"THE EPISTLE TO THE PHILIPPIANS" Magnifying Christ In Life And Death (1:19-26) INTRODUCTION 1. As we continue to look into the heart of the apostle Paul, we find a man who despite difficult circumstances still maintained a strong expectation, hope, and confidence concerning the future. 2. In our text for this study, we find Paul expressing that strong hope and confidence (read Php 1:19-26) 3. Many lessons can be gleaned from this passage, but we will "zero in" on Paul's expectation and hope that "Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death." (1:20) a. Why would Paul desire to "magnify Christ" with his life? b. Why would he want to "magnify Christ" by his death? c. How would he do it? [These are some of the questions we'll look at in this lesson. To begin, let's consider the idea of Paul...] I. MAGNIFYING CHRIST BY HIS LIFE A. WHY WOULD PAUL WANT TO MAGNIFY CHRIST BY HIS LIFE? 1. Because of Christ's love for him - 2Co 5:14-15 2. Because of the strength Christ gave him for daily living - Ph 4:13 3. Because of what Christ would one day do for him - Php 3:20-21 B. HOW DID PAUL MAGNIFY CHRIST BY HIS LIFE? 1. By his attitude toward Christ a. Which was "to live is Christ" (21) b. He made Jesus the preeminent focus of his life - Php 3:7-8 2. By devoting his life to serving Christ - cf. Ga 2:20 a. As long as he lived, he would offer fruitful service to Jesus Christ - Php 1:22 b. As long as he lived, he would so live as to promote the progress of his brethren in Christ - Php 1:25-26 1) For he knew that what one did for his brethren, he did for Christ! 2) Cf. Ac 9:4-5; 1Co 8:12; Mt 25:40,45 C. WHAT OF OURSELVES? 1. Do we desire to magnify Christ with our lives? 2. Are we living in a manner that magnifies Christ? a. I.e., letting Christ live in us, and we living for Him b. I.e., so living as to promote progress and joy in the cause of Christ among His brethren who are also our own 1) Do we encourage or discourage the brethren? 2) E.g., do we discourage the brethren by our apathy, our negligence of the assemblies? - cf. Pr 18:9 3. Does not Christ provide sufficient motive to do so? a. He loved us, and gave HIS life for us! b. He promises to help us! c. He will greatly bless us if we do! [Every Christian has reason to magnify Christ in his or her life! May we all seek to make better use of our lives in this area. But remember that Paul was also concerned about...] II. MAGNIFYING CHRIST BY HIS DEATH A. WHY WOULD PAUL WANT TO MAGNIFY CHRIST IN HIS DEATH? 1. Certainly for some of the reasons already noted 2. But also because of what death would mean to Paul because of Christ! a. Because of Christ, "to die is gain" (21) b. To die means to "be with Christ, which is far better" (23) 1) Paul understood that when a Christian dies, they go to be with the Lord! - cf. 2Co 5:6-8; 1Th 5:9-10 2) So Jesus Himself promised to the churches of Asia - cf. Re 2:10,26-27; 3:21 3) This appears to the point of the vision seen by John and recorded in Re 7:9-17 3. In view of this wonderful hope, Paul would gladly magnify Christ, even by his death! B. HOW WAS PAUL WILLING TO MAGNIFY CHRIST BY HIS DEATH? 1. By his willingness to die in service to Christ and his brethren - Php 2:17-18 a. He was determined to serve them, even if it killed him! b. But then, what better way to die, in the service of the Lord? 2. Of course, this is how Paul eventually did magnify Christ by his death - cf. 2Ti 4:6-8 a. He faithfully served His Lord and his brethren b. And he died because of his service to them (tradition says that he was beheaded by Nero) C. WHAT ABOUT US? 1. We have the same motives to magnify Christ by our deaths a. The assurance of eternal life b. The assurance of being with our Lord 2. Will we magnify Christ by our deaths? a. Unless the Lord returns first, we will all die anyway b. What better way to die, in a manner which magnifies the One who makes even death a blessing! 3. How can we magnify Christ today by our deaths? a. It is unlikely we will suffer "martyrdom" for our faith b. But we can still determine to "wear out" in our service to the Lord, rather than "rust out"! 1) Too many Christians "retire" in their service to God when they retire from their secular jobs 2) They allow the infirmities of age or sickness to render them virtually fruitless 3) Or they allow the fear of death to be overly cautious about what they do a) E.g., fear of an accident keeps many aged Christians from coming to services b) But wouldn't be better to die in service to the Lord, than to just "rust" away, sitting at home? c. More Christians need to have the attitude of Paul and other Christians I have known - cf. Ac 20:22-24; 21:13 1) Who would rather be "poured out" in their service to Christ, rather than become a "stagnant pool" 2) They are those described in Re 12:11 3) And they are also like those described in Ps 92:12-15 4. Indeed, the way we face impending death, whether young or old, can be a means of magnifying Christ! CONCLUSION 1. If we are going to be able to say with Paul, "To live is Christ, to die is gain", we have to magnify Christ both in life and in death! 2. Jesus has certainly given us every motive for doing so! 3. So let's encourage one another in both word and deed to so live, and to so die, that we magnify Jesus Christ!
A Coherent Definition of a God
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Renowned atheistic spokesperson, Dan Barker, has been debating the existence of God for over two decades. One of his favorite assertions is that no one can coherently define God. Since, he claims, no one can define God, we should conclude that there is an extremely high probability that God does not exist. In my debate with him on God’s existence, two minutes and four seconds into his opening speech, he stated: “There’s no coherent definition of a God. How can we debate something that we can’t even define? God is defined as a spirit, but what is that?” He admitted that this argument does not disprove God, but he claimed that it makes the idea of God so unlikely and improbable that we should simply “round up” and disbelieve in God (Butt and Barker, 2009).
As with many of Barker’s other statements, his “no coherent definition” idea is simply an assertion that seems plausible only until it is critically analyzed in light of sound reasoning. First, God can be defined in such a way that brilliant men and women for thousands of years have been able to intelligently discuss God’s attributes, existence, and qualities? In fact, the vast majority of standard dictionaries give a working definition that most third-graders understand. For instance, the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary gives the following definition for “God”: 1. “the supreme or ultimate reality: as a: the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe” (2009). The American Heritage Dictionary’s primary definition of “God” is: “1. God a. A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheistic religions” (2000, p. 753). Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, a massive volume of almost 3,000 pages, defines “God” as: “the supreme or ultimate reality: the Deity variously conceived in theology, philosophy, and popular religion: as a (1): the holy, infinite, and eternal spiritual reality presented in the Bible as the creator, sustainer, judge, righteous sovereign, and redeemer of the universe who acts with power in history carrying out his purpose...” (1993, p. 973).
So coherent, in fact, is the definition of God that it is absent from books such as The New York Times’ Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, Mispronounced Words (1972). The term “God” is defined in every major dictionary, it is absent from the books that compile words that are difficult to understand, and the term has been used in meaningful conversation for thousands of years since the dawn of humanity. In order for a person to say that God cannot be coherently defined, he would need to change the meanings of the words “coherent” or “defined.” The fact that the term “God” is included in this article, and the reader can differentiate it from all the other concepts and terms being discussed, goes a long way to proving that the term can be meaningfully defined.
