"THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST AND THE PROBLEM OF SIN" The Gospel's Answer To The "State" Of Sin (Baptism Into Jesus Christ) INTRODUCTION 1. We have been examining how the gospel addresses the problem of sin in this series of lessons a. Our first lesson dealt with this subject in general terms b. Then we looked more closely at: 1) The command to believe as the gospel's answer to the love of sin 2) The command to repent as the gospel's answer to the practice of sin 2. In this lesson, we shall examine how the command to be baptized is the gospel's answer to the state of sin... a. Beginning with the "Great Commission", an important part of preaching the gospel was including the command to be baptized - cf. Mk 16:15-16 b. As the apostle and others went out preaching Christ, they taught the necessity of baptism: 1) Peter on the day of Pentecost - Ac 2:36-38 2) Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch - Ac 8:35-39 3) Peter and the household of Cornelius - Ac 10:48 4) Paul in recounting his own conversion - Ac 22:16 [Why this emphasis on baptism? It helps us to appreciate its importance when we see how baptism changes the "state" of sin...] I. BEFORE BAPTISM, ONE IS DEAD "IN" SIN A. ONE'S CONDITION OUTSIDE OF CHRIST... 1. Read carefully Ep 2:1-3 2. Note the state or condition one find himself in regards to sin a. They are dead "in" sin, and as a result are "dead to God" b. As for having a relationship with GOD, there is none! B. WHAT GOD'S GRACE MAKES POSSIBLE... 1. Now read carefully Ep 2:4-9 2. By God's mercy, love and grace (and not any meritorious works of our own)... a. Those "dead in trespasses" (dead in sin) were made alive together with Christ! b. Those who were dead in sin were raised together with Him! [Outside of Christ, one is dead in sin; yet by God's grace we can be made alive! This raises an important question: "When" and "how" does a persons who is "dead in sin" become "alive with Christ" and "raised together with him"??? Here's the Biblical answer...] II. IN BAPTISM, ONE DIES "TO" SIN A. PAUL'S DISCOURSE ON BAPTISM... 1. Notice carefully what Paul teaches in Ro 6:1-8,11 2. Please note what Paul is not saying... a. That baptism is a symbolic demonstration of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ engaged in by those who have already died to sin (as taught by many churches, though baptism is never described in these words in the Bible) b. That baptism is a public profession of one's faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (likewise taught by many, despite several examples of baptism in private - Ac 8:35-38; Ac 16:30-34) c. Nor that one "dies to sin" in repentance and then is buried with Christ in baptism (as many of my own brethren teach) B. PAUL EXPLAINS WHEN AND HOW ONE DIES TO SIN... 1. It happens when they are baptized into Christ, which is a baptism into His death - Ro 6:3-4 2. It is in baptism one is "crucified with Him (Christ)" - Ro 6:6 3. It is in baptism we die to sin, and then are "freed from sin" (from it's guilt, consequence, and power) - Ro 6:7 4. The following illustration might be helpful: HOW BAPTISM CHANGES THE "STATE" OF SIN ____________________________________________________________________________ BEFORE BAPTISM| IN BAPTISM | AFTER BAPTISM | | We are... | We are... We are... | We are... DEAD "IN" SIN | BURIED WITH CHRIST RAISED WITH CHRIST | DEAD "TO" SIN DEAD "TO" GOD | BY BAPTISM INTO Col 2:12 | ALIVE "TO" GOD Ep 2:1 | HIS DEATH TO NEWNESS OF LIFE | Ro 6:11 | Ro 6:3-4 Ro 6:4-5 | Ga 3:26-27 | \ / | | ~~~~~~~~~~\~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~/~~~~~~~~~~~~~ | | ~~~~~~~~~~~~\~~~~~~~~~~~~/~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ | | ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~\CHRIST'S/~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ | | ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~DEATH/~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ | | ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~\/~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ | | ~~~~~~~~~~ United in a likeness~~~~~~~~~~ | | ~~~~~~~~~~ of His death, we are...~~~~~~~ | | ~~~~~~~~~~ CRUCIFIED WITH HIM ~~~~~~~~~~~ | | ~~~~~~~~~~ Thus, we... ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ | | ~~~~~~~~~~ DIE TO SIN ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ | | ~~~~~~~~~~ And we are... ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ | | ~~~~~~~~~~ FREED FROM SIN ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ | | ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Ro 6:6-7 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ | ______________|___________________________________________|________________ 5. Notice that our state in regards to sin has changed (and also our state in regards to God, as well!) - Ro 6:11 a. Before baptism into Christ, we were dead in sin, and dead to God! b. But after baptism into Christ, we are dead to sin, and alive to God! [How can such a simple act of immersion in water bring out about such a significant change? From Col 2:11-13, we learn that this change takes place through faith in the working of God...] III. BAPTISM IS A SPIRITUAL "CIRCUMCISION" A. NOTE WHEN AND HOW OUR SINS WERE "CUT AWAY"... 1. It is when we were buried with Christ in baptism! - Col 2:11-13 a. Though "dead in trespasses" we were made alive! b. Remember Ep 2:4-9, that it involved God's grace and mercy? 2. How were our sins cut away? Note that we were raised... a. Through faith (this is man's part, expressed by submitting to baptism) b. In the working of God (this is God's part, who through grace cleanses us by the blood of Christ and by His Spirit causes us to be born again - cf. Jn 3:5; Tit 3:5) -- Yes, baptism is a "working of God" by which He imparts wonderful blessings to those submit to it, not a "work of man" by which one tries to earn or merit salvation! B. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A PENITENT BELIEVER IS BAPTIZED... 1. God performs a "spiritual operation" (the "circumcision of Christ")! a. He who was dead in sins has his sins removed (by Jesus' blood shed in His death) b. And thus he who was dead in sin is made alive! 2. Coming forth from the watery grave, he is raised together with Christ (Col 2:12) a. Having "put on" Christ in baptism. b. Note: "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have PUT ON Christ." - Ga 3:27 3. This is how one truly receives Jesus Christ into their life! a. Not by saying "the sinner's prayer" (which is no where taught in the Scriptures) b. But by submitting to the command of Christ to be baptized into His death for the remission of sins! - Mk 16:16; Ac 2:38; Ga 3:27 CONCLUSION 1. No longer dead "in" sin, but dead "to" sin, God's work on us in baptism truly changes the state of sin! 2. This explains why in the preaching of the gospel of Christ, the command to be baptized naturally follows the commands to believe and repent - cf. Mk 16:15-16; Ac 2:36-38 Are YOU really "dead to sin" and "alive to God"? Only if you have been scripturally baptized (immersed in water by the authority of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins - Mt 28:18-19; Ac 2:38) can you be CERTAIN that through the "working of God" your sins are forgiven and you have been raised together with Christ! If you have not been baptized, then... "...why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." - Ac 22:16 For a more detailed study on the subject of baptism, please see another Executable Outlines study entitled "Baptism - A Special Study"
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011
From Mark Copeland... "THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST AND THE PROBLEM OF SIN" The Gospel's Answer To The "State" Of Sin (Baptism Into Jesus Christ)
From Mark Copeland... "THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST AND THE PROBLEM OF SIN" The Gospel's Answer To The "Practice" Of Sin (Repentance Of Sin)
"THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST AND THE PROBLEM OF SIN" The Gospel's Answer To The "Practice" Of Sin (Repentance Of Sin) INTRODUCTION 1. Paul declared that he was not ashamed of the gospel because it was God's power to save those who believe - Ro 1:16-17 a. We saw in general terms how the gospel saves us from the problem of sin (first lesson) b. Our previous lesson dealt more closely with faith as the gospel's answer to the love of sin c. This lesson shall focus on repentance as the gospel's answer to the practice of sin 2. That the practice of sin is a serious problem is seen in that... a. All have sinned - Ro 3:23 b. And even Christians continue to sin at times - 1Jn 1:8-10 3. The gospel of Jesus Christ answers the problem of the practice of sin by commanding us to "repent"... a. E.g., notice Lk 24:45-47; Ac 2:38; 3:19; 17:30-31; 26:19-20 b. When a person truly repents, they will cease the practice of sin! 4. Unfortunately, the call to repent is often neglected in preaching the gospel today... a. By those who preach "faith only" b. By some who react to "faith only" by emphasizing "baptism" 5. As the passages listed above clearly reveal, one cannot truly preach the gospel of Christ without the call to repentance a. But what is repentance? b. What are indications that repentance has occurred? c. What leads one to true repentance? [In 2Co 7:9-11 we find the most elaborate discussion on repentance found in the Scriptures, and it will serve as the basis for much of our study. Based upon this passage, let's begin with...] I. THE DEFINITION OF REPENTANCE A. MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT REPENTANCE... 1. That repentance is "sorrow" a. 2Co 7:9-10 shows that repentance is an outcome of sorrow b. Not the sorrow itself 2. That repentance is "a changed life" a. Or a converted life b. Ac 3:19 shows that repentance and conversion are two separate things 1) Peter says to "repent" and "be converted" 2) Peter is not being redundant; rather, the one leads to the other 3. As we shall see, the order is actually this: a. First, there is sorrow b. Then, repentance c. And finally, a changed life (conversion) B. A PROPER DEFINITION OF REPENTANCE... 1. The Greek word is metanoeo (meta=change, noeo=thought or mind) 2. W. E. Vine's definition: a. "a change of mind" b. "signifies to change one's mind or purpose c. "this change of mind involves both a turning from sin and a turning to God" 3. So we can think of repentance as "a change of mind" in which we decide to "turn from sin and turn to God"; a decision... a. Preceded by sorrow b. Followed by a changed life [Having therefore defined repentance, how do we know when repentance has occurred? Let's take a look at...] II. THE SIGNS OF REPENTANCE A. SEVERAL SIGNS ARE MENTIONED IN 2 CO 7:11... 