"FOLLOWING JESUS WITHOUT DENOMINATIONALISM" Accepting The Call Of The Gospel INTRODUCTION 1. In the last lesson I proposed the following as the way out of religious division... a. First, follow the example of Jesus and maintain a "non-sectarian" relationship with God 1) Living under the Old Covenant, He was simply an Israelite, as the Law intended 2) Living under the New Covenant, His disciples were simply called "Christians", and so should we! - cf. Ac 11:26; 1Pe 4:16 b. Second, to ensure that we are truly members of Christ's body, the church (i.e., His "called-out" ones)... 1) Let us be sure that we have answered the call of the gospel, by which He adds us to His Church (and not some denomination begun by man) - 2Th 2:14; Ac 2:41,47 2) Let us follow the example of the early church, who "continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine" - Ac 2:42 2. An important key, then, is that we properly answer the call of the gospel... a. For through the gospel Christ is calling us into His church b. When we accept the gospel call, by God's grace we receive salvation and the Lord adds us to His church 3. Unfortunately, there have always been those who have "perverted" certain elements of the gospel... a. In the first century, Paul wrote of those who had perverted the gospel by trying to add elements of the Old Law to it - Ga 1:8-9; cf. Ac 15:1,6 b. Later, others attempted to change the basis of salvation by teaching a salvation of works, rather than by grace through faith c. Even today, many pervert the gospel by the manner they call upon people to respond to the gospel, leaving out the proper response as taught by Christ and His apostles -- For this reason, it is important that we understand the gospel of Christ, and how to properly accept the call of the gospel! 4. There are several good ways to summarize the gospel that makes it easy to remember, and one was that suggested by Walter Scott... a. Not Sir Walter Scott, the British author who wrote "Ivanhoe" b. But a kinsman born in Scotland (1796), who came to America and proclaimed the gospel throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Kentucky c. In his study of the gospel, Walter Scott summarized it as containing... 1) Facts to be believed 2) Commands to be obeyed 3) Promises to be received d. Indeed, accepting the call of the gospel involves a person accepting the "facts," "commands," and "promises" contained in the gospel of Jesus Christ [To elaborate, let's consider first of all that to accept the call of the gospel one must...] I. BELIEVE THE "FACTS" OF THE GOSPEL A. THAT JESUS WAS "CRUCIFIED" FOR OUR SINS... 1. The death of Jesus for our sins is a fundamental part of the gospel - 1Co 15:1-3 2. It was foretold by Isaiah - Isa 53:4-6 3. It's necessity is seen in that all are sinners, and the wages of sin is death - Ro 3:23; 6:23 4. But in love, God sent His son to be a propitiation (atoning sacrifice) for our sins - 1Jn 4:9-10 B. THAT JESUS WAS "RAISED" FROM THE DEAD... 1. Together with His death and burial, the resurrection of Christ is fundamental to the gospel - 1Co 15:4 2. In the first gospel sermon recorded, Peter centered his message around proving that God raised Jesus from the dead - Ac 2:22-32 3. Without the resurrection of Christ, the gospel is meaningless - cf. 1Co 15:14-19 C. THAT JESUS IS "EXALTED" AS KING AND SAVIOR... 1. So Peter proclaimed at the climax of his first gospel sermon - cf. Ac 2:33-36 2. All have been put under His feet, and made subject to Him - Ep 1:20-22; 1Pe 3:22 3. Therefore He is truly "the ruler over the kings of the earth"! - Re 1:5 D. THAT JESUS IS "COMING" AGAIN... 1. As prophesied in the Book of Revelation - Re 1:7 2. As proclaimed by the "two men in white apparel" when Jesus ascended to heaven - Ac 1:9-11 3. The purpose of His coming? To execute judgment and be glorified! - 2Th 1:7-10 [Certainly there are other elements of the gospel necessary for us to believe (such as the virgin birth of Christ, His deity, etc.), but in the preaching of the gospel as recording in the book of Acts, the facts which I have described were emphasized time and again. Do you believe the "facts" of the gospel? If so, that is wonderful, for when you have such faith you will be prompted to accept the call of the gospel to...] II. OBEY THE "COMMANDS" OF THE GOSPEL A. "BELIEVE" THE GOSPEL CONCERNING JESUS CHRIST... 1. Yes, this sounds redundant, but it is important to stress two things: a. That there are indeed "commands" one must obey to be saved b. And that the first command is to "believe"! 2. Unless one believes the gospel, there is no hope - Mk 16:15-16 3. The gospel is God's power unto salvation, but only to those who believe - Ro 1:16 4. Faith (along with confession) is a necessary step leading to salvation - Ro 10:9-10 a. Without faith it is impossible to please God - He 11:6 b. Without faith, one will not act upon the other conditions of the gospel (such as confession, repentance, etc.) 5. Do you lack faith? Then I direct you to the four gospels (Matt, Mark, Luke, John) a. For they were written to produce faith - cf. Jn 20:30-31 b. For faith comes from hearing the Word of God - Ro 10:17 B. "CONFESS" YOUR FAITH IN JESUS AS LORD... 1. In addition to the command to believe, there is the command to confess Jesus as Lord - cf. Ro 10:9-10 2. This means to acknowledge that you believe Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God, who is "King of kings, and Lord of lords" 3. An example of such a confession is found in Ac 8:37 4. Without confessing Jesus before men, we have no hope that He will confess us before His Father in heaven - cf. Mt 10:32-33 5. Are you willing to confess that you believe Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God? C. "REPENT" OF YOUR SINS... 1. To "repent" means to have "a change of mind", in which case you make the decision to turn from your sins and turn toward living for God a. It is brought about by a "godly sorrow" for your sins - 2Co 7:10 b. And it will produce a visible change in one's life - 2 Co 7:11 2. Jesus said that "repentance" should be preached in His name among the nations - Lk 24:46-47 3. Indeed, the apostles Peter and Paul both stressed repentance in their gospel preaching - cf. Ac 2:37-38; 3:19; 17:30-31 4. Dear friend, has faith in what Christ did for you on the cross and sorrow over your sins moved you to the point that you have made the decision to change? 5. If so, then you are ready for the culminating act of faith and obedience to the gospel of Christ... D. BE "BAPTIZED" FOR THE REMISSION OF YOUR SINS... 1. Baptism is clearly a part of the gospel message that Jesus wanted His disciples to proclaim - Mk 16:15-16; Mt 28:18-20 2. Peter proclaimed baptism for the remission of sins in his first sermon - Ac 2:38 3. Paul related that he was commanded to be baptized "to wash away sins" - Ac 22:16 4. Not that there is anything in the act of immersion (the meaning of "baptizo") that merits or earns forgiveness, but it is simply the point of time in which God by His grace unites us with Christ in His death, and by His working in conjunction with our faith raises us to walk in newness of life! a. Ro 6:3-6 describes baptism as the point in time we are united into the death of Christ at which point we die to sin and thereby raised to newness of life b. Col 2:11-13 reveals that in baptism we are buried with Christ and then raised through faith in God's working who makes us alive in Christ by forgiving us of our sins! 5. Dear friend, have you been baptized for the remission of your sins? If not, are you willing to let God cleanse you through the blood of His Son and raise you to a new life? E. BE "FAITHFUL" UNTO DEATH... 