"THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS" Chapter Eleven OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To understand how God has not totally rejected His people of Israel 2) To see the possibility of apostasy for us today 3) To understand Paul's summary conclusion for this section (Chs. 9-11) SUMMARY Paul concluded chapter ten with a quotation from Isaiah describing the nation of Israel as "a disobedient and contrary people." Paul begins chapter eleven by giving several examples to show that despite this rebellion God has not totally rejected His people (1-6). What God has done, however, is harden the hearts of the rebellious Israelites (7-10). But the outcome of this "hardening" led to salvation coming to the Gentiles, which in turn God was using to provoke Israel to jealousy in an attempt to win them back to Him. This is also why Paul magnified his ministry to the Gentiles, hoping to save some of his countrymen by provoking them to jealousy (11-15). Paul then directs his attention to the Gentile believers, explaining that their obedience allowed them to be "grafted" into Israel to replace those removed by their own disobedience. This "grafting," however, is permanent only as long as they remain faithful. In addition, if any Israelites repent of their unbelief, they too can be grafted back in (16-24). As Paul draws to a conclusion, he explains that this is how "all Israel" will be saved. Through a "hardening in part" mercy can now be shown to the Gentiles, and by showing mercy to the Gentiles mercy will be available to disobedient Israel. In this way Paul can say that "God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all", proving that God is no respecter of persons and makes His plan of salvation available to all (25-32). Paul ends this section with a doxology praising the wisdom and knowledge of God (33-36). OUTLINE I. GOD HAS NOT TOTALLY REJECTED ISRAEL (1-10) A. EVIDENCE SUPPORTING THIS (1-6) 1. Paul himself (1) 2. There is a remnant, just as in the days of Elijah (2-5a) 3. A remnant according to grace, not works (5b-6) B. BUT MANY HAVE BEEN HARDENED (7-10) 1. An "elect" have been saved, the rest were hardened (7) 2. This "hardening" foretold by Scriptures (8-10) II. HARDENING OF ISRAEL TO BENEFIT ISRAEL (11-32) A. THE JEWISH STUMBLING AND GENTILE CONNECTION (11-16) 1. Salvation to the Gentiles an incentive for the Jews to repent (11-12) 2. This is one reason why Paul magnified his ministry to the Gentiles (13-16) B. WORDS OF WARNING AGAINST GENTILE CONCEIT (17-24) 1. Gentiles are but "wild branches" grafted in to the root (17-18) 2. To replace "broken branches", true, but can just as easily be displaced and replaced (19-24) C. THE HARDENING AND BLESSING OF ISRAEL (25-32) 1. Hardening is partial, until the fulness of the Gentiles come in (25) 2. In this way all Israel will be saved (26-27) 3. They may be enemies of the gospel, but they are beloved by God (28) 4. And they may obtain mercy just as the Gentiles did (29-32) III. PAUL'S HYMN OF PRAISE TO GOD (33-36) WORDS TO PONDER "so all Israel will be saved" - in this manner will true Israel be saved REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) List the main points of this chapter - God Has Not Totally Rejected Israel (1-10) - Hardening Of Israel To Benefit Israel (11-32) - Paul's Hymn Of Praise To God (33-36) 2) What example does Paul use to show that God has not totally rejected the people of Israel? (1) - Himself 3) Why did God harden the rebellious Jews? (11-12) - So salvation might be presented to the Gentiles 4) Why was salvation allowed to come to the Gentiles? (11-14) - To provoke the rebellious Jews to jealousy that they might repent 5) What condition is necessary to remain in the "tree of Israel"? (20-23) - Continuing in faith 6) How will "all Israel" be saved? (25-26) - By a partial hardening of Israel, to allow Gentiles to come in and to provoke rebellious Jews to repent 7) What is Paul's summary on God's dealings with Israel? (32) - "God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all"
"THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS" Chapter Ten OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To see the importance of combining zeal with knowledge 2) To understand that Israel had plenty of opportunity to heed the gospel of Christ, but for the most part they had rejected it SUMMARY As Paul continues to explain God's dealings with the nation of Israel, he repeats his expression of love towards them (1). Though as a nation they had plenty of zeal, unfortunately their zeal was not according to knowledge (2). Thus they rejected the righteousness of God while trying to establish their own righteousness through the Law of Moses. But Paul explains that Christ is the fulfillment of the Law and has brought it to an end (3-4). The righteousness God now offers is based upon faith in Christ, not keeping the Law. It involves not the accomplishment of some great feat (like ascending to heaven or descending to hell), but such things as confessing Jesus as Lord and believing that God raised Him from the dead (5-10). As foretold by Scripture, it is offered to all, both Jew and Gentile (11-13). And it is offered through the medium of preaching the Word (14-15). The problem with the nation of Israel, then, is that not all of them received the gospel message, even when they had ample opportunity (16-18). But as Moses predicted, the day would come when God would provoke Israel to jealousy by another people, who Isaiah said did not seek God yet found Him, while Israel was constantly rebelling against Him (19-21). OUTLINE I. ISRAEL'S REFUSAL OF GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS (1-15) A. PAUL'S EXPRESSION OF CONCERN FOR ISRAEL (1-4) 1. That Israel be saved, for they have zeal but not knowledge (1-2) 2. Through ignorance, they seek to save themselves by the Law, and do not submit to God's righteousness in Christ which brings an end to the Law (3-4) B. RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE LAW vs. RIGHTEOUSNESS BY FAITH IN CHRIST (5-15) 1. Righteousness of the Law as defined by Moses (5) 2. Righteousness by faith as defined by Paul (6-15) a. Involves the mouth and the heart (6-8) b. Involves confessing Jesus and believing in His resurrection (9-10) c. Offered to all who believe and call on Him (11-13) d. Accomplished through the medium of preaching (14-15) II. ISRAEL'S NEGLECT OF THE GOSPEL (16-21) A. NOT ALL OBEYED THE GOSPEL (16-18) 1. As Isaiah predicted (16) 2. Even though they had ample opportunity (17-18) B. THEIR NEGLECT, AND THE GENTILES RECEPTION, FORESEEN BY SCRIPTURES (19-21) 1. As spoken by Moses (19) 2. As spoken by Isaiah (20-21) WORDS TO PONDER confess - lit., to speak the same thing, to assent, accord, agree with...; to declare openly by way of speaking out freely, such confession being the effect of deep conviction of facts (Mt 10:32; Ro 10:9,10) - VINE REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) List the main points of this chapter - Israel's Refusal Of God's Righteousness (1-15) - Israel's Neglect Of The Gospel (16-21) 2) What was Paul's prayer in behalf of the nation of Israel? (1) - That they may be saved 3) What was good about them? What was wrong with them (2) - They have a zeal for God - But not according to knowledge 4) Why was Israel not submitting to the righteousness of God? (3) - In ignorance they were seeking to establish their own righteousness 5) What should one confess? What should one believe? (9-10) - The Lord Jesus (or, that Jesus is Lord) - That God raised Jesus from the dead 6) For whom is righteousness by faith intended? (11-13) - Whoever believes and calls upon the name of the Lord 7) What begins the process which finally enables one to call upon the Lord? (14-15) - The sending out of preachers 8) How does one come to have faith? (17) - By hearing the word of God 9) Did the Jews have opportunity to call upon the Lord? (18) - Yes, for the gospel had been spread to the ends of the world 10) How did God say He was going to make His people jealous? (19-20) - By making Himself manifest to those who had not been seeking Him (the Gentiles)
The Quran and Forgiveness
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The Quran forthrightly rejects the crucial role occupied by the death and resurrection of Jesus (Surah 4:157-158; 3:55). Consequently, the Quran of necessity must leave the impression that God can simply forgive people if they will repent and submit (i.e., become Muslims). To “believe” means to accept Allah as the one and only God, and to accept Muhammad as Allah’s ultimate and final messenger. Resignation and submission of one’s will to this foundational principle (the shahadas), accompanied by good deeds in life, is the means of forgiveness in the Quran. Consider the following passages (from the celebrated translation by Muslim scholar Mohammed Pickthall):
And as for those who believe and do good works, He will pay them their wages in full (Surah 3:57, emp. added).Then, as for those who believed and did good works, unto them will He pay their wages in full, adding unto them of His bounty; and as for those who were scornful and proud, them will He punish with a painful doom (Surah 4:173, emp. added).O ye who believe! If ye keep your duty to Allah, He will give you discrimination (between right and wrong) and will rid you of your evil thoughts and deeds, and will forgive you. Allah is of infinite bounty (Surah 8:29, emp. added).And those who believed and did good works are made to enter the Gardens underneath which rivers flow, therein abiding by permission of their Lord, their greeting therein: Peace! (Surah 14:23, emp. added).Say: O My slaves who have been prodigal to their own hurt! Despair not of the mercy of Allah, Who forgiveth all sins. Lo! He is the Forgiving, the Merciful. Turn unto Him repentant, and surrender unto Him, before there come unto you the doom, when ye cannot be helped (Surah 39:53-54, emp. added).
These verses spotlight the Quran’s formula for salvation. Turning from unbelief to Allah is the specific grounds upon which Allah can forgive past sin and extend continuing forgiveness to the believer (cf. Surah 11:3; 26:51; 45:30; 46:31). Not only does the Quran nowhere offer a deeper explanation by which forgiveness may be divinely bestowed (i.e., blood atonement), it states explicitly that it is genuine (i.e., non-hypocritical) belief and good deeds that rectify sin:
And those who believe and do good works and believe in that which is revealed unto Muhammad—and it is the truth from their Lord—He riddeth them of their ill-deeds and improveth their state (Surah 47:2, emp. added).And whosoever striveth, striveth only for himself, for lo! Allah is altogether Independent of (His) creatures. And as for those who believe and do good works, We shall remit from them their evil deeds and shall repay them the best that they did.... And as for those who believe and do good works, We verily shall make them enter in among the righteous (Surah 29:6-7,9, emp. added).
Compare Ali’s translation of these same verses:
And if any strive (with might and main), they do so for their own souls: for Allah is free of all needs from all creation. Those who believe and work righteous deeds, from them We shall blot out all evil (that may be) in them, and We shall reward them according to the best of their deeds.... And those who believe and work righteous deeds, them We shall admit to the company of the Righteous (emp. added).
Another example is seen in the following Quranic utterance:
Thou seest the wrong-doers fearful of that which they have earned, and it will surely befall them; while those who believe and do good works (will be) in flowering meadows of the Gardens, having what they wish from their Lord. This is the great preferment. This it is which Allah announceth unto His bondmen who believe and do good works. Say (O Muhammad, unto mankind): I ask of you no fee therefore, save lovingkindness among kinsfolk. And whoso scoreth a good deed We add unto its good for him. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Responsive. Or say they: He hath invented a lie concerning Allah? If Allah willed, He could have sealed thy heart (against them). And Allah will wipe out the lie and will vindicate the truth by His words. Lo! He is aware of what is hidden in the breasts (of men). And He it is Who accepteth repentance from his bondmen, and pardoneth the evil deeds, and knoweth what ye do. Andaccepteth those who do good works, and giveth increase unto them of His bounty. And as for disbelievers, theirs will be an awful doom (Surah 42:22-26, emp. added).
Where Pickthall has “whoso scoreth a good deed,” Ali renders it: “if any one earns any good We shall give him an increase of good in respect thereof” (vs. 23). The Quran explains that when Allah’s warnings and signs eventually come to pass, “no good will it do to a soul to believe in them then, if it believed not before nor earned righteousness through its faith....He that does good shall have ten times as much to his credit” (Ali’s translation of Surah 6:159,161, emp. added). Such verses underscore the fact that the means by which Allah can forgive sins is the Muslim’s commission of good deeds (cf.Surah 25:70; 39:35; 64:9).
In fact, the good deeds must outweigh the bad deeds on the Day of Judgment: “Then, he whose balance (of good deeds) will be (found) heavy, will be in a Life of good pleasure and satisfaction. But he whose balance (of good deeds) will be (found) light, will have his home in a (bottomless) Pit. And what will explain to you what this is? (It is) a Fire blazing fiercely!” (Surah 101:6-11, Ali’s translation). The Quran even states explicitly that good deeds drive away evil deeds:
And lo! unto each thy Lord will verily repay his works in full. Lo! He is informed of what they do. So tread thou the straight path as thou art commanded, and those who turn (unto Allah) with thee, and transgress not. Lo! He is Seer of what ye do.... Establish worship at the two ends of the day and in some watches of the night. Lo! good deeds annul ill deeds. This is a reminder for the mindful. And have patience, (O Muhammad), for lo! Allah loseth not the wages of the good (Surah 11:111-112,114-115, emp. added).
Allah will, in fact, simply overlook the evil deeds of those who become Muslims: “Those are they from whom We accept the best of what they do, and overlook their evil deeds. (They are) among the owners of the Garden. This is the true promise which they were promised (in the world)” (Surah 46:16, emp. added). Ali renders “overlook” as “pass by.” So according to the Quran, forgiveness from Allah is grounded in and dependent upon the act of becoming a Muslim and maintaining that status with good deeds. No wonder the September 11, 2001 Islamic terrorists could visit a strip bar just prior to their suicidal mission (Farrington, 2001). They understood the Quran’s teaching that good deeds enable God to overlook the bad.
In contrast, the Bible certainly teaches that good deeds are necessary to salvation (Acts 10:35; Romans 2:6). In fact, faith itself is a “work”—a deed that the individual must do(John 6:29). Repentance, confession of the deity of Jesus with the mouth, and water baptism are likewise all necessary prerequisites to the reception of forgiveness from God (Acts 2:38; 17:30; Romans 10:9-10). However, the New Testament teaches that obedience to divinely specified deeds does not make those deeds meritorious, i.e., they do not earn salvation for the individual. They are conditions of salvation—but not thegrounds of salvation. They do not erase or rectify past sin. Atonement must still be made for all sins previously committed (Isaiah 59:1-2).
Much of Christendom has gone awry on this point. Especially since the Protestant Reformation, the pendulum shifted to the extreme, unbiblical contention that all one need do is “believe,” what Martin Luther labeled “sola fide” (faith alone) (cf. Lewis, 1991, pp. 353-358; Butt, 2004). The Quran advocates the equally incorrect opposite extreme of earning forgiveness by human works of merit. The New Testament actually steers a middle course between these two extremes by insisting that no sin can be forgiven without the shed blood of Jesus. Here is the grace of Christianity—God doing for humanity what humanity is powerless to do for itself, i.e., atone for its own sin. This gracious act of God is unmerited, undeserved, and unearned (Ephesians 2:8-9). Nothing humans do can repay God for this indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15). Nevertheless, in order for the alien sinner to access the rich blessing of forgiveness based on the blood of Christ, he or she must render obedience to the Gospel of Christ (Romans 6:16-17; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 5:9) through faith, repentance, confession, and baptism (Hebrews 11:6; Luke 13:3; Romans 10:9-10; 1 Peter 3:21). This obedient response to Christ does not earnforgiveness for the sinner, or counteract past misdeeds. Rather, it represents compliance with the divinely (not humanly) mandated prerequisites by which onereceives and accepts the gift of salvation that God offers to those who will respond appropriately. [NOTE: The New Testament term that is translated “Gospel,” meaning “good news” (Bruce, 1977, pp. 1ff.), refers specifically to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross as the sole means by which sin may be forgiven. Incredibly, the Quran is silent on the need for atonement and Christ’s death on the cross, and yet it speaks approvingly of “Injil” (or “Injeel”), i.e., the Gospel, apparently referring to the revelation that Muhammad thought was revealed to Jesus.]
Ali, Abdullah Yusuf (1934), The Qur’an (Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile Quran), ninth edition.
Bruce, F.F. (1977), The Defense of the Gospel in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), revised edition.
Butt, Kyle (2004), “Martin Luther Speaks on ‘Faith Only’ and Baptism,” [On-line], URL:http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=958.
Farrington, Brendan (2001), “FBI Investigates Possible Fla. Links,” [On-line]: URL: http://newsmine.org/archive/9-11/questions/stripbar.htm.
Lewis, Jack (1991), Questions You’ve Asked About Bible Translations (Searcy, AR: Resource Publications).
Pickthall, Mohammed M. (n.d.), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
Defending the Bible’s Position on Prayer
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
In their efforts to discredit the Bible, skeptics often attack its teachings concerning prayer. They claim that certain statements made by Jesus regarding prayer can be proven to be inaccurate, and thus all rational people should reject both Jesus and the Bible. Skeptics routinely quote Jesus’ words, “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14). After quoting this verse, the skeptic usually mentions praying parents who asked God, in the name of Jesus, to save their sick children; but the children died in spite of the prayer. The skeptic then argues that the children’s death is proof positive that Jesus was a liar and His statements about prayer cannot be true. In addition to John 14:14, skeptics often use Matthew 21:22 in a very similar way. In fact, Dan Barker, during the audience question and answer period in our debate, quoted this verse: “And all things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Butt and Barker, 2009). According to the skeptic, if a person asks for a million dollars every day, truly believes in his heart that he will get it, and tacks the name of Jesus on the end of the prayer, then if God does not answer that prayer, Jesus lied and the Bible is false.
Is it true that the Bible’s teaching on prayer cannot be reconciled with what we see happening in daily life? Did Jesus make false statements to His disciples about the efficacy of prayer? Is the skeptic’s interpretation of Jesus’ statements accurate and justified? The answer to these questions is a resounding “No.” An honest, critical look at the Bible’s teachings regarding prayer reveals that its teachings are internally consistent and correspond perfectly with reality.
QUALIFYING A STATEMENT
Most of us understand the concept of attaching qualifying remarks to a statement. For instance, hypothetical syllogisms constructed with “if-then” clauses are good examples of qualification. Suppose a person named Bill makes the statement: “If John works for eight hours, then I will give John $50.” If John demands payment from Bill without doing the work, he has misunderstood the qualifier. He could contend that Bill said: “I will give John $50.” Even though, technically speaking, John’s quotation is correct, his argument would fail because he disregarded the qualifying statement: “If John works for eight hours.” Without the first condition being met, the person making the statement is not responsible for fulfilling the second condition.
The skeptic readily understands this concept, since it must be incorporated to understand the skeptic’s own writings. For instance, Dan Barker, in godless, included a chapter titled “Dear Theologian.” The chapter is a satirical letter supposedly from God to theologians. In that chapter, Dan has God saying: “I created the universe with all kinds of natural laws that govern everything from quarks to galactic clusters” (2008, p. 149). Are we to conclude that Dan really believes that God created the world and its natural laws? Of course not. We must qualify Dan’s statement by saying that he does not really believe in God, and that his “letter” is satire. Again, in godless, Dan made the statement: “What has theology ever provided? Theology has given us hell” (p. 220). From Dan’s statement, should we conclude that Dan really believes in hell and that he credits theology with originating it? Certainly not. Dan does not believe in heaven, hell, God, or Satan. Whatever statements a person chooses to pick out of Dan’s book to “prove” he believes in God or hell must be qualified by other statements elsewhere in his books, other writings, or debates that show he certainly does not believe in the existence of God or hell. In a similar way, even a superficial reading of the New Testament shows that many of Jesus’ statements concerning prayer are qualified by certain criteria that must be met in order for that prayer to be effective.
