"THE GOSPEL OF MARK" Jesus Predicts Peter's Denial (14:27-31) by Mark Copeland

                          "THE GOSPEL OF MARK"

                Jesus Predicts Peter's Denial (14:27-31)


1. How well do we know ourselves...?
   a. Confident that our faith is strong?
   b. Certain that we would never deny our Lord?

2. In our text (Mk 14:27-31) we find examples of over-confidence...
   a. Not just in Peter who denied the Lord
   b. But in all the apostles who stumbled and fled

[Let’s begin with a reading of our text, with the Lord and His disciples
having just completed the Last Supper and on their way to the Mount of


      1. Jesus speaks of desertion by His disciples - Mk 14:27
      2. As foretold by Zechariah - cf. Zec 13:7
      3. But also of His resurrection and reunion in Galilee - Mk 14:28;
         cf. Mk 16:7

      1. Peter asserts that even if all others stumble, not him! - Mk 14:29
      2. Jesus tells Peter that he will deny Him three times that night
         - Mk 14:30
      3. Peter angrily disagrees, even if it means death - Mk 14:31
      4. The rest of the disciples all say the same thing - Mk 14:31

[Jesus’ prediction soon came true (Mk 14:50,66-72).  What would we have
done if we were one of Jesus’ disciples at that time?  Before answering
too quickly, consider a few lessons from the text...]


      1. How well do we really know ourselves?
         a. The disciples seem so certain in their faithfulness
         b. Yet they all stumbled and Peter denied the Lord, just as He
         c. Like Hazael, they really did not know their true selves
            - cf. 2Ki 8:12-13
         d. Indeed, can any of us know our true selves? - cf. Jer 17:9
      2. Then what can we do?
         a. Acknowledge that only God truly knows us 
             - cf. Jer 17:10; Ps 139:1-16; He 4:13
         b. Look to the Word of God to see ourselves as we really are
            - He 4:12
         c. Look to God in prayer for help - Ps 19:12; 139:23-24; e.g.,
            2Th 3:5

      1. Notice how the disciples ignored Jesus’ words of comfort
         a. He spoke plainly of His resurrection - Mk 14:28
         b. Yet they focused on defending themselves - Mk 14:29-31
      2. Might we be guilty of the same?
         a. We have been given many comforting words - e.g., Ro 8:31-39
         b. We can enjoy comfort from both God and one another - cf. 2Co 1:3-4
         c. But we can overlook such comfort when focused on selfish

      1. Notice the self-confidence of the disciples
         a. Peter angrily stating that he would die before denying the
            Lord - Mk 14:29-31
         b. The rest of the disciples said likewise - Mk 14:31
      2. Might we be guilty of the same?
         a. Quick to boast of our faithfulness to the Lord or His
         b. Remember the wisdom of Solomon about pride and a haughty
            spirit - Pr 16:18


1. As disciples of Jesus Christ, let us learn...
   a. From His first disciples
   b. From those who were even His apostles

2. What can we learn...?
   a. The limits of self-knowledge
   b. The danger of missing comfort due to selfishness
   c. The need to be careful of proud assertions

We can also learn of our Lord’s grace and mercy, for He was quick to
forgive those who denied Him and fled away.  So He will do for us when
we stumble, if we are willing to repent and return to Him...!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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"THE GOSPEL OF MARK" The Last Supper (14:17-26) by Mark Copeland

                          "THE GOSPEL OF MARK"

                       The Last Supper (14:17-26)


1. We come now to a crucial time in the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth...
   a. His enemies are plotting His betrayal and death
   b. His disciples are gathered to observe the Passover

2. It is the occasion commonly referred to as "The Last Supper"...
   a. For within 24 hours, Jesus will be crucified
   b. His disciples scattered, hiding in fear for their lives

[Jesus knew what would soon take place (Mk 10:33).  As we continue our
study of Mark’s gospel, let’s first turn to Mk 14:17 and consider...]


      1. A Jewish feast observed annually - Deu 16:1-8
      2. Commemorating Israel’s deliverance from Egypt - Exo 12:1-28,43-49

      1. He knew His death was imminent ("before I suffer") - Lk 22:14-15
      2. He was with those He loved ("He loved them to the end") - Jn 13:1

[As Jesus observed the Passover with His disciples, Mark records two
things that occurred during the dinner.  First, in Mk 14:18-21 there


      1. To all, Jesus said one of them would betray Him - Mk 14:18
      2. One by one they begin to ask, "Is it I?" - Mk 14:19
      3. He confirms it will be one of the twelve who dips with Him - Mk 14:20
      4. It is part of God’s plan, but woe to one who will betray Him
         - Mk 14:21

      1. With Judas Iscariot - Mt 26:25
      2. With John, prompted by Peter - Jn 13:23-26

[Judas Iscariot leaves the supper to betray Jesus (Jn 13:27-30).  As the
rest continue to eat the last supper, Mk 14:22-25 tells us of...]


      1. Using the unleavened bread to represent His body - Mk 14:22
      2. Using the cup (containing the fruit of the vine) to represent
         His blood, the blood of the New Covenant - Mk 14:23-24
      3. Stating He would no longer drink of the fruit of the vine
         a. "that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." - Mk 14:25
         b. "that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s
            kingdom." - Mt 26:29
         c. "it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God." - Lk 22:16
         d. "the kingdom of God shall come." - Lk 22:18
      4. There are two plausible explanations for what Jesus means:
         a. Jesus having fellowship with us as we observe the Lord's
            Supper in the church, which is His kingdom - 1Co 10:16-17
         b. The special communion we will have with Jesus in His
            Father's kingdom, spoken often in terms of a heavenly feast
            - cf. Isa 25:6-8; Mt 8:11; 22:2-14; Lk 14:15-24; Re 19:9

      1. As a memorial - 1Co 11:23-25
         a. Of His body whose death makes the new covenant possible - He 9:16
         b. Of His blood shed for the remission of sins - Mt 26:28; Ep 1:7
      2. As a proclamation - 1Co 11:26
         a. Of faith in the efficacy of His death ("you proclaim the
            Lord’s death")
         b. Of faith in the certainty of His return ("till He come")
      3. As a communion - 1Co 10:16-17
         a. Sharing in the blood of Christ
         b. Sharing in the body of Christ
      4. As an observance - 1Co 11:27-34
         a. With reverence  ("in a worthy manner")
         b. With self-examination ("let a man examine himself, and so
            let him eat and drink")
         c. With other Christians ("wait for one another")


1. "The Last Supper" ended...
   a. With the singing of a hymn - Mk 14:26
   b. With the walk to the Mount of Olives - ibid.

2. Today, "The Lord’s Supper" is observed...
   a. On the first day of the week - cf. Ac 20:7
   b. By disciples who commemorate His death, anticipate His return

3. As I think of the two suppers, Jesus earnestly desired...
   a. To eat the first with His disciples
   b. His disciples to eat the second together in His memory

Today, Jesus is our "Passover" sacrificed for us (cf. 1Co 5:7).

The Jews show gratitude for their deliverance from Egypt by observing
their Passover.

Do we show our gratitude for our deliverance from the bondage of sin by
faithfully observing the Lord’s Supper each Lord’s Day...?

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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The Biblical View of Women by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


The Biblical View of Women

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

It has become increasingly popular in our secular culture to caustically criticize God, the Bible, and the Christian religion. Many best-selling books by high-profile atheistic writers are filled with accusations against God and alleged reasons why Christianity cannot be the true religion devised by a moral God. One reason commonly given by the skeptical community for its rejection of the Bible and Christianity is the way that women are purportedly viewed in the Scriptures. According to these secular apologists, the Bible writers viewed women as inferior creatures who are less valuable than men and do not deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
Evangelist-turned-skeptic, Charles Templeton, summarized this view well when he wrote, “The Bible is a book by and for men. The women in it are secondary creatures and usually inferior” (1996, p. 177). In addition, the God of the Bible and various Bible writers are accused of hating women. In his book, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins stated that the God of the Bible is “misogynistic” (2006, p. 31). Dan Barker made a similar assertion when he wrote: “Although the bible is neither antiabortion nor pro-family, it does provide modern antiabortionists with a biblical basis for the real motivation behind their views: the bible is not pro-life, but it is anti-woman. A patriarchal system cannot stand women who are free” (1992, p. 212, italics in orig.). Famed skeptic Christopher Hitchens wrote:
A consistent proof that religion is man-made and anthropomorphic can also be found in the fact that it is usually “man” made, in the sense of masculine, as well…. The Old Testament, as Christians condescendingly call it, has woman cloned from man for his use and comfort. The New Testament has Saint Paul expressing both fear and contempt for the female (2007, p. 54).
Is it true that the biblical treatment of women presents an immoral code of ethics and falsifies the idea that the Bible was inspired by a perfectly moral Creator? Certainly not. In fact, just the opposite is the case. The Bible’s treatment of women is in perfect accord with truth and legitimate moral teaching. The accusations leveled against the Bible in this regard are vacuous and cannot be used in any legitimate way to militate against either the morality of God or the inspiration of the Bible. On the contrary, it is the teachings and logical implications of atheistic evolution that cannot hold up under the scrutiny of reason.


Atheistic Darwinism is plagued by a host of problems regarding morality. In fact, it has been conclusively demonstrated that without a belief in God, concepts such as good and evil, moral and immoral, have no meaning (see Butt, 2008). Only a supernatural, moral Creator can explain the very existence of morality in man. Therefore, any attempt to question the morality of the God of the Bible based on atheistic ideas is fraught with error and self-contradiction from its inception.
Furthermore, the logical implications of Darwinism lead the honest thinker to the conclusion that equality for all humans is illusory. Not only did Charles Darwin admit that Darwinian evolution implies that certain races of people are inferior to others, with equal candor he concluded that women are inferior to men as well (see Lyons and Butt, 2009). In his monumental work, The Descent of Man, Darwin wrote:
The chief distinction in the intellectual powers of the two sexes is shown by man’s attaining to a higher eminence, in whatever he takes up, than can woman—whether requiring deep thought, reason, or imagination, or merely the use of the senses and hands.... [T]he average of mental power in man must be above that of woman.... [M]an has ultimately become superior to woman (1871, pp. 873-874, emp. added).
According to Darwin, males had evolved to a higher level than females. As evidence of his conclusion, he simply stated that males “attain to a higher eminence” in everything that they take up when compared to females. Using this line of reasoning, it would be impossible to condemn men for treating women as inferior, because, if men have the mental or physical ability to treat women as inferior, it must mean that men are stronger or more fit to survive and rule. It is ironic that the atheistic community, which is so enamored with Darwin, is suggesting that the Bible’s view of women is immoral. In reality, if their view of atheistic evolution is true, then all male-dominated societies are such because males are more able to dominate. And since survival of the fittest is desired, one must conclude that a male dominated society, in which women are viewed as inferior to men (as Darwin put it), must be at least one very prevalent natural order of things.  Even if the skeptical community is right concerning its accusations about the Bible’s “mistreatment” of women (which it is not), how could the Bible be accused of maintaining an immoral stance, when that stance coincides perfectly with the Darwinian view of the “natural order of things?” In truth, those who propound atheism and Darwinian ideals have a much more thorny problem with the logical implications of their ideas as they relate to women, than those who teach that the Bible is the inspired Word of a perfectly moral God.


When they use the treatment of women in their attack on the integrity of the Bible, most skeptics make blanket statements about the Bible’s position, without presenting anything resembling a balanced handling of the topic. For instance, Templeton wrote: “Women were associated with evil and weakness. Indeed, Israelite males sometimes thanked God in the synagogue that they had not been born women” (1996, p. 184).
Such generalized statements are designed to appeal to the emotions of a 21st-century audience, but they simply do not accurately represent the true sentiments behind the biblical texts. For instance, using the type of reasoning in which we cherry-pick verses without adequate explanation, we could say that men are treated unfairly in the Bible because husbands are told that they must be willing to give their lives for their wives, while the wives are never commanded to make such a sacrifice (Ephesians 5:25). In addition, we could accuse the Bible of mistreating males, because, throughout its pages, men are told they must work to provide food for their entire households, while women are not held to such a standard (Genesis 3:17-19; 1 Timothy 5:8). Such indiscriminate statements should be viewed by the honest observer as suspect, and a more complete and accurate picture of the biblical view of women should be sought.
Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that both the Old and New Testaments present a picture of woman that appraises her worth as equal to that of the man. While it is the case that the Bible presents different roles for men and women, it is not the case that men arevalued more than women. A look at various biblical passages confirms this truth.

Wisdom as the Portrait of a Woman

The book of Proverbs, written primarily by King Solomon, is a literary genre known as Wisdom literature. The main theme of the book is the concept of wisdom. The writer stated: “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom” (4:7). To further stress the importance and value of wisdom, he penned: “For wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her” (8:11). Building on the idea of the immeasurable value of wisdom, the writer of the book of Job stated: “But where can wisdom be found? It cannot be purchased for gold, nor can silver be weighed for its price. It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in precious onyx or sapphire…for the price of wisdom is above rubies…. Nor can it be valued in pure gold” (28:12-19). It is clear that the Bible writers viewed wisdom as a personality trait of inestimable value.
What picture, then, was used to personify this trait of such value? Throughout the book of Proverbs, the idea of wisdom is personified by a woman. The text reads: “Wisdom has built her house” (9:1); “Does not wisdom cry out, and understanding lift up her voice? She takes her stand on the top of the high hill” (8:1-2). The most illustrative picture of the virtue of wisdom that the Proverbs writer could conjure was that of a woman (Willis, 1993, p. 37). How then can the Bible writers be so misrepresented as to suggest that they did not value women, when wisdom, which is “the principle thing” according to Proverbs, is portrayed as a woman? Additionally, the Proverbs writer stated, “A gracious woman retains honor” (11:16). The inspired writer also included a lengthy section (31:10-31) in which he extolled the worth of a virtuous woman who is clothed in “strength and honor,” who “opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness. She watches over the ways of her household.” Needless to say, you do not hear these passages about wisdom personified as a woman and the value of virtuous women in the jaded rants of the modern skeptic.

