"THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS" Chapter Thirteen OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To understand our relationship to the government 2) To appreciate the importance of love and moral purity SUMMARY Continuing to instruct concerning the "transformed life," Paul now discusses the Christian's responsibilities to governmental authorities. Understanding that all governments are in power due to the providence of God, and that they serve as ministers of God to avenge the evil doer, Christians are admonished to submit to "the powers that be" (1-5). This submission involves payment of taxes and having respect for those in authority (6-7). Paul's next exhortation deals with the importance of love and moral purity. Christians are to be indebted to no one, save to love one another. When love is properly demonstrated, even the requirements of the Law are adequately met (8-10). This admonition to love, however, is carefully balanced with the reminder that time is short and it is imperative that Christians maintain moral purity. This is done by Christians putting on the Lord Jesus and not making provision for the fulfilling of the lusts of the flesh (11-14). OUTLINE I. RESPONSIBILITIES TO THE GOVERNMENT (1-7) A. BE IN SUBJECTION (1-5) 1. For governing authorities are appointed by God (1-2) 2. For governing authorities are God's ministers to avenge evil (3-4) 3. To avoid wrath and maintain good conscience (5) B. FULFILL WHAT IS DUE (6-7) 1. Taxes, customs (6-7a) 2. Fear (respect), honor (7b) II. EXHORTATION TO LOVE AND MORAL PURITY (8-14) A. THE VALUE OF LOVE (8-10) 1. Owe no one anything but love (8a) 2. For love does no harm, and fulfills the Law (8b-10) B. CONCERNING MORAL PURITY (11-14) 1. The time is short, we need to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light (11-12) 2. Walk properly by putting on the Lord Jesus and making no provision to fulfill fleshly lusts (13-14) WORDS TO PONDER the governing authorities - the political powers which govern society he does not bear the sword in vain - an implied reference to the approved use of capital punishment put on the Lord Jesus Christ - a process begun in baptism (Ga 3:27), continued as we develop Christ-like qualities (Col 3:9-17) make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts - avoid situations where unlawful fleshly desires might be aroused and acted upon REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) List the main points of this chapter - Responsibilities To The Government (1-7) - Exhortations To Love And Moral Purity (8-14) 2) What one word summarizes the Christian's responsibility to the government? (1) - submit 3) From where do governments get their authority? (1) - God 4) What happens if we resist governing authorities? (2) - We resist God and bring judgment upon ourselves 5) What is a major responsibility of government? (4) - To avenge the evil doer 6) What should serve as motivation for Christians' submission to the government? (5) - Wrath, and conscience 7) What else is required of Christians in regards to government? (7) - Payment of taxes, and respect for those in authority 8) What one thing should we owe to others? (8) - Love 9) What are we to put on? (12,14) - The "armor of light", the Lord Jesus Christ 10) What are we not to provide opportunities for? (14) - The fulfillment of fleshly lusts
"THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS" Chapter Twelve OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To see the difference between conformation and transformation, understanding the process involved in being transformed 2) To appreciate the diversity of service in the Body of Christ SUMMARY Having concluded his discourses concerning the gospel (chs. 1-8) and God's dealings with the nation of Israel (chs. 9-11), Paul now exhorts his readers to full service in the kingdom of God. He begins with a plea to present their bodies as living sacrifices and to be transformed by the renewing of their minds, so that they can demonstrate in themselves that the will of God is good, acceptable, and perfect (1-2). He then encourages them to fulfill their proper place in the Body of Christ with proper humility and zeal (3-8). Finally, there are a list of commands which are to govern the Christian's life and attitude towards love, good and evil, brethren in the Lord, service to God, and response to persecution (9-21). OUTLINE I. AN APPEAL TO CONSECRATION (1-2) A. PRESENT YOUR BODIES AS LIVING SACRIFICES (1) 1. In view of the mercies of God (1a) 2. Which is your reasonable (spiritual, NAS) service (1b) B. BE TRANSFORMED, NOT CONFORMED TO THE WORLD (2) 1. By the renewing of your mind (2a) 2. To prove the good, acceptable, and perfect will God (2b) II. SERVE GOD AS MEMBERS OF ONE BODY (3-8) A. WITH HUMILITY (3) 1. In all seriousness (3a) 2. For what we are comes from God (3b) B. WITH APPRECIATION FOR DIVERSITY (4-5) 1. Members do not have the same function (4) 2. But we are one, members of one another (5) C. WITH ZEAL, NO MATTER WHAT OUR GIFTS (6-8) III. MISCELLANEOUS EXHORTATIONS (9-21) A. AS CHRISTIANS (9-16) 1. Concerning love, good and evil (9) 2. Loving and honoring brethren (10) 3. Fervent in our service (11) 4. Rejoicing, patient, prayerful (12) 5. Caring for saints (13) 6. Blessing our enemies (14) 7. Sharing joys and sorrows (15) 8. Humble in our relations together (16) B. RESPONDING TO EVIL (17-21) 1. Do not repay with evil, be mindful of what is good (17) 2. If possible, be at peace (18) 3. Give place to the wrath of God (19) 4. Overcome evil by responding with good (20-21) WORDS TO PONDER the mercies of God - the many blessings alluded to in the first eleven chapters a living sacrifice - an offering that is living, not dead conform - "to fashion or shape one thing like another... this verb has more special reference to that which is transitory, changeable, unstable" (VINE) - this word is different than that found in Romans 8:29 transform - "to change into another form; [as used in Ro 12:2] to undergo a complete change, which under the power of God, will find expression in character and conduct" (VINE) overcome evil with good - the goal of the Christian's response to evil REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) List the main points of this chapter - An Appeal To Consecration (1-2) - Serve God As Members Of One Body (3-8) - Miscellaneous Exhortations (9-21) 2) Upon what does Paul make his plea? (1) - The mercies of God; their reasonable service 3) How is a Christian to present himself before God? (1) - As a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God 4) How is one transformed? (2) - By the renewing of their minds 5) What is the purpose of such transformation? (2) - To prove (demonstrate) what is the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God 6) What illustration shows our dependence upon each other in the church? (4-5) - Members of a body 7) How are Christians to respond to evil? (19-21) - In a positive way, with good
The Quran and Jesus’ Personal Conduct
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The Quran’s confusion regarding the person of Jesus manifests itself repeatedly—a confusion that reflects the misconceptions and misrepresentations of the New Testament that were prevalent within Christendom in the sixth and seventh centuries, which, in turn, were mistakenly accepted into the Quran. For example, consider the Quran’s report of Allah’s communication with Mary regarding Jesus:
(And remember) when the angels said: O Mary! Lo! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a word from Him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, illustrious in the world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near (unto Allah). He will speak unto mankind in his cradle and in his manhood, and he is of the righteous. She said: My Lord! How can I have a child when no mortal hath touched me? He said: So (it will be). Allah createth what He will. If He decreeth a thing, He saith unto it only: Be! and it is. And He will teach him the Scripture and wisdom, and the Torah and the Gospel. And will make him a messenger unto the children of Israel, (saying): Lo! I come unto you with a sign from your Lord. Lo! I fashion for you out of clay the likeness of a bird, and I breathe into it and it is a bird, by Allah’s leave. I heal him who was born blind, and the leper, and I raise the dead, by Allah’s leave. And I announce unto you what ye eat and what ye store up in your houses. Lo! herein verily is a portent for you, if ye are to be believers (Surah 3:45-49, emp. added).
A parallel passage is found in Surah 5:
When Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Remember My favour unto thee and unto thy mother; how I strengthened thee with the holy Spirit, so that thou spakest unto mankind in the cradle as in maturity; and how I taught thee the Scripture and Wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel; and how thou didst shape of clay as it were the likeness of a bird by My permission, and didst blow upon it and it was a bird by My permission, and thou didst heal him who was born blind and the leper by My permission; and how thou didst raise the dead, by My permission; and how I restrained the Children of Israel from (harming) thee when thou camest unto them with clear proofs, and those of them who disbelieved exclaimed: This is naught else than mere magic (5:110, emp. added).
Even the casual reader of the New Testament is familiar with Jesus healing the blind and lepers, and raising the dead. But the New Testament is conspicuously silent about Jesus creating birds or speaking from the cradle, even as it is silent on nearly all details of Jesus’ childhood. That is because the Quran’s allusion to Jesus fashioning birds out of clay, which then came to life, was a fanciful Christian fable with a wide circulation. It is found, for example, in the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of the Savior (15:1-6) that dates from the second century (Hutchison, 1939, 1:199)—four hundred years before Muhammad’s birth:
And when the Lord Jesus was seven years of age, he was on a certain day with other boys his companions about the same age. Who when they were at play made clay into several shapes, namely asses, oxen, birds, and other figures, each boasting of his work, and endeavouring to exceed the rest. Then the Lord Jesus said to the boys, I will command these figures which I have made to walk. And immediately they moved, and when he commanded them to return, they returned. He had also made the figures of birds and sparrows, which, when he commanded to fly, did fly, and when he commanded to stand still, did stand still (The Lost Books, 1979, pp. 52-53).
A similar legend is found in the Gospel of Thomas (1:4-9) that likewise predates (Cullmann, 1991, 1:442) the production of the Quran:
Then he took from the bank of the stream some soft clay, and formed out of it twelve sparrows; and there were other boys playing with him.... Then Jesus clapping together the palms of his hands, called to the sparrows, and said to them: Go, fly away; and while ye live remember me. So the sparrows fled away, making a noise (The Lost Books, p. 60).
Observe also in the above Quranic passage the allusion to Jesus speaking while yet in His cradle. This point is elaborated more fully in Surah 19 where, after giving birth to Jesus beside the trunk of a palm tree in a remote location, Mary returned to her people carrying the child in her arms and received the following reaction:
Then she brought him to her own folk, carrying him. They said: O Mary! Thou hast come with an amazing thing. Oh sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a wicked man nor was thy mother a harlot. Then she pointed to him. They said: How can we talk to one who is in the cradle, a young boy? He spake: Lo! I am the slave of Allah. He hath given me the Scripture and hath appointed me a Prophet, and hath made me blessed wheresoever I may be, and hath enjoined upon me prayer and alms‑giving so long as I remain alive, and (hath made me) dutiful toward her who bore me, and hath not made me arrogant, unblest. Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive! Such was Jesus, son of Mary: (this is) a statement of the truth concerning which they doubt (Surah 19:27-34, emp. added).
The idea that Jesus spoke while yet in the cradle preceded the Quran, having been given in the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of the Savior (1:2-3): “Jesus spoke, and, indeed when He was lying in His cradle said to Mary his mother: I am Jesus, the Son of God, the Logos, whom thou hast brought forth, as the Angel Gabriel announced to thee; and my Father has sent me for the salvation of the world” (Roberts and Donaldson, 1951, 8:405). These mythical accounts are contrary to the Bible’s depiction of the Christ. Yet the legendary folklore extant in the centuries immediately following the production of the New Testament is replete with such absurdities, which obviously were so commonplace that the author of the Quran mistook them as authentic and legitimate representations of the New Testament.
Cullmann, Oscar (1991), “Infancy Gospels,” New Testament Apocrypha, ed. Wilhelm Schneemelcher (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press).
Hutchison, J. (1939), “Apocryphal Gospels,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), 1:199.
The Lost Books of the Bible (1979 reprint), (New York: Random House).
Pickthall, Mohammed M. (n.d.), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
Roberts, Alexander and James Donaldson (1951), The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Defending the Biblical Position Against Lying
|by||Caleb Colley, Ph.D.|
Generally, truthfulness is considered a valuable component of the ethical life. However, a pressing question in moral philosophy is whether it is ever permissible to lie. The Bible contains general prohibitions against lying, in both the Old and New Testaments:
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (Exodus 20:16).
- You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another (Leviticus 19:11).
- These six things the Lord hates, yes seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue... (Proverbs 6:16-17).
- [A]ll liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Revelation 21:8).
- But there shall by no means enter [eternal life—CC] anything that defiles or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 21:27).
The adherent to biblical doctrine is an ethical “absolutist” when it comes to lying; that is, he takes the position that lying is never the right thing to do. Furthermore, the Bible’s strictures against lying are, to him, sufficient grounds for his decision never to lie. However, the purpose of this article is to show that the biblical position may be defended against secular claims that absolutism against lying is unreasonable.
The secular ethicist might base his objection on so-called “common-sense morality.” In this case, he would decry the absolutist’s prohibition of lying in certain cases where it might seem right to lie. The most famous such scenario is that of the “murderer at the door,” as explained by Benjamin Constant:
The moral principle stating that it is a duty to tell the truth would make any society impossible if that principle were taken singly and unconditionally. We have proof of this in the very direct consequences which a German philosopher [Immanuel Kant—CC] has drawn from this principle. This philosopher goes as far as to assert that it would be a crime to tell a lie to a murderer who asked whether our friend who is being pursued by the murderer had taken refuge in our house (quoted in Kant, 1994, p. 162).
Constant was responding to Immanuel Kant, a professed Christian (see Rossi, 2009). While Kant’s rational morality was not based on the Bible, he was an absolutist concerning lying: “Truthfulness in statements that cannot be avoided is the formal duty of man to everyone, however great the disadvantage that may arise therefrom for him or for any other” (p. 163). Recognizing the general distaste at the prospect of telling the “murderer at the door” that a friend is hiding in the house, some Kantian scholars have gone to great lengths to show that Kant actually misinterpreted his own categorical imperative in order to establish an absolutist principle (e.g., Korsgaard, 1986). Whether such efforts succeed is beyond the scope of this article, which is not designed to justify Kant.
Utilitarianism is a system that has been positioned as the formalization of “common-sense morality” (e.g., Sidgwick, 1893, pp. 162-176). The assertion that one should lie in order to save others might be grounded on the act-utilitarian principles of Jeremy Bentham. He summarized his moral philosophy in the following statement:
By the principle of utility is meant that principle which approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever, according to the tendency which it appears to have to augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose interest is in question: or, what is the same thing in other words, to promote or to oppose that happiness (1907, p. 2).
According to Bentham, we must do that which maximizes happiness. To apply this principle to the case of the murderer at the door: It would seem that the happiness resulting from relieving the refugee of mortal danger would outweigh any negative feelings on the part of the murderer, should he ever discover the deception. (This comparison assumes that we give equal moral weight to the innocent and the guilty—an allocation which may be questioned.) The morally correct decision therefore, on utilitarian grounds, is to lie to the murderer. Probably most students agree with Bentham’s application.
Consider four available, extra-biblical responses to the utilitarian viewpoint:
1. The “murderer-at-the-door” case is extreme. Very few people find themselves in scenarios where a decision like this one regarding “murderer at the door” is necessary. So, ethicists should proceed carefully in criticizing biblical ethics, to avoid rushing to the conclusion that one extreme hypothetical case renders absolutism unreasonable.
2. Truth does not murder. Kant rightly states that “[Constant—CC] confuses the action whereby someone does harm to another by telling the truth when its avowal cannot be avoided with the action whereby someone does wrong to another. It was merely an accident that the truth of the statement did harm [but not wrong] to the occupant of the house” (p. 165, bracketed item in orig.). The truth-teller is not the murderer.
3. Outcomes are unpredictable. Human finitude dictates that none of us could be certain what would happen if he was to tell the truth to the murderer. Kant, for example, was aware of several potentialities:
For example, if by telling a lie you have in fact hindered someone who was even now planning a murder, then you are legally responsible for all the consequences that might result therefrom. But if you have adhered strictly to the truth, then public justice cannot lay a hand on you, whatever the unforeseen consequence might be. It is indeed possible that after you have honestly answered Yes to the murderer’s question as to whether the intended victim is in the house, the latter went out unobserved and thus eluded the murderer, so that the deed would not have come about. However, if you told a lie and said that the intended victim was not in the house, and he has actually (though unbeknownst to you) gone out, with the result that by so doing he has been met by the murderer and thus the deed has been perpetrated, then in this case you may be justly accused as having caused his death. For if you had told the truth as best you knew it, then the murderer might perhaps have been caught by neighbors who came running while he was searching the house for his intended victim, and thus the deed might have been prevented. Therefore, whoever tells a lie, regardless of how good his intentions may be, must answer for the consequences resulting therefrom (p. 164, parenthetical item in orig.).
The creative among us could imagine a large number of outcomes, both good and bad. Kant reminds us that we do not know that the truth-telling would result in murder, and therefore our decision cannot be based on certainty.
So, a decision to tell the truth is not a decision to kill the refugee. Furthermore, options are available. Silence is an option. Kant carefully stated that what is required is “Truthfulness in statements that cannot be avoided” (p. 163). The biblical ethicist does not assert that a person tell all he knows.
4. A slippery slope threatens. Another response to Bentham’s position is that it implicitly requires us to determine a standard of difficulty which, when met, makes lying permissible. This requirement is problematic. May we tell a lie when the inquirer at the door seeks only to injure the refugee? What if he wants to inflict only a harsh reprimand? What if the inquirer merely happens to be someone the refugee dislikes? Bentham’s principle leaves us in the problematic position of judging how “bad” things must get before utility merits a lie. This difficulty is one reason why some, including John Stuart Mill, sought to amend Bentham’s approach in order to provide concrete rules for behavior (Mill, 1895, p. 35; cf. Brown, 1997, p. 37). Kant seems to have anticipated this problem:
[T]here is the problem of how to make arrangements so that in a society, however large, harmony can be maintained in accordance with principles of freedom and equality.... [T]his will then be a principle of politics; and establishing and arranging such a political system will involve decrees that are drawn from experiential knowledge regarding men; and such decrees will have in view only the mechanism for the administration of justice and how such mechanism is to be suitably arranged. Right must never be adapted to politics; rather, politics must always be adapted to right (p. 166, emp. added).
While Sidgwick thinks that society would be worse-off if criminals could rely on others’ honesty (1893, p. 449), the options mentioned above demonstrate that society may be both truthful and unfavorable to criminals’ pursuits. Presumably, even utilitarians would agree that an honest society is worth pursuing (e.g., Mill, 1895, p. 41).
The Bible is unmistakably clear about the wrongness of lying. While we need not agree with Kant about everything, we happily acknowledge his assistance in showing how the biblical position appeals to human rationality. We agree with him that “[t]o be truthful (honest) in all declarations is, therefore, a sacred and unconditionally commanding law...that admits of no expediency whatsoever” (p. 164, parenthetical item in orig.).
Bentham, Jeremy (1907), An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation(Oxford, England: Clarendon).
Brown, D.G. (1997), “Mill’s Act-Utilitarianism,” Mill’s Utilitarianism: Critical Essays, ed. David Lyons (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield).
Kant, Immanuel (1994 reprint), Ethical Philosophy (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett), second edition.
Korsgaard, Christine M. (1986), “The Right to Lie: Kant on Dealing with Evil,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, 15:325-349.
Mill, John Stuart (1895), Utilitarianism (London: George Routledge & Sons), twelfth edition.
Rossi, Philip (2009), “Kant’s Moral Philosophy,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, [On-line], URL: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-religion/.
Sidgwick, Henry (1893), The Methods of Ethics (New York: Macmillan), fifth edition.
Belief in God and “Gut Feelings”
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
In September of this year, Stephanie Pappas wrote an article for LiveScience titled, “Belief in God Boils Down to a Gut Feeling.” In that article, she explained that researchers from Harvard University recently “discovered” that people who are more apt to trust their first intuitions are more likely to believe in God than those people who stop and reflect on those intuitions. In order to test this idea, the researchers gave participants a math test that consisted of three problems with questions such as: “A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?” (Pappas, 2011). As Pappas explained, the intuitive answer is 10 cents, but that is wrong. Those who gave answers such as 10 cents, instead of the correct answer of 5 cents for the test were “one-and-a-half times more likely to believe in God than those who got all the answers right” (Pappas, emp. added). Using this and other test results, the researchers concluded that intuitive thinkers, or those who follow their gut feelings, are more likely to believe in God than more reflective types. David Rand, one of the researchers, stated: “It’s not that one way is better than the other. Intuitions are important and reflection is important, and you want some balance of the two. Where you are on that spectrum affects how you come out in terms of belief in God” (Pappas).
Now let us take a critical look at what is really going on with this most recent Harvard “study.” First, why do you think LiveScience is reporting on a study about belief in God? Do you think it is because the scientific community has had a sudden change of heart and now believes the concept of God to be one that can be verified scientifically? Of course not. On the contrary, this “study” is in LiveScience in an attempt to reduce belief in God to a function of a certain type of brain chemistry or thought process—and an inferior one at that. Notice that David Rand concludes that “where you are on the spectrum affects how you come out in terms of belief in God.” If it so happens that you are an intuitive thinker, then you do not really control whether you believe in God or not, it is just that your thinking is more open to the possibility. If you are a more “reflective” thinker, then there is a good chance you cannot help your lack of a belief in God; it is just the way you think. In other words, belief in God is a function of your physical chemistry (an ultimately evolution) rather than your God-given ability to rationally make a choice.
Furthermore, notice that while the researchers were quick to say that one way of thinking is not superior to the other, it was the “intuitive” thinkers who got the very simple math problems wrong, and those are the people who tend to believe in God more. Observe the implied deficiency associated with a belief in God. Those who are more likely to believe in God cannot even answer simple math problems. It should be noted that this “study” was of an extremely small group of people and had no substantial “scientific” information to add to the question about belief in God.
Unfortunately, it is true that many in the religious world erroneously believe in God due to emotions and feelings rather than reason and evidence. True biblical faith is not founded on personal feelings and emotions, instead it is based on reflection (i.e., reason and evidence, 1 Thessalonians 5:21). While the Harvard study may hint at how some people in the religious world come to belief in God, the study fails to account for those whose faith is legitimate—being based on reflection of the evidence. Further, in the same way that many believe in God based on “intuition” rather than “reflection,” a fair assessment would be to note that there are just as many people who fail to believe in God because they are unwilling to draw the conclusions that come from proper reflection of the evidence (e.g., design in the Universe, causality, etc.). An appropriate counter study to this Harvard research, which would provide a more complete picture of the truth, would be to determine how many do not believe in God because of an inherent bias against Him (due, for instance, to some event in their past or a desire to live without moral restraint) and/or because those individuals have a tendency in their lives to not draw appropriate conclusions that are warranted by the evidence (in contradiction to the Law of Rationality; Ruby, 1960, pp. 130-131).
Attempts by the atheistic scientific community to reduce belief in God to genetics, brain cells, digestion, or the color of a person’s eyes are legion—and all equally unsuccessful. The bottom line is that belief in God will never be successfully linked to any physical trait, pattern of brain cells, genetic variation, and certainly not to a method of reasoning that causes a person to miss simple math problems. On the contrary, all those who sincerely desire to use proper reasoning (Acts 26:24) to follow the truth where it leads (John 18:37), will arrive at the correct conclusion that God exists (Miller, 2011). If people do not believe in God, it is not because of their genes or their “reflective” capacities; it is because they have refused to properly assess the evidence that God has provided. Sadly, those people will be “without excuse” on the Day of Judgment (Romans 1:20).
Miller, Dave (2011), “Is Christianity Rational?”http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=977.
Pappas, Stephani (2011), “Belief in God Boils Down to a Gut Feeling,” LiveScience, http://news.yahoo.com/belief-god-boils-down-gut-feeling-104403461.html.
Ruby, Lionel (1960), Logic: An Introduction (Chicago, IL: J.B. Lippincott).
Book Review: The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
Peter J. Gomes is a Baptist clergyman who preaches for Harvard University’s Memorial Church, and who also teaches at the university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The cleric professor has created a maelstrom of controversy recently with the publication of The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart (1996). The design of this book is to neutralize the Scriptures of their doctrinally demanding thrust, thus accommodating the ancient volume to the inclinations of modern society.
Gomes argues, for example, that the Bible does not condemn abortion. He contends that the biblical term “murder” refers only to the premeditated destruction of human life “outside the womb” (p. 45)—a distinction that is arbitrary, and which, in fact, is at variance with Exodus 21:22-23.
Further, Gomes, a self-confessed homosexual, alleges that the use of the Bible to condemn homosexuality is the product of simplistic interpretative methods that reflect a failure to comprehend the context in which the Scriptures were written. Such proceduralism he calls “textual harassment.” These sort of charges flow easily, of course, from those who reject the plain testimony of the Bible in the interest of their own personal agenda. For example, the author makes an artificial distinction in types of homosexual relationships. One moment he contends that Paul, in his various letters, merely was condemning the “debauched pagan expression” of homosexuality; then, he alleges that the apostle hardly can be faulted for his ignorance, because he knew nothing of “the concept of a homosexual nature” (p. 158). He also suggests (p. 25) that there was a homosexual relationship between David and Jonathan—a notion not reflected even remotely in the Old Testament narrative regarding these great men. Gomes obviously is desperate for some semblance of support for his aberrant lifestyle.
The professor charges that the New Testament itself is anti-Semitic. One chapter is titled: “The Bible and Anti-Semitism: Christianity’s Original Sin.” It is hardly anti-Semitic, however, to contend that the Jews’ salvation is to be found only in Jesus Christ, when the same condition prevails for the Gentiles as well. No one can read Romans 9:1ff., where Paul’s heart throbs with love for his brothers in the flesh, and charge the apostle with hatred and racism.
This volume is filled with reckless charges, sweeping generalizations, and invalid arguments. It is utterly bereft of scholarly acumen.
Of late, Gomes has been a frequent guest on the talk-show circuit, and his book has received laudatory reviews in the popular press. This is to be expected from media that disregard the authority of the Bible, and seek justification for hedonistic lifestyles.
Gomes, Peter J. (1996), The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart (New York: William Morrow).
Jesus Was Rational
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
A study of the life of Christ on Earth quickly reveals that Jesus functioned rationally, logically, and sensibly. Unlike many religious people who claim to represent Him, Jesus possessed high respect for doctrinal correctness (after all, He authored the Law!). In all of His interactions with people, He conducted Himself with logical precision. One example of this attribute of our Lord is seen on the occasion when Jesus entered the synagogue and encountered a man who had a deformed hand (Matthew 12:9-13). This circumstance prompted His enemies to ask Him a question in hopes of being able to accuse Him of breaking the Law. They asked: “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Of course, they had pre-decided that the answer to the question was “no,” that, in fact, the Law would naturally forbid such an action.
Unfortunately, the prevailing interpretation of the Law of Moses at the time, at least among the Jewish leaders, was that the Sabbath law enjoined total inactivity—as if everyone was to sit down for 24 hours and do nothing. This view was a distortion of God’s law on the matter. The Law gave the right, even the obligation, to engage in several activities (that could rightly be designated “work”) that did not constitute violation of the Sabbath regulation. On this occasion, Jesus pinpointed one such instance: “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?” (vs. 11). Jesus was recalling a directive from the Law of Moses:
You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray, and hide yourself from them; you shall certainly bring them back to your brother. And if your brother is not near you, or if you do not know him, then you shall bring it to your own house, and it shall remain with you until your brother seeks it; then you shall restore it to him. You shall do the same with his donkey, and so shall you do with his garment; with any lost thing of your brother’s, which he has lost and you have found, you shall do likewise; you must not hide yourself. You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fall down along the road, and hide yourself from them; you shall surely help him lift them up again (Deuteronomy 22:1-4; cf. Exodus 23:4-5).
Such passages give insight into the nature of God, and provide tremendous assistance in making proper application of God’s laws to everyday circumstances.
Observe that God’s laws never contradict or countermand each other. Unlike manmade laws which often manifest inconsistency and contradiction, God’s laws function in perfect harmony with each other. The Mosaic passage to which Jesus alluded demonstrates that the general principle of the cessation of usual work on the Sabbath did not conflict with any number of specific circumstances in which benevolence and compassion were to be expressed. In an agriculturally-based society, a family’s survival depends on its farm animals. If a sheep, ox, or donkey were to break out of its stall, flee the premises, and then fall into a pit from which it would be unable to extricate itself, the animal would most likely die or become seriously ill if left in its predicament for 24 hours. To expend the necessary effort (i.e., “work) to retrieve the animal from danger was not considered by God to be included in the Sabbath prohibition. Hence, Jesus stated the logical conclusion: “Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep?” (vs. 12). If action could be exerted to see to the well-being of a dumb animal, then obviously, God would approve of action taken to see to the physical care of a human being! The logic is penetrating and decisive. Far from suggesting that law is unimportant and may be ignored under the guise of “human need,” or implying that humans can break the “letter of the law” in order to keep the “spirit of the law” (see Miller, 2003), Jesus demonstrated that inherently built into God’s laws are all concerns deemed by Deity to be necessary. The benevolent, loving thing to do will always harmonize with God’s laws, since “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10), i.e., every truly loving action has already been defined by God in His legal admonitions.