1. Those who gladly received the preaching of the apostles were baptized, and the Lord added them to His church - Ac 2:41,47 2. So while in one sense the "commands" of the gospel end with the command to be baptized, there is also the command of our Lord for faithfulness a. Jesus wanted His disciples to teach others "to observe all things that I have commanded you" - Mt 28:19-20 b. Jesus exhorted His church in Ephesus: "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." - Re 2:10 3. The need for continued faithfulness is paramount: a. For believers can develop an evil heart of unbelief in falling away from God - He 3:12 b. For believers can become hardened through the deceitfulness of sin - He 3:13 c. And believers become partakers of Christ only "IF we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end" - He 3:14 4. Therefore the need for such exhortations as the one given by Paul: "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." - 1Co 15:58 [Finally, to fully accept the call of the gospel, we need to...] III. RECEIVE THE "PROMISES" OF THE GOSPEL A. THE REMISSION OF SINS... 1. As stated by Jesus, remission of sins was to be proclaimed among all nations - Lk 24:47 2. Faithful to the Lord's charge, the early Christians offered this wonderful promise to those who would heed the commands of the gospel - cf. Ac 2:38; 3:19; 22:16 3. In their epistles, the writers would often refer to this wonderful blessing - e.g., Ep 1:7 4. Don't you want the assurance that your sins have been forgiven, washed away by the blood of Christ? -- Then heed the commands of the gospel! - Ac 2:38 B. THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT... 1. Jesus had also spoken of those who believe in Him receiving the Spirit in a special way - cf. Jn 7:37-39 2. Thus Peter offers the gift of the Spirit to those who will obey God - Ac 2:38-39; 5:32 3. The blessing of having the Spirit in our lives is related to His indwelling... a. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit - 1Co 6:19 b. With the aid of the Spirit, we are able to put to death the deeds of the flesh - Ro 8:9,11-13 c. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is an instrumental agent by which the Father imparts strength to the Christian - Ep 3:16, 20-21 4. Dear friend, God does not expect you to live the Christian life solely by your own strength; don't you wish to receive all of the aids (the Holy Spirit is only one such aid) that God affords His children? -- Then heed the commands of the gospel! - Ac 2:38 C. THE GIFT OF ETERNAL LIFE... 1. The expression "eternal life" is an interesting one, evidently used in two different ways in the scriptures a. It is used to describe the reward of the faithful, received only at the end, on the day of judgment 1) Jesus used it this way in Mt 25:46 2) Paul, likewise, describing it as gift from God through Jesus Christ - Ro 6:23 (cf. 6:22; also 2:5-8) b. It is also used to describe the spiritual life we now enjoy by virtue of our knowledge of (or fellowship with) the Father and the Son 1) Jesus describes it as such in Jn 17:2-3 2) As well as His beloved disciple, John, in 1Jn 5:11-13 2. Thus the gift of eternal life is one that has "promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come" (to borrow a phrase from Paul) 3. Aren't you tired of the shallow life this world has to offer? Don't you wish to receive that "abundant life" that Jesus came to give? - cf. Jn 10:10 -- Then heed the commands of the gospel! - Mk 16:16 CONCLUSION 1. These wonderful promises (and there are many more) can be received by anyone who is willing to heed and accept the call of the gospel of Christ a. Those who do, will not only receive these blessings b. But they will also be added by the Lord to His church, that great assembly of "called-out" ones who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb 2. Have you accepted the "call" of the gospel? Have you... a. Believed the "facts" of the gospel? b. Obeyed the "commands" of the gospel? c. Thereby received the "promises" of the gospel? 3. It is possible that you have only obeyed some of the "commands" of the gospel... a. Many have "believed", "repented", confessed", but were never "baptized" b. This is because you rarely hear preachers stressing that aspect of the gospel in their preaching 3. Sadly, I fear that many... a. Have reacted to one "perversion" of the gospel (adding meritorious works) b. By going to the other extreme where they commit another "perversion" of the gospel (taking away a command of God) I plan to discuss the subject of "baptism" more closely in the next lesson, but if you are convinced that you need to obey Christ in this regard, why not do so today?
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011
Megiddo: Lesson from "A Thousand Towns"
|by||Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.|
For many hundreds of years, the balance of power in the Ancient Near East pivoted on a few square miles of the rugged Carmel Range. Practically speaking, anyone traveling from Egypt in the south, to Anatolia, Assyria and Babylonia in the north and northeast, had to skirt Mount Carmel or negotiate one of the three passes through the range. Of these, the most direct route went through the narrow middle valley, which opened at its northeastern end on the town of Megiddo and the fertile Jezreel Valley.
Megiddo’s exceptional location made it a site of conflict for the major and minor powers of the region. While Canaanite culture dominated Megiddo from the twentieth through twelfth centuries B.C., Egyptians, Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians and others had their turn at occupation. About sixteen historical battles were fought in or near the city over a period of 2,500 years before Christ. A hill rose from the plain as new cities built on the remains of the old. It is no wonder that the book of Revelation uses the hill of Megiddo (harmagedon, incorrectly transliterated “Armageddon” in some versions) to symbolize the spiritual war between forces of good and evil.
MAJOR EVENTS AT MEGIDDO
The first biblical reference to Megiddo comes around seventy years later. Joshua 12:21 lists the city’s king among those whom “Joshua and the children of Israel smote on this side Jordan on the west” (12:7). Yet the victory was incomplete. A few chapters later we read that the tribe of Manasseh, whose allotment included Megiddo, “could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities” (17:12). When the Israelites held the advantage, however, they exacted tribute from their beleaguered neighbors (17:13; see also Judges 1:27-28). Another two hundred years passed before Israel, led by Barak and Deborah, scored a definitive military victory in the Megiddo area (Judges 5:19). By the middle of the ninth century B.C., Megiddo had become an important administrative center in Solomon’s kingdom (e.g., I Kings 4:12; 9:15).
Israel’s glory soon dissipated with the dividing of his kingdom. Around 925 B.C.—barely five years after Solomon’s death—Pharaoh Shishak I reestablished Egyptian rule over Palestine. He looted the temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 14:25-26) and then, according to an inscription at Karnak, turned north to conquer several cities, including Megiddo. This renewed a great tug of war between the superpowers. Assyria annexed Megiddo and the surrounding areas in the late eighth century, and deported many of its people to distant lands (2 Kings 17:1-6). But Assyrian power gradually declined, and in 609 B.C. Pharaoh Necho II marched northward to aid them against the rising Babylonians. Despite a warning from God, via Necho, to stay out of the fray (2 Chronicles 35:22), King Josiah of Judah attacked the Egyptians near Megiddo. The ill-advised attempt ended in failure and Josiah’s death (2 Chronicles 25:23-24). Sadly, this brought an end to his religious reforms, and the beginning of the end for Judah.
RECONCILING STONES AND SCRIPTURES
Other questions are more serious. For example, in speaking of a mysterious destruction level in the late thirteenth century, Finkelstein and Ussishkin dismiss the idea that this had anything to do with the Israelites (1994, 20:40). “Incidentally,” they add, “the Bible gives no indication that Megiddo was conquered by the Israelites at this early period.” What they have in mind, of course, is the now-popular idea that the events of Joshua occurred much later than 1406 B.C. (contrary to the view of most conservative scholars). Hence, because the Bible admits that the Israelites failed to occupy Megiddo, and because the city experienced a major conflict in the late thirteenth century, then the invading Israelites cannot be responsible. However, if we begin with an earlier date for the conquest, then this destruction layer falls around the time of Barak and Deborah’s campaign. Although Scripture says nothing about their razing of the city, archaeological evidence is not inconsistent with conservative chronology.