God’s Attitude Toward His People as Illustrated with Traits of a Woman

While it is true that God does not have a specific gender as humans do (see Thompson, 2000), it is the case that God sometimes illustrates some of His personality traits by comparing them to personality traits possessed by certain categories of people. For instance, it is a well-known fact that the God of the Bible often compares the love that He has for His created humans with the love that a father has for his biological children (1 John 3:1-2). If the God of the Bible were truly sexist, it would be obvious that comparisons between God and any human being would be confined to the masculine gender. A truly sexist god would never compare Himself to a woman.
Yet the Bible records instances in whichthe God of Heaven compares traits that He possesses to similar traits found in women. For instance, John Willis noted: “A most compelling piece of evidence that OT writers had a high regard for women is that they describe God as a mother” (1993, pp. 37-39). Willis then mentioned at least three passages as examples, including Isaiah 66:12—“For thus says the Lord…. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”
Furthermore, if it truly were the case that the apostle Paul was a misogynist, was afraid of women, and had contempt for them, it would be unreasonable to imagine him comparing himself to a woman. Yet in 1 Thessalonians 2:7 he wrote: “But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So affectionately longing for you.” Surely a misogynistic man who is “afraid” of women would never describe himself in such feminine terms. Such examples as these bring to light the fallacious idea that the Bible writers hated women or viewed them as inferior to men.

Women Made in the Image of God

Many skeptics insinuate that the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib to be a helper for man manifests a view that woman is less valuable or inferior to man. Recall the claim of Hitchens when he wrote: “The Old Testament, as Christians condescendingly call it, has woman cloned from man for his use and comfort” (2007, p. 54). Supposedly, the fact that Eve was Adam’s helper somehow “proves” inferiority.
The problem with this line of reasoning is at least two-fold. First, it completely ignores the stress that the Bible places on women being made in God’s image exactly like man. Genesis 1:27 states: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him,male and female he created them.” Contrary to many religious groups and male chauvinist thinkers, from the very first chapter, the Bible insists that both male and female were made in God’s image, and both deserve to be treated with the dignity that is inherent in that composition.
So what of the word “helper”? Is it true that a “helper” implies that the person he or she is helping is viewed as superior or of greater worth? Such an incorrect position is impossible to maintain in light of the clear biblical teaching regarding those who help others. For example, in John 15:26, Jesus explains that the Holy Spirit was going to visit the apostles after His resurrection. He stated: “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.” Using the skeptic’s reasoning, we would be forced to conclude that the Holy Spirit is inferior to the apostles, since He is referred to as “the Helper.” Such a conclusion is obviously absurd. [NOTE: It is understood that the skeptic will not concur that there even is a Holy Spirit. This example, however, is used only to show that the Bible consistently maintains a picture of “helpers” and “helping” that in no way insinuates inferiority or less value.]
In Philippians 4:3, Paul urged the receiver of his epistle to “help these women who labored with me in the gospel.” Did that mean Paul viewed the one who received his letter as inferior to those women with whom he had labored? Not in any way. Furthermore, Jesus Christ Himself stated that He came into this world not “to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45). Would that imply that since He was “serving” or “helping” mankind, He was inferior in some way to humans? Certainly not. The concept of “helping” or “serving” carries with it no inherent meaning of inferiority.

Many Examples of Worthy Women in the Bible

In an attempt to bolster their misrepresentation of the biblical view of women, skeptics often “count noses” and insist that far too much biblical “press” is given to narratives whose central figures are men, while not enough time is given to women. In addition, many in the skeptical community insist that if God truly viewed women as equal, they would have been granted equal positions of leadership in both Old Testament times and in the ministry of Jesus. Dan Barker stated: “Jesus upheld the Old Testament view of women. Not a single woman was chosen to be among the 12 disciples or to sit at the Last Supper” (2008, p. 179).
Such statements are plagued with dishonest selectivity. When the entire biblical picture is viewed objectively, it is easily seen that women in both the Old and New Testaments played vital, powerful roles in God’s plans for the national rule of Israel, and for the spiritual Kingdom established by Jesus Christ. And, while space is lacking in this article to adequately list and describe each of these women, a few of the most notable will be addressed.
The fact that women attained prominent, powerful positions in Israel militates strongly against the skeptic’s accusation that the biblical view of women is sexist. For instance, the book of Judges relates the story of Deborah, a prophetess and the recognized judge and ruler of the Israelite nation during her lifetime (Judges 4:4). A close look at the narrative shows that Deborah was the woman who commissioned Barak, a man, to lead the Israelites in battle against the foreign forces. When the time came for action to be taken, it was Deborah who said to Barak: “Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the Lord gone out before you?” (Judges 4:14). After the battle was won, and Sisera, the opposing general, was killed by a woman named Jael, Deborah and Barak composed and sang a victory hymn. Throughout the hymn, Deborah is mentioned as the leader of Israel who, with Barak’s help, defeated Sisera and Jabin. The text says: “Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel, until I, Deborah, arose, arose a mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7). “And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah” (5:15).
Using the skeptic’s logic, should we conclude that the Bible views all men as inferior to women since Deborah was a female leader of Israel at the time? Should we conclude that since Deborah’s story is recorded in a book that claims inspiration, such a claim is negated because, based on the Deborah narrative, whoever wrote the Bible hates men, shows contempt for them, and treats them as less valuable than women? Such reasoning is obviously flawed.
Once it is shown that the story of Deborah exalts women to an equal position with men, however, the skeptic is forced to back peddle and attempt another tactic. While it cannot be denied that the story of Deborah manifests an exalted view of women, the skeptic contends that such stories are few and far between. If God and the Bible really viewed women as equal in worth to men, then the Bible would have just as many stories about women rulers and leaders as it has about men.
This faulty assertion can be answered in two ways. First, how many examples would the Bible need to provide of the Gospel being preached to Ethiopians to prove that the Bible writers considered them just as valuable as Jews, and just as viable candidates to hear the Gospel? Would anyone contend that in order for the God of the Bible to be vindicated of bigotry against Ethiopians, the text must contain just as many conversion stories about Ethiopians as it does about Jews? Certainly not. When the book of Acts records that Phillip the evangelist delivered the Gospel to Candace’s Ethiopian treasurer (8:26-40), that one example is sufficient to provide evidence that all Ethiopians are just as valuable to God as all Jews, Arabians, or Egyptians.
Furthermore, let us apply the skeptic’s reasoning to a brief history of the United States of America. Were we to attempt to relate the history of our country, spending our time dealing with the Presidency, how many stories about women would we be able to include who have ascended to the presidency? To date, our nation has inaugurated 44 presidents, and not a single one of them has been a woman. Using the skeptic’s accusations as a springboard, should we insist that the ancient nation of Israel had a more “enlightened” and elevated view of women than does the United States in the 21st century? Moreover, would we despise and accuse of sexism those history writers who spent the majority of their texts focusing on the men who held the office of President? Such thinking flies in the face of common sense and could only be concocted by those who refuse to deal honestly with actual history and the biblical text.
Huldah, the Prophetess
Second Kings 22 records the life and reign of Josiah, the righteous king of Judah. In the course of his attempts to eradicate idolatry from Judah, he made a focused effort to repair the temple of God that had fallen into a state of disrepair. He commissioned Hilkiah, the high priest, to collect money to be used to clean out and repair the temple. During Hilkiah’s labors to revamp the temple, he stumbled across a copy of the book of the Law of Moses. Having read it, he sent it to Josiah, who listened to the words of the Law and was heartsick because the nation of Israel had wandered so far from God’s commands. Josiah commanded Hilkiah and several of the other religious leaders to “go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found” (2 Kings 22:13). The text then states: “So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. (She dwelt in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter.) And they spoke with her” (22:14). After speaking with her, Huldah delivered a message from God to Josiah through these officials.
Not only did these leaders in Israel seek out a woman prophetess, though she was married, there is no indication that the advice or counsel of her husband was sought. The envoy journeyed to a woman’s house to hear a message that the Lord related to a woman. Also notice that Josiah was recognized as one of the greatest rulers that Judah ever had, yet this  passage shows that he sought the counsel of a woman of God. Here again, the narrative about Huldah undermines the skeptics’ assertion that the Bible views women as inferior.
Various Women in the Bible
Much could be said concerning women of prominence in the Bible, such as Esther, about whom an entire book is written. She ascended to the queenly throne of Persia and heroically saved her people. A lengthy section relating the selfless sacrifice of Ruth for her mother-in-law (Naomi) would further undercut the skeptics’ argument, especially in light of the fact that Ruth is listed in the genealogy of Christ as the great grandmother of David. Moreover, the faith of Hannah and her prayer for, and subsequent birth of, Samuel, one of the greatest prophets to ever live in Israel, would go far to put to silence the skeptics’ assertion that women are viewed as inferior by the Bible writers. Attention could be directed to Lydia, the seller of purple whom Paul and his companions found praying by the riverside, or Priscilla, who helped her husband Aquila teach the eloquent Apollos the Gospel of Christ  (Acts 18:26). Additional information refuting the skeptics’ claim could include the faith of Jochebed, or the leadership skills and prophesying of Miriam, or the courage of Rahab, or the faithfulness of Jesus’ mother Mary, or the good deeds of Dorcas. One wonders how many examples of women in exalted positions the skeptical community would need in order to be satisfied that the biblical treatment of women is not sexist. Unfortunately, no matter how many examples are given, the skeptical answer about this and so many other things is, “Just a few more than we have.” In reality, the biblical examples of how the God of the Bible views women are more than sufficient to refute the tenuous complaints of the naysayers.