IN THE NAME OF JESUS
A systematic study of everything the Bible says on prayer is beyond the scope of this article. A look at a few Bible verses on the topic, however, will show that the skeptics’ attack on prayer is ill-founded and vacuous. In truth, John 14:14, one of the skeptics’ favorite verses to quote along these lines, can be used to show one of the primary “qualifying” concepts concerning prayer. In that verse, Jesus told His disciples: “if you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (emp. added). It is extremely important that we understand how the Bible uses the phrase “in Jesus’ name.” The way the skeptic understands this verse, the phrase means that as long as a person puts the words “in Jesus’ name” at the end of a prayer, then God is obligated to answer that prayer positively. Attaching Jesus’ name on the end of a prayer, however, is not what the Bible means when it says that a prayer is to be offered “in Jesus’ name.” The phrase “in Jesus’ name” means that whatever is being said or done must be done by the authority of Jesus. Earnest Bible students have long understood this to be the proper use of the phrase. In fact, Colossians 3:17 makes this clear: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” This verse does not mean that you should proclaim before every action or sentence that what follows is being done “in Jesus’ name.” It means that whatever actions are taken or words are spoken should be in accord with Jesus’ teachings and by His authority.
To illustrate, suppose a man bangs on your door and yells: “Open this door in the name of the Law.” Should you open the door for this man? That depends. If he truly is a policeman who has a warrant and has been authorized by the government to enter your house, then you should. However, if he is a civilian off the street who simply added the phrase “in the name of the Law” to his sentence to make it sound more forceful, then you should not open the door. The phrase “in the name of the Law” only has force if the person using it is actually authorized by the government to perform the action. In the same way, the phrase “in Jesus’ name” (or “in the name of Jesus”) only has power if what is being prayed for truly is authorized by Jesus. For instance, if a person prayed, “Lord, please forgive me of my sins even though I will not forgive others of their sins, in Jesus’ name, Amen,” would Jesus comply with such a request? No, because He explained that God will forgive only those people who are willing to forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15). Including the phrase “in Jesus’ name” does not give a prayer some magical power that allows the request to bypass the authority and teachings of Christ.
In the book of Acts, we see an extremely effective illustration of this truth. Paul, Peter, and the other apostles were preaching and doing miracles “in the name of Jesus.” Their healing activities were authorized by Christ, and their message was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Seeing how effectively Paul accomplished such miracles, “some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying ‘We adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches’” (Acts 19:13). The itinerant Jewish exorcists had fallen into the same misunderstanding as the modern skeptic. They thought that by simply tacking Jesus’ name onto their activities, that would qualify as doing things “in Jesus’ name.” The result of their misuse of Jesus’ name quickly became apparent. When seven sons of Sceva attempted to invoke Jesus’ name, the evil spirit answered: “‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?’ Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded” (Acts 19:14-16). Simply adding Jesus’ name to actions or requests that Jesus has not authorized does not qualify as doing something “in Jesus’ name” as the Bible instructs. [NOTE: Even though the skeptic does not believe the story in Acts to be true, he cannot deny that the story provides a valid illustration and explanatory commentary on what the Bible means by saying or doing something “in Jesus’ name.” If the skeptic is going to attack the Bible’s position on prayer, he or she must allow the Bible to explain itself.]
ACCORDING TO GOD’S WILL
It is inexcusable for a person to attack the Bible’s position on prayer, but then to avoid many of the paramount concepts associated with the Bible’s teaching on the subject. You can know that any person who pulls verses out of context about prayer, and does not turn to primary passages, such as Matthew 6:9-15, is either unaware that such passages are in the Bible, or is intentionally being intellectually dishonest. If you really want to know what Jesus taught on prayer, you simply must consider all that He taught about prayer, not just the few scattered verses skeptics want to rip from their contexts.
In Jesus’ instructions to His disciples regarding prayer, He explained that they should include in their prayers the idea that God’s will should be done (Matthew 6:10). The apostle John, who would have been well-aware of Jesus’ teaching on prayer, stated: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15, emp. added). Notice that if we do not include verse 14 of 1 John 5, we could make the passage say, “whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” Yet to do that would be to leave off the important qualifying statement that the request should be in accordance with God’s will, and should be offered from a heart that is humble enough to accept God’s will—even if that means that the request is denied. When the skeptic pulls snippets of verses from the gospel accounts concerning prayer, he or she is guilty of leaving off just such important qualifying information.
When we consider the idea of praying “according to God’s will,” we can see how important this qualifier is. No requests will be granted that attempt to violate or circumvent God’s ultimate will. For instance, suppose a person were to pray: “God, please save my mother even though she does not believe in Jesus Christ and refuses to repent of her sins, please let her go to heaven anyway, in Jesus’ name, Amen.” Would God grant that petition? The Bible is clear that He certainly would not, because to do so would be to violate His ultimate will that salvation is through the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12).
Furthermore, certain events and actions in this physical world are required for God to accomplish His will on this Earth. For instance, if one of Jesus’ apostles had asked God to spare the life of Jesus and not let Him die on the cross, that request would not have been in accord with God’s ultimate will and would not have been answered in the affirmative. Mark 8:33 provides an excellent example of this when Peter rebuked Jesus for predicting His own death. Jesus responded to Peter, saying: “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Whereas Peter most likely thought his actions were in accord with God’s will, they were not. To further illustrate, the many events in the life of the Old Testament character Joseph may have seemed unfair at the time. No doubt Joseph prayed to be freed from slavery or to be released from jail. But at the end of Joseph’s life, we see that God’s will was to make him a great leader in Egypt and to save the Jewish nation through him. Joseph recognized this, and said to his brothers who had sold him into Egypt: “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20). Joseph’s slavery and incarceration were the vehicles by which God brought Joseph to power, accomplishing His will.
THE SKEPTIC’S RESPONSE
Knowing that the Bible plainly teaches that prayer must be according to God’s will, Dan Barker has attempted to respond. He stated: “It does no good to claim that many prayers are unanswered because they are not ‘according to his will.’ Even prayers that are clearly in line with the expressed ‘will of God’ are rarely successful. Even if this reasoning were valid, it makes prayer useless as a means of changing nature” (1992, p. 108). First, it should be noted that Dan often conveniently neglects to inform his audiences that he knows the Bible includes statements that qualify Jesus’ statements that Dan and his fellow skeptics take out of context. Second, notice that Dan made sure that he included the phrase “the expressed ‘will of God.’” The question then arises, does God have certain plans that He has not expressed to humans, but that are part of His will on Earth? Absolutely. Moses wrote: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). Is there any indication that God revealed to any humans His plans for Joseph before they were carried out? No. Is there any indication that God told any humans about His conference with Satan and His plan for Job prior to the events? None. Is God obligated to express to humans all the various facets of His will? Certainly not. That is one of the points Jesus was attempting to make in His teachings on prayer. Even though we may not know the specific will of God for our lives, we must pray with a heart that is ready to accept the events God allows, understanding that God has a will to which we are not always privy.
Notice that Dan is forced to concede the point, but then attempted to attack prayer from a different angle when he stated: “Even if this reasoning were valid, it makes prayer useless as a means of changing nature” (1992, p. 108; see also Templeton, 1996, p. 147). It is important to be clear that once the skeptic is honest enough to admit that certain qualifications do apply to prayer, he must alter the entire argument against it. Instead of the Bible’s position being internally inconsistent or at odds with reality, the skeptic must drop back and demand that, even though it cannot be proven to be such, it is “useless.”
Again, however, the skeptics’ assertion that praying according to God’s will renders the prayer useless to change nature is groundless. Could it be possible that multiple outcomes to certain events or situations fit into God’s will? Surely. To illustrate, suppose that a father was getting a child a drink from the refrigerator. The father had various nutritious options from which to choose including juice, milk, or water. Could the child request water and that option be according to the father’s will? Sure. If the child requested juice, could that option be equally as acceptable as water? Yes. But suppose the child requested something not in the refrigerator, or something harmful to drink. While those options would be outside the father’s will, the other three choices of milk, water, or juice would all be possibilities. Thus, if the child wanted juice, and asked for it, then the child’s request (prayer) would be effective. [NOTE: The skeptic may attempt to say that since God knows everything, He should know what His children want before they ask. But the Bible articulates this very point in Matthew 6:8. While it is true that God knows everything (Psalm 139:1-6), it is also true that God has instructed His children to ask for what they desire (Matthew 7:7). Numerous reasons could be given for why God wants His children to present their requests to Him. One is simply that God wants humans to understand their dependence on Him (Acts 17:28).]
To illustrate, there are several biblical examples in which God’s will for people involved considerable latitude in what He could allow to happen. For instance, 2 Kings 20:1-11 gives us the story of Hezekiah’s terminal sickness. The prophet Isaiah informed Hezekiah that he was going to die. Hezekiah then turned his face to the wall and prayed that the Lord would extend His life. The Lord listened to his prayer and extended Hezekiah’s life for fifteen years. Here we have an example of two outcomes both of which were consistent with God’s will on Earth: Hezekiah living and Hezekiah dying. Without Hezekiah’s prayer, he would have died of his sickness. Because of his prayer, however, God intervened and allowed Hezekiah to live. Contrary to the skeptics’ false assertion, Hezekiah’s prayer certainly did have the power to “change nature.” It is also interesting to note that Hezekiah’s sickness was healed through natural means. Isaiah instructed the king’s attendants to place a poultice of figs on Hezekiah’s boil. When they did so, Hezekiah recovered. This story provides an excellent example of a person who prayed according to God’s will. That prayer drastically altered nature, and God worked through natural means to accomplish His purpose. [NOTE: While the skeptic may refuse to accept the truthfulness of this Bible story, he cannot refute the fact that the story provides at least a theoretical explanation as to how a person could pray in accordance with God’s will and alter the course of nature.]
BELIEVING YOU WILL RECEIVE
Another widely recognized qualification for effective prayer is that the one praying must honestly believe that God can and will grant the prayer, if it is according to His will. As Jesus stated in Matthew 21:22: “And all things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (emp. added). Of course, this verse does not mean that believing is the only prerequisite for having a prayer answered. Factors that we have mentioned such as asking by the authority of Jesus and according to God’s will (as well as others we will mention later in the article) are necessary as well. But this verse and others teach us that belief is a necessary component of effective prayer. According to James 1:5-8:
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (emp. added).
It is often the case that the skeptic will contend that millions of good Christian people regularly pray for things that they do not receive. The skeptic usually stresses that the people truly believed that they would receive them, and yet their prayers were ineffective. The skeptic claims to know for a fact that the petitioners in question honestly believed their prayers would be answered positively. Yet it must be stressed that the skeptic has no possible way of knowing who, in their hearts, truly believes that God will answer their prayers. Even some who claim to believe in the outcome could be harboring doubts about God’s power and promises in regard to prayer. In truth, a person would need to be able to search people’s hearts and minds to be an accurate judge of belief. And since the Bible explains that only God is capable of knowing the secrets of the heart (Psalm 44:21), then only He would be in a position to gage a person’s true belief. While it is true that other factors such as praying according to God’s will and by the authority of Christ influence the effectiveness of prayer, it is also true that fervent belief in God’s willingness and ability to answer a prayer are also necessary for the prayer to be successful.
THE PRAYER OF A RIGHTEOUS PERSON
The Bible writers stress throughout the text, from the Old Testament to the New, that sinful, rebellious people should not expect to have God answer their prayers in a positive way. Only penitent, obedient followers of Christ are promised God’s listening ear and His active hand in their lives. As James 5:16 states: “The effective, fervent prayer of arighteous man avails much” (emp. added). Peter stated:
He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking guile; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil (1 Peter 3:10-12).
The unnamed blind man Jesus healed summarized this position well when he stated: “Now we know that God does not hear sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him” (John 9:31). The writer of Proverbs noted: “The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous” (15:29).
The book of Ezekiel provides further evidence that humility before God is a required element of effective prayer. During Ezekiel’s day, the elders and leaders of the Jewish nation had begun to worship idols. Yet, in their troubled times, they also attempted to seek the true God along with their idols. Ezekiel 14:1-4 states:
Now some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me. And the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them? Therefore speak to them, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols, that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are estranged from Me by their idols.”’”
The Bible clearly and plainly teaches that those who are not faithfully following God are not promised an answer to their prayers. It should also be noted along these lines that, although many people feel that they are faithful followers of Christ, they have not obeyed God’s will (see Lyons and Butt, n.d.). As Jesus stated:
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:21-23).
It is often the case that a bulk of the people that skeptics claim are faithful followers of Christ simply have not obeyed God and, according to the Bible’s teachings, should not expect Him to answer their prayers because of their rebellious lives.
SELFISH MOTIVES AND DESIRES
Suppose that a person prays that God will give him ten thousand dollars every day for the rest of his life so that he can spend that money only on himself to gratify his physical pleasures. Even if he adds the phrase, “in Jesus’ name” to the end of that prayer, and honestly believes that God will answer the prayer, is God obligated to comply with such a request? The way the skeptic has twisted the Scriptures, he or she must contend that God is bound to grant such an absurd appeal. Yet an elementary understanding of the biblical doctrine of prayer quickly sets such a conclusion on its head. One of the key concepts regarding prayer centers on the reason for which the petitioner is making the request. If the one making the request is driven by selfish, impure motives, then he or she cannot expect God to grant the plea. James made this point abundantly clear when he wrote: “You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (4:2-3). Selfish ambitions unmotivated by a sense of spiritual concern nullifies the effectiveness of prayer.
Acts 8:9-25 provides an adequate illustration of this truth. In this passage, a man named Simon had been practicing sorcery in the city of Samaria. Many of the Samaritans had been convinced by his deceptive, “magic” tricks. When Philip visited the area, however, and preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a host of the Samaritans believed and obeyed the truth, including Simon the sorcerer. After a while, the apostles came to the area and laid their hands on some of the disciples for the purpose of imparting spiritual gifts to them. When Simon saw this power, he offered the apostles money, requesting to purchase the ability to give people spiritual gifts. He had not purged himself of old habits of selfish ambition. Peter rebuked Simon and explained that he needed to repent and beg God to forgive him for the wicked thoughts and intents of his heart. Simon’s request for the power to impart the gifts of the Holy Spirit was denied, not only because it violated the will of God, but also because it apparently was issued out of purely selfish motives.
Jesus further documented the fact that prayers which issue from selfish motivations will not be effective. In the Sermon on the Mount, He stated: “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Matthew 6:5). The hypocrites’ showy prayers designed to garner public approval negated the effectiveness of their requests.
The persistence of the petition is another factor that the Bible indicates has a bearing on the efficacy of prayer. In Luke 18:1, the gospel writer stated: “Then He [Jesus—KB] spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (emp. added). The parable Jesus told in this context was about a widow who made a request to an unjust judge. Her request was noble and right, but the unjust judge did not feel obligated to comply with her appeal. Due to her persistence, however, and her “continual coming” to the judge, he finally granted her petition. Jesus then commented that if an unjust judge can be swayed by persistence, how much more effective is the persistent prayer of a virtuous person when addressed to the righteous Judge of all the Earth.
Additionally, Jesus told of a man who visited his neighbor at midnight requesting bread to feed a guest. Initially, the neighbor refused the request, but eventually he complied. Jesus stated: “I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs” (emp. added). Jesus then coupled this parable with the instructions to be persistent in requests to God (vss. 9-13). In fact, throughout the Scriptures, persistence plays a prominent role in effective prayer (see Philippians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18; Luke 2:37).
THE PRAYER EXPERIMENT
In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins caustically attacked the concept of the effectiveness of prayer to accomplish any real world results. He focused primarily on a “prayer experiment” in which approximately 1,800 heart patients were divided into three groups: “Group 1 received prayers and didn’t know it. Group 2 (the control group) received no prayers and didn’t know it. Group 3 received prayers and did know it” (2006, p. 66). The results of the experiment suggested that the prayers that were offered for groups 1 and 3 did not favorably affect the successful results of their surgery or recovery. Dawkins focused on these negative results, insinuating that such an experiment proves that prayer is useless and the Bible’s teaching on the topic is at odds with reality. Dawkins quoted one of the religious people who had offered some of the prayers, who stated that the results did not dissuade him from his belief in the efficacy of prayer. Dawkins then sarcastically retorted: “Yeah, right: we know from our faith that prayer works, so if evidence fails to show it we’ll just soldier on until finally we get the result we want” (2006, p. 66).
Dawkins assessment of the experiment, however, shows a glaring ignorance of the Bible’s true position concerning prayer, and a complete failure to approach the subject with any type of scholarly rigor. Every critique of a scientific experiment must certainly include a knowledge and understanding of the factors that would “skew” the results of the study. For instance, if the Bible plainly says that the prayers of a righteous person and those of an unrighteous person differ in their efficacy, then such information must be considered in order for an accurate assessment of any prayer experiment to take place. Furthermore, if the Bible specifically details that the motives driving a particular request have a bearing on the answer, then the “experimental” format in which the prayers were offered would itself be called into question and would adversely affect the accuracy of the report. In addition, if the Bible clearly states that those who are praying must truly believe that God, according to His will, will comply with the request, then the level of belief held by each of the members in the “prayer groups” must be factored into the critique of the experiment.
Please do not misunderstand what I am saying. It is impossible to know or compare the faithfulness of a prayer group, much less each individual’s level of belief. Nor would it be feasible to attempt to study the various lives of the ones who were being prayed for and try to systematically document how their health or sickness would factor into God’s will on this Earth. I am not suggesting that the experiment could have been arranged better so that more accurate results could have been obtained. A negative result to prayer cannot prove that prayer is ineffective, but only that at least one of the biblical criteria was lacking. I am suggesting, however, that Dawkins’ failure to comprehensively view the Bible’s qualifications about prayer, and his dishonest (or ignorant) glossing over of the true facts concerning prayer, would not be tolerated in any critique of a scientific experiment, and should be shown to have absolutely no value in discrediting the Bible’s position on prayer. [NOTE: It is unfortunate that even some religious people have so misunderstood the Bible’s teachings about prayer that they would even attempt such an experiment. We would be wise to consider that many people who profess to be defending the Bible’s position on subjects such as prayer are actually doing more harm than good by misrepresenting the truth.]
"TELLING PEOPLE WHAT TO THINK"
In Losing Faith in Faith, Dan Barker discussed a book that he wrote for children that contained these words: “No one can tell you what to think. Not your teachers. Not your parents. Not your minister, priest, or rabbi. Not your friends or relatives. Not this book. You are the boss of your own mind. If you have used your own mind to find out what is true, then you should be proud! Your thoughts are free!” (1992, p. 47). Noble sentiments, indeed!
But as one digs deeper into Barker’s book, it quickly becomes clear that those sentiments do not find a willing practitioner in the person of Dan Barker. In his chapter on prayer,
Don’t ask Christians if they think prayer is effective. They will think up some kind of answer that makes sense to them only. Don’t ask them, tell them: “You know that prayer doesn’t work. You know you are fooling yourself with magical conceit.” No matter how they reply, they will know in their heart of hearts that you are right (1992, p. 109, emp. in orig.).
From Barker’s statement about what should be “told” to those who believe in prayer, it is easy to see that he does not necessarily believe his previous statement that “no one can tell you what to think,” or that a person should use his own mind “to find out what is true.” In fact, what Barker is really trying to say is that a person should only think for himself if such thinking will lead him to believe that there is no God, or that prayer does not work, or that all religion is nonsense. If thinking for himself leads a person to believe in the efficacy of prayer or the existence of God, then that person should be “told” what to believe. It is not the Bible’s position on prayer that is internally inconsistent, but the skeptics’ attack on the Bible that fails to adhere to sound reasoning and rational thinking.
To document the millions of incidents in which people’s prayers have been answered positively would be virtually impossible. The Bible offers a multitude of examples in which the prayers of God’s faithful followers were answered, and modern Christians could detail countless examples of such in their personal lives. It is true, however, that God does not always respond positively to all those who petition him. The skeptic delights in pulling out scattered verses, misrepresenting the Scriptures’ true position on prayer, and demanding that the Bible cannot be God’s Word, since its teachings concerning prayer are “contradictory” and do not accurately represent what occurs in the real world. A critical look at the skeptics’ claims, however, quickly and clearly reveals that much is amiss with their allegations. It is only the feeble straw man built by the skeptic’s own imagination that can be effectively demolished. An accurate representation of the Bible’s position concerning prayer reveals complete internal consistency and perfect correspondence to real world events. The Bible explains that prayer is not a magic incantation that can be spouted out to accomplish selfish ambitions. Instead, the effective prayer comes from a righteous person, who prays persistently, by the authority of Christ, according to God’s will, out of unselfish motives, believing he or she will receive the petitions requested.
Barker, Dan (1992), Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI: Freedom From Religion Foundation).
Barker, Dan (2008), godless (Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press).
Butt, Kyle and Dan Barker (2009), Butt/Barker Debate: Does the God of the Bible Exist?(Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Dawkins, Richard (2006), The God Delusion (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin).
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (no date), Receiving the Gift of Salvation, [On-line], URL:http://www.apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/Receiving%20the%20Gift%20of%20Salvation.pdf.
Templeton, Charles (1996), Farewell to God (Ontario, Canada: McClelland and Stewart).
Bee Flight Physics
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
In 1934, using mathematical calculations, French entomologist August Magnan concluded that bee flight was aerodynamically impossible. The haphazard flapping of their wings simply should not enable bees to fly. The mystery that has perplexed scientists ever since (due to inadequate understanding of aerodynamic theory) is now believed to have been clarified. Using high-speed digital cameras and a giant robotic model of a bee wing, bioengineers at the California Institute of Technology and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas have been studying honeybee flight in an effort to determine how bees fly (Altshuler, et al., 2005). They discovered that bees operate with the same basic aerodynamic principles that facilitate flight capability in other flying creatures, including velocity, wing stroke amplitude, stroke reversals, wingbeat frequency, and wing length. They simply utilize these principles in different proportions and combinations.
Why? Why would bees operate on altered aerodynamic principles? The scientists do not know. They speculate that since bees consume floral nectar, they possess “excess power available for ecologically useful but aerodynamically expensive behaviors” (102:18218). Observe that “ecologically useful” implies that bee flight is specifically suited to bee activity—which is another way to say that a bee is strategically and deliberately designed to fulfill its function efficiently. The scientists compare honeybees to hummingbirds “that are able to forage for high-energy nectar rewards by using more energetically demanding flight” (102:18218, emp. added). In other words, the use of adjusted aerodynamic principles is not due to alleged inherited evolutionary inefficiency; rather, it is the result of deliberate design calculated to achieve different objectives and accommodate different purposes. Hummingbirds do not fly like sparrows—because they are not sparrows! And bees do not fly like mosquitoes—because they are not mosquitoes! Each flying creature’s flight capabilities are specifically suited to accommodate its created purpose and function.
Do bees have any specific needs in order to accomplish their peculiar functions? Yes, and the scientists, themselves, offer the following: “Honeybees and other hymenopterans [the order of insects that includes bees, wasps, and ants—DM] need to carry much heavier loads that may actually exceed body mass in numerous contexts, including undertaking, prey transport, and foraging for nectar or pollen” (102:18218). Again, in other words, bee flight is specifically designed to accommodate the tasks that bees perform. But design demands a designer! Design requires an intelligence that exceeds the blind, mechanistic forces of nature.
Here is the conclusion set forth by the researchers:
In conclusion, our analysis of honeybee aerodynamics reveals how the rapid low-amplitude wing motion of bees is sufficient to maintain the weight of the animal. [We knew that—DM.] Furthermore, honeybees exhibit considerable ability to generate excess aerodynamic power, which they accomplish by raising stroke amplitude while maintaining constant frequency. This ability may be related to requirements of social insects to carry loads related to foraging, undertaking, and brood transport (102:18218, emp. added).
Notice: the bee deliberately generates extra aerodynamic power. Why? The scientists speculate that it is due to the bee’s need to carry out its social duties—the requirements it possesses due to its place in the insect social order. My friend, such a circumstance has intelligent design written all over it. Such complexity, such design, such planning, and such purpose could not have happened without a Mind. That Mind is none other than the God of the Bible:
Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power.... For thus says the Lord, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the Lord, and there is no other” (Isaiah 40:26; 45:18).You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created (Revelation 4:11).
