“Speaking Where The Bible Speaks...” by Allan Turner


“Speaking Where The Bible Speaks...”
by Allan Turner
(Ronnie Milliner, a gospel preacher, published a book in which he identified preachers among conservative churches of Christ who he thought were going liberal. In his book, he quoted a line from this article and presented it in a way that indicated I did not believe in trying to speak where the Bible speaks. Milliner, his friend, John Welch, and the Faith & Facts bunch have made a career of taking brethren out of context, all the while, protesting vociferously that they are the ones really being misrepresented. Although this article was written years ago, it still speaks to current problems among churches of Christ.)
When we make our plea for the restoration of New Testament Christianity, if we are not careful, we may easily develop an attitude of arrogance and intolerance which could backfire on us. Our plea for a return to the Book is perceived by some as a plea for a return to a time when only the pure gospel was preached and there were no doctrinal problems in the churches. But when was that? From the very beginning, the church of Christ has been plagued by strife (Philippians 1:15,16), false teachers (II Peter 2:1-3), perverse and destructive leaders (Acts 20:29f.; Jude 4), the preaching of a false gospel (Galatians 1:6-9), divisiveness (III John 9,10), and servants of Satan (II Corinthians 11:13-15). The churches at Pergamos and Thyatira were condemned for tolerating false teaching (Revelation 2:12-29). The Christians at Sardis gave the appearance of being alive, but were really dead (Revelation 3:1-6). Although such a state was certainly not ideal, a reading of I Timothy 4:1-5 and II Timothy 3:1-5 make it clear that such would be a continuing problem in the churches.
Furthermore, one cannot read Matthew 13:24-30 without understanding that Satan has been—and continues to be—quite active in the Lord's church or kingdom. The true and the false, the child of God and the child of Satan, the righteous and the unrighteous can all be found among those who identify themselves as Christians. This, of course, causes serious problems even today. People in search of New Testament Christianity are looking for the perfect church, and being unable to find one, they are giving up their search. This is terribly unfortunate. Ironically, many are eventually going to be eternally lost because they are unable to find a congregation of perfect people perfectly practicing perfect New Testament Christianity—a group, incidentally, that would immediately become imperfect the moment they added themselves to it.
The Word, Not Perfection, Is The Key
What these individuals ought to be looking for is a group of people who are teaching the doctrine taught in the New Testament, even though they may not be doing everything perfectly. Now please do not misunderstand what I am saying. I believe it is important to be a doer of the Word. In fact, it is the Word of God and one's obedience to it that allows one to be free from sin (John 8:32), and not one's finding of a perfect group of Christians to which he may join himself. No one has ever been saved by his perfect doing, nor will one ever be. One is saved, and thereby made perfect, in Christ, not by perfect doing, but by the grace of God bestowed upon all who will willingly render obedience to Jesus Christ (Hebrews 5:9; Colossians 2:10). One is saved by exercising faith, trust, and reliance in Christ (Romans 5:1), not a group of people.
Churches of Christ should certainly manifest the teaching of the New Testament and ought to be trying to do everything they understand the Bible to be teaching, but anyone who thinks churches must be perfect before they can wear the name of their Lord are very much mistaken. When one is looking for New Testament Christianity, one must learn to put the emphasis where it belongs; namely, Jesus and His Word and not the imperfections in the lives of Christians.
Christians Are Affected Too
Unfortunately, some Christians are as confused about the significance of imperfection as are those who think New Testament Christianity no longer exists because they are unable to find a perfect church. Some, worshipping in local congregations where there may be glaring imperfections in some of the members, have become discouraged and have quit the church and become totally disillusioned with Christianity as well. In other words, because some are less than ideal—and aren't we all?—these people quit trusting in the One who has proven Himself to be absolutely perfect. It's a shame that some will quit the Lord for that which in others is but a reflection of themselves. Quite frankly, this is the ultimate hypocrisy.
Seduced By A Slogan, Some Claim Perfection
Then there are those who wrongly think themselves to be absolutely perfect. These mouth slogans such as: “We speak where the Bible speaks, and are silent where the Bible is silent.” Several generations have now been taught this haughty and arrogant philosophy and instead of remaining “Christians only,” they have evolved into the “only Christians.” [This is the quote Milliner used.] In other words, according to these people, unless one is taught by one of their preachers and baptized in one of their pools, then he could not possibly be a member of the church belonging to Christ. People like this are no longer interested in the need for a continued emphasis on the restoration of New Testament Christianity. They are absolutely and totally correct in every facet of their work and worship together. After all, they speak where the Bible speaks, and are silent where the Bible is silent. Consequently, how could they possibly be wrong? Such thinking has caused these people to become narrow and bigoted, steeped in traditions and practices which, in turn, have become the acid tests of orthodoxy. The man-made slogan, “We speak where the Bible speaks, and are silent where the Bible is silent,” has progressed to the inevitable, “You must do it the way we do it or you are wrong” syndrome. When this attitude becomes prominent in a people, the only objective standard for determining orthodoxy (i.e., God's Word) becomes secondary to group consensus and is, therefore, quite irrelevant. Among such people, what the church teaches and practices is much more important than what the Bible says or doesn't say.
A case in point is the battle over institutionalism that raged in the fifties and sixties. A minority of God's people began to question the scripturalness of the churches' support of orphan homes, old folks homes, etc. Asking for the book, chapter and verse that authorized such practices, the answer in many cases was, “This is the way we have done it for years,” “This is the way our fathers did it,” “This is the way we've always done it,” etc.
Brethren, have we so soon forgotten that group consensus is not the objective standard for what is right or wrong? Are we now willing to involve ourselves in that which we criticized others for doing? Will we make our practices the test for orthodoxy or will we continue to subject our practices to the objective standard of God's Word?
Arrogance Breeds Complacency
How much good has been subverted by a thoughtlessly arrogant man-made slogan? It is a well-known fact that arrogance breeds complacency. Among many churches of Christ today there is a complacency that has produced doctrinally sick and spiritually dead churches. Would it not have been healthier if those before us would have read “If a man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (I Peter 4:11), and said: “Lord, we will try with all our heart. We will try to speak where the Bible speaks, and we will try to be silent where the Bible is silent, but in doing so we will not forget that we are totally dependent upon the grace You have so bountifully bestowed upon us” (cf. Ephesians 2:8,9).
Humility Destroys Arrogance
Such humbleness and contriteness  will cause us to constantly examine ourselves so as to determine whether or not we are in the faith (II Corinthians 13:5). Furthermore, the inculcation of pure doctrine into pure hearts leaves no room for arrogance and bigotry; it leaves no room for an erroneous concept of justification by perfect law-keeping. Instead, it produces an attitude which is manifested by the statement: “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended for Christ Jesus. Brethren I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14). Brethren, it is this attitude that will keep us awake in Bible study and alive spiritually. This attitude coupled with God's grace produces a “living unto God” (Romans 6:10,11) that will allow a man to say at the end of his life without any arrogance at all: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” (II Timothy 4:7,8).
May we ever do all within our power to speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent, and may we teach and live in such a way that, in spite of our imperfections, our Heavenly Father will be glorified and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be honored.
1 Peter 4:11



                             Chapter Three


1) To see the very real danger of being tempted, and the need to stand
   fast in the Lord

2) To appreciate how our own steadfastness can be a source of joy and
   strength to those who taught us in the faith

3) To understand the need to increase and abound in love, in order to
   establish our hearts blameless before God when Christ returns


As Paul expresses his concern for their faithfulness, he explains why
Timothy had been sent to them while he himself remained in Athens.  
Fearful that their afflictions might have given Satan an opportunity to
tempt them and render his labors with them in vain, Timothy was sent to
establish and encourage them in their faith (1-5).

Timothy brought back good news to Paul concerning the church at 
Thessalonica, telling him of their faith and love, their fond memories 
of Paul, and their desire to see him again.  This greatly comforted 
Paul who was suffering his own afflictions, and he is overwhelmed with
thankfulness and joy.  Praying night and day that he might see them 
again and perfect what is lacking in their faith, he offers a prayer 
that God and Jesus might direct his way to them.  He also prays that 
the Lord will help them to increase and abound in love to one another 
and to all, and to establish their hearts blameless in holiness before
God at the coming of Christ with all His saints (6-13).



      1. When he could endure it no longer, Paul remained in Athens
         alone (1)
      2. He sent Timothy...
         a. To establish and encourage them in the faith (2)
         b. That they not be shaken by their afflictions (3a)
            1) To which they had been appointed (3b)
            2) As Paul told them before (4)
         c. To know of their faith...
            1) Whether they had been tempted (5a)
            2) Whether his labor might be in vain (5b)

      1. Timothy's return brought good news...
         a. Of their faith and love (6a)
         b. Of their fond memories of Paul (6b)
         c. Of their desire to see him, just as he desires to see them
      2. Such news brought comfort to Paul in his affliction (7-8)
         a. He was comforted, knowing of their faith (7)
         b. He felt alive, knowing of their steadfastness in the Lord
      3. He is thankful beyond words (9-10)
         a. Thankful to God for them, for the joy they bring to him (9)
         b. Praying night and day that he may soon see them and perfect
            what is lacking in their faith (10)


      1. A request made to both God the Father, and the Lord Jesus 
         Christ (11a)
      2. That he may come to the Thessalonians again (11b)

      1. That the Lord make them increase and abound in love...
         a. To one another and to all (12a)
         b. Just as Paul does toward them (12b)
      2. So that the Lord might establish their hearts blameless in 
         a. Before our God and Father (13a)
         b. At the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints


1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - Paul's concern for their faithfulness (1-10)
   - Paul's concern for their continued growth (11-13)

2) Where did Paul stay when he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica? (1)
   - Athens

3) Why did Paul send Timothy? (2)
   - To establish them and encourage them in their faith

4) What was Paul fearful of that might have shaken their faith? (3)
   - Their afflictions

5) What two reasons are given for Paul sending Timothy to learn of
   their faith? (5)
   - Lest by some means the tempter had tempted them
   - Lest Paul's labor might have been in vain

6) What good news had Timothy brought back to Paul? (6)
   - Of their faith and love
   - Of their fond memories of Paul
   - Of their desire to see him again

7) How did this news affect Paul? (7-9)
   - Brought him comfort in his affliction and distress
   - Made him feel alive
   - Overwhelmed him with thankfulness and joy

8) For what did Paul pray night and day? (10)
   - To see their face and perfect what was lacking in their faith

9) For what did Paul pray concerning himself? (11)
   - That God and Jesus direct his way to the Thessalonians

10) For what did Paul pray concerning the Thessalonians? (12-13)
   - That they increase and abound in love toward one another and to
   - That their hearts be established blameless in holiness before God
     at the coming of Christ with all His saints

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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                              Chapter Two


1) To glean from Paul's example how preachers should conduct themselves
   among brethren with whom they labor

2) To appreciate how the thought of seeing each other at the coming of
   Jesus should affect our attitude towards one another


Having reflected upon their reception of the gospel, Paul now reflects
upon his own conduct while with them.  He describes the manner of his 
preaching as one that was free of guile, deceit, flattery, and 
covetousness.  Seeking not the glory of men, but of God, he spoke with 
boldness despite conflict, and was gentle among them as a nursing 
mother would be with her own children (1-8).  His manner of life was 
sacrificial, working hard not to be a burden to them, behaving 
devoutly, justly, and blamelessly while among them.  As a father does 
his own children, he exhorted, comforted and charged them to walk in a 
way worthy of God who was calling them into His own kingdom and glory 

Paul then begins to reflect upon the concern that he has for their 
condition.  Thankful for their reception of his gospel as the word of
God and not of men, he writes how they had imitated the churches in 
Judea in receiving the word among much persecution by their own 
countrymen (13-16).  Even though it has only been a short time since he
has seen them, he has desired to come to them time and again, but Satan
had hindered him.  His longing to see them is due to his view of them
as his hope, joy and crown of rejoicing in the presence of Jesus when
He comes again (17-20).



      1. Not in vain, but with boldness in the midst of abuse (1-2)
      2. Not in deceit, impurity, or guile, but as pleasing God (3-4)
      3. Not with flattery, covetousness, nor seeking glory from men by
         making demands as apostles of Christ (5-6)
      4. As a nursing mother, with gentleness and affection he imparted
         not only the gospel but his own life as well (7-8)

      1. Worked night and day, so as not to be burden while preaching
         the gospel (9)
      2. Behaved in a devout, just, and blameless manner (10)
      3. As a father would his own children, he exhorted and comforted
         them, encouraging them to walk worthy of God who calls them
         into His kingdom (11-12)


      1. They received his message as it was in truth, the word of God
         which works effectively in those who believe (13)
      2. They became imitators of the churches in Judea (14-16)
         a. Suffering persecution from their own countrymen (14a)
         b. Just as those in Judea received from the Jews (14b)
            1) Who killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets (15a)
            2) Who persecuted the apostles, forbidding them to speak to
               the Gentiles (15b-16a)
            3) Who are piling up their sins, and upon whom wrath has 
               come (17)

      1. He is eager to see them again (17)
      2. He had wanted to come to them, but Satan hindered him (18)
      3. Because they are his hope, joy, and crown of rejoicing in the
         presence of the Lord Jesus Christ at His coming (19-20)


1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - Reflections regarding his conduct (1-12)
   - Reflections regarding his concern (12-20)

2) What had Paul endured prior to coming to Thessalonica?  What was his
   attitude when he arrived? (2)
   - Suffered spiteful treatment at Philippi (cf. Ac 16:16-40)
   - Bold in his God to speak the gospel of God

3) What did NOT characterize his conduct while at Thessalonica? (3-6)
   - Deceit
   - Uncleanness
   - Guile
   - Pleasing men
   - Flattering words
   - A cloak for covetousness
   - Seeking glory from men

4) What figure does Paul use to describe his treatment of them? (7)
   - As a nursing mother cherishes her own children

5) What did Paul impart to them along with the gospel of God? (8)
   - His own life

6) What DID characterize his conduct while at Thessalonica? (9-10)
   - Laboring night and day so as not to be a burden
   - Devout, just, and blameless

7) What figure does Paul use to described the manner in which he 
   exhorted them? (11)
   - As father does his own children

8) How did Paul want them to walk? (12)
   - Worthy of God who calls them into His own kingdom and glory

9) How had the Thessalonians received the word of God which they heard
   from Paul? (13)
   - They welcomed it not as the word of men, but as the word of God

10) What is said about the Word of God and those who believe it? (13)
   - It effectively works in those who believe

11) Who had the Thessalonians imitated in the way they received the 
    gospel?  In what way? (14)
   - The churches of God in Judea
   - Suffering from their own countrymen

12) What had the Jews done? (14-16)
   - Killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets
   - Persecuted the apostles, forbidding them to offer salvation to the

13) Who had hindered Paul from coming back to Thessalonica? (18)
   - Satan

14) How did Paul view the Thessalonians? (19-20)
   - His hope, joy, and crown of rejoicing in the presence of the Lord
     Jesus Christ at His coming
   - His glory and joy

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Christians Should Examine Islam by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Christians Should Examine Islam

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

With the advent of 9/11, our world, and the way we view it, has been forever altered. As you well know, Islam has not only captured international attention, it is expanding its influence and making extensive encroachments into American culture. Almost on a daily basis, the average American is stunned, even shocked, to hear of the concessions being made to Islam in America. From permitting the construction of a mosque near ground zero, to building taxpayer-funded prayer rooms for Muslims on college campuses, Islam’s encroachments are steadily increasing. Over 1,200 mosques dot the American landscape—most built within the last two decades—and more being built every day. Influential American authorities—from politicians to public school educators—are promulgating the equal acceptance and promotion of Islam in public life.

Now is the time for Christians to be informed. Now is the time for Christians to prepare themselves to help Muslims to see the truth. Five years ago, Apologetics Press released The Quran Unveiled, a volume intended to provide readers with an analysis of the fountain head of Islam: the Quran. Indeed, the authenticity of Islam rests on the credibility of the Quran. If the Quran is from God, it must possess the self-authenticating attributes and characteristics of divine inspiration. If it is not from God, though it may possess certain positive, even valuable, qualities, it must be rejected as disqualified to legislate human behavior in an absolute and ultimate sense. The primary purpose of The Quran Unveiled is to examine Islam’s holy book with a view toward ascertaining whether it is, in fact, of supernatural origin.

Apologetics Press continues to surge forward to maintain its cutting edge articulation of New Testament truth to current culture. Responding to the upsurge of Muslims into America is a part of this effort to teach the truth for Christ. We dare not ignore what is happening to the country. We must prepare ourselves to “make a defense” (1 Peter 3:15). In this month’s edition of Resources (inside R&R), you’ll find an advertisement with order information regarding how to purchase a copy of the book. Additionally, a DVD set of the live Islam Seminar is available. We urge you to take advantage of these tools in your evangelistic efforts to point people to Jesus Christ.

