"FOLLOWING JESUS WITHOUT DENOMINATIONALISM" What Many Accept As Authority In Religion INTRODUCTION 1. In our previous study, I endeavored to show... a. That it is through the writing of the apostles, the "apostles' doctrine", that the Lord speaks to and directs His Church b. That the "New Testament" is how Christ speaks to us today and leads us to life everlasting c. That it is the "apostles' doctrine"... 1) Which ought to be our standard of authority in matters of religion 2) In which we must "continue steadfastly"! - cf. Ac 2:42 2. Many people say that they accept the "apostles' doctrine" as their authority in religion a. But when faced with an issue in which a cherished position or view is being challenged... b. ...they often appeal to a source for their authority that is quite different 3. This is easy to do, and perhaps the best way to avoid this is to be aware of other sources of authority in religion a. Some are "objective" standards of authority - sources outside of ourselves that we look to direct us b. Others are "subjective" standards of authority - where we look within ourselves for the answers we want [In this study we shall briefly touch upon various "standards" that people commonly turn to when faced with questions about what they believe and why they practice the things they do in religion. Let's start with...] I. "OBJECTIVE" STANDARDS OF AUTHORITY A. THE OLD TESTAMENT... 1. It is common for people to resort to the O. T. to provide authority for some practice a. When they can't find authority for it in the teachings of Christ and/or His apostles b. For example, a clergy-laity system, burning of incense and use of instrumental music in worship, keeping the Sabbath,etc. 2. But the O.T. was designed to be temporary, to fulfill a specific purpose and as a covenant has been replaced by the New Covenant (i.e., the New Testament) a. It was given because of transgressions, till Christ should come - Ga 3:19 b. For those under the Law (Israel), it was a tutor 1) A tutor designed to lead them to Christ - Ga 3:24 2) A tutor that has been taken away - Ga 3:25 c. When those who were under the Law came to Christ... 1) They became dead to the Law - Ro 7:4 2) They were delivered from the Law - Ro 7:6 d. As prophesied by Jeremiah, God has made a "new covenant" to replace the "first covenant" which is now obsolete - He 8:7-13 3. In their handling of the issue of circumcision, the apostles demonstrated that one cannot use the O.T. to teach something which the apostles themselves did not command a. Some sought to enforce circumcision and the Law upon Gentile believers - Ac 15:1,6 b. But the apostles, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, were able to defuse the problem by simply stating they themselves "gave no such commandment" - Ac 15:22-29 4. This is not to say the O.T. is not of value to Christians... a. It was written for our learning, to provide patience, comfort, and hope - Ro 15:4 b. It was written for our admonition, that we not make similar mistakes - 1Co 10:6,11 ...we just can't use it to enjoin religious practices upon others which the apostles' themselves did not teach! B. MAJORITY RULE... 1. Many people accept whatever the majority thinks about something 2. But consider the words of Jesus, in describing the end of the majority - Mt 7:13-14 3. If you followed the majority... a. In Noah's day, you would have perished in the flood b. In Joshua's day, you would have perished in the wilderness 4. Rather than simply follow the majority, let our attitude be like that of Joshua: "as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." - cf. Josh 24:14-15 C. PARENTS... 1. Some think "If it was good enough for Mom and Dad, it is good enough for me." 2. Yet as much as we may love and respect our parents, Christ must come first - Mt 10:37 3. If every generation had simply followed their parents, then we who are Gentiles would likely still be idol-worshippers and polytheistic! D. PREACHERS... 1. It is common for people to place their trust in their "preacher," "priest," or "pastor" 2. They reason in their hearts that surely these "men of God" could not be wrong or lead them astray a. Yet Paul warned of how we can easily be misled - cf. 2 Co 11:13-15 b. And Jesus warned about the "blind leading the blind" - Mt 15:12-14 3. Our attitude needs to be like that of the Bereans, who carefully examined Paul's teachings in light of the Scriptures - Ac 17:11 E. CREEDS AND TRADITIONS OF MEN... 1. This is where the denominations really get most of their authority 2. Indeed, adherence to the creeds of men is what produces denominations a. Accept the Bible only, and you become a Christian only b. Accept the Bible along with some Creed, and you become something else! 1) Accept the Bible and the Book of Mormon, and you become a Mormon 2) Accept the Bible and papal authority, and you become a Roman Catholic 3) Accept the Bible and the Lutheran Catechism, and you become a Lutheran 3. Creeds are really not even necessary... a. If they say more than what the Bible says, they say too much b. If they say less than what the Bible says, they say too little c. If they say exactly what the Bible says, then why not let the Bible be our creed book? 4. The fact is, creeds are filled with the traditions and commands of men, many of which conflict with and displace the commands of God! - cf. Mk 7:6-9 [Creeds of men, preachers, parents, majority rule, even the Old Testament itself, are some of the "objective" standards that people turn to rather than the authority of the Lord's apostles. But there are also...] II. "SUBJECTIVE" STANDARDS OF AUTHORITY A. CONSCIENCE... 1. "Let your conscience be your guide" is the motto of many 2. But our conscience cannot always be reliable a. Paul had served God with a good conscience throughout his life - Ac 23:1 b. Even at a time when he was persecuting Christians! - cf. Ac 26:9-11 3. Our conscience is like a clock, which works properly only if set properly 4. Once our conscience has been "set" by the "apostles' doctrine", then it can be a good guide B. HUMAN WISDOM... 1. Many feel that through their own wisdom they can determine right and wrong 2. But God's thoughts and ways are not always our own - cf. Isa 55:8-9 3. In fact, God has chosen to save man in a manner specifically designed to confound those who depend solely upon human wisdom - cf. 1Co 1:18-29 4. For us to know God's will, it was necessary for Him to reveal it to us - 1Co 2:9-12 a. This He has done through His Spirit-inspired apostles b. Who in turn shared it with us through their writings - Ep 3:1-5 C. FEELINGS... 1. This is often the "standard of authority" for many people a. Who go by whatever "feels right" b. Who place stock in a religion "better felt than told" 2. Yet the Bible declares the danger of trusting in "feelings" a. "There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death." - Pr 14:12 b. "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool..." - Pr 28:26 c. "O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps." - Jer 10:23 CONCLUSION 1. Because the way we should live is "not in man"... a. We need an "objective standard" for our authority in religion b. We can't depend upon "subjective standards" like conscience, human wisdom, or feelings 2. But which "objective standard"? a. Not creeds of men, preachers, parents, majority rule, or even the Old Testament b. Only the "apostles' doctrine", i.e., the New Testament... 1) For the apostles were personally selected to be Christ's ambassadors 2) For the apostles were inspired by the Holy Spirit, to be guided into all the truth 3) And they were inspired to write all that Christ would have us to know and do 3. When we are content to abide in the "apostles' doctrine", then we can be assured that we are "Following Jesus Without Denominationalism"! Are you following Jesus by "continuing steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine"? Or do you follow some other standard of authority in religion?
From Mark Copeland... "FOLLOWING JESUS WITHOUT DENOMINATIONALISM" What Many Accept As Authority In Religion
Mosaic Authorship of the Pentateuch--Tried and True
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.
Some time ago, a young lady from a local university visited our offices at Apologetics Press and asked to talk to someone about a “new theory” she had been taught in a freshmen literature class. For the first time in her life, she had been told that Moses could not have been the author of the first five books of the Old Testament.
“He lived too early in human history to have written it.”
“The Pentateuch contains information Moses could not have known.”
“Many of the details are from a later age and are inappropriately inserted into the book of Genesis.”
“The Pentateuch actually was pieced together by anonymous sources (commonly called J, E, D, and P) at a fairly late date—long after Moses’ death.”This impressionable young freshman was extremely disturbed by her professor’s statements. She was completely taken aback by the things skeptics and alleged “biblical scholars” had to say about the matter. Consequently, she began to question what she had learned regarding the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch in her Sunday school classes and at the Christian school she had attended nearly all of her life.
“Why would I be taught my whole life by teachers and preachers that Moses wrote Genesis through Deuteronomy, if he really didn’t?”
“Why did I not know about this until now?”
“Does it really matter who wrote Genesis, anyway?”