Altshuler, Douglas L., William B. Dickson, Jason T. Vance, Stephen P. Roberts, and Michael H. Dickinson (2005), “Short-Amplitude High-Frequency Wing Strokes Determine the Aerodynamics of Honeybee Flight,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 102:18213-18218, December 13.
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
A common misconception among atheists, humanists, and evolutionists is that those who reject evolution in order to hold to a fundamental, literal understanding of the biblical documents are guided by “blind faith.” Robinson articulated this position quite emphatically when he accused Christians of abandoning rationality and evidence in exchange for intellectual dishonesty and ignorance of the truth (1976, pp. 115-124). Many within the scientific community labor under the delusion that their “facts” and “evidence” are supportive of evolution and opposed to a normal, face-value understanding of the biblical text. They scoff at those who disagree with them, as if they alone have a corner on truth.
The fact of the matter is that while most of the religious world deserves the epithets hurled by the “informed” academicians, those who espouse pure, New Testament Christianity do not. New Testament Christians embrace the biblical definition of faith, in contrast to the commonly conceived understanding of faith that is promulgated by the vast majority of people in the denominational world.
The faith spoken of in the Bible is a faith that is preceded by knowledge. One cannot possess biblical faith in God until he or she comes to the knowledge of God. Thus, faith is not accepting what one cannot prove. Faith cannot outrun knowledge—for it is dependent upon knowledge (Romans 10:17). Abraham was said to have had faith only after he came to the knowledge of God’s promises and was fully persuaded (Romans 4:20-21). His faith, therefore, was seen in his trust and submission to what he knew to be the will of God. Biblical faith is attained only after an examination of the evidence, coupled with correct reasoning about the evidence.
The God of the Bible is a God of truth. Throughout biblical history, He has stressed the need for the acceptance of truth—in contrast with error and falsehood. Those who, in fact, fail to seek the truth are considered by God to be wicked (Jeremiah 5:1). The wise man urged: “Buy the truth, and sell it not” (Proverbs 23:23). Paul, himself an accomplished logician, exhorted people to love the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). He stated the necessity of giving diligence to the task of dealing with the truth properly (2 Timothy 2:15). Jesus declared that only by knowing the truth is one made free (John 8:32). Luke ascribed nobility to those who were willing to search for and examine the evidence, rather than being content to simply take someone’s word for the truth (Acts 17:11). Peter admonished Christians to be prepared to give a defense (1 Peter 3:15), which stands in stark contrast to those who, when questioned about proof of God, or the credibility and comprehensibility of the Bible, triumphantly reply, “I don’t know—I accept it by faith!”
Thus, the notion of “blind faith” is completely foreign to the Bible. People are called upon to have faith only after they receive adequate knowledge. In fact, the Bible demands that the thinker be rational in gathering information, examining the evidence, and reasoning properly about the evidence, thereby drawing only warranted conclusions. That, in fact, is the essentiality of what is known in philosophical circles as the basic law of rationality: one should draw only such conclusions as are justified by the evidence. Paul articulated exactly this concept when he wrote: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). John echoed the same thought when he said to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1). These passages show that the New Testament Christian is one who stands ready to examine the issues. God expects every individual to put to the test various doctrines and beliefs, and then to reach only such conclusions as are warranted by adequate evidence. Man must not rely upon papal authorities, church traditions, or the claims of science. Rather, all people are obligated to rely upon the properly studied written directives of God (2 Timothy 2:15; John 12:48; 2 Peter 3:16). Biblical religion and modern science clash only because the majority of those within the scientific community have abandoned sound biblical hermeneutics and insist upon drawing unwarranted, erroneous conclusions from the relevant scientific evidence.
The Bible insists that evidence is abundantly available for those who will engage in unprejudiced, rational inquiry. The resurrection claim, for example, was substantiated by “many infallible proofs,” including verification through the observation of more than five hundred persons at once (Acts 1:3; 1 Corinthians 15:5-8). Many proofs were made available in order to pave the way for faith (John 20:30-31). Peter offered at least four lines of evidence to those gathered in Jerusalem before he concluded his argument with “therefore…” (Acts 2:14-36). The acquisition of knowledge through empirical evidence was undeniable, for Peter concluded, “as you yourselves also know” (Acts 2:22, emp. added). John referred to the auditory, visual, and tactile evidences that provided further empirical verification (1 John 1:1-2). Christ offered “works” to corroborate His claims, so that even His enemies did not have to rely merely on His words—if they would but honestly reason to the only logical conclusion (John 10:24-25,38). The proof was of such magnitude that one Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews, even admitted: “[W]e know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2).
Nevertheless, there are always those who, for one reason or another, refuse to accept the law of rationality, and who avoid the warranted conclusions—just like those who side-stepped the proof that Christ presented, and attributed it to Satan (Matthew 12:24). Christ countered such an erroneous conclusion by pointing out their faulty reasoning and the false implications of their argument (Matthew 12:25-27). The proof that the apostles presented was equally conclusive, though unacceptable to many (Acts 4:16).
The proof in our day is no less conclusive, nor is it any less compelling. While it is not within the purview of this brief article to prove such (see Warren and Flew, 1977; Warren and Matson, 1978), the following tenets are provable: (1) we can know (not merely think, hope, or wish) that God exists (Romans 1:19-20); (2) we can know that the Bible is the verbally inspired Word of God, and intended to be comprehended in much the same way that any written human communication is to be understood; (3) we can know that one day we will stand before God in judgment and give account for whether we have studied the Bible, learned what to do to be saved, and obeyed those instructions; and (4) we canknow that we know (1 John 2:3).
By abandoning the Bible as a literal, inerrant, infallible standard by which all human behavior is to be measured, the scientist has effectively rendered biblical religion, biblical faith, and New Testament Christianity sterile—at least as far as his or her own life is concerned. Once the Bible is dismissed as “figurative,” “confusing,” or “incomprehensible,” one has opened wide the doors of subjectivity, in which every man’s view is just as good as another’s. The more sophisticated viewpoint may be more appealing, but it remains just as subjective and self-stylized.
Robinson, Richard (1976), “Religion and Reason,” Critiques of God, ed. Peter A. Angeles (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus).
Warren, Thomas B. and Antony G.N. Flew (1977), The Warren-Flew Debate (Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press).
Warren, Thomas B. and Wallace I. Matson (1978), The Warren-Matson Debate (Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press).