"THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES" The Preacher's Observations - I (3:1-4:16) INTRODUCTION 1. In Ecclesiastes, we find the question raised: "What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?" - 1:3 a. The key phrase is "under the sun" b. I.e., what profit is there in life when viewed from an earthly perspective? c. I.e., what value is there in our labor when we fail to consider God's will in life? -- We have seen the answer given by the Preacher: "All is vanity" - 1:2,14 2. How did he reach this conclusion? a. Based upon personal experience - 1:1-2:26 b. Also from personal observations - 3:1-6:12 3. Our previous lessons examined the experiences of the Preacher... a. Now we begin to note his observations b. In which he also shares his wisdom for living "under the sun" [His conclusion that life "under the sun" was vanity was partly reached by observing...] I. THE INEXPLICABLE PURPOSE OF GOD A. ALL THINGS SERVE GOD'S DIVINE PURPOSE... 1. "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven" - 3:1-8 2. "He has made everything beautiful in its time." - 3:11a 3. "...whatever God does, it shall be forever...' - 3:14-15 B. YET MAN IS UNABLE TO FIND OUT GOD'S PURPOSE... 1. God has put it in man to search out this purpose - 3:9-11a 2. But "no one can find out the work that God has done" - 3:11b C. WHY GOD ACTS THIS WAY... 1. "God does it, that men should fear before Him" - 3:14c 2. I.e., to reverence God, and therefore seek to please Him - cf. Ac 17:26-27 a. God has made man an inquisitive creature b. He has also made life such that we are always seeking for something better, or for some purpose -- Hopefully, we will keep seeking until we find Him! D. THE PREACHER'S CONCLUSION... 1. There is nothing better than to: a. "Rejoice and do good" - 3:12 b. "Eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor" - 3:13a 2. Yet the ability to do so is "the gift of God" - 3:13b a. So one must be in favor with God b. Knowing that God will require an account of our actions - 3:15b; cf. 11:9; 12:14 [Without revelation, we cannot discern God's purposes; without His blessing, we cannot enjoy the good of our labor. Therefore any effort to live without God can only be vanity as we will find His purposes inexplicable. The Preacher's conclusion about the vanity of life was also reinforced by observing...] II. THE INJUSTICE AND OPPRESSION OF MEN A. WHAT THE PREACHER SAW... 1. Wickedness in the place of justice - 3:16 2. Power on the side of the oppressor, with no comfort for the oppressed - 4:1 -- Prompting him to think the dead were better than the living, even better those who had never lived - 4:2-3 B. WHAT THE PREACHER REASONED IN HIS HEART... 1. God will judge the righteous and the wicked - 3:17a 2. God will somehow use injustice and wickedness in carrying out His purpose - 3:17b (e.g., just as God used Assyria and Babylon to discipline Israel) 3. God allows injustice to test the sons of men - 3:18-21 a. To help them see that they are like beasts, in that they will die and their bodies return to dust b. While they are also different from beasts, in that their spirit returns to God who gave it - cf. 12:7 C. WHAT THE PREACHER CONCLUDED... 1. Once again, the value of rejoicing in one's own works - 3:22a 2. For this is what God allots him, not what may happen on earth after he is gone - 3:22b [In the remaining part of this section (3:1-4:16), we find the Preacher making various comments, which may be summarized as following...] III. THE VANITY OF SKILLFUL AND SELFISH WORK A. IT CAN BREED ENVY IN OTHERS... 1. He saw how that skillful work causes one to be envied by his neighbor - 4:4 2. While it is foolish to fold one's hands and do nothing, acquiring too much is not worth the effort for it really does not satisfy - 4:5-6 3. What is best is to have little with quietness and contentment - cf. Pr 15:16-17 B. ESPECIALLY IF ONE IS ALL ALONE... 1. The Preacher saw one with no companion, neither son nor brother - 4:7-8 a. Who is never satisfied (indeed he can't be, cf. Ec 5:10) b. And doesn't think for whom he is laboring - cf. Ec 2:18-19 2. It is much better to have friends - 4:9-12 a. Who can help each other in their labor b. Who can help each other when they fall c. Who can help each other withstand forces of opposition C. AND POPULARITY IS SUCH A FLEETING THING... 1. It is better to a poor and wise youth, than an old foolish king - 4:13 2. For despite rising from poverty and prison to become king, the people will eventually prefer another much younger than he - 4:14-16 CONCLUSION 1. The Preacher's observations about the vanity of life, along with wisdom for living "under the sun" will continue in succeeding chapters 2. But we have seen in this study... a. Why he reached his conclusions about the vanity of life 1) The inexplicable purposes of God 2) The injustice and oppression of men 3) The vanity of skillful and selfish toil b. What wisdom he offers for living "under the sun" 1) It is best to rejoice, do good, and enjoy the good of one's labor, realizing that such is a gift of God to those who please Him 2) To appreciate the value of friends who can help us in time of work and need 3. As Christians today, we may be perplexed at times concerning the workings of God... a. But we have the assurance that all things work for good for them who love God and are called according to His purpose - Ro 8:28 b. We have the family of God to help us in our labor and in time of need - cf. 1Th 5:11 And of course, there is no greater friend, than the One who is the ultimate end of all God's purposes in this world: Jesus Christ! (cf. Ep 1:9-10). Through Him we can "obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (He 4:15-16). Are you a friend of Jesus? Remember then what He said: "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you." - Jn 15:14 Let Jesus be your friend by obeying His will! - cf. Mt 28:19-20
"THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES" The Preacher's Search For Meaning - II (2:1-26) INTRODUCTION 1. Our previous lesson noted how the Preacher began his search for meaning in life a. Observing the futility seen in the cycles of nature and life - 1:4-11 b. Beginning with human wisdom - 1:12-18 1) Having already been blessed with great wisdom from God 2) Which he used to search out the value of human wisdom 2. His conclusion concerning such wisdom in providing the answer? a. Trying to find the answer in human wisdom was "grasping for the wind" - 1:17 b. Such wisdom was the source of much grief and sorrow - 1:18 3. So he began to look elsewhere, and in the second chapter we read... a. Of his efforts to explore the value of mirth, pleasure, wine, folly b. Of his search to find meaning in the acquisition of wealth and in great accomplishments [Did he find the answer there? If not, what conclusions did he reach? In this lesson we shall simply allow the Preacher to tell us for himself. We first note how...] I. THE PREACHER TESTED LIFE A. HE SUMMARIZES WHAT HE FOUND... 1. Mirth and pleasure is vanity - 2:1 2. Laughter is madness, mirth accomplishes little if anything - 2:2 B. HE DESCRIBES WHAT HE DID... 1. He experimented with wine and folly - 2:3 a. Using the wisdom he had b. For he was seeking to find what was truly good for people to do "under heaven all the days of their lives" 2. He made many things - 2:4-6 a. Such as houses, vineyards, gardens, orchards, water pools b. Notice also 1Ki 7:1-12; 9:15-19 3. He acquired whatever he desired - 2:5-8 a. Such as servants, livestock, silver, gold, treasures, singers, and "the delights of the sons of men" (concubines or musical instruments? cf. NIV, NASB, NKJV) b. Notice 1Ki 9:28; 10:10,14,21,27; 11:1-3 4. He became great and seemed to be happy - 2:9-10 a. Greater than any before him, while maintaining his wisdom b. Having all his eyes and heart desired, finding enjoyment in his labor C. HIS CONCLUSION FROM WHAT HE DID... 1. Upon reflection, looking back at what he did - 2:11a 2. He concluded: a. "All was vanity, and grasping for the wind." - 2:11b c. "There was no profit under the sun." - 2:11c [The conclusion drawn by the Preacher may seem strange, when he admitted that he found joy in his labor (2:10). But when we consider what he says next, we begin to understand why after his great experiment...] II. THE PREACHER HATED LIFE A. AFTER REFLECTING UPON WISDOM, MADNESS, AND FOLLY... 1. Realizing his unique opportunity (who can do more than what he has done?), he considered the relative merits of wisdom, madness, and folly - 2:12 2. He saw that wisdom was better than folly - 2:13-14a a. Just as light is better than darkness b. At least the wise man can see where he is going 3. But ultimately the advantage of human wisdom is vanity! - 2:14b-16 a. For both the wise man and the fool die b. After death, there is no more remembrance of the wise than of the fool 4. Thus the Preacher hated life, because all the work done "under the sun"... a. Was grievous to him b. Vanity and grasping for the wind - 2:17 B. AFTER REFLECTING UPON HIS WEALTH... 1. He came to hate his labor - 2:18-19 a. Because he must leave it to one after him b. Who knows whether those who inherit will be wise or foolish? - cf. Solomon's son, Rehoboam, 1Ki 12:1-19 c. In either case, someone else will rule over all the results of his labor! 2. He came to despair of all his labor "under the sun" - 2:20-23 a. For a man with wisdom, knowledge and skill must leave his heritage to one who has not labored for it b. He did not think this right ("this also is a vanity and a great evil") c. In the end, what does he have for all his efforts? 1) Sorrowful days, restless nights 2) Grievous work, leading to vanity [Looking at life "under the sun", trying to find meaning in this life for all of one's labors, the Preacher came to hate and despair of all his great efforts. But as he said, "my wisdom remained with me" (2:9). With that wisdom he shares for the first time what one should do in life. As he does so, we see that...] III. THE PREACHER ACCEPTED LIFE A. MAN SHOULD SEEK TO ENJOY THE GOOD IN HIS LABOR... 1. There is nothing better, a conclusion he will draw six times - 2:24a; cf. 3:12-13; 3:22; 5:18-19; 8:15; 9:7-9 2. Note carefully: a. The Preacher is NOT promoting the fatalist view of "Let's eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." b. He is saying to enjoy what you do and what God has given you - cf. 1Ti 6:17 B. THE ABILITY TO ENJOY ONE'S LABOR IS A GIFT FROM GOD... 1. He saw that the ability to enjoy one's labor is a gift from God - 2:24b 2. For no one can truly enjoy life without God - 2:25 (cf. footnote, NIV, NASB) a. To those good in his sight, God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy - 2:26a b. To the sinner, God gives the work of gathering and collecting - 2:26b 1) To give to the one who is good before God - cf. Pr 28:8 2) For the sinner, his work therefore becomes (to him) vanity and grasping for the wind! - cf. 6:1-2 -- Yes, some are very successful in accumulating wealth, but for what end? CONCLUSION 1. For the first time, the Preacher has introduced God into the picture 2. Up to now, he has looked at life "under the sun" without God... a. He has sought for meaning through wisdom, folly, madness, pleasure and wealth b. Even when successful, the realities of life and death can cause one to hate life -- He could only conclude that "under the sun" all is vanity and grasping for wind 3. But now, with God giving wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man... a. One can enjoy the good in his labor b. A purpose and meaning for life is now possible That purpose and meaning for life will be developed further as we make our way through the book. In the meantime, since "God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight" (2:26), have you consider what is essential to please Him? One begins with faith... "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (He 11:6)
The Quran: the Sun Sets in a Mud Puddle?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The Quran contains a considerable amount of uninspired folklore from Jewish (and other) sources. It also occasionally incorporates elements of mythology and fairytale in its pages. In a surah that Muslim sources identify as one in which Muhammad answered questions designed by Jewish rabbis to challenge his prophethood (Pickthall, n.d., pp. 211-212), the Quran relates the story of Dhu‘l-Qarneyn—“The Two-Horned One.” In conveying the story, the Quran gives credence to the outrageous superstition that the Sun sets in a mud puddle:
They will ask thee of Dhu’l-Qarneyn. Say: I shall recite unto you a remembrance of him. Lo! We made him strong in the land and gave him unto every thing a road. And he followed a road till, when he reached the setting‑place of the sun, he found it setting in a muddy spring, and found a people thereabout: We said: O Dhu’l‑Qarneyn! Either punish or show them kindness. He said: As for him who doeth wrong, we shall punish him, and then he will be brought back unto his Lord, who will punish him with awful punishment! But as for him who believeth and doeth right, good will be his reward, and We shall speak unto him a mild command. Then he followed a road till, when he reached the rising‑place of the sun, he found it rising on a people for whom We had appointed no shelter therefrom. So (it was). And We knew all concerning him (Surah 18:84-92, emp. added).Observe that the Quran’s account is not worded in such a way as to be allowable on the basis of accommodative or phenomenal language—even as we speak of the Sun setting or rising. The inclusion of the location of the Sun’s setting—a muddy spring—places the account squarely into the realm of myth.
The same mistake is made earlier in the same surah (vss. 10-27) when the Quran lends credibility to the legend of the “Seven Sleepers of Ephesus” (see Campbell, 2002; Gilchrist, 1986). The legends (which predate the Quran) spoke of seven (the number varies) noble Christian youths who fled persecution during the reign of Decius the Emperor who died in A.D. 251. The youths took refuge in a cave near Ephesus, but then were sealed in to die. Instead, their lives were miraculously preserved by falling into a deep sleep that lasted for nearly 200 years, a sleep the Quran claims lasted 309 years (vs. 26). For the Quran to dignify such outlandish tales is to disprove its own inspiration.
Gilchrist, John (1986), Muhammad and the Religion of Islam, [On-line], URL: http://answering-islam.org.uk/Gilchrist/Vol1/5c.html.
Pickthall, Mohammed M. (n.d.), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
Do Christians Sin?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
A quick reading through the small epistle of 1 John reveals a number of verses that seem to disagree with each other. For instance, in 1 John 1:8,10 the author assures his readers that all people have sinned. In 2:1, John seems to indicate that even Christians will sin and therefore need Jesus Christ to be their advocate. Yet, 3:6 has John on record as saying: “Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.” In verse 8 of chapter 3, John wrote: “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning.” And verse 9 states: “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” Steve Wells, in his work, The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, wrote concerning these verses in chapter 3: “Earlier in this letter (1:8,10) John assured us that everyone sins. Yet in these verses he claims that Christians don’t sin” (Wells, 2003).
Are these verses examples of contradictions within the Bible? If they are not, what do they mean? Do Christians sin, or don’t they?
The answers to these questions actually are much simpler than it may, at first, appear. When we compare other translations of 3:6,8,9, we see that the actual Greek wording of the verses makes a major difference in the understanding of the passages. R.C.H. Lenski translated 3:6 as follows: “Everyone remaining in him does not go on sinning; everyone continuing to sin has not seen him, nor has he known him” (1966, pp. 457-458, emp. added). Lenski translated verse 9: “Everyone that has been born from God does not go on doing sinning because his seed remains in him; and he is not able to go on sinning because he has been born of God” (p. 462, emp. added). The New International Version translates 3:6: “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him” (emp. added).
Lenski explained that 1 John 3:6,9 uses a Greek construction called the present durative, which should be translated “does not go on sinning” (pp. 458,462). John, then, is saying no more in these verses than what Paul was saying in Romans 6:1-2, when he stated: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any long in it?” Numerous other verses teach that Christians will commit sins, even after they have been washed in the blood of Christ (cf. Romans 7:14-25; Philippians 3:12-13). However, John is saying that any person who rebelliously continues to sin, making it his or her usual, habitual way of life, is not following God. In 1 John 3:9, the Greek present infinitive means to habitually sin without compunction. In more practical terms (to offer an example), it is one thing for a Christian to slip up and commit an act of sexual immorality for which he or she is penitent. It is altogether another thing for a person to live as a prostitute and claim to be “having fellowship with the Father” (1 John 1:6).
Therefore, it is easily shown that no discrepancies exist between the verses under discussion in 1 John. Furthermore, it is refreshing to know that when a Christian does sin, “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
REFERENCESWells, Steve (2003), Skeptic’s Annotated Bible [On-line], URL: http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/1cor/index.html.
Lenski, R.C.H. (1966), The Interpretation of the I and II Epistles of Peter, the Three Epistles of John, and the Epistle of Jude (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
Computer Puts Evolution In “Jeopardy”
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Science fiction writers have been portraying the face-off between computers and humans for years. Ever so often, what once was science fiction becomes a reality. Such is the case with the upcoming television showdown between the two most-winning contestants from the popular game show “Jeopardy” and a new supercomputer named Watson (Fitzgerald and Martin, 2011).
On February 14-16, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter will be challenged by the latest in computing technology. The humans in the contest are certainly no slouches. Jennings won 74 “Jeopardy” games in a row. And he and Rutter combined to amass over 3.3 million dollars in prize money. Their challenger, Watson, an IBM supercomputer named after the founder of the company, can store the equivalent of over 200 million pages of information, is “the size of 10 refrigerators,” and is the “result of four years of work by IBM researchers around the globe.” In a practice round with the human champions, Watson outscored its opponents $4,000 to Jennings’ $3,400 and Rutter’s $1,200.
As enjoyable as contests like these are to watch, they bring to light a very serious truth that needs to be underscored. Would any person who was thinking correctly look at a supercomputer like Watson and conclude it did not have an intelligent designer (or several) behind its construction? To suggest such would be absurd. And yet it challenges brilliant humans, who are much less physically bulky, and who have proved their mental prowess repeatedly on “Jeopardy.” Does it make sense to suggest that Watson was the product of thousands of man-hours of IBM’s most brilliant researchers across the globe, but the human contestants were the products of blind chance and random evolutionary processes that lacked any type of intelligence and had no goal in mind? Certainly not. If Watson is the product of intelligence, then the IBM technicians who built it and the “Jeopardy” champions competing against it must have been designed by an even more impressive Super-intellect. As Hebrews 3:4 says, “For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God.” One could express that sentiment in another way and just as truly state that every computer is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. Supercomputer Watson adds one more piece of evidence that puts the theory of evolution in “Jeopardy!”
REFERENCEFitzgerald, Jim and David Martin (2011), “Computer Could Make 2 ‘Jeopardy!’ Champs Deep Blue,” http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110114/ap_on_hi_te/us_man_vs_machine/print, January 14.
Chronology and the Bible's Arrangement
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Since the Bible begins at the Creation with Genesis—the book of beginnings—and ends with the book of Revelation (which many scholars believe was the last recorded book of the Bible), students of the Scriptures often assume that the Bible was compiled chronologically. Many students approach their reading of the Bible with the mindset that everything in Scripture is arranged “from A to Z.” Since Genesis records what took place at the beginning of time, and it is the first book of the Bible, then the rest of the Bible follows suit, right? Actually, what the diligent student eventually finds is that the Bible is not a book of strict chronology. All sixty-six books of the Bible are not arranged in the order in which they were written. Furthermore, all of the events contained within each book also are not recorded chronologically.
Consider the following arrangement of books in the Bible:
Although the books of Haggai and Zechariah have been placed near the end of the Old Testament, these men prophesied while the events in the book of Ezra were taking place (cf. Ezra 5:1; 6:14). Twenty books separate Haggai and Zechariah from the book of Ezra, yet the events recorded in each book were occurring at the same time. Obviously, these books are not arranged in chronological order.In addition to the books of the Bible not being arranged chronologically, inspired writers did not always record information in a strictly chronological sequence. Making the assumption that the entire Bible was written chronologically hinders a proper understanding of the text. For example, Genesis 2:5-25 does not pick up where Genesis one left off; rather, it provides more detailed information about some of the events mentioned in the first chapter of the Bible. (Whereas Genesis 1 is arranged chronologically, Genesis 2 is organized topically.) The differences in the arrangement of the temptations of Jesus recorded by Matthew (4:1-11) and Luke (4:1-13) are resolved when we realize that at least one of them is not reporting the facts in sequential order. Some also question whether Jesus cursed the tree before or after He cleansed the temple. Since Matthew records this event before the cursing of the fig tree (21:12-19), and since Mark places the cleansing of the temple after Jesus cursed the tree (11:15-19), it is supposed that one of the two writers was mistaken. The truth is, however, Matthew’s account is more of a summary, whereas Mark’s narrative is more detailed and orderly. Mark’s more specific account reveals that Jesus actually made two trips to the temple. Thus, as Albert Barnes noted: “Mark has stated the order more particularly, and has ‘divided’ what Matthew mentions together” (1997). Obviously, the gospel accounts were not arranged to be a strict chronology of Jesus’ life.
Even though 2 Chronicles appears before the book of Job, the events recorded in Job took place long before those that are recorded in 2 Chronicles. In fact, if the Bible were a book of strict chronology, the events recorded in Job likely would be placed somewhere within the book of Genesis, after Genesis 6 (since Job 22:15-16 is more than likely a reference to the Flood).
In the New Testament, one might assume that since 1 Thessalonians comes after the book of Acts, that Luke penned Acts earlier than Paul penned his first letter to the church at Thessalonica. The truth is, however, 1 Thessalonians was written years before the book of Acts was completed.
When studying with those who know very little about the Bible, it is helpful for them to understand the arrangement of Scriptures. By recognizing that many books of the Bible (as well as the events contained therein) are not in a sequential order, one will have fewer problems digesting Scripture.