THE DOCUMENTARY HYPOTHESIS
Since the “Period of Enlightenment,” the Graf-Wellhausen explanation of the origin of the Pentateuch has been thrust consistently into the faces of Christians. Liberal scholars teach that the Pentateuch was compiled from four original “source documents”—designated as J, E, D, and P. These four documents supposedly were written at different times by different authors, and eventually were compiled into the Pentateuch by a redactor (editor). The J, or Jehovahist, document (usually known as the Yahwehist document) supposedly was written around 850 B.C., and was characterized by its use of the divine name Yahweh. Elohim is the divine name that identifies the E, or Elohist, document, purportedly written around 750 B.C. The D, or Deuteronomist, document contained most of the book of Deuteronomy and was supposed to have been written around 620 B.C. The last section to be written was the P, or Priestly, document, which would have contained most of the priestly laws, and allegedly was written around 500 B.C. We are told these documents were then redacted (edited) into one work about 300 years later in 200 B.C. (Morris, 1976, p. 23; McDowell, 1999, p. 406).
It is becoming increasingly popular to believe this theory. For example, not long ago we at Apologetics Press received an e-mail “informing” us that “the documentary theory is accepted by almost all scholarly interpreters.” Numerous commentaries, religious journals, and Web sites consistently promote it. And many professors who teach religious courses espouse it. Undoubtedly, it is champion among the topics discussed in classes on a critical introduction to the Bible. In most “scholarly” circles, if one does not hold to the Documentary Hypothesis (or at least some form of it), he is considered fanatical and uneducated. In his book, The Darwin Wars, Andrew Brown mentioned an interview he had with the rabbi Jonathan Sacks, in which Dr. Sacks defended the proposition that Moses wrote (or dictated) the first five books of the Bible. Brown’s response was: “That is the most shocking thing I have ever heard an intellectual say” (1999, p. 167).
Why are people today having such a difficult time believing that Moses wrote the Pentateuch? Likely, the principal reason is because students are bombarded with adamant “assurance” statements like the following:
“One of the certain results of modern Bible study has been the discovery that the first five books of the Old Testament were not written by Moses” (Gottwald, 1959, p. 103, emp. added).
“It is obvious that the Book of Genesis was not written by a single author” (Rendtorff, 1998, 14:44, emp. added).
“The most determined biblicist can see that there is no way Moses could have written the Torah” (McKinsey, 1995, p. 366, emp. added).Statements such as these have made their way into thousands of classrooms. Sadly, before hearing skeptics and liberal scholars present their ineffectual arguments for such beliefs, students frequently become so spellbound by the “intellectual” façade and bold affirmations of certainty that they rarely even consider the evidence at hand.
MOSES AND THE ART OF WRITING
One major problem with the Documentary Hypothesis is that we now know Moses did not live “prior to all knowledge of writing.” In fact, he lived long after the art of writing was already known. A veritable plethora of archaeological discoveries has proven one of the earliest assumptions of the Wellhausen theory to be wrong.
1. In 1949, C.F.A. Schaeffer “found a tablet at Ras Shamra containing the thirty letters of the Ugaritic alphabet in their proper order. It was discovered that the sequence of the Ugaritic alphabet was the same as modern Hebrew, revealing that the Hebrew alphabet goes back at least 3,500 years” (Jackson, 1982, p. 32, emp. added).
2. In 1933, J.L. Starkey, who had studied under famed archaeologist W.M.F. Petrie, excavated the city of Lachish, which had figured prominently in Joshua’s conquest of Canaan (Joshua 10). Among other things, he unearthed a pottery water pitcher “inscribed with a dedication in eleven archaic letters, the earliest ‘Hebrew’ inscription known” (Wiseman, 1974, p. 705). According to Charles Pfeiffer,
The Old, or palaeo-Hebrew script is the form of writing which is similar to that used by the Phoenicians. A royal inscription of King Shaphatball of Gebal (Byblos) in this alphabet dates from about 1600 B.C. (1966, p. 33).3. In 1901-1902, the Code of Hammurabi was discovered at the ancient site of Susa (in what is now Iran) by a French archaeological expedition under the direction of Jacques de Morgan. It was written on a piece of black diorite nearly eight feet high, and contained 282 sections. In their book, Archaeology and Bible History, Joseph Free and Howard Vos stated:
The Code of Hammurabi was written several hundred years before the time of Moses (c. 1500-1400 B.C.).... This code, from the period 2000-1700 B.C. , contains advanced laws similar to those in the Mosaic laws.... In view of this archaeological evidence, the destructive critic can no longer insist that the laws of Moses are too advanced for his time (1992, pp. 103,55, emp. added).The Code of Hammurabi established beyond doubt that writing was known hundreds of years before Moses.
The truth is, numerous archaeological discoveries of the past 100 years have proven once and for all that the art of writing was known not only during Moses’ day, but also long before Moses came on the scene. Although skeptics, liberal theologians, and certain college professors continue to perpetuate the Documentary Hypothesis, they should be informed (or reminded) of the fact that one of the foundational assumptions upon which the theory rests has been completely shattered by archeological evidence.
EVIDENCE FOR THE DOCUMENTARY
Just what are these “anachronistic references” that are “impossible to be the work of Moses”? And are there reasonable explanations for them being in the Pentateuch? What can be said about the alleged chronological lapses that have led many to believe the stories of the Bible are unhistorical?
NO KING IN ISRAEL...YET
Surprisingly, to some, this often-overlooked chapter contains one of the more controversial phrases in the book. Genesis 36:31 states: “And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel” (emp. added). According to skeptics and liberal theologians, the notation “before there reigned any king over the children of Israel” points to the days of the monarchs. Dennis McKinsey declared in his book, Biblical Errancy:
This passage could only have been written after the first king began to reign. ...It had to have been written after Saul became king, while Moses, the alleged author, lived long before Saul (2000, p. 521).Paul Tobin also indicated that this portion of the Bible “must therefore have been written, at the very earliest, after the first Jewish King, Saul, began to rule over the Israelites which was around three centuries after the death of Moses” (2000). Tobin went on to ask (a question he feels cannot possibly be answered): “Now how could Moses have known that there would be kings that reigned over the Israelites?”
There are two logical reasons why Moses could mention future Israelite kingship. First, Moses knew about the explicit promises God had made both to Abraham and Jacob concerning the future kings of Israel. On one occasion, God informed Abraham and Sarah that many kings would be among their posterity. He promised Abraham saying, “And I will bless her [Sarah—EL], and moreover I will give thee a son of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be of her” (Genesis 17:16, emp. added). Years later (and just one chapter before the verse in question), when God appeared to Jacob at Bethel and changed his name to Israel, He said: “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins” (Genesis 35:11, emp. added). The fact that Genesis 36:31 reads, “And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel,” does not mean this account must have been written by someone who lived after the monarchy was introduced to Israel. Rather, this statement was written with the promise in mind that various kings would come out of the loins of Abraham and Jacob, and merely conveys the notion that Edom became a kingdom at an earlier time than Israel. Keil and Delitzsch remarked: “Such a thought was by no means inappropriate to the Mosaic age. For the idea, that Israel was destined to grow into a kingdom with monarchs of his [Jacob’s—EL] own family, was a hope handed down to the age of Moses, which the long residence in Egypt was well adapted to foster” (1996). Furthermore, the placement of this parenthetical clause (“before any king reigned over the children of Israel”) in 36:31
was exceedingly natural on the part of the sacred historian, who, having but a few verses before (Gen 35:11) put on record the divine promise to Jacob that “kings should come out of his loins,” was led to remark [discuss—EL] the national prosperity and regal establishment of the Edomites long before the organization of a similar order of things in Israel. He could not help indulging such a reflection, when he contrasted the posterity of Esau with those of Jacob from the standpoint of the promise (Gen 25:23) [Jamieson, et al., 1997].A second reason Moses is justified in having knowledge of Israelite kingship before it was known experientially is because Moses was inspired (John 5:46; Mark 12:26; cf. Exodus 20:1; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). For someone to say that the author of Genesis could not have been Moses, because the author spoke generally of Israelite kings prior to their existence, totally ignores the fact that Moses received special revelation from Heaven. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the passage found in Deuteronomy 17:14-15. Here, Moses prophetically stated:
When thou art come unto the land which Jehovah thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, “I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are round about me;” thou shalt surely set him king over thee, whom Jehovah thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee; thou mayest not put a foreigner over thee, who is not thy brother (emp. added).Under normal circumstances, such foreknowledge would be impossible. One must keep in mind, however, that “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26)—and God was with Moses (cf. Exodus 3:12; 6:2; 25:22).
