"FOLLOWING JESUS WITHOUT DENOMINATIONALISM" Is Baptism A Necessary Part Of The Gospel? INTRODUCTION 1. I have been suggesting in this series that following Jesus without denominationalism begins by heeding the call of the gospel... a. For the Lord "calls" us through His gospel - 2Th 2:14 b. As we respond to the call, the Lord Himself adds us to His church (His "called-out" group of people), not some man-made denomination - Ac 2:41,47 2. In the previous lesson, I presented the gospel of Christ as containing... a. "Facts" to believe: 1. Jesus was crucified for our sins 2. Jesus was raised from the dead 3. Jesus is exalted as king and savior 4. Jesus is coming again b. "Commands" to obey: 1. Believe the gospel concerning Jesus Christ 2. Confess your faith in Jesus as Lord 3. Repent of your sins 4. Be baptized for the remission of your sins 5. Be faithful unto death c. "Promises" to receive: 1. The remission of sins 2. The gift of the Holy Spirit 3. The gift of eternal life -- In most cases, I have found that there is very little exception taken to the above, save for one thing: the suggestion that baptism is a necessary part of the gospel of Christ 3. Many people have a problem with the idea that baptism is for the remission of sins... a. To them, baptism has nothing to do with God's plan of salvation b. To them, to suggest baptism is necessary is to deny we are justified by grace through faith c. To them, to teach baptism is for the remission of sins is to teach a salvation by works, not by grace 4. So this raises the question, "Is Baptism A Necessary Part Of The Gospel?" To put it another way... a. Is baptism really for the remission of sins? b. If so, then how can we say that we are justified by grace through faith, and not of works? [I believe it is helpful to answer these questions by first observing a few quotations by certain individuals none would ever question of denying that we are saved by grace through faith...] I. THE WORDS OF AUGUSTINE, AQUINAS AND LUTHER A. AUGUSTINE (A.D. 354-430) 1. Referring to the efficacy of baptism, he wrote that "the salvation of man is effected in baptism"; also, that a person "is baptized for the express purpose of being with Christ." (as quoted by Jack W. Cottrell in Baptism And The Remission of Sins, College Press, 1990, p. 30) 2. In regards to the necessity of baptism, he refers to the "apostolic tradition, by which the Churches of Christ maintain it to be an inherent principle, that without baptism...it is impossible for any man to attain to salvation and everlasting life." (ibid., p. 30) B. THOMAS AQUINAS (A.D. 1225-1274) 1. "...Men are bound to that without which they cannot obtain salvation. Now it is manifest that no one can obtain salvation but through Christ..." 2. "But for this end is baptism conferred on a man, that being regenerated thereby, he may be incorporated in Christ." 3. "Consequently it is manifest that all are bound to be baptized: and that without Baptism there is no salvation for men." (ibid., p. 31) C. MARTIN LUTHER... 1. In answer to the question, "What gifts or benefits does Baptism bestow?", Luther replied in his Small Catechism, "It effects forgiveness of sins." 2. He also wrote concerning the sinner: "Through Baptism he is bathed in the blood of Christ and is cleansed from sins." 3. Again, he wrote: "To put it most simply, the power, effect, benefit, fruit, and purpose of Baptism is to save." (ibid.,p. 32-34) 4. In his commentary on Ro 6:3, he wrote: "Baptism has been instituted that it should lead us to the blessings (of this death) and through such death to eternal life. Therefore IT IS NECESSARY that we should be baptized into Jesus Christ and His death." (Commentary On Romans, Kregel Publications, p.101) 5. In his commentary on Ga 3:27, he wrote: "This is diligently to be noted, because of the fond and fantastical spirits, who go about to deface the majesty of baptism, and speak wickedly of it. Paul, contrariwise, commendeth it, and setteth it forth with honourable titles, calling it, 'the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost'. And here also he saith, that 'all ye that are baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.' Wherefore baptism is a thing of great force and efficacy." (Commentary On Galatians, Kregel Publications, p. 222) [I trust that we all know that these individuals believed strongly in justification by grace through faith, and not of works (cf. Ep 2:8-9). How then could they say such things about baptism? The key is to understand "who" is at work in baptism. Is it man, or is it God?] II. THE SAVING POWER INVOLVED IN BAPTISM A. BAPTISM DOES NOT SAVE BECAUSE IT MERITS SALVATION... 