What is interesting in this analysis is that seemingly trustworthy extrabiblical records also challenge the conclusions of archaeology. For example, Finkelstein and Ussishkin state that the Karnak account of Thutmose III’s campaign possesses “a dramatic reality” (20:31). However, Megiddo shows no signs of destruction in 1469 B.C., and no signs of a city wall to resist the pharaoh’s seven-month siege. Similarly, the signs of destruction are minimal or nonexistent around 925 B.C. when, according to another Karnak inscription, Shishak should have conquered Megiddo. In this case, however, archaeologists have found a stele at Megiddo honoring Shishak, which prompts Finkelstein and Ussishkin to suggest that the pharaoh conquered the city without destroying it (20:43).
Davies, Graham I. (1994), “King Solomon’s Stables,” Biblical Archaeology Review, 20:44-49, January/February.
Finkelstein, Israel, and David Ussishkin (1994), “Megiddo,” Biblical Archaeology Review, 20:26-33,36-43, January/February.
God Put Wits In Godwits
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
At one time, Michael Johnson was the fastest man alive. He once covered the last 100 meters of a 200-meter race in 9.6 seconds (“The Fastest Man...,” 2007). A human running at a speed of 28 mph is quite impressive, but neither Michael Johnson nor any other human can maintain such a speed for more than a few seconds. Marathon runners may be able to run 26.2 miles without stopping, but no one averages more than 13 mph while running great distances. Although the human body is a meticulously designed “machine” (see Jackson, 2000), which functions perfectly for its intended purpose on Earth, there are limits to what a person can do. When these limits are compared to the speed and distance a particular bird recently flew, one gains a greater appreciation for God’s wondrous creation.
In February 2007, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey fitted 16 shorebirds, known as bar-tailed godwits, with satellite transmitters. One of the godwits, dubbed E7, made its way from New Zealand to Alaska over the next three months, flying 9,340 miles with one five-week-long layover near the North Korea-China border (Hansford, 2007). After nearly four months, the godwit began its uninterrupted flight back to New Zealand. Amazingly, this little bird, which normally weighs less than one pound, flew 7,145 miles in nine days without stopping, averaging 34.8 mph. Without taking a break to eat, drink, or rest, the godwit flew “the equivalent of making a roundtrip flight between New York and San Francisco, and then flying back again to San Francisco without ever touching down” (“Bird Completes...,” 2007). Equally impressive, the godwit’s approximately 16,500-mile, roundtrip journey ended where it began. Without a map, a compass, or even a parent, godwits can fly tens of thousands of miles without getting lost.
Scientists have studied the migration of birds for decades and still cannot adequately explain this “age-old riddle” (Peterson, 1968, p. 108). Their stamina and sense of direction is mind-boggling. In his book Unsolved Mysteries of Science, evolutionist John Malone reported how much progress man has made over the last few centuries in understanding how birds are able to journey thousands of miles with pinpoint accuracy (2001, pp. 114-122). Yet, he concluded his chapter on bird migration, saying:
Partial explanations abound, but every book or scientific article on bird migration is full of conditional words and phrases: “It may be...but it also might not be.” We know more about how birds might achieve their epic flights around the world, but there are still far more mysteries than there are explanations. The tiny songbird that reappeared to build its nest in the apple tree outside your window—and we know from banding that it can indeed be exactly the same bird—has been to South America and back since you saw it last. How can that be? This is one case where it may be nicer not to know—simply allow yourself to be swept up by awe and wonder (p. 122, emp. added).Try as they might, evolutionists attempting to explain the complexities of bird migration can only offer woeful (and often contradictory) theories, at best (Peterson, p. 108). How can a person reasonably conclude that non-intelligence, plus time, plus chance equals a one-pound, bar-tailed godwit flying 7,145 miles in nine days without stopping for food, water, or rest? The “awe and wonder” to which John Malone alluded should be directed toward neither mindless evolution nor the birds themselves, but to the “great and awesome God” (Daniel 9:4) Who has done “wondrous works” and “awesome things” (Psalm 106:22), including endowing birds with the amazing trait we call “instinct.” Truly, it is not by evolution or man’s wisdom that a bird “soars, stretching his wings toward the south” (Job 39:26). Rather, “the stork in the sky knows her seasons; and the turtledove and the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration” (Jeremiah 8:7, NASB), because all-knowing, all-powerful Jehovah is the Creator of them all.
“The Fastest Man on Earth?” (2007), [On-line], URL: http://www.eis2win.co.uk/gen/news_sprintrecords020805.aspx.
Hansford, Dave (2007), “Alaska Bird Makes Longest Nonstop Flight Ever Measured,” National Geographic News, September 14, [On-line], URL: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/09/070913-longest- flight.html.
Jackson, Wayne (2000), The Human Body—Accident or Design? (Stockton, CA: Courier Publications).
Malone, John (2001), Unsolved Mysteries of Science (New York: John Wiley & Sons).
Peterson, Roger (1968), The Birds (New York: Time-Life Books).
Change has Limits
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
According to the General Theory of Evolution, over multiplied millions of years fish evolved into amphibians, which evolved into reptiles, which evolved into mammals, which evolved into humans. Supposedly, changes took place that knew no boundaries. Invertebrates evolved spines. Fish evolved legs. Reptiles evolved hair. Apes evolved morality. Given enough time, anything is possible. Evolution allegedly has no limits.
Everything we see in nature, however, testifies to the fact that changes do have limits. There are limits as to how much the Galapagos Islands’ finches (which Darwin studied in the 1830s) can change (see Butt, 2006). After more than 100 years of experiments, thousands of lab-induced mutations, and multiplied millions of specimens, scientists have learned that the common fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) never changes into anything other than a fruit fly (see Butt, 2008). Though thousands of years of selective breeding have given us a great variety within the dog kind (from the four-inch tall, long-haired Chihuahua to the 42-inch tall, short-haired Great Dane), dogs have always remained dogs.
Recently, the prominent evolutionary science journal, New Scientist, addressed the limits of change in various animals and humans. In an article titled, “Where Dogs Have Led, Humans Follow,” the question was asked, “What do greyhounds, horses and women sprinters have in common?” The answer: “They may all have hit peak performance” (2008, 200:16). According to Mark Denny of Stanford University in California, “[A]nalysed records from athletics events and greyhound and horse races since the 1920s...revealed limits on the speeds that animals and humans can run” (“Where Dogs...,” p. 16, emp. added).
Winning greyhounds and horses got faster until the 1970s, when they began to plateau. Denny thinks this is because these animals reached a peak speed for their species, perhaps because selective breeding had created an optimum body type.
Women sprinters began to plateau in the 1970s, with rarer and smaller improvements since then.... Using these records, Denny has created a model which predicts that men will eventually achieve a peak time of 9.48 seconds for the 100-metre sprint, 0.21 seconds better than Usain Bolt’s current world record (p. 16).Although New Scientist openly embraces the General Theory of Evolution, the journal has admitted that limits of change exist. Regardless of how much geneticists selectively breed animals, or how many hormones are introduced into the bodies of animals or humans, change in the biological world has boundaries. Whether one is talking about speed, size, or strength, there are limits as to how much a human or a particular kind of animal can change. Centuries of scientific observation have testified repeatedly to the boundaries of change. Dogs will get only so fast, grow so tall, or become so strong. They have never crossed their inherent (i.e., God-given) genetic barrier to become a cat, bat, or rat. As the Bible has testified for 3,500 years, God created all of the various kinds of animals to reproduce “according to their kind” (Genesis 1:21,24-25).
REFERENCESButt, Kyle (2006), “What do the Finches Prove?,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3051.
Butt, Kyle (2008), “Mutant Fruit Flies Bug Evolution,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3723.
“Where Dogs Have Led, Humans Follow” (2008), New Scientist, 200:16, December 6-12.
Evolution, Environmentalism, and the Deification of Nature
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The printed version of this article in this month’s issue of Reason & Revelation is the abbreviated form of a more lengthy study of this topic. To view the unedited version, click here.]
The year was 1970. It was the year of the Kent State shootings, Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Apollo 13, the disbanding of the Beatles, the X-rated movie Midnight Cowboy winning the Best Picture Oscar, the drug-related deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, as well as the death of Scopes Monkey Trial defendant John T. Scopes. That year also marked the birth of the modern environmental movement, with the observance of the first Earth Day on April 22 (see “1970,” 2000). By July, the Environmental Protection Agency was formed. Various pieces of federal legislation designed to protect the environment quickly followed, including the Clean Air Act (1970), the Clean Water Act (1972), and the Endangered Species Act (1973) [see “Major Environmental Laws,” 2003]. Since 1970, it is safe to say, the American way of life has been altered drastically. The environmental movement has changed forever the way Americans view the world around them. Even the otherwise environmentally insensitive citizen now possesses heightened consciousness about littering, recycling, global warming, and “going organic.” But things have gotten out of hand.
It was one thing for young people who embraced this perspective to march in the streets in the 1960s and promote their offbeat, fanatical ideas. But now that they have moved into powerful political positions, their ideas permeate policy and literally wreak havoc on people’s lives. Fringe environmentalist groups, in collusion with liberal politicians, Hollywood celebrities, and the mainstream media, have conspired to unleash a flood of environmental propaganda and eco-myths. First it was the “deadly” ozone-depleting hairspray aerosols. Then it was the evil internal combustion engine. They have inundated the public with their alarmist claims that global pollution, ozone depletion, and environmental contamination due to technological progress and American affluence mean that life on Earth is facing inevitable and imminent extinction. They insist that humans are inflicting widespread damage on the environment, destroying the forests, and causing the extinction of animal and plant species. Friends of the Earth International insists: “[T]he Earth is a creation to be honored and respected as our Mother” (see “Friends of the Earth...,” 2007, emp. added).
Multiple examples demonstrate the absurd extent to which environmentalists are willing to go. A 400-page United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization report has identified rapidly growing herds of cattle as the greatest threat to the environment (Lean, 2006). We are told that the 1.5 billion cattle on Earth are responsible for 18% of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming—more than cars, planes, and all other forms of transportation combined. More than a third of the greenhouse gas, methane (which warms the world 20 times faster than carbon dioxide), is emitted by cows and their manure. And it is not just methane, since cattle also produce more than 100 other polluting gases, including more than two-thirds of the world’s emissions of ammonia—one of the main causes of acid rain (Lean, 2006). That’s right, gaseous expulsions by cows damage the planet more than emissions from cars. Environmentalists are beside themselves.
Researchers at Norway’s technical university claim that their national animal, the moose, is harming the climate by emitting over 2,000 kilos of carbon dioxide per year—equivalent to the CO2 produced by an 8,000 mile car trip (“Norway’s Moose...,” 2007). [Poor Bullwinkle now is politically incorrect.] Yet, Australian scientists are delighted with the discovery that flatulent kangaroos produce almost no greenhouse gas methane due to their peculiar digestive flora (bacteria)—which researchers hope can be transplanted into cows and sheep to prevent their contributions to global warming (“Flatulent Kangaroos...,” 2007).
But it doesn’t stop there. Scientists from Austria and Germany recently reported that, though we humans are but one of the millions of species on Earth, we use up almost one-fourth of the sun’s energy captured by plants—the most of any species. More than half of the use is due to the harvesting of crops and other plants (Leung, 2007). You read that right. It is bad enough that we humans are soaking up more than our fair share of the Sun’s rays simply by being outdoors; but we are exploiting poor, defenseless green plants by greedily harvesting and consuming their bounty, thereby stealing from them the benefit they derived from the Sun.
To top such nonsense off, while it is common for environmentalists to blame mankind as the prime perpetrator of environmental destruction, now one environmentalist insists that, more specifically, children are significant culprits in the human assault on the natural order. Parents, we are told, should limit their offspring to no more than two children in order to reduce carbon dioxide output. The report published by the environmentalist group, Optimum Population Trust, insists that the greatest thing one could do to help the future of the planet would be to have one less child (Templeton, 2007).
Let’s get this straight. Cows cause global warming, so we need to reduce the cow population. If we kill cows, we will upset the animal rights people. If we eat cows, we will offend the vegetarians. If we allow the present population of cows to live to old age and die naturally, we could arrest the growth of the cow population by performing partial birth abortions on all cows that get pregnant. But that, too, likely would upset animal rights people (who probably would have no problem doing the same to pre-born humans—especially since kids contribute to the CO2 problem). Since harvesting crops and other green plants is stealing solar energy, we need to cease consuming plants—to the further dismay of the vegetarians. Any of this making sense to you?
ASSUMPTIONS OF ENVIRONMENTALISM
The fundamental fallacy of the modern environmental movement is this inherent denial of supernaturalism and metaphysical reality. Rather than acknowledging that the entire Universe was created miraculously by the transcendent God of the Bible, Who both prepared and perpetuates the Earth for human habitation (Genesis 1:1-2:19; 8:22; Hebrews 11:3), the environmental movement posits the absence of supernatural origins and the necessity of an eternal Universe. Hence, the physical environment must be protected and preserved by humans in order for life to continue. The future of the Earth is viewed as dependent on mankind. If man damages the fragile environment, he is hastening its demise.
Renowned Cornell University astronomer Carl Sagan held this view: “I believe we have an obligation to fight for life on Earth—not just for ourselves, but for all those, humans and others, who came before us, and to whom we are beholden, and for all those who, if we are wise enough, will come after” (1997, p. 75, emp. added). He also insisted that “[o]ur capacity to cause harm is great” (p. 97). In other words, the future of the planet—and all life on it—lies completely in the hands of humanity. Are we humans really so arrogant as to think that the future of the planet rests with us? Are we really so foolish as to think that the digestive tract of cows are defective—the result of mindless evolution rather than the all-knowing Creator—and that it falls to us to correct it?
If environmentalists believe that human beings are the product of the chance, mechanistic forces of nature working over millions of years through non-intelligent, evolutionary accidents, one can understand why they might think that we must preserve the planet at all costs—even at the expense of humans. To them, human beings are simply one more rung on the evolutionary ladder, with each prior life form being of comparable value. From this perspective, the environment in which evolution occurs is far more important than any one species that may happen to arise within that environment. The comparative worth of one species is based upon how large a danger that species poses to other species. Since humans have greater capability to harm the environment and to destroy lesser species, humans constitute the greatest threat to the well-being of the planet. To the environmentalist, humans are the natural enemy of nature.