The Gift of “Fallible” Scripture by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


The Gift of “Fallible” Scripture

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

On September 13, 2005 the Catholic Communications Network announced the publication of “a major new teaching document from the Bishops of England, Wales, and Scotland” (“New Document...,” 2005) that was later presented in Rome to Pope Benedict XVI and the various Catholic delegates assembled there from around the world (“The Gift of Scripture—A New Teaching...,” 2005). Prepared for the purpose of explaining the Dei Verbum (the “Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation of the Second Vatican Council”) and several other Catholic documents published in the last forty years, this 60-page booklet is offered by the Catholic Truth Society so that “all who value the ‘gift of Scripture’...may be more richly nourished at the ‘table of God’s word’” (“The Gift...,” n.d.). Although very little still is known about this document by the masses (largely due to its text being neither available in an on-line version nor in a printed format in many Catholic churches), at least one portion of it appears to be more of the same mumbo-jumbo that self-professed “non-fundamentalist Christians” are increasingly spouting.
Ruth Gledhill of London’s Times Online quotes from one section of The Gift of Scripture where the authors wrote: “We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision” (2005). Allegedly, passages on human salvation can be trusted, but the bishops explained “[w]e should not expect total accuracy from the Bible in other, secular matters” (as quoted in Gledhill, 2005). A plethora of problems could be cited concerning “believers” who assert Bible writers made various scientific and historical mistakes when penning Scripture (see Lyons and Miller, 2004 for more information), but note particularly the illogic of suggesting that salvation passages can be trusted, whereas portions of the Bible dealing with other matters (e.g., history, geography, astronomy, medicine, etc.) may not be accurate.
First, no statements in Scripture lead a person to believe this manner of interpreting the Bible is acceptable. Conversely, both Jesus and the Bible writers always worked from the premise that God’s Word is entirely true, not partially true. Neither Old Testament nor New Testament writers ever criticized each others writings. They always viewed statements by each other as being truthful.
Second, were it true that only the “salvation” sections of the Bible are inerrant, everyone who reads the text would have the personal responsibility of wading through the Scriptures to decide exactly which matters pertain to salvation (and thus are correct and pertinent) and which do not matter. Such an interpretation of Scripture, however, makes a mockery of biblical authority. Who gets to say whether baptism is a matter of “salvation”? What about the role of women as addressed by Paul in 1 Timothy 2:8ff.? Is this a “salvation” passage, a “historical” passage, or a “secular” passage? Is it correct or incorrect? Who gets to decide? If Christians abandon the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, then having a standard of truth by which all humans are to live their lives would be impossible. Like the son who obeys his father insofar as he agrees with the father’s rules, a Christian would have his own standard of authority because the Bible would be authoritative only when he judged it to be a reliable guide. Simply put, Scripture cannot be demonstrated to be divinely authoritative if the Bible (in its original autographs) contained factual errors.
Finally, if a person believes that the Bible is fallible, then one is forced to accept the inevitable conclusion that, on some occasions, God “breathed” truth, while on others He “breathed” error (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16). But, if God can inspire a man to write theological and doctrinal truth, He simultaneously can inspire the same man to write with historical and scientific precision. If God cannot handle correctly “trivial” matters (such as geographical directions, or the names of individuals), why would anyone think that they could trust Him with something as critically important as the safety of their immortal soul, and expect Him to handle it in a more appropriate fashion?
The truth is, God has provided sufficient evidence to allow an honest person to arrive at the truth and to know His will (John 6:45; 7:17; 8:32). Those who are willing to compromise, and who back away from a devotion to verbal inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, demonstrate a lack of faith in both God and His Word.


“The Gift of Scripture” (no date), Catholic Truth Society, [On-line], URL: http://www.cts-online.org.uk/Sc80.htm.
“The Gift of Scripture—A New Teaching Document from the Bishops of England, Wales, and Scotland” (2005), Clifton Diocese, [On-line], URL: http://www.cliftondiocese.com/Articles/497/.
Gledhill, Ruth (2005), “Catholic Church No Longer Swears by Truth of the Bible,” Times Online, October, [On-line], URL: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/printFriendly/0,,1-13090-1811332-13090,00.html.
Lyons, Eric and Dave Miller (2004), “Biblical Inerrancy,” Reason & Revelation, 24:57-63, June, [On-line], URL: http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=416.
“New Document Stresses the Importance of the Bible for Catholics” (2005), The Catholic Church in England and Wales, [On-line], URL: http://www.catholic-ew.org.uk/cn/05/050913.htm.

The Problem of Evil by Dave Miller, Ph.D. Kyle Butt, M.Div.


The Problem of Evil

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.
Kyle Butt, M.Div.

On February 12, 2009, in a debate with Kyle Butt, Dan Barker affirmed the proposition that the God of the Bible does not exist. Three minutes and 15 seconds into his opening speech, he stated that one reason he believes God does not exist is because “there are no good replies to the arguments against the existence of God, such as the problem of evil. All you have to do is walk into any children’s hospital and you know there is no God. Prayer doesn’t make any difference. Those people pray for their beloved children to live, and they die” (Butt and Barker, 2009). Barker suggested that “the problem of evil” is one of the strongest positive arguments against the existence of God.
What, precisely, is the so-called “problem of evil”? Atheists like Barker note that the Bible depicts God as all-loving as well as all-powerful. This observation is certainly correct (e.g., 1 John 4:8; Genesis 17:1; Job 42:2; Matthew 19:26). Yet everyone admits that evil exists in the world. For God to allow evil and suffering either implies that He is not all-loving, or if He is all-loving, He lacks the power to eliminate them. In either case, the God of the Bible would not exist. To phrase the “problem of evil” more precisely, the atheist contends that the biblical theist cannot consistently affirm all three of the following propositions:
  • God is omnipotent.
  • God is perfect in goodness.
  • Evil exists.
Again, the atheist insists that if God is omnipotent (as the Bible affirms), He is not perfect in goodness since He permits evil and suffering to run rampant in the world. If, on the other hand, He is perfect in goodness, He lacks omnipotence since His goodness would move Him to exercise His power to eliminate evil on the Earth. Since the Christian affirms all three of the propositions, the atheist claims that Christians are guilty of affirming a logical contradiction, making their position false. Supposedly, the “problem of evil” presents an insurmountable problem for the Christian theist.
In truth, however, the “problem of evil” is a problem for the atheist—not the Christian theist. First, atheistic philosophy cannot provide a definition of “evil.” There is no rational way that atheism can accurately label anything as “evil” or “good.” On February 12, 1998, William Provine, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the distinguished Cornell University, delivered the keynote address at the second annual Darwin Day. In an abstract of that speech on the Darwin Day Web site, Dr. Provine asserted: “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, emp. added). If there is no foundation upon which to base any ethical conclusions, then how could an atheist label any action or occurrence as “evil,” “bad,” or “wrong”?
Frederick Nietzsche understood atheistic philosophy so well that he suggested that the bulk of humanity has misunderstood concepts such as “evil” and “good.” In his work Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche wrote: “We believe that severity, violence, slavery, danger in the street and in the heart, secrecy, stoicism, tempter’s art and devilry of every kind—that everything wicked, terrible, tyrannical, predatory, and serpentine in man, serves as well for the elevation of the human species as its opposite” (2007, p. 35, emp. added). Nietzsche’s point simply was that what we might call morally “evil,” actually helps humans evolve higher thinking capacities, quicker reflexes, or greater problem-solving skills. Thus, if an “evil” occurrence helps humanity “evolve,” then there can be no legitimate grounds for labeling that occurrence as “evil.” In fact, according to atheistic evolution, anything that furthers the human species should be deemed as “good.”
As C.S. Lewis made his journey from atheism to theism, he realized that the “problem of evil” presented more of a problem for atheism than it did for theism. He 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, p. 45-46, italics in orig.).
Theistic apologist, William Lane Craig, has summarized the issue quite well:
I think that evil, paradoxically, actually proves the existence of God. My argument would go like this: If God does not exist then objective moral values do not exist. (2) Evil exists, (3) therefore objective moral values exist, that is to say, some things are really evil. Therefore, God exists. Thus, although evil and suffering at one level seem to call into question God’s existence, on a deeper more fundamental level, they actually prove God’s existence (n.d.).
Craig and Lewis are correct. If evil actually exists in the world, and some things are not the way they “should” be, then there must be a standard outside of the natural world that would give meaning to the terms “evil” and “good”—and the atheistic assumption proves false.


In addition to the fact that “evil” cannot even be discussed without reference to God, Barker rested the force of his statement on an emotional appeal. He said: “All you have to do is walk into any children’s hospital and you know there is no God.” Is it really the case that anyone who walks into a children’s hospital is immediately struck by the overwhelming force of atheism? No, it is not true. In fact, it is the farthest thing from the truth. Anticipating Barker’s tactics, one of us [KB] visited the children’s hospital in Columbia, South Carolina and met a lady who volunteered there. When asked why she volunteered, she pointed to a bullet hole in her skull. She said that it was a blessing she was still alive and she wanted to give something back since God had allowed her to live. When asked if many of the volunteers in the hospital were religious, she responded that many of them were from churches in the area, i.e., churches that believe in the God of the Bible.
According to Barker’s “line of reasoning,” the lady with whom we talked should not believe in a loving God, the volunteers that gave their time to the hospital should not believe in a loving God, we should no longer believe in a loving God (since we walked through the hospital), nor should any other person who has visited that facility. The falsity of such reasoning is apparent. Seeing the suffering in a children’s hospital does not necessarily drive a person to atheism. Truth be told, most people who visit a children’s hospital, and even have children who are patients there, believe in the God of the Bible. Barker’s assertion does not stand up to rational criticism.
Furthermore, Barker’s emotional appeal can easily be turned on its head: Walk through any children’s hospital and observe the love, care, and concern that the parents, doctors, and volunteers show the children, and you know atheistic evolution cannot be true. After all, evolution is about the survival of the fittest, in which the strong struggle against the weak to survive in a never-ending contest to pass on their genes. If evolution were true, parents and doctors would not waste their valuable resources on children who will not pass on their genes. Only theism can account for the selfless devotion and care that you see in children’s hospitals.


When the “problem of evil” is presented, it quickly becomes apparent that the term “evil” cannot be used in any meaningful way by an atheist. The tactic, therefore, is to swap the terms “suffering,” “pain,” or “harm” for the word “evil,” and contend that the world is filled with too much pain, harm, and suffering. Since it is evident that countless people suffer physical, emotional, and psychological harm, the atheist contends that, even though there is no real “evil,” a loving God would not allow such suffering. [NOTE: The atheist’s argument has not really changed. He is still contending that suffering is “bad” or “evil” and would not be present in a “good” world. In truth, he remains in the same dilemma of proving that evil exists and that suffering is objectively evil.]
At first glance, it seems that the atheist is claiming that a loving, moral God would not allow His creatures, the objects of His love, to suffer at all. Again, the atheist reasons that humans are supposed to be the objects of God’s love, yet they suffer. Thus, God does not love or does not have the power to stop the suffering—and therefore does not exist.
The thoughtful observer soon sees the problem with this line of reasoning, which even the skeptic is forced to admit: it is morally right to allow some suffering in order to bring about greater good. On numerous occasions, Dan Barker and his fellow atheists have admitted the validity of this truth. During the cross-examination period of the Butt/Barker Debate, Barker stated:
You can’t get through life without some harm.... I think we all agree that it is wrong to stick a needle into a baby. That’s horrible. But, if that baby needs a life-saving injection, we will cause that harm, we will do that. The baby won’t understand it, but we will do that because there is a greater good. So, humanistic morality understands that within certain situations, there is harm, and there’s a trade off of values (Butt and Barker, 2009, emp. added).
In his debate with Peter Payne, Barker stated: “Often ethics involves creating harm. Sometimes harm is good” (Barker and Payne, 2005, emp. added). In his book, Maybe Right, Maybe Wrong: A Guide for Young Thinkers, Barker wrote: “When possible, you should try to stop the pain of others. If you have to hurt someone, then hurt them as little as possible.... If you do have to hurt someone, then try to stop as soon as possible. A good person does not enjoy causing pain” (1992, p. 33, emp. added).
It becomes evident that the atheist cannot argue against the concept of God based on the mere existence of suffering, because atheists are forced to admit that there can be morally justifiable reasons for suffering. Once again, the argument has been altered. No longer are we dealing with the “problem of evil,” since without the concept of God, the term “evil” means nothing. Furthermore, no longer are we dealing with a “problem of suffering,” since the atheist must admit that some suffering could be morally justifiable in order to produce a greater good. The atheist must add an additional term to qualify suffering: “pointless.”


