5/3/17

THE “INDWELLING” GOD by Jim McGuiggan

https://jimmcguiggan.wordpress.com/2017/02/

THE “INDWELLING” GOD


Christians make the claim that Jesus Christ indwells each of them. They make the claim that the Holy Father indwells them. They agree with Paul that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God and of the Son of God indwells each Christian. There are texts that say those things and I for one, among millions, believe those texts. I believe the living God, His Living Son and the living Holy Spirit of God dwells in each Christian.
If I truly believe that (and I do) is that enough for me to be regarded as faithful to the Holy Scriptures?
I never have a dispute with a biblical text (I know a number of teachers who think we should have—after all. “Paul was just another guy with theological views.” I’ve heard that said. Moving on.)
Is it worth trying to gain some clear understanding about what it means that God “dwells in” us? Or is it one of those “academic” questions that has no “practical” value? Or is it one of the “unanswerable” questions that there’s little point in our discussing?
I sometimes think I will leave it entirely alone and then I hear things said that I think are injurious as well as incorrect. Not long ago I heard a preacher list sins against the Holy Spirit and the first one he listed was this: to deny that the Holy Spirit literally resides inside the Christian’s body is sin. I heard him say something close to that and let it pass but this time he said it was a sin if you didn’t believe it. Then just recently I heard another teacher assure his hearers that the reason they (Christians) could defeat all kinds of evils was because Jesus was inside them. Jesus was spatially located inside their bodies.
Myself, I’m content to believe that the Holy Spirit helps Christians in their struggle against the evil they wrestle with. I know He does. I’m also content to believe that He can do it whether or not He’s spatially located inside our bodies.
But is it sin if Christians do not believe the Holy Spirit literally takes up spatial residence inside our bodies? I’m certain it’s no sin! There are enough sins to deal with without preachers inventing more.
Is it correct/wise to teach Christian assurance that moral transformation is possible because Jesus is spatially located inside our bodies?
I don’t think that is either correct or wise and I wish we would stop saying it. I’ll give you my opinion about that shortly.
I’d like to make a few things clear:
  1. I believe the Holy Spirit is a “person” (rather than a good force or influence or attitude).
  2. I believe the Holy Spirit is a “member” of the one Triune God, as are the Holy Father & the Holy Son. Whatever makes God to be God, the Holy Spirits shares that.
  3. I do not believe the Holy Spirit is the Bible or the words of the Bible—I do believe that He superintended the writing of the words and the canonizing of the Holy Scriptures, the Bible.
  4. I believe He is the Spirit of the Holy Father and the Holy Son and by Him the Father and Son indwell the Church (and consequently each member of the Church which is Christ’s Body).
  5. I believe the Holy Spirit “indwells” Christians!
  6. I believe the moral transformation and growth of Christians is due to the work of the Holy Father and His Holy Son accomplished through the Holy Spirit.
If I believe all that why would I make an issue of a “literal, spatial locating” of the Holy Spirit inside the bodies of Christians?
First, because I think it’s a misunderstanding of what the “indwelling” texts mean to say.
Second, because I think it rests Christian assurance of moral transformation on a faulty foundation.
Thirdly, because I think it generates needless offense among non-Christians many of whose moral character and behavior is as good as the moral behavior of many Christians.
It appears to me that when Jesus calls his disciples (John 15) to “dwell/abide in Him” that He wasn’t talking about their spatially locating themselves inside Him. When He prays that his followers will be “in God” (John 17) as He was “in God” and would be in them that He wasn’t spatially locating Himself or them inside the Person of God or vice versa. When Paul speaks of Christ “dwelling in our hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3) I’m certain he isn’t physically locating Him in the physical pump or the physical body. When people by faith are baptized into Christ (Romans 6) they don’t physically, spatially locate inside Christ.
I think these are all temple or tabernacle metaphors or spatial metaphors that speak of relationship, union and intimacy.
The Corinthians were not literal physical “temples” or a temple, either individually or as an assembly. They were not literally physical “parts of Christ” nor were they literally “one spirit with Him” nor did they literally become one physical body with the temple prostitutes. The entire section is saturated with metaphors and there is no good reason to say the Holy Spirit is literally spatially located inside the bodies of these Christians. We’re told they were “bought” with a price but we don’t believe there was a literal exchange—it’s ransom metaphor.(See 1 Corinthians 6.)
The Spirit of God “wrote” the Holy Scriptures but He used humans and their speech to do it. Spatial metaphors are all over the place and so are relational or event metaphors and other figures of speech..
God does not “come” or “come down” from “somewhere” though we hear such speech all over the OT. (Genesis 11, Isaiah 19, Psalm 18.) Paul says his heart is “wide open” (2 Corinthians 6), he has Philemon “in” his heart. People obey “from” the heart (Romans 6) and make melody “in” their hearts (Ephesians 5), the world “lies in” wickedness (1 John 5), Satan “dwells enthroned” in Pergamos (Revelation 2) and “enters” Judas (Luke 22), Christians are “living stones” that make up a “temple” and Christ is a “foundation stone” (1 Peter 2), Christians are “resurrected” and “sit with” Christ “in” the “heavenly places” (Ephesians 2). The Holy Father “dwells” in Jesus and He “dwells” in the Father (John 14), God dwells in His faithful ones and His faithful ones “dwell” in Him (1 John 3 & 4), Sin “dwells” in people (Romans 7), God does not “dwell” in man-made structures (Acts 7 & 17) and God “dwells” in man-made structures (Psalm 9), those who eat Christ’s flesh and drink His blood “dwell” in Christ and He “in” them (John 6), God “walks” among and “dwells” in the obedient (2 Corinthians 6), Christians “live in” and “walk in” the Spirit (Galatians 5). There’s nothing in any of this to do with physical, spatial location. Revelation repeatedly speaks of those that “dwell upon the earth” and the phrase has nothing to do with their location but with their “non-heavenly” hearts and lives (compare Colossians 2:12 & 3:1-3) while the phrase those who “dwell in heaven” has nothing to do with spatial location but with their relationship with God (Revelation 3 & 6 & 11 & 13 & 14 & 17 and 12:12). We don’t notice how saturated the Bible is with metaphors and other figures because our own speech is so saturated with them that we don’t recognize them as figures of speech.
Correct or incorrect I take these “in” and “indwelling” texts as metaphors the way I take “body” to be a metaphor when it refer to the Church as Christ’s “body”. What do you make of this:
I have a sinful habit I’m finding hard to overcome.
Don’t worry about it, Christ is literally inside your body and He can overcome it.
What does His being literally inside my body got to do with my overcoming this sin?
That’s how you overcome it with Christ literally being inside your body.
Yes, but what does His being literally inside my body got to do with my overcoming this sin? You mean just the fact that He’s literally inside me is my assurance that I can beat this sin?
You can’t beat it by yourself but His being literally inside your body makes the difference.
Does His being literally inside my physical body do something to me?
His dwelling in you makes a difference.
Yes, but by “indwelling” you mean His being physically located inside my body  and that makes the difference to my strength?
Look, don’t worry about your sin if you’re not able to beat it, He can beat it and He’s literally inside your body.
Well, I know He can beat it but I don’t understand how His being spatially located inside my body affects my ability to overcome this sin.
Just believe it. Mohammed isn’t inside Muslims, Buddha isn’t inside Buddhists, Confucius isn’t inside followers of Confucius but Christ is inside Christians and it’s because He is inside them that’s why they can beat sins.
So that’s why Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus and atheists and any other non-Christians can’t overcome evil habits because Christ isn’t inside them?
Well, actually non-Christians can and do overcome sins.
Without Christ being inside their bodies? So Christians must have the Holy Spirit or Jesus inside their bodies in order to overcome sins but others can overcome sins without Him inside their bodies? I wonder how that works?
Please pursue me on this if you wish. My email is holywoodjk@aol.com



Breaking the Law By Kevin Rhodes

http://www.gospelgazette.com/gazette/1999/aug/page5.shtml

Breaking the Law

By Kevin Rhodes

No matter where you go, there is always one phrase that brings fear to our eyes--"breaking the law." When we hear these words we usually think of murderers, rapists, extortioners, gangs, organized crime and many others. The problem we sometimes have, however, is not understanding that breaking the law covers many other areas than just these. It is not enough to understand this in light of the law of the country, but we should also comprehend the magnitude of the unlawful offence in the eyes of God.
"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation" (Rom. 13:1-2).
This includes all of the laws of the land, with the only exception being laws that would cause us to disobey God (Acts 5:29). Misdemeanors are just as much against the law as felonies. Traffic violations probably constitute the most frequently broken laws. It seems easy for us to gently apply pressure to the accelerator when we are in a hurry, but speeding is still breaking the law and thereby resisting the ordinance of God. Seatbelt laws, child car seat laws, age limits, handicapped parking, etc. may seem like an imposition at times, but they still are the law, even if everyone else is doing it and even if law enforcement chooses to look the other way. Admittedly, the nature of our government with its checks and balances sometimes makes it hard to determine what is actually unlawful, but Christians should be concerned with presenting the best example possible instead of trying to walk the tightrope of the law. Cheating on taxes is wrong. It violates law, besides demonstrating basic dishonesty. It may be easy to overestimate deductions or to fake expenses, but this amounts to lying to the government and withholding what they have a right to by law--no matter how much we may dislike the current tax system. God did not ask if we liked to be taxed, but he did tell us to pay our taxes. Government excess and mismanagement never excuses breaking the law.
We should avoid ALL law breaking, even when the laws themselves seem "insignificant" to us. Christians are to live to the highest standards, obeying the laws of the land dutifully. We do not have to like the laws to obey them, but if we are to be truly pleasing to God, we will obey them. They are for our benefit and protection. Sometimes they may pass what seems reasonable, but in this country, we are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to change them. But that does not mean we have the freedom to break them. Keeping the laws of the land--all of the laws--should not be a strain for Christians. It should be part of the Christian life--a life spent in service to our Creator, seeking to please Him in ALL things. "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's" (Luke 20:25).

"THE BOOK OF ACTS" The Twelve Disciples Of John (19:1-7) by Mark Copeland

                          "THE BOOK OF ACTS"

                 The Twelve Disciples Of John (19:1-7)

INTRODUCTION

1. In our study of "Acts", we have considered many examples of conversion...
   a. The 3000 on Pentecost - Ac 2:1-41
   b. The 2000 at Solomon's Porch - Ac 3:1-4:4
   c. The Samaritans - Ac 8:4-25
   d. The Ethiopian Eunuch - Ac 8:26-40
   e. Saul Of Tarsus - Ac 9:1-19; 22:6-16; 26:12-18
   f. Cornelius And His Household - Ac 10:1-48; 11:1-18
   g. Lydia of Thyatira - Ac 16:6-15
   h. The Philippian jailor - Ac 16:25-34
   h. The Athenians - Ac 17:16-34
   i. The Corinthians - Ac 18:1-11

2. In these examples of conversion we learn that...
   a. The gospel message was focused on Jesus
      1) Who died for our sins
      2) Who was raised from the dead
      3) Who is both Lord and Christ, returning again one day to judge the world
   b. The response expected of those who heard involved:
      1) Faith in Jesus as the Christ, the son of God (which included confessing that faith)
      2) Repentance of one's sins
      3) Baptism for the remission of sins

3. We have yet another case of conversion...
   a. The last detailed example of conversion in Acts
   b. Unique for several reasons, one is that it describes a "re-baptism"

[I am referring to "The Twelve Disciples Of John", recorded in Ac 19:1-7.
As we begin this study, let's review the Biblical record...]

I. THE CONVERSION OF TWELVE DISCIPLES

   A. PAUL'S ARRIVAL IN EPHESUS...
      1. He had just started his third journey - Ac 18:22-23
      2. At the end of his second journey, he had made a quick stop at Ephesus 
          - Ac 18:19-21
      3. True to his word, he returned to Ephesus - Ac 19:1

   B. PAUL MEETS TWELVE DISCIPLES...
      1. He finds some "disciples", twelve in number - Ac 19:1,7
      2. He learns they were disciples of John the Baptist - Ac 19:2-3
         a. He asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed
            1) As explained in the conversion of "The Samaritans" 
                (Ac 8:4-25), I believe the phrase "receive the Holy Spirit" to
               be a metonymy for receiving a miraculous gift from the Spirit
            2) As an apostle, Paul had the ability to impart spiritual gifts - Ro 1:11; 2Ti 1:6
            3) Assuming the "disciples" to have been baptized into 
               Christ, he desired to give them gifts from the Spirit 
               (such as the gifts of tongues and prophesy, cf. 1Co 12:10)
         b. Their answer sparks another question from Paul
            1) They had not heard about a "Holy Spirit"
               a) They must not have known much of John's own teaching, 
                  for he taught concerning the Holy Spirit - cf. Mt 3:11
               b) They clearly could not have been properly baptized into
                  Christ, for it is a baptism into the name of the 
                  Father, Son and Holy Spirit! - cf. Mt 28:19
            2) So Paul inquires into their baptism
               a) He learns that it was John's baptism
               b) Some have suggested that these 12 may have been
                  converted by Apollos before Apollos himself learned the truth 
                  - cf. Ac 18:24-25

   C. THE TWELVE ARE "RE-BAPTIZED"...
      1. Paul explains that while John did teach a baptism of repentance,
         he directed people to believe on Jesus who would come after him - Ac 19:4
      2. The twelve are then baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus - Ac 19:5
         a. This would be the baptism commanded by Jesus - Mt 28:18-20
         b. And the baptism expected of all would-be disciples of Jesus - Ac 2:38; 22:16
      3. Following their baptism, Paul laid hands on them and the Spirit
         imparted gifts of tongues and prophesy - Ac 19:6-7

[This was the beginning of a very successful period for Paul's ministry
in Ephesus (cf. Ac 19:8-10).  Again we see the normal response of one
who wished to become a disciple of Jesus (faith and baptism, Mk 16:16).

The example of "The Twelve Disciples Of John" raises an interesting
question concerning "re-baptism":  Under what circumstances should one be
baptized again?  Here are some thoughts regarding this question...]

II. IS "RE-BAPTISM" EVER NECESSARY?

   A. OBSERVATIONS CONCERNING THE TWELVE DISCIPLES...
      1. They had been previously "baptized"
      2. Their baptism, however, was lacking in some way
         a. Even though it was immersion
         b. Even though it was "for the remission of sins" - Mk 1:4
         c. But their baptism was not in the name of Jesus - Ac 2:38; 10:48; 19:5
            1) That is, by His authority
            2) Which would have been a baptism into the name of the
               Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Son - Mt 28:19
      3. Because their first baptism lacked an essential element,
         "re-baptism" was necessary!
      4. May we not conclude that if one's baptism lacks some essential 
         element, then "re-baptism" is necessary?

   B. WHEN "RE-BAPTISM" IS APPROPRIATE...
      1. There are four "essential elements" of Bible baptism
         a. The proper mode:  a burial (immersion) - Ro 6:3; Col 2:12
         b. The proper authority:  in the name of Christ - Ac 19:5
         c. The proper purpose:  remission of sins - Ac 2:38; 22:16
         d. The proper subject:  penitent believer - Ac 2:38; 8:37; Mk 16:16
      2. When one of these "essential elements" was lacking, "re-baptism"was commanded
         a. In Ac 19:1-5, the proper authority was lacking
         b. Even though their previous baptism had the right mode, purpose, and subject
      3. Some cases where "re-baptism" would seem appropriate
         a. If we were baptized by sprinkling or pouring (for the proper mode is immersion)
         b. If we were baptized by the authority of anyone other than
            Jesus (for the proper authority is Jesus Christ)
         c. If we were baptized as a public confession faith, thinking 
            that we were already saved (for the proper purpose is the remission of sins)
         d. If we were baptized but were not penitent believers (for a 
            proper subject is one who believes "with all their heart")
            1) E.g., when one is baptized just because their friends are doing it
            2) E.g., Because their spouse, fiance, or parents are
               pressuring them to do it (and they do it to please them, not God)
      4. Let me be sure to clarify:
         a. When one is baptized because their "first" baptism lacked an essential element...
            1) It is not really "re-baptism!"
            2) For that person is finally being baptized scripturally for the first time!
         b. When one has been scripturally baptized once...
            1) There is never a need to be baptized again!
            2) Once we have clothed ourselves with Christ in baptism:
               a) The blood of Christ continually cleanses us of our sins
               b) As we repent and confess our sins to God in prayer - Ac 8:22; 1Jn 1:9

CONCLUSION

1. The example of "The Twelve Disciples Of John" certainly illustrates that one can...
   a. Be religious and have undergone some baptismal experience
   b  Yet still not be a true disciple of Jesus Christ!

2. One can rest assured that they are a true disciple of Jesus when their baptism had...
   a. The right mode - immersion
      b. The right authority- Jesus Christ
      c. The right purpose - remission of sins
   d. The right subject - penitent believer
   -- Lacking any of these "essential elements", one should consider
      being baptized again in order to "make your calling and election sure"

3. If we desire to truly be the disciples of Jesus Christ, then let's be sure...
   a. We proclaim the pure gospel of Jesus Christ, as preached by His
      apostles in the first century
   b. We personally have responded to that gospel in the same manner as
      those who heard the good news preached in its purity and simplicity

Might you need to be "re-baptized"...?
 
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2013

"THE BOOK OF ACTS" The Conversion Of Apollos (18:24-28) by Mark Copeland

                          "THE BOOK OF ACTS"

                 The Conversion Of Apollos (18:24-28)

INTRODUCTION

1. When Paul left Ephesus on his second missionary...
   a. Aquila and Priscilla stayed behind - Ac 18:18-19
   b. They hosted a church in their home - cf. 1Co 16:19

2. Aquila and Priscilla were responsible for converting Apollos...
   a. A man with great talent and zeal before his conversion
   b. Who served the Lord greatly, especially in Corinth

[The conversion of Apollos offers an important lesson or two on how we
might be more effective in our own evangelistic efforts today.  Let's
first consider what we know about...]

I. APOLLOS, THE PROSPECT

   A. HIS BACKGROUND...
      1. He was a Jew - Ac 18:24
      2. Born at Alexandria - Ac 18:24
         a. Capital of Egypt from 330 B.C.
         b. Founded by Alexander the Great
         c. An outstanding Greek cultural and academic center
         d. Contained the finest library in the ancient world
         e. The Jewish population numbered in the hundreds of thousands
         f. It became the most important center of Judaism outside of Jerusalem
         g. Jewish rabbis gathered in Alexandria to produce the Septuagint (LXX)
         -- Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary
      3. Well educated, "an eloquent man" - Ac 18:24
         a. Grk., logios, learned, skilled, eloquent - ESV Study Bible 
         b. Pertaining to one who has learned a great deal of the
            intellectual heritage of a culture--'learned, cultured.' - Louw Nida

   B. HIS ABILITIES...
      1. Mighty (powerful, competent) in the Scriptures (Old Testament) - Ac 18:24
      2. Instructed in the way of the Lord (Jesus) - Ac 18:25
      3. Fervent in spirit; lit., "to boil in the spirit", an idiom for enthusiasm - Louw Nida
      4. Taught accurately the way of the Lord (Jesus) - Ac 18:25
      5. Though he knew only the baptism of John - Ac 18:25
         a. His knowledge of Jesus was limited
         b. Perhaps knowing only John's witness to Jesus as the Messiah
         c. Likely unaware of Jesus' commission involving baptism - cf.
            Mt 28:18-20; Mk 16:15-16 
         d. Similar to those "disciples" in Ephesus whose knowledge was
            also deficient - Ac 19:1-5

[With such knowledge, eloquence, and enthusiasm, Apollos began to speak
boldly in the synagogue at Ephesus (Ac 18:26).  Listening to him were
two people, husband and wife...]

II. AQUILA AND PRISCILLA, THE TEACHERS

   A. THEIR BACKGROUND...
      1. Husband and wife, Jews expelled from Rome - Ac 18:1-2
      2. With whom Paul stayed in Corinth, working together as tentmakers- Ac 18:3
      3. Traveled with Paul from Corinth to Ephesus, and stayed there- Ac 18:18-19
      4. Hosted a church in their home in Ephesus - 1Co 16:19
      5. At some point risked their lives for Paul - Ro 16:3-4
      6. Later in Rome, hosting a church in their house - Ro 16:3-5
      7. Mentioned in Paul's last epistle, shortly before his death, back in Ephesus - 2Ti 4:19
 
   B. THEIR METHOD...
      1. They attended the synagogue - Ac 18:26
         a. As Jews, they would have that privilege
         b. Perhaps like Paul, they utilized it as an evangelistic opportunity - Ac 17:1-4
      2. They heard Apollos speak - Ac 18:26
         a. I believe we can fairly infer that they listened respectfully
         b. Like the Bereans, who with fair-mindedness listened to Paul- Ac 17:11
      3. They took him aside - Ac 18:26
         a. Talking to him privately, conducive to constructive dialogue
         b. Like Paul, their goal was to reason and persuade - Ac 17:1-4; 18:4
      4. They explained to Apollos the way of God more accurately - Ac 18:26
         a. Implying that his knowledge was somewhat accurate
         b. They sought to build on what he already knew, with truth he did not know

[Aquila and Priscilla were successful in leading Apollos to a more
accurate understanding of the way of God.  With that understanding, the
highly educated, fervent Jew from Alexandria became...]

III. APOLLOS, THE MINISTER

   A. HIS SUCCESS AT CORINTH...
      1. Endorsed by brethren at Ephesus, he went to Corinth - Ac 18:27
      2. He greatly helped those who believed through grace - Ac 18:27
      3. Apollos "vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the
         Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ." - Ac 18:28; cf. Ac 17:3
      4. As Paul wrote, "I planted, Apollos watered..." - 1Co 3:5-6
 
   B. THE PROBLEM AT CORINTH...
      1. Division because of "preacher-itis" involved Apollos - 1Co 1:10-12
      2. Paul diagnosed such "preacher-itis" as carnality - 1Co 3:4
      3. In no way did Paul impugn Apollos with causing the problem
         a. Apollos was a minister and co-worker through whom the Lord worked - 1Co 3:5-9
         b. Paul included Apollos and Cephas (Peter) as serving the church - 1Co 3:21-23
         c. Paul included himself with Apollos as examples in whom not to boast - 1Co 4:6
         d. He wanted Apollos to go to Corinth, but Apollos was unwilling
            at the time - 1Co 16:12
      4. Those who identified themselves with Apollos may have been 
         swayed by his eloquence

CONCLUSION
1. Paul later mentioned Apollos in his epistle to Titus... - Tit 3:13
   a. Together with Zenas, a lawyer
   b. Asking Titus to send them on, lacking nothing
   c. Some think Zenas and Apollos may have been the bearers of the epistle to Titus
   d. Luther and others suggested Apollos as the author of Hebrews, but no one knows

2. What is known is the successful conversion of Apollos, by Aquila and Priscilla...
   a. Whose methodology is worthy of imitation in evangelism
   b. Acknowledging the faith and understanding of those we try to teach
   c. Building on their faith as we seek to teach them "the way of God more accurately"
   d. Doing so privately when possible, as friends not adversaries

Have you explained to others the way of God more accurately?  Are you
willing to let others explain to you the way of God more accurately? 
We can all learn from "The Conversion Of Apollos"...
 

What Good Things Can You Say About Islam? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=8&article=5143

What Good Things Can You Say About Islam?

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Q:

“There are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world. Islam can’t be all bad. What good things can you say about Islam?”

A:

Truth is not determined by the number of people that accept or reject it. Nor is any religion, ideology, or philosophy totally evil, false, or bad. No doubt Satan himself has some attributes that some may consider “good.” But this observation misses the point. If a religion is false, it must be rejected—even if it possesses some positive qualities. If the central thrust of an ideology is out of harmony with what both the Bible and the American Founders called “true religion” (i.e., Christianity), then ultimately it will be harmful and counterproductive to American civilization. Philosophies and religions impact life and society. If America loses its Christian moorings, dire consequences will follow—consequences that we are even now seeing in the form of increased crime, the breakdown of the home, and the dumbing down of our educational institutions. Christian principles are responsible for elevating America to the envy of the nations of the world. Remove or replace the Christian platform on which the Republic is poised and disastrous results will follow.
Is there some good in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam? Certainly. But that is a superfluous observation. The real question is: what has been the impact of those ideologies on the countries where their influence has prevailed? Answer: Poverty is rampant (except where the Western Christian nations have given assistance and technology—such as drilling oil wells), women are abused and mistreated, children are treated as chattel, the lower classes are treated with contempt, etc. Simply look at one of the premiere atheistic nations of the last century—Russia. Look at the most prominent Hindu nation on Earth—India. Consider the Buddhist countries of the world, from Thailand to Cambodia to Vietnam. Examine the premiere Socialist nations from Cuba to Central and South America. Look at the major Islamic nations of the world, from the Middle East to North Africa to Indonesia. Even a cursory examination of the societal conditions that prevail in all these nations causes the traditional American to shrink with horror and disgust, shocked at the extent of man’s inhumanity to man.
In stark contrast, what has been the result of Christianity’s influence on America? Christian influence has been responsible for the abolition of slavery, and the construction of hospitals, children homes, and the benevolent societies of our nation. Christian influence has created an environment that is conducive to human progress. Hence, America excels other nations in a host of categories of human endeavor. Indeed, where else in all of human history has a greater percentage of a nation’s citizenry achieved a higher standard of living? (Most “poor” in America do not even begin to compare with the poor of other nations and history.) America has orchestrated an unprecedented amount of progress—achieving what one author styled a “5,000 year leap” of technological advancement and progress in just 200 years (Skousen, 2006). Only one explanation exists for this extreme disparity: God has blessed America (Psalm 33:12).
Please give sober consideration to the words of Founding  Father, Jedidiah Morse (father of Samuel Morse who invented the Morse Code), who cogently articulated the thinking of the Founders and most early Americans regarding the importance of Christianity to America’s survival:
To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoy. In proportion as the genuine effects of Christianity are diminished in any nation, either through unbelief, or the corruption of its doctrines, or the neglect of its institutions; in the same proportion will the people of that nation recede from the blessings of genuine freedom, and approximate the miseries of complete despotism (1799, p. 14, emp. added).
Whatever “good” might be acknowledged concerning Islam and all other non-Christian religions is, in fact, irrelevant and diverts attention away from the real issue: Is it true, i.e., of divine origin, and if not, what fruit will it produce in a nation? Abundant evidence exists to know the answers to these questions. [NOTE: See the author’s book The Quran Unveiled and DVD on “Islam, the Quran, and New Testament Christianity” at apologeticspress.org].

References

Morse, Jedidiah (1799), A Sermon, Exhibiting the Present Dangers and Consequent Duties of the Citizens of the United States of America (Hartford, CT: Hudson and Goodwin), http://www.archive.org/details/sermonexhibiting00morsrich.
Skousen, W.C. (2006), The 5000 Year Leap (Malta, ID: National Center for Constitutional Studies).

“Christianity Could Not Possibly Be True” by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=13&article=3518

“Christianity Could Not Possibly Be True”

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

What did atheistic author Mike Davis allege was the “smoking gun” that proved to him once and for all that “Christianity could not possibly be true”? What “sealed the issue” and led him to believe “Jesus was wrong...and no more deserving of our belief than any other guy”? When did the case against the Bible and Christianity become “closed”? In chapter one of his book, The Atheist’s Introduction to the New Testament: How the Bible Undermines the Basic Teachings of Christianity, Davis explained that Matthew 24:34 was the deciding factor.
In Matthew 24:34, Jesus stated: “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” According to Davis, since “Jesus tells his listeners that the judgment day will come before the generation he’s speaking to passes away,” and since that generation passed away 1,900 years ago, Jesus “could not have been divine” and the Bible is “untrustworthy” (2008, pp. 1-2). In actuality, what Davis confesses ultimately “proved” to him that the Bible and Jesus are unreliable is nothing more than a misinterpretation of Scripture. Jesus was not mistaken in His comments in Matthew 24:34—Jesus’ generation did not pass away prior to witnessing the things Jesus foretold in Matthew 24:4-34. But, Jesus did not foretell in those verses what Davis assumes He foretold. Davis and many others believe that, prior to verse 34, Jesus was describing events that would take place shortly before Judgment Day at the end of time. The fact of the matter is, however, Jesus was prophesying about the coming destruction upon Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and not the final Judgment.
When the disciples went to show Jesus the temple buildings (Matthew 24:1), Jesus said, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (24:2). Later, when Jesus was on the Mount of Olives, the disciples asked Him three questions, beginning with “when will these things be?” (24:3). In verses 4-34, Jesus revealed several signs that would indicate Rome’s destruction of Jerusalem, including the temple, was near. [NOTE: “The fall of the Hebrew system is set forth in the sort of apocalyptic nomenclature that is characteristic of Old Testament literature, e.g., when the prophets pictorially portray the overthrow of Jehovah’s enemies (cf. Isaiah 13:10-11; 34:2ff; Ezekiel 32:7-8)” (Jackson, n.d.); cf. Matthew 24:29-31; see Miller, 2003.] In verses 35-51 (and all of chapter 25), Jesus answered the disciples’ last two questions: “what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). To summarize, in Matthew 24:4-34 Jesus foretold of the coming destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, while in 24:35-25:46 He commented on His future return and final Judgment of the world.
How sad it is that so many atheists and skeptics believe they have disproven the Bible and Christianity, when, in reality, they have simply twisted the biblical text to mean something God never intended (cf. 2 Peter 3:16). The fact that Mike Davis highlights Matthew 24:34 as the verse that once and for all proved to him the Bible is unreliable should tell us something about the extreme weakness of the skeptic’s case against Christianity.

REFERENCES

Davis, Mike (2008), The Atheist’s Introduction to the New Testament (Outskirts Press: Denver, CO).
Jackson, Wayne (no date), “A Study of Matthew 24,” http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/19-a-study-of-matthew-24.
Miller, Dave (2003), “There Will Be No Signs!” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1838.

The Value of Human Suffering by Wayne Jackson, M.A


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=228

The Value of Human Suffering

by  Wayne Jackson, M.A.

It has been said that there is no greater education than matriculating through the University of Hard Knocks. One thing is certain; many who have passed through the crucible of suffering will acknowledge that they have found themselves infinitely better for the experience—bitter though it may have been. Robert Browning Hamilton expressed this thought so wonderfully in verse:
I walked a mile with Pleasure
She chatted all the way,
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow
And ne’er a word said she;
But oh, the things I learned from her
When Sorrow walked with me!
Atheism, of course, alleges that the problem of human suffering represents one of the more formidable arguments against the existence of a powerful and loving God. It is not my intention to respond to that baseless argument here; I have addressed it elsewhere in detail (see Jackson, 1983). At this point, it will suffice simply to say at that God has, as an expression of His love (1 John 4:8), granted mankind free will (Joshua 24:15; cf. Isaiah 7:15). That free will enables human beings to make their own choices. Foolish choices can have devastating consequences (e.g., suffering). Thus, the responsibility for unwise choices is man’s, not God’s. The problem of human suffering is not irreconcilable with the love of a benevolent Creator. In this article, we will limit our discussion to the benefits that suffering can provide—if we are wise enough to learn the lessons.
First, suffering highlights the fact that we are frail human beings; that is to say, we are not God. Some, however, have no greater ambition than to be their own God. They are “autotheists”—self-gods. They imagine that they are accountable to no one higher than themselves. To borrow the words of the infidel poet, William Ernest Henley, they are the masters of their fate, and the captains of their souls! These rebels submit to no law save the self-imposed law of their own arrogant minds. But when we humans suffer, we are forced to focus upon our own weakness. There is no remedy within us (see Job 6:13). It is hard to be haughty when you are hurting. Pain can be humbling; it can slap smart-aleckness out of us, and open our hearts to greater vistas.
Second, suffering can draw our interests toward the true God. When one is in a state of anguish that offers little respite, the natural inclination is to turn toward a higher source for help. Only a deliberate and forced stubbornness can quench that urge. When we are hurting, the “God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3) is waiting to help. Joe, a personal acquaintance of this writer, was taught the gospel of Christ and happily embraced it, being united with the Lord in baptism (Romans 6:3ff.). For a while, this likable gentleman in his mid-forties struggled to remain faithful against the powerful, negative influences of a family that had zero interest in spiritual matters. Finally, he drifted away from conscientious service. Then, Joe suffered a severe heart attack. He hastened back to the Savior and maintained a contented fidelity until, some months later, his spirit slipped quietly away into eternity. Suffering can get our attention! David once wrote: “In my distress I called upon Jehovah, and cried unto my God” (Psalm 18:6).
Third, suffering can assist us in seeing sin in all of its hideous gruesomeness. The Bible clearly teaches that this planet has been heir to suffering as a consequence of man’s sin. This principle is set forth clearly by Paul in his letter to the Roman saints. He affirmed that “through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death through sin, so that death passed to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). At the beginning of human history, sin, in a manner of speaking, was “crouching at the door” (see Genesis 4:7); when grandmother Eve (and subsequently her husband) opened that door, horrible effects were allowed to descend upon their offspring (Genesis 3:22). And so death—with all its attendant evils—entered the human environment as a result of man’s rebellion against his Creator. When we suffer, it ought to be a sober reminder of how terrible sin is. While we cannot escape the physical consequences of sin’s high price, we can refresh our souls in divine forgiveness. When that is done, life becomes immeasurably easier.
Fourth, suffering aids us in seeing the real worth of things. When one passes through the experience of intense suffering, and perhaps comes to the threshold of death, the entire world can take on new meaning. The singing of the birds is more vivid than it ever has been. A fresh spring day makes the soul ecstatic. Family and friends take on a new preciousness. Christopher Reeve, who starred as “Superman” in the movies, was involved in a life-threatening accident, and discovered that in real life he was not as invincible as the character he portrayed. In recent interviews, Mr. Reeve commented that since being paralyzed, he has discovered a new zest for life. Indeed, suffering can provide a sharper vision of life’s priorities. As the poet John Dryden expressed it: “We, by our suff’rings, learn to prize our bliss” (Astraea Redux). He that hath an ear, let him hear what suffering whispers to the soul.
Fifth, suffering prepares us to be compassionate to others. There is an old adage that says, “Do not judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” I suggest another proverb: “One cannot comfort effectively until he has lain in the bed of suffering.” That may be a bit of an overstatement, but it contains a grain of truth. In the second chapter of Hebrews, the writer effectively argued that Jesus Christ, as our High Priest, is qualified to “succor” (ASV) or “aid” (NASV) those who are tempted. How is that so? Hear him: “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18, NKJV). The song lyric, “Are you weary? Are you heavyhearted? Tell it to Jesus; tell it to Jesus,” is wonderfully meaningful in light of this passage. It has been said that the difference between “sympathy” (from the Greek syn—with, and pathos—feeling) and “empathy” (en—in, and pathos) is that in the former instance one “feels with” (i.e., has feelings of tenderness for) those who suffer, whereas in “empathy” one almost is able to “get inside” the friend who suffers—because the one doing the comforting has been there!
Sixth, suffering sharpens our awareness that this Earth is not a permanent home. Peter sought to encourage early Christians (who were being persecuted) not to despair, by reminding them that they were but “sojourners and pilgrims” upon this Earth (1 Peter 2:11). The ancient patriarchs “confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” and so they looked for “a better country, that is a heavenly [one]” (Hebrews 11:13-16). Paul reminded us that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward” (Romans 8:18). It is not the will of God that men live upon this evil-plagued planet forever. We never will be “at home” until we are with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8), and suffering helps make us “home sick.” Henry Ward Beecher once said: “God washes the eyes by tears until they can behold the invisible land where tears shall come no more.”
Seventh, suffering enhances our ability to pray. Praying is an instinctive human response to severe hardship. But effective prayer is a learned exercise. On a certain occasion during His ministry, Jesus was praying. After He had finished, one of the disciples requested of Him: “Lord, teach us to pray, even as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). These Hebrew disciples had been praying all their lives; yet, they observed something in the intensity of Jesus’ prayers that sent them “back to school.” With Calvary ever looming before Him, Christ plumbed the depths of prayer. Note the following: “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:44). A song suggests: “Pray when you’re happy; pray when in sorrow.” One should pray frequently, and in all moods; under the burden of suffering, however, one will learn how to pray as he never has prayed before.
Eighth, suffering tempers the soul and helps prepare it for eternity. Peter wrote:
[N]ow for a little while, if necessary, ye have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7).
Just as precious metals are purified by the heat of fire, so life’s trials in general, and suffering for Christ in particular, build strength into the soul. Character does not happen by accident; rather, it is built! Out of the fires of suffering, the human spirit may emerge as precious as gold and as strong as steel.
Ninth, suffering nurtures the noblest virtues of which mankind is capable. Reflect for a moment upon the quality of courage. Civilizations universally perceive “courage” to be one of the prime traits of humanity, and, by way of contrast, cowardice is considered to be utterly reprehensible. Courage may be defined as the ability to act rationally in the face of fear. If, however, the human family were immune to hardship, danger, suffering, etc., there could be no “facing” it, hence, no courage. When we sit down to a delicious dinner with friends and loved ones on a balmy autumn evening, no courage is needed. Courage arises in the presence of danger. There are certain qualities that we simply cannot possess in the absence of hardship. Ralph Sockman wrote: “Without danger there would be no adventure. Without friction our cars would not start and our spirits would not soar. Without tears, eyes would not shine with the richest expressions” (1961, p. 66). And what of “patience”? John Chrysostom (347-407), one of the most influential figures among the “church fathers” of the post-apostolic period, described patience as “the mother of piety, fruit that never withers, a fortress that is never taken, a harbour that knows no storms” (as quoted in Barclay, 1974, p. 145). But could there ever be “patience” in the absence of difficulty?
Tenth, suffering separates the superficial from the stable. Paul cautioned the Corinthian saints against building up the church superficially. Some folks are of the “wood, hay, [and] stubble” variety, while others exhibit those qualities of “gold, silver [and] costly stones” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). Saints of the latter category endure; those of the former do not. Why so? It simply is because the two groups are tested by “fire” (hardships), and that testing fire separates quality converts from those who really are not serious about their Christian commitment. Jesus once spoke of those who receive the gospel impulsively, and, for a while endure. Eventually, though, “tribulation and persecution” arise, and rather quickly the superficial fade away (see Matthew 13:20-21).
And so, while no one actively seeks suffering in his life, honesty compels us to admit that hardships do have value—great value. Certainly, the existence of suffering is not a valid reason for rejecting the Creator.

REFERENCES

Barclay, William (1974), New Testament Words (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster).
Jackson, Wayne (1983), The Book of Job—Analyzed and Applied (Abilene, TX: Quality).
Sockman, Ralph (1961), The Meaning of Suffering (New York: Women’s Division, Christian Service Boards of Missions, The Methodist Church).

Moral Relativism or Scriptural Absolutes? by A.P. Staff


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=920

Moral Relativism or Scriptural Absolutes?

by  A.P. Staff

In our postmodern age, the philosophy of total indulgence in sensual pleasures has become the societal norm. Television, movies, video games, and books espouse moral relativism (which teaches that there is no absolute system of morals or ethics). Television shows such as Friends teach that lying, stealing, and sexual promiscuity are normal and ethically acceptable—as long as you get what you want. “Just do it!” is the catchphrase of a popular, and therefore fashionably desirable, shoe marketed primarily to teenagers and college students. With this kind of pressure from the entertainment and fashion industries, it is easy to see why moral relativism is such a prevalent way of thinking. The results, though, are evident in the decadence of humanity in our postmodern world. Legalized murders bear new and acceptable names such as “abortion” and “euthanasia”; sexual perversions enjoy favored status; lying, stealing, and cheating are fully acceptable under our new “enlightened” way of relativistic thinking—get whatever you can, however you can, whenever you can, because life is short and you only go around once.
However, this idea is not confined just to contemporary society. Moral and ethical relativism has spread even into the realm of Christianity, causing faithful men and women to question scriptural absolutes and abandon clear biblical teachings. The Christian exegesis has shifted from “the Bible says,” to “I just feel this in my heart and therefore know it to be true.” Elders no longer execute scripturally mandated discipline, preachers cease to teach the truth and preach only what is commonly acceptable, and those who teach moral and scriptural absolutism are branded as legalistic, judgmental, and narrow-minded.
If this is the case, then the inspired writers themselves were legalistic, judgmental, and narrow-minded, because absolutism is clearly taught throughout the Bible! Paul wrote:
[F]or when Gentiles that have not the law do by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are the law unto themselves; in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness therewith, and their thoughts one with another accusing or else excusing them… (Romans 2:14-15, emp. added).
The Gentiles did the things required by God’s law, not because they had received any specific written code, as the Jews had, but because there exists an absolute system of morals and ethics. God established this system, which has continued from the Creation until now. God’s absolutes cannot be superceded by man’s will without drastic consequences, as the world around us bears witness. This same principle of moral absoluteness is see in scripture, because the Bible contains definite teachings that are not open to man’s personal feeling and interpretation:
And we have the word of prophecy made more sure; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation. For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:19-21, emp. added).
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:21-23).
When God speaks, it is not for man to interpret via his own feelings what God has said. There is an absolute system of teaching, just as there is an absolute set of morals—both are defined by God, and as such are not open to postmodernism’s relativistic way of thinking. Perhaps the most sobering thought in this is that by these absolutes we are judged and by these absolutes we are either confirmed or condemned. It is not by our own feelings, but by what God has established from the beginning in the form of moral and biblical absolutes.
In a time when the world around us says, “Just do it,” those of us who are Christians should not be swept away by moral or scriptural relativism. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yea and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8), and as imitators of Christ, we should continue to teach absolutes that are the same yesterday, today, and forever.

The Da Vinci Code and the Deity of Christ by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=10&article=1823

The Da Vinci Code and the Deity of Christ

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

In the best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code, the character known as Sir Leigh Teabing “enlightens” one of the story’s main characters, Sophie Neveu, about a number of matters that lay at the heart of Christianity. One of the subjects that he broaches with this young French government cryptographer is the deity of Christ. According to Teabing, until the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325,
Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet...a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal.... Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea.... By officially endorsing Jesus as the Son of God, Constantine turned Jesus into a deity who existed beyond the scope of the human world, an entity whose power was unchallengeable (Brown, 2003, p. 233, italics in orig., emp. added).
Constantine upgraded Jesus’ status almost four centuries after Jesus’ death.... Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and embellished those gospels that made Him godlike (p. 234, italics in orig., emp. added).
No doubt, millions of readers have examined these words and pondered over their truthfulness. Was the “master storyteller” Dan Brown simply trying to sells books with such statements, or are we to consider these words by the fictional character Sir Leigh Teabing as absolute, historical truths? Was Jesus considered only a man before Constantine’s alleged transformation of Him at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325? Or, was He from the beginning of the Christian era considered by inspired writers and the early disciples as God in the flesh?
Exactly where Dan Brown includes historical facts in his novel, and where he simply includes information for entertainment enhancement purposes, is difficult to decipher. Since Brown includes a “FACT” page at the very front of his book that alleges, “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate” (2003, p. 1, emp. added), one gets the strong impression from the very outset of the book that when documents such as the New Testament manuscripts are mentioned, Brown (through his fictional characters) must be telling the truth. The problem is, much of what he says about Christianity, especially about the nature of its Founder—Jesus—is woefully inaccurate.
First, the Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote of the coming Messiah’s deity 1,000 years before the time of Constantine. “For unto us,” Isaiah foretold, “a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6, emp. added). Isaiah also prophesied of the virgin birth of the Messiah, and that His name would be “Immanuel” (7:14), which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23, emp. added). Early Christians had access to these Jewish Scriptures, even in the Greek language (i.e., the Septuagint), which they could consult regarding both Christ’s humanity and deity. In fact, in the late second century A.D., Irenaeus quoted from Isaiah 9:6 in defense of Jesus’ divinity (3:19).
Second, when Jesus came to Earth in human form in the first century, He repeatedly referred to His divine nature. The fact that He claimed to be the Messiah (Mark 14:61-62), is proof enough, since according to the Old Testament, the Messiah would be called “Mighty God.” Jesus also claimed to be “One” with the Father (John 10:30), and that “all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father” (John 5:23). He accepted worship time and again (Matthew 14:33; John 9:38; Luke 24:52), which is due only to God (Matthew 4:10)—not mere human beings (Acts 12:23; 14:8-18; cf. Hebrews 1:6). Truly, Jesus came from heaven (John 3:13; 6:33,38,41) and ascended back into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father (Matthew 26:64; cf. Psalm 110:1).
But in The Da Vinci Code, historian Sir Leigh Teabing alleges that such statements as these, which allude to Jesus’ divinity, were “embellished” by Constantine in A.D. 325 in order to make Christ “godlike” (p. 234). Is Teabing, who in the movie version of The Da Vinci Code is played by Ian McKellen, factually accurate? Not at all. The truth is, numerous copies of the various New Testament documents and quotations from those documents by early Christian writers exist that predate the time of Constantine by 100-200 years. Constantine did not write or “embellish” John 1:1 (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” emp. added; cf. 1:14). Copies of this passage (found in manuscripts designated p66 and p75) go back to the late second and early third centuries—100 to 150 years before Constantine and the Council of Nicaea. Jesus’ claim, “I and My Father are One” (John 10:30), and the Jews’ recognition that Jesus made Himself, not just a man, but “God” (John 10:33; cf. 5:18) also predate Constantine by more than a century (cf. manuscripts designated p45, p66, and p75). What’s more, a copy of Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, in which he affirms “Christ Jesus, Who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,” existed long before Constantine’s supposed embellishment of the nature of Jesus (p46).
In The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts, edited by Philip Comfort and David Barrett, more than 60 of the earliest Greek New Testament manuscripts are transcribed (including those mentioned above). Many photographs of these early manuscripts (the originals of which are housed in museums throughout the world) are also contained in the book. Interestingly, in the introduction to this massive 700-page volume, Comfort and Barrett state: “All of the manuscripts [contained in the book—EL] are dated from the early second century to the beginning of the fourth (A.D. 100-300)” (2001, p. 17). In fact, “[s]everal of the most significant papyri date from the middle of the second century” and thus “provide the earliest direct witness to the New Testament autographs” (p. 18). Comfort and Barrett even concede that “it is possible that some of the manuscripts thought to be of the early second century are actually manuscripts of the late first” (p. 23). New Testament manuscripts with descriptions of Jesus’ deity from the middle second century, and possibly the late first century? But The Da Vinci Code says that Constantine purposefully manipulated the scriptures in the fourth century (A.D. 325) in order to make Jesus sound divine when really He was not? The facts speak for themselves. The story told in The Da Vinci Code is dead wrong. We have ample proof that Constantine did not change the New Testament documents by elevating Jesus’ status from man to God. Unfortunately, millions of Dan Brown’s readers have been duped into believing that Jesus is not Who the Bible claims that He is.
But, that’s not all. Writings from early Christians (all of which predate Constantine by well over a century) also exist that reveal much about the early church’s view of Jesus. Ignatius, who died in the early second century and is thought to have been a companion of the apostle John, referred to Jesus Christ as “our God” several times in his letters to the Christians in Ephesus (Chapter 7; Chapter 8) and Rome (Introduction; Chapter 3). Polycarp, who was a contemporary of Ignatius and died around A.D. 150, wrote a letter to the church at Philippi in which he called Jesus “the Son of God, and our everlasting High Priest” (chapter 12). Another “church father” from the second century, Justin Martyr, wrote that Jesus, “being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God” (First Apology, chapter 63). Irenaeus also provides us with valuable insight into what Christians (living more than a century before the time of Constantine) thought about Jesus. In approximately A.D. 200, He wrote:
...this is Christ, the Son of the living God. For I have shown from the Scriptures, that no one of the sons of Adam is as to everything, and absolutely, called God, or named Lord. But that He is Himself in His own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, and Lord, and King Eternal, and the Incarnate Word, proclaimed by all the prophets, the apostles, and by the Spirit Himself, may be seen by all who have attained to even a small portion of the truth. Now, the Scriptures would not have testified these things of Him, if, like others, He had been a mere man. But that He had, beyond all others, in Himself that pre-eminent birth which is from the Most High Father, and also experienced that pre-eminent generation which is from the Virgin, the divine Scriptures do in both respects testify of Him: ...that He is the holy Lord, the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Beautiful in appearance, and the Mighty God, coming on the clouds as the Judge of all men;—all these things did the Scriptures prophesy of Him (Book III, Chapter 19, emp. added).
Even certain second-century enemies of Christ give testimony to the fact that Christians viewed Jesus as divine long before A.D. 325. In a letter that Pliny the Younger (Roman governor in the Asia Minor province of Bithynia around A.D. 115) wrote to the Emperor Trajan, he stated: “They [the Christians—EL] were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds...” (10:96). Another individual who opposed Christianity was the Greek rhetorician and satirist, Lucian. He wrote:
The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day—the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account.... You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws (11-13, emp. added).
Thus, aside from the non-hostile witnesses that testify of Jesus being God, even His enemies, who lived both in the first century (e.g., Pharisees; John 5:18; John 10:33) and second century (i.e., Pliny the Younger and Lucian), recognized that both Jesus and His followers, believed that He was God, and thus worthy of worship.
In truth, Jesus was viewed as divine by His followers long before the Council of Nicaea convened in A.D. 325. The leaders who gathered at that council nearly 300 years after the death of Christ (not “four centuries” as Teabing stated in The Da Vinci Code, p. 234) did take a vote regarding the nature of Christ (which was not nearly a close vote—another strike against the historical accuracy of The Da Vinci Code, cf. p. 233). But, that vote did not settle the matter regarding His deity. The nature of Christ was settled hundreds of years earlier when Jesus and the first century apostles and prophets who were guided “into all truth” by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13) taught that He was “God” (John 1:1,14; 10:30; 20:28; etc.).
...Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:5-7).

REFERENCES

Brown, Dan (2003), The Da Vinci Code (New York: Doubleday).
Comfort, Philip W. and David P. Barrett (2001), The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House).
Ignatius (1973 reprint), “Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Ignatius (1973 reprint), “Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Irenaeus (1973 reprint), “Irenaeus Against Heresies,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Justin Martyr (1973 reprint), “The First Apology of Justin,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Lucian (1905 reprint), “The Death of Peregrine,” The Works of Lucian of Samosata, trans. H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler, [On-line], URL: http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/luc/wl4/wl420.htm.
Pliny (1935 reprint), Letters, trans. William Melmoth (Cambridge: Harvard University Press).
Polycarp (1973 reprint), “The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Is Creation Science? by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.





http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=381

Is Creation Science?

by  Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.

On June 22, 1633, Galileo confessed to the “heresy” of believing that the Earth orbits the Sun. With that statement in hand, the Holy Office of the Roman Catholic Church prohibited the aging scientist from discussing the Copernican view of the Solar System, and sentenced him to house arrest for the remainder of his life (Hummel, 1986, pp. 118,123).
And so began the long conflict between faith and science, at least according to the popular view. From that day forward, Galileo became a martyr for free thought, sacrificed at the altar of an ignorant, authoritarian church.
More than two hundred years later, the church and science faced off again, this time over the writings of a certain Charles Darwin. It took place on a balmy June day in 1860, at the annual meeting in Oxford of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The protagonists were Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, and Thomas Huxley, professor of natural history at the Royal School of Mines. Bishop Wilberforce mounted the floor first, giving a critique of Darwin’s new book, The Origin of Species. Apparently he ended his speech by inquiring of Huxley whether it was through his grandfather or his grandmother that he claimed his descent from a monkey. Huxley got up to defend Darwin’s views, adding that if the choice was between an ape for a grandfather, or a man who ridiculed science, his preference was the ape (Blackmore and Page, 1989, pp. 102-103).
No one knows exactly what was said at that meeting, but in later years the exchange achieved powerful legendary status. The scientist had beaten the bishop publicly, and in his own diocese. Again, the popular picture has reason triumphing over blind faith as it pushed the church aside in its unrelenting pursuit of scientific progress.
This view gained momentum in the remaining decades of the nineteenth century. In 1874, John William Draper wrote a book titled History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science. Then in 1896, Andrew Dickson White published A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. Both books received wide distribution, and helped sustain the tension into the modern era (Russell, 1985, p. 193).

THE CONTROVERSY

Many historians of science now reject this simple view of conflict (Lindberg and Numbers, 1986, p. 6). To be sure, great minds clashed through the centuries, but what they were saying about science and religion often reflected only the currents of social change swirling around them. Yet the origins issue remains a topic of intense debate. Few people speak of the creation/evolution “discussion” or “dialogue.” Even after making a case for a kinder, gentler consideration of the issues, Numbers lapses into military language in his analysis of creationists. He talks about the fundamentalist “crusade” against evolution (1986, p. 394), and the “battle” to get scientific creationism into public schools (1986, p. 413).
Part of the problem is that there are no ground rules for a reasonable discussion of origins. Creationists would like an opportunity to give scientific reasons for why they believe what they believe. However, many evolutionists fear that creationists must necessarily abuse science to use science. Creationism, they claim, is a religious dogma, and therefore closed to the usual rigors of scientific investigation. Hence Stephen Jay Gould has labeled “scientific creationism” an oxymoron—a contradiction in terms (1987, 8[1]:64). Also, many evolutionists claim that evolution is a fact, while admitting that they do not understand the mechanism and details completely. This elevated view of evolution prompts creationists to hurl the accusations of “religious dogma” back on the evolutionists’ side.
To complicate matters, some Bible believers are uncomfortable with the idea of defending creation on the field of science. A few have retreated, seeing science as a threat to their faith. Some fears may stem from the conflict described previously; scientists are seen only as adversaries. It also may come from the perception that science has been the source of many evils: atomic weapons, death-camp experiments, ethically questionable medical practices, and so on. Still others object outright, claiming that science and religion are on two different planes separated by a distance equal to a “leap of faith.” In other words, they believe it is impossible, or improper, to present any rational proof or evidence that would lead anyone to a belief in the Creator (Sproul, et al., 1984, p. 34).
The results can be unfortunate. In a world of ever-increasing technological complexity, where scientism often reigns supreme, retreat only serves to alienate the Gospel from people seeking genuine reasons to believe, or continue believing, in God. And placing science and religion into separate compartments, with scientists determining truth in one area, and theologians determining truth in the other, can lead ultimately to the compromise of theistic evolution (Moreland, 1989, pp. 12,217).

THE GROUND RULES

There is a need to step back from this debate and look for a better way to present the wealth of evidence in favor of creation. Opponents still may not agree with the conclusions, but it should allow creationists to present a consistent, scientific case. Perhaps the best approach is to put creation and evolution on an equal footing. This is not an attempt to dodge the issue by saying both ideas are true. Rather, it is an effort to set up a reasonable framework for discussing the origins issue. The first place to begin, however, is among those who profess a belief in God.

On Science and Religion

Faith need not exclude science. Yes, faith involves an emotional or heart-felt response to God, but it also involves an intellectual response. Abraham, Moses, and the other children of God listed in Hebrews 11 were faithful, with no help from modern science. Noah’s building of the ark, for example, was not based on his personal study of marine engineering or hydrology, but rather a decision to obey God’s command. However, surely some of Noah’s faith came from the knowledge that God could and would work in nature to achieve His ends, including sending a worldwide Flood and preserving Noah and his family on the ark.
Throughout the Old Testament, God invited His people to compare His miracles and prophecies with the claims of pagan religions (e.g., Isaiah 41:21-22). Then in the New Testament, Christ and the apostles sought a spiritual response from a reasonable consideration of what people had seen and heard (John 5:36; Acts 2:14-41; 17:16-34). Peter gave Christians explicit instructions to defend the reason for their hope of eternal salvation (1 Peter 3:15).
Further, God appealed to the creation as a demonstration of His existence and power (e.g., Job 38-39; Isaiah 40:26; 45:12). That God’s revelation of His will to Moses began with the account of creation is no coincidence, for it established His unique nature and role in the faith of Israel. The apostle Paul told Christians in Rome that unbelievers always have had the opportunity to recognize the existence of a Creator by studying the creation (1:20). Of course, it is not possible to come to a saving knowledge without special revelation (Romans 10:17), but it is possible to understand the need to seek out the Creator by looking at His natural or general revelation. Although salvation by grace is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8), it does not follow that faith is irrational—that it has no tangible ground in “right reason,” as Warfield put it (1977, 1:236-237). This “right reason” may include an investigation of natural revelation using the tools of modern science.
Christians need not fear science. Nature and Scripture have a common Author, which means that the facts of nature will complement the statements the Bible makes about the physical world. It is not a matter of making one the servant of the other, but of interpreting both correctly. Scientists may disagree with theologians, but true science and true religion never should be in conflict (see Thompson, 1984, 1:17). Finally, Christians should understand that science itself is not evil. Rather, the application of science or technology for immoral purposes is evil, although this improper use is not always perpetrated by the original researcher or inventor.
Thus, science interacts with religion not only through a study of natural revelation, but also through a consideration of broad issues such as philosophy and ethics. This does not mean to say that the relationship always will be harmonious. To say otherwise is to suggest that someone has answered all the questions. What it does mean is that faith and science can interact in useful ways.

On True Science

Creationists appeal to a supernatural cause to explain a unique event: the origin of the Universe, the Earth, and all life. For many evolutionists, that explanation is just plain unscientific. The late Judge William Overton expressed his agreement by striking down the Arkansas Balanced Treatment Act that required the teaching of both creation and evolution in the State’s public schools. In his 38-page decision, Overton dismissed creation theories because they do not conform to what scientists think and do. His opinion is worth examining in greater detail, not because he is a scientist or philosopher of science, but because he based his criteria on the testimony of people in these fields. Judge Overton concluded that a theory is truly scientific when:
(1) it is guided by natural law; (2) it has to be explanatory by reference to natural law; (3) it is testable against the empirical world; (4) its conclusions are tentative, i.e., are not necessarily the final word; and (5) it is falsifiable (as quoted in Geisler, 1982, p. 176).
While the decision disappointed creationists, Overton’s definition left some philosophers of science aghast. Chief among them was Larry Laudan, who found fault with all five criteria. “The victory in the Arkansas case was hollow,” he complained, “for it was achieved only at the expense of perpetuating and canonizing a false stereotype of what science is and how it works” (1988, p. 355). Nonetheless, most anticreationist publications refer positively to Overton’s ruling, and others certainly share his characterization of science (Futuyma, 1983, pp. 168-174; National Academy of Sciences, 1984, pp. 8-11). Grouping the first two criteria under one heading, the problems with Overton’s criteria are as follows.

Science Does not Have to Have Natural Explanations

As Blackmore and Page noted: “In a previous age the essence of science was to discover God’s ways of working. Miraculous interventions were perhaps rare, but certainly permissible. They would have found Overton’s dismissal of miracles presumptuous” (1989, p. 161). A century or more ago, many scientists had no problems seeking natural causes, while recognizing that supernatural causes may be necessary in some cases (Moreland, 1989, p. 226). In today’s controversy, evolutionists have limited themselves to purely natural causes; creationists have not. Neither choice makes one more or less scientific than the other.

Science is not Always Empirical

People can observe or experience the same phenomena, but come to quite different conclusions. For example, the Ptolemaic idea that Earth is at the center of the Universe directly contradicts the Copernican idea that the Earth and other planets orbit the Sun. Unfortunately for Galileo, more convincing evidence for Copernicus’ view would have to wait for the superior observations and analyses of scientists like Brahe, Kepler, and Newton. In the meantime, empirical science could not judge one theory better than the other. Both models fit the data available at the time, and made fairly accurate astronomic predictions.
Also, empirical science cannot test the central claims of creation and evolution directly (e.g., the creation of man, or the Big Bang). However, it still is useful in two ways. First, as the next section will show, empirical science can provide analogies on which to test these central claims. Second, origin theories make other peripheral claims that empirical science can test directly. For example, creationists suggest that most seemingly vestigial organs have genuine functions. This claim is based on the belief that God created all major animal types, the organs of which should show evidence of purpose, not degeneration from a completely different ancestral form. Empirical science can discover whether a given vestigial organ is functional. Laudan suggests that evolutionists disprove such empirical claims, rather than pretending that creationism makes no such claims at all (1988, p. 352).

Science is not Always Tentative

At any one time in history, scientists hold to core beliefs—ideas that need to be true if they are going to function in their work. Such dogmatism can be useful, although there is a fine line between consensus and censorship.
The reasoning behind this criterion goes back to the idea that creationists cannot practice true science because they base their beliefs on a doctrinal statement. In other words, it unfairly accuses creationists of intellectual dishonesty. This is nothing more than an attack on creationists themselves, which is not the same as defining science (Moreland, 1989, p. 230).

Science is not Always Falsifiable

As a criterion of science, falsification is the idea that scientists have to disprove alternative, related ideas before they can call their theory truly scientific. Unfortunately for evolutionists, this nullifies all scientific arguments against special creation because, they say, creation cannot be falsified (Numbers, 1992, p. 248-250). The obvious contradiction (that creationism is both false and unfalsifiable) reveals the limitations of such a test.
In summary, all these practices have a place in science, but ultimately they are not reliable in distinguishing science from nonscience.

ORIGIN SCIENCE

Laudan grants that creationism satisfies the last three of Overton’s requirements (1988, p. 354). He even takes the first two criteria to task, arguing that not all scientific ideas can be explained by natural laws. For example, Galileo and Newton described gravity before anyone explained it. And Darwin discovered the phenomenon of natural selection before anyone understood the laws of heredity on which it depended. By Overton’s rules, “we should have to say that Newton and Darwin were unscientific” (1988, p. 354). Yet the issue still remains: can science seek non-natural causes? Were great scientists of the past justified, or merely naive, in their willingness to allow divine intervention in nature?
Creationists have realized that the only way to resolve this issue is to find the common ground between evolution and creation. This may seem a fruitless task at first, seeing that they represent two quite different world views. But they share this fundamental belief: that the Universe and life are the products of one or more unique events. In particular, evolutionists speak of the Big Bang, and the origin of life from nonlife. Neither event is occurring today. Life is not arising spontaneously from nutrient-rich environments and, fortunately for humankind, Big Bangs are not rending space asunder on a regular basis. Similarly, creationists believe that the Universe and life are the products of a divine creative act, and further, that a worldwide Flood shaped the present world. These events also are unique. God finished His creation on the seventh day (Genesis 2:1), and promised that He never again would destroy mankind with a Flood (Genesis 9:15).
What people imagine as “science,” including Overton’s caricature, cannot begin to deal with these claims, but they still are open to scientific scrutiny. While the answers may not lie directly under the lens of a microscope, or in a test tube, they may come by testing the claims against knowledge gained by empirical science. In an effort to refine this distinction, Charles Thaxton and his colleagues suggested separating operation science from origin science. The first deals with the recurring phenomena of nature, such as eclipses, volcanoes, reproduction, etc., while the second deals with singular events, such as the Big Bang, creation, etc. (1984, pp. 203-204).
Origin science may be a new term, but it works by the standard principles of causality and uniformity, which always have been a part of doing science. The principle of causality says that every effect must have a prior, sufficient, necessary cause. The principle of uniformity (or analogy) says that similar effects have similar causes.
Still, evolutionists may argue that creationists have done themselves no service by making a separate science out of singularities. Defining a nonempirical science is one thing; proposing supernatural causes is quite another. For this reason, they always will view creationism as unscientific. But the idea that history consists of an unbroken stream of natural causes and effects is merely a presumption on their part. Perhaps they fear a new generation of doctoral students invoking God when they cannot explain something in their research projects. Yet this fear is unfounded. As stated earlier, most scientists of the past had no problem with divine intervention. Indeed, one of the driving forces of early Western science was the idea that the Universe, as God’s creation, was open to rational investigation. In doing good operation science, these scientists would seek natural causes for regularly occurring events. Many of them recognized, however, that unique events may require a cause beyond nature. Only analogy with the present can determine whether the cause is miraculous or naturalistic (Geisler and Anderson, 1987, p. 16).

WAS PALEY’S WATCHMAKER STILLBORN?

In 1802, William Paley applied analogy in full force through his book, Natural Theology. Paley tells a story of a man who finds a stone. From the natural appearance of the stone, and its lack of purpose, the man assumes it is the product of nature. Later he finds a watch, and because of its inherent purpose, he assumes it is the product of a watchmaker. What is the difference between the rock and the watch? “Wherever we see marks of contrivance,” Paley wrote, “we are led for its cause to an intelligent author” (1802, p. 232, emp. in orig.). Paley concluded that design in nature demands a cause that exists beyond and before the natural world. That cause he identified as God—Designer and Creator.
Yet many skeptics believe that Paley’s work was defunct before he ever put pen to paper. More than fifty years earlier, David Hume had argued that miracles cannot be true because the world normally operates using natural causes. For example, if a man says he witnessed someone being raised from the dead, which of the following is most likely: that a man can deceive or be deceived, or that a person can be raised from the dead? Hume would take the first option, because (for him at least) it is easier to believe than the second (1748, p. 657).
Belief, Hume argued, derives from the guiding principles of uniformity and causality. Are these not the same guiding principles of origin science? Then how is it that Paley could allow miracles, while Hume could not? In part, Hume was reacting to a popular idea of his day that God not only designed the Universe, but also operated the Universe like a machine. God was every cause, not just the first cause: He maintained the Moon in its orbit of the Earth, and made the apple fall to the ground. Hume found this idea totally unpalatable and, as often happens, swung to the opposite extreme in response. God never could cause any effect, because that would violate all reasonable human experience about the way nature normally operates. If God could intervene at any time, then experience is useless, and science has no value. Hume’s uniformity gave rise to uniformitarianism, and thence to the contempt for miracles among so many scientists of the modern era.
The problem with this view is that miracles are supernatural, not antinatural; they are beyond nature, not against nature. Further, they explain certain unique events, not all regular events. Paley appealed to a divine Creator because no known natural cause was sufficient to explain the design he saw in the living world. Ironically, Paley said he founded his conclusions on “uniform experience”—precisely the same phrase coined by his skeptical predecessor (see Geisler and Anderson, 1987, p. 145).

CONCLUSION

Yes, creation is science. Judge Overton’s answer was to redefine science, with dire consequences for science itself. In fact, there is nothing about science that prevents a Bible believer from practicing good science, or even investigating the existence of God.
However, miracles remain the sticking point. Some scientists feel very uncomfortable with the idea that an effect might have a supernatural cause. Note that this is only a feeling, a presumption, on their part. Creationists have no interest in making God a capricious, meddlesome Agent Who works to achieve every natural effect. Rather, He is the Cause of unique events that cannot be explained by recourse to purely natural explanations. Origin science provides a consistent way to test this claim, along with the central claims of evolution—claims that are not amenable to testing under empirical or operation science. Yes, there is more than one way to do science.
When people belittle the scientific status of creationism, they attack its believers, not its claims. Prejudice, not truth, sustains the idea that faith and science must be in conflict. Christians can use science to defend their belief in the Genesis account of creation, and should not be intimidated into thinking otherwise.

REFERENCES

Blackmore, Vernon and Andrew Page (1989), Evolution: The Great Debate (Oxford, England: Lion).
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