Sagan also stated: “There is no cause more urgent, no dedication more fitting than to protect the future of our species.... No social convention, no political system, no economic hypothesis, no religious dogma is more important” (1997, p. 75, emp. added). Such statements betray a purely materialistic outlook on life. Religious and spiritual concerns are secondary—or altogether nonexistent. The “number one concern,” according to Sagan and the environmentalists, is the preservation of the physical realm. Though Sagan and his fellow evolutionists disavow any allegiance to religion—Christian or otherwise—the dedication and devotion to the environment that they enjoin bears a striking resemblance to the devotion advocated by those who profess religious belief. The only difference is the object of the religious devotion. While manifesting hostility toward the Christian religion, it is apparent that environmentalists have their own religion: the worship of nature and the environment. This explains why Sagan would write: “The Earth is a tiny and fragile world. It needs to be cherished” (1980, p. 103, emp. added). To say that the Earth needs to be “cherished,” i.e., loved, suggests distorted sensibilities that are unaided by divine insight. God has instructed humans to love Him, each other, His law, and truth. But He never has told us to love rocks, dirt, plants, and animals—or to hug trees.
To summarize, several assumptions inhere in radical environmentalism: the Creator depicted in the Bible does not exist; the Universe is eternal; the created order has no planned, overriding purpose; man is the ultimate offending culprit in his ability to destroy the planet; and the survival of the planet’s features (plants, animals, atmosphere, etc.) depends on man—not on any higher power.
THE BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE
God created the planet to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18). He declared His intention that human beings were to rule and have domination over the Earth’s resources. Referring to humans, He stated: “[L]et them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26, emp. added). He instructed humans to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28, emp. added). The Hebrew term for “subdue” (kah-vash) means to bring into submission by force (Oswalt, 1980, 1:430). The psalmist echoed these very directives when he praised God by saying, “You [God] have made him [man] to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet” (Psalm 8:6, emp. added). God stressed human domination in even stronger terms after the Flood: “[T]he fear of you [humans] and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that moves on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs” (Genesis 9:2-3, emp. added). God obviously intended for humans to make use of Earth’s natural resources, including animals and plants, in order to live, survive, develop, and progress—all in preparation for eternity.
Second, not only did God initially set up the environment to fulfill its divinely designated purpose, placing within it all necessary variables for sustaining it until He decides to terminate the physical realm, but He also continues to sustain and maintain it. The Bible has a great deal to say about the role that Jesus played at the Creation (e.g., John 1:3; Hebrews 1:2). He continues to have a relationship with the physical Universe by ensuring that it remains intact and functional. Paul referred to the “one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live” (1 Corinthians 8:6, emp. added). Paul also stated: “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth.... All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16-17, emp. added). The psalmist insisted that when God spoke the physical Universe into existence, the constituent elements of the created order “stood fast” and “were established,” God having “made a decree” with them (33:9; 148:5-6, emp. added). The Hebrews writer claimed that Jesus is “upholding all things by the word of His power” (1:3, emp. added). Peter said that “the heavens and the earth which now exist are kept in store by the same word” (2 Peter 3:7, emp. added). The terms in these verses connote the idea of preserving, governing, regulating, and superintending the created order (Nicoll, 1900, 4:251-252). In other words, deity continues to maintain the order, harmony, and well-being of the whole creation—the vast Universe as well as planet Earth (Barnes, 2005 reprint, p. 27). We can be assured: the environment will remain intact and suitable for life for as long as God intends. He is the great Sustainer.
The planet is heating up—and fast. Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, cloud forests are drying, and wildlife is scrambling to keep pace. It’s becoming clear that humans have caused most of the past century’s warming by releasing heat-trapping gases as we power our modern lives. Called greenhouse gases, their levels are higher now than in the last 650,000 years.... What will we do to slow this warming? How will we cope with the changes we’ve already set into motion? While we struggle to figure it all out, the face of the Earth as we know it...hangs in the balance (“What Is...?” n.d., emp. added).Yet we also have been terrorized with the idea that our actions are “lowering the surface temperature of our planet” (Sagan, 1980, p. 103). Ironically, a 1974 TIME magazine article reported a three-decade-long cooling of atmospheric temperatures and other “weather aberrations” that “may be the harbinger of another ice age” (“Another Ice Age?”). Insisting that “telltale signs are everywhere,” as expected, one of the culprits responsible for the threat was identified as man, since “dust and other particles released into the atmosphere as a result of farming and fuel burning may be blocking more and more sunlight from reaching and heating the surface of the earth” (“Another Ice Age?”). The 1974 article concluded: “Whatever the cause of the cooling trend, its effects could be extremely serious, if not catastrophic. Scientists figure that only a 1% decrease in the amount of sunlight hitting the earth’s surface could tip the climate balance, and cool the planet enough to send it sliding down the road to another ice age within only a few hundred years” (“Another Ice Age?,” emp. added). So which is it? Ice age or global warming? Since yesterday’s science is today’s superstition, how wary ought we to be regarding the bold claims of today’s “science”?
Nature vs. ItselfThe absurdity of the environmentalists’ claim—that humans are harsh and insensitive in their treatment of the environment—becomes especially apparent, even whimsical, when one simply observes nature’s treatment of itself. For example, the Katmai National Park is home to the world’s largest grizzly bears, commonly referred to as Alaskan Brown Bears. Because of their rich salmon diet, these bears grow to over 1,000 pounds in weight, making them the world’s largest land predators. Philip Greenspun gave the following eyewitness report of the bears’ eating ritual in the Brooks River:
Dominant bears occupy prime positions on top of the part of the falls where salmon jump every few seconds. When the salmon are running well, every five minutes a bear will catch a fish in his teeth and hold it firmly enough that blood begins to flow as the fish flops around. If there are plenty of salmon, the bear goes after only the fatty skin, brain, and roe, removing these parts during a gruesome minute or so. The salmon may remain alive for much or all of its consumption. Why do you think they call them animals? (1993).Notice the carnage, the waste, the brutality, the selfish competition between bears, and the flagrant insensitivity to both the salmon and the environment. But this one example is typical of the phenomena inherent throughout the animal kingdom.
The planet, itself, is equally destructive. The largest volcanic eruption in recorded history occurred in 1815 in Tambora, Indonesia, killing an estimated 92,000 people, thousands of species of wildlife, and spewing (as far as 800 miles) 150 times more ash than the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens (“Tambora, Sumbawa...,” n.d.). Hot, pyroclastic flows poured into the ocean, scalding sea life and causing additional explosions. Man and animal suffered cataclysmic devastation—due to starvation, disease, and hunger—earning the designation the “Year without a Summer.” Daily minimum temperatures were abnormally low in the Northern Hemisphere from late spring to early autumn. Famine was widespread because of crop failures (“Tambora, Sumbawa...”). The renowned volcano Krakatau (frequently misstated as Krakatoa) caused more than 36,000 fatalities, as devastating tsunamis inundated the coastlines of Sumatra and Java (“Krakatau, Sunda...,” n.d.). These are only two of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of volcanic eruptions that have unleashed massive environmental destruction through the centuries.