Were the Christian to claim that Moses wrote Genesis without being inspired or without having knowledge of the earlier promises made to Abraham and Jacob about the future kingship of Israel, the critic would be correct in concluding that Genesis 36:31 is anachronistic. But, the truth is, a Christian’s faith is based on the evidences which prove that the Bible writers possessed access to supernatural revelation. Thus, Moses’ superior knowledge is not a problem. Rather, it is to be expected.
CAMELS BEARING A HEAVY LOAD
According to skeptics, and a growing number of “biblical scholars,” however, the fact that Moses wrote about camels being domesticated in the time of Abraham directly contradicts the archaeological evidence. Over one hundred years ago, T.K. Cheyne wrote: “The assertion that the ancient Egyptians knew of the camel is unfounded” (1899, 1:634). In Norman Gottwald’s defense of the Documentary Hypothesis, he cited the mention of camels in Genesis as one of the main “indications that the standpoint of the writer was later than the age of Moses” (1959, p. 104). More recently, Finkelstein and Silberman confidently asserted:
We now know through archaeological research that camels were not domesticated as beasts of burden earlier than the late second millennium and were not widely used in that capacity in the ancient Near East until well after 1000 BCE (2001, p. 37, emp. added).By way of summary, then, what the Bible believer has been told is: “[T]ame camels were simply unknown during Abraham’s time” (Tobin, 2000).
While these claims have been made repeatedly over the last century, the truth of the matter is that skeptics and liberal theologians are unable to cite one piece of solid archaeological evidence in support of their claims. As Randall Younker of Andrews University stated in March 2000 while delivering a speech in the Dominican Republic: “Clearly, scholars who have denied the presence of domesticated camels in the 2nd millennium BC have been committing the fallacy of arguing from silence. This approach should not be allowed to cast doubt upon the veracity of any historical document, let alone Scripture” (2000). The burden of proof actually should be upon skeptics to show that camels were not domesticated until well after the time of the patriarchs. Instead, they assure their listeners of the camel’s absence in Abraham’s day—without one shred of archaeological evidence. [Remember, for many years they also argued that writing was unknown during the time of Moses—a conclusion based entirely on “silence.” Now, however, they have recanted that idea, because evidence has been found to the contrary.]
What makes their claims even more disturbing is that several pieces of evidence do exist (and have existed for some time) that prove camels were domesticated during (and even before) the time of Abraham (approximately 2,000 B.C.). In an article that appeared in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies a half-century ago, professor Joseph Free listed several instances of Egyptian archaeological finds supporting the domestication of camels. [NOTE: The dates given for the Egyptian dynasties are from Clayton, 2001, pp. 14-68]. The earliest evidence comes from a pottery camel’s head and a terra cotta tablet with men riding on and leading camels. According to Free, these are both from predynastic Egypt (1944, pp. 189-190), which according to Clayton is roughly before 3150 B.C. Free also lists three clay camel heads and a limestone vessel in the form of a camel lying down—all dated during the First Dynasty of Egypt (3050-2890 B.C.). He then mentions several models of camels from the Fourth Dynasty (2613-2498 B.C.), and a petroglyph depicting a camel and a man dated at the Sixth Dynasty (2345-2184 B.C.). Such evidence has led one respected Egyptologist to conclude that “the extant evidence clearly indicates that the domestic camel was known [in Egypt—EL] by 3,000 B.C.”—long before Abraham’s time (Kitchen, 1980, 1:228).
Perhaps the most convincing find in support of the early domestication of camels in Egypt is a rope made of camel’s hair found in the Fayum (an oasis area southwest of modern-day Cairo). The two-strand twist of hair, measuring a little over three feet long, was found in the late 1920s, and was sent to the Natural History Museum, where it was analyzed and compared to the hair of several different animals. After extensive testing, it was determined to be camel hair, dated (by analyzing the layer in which it was found) to the Third or Fourth Egyptian Dynasty (2686-2498 B.C.). In his article, Free also listed several other discoveries from around 2,000 B.C. and later, each of which showed camels as domestic animals (1944, pp. 189-190).
While prolific in Egypt, finds relating to the domestication of camels are not limited to the African continent. In his book, Ancient Orient and the Old Testament, Kenneth Kitchen, professor emeritus at the University of Liverpool, reported several discoveries made outside of Egypt, proving that ancient camel domestication existed around 2,000 B.C. Lexical lists from Mesopotamia have been uncovered that show a knowledge of domesticated camels as far back as that time. Camel bones have been found in household ruins at Mari in present-day Syria that fossilologists believe are also at least 4,000 years old. Furthermore, a Sumerian text from the time of Abraham has been discovered in the ancient city of Nippur (located in what is now southeastern Iraq) that clearly implies the domestication of camels by its allusions to camels’ milk (Kitchen, 1966, p. 79).
All of these documented finds support the domestication of camels in Egypt many years before the time of Abraham. Yet, as Younker so well stated, skeptics refuse to acknowledge any of this evidence.
It is interesting to note how, once an idea gets into the literature, it can become entrenched in conventional scholarly thinking. I remember doing research on the ancient site of Hama in Syria. As I was reading through the excavation reports (published in French), I came across a reference to a figurine from the 2nd millennium which the excavator thought must be a horse, but the strange hump in the middle of its back made one think of a camel. I looked at the photograph and the figurine was obviously that of a camel! The scholar was so influenced by the idea that camels were not used until the 1st millennium, that when he found a figurine of one in the second millennium, he felt compelled to call it a horse! This is a classic example of circular reasoning (2000, parenthetical comment in orig.).Finds relating to the domestication of camels are not as prevalent in the second millennium B.C. as they are in the first millennium. This does not make the skeptics’ case any stronger, however. Just because camels were not as widely used during Abraham’s time as they were later, does not mean that they were entirely undomesticated. As Free commented:
Many who have rejected this reference to Abraham’s camels seem to have assumed something which the text does not state. It should be carefully noted that the biblical reference does not necessarily indicate that the camel was common in Egypt at that time, nor does it evidence that the Egyptians had made any great progress in the breeding and domestication of camels. It merely says that Abraham had camels (1944, p. 191, emp. added).Similarly, Younker noted:
This is not to say that domesticated camels were abundant and widely used everywhere in the ancient Near East in the early second millennium. However, the patriarchal narratives do not necessarily require large numbers of camels.... The smaller amount of evidence for domestic camels in the late third and early second millennium B.C., especially in Palestine, is in accordance with this more restricted use (1997, 42:52).Even without the above-mentioned archaeological finds (which to the unbiased examiner prove that camels were domesticated in the time of Abraham), it only seems reasonable to conclude that because wild camels have been known since the Creation, “there is no credible reason why such an indispensable animal in desert and semi-arid lands should not have been sporadically domesticated in patriarchal times and even earlier” (see “Animal Kingdom,” 1988). The truth is, all of the available evidence points to one conclusion—the limited use of domesticated camels during and before the time of Abraham. The supposed “anachronism” of domesticated camels during the time of the patriarchs is, in fact, an actual historical reference to the use of these animals at that time. Those who reject this conclusion cannot offer a single piece of solid archaeological evidence on behalf of their theory. They simply argue from the “silence” of archaeology...which is silent no more!
MOSES’ KNOWLEDGE OF GATES
Deut. 15:22 says, “Thou shalt eat it within thy gates.” The phrase “within thy gates” occurs in the Pentateuch about twenty-five times and refers to the gates of Palestinian cities, which the Israelites did not inhabit until after the death of Moses (1995, p. 363, emp. in orig.).In making this statement, however, Mr. McKinsey commits a gross error by assuming that the passage is referring solely to the “gates of Palestinian cities.” Moreover, what skeptics like McKinsey fail to mention is the fact that “gate” does not necessarily mean the large doors in the walls of fortified cities. Sometimes, gates are used to represent entrances into areas of dwelling, as in Exodus 32:26: “Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, ‘Whoso is on Jehovah’s side, (let him come) unto me.’ And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him” (emp. added). Would anyone suppose that the Israelites built walls and gates around their Bedouin-style tent cities? Of course not. Therefore, “gate” can mean the entrance to a city—of tents. In fact, the Hebrew word for gate (ša‘ar) is translated as “entrance” ten times in the NIV. And in the NKJV, ša‘ar is translated as “entrance” in Exodus 32:36.