1. Nearly everyone I talk to who takes issue with baptism being necessary, or having any part of the gospel plan of salvation, initially misunderstands this point a. They assume that if baptism is necessary, one is saved by meritorious works b. They assume that if one is baptized for the remission of sins, one has earned their salvation 2. But they need to listen carefully to Martin Luther... a. In response to those who would call this a kind of works-salvation, he said "Yes, it is true that our works are of no use for salvation. Baptism, however, is not our work but God's." (ibid., p. 32-34) b. Again, "Luther correctly describes the working of baptism thus: 'How can water do such great things? It is not the water indeed that does them, but the Word of God which is in and with the water (God's giving hand), and faith which trusts such word of God in the water (man's receiving hand).'" (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia ISBE, Page 398-99). B. BAPTISM SAVES BECAUSE "GOD" IS AT WORK! 1. Note that Peter clearly says that "baptism doth also now save us" (KJV) - 1Pe 3:21 2. But as observed by Luther, it is God who saves us in baptism: a. He is the one at work in baptism - Col 2:11-13 (cf. "the working of God") b. Other than possessing faith in Christ and God, MAN IS PASSIVE in baptism 1) Like a patient on an operating table, submitting to the skill of a physician to remove cancer 2) So we, seeking the removal of the cancer of sin, submit to the Great Physician to cut away our sins by the blood of Christ, which He does in baptism c. It is God who makes us alive together with Christ, having forgiven all trespasses - Col 2:13 3. As stated in ISBE: "Baptism does not produce salutary effects ~ex~opere~operato~, i.e. by the mere external performance of the baptismal action. No instrument with which Divine grace works does. Even the preaching of the gospel is void of saving results if not 'mixed with faith' (Heb 4.2,AV)." a. Thus, it is not the "act" of immersion that saves, though salvation occurs at that time b. It is GOD who saves in baptism, by virtue of grace, when one believes in Christ! c. But because God commands baptism, and saves us in baptism, it is proper to say... 1) With Peter: "baptism doth also now save us" - 1Pe 3:21 2) With Jesus: "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved..." - Mk 16:16 [When we properly understand that it is God doing the work of salvation in baptism, then we can better understand why the command to be baptized is such an integral part of the gospel. Allow me to expand on this point...] III. BAPTISM AS INTEGRAL TO THE GOSPEL A. I AM ENCOURAGED TO SEE OTHERS RETURN TO THIS EMPHASIS... 1. I am excited to see that many people are beginning to carefully restudy the biblical evidence concerning baptism, and returning to what used to be taught for nearly 1500 years 2. For example, G.R. Beasley-Murray, Principal of Spurgeon's College in London, later Senior Professor at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, KY, wrote a modern classic, Baptism In The New Testament. He gives chapters which thoroughly discuss baptism in the Gospels, in Acts, in Paul's writings, and in other apostolic writings 3. In his introduction, Beasley-Murray said: a. "This book is intended to offer a Baptist contribution to the discussions on baptism that are taking place throughout the Christian world." b. "But the indefinite article should be observed; the impression must not be given that my interpretations are characteristic of Baptist thought generally. At most it can be claimed that they represent a trend gaining momentum among Baptists in Europe." c. "I have striven to interpret the evidence of the New Testament as a Christian scholar, rather than as a member of a particular Christian Confession. (G. R. Beasley-Murray, Baptism In The New Testament, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1962, pp. v-vi.) 4. From his chapter on baptism in Acts, Beasley-Murray said: a. "Consequently, baptism is regarded in Acts as the occasion and means of receiving the blessings conferred by the Lord of the Kingdom. Admittedly, this way of reading the evidence is not characteristic of our thinking, but the intention of the author is tolerably clear." (Ibid., p. 102) b. "Whatever the relationship between baptism and the gift of the Spirit elsewhere in Acts, there appears to be no doubt as to the intention of Acts 2:38; the penitent believer baptized in the name of Jesus Christ may expect to receive at once the Holy Spirit, even as he is assured of the immediate forgiveness of his sins." (Ibid., p. 108) 5. Some concluding statements were: a. "In light of the foregoing exposition of the New Testament representations of baptism, the idea that baptism is a purely symbolic rite must be pronounced not alone unsatisfactory but out of harmony with the New Testament itself. Admittedly, such a judgment runs counter to the popular tradition of the Denomination to which the writer belongs..." b. "The extent and nature of the grace which the New Testament writers declare to be present in baptism is astonishing for any who come to the study freshly with an open mind." c. "...the "grace" available to man in baptism is said by the New Testament writers to include the following elements: 1) forgiveness of sin, Ac 2.38 and cleansing from sins, Ac 22.16, 2Co 6.11; 2) union with Christ, Ga 3.27, and particularly union with Him in his death and resurrection, Ro. 6.3ff, Col 2.11f, with all that implies of release from sin's power, as well as guilt, and the sharing of the risen life of the Redeemer, Ro 6.1-11; 3) participation in Christ's sonship, Ga 3.26f; 4) consecration to God, 1Co 6.11, hence membership in the Church, the Body of Christ, 1Co 12.13, Ga 3.27-29; 5) possession of the Spirit, Ac 2.38, 1Co 6.11, 12.13, and therefore the new life in the Spirit, i.e., regeneration, Tit 3.5, Jn 3.5; 6) grace to live according to the will of God, Ro 6.1ff, Col 3.1ff; 7) deliverance from the evil powers that rule this world, Col 1.13; 8) the inheritance of the Kingdom of God, Jn 3.5, and the pledge of the resurrection of the body, Ep 1.3f, 4.30. (Ibid., pp. 263-264) B. ONE CANNOT AND SHOULD NOT PREACH THE GOSPEL WITHOUT MENTIONING THE COMMAND TO BE BAPTIZED... 1. Peter proclaimed the command to be baptized in the first gospel sermon on the day of Pentecost - Ac 2:36-38 2. Philip, when he preached Jesus to the Ethiopian eunuch, must have proclaimed baptism in his message about Jesus, in view of the question raised: "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" - Ac 8:35-36 3. Indeed, Beasley-Murray stated the following conclusion in a chapter entitled "Baptismal Reform and Church Relationships": a. "First, there ought to be a greater endeavor to make baptism integral to THE GOSPEL." b. "It is taken as axiomatic amongst us [Baptists] that the proclamation of the Gospel consists of making the redemptive acts of God in Christ known and calling for faith in Christ as the due response; baptism is then a proper subject for exposition in the enquirers' class, along with instruction as to the nature of the Church, of worship, of Christian obligation in the Church and to the world, etc." c. "Peter's response, however, to the cry of his conscience stricken hearers on the Day of Pentecost was not "Repent and believe", but "Repent and BE BAPTIZED"! (Ac 2.38). d. "Naturally faith was presumed in repentance, but Peter's answer told the Jews how to become Christians: faith and repentance are to be expressed in baptism, and SO they are to come to the Lord." e. "Baptism is here a part of the proclamation of Christ. In an Apostolic sermon it comes as its logical conclusion." f. "An effort ought to be made to restore this note in our [Baptist] preaching." (Ibid., p. 393) CONCLUSION 1. I could not say it better myself, other than to add that an effort ought to be made to restore this note in EVERYONE'S preaching! 2. Let's be sure to follow the example of apostolic preaching (cf. Ac 2:36-38)... a. Calling upon people not only to believe in Jesus and repent of their sins b. But to climax their response to the gospel by submitting to the Lord's command to be baptized for the remission of their sins 3. For then we can be assured that we will receive all those blessings the Bible ascribes to the act of baptism (see Beasley-Murray's summary above), by virtue of God's gracious working! Dear friend, have you responded to the saving call of our Lord's wonderful gospel? "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." - Ac 22:16
Melchizedek, Abraham, and Biblical Accuracy
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
Q.Could you please explain what the Bible means when it speaks of the Old Testament priest Melchizedek as being “without father, without mother, without genealogy”? How could this be possible?
The science of archaeology has been a multiple benefactor to the Bible student. It has helped to clarify some passages that heretofore may have been a bit obscure. Too, this discipline frequently has shown that the biblical record bears the marks of genuine history.
After Abraham settled in Hebron, and Lot, his nephew, pitched his tent in the vicinity of Sodom, a confederation of Mesopotamian kings invaded the region of Sodom and Gomorrah and took numerous captives, among whom was Lot. The Genesis record reveals that when Abraham heard of the tragedy, he and 318 servants from his household pursued the hostile eastward-bound armies. The patriarch attacked the pagan forces and rescued his nephew, taking considerable booty in the process (Genesis 14:1ff.). The accuracy of the biblical record has been questioned in several particulars.
First, the historicity of the names of the opposing kings (Anuaphel, Chedorlaomer, Arioch, and Tidal) has been disputed. However, it has been demonstrated from Mesopotamian inscriptions that these names were common to the Tigris/Euphrates region, and that they are not “fictional forms” (Vos, 1963, p. 69). It even has been shown that the name “Abraham” was not novel in that ancient environment (Finegan, 1946, p. 61). The Bible is remarkably precise.
Second, some critics have contended that there was no eastward line of march at the time of Abraham, and thus have alleged that the Mosaic narrative is erroneous. The famous archaeologist, W.F. Albright, admitted that he “formerly considered this extraordinary line of march as being the best proof of the essentially legendary character of the narrative” (1935, p. 142, emp. added). Albright’s discoveries in this region, however, forced him to revise his opinion of the Genesis text. Professor Stephen Caiger, who was not a strictly conservative writer, conceded that “there seems [to be] no reason to question a factual basis of Genesis 14” (1944, p. 34).
As Abraham returned from his victory over the eastern kings, he encountered the mysterious Melchizedek, “king of Salem” (Jerusalem), who was designated as both a king and priest. Abraham paid “tithes” to the monarch and, in turn, was blessed by him. The New Testament makes Melchizedek a symbol of our king and priest, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 7:15). But the writer of the book of Hebrews makes a curious statement regarding Melchizedek. He says that the ancient ruler was “without father, without mother, without genealogy” (7:3).
Numerous speculations have surrounded this allusion. Origen, an ancient writer (A.D. 185-253) imagined that Melchizedek was an angel. Hierakas, toward the end of the 3rd century A.D., thought that he was a temporary incarnation of the Holy Spirit. Some even have suggested that he was the pre-incarnate Logos (Christ, as depicted in John 1:1,14)—a concept contradicted by Hebrews 7:3, which notes that the king was merely “like unto” the Son of God.
Archaeology has shed light on the enigmatic expression “without father, without mother, etc.” A.H. Sayce, who served as professor of Assyriology at Oxford, called attention to an inscription from the famous Tell el-Amarna tablets (discovered in 1887 in Egypt). These tablets describe the conditions of Syria and Palestine about 1400-1360 B.C.
Several of the Tell el-Amarna tablets are letters written to the Pharaoh by Ebed-tob...the king of Uru-Salim [Jerusalem], who begs for help against his enemies. He tells the Pharaoh that he was not like the other Egyptian governors in Palestine, nor had he received a crown by inheritance from his father or mother; it had been conferred on him by “the Mighty King...” (1906, 3:335).So, observing the similarity of language, we conclude that Melchizedek’s kingship/priesthood had not been derived genealogically; He had received his commission directly from God Himself. Indeed, as the Scriptures affirm, his was an appointment “of God Most High” (Genesis 14:18). Accordingly, by way of analogy, we are forced to affirm that the current reign/priesthood of our Lord is a direct and divinely authored administration. We are grateful to archaeology for this bit of assistance in understanding what otherwise might be perceived as an obscure reference.
Caiger, Stephen L. (1944), Bible and Spade—An Introduction to Biblical Archaeology (London: Oxford University Press).
Finegan, Jack (1946), Light from the Ancient Past (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).
Sayce, A.H. (1906), “Melchizedek,” Dictionary of the Bible, ed. James Hasting (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark).
Vos, Howard (1963), Genesis and Archaeology (Chicago: Moody).
God Rules Even When Atheists Attack
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
In years gone by, candidates for public office in the United States were admired for their Christian heritage, beliefs, and practices. They respected the Creator. They quoted His Word. They prayed to Him for divine assistance. They acknowledged His sovereignty and recognized that “He rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28). Americans expected their elected representatives to honor God in private and in public (see Miller, 2008). Oh, how times have changed. Sadly, the very thing that Americans once expected from their leaders—a reliance on the Creator and Sustainer of life—has become increasingly attacked and hated...and now is supposedly a reason candidates are disqualified from serving in public office.