Since the skeptic knows that some suffering could be morally justified, he is forced to argue against the biblical concept of God by claiming that at least some of the suffering in this world ispointless or unnecessary. The skeptic then maintains that any being that allows pointless suffering cannot be loving or moral. In his book The Miracle of Theism, J.L. Mackie noted that if the theist could legitimately show that the suffering in the world is in some way useful, then the concept of the God of the Bible “is formally possible, and its principle involves no real abandonment of our ordinary view of the opposition between good and evil” (1982, p. 154). In light of this fact, Mackie admitted: “[W]e can concede that the problem of evil does not, after all, show that the central doctrines of theism are logically inconsistent with one another” (p. 154). Did Mackie throw in the proverbial towel and admit that the “problem” of evil and suffering does not militate against God? On the contrary, he contended that even though some suffering or evil might be necessary or useful, there is far too much pointless evil (he terms it “unabsorbed evil”) in the world for the traditional God of the Bible to exist. He then concluded: “The problem, therefore, now recurs as the problem of unabsorbed evils, and we have as yet no way of reconciling their existence with that of a god of the traditional sort” (p. 155, emp. added). Notice how Mackie was forced to change the “problem of evil” to the “problem of unabsorbed evil.”
Dan Barker understands this alteration in the “problem of evil” and has used it himself. In a debate with Rubel Shelly, Dan used his standard argument that the suffering in a children’s hospital is enough to show God does not exist. Shelly responded with a lengthy rebuttal, bringing to light the idea that suffering in this world can be consistently reconciled with God’s purposes for mankind. In concluding his comments, Shelly stated: “The kind of world, apparently, that unbelief wants is a world where no wrong action could have bad effects or where we just couldn’t make wrong actions” (Barker and Shelly, 1999). Barker responded to Shelly’s comments, saying:
I’m not asking for a world that’s free of pain.... No atheist is asking that the world be changed or requiring that if there is a God, He be able to change it. I’m not asking for a world that’s free of consequences. I think pain and consequences are important to a rational education.... What I am asking for is for human beings to strive as much as possible for a world that is free of unnecessary harm (1999, emp. added).
Barker went on to describe a scenario in which a forest fire forces a baby fawn to flee its home. In the process, the fawn catches its leg in a snare and is consumed by the flames. Barker then stated that he believed no one’s soul or character was edified by the fawn’s suffering, thus it would be an example of unnecessary or useless suffering. Barker further admitted that even though some suffering is acceptable, there simply is far too much to be reconciled with a loving God. Here again, it is important to notice that Barker’s entire argument has been altered. It is no longer a “problem of evil (harm)” but now he has amended it to the “problem of unnecessary evil (harm).”
The next question that must be asked is: What would classify as “pointless,” “unnecessary,” or “unabsorbed” suffering? The simple answer that the atheistic position must suggest is that any suffering that the atheist does not deem necessary is pointless. As Timothy Keller points out, the fact is that Mackie and others use the term “pointless” to mean that they, themselves cannot see the point of it. Keller stated: “Tucked away within the assertion that the world is filled with pointless evil is a hidden premise, namely that if evil appears pointless to me, then it must bepointless” (2008, p. 23, italics in orig.). Keller further noted:
This reasoning is, of course, fallacious. Just because you can’t see or imagine a good reason why God might allow something to happen doesn’t mean there can’t be one. Again we see lurking within supposedly hard-nosed skepticism an enormous faith in one’s own cognitive faculties. If our minds can’t plumb the depths of the universe for good answers to suffering, well, then, there can’t be any! This is blind faith of a high order (p. 23).
Indeed, it is the atheist who lives by the blind faith that he mistakenly attributes to the theist.


In his monumental volume, Have Atheists Proved There Is No God?, philosopher Thomas B. Warren undercut completely the atheist’s use of the problem of evil. He insightfully demonstrated that the Bible teaches that “God has a morally justifiable reason for having created the world...in which evil can (and does) occur” (1972, p. 16). What is that reason? God created the planet to be “the ideal environment for soul-making” (p. 16). God specifically created humans to be immortal, free moral agents, responsible for their own actions, with this earthly life being their one and only probationary period in which their eternal fate is determined by their response to God’s will during earthly life (p. 19). Hence, the world “is as good (for the purpose God had in creating it) as any possible world” since it was designed to function as man’s “vale of soul-making” (p. 19). The physical environment in which humans were to reside was specifically created with the necessary characteristics for achieving that central purpose. This environment would have to be so arranged that it would allow humans to be free moral agents, provide them with their basic physical needs, allow them to be challenged, and enable them to learn those things they most need to learn (p. 47).
Whereas the atheist typically defines “evil” as physical pain and suffering, the Bible, quite logically, defines evil as violation of God’s law (1 John 3:4). Observe, therefore, that the only intrinsic evil is sin, i.e., disobeying or transgressing the laws of God. Hence, pain and suffering are not intrinsically evil. (“[I]ntrinsic evil on the purely physical level does not exist” [p. 93]). In fact, animal pain, natural calamities, and human suffering are all necessary constituent variables in the overall environment designed for spiritual development. Such variables, for example, impress upon humans the very critical realizations that life on Earth is uncertain, precarious, and temporary. They also demonstrate that life on Earth is brief—that it will soon end (p. 58). Such realizations not only propel people to consider their spiritual condition, and the necessity of using this life to prepare for the afterlife, they prod people to contemplate God! Suffering, pain, and hardship encourage people to cultivate their spirits and to grow in moral character—acquiring virtuous attributes such as courage, patience, humility, and fortitude. Suffering can serve as discipline and motivation to spur spiritual growth and strength. It literally stimulates people to develop compassion, sympathy, love, and empathy for their fellowman (p. 81).


