"THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS" The Greatness Of Melchizedek (7:1-10) by Mark Copeland

The Greatness Of Melchizedek (7:1-10)


1. Thus far in our study, we have seen the writer mention Melchizedek...
   a. That Jesus is a priest "after the order of Melchizedek" 
        - He 5:9-10; 6:20
   b. It has only been a brief mention, for the dullness of the readers
      required a necessary digression - cf. He 5:11-6:20

2. But now the writer returns to his theme concerning Melchizedek, in which he...
   a. Establishes the greatness of Melchizedek - He 7:1-10
   b. Shows the significance of Melchizedek's priesthood - He 7:11-19
   c. Thereby illustrating the greatness of Christ's priesthood 
       - He 7:20-28

3. Since this subject is "meat" compared to the "milk" of the Word 
    (cf.He 5:10-12)...
   a. We want to approach it slowly and carefully
   b. Allowing ourselves to slowly "digest" what is said in this 
      seventh chapter of Hebrews

[For this reason, this lesson will limit itself to the first ten 
verses, in which we read of "The Greatness Of Melchizedek". To 
appreciate his greatness, we must be aware of...]


      1. We first read of "The Battle Of The Kings" - Gen 14:1-11
      2. In which Lot is captured, and then rescued by Abram (Abraham)
         - Gen 14:12-17
      3. Upon his return, Abram is met by Melchizedek - Gen 14:18
         a. Who is "king of Salem" (thought to be later known as Jerusalem)
         b. Who is also "the priest of God Most High"
      4. In this meeting, two things happen...
         a. Melchizedek blesses Abram (Abraham) - Gen 14:19
         b. Abram pays tithes to Melchizedek - Gen 14:20b

      1. Summarizes the events in He 7:1-2
         a. How Melchizedek met Abraham and blessed him
         b. How Abraham gave "a tenth part of all" (i.e., tithes) to Melchizedek
      2. Explains the meaning of his name and title - He 7:2
         a. The name "Melchizedek" means "king of righteousness"
         b. The title "king of Salem" means "king of peace"
      3. Makes some intriguing statements about Melchizedek...
         a. "without father, without mother, without genealogy"
         b. "having neither beginning of days nor end of life"
         c. "made like the Son of God"
         d. "remains a priest continually"

      1. Some have suggested that he was:
         a. An angel (Origen, Didymus)
         b. Enoch (Husius, Calmet)
         c. Shem (Jerome, Luther)
      2. Others have taken the statements in v.3 to suggest that 
         Melchizedek was a "theophany" (a pre-incarnate appearance of 
         Christ), for the following reasons:
         a. The name Melchizedek, meaning "king of righteousness" (v.2)
         b. The designation "king of peace" (v.2)
         c. The possibility that the lack of recorded genealogy
            mentioned in v.3 is due to actual lack of ancestors, rather
            than the mere absence of historical record
         d. He is said to remain "a priest continually" (v.3c)
         e. He is contrasted with "mortal men" (v.8a)
         f. Of him "it is witnessed that he lives" (v.8b)
      3. Most take that he was simply a man (note v.4), but because he
         appears suddenly in Scripture as a priest...
         a. With no mention of parentage or genealogy
         b. With no mention of his birth or death
         c. With only a mention of him as a priest of "God Most High"
         ...that he is a "type" of Christ, and what His priesthood would be like

[While the true identity of Melchizedek may remain a mystery because of
the brevity of scriptural information, his importance as it relates to
the superiority of Christ's priesthood becomes very clear as we 


      1. Abraham paid a tenth to Melchizedek
      2. Just as the nation of Israel would later pay a tenth to the sons of Levi
      -- Thus Abraham, great as he was, showed his deference to Melchizedek

      1. Melchizedek blessed him "who had the promises" (Abraham)
      2. There is no dispute that "the lesser is blessed by the better"
      -- Thus Melchizedek is clearly "better" than Abraham

      1. In the priesthood under the Jewish system (i.e., the Levitical
         or Aaronic priesthood), tithes were received by "mortal men"
         (whose service ended at death)
      2. But it has been witnessed that Melchizedek "lives"("remains a
         priest continually" - He 7:3)
      3. How he lives and remains a priest continually, the Bible does not say
      -- But in this way Melchizedek is greater than the Levitical 
         priests (a point made concerning Jesus later in the chapter)

      1. Levi was "in the loins of his father" Abraham when Melchizedek met him
      2. Thus Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes "through Abraham, so to speak"
      -- Again illustrating the greatness of Melchizedek, as one greater than Levi!


1. There is a lot more I wish I knew about Melchizedek...
   a. Was he a "theophany", a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ?
   b. Was he is an angel?  Enoch? Shem?
   c. Was he simply a man?
      1) One whose Biblical record is such that he serves as a "type" of Christ
      2) If so, I would love to know where he came from, and how he 
         came to be "priest of God Most High"
   d. And how does he remain a priest continually?

2. But what I do know is this...
   a. Jesus is "a priest forever according to the order of 
      Melchizedek", as God swore He would be in Ps 110:4
   b. And that Melchizedek is clearly presented to be greater than 
      Abraham and Levi!

