"THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS" Chapter One OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To be impressed with the all-sufficiency of the gospel 2) To see how God's wrath may be directed toward our society today SUMMARY As is the custom in most of his epistles, Paul begins by extending greetings and offering thanks. Identifying himself as a bond-servant of Christ, he mentions his apostleship and its mission in the gospel of God concerning His Son: to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles (1-6). Addressing the recipients of his epistle as "all who are beloved in Rome, called as saints," he extends to them the popular two-fold greeting of that day: "grace" and "peace" (7). He is thankful for their well-known faith and reveals his desire to visit Rome and to proclaim the gospel there (8-13). The motivation behind that desire is his sense of obligation and bold conviction that the gospel is God's power to save (14-17). The mention of "salvation" naturally leads to the need for all men to be saved. Paul begins to demonstrate this need on the part of the Gentiles. He explains that because of the Gentiles' failure to acknowledge the eternal power and divine nature of God as revealed in the world around them, and for their subsequent pride and idolatry, they were therefore exposed to God's wrath from heaven (18-23). This wrath manifested itself in God simply letting them reap the fruits of their vanity. By giving them over "to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts," "to vile passions," and "to a debased mind," the result was such corruption that even those who knew better were caught in its clutches (24-32). OUTLINE (adapted from Jim McGuiggan) I. INTRODUCTION & THEME (1-17) A. CONCERNING PAUL (1-5) 1. His place in life: servant & apostle (1) 2. His story in life: the gospel of Christ (2-4) 3. His purpose in life: to produce obedience based on faith (5) B. CONCERNING THE ROMANS (6-15) 1. Paul's description of them (6-7) 2. Paul's report of them (8) 3. Paul's deep desire to visit them (9-10) 4. Paul's reason and eagerness to visit them (11-15) C. CONCERNING THE GOSPEL (16-17) 1. Its respectability: nothing to be ashamed of (16a) 2. Its nature: the power of God (16b) 3. Its aim: salvation (16c) 4. Its scope: for everyone who believes (16d) 5. Its content: the revelation of God's righteousness through faith (17) II. THE GENTILES' NEED OF SALVATION (18-32) A. WICKED MAN DISHONORING GOD (18-23) 1. Wicked man stifling God's revealed truth (18-19) 2. Wicked man despising the testimony of nature (20) 3. Wicked man ungrateful and foolish (21-22) 4. Wicked man given to idolatry (23) B. HOLY GOD "GIVING UP" ON WICKED MAN (24-32) 1. Giving them up to disgusting uncleanness (24-25) 2. Giving them up to lesbianism and homosexuality (26-27) 3. Giving them up to debased minds and all unrighteousness (28-32) WORDS TO PONDER gospel - literally, "good news;" in the NT it denotes the good tidings of the kingdom of God and of salvation through Christ (VINE) grace - "favor, goodwill, lovingkindness;" as used in reference to God's favor toward man, it's freeness is stressed; i.e., unmerited favor faith - "trust, conviction;" produced by God's Word (Ro 10:17), it expresses itself through obedience and love (Ro 1:5; Ga 5:6) power - from the Greek word dunamis (from which derives "dynamite"); "strength, ability" righteousness of God - 1) God doing that which is right (cf. Ro 3:25- 26); or 2) God's way of making one right with Him (related to the concept of "justification," declaring one to be "not guilty;" cf. Ro 4:6-8) REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) List the two main points of this chapter - Introduction (1-17) - The Gentiles' Need Of Salvation (18-32) 2) How was Jesus declared to be the Son of God? (4) - With power, through His resurrection from the dead 3) What was the objective of Paul's apostleship? (5) - To bring about the obedience of faith among all nations 4) Why did Paul want to go to Rome? (11-12) - To see them and share in their faith together 5) To whom was Paul obligated? (14) - Both to Greeks and barbarians, both to wise and unwise 6) What is God's power to save? (16) - The gospel of Christ 7) Why is it God's power to save? (17) - In it the righteousness of God is revealed 8) What two invisible attributes of God are revealed in nature? (20) - His eternal power and Godhead (divine nature) 9) How does God express His wrath? (24,26,28) - By "giving people up" to their own sinful passions 10) What one sin in particular is an indication that God's wrath toward man is in full force? (26,27) - Homosexuality
"THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS" Introduction AUTHOR: PAUL, the apostle (1:1) PLACE OF WRITING: CORINTH; as evident from the greetings of Gaius, who lived at Corinth (16:23; 1Co 1:14), and of Erastus, who had settled down there (16:23; 2Ti 4:20). Also, Phoebe, who apparently accompanied the epistle (16:1-2), was from the church at Cenchrea, a "suburb" of Corinth. TIME OF WRITING: 57-58 A.D.; while on his third journey (Ac 20:1-3), just prior to his arrival to Jerusalem with the collection for the needy saints (15:25-26; Ac 20:16; 24:17). BACKGROUND OF THE CHURCH AT ROME: Nothing is revealed in the New Testament as to the start of the church in Rome. It is possible that visitors to Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost following the Lord's ascension were among the 3000 saved and later took the gospel with them back home (Ac 2:10). Or it could be that among those dispersed following Stephen's death were some that went to Rome and preached the gospel there (Ac 8:1-4). The first we read of Christians from Rome is possibly that of Aquila and Priscilla, who along with all Jews were expelled from Rome by Claudius and were found by Paul at Corinth during his second journey (Ac 18:1-2). After travelling with Paul to Ephesus and working with the church there (Ac 18:18-19, 24-26; 1Co 16:19), we find them back at Rome and hosting a church in their house (16:3-5). From the greetings given by Paul in chapter sixteen, it appears that there were several churches in Rome meeting in various homes (16:5,14,15). The names of individuals would suggest that the Christians were primarily Gentiles, with a smaller number of Jews. The reputation of the Christians in Rome was widespread; both their faith (1:8) and obedience (16:19) were well known. For this reason Paul had long wanted to see them (15:23), with the goal of sharing in their mutual edification (1:11-12) and to be assisted on his way to Spain (15:22-24). PURPOSE OF WRITING: Paul expresses in this epistle that he had for some time planned to preach the gospel at Rome (1:13-15) and from there go on to Spain (15:22-24). Though he still had these intentions (15:28-29), the spreading cancer of the "Judaizing teachers" which had disrupted churches in Antioch, Corinth and Galatia was likely to make its way to Rome. To prevent this, and to assure that his visit to Rome would be a pleasant one (15:30-33), Paul writes: TO SET STRAIGHT THE DESIGN AND NATURE OF THE GOSPEL In doing so, he demonstrates how the gospel of Christ fulfills what is lacking in both heathenism and Judaism, thereby effectively replacing them as religious systems. Such an epistle would arm the church at Rome against those who would pervert the gospel or suggest that it was inadequate by itself. THEME: Romans 1:16-17 "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith.'" In these two verses Paul states his confidence in the gospel and the reasons for it. The bulk of his epistle is devoted to explaining why and how the gospel of Christ is God's power to save those who believe. BRIEF OUTLINE (adapted from Dextor Sammons) INTRODUCTION (1:1-17) I. JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH (1:18-11:36) A. SIN - THE "NEED" FOR SALVATION 1. The Need Of The Gentiles (1:18-2:16) 2. The Need Of The Jews (2:17-3:8) 3. The Universal Need For Salvation (3:9-20) B. JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH - THE "PROVISION" MADE FOR SALVATION 1. God's Righteousness Through Faith (3:21-31) 2. Abraham As An Example (4:1-25) C. FREEDOM - THE "RESULT" OF SALVATION 1. Freedom From Wrath (5:1-21) 2. Freedom From Sin (6:1-23) 3. Freedom From The Law (7:1-25) 4. Freedom From Death (8:1-39) D. JEW AND GENTILE - THE "SCOPE" OF SALVATION 1. God Chooses To Save Believers (9:1-33) 2. Israel Chose To Trust In Their Own Righteousness (10:1-21) 3. Both Jew And Gentile Can Have Salvation Through Faith (11:1-36) II. THE TRANSFORMED LIFE (12:1-15:13) A. IN RELATION TO OVERALL CONDUCT (12:1-21) B. IN RELATION TO CIVIL AUTHORITY (13:1-7) C. IN RELATION TO FELLOW MAN (13:8-14) D. IN RELATION TO WEAK BRETHREN (14:1-15:13) CONCLUDING REMARKS, INSTRUCTIONS, AND BENEDICTION (15:14-16:27) REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR INTRODUCTION 1) Who wrote the epistle to the Romans? - The apostle Paul (1:1) 2) From where was it written? - Corinth 3) What is the approximate date of writing? - 57 or 58 A.D. 4) What is the purpose of this epistle? - To set straight the design and nature of the gospel 5) Where is the theme of this epistle stated? - Romans 1:16-17
Reincarnation and the Bible
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
The American Heritage Dictionary states that reincarnation is the “rebirth of the soul in another body.” For many years, the belief in reincarnation was generally associated with eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. However, it is becoming increasingly popular to proclaim a belief in the Bible as the inspired Word of God, yet still maintain a belief in reincarnation. The obvious question arises from such a situation, “What does the Bible say about reincarnation?”