Consider the damage inflicted on the environment by the earthquake that killed 830,000 people in Shensi, China in 1556 (“Most Destructive Known...,” 2007). Only three years ago (December 26, 2004) the earthquake that generated the great Indian Ocean tsunami is estimated to have released the energy of 23,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs (“The Deadliest Tsunami...?,” 2005). More than a quarter million people were killed and millions more in 11 countries were displaced from their homes in South Asia and East Africa (“Most Destructive Known...”). The violent movement of sections of the Earth’s crust (the tectonic plates) created a rupture which the U.S. Geological Survey estimates was more than 600 miles long, displacing the seafloor above the rupture by perhaps 10 yards horizontally and several yards vertically. The displacement of such an enormous amount of water sent powerful shock waves in every direction, moving trillions of tons of rock along hundreds of miles, causing the planet to shudder, destroying thousands of miles of coastline and submerging entire islands permanently (“The Deadliest Tsunami...?,” 2005). Here was catastrophic environmental damage to plant, animal, marine, and human life.
The natural positioning of the Huang He (Yellow) River in China has caused it to overflow its banks many times in history, resulting in massive environmental damage (“The World’s Worst Floods,” n.d.). The human death toll of one such occurrence in 1931 was estimated to be from 1 to 3.7 million. Another in 1887 killed between 900,000 and two million (“The World’s Worst Floods”). The impact on plant and animal life was enormous. Hurricanes are no less destructive to the environment. On November 13, 1970, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) experienced the deadliest hurricane on record, flooding low lying areas and killing at least half a million people—with some estimates rising as high as one million (“The Ten Worst...,” n.d.).
On March 18, 1925, the deadliest tornado in U.S. history began in southeastern Missouri, crossed through southern Illinois, and then turned into southwestern Indiana, killing 625 people and injuring more than 2,000 others. Property damage was assessed at $16.5 million—$1.7 billion in today’s dollars. The tornado left a 219 mile track—the longest ever recorded (“The Deadliest U.S...,” n.d.). Once again, havoc was wreaked on plant and animal life.
Volcanoes, hurricanes, tornados, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis—the list goes on and on. The powerful energy, awesome force, and mind-boggling destruction that nature has inflicted on itself and Earth’s inhabitants has been ongoing—a perpetual pattern of catastrophe. Yet, as God planned, life goes on—until the day He decides to call the human population to account before His judgment seat.
Humans vs. NatureHave humans tampered with nature and caused unnecessary harm to the environment? Certainly. Instances are legion. In 1876, the introduction of Kudzu, a fast-growing vine from Japan, ultimately led to the destruction of valuable forests by blocking sunlight from trees. The vine, which can grow 60 feet each year, and has blanketed the South, is virtually impervious to herbicides. Yet, many positive benefits have emerged, including remarkable soil erosion control, a nutritious food source for Angora goats, the creation of products such as baskets, paper, jelly, syrup, and hay bales, and even progress on the development of new medicines (see “The Amazing Story...,” 2002). In 1859, Thomas Austin brought 24 rabbits from England to Australia, where they multiplied uncontrollably, causing considerable ecological ramifications (see Kellett, 2006; “Environmental Damage...,” 2001). Many other non-native plants and animals have been introduced into non-indigenous habitats, with a variety of consequences (see “Non-Native Species,” 2002).
No one knows how many plant and animal species have gone extinct since the beginning of Creation. No doubt, the number would be staggering. The obliteration of the dinosaur population alone would account for the eradication of large numbers. It is estimated that, just in the past 2,000 years, more than a hundred kinds of birds and more than a hundred kinds of mammals have disappeared from the Earth (see “Extinct and Near-Extinct...,” 1966). Included are the Dodo Bird of the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, the Tasmanian Tiger Wolf of mainland Australia, and New Zealand’s giant, flightless bird, the Moa (see “Endangered Species,” 2003; “Extinct Animals,” 2001). These estimates do not include the extinction of species of reptiles, fish, and insects. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintains the Threatened and Endangered Species System (TESS) for both plants and animals. Presently, within the United States alone, 388 animal species and 598 plant species are listed as “endangered” (see “Threatened...,” 2003). While humans sometimes are blamed for causing certain species to diminish, no one knows in every case of animal or plant extinction whether humans or nature’s own agents were responsible. One fact is clear: the extinction of plants and animals through the centuries has not upset the realm of nature and the environment to the extent that the human race has been endangered or threatened with extinction itself—we’re still here! (Interestingly, many new species of both plants and animals have come into existence by humans implementing ingenious breeding procedures.)
On March 24, 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, spilling an estimated 11 million gallons of oil, which impacted 1,300 miles of shoreline. Exxon claims to have spent $2.1 billion on a cleanup effort that included 10,000 workers, about 1,000 boats, and 100 airplanes and helicopters. Though the reparative response to the crisis was massive, entailing exorbitant expenditures, “many believe that wave action from winter storms did more to clean the beaches than all of the human effort involved” (see “Frequently Asked Questions...,” n.d.). In fact, human efforts had to be adjusted when it was determined that spraying hot water on the oil-laden beaches using high-pressure hoses was cooking bacteria and other microscopic organisms, killing both plants and animals, thereby slowing the recovery that might otherwise have been achieved by nature itself (see Piper, 1993, pp. 61ff.). In 1992, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) studied the diffusion of the oil and concluded that “the great majority of the oil either evaporated, dispersed into the water column or degraded naturally” (“Lingering...,” 2003). In fact, years ago the National Marine Fisheries Services reported that “the vast majority of the spill area now appears to have recovered” (“NMFS Office...,” 2002). Though touted by environmentalists at the time as an ecological disaster of catastrophic proportions, the Valdez spill does not even rank in the top 50 internationally.
Similarly, the release of oil into the Pacific Ocean by damaged and sunken battleships and aircraft carriers during the great naval battles of World War II was considerable. Nazi U-boats disrupted Allied activities in the Atlantic Ocean by sinking large numbers of tankers and supply ships, causing large quantities of oil and hazardous substances to be spilled, creating slicks and coating Caribbean beaches. No cleanup crews, with their hard hats and bright yellow HAZMAT suits blasting coastlines with high-pressure hoses and detergent guns, were mobilized to rectify the mess. Yet the Caribbean beaches today essentially are pristine. What happened to all that oil—with no environmentalists to come to the rescue?
The Earth is not “fragile” when it comes to human interference. Humans cannot destroy the Earth (let alone the Universe). Humans cannot eliminate the ozone layer. Humans cannot cause permanent, life-threatening global warming. Human ability to pollute, contaminate, and destroy the environment cannot begin to compare with the destructive forces of nature itself: volcanoes, tornados, hurricanes, drought, typhoons, earthquakes, and floods. The 1991 volcanic eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines introduced 20 to 30 megatons of sulfur dioxide and aerosols into the Earth’s atmosphere, with those materials completely encircling the Earth in some three months (Sagan, 1997, p. 107). Satellite data collected indicated that, as a result, “the ozone levels had depleted by about 15 percent” (Rickman, 1997). In fact, as a direct result of the large amounts of stratospheric sulfate particles from the Mount Pinatubo eruption, “record low global ozone levels were recorded in 1992 and 1993” (“Environmental Indicators...,” n.d., emp. added). NASA concluded: “Stratospheric aerosols such as those produced by major volcanic eruptions are thought to be important catalysts in the chemical processes leading to the observed ozone losses” (“NASA’s Ozone Studies,” n.d.; cf. “Incomplete Recovery...,” 2006). Humans cannot begin to compete with nature’s impact on itself. We have an inflated sense of our own importance if we think that we determine whether the world goes on after we are gone.
