"THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS" The Peril Of Not Progressing (6:1-8) INTRODUCTION 1. The normal Christian life is to be one of spiritual growth and progression... a. Starting as "babes in Christ", we feed on the "milk" of the Word b. As our spiritual senses are exercised to discern good and evil, we are then able to progress to "solid food" (meat) -- In this way we are to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." - 2Pe 3:18 2. But as we saw in a previous lesson ("Marks Of Spiritual Immaturity"), not all grow as they should, and some of the indications of immaturity are: a. Dullness of hearing b. Inability to teach others c. Diet of "milk" only d. Inability to discern good and evil - cf. He 5:11-14 3. But if we don't grow spiritually as we should, so what? a. Is spiritual growth really that essential? b. Is there a "danger" involved in not progressing spiritually? [In the text before us (He 6:1-8), we find that indeed there is "The Peril Of Not Progressing"; that it is possible for Christians to find themselves in a very precarious situation. As we examine this passage, we note first...] I. THE DUTY OF PRESSING ON TO PERFECTION (1-3) A. THE PERFECTION WE SEEK IS TWO-FOLD... 1. Maturity in religious knowledge, as a MEANS - 1Pe 2:2; Jm 1:21 a. We need the Word of God, that we may grow thereby b. By receiving the Word with humility into our hearts, it can save our souls 2. Full development of spiritual life, as an ENDS - 2Pe 1:5-8 a. To faith and knowledge, we must add the qualities of godly character b. As we develop this godly character, we truly come to know the Lord B. FOR THIS WE NEED "THE ELEMENTARY PRINCIPLES OF CHRIST"... 1. Our text reveals that this involves teaching on such subjects as: a. "Repentance from dead works" 1) I.e., turning from works which produce spiritual death, not life 2) Paul describes such works in Ep 2:1-3; Ro 6:21 b. "Faith toward God" 1) I.e., that trusting conviction in God and His promises that is essential to pleasing Him - cf. He 11:6 2) This faith is produced by the Word of God itself - cf. Ro 10:17; Jn 20:30-31 c. "The doctrine of baptisms" 1) In the first century A.D., there were many ritual washings practiced by various sects of the pagans and Jews a) Such practices needed to be carefully distinguished from Christian baptism b) Just as John's baptism was distinguished from baptism into Christ - cf. Ac 19:1-5 2) Today, it is important to understand the different kinds of baptisms practiced... a) Nearly all "Christian" religions practice some sort of baptism b) But most do not baptize for the reasons stated in the Scriptures - cf. Ac 2:38; 22:16; Ro 6:1-6 d. "Laying on of hands" 1) In the early church, this was done for various reasons: a) By Jesus, and others with the gift of healing, to heal the sick - Lk 4:40; Mk 16:18; Ac 28:8 b) By Jesus, to bestow special blessings upon others - Mk 10:16; Mt 19:13-15 c) By the apostles, to impart the Spirit in a miraculous measure - Ac 8:14-25; 19:1-7; 2Ti 1:6 d) By church leaders, to appoint different ones for service - Ac 6:1-6; 13:1-3; 1Ti 4:14; 5:22 2) Note that the laying on of hands was often accompanied with prayer; perhaps the imposition of hands being the outward symbol of the prayer (Lightfoot) e. "Resurrection of the dead" 1) A central theme of apostolic preaching was the resurrection of Jesus - Ac 2:31-32; 10:40; 13:33 2) They also preached in Jesus our own resurrection, which is our precious hope! - Ac 4:2; 24:15; 1Co 15:12-23 f. "Eternal judgment" 1) Another theme of apostolic preaching - cf. Ac 17:30-31; 24:24-25 2) Also stressed in their epistles - cf. Ro 2:16; 14:10-12; 2Co 5:10 2. Understanding these concepts serves as the "beginning" of spiritual growth! a. Sadly, some who have been Christians for years still "need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God;" b. Such people are still "babes" who "need milk and not solid food." - He 5:12 C. BUT WE ALSO NEED TO "GO ON TO PERFECTION"... 1. Once we have laid the foundation, we need to build on it 2. With an understanding of the doctrines previously described, we are ready to receive more difficult knowledge a. Such as the high priesthood of Christ - cf. He 5:9-11 b. We might also add the work of Christ as our "King of kings and Lord of lords", as depicted in the book of Revelation 3. By comprehending the "meatier" parts of the Word of God, we are more likely to remain steadfast in our faith -- And so we need the attitude of striving toward perfection as described by Paul - Php 3:7-15 [Is this our attitude? It should be, for as we continue to read in our text, there is...] II. THE DANGER OF IRREVERSIBLE APOSTASY (4-8) A. NOTE THE PRIVILEGES SOME APOSTATES HAD ENJOYED... 1. They "were once enlightened" a. This likely refers to their conversion - cf. He 10:32 b. By the second century, the word "enlightenment" was used as a synonym for baptism (Justin, Apology, 1.61.65) c. The Peshitta Syriac translates the verse, "who have once descended to baptism" (Lightfoot) 2. They "have tasted of the heavenly gift" a. The word "taste" suggests a deep personal experience - cf. 1Pe 2:3; Ps 34:8 b. Their tasting the "heavenly gift" refers back to the past experience of salvation... 1) In which they experienced the forgiveness of sins 2) In which they began to receive the spiritual blessings of being in Christ c. The clause "describes vividly the reality of personal experiences of salvation enjoyed by Christians at conversion (baptism)." (Behm, TDNT, I, 676) 3. They "have become partakers of the Holy Spirit" a. This also refers back to their conversion - Ac 2:38; 5:32 b. The word "partakers" (metochous) is significant... 1) Christians are "partakers (metochoi) of the heavenly calling" - He 3:1 2) They are "partakers (metochoi) of Christ" - He 3:14 -- So they are also partakers in the Holy Spirit! (Lightfoot) 4. They "have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come" a. Again the word "tasted" suggests personal experience b. They had experienced the good things the word of God promises c. They had experienced "the powers of the age to come" 1) The "age to come" is likely the Messianic age, ushered in with the first coming of Christ, and consummated with His second coming (Lightfoot) 2) The "powers of the age" they had experienced... a) Certainly included the "power" experienced by all Christians - cf. Ep 1:19; 3:20; 6:10 b) But perhaps even "signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit" - cf. He 2:4 -- Can these be anyone other than true Christians who had once believed in Jesus? B. NOTE HOW FAR THEY HAD FALLEN... 1. It was now "impossible...to renew them again to repentance" a. It is apparent that Christians can "fall away" 1) Paul warned that one can become "estranged from Christ" and "fall from grace" - Ga 5:4 2) Peter described those once saved whose "latter end is worse than the beginning" - 2Pe 2:20-22 b. Here we learn that some can fall away to the point they are beyond rescue! 1) We cannot say when a person reaches that point 2) But there is a point where renewal becomes impossible! 2. In such a state "they crucify again for themselves the Son of God and put Him to an open shame." a. This is not a Christian who sins out of weakness or ignorance b. This is one who knowingly and openly rejects Christ publicly! 1) It is one whose heart has been so hardened by sin that in unbelief they have departed from the living God - cf. He 3:12-13 2) It is one who despises Jesus, His blood, and the Spirit of grace - cf. He 10:29 c. It is one thing to "yield" to sin contrary to the new life in Christ, it is another thing to "abandon" that new life altogether! (Lightfoot) -- But such can happen if we are not careful to "go on to perfection"! C. NOTE THE FEARFUL DESTRUCTION RESERVED FOR THEM... 1. Like unproductive branches, they are "rejected...whose end is to be burned" a. Having received blessings from God, they should have produced good fruit b. But instead they are like thorns and briars, taking nourishment but not producing useful fruit in return - He 6:7-8 2. With a similar illustration, Jesus warned His disciples! - Jn 15:1-8 a. By abiding in Him, we are able to bear fruit to God's glory b. But if we do not bear fruit, we will be cut off and "burned"! CONCLUSION 1. From this stern passage, we learn some sobering truths... a. Receiving wonderful blessings from God does not preclude the impossibility of apostasy b. For those who fall away to the point of casting off their faith, destruction awaits! 2. In view of such truths... a. "The Peril Of Not Progressing" is very real! b. We need to heed the exhortation: "let us go on to perfection" 1) We cannot be content with spiritual immaturity 2) We must be diligent to "press on" in our spiritual growth Does this mean we must live our Christian lives with insecurity regarding our salvation? No, for as we will see in our next lesson ("The Basis For Spiritual Security"), there are things upon which we can base our hope and trust for the future. But the warnings in this passage should be heeded! Brethren, what are you doing with the blessings you have received in Christ...?
Will There be a "Rapture"?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The average American is aware of the periodic claim that “the end is near.” When Y2K was approaching, outcries of doom, global disruption, and Armageddon were widespread. Hal Lindsey achieved nationwide attention over thirty years ago with his national bestseller The Late Great Planet Earth (1970). A more recent repackaging of the dispensational brand of premillennialism is the popular Left Behind book series (see “The Official…”). Every so often, a religious figure captures national attention, announcing the impending return of Jesus—even to the point of setting a date—only to fade into the anonymity from which he arose when his claim falls flat, but having achieved his “fifteen minutes of fame” (see Whisenant and Brewer, 1989). The sensationalism sells well and tweaks the curiosity of large numbers of people. Incredibly, this pattern has been repeating itself literally for centuries!
Such is the case with the alleged “Rapture.” It comes from the Latin word “rapere,” which means “to seize, snatch out, take away.” Dispensationalists apply this word to the idea that Christ will come suddenly and secretly in the air to snatch away from the Earth the living saints and the resurrected bodies of those saints already deceased. This rapture is supposed to occur just prior to the seven-year Tribulation period, which, in turn, will be followed by the Millennium.
Proponents claim that the Rapture will be secretive. We are told that families will be shocked by the strange disappearance of a mother, father, or child. Driverless cars will collide in the streets (thus the bumper sticker: “In case of rapture, this vehicle will be unmanned”). A man and wife will be in bed; she hears a noise, turns her head, and finds him gone. Planes will crash with no pilots found. These sensational and dramatic examples illustrate the view that the Rapture will be an invisible coming of the Lord for His saints, leaving visible results of chaos and confusion among the remaining unbelievers.
In reality, the word “rapture” is not found in the Bible, though it is claimed to be the Latin equivalent of harpadzo translated “caught up” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (NKJV). Lindsey admitted, “[i]t is not found in the Bible” (1970, p. 126), and noted that the word “translation” is just as suitable. Yet the word “translation” does occur in the New Testament. Paul referred to the fact that God “has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13, emp. added). So when an unbeliever obeys the Gospel, receives forgiveness of sins, and is added to the church of Christ, he is taken out of the world and transferred to Christ’s kingdom. This use of the term is certainly a far cry from the idea that it refers to Christians being raptured from the physical Earth to meet Jesus in the air.
The New Testament uses three terms to refer to Christ’s return. First, parousia is translated “coming, presence, or advent.” Second, epiphaneia is translated “appearing, manifestation, or brightness.” Third, apokalupsis is translated “revelation.” Dispensationalism holds that parousia (“coming”) refers to the “Rapture” that occurs seven years before the epiphaneia (“appearing”) or apokalupsis(“revelation).” Accordingly, at the “Rapture,” it is claimed that Jesus will come for the church only, while at the “Revelation,” Jesus will return with the church, and put an end to the “Tribulation” and “Armageddon.”
The primary passage used to support the idea of a “rapture” is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. But this passage was not actually given to deal with the return of Christ. Its purpose was twofold. First, it was designed to reassure Christians that their deceased loved ones would be able to share in the Lord’s return. Second, it informed Christians that those who are still living when Christ returns will have no precedence or advantage over those who have already died. This dual function of the text constitutes a very different emphasis from the one imposed upon it by dispensationalists.
The dispensational distinctions made between the three New Testament terms that refer to Christ’s return are simply untenable (see Boettner, 1957, pp. 163-164). For example, dispensationalists assert that the “coming” (parousia) in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1 refers to the “Rapture.” Yet the same word is used in 1 Thessalonians 3:13 to speak of Jesus coming “with” His saints, thereby coinciding with the dispensational concept of the “Appearing” or “Revelation” seven years after the “Rapture.” Dispensationalists apply 2 Thessalonians 2:8 to the “Antichrist,” and therefore must understand this as a reference to the “Appearing” seven years after the “Rapture.” Yet the verse uses the expression “the manifestation (i.e., “brightness”—epiphaneia) of His coming (parousia).” Thus the term “coming” is used in the New Testament to refer to both dispensational concepts of the “Rapture” and the “Appearing,” and the two expressions are, in fact, combined in 2 Thessalonians 2:8 to refer to one and the same event.
The term “Revelation” (apokalupsis) in 1 Corinthians 1:7 is descriptive of what the dispensationalists call the “Rapture,” since Christians await it. But in 2 Thessalonians 1:7, it clearly refers to the “Appearing.” The term “Appearing” (epiphaneia) is used in 1 Timothy 6:14 as the event that terminates Christian activity on Earth, and thus fits the “Rapture” concept. But in 2 Timothy 4:1,8, the references to judgment fit the “Appearing.”
In view of these considerations, the sincere Bible student is forced to conclude that the three words relating to Christ’s return in the New Testament are used synonymously and interchangeably. The New Testament simply makes no distinction between the coming of the Lord for His saints (“Rapture”) and the coming of the Lord with His saints (“Appearing” or “Revelation”). The dispensational dichotomy is in direct conflict with New Testament terminology.
Additionally, if Christians are to be removed seven years before the “Revelation” or “Coming” of Christ, then no passage should speak of Christians remaining on Earth until the “Revelation.” However, many passages do just that (see Boettner, pp. 165-166). For example, in Titus 2:13, Paul referred to the “blessed hope” and the “appearing” as one and the same event, i.e., Christ’s coming. In the original language, the two substantives, “hope” and “appearing” (epiphaneia) are closely linked by the common article. They are not two separate events, as if to be read: “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing.” Rather, the text is saying, “looking for the blessed hope and appearing.” The one explains the other. The “blessed hope” of Christians is “the glorious appearing” of Christ. Other examples would be 1 Peter 1:13 and 4:13, where the grace on which the Christian is to set his hope is to be received at the “revelation” (apokalupsei) of Christ, at which time the Christian may rejoice. But, according to dispensationalism, the Christian should rejoice seven years earlier at the rapture.
Further, the use of the word “end” comes from a word that refers to “full end” and, in the New Testament, always refers to the end of the world, i.e., the Judgment day (see Boettner, p. 168-169). In Matthew 28:20, Jesus promised to be with the disseminators of the Gospel message to the very “end.” This means the church will remain on the Earth, preaching the Gospel, until the Judgment Day. But if the church is “raptured away” seven years before the end, she cannot fulfill what Christ commandedher to do! In Matthew 13:39-40, there is no removal of the saints before the “full end.” The righteous and the wicked grow together until the very end. The separation of the two comes at the end (not seven years before the end). The dispensationalist claims that the righteous will be taken out from among the wicked. But the Bible says just the opposite: the wicked will be taken out from among the righteous (Matthew 13:39-40).
The doctrine of the “Rapture” asserts that believers will be raised seven years before the “Revelation,” and 1,007 years before the end of the “Millennium.” But in four separate verses, Jesus Himself said believers will be raised “at the last day” (John 6:39,40,44,54). There can be no other days after the last day. So the believers cannot be raised at an alleged “Rapture” before the last day.
Finally, the Second Coming of Christ is nowhere depicted as secret, as the “Rapture” advocates affirm. In fact, just the opposite is true. Christ’s coming will be accompanied by “blazing fire” (2 Thessalonians 1:7), the sound of a trumpet (1 Corinthians 15:52), a “shout,” the “voice of the archangel,” and the “trump of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). In fact, “every eye will see Him” (Revelation 1:7). These passages show that all persons everywhere will see and hear this event. In fact, the very passage upon which the doctrine of the “Rapture” is founded (i.e., 1 Thessalonians 4:16), far from describing a quiet and secretive event, is about the noisiest verse in the Bible!
When one is willing to remove from the mind all preconceived, complex, and sensational theological concoctions, and simply let the Bible present its own portrait of the end of time and the Second Coming of Christ, the dispensational viewpoint of a postulated “Rapture” is seen to be totally unfounded.
Boettner, Loraine (1957), The Millennium (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed).
Lindsey, Hal (1970), The Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
“The Official Left Behind Series Site,” (2003), http://www.leftbehind.com/.
Whisenant, Edgar and Greg Brewer (1989), The Final Shout Rapture 1989 Report (Nashville, TN: World Bible Society).
Why Humanity Should Serve God
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
I have no reason to doubt that her question was entirely sincere—however misguided it was. “Suppose you could prove to me that there is a God. So what! Would that necessarily mean that I would be obligated to serve him?,” the young lady asked. “Your God must be on a super ‘ego trip’ if He expects everyone in the Universe to worship Him.” What response should be made to this flippant comment from an intelligent but confused college student?
First, the issue of whether humans should yield their lives to the Creator has nothing to do with the divine ego. God, by definition, is infinite in all of His attributes. He cannot be more powerful than He is. He cannot be wiser than He is. The Lord cannot be any more glorious than He is. Consequently, His “ego” never could be enhanced by human servitude. This is implied logically in the language of Christ’s prayer shortly before His crucifixion. Jesus petitioned that He might be glorified with the glory that He shared with the Father “before the world was” (John 17:5). If it were the case that God’s glory had been inflated by virtue of human devotion across the centuries, the Lord’s prayer surely would have reflected a desire for the current glory of the Father, rather than that possessed before the world was created (cf. Fuller, 1963, p. 23). God’s requirement that we serve Him, therefore, obviously is not for His benefit; rather, it is for ours. Because God is love (1 John 4:8), He wants the best for us. Our true contentment will be found only in living for Him, and that is why He bids us thus to do.
But let us expand this thought with supplemental reasons as to why we, as rational human beings, should be obedient to the Creator of our very being.
THE NATURE OF GOD
A primary reason for bowing before Jehovah has to do with the nature or essence of this Being. God is worthy of human service simply because of Who He is! Exactly what does this suggest?
There are two sources of information regarding the Supreme Being. First, there is the abstractrevelation of nature, which argues for the wisdom and power of Deity (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20). Jehovah’s power is seen in the vastness of the Universe; His wisdom is reflected in its intricate design. The evidence is so clear that those who survey these data, and yet fail to conclude that “He is,” are “without excuse” (Romans 1:20; Hebrews 11:6). In addition to the abstract revelation of divinity in the book of nature, there is the concrete revelation of Holy Scripture, which affirms the moral attributes of the Lord. These two “volumes” of testimony complement one another wonderfully.
The Bible teaches that God is the eternal Spirit Who is the Architect and Creator of the Universe. When did Jehovah Himself originate? He didn’t. God always has existed; He is the eternal “I Am” (Exodus 6:3; cf. Genesis 21:33; Psalm 90:2). Logic demands such. A venerable argument—that remains unanswered to this day—is this: If something is, then something always was. But something is; therefore, something always was. That eternal “something” must be either matter or mind. But it is not matter, for science demonstrates that matter is not eternal. Thus, the eternal “something” is mind. The Scriptures identify this Mind as God.
As to His essence, God is spirit and not flesh (John 4:24; Luke 24:39; Matthew 16:17). He is the Almighty (Genesis 17:1; Revelation 1:8), whose purposes cannot be restrained (Job 42:2). God is infinitely wise (Romans 11:33-36), and His loving, benevolent disposition is breathtaking (1 John 4:8; Ephesians 2:4; James 1:17). The gift of His Son to accommodate the redemption of rebellious humanity provides ample motive for surrendering one’s life to Him.
One of the most profound documents of the Old Testament is the book of Job. An interesting aspect of that narrative has to do with the worthiness of God as an object of human adoration. In a mysterious convocation at which Satan was present, the Lord introduced Job, the patriarch of Uz, as a trophy of human character—a spiritually mature, upright man who was unique among his contemporaries. Satan agreed, but suggested that Job’s righteous demeanor was the result of bribery! In other words, God had blessed Job so abundantly that the sage of Uz would have been foolish not to serve him. In a word, Job knew who buttered his bread!
The subtle and diabolical implication in this charge was this: “You, God, are not worthy of human devotion on the basis of your character; rather, men serve you only because you make it to their advantage to do so. Let us use Job as a test case. Take away his ‘goodies’ and he will abandon you.” And so, for our benefit (not for His own), the Lord accepted the challenge. Thus, Job was deprived of his wealth, his family, his health, his friends, and his prestige. He lost everything. And yet, the devout dignitary never forsook his faith in God. Though he lashed out in anguish at times—because he did not understand what was happening to him—he nonetheless proclaimed triumphantly: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him” (Job 13:15). The noble patriarch thus demonstrated this proposition: God is worthy of human service on the basis of His own nature—apart from the generous blessings He bestows. As the psalmist expressed it: “I will call upon Jehovah, who is worthy to be praised” (Psalm 18:3). We ought to praise God simply on account of Who He is!
THE RELATIONSHIP WE SUSTAIN TO OUR MAKER
Certain associations carry with them intrinsic responsibilities. One of those is that of the Creator/creature relationship. The “created” thing sustains a subordinate status to that which created it. Paul argued this very point in his letter to the Romans. “Or hath not a potter a right over the clay?,” he asked rhetorically (Romans 9:21). In the Greek text, the query implies an affirmative answer, as suggested by the particle ouk (cf. Matthew 13:55). The term rendered “right” in our common versions is the Greek exousia, literally “authority.” The potter, by virtue of his status, has authority over the vessel he has fashioned.
The historical facts are these. “Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7; cf. 3:19). The inspired writers of both testaments affirmed that the Lord is our “Creator” (Ecclesiastes 12:1; Isaiah 40:28; Romans 1:25), or our “Maker” (Psalm 95:6; Proverbs 14:31; Isaiah 17:7; Hosea 8:14). Hence, by virtue of this Creator/creature relationship, Jehovah has a right to commission human loyalty.
But there always has been a propensity in man to repudiate the Creator/creature relationship in order to justify human self-centeredness. More than anything else, some people want to be their own“God.” Seven centuries before the birth of Christ, Isaiah wrote regarding the rebels of his day: “Ye turn things upside down! Shall the potter be esteemed as clay; that the thing made should say of him that made it, He made me not; or the thing formed say of him that formed it, He hath no understanding?” (Isaiah 29:16). Of this arrogant claim: “He made me not,” Edward J. Young rightly observed: “Words more wrong, more foolish, more soul-destroying have never been uttered by human lips” (1969, 2:325). May we be chastened by the inspired writer: “Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves” (Psalm 100:3, NASV).
This haughty and independent attitude, of course, is the motive behind the theory of evolution. Foolish man wishes to cut loose from the moral and religious ties that bind him to a sovereign Creator. Hence, he has fashioned gods of his own design—Mother Nature and Father Time—to whom he owes no responsibility. As the late George G. Simpson, the renowned paleontologist and evolutionist of Harvard University, once expressed it: “Man stands alone in the universe, a unique product of a long, unconscious, impersonal material process with unique understanding and potentialities. These he owes to no one but himself, and it is to himself that he is responsible. He is not the creature of uncontrollable and undeterminable forces, but is his own master. He can and must decide and manage his own destiny” (1953, p. 155).
Despite such infidelic protestations, the theory of naturalistic origins is void of proof that man is the “product of a long, unconscious, impersonal material process.” Rather, the evidence suggests that human beings are the result of an Intelligent Cause Who specially designed them (see Jackson, 1993; Thompson & Jackson, 1996). As creatures of divine planning, we have a responsibility to submit to God—and He has the right to require it!
THE HUMAN CONDITION
Another valid reason for serving Jehovah has to do with the “status quo” of the human family. As an old, country philosopher put it: “That’s Latin for ‘the mess we’re in.’ ” Nothing could be further from the truth than the old cliché: “Every day, in every way, we’re getting better and better.” The fact is, as Paul once wrote: “Evil men and impostors shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13).
The presence of evil is apparent universally, and has been acknowledged from time immemorial. The Roman philosopher Seneca said: “We have all sinned, some more, and some less.” A Chinese proverb states: “There are two good men: one is dead and the other is not yet born.” Paul wrote: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And John bluntly noted: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
How is this deplorable condition to be remedied? Man never has been able to concoct a solution. When it was alleged that “education” could provide the answer, we discovered that education, without spiritual values, makes only more skillful criminals. Those who touted “psychology” as the panacea for human woes have lived to see one theory after another disappear into complete obscurity. Ours is now a world of escapists—alcoholics, drug-abusers, and dream-world mystics. [See related article, “I'm Not Guilty, I'm Just Sick.”] A recent news feature suggested that by the end of the next decade, the third leading cause of work disability will be clinical depression. We have more material security than any generation that has gone before us, but generally speaking we are a miserable lot. Is there no help for the human family?
Someone is bound to claim that religion surely is not the answer, for it has been around for centuries, and yet, here we are, in this sordid predicament. Yes, “religion” has been around alright, but it rarely has been tried on a massive scale in its pristine form. If the teaching of Jesus Christ were to be adopted sincerely and pursued rigorously by a significant segment of society, changes so dramatic would occur as to produce utter amazement. There is absolutely no remedy to human distress apart from the divine plan as implemented through the atoning work of Jesus of Nazareth. The Lord declared emphatically: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one comes unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). This declaration carries validity because of the solid historical evidence that undergirds Christ’s authoritative claim of being the Son of God.
The truth is, there is no abiding contentment in a world without God. Out of a background of materialism and hedonism, Solomon, an inspired penman, proclaimed: “[T]he way of the transgressor is hard” (Proverbs 13:15). “Fear [reverence] God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
On the other hand, it is a lie which suggests that serving the Creator is all pain and tears. Moses was willing to forsake the temporal “pleasures of sin,” which are but for a season, to identify with the people of God. Why? He did so because he knew that the reproaches of Christ are vastly superior to the treasures of any land (Hebrews 11:24-26). For troubled souls in a world of confusion, the Scriptures offer hope: “And the peace of God which passes all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus announced: “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). This passage has long perplexed multitudes. It cannot be a prophecy that finds its fulfillment in events following the return of Christ (as some allege), for there will be no Earth at that point (Matthew 24:35; 2 Peter 3:10ff.). Rather, it is a promise for those who yield to God—here and now! Barclay has shown that the “meek” person is the one who has been mastered by God (1974, pp. 240-242). The passage suggests this: As children of Him Who is the God of Heaven and Earth, those who yield to Christ will enjoy this planet’s blessings more than all others. The point is: People ought to serve the Lord for the sheer joy that it brings—not only in eternity, but right now, here on the Earth.
ALL ACCOUNTS NOT SETTLED IN THIS LIFE
Some years ago there was published an edition of Charles Darwin’s revolutionary volume, The Origin of Species. On the back dust jacket were these words: “This book has made a joke of ‘the Day of Judgment.’ ” If there is a joke in this, Jehovah will have the last laugh: “He that sitteth in the heavens will laugh: The Lord will have them in derision” (Psalm 2:4). The laughable thing is that man labors under the illusion that he can thwart the will of the Almighty. If there is no ultimate Judgment—where all wrongs are made right and where justice ultimately prevails—then life is indeed a meaningless riddle.
Consider the plight of Asaph who, according to the superscription, penned the seventy-third psalm. The poet had assumed that if one enjoyed a right relationship with God, his well-being always would be secure. Conversely, it is implied that rebellion against the Creator would bring only woe. That concept is suggested subtly in the opening verse of the narrative. However, as he considered the circumstances of his environment, Asaph was baffled by life’s inequities (73:2-9). In this state of bewilderment, his “steps had well nigh slipped,” i.e., he almost had lost his faith in Heaven’s providential government of earthly affairs. He surveyed the “prosperity of the wicked” and was confused. Though evil men wear pride like a chain around their neck, and their eyes bulge with opulence, they finally seem to die in peace. The godless live as though the Judge of the Earth has no knowledge of what is transpiring on His planet (10). Asaph wondered, therefore, whether his religious exercises had been for naught. He had attempted to serve his Maker, yet he suffered hardship consistently (13-14). What is the answer to this enigma? The writer says that he entered “into the sanctuary of God”—i.e., the place where divine truth was revealed. Delitzsch observed that he became privy to the “holy plans and ways of God” (1978, 5:318). He discovered that the “latter end” of the wicked would be destruction (17-18). He learned this truth: All accounts are not settled in this life! If there is no final Judgment, then it makes no difference at all as to how men live upon this globe. The life of Jesus Christ amounts to no more than that of Adolf Hitler. But who can live with such a senseless philosophy? No one who is rational can do so.
Orin Gifford wrote: “You may juggle human laws, you may fool with human courts, but there is a judgment to come, and from it there is no appeal” (Mead, 1965, p. 259). Men need to serve God because they possess an immortal soul that eventually will give account to the Creator.
There are multiplied thousands of people who are willing to give intellectual assent to the fact that a Supreme Being exists, but who do not see that such an idea bears any relationship to their daily personal lives. Technically, these people are designated as “deists.” They are theoretical theists, but practical atheists. Such people have made a tragic mistake. There are powerful and valid reasons for totally surrendering to the will of God, as such ultimately is made known in the revelation of the New Testament. May we urge our contemporaries to give due attention to such matters.
Barclay, William (1974), New Testament Words (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster).
Delitzsch, Franz (1978 Reprint), “Psalms,” Commentary on the Old Testament, C.F. Keil & F. Delitzsch (Grand Rapid, MI: Eerdmans).
Fuller, Daniel P. (1963), “God’s Sovereignty in Creation,” Things Most Surely Believed, ed. Clarence S. Roddy (Westwood, NJ: Revell).
Jackson, Wayne (1993), The Human Body: Accident or Design? (Stockton, CA: Courier Publications).
Mead, Frank S. (1965), The Encyclopedia of Religious Quotations (Westwood, NJ: Revell).
Simpson, George G. (1953), Life of the Past (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press).
Thompson, Bert and Wayne Jackson (1996), The Case for the Existence of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Young, Edward J. (1969), The Book of Isaiah (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Why did God Want to Kill Moses?
Moses was eighty years old. He had just stood in awe before the bush that burned but was not consumed, and had received instructions from the Angel of the Lord to appear before the Pharaoh of Egypt and command him in the name of the Great I Am to release the Hebrews from their bondage. After some deliberation and hesitation, Moses accepted the mission, and immediately began making preparations. He obtained permission from his father-in-law to return to Egypt with his family, then packed up his wife and two sons and headed south. It seems they had not gone far, perhaps only the first day’s journey, when a peculiar circumstance arose. As they made arrangements to sleep for the night, the Lord met Moses and sought to kill him (Exodus 4:24). In response to this turn of events, Moses’ wife Zipporah circumcised their uncircumcised son and threw the foreskin at his feet, screaming, “You are a husband of blood!” After this, the Lord “let him go” (4:26).
This story is particularly difficult to understand because of its brevity, and the unusual wording of verse 24: “The Lord sought to kill Moses.” Though the phrasing of the verse may elicit dark images of God slinking about the encampment, waiting to ambush Moses, the fact that God would kill someone is not unusual in other contexts. The wicked were slain by God in the Great Flood because of their violent and ungodly actions (Genesis 6:1-7). The Lord killed Er and Onan, two of Judah’s sons, because of their overt rebellion (Genesis 38:7,10). In Moses’ later years, God would legislate the death penalty for those guilty of disobeying certain laws (Leviticus 20). In these instances and many more, God “killed” a person or persons, albeit indirectly. In Exodus 4, we can be assured that Moses was afflicted because he was guilty of some sin, since disobedience is the only act God punishes with death.
The sin of Moses is not stated explicitly, but the surrounding events give substantial clues as to the nature of Moses’ transgression. God had instructed his messenger to warn Pharaoh to free Israel, or risk losing his firstborn son (Exodus 4:21-23). Moses had been specially groomed by God for eighty years for this mission, and now the time for action had come. Moses was to lead his people out of Egypt, and to be an example to Pharaoh’s house, to the nation of Egypt, and to all the nations that heard of those happenings (Exodus 18:10-11; Joshua 2:10-11). Accordingly, Moses’ personal life had to be in order before he could direct the spiritual lives of the Hebrew people. It seems that Moses had neglected to administer the sacred rite of circumcision, the act that symbolized the Almighty’s covenant with His chosen people. Perhaps this was the result of pressure from his surrogate Midianite tribe; more likely he was persuaded by Zipporah not to circumcise his son, since she apparently found the practice revolting (4:25). This would explain her violent outburst; she felt that she had saved her husband from death by shedding the blood of her son. Whatever the cause, Moses’ outstanding sin made him unfit to serve as a spiritual leader, and the situation had to be rectified before he could carry out his mission effectively. Indeed, as soon as Zipporah performed the act, the Lord “let him go.”
Though the details of this mysterious story are absent, the underlying message is plain. Disobedience, whether by acts of omission or commission, result only in punishment and ultimately death.
THE BOOKS OF WORLD RELIGIONS
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
Individuals who claim to be members in good standing of one religion (whether Christian, Moslem, or Hindu) sometimes extend the hand of fellowship to those in other religions. That is, some express a willingness to accept people who remain in other religions as if they have their deity’s blessing. But for the most part, these open-armed well-wishers are viewed as heretics by the faithful followers because the holy books themselves, which form the very center of the religions, are not so accepting of one another. Can the follower be better than the “inspired” book from which he gains faith?
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 Koran—Islam is based entirely upon the secret, private experiences of one man. Mohammed regularly went alone to a cave and said that a Revealer delivered visions to him there. He later identified this person as the angel Gabriel. Only one person allegedly saw the angel. Only one person allegedly heard a voice. Only one person allegedly saw the visions. The only way to become a Moslem, then, is to take this one man’s word for it. We must believe a man who was kicked out of his home town, became a robber baron, led a pack of thieves in attacks on caravans, and then later returned to the city and took it by force. Compare the lifestyle and character of this man with that of Jesus Whom he claims to supersede, and see who is more worthy of belief.
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
The Bible—The Christian system centers on the fact that God has come to Earth in a physical body and made a one-time sacrifice for sin (John 1:1-14; Philippians 2:5-9). The Bible says that the salvation of mankind was accomplished only through this act and that apart from it, man would be hopelessly lost in sin (John 3:16; Ephesians 1:7, et al.). The incarnation of the Word, along with His death and resurrection, combine to form the fundamental essential truth that defines Christianity (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Without it, Christianity would not exist.
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
Hindus do not believe the Universe was created by God out of nothing. It is simply an eternal emanation from Brahman. It is illusory and must be escaped so that we may gain what is real, viz., oneness with the Universe and oneness with Brahman. Islam and Christianity think of this as blasphemy, for Jehovah is perfect in every way, and infinite in every attribute. A created being never could attain such a degree of being and certainly never could become God.
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
From this brief introductory study it can be seen that these three religions and their books cannot be equated. But the question remains, which one should we accept? I maintain that we should accept the Bible over other religious books because no book can amass the evidence for supernatural origin that the Bible can. No other book exhibits such profound evidence for inspiration. We should accept the Bible because:
- 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.
On the other hand, the evidence for the inspiration of the Koran is based solely upon the testimony of one man, Mohammed. The same kind of “evidence” would make you a Hindu. Why accept Mohammed’s testimony and reject the Hindu testimony? Or, why accept the Hindu writings and reject the Koran? Both have essentially the same evidence in their favor. One cannot be proven to be any more legitimate than the other.
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.]