Giving Dennis McKinsey the benefit of the doubt (that the term “gates” refers to the Palestinian cities), Moses could have been referring to the cities that the Israelites would capture in the future. Since he was inspired while writing the Pentateuch (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21), this knowledge could have been the result of that inspiration, similar to the knowledge that Israel one day would have a king. Either way, the mention of “gates” in the Pentateuch is not anachronistic.
PHILISTINES IN THE TIME OF
ABRAHAM—FALLACY OR FACT?
As with most allegations brought against the Scriptures, those who claim the Philistine nation was not around in Abraham’s day are basing their conclusion on at least one unprovable assumption—namely, that the Philistines living in the days of the patriarchs were a great nation, similar to the one living during the time of the United Kingdom. The evidence suggests, however, that this assumption is wrong. The Bible does not present the Philistines of Abraham’s day as the same mighty Philistine nation that would arise hundreds of years later. Abimelech, the king of Gerar, is portrayed as being intimidated by Abraham (cf. Genesis 21:25). Surely, had the Philistine people been a great nation in the time of the patriarchs, they would not have been afraid of one man (Abraham) and a few hundred servants (cf. Genesis 14:14). Furthermore, of the five great Philistine city-states that were so prominent throughout the period of the Judges and the United Kingdom (Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath, and Gaza—Joshua 13:3; 1 Samuel 6:17), none was mentioned. Rather, only a small village known as Gerar was named. To assume that the Bible presents the entire civilization of the Philistines as being present during Abraham’s day is to err. In reality, one reads only of a small Philistine kingdom.
The word “Philistine” was a somewhat generic term that meant “sea people.” No doubt, some of the Aegean sea people made their way to Palestine long before a later migration took place—one that was considerably larger. In commenting on these Philistines, Larry Richards observed:
While there is general agreement that massive settlement of the coast of Canaan by sea peoples from Crete took place around 1200 B.C., there is no reason to suppose Philistine settlements did not exist long before this time. In Abram’s time as in the time of Moses a variety of peoples had settled in Canaan, including Hittites from the far north. Certainly the seagoing peoples who traded the Mediterranean had established colonies along the shores of the entire basin for centuries prior to Abraham’s time. There is no reason to suppose that the Philistines, whose forefathers came from Crete, were not among them (1993, p. 40).No archaeological evidence exists that denies various groups of “sea people” were in Canaan long before the arrival of the main body in the early twelfth century B.C. (see Unger, 1954, p. 91; Archer, 1964, p. 266; Harrison, 1963, p. 32). To assume that not a single group of Philistines lived in Palestine during the time of Abraham because archaeology has not documented them until about 1190 B.C. is to argue from negative evidence, and is without substantial weight. In response to those who would deny the Philistines’ existence based upon their silence in the archeological world before this time, professor Kitchen stated:
Inscriptionally, we know so little about the Aegean peoples as compared with those of the rest of the Ancient Near East in the second millennium B.C., that it is premature to deny outright the possible existence of Philistines in the Aegean area before 1200 B.C. (1966, p. 80n).Likely, successive waves of sea peoples from the Aegean Sea migrated to Canaan, even as early as Abraham’s time, and continued coming until the massive movement in the twelfth century B.C. (Archer, 1970, 127:18).
Based on past experiences, one might think that critics of the Bible’s inerrancy would learn to refrain from making accusations when arguing from silence. For years, modernists and skeptics taught that the Hittite kingdom, which is mentioned over forty times in Scripture (Exodus 23:28; Joshua 1:4; et al.), was a figment of the Bible writers’ imaginations, since no evidence of the Hittite’s existence had been located. But those utterances vanished into thin air when, in 1906, the Hittite capital was discovered, along with more than 10,000 clay tablets that contained the Hittite’s law system. Critics of the Bible’s claim of divine inspiration at one time also accused Luke of gross inaccuracy because he used the title politarchas to denote the city officials of Thessalonica (Acts 17:6,8), rather than the more common terms strateegoi (magistrates) and exousiais (authorities). To support their accusations, they pointed out that the term politarch is found nowhere else in all of Greek literature as an official title. Once again, these charges eventually were dropped, based on the fact that the term politarchas has now been found in 32 inscriptions from the second century B.C. to the third century A.D. (Bruce, 1988, p. 324n), with at least five of these inscriptions originating from Thessalonica—the very city about which Luke wrote in Acts 17 (Robertson, 1997).
Although critics accuse biblical writers of revealing erroneous information, their claims continue to evaporate with the passing of time and the compilation of evidence.
DOES IT REALLY MATTER
WHO WROTE THE PENTATEUCH?
“Moses wrote all the words of Jehovah” (Exodus 24:4).
“Jehovah said unto Moses, ‘Write thou these words...’ ” (Exodus 34:27).
“Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys by the commandment of Jehovah” (Numbers 33:2).
“Moses wrote this law and delivered it unto the priests...” (Deuteronomy 31:9).Bible writers throughout the Old Testament credited Moses with writing the Pentateuch (also known as the Torah or “the Law”). A plain statement of this commonly held conviction is expressed in Joshua 8:32: “There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua copied on stones the law of Moses, which he [Moses—EL] had written” (NIV, emp. added). Notice also that 2 Chronicles 34:14 states: “Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the law of Jehovah given by Moses” (emp. added; cf. Ezra 3:2; 6:18, Nehemiah 13:1, and Malachi 4:4). As Josh McDowell noted in his book, More Evidence that Demands a Verdict, these verses “refer to an actual written ‘law of Moses,’ not simply an oral tradition” (1975, pp. 93-94). [NOTE: The Hebrew Bible was not divided like our modern English Old Testament. It consisted of three divisions: the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (cf. Luke 24:44). It contained the same “books” we have today; it was just divided differently. Genesis through Deuteronomy was considered one unit, and thus frequently was called “the Law” or “the Book” (2 Chronicles 25:4; cf. Mark 12:26). Even a casual perusal of its individual components will confirm that each book presupposes the one that precedes it. Without Genesis, Exodus reads like a book begun midway; without Exodus, Leviticus is a mystery; and so on. They were not intended to be five separate volumes in a common category, but rather, are five divisions of the same book. Hence, the singular references: “the Law” or “the Book.”]
The New Testament writers also showed no hesitation in affirming that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. John wrote: “The law was given through Moses” (John 1:17). Luke recorded of the resurrected Jesus: “And beginning from Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them [His disciples—EL] in all the scriptures the things concerning himself ‘ (Luke 24:27). Referring to the Jewish practice of publicly reading the Law, James affirmed Mosaic authorship: “For Moses from generations of old hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath” (Acts 15:21). With this Paul concurred, saying, “For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, ‘The man who does those things shall live by them’ ” (Romans 10:5, NKJV, emp. added; cf. Leviticus 18:5). In 2 Corinthians 3:15, Paul also wrote: “Moses is read.” The phrase “Moses is read” is a clear example of the figure of speech known as metonymy (where one thing is put for another) [see Dungan, 1888, pp. 273-275]. Today, we may ask if someone has read Shakespeare, Homer, or Virgil, by which we mean to ask if he or she has read the writings of these men. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, one reads where Abraham spoke to the rich man concerning his five brothers saying, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (Luke 16:29). Were Moses and the Old Testament prophets still on Earth in the first century? No. The meaning is that the rich man’s brothers had the writings of Moses and the prophets.
Furthermore, both Jesus’ disciples and His enemies recognized and accepted the books of Moses. After Philip was called to follow Jesus, he found his brother Nathanael and said: “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45, NKJV, emp. added). Notice also that New Testament Sadducees considered Moses as the author, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote unto us, if a man’s brother die, and leave a wife behind him, and leave no child, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother” (Mark 12:19, emp. added; cf. Deuteronomy 25:5).
