"LIFE AFTER DEATH" Where Do The Spirits Of Believers Go At Death? INTRODUCTION 1. Having determined from the Scriptures that man possesses a soul or spirit which continues after death, the question now before us is this: "Where do the spirits of believers go at death?" 2. In this lesson, I will be examining two different views: a. One that I will call the "traditional" view, which is held by many Christians b. Another that I will propose as the "scriptural" view, which I believe is more in harmony with what is revealed in the New Testament -- PLEASE NOTE: The use of the terms "traditional" and "scriptural" is rather arbitrary, used only to distinguish between the two views [Beginning, then, with...] I. THE "TRADITIONAL" VIEW EXPLAINED A. STATED BRIEFLY, THIS VIEW TEACHES THE FOLLOWING... 1. When we die... a. Our body return to the dust b. Our spirits go to HADES, the realm of the "unseen" 2. This realm of departed spirits (i.e., Hades) is divided into three parts... a. PARADISE, the place of rest for the righteous b. TARTARUS, the place of torment for the wicked c. And a GULF, separating the two 3. During this interim period between death and the resurrection, the righteous... a. Are separated from God and Christ b. For God and Christ are "in heaven", and Paradise is in Hades, not heaven 4. Such is the state of the "disembodied spirits" until the Resurrection a. At which time the spirits of both the wicked and the righteous will be united with their resurrected bodies b. At this time will occur the Judgment, after which... 1) The RIGHTEOUS will spend eternity with God 2) The WICKED will spend eternity in "HELL" (Grk., gehenna) B. THE SCRIPTURAL JUSTIFICATION FOR THIS VIEW... 1. Is based heavily upon what we read in Lk 16:16-31 a. I.e., the story of the rich man and Lazarus b. Notice especially verses 22-26 2. Lk 23:43 is also offered as support a. Where we read of the account of Jesus and the thief on the cross b. Both of whom would be in PARADISE that very day following their deaths 3. That this PARADISE was not in HEAVEN where God dwells is based upon Jesus' statement in Jn 20:17 a. These words of Jesus were made three days after promising the thief they would BOTH be in PARADISE b. Yet Jesus had not YET ascended to the Father! c. Suggesting, therefore, that PARADISE was not HEAVEN (or IN heaven)! 4. As further evidence that PARADISE is not in HEAVEN, appeal is made to Ac 2:29-35 a. Concerning CHRIST... 1) His soul was not to be left in HADES (the realm of the dead, which included PARADISE) 2) But after His resurrection Jesus ascended to the right hand of God (i.e., HEAVEN) b. Concerning DAVID... 1) Surely he went to PARADISE (in HADES) when he died, as did Abraham, Lazarus, and the thief on the cross 2) But note that Peter said "David did not ascend into the heavens" (Ac 2:34) a) Suggesting the one could die, be in HADES (Paradise), and yet not be in heaven with the Father b) Just as Christ implied to Mary in Jn 20:17 [Such is the "traditional" view as I understand it. Now let's take a closer look...] II. THE "TRADITIONAL" VIEW EXAMINED A. THE EVIDENCE FOR THIS VIEW IS CONVINCING, TO A POINT... 1. This explanation for what happens after death appears to be consistent with all the information we have PRIOR to the ASCENSION OF CHRIST! 2. But in light of what is revealed in the Scriptures AFTER Jesus' ascension into heaven... a. This "traditional" view may need some revision b. But only concerning what now happens to the spirits of the RIGHTEOUS between death and the resurrection B. REASONS TO SUGGEST A REVISION OF THE "TRADITIONAL" VIEW... 1. After Jesus ascended to heaven... a. PARADISE (the resting place of the righteous) is now spoken of as being in heaven! 1) We saw earlier that when Jesus spoke to Mary He had not yet ascended to the Father (i.e., heaven), though He had been in "Paradise" prior to His resurrection 2) But note carefully that "Paradise" is used synonymously with the "third heaven" (i.e., God's dwelling place) by Paul in 2Co 12:2,4 3) Whereas Paradise was once distinct from heaven, now it is not! b. The expectation of the righteous is to be with Christ upon death - Php 1:23; 2Co 5:6-8; 1Th 5:9-10 c. The book of Revelation speaks of the righteous dead being in heaven while much is still going on here on earth - Re 6: 9-11; 7:9-17 d. The Scriptures speak of Jesus bringing the righteous with Him at His Final Coming - 1Th 3:13: 4:13-14 1) I understand this to refer to the "spirits" of those who were righteous, and who are coming to be united with their resurrected bodies - cf. 1Th 4:16 2) Of course, I suppose Jesus could "pick up" these saints in HADES on His way, but in view of other passages I believe they are already with Him 2. Such passages as these found AFTER Christ's ascension into heaven I have a hard time reconciling with those made BEFORE Christ's ascension (unless something has changed, of course) [Therefore, as an alternative to the "traditional" view, I propose a more "scriptural" view...] III. THE "SCRIPTURAL" VIEW EXPLAINED A. FIRST, EVERYTHING ABOUT THE "TRADITIONAL" VIEW REMAINS THE SAME FOR THE PERIOD "PRIOR" TO JESUS' ASCENSION... 1. All who died went to HADES a. The wicked went to torment, awaiting judgment b. The righteous went to Paradise to await the Judgment 2. Even Jesus, with the thief on the cross, went to Paradise, which was in Hades B. BUT NOW, AFTER JESUS' ASCENSION, THE "INTERMEDIATE STATE" OF THE RIGHTEOUS IS DIFFERENT... 1. Paradise is now in HEAVEN, not HADES 2. The hope of the righteous is to spend the "intermediate state" in the presence of the Lord, awaiting the resurrection and the Judgment C. IF THE "INTERMEDIATE STATE" OF THE RIGHTEOUS CHANGED, WHY? 1. That the change did occur appears to be clear 2. The "why" may be speculation on my part, but here is one suggestion... a. God is holy, and sin cannot be tolerated in His presence 1) The righteous who died before the cross of Christ, were forgiven in view of Christ's coming death 2) But prior to the death of Christ, the true price for sin had not been paid 3) So until their spirits were actually "redeemed from sin by the blood of Christ", they were not permitted in God's presence, and Paradise remained in Hades b. After the cross, and when He ascended, Jesus offered His blood as the "eternal redemption price" to God to appease for sin - cf. He 9:11-15; 23-26 1) With such an offering, the spirits of just men were now "made perfect" (He 12:23), and now in a position to be with God and Christ in heaven, awaiting the resurrection and Day of Judgment - cf. Re 6:9-11 2) Thus Paradise (the intermediate dwelling place of the righteous) can now be in heaven! c. And therefore the Christian, whose spirit is also made perfect by the blood of Christ, can have the hope to be with Christ and God in heaven, during the "intermediate state" prior to the bodily resurrection at the Last Day! CONCLUSION 1. Again, the WHY may be purely speculation, but I do believe there is sufficient evidence to re-examine a view many have traditionally held a. A view that was true prior to the ascension of Christ b. But one that now fails to adequately explain many statements made after Christ's ascension 2. Our next study will look more closely at the condition of the righteous during the "intermediate state"
The Silence of the Scriptures: An Argument for Inspiration
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
J.W. McGarvey (1829-1911) once was characterized by The London Times as the greatest Bible scholar on either side of the Atlantic. There is no question but that the professor of sacred history in the College of the Bible at Lexington, Kentucky (where he taught for forty-six years) was one of the most skillful defenders of the Scriptures in his day. His books on Christian evidences, and other topics, are still classics and should be circulated widely.
