"THE EPISTLE OF JAMES" Chapter Four OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THE CHAPTER 1) To gain insight into the source of wars and fighting, even among brethren 2) To see the importance and means of befriending God, of not speaking evil of brethren, and planning for the future with the Lord's will in mind SUMMARY James asks his readers to consider the source of wars and fights among themselves. He identifies the problem as their own desires for pleasure which war within themselves. Perhaps exaggerating for the sake of emphasis, he describes their lust and coveting (even murder!) for things they do not have and cannot obtain. It renders their prayers fruitless, for they have selfish motives in mind. Sounding like an Old Testament prophet, James charges them with adultery for trying to befriend the world. Becoming a friend of the world leads to enmity with God, who jealously desires us. But if they are willing to humble themselves, God is willing to show more grace (1-6). James therefore counsels them to draw near to God in humble submission, with clean hands, purity of heart, and true contrition. He warns against speaking evil of brethren and judging one another, lest they become judges and not doers of the law. The chapter ends with a call to make plans with the Lord's will in mind, for we have no idea what the morrow holds and life is short. Otherwise we boast in our arrogance and sin when we fail to do what we know is good (7-17). OUTLINE I. TRUE RELIGION DOES NOT BEFRIEND THE WORLD (1-6) A. THE SOURCE OF WARS AND FIGHTS (1-3) 1. From within, from desires that war in one's members 2. Such as lust (envy), murder (hate?), coveting, which do not give what one seeks 3. Leading to unanswered prayers, due to selfishness B. FRIENDSHIP WITH THE WORLD IS ENMITY WITH GOD (4-6) 1. Whoever wants to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God 2. Even as the Scripture warns, and not in vain 3. While God resists the proud, He is willing to give grace to the humble II. TRUE RELIGION DRAWS NEAR TO GOD (7-17) A. BY SUBMITTING TO GOD'S AUTHORITY (7-12) 1. Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee 2. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you a. Cleanse your hands, sinners b. Purify your hearts, double-minded c. Mourn and weep for your sins d. Humble yourself before God, and He will lift you up 3. Let God be the Lawgiver and Judge a. Do not speak evil of one another and judge one another 1) Otherwise you speak evil of the law and judge the law 2) Otherwise you are not a doer of the law, but a judge b. When there is really only one Lawgiver who is able to save and destroy B. BY SUBMITTING TO GOD'S WILL (13-17) 1. We should be careful in making plans for the future a. We do not know what will happen tomorrow b. Life is but a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes 2. Therefore we should acknowledge "If the Lord wills" in our plans a. Otherwise we boast in arrogance, which is evil b. For one to know to do good and not do it, that is sin REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - True religion does not befriend the world (1-6) - True religion draws near to God (7-17) 2) Where do wars and fights find their origin? (1-2) - Our desires for pleasure that war in our members - Lusting and coveting for things we do not have and cannot obtain 3) Why do some not receive what they ask for? (3) - They ask for the wrong reason, e.g., for personal pleasures 4) What does James call those who would be a friend of the world? (4) - Adulterers and adulteresses - An enemy of God 5) What possible translations for the Scripture quoted in verse 5? - "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously" (NKJV) - "The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy" (KJV) - "the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely" (NIV) - "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us" (NASB) 6) Whom does God resist? To whom does He give more grace? (6) - The proud - The humble 7) What counsel does James give to those tempted by the world? (7-10) - Submit to God - Resist the devil and he will flee from you - Draw near to God and He will draw near to you - Cleanse your hands - Purify your hearts - Lament, mourn, and weep - Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom - Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up 8) Why should one not speak evil of a brother? (11) - They then speak evil of the law and judge the law - They become a judge, rather than a doer of the law 9) What other reasons does James give for not judging one another? (12) - There is one Lawgiver who is able to save and destroy - Who are we to judge another? 10) Why should we be careful about the plans we make? (13-14) - We do not know what will happen tomorrow - Our life is only a vapor that appears for a short while 11) With what qualification can one make plans for the future? (15) - If the Lord wills 12) Of what is one guilty when plans are made without considering the Lord's will? (16) - Boasting in one's arrogance 13) Of what is one guilty if they know what is good, but fail to do it? (17) - Sin
Christianity, Islam, and Science
|by||Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.|
The Roman Empire was terminally ill by the end of the second century A.D. It had used its skills in administration, engineering, and military strategy to dominate a region spanning three continents. But its heart was weakened by the rise of an absolutist monarchy led, all too frequently, by weak, ineffectual emperors. Slowly, the Roman armies abandoned the most distant outposts and could not prevent the Vandals, Goths, and Huns from penetrating the innermost parts of the Empire. The Goths sacked major Greek cities in 268, gave the same treatment to Rome in 410, and in 476 deposed the last Western Roman Emperor. Deprived of Roman law and economy, much of the region plunged into disorder and poverty.
Lost from the scene was a significant portion of classical Greek science, including Ptolemy’s astronomy, Euclid’s mathematics, Galen’s anatomy, and Aristotle’s naturalistic writings. But it hardly could be said that nothing was going on in these “Dark Ages,” as some are inclined to characterize the next few hundred years. In particular, the establishment of monasteries in the sixth century provided a means for religious training. Literacy improved because instruction depended on readings from the Bible, commentaries, and works of the church Fathers.
Monasteries also provided access to the relatively scant classical works available in Latin. Through the writings of Augustine (354-430), scholars were especially familiar with Plato’sTimaeus. This work lent itself to Christian interpretation because it argued that the Universe had a first cause—an eternal self-mover—that created motion and order. Further, because Plato’s god was good, he created a world that was good for us, the creature. Unlike the Christian God, this self-mover was not a personal god; he did not love man, he was not omnipotent, and he was not the object of worship. However, Plato’s arguments for a Creator-God, combined with biblically based expectations of seeing God’s handiwork in creation (e.g., Psalm 19:1, Romans 1:20), encouraged medieval theologians to affirm the fundamental intelligibility of God’s creation. Although Augustine frowned upon the systematic study of nature, the concept of nature’s basic orderliness provided an important key to the development of modern science (Jones, 1969, p. 133).
During this same period, Arabic-Islamic science had reached tremendous heights. It led the world in mathematics, physics, optics, astronomy, and medicine. The stability and wealth brought by the spread of Islamic power in the seventh and eighth centuries fostered patronage of higher learning. In 762, al-Mansur established Baghdad as his new capital, and “cultivated a religious climate that was relatively intellectual, secularized, and tolerant” (Lindberg, 1992, p. 168). Over the next few generations, Arab scholars enhanced their own knowledge with medicine from Persia, mathematics from India and China, and the classical Greek heritage preserved in Byzantium. Much emphasis was given to knowledge that had special utility for Islamic culture. For example, the Chinese abacus, and the Hindu system of numbers and place-valued decimal notation, were used to advance trigonometry and Ptolemy’s astronomy. These, in turn, could be used to determine the direction to Mecca and the times of prayer for any town in the Muslim world.
Crucial to the development of Arabic science was a massive translation program begun by Hunayn ibn Ishaq (808-73), a member of the Nestorian Christian sect. Arabs filled their numerous libraries with tens- or hundreds-of-thousands of books, whereas the Sorbonne in Paris could boast of a paltry two thousand as late as the fourteenth century (Huff, 1993, p. 74). Despite this clear superiority, why did modern science arise in Western Europe, and not in the Islamic world?
Some Muslim leaders, like some of their counterparts in early medieval Europe, had a low regard for the study of nature. Academic pursuits were tolerated, but learning was divided into traditional studies based on the Qur’an, and “foreign” studies based on knowledge obtained from the Greeks. Although there were Arabic rationalists, there were also those who saw in this rationalism a threat to the authority of the holy writings. A conservative reaction in the late tenth century, together with a decline in peace and prosperity, impeded further scientific advance in the Muslim world (Lindberg, 1992, pp. 180-181). According to the emerging Islamic orthodoxy, man was not a fully rational creature, and no room was allowed for a purely rational investigation of God’s creation (Huff, 1993, pp. 100,115).
It was in this very early period of decline that the baton of science began to pass gradually into the hands of the Europeans, especially those who came into contact with the wealth of Islamic knowledge in Spain. Perhaps the next most significant event was the fall of Muslim-held Toledo in 1085. Many important Arabic and classical works from its vast library were translated into Latin. Within a century, these had begun to filter into centers of learning all over Europe. They arrived at a time when scholars such as Anselm (1033-1109) already were reviving the role of reason in faith. Their arrival coincided also with the development of the university as a legal entity with political and intellectual autonomy (Huff, 1993, p. 335). No similar institution appeared in the Arabic world until the twentieth century due, in part, to the orthodox Muslim concept of nature and reason. Religious constraints also played a role in late medieval Europe, but an academic world committed to the biblical views of man’s rationality and freedom of choice provided a fertile ground for the rise of modern science.
Huff, Toby E. (1993), The Rise of Early Modern Science (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press).
Jones, W.T. (1969), The Medieval Mind (Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, second edition).
Lindberg, David C. (1992), The Beginnings of Western Science (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).
An Inspiring Glimpse into the Text of the Dead Sea Scrolls
|by||Thomas Tarpley, B.S.|
Thanks to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we are able, with greater confidence, to believe in the Bible, knowing beyond any doubt that it is authentic. The significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls, in relation to biblical studies, can be separated into different areas. In this article, I would like to examine specifically the matter of the Old Testament text. As we study that text, we find that, prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, witnesses of the Old Testament text and canon were confined mainly to the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible.
For many years, scholars doubted that extremely ancient manuscripts of the Old Testament would ever be found. Sir Frederick Kenyon, in the 1948 printing of Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, stated: “There is indeed, no probability that we shall ever find manuscripts of the Hebrew text going back to a period before the formation of the text which we know as Masoretic. We can only arrive at an idea of it by a study of the earliest translations made from it.…” Ironically, as his book was being printed, evidence that would invalidate such statements was being uncovered (see Pfeiffer, 1969).
Until the year 1947, the earliest manuscripts we possessed dated back to only around the tenth century A.D. These manuscripts composed what is known as the Masoretic Text, which was put into a fixed form in approximately A.D. 500. In the year 1947, a significant-yet-unexpected event occurred that would help document the authenticity of our present-day Bible. This special event took place in the northwestern corner of the Dead Sea, at a place known as Qumran. In a cave at Qumran, a young Bedouin boy accidentally stumbled upon a treasure trove of clay jars containing several ancient manuscripts—a find that proved to be one of the greatest discoveries of all time. These manuscripts take us back 1,000 years earlier than the Masoretic Text, to the first century B.C. The manuscripts, which are part of the Qumran library, are known collectively as the Dead Sea Scrolls. There are several lines of evidence that have put to rest the question of how old they are. This evidence was confirmed by paleography (the study and interpretations of ancient writings), orthography (the study of letters and their sequences in words), and archaeology.
Because these manuscripts have been proven to be so old, some initially questioned their quality (Geisler and Nix, 1986). Admittedly, there is indeed a scarcity of very ancient Hebrew manuscripts, due to the mere fact of how old and fragile, by necessity, they would be. Such documents would have to survive for two to three thousand years—a very long time considering the destructive nature of the elements (and man). Exactly how good, then, are the surviving manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls?
The quality of the Old Testament manuscripts from Qumran is actually very good, because there are relatively few variants in the texts. After the Masoretes copied manuscripts, they destroyed the old copies. The documents from which the Masoretes copied were handed down from two ancient sources. The first was the work of a man called Rabbi Akiba. He was a leader in the movement of biblical interpretation who, toward the end of establishing an official text, was assisted by a man named Aquila. This process of establishing an official text was completed in Palestine between the years A.D. 132-135, which was fairly close to the time the Qumran texts were written (Pfeiffer, 1969). The second source was the work of the sopherim. The termsopherim, as used in the second and third centuries, referred to the rabbis. In studying early rabbinical writings, we can see a clear picture of their work. While studying the text of Scripture that had been passed on to them, they attempted to “set” the pronunciation of certain words, and remove what they deemed insignificant pieces of the text. In the margins of the Scriptures, they made notes, indicating changes they felt should be made, and they placed points above letters or words that they thought were unneeded. Scholars are not always in agreement with the rabbis’ judgments, but the traditions they represent are helpful in the study of textual problems.
The Jews possessed a great reverence for the Bible, and as a result, they laid down numerous exact specifications for the process of copying the Scriptures. These specifications related to the kinds of skin that were to be used, the types of ink, the size of columns, the spacing of words, and the fact that nothing could be written from memory. There also was a ritual that had to be performed before they could write the name of God. The lines, and even the letters, were counted methodically. If a manuscript was found to contain even one mistake, it was systematically destroyed. This scribal formalism accounts for the extreme care in copying the Scriptures (Geisler and Nix, 1986).
In accordance with scribal formalism, the extreme care for the Scriptures was carried over to the Masoretes. The work that is associated with Akiba and the sopherim was placed into its final form by the Masoretes, whose work was completed about the tenth century. They strove diligently to preserve the text that had been handed down to them. The traditional pronunciation was indicated by a system of vowels and accents. Hebrew (along with other Semitic languages) is written with a consonantal alphabet. Numerous precautions were taken by the Masoretes to ensure the purity of the text, including such things as counting the verses, the words, and even the letters of the books of the Old Testament. The Masoretes recorded how often the same word appeared at the beginning, middle, or end of a verse. They also recorded the middle verse, middle word, and middle letter of each book. The corrections suggested by the sopherim were carefully noted in the margins, but the integrity of the text itself remained basically unaltered. We today owe a great debt to the Masoretes for their strictness and care in safeguarding the text of God’s Word so carefully for so many centuries.
Another line of evidence that supports the innate quality of the Qumran manuscripts is the duplication of passages within the Masoretic text itself. Several psalms occur more than once; much of Isaiah 36-39 is also found in 2 Kings 18-20; Isaiah 2:2-4 is parallel to Micah 4:1-3; Jeremiah 52 is a repeat of 2 Kings 25; and large parts of Chronicles are found in Samuel and Kings. When examined, these passages not only show textual agreement but, in many cases, there is word-for-word identity (see Geisler and Nix, 1986).
The nature of the Dead Sea Scrolls is crucial to the establishment and confirmation of the true text. Because the Dead Sea Scrolls contain countless fragments of every book in the Old Testament except for Esther, there are plenty of samples with which to make comparisons to the Masoretic Text. But why would we need to compare the Dead Sea Scrolls with the Masoretic Text? What would such a comparison reveal? The purpose in making such a comparison is to determine if the Dead Sea Scrolls are similar to the Masoretic Text, and if so, in what ways. The evidence of these comparisons actually ends up providing an overwhelming confirmation of the fidelity of the Masoretic Text. Millar Burrows, writing in his book, The Dead Sea Scrolls, concluded: “It is a matter of wonder that through something like a thousand years the text underwent so little alteration. As I said in my first article on the scroll, ‘Herein lies its chief importance, supporting the fidelity of the Masoretic tradition’ ” (1955, p. 304).
Other scholars have noted that the differences between the standard text of A.D. 900 and the text from 100 B.C. are extremely minor. Gleason Archer, in his work, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, observed that two copies of Isaiah from cave 1 of Qumran “proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95% of the text. The 5% of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling” (1974, p. 44). Further studies have supported the conclusion that the Dead Sea Scrolls are very similar to the Masoretic Text, which leads us to conclude that today’s Hebrew text faithfully represents the original as was written by the authors of the Old Testament.
There are other lines of evidence that I will not have the space to discuss in this brief article, such as support from archeology, the close parallel between the LXX and the Masoretic Text, and the agreement of the Qumran manuscripts with the Samaritan Pentateuch. As a result of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, scholars now have access to ancient Hebrew manuscripts that are 1,000 years older than the Masoretic Text manuscripts, which has enabled scholars to confirm the incredible accuracy of the Hebrew Text. In fact, a comparison of the standard Hebrew texts with that of the Dead Sea scrolls has revealed that the two are virtually identical. The variations (about 5%) occurred only in minor spelling differences and minute copyists’ mistakes. Thus, as Rene Paché noted: “Since it can be demonstrated that the text of the old Testament was accurately transmitted for the last 2,000 years, one may reasonably suppose that it had been so transmitted from the beginning” (1971, p. 191).
By way of conclusion, we may observe that all the thousands of Hebrew manuscripts (in whole or in part), with their confirmation by the LXX and the Samaritan Pentateuch, as well as the numerous cross references from without and within the text, give overwhelming evidence for the reliability of the Old Testament text. Therefore, it is safe to conclude, as did Sir Frederick Kenyon, that “the Christian can take the whole Bible in his hand and say without fear or hesitation that he holds in it the true word of God, handed down without essential loss from generation to generation throughout the centuries” (1948, p. 55).
Alexander, David and Pat Alexander, eds. (1973), Eerdmans’ Handbook to the Bible (Oxford, England: Lion Publishing).
Archer, Gleason (1974), Survey of Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody), revised edition.
Burrows, Millar (1958), The Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: Viking).
Geisler, Norman L. and William E. Nix (1986), A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Kenyon, Frederick (1948), Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts (New York: Harper).
Paché, Rene (1971), The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Pfeiffer, Charles F. (1969), The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
A Higher Law
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Concomitant with the decline of the American Republic with its inherent Christian connections, has been the infiltration of various segments of society, education foremost among them, by alternative philosophies and ideologies. Indeed, though once considered unthinkable, atheism and evolution have now achieved respectability within academia. The implications of these false systems of belief are sinister and destructive to civil (i.e., Christian) society. As French existentialist philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre, openly acknowledged:
Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself.... Nor, on the other hand, if God does not exist, are we provided with any values or commands that could legitimize our behavior (1961, p. 485, emp. added).
Or, to put it in the words of prominent evolutionist, Richard Dawkins:
I am not advocating a morality based on evolution. I am saying how things have evolved. I am not saying how we humans morally ought to behave.... My own feeling is that a human society based simply on the gene’s law of universal ruthless selfishness would be a very nasty society in which to live. But unfortunately, however much we may deplore something, it does not stop it being true (1989, pp. 2,3, emp. added).
So if atheism, and its sinister protégé, evolution, are true, no higher standard for human behavior exists than human opinion, genetic tendency, and subjective inclination—animalistic impulse.
But such thinking is utter nonsense. No sane evolutionist would want to live in a society where the behavioral implications of his theory are enacted on a thoroughgoing, widespread scale. Yet, atheists and evolutionists continue their propaganda campaign to eradicate Christian principles from civilization. Tragically, the gradual encroachment of atheistic morality is evident in American society. Not only have crime statistics exploded since the systematic elimination of God and Christianity from public schools commenced in the 1960s, many immoral behaviors are openly, blatantly vying for legal and social sanction—from same-sex marriage, polygamy, and abortion to gambling, suicide, and a host of other evils.
No atheist or evolutionist desires to embrace the logical outcome of his godless philosophy. He seeks to distance himself from those moments in history where atheistic ideology has managed to assert itself over a society. One stark example is seen in the rise of the Nazis and their Third Reich in 1930s Germany. Their agenda included the persecution and elimination of Christian and Jewish elements of society. When their regime came crashing down and they were called before the world’s tribunal, one of their attempts to justify themselves was that they were merely obeying the law of the land. They insisted that they all had to obey Hitler’s orders, which had the force of law in the German state, and, hence, obedience could not be made the basis of a criminal charge. Dr. Stahmer, the defense attorney for Hitler’s “Successor Designate No. 1,” Hermann Goering, articulated the point on July 4, 1946 at the Nuremburg Trials in Nuremburg, Germany:
From whence will they [the victorious Allies—DM] take the standard by which to decide about justice and injustice in a legal sense? In so far as such standards exist by International Law, valid up to now, further statements are not required. That a special court for the trial was created by the Charter of this Tribunal I also do not object to. I must, however, vigorously protest against its use, in so far as it is meant to create a new material law by threatening punishment for crimes which, at the time of their perpetration, at least as far as individuals are concerned, did not carry any punishment.... Can one expect that hereafter punishment will be recognized as just, if the culprit was never aware of it, because at the time he was not threatened with such punishment, and he believed to be able to derive the authorisation for his way of acting solely from the political aims pursued?... Because internationally recognized standards outside the positive International Law by which the legitimacy of States and of their aims could have been judged did not exist, any more than did an international community as such. Slogans about the legitimacy of one’s own and of the illegitimacy of foreign aspirations served only the formation of political fronts just as the efforts to brand political adversaries as disturbers of the peace. In any casethey did, indeed, not create law (The Trial of..., 1946b, 18:106-107, emp. added).
In his final argument, Dr. Stahmer further asserted that Germany was operating under a dictator: “A dictator does not enter into a conspiracy with followers, he does not make any agreement with them, he dictates” (1946b, 18:111). Hitler was the law of Germany. Hence, what right did America, Britain, or Russia (the Allied powers) have to call the Nazis to account for their actions? What standard of behavior, what law code, could possibly justify their condemnation of the Nazis? How could Nazis be judged on the basis of American, British, or Russian law, seeing they were Germans—not Americans, British, or Russians? Atheists, humanists, materialists, and evolutionists can offer no legitimate answer to these questions. The very nature of their viewpoint militates against the existence of objective, absolute morality. Indeed, to the evolutionist, morality can be nothing more than a function of the human mind—an expression of personal taste, likes, and dislikes.
U.S. Supreme Court justice, and U.S. Chief of Counsel for the prosecution (Chief Prosecutor) of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, Robert Jackson, made the following observation in his opening remarks on November 21, 1945: “The Charter of this Tribunal evidences a faith that the law is not only to govern the conduct of little men, but that even rulers are, as Lord Chief Justice Coke [said] to King James, ‘under God and the law’” (The Trial of..., 1946a, 1:78, emp. added). Similarly, on July 27, 1946, Sir Hartley Shawcross, Chief Prosecutor of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, asserted the fundamental basis for human behavior: “Ultimately the rights of men,made as all men are made in the image of God, are fundamental” (The Trial of..., 1946d, 19:470, emp. added).
On Friday, July 26, 1946, Jackson included the following comments in his closing arguments:
As a Military Tribunal, this Tribunal is a continuation of the war effort of the Allied nations. As an International Tribunal, it is not bound by the procedural and substantive refinements of our respective judicial or constitutional systems, nor will its rulings introduce precedents into any country’s internal system of civil justice. As an International Military Tribunal, it rises above the provincial and transient and seeks guidance not only from international law but also from the basic principles of jurisprudence which are assumptions of civilization and which long have found embodiment in the codes of all nations (The Trial of..., 1946c, 19:383, July 26, emp. added).
The only legal guidance and authority that transcends international law, which is responsible for the moral assumptions of civilization as embodied in the codes of all nations, and which rises above “the provincial and transient” (geographical locale and time), is the law of God! Here is the only basis upon which human behavior may be rightly measured.
Atheists typically define morality in terms of “minimizing harm and pain,” and then insist that humans naturally possess an inherent recognition of morality—mores that have characterized human civilization throughout history. But this vague, ambiguous attempt to evade the existence of objective morality will not do. World-renowned atheist, Antony Flew, attempted this sleight of hand in his debate with Thomas B. Warren in 1976, when he insisted that the Nazis were tried for their crimes on the basis of “International” law (p. 248). Observe that this quibble side-steps the real issue, for at least three reasons: (1) There is no such thing as “International” law, since the entire international community has never established a single law code that can be bound on all countries. Even the United Nations lacks any such law code. Nor would they ever come to an agreement on one, if they tried! (2) Even if all nations on Earth somehow united to reach consensus on right and wrong, what right would those nations’ representatives have to imposetheir standard of behavior on all humans? (3) And, further, even if one generation of world leaders defined right and wrong for the entire world, what would prevent the next generation of world leaders from meeting and overturning that standard? All subsequent moral frameworks and law codes would be just as legitimate as the first one—though they may differ with each other in numerous instances. In the specific case of the Nazis, if some later tribunal convened to revisit the Nuremberg verdicts, and decided to overturn those decisions and declare to the world that the Nazis’ actions were actually noble, heroic, and moral—would their action make it so? If there is no God, the atheist must answer, “Yes.”
The Founders of the American Republic insisted that human government must be established on unchanging moral principles that transcend human opinions and feelings. These unchanging moral principles are derived from and based upon the unchanging laws of God—what the Founders styled in the Declaration of Independence: “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” AsConstitution signer and U.S. Supreme Court Justice James Wilson expressed: “Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is Divine” (1804, 1:105). Or asConstitution signer Alexander Hamilton insisted: “The law...dictated by God Himself is, of course, superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times. No human laws are of any validity if contrary to this” (1961, 1:87). Noah Webster said it so well when he observed that “our citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament, or the Christian religion” (1832, p. 6).
The truth is that all human behavior that conflicts with the law of God is sin (1 John 3:4)—the only moral evil. Any civilization that jettisons this objective standard of morality is committing ultimate, national suicide. That society is leaving itself open to unimaginable horror—the natural consequence that logically follows from the expulsion of God from the minds of the citizens. Atheism, if honestly applied, must inevitably result in hedonism. The psalmist certainly connected the dots:
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; There is none who does good (Psalm 53:1).
The solution? Citizens must return to the founding principles: God exists, the Bible is the Word of God, Christianity is the one true religion, and citizens must govern themselves by Christian moral principles.
Dawkins, Richard (1989), The Selfish Gene (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Hamilton, Alexander (1961), The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Harold Syrett (New York: Columbia University Press).
Sartre, Jean Paul, (1961), “Existentialism and Humanism,” French Philosophers from Descartes to Sartre, ed. Leonard M. Marsak (New York: Meridian).
The Trial of German Major War Criminals (1946a), 2nd Day: Wednesday, 21st November, 1945, (Vol. 1, Part 7 of 8), (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office), http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/imt/tgmwc/tgmwc-01/tgmwc-01-02-07.html.
The Trial of German Major War Criminals (1946b), 187th Day: Thursday, 4th July, 1946, (Vol. 18, Part 7 of 8), (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office), http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/imt/tgmwc/tgmwc-18/tgmwc-18-171-07.shtml.
The Trial of German Major War Criminals (1946c), 187th Day: Friday, 26th July, 1946, (Vol. 19, Part 1 of 12), (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office), http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/imt/tgmwc/tgmwc-19/tgmwc-19-187-01.shtml.
The Trial of German Major War Criminals (1946d), 188th Day: Saturday, 27th July, 1946, (Vol. 19, Part 8 of 8), (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office), http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/imt/tgmwc/tgmwc-19/tgmwc-19-188-08.shtml.
Warren, Thomas and Antony Flew (1976), The Warren-Flew Debate on the Existence of God, Creation and Evolution (Ramer, TN: National Christian Press). http://www.nationalchristianpress.net/NCPcatalog.pdf.
Webster, Noah (1832), History of the United States (New Haven, CT: Durrie & Peck).
Wilson, James (1804), The Works of the Honourable James Wilson, ed. Bird Wilson (Philadelphia, PA: Lorenzo Press).
“The Man Upstairs”
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Maybe you have been in a conversation when a person used the phrase “the Man upstairs.” In fact, it might be the case that you have used it yourself. Most people understand that this phrase is supposed to refer to God. The famous country singer Garth Brooks performed a song, titled “Unanswered Prayers,” in which he referred to God as “the Man upstairs.” Let’s consider some possible implications that this idea may contain.
There seems to be a human tendency to view God as “the Big Man,” or “the Man upstairs,” and attribute to Him human qualities. Most of the time, when a person uses such phrases, that person attributes to God more power than other men, and places God higher (upstairs) than other men, but still views God as some kind of giant, powerful Man. In fact, the Greek and Roman religions took the “Man upstairs” idea to its logical conclusion and attributed to their gods personalities and character flaws that were seen in mere men. The pagan deities lied, cheated, stole, consorted, and murdered like “little” humans, only their dastardly deeds were perceived to be on a cosmic scale.
In truth, the Bible paints a very different picture of God than is contained in the thought of “the Man upstairs.” The Bible repeatedly insists that God is not a man. In Numbers 23:19, in an inspired oracle, Balak stated: “God is not a man, that He should lie.” The prophet Isaiah wrote: “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (55:8-9). The true God of heaven is nothing like the ancient pagan deities with their lies and hypocrisy. The God of heaven “cannot lie” (Titus 1: 2), nor can He even be tempted with evil (James 1:13). In fact, God is perfect in every way, “a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4).
While it is true that the Bible sometimes describes God with human traits (called anthropomorphisms), like having hands or eyes, it is not true that God is just a bigger, higher Man. He is altogether perfect, “Whose judgments are unsearchable and Whose ways are past finding out” (Romans 11:33). Let us always bear in mind as we approach our God in worship and prayer, that we are approaching the Perfect God of Heaven “to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11).
[NOTE: Of course we understand that Jesus was called the Son of Man, and became a Man. Unlike other men, however, Jesus lived a perfect life and never sinned. This brief article is solely intended to encourage us not to view God as having the same character flaws, failings, and limitations as men and to refer to him in an accurate, reverent way.]
Did God Seduce Mary?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Recently we received an e-mail at Apologetics Press from a skeptic who accused God of breaking one of His own commandments. The skeptic cited Exodus 20:17, which is the final commandment in the list of the Ten Commandments, that states: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.” The skeptic then stated that “God most certainly wronged Joseph when He seduced Mary, the betrothed of Joseph.” Did God violate His own laws of morality when the Holy Spirit came upon Mary so that she conceived Jesus? Not in any way.
First, it must be stated emphatically that there was no sexual seduction of any kind involved in the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb. In fact, that is just the point of the miraculous, virgin birth of Christ. Hundreds of years before Christ was conceived in the flesh, the prophet Isaiah had stated: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear and Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). The New Testament writers stressed the fact that Mary was a virgin when Christ was conceived (Matthew 1:23). When the angel announced to Mary that she would conceive a child, she said: “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” Mary’s response makes it clear that there was no seduction involved. Instead, it was a miraculous conception that had nothing to do with sexual intercourse. Mary remained a virgin until after giving birth to Jesus, at which time Mary and her husband Joseph came together in marital relations and conceived several other children (Pinedo, 2009).
Notice the skeptic attempts to lump Jehovah God in with the grotesquely immoral pagan gods whose seductions and sexual perversions fill the pages of ancient mythology. Zeus, the “father of the gods” was a mythological deity whose sexual appetite and rapine seductions were all too well known. During some of his more infamous escapades he seduced Europa by turning himself into a white bull, running off with her on his back, and ravishing her on the isle of Crete. He had an affair with Io and then turned her into a heifer. He seduced Semele and eventually killed her by showing her his full, godly glory. These are but a few of Zeus’ “conquests” (Hunt, n.d).
Only the most prejudiced reader would attempt to relate the conception of Jesus to the seductions perpetrated by the pagans gods. In the historical account of Jesus’ conception there is no contact by God in any type of physical form with Mary. Mary was completely aware of how babies are normally conceived, yet she stressed the fact that she had been involved in no physical, sexual activity that would bring about pregnancy. The biblical text emphatically states that Mary was a virgin when she conceived and gave birth to Jesus. Mary was not seduced, violated, ravished, or involved in any sexual way with Jehovah. In a miraculous event that had nothing to do with sexual seduction, the Holy Spirit “came upon her” (Luke 1:35), and brought about the conception of the Messiah. The skeptic has no legitimate grounds to accuse Jehovah God of immorality in His interaction with Mary. Such an accusation truly reveals more about what is in the sinful heart of the skeptic than it does about God’s character.
Hunt, J.M, (No date), “Zeus Lovers,” http://edweb.sdsu.edu/people/bdodge/scaffold/gg/zeuslover.html.
Pinedo, Moisés (2009), “Was Mary a Virgin Her Whole Life?,” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=105&article=2665.
"No Dinosaur…Ever Breathed Fire"
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
In a book he authored in 1998 titled The Genesis Question, well-known progressive creationist Hugh Ross ridiculed the idea that behemoth and leviathan were dinosaurs. According to Ross, “No creatures on Earth, alive or extinct, fit the literal descriptions” of the animals that God described to the patriarch Job in Job 40:15-41:34. Furthermore, “No dinosaur…ever breathed fire or smoke or had bones of iron and brass” (p. 48). Ross has chosen to believe that the magnificent creatures described by God in His second speech to Job were the hippopotamus and the crocodile.
Like so many professed Christians who have attempted to amalgamate the long evolutionary ages with the biblical account of Creation, Ross’ reservations to accept the likelihood of behemoth being a dinosaur and leviathan being a dinosaur-like, water-living reptile are not the result of a sensible, judicious exegesis of the biblical text. A man who believes that dinosaurs “dominated the Earth’s land and sea life from 250 million to 65 million years ago” (p. 48), and that “no credible evidence whatever suggests the coexistence of primates and the great dinosaurs” (p. 49), obviously will have a difficult time accepting that behemoth and leviathan, which lived as the same time as Job, were dinosaurs. [For information on the cohabitation of humans and dinosaurs, see Harrub and Thompson, 2003. For a discussion on the reality and the identity of behemoth and leviathan, see Lyons, 2001.]
Two of the main reasons Ross gives for rejecting the dinosaur-like features of these creatures are: (1) “no creatures on Earth, alive or extinct, fit the literal descriptions;” and (2) “no dinosaur…ever breathed fire or smoke.” According to Ross, these “facts” present a problem when Bible students understand these creatures as being dinosaurs.
I have two questions for Dr. Ross, which I wonder if he could answer for us. First, although admittedly no creature alive today fits the “literal descriptions” of leviathan and behemoth, how can Ross confidently assert that no extinct animal resembles the description of behemoth or leviathan? How does Ross know what every creature that ever has walked on Earth looked like? How does he know what feats they were able to perform? Ross might suggest: “But common sense tells us no creature had ribs of “iron” or bones of “brass” (cf. Job 40:18). Agreed. But, by employing such metaphors and similes, any reasonable Bible student can understand that God was stressing the fact that behemoth’s bones were extremely solid—like they were made of solid metal. Interestingly, although dinosaurs had the largest, most massive bones of any known animal that has ever walked this Earth (e.g., one fossilized Argentinosaurus vertebra was five feet high and five feet wide—see Meyer, 2002), and even though they are known to have the most massive tails of any animal ever known (e.g., the 40-foot-long tail of Diplodocus), which could reasonably be likened to a “cedar” (Job 40:17), Ross has chosen rather to believe that behemoth was a hippo—an animal with a tail shorter than many dogs and cats.
A second question I wish Hugh Ross could answer for us is how he can be so certain that “no dinosaur…ever breathed fire or smoke.” By his own admission, Ross never has seen a dinosaur (he believes they became extinct 65 million years ago), and thus obviously he never has observed every dinosaur or dinosaur-like creature that ever walked on land or swam in the oceans. Truly, as Henry Morris observed in his book Biblical Basis for Modern Science: “To say that the leviathan could not have breathed fire is to say much more than we know about leviathans (or water dragons or sea serpents)” (1984, p. 359). When a person considers that electric eels can produce enough electricity (500-600 volts) to stun a horse without ever shocking itself, that anglerfish and fireflies can produce “light,” that the komodo dragon can store deadly bacteria inside its own mouth, and that bombardier beetles can produce a stream of noxious gas that can be expelled from their bodies at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, it is not difficult to accept the possibility that certain dinosaurs or dinosaur-like, water-living reptiles were capable of expelling certain hot gaseous fumes that might briefly ignite.
Hugh Ross, it seems, has forgotten that all animals, including the dinosaurs, were designed and created by God on days five and six of Creation. If Jehovah wanted to create one or more dinosaurs that could expel fire, smoke, or some deadly chemical out of their mouths without harming themselves, He certainly could have done so. Bearing in mind the way that He described leviathan to Job in Job 41:18-21, and considering that many secular stories have circulated for millennia that describe “fiery dragons,” it is logical to conclude that He did create such creatures. It seems fitting to ask Dr. Ross the same rhetorical question God asked Abraham long ago: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14). Who is Ross to say that “no dinosaur…ever breathed fire”?
Harrub, Brad and Bert Thompson (2003), “Walking Amidst the Dinosaurs,” Reason and Revelation, [On-line], URL: https://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=9&article=37.
Lyons, Eric (2001), “Behemoth and Leviathan—Creatures of Controversy,” Reason & Revelation, 21:1-7, January, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/154.
Meyer, Pedro (2002), “Does the Original Matter?” WashingtonPost.com, [On-line], URL: http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/photo/essays/zonezero/jan_02.htm.
Morris, Henry M. (1984), Biblical Basis for Modern Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Ross, Hugh (1998), The Genesis Question (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress).
“You Cannot Legislate Morality!”