The religion of Christ surpasses all human religion. It is rooted in the very essence of Deity. When Jesus took on human form on Earth, He showed Himself to be the Master logician Who always conducted Himself in a rational manner. May we do likewise.
Miller, Dave (2003), “The Spirit and Letter of the Law,” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1225.
A Galactic Glossary
|by||Bert Thompson, Ph.D.|
“Let us examine for a moment the current all-encompassing science of cosmology.... The big bang theory proclaims that the whole universe created itself instantly out of nothing. I believe there are many observations by now that disprove this...” (astrophysicist Halton Arp, 2000, 14:448).
[NOTE: Words and phrases in bold type within these definitions also appear in the glossary.]
Absolute Zero—The theoretical temperature at which substances possess no thermal energy and all molecular motion ceases. Equal to 0 Kelvin, -273.15° Celsius, or -459.67° Fahrenheit.
Anisotropy—From Greek anisos, meaning “unequal”; having properties that vary according to the direction of measurement; opposite of isotropy.
Axions—Theoretical particles that have no charge or spin, and an extremely small mass. They have been proposed to explain unknown characteristics of the strong nuclear force.
Baryonic Matter—All conventional (“normal”) matter comprised of protons and neutrons.
“Big Chill”—Cosmological theory which suggests that the Universe will accelerate its expansion, growing increasingly cold with its infinite advance.
“Big Crunch”—Cosmological theory which suggests that the Universe expanded originally from a singularity, eventually will collapse back again, and will repeat such a cycle indefinitely.
Black Hole—A theoretical object whose mass is at such an intense density that the escape velocity exceeds the speed of light, thus preventing even light from exiting.
Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMB)—An observed cosmic radiation on the order of microwaves [waves that have the shortest wavelength in the radio wave spectrum] emanating from space, independent of directional measurements.
Cosmological Redshift—The “apparent movement” of matter in space, caused by the movement of space itself rather than the motion of matter itself; also known as Hubble flow or expansion redshift.
Cosmology—From Greek kosmos, meaning “order”; the study of the Cosmos (i.e., the ordered Universe) in all its aspects.
Dark Energy—Theoretical “missing energy” that has been suggested to account for a deficiency in the Big Bang Theory and its variants; hypothesized, but not yet documented to exist.
Dark Matter—Theoretical particles that emit little or no detectable radiation of their own, and that are postulated to exist because of the effects of gravitational forces on other astronomical objects; hypothesized, but not yet documented to exist.
Doppler Effect—The change in the observed frequency of an electromagnetic wave due to the relative motion of source and/or observer.
Entropy—Measure of the disorder or randomness in a system; the portion of heat (energy) content unavailable to perform work.
Expansion—The concept in astronomy which suggests that the distance between galaxies in the Universe is continually increasing in size (which means that galaxies outside our own are receding from us).
Expansion Redshift—The “apparent movement” of matter in space caused by the movement of space itself rather than the motion of matter; also known as Hubble flowor cosmological redshift.
First Law of Thermodynamics—The scientific law which states that neither matter nor energy can be created or destroyed in a closed system, but can only be conserved.
Galaxy—Large-scale collection of stars, gas, and debris. The Milky Way Galaxy, where Earth resides, is classified as a spiral galaxy.
Globular Cluster—A group of many thousands of stars, which are traveling through space together and that are much closer to each other than the stars around the group.
Gravitational Redshift—The movement of matter in space caused, not by the expansion of space around the matter, but by gravitational forces that actually cause the matter itself to move (cf. Hubble flow/cosmological redshift/expansion redshift).
Homogeneity—The concept which suggests that matter is distributed uniformly throughout the Universe.
Hubble Constant—The scientific constant of proportion between relative velocity and distance that is used to calculate the expansion rate of the Universe.
Hubble Flow—The “apparent movement” of matter in space, caused by the movement of space itself rather than the motion of matter itself; also known as cosmological redshift or expansion redshift.
Inflation—Rapid expansion of the Universe, required for the Inflationary Big Bang Hypothesis.
Inflaton—Theoretical particle whose sole purpose is to provide the vacuum of space with the required energy to produce inflation.
Irtrons—Theoretical points that spontaneously produce hydrogen from nothing and spew it into the Universe; hypothesized in an attempt to maintain a steady-state type of Universe.
Isotropy—From Greek isos meaning “equal”; having identical properties in all directions.
Light-years—A unit of measurement of astronomical distance; the distance that light travels in a vacuum in one year (approximately 5.88 trillion miles). [Distances expressed in light-years represent the time that light would take to cross that distance.]
Nebula—A diffuse mass of interstellar dust or gas or both, visible as luminous patches.
Nucleosynthesis—The creation of the elements via nuclear reactions; theoretically, the process by which heavier chemical elements are manufactured from hydrogen nuclei.
Quasars—Quasi-Stellar Astronomical Objects. Originally, these objects were called “quasi-stellar radio sources” (“quasars” for short). Quasars are compact, extragalactic objects that look like points of light, but which emit more energy (mostly as infrared radiation) than a hundred supergiant galaxies. Considered to be the most distant and youngest objects in the Universe.
Redshift—An increase in the wavelength of radiation emitted by a celestial body; often considered to be the consequence of the Doppler effect.
Second Law of Thermodynamics—Also known as the “Law of Increasing Entropy”; basically, the Second Law says three things: (a) systems will tend toward the most probable state; (b) systems will tend toward the most random state, and (c) systems will increase in entropy, where entropy is a measure of the unavailability of energy to do useful work.
Steady State Theory—Cosmological theory which proposed the spontaneous generation of hydrogen from nothing at hypothetical points known as “irtrons,” thereby causing the Universe to expand forever and thus remain in a “steady state.”
Sunyaev-Zeldovich Effect—The thermal effect arising from the frequency shift when cosmic microwave background radiation is scattered by the hot electrons in interstellar gas.
Superclusters—A large group of neighboring clusters of galaxies.
Universe—All matter and energy, including the Earth, the galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space, regarded as a whole.
Vortices—The swirling or circular motion, tending to form a cavity or vacuum at its center.
Ylem—The hypothetical primordial matter, which according to the Big Bang, existed prior to the formation of the elements. Sometimes referred to as the “cosmic egg,” it is the alleged seed that contained all the matter in the known Universe.
America, Christianity, and the Culture War (Part II)
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
POLITICAL DOCUMENTS: SPEECHES AND QUOTES BY FOUNDERS
As one peruses the plethora of speeches, writings, and private correspondence left behind by the Founders, one is literally overwhelmed by their incessant allusion to the critical importance of God and Christianity to national life. One of the great Founders of America was Patrick Henry. On March 23, 1775, over a year before the Declaration of Independence, he attended the Second Virginia Convention (which, by the way, met in achurch building in Richmond) to discuss the tyranny of the Crown. The 39-year-old delegate from Hanover County took a seat on the third pew, patiently listening to the pleas of the Tories to refrain from antagonizing the King of England by further talk of independence. When his opportunity to speak finally came, he rose and delivered the following spectacular speech—a speech that cannot be used in the public school system of America today because of its frequent, now deemed politically incorrect, allusion to God and the Bible. Consider a few excerpts:
This is no time for ceremony.... For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings. ...There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free—if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending—if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained—we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts [Old Testament term for God in His military might—DM] is all that is left us! ...Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us [2 Chronicles 32:8—DM].... What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death! (1775, emp. added).