Understanding "The Greatness Of Melchizedek" helps prepare us to 
appreciate the superiority of Christ's priesthood over the Levitical
(Aaronic) priesthood, which we will consider later...

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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"Unlike Naturalists, You Creationists Have a Blind Faith" by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.


"Unlike Naturalists, You Creationists Have a Blind Faith"

by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.

We openly grant that the accusation represented by the title of this article is true, at least for many individuals today. But not for all.


What is “blind faith”? What is meant by the accusation? The idea behind “blind faith” is that a person chooses to believe in something or someone (namely, God) without any supporting evidence. The portrait painted in our minds is that of a person who puts on a blindfold and steps up to a ledge. He cannot see what is beyond the ledge. He has no idea how far down the drop is—whether or not he will plummet to his death, break his legs, or simply fall down. He has no idea if there is water, a trampoline, or rocks at the bottom. He simply decides to believe that he will not die if he jumps off—that he will be safe. He has no evidence, only pure, baseless “faith.” So, he takes a “leap of faith.” Question: who in their right mind would do such a thing? Whoever has such a faith truly is naïve, an extremely emotionally, rather than rationally, charged individual, and possibly is in need of counseling, or has an agenda for having such a belief system.

Sadly many people have such a “faith.” Many people call themselves Christians, and claim to believe in the Bible, but clearly have not read it. They have a “blind faith” which, according to the Law of Rationality (Ruby, 1960, pp. 126-127), is irrational. Their belief in God is not based on the evidence, but is a blind leap into the dark without it. Philosphers call this phenomenon “fideism” (Popkin, 1967, 3:201-202). However, the biblical portrait of faith (Greek, pistis—translated equally as faith, belief, trust, or having confidence in; Arndt, et al., 1979, pp. 661-664) is not what some in Christendom have defined it to be nor what Hollywood has portrayed it to be. It is not “believing when common sense tells you not to,” as the 1947 movie, Miracle on 34th Street suggested (Seaton). It is not a “leap of faith” like Dr. Jones’ actions in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Spielberg, 1989). The Bible does not advocate a “Feel, don’t think” mentality, like that encouraged by Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars (Lucas, 1999). Biblical faith is based on evidence (Hebrews 11:1). It is trust—comparable to the trust one has in a parent or friend—that is based on proof. We trust someone when he has proven himself to be trustworthy. When one listens to or reads revelation from God’s Word (i.e., what Bible believers call “special revelation”) and the information therein proves to be true, one develops faith in God (Romans 10:17). When one examines the evidence from the created order (i.e., what Bible believers call “general revelation”), and it points to the existence of a supernatural Being as Creator—rather than blind, random, accidental change over time—we learn to trust God based on that evidence.

In short: The biblical model of faith requires evidence. According to the biblical model, the truth of God can be known—not felt or accepted without proof—and it will set men free (John 8:32). Sincere truth seekers examine what they have been told and investigate its veracity by pondering the evidence, as did the “fair-minded” Bereans of Acts 17:11, before becoming Christians. In fact, God (through Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:21) tells the creationist that he is expected to prove or test something before believing it—only accepting what has been proven right or good. Do such passages give the impression that the Bible advocates a blind, evidence-less faith?

Sadly, evidence-based faith is not the faith of many within Christendom. But “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Many of us base our view squarely on the evidence—such as the evidence presented below. [NOTE: See Miller, 2003a for more on the topic of “blind faith” and the Bible. Also, Miller, 2003b.]


In order for a belief to not be “blind” or irrational, it needs supporting evidence. While the creationist does not claim to hold direct, observable evidence of God, since we cannot taste, touch, see, hear, or smell Him, the indirect evidence—a legitimate source of scientific evidence—is overwhelming. What supporting evidence do creationists put forth? A thorough treatment of this subject is outside the scope of this article, but hundreds of articles and books deal eloquently and credibly with the subject. [NOTE: See www.apologeticpress.org for a library of said material.]
In short, the creationist argues, among other things, that:
  1. The available evidence contradicts the atheistic model (cf. Miller, 2012b; Miller, 2013c), which logically leaves theism—the Creation model;
  2. The fundamental evidence that contradicts the naturalistic model, supports the contentions of the creation model, which never contradicts the scientific evidence;
  3. The existence and teachings of the laws of science demand a non-material, uncaused Cause for the Universe;
  4. There are numerous natural evidences in the Universe that exhibit the characteristics of intent, purpose, and complexity, which indicate a Mind behind them. Such attributes testify to the presence of intelligent design, which implies a Designer;
  5. Objective morality exists, which implies a higher Law that transcends mankind, which in turn demands a supernatural Author;
  6. A Book exists that contains certain characteristics that can only be explainable if it is what it says it is—the Word of the Creator.
These proofs, and many others, provide evidence that demands an explanation and cannot be satiated by naturalistic theories. Only supernatural Creation provides an answer in keeping with the evidence. The Creation model can hardly be deemed unscientific. Its legitimate followers cannot be brushed aside as “blind” believers. Such sweeping accusations are unfair and betray a prejudiced, stereotypical mindset, to say nothing of the fact that such accusations fall victim to the ad hominemlogical fallacy (“Fallacies,” 2012).


