"STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS" Joel - The Day Of The Lord (2:28-3:21) INTRODUCTION 1. In our previous lesson on Joel, we saw that... a. Joel's prophecy was occasioned by a plague of locusts - 1:2-4 b. He proclaimed the plague as a warning from God - 1:15-16 1) If the people would not repent, "the day of the Lord" would come and bring greater destruction - 2:1-5 2) If they did repent, then material blessings would follow - 2:12-14 c. Joel therefore called for a national repentance - 2:15-17a d. Evidently his work was effective, for he describes the blessings that had come - 2:21-27 2. We also noticed some lessons to be learned from the book... a. The value of natural calamities (can serve to turn men to God) b. The nature of true repentance - 2:12-13 c. The character of the Lord - 2:13b d. "The day of the Lord", when referring to God's judgment on a city or nation, can be averted - cf. also Jer 18:7-8; Jonah 3:1-10 3. In this lesson, we shall complete our survey of Joel by reading 2:28-3:21... a. With attention to the prophetic element of this passage b. Offering comments concerning its interpretation [Let's begin with a careful reading of this passage...] I. JOEL'S PROPHECY OF THE FUTURE A. WHAT SHALL COME TO PASS "AFTERWARD" (2:26-32) 1. God's Spirit will be poured out on all flesh - 2:28-29 2. Wonders in heaven and earth to appear before the coming of "the day of the Lord" - 2:30-31 3. There shall be deliverance in Mount Zion and Jerusalem - 2:32 B. WHAT SHALL OCCUR "IN THOSE DAYS" (3:1-17) 1. God will judge all nations on account of His people - 3:1-3 2. Specifically mentioned are Tyre, Sidon and Philistia - 3:4-8 a. Who had mistreated God's people b. Who shall be treated as they treated others 3. The nations are called to do battle - 3:9-12 a. "Prepare for war!" b. Come to the "Valley of Jehoshaphat", where the Lord will judge the nations 1) Jehoshaphat means "God shall judge" 2) The valley referred to may be the Kidron near Jerusalem 4. The outcome - 3:13-17 a. There will be a great harvest b. "The day of the Lord" is described... 1) As near in this "valley of decision" 2) In which the heavenly bodies are diminished and shaken c. While God's people find shelter and strength in Him d. The Lord will be known and dwell in Zion, Jerusalem forever remaining holy C. WHAT SHALL COME TO PASS "IN THAT DAY" (3:18-21) 1. Judah shall be blessed by a "fountain...from the house of the Lord" - 3:18 2. Egypt and Edom will be desolate because of their violence - 3:19 3. Judah and Jerusalem shall abide forever, acquitted of their guilt - 3:20-21 [Such is the prophetic message of Joel. What he SAYS is clear enough. What he MEANS is something else! Here are a few thoughts on...] II. INTERPRETING JOEL'S PROPHECY A. THERE ARE THREE KEY PHRASES... 1. "it shall come to pass afterward" - 2:28 a. This period of time is clearly defined by Peter in Ac 2: 14-21 b. In which he applies it to the events on the Day of Pentecost 2. "in those days and at that time" - 3:1 a. The same period of time as described in 2:28-32 b. I.e., at some point during the Messianic age 3. "in that day" - 3:18 a. The context places this AFTER "the day of the Lord" b. I.e., at some point during the Messianic age, but not until AFTER the judgment of the nations in the "Valley of Jehoshaphat" B. DETERMINING THE TIME AND EVENTS... 1. Certainly 2:28-29 refers to a period beginning with the events described in Acts 2 a. Peter said "this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel" - Ac 2:16 b. An inspired statement pinpointing when this prophecy began to be fulfilled 2. However, there are different opinions regarding Joel 2:30-3:21 a. "The day of the Lord" in 2:30-31 is variously interpreted as: 1) The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD 2) The final coming of the Lord b. The judgment in the "valley of Jehoshaphat" in 3:1-17 is variously interpreted as: 1) Figurative, by some; literal, by others 2) Referring to no specific judgment, by some 3) Referring to a specific judgment at some time, by others... 1) E.g., after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD 2) E.g., The "Battle of Armageddon" prior to the "millennium" - Re 16:14-16 3) E.g., the battle after the "millennium" described in Re 20:7-10 c. Various views are also offered for the blessing of Judah and Jerusalem in 3:18-21 -- With such differences in interpretation, one should not be dogmatic C. HERE IS MY OWN UNDERSTANDING OF 2:30-3:21... 1. The passage is not to be taken literally a. It would be physically impossible for ALL the nations to gather in the "Valley of Jehoshaphat" - 3:2,12 b. The "Valley of Acacias" is located on the other side of the Jordan River, making it geographically impossible to be watered by a stream from Jerusalem - 3:18 2. This passage speaks in terms meaningful and comforting to Israelites in Joel's day a. The prophecy was initially given to comfort them, give them hope for the future b. Therefore prophetic elements are described in terms to which they could relate 1) E.g., deliverance in their capital, Jerusalem - 2:32 2) E.g., judgment upon those enemies who oppressed them - 3:1-8 3) E.g., desolation of such enemies as Edom and Egypt - 3:19 4) E.g., blessings to befall the nation and the land - 3:18,20-21 3. But it refers to spiritual realities fulfilled with the coming of the Messiah! a. Salvation and deliverance will indeed come out of Zion and Jerusalem - cf. 2:32 with Lk 24:44-47; He 12:22-24 b. God will judge the enemies of His people - cf. 3:1-17 with Re 4-20 (esp. Re 20:7-10) c. In the end, God's people will prosper and the wicked will be desolate - cf. 3:18-21 with Re 21-22 (esp. Re 22:1-2) 4. This is true whether or not any particular event is referred to in this passage a. I lean toward the view that "the day of the Lord" in this passage is the FINAL JUDGMENT when the Lord comes again b. Others think that it refers to the DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM in 70 A.D c. Whatever one's interpretation, the application is the same... 1) The means and source of salvation: The Lord Himself - 2:32 2) The day of the Lord is coming! a) A terrible day for the wicked - cf. 3:14-16a b) But for God's people there is shelter and strength - cf. 3:16b c) And in the end, blessings for the people of God, while their enemies lie desolate - cf. 3:18-21 CONCLUSION 1. In studying "The Minor Prophets"... a. Determining the proper INTERPRETATION is certainly a worthy goal b. But determining the proper APPLICATION is our essential task! 2. If this be true, then the crucial question is this: Have we found that salvation, deliverance, shelter and strength which only the Lord can provide when the final "day of the Lord" comes? To know where to look, one should carefully read Peter's sermon on the Day of Pentecost, after he had quoted Joel - cf. Ac 2:22-39
"STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS" Joel - The Day Of The Lord (1:1-2:27) INTRODUCTION 1. We now turn to the book of Joel, and this will be the first of two lessons 2. The name "Joel" means "Jehovah is God", and we know very little about the author... a. The name appears frequently, with at least a dozen men sharing the name in the O.T. b. Described as "the son of Pethuel" (1:1), there is no reason to associate him with any other Joel mentioned in the Bible [As we begin our study, let's do so with some...] I. BACKGROUND INFORMATION A. THE DATE... 1. The date of the book is uncertain a. Some place it as one of the earliest of the "literary prophets" (ca. 900 B.C.) b. Some believe it was written after the Exile (ca. 400 B.C.) 2. Hailey, Young, and other scholars defend the early date a. Suggesting a date of 830 B.C. b. Which is the date I am presuming for our study B. THE OCCASION... 1. Joel's prophecy was occasioned by a calamity that had struck the land a. Literally, it is described as a locust plague b. Some suggest that the locusts were symbolical of an army that had invaded 2. I take the description of the plague as literal C. THE MESSAGE... 1. Joel sees the locust plague as a warning from God a. That the calamity was heralding "the day of the Lord" which was coming b. That if the people did not repent, this "day" would bring even more destruction 2. So Joel's message is "Seek the Lord through repentance!" (1:1-2:27) 3. Joel also has some things to say about what shall come to pass "afterward" (2:28-3:21) [With this brief background as an introduction, let's now begin reading the book with the aid of the following outline...] II. OUTLINE OF THE BOOK (1:1-2:27) A. THE LAND IS LAID WASTE (1:1-12) 1. Joel provides a graphic description of the locust plague (1-4) 2. He calls for people to weep over the devastation (5-12) B. A PLEA TO CRY OUT TO THE LORD (1:13-20) 1. To be led by the priests, consecrating a fast and calling the people together (13-14) 2. For the present destruction is heralding the coming "day of the Lord" (15-18) 3. Joel and the beasts take the lead, with their own cry to the Lord (19-20) C. THE COMING "DAY OF THE LORD" (2:1-11) 1. A cry to warn the people, for the day is coming! (1) 2. This particular "day of the Lord" is vividly described (2-11) a. It will be a recurrence of the locust plague b. Described as an invading army, an army led by God! D. A CALL TO REPENTANCE (2:12-17) 1. Voiced first by God Himself (12) 2. Then elaborated upon by Joel (13-17) a. Repent, for God Who is gracious may relent and provide a blessing b. Make it a national repentance, led by the priests E. THE LORD'S PROMISE IF THERE IS REPENTANCE (2:18-20) 1. He will be zealous for His land, and show pity to the people (18) 2. He will bless them with grain, wine, and oil (19) 3. He will remove the "army" (locusts) from the north (20) F. A CALL TO COURAGE AND GLADNESS (2:21-24) 1. A call directed by Joel towards: a. The land, for the Lord has done marvelous things (21) b. The beasts of the field, for the pastures and trees are fruitful once again (22) c. The children of Zion, for the Lord is blessing the land with rain and a full harvest (23-24) 2. This passage implies the people repented, and the Lord was keeping His promise! G. THE LORD'S REASSURANCE (2:25-27) 1. God will restore what His "army" (the locusts) had destroyed (25) 2. They will be blessed with plenty, and praise God for His grace (26) 3. Then they shall truly know that God is over them (27) [This ends the first part of Joel's prophecy. It clearly pertained to the people of his day. The rest of the book looks forward to a period described as "afterward" (2:28), "in those days and at that time" (3:1), and "in that day" (3:18). This section we will examine in our next lesson. But from what we have read thus far, what lessons can we learn from Joel?] III. LESSONS FROM THE BOOK OF JOEL A. THE VALUE OF NATURAL CALAMITIES... 1. They can serve to turn men back to God 2. God certainly used them to reach out to His people in the O.T. - cf. Am 4:6-12 3. But not all calamities come from God; some came from Satan - cf. Job 1:6-19 4. Whether calamities come from God, Satan, or are purely coincidental, they should be times of reflection concerning life and our relationship to God - e.g., Job 1:20-22 B. THE NATURE OF TRUE REPENTANCE (2:12-13a) 1. It must be with all our heart (12a) 2. It must be inward, not just outward (12b-13a) C. THE NATURE OF GOD (2:13b) 1. He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness - cf. Ps 103:8-14 2. He relents from doing harm when we repent - cf. Jer 18:7-8 D. "THE DAY OF THE LORD" CAN BE AVERTED... 1. "The day of the Lord" often refers to God's judgment upon a nation a. Such judgments were many, and often described in terms indicative of the final judgment at the end of time - cf. the judgment of Babylon, Isa 13:1-13 b. In the first part of Joel's prophecy, it referred to a plague of locusts that would be greater than what they had already experienced - Joel 2:1-11 2. But such judgments could be averted - cf. Jer 18:7-8 a. Such happened with the city of Nineveh - cf. Jonah 3:1-10 b. And when we compare Joel 1:11; 2:1,11 with 2:13-14,18-23, it appears to have been averted in Joel's day! 3. Of course, this does not pertain to the "ultimate" day of the Lord at the end of time, but to the "preliminary" judgments that God often brings upon a nation CONCLUSION 1. Our next lesson will complete our survey of the book of Joel, in which we will find... a. Joel writing of events that heralded the beginning of the Christian dispensation b. More lessons that are of value to the Christian 2. But in closing, may I remind you of that "day of the Lord" which is yet to come? a. A day vividly described in 2Pe 3:7-10 b. A day which cannot be averted, but for which we can prepare - 2Pe 3:11-14 For those who prepare themselves for this coming "day of the Lord", they will find that indeed the Lord is "gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness" (Joel 2:13). But for those who continue in their sins, we can only say along with Joel... "Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is at hand; It shall come as destruction from the Almighty." (Joel 1:15)
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Critics of the Bible attack every facet of its credibility. These critics claim that the books were not written at the time they profess to have been written, that the men whose names the books bear are not the actual writers, and that the biblical characters are mental fabrications of the authors. Such criticism, however, is impossible to maintain rationally and honestly in the face of the vast amount of evidence that verifies the validity and authenticity of the 66 books of the Bible. Archaeological findings provide one line of evidence that continues to add credence to the biblical text. Tablets, seals, papyri, pottery, and a host of other ancient artifacts have surfaced that document the lives of characters mentioned in the Bible. These finds often show that the biblical texts under discussion were written at the time they claim to have been written, and that the biblical characters were historic and real.
Cuneiform tablet containing name of Nebo-Sarsekim
Image courtesy of Ian Jones
The information on the tablet is nothing inherently spectacular. The tablet is dated to 595 B.C. and simply states that a Babylonian official named Nebo-Sarsekim dedicated a large gift of gold to the temple of Esangila in Babylon (Reynolds, 2007). While this inscription is unremarkable by itself, it provides an exciting link to the biblical text.
In Jeremiah 39, the prophet described Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar’s successful attack on the city of Jerusalem. Jeremiah wrote that Nebuchadnezzar penetrated the walls of Jerusalem in the 11th year of King Zedekiah, which corresponds to 587 B.C. Upon infiltrating the walls, Nebuchadnezzar and several of his Babylonian princes sat at the Middle Gate. One of the princes listed as sitting with Nebuchadnezzar was Sarsechim (Jeremiah 39:3). The name “Sarsechim” is recognized as the same name as Nebo-Sarsekim. Thus, the small stone tablet mentions a Babylonian official alive in 595 B.C. and less than 10 years later Jeremiah mentioned an official by the same name. One member of the British Museum’s staff, Dr. Irving Finkel, who works in the Department of the Middle East, said: “A mundane commercial transaction takes its place as a primary witness to one of the turning points in Old Testament history. This is a tablet that deserves to be famous” (as quoted in Alberge, 2007).
Skeptics already have begun to attack the find. They suggest that the Nebo-Sarsekim on the tablet could be a different Sarsekim from the one mentioned by Jeremiah. While there is always the possibility that they are not the same person, the circumstantial evidence linking the two names establishes a strong case that the names refer to the same person. They both mention a Babylonian official, during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, in a time frame that would be expected if the same person is under discussion. In fact, besides a few “ultra-skeptics,” the find seems to be accepted by the majority of scholars as extrabiblical evidence for the existence of the official mentioned in Jeremiah 39:3.
Concerning the significance of the find, Dr. Finkel stated: “If Nebo-Sarsekim existed, which other lesser figures in the Old Testament existed? A throwaway detail in the Old Testament turns out to be accurate and true. I think that it means that the whole of the narrative [of Jeremiah] takes on a new kind of power” (as quoted in Reynolds, 2007).
The biblical documents have more than archaeological evidence to commend them. Their internal consistency, unity, predictive prophecy, and scientific accuracy combine to produce an irrefutable case for the Bible’s divine inspiration. Archaeological finds such as the tablet inscription, do, however, add cumulative weight to the overall case for the Bible’s factual accuracy. As renowned archaeologist Nelson Glueck observed: “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which conform in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible” (1959, p. 31).
Glueck, Nelson (1959), Rivers in the Desert: A History of the Negev (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Cudahy).
Reynolds, Nigel (2007), “Tiny Tablet Provides Proof for Old Testament,” Telegraph, July 13, [On-line], URL: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/07/11/ ntablet111.xml.
Does God Alone Possess Immortality?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
The Bible repeatedly testifies to the fact that this life is not all there is. For the faithful, the best is yet to come (Luke 16:22; 23:43; 2 Timothy 4:8). For the unfaithful, the worst is yet to come (Luke 16:23-24). The unrighteous “will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46, emp. added; cf. Lyons and Butt, 2005). At death, “the dust will return to the earth as it was,” but “the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7; cf. Genesis 2:7). Jesus taught: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26, emp. added). In short, the soul of man is immortal (Romans 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:10; 1 Corinthians 15:53-54).
If the soul of man is immortal, however, some wonder how Paul could truthfully write to Timothy that God “alone has immortality” (1 Timothy 6:16, emp. added)? If God alone has immortality, then how can man also be immortal?
Indeed, both God and man are immortal. God, by His very nature, is eternal (Psalm 90:2), and thus He is not subject to death (Greek thanatos). Only when God, the Word, put on flesh and physically inhabited His natural world did He willingly subject Himself to death (John 1:1-5,14; 19:30; Philippians 2:5-8). Yet, even then, death had no power over Him (Acts 2:22-36; 1 Corinthians 15:21). He defeated thanatos; He is athanatos (immortal). He not only physically rose from the dead, but His Spirit never ceased to exist.
Still, how can God “alone” have immortality (Greek athanasia; 1 Timothy 6:16), if the soul of man is also immortal (1 Corinthians 15:53-54; cf. Matthew 25:46)? The answer is really quite simple: The only reason man is immortal is because God gives man immortality. God created man differently than plants and animals; He chose to make man “in His own image” (Genesis 1:27). Among other things, one of the great blessings of being an image-bearer of God is that humans have an immortal soul (see Lyons and Thompson, 2002). However, in the sense that God’s everlasting nature is immortal, God alone possesses immortality.
Consider a parallel. According to Scripture, both God and His faithful children are pure and holy (1 John 3:3; Matthew 5:8; 1 Peter 1:16). They are pure and holy, however, on different levels. Whereas God is innately perfect (Isaiah 6:3; James 1:13), man can only become pure and holy through the grace of God and the blood of Christ (Hebrews 10:22; Ephesians 1:3-14). God is holy; man becomes holy. Likewise, God “alone [inherently] has immortality” (1 Timothy 6:16), but He has given it to man.
REFERENCESLyons, Eric and Bert Thompson (2002), “In the ‘Image and Likeness of God’: Parts 1 & 2,” Reason & Revelation, 22:17-32, March and April.
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2005), “The Eternality of Hell: Parts 1 & 2,” Reason & Revelation, 25:1-15, January and February.
Demons: Ancient Superstition or Historical Reality?
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
As one begins a perusal of the New Testament, he encounters an unusual phenomenon known as “demon possession.” The first Gospel writer recorded these words: “And the report of him [Jesus] went forth into all Syria: and they brought unto him all that were sick, holden with divers diseases and torments, possessed with demons, and epileptic, and palsied; and he healed them” (Matthew 4:24, ASV). From this point on, there are numerous references to “demons” or “demon possession” in the New Testament. [NOTE: “Devils,” as found in the KJV, is an incorrect rendition. The Greek word for devil is diabolos. Other terms, diamon (found once) and dimonion (63 times), are transliterated as “demon(s)” in the ASV. There is only one devil, but there are many demons.]
Critics of the Bible, of course, allege that this is an example of the sort of gross superstition that characterizes the ancient volume. The following quote represents a typical atheistic approach to this matter:
Mark 5:1-13 relates an incredible story wherein Jesus casts out the “devils” from an unfortunate man. He then causes the devils to enter, instead, a herd of swine, and the swine, thus bedeviled, race over a cliff, fall into the sea and drown. Fundamentalists would have us believe that this is a true story. That tells us a lot about fundamentalists. Belief in demons and fairies and goblins and dragons ended, for most people, ages ago, and is remembered only in some Fairy Tales. Such primeval superstitions should be left behind, in our colorful past, where they belong (Hayes, 1996, pp. 129-130).Even religious modernists are prone to dismiss the biblical accounts of demon possession. William Barclay wrote:
We need not argue whether demons were realities or not. One thing certain is that in the time of Jesus people believed in them with terrified intensity. If a man believes he is ill, he will be ill. If a man believed that he was demon-possessed, then, illusion or no, he was definitely ill in mind and body (1976, p. 26).The Scottish scholar went on to concede that Jesus may have believed in demons, but that “He did not come into this world to give men medical knowledge, and there is no reason to think that his medical knowledge would be any more advanced than that of the people of his day” (p. 27).
To suggest that such a comment is a reflection upon the deity of Christ is an understatement. The New Testament does not represent Jesus merely as believing in demons, but depicts Him actually speaking to these beings, and being spoken to by them. He even commanded demons to do certain things. Either these evil spirits were a reality, or else the biblical record is entirely wrong. There is no other way to view the matter.
This sort of a priori dismissal of the historical record is typical of unbelief. The skeptic, and even those religionists who have been influenced by the rationalistic mode of thought, repudiate anything that is not consistent with current human experience. But such an ideology simply is not an intelligent basis upon which to establish conclusions. There is validity in the credibility of historical testimony. The reality of demon activity, therefore, is not to be determined upon the basis of twentieth-century experiences; rather, it is grounded in whether or not the New Testament documents are credible.
While I do not have the space to explore this matter in depth, I would like to make this observation. In 1846, Simon Greenleaf, Dane Professor of Law at Harvard University, produced a work titled The Testimony of the Evangelists Examined by the Rules of Evidence Administered in Courts of Justice. Greenleaf was the greatest authority in the history of legal procedure on what constitutes evidence. His massive three-volume set, A Treatise on the Law of Evidence (1842-53), is, to this very day, a standard on the topic of evidence. Greenleaf argued in The Testimony—with dramatic authority—that the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John passed the strictest tests of authenticity, and thus may be regarded as dependable (1903, pp. 1-54). And without controversy is the fact that these writers described cases of demonic activity during the ministry of Jesus.
THE ORIGIN OF DEMONS
Unlike the speculative literature of antiquity, the New Testament makes no attempt to explain the origin of demons or to describe any materialized features (cf. Reese, 1992, 2:141). This appears to be significant; the restraint, I believe, is a subtle evidence of the divine inspiration of the narratives (see Jackson, 1996). Scholars, however, have speculated as to the origin of demons. I will consider briefly some of the prevalent ideas.
(1) Some claim that demons were the disembodied spirits of a pre-Adamic race of men who lived upon the Earth in a “gap period” that allegedly fits between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. There are two things wrong with that notion: (a) There is absolutely no evidence that there ever was a historical “gap” between the first two verses of Genesis (see Fields, 1976). (b) There were no people before Adam. He came directly from God (Luke 3:38), and was the “first” man (1 Corinthians 15:45).
(2) Others trace the origin of demons to a supposed cohabitation between angels and certain women of the pre-Flood world (Genesis 6:1-6). This theory is negated by the fact that Christ taught that angels are sexless beings, incapable of such unions (Matthew 22:30; see also Kaiser, 1992, pp. 33-38).
(3) It has been argued that first-century demons may be identified with the fallen angels mentioned in 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6, some of whom, consistent with the divine plan, were permitted to leave temporarily that sphere of confinement for the purpose of inhabiting certain people. Charles Hodge argued this theory (1960, p. 643), which probably is the most popular idea regarding this matter.
(4) Another view is that demons were the spirits of wicked dead men who were allowed by God to leave the Hadean realm to accommodate the implementation of the divine plan of redemption. Josephus claimed that demons were the “spirits of the wicked, that enter into men that are alive and kill them, unless they can obtain some help against them” (Wars 7.6.3). Alexander Campbell delivered a lecture in Nashville, Tennessee on March 10, 1841, in which he, in rather persuasive fashion, argued the case that the “demons” of the ancient world were the spirits of the dead. The printed form of that presentation is well worth studying (Campbell, n.d., pp. 379-402).
In the final analysis, no dogmatic conclusion can be drawn with reference to the origin of demons. That they existed admits of no doubt to anyone who takes the Bible seriously; as to their origin, the Scriptures are silent.
THE NATURE AND CHARACTER OF DEMONS
As spirit entities, demons could exercise both volition (“I will return...”) and locomotion (“Then goeth he...”) (Matthew 12:44-45). Moreover, they could assimilate factual information. A demon once spoke to Christ and said: “I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God” (Luke 4:34; cf. Mark 1:24). Too, they possessed a religious sensitivity. “Thou believest that God is one; thou doest well, the demons also believe and shudder” (James 2:19). “Shudder” suggests to “be struck with extreme fear, to be horrified” (Thayer, 1958, p. 658). The fact is, they tremble in prospect of their ultimate doom (see Matthew 8:29).
As to their character, demons are depicted as “unclean” and “evil.” In describing the vile nature of the Jewish nation of His day, the Lord gave an illustration regarding a man who was possessed of an “unclean” spirit (Matthew 12:43); the spirit left the man, but eventually re-entered the gentleman, taking with him other spirits “more evil” than himself (vs. 45). This passage reveals the “unclean” (Greek akathartos—“not pure”) or “evil” (kakos—that which not only is morally malignant, but injurious as well; cf. Vine, 1991, p. 272) disposition of demons. From this text it is observed also that there were degrees of vileness (“more evil”) in demons.
THE EFFECTS OF DEMON POSSESSION
It is important to distinguish between cause and effect in these cases. The cause was that of demon possession; the effects were physical and/or emotional maladies. The Scriptures never confuse the two. In other words, “demon possession” was not just an ancient, unenlightened attempt to explain physical and/or mental problems. Rather, a clear distinction is made between being inhabited by an unclean spirit and being sick. Demon possession could produce illness, but not all illness was attributed to the indwelling of evil spirits. Note the distinction that is drawn in the following passage. “And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him [Jesus] all that were sick, and them that were possessed with demons” (Mark 1:32). The double use of the definite article (tous), together with the conjunction, reveals that two distinct classes are under consideration—those who were merely sick, and those who were demon possessed and may or may not have had attending problems. Lenski has commented: “Two classes are markedly distinguished; those suffering from ordinary diseases and those possessed with demons. The distinction shows that the latter cannot be classed with the former in spite of modern attempts in that direction” (1964, p. 84).
THE DIVINE PURPOSE IN ALLOWING DEMON POSSESSION
The truth of the matter is, the Bible does not give a specific answer to this question—as much as our curiosity wants to be fed. I believe, though, that a reasonable case can be built to help shed some light on the subject.
If the mission of Jesus Christ, as the divine Son of God, was to be effective, the Lord’s absolute authority had to be established. No stone could be left unturned. Accordingly, we see the Savior demonstrating His authority in a variety of ways. (1) Christ exhibited power over diseases and physical ailments (Matthew 9:20-22; John 4:46-54; 9:1-41). (2) The Lord exerted His authority over material objects (Matthew 14:15-21; 17:24-27; John 2:1-11; 21:1-14). (3) Jesus showed that He could control the elements of nature (Matthew 8:23-27). (4) The Master even suspended the force of gravity with reference to His own body when He walked upon the waters of the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 14:22-23). (5) The Lord released certain ones who had been captured by death (Matthew 9:18-26; John 11:1-45). (6) Finally, it is not unreasonable to assume that, just as the Savior had displayed His marvelous power in all these realms, it likewise was appropriate that He be able to demonstrate His authority in the spirit sphere as well. Satan is not in full control! In fact, note this interesting passage. When the seventy disciples returned from an evangelistic trip (Luke 10:1), they joyfully proclaimed to Christ: “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in thy name.” Jesus responded: “I beheld Satan fallen as lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:17-18). The significance of that statement is this: the disciples’ power over demons, under the aegis of Christ’s name (authority), was but a preview of the ultimate and complete fall of the devil. One scholar has expressed the matter in the following way.
Jesus viewed the triumph of these [disciples] as being symptomatic of ever so many other victories over Satan throughout the course of the new dispensation, triumphs accomplished through the work of thousands of other missionaries. He was looking far into the future (cf. Matt. 24:14). He saw the ultimate discomfiture of the ugly dragon and all his minions (Hendriksen, 1978, p. 581).Consider another reference. Christ said: “But if I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then is the kingdom of God come upon you. Or how can one enter into the house of the strong man, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man?, and then he will spoil his house” (Matthew 12:28-29; Luke 11:20-22). The Savior’s argument is: I have cast out demons, the servants of Satan. I could not have done so if I were not stronger than he is. My power thus is superior to his.
These passages, I believe, help us to understand the purpose of demon possession in the first century. It established the comprehensive and supreme authority of the Son of God.
Why demons entered particular individuals is not explained in the Scriptures. Unger speculated that “in the great majority of cases possession is doubtless traced to yielding voluntarily to temptation and to sin...” (1952, p. 95). However, in the instance of the epileptic boy, the lad had been tormented “from childhood” (Mark 9:21), which suggests, at the very least, that personal sin was not necessarily a causative factor in demon possession.
A CONTRAST WITH PAGANISM
DEMON POSSESSION TODAY?
The position that demon possession does not exist today can be argued from a twofold base. First, a thoughtful study of the details associated with the so-called modern examples of demon habitation reveals that these cases bear no resemblance to the genuine examples of spirit possession described in the New Testament. The contrast is dramatic. Second, a consideration of certain data set forth in the New Testament leads only to the conclusion that demon possession was a first-century experience; it was allowed for a very specific reason, and the divine concession was suspended near the end of the apostolic era.
THE MODERN EXORCISM MANIA
(1) The “exorcisms” of today are performed almost invariably in dark, secluded environments, only to be publicized later. When Jesus cast out demons, the episodes were public, and therefore subject to critical examination (cf. Luke 4:31-37).
(2) The Lord could expel evil spirits with but a word, and the effect was immediate (Luke 4:36; Matthew 17:18). The Jesuit Priest who supposedly “exorcised” a demon from the youngster who served as the subject of Blatty’s book, The Exorcist, confessed that it took him two months of preparation (fasting on bread and water), and twenty ritual ceremonies to purge the child.
(3) The demoniacs of the New Testament era were afflicted, either physically or mentally, by a malfunction of what were otherwise normal human traits. Those cases involved no grotesque details. However, according to Roman Catholic priest Luigi Novagese (the official exorcist for the papal diocese in Rome), “A man’s skin turned white like paper, his teeth became transparent, his eyes bulged with balls of flame and fire issued from his mouth.” One priest claimed that a demon took a bite out of his sandwich. The February 11, 1974 issue of Newsweek magazine carried a photo of the burglarized delicacy, displaying perfect, human-like teeth prints! (I wonder—do demons get cavities?)
(4) Modern demoniacs frequently are described as uttering “fierce curses” and “bursts of blasphemy.” In the New Testament record, demons always were very respectful of deity (Mark 1:24; 3:11). There is not a solitary case of a demon blaspheming either God or Christ in the biblical narratives.
(5) Two cases of demon possession in the New Testament reveal that the unclean spirits could empower their hosts with supernatural strength (Mark 5:1-20; cf. Acts 19:13-16). The demoniac described in Mark 5 could not be bound even with a “chain.” A respected university professor posed this interesting query: “If we have demon-possessed people today, why in my travels in over forty countries of the world have I never seen a person who is so strong that you can’t bind him with chains (cf. Mk. 5:3)?” (Edwards, 1996, p. 135).
(6) The ability to cast out demons in the first century was given in order to confirm the truth of the Gospel message (Mark 16:17-20). Modern “exorcists” preach everything but the Gospel.
A REASONABLE ARGUMENT
I first must mention that when the prophet Zechariah foretold the coming of the Messianic dispensation, and the blessings that would accompany the spread of the Gospel, he suggested that the Lord would “cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land” (13:1-2). Some feel that the expression “unclean spirit” may hint of, or at least include, the cessation of demonic activity. Hailey sees this as a prediction of the eventual termination of prophetic activity (on the part of God’s people) and the curtailing of the power of unclean spirits.
Likewise, unclean spirits, the antithesis of the prophets, would cease. In the conquest of Christ over Satan and his forces, unclean spirits have ceased to control men as they did in the time of the ministry of Christ and the apostles... (1972, p. 392).While this is not a common view of Zechariah’s prophecy, and certainly not one upon which an entire case could be built, it is not without possibility. A firmer proposition can be argued as follows.
With the close of the first century, the age of the supernatural came to a close. God is not empowering men to operate in a miraculous fashion today. This is evinced in the following way:
(1) Nothing duplicating the miracles of the first century is apparent today. No one can walk upon water, raise the dead, calm a raging storm, turn water into wine, instantly heal an amputated ear, extract tax money from a fish’s mouth, etc. Miracles are self-authenticating phenomena that cannot be denied, even by hostile critics (cf. John 11:47; Acts 4:14-16); clearly, they are not occurring today.
(2) The purpose of supernatural gifts was to confirm the authenticity of divine revelation being received from heaven (Mark 16:9-20; Hebrews 2:1-4). Since the revelatory process was completed when the last New Testament book was written, miracles no longer are needed, hence, have ceased. They were like the scaffolding that is removed once the building is finished.
(3) The New Testament explicitly argues that the day was on the horizon when miracles would cease. Paul defended that position both in Ephesians 4:8-16 and in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10. During the early days of the apostolic era, divine revelation had been “in part,” i.e., piece-by-piece. The apostle said, however, that when “the perfect” or “the complete” arrived, the partial revelation, which came by means of the various “gifts” (e.g., supernatural knowledge and prophecy), would cease (1 Corinthians 13:8ff.). Prominent Greek scholar, W.E. Vine, summarized the matter well.
With the completion of Apostolic testimony and the completion of the Scriptures of truth (“the faith once for all delivered to the saints”, Jude, 3, R.V.), “that which is perfect” had come, and the temporary gifts were done away. For the Scriptures provided by the Spirit of God were “perfect”. Nothing was to be added to them, nothing taken from them. This interpretation is in keeping with the context (1951, p. 184).Elsewhere this writer has discussed the theme of miracles and their duration in much greater detail (Jackson, 1990, pp. 114-124).
Here is a crucial point. If it is the case that miraculous powers have been removed from the church’s possession, including the ability to cast out demons (Mark 16:17-20), does it stand to reason that God would allow demons to supernaturally assault people today, thus granting Satan an undue advantage over the human family? How would this square with the promise that “greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4)? In other words, if the gift of expelling demons no longer is extant, is it not a reasonable conclusion that demon possession is obsolete as well?
Aune, D.E. (1979), “Demonology,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia ed. Geoffrey Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), revised edition.
Barclay, William (1976), And He Had Compassion—The Healing Miracles of Jesus (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press).
Campbell, Alexander (no date.), Popular Lectures and Addresses (Nashville, TN: Harbinger Book Club).
Edwards, Earl (1996), “Powers of Darkness—Demon Possession,” Settled in Heaven, ed. David Lipe (Henderson, TN: Freed-Hardeman University).
Fields, Weston W. (1976), Unformed and Unfilled (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed).
Greenleaf, Simon (1903 edition), The Testimony of the Evangelists Examined by the Rules of Evidence Administered in Courts of Justice (Newark, NJ: Soney & Sage).
Hailey, Homer (1972), A Commentary on the Minor Prophets (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Hayes, Judith (1996), In God We Trust: But Which One? (Madison, WI: Freedom from Religion Foundation).
Hendriksen, William (1978), An Exposition of the Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Hodge, Charles (1960 edition), Systematic Theology (London: James Clarke).
Jackson, Wayne (1990), “Miracles,” Giving a Reason for Our Hope, ed. Winford Claiborne, (Henderson, TN: Freed-Hardeman College).
Jackson, Wayne (1996), “The Silence of the Scriptures: An Argument for Inspiration,” Reason & Revelation, 16:17-22, March.
Kaiser, Walter C., Jr. (1992), More Hard Sayings of the Old Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press).
Lenski, R.C.H. (1964), The Interpretation of Mark’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
McClintock, John and James Strong, eds. (1968 reprint), Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Reese, David G. (1992), “Demons,” The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman, (New York: Doubleday).
Ryrie, Charles C. (1959), Biblical Theology of the New Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Thayer, J.H. (1958 edition), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Edinburgh, Scotland: T. & T. Clark).
Unger, Merrill F. (1952), Biblical Demonology (Wheaton, IL: Scripture Press).
Vincent, Marvin (1972 edition), Word Studies in the New Testament (Wilmington, DE: Associated Publishers and Authors).
Vine, W.E. (1951), First Corinthians—Local Church Problems (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Vine, W.E. (1991), Amplified Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers).