REFERENCEBarnes, Albert (1997), Barnes’ Notes (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
The Case of the Empty Tomb
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Around the year A.D. 165, Justin Martyr penned his Dialogue with Trypho. At the beginning of chapter 108 of this work, he recorded a letter that the Jewish community had been circulating regarding the empty tomb of Christ:
[A] godless and lawless heresy had sprung from one Jesus, a Galilaean deceiver, whom we crucified, but his disciples stole him by night from the tomb, where he was laid when unfastened from the cross, and now deceive men by asserting that he has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven.In approximately the sixth century, another caustic treatise written to defame Christ circulated among the Jewish community. In this narrative, known as Toledoth Yeshu, Jesus is described as the illegitimate son of a soldier named Joseph Pandera. He further is labeled as a disrespectful deceiver who led many away from the truth. Near the end of the treatise, under a discussion of His death, the following paragraph can be found:
Diligent search was made and he [Jesus—KB] was not found in the grave where he had been buried. A gardener had taken him from the grave and had brought him into his garden and buried him in the sand over which the waters flowed into the garden.Upon reading Justin Martyr’s description of one Jewish theory regarding the tomb of Christ, and another theory from Toledoth Yeshu, it becomes clear that one common thread unites them both—the tomb of Christ had no body in it!
All parties involved recognized the fact that Christ’s tomb laid empty on the third day. Feeling compelled to give reasons for this unexpected vacancy, the Jewish authorities apparently concocted several different theories to explain the body’s disappearance. The most commonly accepted one seems to be that the disciples of Jesus stole His body away by night while the guards slept (Matthew 28:13). Yet, how could the soldiers identify any thieves while they slept? And why were the sentinels not punished by death for sleeping on the job and thereby losing their charge (cf. Acts 12:6.19)? And an even more pressing question comes to the mind—why did the soldiers need to explain anything if a body was still in the tomb?
When Peter stood up to preach on the Day of Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ, the crux of his sermon rested on the fact(s) that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again on the third day. In order to silence Peter, and stop a mass conversion, the Jewish leaders needed simply to produce the body of Christ. Why did not the Jewish leaders take the short walk to the garden and produce the body? Simply because they could not! The tomb was empty. The Jews knew it and tried to explain it away, the apostles knew it and preached it boldly in the city of Jerusalem, and thousands of the inhabitants of Jerusalem knew it and converted to Christianity. John Warwick Montgomery accurately assessed the matter when he wrote: “It passes the bounds of credibility that the early Christians could have manufactured such a tale and then preached it among those who might easily have refuted it simply by producing the body of Jesus” (1964, p. 78). The tomb of Jesus was empty, and that is a fact.
REFERENCESMontgomery, John Warwick (1964), History and Christianity (Downers Grover, IL: InterVarsity Press).
Alien Life, Evolution, and Telescopes
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Astronomers from more than 30 research institutions in 15 countries are working together to select a site for a giant telescope that they hope will read TV or radio signals from alien civilizations. Slated to cost $1 billion, the Square Kilometer Array, or SKA, would be the world’s most powerful radio telescope. Speaking at a conference of the International Society for Optical Engineering in Orlando, Florida, project astronomers said they hope to find “immediate and direct evidence of life elsewhere in the Universe” (“Sites Under...,” 2006).
The scientists admit, however, that they face several “ifs.” First, they may be unable to “eavesdrop on the latest episode of little green men’s reality shows” since the instrument might not be able to actually decode the transmissions. Second, any programs received would be several years old, because of the delay in light transmission to Earth. Third, astronomers are unsure how to recognize such signals. Last, but certainly not least, astronomers concede that there may well be no signals for the simple reason that there may be no little green men (“Sites Under...”). Indeed, the irrational preoccupation with “extraterrestrial life” fails to take into account the perfectly plausible alternative explanations for the spaciousness of the Universe (see Miller, 2003).
Nevertheless, astronomers insist there are other worthwhile uses of the telescope: “The instrument would also serve to study the evolution of the universe from shortly after the fog of the Big Bang explosion, believed to have originated the universe, lifted” (“Sites Under...”). Never mind the fact that the Big Bang theory itself has been blown to bits, its credibility completely debunked (cf. Thompson, et al., 2003).
Think of it. One billion dollars—to be wasted. Imagine what that money could do if directed to more noble and worthy purposes. When we reject belief in the Creator of the Universe, confusion, futility, and superfluous pursuits are inevitable (Psalm 14).
“Sites Under Review for Telescope that Could Detect Alien TV” (2006), World Science, July 10, [On-line], URL: http://www.world-science.net/exclusives/060711_ska.htm.
Thompson, Bert, Brad Harrub, and Branyon May (2003), “The Big Bang Theory—A Scientific Critique,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2635.
Blinded by the Bible
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
In August 1984, a Christian was invited to appear on the nationwide Phil Donahue television show for the purpose of clarifying why a church in Oklahoma had implemented disciplinary procedures against a wayward member. The Christian presented the Bible directives pertaining to the point by quoting scripture after scripture substantiating that, in fact, the church had conscientiously followed biblical protocol. His persistent appeal to the Bible seemed to antagonize and irritate many members of the studio audience. Their sentiments were summarized in the words of one woman who stood and, as Mr. Donahue held the microphone for her, stated with apparent frustration and exasperation: “From being here today I just feel that you people are blinded by the Bible. They don’t see anything else but the Bible” (Donahue Transcript, 1984, p. 20).
Unwittingly, this individual paid a tremendous tribute to Christians. It was apparent to the audience that genuine Christians are so obsessed with God’s Word, and so preoccupied with ascertaining biblical authority for every action, that they simply cannot see anything else. They are blinded—not by erroneous human reasoning, legal/judicial consequences, or current societal consensus—but by the Bible.
There was a time when it could be said fairly accurately that American civilization was similarly blinded. Unfortunately, during the last fifty years, society seems to have largely regained its sight. The biblical values and moral principles upon which this country was founded, and which have provided the social framework out of which the majority of Americans have operated, are being systematically jettisoned and replaced by pluralism. A variety of philosophies, religions, and values are being gradually incorporated into an American civilization that was never envisioned by the Founders. The biblical approach, in which God’s words are set forth as preeminent, has largely been abandoned. Public education is now thoroughly dominated by modern psychology, humanistic sociology, and evolutionary values. The average American understood right from wrong, and recognized an absolute standard of morality. Now, however, the “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” attitude of “political correctness” permeates the population. The alienation of the average citizen from the God of the Bible is profound.
With people no longer “blinded by the Bible,” this state of affairs has resulted in the very social scenario described by Jesus when, referring to His earthly contemporaries, He said:
seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.… For the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their heart and turn, so that I should heal them (Matthew 13:13,15).If only civilization would return to a healthy preoccupation with the Word of God—sustained intimacy with Scripture. If only society would once again become blinded by the Bible.
REFERENCEDonahue Transcript #09284 (1984), (Cincinnati, OH: Multimedia Entertainment).
To the Wilderness—or a Wedding?by Eric Lyons, M.Min.
Most people who have done much study from the synoptic gospels are aware that following the baptism of Jesus, He “then” (Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1) “immediately” (Mark 1:12) was sent out by the Spirit into the wilderness where He fasted for forty days while being tempted by the devil. Skeptics likewise are “well informed” of this story. In fact, some skeptics presume to know about this time in Jesus’ life so well, they have argued that the apostle John contradicted the synoptic writers (see “Inerrancy;” “Contradictions;” Wells, 2001). Allegedly, John placed Jesus at the wedding in Cana of Galilee just three days following His baptism (John 1:19-2:1), whereas Mark indicated that Jesus went into the desert for forty days “immediately” following His baptism. Is this a real chronological contradiction, as some suppose?
Like so many of the other occasions when skeptics contend that two or more passages of Scripture are at odds with one another, this is just another example of where a particular text has been misunderstood. John 1 does not teach (as has been alleged) that “three days after the events where Jesus and John the Baptist meet [and when Jesus was baptized—EL]…, Jesus was attending a wedding in Cana” (“Inerrancy”). Notice what the first chapter of John’s gospel account actually teaches the following:
- Verses 19-25 contain John the Baptizer’s testimony regarding who he is. (“Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ ”—vs. 19.)
- In verses 26-27, John explains to the priests and Levites that there is One Who is greater than himself—Jesus.
- “The next day,” John sees Jesus and proclaims, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (vs. 29). John then explains to those around him that this Man is the One about Whom he was speaking the previous day (vs. 30).
In verse 31, John the Baptizer explains to his listeners how Jesus was
“revealed to Israel” at His baptism (vs. 31). Then, in the following
three verses, John bears witness about that baptism, saying,
I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God (32-35, emp. added).
- Verses 35-37 indicate that the day after John revealed the above facts to his listeners, he saw Jesus again, and two of John’s disciples began following Jesus that very day.
- The next day, Philip and Nathanael began following the Lord.
- Then, “on the third day” following John’s testimony of Jesus’ baptism and the Spirit Who descended upon Him, Jesus and His disciples are said to be at a wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1ff.)
REFERENCES“Contradictions in the New Testament,” (no date), [On-line], URL: http://www.islam4all.com/chapter6.htm.
“Inerrancy: Where Conservative Christianity Stands or Falls,” (no date), [On-line], URL: http://users.vei.net/smijer/christianity/bunk.html.
Wells, Steve (2001), Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, [On-line], URL: http://www.Skepticsannotatedbible.com
Do we remember and forget the right things?Our memory is a tremendous gift from God.
Scripture reading: Philippians 3:7-14
Scripture reading: Philippians 3:7-14
It is intriguing to observe the development of a child’s memory. A preschooler can learn the alphabet in a song long before he can memorize a series of 26 letters.
Our one and a half kilo brain not only controls most body functions (including the unfathomable complexity of seeing, hearing and speaking), but it organizes and stores a vast quantity of data, which is available for recall, and which serves as source material for decision-making and the performance of complicated activities.
Because our memory space is limited, our brain must conserve its memory by forgetting most of what we see, hear and read.
We have short-term memory and long-term memory.
Long-term memory can be enhanced: for example, by music, by repetition, by multisensory input, by association, by orderly organization, and by the conscious assignment of a high level of importance.
Memory data fades to the background if unused, so must be refreshed to remain readily available.
The Creator of our brain tells us to remember certain things and to forget certain things.
What must we remember?
We must remember our Creator!
In Ecclesiastes 12:1-7 Solomon urges young people to remember God before the infirmities of age weigh them down and their life draws to a close.
“Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth,
Before the difficult days come,
And the years draw near when you say,
‘I have no pleasure in them’:
While the sun and the light,
The moon and the stars,
Are not darkened,
And the clouds do not return after the rain;
In the day when the keepers of the house tremble,
And the strong men bow down;
When the grinders cease because they are few,
And those that look through the windows grow dim;
When the doors are shut in the streets,
And the sound of grinding is low;
When one rises up at the sound of a bird,
And all the daughters of music are brought low.
Also they are afraid of height,
And of terrors in the way;
When the almond tree blossoms,
The grasshopper is a burden,
And desire fails.
For man goes to his eternal home,
And the mourners go about the streets.
Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed,
Or the golden bowl is broken,
Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain,
Or the wheel broken at the well.