One straightforward statement that speaks directly to the idea of reincarnation is found in Hebrews 9:27-28: “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many” Without any vague terms, the writer of Hebrews explains that the general course of man’s existence is to taste death only once, and then be judged based on the actions that were accomplished in that one life. In order to underscore the number of times a person dies, the inspired writer declared that men die the same number of times that Christ was offered on the cross—only once. Such a statement goes a long way to prove that the Bible does not teach for reincarnation. (This verse deals with the generality of man’s existence, and excludes miraculous situations, where Christ, an apostle, or a prophet raised someone from the dead.)
Another biblical passage that militates against the idea of reincarnation is found in Luke 16:19-31. In this passage, Jesus told a story in which a poor man named Lazarus, and a rich man, both died. The Bible explains that Lazarus died and “was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom” (16:22), but the rich went to “torments in Hades” (16:23). The text further states that the rich man “lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom” (16:23). Here we have three men who once lived upon the Earth but have died, yet we do not see their souls or spirits reinhabiting some earthly body. Instead, we see the three men—Lazarus, Abraham, and the rich man—in a fully cognizant state in the realm of the dead, separate and apart from any earthly ties. In fact, the rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus back to Earth to warn his brothers, but Abraham refuses. Therefore, if Lazarus had died, and his soul no longer was on Earth, then he could not have been reincarnated to another earthly body or person. Furthermore, Abraham’s presence in this “realm of the dead” shows that Abraham had not been reincarnated either.
Again, in Luke 23:43, Jesus told the penitent thief who was crucified next to Him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” One must ask, if the body of the thief was going to remain on the Earth, and the soul of the thief was going to be with Jesus in Paradise, then what part of that man would be left to reincarnate into another earthly body?
Matthew 17:1-13 poses yet another situation that speaks against the idea that reincarnation occurs. In this passage, Peter, James, and John accompanied Jesus to a high mountain where Jesus was “transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him” (17:2-3). The presence of Moses and Elijah in this instance raises a very important question: If men are reincarnated, what were Moses and Elijah doing talking with Jesus? We know that the physical bodies of Moses and Elijah were not present (see Jude 9). Therefore, their spirits were present, which means that those spirits were not inhabiting some other earthly bodies. It is interesting to note that those who believe that the Bible allows for reincarnation sometimes use Matthew 11:8-14 to claim that John the baptizer was Elijah reincarnate, yet Matthew 17:3 proves that Elijah’s spirit was not in the body of John the baptizer. On the contrary, when Jesus mentioned that John had come in “the spirit of Elijah” (Luke 1:17), He simply meant that John had similar attributes to Elijah.
In looking at the Bible, one gets the clear picture that humans die only once, and that their disembodied spirits go to a “realm of the dead” to wait for the final judgment. The idea of reincarnation does not derive from nor can it be sustained by, the Bible. On the contrary, the Bible implicitly denies even the possibility of reincarnation. Because it is “appointed for men to die once,” we should be that much more diligent to make sure that the one life we live on this Earth accords with the will of the Divine Parent of the human race (Acts 17:29).
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000), (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.
Corinth in History and Archaeology
The biblical accounts of the travels of Paul often include societal information that is made more pertinent by a historical and archaeological examination of the locations of the churches founded in Acts. One such church was in Corinth in Achaia, where Paul stayed a year and a half during his second missionary journey (Acts 18:11). From Acts 18:1-18, it can be determined that there were a substantial number of Jews in the city (as evinced by the presence of a synagogue—18:4), that, likely, Corinth was the seat of government for the Roman province of Achaia (as evinced by the mention of Gallio as proconsul—18:12), and that it was a port city (18:18).
This provides some evidence, from which can be reconstructed only a vague view of the city and people of Corinth. However, through a consideration of the archaeological and ancient historical evidence, the Corinth of Paul’s time can come alive to the readers of Acts and the books of First and Second Corinthians. Plus, the text itself becomes more significant, once a background of the city and its people is understood. The Bible speaks only briefly about Corinth, but it is obvious from what is said, that it was a very important city. The geography of Achaia, and even the geography of that part of the Mediterranean, played a major role in ancient Corinth. Greece was divided between the mainland and the Peloponnesian peninsula, with a narrow isthmus connecting the two. Corinth was located just to the southwest of the isthmus, on the peninsula, overlooking the isthmus. With this location, Corinth was able to control all the terrestrial traffic (commercial and otherwise) that moved from the mainland to the peninsula (DeVries, 1997, p. 359). Corinth was serviced by two ports: Lechaeum on the Gulf of Corinth, which was a little more than a mile to the north of Corinth and led to Italy; and Cenchreae on the Saronic Gulf, which was a little more than six miles to the east and led to Asia Minor (Harrison, 1985, pp. 83-84).
The southernmost tip of the Peloponnesian peninsula, known as Cape Maleae, was the route around Greece, and was known for being a dangerous path (Blaiklock, 1965, p. 56; Harrison, p. 83). There even came to be a saying, based on the treacherous nature of the waters of Cape Maleae: “When you double Maleae, forget your home” (Harrison, p. 83). Because of this, ships carrying goods bound for Italy often unloaded in port at Cenchreae. Their goods were carried across the five-mile wide isthmus, and then were reloaded in the port at Lechaeum aboard ships bound for Italy. Smaller, lighter boats were placed on “trolleys” and moved along the diolkos, a paved highway that joined the gulfs at Cenchreae and Lechaeum (Blaiklock, p. 56; Harrison, pp. 83-84; DeVries, p. 360). Thus, Corinth was in a geographical position to control all traffic between Asia Minor in the east and Italy in the west, and between mainland Greece in the north and the Peloponnesian peninsula in the south.
Legend records that the mythological Argo, piloted by Jason with his crew of Argonauts, was built at Corinth (Blaiklock, p. 57). Historically, the area where Corinth sat was inhabited sporadically before the founding of the city itself, which occurred when Dorian Greeks settled in the area and founded the city of Corinth around 1000 B.C. Corinth soon established colonies on the islands of Sicily and Corfu in the eighth century B.C., and reached a new position of dominance during the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. It was during this time that Periander, son of Cypselus, built the diolkos between the Saronic Gulf and the Gulf of Corinth (DeVries, pp. 360-361). During the fifth century B.C., Athens challenged the Corinthian control of commerce by attempting to take over certain trade interests and colonies. Sparta, the rival city of Athens, sided with Corinth, and the city-states of Greece were plunged into the Peloponnesian War in 430 B.C. Sparta and Corinth prevailed, but Athens and Sparta continued to fight until the conquest of Greece by the Macedonians in 338 B.C. (Blaiklock, p. 57). As the Roman Empire began its conquest of the Mediterranean world, the Corinthians tried to defend themselves, but were destroyed in 146 B.C. by the Roman general Lucius Mummius, who slaughtered the men and sold the women and children into slavery. There was no real Corinth for almost a hundred years, until Julius Caesar reestablished it as a Roman colony in 44 B.C., and it was made the capital of Achaia in 27 B.C. by Caesar Augustus. Corinth was again the center of trade in Greece between Asia Minor and Rome (DeVries, p. 362; Harrison, pp. 84-85). It is therefore no wonder, seeing the great amount of commercial trafficking through Corinth, that Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla there plied their trade as tentmakers (Acts 18:2-3).