Consider the comments by Sam Harris in a recent Newsweek article. Harris has written dozens of articles in the past for such prominent publications as The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, and The Times of the United Kingdom. He has appeared on The O’Reilly Factor as well as Brian Flemming’s documentary film The God Who Wasn’t There. His latest books, The End of Faith (2004) and Letter to a Christian Nation (2006), both were New York Times best sellers. He is on record saying such things as, “If you are concerned about suffering in this universe, killing a fly should present you with greater moral difficulties than killing a human blastocyst [three-day-old human embryo—EL]” (2006, p. 30). In short, Sam Harris is one of the world’s most well-known, vocal, influential, militant atheists.
In the September 29, 2008 issue of Newsweek, Harris penned an article titled “When Atheists Attack.” After painting vice-presidential candidate, Governor Sarah Palin, as an unqualified, ignorant beauty queen, Harris wrote concerning what really bothered him about the Governor: “I care even more about the many things Palin thinks she knows but doesn’t: like her conviction that the Biblical God consciously directs world events. Needless to say, she shares this belief with millions of Americans—but we shouldn’t be eager to give these people our nuclear codes, either” (152:33, emp. added). [So, should we put our nuclear weapons in the hands of people who believe that “killing a fly should present you with greater moral difficulties than killing a human blastocyst”?]
The fact is, though God created humans with free will (cf. Joshua 24:15), God uses our free will to accomplish His purposes. Scripture repeatedly testifies to the fact that God is in control of the Universe and everything in it. He is “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3). The psalmist wrote: “The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.... God is the King of all the earth” (103:19; 47:7). Four times in the book of Daniel we are reminded that “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men” (4:17,25,32; 5:21). Although God does not maneuver His human creation like robots, He is in control. For most of America’s history, the overwhelming majority of our elected officials (1) believed that God ultimately was in control and (2) prayed that His will be done in America (see Miller, 2008). Today’s media would have us reject both Scripture and our country’s Christian heritage. When Harris wrote, “Every detail that has emerged about Palin’s life in Alaska suggests that she is as devout and literal-minded in her Christian dogmatism as any man or woman in the land” (2008, p. 33, emp. added), he meant it as criticism. Supposedly, America should not be run by “devout and literal-minded” Christian leaders.
The fact is, however, if America is to survive as a nation, it must reject the godless, immoral, anti-Christian outlook that Sam Harris and others continually propagate. We must turn to the Almighty, Who “rules in the kingdom of men,” and recognize that every decision we make, including selecting government leaders, must be based upon our recognition of God’s sovereignty. He not only “rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28), but He judges both nations (in this lifetime; cf. Genesis 11:1-9; 18-19) and the individuals who make up nations (at the end of time; cf. Acts 17:30-31; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
Harris, Sam (2008), “When Atheists Attack,” Newsweek, 152:32-35, September 29.
Miller, Dave (2008), The Silencing of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Changing Their Tune about the Age of the Grand Canyon?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.A.|
For literally thousands of years, the story of Noah’s Flood has enchanted, frightened, encouraged, and amazed Bible readers. In a downpour that lasted forty days and forty nights, Noah and his family of seven braved the crashing waters from the windows of heaven and the fountains of the deep (Genesis 7:11-12). In the single greatest cataclysm in Earth’s geological history, the Bible tells that “all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man…. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive” (Genesis 7:21-23).
Yet, in the past several decades, it has become increasingly popular to dismiss the cataclysmic effect that such a flood would have had on Earth’s geological structures. The idea of “uniformitarianism” has reigned supreme as the official anthem for the geological sciences. Uniformitarianism, simply put, says that things continue to happen as they have always happened. The Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines it as “a geological doctrine that existing processes acting in the same manner as at present are sufficient to account for all geological changes.”
Using this idea—that the existing processes of geology can account for all geological changes—the geological community has extrapolated from the processes at work in the Grand Canyon, that the Canyon itself must be the result of slow, monotonous erosion. After studying the current rates of erosion caused by the Colorado River running through the Canyon, uniformitarians suggest that the Grand Canyon must have taken millions of years to carve.