But let us dig deeper into Barker’s assertion and deal with another idea he presents. Barker has a problem with the term “spirit,” and he claims that no one knows exactly what a spirit is. Thus, he suggests, God cannot be something that no one can explain. In answer to Barker’s assertion, we could simply give another list of dictionary definitions of the word “spirit.” The Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary gives several meanings of the word, including: “1: an animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms” or “4: the immaterial intelligent or sentient part of a person” (2009). A lengthy list of dictionary definitions would most likely bore the reader, but it would show that the term “spirit” is used in common parlance, easily understood, and discussed.
The idea that Barker seems to be presenting, then, is not that people have a difficult time defining or discussing terms like “God” or “spirit.” Barker seems to be indicating that since everybody’s definition of a “spirit” is not identical, and since we do not know everything about a “spirit,” then the concept must be unproductive. Of course, if we eliminate all the concepts that we do not unanimously agree upon or that we do not completely understand, our discussions would be extremely limited. For instance, in Richard Dawkins’ book The Selfish Gene, Dawkins attempted to define the word “gene,” but he noted: “My definition will not be to everyone’s taste, but there is no universally agreed definition of gene” (2006, p. 28, emp. added). Charles Darwin himself, when discussing the term “species” (which term was in the title of his most famous book) wrote: “Nor shall I here discuss the various definitions which have been given of the term species. No one definition has satisfied all naturalists; yet every naturalist knows vaguely what he means when he speaks of a species” (1860, p. 38, emp. added). Quotes like these two could be multiplied and are sufficient to show that there need not be unanimous agreement about a term in order for it to have meaning.
Furthermore, it would be impossible to limit our vocabulary to concepts that are completely and fully understood. Can we use words that describe things that we do not totally understand? Indeed, not only is it permissible, but it is commonly practiced by all. For instance, in his book, The Blind Watchmaker, Dawkins stated: “Nobody has yet invented the mathematics for describing the total structure and behaviour of such an object as a physicist, or even of one of his cells. What we can do is understand some of the general principles of how living things work, and why they exist at all” (1996, p. 3, emp. added). Notice that Dawkins admits that we cannot fully understand and describe a single cell, but that does not stop us from defining its generalities and using them to discuss the concept of a “cell.” In Robert Hazen’s series, Origins of Life, he has an entire lecture titled “What is Life?” In that lecture, he attempted to define the term “life,” but he noted that he had seen at least 48 definitions, “Yet, remarkably, no two definitions are the same” (2005, p. 49). He further stated: “As you can imagine, scientists crave an unambiguous definition of life. Such a definition remains elusive” (p. 50). Hazen quipped that many scientists are “loath to draw too narrow a definition [of life—KB] in our present state of ignorance” (p. 51, emp. added); “I would argue that scientists in the early 21st century are in the same boat [as those in the 18th century—KB]—no position to define life.... To summarize this lecture, there is no simple answer to the question, ‘What is life?’” (p. 58). Using Barker’s line of reasoning in light of Dr. Hazen’s lecture on life, there must be no such thing as life, since we do not have a definition upon which all scientists agree. As you can see, such a conclusion is irrational. Furthermore, Barker and the scientific community have no qualms discussing ideas such as dark matter, dark energy, and black holes, even though these concepts cannot be accurately defined.
DEFINING “SPIRIT” POSITIVELY
Incidentally, Barker’s assertion that negative terms cannot be used to give positive meaning to something is vacuous. In his book godless, Barker gives a lengthy definition of what he believes the term “atheism” means. He stated: “It turns out that atheism means much less than I had thought. It is merely the lack of theism. It is not a philosophy of life and it offers no value.... [T]o be an atheist, you don’t need any positive philosophy at all.... Basic atheism is not a belief” (p. 98, emp. added, italics in orig.). According to Barker, atheism can be defined in purely negative terms without offering a single positive concept, the very thing he accuses those who define “spirit” of doing.
Furthermore, in answering his question during the cross-examination, I mentioned two words, darkness and cold, that are often understood in negative terms. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines darkness as: “1 a: devoid or partially devoid of light: not receiving, reflecting, transmitting, or radiating light” (2009, emp. added). Even though “darkness” is defined in negative terms as the absence of light, there is no doubt that darkness exists.
Barker, Dan and Peter Payne (2005), Does Ethics Require God? [On-line], URL: http://www.ffrf.org/about/bybarker/ethics_debate.php.
Barker, Dan (2008), godless (Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press).
Butt, Kyle and Dan Barker (2009), Does the God of the Bible Exist? (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Darwin, Charles (1860), On the Origin of Species By Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life (New York: The Modern Library), second edition.
Dawkins, Richard (1996), The Blind Watchmaker (New York: W.W. Norton).
Dawkins, Richard (2006), The Selfish Gene (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 30th Anniversary Edition.
Harrub, Brad and Bert Thompson (2004), “The Origin of the Brain and Mind—Parts 1 & 2,” [On-line], URL: http://apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=549.
Hazen, Robert (2005), Origins of Life(Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company).
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (2009), [On-line], URL: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary.
The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, Mispronounced Words (1972), ed. Laurence Urdang, (New York: Weathervane Books).
Thompson, Bert and Brad Harrub (2004), “The Origin of Consciousness—Parts 1 & 2,” [On-line], URL: http://apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=552.
Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (1993), (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster).
“The First Day of the Week”
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
All four gospel accounts reveal how Jesus rose (and His tomb was found empty) “on the first day of the week” (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2,9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1; cf. 20:19). Years later, Paul wrote to the Corinthian church commanding them to make regular contributions “on the first day of the week” (1 Corinthians 16:2; or “on the first day of every week”—NASB, NIV, RSV). Luke recorded in the book of Acts how Paul, while on his third missionary journey, assembled with the Christians in Troas “on the first day of the week” (20:7). The phrase “the first day of the week” appears eight times in the most widely used English translations of the New Testament. Based on this reading of the text, along with various supplemental passages (e.g., Revelation 1:10), Christians assemble to worship God on Sunday. Upon looking at the Greek text, however, some have questioned the integrity of the translation “the first day of the week,” wondering if a better wording would be “the Sabbath day.”
Admittedly, a form of the Greek word for sabbath (sabbaton or sabbatou) does appear in each of the eight passages translated “first day of the week.” For example, in Acts 20:7 this phrase is translated from the Greek mia ton sabbaton. However, sabbaton (or sabbatou) is never translated as “the Sabbath day” in these passages. Why? Because the word is used in these contexts (as Greek scholars overwhelmingly agree) to denote a “week” (Perschbacher, 1990, p. 364), “a period of seven days” (Danker, et al., 2000, p. 910; cf. Thayer, 1962, p. 566). Jesus once used the term “Sabbath” in this sense while teaching about the sinfulness of self-righteousness (Luke 18:9). He told a parable of the sanctimonious Pharisee who prayed: “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess” (18:11-12, emp. added). The phrase “twice a week” comes from the Greek dis tou sabbatou. Obviously Jesus was not saying that the Pharisee boasted of fasting twice on the Sabbath day, but twice (dis) a week (tou sabbatou).
According to R.C.H. Lenski, since “[t]he Jews had no names for the weekdays,” they “designated them with reference to their Sabbath” (1943, p. 1148). Thus, mia ton sabbaton means “the first (day) with reference to the Sabbath,” i.e., the first (day) following the Sabbath (Lenski, p. 1148), or, as we would say in 21st century English, “the first day of the week.”
After spending years examining Jewish writings in the Babylonian Talmud, Hebraist John Lightfoot wrote A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, in which he expounded upon the Hebrew method of counting the days of the week. He noted: “The Jews reckon the days of the week thus; One day (or the first day) of the sabbath: two (or the second day) of the sabbath;” etc. (1859, 2:375, emp. in orig.). Lightfoot then quoted from two different Talmud tractates. Maccoth alludes to those who testify on “the first of the sabbath” about an individual who stole an ox. Judgment was then passed the following day—“on the second day of the sabbath” (Lightfoot, 2:375, emp. in orig.; Maccoth, Chapter 1). Bava Kama describes ten enactments ordained by a man named Ezra, including the public reading of the law “on the second and fifth days of the sabbath,” and the washing of clothes “on the fifth day of the sabbath” (Lightfoot, 2:375; Bava Kama, Chapter 7). In Michael Rodkinson’s 1918 translation of Maccoth and Bava Kama, he accurately translated “the second day of the sabbath” as Monday, “the fifth day of the sabbath” as Thursday, and “the first of the sabbath” as Sunday.
If the word sabbaton in passages such as Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2, and Acts 20:7 actually denoted “the Sabbath day,” rather than “a period of seven days,” one would expect some of the foremost Bible translations to translate it thusly. Every major English translation of the Bible, however, translates mia ton sabbaton as “the first day of the week.” Why? Because scholars are aware of the Jewish method of counting the days of the week by using the Sabbath as a reference point.
Finally, consider the difficulty that would arise with Jesus’ resurrection story if sabbaton was translated Sabbath. “Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first Sabbath (sabbaton), they came to the tomb when the sun had risen” (emp. added). Such a rending of sabbaton in Mark 16:2 would be nonsensical. The Sabbath was over, and the mia ton sabbaton (“first day of the week”) had begun. The passage is understood properly only when one recognizes the Jewish method of reckoning weekdays.
Just as second century apologists Justin Martyr (ca. A.D. 150) spoke of Jesus as rising from the dead “on the first day after the Sabbath” (Dialogue..., 41), and equated this day with “Sunday” (“First Apology,” 67), so should 21st century Christians. That Jesus rose from the dead “on the first day of the week” (Mark 16:9), and that Christians gathered to worship on this day (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; cf. Justin Martyr, “First Apology,” 67), is an established fact. Sunday is the first day after the Jewish Sabbath—the “first day of the week.”
Justin Martyr, (1973 reprint), Dialogue with Trypho, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Justin Martyr (1973 reprint), First Apology, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Lenski, R.C.H. (1943), The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
Lightfoot, John (1979 reprint), A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Perschbacher, Wesley J., ed. (1990), The New Analytical Greek Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Rodkinson, Michael, trans. (1918), The Babylonian Talmud, [On-line], URL: http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/talmud.htm#t06.
Thayer, Joseph (1962 reprint), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
The Passion and Antisemitism: Who Murdered Jesus?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The furor surrounding Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ preceded by many months the release of the movie on February 25. The official Web site states: “Passion is a vivid depiction of the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ’s life” (Passion Web site). Special emphasis is placed on the physical suffering Christ endured. Throughout the film, the language spoken is the first-century Jewish language, Aramaic, except when the Romans speak their language, i.e., Latin (Novak, 2003). Gibson, who both produced and directed the film, sank $25 million of his own money into the venture.
Much of the stir over the film stems from the role of the Jews in their involvement in Christ’s crucifixion. In fact, outcries of “anti-Semitism” have been vociferous, especially from representatives of the Anti-Defamation League. Their contention is that Jews are depicted in the film as “bloodthirsty, sadistic, money-hungry enemies of God” who are portrayed as “the ones responsible for the decision to crucify Jesus” (as quoted in Hudson, 2003; cf. Zoll, 2003). The fear is that the film will fuel hatred and bigotry against Jews. A committee of nine Jewish and Catholic scholars unanimously found the film to project a uniformly negative picture of Jews (“ADL and Mel…”). The Vatican early avoided offering an endorsement of the film by declining to make an official statement (“Vatican Has Not…”; cf. “Mel Gibson’s…”). This action is to be expected in view of the conciliatory tone manifested by Vatican II (Abbott, 1955, pp. 663-667). Even Twentieth Century Fox decided not to participate in the distribution of the film (“20th Decides…”; cf. “Legislator Tries…”; O’Reilly…”).
Separate from the controversy generated by Gibson’s film, the more central issue concerns to what extent the Jewish generation of the first century contributed to, or participated in, the death of Christ. If the New Testament is the verbally inspired Word of God, then it is an accurate and reliable report of the facts, and its depiction of the details surrounding the crucifixion are normative and final. That being the case, how does the New Testament represent the role of the Jews in the death of Christ?
A great many verses allude to the role played by the Jews, especially the leadership, in the death of Jesus. For some time prior to the crucifixion, the Jewish authorities were determined to oppose Jesus. This persecution was aimed at achieving His death:
So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff (Luke 4:28-30, emp. added).These (and many other) verses demonstrate unquestionable participation of the Jews in bringing about the death of Jesus. One still can hear the mournful tones of Jesus Himself, in His sadness over the Jews rejecting Him: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37-39). He was referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and the demise of the Jewish commonwealth at the hands of the Romans in A.D. 70. Read carefully His unmistakable allusion to the reason for this holocaustic event:
Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God (John 5:18-19, emp. added).
After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him… “Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?” (John 7:1-2,19, emp. added).
“I know that you are Abraham's descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.” They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this.” Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by (John 8:37-41,59, emp. added).
Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him…. Therefore they sought again to seize Him, but He escaped out of their hand (John 10:31-32,39, emp. added).
Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death…. Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him (John 11:53, 57, emp. added).
And He was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him, and were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him (Luke 19:47-48, emp. added).
And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill Him, for they feared the people (Luke 22:2, emp. added).
Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people assembled at the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him (Matthew 26:3-4, emp. added).
Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:41-44).He clearly attributed their national demise to their stubborn rejection of Him as the predicted Messiah, Savior, and King.
Does the Bible, then, indicate that a large percentage, perhaps even a majority, of the Jews of first century Palestine was “collectively guilty” for the death of Jesus? The inspired evidence suggests so. Listen carefully to the apostle Paul’s assessment, keeping in mind that he, himself, was a Jew—in fact, “a Hebrew of the Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5; cf. Acts 22:3; Romans 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:22). Speaking to Thessalonian Christians, he wrote:
For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, emp. added).This same apostle Paul met with constant resistance from fellow Jews. After he spoke at the Jewish synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, a crowd of people that consisted of nearly the whole city gathered to hear him expound the Word of God. Notice the reaction of the Jews in the crowd:
But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul. Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles….” But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region (Acts 13:45-46,50-51).Paul met with the same resistance from the general Jewish public that Jesus encountered—so much so that he wrote to Gentiles concerning Jews: “Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake” (Romans 11:28). He meant that the majority of the Jews had rejected Christ and Christianity. Only a “remnant” (Romans 11:5), i.e., a small minority, embraced Christ.
What role did the Romans play in the death of Christ? It certainly is true that Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross. First-century Palestine was under the jurisdiction of Rome. Though Rome permitted the Jews to retain a king in Judea (Herod), the Jews were subject to Roman law in legal matters. In order to achieve the execution of Jesus, the Jews had to appeal to the Roman authorities for permission (John 18:31). A simple reading of the verses that pertain to Jewish attempts to acquire this permission for the execution are clear in their depiction of Roman reluctance in the matter. Pilate, the governing procurator in Jerusalem, sought literally to quell and diffuse the Jewish efforts to kill Jesus. He called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people and stated plainly to them:
“You have brought this Man to me, as one who misleads the people. And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him; no, neither did Herod, for I sent you back to him; and indeed nothing deserving of death has been done by Him. I will therefore chastise Him and release Him” (for it was necessary for him to release one to them at the feast). And they all cried out at once, saying, “Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas”—who had been thrown into prison for a certain rebellion made in the city, and for murder. Pilate, therefore, wishing to release Jesus, again called out to them. But they shouted, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Then he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him. I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go.” But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested. And he released to them the one they requested, who for rebellion and murder had been thrown into prison; but he delivered Jesus to their will (Luke 23:14-25).It is difficult to conceptualize the level of hostility possessed by the Jewish hierarchy, and even by a segment of the Jewish population, toward a man who had done nothing worthy of such hatred. It is incredible to think that they would clamor for the release of a known murderer and insurrectionist, rather than allow the release of Jesus. Yes, the Roman authority was complicit in the death of Jesus. But Pilate would have had no interest in pursuing the matter if the Jewish leaders and crowd had not pressed for it. In fact, he went to great lengths to perform a symbolic ceremony in order to communicate the fact that he was not responsible for Jesus’ death. He announced to the multitude: “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it” (Matthew 27:24). Technically, the Romans cannot rightly be said to be ultimately responsible. If the Jews had not pressed the matter, Pilate never would have conceded to having Him executed. The apostle Peter made this point very clear by placing the blame for the crucifixion of Jesus squarely on the shoulders of Jerusalem Jews:
Men of Israel…the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses (Acts 3:12-16, emp. added).Notice that even though the Romans administered the actual crucifixion, Peter pointedly stated to his Jewish audience, not only that Pilate wanted to release Jesus, but that the Jews (“you”)—not the Romans—“killed the Prince of life.”
Does God lay the blame for the death of Christ on the Jews as an ethnic group? Of course not. Though the generation of Jews who were contemporary to Jesus cried out to Pilate, “His blood be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25, emp. added), it remains a biblical fact that “the son shall not bear the guilt of the father” (Ezekiel 18:20). A majority of a particular ethnic group in a particular geographical locale at a particular moment in history may band together and act in concert to perpetrate a social injustice. But such an action does not indict all individuals everywhere who share that ethnicity. “For there is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11), and neither should there be with any of us.
In fact, the New Testament teaches that ethnicity should have nothing to do with the practice of the Christian religion—which includes how we see ourselves, as well as how we treat others. Listen carefully to Paul’s declarations on the subject: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham's seed” (Galatians 3:28-29, emp. added). Jesus obliterated the ethnic distinction between Jew and non-Jew:
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity (Ephesians 2:14-17).In the higher sense, neither the Jews nor the Romans crucified Jesus. Oh, they were all complicit, including Judas Iscariot. But so were we. Every accountable human being who has ever lived or ever will live has committed sin that necessitated the death of Christ—if atonement was to be made so that sin could be forgiven. Since Jesus died for the sins of the whole world (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2), every sinner is responsible for His death. But that being said, the Bible is equally clear that in reality, Jesus laid down His own life for humanity: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep…. Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:11,17-18; cf. Galatians 1:4; 2:20; Ephesians 5:2; 1 John 3:16). Of course, the fact that Jesus was willing to sacrifice Himself on the behalf of humanity does not alter the fact that it still required human beings, in this case first-century Jews, exercising their own free will to kill Him. A good summary passage on this matter is Acts 4:27-28—“for of a truth in this city against thy holy Servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatsoever thy hand and thy council foreordained to come to pass.”
CONCLUSIONThe movie is, indeed, graphic. Despite various inaccuracies and additions that usually come with an attempt to transfer a biblical narrative to the screen, The Passion of the Christ nevertheless does a credible job of reenacting the excruciating torment that Jesus endured by undergoing Roman scourging and crucifixion. The film fosters a renewed appreciation of the suffering that Jesus subjected Himself to in behalf of sinful humanity.
Anti-Semitism is sinful and unchristian. Those who crucified Jesus are to be pitied. Even Jesus said concerning them: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). But we need not deny or rewrite history in the process. We now live in a post-Christian culture. If Gibson would have produced a movie depicting Jesus as a homosexual, the liberal, “politically correct,” anti-Christian forces would have been the first to defend the undertaking under the guise of “artistic license,” “free speech,” and “creativity.” But dare to venture into spiritual reality by showing the historicity of sinful man mistreating the Son of God, and the champions of moral degradation and hedonism raise angry, bitter voices of protest. The irony of the ages is—He died even for them.
REFERENCESAbbott, Walter, ed. (1966), The Documents of Vatican II (New York, NY: America Press).
“ADL and Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion,’ ” [On-line], URL: http://www.adl.org/interfaith/gibson_qa.asp.
Hudson, Deal (2003), “The Gospel according to Braveheart,” The Spectator, [On-line], URL: http://www.spectator.co.uk/article.php3?table=old§ion=current&issue= 2003-09-20&id=3427&searchText=.
“Legislator Tries to Censor Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion,’ ” [On-line], URL: http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2003/8/27/124709.shtml.
“Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion’ Makes Waves,” [On-line], URL: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/08/08/entertainment/main567445.shtml.
Novak, Michael (2003), “Passion Play,” The Weekly Standard, [On-line], URL: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/003/014ziqma.asp.
“O’Reilly: Elite Media out to Destroy Mel Gibson,” [On-line], URL: http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2003/9/15/223513.shtml.
Passion Web site, [On-line], URL: http://www.passion-movie.com/english/index.html.
“20th Decides Against Distributing Gibson’s ‘The Passion,’ ” [On-line], URL: http://www.imdb.com/SB?20030829#3.
“Vatican Has Not Taken A Position on Gibson’s Film ‘The Passion,’ Top Cardinal Assures ADL,” [On-line], URL: http://www.adl.org/PresRele/VaticanJewish_96/4355_96.htm.
Zoll, Rachel (2003), “Jewish Civil Rights Leader Says Actor Mel Gibson Espouses Anti-Semitic Views,” [On-line], URL: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2003/09/19/ national1505EDT0626.DTL.
Do Humans and Apes Differ Only by Degree?
|by||Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.|
Q.Do animals possess the same kind of intelligence as human beings? If we say that apes have less intelligence than humans, does this make them inferior to us?
A.Ever since Copernicus put the Sun at the center of the Solar System, scientists and other modern thinkers have diminished the role of humankind in the Universe. We have gone from being the crowning glory of God’s creation to a hairless ape stuck on a small planet circling a mediocre Sun in the distant reaches of one arm of the Milky Way Galaxy. Some of the most widely read authors in the evolutionary camp (such as Carl Sagan and Stephen Jay Gould) emphasize the lack of our uniqueness and the luck of our existence. Man occupies neither the center of the Universe nor the preeminent place in the living world; we are the product of the same natural, evolutionary processes that created the animals.
According to the most extreme version of this view, it is the utmost arrogance to identify any characteristic that distinguishes us from animals. Any differences we perceive are merely a matter of degree, and for all the things we do better, there are other things we do worse. The chimpanzee, in particular, is worthy of coequality because it is supposed to be our nearest living relative. Some even have gone so far as to suggest that this kinship puts a burden on us to make laws granting special rights to apes (Cavalieri and Singer, 1993; cf. Maddox, 1993).
The problem with such extreme positions is that they provide no reasonable stopping point. If we include chimps in our “community of equals,” then why not include all primates, all mammals, all animals, all living things? If the apes’ rights advocates can devise criteria that divide us and the apes from other animals, then can we not also devise criteria that divide ourselves from the apes? In other words, can we say that there are no essential differences between humans and, say, chimpanzees? Or, to put it another way, are there enough similarities to make us treat chimps on the same level, or almost on the same level, as members of our own species?
My gut reaction is to wonder why these chimps are still swinging from tree to tree, while the members of our species are able to walk on the Moon—and upright at that! To think like this makes me guilty of “speciesism,” the apes’ rights advocates would say. Apply the same reasoning to other humans, they charge, and it would put me in the position of saying that white European males are superior because Africans or Asians never have walked on the Moon. I would counter that regardless of sex or skin color, such a feat was something that members of our species were able to do, and something that chimps never could think of doing.
Does this make the chimps inferior? This word “inferior” means lower than, or below, another thing, but labeling something as inferior usually requires a judgment call. For example, inspectors at a factory may judge the work of one individual as inferior to the work of another. If this is the way the word is being used, then I cannot say that apes are an inferior product; they were created with the same physical perfection as humans. Further, God’s stewardship grant compels us to show respect for all creatures that have been entrusted to our care. That there is a special relationship between God and man neither renders the ape inferior nor opens the floodgates to animal cruelty.
If apes are not inferior to humans, is it true that they are as intelligent as humans? One of the big success stories in looking at the human-like qualities of apes is a chimp (specifically, a bonobo) known as Kanzi (see Savage-Rumbaugh and Lewin, 1994). Through many years of intense training and close social contact with humans, this remarkable animal has attained the language abilities of an average two-year-old human. Kanzi goes beyond the mere parroting or “aping” of humans: he really can communicate his wants and needs, express feelings, and use tools. Inasmuch as Kanzi can accomplish these things, does this prove that chimps are merely hairy, child-like versions of humans?
Without detracting anything from Kanzi, fundamental differences remain. Unlike human children, chimpanzees do not naturally pick up language from trained apes. Such abilities have been drilled into Kanzi, and each new trainee must be taught by humans. Also, chimps: (a) do not have a special region in the brain devoted to language; (b) have a much smaller brain overall; and (c) lack the anatomy to speak the words they may think. In summary, humans have an innate, built-in, hard-wired ability to acquire and communicate complex language from the moment of their birth; chimps do not.
Sheba, another remarkable chimp, has demonstrated the ability to count and think abstractly. She was taught that whenever presented with a choice between two quantities of an object, she would receive a reward if she gave the greatest quantity to another chimp. However, when the objects were changed to food items (gumdrops), she never would hand over the dish with the greatest quantity. Each time she chose the plate with the most gumdrops, the researchers would take it away quickly before she had a chance to eat (Fischman, 1993; Gonick, 1994). She could not learn that keeping the greater share gained her nothing—no gumdrops and no reward. In other words, her food instinct got in the way of her numerical ability. Although you and I may prefer to get the biggest piece of pizza, we may suppress that desire for the sake of politeness or because someone needs it more than we do. Apes, apparently, have no override button when it comes to food.
Perhaps part of the reason for Sheba’s apparent selfishness is that she lacks empathy or “transcendental perspective.” This is a uniquely human ability that allows us to project the effect that our actions might have on someone else’s thinking or feelings sometime in the future. For example, I am able to wash the dishes in the hopes that my doing this will please my wife who is due home in a couple of hours. Anthropologists have found that animals do not act in this way, even if the lines of communication are open through simple language skills, as in the case of Kanzi. So, although chimps may learn to think abstractly, they lack the ability to form complex social relationships based on the communication of such ideas (Gibbons, 1993). Empathy also is the reason animals live outside the moral sphere. Sheba cannot be accused of selfishness for not handing over the plate with the most gumdrops because she is incapable of knowing that this is something she ought to do.
Some researchers speculate that the sort of foresight inherent in empathy and other human endeavors, such as sophisticated tool making and long-term planning, may be related to the fourfold difference in size between the cerebral cortex of chimps and humans (Calvin, 1994). Again, this is not merely a matter of degree: the chimp brain is not a one-fourth scale model of a human brain; rather, there is a fundamental difference in the way the two brains work.
Are chimps intelligent? The answer is yes. Do chimps possess the same kind of intelligence as humans? The answer would have to be “no.” Humans are more intelligent, and they possess additional forms of intelligence. What we must remember, also, is that the greatest capabilities of the apes belong to a handful of superstars like Kanzi and Sheba. Even these animals lack the empathy, foresight, and language capabilities of all but the youngest or most intellectually challenged of our own species.
Chimps and other apes may be worthy of respect (or eve natural sympathy as McShea  suggests), but they cannot share our experiences, understand our stories, or be accountable to our rules of living. They are not inferior, but neither do they differ from merely by degree.
Cavalieri, Paola and Peter Singer (1993), The Great Ape Project (London: Fourth Estate).
Fischman, Joshua (1993), “New Clues Surface About the Making of the Mind,” Science, 262:1517, December 3.
Gibbons, Ann (1993), “Empathy and Brain Evolution,” Science, 259:1250-1251, February 26.
Gonick, Larry (1994), “Sheba’s Last Theorem,” Discover, 15:114-115, June.
Maddox, John (1993), “The Kinship of Apes and People,” Nature, 364:185, July 15.
McShea, Daniel W. (1994), “On the Rights of an Ape,” Discover, 15:34, February.
Savage-Rumbaugh, Sue and Roger Lewin (1994), “Ape at the Brink,” Discover, 15:90-96,98, September.
Wonders of God’s Creation
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
According to the General Theory of Evolution, about 14 billion years ago “all the matter in the universe was concentrated into one very dense, very hot region that may have been much smaller than a period on this page. For some unknown reason, this region exploded” (Hurd, et al., p. 61). As a result of the alleged explosion of a period-sized ball of matter, billions of galaxies formed, and eventually planets such as Earth evolved. Supposedly, the evolution of galaxies, and every planet, moon, and star within these galaxies, all came about by non-purposeful, unintelligent accidents. Likewise, every life form that eventually appeared on Earth purportedly evolved by mindless, random chances over millions of years. Some life forms “just happened” to evolve the ability to reproduce asexually, while others “just happened” to develop the capability to reproduce sexually. Some life forms “just happened” to evolve the ability to walk along vertical ledges (e.g., geckos), while others “just happened” to evolve the “gift” of glowing (e.g., glow worms). Some life forms “just happened” to evolve the ability to make silk (e.g., spiders), which, pound-for-pound, is stronger than steel, while others “just happened” to evolve the ability to “turn 90 degrees in under 50 milliseconds” while flying in a straight line (e.g., the blowfly; Mueller, 2008, 213:82). Allegedly, everything has come into existence by random chances over billions of years. According to the General Theory of Evolution, there was no Mind, no Intelligence, and no Designer that created the Universe and everything in it.
Ironically, though atheistic evolutionary scientists insist that the Earth and all living things on it have no grand, intelligent Designer, these same scientists consistently refer to amazing “design” in nature. Consider an example of such paradoxical language in a recent National Geographic article titled, “Biomimetics: Design by Nature” (Mueller, 2008). The word “design” (or one of its derivatives—designs, designed, etc.) appeared no less than seven times in the article in reference to “nature’s designs.” Evolutionary biologist Andrew Parker spoke of his collection of preserved animals as “a treasure-trove of brilliant design” (quoted in Mueller, 2008, 213:75, emp. added). After interviewing Parker, National Geographic writer Tom Mueller noted how the capillaries between the scales of a thorny devil lizard are “evidently designed to guide water toward the lizard’s mouth” (p. 81, emp. added). He then explained how “[i]nsects offer an embarrassment of design riches” (p. 75, emp. added). Mueller referred to nature’s “sophistication” and “clever devices” (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. Brilliant and well-funded scientists around the world admit that living things perform many feats “too mysterious and complicated to be able to replicate” (p. 82). They are “designed,” allegedly, with no “Designer.”
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,” 2008, emp. added). After defining “design” as a drawing, sketch, or “graphic representation of a detailed plan...,” the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language noted that design may be defined as “[t]he purposeful or inventive arrangement of parts or details” (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 accidents, but of the purposeful planning and deliberate actions of an inventor or designer. A designer brings about a design. Thus, by definition, design demands a designer, and one with some measure of intelligence.
National Geographic purports that nature “blindly cobbles together myriad random experiments over thousands of generations” in order to produce complex, living organisms that the world’s “top scientists have yet to comprehend” (Mueller, 2008, 213:90). We, on the other hand, choose to believe that, just as a painting demands a painter, and a poem a poet, the world’s amazing designs, which continually stump the most intelligent scientists on Earth, demand an intelligent Designer. Consider three wonders of God’s Creation—from the land, sea, and air—that testify on behalf of a grand Designer and against the random, chance processes of mindless evolution.
Consider that a giraffe’s brain is about eight feet higher than its heart. In order to get blood from its heart up to its brain, a giraffe must have an enormous heart that can pump blood extremely hard against gravity. What’s more, it must maintain such blood pressure as long as the giraffe’s neck is vertically in the air. It should come as no surprise that this long-necked mammal is equipped with a two-foot-long, 20-plus-pound, thick-walled heart that is large enough and strong enough to pump blood eight feet high—creating blood pressure that is about twice that of any other large mammal, and as much as three times that of the average person (Foster, 1977, 152:409).
But what about when a giraffe suddenly lowers its head several feet below its heart to get a drink of water? What happens to all of the blood that the heart normally pumps so powerfully against gravity to the brain? If the design of the giraffe were merely left up to time and chance, one would expect that the first time a giraffe tried to lower its neck to get a drink of water, the heart would pump so much blood to the brain that blood vessels in the brain would explode, or the brain would fill up with blood so quickly that the giraffe would pass out.
How does the giraffe keep from having brain bleeds, or from feeling woozy and passing out every time it bends down and raises back up? A National Geographic article on giraffes explains:
To withstand the surge of blood to and from the brain as its neck sweeps up and down, the giraffe has developed control valves in the jugular veins and a special network of blood vessels in its head. Known as the rete mirabile caroticum—wonder net of the carotids—this circulatory buffer keeps blood pressure constant in the brain” (Foster, p. 409).A giraffe, then, has intricate valves in its jugular veins that help control how much blood gets to the brain during those times when a giraffe has its head lowered. Working together with these valves is a network of blood vessels that “controls the flow of blood into the head” (p. 411). Then, “[w]hen the head is raised, the same net counters the danger of blackouts from reduced blood pressure” (p. 411).
- “a complex pressure-regulation system” (“Giraffe,” 2008).
- “unique valves” that prevent overpressure when it lowers its head (Foster, 1977, p. 409).
- a network of blood vessels that helps stabilize blood pressure as the giraffe moves its neck up and down.
- a heart powerful enough to send an adequate amount of blood eight feet upwards against gravity.
- arteries in the lower part of its body thick enough to withstand the high blood pressure.
- skin tight enough to force blood back upward and keep capillaries in its lower extremities from bursting.
- oversized lungs (large enough to hold 12 gallons of air) that “compensate for the volume of dead air” in its 10-foot long trachea (Foster, p. 409; “Mammals: Giraffe,” 2008). [“Without this extra air-pumping capacity a giraffe would breathe the same used air over and over” (Foster, p. 409).]
How do the mindless, purposeless, random processes of time and chance adequately explain “unique valves,” “a complex pressure-regulation system,” a “wonder net” that “keeps blood pressure constant in the brain” (whether the giraffe’s neck is raised or lowered), a heart, lungs, and arteries all just the right size, etc.? Even more difficult (impossible) for evolution to explain is how all of these sophisticated body parts came about simultaneously? After all, what good is a big heart without a network of blood vessels that stabilizes blood pressure? And what is the point of the rete mirabile caroticum, if the giraffe did not have a heart powerful enough to pump blood eight feet into the air? Evolutionist Robert Wesson openly addressed this issue in his book, Beyond Natural Selection. He wrote:
All these things had to be accomplished in step, and they must have been done rapidly.... That it could all have come about by synchronized random mutations strains the definition of random. The most critical question, however, is how the original impetus to giraffeness—and a million other adaptations—got started and acquired sufficient utility to have selective value.... The observer must be often tempted to suppose that organisms have responded to their conditions and needs more purposefully than strict Darwinian theory can allow (1991, p. 226, emp. added).Truly, the amazingly intricate design of the giraffe’s circulatory system, as well as the rest of its anatomy and physiology, demand a better explanation than the random, chance processes of evolution. The fact is, the giraffe is brilliantly designed—a wonder of God’s creation.
Even more incredible than their communication skills, is the cuttlefishes’ ability to blend in to their surroundings. Brooks described them as having “the world’s best camouflage skills” (p. 29). Similar to how these mollusks (cuttlefish have an internal shell called a cuttlebone, thus, scientists classify them as mollusks) communicate with other animals via a variety of body patterns, they also move their bodies into a variety of positions in hopes of staying hidden. For example, while swimming next to large seaweed, a cuttlefish can mimic the motion of the grass by positioning and waving its eight arms similar to how seaweed sways in water. This makes it very difficult for both attackers and possible prey to locate the cuttlefish. In a recent study, scientists placed either horizontal or vertical stripes on the walls of cuttlefish tanks. How did the cuttlefish react? According to Dr. Roger Hanlon, “If the stripes were vertical they would raise an arm. If the stripes were horizontal they would stretch their bodies out horizontally” (as quoted in Brooks, p. 31). Amazing! Cuttlefish can even change the texture of their skin to mimic the shape of certain barnacle-encrusted rocks or corals.
But what must give other sea life more problems than anything is the cuttlefish’s ability to change color—and to do it so quickly. A cuttlefish can change the color of its entire body in the blink of an eye. If this mollusk wants to change to red, it sends signals from its brain to its “pigment” sacs (called chromatophores) to change to red. Cuttlefish can hide from other sea life by changing to the color of sand or seaweed. They can also appear as a strobe light, blinking “on and off” very quickly. So extraordinary are these “masters of camouflage” (p. 28) that government researchers are even “looking into the possibility of copying cuttlefish camouflage for use in the military” (p. 31). Researchers are enamored with “how cuttlefish achieve their quick and convincing camouflage” (p. 30). Nevertheless, “[i]t’s highly unlikely that anyone could achieve that same level of camouflage” (p. 30). Scientists admittedly find it difficult “mimicking the colour-matching abilities of the cuttlefish...and its texture-matching ability, which utilizes the muscles beneath it” (p. 30). In fact, “[n]o one knows exactly” how cuttlefish match their backgrounds so effectively, especially since “[e]xperiments have shown that cuttlefish don’t look at their skin to check how well it matches the background” (p. 31, emp. added). What’s more, if, as scientists believe, this animal is colorblind, only seeing in shades of green (p. 31), how does it always choose the color most helpful (like changing to the color of sand when on the ocean floor)?
In February 2007, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey fitted 16 shorebirds, known as bar-tailed godwits, with satellite transmitters. One of the godwits, dubbed E7, made its way from New Zealand to Alaska over the next three months, flying 9,340 miles with one five-week-long layover near the North Korea-China border (Hansford, 2007). After nearly four months, the godwit began its uninterrupted flight back to New Zealand. Amazingly, this little bird, which normally weighs less than one pound, flew 7,145 miles in nine days without stopping, averaging 34.8 mph. Without taking a break to eat, drink, or rest, the godwit flew “the equivalent of making a roundtrip flight between New York and San Francisco, and then flying back again to San Francisco without ever touching down” (“Bird Completes...,” 2007). Equally impressive, the godwit’s approximately 16,500-mile, roundtrip journey ended where it began. Without a map, a compass, or even a parent, godwits can fly tens of thousands of miles without getting lost.
Scientists have studied the migration of birds for decades and still cannot adequately explain this “age-old riddle” (Peterson, 1968, p. 108). Their stamina and sense of direction is mind-boggling. In his book Unsolved Mysteries of Science, evolutionist John Malone reported how much progress man has made over the last few centuries in understanding how birds are able to journey thousands of miles with pinpoint accuracy (2001, pp. 114-122). Yet, he concluded his chapter on bird migration with these words:
Partial explanations abound, but every book or scientific article on bird migration is full of conditional words and phrases: “It may be...but it also might not be.” We know more about how birds might achieve their epic flights around the world, but there are still far more mysteries than there are explanations. The tiny songbird that reappeared to build its nest in the apple tree outside your window—and we know from banding that it can indeed be exactly the same bird—has been to South America and back since you saw it last. How can that be? This is one case where it may be nicer not to know—simply allow yourself to be swept up by awe and wonder (p. 122, emp. added).
For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God (Hebrews 3:4).
The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours; the world and all its fullness, You have founded them. The north and the south, You have created them (Psalm 89:11-12).
This great and wide sea, in which are innumerable teeming things, living things both small and great. O Lord, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all (Psalm 104:25,24, emp. added).
Brooks, Michael (2008), “Do You Speak Cuttlefish?” New Scientist, 198: 28-31, April 26.
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000), (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.
“Design” (2008), Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, [On-line], URL: http://www.merriam-webster.com/diction ary.
Foster, Bristol (1977), “Africa’s Gentle Giants,” National Geographic, 152:402-417, September.
“Giraffe” (1999), Smithsonian National Zoological Park, [On-line], URL: http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/AfricanSavanna/fact-giraffe.cfm.
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Is America Doomed? [Part III]
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
[EDITORS’ NOTE: This article is the third installment in a three-part series based on the author’s seminar and soon-to-be-released book—The Silencing of God: The Dismantling of America’s Christian Heritage. Parts I and II appeared in the September and October issues. Part III follows below, and continues, without introductory comments, where the second article ended.]
...ACCORDING TO THE FOUNDERS?
I am sure there never was a people who had more reason to acknowledge a Divine interposition in their affairs than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe that they have forgotten that Agency which was so often manifested during our revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God who is alone able to protect them (Washington, 1838, 10:222-223, emp. added).Undoubtedly, America has the greatest, most technologically sophisticated military in human history. Yet, according to the first Commander-in-Chief of America’s armed forces, God alone is able to protect the country. He was merely echoing Scripture. Read carefully the words of the psalmist:
No king is saved by the multitude of an army; a mighty man is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a vain hope for safety; neither shall it deliver any by its great strength. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine (33:16-19, emp. added).In the final analysis, all of the Apache attack helicopters, Tomahawk subsonic cruise missiles, nuclear warheads, and sophisticated military weaponry that American ingenuity has created, will not save America. Rather, only God can preserve us—and His protective care is extended only to those who fear Him. But should America make preparations for defense? Certainly. The Bible declares: “The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance is of the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31, emp. added). We should make preparations for the defense of the nation against outside forces; but we must keep ever before us the fact that deliverance from enemies comes ultimately from God—not man. And God extends His assistance to the virtuous and righteous—as noted by Patrick Henry:
Whether this will prove a blessing or a curse, will depend upon the use our people make of the blessings which a gracious God hath bestowed on us. If they are wise, they will be great and happy. If they are of a contrary character, they will be miserable. Righteousness alone can exalt them as a nation. Reader! Whoever thou art, remember this; and in thy sphere practice virtue thyself, and encourage it in others” (1891, 1:81-82, emp. added). “The great pillars of all government and of social life: I mean virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone, that renders us invincible” (1891, 2:592, emp. added).John Witherspoon echoed precisely the same sentiment: “He who makes a people virtuous makes them invincible” (1815, 9:231).
The foundations which support the interest of Christianity, are also necessary to support a free and equal government like our own. In all those countries where there is little or no religion, or a very gross and corrupt one, as in Mahometan and Pagan countries, there you will find, with scarcely a single exception, arbitrary and tyrannical governments, gross ignorance and wickedness, and deplorable wretchedness among the people. To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoy. In proportion as the genuine effects of Christianity are diminished in any nation, either through unbelief, or the corruption of its doctrines, or the neglect of its institutions; in the same proportion will the people of that nation recede from the blessings of genuine freedom, and approximate the miseries of complete despotism. I hold this to be a truth confirmed by experience. If so, it follows, that all efforts made to destroy the foundations of our holy religion, ultimately tend to the subversion also of our political freedom and happiness. Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all the blessings which flow from them, must fall with them (1799, p. 9, emp. added).Recall the somber warning of Declaration signer Charles Carroll of Carrollton, in a letter written to fellow Founder and signer of the federal Constitution, James McHenry, on November 4, 1800:
Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure... 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).
Noah Webster sounded the same warning:
[T]he Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis, or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government.... [A]nd I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence (as quoted in Snyder, 1990, p. 283, emp. added).Elias Boudinot, president of the Continental Congress (1782-1783), articulated precisely the same point, when he expressed his “anxious desire” that:
our country should be preserved from the dreadful evil of becoming enemies to the religion of the Gospel, which I have no doubt, but would be introductive of the dissolution of government and the bonds of civil society (1801, p. xxii, emp. added).
Declaration signer and Connecticut governor, Samuel Huntington, agreed, as indicated by his remarks on January 9, 1788 at the state convention debating ratification of the federal Constitution:
While the great body of freeholders are acquainted with the duties which they owe to their God, to themselves, and to men, they will remain free. But if ignorance and depravity should prevail, they will inevitably lead to slavery and ruin (as quoted in Elliot, 1836, 2:200, emp. added).Signer of the Constitution, Gouverneur Morris, insisted in a speech delivered September 4, 1816:
There must be religion. When that ligament is torn, society is disjointed and its members perish. The nation is exposed to foreign violence and domestic convulsion. Vicious rulers, chosen by vicious people, turn back the current of corruption to its source. Placed in a situation where they can exercise authority for their own emolument, they betray their trust. They take bribes. They sell statutes and decrees. They sell honor and office. They sell their conscience. They sell their country. By this vile traffic they become odious and contemptible.... But the most important of all lessons is the denunciation of ruin to every State that rejects the precepts of religion” (1821, pp. 32,34, emp. added).
Declaration signer and “The Father of the American Revolution,” Samuel Adams, likewise issued a solemn warning in a letter to James Warren on February 12, 1779:
A general dissolution of the principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous, they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue, they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader (1908, 4:124, emp. added).In his inaugural address as the Governor of Massachusetts in 1780, Founder John Hancock insisted that both our freedom and our very existence as a Republic will be determined by public attachment to Christian morality:
Sensible of the importance of Christian piety and virtue to the order and happiness of a state, I cannot but earnestly commend to you every measure for their support and encouragement.... Manners, by which not only the freedom, but the very existence of the republics, are greatly affected, depend much upon the public institutions of religion and the good education of youth (as quoted in Brown, 1898, p. 269, emp. added).Revolutionary War soldier and "U.S. Federal judge appointed by President John Adams, Jeremiah Smith, declared in an oration on February 22, 1800:
[C]herish and promote the interest of knowledge, virtue and religion. They are indispensable to the support of any free government.... Let it never be forgotten that there can be no genuine freedom where there is no morality, and no sound morality where there is no religion” (as quoted in Atherton, 1800, p. 81, emp. added).The words of Declaration signer John Witherspoon are frightening: “Nothing is more certain than that a general profligacy and corruption of manners make a people ripe for destruction” (1802, 3:41, emp. added).
Observe: According to the Framers and Founders, the American republic cannot last any length of time when Christian morals do not characterize the people; no civil government of a republic can exist and last without the controlling influence of Christian principles; the government and civility in society will dissolve if the citizens become enemies of Christianity; ignorance of one’s duty to God and depravity will lead to slavery and ruin; without religion, foreign violence, domestic convulsion and ruin result; abandoning Christian virtue will result in submission to invaders; there can be no genuine freedom where religion and morality are lost; and we will then be ripe for destruction. There is no doubt that the Founders were single-minded in their recognition of the same fact: if Christianity, Christian morality, and devotion to the God of the Bible dissipate in America, we cannot perpetuate our national existence—and the nation is doomed.
[I]f we and our posterity reject religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity (1903, 13:492-493, emp. added).Ask yourself four questions—#1: Are Americans—on a widespread scale—rejecting Christian instruction and authority? The polls show that fewer and fewer attend church service or follow the Bible. #2: Are Americans violating the rules of eternal justice? Look at the unprecedented numbers of lawbreakers occupying overcrowded prisons, and the shift in the justice system that commenced in the 1960s favoring the “rights” of the criminal. #3: Are Americans trifling with the injunctions of morality? Unbelievably, we are actually having a national discussion (battle) on how to define marriage! #4: Are Americans recklessly destroying the Constitution? Liberal Supreme Court justices reject strict constructionist interpretation and insist on looking to the courts of the world for their opinions, while federal judges legislate from the bench—even overriding majority votes of the people. The haunting answer to these four questions is a resounding “Yes!” How, then, can we as a nation possibly escape catastrophe? We cannot. We will not.
No country upon earth ever had it more in its power to attain these blessings than United America. Wondrously strange, then, and much to be regretted indeed would it be, were we to neglect the means and to depart from the road which Providence has pointed us to so plainly; I cannot believe it will ever come to pass (Series 2, Letterbook 15, Image 172, emp. added).A similar, striking resemblance may be seen in the warning God issued to Solomon and the nation over which he served as king:
[I]f My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place.... But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods, and worship them, then I will uproot them from My land which I have given them; and this house which I have sanctified for My name I will cast out of My sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.... [E]veryone who passes by it will be astonished and say, “Why has the Lord done thus to this land and this house?” Then they will answer, “Because they forsook the Lord God of their fathers... and embraced other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore He has brought all this calamity on them (2 Chronicles 7:14-22, emp. added; cf. Deuteronomy 29:19-28).After recounting the blessings that God bestowed upon them by giving them a bountiful land, prosperity, comfort, and wealth, God issued a warning to the Israelites. Although spoken 3,500 years ago, these words sound remarkably descriptive of America:
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 when your herds and your flocks multiply, 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... 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 8:11-14,19-20, emp. added).Sadly, it happened. Years later, Nehemiah (9:23-31) recounted their disobedience and rebellion in which they “cast [God’s] law behind their backs” (vs. 26), and “shrugged their shoulders, stiffened their necks, and would not hear” God’s words (vs. 29). Consequently, God “delivered [them] into the hand of their enemies” (vss. 27,28,30).
As the population of America continues its progressive entrenchment against God, the outcome is inevitable: “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17, emp. added). Indeed, as Americans turn their back on the God of their fathers, so God will cease to bestow His protection and blessings. “‘Shall I not punish them for these things?’ says the Lord. ‘Shall I not avenge Myself on such a nation as this?’” (Jeremiah 5:9,29; 9:9).
The only hope for America is to experience a nationwide spiritual awakening by returning to God and begging His forgiveness. “‘Return to Me, and I will return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 3:7). Our only hope is for a sizeable percentage of Americans to rise up and act upon the factuality of the psalmist’s words: “Let all the earth fear the Lord; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.... Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (33:8,12). God help us. If it be His will, may God save the United States of America.
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