A final reason that one must defend the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, instead of sitting by idly and claiming that “it doesn’t really matter who wrote it,” is because Jesus Himself acknowledged that “the Law” came from Moses. In Mark 7:10, Jesus quoted from both Exodus 20 and 21, attributing the words to Moses. Mark likewise recorded a conversation Jesus had with the Pharisees regarding what “Moses permitted” and “wrote” in Deuteronomy chapter 24 (Mark 10:3-5; cf. Matthew 19:8). Later, we see where Jesus asked the Sadducees, “Have you not read in the book of Moses, in the place concerning the bush, how God spake unto him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?” (Mark 12:26, emp. added). But, perhaps the most convincing passage of all can be found in John 5:46-47, where Jesus stated: “For if ye believed Moses, ye would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:46-47, emp. added; cf. Deuteronomy 18:15-18). The truth is, by claiming that Moses did not write the books of the Pentateuch, one essentially is claiming that Jesus was mistaken. M.R. DeHaan expounded upon this problem in his book, Genesis and Evolution:
Prove that Moses did not write the books of the Pentateuch and you prove that Jesus was totally mistaken and not the infallible Son of God he claimed to be. Upon your faith in Moses as the writer of the five books attributed to him rests also your faith in Jesus as the Son of God. You cannot believe in Jesus Christ without believing what Moses wrote. You see, there is much more involved in denying the books of Moses than most people suppose (1978, p. 41).Indeed, believing Moses wrote the Pentateuch is very important. It is not a trivial issue we should treat frivolously while suggesting that “it really doesn’t matter.” It matters because the deity of Christ and the integrity of the Bible writers are at stake!
Archer, Gleason (1964), A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Archer, Gleason L. (1970), “Old Testament History and Recent Archaeology from Abraham to Moses,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 127:3-25, January.
Brown, Andrew (1999), The Darwin Wars (New York: Simon and Schuster).
Bruce, F.F. (1988), The Book of Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), revised edition.
Burrows, Millar (1941), What Mean These Stones? (New Haven, CT: American Schools of Oriental Research).
Cheyne, T.K. (1899), Encyclopedia Biblica (London: A & C Black).
Clayton, Peter A. (2001), Chronicle of the Pharaohs (London: Thames & Hudson).
DeHaan, M.R. (1978), Genesis and Evolution (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Dillard, Raymond B. and Tremper Longman III (1994), An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Dungan, D.R. (no date), Hermeneutics (Delight, AR: Gospel Light).
Finkelstein, Israel and Neil Asher Silberman (2001), The Bible Unearthed (New York: Free Press).
Frank, H.T. (1964), An Archaeological Companion to the Bible (London: SCM Press).
Free, Joseph P. (1944), “Abraham’s Camels,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 3:187-193, July.
Free, Joseph P. and Howard F. Vos (1992), Archaeology and Bible History (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Gottwald, Norman (1959), A Light to the Nations (New York: Harper and Row).
Green, William Henry (1978), The Higher Criticism of the Pentateuch (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Harrison, R.K. (1963), The Archaeology of the Old Testament (New York: Harper and Row).
Jackson, Wayne (1982), Biblical Studies in the Light of Archaeology (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Jamieson, Robert, et al. (1997), Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Bible Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch (1996), Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament (Electronic Database: Biblesoft), new updated edition.
Kitchen, K.A. (1966), Ancient Orient and Old Testament (Chicago, IL: InterVarsity Press).
Kitchen, K.A. (1980), The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. J.D. Douglas (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale).
McDowell, Josh (1975), More Evidence that Demands a Verdict (San Bernardino, CA: Campus Crusade for Christ).
McDowell, Josh (1999), The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Nashville, TN: Nelson).
McGarvey, J.W. (1902), The Authorship of Deuteronomy (Cincinnati, OH: Standard).
McKinsey, C. Dennis (1995), The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).
McKinsey, C. Dennis (2000), Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).
Morris, Henry M. (1976), The Genesis Record (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Pfeiffer, Charles F. (1966), The Biblical World (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Rendtorff, Rolf (1998), “What We Miss by Taking the Bible Apart,” Bible Review, 14:42-44, February.
Richards, Larry (1993), 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered (Grand Rapids, MI: Revell).
Robertson, A.T. (1997), Word Pictures in the New Testament (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Schultz, Hermann (1898), Old Testament Theology, transl. from fourth edition by H.A. Patterson (Edinburgh: T. &T. Clark).
Tobin, Paul N. (2000), “Mythological Elements in the Story of Abraham and the Patriachal [sic] Narratives,” The Rejection of Pascal’s Wager [On-line], URL: http://www.geocit ies.com/paulntobin/abraham.html.
Unger, Merrill (1954), Archaeology and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Van Eck, Stephen (1999), “The Pentateuch: Not Wholly Moses or Even Partially,” Skeptical Review, 10:2-3,16, September/October.
Wellhausen, Julius (1885), Prolegomena to the History of Israel (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black), translated by Black and Menzies.
Wiseman, D.J. (1974), The New Bible Dictionary, ed. J.D. Douglas (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Younker, Randall W. (1997), “Late Bronze Age Camel Petroglyphs in the Wadi Nasib, Sinai,” Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin, 42:47-54.
Younker, Randall W. (2000), “The Bible and Archaeology,” The Symposium on the Bible and Adventist Scholarship, [On-line], URL: http://www.aiias.edu/ict/vol_26B/26Bc_457-477.htm.
|by||Caleb Colley, Ph.D.|
While it is true that God is loving (Romans 8:39), merciful (Psalm 57:2-3), and willing to offer His grace to all (Titus 2:11), one striking characteristic of the Almighty is His fierce anger. The most common Hebrew term for anger is ’ap, which can be used to denote either divine or human anger (Genesis 27:45; Numbers 11:1, et al.). The term refers to “nostril,” which the ancients thought to be the locale of anger (Harrison, 1979, 1:127), while the word ’anap (which is used exclusively to denote the anger of God; Deuteronomy 4:21, 1 Kings 11:9) means “to breathe hard.” The Bible writers clearly have revealed that God is capable of being angry with a righteous indignation (see Miller, 2003). Consider a sampling of the passages that bear out this idea:
Deuteronomy 29:27-28: “Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against this land, to bring on it every curse that is written in this book. And the Lord uprooted them from their land in anger, in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day” (emp. added).God’s fierce anger is such an essential aspect of His divine nature that Bible writers (and people whose words are recorded in Scripture) sometimes referred to “the wrath,” knowing that readers would understand exactly Whose anger was under consideration. Consider the words John the Baptizer spoke to the Pharisees and Sadducees: “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matthew 3:7; cf. Numbers 1:53; Joshua 22:20). In John 2:14-17, we read of Jesus’ righteous indignation at those who turned God’s house into a “house of merchandise.” Christ certainly knew how to utilize anger properly, thereby giving us an example of how one’s temper can be used to the glory of God (see Butt, 2001). Paul instructed the Ephesian Christians: “Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26). Anger has its place. It can be greatly beneficial, and God is our perfect example in this area. What is it about the anger of Christ that makes it righteous?
2 Chronicles 29:10: “Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel, that His fierce wrath may turn away from us” (emp. added, cf. 30:8; 32:26).
Nehemiah 9:17: “They refused to obey, and they were not mindful of Your wonders that You did among them. But they hardened their necks, and in their rebellion they appointed a leader to return to their bondage. But You are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and did not forsake them” (emp. added, cf. Psalms 103:8; 145:8, et al.).
Hebrews 10:26-27: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries (emp. added).
Observe that, unlike many humans, God does not become angry because of the “heat of the moment” or because He possesses a confusing, constantly fluctuating emotionality. On the contrary, God’s anger is rationally retributive. His anger is His direct, calculated response to sin. Nowhere is His anger observed more clearly than in the pages of the Old Testament, where we read often of God exhibiting His anger at the children of Israel in a very demonstrative and graphic manner. Remember, however, that God never became angry at the children of Israel unless they breached their covenant with Him; if God was angry, it was Israel’s fault (see Deuteronomy 11:17; 29:24-28; Ezra 8:22; Nehemiah 13:18, et al.).