Since atheists cannot say that real, moral evil exists, they must adjust their objection and say that a loving God would not allow suffering. This position quickly becomes indefensible, so again the position is altered to posit that some suffering is morally permissible, but not pointless or unnecessary suffering. Who, then, is to determine if there truly exists unnecessary suffering that would negate the concept of God? Some atheists, such as Barker, are quick to set themselves up as the final judges who alone can set the proper limits of suffering. Yet, when those limits are analyzed, it again becomes apparent that the “problem of evil” is a legitimate problem only for the atheist.
In his book godless, Dan Barker stated: “There is no big mystery to morality. Morality is simply acting with the intention to minimize harm” (2008, p. 214). In his explanation about how to minimize harm, Barker wrote: “And the way to avoid making a mistake is to try to be as informed as possible about the likely consequences of the actions being considered” (p. 214). Reasoning from Barker’s comments about morality, if there truly is an omniscient God Who knows every consequence of every action that ever has been or ever will be taken, then that Being, and only that Being, would be in a position to speak with absolute authority about the amount and kind of suffering that is “necessary.” Barker and his fellow atheists may object to God’s tolerance for suffering, but were God to condescend to speak directly to them, He could simply respond by saying: “What you do not know is...,” and He could fill in the blank with a thousand reasons about future consequences that would legitimize the suffering He allows.
Indeed, this is precisely the tact God employed with Job, when He challenged Job’s knowledge and comprehension of the mysteries of the Universe:
Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this. Do you know it, because you were born then, or because the number of your days is great? Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it. Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified? (Job 38:2-4,18,21; 40:2,8).
God’s interrogation of Job elucidated the fact of humanity’s limited knowledge, especially as it relates to suffering. In contrast to this, Barker wrote:
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? (2008, p. 211).
Of course, Barker’s rhetorical questions were supposed to force the reader to respond thathumans are in a better position to understand what actions are moral, or how much suffering is permissable. In light of his comments about knowing the consequences of actions, however, Barker’s position falls flat. Whose mind knows more about the consequences of all actions? Whose mind is in a better position to know what will happen if this action is permitted? Whose mind has the ability to see the bigger picture? And Who alone is in the position to know how much suffering is permissible to bring about the ultimate good for humankind? That would be the infinite, eternal, omniscient Creator—the God of the Bible.


Barker, Dan (2008), godless (Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press).
Barker, Dan (1992), Maybe Right, Maybe Wrong: A Guide for Young Thinkers (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).
Barker, Dan and Rubel Shelly (1999), Barker/Shelly Debate: Does God Exist? (Brentwood, TN: Faith Matters).
Barker, Dan and Peter Payne (2005), Barker/Payne Debate: Does Ethics Require God?, [On-line],URL: http://www.ffrf.org/about/bybarker/ethics_debate.php.
Butt, Kyle and Dan Barker (2009), Butt/Barker Debate: Does the God of the Bible Exist?(Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Craig, William Lane (no date), Pain and Suffering Debate, Part 1, [On-line], URL:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZTG5xyefEo.
Keller, Timothy (2008), The Reason for God (New York: Dutton).
Lewis, C.S. (1952), Mere Christianity (New York: Simon and Schuster).
Mackie, J.L. (1982), The Miracle of Theism: Arguments For and Against the Existence of God(Oxford: Clarendon Press).
Nietzsche, Friedrich (2007 reprint), Beyond Good and Evil (Raleigh, NC: Hayes Barton Press), [On-line], URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=C7sRYOPWke0C&pg=PA1&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=0_1#PPP1,M1.
Provine, William (1998), “Evolution: Free Will and Punishment and Meaning in Life,” [On-line],URL: http://eeb.bio.utk.edu/darwin/DarwinDayProvineAddress.htm.
Warren, Thomas B. (1972), Have Atheists Proved There Is No God? (Ramer, TN: National Christian Press).

What About "Out-of-Body Experiences"? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


What About "Out-of-Body Experiences"?
by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