Patrick Henry’s frequent appeals to God were typical of the Founders. They assigned atheological rationale for the Revolutionary War. They viewed the effort to achieve independent national existence as sanctioned by and dependent on the God of the Bible. Such facts have been all but expunged from American history courses.
After independence was achieved, the Founders met for the purpose of hammering out the political principles that would guide the new nation. On June 28, 1787, in the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, one of the least religious of the Founders, Benjamin Franklin, now in his 80s, rose to his feet and made the following majestic remarks [NOTE: Lest the reader miss the fact that Franklin’s speech is thoroughly saturated with allusions to God and the Bible, such references are noted in bold and direct biblical citations are indicated in brackets]:
In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying tothe Father of lights [James 1:17], to illuminate our understanding? In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard and they were graciously answered. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or, do we imagine we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs[Acts 1:3] I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men [Daniel 4:17]. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice[Matthew 10:29], is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that “except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it” [Psalm 127:1]. I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel [Genesis 11]: We shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages[Psalm 44:13-14; Jeremiah 24:9]. I therefore beg leave to move—that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessingon our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service (1787, emp. and bracketed material added).
These two speeches by Patrick Henry and Benjamin Franklin would now be deemed politically incorrect and inappropriate for public schools (unless significantly “abridged”). Even if they were admitted to the history classroom, how many American history teachers today would even recognize the multiple quotations from the Bible?
The sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, reflecting on the origin of the nation, stated succinctly the role that God played in America’s founding:
From the day of the Declaration, the people of the North American Union and of its constituent states were associated bodies of civilized men and Christians.... They were bound by the laws of God, which they all, and by the laws of the Gospel, which they nearly all, acknowledged as the rules of their conduct (1821, p. 28, emp. added).The Declaration of Independence cast off all the shackles of this [British] dependency. The United States of America were no longer Colonies. They werean independent nation of Christians (1837, p. 18, emp. added).
Observe carefully that President Adams claimed that all of the Founders believed in the God of the Bible, and that nearly all of them also believed in Christianity. Since John Quincy Adam’s father was a prominent Founder as well as the second President of the United States, surely he was in a much better position to assess America’s founding principles and the intentions of the Founders than anyone today. Yet, the public school system of America since the 1960s has been perpetrating on unsuspecting children the outrageous falsehood that the Founders did not express allegiance to the Christian religion, but were deists at most and more generally irreligious. Who is more qualified to make such an assessment: anti-American, anti-Christian, biased, revisionist historians/educators from the last 50 years—or John Quincy Adams?
Noah Webster, known for his tireless efforts to standardize American English, had much to say about the spiritual underpinnings of America’s government:
In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed.... No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people (1843, p. 291, emp. added).The Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis, or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government.... and I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence (Snyder, 1990, p. 253, emp. added).
Again, Webster’s remarks are very typical of the Founders in their adamant and repetitious insistence that our form of government can neither be sustained nor perpetuated without the widespread diffusion of Christian principles throughout society.
In a speech to the First Provincial Congress of New Jersey on November 4, 1782, Elias Boudinot, who became President of the Continental Congress, admonished his fellows:
Let us enter on this important business under the idea that we are Christianson whom the eyes of the world are now turned.... Let us earnestly call and beseech him for Christ’s sake to preside in our councils (1896, 1:19, emp. added).
Question: In making such a statement, did President Boudinot say anything that would have been instantly decried as a “violation of church and state” or an insensitive attempt to press his religious beliefs on others? Quite the opposite. The fact that history records this admonition is proof that he was merely expressing the sentiments of the bulk of his contemporaries.
The courts of America once openly avowed the nation’s affiliation with the one true God and the one true religion. For example, in a case that came before the New York State Supreme Court in 1811, a man had been convicted by a lower court for the following offense:
[H]e did on the 2nd day of September, 1810, at Salem, wickedly, maliciously, and blasphemously, utter, and with a loud voice publish, in the presence and hearing of divers good and Christian people, of and concerning the Christian religion, and of and concerning Jesus Christ, the false, scandalous, malicious, wicked and blasphemous words...in contempt of the Christian religion, and the laws of this State (People v. Ruggles, emp. added).
He was found guilty, sentenced to three months in prison, and fined $500. The man’s attorney argued that Christianity was not a part of the laws of the State, and that theConstitution allowed a free toleration to all religions and all kinds of worship. Nevertheless, the State Supreme Court upheld the man’s conviction. The opinion of the court was penned by one of the Fathers of American Jurisprudence, Chief Justice James Kent, whose Commentaries on American Law effectively supplanted Blackstone’sCommentaries as the premier expression of American law:
[W]hatever strikes at the root of Christianity tends manifestly to thedissolution of civil government.... The people of this State, in common with the people of this country, profess the general doctrines of Christianity, as the rule of their faith and practice; and to scandalize the author of these doctrines is not only, in a religious point of view, extremely impious, but, even in respect to the obligations due to society, is a gross violation of decency and good order.... [T]o revile, with malicious and blasphemous contempt, the religion professed by almost the whole community, is an abuse of that right. Nor are we bound, by any expressions in the constitution, as some have strangely supposed, either not to punish at all, or to punish indiscriminately the like attacks upon the religion of Mahomet or of the Grand Lama; and for this plain reason, that the case assumes that we are a Christian people, and the morality of the country is deeply ingrafted upon Christianity, and not upon the doctrines or worship of those imposters (People v. Ruggles, emp. added).
Unbelievable! Not only did this Father of American Jurisprudence forcefully acknowledge the universal recognition that America’s allegiance was to the Christian religion, he committed what would now be considered a grievous, politically incorrect blunder of seismic proportions: he condemned Islam (Muhammad) and Buddhism (the Dalai Lama) as false religions! Yet he was merely expressing the viewpoint of 99.9% of his fellow Americans.
In a case that came before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, the court declared America’s unflinching attachment to the general precepts of the Christian religion:
This is the Christianity of the common law, incorporated into the great law of Pennsylvania, and thus, it is irrefragably proved, that the laws and institutions of this state are built on the foundation of reverence for Christianity.... On this the constitution of the United States has made no alteration, nor in the great body of the laws which was an incorporation of the common law doctrine of Christianity, as suited to the condition of the colony, and without which no free government can long exist....No free government now exists in the world, unless where Christianity is acknowledged, and is the religion of the country.... Christianity is part of the common law of this state. It is not proclaimed by the commanding voice of any human superior, but expressed in the calm and mild accents of customary law. Its foundations are broad, and strong, and deep: they are laid in the authority, the interest, the affections of the people.... [I]t is the purest system of morality, the firmest auxiliary, and only stable support of all human laws (Updegraph..., 1824, emp. added).
In a case that went before the Supreme Court of Maryland in 1799, the justices delivered a unanimous opinion, including the following then-typical affirmations:
Religion is of general and public concern, and on its support depend, in great measure, the peace and good order of government, the safety and happiness of the people. By our form of government, the Christian religion is the established religion; and all sects and denominations of Christians are placed upon the same equal footing, and are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty. The principles of the Christian religion cannot be diffused, and its doctrines generally propagated, without places of public worship, and teachers and ministers, to explain the scriptures to the people, and to enforce an observance of the precepts of religion by their preaching and living. And the pastors, teachers and ministers, of every denomination of Christians, are equally entitled to the protection of the law, and to the enjoyment of their religious and temporal rights (Runkel..., emp. added).