As a city, Corinth enjoyed good land, with the prominent feature being a 1,887-foot-tall limestone mountain called the Acrocorinth. The soil near the Acrocorinth was not fertile, but to the west the land was considered good agricultural property (Harrison, p. 86). The Acrocorinth served as the citadel for Corinth, with the temple of Aphrodite perched atop it, which supposedly housed one thousand shrine prostitutes (Harrison, p. 86; Duffield, 1985, p. 22). Regarding Corinth’s economy, LaMoine DeVries wrote:
Corinth had an economy based on trade and commerce, industry, and agriculture. While the annual rainfall of the region was quite limited, the city benefited from the production of agricultural products in the fertile coastal plain nearby, especially the cultivation of orchards and vineyards. In addition to agriculture, Corinth had at least two thriving industries that produced pottery and bronze metal works that were shipped throughout the Mediterranean (p. 360).
Since 1896, archeologists under the direction of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens have been excavating ancient Corinth. They found that during the time of Paul, many great buildings were being reconstructed after their destruction at the hands of Lucius Mummius, and that many new building were being built as well. This possibly explains Paul’s use of construction metaphors in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (see Furnish, 1988, pp. 16-17). Remains have been found of a sixth centuryB.C. Doric temple that was restored in the first century B.C., of which seven columns are still standing. Some say that this was the temple to Apollo, but no one is certain. Just to the north of the temple of Apollo was the north market, which housed shops for the sale of foodstuffs. The theater lay to the west of the north market, and was rebuilt and renovated many times throughout the years (Furnish, pp. 22-23).
An interesting archaeological find lies between the north market and the theater in the form of an inscription. This finding probably refers to a public official of Corinth, whom Paul appears to have identified by name in his letter to the Romans. In Romans 16:23 Paul conveyed greetings to the Roman church from several people, one of whom was “Erastus, the city treasurer.” Since the apostle almost certainly wrote Romans from Corinth, Erastus was probably the treasurer of the city. Erastus is associated specifically with Corinth in 2 Timothy 4:20. The Erastus inscription, which was found in Corinth in 1929, has been dated to the second half of the first century A.D.. Originally, it consisted of letters carved into limestone paving blocks and then inlaid with metal. Only two metal punctuation marks remain, however, although most of the inscription itself is still visible in a small plaza just east of the theater (Furnish, p. 20). The inscription in the pavement is translated, “Erastus in return for his aedileship [position as magistrate—AP] laid [the pavement] at his own expense” (Furnish, p. 20). It is highly possible that this is the same Erastus mentioned in Romans 16:23, 2 Timothy 4:20, and Acts 19:22.
To the south of the theater and temple of Apollo were several other temples, religious shrines, and Roman-style public buildings. Also present was a basilica, probably used as the judicial headquarters for the city of Corinth. If this were true, then Paul likely would have appeared before Gallio (Acts 18:12-17) at the basilica instead of at the ceremonial bema in the center of the forum (Furnish, p. 23). DeVries gave a very well summarized walk-through of Corinth, based on the archaeological evidence discovered:
The major entrance to the city was from the north; the Lechaion road moved from the Gulf of Corinth and its port southward to the city. As the road entered the city, its width increased to nearly twenty-five feet. It was paved with slabs of limestone and was lined with raised sidewalks with channels for drainage, colonnades, and shops. Beyond the shops to the west was a large rectangular basilica, the great temple of Apollo, the north market, and a theater. The large basilica, often called the north basilica, with chambers at each end, apparently functioned as a large hall. It was divided by two rows of columns and was perhaps used for a variety of public meetings. The temple of Apollo, originally built in the sixth century BCE, was designed with thirty-eight columns, seven of which remain standing today. The peribolos of Apollo and the fountain of Peirene were located east of the thoroughfare. The peribolos was a large courtyard enclosed by columns and dedicated to Apollo whose statue stood in its midst. The fountain of Peirene, a large reservoir with a capacity of more than eighty-one thousand gallons, was fed by natural springs and provided the major source of water for the city (p. 364).
DeVries went on to describe the agora, or market, which was divided by a row of shops and the bema [seat or step of judgment—AP] into the lower and upper forums; the bouleuterion, where the council met; a series of shops, possibly restaurants or bars, where pits, fed with cold spring water, kept wine cool; small temples to Apollo, Tyche, Venus and Hera located to the west of the agora; the sanctuary of Demeter and Kore; a large pottery industrial area; and the Lerna-Asclepeum complex, which contained bathing, exercise, and dining areas all devoted to the healing of the infirmed and consecrated to Asclepius, the god of healing (pp. 365-366).
While dated later than the time of Paul, two archaeological finds proved that there was a significant number of Jews at Corinth. The first was an inscription that read, “Synagogue of the Hebrews,” proving that there were enough Jews in Corinth, at least as late as the fourth century, to warrant building a synagogue. Another piece, apparently from a synagogue, showed typical Jewish decorations of candelabras, palm branches, and citron (Furnish, p. 26). Other archaeological finds in the city of Corinth included a bronze mirror that had been made in Corinth, statues, a fountain with sculpted dolphins, and terra cotta models of body parts that were used in healing rituals at the Lerna-Asclepeum healing complex (Furnish, pp. 17-26).
As a major influence in the Roman Empire, Corinth was able to control all east-west commerce, and all Grecian north-south commerce. Many buildings and inscriptions have been found that confirm the biblical record of Corinth, and which prove that the accounts found in Acts and First and Second Corinthians are true and accurate. The more archaeologists dig into the deep, dark earth, the more they shed light upon the Bible and its accuracy.
Blaiklock, E.M. (1965), Cities of the New Testament (London, England: Revell).
DeVries, LaMoine F. (1997), Cities of the Biblical World (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Duffield, Guy P. (1985), Handbook of Bible Lands (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Furnish, Victor Paul (1988), “Corinth in Paul’s Time—What Can Archaeology Tell Us?” Biblical Archaeology Review, 14:15-27, May/June.
Harrison, R.K. (1985), Major Cities of the Biblical World (Nashville, TN: Nelson).
Atheist Finally “Sobers Up”
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Nearly 30 years ago, a debate of significant proportions took place. It was September 20-23, 1976. The place was the campus of North Texas State University in Denton, Texas. The disputants were two longtime professors of philosophy—Thomas B. Warren (whose Ph.D. in philosophy was from Vanderbilt) and Antony G.N. Flew (who was teaching in the University of Reading near London, England). The propositions they debated juxtaposed succinctly the real issue between thorough-going (positive) atheism and thorough-going (biblical) theism. Dr. Flew affirmed, “I know that God does notexist,” and Dr. Warren affirmed, “I know that God does exist.”
Dr. Warren once explained why he selected Antony Flew as his opponent in the debate. His rationale was simple: if those who are on the cutting edge of philosophical thought and who are considered to be the leaders in their chosen area of expertise—the “best of the best” if you will—are unable to defend their position when confronted by a fair and accurate defense of the truth, their error will be exposed. Those who were influenced by these leading men would be forced (like the “domino effect”) to recognize the sterility of the viewpoint they had embraced. Antony Flew had been a leading champion of atheism for decades. His writings dominated philosophical journals, and he was a prolific author [his books included Hume’s Philosophy of Belief (1961), God and Philosophy (1966),Evolutionary Ethics (1967), An Introduction to Western Philosophy (1971), and even a book on logic—Thinking Straight (1975)]. Having taught at Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele, and Reading universities in Britain, Flew also served as a visiting professor in many American universities, and conducted numerous debates in the process of defending his atheism.