In the summer of 1893, McGarvey delivered a lecture on the “Inspiration of the Scriptures” before theYMCA at the University of Missouri. His arguments appealed mainly to certain internal evidences from the New Testament itself that argue for the Bible’s supernatural origin. One of McGarvey’s points was this: the very brevity of the New Testament narratives is astounding. For example, in connection with some of the most dramatic episodes of the New Testament, where we would expect the writers to satisfy our longing for loads of details, the sacred narrative contains only abbreviated descriptions.
Consider the episode of Christ’s baptism. How many pages might have been consumed in describing this epochal event, had such been left to the literary skill of human authors? God broke a verbal silence of fifteen centuries and audibly acknowledged His beloved Son. And yet, Matthew records the circumstance with but a dozen lines, Mark and Luke utilize about half that space, and John has only a sentence of about twelve words describing the occasion. McGarvey asked: “What man with a writer’s instinct could have stopped short of many pages in describing the scene so as to do it justice?” (n.d., p. 6). The scholarly professor cited other equally impressive examples of the startling restraint employed by the New Testament writers. It is quite reasonable, he argued, to conclude that God Himself was supervising the composition of the documents. The Bible was not designed to satisfy our inquisitiveness. Only such materials as were consistent with the Lord’s higher purpose were incorporated into the text.
McGarvey’s argument is quite compelling. Moreover, we are convinced that it may be pursued even further. A strong case can be made in favor of the Bible’s inspiration on the basis of things that itomits altogether. In other words, the silence of the Scriptures—in areas where human curiosity clamors for additional information—is another internal evidence that reflects the heavenly origin of the biblical documents. Let us consider this matter.
NO ORIGIN FOR GOD
The Bible begins with the simple declarative, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Neither in Genesis 1, nor elsewhere in Holy Writ, is any attempt made to explain the origin of the Creator of the Universe. His self-existence is assumed as a primary truth. The prophets speak of His eternal presence without any adorning explanation. From everlasting to everlasting, He is the eternal God (cf. Psalm 90:2 and Deuteronomy 33:27).
The religions of ancient paganism postulate bizarre origins for their deities. Egyptian theology “dwelt on the birth of the gods from Osiris, and told how he, the sun, brought forth the seven great planetary gods, and then the twelve humbler gods of the signs of the zodiac; they, in their turn, producing the twenty-eight gods presiding over the stations of the moon, the seventy-two companions of the sun, and other deities” (Geikie, n.d. 1:27). How significant it is that Moses, who grew up in Egypt, incorporated no such foolishness into the Genesis record. A Babylonian creation epic, Enuma elish,tells how pagan deities, Apsu and Tiamat, “procreated the other gods” (Mitchell, 1988, p. 69). The mythology of India spoke of Brahma, “the father of all creatures,” being hatched from a great egg of golden splendor. The Greeks constructed genealogical tables chronicling the history of their gods, etc., but the Scriptures stand aloof from such absurdities.
NO DESCRIPTION OF GOD
The literature of heathenism is filled with representations of its gods. For instance, Baal, a Canaanite deity, frequently became a factor in the apostasy of the Hebrew people. Baal was a god of fertility. He is depicted on ancient monuments holding a lightning bolt in his hand (suggestive of his control of the weather); at other times his genital organ is prominently displayed because he was the “god of sex.” His mother, Asherah, the patron goddess of sex, is depicted in a vulgar fashion in the artwork of ancient Ras Shamra (see Boyd, 1969, pp. 117-122). El, the husband of Asherah, is portrayed as an old man with white hair and a beard (Smick, 1988, 1:411). Many other pagan gods likewise are represented quite graphically.
The God of the Bible, however, never is given any sort of a physical description. While it is true that anthropomorphic (meaning “man form”) language is employed frequently in Scripture to denote certain attributes of the Lord (e.g., the “eyes,” “hands,” etc., of the Lord)—because such figures are necessary to accommodate a human level of comprehension—nevertheless, the divine writers clearly stress that God is a spirit being and, as such, has no physical composition (John 4:24; Luke 24:39). He is invisible to human sight (1 Timothy 1:17; 6:16). If the Bible is a work of fiction, why is there no description of God?
NO DESCRIPTION OF JESUS CHRIST
When William Manchester wrote his acclaimed biography, American Caesar—Douglas McArthur, he referenced descriptions of the illustrious military commander on more than seventy pages (1978, p. 781). By way of contrast (even though Jesus Christ is the central character of the Scriptures, and is found either directly or indirectly in every book of the Bible), there is not one line in the New Testament giving a depiction of His physical attributes. In fact, the only remote reference to Jesus’ appearance is a vague allusion in the book of Isaiah where the Savior is represented as having “no comeliness” that His fellows would consider desirable (Isaiah 53:2). Imagine that. No description is given of the most prominent person of the Bible, the founder of the Christian religion—only a passing prophetic remark that suggests He was less-than-handsome! What group of writers, desiring to ensure the success of Christianity, would have adopted such an approach?
THE SILENT YEARS
With the exception of the miraculous events connected with the birth of Jesus, we know little of the first thirty years of His life upon this Earth. When He was eight days old, He was circumcised according to Jewish law (Luke 2:21). Thirty-three days later He was presented in the temple (Luke 2:22-39). There is the account of the visit of those wise-men from the east (Matthew 2:1-12), and then the flight into Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod (Matthew 2:13-23). There is a general reference to His eventual settlement at Nazareth (Matthew 2:23:Luke 2:39-40), and then the record of a visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve years old (Luke 2:41-50). Following this, there is a blank space in the narrative that covers eighteen years in the life of Christ. Other than the generic notation that He was advancing in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:51-52), we know absolutely nothing of this time span. Are we not curious? Would not an average human biographer have given some interesting data? That is a normal expectation. It was this very circumstance that called forth a number of ancient spurious writings, known collectively as the Apocryphal Gospels. These extra-canonical documents arose because of the desire to have a fuller knowledge of certain periods of the life of Christ that the genuine Gospels omitted. Consider, for instance, the Childhood Gospel of Thomas. It depicts the boy Jesus making little birds out of clay and causing them to fly away. Again, when another boy accidentally bumped into Him, Jesus supposedly caused him to die immediately (see Findlay, 1906, 1:671-685). No such absurdities deface the New Testament.
In addition to the foregoing cases, there are scores of biblical contexts within which there are strange absences of information—from a purely human viewpoint.
(1) Moses is the most prominent character of the Old Testament. He is mentioned more than 750 times in the Hebrew Scriptures, and approximately 80 times in the New Testament. At a very early age he was adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter (a brilliant strategy by his mother to save her son’s life). He thus was reared as an Egyptian prince. The first forty years of his life were spent in the environment of Egypt’s splendor and power. Between Exodus 2:10 and 2:11, however, there is a silent gap of four decades. Only the book of Acts briefly says: “And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians; and he was mighty in his words and works” (7:22). What were those words and works? What exciting events occurred during that first third of Moses’ life? We long to know, but the Holy Spirit did not see fit to supply the information.
(2) The most revered item of furniture in Israel’s sacred tabernacle was the “Ark of the Covenant,” that small wooden chest, overlaid with gold, which contained the tables of the ten commandments, a pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod that had budded miraculously. What happened to the ark? Sometime after the chest was placed in Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 8:1-11), it simply vanished. Movies and television specials have speculated regarding its fate, but no one knows what happened to it. Surely a non-inspired literary genius would not have left the ark’s destiny shrouded in obscurity. Indeed, the apocryphal book of 2 Maccabees has Jeremiah hiding it in a cave until the time when God would restore His people (2:4-8). Men cannot resist the temptation to speak where God has been silent.
(3) Joseph of Nazareth was the foster father of Jesus, and Mary was his mother. The benevolent character of Joseph is tenderly revealed in Matthew 1. He was willing to endure the scorn of his peers by taking his pregnant betrothed into his home. What happened to him? He simply disappears from the New Testament record following that journey to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve years old (Luke 2:41ff.; cf. Matthew 12:46). And what of Mary? Surely she was one of the noblest women God ever made. Apparently she was in the care of the apostle John following the death of her son (John 19:26-27). We find her in the company of the disciples following Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:14). But how did she eventually die? There is not a clue. What human biographer would have left these matters dangling?
(4) Is it not most unusual that there are no descriptions of the Lord’s apostles in the New Testament, and, except for a few scant references (see Luke 4:38; 1 Corinthians 9:5), there is no information regarding their families.
(5) The mission of John the Baptizer was to prepare the Jews for Christ. Accordingly, John immersed those who repented of, and confessed, their sins (Matthew 3:6-8). His baptism was “for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4), and those who rejected it were repudiating the very counsel of God Himself (Luke 7:30). Unquestionably the Lord’s apostles submitted to John’s baptism, but where is the record of such? One can only infer it. Furthermore, where, after the establishment of Christianity, is there any mention of the evangelistic work of Andrew, Simon the Zealot, Thomas, et al.? The labors of most of the apostles are missing from the record. Who in the world, following common literary impulses, is going to pass over things of this nature? Finally, with the sole exception of James (see Acts 12:1), there is not a word as to how the apostles died.
(6) When Jesus died, following His six hours of agony on the cross, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, there was a tremendous earthquake, and, perhaps most shocking of all, the tombs in Jerusalem were opened, “and many bodies of the saints that had fallen asleep were raised; and coming forth out of the tombs after his resurrection they entered into the holy city and appeared unto many” (Matthew 27:52-53). Did these ex-corpses speak to folks on the street? What was the effect of this miracle upon the citizens of the city? What ultimately happened to those saints? Are we to be left hanging? Additionally, what was the impact of that severing of the temple’s veil? There is not a word concerning the panic that must have seized the Jewish leaders.
(7) The book of Acts is one of the great adventure narratives of the New Testament. It tells of the establishment and growth of Christianity. A major component of that expansion was the ministry of the brilliant zealot, Saul of Tarsus (later to become known as Paul, the apostle). Paul’s conversion and his fruitful missionary campaigns are detailed in thrilling fashion from Acts 9 onward. Towards the end of Acts, Paul is arrested as a result of Jewish harassment. Ultimately, he appeals his case to Caesar (the Roman Supreme Court, if you will), and is taken to Rome. As the book of Acts concludes, Paul has been under house-arrest—daily chained to a Roman soldier—for two years. But Acts then ends quite abruptly. When did Paul appear before Caesar (Acts 27:24)? What did he say? What effect was produced?
(8) There is a considerable amount of extra-biblical evidence indicating that the author of the third Gospel was Luke, the physician (Colossians 4:14). This view was “universally believed” by the middle of the second century. No one “speaks doubtfully on this point” (Plummer, 1896, p. xvi). Moreover, both external and internal evidence suggests that the author of the third Gospel also penned the book of Acts. The Muratorian Canon (a fragmentary list of New Testament books from the late second century A.D.) states that Luke compiled “the Acts of all the Apostles” for “most excellent Theophilus (see Acts 1:1; cf. Luke 1:3). Luke was an associate of Paul on several of the apostle’s missionary journeys and during the dramatic voyage to Rome. This circumstance is reflected in the “we” segments of the book of Acts (16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16). The character of Luke’s writings reveals that he was a brilliant scholar and a devoted companion to Paul—to the very end of the great apostle’s life (see 2 Timothy 4:11). And yet, as valuable as his contributions were, the New Testament student knows absolutely nothing of his background (e.g., where he was born, his educational training, his family associations, his conversion, etc.). Nor is anything known of his death. He is the only Gentile writer of the New Testament (his literary contributions comprising about 25% of that document), yet he is ever discreetly in the background. He is named in only three places in the entire New Testament (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:11). Given the propensity of ordinary journalists, would any writer—who played such a prominent role in the affairs he chronicled—have so veiled himself? Surely, to the analytical person, this must suggest the superintendence of the divine Spirit of God.
What shall we make of these—and many other—puzzling omissions from the sacred text? Simply this: the Holy Spirit was the guiding hand behind the composition of the Bible. He incorporated into the sacred volume only such materials as were germane to the divine purpose. He did not cater to human curiosity. Thus, Bible inspiration is demonstrated as much by its exclusions as by its inclusions. The wide variety of evidence documenting the authenticity of the Holy Scriptures is truly profound.
Boyd, Robert T. (1969), A Pictorial Guide to Biblical Archaeology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Findlay, A.F. (1906), “Gospels (Apocryphal),” A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, ed. James Hastings (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark).
Geikie, Cunningham (n.d.), Hours with the Bible (New York: Hurst).
McGarvey, J.W. (n.d.), Sermons (Cincinnati, OH: Standard).
Manchester, William (1978), American Caesar—Douglas McArthur, 1880-1964 (Boston: Little, Brown).
Mitchell, T.C. (1988), The Bible in the British Museum (London: British Museum).
Plummer, Alfred (1896), The Gospel According to Luke (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark).
Smick, Elmer B. (1988), Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Walter Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Tampering with the Chief Engineer's Design
|by||Jeff Miller, Ph.D.|
The Great Designer designed designers. An exploding mass cannot design anything, much less design a designer. Genesis 1:28 confirms concerning mankind: “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the Earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the Earth.’” Thus began the field of engineering. Using our ingenuity, humans have since engineered many ways to fulfill the commands to “subdue” and have “dominion over” the Earth, from harnesses for oxen to automobiles to space shuttles and beyond. God created the Universe with potential for infinite growth in human knowledge that can lead to many improvements in living conditions when we learn to harness and utilize the phenomena God designed and implemented on Earth for us to discover. Consider the effect that harnessing the power of electricity, magnetic fields, nuclear reactions, and chemical reactions has had on life as we know it. Unfortunately, as the poison of atheism becomes more prevalent in society, encroaching into the field of engineering, we can be guaranteed that progress will be slowed, and eventually, stopped or even reversed.
|An image of an artificial heart exhibited at the London science museum.|
A few years ago, I attended a Bio-engineering seminar concerning design improvements on artificial hearts for use in transplants. After the presentation, during the question and answer period, a professor stood up and asked the presenter a question that went something like this: “Has nature optimized the heart yet after all of these millions of years of its evolution, or is it still necessary for us to help it along with our designs?” At that moment, it struck me how dangerous the Theory of Evolution can be if allowed to run rampant in the field of engineering. Those who follow out the implications of the Theory of Evolution could cause not only a hindrance to scientific and technological progress, but could actually place us in mortal danger. How so?
If engineering design is approached from an evolutionary perspective, the above question is appropriate. Has nature optimized the ______, or do we need to fix it? If the Theory of Evolution is true, there should be a multitude of examples in the physical world of creatures and plants, and the components that comprise them, that are sub-optimal—since they are all in the process of evolving to better states. [NOTE: Such is not the case, which is further proof that the Theory of Evolution cannot effectively account for the state of the world.] After all, an explosion, plus a series of random accidents, no matter how many, do not produce optimized systems. Vast improvements would be necessary. Thus, the intelligence, experience, and wisdom of mankind could improve the condition of the system that “Mother Nature” dealt us. [Also note: the fact that we have the ability even to consider improving nature, implies that we as humans are too advanced to be the result of a series of random accidents. Nature could not create and then improve us to the point that we can take over and improve it. Mother Nature could not produce an entity greater than herself. The effect cannot be greater than the cause.]
However, if the Theory of Evolution is false, and the God of the Bible is the Chief Engineer of the Universe, an evolutionary approach could be very dangerous. To tamper with the design of the Almighty Engineer of the Universe would be tantamount to placing oneself above Him in knowledge and declaring oneself to be omniscient. Consider also that science is constantly evolving as research is conducted. Views once held as fact have been radically revised or even abandoned. Though some people for centuries held that the Earth was flat, modern science has proven that the Earth is spherical. The medical practice of “bleeding” a sick patient to eliminate ailments in the blood was common only 200 years ago. However, through further research and scientific investigation, and following many deaths, such a practice now seems barbaric.
Now consider an example that could be directly relevant today. If humans become arrogant enough to think that we have the knowledge necessary to improve the design of the heart, act on those feelings, and then find out through further research that the design of the heart was actually already optimal, what damage could have been done in the process? Those whose hearts had been “improved” by the wisdom of mankind, could have shorter life spans or suffer major physical complications due to the arrogance of atheistic engineers. Thus, humans could potentially be harmed due to atheist engineers making design decisions without adequate understanding of the intricacies of God’s design! No wonder Almighty God, by the hand of Paul, warned: “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their own craftiness’; and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile’” (1 Corinthians 3:18-21).
Many other examples illustrate the dangers of atheistic engineering. Since sin entered the world in Genesis three and mankind was evicted from the Garden of Eden, the pristine conditions of life on Earth have severely deteriorated. The Earth, as well as the general condition of the human body, is running down as the Second Law of Thermodynamics implies. Disease and genetic mutation, for example, attest to this. Isaiah declared: “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the Earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke. The Earth will grow old like a garment, and those who dwell in it will die in like manner....” (51:6). We have used God-given engineering abilities to combat some of this decline through designs of our own, including, for example, medicine to combat disease, and sophisticated structures to withstand the forces of natural calamity. However, with a warped perspective about Who the Author and Designer of the Universe is, mankind could attempt to fix things that do not need fixing, and thereby bring calamity, suffering, and unhappiness.
Now consider: If engineers would respect the Chief Engineer Who has surrounded us with amazing prototypes—an engineering school into which we have all been admitted—they could make quicker and better advancements in technology. Engineers of the past understood this. The Wright brothers, for example, analyzed birds to determine how to get an airplane to stay in the air (Fausz, 2008; Root, 1905), thereby achieving their objective. However, evolutionists will tend not to use God’s optimized designs since, to them, there is no ultimate Engineer to mimic. Rather, they are the results of a multitude of random accidents. Evolutionists would, therefore, have to recognize that optimized designs could not possibly come from an explosion. [NOTE: Ironically, many evolutionists openly gape at the amazing complexity and seeming design of the world, and yet fail to recognize the implications of their awe (Block, 1980, p. 52; Jastrow, 1981, pp. 96-97; Lipson, 1980, 31:138; Wylie, 1962, p. 25).] Thus, technological advancement is slowed and designs often will fail to reach their potential.
If scientists fail to ask the right question, we will begin to see notable deleterious effects in the field of engineering. If engineers ask the right question, they, and indirectly we, will continue to have major advancements in technology as blessings from the Chief Engineer. What is the right question? The correct question to ask is, “Why did the Chief Engineer do it that way?” Studying that question will help us to have better “dominion” over the Earth. He designed the Earth, and we can be assured that His design, and the rationale behind His design, will be very useful. After all, who could possibly out-design the Chief Engineer of the Universe?
Block, Irvin (1980), “The Worlds Within You,” Science Digest, special edition:49-53,118, September/October.
Fausz, Jerry (2008), “Designed to Fly,” Reason & Revelation, 28:9-15, February, [On-line], URL:http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3599.
Jastrow, Robert (1981), The Enchanted Loom: Mind in the Universe (New York: Simon and Schuster).
Lipson, H. S. (1980), “A Physicist Looks at Evolution,” Physics Bulletin, 31:138, May.
Root, Amos Ives (1905), “First Published Account of the Wright Brothers Flight,” Gleanings in Bee Culture (Medina, OH: A.I. Root Company), [On-line], URL:http://www.rootcandles.com/about/wrightbrothers.cfm.
Wylie, Evan M. (1962), Today’s Health, July.
Evolution, Intelligent Design, and Testability
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
As modern science has acquired the ability to see deeper and deeper into the natural world, problems with the waning theory of evolution continue to plague its proponents. A multiplicity of natural, biological systems exhibit complexity that could not have arisen through natural, evolutionary processes. In response to these findings, the Intelligent Design movement has begun to gain major footholds in academic circles. In a nutshell, intelligent design suggests that many natural systems are too complex to have evolved.
In an attempt to discredit intelligent design, supporters of evolution have made and repeated one primary line of attack. They posit that intelligent design is not scientific because it cannot be tested. The writings of those who bring this accusation against intelligent design are legion. In an article titled, “UNLV Teachers Dismiss ‘Design’ Theory,” the author quotes Stanley Smith, professor of the Department of Biological Sciences, as saying: “[S]cience includes hypotheses that must be tested and proved or discarded.” Smith then stated: “All science follows the scientific method, in which we make observations in nature, create testable hypotheses as to why we see patterns that we do and then conduct experiments that test those hypotheses” (as quoted in Thomas, 2005). Smith further quipped that intelligent design does not meet this criterion. Associate professor of biological sciences, Steven de Belle, commented on intelligent design as well. He stated: “‘It is not science. The defining feature of the scientific method is lacking in ID,’ which includes making observations and testing hypotheses” (Thomas, 2005).
In an article describing the University of Kansas decision to teach a course on intelligent design as religious myth, Paul Mirecki, the chair of KU’s religious studies department, and teacher of the new course, commented on intelligent design in this way: “Creationism is mythology.... Intelligent design is mythology. It’s not science. They try to make it sound like science. It clearly is not” (Gendall, 2005).
In his article titled “Scientific Theories More Than Guesses,” Jonathan Hoffman wrote: “Thomas Harrington correctly pointed out that a scientific theory is testable and falsifiable. What he failed to state, however, is that ‘intelligent design’ does not meet these criteria” (2005).
Here, then, is the alleged situation. Evolution is scientific because it is testable and falsifiable, and has been tested and confirmed. Intelligent design, on the other hand, is not scientific because it cannot be tested and cannot be falsified, and therefore should not be viewed as science. In order to sort this out, it would be appropriate to see just how testable and falsifiable the theory of organic evolution really is.
Every evolutionary scientist must recognize that the fundamental tenet of organic evolution is the idea that life arose from non-living material substances such as chemicals. This idea, often referred to as spontaneous generation, certainly is a testable idea. Ironically, however, biological scientists have been testing this idea for centuries and have discovered that life in this Universe does not andcannot arise spontaneously from natural processes. This fact is well-known and admitted even by evolutionary scientists. George Wald wrote in Biological Sciences: “If life comes only from life, does this mean that there was always life on earth? It must, yet we know that this cannot be so. We know that the world was once without life—that life appeared later. How? We think it was by spontaneous generation” (1963, p. 42). David Kirk noted: “By the end of the nineteenth century there was general agreement that life cannot arise from the nonliving under conditions that now exist upon our planet. The dictum ‘All life from preexisting life’ became the dogma of modern biology, from which no reasonable man could be expected to dissent” (1975, p. 7). And Martin Moe stated:
A century of sensational discoveries in the biological sciences has taught us that life arises only from life, that the nucleus governs the cell through the molecular mechanisms of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and that the amount of DNA and its structure determine not only the nature of the species but also the characteristics of individuals (1981, p. 36, emp. added).
According, then, to every piece of experimental data that has been collected, life in this material Universe does not arise from non-living chemicals. Thousands of experiments have been designed and executed, each of which verifies this fact (for more information see Thompson, 1989). And yet, the general population is being led to believe that evolution is scientific because it is experimentally testable and falsifiable? If, by scientific, it is meant that, regardless of the outcome of the experiments, the theory will be maintained, then by all means evolution is scientific. In reality, the origin of life according to organic evolution has been tested and disproved. Therefore, if the foremost precept of organic evolution is untestable (at the least) and has been satisfactorily disproved (at the most), how can its advocates maintain that it alone belongs in the science classroom?