The Ultimate Environmental DamageThe evidence indicates that God, Himself, has inflicted vengeance upon wicked civilizations in the past—to the point of wreaking complete destruction and devastation on the land itself. The reader is urged to read the following passages from the Bible: Genesis 13:10; 19:24-25; Deuteronomy 29:22-24; Psalm 107:33-34; Isaiah 34:8-15; Jeremiah 19:8; Ezekiel 30:7; Zephaniah 2:13-14. God has not chosen to reveal to us all of His dealings with the civilizations of history. We likely would know nothing about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah if Abraham’s nephew had not moved there (Genesis 13:12; 19). Could humans possibly inflict as much damage on the Earth as God did when He flooded the entire planet to a depth higher than the highest mountains of that day (Genesis 7:19-20)? The history of humanity and planet Earth has been one of catastrophism—not evolutionary uniformitarianism or gradualism. Yet the Earth is still here, the environment is intact, and life continues!
Make no mistake. The Bible certainly teaches the principle of stewardship and wisdom in the use of resources allotted by God (Matthew 25:14-30; 1 Corinthians 4:2). God, Himself, provides care for His nonhuman creatures (Job 38:41; Psalm 147:9; Matthew 10:29). He included animals in His injunction to the Israelites to rest one day per week (Exodus 20:10; cf. Leviticus 22:27-28; Deuteronomy 22:6-7,10). He instructed the Israelites to allow their farmland to lie uncultivated every seventh year (Leviticus 25:1-7). We ought not to be wasteful, greedy, cruel, or reckless in our handling of Earth’s resources. However, from a biblical perspective, the environment must not take precedence or preference over humans. A balanced and proper perspective realizes that the environment is purely physical and temporary. Plants, animals, air, water, and the rest of “mother nature” are not human, and are not to be regarded as such. Animals, like the rest of the created order, render divinely mandated services to humans as sources of food and clothing, as well as transportation and other work-related performance (e.g., Genesis 3:21; Proverbs 26:3; Mark 1:6; 11:7; 1 Timothy 4:3-5).
People who think that humans are the enemies of Earth, and invariably destructive to the environment, who think that animals deserve to be protected and preserved more than people, who think that humans are above other life forms due to an unfortunate Darwinian accident—since humans are carnivorous, wasteful, and harmful to the lesser species—have an incorrect view of reality and a devalued view of human life. They feel that humans possess no inherent value and worth that surpasses the rest of the created order (cf. Matthew 10:31; Luke 12:24). But this passion to preserve the Earth and animal life is essentially the same idolatry that has plagued humanity throughout most of history. In fact, this propensity sounds distinctly familiar in light of Paul’s summary of the long-standing human rejection of the Creator:
Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds, and four-footed beasts and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 1:22-25, emp. added).Our nation’s forefathers—and most Americans until about 50 years ago—would be shocked and appalled that right now in America, billions of dollars are being spent frivolously serving the creature!
Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me! Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, who set its measurements, since you know?.... You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!.... Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it.... Then I will also confess to you, that your own right hand can save you (Job 38:2-5,21; 40:2,14, emp. added).If there is no God and evolution is true, then humans are no more valuable than rocks, cockroaches—and, yes, cows. So if we really want to get serious about saving the planet, simply kill all the cows, crops, kids, and adults. When humans eliminate God from their thinking and jettison the biblical worldview, insanity begins to sound sensible. There’s the real “inconvenient truth.”
The vast majority of the decline of the environment that we see is due to the normal operations of the laws of thermodynamics which mandate depletion, breakdown, dissolution, and the ultimate demise of the Earth and the Universe (see Miller, 2007, 27:25-31). That is how God set it up! The material, physical realm was intended to be temporary—by divine design. Quoting the psalmist, the writer of Hebrews explained:
You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; and they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will fold them up (1:10-12, emp. added).In the meantime, God will see to it that our environment remains intact until it has served the purpose for which He created it. Then, He Himself, will bring not only the Earth, but the entire Universe, to its grand and climactic conclusion by means of cosmic meltdown and dissolution (2 Peter 3:7,10-12). Rather than devoting one’s energies and resources to preserving the temporal environment and saving “Mother Earth,” we would do better to devote ourselves to saving our souls by cultivating the necessary spiritual attributes for eternal life with God: “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth [i.e., the non-physical realm of heaven—DM] in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).
“The Amazing Story of Kudzu” (2002), [On-line], URL: http://www.cptr.ua.edu/kudzu/.
“Another Ice Age?” (1974), TIME, June 24, [On-line], URL: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,944914-1,00.html.
Barnes, Albert (2005 reprint), Barnes’ Notes on the Old and New Testaments: Hebrews (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Climate Change: The IPCC Scientific Assessment (1990), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), [On-line], URL: http://www.ipcc.ch/pub/reports.htm.
“The Deadliest Tsunami in History?” (2005), National Geographic News, January 7, [On-line], URL: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/12/1227_041226_ tsunami.html.
“The Deadliest U.S. Tornado Outbreaks” (no date), [On-line], URL: http://www.epicdisasters.com/deadlyustornadoes.php.
“Endangered Species” (2003), [On-line], URL: http://eelink.net/EndSpp/extinction-allknownextinctions.html.
“Environmental Damage by Wild Rabbits in Australia and New Zealand” (2001), Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), [On-line], URL: http://www.beaglesunlimited.net/.
“Environmental Indicators: Ozone Depletion” (no date), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, [On-line], URL: http://www.epa.gov/ozone/science/indicat/index.html.
“Extinct Animals (2001), [On-line], URL: http://www.zoos.50megs.com/extinct.htm.
“Extinct and Near-Extinct Animals” (1966), [On-line], URL: http://newton.dep.anl.gov/natbltn/200-299/nb248.htm.
“Flatulent Kangaroos Could Save Planet” (2007), Fox News, December 6, [On-line], URL: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,315586,00.html.
“Frequently Asked Questions About the Spill” (no date), Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, [On-line], URL: http://www.evostc.state.ak.us/History/FAQ.cfm.
“Friends of the Earth Flanders and Brussels” (2007), [On-line], URL: http://www.foei.org/en/who-we-are/groups/flanders.html/?searchterm= ”respected as our Mother”.
Greenspun, Philip (1993), Travels With Samantha, “Chapter X: Overcharged in Katmai,” [On-line], URL: http://www.photo.net/samantha/samantha-X.
“Incomplete Recovery Forecast for Earth’s Ozone Layer” (2006), CBC News, May 3, [On-line], URL: http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2006/05/03/ozone-layer060503.html.
Kellett, Mark (2006), “Rabbits in Australia—Who’s the Bunny?, Australian Heritage, Autumn, [On-line], URL: http://www.heritageaustralia.com.au/magazine.php?issue=2& article=24/.
“Krakatau, Sunda Strait, Indonesia” (no date), [On-line], URL: http://volcano.und.edu/vwdocs/current_volcs/krakatau/krakatau.html.
Lean, Geoffrey (2006), “Cow ‘Emissions’ More Damaging to Planet than CO2 from Cars,” The Independent, December 10, [On-line], URL: http://news.independent.co.uk/environment/article2062484.ece.