For the first two nights of the Warren-Flew debate, Flew assumed the affirmative position in an attempt to prove that God does not exist. However, Warren’s kind-but-relentless assault in the negative position seemed to leave Flew battered, bewildered, and disoriented—so much so that when Dr. Warren assumed the affirmative position on the third night of the debate, he spent a few minutes attempting to ascertain the reason for Dr. Flew’s failure, while in the affirmative, to present a sound argument for his atheistic contention in a precise logical way:
It has been suggested that his failure is due to the fact that he is in a foreign country, but such could have little or nothing to do with this proposition. That he is out of his own country has nothing to do with how he handles intellectual material. Neither is his failure due to his not being accustomed to this style of debating. I have heard him in discussion before, and he seemed not to be bothered at all by the kind of format that was involved. Perhaps he did not know the responsibility of an affirmative speaker? But that cannot be so because, in his writings, he constantly chides a man who does not recognize his responsibility as an affirmant. Perhaps because he does not know the arguments? I deny that emphatically. In reading the works of Dr. Flew, I am convinced that he knows the arguments that are involved as well as anybody in the world. Perhaps because he does not understand or accept the law of rationality? The truth of the matter is: he has written very strongly and frequently in defense of it! But he has not acted in harmony with it in thisdiscussion. Ordinarily, when he is writing in the affirmative, and he writes almost constantly of matters that are concerned with God or very closely related to God—at least subjects that are peripheral to the subject of God. In fact, it is the case that he is almost God-intoxicated. He constantly emphasizes in his books that the onus of proof is on the affirmative writer or speaker! But I am afraid that he has not recognized that truth in this discussion (1977, pp. 131-132, emp. in orig.).
In the very next speech—the first negative—Dr. Flew responded to Dr. Warren’s comments in the following words: “Dr. Warren may be assured that I am sobering up from God intoxication. I shall be writing considerably less, if anything, in this area in the future” (p. 143, emp. added). Now, 28 years later, Dr. Flew appears, indeed, to finally have sobered up. At the age of 81, he has announced to the world that, based upon the scientific evidence, he now believes in some type of God (“Famous Atheist…,” 2004). However, do not jump to any premature conclusions. One interviewer spoke with Dr. Flew about his recent adjustments in his thinking, and concluded:
The fact of the matter is: Flew hasn’t really decided what to believe. He affirms that he is not a Christian—he is still quite certain that the Gods of Christianity or Islam do not exist, that there is no revealed religion, and definitely no afterlife of any kind. But he is increasingly persuaded that some sort of Deity brought about this universe, though it does not intervene in human affairs, nor does it provide any postmortem salvation. He says he has in mind something like the God of Aristotle, a distant, impersonal “prime mover.” It might not even be conscious, but a mere force. In formal terms, he regards the existence of this minimal God as a hypothesis that, at present, is perhaps the best explanation for why a universe exists that can produce complex life. But he is still unsure. In fact, he asked that I not directly quote him yet, until he finally composes his new introduction to a final edition of his book God and Philosophy, due out next year. He hasn’t completed it yet, precisely because he is still examining the evidence and thinking things over. Anything he says now, could change tomorrow (Carrier, 2004).
Here is what Flew has stated about whether he believes in God in the biblical sense:
I do not think I will ever make that assertion, precisely because any assertion which I am prepared to make about God would not be about a God in that sense ... I think we need here a fundamental distinction between the God of Aristotle or Spinoza and the Gods of the Christian and the Islamic Revelations…. My one and only piece of relevant evidence [for an Aristotelian God] is the apparent impossibility of providing a naturalistic theory of the origin from DNA of the first reproducing species... [In fact] the only reason which I have for beginning to think of believing in a First Cause god is the impossibility of providing a naturalistic account of the origin of the first reproducing organisms (as quoted in Carrier, italics in orig., emp. added).
It’s a step. But Dr. Flew has a long way to go to arrive at the truth concerning God’s existence. Observe that even when an atheist is forced to recognize that the evidence demands that a purposive, intelligent Being lies behind the Creation, he still endeavors to relegate this intelligence to an impersonal force that does not “provide a postmortem salvation.” Why? Because the same Being also would provide a “postmortem condemnation” in which humans will rightly and justly receive punishment for their sinful behavior on Earth. Can’t have that, can we?! It would mean adjusting one’s daily life choices and relegating one’s stubborn pride beneath the will of God.
Flew also stated: “My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato’s Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads” (“Famous Atheist…,” emp. added). If that were true, he would have already been led to the truth that the God of the Bible exists (just read the Warren-Flew debate!). Indeed, all the available evidence leads to that singular conclusion. The very evidence that Flew now believes indicates the existence of some sort of God, is the same evidence that he once insisted supported atheism! It took him 66 years to arrive at this most recent conclusion (Flew has been a self-avowed atheist since he was 15). But given the current human lifespan, he does not have another 66 years to follow the evidence to where it leads.
Carrier, Richard (2004), “Antony Flew Considers God—Sort Of,” [On-line], URL: http://www.secweb.org/asset.asp?AssetID=369.
“Famous Atheist Now Believes in God” (2004), The Associated Press, December 9, [On-line], URL: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=315976.
Flew, Antony G.N. and Thomas B. Warren (1977), Warren-Flew Debate (Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press).
Baptism for the Dead?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
“Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?”
The most notorious interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:29 is the one advocated by Mormonism—that people who are alive on the Earth can be baptized, and the efficacy of that baptism then is offered to those who already have died and are in the spirit realm. But this verse cannot be teaching proxy baptism as practiced by the Mormons. Many other passages eliminate that possibility by stressing the singular necessity of responding obediently to God in this life (e.g., Proverbs 11:7; John 8:24; Luke 16:26; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27). The Mormon view is in direct contradiction to what the Bible teaches from beginning to end. We have only this life in which to make our decisions, and when we leave this life, we have no further opportunities to repent (Luke 16:25-31; Hebrews 9:27).
At least four adequate explanations exist that avoid contradicting the rest of the Bible. First, “dead” refers to the “old man of sin” (Romans 6:6). We are baptized for the dead in the sense that we are baptized in water to eliminate the dead man of sin. Hence Paul was asking why one would be baptized to eliminate the old man of sin in anticipation of eternal acceptance if the resurrection will not be forthcoming.
Second, “dead” refers to the world of lost souls—those who are spiritually dead. “They” refers to the apostles and “baptism” refers to the baptism of suffering that the apostles endured in order to make known the Gospel to the world (alluded to in passages like Mark 10:38-39, Luke 12:50, Acts 9:16, and 1 Corinthians 4:9). Thus Paul was asking why the apostles would subject themselves to the baptism of suffering, in behalf of the spiritually dead people of the world if, in fact, no one has hope of the resurrection.
Third, “they” refers to those who are baptized in water on the basis of the preaching and teaching done by those who had since died. In other words, why would a person obey the command to be baptized, and thereby have hope of life beyond the grave, if the one who taught the person to be baptized has since died and will not be raised from the dead?
Fourth, Paul was using the logical argument form known as argumentum ad hominem—an argument based upon what men were doing at that time and with which the readers would be familiar. The Corinthians were familiar with people who practiced an immersion for the benefit of the dead. He used the third person pronoun “they” as opposed to “you” or “we.” New Testament baptism would have been referred to in the first or second person. This tactic of referring to what outsiders were doing (without implying endorsement) to make a valid spiritual point was used by Paul on other occasions (e.g., Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12).