Is intelligent design scientific and testable? Can intelligence be tested and verified? In reality, intelligence in the Universe can be tested and verified. The SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) project is a classic example of the testability of intelligence. Basically, millions of dollars were pumped into a project to detect codes or messages from outer space that would indicate intelligence. Those involved in the project recognized that mathematical patterns, codes, languages, algorithms, and various other “fundamental laws” would be accepted as evidence that some type of intelligence did exist. The premise that can be surmised from the SETI program is that intelligence could be recognized and distinguished from non-intelligent, natural explanations; the required criteria for this recognition being some type of code, mathematical sequence, physical patterns, etc. Such codes have been found in biological systems such as DNA and living organisms (see Butt, 2005).
Another example of testing for intelligence would be that of the IQ (Intelligent Quotient) test designed to measure intelligence scientifically. Countless tests have been designed to assess the amount of intelligence possessed by individuals. Web sites that discuss such testing often use words and terms for their tests such as “scientifically valid,” “intelligence testing,” “developed by Ph.D.s,” etc. (seeIQtest Home Page). From such admissions, it can be inferred that intelligence is measurable and testable. If a person could take the different aspects of IQ tests that verify intelligence and apply them to things that are studied in the natural world, then intelligence could be tested and verified. In essence, that is exactly what has been done in intelligent design books such as Michael Behe’sDarwin’s Black Box and William Dembski’s Intelligent Design.
W.R. Thompson, in his introduction to the 1956 edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species, stated it perfectly when he said:
It is...right and proper to draw the attention of the non-scientific public to the disagreements about evolution. But some recent remarks of evolutionists show that they think this unreasonable. This situation where scientific men rally to the defense of a doctrine they are unable to define scientifically, much less demonstrate with scientific rigor, attempting to maintain its credit with the public by suppression of criticism and elimination of difficulties, is abnormal and undesirable in science (p. xxii).
In truth, proponents of evolution know that it cannot withstand open criticism. Furthermore, they know that evolution cannot be tested nor is it any more scientific than intelligent design; in fact, it is less so. Therefore, in order for them to keep it ensconced in textbooks, they must suppress criticism of it and not allow its varied and numerous flaws to be considered critically. The situation that has arisen due to this irrational adherence to evolution is nothing short of “abnormal and undesirable in science.” The next time someone demands that evolution is testable, ask for the experimental evidence that confirms that life came from non-life and observe the tell-tale silence that speaks the truth.
Behe, Michael J. (1996), Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (New York: The Free Press).
Butt, Kyle (2005), “The SETI Project, Falling “Floppy Discs,” and A Major Missed Implication,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/361.
Dembski, William A. (1999), Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press).
Gendall, Michael (2005), “Religious Course Stresses Mythology,” [On-line], URL: http://badgerherald.com/news/2005/11/29/religious_course_str.php.
Hoffman, Jonathan (2005), “Scientific Theories More Than Guesses,” [On-line], URL: http://www.alligator.org/pt2/051129column.php.
IQtest Home Page (2005), [On-line], URL: http://www.iqtest.com/.
Kirk, David (1975), Biology Today (New York: Random House).
Moe, Martin A. (1981), “Genes on Ice,” Science Digest, 89:36,95, December.
Thomas, Laurel (2005), “UNLV Teachers Dismiss ‘Design’ Theory,” [On-line], URL: http://unlvrebelyell.com/article.php?ID=880.
Thompson, Bert (1989), “The Bible and the Laws of Science: The Law of Biogenesis,” [On-line], URL:http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2004.
Thompson, W.R. (1956), “Introduction,” Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (New York: Dutton: Everyman’s Library).
Wald, George (1963), Biological Science: An Inquiry Into Life (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World).
Our Christian Schools
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
There was a time in American history when the moral character of a schoolteacher was part of the qualification process. Society felt that schoolteachers should be superior models of moral and spiritual behavior for their pupils. As hard as it may be to believe, the average American community would never have countenanced the idea of hiring a schoolteacher who consumed alcoholic beverages, or who used foul language, or who was divorced, or who was divorced and remarried unscripturally—thereby living in an adulterous relationship. The moral and spiritual decay of American civilization is so pervasive that, for all practical purposes, previous perspectives have been reversed. It is now virtuallyillegal to take into account a teacher’s moral behavior.
Take, for example, the recent arrest of a 37-year-old Berkeley, California high school teacher for moonlighting as a prostitute. Comparing herself to Martin Luther King Jr. in her fight to decriminalize the illicit activity, she insisted that her feminist ideals encourage a woman’s right to “self-determination”: “I feel that prostitution laws are dinosaurs. That they’re similar to sodomy laws, and they will eventually be repealed” (see “Feminist Teacher…,” 2003). One of her fellow teachers called her a “tremendous teacher,” and condemned the notion that “teachers can’t do what they want to in their personal lives” (see Hill, 2003). The gradual erosion of basic standards of decency, virtue, and ethical right and wrong has taken the nation into moral chaos, sexual depravity, and social confusion. The sexual anarchy that is being flaunted and allowed to flourish unimpeded is literally bringing American civilization to the brink of a complete moral and spiritual breakdown.
The central justification for the creation of private Christian schools is to provide a haven from the worldliness that has inundated the public school system. When a Christian school—which claims to be an antidote to the secular, worldly school—permits the gradual encroachment of worldliness into its own ranks, it has forfeited its right to exist—or at least to bill itself as a “Christian” school. Such a school either needs to stop existing—or stop claiming to be “Christian.” The compromise of even one moral principle places it in the same class with secular schools. It differs from them only in degree—not in kind.
In addition to allowing ourselves to tolerate and become comfortable with the worldliness that engulfs the nation, somewhere along the line the original intention of the Christian school was subtly altered. Attention was originally directed toward insulating children from worldliness, while educating them to live life in view of God, i.e., to prepare them to be upstanding, decent adults. Now, however, the focus of the private Christian school is to achieve academic credibility according to the world’s standards. The Christian school now seeks secular credibility and worldly authenticity for the student. With that goal in view, the personal moral conduct of teachers has taken a back seat to the need to provide academic “quality.”
To call attention to this insidious occurrence is taboo. It is considered by some as tantamount to challenging the Lord Himself. An irrational attitude exists among many that a school—one’s alma mater (or employer)—is sacred and must be defended, protected, and excused at all cost. This misplaced zeal puts loyalty to men and manmade institutions above loyalty to Christ and His church. It places personalities and politics above principle, and sentimentality above spirituality. It is a classic case of the tail wagging the dog.
Should/would the church permit a lesbian couple to serve as house parents at a church-affiliated children’s home? Should/would the church allow a practicing homosexual to serve as a professor at a Christian college? Should the church allow a Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu to hold a teaching position at a Christian school? Should a Christian who drinks alcohol and participates in dancing at nightclubs be allowed to teach in a Christian institution? Should moral behavior and religious beliefs have any bearing on the matter of who should be allowed to occupy faculty positions in our Christian schools, colleges, and universities?
If a person is unhindered by personal prejudice or politics, the answers to these questions are biblically clear and indisputable. The only conclusion to draw that is in harmony with Bible principles and Christian spirituality is that Christian school employees—especially the administrators and teachers—ought to be above reproach in their moral standing. If a teacher engages in immoral social behavior (e.g., use of alcohol, dancing, etc.), he or she ought to be removed from employment. If a teacher unscripturally divorces his or her mate and remarries in violation of Bible teaching (i.e., Matthew 19:9), he or she should be removed from employment. (If the partner of a lesbian “marriage” is unsuitable for employment in a Christian school, then the partner of an adulterous marriage is equally unsuitable.) Does one honestly think on the Day of Judgment that God is going to endorse, sanction, or ignore the imaginary line that some Christians have drawn between homosexuality and adultery? Both fall into precisely the same biblical category, and both are equally condemned as “fornication” (1 Corinthians 6:9).
“But we will be sued if we practice such rigid standards.” Maybe so. Probably so. It’s time for Christians to consider how much they really love Jesus Christ. Did Paul consider the possibility of a lawsuit when he instructed to take immediate public disciplinary procedures against the Christian who was a fornicator (1 Corinthians 5:1-5)? After all, lawsuits were actually occurring among the Christians (1 Corinthians 6:1-8). “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25; cf. 1 Samuel 15:24; John 12:42-43). To fear a lawsuit is to fear men more than God. Jesus warned: “My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:4-5).
No project, institution, or good work must be allowed to obscure the greater reality of obeying God in every sphere and every aspect of life. We dare not allow ourselves to be blinded by loyalties that result in our making void the clear teaching of Jesus Christ (Matthew 15:3; Mark 7:9,13).
Hill, Angela (2003), “Teacher in Sex Case Delays Plea,” Alameda Times-Star, [On-line], URL: http://www.timesstar.com/cda/article/print/0,1674,125%257E1486% 257E1596495,00.html.
“Feminist Teacher Defends Her Prostitution,” (2003), WorldNetDaily, [On-line], URL: http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=34309.
Only One Language before Babel?by Eric Lyons, M.Min.
According to some skeptics, Genesis 10 verses 5, 20, and 31 contradict what is stated in Genesis 11:1. Supposedly, since Moses recorded that the descendents of Shem, Ham, and Japheth spoke different languages in Genesis 10, and yet he indicated that “the whole earth had one language and one speech” in Genesis 11:1, then a discrepancy exists. Obviously, before the dispersion of man at Babel, the whole Earth could not have both many languages and only one language at the same time.
The explanation to this “problem” is that the events recorded in Genesis 10-11 were not written chronologically. Genesis 10 is more of an overview, while Genesis 11 speaks of one event within Genesis 10. Some of the things recorded in chapter 10 occurred before the tower of Babel, while others occurred sometime later. The simple fact is, Bible writers did not always record information in a strictly chronological sequence (and they never claimed to do such). Genesis 2:5-25 does not pick up where chapter 1 left off; rather it provides more detailed information about some of the events mentioned in chapter one. Several of the events in Genesis 38 involving Judah and Tamar occurred while the things recorded in chapter 39 and following took place. Similar to a teacher who is telling her class a story and inserts information into it about something the main character did in the past or will do in the future, Moses “jumps” ahead of himself at times by inserting parenthetical material like that found in Genesis 10.
Aside from the languages mentioned in Genesis 10, there is another “clue” in the text that reveals the events recorded in chapter 11 occurred before the descendents of Noah began speaking different languages and spreading throughout the Earth. In 10:25, it mentions a man named Peleg (meaning “division”) who received such a name because “in his days the earth was divided.” This is a clear reference to the confusion of languages at the tower of Babel described in chapter 11. The “Earth” (i.e., people; cf. 11:1) divided when God confused the languages (11:7-8). Thus, the division in Peleg’s day is linked contextually to the linguistic segregation at Babel (Genesis 11:1-9).
When Genesis 10 and 11 are read with the understanding that not all events are recorded chronologically, one clearly sees how the events revealed in these chapters are entwined tightly with one another—so tightly in fact that those who seek contradictions are doomed to fail. Linguistically speaking, there was no pre-Babel confusion; only one language was in existence (Genesis 11:1).
A MIDSUMMER KNIGHT
It makes perfect sense for those who’ve been given a wondrous gift to be grateful for it and, all things being equal, for them to think highly of the one who gave it to them. It’s no surprise that they will praise the generosity of the giver and the costliness of the gift. But it would distasteful if the giver went on and on and on about how much it cost him and how good it was of him to make the gesture.
Can you imagine being invited to a sumptuous meal of the tastiest and most nutritious things in the nicest of company and having to listen to the host explain it minute detail—not once but over and over again—how much trouble and how much expense she had to go to to produce the grand spread? (Could you enjoy a meal, however fine it is, under such circumstances?) Everyone knows that such matters should be left to the guests to winkle out of the reluctant host who is all the while saying things like, “Really, it was nothing!” “Honestly, it was no trouble.” Such a host isn’t lying; she’s simply expressing her pleasure at having the opportunity to go out of her way to please and it is precisely because she will not make a big thing of it that the guests think so much of her and her efforts.
There is something Christ-like in that spirit. We have no record of Jesus setting his disciples down and telling them how good it is of him to do for them and others what he is doing and going to do. “If only you could know how much this is all costing me, but, alas, no one can appreciate the depths to which I have descended. If I could only make you understand…” None of that. That others do some of that is no surprise, but even they are sparing in how they deal with that aspect of the Lord’s sacrifice and we aren’t left to feel so overwhelmed by his trouble that we can’t enjoy the gift of life he gives us to enjoy and express. Now that we’ve come to know him it’s the kind of thing we expect from him.
O’Henry tells of Gaines, “the man who said he thought New York was the finest summer resort in the country.” While others moaned and melted in the heat, dived for the shade or an electric fan, and wished for the mountains, he mocked the notion of going to the woods to eat canned goods from the city, being wakened in the morning by a million flies, getting soaked to the skin catching the tiniest fish and struggling up perpendicular cliffs. No sir, he preferred to stay at home. If he wanted fish, he’d go to a cool restaurant—home comforts, that’s what he chose, while the fools spent half their summer driving to and from their spartan locations with all the modern inconveniences.
A friend urged him to come with him for two weeks to Beaverkill, where the fish were jumping at anything that even looked like a fly. He said a mutual friend, Harding, had caught a three-pound brown trout—but Gaines was having none of it. “Nonsense!” he’d snort and then off to his office to plunge himself into a mountain of work until late in the afternoon when, with feet up on his desk, he mused to himself: “I wonder what kind of bait Harding used.”
The man who said he thought that New York was the finest summer resort in the country dozed off in the stifling heat, was wakened by his mail-bringing clerk, and decided to take a quick look before he left for the day. A few lines of one of them said:
My Dear Dear Husband:
Just received your letter ordering us to stay another month...Rita’s cough is almost gone...Johnny has gone wild like a little Indian...it will be the making of both children...work so hard, and I know that your business can hardly afford to keep us here so long...best man that ever...you always pretend that you like the city in summer...trout fishing that you used to be so fond of...and all to keep us well and happy...come to you if it were not doing the babies so much good...I stood last evening on Chimney Rock in exactly the same spot...when you put the wreath of roses on my head...said you would be my true knight...have always been that to me...ever and ever.
The man who said he thought New York was the finest summer resort in the country, on his way home in the sweltering summer heat, dropped into a cafe and had a glass of warm beer under an electric fan. “Wonder what kind of a fly old Harding used,” he murmured to himself.
I love it when those in love sometimes “tell lies” gallantly. They say things no one believes—least of all themselves. They’re forever making sacrifices—some large, some little—to make life easier, finer, lovelier, for those they love. They’re in love and they do what lovers have done in every age down the centuries—they give themselves in whatever ways their love and situation calls for. And they do it without trumpets blowing or affected sweetness and they don’t wear pained expressions. They’d almost convince you that they really did believe that New York City was the finest summer resort in America.
[Quoted from my little book called Let Me Count The Ways with permission from Howard Publishing Company, West Monroe, Louisiana, 2001]
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
The Biblical Doctrine of the GodheadSince the late second century
A.D., controversy has existed concerning the nature of the Godhead. Is God a solitary person—simply manifested in three forms? Or do three separatepersonalities exist, each of whom possesses the nature of deity? Is the popular doctrine of the Trinity true or false?
Though the word “Trinity” is not explicitly found in the Bible, the teaching that there are three individual personalities of divine nature (known in the New Testament as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is thoroughly scriptural, and has been generally acknowledged by the writers of “Christendom” since the apostolic age.
A.D.190, Theodotus of Byzantium advocated the absolute personality of God. Asserting that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were one person, he sought to propagate his views in the church at Rome. He is said to be “the first representative of Dynamistic Monarchianism whose views have been recorded” (Newman 1931, 198).
Later, however, the “oneness” heresy found its fullest expression in Sabellius of Libya, who commenced the publication of his errors about
A.D.260. Sabellius denied the doctrine of the Trinity, maintaining that God is uni-personal, and that the names Father, Son, and Holy Ghost merely designate the same person in different capacities. As the Father, God created the world; as the Son, he redeemed it; as the Holy Ghost, he sanctifies the elect. These three, he said, are no more different persons than the body, soul, and spirit of man are three persons (Sanford 1910, 827).
In modern times, this doctrine has been taught by the United Pentecostal Church and other religious groups. It is, however, false. This survey will show: (a) The Scriptures do teach the concept of monotheism, i.e., there is one God—one unified divine nature. (b) However, the divine nature, i.e., the nature or quality which identifies one as deity (as opposed, for example, to the angelic or human natures) is shared by three distinct personalities, and that these personalities are characterized in the New Testament as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each of the three personalities of the Godhead is eternal and equal in essence, though they may assume individual roles in their respective work (which may involve subordination).
Biblical MonotheismMonotheism is the belief in one God, in contrast to polytheism, the notion that numerous gods exist. Unquestionably, the Bible affirms the concept of monotheism. In the first commandment of the Decalogue, Jehovah charges, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Again, “Hear, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah” (Deuteronomy 6:4). Or, “Jehovah, he is God; there is none else besides him” (Deuteronomy 4:35, 39; 1 Kings 8:60; 1 Chronicles 17:20; Isaiah 43:11; Zechariah 14:9).
In the New Testament, Paul says that “God is one” (Galatians 3:20), while James notes: “You believe that God is one; you do well: the demons also believe, and shudder” (James 2:19). Clearly, therefore, the oneness of God, in some sense, is a biblical truth. The question is: what does Scripture mean by one God?
In the Old Testament, the words
elohim, from related roots, are generic designations of God. The New Testament term is
theos. These appellations, when used of the true God, simply suggest the nature or quality of being divine — deity. The word “God” is not the name of a personality; it is the name of a nature, a quality of being. When it is said, therefore, that there is but one God, the meaning is: there is but one divine nature. There is a unified set of traits or characteristics that distinguish a personality as God.
The Divine ThreeIt is also clear that the Scriptures teach that there is a personal distinction between those individuals identified in the New Testament as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and these persons are in some sense three. Study very carefully the following passages in which the persons of the divine Godhead are distinguished: Matthew 3:16-17; 28:19; Luke 1:35; John 14:26; 15:26; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Ephesians 2:18; 4:4-6; 1 Peter 1:2; Jude 20-21; Revelation 1:4-5.
It is obvious that these inspired verses reveal three separate persons. Furthermore, additional biblical data reveal that each of these three persons is God — i.e., each possesses the quality or nature of deity. The Father is deity (Ephesians 1:3), as is the Son (Hebrews 1:8), and so also the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4). Any elementary student of logic knows perfectly well that the Godhead cannot be both one and three without a logical contradiction being involved — if the adjectives “one” and “three” are employed in the identical sense. But the fact of the matter is, they are not used in the same sense. There is but one divine nature, but there are three distinct personalities possessing that unified set of infinite qualities. Thus, there is no contradiction at all.
Without a recognition of the above principle, some Bible passages would be difficult to harmonize. For example, in Isaiah 44:24 Jehovah affirms that he “stretches forth the heavensalone; that spreads abroad the earth (who is with me?).” So, God was alone. Yet in John 8:29 Christ said, “And he [the Father] that sent me is with me; he has not left me alone.” And so, Jesus was not alone, for the Father was with him; correspondingly, the Father was not alone. The question is: how can God be both alone and not alone?
In Isaiah’s passage, God (the one divine nature) was being contrasted with the false gods of paganism; the personalities of the Godhead were not a consideration there. In John 8:29, the relationship of two divine personalities (Father and Son) was in view. Different subjects, but no discrepancy. Similarly, when a certain scribe affirmed that “he [God] is one; and there is none other but he” (Mark 12:32), he was correct. He was declaring monotheism, as suggested above. In another setting though, Christ, revealing a distinction between himself and the Father, said: “It is another that bears witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesses of me is true” (John 5:32).
Old Testament Evidence of Divine PluralityThe biblical doctrine of the Godhead is progressive. By that we mean that the concept unfolds, being gradually illuminated from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Nevertheless, the multiple personalities of the holy Godhead clearly are distinguished in the Old Testament.
(1) “In the beginning God [
elohim— plural] created [
bara— singular]” (Genesis 1:1). In the plural form
elohim, many scholars see a “foreshadowing of the plurality of persons in the Divine Trinity” (Smith 1959, 11). Adam Clarke declared that the term “has long been supposed, by the most eminently learned and pious men, to imply a plurality of Persons in the Divine nature” (n.d., 28). Richard Watson wrote that
elohim“seems to be the general appellation by which the Triune Godhead is collectively distinguished in Scripture” (1881, 1024).
Though some scholars call this plural form a “plural of majesty” (i.e., a suggestion of multiple majestic traits), Nathan Stone observed that the plural of majesty “was not known then” (1944, 12). Professor Harold Stigers noted: “A multiplicity of personalities in the Godhead, implied in the creative process in the use of the titles ‘God’ (1:1) and ‘Spirit of God’ (1:2), is involved in the creative and redemptive work of God” (1976, 47).
(2) Multiple divine personalities are alluded to in such passages as follows:
- “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). (Note: this cannot refer to angels, as is often claimed, for angels are themselves created (Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 148:2, 5), not creators; and the context limits the creating to God [v. 27].)
- “The man is become as one of us, to know good and evil” (Genesis 3:22).
- “Come, let us go down, and there confound their language” (Genesis 11:7). (Incidentally, “come” in the Hebrew text is plural, so that the divine spokesman must be addressing and acting in union with at least two others [Thiessen 1949, 126].)
- “And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8).
- “Remember also thy Creator [Hebrew plural] in the days of thy youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
- In Genesis 18:21, Jehovah, temporarily assuming the form of a man, visits Sodom. Surveying the evil of that area, this “Jehovah” then “rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Jehovah out of heaven” (19:24). Two persons are clearly denominated “Jehovah.”
- “Thus says Jehovah, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, Jehovah of Hosts: I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God” (Isaiah 44:6). (Note: the language of this verse is applied to Christ in Revelation 1:17.)
- In Zechariah 11:12, 13, Christ prophetically says: “And I said unto them, if ye think good, give me my hire; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my hire thirty pieces of silver. AndJehovah said unto me ...”
- “Jehovah [the first person] said unto my Lord [the second person], Sit thou at my right hand” (Psalm 110:1).
- “Jehovah [the Father] laid on him [Christ] the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
- “The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against Jehovah, [the Father] and against his anointed [the Son] saying, Let us break their bonds asunder, And cast away their cords from us” (Psalm 2:2, 3).
New Testament Evidence of Divine PluralityThere are many obvious indications of distinction between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit in the New Testament. For instance, there is the clear case of the baptismal scene of Christ, where Jesus is in the water, the Father is speaking from heaven, and the Spirit is descending as a dove (Matthew 3:16-17).
Then there is Matthew’s record of the “great commission” where baptism is “into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). The term “name” (Greek
onoma) stands for becoming the possession of, and under the protection of, the one into whose name an individual is immersed (Arndt and Gingrich 1967, 575), and its singular form here likely stresses the unity of the holy Three. The multiple use of the article “the” before the words Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, however, according to a well-known rule of Greek grammar (Dana and Mantey 1955, 147), plainly demonstrates that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are separate persons, and not merely three manifestations of one person (Warfield 1952, 42).
There are other New Testament evidences revealing a distinction between the divine persons of the holy Godhead:
(1) Christ is said to be a “mediator” between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). The word “mediator” translates the Greek
mesos, “middle,” and
eimi, “to go”), and so literally, a go-between. Arndt and Gingrich note that the term is used of “one who mediates between two parties to remove a disagreement or reach a common goal. Of Christ with the genitive of persons between whom he mediates ...” (508). Clearly, Christ cannot be a mediator between God and man if he is the totality of the holy Godhead.
(2) In John 8:16-17, the Lord cited the Old Testament principle of multiple witnesses for legal documentation. He is countering the Pharisaic allegation that his witness is not true (v. 13). He reasons, therefore, that just as the law requires at least two witnesses to establish credibility, so the Lord is “not alone”; he bears witness of himself, and the Father bears witness of him. If Jesus is the same person as the Father, his argument makes no sense!
(3) Christ once taught: “I am the vine, and my Father is the husbandman” (John 15:1). In the same allegory he identified the disciples as “branches.” The narrative thus has three principal features: husbandman (the Father), vine (the Son), and branches (disciples). It is not difficult to see that there is as much distinction between the husbandman and the vine as there is between the vine and the branches.
(4) “But of that day nor that hour knows no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32). While Jesus was upon the earth, he knew not the time of the judgment day. The Father, however, did know! Thus, clearly the Father and the Son were not the same person. Similarly, “And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him” (Matthew 12:32). The contrast here between the Son and the Holy Spirit plainly shows that they are not identical in personality. These two arguments make it certain that Christ was neither the Father nor the Spirit.
(5) In speaking of Christ’s subordination to God, Paul says: “[T]he head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3). Edward Robinson noted the use of “head” (Greek
kephale): “Trop. of persons, i.e., the head, the chief, one to whom others are subordinate” (1855, 398). Would it make any sense to speak of one being head of himself?
(6) Jesus is said to be “the very image” of the Father’s substance (Hebrews 1:3). Of the word “image” (Greek
charakter), W. E. Vine observed:
In the New Testament it is used metaphorically in Heb. 1:3, of the Son of God as ‘the very image (marg. – the impress) of His substance,’ RV. The phrase expresses the fact that the Son is both personally distinct from, and yet literally equal to Him of whose essence He is the adequate imprint (1940, 247).(7) The following passages contain contrasts which reveal a distinction between the Father and the Son:
- Christ did not seek his own will, but the will of his Father (John 5:30).
- His teaching was not his, but the Father’s (John 7:16).
- He came not of himself, but was sent of the Father (John 7:28; 8:42).
- He glorified him (John 8:54).
- The Father does not judge, but has given judgment unto the Son (John 5:22).
(9) There are many grammatical forms which show the distinction between the persons of the Godhead. In addition to plural pronouns (e.g., “our,” “we,” “us” [John 14:23; 17:11, 21]), prepositions frequently function in this capacity. The Spirit is sent from the Father (John 15:26). In the beginning Christ was with (Greek
pros) God (John 1:1). He spoke the things which he had seen with (Greek
para) him (John 8:38), and he came forth from the Father (John 16:27). All created things are of the Father, and through Christ (1 Corinthians 8:6).Through Christ we have access in the Spirit unto the Father (Ephesians 2:18).
Conjunctions can also indicate a distinction. He that abides in the teaching of Christ has both the Father and the Son (2 John 9). Jesus rebuked the Jews: “Ye know neither me, normy Father: if ye knew me, ye would know my Father also [Greek
kai—as an adverb]” (John 8:19). Comparative terms reveal distinction. Though Christ did not hold onto his equalitywith God (Philippians 2:6)—in terms of the independent exercise of divine privileges—nonetheless, in essence he was equal with God (John 5:18). In Christ’s subordinate position, though, the Father was greater than he (John 14:28).
(10) Many verbal forms indicate that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are separate in personality. The Father sent the Son (John 7:29), and the Son sent the Spirit (John 15:26). The Father loves the Son (John 3:35) and abides in him (John 14:10). The Father gave the Son (John 3:16), exalted him (Philippians 2:9), and delivered all things unto him (Matthew 11:27). Jesus commended his spirit into the Father’s hands (Luke 23:46) and ascended unto him (John 20:17). The Bible contains many such expressions which are meaningless if the Father, Son, and Spirit are the same person.
If we were so disposed, not only could we introduce a number of additional biblical arguments, but we could also show that the writers of the first several centuries of the post-apostolic age were virtually one in affirming that the Godhead consists of three separate, divine persons. Concerning the matter of their being three persons in the Trinity, A. C. Cox wrote: “Evidences, therefore, are abundant and archaic indeed, to prove that the Ante-Nicean Fathers, with those of the Nicean and the Post-Nicean periods, were of one mind, and virtually of one voice” (1855, 49).
Baptism in the Name of Jesus OnlyBefore concluding, we need to address the Oneness Pentecostal idea that only certain words may be spoken during a baptismal ceremony (e.g., “I baptize you in the name of Jesus Christ”). Oneness clergymen contend that should the statement be made, “I baptize you into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” it would be a violation of Scripture, and thus negate the validity of the immersion. This exhibits a lack of biblical information on this theme.
First, let us note the illogical consequences of such a doctrine. If a specific set of words is to be pronounced at the time of a baptism, exactly what are those words? A brief look at the New Testament will reveal that a variety of expressions are employed when the terms “baptize” and “name” are connected. Observe the following:
- “... baptizing them into (
eis) the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
- “... be baptized ... in (
epi) the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38).
- “... baptized into (
eis) the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 8:16).
- “... baptized in (
en) the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:48).
- “... baptized into (
eis) the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5).
Second, the language is designed to express certain truths, not prescribe a ritualistic set of words. If the phrase “in the name of Christ” implies the saying of those words in connection with the act to which they are enjoined, what would Colossians 3:17 require?—“And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Accordingly, one would have to preface every word and act with the phrase “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Such highlights the absurdity of the Oneness position.
- Arndt, W. F. and F. W. Gingrich. 1967. Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
- Clarke, Adam. n.d. Clarke’s Commentary. Vol. 1. Nashville, TN: Abingdon.
- Cox, A. Cleveland, ed. 1885. Ante-Nicene Fathers. Vol. 6. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co.
- Dana, H. E. and J. R. Mantey. 1955. A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. New York, NY: Macmillan.
- Newman, A. H. 1931. Manual of Church History. Vol. 1. Chicago, IL: American Baptist Publication Society.
- Robinson, Edward. 1855. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. New York, NY: Harper and Brothers.
- Sanford, E. B., ed. 1910. A Concise Cyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Hartford, CT: S. S. Scranton.
- Smith, R. Payne. 1959. Genesis. Ellicottâ€™s Commentary on the Whole Bible. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
- Stigers, Harold. 1976. A Commentary on Genesis. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
- Stone, Nathan. 1944. Names of God. Chicago, IL: Moody.
- Thiessen, H. C. 1949. Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
- Vine, W.E. (1940), Expository Dictionary of the New Testament (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell).
- Warfield, Benjamin. 1952. Biblical and Theological Studies. Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian and Reformed.
- Watson, Richard. 1881. A Biblical and Theological Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Southern Methodist Publishing House.
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