Then the dust will return to the earth as it was,
And the spirit will return to God who gave it.”
In our youth and when older, we should remember our Creator. “You shall remember the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 8:18). “Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth” (1 Chronicles 16:12).
Sometimes God allows us to get ourselves all tangled up to remind us that He is the only one who can save us.
Jonah was willing to be thrown overboard so his shipmates could be saved, and maybe so he could escape his responsibility. But he was the right man for that preaching job at Nineveh, so God gave him a choice: meal for a fish or submarine ride, direction Nineveh?
In the depths of despair because of his own sin, Jonah remembered the Lord, and his prayer was heard: “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; and my prayer went up to You, into Your holy temple” (Jonah 2:7).
Remembering God is our only hope: “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7).
Fast forward to the twenty-first century. Some trust in tanks, and some in planes; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God, the I AM, who created us and is the only one who can save us.
We must remember the word of God.
Memory plays a crucial role in doing God’s will. To obey His commands we must remember them: “The mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to such as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them” (Psalm 103:17, 18).
Shortly before his death, Peter wrote two letters as reminders: “For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease” (2 Peter 1:12-15). “Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior” (2 Peter 3:1, 2).
Jude wrote something similar: “But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 17).
Paul told the Ephesian elders: “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:35) and to the Romans he wrote: “Nevertheless, brethren, I have written more boldly to you on some points, as reminding you, because of the grace given to me by God” (Romans 15:15).
How can we etch God’s word into our memory?
Before we can remember the words of Christ and His apostles, we must learn them by reading them a sufficient number of times. When we read the Scriptures repeatedly, our memory is refreshed, and God’s word is given a permanent home in our heart.
I warn students who study their lessons only until they barely know them, that they still almost do not know them, and their scant knowledge may be gone the next day!
As time goes by our memory dims if we do not refresh it. Something that must be remembered must be learned well enough that even when our memory dims, the knowledge remains.
We must read God’s word over and over until we remember it, until it becomes a part of us, until it dwells within us: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16).
We must remember the resurrection of Christ.
Paul tells us to remember the resurrection, which is the focal point of the Christian faith: “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead” (2 Timothy 2:8). We assemble on the first day of the week to break bread because Jesus said: “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19).
We remember our Creator, His word and the resurrection of Christ.
What must we forget?
We must forget what lies behind us.
Referring to “the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9), Paul says: “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14 RSV).
We will discuss various elements of this text.
Our goal lies in front of us, not behind us. Thus, to reach that goal we must forget what lies behind us. We must forget the things of the world, our past victories and our past defeats.
We must forget our former life in the world.
Jesus said: “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
I remember watching my father till the soil with a hand- held, horse-drawn plow when I was six years old. It requires great skill and careful attention. One cannot plow an even, straight furrow while looking back!
“Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32). God gave her an opportunity to escape the destruction of Sodom, but she disobeyed, and looked back.
In the wilderness, the Israelites forgot the immense suffering of slavery and longed for the ‘pots of meat’ they had enjoyed in Egypt (Exodus 16:3). They were not satisfied with manna from God.
Christians sometimes forget the bondage of their former life, and long for worldly pleasures they enjoyed before they were Christians.
We must forget past victories.
We may not rest on our laurels.
Like Paul, we must strain forward to the things that are ahead, we must press on toward the goal. To ‘strain forward’ means to strive for something not yet achieved. A goal is something toward which we are working, something we want to accomplish that gives direction and meaning to our actions.
To reach our goal in the Christian marathon we must cross the finish line with the help and by the grace of God. In this race, everyone who remains faithful until death wins gold, whether he comes in first or last (Revelation 2:10; Matthew 19:30).
No matter how well we have run in the past, we must finish the race to receive the prize. The final stretch is sometimes the hardest part.
In 1971 a promising young Belgian cyclist was killed, evidently because of a habit of looking back to see how far ahead he was. He was ahead of the others, but while looking back on a narrow road he collided with an on-coming car.
We should not look back to see if we are ahead of others. That might cause us to forget how far we are behind Christ.
Paul said: “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).
We must forget past defeats.
Even if we have stumbled in the past, we may not slow ourselves down by continually looking back.
God is willing to forget the sins of His saints: “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Hebrews 8:12), “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23, 24). Let us press on, and finish the race. Each day is an opportunity for a new beginning.
Difficulties can be overcome with the help of God. When God’s people were blocked by the Red Sea, with Pharaoh’s army closing in from behind, the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the children of Israel to go forward” (Exodus 14:15).
And what is the goal that lies before us?
“The prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
It is an upward call. The race is up-hill all the way. We are called by God to be like Christ, to be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29), and that is definitely upward. We are “partakers of the heavenly calling” (Hebrews 3:1). We press forward because we still have a long way to go.
The prize is “the crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:8), “the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10), “the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:4).
God teaches us to remember and forget the right things.
Let us remember our Creator, His word and the resurrection of Christ, also the words of Paul: “One thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13, 14 RSV). Amen.
The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in The Old Paths Archive
Bible Reading October 6 (WEB)
Psa 138:1 I will give you thanks with my whole heart. Before the gods, I will sing praises to you.
Psa 138:2 I will bow down toward your holy temple, and give thanks to your Name for your loving kindness and for your truth; for you have exalted your Name and your Word above all.
Psa 138:3 In the day that I called, you answered me. You encouraged me with strength in my soul.
Psa 138:4 All the kings of the earth will give you thanks, Yahweh, for they have heard the words of your mouth.
Psa 138:5 Yes, they will sing of the ways of Yahweh; for great is Yahweh's glory.
Psa 138:6 For though Yahweh is high, yet he looks after the lowly; but the proud, he knows from afar.
Psa 138:7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you will revive me. You will stretch forth your hand against the wrath of my enemies. Your right hand will save me.
Psa 138:8 Yahweh will fulfill that which concerns me; your loving kindness, Yahweh, endures forever. Don't forsake the works of your own hands.
Psa 139:1 Yahweh, you have searched me, and you know me.
Psa 139:2 You know my sitting down and my rising up. You perceive my thoughts from afar.
Psa 139:3 You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
Psa 139:4 For there is not a word on my tongue, but, behold, Yahweh, you know it altogether.
Psa 139:5 You hem me in behind and before. You laid your hand on me.
Psa 139:6 This knowledge is beyond me. It's lofty. I can't attain it.
Psa 139:7 Where could I go from your Spirit? Or where could I flee from your presence?
Psa 139:8 If I ascend up into heaven, you are there. If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, you are there!
Psa 139:9 If I take the wings of the dawn, and settle in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Psa 139:10 Even there your hand will lead me, and your right hand will hold me.
Psa 139:11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me; the light around me will be night;"
Psa 139:12 even the darkness doesn't hide from you, but the night shines as the day. The darkness is like light to you.
Psa 139:13 For you formed my inmost being. You knit me together in my mother's womb.
Psa 139:14 I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful. My soul knows that very well.
Psa 139:15 My frame wasn't hidden from you, when I was made in secret, woven together in the depths of the earth.
Psa 139:16 Your eyes saw my body. In your book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there were none of them.
Psa 139:17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
Psa 139:18 If I would count them, they are more in number than the sand. When I wake up, I am still with you.
Psa 139:19 If only you, God, would kill the wicked. Get away from me, you bloodthirsty men!
Psa 139:20 For they speak against you wickedly. Your enemies take your name in vain.
Psa 139:21 Yahweh, don't I hate those who hate you? Am I not grieved with those who rise up against you?
Psa 139:22 I hate them with perfect hatred. They have become my enemies.
Psa 139:23 Search me, God, and know my heart. Try me, and know my thoughts.
Psa 139:24 See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.
Psa 140:1 Deliver me, Yahweh, from the evil man. Preserve me from the violent man;
Psa 140:2 those who devise mischief in their hearts. They continually gather themselves together for war.
Psa 140:3 They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent. Viper's poison is under their lips. Selah.
Psa 140:4 Yahweh, keep me from the hands of the wicked. Preserve me from the violent men who have determined to trip my feet.
Psa 140:5 The proud have hidden a snare for me, they have spread the cords of a net by the path. They have set traps for me. Selah.
Psa 140:6 I said to Yahweh, "You are my God." Listen to the cry of my petitions, Yahweh.
Psa 140:7 Yahweh, the Lord, the strength of my salvation, you have covered my head in the day of battle.
Psa 140:8 Yahweh, don't grant the desires of the wicked. Don't let their evil plans succeed, or they will become proud. Selah.
Psa 140:9 As for the head of those who surround me, let the mischief of their own lips cover them.
Psa 140:10 Let burning coals fall on them. Let them be thrown into the fire, into miry pits, from where they never rise.
Psa 140:11 An evil speaker won't be established in the earth. Evil will hunt the violent man to overthrow him.
Psa 140:12 I know that Yahweh will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and justice for the needy.
Psa 140:13 Surely the righteous will give thanks to your name. The upright will dwell in your presence.
Gal 3:1 Foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you not to obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth among you as crucified?
Gal 3:2 I just want to learn this from you. Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by hearing of faith?
Gal 3:3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now completed in the flesh?
Gal 3:4 Did you suffer so many things in vain, if it is indeed in vain?
Gal 3:5 He therefore who supplies the Spirit to you, and works miracles among you, does he do it by the works of the law, or by hearing of faith?
Gal 3:6 Even as Abraham "believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness."
Gal 3:7 Know therefore that those who are of faith, the same are children of Abraham.
Gal 3:8 The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the Good News beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you all the nations will be blessed."
Gal 3:9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham.
Gal 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse. For it is written, "Cursed is everyone who doesn't continue in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them."
Gal 3:11 Now that no man is justified by the law before God is evident, for, "The righteous will live by faith."
Gal 3:12 The law is not of faith, but, "The man who does them will live by them."
Gal 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us. For it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree,"
Gal 3:14 that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Gal 3:15 Brothers, speaking of human terms, though it is only a man's covenant, yet when it has been confirmed, no one makes it void, or adds to it.
Gal 3:16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He doesn't say, "To seeds," as of many, but as of one, "To your seed," which is Christ.
Gal 3:17 Now I say this. A covenant confirmed beforehand by God in Christ, the law, which came four hundred thirty years after, does not annul, so as to make the promise of no effect.
Gal 3:18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no more of promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by promise.
Gal 3:19 What then is the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the seed should come to whom the promise has been made. It was ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator.
Gal 3:20 Now a mediator is not between one, but God is one.
Gal 3:21 Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could make alive, most certainly righteousness would have been of the law.
Gal 3:22 But the Scriptures imprisoned all things under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
Gal 3:23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, confined for the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
Gal 3:24 So that the law has become our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
Gal 3:25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
Gal 3:26 For you are all children of God, through faith in Christ Jesus.
Gal 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Gal 3:29 If you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to promise.