In 1892, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling in which the Court cited instance after instance, proof after proof, that from the very beginning America was closely aligned with the God of the Bible. They brought their review of America’s religious heritage to a close with this grand conclusion: “These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation” (Church of the..., emp. added). The U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the same in 1931: “We are a Christian people...according to one another the equal right of religious freedom, and acknowledging with reverence the duty of obedience to the will of God” (United States v..., emp. added). How many Americans today realize that the U.S. Supreme Court has declared that America is a Christian nation? Many additional instances of the judiciary’s support for the nation’s Christian origins could be cited.
In November of 1861, Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury under Abraham Lincoln, issued the following directive to the Director of the Mint in Philadelphia:
No nation can be strong except in the strength of God or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins. You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition (“History of In...,” emp. added).
On April 22, 1864, by Act of Congress, the motto “In God we Trust” was approved for placement on American coins, beginning with the 1864 two-cent piece. Congress—a thoroughly political, governmental body—placed an unmitigated religious allusion on government-minted coinage! Apparently, the U.S. Government in 1864 understood neither the Constitution nor the so-called “separation of church and state.” It took the creation of the ACLU to correct such “egregious errors” and provide us with a correct understanding of our Constitution.
Prior to 1864, manifestations of America’s religious preference during the 18th century appeared on the Constellatio Nova copper coins. An eye emanating rays outward toward a surrounding circle of thirteen stars is historically identified as the Eye of Providence, symbolizing divine favor for the new nation (“The Nova...,” n.d.). The same symbolism is on currency notes from the 1770s (“Continental Currency: 1779 $40...”). Other indications of America’s religious heritage manifested on money include the $60 currency note from January 14, 1779. The emblem on the front shows a globe of the Earth with a motto from Psalm 97 in capital letters: “DEUS REGNAT EXULTET TERRA,” i.e., “God reigns, let the Earth rejoice” (“Continental Currency: 1778...”). The 1779 $30 note has an emblem on the front showing a wreath on a tomb, with the motto: “SI RECTE FACIES”—“If you act righteously” (“Continental Currency: 1779 $30...”). Hence, religious references have been on America’s money from the beginning.
Several national symbols provide evidence of America’s premiere attachment to the God of the Bible. Consider three. The Liberty Bell, cast in 1753, served as the official bell of the Pennsylvania State House. However, on July 8, 1776, it rang out to announce the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. Since that day, it has served as a national symbol of liberty and is specially housed in Philadelphia near Independence Hall. Most Americans likely do not even realize that the words encircling the bell are taken from Leviticus 25:10—“Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof” (“The Liberty...”).
The Statue of Liberty stands on Bedloe’s Island in New York harbor. On the fourth level at the base of the grand lady are seven jade green carrara-like glass plaques, six of which have excerpts from works of great American statesmen (“Statue of Liberty...”). Inscribed on the seventh plaque is Leviticus 25:10—the same Bible verse that is on the Liberty Bell.
How many Americans are aware that we have a National Seal? On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress assigned Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson the task of creating a seal for the United States of America. The seal was to embody the beliefs and values that the Founding Fathers wished to pass on to their descendents. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson (again, two of the least religious of the Founders) proposed a thoroughly biblical design: Moses crossing the Red Sea, with Pharaoh in hot pursuit. It included the motto: “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God” (“The Great Seal...”). These two men were so familiar with the Bible, and so believed in the God of the Bible, that they were able to draw the parallel between the relationship of the Israelites to Pharaoh and the relationship of Americans to the King of England. Observe further that both men viewed the separation from England to be in accordance with the will of God. As it turned out, their proposal did not make the cut.
The Great Seal was finalized and approved six years later on June 20, 1782. It has two sides. One side is sometimes referred to as the spiritual side. It contains a 13-step, incomplete pyramid with the year 1776 in Roman numerals at the base. At the top of the pyramid is a triangle (as if finishing out the pyramid) containing the Eye of Providence. Above the Eye is the motto Annuit Coeptis, which is Latin for “He (i.e., God) favors our undertakings” (“Symbols of U.S....”). Both sides of the Great Seal can be seen on the back of a one-dollar bill (“FAQs...”). That means that every dollar bill in America containsthree allusions to the God of the Bible: “In God We Trust,” the Eye of God, and “He favors our undertakings.” ACLU attorneys must be pulling their hair out—though they continue to use the currency.
Government buildings all over the country—from Washington, D.C. to the State capitols—are riddled with religious references, specifically to the God of the Bible and the Christian religion. Ironically, the United States Supreme Court building contains several allusions to the Ten Commandments. Directly above the Bench where the justices sit are two central figures, depicting Majesty of the Law and Power of Government. Between them is a tableau of the Ten Commandments (“Supreme Court...”). In three spots, as part of larger sculptural groups, Moses is depicted with tablets: in the North Courtroom frieze, on the exterior East Pediment, and in one of the Great Hall metopes. Other tablets with the Roman numerals I-X appear on the support frame of the Courtroom’s bronze gates as well as on the lower, interior panel of one of the oak doors that separate the Courtroom from the central hallway (“Symbols of Law”).
Moving to the Library of Congress, eight large statues can be seen above the giant marble columns that surround the main reading room. They represent eight categories of knowledge, each considered symbolic of civilized life and thought. Above the figure of History are words from Lord Tennyson’s In Memoriam: “ONE GOD, ONE LAW, ONE ELEMENT, AND ONE FAR-OFF DIVINE EVENT, TO WHICH THE WHOLE CREATION MOVES” (“On These Walls...”). Such words embody the Christian worldview and contradict atheism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Native American religion. Above the figure of “Religion” are the words of Micah 6:8—“What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Above the figure of “Science” are the words of Psalm 19:1—“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handiwork” (“On These Walls...”).
Sixteen bronze statues set along the balustrade of the galleries, each pair flanking one of the eight giant marble columns, represent men renowned for their accomplishments in knowledge. The names of the individual figures are inscribed on the wall directly behind the statue. Representing “Religion” are the statues of the apostle Paul and Moses. Among the murals in the dome of the Main Reading Room are the words: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. (Holy Bible, Leviticus 19:18)” inscribed in Hebrew. In the north hall is a painting called “Knowledge.” The inscription reads: “Ignorance is the curse of God, knowledge the wing wherewith we fly to Heaven”—again, a clear expression of the Bible’s teaching. Also in the Library of Congress is the “Members of Congress Reading Room.” Along the center of the ceiling are panels that represent civilization through the Spectrum of Light. Each of the seven panels features a central figure that symbolizes some phase of achievement, human or divine. The first subject is the creation of light with the words of Genesis 1:3—“Let there be light” (“On These Walls...”).
In the White House is situated the Adams Prayer Mantel which dates from 1800. The inscription constitutes an appeal to God: “I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof” (“State Dining Room...”). Images of the Ten Commandments are seen in a statue in front of the Ronald Reagan Building titled “Liberty of Worship,” a sculpture in front of the U.S. District Court building (along with a cross), as well as embedded in the floor of the National Archives (Devorah, 2004).