The psalmist wrote that God is “angry with the wicked every day” (7:11). F.K. Farr stated regarding the English word “anger”: “As…denoting God’s ‘anger,’ the English word is unfortunate so far as it may seem to imply selfish, malicious or vindictive personal feeling. The anger of God is the response of His holiness to outbreaking sin. Particularly when it culminates in action is it rightly called His ‘wrath’” (1956, p. 135).
The redemptive work of Christ on the cross does not indicate that God relinquished His wrath in New Testament times. On the Day of Judgment, His wrath will be exercised against the unrighteous. Paul said: “…He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained” (Acts 17:31). We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10), and if we are saved, our salvation through Christ will be salvation from God’s wrath (Romans 5:9). In a sense, the wrath of God already rests upon impenitent humans, because they have rejected the only means of salvation available to them. John the Baptizer said: “…he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). Paul wrote: “…forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost” (1 Thessalonians 2:16; see Simpson, 1988, p. 1135).
How wonderful it is to serve a God Who understands all of our emotions perfectly, to learn from His wisdom, to hold dear His utter hatred of evil, and to obey His command to be cautious in how we act upon our anger (Ephesians 4:26-31; James 1:19).
REFERENCESButt, Kyle (2001), “Even Jesus Had a Temper,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1611.
Farr, F.K. (1939), “Anger,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson) 1:135.
Harrison, Roland K. (1979), “Anger,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans) 1:127.
Miller, Dave (2003), “God’s Fierce Anger,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2242.
Simpson, John W. (1988), “Wrath; anger,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans) 4:1135.
Christianity and Humanism
|by||Bert Thompson, Ph.D.|
Why do men make such statements? The answer, it seems, lies in an ever-increasing attitude of “supreme self-sufficiency”—a burning desire to “cut themselves loose from the apron strings of God” as it were. George Gaylord Simpson, the late paleontologist of Harvard, wrote:
Man stands alone in the universe, a unique product of a long, unconscious, impersonal, material process with unique understanding and potentialities. These he owes to no one but himself, and it is to himself that he is responsible. He is not the creature of uncontrollable and undeterminable forces, but is his own master. He can and must decide and manage his own destiny (1953, p. 155).Richard Leakey echoed those same sentiments.
Unquestionably mankind is special, and in many ways, too…. There is now a critical need for a deep awareness that, no matter how special we are as an animal, we are still part of the greater balance of nature.… During that relatively brief span evolutionary pressures forged a brain capable of profound understanding of matters animate and inanimate: the fruits of intellectual and technological endeavour in this latter quarter of the 20th century give us just an inkling of what the human mind can achieve. The potential is enormous, almost infinite. We can, if we so choose, do virtually anything (1977, p. 256; first emp. in orig.; latter emp. added).But is that the only (or even the major) reason for this “debunking of God” in favor of a purely human vantage point? No. It is not just that man is convinced he can make it on his own, although that in itself would be bad enough. Rather, it is the attitude of which the apostle Paul spoke in Romans 1:28 as he discussed those who “refused to have God in their knowledge.” It has to do with those who have “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25). It is a willful determination on the part of man not to have God in his mind or in his life, and instead to replace Him with something—anything—non-divine and non-supernatural. It is a concerted effort to escape any ultimate responsibility, and instead to find a way to allow each person to “do his own thing.” In an article titled “Confessions of a Professed Atheist,” Aldous Huxley addressed this very point.
I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning; consequently, assumed it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption.… The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics; he is also concerned to prove there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do.… For myself, as no doubt for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom (1966, 3:19).Statements like these show the absolute determination of some to live without God, no matter what the cost. It is difficult not to be reminded of the kind of people of whom Paul spoke in Ephesians 2:11-13 who found themselves in the position of “having no hope, and without God in the world.” Such thinking is the warped product of what has been called “the void of humanism” (see Stearsman, 1981, 25:490-491).
THE TENETS OF HUMANISMThere is nothing left to the imagination when it comes to the tenets of humanism. This system of thought has been so well defined and so oft’ discussed that it is an easy matter to understand its goals, aims, objectives, and teachings. In 1933, and again forty years later in 1973, humanists set forth their credo in Humanist Manifesto I and Humanist Manifesto II. Humanism is not just a system of thought that stresses the importance of humankind. Rather, humanism is a subtle, disarming, and sophisticated way of saying “atheism.” The Humanist Manifesto II makes that clear: “As nontheists, we begin with humans, not God, nature, not deity…. [H]umans are responsible for what we are or will become. No deity will save us; we must save ourselves” (1973, p. 16).
The Humanist Manifesto I is composed of fifteen theses covering such areas as ethics, religion, man’s origin and destiny, etc. It was signed by such men as R. Lester Mondale, brother of former Vice-President Walter Mondale, and American educator John Dewey, among others. Humanist Manifesto II contains seventeen theses grouped under five major headings: Religion, Ethics, Individual, Democratic Society, and World Community. It was signed by a number of influential people from almost every walk of life, including, among others, Linus Pauling, Isaac Asimov, Francis Crick, Julian Huxley, Anthony Flew, Corliss Lamont, and Kai Nielsen. In the preface, the proponents stated: “As in 1933, humanist still believe that traditional theism, especially faith in the prayer-healing God, assumed to love and care for persons,...is an unproved and outmoded faith” (1973, p. 13).
Humanists have “taken aim” at God, religion, the supernatural, and the Gospel message, and intend to “shoot to kill.” Consider, for example, this statement from Kai Nielsen, humanist philosopher and former editor of The Humanist magazine.
In cultures such as ours, religion is very often an alien form of life to intellectuals. Living as we do in a post-enlightenment era, it is difficult for us to take religion seriously. The very concept seems fantastic to us…that people in our age can believe that they have had a personal encounter with God, that they could believe that they have experienced conversion through a “mystical experience of God,” so that they are born again in the Holy Spirit, is something that attests to human irrationality and a lack of sense of reality (1977, p. 46).The message is clear. Those people who accept God, His Son, His Word, and His salvation are “out of touch with reality,” “irrational,” and “unreasonable.” There is no misunderstanding humanism, what it teaches, or what it hopes to accomplish. The Humanist Manifesto II is quite specific on a number of important points. Consider, too, the humanists’ comments on religion.
We believe, however, that traditional or dogmatic or authoritarian religions that place revelation, God, ritual, or creed above human needs and experience do a disservice to the human species. Any account of nature should pass the tests of scientific evidence; in our judgment, the dogmas and myths of traditional religions do not do so.… We find insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of a supernatural; it is either meaningless or irrelevant to the question of the survival and fulfillment of the human race.… Promises of salvation or fear of eternal damnation are both illusory and harmful. They distract humans from present concerns, from self-actualization, and from rectifying social injustices. Modern science discredits such historic concepts as the “ghost in the machine” and the “separable soul.” Rather, science affirms that the human species is an emergence from natural evolutionary forces. As far as we know, the total personality is a function of the biological organism transacting in a social and cultural context. There is no credible evidence that life survives the death of the body (1973, pp. 15-17).The following statements are representative of the humanists’ thoughts on the subject of ethics.
...we affirm that moral values derive their source from human experience. Ethics is autonomous and situational, needing no theological or ideological sanction. Ethics stems from human needs and interest. To deny this distorts the whole basis of life. Human life has meaning because we create and develop our futures. Happiness and the creative realization of human needs and desires, individually and in shared enjoyment, are continuous themes of humanism. We strive for the good life, here and now. The goal is to pursue life’s enrichment despite debasing forces.... Reason and intelligence are the most effective instruments that humankind possesses. There is no substitute: neither faith nor passion suffices in itself. The controlled use of scientific methods, which have transformed the natural and social sciences since the Renaissance, must be extended further in the solution of human problems (1973, pp. 17-18; emp. in orig.).Lastly, consider these comments on “sexual freedom.”
