"THE GOSPEL OF JOHN" One Sows And Another Reaps (4:35-38) INTRODUCTION 1. Jesus, the Master Teacher, has much to teach us about winning souls... a. By way of example, He teaches us the need for compassion - e.g., Mt 9:35-36 b. By way of instruction, He teaches the need for prayer - e.g., Mt 9:37-38 -- Many other things regarding evangelism can be gleaned from our Lord's example and words 2. On one occasion, Jesus taught His disciples an important principle of sowing and reaping... a. In Samaria, following His discussion with the woman at the well - cf. Jn 4:28-29 b. Apparently as people from the city were making their way to see Jesus - cf. Jn 4:30 c. As the crowd was making their way, Jesus told His disciples: 1) "Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest" - Jn 4:35 2) "He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together." - Jn 4:36 3) "For in this the saying is true: 'One sows and another reaps.'" - Jn 4:37 4) "I have sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors." - Jn 4:38 3. In our study, I want to focus on the "true saying" Jesus referred to... a. I.e., "One sows and another reaps" b. Which provides valuable insight into the process of winning souls [From Jesus we learn that...] I. WINNING SOULS INVOLVES BOTH SOWING AND REAPING A. THE PROCESS OF SOWING... 1. In agriculture, sowing involves preparing the soil and planting the seed 2. In winning souls to Christ, sowing likewise involves preparation and planting a. In which hearts are being prepared to receive the gospel b. In which hearts are first introduced to the gospel -- A process involving time, teaching, influence, often with little visible results B. THE PROCESS OF REAPING... 1. In agriculture, reaping is the harvesting of what has been sown 2. In winning souls to Christ, reaping involves a similar harvest a. Involving souls who have already heard the Word b. Involving souls who decide to obey the Word - A process involving conversion, with great joy and excitement over the results [Both sowing and reaping are necessary to win souls. Yet the "saying" reveals that the two are not always done by the same person(s)...] II. WE MAY REAP WHERE OTHERS HAVE SOWN A. THIS WAS THE CASE IN SAMARIA... 1. Jesus sent His disciples to reap where others had labored - cf. Jn 4:38 2. Who had done the sowing? a. Jesus, in conversing with the woman at the well - Jn 4:5-26 b. The woman, in telling those in town about Jesus - Jn 4:28-30 -- The disciples were to benefit from the sowing done by others B. THIS IS OFTEN THE CASE TODAY... 1. There are times when people seem "ripe" (ready to be reaped) a. Ready to obey the gospel b. Requiring little effort on our part 2. This is likely due to "sowing" that occurred some time earlier a. Perhaps the example or teaching by a friend, family member in the past b. To which they did not respond then, but are ready now -- We often benefit from the sowing done by others C. THIS CAN BE MISINTERPRETED... 1. We might think that we have won souls by ourselves 2. We might think that those who convert many are great soul winners in of themselves -- Reaping does not always reflect where the hardest work has been done [We should be careful not to boast if we are privileged to reap where others have sown. Yet we can rejoice, for reaping even when others have sown is an exciting time for the laborers! Then again...] III. WE MAY SOW WHERE OTHERS WILL REAP A. THIS WAS THE CASE IN SAMARIA... 1. Jesus did the sowing, but the disciples would do the reaping 2. The woman did some sowing, then Jesus and His disciples did the reaping - Jn 4:39-42 -- In this case, the sowing and reaping, though separate, occurred close together B. THIS IS OFTEN THE CASE TODAY... 1. There are times when a lot of sowing is being done a. Lives are influenced by the godly examples of other Christians b. Souls are taught the Word of God 2. Yet the reaping is not enjoyed by those doing the sowing a. Few seem to respond to the efforts being made b. Much time and energy is expended, with little immediate results 3. The reaping often comes later a. It might be years before the Word bears fruit b. It might be long after we are gone c. It might be done by others -- In such cases, the sowing and reaping occur far apart C. THIS CAN BE MISINTERPRETED... 1. Those sowing with little visible reaping may think they have failed a. Causing them to become discouraged b. Tempting them to discontinue their efforts 2. Others may think those who sow with little visible reaping are failures a. Presuming they must not be sowing the seed b. Presuming they must not be diligent in their efforts -- Failure to reap does not always reflect the hard work being done [When the efforts to sow appear to produce little fruit, we should not draw conclusions hastily. It can only lead to discouragement and possible misjudgment others. Understanding the principle, "One Sows And Another Reaps", then may I suggest that...] IV. WE SHOULD BE DILIGENT TO SOW AND REAP A. DILIGENT IN SOWING... 1. There will be times when we will be mostly sowing the seed a. Teaching souls the first principles of the gospel of Christ - cf. Mk 16:15-16 b. Influencing souls by example - cf. 1Pe 3:1-2 2. There may be times when we see little fruit from our efforts a. Jeremiah prophesied nearly fifty years with little success b. Jesus and His apostles had their periods when few would listen 3. Yet we can take comfort in knowing that God's Word is never sown in vain a. It will accomplish its purpose - cf. Isa 55:10-11 b. It has the power to save those who believe it - Ro 1:16; Ja 1:21 c. God only holds us responsible for sowing the seed - cf. Ezek 3:17-19 -- Even if we never reap, we can rejoice in the work of sowing, knowing that our labors for the Lord are not in vain - cf. 1Co 15:58 B. DILIGENT IN REAPING... 1. There may be times when we may reap where others have sown a. Souls who come to us, wanting to study, ready to obey b. Souls where others had sown, and we are privileged to reap 2. There may be times when there is much reaping with little effort a. Souls seem quick to respond b. Numbers of members increase 3. Yet we should be cautious not to boast a. The power is in the seed, not the sower or the reaper - He 4:12 b. The providence of God is at work, He is the one who gives the increase - 1Co 3:5-7 -- As we reap, be mindful of the contribution of others (including God), and rejoice together in the work of the Lord - cf. 1Co 3:8; Jn 4:36 CONCLUSION 1. Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we not laborers in the vineyard of the Lord...? a. Then let us not hesitate to reap where others have sown b. Then let us not hesitate to sow where others might reap 2. May the principle "One Sows And Another Reaps"... a. Encourage us when it seems we are sowing with little fruit to be seen b. Humble us when it seems we are reaping where we have not sown Finally, if we are not reaping at the moment, then let us at least be sowing...!
Black Muslims and the Nation of Islam
|by||Brad Bromling, D.Min.|
Ever since entering the spotlight of public attention (about 1984), Louis Farrakhan has been a controversial figure. He thrills the hearts of some, scares the daylights out of others, and offends many more. When he called the African-American community to participate in a "Million Man March" on Washington, D.C., 400,000 responded—twice the number who walked with Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963. Unlike Dr. King, everything Farrakhan said was dedicated to Allah.
Few people have reminded Americans of Islam’s presence on this continent more pointedly than Farrakhan. But what many people do not know is that Farrakhan does not represent Islam. He is the leader of the Nation of Islam, a distinctly American invention that has its roots in the opening years of the twentieth century (see Bijlefeld, 1993; Gudel and Duckworth, 1993; Ahlstrom, 1972; Morey, 1992).
In 1930, a Detroit clothing merchant named Wallace D. Fard (a.k.a. Wali Farad Muhammad) began preaching an Islamic-flavored message among blacks. Fard had been a follower of the “Noble Prophet Ali Drew,” founder of the Moorish Science Temple of America. Drew’s message was a mixture of Christian principles, Islamic ideals, and black nationalism that offered hope to an oppressed community of people. After Drew’s assassination in 1929, Fard, claiming connections with Mecca, began calling black Americans to renounce Christianity (a “white man’s religion”), and to embrace Islamic ideals. He founded the Temple of Islam in Detroit, and by 1934 had a following of 8,000. After Fard mysteriously disappeared in 1934, his most famous disciple, Elijah Muhammad (born Elijah Poole), carried the movement forward.
Elijah Muhammad claimed that Allah had appeared in the person of Fard, and that he himself was a prophet of Allah. He saw white people as devils and preached against integration. In his view, the black man would win ultimate victory over the white man in the battle of Armageddon. He offered the impoverished and persecuted black community a sense of dignity. Blacks were not simply the white man’s equal, but someday would rule the Earth.
In 1947, Elijah Muhammad’s message was heard and believed by the imprisoned Malcolm X (born Malcolm Little) who, upon his release in 1952, joined the Black Muslims. He was an outspoken minister of the group until 1963, when he became disillusioned with Muhammad. After a trip to Mecca a year later, Malcolm X converted to orthodox Islam and no longer endorsed racial antagonism. Eleven months later he was assassinated.
When Muhammad died in 1975, he was succeeded by his son, Wallace Deen, who sought unification between the Black Muslims and orthodox Islam. This trend was unacceptable to Louis Farrakhan, who preferred the teachings of Elijah Muhammad. So, in 1977 Farrakhan broke from the Black Muslims, returned to his mentor’s teaching, and started the faction that bears the name “Nation of Islam” (a name also used by Elijah Muhammad).
Without Farrakhan, Wallace Deen Muhammad led Black Muslims to full unification with orthodox Islam. This group is not to be confused with the Nation of Islam, which still is considered heretical by Islam worldwide.
Some of the more troubling views of Elijah Muhammad that are evident in current Nation of Islam rhetoric are well summarized by Sidney Ahlstrohm:
[Their] eschatology teaches that God has come; there is no life after this life; heaven and hell are only two contrasting earthly conditions; the hereafter (which will begin to appear about A.D. 2000) is but the end of the present "spook" civilization of the Caucasian usurpers, including the Christian religion. It will be followed by the redemption of the Black Nation and their glorious rule over all the earth (1972, p. 1068).Ostensibly, the message of the Nation of Islam (as presented by Farrakhan at the Million Man March) is one of social atonement and reconciliation; it is a call for the black community to strive for moral and ethical superiority. Farrakhan called the audience to give up drugs, prostitution, and violence, and to commit to improving themselves “spiritually, morally, mentally, socially, politically, and economically” (1995). These are laudable concerns that should transcend race. If lower crime rates, higher economic productivity, and an over-all improvement in the quality of life for African-Americans result from the efforts of Farrakhan, then all people will have reason to rejoice.
The problem with the Nation of Islam, however, is at least two-fold: (1) it is not the religion of Jesus Christ; and (2) it is preoccupied with “white supremacy.” In his Million Man March speech, Farrakhan argued that the United States is rotten at its very foundation because it has been characterized from the beginning by white supremacy. For example, He said:
The Seal and the Constitution [of the United States—BB] reflect the thinking of the founding fathers, that this was to be a nation by White people and for White people. Native Americans, Blacks, and all other non-White people were to be the burden bearers for the real citizens of this nation (1995).Clearly, anyone with a cursory understanding of American history can respect (even if only to a limited degree) the sense of anger and frustration that minorities feel about their position in this society. Prejudice is a dangerous and painful thing. Its effects have not disappeared, and the wounds it has inflicted still are very fresh in many places (and in many lives). But the answer is not found in the Qur’an or the doctrines of Elijah Muhammad. Cornel West succinctly stated:
...one’s eyes should be on the prize, not on the perpetuator of one’s oppression. In short, Elijah Muhammad’s project remained captive to the supremacy game—a game mastered by the white racists he opposed and imitated with his black supremacy doctrine (1993, p. 100).The only hope for a world torn by racial hatred is Jesus Christ—not a black Jesus or a white Jesus, but the Jesus of Scripture—Who like all of us is the Son of Adam, but unlike us, is also the Son of God. By His self-sacrifice for all humanity, He offers to break down the walls of enmity that sin erects between us (Acts 10:34; Ephesians 2:14; Galatians 3:28).
Bijlefeld, Willem A. (1993), “Black Muslims” The New Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia [CD-ROM].
Farrakhan, Louis, (1995), Transcript from Minister Louis Farrakhan’s remarks at the Million Man March [Online], URL http://www3.cnn.com/US/9510/megamarch/10-16/transcript/index.html.
Gudel, Joseph P. and Larry Duckworth (1993), “Hate Begotten of Hate,” The Christian Research Institute [Online], URL http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/cri/cri-jrnl/crj0010c.txt.
Morey, Robert A. (1992) The Islamic Invasion (Eugene, OR: Harvest House).
West, Cornel (1993), Race Matters (Boston, MA: Beacon).
The Death of Biblical Minimalism
|by||Dewayne Bryant, M.A.|
It is a good time to be a Christian. Information is more readily available and accessible than ever before. Whether it appears in books, in articles in print and on Web sites, or in podcasts and other media formats, Christian apologists are producing vast amounts of material in defense of the Christian Faith. In the field of archaeology alone, new discoveries are unearthed every year, adding to our body of knowledge about the biblical world. Because of new information, old theories are being continually revised and refined. In some cases, this information is completely overturning critical theories.
The May/June 2011 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review is an exciting one. On the cover, some of the topics of the issue are listed, at the top of which are the words, “The End of Biblical Minimalism.” Minimalists are those who believe that only the barest minimum of the Bible is true, and then only if it can be incontrovertibly corroborated by extrabiblical evidence. This perspective is one that is eminently skeptical of the Bible. This is not how ancient documents are generally treated, which naturally raises suspicion that the Bible is being treated with a double standard for no other reason than that it is the Word of God. Speaking a little more generously than usual, minimalist Philip Davies claims that the Bible is indispensible for the historian, even though its “stories may be false, true, or a mixture of fact and fiction” (Davies, 2008, p. 5). For those who see the biblical text as a purely manmade production, the Bible is a mixture of a few facts and mostly fiction. As senior Israeli archaeologist Israel Finkelstein puts it,
The historical saga contained in the Bible—from Abraham’s encounter with God and his journey to Canaan, to Moses’ deliverance of the children of Israel from bondage, to the rise and fall of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah—was not a miraculous revelation, but a brilliant product of the human imagination (Finkelstein and Silberman, 2001, p. 1).The article, “The Birth and Death of Biblical Minimalism” written by archaeologist Yosef Garfinkle, traces the biblical minimalist position from its inception 30 years ago to the present time, where discoveries have undermined it to the point of it becoming untenable. He focuses on one of the hot-button issues in archaeology: the existence of the United Monarchy.
For biblical minimalists, the United Monarchy is very nearly a fiction. They believe that if David and Solomon existed, they were nothing more than petty chieftains. Hoffmeier summarizes the minimalist position this way: “[I]f David and Solomon did exist, they were simply pastorialist chieftains from the hills of Judea, and the military exploits of David and the glories of Solomon were gross exaggerations from later times” (Hoffmeier, 2008, p. 87). In other words, there were no grand palaces and no royal inscriptions. In short—no kingdom.
Garfinkle focuses on one particular archaeological site called Khirbet Qeiyafa, where he serves as co-director of the dig. In ancient times, it was a heavily fortified town on the Israelite/Philistine border in Judah. This one site, as small and out-of-the-way as it is, has done a great deal to dismantle biblical minimalism. Garfinkle states: “The argument that Judah was an agrarian society until the end of tenth century B.C.E. and that David and Solomon could not have ruled over a centralized, institutionalized kingdom before then has now been blown to smithereens by our excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa” (Garfinkle, 2011, p. 50). Discoveries at the site clearly demonstrate that a large bureaucracy was needed to construct the town. The site had massive walls, far beyond the ability of a couple of petty chieftains to construct. Also found at the site was the earliest example of Hebrew (although it is written in a different kind of script). This kind of writing could only be produced by a scribe who had been trained for government service. Since the site was in a remote location, it must have been important enough to justify sending a scribe from Jerusalem. That could only be done if there was a government of sufficient size with the resources and ability to train professional scribes. As Finkelstein himself states: “The power of the chief was limited…. The economic and military capacity of a chiefdom was severely limited” (Finkelstein and Silberman, 2006, p. 99). Khirbet Qeiyafa could not have been built, fortified, or administrated by a chieftain. It required a king.
As one of the chief proponents of the idea that the United Monarchy is largely fiction, Israel Finkelstein has developed what is called the “Low Chronology.” This approach states that whatever evidence that exists that might point to a tenth century B.C. kingdom under David and Solomon has been misinterpreted. Instead, the credit for building activity thought to have taken place during the time of the United Monarchy should go to the ninth century king Ahab instead. Though architecture can be difficult to date accurately at times, Finkelstein has yet to win many converts. With the information being unearthed at Khirbet Qeiyafa, he may even find himself losing what support he already has.
Finkelstein is commonly labeled a minimalist, although he denies that label. He does share many things in common with biblical minimalists, such as a skeptical attitude toward the Bible and a clear bias in interpreting the archaeological evidence. This goes against standard procedure among scholarship. Generally, ancient texts are given the benefit of the doubt unless sufficient reason exists to doubt their veracity. Since the Bible has a long track record of accuracy, to dismiss it out of hand shows a clear bias against it. Second, evidence should drive interpretation and lead to conclusions—not start with conclusions and interpret all the evidence to support those conclusions. Finkelstein’s skepticism points to a preconceived conclusion that seeks evidence to justify itself, which, naturally, can only be done poorly.
Radiocarbon dating provides a solid link between the ancient evidence and the biblical text. Garfinkle states: “Independent dating suggests that the kingdom of Judah rose in approximately 1000 B.C.E., as indicated by the radiometric results from Qeiyafa. The northern kingdom of Israel, on the other hand, developed around 900 B.C.E., as indicated by the radiometric dates obtained from that region. The Biblical tradition and the radiometric dating actually support each other” (Garfinkle, 2011, p. 52). [EDITOR’S NOTE: For a discussion of the weaknesses of radiocarbon and radiometric dating techniques, see DeYoung, 2005.] The radiometric dating of wood fragments and olive pits at the site indicates that the site was built in the late eleventh century and destroyed in the early tenth century. Since this is precisely the time of the reign of king David, it would appear that David ruled a well-organized kingdom.
This small site has yielded a wealth of evidence that clearly demonstrates the shortcomings of biblical minimalism, although it remains on life support thanks to the hyper-skepticism of a few noted archaeologists. Even William Dever—who is no friend to the traditional interpretation of Scripture—has fiercely opposed the minimalists, whom he calls “revisionists.” He says, “the ‘revisionists’…declare that ‘the Hebrew Bible is not about history at all,’ i.e., it is mere propaganda. For them, if some of the Bible stories are unhistorical, they all are—a rather simplistic notion” (Dever, 2001, p. 97). It is the typical case of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”: the Bible is a religious book, therefore it cannot be historically accurate. Ongoing excavations argue otherwise.
There are many other discoveries besides those at Khirbet Qeiyafa that argue for the presence of a centralized government in ancient Israel at the time David ruled. The Izbet Sartah Inscription is an example of writing dating to the time of the judges (Hess, 2002, p. 86). The inscription seems to be a practice exercise used to learn the alphabet. This is particularly noteworthy, since Izbet Sartah was a small village in the hill country in the eleventh century B.C. Even in this small village, at least one scribe was practicing his alphabet. The same goes for tenth century inscriptions, such as the Tell Zayit Inscription and the Gezer Calendar, which also appear to be practice exercises used in training scribes. These examples of writing would never have appeared without considerable governmental organization.
In his book On the Reliability of the Old Testament, Kenneth Kitchen surveys the history of minimalism over the past two centuries. He notes that “our present-day minimalists are not a sudden, new phenomenon without precedent. It all began a long time ago, and the present efflorescence is merely a development of some 150/200 years that has in a way come to a head, but simply more scathing of others and more extreme in its views than were its precursors” (Kitchen, 2003, p. 449, italics in orig.). Emerging at a time when the study of the ancient Near East was in its infancy, it could only be expected that time would prove the minimalist’s assumptions false. As mountains of evidence have come to light, minimalism is looking more and more like a thing of the past. Biblical scholarship has a long track record of confounding the critics, and it isn’t stopping anytime soon.
Though much of the minimalists’ work is respected by other scholars, they are supremely guilty of allowing their biases to dictate their interpretation of the evidence. They make selective use of the facts and ignore or reinterpret evidence that disagrees with their position. Some of them grew up in fundamentalist homes, giving the impression that their interpretations are more the result of rejecting the faith of their early years rather than sound scholarship. This approach can be maintained only so long before the body of evidence will get to the point of being beyond their ability to manipulate. The archaeologist’s spade will continue to unearth more evidence season by season, year after year. It is only a matter of time before the minimalist position will become a relic enshrined in the museum of discarded ideas.
REFERENCESDavies, Philip R. (2008), Memories of Ancient Israel: An Introduction to Biblical History—Ancient and Modern (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press).
Dever, William G. (2001), What Did The Biblical Writers Know & When Did They Know It? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
DeYoung, Don (2005), Thousands...Not Billions (Green Forest, AR: Master Books).
Finkelstein, Israel and Neil Asher Silberman (2001), The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts (New York, NY: Touchstone).
Finkelstein, Israel and Neil Asher Silberman (2006), David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible’s Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition (New York, NY: Free Press).
Garfinkle, Yosef (2011), “The Birth and Death of Biblical Minimalism,” Biblical Archaeology Review, 37:46-53,78, May/June.
Hess, Richard S. (2002), “Literacy in Iron Age Israel” in V. Long, D. Baker, and G. Wenham, Windows into Old Testament History: Evidence, Argument, and the Crisis of “Biblical Israel” (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), pp. 82-102.
Hoffmeier, James K (2008), The Archaeology of the Bible (Oxford: Lion Hudson).
Kitchen, Kenneth A. (2003), On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
|by||Jeff Miller, Ph.D.|
In 2011, the renowned atheist, theoretical physicist, and cosmologist of Cambridge University, Stephen Hawking, was given a platform to spread his atheistic perspective (“Curiosity…,” 2011). Discovery Channel aired a show titled, “Curiosity: Did God Create the Universe?” Hawking adamantly claimed, “No.” He claimed that there is no need for God in the picture, since he believes everything in the Universe can be explained without Him (see Miller, 2011a for an in depth response to Hawking’s claims in the show).
Towards the end of the episode, Hawking asserted that “[t]he role played by time at the beginning of the Universe is, I believe, the final key to removing the need for a Grand Designer and revealing how the Universe created itself” (“Curiosity…”). According to Hawking and other atheists, the initial moments of the Big Bang were supposedly similar to the nature of a black hole (see Miller, 2011a for a response to this idea). Hawking believes that due to the nature of a black hole, time would not have existed before the Big Bang. He asserts:
You can’t get to a time before the Big Bang, because there was no before the Big Bang. We have finally found something that doesn’t have a cause, because there was no time for a cause to exist in. For me, this means that there is no possibility for a Creator, because there is no time for a Creator to have existed…. Time didn’t exist before the Big Bang. So, there is no time for God to make the Universe in (“Curiosity…,” emp. added).So, according to Hawking, there could not have been a cause for the Big Bang since that cause had to temporally precede the effect of the Big Bang, and yet time supposedly did not exist prior to the Big Bang. Setting aside the fact that this theoretical black hole, which is speculated to have been in existence at the time of the alleged Big Bang, had to itself have a cause (according to the Law of Causality even if time did not exist before the bang), Hawking still made a blunder in supposing that a Creator could not exist if time did not exist.
It is a common mistake to oversimplify the Law of Causality, assuming that it states: “Every effect must have an adequate cause which preceded it.” In actuality, the law more correctly states: “Every material effect must have an adequate antecedent or simultaneous cause” (see Miller, 2011b for an in depth discussion of the Law of Causality). The Law of Causality as a law of natural science only applies to that which can be empirically observed—namely, the natural Universe (i.e., that which is “material”), not supernatural entities. So, it does not even apply to God. But even if it did apply to the Creator, Hawking’s belief that there’s no room for the Creator since the Law of Causality requires a previous cause—which could not be the case if time did not exist before the Big Bang—is erroneous. Philosopher William Lane Craig explains that this argument rests on a pseudo-dilemma, since the argument does not “consider the obvious alternative that the cause of the [alleged—JM] Big Bang operated at to, that is, simultaneously (or coincidentally) with the Big Bang” (Craig, 1994). Simply put: the Law of Causality allows for simultaneous causes.
When one sits in a seat, his legs form a lap. The effect of creating a lap occurs simultaneously with its cause—the act of sitting—though sitting is obviously the cause of making a lap. So clearly, causes can take place simultaneously with their effects. Renowned German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, in his book, The Critique of Pure Reason, under the heading, “Principle of the Succession of Time According to the Law of Causality: All changes take place according to the law of the connection of Cause and Effect,” explains that, “The principle of the connection of causality among phenomena…applies also when the phenomena exist together in the same time, and that cause and effect may be simultaneous” (Kant, 1787, I.22.214.171.124.3, emp. added). He then proceeds to provide two examples of simultaneous causation, the first being the scenario in which the effect of a heated room occurs simultaneous with its cause—a fire in the fireplace. He explains that, “In this case, then, there is no succession as regards time, between cause and effect, but they are simultaneous; and still the law holds good” (I.126.96.36.199.3). He then provides the example in which a lead ball lies on a cushion and simultaneously causes the effect of an indention or “hollow” in the cushion. Again, the effect occurs simultaneously with its cause. Kant explains:
The greater part of operating causes in nature are simultaneous with their effects, and the succession in time of the latter is produced only because the cause cannot achieve the total of its effect in one moment. But at the moment when the effect first arises, it is always simultaneous with the causality of its cause, because, if the cause had but a moment before ceased to be, the effect could not have arisen…. The time between the causality of the cause and its immediate effect may entirely vanish, and the cause and effect be thus simultaneous, but the relation of the one to the other remains always determinable according to time (Kant, 1787, I.188.8.131.52.3, emp. added).Logically, a cause can occur simultaneous with its effect. So, for Hawking to argue that a cause for the Big Bang is unnecessary and even impossible since it must precede the Big Bang, is simply incorrect. It seems to imply a shallow understanding of the Law of Causality on the part of Hawking. A proper understanding of the Law of Causality reveals that the Law does not rule out the existence of a Creator even if the Big Bang were true, since the effect of the Universe could occur simultaneous with its causal activity. That said, ultimately, even though Hawking is inaccurate in his use of the Law of Causality, it is irrelevant since the Big Bang Theory is not in keeping with the scientific evidence anyway (see Miller, 2007; Thompson, Harrub, and May, 2003 for a presentation of some of this evidence).
REFERENCESCraig, William Lane (1994), “Creation and Big Bang Cosmology,” Philosophia Naturalis, 31:217-224.
“Curiosity: Did God Create the Universe?” (2011), Discovery Channel, August 7.
Kant, Immanuel (1787), The Critique of Pure Reason (South Australia: The University of Adelaide Library), 2nd edition, trans. J.M.D. Meiklejohn, http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/k/kant/immanuel/k16p/.
Miller, Jeff (2007), “God and the Laws of Thermodynamics: A Mechanical Engineer’s Perspective,” Reason & Revelation, 27:25-31, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=588&article=643.
Miller, Jeff (2011a), “A Review of Discovery Channel’s ‘Curiosity: Did God Create the Universe?’” Reason & Revelation, 31:98-107, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1004&article=1687.
Miller, Jeff (2011b), “God and the Laws of Science: The Law of Causality,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/article/3716.
Thompson, Bert, Brad Harrub, and Branyon May (2003), “The Big Bang Theory—A Scientific Critique” Reason & Revelation, 23:33-47, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=541&article=28.
Is Private Interpretation Possible?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Does the phrase “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20) mean that we can’t understand the Bible for ourselves?
A casual reading of 2 Peter 1:20—with little concern for the context in which the passage is found—might very well lead one to understand the verse in such a manner. However, a closer examination of this passage reveals that it has no reference at all to those who read the Scriptures, but refers instead to those who wrote the Scriptures. By studying the context of the passage, one learns that the passage is discussing how the Scriptures came into existence, not how they are to be “interpreted.”
Continuing the thought from verse 20 to verse 21, we read: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (emp. added). That little word “for” in verse 21 connects the two thoughts. The English word “for” derives from the Greek conjunction gar. Strong’s Greek-Hebrew Dictionary (1994) indicates that this word is a “primary particle” that assigns “a reason” and is used in argument for “explanation” or “intensification.” The reason that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation” is because “prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (emp. added). The word “for” connects the two thoughts. Peter is saying that the prophets did not invent what they wrote; rather, they were guided by the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17). No doubt this is why the NIV reads: “No prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20, emp. added)—not the reader’s interpretation.
Furthermore, according to Mounce’s Analytical Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (1993), the Greek word epilusis (translated “interpretation” in 2 Peter 1:20) means primarily “a loosing” or “liberation.” The stem of epilusis is luo, and means literally “to loosen, unbind, unfasten” (p. 305). Therefore, “no prophecy of Scripture” ever was released, loosed, or given out by the prophets’ own inventions. They did not put their own “interpretation” on God’s message; instead, the Holy Spirit guided them. Thus, this passage has no reference to present-day interpreters of the text, but rather to those who wrote it—i.e., the prophets or apostles (cf. Ephesians 3:5).
Answering Christ’s Critics
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
[EDITORS’ NOTE: Unbelief & skepticism continue to expand their impact on society. Recent attacks on the person of Christ have come from The DaVinci Code as well as the so-called “gospel of Judas.” According to www.thebeastmovie.com, on June 6, 2006 (i.e., 6/6/6) a movie ridiculing the historicity of Christ (titled The Beast) is scheduled to be released in theatres worldwide. Likely many will ponder over questions that these sources raise regarding whether Jesus ever really lived, or if He did, whether He was a fraud. Others may simply choose to believe whatever they read, hear, or see. Regardless, Christians need to be prepared to give reasonable answers (cf. 1 Peter 3:15) when they are called upon to defend their faith in the Son of God. Twice in the past decade Apologetics Press has dealt extensively in Reason and Revelation with the historicity of Christ (see Jackson, 1998, 18:6-7; Butt, 2000, 20:1-6). This issue of R&R deals with questions critics of Christ often ask once they realize that His existence 2,000 years ago is indisputable. We hope that you benefit from learning how easily the allegations can be refuted.]
Once skeptics come to the realization that the evidence for the historicity of Christ and the historical accuracy of the New Testament cannot logically be explained away, the next step frequently taken by critics of Christ is to attack the Bible’s own portrayal of Jesus. If the enemies of Christ can discredit His claims of divinity by demonstrating instances of deceitfulness and inappropriate behavior in His life, then Jesus certainly could not be Who He and the Bible writers claimed that He was—God in the flesh (John 1:1,14). However, if the charges against Jesus’ life and character are proven to be fallacious or unsubstantiated, then such accusations should be dismissed, and Jesus’ true identity must either be accepted or rejected based upon the fact that the Bible’s portrayal of the life of Christ is consistent with His claims of deity.
So what have critics alleged about the Son of God? In an essay that appeared on evilbible.com, one enemy of Christ wrote: “Dear believer: ...I refuse to accept Jesus as my personal savior, for his behavior and teachings often expose one who should be escaped and not worshipped” (Schnook, n.d.). Atheist Dan Barker observed in an article titled “Why Jesus?”: “It would be more reasonable and productive to emulate real, flesh-and-blood human beings who have contributed to humanity—mothers who have given birth, scientists who have alleviated suffering, social reformers who have fought injustice—than to worship a character of such dubious qualities as Jesus” (1993). Another critic of Christ has stated: “...Jesus taught few precepts that he himself did not violate! According to the Bible, JESUS WAS A HYPOCRITE AND NOT REALLY PERFECT AFTER ALL”! (Morgan, 1996, emp. in orig.). Allegedly, Jesus did and said many questionable things throughout His ministry that should cause one to flee from Him rather than follow Him. This article addresses several of those criticisms and provides reasonable responses in defense of the deity and unblemished disposition of Christ.
DID JESUS IGNORE THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT?
Jesus responded to the criticism of His enemies 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 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 inconvenient (cf. Matthew 5:17-19). The Pharisees simply were wrong in their accusations. Like many of Jesus’ enemies today, “The Pharisees were out to ‘get’ Jesus; and any charge was better than none” (Coffman, 1984, p. 165). The only “law” Jesus’ disciples broke was the pharisaical interpretation of the law (which was more sacred to some 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!” (p. 165, emp. added).
Jesus used the instruction of 1 Samuel 21 to cause the Pharisees to recognize their insincerity, and to exonerate 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 permitted—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—silence—was that of hypocrites who had been exposed.
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 (Leviticus 12:3; John 7:22-23). 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). 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; cf. Coffman, p. 167). Jesus did not ignore nor encourage defiance of God’s command to keep the Sabbath.
DID JESUS BREAK THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT?
In light of the ill-mannered use of the word “woman” in certain contexts today, some question how Jesus could have spoken to His mother 2,000 years ago using this term without breaking the commandment to “[h]onor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12; cf. Matthew 15:4; Matthew 5:17-20). When Jesus, His disciples, and His mother were at the wedding in Cana of Galilee where there was a depletion of wine, Mary said to Jesus, “They have no wine” (John 2:3). Jesus then responded to His mother, saying, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). Notice what one skeptic has written regarding what Jesus said in this verse.
In Matt. 15:4 he [Jesus—EL] told people to “Honor thy father and thy mother”; yet, he was one of the first to ignore his own maxim by saying to his mother in John 2:4, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” (McKinsey, 1995, p. 44).As one can see, Mr. McKinsey is adamant that Jesus erred. He uses such words to describe Jesus as disrespectful, insolent, unloving, and rude. Is he correct?
Imagine someone talking to his own mother in such a disrespectful manner and addressing her by such an impersonal noun as ‘woman.’ Talk about an insolent offspring! (1995, p. 134).
Jesus needs to practice some parental respect... (McKinsey, 2000, p. 251).
Apparently Jesus’ love escaped him (McKinsey, n.d., “Jesus...”).
Why was Jesus disrespectful of his mother? In John 2:4, Jesus uses the same words with his mother that demons use when they meet Jesus. Surely the son of God knew that Mary had the blessing of the Father, didn’t he, (and she was the mother of God—Ed.) not to mention the fact that the son of God would never be rude? (McKinsey, n.d., “Problems...,” parenthetical comment in orig.).
As with most of Christ’s critics, Mr. McKinsey is guilty of judging Jesus’ words by what is common in twenty-first-century English vernacular, rather than putting Jesus’ comments in their proper first-century setting. It was not rude or inappropriate for a man in the first century to speak to a lady by saying, “Woman (gunai)....” This “was a highly respectful and affectionate mode of address” (Vincent, 1997), “with no idea of censure” (Robertson, 1932, 5:34). The New International Version correctly captures the meaning of this word in John 2:4: “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” (emp. added). Jesus used this word when complimenting the Syrophoenician woman’s great faith (Matthew 15:28), when affectionately addressing Mary Magdalene after His resurrection (John 20:15), and when speaking to His disconsolate mother one last time from the cross (John 19:26). Paul used this same word when addressing Christian women (1 Corinthians 7:16). As Adam Clarke noted: “[C]ertainly no kind of disrespect is intended, but, on the contrary, complaisance, affability, tenderness, and concern, and in this sense it is used in the best Greek writers” (1996).
As to why Jesus used the term “woman” (gunai) instead of “mother” (meetros) when speaking to Mary (which even in first-century Hebrew and Greek cultures was an unusual way to address one’s mother), Leon Morris noted that Jesus most likely was indicating
that there is a new relationship between them as he enters his public ministry.... Evidently Mary thought of the intimate relations of the home at Nazareth as persisting. But Jesus in his public ministry was not only or primarily the son of Mary, but “the Son of Man” who was to bring the realities of heaven to people on earth (1:51). A new relationship was established (1995, p. 159).R.C.H. Lenski added: “[W]hile Mary will forever remain his [Jesus’—EL] mother, in his calling Jesus knows no mother or earthly relative, he is their Lord and Savior as well as of all men. The common earthly relation is swallowed up in the divine” (1961b, p. 189). It is logical to conclude that Jesus was simply “informing” His mother in a loving manner that as He began performing miracles for the purpose of proving His deity and the divine origin of His message, His relationship to her was about to change.
Finally, the point also must be stressed that honoring fathers and mothers does not mean that a son or daughter never can correct his or her parents. Correction and honor are no more opposites than correction and love. One of the greatest ways parents disclose their love to their children is by correcting them when they make mistakes (Hebrews 12:6-9; Revelation 3:19). Similarly, one of the ways in which a mature son might honor his parents is by taking them aside when they have erred, and lovingly pointing out their mistake or oversight in a certain matter. Think how much more honorable this action would be than to take no action and allow them to continue in a path of error without informing them of such. We must keep in mind that even though Mary was a great woman “who found favor with God” (Luke 1:30), she was not perfect (cf. Romans 3:10,23). She was not God, nor the “mother of God” (viz., she did not originate Jesus or bring Him into existence). But, she was the one chosen to carry the Son of God in her womb. Who better to correct any misunderstanding she may have had than this Son?
DID JESUS VIOLATE THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT BY ENCOURAGING THIEVERY?
Critics of the deity of Christ, however, assert that Jesus once commanded His disciples to steal a donkey and a colt prior to entering Jerusalem during the final week of His life. According to Matthew’s gospel account, Jesus instructed His disciples, saying, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them” (Matthew 21:1-3). Luke added: “So those who were sent went their way and found it just as He had said to them. But as they were loosing the colt, the owners of it said to them, ‘Why are you loosing the colt?’ And they said, ‘The Lord has need of him.’ Then they brought him to Jesus” (Luke 19:32-35). Regarding this story, McKinsey asked: “Are we to believe this isn’t theft? Imagine seeing a stranger driving your car away while claiming the lord needed it” (1985, p. 1). Allegedly, “Jesus told people to take a colt...without the owners’ permission.” And that, says McKinsey, is “commonly known as stealing” (2000, p. 236). Another infidel by the name of Dan Barker commented on this event in the life of Jesus in his book, Losing Faith in Faith, saying, “I was taught as a child that when you take something without asking for it, that is stealing” (1992, p. 166). But did Jesus really encourage His disciples to steal a donkey and a colt? Can His actions be explained logically in light of the numerous statements throughout Scripture that clearly condemn thievery?
Before responding to these criticisms, consider the following: If a husband were to e-mail his wife and ask her to walk to a neighbor’s house and pick up the neighbor’s truck so that he could use it to haul an old furnace to the junkyard, would someone who read his e-mail (perhaps finding a hard copy of it crumpled up in the trash) be justified in concluding that this gentleman asked his wife to steal the truck? Certainly not. Since the e-mail had no other information in it than a request for the wife concerning a neighbor’s truck, a person reading the note would have to have access to additional information in order to come to the conclusion that this man and his wife were guilty of theft. The reader may be ignorant of the fact that the husband had prearranged such a pick-up with his neighbor the previous day. Or, perhaps the neighbor had told the husband at some earlier time that he could use his truck whenever he needed it.
What Mr. McKinsey and other skeptics never seem to take into consideration in their interpretation of Scripture is that the Bible does not record every single detail of every event it mentions (cf. John 21:25). The Bible was not intended to be an exhaustive chronological timeline citing every aspect about the lives of all of the men and women mentioned within it. The New Testament book of Acts covers a period of about thirty years, but it actually is only about some of the acts of some of the early Christians. There were many more things that Paul, Peter, Silas, Luke, and other first-century Christians did that are not recorded therein. For example, Paul spent three years in Arabia and Damascus after his conversion (Galatians 1:16-18), yet Luke did not mention this detail, nor the many things Paul accomplished during these three years.
The case of Jesus telling His disciples to go locate the donkey and colt does not prove thievery, any more than Jesus’ disciples inquiring about and occupying an “upper room” makes them trespassers (cf. Mark 14:13-15). When sending His two disciples to get the requested animals, Jesus told them exactly where to go and what to say, as if He already knew the circumstances under which the donkey and colt were available. Jesus may very well have prearranged for the use of the donkeys. Neither Mr. McKinsey nor any other skeptic can prove otherwise. Similar to how a man is not obligated to go home from work every night and rehearse to his wife everything he did each hour at work, the Bible is not obligated to fill in every detail of every event, including the one regarding the attainment of two animals. No contradiction or charge of wrong is legitimate if unrelated circumstantial details may be postulated that account for explicit information that is given.
Furthermore, the innocence of Jesus and His disciples is reinforced by the fact that the disciples were able to leave with the beasts. Had the disciples really been stealing the animals, one would think that the owners would not have allowed such to happen. Also, nothing is said in the text about what happened to the animals after Jesus rode them into Jerusalem. For all we know, Jesus’ disciples could have immediately taken them back to their owners.
Skeptics who accuse the Lord of thievery have no solid ground upon which to stand. Unless it can be proven that Jesus’ disciples took the animals by force (and without prior permission), justice demands that the accusations of guilt must be withdrawn.
WAS JESUS TRUSTWORTHY?
Imagine for a moment an innocent man on trial for murder. He is judged to be guilty by the jury, even after proclaiming his innocence. (Someone had framed the defendant for the murder, and all the evidence the jury heard pointed to the defendant as the offender.) When leaving the court house, if the man who was wrongly convicted is asked by a reporter, “Are you guilty?,” and he responds by saying, “If the court says I’m guilty, I’m guilty,” has the man lied? Even though the statements, “I am guilty,” and “I am not guilty,” are totally different, they may not be contradictory, depending on the time and sense in which they are spoken. After the trial, the wrongly accused defendant simply repeated the jury’s verdict. He said, “I am guilty,” and meant, “The court has found me guilty.”
When Jesus conceded to the Jews the fact that His witness was “not true,” He was not confessing to being a liar. Rather, Jesus was reacting to a well-known law of His day. In Greek, Roman, and Jewish law, the testimony of a witness could not be received in his own case (Robertson, 1997). “Witness to anyone must always be borne by someone else” (Morris, 1995, p. 287). The Law of Moses stated: “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15; cf. Matthew 18:15-17). The Pharisees understood this law well, as is evident by their statement to Jesus: “You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true” (John 8:13). In John 5:31, “Jesus points to the impossibility of anyone’s being accepted on the basis of his own word.... He is asserting that if of himself he were to bear witness to himself, that would make it untrue” in a court of law (Morris, p. 287). If Jesus had no evidence in a trial regarding His deity other than His own testimony about Himself, His testimony would be inconclusive and inadmissible. Jesus understood that His audience had a right to expect more evidence than just His word. Similar to the above illustration where an innocent man accepts the guilty verdict of the jury as final, Jesus said, “My witness is not true,” and meant that, in accordance with the law, His own testimony apart from other witnesses would be considered invalid (or insufficient to establish truth).
But why is it that Jesus said to the Pharisees at a later time that His “witness is true” (John 8:14)? The difference is that, in this instance, Jesus was stressing the fact that His words were true. Even if in a court of law two witnesses are required for a fact to be established (a law Jesus enunciated in verse 17), that law does not take away the fact that Jesus was telling the truth, just as it did not take away the fact that the wrongly accused man mentioned previously was telling the truth during his trial. Jesus declared His testimony to be true for the simple reason that His testimony revealed the true facts regarding Himself (Lenski, 1961b, p. 599). He then followed this pronouncement of truth with the fact that there was another witness—the Father in heaven Who sent Him to Earth (8:16-18). Thus, in actuality, His testimony was true in two senses: (1) it was true because it was indeed factual; and (2) it was valid because it was corroborated by a second unimpeachable witness—the Father.
God the Father (John 8:18; 5:37-38), along with John the Baptizer (John 5:33), the miraculous signs of Jesus (5:36), the Scriptures (5:39), and specifically the writings of Moses (5:46), all authenticated the true statements Jesus made regarding His deity. Sadly, many of His listeners rejected the evidence then, just as people reject it today.
WAS JESUS IGNORANT OF ELIJAH’S ASCENSION?
For Jesus’ statement to contradict what the Old Testament says about Elijah, one first must presuppose that Jesus was referring to the exact same place to which Elijah ascended. Can the skeptic be certain that the “heaven” to which Jesus referred, is the same one into which the body of Elijah ascended? The words “heaven” or “heavens” appear in our English Bibles about 700 times. And yet, in many of the passages where “heaven(s)” is found, the inspired writers were not discussing the spiritual heaven with which we most often associate the word. For example, in Genesis 1 and 2 the Hebrew word for heaven appears 15 times in 14 verses. Yet in every instance, the word is referring to something besides the spiritual heaven where God dwells. The word “heaven(s)” (Hebrew shamayim, Greek ouranoi) is used by Bible writers in three different ways. It is used to refer to the atmospheric heavens in which the airplanes fly, the birds soar, and the clouds gather (Genesis 1:20; Jeremiah 4:25; Matthew 6:26, ASV). “Heaven(s)” also is used in the Bible when referring to the firmament where we find the Sun, Moon, and stars—the sidereal heavens, or outer space (Genesis 1:14-15; Psalm 19:4,6; Isaiah 13:10). The third “heaven” frequently mentioned in Scripture is the spiritual heaven in which Jehovah dwells (Psalm 2:4; Hebrews 9:24), and where, one day, the faithful will live forevermore (Revelation 21:18-23; John 14:1-3). The context of John 3 clearly indicates that Jesus is referring to the spiritual heavens wherein God dwells (cf. John 3:27). The passage in 2 Kings 2:11, however, is not as clear. The writer of 2 Kings easily could have meant that the body of Elijah miraculously ascended up high into the air, never to be seen by anyone on Earth again. Nowhere does the text indicate that he left Earth at that moment to dwell in God’s presence. He definitely went somewhere, but we have no evidence that he was transferred to the actual throne room of God Almighty.
The Bible indicates that when God’s faithful servants leave this Earth, their spirits are taken to dwell in a place referred to as paradise (or “the bosom of Abraham”—Luke 16:19-31). Recall when Jesus was fastened to the cross, and told the penitent thief, “Today, you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). The word paradise is of Persian derivation, and means a “garden” or “park.” Where was it that Jesus and the thief went? Neither of them went to heaven to be with God the Father on that very day for, in John 20:17 after His resurrection, Jesus reassured Mary that He had not yet ascended to the Father. So where did Jesus and the thief go after dying on the cross? Peter gave the answer to that question in his sermon in Acts 2 when he quoted Psalm 16. Acts 2:27 states that God would not abandon Christ’s soul in hades, nor allow Christ to undergo decay. So while Christ’s body was placed in a tomb for three days, Christ’s spirit went to hades. [NOTE: The word hades occurs ten times in the New Testament, and always refers to the unseen realm of the dead—the receptacle of disembodied spirits where all people who die await the Lord’s return and judgment. One part of hades, where Jesus and the thief went, is known as paradise.] Peter argued that David, who penned Psalm 16, was not referring to himself, since David’s body was still in the tomb (Acts 2:29), and his spirit was still in the hadean realm (Acts 2:34). Acts 2 indicates that a faithful servant of God does not go directly to be with God the Father when he dies; rather, he goes to a holding place in hades known as paradise—the same place where Abraham went after he died (Luke 16:22ff.), and the same place where the spirit of Elijah went after he was caught up from the Earth. In short, the Bible does not teach that Elijah left Earth to begin immediately dwelling in the presence of the Father (where Jesus was before His incarnation—John 1:1). Thus, technically he did not ascend to the “place” whence Jesus came.
For the sake of argument, consider for a moment that the skeptic is right, and that Elijah’s spirit did not go to paradise, but was taken to dwell in the very presence of God. Could Jesus still have made the statement He did, and yet not be inaccurate? We believe so. Notice again the response to Nicodemus’ question, “How can these things be?” Jesus said: “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man” (John 3:12-13, emp. added). It may be that Jesus meant nothing more than that no one has ever gone up to heaven “by his own act” or “on his own terms” (see Bullinger, 1898, pp. 281-282). Elijah and Enoch had been taken by God, which is different than freely ascending up into heaven by one’s own ability. Furthermore, Jesus’ words, “No one has ascended to heaven,” also could have meant that no one has ever gone up into heaven to then return and speak firsthand about what he saw, and to spread the same saving message that Jesus preached. Jesus was emphasizing to Nicodemus how no one on Earth at that time was revealing such spiritual truths as Christ was, because no one ever had ascended to heaven only to return and talk about what he had seen and learned. Such seems to have been the main point Jesus was making in John 3:13. No one on Earth had seen what Jesus had seen, and thus none could teach what He taught.
Truly, the skeptic’s accusation that Jesus either lied or was mistaken regarding His comment to Nicodemus about no one having ascended to heaven is unsubstantiated. Perhaps the word heaven used in 2 Kings 2:11 was not meant to convey the idea of the spiritual heavens in which God dwells. Or, considering the Bible’s teaching on departed spirits of the righteous being in a holding place known as paradise, and not in the actual presence of Almighty God, Jesus could have meant that no person has ever ascended to the throne room of God from which He came. Furthermore, it also is interesting to note that Nicodemus, being “a man of the Pharisees” (John 3:1), and thus one who would have been very well acquainted with the details of the Old Testament, did not respond to Jesus by saying, “Wait a minute, Rabbi. What about Elijah and Enoch? Isn’t it written in the law and prophets that they ascended to heaven?” Surely, had Jesus contradicted something in the law and the prophets, it would have been brought to His attention, especially by a Pharisee. Yet, the apostle John never recorded such a statement.
Admittedly, at first glance, it might appear as if the statements, “Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings 2:11) and “No man has ascended to heaven” (John 3:13), are incongruous. However, when a person considers all of the possible solutions to the allegation that Jesus was ignorant of Elijah and Enoch’s ascensions, he must admit that such a conclusion is unjustified.
WAS JESUS A HYPOCRITE?
You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.” But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, “Raca!” shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, “You fool!” shall be in danger of hell fire (Matthew 5:21-22, emp. added).Whereas in this passage Jesus warned against the use of the word “fool,” in other passages Jesus openly used this term to describe various people. Near the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus likened the person who heard His teachings, but did not follow them, to “a foolish man who built his house on the sand” (Matthew 7:26, emp. added). When teaching about the need to be prepared for His second coming, Jesus compared those who were not ready for His return to five foolish virgins (Matthew 25:1-12). Then, while Jesus was condemning the Pharisees for their inconsistency in matters of religion, He stated: “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.’ Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold?” (Matthew 23:16-17; cf. 23:18-19, emp. added). The question that some ask in response to these alleged hypocritical statements is, “How could Jesus condemn the use of the word ‘fool’ in Matthew 5:22, but then proceed to use this word Himself on other occasions?”
First, for Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:22 to contradict His actions recorded in other passages, the skeptic must prove that the term “fool,” as used in 5:22, is the same word used elsewhere. The Greek word “Raca,” used earlier in Matthew 5:22, is a transliteration of the Aramaic term whose precise meaning is disputed. [Most likely, it means “an empty one who acts as a numskull” (Lenski, 1961a, p. 219; cf. also Robertson, 1930, 1:44).] The exact meaning of the term “fool” (Greek more) in this context also is debated. “Most scholars take it, as the ancient Syrian versions did, to mean you fool” (Bauer, et al., 1957, p. 533, emp. in orig.). Although some assume that more is the vocative of the Greek moros, in all likelihood,
just as “Raca” is a non-Greek word, so is the word more that Jesus used here. If so, then it is a word which to a Jewish ear meant “rebel (against God)” or “apostate”; it was the word which Moses in exasperation used to the disaffected Israelites in the wilderness of Zin... (Numbers 20:10). For these rash words, uttered under intense provocation, Moses was excluded from the Promised Land (Kaiser, et al., 1996, p. 359).Thus, it is quite possible that more (translated “[Y]ou fool” in Matthew 5:22) is not the normal Greek moros (fool) that Jesus applied to the Pharisees on other occasions (Matthew 23:17,19), but represents the Hebrew moreh (cf. Numbers 20:10). [For this reason, translators of the American Standard Version added a marginal note to this word in Matthew 5:22: “Or, Moreh, a Hebrew expression of condemnation.”] Obviously, if two different words are under consideration, Jesus logically could not be considered a hypocrite.
Second, it must be remembered that Jesus’ comments in Matthew 5:22 were made within a context where He was condemning unrighteous anger (5:21-26). Whereas the Pharisees condemned murder, but overlooked the evil emotions and attitudes that sometimes led to the shedding of innocent blood, Jesus condemned both the actions and the thoughts. Instead of dealing with only “peripheral” problems, Jesus went to the heart of the matter. As someone Who “knew what was in man” (John 2:25), Jesus was more than qualified to pronounce judgment upon the hypocritical Pharisees (cf. John 12:48). Like the unrighteousness that characterized the Pharisees’ charitable deeds (Matthew 6:1-4), prayers (6:5-15), fasting (6:16-18), and judgments (7:1-5), Jesus also condemned their unrighteous anger. [NOTE: Jesus did not condemn all anger (cf. Ephesians 4:26; John 2:13-17), only unrighteous anger.] It was in this context that Jesus warned against the use of the word “fool.” Jesus was not prohibiting a person from calling people “fools” if it was done in an appropriate manner (cf. Psalm 14:1), but He was forbidding it when done in the spirit of malicious contempt. He “warned against using the word fool as a form of abuse” that indicated “hatred in one’s heart toward others” (“Fool,” 1986; cf. Matthew 5:43-48). As in many other situations, it seems that the attitude, rather than actual words, is the focus of the prohibition.
While this verse, when taken in its context, is seen to be consistent with Jesus’ words and actions recorded elsewhere in the gospel accounts, His prohibition regarding the manner of a word’s usage should not be overlooked in the apologist’s effort to defend the deity of Christ (or any other Bible doctrine). We may call an atheist a “fool” for not acknowledging God’s existence (Psalm 14:1), but to do so in a hateful, malicious manner is sinful. Remember, the Christian is called to “give a defense to everyone” in a spirit of “meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).
With increasing frequency, Jesus’ enemies are casting caustic criticisms at our Lord and His church. Books, journals, Web sites, movies, etc. are being produced at record speed that attempt to undermine the very foundation of Christianity—the fact that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). With this in mind, Christians must prepare themselves for the defense of Christ’s historicity, deity, and spiritual purity. Nothing is more essential to the Christian’s faith than Christ. What then could be more important for Christians to do than to defend Who He really was—the Son of God?
Barker, Dan (1993), “Why Jesus?,” Freedom From Religion Foundation, [On-line], URL: http://ffrf.org/nontracts/jesus.php.
Bauer, Walter, William Arndt, and F.W. Gingrich (1957), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).
Bullinger, E.W. (1898), Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1968 reprint).
Butt, Kyle (2000), “The Historical Christ—Fact or Fiction?,” Reason & Revelation, 20:1-6, January.
Clarke, Adam (1996), Adam Clarke’s Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Coffman, Burton (1984), Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Abilene, TX: ACU Press).
Dummelow, J.R. (1937), One Volume Commentary (New York,NY: MacMillan).
“Fool,” (1986), Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Jackson, Wayne (1998), “The Historicity of Jesus Christ,” Reason & Revelation, 18:6-7, January.
Kaiser, Walter C. Jr., Peter H. Davids, F.F. Bruce, and Manfred T. Brauch (1996), Hard Sayings of the Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press).
Lenski, R.C.H. (1961a), The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
Lenski, R.C.H. (1961b), The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
McGarvey, J.W. (n.d.), The Fourfold Gospel (Cincinnati, OH: Standard).
McGarvey, J.W. (1875), Commentary on Matthew and Mark (Delight AR: Gospel Light).
McKinsey, C. Dennis (no date), “Jesus, Imperfect Beacon,” Biblical Errancy [On-line], URL: http://members.aol.com/ckbloomfld/bepart11.html#issref113.
McKinsey, C. Dennis (no date), “Problems with the Credentials and Character of Jesus,” Biblical Errancy [On-line], URL: http://mywebpages.comcast.net/errancy/issues/iss190.htm.
McKinsey, C. Dennis (1985), “Commentary,” Biblical Errancy, January.
McKinsey, C. Dennis (1995), The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).
McKinsey, C. Dennis (2000), Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).
Morgan, Donald (1996), “Jesus Was a Hypocrite,” [On-line], URL: http://www.buffaloatheists.com/articles/group1/jesus%20was%20a%20hipocrite.htm.
Morris, Leon (1995), The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), revised edition.
Renan, Ernest (no date), The Life of Jesus, [On-line], URL: http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/ernest_renan/life_of_jesus.html.
Robertson, A.T. (1930), Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman).
Robertson, A.T. (1932), Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman).
Robertson, A.T. (1997), Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Schnook, Charlotte (no date), “The Bible is Fit for Worship?” [On-line], URL: http://www.evilbible.com/is_bible_fit_for_worship.htm.
Vincent, Marvin R. (1997), Word Studies in the New Testament (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Wells, Steve (2001), Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, [On-line], URL:http://www.Skepticsannotatedbible.com.
Zerr, E.M. (1952), Bible Commentary (Raytown, MO: Reprint Publications).
Evolution, Intelligent Design, and Testability
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
As modern science has acquired the ability to see deeper and deeper into the natural world, problems with the waning theory of evolution continue to plague its proponents. A multiplicity of natural, biological systems exhibit complexity that could not have arisen through natural, evolutionary processes. In response to these findings, the Intelligent Design movement has begun to gain major footholds in academic circles. In a nutshell, intelligent design suggests that many natural systems are too complex to have evolved.
In an attempt to discredit intelligent design, supporters of evolution have made and repeated one primary line of attack. They posit that intelligent design is not scientific because it cannot be tested. The writings of those who bring this accusation against intelligent design are legion. In an article titled, “UNLV Teachers Dismiss ‘Design’ Theory,” the author quotes Stanley Smith, professor of the Department of Biological Sciences, as saying: “[S]cience includes hypotheses that must be tested and proved or discarded.” Smith then stated: “All science follows the scientific method, in which we make observations in nature, create testable hypotheses as to why we see patterns that we do and then conduct experiments that test those hypotheses” (as quoted in Thomas, 2005). Smith further quipped that intelligent design does not meet this criterion. Associate professor of biological sciences, Steven de Belle, commented on intelligent design as well. He stated: “‘It is not science. The defining feature of the scientific method is lacking in ID,’ which includes making observations and testing hypotheses” (Thomas, 2005).
In an article describing the University of Kansas decision to teach a course on intelligent design as religious myth, Paul Mirecki, the chair of KU’s religious studies department, and teacher of the new course, commented on intelligent design in this way: “Creationism is mythology.... Intelligent design is mythology. It’s not science. They try to make it sound like science. It clearly is not” (Gendall, 2005).
In his article titled “Scientific Theories More Than Guesses,” Jonathan Hoffman wrote: “Thomas Harrington correctly pointed out that a scientific theory is testable and falsifiable. What he failed to state, however, is that ‘intelligent design’ does not meet these criteria” (2005).
Here, then, is the alleged situation. Evolution is scientific because it is testable and falsifiable, and has been tested and confirmed. Intelligent design, on the other hand, is not scientific because it cannot be tested and cannot be falsified, and therefore should not be viewed as science. In order to sort this out, it would be appropriate to see just how testable and falsifiable the theory of organic evolution really is.
Every evolutionary scientist must recognize that the fundamental tenet of organic evolution is the idea that life arose from non-living material substances such as chemicals. This idea, often referred to as spontaneous generation, certainly is a testable idea. Ironically, however, biological scientists have been testing this idea for centuries and have discovered that life in this Universe does not and cannot arise spontaneously from natural processes. This fact is well-known and admitted even by evolutionary scientists. George Wald wrote in Biological Sciences: “If life comes only from life, does this mean that there was always life on earth? It must, yet we know that this cannot be so. We know that the world was once without life—that life appeared later. How? We think it was by spontaneous generation” (1963, p. 42). David Kirk noted: “By the end of the nineteenth century there was general agreement that life cannot arise from the nonliving under conditions that now exist upon our planet. The dictum ‘All life from preexisting life’ became the dogma of modern biology, from which no reasonable man could be expected to dissent” (1975, p. 7). And Martin Moe stated:
A century of sensational discoveries in the biological sciences has taught us that life arises only from life, that the nucleus governs the cell through the molecular mechanisms of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and that the amount of DNA and its structure determine not only the nature of the species but also the characteristics of individuals (1981, p. 36, emp. added).According, then, to every piece of experimental data that has been collected, life in this material Universe does not arise from non-living chemicals. Thousands of experiments have been designed and executed, each of which verifies this fact (for more information see Thompson, 1989). And yet, the general population is being led to believe that evolution is scientific because it is experimentally testable and falsifiable? If, by scientific, it is meant that, regardless of the outcome of the experiments, the theory will be maintained, then by all means evolution is scientific. In reality, the origin of life according to organic evolution has been tested and disproved. Therefore, if the foremost precept of organic evolution is untestable (at the least) and has been satisfactorily disproved (at the most), how can its advocates maintain that it alone belongs in the science classroom?
Is intelligent design scientific and testable? Can intelligence be tested and verified? In reality, intelligence in the Universe can be tested and verified. The SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) project is a classic example of the testability of intelligence. Basically, millions of dollars were pumped into a project to detect codes or messages from outer space that would indicate intelligence. Those involved in the project recognized that mathematical patterns, codes, languages, algorithms, and various other “fundamental laws” would be accepted as evidence that some type of intelligence did exist. The premise that can be surmised from the SETI program is that intelligence could be recognized and distinguished from non-intelligent, natural explanations; the required criteria for this recognition being some type of code, mathematical sequence, physical patterns, etc. Such codes have been found in biological systems such as DNA and living organisms (see Butt, 2005).
Another example of testing for intelligence would be that of the IQ (Intelligent Quotient) test designed to measure intelligence scientifically. Countless tests have been designed to assess the amount of intelligence possessed by individuals. Web sites that discuss such testing often use words and terms for their tests such as “scientifically valid,” “intelligence testing,” “developed by Ph.D.s,” etc. (see IQtest Home Page). From such admissions, it can be inferred that intelligence is measurable and testable. If a person could take the different aspects of IQ tests that verify intelligence and apply them to things that are studied in the natural world, then intelligence could be tested and verified. In essence, that is exactly what has been done in intelligent design books such as Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box and William Dembski’s Intelligent Design.
W.R. Thompson, in his introduction to the 1956 edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species, stated it perfectly when he said:
It is...right and proper to draw the attention of the non-scientific public to the disagreements about evolution. But some recent remarks of evolutionists show that they think this unreasonable. This situation where scientific men rally to the defense of a doctrine they are unable to define scientifically, much less demonstrate with scientific rigor, attempting to maintain its credit with the public by suppression of criticism and elimination of difficulties, is abnormal and undesirable in science (p. xxii).In truth, proponents of evolution know that it cannot withstand open criticism. Furthermore, they know that evolution cannot be tested nor is it any more scientific than intelligent design; in fact, it is less so. Therefore, in order for them to keep it ensconced in textbooks, they must suppress criticism of it and not allow its varied and numerous flaws to be considered critically. The situation that has arisen due to this irrational adherence to evolution is nothing short of “abnormal and undesirable in science.” The next time someone demands that evolution is testable, ask for the experimental evidence that confirms that life came from non-life and observe the tell-tale silence that speaks the truth.
Butt, Kyle (2005), “The SETI Project, Falling “Floppy Discs,” and A Major Missed Implication,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/361.
Dembski, William A. (1999), Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press).
Gendall, Michael (2005), “Religious Course Stresses Mythology,” [On-line], URL: http://badgerherald.com/news/2005/11/29/religious_course_str.php.
Hoffman, Jonathan (2005), “Scientific Theories More Than Guesses,” [On-line], URL: http://www.alligator.org/pt2/051129column.php.
IQtest Home Page (2005), [On-line], URL: http://www.iqtest.com/.
Kirk, David (1975), Biology Today (New York: Random House).
Moe, Martin A. (1981), “Genes on Ice,” Science Digest, 89:36,95, December.
Thomas, Laurel (2005), “UNLV Teachers Dismiss ‘Design’ Theory,” [On-line], URL: http://unlvrebelyell.com/article.php?ID=880.
Thompson, Bert (1989), “The Bible and the Laws of Science: The Law of Biogenesis,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2004.
Thompson, W.R. (1956), “Introduction,” Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (New York: Dutton: Everyman’s Library).
Wald, George (1963), Biological Science: An Inquiry Into Life (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World).