These four possible interpretations each have contextual evidence to support them. None of the four contradicts any other Bible doctrine. What is critically important is that we not miss Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 15. He brought up the subject of baptism for the dead for one reason: to reaffirm the reality of the resurrection. Christians were being drawn into the destructive heresy that the general resurrection is fictitious. In a setting where he ardently defended the actuality and centricity of the resurrection, he advanced two questions. If the resurrection and end-time events are not to occur, then “why are they baptized for the dead?” and “why do the apostles stand in jeopardy every hour?” (vss. 29-30). He wanted the Corinthians to face the fact that many things Christians do have meaning only if resurrection is an anticipated and ultimate objective. If when we die, that’s it—no future conscious existence—why take risks living the Christian life as the apostles frequently did? If this life is all there is, forget Christianity and live it up (vs. 32)! But resurrection is coming! So do not live this life indulging the flesh and mingling with those who will influence you to do so (vs. 33). Live righteously, and get your mind straight in view of your knowledge of the coming resurrection (vs. 34).
Isaiah and the Deity of Christ
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
It has become popular in recent years to consider the divine nature of Christ as simply a doctrine invented by Christians longafter Jesus’ death. In his blockbuster book The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown alleged that Jesus’ deity was concocted 300 years after His crucifixion (2003, pp. 233-234). Jehovah’s Witnesses also frequently distribute literature espousing that Christ’s divine nature is a trumped-up teaching of men, rather than an actual doctrine of God (see “What Does...,” 1989, pp. 12-16). Although many New Testament passages could be consulted to demonstrate the deity of Christ (e.g., John 1:1-5,14; 20:28; Philippians 2:6; Hebrews 1:5-13; etc.), of particular interest is the fact that long beforeJesus appeared on Earth in the form of man in the first century, the Old Testament prophet Isaiah foretold His Godhood.
In approximately 700 B.C., Isaiah prophesied about many things concerning the Christ. Hebrew scholar Risto Santala wrote: “The Messianic nature of the book of Isaiah is so clear that the oldest Jewish sources, the Targum, Midrash and Talmud, speak of the Messiah in connection with 62 separate verses” (1992, pp. 164-165), including Isaiah 9:6. “For unto us,” Isaiah foretold, “a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6, emp. added). The Messiah, Isaiah wrote, would be not only the “Prince of Peace,” and the “Wonderful Counselor” (NASB), but also “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father.” [NOTE: “The Targum elucidates this verse, saying: ‘His name has been from ancient times...’ and, regarding the ‘Everlasting Father’ part, that ‘the Messiah has been for ever’” (Santala, 1992, p. 196), or that He is “the Father of eternity” (see Jamieson, et al., 1997)]. What’s more, Isaiah also prophesied of the virgin birth of the Messiah, and that His name would be “Immanuel” (7:14), which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23, emp. added). Why would Isaiah call the Messiah “Mighty God,” “Everlasting Father,” and “Immanuel,” if He was not God?
Interestingly, more than 100 years before Jesus allegedly was “made God” at the Council of Nicaea inA.D. 325 (cf. Brown, pp. 233-234), Irenaeus quoted from Isaiah 9:6 and applied the divine names to Christ, Who “is Himself in His own right...God.”
...this is Christ, the Son of the living God. For I have shown from the Scriptures, that no one of the sons of Adam is as to everything, and absolutely, called God, or named Lord. But that He is Himself in His own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, and Lord, and King Eternal, and the Incarnate Word, proclaimed by all the prophets, the apostles, and by the Spirit Himself, may be seen by all who have attained to even a small portion of the truth. Now, the Scriptures would not have testified these things of Him, if, like others, He had been a mere man. But that He had, beyond all others, in Himself that pre-eminent birth which is from the Most High Father, and also experienced that pre-eminent generation which is from the Virgin, the divine Scriptures do in both respects testify of Him: ...that He is the holy Lord, the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Beautiful in appearance, and the Mighty God, coming on the clouds as the Judge of all men;—all these things did the Scriptures prophesy of Him (Book III, Chapter 19, emp. added).
Isaiah not only referred explicitly to Jesus as “Mighty God” in 9:6, he also alluded to the Messiah’s divine nature in a prophecy about John the Baptizer in 40:3. “The voice of one that crieth, prepare ye in the wilderness the way of Jehovah; make level in the desert a highway for our God” (ASV, emp. added; cf. Malachi 3:1). According to the New Testament, this “preparer” (or forerunner) was John the Baptizer (John 1:23). He prepared the way for Jesus, as all four gospel accounts bear witness (Matthew 3:1-17; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-23; John 1:15-34). Notice that Isaiah wrote that John would prepare “the way of Jehovah;...our God” (40:3, emp. added). Thus, Isaiah claimed that the Messiah is God.
Truly, long before the Christian age, even long before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah provided inspired testimony of the nature of Christ. He is Jehovah, Mighty God, Immanuel (“God with us”), Everlasting Father, “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 1:8; cf. Isaiah 44:6).
Brown, Dan (2003), The Da Vinci Code (New York: Doubleday).
Irenaeus (1973 reprint), “Irenaeus Against Heresies,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Jamieson, Robert, et al. (1997), Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Bible Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Santala, Risto (1992), The Messiah in the Old Testament: In the Light of Rabbinical Writings, trans. William Kinnaird (Jerusalem, Israel: Keren Ahvah Meshihit).
“What Does the Bible Say About God and Jesus?” (1989), Should You Believe in the Trinity?(Brooklyn, NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society).
17-Year-Olds, Evolution, and Atheism
|by||Bert Thompson, Ph.D.|
“[I had] great fervor and interest in the fundamentalist religion; I left at seventeen when I got to the University of Alabama and heard about evolutionary theory” (E.O. Wilson, Harvard professor and the “father of sociobiology,” 1982, p. 40).
Some time ago, I received a telephone call from a distraught Christian mother. Her teenage son came home from school that very day and sat down at the kitchen table to have a snack and began to talk to his mom—as he did practically every day after school. Then, in the midst of their conversation, he announced in a very matter-of-fact tone, “Mom, I think I need to tell you—I don’t believe in God any more.”
It was—literally—every parent’s nightmare. This woman’s precious heritage—the child who was the fruit of her womb and the light of her life—was in danger of losing both his faith and his soul. The mother, as you might expect, was shaken, distressed, and forlorn. With tears flowing down her face, she managed to recover from the initial shock just enough to speak a single word: “Why?”
Her son’s answer? It was essentially the same as another one-time 17-year-old by the name of Edward O. Wilson—except her son didn’t even make it to college before beginning to lose his faith. “My biology teacher,” explained the youngster, “has been telling us all about evolution, and has shown us scientifically that it is true. If evolution’s true, you don’t need God. I’ve seen the proof for evolution—which is why I don’t believe in God any more.”
He’s right, you know—about there being no need for God if evolution is true. E.O. Wilson himself weighed in on this same theme in his book, On Human Nature, when he commented on the very first page: “If humankind evolved by Darwinian natural selection, genetic chance and environmental necessity, not God, made the species” (1978, p. 1, emp. added). The late evolutionist of Harvard, George Gaylord Simpson emphatically stated: “Evolution is a fully natural process, inherent in the physical properties of the universe, by which life arose in the first place and by which all living things, past or present, have since developed, divergently and progressively” (1960, 131:969, emp. added). British atheist Sir Julian Huxley once boasted:
Darwin pointed out that no supernatural designer was needed; since natural selection could account for any known form of life, there was no room for a supernatural agency in its evolution…. The earth was not created; it evolved. So did all the animals and plants that inhabit it, including our human selves, mind and soul as well as brain and body. So did religion…. Darwinism removed the whole idea of God as the creator of organisms from the sphere of rational discussion (1960, pp. 46,252-253,45, emp. added).
Huxley even went so far as to compare God to the disappearing act performed by the Cheshire cat inAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland when he wrote: “The supernatural is being swept out of the universe.... God is beginning to resemble not a ruler, but the last fading smile of a cosmic Cheshire cat” (1957, p. 59). Or, as Brown University evolutionist Kenneth Miller put it in his 1999 volume,Finding Darwin’s God:
My particular religious beliefs or yours notwithstanding, it is a fact that in the scientific world of the late twentieth century, the displacement of God by Darwinian forces is almost complete. This view is not always articulated openly, perhaps for fear of offending the faithful, but the literature of science is not a good place to keep secrets. Scientific writing, especially on evolution, shows this displacement clearly (p. 15, emp. added).
