"THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS" Finding A Way In The Will Of God (1:10) by Mark Copeland

                      "THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS"

                Finding A Way In The Will Of God (1:10)


1. "What is God's will for my life?"
   a. What devout person has not asked a question like this?
   b. Often asked even pertaining to mundane things like one's career,
      where to live, etc.
   -- How can we live in harmony with the will of God?

2. Paul mentioned his desire to live in harmony with God's will...
   a. As he made plans to visit his brethren in Rome
   b. As he prayed regarding such plans - cf. Ro 1:9-10
   -- He sought to "find a way in the will of God" to come to them

[Paul's comments provide an opportunity for us to consider some thoughts
related to the will of God, especially on how to determine God's will
for our lives.  It might be of benefit to first review some...]


      1. God has made His will known in many respects - e.g., 1Th 5:18;1Pe 2:15
      2. This He has done through revelation
         a. By sending inspired prophets in the past - He 1:1
         b. By sending His own Son - He 1:2
         c. By having the Spirit guide the apostles - Jn 16:12-13; e.g.,1Co 14:36-37
      3. It is this proclaimed will of God that we must do to be saved - cf. Mt 7:21
      -- That which is essential to know, God has revealed through
         Scripture - 2Ti 3:16-17

      1. God acts providentially in our lives, as implied in our text
         - cf. Ro 1:10; also 15:32
      2. For such reason we are to pray regarding our plans - cf. Jm 4:13-15
      3. Our requests are answered as it may suit God's will - cf. 1Jn 5:14
      -- We may not have certainty as to what is God's providential will for us

      1. God allows things to happen that are not necessarily according
         to His desired will
      2. He permits people to sin and even hurt other people
         a. He is not pleased, and will one day render judgment - Ac 17: 30-31
         b. He is able to fulfill His own will, despite such rebellion- cf. Isa 10:5-7
      3. God permits people to do things that are indifferent to Him
         a. There are some matters of indifference to God - e.g., Ro 14: 5-6
         b. Likewise, some decisions we make might not really matter to God
      -- Thus not all choices please God, nor are they necessarily required by God

[With these thoughts in mind, let's now consider some thoughts on...]


      1. I.e., study diligently to learn what God has revealed
         a. If you don't embrace and practice the revealed will of God...
         b. ...what difference does it make to seek areas of God's will unknown to you?
      2. The value of focusing on the proclaimed will of God
         a. We will not be ignorant of what is essential for us to know and do
         b. We can avoid choices that are clearly contrary to God's will

      1. Discuss your alternatives with older, mature Christians
          - Pro 11:14; 12:15
      2. Consult the wisdom found in the Bible (especially in books like Proverbs, Ecclesiastes)

      1. I.e., pray diligently for the ability to discern wisely - Jm 1: 5-8
      2. Wisdom is that spiritual insight that enables you to evaluate
         situations clearly, and helps utilize what options and abilities you have
      3. Use such wisdom to eliminate what appears less acceptable

      1. Whatever you do, do it for the Lord's sake - cf. Ps 37:5-6, 23-26
      2. Make your plans subject to God's will, both proclaimed and providential - Jm 4:15
         a. Give God permission to close the door on your choice if that is His will
         b. If He closes the door on your choice, look for alternatives

      1. God is not like a train; he is able to run on more than one track
      2. A choice may not be between good and bad, but between good and better
      3. God can use us in many different ways
      4. If need not choose right away, wait; that will give you time to grow and gain wisdom
      5. Whatever your hands finds to do in your existing circumstances,
         do it with all your might


1. Our goal should be to "stand perfect and complete in all the will of
   God" - cf. Col 4:12
   a. Especially as it pertains to the proclaimed will of God
   b. Even as much as possible in the providential and permissive will of God

2. Epaphras' desire for his brethren serves as a good example; as does
   that of our Lord...
   a. Who taught us to pray, "Your will be done on earth as it in heaven" - Mt 6:10
   b. Who Himself prayed, "Not as I will, but as You will..." - Mt 26:39-42

Are you seeking to "find a way in the will of God" as it pertains to the
plans in your life?
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

Babylon the Great Has Fallen by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Babylon the Great Has Fallen

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Babylon was one of the richest cities in the world during the years 740 B.C. to 680 B.C. During these “glory days,” the city prospered like it had the Midas touch; everything it touched seemed to turn to gold. It was located between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers—a strip of land so agriculturally productive that today it is known as the “fertile crescent.”
But its agriculture and well-watered plains were not the reason it was famous. Babylon gained its reputation because of its high, massive walls and its strong defensive battlements. In fact, ancient writers described walls that were 14 miles long on all four sides of the city and that reached heights of over 300 feet—taller than most building today. Not only were the walls long and high, but in some places they also were 75-feet thick. But the wall was not the only form of defense. The Euphrates River surrounded the city, making a perfect moat that ranged anywhere from 65 to 250 feet across. This wall/moat combination appeared to make the city unconquerable.
Yet in spite of the strong military and defensive strength of the city, God’s prophets foretold its destruction. In Jeremiah 50:9, the prophet declared that God would “raise and cause to come up against Babylon an assembly of great nations from the north country.” This prediction probably seemed unfounded at the time it was made, because none of the countries in the north came close to having enough strength to defeat Babylon. But years after the prophecy, Cyrus, king of the Medo-Persian Empire, mounted a huge force of many different nations and marched southward against Babylon.
The details of the fulfillment are amazing. Jeremiah recorded that God had declared: “I will dry up her sea and make her springs dry” (51:36). Again the prophet foretold: “A drought is against her waters, and they will be dried up. For it is a land of carved images” (50:38). Also, the prophet promised that the Lord had spoken: “I will prepare their feasts; I will make them drunk, that they may rejoice, and sleep a perpetual sleep and not awake” (51:39).
Now listen to the story as history unfolds. The Euphrates River ran underneath the great walls of Babylon. After a siege of two full years, Cyrus was able to divert the river to make it flow into a huge marsh on the western side of the city. By doing this, he “dried up the rivers” of Babylon and provided an easy way for his soldiers to enter under the city walls where the water used to flow. But the Babylonians inside the city had no idea what was taking place. They could have defended the city, but instead they were feasting and getting drunk. Cyrus ordered his men to act like drunken revilers, and by the time the Babylonians knew what had hit them, the city was filled with enemy troops and who ultimately conquered it.
Even though the above circumstances would be enough to prove the accuracy of the prophecy of Jeremiah (and thus the Bible), the prophet’s predictions do not stop there. Chapters 50-51 of Jeremiah’s book are filled with more futuristic condemnations of Babylon, all of which were fulfilled in the smallest detail. Truly, the words spoken by the prophet did come to pass.
Time after time, the Bible has been “dead on” when it has predicted the future. Secular records document the facts about Babylon. So what does this prove? It proves one simple thing—that God Himself inspired the words written between the covers of the Bible. And because that is the case, every human being should welcome the Bible “not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

Why is Belief in God Natural to Mankind? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Why is Belief in God Natural to Mankind?

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.

On  June 18, 2012, well-known and much-read atheistic blogger Leah Libresco put out a blog post titled: “This Is My Last Post for the Patheos Atheist Portal” (Merica, 2012). In the post, Libresco explained that she was no longer writing for the atheist portal because she is no longer an atheist. During the months prior to the post, her mental struggles and rational investigations led her to the conclusion that God exists (Libresco, 2012).
What was the primary factor that forced Libresco to this theistic conclusion? She explained that morality was the key. Throughout her time as an atheist, she struggled to come to grips with how humans can adhere to a morality that seems objective if there is no God. As she searched for answers among atheistic thinkers and writers, she admitted that their answers were inadequate.
In an interview with a CNN news reporter, Libresco noted that her conversion from atheism to theism was “kinda the same thing with any scientific theory, almost, that it had more explanatory power to explain something I was really sure of. I’m really sure that morality is objective, human independent; something we uncover like archaeologists not something we build like architects” (Merica, 2012, emp. added).
Libresco’s intellectual honesty regarding morality is refreshing to see. [NOTE: A.P. does not endorse Libresco’s affiliation with Catholicism. See Pinedo, 2008.] Her conversion highlights an important aspect of the process of searching for truth: explanatory value. With an ever-increasing number of skeptics, unbelievers, atheists, and agnostics in the United States and around the globe, it is important for Christians to look for ways to teach them about God, and then Jesus Christ. One effective way to do that is to show that the concept of God maintains much more powerful explanatory value than atheism for the realities that we see around us. Thus, when approaching a reality upon which both theists and atheists agree, the question would be: “Which idea, theism or atheism, explains this particular phenomenon the best?” To frame it in a more positive way, “If there really is a God, what would we expect the world to look like?” Leah Libresco recognized the reality of objective morality and concluded that if atheism were true, there would be no objective morality; but if there is a God, then objective morality is exactly what we would expect to find.
That principle can be extended to a host of realities that are present in our world. The one that this article addresses is the fact that mankind has an inherent predisposition to recognize a supernatural, intelligent Creator. This article establishes the fact that this reality is generally recognized by both atheists and theists. It will then address which of these two ideas, atheism or theism, most adequately accounts for this fact. The purpose of such an endeavor is to reach the unbelieving community with powerful evidence that has the ability to bring them to a belief in God, and one step closer to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Humanity’s “Intuitive Theism”

It might surprise the reader that both atheists and theists overwhelmingly admit that humans are predisposed to believe in an intelligent creator of some sort. Richard Dawkins, arguably the world’s leading atheistic thinker, lecturer, and writer, asked the question: “Why, if it is false, does every culture in the world have religion? True or false, religion is ubiquitous, so where does it come from?” (2006, p. 159). His assertion that religion is false is inaccurate, but his statement highlights the fact—the reality—that religion is universal to mankind, and has been in every human culture ever studied.  He went on to say, a few pages later: “Though the details differ across the world, no known culture lacks some version of the time-consuming, wealth-consuming, hostility-provoking rituals, the anti-factual, counter-productive fantasies of religion” (p. 166). So deeply religious are humans, Dawkins refers to their desire to recognize some type of creator as a “lust for gods” (p. 169). The late atheistic writer Christopher Hitchens wrote: “Sigmund Freud was quite correct to describe the religious impulse, in The Future of an Illusion, as essentially ineradicable until or unless the human species can conquer its fear of death and its tendency to wish-thinking. Neither contingency seems very probable” (2007, p. 247).
Renowned atheist Sam Harris was forced to admit the truth that the concept of God is an inherent human predisposition. He wrote: “Similarly, several experiments suggest that children are predisposed to assume design and intention behind natural events—leaving many psychologists and anthropologists to believe that children, left entirely to their own devices, would invent some conception of God” (2010, p. 151).
The research to which Sam Harris refers is extensive. Paul Bloom and Deena Skolnick Weisberg have written an article, titled “Childhood Origins of Adult Resistance to Science,” which was published in Science magazine in May of 2007. They suggest that children tend to attribute purpose and design to virtually everything, a tendency the authors call “promiscuous teleology” ([316]:996). Bloom and Weisberg noted: “[W]hen asked about the origin of animals and people, children spontaneously tend to provide and prefer creationist explanations” (p. 996).
In an article titled “Are Children ‘Intuitive Theists’?” Deborah Keleman documented research which led her to conclude that “the proposal that children might be intuitive theists becomes increasingly viable,” and “together, these research findings tentatively suggest that children’s explanatory approach may be accurately characterized as intuitive theism” (2004, 15:299). In an extensive 49-page article in Cognitive Psychology, Margaret Evans wondered aloud: “Why is the human mind (at least the Western protestant mind) so susceptible to creationism and so comparatively resistant to naturalistic explanations for the origins of species?” (2001, 42:252).
In light of the current research, Bloom admitted: “There is by now a large body of research suggesting that humans are natural-born creationists. When we see nonrandom structure and design, we assume that it was created by an intelligent being” (Bloom, 2009, pp. 16-19). He opined: “Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins was right to complain, then, that it seems ‘as if the human brain were specifically designed to misunderstand Darwinism’” (pp. 16-19). Some atheists, like David Mills, writing for a more popular audience, assert that we “should recognize that all children are born atheists. There is no child born with a religious belief” (2006, p. 29). But that assertion misses the point that humans are born with the predisposition to theistic conclusions. Overwhelmingly, the atheistic community recognizes the reality that humans are born with a “lust for gods,” a “promiscuous teleology,” and a penchant toward “intuitive theism.”
Theists likewise concur that humans have an inherent predisposition to conclude an intelligent Creator exists. Theistic apologist Paul Copan describes mankind’s tendency toward creation as a “religious impulse” that is “deeply imbedded” in the universal human thought process (2011, p. 30). We could supply scores of similar statements from creationists that would underscore the obvious conclusion that, by and large, the creationist community agrees with the atheistic community that there is a universal, built-in, in-born, intuitive human tendency to believe in an intelligent creator. The question then arises, which understanding of origins, atheism or theism, best explains why humanity exhibits “intuitive theism”? One key to arriving at the answer to this question is to understand the problems this reality poses for atheistic, naturalistic explanations of the Universe.

Theism and Religion are “Costly” Concepts

According to naturalistic, atheistic assumptions for the origin of the Universe and the evolutionary assumption for the origin of mankind, everything that exists must have a naturalistic cause. By that, it is understood that atheistic evolutionists must present a reason to explain why humans are “intuitive theists” that corresponds with their atheistic beliefs that the material Universe is all there is. The problem that the atheistic community runs into in this regard is that the ideas of religion and theism run counter to what one would expect to find if atheism and naturalistic evolution were true. According to evolution [by this we mean atheistic, naturalistic evolution in which no intelligent designer played any part], natural selection eliminates physical structures and mental states that are costly in terms of their survival value. For instance, if there developed in a certain sub-group of humans the intuitive idea that rabid Kodiak bears made good pets, that group would soon be killed by such bears, and whatever aspect of the brain that housed the belief would be eliminated from the human population as a whole.
To illustrate further, if a certain group of humans tended to spend lots of effort on religious ceremonies that had nothing to do with their physical survival, and another group did not “waste” their resources on anything but their physical survival, natural selection would suggest that those “religious” people who “wasted” their resources would eventually lose out in the race for physical survival. And the “non-religious” group would be selected by nature to become more prevalent and replace the “wasteful” religious group. Yet, we see just the opposite.
Richard Dawkins acknowledged this problem facing atheistic ideas. He stated: “Religion is so wasteful, so extravagant; and Darwinian selection habitually targets and eliminates waste” (2006, p. 163). Atheistic philosopher Daniel Dennett stated: “Whatever else religion is as a human phenomenon, it is a hugely costly endeavor, and evolutionary biology shows that nothing so costly just happens” (2006, p. 69). What do these atheistic writers mean when they say that religion is “wasteful” and “so costly”? Dennett expounded on the idea when he said that when people look at humanity all over the world
what they see today is a population of over six billion people, almost all of whom devote a significant fraction of their time and energy to some sort of religious activity: rituals such as daily prayer (both public and private) or frequent attendance at ceremonies, but also costly sacrifices—not working on certain days no matter what looming crisis needs prompt attention…and abiding by a host of strenuously observed prohibitions and requirements (p. 75).
Dawkins expanded his ideas of “wasteful” as well, when he said:
Religion can endanger the life of the pious individual, as well as the lives of others. Thousands of people have been tortured for their loyalty to a religion, persecuted by zealots for what is in many cases a scarcely distinguishable alternative faith…. Devout people have died for their gods and killed for them; whipped blood from their backs, sworn themselves to a lifetime of celibacy or to lonely silence, all in the service of religion. What is it all for? What is the benefit? (pp. 164-165).
In their discussions and writings, atheists have sometimes suggested that religion possibly has such overwhelming health benefits that it is “worth” the expense. They note such things as the results of some research to suggest that prayer can lower stress levels or blood pressure. Or they comment on the emotional benefits of fitting into a community, which religious rituals would foster and encourage. Virtually across the board, however, they have rejected the idea that religion is actually beneficial for the physical survival of mankind. They contend that such minor advantages as lower stress levels or lower blood pressure certainly cannot justify the massive expenditure of resources on religion. [NOTE: It is easy to see why they have rejected those explanations. If religion actually provides benefits that would be greater than any negative consequences, then it would be better for humanity to hang on to religious ideas regardless of their factuality or validity. Since most modern atheists are calling for the eradication of religion, they are forced to downplay its benefits and look for another answer that could compel people to want to eliminate religion. While we certainly are not suggesting the idea that religion is beneficial and that is why it “evolved,” it is plain to see why the current atheistic community has forsaken it.]
Sam Harris contended, “And even if tribes have occasionally been the vehicles of natural selection, and religion proved adaptive, it would remain an open question whether religion increases human fitness today” (p. 151). The current atheistic consensus is that religion does not bestow upon humanity enough physical benefit to “increase human fitness.” How, then, do atheists respond to the two facts that (1) humans are intuitively theistic and (2) such religious theism is extremely costly and does not bestow physical survival fitness on our species?

The Current Atheistic Answer: Religion is a Virus or By-Product

What naturalistic explanation can be given to account for the ubiquitous and extremely costly nature of religion? In their attempt to show that theism is unnecessary and ultimately harmful, the atheistic community has concocted the idea that theistic ideas are analogous to mind-viruses that infect a person, not for the benefit of the person, but for the benefit of the mind-virus. In other words, theism is a mind-virus that has been passed from host human to host human for its own survival, and not for the benefit of the human organisms it inhabits. Dawkins explained: “The fact that religion is ubiquitous probably means that it has worked to the benefit of something, but it may not be us or our genes. It may be to the benefit of only the religious ideas themselves, to the extent that they behave in a some-what gene-like way, as replicators” (p. 165).
Dawkins has expounded upon this idea and used the term “memes” to describe ideas that he asserts behave in ways similar to genes. He contends that theism is a “meme” that acts as a mental virus, infecting people and forcing them to replicate the meme by teaching others about it and expending vast resources on it. Along these lines, Dan Dennett has suggested that “the common cold is universal to all human peoples in much the same way as religion is, yet we would not want to suggest that colds benefit us” (p. 165). Dennett, using the meme idea, asserted: “The meme theory accounts for this. According to this theory, the ultimate beneficiaries of religious adaptations are the memes themselves…” (p. 186).
Atheist Darrell Ray wrote an entire book, The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture, based on this idea. He opened by saying:
It was not until Richard Dawkins’ idea of  “viruses of the mind” that we gained a ready-made way to examine religion as closely as we look at the epidemiology of the flu virus. This book will show how religions of all kinds fit in the natural world, how they function in our minds and culture and how similar they are to the germs, parasites and viruses that inhabit our bodies (2009, p. 13).
To build his case for the “religion-as-a-virus” idea, he mentioned numerous things that he perceives as validating evidence of his assertion. He wrote: “Once a person has converted to a religion, it is difficult to have a rational conversation about the irrational aspects of his religion. It is as though something invaded the person and took over a part of his personality” (p. 20). He went on to discuss the situation in which a friend lost his father to cancer. Before the loss, the friend was “non-religious.” But after the father’s death, the friend “got a severe case of religion that changed his personality dramatically.” Ray says “there was no way to have a conversation with him on any subject without religion creeping in” (p. 19). He further asserted that “stress can activate the chicken pox virus in adults, leading to the condition known as shingles. Similarly, stress tends to reactivate the god virus in many people” (p. 25).
Other alleged symptoms of the “god virus” include the idea that “religion always functions to ensure its own survival,” just as a virus does (Ray, p. 36). To undergird this assertion, Ray said: “Go into any Christian bookstore, and you will find books about living in a secular world, living with a spouse who is not saved or how to convert friends and relatives. The god virus is always concerned with protecting and expanding its territory—that is what these books are all about” (p. 176). Ray has taken Dawkins’ meme/mental virus idea to its logical conclusion.

The Simplest Response to the God Virus Idea

One very simple idea clearly manifests the flaws in the God virus concept. If thoughts or ideas were self-sustaining, self-replicating “memes” that were simply out for their own survival, that would mean that the idea of atheism would fall under the same condemnation as a “selfish meme” ensuring its own survival to the potential detriment of its host. By what criteria could anyone discern between “real” ideas and those dastardly memes infecting the brain. If someone did propose a set of criteria, who is to say that such criteria are not, themselves, a menacing meme that is infecting the mind of the person trying to weed out memes? And how would we know that the concept of a meme is not merely a meme in and of itself infecting the minds of atheists who present the idea? The reader can see how quickly such a discussion would digress into intellectual chaos. Furthermore, how could people be held responsible for anything they think or do? “My memes made me do it!” would become the mantra for all kinds of malicious crimes. And while atheists have attempted to provide answers to such problems, if memes really do exist as individual entities, who is to say that such “answers” are more than memes?
In fact, when analyzing the writings of those who present the “meme/virus” idea, the reader can quickly ascertain the flaw in their reasoning. For instance, Ray said that when the religious virus took over his friend after his father’s death, the friend mentioned religion in virtually every conversation. But the same could be said for any number of individuals who have become outspoken atheists, who insist on inserting their unbelief in virtually every conversation they have.
Ray stated: “In viral terms, it means that people are so deeply infected that they are immune to influence and generally ignore any evidence that contradicts their beliefs” (p. 39). Yet it can be shown that the available scientific evidence contradicts major tenets of atheistic evolution, a fact that is generally ignored by the atheistic community (see Miller, 2012; Miller, 2013). In addition, we mentioned that Ray said: “Go into any Christian bookstore, and you will find books about living in a secular world, living with a spouse who is not saved or how to convert friends and relatives. The god virus is always concerned with protecting and expanding its territory—that is what these books are all about.” What, pray tell, are the books, tracts, DVDs, and pamphlets about atheism designed to do? Are they not written for the very purpose of protecting and expanding the “territory” of atheism?
Listen to the atheists themselves as they describe their “religious” efforts. Prolific atheistic writer and debater, Dan Barker, likened his teaching about atheism to “evangelism” and he stated: “Representing the Freedom From Religion Foundation, I get to engage in similar atheist ‘missionizing’ all across the American continent….” At one point he said, “Atheist ‘evangelism’ doesn’t just happen in front of an audience” (2008, p. 325).
Notice the irony of the fact that the first chapter of Dawkins’ book The God Delusion is titled “A Deeply Religious Non-Believer.” In that chapter, he quotes Carl Sagan’s writings from a book titled A Pale Blue Dot. Sagan wrote: “A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.” Dawkins then stated: “All Sagan’s books touch the nerve-endings of transcendent wonder that religion has monopolized in past centuries. My own books have the same aspiration. Consequently I hear myself often described as a deeply religious man” (p. 12). Additionally, Ray rails on “religion” as a destructive meme/virus, and yet throughout his book, he capitalizes the terms atheist and atheism consistently. One example is when he states: “In fact, the only thing you can get some Atheists to agree upon is that there is no god” (pp. 51-52). Is it not the “religious” concept “that there is no god” that could easily be put forth as the meme that has infected so many minds to the detriment of the host human and in spite of a vast amount of evidence to the contrary? Such is the double-edged sword of the meme/virus concept. If it cuts at all (which it does not), then it cuts both ways.

The Existence of God Provides the Logical Answer

Up to this point we have established that both atheists and theists admit that humans are “intuitive theists.” That is, the belief in an intelligent Creator comes naturally to humans. This idea poses a serious problem for the atheist because the concepts of God and/or religion are extremely costly to the human species. Thus, in an attempt to explain why theism is so prevalent, they liken it to a mental virus that is out for its own survival and not for the benefit of the “host organism.” This explanation, and others like it, fail since arguments used to dismiss the validity of theism and religion would be equally effective to demote all concepts—including atheism—to “by-products” and “memes.” Thus, we are forced to conclude, as Paul Copan did: “Attempts by these New Atheists to explain away theology as a useful fiction, or worse, a harmful delusion, fall short of telling us why the religious impulse is so deeply imbedded. If God exists, however, we have an excellent reason as to why religious fervor should exist” (p. 30).
In other words, if there really is a God, Who is an intelligent, supernatural Creator Who loves mankind and desires that mankind should know the truth, what would we expect to see? We would expect to find humans “pre-programmed” for a belief in God. Of course, we would not expect all humans to come to the proper conclusion that God exists, since a loving God would equip humans with the capacity to choose what to believe and how they choose to behave. We would, however, expect God to have so designed humans that to dismiss the concepts of creation or theism would be unnatural and would require some type of reverse programming. That an intelligent Designer exists is the answer which maintains the most powerful explanatory value.
In fact, further reading into the atheistic literature makes known the fact that atheism is “unnatural” in the sense that it is not how the human mind is designed to perceive the world. Let us refer back to the Bloom and Weisberg article titled “Childhood Origins of Adult Resistance to Science.” It is important to understand their definition of the term “science.” Their research was done in order to show why many Americans reject atheistic evolution. Thus, the term “science” is equated with “atheistic evolution” in their writing. Understanding this to be the case, notice that they said: “The main reason why people resist certain scientific [read that atheistic evolutionary—KB] findings, then, is that many of these findings are unnatural and unintuitive” (2007, 316:996). Keleman concurred when she wrote: “The implication is that children’s science failures may, in part, result from inherent conflicts between intuitive ideas and the basic tenets of contemporary scientific [atheistic evolutionary—KB] thought” (2004, 15:299). In Dawkins’ discussion of the situation, he includes the fact that Bloom says that humans are “innately predisposed to be creationists.” Dawkins then comments that “natural selection ‘makes no intuitive sense.’” Thus, he concludes that children are “native teleologists, and many never grow out of it” (pp. 180-181).
Notice the admission by these atheistic writers. They are forced by the evidence to admit that humans are naturally inclined to believe in an intelligent Designer. They are further forced by the evidence to conclude that the various tenets of atheistic evolution are counterintuitive and unnatural. Yet, in spite of the evidence, they cling to the idea that somehow this situation can be reconciled with the belief that God does not exist. Notice that a presumption of atheism could never have predicted the situation that humans would be “intuitive theists.” Nor do the purported atheistic answers to the problem provide adequate explanatory value. The simple and most powerfully supported conclusion is that God exists, and that is why humans are “innately predisposed to be creationists.”

The Next Step

Once God’s existence is established using humanity’s “intuitive theism,” the next step would be to see how God expects His creatures to use this preprogrammed disposition. If we can establish that the Bible is God’s Word (and we can, see Butt, 2007), then we can go to it to determine the proper human response. First, we can see that God expects everyone to use this predisposition to accurately assess the evidence He has provided to come to the conclusion that He exists. Romans 1:19-21 bears this out:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened (emp. added).
Notice that the biblical text makes it clear that these men “suppress the truth” even though “what may be known of God is manifest in them.” Furthermore, unbelievers will be “without excuse” because they are equipped with the evidence, and the inherent predisposition and ability to arrive at the proper conclusion.
In his sermon on Mars Hill to the Athenians, the apostle Paul explained that the Creator “has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the Earth…so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27). Paul’s statement corresponds perfectly with the idea that God has so designed humans that they naturally “grope” for Him. This would also fit perfectly with the fact that “many psychologists and anthropologists [are led] to believe that children, left entirely to their own devices, would invent some conception of God” (Harris, p. 151). Humans are “groping” for God.
Notice, then, the divine program for salvation. First, a person gropes for a Creator. That person is able to find the Creator Who designed humans and instilled within them the ability to know Him. Their knowledge of this Creator should lead them to the conclusion that humans are His offspring and not the product of a naturalistic, chance process (Acts 17:29). This truth was sufficiently verified by the life and death of Jesus Christ, Who will ultimately judge all mankind based on the plenteous evidence God has supplied and their inherent ability to assess that evidence correctly (Acts 17:31).


Barker, Dan (2008), Godless (Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press).
Bloom, Paul (2009), “In Science We Trust: Beliefs About the Natural World that are Present in Infancy Influence People’s Response to Evolutionary Theory,” Natural History Magazine, 118[4]:16-19.
Bloom, Paul and Deena Skoinick Weisberg (2007), “Childhood Origins of Adult Resistance to Science,” Science, 316 [5827]: 996-997.
Butt, Kyle (2007), Behold the Word of God: Exploring the Evidence of the Inspiration of the Bible (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Copan, Paul (2011), Is God a Moral Monster? (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Dawkins, Richard (2006), The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin).
Dennet, Daniel (2006), Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (New York: Viking).
Evans, Margaret (2001), “Cognitive and Contextual Factors in the Emergence of Diverse Belief Systems: Creation versus Evolution,” Cognitive Psychology, 42:252.
Harris, Sam (2010), The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (New York: Free Press).
Hitchens, Christopher (2007), God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: Twelve).
Kelemen, Deborah (2004), “Are Children ‘Intuitive Theists’? Reasoning About Purpose and Design in Nature,” Psychological Science, 15[5]:295-301.
Libresco, Leah (2012), “This is My Last Post for the Patheos Atheist Portal,” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked/2012/06/this-is-my-last-post-for-the-patheos-atheist-portal.html.
Merica, Dan (2012), “Atheist Becomes Catholic,” http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/06/22/prominent-atheist-blogger-converts-to-catholicism/.
Miller, Jeff (2012), “The Law of Biogenesis [Part I],” Reason & Revelation, 32[1]:2-5,9-11, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1018.
Miller, Jeff (2013), “Evolution and the Laws of Science: The Laws of Thermodynamics,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/article/2786.
Mills, David (2006), Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press).
Pinedo, Moises (2008), What the Bible Says About the Catholic Church (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Ray, Darrel (2009), The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture (Bonner Springs, KS: IPC Press).

Questions and Answers: "Their Worm does not Die" by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Questions and Answers: "Their Worm does not Die"

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.

What does “their worm does not die” mean in Mark 9?


At the end of the chapter in Mark 9, Jesus began a brief discourse with His disciples, explaining that their spiritual well-being should be the paramount concern in their lives. In order to illustrate this point, He commented that if their hand offended them, it should be cut off, or if their foot made them sin, it, too, should be amputated. This figurative language stressed the point that whatever stood in the way of faithfulness to God should be discarded. Jesus concluded that it was better to be rid of stumbling blocks than “to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—where ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched’ ” (Mark 9:43-44,46,48).
The word “hell” in this passage is actually the Greek word Gehenna, meaning “Valley of the Son(s) of Hinnom,” which was the name given to the valley south of the walls of Jerusalem. This valley was notoriously connected to the sinful, horrific practice of child sacrifice associated with the pagan god Molech. Josiah, the righteous king of Judah, in his efforts to restore true worship, ransacked the pagan worship arena and “defiled Topheth, which is the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter pass through the fire to Molech” (2 Kings 23:10). As a result, the valley became a refuse dump for discarding filth, dead animals, and other garbage (see Jeremiah 7:32). By the time of Jesus, the Jewish community associated Gehenna with spiritual death (Lenski, 1946, p. 407).
Interjected into Jesus’ explicit description of Gehenna, was the statement that in this horrid place, the “worm does not die.” The worms—described in Isaiah (66:24), and pictured by Jesus in Mark 9—are maggots, which would be associated quite naturally with the rotting filth of a refuse heap. The twist to Jesus’ phrase is the fact that the worm in hell “does not die.” Concerning this, Lenski wrote: “The fact that it does not die means that its work is eternal. ...The bodies of the blessed shall shine with glory and eternal bliss, but the bodies of the damned shall be like rotting, putrid corpses that have the worm within...” (p. 408).
This passage surely must represent one of the most graphic mental pictures ever painted by our Lord—which should cause each of us to reflect seriously on the possible stumbling blocks in our own lives, and what we can do on a daily basis in order to avoid them.


Lenski, R.C.H. (1961), The Interpretation of Mark’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).

Was Jesus Married? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Was Jesus Married?

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

The parade of alleged gospels that purport to alter the foundational doctrines of the Christian religion is endless. Most recently, a papyrus fragment written in Coptic that dates to the fourth century has created a stir. Among its eight badly faded lines are two phrases, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife...’” and a second provocative clause that is believed to say, “she will be able to be my disciple” (Goodstein, 2012). No matter how tentative and flimsy the evidence, liberal scholars and atheists glory in any item that might discredit Christ and Christianity. Yet, even the lead expert on the fragment, historian at the Harvard Divinity School, Karen King, repeatedly cautioned that it “should not be taken as proof that Jesus, the historical person, was actually married. The text was probably written centuries after Jesus lived, and all other early, historically reliable Christian literature is silent on the question” (Goodstein, emp. added).
Many Christians and non-Christians fail to grasp the fact that the legitimacy and credibility of Christianity does not finally depend on archaeological discovery. If the Bible can be proven to possess the attributes of inspiration, demonstrating its divine origin, then no artifact will ever be discovered that will contradict that truth. If any manuscript or artifact appears to do so, it is being misinterpreted and misconstrued. Since we know that the Bible is the inspired Word of God (based on a careful and thorough analysis of its internal attributes—see the category “Inspiration of the Bible” at apologeticspress.org), then we know that Jesus never married just as the New Testament represents. [NOTE: That is not to say that the Catholic notion of celibacy finds biblical support—it does not. See Pinedo, 2008, pp. 60ff.]
Furthermore, the truth of the matter is that the textual basis of the New Testament was settled and fully authenticated many years ago. The longstanding discipline of Textual Criticism has yielded abundant evidence for the trustworthiness of the text of the New Testament. Over the last two centuries, the manuscript evidence has been thoroughly examined, resulting in complete exoneration for the integrity, genuineness, and accuracy of the Bible. Prejudiced university professors refrain from divulging to their students that the vast majority of textual variants involve minor matters that do not affect salvation nor alter any basic teaching of the New Testament. Even those variants that might be deemed doctrinally significant pertain to matters that are treated elsewhere in the Bible where the question of genuineness is unobscured. No feature of Christian doctrine is at stake. When all of the textual evidence is considered, the vast majority of discordant readings have been resolved (e.g., Metzger, 1978, p. 185). One is brought to the firm conviction that we have in our possession the Bible as God intended.
The world’s foremost textual critics have confirmed this conclusion. Sir Frederic Kenyon, longtime director and principal librarian at the British Museum, whose scholarship and expertise to make pronouncements on textual criticism was second to none, stated: “Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established” (Kenyon, 1940, p. 288). The late F.F. Bruce, longtime Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism at the University of Manchester, England, remarked: “The variant readings about which any doubt remains among textual critics of the New Testament affect no material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice” (1960, pp. 19-20). J.W. McGarvey, declared by the London Times to be “the ripest Bible scholar on earth” (Brigance, 1870, p. 4), conjoined: “All the authority and value possessed by these books when they were first written belong to them still” (1956, p. 17). And the eminent textual critics Westcott and Hort put the entire matter into perspective when they said:
Since textual criticism has various readings for its subject, and the discrimination of genuine readings from corruptions for its aim, discussions on textual criticism almost inevitably obscure the simple fact that variations are but secondary incidents of a fundamentally single and identical text. In the New Testament in particular it is difficult to escape an exaggerated impression as to the proportion which the words subject to variation bear to the whole text, and also, in most cases, as to their intrinsic importance. It is not superfluous therefore to state explicitly that the great bulk of the words of the New Testament stand out above all discriminative processes of criticism, because they are free from variation, and need only to be transcribed (1964, p. 564, emp. added).
Noting that the experience of two centuries of investigation and discussion had been achieved, these scholars concluded: “[T]he words in our opinion still subject to doubt can hardly amount to more than a thousandth part of the whole of the New Testament” (p. 565, emp. added).
Think of it. Men who literally spent their lives poring over ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, devoting their lives to meticulous, tedious analysis of the evidence, conversant with the original languages, without peer in their expertise and qualifications, have concluded that the Bible has been transmitted accurately. No scrap of papyrus written 200+ years after the fact can overturn the last two centuries of scholarly investigation and validation—let alone the Bible’s own inspired testimony to the contrary.


Brigance, L.L. (1870), “J.W. McGarvey,” in A Treatise on the Eldership by J.W. McGarvey (Murfreesboro, TN: DeHoff Publications, 1962 reprint).
Bruce, F.F. (1960), The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), revised edition.
Goodstein, Laurie (2012), “A Faded Piece of Papyrus Refers to Jesus’ Wife,” The New York Times, September 18, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/19/us/historian-says-piece-of-papyrus-refers-to-jesus-wife.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120919&moc.semityn.www.
Kenyon, Sir Frederic (1940), The Bible and Archaeology (New York, NY: Harper).
McGarvey, J.W. (1956 reprint), Evidences of Christianity (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).
Metzger, Bruce M. (1978 reprint), The Text of the New Testament (New York, NY: Oxford University Press), second edition.
Pinedo, Moises (2008), What the Bible says about the Catholic Church (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), http://apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/wtbsatcc.pdf.
Westcott, B.A. and F.J.A. Hort (1964 reprint), The New Testament in the Original Greek (New York, NY: MacMillan).

Missing Link…Still Missing by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.


Missing Link…Still Missing

by  Jeff Miller, Ph.D.

Perhaps you recall in 2009 the media hype about the discovery of an alleged “missing link” fossilized skeleton, dubbed “Ida” (Franzen, et al., 2009). The media boldly issued statements, with no disclaimers, such as, “Scientists have found a 47-million-year-old human ancestor” (Public Library of Science, 2009). Ida was added to the list of alleged missing links in the line between humans and our supposed distant primate ancestor—one by one of which have proven to be false, though many have not gotten the memos on the matter. ScienceDaily unabashedly dubbed Ida “a transitional species,” as though the case had been closed, and the truth had been conclusively substantiated (2009). In 2009, Jorn Hurum, world-renowned Norwegian fossil scientist of the Oslo Natural History Museum and co-discoverer of Ida, said, “This is the first link to all humans…truly a fossil that links world heritage” (Public Library of Science, 2009). Philip Gingerich of the Museum of Paleontology at the University of Michigan and co-discoverer of Ida said, “It’s really a kind of Rosetta Stone” (Public Library of Science, 2009). Pretty grandiose claims, to be sure, but hardly uncommon among evolutionary paleontologists today, who tend to be quick to claim evidence for evolutionary theory without adequate evidence. According to ScienceDaily, Ida lacked “two of the key anatomical features found in lemurs: a grooming claw on the second digit of the foot, and a fused row of teeth in the middle of her lower jaw known as a toothcomb” (2009). Instead, supposedly Ida’s talus bone linked her to humans, which “has the same shape as in humans today” (Public Library of Science, 2009). The 2009 ScienceDaily article ended with a bold quote from broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough: “The little creature is going to show us our connection with all the rest of the mammals. The link they would have said until now is missing…it is no longer missing” (2009).
The media and the evolutionist-flooded paleontology community are notoriously quick to make grandiose claims about fossil finds when they appear potentially to support the idea of human evolution. As has proven to be the case time and time again, further scientific investigation often elicits retractions by the paleontology community about their initial conclusions concerning fossil finds—and this instance is no exception. However, by the time the appropriate retractions are made, and the initial proclaimers of the error run in the opposite direction with their proverbial tails between their legs, typically throwing the researchers under the bus in an attempt to save themselves, the damage has already been done. New Latin species names have already been designated and printed, people are made famous, and the textbooks have picked up the alleged evidence in support of evolution and printed it. Hardly anyone hears the soft little admission of “whoops” coming from the corner. The media does not want to announce it too loudly, because they are often at fault in spreading the error, and many in the evolutionary community do not want to announce the error too loudly because of the fear of more bad publicity for the false theory of evolution. The loudest proclamations of truth are left to the competitors of the paleontologists (i.e., other paleontologists), who are themselves often biased in one way or another. And, of course, there are the creationists standing on the street corners yelling to all who will hear, “The evidence still supports the creation model. The truth needs no retractions!”
In November of 2010, evolutionary anthropologists Blythe Williams and Richard Kay of Duke University, Chris Kirk, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin, and evolutionary biologist Callum Ross of the University of Chicago, announced the findings of their own research on Ida and responded to the work of Franzen, et al. (Williams, et al.). Their findings? Ida is not a missing link as was claimed. What was Ida? According to this new research, Ida was, in fact, a forebearer of modern-day lemurs and lorises. The authors note that the research of Franzen, et al. “ignores two decades of published research showing that similar fossils [i.e., to the Ida fossil—JM] are actually strepsirrhines, the primate group that includes lemurs and lorises,” according to ScienceDaily, in direct contradiction with the thrust of their article published a year earlier (Public Library of Science, 2010). Chris Kirk unequivocally stated, “Many lines of evidence indicate that Darwinius [i.e., Ida—JM] has nothing at all to do with human evolution” (Public Library of Science, 2010). ScienceDaily, overtly distancing themselves from the conclusions of Franzen, et al., in spite of their clear support of the team’s conclusions a year earlier, note concerning their work: “Anthropologists were immediately skeptical of the conclusions and began writing the responses that are being published this month” (2010). Williams, et al. argue that Ida does not contain key anatomical features that would prove it to be a close relative of haplorhines (i.e., apes, monkeys, humans, and tarsiers), like “a middle ear with two chambers and a plate of bone that shields the eyes from the chewing muscles” (Public Library of Science, 2010). Kirk said, “There is no evidence that Darwinius shared these features with living haplorhines. And if you can’t even make that case, you can forget about Darwinius being a close relative of humans or other anthropoids” (Public Library of Science, 2010).
There is no solid, substantiated evidence in support of the theory of evolution. Even the evolutionists themselves cannot come to an agreement on any of the proposed evidence. Why? Because all of the alleged evidence is a matter of interpretation. The key in scientific investigation is to determine an interpretation of the facts that harmonizes with all of the scientific evidence. When a theory proves itself time and again to be in contradiction with the evidence, the unbiased, scientific response should be to scrap the theory and find a model in keeping with the evidence. The creation model is in keeping with all of the scientific evidence. Why reject it in support of a failed theory? If you believe that the bulk of the evolutionary community will pay any attention to this latest memo casting further doubt on the veracity of evolutionary interpretation techniques, I strongly advise you not to hold your breath as you wait. [NOTE: See Butt, 2009; Lyons, 2009; and Lyons and Butt (2009) for further discussion on the Ida fossil]


Butt, Kyle (2009), “Following Up On a Messy, and Still Missing, Link,”Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=9&article=2729.
Lyons, Eric (2009), “Ida, One More Time,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=9&article=2726.
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2009), “Ida—A Missing Link?” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=9&article=347.
Franzen, Jens L., Philip D. Gingerich, Jorg Habersetzer, Jorn H. Hurum, Wighart von Koenigswald, B. Holly Smith (2009), “Complete Primate Skeleton from the Middle Eocene of Messel in Germany: Morphology and Paleobiology,” PLoS ONE, 4[5]:e5723, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005723.
Public Library of Science (2009), “Common Ancestor of Humans, Modern Primates? ‘Extraordinary’ Fossil Is 47 Million Years Old,” ScienceDaily, May 19, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090519104643.htm.
Public Library of Science (2010), “‘Missing Link’ Fossil Was Not Human Ancestor as Claimed, Anthropologists Say,” ScienceDaily, March 2, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100302131719.htm.
Williams, Blythe A., Richard F. Kay, E. Christopher Kirk, and Callum F. Ross (2010), “Darwinius Masillae Is a Strepsirrhine—A Reply to Franzen et al. (2009),” Journal of Human Evolution, 29[5]:567-573, November.

Was Jesus Gay?—An Examination of the Secret Gospel of Mark by Alden Bass


Was Jesus Gay?—An Examination of the Secret Gospel of Mark

by  Alden Bass

Over the last several centuries, people have made Jesus what they wanted Him to be. In nineteenth-century Europe, Jesus was a Romantic, then an Existentialist. In the United States, the foremost historians of the 1920s considered Jesus a social reformer. Forty years later, in the 1960s, the same historians saw Him as a radical revolutionary pushing for political change. Most recently, Jesus has been characterized by some scholars as a libertine and a homosexual. This is a clear reflection of our “sexually liberated” age, just as other versions of Jesus proliferated through the ages are snapshots of their own time. So long as we craft God in our own image, God cannot condemn us, and we will always be approved regardless of our error. George Tyrell famously commented in 1909 that when the Liberal Protestant scholars looked back at Christ “through nineteen centuries of Catholic darkness,” what they saw was “only the reflection of their Liberal Protestant face, seen at the bottom of a deep well” (as quoted in Bryan, 1996, p. 339).
Interestingly, the homosexual community feels that the traditional “hetero-normative” Jesus is a reflection of heterosexual Christians who have read into Jesus their own sexuality, while ignoring the possibility that Jesus was a homosexual. Rollan McCleary, an Australian academic who recently wrote a book arguing that Jesus and His disciples were gay, was asked if his own homosexuality tainted his research. McCleary replied: “You could see that either way. You could also say that heterosexual people have their eyes wide shut on the matter, that they don’t want to see that Jesus would have been of a gay disposition…. You maybe have to be gay to read the signals and to see things and research things which other people wouldn’t” (as quoted in Johns, 2001). Lately, gay scholars have seen many things in the Bible that heterosexuals have apparently missed for the past 2,000 years.
Several works, both scholarly and popular, have been published in the last decade suggesting that Jesus was gay. In 1992, J. Robert Williams, the first actively homosexual priest in the Episcopal Church, penned a book titled Just As I Am: A Practical Guide to Being Out, Proud, and Christian. Six years later, gay playwright Terrance McNally wrote the play Corpus Christi, which featured a gay Jesus (named Joshua) and his “sexual adventures with his 12 disciples” (“Was Jesus Gay?—Terrance…,” 1998). These popular works have been followed by several scholarly investigations that attempt to argue Jesus’ homosexuality from biblical and theological evidence. The same year McNally’s play went up, Finnish scholar Martti Nissinen released his book, Homoeroticism in the Biblical World, judged by some to be the best work yet published on the subject. The twenty-first century has witnessed an eruption of these sorts of studies, some more respectable than others. McCleary’s 2003 book, Signs for a Messiah, is based largely on John’s Gospel and Christ’s astrological chart. Theodore Jennings looks to liberation and feminist theologies to construct a more “homocentric” gospel narrative in his 2002 volume, The Man Jesus Loved: Homoerotic Narratives from the New Testament. Queering Christ, Robert Goss’ semi-autobiographical telling of his homosexual guilt and expulsion from the Roman Catholic Church, might also be mentioned. The marked increase in these types of publications in the last five years is an indication of Western society’s growing acceptance of homosexuality.
Typically, these books begin by dispensing in one way or another with the five explicit biblical injunctions against homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10). Some carefully attempt to explain away the passages in question, blaming the sexual biases of the ancient world for adversely influencing the Bible writers, while others dismiss the offending verses with a simple wave of the hand. After dealing with the negative commands, these scholars turn to the gospel narratives to develop their own “reading” of the traditional Gospel story. Jesus’ life is deconstructed to shed “new light” on His attitude toward same-sex relationships and His own homosexuality—postmodern hermeneutics at their best. Despite a complete absence of biblical support for their thesis, most of these liberal scholars do not have to read very far to find what they are looking for (in the jargon of biblical interpretation, this is known as eisegesis). British homosexual advocate Peter Tatchell summed up one popular position in a 1998 press release:
We don’t know for sure whether Jesus was straight, gay, bisexual or celibate. There is certainly no evidence for the Church’s presumption that he was heterosexual. Nothing in the Bible points to him having desires or relationships with women. The possibility of a gay Christ cannot be ruled out (“Was Jesus Gay? Missing…,” 1998).
Tatchell’s quote illustrates that the argument for Jesus’ homosexuality finds its strongest support, not in Scripture, but in its silence. Homosexual advocates argue that the absence of any explicit commentary on Jesus’ sexuality ought to remove the ancient assumption that He was heterosexual. Demonstrating to their own satisfaction that there is nothing in the New Testament that necessitates Jesus’ heterosexuality, these scholars move on in search of passages favoring Jesus’ homosexuality, the “signals” that McCleary mentioned. Unfortunately for them, biblical references to support their political thesis are few and circumstantial. Most are vague and focus on men whom Jesus “loved,” such as Lazarus (John 11:36), the Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10:21), John (John 21:20), and the “beloved disciple” (John 20:2). Love in these contexts is interpreted as homoerotic love. Further evidence is supposedly found in Jesus’ healing of the centurion’s servant in Luke 7:1-10. Because the text says the servant was “dear to him,” it is alleged that centurion and his servant were gay lovers. That Jesus healed him is presented as proof that He condoned their homosexual relationship (cf. Horner, 1978; Jennings, 2003).
These arguments are supplemented by the censorship hypothesis to which Tatchell alluded: “Large chunks of Jesus’s life are missing from the Biblical accounts. This has fuelled speculation that the early Church sanitised the gospels, removing references to Christ’s sexuality that were not in accord with the heterosexual morality that it wanted to promote” (“Was Jesus Gay? Missing…,” 1998). Some scholars believe that the original gospel accounts of Jesus’ life contained homosexual references not found in the canonical gospels that we possess. These passages allegedly were censored by “hetero-normative” church leaders of the first few centuries who felt that homosexuality was an abomination. Though this may sound conspiratorial, proponents do put forth some evidence in support their theory (in contrast to the usual wild speculation), evidence that some scholars have accepted as valid. This evidence—which nearly every Christian homosexual advocate uses to support the cause—is the so-called “Secret Gospel of Mark.”
Secret Mark (as I shall call it) is one of several apocryphal gospels that circulated in the early centuries of the Christian era. These alternative accounts of Jesus’ life range from a few verses to entire books. Some, such as the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary Magdelene, have received much attention, but most are obscure and known only by New Testament scholars. Secret Mark is unique among these in that it claims to be an expanded version of the canonical gospel of Mark, not an independent gospel. It contains two passages, otherwise unrecorded in the gospel accounts—the first fitting between Mark 10:34 and 10:35 and the second in the middle of Mark 10:46. Fragment 1 reads:
And they came to Bethany. And there was a woman there, whose brother was dead. And she came and fell down before Jesus and said to him: Son of David, have mercy on me. But the disciples rebuked her. And in anger Jesus went away with her into the garden where the tomb was; and immediately a loud voice was heard from the tomb; and Jesus went forward and rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb. And immediately he went in where the young man was, stretched out his hand and raised him up, grasping him by the hand. But the young man looked upon him and loved him, and began to entreat him that he might remain with him. And when they had gone out from the tomb, they went into the young man’s house; for he was rich. And after six days Jesus commissioned him; and in the evening the young man came to him, clothed only in linen cloth upon his naked body. And he remained with him that night; for Jesus was teaching him the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. And from there he went away and returned to the other bank of the Jordan.
Fragment 2 describes what purportedly happened in Jericho:
He came to Jericho. And there were there the sisters of the young man whom Jesus loved, and his mother and Salome; and Jesus did not receive them.
These fragments were found in a letter seemingly written in the late second century by Clement of Alexandria to an unknown Christian named Theodore. Clement wrote in response to questions Theodore had sent him regarding a heretical gnostic sect called the Carpocratians. This sect is known from Irenaeus and Eusebius, and was characterized by its belief in metempsychosis, or transmigration of souls. Carpocratians believed that a soul could not be liberated until it had experienced all aspects of earthly life—including all aspects of sexual activity. Theodore had asked Clement about some of the scripture they were using to justify their actions, particularly some passages from Mark’s gospel. Clement responded by explaining that there were actually three versions of the book of Mark circulating in Alexandria: the canonical version, used by “those who were being instructed,” the secret version, reserved for those “who were being perfected,” and the Carpocratian version. According to Clement, Mark wrote his gospel in Rome, where he spoke directly with the apostle Peter. After Peter’s death, Mark moved to Alexandria, bringing with him his research notes. There, he “composed a more spiritual gospel” by expanding his original gospel to include mystical truths for the spiritual benefit of enlightened Christians (the orthodox congregation in Alexandria over which Clement presided also tended toward gnosticism). This secret gospel was then stolen by a rogue elder in the church and given to Carpocrates, who added to it his own “blasphemous and carnal doctrine.” Theodore needed to know how to distinguish genuine Mark from the corrupted version, which they used to legitimize their sexual license. Apparently, Carpocrates had strengthened the innuendo in Fragment 1 by adding “naked man with naked man,” a phrase Clement assured Theodore was not in the original text (1.67-68).
It is Fragment 1, attributed to Mark, that skeptics and homosexual advocates use as their most potent ammunition in the battle over Jesus’ sexual orientation. Morton Smith, the scholar who discovered and catalogued the letter from Clement, was the first to suggest that Secret Mark might indicate that Jesus’ teachings contained erotic elements. He based this on three observations from the text: (1) the description of the young man’s affection for Jesus: “the young man looked upon him and loved him, and began to entreat him that he might remain with him;” (2) the young man’s attire (or lack thereof): “in the evening the young man came to him, clothed only in linen cloth upon his naked body;” and (3) Clement’s denial of the phrase “naked man with naked man” (Hendrick, 2003, p. 142). Smith tied this speculation regarding Jesus’ homosexuality into his theory that the historical Jesus was a charismatic magician Who baptized His disciples (contra John 4:2) into His secret mystery cult. It is worthwhile to quote his theory at length:
…[F]rom the scattered indications in the canonical Gospels and the secret Gospel or Mark, we can put together a picture of Jesus’ baptism, “the mystery of the kingdom of God.” It was a water baptism administered by Jesus to chosen disciples, singly and by night. The costume, for the disciple, was a linen cloth worn over the naked body. This cloth was probably removed for the baptism proper, the immersion in water, which was now reduced to a preparatory purification. After that, by unknown ceremonies, the disciple was possessed by Jesus’ spirit and so united with Jesus. One with him, he participated by hallucination in Jesus’ ascent into the heavens, he entered the kingdom of God, and was thereby set free from the laws ordained for and in the lower world. Freedom from the law may have resulted in completion of the spiritual union by physical union. This certainly occurred in many forms of gnostic Christianity; how early it began there is no telling (as quoted in Eyer, 1995).
Smith was a scholar of some repute, known for his depth of classical knowledge and linguistic abilities. Despite his credentials, the initial reaction of the scholarly community toward this radical theory was one of strong distaste. Eyer catalogued some of the most reputable scholars’ remarks concerning Smith’s interpretation: “…a morbid concatenation of fancies…” (Skehan); “…venal popularization…” “…replete with innuendos and eisegesis…” (Fitzmeyer); “…an a priori principle of selective credulity…” (Achtemeier); “…in the same niche with Allegro’s mushroom fantasies and Eisler’s salmagundi” (Danker). Many more quotations could be listed (Eyer, 1995).
Though Smith’s magician theory has never gained much of a following in the academic world, his suggestion that Jesus practiced sexual initiation rituals was too sensational to be forgotten. Skeptics have used Smith’s innovative hypothesis to debunk Christianity as a religion of arch-hypocrites who denounce the very lifestyle of their founder. Pointing to Matthew 19:12, these enemies of the cross accuse Christ of posing as a eunuch in order to satisfy his lasciviousness. By preaching celibacy, Jesus was able to disguise His true intentions of having sexual relations with His followers. According to one particularly vicious attacker, “Jesus was never a eunuch as the Christians sham but a gay lecher feigning to be a eunuch by the help of his warriors (disciples and other Christians)” [Atrott, 2002]. Another skeptic turned Smith’s suggestion into a certainty: “The plain meaning of the words naked man with naked man and whom Jesus loved support the conclusion that Sexual union with a man as part of the sacrament was practiced” (Kahn, 2004, emp. in orig.). A final quote from an anonymous agnostic reads: “[The Clement letter] makes references to the effect that Jesus was understood to have engaged in possible homosexual practices involving the ‘rich young man’ mentioned in Mark’s Gospel. I am making the point that the Christian hierarchy have been deceiving and lying to their followers right from the start” (as quoted in Miller, 1999).
The skeptics quoted above are not scholars, and they have little or no training in biblical interpretation (or so it seems from their writings). In the main, scholars pay more attention to the dry details of the lexicography and historical analysis of Secret Mark and Clement’s letter. As noted by Hendrick, “homosexual acts by Jesus should be a non-issue for a historian, though one may appreciate ecclesiastical concerns about the contexts of the texts” (2003, p. 142). Nevertheless, as is indicated by the brief bibliography above (and a quick search of Amazon.com), the homosexuality insinuated in Secret Mark is very much an issue for several influential writers. For those seeking biblical approval for homosexuality, Secret Mark has become a secret weapon.
Yet does this passage prove that Jesus was gay? In no way! The three observations on which this assumption rests must be examined:
  • The language of the young man. While it is true that the young man (thought by some to be the rich young ruler mentioned earlier in Mark 10 [see Meyer, 2001]) “looked upon Jesus and loved Him,” there is no suggestion in the text that this was an erotic love. It is not uncommon to read of Jesus loving others—both men and women. He loved the young ruler, John, and Lazurus, but He also loved Mary and Martha (John 11:5). The love of the young man toward Jesus was doubtless of the same nature as the love Jesus had for the world (John 3:16) and for His heavenly Father (John 17:23)—the pure, dispassionate love that ultimately results in sacrifice (John 15:13). If we are to understand love (agapaô) as sexual love, then the New Testament commands to “love your enemies” and “love your neighbor,” and Jesus’ instruction to His disciples to “love one another” as He had loved them must take on an entirely new meaning
  • The attire of the young man. The young man was wearing a linen garment (sindon) in the fashion of the Greeks, which would not have been unusual. According to Miller, “the rich man would not have worn his woolen outer garment inside the house necessarily, and there still is nothing to suggest any disrobing or even physical contact” (1999). The phrasing “clothed only in a linen cloth wrapped around his naked body” is also not unique; the Greek phrase is exactly the same as Mark 14:51, the account of the young man fleeing from Gethsemane. It has even been suggested that this similar phrasing is intentional, and indicates that these two men are one in the same (see Meyer, 2001). The linen garment he was wearing also was used by Jews as a burial shroud (see Mark 15:46), so it is possible that the young man was wearing the robe as a result of his time in the tomb (see Fragment 1).
  • The denial of Clement. Clement stressed to Theodore that the phrase “naked man with naked man” was absent from the genuine text of Mark, and we have no reason to doubt his word. The phrase is only mentioned because it seems to have been included in the Carpocration version of Mark, which, according to Clement, was manipulated by those heretics to justify their libertine practices.
Summing up his examination of Fragment 1, Miller concluded: “One simply cannot find any real clues to any kind of sexual contact, content, or intent in this passage. It is pure speculation (and counter to what we know of the culture and history of the day) to somehow imagine these words to refer to homosexual behavior” (1999, emp. in orig.). The Greco-Roman literature to which Miller alluded made no secret of homosexual love. Erotic references in those works are never subtle, but always explicit. Plato’s Symposium narrates a dinner party of philosophers discussing love (eros). Aristophanes, one of the guests, unabashedly notes that “all who are male slices pursue the males; and while they are boys…they are friendly to men and enjoy lying down together with and embracing men.” In Lives of the Caesars, the Latin historian Seutonius described the alleged sexual indisgressions of Rome’s emperors more explicitly than can be quoted here. The Ancients were not embarrassed to record sexually explicit material, and “the absence of such images and terminology would constitute a prima facie case against seeing it in [Fragment 1]” (Miller, 1999, emp. in orig.). Thus, these passages in no way endorse the theory that Jesus was gay.
That these passages are even relevant rests on the assumption that Secret Mark was the original gospel, and that canonical Mark is a censored version of the longer original—an assumption that most scholars are not willing to make. “Most scholars consider [Secret Mark] to be an expansion of the canonical Gospel, as Clement himself believed” (Brown, 2003, p. 89). The story related in Fragment 1 is a blend of a Markan and Johannine elements, containing phrases and allusions probably clipped directly from these other works. It superficially resembles the story of the raising of Lazarus in John 11:17-44, but the details are so confused that it evidently is not a legitimate parallel. A close examination reveals that nearly every phrase in Fragment 1 has been lifted from another part of Mark or from one of the other gospels, usually John. Bruce lists these identical phrases at length, finally concluding that the fragment from Secret Mark is a patchwork of phrases from Mark and John. “The fact that the expansion is such a pastiche…with its internal contradiction and confusion, indicates that it is a thoroughly artificial composition, quite out of keeping with Mark’s quality as a story-teller” (1988, p. 308). Though this pattern does not fit Mark, it is what would be expected from an ordinary gnostic text, such as Papyrus Egerton 2 (see Schneemelcher, 1991, 1:107).
Further suspicion is cast on these fragments by comparing the language of Secret Mark to canonical Mark. The vocabulary and syntax of Secret Mark very closely resemble the style of Mark: in fact, they resemble it a little too closely. Schneemelcher noted: “[E]ven the Marcan character of the fragment is not without its problems. ‘The style is certainly Mark’s, but it is too Marcan to be Mark’; such was already C.C. Richardson’s verdict in 1974, and E. Best in 1979 confirmed this judgment in detail. In Mark itself the Marcan peculiarities of style are nowhere so piled up as in the ‘secret Gospel’!” (1991, 1:107).
Scott Brown, on the basis of redaction criticism, also rejected the originality of Secret Mark. Fragment 1 upsets the neat pattern of Mark’s three passion predictions (Mark 8:31-9:1; 9:31-37; 10:33-45). According to redaction critics, the three cycles are framed by the two accounts of Jesus healing blind men (Mark 8:22-26; 10:46-52). In each passage, Jesus predicts His coming death and resurrection (8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34), the disciples fail to comprehend Jesus’ prophecy (8:32; 9:32-34; 10:35-41), and Jesus responds by teaching a lesson on discipleship (8:34-9:1; 9:35-37; 10:42-45) [Brown, p. 102]. However, when the Secret Mark fragment is inserted between 8:34 and 8:35, the entire pattern is thrown off balance. “What is essential to note about this tight, logical, and highly structured pattern is that the inclusion of [Fragment] 1 disrupts the logic and the parallelism” (Brown, p. 103).
Apart from these considerations, most scholars do not consider Clement to be an accurate source of information. Recall that Secret Mark is known only from Clement’s letter to Theodore; it is not mentioned in any other patristic writing. Clement was notorious for accepting fake documents and fake traditions (Parker, 1973, p. 237). “Keen as Clement was on opposing what he regarded as heretical, he seems to have been uncritical almost to the point of gullibility in accepting material which chimed in with his own predilections” (France, 1986, p. 83). Clement quoted from non-canonical sources more than most patristic writers, and was particularly fond of gnostic sources such as the Gospel According to the Hebrews, the Gospel of the Egyptians, the Preaching of Peter, and the Apocalypse of Peter (Bruce, pp. 310-311). Clement quoted the Gospel of Thomas no less than six times, whereas no other patristic writer quoted it more than once (France, p. 83). In other words, just because Clement quoted Secret Mark and claimed that Mark wrote it does not mean that it is legitimate. All evidence suggests that it was the product of Alexandrian Gnostics, not the writer of the Gospel of Mark (Schneemelcher, 1:107).
Thus far I have demonstrated that the Secret Gospel of Mark lends no support to the contention that Jesus was gay, or that He endorsed homosexuality in any way. The Secret Mark that Clement quoted was probably a heretical text written long after the four canonical gospels, and actually constructed from bits and pieces of them. However, the most compelling part of the story has yet to be told. Just as scholars doubt the authenticity of Clement’s quotation of Mark, so they also doubt Morton Smith’s discovery of the letter. Nearly 50 years after his discovery, most scholars believe it to have been a fraud. Here is the story.
In 1958, while searching for old manuscripts in the ancient monastery of Mar Saba, about 12 miles southeast of Jerusalem, Smith made a startling find. On the back leaves of the 1646 Dutch edition of Ireneaus’ letters, scrawled in an 18th-century hand, was Clement’s letter to Theodore, containing the Secret Gospel of Mark. Smith, then assistant professor of history at Columbia University, was not allowed to remove the book from the library, so he carefully photographed the two-and-a-half page document for later examination. Only after he had transcribed and translated the document did he realize its worth. Two years later, in December of 1960, he presented his find to the 96th meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis (Knox, 1960, p. 1). In 1973, he published the document in two books: one a popular read, called Secret Mark, and the other a dense, technical work for scholars, examining in minute detail every aspect of Clement’s letter and his quotation of Secret Mark.
Almost immediately, questions were raised as to the genuineness of the artifact. Though Smith had meticulously amassed evidence demonstrating the authenticity of the letter, several of Smith’s closest associates believed the document to be a forgery. Arthur Darby Nock, Smith’s own professor, famously called the manuscript a “mystification for the sake of mystification” (as quoted in Quesnell, 1975, p. 54)—in other words, a fake for the sake of faking it. Jacob Neusner, Smith’s student at Columbia, also doubted the letter’s authenticity, calling it “the forgery of the century” (as quoted in Miller, 1999). Several scholars have confidently reached this consensus (Brown, Skehan, Quesnell), while several others imply the document was forged without laying any explicit charges (Metzger, Osborn, Criddle, Ehrman). Many clues point to a deliberate “mystification” by Smith.
  • No copy of the original manuscript exists. Smith photographed the pages while at the monastery library, but was unable to obtain the actual document. Only one other set of photographs has been made (see Hendrick and Olympiou, 2000), and the original document has since vanished—either lost, sequestered, or destroyed by the Greek Orthodox monks of Mar Saba. It is peculiar that Smith, an expert in ancient manuscripts, spent 13 years of his life examining a photograph of the letter without ever going back to the monastery to examine it further (Ehrman, 2003, p. 85). If only we possessed the original document, ink samples could be taken and dated, and the whole matter would be cleared up in hours; as it stands, we must rely on the paleographer’s estimation of the handwriting in a black and white photograph. There is as much physical evidence at this moment for the Mar Saba letter as there is for the Loch Ness Monster.
  • The letter is undocumented in contemporary sources, and its contents are highly dubious. The manuscript contains no source, even though we would expect an educated 18th-century scholar to acknowledge the provenance of such an important text (see Schneemelcher, 1:107). So it is with Clement’s original epistle. The Mar Saba letter was the first letter of Clement ever discovered (though we have several other works by him). No extant ancient document mentions Clement’s letter to Theodore, nor does Clement himself mention it in any of his authenticated writings. Nowhere does Clement mention alternative forms of the scriptures such as Secret Mark, and while he often speaks of a spiritually elite corp of Christians, they were elite because they more deeply understood the canonical scripture, not some spiritually advanced version of them. Furthermore, Clement encourages Theodore to deny Secret Mark with an oath if necessary, though in his other writings he declares that Christians ought never to swear. Other dissimilarities abound (see Ehrman, pp. 84-86).
  • There are no major copyists’ errors in the manuscript (Schneemelcher, 1:107). The more frequently early Christian documents were copied, the more mistakes were introduced. If the Clement letter is authentic, it was written in the 3rd century and copied until the 18th, when it was finally reproduced on the back cover of Issac Voss’s Writings of Irenaeus. It is highly unlikely that a manuscript could be copied by hand for fifteen centuries without accumulating at least a few scribal errors.
  • Circumstantial clues cast suspicion on the entire project. In some ways, this just feels like a forgery. (The following points are taken primarily from Ehrman, 2003.) The vocabulary in the letter is more Clement-like than any other of Clement’s writings, as if the author of the letter had at hand Stählin’s concordance to Clement, written in 1936 (Quesnell, p. 64). Also, the manuscript ends just as it gets to the most tantalizing part; the letter breaks off: “But the many other things about which you wrote both seem to be and are falsifications. Now the true explanation and that which accords with the true philosophy….” Just as the letter prepares to reveal “the truth,” it conveniently ends. The dedication of the books also is mysterious. Smith dedicates the technical work to his teacher, Arthur Darby Nock, the man who went to his grave believing the letter to be a forgery; Secret Mark, Smith’s popular description of the letter, is dedicated to “the one who knows.” Quesnell rightly asks, “Who is ‘the one who knows’? What does he know?” (p. 66). Ehrman also observed from Smith’s photographs a page of text from the book in which Clement’s letter had been copied. Issac Voss, the editor of the 17th-century collection of Ireneaus’ epistles, concluded his book with a warning against scholars who falsify texts and attempt to pass off spurious ones as genuine (p. 87). Directly across from that warning, on the first blank leaf at the end of the book, Clement’s letter begins. The irony is too rich to be coincidence.
  • It must finally be noted that Smith was himself a homosexual, a potential motive for the forgery. The historian Donald Akenson considered Smith’s two books to be nothing more than “a nice ironic gay joke at the expense of all the self-important scholars who not only miss the irony, but believe that this alleged piece of gospel comes to us in the first-known letter of the great Clement of Alexandria” (as quoted in Ehrman, p. 267, n. 19).
Literary forgeries are nothing new. In the first few centuries of the church, many documents were produced in the name of Peter, Paul, or John. Even today it is not unusual to hear of a scholar trying to pass off a document just to see if it can be done. Bruce Metzger described his own professor at Princeton, Paul Coleman-Norton, who claimed to have found a lost saying of Jesus in an old Latin manuscript of the gospel of Matthew he picked up in French Morocco in 1943. It purportedly continued Jesus’ conversation with His disciples in Matthew 24:51, where He taught that the lost would be “cast into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” One of the disciples asked, “But Rabbi, how can this happen for those who have no teeth?” Jesus replied, “Oh you of little faith! Do not be troubled. If some have no teeth, teeth will be provided.” Thus Professor Coleman-Norton preserved in an “authentic” text a little joke that he had often told his classes, that dentures would be provided in hell to those who had no teeth (Ehrman, p. 69). Yet some scholars were temporarily hoodwinked, and his findings were published in the Catholic Biblical Quarterly.
Even though such influential scholars as Metzger and Nock have ruled Secret Mark a fake, some scholars continue to cling to the hope that it is authentic. The subject lately has been revisited after many years of dormancy (see Meyer, 2001; Brown, 2003; Hendrick, 2003; Eyer, 2004). I suspect this may be attributed to the increasing popularity of the homosexual cause with the academic world, yet this is speculation. It is certain, however, that those who are currently turning to the Bible for support of homosexuality are making use of Secret Mark, even though the authenticity of the text provides no evidence for the homosexual case. Even if Clement’s letter is genuine, it remains doubtful that the quotation from Secret Mark is anything other than a gnostic construction. Moreover, if the letter could be proved to be credible, and the “lost” scripture turned out to be original, homosexual advocates would remain without biblical support for their cause. Neither the fragment nor the Bible indicates that God condones the homosexual lifestyle. Though the gospel writers do not discuss Jesus’ sexuality specifically, the whole of divine revelation testifies to the utter degradation and sinfulness of homosexuality (see Miller, et al., 2004), and to the absolute purity and sinlessness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15). The only evidence in the Bible in favor of homosexuality is that which is read into the text by interpreters trying to shape a Jesus Who approves of their sinful lifestyle. As Christians defending God’s truth, we must be informed of these matters so that we are not taken off-guard by those who would pervert the gospel of Christ to their own ends (2 Timothy 3:1-5).


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