"THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PETER" Proper Conduct As Obedient Children (1:14-21) INTRODUCTION 1. In our previous study, we saw from verse 13 that we have the responsibility to fortify the focus of our hope and set it fully upon the grace that we are to receive when Jesus comes again 2. Another responsibility we have as Christians is to conduct ourselves as "obedient children" - 1Pe 1:14 3. While the need to be obedient is often misconstrued by some as sounding legalistic, it is stressed in the New Testament nonetheless - cf. He 5:9; 2Th 1:8 4. In what way are we to be obedient? There is much the Bible has to say on the subject... a. But in this lesson we shall focus our attention to 1Pe 1:14-21 b. Where we learn that "Proper Conduct As Obedient Children" has both negative and positive connotations (i.e., both "thou shalt nots" and "thou shalt") [For example, we learn from verse 14 that as "obedient children"...] I. WE ARE NOT TO CONFORM TO FORMER LUSTS A. UNDERSTANDING WHAT PETER IS SAYING... 1. The word "conform" ("fashion" in the KJV) means "to conform one's self (i.e. one's mind and character) to another's pattern" 2. The "former lusts" refer to the evil desires and behavior in which we once engaged, and in which the world continues to engage 3. In essence, then, Peter is saying: a. "Don't act like you once did, or like those still in the world." b. "Do not adopt their sinful habits, mannerisms, dress, and speech, which you did before you became Christians." B. APPLYING WHAT PETER IS SAYING... 1. We will not seek to act like those who are not Christians 2. For Christians are not to be "conformists", but true "non-conformists", or "transformists" - cf. Ro 12:1-2 a. "Conformists" simply imitate others, sometimes claiming to do so only outwardly b. But "transformists" are those who: 1) Have undergone a true change on the "inside" 2) And who manifest the difference on the "outside" 3. To behave properly as "obedient children", then, we need to be sure we are not adopting the sinful habits or mannerisms of those in the world a. Like accepting the popular fashions of our society which appeal to fleshly desires 1) E.g., short dresses, tight "designer jeans", and other immodest apparel 2) Christians, rather than conforming, are to adorn themselves in modest apparel - cf. 1Ti 2:9-10 b. Like filling our speech with suggestive language or jokes - cf. Ep 4:29; 5:3-4 c. Or delighting in various forms of entertainment which cater to fleshly desires - cf. Php 4:8 4. But too many Christians DO conform to the world and its lusts... a. Therefore it is not surprising to hear many becoming entrapped by the world b. As is indicated by the rise of marital unfaithfulness and divorce 5. So Christians need to heed what Peter is saying (as well as what was said by John - 1Jn 2:15-17) [In a more "positive" vein, we learn from verses 15-16 that as "obedient children"...] II. WE ARE TO BE HOLY IN ALL OUR CONDUCT A. CONCERNING THE WORD "HOLY"... 1. It is closely related to the words "sanctify" and "sanctification" 2. All of which stress the idea of being "set apart" 3. To be "holy", then, means that we are "set apart" or dedicated to God B. WE ARE TO BE "HOLY" FOR AT LEAST TWO REASONS... 1. The first reason is that given in our text: "For I (God) am holy." a. The God who has called us through His gospel is a holy God b. He Himself is "set apart" from sin and wickedness c. His very nature demands a similar holiness on our part - cf. He 12:14 2. It is also Jesus' desire that we be holy (He died for this very purpose!) - cf. Ep 5:25-27 C. NOTE ALSO THAT WE ARE TO BE HOLY IN "ALL" OUR CONDUCT! 1. Holiness is not something we put on when convenient, like on Sundays 2. Instead, our daily life, our entire conduct is to be "set apart" in service to the Lord - cf. Ro 12:1 3. For this to be true, every aspect of our life must be in harmony with God's demand for holiness! a. This means our work, our speech, our dress, our recreation... b. ...ALL should be in harmony with the principles of God's Word 4. Even the most mundane things, when done in keeping with God's Will, become a part of our holy service to God! 5. Can it be said of our lives, that we are holy in all our conduct? a. Do we go about our business, our play, with the thought of being "set apart" to the Will of God, so that it is evident in our business or play? b. I am sure that all of us can improve in this area of our service as "obedient children"! [There is one more point that can be made in reference to our conduct as "obedient children", taken from verses 17-21...] III. WE MUST CONDUCT OURSELVES IN FEAR A. AS PILGRIMS, "FEAR" HAS A PROPER PLACE DURING OUR SOJOURN... 1. Even as Jesus taught His disciples - Mt 10:28 2. And as Paul wrote the Philippians - Php 2:12 B. PETER GIVES TWO REASONS FOR SUCH "FEAR"... 1. In view of the judgment by our Father - 1Pe 1:17 a. He will not be partial - "without partiality" b. He will be personal - "judges according to each one's work" -- No one will receive special favors, no one will escape His discerning eye! 2. In view of the high cost of redemption - 1Pe 1:18-21 a. We were not redeemed from our sins with silver or gold b. But only by the precious blood of Christ! 1) Who was without blemish and without spot 2) Who was foreordained to die for our sins before the world began 3) Who came to this earth for our sakes 4) By whom our faith and hope are in God! c. Any Christian who does not conduct himself in a manner appreciative of the price paid for his sins, can expect a fate worse than death if he does not repent! - cf. He 10:26-31 CONCLUSION 1. From verses 14-21, then, we learn that "Proper Conduct As Obedient Children" means that... a. We are not to conform ourselves to former lusts b. We are to be holy in all our conduct c. We are to conduct ourselves in fear 2. Paul said much the same thing in writing to the church at Corinth: "Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." (2Co 7:1) 3. This we cannot do on our own, but by the redeeming grace of God... a. We can be forgiven by the precious blood of Christ b. We can be strengthened by the power of His Spirit to live the sort of lives pleasing to our Heavenly Father Have you responded to the grace of God in order to receive such wonderful blessings? - cf. Ac 2:38
It Takes Intelligence to Design a Human—oid
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
On Monday, March 16 the world was introduced to HRP-4C, a female, humanoid robot designed and created by developers at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (Ama, 2009). This 95-pound technological wonder wowed onlookers with her animated facial expressions, lifelike walk, and human-like responses. Designers created her to be a fashion model. They hope that future models will be able to help “with daily chores or work side by side with people.” But Hirohisa Hirukawa, one researcher who worked on the robot, said concerning this dream: “Technologically, it hasn’t reached that level” (Ama, 2009). For all the money, man-hours, and technology applied to the field of robotics, robots simply cannot perform standard tasks that an average human does with little thought or exertion.
Models of the HRP-4C robot will soon be on sale for about $200,000. Japanese robotics developers, who are some of the leaders in the field, believe that the market for humanoid robots will soon be in the billions of dollars. They want to be the front-runners in this technological expansion.
As exciting as HRP-4C’s debut was, however, it was not problem-free. As Ama noted:
The demonstration didn’t all go smoothly. The robot often looked surprised, opening its mouth and eyes in a stunned expression, when the demonstrator asked it to smile or look angry. Its walk was also not quite ready for the Paris Collection, partly because its knees are permanently bent. It has sensors in its feet but it lacks the sensitive balance of a real human (2009).
If we wanted to list a few other things that limit the robot’s capabilities, we could mention that it does not have light-weight, super-strong bones that heal in a matter of weeks if they are broken, it cannot turn a banana into usable energy to keep itself going, it cannot do simple jumping jacks, does not have self-cleaning eyeballs, etc. To put it mildly, the robot’s abilities are dismal when compared to a living human.
Shuuji Kajita, the leading developer of the group, optimistically noted that HRP-4C “is just the first step” (Ama, 2009). He means this is the first step toward making a robot that can come closer to human functionality. But future steps in that direction will cost billions, consume massive amounts of research time, and require input from thousands of brilliant men and women across the globe. These things do not just happen by accident, which, of course, is the point. Robots don’t happen by accident; they require intelligent designers to bring them into existence.
Only the most obstinate mind can miss the clear implication. Robots are inferior to humans and they require intelligent, personal beings for their construction. Human beings are superior to robots in functionality and complexity; therefore they must also require an intelligent, personal being for their design. As the psalmist so aptly put it some 3,000 years ago: “I will praise You [God], for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are your works, and that my soul knows very well” (139:14).
Ama, Yuri Kagey (2009), “Walking, Talking Female Robot to Hit Japan Catwalk,” [On-line], URL:http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090316/ap_on_re_as/as_japan_girl_robot.
Is it a Miracle?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
A person cannot read many pages from the New Testament (or the Old Testament for that matter) without coming across a miracle. Miracles spatter the pages of the Bible like polka dots on a Dalmatian: the 10 plagues in Egypt; healing of people with leprosy; the resurrection of dead people; the virgin birth; etc. Yet many educated people deny the idea that miracles were either real or possible. They maintain instead that the wonders documented in the Bible must have been fictitious, or had a purely natural explanation. Did Jesus and others in the Bible perform mighty miracles, or are the stories merely “wishful thinking” on the part of superstitious, unscientific fanatics?
WHAT IS A MIRACLE?
In order to decide if miracles actually occurred, we first must understand the definition of a miracle. A miracle is an event that defies natural laws and that can be accounted for only by a supernatural explanation. For example, walking on a road is not a miracle. But defying the law of gravity and walking on water is. There is nothing extraordinary about reviving a person by using CPR. But there is something miraculous about raising a person who has been dead for several days.
SOME JUST SAY “NO” TO MIRACLES
Some people adamantly claim that any type of miracle is absolutely impossible. Why do they say “no” to miracles? There are many reasons, but perhaps the most important is that they do not believe that God exists (or that if He does, He does not intervene in the natural world). A person who believes that the Universe and its contents evolved through natural processes over billions of years cannot believe in miracles because he or she thinks that nothing exists outside of nature. As the late, eminent astronomer of Cornell University, Carl Sagan, put it: “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be” (1980, p. 4). Since a miracle is an event that has a supernatural explanation, no such event ever could occur in a world where only natural forces operate. Once a person denies the greatest miracle of all—creation at the hand of God—then he or she is forced to deny that miracles of any kind can occur.
Those who hold to such a view are correct about one thing: If God does not exist (or if He does but is unwilling to intervene in His creation) then miracles cannot occur. On the other hand, if God does exist (and it can be argued convincingly that He does!), then miracles not only are possible, but also probable. It makes perfectly good sense to conclude that if God created this Universe, then on occasion He might intervene through miracles to accomplish His divine purposes.
GOD WOULDN’T BREAK THE LAW, WOULD HE?
Another idea suggests that God did, in fact, create the Universe, but that His activities stopped at creation. Afterwards, He no longer intervened in this world through miracles, because that would break the natural laws that He had established at the time of creation.
The problem with this idea is that it does not consider the fact that the natural laws do not apply to God (since He is not a “natural” Being). The laws of nature are inviolate, and cannot be broken. For instance, the First Law of Thermodynamics states that matter or energy can be neither created nor destroyed in nature. The two words “in nature” must be included for the law to be worded correctly. Nothing in nature—man, beasts, or matter—can break this law. However, since God is not part of nature, the law obviously does not apply to Him.
To illustrate, think of the Universe as one room. God established natural laws that apply to everything in that room, and then He locked the door. It is impossible for matter or energy to be created or destroyed in that room. But, suppose that God unlocks the door and puts another chair in the room or takes a chair out of the room. Did God break the law He established in the room? No, because everything in the room (Universe) still functions according to the natural laws, but since God is outside of the room then the laws that operate inside the room do not apply to Him.
Miracles are only impossible in a world with no God, or a non-intervening Deity. Once God’s existence and His ability to operate in the natural world are established, it makes perfect sense to conclude that He occasionally might do supernatural things to accomplish His goals. God is not a cosmic bandit Who sneaks around “breaking the rules” of nature. Rather, He is the sovereign Creator Who reserves the right to operate whenever and however He sees fit.
Sagan, Carl (1980), Cosmos (New York: Random House).
Is God Immoral for Killing Innocent Children?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Dan Barker and many of his atheistic colleagues claim that atheism offers the world a superior system of morality when compared to the moral system presented in the Bible. In fact, near the end of Dan’s ten-minute rebuttal speech during our debate, he stated: “We can know that the atheistic way is actually a superior intellectual and moral way of thinking” (Butt and Barker, 2009). One primary reason Dan gave for his belief that the Bible’s morality is flawed is that the Bible states that God has directly killed people, and that God has authorized others to kill as well. In Dan’s discussion about Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, Dan said that Abraham should not have been willing to obey God’s command. Dan stated: “By the way, Abraham should have said, ‘No, way. I’m better than you [God—KB], I’m not going to kill my son’” (Butt and Barker, 2009).
In his book godless, Barker said: “There is not enough space to mention all of the places in the bible where God committed, commanded or condoned murder” (2008, p. 177). The idea that God is immoral because He has killed humans is standard atheistic fare. In his Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris cited several Bible verses in which God directly or indirectly caused people to die. He then stated: “Anyone who believes that the Bible offers the best guidance we have on questions of morality has some very strange ideas about either guidance or morality” (2006, p. 14). In his landmark atheistic bestseller, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins wrote the following as the opening paragraph of chapter two:
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully (2006, p. 31, emp. added).
After listing several Old Testament verses pertaining to the conquest of Canaan, Dawkins referred to God as an “evil monster” (p. 248). Christopher Hitchens wrote that God’s actions and instructions in the Old Testament had caused “the ground” to be “forever soaked with the blood of the innocent” (2007, p. 107).
Is it true that atheism offers a superior morality to that found in the Bible? And is the God of the Bible immoral for advocating or directly causing the deaths of millions of people? The answer to both questions is an emphatic “No.” A close look at the atheistic claims and accusations will manifest the truth of this answer.
ATHEISM CANNOT MAKE “MORAL” JUDGMENTS
The extreme irony of the atheistic argument against God’s morality is that atheism is completely impotent to define the term “moral,” much less use the concept against any other system. On February 12, 1998, William Provine delivered a speech on the campus of the University of Tennessee. In an abstract of that speech, his introductory comments are recorded in the following words: “Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent” (Provine, 1998, emp. added). Provine’s ensuing message centered on his fifth statement regarding human free will. Prior to delving into the “meat” of his message, however, he noted: “The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them” (1998).
It is clear then, from Provine’s comments, that he believes naturalistic evolution has no way to produce an “ultimate foundation for ethics.” And it is equally clear that this sentiment was so apparent to “modern naturalistic evolutionists” that Dr. Provine did not feel it even needed to be defended. Oxford professor Richard Dawkins concurred with Provine by saying: “Absolutist moral discrimination is devastatingly undermined by the fact of evolution” (Dawkins, 2006, p. 301).
If atheism is true and humans evolved from non-living, primordial slime, then any sense of moral obligation must simply be a subjective outworking of the physical neurons firing in the brain. Theoretically, atheistic scientists and philosophers admit this truth. Charles Darwin understood this truth perfectly. He wrote: “A man who has no assured and ever present belief in the existence of a personal God or of a future existence with retribution and reward, can have for his rule of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones” (1958, p. 94, emp. added). Dan Barker admitted this truth in his debate with Peter Payne, when he stated: “There are no actions in and of themselves that are always absolutely right or wrong. It depends on the context. You cannot name an action that is always absolutely right or wrong. I can think of an exception in any case” (2005).
If there is no moral standard other than human “impulses and instincts,” then any attempt to accuse another person of immoral behavior boils down to nothing more than one person not liking the way another person does things. While the atheist may claim not to like God’s actions, if he admits that there is a legitimate standard of morality that is not based on subjective human whims, then he has forfeited his atheistic position. If actions can accurately be labeled as objectively moral or immoral, then atheism cannot be true. As C.S. Lewis eloquently stated:
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust...? Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too—for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist—in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless—I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality—namely my idea of justice—was full of sense. Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple (Lewis, 1952, pp. 45-46, italics in orig.).
If there truly are cases of justice and injustice, then God must exist. Furthermore, we will show that the God of the Bible never is unjust in His dealings with humanity. On the contrary, the atheistic position finds itself mired in injustice at every turn.
Generally, the atheistic argument against God’s morality begins with blanket statements about all of God’s actions or commands that caused anyone to die. When the case is pressed, however, the atheistic argument must be immediately qualified by the concepts of justice and deserved punishment. Could it be that some of God’s actions were against people who had committed crimes worthy of death? Sam Harris noted that he believes that the mere adherence to certain beliefs could be a legitimate cause for putting some people to death (2004, pp. 52-53). Almost the entirety of the atheistic community admits that certain actions, such as serial killing, theft, or child abuse, deserve to be punished in some way. They do not all agree with Harris that the death penalty may be appropriate, but they would argue that some type of punishment or preventive incarceration should be applied to the offender.
Once the atheistic community admits that people who break certain laws should be punished, then the only question left to decide is how they should be punished and to what extent. Atheists may quibble with God’s idea of divine punishment, but it has been sufficiently demonstrated that their arguments cannot be reasonably defended (see Lyons and Butt, 2005, 25:9-15; see also Miller, 2002). Knowing that the idea of justice and the concept of legitimate punishment can be used effectively to show that their blanket accusations against God are ill founded, the atheists must include an additional concept: innocence.
The argument is thus transformed from, “God is immoral because He has killed people,” to “God is immoral because He has killed innocent people.” Since human infants are rightly viewed by atheists as the epitome of sinless innocence, the argument is then restated as “God is immoral because He has killed innocent human infants.” Dan Barker summarized this argument well in his debate with Peter Payne. In his remarks concerning God’s commandment in Numbers 31 for Moses to destroy the Midianites, he stated: “Maybe some of those men were guilty of committing war crimes. And maybe some of them were justifiably guilty, Peter, of committing some kind of crimes. But the children? The fetuses?” (2005, emp. added).
It is important to note, then, that a large number of the instances in which God caused or ordered someone’s death in the Bible were examples of divine punishment of adults who were “justifiably guilty” of punishable crimes. For instance, after Moses listed a host of perverse practices that the Israelites were told to avoid, he stated: “Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants” (Leviticus 18:24-25, emp. added).
Having said that, it must also be recognized that not all the people God has been responsible for killing have been guilty of such crimes. It is true that the Bible documents several instances in which God caused or personally ordered the death of innocent children: the Flood (Genesis 7), death of the first born in Egypt (Exodus 12:29-30), annihilation of the Midianites (Numbers 31), death of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15), etc. Using these instances, atheists claim that God cannot be moral because He kills innocent children. Atheists then insist that modern-day atheism would never approve of such, and thus atheism is morally superior to the morality of the biblical God.
ATHEISM HAS NO MORAL QUALMS ABOUT KILLING INNOCENT CHILDREN
A closer look at atheistic morality, however, quickly reveals that atheists do not believe that it is morally wrong to kill all innocent children. According to the atheistic community, abortion is viewed as moral. In his debate with John Rankin, Dan Barker said that abortion is a “blessing” (Barker and Rankin, 2006; see also Barker, 1992, pp. 135, 213). One line of reasoning used by atheists to justify the practice is the idea that humans should not be treated differently than animals, since humans are nothing more than animals themselves. The fact that an embryo is “human” is no reason to give it special status. Dawkins wrote: “An early embryo has the sentience, as well as the semblance, of a tadpole” (Dawkins, 2006, p. 297)
Atheistic writer Sam Harris noted: “If you are concerned about suffering in this universe, killing a fly should present you with greater moral difficulties than killing a human blastocyst [three-day-old human embryo—KB]” (2006, p. 30). He further stated: “If you are worried about human suffering, abortion should rank very low on your list of concerns” (p. 37). Many in the atheistic community argue that unborn humans are not real “persons,” and killing them is not equivalent to killing a person. Sam Harris wrote: “Many of us consider human fetuses in the first trimester to be more or less like rabbits; having imputed to them a range of happiness and suffering that does not grant them full status in our moral community” (2004, p. 177, emp. added). James Rachels stated:
Some unfortunate humans—perhaps because they have suffered brain damage—are not rational agents. What are we to say about them? The natural conclusion, according to the doctrine we are considering, would be that their status is that of mere animals. And perhaps we should go on to conclude that they may be used as non-human animals are used—perhaps as laboratory subjects, or as food (1990, p. 186, emp. added).
Isn’t it ironic that Dan Barker protested to Peter Payne that God could not cause the death of an unborn human “fetus” and still be considered moral, and yet the bulk of the atheistic community adamantly maintains that those fetuses are the moral equivalent of rabbits? How can the atheist accuse God of immorality, while claiming to have a superior morality, when the atheist has no moral problem killing babies?
In response, God’s accusers attempt to draw a distinction between a “fetus” in its mother’s womb, and a child already born. That distinction, however, has been effectively demolished by one of their own. Peter Singer, the man Dan Barker lauds as one of the world’s leading ethicists, admits that an unborn child and one already born are morally equivalent. Does this admission force him to the conclusion that abortion should be stopped? No. On the contrary, he believes we should be able to kill children that are already born. In his chapter titled “Justifying Infanticide,” Singer concluded that human infants are “replaceable.” What does Singer mean by “replaceable”? He points out that if a mother has decided that she will have two children, and the second child is born with hemophilia, then that infant can be disposed of and replaced by another child without violating any moral code of ethics. He explained: “Therefore, if killing the hemophiliac infant has no adverse effect on others, it would, according to the total view, be right to kill him. The total view treats infants as replaceable” (2000, p. 190, emp. added; see also Singer, 1983).
He went on to argue that many in society would be aghast at killing an infant with a disability like hemophilia—but without good reason according to his view. He argued that such is done regularly before birth, when a mother aborts a child in utero after prenatal diagnosis reveals a disorder. He stated:
When death occurs before birth, replaceability does not conflict with generally accepted moral convictions. That a fetus is known to be disabled is widely accepted as a ground for abortion. Yet in discussing abortion, we say that birth does not mark a morally significant dividing line. I cannot see how one could defend the view that fetuses may be “replaced” before birth, but newborn infants may not (2000, p. 191, emp. added).
Singer further proposed that parents should be given a certain amount of time after a child is born to decide whether or not they would like to kill the child. He wrote: “If disabled newborn infants were not regarded as having a right to life until, say, a week or a month after birth it would allow parents, in consultation with their doctors, to choose on the basis of far greater knowledge of the infant’s condition than is possible before birth” (2000, p. 193). One has to wonder why Singer would stop at one week or one month. Why not simply say that it is morally right for parents to kill their infants at one year or five years? Singer concluded his chapter on infanticide with these words: “Nevertheless the main point is clear: killing a disabled infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Very often it is not wrong at all” (p. 193, emp. added).
It is clear, then, that atheism does not have moral constraints against killing all innocent babies, but rather only those innocent babies that the atheistic community considers “worthy” to live. How in the world would a person make a moral judgment about which children were “worthy to live?” Singer, Harris, and others contest that a child’s age in utero, mental capability, physical disability, or other criteria should be used to formulate the answer. Dan Barker has given his assessment about how to make such moral decisions. He claimed that “morality is simply acting with the intention to minimize harm.” He further insisted that the way to avoid making mistakes in ethical judgments is to “be as informed as possible about the likely consequences of the actions being considered” (2008, p. 214).
Using Barker’s line of reasoning, if God knows everything, then only He would be in the best possible situation to know all the consequences of killing infants. Could it be that all the infants born to the Amalekites had degenerative genetic diseases, or were infected with an STD that was passed to them from their sexually promiscuous mothers? Could it be that the firstborn children in Egypt, or Abraham’s son Isaac, had some type of brain damage, terminal cancer, hemophilia, etc.? The atheistic community cannot accuse God of immorally killing infants and children, when the atheistic position itself offers criteria upon which it purports to justify morally such killing.
Once again, the atheistic argument must be further qualified. The argument has moved from: “God is immoral because He killed people,” to “God is immoral because He killed innocent babies,” to “God is immoral because He killed innocent babies that we feel would not have met our atheistically based criteria for death.” Ultimately, then, the atheistic position argues that atheists, not God, should be the ones who decide when the death of an innocent child is acceptable.
ATHEISM TAKES “ALL THAT THERE IS” FROM INNOCENT CHILDREN
As with most logically flawed belief systems, atheism’s arguments often double back on themselves and discredit the position. So it is with atheism’s attack on God’s morality. Supposedly, God is immoral for killing innocent children. Yet atheists believe the death of certain innocent children is permissible. Have we then simply arrived at the point where both atheistic and theistic morality are equally moral or immoral? Certainly not.
One primary difference between the atheistic position and the biblical position is what is at stake with the loss of physical life. According to atheism, this physical life is all that any living organism has. Dan Barker stated: “Since this is the only life we atheists have, each decision is crucial and we are accountable for our actions right now” (2008, p. 215, emp. added). He further commented that life “is dear. It is fleeting. It is vibrant and vulnerable. It is heart breaking. It can be lost. It will be lost. But we exist now. We are caring, intelligent animals and can treasure our brief lives” (p. 220). Since Dan and his fellow atheists do not believe in the soul or any type of afterlife, then this brief, physical existence is the sum total of an organism’s existence. If that is the case, when Barker, Harris, Singer, and company advocate killing innocent babies, in their minds, they are taking from those babies all that they have—the entirety of their existence. They have set themselves up as the Sovereign tribunal that has the right to take life from their fellow humans, which they believe to be everything a human has. If any position is immoral, the atheistic position is. The biblical view, however, can be shown to possess no such immorality.
PHYSICAL LIFE IS NOT “ALL THERE IS”
Atheism has trapped itself in the position of stating that the death of innocent children is morally permissible, even if that death results in the loss of everything that child has. Yet the biblical position does not fall into the same moral trap as atheism, because it recognizes the truth that physical life is not the sum total of human existence. Although the Bible repeatedly recognizes life as a privilege that can be revoked by God, the Giver of life, it also manifests the fact that death is not complete loss, and can actually be beneficial to the one who dies. The Bible explains that every person has a soul that will live forever; long after physical life on this Earth is over (Matthew 25:46). The Bible consistently stresses the fact that the immortal soul of each individual is of much more value than that individual’s physical life on this Earth. Jesus Christ said: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
Although the skeptic might object, and claim that an answer from the Bible is not acceptable, such an objection falls flat for one primary reason: the skeptic used the Bible to formulate his own argument. Where is it written that God is love? In the Bible, in such passages as 1 John 4:8. Where do we learn that the Lord did, indeed, kill or order the death of babies? Once again, that information comes directly from the Bible. Where, then, should we look for an answer to this alleged moral dilemma? The answer should be: the Bible. If the alleged problem is formulated from biblical testimony, then the Bible should be given the opportunity to explain itself. As long as the skeptic uses the Bible to formulate the problem, we certainly can use the Bible to solve the problem. One primary facet of the biblical solution is that every human has an immortal soul that is of inestimable value.
With the value of the soul in mind, let us examine several verses that prove that physical death is not necessarily evil. In a letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul wrote from prison to encourage the Christians in the city of Philippi. His letter was filled with hope and encouragement, but it was also tinted with some very pertinent comments about the way Paul and God view death. In Philippians 1:21-23, Paul wrote: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (emp. added).
Paul, a faithful Christian, said that death was a welcome visitor. In fact, Paul said that the end of his physical life on this Earth would be “far better” than its continuation. For Paul, as well as for any faithful Christian, the cessation of physical life is not loss, but gain. Such would apply to innocent children as well, since they are in a safe condition and go to paradise when they die (see Butt, 2003).
Other verses in the Bible show that the loss of physical life is not inherently evil. The prophet Isaiah concisely summarized the situation when he was inspired to write: “The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil. He shall enter into peace; they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness” (57:1-2, emp. added). Isaiah recognized that people would view the death of the righteous incorrectly. He plainly stated that this incorrect view of death was due to the fact that most people do not think about the fact that when a righteous or innocent person dies, that person is “taken away from evil,” and enters “into peace.”
The psalmist wrote, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15). Death is not inherently evil. In fact, the Bible indicates that death can be great gain in which a righteous person is taken away from evil and allowed to enter peace and rest. God looks upon the death of His faithful followers as precious. Skeptics who charge God with wickedness because He has ended the physical lives of innocent babies are in error. They refuse to recognize the reality of the immortal soul. Instead of the death of innocent children being an evil thing, it is often a blessing for that child to be taken away from a life of hardship and evil influence at the hands of a sinful society, and ushered into a paradise of peace and rest. In order for a skeptic legitimately to charge God with cruelty, the skeptic must prove that there is no immortal soul, and that physical life is the only reality—neither of which the skeptic can do. Failure to acknowledge the reality of the soul and the spiritual realm will always result in a distorted view of the nature of God. “The righteous perishes...while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil.”
We then could ask who is moral: the atheist who has no problem approving of the death of innocent children, while believing that he is taking from them the only life they have? Or an all-knowing God Who takes back the physical life He gave the child, exchanging it for an eternal life of happiness?
WHY NOT KILL ALL THE CHRISTIANS AND BABIES?
Once the atheistic position is forced to concede that it advocates the killing of babies, and that if there is an afterlife, then the biblical description of God’s activities could be moral, then the atheist often shifts his argument in a last ditch effort to save face. If death can be, and sometimes is, better for the innocent child or for the Christian, why not kill all children and execute all Christians as soon as they come up out of the waters of baptism (see Lyons and Butt, n.d.)? The atheist contends that if we say that death can be a better situation for some, then this position implies the morally absurd idea that we should kill every person that death would benefit.
Before dealing with this new argument, it should be noted that we have laid the other to rest. We have shown that it is impossible for atheism to accuse God of immorality in His dealings with innocent children. Since atheism’s attack against God’s character has failed on that front, the maneuver is changed to accuse the follower of God of not carrying his belief about death to its alleged logical conclusion by killing all those who would benefit. One reason that atheists argue thus is because many of them believe that humans have the right to kill those who they deem as “expendable.” Of course, atheism does not base this judgment on the idea that certain babies or other innocentpeople would benefit, but that society at large would benefit at the expense of those who are killed. Here again, notice that God is allegedly immoral because He “sinned” against innocent children by taking their lives; yet atheism cares nothing for innocent children, but for the society of which they are a part. In truth, atheism implies that once a certain category of people, whether unborn babies, hemophiliacs, or brain-damaged adults, is honestly assessed to be “expendable,” then humans have the moral right, and sometimes obligation, to exterminate them. The atheist berates the Christian for not taking his beliefs far enough, in the atheist’s opinion. If certain people would benefit from death, or in atheism’s case, society would benefit from certain people’s death, then the atheist contends we should be willing to kill everyone who would fall into that category. If we are not so willing, then the atheist demands that our belief involves a moral absurdity. Yet, the fact that death is beneficial to some cannot be used to say we have the right to kill all those that we think it would benefit.
WHAT HUMANS DO NOT KNOW
One extremely significant reason humans cannot kill all those people that we think might benefit from death is because we do not know all the consequences of such actions. Remember that Dan Barker stated that the way to make moral decisions was to “try to be as informed as possible about the likely consequences of the actions being considered” (2008, p. 214). Could it be that human judgments about who has the right to live or die would be flawed based on limited knowledge of the consequences? Certainly. Suppose the hemophiliac child that Singer said could be killed to make room for another more “fit” child possessed the mind that would have discovered the cure for cancer. Or what if the brain-damaged patient that the atheistic community determined could be terminated was going to make a remarkable recovery if he had been allowed to live? Once again, the biblical theist could simply argue that God is the only one in the position to authorize death based on the fact that only God knows all the consequences of such actions. The atheistic community might attempt to protest that God does not know everything. But atheism is completely helpless to argue against the idea that if God knows everything, then only He is in the position to make the truly moral decision. Using Barker’s reasoning, when God’s actions do not agree with those advocated by the atheistic community, God can simply answer them by saying, “What you don’t know is....”
It is ironic that, in a discussion of morality, Barker offered several rhetorical questions about who is in the best position to make moral decisions. He stated: “Why should the mind of a deity—an outsider—be better able to judge human actions than the minds of humans themselves...? Which mind is in a better position to make judgments about human actions and feelings? Which mind has more credibility? Which has more experience in the real world? Which mind has more of a right?” (1992, p. 211). Barker intended his rhetorical questions to elicit the answer that humans are in a better position to make their own moral decisions; but his rhetoric fails completely. If God is all-knowing, and if God has been alive to see the entirety of human history play out, and if only God can know all of the future consequences of an action, then the obvious answer to all of Barker’s questions is: God’s mind.
Additionally, there is no possible way that humans can know all the good things that might be done by the Christians and children that live, even though death would be better for them personally. The apostle Paul alluded to this fact when he said that it was better for him to die and be with the Lord, but it was more needful to the other Christians for him to remain alive and help them (Philippians 1:22-25). Books could not contain the countless benevolent efforts, hospitals, orphanages, soup kitchens, humanitarian efforts, and educational ventures that have been undertaken by Christians. It is important to understand that a Christian example is one of the most valuable tools that God uses to bring others to Him. Jesus noted that when Christians are following His teachings, others see their good works and glorify God (Matthew 5:13-16). Furthermore, the lives of children offer the world examples of purity and innocence worthy of emulation (Matthew 18:1-5). While it is true that death can be an advantageous situation for Christians and children, it is also true that their lives provide a leavening effect on all of human society.
OWNERSHIP AND AUTHORIZATION
The mere fact that only God knows all consequences is sufficient to establish that He is the sole authority in matters of human life and death. Yet, His omniscience is not the only attribute that puts Him in the final position of authority. The fact that all physical life originates with God gives Him the prerogative to decide when and how that physical life should be maintained. In speaking of human death, the writer of Ecclesiastes stated: “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it” (12:7, emp. added). The apostle Paul boldly declared to the pagan Athenians that in God “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). If God gives life to all humans, then only He has the right to say when that life has accomplished its purpose, or under what circumstances life may be legitimately terminated.
In addition to the fact that God gives life and, thus, has the authority to take it, He also has the power to give it back if He chooses. Throughout the Bible we read of instances in which God chose to give life back to those who were dead, the most thoroughly documented example of that being the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Butt, 2002, 22:9-15). In fact, Abraham alluded to this fact during his preparations to sacrifice Isaac. After traveling close to the place appointed for the sacrifice, Abraham left his servants some distance from the mountain, and said to them: “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you” (Genesis 22:5). Notice that Abraham used the plural pronoun “we,” indicating that both he and Isaac would return. The New Testament gives additional insight into Abraham’s thinking. Hebrews 11:17-19 states: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten...accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead...” (emp. added). Since God gives physical life to all, and since He can raise people from the dead, then any accusation of injustice that fails to take these facts into account cannot be legitimate.
It is evident that atheism has no grounds upon which to attack God’s character. Atheists contend that a loving God should not kill innocent babies. But those same atheists say that killing innocent babies could be a blessing under “the right” circumstances. Atheists contend that God is immoral for taking the lives of innocent children. Yet the atheist believes that it is permissible to take the lives of innocent children, when doing so, according to their belief, means that those children are being robbed of the sum total of their existence. Yet, according to the biblical perspective, those children are being spared a life of pain and misery, and ushered into a life of eternal happiness. Atheism contends that its adherents are in a position to determine which children should live and die, and yet the knowledge of the consequences of such decisions goes far beyond their human capability. Only an omniscient God could know all the consequences involved. The atheist contends that human life can be taken by other humans based solely on reasoning about benefits to society and other relativistic ideas. The biblical position shows that God is the Giver of life, and only He has the authority to decide when that life has accomplished its purpose. In reality, the atheistic view proves to be the truly immoral position.
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