1. diligence (KJV, carefulness) a. This can be defined as "earnestness, zeal, sometimes with haste accompanying it" b. I.e., being quick to do what is right! c. The examples of conversion in the book of Acts demonstrate this diligence by the fact every conversion described in detail shows people obeying the gospel after one lesson! 2. clearing of yourselves a. To clear one's self of blame b. E.g., to quickly stop doing what is wrong, if such is the case; or to quickly respond to the offer of forgiveness if one realizes they are guilty of sin 3. indignation a. This involves a sort of anger, hatred b. I.e., toward the SIN which required the repentance 4. fear a. Lest the sin be repeated b. Lest the sin should not be quickly removed 5. vehement desire a. I.e., a "fervent wish" b. Especially to be right in God's eyes 6. zeal a. "eagerness and ardent interest in pursuit of something" b. In this case, to turn from sin and turn to God 7. vindication (KJV, revenge) a. As the NIV puts it "what readiness to see justice done" b. To do the right thing! B. SUCH ARE THE SIGNS OF TRUE REPENTANCE... 1. Not apathy 2. Not half-hearted service 3. But a desire to do "works befitting repentance" - Ac 26:20 [Now that we may have a better idea as to what repentance is and what indications are that it has occurred, let's consider what is involved in...] III. THE PRODUCTION OF REPENTANCE A. GODLY SORROW PRODUCES REPENTANCE... 1. Note carefully Paul's words in 2Co 7:9-10 a. Not simply "sorrow", but one that is "godly" b. For there is such a thing as "sorrow of the world" 2. The difference between "godly" sorrow and "worldly" sorrow a. "Worldly" sorrow is a selfish kind of sorrow 1) E.g., when one is sorry because he got caught 2) E.g., when one is sorry because what one did made himself look bad 3) In "worldly sorrow", one is concerned about one's self! b. "Godly" sorrow is sorrow directed toward GOD ("godly" is literally "according to God") 1) I.e., one is sorry because their actions are sins against a Holy God - cf. the attitude of David in Ps 51:4 2) Also, one is sorry because of the price God must pay to have our sins removed c. Some more differences... 1) "worldly" sorrow produces regret 2) "godly" sorrow suffers loss in nothing 3) "worldly" produces death 4) "godly" sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation [Desiring such repentance in ourselves and others, how can we produce the "godly sorrow" that leads to repentance?] B. PRODUCING GODLY SORROW THAT LEADS TO REPENTANCE... 1. Nathan's rebuke to David provides some insight - 2 Sa 12:7-12 a. Make an appeal to God's love - 7-8 b. Reveal the sin - 9 c. Warn of the consequences - 10-12 2. The gospel of Christ, when properly taught, is designed to produce "godly sorrow" in the same way, and in turn, repentance a. It appeals to God's love as a basis for repentance - Ro 2:4 b. It reveals our sin - Ro 3:23 c. It warns of the consequences - Ro 2:5-11 CONCLUSION 1. The gospel of Jesus Christ, properly presented and understood, can help produce the kind of repentance that will effectively deal with the practice of sin! 2. Have you truly repented of your sins? Can you look at your life and see indications... a. That you have really had a "change of mind"? b. That you made "a decision to turn from sin and turn to God"? 3. Make no mistake about it... a. If you have not yet obeyed the gospel...you have not repented! b. If you have become slack in your service to God...you are in need of repentance! 4. If such is the case, then you are in need of a healthy dose of "godly sorrow", brought about only by realizing... a. God's love for you b. The fact you are still in your sins c. And the consequences if you do not repent 5. If you believe the good news of God's love for you, and godly sorrow has prompted you to have a "change of mind", why not do those "works befitting repentance"...? a. Confess your faith in Christ and be baptized into Christ for the remission of your sins (if that is your need) b. Confess your sins and ask for the prayers of the brethren (if such is your need) Let the gospel of Christ address the practice of sin in your life through its call to repentance!
Scientific Foreknowledge and Medical Acumen of the Bible
|by||Kyle Butt, M.A.|
While it is the case that the Bible does not present itself as a scientific or medical textbook, it is only reasonable that if God truly did inspire the books that compose the Bible, they would be completely accurate in every scientific or medical detail found among their pages. Furthermore, if the omniscient Ruler of the Universe actually did inspire these books, scientific and medical errors that fill the pages of other ancient, non-inspired texts should be entirely absent from the biblical record. Is the Bible infallible when it speaks about scientific fields of discipline, or does it contain the errors that one would expect to find in the writings of fallible men in ancient times?
That the first five books of the Old Testament are a product of Moses is a matter of historical record (Lyons and Staff, 2003). Furthermore, the story of Moses’ education among the Egyptian culture was well understood. In fact, even those Jews who did not convert to Christianity were so familiar with the historic fact that Moses was educated in “all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22), that Stephen’s statement to that effect went completely undisputed. Moses had been trained under the most advanced Egyptian educational system of his day. With such training, it would have been only natural for Moses to include some of the Egyptian “wisdom” in his writings if he were composing the Pentateuch by using his own prowess and mental faculties.
A look into the medical practices from ancient Egypt and those found in the Pentateuch, however, reveals that Moses did not necessarily rely on “wisdom” of the Egyptians (which, in many cases, consisted of life-threatening malpractice). While some medical practices in the Pentateuch are similar to those found in ancient Egyptian documents, the Pentateuch exhibits a conspicuous absence of those harmful malpractices that plague the writings of the Egyptians. Moses penned the most advanced, flawless medical prescriptions that had ever been recorded. Furthermore, every statement that pertained to the health and medical well-being of the Israelite nation recorded by Moses could theoretically still be implemented and be completely in accord with every fact modern medicine has learned in regard to germ spreading, epidemic disease control, communal sanitation, and a host of other medical and scientific discoveries.
It is the case that the ancient Egyptians were renowned in the ancient world for their progress in the field of medicine. Dr. Massengill noted that “Egypt was the medical center of the ancient world” (1943, p. 13). During the days of in the Medo-Persian Empire, the ancient historian Herodotus recorded that it was king Darius’ practice “to keep in attendance certain Egyptian doctors, who had a reputation for the highest eminence in their profession” (3.129). Thus, while the medical practices of the Bible could be equally compared to those of other ancient cultures and found to be flawlessly superior, comparing them to that of the eminent Egyptian culture should suffice to manifest the Bible’s supernatural superiority in the field.
It Will Cure You—If It Doesn’t Kill You FirstAmong the ancient documents that detail much of the Egyptian medicinal knowledge, the Ebers Papyrus ranks as one of the foremost sources. This papyrus was discovered in 1872 by a German Egyptologist named Georg Ebers (the name from which the papyrus acquired its moniker) (Ancient Egyptian..., 1930, p. 1). It consists of a host of medical remedies purported to heal, enhance, and prevent. “Altogether 811 prescriptions are set forth in the Papyrus, and they take the form of salves, plasters, and poultices; snuffs, inhalations, and gargles; draughts, confections, and pills; fumigations, suppositories, and enemata” (p. 15). Among the hundreds of prescriptions, disgusting treatments that caused much more harm than good can be found. For instance, under a section titled “What to do to draw out splinters in the flesh,” a remedy is prescribed consisting of worm blood, mole, and donkey dung” (p. 73). [Doctors S.I. McMillen and David Stern note that dung “is loaded with tetanus spores” and “a simple splinter often resulted in a gruesome death from lockjaw (2000, p. 10).] Remedies to help heal skin diseases included such prescriptions as: “A hog’s tooth, cat’s dung, dog’s dung, aau-of-samu-oil, berries-of-the-xet-plant, pound and apply as poultice” (Ancient Egyptian..., 1930, p. 92). Various other ingredients for the plethora of remedies concocted included “dried excrement of a child” (p. 98), “hog dung” (p. 115), and “a farmer’s urine” (p. 131). One recipe to prevent hair growth included lizard dung and the blood from a cow, donkey, pig, dog, and stag (p. 102). While it must be noted that some of the Egyptian medicine actually did include prescriptions and remedies that could be helpful, the harmful remedies and ingredients cast a sickening shadow of untrustworthiness over the entire Egyptian endeavor as viewed by the modern reader.
As medical doctor S.E. Massengill stated:
The early Egyptian physicians made considerable use of drugs. Their drugs were of the kind usually found in early civilizations; a few effective remedies lost in a mass of substances of purely superstitious origin. They used opium, squill, and other vegetable substances, but also excrement and urine. It is said that the urine of a faithful wife was with them effective in the treatment of sore eyes (1943, p. 15).In addition, it seems that the Egyptians were among the first to present the idea of “good and laudable pus” (McMillen and Stern, 2000, p. 10). Due to the idea that infection was good and the pus that resulted from it was a welcomed effect, “well-meaning doctors killed millions by deliberately infecting their wounds” (p. 10). Needless to say, the modern-day reader would not want to be a patient in an ancient Egyptian clinic!
PRESCRIPTIONS IN THE PENTATEUCH
Blood: The Liquid of LifeBlood always has been a curious substance whose vast mysteries and capabilities have yet to be fully explored. Doctors in the twenty-first century transfuse it, draw it, separate it, package it, store it, ship it, and sell it. And, although modern-day scientists have not uncovered completely all of the wonders of blood, they have discovered that it is the key to life. Without this “liquid of life,” humans and animals would have no way to circulate the necessary oxygen and proteins that their bodies need in order to survive and reproduce. Hemoglobin found in the red blood cells carries oxygen to the brain, which in turn uses that oxygen to control the entire body. A brain without oxygen is like a car without gas or a computer without electricity. Blood makes all of the functions in the body possible.
In the past, ignorance of blood’s value caused some “learned” men to do tragic things. For instance, during the middle ages, and even until the nineteenth century, doctors believed that harmful “vapors” entered the blood and caused sickness. For this reason, leeches were applied to victims of fever and other illnesses in an attempt to draw out blood containing these vapors. Also, the veins and arteries located just above the elbow were opened, and the patient’s arms were bled to expunge the contaminated blood. George Washington, the first President of the United States, died because of such misplaced medical zeal. An eyewitness account of Washington’s death relates that he came down with a chill, and in an effort to cure him, those who attended him resorted to bleeding; “a vein was opened, but no relief afforded” (“The Death of George Washington,” 2001).
Thousands of years before the lethal practice of bloodletting was conceived, mankind had been informed by God that blood was indeed the key to life. In Leviticus 17:11, Moses wrote: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood.”
Today, we understand completely the truthfulness of Moses’ statement that “the life of the flesh is in the blood.” But how did an ancient shepherd like Moses come to know such information? Just a lucky guess? How could Moses have known almost 3,500 years ago that life was in the blood, while it took the rest of the scientific and medical community thousands of years (and thousands of lives!) to grasp this truth? The Old Testament’s conspicuous failure to institute improper medical procedures as they related to blood speaks loudly of its medical accuracy.
Germs, Labor Fever, and Biblical SanitationIn their book, None of These Diseases, physicians S.I. McMillen and David Stern discussed how many of the hygienic rules established by God for the children of Israel still are applicable today. To illustrate their point, they recounted the story of Ignaz Semmelweis.
In 1847, an obstetrician named Ignaz Semmelweis was the director of a hospital ward in Vienna, Austria. Many pregnant women checked into his ward, but 18% of them never checked out. One out of every six that received treatment in Semmelweis’ ward died of labor fever (Nuland, 2003, p. 31). Autopsies revealed pus under their skin, in their chest cavities, in their eye sockets, etc. Semmelweis was distraught over the mortality rate in his ward, and other hospital wards like it all over Europe. Nuland noted that Australia, the Americas, Britain, Ireland, and practically every other nation that had established a hospital suffered a similar mortality rate (2003, pp. 41-43). If a woman delivered a baby using a midwife, then the death fell to only about 3%. Yet if she chose to use the most advanced medical knowledge and facilities of the day, her chance of dying skyrocketed immensely!
Semmelweis tried everything to curb the carnage. He turned all the women on their sides in hopes that the death rate would drop, but with no results. He thought maybe the bell that the priest rang late in the evenings scared the women, so he made the priest enter silently, yet without any drop in death rates.
As he contemplated his dilemma, he watched young medical students perform their routine tasks. Each day the students would perform autopsies on the dead mothers. Then they would rinse their hands in a bowl of bloody water, wipe them off on a common, shared towel, and immediately begin internal examinations of the still-living women. Nuland commented concerning the practice: “Because there seemed no reason for them to wash their hands, except superficially, or change their clothing before coming to the First Division, they did neither” (2003, p. 100). As a twenty-first-century observer, one is appalled to think that such practices actually took place in institutes of what was at the time “modern technology.” What doctor in his right mind would touch a dead person and then perform examinations on living patients—without first employing some sort of minimal hygienic practices intended to kill germs? But to Europeans in the middle-nineteenth-century, germs were virtually a foreign concept. They never had seen a germ, much less been able to predict its destructive potential. According to many of their most prevalent theories, disease was caused by “atmospheric conditions” or “cosmic telluric influences.”
Semmelweis ordered everyone in his ward to wash his or her hands thoroughly in a chlorine solution after every examination. In three months, the death rate fell from 18% to 1%. Semmelweis had made an amazing discovery. On the inside cover-flap of the book about Semmelweis, written by medical doctor and historian Sherwin Nuland, the text reads:
Ignác Semmelweis is remembered for the now-commonplace notion that doctors must wash their hands before examining patients. In mid-nineteenth-century Vienna, this was a subversive idea. With deaths from childbed fever exploding, Semmelweis discovered that doctors themselves were spreading the disease (2003, inside cover flap).Had Semmeliweis made a groundbreaking discovery, or is it possible that he simply “rediscovered” what had been known in some circles for many years? Almost 3,300 years before Semmelweis lived, Moses had written: “He who touches the dead body of anyone shall be unclean seven days. He shall purify himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then he will be clean. But if he does not purify himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not be clean.” Germs were no new discovery in 1847; the biblical text recorded measures to check their spread as far back as approximately 1500 B.C.
The Water of PurificationAlso germane to this discussion is the composition of the “water of purification” listed in Numbers 19. When Old Testament instructions are compared to the New Testament explanations for those actions, it becomes clear that some of the ancient injunctions were primarily symbolic in nature. For instance, when the Passover Lamb was eaten, none of its bones was to be broken. This symbolized the sacrifice of Christ, Whose side was pierced, yet even in death escaped the usual practice of having His legs broken (John 19:31-37).
With the presence of such symbolism in the Old Testament, it is important that we do not overlook the Old Testament instructions that were pragmatic in value and that testify to a Master Mind behind the writing of the Law. One such directive is found in Numbers 19, where the Israelites were instructed to prepare the “water of purification” that was to be used to wash any person who had touched a dead body.
At first glance, the water of purification sounds like a hodge-podge of superstitious potion-making that included the ashes of a red heifer, hyssop, cedar wood, and scarlet. But this formula was the farthest thing from a symbolic potion intended to “ward off evil spirits.” On the contrary, the recipe for the water of purification stands today as a wonderful example of the Bible’s brilliance, since the recipe is nothing less than a procedure to produce an antibacterial soap.
When we look at the ingredients individually, we begin to see the value of each. First, consider the ashes of a red heifer and cedar. As most school children know, the pioneers in this country could not go to the nearest supermarket and buy their favorite personal hygiene products. If they needed soap or shampoo, they made it themselves. Under such situations, they concocted various recipes for soap. One of the most oft’-produced types of soap was lye soap. Practically anyone today can easily obtain a recipe for lye soap via a quick search of the Internet (see “Soapmaking,” n.d.). The various lye-soap recipes reveal that, to obtain lye, water often is poured through ashes. The water retrieved from pouring it through the ashes contains a concentration of lye. Lye, in high concentrations, is very caustic and irritating to the skin. It is, in fact, one of the main ingredients in many modern chemical mixtures used to unclog drains. In more diluted concentrations, it can be used as an excellent exfoliant and cleansing agent. Many companies today still produce lye soaps. Amazingly, Moses instructed the Israelites to prepare a mixture that would have included lye mixed in a diluted solution.
Furthermore, consider that hyssop was also added to the “water of purification.” Hyssop contains the antiseptic thymol, the same ingredient that we find today in some brands of mouthwash (McMillen and Stern, 2000, p. 24). Hyssop oil continues to be a popular “healing oil,” and actually is quite expensive. In listing the benefits of hyssop, one Web site noted: “Once used for purifying temples and cleansing lepers, the leaves contain an antiseptic, antiviral oil. A mold that produces penicillin grows on the leaves. An infusion is taken as a sedative expectorant for flue, bronchitis, and phlegm” (see “Hyssop”).
Other ingredients in the “water of purification” also stand out as having beneficial properties. The oil from the cedar wood in the mixture most likely maintained numerous salutary properties. A Web site dealing with various essential oils noted: “Cedar wood has long been used for storage cabinets because of its ability to repel insects and prevent decay. In oil form, applied to humans, it is an antiseptic, astringent, expectorant (removes mucus from respiratory system), anti-fungal, sedative and insecticide” (“Spa Essential Oils,” 2005). Another site, more specifically dealing with the beneficial properties of cedar, explained:
Cedar leaves and twigs are in fact rich in vitamin C, and it was their effectiveness in preventing or treating scurvy that led to the tree’s being called arbor vitae or tree of life. In addition, recent research has shown that extracts prepared from either Thuja occidentalis or Thuja plicata [types of oriental cedar—KB] do in fact have antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. A group of German researchers reported in 2002 that an extract prepared from cedar leaf, alcohol, and water inhibits the reproduction of influenza virus type A, while a team of researchers in Japan found that an extract of Western red cedar was effective in treating eczema (Frey, n.d).It is interesting to note that this information about the beneficial properties of the ingredients such as cedar, hyssop, and lye in the water of purification is not coming from Bible-based sources. Most of it is simply coming from studies that have been done through cosmetic and therapeutic research.
Finally, the Israelites were instructed to toss into the mix “scarlet,” which most likely was scarlet wool (see Hebrews 9:19). Adding wool fibers to the concoction would have made the mixture the “ancient equivalent of Lava® soap” (McMillen and Stern, 2000, p. 25).
Thousands of years before any formal studies were done to see what type of cleaning methods were the most effective; millennia before American pioneers concocted their lye solutions; and ages before our most advanced medical students knew a thing about germ theory, Moses instructed the Israelites to concoct an amazingly effective recipe for soap, that, if used properly in medical facilities like hospitals in Vienna, would literally have saved thousands of lives.
QuarantineMoses detailed measures to prevent the spread of germs from dead bodies to living humans long before such was understood and prescribed in modern medicine. But the Old Testament record added another extremely beneficial practice to the field of medicine in its detailed descriptions of maladies for which living individuals should be quarantined. The book of Leviticus lists a plethora of diseases and ways in which an Israelite would come in contact with germs. Those with such diseases as leprosy were instructed to “dwell alone” “outside the camp” (Leviticus 13:46). If and when a diseased individual did get close to those who were not diseased, he was instructed to “cover his mustache, and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!” (13:45). It is of interest that the covering of ones mustache would prevent spit and spray from the mouth of the individual to pass freely through the air, much like the covering of one’s mouth during a cough.
Concerning such quarantine practices, S.E. Massengill wrote in his book A Sketch of Medicine and Pharmacy:
In the prevention of disease, however, the ancient Hebrews made real progress. The teachings of Moses, as embodied in the Priestly Code of the Old Testament, contain two clear conceptions of modern sanitation—the importance of cleanliness and the possibility of controlling epidemic disease by isolation and quarantine (1943, p. 252).In regard to the understanding of contagion implied in the quarantine rules in the Old Testament, McGrew noted in the Encyclopedia of Medical History: “The idea of contagion was foreign to the classic medical tradition and found no place in the voluminous Hippocratic writings. The Old Testament, however, is a rich source for contagionist sentiment, especially in regard to leprosy and venereal disease” (1985, pp.77-78). Here again, the Old Testament exhibits amazingly accurate medical knowledge that surpasses any known human ingenuity available at the time of its writing.
LAWS OF FOOD CONSUMPTION
In 1953, an extensive study, performed by David I. Macht and published in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine (a publication of the American Association of the History of Medicine and of The Johns Hopkins Institute of the History of Medicine), tested the toxicity of the meat of animals listed in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. Macht’s technique was to place a certain seedling (Lupinus albus) in fresh muscle juices of the various animals noted as clean and unclean in the biblical text. This method was used at the time to study the blood of normal human patients as compared to the blood of cancerous patients (1953, p. 444). Macht noted that his results revealed “data which are of considerable interest not only to the medical investigator but also to the students of ancient Biblical literature” (p. 445).
Some of his results were indeed of interest. For instance, he would take a control group of seedlings that grew in normal solutions and compare that group to seedlings placed in the various meat juices. He would then record the percent of seeds that grew in the meat juices as compared to those that grew under normal circumstances. For example, when placing the seedlings in meat juices from the Ox, the seeds grew 91% as often as they would if placed in a regular growing solution. Seeds in sheep juices grew 94% as often as those in the control group in regular solution. Seedlings in meat juice from a calf—82%; from a goat—90%; and from a deer 90%. Since these animals chew the cud and have a divided hoof, they were listed as clean in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14:
Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘These are the animals which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth: Among the animals, whatever divides the hoof, having cloven hooves and chewing the cud—that you may eat’” (Leviticus 11:1-3).When several unclean animals were studied, however, they showed significantly higher levels of toxicity and much lower levels of seedling growth. Seedlings in meat juice from pigs grew only 54% as often as the control group under normal growing conditions; rabbit—49%; camel—41%; and horse—39%. These results for larger mammals suggested that the biblical division between clean and unclean could have been related to the toxicity of the juices of such animals.
Macht did similar research on birds, in which he found that extracts from biblical clean birds such as the pigeon and quail grew his seedlings 93% and 89%, while those from unclean birds such as the Red-tail hawk (36%) and owl (62%) were much more toxic. As Moses said: “And these you shall regard as an abomination among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, the kite, and the falcon after its kind; every raven after its kind, the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the sea gull, and the hawk after its kind” (Leviticus 11:13-19). Other studies included several different kinds of fish. The biblical regulation for eating fish was that the Israelites could eat any fish that had fins and scales (Deuteronomy 14:9). Those water-living creatures that did not possess fins and scales were not to be eaten (14:10). In regard to his study on the toxicity of fish, Macht wrote:
Of special interest were experiments made with muscle juices and also blood solutions obtained from many species of fishes. Fifty-four species of fishes were so far studied in regard to toxicity of meat extracts. It was found that the muscle extracts of those fishes which possess scales and fins were practically non-toxic [Herring—100%; Pike—98%; Shad—100%—KB], while muscle extracts from fishes without scales and fins were highly toxic for the growth of Lupinus albus seedlings (pp. 446-448).Macht’s study, even after more than five decades, continues to remain of great interest. His rigorous research led him to conclude:
The observations described above corroborate the impression repeatedly made on the author in investigations as a physician (M.D. Johns Hopkins, 1906), as an experimental biologist (Member of Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine), and as Doctor of Hebrew Literature (Yeshiva University, 1928) that all allusions of the Book of Books, to nature, natural phenomena, and natural history, whether in the form of factual statements or in the form of metaphors, similes, parables, allegories, or other tropes are correct either literally or figuratively.... Such being the extraordinary concordance between the data of the Scriptures and many of the modern and even most recent discoveries in both the biological and physico-chemical sciences, every serious student of the Bible will, I believe, endorse the assertion of Sir Isaac Newton, that “The Scriptures of God are the most sublime philosophy. I find more such marks of authenticity in the Bible than in profane history anywhere” (p. 449).Some, however, have questioned Macht’s results. Prior research done by Macht in 1936 and 1949 produced discordant results from his research in 1953. But there are several compelling reasons for accepting Macht’s 1953 research. First, it could be the case that Macht’s 1953 research simply was more refined and the procedure better understood. As one would expect in the scientific field, research generally tends to improve with time. Second, Macht was a high-profile doctor with copious credentials. His research in 1936 and 1949 had been published and was easily accessible. Yet even though his previous research was available, the Johns Hopkins Institute considered it acceptable to publish his 1953 research, which would suggest that the 1953 research included additional methods and/or information that would override the earlier research. Third, Macht’s procedure as described in the 1953 paper was fairly simple and easily reproducible. But those who question the work have failed to produce experimental data after 1953 that would negate Macht’s study. If his 1953 procedures were fraught with error, a few simple experiments could be done to prove that. No such experimental data refuting Macht has been produced.
For these reasons, the findings of Dr. Macht aid in the defense of the Bible’s inspiration and remarkably accurate medical procedures as far back as the time of Moses. But the validity of Old Testament food consumption laws certainly does not rely solely on Macht’s 1953 research. Additional confirmation of the beneficial, protective nature of Mosaic food consumption laws is readily available.
Fins and ScalesAs was previously mentioned, the Mosaic criteria for eating water-living creatures was that the creatures have scales and fins (Leviticus 11:12). This injunction was extremely beneficial, since a multitude of problems surround many sea creatures that do not have scales and fins.
The BlowfishThe blowfish has fins but does not have scales. Thus, it would not have been edible under the Old Testament laws—fortunately for the Israelites. The blowfish can contain toxin in its ovaries, liver, and other organs that is highly potent and deadly. This toxin, called tetrodotoxin, is thought to be “1250 times more deadly than cyanide” and 160,000 times more potent than cocaine. A tiny amount of it can kill 30 grown adults (Dilion, 2005). As odd as it sounds, blowfish is served as a delicacy all over the world, especially in Japan and other far eastern countries. As a delicacy, it is called fugu, and is prepared by certified, licensed chefs. The toxins can be removed successfully, making the food edible, but the procedure often goes awry. Some who have researched fugu say that it is a food connoisseur’s version of Russian roulette. Due to the extreme danger involved in eating fugu, it is illegal to serve it to the Emperor of Japan! The Mosaic instructions concerning edible fish would have helped the Israelites avoid the dangerous blowfish, as well as danger posed by eating other toxic sea creatures such as certain jelly fish, sea anemones, and octopi.
ShellfishAlthough shellfish are edible today, there are inherent dangers in eating ill-prepared types such as oysters. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has produced a twelve-page tract warning people about the dangers of eating raw or partially cooked oysters (“Carlos’ Tragic...,” 2003). In the tract, the FDA warns that some raw oysters contain the bacteria Vibrio vulnificus. In regard to this dangerous bacteria, the tract states:
Oysters are sometimes contaminated with the naturally occurring bacteria Vibrio vulnificus. Oysters contaminated with Vibrio vulnificus can’t be detected by smell or sight; they look like other oysters. Eating raw oysters containing Vibrio vulnificus is very dangerous for those with pre-existing medical conditions such as liver disease, diabetes, hepatitis, cancer and HIV.... 50 percent of people who are infected with Vibrio vulnificus as a result of eating raw contaminated oysters die (2003).Eating oysters if they are not cooked properly can be potentially fatal, says the FDA. Thus, the wisdom of the Mosaic prohibition is evident to an honest observer. In a time when proper handling and preparation procedures were difficult to achieve, the best course of action simply would have been to avoid the risk of eating potentially contaminated foods, especially since the contamination cannot be detected by smell or sight.
Reptiles and SalmonellaIn Leviticus 11, Moses included reptiles in the list of unclean animals. Obviously, they are not cud-chewers that walk on cloven hooves, so they would not classify as clean, edible animals according to Leviticus 11:3. But to make sure that the Israelites understood, Moses specifically mentioned reptiles such as the large lizard, gecko, monitor lizard, sand reptile, sand lizard, and chameleon (Leviticus 11:29-31). Immediately following this listing of reptiles, the text states: “Whoever touches them when they are dead shall be unclean until evening” (11:31).
Interestingly, reptiles have a much higher rate of carrying Salmonella bacteria than do most mammals, especially those listed as clean in the Old Law. The Center for Disease Control has repeatedly warned people about the possibility of being infected with Salmonella passed through reptiles. In summarizing the CDC’s 2003 report, Lianne McLeod noted that the CDC estimates over 70,000 cases of human Salmonella infection a year are related to the handling of reptiles and amphibians (2007). The CDC recommends that homes with children under five should not have reptiles as pets. Furthermore, while other animals such as cats and dogs can pass Salmonella, McLeod noted:
As high as 90% of reptiles are natural carriers of Salmonella bacteria, harboring strains specific to reptiles without any symptoms of disease in the reptile. While it is true that many pets can carry Salmonella, the problem with reptiles (and apparently amphibians) is that they carry Salmonella with such high frequency. It is prudent to assume that all reptiles and amphibians can be a potential source of Salmonella (2007, emp. added).In light of such evidence, the prudence of the Mosaic prohibition to eat or handle reptile carcasses is clearly evident.
Of further interest is the fact that reptilian Salmonella contamination can occur without even touching a reptile. If a person touches something that has touched a reptile the bacteria can spread. The ARAV (Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians) made this statement: “Salmonella bacteria are easily spread from reptiles to humans. Humans may become infected when they place their hands on objects, including food items, that have been in contact with the stool of reptiles, in their mouths” (“Salmonella Bacteria...,” 2007).
