"STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS" Nahum - The Fall Of Nineveh (1:1-3:19) INTRODUCTION 1. At the same time Jeremiah and Zephaniah were pronouncing judgment against Judah, another prophet was directing his attention at one of her enemies 2. The prophet was Nahum, whose name means "Consolation" a. The name "is in a sense symbolical of the message of the book, which was intended to comfort the oppressed and afflicted people of Judah" (Eiselen) b. Concerning the MAN 1) His home was Elkosh, of which little is known - Nah 1:1 2) Some think that Capernaum (lit., "village of Nahum") may have been his birthplace 3) He was contemporary with Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah b. Concerning his MESSAGE 1) His message is usually dated around 630-612 B.C. a) The northern kingdom of Israel was already in Assyrian captivity b) Assyria itself was still a world power, though in a state of decline 2) The theme of his message is simple: "The Fall Of Nineveh" a) This makes his work a complement to that of Jonah b) Though by this time no mercy would be shown, judgment would be final [The book of Nahum can easily be divided into three sections which coincide with the three chapters. In the first section we find...] I. NINEVEH'S DOOM DECLARED A. THE CHARACTER AND POWER OF THE LORD... 1. God's vengeance, even though He is slow to anger - Nah 1:1-3a 2. The fierceness of His anger described - Nah 1:3b-6 3. The goodness of the Lord, as a stronghold to the faithful - Nah 1:7 4. The pursuer of His enemies - Nah 1:8 B. THE COMPLETE OVERTHROW OF NINEVEH... 1. She will not afflict again, despite her plotting against the Lord - Nah 1:9-11 2. Judah will be delivered from Nineveh's affliction - Nah 1: 12-13 3. Nineveh's destruction has been commanded by the Lord - Nah 1: 14 4. There shall be good tidings in Judah, she can keep her feasts - Nah 1:15 [Having "declared" Nineveh's doom in the first section, we now find...] II. NINEVEH'S DOOM DESCRIBED A. THE SIEGE AND CAPTURE OF THE CITY... 1. Furious preparation for the battle is described - Nah 2:1-4 2. Resistance is futile, captivity has been decreed - Nah 2:5-7 a. Note verse 6: "The gates of the rivers are opened, and the palace is dissolved" b. "The Babylonian Chronicle tells that Nineveh fell because the flooding rivers made breaches in the city's defenses." (Believers' Study Bible) B. THE UTTER SACK OF THE CITY... 1. Her inhabitants flee, the city is plundered - Nah 2:8-10 2. Her destruction will be complete, Nineveh as a dwelling of devouring lions will be no more - Nah 2:11-13 [Thus far, Nineveh's doom has been "declared" and "described" by Nahum. In the third and final section, we find him saying...] III. NINEVEH'S DOOM DESERVED A. BECAUSE OF HER SINS... 1. Her woe will be due to her sins - Nah 3:1-4 2. The Lord will uncover her shame and make her a spectacle - Nah3:5-7 B. SHE IS NO BETTER THAN NO-AMON... 1. Nineveh is no better than No-Amon (Thebes in Egypt) - Nah 3:8 2. Who despite her strength, was carried away into captivity - Nah 3:9-10 3. So it will be with Nineveh - Nah 3:11 C. HER STRENGTH AND WEALTH WILL NOT SAVE HER... 1. Her strongholds will fail - Nah 3:12-13 2. All her efforts, her wealth, her army, will be futile - Nah3:14-17 D. HER END HAS COME... 1. Her leaders are dead, her people scattered - Nah 3:18-19a 2. Those who hear of her fall will rejoice - Nah 3:19b CONCLUSION 1. The message of Nahum for the people of God is one of consolation... a. That those who afflict God's people will be judged - Nah 1:2-3; cf. Lk 18:7-8 b. That God is a stronghold in time of trouble - Nah 1:7; cf. Ps 27:5 -- Are you trusting in God as your Stronghold? 2. The message of Nahum for those who do evil is one of warning... a. Don't rely on what mercy was shown to your ancestors (e.g., as in the days of Jonah) b. The Lord may be merciful and slow to anger, but the day of judgment does finally come! -- Are you trusting in what your parents or ancestors may have done, to escape the judgment of God? This message of Nahum is reminiscent of the words of Paul: "Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off." (Ro 11:22) Let us be sure to "continue in His goodness", lest we too experience the "severity of God"!
"STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS" Zephaniah - Through Judgment To Blessing (1:1-3:20) by Mark Copeland
"STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS" Zephaniah - Through Judgment To Blessing (1:1-3:20) INTRODUCTION 1. In our survey of "The Minor Prophets" we now come to the first of three prophets who preached to Judah alone, following the downfall of the northern kingdom of Israel 2. The prophet is Zephaniah, whose name means "Jehovah Hides" a. Concerning the MAN 1) King Hezekiah was his great-great-grandfather - Zeph 1:1 2) This has prompted some to call him "the royal prophet" 3) He was contemporary with Jeremiah, as were Nahum and Habakkuk b. Concerning his MESSAGE 1) Zephaniah prophesied in the days of Josiah, king of Judah a) Josiah ruled from 640-609 B.C. b) He was a good king, a great reformer - 2Ch 34:1-3,29-33; 35:1-19 c) Josiah's reforms were short-lived, however, and the nation soon apostasized after his death 2) Zephaniah proclaimed the coming "day of the Lord" - cf. Zeph1:7,14-16 a) So vivid are his descriptions that George Adam Smith wrote: "No hotter book lies in all the Old Testament." b) And yet it ends on an encouraging note concerning the future -- Therefore its overall message is: "Through Judgment To Blessing" [As we get into the book, we note that it can be divided into three sections. The first section encouraged the people to "look within"...] I. GOD'S WRATH COMING UPON JUDAH A. THE LORD IS BRINGING JUDGMENT! 1. The prophet announces a universal and all-consuming judgment - Zeph 1:1-3 2. With special mention and attention given Judah - Zeph 1:4-6 B. THE "DAY OF THE LORD" IS AT HAND! 1. This "day" as it will affect Judah and Jerusalem - Zeph 1:7-13 a. Punishment upon the princes and king's children (note, the king himself is not mentioned), and upon those who are full of violence and deceit b. There will wailing and mourning in the city of Jerusalem c. The Lord will search out and punish the complacent 2. This great "day" described - Zeph 1:14-18 a. A day that is near and hastens quickly b. A day of devastation, desolation, darkness, and distress c. A day in which silver and gold cannot deliver one from the Lord's wrath C. AND SO - A CALL FOR THE NATION TO REPENT! 1. Before the day of the Lord's anger comes upon them - Zeph 2:1-2 2. To seek the Lord, to seek righteousness, to seek humility - Zeph 2:3 [Having encouraged the people to "look within" and see the need for their own repentance, Zephaniah now prompts the people to "look around" to see...] II. GOD'S WRATH COMING UPON SURROUNDING NATIONS A. GOD'S JUDGMENT ON NATIONS EAST AND WEST... 1. Philistia - Zeph 2:4-7 a. It's cities will be made desolate, the inhabitants destroyed b. The land will be for the remnant of Judah, whose captivity God will restore 2. Moab & Ammon - Zeph 2:8-11 a. They shall be like Sodom and Gomorrah b. Because of their pride, and for their mocking reproach of God's people c. And God will one day be worshipped by people from all nations B. GOD'S JUDGMENT ON NATIONS SOUTH AND NORTH... 1. Ethiopia will by slain by the sword - Zeph 2:12 2. Assyria with its capital Nineveh will become desolate - Zeph 2:13-15 C. AND SO - WOE TO JERUSALEM... 1. She has rebelled against the Lord - Zeph 3:1-5 a. She has not obeyed His voice nor drawn near to Him b. Her civil and religious leaders are like lions and wolves, insolent and doing violence to the Law c. The unjust knows no shame; the Lord, however, is righteous and never fails in His justice 2. She has ignored God's judgment upon other nations - Zeph 3:6-7 a. Which should have prompted her to receive God's instruction b. But instead the people corrupted all their deeds [Finally, lest the faithful remnant despair, Zephaniah ends his message with a "look beyond"...] III. THROUGH JUDGMENT TO BLESSING A. WAIT UPON THE LORD... 1. The faithful are told to wait for Lord to carry out His judgment - Zeph 3:8 2. Even as Micah said he would do - cf. Mic 7:7-9 B. GOD WILL RESTORE HIS PEOPLE... 1. After His judgment, God will restore to the peoples (Gentiles?) a "pure language" to worship and serve Him in one accord - Zeph 3:9 2. His dispersed ones (Israel?) shall bring offerings from afar - Zeph 3:10 3. God will remove the proud from His "holy mountain", leaving a meek and humble people who will trust and rest in the Lord - Zeph 3:11-13 C. AND SO - THERE WILL BE JOY IN JERUSALEM... 1. For the Lord will remove their judgments and their enemies - Zeph 3:14-15 2. For the Lord will be in their midst, providing them with gladness, love and singing - Zeph 3:16-17 3. For the Lord has given them great assurance - Zeph 3:18-20 a. God will gather those who sorrow over the reproach of His people b. God will deal with those who afflicted His people c. God will gather those who have been driven out, and give them fame and praise CONCLUSION 1. The message of Zephaniah is a simple one: Judgment is coming, but blessings will follow for those who heed the warning to repent a. It was a message that would later comfort the remnant taken away into Babylonian captivity b. It was a message that perhaps had an initial fulfillment following their restoration under Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah c. But I believe the ultimate fulfillment pertains to the age of the Messiah 1) Which began with the establishment of His spiritual kingdom, the church a) Into which God is "gathering" His people - cf. 1Th 2:12 b) In which we enjoy the presence of God and His blessings - cf. He 12:22-24 2) Which will be culminated when Jesus comes again - Re 21:1-22:5 2. The message of the apostles is not really much different today... a. The "day of the Lord" (of which Zephaniah's "day" was a type) is coming - 2Pe 3:7-10 b. God's people (i.e., the church) are admonished to remain faithful - 2Pe 3:11-14 Are we heeding that message? For those willing to listen, here is what else Peter had to say... "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. (Ac 3:19-21) Be converted through your obedience to the gospel of Christ (cf. Mk 16: 15-16; Ac 2:38), and you too can "look beyond" the coming judgment for the blessings to follow!
God’s Ceramics Are More Than Pottery
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Scientists all over the world are constantly looking for better materials with which to build things. Companies need stronger metals, more flexible nylon, and tougher fabrics. This intense demand for better “building blocks” often makes it difficult for scientists to originate new ideas fast enough to keep pace. One approach that has greatly enhanced scientists’ ability to supply fresh, practical ideas has been to turn to nature and copy the structures found there. Copying design in nature has become so prevalent that the scientific community has named the field of study “biomimicry.” From the research done in this field, it has become obvious that nature’s Designer is possessed of far more creative ability than anything humanity has been able to produce.
Specific examples of excellent design in nature abound. In an article for Technology Review, Katherine Bourzac recently detailed one such example. In her article, titled “Ceramics That Won’t Shatter,” she mentioned the challenge that materials scientists face when working with ceramics. Ceramics can be an excellent construction material since they are hard and lightweight. One major drawback of using ceramics, however, is the fact that they fracture and break, much like a flower pot or dinner plate. Bourzac summarized this difficulty by saying that scientists are trying to find ceramics “that combine strength (a measure of resistance to deformation) with toughness (a measure of resistance to fracture)” (2008). Interestingly, researchers have discovered exactly what they are looking for in “the porous but resilient material called nacre that lines abalone shells.”
Bourzac explained the marvelous design of nacre, also known as mother-of-pearl. It is a combination of calcium carbonate, which breaks very easily, and special natural glue. Combined, these two substances are “3,000 times tougher than either constituent.” The efficiency of this composite material is amazing. Robert Ritchie, a scientist from the University of California who co-led the research and development of the new biomimetic ceramic, said: “When nature makes composites, the properties are better” (as quoted in Bourzac). The list of possible applications for the new ceramic is virtually endless. The new material could be used to make lightweight automobile frames, airplane hulls, bulletproof vests, and military vehicle armor.
Ritchie and his team are still working to perfect the new ceramic that is based on the natural mother-of-pearl structure. He noted that in nature, the ceramic has structures that are “smaller and closer together,” qualities that the team hopes to mimic in newer versions of their ceramic. The researchers are optimistically hopeful that they can come even closer to designing a ceramic that can be mass-produced, and that combines the strength and toughness of the natural material.
While the discovery of a new, efficient ceramic is interesting, it pales to insignificance in light of the necessary implication that should be drawn from such a discovery. If brilliant scientists have only recently discovered this technological wonder of the natural world, and they cannot mimic the structure as effectively as nature constructs it, then it must be admitted by the honest observer that nature’s Designer possesses superior mental abilities to those of the scientists. And yet, as clear and straightforward as this implication is, millions of people will utilize technology based on God’s original designs, but claim that random, chance processes of evolution should be given the credit.
In the Old Testament book of Job, the Bible records one of the most interesting verbal exchanges in all of human history (chapters 38-42). Job wanted an answer from God about why he was suffering. God spoke to Job with a series of questions that Job could not possibly answer. God asked where was Job when God hung the foundation of the world on nothing (38:4)? Could Job command the morning to occur or cause the dawn to break (38:12)? Could Job count the clouds (38:37) or cause the hawk to fly (39:26)? After God’s intense questioning, Job realized that he could not begin to answer God’s questions, much less possess the power to accomplish the things that are necessary for the Universe to continue to exist. Job responded to God by saying: “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.... Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me which I did not know” (42:2-3, emp. added). We in the 21st century would do well to learn from Job’s wise response. The fact that we are just now scratching the surface of the technology found in a “simple” abalone shell should force us to humble ourselves and worship nature’s divine Designer.
Evolution and the Laws of Science: The Laws of Thermodynamics
|by||Jeff Miller, Ph.D.|
“[T]he principles of thermodynamics have been in existence since the creation of the universe” (Cengel and Boles, 2002, p. 2, emp. added). So states a prominent textbook used in schools of engineering across America. Indeed, these principles prove themselves to be absolutely critical in today’s science world. Much of the engineering technology available today is based on the foundational truths embodied in the Laws of Thermodynamics. As the writers of one engineering thermodynamics textbook stated: “Energy is a fundamental concept of thermodynamics and one of the most significant aspects of engineering analysis” (Moran and Shapiro, 2000, p. 35). Do these laws have application to the creation/evolution debate as creationists suggest? What do they actually say and mean?
The word “thermodynamics” originally was used in a publication by Lord Kelvin (formerly William Thomson), the man often called the Father of Thermodynamics because of his articulation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics in 1849 (Cengel and Boles, p. 2). The term comes from two Greek words: therme, meaning “heat,” and dunamis, meaning “force” or “power” (American Heritage..., 2000, pp. 558,1795). Thermodynamics can be summarized essentially as the science of energy—including heat, work (defined as the energy required to move a force a certain distance), potential energy, internal energy, and kinetic energy. The basic principles and laws of thermodynamics are understood thoroughly today by the scientific community. Thus, the majority of the work with the principles of thermodynamics is done by engineers who simply utilize the already understood principles in their designs. A thorough understanding of the principles of thermodynamics which govern our Universe can help an engineer to learn effectively to control the impact of heat in his/her designs.
THE FIRST AND SECOND LAWS OF THERMODYNAMICSThough there are many important thermodynamic principles that govern the behavior of energy, perhaps the most critical principles of significance in the creation/evolution controversy are the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics. What are these laws that, not only are vital to the work of an engineer, but central to this debate?
The First LawThe First Law of Thermodynamics was formulated originally by Robert Mayer (1814-1878). He stated: “I therefore hope that I may reckon on the reader’s assent when I lay down as an axiomatic truth that, just as in the case of matter, so also in the case of force [the term used at that time for energy—JM], only a transformation but never a creation takes place” (as quoted in King, 1962, p. 5). That is, given a certain amount of energy in a closed system, that energy will remain constant, though it will change form (see Figure 1). As evolutionist Willard Young says in defining the First Law, “Energy can be neither created nor destroyed, but can only be converted from one form to another” (1985, p. 8).
the principle of the conservation of energy is considered to be the single most important and fundamental ‘law of nature’ presently known to science, and is one of the most firmly established. Endless studies and experiments have confirmed its validity over and over again under a multitude of different conditions (p. 165, emp. added).This principle is known to be a fact about nature—without exception. One thermodynamics textbook, Fundamentals of Thermodynamics, says:
The basis of every law of nature is experimental evidence, and this is true also of the first law of thermodynamics. Many different experiments have been conducted on the first law, and every one thus far has verified it either directly or indirectly. The first law has never been disproved (Borgnakke and Sonntag, 2009, p. 116, emp. added).That is why the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms defines a scientific law as “a regularity which applies to all members of a broad class of phenomena” (2003, p. 1182, emp. added). Famous atheist, theoretical physicist, and cosmologist of Cambridge University, Stephen Hawking, concurred:
But what’s really important is that these physical laws, as well as being unchangeable, are universal. They apply not just to the flight of the ball, but to the motion of a planet and everything else in the Universe. Unlike laws made by humans, the laws of nature cannot ever be broken. That’s why they are so powerful…. [T]he laws of nature are fixed (“Curiosity: Did God Create the Universe?” 2011, emp. added).
The Second LawIn the nineteenth century, Lord Kelvin and Rudolph Clausius (1822-1888) separately made findings that became known as the Second Law of Thermodynamics (Suplee, 2000, p. 156). The Second Law builds on the First, stating that though there is a constant amount of energy in a given system that is merely transforming into different states, that energy is becoming less usable. Extending our wood burning illustration above, after the wood is burned, the total amount of energy is still the same, but transformed into other energy states. Those energy states (e.g., ash and dissipated heat to the environment) are less retrievable and less accessible (see Figure 2).
[T]he celebrated second law of thermodynamics…says, roughly speaking, that in any change the Universe becomes a slightly more disorderly place; the entropy goes up, the information content goes down. This natural tendency towards disintegration and chaos is evident all around us (1978, 80:506).This process is irreversible. Lord Kelvin stated that energy is “irrecoverably lost to man and therefore ‘wasted,’ although not annihilated” (Thomson, 1882, p. 189, ital. in orig.). This principle is known as entropy. Simply put, entropy states that nature is tending towards disorder and chaos. Will the paint job on your house maintain its fresh appearance over time? Will your son’s room actually become cleaner on its own, or will it tend toward disorder? Even without your son’s assistance, dust and decay take their toll. Although work can slow the entropy, it cannot stop it. Renowned evolutionary science writer Isaac Asimov explained:
Another way of stating the Second Law then is “The universe is constantly getting more disorderly!” Viewed that way we can see the Second Law all about us. We have to work hard to straighten a room, but left to itself it becomes a mess again very quickly and very easily. Even if we never enter it, it becomes dusty and musty. How difficult to maintain houses, and machinery, and our own bodies in perfect working order: how easy to let them deteriorate. In fact, all we have to do is nothing, and everything deteriorates, collapses, breaks down, wears out, all by itself—and that is what the Second Law is all about (1970, p. 6).Entropy is simply a fact of nature. Entropy can be minimized in this Universe, but it cannot be eradicated. That is where engineers come in. Engineers work to discover ways of minimizing energy loss and maximizing useful energy before it is forever lost. Thousands of engineering jobs are dedicated to addressing this fundamental fact of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Your energy bill is affected directly by it. If the Second Law was not fixed—unchanging—engineers could not develop the technology necessary to maximize usable energy, thereby lowering your energy costs.
Some engineers devote their entire careers to minimizing entropy in the generation of power from energy. All this effort is based on the principles established by the Second Law of Thermodynamics. These principles are established as fact in the scientific community. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines “law” as “a statement describing a relationship observed to be invariable between or among phenomena for all cases in which the specified conditions are met” (2000, p. 993, emp. added). Since laws are invariable, i.e., unchanging and constant, they have no exceptions. Otherwise, they would not be classified as laws. Tracy Walters, a mechanical engineer working in thermal engineering, observed:
It has been my experience that many people do not appreciate how uncompromising the Laws of Thermodynamics actually are. It is felt, perhaps, that the Laws are merely general tendencies or possibly only theoretical considerations. In reality, though, the Laws of Thermodynamics are hard as nails, and...the more one works with these Laws, the deeper respect one gains for them (1986, 9:8, emp. added).Evolutionist Jeremy Rifkin stated that “the Entropy Law will preside as the ruling paradigm over the next period of history. Albert Einstein said that it is the premier law of all science; Sir Arthur Eddington referred to it as the ‘supreme metaphysical law of the entire universe’” (1980, p. 6). Borgnakke and Sonntag, in Fundamentals of Thermodynamics, explain:
[W]e can say that the second law of thermodynamics (like every other law of nature) rests on experimental evidence. Every relevant experiment that has been conducted, either directly or indirectly, verifies the second law, and no experiment has ever been conducted that contradicts the second law. The basis of the second law is therefore experimental evidence (2009, p. 220, emp. added, parenthetical item in orig.).Another thermal science textbook says, concerning the Second Law of Thermodynamics, “To date, no experiment has been conducted that contradicts the second law, and this should be taken as sufficient proof of its validity” (Cengel, Turner, and Cimbala, 2008, p. 266, emp. added).
IMPLICATIONS OF THE LAWSWhen understood properly, the Laws of Thermodynamics apply directly to the creation/evolution controversy in precisely the same way they apply in the engineering world today (cf. Miller, 2007). In fact, these foundational truths, utilized daily by the engineering world, have eternally significant, spiritual implications in that they prove that God exists. How so?
If there is no God, the existence of the Universe must be explained without Him. The Big Bang theory claims that all matter in the Universe initially was condensed in a sphere smaller than the size of a period at the end of this sentence. That sphere exploded and helps to explain why the Universe, according to many cosmologists, appears to be expanding or inflating (see Thompson, et al., 2003, 23:32-34,36-47). Even if the Big Bang were true (and it is not, cf. Thompson, et al.), this theory offers no explanation for the origin of that sphere. Evolutionist Alan Guth, a cosmologist and physics professor at M.I.T., admitted that “[i]nflation itself takes a very small universe and produces from it a very big universe. But inflation by itself does not explain where that very small universe came from” (as quoted in Heeren, 1995, p. 148). He further stated, “[A] proposal that the universe was created from empty space is no more fundamental than a proposal that the universe was spawned by a piece of rubber. It might be true, but one would still want to ask where the piece of rubber came from” (Guth, 1997, p. 273). So where could the “rubber” have come from?
The only logical possibilities for the origin of the matter and energy comprising the Universe are that they are responsible for their own existence (i.e., they popped into existence out of nothing—spontaneous generation or they always existed—eternality) or Someone is responsible for their existence (i.e., they were placed here by something outside of the Universe—Creation) (see Figure 3).
Possibility 1: Spontaneous Generation of the UniverseConsider the entire physical Universe as a system consisting of all mass, matter, and energy that exists in the Universe. If one believes in the Big Bang model, the system’s boundary would be outside of the blast radius of the Big Bang, or outside of the original cosmic dot that exploded. Without God (i.e., something outside of the bounds of the Universe—something supernatural), this Universe would have to be a closed system. Since our system encompasses the entire Universe, there is no more mass that can cross into our system from the outside, which necessitates our system being closed. If mass, matter, and energy could enter and/or exit the system, the system would be an open system[NOTE: The creationist contends that the Universe is an open system, since there is Someone outside of the natural Universe Who can cross the boundary and put matter and energy into the system. However, without God, the entire physical Universe as a system logically would have to be a closed system. Atheists must so believe in order to explain the Universe without God.].
Evolutionary physicist Victor Stenger, in his book, God: The Failed Hypothesis, said:
Conservation of energy [i.e., the First Law—JM] and other basic laws hold true in the most distant observed galaxy and in the cosmic microwave background, implying that these laws have been valid for over thirteen billion years. Surely any observation of their violation during the puny human life span would be reasonably termed a miracle…. In principle, the creation hypothesis could be confirmed by the direct observation or theoretical requirement that conservation of energy was violated 13.7 billion years ago at the start of the big bang (2007, pp. 115-116, emp. added).The First Law of Thermodynamics states that in a closed system, the amount of energy present in that system is constant, though it transforms into other forms of energy. So, if the Universe as a whole initially contained no mass, matter, or energy, and then all of the mass, matter, and energy in the Universe spontaneously generated, the First Law would be violated. Without intervention from an outside force, the amount of mass, matter, and energy in the Universe would have remained constant (unchanged) at nothing. According to the scientific evidence, matter/energy could not have originally spontaneously generated. Thus, according to Stenger, the creation hypothesis is confirmed based on the scientific evidence. The initial creation of energy from nothing amounted to a miracle.
As was mentioned earlier, there are no exceptions to laws, or else they would not be laws. The First Law of Thermodynamics has no known exceptions. The Law is accepted as fact by all scientists in general and utilized by engineers in particular. Therefore, the Universe, composed of all mass, matter, and energy, could not have spontaneously generated (popped into existence on its own) without violating the exceptionless and highly respected First Law of Thermodynamics. The energy level of the Universe would not have been constant. Spontaneous generation would amount to the creation of energy from nothing (see Figure 4). The Universe could not have come into existence without the presence and intervention of a Force outside of the closed system of the entire physical Universe. The Universe therefore must be an open system that was created by a non-physical Force (i.e., a Force not composed of mass, matter, and energy) outside of the physical boundary of this Universe (above nature, or supernatural) with the capability of bringing it into existence out of nothing. That Force can be none other than a supernatural God. To develop a theory that requires the violation of that principle would be against the scientific evidence. It would be unscientific. The evidence from science indicates that matter could not and cannot spontaneously generate.
No wonder Victor Stenger, a proponent of the idea of spontaneous generation, said, “I must admit that there are yet no empirical or observational tests that can be used to test the idea of an accidental origin” (1987, 7:30). According to Stenger, the idea is “speculative” (p. 30). No solid evidence. Just speculation. Famous evolutionary astronomer, Robert Jastrow, the founder and former director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA, said:
But the creation of matter out of nothing would violate a cherished concept in science—the principle of the conservation of matter and energy—which states that matter and energy can be neither created nor destroyed. Matter can be converted into energy, and vice versa, but the total amount of all matter and energy in the Universe must remain unchanged forever. It is difficult to accept a theory that violates such a firmly established scientific fact (1977, p. 32).Science studies what occurs in nature, not super-nature. In nature, matter and energy can be neither created or destroyed, but “must remain unchanged forever.” This is a “firmly established fact.” Nothing comes from nothing. If a molecule will not pop into existence from nothing, a sphere containing all of the matter and energy of the entire Universe will certainly not pop into existence.
Possibility 2: Eternal Existence of the UniverseAgain, considering the entire Universe as a system necessitates that it be a closed system. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that though energy in a closed system is constant (First Law of Thermodynamics), that energy is transforming into less usable forms of energy (i.e., the Universe is “running down”). This process is irreversible. There is a finite amount of usable energy in the Universe (which explains the widespread interest in conserving energy). In the Big Bang model, that energy was originally in the cosmic egg that exploded, and now would be found within the blast radius of the original explosion. That usable energy is depleting according to the Second Law. Engineers strive to slow this inevitable depletion of energy, but it cannot be stopped.
If the Universe has always existed (i.e., it is eternal), but there is a finite amount of usable energy, then all usable energy already should be expended (see Figure 5). Yet, usable energy still exists. So, the Universe cannot have existed forever. It had to have a beginning. The eternality of matter would be the equivalent of a system with an energy input and 100% usable energy output (see Figure 6). It would be the equivalent of describing the Universe as a perpetual motion machine—a design that attempts to violate either the First or Second Law of Thermodynamics by, for instance, running forever without an energy input. No such machine has ever been designed, since such a machine would violate the laws of thermodynamics. Philip Yam, writing in Scientific American said, “Claims for perpetual-motion machines and other free-energy devices still persist, of course, even though they inevitably turn out to violate at least one law of thermodynamics” (1997, 277:82).
The lingering decline predicted by astronomers for the end of the world differs from the explosive conditions they have calculated for its birth, but the impact is the same: modern science denies an eternal existence of the Universe, either in the past or in the future (1977, p. 30, emp. added).In his book, God and the Astronomers, Jastrow reiterated this truth:
And concurrently there was a great deal of discussion about the fact that the second law of thermodynamics, applied to the Cosmos, indicates the Universe is running down like a clock. If it is running down, there must have been a time when it was fully wound up…. Now three lines of evidence—the motions of the galaxies, the laws of thermodynamics, the life story of the stars—pointed to one conclusion; all indicated that the Universe had a beginning (1978, pp. 48-49, 111).Evolutionist Kitty Ferguson, award-winning science writer, agreed. She said, “It’s also common knowledge that the universe isn’t eternal but had a beginning” (1994, p. 89). Any person who develops a theory that claims that the Universe could be a perpetual motion machine, is guilty of contradicting the solid evidence from science. They are being unscientific, and their unscientific mindset has resulted in an unscientific theory.
Possibility 3: The Inevitable ImplicationWhat does the scientific evidence actually say about the matter of origins? Forget speculation, conjecture, hypothesis, and theory—wishful, hopeful thinking that there might be some way to avoid a supernatural explanation and the restrictions that Being might have on our desires. What does the evidence say?
To repeat, logically, there are only three possible explanations for the existence of matter in the Universe. Either it spontaneously generated, it is eternal, or it was created by a non-physical Being outside of the boundaries of the Universe. Atheists use the theory of evolution in an attempt to explain the existence and state of the Universe today. In order for the theory of evolution to be true, thereby accounting for the existence of mankind, either all of the mass, matter, and energy of the Universe spontaneously generated (i.e., it popped into existence out of nothing), or it has always existed (i.e., it is eternal.). Without an outside force (a transcendent, omnipotent, eternal, superior Being), no other options for the existence of the Universe are available. However, as the Laws of Thermodynamics prove, the spontaneous generation and the eternality of matter are logically and scientifically impossible. One and only one possible option remains: the Universe was created by the Creator. The scientific evidence points to the existence of God. Bottom line: God designed the laws of thermodynamics. Creationists believe them. Engineers use them. Atheists cannot harmonize them with their beloved theory.
CONCLUSIONEvolutionists claim that science and the idea of God are irreconcilable. “Only one of them can be true,” they say, “and you cannot prove there is a God.” Not all theistic models for the origin of the Universe are in keeping with science. For instance, according to Enuma Elish, the Babylonian creation account, the polytheistic Babylonians believed that matter is eternal (Pfeiffer, 1972, p. 226). This has been shown to be false. However, although not all Creation models are in harmony with the scientific evidence, one would expect the true Creation model to be in keeping with the evidence. The Laws of Thermodynamics, which science itself recognizes in its explanations of the phenomena in the Universe, were written by the Chief Engineer (cf. Miller, 2012). As expected, they prove to be in complete harmony with His existence, contrary to the claims of evolutionists. God, Himself, articulated these laws centuries ago in the Bible.
At the very beginning of the Bible, the First Law of Thermodynamics was expressed when Moses penned, “Thus the heavens and the Earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day, God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done” (Genesis 2:1-2, emp. added). In Exodus 20:11, Moses wrote, “For in six days, the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested (i.e., ceased) the seventh day.” Everything in the Universe was made in six days, and then the Lord stopped creating. Nothing else is coming into existence naturally. After the six days of Creation, the mass, matter, and energy creation process was terminated. As evolutionist Willard Young said regarding the First Law: “Energy can be neither created nor destroyed, but can only be converted from one form to another.” The thrust of the First Law of Thermodynamics was expressed in the Bible thousands of years ago, although it was not discovered and formally articulated by scientists until the 19th century.
Through the hand of the psalmist, God also stated centuries ago what scientists call the Second Law of Thermodynamics: “Of old You laid the foundation of the Earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but You will endure; yes, they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will change them, and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will have no end” (102:25-27, emp. added). The Universe is wearing out—decaying, like an old shirt: the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Once again, the Creation model is in perfect harmony with science. The evolutionary model fails its thermodynamics test.
The inspired writer wrote in Hebrews 11:3, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Paul declared in Acts 14:17, “Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” The psalmist affirmed, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (19:1). Paul assured the Romans, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (1:20, emp. added). The scientific evidence points to God. There will be no excuse in the end for those who deny it.
In closing, we return to Lord Kelvin, the Father of Thermodynamics, for fitting final thoughts. In a short public speech in 1903, reported by The Times and followed up by an amending letter to the paper by Kelvin, Kelvin said:
I do not say that, with regard to the origin of life, science neither affirms nor denies Creative Power. Science positively affirms Creative Power…. It is not in dead matter that we live and move and have our being [Acts 17:28—JM], but in the creating and directive Power which science compels us to accept as an article of belief.... There is nothing between absolute scientific belief in a Creative Power, and the acceptance of the theory of a fortuitous concourse of atoms.... Forty years ago I asked Liebig, walking somewhere in the country if he believed that the grass and flowers that we saw around us grew by mere chemical forces. He answered, “No, no more than I could believe that a book of botany describing them grew by mere chemical forces”.... Do not be afraid of being free thinkers! If you think strongly enough you will be forced by science to the belief in God, which is the foundation of all Religion. You will find science not antagonistic but helpful to Religion (as quoted in Thompson, 1910, pp. 1097-1100, emp. added).According to the Father of Thermodynamics, evolutionists are failing to “think strongly enough.” No wonder the psalmist asserted: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (14:1).
REFERENCESAmerican Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000), (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.
Asimov, Isaac (1970), “In the Game of Energy and Thermodynamics You Can’t Even Break Even,” Smithsonian Institute Journal, pp. 4-10, June.
Borgnakke, Claus and Richard E. Sonntag (2009), Fundamentals of Thermodynamics (Asia: John Wiley and Sons), seventh edition.
Cengel, Yunus A. and Michael A. Boles (2002), Thermodynamics: An Engineering Approach (New York: McGraw-Hill), fourth edition.
Cengel, Yunus A., Robert H. Turner, and John M. Cimbala (2008), Thermal-Fluid Sciences (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill).
“Curiosity: Did God Create the Universe?” (2011), Discovery Channel, August 7.
Davies, Paul (1978), “Chance or Choice: Is the Universe an Accident?” New Scientist, 80:506-508, November.
Ferguson, Kitty (1994), The Fire in the Equations: Science, Religion, and the Search for God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Guth, Alan (1997), The Inflationary Universe (New York: Perseus Books).
Guth, Alan and Paul Steinhardt (1984), “The Inflationary Universe,” Scientific American, 250:116-128, May.
Hawking, Stephen (2010), The Grand Design (New York, NY: Bantam Books).
Heeren, Fred (1995), Show Me God (Wheeling, IL: Searchlight Publications).
Jastrow, Robert (1977), Until the Sun Dies (New York: W.W. Norton).
Jastrow, Robert (1978), God and the Astronomers (New York: W.W. Norton).
Kenny, Anthony (1980), The Five Ways: St. Thomas Aquinas’ Proofs of God’s Existence (South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press).
King, A.L. (1962), Thermophysics (San Francisco, CA: W.H. Freeman).
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms (2003), pub. M.D. Licker (New York: McGraw-Hill), sixth edition.
Miller, Jeff (2007), “God and the Laws of Thermodynamics: A Mechanical Engineer’s Perspective,” Reason & Revelation, 27:25-31, April, http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3293.
Miller, Jeff (2012), “‘The Laws of Science’-by God,” Reason & Revelation, 32:137-140, December, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1103&article=2072.
Moran, Michael J. and Howard N. Shapiro (2000), Fundamentals of Engineering Thermodynamics (New York: John Wiley & Sons), fourth edition.
Pfeiffer, Charles F. (1972), The Biblical World (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House).
Rifkin, Jeremy (1980), Entropy: A New World View (New York: Viking).
Spencer, Herbert (1882), First Principles: A System of Synthetic Philosophy (New York: D. Appleton and Company), fourth edition.
Stenger, Victor J. (1987), “Was the Universe Created?,” Free Inquiry, 7:26-30, Summer.
Stenger, Victor J. (2007), God: The Failed Hypothesis (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books).
Suplee, Curt (2000), Milestones of Science (Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society).
Thompson, Bert, Brad Harrub, and Branyon May (2003), “The Big Bang Theory—A Scientific Critique [Part 1],” Reason & Revelation, 23:32-34,36-47.
Thompson, Silvanus P. (1910), The Life of William Thomson Baron Kelvin of Largs, Vol. 2, (London: MacMillan and Co.).
Thomson, William (1882), Mathematical and Physical Papers (Cambridge University Press).
Tryon, Edward P. (1984), “What Made the World?,” New Scientist, 101:14-16, March 8.
Walters, Tracy (1986), “A Reply to John Patterson’s Arguments,” Origins Research, 9:8-9, Fall/Winter.
Yam, Philip (1997), “Exploiting Zero-Point Energy,” Scientific American, 27782-85.
Young, Willard (1985), Fallacies of Creationism (Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Detselig Enterprises).
Did Jesus Have Fleshly Half-Brothers?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The usual word in the Greek language for “brother” is adelphos. It possesses the same latitude of application that the English word possesses. Hence, it can refer to a person who shares the same religion (a spiritual brother). It can refer to a person who shares the same citizenship—a fellow countryman. It can refer to an intimate friend or neighbor. All of these uses are self-evident, and do not encroach upon the literal use of the term.
By far the most prominent use of the term is the literal sense—a blood brother or half-brother, the physical son of one’s mother or father. With reference to the physical brothers of Jesus (i.e., the sons of Joseph and Mary conceived after the birth of Christ), the literal sense is clearly in view in the following passages: Matthew 12:46-48 (the parallel in Mark 3:31-32); Matthew 13:55-56 (the parallel in Mark 6:3; in both passages, “sister” also is used in the literal sense); John 2:12; John 7:3,5,10; Acts 1:14; and Galatians 1:19. Even a casual reading of these verses demonstrates that Jesus had literal, physical brothers. The only reason the face-value import of these verses would be questioned is to lend credence to the post facto Catholic Church doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary.
At least two assertions have been advanced by those who wish to discount the existence of Jesus’ brothers, and thereby defend the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity. One attempt seeks to broaden the meaning of the Greek word for “brother” to mean “cousin.” According to this view, the “brothers” of Jesus were actually His cousins—the children of Mary’s sister. The assertion that “brother” has this enlarged meaning is made largely on the basis of the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint). The Septuagint translators sometimes used the Greek word for brother (adelphos) in Old Testament passages in which a near relative or kinsman, who was not technically a physical brother, was under consideration. This claim is true. The Hebrew term for brother (‘ach) occasionally was used to refer to a more remote descendant from a common father who was not technically a brother (Gesenius, 1979, p. 27; Harris, et al., 1980, 1:31; Botterweck, 1974, 1:190). For example, Laban, Jacob’s uncle, was referred to as Jacob’s “brother” (Genesis 29:12,15). Likewise, Abram’s nephew Lot was said to be Abram’s “brother” (Genesis 14:14,16).
However, it must be noted that the decision of the Septuagint translators to adjust to the nuances of the Hebrew term does not prove that the Greek term adelphos had the meaning of “cousin” in the passages referring to Jesus’ kinsmen. After listing a few Old Testament verses where a broader meaning than strictly “brother” is in view, Bauer noted that such passages “do not establish the meaning ‘cousin’ for adelphos; they only show that in rendering the Hebrew ‘ach, adelphos is used loosely in isolated cases to designate masculine relatives of various degrees” (Arndt and Gingrich, 1957, p. 15, emp. added). In other words, no linguistic justification exists to support the notion that adelphoi could refer to the “cousins” of Jesus. The Septuagint translators employed adelphos for ‘ach in those passages where additional contextual evidence clarified the intended meaning. No such contextual evidence exists in the allusions to Jesus’ brothers in the New Testament, and is therefore an irrelevant comparison.
When we come to the New Testament, where the reference to the brothers of Jesus occurs, Von Soden correctly listed only two possible meanings for adelphos, namely, “either ‘physical brotherhood’ in the strict sense or more generally the ‘spiritual brotherhood’ of Israelites or Christians” (Kittel, 1964, 1:144). A broadened meaning for adelphos (to refer to a cousin) does not exist in the New Testament. As Walther Gunther clarified: “In no case in the New Testament can adelphos be interpreted with certainty in this sense” (Brown, 1975, 1:256). That’s putting it mildly. McClintock and Strong explained: “[W]hen the word is used in any but its proper sense, the context prevents the possibility of confusion…. If, then, the word ‘brethren’…really means ‘cousins’ or ‘kinsmen,’ it will be the only instance of such an application in which no data are given to correct the laxity of meaning” (1968, 895, emp. in orig.). Lewis stated even more decisively: “ ‘Brothers’ (adelphoi) never means ‘cousins’ in New Testament Greek” (1976, 1:181, emp. added). Indeed, the Greek language had a separate and distinct word for “cousins”—anepsioi (e.g., Colossians 4:10). When a nephew was meant, the relationship was clearly specified (e.g., Acts 23:16). To summarize: “There is therefore no adequate warrant in the language alone to take ‘brethren’ as meaning ‘relatives,’ and therefore the a priori presumption is in favor of a literal acceptation of the term” (McClintock and Strong, 1:895).
Further, when referring to Jesus’ brothers, the expression “his brothers” occurs nine times in the Gospel accounts and once in Acts. In every instance (except in John 7:3,5,10), the brothers are mentioned in immediate connection with His mother, Mary. No linguistic indication whatsoever is present in the text for inferring that “His brothers” is to be understood in any less literal sense than “His mother” (see Alford, 1980, pp. 152-154). Likewise, the contemporaneous Jews would have construed the terms “brothers” and “sisters” in their ordinary sense—like our English words—unless some extenuating circumstance indicated otherwise. No such circumstantial indication is present.
Additionally, if the phrase “brothers and sisters” means “cousins” in Matthew 13:55-56 and Mark 6:3, then these “cousins” were the nephews and nieces of Mary. But why would the townspeople of Nazareth connect nephews and nieces of Mary with Joseph? Why would the townspeople mention nephews and nieces at all while omitting other extended family relatives? The setting assumes that the townspeople were alluding to the immediate family of Jesus. Barnes noted that to recognize these brothers and sisters as the sons and daughters of Joseph and Mary is the “fair interpretation,” and added, “the people in the neighbourhood [sic] thought so, and spoke of them as such” (1977, 1:150). As Matthews commented, “Joseph, Mary, and their children were recognized as a typical family of Nazareth, and when Jesus began his unusual career, they merely asked if He was not a member of this family mentioning their names. If these children were nephews and nieces of Mary, why are they always associated with her and not with their mother?” (1952, pp. 112-113, emp. added).
A second assertion maintains that the brothers and sisters of Jesus were the children of Joseph by a previous marriage. Of course, this alleged prior marriage is without any biblical support whatsoever. The New Testament is completely silent on the matter. To postulate its occurrence, at best, is to introduce a question regarding Joseph’s own marital eligibility in his relationship with Mary.
In addition to the verses that allude to the brothers and sisters of Jesus, a corroborative verse is seen in Matthew 1:25. When Joseph awoke from a dream, wherein an angel of the Lord explained the circumstances of his wife’s pregnant condition, Matthew wrote that Joseph “knew her not until she had borne a son.” Use of the word “knew,” a common euphemism for sexual intercourse, means that Joseph and Mary abstained from sexual relations prior to the birth of Jesus. While it is true that the Greek construction heos hou (until) does not necessarily imply that they engaged in sexual relations after the birth of Jesus, the rest of the New Testament bears out the fact that where this phrase followed by a negative occurs, it “always implies that the negated action did take place later” (Lewis, 1976, 1:42, emp. added). Bruce observed: “Subsequent intercourse was the natural, if not the necessary, course of things. If the evangelist had felt as the Catholics do, he would have taken pains to prevent misunderstanding” (Nicoll, n.d., 1:69). Alford agreed: “On the whole it seems to me, that no one would ever have thought of interpreting the verse any otherwise than in its prima facie meaning, except to force it into accordance with a preconceived notion of the perpetual virginity of Mary” (1980, 1:9).
The insistence that Mary remained a virgin her entire life is undoubtedly rooted in the unscriptural conception that celibacy is spiritually superior to marriage and child bearing. In both the Old and New Testaments, the Bible speaks of marriage as an honorable institution that was intended by God to be the norm for humanity from the very beginning of the Creation (Genesis 2:24; Proverbs 5:18-19; Matthew 19:4-6; 1 Corinthians 7:2; Hebrews 13:4). Mary’s marriage to Joseph, and their subsequent production of offspring after the birth of Jesus, had the approval and blessing of heaven. To engage in hermeneutical gymnastics in an effort to protect a doctrine conceived from a misassessment of the sacred and divine nature of marriage and family is the epitome of misplaced religious ardor.
M’Clintock and Strong well summarized the evidence which supports the conclusion that Jesus had literal, uterine brothers: “[S]uch a supposition is more in agreement with the spirit and letter of the context than any other, and as the force of the allusion to the brothers and sisters of Jesus would be much weakened if more distant relatives are to be understood” (1968, 1:895). It is reassuring to know that Jesus experienced familial and fraternal ties. He had four brothers and at least two sisters (Matthew 13:55-56; Mark 6:3). He experienced what it was like to have His own brothers reject God’s truth (Matthew 12:46-50; John 7:5). Fortunately, those brothers, especially James, later embraced the truth and became active members of the church of Christ (Acts 1:14; 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; 1 Corinthians 9:5). “We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same” (Hebrews 2:14).
REFERENCESAlford, Henry (1980 reprint), Alford’s Greek Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Arndt, William F. and F. Wilbur Gingrich (1957), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).
Barnes, Albert (1977 reprint), Notes on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Botterweck, G. Johannes and Helmer Ringgren (1974), Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Brown, Colin, ed. (1975), The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Gesenius, William (1979 reprint), Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Harris, R. Laird, Gleason Archer Jr., and Bruce Waltke, eds. (1980), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Kittel, Gerhard, ed. (1964), Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Lewis, Jack P. (1976), The Gospel According to Matthew (Austin, TX: Sweet Publishing Co.).
Matthews, Paul (1952), Basic Errors of Catholicism (Rosemead, CA: Old Paths Book Club).
McClintock, John and James Strong (1968 reprint), Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Nicoll, W. Robertson (n.d.), The Expositor’s Greek Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
What Exactly Did Jesus Say?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Numerous times in the gospel accounts, the Bible writers recorded statements made by Jesus while He was on Earth. Puzzling to some Bible readers is the fact that, although Bible writers frequently recorded the same statements, they are not exactly (word-for-word) alike. For example, whereas Matthew recorded that Jesus told Satan, “It is written again (palin gegrapti), ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” (4:7), Luke wrote: “It has been said (eiratai), ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” (4:12). Although this difference is considered minor, and is referring to the same thing (the Old Testament), Matthew and Luke still recorded Jesus’ statement using different words. Why? Why did Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John not always record the words of Jesus exactly alike?
First, it is possible that some differences are due to Jesus having made both statements. It is unwise to think that every similar statement recorded by the gospel writers must refer to the exact same moment. In the example of Jesus responding to Satan’s temptation, it may be that Jesus repeated the same thought on the same occasion using different words. After telling Satan, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God,” Jesus could have re-emphasized the point (especially if Satan repeated the temptation) by saying, “It is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” Thus, Jesus could have made both statements.
A second reason why differences exist among the gospel writers’ testimony of Jesus’ teachings is because the writers’ purpose was to record precisely what the Holy Spirit deemed necessary (cf. John 16:13), but not necessarily exactly what Jesus said. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21), one writer may summarize a person’s (e.g., Jesus’) words, while another writer may quote the exact words.
Consider the variation in notes taken by honest, intelligent college students in the same class on the Civil War. At the close of the class, when the notes of the students are compared and contrasted (as the gospel accounts are) differences are evident. If one student recorded that the teacher said Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address “in November of 1863 to honor those who died in the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg,” and another student wrote that Lincoln’s speech was delivered “on November 19, 1863 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania,” their notes would not be considered contradictory. Though there are slight differences in what the students indicate the teacher said, they both are faithful testimonies of what the teacher taught—one student simply chose a less definite style of note-taking (i.e., not mentioning the precise day on which the Gettysburg Address was given).
Throughout the gospel accounts, we find accurate statements that Jesus made, but not necessarily the exact quotations. Inspired summaries of what someone said does not take away from the sacredness of the God-given Scriptures, nor our ability to apply those Scriptures to our lives. What’s more, differences among statements recorded in the gospel accounts also may be the result of the statements being made at different times. In whichever category a difference among the gospel accounts falls, Bible students can be confident of the Bible’s reliability.
Atheism and Liberal, Missouri
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
In the summer of 1880, George H. Walser founded the town of Liberal in southwest Missouri. Named after the Liberal League in Lamar, Missouri (to which the town’s organizer belonged), Walser’s objective was “to found a town without a church, [w]here unbelievers could bring up their children without religious training,” and where Christians were not allowed (Thompson, 1895; Becker, 1895). “His idea was to build up a town that should exclusively be the home of Infidels...a town that should have neither God, Hell, Church, nor Saloon” (Brand, 1895). Some of the early inhabitants of Liberal even encouraged other infidels to move to their town by publishing an advertisement which boasted that Liberal “is the only town of its size in the United States without a priest, preacher, church, saloon, God, Jesus, hell or devil” (Keller, 1885, p. 5). Walser and his “freethinking” associates were openly optimistic about their new town. Excitement was in the air, and atheism was at its core. They believed that their godless town of “sober, trustworthy and industrious” individuals would thrive for years on end. But, as one young resident of that town, Bessie Thompson, wrote about Liberal in 1895, “...like all other unworthy causes, it had its day and passed away.” Bessie did not mean that the actual town of Liberal ceased to exist, but that the idea of having a “good, godless” city is a contradiction in terms. A town built upon “trustworthy” atheistic ideals eventually will reek of the rotten, immoral fruits of infidelity. Such fruits were witnessed and reported firsthand by Clark Braden in 1885.
|St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Saturday, May 2, 1885|
In an article that appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on May 2, 1885, titled “An Infidel Experiment,” Braden reported the following.
The boast about the sobriety of the town is false. But few of the infidels are total abstainers. Liquor can be obtained at three different places in this town of 300 inhabitants. More drunken infidels can be seen in a year in Liberal than drunken Christians among one hundred times as many church members during the same time. Swearing is the common form of speech in Liberal, and nearly every inhabitant, old and young, swears habitually. Girls and boys swear on the streets, playground, and at home. Fully half of the females will swear, and a large number swear habitually.... Lack of reverence for parents and of obedience to them is the rule. There are more grass widows, grass widowers and people living together, who have former companions living, than in any other town of ten times the population.... A good portion of the few books that are read are of the class that decency keeps under lock and key....
These infidels...can spend for dances and shows ten times as much as they spend on their liberalism. These dances are corrupting the youth of the surrounding country with infidelity and immorality. There is no lack of loose women at these dances.
