"THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS" The Superior Sanctuary (9:11-28) INTRODUCTION 1. In the current section of "The Epistle To The Hebrews", the focus is on the superiority of the New Covenant which provides... a. Better promises - He 8:7-13 b. A better sanctuary - He 9:1-28 c. A better sacrifice - He 10:1-18 2. Our previous study considered "The Earthly Sanctuary" of the Old Covenant, that tabernacle which... a. Served as copy and shadow of the heavenly things - He 9:9; 8:5 b. Involved fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation - He 9:10 ...and was therefore limited in its ability to provide what man truly needed! - He 9:9b 3. In the second half of the ninth chapter, we are now introduced to "The Heavenly Sanctuary" of the New Covenant... a. The true tabernacle in which Christ is a minister - He 8:2 b. The true tabernacle "which the Lord erected, and not man" - He 8:2 [As such it is "The Superior Sanctuary", which becomes apparent as we make our way through the rest of the ninth chapter...] I. IT IS HEAVENLY (11,24) A. A GREATER AND MORE PERFECT TABERNACLE... 1. A tabernacle "not made with hands" 2. A tabernacle "not of this creation" -- Where then is this tabernacle? Look ahead to verse 24... B. IN HEAVEN ITSELF... 1. Christ has not entered the earthly tabernacle "made with hands" 2. It is "into heaven itself" that Christ has entered! 3. He now appears "in the presence of God" -- Therefore "The Superior Sanctuary" is none other than heaven, where God dwells! [In this heavenly sanctuary Christ serves as "High Priest of the good things to come". The "good things" likely includes the promises of Jer 31:31-34, especially the one pertaining to forgiveness of sin, for the author explains how with "The Superior Sanctuary"...] II. ITS MINISTRY EFFECTIVELY DEALS WITH SIN (12-15) A. ETERNAL REDEMPTION IS PROVIDED (12) 1. Christ entered the "Most Holy Place" (heaven) a. Just as the high priest entered the Most Holy Place in the earthly sanctuary b. With these two major differences: 1) Jesus took not the blood of goats and calves, but His own blood 2) Jesus entered "once for all", not once a year 2. With His blood, He "obtained eternal redemption" a. This is why He does not need to offer His blood every year - cf. He 10:10-12 b. But His redemption is "eternal" in another sense, as seen later in verse 15 B. THE CONSCIENCE IS PURGED OF SIN (13-14) 1. The blood of animals was able to purify the flesh of an unclean person 2. But the blood of Christ is able to purge the conscience from dead works (i.e., sin) to serve the living God a. The animal sacrifices could not do this - He 9:9-10; 10:1-2 b. For the daily and annual sacrifices constantly reminded them of sin - He 10:3 c. Therefore Christ not only removes the "legal" guilt of sin, but also the "inward" (or emotional) guilt of sin! C. THERE IS REDEMPTION FOR SINS UNDER THE FIRST COVENANT (15) 1. His role as Mediator of the New Covenant is not limited to those who lived after it became of force 2. His death covers not only sinners since His death, but also those who lived under the first covenant, who were called to receive the promise of eternal inheritance! -- In providing atonement for those before and after His death, Jesus has truly "obtained eternal redemption" [The service rendered by its High Priest certainly makes the "heavenly sanctuary" a superior one! As one contemplates the meaning of Christ's death in its relation to the heavenly sanctuary, there is much to consider, and the author proceeds to explain further why...] III. ITS MINISTRY NECESSITATED A COSTLY SACRIFICE (16-22) A. TO INITIATE A NEW TESTAMENT (16-17) 1. A testament, or will, requires the death of the one who makes it 2. It does not become of force until the testator dies -- The New Covenant with its heavenly sanctuary is like a testament, requiring Jesus' death for it to become of force B. TO DEDICATE A NEW COVENANT (18-23) 1. Consider what was done with the first covenant... a. It was dedicated with the blood of calves and goats b. Its tabernacle and furniture were purified with the sprinkling of such blood 2. Should the new covenant require any less? a. The first covenant contained only "copies of the things in the heavens" b. Therefore the heavenly things required purification by "better sacrifices" (i.e., Jesus' own blood) c. Exactly what is meant by "heavenly things" is unclear 1) Some point to passages like Col 1:20, where even "things in heaven" are reconciled to God by Jesus' blood 2) Some believe it has reference to the church, of which the Holy Place in the earthly tabernacle was typical 3) B. W. Johnson comments: "By the heavenly things are meant all of which the tabernacle was typical. The holy place was a type of the church, which is cleansed with the blood of Christ. Perhaps, too, there is a reference to the redeemed church above, in the heavens, which eternally praises him who cleansed it with his blood." (The People's New Testament) [It was the "better sacrifices" (i.e., Jesus' blood) that initiated the new covenant and made the heavenly sanctuary superior to the earthly one. More will be said about Christ's sacrifice in chapter ten, but we finally note concerning "The Superior Sanctuary" that...] IV. ITS MINISTRY IS FINAL AND COMPLETE (24-28) A. CHRIST IS NOW IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD FOR US... 1. No longer is a high priest serving in a tabernacle "made with hands" 2. No longer is one serving in what was only a "copy" -- In God's presence, Jesus is ministering as High Priest in that which is the "true" holy place! B. HE ONLY NEEDED TO OFFER HIMSELF ONCE... 1. The all-sufficiency of His sacrifice is seen that He only needed to offer Himself once a. Otherwise, He would have needed to "suffer often from the foundation of the world" b. Like the high priests of old, who entered the Most Holy Place each year 2. Therefore, at the "end of the ages", He came to put away sin once for all! a. The phrase "end of the ages" is equivalent to the "last days" - He 1:2 b. I.e., the final period of the world's history - 1Co 10:11; 1Pe 1:20 3. Just as man dies only once, so Jesus needed to be offered for sin only once C. WHEN HE COMES AGAIN, IT WILL BE FOR SALVATION, NOT SIN... 1. With His first coming, He was primarily the "sin-bearer" a. He came "to bear the sins of many" b. Which He did by dying on the cross for our sins - 1Pe 2:24 2. His second coming will be "apart from sin" a. To bring salvation (from the wrath of God to come - Ro 5:9) b. To those who eagerly await for Him - cf. 1Th 1:9-10 CONCLUSION 1. How is the sanctuary of the New Covenant superior? a. By virtue of its nature: heavenly, not physical b. By virtue of its ministry: 1) Dealing effectively with sin 2) Providing complete and final deliverance 2. Why should we be interested in the ministry of "The Superior Sanctuary"? a. Because death is our appointed lot (unless Christ comes first) - He 9:27 b. And then comes the judgment - cf. 2Co 5:10 -- The ministry of Christ prepares us for that coming judgment! 3. Are you prepared to stand before the judgment seat of Christ? a. Preparation involves obedience, for Jesus is "the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" - He 5:9 b. Preparation involves allowing the blood of Christ to "purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God" - He 9:14 Through obedience to the precious gospel of Christ, we can "eagerly wait for Him", knowing that for us He is coming to bring salvation and not condemnation! - cf. 1Th 1:10
Another Pointless Attempt to Defeat Biogenesis
|by||Jeff Miller, Ph.D.|
“British scientists recreate the molecules that gave birth to life itself”—the title of a recent article posted by the UK based, Mail Online (Enoch, 2012). Such a bold, presumptuous title certainly grabs your attention, considering that it leaves the impression that abiogenesis has finally been proved—that non-living “molecules” can give rise to life, contrary to the mounds of scientific evidence that prove that life comes only from life (see Miller, 2012). Unfortunately for the atheistic evolutionist, the article admits more bad news for the beloved theory than good.
The article begins with the statement, “Scientists [i.e., evolutionary scientists—JM] are one step closer to understanding the origin of life...” (Enoch). To the atheist, this would sound exciting, until he realizes that the author is tacitly admitting that after decades of work trying to establish that life could somehow evolve from non-life—which must have occurred in order for Darwinian evolution even to begin—scientists still do not understand the origin of life. Robert Hazen, a research scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Geophysical Laboratory, admitted in his lecture series, Origins of Life, that scientists “don’t know how life began,” but rather, have to “make an assumption that life emerged from basic raw materials through a sequence of events that was completely consistent with the natural laws of chemistry and physics” (Hazen, 2005). Paul Davies, theoretical physicist, cosmologist, astrobiologist, and professor at Arizona State University said, “One of the great outstanding scientific mysteries is the origin of life. How did it happen?... The truth is, nobody has a clue” (2006, 192:35). Eminent British evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, also admitted that no one knows how life began (Stein and Miller, 2008).
The problem with this idea, from a scientific standpoint, is that science has, in fact, spoken about the origin of life. Science has proven time and again that, in nature, life comes only from life (Miller, 2012). Life does not come from non-living things in nature. So, according to science, the answer to the origin of life question must be found outside of nature—from a supernatural source. Don’t expect the atheistic evolutionist to accept that logical implication from the scientific evidence, and don’t expect Enoch’s article to make that admission either.
What are the facts that can be gained from the research discussed in the article? The tests conducted by organic chemists at the University of York and the University of Nottingham reveal that “using simple left-handed amino acids to catalyse the formation of sugars resulted in the production of the predominantly right-handed form of sugars” (Enoch). This is amazing and significant research. The problem, as usual, is not the evidence of science, but the interpretation of the evidence by evolutionists. The researchers assert that their find might explain how carbohydrates could have originally evolved on Earth and why the right-handed form dominates in nature. According to Paul Clark, who led the team of scientists who conducted this research, “One of the interesting questions is where carbohydrates come from because they are the building blocks of DNA and RNA. What we have achieved is thefirst step on that pathway to show how simple sugars—threose and erythrose—originated” (Enoch, emp. added).