Leung, Chee Chee (2007), “Human Greed Takes Lion’s Share of Solar Energy,” The Sidney Morning Herald, July 3, [On-line], URL: http://www.smh.com.au/news/environment/human-greed-takes-lions-share-of -solar-energy/2007/07/02/1183351126304.html.
“Lingering Oil” (2003), [On-line], URL: http://www.oilspill.state.ak.us/facts/lingeringoil.html.
“Major Environmental Laws” (2003), [On-line], URL: http://www.epa.gov/region5/defs/html/esa.htm.
Miller, Jeff (2007), “God and the Laws of Thermodynamics: A Mechanical Engineer’s Perspective,” Reason & Revelation, 27:25-31, April, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3293.
“Most Destructive Known Earthquakes on Record in the World” (2007), U.S. Geological Survey, [On-line], URL: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/regional/world/most_destructive.php.
“NASA’s Ozone Studies” (no date), NASA Facts On-Line, [On-line], URL: http://www.gsfc.nasa.gov/gsfc/service/gallery/fact_sheets/earthsci/ ozonestu.htm.
Nicoll, W. Robertson, ed. (1900), The Expositor’s Greek Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
“NMFS Office of Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Damage Assessment and Restoration” (2002), [On-line], URL: http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/oil/default.htm.
“Non-Native Species” (2002), [On-line], URL: http://www.enviroliteracy.org/article.php/40.html.
“Norway’s Moose Population in Trouble for Belching” (2007), Spiegel, August 21, [On-line], URL: http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,501145,00.html.
Oswalt, John N. (1980), “kabash,” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason Archer Jr., and Bruce Waltke (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Piper, E. (1993), The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill: Final Report, State of Alaska Response (Anchorage, AK: Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation).
Rickman, James (1997), “Los Alamos Computer Model Accurately Predicts Global Climate Effects of Pinatubo Eruption,” Los Alamos National Laboratory, [On-line], URL: http://www.lanl.gov/orgs/pa/News/012297text.html.
Sagan, Carl (1980), Cosmos (New York: Random House).
Sagan, Carl (1997), Billions and Billions (New York: Random House).
“Tambora, Sumbawa, Indonesia” (no date), [On-line], URL: http://volcano.und.nodak.edu/vwdocs/volc_images/southeast_asia/ indonesia/tambora.html.
Templeton, Sarah-Kate (2007), “Children ‘Bad for Planet,’” The Australian, May 7, [On-line], URL: http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,21684156-5009760,00.html#.
“The Ten Worst Hurricanes Worldwide” (no date), [On-line], URL: http://www.epicdisasters.com/tendeadlyworldhurricanes.php.
“Threatened and Endangered Species System” (2003), [On-line], URL: http://ecos.fws.gov/tess/html/boxscore.html.
Warren, Thomas B. (1972), Have Atheists Proved There Is No God? (Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press).
“What Is Global Warming?” (2006), National Geographic, [On-line], URL: http//green.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/ gw-overview.html?source=G2300&kwid=global warming|780841765.
“The World’s Worst Floods” (no date), [On-line], URL: http://www.epicdisasters.com/worstfloods.php.
Law is made for manIn Mark 2 Jesus said, "The Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath." It must be true that Gentiles and nominal Jews, for whom the Torah means little or nothing, would have had a hard time grasping what a jolting remark this statement by Christ is. Jewish scholars remind us that the Sabbath observance was one of the chief markers of the difference between Israel and the nations and that it expressed the self-understanding of the Jews as God’s elect more forcibly than any other ordinance or practice. To say something that looks like it is demeaning the Sabbath must surely have shaken devout Jews and especially people like the Pharisees.
But I wonder what the wider ramifications are, if any, about the laws God has laid before his human family and his elect in particular. What if he were to say, "Baptism is made for man not man for baptism"? Or, "Holy Communion is made for man not man for Holy Communion"? Clearly for those who think little of baptism or the Lord’s Supper there’d be little emotional impact but what of those who take these ordinances very seriously indeed?
The nation was called to observe the Sabbath just as the NT church is called to practice baptism and engage in the Eucharistic meal. None of these was the invention of the people to whom any of them was/is directed; they are the expressed will of God and consequently have the nature of commandments. So what are we to make of the statement by Christ?
A moment’s thought will tell us that a commandment by God is made for man. He commands nothing that is not ultimately for the benefit of the hearer so we aren’t to set "commandment status" over against "benefit status". Deuteronomy 30:11-20 makes this crystal clear.
But what does Christ mean when he says that the Sabbath was "made for man"? I’m certain we’re supposed to understand that God himself is the one who "made" the Sabbath for man. But God didn’t make it for angels nor did he withhold it after he had made it; he gave it to man (in this case Israel). If we can imagine God fashioning something and an angel asking him what he was making then we can imagine him saying, "I’m making a thing called ‘the Sabbath’." The angel might ask, "And who are you making it for?" and God would say, "I’m making it for man to whom I will give it."
Whatever else is true, the fact that God made it "for" (dia—on account of) man and gave it to him, gives the Sabbath a "gift" nature as well as a command status. But while Mark would agree with the truth that God made it as a gift his point is a bit more specific than that. Mark wants us to understand that when Jesus said that, he was contrasting what God did with the Sabbath and what legal experts had done with it. God gave it as a command that ensured blessing. As if a mother might say to a sick child, "Here, drink this soup that I made for you!" It is no command designed to test his obedience but one that is given in light of his needs. It’s true of course that I’m isolating one aspect of God’s Sabbath command but that’s the one I think Jesus is stressing in his Mark 2 utterance.
By the time the Torah experts were done with it the Sabbath had become a barrier to God’s intention. They misunderstood the nature of the Sabbath (in part) because they misunderstood the nature of God and his purpose toward his children. Matthew seems more concerned to make the point that Jesus (his disciples) had not broken the Sabbath since he speaks of "guiltless" and of deeds done on the Sabbath that didn’t break it. Matthew seems to be saying that the Pharisees didn’t understand what "keep the Sabbath" meant while Mark seems to be saying that they didn’t know what the Sabbath was for. Of course being ignorant as to what the Sabbath was for would affect how they thought the Sabbath was to be kept.
Matthew wants us to know that Jesus never broke it and Mark wants us to know that the legal experts never understood it. But both Matthew and Mark converge in saying Jesus and his disciples were guiltless and Mark implies something similar when he speaks of David eating what was "unlawful". They further converge in saying, each in his own way, that man was not to be burdened and that mercy and kindness were paramount. Matthew reminds them of Hosea 6:6 and Mark speaks of the Sabbath being made for man rather than as a burden on man. With a hard heart these Pharisees weren’t able to understand Hosea 6:6 which called for mercy (hesed) rather than sacrifice.
So what are we to gain from this confrontation?
Jesus nowhere suggests that the Sabbath was not to be observed! Nor would he have tolerated for a moment anyone making light of the Sabbath or the need to observe it. See Matthew 5:17-20.
I think we should understand that while commandments never cease to be commandments that they are gifts from God to mediate life to us. So that the issue should never reduce to "do I have to obey them in order to have life?" It’s in the way of obedience that life is to be found. In that very definite sense, keeping God’s commandments is a "condition" to be met if we are to have life but it isn’t as though commandments are arbitrary tests. The commandments have a character that is in keeping with the nature of the life we seek and need, and that life is relational.
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.