Yes, the “scientific writing on evolution” does show this “displacement” clearly! The 17-year-old young man had no trouble understanding that point, did he? To Huxley, Simpson, Wilson, and thousands of others like them, “the God argument” has been effectively routed. And along with it, has gone the faith of many a 17-year-old!
The sad thing is, this young man’s name is “legion.” If you could see the correspondence (coming in the form of both regular mail and e-mail) that arrives in my office on practically a daily basis, you would understand just how serious this problem really is. Several years ago, I received an especially well-written letter from a young Christian who was in a graduate program in the physical sciences at a state university, which had led him to study under a man he termed “a giant in his field...rocket-scientist intelligent...and a devout evolutionist.” In his letter, the student said:
...working this closely with one who thinks as he does is beginning to cause not a small amount of cognitive dissonance in my own mind with regard to evolution v. special creation. I really need your help, both as a Christian and a scientist, to clearly see what it is. Hundreds of thousands of scientists can’t be wrong, can they? Consensual validation cannot be pushed aside in science. How can that many people be following a flag with no carrier, and someone not find out? The number of creation scientists pales in comparison.... I do not want to be a fool.”
This young writer expressed what many young people experience, yet are unable to enunciate so eloquently. It is not uncommon to encounter those who once knew what they believed and why they believed it, yet who now are terribly confused. “Cognitive dissonance” is the internal struggle one experiences when presented with new information that contradicts what he believes to be true. As he struggles for consistency, he must change what he believes—or disregard the new information. This young Christian who once knew what he believed, and why he believed it, no longer knew either. He stated: “I am a confused young man with some serious questions about my mind, my faith, and my God. Please help me sort through these questions.”
He’s not alone! Just last month (March 2003), I received an e-mail from a mother, begging for help with her 17-year-old son, who was experiencing similar (but even worse) problems. She lamented: “But what really concerns me most is how he’s drifting so far away from God. I’m fearful of him dying in a lost state. I’m in a tug of war with the devil for his life.”
Yes ma’am, you certainly are! And you are not alone. If the volume and content of the correspondence (and phone calls) that my staff and I are receiving are good indicators (and I have every right to believe that they are), there are many other parents “out there” who are experiencing, to a greater or lesser degree, problems similar to those experienced by these two mothers. It was that e-mail (as you probably have guessed by now) that prompted me to write this article for our Web site.
The young Christian graduate student who had written some time earlier, admitted to being “a confused young man with some serious questions about my mind, my faith, and my God.” While he may indeed have been “confused,” there were two things he did know. First, he recognized that the beliefs he once held were inconsistent with those he was being taught (which is why he was experiencing “cognitive dissonance”). Second, he recognized that if he accepted these new teachings, then not only his beliefs, but also his actions would be inconsistent with his Christianity. His plea—“help me sort through these questions”—has been echoed countless times through the centuries by those who have languished in the “cognitive dissonance” that results from replacing the wisdom of God with the wisdom of man.
The mother (mentioned above) who e-mailed me, cried plaintively: “I’m not sure what the answer is and how you could help. I just felt like reaching out. Can you help me jolt [my son] back into some sense of reality? Thanks again for your time and concern.” The other mother who called me some time ago pleaded with me to meet personally with her son, in a last-ditch effort to help restore his belief in God. A day or so later, in mid-week, I boarded a jet (at no cost to her or her family) on a mission of mercy to a faraway city to do just that. Who among us could refuse such a plea? Who among us—if our child were in the same situation—would dare hesitate to cry out for help in a similar fashion? “Time and concern” may be two of our most valuable weapons! [I also offered to fly to meet with the second mother’s son—an offer she is considering, even as I write these words.]
During His earthly ministry, Jesus taught His disciples an important lesson regarding the precious nature of a child’s soul. Matthew (19:13-15), Mark (10:13ff.), and Luke (18:15-17) all record a conversation between Christ and His disciples on the subject of children. He rebuked those disciples who wanted to prevent the children from coming to Him (Mark 10:13), and warned: “See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I tell you, that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10). Jesus wanted children near Him. That has not changed. R.W. Lawrence said of this instance: “And so the invitation of Jesus stands clear: ‘Parents, relatives, loved ones, friends of the little children: bring them to me!’ The invitation never has been modified or rescinded” (1976, pp. 22-23, emp. in orig.). It is the task of parents and grandparents to bring these children to Christ. If we fail in this task, we will lose our children, and our children will lose their souls.
The psalmist wrote: “Children are a heritage of Jehovah; and the fruit of the womb is his reward” (127:3). Our children are, quite literally, gifts from the Lord. As God’s heritage, they are sent to us for safekeeping, which is why we are commanded to rear them “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). The spiritual instruction of a child is not an option. It is not something we do “if we have the time” or “if we find it convenient.” God has given us, as parents, the awesome responsibility of introducing our children to His covenant, and of teaching our children His Word.
But what is the ultimate goal of this daunting task? Is it not safe to say that the object is to see the soul of a child safely returned to the God of heaven from Whom it was sent originally? Is this not why the psalmist stated that children “are as arrows in the hand of a mighty man” (127:4)? Children, just like arrows, are to be launched toward a singular goal. That goal, in the case of an arrow, is a bull’s-eye. That goal, in the case of a child, is heaven—and we are God’s archers. Without our careful sighting of the goal, and without our purposeful aim, our children most likely will not return to the God Who created them.
Is this responsibility sobering and weighty? Yes. Is it sometimes burdensome or difficult? Yes. But is it impossible to accomplish? No! God never gave a command that we, with His aid and assistance, cannot carry out successfully. Christ, in speaking to the people of His generation, stated that “with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). He was not suggesting that the illogical could become logical. He did not mean that God could make such things as a round square, or an acceptable sin. In the context, He was making the point that with God’s help, obstacles that at first glance appear to us to be insurmountable can, in fact, be overcome. Tasks that seem too arduous can, in fact, be completed.
And so it is with the successful rearing of a child. God has given us, as parents, the responsibility of ensuring the safety of our children’s souls. Fortunately, He also has given us tools equal to the task, and the instruction booklet we are to employ as we go about completing our assignment. The tools include such things as love, parental authority, wisdom, and experience. The instruction booklet is His Word, the Bible. Granted, there may be times when parents use both the tools and the instruction booklet to the best of their ability, and yet still fail because a child employs his or her God-given free will to rebel against heaven’s admonition. Samuel and Eli provide just such an example. Both of these men had ungodly children. God chastised Eli (cf. 1 Samuel 2:12,27-36; 3:13), but within the Scriptures there is found no condemnation for Samuel. Why the difference? Both sets of children possessed free will, and both used that free will to rebel. Apparently, however, Samuel attempted, to the best of his ability, to restrain his children, while Eli did not (1 Samuel 3:13). We should not condemn dedicated, godly parents who attempt to turn their children unto the paths of righteousness, but who fail through no fault of their own. At the same time, however, we should not attempt to defend parents who neglect their children, and who thus contribute to their spiritual delinquency.
As the father of two precious sons, I sympathize with the plight of the two mothers whom I described earlier—mothers who stood to possibly lose their sons, even as their sons stood to lose their souls. I, as the friend in whom they had placed their hope for their boys’ souls, trembled at the prospect of failure. In the ninth chapter of Mark’s gospel, the story is told of a father who came to request help from Jesus on behalf of his demon-possessed son. The youngster, who had endured this situation “from childhood” (vs. 21), was in desperate need of a cure, as is evident from the symptoms described early on in the account (vss. 18,22). Jesus—having compassion on both father and son—said to the man, “All things are possible to him that believeth” (vs. 23). With an abiding love for his son in his heart, and a cry of desperation on his lips, the father pleaded, “I believe; help thou mine unbelief ” (vs. 24).