In opposition to this idea of uniformitarianism, some in the scientific community, especially those who believe in the global Flood of Noah, have argued that slow, uniform processes cannot “account for all geological changes.” This idea, known as catastrophism, suggests that many of the Earth’s geological phenomena were caused by sudden, drastic catastrophes (i.e., Noah’s Flood).
Due to the overwhelming evidence for catastrophism, many in geological circles are being forced to admit that the idea of uniformitarianism cannot “account for all the geological changes” that are present on the Earth. In fact, recently in National Geographic Kids, the writers gave a telling nod to the idea of catastrophism when they wrote:
For a long time scientists believed that the Grand Canyon was carved out slowly over millions of years. Scientists also thought that the canyon had finished forming around 1.2 million years ago. But new research has turned both theories upside down. Geologists now think that the Grand Canyon grew in quick, violent spurts from massive flooding of the Colorado River (2003, p. 7).Although not generally conceding the idea of a global flood, the geological community is being pulled closer to the fact that things have not always been the same on the Earth’s surface. They are also being pulled closer to the truth that things on this Earth might not continue as they are right now. As the apostle Peter once wrote:
[B]y the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men (2 Peter 3:5-7).[For further reading on the evidences for the Grand Canyon’s cataclysmic formation, see Stephen Austin’s book, Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe, published in 1994 by the Institute for Creation Research.]
REFERENCES“Baby Grand” (2003), National Geographic Kids, p. 7, March.
Merriam-Webster On-line Dictionary (2003), [On-line], URL: http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary
Evolution, Environmentalism, and the Deification of Nature—EXTENDED VERSION
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
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 green.” 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). Meanwhile, to minimize the “deadly” effects of bovine belching, UK scientists at the University of Aberystwyth (Wales) are attempting to develop new varieties of plants which are easier for cows to digest (“Changing Cows’ Diet...,” 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 some environmentalists insist that, more specifically, children are significant culprits in the human assault on the natural order. One environmentalist emphatically insists, “Having children is selfish,” and gave as her reason for having an abortion, “it would have been immoral to give birth to a child that I felt strongly would only be a burden to the world” (Courtenay-Smith and Turner, 2007). Another environmentalist maintains that “a baby would pollute the planet” and “never having a child was the most environmentally friendly thing I could do” (Courtenay-Smith and Turner, 2007). Still another asserts, “That’s why I had a vasectomy. It would be morally wrong for me to add to climate change and the destruction of the Earth.... [W]e are doing out bit to save our precious planet” (Courtenay-Smith and Turner, 2007). Parents, we are told, should limit their offspring to no more than two children (one in China) in order to reduce carbon dioxide output. A 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 the 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 imminent 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. [NOTE: Though scientists disagree as to the cause, most admit that global warming is also occurring on Mars (Ravilious, 2007; “Mars Emerging...,” 2003; Britt, 2001; “Global Warming...,” 2001). Perhaps humans are hiding there and emitting deadly carbon dioxide.]
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 (see Houts, 2007, 27:81-87). 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.
Those who embrace this belief system are passionate—even militant—in their advocacy of the preservation of the environment. After all, if there is no Supreme Governor of the Universe and no afterlife, it is up to humans to protect the Earth so that physical life forms may be preserved as long as possible. Hence, they refer repeatedly to the “vulnerable planet Earth” and “our fragile atmosphere” (Sagan, 1997, p. 97, emp. added). 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—DM] have made him [man—DM] 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—DM] 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; Thayer, 1901, p. 650; Weiss, 1974, 9:59). 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, p. 27; Milligan, 1950, p. 55). After all, with God is “the fountain of life” (Psalm 36:9). “He gives to all life, breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25). “[F]or in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). 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?”). [NOTE: Since the ozone will soon be gone, exposing humans to deadly UV rays, perhaps we should do more farming and fuel burning in order to block those rays?] 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”?
We have been harangued with the notion that Western man’s technological advancements are responsible for depleting resources and damaging the environment, and that we should return to the “environmentally sensitive and harmonious” ways of primitive peoples. Yet, evidence exists to suggest that our predecessors did not live “in harmony with nature” as we supposed. Primitive cultures and poor nations also have damaged the environment. For example, farming techniques of many primitive societies caused extensive land erosion—unlike the modern American farming techniques that are responsible for greatly increasing the world’s food supply.
