7/21/17

"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS" Destroying The Temple Of God (3:16-17) by Mark Copeland


                 "THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS"

                 Destroying The Temple Of God (3:16-17)

INTRODUCTION

1. In the NT, the Lord's church is often depicted as the temple of God...
   a. In our text, in connection with being God's building 
      - 1Co 3:16;cf. 3:9
   b. Elsewhere in the writings of Paul - 2Co 6:16; Ep 2:19-22
   c. Also by Peter - 1Pe 2:4-5

2. In our text (1Co 3:17), we read of two terrible possibilities...
   a. One can be guilty of "defiling" (or "destroying") the temple of God!
   b. God will "destroy" those who do!

3. The words "defile" and "destroy" both come from the same Greek word...
   a. phtheiro - "to waste, pine. To corrupt, destroy" 
      - The Complete WordStudy Dictionary
   b. "The Greek word is the same in both parts of the sentence. If any
      man 'destroy' the temple of God, God shall 'destroy' him." - Barnes

[The words in our text naturally raise two questions, the first one is...]

I. HOW MIGHT ONE DESTROY THE TEMPLE OF GOD?

   A. THROUGH RELIGIOUS STRIFE...
      1. This was the problem that existed at Corinth - 1Co 1:10-13
      2. It prevented many members from receiving spiritual meat 
         - 1Co 3:1-2
      3. It left such members in a state of carnality - 1Co 3:3-4
      4. Paul warned the churches of Galatia of the dangers of strife
         - Ga 5:15
      -- Where religious strife exists, the temple of God is being destroyed!

   B. THROUGH DESTRUCTIVE DOCTRINES...
      1. Peter warned of the destructive influence of false teachers
         - 2Pe 2:1
      2. Causing many to follow their destructive ways - 2Pe 2:2-3
      3. Paul also warned of those who lead many astray - Ac 20:29-30
      4. The Spirit also expressly warned of such an apostasy 
         - 1Ti 4:1-3
      -- Where false teaching occurs, the temple of God is being destroyed!

   C. THROUGH SLOTHFUL SERVICE...
      1. The slothful person is a brother to one who is a great destroyer
         - Pr 18:9
      2. The devastating effect of sloth can be vividly illustrated
         a. By Solomon, in the book of Proverbs - Pr 24:30-34
         b. By the illustrating the church as a wagon, where some help
            by pulling or pushing, while others simply go along for the
            ride, making travel difficult through their dead weight
      3. Thus the need for diligent, fervent service to the Lord 
          - Ro 12:11
      4. Instead of sluggishness, we ought to serve with faith and
         patience - He 6:12
      -- Where slothful service is found, the temple of God is being
         destroyed!

[There may be other ways to destroy the temple of God, but these suffice
to make the point.  We now turn to our second question...]

II. HOW WILL GOD DESTROY THOSE WHO DO?

   A. BY CUTTING THEM OFF...
      1. Jesus warned His disciples they would be cut off if they did
         not bear fruit - Jn 15:1-2,6
      2. Paul warned Christians they would be cut off if they did not
         remain faithful - Ro 11:19-23
      3. Jesus warned Christians that He would vomit those who were
         lukewarm - Re 3:15-19
      -- Destroyers of the temple of God will be cut off before they do
         too much damage!

   B. BY TAKING AWAY THEIR REWARD...
      1. As Jesus illustrated in telling the parable of the talents 
         - Mt 25:24-29
      2. As the writer to the Hebrews warned his brethren 
         - He 4:1,11; cf. 3:17-19
      -- Destroyers of the temple of God will not receive the blessings
         intended for them!

   C. BY CONSIGNING THEM TO ETERNAL DESTRUCTION...
      1. So Peter wrote of those teaching destructive doctrines 
         - 2 Pe 2:1-3,9
      2. So Jesus spoke of those who offend and practice lawlessness
         - Mt 13:40-42
      3. So He spoke of the lazy servant in the parable of the talents
         - Mt 25:30
      4. The same eternal destruction for those who obey not the gospel
         - 2Th 1:7-9
      -- Destroyers of the temple of God will themselves be destroyed by God!

CONCLUSION

1. Being in the temple of God is a wonderful blessing...
   a. For the Spirit of God dwells in you - 1Co 3:16
   b. We have fellowship with God that foreshadows what is to come
      - 2Co 6:16; Re 21:1-7

2. In one sense the temple of God cannot be destroyed...
   a. For the kingdom of God is an everlasting kingdom - Lk 1:33
   b. It is a kingdom which cannot be shaken - He 12:28

3. Yet in another sense, there is a very real danger of destroying the
   temple of God...
   a. In the impact we have on others through our teaching and conduct
   b. In the consequence of becoming unfaithful and slothful in our service

Thus the need for Paul's warning in 1Co 3:17.  Are we giving serious
consideration to our conduct in the holy temple of God...?

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Bible Inspiration: The Crucifixion Clothes by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=13&article=1744

Bible Inspiration: The Crucifixion Clothes

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


The Old Testament book of Psalms constituted the hymnal of the Jewish nation, containing a collection of 150 songs, laments, and praises by various authors. Since the Old Testament canon was very likely completed no later than 400 B.C. (Leupold, 1969, p. 8; cf. Archer, 1974, p. 440), and since the Septuagint is known to have been produced circa 250 B.C., the pronouncements in the Psalms predated the arrival of Jesus on the planet by centuries. Yet, within the sacred pages of the Psalms, scores of very detailed allusions pinpoint specific incidents that occurred in the life of Christ on Earth. These allusions constitute proof positive of the inspiration of the Bible.
For example, composed by David in the 10th century B.C. (Barnes, 1847, pp. 193ff.), Psalm 22 is unquestionably a messianic psalm—literally packed with minute details that forecast the death of the Messiah. In verse 18, the psalmist quotes Him as making the simple statement: “They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.” All four of the inspired New Testament evangelists of the first century A.D. allude to these incidental details that they report in connection with Jesus hanging on the cross (Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:23-24).
While commentators typically report that Roman law awarded the victim’s clothes as spoils for the Roman executioners (e.g., Erdman, 1922, p.161; McGarvey, n.d., p. 725), others question the historicity of such a claim (e.g., Edersheim, 1915, 2:591-592). In any case, the soldiers that attended the cross consisted of a quaternion—four soldiers (Davis, 1870, 3:2651). Matthew and Luke state very simply that these soldiers divided His clothes and cast lots for them, with Luke adding “to determine what every man should take.” These “garments” (merei) likely included a head-dress, sandals, girdle, and outer garment (Robertson, 1916, p. 147). Apparently, according to John 19:23, the soldiers were able to decide ownership of these four clothing articles without gambling. If they were able to agree on consignment of the four articles—one clothes item for each soldier—why did they also cast lots? It is John who provides the added clarification:
Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: “They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.” Therefore the soldiers did these things (John 19:23-24).
The tunic was indivisible and unique from the other clothes, and very likely more valuable. It stood alone as seamless and would need to be awarded to a single soldier only, rather than being ripped into four pieces. Hence, they agreed to gamble in order to decide ownership of the tunic.
Observe carefully that these four unnamed Roman military men, who just happened to be assigned crucifixion duty that day, and just happened to have charge of the condemned Jesus of Nazareth (who happened that day to wear a seamless tunic), were operating solely out of their own impulses. They were not Jews. They undoubtedly had no familiarity whatsoever with Jewish Scripture. They were not controlled by any external source. No unseen or mysterious force took charge of their minds, no disciple whispered in their ears to cause them to robotically or artificially fulfill a prophecy. Yet, with uncanny precision, words written by King David a millennium earlier came to stunning fruition—words that on the surface might seem to contradict each other: the clothes were to be divided into separate parts, yet lots would be cast over the clothes. Roman soldiers unwittingly fulfilled the predictions of ancient Scripture in what to them were no more than mere casual, insignificant actions associated with the execution of their military duty, in tandem with their covetous desire to profit from their victim by acquiring His material goods.
But that’s not all. The layers of complexity and sophistication of the doctrine of inspiration, like the layers of an onion, can be peeled back to reveal additional marvels. John informs us that the item of clothing, which necessitated the Roman soldiers need to resort to gambling to decide ownership, was “without seam, woven from the top in one piece.” Why mention this piece of minutia? What significance could possibly be associated with such a seemingly trivial detail? To gain insight into a possible explanation, one must dig deeper into Bible teaching. Since the Bible was authored by Deity, it naturally possesses a depth uncharacteristic of human writers. It reflects indication that its Author was unhampered by the passing of time or the inability to foresee or orchestrate future events. Such qualities are commensurate with the nature of divinity.
In 1500 B.C., God imparted the Law of Moses to the Israelites as the covenant requirements that would guide the nation of Israel through its national existence. This law included provision for the High Priest, the first being Aaron, the brother of Moses, commissioned by God Himself (Exodus 28). On the Day of Atonement (yom kippur), he alone entered the Holy of Holies within the Tabernacle/Temple to make atonement for himself and all the people (Leviticus 16). Bible typology—another bona fide proof of Bible inspiration—portrays Jesus as our High Priest (Hebrews 3:1; 4:14; 9:11; et al.). Very uniquely and critically, Jesus performs for Christians parallel functions to the High Priest that absolutely must be performed if we are to be permitted to be saved to live eternally with Deity in heaven.
Among the articles of clothing stipulated by God for the High Priest was the skillfully woven “tunic of fine linen thread” (Exodus 28:39). According to Josephus, this clothing item was seamless:
Now this vesture was not composed of two pieces, nor was it sewed together upon the shoulders and the sides, but it was one long vestment so woven as to have an aperture for the neck; not an oblique one, but parted all along the breast and the back (3.7.4:203).
Coincidental? Perhaps. Nevertheless, John went out of his way to flag the point. And the Roman soldiers gambled for the seamless tunic of the Messiah—a tunic that subtly signaled His redemptive role as the one to make atonement for the world in the very act of dying on the cross. The handling of the clothes of Jesus Christ on the occasion of His crucifixion demonstrates the inspiration of the Bible and the divine origin of the Christian religion.

REFERENCES

Archer, Gleason (1974), A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago, IL: Moody Press).
Barnes, Albert (1847), Notes on the Old Testament: Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2005 reprint).
Davis, William (1870), Dictionary of the Bible, ed. H.B. Hackett (New York: Hurd & Houghton).
Edersheim, Alfred (1915), The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (New York: Longmans, Green, & Co.).
Erdman, Charles (1922), The Gospel of John (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press).
Josephus, Flavius (1974 reprint), The Works of Flavius Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews, trans. by William Whiston (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Leupold, H.C. (1969 reprint), Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
McGarvey, J.W. (no date), The Fourfold Gospel (Cincinnati, OH: Standard).
Robertson, A.T. (1916), The Divinity of Christ (New York: Fleming H. Revel).

Atheism & Free Will by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=5339


Atheism and Free Will

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Renowned atheist Carl Sagan began his immensely popular book Cosmos with these words: “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.”1 What do today’s atheists mean when they use the term Cosmos? The modern “scientific” idea is that the Cosmos is completely, entirely, and altogether materialistic, composed of matter and energy, and contains nothing immaterial or “not-matter.” The American Heritage Dictionary defines “materialism” as, “The theory that physical matter is the only reality and that everything, including thought, feeling, mind, and will, can be explained in terms of matter and physical phenomena.”2As it now stands, the ideas of the Cosmos or of “nature” have been redefined to include only physical matter and energy. Evolutionists Hewlett and Peters demand that “to be scientific in our era is to search for solely natural explanations.”3 Physicist Paul Davies correctly stated, “The materialist believes that mental states and operation are nothing but physical states and operations.”4 Evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin admitted that evolutionists “have a prior commitment, a commitment to naturalism…. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine foot in the door.”5
What are the logical implications of the idea that everything in the Universe consists solely of matter and energy? At first glance, the materialistic idea may not seem very profound or Earth shattering, but a deeper probe into the concept reveals that some of the most fundamental aspects of humanity are at stake. In this article, we focus on one feature of humanity that must be denied if materialism is accepted: human free will. You see, if matter and energy are all that “really” exists, then the notion must be rejected that there is a human will that directs the decision-making process. In short, if you, as a person, have ever made a single real decision; if you have ever freely chosen to do or not do anything, then atheism cannot be true. This is the case because your decision would be the result of something “more than” matter. It could not be explained by a naturalistic “cause and effect” chain of chemical events. If there is a “you” inside your body that freely chooses this or rejects that, then the materialist understanding of the Universe is false.
Modern leaders in the atheistic community admit as much. Sam Harris, recognized in skeptical circles as one of the four leading voices of modern atheism, penned a book titled Free Will. In that short volume, he wrote: “Free will is an illusion. Our wills are simply not of our own making…. We do not have the freedom we think we have.”6 He further stated, “I cannot determine my wants…. My mental life is given to me by the cosmos.”7 Again, “People feel (or presume) an authorship of their thoughts and actions that is illusory.”8 And, “What I will do next, and why, remains, at bottom, a mystery—one that is fully determined by the prior state of the universe and the laws of nature (including the contributions of chance).”9 As he begins to summarize his views toward the end of the book, he says, “You will do whatever it is you do, and it is meaningless to assert that you could have done otherwise.”10
Why does Harris demand that free will is non-existent? His commitment to materialism paints him into this corner, which is obvious from his statement: “In improving ourselves and society, we are working directly with the forces of nature, for there is nothing but nature itself to work with.”11 On the second-to-last page he writes, “Am I free to change my mind? Of course not. It can only change me.”12
There are striking ironies in the position that Harris and others take as they deny their own free will and their readers’ as well. First, why in the world would these men write books and articles in an attempt to persuade anyone to believe their “no free will” position if the reader cannot decide for himself to change his mind? What is the point of trying to convince a person who believes in free will, if that “belief” is nothing more than the consequence of the cause-and-effect, natural processes that are banging around in his brain? If the reader does not have the ability to choose his or her belief, what is the point of trying to “show” the superiority of the “no-free-will” position? According to Harris and crew, you believe what you believe because of the physics of the Cosmos working in your brain, and how in the world words on a page could change those physics would indeed be a mystery worth uncovering. The fact that modern atheists are writing books to convince people that there is no free will belies the undeniable fact that humans have free will.
Second, Harris’ concluding statement brings to light another glaring difficulty in the no-free-will position. He says, “Am I free to change my mind? Of course not. It can only change me.”13 Wait just a minute. Who is the “I” or the “me” in the sentence? If there is no free will, and humans are simply the combined total of the physical processes at work in their brains, then there should be nothing more than the “mind” in Harris’ sentence. The fact that he can differentiate between “himself” and his “mind” shows that there is something more at work than determinism. A purely physical entity such as a rock or atom does not have the ability to think in terms of “I” or “me.” In truth, that Harris is conscious of an “I” or of a “self” contradicts his claim that free will does not exist.14
In addition, it seems humorous and superfluous for people such as Harris to write an “Acknowledgements” section in their books. Why thank people and acknowledge their contributions to your work if they could not have done otherwise? He writes, “I would like to thank my wife and editor, Annaka Harris, for her contributions to Free Will. As is always the case, her insights and recommendations greatly improved the book. I don’t know how she manages to raise our daughter, work on her own projects, and still have time to edit my books—but she does. I am extremely lucky and grateful to have her in my corner.”15 That’s all well and good, but since she has no free will, she didn’t choose to help Sam. It was thrust upon her by the nature of the Cosmos. Why thank a person who stays with you and helps you due to no choice or decision of her own, but due to an unalterable course of cause-and-effect actions in her brain? Why not thank the computer that “typed the words so faithfully as I hit the key strokes,” or the oxygen that “so generously entered my lungs and allowed my cells to function,” or the light that “so gracefully bounced from the screen (or page) to my eye, allowing me to see”? That Harris thanks his wife and not his computer gets to the point that there is something very different about the two entities. You thank a person because that person helped you (but could have chosen to do otherwise).
On February 12, 1998, William Provine, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the distinguished Cornell University, took to the podium on the campus of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He was invited to deliver the keynote address at the second annual Darwin Day, a day dedicated to commemorating the life and teachings of Charles Darwin. In an abstract of that speech on the Darwin Day Web site, Dr. Provine’s introductory comments are recorded in the following words: “Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent.”16 Provine’s ensuing message centered on his fifth statement regarding the lack of human free will.
Several years later, Provine continued to hold to this position. He appeared in the Ben Stein documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed in 2008. In his discussion about Darwinian evolution, he said, “It starts by giving up an active deity, then it gives up the hope that there is any life after death. When you give those two up, the rest of it follows fairly easily. You give up the hope that there is an imminent morality. And finally, there’s no human free will. If you believe in evolution, you can’t hope for there being any free will. There’s no hope whatsoever in there being any deep meaning in life. We live, we die, and we’re gone.”17 The late Nobel Prize winner Francis Crick concurred with Provine. He wrote in his book The Astonishing Hypothesis: “‘You,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”18
In his million-copy international best-selling book The Selfish Gene, renowned atheistic writer and speaker Richard Dawkins explained the evolutionary ideas that force atheism to deny human free will. He asserted that humans are “survival machines—robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve selfish molecules known as genes.”19 Since Dawkins views humans as a compilation of physical genes fighting for survival, he must insist that these genes instinctively strive to live and pass on their information. That being the case, every human action must then be a product of the physical “gene” forces at work in the human body and brain. Human actions cannot be the result of some type of personality or free will according to this notion. In his attempt to flesh out his view more thoroughly and give answers to behaviors that have traditionally been attributed to human free will, he expounds on the selfish gene idea: “This gene selfishness will usually give rise to selfishness in individual behaviour.”20 When explaining the relationships that survival machines (humans) have with each other, he stoically quips:
To a survival machine, another survival machine (which is not its own child or another close relative) is part of its environment, like a rock or a river or a lump of food. It is something that gets in the way, or something that can be exploited. It differs from a rock or a river in one important respect; it is inclined to hit back. This is because it too is a machine that holds its immortal genes in trust for the future, and it too will stop at nothing to preserve them.21
Dawkins’ ultimate explanation for human behavior is that we do not choose the way we relate to each other, but are driven by our genes to use or exploit other humans to produce the greatest chance to pass on genetic information.
It is often the case that many atheists attempt to distance themselves from the views of Dawkins, Harris, and other free-will-deniers. They contend that, even though they are atheists, they still believe that humans have free will and choose their own behavior. They do this because they know, deep down in their heart of hearts, that they have chosen their behaviors in the past. The problem with their mode of operation, however, is that atheism necessarily implies that free will cannot exist. If humans actually make their own, personal decisions, then something must be at work that is more than nature—which is over and above the natural, physical movement of atoms. There must be a human mind, or soul, or spirit that is supernatural—that controls the movement of the physical body. A person can choose atheism, or he can accept human free will, but not both and still be logically consistent.
Atheist Dan Barker, prolific debater and author, feels the tension between atheism’s denial of free-will and the fact that humans know that they make personal choices. His solution is simply to redefine the term free will. In his debate with Peter Payne, Barker stated: “I happen to think that we have the illusion of freewill…. I’m a strict determinist. We are natural creatures. The material world is all there is. We actually don’t have what we would call libertarian freewill.”22In his book, godless, Barker stated: “I am a determinist, which means that I don’t think complete libertarian free will exists. Since we don’t know the future…we have the illusion of free will, which to me is what ‘free will’ actually means.” Barker recognizes that humans certainly feel like they make decisions, but his atheism demands that they cannot do so. In order to hang on to his atheism, and allow for “free will,” he changes the definition of free will to “thinking that you are actually making a free will choice when you are not.”23
Barker is not the only atheist that is forced to turn to this “illusion of free will” idea. Anthony Cashmore, biologist at the University of Pennsylvania, penned an article alleging that human free will does not exist. He wrote: “It is my belief that, as more attention is given to the mechanisms that govern human behavior, it will increasingly be seen that the concept of free will is an illusion.”24 According to Cashmore, you are reading this article because your genes and your environment have forced you to. You are not responsible for your decision to read this article, and based on your alleged evolutionary history and your environment, you could not choose to be doing anything different than what you are doing now. You are literally a slave to your genes and your environment. As Cashmore wrote: “[A]n individual cannot be held responsible for either his genes or his environment. From this simple analysis, surely it follows that individuals cannot logically be held responsible for their behavior.”25
One of the most damaging lines of reasoning against the illusion idea put forth by Barker and Cashmore is the way in which these men attempt to convince their readers of its truth. Cashmore used five-and-a-half pages to argue that our society should disregard the outdated concept that humans are responsible for their behavior. Barker has been in more than 80 moderated debates attempting to bring people over to his view. But if Cashmore and Barker are right, then there is no way we can disregard the concept of free will, due to the simple fact that we did not choose it in the first place. If humans are not responsible for their beliefs or behaviors, then the generally held concept of free will is nothing more than an evolutionary, environmental by-product. According to their line of thinking, if we believe in free will at the present, and act on that belief, we are not responsible for it. If they are right, why in the world would they attempt to urge the scientific community to change its mind about free will, if the community does not have the power to change its mind? Why spend time and effort arguing against free will, if your audience does not have the freedom to choose to accept or reject your reasoning anyway? The fatal flaw of the “no free will” argument is that it demands that the person making the argument has the free will to do so, and it tacitly assumes the parties evaluating the argument have the power to accept or reject it.
If humans are survival machines that cannot make any real choices, then all “persuasive” arguments would be worthless. Those who believe in God are programmed and forced by their genes to do so. Those who believe there is no God are equally products of their bodily physics. If humans don’t change their minds, but, as Harris claims, their minds change them, then why attempt to change believers’ minds, since they don’t really have “minds” and their brains are going to “believe” whatever their genes tell them anyway? Atheists actually have to assume free will in order even to discuss the topic. It’s as if they are saying, “I want you to turn your eyes to look at me so that I can show you that you really can’t see anything.”
Television personality Bill Nye the “Science Guy” found himself in a terrible quandary when asked about human free will. In a video on the subject titled, “Hey Bill Nye, Do Humans Have Free Will?” he stated: “But clearly, I know I have made decisions based on things that happened around me that I wouldn’t have made without being informed by history or what I noticed. I know I have. Now if that turns out not to be true, I’d be very surprised.”26 Near the end of the video, however, he then backtracks and claims that our decisions really are the result of the quantum physics at work in our brains. Then he claims: “At some level there is randomness in what we think, because we are made of chemicals that have randomness.” Then he said, “I mean, I don’t mean to skirt your question.”27 Actually, skirting the question was exactly what he was doing. He has to admit that he makes choices, but his atheistic naturalism forces him to back peddle and attribute those “choices” to chemistry and physics. His video is the epitome of atheism’s failure to deal with the fact of human free will.
In June of 2015, evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne delivered a lecture at the Imagine No Religion convention in Vancouver, Canada. His speech was titled, “You Don’t Have Free Will.” It is one of the clearest examples of the new age atheistic position. Based on his atheistic beliefs, he argues for a purely deterministic world in which human free will is nothing more than physical processing at work, molecules moving to the beat of the laws of physics. Addressing his primarily atheistic audience, he says, “Now many of you don’t accept that. You don’t believe that you are robots made out of meat, which is what I’m going to try to convince you of today.” He takes this position, because if atheism is true, and there is nothing supernatural, then (as he says), “Our behavior is absolutely determined by the laws of physics.”28
Coyne takes serious issue with his fellow atheists who claim to be naturalists and determinists, but who attempt to say that humans do have some kind of free will. He correctly shows that atheistic naturalism cannot permit any type of free will. Those atheists who are trying to accommodate both ideas, according to Coyne, are simply playing “semantic tricks” trying to convince people “that we are still okay even though we are meat robots.”29 Coyne went on to say, “As Anthony Cashmore said, ‘We have no more free will than a bowl of sugar.’” Coyne then added his own words, “We are bowls of sugar, just very complicated ones.” Coyne does an excellent job of proving that atheism demands that human free will cannot exist. What he fails to do, however, is prove that free will does not exist. He claims it. He asserts it. But he cannot prove his false assertion. The reason for that is simply because humans really do have free will.
At one point in his speech, he attempted to deal with the biggest problem that the “no-free-will” idea encounters. He tried to tackle the question of why he would try to persuade anyone to believe his view, since, according to his view, no one can choose any beliefs. His argument was that, just like kicking a dog teaches the dog to avoid harm, presenting the material he was presenting may “teach” a human to adopt his viewpoint, even though humans would just be reacting to his material, not choosing to believe it. So, Coyne says, “Why did I get out of bed this morning? I thought, I hope to persuade people, and that was determined by the laws of physics.” He goes on to say, “Even our very desire to try to change people’s minds. The fact that I’m up here trying to do this is determined by my own, you know, physical constitution and environment. That is the infinite regress and the sort of annoying thing about determinism. It’s turtles all the way down.”
Let’s analyze Coyne’s statement. Who is “annoyed” by this “infinite regress” of physics? Is it Coyne? Why, if he is just doing what his chemistry is forcing him to do, does he get “annoyed” at this? And who, exactly, is it that is getting annoyed at the situation? Is it Coyne’s physical, meat robot self? Obviously, the fact that he is “annoyed” speaks to there being something more to Coyne than molecules in motion.

NO MORAL RESPONSIBILITY

Consider the chain of implications. First, if there is no God, then this material world must be all there is. There can be nothing supernatural. Second, if the physical world is all that exists, then all entities that are made of matter must be driven solely by physical laws. Third, since there is nothing supernatural (according to this view), then there can be nothing more-than-matter inside of humans that can choose anything. Free will cannot exist in an atheistic world. But do not stop there. If humans cannot make decisions, then what is the necessary implication of that belief? What would that mean in regard to morality, crime, punishment, etc.? The necessary implication is that humans are not morally responsible for any of their behavior, any more than a rock, squirrel, or turtle is.
In Coyne’s speech, after making one of his points about most of his audience being determinists, he said, “Almost all of you here don’t believe in moral responsibility. Think about that.” He went on to say that because of his belief in determinism, “I don’t consider myself morally responsible, because I don’t have a choice.” Cashmore said the same when he stated, “From this simple analysis, surely it follows that individuals cannot logically be held responsible for their behavior.”30 While the atheists who deny free will attempt to conjure up a world where no moral responsibility brings about a modern utopia, nothing could be further from the truth. The rapist blames his genes. The murderer blames his chemistry. The adulterer points the finger at his environment. The thief “cannot help himself.” The perjurer acted only in response to molecular motion in his brain. The school shooter followed his urge to kill as many students as possible. The suicide bomber could not have chosen otherwise. An environment saturated with such thinking would hardly be described as a utopia.
Along these lines, Coyne said, “Whether or not you are the kind of person who accepts other people’s notions of morality is something that you have no control over. And if you don’t, that’s something you don’t have any control over either.” Let that sink in. If you think it is “morally” acceptable to fly a plane into a building in an attempt to kill as many people as possible, you could not think otherwise and you are not “morally” responsible for doing anything wrong. Truly, the denial of moral responsibility is one of the most fallacious and harmful implications of the false idea of atheism.
If we are to be “scientific” about these matters, we must take what we know to be the case and find the explanation that best fits the facts. If we are honest, each of us knows that we have freely chosen attitudes and behaviors. We know that we could have chosen differently. And we often feel the guilt of having chosen wrong, or the triumphant feeling of having chosen right. In all honesty, you know that you could choose to quit reading this article right now, or you could continue. Your freedom is not an illusion, but is an actuality: a statement of the way things really are, not the way they only seem to be. Since that is the case, we must take the fact—our free will—and find an explanation that best fits the fact. Atheism cannot account for human free will. Atheists who are consistent with their belief are forced to admit this is a logical implication of it. Therefore, if humans have free will, and atheism implies that they do not, then atheism is false. On the other hand, the idea of a supernatural God endowing humans with a mind, consciousness, and soul fits perfectly with the fact of human free will. Thus, the person who is trying to “follow the evidence where it leads” must conclude that human free will proves a supernatural Creator exists.

WHY CHOOSE TO BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE NO CHOICE?

As I have studied atheistic books and writings and watched several videos, I’ve tried to put my finger on why atheists do not want to believe they choose. They all admit that humans think we are free to choose, but they insist that we are not really choosing anything. They maintain that there is really no “Sam Harris” upstairs, or Jerry Coyne “in there somewhere.” They insist that “Richard Dawkins” is just another name for the physical molecules that make up a certain body, and that there is no real soul or personality of a non-material nature “in there.” If there really is such a thing as free will (and there is), why would a group of people choose to deny it in spite of the evidence that proves it exists? Why don’t they want to be viewed as free moral agents who deserve praise for their morally correct actions and who deserve blame for their moral failures? An exhaustive list of possible reasons why this is the cause is impossible, but Coyne did give us one very telling idea.
Near the end of Coyne’s speech, he attempted to explain the benefits he sees in adopting the idea that free will does not exist (not to be tedious, but keep in mind that he does not really think you can adopt it; instead, you are forced to accept whatever your chemistry determines). He said that a benefit of denying free will is that you would have a “lack of regret for bad things that happen. It takes away a certain amount of guilt feelings from you. You don’t have to beat yourself up over, ‘I should have done this instead of that.’” There you have it. Humans, from the beginning of Creation, have looked for ways to plead “not guilty” in the face of their own sins. We have attempted to blame everyone else except ourselves for our moral failures. Humans have tried to blame God, their parents, their genes, their society, their spouses, their circumstances, and everything under the Sun for the selfish, sinful choices they have made. The next step with this approach is to say that, since we cannot choose our behavior, then “punishment is not justified for retribution (people get—or should get—what they deserve).”31
Notice the reasoning. If I can say that I cannot help myself (I cannot choose differently), then I do not have to feel guilty for the things I do wrong. Furthermore, if I did not choose the immoral actions that I committed, then neither society (nor God) can punish me for doing immoral things. Truly, the Proverbs writer accurately stated many years ago, “Evil men do not understand justice” (Proverbs 28:5). The atheistic position not only rejects the concept of free will, but then jettisons the concept of justice as well. Yet how acutely aware we humans are when injustice has been done to us.
In regard to the current situation, Romans 1 reads almost like a prophecy,
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is evident in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools (1:18-22, emp. added).
“I was just a meat robot.” “My selfish genes drove me to….” “The physical properties in my brain forced me to act that way.” “I could not have chosen differently so I’m not morally responsible.” These and other empty excuses will not be accepted by the Maker on the Day of Judgment. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

ENDNOTES

1 Carl Sagan (1980), Cosmos (New York: Random House), p. 4.
2 American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000), (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.
3 Martinez Hewlett and Ted Peters (2006), “Theology, Religion, and Intelligent Design,” in Not in Our Classrooms, ed. Eugenie Scott and Glenn Branch (Boston, MA: Beacon Press), p. 75, emp. added.
4 Paul Davies (1983), God and the New Physics (New York: Simon & Schuster), p. 82.
5 Richard Lewontin (1997), “Billions and Billions of Demons,” in The New York Review of Books, 44[1]:31, January 9.
6 Sam Harris (2012), Free Will (New York: Free Press), p. 5, italics in orig.
7 Ibid., p. 19.
8 Ibid., p. 24.
9 Ibid., p. 40.
10 Ibid., p. 44.
11 Ibid., p. 63.
12 Ibid., p. 65, italics in orig.
13 Ibid., italics in orig.
14 For an extended discussion of consciousness and Creation, see Bert Thompson and Brad Harrub  (2004), “The Origin of Consciousness: Part 2,” Reason & Revelation, 24[2]:9-15, https://goo.gl/M9Drix.
15 Harris, p. 67.
16 William Provine (1998), “Evolution: Free Will and Punishment and Meaning in Life,” http://eeb.bio.utk.edu/darwin/DarwinDayProvineAddress.htm, emp. added.
17 Ben Stein and Kevin Miller (2008), Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (Premise Media), emp. added.
18 Francis Crick (1994), The Astonishing Hypothesis (London: Simon and Schuster), p. 3.
19 Richard Dawkins (2006), The Selfish Gene (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press), 30thAnniversary edition, p. xxi.
20 Ibid., p. 2.
21 Ibid., p. 66.
22 Dan Barker and Peter Payne (2005), “Does Ethics Require God?” http://www.ffrf.org/about/bybarker/ethics_debate.php.
23 Dan Barker (2008),godless (Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press), p. 128.
24 Anthony Cashmore (2010), “The Lucretian Swerve: The Biological Basis of Human Behavior and the Criminal Justice System,” PNAS, 107:10, http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/02/04/0915161107.full.pdf+html.
25 Ibid.
26 Bill Nye (2016), Big Think, “Hey Bill Nye, Do Humans Have Free Will?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITdMa2bCaVc.
27 Ibid.
28 Jerry Coyne (2015), “You Don’t Have Free Will,” Imagine No Religion Convention, Vancouver, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ca7i-D4ddaw.
29 Ibid. All other quotes from Coyne’s speech have the same bibliographic information unless otherwise noted.
30 Cashmore.
31 Coyne.
Suggested Resources

The “Problem” with Miracles by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=897

The “Problem” with Miracles

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Using empirical data, some have decided what is and is not possible in this world, and miracles like the ones recorded in the New Testament do not fall into their “possible” category. Since they never have seen anyone rise from the dead or be healed instantaneously of a terminal disease, and since no scientific experiments can be carried out today that would verify the truthfulness of these miracles, then they assume that the miracles reportedly performed by Jesus must have some natural explanations. In an essay titled “Why I Don’t Buy the Resurrection,” Richard Carrier embodied the gist of this argument in the following statement:
No amount of argument can convince me to trust a 2000-year-old second-hand report, over what I see, myself, directly, here and now, with my own eyes. If I observe facts which entail that I will cease to exist when I die, then the Jesus story can never override that observation, being infinitely weaker as a proof. And yet all the evidence before my senses confirms my mortality…. A 2000 year-old second-hand tale from the backwaters of an illiterate and ignorant land can never overpower these facts. I see no one returning to life after their brain has completely died from lack of oxygen. I have had no conversations with spirits of the dead. What I see is quite the opposite of everything this tall tale claims. How can it command more respect than my own two eyes? It cannot (2000).
Although this argument at first may seem plausible, it runs into two insurmountable difficulties. First, there are things that took place in the past that no one alive today has seen or ever will see, yet they must be accepted as fact. The origin of life on this planet provides a good example. Regardless of whether a person believes in evolution or creation, he must admit that some things happened in the past that are not still happening today, or at least that have not been witnessed. To the evolutionists, I pose the question, “Have you ever personally used your five senses to establish that a nonliving thing can give rise to a living thing?” Of course, the evolutionist must admit that he never has seen such happen, in spite of all the origin-of-life experiments in the last fifty years. Does that mean that he does not accept the idea that life came from nonliving matter, just because he never has witnessed it personally? Of course not. Instead, we are asked to look at all the “evidence,” such as the geologic column and the fossil record, that he believes leads to such a conclusion. Yet the hard fact remains, no one alive today has ever seen life come from something nonliving.
Following the same line of reasoning, those who believe in creation freely admit that the creation of life on this planet is something that has not been witnessed by anyone alive today. It was a unique act that happened once, cannot be duplicated by experiment, and cannot be detected currently by the human senses. As with the evolutionist, the creationist asks us to look at the evidence such as the fossil record, the laws of thermodynamics, and the Law of Biogenesis, which he believes leads to the conclusion that life was created some time in the distant past by an intelligent Creator. Yet, before we drift too far from our discussion of a miracle such as the resurrection, let me remind you that this brief paragraph concerning creation and evolution is inserted only to prove one point—everyone must admit that he or she accepts some ideas and notions without having inspected them personally using the five senses.
Second, it is intellectual bigotry to assume that the first century people did not understand the laws of nature enough to differentiate between an actual miracle and other occurrences with natural explanations. We must not fall into the trap of thinking that the first-century onlookers did not know that rising from the dead or being healed of leprosy was unnatural. As C.S. Lewis explained:
But there is one thing often said about our ancestors which we must not say. We must not say “They believed in miracles because they did not know the Laws of Nature.” This is nonsense. When St. Joseph discovered that his bride was pregnant, he “was minded to put her away.” He knew enough about biology for that….When the disciples saw Christ walking on the water they were frightened; they would not have been frightened unless they had known the Laws of Nature and known that this was an exception (1970, p. 26).
The apostle Paul underlined this point in Romans 1:4 when he stated that Jesus Christ was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” The entire point of the resurrection was, and is, that it was not naturally or scientifically repeatable and that it proved his deity. As the blind man healed by Jesus so accurately stated, “Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing” (John 9:32-33).

REFERENCES

Lewis, C.S. (1970), God in the Dock, ed. Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Carrier, Richard (2000), [On-line], URL: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/resurrection/1b.html.

Did Jesus Perform Miracles Or Not? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=10&article=3747

Did Jesus Perform Miracles Or Not?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


A gentleman who was struggling with his beliefs in the inerrancy of the Bible recently contacted our offices questioning why Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees that “no sign shall be given to this generation” (Mark 8:12; cf. Matthew 12:39; 16:4; Luke 11:29). Since other scriptures clearly teach that Jesus worked “many signs” (John 12:37; 20:30-31; 3:2; Acts 2:22), how could Jesus truthfully and consistently say, “no sign shall be given to this generation”? According to certain Bible critics, Jesus was a false prophet since His “prediction that no sign would be given to that generation is clearly false” (McKinsey, 1995, p. 114; cf. Wells, 2010). How can a Christian reasonably and biblically respond to such an assertion?

Sadly, Bible critics (and some Christians) are fond of disregarding the context in which biblical statements are found. Yet, no statement can be understood properly without some kind of background or contextual information. Words mean different things depending on how, when, and where they are spoken. Figures of speech abound in all cultures around the world (cf. Lyons, 2010). Truthful people, for example, have been joking, exaggerating, and using sarcasm for millennia (cf. Job 12:2; Psalm 58:3), all the while rightly expecting their listeners to interpret their language accurately, and without accusation of lying. Unfortunately, skeptics of the Bible’s inspiration often ignore much of the necessary information needed to properly understand Scripture.

When Jesus first made the statement, “no sign will be given” to this generation (Matthew 12:39; Luke 11:29), He had just healed a person who was blind, mute, and demon-possessed (Matthew 12:22; Luke 11:14). Notice that, rather than acknowledging that the great miracle Jesus worked was proof of His deity (John 20:30-31), the hard-hearted Pharisees alleged that His power came from the devil (Matthew 12:24). They did not simply turn away from Jesus; they turned 180 degrees away from the direction that such miracles led the honest and good-hearted truth-seekers. And Jesus’ enemies had not simply seen one miracle. Earlier in Matthew 12, Jesus had healed a man with a withered hand (vss. 9-13). How did the Pharisees react then? Rather than acknowledge the power of Christ, they “plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him” (vs. 14). The fact is, by this time in Jesus’ ministry He had already worked a number of miracles (Matthew 11:4-5), and many of the scribes and Pharisees absolutely refused to believe in Him (cf. Matthew 9:32-34). Regardless of what Jesus did or said, some of His enemies would never be convinced (cf. Matthew 12:31-32; see Butt, 2003).

So what did Jesus mean when He said on two different occasions that “no sign” would be given to “this generation” except “the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 12:39; 16:4; Mark 8:12; Luke 11:29)? Jesus was responding to the Pharisees’ desire to see a sign. But they had already witnessed and heard about many of Jesus’ miracles. They wanted something “more.” They sought “a sign from heaven” (Luke 11:16; Matthew 16:1; Mark 8:11, emp. added). Exactly what Jesus’ enemies meant by this, we may not know. What we do know is that while on Earth Jesus manifested His power over nature, disease, demon, and death (see Lyons and Butt, 2007), yet the Pharisees said they wanted more. It seems, as Burton Coffman noted, they “meant some spectacular wonder without moral value but which would appeal sensationally to man’s curiosity” (Coffman, 1984, p. 179). Jesus, however, always rejected doing such miracles. He refused to turn stones to bread or to jump from the temple’s pinnacle simply because Satan challenged Him to do so (Matthew 4:1-7). Jesus could have performed any miracle that He wanted—whether when tempted by Satan, prodded by Herod (Luke 23:8-12), or tested by the Pharisees. He could have pulled rabbits from hats for the sole purpose of amusing people. He could have turned His Jewish enemies into stones or given a person three eyes. He could have commanded that it literally rain cats and dogs. He could have lit the robes of the Pharisees on fire with the snap of his fingers and told them that hell would be ten times as hot. He could have done any number of wonders. But the insincere Pharisees would see none of that (i.e., “no sign [like these] will be given”).

What sign would be given? Other than the kinds of miracles that Christ’s enemies had already rejected, the only other sign Jesus prophesied was “the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 12:39; 16:4; Luke 11:29)—Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

Most certainly, Jesus performed miracles. And though Jesus “humbled himself...taking the form of a bondservant” (Philippians 2:7-8), He refused to get on the lowly, perpetually defiled spiritual level of His enemies. He worked no miracle of the kind that the Pharisees wished to see. But make no mistake, He worked plenty of the kind that provide honest-hearted people sufficient evidence to come to the conclusion that He is, indeed, “the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:30-31).
 

REFERENCES

Butt, Kyle (2003), “Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit—The Unpardonable Sin,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2272.

Coffman, Burton (1984), Matthew (Abilene, TX: ACU Press).

Lyons, Eric (2010), “The ‘Twelve,’” http://www.apologeticspress.org/article/177.

Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2007), “The Very Works that I Do Bear Witness of Me,” Reason & Revelation, 26[3]:17-23, March, http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2857.

McKinsey, Dennis (1995), The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).

Wells, Steve (2010), “Did Jesus Perform Many Signs and Wonders?” http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/signs.html.

“Devoid of Any Understanding of Logic” by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=959


“Devoid of Any Understanding of Logic”

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


One can read all kinds of material on the Internet these days. Millions of Web pages flash across computer screens on a daily basis. A fraction of that material centers on the debate between creation and evolution. Both sides marshal their best defenses, and pump out information in support of their particular view. While it is understood that every person who produces material for one particular view is not the “official spokesperson” for that view, it is nonetheless very interesting to see what tactics are being used by certain evolutionists in their attempt to discredit creation.
Consider an article by Frank Zindler, for instance. The article is titled “ ‘Creation Science’ and the Facts of Evolution.” It is a rather dated article, being written back in 1987, but is currently posted on the American Atheists official Web site. From the fact that it is posted on the Web site of such a prominent atheistic organization, one can only conclude that the American Atheists organization concurs with the sentiments found in the article.
The article in question is a caustic attack against creation, as well as any person who adheres to this idea. In his attempt to discredit creation, Zindler informs the reader that he believes that most of those who believe in creation are quite “devoid of any understanding of logic.” When listing one of the reasons why he thinks creation is not a viable idea, he made this statement: “On the other hand, those components of creationism which involve certain types of magical events (e.g., the divine creation of a young universe with all of its components bearing the false imprint of great age) make the claims of creationism untestable—making creationism not a theory at all, because theories must be testable!”
Zindler then proceeded to explain that “the conclusion that evolution has occurred is drawn from two simple observations: Observation 1: Living things come only from living things. Spontaneous generation is not possible when living things are already in existence. Observation 2: Fossil remains show that living things in the remote past were very different from living things today. Therefore: Conclusion: Life has changed through time (evolved).”
ViolĂ ! In three simple sentences, Zindler presents his strongest case for evolution. Let’s briefly analyze Zindler’s logic. Remember that he claimed that most creationists were “devoid of any understanding of logic,” and that creationism could not qualify as a theory because, he says, it is untestable and “theories must be testable!”
Using his own criterion (testability) for a theory, apply his thinking to his first observation. He stated that spontaneous generation does not occur “when living things are already in existence.” The implied statement here is that life can spontaneously generate where there is not already life. In fact, he had an explanatory note beside his first observation. He said: “Life cannot originate now for at least two reasons.” The two reasons he listed were the fact that oxygen in the atmosphere would quickly destroy compounds necessary for life, and existing microbes would eat the compounds necessary for life. He went on to conclude, however that “neither of these roadblocks to spontaneous generation existed before life had formed.”
Please remember that his most important criterion for dubbing anything a legitimate theory is testability. Apply that to spontaneous generation. Can we do experiments that would test whether or not spontaneous generation could occur in an environment without oxygen and microbes to destroy the compounds necessary for life? Yes. And every origin of life experiment that has attempted such has failed miserably. Has any scientist anywhere, at any time, under any circumstance, ever been able to perform an experiment that could prove that spontaneous generation can occur? The answer is a resounding, NO! Spontaneous generation has failed in every single circumstance that we humans have ever been able to observe or imagine. In fact, every experiment performed to date has shown that it does not occur. It cannot be proven that our Earth’s atmosphere was at some time in the distant past devoid of oxygen and microbes. [In fact, scientists now have credible evidence that the early Earth’s atmosphere did, in fact, contain oxygen; see Thaxton, et al., 1984).] Furthermore, experiments have been performed that imitate an environment devoid of these “life inhibitors,” and still there has never been a verified case of spontaneous generation. Spontaneous generation has been proven false.
If Zindler discredits the idea of creation based partially on his statement that certain components cannot be tested, then what, pray tell, does he do when his strongest case for evolution is based on an idea that has been tested and found to be false? And who is it that seems to be “devoid of any understanding of logic” in this particular discussion? Zindler’s statements not withstanding, creation by the hand of a Supernatural Creator is the only idea that can adequately account for the world around us.

REFERENCES

Thaxton, Charles B., Walter L. Bradley, and Roger L. Olsen (1984), The Mystery of Life's Origin(New York: Philosophical Library).
Zindler, Frank (1987), “ ‘Creation Science’ and the Facts of Evolution,” [On-line], URL: http://www.atheists.org/bone.pit/creationscience.html.