When this statement by the ARAV is compared with the injunctions in Leviticus 11:32-47, the astounding accuracy of the Old Testament regulation is again confirmed.
Anything on which any of them falls, when they are dead shall be unclean, whether it is any item of wood or clothing or skin or sack, whatever item it is, in which any work is done, it must be put in water. And it shall be unclean until evening; then it shall be clean. Any earthen vessel into which any of them falls you shall break; and whatever is in it shall be unclean: in such a vessel, any edible food upon which water falls becomes unclean, and any drink that may be drunk from it becomes unclean (Leviticus 11:32-34).After reading Leviticus 11:32-34, it seems as though a microbiologist was present with Moses to explain the perfect procedures to avoid spreading Salmonella and other bacteria from reptiles to humans. How could Moses have accurately laid down such precise regulations that belie a superior understanding of bacteria? An honest reader must conclude that he had divine assistance.
Bats and RabiesMoses specifically forbade the Israelites to eat bats (Leviticus 11:19). The wisdom of this instruction is demonstrated by the fact that bats often carry rabies. While it is true that many animals are susceptible to rabies, bats are especially so. The American College of Emergency Physicians documented that between 1992 and 2002, rabies passed from bats caused 24 of the 26 human deaths from rabies in the United States (“Human Rabies...,” 2002). In the Science Daily article describing this research, “Robert V. Gibbons, MD, MPH, of Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, MD, reviewed the 24 cases of humans with bat rabies.” From his research, he advised “the public to seek emergency care for preventive treatment for rabies if direct contact with a bat occurs” (“Human Rabies...,” 2002). Moses’ instruction to avoid bats coincides perfectly with modern research. Once again, the super-human wisdom imparted through Moses by God cannot be denied by the conscientious student of the Old Testament. As the eminent archaeologist, W.F. Albright, in comparing the list of clean and unclean animals detailed in the Pentateuch, noted that in other ancient civilizations, “we find no classifications as logical as this in any of the elaborate cuneiform list of fauna or ritual taboos” (1968, p. 180).
Case in Point: Pork ConsumptionOne of the most well-known Old Testament food regulations is the prohibition of pork consumption (Leviticus 11:7). Under close scrutiny, this prohibition exemplifies the value of the biblical laws regarding clean and unclean animals. During the days of Moses, proper food preparation and cooking conditions did not always exist. In fact, the general knowledge of the need to separate certain uncooked foods, especially meats, during preparation from other foods was virtually non-existent. Certain meats, if contacted raw or under-cooked, have greater potential to carry parasites and other harmful bacteria that can infect the end consumer (in this case, humans).
Due to the fact that pigs are scavengers, and will eat practically anything, they often consume parasites and bacteria when they eat the carcasses of other dead animals. These parasites and bacteria can, and often do, take up residence in the pigs’ muscle tissue. Fully cooking the meat can kill these harmful organisms, but failure to cook the meat completely can cause numerous detrimental effects. R.K. Harrison listed several diseases or other health maladies that can occur due to the ingestion of improperly cooked pork. He noted that pigs often are the host of the tapeworm Taenia solium. Infection by this parasite can cause small tumors to arise throughout the body, including on the skin, eyes, and muscles. Furthermore, these tumors can affect the brain and cause epileptic convulsions. Additionally, humans can develop trichaniasis (trichinosis) infestation from eating undercooked, as well as tape worm known as Echiococcus granulosus from water polluted by pigs. Further, pigs can pass on the microorganisms that cause toxoplamosis, a disease affecting the nervous system (Harrison, 1982, p. 644).
Due to a much more exhaustive body of knowledge concerning parasites and pathogens, modern readers are increasingly attune to the dangers of consuming raw or undercooked pork. In fact, most pork bought in grocery stores contains nitrates and nitrites that have been injected into the meat to hinder the growth of harmful microorganisms. But Moses and the Israelites did not have access to such modern knowledge. How is it that the food regulations recorded by Moses over 3,000 years ago contain such an accurate understanding of disease control? Albright noted along these lines, “thanks to the dietary and hygienic regulations of Mosaic law...subsequent history has been marked by a tremendous advantage in this respect held by Jews over all other comparable ethnic and religious groups” (1968, p. 181).
CircumcisionIn the book of Genesis, the text relates that God chose Abraham and his descendants to be a “special” people who were set apart from all other nations. The covenant that God made with Abraham included a physical “sign” that was to be implemented in all future generations of Abraham’s descendants. According to the text, God said:
He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant (Genesis 17:12-14).Thus, the covenant with Abraham and his offspring was to be indelibly marked in the flesh of every male child.
The inclusion of this medical, surgical practice provides another excellent example of the medical acumen of the biblical text. Two significant aspects of biblical circumcision need to be noted. First, from what modern medicine has been able to gather, circumcision can lessen the chances of getting certain diseases and infections. Pediatrician, Dorothy Greenbaum noted in regard to the health benefits of circumcision: “Medically, circumcision is healthful because it substantially reduces the incidence of urinary tract infection in boys, especially those under one year of age. Some studies cited in the pediatric policy statement report 10 to 20 times more urinary tract infection in uncircumcised compared with circumcised boys.” She further noted that sexually transmitted diseases are passed more readily among men who have not been circumcised (2006). In addition, circumcision virtually eliminates the chance of penile cancer. In an article titled “Benefits of Circumcision,” the text stated: “Neonatal circumcision virtually abolishes the risk [of penile cancer—KB]” and “penile cancer occurs almost entirely in uncircumcised men” (Morris, 2006). [NOTE: Morris’ work is of particular interest due to the fact that it has an evolutionary bias and was in no way written to buttress belief in the biblical record.]
Not only can a litany of health benefits be amassed to encourage the practice of infant circumcision, but the day on which the biblical record commands the practice to be implemented is of extreme importance as well. The encyclopedic work Holt Pediatrics remains today one of the most influential works ever written about child care, pediatric disease, and other health concerns as they relate to children. First written in 1896 by L. Emmet Holt, Jr. and going through several revisions until the year 1953, the nearly 1,500-page work is a master compilation of the “modern” medicine of its day. One section, starting on page 125 of the twelfth edition, is titled “Hemorrhagic Disease of the Newborn.” The information included in the section details the occurrence of occasional spontaneous bleeding among newborns that can sometimes cause severe damage to major organs such as the brain, and even death. In the discussion pertaining to the reasons for such bleeding, the authors note that the excessive bleeding is primarily caused by a decreased level of prothrombin, which in turn is caused by insufficient levels of vitamin K. The text also notes that children’s susceptibility is “peculiar” (meaning “higher”) “between the second and fifth days of life” (1953, p. 126).
In chart form, Holt Pediatrics illustrates that the percent of available prothrombin in a newborn dips from about 90% of normal on its day of birth to about 35% on its third day of life outside the womb. After the third day, the available prothrombin begins to climb. By the eighth day of the child’s life, the available prothrombin level is approximately 110% of normal, about 20% higher than it was on the first day, and about 10% more than it will be during of the child’s life. Such data prove that the eighth day is the perfect day on which to perform a major surgery such as circumcision.
How did Moses know such detailed data about newborn hemorrhaging? Some have suggested that the early Hebrews carried out extensive observations on newborns to determine the perfect day for surgery. But such an idea has little merit. McMillen and Stern noted:
Modern medical textbooks sometimes suggest that the Hebrews conducted careful observations of bleeding tendencies. Yet what is the evidence? Severe bleeding occurs at most in only 1 out of 200 babies. Determining the safest day for circumcision would have required careful experiments, observing thousands of circumcisions. Could Abraham (a primitive, desert-dwelling nomad) have done that (2000, p. 84)?In fact, such amazing medical accuracy cannot be accounted for on the basis of human ingenuity in the ancient world. If circumcision was the only example of such accuracy, and the Hebrew writings were laced with incorrect, detrimental medical prescriptions, such an explanation might be plausible. But the fact that the entire Old Testament contains medical practices that would still be useful in third world countries, without a hint of error in regard to a single prescription; divine oversight remains the only reasonable answer.
Bryan, Cyril (1930), Ancient Egyptian Medicine: The Papyrus Ebers (Chicago, IL: Ares Publishers).
“Carlos’ Tragic and Mysterious Illness: How Carlos Almost Died by Eating Contaminated Raw Oysters” (2003), U.S. Food and Drug Administration, [On-line], URL: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~acrobat/vvfoto.pdf.
Collins, Anne (2002), “What is Saturated Fat?” [On-line], URL: http://www.annecollins.com/dieting/saturated-fat.htm.
“The Death of George Washington, 1799,” (2001), EyeWitness to History, [On-line], URL: http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/washington.htm.
Dilion, Denise (2005), “Fugu: The Deadly Delicacy,” Welcome Magazine, [On-line], URL: http://www.welcome-moldova.com/articles/fugu.shtml.
Frey, Rebecca J. (no date), “Thuja,” [On-line], URL: http://health.enotes.com/alternative-medicine-encyclopedia/thuja.
Greenbaum, Dorothy (2006), “Say ‘Yes’ to Circumcision,” [On-line], URL: http://www.beliefnet.com/story/8/story_813_1.html.
Harrison, R.K. (1982), “Heal,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), revised edition.
Herodotus, (1972 reprint), The Histories, trans. Aubrey De Sẻlincourt (London: Penguin).
“Historical Chronology of Significant Medical and Sanitary Engineering Discoveries” (no date), from Gerald Friedland and Meyer Friedman (1998), Medicine’s Ten Greatest Discoveries (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press), [On-line], URL: http://bridge.ecn.purdue.edu/~piwc/w3-history/discoveries/med-env-eng- discoveries.html.
Holt, L.E. and R. McIntosh (1953), Holt Pediatrics (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts), twelfth edition.
“Human Rabies Often Caused by Undetected, Tiny Bat Bites” (2002), Science Daily, [On-line], URL: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/05/020506074445.htm.
“Hyssop” (no date), [On-line], URL: http://www.taoherbfarm.com/herbs/herbs/hyssop.htm.
Lyons, Eric and A.P. Staff (2003), “Mosaic Authorship of the Pentateuch—Tried and True” Reason & Revelation, 23:1-7, January.
Macht, David I. (1953), “An Experimental Pharmacological Appreciation of Leviticus XI and Deuteronomy XIV,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 27:444-450, September-October.
Massengill, S.E. (1943), A Sketch of Medicine and Pharmacy (Bristol, TN: S.E. Massengill).
McGrew, Roderick (1985), Encyclopedia of Medical History (London: Macmillan).
McLeod, Lianne (2007), “Salmonella and Reptiles,” [On-line], URL: http://exoticpets.about.com/cs/reptiles/a/reptsalmonella.htm.
McMillen, S.I. and David Stern (2000), None of These Diseases (Grand Rapids, MI: Revell), third edition.
Morris, Brian (2006), “Benefits of Circumcision,” [On-line], URL: http://www.circinfo.net/#why.
“New Dietary Guidelines from the American Heart Association,” (2000), [On-line], URL: http://healthlink.mcw.edu/article/972602194.html.
Nuland, Sherwin B. (2003), The Doctor’s Plague (New York, NY: Atlas Books).
“Salmonella Bacteria and Reptiles” (2007), ARAV, [On-line], URL: http://www.arav.org/SalmonellaOwner.htm.
“Soapmaking” (no date), [On-line], URL: http://www.itdg.org/docs/technical_information_service/ soapmaking.pdf.
“Spa Essential Oils” (2005), [On-line], URL: http://www.mysticthai.com/spa/essential_oil.asp.
Resurrected “Savior-Gods” and the Prophets of Old
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Periodically, critics of Jesus question why there are so many stories of “savior-gods” (outside of Judaism and Christianity) that sound somewhat similar to the story of Jesus. Why would various civilizations (e.g., Egyptians, Greeks, etc.) that existed centuries before the time of Christ have “legends” about god-like characters who worked miracles, conquered death, and were revered by their followers? What logical answer can be given as to why stories similar in some ways to the Gospel story existed hundreds or thousands of years before Jesus?
Although several reasonable answers have already been given to the above questions in past articles (e.g., Butt and Thompson, 2001a and 2001b), another logical explanation for the presence of these stories revolves around the prophets of old. When Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and lawyers for their hypocrisy, He mentioned their unrighteous ancestors and made the following statement:
Therefore the wisdom of God also said, “I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,” that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation (Luke 11:49-51, emp. added).According to Jesus, God used prophets as far back as “the foundation of the world,” specifically from the time of Abel, Adam’s second son recorded in Scripture. The apostle Peter made a similar statement while preaching to thousands of Jews in Solomon’s Portico.
Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began (Acts 3:19-21, emp. added).“Since the world began,” God has revealed messages to mankind via His prophets. Sometimes these messages were regarding the coming physical destruction upon a particular nation (e.g., Jonah 3:1-10; Nahum 1-3). At other times, they were about one particular person or tribe of people (e.g., Genesis 40; 49). But no prophecies were more important (nor more prevalent in Scripture) than those concerning Christ. And, God’s spokesmen have been foretelling His Coming specifically since the earliest of times. Luke recorded how, after the birth of John the Baptizer, his father, Zacharias, “was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying,”
Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, who have been since the world began (Luke 1:67-70, emp. added).God’s prophets have not foretold the coming of a great Redeemer only since the Mosaic period, nor were prophecies concerning the Savior of the world limited to the Jewish people. Zacharias rejoiced that God was sending the Redeemer and Savior of Whom the prophets had spoken “since the world began.” Admittedly, most all of the Messianic prophecies recorded in Scripture appear after God revealed to Abraham that through his seed “all the nations of the world shall be blessed” (Genesis 22:18; 12:1-3; 49:10; etc.). Yet, one recorded messianic prophecy goes back centuries before Abraham—all the way to Adam and Eve’s tenure in the Garden of Eden. There God informed the serpent following his deception of Eve: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15). In this very first messianic prophecy, a suffering, but victorious, Redeemer is pictured.
Thousands of years later, hundreds of similar prophecies about the Christ were given to the Israelites. It is logical to conclude, however, that similar messianic prophecies would have been delivered by other prophets outside of Judaism. The patriarch Enoch, just seven generations from Adam, “walked with God three hundred years” and “prophesied” (Genesis 5:22; Jude 14). His great-great-grandson Noah, whom the apostle Peter described as “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5), very likely knew of the Messianic prophecies during patriarchal times, and may very well have received direct revelation from God on the matter (similar to how God spoke to him regarding the Flood—Genesis 6:13-21). Centuries later, non-Jewish, God-fearing men such as Melchizedek, king of Salem, “the priest of the Most High God” (Genesis 14:18; Hebrews 7:1), Job, and others worshipped and served the one true God.
We have no way of knowing how many of God’s spokesmen through the centuries have prophesied about the coming of a Savior. We do know, however, that some prophecies about Christ are virtually as old as the world itself, and the Bible nowhere pretends to contain every Messianic prophecy ever spoken.
One may reasonably conclude that a chief reason nations outside of Israel possessed stories of savior-gods who share many commonalities with Jesus is because they had heard either inspired prophets foretell the Redeemer’s coming, or the prophecies made “from the foundation of the world” had been passed down to them by word of mouth. Interestingly, some of the first people on Earth to recognize the arrival of the Messiah were men the Bible calls—not Jews—but “wise men (magi, NASB) from the East” (Matthew 2:1). From where did these men receive such knowledge? How did they know that a particular “star in the East” (Matthew 2:2) would indicate the Messiah’s entrance into the world? The fact is, they received Divine direction (cf. Matthew 2:1-12).
Truly, God’s scheme of redemption through a “hero” that would save the world from sin and death has been revealed since the fall of man. Simply because civilizations from the past (outside of Judaism and Christianity) possessed similar “redemption” stories and/or knowledge of a Redeemer should not be troubling or surprising. They likely were based (at least partly) on messages preached by the prophets of old.
Butt, Kyle and Bert Thompson (2001b), “Jesus Christ—Unique Savior or Average Fraud? [Part 2],” Reason and Revelation, 21:17-24, March, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/475.
Is it a Miracle?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.A.|
A person cannot read many pages from the New Testament (or the Old Testament for that matter) without coming across a miracle. Miracles spatter the pages of the Bible like polka dots on a Dalmatian: the 10 plagues in Egypt; healing of people with leprosy; the resurrection of dead people; the virgin birth; etc. Yet many educated people deny the idea that miracles were either real or possible. They maintain instead that the wonders documented in the Bible must have been fictitious, or had a purely natural explanation. Did Jesus and others in the Bible perform mighty miracles, or are the stories merely “wishful thinking” on the part of superstitious, unscientific fanatics?
WHAT IS A MIRACLE?In order to decide if miracles actually occurred, we first must understand the definition of a miracle. A miracle is an event that defies natural laws and that can be accounted for only by a supernatural explanation. For example, walking on a road is not a miracle. But defying the law of gravity and walking on water is. There is nothing extraordinary about reviving a person by using CPR. But there is something miraculous about raising a person who has been dead for several days.
SOME JUST SAY “NO” TO MIRACLESSome people adamantly claim that any type of miracle is absolutely impossible. Why do they say “no” to miracles? There are many reasons, but perhaps the most important is that they do not believe that God exists (or that if He does, He does not intervene in the natural world). A person who believes that the Universe and its contents evolved through natural processes over billions of years cannot believe in miracles because he or she thinks that nothing exists outside of nature. As the late, eminent astronomer of Cornell University, Carl Sagan, put it: “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be” (1980, p. 4). Since a miracle is an event that has a supernatural explanation, no such event ever could occur in a world where only natural forces operate. Once a person denies the greatest miracle of all—creation at the hand of God—then he or she is forced to deny that miracles of any kind can occur.
Those who hold to such a view are correct about one thing: If God does not exist (or if He does but is unwilling to intervene in His creation) then miracles cannot occur. On the other hand, if God does exist (and it can be argued convincingly that He does!), then miracles not only are possible, but also probable. It makes perfectly good sense to conclude that if God created this Universe, then on occasion He might intervene through miracles to accomplish His divine purposes.
GOD WOULDN’T BREAK THE LAW, WOULD HE?Another idea suggests that God did, in fact, create the Universe, but that His activities stopped at creation. Afterwards, He no longer intervened in this world through miracles, because that would break the natural laws that He had established at the time of creation.
The problem with this idea is that it does not consider the fact that the natural laws do not apply to God (since He is not a “natural” Being). The laws of nature are inviolate, and cannot be broken. For instance, the First Law of Thermodynamics states that matter or energy can be neither created nor destroyed in nature. The two words “in nature” must be included for the law to be worded correctly. Nothing in nature—man, beasts, or matter—can break this law. However, since God is not part of nature, the law obviously does not apply to Him.
To illustrate, think of the Universe as one room. God established natural laws that apply to everything in that room, and then He locked the door. It is impossible for matter or energy to be created or destroyed in that room. But, suppose that God unlocks the door and puts another chair in the room or takes a chair out of the room. Did God break the law He established in the room? No, because everything in the room (Universe) still functions according to the natural laws, but since God is outside of the room then the laws that operate inside the room do not apply to Him.
Miracles are only impossible in a world with no God, or a non-intervening Deity. Once God’s existence and His ability to operate in the natural world are established, it makes perfect sense to conclude that He occasionally might do supernatural things to accomplish His goals. God is not a cosmic bandit Who sneaks around “breaking the rules” of nature. Rather, He is the sovereign Creator Who reserves the right to operate whenever and however He sees fit.
REFERENCESagan, Carl (1980), Cosmos (New York: Random House).
Is God Immoral for Killing Innocent Children?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.A.|
Dan Barker and many of his atheistic colleagues claim that atheism offers the world a superior system of morality when compared to the moral system presented in the Bible. In fact, near the end of Dan’s ten-minute rebuttal speech during our debate, he stated: “We can know that the atheistic way is actually a superior intellectual and moral way of thinking” (Butt and Barker, 2009). One primary reason Dan gave for his belief that the Bible’s morality is flawed is that the Bible states that God has directly killed people, and that God has authorized others to kill as well. In Dan’s discussion about Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, Dan said that Abraham should not have been willing to obey God’s command. Dan stated: “By the way, Abraham should have said, ‘No, way. I’m better than you [God—KB], I’m not going to kill my son’” (Butt and Barker, 2009).
In his book godless, Barker said: “There is not enough space to mention all of the places in the bible where God committed, commanded or condoned murder” (2008, p. 177). The idea that God is immoral because He has killed humans is standard atheistic fare. In his Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris cited several Bible verses in which God directly or indirectly caused people to die. He then stated: “Anyone who believes that the Bible offers the best guidance we have on questions of morality has some very strange ideas about either guidance or morality” (2006, p. 14). In his landmark atheistic bestseller, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins wrote the following as the opening paragraph of chapter two:
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully (2006, p. 31, emp. added).After listing several Old Testament verses pertaining to the conquest of Canaan, Dawkins referred to God as an “evil monster” (p. 248). Christopher Hitchens wrote that God’s actions and instructions in the Old Testament had caused “the ground” to be “forever soaked with the blood of the innocent” (2007, p. 107).
Is it true that atheism offers a superior morality to that found in the Bible? And is the God of the Bible immoral for advocating or directly causing the deaths of millions of people? The answer to both questions is an emphatic “No.” A close look at the atheistic claims and accusations will manifest the truth of this answer.
ATHEISM CANNOT MAKE “MORAL” JUDGMENTS
It is clear then, from Provine’s comments, that he believes naturalistic evolution has no way to produce an “ultimate foundation for ethics.” And it is equally clear that this sentiment was so apparent to “modern naturalistic evolutionists” that Dr. Provine did not feel it even needed to be defended. Oxford professor Richard Dawkins concurred with Provine by saying: “Absolutist moral discrimination is devastatingly undermined by the fact of evolution” (Dawkins, 2006, p. 301).
If atheism is true and humans evolved from non-living, primordial slime, then any sense of moral obligation must simply be a subjective outworking of the physical neurons firing in the brain. Theoretically, atheistic scientists and philosophers admit this truth. Charles Darwin understood this truth perfectly. He wrote: “A man who has no assured and ever present belief in the existence of a personal God or of a future existence with retribution and reward, can have for his rule of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones” (1958, p. 94, emp. added). Dan Barker admitted this truth in his debate with Peter Payne, when he stated: “There are no actions in and of themselves that are always absolutely right or wrong. It depends on the context. You cannot name an action that is always absolutely right or wrong. I can think of an exception in any case” (2005).
If there is no moral standard other than human “impulses and instincts,” then any attempt to accuse another person of immoral behavior boils down to nothing more than one person not liking the way another person does things. While the atheist may claim not to like God’s actions, if he admits that there is a legitimate standard of morality that is not based on subjective human whims, then he has forfeited his atheistic position. If actions can accurately be labeled as objectively moral or immoral, then atheism cannot be true. As C.S. Lewis eloquently stated:
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust...? Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too—for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist—in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless—I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality—namely my idea of justice—was full of sense. Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple (Lewis, 1952, pp. 45-46, italics in orig.).If there truly are cases of justice and injustice, then God must exist. Furthermore, we will show that the God of the Bible never is unjust in His dealings with humanity. On the contrary, the atheistic position finds itself mired in injustice at every turn.
Once the atheistic community admits that people who break certain laws should be punished, then the only question left to decide is how they should be punished and to what extent. Atheists may quibble with God’s idea of divine punishment, but it has been sufficiently demonstrated that their arguments cannot be reasonably defended (see Lyons and Butt, 2005, 25:9-15; see also Miller, 2002). Knowing that the idea of justice and the concept of legitimate punishment can be used effectively to show that their blanket accusations against God are ill founded, the atheists must include an additional concept: innocence.
The argument is thus transformed from, “God is immoral because He has killed people,” to “God is immoral because He has killed innocent people.” Since human infants are rightly viewed by atheists as the epitome of sinless innocence, the argument is then restated as “God is immoral because He has killed innocent human infants.” Dan Barker summarized this argument well in his debate with Peter Payne. In his remarks concerning God’s commandment in Numbers 31 for Moses to destroy the Midianites, he stated: “Maybe some of those men were guilty of committing war crimes. And maybe some of them were justifiably guilty, Peter, of committing some kind of crimes. But the children? The fetuses?” (2005, emp. added).
It is important to note, then, that a large number of the instances in which God caused or ordered someone’s death in the Bible were examples of divine punishment of adults who were “justifiably guilty” of punishable crimes. For instance, after Moses listed a host of perverse practices that the Israelites were told to avoid, he stated: “Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants” (Leviticus 18:24-25, emp. added).
Having said that, it must also be recognized that not all the people God has been responsible for killing have been guilty of such crimes. It is true that the Bible documents several instances in which God caused or personally ordered the death of innocent children: the Flood (Genesis 7), death of the first born in Egypt (Exodus 12:29-30), annihilation of the Midianites (Numbers 31), death of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15), etc. Using these instances, atheists claim that God cannot be moral because He kills innocent children. Atheists then insist that modern-day atheism would never approve of such, and thus atheism is morally superior to the morality of the biblical God.
ATHEISM HAS NO MORAL QUALMS ABOUT KILLING INNOCENT CHILDREN
Atheistic writer Sam Harris noted: “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—KB]” (2006, p. 30). He further stated: “If you are worried about human suffering, abortion should rank very low on your list of concerns” (p. 37). Many in the atheistic community argue that unborn humans are not real “persons,” and killing them is not equivalent to killing a person. Sam Harris wrote: “Many of us consider human fetuses in the first trimester to be more or less like rabbits; having imputed to them a range of happiness and suffering that does not grant them full status in our moral community” (2004, p. 177, emp. added). James Rachels stated:
Some unfortunate humans—perhaps because they have suffered brain damage—are not rational agents. What are we to say about them? The natural conclusion, according to the doctrine we are considering, would be that their status is that of mere animals. And perhaps we should go on to conclude that they may be used as non-human animals are used—perhaps as laboratory subjects, or as food (1990, p. 186, emp. added).Isn’t it ironic that Dan Barker protested to Peter Payne that God could not cause the death of an unborn human “fetus” and still be considered moral, and yet the bulk of the atheistic community adamantly maintains that those fetuses are the moral equivalent of rabbits? How can the atheist accuse God of immorality, while claiming to have a superior morality, when the atheist has no moral problem killing babies?
In response, God’s accusers attempt to draw a distinction between a “fetus” in its mother’s womb, and a child already born. That distinction, however, has been effectively demolished by one of their own. Peter Singer, the man Dan Barker lauds as one of the world’s leading ethicists, admits that an unborn child and one already born are morally equivalent. Does this admission force him to the conclusion that abortion should be stopped? No. On the contrary, he believes we should be able to kill children that are already born. In his chapter titled “Justifying Infanticide,” Singer concluded that human infants are “replaceable.” What does Singer mean by “replaceable”? He points out that if a mother has decided that she will have two children, and the second child is born with hemophilia, then that infant can be disposed of and replaced by another child without violating any moral code of ethics. He explained: “Therefore, if killing the hemophiliac infant has no adverse effect on others, it would, according to the total view, be right to kill him. The total view treats infants as replaceable” (2000, p. 190, emp. added; see also Singer, 1983).
He went on to argue that many in society would be aghast at killing an infant with a disability like hemophilia—but without good reason according to his view. He argued that such is done regularly before birth, when a mother aborts a child in utero after prenatal diagnosis reveals a disorder. He stated:
When death occurs before birth, replaceability does not conflict with generally accepted moral convictions. That a fetus is known to be disabled is widely accepted as a ground for abortion. Yet in discussing abortion, we say that birth does not mark a morally significant dividing line. I cannot see how one could defend the view that fetuses may be “replaced” before birth, but newborn infants may not (2000, p. 191, emp. added).Singer further proposed that parents should be given a certain amount of time after a child is born to decide whether or not they would like to kill the child. He wrote: “If disabled newborn infants were not regarded as having a right to life until, say, a week or a month after birth it would allow parents, in consultation with their doctors, to choose on the basis of far greater knowledge of the infant’s condition than is possible before birth” (2000, p. 193). One has to wonder why Singer would stop at one week or one month. Why not simply say that it is morally right for parents to kill their infants at one year or five years? Singer concluded his chapter on infanticide with these words: “Nevertheless the main point is clear: killing a disabled infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Very often it is not wrong at all” (p. 193, emp. added).
It is clear, then, that atheism does not have moral constraints against killing all innocent babies, but rather only those innocent babies that the atheistic community considers “worthy” to live. How in the world would a person make a moral judgment about which children were “worthy to live?” Singer, Harris, and others contest that a child’s age in utero, mental capability, physical disability, or other criteria should be used to formulate the answer. Dan Barker has given his assessment about how to make such moral decisions. He claimed that “morality is simply acting with the intention to minimize harm.” He further insisted that the way to avoid making mistakes in ethical judgments is to “be as informed as possible about the likely consequences of the actions being considered” (2008, p. 214).
Using Barker’s line of reasoning, if God knows everything, then only He would be in the best possible situation to know all the consequences of killing infants. Could it be that all the infants born to the Amalekites had degenerative genetic diseases, or were infected with an STD that was passed to them from their sexually promiscuous mothers? Could it be that the firstborn children in Egypt, or Abraham’s son Isaac, had some type of brain damage, terminal cancer, hemophilia, etc.? The atheistic community cannot accuse God of immorally killing infants and children, when the atheistic position itself offers criteria upon which it purports to justify morally such killing.
Once again, the atheistic argument must be further qualified. The argument has moved from: “God is immoral because He killed people,” to “God is immoral because He killed innocent babies,” to “God is immoral because He killed innocent babies that we feel would not have met our atheistically based criteria for death.” Ultimately, then, the atheistic position argues that atheists, not God, should be the ones who decide when the death of an innocent child is acceptable.
ATHEISM TAKES “ALL THAT THERE IS” FROM INNOCENT CHILDREN
One primary difference between the atheistic position and the biblical position is what is at stake with the loss of physical life. According to atheism, this physical life is all that any living organism has. Dan Barker stated: “Since this is the only life we atheists have, each decision is crucial and we are accountable for our actions right now” (2008, p. 215, emp. added). He further commented that life “is dear. It is fleeting. It is vibrant and vulnerable. It is heart breaking. It can be lost. It will be lost. But we exist now. We are caring, intelligent animals and can treasure our brief lives” (p. 220). Since Dan and his fellow atheists do not believe in the soul or any type of afterlife, then this brief, physical existence is the sum total of an organism’s existence. If that is the case, when Barker, Harris, Singer, and company advocate killing innocent babies, in their minds, they are taking from those babies all that they have—the entirety of their existence. They have set themselves up as the Sovereign tribunal that has the right to take life from their fellow humans, which they believe to be everything a human has. If any position is immoral, the atheistic position is. The biblical view, however, can be shown to possess no such immorality.
PHYSICAL LIFE IS NOT “ALL THERE IS”
Although the skeptic might object, and claim that an answer from the Bible is not acceptable, such an objection falls flat for one primary reason: the skeptic used the Bible to formulate his own argument. Where is it written that God is love? In the Bible, in such passages as 1 John 4:8. Where do we learn that the Lord did, indeed, kill or order the death of babies? Once again, that information comes directly from the Bible. Where, then, should we look for an answer to this alleged moral dilemma? The answer should be: the Bible. If the alleged problem is formulated from biblical testimony, then the Bible should be given the opportunity to explain itself. As long as the skeptic uses the Bible to formulate the problem, we certainly can use the Bible to solve the problem. One primary facet of the biblical solution is that every human has an immortal soul that is of inestimable value.
With the value of the soul in mind, let us examine several verses that prove that physical death is not necessarily evil. In a letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul wrote from prison to encourage the Christians in the city of Philippi. His letter was filled with hope and encouragement, but it was also tinted with some very pertinent comments about the way Paul and God view death. In Philippians 1:21-23, Paul wrote: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (emp. added).
Paul, a faithful Christian, said that death was a welcome visitor. In fact, Paul said that the end of his physical life on this Earth would be “far better” than its continuation. For Paul, as well as for any faithful Christian, the cessation of physical life is not loss, but gain. Such would apply to innocent children as well, since they are in a safe condition and go to paradise when they die (see Butt, 2003).
Other verses in the Bible show that the loss of physical life is not inherently evil. The prophet Isaiah concisely summarized the situation when he was inspired to write: “The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil. He shall enter into peace; they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness” (57:1-2, emp. added). Isaiah recognized that people would view the death of the righteous incorrectly. He plainly stated that this incorrect view of death was due to the fact that most people do not think about the fact that when a righteous or innocent person dies, that person is “taken away from evil,” and enters “into peace.”
The psalmist wrote, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15). Death is not inherently evil. In fact, the Bible indicates that death can be great gain in which a righteous person is taken away from evil and allowed to enter peace and rest. God looks upon the death of His faithful followers as precious. Skeptics who charge God with wickedness because He has ended the physical lives of innocent babies are in error. They refuse to recognize the reality of the immortal soul. Instead of the death of innocent children being an evil thing, it is often a blessing for that child to be taken away from a life of hardship and evil influence at the hands of a sinful society, and ushered into a paradise of peace and rest. In order for a skeptic legitimately to charge God with cruelty, the skeptic must prove that there is no immortal soul, and that physical life is the only reality—neither of which the skeptic can do. Failure to acknowledge the reality of the soul and the spiritual realm will always result in a distorted view of the nature of God. “The righteous perishes...while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil.”
We then could ask who is moral: the atheist who has no problem approving of the death of innocent children, while believing that he is taking from them the only life they have? Or an all-knowing God Who takes back the physical life He gave the child, exchanging it for an eternal life of happiness?
WHY NOT KILL ALL THE CHRISTIANS AND BABIES?
Before dealing with this new argument, it should be noted that we have laid the other to rest. We have shown that it is impossible for atheism to accuse God of immorality in His dealings with innocent children. Since atheism’s attack against God’s character has failed on that front, the maneuver is changed to accuse the follower of God of not carrying his belief about death to its alleged logical conclusion by killing all those who would benefit. One reason that atheists argue thus is because many of them believe that humans have the right to kill those who they deem as “expendable.” Of course, atheism does not base this judgment on the idea that certain babies or other innocent people would benefit, but that society at large would benefit at the expense of those who are killed. Here again, notice that God is allegedly immoral because He “sinned” against innocent children by taking their lives; yet atheism cares nothing for innocent children, but for the society of which they are a part. In truth, atheism implies that once a certain category of people, whether unborn babies, hemophiliacs, or brain-damaged adults, is honestly assessed to be “expendable,” then humans have the moral right, and sometimes obligation, to exterminate them. The atheist berates the Christian for not taking his beliefs far enough, in the atheist’s opinion. If certain people would benefit from death, or in atheism’s case, society would benefit from certain people’s death, then the atheist contends we should be willing to kill everyone who would fall into that category. If we are not so willing, then the atheist demands that our belief involves a moral absurdity. Yet, the fact that death is beneficial to some cannot be used to say we have the right to kill all those that we think it would benefit.
What Humans Do Not KnowOne extremely significant reason humans cannot kill all those people that we think might benefit from death is because we do not know all the consequences of such actions. Remember that Dan Barker stated that the way to make moral decisions was to “try to be as informed as possible about the likely consequences of the actions being considered” (2008, p. 214). Could it be that human judgments about who has the right to live or die would be flawed based on limited knowledge of the consequences? Certainly. Suppose the hemophiliac child that Singer said could be killed to make room for another more “fit” child possessed the mind that would have discovered the cure for cancer. Or what if the brain-damaged patient that the atheistic community determined could be terminated was going to make a remarkable recovery if he had been allowed to live? Once again, the biblical theist could simply argue that God is the only one in the position to authorize death based on the fact that only God knows all the consequences of such actions. The atheistic community might attempt to protest that God does not know everything. But atheism is completely helpless to argue against the idea that if God knows everything, then only He is in the position to make the truly moral decision. Using Barker’s reasoning, when God’s actions do not agree with those advocated by the atheistic community, God can simply answer them by saying, “What you don’t know is....”
It is ironic that, in a discussion of morality, Barker offered several rhetorical questions about who is in the best position to make moral decisions. He stated: “Why should the mind of a deity—an outsider—be better able to judge human actions than the minds of humans themselves...? Which mind is in a better position to make judgments about human actions and feelings? Which mind has more credibility? Which has more experience in the real world? Which mind has more of a right?” (1992, p. 211). Barker intended his rhetorical questions to elicit the answer that humans are in a better position to make their own moral decisions; but his rhetoric fails completely. If God is all-knowing, and if God has been alive to see the entirety of human history play out, and if only God can know all of the future consequences of an action, then the obvious answer to all of Barker’s questions is: God’s mind.
Additionally, there is no possible way that humans can know all the good things that might be done by the Christians and children that live, even though death would be better for them personally. The apostle Paul alluded to this fact when he said that it was better for him to die and be with the Lord, but it was more needful to the other Christians for him to remain alive and help them (Philippians 1:22-25). Books could not contain the countless benevolent efforts, hospitals, orphanages, soup kitchens, humanitarian efforts, and educational ventures that have been undertaken by Christians. It is important to understand that a Christian example is one of the most valuable tools that God uses to bring others to Him. Jesus noted that when Christians are following His teachings, others see their good works and glorify God (Matthew 5:13-16). Furthermore, the lives of children offer the world examples of purity and innocence worthy of emulation (Matthew 18:1-5). While it is true that death can be an advantageous situation for Christians and children, it is also true that their lives provide a leavening effect on all of human society.
Ownership and AuthorizationThe mere fact that only God knows all consequences is sufficient to establish that He is the sole authority in matters of human life and death. Yet, His omniscience is not the only attribute that puts Him in the final position of authority. The fact that all physical life originates with God gives Him the prerogative to decide when and how that physical life should be maintained. In speaking of human death, the writer of Ecclesiastes stated: “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it” (12:7, emp. added). The apostle Paul boldly declared to the pagan Athenians that in God “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). If God gives life to all humans, then only He has the right to say when that life has accomplished its purpose, or under what circumstances life may be legitimately terminated.
In addition to the fact that God gives life and, thus, has the authority to take it, He also has the power to give it back if He chooses. Throughout the Bible we read of instances in which God chose to give life back to those who were dead, the most thoroughly documented example of that being the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Butt, 2002, 22:9-15). In fact, Abraham alluded to this fact during his preparations to sacrifice Isaac. After traveling close to the place appointed for the sacrifice, Abraham left his servants some distance from the mountain, and said to them: “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you” (Genesis 22:5). Notice that Abraham used the plural pronoun “we,” indicating that both he and Isaac would return. The New Testament gives additional insight into Abraham’s thinking. Hebrews 11:17-19 states: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten...accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead...” (emp. added). Since God gives physical life to all, and since He can raise people from the dead, then any accusation of injustice that fails to take these facts into account cannot be legitimate.
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