"THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS" Displaying God's Wisdom In Our Families (5:22-6:9) by Mark Copeland

                     "THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS"

           Displaying God's Wisdom In Our Families (5:22-6:9)


1. Up to this point Paul has been describing how we can "have a walk 
   worthy of the calling with which you were called" - Ep 4:1

2. We have seen that conduct "worthy of the calling" involves:
   a. Walking in unity - Ep 4:1-16
   b. Walking in truth and holiness - Ep 4:17-32
   c. Walking in love, walking as light and walking as wise - Ep 5:1-21

3. In what might appear at first to be an abrupt change of direction, 
   Paul begins to describe how various family members are to conduct 
   themselves - Ep 5:22-6:9
   a. The responsibilities of wives - Ep 5:22-24
   b. The responsibilities of husbands - Ep 5:25-33
   c. The responsibilities of children - Ep 6:1-3
   d. The responsibilities of fathers - Ep 6:4
   e. The responsibilities of servants - Ep 6:5-8
   f. The responsibilities of masters - Ep 6:9

4. But the subject matter is really not so abrupt as it may appear, for 
   Paul mentioned earlier...
   a. How the church is to "make known the manifold wisdom of God" 
      - Ep 3:10
   b. How we are to walk in "wisdom" - Ep 5:15-17
   ...and it is through family relationships that we can often do this 
   more successfully than in any other way!

5. How can this be?  Well, it is through our families that we interact 
   so much with the society in which we live...
   a. Through marriage we immediately come into contact with another 
      family (our "in-laws")
   b. Through children we develop relationships with those in their 
      schools, their neighborhood, etc.

6. Thus it is through our families we have great potential to 
   demonstrate the wisdom of God...
   a. The same principles that underlie the gospel message (submission,
      love, sacrifice, obedience, honesty, fairness) are to be displayed
      in our family relationships
   b. By example, then, we can demonstrate in our families what is truly
      good and right (i.e., God's will), and prepare others to be 
      receptive to the gospel message!

[Thus Paul is not abruptly changing direction, but continues to talk 
about those sort of things which are crucial to having a "walk worthy of
the calling with which you were called".

Consider, then, how those who "walk worthy" conduct themselves in 
regards to...]


   A. THE DUTY OF WIVES... (22-24)
      1. They are to submit to their husbands in everything...
         a. Just as they are to submit to the Lord ("as to the Lord")
         b. Just as the church is subject to Christ
      2. The reason:  the husband is head of the wife, just as Christ is
         head of the church
         a. Any time you have organization that is functional, you must 
            have some chain of authority
         b. In the family, it is God's Will that the husband be the head
            of the wife, and that parents be over their children
      3. Here is an opportunity for wives to demonstrate the wisdom and 
         value of an important principle in God's will:  that of 
         a. Jesus taught by both word and example of the importance of 
            submission - cf. Jn 13:12-17; Mk 10:42-45
         b. Indeed we all are to submit in one way or another - Jm 4:7;
            Ep 5:21
         c. Through their submission, wives prove that God's will is 
            best in such matters!

   B. THE DUTY OF HUSBANDS... (25-30)
      1. They are to love their wives...     
         a. Just as Christ loved the church, i.e., with a sacrificial 
            love designed to bless and benefit their wives
         b. Just as they love their own bodies, i.e., with a love that 
            nourishes and cherishes their wives
      2. Just as the wives have the opportunity to demonstrate God's 
         wisdom concerning submission, so husbands are given the 
         opportunity to demonstrate Christ's love...
         a. As the head over His church, Jesus rules as a "benevolent 
         b. Some think such a concept as "benevolent monarch" is 
            impossible (as per the saying, "Power corrupts, absolute 
            power corrupts absolutely")
         c. But when a husband exercises his authority as head of the 
            family with the kind of love Jesus displays while ruling 
            over His church, they demonstrate not only the possibility, 
            but the wisdom of a benevolent monarchy!

[Indeed, the "marriage" between a man and a woman can reflect the 
relationship that exists between Christ and the church (31-32).  But 
this can happen only if...

   1) A husband exercises his authority with love (33a)

   2) A wife submits to her husband with respect (33b).

Just as there are "marital responsibilities", so there are...]


      1. Children are to obey their parents in a way that honors them
      2. There are certainly temporal benefits for such obedience ("that
         it may be well with you...")
      3. But there are also spiritual repercussions - cf. Col 3:20
         ("for this is well pleasing to the Lord")
      4. And by their example, children can show the value of obedience 
         to the commands of God

      1. Fathers are charged both negatively and positively..
         a. DON'T provoke children to wrath (i.e., discipline without 
         b. DO bring them up in the "training and admonition" of the 
            Lord (i.e., discipline tempered with love)
      2. In the world, people usually fall into two extremes of child-
         a. Discipline without love (child abuse)
         b. Love without discipline (permissiveness)
      3. But when fathers properly administer both love and discipline, 
         by example they show how God raises His own children in the 
         family of God - cf. He 12:5-11

      1. In the First Century A.D., servants were an intricate part of 
         many households, which may explain Paul including instructions
         to them and masters in this and parallel passages - cf. Col 3:
      2. Christians who were servants were expected to exemplify the 
         proper kind of obedience required of all Christians...
         a. Obedience with fear and trembling - cf. Php 2:10
         b. Obedience in sincerity of heart, as to Christ Himself
         c. Obedience with good will, as to the Lord 
         d. Obedience with an understanding that the Lord is an 
            impartial Judge
      3. In this way even slaves could demonstrate by example what true
         obedience was according to the Will of God

      1. Those Christians who had slaves (like Philemon) were charged to
         treat their servants in very special ways:
         a. "do the same things to them", i.e., their treatment of 
            slaves should be governed by the same sort of principles 
            given to the servants...
            1) "with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to 
            2) "not with eyeservice...but as servants of Christ, doing 
               the will of God from the heart"
            3) "with good will...as to the Lord, and not to men"
            4) "knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive
               the same from the Lord..."
         b. In particular, Christian slave-owners were to give up 
            threatening and to remember that God shows no respect of 
      2. By their example, masters could demonstrate the proper exercise
         of authority, and reveal much about how our Master in heaven 
         rules over us in the kingdom of God!

1. How we conduct ourselves in our marriage and family relationships can
   greatly effect our efforts to make known "the manifold wisdom of 
   a. Marriages and families that are "dysfunctional" serve only to 
      belie the claims we make about the gospel and its power to 
      transform lives
   b. Whereas marriages and families based upon the teachings of God's 
      Word can speak volumes as to the value of principles inherent in 
      the gospel; such principles as:
      1) Submitting to God and others in authority
      2) Exercising authority with sacrificial love
      3) Obeying those placed over us by God
      4) Developing others through training and admonition, not 
      5) Rendering service that is sincere, not hypocritical
      6) Exercising authority with justice and fairness

2. So as we endeavor to "walk worthy of the calling" that we have in 
   Christ, let's not overlook those areas where it is most imperative to
   have a "worthy walk":  in our marriages and families!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

eXTReMe Tracker 

God, Prophecy, and Miraculous Knowledge by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


God, Prophecy, and Miraculous Knowledge

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

The honest-hearted person who comes to recognize God’s existence and contemplates His marvelous nature cannot help but stand in awe of His omniscience. As the psalmist professed,
O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether…. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell [sheol], behold, You are there (139:1-4,6-8).
The Bible declares that God “knows the secrets of the heart” (Psalm 44:21), that His eyes “are in every place” (Proverbs 15:3), and that “His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5). Simply put, God “knows all things” (1 John 3:20). He has perfect knowledge of the past, the present, and even the future. Job was right to ask the rhetorical question, “Can anyone teach God knowledge?” (21:22).


God’s omniscience and proof that the Bible is the Word of God is inextricably woven together. The main, overarching reason that the Bible can be demonstrated to be of divine origin is because the writers were correct in everything they wrote—about the past, the present, and the future. Such a feat is humanly impossible. “With God,” however, “all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). An omniscient, omnipotent God could produce written revelation for His human creation that was flawless in its original production. He could guide uneducated men to write about events that occurred thousands of years before their time with complete accuracy. He could “move” (otherwise) ordinary men (2 Peter 1:20-21) to write flawlessly about any number of contemporary people, places, and things. He could even guide men to write about future events with perfect accuracy. He could—and He did.
Mankind can reasonably come to the conclusion that mere human beings did not pen Scripture because human beings are not omniscient. An uninspired person cannot, for example, foretell the future. Yet the inspired Bible writers did just that—time and again (e.g., Ezekiel 26:1-14,19-21; see www.apologeticspress.org for more information). Is it not logical, then, to conclude that the omniscient Ruler of the Universe gave us the Bible? Interestingly, though the atheist does not accept the Bible as “God-breathed,” even he understands that if the Bible writers predicted the future accurately, then a supernatural agent must be responsible for the production of Scripture (see Butt and Barker, 2009, pp. 50-51).


Some might surmise that a Bible writer practicing pagan divination could also have accurately recorded what would happen in the distant future (in Tyre, Babylon, Jerusalem, etc.) because Satan or some wicked spirit-being revealed the information to him. Such a conclusion, however, is unjustifiable for a number of reasons:
  • First, the prophets condemned all sorts of witchcraft, including divination and soothsaying (Deuteronomy 18:9-14; Jeremiah 27:9-29:9). Thus, they would be condemning themselves if they were actually diviners and soothsayers.
  • Second, since God, by His very definition, is the only omniscient, omnipotent Being (cf. 1 John 4:4), neither the created and fallen devil nor any other non-eternal spirit-being (Colossians 1:16; 2 Peter 2:4) can choose to know whatever he wants. He may be able to acquire knowledge quickly from other beings or from personal experience, but ultimately, wicked spirit-beings can only have knowledge of what the Creator allows them to know (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:11). If, for example, a wicked spirit-being knew of future events, it would be due to the omniscient Ruler of the heaven and Earth granting him such knowledge for His own purposes. “Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass, when the Lord has not commanded it?” (Lamentations 3:37). Simply put, no one accurately foretells the future unless God informs him of it. [NOTE: Diviners may occasionally and vaguely predict something that comes to pass, but such guesswork or weathermen-like predictions are far from the revealed, supernatural foreknowledge of God, which was revealed during Bible times to His true spokesmen.]
  • Third, God revealed throughout Scripture that those who accurately foretell the future are genuine prophets of God. Jeremiah wrote: “When the word of the prophet comes to pass, the prophet will be known as one whom the Lord has truly sent” (28:9). On the other hand, those who prophesy things that do not come to pass, “the Lord has not sent;” “they prophesy falsely” (Jeremiah 28:15; 29:8-9). “‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). If non-God-inspired diviners could actually have foretold the future by the power of some wicked spirit-being, then how could the honest-hearted person ever know for sure what and who to believe and obey? Concluding that pagan diviners have been given power by wicked spirit-beings to flawlessly foretell the future contradicts what the true, inspired prophets of God taught, and prevents truth-seekers from being able to know truth.


God Almighty is the only omniscient, omnipotent Being. Only He knows everything. Ultimately, He alone knows the future—the revelation of such Divine thoughts being one of the chief ways man has logically concluded that a particular message was actually God-inspired. It seems quite dangerous to conclude that fallen spirit-beings know the future and have revealed such miraculous information to wicked diviners. Yes, uninspired fortunetellers have doubtlessly been tempted and influenced throughout the ages by powerful forces of darkness, but such beings are non-omniscient “deceiving spirits” (1 Timothy 4:1), who take after their “father, the devil,” “a liar” in whom “there is no truth” (John 8:44).
*Originally published in Gospel Advocate, March 2015, 157[3]:27-28.


Butt, Kyle and Dan Barker (2009), Does the God of the Bible Exist? (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).

How Big Is God? by Branyon May, Ph.D.


How Big Is God?

by Branyon May, Ph.D.

[Editor’s Note: The following article was written by A.P. scientist Dr. May, who holds a B.S. degree in Physics from Angelo State University, as well as M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Astrophysics from the University of Alabama.]
As curious beings, we spend much time investigating the world around us and asking a multitude of questions. What role does man play on this incredible planet Earth? How are we to relate to our fellow man? Where can we explore that is deeper or higher? These questions and many others lead our thoughts to consider mankind’s place in the Universe. Humanity now numbers over seven billion living souls, and we exist together on a vast and diverse planet. The overwhelming immensity of the Universe leads to the question, “How big is God?”
This question really involves the relationship between two subjects: God and us. First, the concept of "big" enters the question from our amazement with how large His Creation really is, especially when compared to the scale of everyday items around us. As the focal point of God’s Creation, humanity physically occupies only a tiny enclave of space. Our planet orbits 93 million miles away from a single star, the Sun, which is so large that more than one million Earths could fit inside it. Yet our Sun is, at most, a medium sized star. The largest stars can fit over three billion of our Suns or 4 quadrillion Earths (that is a 4 followed by 15 zeros) inside their volumes (Levesque, et al., 2005). If our Sun was replaced by such a star, its size would encompass all the planetary orbits as far as Saturn.
Each year the Earth travels roughly 584 million miles as it orbits around the Sun at the incredible speed of 66,500 mph (“Earth Fact Sheet,” 2013). Our entire Solar System (Sun, Earth, planets and every other smaller object) is traveling together in an enormous orbit around the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Full of stars, gas, and dust, the Milky Way alone contains an estimated 100 billion stars, some smaller and some larger than our Sun but each one constituting a unique object with its own temperature, composition, and nature. Despite containing so many billions of stars, the Milky Way consists of far more empty space between objects. For instance, from our Sun to the very nearest star is a distance of 4.3 light years or 25.3 trillion miles (Tam, 1996). Even more incredible is the fact that despite our Milky Way galaxy being 100,000 light years in diameter or nearly 600 quadrillion miles (that is a 6 followed by 17 zeros), it is only a single, moderately sized galaxy in a Universe that contains, potentially, 100 billion other galaxies that are spaced so far apart that each one seems to be an island of stars in a vast sea of blackness.
When the question “How big is God?” is asked, we use the word “big” because we understand that all of these mind-boggling numbers, sizes, and distances must logically be the result of an even greater, more astounding Creator. The Bible tells us the following about His creative power:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth” (Psalm 33:6).
“He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name” (Psalm 147:4).
“He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, and has stretched out the heavens at His discretion” (Jeremiah 10:12).
“Come and see the works of God; He is awesome” (Psalm 66:5).
Concerning God’s very nature, though, the Bible tells us “God is spirit” (John 4:24) and that He is the “King eternal, immortal, invisible” (1 Timothy 1:17). These verses clearly tell us that God’s nature is spirit, and therefore He is not a star, nebula, galaxy, or physical person that we can see. God does not have a boundary, size, or extent (e.g., “big” or “small”). As such, “No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18).
Even further there are no physical objects or spatial sizes that can describe God in an accurate fashion. Despite their magnitude and beauty, no nebula or galaxy can compare to God. Even the Universe in its immensity does not define God’s nature. The Bible conveys this exact thought when it states, “To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him?” (Isaiah 40:18). Being spirit, God is not contained within the Universe’s dimensions or measured by physical units. Instead He resides in eternity and exists in infinity. He fills “heaven and earth” (Jeremiah 23:24). Even though God is omnipresent (cf. 1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 139:7-10), filling the Universe and overseeing such an enormous Creation, He still inhabits the smallest and quietest of places. God is always present in our lives and will live in our hearts every day if we acknowledge Him and obey His will.


Levesque, Emily M. et al. (2005), “The Effective Temperature Scale of Galactic Red Supergiants: Cool, but Not As Cool As We Thought,” The Astrophysical Journal 628[2]:973–985.
“Earth Fact Sheet” (2013), NASA, http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet/earthfact.html.
Tam, Kathryn (1996), “Distance to the Nearest Star,” http://hypertextbook.com/facts/KathrynTam.shtml.

Why Did Adam Live So Long After Eating the Fruit? by Garry K. Brantley, M.A., M.Div.


Why Did Adam Live So Long After Eating the Fruit?

by Garry K. Brantley, M.A., M.Div.


God told Adam that the day he ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil he would surely die (Genesis 2:17). Yet, Adam lived a total of 930 years. Apparently, Adam lived the vast majority of these years after God expelled him from the garden of Eden. So, how are we to understand the phrase, “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die?”


The apparent difficulty in this passage, as evinced in the question, has generated much discussion among biblical exegetes. Most commonly, biblical scholars have proffered these answers to relieve the tension of this text: (1) a spiritual death is under consideration, in which Adam and Eve’s formerly intimate fellowship with God was shattered; (2) on the day in which the first couple ate the forbidden fruit, they lost access to the life-sustaining tree of life, and therefore began to die physically; or (3) a combination of the two. Obviously the spiritual, and eventual physical, deaths of Adam and Eve were consequences of their sin (cf. Romans 5,6). And, such an interpretation does relieve the difficulty of this text. There is, however, another possible explanation that is worthy of consideration. The following textual and grammatical considerations suggest that a natural, physical death might have been involved in this divine judgment.
First, there does not appear to be a compelling contextual reason to supply a figurative interpretation to the word “die.” This primeval prohibition and its punishment for non-compliance is couched in the broader context of a precise narrative in which God related specific details regarding both the garden of Eden and the creation of the first human couple. This section clearly is making a truth claim about historical events, which included God’s restricting Adam and Eve from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As such, the language suggests a natural understanding of the verb “die” in Genesis 2:17. There is an important, and generally acknowledged, principle guiding literary interpretation: a word should be understood in its non-figurative sense unless there is an overriding contextual reason to do otherwise. It is questionable if Genesis 2 provides such a reason. Therefore, the verb “die” in Genesis 2:17 could involve the violent, physical death of the transgressors.
Second, the usage of the phrase “you shall surely die” (t tamût) indicates that a violent, physical death is under consideration. This grammatical construction juxtaposes an infinitive absolute (t), and the imperfect verb (tamût), which provides the emphatic nuance, you will “surely, or indeed” die (Lambdin, 1971, p. 158). While it is true that the word “die” can refer to natural causes or to violent death (Smick, 1980, 1:496), the manner in which the verb is used in this phrase indicates the latter. In fact, this grammatical construction appears several times in the Hebrew Bible, and commonly denotes a physical, violent death.
  • God cautioned Abimelech that if he refused to return Sarah to Abraham, he and all his would “...surely die” (Genesis 20:7). This obviously meant that he and his household would suffer an immediate death had he not complied with Yahweh’s demands.

  • When Jonathan, who was ignorant of his father’s rash imprecation upon any man who ate before he had destroyed the Philistines, ate some honey, Saul said to him, “God do so and more also; for you shall surely die, Jonathan” (1 Samuel 14:44). The people’s response to Saul indicates the meaning of the phrase “you shall surely die.” The people considered Saul’s statement as a threat to Jonathan’s physical life, since they would not allow “one hair of his head” to fall to the ground (1 Samuel 14:45a). The conclusion of the verse indicates quite plainly the physical nature of Saul’s intention: “So the people rescued Jonathan, and he did not die” (1 Samuel 14:45b).

  • Solomon, to insure that Shemei would remain in close proximity to Jerusalem, warned him: “For it shall be, on the day you go out and cross the Brook Kidron, know for certain you shall surely die; your blood shall be on your own head” (1 Kings 2:37). After three years, however, Shimei left to retrieve two of his runaway slaves. When Shimei returned, Solomon reminded him of his previous warning: “Know for certain that on the day you go out and travel anywhere, you shall surely die” (1 Kings 2:42). Solomon was faithful to this stringent punishment, and sent Benaiah, the son of Jehoida, who struck Shimei down, “...and he died” (1 Kings 2:46). This episode clearly defines the phrase “you shall surely die” as a physical, violent death. Further, the phrase “on the day” in this text parallels precisely the language of Genesis 2:17, indicating the immediate time frame of the death. (Other scriptures in which this configuration appears are: 2 Kings 1:4,6,16; Jeremiah 26:8, Ezekiel 3:18; 33:8; 33:14). The preponderance of Scriptural usage of this grammatical construction is in favor of a natural interpretation of the phrase “you shall surely die.”
Thus, the nature of Adam and Eve’s punishment is exactly as stated: on the day they ate of the forbidden fruit, they would die. If this is the case, however, how do we explain the prolonged life-span of Adam subsequent to his expulsion from Eden? On several occasions, God reversed His previously stated will regarding specific circumstances. Compelled by His mercy, God occasionally suspended His judgment, suffering long with His rebellious creation.
Such possibly was the case with Adam and Eve. If this interpretation of Genesis 2:17 is correct, God did not require them to pay the full penalty for their transgression, but set in motion a redemptive plan in which He accepted a substitutionary sacrifice for sin. This is reflected in the animal sacrifices of the Mosaic economy, and ultimately in the physical death of Christ. In Adam and Eve’s case, it might be that the animals from which God made the skins to clothe their naked bodies represented the first sin offering. At any rate, the punishment articulated for Adam and Eve’s sin has implications in a broader theological spectrum. Jesus died a physical, violent death on the cross because such was involved in the warning: “You shall surely die.” From this perspective, we might state the case more precisely: The punishment for Adam’s sin (and that of all humankind) was paid by Jesus; the price Jesus paid involved a physical, violent death; thus, the punishment for Adam’s sin (and all humankind) involved a physical, violent death.
No doubt, Genesis 2:17 will continue to produce much discussion. Further, the ambiguity of the passage precludes a dogmatic stance. However, this suggested interpretation respects the thrust of the language, and is consistent with the broader redemptive concerns of the Bible. It further relieves the difficulty of Adam’s prolonged life after his ejection from Eden, and provides theological clarification for the physical, violent death of Jesus on the cross. Sin, from the very beginning, elicited death, both physical and spiritual (Romans 6:23). Strict justice demanded that, upon Adam and Eve’s disobedience, God destroy their physical bodies and bar their sinful souls from His holiness forever. Yet, “because of the great love with which He loved us” (Ephesians 2:4), God set in motion His redemptive plan that eventually demanded His Son’s death. In Jesus, therefore, the Creator died for His rebellious creation. The implications for our own lives in this astonishing event are both obvious and meaningful. Each breath we take, and an eternal life with God assured to faithful Christians, are eloquent witnesses of God’s amazing grace.


Lambdin, Thomas (1971), Introduction to Biblical Hebrew (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons).
Smick, Elmer (1980), “mut,” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke (Chicago, IL: Moody Press), 1:496-497.

Faith, Evidence, and Credible Testimony by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Faith, Evidence, and Credible Testimony

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

It might surprise some to learn that Thomas was not the only “doubting disciple” immediately following Jesus’ resurrection. Do you recall what happened when Mary Magdalene, the first person to whom Jesus appeared, went to alert the mourning apostles of Jesus’ empty tomb and resurrection? When the apostles “heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe” (Mark 16:11, emp. added). According to Luke, the words of Mary Magdalene and the women who accompanied her seemed to the apostles “like idle tales” (24:11) or “nonsense” (24:11, NASB). Later, when the two disciples on the road to Emmaus reported to the apostles how Jesus had appeared to them as well, the apostles “did not believe them either” (Mark 16:13). When Jesus finally appeared to the apostles (not including Thomas) on the evening of His resurrection (John 20:19), He questioned their “doubts” (Luke 24:38) and “rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen” (Mark 16:14). Then, when Jesus appeared to the apostles eight days later, this time with Thomas present, Jesus instructed him to “not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27).
Those closest to Jesus during His ministry initially doubted His resurrection from the dead and were justifiably rebuked for their unbelief. Although many of us likely would have been guilty of the same doubts, still, the apostles should have believed the witness of Mary Magdalene as soon as she testified to the empty tomb and risen Savior. Believers today, however, must be careful not to misinterpret Jesus’ rebukes of unbelief as promoting the popular notion that Christianity is an emotion-based, feel-good religion where evidence is unavailable or unnecessary.