In truth, Creation is the reasonable choice—the one not beholden to evidence-less leaps of faith. It is not contingent on the baseless, mythical claim that aliens exist and initiated life on Earth (cf. Miller, 2013a); that abiogenesis—like magic from a fictional novel—is somehow possible (cf. Miller, 2012b); that non-humans give birth to humans, as they do in the tabloids (cf. Flew and Warren, 1977, pp. 25,45,65); or the fanciful idea that Universes spontaneously pop into existence (cf. Miller, 2013c). Indeed, atheistic evolution is simply well-packaged superstition. Creation is the option in keeping with reason and the evidence.

While some who call themselves “Christians,” do, indeed, have an unscriptural, blind faith, in truth, the same can be said of the evolutionary community—and more so. Why? (1) Because unlike evolution, the evidence does not contradict Creation but supports it, even though some have accepted Creation without that evidence; (2) because not all creationists hold to a blind faith. Some examine the evidence and draw the reasonable conclusion that a Creator exists. However, all naturalists musthave a blind, evidence-less faith, since atheistic evolution is based on certain baseless, unprovable assumptions, including abiogenesis, naturalism, spontaneous generation or the eternality of matter, etc. (cf. Miller, 2013b and Kerkut, 1960 for other key, baseless evolutionary assumptions). Belief in those assumptions is purely blind. They (1) are not supported by the evidence, which classifies evolution as irrational; (2) actually contradict the evidence; and (3) even show the naturalist to be engaged in self-contradiction, which he blindly ignores when confronted with the evidence of his contradictions (cf. Miller, 2012a). It seems clear that it is the evolutionist—not the creationist—who holds to a blind faith.
Consider the following timeless quotes from various prominent evolutionists concerning the character of the naturalist’s faith:
  • Robert Jastrow, evolutionary astronomer and founder and former director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA: “At present, science has no satisfactory answer to the question of the origin of life on the earth. Perhaps the appearance of life on the earth is a miracle. Scientists  [i.e., naturalists—JM] are reluctant to accept that view, but their choices are limited; either life was created on the earth by the will of a being outside the grasp of scientific understanding, or it evolved on our planet spontaneously, through chemical reactions occurring in nonliving matter lying on the surface of the planet. The first theory places the question of the origin of life beyond the reach of scientific inquiry. It is a statement of faith in the power of a Supreme Being not subject to the laws of science. The second theory is alsoan act of faith. The act of faith consists in assuming that the scientific view of the origin of life is correct, without having concrete evidence to support that belief” (1977, pp. 62-63, emp. added).
  • John Sullivan, once a popular evolutionary science writer: “The hypothesis that life has developed from inorganic matter is, at present, still an article of faith” (1933, p. 95, emp. added).
  • Richard Lewontin, evolutionary geneticist of Harvard University: “Our willingness to accept scientific claims against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs..., in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to naturalism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door”(1997, p. 31, 2nd and 4th emp. in orig.).
  • G.A. Kerkut, British evolutionary physiologist: Spontaneous generation is “a matter of faith on the part of the biologist…. The evidence for what did happen is not available” (1960, p. 150, emp. added).
  • Loren Eiseley, evolutionary anthropologist of the University of Pennsylvania: “With the failure of these many efforts, science was left in the somewhat embarrassing position of having to postulate theories of living origins which it could not demonstrate. After having chided the theologian for his reliance on myth and miracle, science found itself in the unenviable position of having to create a mythology of its own: namely, the assumption that what, after long effort, could not be proved to take place today, had, in truth, taken place in the primeval past” (1957, pp. 201-202, emp. added).
  • Robert Hazen, evolutionary geologist who received his doctoral degree in Earth Science from Harvard University, a research scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Geophysical Laboratory, and a professor of Earth Science at George Mason University: “I make an assumption that life emerged from basic raw materials through a sequence of events that was completely consistent with the natural laws of chemistry and physics. Even with this scientific approach, there is a possibility that we’ll never know—in fact, that we can’t ever know. It is possible that life emerged by an almost infinitely improbable sequence of difficult chemical reactions. If life is the result of an infinitely improbable succession of chemical steps, then any scientific attempt to understand life’s origin is doomed to failure; such a succession could not be duplicated in a program of lab experiments. If the origin of life was an infinitely improbable accident, then there’s absolutely nothing you or I or anyone else could do to figure out how it happened. I must tell you, that’s a depressing thought to someone like me who has devoted a decade to understanding the origin of life” (2005, emp. added).
  • Fred Hoyle, distinguished atheistic British astronomer, and Chandra Wickramasinghe, professor of astronomy and applied mathematics at University College, Cardiff, Wales: “It is doubtful that anything like the conditions which were simulated in the laboratory existed at all on a primitive Earth, or occurred for long enough times and over sufficiently extended regions of the Earth’s surface to produce large enough local concentrations of the biochemicals required for the start of life. In accepting the ‘primeval soup theory’ of the origin of life, scientists have replaced religious mysteries which shrouded this question with equally mysterious scientific dogmas. The implied scientific dogmas are just as inaccessible to the empirical approach” (1978, p. 26, emp. added).
If these quotes from eminent evolutionists do not prove that naturalistic evolution is a religious faith, and a blind one at that, what would? It’s no wonder that the late Colin Patterson, senior paleontologist at the British Museum of Natural History in London, said about evolution, “One morning I woke up and something had happened in the night, and it struck me that I had been working on this stuff for twenty years and there was not one thing I knew about it. That’s quite a shock to learn that one can be misled so long. Either there was something wrong with me, or there was something wrong with evolutionary theory” (1981, emp. added). These quotes simply do not characterize true Christianity or the true Creation model—but they do characterize evolution.
Thus, it seems that the rank and file evolutionist’s self-incriminating, venomous accusations towards the creationist are well-represented by the Shakespearean quote, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” (III.2). Be wary of the one who makes accusations the loudest and attempts to deflect attention from his own inadequacies.
Bottom line: The true model of origins will be based on the evidence. It will be the rational model. It will not contradict the evidence at every turn. So atheistic evolution is not the true model of origins.


Arndt, William, F.W. Gingrich, and Frederick W. Danker (1979), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press), second edition revised.
Eiseley, Loren (1957), The Immense Journey (New York: Random House).
“Fallacies” (2012), The Writing Center at UNC Chapel Hill, http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/fallacies.
Flew, Antony G.N. and Thomas B. Warren (1977), The Warren-Flew Debate on the Existence of God(Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press).
Hazen, Robert (2005), Origins of Life, audio-taped lecture (Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company).
Hoyle, Fred and Chandra Wickramasinghe (1978), Lifecloud (New York: Harper & Row).
Jastrow, Robert (1977), Until the Sun Dies (New York: W.W. Norton).
Kerkut, George A. (1960), The Implications of Evolution (London: Pergamon).
Lewontin, Richard (1997), “Billions and Billions of Demons,” The New York Review, January 9.
Lucas, George, dir. (1999), Star Wars Episode I—The Phantom Menace, Lucasfilm.
Miller, Dave (2003a), “Blind Faith,” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=444.
Miller, Dave (2003b), “Modern-Day Miracles, Tongue-Speaking, and Holy Spirit Baptism: A Refutation--EXTENDED VERSION,” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1399.
Miller, Jeff (2012a), “The Atheistic Naturalist’s Self-Contradiction,” Reason & Revelation, 32[5]:53, May, http://apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1029&article=1763.
Miller, Jeff (2012b), “The Law of Biogenesis,” Reason & Revelation, 32[1]:2-11, January, http://apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1018&article=1722.
Miller, Jeff (2013a), “Directed Panspermia and Little, Green (Non-Existent) Men from Outer Space,” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=4620.
Miller, Jeff (2013b), “Don’t Assume Too Much: Not All Assumptions in Science Are Bad,” Reason & Revelation, 33[6]: 62-64,69-70, http://apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1122&article=2153.
Miller, Jeff (2013c), “Evolution and the Laws of Science: the Laws of Thermodynamics,” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=2786.
Patterson, Colin (1981), Written transcript made from audio tape of lecture presented at the American Museum of Natural History, November.
Popkin, Richard (1967), “Fideism” in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy (New York: McMillan).
Ruby, Lionel (1960), Logic: An Introduction (Chicago, IL: J.B. Lippincott).
Seaton, George (1947), Miracle on 34th Street, Twentieth Century Fox.
Shakespeare, William (2011), Hamlet, The Literature Network, http://www.online-literature.com/shakespeare/hamlet/10/.
Spielberg, Steven, dir. (1989), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Paramount Pictures.
Sullivan, J.W.N. (1933), Limitations of Science (New York: Viking Press).

"No Proof of God...But the Universe Might Just Be a Simulation"? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


"No Proof of God...But the Universe Might Just Be a Simulation"?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of America’s most well-known evolutionary astrophysicists. He has worked as the Director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City for two decades. He also frequently appears on television shows such as The Colbert Reportand Real Time with Bill Maher. Though Dr. Tyson has made some oppressive comments regarding theism (and theists) in the past,1 he is not an atheist; Tyson is agnostic: he admits that he is “someone who doesn’t know” and “hasn’t really seen evidence for” God, but “is prepared to embrace the evidence” if it is ever presented.2
Interestingly, Dr. Tyson recently made some outlandish comments at the 2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate at the American Museum of Natural History about the nature of the Universe. According to Tyson, “the likelihood of the universe being a simulation ‘may be very high.’”3 News organizations reported that Tyson indicated “it’s not too hard to imagine that some other creature out there is far smarter than us” (emp. added).4 Perhaps we’re just “some sort of alien simulation.”5 Tyson went so far as to say, “[I]t is easy for me to imagine that everything in our lives is just the creation of some other entity for their entertainment. I’m saying, the day we learn that it is true, I will be the only one in the room saying, I’m not surprised.”6

Isn’t it baffling what evolutionary agnostics and atheists will believe and what they won’t (or don’t) believe? Dr. Tyson is a very educated scientist who seems to have no problem imagining that god-like aliens made our Universe for their pleasure despite the complete lack of evidence for such a belief. Yet, at the same time, Tyson refuses to believe in God because he does not believe there is enoughevidence to come to the conclusion that God actually created the Universe for His own glory (Psalm 19:1-4; Isaiah 43:7) and to be inhabited by His human creatures (Isaiah 45:18), who are made in His image (Genesis 1:26-27).

One thing that Dr. Tyson did allude to that everyone should freely admit based upon the evidence: “[I]t is easy for me to imagine that everything in our lives is just the creation of some other entity” (emp. added). In truth, Creation makes sense.7 “For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God” (Hebrews 3:4, emp. added). “The heavens declare the glory” of the eternal, omnipotent Creator (Psalm 19:1), not some supposed alien civilization (who, in turn, would need an explanation for their existence if they really did exist).8 Sadly, men such as Dr. Tyson seem so open to the idea of “super” aliens, yet not to The Supernatural Creator, Who will judge our actions or lack thereof at the end of time (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).


1  See Michael Brooks (2006), “In Place of God,” New Scientist, 192[2578]:8-11. See also Eric Lyons and Kyle Butt (2007), “Militant Atheism,” Reason & Revelation, 27[1]:1-5, /APContent.aspx?category=12&article=2051&topic=296.
2  “Neil deGrasse Tyson: Atheist or Agnostic?” (2012), Big Think, April 25, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzSMC5rWvos.
3  Kevin Loria (2016), “Neil deGrasse Tyson Thinks There’s a ‘Very High’ Chance the Universe is just a Simulation,” Business Insider, http://www.businessinsider.sg/neil-degrasse-tyson-thinks-the-universe-might-be-a-simulation-2016-4/#.VypZthVrjq0.
4  Ibid.
5  Michael Lazar (2016), “Could the Universe Be a Simulation? Nel deGrasse Tyson Thinks It Might,” Huffington Post, May 1, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-lazar/could-the-universe-be-a-s_b_9816034.html.
6  Ibid.
7  Eric Lyons (2010), “Science, Common Sense, and Genesis 1:1,” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=3758&topic=93.
8  Cf. Bert Thompson (2004), “Is There Intelligent Life in Outer Space?” Apologetics Press, /apcontent.aspx?category=9 &article=1129.

"Jesus Gave Him No Answer" by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.


"Jesus Gave Him No Answer"

by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.

"To err is human," the poet rightly said, and apologists are humans. But as apologists, it is also inevitable that the writers and speakers for Apologetics Press will be unjustly criticized, viciously and publicly attacked, brazenly misrepresented, unethically plagiarized, or even outright lied about—and not infrequently. After all, Jesus predicted that persecution will come to those who attempt to speak the truth (John 15:18-20). From time to time, individuals will witness examples of such shocking behavior and ask us with incredulity, “Do you guys respond to that kind of behavior? And if so, how!?” Answers range from, “The best we can, though not always perfectly” to “sometimes better than at other times” to “not always in the wisest ways, but always with the desire to defend the faith and trying to speak the truth in love.” The real question in our minds, however, is not “How do we respond?” but how does God tell us to respond to that type of persecution?

Jude 3 tells us that we are to “contend earnestly for the faith,”1 but how? Jude 3 is a mandate, but it does not prescribe a manner. Scripture certainly has a lot to say about the attitudes we should have when we are publicly mistreated and the ways we should respond to people, making it clear that different people and situations often call for different approaches. While we should always speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), it is also true that sometimes love demands different approaches. The New Testament tells us repeatedly that agape love is fundamental to Christianity.2 Without love, one simply cannot be a Christian (1 John 4:7-8). That single motivation—to love—would govern every decision and action that a Christian takes, if he would be perfect. After all, according to the New Testament and Jesus, Himself, sin ultimately boils down to a lack of agape3love towards God and our fellow man.

Gathering all of the relevant passages on agape, we learn that it can be defined in the following way:

Having such concern for the well-being of someone else that I am willing to unselfishly act on that concern for that person’s well-being, no matter who it is or the cost to me.4

Notice, then, that love is not a feeling, but a choice (1 John 3:18). If we were to summarize the definition of agape in one word, it would be unselfishness, and it is always manifested through some form of a selfless act.5 That attitude encapsulates Who God is (1 John 4:7-8), while the opposite—being self-serving—is described as being demon-like (James 3:14-16). Truly, if we wish to be like God, we will unselfishly put ourselves aside and do what’s best for others, even when they are mistreating us.

