Closing Words Befitting A Grand Epistle (13:18-25) INTRODUCTION 1. We now come to the closing words of what is truly "a grand epistle"... a. One that has been described as: 1) Beginning like an essay 2) Progressing like a sermon 3) Ending like a letter b. In which we noted systematic arguments upholding: 1) The superiority of Jesus Christ 2) The superiority of the New Covenant dedicated by His blood c. Where we have been exhorted to: 1) Draw near to God with a true heart in full assurance of faith 2) Hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering 3) Consider one another in order to stir up love and good works 4) Run with endurance the race set before us, looking to Jesus as we do so 5) Purse peace with all men and holiness 6) Heed the voice of Him who speaks from heaven 7) Serve God with reverence and godly fear 8) Love the brethren, display hospitality to strangers, and remember the prisoners 9) Uphold the sanctity of marriage and avoid covetousness 10) Avoid various and strange doctrines, obeying those who rule over us in the Lord 2. With the last eight verses, we find: a. A request for prayer in behalf of the author - He 13:18-19 b. A benediction offered in behalf of the readers - He 13:20-21 c. A final exhortation, comment and farewell - He 13:22-25 3. I am suggesting that these verses serve as "Closing Words Befitting A Grand Epistle"... a. For they touch upon themes developed earlier in the epistle b. Therefore serving as a close worthy of such an epistle as we have studied [As we take this opportunity to reflect upon these closing words, we first observe the author's...] I. REQUEST FOR PRAYER (18-19) A. ONE REASON FOR HIS REQUEST... 1. He is confident of "a good conscience", desiring to live honorably a. The mention of a good conscience brings to mind several verses - He 9:9,14; 10:22 b. Through the blood of Christ, his conscience has made clean to serve God 2. Certainly their prayers in his behalf would be for a good purpose... a. To bless a man whose has been cleansed by the blood of Christ! b. To bless a man who desires to live honorably! B. ANOTHER REASON FOR HIS REQUEST... 1. To be restored to them sooner 2. Thus he expresses his intention to come them [Having requested their prayers, the author reciprocates with a prayer his own...] II. BENEDICTION OFFERED IN THEIR BEHALF (20-21) A. MAY GOD... 1. Described as "the God of peace" a. A description found often in Paul's letters - Ro 15:33; 16:20; 1Th 5:23; Php 4:9 b. He is the source of peace (note the salutations in most epistles) 2. "who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead" a. This is the only explicit reference to Jesus' resurrection in the epistle b. Though it is assumed in passages which speak of Christ at the right hand of God - cf. He 1:3; 4:14; 9:24 10:12; 12:2 3. Jesus is described as "that great Shepherd of the sheep" - cf. Jn 10:11,14 B. MAKE YOU COMPLETE... 1. "in every good work to do His will" a. The author wants them to be complete in doing God's will b. Yet he recognizes that they cannot do it on their own, they will need God's help! 2. How will God make them complete in every good work to do His will? a. "through the blood of the everlasting covenant" 1) This refers, of course, to the blood of Jesus a) Which is able to purge our conscience from dead works - He 9:14 b) By which Jesus has become the Mediator of the New Covenant - He 9:15 2) By this blood Jesus has "perfected forever those who are being sanctified" - He 10:10,14 -- Through the blood of Jesus, then, God is able to make us complete in every good work to do His will b. "working in you what is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ" 1) Not only are we cleansed by the blood of Jesus, but God works in us to do what pleases Him! a) This is reminiscent of Paul's comments in Php 2:12-13 b) That as we "work out" our salvation, God "works in" us! 2) Instrumental in God working in us is the role of His Spirit... a) We are strengthened by God's Spirit in the inner man - Ep 3:16 b) It is by the Spirit we can put to death the deeds of the body - Ro 8:13 -- It is by both the blood of Jesus and the work of the Spirit that we are truly "washed", "justified" and "sanctified" - 1Co 6:11; Tit 3:5-7 [While we are admonished throughout this epistle to be steadfast, this closing prayer reminds that we are not alone. In His grace and mercy, God aids in our desires and efforts to do His will! And now at last, we notice...] III. A FINAL EXHORTATION, COMMENT, AND FAREWELL (22-25) A. HIS FINAL EXHORTATION (22) 1. To "bear with the word of exhortation" a. This epistle has truly been one of exhorting them; we have exhortations against... 1) Drifting from what they have heard - He 2:1-4 2) Departing from the living God - He 3:12-15 3) Disobedience to His Word - He 4:11-13 4) Dullness of hearing - He 5:11-6:6 5) Despising God's grace - He 10:26-39 6) Defying Him who now speaks from heaven - He 12:14-29 b. While at times he has written rather strongly, he encourages them to bear with it 2. While one of the longer epistles in the New Testament, it was still "written to you in few words" (compare it with some of the writings of the "church fathers"!) B. A COMMENT REGARDING TIMOTHY (23) 1. "Our brother Timothy" - most likely he who was Paul's constant companion 2. Evidently just released from prison, and likely to join the author in coming to them C. GREETINGS AND FAREWELL (24-25) 1. Greetings from the author... a. To "all those who rule over you", i.e., their elders (cf. He 13:7,17) b. To "all the saints", i.e., the rest of the Christian 2. Greetings from "those from Italy"; this suggests two possibilities... a. The author was writing from Italy, passing along greetings from those present b. The author was writing to Italy, sending greetings from those with him who were from there 3. A simple farewell: "Grace be with you all. Amen" CONCLUSION 1. So ends "the word of exhortation", that grand epistle known simply as "The Epistle To The Hebrews" (or "To The Hebrews") 2. Though written to Jewish Christians, with their particular need in mind... a. It is of great value to all Christians b. It tells us more about the intercessory work of our Lord as High Priest than any other book of the New Testament c. Its warnings and exhortations are needed just as much today by Christians who are being tempted to leave Christ and go back into the world Especially these words found in Hebrews 10:19-25... "Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God," "let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching." I pray that our study has served the same purpose, to encourage us all to "draw near" to God, to "hold fast" the hope we confess, and to stir up "love and good works".
Divine Design and the Pine Tree
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The naturalistic explanation given by evolutionists for the existence of the created order cannot meet the dictates of logic that characterize the unencumbered, unprejudiced human mind. The more one investigates the intricacies and complexities of the natural realm, the more self-evident it is that a grand and great Designer is responsible for the existence of the Universe. In fact, the evidence is overwhelming and decisive.
Take, for example, the pine tree. Some 120 species and subspecies of the pine tree exist worldwide (“What Are...?,” n.d.). The Ponderosa pine tree (pinus ponderosa) is one of America’s abundant tree species, covering approximately 27 million acres of land (“Ponderosa Pine,” 1995). A young Ponderosa pine has brownish-black bark that changes to a distinctive orange-brown color as the tree grows older. The bark is segmented into large plate-like structures whose appearance has been likened to a jigsaw puzzle. This unusual design has a purpose. If the tree catches fire, these plates pop off as the bark burns. The tree, in effect, sheds its burning bark! This design, along with the great thickness of the bark, allows the tree to be very resistant to low intensity fires (“Ponderosa Pine,” n.d.). Since design demands a designer, who is responsible for this intricate design?
Courtesy sxc.hu and Jesse Adams
Another species of pine tree is the Lodgepole Pine (pinus contorta), so named since Native Americans used Lodgepole pine for the “lodge poles” in their tepees. This amazing pine tree grows cones that are slightly smaller than a golf ball, are tan when fresh, but turn gray with age. These serotinous cones remain closed until the heat of a forest fire causes them to open. After the fire, the cones open and reseed the forest. The species thus regenerates itself—even though the forest fire kills the tree itself (“Lodgepole Pine,” n.d.). Since such design demands a designer, who is responsible for this ingenious design?
Yet another species of pine tree is the Whitebark Pine (pinus albicaulis). This tree possesses a symbiotic relationship with a bird species known as the Clark’s Nutcracker. The tree is dependent on this bird for reproduction, while the seed of the tree is a major source of food for the bird. This mutualistic relationship is further seen in the fact that Whitebark pinecones do not open and cast seed when they are ripe. The cones remain closed until the Nutcracker comes along, pries the cone open with its bill, and stores the seed within a pouch beneath its tongue. The bird then caches the seed to be used later as a food supply. Some of these seed caches are forgotten, or are not needed, thus enabling the tree to reproduce (“Whitebark Pine,” n.d.). Such amazing design—with no Mind behind it? Illogical!
Ponderosa pine tree
Courtesy bigstockphotos.com and Angela McElroy
The interdependent, interconnected, interpenetrating features of God’s Creation are beyond the capability of man to trace out—let alone to “manage” or “assist.” Neither a pine tree nor a pinecone is sentient. They have no thinking capacity or consciousness. They possess no personhood, soul, or spirit. Pine trees did not get together and discuss the threat of forest fires to their future survival, and then decide to produce pinecones that would remain closed during a fire only to open afterwards. The standard explanations by evolutionists for such wonders of creation are incoherent and nonsensical. Elihu reminded Job: “Behold, God is exalted in His power; Who is a teacher like Him? Who has appointed Him His way, and who has said, ‘You have done wrong’? Remember that you should exalt His work, of which men have sung. All men have seen it; man beholds from afar” (Job 36:22-25—NASB).
Indeed, the realm of nature literally shouts forth the reality of the all-powerful Maker Who alone accounts for the intelligent design of the created order. As the psalmist so eloquently affirmed: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.... There is no speech, nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Psalm 19:1-4). Indeed, “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made” (Romans 1:20). Only a foolish person would conclude there is no God (Psalm 14:1).
“Lodgepole Pine” (no date), USDA Forest Service, [On-line], URL: http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/helena/resources/trees/LodgepolePine.shtml.
“Ponderosa Pine” (no date), USDA Forest Service, [On-line], URL: http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/helena/resources/trees/PonderosaPine.shtml.
“Ponderosa Pine” (1995), Western Wood Products Association, [On-line], URL: http://www.wwpa.org/ppine.htm.
“What Are Pine Trees?” (no date), The Lovett Pinetum Charitable Foundation, [On-line], URL: http://www.lovett-pinetum.org/1whatare.htm.
“Whitebark Pine” (no date), USDA Forest Service, [On-line], URL: http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/helena/resources/trees/WhitebarkPine.shtml.
Did the Laws of Science Apply in the Beginning?
|by||Jeff Miller, Ph.D.|
It is relatively easy for the rational man to disprove the idea that matter can spontaneously generate. Of course, even intuition does not back spontaneous generation. Recall Richard Dawkins’ commentary on the matter: “Of course it’s counterintuitive that you can get something from nothing. Of course common sensedoesn’t allow you to get something from nothing” (Dawkins and Pell, 2012, emp. added). It matters not how long you sit in your chair and stare at an empty desk. A pencil will not eventually materialize on the desk before you. Things—no matter how simplistic—do not pop into existence from nothing.
The idea, that structured, law-abiding, physical matter (i.e., like that which we see all around us in the created order) could come into being from nothing, is even more far-fetched. Beyond intuition, this matter is laid to rest when we consider the implications of the First Law of Thermodynamics and the Law of Conservation of Matter (see Miller, 2013c). To paraphrase, the amount of energy and matter in a system will remain constant unless there is input from some outside source. In other words, it does not matter how long you stare at the desk; unless someone comes by your desk and puts an already existing pencil on it, or you put the pencil on it yourself, or the pencil falls on the desk from some other place, a pencil will not appear on the desk. This idea, applied to the origin of the Universe, indicates that the Universe has either always existed (an idea which violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics—see Miller, 2013c), or Someone put it here.
Naturalists do not take such news sitting down. Scientists like Stephen Hawking claim that in the beginning, at the alleged Big Bang, “the laws of science…would break down” (1988, p. 88). Theoretical physicist Ahmed Farag Ali at Benha University and the Zewail City of Science and Technology in Egypt highlighted the Big Bang singularity as a devastating deficiency of the Big Bang Theory: “The Big Bang singularity is the most serious problem of general relativity because the laws of physics appear to break down there” (as quoted in Zyga, 2015). So, in other words, according to naturalists, one cannot use the laws of physics to disprove the spontaneous origin of the cosmic egg, because those laws could not apply to the cosmic egg at the beginning.
To what are the naturalists referring when they claim that the laws of nature “break down” at the cosmic egg that gave birth to the Universe—that the laws did not apply then? One of the first concepts taught in a study of calculus is that of a “limit.” A “limit” is a way to solve what will be the end result of an equation if its variable(s) was allowed to move to its ultimate destination. For example, imagine a bottle full of water with a leak at its base. As the water leaks from the bottle, the water level, ℎ, gets smaller. A limit equation seeks to determine what the end result will be of such a scenario. The “limit” of “ℎ” in the bottle over time, ℎ(t), as the water leaks from the bottle, will be zero—the final height of the water when it has all drained from the bottle . Now imagine trying to find the limit of the same equation, but with the ℎ(t) term in the denominator of the function . Over time, the height of the water in the bottle, ℎ(t), still moves to zero, which results in a situation where one must find the limit of an equation with a one divided by a zero. You do not have to know much about math to know that dividing one by zero is a problem. Such a scenario does not fit the rules. The usual laws do not work. We call it a “singularity,” and something similar happens when cosmologists attempt to work out the equations that explain what would occur at the beginning of the hypothetical Big Bang. This is why Stephen Hawking said, “The beginning of real time would have been a singularity, at which the laws of physics would have broken down” (n.d.).
In response, first notice that there is a reason that physicists consider the singularity a “problem.” Arguing that a singularity must have occurred at the beginning of the Big Bang admits that the laws of nature do not work in the way they are supposed to in the Big Bang model. The Big Bang requiresthe singularity, and yet the laws of nature do not work with singularities. So, by definition, the Big Bang event is not natural. It is supernatural—and therefore, the Big Bang naturalist must give up on being a naturalist, or remain in a self-contradictory position.
One physicist contacted me at Apologetics Press and went further in trying to get around the Universal origin problem. Paraphrasing, he said, “The laws of nature involve the interaction of matter and energy. The laws wouldn’t work in a situation where you don’t have matter and energy—like at the very beginning, before the cosmic egg appeared. So the laws wouldn’t be violated if matter and energy popped into existence from nothing, because there wouldn’t be any interaction for the laws to govern. So, no law would be able to stop matter/energy from popping into existence.” Is his statement true that the laws of physics only involve the interaction of matter and energy?
No. In thermodynamics, for example, we often work problems, specifically First Law of Thermodynamics problems, where you begin with a system with nothing in it, and then energy or matter moves into the system from outside of the system. So the problems involve a system bearing the interaction of nothing with energy/matter, and this is the precise scenario that poses a problem for the origin of the cosmic egg.
Still, the naturalistic scientist “usually assumes that the current laws of physics did not apply then” (Linde, 1994, emp. added). Granted—certain assumptions are often necessary in science. Granted—no one was around to make scientific observations about the origin of matter. But wait…that’s the point. No one was there to observe the beginning. So we have to be very careful in making assumptions. If we wish to be rational and not hold to a blind “faith,” we have to look at evidence available to us and only draw those conclusions that are warranted by that evidence. But naturalists throw out the current evidence, since it does not provide them with a naturalistic answer to the origin question that they seek, and proceed to engage in wild speculation. How is it scientific to throw aside solid science—making the assumption that there were no such things as laws of science in the beginning—with no evidence to support such a claim? This, naturalists do, even when all empirical evidence that has ever been observed by scientists leads to the conclusion that the laws of physics are, always have been, and always will be immutable (i.e., until they are destroyed along with the physical Universe on the Day of Judgment—2 Peter 3:7-10)—that they do not “break down.” Recall Stephen Hawking’s words regarding the laws of nature: “But what’s really important is that these physical laws, as well as being unchangeable, are universal. They apply not just to the flight of the ball, but to the motion of a planet and everything else in the Universe. Unlike laws made by humans, the laws of nature cannot ever be broken. That’s why they are so powerful…. [T]he laws of nature are fixed” (“Curiosity…,” 2011). In spite of such bold assertions, this same Hawking irrationally contradicted himself in claiming that in the Big Bang model, which he subscribes to, “the laws of science…break down” (1988, p. 88). If we behave rationally—drawing conclusions based on the evidence—a naturalist would have to conclude that the laws did not “break down” at the beginning. But if they did not break down, then naturalism has been falsified—and such a truth cannot be swallowed by naturalists.
Ironically, evolutionists take great pains to prove the immutability of certain scientific assertions, at least when it suits their agenda. For instance, creationists point out that the dating techniques utilized by evolutionary geologists are based on certain assumptions which are far from reasonable when all of the evidence is considered—like the assertion that physical constants used in dating methods have, in fact, remained constant throughout time. Mark Isaak of “The TalkOrigins Archive” attempts to respond to this criticism by describing certain constants which have purportedly remained constant for billions of years (Isaak, 2007). Creationists have no problem with the idea that certain constants could have remained essentially the same over long periods of time (though we do not believe that the Universe has existed for billions of years). However, scientific evidence indicates that not all physical constants have remained unchanged forever—like constants that are used in evolutionary dating techniques (cf. Stober, 2010; Miller, 2013b; Butt, 2010b; Reucroft and Swain, 2009; Gardner, 2010). For instance, catastrophic phenomena, such as volcanoes (cf. Akahane, et al., 2004), can significantly accelerate the rate of processes generally thought to take millions of years. The conclusion: dating techniques that make unscientific assumptions are flawed (cf. Miller, 2013b). But scientific laws, by definition, are without exception.
Notice again that, on one hand, naturalists do not want to grant that the laws of science have always been constant, although all scientific evidence indicates that they have; but they do want to make erroneous claims about physical constants that have been shown to be in contradiction with the scientific evidence, since it suits their agenda. And further notice that the evolutionist’s dilemma is not improved upon even if we grant the possibility that the laws of science were inapplicable at the beginning. Would evolutionists have us to believe that in the beginning, not only matter, but the physical laws that govern that matter popped into existence with the matter as well (see Miller, 2012b)? How can there be a law without a law maker? How is such an assertion scientific? And how is such an assertion allowed to go unchallenged by many scientists? The bias of those in the evolutionary community against accepting the rational and scientific alternative to their faulty theories is profound.
After Stephen Hawking admits on his Web site that “the laws of physics would have broken down” at the singularity, in the next sentence he contradicts himself, saying, “Nevertheless, the way the universe began would have been determined by the laws of physics” (n.d.). The naturalist wishes to have his cake and eat it, too. One cannot sidestep the thrust of the First Law of Thermodynamics by trying to say the laws did not apply in the beginning, and then simultaneously claim that natural law—namely quantum law—would bring about the Universe, which is precisely what naturalists wish to do (see Miller, 2013a). If you acknowledge that the natural laws cannot work in your model, you must acknowledge that your model is a supernatural model—not a naturalistic model. If the evolutionist cannot use science and its laws to bring about the Universe, then he has, in reality, given up on naturalism and become a believer in supernaturalism. In other words, if the laws of nature did not apply in the beginning, by implication, only supernatural phenomena could have existed to bring about the Universe (see Miller, 2012a). The next step is only to decide which supernatural entity is the true Creator—God, with His supporting evidences; or magic, with its lack thereof. [NOTE: The fact that naturalists must believe in supernatural phenomena illustrates that naturalistic theories amount to religion. Consistency, therefore, would dictate that those schools that do not allow the Creation model to be taught in their science classes should eliminate naturalistic theories as well. However, this author believes that the correct solution would be to teach the evidence from science, wherever it leads. Truth is the goal. The scientific evidence detailed in this book points to a Creator. So it should be taught. Any theory which contradicts the evidence should be removed from scientific discussion. See Houts, 2007, for more on the idea that evolution is religion, not science.]
Although assumptions are often necessary in science, scientific assumptions must carry the quality of being reasonable in order for them to be permissible in scientific discussion (See Miller, 2013b for a discussion on scientific assumptions.). What scientific evidence could be cited to back such a grandiose claim that there was a time that the laws of nature did not hold? The only way the claim that the laws of science did not apply in the beginning can be made and considered to be reasonable is if the person has made another equally unscientific assumption upon which that claim is based. The person would have to assume that there was no One here at the beginning that organized matter in keeping with the Laws which that Being set in motion. The Creation model in no way contradicts the laws of physics. On the other hand, the atheistic evolutionary model contradicts the laws of physics in a myriad of ways. Yet, oddly, creationists are the ones who are branded as unscientific.
Akahane, Hisatada, Takeshi Furuno, Hiroshi Miyajima, Toshiyuki Yoshikawa, and Shigeru Yamamoto (2004), “Rapid Wood Silicification in Hot Spring Water: An Explanation of Silicification of Wood During the Earth’s History,” Sedimentary Geology, 169[3-4]:219-228, July 15.
Butt, Kyle (2010b), “New Findings Show Flaws in Old-Earth Dating Methods,” /APContent.aspx?category=9&article=3770.
“Curiosity: Did God Create the Universe?” (2011), Discovery Channel, August 7.
Dawkins, Richard and George Pell (2012), “Religion and Atheism,” ABC Australia, http://www.abc.net.au/tv/quanda/txt/s3469101.htm, April 9.
Gardner, Elizabeth (2010), “Purdue-Stanford Team Finds Radioactive Decay Rates Vary With the Sun’s Rotation,” Purdue University News Service, http: //www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2010/100830FischbachJenkinsDec.html.
Hawking, Stephen (1988), A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (New York: Bantam).
Hawking, Stephen (n.d.), “The Beginning of Time,” Stephen Hawking: The Official Web Site, March 1, 2016.
Houts, Michael G. (2007), “Evolution is Religion—Not Science [Part I],” Reason & Revelation, 27:81-87, November, /pub_rar/27_11/0711.pdf.
Isaak, Mark (2007), “Claim CE410,” The TalkOrigins Archive: Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy, http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CE/CE410.html.
Linde, Andrei (1994), “The Self-Reproducing Inflationary Universe,” Scientific American, 271:48, November.
Miller, Jeff (2012a), “The Atheistic Naturalist’s Self-Contradiction,” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=12&article=4225.
Miller, Jeff (2012b), “The Laws of Science –by God,” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=12&article=4545.
Miller, Jeff (2013a), “Can Quantum Mechanics Produce a Universe from Nothing?” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=4584&topic=57.
Miller, Jeff (2013b), “Don’t Assume Too Much: Not All Assumptions in Science Are Bad,” Reason & Revelation, 33:62-64,69-70, June, http://apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1122&article=2153.
Miller, Jeff (2013c), “Evolution and the Laws of Science: The Laws of Thermodynamics,” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=12&article=2786.
Reucroft, Steve and J. Swain (2009), “Ultrasonic Cavitation of Water Speeds Up Thorium Decay,” CERN Courier, June 8, http://cerncourier.com/cws/article/cern/39158.
Stober, David (2010), “The Strange Case of Solar Flares and Radioactive Elements,” http://www.symmetrymagazine.org/breaking/2010/08/23/the-strange-case-of-solar-flares-and-radioactive-elements/.
Zyga, Lisa (2015), “No Big Bang? Quantum Equation Predicts Universe Has No Beginning,” Phys.Org, February 9, http://phys.org/news/2015-02-big-quantum-equation-universe.html.
[Article Revised 2016]
Did God Create Us with a Desire to Sin?
|by||Jeff Miller, Ph.D.|
“There is no doubt that humans want to sin. Why would a loving God that does not want us to sin create us with that desire? What an evil thing to do! Apparently, He wants us to sin! How is that fair? Why would He expect us to not sin and then tempt us by giving us the desire to do it? That’s sick. How could He be a loving God?” Several months ago, a young lady approached me and made these accusations against God. Is this a dilemma for the God of the Bible?1
For the sake of argument, we will assume for a moment that it is true that God created us with a desire to sin. First, if we grant that He created us with a “desire to sin,” is it not also true that He simultaneously created us with an ability to choose not to sin? In other words, He did not create us so that we had to sin. He clearly gave us freewill—the freedom to make our own decisions. Every capable human proves on a daily basis that he does, in fact, have the freedom to do or not to do various activities. We are not mindless robots that act solely on instinct. You can choose to read this sentence or not. No matter how intense a particular temptation is, it has been proven to be able to be resisted by man. Now, if God wanted us to sin, and had the power to cause us to sin, why would He create us with the ability to choose not to do so? That would not make sense. Ironically, at the very beginning of time, God directly stated that it is not He Who wants sin to rule over us. Sin has a “desire” to do so, but He created us with the ability to “rule over it” (Genesis 4:7).
Further, even if God did create us with a “desire to sin,” is it not also strange that He would give us a way of being cleansed or forgiven from that evil we desire to engage in? If He wanted us to fail, why would He do such a thing? The gift of forgiveness in the biblical model is a blatant inconsistency with such an idea, and serves as a formal proof that God does not want us to sin. Even more curiously, if He wanted us to sin, why would the system for forgiveness that He instituted entail His own agonizing death? Such a selfless act is not something a God would do who wanted us to sin and go to hell. Such behavior is, however, something a merciful God would do—a God Who wanted to give us independence and freedom of choice, and still give us a way to be forgiven when we make the wrong decisions.
That said, it simply is not accurate to say that God created Man with an inherent desire to do evil. If anything, since He gave us a conscience and inherent sense of justice or fairness, He created us with a pull or pressure to not do certain things. Every human being on the planet understands that there are some things that are fair, and some things that are not fair, and an unseared conscience pressures us to do the right thing by others.
Further, while we sometimes might desire to do evil, is it not also true that at other times we have a desire to do good? One could just as easily and equally ask the question, “Did God create us with a desire to do right?” Even the most hardened atheist or agnostic (e.g., Bart Ehrman2) admits that he wants (i.e., is tempted) to do good and does so (i.e., “succumbs” to that temptation) through various philanthropic activities. If God created us with a desire to sin, it must also be conceded that He created us with a desire to do good as well.
How can this apparent contradiction be explained? Is it not likely that God did not in fact create us with the desire to sin? We desire both activities at times because we have discovered that they both can make us feel good in different ways. That said, it is fair and consistent to conclude that God created us with that desire—i.e., the desire to feel good (i.e., to be happy, appreciate pleasure, to desire enjoyment and satisfaction), not purely the desire to do evil. For example, we were created to want to eat—to feel good from doing so—but not with the desire to be cannibals. Perhaps it would be better to describe it this way: God created us with the capacity to experience and appreciate feeling good. When we feel good, we naturally want to continue having that feeling. Those things with which we choose to fill the “feel good tank” up are our decisions as individuals with free will. Those decisions are no doubt influenced by many factors (e.g., experience, pride, our parents and teachers [Proverbs 22:6; 19:27], our friends [1 Corinthians 15:33; Proverbs 13:20], Satan [2 Corinthians 2:11], etc.), but the bad influences or evil desires are never from God. James 1:13-14 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” We desire to do evil things because of the momentary pleasures or good feelings they can give, not because God wants us to do evil. The wise individual will recognize that not all pleasures should be engaged in at will. He will choose to endure temporary affliction if it is necessary to do right, rather than enjoying “the passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25).
But why would He not create an environment where we have no interaction with others and cannot be deleteriously influenced by them? In such an environment, we would lose the blessings we receive from interacting with others as well (e.g., conversation, companionship, physical affection, kind words, medical attention, technological advancement, gifts, etc.). There is a reason why solitary confinement is used as a serious punishment within the prison system. Isolation and loneliness are unhealthy. “It is not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Interaction with others, and the blessings we can have from those interactions, are gifts from God. We live on a planet with over seven billion others. Since we all live together, our free will inevitably affects those around us, for good or ill. If we could not affect others with our decisions, then we simultaneously would cease to have the free will to affect those people for good or ill. Only through creating an environment where all humans were forced to obey God could the temptation to disobey God be eliminated. But in such an environment, God would cease to be aloving God Who grants us freedom. He would be a dictator, forcing everyone to obey Him as mindless automatons.
But why would God give us the capacity to experience feeling good at all? If it makes us do evil, how is that a good thing? There is no doubt that God’s choice to allow us pleasure is a blessing to us, in spite of its dangers. Who would honestly argue that a life completely devoid of having pleasurable feelings or feeling good would be a good (i.e., pleasurable) one? The very idea is self-contradictory. For the same reason we long to make our children happy and give them joy in life, God created us to be able to experience the same. One would not expect an unloving God, One Who wanted humans to sin, to also create us to be able to experience pleasure and joy. Such a decision, however, would be perfectly in harmony with a loving, gracious God Who cares for us and wishes to bless us with happiness, in spite of the bad decisions we and others around us often make. So notice that the desire to feel good is not inherently evil. In fact, the Creator’s decision to instill in us the desire to feel good and to experience pleasure is actually a blessing, not a curse, as long as He gave us, along with the capacity for appreciating pleasure, the ability to distinguish the good kind of pleasure from the bad, either through instruction or creating an environment where we can learn from experience.
Is it not true that a loving parent wishes to maximize happiness or joy for his child? This includes giving that child an environment where he can have a certain degree of freedom and independence. He is not chained to his bed his whole life, but is given rules (i.e., advice), warnings about what will happen if the child chooses bad pleasures, and the freedom to decide whether or not to obey or disobey those rules. He can decide to believe his parents,that they know what will make him happy, or believe that his way will have a better result. A child might reason that he would be happier if he ignored his parents’ warnings, and touched the stove anyway. For a moment, the child experiences the pleasure we often feel from engaging our free will, and as he feels good from the freedom he pridefully believes that he has proven his parents wrong. A moment later, when he is burned, he discovers why his parents made the rule in the first place, and learns to trust (i.e., have faith in) them. But what about when he touches the stove and nothing happens because the stove is off? In such cases, a loving parent’s discipline is given in order to make sure the child does not happen to touch the stove the next time—when it is on. Though the child does not yet understand why the rule has been given in the first place (since nothing happened when he touched the stove the first time), he learns to obey his parents anyway, and in time, learns to trust their wisdom through the verification of that wisdom in numerous other rules and warnings. But why does the parent go through this procedure? Clearly, to maximize happiness for the child in the long run.
God has done the same for us. First, God created an environment conducive to learning right and wrong. Notice that the created order has a system of punishment worked into it to help us distinguish certain things on our own. For example, pleasure can generally be gained from sexual activity in any form, but that does not mean that all forms are going to maximize our happiness. So God communicated certain ways we should engage in such activity in order to maximize happiness. He also designed a natural system whereby when we deviate from His rules about sexual activity, pain and sorrow will come in some way (even if we do not always recognize that our behavior is the cause of it). While we have the freedom to reject God’s will, He still encourages us to do right through a system of punishment worked into the created order (e.g., venereal diseases; physical danger from a lack of sobriety or reckless, imprudent behavior; potential for drug overdoses; diseases and cancers that come from certain sins; depression; family strife; loneliness; etc.). Also in the created order are constant admonitions helping us to behave correctly (e.g., through pressure from our conscience to behave in certain ways, through lessons gained from our observations of others, as well as through the direct admonition given to us by others who have made bad decisions). Does the creation of such an environment sound more like the work of a God Who wants us to sin or not to sin? Does such a system prove that the Creator apparently wants to encourage us to obey Him, while also giving us independence and the freedom to disobey Him if we choose?
Second, as a loving parent would be expected to do, God was sure to give us direct instruction to warn us about the differences between good and bad pleasures. The Bible is clear in communicating explicitly that our happiness is a major motivation behind the rules that God gave us (e.g., Psalm 19:7-8). The rules in the Bible were not selected randomly merely to control humans, in the same way a loving parent’s rules are not so selected. The great Sermon on the Mount is begun with the Beatitudes—the Son of God’s rules of thumb for being happy (i.e., “blessed”) in life. In Deuteronomy 10:12-13, Moses reminds the Israelites that God’s rules were for their good. In Deuteronomy 6:24 he says that God’s laws are “for our good always, that He might preserve us alive.” God’s commandments are often about more than how to get to heaven. They affect our lives here and now. In Proverbs 29:18 Solomon warns his son that eliminating God’s rules (i.e., His “revelation”) from a society will certainly allow total, unbridled freedom in the behavior of that society (i.e., people will “cast off restraint”) and that conscience-free behavior will be thought to be the way to happiness. That total freedom, however, contrary to what we might think, will not bring people happiness. Solomon warns, “Happy is he who keeps [God’s] law.”
A child might think that having no rules about running out in the street will make him happy, but in truth, happiness in the long run comes from (1) having those rules, and (2) obeying his parents’ rules. We may not always agree at the moment with what He says will make us happy, just as a child does not always agree with his parents; but, as with a child, we are oftentimes simply not in a position to know in the long run what will be best for us and the people around us. A child would love to make those decisions on his own, and develop his own system of right and wrong. He thinks that he can do so effectively—just as adults sometimes think we know better than God what will make us happy. But the bottom line is that the parents know a lot more about what will bring lasting happiness, and so the parent teaches, makes rules, and enforces them—as does God. The difference is that humans are imperfect in designing and enforcing rules, because like a child, we also do not know everything we need to know to do it perfectly. Parents disciplined “us as seemed best to them” (Hebrews 12:10), but biblical rules were made by the omniscient Mind Who created the human mind. Who could possibly know better what will bring the human mind happiness than He Who created it?
Did God create us inherently to desire to do evil? No. God created us with the capacity to experience pleasure and happiness and the desire to pursue it. He created us to be able to enjoy pleasure and feel good, through our eyes, ears, tongues, noses, and nerves, as well as in our very souls. He created an environment where we can choose to fill our pleasure tanks in different ways—right and wrong ways—as a parent does with a child, and then He gave us valuable instruction about which are the best choices. By creating such a free environment, pain, suffering, and evil are inevitable, since humans will oftentimes reject God’s rules and admonitions. But with such inevitably bad decisions, He made sure to provide a means by which we can be forgiven, and eventually, live with Him in an environment free from all evil.
1 Well-known reformation theologian John Calvin taught the doctrine that humans have a “sinful nature.” According to Calvin, sin has been passed down from Adam to all humans. Humans are, therefore, born in a state of “total depravity.” For a response to that false doctrine, see Caleb Colley (2010), “The Problematic Concept of a Sinful Human Nature,” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=3749&topic=379; Kyle Butt (2004), “Do Children Inherit the Sin of Their Parents?” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=1378; Caleb Colley (2004), “Did David Authorize Infant Baptism?” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1062; and Moises Pinedo (2009), “Are Children Born With Sin?” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=2697.
2 Kyle Butt and Bart Ehrman (2014), Butt/Ehrman Debate: Pain, Suffering, and God’s Existence(Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).