Notice that they “jump from A to Z” in their conclusion that their findings have proven to be the “first step” in showing how “simple sugars…originated.” How can one make such an assertion? That’s like seeing a car for the first time, noticing that it is green, and proceeding to assume that the first step has been taken in proving that all vehicles are green cars. The researchers go beyond the evidence when they apply their excellent research to a hypothetical world that allegedly might have existed eons ago, that might have had just the right conditions and available materials to produce the results theygathered from their experiments—conditions and materials which have only been present in their laboratory, not in nature—which may or may not have been the means by which, in the evolutionist’s eyes, life could have somehow spontaneously arrived in the first place.
As is usually the case when such research is publicized, the authors want to grab your attention by boldly implying something that has not actually occurred. One has to read the article cautiously to catch the myriad disclaimers laced throughout the article, which subtly highlight the fact that the implications of the research are characterized by mere assertions and conjecture—not proof. A quick perusal through the short, 357 word article, watching for disclaimers, reveals the following phrases concerning the interpretation of the research: “could have occurred”; “could explain”; “many people think”; “we are trying to understand”; “most scientists believe”; “hypothetical conditions”; “that may have been present on early Earth.” The truth: naturalistic scientists don’t have a clue how life originated. They can only guess and speculate because (1) they were not around when life was originally initiated, and (2) because nature reveals that life cannot come from non-life.
With that in mind, notice the significant admission by Paul Clarke. “For life to have evolved, you have to have a moment when non-living things become living—everything up to that point is chemistry. We are trying to understand the chemical origins of life” (Enoch, emp. added). So, Clark admits that his team’s research does not even involve trying to answer the ultimate question of how life could come from non-life. His team was merely interested in trying to figure out how the non-living building blocks of life could come about—not how they could make the jump to life. That question is still untouched by Clark’s team, and the scientific world at large.
In essence, these scientists are merely trying to figure out how the blocks of life could have come about from pre-existing materials that they hope were in existence eons ago—not how those building blocks could have accidentally arranged themselves into a building that came to life and started walking around giving birth to other fully functional buildings. In truth, the question of “how life could come from non-life” has already been addressed by the work of Redi, Spallanzani, and Pasteur, and their scientific research indicates that abiogenesis cannot happen (see Miller, 2012). So why are Clark and his team wasting their time trying to prove how the building blocks leading up to a disproven theory could form? According to the article,
The research has echoes of the landmark Miller-Urey study in 1952, which simulated hypothetical conditions that may have been present on early Earth. It showed how the building blocks of life can form from simple chemical reactions—for example, electrical activity like that associated with lightning can prompt the formation of amino acids.
The problem with this statement is that the authors appear to have not gotten the memo that the Miller-Urey experiments are now considered to be almost totally irrelevant to the abiogenesis question today (see Miller, 2012 for a discussion of these experiments and how they are viewed today). The fact that the authors point to those experiments indicates that either they are behind the times among the evolutionary community or are so desperate to validate the possibility of abiogenesis that they ignore recent research which refutes their hopes.
Sadly, in this day and age, many scientists are only interested in studying nature to determine how things happen through various evolutionary theories, rather than simply finding how things happen. Their initial assumptions corrupt their interpretations of the evidence. Why would scientists not simply follow the evidence—wherever it might lead? Could it be that “they have itching ears” that prohibit them from enduring “sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:3)? Could it be that they refuse to “receive the love of the truth,” but instead, choose to “believe the lie” because they take “pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12)? Regardless, the evidence is clear. In nature, life comes only from life. So, according to the scientific evidence, the only way life could have been initiated in the beginning was through a supernatural act by a Being outside of the natural realm. That is where the scientific evidence leads the logical mind.
Davies, Paul (2006), New Scientist, 192:35, November 18.
Enoch, Nick (2012), “British Scientists Recreate the Molecules that Gave Birth to Life Itself,” Mail Online, January 27, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2092494/Life-sweet-New-clue-chemical-origins-sugar-molecules-DNA-recreated-scientists.html.
Hazen, Robert (2005), Origins of Life (Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company).
Miller, Jeff (2012), “The Law of Biogenesis,” Reason & Revelation, 32:2-11, January (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), http://apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1018&article=1722.
Stein, Ben and Kevin Miller (2008), Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (Premise Media).
An Introduction to Christian Evidences for Christians
|by||Jeff Miller, Ph.D.|
CHRISTIAN EVIDENCES: THE NEED
According to church statistician Flavil Yeakley, 40% of the young people in the Lord’s Church fall away when they leave home. Of the 40% that leave the Church, half of them join denominations. The other half (20%) become irreligious.1 About half of the irreligious will become atheists. The typical reasons for their departure from faith are that the young people learned about evolution in college; they came to disbelieve in miracles because of being taught naturalism; they believe that there is a lack of evidence for God and Creation; and they believe that Christianity goes against logic and common sense.2 So things they learned in science shook their faith in what they had been taught in church and at home. In fact, their faith was more than shaken—it was destroyed. They left the Church. Is the study of Christian evidences important?
Should it surprise us that so many are leaving the Church for such reasons? Of the children being educated in the United States, 87% of them are in the public school system.3 The official doctrine that has been taught in public school classrooms over the last several decades is naturalism—the belief that only the natural exists (i.e., no supernatural phenomena such as Creation, the global Flood of Noah, or biblical miracles occurred). Certainly, we encourage our children to respect and learn from their teachers at school, teaching them to view their teachers as authorities in the dissemination of academic knowledge. With naturalistic evolution being pressed on the minds of so many children from a young age, should it surprise us that naturalism is rapidly on the rise in our country and that even within the Lord’s Church our children are being influenced? A 2012 Gallup poll revealed that from 1982 to 2012, the number of naturalists in our country increased from 9% to 15%— the equivalent of roughly 19,000,000 Americans at the time the poll was administered.4 A Gallup poll from 2017 updated the percentage: 19% of Americans now believe in naturalistic evolution.5 Roughly one in five Americans have embraced atheistic evolution.
When writing their New Testament books, Paul, Luke, James, Peter, Jude, and John addressed the issues that the Church was facing in their day: the false doctrines affecting the Church, the ever-increasing Roman threat, Judaism in the Church, and other highly relevant issues, including Greek philosophy. If they were writing today, what do you suppose God would inspire them to address? Among other things, would they not spend ample time addressing the rapidly increasing threat being posed by naturalism? One wonders if they would not devote even more time to the subject of Christian evidences than they already did in their writings. One could argue that 70+ years ago, the primary threat being posed to the Church outside of the typical vices was denominationalism. In response, Christians made a concerted effort to ensure that their congregations were well-equipped to defend the truth concerning pure New Testament Christianity. Statistically, denominationalism and its younger sibling, liberalism, are clearly still significant threats to the Church—20% of our young people are leaving the Church and joining denominations. However, 70+ years ago, naturalism was not the threat that it is today. Due to the threat the Church is facing, we would do well to spend as much time studying Christian evidences in the Church as we do denominationalism and liberalism. If a person’s faith in more fundamental concepts has eroded, how will it help to teach him about baptism, the true Bride of Christ, or proper worship? Mark it down: the time is rapidly approaching when the threat of denominationalism will be significantly less of a threat to the Church compared to naturalism. Are we equipped to contend for the faith? Are we “ignorant of [Satan’s] devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11)?
I know of members of the Church who see no need to spend much time on the subject of Christian evidences, and by implication, they see no need to be prepared to teach others Christian evidences. They reason, “We just need to read and study the Bible! That’s it. I didn’t need to study Christian evidences, and neither do they. Christian evidences is unnecessary.” Merely covering one’s eyes so that he cannot see the tornado approaching will not save a person, nor his family, from impending doom. Perhaps for many people it is the case that they do not need to have answers to faith challenges like naturalism—Darwinian evolution and the Big Bang; they do not need to be treated to a survey of the many evidences that support the Christian faith; but according to the statistics, many others do. If 20% of our youth are becoming irreligious, how many of the others would have become irreligious due to the same issues had they not been given answers to the challenges being directed against their faith at school? Thankfully, they had wise parents and/or elders and preachers who gave them the tools and the knowledge they needed to stay grounded in their faith.
With Scripture, humanity certainly has what it needs to know how to live life the way God wants us to—how to live a godly life (2 Peter 1:3). But we are also commanded to be able to defend the truth from false doctrines eroding the faith of the Church (cf. 1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3). We must “test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). How can we do so without examining the evidences for and against Christianity?
The sufficiency of Scripture also does not mean that we are not encouraged to study other products of God’s words and wisdom that He has given us—namely, His creation (often termed, “general revelation”). Several passages speak to that truth, with Romans 1:20 perhaps being the premier passage on the subject. According to Paul, one can study “the things that are made” (i.e., creation) and come to the conclusion that God exists, and even learn about the nature of God from those things. The Bible encourages us to study the great “works of the Lord” (Psalm 111:2), the greatest of which would surely be the Creation of the entire Universe and the destruction of the Earth in the global Flood of Noah. Scripture tells us that we can learn about God by studying astronomy (Genesis 15:5), cosmology (Psalm 19:1), and geology (Job 12:8). In His sermon to Job in Job 38-41, God used the created order repeatedly to teach Job about Himself. Disciplines covered included physics, oceanography, nomology, optics, meteorology, and biology—including zoology, ornithology, entomology, herpetology, botany, and marine biology.
CHRISTIAN EVIDENCES: DEFINED
Studying Christian evidences is crucial in this day and age if we wish to stand against the naturalistic tide sweeping the country and influencing the youth of our day. A study of Christian evidences is authorized by God. In fact, a study of Christian evidences is mandated by God. And it should be noted that studying Christian evidences is the logical, rational thing to do.
What are “Christian evidences”? Simply put, the discipline of Christian evidences is the study of evidences for Christianity—namely the evidences that substantiate the three “pillars” of Christian faith: the existence of God; the inspiration of the Bible; and the deity of Christ. The importance of evidence cannot be understated. In the field of philosophy, there is a general rule that is followed if a person wishes to be rational: the Law of Rationality. It says that one should only draw those conclusions that are warranted by the evidence.6 Many within Christendom seem unware that Scripture endorses and commands adherence to the same obvious axiom. “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The Bible explicitly prohibits having a “blind” faith (i.e., coming to believe something without adequate evidence). Scripture incessantly makes the point that we should come to a knowledge of the truth based on the evidence that has been provided to us. According to Romans 1:20, so much evidence has been provided to come to the truth of God’s existence that not to come to the right conclusion is “without excuse.” We can know the truth—not merely accept it “on faith”—and it will set us free (John 8:32). As did the “fair-minded” Bereans of Acts 17, God wants us to search for evidence that substantiates a claim before blindly believing it (vs. 11). Since many false teachers are in the world, He tells us to “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits” before believing them (1 John 4:1). Unlike fideism (i.e., blind “faith”)—which pits itself against reason7—Paul believed in establishing truth using reasoning from the evidence (Acts 26:25). In fact, Jesus told His audience not to believe/have faith in Him if He did not substantiate His claims with evidence (John 10:37). “Doubting Thomas” was not in error for failing to have a blind faith. Rather, he was in error for having been witness to more evidence of the truth than nearly anybody who had ever lived or ever would live, and yet he still disbelieved, requiring even more direct observational evidence than he had already received (John 20:24-29).
The blind “faith” idea is unbiblical. The biblical portrait of faith in God would be more like seeing evidence being “poured” into a “truth container.” The “evidence” rises to the top of the container and begins pouring over the top, establishing the truth of God. Where “faith” comes in is when we look at the truth container, filled to the brim with evidence, and choose whether or not to believe it. Most do not and will not (Matthew 7:13-14). It is their own choice, but it is not because God has not provided enough evidence to come to the truth. Rather, they have rejected the evidence which is readily available, due to their own personal motives.
Biblical faith is not blind, and yet God still expects us to come to the conclusion that He exists, that the Bible was ultimately authored by Him, and that Jesus is His divine Son, in spite of the fact that we cannot directly observe God or directly witness the confirming miracles and signs that Jesus did to authenticate His message. The implication is that God has given us sufficient evidence to be able to know these things, and He expects us to dig for and study that evidence. And that is the point of Christian evidences. Famous philosopher from the 1800s, Herbert Spencer, said, “Those who cavalierly reject the Theory of Evolution, as not adequately supported by facts, seem quite to forget that their own theory is supported by no facts at all.”8 If Spencer was correct, then the Christian’s plight would be dire indeed. Fideism has lent credibility to arguments like this one, and rational people rightly reject religion and Christianity in particular when theists promote having an irrational, blind faith. But as the study of Christian evidences has long revealed, Spencer’s comments were without merit and in fact revealed his ignorance of the preponderance of evidence that surrounded him at the very moment he penned those words. With every breath he inhaled and every stroke his pen made, evidence of the Christian faith was entering his body and radiating from it.
One might ask, “How can one come to believe in something invisible—something that he cannot even directly observe or experiment on— and that faith not be blind?” How can we come to know that gravity exists? We cannot see, taste, touch, hear, or smell gravity, and yet we have a mound of evidence that supports its existence. The nature of the evidence is indirect, rather than direct, but it is evidence none-the-less. Much of science (especially historical sciences like geology, paleontology, cosmology, evolutionary biology, etc.) relies on gathering indirect evidence to come to rational conclusions about what happened, how it happened, when it happened, or why it happened, and many times the event itself was not directly observed. Forensic scientists attest to that basic truth on a daily basis. They enter the scene of a crime and can determine what crime occurred, who committed the crime, when they committed it, how they committed it, and oftentimes even why they did it, without having personally observed the event. Similarly, though God’s existence cannot be empirically verified, it can be easily verified indirectly through deductive reasoning from the scientific evidence available to us.
CHRISTIAN EVIDENCES: AN OUTLINE
As previously mentioned, Christian evidences centers on three pillars at the most basic level: the existence of God, the inspiration of Scripture, and the deity of Christ. Apologetics is generally tied to Christian evidences as well—defending the biblical model that stems from those three fundamental planks. The following general topical outline results:
1. God exists: Although we cannot directly observe God, several lines of evidence exist that lead one to the logical conclusion that He exists. These are generally termed “Classical Arguments.” The typical arguments include the Moral, Cosmological, and Teleological Arguments. The Ontological, Intuitional, and Aesthetic Arguments are seen less frequently, though they continue to provide valid evidence for God as well.9
a. The primary response to the existence of a God argument is made by the naturalists (i.e., atheists, agnostics, and skeptics). They say the Universe came about solely naturally. The Big Bang Theory and Darwinian evolution are generally invoked to substantiate that claim. So Christian evidences often addresses those subjects.10
b. Others argue that proving that a god exists does not substantiate which God exists. This question is answered upon establishing the second fundamental plank of Christian evidences.
2. The Bible is inspired: If the Bible can be shown to have characteristics that humans could not have produced, then it will have provided internal evidence of its divine origin, and subsequently, identification of which God exists. Thus, Christian evidences explores various internal evidences of the Bible’s supernatural characteristics: its scientific foreknowledge, perfect unity, its brevity and omissions, its objectivity, its predictive prophecy, and its perfect accuracy (historically, geographically, etc.11).
a. Skeptics respond that the Bible claims certain events happened which are not plausible and which are not substantiated with geological, paleontological, or archaeological evidences (e.g., the Flood, Babel, wilderness wandering, etc.). Thus, Christian evidences explores such criticisms and responds.
b. Others insist that the Bible, whether or not it was originally inspired, has been corrupted in its transmission and translation.12
c. Still others take issue with the alleged “perfect unity” of Scripture, and cite hundreds of alleged contradictions in Scripture, attempting to prove that the Bible was written by mere humans. After all, “to err is human,” but “to err” should not be God.13
d. Other skeptics argue that regardless if there is a god, it cannot be the God of the Bible, because the God of the Bible is a walking contradiction. They proceed to highlight events in Scripture which they believe prove Him not to be Who He claims (e.g., God cannot be omnipotent and omnibenevolent and still allow horrendous things to happen to good or innocent people;14 God allowed slavery, sexism, genocide, etc.15).
e. Christian evidences, again, explores each of these criticisms to assess their validity and responds.
3. The Deity of Christ: The deity of Christ is a central theme of Scripture that distinguishes Christianity from other alleged “biblical” religions (e.g., Judaism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, and Islam). Since the second plank of Christian evidences has already been established before a discussion of plank three would be relevant, a discussion of the deity of Christ generally centers on the teachings of Scripture on the subject, although some things about Christ have been further verified by ancient testimony from non-Christian and even hostile sources.16
If we as Christians are going to obey the command to be ready to give a defense of Christianity (1 Peter 3:15) in the 21st century, Christian evidences must be studied in each of our congregations and in a regular way. Knowing that 20% of our young people are leaving the Church and becoming irreligious, in large part due to what they perceive to be a lack of evidence for Christianity, should surely cause us to adjust our study and evangelism strategies.
2 Michael Lipka (2016), “Why America’s ‘Nones’ Left Religion Behind,” Factank, Pew Research Center, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/08/24/why-americas-nones-left-religion-behind/.
3 “Statistics About Nonpublic Education in the United States” (2016), U.S. Department of Education, https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oii/nonpublic/statistics.html; “Public and Private School Comparison,” (2016), Fast Facts, National Center for Education Statistics, https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=55.
4 Frank Newport (2012), “In U.S., 46% Hold Creationist View of Human Origins,” GALLUP Politics, http://www.gallup.com/poll/155003/Hold-Creationist-View-Human-Origins.aspx.
5 Art Swift (2017), “In U.S., Belief in Creationist View of Humans at New Low,” Gallup, http://news.gallup.com/poll/210956/belief-creationist-view-humans-new-low.aspx.
7 “Fideism” (2015), Merriam-Webster On-line Dictionary, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fideism.
15 cf. Kyle Butt (2010), A Christian’s Guide to Refuting Atheism (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
American Astronauts: From Belief to Unbelief
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The “space race” between the Soviet Union and the United States was in full swing. I was four years old when my father took me outside on a dark Arizona night in October 1957, to peer upward in hopes of catching a glimpse of the first manmade object to orbit the Earth—Russia’s Sputnik 1. Sure enough, it streaked across the heavens as a pinpoint of light. By April of 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel into space aboard Vostok 1. Peering through the window of his spacecraft, Gagarin was reported to have made the comment, “I don’t see any God up here” (“Yuri Gagarin...,” n.d.). [NOTE: Yuri’s colleague and good friend, Colonel Valentin Petrov, later insisted that Yuri never made such a statement, though it came to be attributed to him, but was actually the result of a comment by Russian Premiere Nikita Khrushchev in an anti-religious propaganda speech before the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party: “At that time Khrushchev gave all the Party and Komsomol organizations the task to promote this propaganda and said: ‘Why should you clutch at God? Look, Gagarin flew in space and saw no God’” (“Gagarin Never Said...,” 2006).] Russian astronaut Valery Bykovsky told newsmen in 1963 that no Soviet cosmonaut believed in God and none of them had seen anything to change their minds during their space flights (“Soviet Cosmonauts...,” 1963, p. D7, emp. added). At the time, the spiritual and religious sensibilities of most Americans were shocked by such blatant, unmitigated unbelief.
Indeed, a sharp contrast may be drawn between the Russians and their American counterparts. For example, it was Christmas Eve,
|Apollo 8 crew just after splashdown|
Photo Credit: NASA
December 24, 1968 when Apollo 8 entered lunar orbit on the first manned mission to the Moon. Before retiring that evening, the astronauts did a live television broadcast to Earth, showing pictures of the Earth and Moon seen from their space capsule. They concluded the broadcast in the following fashion. Lunar Module Pilot William Anders said: “For all the people on Earth the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you.” He then began reading from the Bible, specifically Genesis 1:1-4. Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell then continued the reading with Genesis 1:5-8. Finally, Commander Frank Borman completed the reading with Genesis 1:9-10, and then closed the broadcast with the words, “And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you—all of you on the good Earth” (Williams, 2007).
Seven months later, on July 20, 1969, with the largest worldwide television audience in history watching, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong became the first two humans to visit another world when they stepped onto the Moon from their Apollo 11 Lunar Module Eagle. Since the infamous atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair had filed suit against NASA (a suit eventually rejected by the courts) due to the Apollo 8 crew reading from Genesis, Aldrin was asked to forego his plan to read publicly from the Bible while on the Moon’s surface. Nevertheless, while still on the Moon, he radioed to Earth the following: “Houston. This is Eagle, the LM Pilot speaking. I would like to request a few moments of silence. Over. I would like to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his own individual way” (“Apollo 11 Astronaut...,” 2007). While still on the Moon, Aldrin read John 15:5 to himself and then observed the Lord’s Supper (2007). During a television broadcast by the astronauts the evening before splashdown, Aldrin quoted Psalm 8:3-4—“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou has ordained; What is man that thou art mindful of him? And the Son of Man, that thou visitest Him?” (2007).
Two years later, astronaut James B. Irwin walked on the moon during the Apollo 15 mission in July 1971. Concerning that lunar mission, Irwin declared, “I felt the power of God as I’d never felt it before” (Wilford, 1991). At the end of the first day of exploring the rugged lunar highlands, Irwin said he was reminded of “my favorite Biblical passage from Psalms,” which he then quoted by radio to Mission Control in Houston: “I’ll look unto the hills from whence cometh my help” (Wilford).
Of course, America’s brave astronauts merely reflected the religious convictions shared by the bulk of American culture at the time—extending all the way back to the beginning of the country. Tragically, that spiritual conviction, so characteristic of American civilization then, has since experienced extensive erosion. Contrast the astronauts in the early days of America’s space program with more recent ones. Returning from a 16-day mission in March 2008, crew members of Endeavor stated that as space exploration forges ahead, they believed the human race will find life elsewhere in the Universe (“Astronauts Say...,” 2008).
|Buzz Aldrin on the Moon|
Photo Credit: NASA
Mike Foreman, a mission specialist on the Endeavor, said, “If we push back boundaries far enough, I’m sure eventually we’ll find something out there” (“Astronauts Say...”). Such thinking is typical of evolutionists who must look elsewhere for their faltering theory of evolution (cf. Richard Dawkins in Expelled; Stein and Miller, 2008). Foreman continued: “Maybe not as evolved as we are, but it’s hard to believe that there is not life somewhere else in this great universe” (“Astronauts Say...”).
Another astronaut, Gregory Johnson, asserted: “I personally believe that we are going to find something that we can’t explain.... There is probably something out there but I’ve never seen it” (“Astronauts Say...”). The crew commander, Dominic Gorie, compared their space adventure to explorers in past eras who knew not what they would encounter when they sailed the uncharted seas of the Earth. “As we travel in the space, we don’t know what we’ll find. That’s the beauty of what we do. I hope that someday we’ll find what we don’t understand” (“Astronauts Say...”). Richard Linnehan, a fellow mission specialist, admitted that it could take a while before human beings come into contact with extraterrestrial life (“Astronauts Say...”). Here is yet another indication of America’s drift from God in exchange for fanciful theory and meaningless pursuits. Rather than being dazzled by the marvels of the Universe and acknowledging God as the great Creator, some of our astronauts now are filled with thoughts of little green men. Paul’s words form a sad commentary on the transition that has transpired:
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:20-22, emp. added).
“Apollo 11 Astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s Notes on Handwritten Card Offered by Auction House” (2007), International Herald Tribune, September 19, [On-line], URL:http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/09/19/america/NA-GEN-US-Astronaut -Auction.php.
“Astronauts Say There Must Be Life in Space” (2008), Space Daily, May 12, [On-line], URL:http://www.spacedaily.com/2006/080512063010.m60tu6xh.html.
“Gagarin Never Said He Did Not See God in Space—His Friend, An Air Force Colonel” (2006), Interfax, April 12, [On-line], URL: http://www.interfax-religion.ru/orthodoxy/?act=interview&div=73 &domain=1.
“Soviet Cosmonauts Called Unbelievers” (1963), The Washington Post, p. D7, December 11, [On-line], URL: http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/washingtonpost_historical/access/179980282 .html?dids=179980282:179980282&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&date= DEC+11%2C+1963&author=&pub=The+Washington+Post&desc=Soviet +Cosmonauts+Called+Unbelievers&pqatl=google.
Stein, Ben and Kevin Miller (2008), Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (Premise Media).
Wilford, John N. (1991), “James B. Irwin, 61, Ex-Astronaut; Founded Religious Organization,” The New York Times, August 10, [On-line], URL: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE3DD173DF933A2575B C0A967958260.
Williams, David (2007), “The Apollo Christmas Eve Broadcast,” NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, [On-line], URL: http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/lunar/apollo8_xmas.html.
“Yuri Gagarin Biography” (no date), Biography Base, [On-line], URL:http://www.biographybase.com/biography/Gagarin_Yuri.html.
All Religion Is Bad Because Some Is?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
In logical discussions, a straw man is a weak, illogical position that is easily refuted. The more powerful, logical position is then coupled with the straw man, and both are said to fall together, yet the stronger position never actually is refuted by the opposition. For example, suppose a person stated that he owned a congenial, safe dog. The man’s neighbor argued that such was impossible. The opposing neighbor then recounted a story about a family’s pet pitbull that went berserk and killed someone. Then he stated that this incident proves that all pets are dangerous. Does his argument follow from the evidence? Of course not. He might have proven that one family’s pitbull was dangerous, but he did not prove that all pets are dangerous. In fact, it would be easy to multiply numerous examples of dangerous pets, but proving those specific pets to be dangerous could not logically be applied to all pets.
This idea must be understood when reading modern atheistic writings that purport to prove that the ideas of God and formulated religion are detrimental to society. Their argument, in a nutshell, goes like this: Since we can list examples of religions and religious fanatics that were (or are) harmful or detrimental to society, then all religions or ideas about God are harmful or detrimental to society.
So that the reader does not think that this author is, himself, constructing a straw man, let us consult the writings of a very popular, militant atheist by the name of Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens has been critically acclaimed as “one of the most prolific, as well as brilliant, journalists of our time” according to the London Observer. The Los Angeles Times stated that he is a “political and literary journalist extraordinaire.”
One of Hitchens’ most popular recent books is titled god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Notice that his subtitle is broad enough to lump all religions into it: Islam, New Testament Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. Hitchens then proceeded, in the pages of his book, to list many horrible things that people have done in the name of “religion.” He said: “Religion has caused innumerable people not just to conduct themselves no better than others, but to award themselves permission to behave in ways that would make a brothel-keeper or an ethnic cleanser raise an eyebrow” (2007, p. 6). Hitchens even titled chapter two, “Religion Kills.” In it he wrote: “Here, then, is a very brief summary of the religiously inspired cruelty I witnessed... ” (p. 18). He then recounted horror stories of several moral atrocities perpetrated in the name of “religion.” Furthermore, Hitchens stated: “If one comprehends the fallacies of any ‘revealed’ religion, one comprehends them all” (p. 126).
Can Hitchens and others document atrocities performed in the name of religion? Of course they can. Does this prove that all religion is false, and that if a person can spot a flaw or comprehend a fallacy in one religion, then he has effectively disproved the validity of all religions? Absolutely not. Can you imagine what would happen if this type of argument were used in other areas of life? Apply such thinking to food. Many foods are poisonous and kill people, thus all foods should be avoided. Apply it to electricity. It is the case that many people have died while using electricity, thus all electrical use is detrimental to society. Or apply it to activities like swimming. Many have drowned while swimming, thus all swimming leads to drowning and should be avoided. What if it were applied to surgery? Since it is true that thousands of people have died during surgery, or as a result of surgery, then all surgery should be avoided because it all leads to death or is in some way physically detrimental to society. Obviously, the ridiculous idea that all religion is detrimental to society because it can be proven that some religions are, should be quickly discarded by any honest, thoughtful observer.
New Testament Christianity does not stand or fall based on the validity of other competing religions. In fact, Hitchens and others are right to assert that many religions are detrimental to society. But they are wrong to lump true Christianity in with the rest of the useless lot. New Testament Christianity is unique, logically valid, historically documented, and philosophically flawless. It does not crumble with various other religions that are filled with “vain babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Timothy 6:20). Instead, New Testament Christianity as personified in the life of Jesus Christ shines as the truth that makes men free (John 8:32).
[NOTE: It should not be understood that Hitchens and others attack Christianity solely using the straw man argument. They do present other, more specific arguments that are answered in other Apologetics Press materials. It should be observed, however, that the straw man is a frequently used, favorite tactic that needs to be understood and specifically refuted.]
Hitchens, Christopher (2007), god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: Twelve).