Jesus faces Pilate.
That said, a common misconception about biblical love is that it can be defined solely as being gentle, tolerant, and without judgment. If one were to be anything else in his evangelism or defense of truth, he would be unloving and guilty of sin—according to the common misconception. In truth, biblical love is not always manifested gently,6with tolerance,7 or without judgment.8 In truth, different approaches are appropriate at different times. Sometimes rebuking—an approach we would not generally deem gentle—might be necessary (Luke 17:3), while at other times admonishing/warning (Romans 15:14), edifying/building up (Romans 14:19), or exhorting/encouraging (Titus 1:9) are appropriate. Notice, however, that in all cases, love is the motivation: a desire to do whatever is necessary to help others be pleasing to God—whether through gentle pleading (Galatians 6:1) or through “tough love” (Hebrews 12:5-11; Titus 1:13). Further, boldness is certainly encouraged for evangelists (Acts 4:29), but it is to be tempered with humility (2 Timothy 2:25), prudence (Proverbs 22:3), and being slow to speak (James 1:19), as Peter learned the hard way on more than one occasion.9 Knowing the best response for each situation would require more wisdom than any single human could have, which is why humbly gaining knowledge through experience (Proverbs 16:31), study (Proverbs 10:14), and counsel (Proverbs 11:14) is emphasized in Scripture.

Preparation for the day of persecution and challenges to your beliefs is also emphasized in Scripture. Peter reminds us to “always be ready to give a defense” (1 Peter 3:15), since there will be a day when a person will ask us why we have hope in God, if we are living as we should before them. So we should strive to “be ready, in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2) to use whatever tactic might be appropriate in various situations—whether it be merely convincing them of the truth, or rebuking, or exhorting another Christian. Such readiness takes diligence—incessant study and preparation (2 Timothy 2:15; Acts 17:11).

That said, Who better to study to learn how to respond to public persecutions and challenges than the Chief Apologist, Himself—Jesus Christ? After all, it is He Whom the Christian must emulate. Reading through the gospel accounts, watching how Jesus chose to respond to His critics, is a fascinating practice. Jesus was never looking for a fight, but was always prepared to contend for the Faith and defend Himself when necessary, and chose to do so many times throughout His ministry. Typically, He did so seemingly dispassionately—using pure logic and reason.10 The word used to describe Him in 2 Corinthians 10:1 is “meek”—the word often used to describe, not a wild bull in a China shop, but a trained war horse: strength and fearlessness that is bridled or under control. Jesus recognized that He had ultimately nothing to lose by teaching the truth and, therefore, did not get “riled” up and respond defensively to skeptics and antagonists. That is not to say, however, that He never showed passion when the circumstance called for it; but He was always controlled in His responses, being fearless of the possible consequences. Oh that we all could emulate our Lord in this regard.

At times, we at Apologetics Press have been criticized for not responding to every comment on our Facebook page or choosing not to debate every person who wishes to engage us in a public debate (which apparently some do not realize happens often and would require several more full-time representatives than we have on staff). Of particular interest to those of us that study apologetics is the observation that, though Christ was always ready for a debate, He also knew when not to do so—whether because the timing was not right for a response, a response would be pointless (e.g., Matthew 21:27), or a response would even be detrimental to His ultimate cause. Just because a person challenged Him did not mean that He felt He needed to respond. Since the human inclination is to respond to every person, lest we be perceived as not having an answer and, hence, “losing the debate,” Jesus’ wisdom is awe-inspiring. In Matthew 7:6, while preaching the greatest sermon the world has ever heard, Jesus warned His audience that some people do not care about the truth and are like “swine”—unworthy of the valuable information we might wish to impart. If we choose to proceed and reason with the “pigs,” they are likely not only to stamp on the valuable jewels we have given them, but they will likely stampede us as well. In Proverbs 26:4, Solomon admonished the wise, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him.” The principle is clear: if the person or people to whom we are talking are not genuinely interested in the truth, to spend time trying to convince them of the truth would be wasteful and potentially even dangerous or counterproductive.

In Matthew 10, Jesus again warned His apostles that there will be those who “will not receive you nor hear your words” (vs. 14). In such cases, they were not to continue pressing the issue, but rather, “shake off the dust from your feet” and move on—a practice which Paul and Barnabas implemented in their evangelistic journeys as well (Acts 13:51). With that principle in mind, it is noteworthy to see Jesus’ implementation of that principle in His own life. At times, He chose to respond to challenges, depending on the audience, but at other times, He chose not to do so, in spite of how He might be perceived. For instance, when challenged by the chief priests and elders in the Temple to announce who gave Him authority to teach, after posing a question of His own, Jesus chose simply not to respond to their question (Matthew 21:23-27).

Surely the most notable example of Jesus practicing what He preached about remaining silent at times was what was prophesied about Him in Isaiah 53:7 regarding His crucifixion: “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” All four gospel records highlight Jesus’ refusal to respond to various attackers in the illegal trials leading up to His crucifixion.11 Again, His willingness to remain silent when most would respond defensively was a manifestation of such superhuman self-control that Pilate “marveled greatly” (Matthew 27:14).

The principle is clear: there are times when not responding to attacks is the best course of action. We would do well to gain the wisdom necessary to recognize those moments. We pray that God will grant to all Christians in the perilous times in which we live the wisdom to know when to fight and when to remain silent, as well as the boldness to fight when the time calls for it.


1 In 2 Timothy 2:24 the text says that “a servant of the Lord must not quarrel,” which commentators clarify as meaning not “striving contentiously” [Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary (2012), WORDsearch Corp, Electronic Database.]. The ESV, therefore, translates the word “quarrel” as “quarrelsome” (i.e., looking for a fight). One can “contend” without being “contentious.”
2 James 2:8; 1 John 3:13-18; 4:7; John 13:34-35; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3; 16:14; Colossians 3:14.
3 Matthew 22:36-40; Galatians 5:14; Romans 13:9-10.
4 Galatians 5:23; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:10; John 3:16; John 15:13; Matthew 5:43-48; cf. Endnotes 2 and 3.
5 Matthew 7:12; 16:24; Philippians 1:15-17; 2:3-8; 1 Corinthians 10:24; 2 Corinthians 5:15.
6 Hebrews 12:6; Titus 1:13; Proverbs 15:10; 20:30; 27:5; Hosea 6:5. Consider Jesus’ behavior in John 2—overturning tables and making a whip of cords to drive the moneychangers and animals from the Temple. Consider also that sometimes loving a child involves physically striking him (Proverbs 13:24). Note that the term translated “gentle” in 2 Timothy 2:24 (apiov) means to be “kind toward someone”—a significant distinction in this case [William Arndt, F.W. Gingrich, and Frederick W. Danker (1979), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press), second edition revised, p. 348]. The ESV, NIV, RSV, and NASB renderings capture this meaning. One can be kind to someone and simultaneously not necessarily be gentle, as the above passages indicate.
7 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14; Titus 3:10; Romans 16:17; 1 Timothy 5:20.
8 John 7:24; 2 Corinthians 5:10.
9 John 13:5-9; Matthew 16:22-23; 17:1-5.
10 Dave Miller (2011), “Jesus Used Logic,” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11& article=3755; Dave Miller (2011), “Is Christianity Logical? [Part I],” Reason & Revelation, 31[6]:50-59, http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx? category=12&article=3869; Dave Miller (2011), “Jesus Was Logical,” Apologetics Press, https://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=10&article=653&topic=71; Dave Miller (2011), “Jesus Was Rational,” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=10&article=1245&topic=71.
11 E.g., Matthew 26:62-63; 27:13-14; Mark 14:60-61; 15:4-5; Luke 23:9; John 19:9.

"God’s Not Dead": A Movie Review by Eric Lyons, M.Min. Kyle Butt, M.Div.


"God’s Not Dead": A Movie Review

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.
Kyle Butt, M.Div.

On March 21, 2014, the movie God’s Not Dead was released in 780 theaters across the country. Since then, more than 1,000 other theaters began showing the film, which grossed over $41 million in less than one month—pretty good for a movie with a budget of only $2 million (God’s Not Dead, 2014a).

Though many Christians and pro-Christian organizations around the country have been fairly complimentary of the film, general reviewers have not been so kind. RottenTomatoes.com rated the movie with one star, as only 15% of the Web site’s approved critics gave the movie a positive review (God’s Not Dead, 2014b). Although the Hollywood Reporter had a few positive things to say about the movie, in their “bottom line” they referred to it as a “simple-minded sermon” (Farber, 2014). Claudia Puig of USA Today has alleged that “the contrived premise of God’s Not Dead is anything but credible.” Puig dismissed the idea of a professor at a respected academic institution ever criticizing religion as “primitive superstition,” saying, “Even if a teacher believed this, it’s highly unlikely he would declare it to a class full of students” (2014, emp. added).

The fact of the matter is, belligerent criticism of theism and Christianity has been occurring on college campuses all over the country for years, and it is very appropriate for God’s Not Dead to raise awareness of such bullying from various intolerant, liberal professors. Sometime ago a gentleman, who had been a student at a well-known university in the southeastern United States, visited with us after one of our lectures and recounted how, at the beginning of one particular semester, a science professor asked students in the class to stand up if they believed in God. Seven individuals out of a fairly large class rose from their seats. The professor then went on to say that by the end of the semester not one of them would stand up when he asked that question. Sure enough, toward the end of the semester the professor posed the question again, “How many of you believe in God?” Only one student stood up. Several months later, another student from the same university confirmed that the same thing happened in one of her classes. There was obvious bullying and intimidation taking place. The often-overlooked fact is, theistic, creationist, and Christian-oriented students and professors are frequently the target of liberal, atheistic, and/or evolutionary professors and department heads (e.g., Kingkade, 2013; Bergman, 2008; Stein and Miller, 2008; see also Miller, 2011).
Perhaps the most powerful and pervasive message of God’s Not Dead is that any person who calls himself or herself a Christian must be willing to sacrifice everything for Christ. The hero of the movie, a young university freshman named Josh Wheaton, is willing to sacrifice his relationship with his fiancée, his university career, his future job, and his reputation to stand up for God’s existence. In a subplot, a young Muslim student is willing to sacrifice her family relationships for her belief in Christ. A freshman student from China is consistently urged by his father to stop thinking about “foolish” religious ideas and concentrate on his grades, but the young man refuses. And the girlfriend of the antagonistic atheistic professor breaks off their relationship because of her religious convictions.

This message of sacrifice is both biblical and extremely important in our increasingly self-centered society. Jesus said: “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me…. For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:34,38). In all of our years as Christian apologists, we have seen countless “Christians” bowing to the secular standards of our day, afraid to stand for the truth of the Bible and God’s existence. We could recount stories of college freshmen too afraid of ruining their reputations or of getting a bad grade to stand up for their belief in God. We could tell of university professors who were so very concerned about tenure, their salary, or their teaching positions that they refused to speak or write about their faith in Christ because of the possible repercussions. How many school teachers have allowed their Christian influence to be silenced because they might lose their job? It truly is a shame to see the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and the complete dedication of His early followers who “rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41), and then witness certain “Christians” today who will not even acknowledge in public that they believe in God or His Word. Any faithful Christian would have to say “Amen,” to the movie’s main message that following Jesus requires complete sacrifice to His Will.

Unfortunately, the main message of the movie is overshadowed at times by the failure of the movie to accurately apply it. For instance, although Josh, the hero, is to be commended for his study and some of the effective arguments he used in class, at times during his defense he affirms error. For example, he implies that the Big Bang is scientifically and biblically credible, and that God could have used evolution as the process by which all life (including humans) came into existence. Not only is the Big Bang an unscientific idea (May, et al., 2003a), it is an unbiblical idea as well (May, et al., 2003b; Lyons, 2003). Additionally, the idea that God directed the process of evolution to produce life is equally unbiblical and antiscientific (Houts, 2007), though it is very appealing to our secular culture. In their attempt to make belief in God more palatable (by not making Josh, what Screenit.com calls, “a simple-minded believer who thinks the Earth was created…in just under a week”—God’s Not Dead, 2014c), the producers of the film fail to stand courageously against the foolish theories of cosmic and biological evolution and stand unashamedly for the truthfulness of the biblical account of Creation.

Furthermore, the movie completely misrepresents how God has commanded people to be saved. The clearest example of this false teaching comes at the end of the movie. In a tragic accident, the atheistic professor is struck by a car and is about to die. It just so happens that a denominational minister is on the scene. The minister begs the atheistic professor to call on the Lord, say a version of the “sinner’s prayer,” and receive Jesus into his heart. Yet such teaching is never found in the Bible (Lyons, 2004; Jackson, 2014). God requires faithful obedience to the Gospel plan of salvation in order to receive the gift of salvation (Lyons and Butt). Paul informed the Thessalonians that at the end of time Jesus Christ will be revealed from heaven “with His Mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8, emp. added). What the atheistic professor did in the movie to be “saved” is not what the New Testament means when it says to “obey the Gospel” (cf. Romans 6:3-4; Matthew 7:21). Thus, in the very process of claiming to teach that people should be willing to sacrifice everything for Christ, the movie producers failed to heed their own message. Not only must we be willing to sacrifice our reputations, careers, and families, we must be willing to sacrifice any manmade doctrine that is not taught in Scripture. We must be willing to leave any group or teaching, even if it goes by the name “Christian,” if and when we find it does not correspond to God’s will found in the New Testament.

Overall, we believe that God’s Not Dead effectively highlights a serious problem in universities across the United States—showing some of the challenges that many Christian students face. We also believe that Christians should take to heart the overall message of the movie: the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of Christ and the cross. We would greatly caution viewers, however, to understand that the producer’s application of the theme is occasionally lacking. Yes, the movie’s approach to a defense of God’s existence is rational and biblical at times, but then at other times it is both biblically and scientifically unsound. What’s more, the film’s presentation of how God has instructed people to become Christians is at odds with the Bible. We all need to be reminded of the importance of sacrificing everything for Christ, including compromises with the world and any long-held false religious ideas.


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God’s Not Dead (2014a), Box Office Mojo, http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=godsnotdead.htm.
God’s Not Dead (2014b), Rotten Tomatoes, http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/gods_not_dead/#contentReviews.
God’s Not Dead (2014c), Screen It, http://www.screenit.com/ourtake/2014/gods_not_dead.html.
Houts, Michael (2007), “Evolution is Religion—Not Science [Part 1],” http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=97&article=2299.
Jackson, Wayne (2014), “The Sinner’s Prayer—Is it Biblical?” https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/368-sinners-prayer-is-it-biblical-the.
Kingkade, Tyler (2013), “Deandre Poole Keeps FAU Job After ‘Stomp on Jesus’ Controversy,” Huffington Post, June 24, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/24/deandre-poole-fau-stomp-on-jesus_n_3490263.html.
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Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (n.d.), Receiving the Gift of Salvationhttp://apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/Receiving%20the%20Gift%20of%20Salvation.pdf.
May, Branyon, Bert Thompson, and Brad Harrub (2003a), “The Big Bang Theory—A Scientific Critique,” https://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=1453&topic=57.
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Miller, Jeff (2011), “Expelled—Again,” https://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=3655.
Puig, Claudia (2014), “In ‘God’s Not Dead,’ Message is Lost Amid Melodrama,” USA Today, April 8, http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/movies/2014/04/08/review-gods-not-dead/7457995/.
Stein, Ben and Kevin Miller (2008), Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (Premise Media).