Since the Bible repeatedly testifies that the faith of Christians is grounded in truth, reason, knowledge, and evidence (Romans 1:20; Psalm 19:1-4; John 5:31-47; Acts 1:3; 26:25), some wonder why Jesus rebuked the apostles for doubting His resurrection prior to seeing Him alive (Mark 16:14; cf. Luke 24:38). Had Jesus expected His apostles to have faith in His resurrection without proof? And why did Jesus tell Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29, emp. added)? Was Jesus commending an unverifiable, fickle faith?
The fact is, neither Thomas nor any apostle was rebuked for wanting evidence of Jesus’ resurrection. They were rightly rebuked, however, (1) for doubting the credible evidence they had already received, and (2) for demanding more evidence than was necessary for them to have solid faith in the risen Savior.


The same Man Whom Peter confessed was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16); the same Man Whom the apostles had seen raise Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43-44); the same Man Whom they saw transfigured (Matthew 17:5-9); the same Man Who had worked many amazing miracles in their presence (John 20:30); the same Man Who foretold precisely Peter’s triple denial (Matthew 26:34,75); the same Man Who accurately prophesied His own betrayal, scourging, and crucifixion (Matthew 20:18-19): this same Man repeatedly prophesied of His resurrection, even foretelling the very day on which it would occur (John 2:19; Matthew 12:40; 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19; 26:32). So well known were Jesus’ prophecies of His resurrection from the dead on the third day that even His enemies were aware of them. In fact, the “chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, ‘Sir, we remember, that while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, “After three days I will rise.” Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night and steal Him away’” (Matthew 27:62-64).
So why did Jesus rebuke His apostles for their unbelief following His resurrection? Was He implying that they should have behaved like simpletons and believed everything they ever heard from anyone? (“The simple believes every word, but the prudent considers well his steps”—Proverbs 14:15.) Not at all. Jesus had every right to rebuke His apostles’ unbelief, first and foremost, because they refused to believe His Word (cf. Romans 10:17). They had seen Him raise the dead. They had witnessed His perfect life. They had heard His consistent words of Truth, including His repeated and accurate prophecies of various matters, including His betrayal, arrest, scourging, and crucifixion. They had every logical reason to believe what Jesus had prophesied about His resurrection. Everything they had ever seen and heard from Jesus was pure, right, and true. However, rather than expect a risen Redeemer on Sunday morning, such an idea “appeared to them as nonsense” (Luke 24:11, NASB, emp. added). Rather than traveling to Galilee and searching for the living Lord as soon as the Sun appeared on the third day (Matthew 26:32), they remained in Jerusalem behind closed doors “for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19).
Jesus wanted His disciples to understand about His death and resurrection. He told them: “Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men” (Luke 9:43, emp. added). He desired for them to have a sincere, strong, evidence-based faith. Sadly, fear, preconceived ideas about the Messiah and His kingdom, and spiritual blindness (Luke 9:44; cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4) initially interfered with the apostles’ belief in His resurrection.

Credible Testimony

When Jesus told Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29), was He condoning a careless faith? Was He advancing the idea of an emotion-driven, feel-good religion? Should we expect Christians living 2,000 years this side of the resurrection of Christ to have a reasonable faith in the risen Savior? If, unlike Thomas and the rest of the apostles, Jesus has never appeared to us, how can we expect to have a fact-based faith?
The same God Who rightly expects His human creation to examine the evidence and come to a knowledge of Him without ever literally seeing Him, is the same God Who expects man to follow the facts that lead to a resurrected Redeemer without ever personally witnessing His resurrection. No one believes in God because they can put Him under a microscope and see Him. No one can prove He exists by touching Him. We cannot use the five senses to see and prove the actual essence of God (cf. John 4:24; Luke 24:39). What we have at our fingertips, however, is a mountain of credible evidence that testifies on God’s behalf. The very existence of finite matter testifies to a supernatural, infinite, eternal Creator. The endless examples of design in the Universe bear witness to a grand Designer. The laws of science (e.g., the Law of Biogenesis) testify to God’s existence. [NOTE: For additional information on the existence of God, see http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12.]
A reasonable faith in Jesus’ resurrection is, likewise, based upon a mountain of credible testimony. Just as credible testimony (and not first-hand knowledge) has lead billions of people to believe, justifiably so, that Alexander the Great, Napoleon, and George Washington were real people, millions of Christians have come to the logical conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead. Nineteen-hundred-year-old eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ resurrection exist in the most historically documented and accurate ancient book in the world—the New Testament. The event was foreshadowed and prophesied in the Old Testament (Psalm 16:10; Jonah 1:17-2:10; Matthew 12:40). Though very serious preventative steps were taken to keep the lifeless body of Jesus buried (Matthew 27:62-66), the tomb was found empty on the exact day He promised to arise. The body of Christ was never found (and, no doubt, first-century skeptics, especially the impenitent Jews who put Him to death, would have loved nothing more than to present Jesus’ dead body to early Christians).
The once fearful and skeptical disciples quickly transformed into a courageous, confident group of Christians who suffered and eventually died for their continual belief and teachings regarding the resurrected Lord. Hundreds of early Christians were able to testify to having seen Jesus firsthand after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). Tens of thousands of once-skeptical Jews, not the least of which was Saul of Tarsus, examined the evidence, left Judaism, and confessed Jesus Christ as the Son of God (Acts 2:41,47; 4:4; 5:14; 6:7; 21:20). What’s more, these same Jews changed their day of worship from Saturday to Sunday (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2). As with evidence for the existence of God or the inspiration of the Bible, the cumulative case for the resurrection of Christ from credible testimony lies at the heart of a fortified faith.


Jesus rightly rebuked His apostles following His resurrection. They should have believed Mary Magdalene because she was a credible witness who said nothing more than what the Son of God had previously said many times would happen: He would arise on the third day following His death. What’s more, the blessing that Jesus mentioned to the apostle Thomas (“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”—John 20:29) was not an endorsement of a blind, emotion-based, feel-good religion, but Heaven-sent support for the truthful, credible evidence that leads the open-minded, truth-seeker to confess Him as “Lord and God.”

Cracking the Code—The Human Genome Project in Perspective [Part II] by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.


Cracking the Code—The Human Genome Project in Perspective [Part II]

by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Part I of this two-part series appeared in the August issue. Part II follows below and continues, without introductory comments, where the first article ended. However, the reader may find it useful to have on hand the “Genetic Glossary,” since some terms in that glossary are employed here for the first time.]


The nucleic acid-based genetic code exists. But whence has it come? Since the elucidation of the genetic code in the mid-1950s, materialists have suggested that those mythical parents, “father time” and “mother nature,” gave birth to the genetic code via purely chance processes. As Nobel laureate Jacques Monod put it: “Chance alone is the source of every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere.... All forms of life are the product of chance...” (1972, pp. 110,167). Such a view, however, ascribes to “chance” properties that it does not, and cannot, possess. Sproul, Gerstner, and Lindsley addressed this logical fallacy and concluded:
Chance is incapable of creating a single molecule, let alone an entire universe. Why not? Chance is no thing. It is not an entity. It has no being, no power, no force. It can effect nothing for it has no causal power within it (1984, p. 118).
Chance cannot create. And it certainly cannot create something as complex as the genetic code. Furthermore, as science writer Matt Ridley observed: “DNA is information, a message written in a code of chemicals” (1999, p. 13). And, as information scientist Werner Gitt correctly noted: “Coding systems are not created arbitrarily, but they are optimized according to criteria.... Devising a code is a creative mental process. Matter can be a carrier of codes, but it cannot generate codes” (1997, pp. 59,67, emp. added). Whence, then, has come the genetic code? What “creative mental process” imposed the information on it that it contains? In their textbook, The New Biology, evolutionists Robert Augros and George Stanciu wrote:
What cause is responsible for the origin of the genetic code and directs it to produce animal and plant species? It cannot be matter because of itself matter has no inclination to these forms.... There must be a cause apart from matter that is able to shape and direct matter. Is there anything in our experience like this? Yes, there is: our own minds. The statue’s form originates in the mind of the artist, who then subsequently shapes matter, in the appropriate way.... For the same reasons there must be a mind that directs and shapes matter in organic forms (1987, p. 191, emp. added).
In speaking of the origin of the genetic code, and the simultaneous appearance of the decoding mechanism that accompanies it, evolutionist Caryl Haskins lamented: “By a pre-Darwinian (or a skeptic of evolution after Darwin) this puzzle would surely have been interpreted as the most powerful sort of evidence for special creation” (1971, 59:305, emp. added, parenthetical comment in orig.). The late evolutionist Carl Sagan of Cornell University admitted:
The number of possible ways of putting nucleotides together in a chromosome is enormous. Thus a human being is an extraordinarily improbable object. Most of the 102.4x109 possible sequences of nucleotides would lead to complete biological malfunction (Sagan, 1997, 22:967, emp. added).
Sir Francis Crick therefore wrote:
An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going (1981, p. 88, emp. added).
Wilder-Smith offered the following observation about the origin of the genetic code.
The almost unimaginable complexity of the information on the genetic code along with the simplicity of its concept (four letters made of simple chemical molecules), together with its extreme compactness, imply an inconceivably high intelligence behind it. Present-day information theory permits no other interpretation of the facts of the genetic code (1976, pp. 258-259, emp. added).
This is the very point that Gitt made in his 1997 book on information theory when he wrote: “The coding system used for living beings is optimal from an engineering standpoint. This fact strengthens the argument that it was a case of purposeful design rather than fortuitous chance” (p. 95, emp. added). British evolutionist Richard Dawkins once observed: “The more statistically improbable a thing is, the less we can believe that it just happened by blind chance. Superficially the obvious alternative to chance is an intelligent Designer” (1982, p. 130). I suggest, however, that since the genetic code “appears to be almost a miracle” which “implies an inconceivably high intelligence behind it,” then it hardly is “superficial” to believe that it must have had a designer—the Creator-God of the Universe.


In most organisms, the primary genetic material is DNA. [Some viruses, primarily retroviruses, contain only RNA (see Nicholl, 1994, pp. 9-10; Ridley, 1999, p. 9).] What is DNA, and how does it work? In his book, The Case Against Accident and Self-Organization, Dean Overman provided the following excellent summary [see Figures 1 and 2].
A DNA molecule is comprised of thousands of long chains of nucleotides (polynucleotides) each consisting of three parts. One part is the pentose or five carbon sugar known as deoxyribose. A second part is a phosphate group, and the third part is a nitrogen base of either adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C) or thymine (T). Alternating sugar and phosphate molecules connect each nucleotide chain in a ladder type configuration coiled around a central axis in a twisted double spiral or helix. The two chains run in opposite directions with 10 nucleotides per turn of the helix. The rungs of the bases are pairs of either adenine and thymine (A-T) or cytosine with guanine (C-G). A relatively weak hydrogen bond connects these bases... (1997, p. 34).
Genes, then, are specific segments of DNA (although not all DNA assumes the form of genes; some resides in extranuclear organelles such as plasmids, and some is non-coding). Chromosomes—which consist of DNA and other material—are macromolecules composed of repeating nucleotides that serve as carriers for genes, with thousands of genes being aligned along each chromosome. [Not all human genes, however, are found on chromosomes; a few reside within mitochondria located in the cytoplasm; see Ridley, 1999, p. 9.] Each chromosome consists of a pair of long (roughly three feet), tightly coiled, double-stranded DNA molecules, with each chromosome possessing one long arm and one short arm separated by a middle “pinch point” known as a centromere.
Every living thing has a specified number of chromosomes in each somatic cell. A corn cell has 20; a mouse, 40; a gibbon, 44; and a human, 46. Germ cells in humans, however, have only 23 chromosomes each so that during the union of the male and female gametes, the total will be the standard human number of 46 (23 + 23). [Of these, 22 pairs are numbered in approximate order of size from the largest (#1) to the smallest (#22), while the remaining pair consists of the sex chromosomes: two large X chromosomes in women, one X and one small Y in men.] As a result, genes end up being inherited in pairs consisting of one portion from the father and one from the mother, thereby ensuring genetic diversity.

Nucleotide structure diagram
Figure 1 — The structure of a nucleotide. Circles represent carbon atoms. In DNA the sugar is deoxyribose, with a hydrogen atom at position X; in RNA the sugar is ribose, with a hydroxyl (OH) group at position X. In DNA, the base can be A,G,C, or T; inRNA, the base can be A,G,C, or U.
Return to Text
An average gene consists of about 1,000 nucleotides [see Figure 1] that normally appear in triplets such as AGC or ATG (see Perloff, 1999, p. 72). While most triplets specify amino acid production, some function as a “stop” command, just as a telegram might contain “stop” to end a sentence. All living organisms—humans, animals, and plants—depend on this code for their existence. Furthermore, each gene is the blueprint the cell uses to assemble a protein that is composed of a long necklace of amino acids (with each protein consisting of a distinct sequence of those amino acids). [A typical protein contains approximately 300 amino acids (see Macer, 1990, p. 2).]
Thanks to the progress that has been made in both genetics and molecular biology, we now possess techniques by which it is possible to determine the exact chemical sequence of any gene from any organism. The genotype is the complete set of genes that the organism possesses—something determined at the time of conception for multicellular organisms. It is the same in all cells of an individual organism. The genotype of all cells derived from a particular cell will be the same, unless a mutation occurs. [It is estimated that 90% of all known gene mutations occur in autosomal chromosomes (as opposed to sex chromosomes—see Macer, 1990, p. 4).] For organisms that reproduce sexually, the genotype of each new individual will be different since the genes from the two parents are combined. The phenotype of an individual is determined by the constant interaction of their genotype and the environment.
The DNA molecule truly is amazing, but it still has certain built-in limits. As geneticist Richard Lewontin remarked: “DNA is a dead molecule, among the most nonreactive, chemically inert molecules in the living world” (2000, p. 141). Matt Ridley referred to DNA as “a helpless, passive piece of mathematics, which catalyses no chemical reactions” (1999, p. 17). What is the point of such statements? Jonathan Wells has explained:
Although molecular biology has demonstrated conclusively that DNA carries the genetic code for the amino acid sequences of proteins, this is not sufficient to specify a whole organism. Combining DNA with all the ingredients necessary for protein synthesis does not make a cell.... Molecular biology has shown that an organism’s DNA specifies the building materials. It turns out, however, that the assembly instructions are largely in other components of the cell, and that the floor plan has not yet been discovered. So there are clearly other factors involved in heredity and development besides DNA (1998, pp. 62,64).
[This information will become important in separating fact from fiction in the discussion below on the Human Genome Project.]
Strictly speaking, of course, DNA is not actually a self-replicating molecule. As Lewontin explained:
DNA has no power to reproduce itself. Rather it is produced out of elementary materials by a complex cellular machinery of proteins.... The newly manufactured DNA is certainly a copy of the old, and the dual structure of the DNA molecule provides a complementary template on which the copying process works...[but] no living molecule is self-reproducing (2000, p. 142, emp. in orig.).
DNA does replicate, however. And the process by which it does so is an enormously complex one with many different components that interact to ensure the faithful transfer of genetic information to the next generation. Biochemist Michael Behe noted:
A large number of parts have to work together to that end. In the absence of one or more of a number of the components, DNA replication is either halted completely or significantly compromised, and the cell either dies or becomes quite sick (1998, p. 185).
What, then, is involved in reproducing the DNA molecule so that it can be passed from cell to cell and generation to generation?
Parent and complementary strands of DNA during replication
Figure 2 — DNA shown in double-helix, parent-strand form (top), and during replication of two new complementary strands (bottom). Source: DOE Human Genome Program [on-line],http://www.ornl.gov/hgmis/
Return to Text
Once the structure of DNA finally was elucidated, scientists discovered how, during cell division, the DNAis replicated to produce a genome for each new daughter cell. The secret lies in the pairing of the bases—A to T, and G to C. During the replication process, the two complementary strands of DNA “unzip” down the middle. A new strand then begins to form alongside each of the originals, laying in an A wherever there is an opposing T, a T where there is an A, a G to a C, and a C to a G. The end result is two new double-stranded portions of DNA that, in most instances, are identical to the originals in their base sequences [see Figure 2]. Ridley described the process by comparing the genetic material to a book.
The genome is a very clever book, because in the right conditions it can both photocopy itself and read itself. The photocopying is known as replication, and the reading as translation. Replication works because of an ingenious property of the four bases: A likes to pair with T, and G with C. So a single strand of DNA can copy itself by assembling a complementary strand with Ts opposite all the As, As opposite all the Ts, Cs opposite all the Gs and Gs opposite all the Cs. In fact, the usual state of DNA is the famous double helix of the original strand and its complementary pair intertwined.
To make a copy of the complementary strand therefore brings back the original text. So the sequence ACGT becomes TGCA in the copy, which transcribes back to ACGT in the copy of the copy. This enables DNA to replicate indefinitely, yet still contain the same information.
Translation is a little more complicated. First the text of a gene is transcribed into a copy by the same base-pairing process, but this time the copy is made not of DNA but of RNA, a very slightly different chemical.... This RNA copy, called the messenger RNA, is then edited....
The messenger is then befriended by a microscopic machine called a ribosome, itself made partly of RNA. The ribosome moves along the messenger, translating each three-letter codon in turn into one letter of a different alphabet, an alphabet of twenty different amino acids, each brought by a different version of a molecule called transfer RNA. Each amino acid is attached to the last to form a chain in the same order as the codons. When the whole message has been translated, the chain of amino acids folds itself up into a distinctive shape that depends on its sequence. It is now known as a protein.
Almost everything in the body, from hair to hormones, is either made of proteins or made by them. Every protein is a translated gene (1999, pp. 6,7,8, emp. in orig.).
Yes, the process described above is utterly amazing. But no less amazing is the fact that it takes place in a DNA fiber that is only two millionths of a millimeter thick (barely visible under an electron microscope). Yet the amount of information contained within it “is so immense in the case of human DNA that it would stretch from the North Pole to the equator if it was typed on paper, using standard letter sizes” (Gitt, 1997, p. 90). As Anderson observed: “If the tightly coiled DNA strands inside a single human adult were unwound and stretched out straight, they would cover the distance to the moon half a million times. Yet when coiled, all the strands could fit inside a teaspoon” (1980, p. 50).
The DNA molecule must be incredibly stable, since the genetic information stored within it may need to function in a living organism for up to a century or more. It also must be completely reproducible so that its complex informational content can be passed successfully from generation to generation. As it turns out, DNA does, in fact, possess each of these traits, and thereby fulfills the necessary and essential criteria of stability and replicability. Are we to be convinced, however, that all of this occurred merely by chance?


Whenever the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Great Britain call a news conference that is broadcast worldwide in order to discuss a scientific matter, it must be pretty heady stuff. What, exactly, is the Human Genome Project? Why has it generated such tremendous publicity of late? And is all the hoopla surrounding it justified—or even correct?
An organism’s genome is its total genetic content. [The phrase “nuclear genome” refers solely to the DNA within the nucleus; the phrase “human genome” refers to all of the DNA contained in an entire human (haploid) cell, rather than just that in the nucleus.] In the late 1980s, scientists began discussing the possibility of obtaining a detailed map and complete DNA sequence of the genome of a variety of organisms, including the bacterium Escherichia coli, the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster (all of which, by the way, had been completed by the end of 1999), wheat, rice, the mouse, and of course, Homo sapiens. [For an update on the progress regarding the sequencing of the genome of the mouse and other species, see Karow, 2000, 283[1]:53.]
The mere thought of mapping all the chromosomes and sequencing all the genes of even a “simple” living organism should be enough to send chills down the spine of every hard-working molecular biologist. After all, a bacterium can have 4 million nucleotide bases in its genetic repertoire, while more complicated organisms such as human beings can possess more than 3billion. And, curiously, some amphibians and flowering plants have more than 10 times the number of nucleotide bases found in human beings (see Roth, 1998, p. 70; Avers, 1989, pp. 142-143; Fraser, et al., 1995, 270:397-403; Goffeau, 1995, 270:445-446). But, by the beginning of the year 2000, the genome sequences of more than 20 species had been published on the Internet, and the one-billionth base of human DNA had been sequenced (see Macer, 2000). Erika Check, writing in the August 14, 2000 issue of Newsweek, quoted Claire Fraser, head of the Institute for Genomic Research, who suggested that within the next year or so scientists will begin decoding the genomes of the top twenty human pathogens [disease-causing organisms] (136[7]:9). [In fact, in its July 13, 2000 issue, Nature reported that scientists in the country of Brazil had just completed the “first sequence of a free-living plant pathogen” and that their paper (published in that week’s issue of the journal) represented “a significant scientific milestone” (see Editorial, 2000a, 406:109; see also Simpson, A.J.G., et al., 2000, 406:151-156). Less than three weeks later, Nature announced in its August 3, 2000 issue that the genes of Vibrio cholerae, the microorganism that causes cholera, had been completely sequenced (see: Heidelberg, et al., 2000, 406:477-483; Check, 2000, 136[7]:9).]
In 1990, the Human Genome Project [or HGP; also sometimes referred to as the Human Genome Initiative] began (see Collins, 1997, p. 98). The name is a collective moniker for several projects that actually began in the late 1980s in several countries, following a decision by the United States Department of Energy [DOE] to: (a) create an ordered set of DNA segments from known chromosomal locations; (b) develop new computational methods for analyzing genetic map and DNA sequence data; and (3) develop new instruments and techniques for detecting and analyzing DNA (see Office of Technology Assessment, 1988). However, some in the biological community were a bit wary of DOE physicists “doing biology.” Thus, because the National Institutes of Health [NIH] is the major funder of biomedical research in America, its scientists signed on to join the project. [Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., is the head of the U.S. Human Genome Project.]
Shortly after the formation of the HGP in the United States, scientists from several foreign countries were invited to join in the effort, which resulted in the formation of the HGPinternational analogue—the Human Genome Organization [HUGO]. Included in the international effort were scientists from France, Great Britain, Japan, and elsewhere. In 1991 the Human Genome Diversity Project [HGDP] was begun, with a mandate to collect DNA samples for analysis from at least 25 unrelated individuals in 400 different populations around the world. Dr. Luigi Cavalli-Sforza, professor emeritus of genetics at Stanford University, heads the program (see Macer, 2000; Cavalli-Sforza, 2000, p. 69). In mid-1999, British science writer Matt Ridley wrote in his book, Genome:
Being able to read the genome will tell us more about...our nature and our minds than all the efforts of science to date. It will revolutionise anthropology, psychology, medicine, palaeontology and virtually every other science.... Some time in the year 2000, we shall probably have a rough first draft of the complete human genome. In just a few short years we will have moved from knowing almost nothing about our genes to knowing everything. I genuinely believe that we are living through the greatest intellectual moment in history. Bar none (p. 5, emp. added).
Ridley’s prediction has come true. The HGP now has achieved one of its main goals—producing a “rough first draft” of the human genome. Two groups—one governmental [the HGP] and one from corporate America [Celera Genomics, headed by its CEO, Dr. Craig Venter]—had been pursuing the goal of mapping the entire human genome independently of each other. [On January 10, 2000, for example, scientists at Celera announced they had sequences equal to over 90% of the human genome, and 97% of all genes, in their database (see Editorial, 2000b).] Eventually, however, the two groups agreed to work together. And work they did! On June 26, 2000, the announcement was made that, for all practical purposes, the mapping of the human genome was complete. In its cover story the following week (July 3), Time magazine reported on the meaning and importance of the announcement.
After more than a decade of dreaming, planning and heroic number crunching, both groups have deciphered essentially all the 3.1 billion biochemical “letters” of human DNA, the coded instructions for building and operating a fully functional human....
Armed with the genetic code, scientists can now start teasing out the secrets of human health and disease at the molecular level—secrets that will lead at the very least to a revolution in diagnosing and treating everything from Alzheimer’s to heart disease to cancer, and more (Golden and Lemonick, 2000, 156[1]:19-20).
The Human Genome Project is set up to proceed in two distinct stages, the first of which is that of “physical mapping.” This phase will examine short stretches of DNA in order to determine sequences along each chromosome as “landmarks” (somewhat like the mile markers found along U.S. interstate highways). These markers then will be of importance in finding exactly where, along each chromosome, particular genes reside. In the second phase of the project, various laboratories will examine an entire chromosome (or section of a chromosome, depending on its size) in order to determine the complete ordered sequence of nucleotides in its DNA. It is after this critical second phase, to use the words of Harvard’s Lewontin, “that the fun begins, for biological sense will have to be made, if possible, of the mind-numbing sequence of three billion A’s, T’s, C’s, and G’s” (2000, p. 162).
Truth be told, the processing of making “biological sense” out of the human genome already has begun in earnest. The December 2, 1999 issue of Nature announced, for example, that the first human chromosome (#22) had been completely sequenced (see Little, 2000, 402:467-468; Dunham, et al., 2000, 402:489-495; Donn, 1999). And in May 2000, the HGP announced that it not only had completed its own working draft of chromosome 22, but also had completed the sequencing of chromosome 21, which is involved with Down’s syndrome and several other diseases (see Brown, 2000, 283[1]:50-55; for a full account of the chromosome 21 story, see Scientific American’s Web site at http://www.sciam. com/explorations/2000051500chrom21).
But where, exactly, is the HGP now? Almost all of the genome data already are being used. As of June 2000, 85% of the human genome was available on the World Wide Web (see Regalado, 2000, 103[4]:97-98). The notion that science somehow will be transformed when we cross a mythical “finish line,” however, is wrong. The fact is, science already has been transformed. When Time’s writers chose the title “The Race Is Over!” for their cover story, they were correct—in the sense that everyone now can partake of the knowledge regarding the 3 billion DNA base pairs. That is the great achievement at this point in time. But there is more to it than that because there is much we still do not know, and much work yet to be done. Why is this the case? Wade Roush, writing in the May/June 2000 issue of Technology Review (shortly before the completion of the human genome project was announced), suggested:
...[W]e have only the foggiest picture of how our 100,000 genes interact to regulate one another’s expression and to direct protein production. Extrapolating from the genome to the whole organism is therefore akin to writing a history of New York City based on the phone directory. Another problem is that DNA, by itself, doesn’t produce or explain anything (2000, 103[3]:113).
In an interview in the July/August, 2000 issue of Technology Review, Eric Lander, who is the director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research/MIT Center for Genome Research (the world’s most productive academic gene sequencing facility and the flagship of the international Human Genome Project), admitted:
The truth is that the human genome is going to have all kinds of nasty little bits that are hard to fill in at the end: the middles of chromosomes, called the centromeres, the ends of chromosomes, called the telomeres, and so on. This is not like the transcontinental railroad, where at some point someone is going to nail the golden spike, and then and only then can you go cross-country. There is no golden nucleotide to be nailed into the double helix at the end....
The genome is a very elaborate program, and we don’t know how to read it. It’s as if we have some ancient computer code that was written...years ago and now we are trying to figure out what it does. I think what biologists are going to be doing for the next decade is figuring out the circuitry of the genome by monitoring how the 50,000 to 100,000 genes are turned on and off and how all the proteins come on and off in the cell (see Regalado, 2000, 103[4]:97-98).
The following report from Time accurately expressed Dr. Lander’s point.
HGP scientists may have decoded 97% of the genome’s letters—the remaining 3% are generally considered unsequenceable and irrelevant—but they know the order of only 53% of them. It’s as if they’ve got the pages in the so-called book of life in the proper order but with the letters on each page scrambled....
Celera, by contrast, has not only the pages but all the words and letters as well—though neither side can yet say what most of these words and letters mean.... [Craig] Venter points out that identifying the order of the letters in our genetic alphabet is just a first step. Still ahead for Celera as well as its competitors: the much more complicated task of telling what those letters mean, what they do and what can be done if the messages they spell out are in error—a prime cause of human disease and suffering (Golden and Lemonick, 2000, 156[1]:20-21).


As much as we might wish it were true, mapping the DNA sequence of a single human—or even many humans from populations around the world—will not produce an accurate map of a human genome. Why not? The reason has to do with what geneticists refer to as “single nucleotide polymorphisms” (known as SNPs—pronounced SNIPS). Although human DNA is “almost” the same from every person on Earth, it is not exactly the same. The fact is, there is an approximate 0.1% variation in the nucleotides that compose human DNA. Generally, such variation is caused by a single nucleotide—thus the name “single nucleotide” polymorphisms [poly—many, morphisms—forms]. The DNA being sequenced in the HGP actually is a composite of human tissue cell lines from several people. As Lemonick wrote in his Time article:
Scientists...are putting together databases of tissue samples to look for one-letter genetic differences.... Both the Human Genome Project and Celera are currently sequencing the genomes of many different people, of both sexes and all sorts of ethnic backgrounds, to get a better sense of where the SNPs are (2000, 156[1]:28).
Luigi Cavalli-Sforza, director of the Human Genome Diversity Project that is examining DNAsamples from over 400 populations worldwide, has explained why accurate knowledge of SNPs is critical.
If we take the DNA from one sperm (or egg) and compare it to the DNA of another random one, we find that there is on average one different nucleotide pair every thousand nucleotide pairs. There are therefore at least three million differences between the DNA in one sperm or egg and the DNA in another. All these differences originated by mutation, a spontaneous error made while copying DNA, which most frequently involves the replacement of one nucleotide by another of the four.... New mutations are therefore transmitted from parents to children.... A change in DNA may cause a change in a protein... (2000, pp. 68,17, emp. added).
And a change in a protein within a living system can herald severe problems. Organisms contain thousands of proteins that most often are composed of 300 or more amino acids linked together in chain-like fashion. Substitution of even a single amino acid at a critical position can be lethal (see Roth, 1998, p. 69; Radman, 1988, 259[2]:40-46). In an article in Nature titled “The Book of Genes,” Peter Little explained why SNPs are so important within the context of the Human Genome Project.
There is a general consensus that SNPs are probably the cause of most common genetic disorders. We all carry many SNPs but if we are unlucky enough to carry the “wrong” set of changes, we are predisposed to one or other of the common disorders with a genetic component such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or cancers.... If knowledge of gene differences can be combined with an understanding of the richness of environmental influences, we will have the key to unlocking the cause of most of the common disorders that kill or otherwise cause suffering (1999, 402:467-468).
After reading, digesting, and pondering all of this information about the Human Genome Project, perhaps it will be easier to understand in a clearer fashion why writers like Newsweek’s Thomas Hayden have concluded:
Meanwhile, the benefits of genomic research—from predicting risk for hereditary disease to developing new drugs designed for an individual’s genetic makeup—are still years away... (2000, 136[1]:51).
One scientist, Richard K. Wilson of Washington University (a partner in the public consortium of the Human Genome Project), plainly admitted in an interview in the July 2000 issue of Scientific American:

For a long time, there was a big misconception that when the DNA sequencing was done, we’d have total enlightenment about who we are, why we get sick and why we get old. Well, total enlightenment is decades away (as quoted in Brown, 2000, 283[1]:50).
Maybe so. Nevertheless, that does not detract in any way from the success the Human Genome Project already has enjoyed.


Carl Sagan, one of the most visible popularizers of science in our generation, once observed:
...[T]he future holds the promise that man will be able to assemble nucleotides in any desired sequence to produce whatever characteristics of human beings are thought desirable, an awesome and disquieting prospect (1997, 22:967, emp. added).
Yes, it is indeed an “awesome and disquieting prospect.” Henry Greely, a medical bioethicist at Stanford University, commented on where this kind of thinking may lead when he wrote: “The problem is, we sanctify DNA. People seem to want to be eager to view their genome as their essence, instead of just molecules that pass on certain traits. In our secular culture, it’s almost taken the place of the soul” (as quoted in Kloehn and Salopek, 1997, p. C-1).
During an interview with Stanford geneticist David Cox for the August 14, 2000 issue of Peoplemagazine, reporter Giovanna Breu remarked: “Some worry that mapping the genome allows us to play God by manipulating life.” Dr. Cox, however, responded:
The genome gives us a list of what living things are made up of, but not how they go together and work. It provides one more piece of information that we can start using to make order out of our ignorance and help people to make better decisions in life. But...we just have the parts, not the entire instruction manual. I think God isn’t so stupid as to let anyone have that (2000, 54[7]:131).
While I, personally, might not have phrased my sentiments in exactly those words, it certainly is invigorating to see a scientist of Dr. Cox’s stature give credit where credit is due—to God—for the creation of the “book of life” to which we refer somewhat nonchalantly as the “human genome.” And it similarly is refreshing to be able to report that he is not the only scientist involved in the project who has acknowledged God as the Author of the intricate genetic code. At the June 26 press conference held jointly by the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Dr. Francis Collins, who chairs the Human Genome Project from the National Institutes of Health, spoke in similar terms when he said:
Today, we deliver, ahead of schedule again, the most visible and spectacular milestone of all.... We have developed a map of overlapping fragments that includes 97 percent of the human genome, and we have sequenced 85 percent of this.... It’s a happy day for the world. It is humbling for me and awe-inspiring to realize that we have caught the first glimpse of our own instruction book, previously known only to God. What a profound responsibility it is to do this work (see Office of Technology Policy, 2000, emp. added). [NOTE: In an interview that appeared in the March issue of Discover magazine three months earlier, Dr. Collins publicly affirmed his personal faith in the God of the Bible, and commented on how grateful he was to be associated with the HGP as it uncovered some of the “mysteries of human biology”—see Glausiusz, 2000, 21[3]:22.]
A profound responsibility indeed! To actually be able to “peek inside” the biochemical code—“whose Builder and Maker is God”—is indeed “humbling and awe-inspiring.” And—regardless of how deep we probe or how intelligent we think we are—may it ever be so!


Anderson, Bruce L. (1980), Let Us Make Man (Plainfield, NJ: Logos International).
Augros, Robert and George Stanciu (1987), The New Biology (Boston, MA: New Science Library).
Avers, C.J. (1989), Process and Pattern in Evolution (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press).
Behe, Michael J. (1998), “Intelligent Design Theory as a Tool for Analyzing Biochemical Systems,” Mere Creation, ed. William A. Dembski (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press).
Breu, Giovanna (2000), “The Code of Life” [Interview with geneticist David Cox, Codirector of the Human Genome Mapping Center at Stanford University], People, 54[7]:129-131, August 14.
Brown, Kathryn (2000), “The Human Genome Business Today,” Scientific American, 283[1]:50-55, July.
Cavalli-Sforza, Luigi (2000), Genes, Peoples, and Languages (New York: North Point Press).
Collins, Francis (1997), “The Human Genome Project,” Genetic Ethics: Do the Ends Justify the Genes?, ed. John F. Kilner, Rebecca D. Pentz, and Frank E. Young (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), pp. 95-103.
Check, Erika (2000), “Sound Smart About Sequencing,” Newsweek, 136[7]:9, August 14.
Crick, Francis (1981), Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature (New York: Simon and Schuster).
Dawkins, Richard (1982), “The Necessity of Darwinism,” New Scientist, 94:130-132, April 15.
Donn, Jeff (1999), “Chromosome Mapped,” [On-line], (ABC News), URL http://abcnews. go.com/sections/science/DailyNews/chromosome991201.html, December 1.
Dunham, I.N. Shimizu, B.A. Roe, S. Chissoe, et al. (1999), “The DNA Sequence of Human Chromosome 22,” Nature, 402:489-495, December 2.
“Editorial: Genome Sequencing for All,” (2000a), Nature, 406:109, July 13.
“Editorial: Private vs. Public Genomics,” (2000b), Nature, 403:117, January 13.
Fraser, C.M., J.D. Gocayne, O. White, M.D. Adams, R.A. Clayton, R.D. Fleischmann, C.J. Bult, A.R. Kerlavage, G. Sutton, J.M. Kelley, et. al. (1995), “The Minimal Gene Complement of Mycoplasma genitaliumScience, 270:397-403, October 20.
Gitt, Werner (1997), In the Beginning Was Information (Bielefeld, Germany: Christliche Literatur-Verbreitung).
Glausiuz, Josie (2000), “Genetic Code-Breaker” [Interview with Dr. Francis Collins, Head of the U.S. Human Genome Project], Discover, 21[3]:22, March.
Goffeau, André (1995), “Life with 482 Genes,” Science, 270:445-446, October 20.
Golden, Frederic and Michael Lemonick (2000), “The Race Is Over,” Time, 156[1]:19-23, July 3.
Haskins, Caryl P. (1971), “Advances and Challenges in Science in 1970,” American Scientist, 59:298-307, May/June.
Hayden, Thomas (2000), “A Genome Milestone,” Newsweek, 136[1]:51, July 3.
Heidelberg, John F., Jonathan A. Elsen, William C. Nelson, et al. (2000), “DNA Sequence of Both Chromosomes of the Cholera Pathogen Vibrio cholerae,” Nature, 406:477-483, August 3.
Karow, Julie (2000), “The ‘Other’ Genomes,” Scientific American, 283[1]:53, July.
Kloehn, Steve and Paul Salopek (1997), “Humanity Still at Heart, Soul of Cloning Issue: Scientists and Theologians Agree We Are Our Own Persons,” Chicago Tribune, C-1, March 2.
Lemonick, Michael (2000), “The Genome is Mapped. Now What?,” Time, 156[1]:24-29, July 3.
Lewontin, Richard (2000), It Ain’t Necessarily So: The Dream of the Human Genome and Other Illusions (New York: New York Review of Books).
Little, Peter (1999), “The Book of Genes,” Nature, 402:467-468, December 2.
Macer, Darryl R.J. (1990), Shaping Genes: Ethics, Law and Science of Using New Genetic Technology in Medicine and Agriculture [On-line], (Eubios Ethics Institute), URL http://www. biol.tsukuba.ac.jp/macer/SG.html.
Macer, Darryl R.J. (2000), “Introduction to the Genome Projects,“ Ethical Challenges as We Approach the End of the Human Genome Project, ed. Darryl R.J. Macer, [On-line], URL http://www.biol.tsukuba.ac.jp/macer/chgp/chgp2.html.
Monod, Jacques (1972), Chance and Necessity (London: Collins).
Nicholl, Desmond S.T. (1994), An Introduction to Genetic Engineering (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press).
Office of Technology Assessment—U.S. Congress (1988) Mapping Our Genes—The Genome Projects: How Big, How Fast? (Washington D.C.: United States Government Printing Office).
Office of Technology Policy—The White House (2000) Remarks by the President—The Entire Human Genome Project, [On-line], http://www.whitehouse.gov/WH/EOP/OSTP/html/00628_2.html.
Overman, Dean L. (1997), A Case Against Accident and Self-Organization (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield).
Perloff, James (1997), Tornado in a Junkyard (Arlington, MA: Refuge Books).
Radman, M. and R. Wagner (1988), “The High Fidelity of DNA Duplication,” Scientific American, 259[2]:40-46, February.
Regalado, Antonio (2000), “Riding the DNA Railroad,” Technology Review, 103[4]:94-98, July/August.
Ridley, Matt (1999), Genome: Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters (New York: HarperCollins).
Roth, Ariel A. (1998), Origins (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association).
Roush, Wade (2000), “Pages—Book Reviews” [“Genome, Schmenone,” A Review of Richard Lewontin’s book, It Ain’t Necessarily So], Technology Review, 103[3]:113, May/June.
Sagan, Carl (1997), “Life,” Encyclopaedia Britannica (New York: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.), 22:964-981.
Simpson, A.J.G., F.C. Reinach, P. Arruda, et al. (2000), “The Genome Sequence of the Plant Pathogen Xylella fastidiosa,” Nature, 406:151-156, July 13.
Sproul, R.C., John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley (1984), Classical Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Wells, Jonathan (1998), “Unseating Naturalism: Recent Insights from Developmental Biology,” Mere Creation, ed. William A. Dembski (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press).
Wilder-Smith, A.E. (1976), A Basis for a New Biology (Einigen: Telos International).