Donald R. Fox

It may seem very strange to many of us to know some folks believe there should not be a right/wrong standard. That is to say, there are no rights or wrongs. Would you believe that some have affirmed that atheistic morality is beneficial to the human race? We are currently witnessing great crimes against humanity by way of orthodox Islam coupled with other ungodly lawless elements. Many of us have lived long enough to witness World War Two and the terrible loss of human lives and the destruction of large cities. Evil lawlessness drives the desire to control by killing whoever gets in their way and conquering landmasses. These wicked desires do not recognize rightness and compassion.

Years ago, it was common to debate the differences of religious beliefs. Sometimes non-believers would debate religious people that there was no God. For the Christian, it is understood that the word of God, the Bible is our guide in understand right and wrong. This ethical understanding is so clear for the Christian; that we act in a very consistent manner. Now, that does not mean we carry out our Christian duties properly all the time. It does mean we know right from wrong. Because we are free moral agents, we can choose to ignore our conscience and do wrong when we know what is right.

From man’s creation ethics and morals have been an important part of his personal and social life. One of the strongest evidences for God from within man is his ought factor, which causes man to ask thoughtful questions about what he should or should not do.” (Reference: Introduction “Is There A Universal Code of Ethics?” by Jim E. Waldron, dated 17 June 1982)

A most interesting public discussion was held at the Church of Christ meetinghouse, Shawnee, Oklahoma, August 15 and 16, 1929. The debaters were W. L. Oliphant, a Christian Minster, Oak Cliff Church of Christ, Dallas, Texas and Charles Smith, President, American Association for the Advancement of Atheism, New York City. One of the propositions, most unusual, was “Atheism is Beneficial to the Race, and is most conductive to Morality of any Theory Known to Man.” We know that people who do not believe in our Creator, God Almighty, God of the Bible, do not believe in any fixed standard for doing right. Without much effort, Mr. Oliphant crushed Mr. Smith with logic and the Word of God.

Our King Jesus Christ “was dead”” but he now “is alive” “for evermore” (Rev 1:18). “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth on me, though he die yet shall he live” (John 11:25) “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6).

End Note: Will we accept and desire a society without God-given ethical principles? We are now seeing an element of the religion of Islam that has proven to be barbarous. We know that there are many Muslims who desire a peaceful life. However, it seems they have no influence over too many that heed the Koran along with Sharia Law as it is written. The holocaust and death camps of the Nazis during WW2 are undeniable history. We should shudder that non-believers desire an atheistic society. Give us Biblical God-given ethics that will make for peace and contentment. Sadly, there will be no peace until evil is defeated, and obedience to God Almighty is practiced.

NOTE: For addition study, we have similar topics dealing with social problems. You may want to check out eighteen essays on orthodox Islam.

A Burning And Shining Light by Louis Rushmore


A Burning And Shining Light

"He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light" (John 5:35). This statement was made by Jesus Christ about John the Baptist. However, Jesus essentially applied the same frame of reference as well to all who would be his disciples.
"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16).
All Christians should be careful to always be ‘burning and shining lights.’  Light and darkness are used extensively in Scripture to depict the polar opposites of righteousness and wickedness. Additionally, many of the songs we sing teach this biblical distinction. Singing, as God’s choice of music in worship, teaches and admonishes (Colossians 3:16) and speaks (Ephesians 5:19) to the assembly about holy things. Further, singing, though praising God, is also both to be sung with and result in understanding (1 Corinthians 14:15). Songs about light include: "Ye Are the Light of the World," "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning," "Sunlight," "Stepping in the Light," "Send the Light," "Heavenly Sunlight," "Walking in the Light of God," "There Is Sunshine in My Soul" and "The Light of the World Is Jesus." These songs variously emphasize themes like (1) the source of Divine Light (God, Jesus, Heaven, the Bible), (2) Christians exhibiting that Light (Christian living) and (3) Christians reflecting the Light to the lost world (evangelism). Listen carefully to the hymns sung and sing not what for you personally would be lies. 


The sun of our solar system serves as the greater light, whereas the earth’s moon is a lesser light (Genesis 1:16-19). Ordinarily, the sun shines on the moon, which in turn reflects that light in earth’s night skies; the moon has no light source of its own. Similarly, Jesus Christ is our spiritual Son. His Sonlight should enlighten Christians (the church) who in turn reflect Sonlight upon the darkness of a sin-sick and dying world (the lost). The church has no other light source and does not originate its own light. The moon and the church both possess reflective functions, without which neither have a purpose (Ephesians 3:10-11).  However, in the physical universe a solar eclipse (or bashful moon) sometimes blocks sunlight, leaving the earth in darkness. The same thing can occur in the spiritual universe, whereby the church fails to reflect Sonlight to a darkened and lost world. In either case, this represents the failure of the reflective function respectively assigned to the moon and the church. The church cannot afford to be a bashful moon
In addition to a solar eclipse, sometimes a lunar eclipse occurs. This happens when the earth comes between the sun and the moon, and the moon is in darkness. Spiritually, this occurs when the world (worldliness) comes between the Son and the church. A church or Christians caught up in the world are also darkened and cannot enlighten the lost. This, too, is a failure of the ordinary reflective function. 
Generally, a solar eclipse may be total or partial. Likewise, spiritually speaking, the Sonlight which Christians or the church should reflect may be wholly or partially obscured. Comparisons between physical and spiritual eclipses bring to mind (1) passages noting that though we live in the world we must not be of the world (John 17:14-16) and (2) the enumerated deficiencies of the churches of Asia (Revelation 2-3). God’s people must resolve to reflect the Sonlight and obscure it not at all. Their souls and the souls of the lost world require it. 


The Bible contrasts the light of righteousness with the darkness of wickedness. Light and darkness represent the opposites of righteousness and wickedness (2 Corinthians 6:14). "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" Outside Christ’s kingdom of light is only darkness (Colossians 1:12-13; 1 Peter 2:9). There is no middle ground between light and darkness, righteousness and wickedness, the kingdom of Christ and the darkness of sin


Heaven itself is the power plant of divine light (1 Timothy 6:16); the abode of God is a dwelling place of light. Further, light is said to emanate from God himself (James 1:17; Revelation 21:23-25; 22:5). Also, prophecy (fulfilled in Jesus Christ) predicted that divine light should dwell on earth in the ministry of the Savior (Matthew 4:13-17). Our Lord came to be a light to Jews and Gentiles alike (Matthew 4:13-17; Luke 2:32; Acts 26:23), and he is the only light of the world (John 1:4-9; 8:12; 9:5). Christ’s mission involved coming to earth to give light to men (Ephesians 5:14), which light he imparted by preaching repentance and the kingdom (Matthew 4:13-17). Hereby, Jesus empowered men to become the children of light (John 12:35-36). 


Paul referred to the "light of the glorious gospel of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:4). The same divine power which spoke physical light into existence has also provided spiritual light (revelation, knowledge) (2 Corinthians 4:6). Hence, spiritual light today shines on earth through the Word of God. This word is called a "light that shineth in a dark place" (2 Peter 1:19-21). The Christian’s source of light, which he in turn must reflect toward others, comes today through the Word of God, the Gospel. 


Heaven’s light resides in the children of God. Christians, therefore, have the divine charge to let that light shine (Matthew 5:14-16; Luke 8:16; 11:33-36; 12:35). Christians are called "the children of light" (Luke 16:8; Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5-8), since God is the "Father of lights" (James 1:17). We become the children of light when we are "enlightened" by the Word of God (Hebrews 6:4-6), and are required to give that light away to all men (Luke 1:79; Acts 13:47; 26:17-18). The Christian light must not only burn, it must also shine (Matthew 4:14-16; John 5:35).


Satan and his servants take on the appearance of light and righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). Sometimes men are false lights as the Jews often were (Romans 2:19). Numerous passages warn about false teachers (lights) (Romans 16:17-18; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; James 3:1). "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). 


The practical application of any assessment of the do’s and don’ts of religion (or any other field of inquiry) is essential, without which the value of one’s study is greatly diminished. So, "How can Christians let their lights shine?" 
  1. Reflect only light emanating from the divine source (heaven, the Father, Christ, the Word of God). 
  2. Reflect all of the light radiating from the divine source (Acts 20:27). 
  3. Allow no darkness a place in one to overshadow or dim the light of the Gospel. 
  4. "No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light. The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light" (Luke 11:33-36).
  5. Putting away unholy things. 
  6. "Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain" (Philippians 2:14-16).
  7. Seeking only that which is holy. 
  8. "Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation" (1 Thessalonians 5:5-8).
  9. Put on the armor of light. 
  10. "The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying" (Romans 13:12-13).
  11. Finally, let us hold forth the Word of God (Philippians 2:14-16). ". . . ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life . . ." See also Philippians 1:17 and Jude 3. 


Light reproves sin and darkness (John 3:19-21; Ephesians 5:13), and the light of the Gospel is the only means by which one can avoid stumbling as if walking in the night (John 11:9-10). Men can walk in light or darkness, not both and not in between (1 John 2:8-11). Only by walking in the light can one enjoy fellowship with God and the forgiveness of sins (1 John 1:5-7). May each Christian determine to be "a burning and shining light" (John 5:35).  There is a distinct difference between the light of righteousness and the darkness of sin. Won’t you be led by the light of the Gospel today? Erring Christians can be rekindled (Acts 8:22). Others can begin their walk in the light by being immersed in water for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 John 1:7).

"THE BOOK OF ACTS" The Gift Of The Holy Spirit (2:38) by Mark Copeland

                          "THE BOOK OF ACTS"

                  The Gift Of The Holy Spirit (2:38)


1. In his first gospel sermon, Peter offered hope to his guilt-stricken audience...
   a. The remission of sins, and the gift of the Holy Spirit 
   b. Provided they repent and were baptized - Ac 2:36-39

2. What is the gift of the Holy Spirit...?
   a. Is the Holy Spirit Himself, or something the Spirit gives?
   b. If the former, then in what way is the Spirit a gift?

[I understand that the gift of the Holy Spirit to be the Holy Spirit
Himself.  While I respect those who think otherwise, here are some reasons for my view...]

      1. "gen., receive the Spirit as a gift, Ac 2:38." - Arndt &
         Gingrich, Dorea, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and
         Other Early Christian Literature, p.210
      2. "'you will receive (God's) gift, the Holy Spirit' Ac 2:38." 
         - Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of 
         the New Testament: Based on semantic domains. New York: United Bible Societies
      3. "dorea - gift, free gift, benefit; in the NT used only of 
         spiritual and supernatural gifts that are freely given by God to
         believers, including eternal life (JN 4.10), the Holy Spirit (AC 
         2.38)" - Friberg, T., Friberg, B., & Miller, N. F. (2000). Vol.
         4: Analytical lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids,MI.
      4. "Unique to Acts is 'gift of the Holy Spirit' (Acts 2:38; 10:45),
         but here the gen. is epexegetical: the gracious gift is the Holy
         Spirit." - Balz, H. R., & Schneider, G. (1990-). Exegetical 
         dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.
      5. "With the epexegetical gen. of the thing given, the Holy
         Ghost, Ac 2:38." - Thayer, Dorea, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p.161
      6. "In Ac 2:38, 'the gift of the Holy Ghost', the clause is
         epexegetical, the gift being the Holy Ghost Himself." - Vine, 
         Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p.147
      7. "The genitive is appositional, as in v.33 the promise is the
         Holy Spirit, so here the gift is the Holy Spirit." - Lenski, The
         Acts Of The Apostles
      8. "of the Holy Spirit - this clause is an appositional genitive
         with 'the gift' and means 'the gift, namely, the Holy Spirit.'" 
         - Kistemaker, Acts, New Testament Commentary, p.110
      -- That the Spirit is the gift in Ac 2:38 is the consensus of Greek scholars

      1. The immediate context
         a. Jesus spoke of the Spirit to His apostles as "the Promise
            of the Father" - Ac 1:4-5
         b. Peter spoke of the outpouring of the Spirit as "the promise
            of the Holy Spirit" - Ac 2:33
         c. Having just mentioned the "the gift of the Holy Spirit",
            Peter then says "For the promise is to you..." - Ac 2:38,39
         d. What promise is Peter referring to in Ac 2:39?
            1) The context suggests the promise already mentioned and
               just offered as a gift
            2) I.e., the promised Holy Spirit who has been poured out
               is now available as a gift to those who obey
      2. The remote context
         a. The Spirit is given (i.e., a gift) to those who obey God - Ac 5:32
         b. The same phrase ("the gift of the Holy Spirit") is used
            elsewhere when it clearly means the Holy Spirit Himself as 
            the gift - cf. Ac 10:44-47
         c. Other passages refer to the Holy Spirit as that given to
            Christians - Jn 7:37-39; 2Co 1:21-22; 5:5; Ga 4:6; Tit 3:5-6
      -- That the Spirit is the gift is supported by both immediate and remote contexts

      1. "The Holy Ghost is one of the promises of the New Testament,
         Ac 2:38-39." - Barton W. Stone, Works of Elder B. W. Stone
      2. "The phrase 'the gift of the Holy Ghost' occurs in Ac 2:38;
         10:45, and in both places must be understood as equivalent to 
         the 'the Holy Spirit as a gift'' - T. W. Brents, The Gospel Plan Of Salvation
      3. "The gift of the Spirit promised in Ac 2:38 was the Spirit
         itself" - David Lipscomb, Queries and Answers
      4. "The expression means the Holy Spirit as a gift" - J.W.
         McGarvey, New Commentary on Acts of Apostles
      5. "Certainly the gift of the Spirit is the Spirit itself given."
         - Moses Lard, Lard's Quarterly
      6. "The gift of the Holy Spirit is not some definite thing the
         Holy Spirit gives, but the Holy Spirit as a gift." - R. L. Whiteside, Reflections 
      7. "I believe the Holy Spirit is the gift to those who repent and
         are baptized." - Ferrell Jenkins, The Finger Of God
      -- That the Spirit is the gift in Ac 2:38 is a view that has been
         held by many; these are but a sampling of those in the Restoration Movement

[For such reasons, I understand the gift of the Holy Spirit to be the
Holy Spirit Himself.  In what way, then is the Spirit a gift?  Allow me
to summarize just a few blessings of the Spirit for the Christian...]


      1. Saving one through the washing of regeneration (baptism) - Tit 3:4-7
      2. Causing one to be reborn, in conjunction with the Word - 1Pe 1:22-23

      1. A process begun when washed and justified - 1Co 6:11
      2. A process that continues with the aid of the Word 
          - cf. Jn 17:17; Ac 20:32; Ep 6:17

      1. Otherwise we do not belong to Christ - Ro 8:9
      2. He will give life to our mortal bodies - Ro 8:11
      3. Which ought to motivate us to live holy lives - 1Co 6:18-20

      1. That we might put to death the deeds of the flesh - Ro 8:12-13
      2. Serving as God's instrumental agent whereby He strengthens us - Ep 3:16,20

      1. In times of weakness, when we do not know how to pray - Ro 8:26
      2. Making intercession for the saints of God - Ro 8:27

   F. HE SEALS...
      1. A seal marking us as belonging to God - Ep 1:13; 4:30; 2Co 1:22
      2. "It is our conviction that when a person obeys the gospel he
         is given the Holy Spirit. In this way God seals the person. In 
         effect God says 'This person belongs to me; let everyone take 
         note." -  Ferrell Jenkins, The Finger of God, p.19

      1. An earnest or guarantee as a promise of our inheritance 
          - Ep 1:14; 2Co 1:22; 5:5
      2. "The Holy Spirit is God's earnest (down payment) to the
         Christian as assurance of the complete promised inheritance. 
         There is no comfort here for the advocate of the impossibility
         of apostasy.  The Christian can 'grieve' the Spirit (Ep 4:30).
         We can forfeit the down payment and not receive the inheritance."
         - Ferrell Jenkins, ibid.

      1. Leading those who walk in the Spirit - Ga 5:16-18; Ro 8:5-6
      2. Producing spiritual graces of Christ-like conduct - Ga 5:22-26
      3. Engendering a deepening love for God as our Father- Ga 4:6; Ro 8:15-16
      4. Filling us with love and hope - Ro 5:5; 15:13


1. What is the gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38? I am mostly persuaded by ...
   a. The overwhelming consensus of Greek scholars
   b. The immediate and remote context in which the phrase is found
   c. What else is taught regarding the Spirit in the life of the Christian

2. I believe "the gift of the Holy Spirit" is the Spirit Himself...
   a. Given to those who become children of God - cf. Ga 4:6
   b. A promise related to the indwelling of the Spirit - cf. 1Co 6:19

3. Even if "the gift of the Holy Spirit" in Ac 2:38 refers to something the Spirit gives...
   a. Other passages speak of the Spirit as being given to the Christian
      - Jn 7:37-39; Ac 5:32
   b. What a wonderful gift, one that refreshes the Christian like
      "rivers of living water"!

There is much more that could be said about the Holy Spirit, His role in
the scheme of redemption, and work in the life of the Christian (cf. The
Holy Spirit Of God).  

But one does not have to have a comprehensive understanding of the Holy
Spirit to begin enjoying the blessings of the Spirit.  

They need only to respond to the gospel as proclaimed by the apostle
Peter... - cf. Ac 2:38-39

"THE BOOK OF ACTS" Baptism For The Remission Of Sins (2:38) by Mark Copeland

                          "THE BOOK OF ACTS"

               Baptism For The Remission Of Sins (2:38)


1. In response to the first gospel sermon, many asked "What shall we
   do?" - Ac 2:37
   a. They were told to repent and to be baptized - Ac 2:38
   b. The reason?  "...for the remission of sins" - ibid.

2. Some argue that "for" eis in Acts 2:38 means "because of"...
   a. The "causal" sense of eis (because of) as opposed to the
      "purpose" sense of eis (in order to)
   b. That the Greek preposition eis is so understood elsewhere and
      should be here - cf. Mt 12:41
   c. That people were to be baptized because their sins were already
      forgiven (presumably upon repentance) - cf. A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures
   d. Though Robertson admits this is a conclusion drawn as an
      interpreter, not as a grammarian - Robertson, A. T. (1919). A 
      Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, p. 592
   e. And Robertson may have been biased in his interpretation, for he was...
      1) Founder of Baptist World Alliance in 1900 
      2) Professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern Baptist
         Theological Seminary
      3) Son-in-law of John Albert Broadus, co-founder of Southern
         Baptist Theological Seminary

[What reasons might there be to conclude that eis means "in order to" or
"for the purpose of" remission of sins, instead of "because of" as
Robertson does?  A good place to start is by comparing...]


      1. for the remission of sins (KJV, NKJV)
      2. for the forgiveness of your sins (ESV, HCSB, ISV, LEB, NAB,
      -- These skirt the issue, using for which can indicate either
         cause or purpose

      1. so that your sins may be forgiven (New Revised Standard Version)
      2. unto the remission of your sins (American Standard Version)
      3. for the forgiveness of and release from your sins; (Amplified Bible)
      4. so that your sins will be forgiven (Contemporary English
         Version, God's Word Translation, Good News Translation)
      5. so that you may have your sins forgiven (JB Phillips New Testament)
      6. so your sins are forgiven (The Message)
      7. Then your sins will be forgiven (New International Readers Version)
      8. and your sins will be forgiven (New Life Version)
      9. Your wrong ways will be forgiven you (Worldwide English NT)
     10. into remission of your sins (Wycliffe Bible 
     11. to remission of sins (Young's Literal Translation)
      -- These all translate eis as indicating purpose (so that, unto, then, etc.)

[Out of 27 translations, not one translates eis as causal (because of),
whereas 13 translate eis indicating purpose (so that, unto, into, etc.)! 
The reason for this becomes clearer when we consider Greek...]


   A. THAYER...
      1. Citing Ac 2:38 - eis aphesin hamartion, to obtain the
         forgiveness of sins - Thayer, J. H. (1889). 
      2. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Being Grimm's
         Wilke's Clavis Novi Testamenti. New York: Harper & Brothers, p.94

      1. to denote purpose in order to - for forgiveness of sins, so that
         sins might be forgiven Mt 26:28; cp. Mk 1:4; Lk 3:3; Ac 2:38 
         - Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000)
      2. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early
         Christian literature (3rd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 290

      1. to/for to indicate purpose... for the forgiveness of sins (Ac 2:38
          - Balz, H. R., & Schneider, G. (1990-). 
      2. Exegetical dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids:Eerdmans, Vol 1, p.399

      1. John baptizes, and Jesus sheds His blood, for the forgiveness
         of sins (Mk 1:4; Lk 3:3; Mt 26:28; cf. Ac 2:38) - G. Kittel, G. 
         W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed. (1964-)
      2. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids:
         Eerdmans, Vol. 2, p. 429

      1. Unto the remission of your sins [eis aphesin tn hamartin hmn) 
         ...In themselves the words can express aim or purpose...One will
         decide the use here according as he believes that baptism is 
         essential to the remission of sins or not. My view is decidedly
         against the idea that Peter, Paul, or any one in the New 
         Testament taught baptism as essential to the remission of sins 
         or the means of securing such remission. So I understand Peter 
         to be urging baptism on each of them who had already turned 
         (repented) and for it to be done in the name of Jesus Christ on
         the basis of the forgiveness of sins which they had already 
         received. - Robertson, A. (1997). Word Pictures in the New
         Testament. Oak Harbor
      2. baptistheto eis aphesin ton hamartion (Ac. 2:38)...only the
         context and the tenor of N. T. teaching can determine whether 
         'into,' 'unto' or merely 'in' or 'on' ('upon') is the right 
         translation, a task for the interpreter, not for the grammarian.
         - Robertson, A. T. (1919). A Grammar of the Greek New Testament
         in the Light of Historical Research. P. 592
      3. As noted earlier, Robertson may have let his religious
         affiliation influence his scholarship

   F. MANTEY...
      1. J. R. Mantey, Professor of New Testament, Northern Baptist Theological Seminary
      2. Mantey contended for the "causal" sense of eis in Ac 2:38,
         though he classified that use of the preposition as a "remote 
         meaning." - From an article by Wayne Jackson
      3. His discussion clearly indicated, however, that he yielded to
         that view because of his conviction that, if baptism was "for 
         the purpose of the remission of sins," then salvation would be 
         of works, and not by faith (a false conclusion, please see below
         ~ MAC) H.E. Dana & J.R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek 
         New Testament, New York: Macmillan, 1955, 103-04). - ibid.
      4. However, Daniel Wallace (associate professor of New Testament
         Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary) wrote that in a 
         discussion between J. R. Mantey and Ralph Marcus: "Marcus ably 
         demonstrated that the linguistic evidence for a causal eis
         fell short of proof." - Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond
         the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand 
         Rapids: Zondervan), p. 370
[Baptists frequently appeal to Robertson and Mantey as authorities on
this matter.  Both were Baptists who may have let their theology trump
their scholarship.  Beside lexicographers, consider a few...]


      1. Peter calls on his hearers to "repent" (metanosate). This
         word implies a complete change of heart and the confession of 
         sin. With this he couples the call to "be baptized" (baptistht), 
         thus linking both repentance and baptism with the forgiveness of sins.
      2. Gaebelein, F. E., Tenney, M. C., & Longenecker, R. N. (1981).
         The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Volume 9: John and Acts. Grand
         Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House

   B. STOTT ON ACTS 2:38...
      1. Peter replied that they must repent, completely changing their
         mind about Jesus and their attitude to him, and be baptized in 
         his name...Then they would receive two free gifts of God--the 
         forgiveness of their sins (even of the sin of rejecting God's 
         Christ) and the gift of the Holy Spirit (to regenerate, indwell,
         unite and transform them). 
      2. Stott, J. R. W. (1994). The Message of Acts: The Spirit, the
         church & the world. The Bible Speaks Today. Leicester, England; 
         Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press

   C. LARKIN ON ACTS 2:38...
      1. By repentance and baptism we show that we have met the
         conditions for receiving forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit. 
      2. Larkin, W. J., Jr. (1995). Vol. 5: Acts. The IVP New Testament
         Commentary Series. Downers, IL: InterVarsity Press
   D. NEWMAN & NIDA ON ACTS 2:38...
      1. So that your sins will be forgiven (literally "into a
         forgiveness of your sins") in the Greek may express either 
         purpose or result; but the large majority of translators 
         understand it as indicating purpose. 
      2. The phrase modifies both main verbs: turn away from your sins
         and be baptized. The clause your sins will be forgiven may be 
         restructured in an active form as "God will forgive your sins." 
      3. Newman, B. M., & Nida, E. A. (1972). A handbook on the Acts of
         the Apostles. UBS Handbook Series. New York: United Bible Societies

   E. MEYER ON ACTS 2:38...
      1. eis denotes the object of the baptism, which is the remission
         of the guilt contracted in the state before metanoia. Comp. Ac 22:16; 1Co 6:11
      2. Meyer, H. A. W. (1877). Critical and Exegetical Handbook to
         the Acts of the Apostles, Volume 1 (W. P. Dickson, Ed.) (P. J. 
         Gloag, Trans.). Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New 
         Testament. Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

[Note that these are not so-called "Church of Christ" scholars.  Even so,
some contend (as did Robertson and Mantey) that if baptism was "for the
purpose of the remission of sins," then salvation would be of works, and
not by faith.  This is a false conclusion!  For consider what has been said by these...]


      1. Referring to the efficacy of baptism, he wrote that "the
         salvation of man is effected in baptism"; also, that a person 
         "is baptized for the express purpose of being with Christ."
         - as quoted by Jack W. Cottrell, Baptism And The Remission of
         Sins, College Press, 1990, p. 30
      2. In regards to the necessity of baptism, he refers to the
         "apostolic tradition, by which the Churches of Christ maintain 
         it to be an inherent principle, that without baptism...it is
         impossible for any man to attain to salvation and everlasting
         life." - ibid., p. 30

      1. "...Men are bound to that without which they cannot obtain
         salvation. Now it is manifest that no one can obtain salvation
         but through Christ..."
      2. "But for this end is baptism conferred on a man, that being
         regenerated thereby, he may be incorporated in Christ."
      3. "Consequently it is manifest that all are bound to be baptized:
         and that without baptism there is no salvation for men." - ibid., p. 31

      1. In answer to the question, "What gifts or benefits does Baptism
         bestow?", Luther replied in his Small Catechism, "It effects 
         forgiveness of sins." - ibid., p. 32
      2. He also wrote concerning the sinner:  "Through Baptism he is
         bathed in the blood of Christ and is cleansed from sins." - ibid., p. 32
      3. Again, he wrote: "To put it most simply, the power, effect,
         benefit, fruit, and purpose of Baptism is to save." - ibid., p.34
      4. In his commentary on Ro 6:3, he wrote:  "Baptism has been
         instituted that it should lead us to the blessings (of this 
         death) and through such death to eternal life.  Therefore it is
         necessary that we should be baptized into Jesus Christ and His
         death." - Commentary On Romans, Kregel Publications, p. 101
      5. In his commentary on Ga 3:27, he wrote:  "This is diligently
         to be noted, because of the fond and fantastical spirits, who go
         about to deface the majesty of baptism, and speak wickedly of
         it. Paul, contrariwise, commendeth it, and setteth it forth with
         honourable titles, calling it, 'the washing of regeneration, and
         renewing of the Holy Ghost'. And here also he saith, that 'all 
         ye that are baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.' Wherefore
         baptism is a thing of great force and efficacy." - Commentary On
         Galatians, Kregel Publications, p.222
      6. In response to those who would call this a kind of
         works-salvation, he said "Yes, it is true that our works are of
         no use for salvation.  Baptism, however, is not our work but 
         God's." - as quoted by Jack W. Cottrell, Baptism And The 
         Remission of Sins, College Press, 1990, p. 33

      1. G.R. Beasley-Murray, Principal of Spurgeon's College in London,
         later Senior Professor at Southern Baptist Seminary in 
         Louisville, KY, wrote a modern classic, Baptism In The New Testament.
      2. He gives chapters which thoroughly discuss baptism in the
         Gospels, in Acts, Paul's writings, and other apostolic writings
      3. In his introduction, Beasley-Murray wrote:
         a. "This book is intended to offer a Baptist contribution to
            the discussions on baptism that are taking place throughout the Christian world."
         b. "But the indefinite article should be observed; the 
            impression must not be given that my interpretations are 
            characteristic of Baptist thought generally."
         c. At most it can be claimed that they represent a trend gaining
            momentum among Baptists in Europe."
         d. "I have striven to interpret the evidence of the New 
            Testament as a Christian scholar, rather than as a member of
            a particular Christian Confession." - G. R. Beasley-Murray, 
            Baptism In The New Testament, Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans
            Publishing Co., 1962, pp. v-vi.
      4. From his chapter on baptism in Acts, Beasley-Murray wrote:
         a. "Consequently, baptism is regarded in Acts as the occasion
            and means of receiving the blessings conferred by the Lord of
            the Kingdom. Admittedly, this way of reading the evidence is
            not characteristic of our thinking, but the intention of the
            author is tolerably clear." - ibid. p. 102
         b. "Whatever the relationship between baptism and the gift of
            the Spirit elsewhere in Acts, there appears to be no doubt as
            to the intention of Acts 2:38; the penitent believer baptized
            in the name of Jesus Christ may expect to receive at once the
            Holy Spirit, even as he is assured of the immediate 
            forgiveness of his sins." - ibid., p. 108
      5. Some concluding statements were:
         a. "In light of the foregoing exposition of the New Testament
            representations of baptism, the idea that baptism is a purely
            symbolic rite must be pronounced not alone unsatisfactory but
            out of harmony with the New Testament itself. Admittedly, 
            such a judgment runs counter to the popular tradition of the
            Denomination to which the writer belongs..."
         b. "The extent and nature of the grace which the New Testament
            writers declare to be present in baptism is astonishing for 
            any who come to the study freshly with an open mind."
         c. "...the 'grace' available to man in baptism is said by the
            New Testament writers to include the following elements:
            1) forgiveness of sin, Ac 2.38 and cleansing from sins, Ac 22.16, 1Co 6.11;
            2) union with Christ, Ga 3.27, and particularly union with
               Him in his death and resurrection, Ro. 6.3ff, Col 2.11f, 
               with all that implies of release from sin's power, as well
               as guilt, and the sharing of the risen life of the Redeemer, Ro 6.1-11;
            3) participation in Christ's sonship, Ga 3.26f;
            4) consecration to God, 1Co 6.11, hence membership in the
               Church, the Body of Christ, 1Co 12.13, Ga 3.27-29;
            5) possession of the Spirit, Ac 2.38, 1Co 6.11, 12.13, and
               therefore the new life in the Spirit, i.e., regeneration, Tit 3.5, Jn 3.5;
            6) grace to live according to the will of God, Ro 6.1ff, Col 3.1ff;
            7) deliverance from the evil powers that rule this world, Col 1.13
            8) the inheritance of the Kingdom of God, Jn 3.5, and the
               pledge of the resurrection of the body, Ep 1.3f, 4.30.
            -- Ibid., pp. 263-264

[These theologians believed strongly in justification by grace through
faith, yet did not find that it precluded the role of baptism in
receiving the remission of sins.  Clearly, there are strong reasons to
consider eis in Ac 2:38 to indicate purpose ("in order to").  But in
anticipation of some objections, allow me to share some...]


      1. Nearly everyone I talk to who takes issue with baptism being
         necessary, or having any part of the gospel plan of salvation, 
         initially misunderstands this point
         a. They assume that if baptism is necessary, one is saved by meritorious works
         b. They assume that if one is baptized for the remission of
            sins, one has earned their salvation
      2. But again they need to listen carefully to Martin Luther...
         a. In response to those who would call this a kind of works-
            salvation, he said "Yes, it is true that our works are of no 
            use for salvation."  
         b. Baptism, however, is not our work but God's." - as quoted
            by Jack W. Cottrell, Baptism And The Remission of Sins, 
            College Press, 1990, p. 33
      1. Note that Peter clearly says that "baptism doth also now save
         us" (KJV) - 1Pe 3:21
      2. But as observed by Luther, it is God who saves us in baptism:
         a. He is the one at work in baptism - Col 2:11-13 (cf. "the working of God")
         b. Other than possessing faith in Christ and God, MAN IS PASSIVE in baptism
            1) In fact, baptism is a more passive act than "saying the sinner's prayer"!
            2) Like a patient submitting to the skill of a physician to remove cancer
            3) So we, seeking the removal of the cancer of sin, submit
               to the Great Physician to cut away our sins by the blood 
               of Christ, which He does in baptism
         c. It is God who makes us alive together with Christ, having
            forgiven all trespasses - Col 2:13
      3. As stated in ISBE:  "Baptism does not produce salutary effects
          ~ex~opere~operato~, i.e. by the mere external performance of 
         the baptismal action.  No instrument with which Divine grace 
         works does.  Even the preaching of the gospel is void of saving
         results if not 'mixed with faith' (He 4.2, AV)."
         a. It is not the "act" of immersion that saves, though salvation occurs at that time
         b. It is God who saves in baptism, by virtue of grace, when one believes in Christ!
         c. But because God commands baptism, and saves us in baptism, it is proper to say...
            1) With Peter:  "baptism doth also now save us" - 1Pe 3:21
            2) With Jesus:  "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved..." - Mk 16:16

   Before we close, let's return to our text and notice carefully...]

      1. The Jews' question
         a. They wanted to know what to do to remove their guilt - Ac 2:36-37
         b. Any instruction by Peter would be understood by them in
            this light, and must so be understood by us today
      2. Peter's answer
         a. He gave two commands:  1) repent and 2) be baptized - Ac 2:38
         b. That the first imperative (repent) was second person plural, 
            and the second imperative (be baptized) was third person 
            plural, and the phrase (for the remission of sins) reverts 
            back to second person plural, is a distinction without a difference 
            1) "The phrase (for the remission of sins, MAC) modifies both
               main verbs: turn away from your sins and be baptized." 
               - Newman, B. M., & Nida, E. A. (1972). A handbook on the Acts
               of the Apostles. UBS Handbook Series. New York: United Bible Societies
            2) "In my view, the phrase eis aphesin hamartion in
                  Acts 2:38 applies in sense to both of the preceding verbs." 
               - Bruce Metzger, editor of the Textual Commentary on the
               Greek New Testament, a companion volume to the United
               Bible Societies' Greek New Testament (4th rev. ed.). 
               London; New York: United Bible Societies, and teacher at 
               Princeton Theological Seminary - Correspondence with David Padfield
            3) "Since the expression eis aphesin hamartion is a
               prepositional phrase with no verbal endings or singular or
               plural endings, I certainly agree that grammatically it 
               can go with both repentance and baptism.  In fact, I would
               think that it does go with both of them." - Arthur L. 
               Farstad, chairman of the New King James Executive Review 
               Committee and general editor of the NKJV New Testament - ibid.
            4) "Whenever two verbs are connected by kai (and) and then
               followed by a modifier (such as a prepositional phrase, as
               in Acts 2:38), it is grammatically possible that modifier 
               modifies both the verbs, or only the latter one...It does 
               not matter that, here in Acts 2:38, one of the verbs is 
               second person plural...and the other is third person 
               singular...They are both imperative, and the fact that
               they are joined by kai ('and') is sufficient evidence that
               the author may have regarded them as a single unit to 
               which his modifier applied." - John R. Werner, 
               International Consultant in Translation to the Wycliffe 
               Bible Translators.  Also a consultant to Friberg and 
               Friberg with the Analytical Greek New Testament, and from
               1962 to 1972 professor of Greek at Trinity Christian College - ibid. 
         c. Since the conjunction kai "and" joins the two commands
            together, what is said of one command applies to the other
            1) If they were to baptized "because of" remission of sins...
            2) ...then they were also to repent "because of" the remission of sins!
         d. This would present two problems
            1) Where else are people told to repent "because" their sins are already forgiven?
            2) Peter would have failed to tell them what to do to remove their guilt!
      3. Luke's summary
         a. Peter told them what to do repeatedly, and they responded 
            - Ac 2:40-41
         b. "Be saved (save yourselves, ESV, NLT, NET) from this
            perverse generation" 
         c. "Then those who gladly received his word were baptized"
      -- They saved themselves by being baptized, and thus the
         immediate context confirms baptism was "in order to" the 
         remission of sins, not "because of"!


1. Allow me to share these words that I believe summarizes both the
   issue and the solution to properly understanding "baptism for the 
   remission of sins": 

   A number of commentators seek to diminish the force of the phrase
   "for the forgiveness of sins" at this point, apparently seeking
   to safeguard the doctrine of salvation by grace. They take the 
   preposition "for" (eis) to mean "because of" rather than "in
   order to." Peter, they say, meant be aptized because of the 
   forgiveness of sins, implying that such forgiveness had already
   been granted by the time baptism was administered. 

   This position disregards the very common use of eis in the New
   Testament to mean "for the purpose of, in order to." In Matthew
   26:28 where this exact phrase appears, Jesus says his blood is
   poured out" for (eis) the forgiveness of sins. It would be absurd
   to argue that the phrase means "because of" and that Jesus' blood
   was poured out because sins had already been forgiven. 

   Beyond this, the command to be baptized is only one of the
   imperatives Peter gave. "Be baptized" is joined to "repent" with
   "and." Whatever Peter says about the forgiveness of sins follows
   from both imperatives. Just as repentance is needed "for the 
   purpose of" the forgiveness of sins, so is baptism. 

   This position need not rob the plan of salvation of its basis
   in the grace of God. Both imperatives expect action to be taken
   on the part of the sinner. Yet Peter considered neither to be a
   work which merits salvation, but merely the response of faith 
   dictated by the prophesy he had already cited--"everyone who 
   calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Acts 2:21).

   - Gaertner, D. (1995). Acts. The College Press NIV Commentary.
   Joplin, MO: College Press.

2. Salvation is truly by grace through faith, and not of works done to
   earn or merit salvation...
   a. It is not by faith alone, because we need the grace of God, the
      blood of Christ, along with the washing of renewal and regeneration
      of the Holy Spirit - cf. Tit 3:4-7
   b. So when the penitent believer submits to the command of Christ to
      be baptized, they can rest assured at that moment the blood of 
      Christ washes away all their sin! - cf. Ac 22:16

And so we say with Peter to all who are convicted of their sins, who seek
forgiveness by asking "What shall we do?":

   "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus 
   Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive 
   the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to 
   your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the 
   Lord our God calls to him." ~ Ac 2:38-29

Hopefully they will "save themselves" by gladly accepting the word of
Christ's apostle, by being baptized this very day...! - Ac 2:40-41

Islam and Early America by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Islam and Early America

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

America has drifted farther away from its original spiritual, religious, and moral moorings than at any point in the past. Those moorings were identified by French historian and politician Alexis de Tocqueville in his monumental 1835 literary masterpiece, Democracy in America, published after a visit to America in 1831-1832:
[T]here is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America; and there can be no greater proof of its utility and of its conformity to human nature than that its influence is powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth.... Christianity, therefore, reigns without obstacle, by universal consent; the consequence is, as I have before observed, that every principle of the moral world is fixed and determinate.... [T]he revolutionists of America are obliged to profess an ostensible respect for Christian morality and equity, which does not permit them to violate wantonly the laws that oppose their designs.... [W]hile the law permits the Americans to do what they please, religion prevents them from conceiving, and forbids them to commit, what is rash or unjust.... I do not know whether all Americans have a sincere faith in their religion—for who can search the human heart?—but I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions. This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens or to a party, but it belongs to the whole nation and to every rank of society.... The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other.... How is it possible that society should escape destruction if the moral tie is not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed? And what can be done with a people who are their own masters if they are not submissive to the Deity? (1945, 1:303-307, emp. added).
Indeed, “how is it possible...?,” and “what can be done...?”
Contrary to the claim in recent years that the Founding Fathers of America advocated “pluralism” and equal acceptance of all religions, ideologies, and philosophies, the truth is that they feared for the future of the nation should its Christian foundation ever be compromised. Supreme Court Justice James Iredell, who was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President George Washington, reflected this concern in 1788, though he felt confident that Islam would never be allowed to infiltrate America:
But it is objected that the people of America may perhaps choose representatives who have no religion at all, and that pagans and Mahometans may be admitted into offices.... But it is never to be supposed that the people of America will trust their dearest rights to persons who have no religion at all, or a religion materially different from their own (1836, 4:194, emp. added).
Similarly, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, appointed to the Court by President James Madison in 1811 and considered the founder of Harvard Law School and one of two men who have been considered the Fathers of American Jurisprudence, in his Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, clarified the meaning of the First Amendment as it relates to religious toleration and Islam:
The real object of the [First—DM] [A]mendment was not to countenance, much less to advance Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment which should give to a hierarchy [of one denomination—DM] the exclusive patronage of the national government (1833, 3:728.1871, emp. added).
The other man who shares the title “Father of American Jurisprudence” in America was New York State Supreme Court Chief Justice James Kent, who, in penning the opinion of the court in The People v. Ruggles in 1811, reiterated the national attitude toward Islam that existed from the inception of the country. In a case that resulted in the punishment of an individual who publicly maligned and denounced the Christian religion, Kent acknowledged the right of “free and decent discussions on any religious subject,” but nevertheless insisted:
Nor are we bound, by any expressions in the constitution, as some have strangely supposed, either not to punish at all, or to punish indiscriminately the like attacks upon the religion of Mahomet or of the Grand Lama; and for this plain reason, that the case assumes that we are a Christian people, and the morality of the country is deeply engrafted upon Christianity, and not upon the doctrines or worship of those imposters (8 Johns 290).
While America generally has welcomed all nationalities of people to her shores regardless of their personal beliefs, alternative ideologies and religions never were intended to be given credence and allowed to transform her into either a religionless or non-Christian society. Nor was it intended that American civilization be adjusted to accommodate religious principles that contradict the original foundations of the nation. America welcomes people to live in freedom within her borders—as long as they do so peaceably. But to adjust social parameters in public life to accommodate divergent religions will weaken, not strengthen, the ability of America to sustain herself. Noah Webster articulated this indisputable fact in a letter to James Madison on October 29, 1829:
[T]he Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis, or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government.... and I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence (as quoted in Snyder, 1990, p. 253, emp. added).
One of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, John Carroll, echoed these same sentiments in a letter to James McHenry on November 4, 1800:
[W]ithout morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure...are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments (as quoted in Steiner, 1907, p. 475, emp. added).
The Founders understood that the Christian religion was the foundation upon which the superstructure of American civil institutions was built. To undermine that foundation is to encourage the collapse of American civilization as it was originally intended. The ultimate key and solution to America’s future is self-evident and simple—but increasingly unacceptable to more and more Americans:
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance. The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth.... No king is saved by the multitude of an army; a mighty man is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a vain hope for safety; neither shall it deliver any by its great strength. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy (Psalm 33:12-18, emp. added).


Iredell, James (1836), The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, ed. Jonathan Elliot (Washington, D.C.: Jonathan Elliot).
The People v. Ruggles (1811), 8 Johns 290 (Sup. Ct. NY.), N.Y. Lexis 124.
Snyder, K. Alan (1990), Defining Noah Webster: Mind and Morals in the Early Republic (New York: University Press of America).
Steiner, Bernard (1907), The Life and Correspondence of James McHenry (Cleveland, OH: Burrows Brothers).
Story, Joseph (1833), Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (Boston, MA: Hilliard, Gray, & Co.).
Tocqueville, Alexis de (1945 reprint), Democracy in America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf).

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


The Origin of Peoples

by  Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.

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


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


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


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


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


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