted one thing, and some another, among the crowd. When he couldn't find out the truth because of the noise, he commanded him to be brought into the barracks.
Act 21:35 When he came to the stairs, it happened that he was carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd;
Act 21:36 for the multitude of the people followed after, crying out, "Away with him!"
Act 21:37 As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he asked the commanding officer, "May I speak to you?" He said, "Do you know Greek?
Act 21:38 Aren't you then the Egyptian, who before these days stirred up to sedition and led out into the wilderness the four thousand men of the Assassins?"
Act 21:39 But Paul said, "I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no insignificant city. I beg you, allow me to speak to the people."
Act 21:40 When he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the stairs, beckoned with his hand to the people. When there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying,