"THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS" The Works Of The Flesh - I (5:19-21) by Mark Copeland

                     "THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS"

                  The Works Of The Flesh - I (5:19-21)


1. Of grave danger to the Christian are the works of the flesh...
   a. They can destroy the liberty we enjoy in Christ - Ga 5:13-15
   b. They prevent us from following the Spirit and doing the things we
      wish - Ga 5:16-17
   c. They keep us from inheriting the kingdom of God - Ga 5:21

2. It is imperative that we know what are the works of the flesh...
   a. Those things that are contrary to the Spirit - Ga 5:17
   b. Those sins which wage war against the soul - cf. 1Pe 2:11

[To aid us in this battle, Paul provides a list of sins that are quite
evident (Ga 5:19-21).  At the top of the list are...]


   A. FORNICATION (Grk., porneia)...
      1. Note:  Some translations begin with 'adultery' which is not
         found in some of the oldest manuscripts; it is certainly
         covered by 'fornication'
      2. Porneia - illicit sexual intercourse - Vine
      3. As used in the New Testament, we find it having at least four
         different applications...
         a. A reference to premarital sex - 1Co 7:1-2
         b. A synonym for adultery - Mt 19:9
         c. A generic term referring to all forms of unchastity 
            - 1Co 6:13,18
         d. A specific sense referring to harlotry and prostitution 
            - Re 2:20-21
      4. It therefore includes any sort of sexual intercourse between
         partners who are not married; e.g., premarital sex, adultery,
         homosexuality, prostitution, incest
      5. God's disdain for such immorality is seen in the fact...
         a. There are seven lists of evil in the writings of Paul
         b. Fornication is listed in five of them, and is the first in
            each of them

   B. UNCLEANNESS (Grk., akatharsia)...
      1. Akatharsia - in a moral sense: the impurity of lustful,
         luxurious, profligate living - Thayer
         a. It originally had reference to dirt or dirtiness in a
            physical sense
         b. In the Greek OT, it is used to denote ritual and ceremonial
            impurity which made it impossible for the worshipper to
            approach God - cf. Lev 22:3-9
         c. It then came to be used in a moral sense, of that moral
            depravity which disgusts the person who sees it
      2. Three ideas are therefore inherent in the word
         a. The quality of that which is soiled and dirty; some minds
            are like that
         b. An impurity where there is a repulsive quality that awakens
            disgust in decent persons
         c. That which separates man from God; in contrast, 
            compare Mt 5:8; Re 3:4

   C. LEWDNESS (Grk., aselgia)...
      1. Aselgia - also translated as lasciviousness, licentiousness,
      2. The basic meaning of the word
         a. In the NT it seems to be linked with sexual excess in a
            public way
         b. Barclay distinguishes three characteristics of this sin:
            1) It is wanton and undisciplined action
            2) It has no respect for the persons or rights of anyone
            3) It is completely indifferent to public opinion and to
               public decency
      3. The general idea is one of shameless behavior
         a. Thayer defines this word by giving these examples:
            1) "filthy words"
            2) "indecent bodily movements"
            3) "unchaste handling of males and females"
         b. This word is one that best describes...
            1) What is often seen in much of modern dance, music,
            2) What goes on at many concerts, and on many talk shows
         c. The context in which it is often found in the Scriptures
            helps to understand this word 
            - cf. Ro 13:11-14; Ep 4:17-19;1Pe 4:1-4

[With these three words (porneia, akatharsia, aselgia), we learn that
"the works of the flesh" involve sins of moral impurity.  As we continue
with Paul's list, we note that they also involve...]


   A. IDOLATRY (Grk., eidololatreia)...
      1. Eidololatreia - image worship - Strong
      2. Concerning idolatry as commonly considered...
         a. In the beginning stages of idolatry, no one worships the
            idol or image itself
            1) The idol simply served two purposes:
               a) To localize the god it represents
               b) To visualize the god it represents
            2) It is simply designed to make it easier to worship the
               god represented by the idol
         b. Inevitably, however, people will wind up worshipping the
            idol or image itself
            1) We see this in various forms of Catholicism
            2) Where the leaders say the image is not an idol, only an
            3) But who can deny that the average worshipper begins to
               view the image itself as something holy and to be
            4) Thus that which is 'created' begins receiving adoration
               rightfully due the 'Creator'
         c. According to Ro 1:18-23, the basic error of idol worship is
            the worship of the 'created thing' rather than the 'Creator
            of all things'!
      3. Concerning idolatry as that which displaces God...
         a. Idolatry is not just the adoration or worship of images
         b. Paul defines 'covetousness' as idolatry - Ep 5:5; Col 3:5
            1) Any strong desire for material things that replaces our
               desire for God is a form of idolatry!
               a) Our hearts are such that they are drawn to whatever is
                  our treasure - Mt 6:21
               b) If our treasure is earthly things, our heart
                  (devotion) is drawn away from God
            2) We cannot serve material things and God at the same time!
               - Mt 6:24
         c. Thus we can be idolaters when we make things other than God
            Himself our priority in life, such as:  our job, house,
            hobby, family

   B. SORCERY (Grk., pharmakeia)...
      1. Pharmakeia is found to be used in three ways
         a. Medically, to the use of drugs with no bad meaning at all
         b. The misuse of drugs so as to poison, not cure
         c. The practice of sorcery and witchcraft, which often used
            drugs to cast spells and alter the behavior of others
      2. The practice of witchcraft and sorcery is strongly condemned
         - Exo 22:18; Re 21:8
      3. Examples of this sin today...
         a. There is an increasing number of religions based upon the
            occult, and that make use of drugs in their religion
         b. The "recreational" use of drugs also falls into this
            1) Remember that altering the behavior of others through
               such drugs was a basic function of sorcery and witchcraft
            2) What is the difference between using drugs to alter
               others' behavior and your own?
            3) This is not to discount the proper medicinal use of drugs
            4) But just as the Bible condemns drunkenness, which is an
               altered state brought on by alcohol (a drug), so it would
               seem to condemn similar use of other drugs


1. In this study we have seen that the works of the flesh include...
   a. Sins of moral impurity (fornication, uncleanness, lewdness)
   b. The sins of idolatry and sorcery
   -- Our next study will survey sins violating the law of love

2. William Barclay observed that each of these sins is a perversion of
   something good...
   a. Fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness - perversions of the
      sexual instinct which in itself can be a beautiful thing as part
      of true love between a man and a woman
   b. Idolatry - a perversion of worship
   c. Sorcery - a perversion of the proper use of drugs
   -- He also noted:  "The awfulness of the power of sin lies precisely
      in its ability to take the raw material of potential goodness and
      turn it into the material of evil."

3. Because of the power of sin to corrupt, we need divine help to break
   free from its bondage...
   a. Jesus promises freedom from the bondage of sin - Jn 8:31-36
   b. He sent the Holy Spirit to deliver on that promise 
      - Ro 8:12-13; Ga 5:16

Have you responded in obedience to the gospel that you might enjoy true
freedom from the corrupting power of sin...? - cf. Ac 2:38-39

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

eXTReMe Tracker 

Did God Order the Killing of Babies? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Did God Order the Killing of Babies?

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Skeptics and atheists have been critical of the Bible’s portrayal of God ordering the death of entire populations—including women and children. For example, God instructed Saul through the prophet Samuel to “go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” (1 Samuel 15:3-4, emp. added). Other examples include the period of the Israelite conquest of Canaan in which God instructed the people to exterminate the Canaanite populations that occupied Palestine at the time. However, if one cares to examine the circumstances and assess the rationale, the Bible consistently exonerates itself by offering legitimate clarification and explanation to satisfy the honest searcher of truth.
The Hebrew term herem found, for instance, in Joshua 6:17, refers to the total dedication or giving over of the enemy to God as a sacrifice involving the extermination of the populace. It is alleged that the God of the Bible is as barbaric and cruel as any of the pagan gods. But this assessment is simply not true.
If the critic would take the time to study the Bible and make an honest evaluation of the principles of God’s justice, wrath, and love, he would see the perfect and harmonious interplay between them. God’s vengeance is not like the impulsive, irrational, emotional outbursts of pagan deities or human beings. He is infinite in all His attributes and thus perfect in justice, love, and anger. Just as God’s ultimate and final condemnation of sinners to eternal punishment will be just and appropriate, so the temporal judgment of wicked people in the Old Testament was ethical and fair. We human beings do not have an accurate handle on the gravity of sin and the deplorable nature of evil and wickedness. Human sentimentality is hardly a qualified measuring stick for divine truth and spiritual reality.
How incredibly ironic that the atheist, the agnostic, the skeptic, and the liberal all attempt to stand in judgment upon the ethical behavior of God when, if one embraces their position, there is no such thing as an absolute, objective, authoritative standard by which to pronounce anything right or wrong. As the French existentialist philosopher, Sartre, admitted: “Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist.... Nor...are we provided with any values or commands that could legitimize our behavior” (1961, p. 485). The atheist and agnostic have absolutely no platform on which to stand to make moral or ethical distinctions—except as the result of purely personal taste. The mere fact that they concede the existence of objective evil is an unwitting concession there is a God Who has established an absolute framework of moral judgments.
The facts of the matter are that the Canaanites, whom God’s people were to destroy, were destroyed for their wickedness (Deuteronomy 9:4; 18:9-12; Leviticus 18:24-25,27-28). Canaanite culture and religion in the second millennium B.C. were polluted, corrupt, and perverted. No doubt the people were physically diseased from their illicit behavior. There simply was no viable solution to their condition except destruction. Their moral depravity was “full” (Genesis 15:16). They had slumped to such an immoral, depraved state, with no hope of recovery, that their existence on this Earth had to be terminated—just like in Noah’s day when God waited while Noah preached for years, but was unable to turn the world’s population from its wickedness (Genesis 6:3,5-7; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:5-9). Including the children in the destruction of such populations actually spared them from a worse condition—that of being reared to be as wicked as their parents and thus face eternal punishment. All persons who die in childhood, according to the Bible, are ushered to Paradise and will ultimately reside in Heaven. Children who have parents who are evil must naturally suffer innocently while on Earth (e.g., Numbers 14:33).
Those who disagree with God’s annihilation of the wicked in the Old Testament have the same liberal attitude that has come to prevail in America just in the last half century. That attitude has typically opposed capital punishment, as well as the corporal punishment of children. Such people simply cannot see the rightness of evildoers being punished by execution or physical pain. Nevertheless, their view is skewed—and the rest of us are being forced to live with the results of their warped thinking: undisciplined, out-of-control children are wreaking havoc on our society by perpetrating crime to historically, all-time high levels.
Those who reject the ethics of God’s destructive activity in the Old Testament, to be consistent, must reject Jesus and the New Testament. Over and over again, Jesus and the New Testament writers endorsed and defended such activity (e.g., Luke 13:1-9; 12:5; 17:29-32; 10:12; Hebrews 10:26-31). The Bible provides the only logical, sensible, meaningful, consistent explanation regarding the principles of retribution, punishment, and the conditions under which physical life may be extinguished.


Sartre, Jean Paul, (1961), “Existentialism and Humanism,” French Philosophers from Descartes to Sartre, ed. Leonard M. Marsak (New York: Meridian).

God and the Laws of Science: The Law of Causality by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.


God and the Laws of Science: The Law of Causality

by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.


The Law of Cause and Effect states that every material effect must have an adequate antecedent or simultaneous cause. The mass of a paper clip is not going to provide sufficient gravitational pull to cause a tidal wave. There must be an adequate cause for the tidal wave, like a massive, offshore, underwater earthquake (“Tsunamis,” 2000, p. 1064). Leaning against a mountain will certainly not cause it to topple over. Jumping up and down on the ground will not cause an earthquake. If a chair is not placed in an empty room, the room will remain chairless. If matter was not made and placed in the Universe, we would not exist. There must be an adequate antecedent or simultaneous cause for every material effect. Perhaps the Law of Cause and Effect seems intuitive to most, but common sense is foreign to many when God is brought into the discussion.


The Law of Cause and Effect, or Law/Principle of Causality, has been investigated and recognized for millennia. In Phaedo, written by Plato in 360 B.C., an “investigation of nature” is spoken of concerning causality, wherein “the causes of everything, why each thing comes into being and why it perishes and why it exists” are discussed (Plato, 1966, 1:96a-b, emp. added). In 350 B.C., Aristotle contributed more to the causality discussion by stipulating that causes can be “spoken of in four senses”: material, formal, efficient, and final (Aristotle, 2009, 1[3]). Moving forward two millennia in no way changed the established fact pressed by the Law of Cause and Effect. In 1781, the renowned philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote concerning the Principle of Causality in his Critique of Pure Reason that “everything that happens presupposes a previous condition, which it follows with absolute certainty, in conformity with a rule.... All changes take place according to the law of the connection of Cause and Effect” (Kant, 1781). Fast forwarding another 350 years, our understanding of the world still did not cause the law to be discredited. In 1934, W.T. Stace, professor of philosophy at Princeton University, in A Critical History of Greek Philosophy, wrote:
Every student of logic knows that this is the ultimate canon of the sciences, the foundation of them all. If we did not believe the truth of causation, namely, everything which has a beginning has a cause, and that in the same circumstances the same things invariably happen, all the sciences would at once crumble to dust. In every scientific investigation this truth is assumed (1934, p. 6, emp. added).
The truth of causality is so substantiated that it is taken for granted in scientific investigation.

A few decades later, the Law of Cause and Effect still had not been repealed. In The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Richard Taylor wrote, “Nevertheless, it is hardly disputable that the idea of causation is not only indispensable in the common affairs of life but in all applied sciences as well” (1967, p. 57, emp. added). Even today, when scientific exploration has brought us to unprecedented heights of knowledge, the age old Law of Causality cannot be denied. Today’s dictionaries define “causality” as:
  • “the principle that nothing can happen without being caused” (“Causality,” 2009).
  • “the principle that everything has a cause” (“Causality,” 2008).
Indeed, the Law of Cause and Effect is not, and cannot rationally be, denied—except when necessary in order to prop up a deficient worldview. Its ramifications have been argued for years, but after the dust settles, the Law of Cause and Effect still stands unscathed, having weathered the trials thrust upon it for thousands of years.


Creationists have absolutely no problem with the truth articulated by this God-ordained law from antiquity. The Bible, in essence, articulated the principle millennia ago when in Hebrews 3:4 it says that “every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God.” A house must have a cause—namely, a builder. It will not build itself. However, evolutionists are left in a quandary when trying to explain how the effect of the infinitely complex Universe could have come about without a cause. Three decades ago, Robert Jastrow, founder and former director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA, wrote:
The Universe, and everything that has happened in it since the beginning of time, are a grand effect without a known cause. An effect without a known cause? That is not the world of science; it is a world of witchcraft, of wild events and the whims of demons, a medieval world that science has tried to banish. As scientists, what are we to make of this picture? I do not know. I would only like to present the evidence for the statement that the Universe, and man himself, originated in a moment when time began (1977, p. 21).
When Jastrow says that there is no “known cause” for everything in the Universe, he is referring to the fact that there is no known natural cause. If atheism were true, there must be a natural explanation of what caused the Universe. Scientists and philosophers recognize that there must be a cause that would be sufficient to bring about matter and the Universe—and yet no natural cause is known. The McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms says that “causality,” in physics, is “the principle that an event cannot precede its cause” (2003, p. 346). However, the atheist must concede that in order for his/her claim to be valid, the effect of the Universe not only preceded its cause, but actually came about without it! Such a viewpoint is hardly in keeping with science. Scientifically speaking, according to the Law of Cause and Effect, there had to be a Cause for the Universe. The only book on the planet which contains characteristics that prove its production to be above human capability is the Bible (see Butt, 2007). The God of the Bible is its author (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and in the very first verse of the inspired material He gave to humans, He articulated with authority and clarity that He is the Cause Who brought about the Universe and all that is in it.


Often the atheist or skeptic, attempting to distract and side-step the truth of this law without responding to it, retorts, “But if everything had to have a beginning, why does the same concept not apply to God?” Notice that this statement is based on a misunderstanding of what the Law of Cause and Effect claims concerning the Universe. The law states that every material effect must have an adequate antecedent or simultaneous cause. The God of the Bible is a spiritual Being (John 4:24) and therefore is not governed by physical law.

Recall also what Professor W.T. Stace wrote in A Critical History of Greek Philosophy concerning causality. “[E]verything which has a beginning has a cause” (1934, p. 6, emp. added). As mentioned above, scientists and philosophers recognize that, logically, there must be an initial cause of the Universe. [Those who attempt to argue the eternality of the Universe are in direct contradiction with the Second Law of Thermodynamics (see Miller, 2007).] However, God, not being a physical, finite being, but an eternal, spiritual being (by definition), would not be subject to the condition of requiring a beginning. Therefore, the law does not apply to Him. Psalm 90:2 says concerning God, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (emp. added). The Bible describes God as a Being who has always been and always will be—“from everlasting to everlasting.” He, therefore, had no beginning. Hebrews 3:4 again states, “every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God,” indicating that God is not constrained by the Law of Cause and Effect as are houses, but rather, is the Chief Builder—the Uncaused Causer—the Being who initially set all effects into motion. The point stands. The Law of Cause and Effect supports the creation model, not the atheistic evolutionary model.


Aristotle (2009), Metaphysics, trans. W.D. Ross, http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/metaphysics.1.i.html.

Butt, Kyle (2007), Behold! The Word of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), http://www.apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/Behold%20the%20Word%20of%20God.pdf.

“Causality” (2009), Collins English Dictionary—Complete & Unabridged, 10th ed. (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers), http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Causality?x=35&y=25.

“Causality” (2008), Concise Oxford English Dictionary, (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press), http://www.wordreference.com/definition/causality.

Jastrow, Robert (1977), Until the Sun Dies (New York: W.W. Norton).

Kant, Immanuel (1781), The Critique of Pure Reason, trans. J.M.D. Meiklejohn (London: Henry G. Bohn), 1878 edition, http://philosophy.eserver.org/kant/critique-of-pure-reason.txt.

McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms (2003), pub. M.D. Licker (New York: McGraw-Hill), sixth edition.

Miller, Jeff (2007), “God and the Laws of Thermodynamics: A Mechanical Engineer’s Perspective,” Reason & Revelation, 27[4]:25-31, April, http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3293.

Plato (1966), Plato in Twelve Volumes, trans. Harold North Fowler (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0170%3Atext%3DPhaedo%3Asection%3D96a.

Stace, W.T. (1934), A Critical History of Greek Philosophy (London: Macmillan and Co.).

Taylor, Richard (1967), “Causation,” in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Philosophical Library).

“Tsunamis” (2000), The Oxford Companion to the Earth, ed. Paul L. Hancock & Brian J. Skinner (Oxford University Press).

Were All Men Vegetarians before the Flood? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Were All Men Vegetarians before the Flood?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

After the creation of man and land animals on day six of the Creation week, God instructed Adam saying, “I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food” (Genesis 1:29). There is no record of God telling Adam and Eve that they could butcher cows or smoke chickens, but He did authorize them to eat the seeds and fruits of plants and trees. In the very next chapter of Genesis, it is recorded where God told Adam that he could eat “of every tree of the garden” (except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—2:16-17). Notice that nothing is said here about animals—only vegetation. Then again, in Genesis 3, when God sentenced Adam and Eve to a life outside of the Garden of Eden, He said: “And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground” (3:18-19). Three times in the first three chapters of the Bible, God instructed man regarding his diet. Each time, the Bible records only where God permitted man to eat vegetation (some of which could be made into bread—3:19). The Bible nowhere mentions man receiving permission from God to eat any kind of animal until after the Flood. It was then that God said:
And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs (Genesis 9:1-3, emp. added).
Just as God had authorized mankind to eat “green herbs” many centuries earlier, after the Flood, God gave His permission for mankind to eat “all things”—including all animals that move on the Earth and swim in the sea. [NOTE: It appears that laws regarding the eating of clean and unclean animals were not given until the Law of Moses (Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14:3-21). Although a difference was made between clean and unclean animals prior to the Flood (cf. Genesis 7:2-3), this distinction seems to have applied only to the matter of which animals were suitable for sacrifice, not for consumption (cf. Genesis 8:20).]
To answer the question, “Were all men prior to the Flood vegetarians?,” one merely can conclude that the Bible reveals God giving instructions only regarding the eating of food made from vegetation prior to the Deluge. God’s Word is conspicuously silent regarding the eating of animals. However, just because God apparently did not authorize man to eat animal flesh before the Flood, does not mean that mankind abided by this regulation. It seems likely that there were some people who went beyond what God allowed, and ate various kinds of animals anyway. It is not difficult to imagine those living just prior to the Flood, whose every thought was evil continually (Genesis 6:5), leaning over a sacrificial sheep, smelling the sweet aroma, and taking a bite out of the lamb’s leg (cf. 1 Samuel 2:12-17).
Some have asked why Adam’s son Abel raised flocks, if he and his descendants were supposed to be vegetarians? Although the Bible does not say exactly why Abel was a “keeper of sheep” (Genesis 4:2), most likely it was because by raising sheep, Abel could provide clothing for himself and others, as well as provide animals that people could get from him to sacrifice to Jehovah. One thing we can know assuredly is that before the Flood, we never read of God granting permission to humans to eat animal flesh. Yet, at least three times prior to the Flood the Bible mentions God authorizing the fruit of the Earth for man’s consumption. Furthermore, Genesis 9:2-3 stresses that after the Flood a vastly different relationship existed between animals and humans. Animals developed a fear of humans, and humanity was permitted to use the flesh of animals for food, “even as the green herbs” were permitted since the beginning of the Creation (9:3; 1:29).

What Does it Mean to Say Jesus is the "Son of God"? by Brad Bromling, D.Min.


What Does it Mean to Say Jesus is the "Son of God"?

by Brad Bromling, D.Min.

What does it mean to say that Jesus is the “Son of God”?


The New Testament employs a variety of terms in its effort to define the personal identity of Jesus. Strictly speaking, His name simply is Jesus (meaning “Yahweh is salvation”). Recognition of His messiahship quickly led His followers to call Him Christ (christos is the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew word Messiah), Christ Jesus, and the more common Jesus Christ. In addition, He also is called:
  • Lord—an Old Testament designation for God, as well as a term of respect like “Sir”;
  • Son of Man—the designation Jesus most often applied to Himself that can indicate “a human,” or point to a mysterious heavenly figure (Daniel 7:13);
  • Son of David—an indicator of messianic lineage; and
  • I AM”—an apparent echo of the unutterable divine name (Exodus 3:14).
All of these titles make exalted claims for the Man from Galilee. For many Christians, though, Son of God is the most familiar term used to identify Jesus. This is understandable in light of passages like 1 John 4:15: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God,” and John 20:30-31: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” There is power in the confession that Jesus is the “Son of God,” but what does it mean?
The earliest Christians were Jews who were familiar with at least two distinct applications of the term “son of God.” In the first place, the term had a general application to all Israelites. When their ancestors were held in Egyptian bondage, Moses was sent to Pharaoh with these words: “Thus says the Lord: Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me” (Exodus 4:22-23; see also Hosea 11:1). Through the years, Yahweh loved, protected, comforted, and chastened Israel, just as a loving parent would nurture and discipline children (Malachi 2:10; Isaiah 66:13; et al.).
The second usage was more specific. Historically, the term had a royal connotation for many nations of the Ancient Near East. It was commonplace for Egyptian, Babylonian, Canaanite, and Roman rulers to be called “son of God” (Fossum, 1992, pp. 128-137). These kings even were deified and surrounded by legends about their miraculous births—often including stories of gods copulating with humans (Sanders, 1993, pp. 243-245). This royal connotation also was known in Israel, although they did not deify their kings (O’Collins, 1995, p. 117).
When the New Testament writers referred to Jesus as “Son of God,” they sometimes employed the term in ways that echoed these two common uses. After those who threatened the life of the child Jesus died, Joseph was given instructions in a dream to return from Egypt to his homeland. When Matthew reported this event, he said it fulfilled Hosea 11:1: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (see Matthew 2:15). In other words, Jesus was God’s Son as an Israelite, and in a real sense, the True Israelite.
In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus’ ministry began with a pronouncement from heaven: “This is my beloved Son...” (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11). The same is heard at the transfiguration (Matthew 17:5). In the Gospel of John, the baptizer testified that Jesus “ranks ahead of ” him, and by virtue of the Spirit’s descending upon Jesus, he testified that Jesus is the “Son of God” (John 1:30, NRSV). These references are reminiscent of the decree of royal sonship (Psalm 2:6-7; see also Luke 1:32-33). When the Jewish leaders put Jesus on trial, they asked: “Are you the Son of God, then?” Satisfied with His answer, they told Pilate Jesus was claiming to be “a king” (Luke 22:70; 23:2). As Jesus died on the cross, the only accusation assigned to Him was, “This is the king of the Jews” (Luke 23:38). According to Paul and the writer of Hebrews, this regal distinction was especially manifest after Jesus was raised from the dead (Acts 13:33; Romans 1:4; Hebrews 1:5).
While Jesus’ identity certainly included these then-prevailing ideas of sonship, it is obvious they do not exhaust the significance of the term for Him. Over and again, Jesus referred to God as His Father (Matthew 7:21; 10:32; 11:27, et al.). Since the Jews also saw themselves as sons and daughters of God, this should not have bothered them. But it did bother them, precisely because they perceived Jesus to be making a unique—and seemingly blasphemous—claim of sonship.
This uniqueness reached its zenith when Jesus addressed God as “Abba, Father” in prayer (Mark 14:36). “Abba” was the word a Jewish child used to refer to his or her “original person of reference” (i.e., mother or father). This bespoke an “unheard-of closeness” between Jesus and God (Moltmann, 1993, p. 142). Jesus demonstrated this closeness throughout His life. And it was in this intimacy that Jesus’ sonship is best defined. Gerald O’Collins has observed:
[Jesus] not only spoke like “the Son” but he also acted like “the Son” in knowing and revealing truth about God, in changing the divine law, in forgiving sins, in being the one through whom others could become children of God, and in acting with total obedience as the agent of God’s final kingdom (1995, p. 126).
To see through the eyes of faith that Jesus is the Son of God is to see that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself ” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
Finally, in the Gospel of John, Jesus referred to Himself as the “Son” Who was “sent” from the Father (John 3:16-17; 5:23; 6:40; 10:36). Clearly, this is a special claim. On one of those occasions, Jesus based His authority to heal on the Sabbath on the fact that His Father was working. This infuriated some of the Jews. John explained: “Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18).
In summary, to identify Jesus as the Son of God is to acknowledge His genealogical connection to Israel, His right to the throne of David, and His unparalleled nearness to God. To confess that Jesus is the Son of God is to declare as true Jesus’ claim: “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).


Fossum, Jarl (1992), “Son of God,” The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday).
Moltmann, Jürgen (1993), The Way of Jesus Christ (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress).
O’Collins, Gerald (1995), Christology (New York: Oxford University Press).
Sanders, E.P. (1993), The Historical Figure of Jesus (New York: Penguin).

Australopithecus Sediba: Evolutionary Game Changer? by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.


Australopithecus Sediba: Evolutionary Game Changer?

by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.

The media has already deemed the find an “evolutionary game changer.” In a South African cave in 2008, two sets of fossils were discovered by paleontologists that they allege may be from a transitional creature—a “missing link” between modern man and the ancient ancestor he allegedly shares with modern apes. According to ABC News, and several other news outlets, scientists have proclaimed the fossilized creature an evolutionary “‘game changer’ in understanding human evolution,” potentially being the “best candidate yet for the immediate ancestor of our genus, Homo” (Potter, 2011). Scientists have deemed the fossil species containing the fossil find, Australopithecus sediba. The fossils of special interest in the find includes a “foot, hand, and parts of the pelvis and skull” (Potter). The cave wherein the fossils were found was dated, using uranium-lead dating combined with paleomagnetic and stratigraphic analysis (evolutionary dating techniques), to be 1,977,000 years old, which caused scientists to give the same age to the fossils. According to evolutionists, this age predates “the earliest uncontested evidence for Homo in Africa” (Pickering, et al., 2011, 333[6048]:1421).
Lee Berger of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa holding the cranium ofAustralopithecus sediba
The truth is, as we have documented time and time again (e.g., Harrub and Thompson, 2003; Thompson, et al., 2002), the fossil evidence that is desperately needed to prove the theory of evolution is simply not there. As ABC News writer, Ned Potter, admitted in the article splashing the fossil find, researchers know that “[t]here is a gap in the fossil record, so far unexplained” (2011). This admission ultimately results in the media and many scientists jumping to quick conclusions when a hopeful find is made, as is the case in this instance. One would think that scientists and media personnel would be more cautious, remembering the many blunders that have been made by paleontologists over the years in their quick claims to have found missing links, including Java Man, Piltdown Man, Nebraska Man, Flipper Man, and Orce Man (cf. Thompson and Harrub, 2002). Potter conceded that “researchers in the past have made many finds that turned out to be dead ends” (2011). That is certainly an understatement. Some scientists appear to be getting the picture. Science writer and biologist, Michael Balter, admitted that “few scientists are ready to believe” that these fossils represent the immediate ancestor of the genus, Homo (2010, 328[5975]:154). After all, caution must be taken when all of the hype and alleged “game changer” status of the species is based entirely on only a foot, hand, and small parts of a pelvis and skull.
It is important to watch for small—but significant—disclaimers that appear throughout evolutionary literature and the media’s coverage of fossil finds, like the present specimen. While some evolutionists use decisive terminology when discussing macroevolution, as if it has been proven to be true (e.g., Potter quotes Darryl De Ruiter of Texas A&M University as saying, “It’s strong confirmation of evolutionary theory,” 2011, emp. added), the truth is, it is an unproven theory, and those “in the know” in the evolutionary community realize this problem. In fact, it is a theory that will never be proven, (1) since there is no evidence in the fossil record that transitional evolution between kinds of living organisms ever occurred, (2) since the scientific evidence indicates that life cannot come from non-life, much less could the laws governing that life write themselves into existence, and (3) since no one was around to witness the origin of life, even if atheistic evolution were true, which means the question of origins is ultimately immune to the test of empirical science. Some, at least, like Potter, have learned to use more cautious terminology when discussing evolution and the fossil record. Phrases such as “may be,” “might,” and “could be” are important, because they highlight the fact that the speaker or writer, in this case, is stating an assertion or conjecture—not a proven fact. Such words highlight the fact that even the evolutionists themselves know they have not proven their case and that their belief in evolutionary theory is a blind belief—not based on the facts.
Disclaimers are often skipped over by Americans when reading about science, because the climate in America—as promoted in large part by many in our school system—lends itself to believing scientists no matter what. A person is pressured to believe scientists, whose theories can pretty much be taken as “gospel,” regardless of the evidence. They are demi-gods. Their “maybes” are equivalent to the common man’s certainty. This unquestioning, blind belief should never have been granted to the scientific community, and especially not in the last 50 years. As morality and ethical integrity in America erodes, less and less confidence should be placed in the “elite” minds of our society, who are often biased against the truth because of the desire for prestige, money, and because of the desire to eliminate that which gives them accountability in their personal lives.
If macroevolution ever occurred, there should be millions of transitional fossils, if not billions, documenting the evolution of the various species, including man. Darwin, himself, believed that “the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed, [must] be truly enormous” (1956, p. 292). After well over a century of fossil digging and analyzing the geologic strata, such proof has simply not come forth, and frankly, that truth puts to rest the General Theory ofEvolution. Finding only sporadic, questionable fossils, that even the evolutionary community itself cannot agree upon, only further proves the fact that evolutionary theory is inadequate in explaining what is seen in the fossil record. The evolutionary community is in constant chaos and disagreement over fossils and the fossil record. If the evolutionary community cannot agree with itself, how can the student, listener, or reader be expected to believe what they allege?
One of the two sets of allegedly two-million-year-old bones from
Australopithecus sediba found in South Africa
Years ago, many in the evolutionary community began to reject all australopithecines, which would include sediba, as being ancestral to man at all. Lord Solly Zuckerman, the famous British anatomist who studied australopithecines for over 15 years, concluded that if man did descend from an ape-like ancestor, he did so “without leaving any fossil traces of the steps of the transformation” (1970, p. 64). The late evolutionist, Ashley Montagu, said, “[T]he skull form of all australopithecines shows too many specialized and ape-like characters to be either the direct ancestor of man or of the line that led to man” (1957, emp. added). Based largely on the nature of Orrorin tugenensis teeth, Martin Pickford, evolutionary geologist from the College de France in Paris, and Brigitte Senut, French evolutionary paleontologist of France’s National Museum of Natural History, believe that all australopithecines should be placed in a side branch of the “evolutionary tree” leading to Orrorin tugenensis and dying out 1.5 million years ago, rather than in the evolutionary line leading to Homo sapiens (cf. Senut, et al., 2001; Balter, 2001; Schuster, 2001).  If it be the case that the australopithecines do not lead to man—and it is—then Australopithecus sediba is totally irrelevant in a discussion of human evolution altogether, regardless of the media hype.
Time will tell whether the majority of evolutionists themselves deem this new find to be of importance to them, but regardless, the truth will still stand firm: if evolution is true, it should not be so hard to verify it. If atheistic explanations for the origin of the Universe were true, we should be witnessing the spontaneous generation of life and matter all over the place, or at least once somewhere, as well as witnessing transitions between kinds of living organisms. But true science simply does not support such things. [NOTE: See Butt, 2010 for more on Australopithecus sediba]


Balter, Michael (2001), “Early Hominid Sows Division,” ScienceNOW, February 22, http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2001/02/22-03.html.
Balter, Michael (2010), “Candidate Human Ancestor from South Africa Sparks Praise and Debate,” Science, 328[5975]:154-155, April.
Butt, Kyle (2010), “Australopithecus Sediba: Another Relative We Never Had,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=2872.
Darwin, Charles (1956 edition), The Origin of Species (London: J.M. Dent & Sons).
Harrub, Brad and Bert Thompson (2003), The Truth About Human Origins (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Montagu, Ashley (1957), Man: His First Two Million Years (Yonkers, NY: World Publishers).
Pickering, Robyn, Paul H.G.M. Dirks, Zubair Jinnah, Darryl J. de Ruiter, Steven E. Churchill, Andy I.R. Herries, Jon D. Woodhead, John C. Hellstrom, and Lee R. Berger (2011), “Australopithecussediba at 1.977 Ma and Implications for the Origins of the Genus Homo,” Science, 333[6048]:1421-1423, September 9.
Potter, Ned (2011), “Evolutionary ‘Game Changer’: Fossil May Be Human Ancestor,” ABC News, September 8, http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/fossils-south-africa-called-evolutionary-game-changer/story?id=14474976#.TmouXw8wezs.email.
Schuster, Angela M.H. (2001), “Special Report: Ancient Ancestors?” Archaeology, 54[4]:24-25, July/August.
Senut, Brigitte, Martin Pickford, Dominique Gommery, Pierre Mein, Kiptalam Cheboi, Yves Coppens (2001), “First Hominid From the Miocene,” Comptes Rendus de l’Academie des Science, Series IIA-Earth and Planetary Science, 332[2]:137-144, January 30.
Thompson, Bert and Brad Harrub (2002), “No Missing Links Here…,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=9&article=1353.
Thompson, Bert, Brad Harrub, and Eric Lyons (2002), “Human Evolution and the ‘Record of the Rocks,’” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=9&article=153.
Zuckerman, Solly (1970), Beyond the Ivory Tower (New York: Taplinger).

Deconstructing the Establishment Clause by Kevin Cain, J.D.


Deconstructing the Establishment Clause
by Kevin Cain, J.D.

[Editor’s Note: The following article was written by A.P. auxiliary staff writer, Kevin Cain, who holds degrees from Freed-Hardeman University (B.S., M.Min.) and the Doctor of Jurisprudence from South Texas College of Law. A former Briefing Attorney of The First Court of Appeals, his current practice focuses on litigation at the trial and appellate levels in both State and Federal Courts.]
One wonders whether the Founding Fathers ever envisioned the intense...at times, malevolent...discourse these simple, instructive words would evoke throughout the land for over 200 years. Should “In God We Trust” be removed from our currency? Should the opening of Court not begin with an incantation to God to “save the United States and this Honorable Court”? Indeed, should reference to an awareness of God be stricken from the federal Constitutional oath of office? Or from the revered Declaration of Independence? Where does the injunction of the First Amendment lead us? (Doe v. Tangipahoa..., 2009).
I was in my car listening to a talk radio program where the subject of the day was the “separation of church and State.” The callers’ opinions were all across the board from the far left to the far right and everything in between. One gentleman finally called in and had the nerve to assert that the First Amendment nowhere contains the phrase “separation of church and State.” And then the fireworks began. Caller after caller (including the host) blasted this neophyte for claiming the First Amendment did not contain this purported phrase.
In reality, the First Amendment has two religious clauses. It states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (Bill of Rights, 1789, emp. added). The first clause is known as the Establishment Clause, and the second is known as the Free Exercise Clause. Not only is the phrase “separation of church and State” conspicuously absent from this short sentence we call the First Amendment, but it is not anywhere to be found in the entire Constitution of the United States (nor in any law passed by Congress).


Why is it, then, that so many people mistakenly, yet sincerely, believe that this phrase is somewhere found within the First Amendment? More importantly, why do so many believe that this phrase means that the government can have no involvement in religion or recognition of God in any form whatsoever? The origin of this phrase can be traced back to an 1802 letter penned by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association. The Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut wrote a letter to President Thomas Jefferson expressing concern over their lack of state constitutional protection of religious liberty and against a government establishment of religion. Specifically, the Danbury Baptists stated in their letter to President Jefferson, “Our Sentiments are uniformly on the side of Religious Liberty—That Religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals—That no man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious Opinions—That the legitimate Power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor” (“Danbury Baptist...,” 1801). The Danbury Baptists were concerned that a religious majority might establish a state religion at the expense of the liberties of religious minorities.
Thomas Jefferson responded by letter dated January 1, 1802. He agreed with the Danbury Baptists’ views on religious liberty and the separation of civil government from involvement with religious doctrine and practice. Jefferson wrote: “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State” (“Jefferson’s Letter...,” 1802, emp. added). Jefferson’s statement regarding “a wall of separation between Church & State” was a mere recognition that the government would not endorse or back a single religious group to the detriment of other Christian sects. However, the use of that phrase today bears no relation to what President Jefferson meant when he penned those words in 1802.


Many take the view that the Framers of the First Amendment intended for the government to be completely detached from any religious activity and neutral in all religious matters. In other words, they equate the phrase “separation of church and State” with absolute refusal by the government not only to engage in any religious activity, but also to passively allow any religious activity in the public sphere. This interpretation is far removed from the context or meaning of the phrase coined by Jefferson in 1802, much less the First Amendment.
To understand what the First Amendment does and does not mean, it would be helpful to look to the writings and religious/political sentiments expressed by the author and primary proponent of the First Amendment. James Madison submitted the original draft of the First Amendment to Congress, and Thomas Jefferson was one of the key supporters of the First Amendment.
It is clear from Madison’s own writings that he was concerned with the union of church and State as was prevalent in Europe at that time. The First Amendment was designed to prevent the government from joining forces with a particular religious organization as a government-endorsed religion. This can be seen in the original proposed draft of the First Amendment submitted by Madison. “The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed” (Wallace v. Jaffree, 1985, emp. added). “[Madison’s] original language ‘nor shall any national religion be established’ obviously does not conform to the ‘wall of separation’ between church and State idea which latter-day commentators have ascribed to him” (Wallace v. Jaffree, 1985). Ironically, when the original draft of the First Amendment was later revised and debated in the House on August 15, 1789, Representative Peter Sylvester of New York expressed his dislike for the revised version, because it might have a tendency “to abolish religion altogether” (Wallace v. Jaffree, 1985). However, Madison stated during this debate that “he apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience, or that one sect might obtain a pre-eminence, or two combined together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform” (Annals of Congress, 1789, 1:758). While the Supreme Court has never adopted this interpretation of the Establishment Clause, this is the exact meaning articulated by its own author, James Madison. After reviewing this same historical context of the Establishment Clause, Chief Justice Rehnquist concluded:
It seems indisputable from these glimpses of Madison’s thinking, as reflected by actions on the floor of the House in 1789, that he saw the Amendment as designed to prohibit the establishment of a national religion, and perhaps to prevent discrimination among sects. He did not see it as requiring neutrality on the part of government between religion and irreligion (Wallace v. Jaffree, 1985).
Moreover, James Madison was a religious man who strongly believed that all public officials and governmental leaders should publicly profess their belief in Christianity:
I have sometimes thought there could not be a stronger testimony in favor of religion or against temporal enjoyments, even the most rational and manly, than for men who occupy the most honorable and gainful departments and [who] are rising in reputation and wealth, publicly to declare their unsatisfactoriness by becoming fervent advocates in the cause of Christ; and I wish you may give in your evidence in this way (“Madison Letter...,” 1773, emp. added).
Madison was also one of the drafters who passed the Virginia Constitution, which carries the phrase, “It is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other” (The Proceedings of..., 1776, p. 103). Simply put, Madison was a strong believer that governmental leaders, legislators, and even legislation should recognize and espouse submission to Christ.
In his first inaugural address, James Madison recognized that the destiny and prosperity of a nation are directly linked to the blessings and guidance given by God.
In these my confidence will under every difficulty be best placed, next to that which we have all been encouraged to feel in the guardianship and guidance of that Almighty Being whose power regulates the destiny of nations, whose blessings have been so conspicuously dispensed to this rising Republic, and to whom we are bound to address our devout gratitude for the past, as well as our fervent supplications and best hopes for the future (Madison, 1809).
In other words, Madison subscribed to the position that religion should have a place in the role of government. Moreover, Madison expressed a clear belief that the fate of a government was intertwined with its dependence upon and relationship with God.
Thomas Jefferson was also outspoken and clear in his opposition to a church-sponsored religion that superimposed its will on the people. Jefferson stated that he was unequivocally opposed to the government endorsing a state or national religion, much like the system that so many of our Founding Fathers left behind in England. “I am for freedom of religion, and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendency of one sect over another” (Jefferson, 1799). Jefferson was especially opposed to Roman Catholicism and any manifestation of entanglement of church and State where the church assumes the role of civil government. “But a short time elapsed after the death of the great reformer of the Jewish religion [i.e., Jesus—KC], before his principles were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants [i.e., Roman Catholicism, for which Jefferson had little tolerance], and perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, and aggrandizing their oppressors in Church and State” (Jefferson, 1810).
Jefferson was not an enemy of religion; rather, he embraced and promoted religion. In his first inaugural address, Jefferson, like Madison, linked national prosperity to a national dependence on God and religion:
Let us, then, ...enlightened by a benign religion, professed, indeed, and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man; acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter—with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? (Jefferson, 1801).
In his second inaugural address, Jefferson made similar statements, but with a clearer endorsement of the God of the Bible:
I shall need, too, the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our forefathers, as Israel of old, from their native land, and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life; who has covered our infancy with his providence, and our riper years with his wisdom and power; and to whose goodness I ask you to join with me in supplications, that he will so enlighten the minds of your servants, guide their councils, and prosper their measures, that whatsoever they do, shall result in your good, and shall secure to you the peace, friendship, and approbation of all nations (Jefferson, 1805).
Simply put, Jefferson publically called upon the God of the Israelites and the God of the Bible, and likewise called upon the citizenry of this country to pray to that same God. This is clearly not the wall of separation that so many have misconstrued from Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists. Jefferson did not state we should all go home and privately pray to the supreme being of our choice. Rather, Jefferson used the office of the President of these United States to direct this nation to call upon the God of the Bible in prayer to beseech the blessings and guidance of the one true God. Whatever that “wall of separation” may be, it is certainly not what so many scholars and citizens presume it to mean today.
Interestingly, at about this same time in history when the First Amendment was ratified (December 15, 1791), the United States government was engaged in numerous acts that many would presume to be unconstitutional today under a contemporary interpretation of the First Amendment. However, these governmental actions simply demonstrate that Congress did not intend for the First Amendment to be a literal wall of separation between church and State.
The Northwest Ordinance, passed by Congress in 1789, provided that “[r]e­li­gion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged” (1789, 1:52). Like Madison and Jefferson in their inaugural addresses, Congress also drew a direct link between religion and government and recognizing that government and proper education cannot stand without religion and morality.
On the day after the House of Representatives voted to adopt the final version of the First Amendment Establishment Clause, Representative Elias Boudinot proposed a resolution asking the President to issue a Thanksgiving Day Proclamation to “recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God” (Annals of Congress, 1789, 1:949). This resolution was passed on September 25, 1789. Within two weeks, George Washington responded:
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us (Washington, 1789).
Likewise, in President Washington’s farewell address in 1796, he declared:
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness.... The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them (1796, emp. added).
President Washington made clear that a government cannot exist without “religion and morality.” These events and actions of the government, near the time the Establishment Clause was enacted, demonstrate that the First Amendment was not designed to extract all religion from the government. To the contrary, the political leaders of the day, the Framers, congressmen, and even the Presidents surrounding the time the Establishment Clause was passed, were clear advocates for governmental endorsement of religion in general, and Christianity in particular.
Contrast the language and endorsement of religion from Washington, Madison, and Jefferson (and nearly every President that followed) with the state of the First Amendment today. Presidents Washington, Madison, and Jefferson used the federal office of the President to persuade the people to submit to the moral guidelines of the Bible and pray to the God of the Bible. Compare that with the United States Supreme Court which held in 1985 that a public school could not allow a moment of silence for students to pray to the supreme being of their choice (Wallace v. Jaffree, 1985). What has happened in our national history that we have devolved from a point in time where our highest ranking national leader could actively promote prayer and submission to the God of the Bible, but today schools cannot passively even allow a moment of silence at the start of the day? As Justice Rehnquist stated in his dissent in Wallace v. Jaffree: “It is impossible to build sound constitutional doctrine upon a mistaken understanding of constitutional history, but unfortunately the Establishment Clause has been expressly freighted with Jefferson’s misleading metaphor for nearly 40 years” (1985).


From this simple phrase, “separation of church and State,” much has been presumed and contorted to satisfy the trends and leanings of our culture. When a straightforward application of the First Amendment does not reach the desired result, obscure and complicated tests are fashioned to bewilder and lead to a conclusion that unassuming and sober-minded people would never reach. A multi-pronged and amorphous test can allow anyone to reach whatever conclusion they desire. This dilemma is especially true when looking at the judicial application of the Establishment Clause in the last 50 years.
Over the years, the United States Supreme Court has fashioned several tests when scrutinizing the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. There is much debate about whether all these tests are still viable, whether one test overrules another, or whether the tests are merely fact-specific as to their application. One thing is clear: these tests do not reflect the sentiment of the Founding Fathers and the states that drafted, supported, and passed this amendment into law.
It is no surprise that media sources, entertainers, academia, and the government have veered further to the left, and grown more liberal and tolerant in the arena of morality. Unfortunately, courts have likewise followed the same path, reflecting the same liberal trends we see in every other facet of contemporary culture. While many who misinterpret the First Amendment clamor for freedom of religion, they have actually traveled down a path toward freedom from religion, which eventually results in hostility toward religion. Likewise, courts’ interpretations of the Establishment Clause have moved in a direction that is more offensive and antagonistic toward religion (or, at a minimum, allows others to superimpose irreligion over religion).
This simple language known as the Establishment Clause has spawned a flurry of judicially created tests and paradigms that further confuse and muddy the waters of the religious/political landscape. Rather than providing a reasoned interpretation leading to predictable results, these tests serve as the springboard to allow courts to manipulate the outcome of a case when applying the Establishment Clause—an amendment whose meaning was once clear and obvious. However, when a test only serves to further confuse and create more questions than it answers, its usefulness is short-lived, and its purpose is suspect at best.


The first Establishment Clause test created by the United States Supreme Court is a three-part analysis often referred to as the Lemon test. The Lemon test derives its name from the 1971 case styled Lemon v. Kurtzman, in which the Court ruled that a state program providing aid to religious elementary and secondary schools violated the Establishment Clause (Lemon v. Kurtzman, 1971). Under the Lemon test, a court must (1) determine whether the law or government action in question has a bona fide secular purpose; (2) determine whether the state action has the primary effect of advancing or inhibiting religion; and (3) consider whether the action excessively entangles religion and government. These criteria are sometimes referred to respectively as the (1) “effects” prong, (2) the “purpose” prong, and (3) the “entanglement” prong. There is a lack of consensus as to how this test is to be applied. Are courts required to satisfy all three prongs, or do they merely balance these factors? Are all elements needed, or are only some needed, and if so, which elements are required and which are discretionary? Moreover, there is a question as to whether the Lemon test is still good law today, or has it been effectively overruled by the many other tests subsequently created by the United States Supreme Court.


In 1997, the United States Supreme Court appeared to modify the Lemon test in Agostini v. Felton. The Court combined the last two elements of the Lemon test, using only the purpose prong and a modified version of the effects prong (Agostini v. Felton, 1997). The Agostini Court delineated three principal criteria to determine whether government action has the primary effect of advancing religion: (1) government indoctrination, (2) defining the recipients of government benefits based on religion, and (3) excessive entanglement between government and religion (1997). In other words, we started with a three-pronged test which has now been modified into a two-pronged test by integrating two of the original prongs and adding a new three-part inquiry to help explain the new prong. Anyone confused yet? But the tests do not stop here.


The “coercion test” owes its genesis to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s dissent in County of Allegheny v. ACLU. Under the coercion test, the government violates the Establishment Clause if it (1) provides direct aid to religion in a way that would tend to establish a state church, or (2) coerces people to support or participate in religion against their will (County of Allegheny v. ACLU, 1989). What would or would not coerce a person is the subject of great debate among scholars and judges, and is clearly a highly subjective standard. However, the coercion test is more strictly applied when involving grades K through 12. In Lee v. Weisman, the Supreme Court observed that “there are heightened concerns with protecting freedom of conscience from subtle coercive pressure in the elementary and secondary public schools” (1992). However, Lee v. Weisman also illustrates the subjectivity and lack of predictability when applying the coercion test. In that case, Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, and Justice Scalia wrote a dissent. Both justices are professed devout Catholics and former altar boys. Both applied the same coercion test and came to opposite results: Justice Kennedy found that the prayer at issue in that case violated the Establishment Clause, while Justice Scalia found that the same prayer did not violate the Establishment Clause (1992). Given this lack of clarity, it seems only judicially natural that another ambiguous test should be crafted to further confuse and bewilder the legal landscape regarding the Establishment Clause.


Under Justice Sandra Day O’­Connor’s “endorsement test,” government action violates the Establishment Clause if it amounts to an “endorsement of religion” (Lynch v. Donnelly, 1984). Under the endorsement test, government action or legislation is invalid if it creates a perception in the mind of a “reasonable observer” that the government is either endorsing or disapproving of religion. Justice O’Connor wrote: “The Establishment Clause prohibits government from making adherence to a religion relevant in any way to a person’s standing in the political community” (1984). A person is coerced under the coercion test “when the government conveys ‘a message to non-adherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community’” (1984). The endorsement test is often applied when the government is actively expressing itself, such as graduation prayers, religious signs on government property, and religion in school curriculum. As expected, there is considerable disagreement as to what constitutes a “reasonable observer” under the endorsement test. Apparently, the reasonable observer is whatever the judge decides this hypothetical person to be. As such, the reasonable observer will vary from judge to judge. However, does the reasonable observer vary based on the jurisdiction? For example, the “reasonable observer” in Muscle Shoals, Alabama will be quite different from the “reasonable observer” in San Francisco, California. Moreover, on what basis is the decision made that the observer in Muscle Shoals is unreasonable, other than the superimposed, yet subjective, opinion of a judge who unilaterally decides that to be the case? With more questions and more unresolved issues, surely another test or two is called for.


The concept of neutrality in Establishment Clause decisions requires that the government neither be an ally nor an adversary of religion. This analysis (not so much a formal test as a relaxed analysis) is often applied in cases involving funding or some form of aid given to religious organizations or schools (Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 2002; Mitchell v. Helms, 2000). The focus in this approach is an inquiry into the individual’s or institution’s control over the funds and equal treatment between religious and non-religious groups.


This test, if it can, in fact, be called a “test,” originates from the case of Marsh v. Chambers.After observing the extensive history of government-paid chaplains and legislative prayer, the United States Supreme Court concluded: “In light of the unambiguous and unbroken history of more than 200 years, there can be no doubt that the practice of opening legislative sessions with prayer has become part of the fabric of our society” (Marsh v. Chambers, 1983). It is disputed as to whether this is actually a test or, rather, a mere anomaly in Supreme Court jurisprudence, or a unique application of one of the other Establishment Clause tests. Nevertheless, the United States Supreme Court held that prayer to open the Nebraska Legislative Session was not unconstitutional because of its long history. As such, the Court ruled that this practice was a part of the fabric of America and, hence, did not violate the Establishment Clause (1983). According to the logic of Marsh v. Chambers, if a practice was instituted a long time ago, the initiators of this practice must have had a secular or non-religious purpose in mind, but if the practice is more recent, the instigators clearly had a religious purpose in mind. This amorphous and backwards approach would presume that Americans are becoming more and more religious, in spite of every secular indicator to the contrary.


At this point in our analysis, the words of Festus come to mind, when he shouted, “Paul, you are beside yourself. Much learning is driving you mad!” (Acts 26:24). While Paul was clearly not insane, but was speaking words that were reasonable and true (vs. 25), “reason” and “truth” are not the words that come to mind when surveying the dizzying array of Establishment Clause tests that courts have concocted to reflect the leanings and trends of our contemporary culture. While sifting through all this madness—these tests, multiple elements, sub-elements, and new tests—it now becomes clear how we have digressed from a simple, straightforward Establishment Clause with a clear original purpose and history, and how we now find ourselves living in an age where the government has not only sterilized itself from all Christian religion, but is even hostile and adverse toward Christianity. Scholarly smokescreens, guised in complex and multifarious tests created over an extended period of time, hope to eventually erase history and overrule the original intent of constitutional language.
It is important to know the many tests that courts have contrived in an effort to further estrange and remove religion from our government, communities, schools, and way of life. We should be familiar with these tests so that we can combat those who try to use them to justify their anti-religious views. We should combat them with the historical context of our Founding Fathers, even the authors of the First Amendment itself. Without this knowledge, some people may even be convinced that phrases like “separation of church and State” are actually found somewhere in the pages of our Constitution. Rewriting history is a deceptive and popular way to persuade people. While it is obviously inconsistent and insincere to close one’s eyes to reality and history, it is not without precedent. As George Orwell described it:
And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became the truth. “Who controls the past” ran the Party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present controls the past” (1949, Part 1, Chapter 3).
Or, as Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany under Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, put it:
If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State (1941).
We should be aware of the historical context and proper meaning of the First Amendment. We should also be aware of the alleged “arguments” and “legal tests” that have mutated over the years, allowing courts to confuse and delude people into an interpretation and application of the First Amendment that would be unrecognizable to its framers.


Annals of Congress (1789), [On-line], URL: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lwac.html.
Agostini v. Felton, 521 U.S. 203 (1997).
Bill of Rights (1789), The National Archives, [On-line], URL:http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights.html.
Constitution of the United States (1789), [On-line], URL:http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution.html.
County of Allegheny v. ACLU, 492 U.S. 573 (1989).
“Danbury Baptist Association’s Letter to Thomas Jefferson” (1801), October 7, [On-line], URL:http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/dba_jefferson.html.
Doe v. Tangipahoa Parish School Bd., WL 1789425, F.Supp.2d (E.D. La., 2009).
Goebbels, Joseph (1941), Die Zeit ohne Beispiel (Munich: Zentralverlag der NSDAP), [On-line], URL: http://thinkexist.com/quotes/joseph_goebbels/.
Jefferson, Thomas (1799), “Letter to Elbridge Gerry, January 26, 1799,” [On-line], URL:http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/jeff1055.html.
Jefferson, Thomas (1801), “First Inaugural Address,” The Avalon Project at Yale Law School, [On-line], URL: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/jefinau1.asp.
Jefferson, Thomas (1805), “Second Inaugural Address,” The Avalon Project at Yale Law School, [On-line], URL: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/jefinau2.asp.
Jefferson, Thomas (1810), Letter to Samuel Kercheval, January 19, 1810,” Image 530, The Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1. General Correspondence. 1651-1827, Library of Congress, [On-line], URL: http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=mtj1&fileName=mtj1page044.db&recNum=529&itemLink=%2Fammem%2Fcollections%2Fjefferson_papers%2Fmtjser1.html&linkText=6.
“Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists” (1802), January 1, Library of Congress, [On-line], URL: http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/9806/danpre.html.
Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992).
Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971).
Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668 (1984).
Madison, James (1809), “First Inaugural Address, Saturday, March 4,” [On-line], URL:http://www.bartleby.com/124/pres18.html.
“Madison Letter to Bradford” (1773), The RJ&L Religious Liberty Archive, September 25, [On-line], URL: http://churchstatelaw.com/historicalmaterials/8_7_1.asp.
Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783 (1983).
Mitchell v. Helms, 530 U.S. 793 (2000).
Northwest Ordinance (1789), Statutes at Large, Library of Congress, [On-line], URL:http://rs6.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llsl&fileName=001/llsl001.db&recNum=175.
Orwell, George (1949), 1984, [On-line], URL: http://www.george-orwell.org/1984.
The Proceedings of the Convention of Delegates, Held at the Capitol in the City of Williamsburg, in the Colony of Virginia, on Monday the 6th of May, 1776 (1776), (Williamsburg, VA: Alexander Purdie).
Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985).
Washington, George (1789), “The Thanksgiving Proclamation” in The Papers of George Washington, [On-line], URL:http://gwpapers.virginia.edu/documents/thanksgiving/transcript.html.
Washington, George (1796), “Farewell Address,” The Avalon Project at Yale Law School, [On-line], URL: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/washing.asp.
Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 536 U.S. (2002).