God's Foolishness Vs. Man's Wisdom by Allan Turner


God's Foolishness Vs. Man's Wisdom

Many view the Bible as a devotional prop of middle-class values. Modern Churchanity, with its various filters and interpretations, has succeeded, it thinks, in "taming" or "civilizing" the Bible. As a result, the Bible is thought to teach its adherents to be "nice" at all cost. "Niceness," then, has become the sine qua non of true religion for modern-day Christendom. But just as pacifists have misused Jesus' "turn the other cheek" statement to teach that one cannot engage in justice and righteousness (particularly in those cases where to do so would require the use of deadly force), the prohibition against "offending a brother" is misunderstood and misapplied so as to uphold the middle-class idea that we must, above all, be "nice"—even when this is at the expense of truth. Consequently, and reflecting the wisdom that comes from man, charging one's opponent with being mean-spirited has become an effective device for skirting arguments (or charges) being made by one's critics. Although such craftiness will continue to be despised by men and women of integrity, it is a sad commentary on our times that so many have fallen prey to this carnal device.
In truth, the Bible is not middle-class, and it is certainly not "nice," as many today count niceness. It is, instead (and has been so identified by various individuals and groups), a dangerous, uncivilized, abrasive, raw, complicated, aggressive, scandalous, and offensive book. In fact, to its severest critics, the Bible is anything but "nice." If it were a movie being subjected to contemporary standards, its content would have to be "R-rated" in some places and "X-rated" in others. That this can be said about the Bible will, no doubt, be offensive to some of you. After all, talking about the Bible this way isn't very "nice," is it? Even so, every honest and knowledgeable student of the Bible must admit that it covers the entire gamut of living. In addition to being the number one source for information about God, the Bible is also about men, women, sex, lies, truth, sin, goodness, fornication, adultery, murder, homosexuality, childbearing, virgins, whores, blasphemy, prayer, drunkenness, food, history, nature, ecology, poetry, politics, madness, rape, love, betrayal, salvation, damnation, temptation, angels, demons, and the like.
In addition, the Bible speaks of a spiritual world that few in our day and age can even understand, much less fully appreciate. But, and this is the point I'm trying to emphasize at this point, in conveying its spiritual truths, the Bible does not hesitate to accurately depict the real world in which we live. In telling its stories, it does not sanitize the lives of its characters, even its heroes. In other words, the Bible does not pull its punches, it does not beat around the bush, nor does it test the winds of change to learn what is politically correct, although all these reflect the wisdom of man. The Bible tells us how the world really is. Better yet, it tells us how we really are. Almost from the very beginning, the Bible begins to tell us of sin and all its terrible consequences. More importantly, it speaks of sin's most serious effect—the reality of being damned for eternity. But, praise God, it also speaks of the one and only remedy for this effect—the grace and mercy that comes in connection with the blood of Jesus Christ. However, for many, this is the Bible's most distasteful and offensive feature.
In a devastating assault on human pride and arrogance, the Bible's ego-shattering message is emphatically and unapologetically proclaimed in the name of a seemingly lowly and, perhaps, deranged Jew who died a despicable death almost 2,000 years ago outside the walls of a city that rejected Him and His message. So how is it, these critics ask, that a tragically pathetic figure who could not even save Himself speak anything concerning the subject of salvation? In response to this, the apostle Paul, in his critique of man's wisdom, wrote:

For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (I Corinthians 1:22-25).
Many today (and this could be abundantly documented) believe the apostle Paul was mean-spirited, uncivilized, narrow, and extremely bigoted for saying what He did about Jesus here and elsewhere in the Bible. Many of these think that what the apostle could have used was more polish concerning the social graces. Too bad poor ol' Paul didn't have access to the book How to Win Friends And Influence People. And while we're on the subject, just how "nice" do you think it was of Jesus to offend the religiously pious of his day and throughout the intervening years by proclaiming:

