"THE BOOK OF PROVERBS" Somatic Therapy For Wise Living (4:20-27) INTRODUCTION 1. In our study of chapter four thus far, we have seen Solomon make two appeals concerning wisdom, which I entitled... a. Childhood Memories Of A Wise Man (4:1-9) b. The Two Paths (4:10-19) 2. Solomon's third appeal to wisdom (4:20-27) makes metaphoric use of body parts... a. Such as the ears, eyes and mouth b. Such as the heart and feet 3. I like to think of this section as "Somatic Therapy For Wise Living"... a. Somatic means "of or relating to the body" b. Somatic therapy normally refers to holistic treatment designed to integrate the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical aspects of one's being c. I am using it accommodatively in this lesson for the sake of illustration [If we are to live wisely, then we need to apply "somatic therapy". Let's begin with the fundamentals, what we might call...] I. SOMATIC THERAPY 101 A. INCLINE YOUR EAR TO WISDOM... 1. "My son, give attention to my words; incline your ears to my sayings." - Pr 4:20 2. In other words, careful attention to words of wisdom is required 3. If we have ears to hear, then we must use them, leaning forward to listen if necessary 4. Similar to the Bereans, who "received the word with all readiness" - Ac 17:11 -- Do we make good use of our ears, listening carefully when wisdom is shared? B. FOCUS YOUR EYES ON WISDOM... 1. "Do not let them depart from your eyes" - Pr 4:21a 2. The eyes should be fixed on wise teaching 3. This implies careful reading of that which imparts wisdom 4. As Paul charged Timothy: "give attention to reading" - 1 Ti4:13 -- Do we make good use of our eyes, reading things that help make us wise? C. APPLY YOUR HEART TO WISDOM... 1. "Keep them in the midst of your heart" - Pr 4:21b 2. The heart in the Bible often refers to the mind or affections of a person 3. This implies meditation upon those things we have heard or read 4. As Paul exhorted the Philippians: "...meditate on these things" - Php 4:8 -- Do we spend time contemplating the wisdom we hear and read? D. THE BENEFITS OF SOMATIC THERAPY... 1. "For they are life...and health..." - Pr 4:22 2. Wisdom's words are life-giving and creative - Believer's Bible Commentary (BBC) 3. And they are health to the whole body because they deliver a person from the sins and stresses that cause so much illness - ibid. 4. As Jesus said: "The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" - Jn 6:63 -- Do we let the wisdom of God give us a better life for both body and soul? [Wise living truly involves more than just the inner man. We must use the whole man, including the eyes and ears that God gave us. As we continue, let's progress to the next level...] II. SOMATIC THERAPY 201 A. FOR THE HEART... 1. "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life" - Pr 4:23 2. Diligence is required to guard the heart (the mind, the thoughts) 3. For it is the fountain from which all actions spring - BBC 4. As Jesus revealed concerning sin: "For from within, out of the heart of man, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts..." - Mk 7:21-23 -- Are we careful about what goes into our hearts (minds)? B. FOR THE MOUTH AND LIPS... 1. "Put away from you a deceitful mouth, And put perverse lips far from you." - Pr 4:24 2. We must not use our mouths and lips to lie or otherwise mislead others 3. As Paul commanded: "putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor..." - Ep 4:25 4. Again: "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers" - Ep 4:29 -- Are we careful about what comes out of our mouths and lips? C. FOR THE EYES AND EYELIDS... 1. "Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you." - Pr 4:25 2. This suggests singleness of purpose, but it can also be take rather literally 3. In a day when the mass media bombard us with publicity designed to arouse our animal appetites, we must learn to keep our eyes on Jesus. - BBC 4. As Jesus warned, the eyes can be a conduit into the soul of man - cf. Mt 6:22-23 -- Are we careful upon what we let our eyes linger? D. FOR THE FEET... 1. "Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established." - Pr 4:26 a. Think about the direction in which your feet are taking you b. Work toward walking on established ways, not the unstable c. In this, the Lord is willing to assist us - cf. Ps 37:23; 40:2; Pr 3:6 2. "Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil." - Pr 4:27 a. With the Lord before you, don't let the allurements of the world distract you b. Should you take a step in the wrong direction, quickly step back c. Again, the Lord is willing to help - cf. Mt 6:13; 26:41; 1Co 10:13; 2Pe 2:9 -- Are we careful about where our feet are taking us? CONCLUSION 1. Through proper "somatic therapy" we can live wisely... a. Using our ears, eyes, and mouths in ways that are wholesome b. Filling our hearts with good, so that it is good that proceeds from our hearts c. Watching where our feet are taking us, turning away when headed in the wrong direction 2. How are we using our bodies as we go through life...? a. Do we listen attentively to the spoken Word of God? b. Do we read carefully the written Word of God? c. Do we apply God's word to our heart and soul? d. Are we careful about what we see, say, and hear? e. Are we watching the direction our feet are taking us? Fail to apply the lessons of "Somatic Therapy 101" and "Somatic Therapy 201", and we will fail to succeed in the course of life...!
"THE BOOK OF PROVERBS" The Two Paths (4:10-19) INTRODUCTION 1. The acquisition of wisdom is stressed repeatedly in the fourth chapter of Proverbs... a. "Get wisdom! Get understanding!..." - Pr 4:5 b. "Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding." - Pr 4:7 2. The importance of wisdom is further illustrated by two paths... a. Described in Pr 4:10-19 b. We must take one path or the other [In this study let's first summarize the two paths, and then take a closer look at the metaphor used to describe one of them...] I. THE TWO PATHS A. THE PATH OF WISDOM... 1. The way of wisdom - Pr 4:11 2. The consequences of choosing this path a. "...the years of your life will be many." - Pr 4:10 1) As stated before - Pr 3:1-2 2) Generally speaking, this is true, for wisdom leads one down the path more likely to bless the body with good health - cf. Pr 3:7-8 b. "When you walk, your steps will not be hindered" - Pr 4:12a 1) The reason for this was also stated before - Pr 3:5-6 2) A person on this path has the Lord assisting them! c. "And when you run, you will not stumble." - Pr 4:12b 1) Life can be hectic, there will be times when decisions must be made quickly 2) Those on the right path are less likely to make mistakes, for they have chosen the way of wisdom 3. In light of such consequences, the following admonitions are given - Pr 4:13 a. "Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go" b. "Keep her, for she is your life." -- The path of wisdom is what God would have you take! B. THE PATH OF THE WICKED... 1. The path of the wicked, the way of evil - Pr 4:14 2. Note the strong admonitions regarding this path - Pr 4:14-15 a. "Do not enter the path of the wicked" b. "Do not walk in the way of evil." c. "Avoid it, do not travel on it." c. "Turn away from it and pass on." 3. Reasons to avoid to avoid this path a. One easily becomes obsessed with doing evil - Pr 4:16 1) Sin is addictive, and enslaves - cf. Jn 8:34 2) It dulls the senses, requiring ever more to satisfy - cf. Ep 4:19 b. It becomes a life of wickedness and violence - Pr 4:17 1) Sin is violent in every form 2) For it damages our relationships with either God, others, or self! -- The path of the wicked is what God would have you avoid! C. THE TWO PATHS CONTRASTED... 1. The path of the just is like the shining sun - Pr 4:18 a. Just as the sun becomes brighter and brighter as it rises to reach its zenith in the sky b. So those who walk down the path of wisdom are progressively enlightened 2. The way of the wicked is like darkness - Pr 4:19 a. They go through life stumbling again and again! b. In their ignorance, they know not why! - cf. Ep 4:17-18 -- Thus one path leads to increasing brightness, the other to blinding darkness [Which of the two paths will we take in life? To encourage us to make the right choice, let's take a closer look at the metaphor used to describe those who follow the path of the just...] II. THE METAPHOR OF PROGRESSIVE BRIGHTNESS A. THE METAPHOR OF THE SHINING SUN... 1. Describes a progressive brightness, not simply brightness 2. Describing the sun as it rises in the sky until it reaches its zenith ("unto the perfect day") -- Thus the path of the just is one of progressive brightness B. COMPARED TO THE CHRISTIAN LIFE... 1. It is to be a life of progression a. We begin as babes, but designed to grow - 1Pe 2:2 b. We are to grow in grace and knowledge - 2Pe 3:18 2. Though not always the case with some Christians a. Whose lives are not characterized by progression, but staleness or even regression b. Who fail to grow because spiritual amnesia and blindness - 2Pe 1:8-9 c. Who grow weary in well doing - cf. Mal 1:13 d. Who think its time to retire spiritually, contrary to mind of Paul 1) Who believed the inner man could be renewed daily - 2 Co4:16 2) Who believed that we should ever press forward - Php 3: 13-15 e. Instead of being like the sun that shines ever brighter, they are like the fiery meteorites which flash for a moment and then flame out! -- Does the metaphor of progressive brightness describe our life in Christ? [The Christian life and the path of the just are to be similar: with progressive brightness and no decline. How can we ensure that such will be the case in our walk with Christ...?] III. MAKING LIFE WITH CHRIST PROGRESSIVELY BRIGHTER A. JESUS IS OUR LIGHT... 1. He is indeed "the light of the world" - Jn 8:12 2. We must therefore remember "that our path will brighten, not because of any radiance in ourselves, but in proportion as we draw nearer and nearer to the Fountain of heavenly radiance." - Maclaren 3. The nearer we draw to Him, the more we shall shine - cf. 2 Co 3:18 -- We are simply reflective luminaries (like the moon); Christ is our sun! C. WE DRAW NEARER TO THE LIGHT... 1. Through devotional use of our Bibles a. For that is how Christ reveals Himself to us b. His words and that of His inspired apostles enlighten us 2. Through diligent practice of prayer a. For that is how we draw near to God and Christ - cf. He 4: 14-16 b. Prayer ushers us into the throne room of God 3. Through doing the commands of Christ a. Which ensures that the Father and Son will abide with us - cf. Jn 14:21,23 b. Obedience brings us into a closer relationship with Christ -- These are simple steps that lead us on the ever brighter path of righteousness CONCLUSION 1. There are only two paths, just as Jesus described two ways... a. One leading to destruction - Mt 7:13 b. The other leading to life - Mt 7:14 2. Which path will you take...? a. The path of the just, that leads to increasing brightness? b. The path of the wicked, that leads to blinding darkness? The choice is yours; let Jesus be your light if you want to chose the path of the just... - cf. Ep 5:8
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).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:
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).
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).Compare Ali’s translation of these same verses:
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).
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. And accepteth 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 the grounds 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 earn forgiveness for the sinner, or counteract past misdeeds. Rather, it represents compliance with the divinely (not humanly) mandated prerequisites by which one receives 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.]
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 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 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).
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.
Biologist Uses His Free Will to Reject Free Will
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Anthony Cashmore, biologist at the University of Pennsylvania, recently wrote an article alleging that human free will does not exist. He wrote: “It is my belief that, as more attention is given to the mechanisms that govern human behavior, it will increasingly be seen that the concept of free will is an illusion” (2010). According to Cashmore, you are reading this article because your genes and your environment have forced you to sit in front of your computer. You are not responsible for your decision to read this article, and, based on your alleged evolutionary history and your environment, you could not choose to be doing anything different than what you are doing now. You are literally a slave to your genes and your environment. As Cashmore wrote: “[A]n individual cannot be held responsible for either his genes or his environment. From this simple analysis, surely it follows that individuals cannot logically be held responsible for their behavior” (2010).
A response to such a bizarre claim is certainly warranted. First, it should be noted that the concept of human evolution is patently false (see Harrub and Thompson, 2003). Any attempt to discard free will based on evolutionary scenarios is doomed to failure. Second, it must be stressed that many in the greater scientific community, who hold an evolutionary bias, admit that human consciousness defies naturalistic explanations (Harrub and Thompson, 2003, pp. 247-428). Third, humans possess inherent qualities unlike anything seen in the animal kingdom. This truth testifies to the fact that humans have been stamped in the image of their divine Creator (Lyons and Thompson, 2002a and Lyons and Thompson 2002b). These are just a few of the concepts that militate against Cashmore’s thesis.
The most damaging line of evidence against Cashmore’s proposition is the way in which he attempts to convince his readers of its truth. His five-and-a-half page article argues that our society should disregard the outdated concept that humans are responsible for their behavior. But if Cashmore is right, then there is no way we can disregard the concept, due to the simple fact that we did not choose it in the first place. If humans are not responsible for their beliefs or behaviors, then the generally held concept of free will, that Cashmore is trying to demolish, is nothing more than an evolutionary, environmental by-product. According to Cashmore’s line of thinking, if we believe in free will at the present, and act on that belief, we are not responsible for it. If he is right, why in the world would he attempt to urge the scientific community to change its mind about free will, if the community does not have the power to change its mind? Why spend time and effort arguing against free will, if your audience does not have the freedom to choose to accept or reject your reasoning anyway? The fatal flaw of the “no free will” argument is that it demands that the person making the argument has the free will to do so, and it tacitly assumes the parties evaluating the argument have the power to accept or reject it.
If Cashmore is right, his genes and environment forced him to write the article. All those who read it were equally compelled to do so, and their conclusions about his writing are preprogrammed responses that cannot be otherwise. So, if anyone disagrees with Cashmore’s thesis, using his line of thinking, that person cannot be said to be right or wrong. The most that can be said is that such a person’s genes and environment led him to a different conclusion than Cashmore’s. Yet the fact that Cashmore is writing a “persuasive” piece of literature belies the reality that his thesis cannot be correct.
It is ironic that Cashmore, in his concluding acknowledgements, thanked his colleagues and those who reviewed his manuscript. Yet if he is right, they were not responsible for their behavior, and they had no choice but to help him. Why thank biological organisms that are just stumbling around their environment without a choice in the matter? That would be like an architect thanking the bricks that made a home possible, or a pilot thanking the air for providing lift for his plane. In reality, Cashmore freely chose to write his article, just as I freely chose to respond to it. You freely chose to read this response, and you can and will freely choose how you respond to it. And it is upon the basis of free will that our divine Creator urges us, as free moral agents, to choose to serve Him and live moral lives (Joshua 24:15).
Harrub, Brad and Bert Thompson (2003), The Truth about Human Origins (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Lyons, Eric and Bert Thompson (2002a), “In the ‘Image and Likeness of God,’” Part 1, Reason and Revelation, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/123.
Lyons, Eric and Bert Thompson (2002b), “In the ‘Image and Likeness of God,’” Part 2, Reason and Revelation, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/125.
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.
Jesus—Rose of Sharon
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
The song leader stands before the congregation and announces the number of the next hymn he wants the audience to sing. As you turn the pages, you quickly realize that the song is a familiar old favorite—“Jesus, Rose of Sharon.” But if you are anything like most of the people who sing this song, you probably do not know what the term “rose of Sharon” means. So, what does it mean?
This may come as something of a shock, but the term is used only once in the entire Bible, and in that instance it does not refer to Jesus. In Song of Solomon 2:1, Solomon’s beloved Shulamite bride referred to herself as the “rose of Sharon.” From her description, we can conclude that it is a complimentary term intended to express a certain beauty that the people of Solomon’s day would have recognized.
The word “Sharon” (sometimes spelled Saron) means a level place or plain. The Bible uses the term to describe one of the largest valley plains in all of Palestine. The term is found in numerous verses, including Acts 9:35, 1 Chronicles 5:16, and 1 Chronicles 27:29. If you were to examine a map of Palestine (the maps in the backs of most Bibles should suffice), you could locate this valley by finding the city of Joppa on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Joppa, and the Aijalon section to its southwest, were the approximate southern borders of the valley. It extended west from the Mediterranean Sea for about 10-15 miles, and north for about 30 miles. Topographical maps distinctly show this region to be a low valley bordered by higher mountains.
From all indications, the Sharon valley was a wild, fertile plain that was the home to a host of beautiful flowers. Isaiah 35:2 lists Sharon in a context discussing blooming vegetation, and describes the valley as “excellent” (NKJV). Sharon was renowned for its majesty and beauty. But what about its “rose”?
A true rose, like the one sweethearts exchange on Valentine’s Day, probably is not a good candidate for the flower described as the “rose of Sharon,” the primary reason being that these flowers are uncommon in Palestine. In fact, although no one can say for certain which flower is the actual “rose of Sharon,” many scholars think the best guess is the cistus or rock-rose. The cistus blooms in various parts of Palestine, and is well known for its soothing aroma and pain-relieving qualities.
When and why the title “Rose of Sharon” was given to Jesus is rather vague. But at least two reasons as to why it might have been assigned to our Lord seem fairly clear. First, Jesus Christ is the pinnacle of beauty and splendor. Of course, His earthly body could not boast of such attributes (Isaiah 53:2), but His spiritual beauty and majesty remain unsurpassed by any created being in Heaven or on Earth (2 Peter 1:16). Second, Christ’s healing powers and pain-relieving actions find a definite point of comparison with those of the rock-rose. Is it any wonder that the “Great Physician,” Who came to heal those who were physically ill as well as those who were spiritually sick, should be given the name of a flower known for its sweet aroma and soothing medicinal qualities?
Although the Holy Spirit never chose to inspire the Bible writers to refer to Jesus as the “Rose of Sharon,” it nevertheless is a name we can employ to speak of the majesty, beauty, and healing power of our Lord.
A Response to the 21st Century Science Coalition Standards of Science Education by Joe Deweese, Ph.D. Will Brooks, Ph.D.
A Response to the 21st Century Science Coalition Standards of Science Education
|by||Joe Deweese, Ph.D.
Will Brooks, Ph.D.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article was written by two A.P. auxiliary staff scientists. Dr. Brooks holds a Ph.D. in Cell Biology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Deweese holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Vanderbilt University.]Lines have been drawn and sides have been taken in Texas as scientists and educators battle with one another over whether the weaknesses in evolutionary theory should be taught in the public school system. Since 1998, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) curriculum for the sciences has remained unchanged. Now, 11 years later, revisions and updates are being made regarding many points within this curriculum, including how evolutionary biology should be taught in the public school system. The 1998 TEKS for high school reads:
The student knows the theory of biological evolution. The student is expected to: (A) identify evidence of change in species using fossils, DNA sequences, anatomical similarities, physiological similarities, and embryology; and (B) illustrate the results of natural selection in speciation, diversity, phylogeny, adaptation, behavior, and extinction (“Comparison of Current...,” 2009).A few points can quickly be drawn from this excerpt. First, the opening sentence states that students are expected to know the theory of evolution. It does not state or even directly imply that evolution is the single true explanation for the origin of life. Second, nowhere in the statement or the remainder of the 1998 TEKS are students indoctrinated with the idea that evolution is scientific law; although, students are still expected to recognize that similarities among different species are evidence of change rather than a common creator. For 11 years, the above standard for biological education has guided middle and high school teachers in their pursuit to educate young minds. But now, evolutionists have made dramatic pushes to change what was once taught as an alleged explanation for life into nothing short of fact.
In support of the proposed changes to TEKS, the 21st Century Science Coalition has formulated five principles that they believe must be adopted into the Texas science curriculum. The Coalition’s Web site reads: “We will not allow politics and ideology to handicap the future of our children with a 19th-century education in their 21st-century classroom” (“Welcome,” 2009). The five principles are:
Scientifically sound curriculum standards must:
- acknowledge that instruction on evolution is vital to understanding all the biological sciences;
- make clear that evolution is an easily observable phenomenon that has been documented beyond any reasonable doubt;
- be based on the latest, peer-reviewed scholarship;
- encourage valid critical thinking and scientific reasoning by leaving out all references to ‘strengths and weaknesses,’ which politicians have used to introduce supernatural explanations into science courses; and
- recognize that all students are best served when matters of faith are left to families and houses of worship (“Scientist Statement,” 2009, emp. added).
The principles endorsed by the Coalition manifest several flaws. First, the Coalition claimed that “evolution is vital to understanding all the biological sciences” (“Scientist Statement”). This echoes the modern push for evolutionary thought to permeate all areas of science. By interpreting all things in terms of an evolutionary history, the influence of evolution becomes widespread—particularly in the biological sciences. However, there is nothing about biological science that requires macroevolutionary explanations (see discussion of macroevolution below). In fact, science can be taught without invoking macroevolution—despite what we are bullied into thinking. The biochemical, structural, developmental, and functional similarities between organisms can be explained in terms of a common Designer without the need for common descent. Both authors acknowledge that their own research in biochemistry and molecular biology is conducted without consideration of macroevolution with absolutely no detriment to its quality or its conclusions. So, biology can be understood—even researched—without requiring a context of Darwinian macroevolution. In fact, postulating common design by a Designer is a more effective working model than assuming biological structures are the result of accidental, random processes.
Second, the Coalition wants to “make clear that evolution is an easily observable phenomenon that has been documented beyond any reasonable doubt” (“Scientist Statement”). This is a very misleading statement. By using the common term “evolution,” the authors avoid clearly defining what the “easily observable phenomena” are and claim the evidence is “beyond any reasonable doubt.” (Of course, the implication is that if you doubt it—you obviously are not reasonable). This is a frequent tactic of those who would like us to assume that “all” evolution is the same.
Interestingly, the Coalition did not acknowledge the difference between microevolution (changes at or below species level using existing genetic information) and macroevolution (large-scale changes requiring new genetic information, taking place over long periods of time) in their statement. Some claim that creationists invented these terms, but they are commonly used in the scientific literature and textbooks (e.g., Erwin, 2000; Starr, 2006). While microevolution is an “easily observable phenomenon” and well documented, macroevolution is not. The term “evolution” is routinely used to refer to the combination of the two processes, and this quickly leads to misunderstanding, because while microevolution is clearly documented, the same cannot be said for macroevolution. It has been assumed by some evolutionists that the mechanisms responsible for microevolution could account for macroevolution given enough time (e.g., Erwin, 2000). However, there is much disagreement on this point. The development of new organisms requires more than changes in existing genetic information—it requires the generation of new information altogether in order to form new organs and body structures. There is no known mechanism for the spontaneous generation of new information. [NOTE: There are mutagenic processes which result in random insertions, deletions, duplications, and rearrangements. But these undirected events are typically deleterious and always insufficient for generating the information needed for macroevolution.] The situation is far more complex than the Coalition’s second statement implies.
Third, there is no argument about whether education should be based on peer-reviewed scholarship. However, there probably would be disagreement over the definition of “scholarship.” The modern “peer-review” process is not without bias. Searches of manuscript databases display a marked bias against questioning Neo-Darwinism. We completely agree that students should be kept current on the latest science, but we must remember that teaching biological science is distinct from teaching about evolution.
Fourth, the Coalition wants to change a statement in the 1998 TEKS standards calling for students in science to “analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information,” to “analyze and evaluate scientific explanations using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing” (“Comparison of Current...,” 2009, emp. added). It is argued that language mentioning “strengths and weaknesses” can be used to “introduce supernatural explanations” (“Scientist Statement”). It is interesting that this change is intended to “encourage valid critical thinking and scientific reasoning.” So, are we to assume that valid critical thinking excludes taking account of the strengths and weaknesses of a given theory or hypothesis? In our scientific training as graduate students in the biological sciences, we were routinely encouraged to be skeptical and to question existing ideas and conclusions. This proposed change does not reflect the type of critical thinking we expect of graduate students. Why is the Coalition afraid of leaving theories open to question?
Fifth, the Coalition’s effort to ban all religious ideas from the classroom is actually a veiled attempt to dismiss the possibility of a Creator as a rational explanation of life and to keep students from analyzing the faults of evolutionary theory. Their desire to teach children that life originated via evolution goes beyond science into the realm of subjective beliefs—beliefs that cannot be tested or validated scientifically. We are told, “science must be taught in a science class”—which is precisely what those of us who believe in the Creator do—we teach science in our science classrooms. The fact is that the Universe and even life must have had a Cause and cannot be explained by “natural” means.
What effect would these proposed standards have on education? Young minds are very pliable. When scientists holding Ph.D.s in biology claim certain theories as fact, young minds are very likely to believe that those theories are, indeed, fact. And, why shouldn’t they? When the most educated, best-trained men and women speak, many teenagers cannot but listen and assume truth is being conveyed. The problem with making unsubstantiated statements (such as “evolution...has been documented beyond any reasonable doubt”) is that such statements inherently exclude alternate explanations for the origin of life. The Coalition conveniently ignores the fact that hundreds of credentialed scientists are skeptical of evolution. Proponents of evolutionary theory have bullied their explanation for life’s origin into education to the exclusion of all other explanations. They use propaganda techniques to indoctrinate young minds early in order to perpetuate this ill-conceived idea.
Science education has always been a two-faceted approach. On one side, students are taught facts, equations, and principles that research has shown to be true. For example, physics equations regarding force and acceleration (e.g., F=ma), proven biological facts such as that DNA is the genetic material, and universal principles such as that energy can be neither destroyed nor created. The other, equally important aspect of science education is instruction in the scientific method and critical analysis of information. This second facet of education has traditionally been applied in the laboratory, where students conduct experiments and evaluate their results. Both the learning of information and the development of critical thinking skills are fundamental to education at levels of both secondary and higher education. One vital component to the critical evaluation of data is the analysis of both its strengths and weaknesses. If weaknesses in data were ignored, untold numbers of incorrect scientific ideas would have been propagated over the years. The Coalition is in favor of removing discussion of strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary biology from the classroom. This very idea is in stark contrast to the scientific method and the principle of critical evaluation. If this standard is put into effect, it would undermine an educator’s ability to teach these aspects of science to the students. In order to properly train students, they must be allowed to use their minds, to weigh the positive and negative data, to analyze, and to think for themselves.
On March 27, 2009, the Texas State Board of Education approved a final draft of changes to the TEKS, which will be implemented with the 2010-2011 academic year. Who won the battle is still a matter of debate. The new TEKS, which can be accessed through the Texas Education Agency’s Web site, reads:
In all fields of science, analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student (“Texas Essential...,” 2009).Noticeably, the terms “strengths and weaknesses” do not appear in the new curriculum standards. However, the phrase “examining all sides of scientific evidence” was included. It appears that Texas education officials have attempted to keep both sides happy by straddling the fence on this issue. In another excerpt regarding the changes in Earth’s atmosphere, the phrase “that could have occurred” was added to produce the following final statement:
Analyze the changes of Earth’s atmosphere that could have occurred through time from the original hydrogen-helium atmosphere, the carbon dioxide-water vapor-methane atmosphere, and the current nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere (“Texas Essential...,” 2009, emp. added).We may never know the true motivations for these changes—political, scientific, or other—but whatever the reasons, educators are left with this manuscript, the 2009 TEKS, to guide their curricula in the sciences.
Erwin, Douglas (2000), “Macroevolution is More Than Repeated Rounds of Microevolution,” Evolution and Development, 2:78-84.
“A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism” (2009), Discovery Institute, [On-line], URL: http://www.dissentfromdarwin.org/index.php.
“Scientist Statement” (2009), The 21st Century Science Coalition, [On-line], URL: http://www.texasscientists.org/sign.html.
Starr, C. (2006), Basic Concepts in Biology (Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole-Thomson Learning Publishing), sixth edition.
Texans for Better Science Education (2009), [On-line], URL: http://www.strengthsandweaknesses.org/.
“Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science Subchapter C. High School” (2009), TEKS, [On-line], URL: http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/teks/science/ch112c_as_approved032709.pdf.
“Welcome” (2009), The 21st Century Science Coalition, [On-line], URL: http://www.texasscientists.org/index.html.
Are Americans Becoming Uncivil?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Depending on your age and generation, no doubt you have noticed a change that has come over much of the American population. Citizens are becoming more discourteous, impolite, and rude. A recent Associated Press poll on American public attitudes about rudeness found that 69% of those polled believe that Americans are more rude than 20 or 30 years ago (“American Manners...,” 2005). Perhaps you have approached the cash register of a store or fast food restaurant in hopes of checking out promptly. Instead, you are faced with employees chatting with each other, seemingly oblivious to your presence. When you eventually are noticed, the employees’ nonverbal signals make you feel as if you have interrupted them. What’s more, you cannot help noticing that their conversation is frivolous chit-chat, centered perhaps on social life, romantic relationships, or dissatisfaction with their employer or fellow employee. The very idea that their jobs actually depend on customer satisfaction seems to be of no concern. Where once American business literally survived and thrived on the notion that “the customer is always right,” now the widespread sentiment seems to be “I could care less about the customer—just pay me for doing as little as possible.” Attentiveness, generosity, and caring service have all but evaporated. How many times have you entered a restaurant and noticed unclean tables and unkempt floors? How often have you made a trip to the grocery store only to encounter shelves unstocked or in disarray—with the very item you came for sold out? In bygone days, the average grocery store manager would have considered such a situation with disgust—even alarm due to lost sales and customer dissatisfaction—and called the negligent employees to account for their inefficiency.
Another indication of the decline in virtue in American culture in the last 50 years is the behavior of motorists on America’s highways. Where once most truckers were renowned for their unassuming, courteous driving habits and their willingness to give way to automobiles and even extend assistance to the stranded motorist, an increasing number of truckers bully smaller vehicles by changing lanes unsafely, and radio airways are filled with foul language and truckers cursing other truckers. Exceeding the speed limit is now the norm on the Interstate. Cutting in line, tail-gaiting, and angry exclamations are commonplace on the highways of the nation.
Politics has become an even nastier business. Cutthroat tactics and bashing opponents characterize a majority. In fact, the polite, civil candidate is pummeled and left in a state of shock. Children speak disrespectfully to adults in public. Individuals cut in line in stores, post offices, and amusement parks. Telemarketers seem kind and genuinely concerned—until the customer refuses to buy the product. Then the telemarketer often turns nasty and shows obvious irritation with the consumer. Where once the average gas station provided eager service to customers—not only pumping the gasoline, but washing the windows, checking the oil, and adding air to the tires—it’s now “every man for himself.”
Granted, it could be much worse. Compare America with many other nations of the world. Take, for example, Islamic nations, where the people press against each other in the streets and in the marketplace, jostling each other and competing for services. Many seem to be completely focused on self—with little thought and concern for those around them. But historically, such societal circumstances have not been typical of America.
What has happened? How can such profound change come over an entire civilization? The Founders of the American Republic anticipated just this social scenario—and even described the circumstances under which it would occur. The Founders predicted that: if Americans do not retain an ardent commitment to the moral principles of Christianity, civil society will wane.
Consider the following prophetic voices. In the 1811 New York State Supreme Court case of The People v. Ruggles, the “Father of American Jurisprudence,” James Kent, explained the importance of punishing unchristian behavior, when he wrote that Americans are a “people whose manners are refined, and whose morals have been elevated and inspired with a more enlarged benevolence, by means of the Christian religion” (1811, emp. added). The gentility of the American spirit has historically been contrasted with those peoples “whose sense of shame would not be effected by what we should consider the most audacious outrages upon decorum” (1811, emp. added).
Such thinking was typical of the Founders. In his scathing repudiation of Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason, Continental Congress president Elias Boudinot insisted: “[O]ur country should be preserved from the dreadful evil of becoming enemies to the religion of the Gospel, which I have no doubt, but would be introductive of the dissolution of government and the bonds of civil society” (1801, p. xxii, emp. added). Dr. Benjamin Rush added his blunt observation: “Without the restraints of religion and social worship, men become savages” (1951, 1:505, emp. added). Noah Webster stated: “[R]eligion has an excellent effect in repressing vices [and] in softening the manners of men” (1794, Vol. 2, Ch. 44, emp. added).
The Founders believed that should Christian principles be jettisoned by Americans, manners would be corrupted, and social anarchy and the fall of the Republic would naturally follow. Declaration signer and “The Father of the American Revolution,” Samuel Adams, issued a solemn warning in a letter to James Warren on February 12, 1779: “A general dissolution of the principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy” (1908, 4:124). In his inaugural address as the Governor of Massachusetts in 1780, Founder John Hancock insisted that both our freedom and our very existence as a Republic will be determined by public attachment to Christian morality: “Manners, by which not only the freedom, but the very existence of the republics, are greatly affected, depend much upon the public institutions of religion and the good education of youth” (as quoted in Brown, 1898, p. 269, emp. added). The words of Declaration signer John Witherspoon are frightening: “Nothing is more certain than that a general profligacy and corruption of manners make a people ripe for destruction” (1802, 3:41, emp. added). In contrasting the general religion of Christianity with Islam, John Quincy Adams likewise explained:
The fundamental doctrine of the Christian religion, is the extirpation of hatred from the human heart. It forbids the exercise of it, even towards enemies. There is no denomination of Christians, which denies or misunderstands this doctrine. All understand it alike—all acknowledge its obligations; and however imperfectly, in the purposes of Divine Providence, its efficacy has been shown in the practice of Christians, it has not been wholly inoperative upon them. Its effect has been upon the manners of nations. It has mitigated the horrors of war—it has softened the features of slavery—it has humanized the intercourse of social life (1830, p. 300, emp. added).There is no question that the influence of the Christian religion in America has been significantly curtailed during the last half-century. So what would we expect to occur? We would fully expect citizens to become uncivil, impolite, and discourteous. We would expect them to abandon the fundamental principle of human conduct articulated by Jesus Himself: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12). As people move further away from Christianity, they will inevitably become selfish, self-centered, and savage in their treatment of their fellowman. The only hope, the only solution, is to return to the principles of the religion of Jesus Christ.
Adams, Samuel (1904-1908), The Writings of Samuel Adams, ed. Harry Cushing (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons).
“American Manners Poll” (2005), Associated Press, [On-line], URL: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-10-14-rudeness-poll-method_x.htm.
Boudinot, Elias (1801), The Age of Revelation (Philadelphia, PA: Asbury Dickins), [On-line], URL: http://www.google.com/books?id=XpcPAAAAIAAJ.
Brown, Abram (1898), John Hancock, His Book (Boston, MA: Lee & Shepard Publishers), [On-line], URL: http://www.archive.org/details/johnhancock00browrich.
The People v. Ruggles (1811), 8 Johns 290 (Sup. Ct. NY.), N.Y. Lexis 124.
Rush, Benjamin (1951), Letters of Benjamin Rush, ed. L.H. Butterfield (Princeton, NJ: The American Philosophical Society).
Webster, Noah (1794), “The Revolution in France,” in Political Sermons of the American Founding Era: 1730-1805, ed. Ellis Sandoz (Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund), 1998 edition, [On-line], URL: http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/817/69415.
Witherspoon, John (1802), The Works of the Rev. John Witherspoon (Philadelphia, PA: William Woodard).
Was Jesus' Tomb Open or Closed?by Eric Lyons, M.Min.
According to Mark, Luke, and John, by the time Mary Magdalene and the other women reached the sepulcher of Jesus on the first day of the week after Christ’s crucifixion, the great stone covering the entrance to His tomb already had rolled away (16:4; 24:2; 20:1). Matthew, on the other hand, mentions the rolling away of the stone after writing that the women “came to see the tomb.” In fact, at first glance it seems that Matthew 28:1-6 indicates several significant things took place in the presence of the women.
Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”How is this passage explained in light of the fact that the other gospel writers clearly affirmed that the great stone blocking the entrance to the tomb had rolled away before the women arrived?
The explanation to this “problem” is that the events recorded in Matthew 28:1-6 were not written chronologically. Matthew did not intend for his readers to conclude from this section of Scripture that the women actually saw the stone roll away from the door of Jesus’ sepulcher. On the contrary, verse 6 implies “Christ was already risen; and therefore the earthquake and its accompaniments must have taken place at an earlier point of time, to which the sacred writer returns back in his narration” (Robinson, 1993, p. 17). Verses 2-4 serve more as a footnote to the reader (explaining events that took place prior to the women’s arrival), and are in no way an indication that Matthew believed the women arrived at the tomb while it still was closed.
The simple fact is, Bible writers did not always record information in a strictly chronological sequence. The first book of the Bible contains several examples where events are recorded more topically than chronologically. Genesis 2:5-25 does not pick up where Genesis 1 left off, rather it provides more detailed information about some of the events mentioned in chapter one. Some of the things recorded in Genesis 10 occurred after the incident involving the tower of Babel (recorded in chapter 11). And a number of the events in Genesis 38 involving Judah and Tamar occurred while the things recorded in chapters 39ff. took place. Similar to a teacher who is telling her class a story, and inserts information into it about something the main character did in the past or will do in the future, Bible writers occasionally “jump” ahead of themselves by inserting pertinent parenthetical material.
As a person studies the narrative technique of Matthew (and other Bible writers), he quickly realizes that the writer of first gospel sometimes arranged his account in topical order rather than in a strictly chronological order. Matthew 28:1-6 is just one example. (For another example of where Matthew arranged his narrative topically, see “Of Times and Figs.”)
REFERENCESRobinson, Edward (1993), “The Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 150:9-34, January, first published in 1845.
A.P. Staff (2002), “Of Times and Figs,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/587.
The Divine Pattern of Acceptable WorshipHuman beings are instinctively worshiping creatures. When the Psalmist declared, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God” (42:1), he perhaps expressed a need that is basic to the human soul. As far back as the time of Cicero in the first century
B.C., or even earlier, pagan thinkers had observed that religion in some form or other is a universal trait in human nature (Dummelow 1944, ci).
Men are going to worship something or someone. It may be the sun, a cow, a golden idol, the true God, or oneself! Humans worship. The issue is, then, what or whom and how will people worship? Will they be “true worshipers” (John 4:23) or false worshipers?
Worship is a dominant theme in the Bible. The concept is represented by several terms in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the Greek New Testament. Basically, worship involves a deep sense of religious awe that expresses itself in ritualistic acts of devotion and service. The English word “worship” literally means “worthship” and it denotes a being or object that the worshiper deems worthy of devotion.
False Ideas about WorshipBefore exploring God’s pattern of worship, it is fitting that some consideration be given to a few of the prominent false theories regarding worship.
No Need to WorshipSome people see no relationship between the existence of God and the need to worship. This deistic philosophy views the Creator almost as an abstraction. If God is self-sufficient, it is argued, he does not need human worship; thus, acts of religious devotion are futile.
This concept, of course, ignores the fact that the Lord has commanded human beings to worship him. It must be emphasized, though, that Jehovah does not demand worship because of his need; rather, true worship is prescribed for man’s benefit. Serving God will result in humanity’s greatest happiness (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
For example, there is a vital connection between genuine worship and character of life (see Romans 1:18-32). When men turn away from genuine devotion to the true God, all sorts of vileness and discontent ensues (Proverbs 13:15).
All Human Activity Is WorshipOthers allege that worship is merely an emotion; thus, one is actually worshiping all of the time (Winder n.d., 4, 5). Such assertions have been made in an attempt to justify the use of instrumental music in Christian worship, but they are for naught because the Bible plainly indicates that worship in ancient days, in addition to the emotion involved, was something practiced at specific times, places, etc.
Abraham went to Mt. Moriah to worship (Genesis 22:5). The wise men came from the East to worship the Christ child (Matthew 2:2; cf. 1 Samuel 1:3; 2 Kings 18:22; Jeremiah 26:2; Matthew 14:33; Acts 8:27). All Christian activity is not worship.
Worship as You PleaseIt is occasionally argued that worship is unregulated, that “God has spelled out no formula for the worship of Himself” (Blakely 1987, 14). Hence, supposedly, one is at liberty to improvise his own worship agenda.
We will deal with this matter more fully in a subsequent section, but for the present let us observe that the worship-is-unregulated theory was the philosophy of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat. After the division of the Hebrew nation, Jeroboam initiated his own worship program (see 1 Kings 12).
He authorized golden calves as representatives of Jehovah. He substituted the cities of Bethel and Dan for Jerusalem as centers of worship. The new king selected priests for his digressive system from tribes other than the tribe of Levi. Finally, Jeroboam started a religious feast in the fifteenth day of the eighth month (likely to simulate the feast of the tabernacles which occurred on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, according to the law of Moses).
All of these changes he “devised of his own heart” (1 Kings 12:33). It is no wonder that this innovator was chastised no less than twenty-one times in the Old Testament as one who caused Israel to sin. We must remember that such examples were written for our learning (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11), because we will have “Jeroboams” with us always.
New Testament WorshipAs he was traveling from Judea to Galilee, Jesus stopped at Jacob’s well near the city of Sychar. There he engaged a Samaritan woman in conversation. Presently, the topic turned to worship. It was within this context that the Lord affirmed that God wants people to be “true worshipers” (John 4:23).
Christ then set forth the components that were to constitute the type of worship with which the Father would be pleased. Those elements were three: object, attitude, and action (4:24). The proper object of worship is God, i.e., deity. The correct attitude is in spirit. And the standard by which acts of worship are to be measured is the truth. Each of these is crucial.
Deity, the ObjectIn his debate with Satan, Christ declared that only God is worthy of worship (Matthew 4:10). By the term “God,” the entire Godhead is indicated—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father is deity (Ephesians 1:3), the Son is likewise deity (John 1:1), and the Holy Spirit is deity as well (Acts 5:3, 4).
The term “deity” simply describes the nature of the Trinity. These persons possess the qualities or traits that constitute Godhood. Thus, the Godhead is worthy of worship (Psalm 18:3). Since only God is to be worshiped, all others are excluded.
Even though we are a little lower than the angels (Hebrews 2:7), we do not worship these created beings. When the apostle John attempted to worship an angel, he was warned to desist (Rev. 22:8, 9).
We do not worship great saints—dead or living. When Peter sought to give undue adoration to Moses and Elijah, he was shown that these Old Testament worthies were not in the same category with the Son of God (Matthew 17:4, 5).
Moreover, when Peter was dispatched to the residence of Cornelius and the Gentile centurion fell at his feet to worship, Peter raised him up and said, “Stand up; I myself also am a man” (Acts 10:26). The Roman Catholic dogma which asserts that it is acceptable to pray to Mary and the saints is clearly at variance with the Scriptures.
We are not to worship our ancestors as those devoted to Eastern mysticism do. As the world grows smaller by means of sophisticated communication and transportation developments, we will be forced to deal with the problem of ancestor worship.
Aside from the overt worship of objects or people, the Bible also cautions that any form of devotion that relegates God to a subordinate status—whether money, family, or profession—is idolatry. This is why covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5; cf. Luke 16:13).
In Spirit, the AttitudeIn the context under consideration, the Lord further declared that true worship must be in spirit. The meaning seems to be “that the entire heart enters into the act” (Hendriksen 1976, 167). Or, as Lenski notes, the whole soul is thrown into the worship" (1943, 323). The phrase obviously suggests that a sincere disposition must characterize the worshiper’s mind.
There is an Old Testament passage that is remarkably similar to John 4:24—“Now, therefore, fear Jehovah and serve him in sincerity and in truth” (Joshua 24:14).
Note the concurrence between these verses:
- Serve Jehovah in sincerity and truth (Joshua 24:14)
- Worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:24)
For example, Paul stresses that it is very important, when observing the Lord’s supper, that we “discern” the significance of the bread and fruit of the vine, i.e., how they relate to the Savior’s body and blood. Carelessness in disposition can result in condemnation (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). Too, singing must be done “with the spirit,” etc. (1 Corinthians 14:15).
There are several dispositions highlighted in the New Testament which are antagonistic to the nature of true worship. God will not accept arrogant worship. Jesus told of a Pharisee who went up to the temple to worship (Luke 18:9ff). In his prayer, which was little more than a self-eulogy, he extolled his lack of flagrant sin and cataloged his acts of religious piety. He even made God a party to his arrogance by thanking him that he was so unlike other men, and especially the publican who was praying nearby.
By way of contrast, the tax-collector humbly petitioned Jehovah, “Be merciful to me the sinner.” The publican was justified; the Pharisee was not. The lesson simply is this: worship saturated with egotism is unacceptable.
Hypocritical worship is void. The Lord once addressed certain Jewish leaders with these sentiments:
You hypocrites, Isaiah spoke of your kind when he declared that though you honor God with your lips, your hearts are far from him. Your worship is thus vain (cf. Mark 7:6, 7).Christ went on to describe how these Pharisees and scribes skirted parental responsibility by slick, contrived traditions. We must learn this lesson: when we knowingly and persistently live in direct violation of Heaven’s will, and then feign worship, we are literally wasting our time (see Isaiah 1:11-17). Hypocritical worship is meaningless.
Ostentatious worship is worthless, for, rather than seeking to honor the Maker, it covets the attention of men. Jesus addressed this issue in the Sermon on the Mount. He warned:
Take heed that you do not your righteousness before men to be seen of them: else you have no reward with your father who is in heaven (Matthew 6:1).Of special interest here is the expression “to be seen.” It translates the Greek term
theathenai, which is the basis of our modern word “theater.” The Lord is condemning performance worship! He illustrates his point by mentioning alms-giving (v. 2), prayer (v. 5), and fasting (v. 16).
If one’s worship is designed to attract the attention of an audience, when those human accolades have been collected the performer has been “paid in full,” for such is the significance of the expression “they have received their reward” (6:2).
Can we learn anything from this in these days when some are clamoring for choirs, soloists, and religious drama in the church assembly? Elsewhere we have shown that such innovations are not sanctioned by the New Testament (Jackson 1990, 34-38).
What shall we say of those clergymen who adorn themselves in lavish robes? And what of those brothers who, when preaching or leading public prayers, adopt those sanctimonious tones that reek of pompous artificiality?
It is clear that worship, if acceptable, must be correct as to object and attitude. But what about the form of worship?
Is there a pattern?It is alleged by some that worship is a matter that God has left unregulated.
Given O. Blakely, of the Independent Christian Church, adamantly argued this position in his debate with Alan E. Highers in Neosho, Missouri in April, 1988. Blakely contended that “in no case did they [the apostles] give directives for corporate worship” (1988, 37). Others are also ridiculing the concept of “pattern worship.” Like Jeroboam of Israel, they long to devise their own worship format.
Christ demanded that true worshipers must worship according to truth (John 4:24). What is the meaning of “truth” in this context?
In the same book, the Lord declared, “[Y]our [the Father’s] word is truth” (17:17). Deity thus must be worshiped according to the directives of the Word of God. Additional New Testament evidence corroborates this conclusion.
Paul affirmed that “God is my witness, whom I serve [
latreuo—a term including worship] in my spirit in the gospel of his Son” (Romans 1:9). Note the object (“God”), the disposition (“in my spirit”), and the standard (“in the gospel”). There is a remarkable parallel to John 4:24.
The apostle informed the saints at Philippi that “we worship by the Spirit of God” (Philippians 3:3), which is equivalent to his direction through the Word of Truth (Ephesians 6:17).
In a context dealing with worship (e.g., singing), Paul stated that our actions must be “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:16, 17). The phrase signifies that which is grounded in the authority of Christ (cf. John 5:43; Matthew 28:18; Acts 3:6).
In the same epistle, “will-worship” is forthrightly condemned (Colossians 2:22, 23). W. E. Vine carefully noted that will-worship is “voluntarily adopted worship, whether unbidden or forbidden” (881). Thayer defines will-worship as “worship which one devises and prescribes for himself, contrary to the contents and nature of the faith which ought to be directed by Christ” (1991, 168).
A few writers, attempting to justify the worship-is-not-regulated theory, have contended that the expression “truth” (
aletheia) in John 4:24 merely means genuine, i.e., free from deceit. They deny that it denotes conformity to a divine standard.
This assertion, however, is utterly without the support of respected New Testament scholarship. Arndt and Gingrich show that
aletheiais used “especially of the content of Christianity as the absolute truth.” They list John 4:24 and 17:17 as parallel examples (1967, 35).
Another scholar has observed:
Those who worship God in Spirit and in truth (4:23, 24) are not those who worship in sincerity and inwardness. The Samaritans are not criticized for lacking sincerity. True worship is that which accords with reality, which men grasp on the basis of revelation (Thiselton 1971, 891).It is generally conceded that the church of the first century engaged in several devotional acts in the Lord’s day assemblies. The communion supper was observed (Acts 20:7), prayers were uttered (1 Corinthians 14:15, 16), the church sang songs to the glory of God (Ephesians 5:19), and a contribution was taken (1 Corinthians 16:2). Too, teaching was done, which included reading the Scriptures (Colossians 4:16) and the proclamation of the Word (Acts 20:7).
We will now give consideration to the divine pattern that is to regulate worship. We must remind ourselves that our worship, in order to be acceptable, must be authorized. We must not do that which we have not been authorized to do (cf. Leviticus 10:1, NIV); we must not “go beyond that which has been written” (1 Corinthians 4:6); we must abide within the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9).
The Lord’s SupperWith reference to the Lord’s Supper, there are several vital ingredients: First, the components of the communion consist of bread and fruit of the vine (Matthew 26:26-28). When the Mormons substitute water for the fruit of the vine, they do so without divine authority, hence, they err.
Those moderns who allege that “it would NOT be a sin or unscriptural to have ‘meat and potatoes,’ ‘pie and ice cream,’ or any other healthful, helpful food ‘on the table’ as an aid in worship” (Winder n.d., 123), have simply abandoned respect for the authority of the Scriptures.
Second, the communion celebration is to take place upon the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). We have no authority to alter the day; yet some have suggested that it is permissible to observe the communion on Wednesday or other days at the discretion of the church (Hook 1984, 17).
But by partaking of the supper (commemorating Jesus’ death) on Sunday (which memorializes his resurrection) the intimate connection between these historical events is preserved. We are not at liberty to ignore divine precedent and divorce these two events.
Third, Christ’s death must be remembered each Lord’s day. The divine pattern indicates that the early church met every Sunday (1 Corinthians 16:2—“every first day of the week” [Greek text]). The purpose of their meeting was “to break bread,” i.e., observe the communion (Acts 20:7).
We thus conclude that those early saints remembered the Savior’s death in the communion each Sunday. As a matter of fact, where is the authority for even meeting every Sunday if not to observe the communion with that frequency?
Fourth, all Christians must both eat the bread and drink the cup. The Roman Catholic doctrine of communion under one kind, i.e., the notion that the “lay person” can receive both bread and fruit of the vine by partaking of the bread alone, is without foundation. Jesus said, “[A]ll of you drink of it” (Matthew 26:27).
Singing PraiseIn addressing the singing portion of our worship, we must observe that the New Testament is quite specific in delineating Heaven’s desires. One passage can serve as the basis of our analysis:
And be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit; speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father (Ephesians 5:18-20).Consider the specific instruction:
First, we are authorized to sing. Singing is the conveyance of thoughts by means of words set to music. Singing is a form of teaching (Colossians 3:16). We are not commissioned to make mere musical sounds.
One can no more be edified by a mere musical noise than he can by the words of a language which he does not understand. And Paul dealt with this type of abuse in his initial letter to the church at Corinth. The apostle declared that our music must be such as to invoke “understanding” on the part of those who are involved (1 Corinthians 14:15). This implies words, not just sounds.
On Sunday, July 4, 1993, “Pastor” John Hagee’s televised Cornerstone Church service out of San Antonio, Texas, featured a fireworks display. Would our brethren, who are defensive of the “sound worship” phenomenon, contend that this is a scriptural procedure in the church assembly?
Those who respect the authority of the New Testament, therefore, will not improvise by humming, clapping, whistling, employing instruments of music to accompany their singing, or imitating the sounds of instruments with their voices. Currently, there is a tremendous erosion of such matters within the body of Christ. Some churches appear to want a human-centered worship service rather than a God-honoring service.
Second, we are authorized to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. We are not empowered to incorporate into our worship services nationalistic songs, cultural favorites, or other lyrics of a secular essence.
Third, the grammar of the verse indicates that the entire congregation is to participate in the singing. The pronoun
heautois(“one to another”) is a reciprocal, reflexive term, representing an interchange of action on the part of the singers. Congregational singing is clearly authorized in the New Testament; authority for choirs and solos is conspicuously absent from the divine record (see Jackson 1990, 34-38).
Will we live to see the day when a group “performs” the Last Supper before the congregation and the audience communes by proxy?
Communing through PrayerAnother feature of church worship is prayer. The prayer activity of the corporate church must likewise conform to the divine pattern.
First, as noted earlier, prayer should be directed only to deity (Nehemiah 4:9; Matthew 6:9). The Christian must never pray to any dead person (as in the practice of Catholicism).
Second, we are not authorized to employ mechanical devices as aids to our prayers. Buddhists frequently write their prayers on slips of paper and insert the petitions into “prayer wheels,” which, spinning, are supposed to propel the requests into the far regions of the universe.
Many religionists have utilized rosary beads to implement their prayers. Such was the practice of the ancient Ephesians in the worship of Diana, as archaeological data have revealed. It is well-known, of course, that this is a feature of Roman Catholicism. The prayer beads, blessed by a priest, allow the Catholic practitioner to keep account of some 180 prayers which constitute the rosary: Paternoster (“Our Father”), Ave Maria (“Hail Mary”), and Gloria. The premise behind such a practice is the assumption that repetitious prayers will secure indulgences—accumulated merit—which will exempt the faithful from the fires of pugatorial punishment. Contrast this with Matthew 6:7, 8.
Third, prayer is a communication between a child of God and his or her heavenly Father (Matthew 6:9), or, on occasion, the Son or Holy Spirit as well. It is never appropriate, therefore, to call upon those who do not belong to the family of God (Galatians 3:26, 27) to lead prayers in our public assemblies (or at other times, for that matter).
Fourth, prayers must be uttered in harmony with the revealed will of God (1 John 5:14). We may not pray for things like miracles (the age of miracles has passed) or salvation of the lost independent of their obedience to the gospel.
Fifth, prayers in assemblies of mixed sexes must be directed only by males. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul declared, “I desire therefore that the men [
tous andras—the males] pray in every place” (1 Timothy 2:8). Since it is clear from complementary passages that women can pray anywhere (even in the assembly [1 Corinthians 11:5]), it becomes obvious that what the apostle limits in 1 Timothy 2:8 is leading prayer in a worship service.
Sixth, prayers in the assembly must be uttered intelligibly, i.e, so as to be heard. Mumbled prayers are no better than speaking in an unknown language (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:14-16).
Giving as WorshipGod also has a pattern for church finance. It is most comprehensively set forth in 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2:
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so also do you. Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come.There are several important elements in this context:
First, the passage suggests that the matter of regular giving for the support of the Lord’s work is one of serious responsibility. The term “order” denotes a command. Unlike tipping, Christian giving is not an option; it is an obligation. In spite of its obligatory nature, giving should be viewed as a thrilling blessing, not as a burdensome matter for grumbling (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:7).
In this connection, it must be stressed that giving is the only authorized method for financing the work of the church of Jesus Christ. We are not authorized to operate businesses, conduct bingo parties, hold pay-at-the-door concerts, etc. The kingdom of Christ is not a commercial enterprise.
Second, the child of God is to contribute every Sunday. The Greek text of 1 Corinthians 16:2 literally reads, “[U]pon the first day of every week . . .” (see NASB, NIV). Each week that a Christian is blessed with prosperity, so must he give for the support of Heaven’s work.
But what if the saint is paid only monthly or biweekly? Perhaps he could budget his funds so as to be able to participate in this act of devotion each Sunday, consistent with what inspiration has prescribed. Moreover, one’s giving should be consistent regardless of necessary absences from the Lord’s day assembly.
Further, we must mention in this connection that whereas the specific use of this collection (1 Corinthians 16:2) was for the relief of the destitute among the saints in Jerusalem (Romans 15:26), the underlying principle of this passage serves as a precedent for how the church is to raise its financial resources for the implementation of every divinely authorized work. It is wrong, therefore, to suppose that 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2 has no application today. A few preachers have argued this position, but they continue to take their salaries from the Sunday collection!
Third, the responsibility to contribute toward the support of the kingdom belongs to each Christian. Whether one is a businessman, secretary, pensioner, or teenager working at the pizza parlor, the obligation to give, consistent with one’s prosperity, is ever present. In dual-income households, contributions should come from both salaries.
Fourth, while it is certainly possible (and desirable) that church members give of their incomes for the support of good works on an individual basis (Mark 14:7), nevertheless, there is also the responsibility for each saint to give into the church treasury on the first day of the week.
Paul says we are to “lay by him [or by itself] in store.” The word
thesaurizoon, rendered “in store,” is literally “put into the treasury” (McGarvey and Pendleton n.d., 161).
Mcknight translates the verse:
On the first day of every week let each of you lay somewhat by itself, according as he may have prospered, putting it into the treasury, that when I come there may then be no collections (1954, 208; cf. McCord 1988, 343).It is erroneous to suggest that Paul was merely urging his brethren to save something at home or put it aside in a special place, as some translations have suggested. This would have defeated the apostle’s purpose in not wanting to have to contact each Christian individually when he came. The notion that one may simply freelance his contribution in doing good, with no obligation to the local church, is a myth contrived by the covetous.
Fifth, each Christian is to give “as he may prosper,” or “according to his ability” (Acts 11:29). This is proportional giving. Amazingly, some in the early church gave even beyond their ability (2 Corinthians 8:3). Those who have more should give more (both in amount and percentage). When the more prosperous generously give of their abundance to compensate for the deficit of the poorer folk, the type of equality that God desires will prevail (see 2 Corinthians 8:12-15).
Finally, while it is true that the New Testament sets no percentage (as in the case of the tithe under the Mosaic regime), surely those who flourish under the “better covenant” (Hebrews 7:22) will want to go beyond the standard of the inferior economy. The least God ever stipulated for his people in the support of his work was ten percent (cf. Genesis 14:20; 28:22; Numbers 18:21-24); the most he has accepted is one hundred percent (Mark 12:41-44). Surely, somewhere between these two examples, the conscientious child of God can find his appropriate level of giving.
Teaching the WordThere are also regulations for the church’s teaching program. And let there be no mistake about it, teaching and preaching is a form of worship. Paul viewed his preaching ministry as a form of religious devotion comparable to priestly service in the temple. Such is the significance of the terms “minister” (
leitourgos), “ministering” (
hierourgeo), and “offering up” (
prosphera), as employed in Romans 15:15, 16.
First, the content of our teaching must be the Scriptures, for it alone is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
We do not need discourses on America’s foreign trade policy, slum clearance, or the tax crisis—as those enchanted with the “social gospel” are inclined to discuss. The godly teacher will bring the sacred Scriptures into contact with the minds of his audience; he will let Heaven’s power do its work (Romans 1:16).
Second, only the males of the church are to occupy the role of public teachers in the assembly. Paul writes: “I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness” (1 Timothy 2:12).
The negative conjunction
oude(“nor”) is explanatory in force, revealing that the apostle is forbidding any teaching or similar activity in which a woman exercises authority over a man (Lenski 1961, 563).
Godet notes that Paul “regards speaking in public as an act of authority exercised over the congregation which listens,” and that consequently, “during the present economy, he draws the conclusion that the speaking of the woman in [the] public [assembly] is in contradiction to the position assigned to her by the Divine will expressed in the law” (1890, 311).
See the apostle’s similar admonition in 1 Corinthians 14:33-36. The popular notion that Paul’s instruction was based upon cultural considerations, and thus is not applicable today, is totally without justification. His argument regarding woman’s subordinate role is grounded on timeless concepts that are transcultural (1 Corinthians 11:2ff; 14:34; 1 Timothy 2:13, 14). Moreover, his application of these matters is universal (1 Corinthians 11:16; 14:33, 34), not local. That which is transcultural and universal is neither local nor temporary. The restrictions are therefore as binding today as they were in the first century.
Men have been ordained of God to lead the worship services. The devout Christian must not be swayed by the fickle whims of a changing society; rather, he must abide by the authority of the eternal Word.
Third, the teaching of the local assembly must be done by “faithful” men (2 Timothy 2:2). Occasionally there are brothers, woefully unfaithful in their conduct of life, who covet a teaching position. Such men must not be allowed to be a hindrance to the cause of Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:12).
Fourth, the teachers of the church assembly should be men who have cultivated their instructional abilities so that they are “able” to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2).
Fifth, assembly teaching should be plain, easy to understand. When men are applauded because of their alleged scholarship, yet one can scarcely understand what they are saying, something is drastically wrong. Sincere souls are longing for the truth; they want men of God to “tell [them] plainly” (John 10:24), and if we are teachers in the mold of our Lord, we will do precisely that (cf. John 11:14; 16:25, 29). We need to rid ourselves of worthless, theological double-talk, and proclaim the saving grace of God in language that is easy to grasp and retain.
ConclusionAnd so, in conclusion, we must ask: does God’s New Testament record contain a pattern by which we can know how to direct our worship so as to be pleasing to him who made us?
Indeed, it does.
The devout student will diligently search the Scriptures to know the mind of Christ on this theme. He will attempt to avoid the extremes of both legalism and liberalism. A legalistic philosophy would bind items which are simply expedients (e.g., the use of an invitation song—though this is a wise procedure), the employment of a particular translation (King James Version only), whether the church uses literature, a class arrangement).
A more liberal ideology, on the other hand, has no problem with the use of mechanical instruments of music as an accompaniment to singing. It feels that women may speak or lead in the worship service; it sees no harm in having a rummage sale to finance a mission project, etc. Wisdom in discriminating such matters is one of the desperate needs of the day.
Finally, as we determine the course of true worship, let us worship with great passion. We must not convey to the world the impression that the worship of our God is a boring, lifeless ritual. We have been redeemed from sin. Let us therefore praise our Maker as those who are grateful for his bountiful blessings.
- Arndt, William and F. W. Gingrich. 1967. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
- Blakely, Fred. 1987. The Banner of Truth, June.
- Blakely, Given O. 1988. Highers-Blakely Debate. Denton, TX: Valid Publications.
- Dummelow, J. R. 1944. Commentary on the Holy Bible. New York, NY: Macmillan.
- Godet, F. 1890. Commentary on Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians. Edinburgh, Scotland: T. & T. Clark.
- Hendriksen, William. 1976. The Gospel of John. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.
- Hook, Cecil. 1984. Free in Christ. New Braunfels, TX: Hook.
- Jackson, Wayne. 1990. The Spiritual Sword, July.
- Lenski, R. C. H. 1943. The Interpretation of John’s Gospel; 1961. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg.
- McCord, Hugo. 1988. McCord’s New Testament Translation of the Everlasting Gospel. Henderson, TN: Freed-Hardeman College.
- McGarvey, J. W. and Philip Pendleton n.d. Commentary on Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans. Cincinnati, OH: Standard.
- Mcknight, James. 1954. Apostolical Epistles. Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate.
- Thayer, J. H. 1958. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Edinburgh, Scotland: T. & T. Clark.
- Thiselton, A. C. 1971. The Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Vol. 3. Colin Brown, ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
- Vine, W. E. 1991. Amplified Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Iowa Falls, IA: World.
- Winder, F. J. n.d. Music of the Saints. Milwaukie, OR: The Restoration Press.
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