Since Liberal was started there has not been an average of one birth per year of infidel parents. Feticide is universal. The physicians of the place say that a large portion of their practice has been trying to save females from consequences of feticide. In no town is slander more prevalent, or the charges more vile. If one were to accept what the inhabitants say of each other, he would conclude that there is a hell, including all Liberal, and that its inhabitants are the devils (as quoted in Keller, 1885, p. 5).According to Braden, “[s]uch are the facts concerning this infidel paradise.... Every one who has visited Liberal, and knows the facts, knows that such is the case” (p. 5).
As one can imagine, Braden’s comments did not sit well with some of the townspeople of Liberal. In fact, a few days after Braden’s observations appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he was arrested for criminal libel and tried on May 18, 1885. According to Braden, “After the prosecution had presented their evidence, the case was submitted to the jury without any rebutting evidence by the defence (sic), and the jury speedily brought in a verdict of ‘No cause for action’ ” (as quoted in Mouton, n.d., pp. 36-37). Unfortunately for Braden, however, the controversy was not over. On the following day (May 19, 1885), a civil suit was filed by one of the townsmen—S.C. Thayer, a hotel operator in Liberal. The petition for damages of $25,000 alleged that Clark Braden and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an article in which they had made false, malicious, and libelous statements against the National Hotel in Liberal, managed by Mr. Thayer. He claimed that Braden’s remarks, published in the St. Louise Post-Dispatch on May 2, 1885, “greatly and irreparably injured and ruined” his business (Thayer v. Braden). However, when the prosecution learned that the defense was thoroughly prepared to prove that Liberal was a den of infamy, and that its hotels were little more than houses of prostitution, the suit was dismissed on September 17, 1886 by the plaintiff at his own cost (Thayer v. Braden). Braden was exonerated in everything he had written. Indeed, the details Braden originally reported about Liberal, Missouri, on May 2, 1885 were found to be completely factual.
It took only a few short years for Liberal’s unattractiveness and inconsistency to be exposed. People cannot exclude God from the equation, and expect to remain a “sober, trustworthy” town. Godlessness equals unruliness, which in turn makes a repugnant, immoral people. The town of Liberal was a failure. Only five years after its establishment, Braden indicated that “[n]ine-tenths of those now in town would leave if they could sell their property. More property has been lost by locating in the town than has been made in it.... Hundreds have been deceived and injured and ruined financially” (Keller, p. 5). Apparently, “doing business with the devil” did not pay the kind of dividends George Walser (the town’s founder) and the early inhabitants of Liberal desired. It appears that even committed atheists found living in Liberal in the early days intolerable. Truly, as has been observed in the past, “An infidel surrounded by Christians may spout his infidelity and be able to endure it, but a whole town of atheists is too horrible to contemplate.” It is one thing to espouse a desire to live in a place where there is no God, but it is an entirely different thing for such a place actually to exist. For it to become a reality is more than the atheist can handle. Adolf Hitler took atheism to its logical conclusion in Nazi Germany, and created a world that even most atheists detested. Although atheists want no part of living according to the standards set out by Jesus and His apostles in the New Testament, the real fruits of evolutionary atheism also are too horrible for them to contemplate.
Although the town of Liberal still exists today (with a population of about 800 people), and although vestiges of its atheistic heritage are readily apparent, it is not the same town it was in 1895. At present, at least seven religious groups associated with Christianity exist within this city that once banned Christianity and all that it represents. Numerous other churches meet in the surrounding areas. According to one of the religious leaders in the town, “a survey of Liberal recently indicated that 50% of the people are actively involved with some church” (Abbott, 2003)—a far cry from where Liberal began.
There is no doubt that the moral, legal, and educational systems of Liberal, Missouri, in the twenty-first century are the fruits of biblical teaching, not atheism. When Christianity and all of the ideals that the New Testament teaches are effectively put into action, people will value human life, honor their parents, respect their neighbors, and live within the moral guidelines given by God in the Bible. A city comprised of faithful Christians would be mostly void of such horrors as sexually transmitted diseases, murder, drunken fathers who beat their wives and children, drunk drivers who turn automobiles into lethal weapons, and heartache caused by such things as divorce, adultery, and covetousness. (Only those who broke God’s commandments intended for man’s benefit would cause undesirable fruit to be reaped.)
On the other hand, when atheism and all of its tenets are taken to their logical conclusion, people will reap some of the same miserable fruit once harvested by the early citizens of Liberal, Missouri (and sadly, some of the same fruit being reaped by many cities in the world today). Men and women will attempt to cover up sexual sins by aborting babies, children will disrespect their parents, students will “run wild” at home and in school because of the lack of discipline, and “sexual freedom” (which leads to sexually transmitted diseases) will be valued, whereas human life will be devalued. Such are the fruits of atheism: a society in which everyone does that which is right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6)—a society in which no sensible person wants to live.
Barnes, Pamela (2003), St. Louis Post-Dispatch, telephone conversation, March 12.
Becker, Hathe (1895), “Liberal,” Liberal Enterprise, December 5,12, [On-line], URL: http://lyndonirwin.com/libhist1.htm.
Brand, Ida (1895), “Liberal,” Liberal Enterprise, December 5,12, [On-line], URL: http://lyndonirwin.com/libhist1.htm.
Carpenter, L.L. (1909), “The President’s Address,” in Centennial Convention Report, ed. W.R. Warren, (Cincinnati, OH: Standard Publishing Company), pp. 317-332. [On-line], URL: http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/wwarren/ccr/CCR15B.HTM.
Haynes, Nathaniel S. (1915), History of the Disciples of Christ in Illinois 1819-1914 (Cincinnati, OH: Standard Publishing Company), [On-line], URL: http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/nhaynes/hdcib/braden01.htm, 1996.
Keller, Samuel (1885), “An Infidel Experiment,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Special Correspondence with Clark Braden, May 2, p. 5.
Moore, J.P. (1963), This Strange Town—Liberal, Missouri (Liberal, MO: The Liberal News).
Mouton, Boyce (no date), George H. Walser and Liberal, Missouri: An Historical Overview.
Thayer, S.C. v. Clark Braden, et. al. Filed on May 19, 1885 in Barton County Missouri. Dismissed September 10, 1886.
Thompson, Bessie (1895), “Liberal,” Liberal Enterprise, December 5,12, [On-line], URL: http://lyndonirwin.com/libhist1.htm.
Church Attendance and the Survival of the Republic
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The Founders of the American Republic stated explicitly that the promotion of the Christian religion in America is necessary for the preservation of the country and the civil institutions of the government. For example, John Hancock, whose signature is so conspicuous and prominent on the Declaration of Independence, in his inaugural address as governor of Massachusetts, expressed to his fellow citizens:
A due observation of the Lord’s Day is not only important to internal religion, but greatly conducive to the order and benefit of civil society. It speaks to the senses of mankind, and, by a solemn cessation from their common affairs, reminds them of a Deity and their accountableness to the great Lord of all. Whatever may be necessary to the support of such an institution, in consistence with a reasonable personal liberty, deserves the attention of civil government (as quoted in Brown, 1898, p. 269).Among the many corrosives now eating away at American civilization is the widespread citizen neglect of Sunday Christian worship. This failure to publicly acknowledge the God of the Bible and the priority of the Christian religion is one more indication of the coming demise of the nation. “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread...” (Acts 20:7).
“How Religious Is Your State?” (2009), The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, December 21, http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=504.
Newport, Frank (2010), “Mississippians Go to Church the Most; Vermonters, Least,” Gallup, February 17, http://www.gallup.com/poll/125999/Mississippians-Go-Church-Most-Vermonters-Least.aspx.