In the area of sexuality, we believe that intolerant attitudes, often cultivated by orthodox religions and puritanical cultures, unduly repress sexual conduct. The right to birth control, abortion, and divorce should be recognized. While we do not approve of exploitive, denigrating forms of sexual expression, neither do we wish to prohibit, by law or social sanction, sexual behavior between consenting adults. The many varieties of sexual exploration should not in themselves be considered “evil.” Without countenancing mindless permissiveness or unbridled promiscuity, a civilized society should be a tolerant one. Short of harming others or compelling them to do likewise, individuals should be permitted to express their sexual proclivities and pursue their lifestyles as they desire. We wish to cultivate the development of a responsible attitude toward sexuality, in which humans are not exploited as sexual objects and in which intimacy, sensitivity, respect and honesty in interpersonal relations are encouraged. Moral education for children and adults is an important way of developing awareness and sexual maturity (1973, pp. 18-19; emp. in orig.).These, in summary, are the tenets of humanism. Promises of salvation are “illusory and harmful,” ethics is “situational,” and sexual activity between “consenting adults” is acceptable no matter who or what is involved. Sounds like “vice is nice” propaganda, doesn’t it? Abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, and even what some call the “last taboo”—incest—are acceptable according to humanism. As one author put it: “While humanity did not arise from the beasts, Humanism certainly stoops to their level” (Jones, 1981, 98:309).
Many people simply are not aware that humanism advocates such things. Furthermore, many are not aware that humanism has its own systems of cosmology, soteriology, ethics, and even eschatology—all of which stand in direct opposition to the Bible. What, then, should be the Christian’s response to such teachings?
CHRISTIANITY AND HUMANISMIt is important to understand that a Christian cannot be a humanist. There are those who claim to be “Christian humanists” or “religious humanists.” But humanism and Christianity are not compatible. Paul Kurtz, former editor of The Humanist, addressed the subject of “Christian humanism” and observed: “Humanism cannot in any fair sense of the word apply to one who still believes in God as the source and Creator of the universe. Christian Humanism would be possible only for those who are willing to admit that they are atheistic Humanists. It surely does not apply to God-intoxicated believers” (1973, p. 177). Humanist writer Corliss Lamont has gone so far as to state: “Passing to the New Testament, we see plainly that its theology, taken literally, is totally alien to the Humanist viewpoint” (1977, p. 50).
Humanism and Christianity are mutually exclusive, diametrically opposed systems. Humanism states that matter is eternal, that there is no God, that man and his environment are the result of evolutionary forces, that ethics is situational, that no one can possess absolute truth, that there is no life after death, that views of salvation are illusory and harmful, that man is the most important thing in the Universe, that man has no soul, that there is no heaven or hell, and so on.
Christianity, on the other hand, teaches the exact opposite of these things. The Bible speaks often of an eternal God, man’s immortal soul, heaven, hell, a promised and planned salvation, the absolute nature of Truth, morals based on an objective standard, etc. Humanists have failed to comprehend one of the greatest of all truths—that the “fear of the Lord” is both “the beginning of knowledge” and “the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10). True wisdom is in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). He alone is the way, the Truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by Him (John 14:6). It is His Truth that will make us free (John 8:32) and protect us from the “philosophy and vain deceit after the tradition of men” which is able to destroy us (Colossians 2:8).
It is the Christian system that places man in his proper place in the Universe—as a specially created being (Genesis 1:26-27) made a little lower than the angels (Psalm 8:4-5). Man is not “up from the slime” as humanism advocates, but instead is “down from heaven.” In addition, Christianity correctly teaches that ethics is not situational, but instead always must be based on God’s Word since in that Word we find “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Far from being situational, the ethical system of the Bible is governed by revelation provided by the Creator. Prohibitions against many of the things that humanism advocates (divorce, homosexuality, extramarital and premarital sexual activity, etc.) are frequent in the divinely inspired text (1 Corinthians 6:9-19; Romans 1:26-32; Matthew 5:27; Matthew 19:9; Genesis 2:24, etc.).
The wisdom that man values so highly, God often sets at nought (1 Corinthians 3:19-21; 2:6; 1:19-21). The Bible urges us to pray often (1 Thessalonians 5:17), with the assurance that we will be heard by our God (Matthew 7:7-8). Humanism denies these things. The Bible warns us against “friendship with the world which is enmity with God” (James 4:4) and promises us instead the “abundant life” (John 10:10) through Christ. Jesus Himself promised eternal life to those who were faithful to God (John 17:3; Matthew 10:32-33; John 14:1-3,23-24).
CONCLUSIONWhy do we find the world in the state it is today? Tim LaHaye, in his book, The Battle for the Mind, suggested: “Our present society is in a state of moral decay, not because the majority of Americans love degeneracy, but because the influence of humanism has been greater on our culture than the influence of the church” (1980, p. 189). Christ said:
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a lamp, and put it under a bushel, but on a stand; and it shineth unto all that are in the house. even so let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16).God’s people are to uphold that which is right and oppose that which is wrong. In so doing, we set an example for all around us to see. We must oppose humanism because its teachings are contrary to the teachings of God’s Word. We must come to understand, and help others to understand, the folly of human “wisdom” such as is found in humanism.
For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and discernment of the discerning will I bring to naught. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of the world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe (1 Corinthians 1:19-21).Human wisdom leads away from God if it is not founded on, guarded by, and subject to biblical revelation. Human wisdom is at war with God (Romans 8:7) and is foolishness as far as He is concerned (1 Corinthians 3:19-20). Christians must reject humanism, and help others to do the same.
REFERENCESHumanist Manifestos I & II (1933/1973), (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus).
Huxley, Aldous (1966), “Confessions of a Professed Atheist,” Report: Perspective on the News.
Huxley, Julian (1965), Fortune Magazine, February.
Jones, Shawn (1981), “The Most Dangerous Religion in the World,” Firm Foundation, 98:309, May 19.
Kurtz, Paul (1973), The Humanist Alternative (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus).
LaHaye, Tim (1980), The Battle for the Mind (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell).
Lamont, Corliss (1977), The Philosophy of Humanism (New York: Unger).
Leakey, Richard (1977), Origins (New York: E.P. Dutton).
Montagu, Ashley, (1981), Interview in The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, p. 4-C, July 26.
Nielsen, Kai (1977), The Humanist, May/June.
Simpson, George Gaylord (1953), Life of the Past (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press).
Stearsman, Jackie M. (1981), “The Void of Humanism,” Christian Bible Teacher, 25:490-491, December.
Faithfulness in Homosexual Marriages
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The first same-sex couple to receive a legal marriage license in U.S. history two years ago (2004) now have terminated their “marriage” (Bone, 2006). The lesbian couple acted as plaintiffs in the 2003 case that led to the Massachusetts State Supreme Court legalizing same-sex “marriage” (Abraham and Paulson, 2004). While the legitimacy of same-sex marriage may not be called into question strictly on the basis of this couple’s actions, it surely is suggestive of the larger picture.
In his book Outrage: How Gay Activists and Liberal Judges are Trashing Democracy to Redefine Marriage, Peter Sprigg argues that homosexuals are less likely than heterosexuals to enter into long-term relationships, less likely to be sexually faithful, and less likely to stay together for a lifetime (“Books and...,” 2006). In the recent ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court which repudiated same-sex marriage, Justice James Johnson noted: “Direct comparisons between opposite-sex homes and same-sex homes further support the former as a better environment for children. For example, studies show an average shorter term commitment and more sexual partners for same-sex couples” (Andersen v...). That explains why less than half the homosexual couples in Massachusetts have bothered to “marry” even though they now have been granted the legal right to do so (Perkins, 2006). Nevertheless, normalizing sexually deviant behavior will inevitably alter how people conceptualize marriage itself. Legalizing illicit sexual activity cannot help but undermine the foundations of the marriage institution, which is characterized by and dependent on commitment, sexual fidelity, and dedication to permanence.
The Designer of marriage has indicated that one man for one woman for life is the very essence, nature, and character of marriage (Genesis 1:27; 2:24). Any other arrangement is “against nature” and the result of a “debased mind” (Romans 1:26,28). Those who engage in same-sex relations have been given up “to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves” (Romans 1:24).
Andersen v. King County, Nos. 75934-1, 75956-1 (Wash. July 26, 2006), [On-line], URL: http://www.courts.wa.gov/newsinfo/content/pdf/759341co2.pdf.
Bone, James (2006), “First U.S. Gay Couple to Marry Have Broken Up,” The Times, July 22, [On-line], URL: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-2280221,00.html.
“Books and Booklets” (2006), Family Research Council, July 22, [On-line], URL: http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=BK04H01&f=WA06G20.
