"THE EPISTLE TO THE PHILIPPIANS" Making Good Out Of Ill (1:12-18) INTRODUCTION 1. As we continue our study, we should really begin to appreciate the statement that "this epistle is like a window into the apostle's own bosom." 2. We have already seen Paul's FONDNESS for the saints at Philippi, as expressed in his thanksgiving (1:3-8) and prayer (1:9-11) 3. In this lesson, we shall see Paul's JOY, despite circumstances which would cause most people to be despondent 4. The title of this lesson is "Making Good Out Of Ill", for this is what Paul did, as we find in our text (1:12-18) [Notice first, that Paul was "Making Good Out Of Ill", even...] I. IN IMPRISONMENT (12-14) A. PAUL INFORMS THEM OF THE PROGRESS OF THE GOSPEL (12) 1. The Philippians were aware of Paul's circumstances - cf. Php 4:14 2. Yet he does not want them to be overly concerned a. For he had "good news" - not bad news! b. The "gospel" was still being spread! 3. Now, Paul could have looked at the bad side of his situation... a. His own imprisonment b. His restriction in travel 4. But Paul looked at life from the viewpoint of the gospel... a. If the gospel was spreading, it was "good news"! b. And his imprisonment was actually INCREASING the progress of the gospel! [How? Let's read on...] B. THERE WERE SERMONS IN HIS CHAINS (13) 1. Being under "house arrest" (cf. Ac 28:30-31) constantly made reference to the cause of Jesus Christ a. He was not there for normal reasons (e.g., crimes) b. So his situation naturally sparked interest and discussion 2. In this way, the message of the gospel was being made known to "the whole palace guard" a. Most likely the emperor's own guards, who were put in charge of special prisoners awaiting their appeal before Caesar b. Though allowed some freedom, Paul was still under constant guard - cf. Ac 28:16 c. But these guards were also under the constant influence of Paul and the gospel! 1) They could not help overhearing what Paul taught others! - again cf. Ac 28:30-31 2) It is almost certain Paul would have tried to teach his "captive audience" (those soldiers chained to him) d. So it is possible that some of them were converted (for they would be included of those "who are Caesar's household" - cf. Php 4:22) 3. The message was also being spread "to all the rest" a. Perhaps by word of mouth b. And by visitation - again cf. Ac 28:30-31 4. And so, Paul could see "good out of ill"! a. Being in protective custody gave him free rein to preach the gospel to guards and his visitors! b. But he saw even more "good out of ill"... C. HIS EXAMPLE WAS PROMPTING OTHERS TO ACTION (14) 1. His imprisonment caused most brethren to be more confident and bold themselves a. They saw that HE was at liberty to teach, "with all confidence, no one forbidding him" (Ac 28:31) b. That prompted THEM to "speak the word without fear" (Php 1: 14) 2. So the gospel was being spread, and to Paul, that's GOOD news! [There is an application for us to make today, but before we do so, let's notice another example of how Paul was "making good out of ill", even...] II. IN PERSECUTION (15-18) A. SOME WERE PREACHING TO HURT PAUL (15a,16) 1. Such individuals were motivated by "envy","strife", and "selfish ambition" 2. They thought they could add affliction to Paul's chains 3. These individuals could either be "Judaizers" or jealous church leaders B. BUT WE SEE PAUL'S CONQUERING JOY SHINING THROUGH THE GLOOM (15b, 17-18) 1. First, because he did not lose sight of those preaching out of "love" and "goodwill" a. Those who knew Paul was imprisoned because of the gospel b. Those who knew their preaching would increase the gospel and thus encourage Paul c. And so, Paul did not fall into the trap of "self-pity" and "despair" so common among preachers 1) Who when persecuted, think they are the only ones who are faithful 2) Who when persecuted, lose sight of the faithful because of the unfaithful 2. Secondly, because he could see those seeking to persecute him were inadvertently spreading the gospel! - Php 1:18 a. Though in pretense, though from envy and strife, Christ was still being preached! b. And since "preaching Christ and Him crucified" was Paul's main purpose in life (cf. 1Co 2:2), he could find cause to rejoice even when Christ was preached by those who meant him harm! [So we see how Paul was "Making Good Out Of Ill", even in imprisonment and in persecution. What applications can we make from this today?] III. DRAWING SOME APPLICATIONS FROM THIS TEXT A. UNDERSTANDING THE "KEY" TO "MAKING GOOD OUT OF ILL"... 1. For Paul, it was making the proclamation of Jesus Christ his goal, his purpose in life, his highest joy! 2. So it can be for us! If we do the same... a. We can experience a joy greater than any other (just as John did - cf. 3Jn 4) b. We can "make good out ill" in just about any circumstances, for example... 1) Hospital confinement (as we communicate the gospel in both word and life to those ministering to our needs) 2) Difficult situations at work, with family, and even with the church (as we demonstrate the impact the gospel can have in dealing with these problems) 3) Even in death and dying (as we will learn more about in our next lesson) 3. If we make magnifying Christ our primary focus in life, we can ALWAYS "make good out of ill"! B. TAKE HEART KNOWING THAT GOD CAN USE "IMPERFECT" TEACHERS... 1. Many get discouraged by all the "false teachers" we see on TV and hear on radio, etc. a. But much of their error is interspersed with some truth b. God is able to use them to lead others who are seeking the truth a little closer to His truth c. The false teachers will be held accountable for their error; we can at the least rejoice that to some degree, Christ is preached! 2. Many who would teach others about Christ, hesitate to do so out of fear they may say the wrong thing a. Yet we see in our text that God could use those who were imperfect in motive to proclaim Jesus to others - Php 1:18 b. If God can use those imperfect in "motive", can He not also use those imperfect in "ability"? 1) Paul certainly claimed lack of ability to some degree - cf. 1Co 2:3-4 2) So God can use us, to whatever degree we are able! 3) And wherever we may be lacking, He can use someone else to supplement our efforts! CONCLUSION 1. To put it another way, not only was PAUL "making good out of ill", but GOD is able to "make good out ill"! 2. And so can we, if we like Paul make "preaching Christ" the major focus in life! Do we? Even if you are lost in sin, or a child of God who has strayed away, you can let Christ make good out of your ill circumstances by obeying His gospel...
7 Reasons to Believe in God
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.
Kyle Butt, M.Div.
How can you know that God exists? You can’t see, hear, touch, smell, or taste Him. You can’t weigh Him like you can a five-pound bag of potatoes. You can’t put Him under an electron microscope to show your friends what He looks like on an atomic level. You can’t experiment on Him with probes and scalpels. You can’t take a picture of Him to show your neighbor that He’s not just an imaginary friend. You can’t magically make Him appear in the classroom of an atheistic professor who is challenging anyone to prove that God exists. So how can you know that God exists?
Although atheists contend that God does not exist and agnostics allege that there is a very high probability that He does not exist, theism is the rational belief that there is a God. A sincere pursuer of truth who follows the available evidence will come to the logical conclusion that God exists. Admittedly, this belief in the 21st century is not the result of seeing God’s Spirit or touching His actual essence (cf. John 4:24; Luke 24:39). What we have at our fingertips, however, is a mountain of irrefutable, indirect, credible evidence that testifies on God’s behalf. Consider seven lines of evidence that warrant the conclusion that an eternal, supernatural Creator (God) exists.
1. Matter Demands a MakerNo rational person denies the fact that matter exists. The Universe and every atom that makes it up is a reality. The logical question to ask is, “Where did it all come from?” From the Milky Way to the most-distant galaxy in the Universe—what was the cause? What made matter?
A study of the material Universe reveals that every physical effect must have an adequate antecedent or simultaneous cause (an idea known as the Law of Cause and Effect or the Law of Causality). The American flag that stood erect on the surface of the moon in 1969 was neither eternal nor without a cause. Its existence on the Moon demands a sufficient cause. The robotic rovers that have rolled across the surface of Mars since the early 21st century are the effect of adequate causes. No one believes that they popped into existence from nothing or that they are the result of any number of ridiculous, insufficient causes that could be suggested (e.g., an accidental explosion in a junk yard on Earth sent metal objects spiraling toward Mars that assembled themselves into the robotic rovers). Simply put, all material effects demand adequate causes (see Miller, 2011 for more information).
The obvious problem with this explanation is that even if the Big Bang actually happened (and sound science argues against such a theory—see May, et al., 2003), a person must still explain whence came the “original” ball of matter. It must have an adequate cause. What do some leading atheists and agnostics around the world argue about the cause of matter? Atheistic cosmologist Stephen Hawking stated on national television in 2011, “Nothing caused the Big Bang” (“Curiosity…,” emp. added). In the book The Grand Design that Dr. Hawking co-authored, he and Leonard Mlodinow asserted: “Bodies such as stars and black holes cannot just appear out of nothing. But a whole universe can” (2010, p. 180, emp. added). In 2006, Todd Friel asked Dan Barker, one of America’s leading atheists, “Do you really believe that something came from nothing?” (emp. added). Barker responded with a simple, “Yes” (“Wretched…”).
The observable truth is, however, in nature, matter and energy are neither created nor destroyed. Scientists refer to this fact as the First Law of Thermodynamics. Though evolutionists have alleged that the Universe began with the explosion of a ball of matter several billion years ago, they never have provided a reasonable explanation for the cause of the “original” ball of matter. “Nothing” is not a reasonable explanation. In 2007, the pro-evolutionary New Scientist magazine ran a cover story titled “The Beginning: What Triggered the Big Bang?” in which the publication attempted to explain the origin of the Universe. But consider the last line of the featured article: “[T]he quest to understand the origin of the universe seems destined to continue until we can answer a deeper question: why is there anything at all instead of nothing?” (“The Universe…,” 194:33, emp. added). The implication of such a question is quite clear: if at one time in the past “nothing” existed, then nothing should exist today. A reasonable, naturalistic explanation for the origin of the “original” ball of matter that supposedly led to the Universe does not exist. One of the world’s leading atheists, Richard Dawkins, has basically admitted such.
In a panel discussion in 2012 on Australian national television, Dr. Dawkins was asked “how it is that something as enormous as the universes came from nothing?” Notice what Dawkins admitted: “Of course it’s counterintuitive that you can get something from nothing. Of course common sense doesn’t allow you to get something from nothing. That’s why it’s interesting. It’s got to be interesting in order to give rise to the universe at all. Something pretty mysterious had to give rise to the origin of the universe” (“Q&A...,” emp. added). Indeed, atheism’s explanation for the origin of matter is “not agreeing with what seems right or natural” (“Counterintuitive,” 2014). According to Dawkins’ own admissions, the idea of getting something from nothing in nature defies “common sense.” It is far from “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts” (“Common Sense,” 2014).
What’s more, atheists cannot logically argue that the Universe is eternal. It seems that relatively few scientists even propose an eternal Universe anymore. (In fact, there would be no point in attempting to explain the “beginning” of the Universe in a Big Bang if atheists believed it always existed.) Furthermore, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that matter and energy become less usable over time, has led most scientists to conclude that the Universe has not always existed (else we would be out of usable energy; see Miller, 2013). The fact is, the Universe had a beginning. Alex Vilenkin, cosmologist from Tufts University, pressed this fact in his book titled Many Worlds in One: “It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape: they have to face the problem of acosmic beginning” (2006, p. 176, emp. added).
At one time in the past, the material Universe did not exist. Then, at some point, matter came into existence. But since matter is not eternal and cannot create itself from nothing, then something outside of the material realm must have brought matter into existence.
In short, matter demands a Maker. The evidence clearly indicates that the cause of the Universe is inexplicable without a supernatural Being. Something has to be eternally powerful, but we know it cannot be natural or material. Romans 1:20 says: “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.” Without some type of eternal power, our Universe cannot exist, and the atheistic answer that our Universe created itself from nothing is the furthest thing from either a scientific or a rational explanation.
2. Life Demands a Life GiverLife does not pop into existence from nothing. Neither the puppy at the pound nor the bacteria on the doorknob spontaneously generated. Every scientist, whether theist or atheist, knows this observation to be true.
In biology, one of the most widely recognized laws of science is the Law of Biogenesis. “Biogenesis” is composed of two words—“bio,” which means life, and “genesis,” which means beginning. Thus, this law deals with the beginning of life, and it simply says that in nature life comes only from previous life of its own kind. Over the years, the truthfulness of this law has been documented by thousands of scientists, most notably Louis Pasteur. His work dealt a crushing blow to the notion of spontaneous generation.
In 1933, evolutionist John Sullivan admitted that “it became an accepted doctrine that life never arises except from life. So far as the actual evidence goes, this is still the only possible conclusion” (p. 94, emp. added). Okay, but that was 1933. As we move further into the 20th century the obvious question was “Is it still the only possible conclusion?” What have we learned since the days of Louis Pasteur in the 19th century and John Sullivan in the first half of the 20th century? Observational science has reached the same conclusion experiment after experiment, year after year. The eminent evolutionist George Gaylord Simpson and his colleagues observed that “there is no serious doubt that biogenesis is the rule, that life comes only from other life, that a cell, the unit of life, is always and exclusively the product or offspring of another cell” (1965, p. 144, emp. added). Evolutionist Martin Moe noted that “a century of sensational discoveries in the biological sciences has taught us that life arises only from life” (1981, 89:36, emp. added). More recently, staunch evolutionist Neil Shubin conceded the following in his book titled Your Inner Fish:
I can share with you one true law that all of us can agree upon. This law is so profound that most of us take it completely for granted. Yet it is the starting point for almost everything we do in paleontology, developmental biology, and genetics. This biological “law of everything” is that every living thing on the planet had parents. Every person you’ve ever known has biological parents, as does every bird, salamander, or shark you have ever seen.... To put it in a more precise form: every living thing sprang from some parental genetic information (2009, p. 174).The importance of Shubin’s concession must not be missed. He recognizes that the actual scientific information verifies that life in the natural world must come from previously existing life. Yet he refuses to carry that fact to its proper conclusion: that life could not have sprung from non-living chemicals. Materialistic evolution cannot adequately account for or explain the most basic laws of science, not the least of which is the Law of Biogenesis.
Evolutionist and Harvard University Professor George Wald similarly admitted in an article he wrote titled “The Origin of Life” that there ultimately are two options for life’s origin: (1) spontaneous generation and (2) “the only alternative, to believe in a single, primary act of supernatural creation. There is no third position” (1954, p. 46). Sadly, though “[m]ost modern biologists, having reviewed with satisfaction the downfall of the spontaneous generation hypothesis,” they are “unwilling to accept the alternative belief in special creation” (p. 46). Rather than follow the evidence where it ultimately leads (to a supernatural Creator!), atheists would rather put their confidence in a theory that was disproven long ago. Antony Flew, who for five decades was the world’s leading atheistic thinker, was forced in the end to conclude: “The only satisfactory explanation for the origin of such ‘end-directed, self-replicating’ life as we see on earth is an infinitely intelligent Mind” (2007, p. 132; see Miller, 2012 for more information).
3. Design Demands a DesignerEveryday observation reveals and confirms the obvious fact that complex, functional design demands a designer. Paintings demand painters. Poems demand poets. Architecture demands architects. And on and on we could go. Everyone knows that cars and computers, pianos and projectors all require engineers, technicians, and tuners for them to exist and function properly. But what about the Universe as a whole? Can it be described accurately as “designed”? If so, what could such design imply about its origin?
No honest, informed person can deny that the Universe is extremely fine-tuned and functionally complex. From the Earth’s precise orbit around the Sun to a shorebird’s 15,000-mile yearly migration pattern, literally millions of examples of fine-tuned design in nature could be pondered. But consider just one example involving electrons and protons. The ratio of the mass of an electron to a proton is 1:1836, which means that a proton is 1,836 times more massive than an electron. Even with this mass difference, however, electrons and protons have the same electrical charge. Scientists suggest that if the electrical charge of the electron were altered by one part in 100 billion, our bodies would instantly explode (Barrow and Tipler, 1986, pp. 293, 296). Is such precision indicative of precise design? Most certainly.
The truth is, atheists frequently testify to the “design” in nature. Australian atheistic astrophysicist Paul Davies has admitted that the Universe (which according to atheists is the result of mindless, naturalistic, random processes) is “uniquely hospitable” (2007, p. 30), “remarkable” (p. 34), and “ordered in an intelligible way” (p. 30). He even admitted to the “fine-tuned properties” of the Universe. In a 2008 National Geographic article titled “Biomimetics: Design by Nature,” the word “design” (or one of its derivatives—designs, designed, etc.) appeared no less than seven times in reference to “nature’s designs.” The author, evolutionist Tom Mueller, referred to nature’s “sophistication” and “clever devices” (2008, p. 79) and praised nature for being able to turn simple materials “into structures of fantastic complexity, strength, and toughness” (p. 79). After learning of the uncanny, complicated maneuverability of a little blowfly, Mueller even confessed to feeling the need to regard the insect “on bended knee in admiration” (p. 82). Why? Because of its “mysterious” and “complicated” design. The fact is, as evolutionist Jerry Coyne admitted, “Nature resembles a well-oiled machine…. The more one learns about plants and animals, the more one marvels at how well their designs fit their ways of life” (2009, pp. 1,3).
But how can you get design without purpose, intelligence, and deliberate planning? The first three definitions the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary gives for “design” (noun) are as follows: “1a: a particular purpose held in view by an individual or group…b: deliberate purposive planning… 2: a mental project or scheme in which means to an end are laid down; 3a: a deliberate undercover project or scheme” (“Design,” 2014, emp. added). After defining “design” as a drawing, sketch, or “graphic representation of a detailed plan…,” the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Languagenoted that design may be defined as “[t]he purposeful or inventive arrangement of parts or details” (“Design,” 2000, p. 492, emp. added). A design is preceded by “deliberate purposive planning,” “a detailed plan,” or an “inventive arrangement.” A design is the effect, not of time, chance, and unintelligent, random accidental explosions (what nonsense!), but of the purposeful planning and deliberate actions of an inventor or designer. Literally, by definition, design demands a designer; thus the designed Universe demands a Designer.
Indeed, both honest observation and rational thought should lead every truth-seeking individual to the same conclusion that the psalmist came to 3,000 years ago: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (19:1). “The whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3). Both the heavens and the Earth testify day after day and night after night to anyone and everyone who will listen (Psalm 19:2-4). “Lift up your eyes on high, and see Who has created these things” (Isaiah 40:26).
Since the Universe exhibits complex, functional design, and (by definition) complex, functional design demands a designer, then the Universe must have an intelligent designer. This argument for God is logically sound and observationally true. A person can know (without a doubt) that God exists if for no other reason than that the Universe’s design demands a Designer. “For every house is built by someone, but He Who built all things is God” (Hebrews 3:4).
4. Intelligence Demands an Intelligent CreatorIntelligence is defined as “the capacity to acquire and apply knowledge” (“Intelligence,” 2000, p. 910); “the ability to learn or understand things or to deal with new or difficult situations” (“Intelligence,” 2014). It is not difficult to identify certain things that have some measure of “intelligence,” while recognizing other things that have no intelligence. Man obviously has an extremely high level of intelligence. He has constructed spaceships that he can guide 240,000 miles to the Moon while both the Earth and the Moon are in motion. He has built artificial hearts that can extend the lives of the sick. He continues to construct computers that can process billions of pieces of information a second. He can write poetry, calculate where Mars will be 50 years from the present, and build everything from pianos to PlayStation video game consoles. Man is an intelligent being.
Although there is a great chasm between mankind and the animal kingdom, animals do possess a measure of intelligence. Dogs can learn to sit, stay, roll over, and play dead. Dolphins can learn to jump through hoops on command. Birds can make helpful “tools” from twigs in order to accomplish some basic tasks. A few years ago, two colorful, eight-legged cephalopods, known as cuttlefish, graced the cover of the journal New Scientist. The authors referred to this amazing sea creature as a “sophisticated,” “inventive,” eight-legged “genius” with “intelligence” and a “secret code” (Brooks, 2008).
What humans have consistently observed in nature, however, is that intelligence demands previous intelligence. The reason that humans in the 21st century are intelligent is because our ancestors were intelligent. The reason that animals have some measure of intelligence is due to intelligent creatures that came before them. Dust does not give way to organized dust particles that have “the capacity to acquire and apply knowledge.” Water does not think. The mindless mud that evolutionists contend gave way to intelligent life on Earth is nothing but a delusional tale unsupported by everything we know from observation and experience. Neither “nothing” nor inorganic matter ever produces intelligent creatures. So how did the first intelligent creatures come to inhabit the Universe? Just as the first life demands a supernatural life Giver, so the first intelligent beings demand a self-existent, miracle-working Creator of intelligence.
5. Morality Demands a Moral Law GiverWhy do people generally think that some actions are “right” and some actions are “wrong,” regardless of their subjective opinions? Why do most people believe that it is “evil” or “wicked” (1) for an adult to torture an innocent child simply for the fun of it? (2) for a man to beat and rape a kind, innocent woman? or (3) for parents to have children for the sole purpose of abusing them sexually every day of their lives? Because, as evolutionist Edward Slingerland noted, humans have metaphysical rights—rights that are “a reality beyond what is perceptible to the senses” (“Metaphysical,” 2014)—and “rely on moral values” (as quoted in Reilly, 2007, 196:7). The fact is, most people, even many atheists, have admitted that real, objective good and evil exist.
Although objective morality may be outside the realm of the scientific method, every rational person can know that some actions are innately good, while others are innately evil. Antony Flew and Wallace Matson, two of the leading atheistic philosophers of the 20th century, forthrightly acknowledged the existence of objective morality in their debates with theistic philosopher Thomas B. Warren in the 1970s (see Warren and Flew, 1977; Warren and Matson, 1978). Atheist Michael Ruse admitted in his book Darwinism Defended that “[t]he man who says that it is morally acceptable to rape little children, is just asmistaken as the man who says that 2 + 2 = 5” (1982, p. 275, emp. added). Philosophers Francis Beckwith and Gregory Koukl said it well: “Those who deny obvious moral rules—who say that murder and rape are morally benign, that cruelty is not a vice, and that cowardice is a virtue—do not merely have a different moral point of view; they have something wrong with them” (1998, p. 59, emp. added).
Most rational people do not merely feel like rape and child abuse may be wrong; they are wrong—innately wrong. Just as two plus two can really be known to be four, every rational human can know that some things are objectively good, while other things are objectively evil. However, reason demands that objective good and evil can only exist if there is some real, objective point of reference. If something (e.g., rape) can be legitimately criticized as morally wrong, then there must be an objective standard—“some ‘higher law which transcends the provincial and transient’ which is other than the particular moral code and which has an obligatory character which can be recognized” (Warren and Matson, p. 284).
The fact that humans even contemplate morality testifies to the huge chasm between man and animals and the fact that moral value could not have arisen from animals. Atheistic evolutionists have admitted that morals arise only in humans. George Gaylord Simpson, one of the most recognized atheistic evolutionists of the 20th century, confessed that “[g]ood and evil, right and wrong, concepts irrelevant in nature except from the human viewpoint, become real and pressing features of the whole cosmos as viewed morally because morals arise only in man” (1951, p. 179, emp. added). Atheists admit that people (i.e., even “atheists”) have “their own innate sense of morality” (“Do Atheists…?, n.d.). No rational person makes such admissions about animals. “Humans,” not animals, “rely on moral values” (as quoted in Reilly, 2007, 196:7).
The moral argument for God’s existence exposes atheism as the self-contradictory, atrocious philosophy that it is. Atheists must either reject the truthfulness of the moral argument’s first premise (“If objective moral value exists, then God exists”) and illogically accept the indefensible idea that objective morality somehow arose from rocks and reptiles, or (2) they must reject the argument’s second premise (“Objective moral values exist”), and accept the insane, utterly repulsive idea that genocide, rape, murder, theft, child abuse, etc. can never once be condemned as objectively “wrong.” What’s more, if atheism is true, individuals could never logically be punished for such immoral actions, since “no inherent moral or ethical laws” would exist (Provine, 1988, p. 10).
If there is no God, then there is no objective basis to say that some things are right and others are wrong. Reason demands that objective good and evil can only exist if there is some real, objective reference point outside of nature. The only reasonable answer to an objective moral law for humans is a supernatural, moral law Giver.
6. The Bible’s Supernatural Attributes Demand a Supernatural AuthorChristians do not believe that God exists simply because the Bible teaches that He does, nor do Christians believe that the Bible is the Word of God simply because the Bible claims to be inspired by God. Anyone can make claims about whatever they wish. Simply because a person claims to have revelation from a supernatural Creator does not make it so (e.g., the Book of Mormon; see Miller, 2009). However, if the Bible possesses attributes that are super-human, then the Bible proves itself to be of supernatural origin and has indirectly proven the existence of the supernatural Author. American atheist Dan Barker alluded to the legitimacy of this argumentation for God’s existence in 2009 when he explained that one of the things which could falsify atheism would be if God spoke to man and gave him specific information about future events (see Butt and Barker, pp. 50-51).
Indeed, one extremely valuable line of evidence that confirms that the Bible is the inspired Word of God is the presence of accurate, predictive prophecy contained in its pages. Not only are the prophecies of the Bible fulfilled in minute detail with complete accuracy, but these fulfillments are often accomplished centuries after the prophecies were made. Even the skeptic understands that if this is the case, a supernatural agent must be responsible for the writing of the Bible. That is why the skeptic attempts to discredit the prophecies by claiming that they were written after the events or by claiming that they were not fulfilled in detail. By attempting to disparage the prophecies using these methods, the skeptic admits that if the prophecies were written centuries before the events, and if they are fulfilled in detail, then a supernatural agent is responsible for them. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote: “As for the prophet who prophecies of peace, when the word of the prophet comes to pass, the prophet will be known as one whom the Lord has truly sent” (28:9). Completely accurate, fulfilled prophecy is a characteristic that verifies the divine inspiration of the Bible.
Not only did Isaiah predict that Cyrus would overthrow Babylon, but he also wrote that Cyrus, serving as Jehovah’s “anointed” and “shepherd,” would release the Jews from captivity and assist them in their return to Jerusalem for the purpose of rebuilding the temple. Isaiah's prophecies were recorded almost 200 years before Cyrus conquered Babylon (539 B.C.). Amazing! [NOTE: Secular history verifies that all of these events came true. There really was a man named Cyrus who ruled the Medo-Persian Empire. He did conquer Babylon. And just as Isaiah prophesied, he assisted the Jews in their return to Jerusalem and in the rebuilding of the temple.]
Truly, “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21). And, if men were inspired of God to write the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16), then God exists. In short, the Bible’s supernatural attributes logically demand a supernatural Author (see Butt, 2007 for more information).
7. The Historical, Miracle-Working, Resurrected Jesus Demands a Supernatural ExplanationHuman beings can do many amazing things. They can run 26.2 miles without stopping. They can show remarkable courage in the face of great danger. They can even walk along a tightrope hundreds of feet above the ground. But there are certain actions that are humanly impossible. Humans cannot walk on water unassisted, give sight to the blind, instantly reattach severed ears with only their hands, or raise the dead. If ever such a “man” existed, his life would logically testify to the existence of a supernatural Being.
Atheists understand the rationality of this argument. Dan Barker once said on record, “If Jesus were to materialize” and work any number of miraculous deeds, atheism would be disproven (see Butt and Barker, p. 51), and thus theism would be established as a fact. The truth is, the very proof that Barker and other atheists request was provided 2,000 years ago when God put on flesh and came to Earth in the form of man. And He did not merely claim to be God; He did what a reasonable person could expect if God were ever to prove His divinity on Earth—He fulfilled precise prophecies and worked supernatural miracles, including coming back from the dead Himself. (For more information, see Butt and Lyons, 2006). The life and works of Jesus testify to the existence of a supernatural Being.
ConclusionAtheists are fond of claiming that their way of thinking is logical, reasonable, and intellectual. Yet atheism irrationally says that everything came from nothing. Atheism says that an explosion caused exquisite order. It says that random chances produced precision and that life popped into existence in nature from non-life. Atheism contends that a well-designed Universe could come about without a Designer. Atheism says that fish and frogs are man’s distant forefathers and that intelligence is ultimately the result of non-intelligence. Atheism alleges that either man is on the same moral plane as a moose, or he actually evolved a sense of morality from amoral mice. While trying to convince others he is galloping confidently atop a stallion called Common Sense, atheism stumbles on the back of a donkey called Foolishness.
Theism, on the other hand, is absolutely rational. Why? Because (among other things) (1) matter demands a Maker; (2) life demands a Life Giver; (3) design demands a Designer; (4) intelligence demands an Intelligent Creator; (5) morality demands a Moral Law Giver; (6) the Bible’s supernatural attributes demand a Supernatural Author; and (7) the historical, miracle-working, resurrected Jesus demands a supernatural explanation (which demands God). Indeed, the Christian can say with all confidence, “I know that God exists.” As former atheist Antony Flew so eloquently concluded: “I must say again that the journey to my discovery of the Divine has thus far been a pilgrimage of reason. I have followed the argument where it has led me. And it has led me to accept the existence of a self-existent, immutable, immaterial, omnipotent, and omniscient Being” (2007, p. 155).
REFERENCESBarrow, John D. and Frank Tipler (1986), The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press).
Beckwith, Francis and Gregory Koukl (1998), Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Brooks, Michael (2008), “Do You Speak Cuttlefish?” New Scientist, 198:28-31, April 26.
Butt, Kyle (2007), Behold! The Word of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Butt, Kyle and Eric Lyons (2006), Behold! The Lamb of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Butt, Kyle and Dan Barker (2009), Does the God of the Bible Exist? (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
“Common Sense” (2014), Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/common%20sense.
“Counterintuitive” (2014), Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/counterintuitive.
Coyne, Jerry (2009) Why Evolution is True (New York: Viking).
“Curiosity: Did God Create the Universe?” (2011), Discovery Channel, August 7.
Davies, Paul (2007), “Laying Down the Laws,” New Scientist, 194:30-34, June 30.
“Design” (2000), American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.
“Design” (2014), Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/design.
“Do Atheists Have Morals?” (no date), http://www.askanatheist.org/morals.html.
Flew, Antony and Roy Varghese (2007), There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (New York: Harper Collins).
Hawking, Stephen and Leonard Mlodinow (2010), The Grand Design (New York: Bantam Books).
“Intelligence” (2000), American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.
“Intelligence” (2014), Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/intelligence.
May, Branyon, et al. (2003), “The Big Bang Theory—A Scientific Critique [Parts 1-2],” Reason & Revelation, 23[5-6]:33-47,49-63.
“Metaphysical” (2014), Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/metaphysical.
Miller, Dave (2009), “Is the Book of Mormon from God? [Part 1],” http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=108&article=2787.
Miller, Jeff (2011), “God and the Laws of Science: The Law of Causality,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=3716.
Miller, Jeff (2012), “The Law of Biogenesis [Part 1],” http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=4165&topic=93.
Miller, Jeff (2013), “Evolution and the Laws of Science: The Laws of Thermodynamics,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=2786.
Moe, Martin (1981), “Genes on Ice,” Science Digest, 89:36,95, December.
Mueller, Tom (2008), “Biomimetics: Design by Nature,” National Geographic, 213:68-91, April.
Provine, William (1988), “Scientists, Face It! Science and Religion are Incompatible,” The Scientist, 2:10, September 5, http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/9707/title/Scientists--Face-It--Science-And-Religion-Are-Incompatible/.
“Q&A: Religion and Atheism” (2012), ABC Australia, April 9, http://www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s3469101.htm.
Reilly, Michael (2007), “God’s Place in a Rational World,” New Scientist, 196:7, November 10.
Ruse, Michael (1982), Darwinism Defended: A Guide to the Evolution Controversies (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley).
Shermer, Michael (2006), Why Darwin Matters (New York: Henry Holt).
Shubin, Neil (2009), Your Inner Fish (New York: Vintage Books).
Simpson, George Gaylord (1951), The Meaning of Evolution (New York: Mentor).
Simpson, G.G., C.S. Pittendrigh, and L.H. Tiffany (1965), Life: An Introduction to Biology (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World).
Sullivan, John (1933), The Limitations of Science (New York: Viking Press).
“The Universe Before Ours” (2007), New Scientist, 194:28-33, April 28.
Vilenkin, Alex (2006), Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes (New York: Hill and Wang).
Wald, George (1954), “The Origin of Life,” Scientific American, 191:44-53, August.
Warren, Thomas B. and Antony G.N. Flew (1977), Warren-Flew Debate (Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press).
Warren, Thomas B. and Wallace I. Matson (1978), The Warren-Matson Debate (Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press).
“Wretched: Nothing Made Everything” (2006), http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sK2yNkTuJkY.
Why Christianity? Why the Bible?
|by||Kippy Myers, Ph.D.|
Are religions of the world simply different expressions of the same thing? Is Christianity the counterpart to Hinduism, Islam, or Buddhism, and do these religions merely “complement” one another? Is Allah the same deity as Jehovah, and is Jehovah the same as the Hindu god, Brahman? There are some who think that we are all trying to get to the same place, and simply call God by different names or approach Him in different ways. Thus, in the final analysis, the different approaches are coequal, and therefore equally acceptable to God.
The brief answer to these questions is a simple “no.” These religions are not the same truth in different wrappings. We can discern why by noting some of the radical distinctions at the very heart of these religions that show how completely distinct and unrelated they are. Of course, they have things in common (they are religions, they have deities, they have holy books, etc.), but this does not mean that they are equally efficacious, any more than a book with blank pages is equal to a book filled with good information.
Let me introduce an important term—“ontology.” Ontology refers to something’s being, essence, or nature. It has to do with what makes it what it is even after being stripped of all its unnecessary elements. Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity are different ontologically. When you strip them of their coincidental characteristics and focus on what makes them distinct as religions, they are radically divergent. They are different by their very nature, even in their most basic elements. Their books, their concepts of salvation, and even their deities are wildly different from one another. Let us make a simple beginning by noting a few of their essential differences.
THE BOOKS OF WORLD RELIGIONS
DISASSOCIATE THEMSELVES FROM ONE ANOTHER
The Bible—For example, the New Testament clearly claims to be the only way by which a person can come to God (specifically, one must come through Jesus—John 14:6; 2 John 9; et al.). This establishes solid barriers against all who disagree with the person of Jesus depicted in the gospel accounts. Prior to New Testament times, Judaism carried the same policy. In the Old Testament, God always spoke against pagan religions and their followers. The religions of Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Canaan, Greece, and others are roundly attacked, condemned, and described in great detail as false and devilish.
Obviously, simply calling something “god” and worshipping it does not mean that it is acceptable to the God of the Bible. Jesus said that they who worship God must do so in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Amazing as it may seem to those who think that the God of the Bible approves of other religions, the apostles of Christ even condemned those in the Christian age who were going backward, trying to be saved by the Mosaic law, a religion that unquestionably centered on the same God as Christianity (Galatians 5:4). In addition, they even condemned their own Christian brethren if they were living wrongly (Acts 8:18-23; Galatians 2:11).
Thus, even if the different religions did comprehend the same God, worshipping the same God does not legitimize one’s religion or religious practices according to the Bible since the one true God must be worshipped properly, that is, as the Bible prescribes (Colossians 3:17). The Bible claims to be the uniquely acceptable religion before God, and specifically condemns any other as illegitimate. Whatever we say about Islam and Hinduism’s relationship to Christianity, we cannot say justifiably that biblical Christianity has any affiliation with them. Any superimposition of fellowship between them would be forced and unnatural.
The Koran—The Islamic holy book, the Koran (or Qur’an), claims to be the final word from God. It claims that the Bible was just a step in its direction, so the Koran is further and final revelation (Sura 4:161). Whereas the Bible says that the apostles would be led into all Truth, and although it condemns additional and different alleged revelations as false (e.g., John 16:13; Galatians 1:6-9), the Koran teaches that if a person has only the Bible, it is not enough because then he rejects the greatest prophet of all, Mohammed. Since the Islamic holy book condemns unbelievers, it condemns those who accept only the Bible.
Whereas the Bible says that Jesus was and is God, and is the only way to heaven (Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 5:9), the Koran exalts Mohammed above Jesus. Mohammed explicitly says several times that Jesus was not God, but a prophet and apostle (Sura 5:79; 4:169, et al.). The apostle John, however, calls the teacher of this doctrine “the antichrist” and has a lot to say about his spiritual condition (1 John; 2 John; 3 John).
Speaking of misbelievers (which would most definitely include Hindus) who turn others from the path of God, the Koran says in Sura 13:34, “For them is torment in this world’s life; but surely the torment of the next is more wretched still—nor have they against God a keeper” and “the recompense of misbelievers is the Fire!” (13:35). Also, “Whosoever craves other than Islam for a religion, it shall surely not be accepted from him, and he shall, in the next world, be of those who lose” (Sura 3:79).
Mohammed claimed that his revelations came from God via a Heavenly Book from which all Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian revelations came. The Bible, however, teaches that God is not a God of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), which would be contradicted if all of these conflicting religions came from the same source. The Koran says that Moslems believe what was revealed to Jesus and the prophets, but this is incredible in light of the aforementioned facts in addition to hundreds of others left unmentioned here (Sura 3:78-79). Amazingly, Richardson says in his introduction to the Koran, “the Qur’an often contradicts itself as well as other scriptures. Allah, then, changes his mind and alters the text of the Heavenly Book accordingly (Surah 13:39).” Compare this with Jesus’ statements, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35), and “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).
Hindu Writings—Contradictions between the most basic doctrines of the Bible and the Koran could be multiplied, and the Hindu Vedic literature is widely divergent from these two. As different as they are, the Bible and the Koran have more in common than either has in common with Hindu writings. Vedic materials are something altogether different. The point here is that if the major religious books condemn and contradict one another on such fundamental issues, where does anyone get the idea that they belong together? If we believe any one of them, we must disbelieve the others. They cannot be related unless severely mutilated. They clearly are mutually exclusive. Since they so clearly do not affiliate, which, if any, is the right one?
HISTORICAL EVENTS AND INDIVIDUAL EXPERIENCES
The Bible—In vivid contrast to this approach of having to take one man’s word for an entire religion and basing one’s eternal destiny on one person’s private visions, the Bible is rooted and grounded in objective historical events—things many thousands of people beheld. Its specific times, places, people, and events can be located in history. Archaeology, ancient history, geography, literature, etc., corroborate its details. These give the Bible the ring of authenticity, and tie it to reality outside the mind of any single person or any group of people.
Because of this, the Bible has a beginning, middle, and end. It has a flow, a progression, a unity. It is very orderly and systematic. The Koran, however, is a very disjointed collection of many small apothegms called Suras. This is because Mohammed could not write and did not intend for his revelations to be compiled into a book. Richardson’s introduction to the Koran says, “It was addressed to the ear, not to the critical eye....” However, after Mohammed died and many began to question the legitimacy of his visions, believers gathered together the leaves, potsherds, etc., on which his sayings allegedly had been copied by some of his hearers. Someone later edited them and put them in a book format. Richardson says, “Apart from its preposterous arrangement, the Qur’an is not so much a book as a collection of manifestoes, diatribes, harangues, edicts, discourses, sermons, and such-like occasional pieces. No subject is treated systematically....” It certainly does not appear to be related to an alleged Mother Book from which the Old and New Testaments also were derived. The Koran’s sum and substance is very different from Scripture as Christians know it.
Hindu Writings—The holy literature of Hinduism encompasses many volumes, and is referred to as the Vedic literature. The most widely known is the Bhagavad-Gita, a small section of the much larger section, the Mahabharata—a huge work that has influenced Hinduism profoundly. It allegedly was composed over a period of eight hundred years (400 B.C. to A.D. 400), and supposedly tells the Sanskrit history of the ancient world. But as A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada says in his translation, the Gita is “the essence of Vedic knowledge.”
The high god in Hinduism is Brahman. In a sense, Brahman is the All, the infinitely embracing Everything—ultimate reality. In another sense, Brahman is a god composed of Brahma, Shiva (the one often pictured with four arms), and Vishnu. Each of these three has a basic personality and work. Brahma creates, Shiva destroys, and Vishnu preserves. Each has wives, sons (one of Shiva’s sons is the elephant-headed Ganesha), daughters, and a series of folklore-type adventures. Their consorts also are worshipped, so there is actually an indefinite number of gods. A Hindu expert will tell you that they often use the number 330,000,000 as a convenient way of describing how many are worshipped. The boundaries and eccentricities of Hinduism, therefore, are very loose, and there are many types and sects of Hindus. What ties them together seems to be their belief in Brahman and the pantheon of gods, reincarnation (the idea that after you die you are reborn into another life on Earth), karma (the law which says that if you were bad in this life you will have a difficult life in the next), and the Vedic teachings.
One of Vishnu’s avatars (incarnations) was named Krishna. He has been described as “an impetuous, violent, and erotic figure.” Krishna is the speaker and the hero of the Bhagavad-Gita, in which he is prince of a great dynasty. The Gita’s setting is a battle in which he is involved with relatives who are enemies of his kingdom. There is no way of checking whether these events actually occurred or if this is pure legend, since we have no record of the events outside the Gita itself.
Someone might respond, “But why is it better to be historical and checkable (like the Bible) than to be non-historical (like the Koran or Vedic writings)?” The real issue, of course, is that we believe we must be rational in regard to religion. Does anyone seriously suggest that we be irrational about it? If we are to be irrational, then what is the use of arguing rationally that we must be irrational? Why worry about persuading people that the major religions are all the same if it does not really matter? Actually, all of the world religions attempt to use reason and (with the possible exception of Buddhism) teach their adherents to use their minds in religion. Even though Buddhism tries to get its adherents to a point in meditation where they lose thought and feeling, it uses reason to teach them, to explain itself, and to get them to that point. The point is, should reason and proof be the “engine that pulls our train of life” or not? Should we not require proof for what we believe? If not, that would put us in the position of accepting every person who claimed a divine vision. The Bible both demands proof and provides it (Deuteronomy 18:20; Isaiah 41:21-24; 1 Thessalonians 5:21, et al.).
UNIQUENESS OF INCARNATION
Hindu Writings—In Hinduism, there is no requirement to escape from sin before judgment comes (Hebrews 9:27) because for the Hindu, there is no final judgment day. Rather, the Universe is eternal; we live here forever in different personalities, one lifetime after another. The goal is to gain release from being reincarnated. The incarnation and sacrifice of someone in Jerusalem plays no role at all in Hinduism. Hindus gain release from this cycle through individual observance of ritual, right thinking, and right acting. Everything we get in this life is what we deserve because of the way we lived in past lives (even though we cannot remember our past lives so as to learn to do better in the next one, we still suffer for them). If we are better in each successive life, we will climb the ladder of goodness until we finally achieve release and oneness with divinity and the Universe.
Thus, there is also no unique one-time incarnation of God because the Hindu god, Vishnu, has come in the flesh many times in a number of guises. Vishnu has visited Earth ten times as a deliverer (as Rama, Krishna, et al.). For example, the one to whom the Gita is directed is a warrior named Arjuna. One day Krishna is driving his chariot, and Arjuna says to him, “You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the ultimate abode, the purest, the Absolute Truth. You are the eternal, transcendental, original person, the unborn, the greatest” (10:12-14). In the section “Knowledge of the Absolute” Krishna says, “as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, I know everything that has happened in the past, all that is happening in the present, and all things that are yet to come” (10:26). He elsewhere comments, “This material nature is working under My direction.” Hence, he was allegedly deity in the flesh several times.
The Koran—Islam teaches that Jesus Christ was not deity, but rather one of the great prophets (see previous quotes). His death is not necessitated for redemption, and if He died on the cross at all, its purpose was definitely not to wash away our sins. Moslems believe that salvation is obtained through observance of the “five pillars” of Islam: recite the creed (which is basically, “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet”); pray five times daily while facing the holy city of Mecca; give alms to the poor; fast for an extended period each year; and once in your life make a pilgrimage to Mecca.
RADICALLY DIVERGENT DIVINITY
Hindu gods in their many thousands of representations are commonly worshipped by means of figurines and “idols” that are condemned by both Old and New Testaments (e.g., the first two of the ten commandments—Exodus 2:3-4). One of Mohammed’s primary goals was to condemn and destroy this practice.
Islam also says there is only one member of the godhead, Allah. Christianity preaches a trinity: God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18). Obviously, Christianity and Islam are as opposed to Hinduism on this matter as it is to them.
DECIDING WHICH IS RIGHT
- It claims to be from God. That in itself does not prove its claim, but the claim is something we should look for. Would God send His revelation anonymously?
- It is based in history, not in the subjective experience of one individual. That opens it to being tested. It can be proven or disproven.
- It contains the highest and purest moral teachings. They remain unsurpassed for their simplicity, applicability, and profundity.
- It contains prophecies that are made and fulfilled. They surpass the possibility of human or natural powers to foresee or bring about.
- It has a sublime unity about it in every way—doctrine, progression of thought, story line, theme, details, structure, etc.
- It is accurate in every way—historically, geographically, scientifically, etc. As diligently as skeptics have tried for centuries, there never has been one flaw or contradiction proven to be in the Bible that would establish that it is not what it claims to be. Yet, “to err is human.”
- It contains medical and scientific knowledge ahead of its time. The Bible did not partake of its contemporary medical and scientific ignorance.
- It has had an immeasurably profound impact on the world and always in a positive way whenever faithfully practiced.
- It has the best textual sources of any ancient book. That is, we can trace its history back to its beginnings more accurately, and with greater corroboration, than any major writing of the ancient world.
- It contains a reasonable view of God, man, and truth.
- It is indestructible. Its most powerful, rabid, and scholarly opponents have failed to do away with it.
- It always is current. Last year the Book of the Month Club asked 2,000 of its readers what book most influenced their lives. The Bible was number one.
- It addresses our fundamental questions about why we are the way we are, why suffering exists, where we came from, what our destiny will be, how the Universe began and how it will end, etc.
- It fulfills our spiritual, social, psychological, and emotional needs.
- It is incredibly brief, although it is set forth as a seminal book from the Creator. Men are notorious for their verbosity in such matters.
- It is based on the testimony of thousands of witnesses throughout its history.
- It portrays its heroes, flaws and all. It is unbiased in its treatment of history, unlike works of men praising their heroes.
However, the preceding list includes just a few of the many very significant avenues that should be considered if a person is truly seeking to be open-minded about searching for truth among the world’s alleged books from God.
All religions are not the same. Their most basic doctrines readily contradict the others. However, there is one religion that is based upon a book that provides good reasons to be believed—unity and consistency of thought, high standards of thought and conduct, etc. Which should we believe?
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Kippy Myers holds an M.A. in philosophy and Christian apologetics from Harding Graduate School, an M.A. in philosophy from the University of Dallas, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He is an assistant professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee.]
The Only True God
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
The Bible is full of scriptures that, when quoted without any consideration of the immediate and remote contexts, a person can misuse in all sorts of ways. As proof that we do not have to work to provide for our family’s material needs, some may quote Jesus’ statement, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life” (John 6:27). In order to show that Jesus was a liar, the Bible critic might quote Jesus’ acknowledgement: “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true” (John 5:31). Those who exclude baptism from God’s plan of salvation often quote John 4:2: “Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples.” When the Bible reader is “rightly dividing” (2 Timothy 2:15, NKJV) or “handling accurately the word of truth” (NASB), however, he will remember that “[t]he sum of thy [God’s] word is truth” (Psalm 119:160, emp. added). Since the Bible teaches “if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10; cf. 1 Timothy 5:8), Jesus never implied that working to help feed one’s family is wrong (John 6:27). “He simply was saying that spiritual food is more important than physical food, and as such, should be given a higher priority” (Butt, 2003, emp. in orig.). Jesus did not confess wrongdoing in John 5:31. He simply acknowledged that, in accordance with the law (cf. Deuteronomy 19:15), His testimony apart from other witnesses would be considered invalid or insufficient to establish truth (cf. John 8:13-20; see Lyons, 2004). Likewise, Jesus never taught that baptism was unnecessary for salvation. In fact, He taught the very opposite (cf. John 3:3,5; Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:18-20; see Lyons, 2003).
Consider another proof text from the Gospel of John regarding the nature of Christ. Some (e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses) contend that Jesus was not deity since, on one occasion, He prayed to the Father: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3; cf. “Should You Believe...?,” 2000). Allegedly, by calling the Father, “the only true God,” Jesus excluded Himself from being deity. Such an interpretation of John 17:3, however, contradicts numerous other passages within John’s own gospel account. From beginning to end, John bore witness to the deity of Christ. Some of the evidence from the Gospel of John includes the following:
- In the very first verse of John, the apostle testified: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (emp. added; cf. 1:14,17).
- Two verses later the reader learns that “[a]ll things came into being by Him [the Word], and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:3, NASB).
- Still in the first chapter of John, the apostle testified that John the Baptizer was the one whom Isaiah foretold would “prepare...the way of Jehovah” (Isaiah 40:3; John 1:23; cf. 14:6). For Whom did John the Baptizer come to prepare the way? Isaiah called Him “Jehovah.” The apostle John, as well as John the Baptizer, referred to Jehovah as “Jesus” (John 1:17), “the Christ” (3:28), “the Word” (1:1), “the Light” (1:17), “the Lamb” (1:29), “the Truth” (5:33), etc.
- When the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well told Jesus, “I know that Messiah is coming” (John 4:25), Jesus responded, “I who speak to you am He” (vs. 26). Isaiah foretold that the Messiah would be called “Mighty God” (9:6) and “Jehovah” (40:3). Thus, by claiming to be the Messiah, Jesus was claiming to be God.
- In John chapter nine, Jesus miraculously healed a man with congenital blindness (vs. 1). When this man appeared before various Jews in the synagogue and called Jesus a prophet (vs. 17), he was instructed to “give glory to God,” not Jesus, because allegedly Jesus “is a sinner” (vs. 24). Later, after the man born blind was cast out of the synagogue, he confessed faith in Jesus and worshiped (Greek proskuneo) Him (vs. 38). In the Gospel of John, this word (proskuneo) is found 11 times: nine times in reference to worshiping the Father (John 4:2-24), once in reference to Greeks who came to “worship” in Jerusalem during Passover (12:20), and once in reference to the worship Jesus received from a man whom He had miraculously healed, and who had just confessed faith in Jesus. Indeed, by accepting worship Jesus acknowledged His deity (cf. Matthew 4:10; Hebrews 1:6).
- While at the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, Jesus claimed: “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him” (vs. 31). Why did Jesus’ enemies want to stone Him? The Jews said to Christ: “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God” (vs. 33, emp. added; cf. 5:17-18).
- After Jesus rose from the dead, the apostle Thomas called Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Jesus responded: “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (vs. 29). Notice that Jesus did not deny His deity, rather He acknowledged Thomas’ faith and commended future believers. Believers in what? In that which Thomas had just confessed—that Jesus is Lord and God.
Furthermore, if Jesus’ reference to the Father being “the only true God” somehow excludes Jesus from being deity, then (to be consistent) Jesus also must be disqualified from being man’s Savior. Jehovah said: “Besides me there is no savior” (Isaiah 43:11; cf. Hosea 13:4; Jude 25). Yet, Paul and Peter referred to Jesus as our “Savior” several times in their inspired writings (Ephesians 5:23; Philippians 3:20; 2 Timothy 1:10; 2 Peter 1:1,11; 2:20; etc.). Also, if Jesus is excluded from Godhood (based on a misinterpretation of John 17:3), then, pray tell, must God the Father be excluded from being man’s Lord? To the church at Ephesus, Paul wrote that there is “one Lord” (4:4, emp. added), and, according to Jude 4 (using Jehovah’s Witnesses own New World Translation) “our only Owner and Lord” is “Jesus Christ” (emp. added). Yet, in addition to Jesus being called Lord throughout the New Testament, so is God the Father (Matthew 11:25; Luke 1:32; Acts 1:25) and the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17).
Obviously, when the Bible reveals that there is only one God, one Savior, one Lord, one Creator (Isaiah 44:24; John 1:3), etc., reason and revelation demand that we understand the inspired writers to be excluding everyone and everything—other than the triune God. As former Jehovah’s Witness David Reed explained: “Jesus’ being called our ‘only’ Lord does not rule out the Lordship of the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the Father’s being called the ‘only’ true God does not exclude the Son and the Holy Spirit from deity” (1986, p. 82).
REFERENCESButt, Kyle (2003), “Wearing Gold and Braided Hair,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2264.
Jamieson, Robert, et al. (1997), Jamieson, Faussett, Brown Bible Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Lyons, Eric (2003), “The Bible’s Teaching on Baptism: Contradictory or Complementary?” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/617.
Lyons, Eric (2004), “Was Jesus Trustworthy?” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/516.
Reed, David (1986), Jehovah’s Witnesses Answered Verse by Verse (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
“Should You Believe in the Trinity?” (2000), The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.
Will Science Eventually Kill God?
|by||Jeff Miller, Ph.D.|
Impossible concept, and yet it has captured the attention of the news media of late (e.g., Wolchover, 2012). Will the bulk of society likely tend to continue its movement away from God in the coming years? Probably, since that has historically been the trend, inside and outside the Bible. But God has never been eliminated from human thought in the thousands of years of human existence, because His providential hand brings punishment on societies at those times when the population in sufficient numbers turns its back on God. Then inevitably follows a return by many to spiritual matters (see Miller, 2008).
Still, according to NBC News, Sean Carroll, a theoretical cosmologist at the California Institute of Technology, believes that science will eventually remove the need for God in the equation to explain certain Universal phenomena. He argues that, “God’s sphere of influence has shrunk drastically in modern times” (Wolchover). We are not sure where he is getting his information, because statistically, the world is en masse (84%) theist (e.g., “Major Religions of the World,” 2007), and the percentage of the population in this country that believes that God has played a role in the origin of the Universe (78%) is far beyond the secular evolutionary community (15%) (see Miller, 2012). While there certainly has been an increase in the ranks of the non-religious community in the past several years, the Earth is still, by far, theistic.
Carroll further argues that many of the phenomena that were once highlighted as proof of the existence of God, since science could not explain those phenomena, are gradually being eliminated, in his opinion. He believes that the need for a God to cause the Big Bang to “bang” is side-stepped by the idea of an eternal Universe—a Universe like the one theorized by the Oscillating Universe Big Bang model. [NOTE: This is not to say that we believe the Big Bang Theory to be true. We have outlined several issues that show the Big Bang to be false elsewhere (e.g., Thompson, Harrub, and May, 2003). We are merely addressing his assertions.] He believes that the problem of having a necessary cause for the Universe, even if the Universe is not eternal, is side-stepped by the idea that time started at the Big Bang, and therefore, there is no need of a pre-existing cause. According to Alex Filippenko, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley that is quoted in the article, “The Big Bang could’ve occurred as a result of just the laws of physics being there. With the laws of physics, you can get universes.” Carroll further argues that the “fine tuning” argument used by theists with regard to many physical constants that seem perfectly suited for our existence, can be side-stepped using theories about parallel universes beyond our’s (Wolchover).
Several comments are worth mentioning in response to Carroll. First of all, notice the tacit admission that God is still needed to explain some things in the Universe, even if they might eventually be eliminated in Carroll’s mind. Many issues that point to God have been eliminated, in Carroll’s opinion: but that implies that some remain.
Second, his attempt to side-step the problem of needing a “trigger” for the Big Bang by giving credence to theories that postulate the eternality of the Universe, does not lend to the idea that science has eliminated the need for God in that area. On the contrary, science has already spoken on that matter. Nothing lasts forever, according to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (see Miller, 2007 for an in depth discussion of the Laws of Thermodynamics as they relate to the Universe as a whole). So such theories are not in keeping with the findings of science. Since nothing lasts forever in nature, the Universe could not have lasted forever—God is needed.
His further attempt to side-step the issue of needing a cause for a non-eternal Universe Big Bang model, by arguing that time began at the Big Bang, is reminiscent of Stephen Hawking’s recent comments on the matter. However, as we have discussed elsewhere (see Miller, 2011), that idea is not in keeping with the scientific evidence either. The Universe could not have caused itself since, in nature, nothing comes from nothing. Energy cannot spontaneously generate, according to the evidence from science—specifically the 1st Law of Thermodynamics (see Miller, 2007). Theories that postulate such erroneous concepts are not in keeping with science. So, once again, science has not eliminated the need for God in that instance either. The existence of the Universe still requires an adequate Cause, according to the evidence from science.
Filippenko’s comments merely highlight another issue that science cannot explain without God—the existence of the laws of physics. A poem requires a poet. A law requires a law writer. As eminent atheistic theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and astrobiologist of Arizona State University, Paul Davies, noted, “You need to know where those laws come from. That’s where the mystery lies—the laws” (“The Creation Question…,” 2011). The atheist has no explanation for how the laws of science could have written themselves into existence, and there is no logical explanation outside of a cosmic Law Writer.
Carroll’s attempts to side-step the issue of the theist’s finely tuned Universe argument by postulating parallel Universes is not a sound argument. Science has not proven such a theory. No alternate Universe has ever been witnessed, and therefore is outside the scope of the evolutionary community’s own definition of empirical science. Such an argument is mere conjecture and speculation—not evidence. So again, science has not dismissed the need for God in this instance either.
Time and again, Carroll attempts to make his case for science eliminating God, by relying on theories that cannot be verified with science or that blatantly contradict the evidence from science. So, in the end, Carroll has not proven that science has or could ever eliminate God. The only thing he has proven is that atheists are not self-consistent in their viewpoint on this matter.
Is it true that many people today are accepting such “evidence” and are therefore turning from God? Are they in the process causing God to be eliminated from their minds—i.e., not “retain[ing] God in their knowledge” (Romans 1:28)? Is it likely that there will be more and more people in the coming years that join the bandwagon in rejecting God? Definitely. However, such behavior is not due to the evidence from true science, but rather, due to their own desires (cf. Romans 1:20-32). Ironically, while such atheists wishfully dream that science will one day kill God, science has actually already ruled out atheism as an explanation for the origin of the Universe (see www.apologeticspress.org for evidence on this subject).
REFERENCES“The Creation Question: A Curiosity Conversation” (2011), Discovery Channel, August 7.
“Major Religions of the World Ranked by Number of Adherents” (2007), http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html.
Miller, Jeff (2007), “God and the Laws of Thermodynamics: A Mechanical Engineer’s Perspective,” Reason & Revelation, 27:25-31, April, http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3293.
Miller, Jeff (2008), “The Cycle of Unbelief,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=7&article=2495.
Miller, Jeff (2011), “A Review of Discovery Channel’s ‘Curiosity: Did God Create the Universe?’” Reason & Revelation, 31:98-107, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1004&article=1687.
Miller, Jeff (2012), “Literal Creationists Holding Their Ground in the Polls,” Reason & Revelation, 32:94-95, September, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1093&article=2040#.
Thompson, Bert, Brad Harrub, and Branyon May (2003), “The Big Bang Theory—A Scientific Critique [Part 1],” Reason & Revelation, 23:33-47, May, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=541&article=540.
Wolchover, Natalie (2012), “Will Science Someday Rule Out the Possibility of God?” NBC News: Science, September 18, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/49074598/ns/technology_and_science-science/#.UFnWIlEpCeZ.
What the Founders Said [Part II]
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Part I of this two-part series appeared in the August issue. Part II follows below, and continues, without introductory comments, where the first article ended.]
ABOUT THE UNIVERSAL SPREAD OF CHRISTIANITYThe Continental Congress was composed of scores of men who bear the appellation “Founders” of America. During the past half century, we have been assured that they advocated “inclusion,” “diversity,” and the notion that all religions and ideologies ought to be “celebrated” as equally authentic. We have been told that they certainly did not advocate the public promotion of Christianity. Is this viewpoint correct? Were the Founders “deists” who advocated religious neutrality? (see Miller, 2005; Miller, 2008). What, specifically, did they say on the matter? The following excerpts are from their proclamations, taken directly from the Journals of the Continental Congress at the Library of Congress. The first was issued on November 1, 1777:
FORASMUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received, and to implore such further Blessings as they stand in Need of.... It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for SOLEMN THANKSGIVING and PRAISE...that it may please him...to prosper the Means of Religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom, which consisteth “in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost” (Journals of..., 9:854-851, emp. added).The “kingdom” to which they referred is the kingdom of Christ, as indicated by their allusion to Romans 14:17. Another proclamation came on March 20, 1779:
RESOLVED, THAT it be recommended to the several States to appoint the First Thursday in May next to be a Day of Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer to Almighty God...that he will diffuse useful knowledge, extend the influence of true religion, and give us that peace of mind, which the world cannot give (Journals of..., 13:343-344, emp. added).“True religion” is a reference to Christianity—to the exclusion of all other religions. They called upon the entire nation to petition God to extend the influence of Christianity! The “peace of mind which the world cannot give” is a direct allusion to the words of Jesus (John 14:27) and Paul (Philippians 4:7).
On October 20, 1779, Congress issued still another supplication proclamation:
Whereas it becomes us humbly to approach the throne of Almighty God, with gratitude and praise for the wonders which his goodness has wrought...above all, that he hath diffused the glorious light of the gospel, whereby, through the merits of our gracious Redeemer, we may become the heirs of his eternal glory: therefore, Resolved, That it be recommended to the several states, to appoint Thursday, the 9th of December next, to be a day of public and solemn thanksgiving to Almighty God for his mercies, and of prayer for the continuance of his favor and protection to these United States (Journals of..., 15:1191-1193, emp. added).“The glorious light of the gospel” is an allusion to 2 Corinthians 4:4, and “heirs of his eternal glory” is a reference to 2 Timothy 2:10. Diffusing the Gospel of Christ was of paramount importance to the Founders. They thanked God that the Gospel had been thoroughly diffused throughout America.
One year later, in yet another proclamation to the nation, the Founders again reiterated their desire that Christianity be promoted:
It is therefore recommended to the several states to set apart Thursday, the seventh day of December next, to be observed as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer...that it may please him to...build up his churches in their most holy faith and to cause the knowledge of Christianity to spread over all the earth (Journals of..., 18:950-951, emp. added).“Most holy faith” is an allusion to Christianity, taken from Jude 20.
In March of 1781, they again advocated the spread of the Christian religion throughout the world:
The United States in Congress assembled, therefore do earnestly recommend, that Thursday the third day of May next, may be observed as a day of humiliation, fasting and prayer...that it may please him to bless all schools and seminaries of learning, and to grant that truth, justice and benevolence, and pure and undefiled religion, may universally prevail (Journals of..., 19:284-286, emp. added).“Pure and undefiled religion” is yet another allusion to Christianity, drawn from James 1:27. The Founders insisted that it must be spread “universally.” Another comparable declaration came on March 19, 1782:
The United States in Congress assembled...think it their indispensable duty to call upon the several states, to set apart the last Thursday in April next, as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer...that He would incline the hearts of all men to peace, and fill them with universal charity and benevolence, and that the religion of our Divine Redeemer, with all its benign influences, may cover the earth as the waters cover the seas (Journals of..., 22:137-138, emp. added).The “Divine Redeemer” is Jesus Christ. Calling for Christ’s religion to “cover the earth as the waters cover the seas” is taken from Isaiah 11:9 and Habakkuk 2:14. The Founders never asked that Hinduism cover the Earth, nor Islam, Buddhism, or Atheism. Rather, they begged God to cover the Earth with the religion of Christ as thoroughly and completely as the waters cover the oceans of the world.
Later that year, on October 11, the Congress issued another proclamation to the nation:
[T]herefore, the United States in Congress assembled...do hereby recommend it to the inhabitants of these states in general, to observe, and request the several states to interpose their authority in appointing and commanding the observation of Thursday, the twenty-eighth day of November next, as a day of solemn thanksgiving to God for all his mercies: and they do further recommend to all ranks, to testify their gratitude to God for his goodness, by a cheerful obedience to his laws, and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion (Journals of..., 23:647, emp. added).Finally, with the Revolutionary War ended, on October 18, 1783 the Continental Congress issued a final supplication proclamation to the country:
[T]he United States in Congress assembled do recommend it to the several States, to set apart the second Thursday in December next, as a day of public thanksgiving, that all the people may then assemble to celebrate with grateful hearts and united voices, the praises of their Supreme and all bountiful Benefactor, for his numberless favors and mercies...and above all, that he hath been pleased to continue to us the light of the blessed gospel...that he may be pleased...to cause pure religion and virtue to flourish, to give peace to all nations, and to fill the world with his glory (Journals of..., 25:699-701, emp. added).As if they wanted to make absolutely certain that there would be no question in the eyes of the world and in us their posterity, the Founders stated once again their insistence that among the multitude of blessings, favors, and mercies bestowed upon them by God, above them all, was their gratitude that God had perpetuated Christianity—“the light of the blessed gospel”—among them. They earnestly desired that God’s glory would fill the world (an allusion to Psalm 72:19). Oh, that our political leaders and all Americans would share that desire!
Can there be any question? No. The Continental Congress, quintessential Founders of the Republic, issued numerous organic utterances that undeniably demonstrate their inherent, intimate attachment to God, Jesus Christ, and Christianity. Did the Founders advocate the universal spread of Christianity? Absolutely. They repeatedly called upon the entire nation to request that God might see fit to spread Christianity throughout the world. They were familiar with—and firmly believed—the words of Habakkuk 2:14: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”
THE GREAT FOUNDATION OF PUBLIC PROSPERITYMuch is being said these days about the state of the economy. From the near collapse of the mortgage industry to the bankruptcy of a major American auto manufacturer, widespread discussion has occupied the attention of the federal government, the media, economists, and the average American. And what are the solutions being offered to rectify America’s economic woes and secure public prosperity? You name it. Everything from government bail outs and borrowing from China to increasing taxes on citizens. Since we long ago banned God, Christianity, and the Bible from the public square (á la ACLU “separation of church and state”), few seem willing even to contemplate the fact that spirituality and religion have anything to do with the economic condition of the nation. The fact is, they have everything to do with it.
It should, therefore, be somewhat of a shock to learn what the architects of American civilization had to say about the economy, specifically, what constitutes the foundation of public prosperity and national happiness. With the Revolutionary War reaching its conclusion, the Continental Congress issued a proclamation to the entire nation on October 11, 1782, calling for a day of thanksgiving directed to the God of the Bible:
It being the indispensable duty of all nations, not only to offer up their supplications to Almighty God, the giver of all good, for his gracious assistance in a time of public distress, but also in a solemn and public manner to give him praise for his goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of his Providence in their behalf; therefore, the United States in Congress assembled, taking into their consideration the many instances of divine goodness to these states, in the course of the important conflict in which they have been so long engaged; the present happy and promising state of public affairs; and the events of the war in the course of the year now drawing to a close, particularly the harmony of the public councils, which is so necessary to the success of the public cause,...do hereby recommend it to the inhabitants of these states in general, to observe, and request the several states to interpose their authority in appointing and commanding the observation of Thursday, in the 28 day of November next, as a day of solemn thanksgiving to God for all his mercies: and they do further recommend to all ranks, to testify their gratitude to God for his goodness, by a cheerful obedience to his laws, and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness.Can you believe it? The “great foundation of public prosperity” is “the practice of true and undefiled religion”? What religion is that? “Pure and undefiled religion,” alluded to in the New Testament passage James 1:27, is nothing other than the religion of Christ. Who today believes, from the President on down to the average American, that promoting God’s laws throughout America via the Christian religion—in government, schools, and public life—is the key to achieving prosperous, happy citizens? Nevertheless, it is true. Even as prominent Founder Noah Webster, in eerily prophetic fashion, declared:
Done in Congress at Philadelphia, the eleventh day of October, in the year of our LORD one thousand seven hundred and eighty-two, and of our Sovereignty and Independence, the Seventh.
John Hanson, President.
Charles Thomson, Secretary (Journals of..., 1904-1937, 23:647, emp. added).
If a republican government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the Divine commands and elect bad men to make and administer the laws (1832, pp. 337, emp. added).God’s warnings to the nation of Israel are strikingly parallel to America:
When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you. Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and...your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God...then you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.” Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the LORD your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. As the nations which the LORD destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the LORD your God (Deuteronomy 8:10-20).What better description could be found of America’s current predicament? Compare another one that likewise sounds as if it were written to predict America’s shift from the greatest, most blessed and independent nation on Earth to a nation in decline, dependant on other nations, and heading toward its ultimate demise:
Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God: Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways. The LORD will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand.... Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you. And the LORD will grant you plenty of goods.... The LORD will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand. You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. And the LORD will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them. So you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you (Deuteronomy 28:1-15, emp. added).In these perilous times, the psalmist’s plea to God for national security is one that ought to be on the hearts and lips of every American:
God be merciful to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us.
That Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.
Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You.
Oh, let the nations be glad and sing for joy! For You shall judge the people righteously, and govern the nations on earth. Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You. Then the earth shall yield her increase;
God, our own God, shall bless us.
God shall bless us, and all the ends of the earth shall fear Him (Psalm 67:1-7).
The Bible repeatedly articulates the same point: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD” (Psalm 33:12).
ABOUT THE SINS OF AMERICANSThe religious, spiritual condition of Americans is at an all-time low. Commitment to the Christian religion and the precepts of Jesus Christ has waned significantly in the past half century. Religion has been relegated to strictly private, personal tastes. And Christianity is perceived by many to be simply one religion among many, receiving no position of priority in the country. Hence, whatever any person believes with regard to moral behavior is considered acceptable and essentially irrelevant to the overall condition of the nation.
In vivid contrast, the Founders of the country believed and voiced vigorously their belief that the religious, spiritual, and moral condition of the citizenry of America was integral and critical to the establishment and ongoing success of the Republic. More specifically, they believed in the God of the Bible and the religion of Christ, and they were convinced that the nation would be blessed by God only insofar as the citizens obeyed the teaching of the Bible, and received forgiveness for their sins. Hard to believe? Consider a few of the official pronouncements of the Continental Congress, again, a body composed of scores of men who served during the Revolutionary War and the birth of the nation, and who bear the appellation “Founders” of America.
On March 16, 1776, four months before declaring independence, Congress issued a fasting and prayer proclamation to the entire nation that particularly spotlights their attitude regarding sin:
In times of impending calamity and distress; when the liberties of America are imminently endangered by the secret machinations and open assaults of an insidious and vindictive administration, it becomes the indispensable duty of these hitherto free and happy colonies, with true penitence of heart, and the most reverent devotion, publickly to acknowledge the over ruling providence of God; to confess and deplore our offences against him; and to supplicate his interposition for averting the threatened danger, and prospering our strenuous efforts in the cause of freedom, virtue, and posterity.
The Congress, therefore...do earnestly recommend, that Friday, the Seventeenth day of May next, be observed by the said colonies as a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that we may, with united hearts, confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and, by a sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease his righteous displeasure, and, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness (Journals of the..., 4:208-209, emp. added).The Congress felt it their duty to urge Americans to “confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions.” What in the world does that have to do with attending to the pressing matters of founding a new nation and prosecuting a war? They felt it was a critical factor in the success of their endeavor. Indeed, if you do not have God’s approval and assistance, you are on your own—dependent on your own precarious capabilities.
Just a year and a half into the War with Great Britain, Congress issued another proclamation on November 1, 1777, that included the following excerpt:
It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for SOLEMN THANKSGIVING and PRAISE: That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please GOD through the Merits of JESUS CHRIST, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance (Journals of..., 9:854-851, emp. added).How did the Founders believe the favor of God would be forfeited? By sin. How might the sins of Americans be neutralized in order to preserve the favor of God? They said Americans must humble themselves, repent and confess their sins to God, and beg His forgiveness based on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
A year later, on November 17, 1778, the Continental Congress reiterated the same principle:
Resolved, That it be, and hereby is recommended to the legislative or executive authority of each of the said states, to appoint Wednesday, the 30th day of December next, to be observed as a day of public thanksgiving and praise, that all the people may, with united hearts, on that day, express a just sense of his unmerited favors.... And it is further recommended, that, together with devout thanksgiving, may be joined a penitent confession of our sins, and humble supplication for pardon, through the merits of our Savior; so that, under the smiles of Heaven, our public councils may be directed, our arms by land and sea prospered, our liberty and independence secured, our schools and seminaries of learning flourish, our trade be revived, our husbandry and manufactures increased, and the hearts of all impressed with undissembled piety, with benevolence and zeal for the public good (Journals of..., 12:1138-1139, emp. added).Observe that the favor and support of God (“the smiles of Heaven”) are what ensure national success. And what ensures national success is “devout thanksgiving” to God, “confession of our sins,” and “humble supplication for pardon” through Christ. Are America’s citizens, together with our politicians, judges, and educators, willing to perform such acts of contrition? If not, only one possible outcome awaits us.
A year and a half later, on March 20, 1779, the Congress issued another nationwide proclamation:
WHEREAS, in just Punishment of our manifold Transgressions, it hath pleased the Supreme Disposer of all Events to visit these United States with a calamitous War, through which his Divine Providence hath hitherto in a wonderful Manner conducted us.... AND WHEREAS, there is but too much Reason to fear that notwithstanding the Chastisements received and Benefits bestowed, too few have been sufficiently awakened to a Sense of their Guilt, or warmed with Gratitude, or taught to amend their Lives and turn from their Sins, that so he might turn from his Wrath: AND WHEREAS, from a Consciousness of what we have merited at his Hands, and an Apprehension that the Malevolence of our disappointed Enemies, like the Incredulity of Pharaoh, may be used as the Scourge of Omnipotence to vindicate his slighted Majesty, there is Reason to fear that he may permit much of our Land to become the Prey of the Spoiler, our Borders to be ravaged, and our Habitations destroyed:
RESOLVED, THAT it be recommended to the several States to appoint the First Thursday in May next to be a Day of Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer to Almighty God, that he will be pleased to avert those impending Calamities which we have but too well deserved: That he will grant us his Grace to repent of our Sins, and amend our Lives, according to his Holy Word (Journals of..., 13:343-344, emp. added).Were you taught in school that the Founders believed that one of the reasons Americans had to endure a war with Great Britain was because of the sins of Americans? The Founders stated explicitly that the antidote to offending God due to sin was for Americans to repent of their sins and amend their lives, i.e., stop living out of harmony with God’s Word. According to the Founders, failure to do so will result in “impending calamities which we have but too well deserved.”
Six months later, on October 20, 1779, another congressional proclamation likewise sought forgiveness for sin:
Resolved, That it be recommended to the several states, to appoint Thursday, the 9th of December next, to be a day of public and solemn thanksgiving to Almighty God for his mercies, and of prayer for the continuance of his favor and protection to these United States...that he would in mercy look down upon us, pardon our sins and receive us into his favor (Journals of..., 15:1191-1193, emp. added).Two years later, on March 19, 1782, a similar proclamation went forth across the nation:
The United States in Congress assembled, therefore, taking into consideration our present situation, our multiplied transgressions of the holy laws of our God, and his past acts of kindness and goodness towards us, which we ought to record with the liveliest gratitude, think it their indispensable duty to call upon the several states, to set apart the last Thursday in April next, as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer, that our joint supplications may then ascend to the throne of the Ruler of the Universe, beseeching Him to diffuse a spirit of universal reformation among all ranks and degrees of our citizens (Journals of..., 22:137-138, emp. added).The Founders of these United States claimed that the establishment of the Republic was achieved by the blessing of God. They also insisted that maintaining His favor was absolutely necessary in order for the Republic to be perpetuated. They further believed that retaining God’s favor depended on Americans conforming themselves to the teachings of the Bible and receiving forgiveness for their violations of it. If they were correct (and they most certainly were), then the nation is in the midst of deadly national peril. Generally speaking, neither our political leaders nor the rank and file of Americans are striving to retain God’s favor by living according to His will and seeking forgiveness for their sins. We would do well to listen soberly to the words of God to another nation long ago:
For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments...? Therefore you shall be careful to do as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess (Deuteronomy 4:7-8; 5:32-33, emp. added).Take as one example among many the sin of gambling which has become so prominant in recent years via casinos, lotteries, and race tracks. American civilization has declined to such an extent that most citizens today would be surprised to learn that, from the very beginning of our nation until about 50 years ago, the majority of Americans viewed gambling as immoral. In fact, the Founding Fathers forthrightly addressed the issue of gambling. The Continental Congress passed a resolution on October 12, 1778, declaring their condemnation of gambling:
Whereas true religion and good morals are the only solid foundations of public liberty and happiness: Resolved, That it be, and it is hereby earnestly recommended to the several states, to take the most effectual measures for the encouragement thereof, and for the suppressing theatrical entertainments, horse racing, gaming, and such other diversions as are productive of idleness, dissipation, and a general depravity of principles and manners (Journals of..., 12:1001, emp. added).The laws of Connecticut included a prohibition against gambling:
Gaming is an amusement, the propensity of which is deeply implanted in human nature. Mankind in the most unpolished state of barbarism and in the most refined periods of luxury and dissipation, are attached to this practice with an unaccountable ardor and fondness. To describe the pernicious consequences of it, the ruin and desolation of private families, and the promotion of idleness and dissipation, belong to a treatise on ethics (as quoted in Swift, 1796, 2:351).In a letter to Martha Jefferson in 1787, Thomas Jefferson commented on the degrading influence of gambling:
In a world which furnishes so many employments which are useful, so many which are amusing, it is our own fault if we ever know what ennui [boredom—DM] is, or if we are ever driven to the miserable resources of gaming, which corrupts our dispositions, and teaches us a habit of hostility against all mankind (as quoted in Forman, 1900, p. 266).In his proposal for a revision of the laws in his home state of Virginia, Jefferson offered the following “Bill to Prevent Gaming,” which restricted the holding of public office to non-gamblers:
Any person who shall bet or play for money, or other goods, or who shall bet on the hands or sides of those who play at any game in a tavern, racefield, or other place of public resort, shall be deemed an infamous gambler, and shall not be eligible to any office of trust or honor within this state (1950, 2:306).Ironically, as Commander-in-Chief of all U.S. military forces, George Washington frequently addressed the deleterious effect of gambling on the soldiers of the Continental Army he commanded. In General Orders issued on February 26, 1776, Washington admonished:
All officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers are positively forbid [sic] playing at cards, and other games of chance. At this time of public distress, men may find enough to do in the service of their God, and their Country, without abandoning themselves to vice and immorality (1931, 4:347, emp. added).The majority view of America and its Founders from day one has been that gambling in its various forms is a vice that is destructive of the moral fabric of society—a view they gleaned from the Bible (see Miller and Butt, 2003). Yet, casinos and bingo parlors are springing up all over the country as the wicked forces of organized gambling are waging a relentless war to spread their evil influence throughout America.
With uncanny anticipation, George Washington declared to his troops on May 8, 1777: “As few vices are attended with more pernicious consequences, in civil life; so there are none more fatal in a military one, than that of Gaming; which often brings disgrace and ruin upon officers, and injury and punishment upon the Soldiery” (8:28, emp. added). Tragically, if the Continental Congress was correct in its claim that “true religion and good morals are the only solid foundations of public liberty and happiness,” then America is moving swiftly down a road that will result in “a general depravity of principles and manners” and the dissolution of “public liberty and happiness.”
CONCLUSIONThe Founders were extremely astute men who understood the nuts and bolts of establishing a successful government. Despite their differences, they nevertheless agreed that the government should refrain from hindering a free society’s pursuit of Christian principles. To them, governmental interference in or discouragement of Christianity was unthinkable. Quite the contrary, they saw Christianity as the key to national progress and survival.
Sadly, even tragically, American civilization is suffering from a variety of moral and religious maladies that threaten the very existence of the Republic. In a letter written to Secretary of War James McHenry on November 4, 1800, Declaration signer Charles Carroll foretold the outcome of an America removed from Christian morality:
[W]ithout morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime & pure, who denounces against the wicked eternal misery, & insures to the good eternal happiness, are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments (as quoted in Steiner, 1907, p. 475, emp. added).The solutions are readily available for all who care to seek them. We must return to the God of the Bible, the religion of Christ, and the moral principles derived therefrom. God help us to achieve a great spiritual awakening in hopes of avoiding the inevitable demise of a nation that turns its back on Him (cf. Deuteronomy 28). “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Consider your ways!’” (Haggai 1:5,7). Indeed,
Let all the earth fear the Lord; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.... The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord (Psalm 33:8-12, emp. added).
REFERENCESForman, S.E. (1900), The Life and Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Indianapolis, IN: Bowen-Merrill).
Jefferson, Thomas (1950), The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).
Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789 (1904-1937), ed. Worthington C. Ford, et al. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office), Library of Congress, http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lwjc.html.
Miller, Dave and Kyle Butt (2003), “Christians, Gambling, and the Lottery,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2301.
Miller, Dave (2005), “Deism, Atheism, and the Founders,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/650.
Miller, Dave (2008), “The Founders: Atheists & Deists or Theists & Christians?,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3847.
Steiner, Bernard (1907), The Life and Correspondence of James McHenry (Cleveland, OH: Burrows Brothers).
Swift, Zephaniah (1796), A System of Laws of the State of Connecticut (Windham, CT: John Byrne).
Washington, George (1931), The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799 (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office).
Webster, Noah (1832), History of the United States (New Haven, CT: Durrie & Peck).