Numbering, Genealogies, and Traveling Groups

Certain practical matters must be properly considered in order to achieve an accurate picture of the biblical view of women. Some people who read the biblical text are struck by the fact that some of the genealogies only include the names of the men in the family. As Templeton wrote: “In the long list of Adam’s descendants over the hundreds of years that intervened before the Great Flood, not one female is so much as named” (1996, p. 178, italics in orig.). Furthermore, it is often the case that, when counting or listing the numbers of people involved, the Bible generally only counts the males. These instances have been viewed as sexist and discriminatory against women.
Upon further inspection, it becomes apparent that such accusations fail to take into account certain practical aspects and the cultural context. For example, Templeton mentioned the genealogy in Genesis five as an example of a “sexist” view, but he failed to mention the genealogy of Jesus Christ that is listed in Matthew 1:1-17 in which the women Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Mary are mentioned. Additionally, the text states: “And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ” (1:16, emp. added). The prepositional phrase “of whom” relates back to Mary, thus indicating that Jesus was the biological son of Mary. Would it be proper to use this genealogy to insist that God has a lower view of men, since the text specifically mentions that the Christ descended biologically from a woman? No. And neither can the “male genealogy” idea be used to sustain the false accusation that the Bible views women as inferior. Add to that the fact that even today in 21st century America, the majority of wives assume their husbands’ last names and daughters assume their fathers’ last names, and are thus recorded in modern genealogical records [such as Annaka Harris, the wife of Sam Harris, or Juliet Emma Dawkins, daughter of Richard Dawkins (Periera, n.d.)], and the skeptics’ charge becomes manifestly erroneous.
In a similar vein, biblical numbers often only included the men. For instance, Numbers 1:2 states: “Take a census of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male individually” (emp. added). Is this numbering an example of biblical sexism, or evidence that the Bible writers thought women of so little value they did not need to number them? Not in any way. The simple, practical aspect of this numbering system had only to do with able-bodied men who went out to war. As the text explains: “according to the number of names, every male individually, from twenty years old and above, all who were able to go to war”(1:20, emp. added). In the same way that we could not use such numbering systems to insist that the God of the Bible, or the Bible writers, devalued children under 20, or old men past the age of battle strength, we could not use this method of numbering to disparage the biblical writers’ view of women. And, while the skeptic might attempt to argue that it was sexist for women to be excluded from military service in Bible times, a simple response could be that it was unfair to men to force them to be numbered for military service, while women were exempt from such. Would it be fair to state that since men were “serving” their women by providing military protection, their “service” shows they were inferior? To ask is to answer.
Other practical matters, including such simple concepts as travel and sleeping arrangements, must be factored into this discussion. For example, Dan Barker was quoted earlier in this article as saying: “Jesus upheld the Old Testament view of women. Not a single woman was chosen to be among the 12 disciples or to sit at the Last Supper” (2008, p. 179). While this statement is true, the skeptic Charles Templeton offers an extremely plausible reason for this:
The New Testament frequently reveals Jesus’ concern for women…. There were no women in Jesus’ band of apostles, but there would have been compelling reasons for this. Jesus and the disciples travelled frequently, often daily, invariably on foot. Often they slept out in the open. In the circumstances it would have been impossible—and potentially scandalous—for a woman to be a part of that male group (1996, pp. 184-185, emp. added).
Even a cursory consideration of certain practical matters that relate to numbering, genealogies, and travel arrangements serves to defeat the skeptics’ claim that the Bible devalues women.

Was Jesus Rude to Women?

Those who are antagonistic to the Bible sometimes accuse Jesus of being rude to others, especially his own mother. Christopher Hitchens quipped: “Jesus makes large claims for his heavenly father but never mentions that his mother is or was a virgin, and is repeatedly very rude and coarse to her when she makes an appearance, as Jewish mothers will, to ask to see how he is getting on” (2007, p. 116, emp. added). Richard Dawkins commented in a similar vein: “Jesus’ family values, it has to be admitted, were not such as one might wish to focus on. He was short, to the point of brusqueness, with his own mother” (2006, p. 250, emp. added).
A more thorough analysis, however, reveals that what these writers are attempting to label as rudeness was nothing of the sort. In his article, “How Rude!?”, Eric Lyons effectively demonstrated that the way Jesus addressed His mother was neither rude, nor disrespectful (2004). Jesus’ statements in response to His mother are in perfect accord with the biblical injunction to honor one’s parents. Only a misunderstanding of the original languages and phrases used, and a cynical approach to the text, could lead a person to accuse Jesus of rudeness in these instances. His statements to His mother coincide completely with the fact that the Bible’s overall treatment of women presents them as neither inferior nor superior to men, but as equals.


The apostle Paul is often demonized as a woman-hater who feared the opposite sex and held them in contempt. The skeptical attitude toward Paul is summed up well in Templeton’s statement: “To judge by his epistles, the apostle Paul was a confirmed misogynist” (1996, p. 185). Such statements conveniently overlook one of the boldest statements of gender and race equality in all religious literature. In Galatians 3:28, Paul wrote: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (emp. added). About this verse, Jan Faver Hailey wrote: “Common exegesis understands Paul here to be advocating that access to God is open to all through faith in Christ, without regard to race, social standing, or gender” (1993, p. 132, emp. added). To insist that Paul was a misogynist in light of his statement in Galatians 3:28 runs counter to evidence-based reasoning.
So why do some aver that Paul hated women, even with Galatians 3:28 in view? The main reason for this assertion is that Paul consistently maintained that, while men and women are equal in God’s sight, they have been given different duties and roles. The skeptical community mistakenly equates the concept of different roles, with the idea of different status. As Templeton wrote: “In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul states unequivocally that men and women have a different status before God” (1996, p. 186, emp. added). Allegedly, since Paul instructs men to be elders (Titus 1:5-9), and to lead publically in worship (1 Corinthians 14:34-35; 1 Timothy 2:8-15), and husbands to be the “head” of their homes (Ephesians 5:22-24), then he must view women as less able, less valuable, or inferior to men. [NOTE: See Jackson, 2010 and Miller, 2005 for biblical expositions of these verses.]
Is it true that since the Bible assigns different roles to the different sexes, their status or worth must be unequal? Certainly not. In Titus 3:1, Paul explained to Titus that Christians were supposed to be subject to rulers and authorities and to obey the government (see also Romans 13). From that statement, is it correct to conclude that Paul views all those in governmental positions to be of more value than Christians? Does this passage imply that, because Christians are to obey other humans who are in governmental positions, Paul sees those in governmental positions as mentally, physically, or spiritually superior to Christians? Not in any way. The mere fact that Christians are to obey those in the government says nothing about the spiritual status or value of either party. It only addresses different roles that each party plays.
Again, in 1 Timothy 6:2, Paul instructs Christian servants to be obedient to their own masters. Does this imply that Paul believed masters to be superior, or to be of more inherent worth than servants? No. It simply shows a difference in roles, not of status. Logically speaking, different roles can never be used to support an accusation that such roles necessitate different value or status.
Furthermore, while the skeptic is quick to seize on Paul’s ordination of men as elders and leaders in their homes, those skeptics neglect to include the responsibilities involved in such roles. Husbands are called upon to give their lives for their wives (Ephesians 5:25), physically provide food, shelter, and clothing for their families (1 Timothy 5:8), and to love their wives as much as they love themselves (Ephesians 5:25). While much is said about the “unfairness” of Paul’s instructions, it is productive to ask who would get the last spot on a life boat if a Christian husband and wife were on a sinking ship? The Christian husband gives himself for his wife in such instances. Is that fair that he is called upon to accept the sacrificial role of giving himself for his wife? Is she more valuable than he because God calls upon him to protect and cherish her and die for her if necessary? No. It is simply a difference in assigned roles, not in status or worth.


The militant skeptical community incessantly attempts to discredit the Bible and the God Who is represented in its pages. One line of reasoning used in their efforts is to demand that the Bible presents a sexist picture of men and women, in which God and the Bible writers place more value on men, and view women as inferior and of less inherent worth. This accusation falls apart, however, when the entirety of the text is considered. Careful study reveals that Bible writers personified and illustrated such invaluable attributes as wisdom in the form of a woman. God himself compares traits that He possesses to similar traits found in women. Both the Old and New Testaments are filled with narratives lauding the actions of faithful, powerful women. The apostle Paul, who is often accused of misogyny, makes one of the boldest statements of gender equality ever recorded in religious literature. And the misguided attempt to discredit Paul by claiming that different gender roles in his epistles prove he valued women less cannot honestly or reasonably be sustained. In truth, the Bible presents the clearest picture of gender equity, value, and inherent worth ever recorded in either ancient or modern literature. The status of women in the Holy Scriptures, not only is not a challenge to its divine inspiration, but the biblical treatment of women actually provides another piece of evidence for the Bible’s perfection and inspiration.


Barker, Dan (1992), Losing Faith In Faith—From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI: Freedom from Religion Foundation).
Barker, Dan (2008), godless (Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press).
Butt, Kyle (2008), “The Bitter Fruits of Atheism: Parts 1 & 2,” Reason & Revelation,http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3740 andhttp://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3762.
Darwin, Charles (1871), The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (New York: The Modern Library, reprint).
Dawkins, Richard (2006), The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin).
Hailey, Jan Faver (1993), “‘Neither Male and Female’ (Gal. 3:28),” Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity Volume 1, ed. Carroll Osburn (Joplin, MO: College Press).
Hitchens, Christopher (2007), god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: The Twelve).
Jackson, Wayne (2010), “Women’s Role in the Church,” http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/169-womans-role-in-the-church.
Lyons, Eric (2004), “How Rude!?” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/593.
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2009), “Darwin, Evolution, and Racism,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/240063.
Miller, Dave (2005), “Female Leadership in the Church,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2694 .
Pereira, Oliver (no date), “Descent of Richard Dawkins from Edward III,” http://humph rysfamilytree.com/Royal/Notes/dawkins.txt.
Templeton, Charles (1996), Farewell to God (Ontario, Canada: McClelland and Stewart).
Thompson, Bert (2000), “Is God Male?” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/162.
Willis, John T (1993), “Women in the Old Testament,” Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity Volume 1, ed. Carroll Osburn (Joplin, MO: College Press).

Right, Wrong, and God's Existence by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Right, Wrong, and God's Existence

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Everyone in the world believes that some things are right and other things are wrong. At times, people do not agree on the exact way to decide whether something is right or wrong. But it is undeniable that the concepts of right and wrong, good and evil, do exist.
The person who does not believe that God exists has only one choice when it comes to explaining morality—man must have thought it up by himself. However, since man is seen as little more than the last animal to be produced by evolution, this becomes problematic. A lion does not feel guilty after killing a gazelle for its lunch. A dog does not feel remorse after stealing a bone from another dog. And a female pig feels no guilt after eating her newborn piglets. Yet man, who is supposed to have evolved, feels both guilt and remorse when he commits certain acts that violate his “moral code.” The simple fact that we are discussing morals establishes that morality—which is found only in humans—had to have a cause other than evolution. After all, one ape never sat around and said to another, “Today, I think we should talk about right and wrong.” Even the famous atheist George Gaylord Simpson of Harvard admitted that “morals arise only in man.” What, or should we say, Who, instilled a conscience in humans? The apostle Peter provided the only legitimate answer. In 1 Peter 1:16, he wrote that we should be holy because God is holy. The only possible source of knowledge regarding right and wrong is the almighty God who embodies all that is good. In Ecclesiastes 7:29, wise King Solomon wrote: “Truly, this only I have found: that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.”
To suggest that the morality inherent in all mankind evolved from a warm pool of inorganic slime in the great long ago is an inadequate explanation. Morals could only have been placed in mankind by a Being who understood, even to a greater degree than men, the difference between right and wrong. This knowledge should lead us to follow the directive Jesus gave in Matthew 5:48: “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Is Faith "Infused" Directly by God? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Is Faith "Infused" Directly by God?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

