From Mark Copeland... "JESUS, THE WAY" Introducing Jesus As The Way

                            "JESUS, THE WAY"

                      Introducing Jesus As The Way


1. As we begin this series of studies, ask yourself these questions...
   a. Do you have problems?
   b. Are you confused in things pertaining to life itself?
   c. Do you feel lost, with a sense of despair?

2. If you do, don't feel like you are alone...
   a. About the time of Abraham, a person who was experiencing a great
      deal of suffering said: "Man who is born of woman is of few days
      and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away;
      He flees like a shadow and does not continue." - Job 14:1-2
   b. Job's words, spoken nearly four thousands years ago, express the
      sentiments of millions today

3. Now, however, there is a way out:  Jesus Christ...!
   a. As He Himself said:  "I am the way, the truth, and the life..."
      - Jn 14:6
   b. Yes, to everything that truly good, both in this life and the one
      to come, Jesus Christ is the way!

[In this study, I want to introduce several areas in which Jesus is
truly "The Way".  Succeeding lessons will expand on these themes, but
for now I simply wish to whet your appetite. For example, Jesus is...]


      1. On one occasion, Jesus stated His purpose in coming to this
         earth - "...I have come that they may have life, and that they
         may have it more abundantly." - Jn 10:10
      2. This "abundant life" Jesus offers is more than simply life in
         the "hereafter"
      3. Though He does not promise wealth or luxury, He does assure us
         a. A loving Father in Heaven, Who cares for His children 
            - Mt 6:31-33
         b. More than sufficient provision for those who are willing to
            follow Him - Mk 10:29-30

      1. The happiest people in the world are those who truly commit
         themselves to following Jesus as "The Way"
      2. Even though living in the most adverse circumstances, such as:
         a. Paul, while living under house arrest - Php 4:11-13
         b. Christians being persecuted in Asia Minor (Turkey) 
            - 1Pe 1:6-8

[Jesus is also...]


      1. He is the only solution to a very serious problem
         a. The most serious threat to our well-being that we face:
         b. This is because everyone of us is guilty of sin - Ro 3:23
      2. Sin is not without its consequences
         a. Often physical, but always spiritual! - Ro 6:23
         b. Unless the problem of sin is resolved, the ultimate
            consequence is eternity in hell!

      1. Out of love, God offered Jesus as the propitiation for our sins
         - 1Jn 4:9-10
      2. Through His blood shed on the cross, Jesus provides forgiveness
         for our sins - Ep 1:7
      3. After His sacrificial death for us, Jesus explained how those
         lost in sin could be saved
         a. It involves repentance - Lk 24:46-47
         b. It also involves faith and baptism - Mk 16:16

[But to be truly happy, we need more than just the forgiveness of sins;
we need to be restored to the close union with God which we lost by our
sins.  In this also, Jesus is our answer, for He is...]


      1. Many religions, claiming to be Christian, are almost totally
         silent about the new relationship Jesus provides with God, 
         the Father
         a. About all they seem to talk about is "Jesus" or "Holy
         b. Could this indicate a lack of real understanding of Jesus'
      2. Jesus came to this world to reconcile man back to God the
         a. God sent Him for that purpose - cf. 2Co 5:17-20
         b. This is what Jesus claimed to be - Jn 14:6

      1. One does not truly experience what it means to have "eternal
         life" without having an intimate relationship with the Father,
         as well as with the Son
      2. Which is exactly what Jesus has to offer us! - cf. Jn 17:2-3
      3. Yes, that eternal life Jesus offers to us includes "knowing"
         the Father as well as the Son!

[The way to a better life, the way to forgiveness of sins, the way to
God...what wonderful blessings! But there is more. Jesus is also...]


      1. Consider the plight of many who wish to follow Jesus
      2. They are confused and even repelled by the multitude of
         different churches and conflicting doctrines being offered by
         those who profess to be His church.

      1. Jesus certainly does not approve it
         a. He taught the harm of division - Mt 12:25
         b. He prayed for His followers to be united - Jn 17:20-21
      2. Jesus promised to build His church - Mt 16:18
         a. Despite the efforts of man and Satan to destroy it, or
            otherwise change it, they shall not prevail!
         b. Even today, when someone obeys the words of Jesus Christ,
            they are added by the Lord Himself to His church - Ac 2:47
         c. In His church, we can enjoy the unity of which Paul wrote
            - Ep 4:4-6

[But finding His church and enjoying this unity is experienced only as
we follow Jesus as the way out of religious confusion.  Finally, let me
point out that Jesus is...]


      1. It is appointed for men to die once - He 9:27a
      2. After death, then comes the judgment - He 9:27b
      3. Death becomes the door, either to eternal life or to eternal
         condemnation - cf. Mt 25:46

      1. To die in Jesus is to die in the way to life eternal! - Jn 6:
         27; 11:25
      2. As the apostle John wrote in the book of Revelation - Re 14:13


1. I hope that I have sparked your interest in wanting to learn more
   about Jesus as "The Way"

2. As mentioned at the outset of this study, the remaining lessons will
   elaborate upon these great blessings provided only through Jesus

3. My purpose in this series is twofold...
   a. For those who are Christians
      1) To increase their appreciation of Jesus as their Lord and
      2) So they will want to serve Him with greater zeal
   b. For those who are not Christians
      1) To encourage them to let Jesus be their way to everything that
         is truly good
      2) Both in this life and in the life to come!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2015

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The Nature of Bible Inspiration by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


The Nature of Bible Inspiration
by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

What does it mean to say: “The Bible is inspired”? Answers to this question are legion (cf. “Theories...,” 1864, 6:312-349). Some regard the Bible as “inspired” in the same way that great authors in history have risen above the average person in their literary pursuits, e.g., Homer, Shakespeare, Dickens, or Eliot. Others would say that the writers of the Bible were influenced by supernatural connections, but that their written records of those connections suffer from the same flaws that mere humans are prone to make. Many people fail to assess the Bible’s own claims regarding its inspiration. Before the Bible can be determined to be “inspired,” it is necessary to conceptualize the meaning and nature of that inspiration. The Bible literally is filled with descriptions of the essence of its own inspiration.
Paul boldly claimed, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). The Greek term underlying the word “inspiration” means “God-breathed” (Vincent, 1900, 4:317). Paul was affirming that Scripture, referring primarily  to the Old Testament, is the product of the breath of God. God actually breathed out the Scriptures. The Bible is God’s Word—not man’s—though He used man to produce them. Three verses later (4:2), Paul declared, “Therefore...preach the word...” Why? Because it is God’s Word. Just as surely as God’s breath brought the Universe into existence (Psalm 33:6), so the Bible is the result of God’s out-breathing.
Peter alluded to the momentous occasion of Christ’s transfiguration when God literally spoke from heaven directly to Peter, James, and John (2 Peter 1:19-21). God orally boomed forth His insistence that Jesus is His beloved Son, and human beings are commanded to listen to Him (Matthew 17:5). Peter then declared, “We also have the prophetic word made more sure,...knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation.” Peter was saying that the Scriptures provided to us by the prophets are just as certain, and just as authoritative, as the voice of God that spoke on the mount of transfiguration.
Peter further explained that the prophetic word, meaning the whole of the Old Testament Scriptures, did not originate on its own, or in the minds of those who wrote them (the meaning of “private interpretation”). Scripture did not come from “the will of man.” Scripture was not the result of human research or human investigation into the nature of things. Scripture was not the product of its writers’ own thinking (Warfield, 1974, 3:1474). Where, then, did Scripture come from? Peter claimed, “but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” The word “moved” in the original language is the usual word for being “carried” or “brought” (Arndt and Gingrich, 1957, pp. 862-863), hence, to be moved or under a moving influence (Perschbacher, 1990, p. 427). Peter was stating that the Holy Spirit, in essence, picked up the writers, the prophets, and brought them to the goal of His choosing (Warfield, 3:1475). That means that the Scriptures, though written by means of human instrumentality, were so superintended by God that the resulting writings are truly God’s.
This same Peter, while awaiting the coming of the Spirit in Acts 2 on Pentecost, stood up among fellow disciples and declared, “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas,” and then he quoted from the Psalms (Acts 1:16ff.). Peter affirmed that the Holy Spirit governed what David wrote, and the results of David’s writing therefore are designated as “Scripture.”
This same Peter, in 1 Peter 1:10-12, explained: (1) that the inspired spokesmen of the Old Testament did not always understand all the information given by God through them; (2) it was the Spirit of Christ that was operating upon them; (3) this same inspired information was being presented in Peter’s day by the apostles; and (4) the same Holy Spirit was directing their utterances. It is very important to note that Peter was claiming that inspired men had their own minds engaged as they produced inspired material, but the product was God’s, since they did not always grasp all of the significance of their own productions.
This same Peter, in 2 Peter 3:15-16, referred to “our beloved brother Paul” as having “written to you.” He then noted: “as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which those who are untaught and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” Peter made clear three salient points: (1) Paul wrote epistles; (2) those epistles are classified with “the other Scriptures,” which means that Paul’s letters are Scriptureevery bit as much as the Old Testament and other New Testament writings; and (3) these writings are divinely authoritative, since to twist them is to invite “destruction”—an obvious reference to God’sdisfavor and the spiritual/eternal harm that results from disobeying God’s words, not man’s words. Cornelius well-understood this principle, for when Peter came to his house, he stated: “Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God” (Acts 10:33, emp. added).
 While on Earth, Jesus demonstrated a high regard for Scripture, i.e., the Old Testament. On one occasion, He involved Himself in an interchange with some Jews who accused Him of blasphemy (John 10:33). He repelled the charge by quoting Psalm 82:6, referring to the passage as “law” (vs. 34). But how could Jesus refer to a psalm as “law,” since the Psalms were poetic wisdom literature and not a part of the Torah (the Pentateuch)? He referred to a psalm as “law” in the sense that the Psalms are part of Scripture. Jesus was thus ascribing legal authority to the entire corpus of Scripture (Warfield, 3:1475). He did the same thing in John 15:25. Likewise, Paul quoted from the Psalms, Isaiah, and Genesis and referred to each as “the Law” (1 Corinthians 14:21; Romans 3:19; Galatians 4:21).
After Jesus quoted from a psalm and called it “law,” He added, “and the Scripture cannot be broken” (vs. 35). Notice that He was equating “law” with “Scripture”—using the terms as synonyms. When He declared that “law,” or “Scripture,” “cannot be broken,” He was making the point that it is impossible for Scripture to be annulled, for its authority to be denied, or its truth to be withstood (Warfield, 3:1475). Jesus considered every part of Scripture, even its most casual phrases, to be the authoritative Word of God (p. 1476).
This attitude toward Scripture as an authoritative document is intimated by the customary formula: “It is written.” For example, when facing Satan, Jesus repelled his attacks all three times with a simple, “It is written,” which was sufficient to establish authoritative credibility (Matthew 4:4,7,10)—so much so that Satan attempted to copy Jesus in this respect (Matthew 4:6). After His resurrection, Jesus equated the entire Old Testament (i.e., the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms) with “Scripture,” and again noted “it is written” (Luke 24:44-46). He insisted very emphatically that “all things” in the Scriptures concerning Himself “must be fulfilled.” Earlier in the chapter, He equated “Moses and all the prophets” with “the Scriptures” (vss. 25-27).
No wonder Jesus would rebuke His religious challengers with such phrases as, “Have you not read even this Scripture?” (Mark 12:10; cf. Matthew 21:42); or, “You do err, not knowing the Scriptures” (Matthew 22:29); or, “if you had known what this means...” (Matthew 12:7); or, “Go and learn what this means...” (Mark 9:13). The underlying thought in such pronouncements is that God’s truth is found in Scripture, and if you are ignorant of the Scriptures, you are susceptible to error. Jesus therefore was affirming that God is the Author of Scripture.
Even the words of Scripture that do not constitute direct quotes of deity are, in fact, the words of God. For example, Jesus assigned the words of Genesis 2:24 to God as the author (Matthew 19:4-6). Yet, in the original setting of Genesis 2:24, no indication is given that God was the speaker. Rather, the words are simply narratorial comment written down by the human author—Moses. By Jesus attributing the words to God, He was making clear that the whole of Scripture was authored by God. That means that even the words of Satan, or the words of evil people, are the words of God—in the sense that God has given us an accurate report of what those people said. Paul treated the matter in the same way (1 Corinthians 6:16).
Over and over again, the apostles and writers of the New Testament did the same thing that Jesus did, i.e., they referred to Scripture in such a way that it was clear they considered it to be the authoritative, inspired words of God (e.g., Acts 8:35; 17:2; 18:28; 26:22; Romans 12:19; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 1 Peter 1:16; James 2:8). Perhaps Luke well summarized the prevailing mindset of the Bible writers: “[T]hey received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). In other words, what Scripture says, God says.
Additional evidence of the Bible’s own view of itself is manifested in statements like, “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh” (Romans 9:17), or “And the Scripture...preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand” (Galatians 3:8). But Scripture did not speak to Pharaoh, and Scripture did not preach the Gospel to Abraham. Rather, God did! So the word of Scripture is the word of God! The inspired writers of the New Testament considered “God” and “Scripture” to be so closely linked that they could naturally speak of “Scripture” doing what Scripture records God as doing (Warfield, 3:1477).
It works the other way as well. God is said to say certain things that are, in their original setting, merely words of Scripture. For example, Hebrews 3:7 reads, “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says...,” and Psalm 95:7 is then quoted. In Acts 4:25, God is said to have spoken, by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of David, the words of Psalm 2:1. In Acts 13:34-35, God is represented as having stated the words of Isaiah 55:3 and Psalm 16:10. Yet, in both of these cases, the words attributed to God are not, in their original setting, specifically His words, but merely the words of Scripture itself. So the writers of the New Testament sometimes referred to the Scriptures as if they were God, and they sometimes referred to God as if He were Scripture. The Bible thus presents itself as the very words of God.
In Hebrews 1:5-13, the writer quoted seven Old Testament passages: Psalm 2:7; 2 Samuel 7:14; Deuteronomy 32:43; Psalm 104:4; Psalm 45:6-7; Psalm 102:25-27; and Psalm 110:1. The Hebrews writer attributed each of these passages to God as the speaker. Yet in their original setting in the Old Testament, sometimes God is the speaker, while sometimes He is not the speaker, and is, in fact, being spoken to or spoken about. Why would the writer of Hebrews indiscriminately assign all of these passages to God? Because they all have in common the fact that they are the words of Scripture, and, as such, are the words of God.
The same is true with Romans 15:9-12 where Paul quoted from Psalm 18:49, Deuteronomy 32:43, Psalm 117:1, and Isaiah 11:10. The first one he introduced with the formula “as it is written”; the second one is introduced by “again he says”; the third with simply “again”; and the fourth is prefaced with “Isaiah says.” Yet, in the Old Testament setting, only in the Isaiah passage is specifically God talking—and Paul assigns those words to Isaiah. So “it is written,” “he says,” and “Isaiah says,” are all different ways of saying the same thing, i.e., “God says”! Sometimes the New Testament writers assigned Scripture to its human authors. Yet it is clear that when the writers said, “Moses said,” or “David said,” such was simply another way to say, “Scripture says,” which, again, was the same thing as saying “God says.”


Notice that the inspiration that the Bible claims for itself is “verbal” inspiration, i.e., God’s superintendence extends even to the words of the writer. Paul based his argument on a plural noun, and insisted that God intended the word to be understood in its singular sense (Galatians 3:16). As noted previously, Jesus based an argument on the precise verbal form of Scripture (John 10:34). He based His point on a particular word in Matthew 22:43, on a particular tense in Matthew 22:32, and even on the letters and their minute strokes in Matthew 5:17-18. In the latter passage, Jesus said that Exodus 3:6 was spoken to the Sadducees with whom He was conversing—even though the original context of Exodus 3:6 has God speaking to Moses. That proves that Jesus expects all people on Earth to understand that the Bible is written to every single accountable human being, and that Scripture is intended to be authoritative for human living.
Paul also affirmed verbal inspiration in 1 Corinthians 2. He claimed that his speech and his preaching were not “words of human wisdom” (vs. 4). Rather, his words were “in demonstration of the Spirit.” He claimed that he and his fellow apostles were speaking the wisdom of God (vs. 7). He claimed that the things which they had been speaking were revealed to them by God through the Holy Spirit (vs. 10). Then he affirmed very clearly: “These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches” (vs. 13). So inspiration involves the very words, and that makes it verbal inspiration.


Most of the passages examined thus far are New Testament references to the inspiration of the Old Testament. Liberal scholars have claimed that the New Testament does not make the claim of inspiration for itself. That claim is not true. As already noted, in 2 Peter 3:16, Peter classified Paul’s epistles as “Scripture,” and he affirmed that Paul’s writings carry such divine authority that those who twist them will be destroyed. It also was noted that Peter linked the apostles with the Old Testament prophets (1 Peter 1:10-12). And, as just seen, Paul made a comparable claim in 1 Corinthians 2.
As one reads the New Testament, it is clear that the writers made the extension of Old Testament inspiration to their own writings. They did not for a moment consider themselves—the ministers of the new covenant (2 Corinthians 3:6)—to be less in possession of the Spirit of God than the ministers of the old covenant (Warfield, 3:1482). Jesus, without question, declared the impending inspiration of the authors of the New Testament. In Matthew 10:17-20, and the parallels in Mark 13:11 and Luke 12:12, Jesus explained to the apostles that the Holy Spirit would direct their verbal activities in terms of bothhow and what they spoke. He reiterated the same thing in Luke 21:12-15, urging them not to worry how to defend themselves when hauled before the authorities, since He would provide them with “a mouth and wisdom” that their adversaries would not be able to withstand. So Jesus pre-authenticated the teaching of the apostles, and insured respect for their authority.
Jesus directed several promises to the apostles in John chapters 14, 15, and 16. Allusion to just one of these will suffice. Jesus promised the apostles: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:12-13). Just prior to His ascension, Jesus promised to the apostles the impending baptism of the Holy Spirit, which would enable them to be Christ’s witnesses throughout the world (Acts 1:5,8). This promise commenced its fulfillment in Acts 2 when the apostles were baptized with the Holy Spirit and empowered to preach the message God wanted preached.
Numerous passages indicate the fulfillment of these promises to the apostles to the extent that the words which they spoke were God’s words (Acts 4:8,31; 5:32; 15:8,27-28; 16:6-8). As already noted, Paul claimed direct guidance of the Holy Spirit for the words that he spoke (1 Corinthians 2). He did the same thing in Galatians 1:12. In Ephesians 3:1-5, he claimed that his message was made known to him “by revelation” (vs. 3), along with the other apostles and prophets (vs. 5). Other passages reflect the same point (1 Timothy 4:1; Galatians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). A good summary of Paul’s claims to inspiration is seen in his firm declaration: “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37). His inspiration extended to both his oralutterances as well as his writings (2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6,14; cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:2,15; Galatians 1:7-8). In 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul quoted Luke 10:7 and referred to it as “Scripture.” So Luke’s Gospel record was already available and classified with the inspired canon of Scripture.


The unbiased individual can easily see that the Bible claims for itself the status of “inspiration,” having been breathed out by God Himself. That inspiration entailed such superintendence by God that even the words came under His influence. Thus the Bible is “verbally inspired.” This conclusion does not imply that the writers merely took “dictation.” Rather, the Bible indicates that God adapted His inspiring activity to the individual temperament, vocabulary, educational level, and stylistic idiosyncrasies of each writer. The Bible is “infallible” in that it is incapable of deceiving or misleading, and is therefore completely trustworthy and reliable. “Plenary” inspiration means that inspiration extends to all of its parts. Thus the Bible is fully inspired.
The Bible is also “inerrant,” that is, it is free of error. God used human beings to write the Bible, and in so doing, allowed them to leave their mark upon it, but without making any of the mistakes that human writings are prone to make. God made certain that the words produced by the human writers were free from the errors and mistakes characteristic of uninspired writers. This influence even extended to matters of science, geography, and history. Proof for the inspiration of the Bible is a separate and necessary inquiry. However, it is important that a person understand what the Bible means when it claims for itself “inspiration.”


Arndt, William and F.W. Gingrich (1957), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).
McGarvey, J. W. (1883), “Remarks on the Preceding Lectures,” The Missouri Christian Lectures(Rosemead, CA: Old Paths Book Club, 1955 reprint).
Perschbacher, Wesley J., ed. (1990), The New Analytical Greek Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
“Theories of the Inspiration of the Scriptures” (1864), American Presbyterian and Theological Review, 6:312-349, April.
Vincent, Marvin (1900), Word Studies in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1946 reprint).
Warfield, Benjamin (1974 reprint), “Inspiration,” ISBE, ed. James Orr  (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Seeing God in a Box...Fish by Kyle Butt, M.A.


Seeing God in a Box...Fish

by Kyle Butt, M.A.

Constant competition between car companies rages to see which one can design the lightest, toughest, most aerodynamic, fuel efficient models. It seems that the DaimlerChrysler Company has recently put itself several steps ahead in the race by designing a remarkably efficient economy car for Mercedes-Benz. The idea that inspired this car was very simple. The designers looked to the natural world to find a model of highly-efficient, aerodynamic design, coupled with a sturdy structure that could withstand collisions. The model on which they finally settled seemed an unlikely candidate: the boxfish.
At first glance, the boxfish’s body does not appear very aerodynamic. As its name implies, it has a rather “boxy” look, and not the streamline “raindrop” shape that is used for many aerodynamic models. Upon further investigation, however, the boxfish’s shape and design happen to be amazingly efficient. As one author put it, “Despite its boxy, cube-shaped body, this tropical fish is in fact outstandingly streamlined and therefore represents an aerodynamic ideal. With an accurately constructed model of the boxfish the engineers in Stuttgart were able to achieve a wind drag coefficient of just 0.06 in the wind tunnel.” In order to grasp the importance of this drag coefficient, it “betters the drag coefficient of today’s compact cars by more than 65 percent” (“Mercedes-Benz Bionic...,” 2005, emp. added).
But the aerodynamic aspects of the boxfish were not the only helpful features used by the DaimlerChrysler engineers. The skin of the boxfish “consists of numerous hexagonal, bony plates which provide maximum strength with minimal weight” (“Mercedes-Benz Bionic...”). By reproducing this skin structure, the car company was able to achieve “up to 40 percent more rigidity...than would be possible with conventional designs.” The report went on to say that if the entire car shell were designed with these hexagonal structures, the weight of the car could be reduced by almost one-third, without forfeiting any safety features during collisions.
Boxfish design
Such copying of the natural world is not a unique event. A popular field of study known as biomimicry has arisen of late in which scientists and technologists look to nature to supply optimal designs and functions. Ironically, the writer of what appears to be the primary article on this amazing boxfish/car relationship misses the logical conclusion of the biomimetic design, as do other scientists who study the field—that design demands an Intelligent Designer. The said writer commented, “[T]he boxfish possesses unique characteristics and is a prime example of the ingenious inventions developed by nature over millions of years of evolution. The basic principle of this evolution is that nothing is superfluous and each part of the body has a purpose—and sometimes several at once” (“Mercedes-Benz Bionic...,” 2005).
Notice the concession made in the writer’s statement that the boxfish, indeed, exhibits “ingenious invention.” Such a statement implies that some type of “genius” or intelligence is behind the invention. Furthermore, evolution has been consistently presented as a process that is maintained by naturalistic, random, chance happenings that are incapable of producing anything “ingenious” or “intelligent.” And finally, the author states that evolution leaves nothing “superfluous,” and that each part of the evolved animal has “a purpose.” This remark is ironic considering the fact that many defenders of evolution continue to use the argument that humans and animals maintain several “vestigial organs” that are supposedly useless leftovers of evolution (see Harrub, 2001, for a discussion of vestigial organs). Indeed, any theory that explains too much, explains too little. On the one hand, evolution maintains an underlying principle that nothing is superfluous, while at the same time evolution is a “fact” because animals and humans supposedly have left-over vestiges that are no longer useful? As one can see, the concept of evolution is so “flexible” and self-contradictory that it sustains no real ability to explain anything.
To the contrary, the only valid explanation for the optimal design in the boxfish is the fact that whenever we see efficient, complex design, there must be an intelligent designer behind it. Considering the fact that many of the most ingenious engineers that the car-manufacturing world can boast spent thousands of hours copying the design of the boxfish, which proved to be 65 percent more efficient in some ways than other designs, one must logically conclude that whoever designed the boxfish has outsmarted the brightest car engineers for many years. “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).


Harrub, Brad, (2001), “Hey Cut That Out...On Second Thought, Hold That Scalpel!, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2050.
“Mercedes-Benz Bionic Concept Vehicle,” (2005), [On-line], URL: http://www.germancarfans.com/news.cfm/newsid/2050607.004.

Ethics and Darwinism [Part II] by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.


Ethics and Darwinism [Part II]

by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Part I of this two-part series appeared in the January issue. Part II follows below and continues, without introductory comments, where the first article ended.]


Soon after Edward O. Wilson published Sociobiology, Richard Dawkins generated an equal amount of controversy (and many more sales) for his book, The Selfish Gene (1989). Neither book devoted much space to human society specifically. It was clear, nonetheless, that Wilson and Dawkins each saw an important application—indeed, a reason for their books’ existence—in what they had to say about Darwinian evolution and human culture.
Unlike Wilson, Dawkins was concerned not so much with the biological basis of behavior in general, but rather with the biological basis of selfishness and altruism in particular. He argued, as the title of the book suggests, that genes are selfish: they will do whatever it takes to ensure that their carrier—the individual—makes more copies of these genes (Dawkins, 1989, p. 19). Evolution, therefore, has ensured that our behavior brings about the preferential survival of the genes we carry. Those behaviors are “selfish” because they preserve our genes at the expense of competing genes contained in other “survival machines.”
What, then, can we say about unselfish behavior? There are times when creatures seem to act for the benefit of others at the expense of their own survival. This has been a problem for sociobiology because traditional Darwinism has emphasized the individual—it is the individual’s own traits that will determine whether it leaves a greater number of viable offspring. If a bird helps a breeding pair build its nest and feed its young, without breeding itself, then it would seem to be a loser in the struggle for life. While this individual is busy helping others, it is missing out on the opportunity to produce heirs of its own. One response is to tell some sort of just-so story that extols the benefits of altruistic behavior for the entire species. However, this idea of “group selection” is highly contentious, even among the closed ranks of evolutionary biologists. For a start, it does not explain how the gene for altruism can survive over the long term. If an individual carrying this mutation behaves unselfishly and, as a result, leaves fewer or no offspring, then the mutation will die out. Also, the group needs to discourage cheaters—individuals that take advantage of altruists to further their own selfish interests, and thus neutralize the benefits of altruism for the species as whole. Dawkins (1989) suggests this might be avoided if altruism were directed only toward individuals, such as close relatives, who are likely to carry the same gene. Under this “kin selection,” genes for altruism cause their carriers to act in a way that enhances the survival of the same genes in other carriers. Cheating still is possible. A mutation could arise that mimicked the identifying features of individuals that carried the gene for altruism. This introduces the need for some sort of policing strategy. It might not rid the group of cheaters, but it will make the cost high enough to limit their numbers. The problem now is that the difficulties have multiplied. The evolutionists sought to explain a highly complex social behavior in biological terms, and ended up having to explain other complex behaviors, such as cheating and policing.
Even so, it is not altogether clear that they have explained anything. This is not to say that altruism might not have a biological cause in social animals (although we have yet to find the gene for altruism, and no one knows how that gene would work to produce altruistic behavior). It is just that Darwinian accounts face a number of difficulties. The real issue, especially when we consider human societies, is how Dawkins defines altruism. He starts out with the individual (1989, p. 4), but ends up at the level of genes. So although the individual’s behavior seems to defy Darwinian selection, the gene for altruism will be selected if it increases the survival chances of the same gene in close relatives. Sure, the altruistic behavior costs the individual, but if all its siblings and cousins act altruistically, then the gene will increase its long-term prospects of survival.
This sleight-of-hand is typical of reductionism. We were asked to think of one thing, but were shown another. We were expecting an explanation of an individual’s altruism, but were given a story about a gene’s selfishness. If this is the case—if altruistic behavior just is selfishness—then it hardly seems fair to call this an explanation of altruism. If I continue to act for the benefit of others, only if they continue to act for my benefit, then that is not altruism as we normally construe the word. This behavior is more like “selfish benevolence” than altruism (Nunney, 1998, 281:1619).
Dawkins might respond that the “selfish gene” is just a metaphor. After all, genes are neither good nor bad in a moral sense. Still, Dawkins wants to say that altruistic behavior is not real—it is only apparent. Surely the reverse is true—it is the selfishness of the gene in Dawkins’ model that is only apparent.
It is no wonder that Dawkins asks us to separate the biological from the psychological. He does not want us to worry about hopes, desires, and beliefs. It does not matter, in his view, whether our donation was motivated by expected tax write-offs, or whether we saved a drowning enemy. But can we do this? Does our mental state at a particular time make no difference? If so, why have human societies drawn a distinction between selfishness and altruism, or between manslaughter and murder? If Dawkins wants to explain human behavior in terms of human biology, he had better not ignore human psychology.
At best, Dawkins has given us a hypothetical explanation of why social animals might act with the most charity toward their closest relatives. However, the biological causes underlying this behavior remain completely unexplained, and we have no reason to think that altruism is only “apparent” in human societies.


Despite trying to explain one aspect of human behavior (altruism) in genetic terms, Dawkins wanted to use something other than genes to explain cultural evolution. At this point he introduced the term “meme.” Just as genes are passed from one generation to the next and acted upon by natural selection, so memes are copied from one brain to the next and are acted upon by cultural selection (Dawkins, 1989, p. 192). Under this newly coined word, Dawkins listed uniquely human concepts such as “tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothing fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches.” Successful memes, like successful genes, are better at making more copies of themselves. Examples would be denim jeans and Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.
Actually, Dawkins does not intend to produce a theory of cultural evolution; he invented memes to show the universality of Darwinism (Miele, 1995; also Hurst and Dawkins, 1992; Dawkins, 1994). In other words, he wants to show that if Darwinism works on anything that can be copied, even ideas, then it must have worked on our genes. Unfortunately, others have taken his rhetorical device seriously. Following the mass suicide of Heaven’s Gate members, an article in Newsweek drew on the “new science of memetics” to suggest that their self-destructive ideas, or “mind viruses,” could find new hosts through the popular media (Cowley, 1997). There is now a Journal of Memetics.
However, the analogy between genes and memes, and viruses and ideas, fails completely. Dawkins acknowledged some of these criticisms (1982, p. 112), although they did not perturb him. Here are some reasons why we should be skeptical:
  • Changes in genes (mutations) occur randomly, whereas changes in ideas are not random.An apple’s falling from a tree is a random event; Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity, inspired from such an event, is itself nonrandom. His ideas on calculus and gravity did not emerge randomly from shapes and figures on a page.
  • Genes store information, whereas cultural features may or may not store information. A book is a meme that carries complex, specified information. Blue jeans are a meme, too, but it is hard to say how they carry information. Obviously we can study the jeans and, depending on our current state of knowledge, we might be able to determine where and how they were made, and what materials were used. Whereas the information we gather from blue jeans is subjective (it depends on us), the information in a strand of DNA is objective (it is there regardless of any intelligent observers).
  • Genes exist only in the organism, whereas cultural elements may exist outside the human brain. Although Dawkins credits the brain with inventing memes, and although memes can travel directly from brain to brain, they can reside on other media such as books, tapes, or digital media. This means that a tune, say, can be stored on a compact disc before it reaches another human brain. Dawkins likes to talk about memes as a kind of “mind virus” because a virus contains information and can exist outside the cell. However, a virus depends totally on transmission into the cell before copying occurs, whereas someone can make a million copies of a music CDwithout ever listening to the tunes it carries.
  • Cells copy genes exactly, whereas minds copy cultural elements with changes. Whenever a cell undergoes division, it makes a new copy of the entire genetic code, and rarely makes any mistakes. It is the nature of the human mind, however, to filter just about everything it absorbs. We take in very few ideas and repeat them verbatim. Sometimes we don’t even bother to repeat them. Fashions and technologies, by their very nature, change at a much higher rate than the genetic copying mechanisms of living cells.
  • Genes are discrete, whereas cultural elements can blend. Through his experiments on peas, Mendel showed that the units of heredity are separate and occur in pairs. This means, for instance, that you could inherit a gene for black hair from your father, and a gene for blonde hair from your mother (assuming, for the sake of simplicity, that there is just one pair of genes for hair color). But your hair is not going to be a mixture of black and white; it may turn gray later on in life, but that is another matter. The actual color will reflect whichever variety of the gene is most dominant (probably black in this case). However, two totally different ideas can come together to form a third. The English language is a hodge-podge of other languages. Weddings, funerals, and holiday activities can be a blend of traditions from both sides of the family.
  • Gene copying is Mendelian, whereas transmission of cultural elements is Lamarckian. Darwin’s main competitor was the Chevalier de Lamarck (1744-1829). He advanced a theory of evolution which said that changes acquired during a lifetime will pass to the next generation. If a giraffe strengthens its leg and neck muscles to reach higher branches, then the next generation will inherit these characteristics. If you cut the tail off each generation of rats, eventually rats will be born with no tails. Thanks to Mendel, we know this theory is not true. The traits are passed on in discrete, heritable units we call genes. The offspring will have these traits, not the traits we accumulated during our lifetime. However, Lamarck’s theory is true for ideas. We do acquire ideas during our lifetime, and we do pass them on to our children. If a father acquires a belief in God, he can talk to his children about it, but they cannot inherit this belief genetically.


Dawkins’ unsuccessful analogy highlights the inherent problem in applying biological principles to aspects of human culture. Nonetheless, there is a tremendous push to popularize Darwinism—to take it beyond stuffy labs and dusty fossils—and show everyone that it is not “just another” scientific theory. That is why, I suspect, evolutionists end up meddling in ethics. How did this happen? Sociobiology was supposed to be nothing more than a description of why we value certain behaviors. Dawkins, in particular, has been very emphatic about not wanting to make ought out of is (Miele, 1995; Dawkins, 1989, pp. 2-3).
Nonetheless, these writers really do seem to have a larger “vision” for an evolutionary ethic. Listen to Wilson’s sense of frustration in the following passage: “Scientists and humanists should consider together the possibility that the time has come for ethics to be removed temporarily from the hands of the philosophers and biologized” (1980, p. 287). He concludes that a deeper understanding of human biology “will make possible the selection of a more deeply understood and enduring code of moral values” (Wilson, 1978, p. 196). So he seems to have changed his mind: he really does want to do more than describe ethics in biological terms.
To his credit, Richard Dawkins shies away from framing an evolutionary ethic. Like Thomas Huxley, Dawkins believes we should resist evolutionary forces and subvert our genetic heritage (Dawkins, 1989, pp. 200-201). He is keen to explain how evolution molded tree-swinging ancestors into lumbering, humanoid robots, as long as he does not have to live next to them. “My own feeling,” Dawkins cautions, “is that a human society based simply on the gene’s law of universal ruthless selfishness would be a very nasty society in which to live” (Dawkins, 1989, p. 3). Having said that, I guess we can all breathe a sigh of relief. He goes on to suggest two values: “Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish. Let us understand what our selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to.” In other words, let the robots arise and overthrow their genetic masters! Dawkins does not explain why we should swim against the tide of our survival instincts. Apparently, Dawkins just thinks that a world of generous, selfless people would be a better place in which to live.


Honestly, Wilson and Dawkins really seem to want as many Christian neighbors as possible. As we have seen already, one of Christ’s most important messages was to put others first; this is the altruism desired by Dawkins. Further, the Bible balances the concerns of groups and individuals that Wilson would like to see within human societies (1978, pp. 196-199). In the New Testament, we find that the church is to form a unified body, while each member plays a crucial role (1 Corinthians 12:27). It sets high standards for husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees, and governments and citizens (1 Peter 2:12-3:7), yet these ties do not come ahead of our personal relationship with God (e.g., Luke 14:25-27; Matthew 22:21).
Daniel C. Dennett, a philosopher and fan of Dawkins, has made an interesting comment along these lines. He points out that biblical ethics is a case of going from what the Bible says, to what we should or should not do. Whether you can make this move depends on your view of Scripture. If you claim that the Bible contains wise sayings, but is the product of human hands, then you are on no better ground than an evolutionist who derives his ethical precepts from Darwin’s Origin of Species. “Now,” Dennett points out, “if you believe that the Bible (or some other holy text) is literally the word of God, and that human beings are put here on Earth by God in order to do God’s bidding, so that the Bible is a sort of user’s manual for God’s tools, then you do indeed have grounds for believing that the ethical precepts found in the Bible have a special warrant that no other writings could have” (Dennett, 1995, p. 476, emp. in orig.). In other words, it is reasonable to go from God’s ought (“Thou shalt”) to our ought (“I should”), as long as you believe that God communicated directly to man.
The only valid Christian ethics, then, is a Christian ethics based on accepting the divine inspiration and authority of God’s Word. Espousing a “Christian ethic” without these beliefs will not work any more than espousing an evolutionary ethic based on Darwinism.
What are the alternatives? Obviously, for evolutionists, Christianity is out of the question. This leaves only one live option: secular humanism. Although Wilson, Dawkins, and Dennett would have you believe that they can offer a scientific view of ethics, they all end with the humanist’s plea to fulfill our potential as autonomous, thinking beings (Wilson, 1978, pp. 195-196; Dawkins, 1989, pp. 200-201; Dennett, 1995, pp. 468,476-477,481). The “evolution” in evolutionary ethics seems nothing more than a nod to nature for creating a brain mysteriously capable of moral judgments, and a body predisposed to self-preservation. There really is no basis—no set of facts—from which to defend or justify secular humanism, except the assumption that we must look to ourselves, and ourselves alone, for what is right.
Although these writers offer only a vague outline of evolutionary ethics, and offer no reasonable support, they are most definite about their intense dislike of Christianity. Wilson hopes that scientific materialism—a bringing together of humanism and evolution—will replace religion as “the more powerful mythology” (1978, p. 207). His attack is two-fold (1978, pp. 191-192).
First, he wishes to overcome the seemingly invincible idea of a Creator God by using scientific materialism as his siege machine. He is confident that humanistic scientists will come up with more ideas to explain the origin of life or the Universe without God, and eventually will undermine the foundations of a belief in divine creation. And second, he wishes to explain away religion. If scientific naturalism can “explain traditional religion, its chief competitor, as a wholly material phenomenon,” then theology will not survive as an independent intellectual discipline.
In Dawkins’ opinion, the “God meme” survives because “it provides a superficially plausible answer to deep and troubling questions about existence. It suggests that the injustices of this world may be rectified in the next. The ‘everlasting arms’ hold out a cushion against our own inadequacies which, like a doctor’s placebo, is none the less effective for being imaginary” (Dawkins, 1989, p. 193). Responding to the success of religion, he says: “Religion is a terrific meme. That’s right. But that doesn’t make it true and I care about what’s true. Smallpox virus is a terrific virus. It does its job magnificently well. That doesn’t mean that it’s a good thing. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to see it stamped out” (Miele, 1995). He calls religion a “bore” and God a “naive personification” (Thomas, 1997, p. 11).
Finally, like Wilson, Dennett believes that evolutionists should engineer the extinction of religion as a vital force in society. Darwin’s “dangerous” idea (i.e., Dennett’s view that evolution has implications for every part of our existence) will create a “toxic” cultural environment for fundamentalist religion (1995, p. 515). The only place for religion will be a kind of cultural zoo; churches will become museums. “Save the Baptists! Yes of course,” Dennett says, “but not by all means. Not if it means tolerating the deliberate misinforming of children about the natural world.... Misinforming a child is a terrible offense” (1995, p. 516; emp. in orig.). His “final solution” is a promise to undo a child’s religious training:
If you insist on teaching your children falsehoods—that the Earth is flat, that “Man” is not a product of evolution by natural selection—then you must expect, at the very least, that those of us who have freedom of speech will feel free to describe your teachings as the spreading of falsehoods, and will attempt to demonstrate this to your children at our earliest opportunity (1995, p. 519).
The agenda, then, is quite clear: there is no proven biological basis for an evolutionary ethic; there is no reasonable connection between Darwinism and culture or values; but anything will do as long as it is couched in the language of science or nature, and as long as it can displace religion in general, and Christianity in particular.


Charles Darwin has left a huge legacy for the modern era. Although his theory has difficulties, many people viewed Darwinian evolution as the only reasonable solution that avoided any appeal to a Creator God. It came at a time when people were looking to shed the constraints of church authority and its influence over education and society. The existing powers had a vested interest in maintaining order and the status quo as a matter of divine economy. There was little room within that power structure for talk of change—either in nature or society. Darwin’s theory challenged these conventions by implying that change, not stability, was the usual state of life on Earth. Reformers interpreted this change as progress—specifically, progress toward a freer, stronger, wealthier society. Many of them believed that this could only occur by unconstrained competition, as outlined by Thomas Malthus. Out of these swirling social currents emerged Herbert W. Spencer’s social Darwinism (despite the name, Darwin never endorsed this application of his theory). Spencer’s idea struck a popular nerve by suggesting that social institutions should step aside and allow nature to cull the poor and destitute, thus creating a fitter race of beings.
Eventually, social Darwinism fell out of favor for several reasons: (1) many people did not want, and would not permit, large-scale starvation among the unemployed and working poor; (2) wars and the changing fortunes of industrialized nations destroyed the notion of inevitable progress; and (3) contrary to the prejudiced Victorian outlook, scientists came to realize that neither technology nor material wealth was a good indicator of a given culture’s complexity or survivability.
The latter quarter of the twentieth century has seen a revival of cultural Darwinism, especially in the form of Edward O. Wilson’s sociobiology. Ostensibly, this field of study differs from Spencer’s view in wanting to describe, rather than prescribe, human behavior. Some of these accounts are proving highly controversial, especially those that attempt to describe adultery, rape, domestic violence, infanticide, and other abhorrent behaviors in terms of evolutionary theory. The usual explanations include motivations of self-preservation and an unstoppable urge to multiply one’s genetic heritage at almost any cost. However, these accounts resemble Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. In fact, there is a great lack, if not an outright absence, of solid evidence showing the causative relationship between genetics and complex human behavior.
Richard Dawkins has taken a different approach by proposing that human culture evolves apart from biology, but still according to Darwinian principles. He has coined the term “meme” to describe units of cultural inheritance, and intends to draw a strong analogy with genes. However, ideas, tunes, fashions, and other so-called memes follow neither Darwinian selection nor Mendelian rules of inheritance and transmission.
Despite the promise of merely describing behavior, the popularizers of Darwinian orthodoxly give the impression that evolution can (and will) point toward a system of ethics based on biology. Certainly this is the case with Wilson. He believes that a greater knowledge of genetics will reveal a moral code more suited to our genetic constitution. Apart from the poor prospects of finding such a connection, there seems to be no adequate justification for going from what is the case in biology, to what oughtto be the case in human culture.
Dawkins believes evolution created a brain capable of making moral judgments, but avoids proposing an evolutionary ethic. If anything, Dawkins views our evolutionary heritage as a peculiarly human challenge. We are in a unique position, he believes, to act against our selfish genes.
Although couched in scientific terms, all these writers have a humanistic agenda. Specifically, they envision values and morals having a basis in whatever makes us human (apart from our spiritual self, of course). There is a sense of urgency in their appeals because they wish to bring an end to Judeo-Christian ethics and any other religious influences on society.
Yet, as Dennett points out, if God exists and the Bible is His Word, then a Christian ethic is on the firmest ground of all. God has provided principles and rules by which we are to act, and has promised to enforce those laws. But there is more. The Incarnation brought us a message of purpose, self-discipline, selflessness, and love for all mankind. Dawkins and company want a reason to be good, but it is not to be found in their world view.
[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This article was extracted, and has been significantly revised, from a chapter I wrote for inclusion in Dangerous ’Isms, edited by B.J. Clarke (Southaven, MS: Power Publications, 1997).]


Cowley, Geoffrey (1997), “Viruses of the Mind: How Odd Ideas Survive,” Newsweek, p. 14, April 14.
Dawkins, Richard (1982), The Extended Phenotype: The Gene as the Unit of Selection (Oxford: Freeman).
Dawkins, Richard (1989), The Selfish Gene (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press), second edition.
Dawkins, Richard (1994), “Universal Biology,” Nature, 360:25-26, November 5.
Dennett, Daniel C. (1995), Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life (New York: Simon & Schuster).
Hurst, Laurence D. and Richard Dawkins (1992), “Life in a Test Tube,” Nature, 357:198-199, May 21.
Miele, Frank (1995), “Darwin’s Dangerous Disciple: An Interview With Richard Dawkins,” Skeptic,3[4]:80-85.
Nunney, Leonard (1998), “Are We Selfish, Are We Nice, or Are We Nice Because We Are Selfish?,”Science, 281:1619,1621, September 11.
Thomas, David (1997), “The Man Who Put the Win into Darwin,” The Express, pp. 10-11, January 5.
Wilson, Edward O. (1978), On Human Nature (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).
Wilson, Edward O. (1980), Sociobiology (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), abridged edition.

No More Roe by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


No More Roe

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Although she recanted her views about abortion seven years ago, relatively few people know that “Jane Roe,” the pseudonym that Norma McCorvey assumed as the lead plaintiff in the infamous Roe v. Wade case, no longer supports abortion. In fact, she now adamantly opposes the slaughtering of innocent babies. In May 2002, just twenty minutes from our offices at Apologetics Press, Ms. McCorvey told of her “conversion” story before a crowd of 350 people. McCorvey informed her listeners that after over twenty years of supporting the pro-abortion platform, she finally saw the error of her ways. What did it take? McCorvey indicated that the “straw that broke the camel’s back” came while she was working in an abortion clinic and instructed to enter a room where aborted fetuses were kept. Her assignment was to count the body parts of an infant that had just been aborted—to make sure the doctor had retrieved the entire baby from the mother’s womb. McCorvey, who had worked in at least four abortion clinics, stated, “I went back to the parts room, and I looked at this tiny little infant, and I freaked” (as quoted in McGrew, 2002).
The woman who symbolized a woman’s right to have an abortion now sees abortion for the heinous sin that really is—the sacrifice of innocent blood (cf. Proverbs 6:17). She now understands how barbaric it is to tear an infant from his mother’s womb, literally shredding the child into “parts.” McCorvey not only has seen the error of her ways, but she currently spends much of her time helping women save babies, rather than encouraging them to slaughter them (“Who is Jane,” 1998). I believe that if more pro-abortionists would allow themselves to see what Norma McCorvey saw firsthand, they would “swap sides” as well.
If “Jane Roe,” the onetime leading spokeswoman for abortion, could change the error of her ways, then undoubtedly our elected representatives and Supreme Court Justices could do the same. Let us pray to the Almighty regarding this matter, and encourage our government officials to uphold the value of human life by one day reversing the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.


McGrew, Jannel (2002), “ ‘Jane Roe’ Tells Story of Change at Fund-raiser,” Prattville Progress, May 1.
“Who is ‘Jane Roe’?” (1998), [On-line], URLhttp://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/1998/roe.wade/stories/.

The “Window” of the Ark by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


The “Window” of the Ark

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

After informing Noah about an upcoming worldwide flood, and commanding him to build a massive boat of gopher wood (approximately 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high), God instructed His faithful servant, saying, “You shall make a window for the ark, and you shall finish it to a cubit from above” (Genesis 6:16, emp. added; NOTE: A cubit is roughly 18 inches). Upon reading about this window in the ark, many people have contemplated its usefulness (or lack thereof). Since, historically, windows have served two basic purposes (that of lighting and ventilation), inquiring minds want to know what good one window 18 inches square would be on an ark with a capacity of about 1,400,000 cubic feet full of animals. Dennis McKinsey, the one-time editor of the journal Biblical Errancy (touted as “the only national periodical focusing on biblical errors”), once asked: “How could so many creatures breathe with only one small opening which was closed for at least 190 days? [sic]” (1983, p. 1). Other skeptics also have ridiculed the idea that sufficient ventilation for the whole ark could have come through this one window (see Wells, 2001). In fact, anyone even slightly familiar with animal-house ventilation needs would be somewhat taken back by the apparent lack of airflow allowed by the ark’s design. Unless God miraculously ventilated the ark, one little window on a three-story-tall boat (which was a football-field-and-a-half long) simply would not do.
Questions regarding the “window” on Noah’s ark and the problem of ventilation have persisted largely because the Hebrew word translated window (tsohar) in Genesis 6:16 appears only here in the Old Testament, and linguistic scholars are unsure as to its exact meaning (see Hamilton, 1990, p. 282). Translators of the KJV and NKJV employ the word “window” to translate tsohar; however, according to Old Testament commentator Victor Hamilton, they “do so on the basis of the word’s possible connection with sahorayim, ‘noon, midday,’ thus an opening to let in the light of day” (p. 282). Hebrew scholar William Gesenius defined tsoharin his Hebrew lexicon as simply “light,” and translated Genesis 6:16 as “thou shalt make light for the ark” (1847, p. 704). He then surmised that this “light” represented, not a window, but windows (plural). The ASV translators also preferred “light” as the best translation for tsohar. Still more recent translations, including the RSV, NIV, and ESV, have translated Genesis 6:16 as “make aroof” for the ark, instead of make a “window” or “light.”
Image courtesy of Vance Nelson, CreationTruthMinistries.org
Such disagreement among translations is, admittedly, somewhat discouraging to the person who wants a definite answer as to how tsohar should be translated. What is clear, however, is that the word translated “window” two chapters later, which Noah is said to have “opened” (8:6), is translated from a different Hebrew word (challôwn) than what is used in Genesis 6:16. The wordchallôwn (8:6) is the standard Hebrew word for “window” (cf. Genesis 26:8; Joshua 2:18). Yet, interestingly, this is not the word used in 6:16. One wonders if these were two different entities, or if in 8:6, Noah opened one of a plurality of aligned windows that God instructed him to make in 6:16?
Another assumption often brought into a discussion regarding the “window” (tsohar) of 6:16 is that it was one square cubit. Although many people have imagined Noah’s ark as having one small window 18 inches high by 18 inches wide, the phrase “you shall finish it to a cubit from above” (6:16, NKJV; cf. RSV) does not give the Bible reader any clear dimensions of the opening. The text just says that Noah was to “finish it to a cubit from the top” (NASB; “upward,” ASV). The truth is, the size of the lighting apparatus mentioned in this verse is unspecified. The text seems to indicate only the distance the opening was from the top of the ark, rather than the actual size of the window. Thus we cannot form a definitive picture of it. But we do know that nothing in the text warrants an interpretation that the “window” was just a “small opening” (as skeptic Dennis McKinsey alleged). A more probable theory, which aligns itself appropriately with the text, is that the opening described in Genesis 6:16 extended around the ark’s circumference 18 inches from the top of the ark with an undeterminable height. According to John Woodmorappe, such an opening would have provided sufficient light and ventilation for the ark (1996, pp. 37-44).
When reading the Bible, it always is important to remember that many details about the events it records often are not revealed to the reader. So it is with the plans recorded in the Bible regarding Noah’s ark. As Henry Morris commented, “It was obviously not the intention of the writer to record the complete specifications for the ark’s construction, but only enough to assure later readers that it was quite adequate for its intended purpose...‘to preserve life on the earth’ ” (1976, p. 182). Truly, absolute certainty regarding the openings on the ark cannot be determined. We know of an opening mentioned in Genesis 6:16 (tsohar), as well as one (challôwn) mentioned in 8:6. And, since Noah, his family, as well as the animals on the ark, survived the Flood, it is only logical to conclude that God made proper ways to ventilate the ark in which they lived during the Flood. Although nothing in Scripture demands that those of us living millennia after the Flood need to know how it was ventilated, lighted, etc., it is very likely that God used the opening mentioned in Genesis 6:16.
Gesenius, William (1847), Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979 reprint).
Hamilton, Victor P. (1990), The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
McKinsey, Dennis (1983), “Commentary,” Biblical Errancy, pp. 1-2, November.
Morris, Henry M. (1976), The Genesis Record (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Wells, Steve (2001), Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, [On-line], URL: http://www.Skepticsannotatedbible.com.
Woodmorappe, John (1996), Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study (Santee, CA: Institute for Creation Research).