Woodward, Kenneth L. (1974), “The Exorcism Frenzy,” Newsweek, 83:60-66.
The Resurrection of Christ as a Fact of Science
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Famed atheist and New York Times bestselling author Sam Harris published a book in 2010 titled The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values. In the book he attempted to show that atheistic materialism can provide a standard by which to judge moral behavior. He failed to prove his point, as we have shown in other places (Butt, 2008), but he did make some telling admissions.
In the introduction, Harris provided an endnote that described his view of the concept of a “fact.” He stated:
For the purposes of this discussion, I do not intend to make a hard distinction between “science” and other intellectual contexts in which we discuss “facts”—e.g., history. For instance, it is a fact that John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Facts of this kind fall within the context of “science,” broadly construed as our best effort to form a rational account of empirical reality. Granted, one doesn’t generally think of events like assassinations as “scientific” facts, but the murder of President Kennedy is as fully corroborated a fact as can be found anywhere, and it would betray a profoundly unscientific frame of mind to deny that it occurred (2010, p. 195).Harris is exactly right. Events that happened in the past such as assassinations can be every bit as scientific and factual as other types of experiential knowledge. In fact, those of us who believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ have contended for years that direct observation is not necessarily needed to establish it as factual. If the assassination of J.F.K. can be nailed down scientifically and established as a fact, is it not also true that the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ can be equally validated as a scientific fact in the way Harris describes? Certainly it is. (We have established the case for the fact of the resurrection elsewhere, see Butt, 2002.)
“In our best effort to form a rational account of empirical reality” we are forced to conclude that no other series of events offers the explanatory power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The event is recorded in detail in the only book in the world that is proven to be inspired by God. Hundreds of people in the first century saw the resurrected Lord, and testified of such. And the fact is that Jesus’ tomb was empty.These facts and others combine to provide a cumulative scientific case to establish the fact of Jesus’ resurrection.
Of course, Sam Harris would disagree about the resurrection of Christ being a fact. But his insightful discussion of what actually constitutes a scientific fact opens the door for the resurrected Lord to walk through. “And it would betray a profoundly unscientific frame of mind to deny that it occurred.”
ReferencesButt, Kyle (2002), “Jesus Christ—Dead or Alive?” Reason and Revelation, https://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=10&article=147.
Butt, Kyle (2008), “The Bitter Fruits of Atheism,” Reason and Revelation, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=12&article=2515.
Harris, Sam (2010), The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Value (New York: Free Press).
Ardi Joins a Long, Infamous List of Losers
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
If it were not so serious, the situation would be comical. Every few months a media blitz raves about a new “half-and-half” creature that is unlike anything ever seen. Supposedly, tiny features about this novel beast give modern humans cutting-edge insights into how primate ancestors evolved into us. The incisors are larger or smaller than most apes, the cranium has a bigger (or smaller) capacity, the tiny toe bone fragments offer amazing information about how the creature walked on all fours most of the time, except when it was being chased by a specific kind of predator on Tuesdays in the Fall, the small scraps of finger bones tell us that the creature swung from branches for the majority of its life, except for brief periods of time when it descended to the ground to walk upright for elaborate mating rituals that occurred once every 10 years during the Summer equinox, etc. And we know all this from bone fragments that are supposedly millions of years old.
The troubling thing about this whole scenario is that no matter how many times creationists prove it to be false, and no matter how many times specific “creatures” like Piltdown Man, Lucy, or Ida are discredited, people continue to be shaken in their belief in the Bible by every “latest” find. With each new creature, frantic readers contact their favorite Christian apologists and demand that this new find must be answered within two days, or the Genesis account of creation is going to be jeopardized and its validity seriously compromised. It is as if the history of the numerous evolutionary foibles is forgotten by the masses every time the media adopts another evolutionary poster child.
The remedy to this is simple. Let us all stop, take a deep breath, and systematically go through a few of the reasons why the “latest find” is nothing more or less than all the other evolutionary “breakthroughs” that have gone before it. First, the entire concept of any life arising from non-living chemicals through random, evolutionary processes has been proven to be scientifically impossible (Thompson, 1989). Every legitimate experiment that has been done for the entirety of human history that has any bearing on the subject has shown that in the natural Universe, life comes only from previously existing life of its own kind. No research team has ever found an evolutionary link between humans and lower animals for the simple, yet profound reason, that evolution is impossible and humans could not evolve from lower life forms. Furthermore, specific human traits, such as consciousness, sexual reproduction, varying blood types, spoken language, and the complexity of the human brain, pose insurmountable barriers to the false theory of human evolution (see Harrub and Thompson, 2003).
Second, the dating methods that are used to render “accurate” dates of millions of years are fraught with irreconcilable difficulties that prove them to be useless (see DeYoung, 2005; Snelling, n.d.; Morris, 1994). In truth, the evolutionary community concocts whatever dates it wants, jettisons any that do not match its preconceived notions, and massages dates arbitrarily. Numerous fossil finds have supposedly added hundreds of millions of years of evolutionary time, even though the rejected time frame was “known” to be accurate (see Butt, 2005; Butt, 2006; Butt, 2008a). When an article begins with a statement like, “4.4 million years ago...,” it might as well be saying, “Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away....” Accurate dating methods that render dates in the millions do not exist.
Third, how many alleged human ancestors must be debunked before the world views these false evolutionary claims with appropriate incredulity. Chapters one and two of the Apologetics Press book The Truth About Human Origins deals definitively with Aegyptopithecus Zeuxis, Dryopithicus africanus, Ramapithesu brevirostris, Orrorin tugenensis, Australopithecus ramidus, Australopithicus anamensis, Ardipithecus ramidus kadabba, Kenyanthropus platyops, Lucy, Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Neanderthals, Nebraska Man, Piltdown Man, Java Man, and Rhodesian Man (2003). In addition, Hobbit Man has been debunked (see Harrub, 2004; Harrub, 2005) and “Lucy’s Baby” is no longer viable (see Harrub, 2006).
In more recent news, a lemur fossil named Ida was hailed as not just “a discovery of great significance” (“The Link,” 2009), but the “most significant scientific discovery of recent times” (Leonard, 2009, emp. added). Some scientists claimed that it would “finally confirm irrefutably Sir Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution” (Leonard, emp. added). Dr. Jens Lorenz Franzen of Senckenberg Research Institute in Germany referred to it as “the eighth wonder of the world” (as quoted in Scally, 2009), and confidently proclaimed: “When our results are published, it will be just like an asteroid hitting the Earth” (“The Link”). Google was so enamored with the find that on May 20, 2009 the search engine mogul incorporated an illustration of the animal into its logo. So what was all the hoopla about? “Our earliest ancestor,” of course (“The Link”). At least, that is what some evolutionists and their friends in the media were telling everyone, until these claims were reduced to ashes by opponents within the evolutionary camp (see Lyons and Butt, 2009; Lyons, 2009b; Butt, 2009).
Enter the most recent newcomer to the long list of evolutionary losers—Ardi. Just five months after Ida—“the most significant scientific discovery of recent times, the eighth wonder of the world, our earliest ancestor”—we are introduced to Ardi—“the closest we have ever come” to the common ancestor we allegedly share with chimps (see Schmid, 2009). Ardi supposedly takes human evolution back to 4.4 million years ago. It is hyped as so significant that the journal Science contains 11 papers on it in the October, 2009 edition. David Pilbeam boldly stated: “This is one of the most important discoveries for the study of human evolution” (as quoted in Schmid, 2009, emp. added). Sounds remarkably like the announcement of Ida. Sample said “experts have described the find as the most important regarding human evolution in the past century” (2009). Amazing how quickly the “eighth wonder of the world” was replaced by Ardi.
One of the ironies surrounding Ardi’s heralded success is that if the evolutionary community was right in 2001, then our newest Ardi is much less significant than an earlier Ardi. You see, in the July 23, 2001 issue of Time, staff writers Michael Lemonick and Andrea Dorman introduced their readers to Ardipithecus ramidus kadabba. Supposedly, “Ardi” kadabba lived between 5.2 and 5.8 million years ago, more than a million years before the current reigning media champion. Furthermore, kadabba allegedly evolved “very close to the time when humans and chimps first went their separate ways” (see Harrub and Thompson, 2003, pp. 29-33). In addition, kadabba “almost certainly walked upright” according to the evolutionists who wrote about the find. We still have the bones of kadabba that were displayed in Time. So why are we not still hearing about this unprecedented evolutionary victory? For the simple reason that it is not the “Johnny-come-lately” that can generate media hype.
The latest reports of the 4.4 million-year-old Ardi are standard, run-of-the-mill, evolutionary propaganda that lack scientific integrity and, more basically, a foundation of truth. Already, we are being treated to “qualifying” statements such as, “it may take years to confirm exactly where Ardi fits in the history of human evolution” (Sample, 2009). Yale paleontologist Andrew Hill said: “We thought Lucy was the find of the century but, in retrospect, it isn’t” (as quoted in Sample). Would that we could fast-forward a few years (or a few weeks as in Ida’s case) and see what discrediting remarks Ardi will elicit “in retrospect.” In addition, the stories being spun are already contradictory. For instance, Schmid says that Ardi’s anatomy shows that “the development of their arms and legs indicates that they didn’t spend much time in the trees” (2009, emp. added). While, on the other hand, Sample stated: “Though Ardi would have spent much of her time in the trees, her pelvis was adapted to walking upright...” (2009, emp. added).
In other places, we have documented admissions from evolutionists, showing examples of the fabrication and exaggeration so prevalent in the field of evolutionary paleontology (see Butt, 2008b; Lyons, 2009a). And a close look at paleontological efforts to find “human ancestors” offers some keen insight into why we are treated to a new “relative” every few months. After all, Ardi was discovered in 1992. Following the original find, “a total of 47 researchers then spent a further 15 years removing, preparing and studying each of the fragments” (Sample, 2009). Somehow the paleontological world must justify spending 705 man-years of research on Ardi. So instead of calling it what it truly is, an ape, they are forced to justify their prodigal, vain years of research by claiming that they have stumbled upon the latest, greatest “wonder of the world.” Oh, that thinking people would have the wisdom to view Ardi, and all similar outlandish evolutionary claims, in light of real scientific facts. How many Lucys, Hobbits, Piltdowns, Nebraskas, and Idas will it take for people to see what is happening here? Add Ardi to the ever-growing heap of dead-ends piled high in the mass grave of alleged human evolution.
REFERENCESButt, Kyle (2005), “Reconsideration of Many Long-standing Assumptions,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2769.
Butt, Kyle (2006), “One Little Beaver Demolishes a Hundred Million Years,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2878.
Butt, Kyle (2008a), “Complex Jellies Jump 200 Million Years,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3580.
Butt, Kyle (2008b), “‘So We Make Up Stories’ About Human Evolution,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3641.
Butt, Kyle (2009), “Following Up on a Messy, and Still Missing, Link,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/240171.
DeYoung, Don (2005), Thousands...Not Billions (Green Forest, AR: Master Books).
Harrub, Brad and Bert Thompson (2003), The Truth About Human Origins (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Harrub, Brad (2004), “Hobbit Heresy,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2641.
Harrub, Brad (2005), “Hobbit Hubbub,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/703.
Harrub, Brad (2006), “Lucy’s Baby?”.
Leonard, Tom (2009), “Scientists Unveil Stunning Fossil,” Telegraph, [On-line], URL: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/5351315/Scientists-unveil-stunning-fossil.html.
“The Link” (2009), [On-line], URL: http://www.revealingthelink.com/.
Lyons, Eric (2009a), “Confessed Conjectures and Contradictions of Paleoartists,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/240213.
Lyons, Eric (2009b), “Ida, One More Time,” [On-line]: URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/240233.
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2009), “Ida—A Missing Link?,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/240160.
Morris, John D. (1994), The Young Earth (Green Forest, AR: Master Books).
Sample, Ian (2009), “Fossil Ardi Reveals the First Steps of the Human Race,” The Guardian, [On-line], URL: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/oct/01/fossil-ardi-human-race.
Scally, Derek (2009), “Fossil Ida a Crucial Finding for the Understanding of Early Human Evolution,” Irish Times, May 21, [On-line], URL: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2009/0521/1224247034331.html.
Schmid, Randolf (2009), “Before Lucy Came Ardi, New Earliest Hominid Found,” [On-line], URL: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091001/ap_on_sc/us_sci_before_lucy.
Snelling, Andrew (no date), “The Fallacies of Radioactive Dating of Rocks: Basalt Lava Flows in Grand Canyon,” [On-line], URL: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v1/n1/radioactive-dating.
Thompson, Bert (1989), “The Bible and the Laws of Science: The Law of Biogenesis,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2004.
Christian Families and Public Education
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
For many years in the United States, Christian families and public education seemed to go hand in hand. The vast majority of American families happily identified themselves as “Christian,” and they gladly sent their children to public schools to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic. In the 1800s and the early 1900s, many US students also learned as much (or more) about the Bible in school as they did at home. The Creator was unashamedly recognized. The Word of God was frequently quoted. Jesus was identified as man’s Savior. The six days of Creation were taught as fact. The Ten Commandments were read. Immorality was rebuked. Disrespectfulness was swiftly punished. Public education was not perfect, but, overall, it was many times more wholesome and Christian-family friendly than what we see in much of the country today.1
Please understand, I am no enemy of public education. I am partly a product of 13 years of quality public education in the great state of Oklahoma. While I was in school, my mother worked for the local public school system. Prior to starting a family, my wife taught public school in Tennessee for three years. I have countless Christian friends who work tirelessly in public school systems around the country as teachers, coaches, and administrators. They are fantastic role models for today’s youth, and I am thankful for the differences that they are making in the lives of many young people.
Sadly, however, the overall 13-year experience that millions of youth receive in many public schools today is a far cry from the far-more Christian-friendly encounter that students once had. Christian parents who enroll their students in public school should be as informed as possible about what is occurring in schools locally and around the country.
Schools Merely Reflect our Increasingly Immoral SocietyRather than acknowledge sexual immorality and impurity as evil (Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10), most Americans embrace sexual sins of various kinds as normal, fun, or harmless. (I work every day in Montgomery, Alabama, which in 2015 was declared to be “the most sexually diseased city in the nation.”)2 Ungodly entertainment is more prolific and easily accessible than ever before in our country’s history. A few years ago, the number one downloaded song on iTunes was Brittany Spears’ hit titled simply “3.” The song is about “gettin’ down with 3P” (that is, three people having sexual relations together at the same time). This former number one song glamorizes sin from beginning to end. Twice in the song Spears specifically mocks sexual sin, saying, “Livin’ in sin is the new thing (yeah).” She then adds, “What we do is innocent, just for fun and nothing meant.”
Given the sex-crazed society in which we live, it should not be surprising that schools are filled with sexually immoral students. According to the Center for Disease Control, data gathered from 2011-2013, revealed that ‘by age 19, roughly two of three never-married teenagers have had sexual intercourse.”3 (When I shared this statistic with my 19-year-old nephew who graduated from public school not many months ago, he was shocked that the number was only 66%.)
I had the privilege of working with youth in Tennessee and Alabama for many years. One high school senior mentioned to me that he was the only senior that he knew of in his rather small, close-knit graduating class who was not sexually promiscuous. On another occasion, a high school student told me that her high school prom had the reputation of being the best prom in the tri-county area because it was the “dirtiest” (that is, the most lewd and lustful). While a number of my wife’s middle-school students were already sexually active by the time they were 12 and 13, and some even pregnant, perhaps most disheartening were the sexual conversations she overheard six-year-olds having on the playground.
The Homosexual and Transgender Agenda Promoted through Public EducationHardly a day goes by, it seems, that a story concerning homosexuality or transgenderism is not in the news. Hollywood and the mainstream media have been pushing for the acceptance of unnatural, “shameful,” “vile passions” for several years (Romans 1:26-27). Sadly, despite the presence of many thousands of morally minded, Christian public school teachers, America’s education system is becoming more and more a “place of persuasion” for gay rights activists. Notice a few examples:
- In 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed that public school teachers in Massachusetts have the constitutional right, not only to instruct their students regarding the alleged normalcy of homosexuality, but to do so without notifying parents.4
- In 2009, California passed a law that designated every May 22 as gay day, which public schools (K-12) are expected to celebrate. The day is officially called “Harvey Milk Day” in honor of Mr. Milk, a 1970s homosexual activist.5
- In 2011, President Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, spoke at the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Youth Summit via video. Secretary Duncan stated:
I’m absolutely thrilled that Capital Pride Week is being kicked off with such an important and historic event…. My commitment to LGBT students is unequivocal and it goes back to when I first supported a charter school for LGBT students in Chicago…. I’m pleased to announce we are also releasing a new “Dear Colleague” letter. It clarifies the rights of students to form clubs, such as gay-straight alliances, under the Equal Access Act…. Schools must treat all student-initiated clubs equally, including those of LGBT students. I’m so proud to have the department host this year’s first ever federal LGBT youth summit. We seek to promote a new and unprecedented level of commitment in protecting LGBT students.6
- Consider also the pressure that President Obama’s Administration has put on public schools in the past year (1) to interpret “sexual identity” as a mere choice rather than a biological reality, and (2) to allow so-called transgenders to use the restroom and locker room with which they currently identify themselves. In 2015, the US Department of Education informed Chicago Township High School District 211 that if they did not give a boy who claims to be a girl unrestricted access to the girls’ locker room then the school district would risk losing millions of dollars in federal funding.7 Can you believe that this is where we are in the U.S.? The United States Department of Education is pressuring schools to allow mentally confused boys full access to girls’ locker rooms? The insanity of such (mis)direction from the federal government upon local school systems is but one more grave concern for Christian parents.
Dangerous IdeasMost parents become very alarmed when physical dangers present themselves at schools. Christian parents would likely never allow their kids to go to class if someone was threatening to take their lives or to harm them seriously. Yet, it is quite disturbing how disengaged many Christian parents seem to be when it comes to the spiritually and eternally dangerous ideas that fill many school classrooms. By and large, parents seem either oblivious to what is being taught, or, more likely, are simply apathetic toward the spiritually dangerous ideas that their children may hear for as many as 13 years.
In the mid-1990s, evolutionist Daniel Dennett wrote a book titled Darwin’s Dangerous Idea. One of the most disturbing comments in Dennett’s book concerned parents who teach their children (among other things) “that ‘Man’ is not a product of evolution.” Dennett wrote: “[T]hose of us who have freedom of speech will feel free to describe your teachings as the spreading of falsehoods, and will attempt to demonstrate this to your children at our earliest opportunity.”8
A few years ago in Mississippi, administrators and certain teachers were given a document titled the “2010 Mississippi Science Framework.” Public educators were reminded that “[t]he National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) strongly supports the position that evolution is a major unifying concept in science and should be included in the K-12 science education.” At the same time, public educators were told to “not advocate any religious interpretations of nature.” What’s more, they were instructed to “not mandate policies requiring the teaching of ‘creation science’ or related concepts, such as so-called ‘intelligent design…,’ and ‘arguments against evolution.’”9
Ideas are powerful things. Words matter. What we read, watch, and hear day after day will have an effect on our lives. When children hear year after year that the Universe is the result of a Big Bang, that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old, that life came from non-life, and that humans evolved from ape-like creatures over millions of years, they will have a tendency to believe what they have repeatedly heard and to doubt what the Bible teaches. Unless parents do a better job equipping children with facts from the Bible and true science than what the public school textbooks do at shrewdly presenting lies and unproven assertions, young people will be much more likely to grow up to become evolutionists who are skeptical of Creation, the Flood, and many other biblical statements and accounts.10
ConclusionAll Christian parents have the awesome responsibility of rearing their children “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4; cf. 2 Timothy 3:15). However, it seems especially crucial for those who send their children to public school seven hours a day, nine months a year, for 13 years, to “be vigilant: because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Due in large part to the deterioration of the public school system (which, again, merely reflects the spiritual and moral decline of society as a whole), approximately 13.4% of students in the U.S. are now educated in private11 or home schools.12 Depending on where you live in the U.S. and the state of the schools in your area, it may very well be time for you to consider one of these options.
*Originally published in Gospel Advocate, September 2016, 158:12-14.
1 See Dave Miller (2008), The Silencing of God: The Dismantling of America’s Christian Heritage (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
2 Kym Klass (2015), “Montgomery Rated Most Sexually Diseased City in Nation,” Montgomery Advertiser, July 28, http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/2015/07/27/montgomery-rated-sexually-diseased-city-nation/30722091/.
3 Gladys M. Martinez and Joyce C. Abma (2015), “Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use, and Childbearing of Teenagers 15-19 in the United States,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, July, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db209.htm.
4 Parker v. Hurley. 2008. https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=3852599956015630493&hl=en&as_sdt=6&as_vis=1&oi=scholarr.
5 Mark Tran (2009), “Arnold Schwarzenegger Signs Law Establishing Harvey Milk Day,” October 13, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/oct/13/schwarzenneger-law-harvey-milk-day.
6 “Secretary Arne Duncan Addresses the LGBT Youth Summit in Washington, D.C” (2011), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fA6JfpBHcH8.
7 Michael Miller (2015), “Feds Say Illinois School District Broke Law by Banning Transgender Student from Girls’ Locker Room,” November 3, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/11/03/feds-say-illinois-school-district-broke-law-by-banning-trans-student-from-girls-locker-room/.
8 P. 519, emp. added.
9 “2010 Mississippi Framework,” Mississippi Department of Education, July 25, http://docplayer.net/17813083-Mississippi-science-framework.html.
10 I highly recommend ApologeticsPress.org as a resource to combat the error young people are taught in public schools.
11 “Private School Enrollment” (2016), https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cgc.asp.
12 “Statistics about Nonpublic Education in the United States” (2012), http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oii/nonpublic/statistics.html.