According to Catholic Catechism 153, “Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him.” Unlike other religious peoples who use Ephesians 2:8 as a proof text to teach (erroneously) that faith is a direct gift from God, Catholics base their view of infused faith on a statement Jesus made to Peter during His earthly ministry. Once, after Peter confessed to Jesus, saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:16-17). The Catholic Church believes that Jesus’ statement proves that faith is given directly and supernaturally by God. Faith comes, not from “flesh and blood,” but purportedly is “infused” directly by the Father above.
The central problem with the 153rd Catholic Catechism is that Jesus did not say that God gave Peter faith in Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus stated that God “revealed” to Peter that Jesus was the Son of God. There is a difference between revealing to someone a truth (e.g., the deity of Christ), and compelling someone to believe that truth. If a teacher quizzes a class in preparation for a final exam, and, in the process, reveals every answer to the class that they need to know in order to score a 100 on the exam, one or more students still may fail. Students might fail because they chose not to take the exam. Some could fail because they did not take heed to the revelation of facts given by the teacher during the review session. Still others could fail simply because they deliberately wrote the wrong answers on the test, thinking it was fashionable to make low grades in school. Even though the teacherrevealed all of the knowledge needed for every student in the class to make a perfect score on the exam, each student still had a choice as to whether he or she would act upon that knowledge wisely and ace the test.
Similarly, even though God revealed to Peter that Jesus was the Son of God, that does not mean that God directly infused faith into Peter. Faith is a commanded action on man’s part that comes after revelation, not before, or simultaneously (Acts 16:29-34; John 7:24; Romans 10:17). The Bible never speaks of faith as being given directly by God. Rather, it is self-developed following revelation from God. In Peter’s case, such revelation did not come from “flesh and blood” (Matthew 16:17; cf. 17:5). Today, biblical faith is developed by hearing or reading the written revelation from God—the Bible (John 20:30-31; Romans 10:17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).


Catechism of the Catholic Church, [On-line], URL: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s1c3a1.htm.

Ethics and Darwinism [Part II] by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.


Ethics and Darwinism [Part II]

by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Part I of this two-part series appeared in the January issue. Part II follows below and continues, without introductory comments, where the first article ended.]


Soon after Edward O. Wilson published Sociobiology, Richard Dawkins generated an equal amount of controversy (and many more sales) for his book, The Selfish Gene (1989). Neither book devoted much space to human society specifically. It was clear, nonetheless, that Wilson and Dawkins each saw an important application—indeed, a reason for their books’ existence—in what they had to say about Darwinian evolution and human culture.
Unlike Wilson, Dawkins was concerned not so much with the biological basis of behavior in general, but rather with the biological basis of selfishness and altruism in particular. He argued, as the title of the book suggests, that genes are selfish: they will do whatever it takes to ensure that their carrier—the individual—makes more copies of these genes (Dawkins, 1989, p. 19). Evolution, therefore, has ensured that our behavior brings about the preferential survival of the genes we carry. Those behaviors are “selfish” because they preserve our genes at the expense of competing genes contained in other “survival machines.”
What, then, can we say about unselfish behavior? There are times when creatures seem to act for the benefit of others at the expense of their own survival. This has been a problem for sociobiology because traditional Darwinism has emphasized the individual—it is the individual’s own traits that will determine whether it leaves a greater number of viable offspring. If a bird helps a breeding pair build its nest and feed its young, without breeding itself, then it would seem to be a loser in the struggle for life. While this individual is busy helping others, it is missing out on the opportunity to produce heirs of its own. One response is to tell some sort of just-so story that extols the benefits of altruistic behavior for the entire species. However, this idea of “group selection” is highly contentious, even among the closed ranks of evolutionary biologists. For a start, it does not explain how the gene for altruism can survive over the long term. If an individual carrying this mutation behaves unselfishly and, as a result, leaves fewer or no offspring, then the mutation will die out. Also, the group needs to discourage cheaters—individuals that take advantage of altruists to further their own selfish interests, and thus neutralize the benefits of altruism for the species as whole. Dawkins (1989) suggests this might be avoided if altruism were directed only toward individuals, such as close relatives, who are likely to carry the same gene. Under this “kin selection,” genes for altruism cause their carriers to act in a way that enhances the survival of the same genes in other carriers. Cheating still is possible. A mutation could arise that mimicked the identifying features of individuals that carried the gene for altruism. This introduces the need for some sort of policing strategy. It might not rid the group of cheaters, but it will make the cost high enough to limit their numbers. The problem now is that the difficulties have multiplied. The evolutionists sought to explain a highly complex social behavior in biological terms, and ended up having to explain other complex behaviors, such as cheating and policing.
Even so, it is not altogether clear that they have explained anything. This is not to say that altruism might not have a biological cause in social animals (although we have yet to find the gene for altruism, and no one knows how that gene would work to produce altruistic behavior). It is just that Darwinian accounts face a number of difficulties. The real issue, especially when we consider human societies, is how Dawkins defines altruism. He starts out with the individual (1989, p. 4), but ends up at the level of genes. So although the individual’s behavior seems to defy Darwinian selection, the gene for altruism will be selected if it increases the survival chances of the same gene in close relatives. Sure, the altruistic behavior costs the individual, but if all its siblings and cousins act altruistically, then the gene will increase its long-term prospects of survival.
This sleight-of-hand is typical of reductionism. We were asked to think of one thing, but were shown another. We were expecting an explanation of an individual’s altruism, but were given a story about a gene’s selfishness. If this is the case—if altruistic behavior just is selfishness—then it hardly seems fair to call this an explanation of altruism. If I continue to act for the benefit of others, only if they continue to act for my benefit, then that is not altruism as we normally construe the word. This behavior is more like “selfish benevolence” than altruism (Nunney, 1998, 281:1619).
Dawkins might respond that the “selfish gene” is just a metaphor. After all, genes are neither good nor bad in a moral sense. Still, Dawkins wants to say that altruistic behavior is not real—it is only apparent. Surely the reverse is true—it is the selfishness of the gene in Dawkins’ model that is only apparent.
It is no wonder that Dawkins asks us to separate the biological from the psychological. He does not want us to worry about hopes, desires, and beliefs. It does not matter, in his view, whether our donation was motivated by expected tax write-offs, or whether we saved a drowning enemy. But can we do this? Does our mental state at a particular time make no difference? If so, why have human societies drawn a distinction between selfishness and altruism, or between manslaughter and murder? If Dawkins wants to explain human behavior in terms of human biology, he had better not ignore human psychology.
At best, Dawkins has given us a hypothetical explanation of why social animals might act with the most charity toward their closest relatives. However, the biological causes underlying this behavior remain completely unexplained, and we have no reason to think that altruism is only “apparent” in human societies.


Despite trying to explain one aspect of human behavior (altruism) in genetic terms, Dawkins wanted to use something other than genes to explain cultural evolution. At this point he introduced the term “meme.” Just as genes are passed from one generation to the next and acted upon by natural selection, so memes are copied from one brain to the next and are acted upon by cultural selection (Dawkins, 1989, p. 192). Under this newly coined word, Dawkins listed uniquely human concepts such as “tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothing fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches.” Successful memes, like successful genes, are better at making more copies of themselves. Examples would be denim jeans and Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.
Actually, Dawkins does not intend to produce a theory of cultural evolution; he invented memes to show the universality of Darwinism (Miele, 1995; also Hurst and Dawkins, 1992; Dawkins, 1994). In other words, he wants to show that if Darwinism works on anything that can be copied, even ideas, then it must have worked on our genes. Unfortunately, others have taken his rhetorical device seriously. Following the mass suicide of Heaven’s Gate members, an article in Newsweek drew on the “new science of memetics” to suggest that their self-destructive ideas, or “mind viruses,” could find new hosts through the popular media (Cowley, 1997). There is now a Journal of Memetics.
However, the analogy between genes and memes, and viruses and ideas, fails completely. Dawkins acknowledged some of these criticisms (1982, p. 112), although they did not perturb him. Here are some reasons why we should be skeptical:
  • Changes in genes (mutations) occur randomly, whereas changes in ideas are not random. An apple’s falling from a tree is a random event; Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity, inspired from such an event, is itself nonrandom. His ideas on calculus and gravity did not emerge randomly from shapes and figures on a page.
  • Genes store information, whereas cultural features may or may not store information. A book is a meme that carries complex, specified information. Blue jeans are a meme, too, but it is hard to say how they carry information. Obviously we can study the jeans and, depending on our current state of knowledge, we might be able to determine where and how they were made, and what materials were used. Whereas the information we gather from blue jeans is subjective (it depends on us), the information in a strand of DNA is objective (it is there regardless of any intelligent observers).
  • Genes exist only in the organism, whereas cultural elements may exist outside the human brain. Although Dawkins credits the brain with inventing memes, and although memes can travel directly from brain to brain, they can reside on other media such as books, tapes, or digital media. This means that a tune, say, can be stored on a compact disc before it reaches another human brain. Dawkins likes to talk about memes as a kind of “mind virus” because a virus contains information and can exist outside the cell. However, a virus depends totally on transmission into the cell before copying occurs, whereas someone can make a million copies of a music CD without ever listening to the tunes it carries.
  • Cells copy genes exactly, whereas minds copy cultural elements with changes. Whenever a cell undergoes division, it makes a new copy of the entire genetic code, and rarely makes any mistakes. It is the nature of the human mind, however, to filter just about everything it absorbs. We take in very few ideas and repeat them verbatim. Sometimes we don’t even bother to repeat them. Fashions and technologies, by their very nature, change at a much higher rate than the genetic copying mechanisms of living cells.
  • Genes are discrete, whereas cultural elements can blend. Through his experiments on peas, Mendel showed that the units of heredity are separate and occur in pairs. This means, for instance, that you could inherit a gene for black hair from your father, and a gene for blonde hair from your mother (assuming, for the sake of simplicity, that there is just one pair of genes for hair color). But your hair is not going to be a mixture of black and white; it may turn gray later on in life, but that is another matter. The actual color will reflect whichever variety of the gene is most dominant (probably black in this case). However, two totally different ideas can come together to form a third. The English language is a hodge-podge of other languages. Weddings, funerals, and holiday activities can be a blend of traditions from both sides of the family.
  • Gene copying is Mendelian, whereas transmission of cultural elements is Lamarckian. Darwin’s main competitor was the Chevalier de Lamarck (1744-1829). He advanced a theory of evolution which said that changes acquired during a lifetime will pass to the next generation. If a giraffe strengthens its leg and neck muscles to reach higher branches, then the next generation will inherit these characteristics. If you cut the tail off each generation of rats, eventually rats will be born with no tails. Thanks to Mendel, we know this theory is not true. The traits are passed on in discrete, heritable units we call genes. The offspring will have these traits, not the traits we accumulated during our lifetime. However, Lamarck’s theory is true for ideas. We do acquire ideas during our lifetime, and we do pass them on to our children. If a father acquires a belief in God, he can talk to his children about it, but they cannot inherit this belief genetically.


Dawkins’ unsuccessful analogy highlights the inherent problem in applying biological principles to aspects of human culture. Nonetheless, there is a tremendous push to popularize Darwinism—to take it beyond stuffy labs and dusty fossils—and show everyone that it is not “just another” scientific theory. That is why, I suspect, evolutionists end up meddling in ethics. How did this happen? Sociobiology was supposed to be nothing more than a description of why we value certain behaviors. Dawkins, in particular, has been very emphatic about not wanting to make ought out of is (Miele, 1995; Dawkins, 1989, pp. 2-3).
Nonetheless, these writers really do seem to have a larger “vision” for an evolutionary ethic. Listen to Wilson’s sense of frustration in the following passage: “Scientists and humanists should consider together the possibility that the time has come for ethics to be removed temporarily from the hands of the philosophers and biologized” (1980, p. 287). He concludes that a deeper understanding of human biology “will make possible the selection of a more deeply understood and enduring code of moral values” (Wilson, 1978, p. 196). So he seems to have changed his mind: he really does want to do more than describe ethics in biological terms.
To his credit, Richard Dawkins shies away from framing an evolutionary ethic. Like Thomas Huxley, Dawkins believes we should resist evolutionary forces and subvert our genetic heritage (Dawkins, 1989, pp. 200-201). He is keen to explain how evolution molded tree-swinging ancestors into lumbering, humanoid robots, as long as he does not have to live next to them. “My own feeling,” Dawkins cautions, “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” (Dawkins, 1989, p. 3). Having said that, I guess we can all breathe a sigh of relief. He goes on to suggest two values: “Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish. Let us understand what our selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to.” In other words, let the robots arise and overthrow their genetic masters! Dawkins does not explain why we should swim against the tide of our survival instincts. Apparently, Dawkins just thinks that a world of generous, selfless people would be a better place in which to live.