As American civilization has been detached from its Christian moorings, a host of offbeat, confused, and superstitious ideas have infiltrated society. Especially with the resurgence of the occult in the last 50 years and Hollywood’s efforts to create credibility for “ghosts,” exorcism, and astrology, more Americans than ever before have come to believe in such hocus-pocus. One result has been the widespread belief in “out-of-body experiences.” Even among otherwise straight thinking Christians, many have come to believe that a person can “die,” as evidenced by “flatlining,” that his or her spirit momentarily leaves the body, and then returns to the body, enabling the person to regain consciousness and live to tell about the experience. Stories often include reports of tunnels with bright light at the end, feelings of warmth and reassurance, a sense of hovering above and looking down upon the operating room personnel, etc. Are such experiences proofs that individuals are, in fact, dying and exiting their bodies, and then returning again?
A brief perusal of the history of medical science reveals that, at one time, conventional wisdom held that a person was dead when breathing ceased. It was thought that the “breath of life” had departed from the individual, leaving him “dead.” As medical science advanced, it was determined that a person’s heart could still be beating though the person had stopped breathing. He had not actually died, and hence, “mouth-to-mouth” resuscitation enabled a person to start breathing again. At that point of medical understanding, it was thought that when the heart stopped beating (determined by placing one’s ear to the chest of the person), the individual had died. However, with additional advancements and understanding, it was determined that it was possible to restart the heart, through cardio-vascular resuscitation, compressions of the chest cavity, injection of powerful drugs directly into the heart, massaging the heart directly, and eventually defibrillation, in which an electrical shock is delivered to the heart with a defibrillator. The current definition of “dead” is associated more with the cessation of brain activity.  A typical definition of “flatline” is “to die or be so near death that the display of one’s vital signs on medical monitoring equipment shows a flat line rather than peaks and troughs” (Farlex, n.d.). “Flatlining” can refer either to heart or brain activity or both, depending on who is using the term.
Does the inerrant Word of God have any insight into this question? Yes, it does. The Bible teaches that God places within each prenatal person at conception a spirit that makes each individual a unique personality that will survive physical death, living on immortally throughout eternity (Zechariah 12:1). At death, the spirit separates from the body and exists in a conscious condition in the spirit realm (1 Samuel 28:15; Luke 16:19-31). James 2:26 provides a precise, technical definition of death: “[F]or as the body without the spirit is dead….” In other words, the separation of one’s spirit from one’s body results in physical death, i.e., the death of the body, not the spirit. Thus the Bible defines physical “death” as separation—not “extinction” or “annihilation” (Thayer, 1901, p. 282; Vine, 1940, p. 276). Once the spirit of a person exits the body, he or she is “dead” (Genesis 35:18; 1 Kings 17:21-22). Science will undoubtedly never develop a test for ascertaining when the spirit exits the body. After all, “a spirit does not have flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39).
In order for a person’s dead body to come to life again, the spirit would have to reenter it. The term that the Bible uses to refer to such an occurrence is “resurrection.” The only way resurrection can occur is by means of supernatural intervention by an individual who possesses authority and power from God to miraculously cause the spirit to return to the body. Instances of deceased people in Bible history whose spirits returned to their dead bodies include the following:
  1. When the widow of Zaraphath’s son became sick and died, the prophet Elijah asked God to “let this child’s soul come back to him” (1 Kings 17:21). God granted the request and the child’s soul returned to his body.
  2. Elisha restored the life of a Shunammite woman’s son who had died after complaining of severe head pain—perhaps a brain hemorrhage (2 Kings 4).
  3. When Lazarus died, his body was in an advanced state of decay by the time Jesus arrived on the scene four days later to raise him from the dead. He brought back Lazarus’ spirit into his body with the words, “Lazarus, come forth!” (John 11:43).
  4. Among the supernatural events that accompanied the death of Christ on the cross, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many” (Matthew 27:51-53). Only God could have brought the spirits of these individuals back from the hadean realm and reinserted them into their buried bodies.
  5. When Tabitha/Dorcas became sick and died in the town of Joppa, her body was washed and laid in an upper room. The apostle Peter was in Lydda at the time, so urgent word was sent to him to come to Joppa. Clearing the room of the mourners upon his arrival, he “knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, ‘Tabitha, arise.’ And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up” (Acts 9:40).
Such occurrences were rare, and always meant that the resurrected individual later died again (Jesus excepted—Acts 13:34; Romans 6:9; cf. Enoch [Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5] and Elijah [2 Kings 2:11] who never died). In every case, a miracle was necessary to restore the separated spirit of the individual to the body. Miracles served a very specific purpose in Bible times—a purpose no longer needed (Miller, 2003). Since God has chosen not to work miracles today (1 Corinthians 13:8-11; Ephesians 4:8-13), and no resurrections will occur until the general resurrection (John 5:25-29; Luke 14:14; 1 Corinthians 15:12ff.), there is no such thing as an “out-of-body experience.”
But then how does one account for the numerous reports of tunnels, lights, and feelings of warmth? The mind is an incredible, divinely designed wonder capable of far more than we know or comprehend. When anesthesia is applied to the respiratory system and bloodstream in order to prevent awareness of pain, causing a patient to become unconscious, the parts of the body that perceive (i.e., seeing, hearing, etc.) continue to function. The mind is still hearing what is being said in the operating room, whether or not the person is able later to recall the conversation. Temperature and other bodily sensors are still operative. Additionally, the mind’s ability to dream realistic dreams is surely a factor to consider. These and other features of the mind and body adequately account for the unsubstantiated allegations of “out-of-body experiences.”
One final thought: if “near death” and “out-of-body” experiences are authentic, where are the comparable reports of those who encounter the scorching, threatening fires of hell or hades (cf. Luke 16:23ff.)? Where are the accounts of individuals being warned to correct their behavior and live godly lives—as Paul admonished Titus: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12)? For those acquainted with the stabilizing influence of the Bible, all such experiences are meaningless and provide no assistance for ascertaining the meaning and purpose of life—in view of eternity. The inspired writer of Hebrews succinctly summarized the point: "[I]t is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment" (9:27).
[NOTE: For an audio sermon on the topic of afterlife, click here.]


Farlex (no date), The Free Dictionaryhttp://www.thefreedictionary.com/flatlining.
Miller, Dave (2003), “Modern-Day Miracles, Tongue-Speaking, and Holy Spirit Baptism: A Refutation—EXTENDED VERSION,” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1399&topic=293.
Miller, Dave (2005), “Afterlife and the Bible,” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1478.
Thayer, J.H. (1901), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1977 reprint).
Vine, W.E. (1966 reprint), An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell).