5/5/17

ONCE UPON A BIG BANG by Jim McGuiggan

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


ONCE UPON A BIG BANG


Here’s a story that begins with ONCE UPON A BANG. Some billions of years ago there was a hot spot sitting no one can say where. In that hotspot, tiny beyond human imagination, was all the material out of which this universe is made. It became so dense and hot that it exploded with a Big Bang (“explosion” is still used but think more of a balloon expanding due to some sort of “ferment” inside) though no one knows why or how it could have since no one knows anything about the physics that governed it (assuming that physics governed it since there was no knowable physics prior to “the bang” ). Still, the material spread out, so the story goes, and during the unthinkable, unknowable process physics was created along with space and everything in space, quasars, galaxies and all else. That material is still flying away from that explosive center. It cooled and settled and became suns and planets and such and on one of them, no one knows how it could have happened and much less why, what we call “life” came into being.
But because the universe is furiously expanding (it’s said) at something like the speed of light the stars (suns) are growing farther apart, it’s getting darker and colder and its heading for the Great Freeze when the universe itself will “die”. Another version of the story says that gravitation will become so strong that the universe will shrink in a Great Crunch. One way or another: OBLITERATION! Obliteration that is just as mindless and as pointless as the pointless, mindless beginning.
Bertrand Russell (Stratonician atheist) said that that story is clearly true so what humans must do is to build their future on “unyielding despair.”
H.J. Blackham (atheist) said the most powerful objection to that story is this: “Its pointlessness! It’s too bad to be true.”
This is the story Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking (more recently), Stephen Weinberg all urge us to believe.
If it’s true, it’s true.
Just so you know what it is.
Imagine this: Tomorrow morning the entire human family wakens to discover that that story is true. It’s not a rumor, it has been proven to the point where no one can deny it, everyone without exception knows that it’s true.
What does the human family now know?
It knows the grave is the final end; the universe is a massive “dead” thing, freezing and dark beyond human imagination and buried in this eternally silent mausoleum is all the gallantry, all the noble struggles, all the marvelous achievements of people we called glorious; all that was daring and gentle and self-giving is gone. All those we now adore no longer exist. Nowhere in time or eternity was anyone or could there be anyone better for all the loveliness or all the dreams or all the costly achievements. All the truths uncovered, all the heights of goodness won by the patient, long, glorious endeavor—all gone! They never meant anything.
Each human always was the product of mindless matter and a bag of reacting chemicals (“humans are nothing but bags of bio-chemical” one man told me). The chemicals came up with words like justice, love, compassion, hatred, cruelty, oppression, guilt, blame, praise but the words themselves were chemical reactions spawned by reacting chemicals and “electricity”. It might be different if there had been beings that made choices, purposed kindness and such—but there was no such thing.
Neuroscientist, Wolf Singer (atheist) assures us that matter is all that exists and since it is governed by physics there is no such thing as choice—we are matter acted on by and in keeping with physical laws which are nothing more than a description of how matter behaves and that description is itself reacting chemicals. Reacting chemicals and electrical circuitry are describing themselves. There never was nor is there now anyone in the bag of chemicals “choosing” or “intending”—there is no “ghost in the machine” (Gilbert Ryle), there is only the “machine” working, there is/are only chemicals reacting. One of these days these bags of chemicals will react and  robots will come on the scene, centers of “artificial” intelligence, that will feel and be and think all that the humans now are and then surpass them. It’s simply a question of configuring the structure of atoms. There will be no “ghost in the machine” (no spirit or soul, the kind of words religious bags of reacting chemicals use of themselves)—there’s nothing more than material stuff put together in a certain way that it “works”. It’s all very simple.
Theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Weinberg (atheist) assures us that even our highest thoughts are chemical reactions. (Obviously Weinberg forgot that his own thoughts, high or low, are chemical reactions. It is this kind of thing that made it almost amusing to hear Mr. Hitchens (atheist) tell university students they did not have to agree with him, that the “choice” was theirs.)
Bertrand Russell confessed that there were things going on in the world that horrified him but, he said, he had no rational grounds on which to condemn them. In light of the above story the human family knows that there never was “justice” nor will there ever be. Multiplied millions of bags of reacting chemical were and are acted on by other reacting chemicals and that’s the entire story.
So from that morning when the human family wakened to discover the truth, that the above story was true, Jesus Christ was exposed as just another bag of reacting chemicals that “thought” it was God incarnate. (We would pity that particular bag but that would require us to be more than reacting chemicals. Reacting chemicals don’t and can’t really “pity”.) All prayer would cease, all hope would die, unyielding despair would set in, there’d be no comforting last words for anyone, Bibles and religious books would be trashed and burned, crosses in cemeteries become witnesses of the bizarre form some chemical reactions took. Hymn books are trashed, all hymn singing is hushed, all sacred music is hushed, all church buildings are monuments to false reactions of these reacting chemicals. (But how can chemical reactions be false or true? Neuro secretions and transmissions makes no claims; they simply are. The interpretation of those transmissions and secretions are also secretions and transmissions. There is no truth or error in such a world.) All talk of justice or injustice would be hushed, “love” would become a sound, nothing but chemicals; loyalty and devotion and faithfulness would be chemical sounds generated by groups of reacting chemicals. Joy in the presence of a new born baby or picnicking with the family, sadness when a beloved one went off into oblivion, affection that fills up our senses, hunger for “truth” and the desire to help the homeless or sick would go on for a brief while out of habit and then it would sink into the gloom with the realization that nothing is what it seems—God alone knows what else would arrive.
Atheism can only be preached in a world where atheists are empowered by the beauty and truth and hope and freedom that’s in it; things they say are only words by and about reacting chemicals and electrical circuity. If they really believed their story they couldn’t live in a world like this. They would have to be speechless. Dawkins is said to have recently admitted that he uses speech that makes no sense. He said if he didn’t use it he’d go crazy. You can’t rationally praise your car for running well, you can’t rationally blame the refrigerator for breaking down or a light bulb for burning out so how can you rationally praise bags of reacting chemicals?  And why worry about rationality if it is nothing but chemical fireworks in a bag?
Finally there’s this, Many years ago in Denton, Texas, I watched (the then) atheist Antony Flew repeatedly refuse to answer the question: On what grounds would you condemn what the Nazis did? Like Bertrand Russell, Flew hated it but had no rational or moral grounds on which to condemn it. That’s where the story that begins with the BIG BANG ends.
There’s another Story that might well begin with, “ONCE UPON A TREE…”
(Holy Father, teach us your Story and fill us with the joy and wonder of it. Forbid us to let unbelievers set the agenda so that we spend our time following them around. Tell our teachers and preachers and help them to become rich and enthralled with it so that they will speak it to us that we will be empowered and with joy and assurance abd tell it to a world that desperately needs it. This request in the name of the Lord Jesus.)






There Is One Body By Steve Miller

http://www.gospelgazette.com/gazette/1999/aug/page11.shtml

There Is One Body

By Steve Miller

The Bible teaches “There is one body . . .” (Ephesians 4:4).  What is the one body?  “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all” (1:22-23). Paul is teaching exactly what Jesus Christ taught.  Our Lord said he wold build his church (Matthew 16:18), which is the one body!  The Book of Ephesians teaches that there is ONE CHURCH (4:4).  It is built upon the one foundation, Jesus Christ (2:20).  Christ died for the church:  “. . . even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (5:25).  Jesus is savior of the body (5:23).  Jesus is head of the church:  “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him be the head over all things to the church” (1:22).  Jesus loves his body, the church:  “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church . . . For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church” (5:25, 29).
The church is under the authority of Christ:  “Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ . . .” (5:24).  We are reconciled to God in the one body:  “And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (2:16).  We can be members of this body:  “For we are members of his body . . .” (5:30).  We are sanctified and cleansed.  “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (5:26).  We are to have growth in the church (4:16).  We are to have unity in the body (4:1-6).  Members of the one body are to worship:  “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end” (3:21).  We have one mission; to make known “the manifold wisdom of God” (3:10).  When Paul spoke of the one body, he was simply stating, “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (5:32).  The church of Christ is the church of the New Testament.

Singularity of the
Church of Christ

  • Jesus said, “I will build MY church” (Matthew 16:18).
  • “. . . tell it to THE church” (Matthew 18:17).
  • “Lord added to THE church” (Acts 2:47).
  • “likewise greet THE church” (Romans 16:5).
  • “baptized into ONE body” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
  • THE body of Christ . . . set some in THE church” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28).
  • “the head over all things to THE church” (Ephesians 1:22).
  • “reconcile both unto God in ONE body” (Ephesians 2:15-16).
  • “glory to God in THE church” (Ephesians 3:21).
  • “there is ONE body” (Ephesians 4:4).
  • “Christ is the head of THE body, and he is the savior of THE body” (Ephesians 5:23).
  • “persecuting THE church” (Philippians 3:6).
  • “and hath translated us into THE kingdom . . .” (Colossians 1:13).
  • “He is the head of THE body” (Colossians 1:18).
  • “that ye may be counted worthy of THE kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer” (2 Thessalonians 1:5).
  • THE house of God, which is THE church of the living God” (1 Timothy 3:15).
The Bible is the verbally (word for word), inspired (God-breathed), inerrant (without mistake), plenary (complete) Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  The Bible is to be our only authority in religious matters (Colossians 3:17).
The New Testament teaches us to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).  The Bible authorizes five acts of worship to be engaged in by the church of Christ.  Upon the first day of the week, we are to sing praises unto God (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16), pray (Acts 2:42), give as we have prospered (1 Corinthians 16:1-2), teach (Acts 2:42; 20:7) and break bread (Matthew 26:26-29; 1 Corinthians 11:23-20).
The organization of the church, as found in the New Testament, consists of Christ as head (Colossians 1:18), elders overseeing the local congregation (Hebrews 13:17), deacons serving the physical needs of the church (1 Timothy 3:8-13), and evangelists and teachers who preach the Word of God publicly and privately.
To become a Christian and a member of the one body, one must obey the Gospel plan of salvation.  This makes one a Christian only and an heir to all the blessings found in Jesus Christ.  The Bible teaches us that we are saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:5, 8-10).  In order for man to get into the grace of God, he must do his part, which is through faith (Ephesians 2:8).  The Christians at Ephesus were not saved by grace alone:
  • They heard and believed the Gospel (Ephesians 1:13).
  • They repented (Acts 20:21).
  • They confessed Jesus Christ (Acts 19:18).
  • They were baptized into Christ (Acts 19:1-7).

"THE BOOK OF ACTS" An Eventful Sunday At Troas (20:7-12) by Mark Copeland

                          "THE BOOK OF ACTS"

                 An Eventful Sunday At Troas (20:7-12)

INTRODUCTION

1. The city of Troas was an important seaport...
   a. Founded before 300 B.C. by Antigonus, a successor of Alexander the Great
   b. Located about 10 miles south of the city of Troy
   c. Made a Roman colony by the emperor Augustus (31 B.C. - 14 A.D.)

2. Troas was visited several times during Paul's missionary journeys...
   a. On his second journey, where he was joined by Luke - Ac 16:8,11
   b. On his third journey, having left Ephesus - Ac 20:1; 2Co 2:12-13
   c. Again on his third journey, having left Philippi - Ac 20:6

[It was on Paul's third visit that Luke describes an eventful Sunday for
the church at Troas.  In Ac 20:7, we are first told about...]
   
I. THE ASSEMBLY OF DISCIPLES

   A. ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK...
      1. Literally, "the first of the Sabbath (sabbaton)"
         a. Metaphorically, sabbaton denotes a period of seven days (week); 
         b. As used in reference to Jesus' resurrection (cf. Sabbath w/ week) - Mt 28:1
      2. And so here, to refer to Sunday, the first day of the week
         a. The day of the week in which Jesus rose from the dead - ibid.
         b. The day of the week in which the church began - Ac 2:1-47
         c. The day of the week disciples were to lay by in store - 1Co 16:1-2
         d. The day which came to be known as "the Lord's day" - Re 1:10;
            cf. Didache 14:1

   B. TO BREAK BREAD...
      1. The reason they came together on the first day of the week
      2. To observe the Lord's Supper 
          - Lk 22:19-20; Ac 2:42; 20:7; 1Co 10:16-17; 11:17-34
      3. A weekly practice continued by the early church 
          - cf. Didache 14:1; Apology I, 67

[Assembled on the day of the week precious to early Christians, to
observe a memorial meal instituted by Jesus Himself, the disciples at
Troas had a special treat on that day...]

II. THE PREACHING OF PAUL

   A. THE SPEAKER...
      1. A special guest, along with eight other special guests - Ac 20:4-6
      2. A guest speaker, an apostle of Jesus Christ! - Ac 20:7
      3. Who had established and strengthened churches throughout the
         Mediterranean world

   B. THE SERMON...
      1. We are not told the subject matter, but from what we know of
         Paul...
         a. It could have been the gospel of Christ - cf. Ro 1:14-17
         b. It could have been exhortations to holy living - cf. 1Th 4:1-3
         c. It could have been encouragement to endure persecution - cf.Ac 14:21-22
      2. Whatever the subject, it was a long sermon
         a. He continued his message until midnight - Ac 20:7
         b. He later resumed and talked until daybreak - Ac 20:11
         c. Because he was departing the next day - Ac 20:7,11

[What a privilege!  To listen and learn from the apostle Paul!  For
those willing to stay all night, they also witnessed a special treat. 
What first may have appeared to be a tragedy, led to...]

III. THE RAISING OF EUTYCHUS

   A. A SLEEPY YOUNG MAN...
      1. In an upper room with many lamps - Ac 20:8
      2. Sitting in a window, sinking into a deep sleep - Ac 20:9
      3. Overcome by sleep as Paul continued speaking; "on and on" (NIV)- Ac 20:9
      4. Perhaps having worked all day, the crowded room, the heat from
         the lamps - all contributing to his drowsiness
 
   B. A LUCKY YOUNG MAN...
      1. The name "Eutychus" means "fortunate, good luck"
      2. Overcome by sleep, he fell from the third story, and taken up dead - Ac 20:9
      3. Paul went down, fell on him, and embraced him - Ac 20:10; cf.
         1Ki 17:21; 2Ki 4:34
      4. Paul then said "Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in 
         him." - Ac 20:10; cf. Mk 5:39
      5. Paul then broke bread and ate, talked until daybreak, and
         departed - Ac 20:11
         a. Was this the Lord's Supper? Or a common meal to refresh Paul
            before his journey?
         b. If Luke used Roman time (as many presume), it would have now been Monday
         c. "Here the compound "broke bread and ate," signifies an
            ordinary meal, not the Lord's Supper." - Longenecker, The 
            Expositor's Bible Commentary: John and Acts
         d. "The second reference to 'breaking bread' seems to take that
             phrase beyond the Lord's Supper and describes what could 
            well be called a midnight snack." - Gangel,  Holman New 
            Testament Commentary, Acts
      6. With the young man brought in alive, "they were not a little
         comforted" - Ac 20:12
         a. What an understatement! But that is what Luke literally wrote (NKJV, ESV)
         b. We would more likely say, "were greatly comforted" (HCSB, NASB)

CONCLUSION

1. Truly an eventful Sunday for the disciples in Troas...!
   a. To observe the Lord's Supper, an important event for disciples every Sunday
   b. To hear "our beloved brother Paul" share "the wisdom given him"- cf. 2Pe 3:15
   c. To witness the raising of young Eutychus from the dead!

2. What can we glean from this eventful Sunday in Troas...?
   a. What day the church assembled for worship, and for what reason - Ac 20:7
   b. A confirmation of Paul as a true apostle of Jesus Christ 
       - Ac  20:8-12; cf. 2Co 12:12

And as Gangel put it: "Attend church regularly - especially on Sunday -
and try not to fall asleep."
 
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2013

"THE BOOK OF ACTS" The First Day Of The Week (20:7) by Mark Copeland

                          "THE BOOK OF ACTS"

                   The First Day Of The Week (20:7)

INTRODUCTION

1. For almost 2000 years, Christians have assembled on Sunday to observe
   the Lord's Supper...
   a. Why on Sunday (the first day of the week)?
   b. Why not on the Sabbath (the seventh day of the week)?

2. In Ac 20:7, we find the first reference to worship on a Sunday...
   a. When disciples came together to break bread
   b. When Paul spoke to them 

[Some might wonder whether this passage refers to a weekly observance,
and whether Christians did in fact assemble on the first day of the
week to partake of the Lord's Supper.  Consider the evidence for...]

I. THE OBSERVANCE OF THE SUPPER

   A. THE BIBLICAL EVIDENCE...
      1. When the church began, they continued steadfastly in "the
         breaking of bread" - Ac 2:42
      2. Disciples came together on the first day of the week to "break bread" - Ac 20:7
      3. "Breaking bread" is likely a reference to the Lord's Supper - cf. 1Co 10:16-17
      4. Other indications of a weekly observance:
         a. The church at Corinth was coming together to eat the Lord's 
            Supper, though they were abusing it - cf. 1Co 11:17-22
         b. Instructions concerning the collection suggest their coming
            together was on the first day of the week - cf. 1Co 16:1-2
      -- Seemingly slight, the Biblical evidence weighs more than any
         human opinion

   B. THE HISTORICAL EVIDENCE...
      1. The earliest historical evidence outside the Bible confirms the
         day and frequency
         a. The Didache (ca. 95 A.D.) indicates Christians were to come
            together on the first day of the week to break bread  - Didache 14:1
         b. Justin Martyr (ca. 150 A.D.) records how Christians assembled
            on Sunday and partook of the Supper - Apology I, 67
         c. "...the early church writers from Barnabas, Justin Martyr, 
            Irenaeus, to Clement of Alexandria, Origen and Cyprian, all 
            with one consent, declare that the church observed the first
            day of the week. They are equally agreed that the Lord's 
            Supper was observed weekly, on the first day of the week." 
            - B. W. Johnson, People's New Testament
      2. Religious scholars confirm this was the practice
         a. "As we have already remarked, the celebration of the Lord's
            Supper was still held to constitute an essential part of 
            divine worship every Sunday, as appears from Justin Martyr
            (A.D. 150)..." - Augustus Neander (Lutheran), History Of 
            Christian Religion And Church, Vol. I, p. 332
         b. "This ordinance (the Lord's Supper) seems to have been
            administered every Lord's day; and probably no professed 
            Christian absented themselves... - Thomas Scott 
            (Presbyterian), Commentary On Acts 20:7
         c. "This also is an important example of weekly communion as the
            practice of the first Christians." - A. C. Hervey 
            (Episcopalian), Commentary On Acts 20:7
         d. "It is well known that the primitive Christians administered
            the Eucharist (the Lord's Supper) every Lord's day." - P. 
            Doddridge (Congregationalist), Notes On Acts 20:7
         e. "We understand v. 7 to indicate that the Breaking of Bread on
            the first day of the week was customary during the apostolic
            period." - F. F. Bruce, (Open Brethren), New International 
            Bible commentary (p. 1302)
      -- The overwhelming consensus of extra biblical sources supports
         the conclusion that the Biblical practice was to observe the 
         Lord's Supper each first day of the week

[But as asked in the introduction, why Sunday?  Why not the Sabbath Day?
Consider the following regarding...]

II. THE DAY OF THE OBSERVANCE

   A. WHY THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK...?
      1. Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday - Mt 28:1; Mk 16:2,9; Lk 24:1; Jn 20:1
      2. Jesus appeared to His disciples on Sunday - Jn 20:19
      3. The church began on Pentecost, which was on a Sunday - Ac 2:1-42
      4. The command to lay by in store was to be carried out on a
         Sunday - 1Co 16:1-2
      5. Jesus appeared to John on "the Lord's Day", later understood to
         be Sunday - Re 1:10
      -- The Scriptures do not explicitly declare the above to be reasons
         why Christians assembled on the first day of the week, but it 
         might indicate why they did

   B. WHY NOT THE SABBATH...?
      1. The Sabbath was the sign of the Mosaic Covenant (Exo 31:16,17;
         Neh 9:14; Eze 20:12), whereas Christians are under the New Covenant (2Co 3; He 8)
      2. There is no NT command to keep the Sabbath
      3. The first command to keep the Sabbath was not until the time of
         Moses (Ex 16:23-30; 20:8)
      4. The Jerusalem Council (Ac 15) did not order Gentile believers to
         keep the Sabbath
      5. Paul never cautioned Christians about breaking the Sabbath
      6. The NT explicitly teaches that Sabbath keeping was not a
         requirement (Ro 14:5; Ga 4:10-11; Col 2:16-17)
      -- The above reasons are from The MacArthur Study Bible (Acts 20:7), 
          for why Scripture does not require Christians to observe the Saturday Sabbath

   C. AS PER ENCYCLOPEDIAS...
      1. "Sunday, first day of the week; in Christianity, the Lord's Day,
         the weekly memorial of Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead.
         The practice of Christians gathering together for worship on 
         Sunday dates back to apostolic times..." - Encyclopedia Britannica
      2. "From the apostolic era to the present it has been customary
         for Christians to assemble for communal Sunday services..." 
         - Encyclopedia Americana
      3. "The celebration of the Lord's Day in memory of the resurrection
         of Christ dates undoubtedly from the apostolic age. Nothing 
         short of apostolic precedent can account for the universal 
         religious observance in the churches of the second century. 
         There is no dissenting voice. This custom is confirmed by the 
         testimonies of the earliest post-apostolic writers, as Barnabas,
         Ignatius, and Justin Martyr." - History Of The Christian Church,
         Philip Schaff, vol. 1, pg. 201-202
      -- Both internal and external evidence from the Bible indicates
         that Christians met together on the first day of the week, i.e., Sunday

CONCLUSION

1. Again from Philip Schaff, History of Christian Church, Vol. 1, pg. 478-479...
   a. "...it appears, therefore, from the New Testament itself, that
      Sunday was observed as a day of worship, and in special 
      commemoration of the Resurrection, whereby the work of redemption was finished."
   b. "The universal and uncontradicted Sunday observance in the second
      century can only be explained by the fact that it has its roots in apostolic practice."

2. Some may say that the Biblical evidence is scarce...
   a. But a whisper of God's Word is worth more than a blast of man's opinions
   b. The apostolic example is more authoritative than any human tradition

If you are a disciple of Christ, do you assemble with other Christians
on the first day of the week to break bread (observe the Lord's Supper)?
If not, why not...?
 
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2013

You Have Only One Shot by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=8&article=497

You Have Only One Shot

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

The present pluralistic climate that prevails in American culture has disastrous implications. To suggest that all religions, all ideologies, all philosophies, and all beliefs are of equal validity, and ought to be tolerated as such, is to generate social anarchy and the destabilization of society that can end only in national suicide. Unless a single value system remains substantially intact in any given civilization, that society will lack the necessary “glue” to hold together. But even more tragic are the eternal implications for those who reject the truth regarding the only moral and spiritual reality, i.e., the Christian system.
For example, take the notion of reincarnation, a belief that permeates Hinduism, Buddhism, and New Age philosophy, and thus characterizes the thinking of upwards of two billion people (for brief discussions of reincarnation, see Valea, 2006; “Recarnation,” 2007). Here is a sinister doctrine that robs those masses of their one and only opportunity to prepare for afterlife. Reincarnation is the idea that at death, all human souls (according to some, animals as well) simply “recycle” into another body on Earth, and that this rebirth process is repeated over and over again until the individual eventually reaches the ultimate spiritual condition—nirvana and enlightenment.
Such a viewpoint inevitably must bring a sense of false comfort to the individual who embraces it. He or she naturally is not overly concerned with moral behavior and life choices. After all, multiple opportunities to live life over again are forthcoming. Herein lays the tragedy. The fact of the matter is that a human being has but “one shot” at life (Miller, 2003). Every person lives but one life on Earth and then must face death and Judgment (Hebrews 9:27). At death, a person’s spirit enters the Hadean realm to await the final Judgment and is unable to return to Earth (read Luke 16:19-31; cf. Miller, 2005). Consequently, it is absolutely imperative for every human being to examine God’s Word (the Bible) to ascertain how life is to be lived in view of eternity (cf. Butt, 2003). Millions of people literally are squandering their one and only opportunity to prepare themselves to secure everlasting happiness, and so will be consigned instead to everlasting torment (Matthew 25:31-46). Any doctrine that softens a person’s will to be conscientious regarding morality and behavior is a sinister doctrine that ought to be exposed and repudiated (Ephesians 5:11; 1 John 4:1).
[NOTE: For an audio sermon on what happens when we die, click here.]

REFERENCES

Butt, Kyle (2003), “Reincarnation and the Bible,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2298.
Miller, Dave (2003), “One Second After Death,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2244.
Miller, Dave (2005), “Afterlife and the Bible,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2672.
Valea, Ernest (2006), “Reincarnation: Its Meaning and Consequences,” [On-line], URL: http://www.comparativereligion.com/reincarnation.html.
“Reincarnation” (2007), Wikipedia, [On-line], URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reincarnation.

The Da Vinci Code and the Dead Sea Scrolls by Eric Lyons, M.Min.





http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=13&article=798

The Da Vinci Code and the Dead Sea Scrolls

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.


The Schøyen Collection MS 1655/1
In 1947, a number of ancient documents were found (by accident) in a cave on the northwest side of the Dead Sea. This collection of documents, which has become known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, was comprised of old leather and papyrus scrolls and fragments that had been rolled up in earthen jars for centuries. From 1949 to 1956, hundreds of Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts and a few Greek fragments were found in surrounding caves, and are believed by scholars to have been written between 200 B.C. and the first half of the first century A.D. Some of the manuscripts were of Jewish apocryphal and pseudepigraphal writings (e.g., 1 Enoch, Tobit, and Jubilees); others are often grouped together as “ascetic” writings (miscellaneous books of rules, poetry, commentary, etc.). The most notable group of documents found in the caves of Qumran near the Dead Sea is the collection of Old Testament books. Every book from the Hebrew Bible was accounted for among the scrolls, except the book of Esther.
The Dead Sea Scrolls make up one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all times. Jews and Christians often point to these scrolls as evidence for the integrity of the Old Testament text. Prior to 1947, the earliest known Old Testament manuscripts only went back to about A.D. 1000. With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Bible scholars have been able to compare the present day text with the text from more than 2,000 years ago. What they have found are copies of Old Testament books separated in time by more than a millennium that are amazingly similar. Indeed, the Old Testament text had been transmitted faithfully through the centuries. As Rene Paché concluded: “Since it can be demonstrated that the text of the Old Testament was accurately transmitted for the last 2,000 years, one may reasonably suppose that it had been so transmitted from the beginning” (1971, p. 191).
So what does all of this have to do with The Da Vinci Code? According to Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate” (2003a, p. 1, emp. added). Yet notice how Brown uses one of his main fictional characters (Leigh Teabing) in the book. In an attempt to disparage the New Testament documents, Teabing alleged the following about them and their relationship to the Dead Sea Scrolls:
“[S]ome of the gospels that Constantine attempted to eradicate managed to survive. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1950s hidden in a cave near Qumran in the Judean desert” (Brown, 2003a, p. 234).
“These are photocopies of the Nag Hammadi and Dead Sea Scrolls, which I mentioned earlier,” Teabing said. “The earliest Christian records. Troublingly, they do not match up with the gospels in the Bible” (p. 244).
Although Brown asserted on the very first page of his book that “[a]ll descriptions of...documents...in this novel are accurate” (emp. added), and even though he claimed “absolutely all” of his book is based on reality in terms of things that actually occurred (see Brown, 2003b), among the many inaccurate statements he made in his book are those quoted above regarding the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Simply put, the Dead Sea Scrolls are not in any way “Christian records;” they are Jewish writings from a Jewish religious sect, most of which predate the time of Christ (and thus Christianity) by several decades, and in some cases one or two centuries. These scrolls contain no “gospels.” In fact, Jesus of Nazareth is never even mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Such a reckless use of one of the greatest biblical archaeological discoveries ever should cause readers to see The Da Vinci Code for what it really is—a fictional novel bent on raising unnecessary suspicion about the trustworthiness of the Bible. Interestingly, the “documents” Brown used in hopes of casting doubt on Christianity, are, in actuality, some of the greatest pieces of evidence for the reliability of the Old Testament. What’s more, the Old Testament was “the Bible” of the early church. It is from these “Scriptures” that first-century Christians gleaned a greater understanding about Jesus, Who, as taught in the Old Testament, was the Christ, the prophesied Messiah (Acts 8:32-35; 17:10-11; 2 Timothy 3:15-17). In that sense, the Hebrew Scriptures contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls collection marvelously “match up with the gospels in the Bible.”

REFERENCES

Brown, Dan (2003a), The Da Vinci Code (New York: Doubleday).
Brown, Dan (2003b), “Today,” NBC, Interview with Matt Lauer, June 9.
Paché, Rene (1971), The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Three Rules of Human Conduct by Wayne Jackson, M.A.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=265

Three Rules of Human Conduct

by  Wayne Jackson, M.A.

[The gifted T.B. Larimore (1843-1929) once delivered a discourse titled: “The Iron, Silver, and Golden Rules” (see Srygley, 1949, 1:190-207). That presentation furnished the seed thoughts for this article.]
Jesus had been teaching in Galilee, the northern region of Palestine. Great throngs followed Him, and doubtless He was weary. Accordingly, He took His disciples and ascended a mountain in the vicinity of Capernaum—traditionally, Kurn Hattin, rising 1,200 feet just west of the shimmering Sea of Galilee. It was on this occasion that Christ taught that cluster of exalted truths that has come to be known as “the Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7).
Within that presentation is this memorable declaration: “All things therefore whatsoever you would that men should do unto you, even so do you also unto them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12). This saying has been given a metallic designation; it is called the “golden rule.” And that appellation has given rise to two other philosophical canons of human conduct known as the “silver rule” and the “iron rule.” Every rational individual, to a greater or lesser degree, will adopt one of these maxims as a guiding principle for his or her conduct. Let us reflect upon how these schools of thought relate to human activity.

THE IRON RULE

The iron rule is the rule of power and force. Its motto is: “Might makes right.” One can do what he is big enough to do. The principle is alluded to in the book of Habakkuk. God had promised that He would raise up the Chaldeans (Babylonians) to punish the southern kingdom of Judah for its grievous sins. This pagan force was a suitable tool in the providential arsenal of Jehovah to accomplish this mission because its disposition was: “My god is my might” (Habakkuk 1:11). But it is an egregious mistake to deify one’s physical prowess!
Advocates of the iron rule have been legion throughout history. Cain, who murdered Abel because his evil works were in stark contrast to his brother’s (1 John 3:12), and because he had the strength to do it, was the first practitioner of this nefarious rule.
Military leaders have found the iron rule quite convenient. Alexander the Great, known as the greatest military leader of all time, is a prime example. In the short span of twelve years, he conquered the antique world from Macedon to India. An example of his disposition may be seen in his capture of the city of Gaza in southwest Palestine. He took the governor, Betis, bored holes through his heels and, by chariot, dragged him around the city until he was dead (Abbott, 1876, p. 176). The military exploits of Julius Caesar are too well known to need elaboration. His inscription, given after the defeat of Pharnaces II in Pontus, says it all: Veni, vidi, vici—“I came, I saw, I conquered.”
Charles Darwin gave scientific respectability to the iron rule with the publication of The Origin of Species (1859). The full title was: The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. “Natural selection” was Darwin’s tooth-and-claw law of the jungle. Species survive, thrive, and develop by destroying their weaker competitors. In a companion volume, The Descent of Man (1871), Darwin vigorously argued the point:
With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man (1871, p. 130).
Adolf Hitler, in a political way, implemented Darwin’s iron-rule policies before and during World War II. In his ambitious scheme to develop a master race, the mad Fuehrer slaughtered millions of Jews, as well as those who were mentally and/or physically handicapped.
America adopted the iron rule as official policy in 1973 when the U.S. Supreme court, in its landmark Roe v. Wade decision, determined that a woman has the right to destroy her unborn child in order to facilitate her own interests. Since that time, millions of innocent, defenseless children have been executed at abortion clinics and hospitals in this nation.
Each lock on every door and window throughout the world is testimony to the iron rule. The penal institutions of the various nations are monuments to the rule of force. Every corrupt political official who manipulates his power for personal advantage lives by this system. Bully husbands/fathers who abuse their families are iron-rule devotees. Even those within the church, like Diotrephes (3 John 9-10), who bludgeon others into submission, are apostles of this system of intimidation.
Few have the effrontery to openly advocate this brutish ideology; but there are legions who practice it—to one degree or another.

THE SILVER RULE

The silver rule often has been described as “the golden rule in a negative form.” It is the golden rule without the gold. “What you do not wish done to you, do not do to others.” In this mode, it has found expression in the literature of many different cultures. For example, among the Greeks, Isocrates and Epictetus taught the silver rule. The latter condemned slavery on the ground that one should not do to others what generates anger in himself. William Barclay, the famous scholar so long affiliated with the University of Glasgow, has chronicled a number of these cases in his commentary, The Gospel of Matthew (1958, 1:276-281).
The renowned Jewish rabbi Hillel said: “What is hateful to yourself, do to no other.” Some have described this concept as a reflection of selfish egoism that withholds injury for personal reasons (see Lenski, 1961, p. 295). In the apocryphal Book of Tobit there is a passage in which Tobias says to his son: “What you yourself hate, do to no man” (4:16). Confucius (551-479 B.C.), a Chinese philosopher, also taught the silver rule. Tuan-mu Tz’u inquired of him: “Is there one word that will keep us on the path to the end of our days?” The teacher replied: “Yes. Reciprocity! What you do not wish yourself, do not unto others” (Confucius, XV, 24).
The unifying feature of all these sayings is that they are negative in emphasis. They forbid much; they enjoin nothing. The silver rule would forbid you to steal your neighbor’s purse, because such is hateful to you. On the other hand, if one finds a purse containing $200 in the mall parking lot, the silver rule is mute. It, in effect, leaves you with the option—“finders keepers, losers weepers.”
In 1964, there was a case that shook this country at its very foundation. Catherine Genovese was returning from a night job to her apartment in the respectable Kew Gardens area of New York City. As she approached her home in the early hours of that April morning, she was attacked by a knife-wielding assailant. He stabbed her repeatedly, fleeing the bloody scene as she screamed for help, only to return—when no one responded to her cries—stabbing her again and again, until she died. Subsequent police investigation revealed that thirty-eight residents of the neighborhood admitted that they witnessed at least a part of the attack. No one went to her aid; not a soul telephoned the police—until after she was dead!
The nation was incensed. A United States senator from Georgia read the New York Times’ account of the incident into the Congressional Record. Everyone wanted to know, “How could this have happened?” The answer is not difficult to deduce. Many people live by the principle of the silver rule: “It’s not my problem”; “it’s no skin off my nose”; “mind your own business”; and “take care of ‘numero uno.’ ”
Following the Genovese tragedy, two professors from Harvard University wrote an article analyzing this episode. They alleged that their essay was not “intended to defend, certainly not to excuse” the conduct of the Kew Gardens neighbors. On the other hand, they argued: “We cannot justly condemn all the Kew Gardens residents in the light of a horrible outcome which only the most perspicacious could have foreseen” (Milgram & Hollander, 1964, pp. 602-604). With typical academic confusion, the professors reasoned: (a) Big cities are “organized on a different principle.” Friendships are not based upon “nearness”; those who might have helped the unfortunate woman were simply not nearby. (b) It must be borne in mind that these neighbors did not commit the crime; one must focus upon the murderer, not other people. (c) It is difficult to know what any of us would have done in a similar circumstance. (d) Hind sight is always better than foresight. (e) People hesitate to enter a violent situation alone; but organization takes time, and there wasn’t enough time that night. (f) No one knows “the quality” of the relationship that Miss Genovese had with the community. (g) A “collective paralysis” may have seized the neighbors. (h) People in the city are hardened to street life; the “street” is often symbolic of the vulgar. (i) Heroic efforts frequently backfire. A young man named Arnold Schuster, while riding the subway, recognized the notorious bank robber, Willie Sutton. He reported this to the police, and the criminal was arrested. Before a month passed, Sutton made arrangements to have Schuster killed. (j) There are “practical limitations” to initiating the “Samaritan impulse,” and if one acted upon every “altruistic impulse” he could scarcely keep his own affairs in order, etc.
We have detailed the foregoing list of rationalizations because they illustrate a sterling example of “silver-rule” logic!

THE GOLDEN RULE

Finally, there is the golden rule—so designated in the English-speaking world since the mid-sixteenth century. Though some argue that there is little, if any, significant difference between the silver rule and the golden rule, and that the contrast has been “exaggerated” (Hendriksen, 1973, p. 364), most scholars contend that the golden rule marks “a distinct advance upon the negative form” (Tasker, 1906, 1:654). D.A. Carson has noted that the positive form is “certainly more telling than its negative counterpart, for it speaks against sins of omission as well as sins of commission. The goats in [Matthew] 25:31-46 would be acquitted under the negative form of the rule, but not under the form attributed to Jesus” (1984, 3:187). F.F. Bruce commented: “The negative confines us to the region of justice; the positive takes us into the region of generosity or grace...” (1956, 1:132; emp. in orig.). Let us consider several elements of this famous principle.
First, when all facts are considered, the golden rule represents, in a succinct and formalized fashion, a unique approach to human conduct. Jesus’ statement captured the very essence of “the law and the prophets.” While some contend that others (e.g., Confucius) came close to expressing the sentiment of the golden rule (see Legg, 1958, 6:239), most investigators argue that Jesus was the first to state it in its purest form. Barclay asserts: “This is something which had never been said before. It is new teaching, and a new view of life and of life’s obligations.... [T]here is no parallel to the positive form in which Jesus put it” (1958, 1:277,278; emp. in orig.). Professor Harold Kuhn suggested that Jesus’ words on this occasion “inaugurate a new era in person-to-person relationships” (1973, p. 267). Tasker conceded: “[T]here is little evidence of the existence of any pre-Christian parallel to the positive rule” (1906, 1:653). Votaw, in surveying the matter, observed that the negative form, as reflected in ancient Jewish, Greek, Roman, and Oriental writings, suggests the fact that a desire for goodness is innate to humanity; nevertheless, Jesus presented the rule in a positive form and “gave it new force and sphere” that is “peculiar to the Gospel” (1906, p. 42).
Second, the golden rule is grounded in divine revelation, and thus provides valid motivation for its implementation. Jesus said: “this is the law and the prophets.” His statement suggests that the golden rule is a summary of everything the Old Testament attempted to teach in terms of ethical conduct (cf. 22:36-40). Carson made this important observation: “The rule is not arbitrary, without rational support, as in radical humanism; in Jesus’ mind its rationale (‘for’) lies in its connection with revealed truth recorded in ‘the Law and the Prophets’ ” (1984, 3:188). In other words, it is founded on belief in God, and the intrinsic worth of man which issues from that premise (cf. Genesis 9:6). Just where is the logical/moral motivation for noble human conduct apart from evidence-supported divine revelation? It simply does not exist. I have argued this case extensively elsewhere (see Jackson, n.d., 2[3]:136ff.). Additionally, some see the conjunction oun (“therefore”) as connecting the golden rule to what had just been said. In particular, “we ought to imitate the Divine goodness, mentioned in ver. 11” (Bengel, 1877, 1:204).
Third, the golden rule is universal, applying to every segment of life. Jesus said: “All things, therefore, whatsoever....” If legislators enacted all laws premised upon the Lord’s instruction, society would be wonderfully altered. If homes operated on this principle, would there be marital infidelity, divorce, or child abuse? If our schools were allowed to teach the golden rule, with its theological base (which the modern judiciary has forbidden), would not the academic environment be enhanced remarkably?
Fourth, the golden rule requires action. It does not countenance passivity, but says “do you unto them.”
Fifth, the golden rule commends itself to reason. It assumes that an honest person, properly informed concerning principles of truth and fairness, would have a reasonable idea of what is right for himself. Therefore, he should render the same to others (see Clarke, n.d., p. 96). Remember, Jesus is teaching disciples—not someone who has no sense of moral responsibility. The rule contains the presumption of some moral sensitivity.
Finally, we must not neglect to mention that the golden rule is very special in that it is consistent with the other components of Christ’s teaching as revealed in the Gospel accounts (e.g., Matthew 22:37-40). Moreover, the personal character of Jesus Himself was (and remains) a living commentary on the rule in action.

THE CRITICS

Some, like Dan Barker (a former Pentecostal preacher who converted to atheism), have suggested that the golden rule should be characterized as “bronze,” since it is vastly inferior to the silver rule. Barker argued that if one were a masochist, the golden rule would justify his beating up on someone else (1992, pp. 347-348). His argument assumes that it is rational to be a masochist! Others, not quite so much of the fringe element, have suggested that the golden rule might at least be improved: “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.” Such a view, however, is fatally flawed, and even someone who is as ethically confused as Joseph Fletcher (the famed situation ethicist) has acknowledged such (1966, p. 117). The weak may want you to supply them with drugs, or indulge them with illicit sex, etc., but such a response would not be the right thing to do. If I am thinking sensibly, I do not want others to accommodate my ignorance and weakness.
Suppose a man is apprehended in the act of robbing the local market. A citizen detains the thief and starts to telephone the police, at which point the law-breaker says: “If you were in my place, you would want me to release you. Therefore, if you believe in the golden rule, you will let me go.” Is the thief’s logic valid? It is not. For if one’s thinking is consistent with principles of truth, he would realize that the best thing for him, ultimately, would be that he not be allowed to get away with his crime, that he not be granted a license to flaunt the laws of orderly society. The rule works—when properly applied by those who have some semblance of rational morality.
Even some of the enemies of Christianity have done obeisance to the value of the golden rule. John Stuart Mill wrote: “To do as one would be done by, and to love one’s neighbor as one’s self, constitute the ideal perfection of utilitarian morality.” Thomas Paine declared: “The duty of man...is plain and simple, and consists of but two points: his duty to God, which every man must feel, and with respect to his neighbor, to do as he would be done by” (as quoted in Mead, 1965, pp. 192-193).

CONCLUSION

In his discourse on the three rules of human conduct, T.B. Larimore observed that Christ’s parable of the good Samaritan forcefully illustrates each of these philosophies of life (Luke 10:30ff.).
A certain Hebrew man was travelling the twenty-mile-long road that led through a barren region of crags and ravines from Jerusalem to Jericho. As he journeyed, he fell victim to robbers who tore off his clothes, beat him, and left him half-dead by the roadside. The bandits’ reasoning was: “We are several; you are one. We are strong; you are weak. You have possessions; we want them. Case closed.” Theirs was the clenched-fist rule of iron.
As the man lay wounded, unable to help himself, presently a Jewish priest came by, and then later, a Levite (one who served the priests in temple ceremonies). Both, likely horrified by the bloody scene, crossed to the opposite side of the road, and hastened their steps. Their respective thinking doubtless was: “This tragedy was not my fault. It’s none of my affair, etc.” They did not kick the afflicted Jew; they did not rifle his pockets. They simply passed on. They were silver-rule men.
Finally, a Samaritan (normally, a dedicated enemy of the Jews—see John 4:9) came by. He saw a fellow human in need and was moved with compassion. He tended the injured man’s wounds, set him on his own donkey, and conveyed him to a nearby inn where, amazingly, he paid for more than three weeks of lodging (Jeremias, 1972, p. 205)—and pledged even more! The Samaritan’s code of ethics was this: “But for the grace of God, I could be writhing in agony by the roadside. What would I desire on my behalf if our respective circumstances were reversed?” It did not take him long to find the answer, for his compassionate heart was bathed in the golden glow of divine love.
The golden rule is a thrilling challenge to contemplate. None of us observes it perfectly, but let us never criticize it. Rather, let us applaud it, and strive for its lofty heights.

REFERENCES

Abbott, Jacob (1876), History of Alexander the Great (New York: Harper & Brothers).
Barclay, William (1958), The Gospel of Matthew (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster).
Barker, Dan (1992), Losing Faith In Faith—From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI: Freedom from Religion Foundation).
Bengel, John Albert (1877), Gnomon of The New Testament (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark).
Bruce, A.B. (1956), The Expositor’s Greek Testament, ed. W. R. Nicoll. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Carson, D.A. (1984), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Clarke, Adam (n.d.), Clarke’s Commentary—Matthew-Revelation (Nashville, TN: Abingdon).
Confucius, The Sayings of (1958), transl. James Ware (New York: Mentor).
Darwin, Charles (1871), The Descent of Man (Chicago, IL: Rand, McNally), second edition.
Fletcher, Joseph (1962), Situation Ethics (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster).
Hendriksen, William (1973), The Gospel According to Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Jackson, Wayne (no date), “Jackson-Carroll Debate on Atheism & Ethics,” Thrust (Austin, TX: Southwest Church of Christ), 2[3]:98-154.
Jeremias, Joachim (1972), The Parables of Jesus (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons).
Kuhn, Harold B. (1973), Baker’s Dictionary of Christian Ethics, ed. Carl F.H. Henry (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Legg, J. (1958), Encyclopaedia Britannica (Chicago, IL: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.).
Lenski, R.C.H. (1961), The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
Mead, Frank S. (1965), The Encyclopedia of Religious Quotations (Westwood, NJ: Revell).
Milgram, Stanley and Paul Hollander (1964), “The Murder They Heard,” The Nation, June.
Srygley, F.D., ed. (1949), Letters and Sermons of T.B. Larimore (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).
Tasker, J.G. (1906), A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, ed. James Hastings (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark).
Votaw, C.W. (1906), Dictionary of the Bible, ed. James Hastings (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark), extra volume.

Objections to God's Plan of Salvation Considered by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1332

Objections to God's Plan of Salvation Considered

by  Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

When the topic of salvation is discussed, it is not unusual to hear certain objections to God’s designated plan. At times, such objections result from a misunderstanding of the steps involved in the salvation process, or the reason(s) for those steps. On occasion, however, the objections result from a stubborn refusal to acquiesce to God’s commands regarding what constitutes salvation. I would like to consider three such objections here.

IS SALVATION THE RESULT OF
“BAPTISMAL REGENERATION”?

Is the forgiveness of sins that results from being baptized due to some special power within the water? No. “Baptismal regeneration” is the idea that there is a miraculous power in the water that produces salvation (i.e., regeneration). As Wayne Jackson has noted: “…the notion that baptism is a ‘sacrament’ which has a sort of mysterious, innate power to remove the contamination of sin—independent of personal faith and a volitional submission to God’s plan of redemption”—is plainly at odds with biblical teaching (1997, 32:45). An examination of the Old Testament (which serves as our “tutor” [Galatians 3:24), and which contains things “for our learning” [Romans 15:4]) provides important instruction regarding this principle. When Naaman the leper was told by Elisha to dip seven times in the Jordan River, at first he refused, but eventually obeyed—and was healed. However, there was no meritorious power in the muddy waters of the Jordan. Naaman was healed because He did exactly what God commanded him to do, in exactly the way God commanded him to do it.
This was true of the Israelites’ salvation as well. On one occasion when they sinned, and God began to slay them for their unrighteousness, those who wished to repent and be spared were commanded to look upon a brass serpent on a pole in the midst of the camp (Numbers 21:1-9). There was no meritorious power in the serpent. Rather, the Israelites were saved from destruction because they did exactly what God commanded them to do, in exactly the way God commanded them to do it.
The New Testament presents the same principle. Jesus once encountered a man born blind (John 9). Then Lord spat on the ground, made a spittle/clay potion, and placed it over the man’s eyes. He then instructed the man to “go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (John 9:7). Was there medicinal power in Siloam’s waters? No. It was the man’s obedient faith that produced the end-result, not some miraculous power in the water. What would have happened if the man had refused to obey Christ, or had altered the Lord’s command? Suppose the man had reasoned: “If I wash in Siloam, some may think I am trusting in the water to be healed. Others may think that I am attempting to perform some kind of ‘work’ to ‘merit’ regaining my sight. Therefore I simply will ‘have faith in’ Christ, but I will not dip in the pool of Siloam.” Would the man have been healed? Most certainly not! What if Noah, during the construction of the ark, had followed God’s instructions to the letter, except for the fact that he decided to build the ark out of a material other than the gopher wood that God had commanded? Would Noah and his family have been saved? Most certainly not! Noah would have been guilty of violating God’s commandments, since he had not done exactly as God commanded him. Did not Jesus Himself say: “If ye love me, ye will keep My commandments” (John 14:15, emp. added)?
Peter used the case of Noah to discuss the relationship of baptism to salvation. He stated unequivocally that baptism is involved in salvation when he noted that, just as Noah and his family were transported from a polluted environment of corruption into a realm of deliverance, so in baptism we are moved from the polluted environment of defilement into a realm of redemption. It is by baptism that one enters “into Christ” (Romans 6:4; Galatians 3:27), wherein salvation is found (2 Timothy 2:10). In Ephesians 5:26 and Titus 3:5, Paul described baptism as a “washing of water” or a “washing of regeneration” wherein the sinner is “cleansed” or “saved.” [Baptist theologian A.T. Robertson admitted that both of these passages refer specifically to water baptism (1931, 4:607).] The power of baptism to remove sin lies not in the water, but in the God Who commanded the sinner to be baptized in the first place.

IS BAPTISM A HUMAN WORK?

Is baptism a meritorious human work? No. But is it required for a person to be saved? Yes. How is this possible? The Bible clearly teaches that we are not saved by works (Titus 3:4-7; Ephesians 2:9). Yet the Bible clearly teaches we are saved by works (James 2:14-24). Since inspiration guarantees that the Scriptures never will contradict themselves, it is obvious that two different kinds of works are under consideration in these passages.
The New Testament mentions at least four kinds of works: (1) works of the Law of Moses (Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:20); (2) works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21); (3) works of merit (Titus 3:4-7); and (4) works resulting from obedience of faith (James 2:14-24). This last category often is referred to as “works of God.” This phrase does not mean works performed by God; rather, the intent is “works required and approved by God” (Thayer, 1958, p. 248; cf. Jackson, 1997, 32:47). Consider the following example from Jesus’ statements in John 6:27-29:
Work not for the food which perisheth, but for the food which abideth unto eternal life.... They said therefore unto him, What must we do, that we may work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
Within this context, Christ made it clear that there are works which humans must do to receive eternal life. Moreover, the passage affirms that believing itself is a work (“This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”). It therefore follows that if one is saved without any type of works, then he is saved without faith, because faith is a work. Such a conclusion would throw the Bible into hopeless confusion!
In addition, it should be noted that repentance from sin is a divinely appointed work for man to perform prior to his reception of salvation. The people of ancient Nineveh “repented” at Jonah’s preaching (Matthew 12:41), yet the Old Testament record relates that “God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way” (Jonah 3:10). Thus, if one can be saved without any kind of works, he can be saved without repentance. Yet Jesus Himself declared that without repentance, one will surely perish (Luke 13:3,5).
But what about baptism? The New Testament specifically excludes baptism from the class of human meritorious works unrelated to redemption. The context of Titus 3:4-7 reveals the following information. (1) We are not saved by works of righteousness that we do by ourselves (i.e., according to any plan or course of action that we devised—see Thayer, p. 526). (2) We are saved by the “washing of regeneration” (i.e., baptism), exactly as 1 Peter 3:21 states. (3) Thus, baptism is excluded from all works of human righteousness that men contrive, but is itself a “work of God” (i.e., required and approved by God) necessary for salvation. When one is raised from the watery grave of baptism, it is according to the “working of God” (Colossians 2:12), and not any man-made plan. No one can suggest (justifiably) that baptism is a meritorious work of human design. When we are baptized, we are completely passive, and thus hardly can have performed any kind of “work.” Instead, we have obeyed God through saving faith. Our “works of God” were belief, repentance, confession, and baptism—all commanded by the Scriptures of one who would receive salvation as the free gift of God (Romans 6:23).

IS THE BAPTISM ASSOCIATED WITH
SALVATION HOLY SPIRIT BAPTISM?

To circumvent the connection between water baptism and salvation, some have suggested that the baptism discussed in passages such as Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, and 1 Peter 3:21 is Holy Spirit baptism. But such a position cannot be correct. Christ commanded His followers—after His death and ascension—to go into all the world and “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18-20). That same command applies no less to Christians today.
During the early parts of the first century, we know there was more than one baptism in existence (e.g., John’s baptism, Holy Spirit baptism, Christ’s baptism, etc.). But by the time Paul wrote his epistle to the Christians in Ephesus, only one of those baptisms remained. He stated specifically in Ephesians 4:4-5: “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Which one baptism remained? One thing we know for certain: Christ never would give His disciples a command that they could not carry out.
The Scriptures, however, teach that Jesus administers baptism of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:15-17). Yet Christians were commanded to baptize those whom they taught, and who believed (John 3:16), repented of their sins (Luke 13:3), and confessed Christ as the Son of God (Matthew 10:32). It is clear, then, that the baptism commanded by Christ was not Holy Spirit baptism. If it were, Christ would be put in the untenable position of having commanded His disciples to do something they could not do—baptize in the Holy Spirit. However, they could baptize in water, which is exactly what they did. And that is exactly what we still are doing today. Baptism in the Holy Spirit no longer is available; only water baptism remains, and is the one true baptism commanded by Christ for salvation (Ephesians 4:4-5; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).
When a person does precisely what the Lord has commanded, he has not “merited” or “earned” salvation. Rather, his obedience is evidence of his faith (James 2:18). Are we saved by God’s grace? Indeed we are (Ephesians 2:8-9). But the fact that we are saved by grace does not negate human responsibility in obeying God’s commands. Every person who wishes to be saved must exhibit the “obedience of faith” commanded within God’s Word (Romans 1:5; 16:26). A part of that obedience is adhering to God’s command to be baptized.

REFERENCES

Jackson, Wayne (1997), “The Matter of ‘Baptismal Regeneration,’ ” Christian Courier, 32:45-46, April.
Jackson, Wayne (1997), “The Role of ‘Works’ in the Plan of Salvation,” Christian Courier, 32:47, April.
Robertson, A.T. (1931), Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman).
Thayer, J.H. (1958 reprint), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark).

The Da Vinci Code, the Sabbath, and Sunday by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=10&article=1877

The Da Vinci Code, the Sabbath, and Sunday

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Many outlandish accusations and assertions have been made through the centuries. Some have claimed that Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime never murdered millions of Jews (see Harwood, 1974). Others have concluded that one way a man can rid himself of the AIDS virus is to have sexual relations with a virgin (see Govender, 1999). Enemies of America have accused the U.S. of being uncaring and insensitive to the suffering that takes place around the world when, in truth, few if any countries on the planet do as much to help the distressed following various catastrophes than America. [Although the U.S. certainly has lost its way in regard to promoting certain biblical and Christian values (e.g., the value of an unborn child’s life, heterosexual marriages, etc.), America is always at the forefront of helping the afflicted.]
Unfortunately, more lies have been told (and believed!) about God and Christianity than perhaps anything or anyone else on Earth. This, of course, is not surprising since “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30) and “the father” of lies (John 8:44)—Satan—wants nothing more than to deceive people regarding the one true religion. One of Satan’s recent outlets has been Dan Brown’s book The Da Vinci Code. Millions of readers have been mislead by this allegedly “historical” (Brown, 2003b), “fact-based” novel (MacEwen, 2003). It casts suspicion and purports several lies about early Christianity, the integrity of the Bible, and the deity of Christ.
One of the many wild assertions in Brown’s book is his criticism of the day on which Christians assemble to partake of the Lord’s Supper and worship God. According to one of Brown’s main characters, Robert Langdon,
Originally...Christianity honored the Jewish Sabbath of Saturday, but Constantine shifted it to coincide with the pagan’s veneration day of the sun.... To this day, most churchgoers attend services on Sunday mornings with no idea that they are there on account of the pagan sun god’s weekly tribute—Sunday (Brown, 2003a, pp. 232-233).
Supposedly, Christians worship God on Sunday because in the fourth century A.D. Constantine decided that the church should worship on Sundays rather than Saturdays, and thus follow the pagan sun god’s day of tribute. What is the truth of the matter?
Long before the time of Constantine, Christians were gathering together on the first day of the week to worship God. Both inspired Bible writers and non-inspired, early (pre-Constantine) Christians viewed Sunday as the day to eat the memorial feast, as well as engage in other acts of worship. The apostle Paul instructed the Christians in Corinth (as he had earlier taught the churches of Galatia) to lay a portion of their income aside “on the first day of every week...that no collections be made when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2, NASV, emp. added). Luke later wrote how the disciples in Troas came together “on the first day of the week” to break bread in remembrance of the Lord’s death (Acts 20:7, emp. added; cf. 1 Corinthians 11:17-26). Ignatius wrote in his letter to the Magnesians (believed to be penned around A.D. 110) how Christians “have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day” (1:62, emp. added; cf. Revelation 1:10). In chapter 67 of his First Apology (written around A.D. 150), Justin Martyr noted how Christians would gather together “on the day called Sunday” to read the writings of the apostles and prophets, instruct, pray, give, and eat of bread and wine (emp. added). It simply is a blatant lie to assert that 300 years after Christianity was born the Emperor Constantine “shifted” the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday. Christians have been worshiping God on the first day of the week since the first century, when about 3,000 Jews were converted to Christ on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2)—which was a Sunday.
But why did the early Christians meet on Sunday, and why do God’s people still assemble on this day? Is it, as Brown indicates, “on account of the pagan sun god’s weekly tribute”? Absolutely not! Christians have met on Sundays to worship God for the past 2,000 years because this is the day that God has set aside for us to worship Him, including eating the memorial feast. We know that it was on the first day of the week that Jesus rose from the grave (Matthew 28:1-6; Mark 16:1-6; Luke 24:1-3; John 20:1-2), that the church was established on this day (Acts 2), and that the early Christians met on this day (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2). Furthermore, early non-inspired preachers repudiated any connection between paganism and worshiping God on “the Lord’s day” (Sunday). Around A.D. 200, Tertullian twice dealt with this matter (“Ad Nationes,” 1:13; “Apology,” 16). In his “Apology,” he indicated that Christians “devote Sun-day to rejoicing” for a “far different reason than Sun-worship” (XVI). “Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly,” wrote Justin Martyr (nearly two centuries before Constantine), because “Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun,” he “appeared to His apostles and disciples” (“First Apology,” 67).
Once again, an outlandish assertion about Christianity is proven to be false. Faithful Christians never worshiped God on Sunday in any age because that day coincided with the pagan’s veneration of the Sun. What’s more, Constantine had nothing to do with saints assembling on the first day of the week. Christians have been worshiping God “on the Lord’s day” ever since the establishment of the church of Christ in the first century.

REFERENCES

Brown, Dan (2003a), The Da Vinci Code (New York: Doubleday).
Brown, Dan (2003b), “Today,” NBC, Interview with Matt Lauer, June 9.
Govender, Prega (1999), “Child Rape: A Taboo With the AIDS Taboo,” [On-line], URL: http://www.aegis.org/news/suntimes/1999/ST990401.html.
Harwood, Richard (1974), Did Six Million Really Die? (England: Historical Review Press).
Ignatius (1973 reprint), “Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians,” 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).
MacEwen, Valerie (2003), “Try Putting This Book Down,” [On-line], URL: http://www.popmatters.com/books/reviews/d/da-vinci-code.shtml.
Tertullian (1973 reprint), “Ad Nationes,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Tertullian (1973 reprint), “Apology,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Is the Gap Theory Linguistically Viable? by Justin Rogers, Ph.D.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=5262

Is the Gap Theory Linguistically Viable?

by  Justin Rogers, Ph.D.


[EDITOR’S NOTE: A.P. auxiliary writer Dr. Rogers serves as an Associate Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He holds an M.A. in New Testament from Freed-Hardeman University as well as an M.Phil. and Ph.D. in Hebraic, Judaic, and Cognate Studies from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.]
At the center of scientific inquiry is a desire to express free thought. “Go wherever your mind leads you” is the academic cry that hearkens back at least to the Enlightenment. For Bible believers, however, this mantra has its limits. If one’s pursuit of so-called “knowledge” leads him to deny the divinity of Christ or the existence of God, then he has become a victim of intellectual deceit. The philosophical constructs causing him to reach these conclusions must be reexamined if not rejected. Such is the case with many modern theories of universal origins. By eliminating God as the primal Cause, these theories operate under false pretenses, and thus can never reach the truth.
Many Christians working in the field of scientific cosmology seek to poach godless theories from modern science and work them into a model of biblical faith. We should applaud their efforts so long as they do not “go beyond what is written” (1 Corinthians 4:6). Unfortunately, some do go too far. In their desire to harmonize the biblical account with the scientific “necessity” of old-Earth creationism, they seek to read into the Bible concepts not clearly present. Rather than using divine inspiration to inform science, they prefer to impose modern scientific insight onto the Bible—an insight, it should be observed, the original readers of the Bible would not have understood.

WHAT IS GAP THEORY?

One example of the harmonistic approach between modern “science” and biblical faith is the so-called “Gap Theory.” Although there are numerous iterations of this idea, each of them suggests Genesis 1 contains a gap or multiple gaps in which can be squeezed the amount of time necessary to accommodate an Earth billions of years old. Although the biblical text does not require or even intimate such gaps, proponents of Gap Theory insist that the science requires it. In other words, they allow the tail to wag the dog, allowing “science” to trump plain biblical teaching.
Of course, for theists who claim to accept the biblical account of Creation, much is at stake. If Gap Theory is correct, then the Bible must be made to accommodate it. Since anyone with common sense and an English Bible would find it difficult to accept Gap Theory from the Genesis account alone, Gap theorists often transfer the debate to the mysterious world of Hebrew linguistics. Playing on the ignorance of the general Bible reader (and often revealing their own), Gap theorists insist the Hebrew terminology makes Gap Theory possible.
I must admit: when I first encountered the arguments from biblical Hebrew to defend Gap Theory, I was confused. Even liberal Bible scholars do not use linguistic arguments to deny the literal understanding of Genesis 1. James Barr, a world-renowned Old Testament scholar, writes,
So far as I know there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) [sic] of Genesis 1–11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience; (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provide by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to the later stages of the Biblical story, and (c) Noah’s flood was understood to be worldwide, and to have extinguished all human and land animal life except for those in the ark (as quoted in Platinga, 2001, p. 217).
These reasons explain why critical biblical scholarship tends to discuss the genre of Genesis 1-11, that is, whether it is intended to be history or mythology, whether it is literal or symbolic, whether it contains any truth or some truth. The meaning of the words themselves, however, is under no major dispute. But Gap theorists maintain the Creation account is both historical and (apparently) incomprehensible (at least, without the “expert” guidance of the Gap theorist). They insist the key to unlocking Genesis 1 is not what it does say, but what it doesn’t say. What a strange method of interpretation.

WHAT GAP THEORISTS ALLEGE

There are two major linguistic arguments cited in favor of Gap Theory. First, Gap theorists begin by understanding the term bārā’ in Genesis 1 to mean “create” (from nothing), and āsāh to mean “restore” (at a later time). The bārā’ creation marks the initial stage of Creation in which God set the world into motion by fiat. One of the earliest Gap theorists, George H. Pember, wrote over 100 years ago: “For we are told that in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth; but the Scriptures never affirm that He did this in the six days. The work of those days was…quite a different thing from the original creation: they were times of restoration, and the word asah [sic] is used in connection with them” (1907, pp. 22-23).
Within churches of Christ, John Clayton has been an active proponent of the insights of Gap Theory, although his actual position defies precise categorization. Thompson refers to it as the “modified Gap Theory,” although Clayton himself is rather coy about labeling his position (2000, pp. 281-296). Like others, Clayton also appeals to the Hebrew language to defend his version of the theory. Unfortunately, like the Gap theorists, he too states bārā’ is a miraculous creation from nothing, even going so far as to suggest Genesis 1:1 implies the “Big Bang” (Clayton, 2015, p. 90). Like the Gap theorists, Clayton also parrots the view that āsāh means “reworking existing material” (2011, p. 207). If Clayton were to read the rest of the Hebrew Bible, or even the rest of Genesis, he would learn that his definitions are impossible to maintain (as we shall demonstrate).
By interpreting the Hebrew in this fashion, Gap theorists believe they can accommodate an Earth billions of years old without compromising the essential integrity of the Genesis account. The bārā’ stage of Creation occurs first (Genesis 1:1), and, after centuries or even billions of years, the āsāh stage of Creation occurs (the “six days,” Genesis 1:2ff.). Unfortunately, Gap theorists focus their attention, so far as the Hebrew is concerned, principally on Genesis 1 and Exodus 20:11 (taken as proof of the āsāh stage of Creation). Again, if they were to read the entire Hebrew Bible, however, they would learn their position to be linguistically untenable, as we shall demonstrate.
Second, Gap theorists allege the grammar of Genesis 1:2 implies a gap. Basically, three arguments are made from the Hebrew: (1) The Hebrew waw is disjunctive, and thus implies an interruption in the narration from what is reported in Genesis 1:1. This interruption signals a chronological “gap”; (2) The verb form “was” (hāyetāh)should be translated “became,” signaling a new beginning beyond the bārā’ creation of Genesis 1:1; and (3) The nouns traditionally translated “without form and void” (tōhū vā-vōhū) imply a degeneration of the original Creation, and thus what follows is a re-creation.
We shall proceed to discuss and evaluate these Hebrew linguistic arguments, beginning first with the question of bārā’ and āsāh, and then turning to the grammar of Genesis 1:2 specifically. In the course of our analysis, the linguistic evidence for the Gap Theory will be shown to be lacking?

THE VOCABULARY OF CREATION

The Genesis account uses no less than four terms to describe Creation. The terms best known are bārā’ (“create”) and āsāh (“make”), although yātsar (“form”) and bānāh (“build”) are also found. Man is “formed” (yātsar) from the dirt (Genesis 2:7-8), and woman is “built” (bānāh) from man (Genesis 2:22). The bulk of attention, however, has centered around bārā’ and āsāh, the most frequent of these four words in the Creation account. Gap theorists allege these terms refer to very different stages of Creation, billions of years apart. We shall see that, while this theory is attractive at the macro-level, the Hebrew terminology simply will not bear the burden of proof Gap theorists load upon it.

bārā’ and āsāh

We should begin by noting that the Bible uses multiple terms to describe God’s creative activity. Across the Old Testament, in Hebrew and Aramaic, one can locate no less than 13 different terms for Creation! So Israelite Creation theology is not as simple as making a facile distinction between bārā’ and āsāh. In fact, these terms are used interchangeably of God’s creative activity.
Even in the Genesis account itself, bārā’ and āsāh are used together to summarize God’s creative work: “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created” (bārā’), that is, at the time when (literally, “in the day that”) Yahweh God made (āsāh)earth and heaven” (Genesis 2:4; translation mine). The careful reader will notice that the second half of this verse explains and completes the first. We have here what literary scholars call a chiasm, in which the sentence can be broken into two or more parts, and the various components of the sentence parallel one another in introverted fashion (for more on chiasm, see Dorsey, 1999). Allow me to illustrate:
These are the generations of…
a—the heavens and the earth
     b—when they were created
     b’—at the time when Yahweh God made
a’—the earth and the heavens
Notice that the first and final components (a and a’) are flipped, signaling the inverted nature of the verse, and they also highlight the verse’s synonymous parallelism (both halves convey exactly the same idea). Also note the parallelism of b and b’. The whole of the Creation narrative could be described by both Hebrew terms. So the forced distinction made by Gap theorists between bārā’ and āsāh is already shown to be artificial in the Genesis account itself. But we can go further.
The terms bārā’ and āsāh are routinely used in parallel with one another, both in Genesis and elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible.
  • God both “created” (bārā’) and “made” (āsāh) Adam (Genesis 5:1).
  • God will destroy man whom He has “created” (bārā’), along with every living thing, for He was sorry that He had “made” (āsāh) them (Genesis 6:7).
  • The hand of God “has done” (āsāh) it, and God Himself “created” (bārā’) it (Isaiah 41:20).
  • God has “created” (bārā’) and “made” (āsāh) for His glory (Isaiah 43:7).
  • God has “made” (āsāh) Earth and “created” (bārā’) man on it (Isaiah 45:12).
  • God “made” (āsāh) and “created” (bārā’) the Earth (Isaiah 45:18).
  • God “creates” (bārā’) wind and “makes” (āsāh) darkness (Amos 4:13).
As any careful reader of the Bible will observe, the Hebrew language does not make a sharp distinction between bārā’ and āsāh in accounts depicting the Creation. On the contrary, the terms are used interchangeably for Creation throughout the Old Testament, and can often be found in parallel expressions.
Now, this does not mean that bārā’ and āsāh are always synonymous terms. The word bārā’ occurs 53 times in the Bible, and generally has to do with an initial act, or a new beginning. For example, God “creates something new” at the punishment of Korah and his company (Numbers 16:30). He “makes a new beginning” of Israel after the Babylonian Exile (Isaiah 41:20). The term represents a change—a new beginning—in the natural order as well (Isaiah 65:15; Jeremiah 31:22).
So, in addition to creation, which is always an “initial act” on God’s part, subsequent divine intervention after creation can also be depicted by the word bārā’. This explains why the term can be used of the creation of man. He was a new creature, a new beginning, in the process. If Gap theorists were correct, any usage of bārā’ after the initialGenesis Creation would be inappropriate. This clearly is not the case.
The term āsāh, by comparison,has a much broader semantic range. This term occurs 2,627 times, making it one of the most common verbs in the Bible. In addition to meaning “make,” āsāh is the standard verb for “do, act, or perform” in Hebrew. It often means to “keep” the Law (Deuteronomy 5:32), to manufacture a product (1 Samuel 8:12), to “carve” (Ezekiel 41:18), to “work” miracles (Deuteronomy 34:11), to “make” money in the colloquial English sense (Deuteronomy 8:17), to “make” a name for oneself (Genesis 11:4), to “make” dinner or a meal (Judges 6:19), to “make” peace (Isaiah 27:5), to “work” a job (Ruth 2:19), and many other possible nuances. In short, many of the same meanings we can assign to the English verbs “make,” “do,” “work,” “perform,” “act,” and the like can also be ascribed to the Hebrew āsāh.
The word āsāh basically has to do with producing something through work, and it may or may not imply pre-existing material. Passages echoing Genesis 1:1 routinely use āsāh instead of bārā’ (e.g., 1 Chronicles 16:26; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 33:6; Isaiah 45:12). This fact implies that, while these two terms can be used interchangeably of Creation, one emphasizes the production of a new thing (whether at Creation or afterward), and the other refers to the work involved in producing a thing (whether at Creation or afterward).

The Vocabulary of Creation in the Hebrew Bible

The Creation is one of the most commonly discussed biblical accounts in later biblical literature. The poetry of the Old Testament, particularly in the Psalms and Isaiah 40-55, is rich in Creation terminology. God has a claim on the lives of his people (and on the world!) becauseHe is the Creator of everything. It thus makes sense that the Hebrew language would feature many terms to express one of its most basic theological principles.
The biblical terms for Creation are represented in the chart above. As one can observe, the terminology of Creation in the Bible is rich and varied. Many of these terms are used in parallel to one another, indicating their synonymous nature insofar as Creation is concerned. These terms also illustrate that the Israelites viewed God’s Creation holistically. God “brought creation into initial existence.” God “formed creation.” God “begat” Creation (in a figurative sense). God “established,” “founded,” “acquired,” “spread out,” and “made” every created thing. The full lexicon of Hebrew manufacturing is applied to Creation to illustrate that, in a single period of time, God set the world into existence, just as in a single moment He will destroy it (2 Peter 3:10).

THE GRAMMAR OF GENESIS 1:2

We previously mentioned that Gap theorists cite three grammatical Hebrew features in favor of their position. They claim: (1) the Hebrew waw implies a gap in the narrative; (2) the verb form “was” (hāyetāh)signals a new beginning; and (3) the nouns tōhū vā-vōhū imply a re-creation from a degraded, earlier Creation. We shall treat each of these arguments in order.

The Hebrew Particle waw

First, the Hebrew letter waw, represented by the incessant “and” in the King James Version and often left untranslated in more recent versions, is always prefixed to Hebrew words. When it is attached to a shortened “imperfect” verb form in biblical narrative, it normally functions as a preterite (from Latin praeter, “before”). The purpose is to relate action, typically in the past, and the waw functions to connect those past actions to one another.
When the waw is attached to a noun, as it is in Genesis 1:2, it is disjunctive, and thus signals a shift in the narrative. This shift does not necessarily imply a different series of events, much less events separated by billions of years in time. An abrupt shift is found in Genesis 3:1—“Now, as for the serpent, he was more crafty.” Although no serpent has been discussed, and the context determines a complete break in the narrative, there is nothing stated about the amount of time that elapsed from the creation of woman and the appearance of the serpent.
Sometimes, however, the disjunctive waw can simply provide background information for the story being related (e.g., Genesis 13:13), or explain what is happening simultaneous with the narrative, but elsewhere in location (e.g., Genesis 37:36, translated well as “meanwhile” in the ESV). In these cases, the waw sets up a parenthetical remark which functions to explain the preceding information. This is, I believe, what we have in Genesis 1:2.
Remember that Genesis 1:1 is a declarative statement: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Since the narrative will not focus on the creation of the heavens, but on the Earth, the next verse opens with the final word from the previous one (vehā’ārets). By utilizing the disjunctive waw along with the noun “Earth,” the Hebrew serves to focus attention on the creation of the Earth: “Now, as for the earth, it was formless and void.” This statement is clearly based on the final word of the previous verse as the narrative unpacks exactly how the creation of the Earth took place.

The Hebrew Word “was” (hāyetāh)

The second linguistic argument from Genesis 1:2 deals with the term hāyetāh, traditionally translated “was.” Gap theorists insist the term means “became” or “had become.” They assert the bārā’ stage of Creation “became” or “had become” a desolate waste, and thus a re-creation (the āsāh stage) was necessary. In the assessment of Fields, “It is the mistranslation of this word which has, perhaps, added more to the ranks of gap theorists than any one factor” (1976, p. 88).
First of all, let us acknowledge that Gap theorists are correct about the Hebrew verb hāyāh. It can mean “became” or “had become.” But the meaning of any word must be determined by its context, and not by the translator’s arbitrary choosing of a meaning from a lexical list. In Genesis 1:2, the copular usage of the verb hāyāh in biblical Hebrew must be understood. The community of Hebrew grammarians is uniform in recognizing that the term hāyetāh (a feminine form of hāyāh) in Genesis 1:2 functions as a copula (see, e.g., Joüon and Muraoka, 2006, §154m), and thus simply links the subject with the object without implying any true verbal quality. Let us explain.
Hebrew has no proper equivalent to the English verb “to be.” Therefore, several syntactical approximations, called copulas, communicate the essence of the English “to be.” For example, the pronouns hū’ (literally “he” or “it” for masculine objects) andhî’ (literally “she” or “it” for feminine objects) can serve this purpose (often translated “is”). The same is true of the verb “he became” (hāyāh). The copula hāyetāh is not, therefore, functioning in Genesis 1:2 in its true verbal sense as “became,” but in the copular sense as “was.”
It is recognized universally that “the Hebrew verb translated was refers to the time when God began his work of creation. Was does not mean that the earth remained in this shapeless state for a long time; nor does it mean that it became such after being something else earlier” (Reyburn and Fry, 1997, p. 30). This point is recognized in virtually every decent translation of the Hebrew text since the Septuagint (cf. the Latin Vulgate and the mountain of English translations). Gap theorists must find a different justification for their theory.

The Words tōhū vā-vōhū

The two Hebrew nouns tōhū and bōhū are so closely linked that Hebraists universally regard them as a hendiadys (even the Masoretic accentuation suggests this). Some English translations follow this understanding, using an adjective-noun construction (e.g., the NAB: “formless wasteland”). Traditionally, however, two adjectives are used to translate tōhū vā-vōhū. The Septuagint has “invisible and unconstructed” (aoratos kai akataskeuastos). The Vulgate understands the terms by the synonyms, “empty and void” (inanis et vacua). English translations have generally opted for “formless and void.” All of these are legitimate potential translations of a difficult Hebrew expression.
By contrast, Gap theorists assert these terms imply a depreciation of the original Creation (e.g., Isaiah 34:11; Jeremiah 4:23). Since prophetic passages convey a change from order to disorder when the terms are used, Gap theorists believe the same meaning must hold in Genesis 1:2. [NOTE: Their interpretation here is contingent upon this erroneous understanding of hāyetāh.] However, the prophetic pronouncement is intended to be shocking. God plans to punish his people by dramatically reducing the land to a state of non-existence. It is not merely that He wishes to degrade their existence; He wishes to nullify it!
The term bōhū occurs only three times in the Bible, all in conjunction with tōhū (Genesis 1:2; Isaiah 34:11; Jeremiah 4:23). There can be no doubt, then, that tōhū is the clearer term, occurring about 20 times. It can be used in a physical sense in reference to a desert (Deuteronomy 32:10) or an abandoned city (Isaiah 24:10), or it can be used in a moral sense to refer to vanities (1 Samuel 12:21; Isaiah 40:17). It can refer to a “wasteland,” but does not refer to a “wasted land.”
One verse helps us to establish the appropriate meaning of tōhū in a Creation context: “For thus says Yahweh, who created [bārā’] the heavens—he is God—who formed [yātsar] the earth, and he made it [āsāh], he established [kūn] it not to be empty [tōhū]. He created it [bārā’] to be inhabited. I am Yahweh, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:18). This verse not only utilizes the term tōhū in reference to what the Earth was not intended to be, but also associates the bārā’ Creation with the inhabiting of the Earth.
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While the Gap theorists are correct to understand tōhū vā-vōhū to mean a state of creation God did not regard as ideal, nothing in the Hebrew words themselves implies a depreciation of Creation. Rather, the expression conveys the amorphous nature of the Earth before God provided His creative structure to it. Such is the way the terms have been understood throughout the history of Bible translation.

CONCLUSION

There is nothing in the Hebrew text of Genesis 1 to demand a gap of time. The Hebrews in fact had a variety of ways to express chronological gaps, whether general or specific. For general amounts of time they could and often did say, “after this” (acharēy-kēn) or “after these things” (acharēy-haddevarîm hā-’ēleh). To express a greater extent of time, they could have said “many days” (yāmîm rābbîm) or something similar. Although common in the Bible, none of these phrases occurs in Genesis 1. So we are left to trust the Gap theorists that they are qualified to speak where the Bible is silent, and to understand in the Hebrew what no Hebrew scholars actually affirm, and what no qualified translators have ever put forth. So is Gap Theory linguistically viable? No.

REFERENCES

Clayton, John N. (2011), The Source: Eternal Design or Infinite Accident? (Niles, MI: Clayton).
Clayton, John N. (2015), The Rational God: Does God Make Sense? (Niles, MI: Clayton).
Dorsey, David A. (1999), The Literary Structure of the Old Testament: A Commentary on Genesis–Malachi (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Fields, Weston W. (1976 reprint), Unformed and Unfilled: A Critique of the Gap Theory (Green Forrest, AR: Master Books).
Joüon, Paul and Takamitsu Muraoka (2006), A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (Roma: Pontifical Biblical Institute).
Pember, Georg H. (1907), Earth’s Earliest Ages (London: Hodder and Stoughton), reprint.
Platinga, Alvin (2001), “Evolution, Neutrality, and Antecedent Probability: A Reply to McMullin and Van Till,” in Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological and Scientific Perspectives, ed. Robert T. Pennock (Cambridge: MIT Press).
Reyburn, William D. and Euan McG. Fry (1997), A Handbook on Genesis (New York: United Bible Society).
Thompson, Bert (2000), Creation Compromises (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press, second edition).