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. Christians will not go out of their way to inflict damage or harm. 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 facts of the matter are that humans are incapable of destroying the environment on any sort of large scale. 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). Contrasting the occasion on which God manifested His presence at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19) with what lies ahead when God manifests Himself at the end of time, the inspired writer cautioned:
See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:25-29, emp. added).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).
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The OT, fulfillment or abrogation?
In many respects, asking if the OT has been abrogated or “done away” and replaced with the NT is like asking if the first half of a Charles Dickens or John Grisham novel was done away when the books moved toward the end and finally concluded.
If we look at the Bible as the record of God’s unfolding drama (as well as one of the elements used to further the drama) then to speak of Act 1
(let’s say that’s the OT) as being “done away” is the wrong question. It’s not only not done away, without it there is no Act 2 (let’s say that’s the NT) without it and it’s only together that they make a complete drama.
There’s usually an entire network of mistakes and confusion of terms involved when the question is put like that.
When we say the Old Testament (OT) do we mean Genesis—Malachi? Or do we mean just the “Law of Moses”?
When we say “the Law of Moses” do we mean Genesis—Deuteronomy?
Or when we say “the Law of Moses” do we mean just the rules and commandments that we find mixed in with the history that’s “attached”?
When we ask about the “binding” nature of the OT it shows, I think, that we’re looking at it as nothing more than “a law” or “a body of rules and commandments”. But this generates difficulties for us when we’re reading the text of, say, Genesis, where Jacob ends up honeymooning with the wrong woman or Exodus where Moses rescues the girls from bullies around a watering hole. We’re able to say things like, “That story has principles in it that we should pay attention to” but it isn’t easy to see how a story can be called a “commandment” or “a law” or say something like, “That story is ‘binding’ on this person or that.”
It’s at that point we usually say we mean the OT in the sense of the Mosaic Law. That’s a smart move but since the “story” nature of much of the OT (that is, the Bible) is patently obvious it’s a move perhaps we shouldn’t have needed to make in the first place. It’s important for us to be clear what we mean by major terms or we won’t grow as students and we’ll have a hard time coming to agreement with others who aren’t using the words in the way we’re using them. [We lose out in other perhaps more important ways if we’re not careful students and followers.]
In this case, when we narrow the meaning of “the OT” down to “The Law of Moses” we end up implying that the “Law of Moses” is nothing but a collection of commandments. Since we’re fully convinced that “stories” or “narrative” or “plain history” is not “commandment” or “law” material we end up combing through the “law sections” of the “Law of Moses” to find the rules and commands. And if that's our preoccupation then history and stories and narrative have nothing to say to us. The bulk of the text is only the basket that holds all the “important” stuff—the commandments and the rules.
That’s an awful way to treat the OT text!
Now we’re back to the question about the “OT” being done away. When we ask the question it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense if we mean, “Has the history or the stories or the narrative been ‘done away’?” We can’t say that kind of thing about the biblical narrative material. It’d be like asking if the cross of Jesus is “done away” or has the history in Luke/Acts been “done away”?
It should begin to dawn on us that God doesn’t make his will and purposes known just by ladling out commands and rules. He reveals his purposes in his actions and many parts of the OT text interpret those actions for us and remind us that the events of which God is the author profile the character of God. That being so, these events or acts are never "done away".
While it’s true that specific acts of God (the call of Noah, Abraham, the Exodus, the Wilderness wandering and the settlement in the Land as examples) are especially revealing we’re not to suppose that God was not moving in the world and among all peoples in what we’d call “everyday life”. We shouldn’t go hunting through the OT for commands and rules and dismiss the history but nor should we go hunting through the history looking only at the outstanding happenings and dismiss the rest as irrelevant. “Outstanding” events are part of the larger history in which they occur. The Red Sea crossing was a remarkable event but it was imbedded in the real world and involved actual people and elemental forces. If you start pulling the biblical text apart you end up with no Bible at all; just a collection of abstracted rules, rootless wonders and the rest as necessary baggage that can be dumped.
God has revealed himself in history (that is, in the lives of actual people) but he has revealed himself by doing historical things. The events themselves are God showing himself and his intentions. [To be continued, God enabling.]
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.