"THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS" The Ministry Of Reconciliation (5:18-21) INTRODUCTION 1. An important concept fundamental to the gospel of Christ is that of "reconciliation" 2. In 2Co 5:18-21, Paul expounds upon this subject... a. He discusses how there is some sort of reconciliation between God and man b. He describes the role he played in what he calls the "ministry" of reconciliation 3. There are a couple of questions I would like to address in this lesson... a. Exactly what is the nature of the reconciliation between God and man? b. What roles might we play in the gospel of Christ as the "ministry of reconciliation"? [It is important that we first properly understand the meaning of "reconciliation" and its concept as it relates to God and man...] I. THE PROCESS OF RECONCILIATION A. DEFINING RECONCILIATION... 1. Vine's definition of "reconcile" (Grk., katallasso)... a. "It properly denotes to change, exchange (esp. of money)" b. "Hence, of persons, to change from enmity to friendship, to reconcile" 2. He goes on to add: "With regard to the relationship between God and man, the use of this and connected words show that primarily reconciliation is what GOD (emphasis mine, MAC) accomplishes..." a. I.e., there is enmity between God and man (because of man's sin, cf. Isa 59:1-2) b. Yet the gospel proclaims how GOD has taken the initiative to reconcile man back to Himself 3. We should note this fine distinction: a. God is not reconciled to man, as though God were partly to blame for the enmity b. Rather, man is reconciled to God, for it is man who moved away from God! 4. Thus the reconciliation between man and God is slightly different, though the difference is important! a. When people need to be reconciled to one another, it normally involves a situation where fault lies on both sides to some degree b. Not so with the case between man and God; man has moved away from God, and it is man who needs to be reconciled back to God, not God back to man! B. HOW RECONCILIATION IS MADE POSSIBLE... 1. It is possible because of the initiatives that GOD took first! 2. It is possible through Jesus Christ, in particular by His death for our sins! a. Note these verses that teach reconciliation comes through Jesus - 2Co 5:18; Col 1:19-20a b. Note these verses that teach reconciliation comes through Jesus' death on the cross - 2Co 5:19,21; Ro 5:10; Col 1: 20b-22 c. In other words... 1) God took Christ, who knew no sin, to represent our sin and to receive the punishment due for sin in His death on the cross 2) So that we, who were enemies, alienated from God by our sins, might be reconciled back to God! 3) And through Christ's death: a) We might become the righteousness of God in Him - 2Co 5:21a b) We might be holy, blameless and irreproachable in His sight, because our trespasses are not imputed to us - Col 1:22; 2Co 5:19; cf. Ro 4:6-8 3. Indeed, reconciliation is possible because God has offered Jesus as a "propitiation" for our sins! a. The word "propitiation" describes a sacrifice that is designed to appease for sins b. It was used to describe those sacrifices that Gentiles offered to their gods c. But in the NT, it is GOD who offers the "propitiation", not man! 1) Cf. 1Jn 2:1-2; 4:10 2) This illustrates the great love God has for us, and how far He has gone in trying to reconcile man back to Himself! [It is when we understand the meaning and process of "reconciliation" (along with "propitiation") that we begin to appreciate the wonderful extent of God's grace and His love for mankind. But God went beyond just sending His Son to die on the cross as a propitiation designed to reconcile man back to God; He has also developed...] II. THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION A. GOD SENT "AMBASSADORS"... 1. Note that Paul says God: a. "...has given to us the ministry of reconciliation" - 2Co 5:18b b. "...has committed to us the word of reconciliation" - 2Co 5:19b -- There is a ministry (service) in which the word of reconciliation is to be made known to others! 2. The apostles in particular had this "ministry"... a. The word apostle means "one sent" b. In a special way they were sent to serve as Christ's "ambassadors" to the world! - 2Co 5:20 3. Therefore, through the apostles...through their word... a. God is pleading with us... b. Christ is imploring us... ...be reconciled to God! - 2Co 5:20 -- Thus God's great love is manifest in the fact that He also sent ambassadors to tell the world what He has done to reconcile man back to Himself B. HIS "AMBASSADORS" TODAY... 1. The "ministry of reconciliation" continues today! a. For people are still lost in their sins b. And God still loves those who are lost 2. But who are God's "ambassadors" today? a. Who will take the "word of reconciliation" to others? b. Who along with God and Christ will plead and implore: "Be reconciled to God!"? 3. While there may not be "formal" ambassadors like the apostles were, Christ still has His ambassadors: a. The people of God, who proclaim His praises - 1Pe 2:9-10 b. Faithful individuals, who properly taught can teach others - 2Ti 2:2 c. In fact, ALL Christians should be involved in "the ministry of reconciliation"! 1) Some may "go", while others may "send" - Ro 10:14-15 2) Some may "teach", while others may "invite" - Jn 1:45-46 4. In whatever way we serve, we must remember that we play an important role in God's ministry of reconciliation today! CONCLUSION 1. How important is "reconciliation" and "the ministry of reconciliation"? a. If God is "pleading" and Christ is "imploring", then it must be very important! b. Indeed, the eternal destiny of one's soul depends upon whether he or she has been reconciled to God! 2. Does this not move us? a. First to be reconciled ourselves? b. And then to participate in the ministry of reconciliation for the sake of others? 3. A final thought: The fact that God "pleads" and Christ "implores" us to be reconciled tell us some things that are very important for us to realize... a. Reconciliation is not unconditional (we must respond!) b. Reconciliation is not universal (some will be lost!) Indeed, the grace and mercy of God offered in the death of His Son must not be received in vain! As Paul goes on to say: "We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain." (2Co 6:1) Only through an obedient faith can we be sure to receive God's grace, and have Jesus as the author of our eternal salvation! - cf. He 5:9 Have YOU been reconciled to God?
An Inspiring Glimpse into the Text of the Dead Sea Scrolls
|by||Thomas Tarpley, B.S.|
Thanks to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we are able, with greater confidence, to believe in the Bible, knowing beyond any doubt that it is authentic. The significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls, in relation to biblical studies, can be separated into different areas. In this article, I would like to examine specifically the matter of the Old Testament text. As we study that text, we find that, prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, witnesses of the Old Testament text and canon were confined mainly to the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible.
For many years, scholars doubted that extremely ancient manuscripts of the Old Testament would ever be found. Sir Frederick Kenyon, in the 1948 printing of Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, stated: “There is indeed, no probability that we shall ever find manuscripts of the Hebrew text going back to a period before the formation of the text which we know as Masoretic. We can only arrive at an idea of it by a study of the earliest translations made from it.…” Ironically, as his book was being printed, evidence that would invalidate such statements was being uncovered (see Pfeiffer, 1969).
Until the year 1947, the earliest manuscripts we possessed dated back to only around the tenth century A.D. These manuscripts composed what is known as the Masoretic Text, which was put into a fixed form in approximately A.D. 500. In the year 1947, a significant-yet-unexpected event occurred that would help document the authenticity of our present-day Bible. This special event took place in the northwestern corner of the Dead Sea, at a place known as Qumran. In a cave at Qumran, a young Bedouin boy accidentally stumbled upon a treasure trove of clay jars containing several ancient manuscripts—a find that proved to be one of the greatest discoveries of all time. These manuscripts take us back 1,000 years earlier than the Masoretic Text, to the first century B.C. The manuscripts, which are part of the Qumran library, are known collectively as the Dead Sea Scrolls. There are several lines of evidence that have put to rest the question of how old they are. This evidence was confirmed by paleography (the study and interpretations of ancient writings), orthography (the study of letters and their sequences in words), and archaeology.
Because these manuscripts have been proven to be so old, some initially questioned their quality (Geisler and Nix, 1986). Admittedly, there is indeed a scarcity of very ancient Hebrew manuscripts, due to the mere fact of how old and fragile, by necessity, they would be. Such documents would have to survive for two to three thousand years—a very long time considering the destructive nature of the elements (and man). Exactly how good, then, are the surviving manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls?
The quality of the Old Testament manuscripts from Qumran is actually very good, because there are relatively few variants in the texts. After the Masoretes copied manuscripts, they destroyed the old copies. The documents from which the Masoretes copied were handed down from two ancient sources. The first was the work of a man called Rabbi Akiba. He was a leader in the movement of biblical interpretation who, toward the end of establishing an official text, was assisted by a man named Aquila. This process of establishing an official text was completed in Palestine between the years A.D. 132-135, which was fairly close to the time the Qumran texts were written (Pfeiffer, 1969). The second source was the work of the sopherim. The term sopherim, as used in the second and third centuries, referred to the rabbis. In studying early rabbinical writings, we can see a clear picture of their work. While studying the text of Scripture that had been passed on to them, they attempted to “set” the pronunciation of certain words, and remove what they deemed insignificant pieces of the text. In the margins of the Scriptures, they made notes, indicating changes they felt should be made, and they placed points above letters or words that they thought were unneeded. Scholars are not always in agreement with the rabbis’ judgments, but the traditions they represent are helpful in the study of textual problems.
The Jews possessed a great reverence for the Bible, and as a result, they laid down numerous exact specifications for the process of copying the Scriptures. These specifications related to the kinds of skin that were to be used, the types of ink, the size of columns, the spacing of words, and the fact that nothing could be written from memory. There also was a ritual that had to be performed before they could write the name of God. The lines, and even the letters, were counted methodically. If a manuscript was found to contain even one mistake, it was systematically destroyed. This scribal formalism accounts for the extreme care in copying the Scriptures (Geisler and Nix, 1986).
In accordance with scribal formalism, the extreme care for the Scriptures was carried over to the Masoretes. The work that is associated with Akiba and the sopherim was placed into its final form by the Masoretes, whose work was completed about the tenth century. They strove diligently to preserve the text that had been handed down to them. The traditional pronunciation was indicated by a system of vowels and accents. Hebrew (along with other Semitic languages) is written with a consonantal alphabet. Numerous precautions were taken by the Masoretes to ensure the purity of the text, including such things as counting the verses, the words, and even the letters of the books of the Old Testament. The Masoretes recorded how often the same word appeared at the beginning, middle, or end of a verse. They also recorded the middle verse, middle word, and middle letter of each book. The corrections suggested by the sopherim were carefully noted in the margins, but the integrity of the text itself remained basically unaltered. We today owe a great debt to the Masoretes for their strictness and care in safeguarding the text of God’s Word so carefully for so many centuries.
Another line of evidence that supports the innate quality of the Qumran manuscripts is the duplication of passages within the Masoretic text itself. Several psalms occur more than once; much of Isaiah 36-39 is also found in 2 Kings 18-20; Isaiah 2:2-4 is parallel to Micah 4:1-3; Jeremiah 52 is a repeat of 2 Kings 25; and large parts of Chronicles are found in Samuel and Kings. When examined, these passages not only show textual agreement but, in many cases, there is word-for-word identity (see Geisler and Nix, 1986).
The nature of the Dead Sea Scrolls is crucial to the establishment and confirmation of the true text. Because the Dead Sea Scrolls contain countless fragments of every book in the Old Testament except for Esther, there are plenty of samples with which to make comparisons to the Masoretic Text. But why would we need to compare the Dead Sea Scrolls with the Masoretic Text? What would such a comparison reveal? The purpose in making such a comparison is to determine if the Dead Sea Scrolls are similar to the Masoretic Text, and if so, in what ways. The evidence of these comparisons actually ends up providing an overwhelming confirmation of the fidelity of the Masoretic Text. Millar Burrows, writing in his book, The Dead Sea Scrolls, concluded: “It is a matter of wonder that through something like a thousand years the text underwent so little alteration. As I said in my first article on the scroll, ‘Herein lies its chief importance, supporting the fidelity of the Masoretic tradition’ ” (1955, p. 304).
Other scholars have noted that the differences between the standard text of A.D. 900 and the text from 100 B.C. are extremely minor. Gleason Archer, in his work, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, observed that two copies of Isaiah from cave 1 of Qumran “proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95% of the text. The 5% of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling” (1974, p. 44). Further studies have supported the conclusion that the Dead Sea Scrolls are very similar to the Masoretic Text, which leads us to conclude that today’s Hebrew text faithfully represents the original as was written by the authors of the Old Testament.
There are other lines of evidence that I will not have the space to discuss in this brief article, such as support from archeology, the close parallel between the LXX and the Masoretic Text, and the agreement of the Qumran manuscripts with the Samaritan Pentateuch. As a result of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, scholars now have access to ancient Hebrew manuscripts that are 1,000 years older than the Masoretic Text manuscripts, which has enabled scholars to confirm the incredible accuracy of the Hebrew Text. In fact, a comparison of the standard Hebrew texts with that of the Dead Sea scrolls has revealed that the two are virtually identical. The variations (about 5%) occurred only in minor spelling differences and minute copyists’ mistakes. Thus, as Rene Paché noted: “Since it can be demonstrated that the text of the old Testament was accurately transmitted for the last 2,000 years, one may reasonably suppose that it had been so transmitted from the beginning” (1971, p. 191).
By way of conclusion, we may observe that all the thousands of Hebrew manuscripts (in whole or in part), with their confirmation by the LXX and the Samaritan Pentateuch, as well as the numerous cross references from without and within the text, give overwhelming evidence for the reliability of the Old Testament text. Therefore, it is safe to conclude, as did Sir Frederick Kenyon, that “the Christian can take the whole Bible in his hand and say without fear or hesitation that he holds in it the true word of God, handed down without essential loss from generation to generation throughout the centuries” (1948, p. 55).
Alexander, David and Pat Alexander, eds. (1973), Eerdmans’ Handbook to the Bible (Oxford, England: Lion Publishing).
Archer, Gleason (1974), Survey of Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody), revised edition.
Burrows, Millar (1958), The Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: Viking).
Geisler, Norman L. and William E. Nix (1986), A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Kenyon, Frederick (1948), Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts (New York: Harper).
Paché, Rene (1971), The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Pfeiffer, Charles F. (1969), The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Considering Our Cosmic Home: Reflections from the 2012 Venus Transit
|by||Branyon May, Ph.D.|
|Time lapse image of the|
2012 Venus transit
Recently, humanity was treated to a rare event in the heavens; from our vantage point on Earth we were able to see the transit of the planet, Venus, across the visible disk of the Sun. A planetary transit is analogous to an eclipse, because it involves one object passing through the line of sight between two other objects. Similar to a solar eclipse, especially a partial solar eclipse, where the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun and blocks a portion of the Sun’s light, a transit of Venus occurs when Venus passes between Earth and the Sun blocking our view of a region of the Sun’s disk. Since this type of event requires a very precise alignment of the Sun, Venus, and Earth, it is quite rare. Although the previous alignment occurred only 8 years ago, in 2004, you have to look back historically to 1882 to find the next previous alignment, and looking to the future it will not be until the year 2117 before the alignment happens again (Espenak, 2012). Thus, in all likelihood, being 105 years in the future, there will be no one alive in 2117 who saw or was old enough to remember this year’s transit of Venus. (For those who may have missed seeing any of the event or press coverage, see the links at the end of the article for more images and videos.) At this point, let’s pause and contemplate some unique considerations this recent transit event offers.
Astronomically, the Sun and Venus are the brightest and third brightest celestial objects in Earth’s skies (the Moon being second), and historically are two of the most studied celestial objects. Ancient records dating back to the Babylonian civilization around 3000 B.C., reference this bright celestial object, and other civilizations such as the Chinese, Egyptian, and Greek civilizations include observations and cultural lore about Venus. Interestingly, historical references sometimes called Venus the “morning star” or “evening star,” and specifically the ancient Greeks called Venus by two names (Phosphorus and Hesperus) supposing it to be two different objects (Squyres, 2012). The two-object idea isn’t completely unreasonable, since for a portion of our year Venus precedes the Sun in the sky and for the other portion of the year it seems to follow the Sun across the sky. In fact, Venus is never more than about 48 degrees from the Sun in the sky (termed its greatest elongation, and is due to its orbit being inside Earth’s orbit). In fact, 2 Peter 1:19 makes reference to the “day star,” which is translated from the Greek word for phosphorus.
Commonly called “Earth’s Twin” or our “Sister Planet,” Venus is not only the planet that travels in its orbit closest to Earth’s orbit, but has such nicknames because it is nearly identical in size and mass. (Actually, the time of the transit of Venus represents the period of time for closest approach to Earth). When we consider this comparison it brings to mind the question, “What would an Earth transit event look like?” If we were to step outside of our own orbit and align ourselves looking back toward Earth, similar to the alignment we have seen with Venus and the Sun, then based on the similarity between Earth and Venus we actually have our answer. An Earth transit would basically provide the same stunning sight—a single distinguished planet, a fraction the size of the Sun, slowly crossing the wide, intensely bright solar landscape. Earth, too, is more than 100 times smaller in diameter than the Sun and approximately one million times smaller by volume. Therefore, this rare event of Venus’ transit affords us an interesting self-reflection to consider our own planet’s size, scale, design, and place in the Solar System.
Consider: as we watched Venus traverse the Sun’s disk, we were watching Earth’s closest planetary neighbor pass in front of Earth’s nearest stellar companion. Likely the most obvious observation from this event was the size comparison. Venus’s dark silhouette against the Sun’s surface portrayed such a small planet, but the truth is that the actual physical size comparison is even more extreme than what was observed. At the time of the 2012 transit, Venus’s angular diameter was approximately 58 arcseconds while the Sun’s was approximately 1,890 arcseconds, a factor of 32.6 times greater (Odenwald, 2012). However, since Venus was much closer to Earth than the Sun it appeared larger than if it had been at equal distance. This fact means the size of the Sun versus Venus is even more dramatic than the transit view appeared. In actuality the Sun is greater than 100 times the diameter of Venus and greater than one million times the volume, providing a perspective for the true scale of our Solar System. Sometimes the statement is made, “The Universe just has too much wasted space to be the result of an intelligent creator” (see Miller, 2003 for an article addressing that subject). However, this incredible scale of size and distance within our Solar System illustrates (1) the infinite nature of the Creator, and (2) an important aspect to God’s design for our life-sustaining planet. The following considerations should help illuminate some of the usefulness and purpose for the scales we see.
How does Earth compare to our nearest planetary companion? Although Venus and Earth are approximately equal in size and mass, Venus is an interesting case study in planetary characteristics, since in actuality, it is extremely different from Earth in most ways. From a distance we first notice that Venus is enshrouded in a thick atmosphere of clouds. This atmosphere is far thicker than Earth’s, mostly composed of carbon dioxide (CO2), and has an atmospheric surface pressure 90 times greater. To experience an equal amount of pressure on Earth you would have to travel nearly one kilometer below the surface of the ocean (“Venus,” 2012). Venus’s carbon dioxide dominated atmosphere, along with solar irradiance being double that of Earth’s (caused by its closer proximity to the Sun), results in Venus having the hottest average surface temperature in the entire solar system, over 860 degrees Fahrenheit (464 degrees Celsius). Such an incredible temperature means liquid water is not present on its surface, compared to more than 70% coverage on Earth’s surface, and incredibly, even metals such as lead and zinc would melt on its surface (Bentor, 2010). Another major contrast between the two planets is the presence of a strong magnetic field. Earth’s rather fast rotation is thought to drive a dynamo effect that maintains a steady and sufficiently strong field to provide a finely tuned cocoon of protection from the dangerous streams of charged particles flowing from the Sun through the inner Solar System. By contrast, Venus has an extremely slow rotation, which causes its day to be longer than its year, and lacks any magnetic field and associated protection from the solar wind. When we consider our “Sister Planet,” we find that it is not a “Twin” where we would want to or could live. These observations lead to the simple acknowledgement that Earth’s position in the Solar System is well-tuned and finely designed for life to thrive. The Earth shows itself to differ from all other planets in that it possesses all the necessary constituent elements to make it suitable for human life.
Observations of Venus have been linked to prominent times in history and have served to mark events and history, as many major celestial observations and events have. Examples of such help to illustrate just how important the view of our Universe is, and how the created purpose specified in Genesis has been demonstrated: “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years” (1:14). The consistent, unwavering behavior of the motion of the planets—behavior which allows scientists to predict precisely when Venus will transit in this way again decades in the future—is not a characteristic that would result from randomness, mindlessness, and accidental processes as evolutionary theories suppose. Rather, such behavior points to the existence of laws governing the Universe and its planets—laws which could not have written themselves, but rather, were written by the Great Lawmaker of the Universe (Job 38:33).
1) NASA video:
2) National Geographic Images: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/06/pictures/120606-venus-transit-2012-pictures-sun-planet-nasa-space-science/#/venus-transit-pictures-2012-sdo-yellow_54600_600x450.jpg
3) NASA Image of the Day Gallery: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_2271.html
4) Sky and Telescope viewing from around the globe: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/home/2012-Venus-Transit-ST-Reports-157500315.html
Bentor, Yinon (2010), “Periodic Table: Melting Point,” Chemical Elements, http://www.chemicalelements.com/show/meltingpoint.html.
Espenak, Fred (2012), “Six Millennium Catalog of Venus Transits: 2000 BCE to 4000 CE,” NASA Eclipse Web Site, http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/transit/catalog/VenusCatalog.html.
Miller, Dave (2003), “The Universe—A ‘Waste of Space’?” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=1207.
Odenwald, Sten (2012), “The Cultural Impact of the Transit of Venus,” 2012 Transit of Venus—Sun-Earth Day: Shadows of the Sun, http://venustransit.nasa.gov/2012/articles/ttt_76.php.
Squyres, Steven W. (2012), “Venus,” History.com, http://www.history.com/topics/planet-venus.
“Venus” (2012), Nine Planets, http://nineplanets.org/venus.html.
The Passing Pleasures of Sin
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
“But, honestly now, how can we possibly expect married people who are living in adultery to break up their marriage?” This is a question over which every sincere student of God’s Word has agonized. When we consider the tears, the heartache, the children, the finances, the physical and emotional trauma—we cannot help but wish it could be otherwise! Surely,God does not expect adulterous marriages to be dissolved!
But then we reconsider the biblical perspective. We find that, more often than not, living righteously before God entails tremendous hardship and deprivation. We find that the peace, joy, and genuine happiness that characterizes the Christian life is achieved through (i.e., in the midst of) suffering—not through an absence of hardship. Remember Moses (Hebrews 11:23-27)? Moses literally grew up in Pharaoh’s own household. Imagine the tender affection which he received at the hands of Pharaoh’s daughter. She literally “nurtured him as her own son” (Acts 7:21, NASB). Imagine the deep emotional and psychological bonds that were formed between Moses and his adopted family! Imagine the intellectual influence exerted on Moses’ mind, since his educational basis was derived via the Egyptian world view (Acts 7:22). Visualize the irresistible attraction and allurement of the riches and power that were his. For 40 long years, Moses sank the roots of his very being deeper and deeper into a maze of human relationships and strong emotional ties.
But in God’s sight, this relationship could not last. When Moses realized this, he was forced to amputate the ties of a strong physical, psychological, and emotional relationship in deference to an obedient relationship with God. His choice to forego momentary pleasures meant hardship, suffering and ill-treatment (Hebrews 11:25). Listen to the inspired writer: “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:24-25, emp. added).
We, too, must come face to face with the same dilemma. It may be the decision to subdue an insatiable desire for alcohol; it may involve the severance of a financially productive business relationship; and yes, it may entail foregoing a marital relationship. In short, living the Christian life may mean the radical and total disruption of social and family existence (study carefully Matthew 10:34-36; Luke 12:51-53).
The real tragedy is, most are unwilling to make such essential decisions. The sacrifices are simply too great. In Moses’ case, he considered “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11:26). Each of us must decide. Are we willing to launch out and take the necessary steps to please God?
Jesus—Rose of Sharon
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
The song leader stands before the congregation and announces the number of the next hymn he wants the audience to sing. As you turn the pages, you quickly realize that the song is a familiar old favorite—“Jesus, Rose of Sharon.” But if you are anything like most of the people who sing this song, you probably do not know what the term “rose of Sharon” means. So, what does it mean?
This may come as something of a shock, but the term is used only once in the entire Bible, and in that instance it does not refer to Jesus. In Song of Solomon 2:1, Solomon’s beloved Shulamite bride referred to herself as the “rose of Sharon.” From her description, we can conclude that it is a complimentary term intended to express a certain beauty that the people of Solomon’s day would have recognized.
The word “Sharon” (sometimes spelled Saron) means a level place or plain. The Bible uses the term to describe one of the largest valley plains in all of Palestine. The term is found in numerous verses, including Acts 9:35, 1 Chronicles 5:16, and 1 Chronicles 27:29. If you were to examine a map of Palestine (the maps in the backs of most Bibles should suffice), you could locate this valley by finding the city of Joppa on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Joppa, and the Aijalon section to its southwest, were the approximate southern borders of the valley. It extended west from the Mediterranean Sea for about 10-15 miles, and north for about 30 miles. Topographical maps distinctly show this region to be a low valley bordered by higher mountains.
From all indications, the Sharon valley was a wild, fertile plain that was the home to a host of beautiful flowers. Isaiah 35:2 lists Sharon in a context discussing blooming vegetation, and describes the valley as “excellent” (NKJV). Sharon was renowned for its majesty and beauty. But what about its “rose”?
A true rose, like the one sweethearts exchange on Valentine’s Day, probably is not a good candidate for the flower described as the “rose of Sharon,” the primary reason being that these flowers are uncommon in Palestine. In fact, although no one can say for certain which flower is the actual “rose of Sharon,” many scholars think the best guess is the cistus or rock-rose. The cistus blooms in various parts of Palestine, and is well known for its soothing aroma and pain-relieving qualities.
When and why the title “Rose of Sharon” was given to Jesus is rather vague. But at least two reasons as to why it might have been assigned to our Lord seem fairly clear. First, Jesus Christ is the pinnacle of beauty and splendor. Of course, His earthly body could not boast of such attributes (Isaiah 53:2), but His spiritual beauty and majesty remain unsurpassed by any created being in Heaven or on Earth (2 Peter 1:16). Second, Christ’s healing powers and pain-relieving actions find a definite point of comparison with those of the rock-rose. Is it any wonder that the “Great Physician,” Who came to heal those who were physically ill as well as those who were spiritually sick, should be given the name of a flower known for its sweet aroma and soothing medicinal qualities?
Although the Holy Spirit never chose to inspire the Bible writers to refer to Jesus as the “Rose of Sharon,” it nevertheless is a name we can employ to speak of the majesty, beauty, and healing power of our Lord.
A Response to the 21st Century Science Coalition Standards of Science Education by Joe Deweese, Ph.D. Will Brooks, Ph.D.
A Response to the 21st Century Science Coalition Standards of Science Education
|by||Joe Deweese, Ph.D.|
Will Brooks, Ph.D.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article was written by two A.P. auxiliary staff scientists. Dr. Brooks holds a Ph.D. in Cell Biology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Deweese holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Vanderbilt University.]
Lines have been drawn and sides have been taken in Texas as scientists and educators battle with one another over whether the weaknesses in evolutionary theory should be taught in the public school system. Since 1998, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) curriculum for the sciences has remained unchanged. Now, 11 years later, revisions and updates are being made regarding many points within this curriculum, including how evolutionary biology should be taught in the public school system. The 1998 TEKS for high school reads:
The student knows the theory of biological evolution. The student is expected to: (A) identify evidence of change in species using fossils, DNA sequences, anatomical similarities, physiological similarities, and embryology; and (B) illustrate the results of natural selection in speciation, diversity, phylogeny, adaptation, behavior, and extinction (“Comparison of Current...,” 2009).
A few points can quickly be drawn from this excerpt. First, the opening sentence states that students are expected to know the theory of evolution. It does not state or even directly imply that evolution is the single true explanation for the origin of life. Second, nowhere in the statement or the remainder of the 1998 TEKS are students indoctrinated with the idea that evolution is scientific law; although, students are still expected to recognize that similarities among different species are evidence of change rather than a common creator. For 11 years, the above standard for biological education has guided middle and high school teachers in their pursuit to educate young minds. But now, evolutionists have made dramatic pushes to change what was once taught as an alleged explanation for life into nothing short of fact.
In support of the proposed changes to TEKS, the 21st Century Science Coalition has formulated five principles that they believe must be adopted into the Texas science curriculum. The Coalition’s Web site reads: “We will not allow politics and ideology to handicap the future of our children with a 19th-century education in their 21st-century classroom” (“Welcome,” 2009). The five principles are:
Scientifically sound curriculum standards must:
- acknowledge that instruction on evolution is vital to understanding all the biological sciences;
- make clear that evolution is an easily observable phenomenon that has been documented beyond any reasonable doubt;
- be based on the latest, peer-reviewed scholarship;
- encourage valid critical thinking and scientific reasoning by leaving out all references to ‘strengths and weaknesses,’ which politicians have used to introduce supernatural explanations into science courses; and
- recognize that all students are best served when matters of faith are left to families and houses of worship (“Scientist Statement,” 2009, emp. added).
As of the writing of this article, over 600 men and women who currently hold faculty positions at Texas colleges and universities have signed a petition in favor of implementing these standards into Texas public school curricula. The signers include faculty members from several universities affiliated in some way with Christianity, including Baylor, Texas Christian, and Abilene Christian, among others. By signing the petition, these men and women are indicating a personal conviction that evolution is essentially scientific law and believe it should be taught as fact to middle and high school students. Further, they intend to remove from the classroom any and all references to the weaknesses of the evolutionary hypothesis. In effect, this petition and its signers are attempting to force onto unsuspecting youths an unproven idea as pure, clear fact.
The principles endorsed by the Coalition manifest several flaws. First, the Coalition claimed that “evolution is vital to understanding all the biological sciences” (“Scientist Statement”). This echoes the modern push for evolutionary thought to permeate all areas of science. By interpreting all things in terms of an evolutionary history, the influence of evolution becomes widespread—particularly in the biological sciences. However, there is nothing about biological science that requires macroevolutionary explanations (see discussion of macroevolution below). In fact, science can be taught without invoking macroevolution—despite what we are bullied into thinking. The biochemical, structural, developmental, and functional similarities between organisms can be explained in terms of a common Designer without the need for common descent. Both authors acknowledge that their own research in biochemistry and molecular biology is conducted without consideration of macroevolution with absolutely no detriment to its quality or its conclusions. So, biology can be understood—even researched—without requiring a context of Darwinian macroevolution. In fact, postulating common design by a Designer is a more effective working model than assuming biological structures are the result of accidental, random processes.
Second, the Coalition wants to “make clear that evolution is an easily observable phenomenon that has been documented beyond any reasonable doubt” (“Scientist Statement”). This is a very misleading statement. By using the common term “evolution,” the authors avoid clearly defining what the “easily observable phenomena” are and claim the evidence is “beyond any reasonable doubt.” (Of course, the implication is that if you doubt it—you obviously are not reasonable). This is a frequent tactic of those who would like us to assume that “all” evolution is the same.
Interestingly, the Coalition did not acknowledge the difference between microevolution (changes at or below species level using existing genetic information) and macroevolution (large-scale changes requiring new genetic information, taking place over long periods of time) in their statement. Some claim that creationists invented these terms, but they are commonly used in the scientific literature and textbooks (e.g., Erwin, 2000; Starr, 2006). While microevolution is an “easily observable phenomenon” and well documented, macroevolution is not. The term “evolution” is routinely used to refer to the combination of the two processes, and this quickly leads to misunderstanding, because while microevolution is clearly documented, the same cannot be said for macroevolution. It has been assumed by some evolutionists that the mechanisms responsible for microevolution could account for macroevolution given enough time (e.g., Erwin, 2000). However, there is much disagreement on this point. The development of new organisms requires more than changes in existing genetic information—it requires the generation of new information altogether in order to form new organs and body structures. There is no known mechanism for the spontaneous generation of new information. [NOTE: There are mutagenic processes which result in random insertions, deletions, duplications, and rearrangements. But these undirected events are typically deleterious and always insufficient for generating the information needed for macroevolution.] The situation is far more complex than the Coalition’s second statement implies.
Third, there is no argument about whether education should be based on peer-reviewed scholarship. However, there probably would be disagreement over the definition of “scholarship.” The modern “peer-review” process is not without bias. Searches of manuscript databases display a marked bias against questioning Neo-Darwinism. We completely agree that students should be kept current on the latest science, but we must remember that teaching biological science is distinct from teaching about evolution.
Fourth, the Coalition wants to change a statement in the 1998 TEKS standards calling for students in science to “analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information,” to “analyze and evaluate scientific explanations using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing” (“Comparison of Current...,” 2009, emp. added). It is argued that language mentioning “strengths and weaknesses” can be used to “introduce supernatural explanations” (“Scientist Statement”). It is interesting that this change is intended to “encourage valid critical thinking and scientific reasoning.” So, are we to assume that valid critical thinking excludes taking account of the strengths and weaknesses of a given theory or hypothesis? In our scientific training as graduate students in the biological sciences, we were routinely encouraged to be skeptical and to question existing ideas and conclusions. This proposed change does not reflect the type of critical thinking we expect of graduate students. Why is the Coalition afraid of leaving theories open to question?
Fifth, the Coalition’s effort to ban all religious ideas from the classroom is actually a veiled attempt to dismiss the possibility of a Creator as a rational explanation of life and to keep students from analyzing the faults of evolutionary theory. Their desire to teach children that life originated via evolution goes beyond science into the realm of subjective beliefs—beliefs that cannot be tested or validated scientifically. We are told, “science must be taught in a science class”—which is precisely what those of us who believe in the Creator do—we teach science in our science classrooms. The fact is that the Universe and even life must have had a Cause and cannot be explained by “natural” means.
What effect would these proposed standards have on education? Young minds are very pliable. When scientists holding Ph.D.s in biology claim certain theories as fact, young minds are very likely to believe that those theories are, indeed, fact. And, why shouldn’t they? When the most educated, best-trained men and women speak, many teenagers cannot but listen and assume truth is being conveyed. The problem with making unsubstantiated statements (such as “evolution...has been documented beyond any reasonable doubt”) is that such statements inherently exclude alternate explanations for the origin of life. The Coalition conveniently ignores the fact that hundreds of credentialed scientists are skeptical of evolution. Proponents of evolutionary theory have bullied their explanation for life’s origin into education to the exclusion of all other explanations. They use propaganda techniques to indoctrinate young minds early in order to perpetuate this ill-conceived idea.
Science education has always been a two-faceted approach. On one side, students are taught facts, equations, and principles that research has shown to be true. For example, physics equations regarding force and acceleration (e.g., F=ma), proven biological facts such as that DNA is the genetic material, and universal principles such as that energy can be neither destroyed nor created. The other, equally important aspect of science education is instruction in the scientific method and critical analysis of information. This second facet of education has traditionally been applied in the laboratory, where students conduct experiments and evaluate their results. Both the learning of information and the development of critical thinking skills are fundamental to education at levels of both secondary and higher education. One vital component to the critical evaluation of data is the analysis of both its strengths and weaknesses. If weaknesses in data were ignored, untold numbers of incorrect scientific ideas would have been propagated over the years. The Coalition is in favor of removing discussion of strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary biology from the classroom. This very idea is in stark contrast to the scientific method and the principle of critical evaluation. If this standard is put into effect, it would undermine an educator’s ability to teach these aspects of science to the students. In order to properly train students, they must be allowed to use their minds, to weigh the positive and negative data, to analyze, and to think for themselves.
The 21st Century Science Coalition is not the only voice in this fight. Texans for Better Science Education is offering an alternative to the changes recommended by the Coalition (Texans for Better..., 2009). Furthermore, hundreds of scientists from universities around the world have signed Discovery Institute’s “Dissent from Darwinism” which states, “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged” (“A Scientific Dissent...,” 2009). Contrary to the opinion of the Coalition, there are many scientists who recognize the failure of Darwinism to explain the “origin of species” (and the origin of life!).
On March 27, 2009, the Texas State Board of Education approved a final draft of changes to the TEKS, which will be implemented with the 2010-2011 academic year. Who won the battle is still a matter of debate. The new TEKS, which can be accessed through the Texas Education Agency’s Web site, reads:
In all fields of science, analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student (“Texas Essential...,” 2009).
Noticeably, the terms “strengths and weaknesses” do not appear in the new curriculum standards. However, the phrase “examining all sides of scientific evidence” was included. It appears that Texas education officials have attempted to keep both sides happy by straddling the fence on this issue. In another excerpt regarding the changes in Earth’s atmosphere, the phrase “that could have occurred” was added to produce the following final statement:
Analyze the changes of Earth’s atmosphere that could have occurred through time from the original hydrogen-helium atmosphere, the carbon dioxide-water vapor-methane atmosphere, and the current nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere (“Texas Essential...,” 2009, emp. added).
We may never know the true motivations for these changes—political, scientific, or other—but whatever the reasons, educators are left with this manuscript, the 2009 TEKS, to guide their curricula in the sciences.
“Comparison of Current 1998 Science TEKS with Proposed 2009 Recommendations to Science TEKS—Grades 9-12” (2009), TEKS, [On-line], URL:http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/teks/science/SciTEKS_9_12_Comparepdf.pdf.
Erwin, Douglas (2000), “Macroevolution is More Than Repeated Rounds of Microevolution,” Evolution and Development, 2:78-84.
“A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism” (2009), Discovery Institute, [On-line], URL:http://www.dissentfromdarwin.org/index.php.
“Scientist Statement” (2009), The 21st Century Science Coalition, [On-line], URL:http://www.texasscientists.org/sign.html.
Starr, C. (2006), Basic Concepts in Biology (Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole-Thomson Learning Publishing), sixth edition.
Texans for Better Science Education (2009), [On-line], URL:http://www.strengthsandweaknesses.org/.
“Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science Subchapter C. High School” (2009), TEKS, [On-line], URL: http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/teks/science/ch112c_as_approved032709.pdf.
“Welcome” (2009), The 21st Century Science Coalition, [On-line], URL:http://www.texasscientists.org/index.html.
Are Christians Guilty of “Brainwashing” Their Children?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
The more worldly and ungodly American society becomes, the more devout Christians will be criticized and persecuted for their beliefs and actions. One popular criticism that has been levied against Christians in recent years involves the Christian home. Allegedly, Christian parents are guilty of brainwashing their kids. Before children are old enough to digest for themselves all of the evidence for God’s existence, the Bible’s inspiration, or Jesus’ deity, some Christians (though sadly not near enough) are ingraining these beliefs into their children. Faithful Christian parents regularly and systematically teach their children fundamental Christian teachings without apology. Is this not a form of brainwashing? Is it not “forcible indoctrination”? How do Christians respond to the “brainwash” accusation?
First, we freely and unashamedly admit that we instruct our children in the ways of God from the time that they are born until they leave home. We sing to them about God. We talk to them about Jesus. We read to them from the Holy Spirit’s inspired Word. Moses instructed the Israelites:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:5-9).
Just as “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52), so the children of Jesus’ followers should be brought up “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
But is this really the right thing to do? Is it not arrogant to teach kids that atheists and agnostics are wrong and that theists are right? Should we not let kids decide on their own if they want to believe in God? Is it not cultish to say Jesus “is the way, the truth, and the life”—that no one will live eternally in heaven except through Him (John 14:6)? Shouldn’t children be allowed to think for themselves?
The fact is, all parents (even atheistic and agnostic parents) teach their children that certain things are true and certain things are false; that some things are right and other things are wrong. Think about it: Can parents teach their children that 2 + 2 = 4, or must they allow their children to learn this for themselves? Can a mother teach her children that they are not ever to crawl into a freezer and close the door, or must she allow her children to risk suffocation and “learn on their own”? Can a father forbid his son from touching his guns and knives, or should he just leave them on the floor for the child to discover on his own what he should or should not do with such things? Can parents teach their children that they are to be kind to one another, and if they bite and hit each other they will be punished? Can parents teach their children that lying is wrong? Or, must parents simply allow the children to lie whenever they want, and to make up their own minds if lying is wrong for them when they become 18? Most rational adults would never sanction such foolish “parenting.” All parents “brainwash” their children about certain things. [Furthermore, we also understand that children grow up and ultimately decide for themselves what they want to believe and how they want to act, regardless of past influences (cf. Joshua 24:15; Revelation 22:17).]
In truth, Christians teaching their children that God exists or that the Bible is God’s Word is as logical, truthful, and fundamental as teaching them that 2 + 2 = 4. If parents can teach their children laws of science, such as the Law of Causality, the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics, and the Law of Biogenesis, then they are implicitly teaching their children that God exists, because all of these laws point to a Creator. If parents can teach children that no mere man knows the future, and then read from the Bible dozens of examples of fulfilled prophecies, they have simply taught the fundamental fact that the Bible is a book of Supernatural origin. Indeed, God exists and the Bible is His Word.
God wants us to teach our children about Him and His Word because it is the right thing to do. If it is acceptable to teach our kids about reading, writing, and arithmetic, about the laws of science, and about how bad lying and murder are, it most certainly is rational to teach children about the evidence for God’s existence and the reliability of His Word. After all, we would not even have reading, writing, arithmetic, laws of science, truth, the value of human life, etc. without God. He is the foundation of every good and true thing. He “is true” (John 3:33). His “Spirit is truth” (1 John 5:6). His “word istruth” (Psalm 119:160; John 17:17). And the truth will set men free (John 8:32). Nothing is more important to teach children.
*If Apologetics Press may help you effectively “brainwash” (i.e., instruct) your children in the ways of God, please do not hesitate to call upon us.
Can Anyone Actually Do “Good”?by Eric Lyons, M.Min.
Most people will read the title of this article and immediately think, “Of course a person can do good.” After all, Jesus said, “A good (agathos) man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things” (Matthew 12:35). Paul instructed Christians to (simply) “do good to all” (Galatians 6:10). He later reminded the disciples in Corinth that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10). And John wrote: “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God” (3 John 11).
So why such an elementary question? This question is occasionally asked by skeptics who want to know why the Bible repeatedly teaches that God’s people are to “do good,” if, as other biblical passages teach, “there is none who does good, no, not one” (Psalm 14:3; 53:3; Romans 3:12; cf. Mark 10:18). “For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin” (Ecclesiastes 7:20; cf. Isaiah 64:6). Thus, Bible critics ask, “How can the Bible teach that Christians are to do good, if no one can actually be good?”
The question is a fair question. Admittedly, the Bible’s different uses of the term “good” may be confusing to some initially. As with the solution to so many alleged Bible contradictions, however, the answer actually is very simple: words are used in different senses. The term “good” can be used in different ways and in varying degrees. We can talk of a good pizza, a good day, a good dog, a good boy, and our good God, and mean somewhat (or perhaps very) different things.
In the purest and highest meaning of the word, only God is “good.” Jesus referred to this supreme goodness when He said to the rich young ruler, “No one is good but One, that is, God” (Mark 10:18). In truth, as Caleb Colley concluded in his article “Why is Good Good?,” “God is good, but not in virtue of a standard of goodness that exists separate from Him.… Good is defined by God’s goodness, which is inseparable from His nature” (2010).
On the other hand, human beings can only know goodness and be good on a dependent and finite level. In the beginning, everything God made, including the first human beings, “was very good” (Genesis 1:31)—but not “good” in precisely the same way our perfectly good God is good. God is innately good. He cannot do evil (cf. Titus 1:2); He cannot even be tempted by evil (James 1:13). But a man can be tempted to sin, and he can choose to sin (James 1:14-15). In fact, every person of an accountable mind and age who has ever lived (save God Incarnate, the Lord Jesus) has chosen to do that which is not good (Romans 3:23). Such a decision on man’s part, even one such decision, makes him “no good” in the sense that, apart from God’s amazingly good, saving grace, he is a lawfully condemned, unholy sinner (Romans 3:24). What’s more, on our own, apart from God, we can do absolutely nothing about our sinfulness. There is nothing that we could do on our own to become “good.”
Sinful man can only become good and just by choosing to accept God’s perfectly good and gracious gift of salvation through Christ (Romans 5:8,15-21; see Lyons and Butt, 2004). Subsequently, God-saved, newly made good people (i.e., Christians) will “put to death” their rebelliously sinful selves (repenting of sins—Acts 2:38; 3:19) and “put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Colossians 3:5,10; cf. Romans 12:1-2).
Indeed, Christians can be good and do good. We are not good in and of ourselves. Rather, by the grace of our innately and supremely good God, we can be justified and “become followers of what is good” (1 Peter 3:13). We can walk in the light of God, knowing that “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). And, during moments of weakness, when we choose that which is not good, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Thus, our good God even provided a way for Christians to remain “good” and to continue doing good works, in spite of our imperfections and struggles with sin.
Colley, Caleb (2010), “Why is Good Good?” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=95&article=3601.
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2004), “Taking Possession of What God Gives: A Case Study in Salvation,” Apologetics Press, https://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1381&topic=86.