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6)?
What an audaciously haughty and offensive claim from one who, from the beginning, was thought by many to be His mother's illegitimate son (cf. John 8:41) and, in the end, could not even prevent His own crucifixion, even though He claimed to be God in the flesh. So, the Bible, with its exaltation of Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords, and its claim of containing true truth, isn't always "nice" by middle-class standards. Nevertheless, it remains the "power of God to salvation for everyone who believes" its message (Romans 1:16), and we today, like all faithful students of the Word, must be careful that we are not ashamed of that message—a message, incidentally, that begins with Genesis 1:1.
Along these lines, and in view of the days of Creation row currently taking place among New Testament Christians, I want to say that it makes me nervous when I hear some attempting to support their interpretation of the six days of Creation—an interpretation that encompasses billions of years—with the argument that such an interpretation will ultimately make the Bible less offensive to a more-educated, scientifically-oriented audience. I understand that this is not the only argument made for this position, nor is it even the main argument, but it is an argument nonetheless. As such, it appears to me to be a course that attempts a synthesis of God's so-called foolishness and man's alleged wisdom.
Brother Hill Roberts, a physicist who works and worships in Alabama, is on record as believing that the six days of Creation, when understood as consecutive days encompassing 144 hours, are more of an obstacle to genuine faith (particularly in a scientifically sophisticated audience) than is the claim of Jesus' resurrection. Frankly, and I've told him so, I find such an idea absolutely preposterous! Although bro. Roberts chafes (that's my interpretation) at my use of this word and adamantly defends his contention, his approach strikes me as being either terribly naive, which I seriously doubt is an accurate assessment of bro. Roberts' predicament, or a reflection of his unflagging allegiance to the idea that natural revelation is equal to special revelation, a view that I think elevates natural revelation to the status of being the 67th book of the Bible. I'm not saying anything here that I have not already discussed with bro. Roberts, so please don't accuse me of writing him up without talking to him. Furthermore, bro. Roberts openly teaches and makes available his religious beliefs and scientific think-sos and, therefore, should not complain that his views are being critiqued in this fashion (i.e., publicly). In fact, my approach, although it will appear to some not to be very "nice," is the opposite of sniping at him behind his back where he doesn't have a chance to defend himself. So, if I have misrepresented him, he can point out where as he defends himself. (Use link at the end of this article to see Hill Roberts' response.) This, brethren, is not only honorable and right, it is scriptural as well. Those of us who speak and write publicly are not—and should not be—protected from having what we say examined publicly (cf. James 3:1, NJKV).
Now, do I, like some, think bro. Roberts is a heretic? No, I do not! Do I think bro. Roberts is a theistic evolutionist? No, I don't! In fact, because some have unfairly (perhaps ignorantly) accused him of these things, I feel like I've had to spend too much of my time defending him against these charges. Brethren, if you hope to be effective in your criticism, you must have done your homework on this issue. In truth, bro. Roberts is adamantly opposed to theistic evolution and has done some fine work in refuting it. The confusion occurs because of the association of an ancient earth with the general theory of evolution. However, in bro. Roberts' way of thinking, there is no correlation between these two things. He thinks, and I think he's right, that most Christians are guilty of swallowing the evolutionists' argument that their model demands a very old universe and earth, and have done so "hook, line and sinker!" Roberts believes such claims to be nothing but evolutionist hubris. In other words, Roberts is convinced that you could grant evolutionists all the time they feel like they need for organic life to have evolved as it is today and it could still never happen—not even in a trillion trillion years. I happen to agree with him. Therefore, the age of the earth issue is actually meaningless to the question of whether organic life somehow evolved from inorganic matter (and this in spite of the fact that the general theory of evolution cannot hope to remain viable without the billions of years it now claims for the age of the earth). In fact, the Intelligent Design argument championed by Behe, Dembski and Johnson et al., all of whom, incidentally, are old-earthers, has been quite effective in rattling the cage of mainline evolutionists, demonstrating the impossibility of the orthodox gradualism of the general theory of evolution. So, when we argue with evolutionists about the error of their theory, we don't need to be afraid of granting them, for the sake of argument, all the time they feel they need, because even when we do so, they still don't have a shred of evidence that what they claim had to have happened actually happened. In fact, and bro. Roberts wholeheartedly affirms this, the evidence clearly favors Divine Creation.
Having said all this (and I believe fairness demands I do so), the question still remains: Do I think bro. Roberts is wrong about the age of the earth? Yes, I do. However, and this has disappointed some of you, I decided many years ago not to make the age of the earth, per se, a test of fellowship. In my own mind, I do not believe that Christians who think the earth is billions of years old are necessarily lost. As a young Christian, I believed theistic evolution to be the most viable answer. I was wrong. But even as I look back on my immature thinking, I do not believe that position, per se, placed my soul in jeopardy. I continued to believe that the Bible was God's divine revelation to man. I still believed in God and was thankful for the remission of sins He offered me in connection with His Son's blood. Again, you may disagree with me, and I will be happy to consider your arguments to the contrary. Because I take this position, some of you may believe that I think this whole age of the earth is irrelevant, or as some might say, a "tempest in a teapot." You'd be wrong if you thought so. In fact, I reserve some of my strongest dander for those who seem to all too flippantly dismiss this debate as "much to do about nothing." The subject is not irrelevant and goes to the very heart of who we are as a people. I have expressed these concerns in some detail, and in various venues, to bro. Roberts. Furthermore, anyone who comes to this discussion thinking that bro. Roberts and other OECs are intellectual slouches when it comes to either science or the Bible is in for a rude awakening. If you're going to spar with these fellows you had better make sure you've got on full protective gear. Hill Roberts is powerful in his creationist apologetic and it is clear that he is serious about his study of the Bible. No, Hill Roberts is no dawdler, and anyone who faces him thinking he is will more than likely walk away a bit bruised and bloodied.
However, OECs, in their efforts to defend their position, make interpretations that are highly unlikely when viewed solely from a scriptural standpoint. In addition, they are not able to confine their hermeneutic to Genesis 1. Instead, they use it as the interpreter of a wide variety of Bible subjects. It is just here that I am most troubled. Why? Because it is what OECs are willing to do with, and say about, God's Word that is most disturbing to me. Their approach reminds me of the theological wrangling about words that is so common among liberal theologians today—a system that was resoundingly condemned in God's Word a long time ago (cf. 2 Timothy 2:14). Although I do not believe anyone is obligated to exercise faith in "flood geology" as articulated by John Whitcomb and Henry Morris et al., OECs frequently entertain the idea that the Genesis Flood was a localized affair; and if not a localized affair, then at least an event that, although universal, was extremely tranquil and caused little, if any, changes on the earth. And why is this? Because large scale catastrophism, which seems to be a reasonable extrapolation of the effects of a truly global flood, throws a monkey wrench into the assumptions of OECs, who are, if I might be permitted to use the term, capital "U" uniformitarianists. And what do I mean by capital "U" uniformitarianists? Specifically this: Capital "U" uniformitarianists believe that current natural laws and processes are sufficient to explain the origin and development of all things. Capital "U" uniformitarianists, without hesitation, apply their assumptions all the way back to the Big Bang that is alleged to have occurred at the beginning of the universe. Consequently, the great cataclysmic events that reasonable men and women have inferred from the Genesis Flood—events that would have dramatically affected the earth's surface—are systematically rejected. Accepting, as they do, the supposed geologic column, OECs extol what they think is the overwhelming evidence for a very old universe (some 14+ billion years) and earth (approximately 4.5 billion years). Thinking that their interpretation of the scientific data is the testimony of "natural revelation," they freely apply this interpretation to the Bible. Therefore, to their way of thinking, the six days of creation must be expanded to represent billions of years.
Furthermore, because their alleged geologic clock separates the extinction of dinosaurs and the appearance of man by some 60 to 70 million years, OECs believe that dinosaurs and man did not coexist. In coming to this conclusion, OECs have raised their interpretation of the scientific data to the status of the 67th book of the Bible. They don't like it when YECs say this, but this is exactly what they have done. In fact, Hill Roberts has made it clear in his writings that he believes natural revelation (which must be interpreted) and special revelation (which also must be interpreted) are equally God's revelation, and are, therefore, equivalent, with each being used to interpret the other. However, and here's the dig, when special revelation appears to contradict natural revelation, OECs clearly give natural revelation precedence. After all, as they repeatedly point out, they are dealing with "real physical evidence," that is, things you can "really see." Of course, the Bible tells us that the Christian is to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), and this is what bothers me and many others about the OEC position. Yes, God has made Himself known through natural revelation, but for many Christians God's special revelation always takes precedence over man's understanding of natural revelation. However, when the OEC hermeneutic is coupled with the fact that there is no unquestioned evidence of dinosaur and human fossils occupying the same strata, OECs become convinced that YECs err when arguing that dinosaurs and man were contemporary. "Where is the evidence for such thinking?," they challenge. When one retorts, "What do you mean by 'Where is the evidence?,'" they reply, "Where are the written records of mankind that refer to dinosaurs and humans coexisting?" When one replies, "In the Bible!," one should get ready to be subjected to a rather perturbed expression of incredulity. In fact, OECs have become so convinced that dinosaurs went extinct many millions of years before man was created, that they have started to claim that behemoth, mentioned in Job 40:15-24, and which the Creator called "chief of the ways of God," suggesting that it may have been the largest land animal God made, "can't be a dinosaur." To add to this, and once again appealing to the geologic column, it is claimed that because no dinosaur fossils have ever been found in the bronze age, which they believe coincides with the age of the patriarchs, dinosaurs and man simply did not coexist. But, according to the most natural reading of Genesis 1, the creation of dinosaurs (whether they were sea or land creatures) was separated from the creation of man by, at the most, a 48-hour period that would have encompassed the whole of day 5 and 6.
Apart from the assumptions made in connection with the geologic column, there is no reason to believe that dinosaurs became extinct some 60-70 millions years before man came into being. And it seems very unlikely that modern man, inundated with depictions of what dinosaurs would have looked like, could read the description of behemoth in Job 40:15-24 and not think a very large dinosaur (like a Brachiosaurus) was being described. Now, can I say conclusively that behemoth was a dinosaur? No, I can't, but I can say that's the first thing that pops into my mind when I read these verses and, for the life of me, I can't think of anything else it could be. Consequently, I am a bit put off by a Christian who arrogantly claims that behemoth "can't be" a dinosaur. The only reason for anyone to do so is for the reasons mentioned above, and this means that one is guilty of reading into the Scriptures his own preconceived ideas. Now, am I being mean-spirited for saying this? I don't think so. Unfortunately, those who have imbibed the sentiments of the age will probably think so. In fact, and as I previously pointed out, the charge of being mean-spirited is all one needs to start hollering in order to protect himself from having to answer for what he is doing to the Bible with his natural-revelation-is-the-67th-book-of-the-Bible hermeneutic.
As I know many of these OEC brethren to be very good Bible students, and as I know firsthand of the spiritually conservative backgrounds of which they have been a part, it seems strange to me that they would not have anticipated, and therefore understood, the strong opposition they have received from a great many of their fellow Christians. But, to oppose OECism, even when one does so frankly, openly and forcefully, is not necessarilymean-spirited, although this could and, in my opinion, does describe the actions of a few YECs. But there are OECs who are just as guilty. However, I am not really interested in the wranglings of brethren on both sides of this issue who are yet carnal in their thinking and actions. What I'm interested in, and it seems to me like it is getting harder and harder to do this today, is dealing with the issues/differences that stand between the old earth and young earth positions. These differences are not irrelevant, and even those OECs who appear to give the impression they are, make it clear they think we YECs ought to "repent" because our position "sets up young people for a loss of faith." Such certainly doesn't sound like OECs think this issue to be irrelevant, does it? But, it gets worse.
Because OECs believe dinosaurs died out 60-70 million years before man, they believe death pre-existed Adam's sin. Consequently, they believe the death of animals was an integral part of God's "very good" creation. But, is this what the Bible teaches? No, it isn't. The Bible makes it clear that "death came by man" (1 Corinthians 15:21). So, do animals suffer death because it is a natural part of God's "very good" creation, or do they suffer death as a result of Adam's sin? Genesis 3:14 makes it clear that "the serpent" was "cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field [emphasis mine—AT]." This means that animals, along with man, were cursed as a result of Adam's sin. When one factors into this the biblical idea that nephesh creatures (viz., animals or "living creatures" [cf. Genesis 1:24,24] and human beings or "living souls" [cf. Genesis 2:7] are distinct from plants, which do not have being and are not, therefore, nephesh, then one understands how the eating of plants, which animals and humans were permitted by God to do—and this before sin entered into the world (Genesis 1:29-30)—did not involve "death," or the loss of nephesh existence. Physical death, then, as the Bible says, "came by man." Furthermore, the fossil record, along with telling the story of the death of nephesh creatures, also tells the story of thorns and thistles, which were a part of the cursing of the ground for Adam's sake. In contrast, OECs envision a garden of Eden sitting on top of a fossil record (including thorns and thistles) millions of years old. If this were true, then the "bondage of corruption," to which the whole creation was subjected, took place before Adam's sin. However, that physical death was a consequence of the "curse" that came upon the "whole creation" as the result of Adam's sin is hard to miss when one carefully studies the Bible and does not try to explain away the teaching of verses like Romans 8:20-22, which says:

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now (NKJV).
When one factors in the next verse, where Paul makes a distinction between himself, as a human being, and the rest of creation, then it is clear that he is speaking of that new heaven and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness (2 Peter 3:13), that is, paradise restored (Revelation 22:14), as compared to paradise lost (Genesis 3:23).
So, if the whole creation has been subjected to "futility" and the "bondage of corruption" or "decay" as the result of one man's sin, then death and dying were not a part of God's original "very good" creation. But, in order to justify imposing a particular interpretation of "natural revelation," onto the Bible, some are willing to wreak theological havoc on more than just Genesis 1 and the Days of Creation. Consequently, it remains my firm belief that the think-sos of men, whether theological, philosophical, or scientific, must ultimately bow to the objective standard of God's Word. In other words, if a man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11). The Bible is God's special revelation to man. As such, it is far superior to the natural revelation He has made of Himself in His creation, a creation that has been sadly marred by sin. This is not said to denigrate natural revelation, for God has said that because of it man is without excuse for not believing that He is. This is, instead, a reminder that natural revelation, even when it has been properly interpreted, was never intended to supersede the Bible, and I think that anyone who thinks it does is headed down a path I don't intend to travel. I close, then, with the words of the apostle Paul who said:

Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.... For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence (1 Corinthians 1:20-29).

"THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS" Chapter Three by Mark Copeland

                     "THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS"

                             Chapter Three


1) To understand the "mystery" so long hidden that is now revealed, and
   the role of the church

2) To examine Paul's prayer for the Ephesians' enablement, what it 
   means for us today


In this chapter Paul reminds his readers of God's grace that has been
shown him regarding the revelation of the "mystery".  By reading what
he had written earlier, they would understand how the "mystery"
pertained to Gentiles becoming fellow heirs in Christ, and Paul felt
privileged to preach among the Gentiles what for ages had been hidden.
Knowing that what he did was part of God's eternal purpose in Christ to
make His manifold wisdom known by the church, he asked his brethren not
to be discouraged by any tribulations he experienced on their behalf 

The chapter also contains Paul's second prayer for the Ephesians.  He 
prays for their enablement, that the Father would strengthen them by 
His Spirit, that Christ might dwell in their hearts through faith, that
they be able to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, and so 
be filled with all the fullness of God.  He concludes his prayer and 
this chapter by ascribing that glory be given to God in the church by 
Jesus Christ for all eternity (14-21).



      1. Interrupting himself, Paul makes mention of God's grace (1-2)
         a. A measure of grace given to him
         b. Given for the benefit of his readers
      2. That by revelation God made known to Paul the "mystery" (3-4)
         a. Concerning which he wrote previously
         b. Which as they read, they will understand his knowledge in
            the mystery of Christ
      3. A "mystery" once hidden, but now revealed (5)
         a. In other ages it was not made known to men
         b. But has now been revealed
            1) By the Spirit
            2) To God's holy apostles and prophets
      4. The "mystery" involved the Gentiles (6)
         a. That they should be fellow heirs, of the same body
         b. That they should be partakers of God's promise through the
      5. Paul's role as a minister of this "mystery" was a gift from
         God (7)
         a. A gift of God's grace
         b. A gift given to him by the effective working of God's power

      1. To preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ
         a. Even though he was "less than the least of all the saints"
         b. Yet this grace was given to him
      2. To make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery (9-13)
         a. Which from the beginning was hidden in God who created all
         b. But with the intention of now making God's wisdom known
            1) Made known by the church
            2) Made known to principalities and powers in heavenly
         c. According to God's eternal purpose which He fulfilled in
            Christ Jesus
            1) In whom we have boldness and confident access through
               faith in Him
            2) For which Paul does not want them to lose heart over his
               tribulations in their behalf, which was for their glory


   A. HIS INVOCATION (14-15)
      1. In view of God's grace to the Gentiles, Paul bows his knees in
         prayer (14a)
      2. He addresses the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom
         the whole family in heaven and earth is named (14b-15)

   B. HIS PETITION (16-19)
      1. That they would be strengthened by the Spirit of God (16-17)
         a. According to the riches of His glory
         b. With might through His Spirit in the inner man
         c. So Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith
      2. That they might comprehend the love of Christ (18-19a)
         a. Being rooted and grounded in love
         b. To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge
      3. That they might be filled with all the fullness of God (19b)

   C. HIS DOXOLOGY (20-21)
      1. Glory to God, for what He is able to do! (20)
         a. Able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or
         b. According to the power that works in us
      2. Glory to God, in the church! (21)
         a. By Christ Jesus
         b. Throughout all ages, world without end


1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - The revelation of the mystery (1-13)
   - Paul's second prayer:  for their enablement (14-21)

2) How does Paul identify himself as he begins this chapter? (1)
   - As the prisoner of Jesus Christ for the Gentiles

3) What dispensation, or measure, of grace was shown by God toward
   Paul? (2-3)
   - That by revelation God made known to him the "mystery"

4) What did Paul say we can have by reading what he had written? (3-4)
   - We can understand his knowledge in the mystery of Christ

5) What does Paul reveal concerning the revelation of this mystery? (5)
   - In other ages it was not made known, but has now been revealed by
     the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets

6) What is the "mystery" that has now been revealed? (6)
   - That Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and
     partakers of His promise through the gospel

7) Though viewing himself as "less than the least of all the saints",
   what gracious task was given to Paul? (8-9)
   - To preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ
   - To make all see with is the fellowship of the mystery which was
     hidden from the beginning

8) What was the intent for proclaiming the revelation of this mystery?
   - That the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church
     to principalities and powers in the heavenly places

9) According to what was all this being done? (11)
   - The eternal purpose or plan which God accomplished in Christ Jesus

10) What has Christ therefore made possible for us? (12)
   - Boldness and access to God with confidence through faith in Him

11) In view of God's grace given to Paul, what does he therefore ask?
   - For them not to lose heart over his tribulations on their behalf

12) In Paul's second prayer for the Ephesians, for what does he ask?
   - That they would be strengthened by the Spirit of God
   - That they might comprehend the love of Christ
   - That they might be filled with all the fullness of God

13) What does Paul say God is able to do?  How? (20)
   - Exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think
   - According to the power that works in us

14) In what entity does Paul seek to ascribe glory to God?  How?  For
    how long? (21)
   - In the church
   - By Christ Jesus
   - Throughout all ages, world without end

"THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS" Chapter Two by Mark Copeland

                     "THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS"

                              Chapter Two


1) To consider the riches of God's grace toward sinners, how we are
   saved by grace through faith

2) To understand the Gentiles' condition outside of Christ, the effect
   Jesus' death had on the Law, and what Gentiles can now become in 


Having expressed his desire that his readers might know the exceeding 
greatness of God's power toward those who believe (1:19), Paul reminds
them of how they had been dead in sin but made alive together with 
Christ.  Indeed, they were raised and made to sit together with Christ
in the heavenly places, that God might show even more riches of His 
grace in the ages to come.  All this God did by His love, grace, and 
mercy.  While it involved their faith, it did not involve any works 
whereby one could boast.  The end result is that they have been created
in Christ to walk in good works, as God planned beforehand (1-10).

Paul also wants them to remember how far they have come as Gentiles,
courtesy of Jesus Christ.  Once strangers from the promises made to 
Israel and without God in the world, they can now draw near through the
blood of Jesus.  By His death on the cross Jesus abolished the law of 
commandments which separated Jews and Gentiles, and has reconciled them
both to God in one body.  The Gentiles can therefore be fellow-citizens
and members of God's family; they are also part of that grand temple 
being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus
as the cornerstone, in which they serve as a habitation of God in the 
Spirit (11-22).



      1. Dead in trespasses and sins (1)
      2. Walking according to the course of the world and the devil (2)
      3. Fulfilling the desires of the flesh and mind, by nature the
         children of wrath (3)

      1. God made us alive together with Christ (4-5)
         a. By virtue of His mercy and great love
         b. Even when dead in trespasses
         c. By His grace we have been saved  
      2. God raised us with Christ (6-7)
         a. Made to sit with Him in heavenly places
         b. That in ages to come God might show the exceeding riches of
            His grace
      3. Saved by grace through faith (8-9)
         a. Not of ourselves, it is the gift of God
         b. Not of works, lest any man should boast
      4. We are thus God's workmanship (10)
         a. Created in Christ Jesus for good works
         b. Created to walk in good works which God prepared beforehand


      1. Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel
      2. Strangers from the covenants of promise
      3. Having no hope and without God in the world

      1. Made near by the blood of Christ (13)
      2. Can now be "one body" with the Jews, because...
         a. Jesus has made Jew and Gentile both one, breaking down the
            wall of division between them (14)
         b. Jesus abolished in His flesh the law of commandments
            contained in ordinances that had separated them (15)
         c. Jesus now reconciles them both to God in one body through
            the cross (16)
         d. Jesus preached peace to those afar off and those near (17)
      3. Can now have access by one Spirit to the Father (18)

      1. They are now "fellow citizens with the saints" (19)
      2. They are now "members of the household of God" (19)
      3. They are now part of "a holy temple in the Lord" (20-22)
         a. Built upon a foundation of the apostles and prophets, with
            Jesus the cornerstone
         b. Joined together and growing as a holy temple, a habitation
            of God in the Spirit


1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - Raised and seated on the throne (1-10)
   - Reconciled and set into the temple (11-22)

2) What was our condition outside of Christ? (1-3)
   - Dead in trespasses and sins
   - Walking according to the course of this world and the devil
   - Fulfilling the desires of the flesh and mind, by nature the 
     children of wrath

3) What motivated God to save us? (4)
   - His rich mercy and great love

4) What did God do, even though we were dead in trespasses?  How? (5)
   - Made us alive together with Christ
   - By grace

5) What else has He done?  Why? (6-7)
   - Raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places
     with Christ
   - To show the riches of His grace and kindness toward us in Christ
     in the ages to come

6) Upon what basis have we been saved?  Upon what basis have we not
   been saved? (8-9)
   - By grace through faith, as the gift of God
   - Not of ourselves or of works, lest anyone should boast

7) What are we now in Christ Jesus?  For what purpose?  (10)
   - God's workmanship
   - Created in Christ Jesus to walk in good works which God prepared

8) What was the Gentiles' condition outside of Christ? (11-12)
   - Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel
   - Strangers from the covenants of promise
   - Having no hope, without God in the world

9) What has Christ done through His blood? (13)
   - Those who once were far off are now brought near

10) How has Jesus become "our peace" through His death on the cross?
   - By breaking down the middle wall of partition between Jew and
   - By abolishing in His flesh the law of commandments contained in
     ordinances that had separated Jew and Gentile
   - By reconciling them both to God in one body
   - By preaching peace to those afar off (Gentile) and those near

11) What do we both have through Christ? (18)
   - Access by one Spirit to the Father

12) What can Gentiles now become because of what Christ has done? (19)
   - Fellow citizens with the saints
   - Members of the household of God

13) Upon what are we being built? (20)
   - The foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ as the
     chief cornerstone

14) What kind of building are we?  For what purpose? (21-22)
   - A holy temple in the Lord
   - To be a habitation of God in the Spirit

London Terrorists, Violence, and the Quran by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


London Terrorists, Violence, and the Quran

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

For the second time within two weeks, Muslim terrorists have targeted innocent Londoners in an incessant desire to strike out at alleged enemies (Fleming, 2005). British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed the perception of many of the people of the world when he said that such acts by Islamic terrorists should not reflect negatively on Britain’s large Muslim population. In fact, he insisted: “We know that these people act in the name of Islam, but we also know that the vast and overwhelming majority of Muslims, here and abroad, are decent and law-abiding people who abhor this act of terrorism every bit as we do” (“Hunt Intensifies...,” 2005, emp. added).
This almost irrational refusal to link terrorism with Islam is apparently widespread even among mainstream Muslims. For example, the secretary-general for the Muslim Council of Britain pointed to “alienation” and “segregation” as among the potential incentives for Islamic suicide bombers (Manji, 2005, p. 78). Nevertheless, some Muslims appear a little more willing to entertain the possibility that perhaps Islam and the Quran are responsible for the terrorists’ behavior: “For too long, we Muslims have been sticking fingers in our ears and chanting ‘Islam means peace’ to drown out the negative noise from our holy book. Far better to own up to it” (Manji, p. 78).
Own up to it, indeed. It may well be true that the vast majority of Muslims disapprove of the wanton acts of violence by Islamic terrorists. But the Quran—the holy book of Islam that 1.3 billion Muslims believe to be the word of God—is replete with explicit and implicit sanction and promotion of armed conflict, violence, and bloodshed by Muslims. Difficult to believe? Then read for yourself the following sections of the Quran from the celebrated translation by Muslim scholar Mohammed Pickthall:
Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks until, when ye have routed them, then making fast of bonds; and afterward either grace or ransom till the war lay down its burdens. That (is the ordinance). And if Allah willed He could have punished them (without you) but (thus it is ordained) that He may try some of you by means of others. And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain (Surah 47:4, emp. added).
Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors. And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. And fight not with them at the Inviolable Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you (there) then slay them. Such is the reward of disbelievers. But if they desist, then lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against wrongdoers. The forbidden month for the forbidden month, and forbidden things in retaliation. And one who attacketh you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you. Observe your duty to Allah, and know that Allah is with those who ward off (evil) (Surah 2:190-194, emp. added).
Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not. They question thee (O Muhammad) with regard to warfare in the sacred month. Say: Warfare therein is a great (transgression), but to turn (men) from the way of Allah, and to disbelieve in Him and in the Inviolable Place of Worship, and to expel his people thence, is a greater with Allah; for persecution is worse that killing. And they will not cease from fighting against you till they have made you renegades from your religion, if they can (Surah 2:216-217, emp. added).
Muhammad was informed that warfare was prescribed for him! Though he may have hated warfare, it was actually good for him, and what he loved, i.e., non-warfare, was actually bad for him! And though under normal circumstances, fighting is not appropriate during sacred months, killing was warranted against those who sought to prevent Muslims from practicing their religion.Killing is better than being persecuted! A similar injunction states: “Sanction is given unto those who fight because they have been wronged; and Allah is indeed Able to give them victory” (Surah22:39, emp. added). In fact, “Allah loveth those who battle for His cause in ranks, as if they were a solid structure” (Surah 61:4, emp. added).
In a surah titled “Repentance” that issues stern measures to be taken against idolaters, the requirement to engage in carnal warfare is apparent:
Freedom from obligation (is proclaimed) from Allah and His messenger toward those of the idolaters with whom ye made a treaty: Travel freely in the land four months, and know that ye cannot escape Allah and that Allah will confound the disbelievers (in His guidance). And a proclamation from Allah and His messenger to all men on the day of the Greater Pilgrimage that Allah is free from obligation to the idolaters, and (so is) His messenger. So, if ye repent, it will be better for you; but if ye are averse, then know that ye cannot escape Allah. Give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom to those who disbelieve. Excepting those of the idolaters with whom ye (Muslims) have a treaty, and who have since abated nothing of your right nor have supported anyone against you. (As for these), fulfill their treaty to them till their term. Lo! Allah loveth those who keep their duty (unto Him). Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (Surah 9:1-5, emp. added).
The ancient Muslim histories elaborate on the occasion of these admonitions: “[T]he idolaters were given four months’ respite to come and go as they pleased in safety, but after that God and His Messenger would be free from any obligation towards them. War was declared upon them, and they were to be slain or taken captive wherever they were found” (Lings, 1983, p. 323).
Later in the same surah, “Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the religion of truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low” (Surah 9:29, emp. added). “Those who have been given the Scripture” is a reference to Jews and Christians. The surah advocates coercion against Jews and Christians in order to physically force them to pay the jizyah—a special religious tax imposed on religious minorities (see Nasr, 2002, p. 166). Muslim translator Mohammed Pickthall explained the historical setting of this quranic utterance: “It signified the end of idolatry in Arabia. The Christian Byzantine Empire had begun to move against the growing Muslim power, and this Surah contains mention of a greater war to come, and instructions with regard to it” (p. 145). Indeed, the final verse of Surah 2 calls upon Allah to give Muslims “victory over the disbelieving folk” (vs. 286), rendered by Rodwell: “give us victory therefore over the infidel nations.” That this stance by the Quran was to be expected is evident from the formulation of the Second Pledge of Aqabah, in which the men pledged their loyalty and their commitment to protecting Muhammad from all opponents. This pledge included duties of war, and was taken only by the males. Consequently, the First Aqabah pact, which contained no mention of war, became known as the “pledge of the women” (Lings, p. 112).
Additional allusions to warfare in the Quran are seen in the surah, “The Spoils,” dated in the second year of the Hijrah (A.D. 623), within a month after the Battle of Badr:
And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah.... If thou comest on them in the war, deal with them so as to strike fear in those who are behind them.... And let not those who disbelieve suppose that they can outstrip (Allah’s purpose). Lo! they cannot escape. Make ready for them all thou canst of (armed) force and of horses tethered, that thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others beside them whom ye know not.... O Prophet! Exhort the believers to fight. If there be of you twenty stedfast they shall overcome two hundred, and if there be of you a hundred stedfast they shall overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they (the disbelievers) are a folk without intelligence.... It is not for any Prophet to have captives until he hath made slaughter in the land. Ye desire the lure of this world and Allah desireth (for you) the Hereafter, and Allah is Mighty, Wise. Had it not been for an ordinance of Allah which had gone before, an awful doom had come upon you on account of what ye took. Now enjoy what ye have won, as lawful and good, and keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (Surah8:39,57,59-60,65,67-69, emp. added; cf. 33:26).
Muslim scholar Pickthall readily concedes the context of these verses:
vv. 67-69 were revealed when the Prophet had decided to spare the lives of the prisoners taken at Badr and hold them to ransom, against the wish of Omar, who would have executed them for their past crimes. The Prophet took the verses as a reproof, and they are generally understood to mean that no quarter ought to have been given in that first battle (p. 144, emp. added).
So the Quran indicates that at the Battle of Badr, no captives should have been taken. The enemy should have been completely slaughtered, with no quarter given. This very fate awaited the Jewish Bani Qurayzah, when some 700 men were beheaded by the Muslims with Muhammad’s approval (Lings, p. 232). Likewise, members of a clan of the Bani Nadir were executed in Khaybar for concealing their treasure rather than forfeiting it to the Muslims (Lings, p. 267).
Another surah describes how allowances respecting the daily prayers were to be made for Muhammad’s Muslim warriors when engaged in military action:
And when ye go forth in the land, it is no sin for you to curtail (your) worship if ye fear that those who disbelieve may attack you. In truth the disbelievers are an open enemy to you. And when thou (O Muhammad) art among them and arrangest (their) worship for them, let only a party of them stand with thee (to worship) and let them take their arms. Then when they have performed their prostrations let them fall to the rear and let another party come that hath not worshipped and let them worship with thee, andlet them take their precaution and their arms. Those who disbelieve long for you to neglect your arms and your baggage that they may attack you once for all. It is no sin for you to lay aside your arms, if rain impedeth you or ye are sick. But take your precaution. Lo! Allah prepareth for the disbelievers shameful punishment. When ye have performed the act of worship, remember Allah, standing, sitting and reclining. And when ye are in safety, observe proper worship. Worship at fixed hours hath been enjoined on the believers. Relent not in pursuit of the enemy (Surah 4:101-104, emp. added; cf. 73:20).
These verses show that the Quran implicitly endorses armed conflict and war to advance Islam.
Muslim historical sources themselves report the background details of those armed conflicts that have characterized Islam from its inception—including Muhammad’s own warring tendencies involving personal participation in and endorsement of military campaigns (cf. Lings, pp. 86,111). Muslim scholar Pickthall’s own summary of Muhammad’s war record is an eye-opener: “The number of the campaigns which he led in person during the last ten years of his life is twenty-seven, in nine of which there was hard fighting. The number of the expeditions which he planned and sent out under other leaders is thirty-eight” (n.d., p. xxvi).
What a contrast with Jesus—Who never once took up the sword or encouraged anyone else to do so! The one time that one of His close followers took it upon himself to do so, the disciple was soundly reprimanded and ordered to put the sword away, with the added warning: “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). Indeed, when Pilate quizzed Jesus regarding His intentions, He responded: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36)—the very opposite of the Aqabah pact. And whereas the Quran boldly declares, “And one who attacks you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you”(Surah 2:194; cf. 22:60), Jesus counters, “But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” and “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:39,44). The New Testament record presents a far higher, more noble and godly ethic on the matter of violence and armed conflict. In fact, the following verses demonstrate how irrevocably deep the chasm is between the Quran and the New Testament on this point:
[L]ove your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? (Matthew 5:44-46).
But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful (Luke 6:27-36).
What an amazing contrast! The New Testament says to love, bless, do good to, and pray for those who persecute you. The Quran says that “persecution is worse than killing” (Surah 2:217)—i.e., it is better to kill your persecutors than to endure their persecutions!
The standard Muslim attempt to justify the Quran’s endorsement of violence is that such violence was undertaken in self-defense (e.g., Surah 42:41). Consider the following Muslim explanation:
At the time when this surah (Surah 2—DM) was revealed at Al-Madinah, the Prophet’s own tribe, the pagan Qureysh at Mecca, were preparing to attack the Muslims in their place of refuge. Cruel persecution was the lot of Muslims who had stayed in Meccan territory or who journeyed thither, and Muslims were being prevented from performing the pilgrimage. The possible necessity of fighting had been foreseen in the terms of the oath, taken at Al-Aqabah by the Muslims of Yathrib before the Flight, to defend the Prophet as they would their own wives and children, and the first commandment to fight was revealed to the Prophet before his flight from Mecca; but there was no actual fighting by the Muslims until the battle of Badr. Many of them were reluctant, having before been subject to a rule of strict non-violence. It was with difficulty that they could accept the idea of fighting even in self-defence [sic].... (Pickthall, p. 33, emp. added).
Apart from the fact that the claim that Muhammad’s advocacy of fighting was justifiable on the ground of self-defense is contrary to the historical facts (since the wars waged by Muhammad and the territorial expansion of Islam achieved by his subsequent followers cannot all be dismissed as defensive), this explanation fails to come to grips with the propriety of shedding of blood and inflicting violence—regardless of the reason. Muslim scholar Seyyed Nasr seems unconscious of the inherent self-contradiction apparent in his own remark:
The spread of Islam occurred in waves. In less than a century after the establishment of the first Islamic society in Medina by the Prophet, Arab armies had conquered a land stretching from the Indus River to France and brought with them Islam, which, contrary to popular Western conceptions, was not, however, forced on the people by the sword (2003, p. 17, emp. added).
In other words, Muslim armies physically conquered—by military force and bloodshed—various nations, forcing the population to submit to Muslim rule, but did not require them to become Muslims! One suspects that, at the time, the distinction escaped the citizens of those conquered countries, even as it surely does the reader.
True Christianity (i.e., that which is based strictly on the New Testament) dictates peace and non-retaliatory promotion of itself. The “absolute imperative” (Rahman, 1979, p. 22) of Islam is the submission/conversion of the whole world. In stark contrast, the absolute imperative of New Testament Christianity is the evangelism of the whole world, i.e., the dissemination of the message of salvation—whether people embrace it or not (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47). Absolutely no coercion is admissible from the Christian (i.e., New Testament) viewpoint. The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and all other violent activities undertaken in the name of Christ and Christianity have been in complete conflict with the teaching of the New Testament. The perpetrators acted without the authority and sanction of Christ.
Islam seeks to bring the entire world into submission to Allah and the Quran—even using jihad, coercion, and force; Christianity seeks to go into the entire world and to announce the “good news” that God loves every individual, that Jesus Christ died for the sins of everyone, and that He offers salvation, forgiveness, and reconciliation. But, each person has free choice to accept or reject without any retaliation by Christians against those who choose to reject. Jesus taught His disciples, when faced with opposition and resistance, simply to walk away: “And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet” (Matthew 10:14). In fact, on one occasion when a Samaritan village was particularly nonreceptive, some of Jesus’ disciples wished to command fire to come down from heaven to consume them! But Jesus rebuked them and said, “‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.’ And they went to another village” (Luke 9:55). Muhammad and the Quran stand in diametrical opposition to Jesus and the New Testament.
If the majority of Muslims were violent, that would not prove that Islam is a religion of violence. The vast majority of those who claim to be “Christian” are practicing a corrupted form of the Christian faith. So the validity of any religion is determined ultimately not by the imperfect, inaccurate practice of the religion by even a majority of its adherents, but by the official authority or standard upon which it is based, i.e., its Scriptures. The present discussion in the world regarding whether or not jihad includes physical force in the advancement of Islam is ultimately irrelevant (cf. Nasr, 2002, pp. 256-266). The Quran unquestionably endorses violence, war, and armed conflict. No wonder the Muslim terrorists who perpetrated the London bombings, America’s 9/11, and many similar incidents over the years, manifest a maniacal, reckless abandon in their willingness to die by sacrificing their lives in order to kill as many “infidels” (especially Israelis, Brits, and Americans) as possible. They have read the following:
Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks.... Andthose who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain. He will guide them and improve their state, and bring them in unto the Garden [Paradise—DM] which He hath made known to them (Surah 47:4-6, emp. added).
O ye who believe! Be not as those who disbelieved and said of their brethren who went abroad in the land or were fighting in the field: If they had been (here) with us they would not have died or been killed.... And what though ye be slain in Allah’s way or die therein? Surely pardon from Allah and mercy are better than all that they amass. Whatthough ye be slain or die, when unto Allah ye are gathered?.... So those who...fought and were slain, verily I shall remit their evil deeds from them and verily I shall bring them into Gardens underneath which rivers flow—a reward from Allah (Surah 3:156-158,195, emp. added).
Even if the vast majority of Muslims in the world reject violence and refrain from terrorist activity (which would appear to be the case), it is still a fact that the Quran (as well as the example of Muhammad himself) endorses the advancement of Islam through physical force. While Muslim apologist Seyyed Hossein Nasr insists that “the traditional norms based on peace and openness to others” characterize true Islam and the majority of Muslims, in contradistinction, he freely admits that at times Islam “has been forced to take recourse to physical action in the form of defense” (Nasr, 2002, pp. 112,110). This concession cannot be successfully denied in view of the Quran’s own declarations. Hence, the Muslim is forced to maintain the self-contradictory position that, yes, there have been times that Islam has been properly violent and, yes, the Quran does endorse violence, but, no, most Muslims are not violent, and then only in self-defense. As reprehensible and cowardly as Islamic terrorists have shown themselves to be in recent years, an honest reading of the Quran leads one to believe that they, at least, are more consistent with, and true to, their own Scriptures—as revolting an idea as that may be.