Perkins, Tony (2006), “Plaintiffs in Landmark ‘Marriage’ Case Split Up,” Family Research Council: Washington Update, July 21, [On-line], URL: http://www.frc.org/ get.cfm?i=WU06G13.
The Torah as a gracious giftYears ago I read a man who was Mr. Death on legalism. In the course of his argument he said Israel should have said 'no' to God's offer of the Torah because God was only putting them to the test and they failed that test by agreeing to do whatever the Torah asked. That doesn't agree with God's view as it's reported for us in Deuteronomy 5:27-28, "Go near and listen to all that the Lord our God says. Then tell us whatever the Lord our God tells you. We will listen and obey." God's response to that was, "I have heard what this people said to you. Everything they said was good." God knew that they wouldn't keep the word they gave but he did commend the response.
Joshua (24:2) reminds Israel that their forefathers, in the days of Terah and Abraham, worshiped idols beyond the Euphrates. And what is it that redeemed them? God graciously made himself known to Abraham and so the night of idolatry and polytheism began to dawn toward a full blown knowledge of the one true God who gave Israel his covenant name, Yahweh.
Was this a privilege? Was Israel advantaged by this light? Were they blessed when compared to other nations who worshiped things that crawled and rattled and slithered? Because he opened up the possibility of life with God for Gentiles, independent of the Torah (Romans 2:6-16), Paul gives voice to a Jewish protest in Romans 3:1, "What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew?" and answers, "Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God." And later, in Romans 9:3-5, the gifts and privileges he says belonged to Israel include "the receiving of the law". God made himself known to Israel as to no other nation and a part of that self-revelation was the Torah.
Moses is thrilled with the privilege he had brought to Israel in the commandments of Torah. He has no thought that he's delivering to them a yoke of bondage. Far from it; in Deuteronomy 4:6-8 he delights to tell them:
"Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about these decrees and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you this day?"
Not everyone was as fortunate or as privileged as those to whom Moses spoke when he said (Deuteronomy 5:2-3): "The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our fathers that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today."
And it was when they were called to, "Stand up and praise the Lord your God" that the returnees from exile confessed how good God had been to them down the years—delivering them from captivity and sustaining them through the awful wilderness. It was in that setting that they said, "You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good." (Nehemiah 9:5-13) They weren't thanking God for a yoke that can only accuse and bring death to them!
No wonder rabbi Jacob Neusner reminds us that, for the Jews, the Torah finds its place among the gifts of a gracious God: "We thank Thee, Lord our God...for thy Torah which Thou has taught us, for Thy statutes which Thou has made known to us, for the life of grace and mercy Thou has graciously bestowed on us..." (An Introduction to Judaism, Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, 1991, page 5)
In describing halakhah (the authoritative interpretation of Torah to which the pious take heed) he remarks, "When people think of law, they ordinarily imagine a religion for book-keepers, who tote up the good deeds and debit the bad and call the result salvation or damnation, depending on the outcome. But when we speak of life under the halakhah law, we mean life in accord with the halakhah, the rules and regulations of a holy life." (Page 63) It was the way people who were gifted with life and relationship responded to the grace showered on them. [We're aware that the Halakhah of the Pharisees often got in God's way.]
God's gift to Israel but the Torah was serving larger purposes
Torah was a servant to the Abrahamic promises and those promises while made specifically to Abraham and his physical descendants through Jacobthey were for all the nations. This means the Jewish Torah was not to be seen as serving only Israel; it was a gift of God's grace to Israel which was to result in the blessing of humanity. Note, for example, Genesis 12:2-3; 17:5: 22:18; 26:4. Life with God through Abraham was for every nation under heaven.
Nevertheless, Israel wasn't simply a "tool" to be used by God and cast aside. God loved Israel as he had loved their fathers and he called them to himself rather than some location in a wilderness (Exodus 19:4). He called them that they might enjoy life with him in the here and now and not simply in some distant future. The life that God offered Israel as a gracious gift was profiled in the Torah. The life he offered wasn't wages they earned because they were morally good enough; the life he offered was a relationship in which they lived out the character of the God who freely entered this covenant with them.
So when Leviticus 18:5 said, "Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord," God meant what he said. Israel would find life with God within the parameters of the Torah. He would not allow them to live like Egyptians where they'd been and he forbids them to live like Canaanites where they were going (18:1-3). To live as those nations lived wasn't "living" and if it was life Israel wanted, they would have to find it in a relationship with Yahweh. The parameters of that relationship (including forgiveness when sins were committed) were laid out in the Torah which by God's grace, deepens, enriches and purifies their experience of and relationship with God.
The Torah is the commandment that is "unto life" in Romans 7:10 and it was given exclusively to Israel. When Paul makes use of Leviticus 18:5 in both Romans 10:5 and Galatians 3:12 that is precisely the point he is making. "The man" who does "these things" is the Israelite to whom the Torah was given. The Torah was a specific and exclusive way for life with God for Israel after the flesh. It wasn't meant to be the commandment "unto life" for all nations. [And, of course, Israel despised the covenant and continued to dishonour God so that the covenant became their accuser and judge rather than the place within which they enjoyed life with God. Instead of bringing life to the loving obedient it brought curse and death to an impenitent nation.]
The covenantal law was to bring life to and shape the life of Israel.
Israel hadn't been rescued from Pharaonic slavery only to be put under a more galling and a more enduring one. The law was intended to bring life (Rom 7:10—"I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death").
In a covenant renewal setting (Deut 30:15-20), Moses says to Israel what is typical of his remarks throughout the book:
"See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase...I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.
Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life."
"See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase...I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.
Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life."
In Psalm 19 the psalmist sees the law as reviving the soul and making the simple wise, giving joy, vision, warning and reward (7,8,11). In Psalm 119 the torah makes blameless and pure (1,9), it leads to praise (7), gives pilgrims guidance (19), rebukes arrogance (21), preserves life (25), gives strength (28), ministers grace (29), results in freedom (45), is worthy of trust (86), preserves life (93), identifies the people of God (94), gives enlightenment and wisdom (97-100) and so forth.
The life that came as a result of Israel's lovingly obeying God's law was a gift and not a wage (see Deuteronomy 9:5-6) and it was life as defined within the parameters of the covenantal law which the gracious God gave to Israel. There is no life for the elect outside of covenant!
The life that Israel enjoyed with God under this covenantal law showed itself in blessings that consisted of possession of land, fruits, crops, herds, families, houses, wells, security, joy, emotional and physical health (as well as forgiveness of sins). But while these were part of what Israel understood as "life" with God, they didn't exhaust it. Life with God involved a relationship which existed between God and Israel even in the absence of these blessings.
The relationship Israel had with God was spiritual and the blessings which were enjoyed were not confined to the physical. It didn't matter that the ancients were ignorant of the vastness of the blessings—whatever was in store for them came to them because they were related to the Lord and they would enjoy them in the here and now or hereafter if there was to be a hereafter. The distinction we draw between spiritual and physical is (in the main) groundless, though at times to differentiate them is useful.
But the laws didn't exist simply to provide the needs/wants of Israel; they were there also to teach Israel what to want. Understanding came through asking questions but more wisdom and deeper understanding led them to know which questions to ask. It was important for the people to learn what to do with their goods but it was equally important for them to recognize a priority of goods. The laws were part of Israel's ethical education and enrichment as well as commands to be obeyed if they wanted to be blessed.
It was a gracious gift because it opened their eyes and dismissed their darkness.
It was a gracious gift because it shaped their lives, enabling them to know what they should want to want.
It was a gracious gift because it had a home attached with it.
It was a gracious gift because it was in faithfulness to promises God had made to their fathers.
It was a gracious gift because it shaped their lives, enabling them to know what they should want to want.
It was a gracious gift because it had a home attached with it.
It was a gracious gift because it was in faithfulness to promises God had made to their fathers.
Frank Crusemann makes the just observation, "Christians traditionally discuss Torah under the broader heading of 'law.' Thus, it (is) often contrasted with 'gospel.' Historically as well as theologically, however, such opposition can only give a distorted picture of the biblical concept of Torah." He goes on to say, "The concept of Torah includes both sides of the Word of God. What systematic theology divides into law and gospel, command and promise (and then often contrasts them) are all contained in Torah."
The Torah was gospel as well as other things—see Hebrews 4:1-2. Click for more.
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.