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The CEO of a major American corporation was forced to resign after admitting to a sexual affair with a female subordinate (Merle, 2005). The incident triggered the oft’-debated ethical question: “Should one’s personal behavior in moral matters have any bearing on one’s position in public life?” Conventional wisdom now says, “no.” You’ve heard the claims—over and over again ad nauseam: “What a person does on his own time is none of the company’s business.” “Public life and private life are separate issues.” “After all, you cannot legislate morality and personal behavior.” From the president of the United States and the CEO of a large corporation to the public school teacher, Americans in large numbers have swallowed the baseless and ludicrous assertion that personal conduct and moral choices have no bearing on one’s employment position and credibility. Character, integrity, and ethical behavior increasingly have been detached from job performance as people compartmentalize their lives into separate and distinct spheres.
But such ethical schizophrenia is irrational, nonsensical, and destructive to the fabric of society. When a person manifests immorality in one aspect of his life, he demonstrates a character flaw that has become a part of his being. This circumstance must inevitably and naturally permeate a person’s character. If he is willing to lie in his private life, logically his propensity for lying can know no boundaries. The person who becomes comfortable with lying in one area of his life will eventually feel comfortable lying in other areas as well. Once a person sacrifices her integrity by embracing one illicit behavior (e.g., lying), she instantaneously opens herself up to embracing additional illicit behaviors (e.g., stealing, cheating). If a man cannot be trusted with your wife, why would you trust him with your money or your business?
God’s Word is the only reliable guide for human behavior (Psalm 119). In the Bible, God has given rules for the regulation of human behavior. Only He is in a position to establish the parameters of proper behavior. Without law, humans would have no guidance and no framework for assessing their actions. They would be free to conduct themselves in any manner whatsoever. One person may choose to murder while another may choose not to murder. There would be no ultimate difference between those two choices—no objective basis upon which to assign any ethical or moral significance. The person who engages in immoral behavior would be open to being immoral in any and every area of his or her life. Only incidental circumstances would decide when and where the immorality manifested itself. If a CEO would sacrifice his sexual integrity, given the right circumstances, he would be willing to sacrifice his financial integrity as well.
Human civilization is, in fact, grounded and dependent on the fundamental principle that human behavior can and must be regulated. Laws, by definition, regulate human behavior! Why do we have traffic laws? Why do we require people to drive their automobiles on the correct side of the road, stop at red traffic lights, or yield to pedestrians in crosswalks? Weren’t we told that we could not legislate human behavior? Why do we have laws governing the food industry’s handling of food for human consumption? I thought we could not legislate human behavior? Why do we have laws that make murder, stealing, and perjury in court illegal—if human morality cannot be legislated? The fact of the matter is that human behavior can and must be governed. The very fabric and functioning of society depends on it!
Ultimately, morality must be based on the laws of God, with the understanding that one day all humans will stand before the Supreme Judge of the world Who will “render to each one according to his deeds” (Romans 2:6): “For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:14). “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:10-11).
Merle, Renae (2005), “Boeing CEO Resigns Over Affair with Subordinate,” Washington Post, Tuesday, March 8, [On-line], URL: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A13173-2005Mar7.html.
Elijah and the Droughtby Eric Lyons, M.Min.
Twice in the New Testament one can read of the drought of Eljiah’s day that lasted for three and a half years. Jesus once referred to this famine while addressing fellow Jews in His hometown of Nazareth (Luke 4:25-26), while James mentioned it near the end of his epistle (5:17-18). Some have a problem with the drought of “three years and six months,” because 1 Kings 18:1 says: “The word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, ‘Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth’” (emp. added). Soon thereafter, “there was a heavy rain” (18:45; cf. 18:15). The question is, did the rain come “in the third year” (1 Kings 18:1, emp. added) or after “three years and six months” (Luke 4:25; James 5:17)?
Previously, in 1 Kings 17:1, Elijah had prophesied to Ahab that “there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.” Afterward, God instructed Elijah to “turn eastward and hide by the Brook Cherith” (17:3). There he lived, eating the bread and meat that ravens brought him twice a day, until “the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land” (17:7). God then sent Elijah to Zarephath to live with a widow and her son. After the child became sick and died, Elijah raised him from the dead (17:17-24). Immediately following this event, the inspired historian wrote: “And it came to pass after many days that the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth” (18:1, emp. added).
Those who contend that Luke 4:25 and James 5:17 contradict 1 Kings 18:1 (cf. Matheney and Honeycutt, 1970, 3:210)assume that “in the third year” refers to the drought. Yet, no proof exists for such an interpretation. First Kings 18:1 does not say, “...in the third year of the drought,” but only “in the third year.” Considering both the immediate context and the fact that originally there was no chapter break separating 1 Kings 17:24 and 18:1, the most natural reading is that Elijah was “in the third year” of his residence in Zarephath. Elijah, the widow, and her household ate of the miraculously replenished flour for “(many) days” (17:8-15, ASV). Some time later Elijah revived the widow’s son. Then, “it came to pass after many days that the word of the Lord came to Elijah” (18:1, emp. added). It is reasonable to conclude that Elijah spent more than two years in Zarephath, since it was “in the third year” that God sent Elijah away from Zarephath to confront Ahab.
The “three years and six months” to which Jesus and James referred includes the two-plus years Elijah was in Zarephath and the several months Elijah lived at Brook Cherith. Although skeptics would rather assume guilt on the part of the inspired historian, Jesus, and/or James, once again they are unable to present real evidence for a genuine Bible contradiction.
Matheney, M. Pierce and Roy L. Honeycutt, Jr. (1970), Broadman Bible Commentary: 1 Samuel-Nehemiah, ed. Clifton J. Allen (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press).