4/19/17

I’M SURE I READ IT SOMEWHERE by Jim McGuiggan


https://jimmcguiggan.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/im-sure-i-read-it-somewhere/


I’M SURE I READ IT SOMEWHERE

Why did God come?
The answer’s simple, isn’t it? He is infinitely holy and we’re abysmally sinful so He came to punish and damn us. Well, that’s what holy people do, isn’t it? They cut the unholy off and speak the truth when they say that that’s all the unholy deserve. How can you argue with that? Can you imagine the unholy claiming that their unholiness merits reward? That would be dumb. That would be sinfully dumb! So now we know, the infinitely holy God came to punish and damn us. He came to pay us back for what we did to Him and to His Son.
Oh well, what can we expect?
But…um…He went about it a funny way didn’t He? You would think He could have damned us without ever leaving His house; without ever coming to deliver the verdict personally. Are you sure He came to condemn us? Here He came to tell us personally that He wants to damn us and what does He do? He heals our sick, feeds our hungry, weeps over us, raises our dead and…forgives our sins. Forgives our sins?
Wait. Wait. Wait!! Wait just a minute! That’s not the behavior of someone who came to damn us!
And on what grounds did He forgive our sins? He said He had come to give His life a ransom for us (Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:6)? And on what grounds did He heal our sicknesses? We’re told He healed them by bearing them (Matthew 8:16-17)?
This is so confusing. The Holy God came in and as Jesus Christ to damn us and yet He carries our diseases and gives His life a ransom for us? And didn’t I hear that as He passed a cup of wine at the Passover He said, “This is my blood, which is shed for the forgiveness of sins”?
Maybe He didn’t come to condemn us!
Sigh.
If only when He came He had said something like: “God did not send Me, His Son, into the (sinful) world to condemn the world but that the world through Me might have life.”
Yesssss…yesssss…now that I think about it…now that I think about it…I do believe I read that somewhere.
Think I’ll go and look that up.

The Apostle Paul’s Place In New Testament Christianity By Dennis Gulledge


http://www.gospelgazette.com/gazette/1999/oct/page14.shtml

The Apostle Paul’s Place
In New Testament Christianity

By Dennis Gulledge

The subject of our study is one of the most admired men who ever lived.  He penned more of the New Testament than any other inspired writer.  Probably more books have been written about him, second only to Jesus.  Perhaps the most widely studied work on Paul in the 19th century is The Life and Epistles of St. Paul (2 vols., 1852) written by W.J. Conybeare and J.S. Howson.  Another valuable book is St. Paul The Traveller and Roman Citizen (1895) by William M. Ramsay.  These books present a scholarly and conservative approach to the life of the great apostle.  There is a current revival of interest in the life of Paul, and the books about him that are coming from so many of the modern “scholars” are not of the same character as Conybeare, Howson and Ramsay.  The latter books about the apostle seem to serve some political agenda of modernism. Paul has been the subject of many high profile revisionists who are taking another look at the great apostle.  The Arkansas Democrat Gazette (February 7, 1998) carried an article by Hieu Tran Phan, entitled, “Blinded by the Light: Paul’s Role in the Formation of Christianity Again Being Scrutinized” (p. 4B).  Also, the news magazine U.S. News & World Report ran an article by Jeffery L. Sheler, entitled, “Reassessing an Apostle,” with the subtitle, “The quest for the historical St. Paul yields some surprising new theories” (pp. 52-55).  The basis of both of these articles is to re-examine Paul’s place in the establishment of Christianity.  The revisionist “scholars” of today claim that Paul “planted the seeds of a global church – something Christ never envisioned” (ADG, p. 4B).  Some “scholars” now believe that Paul was more instrumental in the founding of Christianity than anyone else, including Jesus (USN&WR, p. 52.).  It is now said that Paul was “Christianity’s true founder” (USN&WR, p. 55).  Over the past few years, “scholars” have intensified their quest for the “historical Jesus,” and they have now enlarged their focus to include the “historical Paul.”
When one considers what these revisionist “scholars” mean by Christianity it is easy to see that they are not even close to a correct understanding of the apostle.
Revisionists believe that Paul developed a spiritual Christology by borrowing from pagan mythologies.  “Religions such as Mythraism had themes of a virgin being impregnated by some divine being,” Plumer* says.  “There were stories of some godly person being killed on a tree or cross with the promise that he would return. . . . There’s no way to prove that Christianity is historically deficient, but it seems likely.”  (ADG, p. 4B).
Among the more provocative theories that have emerged from these types of studies are the following, as listed in the U.S. News article (p. 52): First, “As a Christian missionary and theologian, Paul knew little and cared less about the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth.”  The claim is made that Paul simply may not have known the teachings of Jesus because he tells no stories about Jesus.  Second,
Paul was intensely apocalyptic and believed that Christ’s Second Coming was imminent.  Consequently, he did not intend his sometimes stern judgment on doctrinal matters and on issues of gender and sexuality to become church dogma applied, as it has been, for nearly 2,000 years.
In other words, Paul was busy anticipating the end of time and did not expect his writings to constitute a divine pattern.  Third,
Although an apostle to the Gentiles, Paul remained thoroughly Jewish in his outlook and saw the Christian movement as a means of expanding and reforming traditional Judaism.  He had no thought of starting a new religion.
Fourth, “For all of his energy and influence, Paul wrote only a fraction of the New Testament letters that tradition ascribes to him, and even some of those were subsequently altered by others to reflect developments in church theology.” In a world of “scholars” currently talking trash about Paul, it would be well for us to assess Paul’s place in New Testament Christianity.  The history of first century Christianity is contained in two names – Jesus and Paul.  Unquestionably, most of the history of the early church is embodied in the life of that great apostle to the Gentiles.

How Important Was Paul
in the Spread of Early Christianity?

It would be hard to overestimate the importance of Paul in the spread of first century Christianity.  His ability to work and suffer for Christ was without parallel (1 Corinthians 15:10; 2 Corinthians 11:23-28).  His influence was second only to that of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).  His writings that were inspired of the Holy Spirit are more numerous and have more powerfully directed the course of human thought and action than any others.  Peter, a great apostle though he was, was confronted by Paul once because he “walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel” (Galatians 2:11-14), but who ever confronted Paul because he was to be blamed for anything?” In every area of activity, Paul cast a longer shadow than any other disciple or apostle (1 Corinthians 15:10).  He who was once the scourge of the church became the surge of the church.  He was remarkably changed from a persistent persecutor to the great apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 22:4-5; Romans 11:13).  The Gospel was preached to “every creature under heaven” during his lifetime (Colossians 1:23).

Paul Broadened the
Horizons of the Gospel

Two factors contributed to the great success of Paul’s labors: First, the universality of the Gospel message (Mark 16:15; Romans 1:16), and second, the strength of personality which enabled him to carry that message. It was primarily through his efforts that the Gospel was preached in Cyprus, Galatia, Macedonia, Greece, Asia and other places of the Greco-Roman world.  Modern day revisionists think that this is something Christ did not envision for Christianity.  Not only did the Lord envision it, he commanded it! (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15).  Exclusivism was no part of Paul’s preaching unless that exclusivity is in Christ! (1 Corinthians 1:23).  Paul came out of Phariseeism, but Pharisaic narrowness had no place in his preaching (Acts 23:6).  Neither did he produce a “Pauline Christianity” as opposed to a “Jewish Christianity” (1 Corinthians 1:12-13).  Paul knew that the Gospel was God’s power to save every man (Romans 1:16).

Paul Revealed Christianity
as a Spiritual Religion

Paul demonstrated that God’s love for national Israel had merged into a wider love for spiritual Israel:
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.  And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:15-16).
The falsehood is propagated by revisionists that Christianity was just an extension of Judaism.  It would appear that they do not know any more than those first century antagonists who considered the church to be a sect of Judaism (Acts 24:5; 28:22).  According to the U.S. News article, authors Richard Horsley and Neil Silberman, in their 1997 book, The Message and the Kingdom, argue that
Paul never considered his Damascus Road experience a “sudden [conversion] to a new religion.”  Instead, they argue, he found it a revelation of “previously unknown details of God’s unfolding plan for Israel’s salvation at the End of Day.”  What Paul then began to fervently preach was not a new faith but a refined and fulfilled version of the old.  (p. 54).
To the contrary, Paul was a chosen vessel to Jesus, not to Moses (Acts 9:15).  Paul preached the new covenant, which is a covenant and not a conglomeration (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 8:6-9).  Paul opposed the Judaizers who attempted to forge Judaism with Christianity (Acts 15:1-5).  No one ever drew a clearer distinction between the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Christ than Paul did! (Galatians 3:15—4:7).

Paul Spoke God’s Word
on Two Important Issues

Liberal critics love to pit Paul against Jesus on matters of social conscience.  It is claimed that Jesus was a social radical whose “love” theology was accepting of all cultural deviations, while Paul was a renegade apostle who was not in lock-step with his Master.  Take, for example, the matter of the role of women in worship.  Paul said, “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (1 Timothy 2:12).  The remote context of this statement is proper behavior in the life of the church (1 Timothy 3:15).  The reasons for these limitations transcend culture (1 Timothy 2:13-14).  Modern feminism feels the brunt of Paul’s words.  The “Rev” Nancy Hastings Sehested, “pastor” of the Sweet Fellowship Baptist Church in Clyde, NC, said, “I’ve been beat up by St. Paul for the past 20 years” (USN&WR, p. 54).  She “sees much of the antifeminist stance as an outgrowth of Paul’s writings” (Ibid.).  Some critics reinterpret Paul’s words to mean that he was preserving order in worship rather than limiting the role of women in the worship service. Paul’s teaching on homosexuality is equally provocative (cf., Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).  The claim is made that Paul was not repulsed by homosexuality per se, but the abuse of sodomy – homosexual rape and sexual addiction that often occurred in Greco-Roman bathhouses.
Paul should certainly be appreciated for the great apostle that he was, and who, second to Jesus, was the greatest exponent of Christianity that the world has ever seen.  His work and words still stand as the plan of God to redeem sinful man.
*This is Fred Plumer, pastor at United Church of Christ in Irvine, California, and an associate of the Jesus Seminar, a radical panel deconstructing the Bible.  It is worthy of note that Deconstruction is a method of literary criticism that “bases interpretations on the philosophical, political and social implications of the use of language in the text rather than on the author’s intention” (Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary).

"THE BOOK OF ACTS" The Call Of Barnabas And Saul (13:1-3) by Mark Copeland

                          "THE BOOK OF ACTS"

                The Call Of Barnabas And Saul (13:1-3)

INTRODUCTION

1. In Acts 1:8, Luke described the commission Jesus gave to His apostles...
   a. To be witnesses to Him
   b. In Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth

2. Thus far in his historical account, Luke has described how the
   commission was fulfilled...
   a. In Jerusalem - Ac 1:1-8:3
   b. In all Judea and Samaria - Ac 8:4-12:25

3. The rest of Luke's account focuses on the ministry of the apostle Paul...
   a. Saul of Tarsus, former persecutor of the church, now apostle to the Gentiles
   b. Whose missionary journeys illustrated how the gospel was taken "to
      the end of the earth"

[His first journey began soon after returning to Antioch of Syria with
Barnabas and John Mark (Ac 12:25), with a special call by the Holy Spirit...]

I. THE CALL OF BARNABAS AND SAUL

   A.  THE CHURCH IN ANTIOCH...
      1. Started by men from Cyprus and Cyrene, by way of Jerusalem - Ac 11:19-21
      2. Strengthened by Barnabas, then later together with Paul - Ac 11:22-26
      3. Blessed with a number of prophets and teachers - Ac 13:1
         a. Barnabas, a Levite from Cyprus - Ac 4:36
         b. Simeon called Niger ("black"), presumably a black African,
            possibly Simon of Cyrene who carried Jesus' cross - cf. Lk 23:26; Mk 15:21
         c. Lucius of Cyrene, also from North Africa - cf. Ro 16:21
         d. Manaen, brought up with Herod the tetrarch (Herod Antipas, 
            who killed John the Baptist and tried Jesus) - Mt 14:1-10; Lk 23:7-11
         e. Saul, from Tarsus in Cilicia - Ac 11:25; 22:3 

   B. THE CALL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT...
      1. As they ministered (worshiped) to the Lord and fasted - Ac 13:2
      2. The Spirit told them to separate Barnabas and Saul for the work
         He had for them - Ac 13:2
      3. With fasting, prayer, and the laying on of hands, they are sent
         on their way - Ac 13:3

[And so Barnabas and Saul are "sent out by the Holy Spirit" (Ac 13:4). 
Our next study will follow them as they make their way to the island of
Cyprus.  But for the rest of this study, allow me to share...]

II. SOME OBSERVATIONS

   A. THE DIVERSITY OF THE CHURCH...
      1. Note the racial, cultural and social diversity of the five
         prophets and teachers
      2. Two from North Africa, one from Cyprus, one from Cilicia, one from Palestine
      3. One was raised with royalty, another was wealthy, another a rabbi
      4. Isn't this the way churches should be? 
          - cf. Ro 10:12; Ga 3:26-28; Col 3:11
      5. Churches should reflect our oneness in Christ, not our society's
         divisions (e.g., white churches, black churches, Hispanic 
         churches); unless language differences are too great

   B. THE PRINCIPLE OF SYNERGY...
      1. Synergy:  the working together of two things to produce a result
         greater than the sum of their individual effects
      2. Two (or more) working together can accomplish more than their 
         working separately
      3. Jesus believed in the principle of synergy - Mk 6:7; Lk 10:1
      4. Barnabas believed in the principle of synergy - Ac 11:25-26
      5. The Holy Spirit believed in the principle of synergy - Ac 13:2,4
      6. We do well to support teams of two or more, not just individuals working alone

   C. THE PRACTICE OF FASTING...
      1. Jesus said His disciples would fast, and taught them how to fast
         - Mt 9:14-17; 6:16-18
      2. The church at Antioch fasted - Ac 13:2-3
      3. Elders were appointed with prayer and fasting - Ac 14:21-23
      4. Paul wrote of spouses fasting and prayer during periods of separation - 1Co 7:5  
      5. Fasting in conjunction with prayer is suitable in the life of 
         the Christian and the church

   D. THE LAYING ON OF HANDS...
      1. Used often in the appointment or dedication of service - Ac 6:6; 13:3
      2. Indicating acceptance and approval of those who have been
         selected by the congregation - cf. Ac 6:1-6; 1Ti 5:22; He 6:2
      3. Beseeching God's blessing and protection on those who serve - e.g., Ac 13:1-3
      4. "...the imposition of hands, accompanied by fasting and prayer,
         was, in this case, as in that of the seven deacons [Ac 6:6], 
         merely their formal separation to the special work to which they
         had been called. This, indeed, is sufficiently evident from the
         context.  What they did was doubtless what they had been told to
         do by the Holy Spirit.  But the Holy Spirit simply said to them,
         'Separate me Barnabas and Saul to the work to which I have 
         called them.' The fasting, prayer, and imposition of hands was,
         then, merely their separation to this work." - J. W. McGarvey, 
         Commentary on Acts, commenting on Ac 13:1-3
      5. "It was a ceremony deemed by infinite wisdom suitable to such a
         purpose; and, therefore, whenever a congregation has a similar 
         purpose to accomplish, they have, in this case, the judgments 
         and will of God, which should be their guide." - J.W. McGarvey, ibid.

CONCLUSION

1. Thus Barnabas and Saul are sent out on their missionary journey...
   a. Separated and sent out by the Holy Spirit Himself to the task before them
   b. With fasting, prayer, and the laying on of hands by those left behind

2. Barnabas and Saul will return to the church of Antioch of Syria...
   a. It will serve as the point of departure for Paul's three missionary journeys
   b. As Saul, soon to be called Paul (Ac 13:9), does his part in 
      fulfilling the Great Commission

Thousands of years later and thousands of miles away, we benefit from
the work of those willing to go (and willing to send).  May their
example encourage us to do our part today in spreading the Gospel...
 
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2012

"THE BOOK OF ACTS" Herod's Harassment Of The Church (12:1-25) by Mark Copeland

                          "THE BOOK OF ACTS"

              Herod's Harassment Of The Church (12:1-25)

INTRODUCTION

1. We have seen that with Saul's conversion the persecution against the church 
     diminished...
   a. The churches in Judea, Samaria, and Galilee had peace - Ac 9:31
   b. The gospel had spread as far as Antioch in Syria - Ac 11:19-21

2. But then a new persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem...
   a. Initiated by Herod Agrippa I - Ac 12:1
   b. His grandfather was Herod the Great, who massacred the babies - Mt 2:16
   c. His uncle was Herod Antipas, who beheaded John, and tried Jesus 
       - Mt 14:1-14; Lk 23:8-12  
   d. His son was Herod Agrippa II, who tried the apostle Paul - Ac 25:13-26:32

[Thus it was Herod Agrippa I who harassed the church in Jerusalem at
this time.  How God and the church responded to his harassment is
instructive, so let's begin with how...]

I. HEROD KILLS JAMES

   A. JAMES, BROTHER OF JOHN...
      1. Son of Zebedee, one of Jesus' first disciples - Mk 1:19-20
      2. Together with John his brother were called "Sons of Thunder"- Mk 3:17
      3. Part of the inner circle of Jesus' closest disciples 
          - cf. Mk 5:37; 9:2; 13:3; 14:33

   B. THE FIRST APOSTLE TO DIE...
      1. Not counting Judas Iscariot, who died before the church began
      2. Jesus foretold James would suffer (the cup and baptism of
         suffering) - Mk 10:35-40
      3. And so Herod killed James with the sword (i.e., beheaded him) - Ac 12:2
      4. Note:  James the apostle was not replaced after his death, nor
         is there any indication in the Scriptures that other apostles 
         were replaced when they died (excluding Judas Iscariot)

[Herod's harassment against the church by killing James pleased the
unbelieving Jews (Ac 12:3).  The most liked by the Jews of any of the
Herods (cf. Josephus), to further incur their favor...]

II. HEROD IMPRISONS PETER

   A. IMPRISONED BY A KING...
      1. Herod arrested Peter during the Days of Unleavened Bread, his trial delayed 
          - Ac 12:3-4
      2. Peter was therefore imprisoned, guarded by four squads of soldiers - Ac 12:4

   B. RELEASED BY AN ANGEL...
      1. In the meantime, the church responded with constant (fervent) prayer - Ac 12:5
      2. Peter was bound by chains between two soldiers, with guards
         before the door - Ac 12:6
      3. An angel appeared, freed Peter, and led him out of the prison - Ac 12:7-10
      4. Peter realized it was real, not a vision, that the Lord
         delivered him - Ac 12:11
      5. He goes to the house of Mary, mother of John Mark, where many
         were praying - Ac 12:12
      6. His arrival led to denial, then astonishment, but Peter 
         explained it all - Ac 12:13-17
      7. He gave instructions to inform James (the Lord's brother) and 
         then left - Ac 12:17   

[For some reason, the Lord saw fit to allow James to die while Peter
lived.  Peter would later die for Christ as well (as would most of the
apostles).  As for Herod, God was not done with him yet...]  

III. HEROD STRUCK BY AN ANGEL

   A. EXALTED BY MAN...
      1. Angered by Peter's escape, Herod executes the guards - Ac 12:18-19 
      2. Leaving Judea, Herod goes to Caesarea (seat of the Roman government) 
          - Ac 12:19
      3. The people of Tyre and Sidon appeal to him via their friend
         Blastus, his aide - Ac 12:20
      4. Giving an oration, the people praise Herod as having the voice
         of a god - Ac 12:21-22

   B. HUMBLED BY GOD...
      1. Failing to give glory to God, Herod is immediately struck by an angel - Ac 12:23
      2. Luke (a physician) tells us he was eaten by worms and died - Ac 12:23
      3. Josephus says that a severe pain arose in his belly and became
         so violent that he was carried into his palace where he died five days later
      4. Dr. A. Rendle Short, who was professor of surgery at Bristol
         University and wrote a book entitled The Bible and Modern 
         Medicine, stated that a great many people in Asia 'harbor 
         intestinal worms', which can form a tight ball and cause 'acute
         intestinal obstruction'. This may have been the cause of Herod's
         death. - Stott, J. R. W. (1994). The message of Acts: The 
         Spirit, the church & the world. The Bible Speaks Today.
         Leicester, England; Downers  Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

CONCLUSION

1. With the death of Herod and the end of his harassment against the church...
   a. "...the word of God grew and multiplied" - Ac 12:24
   b. Paul and Silas would later be able to complete their ministry and
      return to Antioch with John Mark - Ac 12:25

2. From this account of "Herod's Harassment Of The Church" we learn...
   a. How the church is to react against persecution:  pray! 
       - e.g., Ac 12:5,12; cf. Ac 4:23-31
   b. How God is able to humble governmental authorities who resist Him
      - cf. Rev 17:14

Whether it be through Divine intervention or Divine providence, Jesus as
King of kings and Lord of lords is in ultimate control (cf. Ro 13:1-4).  

As His disciples we must trust Him, even if in His wisdom it means that
some might be martyrs while others go free...
 
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2012

The Quran and Jesus’ Personal Conduct by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=8&article=1546

The Quran and Jesus’ Personal Conduct

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

The Quran’s confusion regarding the person of Jesus manifests itself repeatedly—a confusion that reflects the misconceptions and misrepresentations of the New Testament that were prevalent within Christendom in the sixth and seventh centuries, which, in turn, were mistakenly accepted into the Quran. For example, consider the Quran’s report of Allah’s communication with Mary regarding Jesus:
(And remember) when the angels said: O Mary! Lo! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a word from Him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, illustrious in the world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near (unto Allah). He will speak unto mankind in his cradle and in his manhood, and he is of the righteous. She said: My Lord! How can I have a child when no mortal hath touched me? He said: So (it will be). Allah createth what He will. If He decreeth a thing, He saith unto it only: Be! and it is. And He will teach him the Scripture and wisdom, and the Torah and the Gospel. And will make him a messenger unto the children of Israel, (saying): Lo! I come unto you with a sign from your Lord. Lo! I fashion for you out of clay the likeness of a bird, and I breathe into it and it is a bird, by Allah’s leave. I heal him who was born blind, and the leper, and I raise the dead, by Allah’s leave. And I announce unto you what ye eat and what ye store up in your houses. Lo! herein verily is a portent for you, if ye are to be believers (Surah 3:45-49, emp. added).
A parallel passage is found in Surah 5:
When Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Remember My favour unto thee and unto thy mother; how I strengthened thee with the holy Spirit, so that thou spakest unto mankind in the cradle as in maturity; and how I taught thee the Scripture and Wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel; and how thou didst shape of clay as it were the likeness of a bird by My permission, and didst blow upon it and it was a bird by My permission, and thou didst heal him who was born blind and the leper by My permission; and how thou didst raise the dead, by My permission; and how I restrained the Children of Israel from (harming) thee when thou camest unto them with clear proofs, and those of them who disbelieved exclaimed: This is naught else than mere magic (5:110, emp. added).
Even the casual reader of the New Testament is familiar with Jesus healing the blind and lepers, and raising the dead. But the New Testament is conspicuously silent about Jesus creating birds or speaking from the cradle, even as it is silent on nearly all details of Jesus’ childhood. That is because the Quran’s allusion to Jesus fashioning birds out of clay, which then came to life, was a fanciful Christian fable with a wide circulation. It is found, for example, in the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of the Savior (15:1-6) that dates from the second century (Hutchison, 1939, 1:199)—four hundred years before Muhammad’s birth:
And when the Lord Jesus was seven years of age, he was on a certain day with other boys his companions about the same age. Who when they were at play made clay into several shapes, namely asses, oxen, birds, and other figures, each boasting of his work, and endeavouring to exceed the rest. Then the Lord Jesus said to the boys, I will command these figures which I have made to walk. And immediately they moved, and when he commanded them to return, they returned. He had also made the figures of birds and sparrows, which, when he commanded to fly, did fly, and when he commanded to stand still, did stand still (The Lost Books, 1979, pp. 52-53).
A similar legend is found in the Gospel of Thomas (1:4-9) that likewise predates (Cullmann, 1991, 1:442) the production of the Quran:
Then he took from the bank of the stream some soft clay, and formed out of it twelve sparrows; and there were other boys playing with him.... Then Jesus clapping together the palms of his hands, called to the sparrows, and said to them: Go, fly away; and while ye live remember me. So the sparrows fled away, making a noise (The Lost Books, p. 60).
Observe also in the above Quranic passage the allusion to Jesus speaking while yet in His cradle. This point is elaborated more fully in Surah 19 where, after giving birth to Jesus beside the trunk of a palm tree in a remote location, Mary returned to her people carrying the child in her arms and received the following reaction:
Then she brought him to her own folk, carrying him. They said: O Mary! Thou hast come with an amazing thing. Oh sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a wicked man nor was thy mother a harlot. Then she pointed to him. They said: How can we talk to one who is in the cradle, a young boy? He spake: Lo! I am the slave of Allah. He hath given me the Scripture and hath appointed me a Prophet, and hath made me blessed wheresoever I may be, and hath enjoined upon me prayer and alms‑giving so long as I remain alive, and (hath made me) dutiful toward her who bore me, and hath not made me arrogant, unblest. Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive! Such was Jesus, son of Mary: (this is) a statement of the truth concerning which they doubt (Surah 19:27-34, emp. added).
The idea that Jesus spoke while yet in the cradle preceded the Quran, having been given in the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of the Savior (1:2-3): “Jesus spoke, and, indeed when He was lying in His cradle said to Mary his mother: I am Jesus, the Son of God, the Logos, whom thou hast brought forth, as the Angel Gabriel announced to thee; and my Father has sent me for the salvation of the world” (Roberts and Donaldson, 1951, 8:405). These mythical accounts are contrary to the Bible’s depiction of the Christ. Yet the legendary folklore extant in the centuries immediately following the production of the New Testament is replete with such absurdities, which obviously were so commonplace that the author of the Quran mistook them as authentic and legitimate representations of the New Testament.

REFERENCES

Cullmann, Oscar (1991), “Infancy Gospels,” New Testament Apocrypha, ed. Wilhelm Schneemelcher (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press).
Hutchison, J. (1939), “Apocryphal Gospels,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), 1:199.
The Lost Books of the Bible (1979 reprint), (New York: Random House).
Pickthall, Mohammed M. (n.d.), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
Roberts, Alexander and James Donaldson (1951), The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).


Was Moses on Drugs? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=13&article=2425

Was Moses on Drugs?

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Benny Shanon, a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, has recently introduced a novel approach to interpreting the biblical narratives regarding Moses’ experience with the burning bush and reception of the Ten Commandments. Shanon claims Moses was high on some type of mind-altering drug that caused him to hallucinate and have “visions.” Shanon puts forth this idea because he says that he does not think Moses was involved in “a supernatural cosmic event,” nor does he believe that the story was simply a “legend” (“Moses Was...”, 2008), so he believes the events must have some natural explanation.
Shanon attempts to add credence to his claim by admitting to using mind-altering drugs himself. In fact, he explained that he used a “powerful psychotropic plant” known as ayahuasca “during a religious ceremony in Brazil’s Amazon forest” that caused him to “experience visions that had spiritual-religious connotations” (“Moses Was...”, 2008).
Such an outlandish claim as Shanon’s can be shown to be egregiously false for several reasons. First, the books penned by Moses, with the Ten Commandments as the focal point, are the most ingenious books of codified law that the ancient world had ever seen. They are filled with scientific foreknowledge and medical practices that were light years ahead of the knowledge of surrounding nations (see Butt, 2007). The depth of ethical understanding and legal justice presented in Moses’ writings have been the bedrock of legal philosophy and practical legislation upon which Western society is based. To attribute the Ten Commandments, which are among the most concise, cogent summary statements of law ever penned, to a drug-induced psychotic stupor is an untenable, irrational conclusion.
Furthermore, in order to attribute Moses’ Mt. Sinai experience to drug use, Shanon would be forced to dismiss the fact that the entire nation of Israel experienced the presence of God at Sinai. The Bible states: “Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly.... Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off” (Exodus 19:18; 20:18). There is no possible way that some two to three million Israelites could all have been smoking some “psychotropic” plant that would have caused them all to see the exact same hallucination. In Shanon’s attempt to dismiss God’s supernatural encounter with Moses, the professor has arrived at false conclusions that cannot be defended logically.
In addition, the Old Testament, especially the first five books of Moses, gives extensive and very detailed instructions as to how the Israelites were supposed to worship God. Conspicuously absent from these writings are any instructions pertaining to psychotic drugs to be used in their religious ceremonies. In fact, Aaron and the priests were specifically instructed not to drink wine or intoxicating drink when they performed religious ceremonies (Leviticus 10:9). It would be unreasonable to conclude that they could not drink alcohol, but they could smoke a plant that would send them into a state of hallucination.
In truth, there is no historical, logical, or rational evidence that would remotely suggest that Moses was on drugs. The historical truth is that God supernaturally appeared to Moses and delivered to him the Ten Commandments. In the scenario that Professor Shanon has presented, there is only one person that used powerful, mind-altering drugs—and it is not Moses.

REFERENCES

Butt, Kyle (2007), Behold! The Word of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
“Moses Was High On Drugs: Israeli Researcher” (2008), [On-line], URL: http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080304/od_afp/israelreligionoffbeat;_ylt =AkpuHg_GDQDWrvVQZxWJKeoZ.3QA.

The Problem of Suffering: Further Arguments by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=128

The Problem of Suffering: Further Arguments

by  Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.

When one engages in debates over the problem of evil, the deficiencies of several standard arguments become obvious. Perhaps, with further refinement, these arguments might become more useful. In the meantime, Christians should be aware that their opponents have some ready comebacks. Frequently, in a free-for-all discussion (such as in a college dorm room or an introductory philosophy class), there is no opportunity to press each line of reasoning, or to improvise “on the fly.”
Also, there is a real temptation to flee from theodicy to theodicy (a “theodicy,” literally, is a justification of God). The dynamic of the argument tends to go along the following lines: the atheist makes his charge, you make a defense, the atheist counters, and then you resort to another defense. This can keep going, but only for so long. Eventually, you may find yourself bringing up the first argument. Your opponent repeats his criticism, and you are back to where you started.
My feature article represents an attempt to break out of this cycle by making what is, in the atheists’ view, an illicit move (i.e., insisting that the entire content of faith has everything to do with sorting out an alleged contradiction within that faith). However, this is not going to stop the atheist from bringing up the usual theodicies only to criticize them, and so we should be aware of how this debate often proceeds.
For example, a popular theistic argument rests on the concept of free will. The idea here is that suffering came into the world through the bad choices of Adam and Eve. Their resulting expulsion from the Garden of Eden forced their descendants to face a hostile world “red in tooth and claw.” Humans continue to make the wrong decisions, which brings further suffering. Victims of drunk drivers are the classic examples of people who suffer for the wrong doings of others. Despite these terrible consequences, a world populated by free moral beings is supposed to be better than a world in which there is less evil, but which is populated by creatures who have little or no choice.
This argument is attractive because it has a biblical basis in the Fall, and because it seems highly intuitive. Most of us have a strong sense that we are free to choose, and that uncoerced people of sound mind are responsible for the choices they make. If we want to blame anybody for our woes, it must be ourselves, not God.
John Mackie’s well-known challenge against this view is to pose the following question of God: “Why could he not have made men such that they always freely choose the good?” (1990, p. 33). In this alternative world, there would be moral beings just like us, except they would choose to do right on every occasion.
The first reaction is to think that this demands a logical impossibility of God. If God creates beings who cannot sin, then He has created beings without free will. But this is not what the critic is asking: he thinks it is possible for an all-knowing, all-powerful God to create beings who could sin, but would not. If the Creator had made us in such a way that we could sin, and would sin, then this makes it seem as if we were destined to sin. If Adam and Eve had not sinned, eventually one of their descendants would have made the wrong choice. So, contrary to the intentions of the free-will argument, skeptics believe that God still must bear the brunt of the blame for suffering.
The critic may try to support this line of reasoning with what Christians claim for the life of Christ. After all, Jesus could have sinned, but did not. It is tempting to respond by pointing out His divine nature. However, if that nature shielded Christ from making the wrong choices, then it cannot be true that He was “in all points tempted as we are” (Hebrews 4:15). No doubt, Jesus had some special advantages, such as knowing God’s will perfectly. This could have helped Him avoid the sins of omission, or sins committed out of ignorance. Even so, there are times when we fail to do what we know is right. From a biblical standpoint, it is better to view the sinless life of Christ as an example (Philippians 2:5-8) and a prerequisite for His sacrifice on the cross (Hebrews 9:12-28), rather than proof of His deity.
Even if we can get past these doctrinal issues, the atheist will bring up the old philosophical debate between freedom and determinism. Traditionally, at least, critics of theism have allied themselves with some version of the latter view. This article is not the place to rehearse that debate, but anyone who wishes to use a free-will theodicy must be able to defend the notion of free will itself.
Given these sorts of difficulties, perhaps the reader can begin to see why I take the approach presented in the accompanying feature article. Notice that Mackie’s challenge is one of those “why” questions directed against God. It may be a good question, but that is not Mackie’s intent. In his view, God’s “failure to avail himself” of the possibility of creating free beings that would choose always to do right “is inconsistent with his being both omnipotent and wholly good” (Mackie, 1990, p. 33). But how do we know that this was a possibility open to God? Could God not have some good reason for creating a world in which evil might become a reality (Plantinga, 1977, pp. 26-28)? It seems that we are not in a position to discern that reason. Anyone may wish that God had been able to create a different kind of world, but to insist that God does not exist because we think He should or could have done otherwise is quite another matter.
Another argument, made famous by John Hick, takes as its starting point a statement by Irenaeus (a second-century “church father”): “the creation is suited to [the wants of] man; for man was not made for its sake, but creation for the sake of man” (Against Heresies, v.xxix.1). Hence, the creation has a human-centered purpose that, according to Hick, includes the molding and making of our souls in the fiery trials of pain and suffering (1992, p. 492). Borrowing a phrase from John Keats, he sees this present life as a “vale of Soul-making.” Individuals perfect their souls by responding appropriately to the evils of this world.
Again, this approach seems attractive at first glance. God “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). As we see in the case of Job, how we respond to the trials of life matters a great deal to God. Yet even committed theists have questioned whether suffering is the most important ingredient in spiritual growth—important enough to create a world specifically for that purpose (e.g., Adams and Adams, 1990, p. 19; Frame, 1994, p. 164). In reality, some people respond negatively to suffering, and would rather “curse God and die.” Then there are those people who seem blessed beyond measure, yet have no interest in serving God. Other individuals seem incapable of deriving any benefit from suffering, such as the child who dies at an early age. And what do we say of the faithful Christian who never has experienced intense pain or deep sorrow? Has this blessing made him or her woefully imperfect? As far as the apostle Paul was concerned, his own sufferings meant nothing as long as he might “gain Christ and be found in Him” (Philippians 3:8-9). Clearly, a world with surplus evil or, for that matter, a preponderance of good, is not the crucial factor in perfecting one’s soul.
At best, the soul-making theodicy is a partial answer, but in no way does this compromise the Christian position. A critic may want to suggest that without Hick’s account we lack an explanation for why God placed man in a world with so much suffering. Here is that “why” question again: it assumes that our ignorance of God’s reasons reflects badly on Him, which it does not.
Finally, some theodicists have argued that this is not a perfect world, but is the best of all possible worlds. If God has the attributes we think He has, then apparently the world has to contain significant amounts of evil.
This view really serves as an umbrella for many of the other arguments. We could draw on the free-will argument, and insist that this world is the best place for including free moral beings. We could draw on the soul-making theodicy, and insist that this world is the best place for having evils that perfect our souls. In the final analysis, this may not be a perfect world, but it is the best way to that perfect world.
Critics, for the most part, simply have a hard time buying this argument. Is this world really the best that an all-powerful, all-loving God can do for us? Why did God not create a world in which moral beings can choose to do right or wrong, but always choose to do right? [We have seen that question already.] Why did God have to create moral creatures at all? Could He not have created a world in which there were beings unable to choose between right and wrong? At least in such a world, there would be no moral evil. Or, why create a world at all? Is it really better that a material world should exist, whether it is populated by moral or nonmoral beings? Supposedly, creation is a divine grace, but could God not have refrained from imparting this gift? Christians claim to know of a perfect world already—they call that place heaven. Why could God not create us in heaven?
Without knowing God’s mind, we do not have the answers to these questions. We do not know why God created us the way we are. We do not know why God created a world in which suffering was possible. We do not know why we must pass through a physical existence first. Does the Bible’s silence on these matters reflect badly on the Christian faith? By no means. Christianity never claimed to have every answer, but only those answers “that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:2-3).

REFERENCES

Adams, Marilyn McCord and Robert Merrihew Adams (1990), The Problem of Evil (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press).
Frame, John M. (1994), Apologetics to the Glory of God: An Introduction (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R).
Hick, John (1992), “The Irenaean Theodicy,” To Believe or not to Believe, ed. E.D. Klemke (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; originally published in Evil and the God of Love, 1966, chap. 13), pp. 482-494.
Mackie, J.L. (1990), “Evil and Omnipotence,” The Problem of Evil, ed. Marilyn McCord Adams and Robert Merrihew Adams (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press; originally published in Mind, 1955, 64:200-12), pp. 25-37.
Plantinga, Alvin (1977), God, Freedom, and Evil (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

The Problem of Suffering by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=127

The Problem of Suffering

by  Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.

Just to be human is to deal with emotional and physical pain on a day-to-day basis. This is the practical and existential problem of suffering that affects, and is affected by, our world view. Even Christians, who confess a living God (Matthew 16:16), may wonder: Where is this God when we need Him? Why doesn’t He do something? These questions may lead to doubt, and then to disbelief. Atheists see only vindication in events like the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. They hear a mother on the evening news proclaiming, “It’s a miracle that my baby survived,” and wonder: Would it have been much bother for God to have done the same for everyone else? This is not a new argument. But given academic freedom in the modern secular university, unbelievers are able to wield the extent and depth of human suffering with devastating effect on ungrounded faith.
If we understand the intellectual problem of suffering, we may have a better chance of coming through the emotional side of the problem. However, my primary goal is to defend theism, and Christianity in particular, against the charges leveled by atheists. In so doing, I intend to show how one common tactic may distract us from a God-centered response.

THE ARGUMENT

The intellectual problem of suffering is a challenge unique to theists. By “theist” I mean anyone who believes in a Being Who exists beyond or outside the natural world, yet Who is able to be involved in the course of human events. This excludes deists, for example, who believe that a Supreme Being created the world, and left it alone. Christians, Jews, and Moslems, for the most part, count themselves as theists. Specifically, most readers of this article will be Christians who believe that God has attributes that are infinite in degree: that He is eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, and so on.
Then the following question arises: How do we reconcile the existence of suffering with the existence of an all-loving, all-knowing God? The argument goes something like this:
  1. If God is all-powerful, He could do something to prevent or end suffering.
  2. If God is all-loving, He would want to prevent or end suffering.
  3. There is a tremendous amount of suffering in the world.
  4. Therefore, God either is not all-loving or not all-powerful.
The reason I say that this is a problem for the theist is that the atheist does not believe in the first two premises. He rejects that there is a God Who could do something about suffering if He had the power, and he rejects that there is a God Who would do something about suffering if He had the inclination. He does not deny the third premise—that there is suffering. Like every human being, he faces the existential problem of suffering. As far as he is concerned, suffering just is: it is part of our unplanned, purposeless existence. We live, we die—end of story. Only for the sake of the present argument does the atheist grant God’s existence. All he is asking us to do, as theists, is reconcile or justify suffering, given that God is supposed to be an all-loving and all-powerful Being.

Skirting the Problem

Some people have tried to sidestep the problem by denying one of the three premises listed above. This was the approach taken by Harold Kushner, a Jewish rabbi who lost his son at an early age to a cruel and debilitating disease. God is infinitely good, Kushner concluded in his immensely popular book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People (1981), but He is not all-powerful.
Other theologians have suggested that God neither is infinitely powerful nor infinitely good, but only in the process of acquiring these attributes. So it is understandable that there should be imperfections in our world because God, while great, likewise is imperfect or incomplete. Like Kushner, their “solution” is to abandon the God of conventional theism (e.g., Edwards, 1972, p. 213). Unfortunately, as John M. Frame has observed, such a finite god offers no “sure hope for the overcoming of evil” (1994, p. 157). In the end, this god is not the God that most Christians would want to defend.
Finally, someone may wish to deny the third premise by maintaining that suffering is not real. What we call “suffering,” they might say, is just an illusion. This is the position of Eastern mysticism, not of theism. Spinoza, a radical Jewish philosopher, maintained that evil was mere deprivation. When we think we are suffering, all we are doing is acting like children who have been denied toys or candy. If only we had a complete picture of reality, Spinoza would say, we would know God, and nothing would appear imperfect. But for Spinoza, nature and God were one and the same. Again, this is not the God of theism. Most Christians, like most atheists, acknowledge that suffering is all too real. Indeed, that Jesus suffered for the sake of mankind is a vital element of the Christian faith (Matthew 16:21; Luke 24:26; Acts 17:3; Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 2:20-25; 4:12-19; etc.).

Dismissing the Problem

So, let us say that we want to deal with this problem without giving up any of God’s essential characteristics. Where do we begin? One approach is to maintain that no explanation is necessary. We, as mere mortals, should not have to “justify the ways of God to Men” (to use a phrase of John Milton’s). Or, in the words of a Simon and Garfunkel song, “God has a plan, but it’s not available to the common man.” If God is Who we think He is, then there must be an explanation, but it is beyond our grasp.
Alvin Plantinga (1977) takes a more defensive approach. He points out that suffering, and the claims about God, are not contradictory. It is not like saying, for example,
Only birds have feathers.
Tweety has feathers.
Therefore, Tweety is not a bird.
Clearly, the last line contradicts the preceding lines. But where is the contradiction in affirming both that there is suffering, and that God is an all-loving and all-powerful Being? What a critic must do is supply some extra premises (e.g., Mackie, 1990, p. 26). He would have to insist, for instance, that the theist’s perfectly good God always would eliminate evil insofar as He could. That there is so much evil is supposed to show that God is not all-good. Further, a critic would have to insist that there are no limits to what this Being could do. That there is so much evil is supposed to show that God’s powers are limited.
The trouble is, these additional claims for what God would or could do fail to take into account a complete picture of God. For God to “eliminate evil insofar as He could” still may mean that we have a lot of evil in the world, because to reduce it any further might violate one of God’s other attributes. We simply do not know what conditions would make the existence of both God and evil logically contradictory (also see Pike, 1990, pp. 48,52). As to God’s power, there are no limits as to what He could bring to bear in any one situation. However, the actual power He uses would depend on other characteristics, such as grace, love, mercy, and so on. At the time of His arrest, the Son of God could have called on twelve legions of angels, but not without contradicting the promises of His Father in heaven (Matthew 26:52-56).
Plantinga has given us a good place to start. Theists could say, at least initially, that there is nothing irrational about believing in God and acknowledging the reality of evil. Still, people may think that this is a problem that Christians need to address. Have we got anything more to say?

Answering the Problem

One reason to suspect that there must be more answers is that the Bible—the foundation of our faith (Romans 10:17)—is not exactly silent on the subject. The Book of Job shows that God stood back and allowed a man to suffer at the hands of the Adversary. Job’s world collapsed around him. He lost his property, his children, and his health. During this time, he had no idea why these things were happening to him. Job’s wife told him to “curse God and die” (2:9). Three of his friends thought terrible sins must lie at the root of such misfortunes. Job himself came to question God’s goodness and power. In the end, of course, Job regained his faith, wealth, and much more.
But could we say that all these terrible events were necessary? Perhaps we can learn something from these events, but how can we justify the collateral damage? A great wind collapsed a house on Job’s children, killing everyone inside (1:18-19). Natural calamities killed his animals, and raiders killed his servants (1:15-17). Was all this death necessary to teach Job, and us, a lesson about suffering?
And what about the death of Christ? Maybe—just maybe—the skeptic might go along with us and agree that Jesus had to die to save us from our sins. But why did He have to die with such humiliation, with scourging and beatings, and a tortuous death on the cross? Why did God not do a better job of arranging events so that His own Son could die in a more humane way? Besides, if humankind is guilty, why not punish the whole of mankind? Why did it have to be taken out on Someone else?
To those outside the faith, all this makes no sense, yet it is central to Christianity. And therein lies the problem. When I say it “makes no sense,” I mean it makes no sense without appeal to religious concepts found in Scripture. “But why should I believe the Bible?,” a critic will respond. That is a good question, to which Christians can offer all sorts of good reasons, but that is not what the skeptic has asked us to do in this case. The fact is, every concept important to Christianity comes from the Bible, and so it is to the Bible we must go if we are to find answers that are consistent with the claims we are making about Christianity. Ultimately, I suspect, this is why well-grounded Christians remain immune to the atheists’ attacks on this front. To some degree or another, they know that suffering does not reflect badly on what they understand of God.
Likewise, if we introduce concepts such as sin, salvation, miracles, and so on, the atheist often will respond, “Yes, but they depend on the existence of God. If God does not exist, then these explanations disappear.” Again, whether God exists is beside the point. Atheists have challenged us to reconcile certain attributes of God with the existence of evil. They were not challenging us (on this occasion) to defend the existence of God. The very problem, as it is posed to us, grants that God exists.
This is such a common tactic that I must make this point absolutely clear: the atheist cannot accuse us of a contradiction within our faith, and then block us from introducing the entire content of that faith (as opposed to discussing just the logical claims that are made about God’s attributes). Perhaps this is why the argument gets bogged down in philosophy, when really, it is a theological issue. Marilyn McCord Adams agrees:
Where the internal coherence of a system of religious beliefs is at stake, successful arguments for its inconsistency must draw on premisses (explicitly or implicitly) internal to that system or obviously acceptable to its adherents; likewise for successful rebuttals or explanations of consistency (1990, p. 210).

SOME ANSWERS

The Origin of Suffering

As is often the case, the Book of Beginnings is the best place to start in dealing with fundamental questions. Genesis tells us that God put Adam and Eve in the Garden, and gave them access to the Tree of Life. They would live forever as long as they could eat from this tree (Genesis 3:22), but they were not immortal. God told them not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, otherwise they would surely die (Genesis 2:17).
At some point, apparently not too long after the creation week, Satan tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit and she, in turn, convinced Adam to do the same. This brought judgment from God. He separated them from the Tree of Life, and promised that people would suffer, and that Satan would be defeated (Genesis 3:14-19). It is difficult to grasp the enormity of this situation. We suffer—even innocent children suffer—because of the sin of two people. How could God allow so much suffering to exist for so long?

God is Sovereign

From God’s perspective, the first step is not to answer a question like this, but to deal with our accusations. Job is a case in point. The old patriarch accused God of
  • judging him falsely (9:20)
  • wronging him (19:6)
  • persecuting him (19:22)
  • not judging the wicked (24:1-12), and
  • ignoring all his good works (31:1ff.).
  • Job’s cry, like our own, seems to be “Why God? Why?!”
God’s response was to ask some probing questions of Job:
Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it.... Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified? (40:2,8).
In his questioning, Job assumed that God was at fault. His three friends—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—assumed that Job was at fault for some great sin that he must have committed, and God chastened them for this presumption, too (42:7ff.).
Finally, young Elihu recognized that, on occasion, suffering can have a purpose. God can use it to judge the wicked, strengthen the faithful, aid the oppressed, and bless the righteous. And yet, throughout his criticism of Job, the level-headed Elihu affirmed the sovereignty of God: “Why do you contend with Him? For He does not give an accounting of any of His words” (33:13).
Paul followed the same theme in Romans 9. The apostle was responding to a “not fair” claim on the part of Jewish Christians. Apparently, some of them felt that they, as descendants of Abraham, merited a greater share in the inheritance of God’s kingdom. Of course, as Paul pointed out in verse 8, it is the children of the promise, not the children of flesh, who were to be the children of God and, therefore, heirs of salvation. He illustrated this with the example of Esau and Jacob. Some might point out that Jacob’s having a higher place than his older brother was an injustice, but God had a plan that did not take into account manmade customs of inheritance. To anyone who would accuse God of being unjust in this case (vs. 14), Paul would remind them of God’s sovereignty: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (vs. 15).
While he was at it, Paul dealt with another familiar accusation: “You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?’” (vs. 19). In other words, “if the things that happen in my life are God’s will, then surely they are out of my control, and if my life is not my own, then why should God hold me responsible for the things I do? It’s not fair for us to suffer if God is supposed to be in control.” Again, Paul responded with a countercharge: “Who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’” (vs. 20). Our duty is to do what is right, not to worry about what God is doing and why.
On returning to the original question concerning Gentiles, Paul pointed out that God had been working throughout history to bring about His mercy. Along the way, He suffered the disobedience of Gentiles and Jews alike. God “endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (vs. 22). But, by His teaching and the unveiling of a redemptive plan, God had made “known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy” (vs. 23). Both Jews and Gentiles were vessels filled with iniquity, but God rescued those whom He called, and has filled them with His mercy (vs. 24).

God is Just

Paul’s comments about mercy lead us to a second response: not only is God sovereign, but His mercy demonstrates that He is just. Mercy is revealed in God’s redemptive plan: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God’s goal is redemption. He does not wish suffering on any of us; He wishes that we were with Him in heaven where there is no pain and suffering. Let us revisit Romans, but chapter 3 this time. Paul wrote: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation [an appeasing sacrifice—TM] by His blood, through faith” (vss. 23-25a).
By justifying us, God shows that He is just; by making us righteous, He shows that He is righteous. We are justified through faith
...to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (vss. 25b-26).
Often we think of God’s justifying us, but here we see that God’s justness is revealed to us at the same time. This was not so evident to the people of the Old Testament who lacked the clear testimony of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. If God already has revealed so much to us in history, we can only wait in wonder to see what will be revealed to us in the future: “If we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance” (Romans 8:18,25).
In Frame’s view, Romans is the New Testament equivalent of Job. It is as much about the justification of God (a theodicy) as it is about the justification of man.
Romans confirms, therefore, what we have seen elsewhere in Scripture. (1) We have no right to complain against God, and when we do, we expose ourselves as disobedient. (2) God is under no obligation to give us an intellectually satisfying answer to the problem of evil. He expects us to trust him in spite of that. (3) God’s sovereignty is not to be questioned in connection with the problem of evil; it is rather to be underscored. (4) God’s word, his truth, is altogether reliable. (5) As a matter of fact, God is not unjust. He is holy, just, and good (Frame, 1994, p. 178).

CONCLUSION

God is all-good, God is all-powerful, and yes, there is an abundance of suffering. People have struggled with this apparent dilemma throughout the ages. Sometimes we mortals may try to vindicate our God by presuming to know His mind, but God says “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (Exodus 33:19). In short, God is sovereign. There is nothing wrong with asking “why” questions, but when they turn into accusations, we challenge His sovereignty. Why was this woman raped? Why did thousands die in a tropical cyclone? No one can answer these specific questions adequately, anymore than the two-year old can understand why she must undergo heart surgery (Adams, 1990, p. 217; see also Frame, 1994, pp. 150-151). The little girl does not hate her parents for the pain, but continues to love and trust them based on her life experience.
Given the tremendous amount of suffering in this world, could we not assume that God is sovereign, but some sort of malevolent ruler? On the contrary, Christ’s willing sacrifice on the cross has shown God to be just.
Well-grounded Christians, I am convinced, have a strong intuition that the atheists’ standard arguments on the problem of suffering are wrong. The answers they find have more to do with the “how” of Christian faith, than the “why” of presumption against God. They want to respond with Job, and they want to respond with Christ, because these examples make sense out of suffering for them, but the atheists always try to block this part of the conversation. They ridicule the Bible and the Christian experience. They give anecdotal stories about people who lost their faith in the face of suffering. They admit freely that the intellectual problem of suffering was crucial to their own walk away from faith. And, if all else fails, there is the old standby of incredulity: “I just can’t believe you [are stupid enough to] worship a God Who [is so heinous that He] would allow so much suffering in this world.” Yet the conditions of the discussion at the very outset assume that God exists. From that point on, it does not matter for the sake of argument whether the critics believe that the Bible is true, or that we all are sinners in need of salvation, or that God raised His Son from the grave. As Adams argues:
Just as philosophers may or may not find the existence of God plausible, so they may be variously attracted or repelled by Christian values of grace and redemptive sacrifice. But agreement on truth-value is not necessary to consensus on internal consistency. My contention has been that it is not only legitimate, but, given horrendous evils, necessary for Christians to dip into their richer store of valuables to exhibit the consistency of [an all-loving, all-powerful God] and [the existence of evil] (1990, p. 220).
This “richer store of valuables” for the Christian includes not only an intellectual acceptance of God’s sovereignty and justice, but an abiding experience of God in their lives. Hope for a better world has enabled Christians to survive the worst of times. This is not an explanation for why we have suffering, but a justification of God’s love, in that we would expect our Creator to endow us with the ability to find an essential worth in our own existence (Adams, 1990, p. 216).
Contrary to the atheists’ assertion, a Christian’s faith in God is not a humiliating emotional crutch, but a source of joy in overcoming the practical and existential problem of suffering. Christians, I believe, know within themselves that their faith has been a source of strength. All they see in the atheists’ charges is an allegation of internal inconsistency leveled by people who, frequently, know little to nothing of Scripture, and who, perhaps, never have experienced a full, spiritual life.
Only by being faithful to God can we attest to the perfect revealing of His redemptive plan, which is for us to live with Him forever. “Don’t you think it’s awful,” the atheist speaks with incredulity once more, “that God will condemn all those people who don’t bow down and worship Him and only Him?” What would be worse is if there were no God to punish the Neros, Hitlers, and child molesters of this world. There is a God, if there is any justice at all. In the meantime, the words of Peter remind us that the Lord “is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God is just before us; the only question that remains is: Are we just before Him?

REFERENCES

Adams, Marilyn McCord (1990), “Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God,” The Problem of Evil, ed. Marilyn McCord Adams and Robert Merrihew Adams (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press; originally published in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 1989, 63S:297-310), pp. 207-221.
Edwards, Rem (1972), Reason and Religion (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich).
Frame, John M. (1994), Apologetics to the Glory of God: An Introduction (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R).
Kushner, Harold (1981), When Bad Things Happen to Good People (New York: Shocken Books).
Mackie, J.L. (1990), “Evil and Omnipotence,” The Problem of Evil, ed. Marilyn McCord Adams and Robert Merrihew Adams (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press; originally published in Mind, 1955, 64:200-12), pp. 25-37.
Pike, Nelson (1990), “Hume on Evil,” The Problem of Evil, ed. Marilyn McCord Adams and Robert Merrihew Adams (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press; originally published in The Philosophical Review, 1963, 72:180-197), pp. 38-52.
Plantinga, Alvin (1977), God, Freedom, and Evil (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Lying Wonders by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=947

Lying Wonders

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

One direct source of unbelief is the false promotion of Christianity (cf. Job 13:7). It is surely a great tragedy that many people have rejected the Christian religion as the true portrait of reality on the basis of the misconduct that so many who claim to be Christians have displayed. In fact, some who purport to be faithful Christians are nothing more than crackpots and religious wackos.
It is especially intriguing to take note of the so-called “miracle workers,” “tongue-speakers,” and “faith healers” moving about the religious world today. Where fifty to one hundred years ago, to witness their theatrical presentations, one would have to go to the “revival tent” set up outside of town, now one can see these pseudo-wonder workers on several television channels. Willing participants, whose emotional state has been carefully manipulated, swoon at the mere touch of the “healer’s” hand on their forehead or cheek. Prominent religious leaders—who have built financial empires on the funds they have methodically extracted from misguided followers through threats, pleadings, and cajoling—continue to have a heyday, supposing “godliness is a means of financial gain” (1 Timothy 6:5).
But notice that the “miracles” performed involve highly questionable diseases and illnesses—nebulous aches and pains—that defy medical substantiation. Even the professed “tongue-speaking” is highly subjective, and in no way parallels the New Testament practice of speaking known human languages without prior learning (see Miller, 2003).
Scripture presents a very different picture. Jesus went about “healing every sickness and every disease among the people” (Matthew 9:35, emp. added). He gave the apostles these same powers “to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease” (Matthew 10:1, emp. added). Included right along with these powers was the ability to “raise the dead” (Matthew 10:8; 11:5), restore shriveled or missing body parts (Luke 6:6-10; 22:49-51), and even give sight to a person born blind (John 9:1-7)! When was the last time one of these “faith healers” raised a dead person? Does God now place a limit on certain powers? Why will the tongue-speaker not come out in the open and convince unbelievers that their action conforms to the genuine New Testament gift—especially in light of the fact that tongue-speaking was for the purpose of convincing unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:22)?
But then, if John knew what he was talking about, no need for miracles exists today (John 20:30-31). The Bible declares itself to be all sufficient and capable of providing man with every spiritual need (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The divine purpose for which miracles existed (i.e., to authenticate the divine origin of the spoken Word—Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:4) has long since been served. All of which leads to this conclusion: the “wonders” being offered today are nothing more than “lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9, emp. added), i.e., counterfeit, false, and deceptive (pseudous—Arndt and Gingrich, 1957, p. 900).
[NOTE: To listen to an audio sermon on this topic, click here.]

REFERENCES

Arndt, William and F.W. Gingrich (1957), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).
Miller, Dave (2003), “Modern-Day Miracles, Tongue-speaking, and Holy Spirit Baptism: A Refutation (Extended Version),” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2569.

Jesus—Rose of Sharon by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=10&article=842

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.

Human Evolution [Part II] by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=278

Human Evolution [Part II]

by  Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Part I of this two-part series appeared in the September issue. Part II follows below and continues, without introductory comments, where the first article ended.]
Any attempt at constructing an evolutionary family tree from molecular data faces serious questions, but at least there is no shortage of test material. The veins of every human, chimp, or other target of study provide a veritable gold mine of information for protein and DNA analysis. Genetics and molecular biology, with their detailed reports of chemical sequences, also lend an air of objectivity and precision. Nonetheless, such studies deal with only the presumed heirs of an eons-long process.

GENES VERSUS BONES

At this point we can turn to the traditional workers in this field—paleoanthropologists and paleontologists—and appraise their collection of bones, tools, and other artifacts. These largely sterile samples are not good candidates for DNA or protein analysis, and so there is room for disagreement between the experts. Many paleontologists try to incorporate molecular evidence into their interpretations of the fossil evidence, but some fundamental problems remain unresolved.

Two Evolutionary Models

Perhaps the most vigorous example of this debate centers on the origin of modern humans. The molecular evidence is, if in no other instance, unanimous in suggesting a common origin for all human populations. Of these groups, Africans show far more genetic variation than non-Africans (i.e., Asians, Europeans, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, et al.). Molecular biologists explain this greater variability by suggesting that African populations have had the most time to accumulate mutations and diverge from each other. Africa, then, is supposed to represent the ancient cradle from which all other populations have emerged (e.g., Cann, et al., 1987; see also Major, 1992).
This out-of-Africa model rocketed into public consciousness a few years ago with talk of a so-called mitochondrial Eve. In this case, the molecular data came not from the main DNA of the cell’s nucleus, but from tiny strands residing in the mitochondria (the cell’s “energy factories”). Theoretically, children inherit all this DNA from their mother, because sperm lack mitochondria. Relying solely on the maternal line, geneticists traced the family tree back to a hypothetical woman nicknamed “Eve.” Of course, the popular media could not resist the proximity of biblical metaphor to evolutionary speculations.
However, naysayers within the scientific community questioned the validity of the whole exercise. Alan Templeton and others (1992) have shown that other trees with non-African roots are possible, but that the variation among these computer-generated solutions is so great as to negate far-ranging conclusions based on mitochondrial data. This merely reinforces our general suspicion of the evolutionary premises behind the tree-constructing exercises.
Most criticisms come from paleontologists who object to the out-of-Africa theory on the basis of fossil evidence (e.g., Thorne and Wolpoff, 1992). In their multiregional model, several populations of Homo sapiens evolved independently in different parts of the world. They leave open the possibility that the immediate forbear, Homo erectus, may have had a common origin in Africa. However, they believe that people today reflect a variety of features bequeathed by different ancestral populations of H. erectus. For example, Milford Wolpoff argues that the classic protruding brow ridges of Neanderthal skulls from Krapina, Croatia, are visible in only slightly less pronounced form among relatively recent remains in the same area. To him, this demonstrates a mixing of distinctive local traits and general human features borne on migrations from many different areas. Indeed, several sites around the Middle East and Europe show Neanderthals living side-by-side with groups bearing somewhat modern features (sometimes referred to as either archaic sapiens or Homo heidelbergensis). Hence, multiregional advocates look incredulously on the idea that African emigrants could remain isolated genetically from neighboring populations of H. erectus or H. neanderthalensis.

A CREATIONIST INTERPRETATION

Both views contain a kernel of truth. For example, creationists would agree with the out-of-Africa model tenet that humans share a recent common ancestry, but also would agree with the multiregional model on a continuity between ancient H. erectus and H. sapiens populations. However, creationists would argue that many of these Homo species represent ancient and living variations of a created human kind and, most important, that humans did not evolve from an ape-like creature. In the following sections, I would like to attempt a distinction between genuinely human fossils, and the fossils of extinct ape species.

Variation in Fossil and Modern Humans

We would recognize a Neanderthal walking the streets of New York or Paris by prominent brow ridges, low forehead, flat skull, weak chin, jutting midfacial region, very large nose, forward-sloping face, and short, muscular limbs—to name some of the more visible characteristics (Stringer and Gamble, 1993, pp. 76-77). The skull of H. erectus shared many of the Neanderthals’ features, but with flatter brow ridges and a less prominent midfacial region. Some H. erectus skeletons were short and stocky like the Neanderthals, but one specimen—a nine- to eleven-year-old boy from West Turkana, Kenya—was tall and slender (Andrews and Stringer, 1993, p. 242). Cranial volume varied from 850 to over 1100 milliliters for H. erectus, and 1250 to over 1740 ml for Neanderthals. One specimen of H. heidelbergensis had an estimated volume of 1300 ml. The average for modern humans is 1350 ml, but we exhibit a broad range of 700 to 2200 ml (Lubenow, 1992, p. 138).
All the Homo species mentioned so far had some vocal capacity, as indicated by the arched shape of the base of their skulls (Leakey, 1994, pp. 130-133). Other mammals have a flat skull base and a very limited capacity for vocalization. Again, there is some variation among the fossil human types that does not follow a clear evolutionary pattern. Neanderthals, for instance, appear to have had a much flatter skull base than H. erectus. This may have limited their speech, but to what extent, we do not know. Unfortunately, the fossil record has not preserved the soft tissues of the vocal apparatus (the pharynx, larynx, tongue and lips). Other evidence (such as brain size, tool technologies, and deliberate burials) suggests that the Neanderthals were capable, thinking beings.
In general, skeletal proportions, the angularity of the face, and the shape of the brain case varied considerably among fossil humans (e.g. Figure 1). Yet differences, every bit as dramatic, occur among modern humans. Watusis today would not miss a Mbuti pygmy who strolled into their village, and an Inuit would stand out at a gathering of Australian aborigines.

Figure 1. The most likely candidates for fossil humans. From top to bottom: archaic H. sapiens (Qafzeh 9); Neanderthal (the “Old Man” of La Chapelle-aux-Saints); and Homo erectus (Sangiran 17). From Tattersall, 1995. Bars show scale of 1 cm.
Despite obvious facial features (Figure 2), both H. erectus and appear to fit within a distinct human kind. Although some specimens show a mixture of traits, there is no clear lineage from, say, H. erectus to H. sapiens. In fact, the fossil record suggests that they were contemporaries and, in some cases, neighbors (Stringer and Gamble, 1993, p. 137). The different species names are convenient for evolutionary discussions, but there is no evidence of reproductive isolation. Marvin Lubenow is one creationist who sees no problem including all these forms within a highly variable created human kind (1992, pp. 120-143).

Figure 2. Picture inspired by Earnest Hooten’s claim that no one would notice fossil men walking down modern streets if they were dressed in formal attire. Characters represent archaic H. sapiens (top right), Neanderthal (top), and H. erectus (bottom left and right).

Problematic Transition from Apes to Humans

As we have just seen, all human fossils possess fairly large brains in relation to their body size. Chimps, however, have relatively small brains, averaging around 400 ml. Humans also show a distinctive upright posture. In 1891, when Eugene Dubois found a skullcap, tooth, and leg bone in Trinil, Java, he named it Pithecanthropus erectus (“upright ape-man”). Later, as much better examples came to light, paleontologists recognized their humanness and changed the genus name to Homo. Hence, the transition from apes to humans represented a shift in posture and a four-fold increase in cranial volume.
Supposedly, the first critical step in this transformation took place when a small-brained animal—an australopithecine (“southern ape”)—began to walk upright (Figure 3). Of course, many animals are able to walk on two legs, but humans are the only modern primates that rely almost exclusively on this bipedal form of locomotion. However, a growing collection of fossil finds has enabled a closer scrutiny of different hominid species and the claims surrounding them. In particular, these studies have thrown doubt on the bipedalism of Australopithecus africanus, and its evolutionary dead-end cousin, Paranthropus.

Figure 3. The most unlikely candidates for fossil humans. From top to bottom: Homo habilis (KNM-ER 1813); Australopithecus africanus (Sts 5); and Australopithecus afarensis (reconstruction from unassociated fragments). From Tattersall, 1995. Bars show scale of 1 cm.
In order to walk upright, humans need good balance. A crucial part of this “sixth sense” resides in the bony labyrinth of the inner ear, which often is preserved in fossil remains. Fred Spoor and his colleagues (1994) used this information, and new technology in the form of CT scans, to compare the labyrinth of modern humans, great apes, and fossil hominids. Their results show a clear divide between H. erectus and H. sapiens on one side, and great apes, A. africanus, and Paranthropus robustus on the other.
Other recent evidence contrary to bipedalism includes:
  • chimp-proportioned arm bones in A. afarensis (Kimbel, et al., 1994);
  • chimp-like thumbs in A. afarensis more suited to tree climbing than tool making (Susman, 1994). This study identifies human-like thumbs in P. robustus, but this bone may belong to H. erectus instead (Aiello, 1994);
  • a nonhuman gait in “Lucy,” one of the most famous specimens of A. afarensis, based on ratio of leg size to foot size (as reported by Oliwenstein, 1995).
  • ape-like features in foot bones belonging to A. africanus or another contemporary hominid (Clarke and Tobias, 1995); and
  • human-like limb proportions in A. afarensis, but ape-like limb proportions in its successors, A. africanus and Homo habilis. One researcher went as far to suggest that A. afarensis was a failed experiment in ape bipedalism, and should be consigned to a side branch of the human evolutionary tree (as reported by Shreeve, 1996).
The overall picture is one in which alleged ape-men derail the evolutionary process by returning to the trees. This assumes, of course, that A. afarensis was fully bipedal in the first place. One piece of evidence offered in support of this view comes from the well-known footprints in volcanic ash at Laetoli. Radiometric methods dated these tracks to 3.7 million years ago, which places the deposit within the supposed time span of A. afarensis. Apart from suspicions we may entertain about such dates, there is no proof that these tracks were made by anything other than fully modern humans. After analyzing the footprints of 70 Machiguenga Indians from Peru, and examining the available fossil toe bones, Russell H. Tuttle concluded that the ape-like feet of A. afarensis could not have made the Laetoli tracks (Bower, 1989).

Figure 4. One evolutionary “best guess” of hominid evolution (from Tattersall, 1995, p. 234).
This leaves the transition from the very ape-like A. africanus to the fully human H. erectus entirely in the hands (or is that feet?) of H. habilis (Figure 4). As noted previously, H. habilis possessed the same ape-like limb proportions as A. africanus. In fact, the whole issue of its place among Homo is highly contentious, and the species has become a dumping ground for strange and out-of-place fossils. Some paleontologists have tried to impose some order by reassigning australopithecine-like specimens to Homo rudolfensis, and the most modern-looking specimens to “early African H. erectus” or Homo ergaster (to which some would assign the Turkana boy). Apart from a small difference in brain size between australopithecines (less than 550 ml) and habilines (around 500-650 ml), there are no other compelling reasons to divide them among two genera. The same cannot be said about the gap between habilines and H. erectus. The latter have much larger brains (at least 848 ml, if we count the Turkana boy), well-developed stone tools, definite upright stance, and speech capabilities. Tattersall confesses that there is only a weak link between H. habilis and H. ergaster (1995, p. 232). Andrews and Stringer offer a similar opinion, stating:
The relation between habilis and erectus is unclear. It is widely assumed that the first gave rise to the second, but since there seem to be at least two kinds of habilis, whose toolmaking skills could be independent of their successors’, there is no obvious continuity (1993, p. 242).

CONCLUSION

The debate between creation and evolution centers constantly on a sort of “half empty, half full” argument. Evolutionists draw on molecular and fossil evidence to establish a genealogical connection between humans and living apes. They emphasize the similarities, and credit differences to the vagaries of natural selection. Any shared attribute (whether genetic, morphological, or behavioral) is used as an indicator of common ancestry; the degree of similarity is used to assign an alleged ancestor to a place on the “family tree.” For their part, creationists emphasize the differences, and credit similarities to God’s use of a common design. So which of these carries the day: similarities or differences?
As we have seen, the molecular evidence is very limited in providing proof of relatedness between distant relatives. The 1% difference between chimp and human DNA really is significant, and many protein comparisons fail to support the alleged evolutionary tree. Likewise, the fossil record establishes a clear difference between humans and apes, with no good candidates for transitional forms. Overall, the argument for relatedness based on similarity is void of reasonable proof.

REFERENCES

Aiello, Leslie C. (1994), “Thumbs Up for Our Early Ancestors,” Science, 265:1540-1541, September 9.
Andrews, Peter and Christopher Stringer (1993), “The Primates’ Progress,” The Book of Life, ed. Stephen Jay Gould (New York: W.W. Norton).
Bower, Bruce (1989), “A Walk Back Through Evolution,” Science News, 135[16]:251, April 22.
Cann, Rebecca L., Mark Stoneking, and Allan C. Wilson (1987), “Mitochondrial DNA and Human Evolution,” Nature, 325:31-36.
Clarke, Ronald J. and Phillip V. Tobias (1995), “Sterkfontein Member 2 Foot Bones of the Oldest South African Hominid,” Science, 269:521-524, July 28.
Kimbel, William, Donald C. Johanson, and Yoel Rak (1994), “The First Skull and Other New Discoveries of Australopithecus afarensis at Hadar, Ethiopia,” Nature, 368:449-451, March 31.
Leakey, Richard (1994), The Origin of Humankind (New York: Basic Books).
Lubenow, Marvin L. (1992), Bones of Contention: A Creationist Assessment of Human Fossils (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Major, Trevor (1992), “Who is this ‘Eve’?,” Essays in Apologetics, ed. Bert Thompson and Wayne Jackson (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), 5:29-36.
Oliwenstein, Lori (1995), “Lucy’s Walk,” Discover, 16[1]:42, January.
Shreeve, James (1996), “New Skeleton Gives Path from Trees to Ground an Odd Turn,” Science, 272:654, May 3.
Spoor, Fred, Bernard Wood, and Frans Zonneveld (1994), “Implications of Early Hominid Labyrinthine Morphology for Evolution of Human Bipedal Locomotion,” Nature, 369:645-648, June 23.
Stringer, Andrew and Clive Gamble (1993), In Search of Neanderthals (New York: Thames and Hudson).
Susman, Randall L. (1994), “Fossil Evidence for Early Hominid Tool Use,” Science, 265:1570-1573, September 9.
Tattersall, Ian (1995), The Fossil Trail (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Templeton, A.R., S.B. Hedges, S. Kumar, and K. Tamura (1992), “Human Origins and Analysis of Mitochondrial DNA Sequences,” Science, 255:737-739, February 7.
Thorne, Alan G. and Milford Wolpoff (1992), “The Multiregional Evolution of Humans,” Scientific American, 266(4):76-83, April 1.