Moving to the U.S. Capitol complex, in the House Chamber, immediately above the American flag that is hung vertically on the wall behind the Speaker of the House, engraved in marble are the words: “In God We Trust” (“House of...,” 2005). Twenty-three marble relief portraits hang over the gallery doors of the House Chamber, depicting historical figures noted for their work in establishing the principles that underlie American law. Eleven profiles in the eastern half of the chamber face left and eleven in the western half face right, so that all 22 look towards the full-face relief of—Moses (“Relief Portraits...”).
The House Rotunda doors show depictions of Christopher Columbus and his partycarrying a cross. Also in the Rotunda is a 360-degree painted panoramic frieze 58 feet above the floor with 19 scenes depicting significant events in American history, including Hernando DeSoto and Christopher Columbus, again, carrying crosses, the Protestant baptism of Pocahontas, and Protestant pilgrims on board ship headed for America. The latter depicts Protestant pilgrims on the deck of their ship headed for the New World on July 22, 1620. William Brewster is holding the Bible, and John Robinson is leading Governor Carver, William Bradford, Miles Standish, and their families in prayer. The rainbow at the left side of the painting symbolizes hope and divine protection (“Works of Art...”). Also in the Capitol is the Great Experiment Hall (the central east-west corridor) that chronicles in 16 murals three centuries of legislative milestones. The murals include George Washington and Abraham Lincoln taking the oath of office by placing their hands on the Bible, and a Protestant preacher symbolizing freedom of religion (“Works of Art...”).
A stained glass window of George Washington praying on one knee is in the chapel of the U.S. Capitol. Below him is “Psalm 16:1” with the words of the verse inscribed around him. “This Nation Under God” appears above him. At the top of the window is the Great Seal which, as noted previously, contains two allusions to God—the Providential Eye andannuit coeptis (Devorah, 2003).
The Lincoln Memorial houses engravings of some of Lincoln’s speeches. They, too, are punctuated with references to God and the Bible. For example, consider his second inaugural address in which he addresses both sides of the Civil War:
Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes his aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us “judge not, that we be not judged” [Matthew 7:1—DM]. The prayers of both could not be answered—that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh” [Matthew 18:7—DM].If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued throughhis appointed time, he now wills to remove, and that he gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to him? Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn by the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” [Psalm 19:9—DM].With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations (“Lincoln...,” emp. added).
Also inscribed within the Lincoln Memorial is the Gettysburg Address which speaks of “this nation under God.” Most Americans assume that it was Lincoln who coined the then historically apropos phrase: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Yet he was merely quoting the Bible—Mark 3:25.
The Jefferson Memorial contains engravings from some of Jefferson’s works, including numerous references to the God of the Bible:
I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.Almighty God hath created the mind free...All attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens...are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion... I know but one code of morality for men whether acting singly or collectively.God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever (“Thomas Jefferson Memorial...,” emp. added).
Also located in the Jefferson Memorial are excerpts from the Declaration of Independencethat include three of the four references to God found within that document.
The apex of the Washington Memorial is topped by a 100 ounce aluminum capstone that has on its east face two lone Latin words: Laus Deo, i.e., praise be to God (“The Washington...”; “Laus Deo”). Ascending the internal stairway, one can see 190 memorial stones donated by various states, cities, churches, and civic organizations during the nineteenth century phase of construction. The stones abound with references to God, the Bible, Christianity, and Christian morality. For example, the stone donated by the state of Kentucky reads: “Under the Auspices of Heaven and the Precepts of Washington.” The stone donated by the city of Baltimore reads: “May Heaven to This Union Continue Its Beneficence.” Using biblical imagery (i.e., “ark,” “covenant,” “dove”), one city in Maryland linked the religion of the Pilgrims with the birthright of America in the memorial stone they contributed:
From the City of Frederick, Md. Civil and Religious Liberty first proclaimed in the Pilgrim Fathers of Maryland as emblemed in the Ark of the Covenant of Freedom, and the Dove, the Harbinger of Peace and fellowship that guided them though the danger of the deep, have been secured in the Birthright of the Nation by the enduring Seal of the Minister of Justice, George Washington (“Washington Monument...”).
In addition to the apex and these memorial stones, many artifacts were deposited in the recess of the cornerstone after completion, including 71 newspapers that ran articles commemorating Washington, and a host of other historical objects—a veritable treasure trove of history. However, only one is religious in nature: the Bible (“Appendix C: Members...”).
Adams, John Quincy (1821), Address Delivered at the Request of the Committee of Arrangements for Celebrating the Anniversary of Independence at the City of Washington on the Fourth of July 1821, Upon the Occasion of the Reading the Declaration of Independence (Cambridge: Hilliard and Metcalf).
Adams, John Quincy (1837), An Oration Delivered Before the Inhabitants of the Town of Newburyport, at Their Request, on the Sixty-first Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1837 (Newburyport: Charles Whipple).
“Appendix C: Members of the Joint Commission,” Washington Monument: A History, [On-line], URL: http://www.nps.gov/wamo/history/appc.htm.
Boudinot, Elias (1896), The Life, Public Services, Addresses, and Letters of Elias Boudinot, President of the Continental Congress, ed. J.J. Boudinot (Boston, MA: Houghton, Mifflin).
Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, 143 U.S. 457; 12 S. Ct. 511; 36 L. Ed. 226; 1892 U.S. LEXIS 2036.
“Continental Currency: 1778 $60 Note,” Serial Number: 95,405, [On-line], URL: http://www.coins.nd.edu/ColCurrency/CurrencyIm ages/CC/CC-09-26-78-$60.obv.jpg.
“Continental Currency: 1779 $40 Note,” Serial Number: 171,449, [On-line], URL: http://www.coins.nd.edu/ColCurrency/CurrencyIm ages/CC/CC-01-14-79-$40.obv.jpg.
“Continental Currency: 1779 $30 Note,” Serial Number: 51,381, [On-line], URL: http://www.coins.nd.edu/ColCurrency/CurrencyIm ages/CC/CC-01-14-79-$30.obv.jpg.
Devorah, Carrie (2003), “God in the Temples of Government: Part I,” [On-line], URL: http://www.humaneventsonline.com/arti cle.php?id=2441.
Devorah, Carrie (2004), “God in the Temples of Government: Part II” [On-line], URL: http://www.papillonsartpalace.com/godinthe.htm.
“FAQs: Currency Portraits and Designs,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, [On-line], URL: http://www.ustreas.gov/education/faq/currency/portraits.shtml#q3.
Franklin, Benjamin (1787), “Constitutional Convention Address on Prayer,” [On-line],URL: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/benfranklin.htm.
“The Great Seal and the National Mottos of the United States of America,” U.S. Scouting Service Project, [On-line], URL: http://www.usscouts.org/flag/sealmotto.html.
Henry, Patrick (1775), “Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death,” The Avalon Project at Yale Law School, [On-line], URL: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/patrick.htm.
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People v. Ruggles, 8 Johns. 290 (N.Y. 1811).
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Runkel v. Winemiller, 4 H. & McH. 429; 1799 Md. LEXIS 43.
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United States v. Macintosh, 283 U.S. 605; 51 S. Ct. 570; 75 L. Ed. 1302; 1931 U.S. LEXIS 170.
Updegraph v. the Commonwealth (1824), 11 Serg. & Rawle 394; 1824 Pa. LEXIS 85.
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