How many people throughout the millennia since then have echoed that same refrain? How many people today—with the same cry of desperation—are pleading for help with unbelief? How many “out there” are groping in intellectual and spiritual darkness for answers to questions that hinder their belief? How many of our friends, relatives, neighbors, loved ones, acquaintances, or children are experiencing the same mental anguish that the father of that son experienced twenty centuries ago? As you read this, are you not thinking of someone—young, old, male, female, former friend, current friend—who is struggling in their own personal battle against unbelief? And would you not like to be able to help them fight that battle—and win?!
At Apologetics Press, we deal with various aspects of unbelief on a daily basis. One of our main goals always has been, and still is, to be able to assist those who cry out, as that father did in earnest almost two thousand years ago, “Help thou mine unbelief.” Those of us associated with this work want you to know that we are committed—unreservedly and wholeheartedly—to the protection of the precious heritage that is our children.
Surely none among us professes to have all the answers. At the same time, however, surely none among us is willing to throw up our arms in defeat, nestle our heads in our hands in quiet surrender, and simply give up. While it is not my prerogative to speak for others, speaking for myself I wish to say: No! I will not accept defeat. I will not walk away in quiet surrender. I will not give up! The costs—a child’s soul and a parent’s grief—are far too high. The consequences—an eternity away from the presence of God—are far too grave.
Christians always have served God in an anti-Christian environment. That was true in the first century, and it is true in the twenty-first. Similarly, parents always have had to rear children in such an environment. While parents taught one thing, the world taught another. The key to success was, and is, helping children understand that while Christians exist and function in the world, they are not of the world (Romans 12:2; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15). Blurring that distinction in the mind of a child has disastrous results. We can be, however, “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37)—if we will not give up. And so, let us make up our minds, here and now, to do everything within our power to protect our children. Let us teach them diligently the evidences for God’s existence, the deity of Christ, the uniqueness of His church, and their special place in His creation.
Somewhere along the way, it appears that we forgot one important point—it is not a matter of if our children are going to be taught; it is only a matter of what they are going to be taught, and who is going to do the teaching. The question is: Who will we allow to do the teaching, and what will they be allowed to teach? The late Rita Rhodes Ward, a public school teacher with more than fifty years’ worth of classroom experience, knew this firsthand. She once observed: “When a Christian mother leads her 6-year-old to the first grade room or her 5-year-old to kindergarten, she leads him from the sheltered environment of the home into the cold, pagan environment of secular humanism. From that day on, the child will be taught two contradictory religions...” (1986, p. 520).
Certainly it is not the case that all public school teachers are humanists. There are those who approach their job from a Christian perspective. [My own late mother, Mary Ruth Thompson, was among that number.] Nevertheless, the public school environment often creates an atmosphere of hostility toward the belief system that Christian parents attempt to instill in their children. In their volume, The Evolution Conspiracy, Matrisciana and Oakland authored a chapter titled “Children at Risk,” in which they suggested: “Traditionally, the schoolroom has been an open forum of learning. Today it has become a pulpit for the aggressive conversion of impressionable minds. It is the battlefield where war is being waged against the Judeo-Christian God, His principles, His morality, and the Bible” (1991, p. 125).
There is ample evidence that this assessment is correct, and that it has been for quite some time. Dr. C.F. Potter was an honorary president of the National Education Association. As long ago as 1930, he authored the book, Humanism: A New Religion, in which he offered the following assessment:
Education is thus a most powerful ally of Humanism, and every American public school is a school of Humanism. What can a theistic Sunday school’s meeting, for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of the five-day program of humanistic teaching? (p. 128, emp. added).
At a seminar on childhood education some years ago, Dr. Chester Pierce, professor of education and psychiatry at Harvard University, told those in attendance:
Every child in America entering school at the age of five is mentally ill, because he comes to school with certain allegiances toward our founding fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural Being, toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It’s up to you teachers to make all of these sick children well by creating the international children of the future (1973, p. 24, emp. added).
The truth is, some school teachers have a “hidden agenda,” their objective being to destroy our children’s faith. This situation represents a real and present danger to a child’s spiritual well-being. If we allow evolutionists to influence our children—and if they do their job better than, and before, we do ours—our children will lose their faith, and we will lose our children.
Surely, one of the most important causes of unbelief in the world today relates to the kind of education a person receives. [Please notice that I did not say unbelief “relates to the education” a person receives; rather, I said unbelief “relates to the kind of education” a person receives. I do not mean to “throw the baby out with the bath water” by suggesting that all education results in unbelief, for that most certainly is not the case and is not representative of my position.] Generally speaking, the educational system in America is the end product of John Dewey’s “progressive education movement.” Renowned humanistic philosopher and historian, Will Durant, wrote that “there is hardly a school in America that has not felt his influence” (1961, p. 390). But it was not just American schools that Dewey influenced. In his book, The Long War Against God, Henry Morris discussed how the progressive education movement “profoundly changed education not only in America but also in many other countries” as well (1989, p. 38).
Dewey, who was a socialist and materialistic pantheist, was one of the founders (and the first president) of the American Humanist Association, formed in 1933. I have discussed Dewey’s atheistic views elsewhere (see Thompson, 1994, 1999). At this juncture, I simply would like to make the point that as a result of Dewey’s efforts through the educational establishment, the kind of education now being offered in many public schools has the potential to discourage or destroy faith in God, while at the same time encouraging and promoting unbelief. One of the most important tools employed by Dewey and his intellectual offspring to cripple belief was, and is, organic evolution. As Samuel Blumenfeld stated in his classic text, NEA: Trojan Horse in American Education:
An absolute faith in science became the driving force behind the progressives.... The most important idea that would influence the educators was that of evolution—the notion that man, through a process of natural selection, had evolved to his present state from a common animal ancestry. Evolution was as sharp a break with the Biblical view of creation as anyone could make, and it was quickly picked up by those anxious to disprove the validity of orthodox religion (1984, p. 43, emp. added).
Morris quite correctly assessed the post-Dewey situation when he wrote:
The underlying assumption of progressive education was that the child is simply an evolved animal and must be trained as such—not as an individual created in God’s image with tremendous potential as an individual. A child was considered but one member in a group and therefore must be trained collectively to fit into his or her appropriate place in society (1989, p. 48).
The child’s “appropriate place in society”—specifically the humanistic society that Dewey and his cohorts envisioned—neither included nor allowed for belief in the God of the Bible. Thus, every effort was made to use the educational system to gain new recruits. Alfred Rehwinkel discussed just such a situation.
The shock received by the inexperienced young student is therefore overwhelming when he enters the classroom of such teachers and suddenly discovers to his great bewilderment that these men and women of acclaimed learning do not believe the views taught him in his early childhood days; and since the student sits at their feet day after day, it usually does not require a great deal of time until the foundation of his faith begins to crumble as stone upon stone is being removed from it by these unbelieving teachers. Only too often the results are disastrous. The young Christian becomes disturbed, confused, and bewildered. Social pressure and the weight of authority add to his difficulties. First he begins to doubt the infallibility of the Bible in matters of geology, but he will not stop there. Other difficulties arise, and before long skepticism and unbelief have taken the place of his childhood faith, and the saddest of all tragedies has happened. Once more a pious Christian youth has gained a glittering world of pseudo-learning but has lost his own immortal soul (1951, p. xvii, emp. added).
Such a scenario is not merely theoretical, but practical. Henry Morris, former professor and department head at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, observed that he “spent over twenty-eight years teaching in secular universities and saw this sad tale repeated in many lives” (1984, p. 113).
Chet Raymo serves as an excellent example of a person who once cherished his belief in God, but who ultimately lost his faith as a result of the kind of education he received. Raymo is a professor of physics and astronomy at Stonehill College in Massachusetts, has written a weekly column on science for the Boston Globe for more than a dozen years, and was reared as a Roman Catholic. In his book, Skeptics and True Believers, he wrote:
I learned something else in my study of science, something that had an even greater effect upon my religious faith. None of the miracles I had been offered in my religious training were as impressively revealing of God’s power as the facts that I was learning in science (1998, p. 20, emp. added).
Little wonder, then, that the thesis of Raymo’s book is that there is an unavoidable dichotomy between educated people of science who empirically “know” things, and those in religion who spiritually “believe” things—with the educated, scientifically oriented folks obviously being on the more desirable end of the spectrum (and winning out in the end).
There can be little doubt that many today believe in evolution because it is what they have been taught. For the past century, evolution has been in the limelight. And for the past quarter of a century or more, it has been taught as scientific fact in many elementary, junior high, and senior high schools, as well as in most colleges and universities. In their book, The Truth: God or Evolution?, Marshall and Sandra Hall offered this summary.
In the first place, evolution is what is taught in the schools. At least two, and in some cases three and four generations, have used textbooks that presented it as proven fact. The teachers, who for the most part learned it as truth, pass it on as truth. Students are as thoroughly and surely indoctrinated with the concept of evolution as students have ever been indoctrinated with any unproven belief (1974, p. 10).
In their book, Why Scientists Accept Evolution, Bales and Clark confirmed such an observation.
Evolution is taken for granted today and thus it is uncritically accepted by scientists as well as laymen. It is accepted by them today because it was already accepted by others who went before them and under whose direction they obtained their education (1966, p. 106).
Further exacerbating the problem is the fact that evolution has been given the “stamp of approval” by important spokespersons from practically every field of human endeavor. While there have been men and women from politics, the humanities, the arts, and other fields who openly have defended evolution as factual, in no other area has this defense been as pronounced as in the sciences. Because science has produced so many successes in so many different areas, and because these successes have been so visible and so well publicized, scientists have been granted an aura of respectability that only can be envied by non-scientists.
As a result, when scientists champion a cause, people generally sit up and take notice. After all, it is their workings through the scientific method that have eradicated smallpox, put men on the Moon, prevented polio, and lengthened human life spans. We have grown used to seeing “experts” from various scientific disciplines ply their trade in an endless stream of amazing feats. Heart surgery has become commonplace; organ transplants have become routine; space stations are being built in the heavens.
Thus, when the atheistic concept of organic evolution is presented as something that “all reputable scientists believe,” there are many people who accept such an assessment at face value, and who therefore fall in line with what they believe is a well-proven dictum that has been enshrouded with the cloak of scientific respectability. As atheistic philosopher Paul Ricci has written: “The reliability of evolution not only as a theory but as a principle of understanding is not contested by the vast majority of biologists, geologists, astronomers, and other scientists” (1986, p. 172). Or, as the late paleontologist of Harvard, Stephen Jay Gould, put it: “The fact of evolution is as well established as anything in science (as secure as the revolution of the earth around the sun), though absolute certainty has no place in our [the scientist’s—BT] lexicon (1987, 8:64; parenthetical comment in orig.). [Dr. Gould reiterated this point in a guest editorial in the August 23, 1999 issue of Timemagazine when he wrote that “evolution is as well documented as any phenomenon in science, as strongly as the earth’s revolution around the sun rather than vice versa. In this sense, we can call evolution a ‘fact’ ” (1999, p. 59).]
Such comments are intended to leave the impression that well-informed, intelligent people dare not doubt the truthfulness of organic evolution. The message is: “All scientists believe it; so should you.” As Marshall and Sandra Hall inquired: “How, then, are people with little or no special knowledge of the various sciences and related subjects to challenge the authorities? It is natural to accept what ‘experts’ say, and most people do” (1974, p. 10). Henry Morris observed: “...the main reason most educated people believe in evolution is simply because they have been told that most educated people believe in evolution” (1963, p. 26). Huston Smith, a leading philosopher and professor of religion at Syracuse University commented on this phenomenon as follows:
One reason education undoes belief is its teaching of evolution; Darwin’s own drift from orthodoxy to agnosticism was symptomatic. Martin Lings is probably right in saying that “more cases of loss of religious faith are to be traced to the theory of evolution...than to anything else” (1982, p. 755; Lings’ quote is from Studies in Comparative Religion, 1970, Winter).
The truthfulness of that last statement—that “more cases of loss of religious faith are to be traced to the theory of evolution than anything else”—haunts the mothers of the two young men I mentioned earlier. These mothers (and their sons!) can tell you, from firsthand experience, just how accurate such an assessment really is!
We must impress upon our children, however, that truth is not determined by popular opinion or majority vote. A thing may be, and often is, true, even when accepted only by the minority. Furthermore, a thing may be, and often is, false, even though accepted by the majority. Believing something just because “everyone else” believes it, often can lead to disastrous results. As the late Guy N. Woods remarked: “It is dangerous to follow the multitude because the majority is almost always on the wrong side in this world” (1982, 124:2). Or, as Moses warned the children of Israel: “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil” (Exodus 23:2).
Will Durant, was an avowed atheist, yet he wrote: “The greatest question of our time is not communism vs. individualism, not Europe vs. America, not even the East vs. the West; it is whether men can bear to live without God” (1932, p. 23, emp. added). Dr. Durant was absolutely correct.Beliefs have consequences! Prominent humanist Martin Gardner devoted an entire chapter in one of his books to “The Relevance of Belief Systems,” in an attempt to explain that what a person believes profoundly influences how a person acts (1988, pp. 57-64). The question is: If our children are taught, and then ultimately come to believe in, evolution, what will be the end result? Perhaps we should allow Charles Darwin himself to answer. In speaking of his abandoned belief in God, Darwin admitted:
I had gradually come, by this time, to see that the Old Testament, from its manifestly false history of the world and from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos [sic], or the beliefs of any barbarian (see Barlow, 1959, pp. 85-86).I found it more and more difficult, with free scope given to my imagination, to invent evidence which would suffice to convince me. Thus disbelief crept over me at such a slow rate, but at last was complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress (as quoted in Francis Darwin, 1898, 1:277-278; cf. also Greene, 1963, pp. 16-17, emp. added).
The 17-year-old boys discussed in this article did not simply awake one day, get up, take a shower, dress for school, eat breakfast, and decide to no longer believe in God. Their change in heart was a slow, calm, day-by-day process—during which, they “felt no distress.” A teacher taught them that evolution “is a fact that nobody with any sense denies.” A school textbook presented handy, easy-to-remember arguments (such as how humans and chimpanzees share 95% of their DNA—which “proves” they must have come from a common ancestor). National Geographic displayed for them full-color pictures of their alleged hominid ancestors (as it did on the front cover of its August 2002 issue when it presented “Dmanisi Man” from the Republic of Georgia in the former Soviet Union). TheDiscover channel on television “wowed” them with a professionally produced extravaganza that explained how life got started on Earth via naturalistic processes, and how, once it did, it evolved into a one-celled amoeba which, over billions of years, evolved into—17-year-old boys! Etc. Etc. Etc. Finally, the process was complete—and yet another mother’s son had become an unbeliever as a result of having been taught evolution.
The prophet Hosea, speaking on behalf of God, observed: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (4:6). The truthfulness of that statement has not dimmed across the centuries. Where knowledge is lacking, wisdom always will be in short supply. A generation ago, we taught diligently on such topics as the existence of God, the inspiration of the Bible, the importance of the creation account, the uniqueness and singularity of the church, etc. But, ultimately, we taught less and less on these matters and, as a result, our children’s faith began to rest on sand instead of rock. When the winds of trial and tribulation came, that faith collapsed, and we lost our children to evolution, atheism, agnosticism, skepticism, infidelity, and similar false concepts.
And at what cost? If you have never heard the uncontrollable sobbing of a mother whose 17-year-old son has just said to her, “Mom, I don’t believe in God any more,” I doubt that you can fully understand that cost. I, on the other hand, do understand. And as a result, I have vowed to do everything in my power—as long as there is a breath in my feeble body—to stanch the loss of our children at the hands of evolutionists and those sympathetic with them. I urge you to join hands with me in this never-ending, extremely crucial battle. We cannot afford to fail, for if we do, our children will lose their souls, and we will lose our children. We can be—we must be—“more than conquerors.”
As always, if there is anything that those of us at Apologetics Press can do to help you in the midst of this warfare, please call on us. That is why we are here, and it is the reason our work exists.
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