"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Winning The War Over Worry (6:25-34) INTRODUCTION 1. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus exhorted His disciples to... a. Lay up treasure in heaven (by helping others) b. Keep your eye good (guard what you allow to influence your inner man) c. Make God your Master (and you will not be able to serve another Master) -- Which we examined in the lesson "Gaining Mastery Over Mammon" (Mt 6:19-24) 2. But if we do what Jesus says, what about the future here on earth? a. If we lay up treasure in heaven instead of on earth, how will we provide for our future? b. Where will our physical necessities like food and clothing come from? c. How can we keep from worrying about such things? 3. Jesus' discussion concerning material riches (i.e., "mammon") did not end with verse 24... a. It really continues on to the end of the chapter b. In which Jesus addresses such concerns regarding the future [Beginning with verse 25, Jesus gives several reasons why we should not worry about such things. In so doing, He establishes two important principles that are crucial to "Winning The War Over Worry". The first principle might be stated as...] I. HAVE FAITH IN GOD'S PROVIDENCE A. JESUS TELLS US NOT TO "WORRY"... 1. The word in the original means "distracted" 2. I.e., don't let anxiety about food and clothing distract you from more important things in life (like Martha did - Lk 10: 38-42) B. JESUS MAKES FOUR ARGUMENTS WHY WE SHOULDN'T WORRY... 1. Is not life and body more important than food and clothing? - Mt 6:25 a. This is an argument from the GREATER to the LESSER (similar to Ro 8:32) b. Life and body are certainly more important than food and clothing c. Who provides our lives and our bodies? God! a. If He is powerful enough to create life... b. Isn't He also able to provide food & clothing to sustain that life? d. "He who has displayed so great goodness as to form the body, and breathe into it the breath of life, will surely follow up the blessing, and confer the smaller favor of providing that the body be clothed, and that life preserved." (Barnes) 2. Look at the birds of the air, are you not more valuable than they? - Mt 6:26 a. The birds are an example of God's ability to provide 1) Through His providential workings in nature, God provides for their needs 2) This does not mean they do not work for their needs (indeed, they are often very busy, gathering food, preparing nests, caring for their young) 3) But they are not guilty of overdoing a good thing (as the rich fool was in the parable of Lk 12:16-21) b. We are certainly more valuable to God than birds! 1) This is an argument from the LESSER to the GREATER (cf. verse 25) a) If God through His providence provides for their needs, will He not for you? b) A similar argument is found in Mt 10:29-31 2) How are you more valuable than birds? a) You were created in the image of God! b) You were redeemed by the blood of His Son! c. Why, then, let concern over physical needs distract you from what is really important in life? 3. Can you grow simply by worrying? - Mt 6:27 a. This argument illustrates the helplessness of man 1) There are many things in this life which we cannot affect by "worrying" 2) For example, worrying will not make our bodies grow any taller b. The implication of this argument seems to be: 1) "Worrying" about food and clothing cannot guarantee that you will have them tomorrow 2) As victims of "Hurricane Hugo", the "Great Quake of '89" and "Hurricane Andrew" have come to realize 4. Consider the lilies, won't God provide for you also? - Mt 6: 28-30 a. Another example of God's ability and willingness to provide 1) Like the argument in verse 26 (the "birds of the air") 2) It is another argument from the LESSER to the GREATER b. Look at how they grow... 1) Without any "toil" whatever on their part, nor any "care" bestowed on them by any human agency 2) Yet their glory surpasses Solomon in all his glory! How? a) Through God's providential care! b) By so ordering the affairs of this life to assure that they accomplish what they were designed to accomplish! c. Will God not much more clothe you? 1) If God is able to so clothe the grass of the field... 2) Is He not ABLE and WILLING to do so for you? a) You who are created in the image of God? b) You who are designed to spend eternity with God? C. IF WE WORRY, WE ARE OF LITTLE FAITH... 1. If we worry about food and clothing, then we are "little faith" - Mt 6:30 2. We have "little faith" in God's... a. Promise to care for us! b. Power to deliver that promise! D. JESUS' SUMMARY CONCERNING GOD'S PROVIDENCE... 1. Don't worry about food and clothing - Mt 6:31 2. People without God (e.g., the Gentiles) naturally worry about these things - Mt 6:32 3. But we have God as our Heavenly Father, and He knows that we need such things! [So we need to develop faith in God's providence, both in His ability and willingness to provide for His children. But the promise of His providence is conditioned upon our willingness to...] II. MAKE GOD'S WILL YOUR NUMBER ONE PRIORITY A. SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD... 1. This is the second key to "Winning The War Over Worry" 2. We must make the will of God the number one priority in your life - Mt 6:33 3. We do this by: a. Serving God instead of "mammon" b. Letting the "lamp" of our body be a "good eye" (i.e., focused clearly on that which is good, true, and righteous) c. Laying up treasure in heaven (by using earthly treasure to help others - Mt 19:21; Lk 12:33-34; 1Ti 6:17-19 4. Do this, and God will provide for your physical needs a. For He is certainly "able" b. And He is certainly "willing" B. DON'T WORRY ABOUT TOMORROW... 1. Today has enough trouble with which to concern yourself - Mt 6:34 a. We are not capable of handling tomorrow's worries 1) We have no control over the future 2) And worrying about the future only distracts us from the duties of the present b. Today's problems are all we are capable of handling without becoming distracted 2. Let tomorrow take care of itself a. By trusting in God! b. By doing God's will today! 3. Let your undivided attention be given to seeking God's rule in your life... a. Make His kingdom the number one priority in your life b. Concern yourself with His righteousness, not your riches CONCLUSION 1. The motto of many is "Don't worry, be happy!"; but Jesus qualifies that motto by saying: "Don't worry, seek God's will first, and you will be happy!" 2. If we take to heart what Jesus says, then our lives will be like homes built on a rock (cf. Mt 7:24-25)... a. No matter what "storms" of life may come our way... b. ...our treasure is in heaven and our Father will provide for us during our earthly sojourn! 3. If we don't heed Jesus' teachings, if we allow ourselves to serve perishable "mammon"... a. Then we must go through life on earth without God's help b. And we have no hope of eternity with God when we die That is why we must "Seek first the kingdom of God..."!
"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Gaining Mastery Over Mammon (6:19-24) INTRODUCTION 1. In writing to Timothy, Paul described the danger of seeking to be rich... a. The desire to be rich is filled with temptations which have destroyed many - 1Ti 6:9 b. The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil which have led many astray - 1Ti 6:10 2. Jesus also described the difficulty of the rich entering the kingdom of heaven... a. When the rich young ruler asked concerning eternal life - Mt 19: 16-22 b. Jesus said it was difficult, but not impossible - Mt 19:23-26 3. In Mt 6:19-24, Jesus taught how it was possible... a. For the rich person to have "treasure in heaven" b. For us to overcome "mammon", which can easily enslave us 4. According to Easton's Bible Dictionary, "mammon" is... a. A Chaldee or Syriac word meaning "wealth" or "riches" - Lk 16: 9-11 b. By personification, the god of riches - Mt 6:24 5. Thus if not careful, wealth and riches can become our "god"... a. Paul called a covetous person an idolater - Ep 5:5 b. He told the Colossians to put to death "covetousness, which is idolatry" - Col 3:5 [To prevent Mammon from become our "god", let's examine the teachings of our Lord as found in His sermon on the mount. Beginning with Mt 6: 19, we find the first of three keys to "Gaining Mastery Over Mammon"...] I. LAY UP TREASURE IN HEAVEN (19-21) A. WHY IN HEAVEN, AND NOT ON EARTH... 1. On earth: a. Moth and rust destroy (material things are perishable) b. Thieves break in and steal (material things are subject to theft) 2. In heaven: a. Neither moth nor rust destroys (our treasures are imperishable - 1Pe 1:3-4) b. Thieves do not break in and steal (our treasures are securely guarded - 1Pe 3:4-5) B. WHERE YOUR TREASURE IS, THERE YOUR "HEART" (AFFECTIONS, HOPE, DREAMS) WILL BE ALSO... 1. If your treasure is on earth, your heart will experience much disappointment a. As things for which you have affection decay or are one day destroyed by fire b. As things in which you find your primary joy are suddenly gone through things like theft 2. But if your treasure is in heaven, your heart will not suffer great disappointments a. For your treasure is "incorruptible, undefiled, and does not fade away" b. Nothing can take your treasure away from you, for it is 1) "reserved in heaven for you" 2) "kept by the power of God through faith" 3. With treasures laid up in heaven, whatever happens on earth will not devastate you! - cf. the Hebrew Christians in He 10:32-34 4. When these words of Jesus are taken to heart and applied, how true His words in Mt 7:24-27 will be! a. The "storms" of life will not overwhelm us b. Because we've built our foundation upon the words of Jesus found in our text! C. HOW CAN WE LAY UP TREASURE IN HEAVEN? 1. First, by becoming children of God... a. Thereby becoming "joint-heirs with Christ" - Ro 8:16-17 b. And the recipients of "every spiritual blessing" in heavenly places - Ep 1:3 2. Then, by using material wealth we may have to bless those around us... a. As Jesus instructed the rich young ruler - Mt 19:21 b. As He instructed His disciples, in order to have "a treasure in the heavens that does not fail" - Lk 12:33-34 c. As Paul wrote Timothy to charge those rich in this present age, that they may be "storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life" - 1Ti 6:17-19 [Through such generosity and liberality, then, we are well on the way to "Gaining Mastery Over Mammon." At the same time, we need to make sure that we observe the second key...] II. KEEP YOUR EYE GOOD (22-23) A. IN THE METAPHOR USED BY JESUS... 1. The "body" likely represents the "soul" or "inner man" 2. The "eye" likely represents the "gaze of the soul" or the "heart of man" 3. The word "good" in Greek means "simple, single, uncomplicated" 4. The word "bad" in Greek means "wicked, evil" 5. And in the Scriptures, the expression "evil eye" is used to mean "envious, covetous" - cf. Pr 23:6; Mt 20:15; Mk 7:22 B. AN EXPLANATION BASED UPON THESE DEFINITIONS... 1. If the heart or gaze of the soul be "good" ("single" in its love of God and the things of God)... a. Then one is filled with "light" b. In other words, goodness, righteousness, and truth - cf. Ep 5:8-10 2. But if the heart or gaze of the soul be "evil" (full of envy, covetousness)... a. Then one's soul is filled with "darkness" b. The opposite of light: selfishness, wickedness, and falsehood! C. THUS THE NEED FOR THE WARNING... 1. To guard what goes in your eye a. I.e., what you allow your eyes to dwell upon b. Remember, there is such a thing as "the lusts of the eyes" (i.e., materialism) 2. To be rich toward God, free from covetousness - Lk 12:13-21 a. Note Jesus' warning - Lk 12:15 b. Also His conclusion - Lk 12:21 [The third and last key to "Gaining Mastery Over Mammon" is most crucial, and will make it impossible for one to serve Mammon...] III. MAKE GOD YOUR MASTER (24) A. NO ONE CAN SERVE TWO MASTERS... 1. A "master" by definition demands "total loyalty", and we are unable to please two masters at the same time 2. Such is certainly true with God - cf. Exo 34:14 3. Mammon is evidently no different B. WE HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN GOD AND MAMMON... 1. When wealth is coveted, and becomes the priority in our lives, it becomes a "god" - cf. Ep 5:5; Col 3:5 2. So the choice becomes one as to whether we shall worship the One True God, or be "idolaters" following after a false god! C. CHOOSE TO SERVE GOD... 1. As Jesus would later say, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" - Mt 6:33 2. Do this, and God becomes our Master 3. Since we can't serve two masters, this effectively eliminates Mammon from being our "god"! CONCLUSION 1. These are the three keys to "Gaining Mastery Over Mammon"... a. Lay up treasure in heaven (by helping others) b. Keep your eye good (guard what you allow to influence your inner man) c. Make God your Master (and you will not be able to serve another Master) 2. Why seek to gain mastery over mammon and serve God instead? a. Because Mammon... 1) Is susceptible to decay and theft 2) Will make us blind, selfish creatures b. Whereas with God... 1) Our treasures are secure 2) We will be kind, righteous people 3. By gaining mastery over Mammon we will also avoid... a. Falling into a temptation and a snare b. Falling into many foolish and harmful lusts c. Straying from the faith because of greediness d. Piercing ourselves with many sorrows - cf. 1Ti 6:9-10 But most importantly, Christians will be "storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come", and "lay hold on eternal life" (1Ti 6:17-19). Isn't that what we really want?
How Humble Could Moses Have Been?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
In an attempt to discredit the idea that God inspired Moses to write the first five books of the Old Testament, many skeptics and liberal Bible scholars have taken it upon themselves to hyper-analyze any and all “questionable” statements in the Pentateuch. One of the statements frenquently used to bolster the idea that Moses could not have written these five books is found in Numbers 12:3, which reads: “Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.” After reading this statement, the question arises: “How could Moses be the meekest or most humble man in the world, and proceed to tell everyone that he is?” According to Tod Billings, the president (in 1999) of the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers, “if Moses really said this in reference to himself, he is vain and arrogant, not ‘very meek!’ ” (1999). Statements like those of Mr. Billings could be multiplied many times over from the pen of countless “freethinkers,” skeptics, and liberal Bible scholars. And, in all honesty, a cursory look at this statement might take even the most sincere Bible student somewhat by surprise.
Could Moses have been very meek, and still have written this statement about himself? Yes. First, if God was informing Moses what to write, then Moses had little choice in the wording of the description concerning himself. It is clear from the scope of the statement, which included “all the men that were upon the face of the earth,” that only God had the ability to know who was the meekest man living at the time of Moses (Coffman, 1987, p. 365). Does it not make sense that God would have chosen only the most humble man to bring His chosen people out of Egypt and through the wilderness?
Second, the phrase is added so that the reader can understand the narrative more fully. In the context, Moses’ brother Aaron, and sister Miriam, had spoken against Moses because he had married an Ethiopian woman. They said to Moses, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also” (Numbers 12:1-2)? These statements amounted to a direct attack upon the authority that God had given Moses. Had Moses’ siblings been permitted to continue with such sentiments, the entire authoritative structure established by God (i.e., establishing Moses as the primary leader of the Israelites) might have been jeopardized. However, because Moses was such a meek and humble man, He refused to take it upon himself to squelch this rebellious attitude. Therefore, God had to step in and speak directly to Moses’ siblings, informing Miriam and Aaron that God had a special relationship with Moses, and that his brother and sister should have been “afraid to speak against My [God’s—KB] servant Moses” (Numbers 12:8). Without the statement concerning Moses’ meekness, this narrative is somewhat incomplete. With the statement included, however, we see that Moses refused to exalt himself and set his siblings straight, so God stepped in and exalted Moses.
Third, many of the Bible writers were inspired to make comments about themselves that sound arrogant to some, yet in actuality, they are not arrogant statements, but simply documentation of a fact that God wanted those who read the Bible to know. For instance, on several occasions in the gospel of John, we read a description about a particular disciple “whom Jesus loved.” At the end of the book, the writer informs his readers that he is that disciple (John 21:20-25). Is it arrogant of John to single himself out more than the other apostles as one whom Jesus loved? Or is it the case that God wanted that information included for the benefit of the readers? Another example comes from the apostle Paul. When Paul was brought before the Sanhedrin to defend himself, he opened his speech with the statement, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day” (Acts 23:1, c.f. Mark 13:11). Because Ananias, the high priest, considered this statement to be out of line, he commanded one of the soldiers who stood by Paul to strike him on the mouth. Paul’s statement, however, was a simple statement of fact that contained neither arrogance nor conceit.
During Moses’ life, God considered him to be the meekest man living. God wanted the readers of the Bible to know this fact, therefore He inspired Moses to record it. The fact helps the reader understand God’s action in Numbers 12, and it is congruent with similar statements recorded by other Bible writers. The statement cannot legitimately be used to argue against the inspiration or Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch.
REFERENCESBillings, Tod (1999), “Moses Wrote the Torah?” [On-line], URL: http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/archive/billings_torah.html.
Coffman, James Burton (1987), Commentary on Leviticus and Numbers (Abilene, TX: ACU Press).
God and the Laws of Science: The Law of Causality
|by||Jeff Miller, Ph.D.|
INTRODUCTIONThe Law of Cause and Effect states that every material effect must have an adequate antecedent or simultaneous cause. The mass of a paper clip is not going to provide sufficient gravitational pull to cause a tidal wave. There must be an adequate cause for the tidal wave, like a massive, offshore, underwater earthquake (“Tsunamis,” 2000, p. 1064). Leaning against a mountain will certainly not cause it to topple over. Jumping up and down on the ground will not cause an earthquake. If a chair is not placed in an empty room, the room will remain chairless. If matter was not made and placed in the Universe, we would not exist. There must be an adequate antecedent or simultaneous cause for every material effect. Perhaps the Law of Cause and Effect seems intuitive to most, but common sense is foreign to many when God is brought into the discussion.
CAUSALITY AND HISTORYThe Law of Cause and Effect, or Law/Principle of Causality, has been investigated and recognized for millennia. In Phaedo, written by Plato in 360 B.C., an “investigation of nature” is spoken of concerning causality, wherein “the causes of everything, why each thing comes into being and why it perishes and why it exists” are discussed (Plato, 1966, 1:96a-b, emp. added). In 350 B.C., Aristotle contributed more to the causality discussion by stipulating that causes can be “spoken of in four senses”: material, formal, efficient, and final (Aristotle, 2009, 1). Moving forward two millennia in no way changed the established fact pressed by the Law of Cause and Effect. In 1781, the renowned philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote concerning the Principle of Causality in his Critique of Pure Reason that “everything that happens presupposes a previous condition, which it follows with absolute certainty, in conformity with a rule.... All changes take place according to the law of the connection of Cause and Effect” (Kant, 1781). Fast forwarding another 350 years, our understanding of the world still did not cause the law to be discredited. In 1934, W.T. Stace, professor of philosophy at Princeton University, in A Critical History of Greek Philosophy, wrote:
Every student of logic knows that this is the ultimate canon of the sciences, the foundation of them all. If we did not believe the truth of causation, namely, everything which has a beginning has a cause, and that in the same circumstances the same things invariably happen, all the sciences would at once crumble to dust. In every scientific investigation this truth is assumed (1934, p. 6, emp. added).The truth of causality is so substantiated that it is taken for granted in scientific investigation.
A few decades later, the Law of Cause and Effect still had not been repealed. In The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Richard Taylor wrote, “Nevertheless, it is hardly disputable that the idea of causation is not only indispensable in the common affairs of life but in all applied sciences as well” (1967, p. 57, emp. added). Even today, when scientific exploration has brought us to unprecedented heights of knowledge, the age old Law of Causality cannot be denied. Today’s dictionaries define “causality” as:
- “the principle that nothing can happen without being caused” (“Causality,” 2009).
- “the principle that everything has a cause” (“Causality,” 2008).
THE LAW OF CAUSALITY—A PROBLEM FOR ATHEISTSCreationists have absolutely no problem with the truth articulated by this God-ordained law from antiquity. The Bible, in essence, articulated the principle millennia ago when in Hebrews 3:4 it says that “every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God.” A house must have a cause—namely, a builder. It will not build itself. However, evolutionists are left in a quandary when trying to explain how the effect of the infinitely complex Universe could have come about without a cause. Three decades ago, Robert Jastrow, founder and former director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA, wrote:
The Universe, and everything that has happened in it since the beginning of time, are a grand effect without a known cause. An effect without a known cause? That is not the world of science; it is a world of witchcraft, of wild events and the whims of demons, a medieval world that science has tried to banish. As scientists, what are we to make of this picture? I do not know. I would only like to present the evidence for the statement that the Universe, and man himself, originated in a moment when time began (1977, p. 21).When Jastrow says that there is no “known cause” for everything in the Universe, he is referring to the fact that there is no known natural cause. If atheism were true, there must be a natural explanation of what caused the Universe. Scientists and philosophers recognize that there must be a cause that would be sufficient to bring about matter and the Universe—and yet no natural cause is known. The McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms says that “causality,” in physics, is “the principle that an event cannot precede its cause” (2003, p. 346). However, the atheist must concede that in order for his/her claim to be valid, the effect of the Universe not only preceded its cause, but actually came about without it! Such a viewpoint is hardly in keeping with science. Scientifically speaking, according to the Law of Cause and Effect, there had to be a Cause for the Universe. The only book on the planet which contains characteristics that prove its production to be above human capability is the Bible (see Butt, 2007). The God of the Bible is its author (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and in the very first verse of the inspired material He gave to humans, He articulated with authority and clarity that He is the Cause Who brought about the Universe and all that is in it.
UNCAUSED CAUSE?Often the atheist or skeptic, attempting to distract and side-step the truth of this law without responding to it, retorts, “But if everything had to have a beginning, why does the same concept not apply to God?” Notice that this statement is based on a misunderstanding of what the Law of Cause and Effect claims concerning the Universe. The law states that every material effect must have an adequate antecedent or simultaneous cause. The God of the Bible is a spiritual Being (John 4:24) and therefore is not governed by physical law.
Recall also what Professor W.T. Stace wrote in A Critical History of Greek Philosophy concerning causality. “[E]verything which has a beginning has a cause” (1934, p. 6, emp. added). As mentioned above, scientists and philosophers recognize that, logically, there must be an initial cause of the Universe. [Those who attempt to argue the eternality of the Universe are in direct contradiction with the Second Law of Thermodynamics (see Miller, 2007).] However, God, not being a physical, finite being, but an eternal, spiritual being (by definition), would not be subject to the condition of requiring a beginning. Therefore, the law does not apply to Him. Psalm 90:2 says concerning God, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (emp. added). The Bible describes God as a Being who has always been and always will be—“from everlasting to everlasting.” He, therefore, had no beginning. Hebrews 3:4 again states, “every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God,” indicating that God is not constrained by the Law of Cause and Effect as are houses, but rather, is the Chief Builder—the Uncaused Causer—the Being who initially set all effects into motion. The point stands. The Law of Cause and Effect supports the creation model, not the atheistic evolutionary model.
Butt, Kyle (2007), Behold! The Word of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), http://www.apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/Behold%20the%20Word%20of%20God.pdf.
“Causality” (2009), Collins English Dictionary—Complete & Unabridged, 10th ed. (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers), http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Causality?x=35&y=25.
“Causality” (2008), Concise Oxford English Dictionary, (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press), http://www.wordreference.com/definition/causality.
Jastrow, Robert (1977), Until the Sun Dies (New York: W.W. Norton).
Kant, Immanuel (1781), The Critique of Pure Reason, trans. J.M.D. Meiklejohn (London: Henry G. Bohn), 1878 edition, http://philosophy.eserver.org/kant/critique-of-pure-reason.txt.
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.
Plato (1966), Plato in Twelve Volumes, trans. Harold North Fowler (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0170%3Atext%3DPhaedo%3Asection%3D96a.
Stace, W.T. (1934), A Critical History of Greek Philosophy (London: Macmillan and Co.).
Taylor, Richard (1967), “Causation,” in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Philosophical Library).
“Tsunamis” (2000), The Oxford Companion to the Earth, ed. Paul L. Hancock & Brian J. Skinner (Oxford University Press).
Does Death Imply Annihilation?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
In the New Testament, the fires of hell are described as the “second death.” The picture painted in Revelation 20 tells of a burning lake of fire in which the devil and all his cohorts will be cast, including wicked humans whose names are not written in the Book of Life. Verse 14 of chapter 20 declares: “Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” The inspired writer James remarked that if one of the Christians turns away from Christ, and someone turns the wayward brother back, he will “save a soul from death” (James 5:20). James’ statement speaks to the fact that the sinning soul is destined for spiritual death. In John 6, Jesus described Himself as the bread that came down from heaven. Those who eat this “living” bread will “live forever” and not die (John 6:48-51,58). All who will not eat this living bread will die. Jesus’ comments here clearly refer to the second death in hell.
What Does the Word “death” Mean?All those involved in the debate about afterlife issues understand that hell is called the second death, and that a person’s soul is said to die in hell. But what does the word death actually mean? Those who advocate annihilationism put forth the idea that the word death must mean “to go out of existence.” Along these lines, F. LaGard Smith wrote:
Those whose names are found written in the book [of life—KB] will inherit life with God forever. For those whose names are missing, there is no lasting life whatsoever, tormented or otherwise. “Only death...[t]he second and final death....” As the greater weight of scriptural evidence indicates, the only option is eternal life versus eternal death. Blessed existence versus non-existence (2003, pp. 189,190).From statements peppered throughout his book, and especially from the final two parallel sentences in this quotation, it is obvious that Smith defines the word death as nonexistence.
In truth, however, the concept of death as used in the Bible does not mean nonexistence; rather, it means “separation.” In regard to physical death, it refers to the separation of the soul from the physical body. In regard to spiritual death, in connotes separation of the soul from God.
The Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon gives the following primary definition of the Greek word that is translated “death” (thanatos): “(1) the death of the body (1a) that separation (whether natural or violent) of the soul and the body by which life on earth is ended” (“Thanatos:2505,” 1999). That physical death is viewed in the Bible as separation is evident from several scriptures. The inspired writer James offered the clearest picture of this idea of death when he wrote: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). According to James, faith that is separated from works is a dead faith in the same way that a body which is separated from the soul is a dead body. Notice that a body separated from a soul is not a nonexistent body. On the contrary, the body still exists and lies lifeless, but is separated from the soul and thus presumed dead.
The narrative describing Rachel’s death in Genesis provides further evidence that the Bible depicts physical death as the separation of the soul from the body. As Rachel was giving birth to Benjamin, her labor became so intense that her life was in danger. The text reads: “Now it came to pass, when she was in hard labor, that the midwife said to her, ‘Do not fear; you will have this son also.’ And so it was, as her soul was departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-Oni; but his father called him Benjamin. So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem)” (Genesis 35:17-19, emp. added). Rachel’s death occurred when her soul departed, leaving her physical body. Her body continued to exist for some time and was buried, but it was recognized as a dead body as soon as it was separated from Rachel’s soul, not when the body eventually decayed in the tomb. Here again, the biblical picture of death revolves around the concept of separation, rather than nonexistence.
Luke 8 contains additional evidence that separation of the soul and physical body is the meaning of physical death. Jairus came to Jesus pleading for the life of his sick daughter. While en route to the house, someone came from Jairus’ house explaining that the girl had already died. Jesus encouraged Jairus not to doubt, and continued toward the house. Arriving at the ruler’s house, Jesus sent everyone out except Peter, James, John, and the parents of the child. He approached the child’s dead body, took her hand and said, “Little girl, arise.” Immediately after this comment, the text states: “Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately” (Luke 8:40-55). Note that both the girl’s body and her spirit existed at the time Jesus entered the room. Her body, however, was dead because her spirit had departed from it. When her spirit returned to her body, it was made alive again. Here again, the biblical text presents the idea that the concept of death is not one of nonexistence, but of separation.
John 19:30 provides another example that establishes physical death as separation of the soul and body. In the final moments of Christ’s life during the crucifixion, after all of the prophecies had been fulfilled, Christ cried, “It is finished.” Immediately following this last cry, the Lord bowed His head, and “He gave up His Spirit.” At this point, when His soul departed from His body, He (i.e., His body) was dead. Joseph and Nicodemus buried the dead (still existent) body of Christ, while the soul of Christ had departed.
Even after looking at these biblical examples, some annihilationists might continue to argue that physical death still means “nonexistence,” because those who die no longer exist in the physical world. But notice what the Bible describes as dead—the body. James says that “the body without the spirit is dead.” The body continues to exist for some time, but is said to be dead immediately when the soul leaves it. And the spirit is not said to be “dead.”
While the idea that physical death is defined by separation and not nonexistence is clear from the Bible, the idea that spiritual death is defined by a soul’s separation from God and not by a soul’s nonexistence is even more clearly set forth in Scripture. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he wrote: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world.... But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ...” (Ephesians 2:1-2,4-5). When the Ephesians committed sins in their unsaved condition, they were described as “dead.” Obviously, however, they were not nonexistent. They were separated from God by those sins. In fact, verse 12 of the same chapter says that during their time of sinfulness, they were “without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” The Ephesians were spiritually dead in their sins. This spiritual death was a separation from God, Christ, and hope, yet it was not a state of nonexistence. In chapter four of the same epistle, Paul told the brethren that they should “no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:17-18). Those sinful Gentiles described here were in the same state of spiritual death as the Ephesians were before they became Christians. That death was an alienation (or separation) from the life of God, yet, here again, it was not a state of nonexistence.
The inspired Paul also wrote to Christians in Colossi, declaring, “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Colossians 2:13). Paul obviously did not mean that the Colossians had been physically dead in their sins. Neither did he intend to assert the nonsensical idea that at one time, while they were sinning, their souls were in a state of nonexistence. On the contrary, their souls existed, but were separated from God because of their sins, and thus they were labeled as dead. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah explained this principle clearly when he wrote: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor his ear heavy, that it cannot hear, but your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2, emp. added).
Paul presents very clearly in 1 Timothy 5:6 the idea that spiritual death is separation from God, not nonexistence. In this chapter, Paul instructed the young Timothy about which widows should receive assistance from the church treasury. In his discussion, Paul mentioned widows who trusted in God and continued in prayer. He contrasted those widows with one who “lives in pleasure” or indulgence of the flesh. Concerning such a widow, he said: “But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives.” As is the case throughout the New Testament, individuals who live in sin are considered spiritually dead. They are called dead by the Holy Spirit because they have separated themselves from God by their sin. The sinning widow continued to exist physically, and her soul continued to exist, yet she was called dead. The biblical picture of spiritual death is not one of nonexistence, but one of a miserable existence separated from God.
The antithesis of death is “life” (zoe). As we have seen from numerous passages, one way that the word “life” is used in the Bible is to describe the state in which the physical body is joined or connected to the soul of a person. Furthermore, spiritual life, the opposite of spiritual death, is used in the New Testament to describe the condition in which a separated soul is brought back to, and joined with, its Creator. Paul described this condition when he wrote: “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and irreproachable in His sight” (Colossians 1:21-22). Sin alienates one from God, and leads a person into spiritual death. God, through Christ, allows those dead, separated souls to be cleansed of that sin and have spiritual life, which reconciles them to Him. That is why John wrote: “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12).
It is evident, then, from a close look at the Scriptures that the word “death” does not mean a state of nonexistence, either in the physical realm or the spiritual realm. The Bible describes bodies that were dead, yet still very much in existence. The inspired record describes individuals who were spiritually dead, yet existing in that dead condition nonetheless. The misguided ploy to define “the second death” (Revelation 20:6,14; 21:8) as a state of nonexistence is simply an attempt to get around the actual meaning of the biblical text. The second death describes nothing more or less than the total separation of wicked, unsaved souls from the God Who created them. Of all the wicked who will say to the Lord “in that day” (i.e., the Judgment Day), “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” (Matthew 7:22), Jesus, the righteous Judge (John 5:22; 2 Timothy 4:8), will sentence them to their second death, declaring, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:23, emp. added). Of those wicked who neglect the needy, He will say, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41, emp. added). “Eternal destruction” awaits those who are cast away “from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9, emp. added). As both Jesus and the apostle Paul declared, the second death is not annihilation, but eternal separation “from the presence of the Lord.” Death in no way implies a state of nonexistence.
“Thanatos: 2505” (1999), Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems)
Did Jesus Condone Law-breaking?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
The Pharisees certainly did not think that the Son of God was beyond reproach. Following Jesus’ feeding of the four thousand, they came “testing” Him, asking Him to show them a sign from heaven (Matthew 16:1). Later in the gospel of Matthew (19:3ff.), the writer recorded how “the Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?’ ” It was their aim on this occasion, as on numerous other occasions, to entangle Jesus in His teachings by asking Him a potentially entrapping question—one that, if answered in a way that the Pharisees had anticipated, might bring upon Jesus the wrath of Herod Antipas (cf. Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29) and/or some of His fellow Jews (e.g., the school of Hillel, or the school of Shammai). A third time the Pharisees sought to “entangle Him in His talk” (Matthew 22:15) as they asked, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (22:17). The jealous and hypocritical Pharisees were so relentless in their efforts to destroy the Lord’s influence that on one occasion they even accused Jesus’ disciples of breaking the law as they “went through the grainfields on the Sabbath…were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat” (Matthew 12:1ff.). [NOTE: “Their knowledge of so trifling an incident shows how minutely they observed all his deeds” (Coffman, 1984, p. 165). The microscopic scrutiny under which Jesus lived, likely was even more relentless than what some “stars” experience today. In one sense, the Pharisees could be considered the “paparazzi” of Jesus’ day.] Allegedly, what the disciples were doing on this particular Sabbath was considered “work,” which the Law of Moses forbade (Matthew 12:2; cf. Exodus 20:9-10; 34:21).
Jesus responded to the criticism of the Pharisees by giving the truth of the matter, and at the same time revealing the Pharisees’ hypocrisy. As was somewhat customary for Jesus when being tested by His enemies (cf. Matthew 12:11-12; 15:3; 21:24-25; etc.), He responded to the Pharisees’ accusation with two questions. First, He asked: “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?” (12:3-4). Jesus reminded the Pharisees of an event in the life of David (recorded in 1 Samuel 21:1ff.), where he and others, while fleeing from king Saul, ate of the showbread, which divine law restricted to the priests (Leviticus 24:5-9). Some commentators have unjustifiably concluded that Jesus was implying innocence on the part of David (and that God’s laws are subservient to human needs—cf. Zerr, 1952, 5:41; Dummelow, 1937, p. 666), and thus He was defending His disciples “lawless” actions with the same reasoning. Actually, however, just the opposite is true. Jesus explicitly stated that what David did was wrong (“not lawful”—12:4), and that what His disciples did was right—they were “guiltless” (12:7). Furthermore, as J.W. McGarvey observed: “If Christians may violate law when its observance would involve hardship or suffering, then there is an end to suffering for the name of Christ, and an end even of self-denial” (1875, p. 104). The disciples were not permitted by Jesus to break the law on this occasion (or any other) just because it was convenient (cf. Matthew 5:17-19). The Pharisees simply were wrong in their accusations. The only “law” Jesus’ disciples broke was the Pharisaical interpretation of the law (which seems to have been more sacred to the Pharisees than the law itself). In response to such hyper-legalism, Burton Coffman forcefully stated:
In the Pharisees’ view, the disciples were guilty of threshing wheat! Such pedantry, nit-picking, and magnification of trifles would also have made them guilty of irrigating land, if they had chanced to knock off a few drops of dew while passing through the fields! The Pharisees were out to “get” Jesus; and any charge was better than none (1984, p. 165, emp. added).Jesus used the instruction of 1 Samuel 21 to get the Pharisees to recognize their insincerity, and to justify His disciples. David, a man about whom the Jews ever boasted, blatantly violated God’s law by eating the showbread, and yet the Pharisees justified him. On the other hand, Jesus’ disciples merely plucked some grain on the Sabbath while walking through a field, an act that the law did not forbid, and yet the Pharisees condemned them. Had the Pharisees not approved of David’s conduct, they could have responded by saying, “You judge yourself. You’re all sinners.” Their reaction to Jesus’ question, however, was that of hypocrites who had been exposed—silence.
Jesus then asked a second question, saying, “Have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?” (Matthew 12:5). Here, Jesus wanted the Pharisees to acknowledge that even the law itself condoned some work on the Sabbath day. Although the Pharisees acted as if all work was banned on this day, it was actually the busiest day of the week for priests.
They baked and changed the showbread; they performed sabbatical sacrifices (Num. xxviii. 9), and two lambs were killed on the sabbath in addition to the daily sacrifice. This involved the killing, skinning, and cleaning of the animals, and the building of the fire to consume the sacrifice. They also trimmed the gold lamps, burned incense, and performed various other duties (McGarvey, n.d., pp. 211-212).One of those “other duties” would have been to circumcise young baby boys when the child’s eighth day fell on a Sabbath. The purpose of Jesus citing these “profane” priestly works was to prove that the Sabbath prohibition was not unconditional. [NOTE: Jesus used the term “profane,” not because there was a real desecration of the temple by the priests as they worked, but “to express what was true according to the mistaken notions of the Pharisees as to manual works performed on the Sabbath” (Bullinger, 1898, p. 676).] The truth is, the Sabbath law “did not forbid work absolutely, but labor for worldly gain. Activity in the work of God was both allowed and commanded” (McGarvey, n.d., p. 212). Coffman thus concluded: “Just as the priests served the temple on the Sabbath day and were guiltless, his [Jesus’—EL] disciples might also serve Christ, the Greater Temple, without incurring guilt” (p. 167). Just as the priests who served God in the temple on the Sabbath were totally within the law, so likewise were Jesus’ disciples as they served the “Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8), Whose holiness was greater than that of the temple (12:6).
REFERENCESBullinger, E.W. (1898), Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1968 reprint).
Coffman, Burton (1984), Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Abilene, TX: ACU Press).
Dummelow, J.R. (1937), One Volume Commentary (New York: MacMillan).
McGarvey, J.W. (n.d.), The Fourfold Gospel (Cincinnati, OH: Standard).
McGarvey, J.W. (1875), Commentary on Matthew and Mark (Delight AR: Gospel Light).
Zerr, E.M. (1952), Bible Commentary (Raytown, MO: Reprint Publications).
Blind, Biased Failure to See God
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The flagellum that propels bacteria has long been recognized as a marvel of engineering. Scientists know that this rotating wonder, and the assembly to which it is attached, is a tiny but powerful molecular engine. One of nature’s smallest, and yet most powerful, motors rotates at over 200 revolutions per second, driven by incredible torque. Researchers have also long been puzzled by what enables the flagellum to come to a stop, and even reverse its rotation. In recent years they have discovered that it does so using a “clutch.” The bacterium can disconnect from the flagellum by releasing a protein that disengages the clutch (“‘Clutch’ Stops...,” 2008).
In the presence of such sophistication and intelligent design, one would think that researchers would recognize divine design when they see it. Sadly, however, the massive propaganda campaign that has inundated the science departments of American schools for a half century has blinded its victims to glaring evidence. Consider the lead researcher’s analysis of the clutch discovery: “We think it’s pretty cool that evolving bacteria and human engineers arrived at a similar solution to the same problem” (“‘Clutch’ Stops...”). Really? Nonsentient, uncoordinated, chance forces of nature somehow designed and created a technologically advanced device long before sentient, intelligent human engineers designed their own version? The same researcher also observed:
“This makes a lot of sense as far as the cell is concerned.... The flagellum is a giant, very expensive structure. Often when a cell no longer needs something, it might destroy it and recycle the parts. But here, because the flagellum is so big and complex, doing that is not very cost-effective. We think the clutch prevents the flagellum from rotating when constrained by the sticky matrix of the biofilm” (“‘Clutch’ Stops...”).Wait a minute. “Makes a lot of sense”? “Very expensive”? “Big and complex”? The verbal gymnastics that evolutionists engage in would be humorous if not so sadly serious. These are terms that demand intelligence and sentience. The evolutionists constantly allow themselves the luxury of speaking as if the myriad organisms that display incredible design and purpose somehow created themselves and then consciously tweaked themselves over millions of years to become more efficient. They regularly cut themselves slack by speaking as if a mind—a conscious, intelligent being—were orchestrating the endless stream of biological marvels that grace the planet.
So blinded by irrational commitment to an outlandish theory, evolutionists are unable to hear the evidence screaming in their ears and flashing before their eyes, and come to the only logical conclusion: such intricate, complex design demands an intelligent, superior Designer. To deny it is bias of the first order.
“Thus says the LORD.... ‘I am the LORD, who makes all things…Who turns wise men backward, and makes their knowledge foolishness” (Isaiah 44:24-25).
“‘Clutch’ Stops Flagella” (2008), Photonics Media, June 23, http://www.photonics.com/Article.aspx?AID=34236.
Evolution, Environmentalism, and the Deification of Nature
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The printed version of this article in this month’s issue of Reason & Revelation is the abbreviated form of a more lengthy study of this topic. To view the unedited version, click here.]
The year was 1970. It was the year of the Kent State shootings, Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Apollo 13, the disbanding of the Beatles, the X-rated movie Midnight Cowboy winning the Best Picture Oscar, the drug-related deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, as well as the death of Scopes Monkey Trial defendant John T. Scopes. That year also marked the birth of the modern environmental movement, with the observance of the first Earth Day on April 22 (see “1970,” 2000). By July, the Environmental Protection Agency was formed. Various pieces of federal legislation designed to protect the environment quickly followed, including the Clean Air Act (1970), the Clean Water Act (1972), and the Endangered Species Act (1973) [see “Major Environmental Laws,” 2003]. Since 1970, it is safe to say, the American way of life has been altered drastically. The environmental movement has changed forever the way Americans view the world around them. Even the otherwise environmentally insensitive citizen now possesses heightened consciousness about littering, recycling, global warming, and “going organic.” But things have gotten out of hand.
It was one thing for young people who embraced this perspective to march in the streets in the 1960s and promote their offbeat, fanatical ideas. But now that they have moved into powerful political positions, their ideas permeate policy and literally wreak havoc on people’s lives. Fringe environmentalist groups, in collusion with liberal politicians, Hollywood celebrities, and the mainstream media, have conspired to unleash a flood of environmental propaganda and eco-myths. First it was the “deadly” ozone-depleting hairspray aerosols. Then it was the evil internal combustion engine. They have inundated the public with their alarmist claims that global pollution, ozone depletion, and environmental contamination due to technological progress and American affluence mean that life on Earth is facing inevitable and imminent extinction. They insist that humans are inflicting widespread damage on the environment, destroying the forests, and causing the extinction of animal and plant species. Friends of the Earth International insists: “[T]he Earth is a creation to be honored and respected as our Mother” (see “Friends of the Earth...,” 2007, emp. added).
Multiple examples demonstrate the absurd extent to which environmentalists are willing to go. A 400-page United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization report has identified rapidly growing herds of cattle as the greatest threat to the environment (Lean, 2006). We are told that the 1.5 billion cattle on Earth are responsible for 18% of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming—more than cars, planes, and all other forms of transportation combined. More than a third of the greenhouse gas, methane (which warms the world 20 times faster than carbon dioxide), is emitted by cows and their manure. And it is not just methane, since cattle also produce more than 100 other polluting gases, including more than two-thirds of the world’s emissions of ammonia—one of the main causes of acid rain (Lean, 2006). That’s right, gaseous expulsions by cows damage the planet more than emissions from cars. Environmentalists are beside themselves.
Researchers at Norway’s technical university claim that their national animal, the moose, is harming the climate by emitting over 2,000 kilos of carbon dioxide per year—equivalent to the CO2 produced by an 8,000 mile car trip (“Norway’s Moose...,” 2007). [Poor Bullwinkle now is politically incorrect.] Yet, Australian scientists are delighted with the discovery that flatulent kangaroos produce almost no greenhouse gas methane due to their peculiar digestive flora (bacteria)—which researchers hope can be transplanted into cows and sheep to prevent their contributions to global warming (“Flatulent Kangaroos...,” 2007).
But it doesn’t stop there. Scientists from Austria and Germany recently reported that, though we humans are but one of the millions of species on Earth, we use up almost one-fourth of the sun’s energy captured by plants—the most of any species. More than half of the use is due to the harvesting of crops and other plants (Leung, 2007). You read that right. It is bad enough that we humans are soaking up more than our fair share of the Sun’s rays simply by being outdoors; but we are exploiting poor, defenseless green plants by greedily harvesting and consuming their bounty, thereby stealing from them the benefit they derived from the Sun.
To top such nonsense off, while it is common for environmentalists to blame mankind as the prime perpetrator of environmental destruction, now one environmentalist insists that, more specifically, children are significant culprits in the human assault on the natural order. Parents, we are told, should limit their offspring to no more than two children in order to reduce carbon dioxide output. The report published by the environmentalist group, Optimum Population Trust, insists that the greatest thing one could do to help the future of the planet would be to have one less child (Templeton, 2007).
Let’s get this straight. Cows cause global warming, so we need to reduce the cow population. If we kill cows, we will upset the animal rights people. If we eat cows, we will offend the vegetarians. If we allow the present population of cows to live to old age and die naturally, we could arrest the growth of the cow population by performing partial birth abortions on all cows that get pregnant. But that, too, likely would upset animal rights people (who probably would have no problem doing the same to pre-born humans—especially since kids contribute to the CO2 problem). Since harvesting crops and other green plants is stealing solar energy, we need to cease consuming plants—to the further dismay of the vegetarians. Any of this making sense to you?
ASSUMPTIONS OF ENVIRONMENTALISM
The fundamental fallacy of the modern environmental movement is this inherent denial of supernaturalism and metaphysical reality. Rather than acknowledging that the entire Universe was created miraculously by the transcendent God of the Bible, Who both prepared and perpetuates the Earth for human habitation (Genesis 1:1-2:19; 8:22; Hebrews 11:3), the environmental movement posits the absence of supernatural origins and the necessity of an eternal Universe. Hence, the physical environment must be protected and preserved by humans in order for life to continue. The future of the Earth is viewed as dependent on mankind. If man damages the fragile environment, he is hastening its demise.
Renowned Cornell University astronomer Carl Sagan held this view: “I believe we have an obligation to fight for life on Earth—not just for ourselves, but for all those, humans and others, who came before us, and to whom we are beholden, and for all those who, if we are wise enough, will come after” (1997, p. 75, emp. added). He also insisted that “[o]ur capacity to cause harm is great” (p. 97). In other words, the future of the planet—and all life on it—lies completely in the hands of humanity. Are we humans really so arrogant as to think that the future of the planet rests with us? Are we really so foolish as to think that the digestive tract of cows are defective—the result of mindless evolution rather than the all-knowing Creator—and that it falls to us to correct it?
If environmentalists believe that human beings are the product of the chance, mechanistic forces of nature working over millions of years through non-intelligent, evolutionary accidents, one can understand why they might think that we must preserve the planet at all costs—even at the expense of humans. To them, human beings are simply one more rung on the evolutionary ladder, with each prior life form being of comparable value. From this perspective, the environment in which evolution occurs is far more important than any one species that may happen to arise within that environment. The comparative worth of one species is based upon how large a danger that species poses to other species. Since humans have greater capability to harm the environment and to destroy lesser species, humans constitute the greatest threat to the well-being of the planet. To the environmentalist, humans are the natural enemy of nature.
Sagan also stated: “There is no cause more urgent, no dedication more fitting than to protect the future of our species.... No social convention, no political system, no economic hypothesis, no religious dogma is more important” (1997, p. 75, emp. added). Such statements betray a purely materialistic outlook on life. Religious and spiritual concerns are secondary—or altogether nonexistent. The “number one concern,” according to Sagan and the environmentalists, is the preservation of the physical realm. Though Sagan and his fellow evolutionists disavow any allegiance to religion—Christian or otherwise—the dedication and devotion to the environment that they enjoin bears a striking resemblance to the devotion advocated by those who profess religious belief. The only difference is the object of the religious devotion. While manifesting hostility toward the Christian religion, it is apparent that environmentalists have their own religion: the worship of nature and the environment. This explains why Sagan would write: “The Earth is a tiny and fragile world. It needs to be cherished” (1980, p. 103, emp. added). To say that the Earth needs to be “cherished,” i.e., loved, suggests distorted sensibilities that are unaided by divine insight. God has instructed humans to love Him, each other, His law, and truth. But He never has told us to love rocks, dirt, plants, and animals—or to hug trees.
To summarize, several assumptions inhere in radical environmentalism: the Creator depicted in the Bible does not exist; the Universe is eternal; the created order has no planned, overriding purpose; man is the ultimate offending culprit in his ability to destroy the planet; and the survival of the planet’s features (plants, animals, atmosphere, etc.) depends on man—not on any higher power.
THE BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE
God created the planet to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18). He declared His intention that human beings were to rule and have domination over the Earth’s resources. Referring to humans, He stated: “[L]et them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26, emp. added). He instructed humans to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28, emp. added). The Hebrew term for “subdue” (kah-vash) means to bring into submission by force (Oswalt, 1980, 1:430). The psalmist echoed these very directives when he praised God by saying, “You [God] have made him [man] to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet” (Psalm 8:6, emp. added). God stressed human domination in even stronger terms after the Flood: “[T]he fear of you [humans] and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that moves on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs” (Genesis 9:2-3, emp. added). God obviously intended for humans to make use of Earth’s natural resources, including animals and plants, in order to live, survive, develop, and progress—all in preparation for eternity.
Second, not only did God initially set up the environment to fulfill its divinely designated purpose, placing within it all necessary variables for sustaining it until He decides to terminate the physical realm, but He also continues to sustain and maintain it. The Bible has a great deal to say about the role that Jesus played at the Creation (e.g., John 1:3; Hebrews 1:2). He continues to have a relationship with the physical Universe by ensuring that it remains intact and functional. Paul referred to the “one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live” (1 Corinthians 8:6, emp. added). Paul also stated: “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth.... All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16-17, emp. added). The psalmist insisted that when God spoke the physical Universe into existence, the constituent elements of the created order “stood fast” and “were established,” God having “made a decree” with them (33:9; 148:5-6, emp. added). The Hebrews writer claimed that Jesus is “upholding all things by the word of His power” (1:3, emp. added). Peter said that “the heavens and the earth which now exist are kept in store by the same word” (2 Peter 3:7, emp. added). The terms in these verses connote the idea of preserving, governing, regulating, and superintending the created order (Nicoll, 1900, 4:251-252). In other words, deity continues to maintain the order, harmony, and well-being of the whole creation—the vast Universe as well as planet Earth (Barnes, 2005 reprint, p. 27). We can be assured: the environment will remain intact and suitable for life for as long as God intends. He is the great Sustainer.
The planet is heating up—and fast. Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, cloud forests are drying, and wildlife is scrambling to keep pace. It’s becoming clear that humans have caused most of the past century’s warming by releasing heat-trapping gases as we power our modern lives. Called greenhouse gases, their levels are higher now than in the last 650,000 years.... What will we do to slow this warming? How will we cope with the changes we’ve already set into motion? While we struggle to figure it all out, the face of the Earth as we know it...hangs in the balance (“What Is...?” n.d., emp. added).Yet we also have been terrorized with the idea that our actions are “lowering the surface temperature of our planet” (Sagan, 1980, p. 103). Ironically, a 1974 TIME magazine article reported a three-decade-long cooling of atmospheric temperatures and other “weather aberrations” that “may be the harbinger of another ice age” (“Another Ice Age?”). Insisting that “telltale signs are everywhere,” as expected, one of the culprits responsible for the threat was identified as man, since “dust and other particles released into the atmosphere as a result of farming and fuel burning may be blocking more and more sunlight from reaching and heating the surface of the earth” (“Another Ice Age?”). The 1974 article concluded: “Whatever the cause of the cooling trend, its effects could be extremely serious, if not catastrophic. Scientists figure that only a 1% decrease in the amount of sunlight hitting the earth’s surface could tip the climate balance, and cool the planet enough to send it sliding down the road to another ice age within only a few hundred years” (“Another Ice Age?,” emp. added). So which is it? Ice age or global warming? Since yesterday’s science is today’s superstition, how wary ought we to be regarding the bold claims of today’s “science”?
Nature vs. ItselfThe absurdity of the environmentalists’ claim—that humans are harsh and insensitive in their treatment of the environment—becomes especially apparent, even whimsical, when one simply observes nature’s treatment of itself. For example, the Katmai National Park is home to the world’s largest grizzly bears, commonly referred to as Alaskan Brown Bears. Because of their rich salmon diet, these bears grow to over 1,000 pounds in weight, making them the world’s largest land predators. Philip Greenspun gave the following eyewitness report of the bears’ eating ritual in the Brooks River:
Dominant bears occupy prime positions on top of the part of the falls where salmon jump every few seconds. When the salmon are running well, every five minutes a bear will catch a fish in his teeth and hold it firmly enough that blood begins to flow as the fish flops around. If there are plenty of salmon, the bear goes after only the fatty skin, brain, and roe, removing these parts during a gruesome minute or so. The salmon may remain alive for much or all of its consumption. Why do you think they call them animals? (1993).Notice the carnage, the waste, the brutality, the selfish competition between bears, and the flagrant insensitivity to both the salmon and the environment. But this one example is typical of the phenomena inherent throughout the animal kingdom.
The planet, itself, is equally destructive. The largest volcanic eruption in recorded history occurred in 1815 in Tambora, Indonesia, killing an estimated 92,000 people, thousands of species of wildlife, and spewing (as far as 800 miles) 150 times more ash than the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens (“Tambora, Sumbawa...,” n.d.). Hot, pyroclastic flows poured into the ocean, scalding sea life and causing additional explosions. Man and animal suffered cataclysmic devastation—due to starvation, disease, and hunger—earning the designation the “Year without a Summer.” Daily minimum temperatures were abnormally low in the Northern Hemisphere from late spring to early autumn. Famine was widespread because of crop failures (“Tambora, Sumbawa...”). The renowned volcano Krakatau (frequently misstated as Krakatoa) caused more than 36,000 fatalities, as devastating tsunamis inundated the coastlines of Sumatra and Java (“Krakatau, Sunda...,” n.d.). These are only two of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of volcanic eruptions that have unleashed massive environmental destruction through the centuries.
Consider the damage inflicted on the environment by the earthquake that killed 830,000 people in Shensi, China in 1556 (“Most Destructive Known...,” 2007). Only three years ago (December 26, 2004) the earthquake that generated the great Indian Ocean tsunami is estimated to have released the energy of 23,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs (“The Deadliest Tsunami...?,” 2005). More than a quarter million people were killed and millions more in 11 countries were displaced from their homes in South Asia and East Africa (“Most Destructive Known...”). The violent movement of sections of the Earth’s crust (the tectonic plates) created a rupture which the U.S. Geological Survey estimates was more than 600 miles long, displacing the seafloor above the rupture by perhaps 10 yards horizontally and several yards vertically. The displacement of such an enormous amount of water sent powerful shock waves in every direction, moving trillions of tons of rock along hundreds of miles, causing the planet to shudder, destroying thousands of miles of coastline and submerging entire islands permanently (“The Deadliest Tsunami...?,” 2005). Here was catastrophic environmental damage to plant, animal, marine, and human life.
The natural positioning of the Huang He (Yellow) River in China has caused it to overflow its banks many times in history, resulting in massive environmental damage (“The World’s Worst Floods,” n.d.). The human death toll of one such occurrence in 1931 was estimated to be from 1 to 3.7 million. Another in 1887 killed between 900,000 and two million (“The World’s Worst Floods”). The impact on plant and animal life was enormous. Hurricanes are no less destructive to the environment. On November 13, 1970, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) experienced the deadliest hurricane on record, flooding low lying areas and killing at least half a million people—with some estimates rising as high as one million (“The Ten Worst...,” n.d.).
On March 18, 1925, the deadliest tornado in U.S. history began in southeastern Missouri, crossed through southern Illinois, and then turned into southwestern Indiana, killing 625 people and injuring more than 2,000 others. Property damage was assessed at $16.5 million—$1.7 billion in today’s dollars. The tornado left a 219 mile track—the longest ever recorded (“The Deadliest U.S...,” n.d.). Once again, havoc was wreaked on plant and animal life.
Volcanoes, hurricanes, tornados, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis—the list goes on and on. The powerful energy, awesome force, and mind-boggling destruction that nature has inflicted on itself and Earth’s inhabitants has been ongoing—a perpetual pattern of catastrophe. Yet, as God planned, life goes on—until the day He decides to call the human population to account before His judgment seat.
Humans vs. NatureHave humans tampered with nature and caused unnecessary harm to the environment? Certainly. Instances are legion. In 1876, the introduction of Kudzu, a fast-growing vine from Japan, ultimately led to the destruction of valuable forests by blocking sunlight from trees. The vine, which can grow 60 feet each year, and has blanketed the South, is virtually impervious to herbicides. Yet, many positive benefits have emerged, including remarkable soil erosion control, a nutritious food source for Angora goats, the creation of products such as baskets, paper, jelly, syrup, and hay bales, and even progress on the development of new medicines (see “The Amazing Story...,” 2002). In 1859, Thomas Austin brought 24 rabbits from England to Australia, where they multiplied uncontrollably, causing considerable ecological ramifications (see Kellett, 2006; “Environmental Damage...,” 2001). Many other non-native plants and animals have been introduced into non-indigenous habitats, with a variety of consequences (see “Non-Native Species,” 2002).
No one knows how many plant and animal species have gone extinct since the beginning of Creation. No doubt, the number would be staggering. The obliteration of the dinosaur population alone would account for the eradication of large numbers. It is estimated that, just in the past 2,000 years, more than a hundred kinds of birds and more than a hundred kinds of mammals have disappeared from the Earth (see “Extinct and Near-Extinct...,” 1966). Included are the Dodo Bird of the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, the Tasmanian Tiger Wolf of mainland Australia, and New Zealand’s giant, flightless bird, the Moa (see “Endangered Species,” 2003; “Extinct Animals,” 2001). These estimates do not include the extinction of species of reptiles, fish, and insects. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintains the Threatened and Endangered Species System (TESS) for both plants and animals. Presently, within the United States alone, 388 animal species and 598 plant species are listed as “endangered” (see “Threatened...,” 2003). While humans sometimes are blamed for causing certain species to diminish, no one knows in every case of animal or plant extinction whether humans or nature’s own agents were responsible. One fact is clear: the extinction of plants and animals through the centuries has not upset the realm of nature and the environment to the extent that the human race has been endangered or threatened with extinction itself—we’re still here! (Interestingly, many new species of both plants and animals have come into existence by humans implementing ingenious breeding procedures.)
On March 24, 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, spilling an estimated 11 million gallons of oil, which impacted 1,300 miles of shoreline. Exxon claims to have spent $2.1 billion on a cleanup effort that included 10,000 workers, about 1,000 boats, and 100 airplanes and helicopters. Though the reparative response to the crisis was massive, entailing exorbitant expenditures, “many believe that wave action from winter storms did more to clean the beaches than all of the human effort involved” (see “Frequently Asked Questions...,” n.d.). In fact, human efforts had to be adjusted when it was determined that spraying hot water on the oil-laden beaches using high-pressure hoses was cooking bacteria and other microscopic organisms, killing both plants and animals, thereby slowing the recovery that might otherwise have been achieved by nature itself (see Piper, 1993, pp. 61ff.). In 1992, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) studied the diffusion of the oil and concluded that “the great majority of the oil either evaporated, dispersed into the water column or degraded naturally” (“Lingering...,” 2003). In fact, years ago the National Marine Fisheries Services reported that “the vast majority of the spill area now appears to have recovered” (“NMFS Office...,” 2002). Though touted by environmentalists at the time as an ecological disaster of catastrophic proportions, the Valdez spill does not even rank in the top 50 internationally.
Similarly, the release of oil into the Pacific Ocean by damaged and sunken battleships and aircraft carriers during the great naval battles of World War II was considerable. Nazi U-boats disrupted Allied activities in the Atlantic Ocean by sinking large numbers of tankers and supply ships, causing large quantities of oil and hazardous substances to be spilled, creating slicks and coating Caribbean beaches. No cleanup crews, with their hard hats and bright yellow HAZMAT suits blasting coastlines with high-pressure hoses and detergent guns, were mobilized to rectify the mess. Yet the Caribbean beaches today essentially are pristine. What happened to all that oil—with no environmentalists to come to the rescue?
The Earth is not “fragile” when it comes to human interference. Humans cannot destroy the Earth (let alone the Universe). Humans cannot eliminate the ozone layer. Humans cannot cause permanent, life-threatening global warming. Human ability to pollute, contaminate, and destroy the environment cannot begin to compare with the destructive forces of nature itself: volcanoes, tornados, hurricanes, drought, typhoons, earthquakes, and floods. The 1991 volcanic eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines introduced 20 to 30 megatons of sulfur dioxide and aerosols into the Earth’s atmosphere, with those materials completely encircling the Earth in some three months (Sagan, 1997, p. 107). Satellite data collected indicated that, as a result, “the ozone levels had depleted by about 15 percent” (Rickman, 1997). In fact, as a direct result of the large amounts of stratospheric sulfate particles from the Mount Pinatubo eruption, “record low global ozone levels were recorded in 1992 and 1993” (“Environmental Indicators...,” n.d., emp. added). NASA concluded: “Stratospheric aerosols such as those produced by major volcanic eruptions are thought to be important catalysts in the chemical processes leading to the observed ozone losses” (“NASA’s Ozone Studies,” n.d.; cf. “Incomplete Recovery...,” 2006). Humans cannot begin to compete with nature’s impact on itself. We have an inflated sense of our own importance if we think that we determine whether the world goes on after we are gone.
The Ultimate Environmental DamageThe evidence indicates that God, Himself, has inflicted vengeance upon wicked civilizations in the past—to the point of wreaking complete destruction and devastation on the land itself. The reader is urged to read the following passages from the Bible: Genesis 13:10; 19:24-25; Deuteronomy 29:22-24; Psalm 107:33-34; Isaiah 34:8-15; Jeremiah 19:8; Ezekiel 30:7; Zephaniah 2:13-14. God has not chosen to reveal to us all of His dealings with the civilizations of history. We likely would know nothing about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah if Abraham’s nephew had not moved there (Genesis 13:12; 19). Could humans possibly inflict as much damage on the Earth as God did when He flooded the entire planet to a depth higher than the highest mountains of that day (Genesis 7:19-20)? The history of humanity and planet Earth has been one of catastrophism—not evolutionary uniformitarianism or gradualism. Yet the Earth is still here, the environment is intact, and life continues!
Make no mistake. The Bible certainly teaches the principle of stewardship and wisdom in the use of resources allotted by God (Matthew 25:14-30; 1 Corinthians 4:2). God, Himself, provides care for His nonhuman creatures (Job 38:41; Psalm 147:9; Matthew 10:29). He included animals in His injunction to the Israelites to rest one day per week (Exodus 20:10; cf. Leviticus 22:27-28; Deuteronomy 22:6-7,10). He instructed the Israelites to allow their farmland to lie uncultivated every seventh year (Leviticus 25:1-7). We ought not to be wasteful, greedy, cruel, or reckless in our handling of Earth’s resources. However, from a biblical perspective, the environment must not take precedence or preference over humans. A balanced and proper perspective realizes that the environment is purely physical and temporary. Plants, animals, air, water, and the rest of “mother nature” are not human, and are not to be regarded as such. Animals, like the rest of the created order, render divinely mandated services to humans as sources of food and clothing, as well as transportation and other work-related performance (e.g., Genesis 3:21; Proverbs 26:3; Mark 1:6; 11:7; 1 Timothy 4:3-5).
People who think that humans are the enemies of Earth, and invariably destructive to the environment, who think that animals deserve to be protected and preserved more than people, who think that humans are above other life forms due to an unfortunate Darwinian accident—since humans are carnivorous, wasteful, and harmful to the lesser species—have an incorrect view of reality and a devalued view of human life. They feel that humans possess no inherent value and worth that surpasses the rest of the created order (cf. Matthew 10:31; Luke 12:24). But this passion to preserve the Earth and animal life is essentially the same idolatry that has plagued humanity throughout most of history. In fact, this propensity sounds distinctly familiar in light of Paul’s summary of the long-standing human rejection of the Creator:
Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds, and four-footed beasts and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 1:22-25, emp. added).Our nation’s forefathers—and most Americans until about 50 years ago—would be shocked and appalled that right now in America, billions of dollars are being spent frivolously serving the creature!
Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me! Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, who set its measurements, since you know?.... You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!.... Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it.... Then I will also confess to you, that your own right hand can save you (Job 38:2-5,21; 40:2,14, emp. added).If there is no God and evolution is true, then humans are no more valuable than rocks, cockroaches—and, yes, cows. So if we really want to get serious about saving the planet, simply kill all the cows, crops, kids, and adults. When humans eliminate God from their thinking and jettison the biblical worldview, insanity begins to sound sensible. There’s the real “inconvenient truth.”
The vast majority of the decline of the environment that we see is due to the normal operations of the laws of thermodynamics which mandate depletion, breakdown, dissolution, and the ultimate demise of the Earth and the Universe (see Miller, 2007, 27:25-31). That is how God set it up! The material, physical realm was intended to be temporary—by divine design. Quoting the psalmist, the writer of Hebrews explained:
You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; and they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will fold them up (1:10-12, emp. added).In the meantime, God will see to it that our environment remains intact until it has served the purpose for which He created it. Then, He Himself, will bring not only the Earth, but the entire Universe, to its grand and climactic conclusion by means of cosmic meltdown and dissolution (2 Peter 3:7,10-12). Rather than devoting one’s energies and resources to preserving the temporal environment and saving “Mother Earth,” we would do better to devote ourselves to saving our souls by cultivating the necessary spiritual attributes for eternal life with God: “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth [i.e., the non-physical realm of heaven—DM] in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).
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