Honestly, Wilson and Dawkins really seem to want as many Christian neighbors as possible. As we have seen already, one of Christ’s most important messages was to put others first; this is the altruism desired by Dawkins. Further, the Bible balances the concerns of groups and individuals that Wilson would like to see within human societies (1978, pp. 196-199). In the New Testament, we find that the church is to form a unified body, while each member plays a crucial role (1 Corinthians 12:27). It sets high standards for husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees, and governments and citizens (1 Peter 2:12-3:7), yet these ties do not come ahead of our personal relationship with God (e.g., Luke 14:25-27; Matthew 22:21).
Daniel C. Dennett, a philosopher and fan of Dawkins, has made an interesting comment along these lines. He points out that biblical ethics is a case of going from what the Bible says, to what we should or should not do. Whether you can make this move depends on your view of Scripture. If you claim that the Bible contains wise sayings, but is the product of human hands, then you are on no better ground than an evolutionist who derives his ethical precepts from Darwin’s Origin of Species. “Now,” Dennett points out, “if you believe that the Bible (or some other holy text) is literally the word of God, and that human beings are put here on Earth by God in order to do God’s bidding, so that the Bible is a sort of user’s manual for God’s tools, then you do indeed have grounds for believing that the ethical precepts found in the Bible have a special warrant that no other writings could have” (Dennett, 1995, p. 476, emp. in orig.). In other words, it is reasonable to go from God’s ought (“Thou shalt”) to our ought (“I should”), as long as you believe that God communicated directly to man.
The only valid Christian ethics, then, is a Christian ethics based on accepting the divine inspiration and authority of God’s Word. Espousing a “Christian ethic” without these beliefs will not work any more than espousing an evolutionary ethic based on Darwinism.
What are the alternatives? Obviously, for evolutionists, Christianity is out of the question. This leaves only one live option: secular humanism. Although Wilson, Dawkins, and Dennett would have you believe that they can offer a scientific view of ethics, they all end with the humanist’s plea to fulfill our potential as autonomous, thinking beings (Wilson, 1978, pp. 195-196; Dawkins, 1989, pp. 200-201; Dennett, 1995, pp. 468,476-477,481). The “evolution” in evolutionary ethics seems nothing more than a nod to nature for creating a brain mysteriously capable of moral judgments, and a body predisposed to self-preservation. There really is no basis—no set of facts—from which to defend or justify secular humanism, except the assumption that we must look to ourselves, and ourselves alone, for what is right.
Although these writers offer only a vague outline of evolutionary ethics, and offer no reasonable support, they are most definite about their intense dislike of Christianity. Wilson hopes that scientific materialism—a bringing together of humanism and evolution—will replace religion as “the more powerful mythology” (1978, p. 207). His attack is two-fold (1978, pp. 191-192).
First, he wishes to overcome the seemingly invincible idea of a Creator God by using scientific materialism as his siege machine. He is confident that humanistic scientists will come up with more ideas to explain the origin of life or the Universe without God, and eventually will undermine the foundations of a belief in divine creation. And second, he wishes to explain away religion. If scientific naturalism can “explain traditional religion, its chief competitor, as a wholly material phenomenon,” then theology will not survive as an independent intellectual discipline.
In Dawkins’ opinion, the “God meme” survives because “it provides a superficially plausible answer to deep and troubling questions about existence. It suggests that the injustices of this world may be rectified in the next. The ‘everlasting arms’ hold out a cushion against our own inadequacies which, like a doctor’s placebo, is none the less effective for being imaginary” (Dawkins, 1989, p. 193). Responding to the success of religion, he says: “Religion is a terrific meme. That’s right. But that doesn’t make it true and I care about what’s true. Smallpox virus is a terrific virus. It does its job magnificently well. That doesn’t mean that it’s a good thing. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to see it stamped out” (Miele, 1995). He calls religion a “bore” and God a “naive personification” (Thomas, 1997, p. 11).
Finally, like Wilson, Dennett believes that evolutionists should engineer the extinction of religion as a vital force in society. Darwin’s “dangerous” idea (i.e., Dennett’s view that evolution has implications for every part of our existence) will create a “toxic” cultural environment for fundamentalist religion (1995, p. 515). The only place for religion will be a kind of cultural zoo; churches will become museums. “Save the Baptists! Yes of course,” Dennett says, “but not by all means. Not if it means tolerating the deliberate misinforming of children about the natural world.... Misinforming a child is a terrible offense” (1995, p. 516; emp. in orig.). His “final solution” is a promise to undo a child’s religious training:
If you insist on teaching your children falsehoods—that the Earth is flat, that “Man” is not a product of evolution by natural selection—then you must expect, at the very least, that those of us who have freedom of speech will feel free to describe your teachings as the spreading of falsehoods, and will attempt to demonstrate this to your children at our earliest opportunity (1995, p. 519).
The agenda, then, is quite clear: there is no proven biological basis for an evolutionary ethic; there is no reasonable connection between Darwinism and culture or values; but anything will do as long as it is couched in the language of science or nature, and as long as it can displace religion in general, and Christianity in particular.


Charles Darwin has left a huge legacy for the modern era. Although his theory has difficulties, many people viewed Darwinian evolution as the only reasonable solution that avoided any appeal to a Creator God. It came at a time when people were looking to shed the constraints of church authority and its influence over education and society. The existing powers had a vested interest in maintaining order and the status quo as a matter of divine economy. There was little room within that power structure for talk of change—either in nature or society. Darwin’s theory challenged these conventions by implying that change, not stability, was the usual state of life on Earth. Reformers interpreted this change as progress—specifically, progress toward a freer, stronger, wealthier society. Many of them believed that this could only occur by unconstrained competition, as outlined by Thomas Malthus. Out of these swirling social currents emerged Herbert W. Spencer’s social Darwinism (despite the name, Darwin never endorsed this application of his theory). Spencer’s idea struck a popular nerve by suggesting that social institutions should step aside and allow nature to cull the poor and destitute, thus creating a fitter race of beings.
Eventually, social Darwinism fell out of favor for several reasons: (1) many people did not want, and would not permit, large-scale starvation among the unemployed and working poor; (2) wars and the changing fortunes of industrialized nations destroyed the notion of inevitable progress; and (3) contrary to the prejudiced Victorian outlook, scientists came to realize that neither technology nor material wealth was a good indicator of a given culture’s complexity or survivability.
The latter quarter of the twentieth century has seen a revival of cultural Darwinism, especially in the form of Edward O. Wilson’s sociobiology. Ostensibly, this field of study differs from Spencer’s view in wanting to describe, rather than prescribe, human behavior. Some of these accounts are proving highly controversial, especially those that attempt to describe adultery, rape, domestic violence, infanticide, and other abhorrent behaviors in terms of evolutionary theory. The usual explanations include motivations of self-preservation and an unstoppable urge to multiply one’s genetic heritage at almost any cost. However, these accounts resemble Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. In fact, there is a great lack, if not an outright absence, of solid evidence showing the causative relationship between genetics and complex human behavior.
Richard Dawkins has taken a different approach by proposing that human culture evolves apart from biology, but still according to Darwinian principles. He has coined the term “meme” to describe units of cultural inheritance, and intends to draw a strong analogy with genes. However, ideas, tunes, fashions, and other so-called memes follow neither Darwinian selection nor Mendelian rules of inheritance and transmission.
Despite the promise of merely describing behavior, the popularizers of Darwinian orthodoxly give the impression that evolution can (and will) point toward a system of ethics based on biology. Certainly this is the case with Wilson. He believes that a greater knowledge of genetics will reveal a moral code more suited to our genetic constitution. Apart from the poor prospects of finding such a connection, there seems to be no adequate justification for going from what is the case in biology, to what ought to be the case in human culture.
Dawkins believes evolution created a brain capable of making moral judgments, but avoids proposing an evolutionary ethic. If anything, Dawkins views our evolutionary heritage as a peculiarly human challenge. We are in a unique position, he believes, to act against our selfish genes.
Although couched in scientific terms, all these writers have a humanistic agenda. Specifically, they envision values and morals having a basis in whatever makes us human (apart from our spiritual self, of course). There is a sense of urgency in their appeals because they wish to bring an end to Judeo-Christian ethics and any other religious influences on society.
Yet, as Dennett points out, if God exists and the Bible is His Word, then a Christian ethic is on the firmest ground of all. God has provided principles and rules by which we are to act, and has promised to enforce those laws. But there is more. The Incarnation brought us a message of purpose, self-discipline, selflessness, and love for all mankind. Dawkins and company want a reason to be good, but it is not to be found in their world view.
[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This article was extracted, and has been significantly revised, from a chapter I wrote for inclusion in Dangerous ’Isms, edited by B.J. Clarke (Southaven, MS: Power Publications, 1997).]


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