Fleming, Sam (2005), “London Subway Targeted by Terrorists; No Casualities,” Bloomberg Media, July 21, [On-line], URL: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000087&sid=ac0iyqgLFnBI&refer=top_world_news.
“Hunt Intensifies for London Terrorists” (2005), Fox News, July, 7, [On-line], URL: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,161840,00.html.
Lings, Martin (1983), Muhammad (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International).
Manji, Irshad (2005), “When Denial Can Kill,” Time, 166[4]:78, July 25.
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein (2002), The Heart of Islam (New York: HarperCollins).
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein (2003), Islam (New York: HarperCollins).
Pickthall, Mohammed M. (no date), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
Rahman, Fazlur (1979), Islam (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press), second edition.
Rodwell, J.M., trans. (1950 reprint), The Koran (London: J.M. Dent and Sons).

The Origin of Peoples by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.


The Origin of Peoples
by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.

As we look among the peoples of the world—from the Inuit to the !Kung, from the Norwegian to the Greek, and from the Indian to the Tutsi—we see a mind-boggling array of skin color, hair type, stature, and facial features. On top of all that physical diversity, we must add differences in culture and language. With technological advances, humans have lived (if only for a short time) at the South Pole, on the peaks of the Himalayas, and beyond Earth itself. Even before the advent of modern science, we have occupied the remotest islands, the driest deserts, and the coldest steppes. It is difficult to imagine any other creature that has been so successful at colonizing so many different parts of this planet (we’ll give the cockroach its due!).
For all these differences, we constitute a single, biological species. Men and women with roots in different continents meet, marry, and have healthy families. This unity frustrates any attempt to parcel the world’s populations into distinct subspecies or races. We perceive great diversity because our brain is so cleverly designed to detect patterns and distinguish among individuals of our own kind. Such heightened perception of the human form is something we cannot ignore, and shapes a host of psychological responses such as physical attraction and group identity. Still, at the biological level, this variation reflects minute differences in our genetic code. We see a few of these in our physical appearance, but find many more only at the cellular or molecular level. One person may have resistance to a particular disease, while another is able to digest milk as an adult. Whether on the inside or outside, the combination of many subtle differences makes you and me stand out as individuals within a group, and our similarities identify us with humanity as a whole.
How did these differences arise? Like Rudyard Kipling’s Just So stories, we could spin all sorts of tales to explain why different peoples are the way they are. We could tell a story about how the Scandinavians became tall, and another story about how they became light-skinned. The goal for this traditional Darwinian approach is to answer the following question: How does a particular trait enhance survival value, or enable the production of more offspring? One anthropology textbook emphasizes the “pervasiveness of adaptation in the microevolution (small-scale differentiation) of man” (Keesing and Keesing, 1971, p. 51). As we will see, this turns out to be more of a hope than a claim based on evidence.
There is the assumption, also, that we need a lot of time to explain human variation because evolution works at a steady, snail’s pace. Charles Darwin took this as a matter of principle, but not all evolutionists agree. A few dissenters, citing examples from the fossil record, believe that species arise during brief moments of intense change, rather than by slow accumulation of new features (e.g., Eldredge, 1985, pp. 21-22). So, too, within human populations, distinct groups might arise during significant natural or cultural events. In addition, more evolutionists are expressing concern about the “molecular clock.” This was supposed to represent the rate at which genetic differences have accumulated in two related species. However, the calculation depends on knowing the date of the presumed common ancestor. Not everyone may agree on this date, or even on whether the two species are closely related. In any case, evolutionists assume that humans have diverged from each other at about the same rate we diverged from chimpanzees—our supposed closest relative. However, a closer look at families of known lineage has revealed mutation rates that are almost twenty times higher than previous estimates (Gibbons, 1998). The upshot is this: we cannot trust the Darwinists’ intuitions on the time it would take to produce the differences we see in human populations. The rate may be neither slow, nor steady.
For the moment, I would like to set aside the question of time (but see my sidebar article), and focus on the biological bases for some of the differences that have arisen among our kind.


The difference we tend to notice most is coloration, which depends almost entirely on the relative abundance of melanin. This is a pigment of the hair, skin, and irises. It seems to play a role in protecting the skin from harmful ultraviolet rays. Exposure to the Sun increases melanin, causing that tanning effect so prized by light-skinned Westerners. At first glance, it looks as if the inhabitants of equatorial regions, where sunlight bears down with the greatest intensity, would have the most melanin. After all, sub-Saharan Africans, and Australian Aborigines, have more melanin than northern Europeans.
Around 1913, Charles Davenport suggested that humans carried two genes for color, and that each gene consisted of “black” or “white” alleles (one allele from the mother, and one from the father, for each gene). Hence, our coloration depends on the number of black and white alleles we received from our parents. Davenport noted correctly that children inherit these genes independently of other characteristics, such as straight versus curly hair. This explains why albino Papuans look different from albino Scots.
As usual, the advance of science has revealed a far more complicated story. Geneticists now believe that almost half a dozen genes have a significant effect on pigmentation (Wills, 1994, pp. 78-79). These genes reside in the nucleus of every cell in our body, along with copies of all the other genes we inherited from our parents. However, color genes express themselves in only one place—the melanocytes. These are specialized skin cells that have a monopoly on melanin production. Each melanocyte is an incredibly complex chemical factory, transforming raw materials into granules of melanin, which it delivers to neighboring cells.
Also, there is more to the making of skin color than turning genes on or off to make black, white, and a couple of shades in between. We all possess the essential ingredients for making melanin; all of us could be black or brown (the only exceptions are albinos, whose bodies make no melanin at all). Actual coloration varies according to the pigment package delivered by the melanocytes. The end product depends not only on slight genetic differences, but also on environmental stimuli (such as exposure to strong ultraviolet radiation).
The story does not end there. Skin also includes keratin—a fibrous protein that contributes to the toughness of the skin, and which grows to form nails and hair. Because this substance has a relatively high concentration of sulfur, it adds a yellow hue to our palette of skin colors. Asians (especially from the Far East) happen to have an extra thick layer of keratin which, when combined with melanin, contributes to the yellow-brown color of their skin.
The science of genetics helps us understand how small changes can account for the rainbow of human coloration. Truly, when we consider the magnitude of these differences at the genetic level, our obsession with skin color seems blown out of proportion.


We know that there are variations in features such as skin color. Why, or how, did these variations arise? As noted earlier, a knee-jerk response is to invoke natural selection, but there are a few good Darwinian tales.
For instance, around 40% of the people in equatorial Africa carry an abnormal hemoglobin gene that deforms red blood cells into a crescent or sickle shape. Anyone who carries this trait, plus a normal copy of the gene, may appear to have the best of both worlds. For a start, the normal gene is dominant, and so counteracts the recessive mutated gene. Then, if malarial parasites invade the red blood cells, there is a tendency for the cells to deform and die, along with their unwanted guests. Unfortunately, people who have two copies of the abnormal gene develop sickle-cell anemia, and will die an early death unless they have access to good medical treatment. Finally, anyone not “lucky” enough to inherit the abnormal gene has no anemia, but no immunity from malaria either.
Of course, the picture is not all rosy for the people who carry just one copy of the sickle-cell gene. If they marry another carrier, some of the children could inherit two bad copies, and suffer from sickle-cell disease (see diagram below). With this in mind, it is callous to speak of the sickle-cell trait as a “good” or “beneficial” mutation. Nonetheless, the trait persists because the threat of death from malaria appears to outweigh the threat of death from sickle-cell anemia. In this instance, nature may have preserved a particular trait because it confers a survival advantage.
Sickle-cell genetics
Sickle-cell genetics: In this example, two parents each have a normal (Hb A) and an abnormal (Hb S) hemoglobin allele. There is a 1 in 4 chance that a child will have normal hemoglobin (Hb A/Hb A), a 1 in 2 chance that a child will be a carrier for the sickle-cell trait (Hb A/Hb S), and a 1 in 4 chance that a child will have sickle-cell anemia (Hb S/Hb S).
For most variations that give human populations their distinctive characteristics, it is difficult to know what forces of selection have been at work. For instance, scientists used to think that the Pygmy people of southern Africa were short because food was scarce. Further studies show normal levels of growth hormone, but reveal a genetic defect that prevents their bodies from using the hormone to its fullest extent (Fackelmann, 1989). But the question is this: Did nature select this mutation because it offered survival advantages, or did this characteristic arise as a result of random variation?
The answer is not so obvious, because we know so many exceptions to the rules of natural selection. Take the Japanese, for instance. Their teenagers are considerably taller than their grandparents ever were. The difference is a matter of improving diet, not genetics. For hundreds of years, the people of Japan have survived without nature’s selecting mutations for smaller stature. So how do we know that a scarce food supply was responsible for the survival of growth-limiting changes in the Pygmy?
The list of just-so stories is endless. Why are the Inuit relatively short and bulky? Because this helps them retain heat. Why are some groups in Africa relatively tall and slender? Because this helps them lose heat. In each case, we could list a dozen exceptions. What about those tall peoples who have survived quite well in cold areas, like the Dutch? And what about those short peoples who have done just fine in hot areas, like the Pygmies?
If Africans have less hair to keep them cooler, as some have suggested (Folger, 1993), then how have Asians done so well in cold climates with relatively little body hair? Asians also have an epicanthic fold—an extra layer of skin on the upper eyelid. We could spin a story about their eyes adapting to the winds of the Mongolian steppes, or the bright glare of snow. Even so, is this enough? Are variations in the structure of the eyelid a matter of life and death? Were individuals who had this epicanthic fold much more likely to survive than those who lacked it?
Similar questions confront the origins of skin color. Precisely how has natural selection worked to preserve dark and light skin coloring? The traditional explanation makes what seems to be a sensible link between the strong sunlight of the tropics, and the protective powers of melanin. Natural selection, so the argument goes, has favored the survival of dark-skinned people in equatorial areas. If light-skinned people lived in the tropics, they would suffer from higher rates of skin cancer. Then what prevented Africans from migrating to higher latitudes? The answer, we are told, lies in vitamin D. To make this important substance, humans need exposure to ultraviolet light. If people in higher latitudes were too dark, their skin would not be able to make enough vitamin D. A shortage of vitamin D results in rickets, which has a severe effect on bone development. So everything works out perfectly: light people get a little melanin to avoid rickets; and dark people get a lot of melanin to avoid skin cancer. Whatever the explanation, many researchers remain convinced that some sort of evolutionary process must be responsible for lighter and darker strains of humans (see Wills, 1994, p. 80).
The story seems less plausible, however, when we try to imagine how selection might have worked. For instance, skin cancer is deadly; it is something that afflicts lighter-skinned people who spend much time in strong sunlight. People of European ancestry living in the sunny climes of Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii suffer the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. As we look back in history, however, the danger of dying from basal cell carcinomas and melanomas hardly would compare to the vagaries of childhood diseases, plagues, strife, starvation, and natural hazards. It is hard to imagine that in a mixed population of light-and dark-skinned people living near the tropics, evolution selected the traits for dark skin because cancer gradually eliminated their lighter-skinned neighbors.
Unlike the skin cancer scenario, the ability to produce sufficient vitamin D is a definite survival advantage. However, exposure to the Sun is not an absolute requirement. Oils from cod, halibut, sardines, salmon, and mackerel provide a rich source of vitamin D (Sackheim and Lehman, 1994, p. 516). Not surprisingly, such fish figure prominently in the diets of Scandinavians and the Inuit. With the right foods, they are able to overcome a disadvantage of living in areas where the Sun is weaker, and in which the cold climate dictates many layers of protective clothing.
Still, this does not explain why Africans remained in tropical zones. They could have moved northward, and endured doses of cod liver oil as much as any European child. Today, thanks to vitamin supplements, people of African descent survive in England and Canada without a high incidence of rickets. When we look to the original population of the Americas, the story blurs altogether. People of brownish complexion live across every climatic zone, from Alaska in the north to Tierra del Fuego in the south. Apparently, no mechanism has been at work to sort skin color by latitude.
There are many other problems with the climatic theory of skin color (Diamond, 1992, pp. 114-117), and still, we have barely touched the rich storehouse of human variety. Perhaps apparently neutral characteristics will turn out to have some survival advantage (Patterson, 1978, p. 70). For example, researchers have found a correlation between ABO blood groups and resistance (or susceptibility) to different diseases. Further, blood groups seem to have a strong geographic distribution. We may discover that a particular blood type became concentrated in a region where it offered a slightly better chance of survival. On this point, however, all we have so far is another Kiplingesque story. No doubt, natural selection has had some impact on human history, but it seems largely inadequate to explain a good portion of the variations that exist between different human populations.


If natural selection has played a minor role in human history, then how do we explain the range of observed features? One possible mechanism is a phenomenon known as the “founder effect.” We see this most often in small, isolated communities that have an unusually high incidence of rare, inherited disorders (Diamond, 1988, p. 12). After some genealogical detective work, medical researchers are able to trace their patients’ ancestries to a single couple or a small group of close relatives—the founders. This seems to be the case with French Canadians, particularly those of eastern Quebec, whose ancestors emigrated from the Perche region of France in the 17th century. Small pioneering groups, together with early marriages, large families, and isolation, have created a pronounced founder effect. One study found that only 15% of the settlers contributed 90% of the genetic characteristics in people suffering from one or more of five genetic disorders (Heyer and Tremblay, 1995).
Pioneers in Chicoutimi (c. 1886), which is now the modern administrative center of Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean. This part of Quebec was settled by a few, closely related families. Today, 9 or 10 rare genetic diseases are relatively common among the people of the region.
It is only natural that much of our information on founder effects should come from the study of debilitating, and often fatal, diseases. If medical researchers can pin the problem to a faulty gene, then this may suggest a treatment or cure. Also, genetic testing can tell prospective parents whether they will pass these mutations on to their children. If the effects of the disease will come later in life, people may want to start certain medical treatments, or make changes in diets, that will ease or delay the worst symptoms.
However, the record books include a few cases not related directly to diseases. In a now classic study, H. Bentley Glass (1953) found that the Dunkers—a community of German Baptist Brethren in Pennsylvania’s Franklin County—are, in most respects, very similar to other people of European descent. Their religious customs require them to dress a certain way, and marry within the community, but otherwise their physical appearance is not unusual. Although there have been some outside marriages, most of the surviving members are descended from fifty families that emigrated from Germany in the early 1700s. Glass found that the frequencies of blood types and other genetic traits among the Dunkers differ from the frequencies of these features amongU.S. and German populations. It seems unlikely that any selective forces were in operation to favor the survival of Dunkers with blood group A, for instance. Therefore, Glass concluded, the founding population of Dunkers included, purely by chance, an unusually high proportion of people with blood group A.
The founder effect itself is part of a broader concept known as genetic drift, which occurs anytime the frequency of a genetic trait changes within a population. If, in the case of the founder effect, the emigrating group carries a set of unique or rare traits, then those traits will be that much harder to find among the people who stay behind. In other words, there will be adrift away from those characteristics.
In some cases, a highly prolific individual or family may skew the genes of a relatively diverse population, and this may occur in combination with some other form of genetic drift, such as the founder effect. For example, groups of Ashkenazic Jews moved eastward out of Germany in the 17th century, and were isolated culturally from the surrounding population. Several rare inherited disorders, such as Tay-Sachs disease, afflict this group at high rates. Evolutionists have thought this to be a sign of natural selection at work. Perhaps the population hung on to these genes because they offered some survival advantage, such as resistance to tuberculosis and other maladies of the crowded ghettos in which they lived (Diamond, 1991). However, Neil Risch believes otherwise, at least in the case of idiopathic torsion dystonia, which occurs at a rate of one in three thousand among the Ashkenazim today (Glausiusz, 1995). First, migration patterns favor genetic drift via the founder effect in these people. And second, historical records show that wealthier couples had more children. If a mutation arose in one of these families, as Risch infers from the genetic data, then it could become more frequent in later generations. This is a matter of misfortune, not adaptation.
Of all the forms of genetic drift, population bottlenecks are the most dramatic. Typically, these occur when wars, natural disasters, epidemics, and other catastrophes wipe out all but a small remnant of the original population. For instance, a flood could drown an entire tribe, except for a fortunate few in a remote village. These survivors would bequeath their genetic characteristics to subsequent generations. If there were a high degree of relatedness among the survivors, then their descendents may appear quite distinct from neighboring peoples. Of course, the Bible shows the Flood of Noah to be the greatest bottleneck of all time. According to the Genesis account, all of us must trace our ancestry to Noah’s three sons and their wives.
Finally, another piece of the puzzle may be mate selection. We are quick to point out the ways in which we differ from our spouse, and we see a positive side to that. “Opposites attract,” so the saying goes, but the Beach Boys knew better. “I seen all kinds of girls,” the Californian band harmonized, but “I wish they all could be California girls.” Underneath the superficial differences lie the grand similarities. Not always, but more often than not, we marry someone who grew up nearby, speaks the same language, and belongs to the same cultural, religious, social, and political group (Diamond, 1992, pp. 99-109). The result is a barrier, obvious or otherwise, that may exist between two neighboring peoples, or even between groups who live cheek-by-jowl.


Evolutionists may argue that an explanation for human diversity simply is unavailable to anyone who adopts a literal interpretation of the Bible. They may reason that creationists have no access to any mechanism that would cause change, because this means accepting evolution. This is a common misunderstanding. Creationists object, not to microevolution, but to macroevolution. One works by natural selection acting on mutations to create limited variation; the other assumes unlimited variation. One seems to work; the other is highly problematic. For our present purposes, we need account only for variation on a small scale, and within a single species at that. There is no reason to eliminate adaptation out of hand, especially as it seems to work in cases like sickle-cell anemia.
Further, many evolutionists imagine an entirely Darwinian plot. This may seem to threaten the biblical view on the grounds of time, assuming that adaptation implies a slow, gradual process. Not everyone agrees on this tempo of change and, certainly, genetic studies are revealing ample non-Darwinian strategies.
The key biblical event must be the confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). Up to this point, as far as we can tell, three lines of descent were living in close proximity, and then a miracle occurred. God gave them different languages so they could not work together on the Tower (11:7). They could have dug their heels into the rich soil of the Fertile Crescent, and trained a few good translators, but God “scattered them abroad” (11:8).
We cannot be sure on what basis the partitioning occurred. In the Table of Nations (Genesis 10), each line of descent appears by family and language, according to their lands and nations (10:5,20,31). It seems most likely, therefore, that the division occurred by the principal family units present at the time of the confusion and dispersion. This corresponds to the time of Peleg, in whose days “the earth was divided” (10:25). It is at this point that the mechanisms described earlier must come into full force. If the human population scattered over the face of the Earth, then there was a sudden outpouring of founding groups. Each extended family, isolated from others by language, would carry its own set of genes into the world. From these groups, and within these groups, developed the peoples of the world.


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Diamond, Jared (1991), “Curse and Blessing of the Ghetto,” Discover, 12[3]:60-61, March.
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Gibbons, Ann (1998), “Calibrating the Mitochondrial Clock,” Science, 279:28-29, January 2.
Glass, H. Bentley (1953), “The Genetics of the Dunkers,” Scientific American, August. Reprinted in Human Variation and Origins (San Francisco, CA: W.H. Freeman), pp. 200-204.
Glausiusz, Josie (1995), “Unfortunate Drift,” Discover, 16[6]:34-35, June.
Heyer, E. and M. Tremblay (1995), “Variability of the Genetic Contribution of Quebec Population Founders Associated to Some Deleterious Genes,” American Journal of Human Genetics, 56[4]:970-978.
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