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“In the beginning,” Scripture says, “God created the heavens and the earth.” That first biblical affirmation points to the priority of the doctrine of creation within the system of Christian doctrine. Nevertheless, even the doctrine of creation presupposes a biblical notion of God and the authority of his revelation in Scripture. The Christian believer does not acknowledge the creation and then infer a Creator. Indeed, it is not God who must be explained by the creation, but creation which must be explained by the Creator. Thus, the very first verse of the Bible affirms the cosmos as the free creation of the sovereign God of Scripture—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The doctrine of creation is the attempt of the Christian believer to come to terms with the relationship between God and the world. As such, it gives proper place to the work of God in creation, points to the nature and purpose of the created world, and distinguishes the Christian theistic worldview from all others.
The starting point of the doctrine of creation is the presupposition of the sovereign God of Scripture. Those first words of Scripture indicate that the central character in the creation narratives is God, not the created order. God acts as the divine Subject, creating a dynamic universe as the object of his love and the theater of his glory. This biblical theism is the foundational affirmation of the doctrine of creation. Creation is inseparable from monotheism.
The most common creed in the Christian church begins with the confession, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” The God of the Bible is not needful of anything outside himself. This self-sufficiency or “aseity” of God precludes any need for creation on God’s part. Positively, it affirms the fact that God created the world and all within it out of the freedom of his own sovereign will. With this in view, the divine initiative in creation takes on a powerful meaning. Though needing nothing, God willed not to be alone, but to create a world distinct and other than himself, as the result of his own divine pleasure.
This affirmation places the biblical worldview in opposition to all others. The Israelites were surrounded by pre-biblical religions which placed God over against creation, or suggested a number of gods conspiring to create a universe out of existing chaos and matter. The early Christian church found itself confronted by challenges including Gnosticism, Arianism, and Manichaeism, each positing a worldview in which God was variously placed within creation, over against creation as a dualism, or a scheme in which an evil god created the world in order that a beneficent god might redeem it.
The church quickly affirmed what had been assumed in the Old Testament, that God created the universe out of nothing, that is, out of no pre-existing matter. If the church had allowed an acknowledgement of divine creation as the mere fashioning of existing materials, it would have compromised the nature of God and the biblical testimony. No form of dualism is compatible with biblical theism.
The Hebrew verb used to describe the word of God in creation is distinct from that used to describe the work of a human craftsman in fashioning an artifact. Man may fashion out of what God has created, but only God can truly create. This is the affirmation of creation ex nihilo—out of nothing—without the use of pre-existing materials. The acknowledgement of God’s creation of the world ex nihilo must be central to the Christian affirmation of the doctrine of creation. Some contemporary theological movements have rejected this in favor of an understanding which posits God as the fashioner of pre-existing materials. Any such system presupposes a model of God unworthy of biblical theism. No particle existed prior to God’s creative act.
The biblical portrait of the creating God demonstrates a loving God whose character issues naturally in his creation. The loving character of God is woven into the warp and woof of his creation and the creatures within it. The biblical testimony will allow no distinction between the God who creates and the God who redeems. Isaiah pointedly affirms the identity of the creating God as the one with whom Israel must deal (Isaiah 43:15; 45:7; 40:28). Indeed, creation is a Trinitarian event. The prologue to the Gospel of John proclaims the role of the Son as the divine Word of creation through whom all things were made, and “without whom nothing was made that was made,” (John 1:1-5). In like manner, Paul reminded the Colossians that “all things were created through him and for him,” (Colossians 1:15-17). The creating God is thus both Author and Finisher. The God who created the universe as an exercise of his own glory is the very same God who was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit, which is the living empowerment of the church, was also manifest in creation.
The means of God’s creative activity is not detailed in the biblical creation narratives (Genesis 1-2). The substance of the biblical teaching is God’s creation of the universe and all within it by the power of his Word. The biblical language affirms the creation of the world by divine fiat. That is, by the force of his sovereign will God spoke, light appeared, the firmament was made and the waters separated, the seas were created and dry land appeared, and the whole of God’s creation was accomplished.
The product of God’s creative activity is a universe of seemingly infinite variety, complexity, and mystery. The Genesis creation narratives describe the creation of the world from the most rudimentary distinction between the waters and the dry land, to the pinnacle of creation, man and woman. Genesis 1 moves from the emergence of light through the emergence of dry land, the blossoming of vegetation and the creative abundance of living creatures, to the creation of man and woman.
Of central importance to the interpretation of these verses is the recognition of God’s verdict upon his creation. The pristine energy of light, the dryness of land, the swarms of living creatures, the multiplying birds and fishes are all declared “good” in God’s sight. This critical judgment is an intrinsic part of the biblical worldview. The created order has meaning and value solely because it is the glorious creation of the Lord of the universe. The creation has no inherent meaning within itself. Rather, it is dependent upon the Creator for both preservation and value. Nevertheless, the biblical affirmation is an unqualified judgment of goodness as God’s verdict on creation.
Challenges old and new have been raised against this verdict. Gnosticism thought matter to be evil and only mind to be good. Contemporary religious movements, including the eclectic Christian Science movement, have gone so far as to deny the reality of matter. The biblical affirmation is quite to the contrary. Against materialism, the Christian worldview understands matter to have no value in and of itself. But biblical theism affirms the world as the theater of God’s glory. It is creation which is made meaningful by the Creator, not the Creator who derives meaning from the creation.
It is the divine creation of humankind which forms the climax of the biblical creation narratives. The biblical teachings concerning the creation of humans point to the special character of humanity as made in the very image of God. Man, contrary to the claims of secularism, is not the accidental by-product of natural occurrences. Though Scripture does not indicate any scientific means for the creation of man and woman (nor for any other dimension of creation), it makes clear the identity of humanity as a special creation of God by the power of his word and will. Thus, humanity is granted a value inconsistent with a secularist worldview.
Within the scheme of the created order, humanity plays a strategic part. Two biblical themes form the basis for this special role. The first is that of dominion. Humanity, made in the image of God, is to possess and exercise dominion over the remainder of creation. This dominion, or rulership, is exercised by humans in the manipulation of creation to bring about harvest, bounty, energy, and beauty. It is seen in the planting and reaping of crops, the herding of animals, the harnessing of rivers, and the construction of shelter.
This dominion theme must be balanced with the other major theme of humanity’s responsibility within creation. By God’s mandate, humans must exercise their dominion with an understanding of mutuality and responsibility. The biblical notion of dominion is not seen in the rape of the land, but in the careful stewardship of natural resources and the other creatures which share this planet. As the pinnacle of God’s creative activity, humans stand responsible for their stewardship of fellow creatures and the earth. Indeed, a helpful corrective which has emerged in contemporary theology is the recognition that the cosmos is neither “mere nature” nor “our world,” but is most properly “God’s creation.” Humans are granted a high degree of delegated agency within God’s creation, but it remains fundamentally God’s alone. This affirmation underlines the tremendous charge of stewardship to humankind by the Creator.
Creation is not a brute fact without meaning. It derives its meaning from the divine character and will. As the theater of God’s redemptive activity, creation is not static, but is moving toward the goal established by the Creator before the foundation of the universe. Creation, like the humans within it, has a future.
Paul describes the creation as in need of redemption from the bondage of decay and travail—the results of the entry of sin into the created order (Romans 8:19-23). The Old Testament speaks of the new heavens and the new earth, which is the eventual purpose of God in reconciliation (Isaiah 66:22). Paul spoke of the dramatic transformation of the believer as a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). The writer of the Apocalypse recorded a vision of a new heaven and a new earth even as the Creator spoke: “Behold, I make all things new,” (Revelation 12:1-8). The essential meaning of these affirmations is that God controls the destiny of the universe he created. The cosmos does not exist alongside God as a reality out of control. Rather, it exists as the theater of his redemptive activity, the reach of which includes the entire cosmos.
Thus, the Christian doctrine of creation is directly connected to the doctrine of redemption. For this reason, a failure to affirm the biblical doctrine of creation leads to inevitable compromise on the doctrine of redemption. In reality, we simply cannot minimize the importance of this doctrine, nor can we surrender biblical truth in the face of modern denials. We must get it right from the beginning.
The doctrine of creation does not stand alone. The universe has not been set adrift in time without purpose or divine direction. The Christian affirmation of God requires an affirmation of His continuing sovereign Lordship over the created order. This affirmation sets the Christian worldview apart from alternative worldviews which recognize no continuing divine direction. Deism, a perspective accepted by many in the nineteenth century, affirmed God as the creator of the universe, but denied any continuing divine will expressed in the history or future of the creation. God, it was suggested, had created the world much as a clock, and had wound it up to move by its own direction. Contemporary challenges to the affirmation of divine providence suggest that though God created the world and set the original forces in order, God has either ceased to will, or is unable to make his will effective within the creation.
All of these are clearly in opposition to biblical theism. The God of the Bible is a God who acts within the history of His creation and who has ultimate control over the affairs of the nations, natural forces, and humanity.
Like creation, God’s providence is a Trinitarian activity. The Lord who exercises providence is none other than the Lord and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that providence is energized by the presence of the Holy Spirit within the world. The root meaning of providence is “foresight,” though the biblical meaning is far more rich in significance. God does not exercise mere foresight into the affairs of the cosmos; he ultimately orders and directs world occurrences. The biblical doctrine of providence is demonstrated in the concrete experiences of Israel and her neighbors in the Old Testament and in the life of Jesus and the development of the church in the New Testament. As such, divine providence is a sign of God’s steadfast covenant love with his people. The history of the Jews in the Old Testament exists as a powerful witness and sign of God’s intervening covenant love—a love ultimately revealed on the cross.
“In God,” Paul declares, “all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17) Nothing in creation itself is self-sufficient. God is responsible for both the origin and the preservation of all creation. Without God’s continuing preservation of creation the cosmos would cease to exist. No atom of the universe is self-sufficient—all creation is utterly dependent upon God’s gracious sustenance. As Ezra affirmed in the book of Nehemiah, “Thou are the Lord, thou alone, . . . thou preservest all.” (Nehemiah 9:6)
To affirm providence as the divine preserving is to acknowledge that creation has limits. That these limits do not rule the creature is due to God’s acting preservation. This is not a passive divine activity. God enters into world occurrence and ordains that it should exist. This is not to suggest that God creates the world anew each moment, as has been suggested by some theologians. God’s creative activity as represented in new beings and new life demonstrates the continuation of his creative will, but the original creative act which set the cosmos in place is a unique once-for-all event. The Christian does not know the means of God’s preservation of the world, but the knowledge of his preserving love provides comfort and refutes contemporary naturalism, which supposes that the world exists on its own.
This aspect of divine providence is often called divine government. The Christian affirms the Lordship of God over all the affairs of humanity, nations, and natural forces. The universe is not set adrift in purposeless trajectory. Human history is not a meaningless record of isolated events and movements. The future is not a matter of mere human responsibility or chance. The biblical worldview presupposes the governing Lordship of God in the cosmos, and biblical theism, that understanding of God’s own nature demonstrated in the text of Scripture, requires an affirmation of God’s sovereign rulership over all world occurrences—past history and future hope.
The divine ruling has both individual and corporate dimensions. In encompasses the unfathomable forces of energy reaching throughout the vast expanse of the universe. Furthermore, it includes the experiences, actions, and destiny of individual human beings. Theologians have often identified a third aspect of divine providence, God’s accompanying of the creature, that is, divine concurrence or cooperation. This is best understood within the context of the divine ruling, however. In affirming God’s cooperation with the creature theologians have attempted to do justice to the role of the human will within human activity. The human is not a static creature, but possesses a will and limited means to accomplish that will. The biblical worldview does not deny this human role in world events and the actions of the individuals. Nevertheless, the Christian recognizes the ultimacy of the divine will and ruling. Insofar as the creature exercises its will, it does so in the context, acknowledged or not, of the ultimate divine will. The sovereign divine will is effective, but not despotic. Human freedom and divine sovereignty are both affirmed. As Paul affirms in Philippians 2:13, God is active in both the willing and working of his creatures.
Any affirmation of divine providence must acknowledge the enormous challenge to that biblical affirmation represented by the problem of evil and suffering in the world. In the minds of many individuals, the presence of tremendous human suffering and manifest evil calls into question the goodness or potency of God, or both. This problem is not a modern discovery. It is as old as the book of Job and as persistent as any theological issue.
Two forms of evil must be distinguished: natural evil and human evil. Natural evil includes earthquakes, floods, fires, and other causes of suffering not caused by direct human evil. This problem may be posed as the question: “Why are there scorpions, sharks and snakes in God’s good creation?” Human evil is more easily defined. It is the product of human activity; humans inflicting evil and tremendous suffering upon others.
The Christian must not evade these issues. The secular mind may never be satisfied with the Christian response, but the believer must not ignore the challenge. Believers themselves are often troubled by this challenge to faith. Death, acute and chronic physical pain, profound mental anguish, and manifold other forms of suffering face both believers and unbelievers on a daily basis.
Various theological options have been suggested as a means of addressing this challenge. Some have suggested that God has ceased to be active in the everyday experience of the world. Others, including Christian Scientists and numerous New Age thinkers deny the presence of evil and explain it all as a metaphysical experience. Some contemporary worldviews posit God as a participant in the world process, struggling with the creation, with the eventual liberation from evil and suffering. Many of these are patently in contradiction with the biblical understanding of God. Nevertheless, the biblical concept of God does repeatedly affirm his identification with the plight of humanity and his determination to suffer with humanity.
Christians have the solace of some limited understanding of God’s purposes in the world as revealed in Scripture—purposes which make human suffering and the presence of some evil understandable. Nevertheless, the knowledge and understanding of the creature is partial and fragmentary. The meaning of all suffering and evil is outside the creature’s limited reach. Even for the Christian, much suffering is beyond understanding. In this century two central symbols of this suffering are the Holocaust of Hitler against the Jews and the extermination of millions in the former Soviet Union—as well as the potential holocaust of a catastrophic terrorist attack. The Christian community must resist the tendency to evade these questions of suffering or to be satisfied with commonly accepted responses which do justice to neither the issue nor the biblical witness.
What distinguishes the Christian biblical worldview is its affirmation that God is the sovereign Lord in whom all creatures, forces, and experiences find their purpose and meaning. Though the problems of evil and suffering constitute an awesome challenge to the believer, they do so only in the context of a profound faith in the purpose of the sovereign Lord who gave the world his ultimate sign of power and providential love on the cross.
The Christian believer knows the key to the ultimate meaning and significance of the created universe and human experience. Though our present knowledge is limited, even as we are limited creatures, believers know the source of the cosmos and rest in the confidence and hope which comes through a personal knowledge of the Creator. This knowledge is not discovered by the creature through observation of the universe, but is revealed in Scripture and, ultimately, in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through Christ we have knowledge of the fatherly Lordship of the Creator, upon whom the creation depends for its existence, and in whom the cosmos finds its purpose and confident hope. Therefore, the Christian worldview is necessarily distinct from all others in the midst of contemporary nihilism and the frantic search for meaning. Christians bear witness to the God in whom all creatures find their meaning and purpose. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)
On Sunday, May 28, Pope Benedict XVI visited the Auschwitz concentration camp. According to USA Today, during the visit the Pope said: “In a place like this, words fail; in the end, there can be only a dread silence, a silence which itself is a heartfelt cry to God: Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could you tolerate all this?” Most interesting, it seemed as though God anticipated the question, as well as sought to answer it. For when the Pope walked along the row of memorial plaques at the complex, stopping to pray, the drizzle of rain immediately ended and a magnificent rainbow appeared over the camp.
The first time the rainbow is mentioned in Holy Scripture is after Noah has left the Ark. The former world, which was violent and wicked, had been utterly destroyed in judgment. After that dark event, emerging from the clouds was a glorious rainbow, which God directed to Noah’s attention and said: “I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between Me and the earth” (Gen. 9:13).
The rainbow was given to reassure man that though sin abounds, grace does much more abound. God is indeed a God of wrath, but He is also full of mercy.
Few events more accurately demonstrate the depravity of the human heart than what happened at Auschwitz. Nearly every kind of evil brought on by man’s rejection of God and his inhumanity to man was represented there: racism, murder, slavery, beatings, forced experimentations on human life, genocide, starvation, rape, and illness. Clearly, mankind is in need of an experience of grace.
John Daniel Jones, once the great minister of the Richmond Hill Congregational Church in Bournemouth, England, put it this way:
“[T]hat dark and gloomy and threatening cloud of sin is still in our sky — a cloud full of lightnings and thunders and bodeful of storm and tempest. We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. There is none that doeth good, no not one. We are all of us shut up under the law of sin and death. But, thank God, I can see his bow in the cloud! ... When people tell us there is no cloud big with storm and tempest above our heads, when they try to persuade us that sin is a mere bogey — it is at our peril we believe them. The cloud is there, sin exists. We have only to look in our own hearts to know that it exists. And sin is no light thing — it is a terrible thing, an awful thing, a deadly thing. All the world is guilty before God. And God hates sin and is sworn to punish it. But if I had to leave it there, it would be a heartbreaking tale I had to tell. For it would be a message of doom and woe. But I have not to leave it there. God hates sin — but he loves the sinner .... And his love falling on the black cloud of our sins creates the beautiful rainbow of mercy .... What God did in the wealth of His love in view of human sin was to give His only begotten Son, and as a result of what Jesus did on the Cross, mercy is made possible for every sinner. Christ crucified is the rainbow. The threatening and menacing cloud is in the sky of every one of us. Have we all seen the rainbow?”
The last time the rainbow is mentioned in the Bible is in Revelation, Chapter 4, when John the apostle sees Christ like jasper and a sardius, sitting upon His throne surrounded by an emerald rainbow. Scholars say this is what believers will see when Christ returns for them in the Second Coming.
The late Bible teacher and commentator M.R. Dehaan rightly contends:
“For this glad day every spiritual Christian is longing, and for it the whole creation groaneth. Where John stood in prophetic vision ... years ago we stand today in historical actuality. We have reached the final period of this dark-age and the next event on the program of God is the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we shall see Him we shall see Him on the throne, and we shall behold the symbol of His never-failing covenant: the rainbow in the cloud. This will mean that all life’s struggles are over. It will mean reunion with believing loved ones gone before. It will mean that after a few years of tribulation the creatures of the earth, too, will be delivered from the bondage of corruption. It will mean the dawning of Israel’s new day when, after the day of Jacob’s trouble, she shall be delivered and be replanted in the land of Palestine and her wandering shall be over forever.”
Could there have been a better response to the Pope’s inquiry than to place a rainbow in the sky? Man’s wickedness demonstrates its ugliness in every century and every generation. God in His infinite wisdom has chosen to remain silent as to why He permits evil. It is enough to know He reaches out in mercy and grace to both the oppressed and the oppressor. As Pope John Paul II said in his address during the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz: “[E]ven though man is capable of evil, and at times boundless evil, evil itself will never have the last word.”
Some say God never writes His message across the sky. They might want to rethink that one. It appears that is exactly what He did when Pope Benedict, inquisitive about God’s silence to the atrocities of the Holocaust, visited Auschwitz and a rainbow appeared over the camp.
Rev. Mark H. Creech (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.
By Chuck Colson
In the first chapter of their new book, 20 Compelling Evidences that God exists, Ken Boa and Robert Bowman write, “We don’t mean to discourage you from reading the rest of this book. But in the interest of full disclosure, we should tell you that, in a sense, there is only one good reason to believe that God exists: because it’s true.”
That statement is both profound and well expressed. Unfortunately, these days it’s not the kind of statement you can make in public without having scorn heaped upon your head. As the authors jokingly point out, the popular viewpoint regarding truth is, “Anyone who believes that he is right and others are wrong is intolerant.” Now that’s self-contradictory on its face, but it’s almost certain to be thrown at you if you assert a truth claim.
That’s why Boa and Bowman have titled their book 20 Compelling Evidences that God Exists—because they recognize that for any claim to truth to be taken seriously in today’s culture, it needs solid evidence to back it up. As the authors write, “There are many such evidences, but they all have value because they help us see that the God of the Bible is real.” In fewer than two hundred pages, they clearly and concisely examine some of today’s most pervasive worldviews and their flaws. Then they present their case for God’s existence and His revelation of Himself through Jesus Christ.
What kind of evidences are they talking about? There’s an amazing variety. They don’t state it right upfront, but they are organizing their “20 compelling evidences” in a way that takes readers through the doctrines of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration—the four basic elements of the Christian worldview that I set forth in How Now Shall We Live?
They start with evidence about the universe and the origins of life. And they talk, for example, about how finely our solar system and our planet had to be calibrated to support life. At “an extremely conservative estimate,” they say, the probability of our planet being capable of sustaining us is about one in a billion. It had to be at just the right place in the solar system, which had to be at just the right place in the galaxy. Even the expansion of the universe had to happen at just the right rate in order for all of us to be here today.
From evidence about the universe, the authors move on to evidence of humanity’s sinful nature; then evidence of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection; and finally, evidence of those who have lived and died for Christ. Examining concepts ranging from Greek philosophy to archeology to the Big Bang theory to postmodernism, the authors make a powerful case for the existence of a loving Creator.
In short, I highly recommend Boa and Bowman’s book. They provide in a very readable form an excellent apologetic resource for Christians wondering how to defend their faith in a world that’s “tolerant” of everything except Christianity.
Ken Boa is a great apologist—one of the most engaging and popular teachers in our Centurion’s training program. You can visit our website, BreakPoint.org, to find out how you can get 20 Compelling Evidences that God Exists. While you’re there, be sure to check out some of our other Christian worldview resources.
Deuteronomy chapter four is one of the great touchstone passages in all of Scripture. As we come to this passage, my heart and soul are absolutely struck by the question—a rhetorical question, but a very real question—asked in verse 33: “Has any people heard the voice of the Lord, the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, and survived?”
What brings us here? What brings us to this institution, to this campus, to this hour, ready for learning and study? Something summons us here. There is some mandate, some basis, some foundation. This is a theological seminary and college. We dare to speak of God. We even dare to define what we do here as Christian education. What an audacious claim! We actually say that here we teach what God has taught.
This would be a baseless and foundationless claim, an incredible claim, if God had not spoken from the midst of the fire and allowed us to hear. On what authority are we here? To dare to speak of these things, we must speak invoking the authority of God, who alone could speak these things, reveal Himself, and tell us what we must know. This is the answer to the question that haunts the postmodern mind—on what basis can we claim to know anything?
The great philosophical crisis of our day is an epistemological crisis. It is a crisis of knowing, a crisis of knowledge. In particular, it is a challenge for Christianity and for the Christian thinker, the Christian theologian, the Christian minister, the Christian preacher, and the Christian institution. How do we know what we claim to know? How dare we teach what we dare to teach? As Francis Schaeffer understood well, and he took the answer as the title of his most significant contribution: We speak because He Is There and He Is Not Silent.
I first read that book as a sixteen-year-old, and to be honest, I think the greatest assurance I got from it is that some smart person believed in God. Even at that age, however, and lacking the vocabulary to understand what I was experiencing, I understood the epistemological crisis. How do we know anything? How can we speak of anything? And furthermore, how do we jump from the empirical knowledge of what we can observe to speaking of God whom we cannot see? To claim knowledge in terms of empirical and scientific observation and study and phenomenology is audacious enough. But to speak of the immortal invisible God only wise—that is a new leap of audacity altogether. Dr. Schaeffer understood the epistemological problem of silence, the claim and the implication that we can know nothing. And he understood that there is only one epistemological answer—revelation. Thus Christianity depends upon a Christian epistemology or a Christian theory of knowledge that is based in revelation alone.
There is no greater challenge than this—to make certain that we know on what authority we speak, and that we know on what authority we know. In Deuteronomy chapter four, Israel is reminded of the authority by which they live. They are reminded that they heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire and survived.
This great sermon, of course, comes at the conclusion of the introductory section to Deuteronomy. It begins and ends with a parallel structure, and in the middle is a large section reflecting the form of a suzerainty treaty, an Ancient Near Eastern convention whereby a conqueror sets down the terms of surrender. In this case, of course, the conqueror is none other than the Lord God Jehovah, the conquered is none other than His own chosen nation, Israel. God sets down the terms, and they are very easy to understand. It comes down to a very simple formula: hear and obey and live. Refuse to hear, disobey, and bear the wrath of God.
In this tremendous sermon, God speaks through His servant and prophet Moses. Looking back to the covenant at Horeb, obedience equals blessing, and disobedience equals cursing. This generation ought to know that. For this is the generation that survived, that was kept alive, through forty years of wandering in the wilderness. They had witnessed the death of their own parents because they disobeyed and did not trust the Lord. And now as the children of Israel are being prepared for the conquest of the Holy Land, they are reminded that they heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire and survived. As the Lord is preparing this new generation, we find in this sermon exhortation and memory mixed together—the memory of God’s great saving work in bringing Israel out of captivity to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the great work of God in keeping the children of Israel alive through the forty years of wandering in the wilderness.
We call this book Deuteronomy—deutero nomos—the second giving of the law, because in the very next chapter we will confront again the Ten Commandments. The theme is very clear. Israel, in terms of its elect status, is the chosen nation of God, and that special status is represented in Torah, in this word, this law, even in these Ten Words. The central truth is that the Lord God spoke to His people, and they heard, and they survived. Moses says, “Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when the Lord said to me, ‘Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words so that they may learn to fear me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.’ You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the very heart of the heavens: darkness, cloud, and thick gloom.”
The giving of the Ten Commandments cannot be separated from the narrative context in which it comes. The propositional truth which is in the law comes in the midst of a history of a people and God’s dealing with that people. It is a relational revelation, and it is a dramatic revelation. Israel is reminded not only of what they heard, but of the context in which they heard it. “The mountain burned with fire to the very heart of the heavens, darkness, cloud and thick gloom. Then the Lord spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but you saw no form—only a voice. So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone.” The Lord God spoke to you from the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but you saw no form, only a voice. A voice!
Israel, heard the Lord, but they did not see Him. This is not a God who is seen, but a God who is heard. The contrast with the idols is very clear. The idols are seen, but they do not speak. The one true and living God is not seen, but He is heard. The contrast is intentional, it is graphic, and it is clear. We speak because we have heard.
The theme of these verses, especially in verses ten through thirteen, is the sheer gift of this. The revelation of God is sheer mercy. We have no right to hear God speak. We have no claim upon His voice. We have no right to demand that He would speak. We are accustomed to pointing to the cross of Christ and saying, there is mercy! But at Horeb, too, there was mercy. There is mercy whenever God speaks. There is the danger that contemporary evangelicals think of the doctrine of revelation primarily as an epistemological problem. Even those who hold to a high doctrine of Scripture—affirming the inerrancy of Scripture, verbal inspiration, propositional truth—are in danger of thinking of revelation primarily in epistemological terms. To be sure, there is an epistemological question, and there is an epistemological authority. But the reality is, this is mercy. It is a gift. Professor Eugene Merrill has said that while it is quite remarkable that no other nation had ever heard God speak out of the fire and lived to tell about it, the fact is, there are not even any other peoples that heard the voice of the Lord speak out of the fire and didn’t live to tell about it. The Lord God spoke uniquely and particularly to Israel and allowed them to survive.
The background to all this, of course, is the paganism of that day. The idols were many in those days, and all of them were silent. In fact, the silence of the idols is a pervasive biblical theme. Think of 1 Kings 18, and the battle of the gods and Elijah. Think of Elijah as he waits and watches the prophets of the Ashteroth and the Baal jumping around the altar and lacerating their bodies so that the blood flows down into the ground—all this to get Baal’s attention. But as we are told in 1 Kings 18, there was no voice. No one answered. No one paid attention. With the God of Israel, however, everything is different. The idols do not speak. The Lord God of Israel does. The idols are seen but not heard. God is heard but not seen.
But what if God had not spoken? What if we had not received this word? If God had not spoken, we might have a religion school. It might be that human beings, just in the blindness of trying to figure things out, would come to some sense of transcendence, and perhaps even be able to make some kind of argument from design. And certainly, human beings, possessing some ingenuity and intelligence, would be pondering these things. Of course, we need not speak hypothetically about this. We see it. All you have to do is listen to the cultural chatter, and you hear the kind of conversation that would take place if God had not spoken. Go to some divinity schools, some theological seminaries, some universities in the academic world, and you will see the kind of discourse and the kind of teaching and the kind of philosophy and worldview that would emerge if God had not spoken.
What if this really is a game that we are playing, each using whatever language game is convenient and handy in terms of our social and cultural and linguistic system? What if this really is something of a smorgasbord of worldviews in which we can just kind of put it all together as we see fit? If God has not spoken, then there is no end to that game. If God has not spoken, no one is right and no one is wrong. If God has not spoken, what you end up with is the end game of postmodernism—nihilism, no knowledge whatsoever.
But if God has spoken, everything is changed. If God has spoken, then the highest human aspiration must be to hear what the Creator has said. And though the revelation of God is not merely propositions, it is never less than that. It is personal. Hearing the voice of the Lord God is not merely to receive information, but to meet the living God. We are accustomed to speaking and singing of grace and mercy of God, and our redemption in the cross of Christ. But we must also speak of the mercy of God in revelation.
In the book of Deuteronomy, we meet the speaking God. “Has any people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, and survived?” Mercy and grace meet here. This is, in its own way, a proto-gospel. Christopher Wright makes this comment concerning what happened at Sinai, saying what really mattered there was not that there had been a theophonic manifestation of God, but that there had been a verbal revelation of God’s mind and will. Sinai was a cosmic audiovisual experience, but it was the audio that mattered. It is the audio that matters, for God has spoken.
This is the first of a three-part edited transcript of the Convocation message given at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on August 24, 2006. It is also the beginning of a series of messages on the Ten Commandments that Dr. Mohler will preach throughout the academic year.
In the book of Deuteronomy, we meet the speaking God. “Has any people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, and survived?” Mercy and grace meet here. This is, in its own way, a proto-gospel. Christopher Wright makes this comment concerning what happened at Sinai, saying what really mattered there was not that there had been a theophonic manifestation of God, but that there had been a verbal revelation of God’s mind and will. Sinai was a cosmic audiovisual experience, but it was the audio that mattered. It is the audio that matters, for God has spoken.
If God has spoken, let me suggest several realities that should frame our thinking as Christians. First, if God has spoken, then we do know. And what we know is the highest and greatest knowledge any human ear can ever hear. No human ear deserves to hear God’s voice, but by His grace, we hear it and we survive. But having heard it, we cannot feign ignorance. We cannot act as if we do not know. Francis Schaeffer, for instance, said that for the Christian who understands the doctrine of revelation, there is no real epistemological crisis. There is only a spiritual crisis. All that remains is whether we will obey.
Thus there is a firm basis to what we do here, because we know. We have an authority by which we preach, and an authority by which we teach. In every class, in every course, and in every church, what is spoken is spoken because we have heard. We are not making this up as we go along! And because we have heard, we cannot feign ignorance, and we are thus accountable for the hearing.
Secondly, if God has spoken, we know only by mercy. That is a good reminder for anyone who studies theology. There can be no pride in the knowledge of God, because everything we know about Him, we know by mercy. Carl F. H. Henry describes this so beautifully when he speaks of revelation as God’s willful disclosure, wherein He forfeits His own personal privacy so that His creatures might know Him. We have no claim upon God. There is no necessity for Him to forfeit His own personal privacy.
Moreover, there is no way, as the Bible makes clear over and over again, that we could ever figure Him out on our own. He must speak, and He has. Dr. Henry said this in the second volume of God, Revelation and Authority: “If divine revelation in terms of speech means anything, it implies among other things that God need not have thus disclosed Himself. God might indeed have remained silent and incommunicative in relation to His creatures. His revelational speech to mankind is not an inescapable or inevitable reality. It is instead a demonstration of His own character. It is not to be likened to the mathematically quite predictable spurting of the geyser Old Faithful. Instead, like an enigmatic weather pattern, His performance cannot be charted in advance and in crucial ways. It is once for all rather than merely sporadic. Even God’s extended and ongoing speech in general or universal revelation is moment by moment, precept by precept, a matter of voluntary divine engagement and addressed to mankind that carries ever and on the utmost urgency.” God mercifully lets His people hear. It is all by mercy, and thus intellectual pride is the enemy of any true theological knowledge. There is nothing we can figure out. There is nothing we can discover. There is no “aha” moment where, in some theological laboratory, a new element is discovered. We know by grace and mercy.
Third, if God has spoken, then we too must speak. We preach and teach and speak, because God has spoken. Because God has spoken, we dare not remain silent. There is a task here; there is an urgency here. And so we teach and we preach and we speak, because we are to be the speaking people of a speaking God. The people of God are not to be marked by their silence, but by their speech. There is a command here to preach, of course, and a command here to teach. In Deuteronomy six, Israel is reminded of the responsibility of parents to teach children. Throughout the very fabric of Scripture, the teaching mandate is a constant. And of course, for the church, it is just as clear. As Paul writes in 2 Timothy chapter four, kerusso ton logon, preach the word! We are not just to have heard it, but we are to teach it and to preach it and to share it.
The importance of this was made clear even in the Old Testament. In Nehemiah eight, for example, Ezra and his colleagues read the text aloud and then explained its meaning to the congregation. So we are to set it out and make it plain, because if God has spoken, we too must speak.
Fourth, if God has spoken, then it is all about God, and it is all for our good. You see, God does speak words of judgment in the Scripture, and God does speak words of warning. There are hard words in Scripture, but it is all for our good! God spoke words of warning to Israel in order that Israel might hear the warnings and obey the word, and not suffer the inevitable consequences of disobedience. Every single word of Scripture is for our good. That is why, even in this chapter of Deuteronomy, we are told that no one should add to these words, nor take away from them. Every word is for your good, like medicine for the soul, or food for the body.
Fifth, if God has spoken, it is for our redemption. When we think of the work of God in our salvation, we focus of course in the culmination and the fulfillment of God’s saving work in the accomplished work of Christ on the cross. But to read the Scripture is to understand that God has been a redeeming, saving God from the very beginning. Taking Israel out of Egypt was redemption. Keeping Israel alive, even in the wilderness, was redemption. Speaking to Israel and letting Israel hear and survive was redemption. Jonathan Edwards well understood this. Speaking of this passage, he says, “This was quite a new thing that God did towards this great work of redemption. God had never done anything like it before. ‘Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire and live? Or has God assayed to go and take Him a nation that the Lord your God did for you in Egypt?’ This was a great advancement of the work of redemption that had been begun and carried out from the fall of man. It was a great step taken in divine providence towards a preparation for Christ’s coming in the world, in working out His great and eternal redemption. For this was the people from whom Christ was to come, and now we see how that plant flourished that God had planted in Abraham.” God allowing Israel at Horeb, and thereafter, to hear and to survive, was a part of His work of redemption, and revelation is for our redemption.
We need to remember that. So often, even evangelical Christians speak of revelation as if it were something that witnesses to redemption. Yet we must keep in mind that revelation, in and of itself, is also a part of God’s work of redemption. For without revelation, we would not know. We would have no clue. But by God’s gracious revelation of Himself, we do know.
This is the second of a three-part edited transcript of the Convocation message given at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on August 24, 2006.
If God has spoken, then the highest human aspiration must be to hear what the Creator has said. Revelation is necessarily a personal matter. To hear the voice of the Lord God is not merely to receive information, but to meet the living God. Last week, we considered five realities that should frame our thinking in light of the fact that God has spoken. Here are three more.
Sixth, because God has spoken, we must obey. This is not a word submitted for our consideration. The living God allows us to hear His voice from the fire and survive. He has demands to make of us, as Creator speaks to creature. And in the giving of the Torah, and the entire body of law, there is the requirement of obedience. This is repeated over and over again. It is stated in the form of a positive principle: Israel is told, “If you obey, you will be blessed and you will live. You will prosper in the land that I am giving you.” The demand of obedience is also stated in the negative: “If you disobey, you will be cursed. You will bear my wrath. The nations of the world will cast you out. You will go out before them, to be taken as their exiles. You will be cast out of the land.”
The demand of obedience is very clear, and it is central to Deuteronomy chapter four. Even as the Lord God through Moses is preparing His people to enter the promised land by reciting again the law, He says to them, “It is about obedience. I’m not giving you mere information. I’m not letting you hear my voice for your intellectual stimulation. It is not so that you will have an epistemological advantage over the pagan peoples around you! It is so that you would obey.”
Seventh, if God has spoken, we must trust. “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” We know that song, or at least some previous generations knew that song. But it really is a matter of trust, a hermeneutic of trust, an epistemology of trust, a spirituality and theology of trust. If God has spoken, we trust His Word because we trust in Him. Woe unto anyone who would sow seeds of mistrust or distrust of the Word of God. For to fail to trust this word is, as Israel was clearly told, to fail to trust in God Himself. Paul Helm, one of the most faithful Christian philosophers of the day, points to trust as the new apologetic. He refers to an apologetic of trust, understanding that in the end, the character of God is what finally anchors not only our epistemology, but our redemption and our hope.
Eighth, if God has spoken, we must witness. Deuteronomy chapter four has a counterpart chapter in Deuteronomy 30. There, as Moses now prepares to die, the Lord speaks through him and says, “For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it that we may observe it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it that we may observe it?’ But the Word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land which you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life. Choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants by loving the Lord your God and obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him.”
Now consider Romans 10. The Apostle Paul refers to this very text. Romans 10:8 reads: “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for ‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? How will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!’ However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of Christ.”
So faith comes from hearing—hearing and yet surviving. This too explains why we are here. Because in the very formula and logic of Romans chapter ten, somehow we heard. Not one of us was at Horeb, but yet we have heard. Someone had to tell us. God spoke, and someone had to speak to us. Therefore there is, as the Word of God makes so very clear, the mandate to go and to tell. If God has spoken, then we do know. If God has spoken, then we are accountable. If God has spoken, it is by mercy and for our good, and if God has spoken, it comes with a commission and a command, which makes a difference in the life of a Christian.
The difference for the church is that we understand what it means to gather together as the ones who by the grace and mercy of God have heard. The church gathers under the authority of the Word. It makes a difference also for a seminary. We are not making this up. Our task is not to go figure out what to teach. Our task is not to figure out where to find meaning in life. It is to be reminded continually that we have heard the voice of God speaking from the fire and have survived, and thus we teach.
This is the mercy of God—to hear and yet survive. It is the mercy by which we live every day and experience every moment and evaluate every truth claim and judge every worldview and preach every sermon. We work and we live under that mercy. One cannot help connecting Deuteronomy 4—the experience of Israel hearing the Lord God speak from the midst of the fire and yet surviving—with Hebrews chapter one, which in the prologue tells us that God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers and the prophets in many ways, has spoken to us in these last days by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the world. We are here because God has spoken, not only in the fire, but in the Son, in whose name we are gathered and in whose name we serve.
This is the third of a three-part edited transcript of the Convocation message given at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on August 24, 2006.
“I do not, by nature, thrive on confrontation,” declares Richard Dawkins, the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University and one of the world’s leading skeptics concerning Christianity and belief in God.
Dawkins is well known as an intellectual adversary to all forms of religious belief—and of Christianity in particular. He is one of the world’s most prolific scientists, writing books for a popular audience and addressing his strident worldview of evolutionary theory to an expanding audience. Put simply, Richard Dawkins aspires to be the “devil’s chaplain” of Darwinian evolution.
All this is what makes Dawkins’ denial of a confrontational approach so ludicrous. It is simply false at face value. This is a man who has taken every conceivable opportunity to make transparently clear his unquestioned belief that the dominant theory of evolution renders any form of belief in God irrational, backward, and dangerous.
Dawkins set out the basic framework of his worldview in best-selling books including, The Blind Watchmaker, Climbing Mount Improbable, Unweaving the Rainbow, and, most famously, The Selfish Gene. Now, in The God Delusion, Dawkins brings his attack on Christianity to a broader audience. Interestingly, Dawkins’ new book is released close on the heels of two similar works. Fellow skeptics Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett have written similar books released since late summer. Taken together, these three books represent something of a frontal attack upon the legitimacy of belief in God.
There are few surprises in The God Delusion. Dawkins is a gifted writer who is able to popularize scientific concepts, and he writes with an acerbic style that fits his purpose in this volume. His condescending and sarcastic tone set the stage for what he hopes will be a devastating attack upon theism.
Dawkins admits his “presumptuous optimism” in hoping that his book will cause persons to set aside their faith. “If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down,” he asserts. Time will tell.
Though The God Delusion is intended more as an attack upon theism than as a defense of evolutionary theory, the framework of evolution is never far from Dawkins’ mind. In his opening chapter, he argues that most legitimate scientists—indeed all who really understand the issues at stake—are atheists of one sort or another. He defines the alternatives as between a stark atheism (such as that Dawkins himself represents) and a form of nonsupernatural religion, as illustrated by the case of Albert Einstein. “Great scientists of our time who sound religious usually turn out not to be so when you examine their beliefs more deeply,” he explains. As examples, Dawkins offers not only Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking but also Martin Rees, currently Britain’s Astronomer Royal and President of the Royal Society. According to Dawkins, Rees “goes to church as an ‘unbelieving Anglican . . . out of loyalty to the tribe.’” As Dawkins explains, Rees “has no theistic beliefs, but shares the poetic naturalism that the cosmos provokes in the other scientists I have mentioned. He cites Einstein to the effect that he was a “deeply religious nonbeliever”—moved by the majesty of the cosmos but without any reference whatsoever to a supernatural being.
As Dawkins explains, real scientists are naturalists. As such, they eliminate entirely the question of a supernatural being’s existence. “The metaphorical or pantheistic God of the physicists is light years away from the interventionist, miracle-wreaking, thought-reading, sin-punishing, prayer-answering God of the Bible, of priests, mullahs and rabbis, and of ordinary language. Deliberately to confuse the two is, in my opinion, an act of intellectual high treason.”
As Dawkins then makes clear, his attack upon belief is explicitly and exclusively directed toward belief in supernatural gods. As he explains, “the most familiar” of these deities is Yahweh. Put simply, Dawkins holds no respect for those who believe in the God of the Bible, whom he describes as ruthless, cruel, selfish, and vindictive.
Accordingly, Dawkins does not understand why social etiquette requires respect for those who believe in God.
In one of the central chapters of his book, Dawkins attempts to accomplish two simultaneous purposes: to undermine the intellectual movement known as Intelligent Design and, in a twist of its logic, to suggest that belief in God is itself a refutation of the very notion of an intelligent design. As Dawkins sees it, “the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other.” As he sets out his case, he denies that there could be any legitimate basis for belief in God. The very notion of a supernatural agent flies directly in the face of his presuppositional naturalism. Therefore, by definition, such a God cannot exist and those who believe in such a God prove their intellectual inadequacy or gullibility.
In accordance with his own evolutionary theory, Dawkins acknowledges that the universe displays appearances of design. Nevertheless, he suggests that these appearances are false, and that any example of apparent design is actually due to the Darwinian engine of natural selection. He considers the traditional proof for God’s existence offered by the philosophers and rejects each out of hand. Finally, he considers the argument that the existence of God can be proved by Scripture—but then launches a broadside attack upon Scripture itself.
When it comes to the fundamentals of the Christian faith, Dawkins displays absolute amazement that any intelligent person could even entertain the notion that such teachings might be true. Pointing back to the nineteenth century, Dawkins asserts that the Victorian era was “the last time when it was possible for an educated person to admit to believing in miracles like the virgin birth without embarrassment.” He adds: “When pressed, many educated Christians today are too loyal to deny the virgin birth and the resurrection. But it embarrasses them because their rational minds know it is absurd, so they would much rather not be asked.”
Since Dawkins considers the existence of God to be nothing more than a scientific hypothesis—just like any other—he presents his case that “the factual premise of religion—the God Hypothesis—is untenable.” In other words, “God almost certainly does not exist.”
So why do so many persons believe in Him? Consistent with his evolutionary worldview, Dawkins must offer a purely naturalistic interpretation for the origin and function of religion. He argues that religion must be, like all other human phenomena, a product of Darwinian evolution. Nevertheless, he understands that the existence of religious belief poses some interesting Darwinian questions. “Religion is so wasteful, so extravagant; and Darwinian selection habitually targets and eliminates waste,” Dawkins explains. Therefore, there must be some fascinating Darwinian explanation for how religious belief emerged and survives. Citing his colleague Daniel Dennett, Dawkins suggests that religious belief is “time-consuming, energy-consuming” and “often as extravagantly ornate as the plumage of a bird of paradise.” He sees no good in it at all. “Thousands of people have been tortured for their loyalty to a religion, persecuted by zealots for what is in many cases a scarcely distinguishable alternative faith. Religion devours resources, sometimes on a massive scale. A medieval cathedral could consume a hundred man centuries in its construction, yet it was never used as a dwelling, or for any recognizable useful purpose.”
In his own twist, Dawkins argues that belief in God is simply a by-product of some other evolutionary mechanism. He suggests that one possible source of belief in God (understood in purely physicalist and natural terms) is the need for the brains of children to accept on faith the teachings of their elders. Thus, he argues that evolution may have “psychologically primed” the human brain for some form of belief in God. Nevertheless, whatever function this may have served the process of evolution in the past, Dawkins now believes that it has become a dangerous liability.
“I surmise that religions, like languages, evolved with sufficient randomness, from beginnings that are sufficiently arbitrary, to generate the bewildering—and sometimes dangerous—richness of diversity that we observe. At the same time, it is possible that a form of natural selection, coupled with the fundamental uniformity of human psychology, sees to it that the diverse religions share significant teachers in common.” In the end, Dawkins sees all these forms as dangerous.
Along the way, Dawkins insists that morality is not based in absolute truth but in a consequentialist form of reasoning that is itself a monument of evolutionary development. He plays with categories and concepts—no doubt intentionally—in order to confuse the question. Christians do not argue that those who believe in God always act in a way that is morally superior to those who do not. Atheists may behave better than Christians. This is to our shame, but it does not pose an intellectual challenge to the validity of the Christian faith. The more urgent question has to do with how any form of moral absolute—including even a prohibition on murder or incest—can survive if all morality is merely a natural phenomenon of human evolution. Dawkins simply embraces the relativity of morality, arguing that this explains why Christians are so dangerous. Believing in moral absolutes, Christians are led to defend the sanctity of human life at every level and to believe that, of all things, the Creator actually has set forth moral commandments and expectations concerning our sexuality. Dawkins rejects these ideas altogether.
At the same time, he suggests that the morality revealed in the Bible is actually immoral when judged against the enlightened standards of our current moral Zeitgeist. Furthermore, Dawkins argues that modern persons do not actually derive their morality from the Bible, no matter how much they may claim to do so.
In a sweeping rejection of biblical Christianity, Dawkins expresses outrage at the morality of both the Old and New Testaments. “I have described atonement, the central doctrine of Christianity, as vicious, sado-masochistic and repellant. We should also dismiss it as barking mad, but for its ubiquitous familiarity which has dulled our objectivity,” he asserts. Dawkins would dispense with the Ten Commandments and replace these with a new set of commandments more attuned to modern times. Among his proposed commandments are these: “Enjoy your own sex life (so long as it damages nobody else) and leave others to enjoy theirs in private whatever their inclinations, which are none of your business;” “Do not discriminate or oppress on the basis of sex, race or (as far as possible) species.” Another of Dawkins’ commandments hits close to home: “Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you.”
Amazingly, Dawkins denies that he is himself an absolutist. Accordingly, he expresses incredulity at the fact that he is seen as a particularly ardent opponent of Christianity.
“Despite my dislike of gladiatorial contests, I seem somehow to have acquired a reputation for pugnacity towards religion. Colleagues who agree that there is no God, who agree that we do not need religion to be moral, and agree that we can explain the roots of religion and of morality in non-religious terms, nevertheless come back to me in gentle puzzlement. Why are you so hostile?”
Dawkins denies that he is a “fundamentalist atheist.” “Maybe scientists are fundamentalists when it comes to defining in some abstract way what is meant by ‘truth.’ But so is everybody else,” he insists. “I am no more fundamentalist when I say evolution is true than when I say it is true that New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere.”
In the end, Richard Dawkins will surely fail in his quest to turn theists in to atheists. His book represents nothing fundamentally new—just the same old arguments repeated over and over again. Dawkins is quick to label his intellectual adversaries as fundamentalists, but he conveniently redefines the term so that it does not apply to his own position. He claims to live life solely on the basis of scientific evidence, but is so fundamentally committed to the theory of evolution that we cannot take his protestations to the contrary seriously.
The God Delusion is sure to garner significant attention in the media and in popular culture. Dawkins, along with the other fashionable skeptics and atheists of the day, makes for good television and creates an instant media sensation. In one sense, we should be thankful for the forthrightness with which he presents his arguments. This is not a man who minces words, and he never hides behind his own argument. Furthermore, at several points in the book he correctly identifies weaknesses in many of the arguments put forth by theists. As is so often the case, we learn from our intellectual enemies as well as from our allies.
The tone of the book is strident, the content of the book is bracing, and the attitude of the book is condescending. Nevertheless, Dawkins insists that his strident attack upon the faith is limited to words. “I am not going to bomb anybody, behead them, stone them, burn them at the stake, crucify them, or fly planes into their skyscrapers, just because of a theological disagreement,” he insists. He even allows that “we can retain a sentimental loyalty to the cultural and literary traditions” of organized religion, “and even participate in religious rituals such as marriages and funerals,” he asserts. Nevertheless, all this must be done without buying into the supernatural beliefs that historically went along with those traditions.” Further: “We can give up belief in God while not losing touch with a treasured heritage.”All this raises more questions than Dawkins answers. If belief in God is so intellectually abhorrent, why would anyone want to retain the traditions associated with these beliefs? Why does Dawkins acknowledge that all this amounts to “a treasured heritage?” It must be because, in the end, even Richard Dawkins is not as much of an atheist as he believes himself to be. If Dawkins is so certain that theism is dead, why would he devote so much of his time and energy to opposing it? A man who is genuinely certain that Christianity is passing away would feel no need to write a 400-page book in order to urge its passing.
How old is the world?
Most people would say: “Nobody knows.”
But the author of the book frequently described as the greatest history book ever written, said the world was created Oct. 23, 4004 B.C. – making it 6,010 as of Monday.
In the 1650s, an Anglican bishop named James Ussher published his “Annals of the World,” subtitled, “The Origin of Time, and Continued to the Beginning of the Emperor Vespasian’s Reign and the Total Destruction and Abolition of the Temple and Commonwealth of the Jews.” First published in Latin, it consisted of more than 1,600 pages.
The book, now published in English for the first time, is a favorite of homeschoolers and those who take ancient history seriously. It’s the history of the world from the Garden of Eden to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Of course, there will be those who disagree with Ussher’s calculations of time – especially evolutionists who need billions of years to explain their theory of how life sprang from non-life and mutated from one-celled animals into human beings.
Ussher’s arrival at the date of Oct. 23 was determined based on the fact that most peoples of antiquity, especially the Jews, started their calendar at harvest time. Ussher concluded there must be good reason for this, so he chose the first Sunday following autumnal equinox.
Although the autumnal equinox is Sept. 21 today, that is only because of historical calendar-juggling to make the years come out right.
If you think this is a startling fact – an actual date for Creation – you haven’t seen anything until you’ve pored through the rest of Ussher’s “Annals of the World.” It’s a classic history book for those who believe in the Bible – and a compelling challenge for those who don’t.
The new edition of “Annals” is one of the most significant publishing events of the 21st century.
In this masterful and legendary volume, commissioned by Master Books to be updated from the 17th-century original Latin manuscript to modern English and made available to the general public, is the fascinating history of the ancient world from the Genesis creation through the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple.
* Why was Julius Caesar kidnapped in 75 B.C.?
* Why did Alexander the Great burn his ships in 326 B.C.?
* What really happened when the sun “went backward” as a sign to Hezekiah?
* What does secular history say about the darkness at the Crucifixion?
Ussher traveled throughout Europe, gathering much information from the actual historical documents. Many of these documents are no longer available, having been destroyed since the time of his research.
Integrating biblical history (around 15 percent of the text is from the Bible) with secular sources, Ussher wrote this masterpiece. Considered not only a literary classic, but also an accurate reference, “The Annals of the World” was so highly regarded for its preciseness that the timeline from it was included in the margins of many King James Version Bibles throughout the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.
“The Annals of the World” is a necessary addition to any church library, pastor’s library, or any library – public or personal. The entire text has been updated from 17th-century English to present-day vernacular in a five-year project commissioned by Master Books. Containing many human-interest stories from the original historical documents collected by Ussher, this is more than just a history book – it’s a work of history.
* Important literary work that has been inaccessible in book form for over 300 years
* Includes CD of Ussher’s Chronology of the World – full of colored charts, graphs, timelines, and much, much more
* Translated into modern English for the first time
* Traces world history from creation through A.D. 70
* Over 10,000 footnotes from the original text have been updated to references from works in the Loeb Classical Library by Harvard Press
* Over 2,500 citations from the Bible and the Apocrypha
* Ussher’s original citations have been checked against the latest textual scholarship
* One of history’s most famous and well-respected historians
* Spent over five years researching and writing this book
* Entered college at age 13
* Received his master’s degree at age 18
* Was an expert in Semitic languages
* Buried in Westminster Abbey
An atheist biologist and Christian geneticist recently engaged in an intensive debate arranged by Time Magazine over the compatibility of God and science.
Francis Collins, the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, represented Christianity and defended God against the attacks of Oxford professor Richard Dawkins, the atheist.
Collins, who headed a multinational 2,400-scientist team that helped map the 3 billion biochemical letters of the human DNA, said that God’s existence cannot be answered as a scientific question using tools of science.
“From my perspective, God cannot be completely contained within nature, and therefore God’s existence is outside of science’s ability to really weigh in,” said Collins in the most recent issue of Time.
The scientists’ differences were most evident in the topic of creation versus evolution.
Collins believes evolution and faith in the existence of God is compatible and explains that God during creation could have “activated evolution, with the full knowledge of how it would turn out...”
Opposing that view, Dawkins commented, “I think that’s a tremendous cop-out.”
The Oxford professor added that he finds it “slightly odd” that God would choose an “extraordinarily roundabout way” of creating life and humans, noting that God had to wait 10 billion years before life began and then another 4 billion years until humans were “capable of worshipping and sinning…”
[KH: weakness of theory of theistic evolution]
“Who are we to say that that was an odd way to do it,” responded Collins. “I don’t think that it is God’s purpose to make His intention absolutely obvious to us…would it not have been sensible for Him to use the mechanism of evolution without posting obvious road signs to reveal his role in creation?”
During a discussion on conservative Protestants’ opposition to evolution based on the Book of Genesis, Collins said that he does not agree with believers who interpret Genesis 1 and 2 in a “very literal way that is inconsistent, frankly, with our knowledge of the universe’s age or of how living organisms are related to each other.”
The Christian geneticist used St. Augustine’s writing as support that it is not possible to understand what was being described in Genesis.
“It was not intended as a science textbook,” said Collins. “It was intended as a description of who God was, who we are and what our relationship is supposed to be with God.”
Collins also said St. Augustine “explicitly” warns against having a “very narrow perspective” that might lead to our faith “looking ridiculous.”
“If you step back from that one narrow interpretation, what the Bible describes is very consistent with the Big Bang,” concluded the defender of God and science.
In his closing statement, Collins emphasized that his faith in God “in no way compromises” his ability to “think rigorously” as a scientist. Instead, his faith has helped him accept that there are questions unanswerable through science which can be answered in the spiritual realm.
MCLEAN, Va. – Today’s Christian no longer has to try to maintain only by faith their belief in the origin of the universe. The atheist now does.
Former atheist and award-winning Christian author Lee Strobel premiered his one-hour documentary “The Case for a Creator” to hundreds of Christians at an apologetics conference Friday. The aftermath of the movie: Christians felt they actually learned something.
“We are actually living now at a time of tremendous intellectual renaissance of Christianity,” said philosopher and author Dr. William Lane Craig.
Craig’s comment came after fellow philosopher J.P. Moreland told conference participants that the church has become anti-intellectual.
“We’ve got to start using cognitive language and not just faith language,” Moreland exhorted.
Over the last several decades, Christians have begun to emerge back into the intellectual public square. This is primarily occurring in the field of philosophy, New Testament studies with regard to the historical Jesus and the gospels, and it is now beginning to occur in the physical sciences as manifested in the Intelligent Design movement, Craig explained.
Presenting clear scientific evidence that Christians had largely been without, Strobel’s “Case for a Creator” revealed a complex universe that many scientists could now only explain with the existence of some kind of intelligence.
Biochemist Michael Behe demonstrated how bacterial flagellum are molecular machines that could only function with all its parts present simultaneously, much like a mouse trap. If one part is missing, it would not function and would thus have no reason to exist. Evolution would not preserve it.
Such evidence as Behe’s was presented in other scientific fields including cosmology, physics and astronomy in the documentary.
“I believe that by doing science, we find God,” said Strobel.
Philosopher Jay Richards of Acton Institute concluded from his findings that the universe was designed for discovery. And with each discovery, the Darwinian theory of evolution is expected to go down as “a huge mistake in history,” Richards said.
One participant, Robert Wedan, 53, praised the documentary, saying that it gave him stronger grounds to defend Creation. “It’s movies like [‘Case for a Creator’] that I think will make it a lot easier to address those issues.”
“Today, science is pointing more powerfully to a creator than any other time,” said Strobel. “The most logical and rational step is to put my faith in the Creator that science tells me exists.”
Now, Christians can stand confidently within biblical truth knowing that it’s in line with astrophysics and cosmology, said Strobel, quoting a cosmology expert. “It is now the atheist who has to maintain by faith, despite all of the evidence to the contrary, that the universe did not have a beginning.”
MCLEAN, Va – A prominent Christian apologist, well-known for his defense of the bodily resurrection of Jesus and his work focusing on modern physical cosmology for the existence of God, opened an apologetics conference at a D.C-metro area megachurch on Thursday.
Some 1,400 people gathered at McLean Bible Church to listen to 22 of the world’s top apologists defend the faith and instruct listeners on controversial topics ranging from intelligent design to world religions.
Dr. William Lane Craig, a Biola research professor of philosophy, opened the three-day conference entitled, “Loving God With All Your Mind,” with a session questioning if there is sufficient evidence for Christianity.
Craig said that from his experience most people tend to be spiritually apathetic. He pointed to the Bible saying that knowledge of God is promised to those who diligently and sincerely seek Him.
“The knowledge of God is unique in that the knowledge of God is conditioned by moral and spiritual factors,” said Craig. “A spiritually indifferent person can have a perfectly profound knowledge of mathematics, or history, or physics, or Russian literature, or even theology. But a spiritually indifferent person cannot obtain the knowledge of God.”
Craig humorously imitated the arguments of atheists for their disbelief and set out to argue that although there is not enough evidence to “coerce” someone to believe in the Christian faith, there is, however, sufficient evidence to make faith in Christianity rational.
“In other words, God doesn’t force Himself upon us,” said Craig. “He has given evidence of Himself which is sufficiently clear for those with an open heart and an open mind, but is sufficiently vague so as not to compel people whose hearts are closed.”
The Big Bang was used as evidence of the existence of God. Craig posed the philosophical question “Why did the universe come to exist?” and said that if we suddenly heard a big “bang” sound and asked where it came from, it would be unacceptable to receive “Nothing. It just happened” as an answer.
“What is true of a little bang is also true of the Big Bang as well,” said Craig. “There must have been a cause that brought the universe into being. And by the very nature of the case as the cause of space, time, and all physical realities, this cause would have to be an un-caused, immaterial, changeless, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful being that brought the universe into existence.”
The apologist also cited numerous scientific odds against the necessary conditions for the existence of the universe to support that there must exist an intelligent being that fine-tuned the universe.
Craig concluded, “A loving God would not abandon us to our own devices to work out by our own cleverness and ingenuity whether or not He exists. Rather a loving God would Himself seek us, pursue us, and try to draw us to Himself.”
Dr. Eugene Merrill, who serves as Distinguished Professor at both Dallas Theological Seminary and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has recently published his theology of the Old Testament. Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament was released by B&H Publishing Group and it belongs on every pastor’s bookshelf.
At the end of his volume, Dr. Merrill restates his theological premises. Consider this statement:
At the onset we have, without apology and equivocation, undertaken our work with the settled conviction that the Old Testament is the written word of God, revealed by him to the prophets of old, preserved from error in matters of fact and doctrine, and authoritative for both Israel and the church. We have made no effort to argue the point or provide evidence for it except to remind the reader that this is the Bible’s own understanding of itself and the studied opinion of virtually all pre-Enlightenment Jewish and Christian scholars and laity alike. How one views the question of bibliology has obvious consequences for his theology so we have not on purely a priori grounds adopted one stance as opposed to another. Indeed, the position advocated here is the fruit of many years of careful and prayerful consideration of all the issues involved and reflects more than just a casual acquaintance with the difficulties inherent in any evaluation of Scripture.
In the final analysis, the whole corpus—the Word of God and the words of men—is revelatory, the product of a process of divine redactionism that guarantees that every part is precisely as it ought to be, contributing to the redemptive message for which it is intended. This lends to it a cohesion, a united and self-consistent presentation from beginning to end that cannot be explained by any number of documentary or redactionary theories of human creativity but only by the self-evident fact of the originating and controlling work of the Spirit of God. This leads to a further premise, one that logically follows—the expectation that a single Author has a single overarching message that can be readily detected. Moreover, that message itself, if it is to be understood in any meaningful way, must be informed by a central theme of themes, a story line that leaves no question as to the Author’s intentions and desired effects.
Several pages later, he writes this important paragraph:
Fundamentally, the issue of the relationship of the testaments—whether theologically or hermeneutically—boils down to the nature of the whole. If one is of the conviction that the Old and New Testament alike are the Word of God, revealed and inspired by him, the difficulties largely dissolve, for the authorship and, hence, the intertextual connections of its various parts (both testaments) not only find theological justification but hermeneutical warrant as well. Authors of texts have dominical rights to those texts and from their privileged position can employ whatever devices or methods they choose to communicate and interpret their own writings. Who, then, can question the Holy Spirit of God on the matter and charge him with hermeneutical impropriety should he “violate” modern rules of hermeneutical theory?
What a magnificent and timely paragraph! Professor Merrill’s words are well-stated and important. Of course, in this day these words are also controversial, for a restatement and reaffirmation of biblical authority — especially in dealing with the Old Testament, is out of step with the modern mind.
Eugene Merrill is one of the most respected scholars of the Scriptures in our times, and readers of Everlasting Dominion willl reap the fruit of Dr. Merrill’s life-long commitment to the study of Old Testament theology.
By Lane Palmer
So I have a question for you…is it possible that we as humans are, well, more humane than the God who created humans?
hu•mane adj. Characterized by kindness, mercy, or compassion.
In other words, if something seems “inhumane” (not kind, not merciful, not compassionate) to us, wouldn’t God be even more likely to see it as such?
I certainly think so, but there are folks out there promoting ideas in the name of Christianity that at a basic level paint a picture of God that is more than just a little inhumane. The picture looks like this:
In John 14:6, Jesus declared He was “the way, the truth, and the life,” and that no one could come to the Father (i.e. enter heaven) apart from Him. OK, that’s more than humane. Everyone on earth is born into a broken relationship with God, so Christ gave His life to make a solution available. All a person has to do is trust Christ, and they can enter heaven. That is an extremely kind, merciful, and compassionate offer, don’t you think? Ah, but here is where the picture gets ugly. This amazing gospel message, meant for everyone, apparently isn’t going to make it to everyone on earth. There are tribes in Tanzania and tots in Thailand who will go through their entire lives without a chance to hear the gospel, which gives them a snowball’s chance in the place down under (not Australia) as far as getting into heaven.
And why? Well, I’m not sure, but there are lots of folks who are simply convinced that God is the type who would send people to hell who never had a choice in the first place. I guess from a human perspective, it’s hard to imagine how the gospel will get (or has gotten) to people so far removed from civilization they make the Flintstones look like technologically advanced people.
But yeah, that’s the human perspective. One that makes humans more humane than God. It’s the wrong perspective, and I’ll tell you why.
First, let me ask you a question. Do you really believe that the God who loves the whole world (John 3:16) wouldn’t love them enough to get a life saving message to them? Or put another way, does it sound right that you have a better developed sense of what is right and fair for a bunch of strangers than the God who made them, loves them, and died for them?
If your answer to these questions is yes, then you might want to consider a few facts from God’s own words:
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)
Translation: there never have been nor will there ever be people who “haven’t heard.” God has set up the world as one big bulletin about Himself, and when this verse says “what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them”, it is fairly clear to me that God made it plain to everyone that He exists.
Yes Lane, but that verse doesn’t say anything about the gospel. How do you know that message will get to everyone?
Great question! So back to my original question: do you really believe that the God who loves the whole world (John 3:16) wouldn’t love them enough to get a life saving message to them? Or perhaps you see God as saying “here I am! I exist! But there’s something I forgot to mention to you…oh well, good luck in everlasting destruction!”
Exactly, that’s not the God of the Bible. The God who loves the world enough to die for us has the desire and power to get the job done … don’t you think? At least that’s the way He’s described in the Bible – as a God who “doesn’t desire anyone to perish” (2 Peter 3:9). Think about that … if an all-powerful God purposely didn’t find a way to get the gospel message to those who couldn’t get it otherwise, wouldn’t that show a desire for them to perish? Yes.
So how does He get the gospel to everyone? Well, how would I know? But what I do know is He’s God, so He could send a missionary, an angel, appear in a vision, or use a talking donkey for all we know (no really, check out Numbers 22). And when He does get the gospel to them, they are the ones who decide to accept or reject Christ. If they end up in hell, it wasn’t because of ignorance, it was clearly because of rebellion.
Oh, and one more thing. Check out a vision of the future from the book of Revelation:
And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:7)
What does this mean? Simple… We know that SOMEHOW, at least SOME people from EVERY nation on earth end up in heaven! That means tribes in Tanzania and tots in Thailand, and that also tells me that God is more humane than any human could ever imagine.
So don’t listen to those who paint God with an unfair brush. Tell them, even better- show them the truth about the God who loves the whole world and is not willing for any to perish. It might just be the most humane thing you’ve ever done!
Lane Palmer is the Youth Ministries Specialist for Dare 2 Share Ministries in Arvada, Colo., where he works with to provide resources for youth leaders and students.
[KH: on New York Times, biased conclusion but useful discussion]
KINGSTON, R.I. — There is nothing much unusual about the 197-page dissertation Marcus R. Ross submitted in December to complete his doctoral degree in geosciences here at the University of Rhode Island.
His subject was the abundance and spread of mosasaurs, marine reptiles that, as he wrote, vanished at the end of the Cretaceous era about 65 million years ago. The work is “impeccable,” said David E. Fastovsky, a paleontologist and professor of geosciences at the university who was Dr. Ross’s dissertation adviser. “He was working within a strictly scientific framework, a conventional scientific framework.”
But Dr. Ross is hardly a conventional paleontologist. He is a “young earth creationist” — he believes that the Bible is a literally true account of the creation of the universe, and that the earth is at most 10,000 years old.
For him, Dr. Ross said, the methods and theories of paleontology are one “paradigm” for studying the past, and Scripture is another. In the paleontological paradigm, he said, the dates in his dissertation are entirely appropriate. The fact that as a young earth creationist he has a different view just means, he said, “that I am separating the different paradigms.”
He likened his situation to that of a socialist studying economics in a department with a supply-side bent. “People hold all sorts of opinions different from the department in which they graduate,” he said. “What’s that to anybody else?”
But not everyone is happy with that approach. “People go somewhat bananas when they hear about this,” said Jon C. Boothroyd, a professor of geosciences at Rhode Island.
In theory, scientists look to nature for answers to questions about nature, and test those answers with experiment and observation. For Biblical literalists, Scripture is the final authority. As a creationist raised in an evangelical household and a paleontologist who said he was “just captivated” as a child by dinosaurs and fossils, Dr. Ross embodies conflicts between these two approaches. The conflicts arise often these days, particularly as people debate the teaching of evolution.
And, for some, his case raises thorny philosophical and practical questions. May a secular university deny otherwise qualified students a degree because of their religion? Can a student produce intellectually honest work that contradicts deeply held beliefs? Should it be obligatory (or forbidden) for universities to consider how students will use the degrees they earn?
Those are “darned near imponderable issues,” said John W. Geissman, who has considered them as a professor of earth and planetary sciences at the University of New Mexico. For example, Dr. Geissman said, Los Alamos National Laboratory has a geophysicist on staff, John R. Baumgardner, who is an authority on the earth’s mantle — and also a young earth creationist.
If researchers like Dr. Baumgardner do their work “without any form of interjection of personal dogma,” Dr. Geissman said, “I would have to keep as objective a hat on as possible and say, ‘O.K., you earned what you earned.’ “
Others say the crucial issue is not whether Dr. Ross deserved his degree but how he intends to use it.
In a telephone interview, Dr. Ross said his goal in studying at secular institutions “was to acquire the training that would make me a good paleontologist, regardless of which paradigm I was using.”
Today he teaches earth science at Liberty University, the conservative Christian institution founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell where, Dr. Ross said, he uses a conventional scientific text.
“We also discuss the intersection of those sorts of ideas with Christianity,” he said. “I don’t require my students to say or write their assent to one idea or another any more than I was required.”
But he has also written and spoken on scientific subjects, and with a creationist bent. While still a graduate student, he appeared on a DVD arguing that intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism, is a better explanation than evolution for the Cambrian explosion, a rapid diversification of animal life that occurred about 500 million years ago.
Online information about the DVD identifies Dr. Ross as “pursuing a Ph.D. in geosciences” at the University of Rhode Island. It is this use of a secular credential to support creationist views that worries many scientists.
[KH: secularist] Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, a private group on the front line of the battle for the teaching of evolution, said fundamentalists who capitalized on secular credentials “to miseducate the public” were doing a disservice.
[KH: secularist] Michael L. Dini, a professor of biology education at Texas Tech University, goes even further. In 2003, he was threatened with a federal investigation when students complained that he would not write letters of recommendation for graduate study for anyone who would not offer “a scientific answer” to questions about how the human species originated.
Nothing came of it, Dr. Dini said in an interview, adding, “Scientists do not base their acceptance or rejection of theories on religion, and someone who does should not be able to become a scientist.”
A somewhat more complicated issue arose last year at Ohio State University, where Bryan Leonard, a high school science teacher working toward a doctorate in education, was preparing to defend his dissertation on the pedagogical usefulness of teaching alternatives to the theory of evolution.
Earle M. Holland, a spokesman for the university, said Mr. Leonard and his adviser canceled the defense when questions arose about the composition of the faculty committee that would hear it.
Meanwhile three faculty members had written the university administration, arguing that Mr. Leonard’s project violated the university’s research standards in that the students involved were being subjected to something harmful (the idea that there were scientific alternatives to the theory of evolution) without receiving any benefit.
Citing privacy rules, Mr. Holland would not discuss the case in detail, beyond saying that Mr. Leonard was still enrolled in the graduate program. But Mr. Leonard has become a hero to people who believe that creationists are unfairly treated by secular institutions.
Perhaps the most famous creationist wearing the secular mantle of science is Kurt P. Wise, who earned his doctorate at Harvard in 1989 under the guidance of the paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, a leading theorist of evolution who died in 2002.
Dr. Wise, who teaches at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., wrote his dissertation on gaps in the fossil record. But rather than suggest, as many creationists do, that the gaps challenge the wisdom of Darwin’s theory, Dr. Wise described a statistical approach that would allow paleontologists to infer when a given species was present on earth, millions of years ago, even if the fossil evidence was incomplete.
Dr. Wise, who declined to comment for this article, is a major figure in creationist circles today, and his Gould connection appears prominently on his book jackets and elsewhere.
“He is lionized,” Dr. Scott said. “He is the young earth creationist with a degree from Harvard.”
As for Dr. Ross, “he does good science, great science,” said Dr. Boothroyd, who taught him in a class in glacial geology. But in talks and other appearances, Dr. Boothroyd went on, Dr. Ross is already using “the fact that he has a Ph.D. from a legitimate science department as a springboard.”
Dr. Ross, 30, grew up in Rhode Island in an evangelical Christian family. He attended Pennsylvania State University and then the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, where he wrote his master’s thesis on marine fossils found in the state.
His creationism aroused “some concern by faculty members there, and disagreements,” he recalled, and there were those who argued that his religious beliefs should bar him from earning an advanced degree in paleontology.
“But in the end I had a decent thesis project and some people who, like the people at U.R.I., were kind to me, and I ended up going through,” Dr. Ross said.
Dr. Fastovsky and other members of the Rhode Island faculty said they knew about these disagreements, but admitted him anyway. Dr. Boothroyd, who was among those who considered the application, said they judged Dr. Ross on his academic record, his test scores and his master’s thesis, “and we said, ‘O.K., we can do this.’ “
He added, “We did not know nearly as much about creationism and young earth and intelligent design as we do now.”
For his part, Dr. Ross says, “Dr. Fastovsky was liberal in the most generous and important sense of the term.”
He would not say whether he shared the view of some young earth creationists that flaws in paleontological dating techniques erroneously suggest that the fossils are far older than they really are.
Asked whether it was intellectually honest to write a dissertation so at odds with his religious views, he said: “I was working within a particular paradigm of earth history. I accepted that philosophy of science for the purpose of working with the people” at Rhode Island.
And though his dissertation repeatedly described events as occurring tens of millions of years ago, Dr. Ross added, “I did not imply or deny any endorsement of the dates.”
Dr. Fastovsky said he had talked to Dr. Ross “lots of times” about his religious beliefs, but that depriving him of his doctorate because of them would be nothing more than religious discrimination. “We are not here to certify his religious beliefs,” he said. “All I can tell you is he came here and did science that was completely defensible.”
Steven B. Case, a research professor at the Center for Research Learning at the University of Kansas, said it would be wrong to “censor someone for a belief system as long as it does not affect their work. Science is an open enterprise to anyone who practices it.”
Dr. Case, who champions the teaching of evolution, heads the committee writing state science standards in Kansas, a state particularly racked by challenges to Darwin. Even so, he said it would be frightening if universities began “enforcing some sort of belief system on their graduate students.”
But Dr. Scott, a former professor of physical anthropology at the University of Colorado, said in an interview that graduate admissions committees were entitled to consider the difficulties that would arise from admitting a doctoral candidate with views “so at variance with what we consider standard science.” She said such students “would require so much remedial instruction it would not be worth my time.” [KH: presuming that creationists need remedial education!]
That is not religious discrimination, she added, it is discrimination “on the basis of science.”
Dr. Dini, of Texas Tech, agreed. Scientists “ought to make certain the people they are conferring advanced degrees on understand the philosophy of science and are indeed philosophers of science,” he said. “That’s what Ph.D. stands for.” [KH: clearly biased conclusion; implying that creationists are not qualified to be Ph.D.s. What if a secularist Ph.D. turnes a creationist; should he return the Ph.D. degree?]
Jealousy is an uncomfortable emotion to have or to be near. Yet how is it possible that a good God is jealous and is there such a thing as a good jealousy?
Back to the Bible, an international Christian radio ministry, discussed the idea that God is jealous recently and the meaning for God’s jealousy during a series on the character of God.
Dr. Woodrow Kroll, president and senior Bible teacher for the ministry, explained last week that God’s jealousy stems from Him wanting the best life for man which can only be achieved through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
“When you’re talking about God’s jealousy, God is jealous over you having the very best you can possibly have in a sinful world,” said Kroll during a BTTB broadcast Friday.
“Anything that leads us away from God is detrimental to our relationship with God and God is jealous over that relationship.”
The Bible instructor pointed as example to Exodus 34 when God warned Moses and the Israelite to not make covenants with the original inhabitants of Canaan, intermarry with other tribes, and “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14).
Kroll explains that God is jealous because He is afraid of losing His people if they mix with other people.
“And, yet, we think of God’s jealousy as a bad thing because God’s jealousy says, ‘Don’t do this; it’s bad for you and your relationship with Me,’” said Kroll. “If God is jealous because He wants my relationship with Him to be a right relationship that is not a bad thing. That is a wonderful thing.”
Similarly, the Ten Commandments, was given not to confine man, but “in order to order our lives so that we can be happy and fulfilled.”
“God is so jealous over us; He doesn’t want us doing the kinds of things that will rob us of blessings He’s already given to us,” explained Kroll.
Sin interferes with man’s relationship with God and his ability to receive blessing, according to the BTTB head. God is jealous because He doesn’t want sin “robbing” His children of the “good things” they can have if they have a close relationship with Him.
“The fact that God is jealous over your relationship is something you ought to thank Him for every day of your life. If God were not jealous, who knows where you would be in your relationship with Him today?”
By Frank Pastore
Their titles sound so confident:
• The Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism and Islam by Michel Onfray.
• God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens.
• Letter to a Christian Nation: A Challenge to Faith by Sam Harris.
and of course, • The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.
Yet, like all atheists before them, they still can’t answer the fundamental questions of origins.
1) What is the origin of the universe? Why is there something rather than nothing? How do you get matter and energy from nothingness? How do you get a rock out of nothing?
2) What is the origin of life? How do you get life from non-life? How do you go from a rock to a tree?
3) What is the origin of mind? How does a living thing become a self-conscious being? How do you go from a tree, to an animal, to a human?
4) What is the origin of good and evil? How does an amoral being become morally aware?
Atheists respond to all these types of questions with essentially the same style answer. “We know God doesn’t exist. Therefore, since we’re here, though, it had to have happened this way. Thus, like the universe itself, life, mind, and mo-rality all ‘just popped’ into existence out of nothingness.”
I call them the Four Big Bangs:
1’) the Cosmological (the universe “just popped” into existence out of nothingness).
2’) the Biological (life “just popped” into existence out of a dead thing).
3’) the Psychological (mind “just popped” into existence out of a brain).
4’) and the Moral (morality “just popped” into existence out of amorality).
For their many obfuscating words, the authors still don’t improve much beyond the “just popped” thesis, if at all.
I was an atheist for 27 years. I used to play on that team. I used to pick on religious people too. I knew the arguments to press and those to avoid.
Attack with how unscientific theism is, how religious people aren’t very smart because they don’t chair any departments in the hard sciences at the right schools (it’s really called censorship). Raise the problem of evil: How could an omnipo-tent, loving God allow evil? Either God is not all powerful and can’t destroy it, or He doesn’t want to. Either way there can’t be a God because evil exists (don’t bring up the existence of good though, it’s too problematic). And, finally, go for the jugular with the hypocrisy of religious believers (You know, mention “all the wars in the name of religion,” and “all the fallen pastors” and especially, “the founders owned slaves” stuff, it’s really a good distraction.)
Avoid the pesky problem of freewill. If atheism is true, if all that exists is mere matter and energy, then I don’t have a brain, I am my brain. But if the brain is exhaustively physical, then it is just as incapable of acting freely as a computer or any other machine. Which is why the idea of Artificial Intelligence makes for such fun science fiction – the more peo-ple believe that a computer can become a person, the less likely they will have need to believe they were created in God’s image. Thus, more AI, less theism – that’s the game plan. Same with the search for ET. Find life elsewhere so we can dismiss Genesis.
But, above all, avoid being cornered and forced to answer the questions of origins. Throw out lots of words that people can’t understand. Talk over them. Blind them with science. Talk about the details of the leaves on the trees but don’t allow them to bring it back to “Why the forest at all?” Assert the fact/value distinction. Claim that only science deals with knowledge. Drop in some postmodern gobbledygook. Distract them with how science deals with the “what, where, how and when” and not the “who and the why.” Especially avoid people who have had training in the philosophy of science – they’re dangerous because they see through us and know who we are – they don’t see the shimmering lab coats that everyone else sees. They don’t see any clothes at all.
Since the pre-Socratics, atheists have been intellectual parasites living off the host of Western Civilization. Able to con-struct so very little of their own that is either true, good, or beautiful, they live on the borrowed capital of their believing intellectual parents. Atheists have been asserting the same basic mechanistic worldview, and with roughly the same suc-cess, for centuries. They sell books and win converts from time to time, sure, especially among those gullible enough to buy the “just popped” thesis. Don’t be gullible.
But, for me, the real value of atheism lies in bolstering belief in God. When I doubt, I can begin to doubt my doubts by returning to the Four Big Bangs. And, I eventually fall to my knees and worship, “In the beginning, God.”
Americans are more likely to believe in God and Heaven than in the Devil and Hell, a new Gallup poll found.
The latest study found that 86 percent of American adults believe in God which is a drop from 90 percent in 2004 and in 2001. Seventy percent expressed belief in the Devil.
Also, 81 percent said they believe in Heaven; 75 percent in Angels; and 69 percent in Hell.
When the Gallup Organization posed different alternatives to belief in God, less people reported they believe in God. The study found that 78 percent of Americans said they believe in God and 14 percent said they believe in a universal spirit or higher power. When the “higher power” alternative was removed and replaced with “something you’re not sure about,” nearly nine in 10 Americans reported believing in God.
An earlier Barna Group study revealed that 9 percent of the American adult population identify themselves as an atheist, an agnostic or having “no faith.” The statistic equates to roughly 20 million people in the nation. And about 5 million adults expressed that they staunchly reject the existence of God.
When measuring Americans’ belief in the Devil, Gallup poll results showed that more Americans believe in the Devil this year compared to 1990 when only 55 percent agreed. However, Gallup researchers noted that there have been changes in the context in which the belief in the Devil question has been asked. Older Gallup surveys included the Devil in a list of things such as witches, reincarnation, and ghosts. Surveys conducted since 2001 included the Devil in a list of more directly religious entities.
The percentage of people who believe in Hell peaked in 2001 at 71 percent and has slightly declined since to 69 percent this year.
Gallup poll results are based on telephone interviews with 1,003 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 10-13, 2007.
Some are calling it the “Emerging Church Poster Wars.”
A group of “PyroManiacs” bloggers recently posted a series of what they called “Motivational Posters for the Emerging Chaos” which were denounced by some as mockeries.
The posters featured several themes, each including a saying and image to go along with them.
“Relevance: Tell me what I want to hear or else shut up and go away,” states one poster picturing a young man with long hair, his eyes closed, and his hands cupped over the headphones he’s wearing. “Truth: It’s an adventure, not an axiom. A story still unfolding, not a tale already told. The journey is what counts, not the destination. Right?” states another poster with an image of desert sand and a man lying face down after a long trail of footprints.
Mike Clawson, who describes himself as a “postmodern” Christian and pastors Via Christus Community Church – an emerging church in Yorkville, Ill. – and was surprised by how the series of posters mocks the emerging church.
“I found most of these posters rather sad (in a “I can’t believe how badly he’s misrepresenting us” kind of way), and some even offensive,” Clawson wrote on his blog.
Staff at Relevant magazine, a bimonthly Christian publication for twentysomething Christians, criticized the PyroManiacs bloggers as “hard-line fundamentalists” who are “anti-emerging everything.”
“It’s so frustrating to me when people on both sides just continually take shots at each other. It just looks ridiculous to the world,” said Relevant staff in a July 27 podcast. The staff further called for intergenerational dialogue to understand where the other party is coming from and denounced criticism based on assumptions.
They noted, however, that it wasn’t so much the posters in particular that is the problem, but that the posters are a “reflection of the problem” of debates over the emerging church, or what some prefer to call “progressive young church.”
Ken Silva, pastor of Connecticut River Baptist Church in Claremont, N.H., and president of Apprising Ministries – a non-profit that specializes in apologetics rooted in orthodox Christian theology – said the core issue and what’s at stake is the Gospel itself.
“It grieves me that the evangelical community by embracing this (at best) neo-orthodox movement will now find itself arguing for, and having to defend, what should have been its most basic beliefs,” he commented.
Some conservative evangelicals criticize the emerging church movement for rejecting Christian orthodoxy and for its openness to alternative lifestyles.
“Tolerance: Let’s celebrate our differences and diversity even though you are clearly wrong,” states a poster picturing a large Dalmatian dog facing a small Chihuahua. “Apologetics: Orthodox? Heretical? Who cares? Let’s find some ‘common ground.’” reads another poster with a glass mug of overflowing beer.
In response, a different series of posters was posted on a blog site called Emerging Grace (emerginggrace.blogspot.com) which provides a whole new outlook on postmodernism.
“Tolerance: Grace for those who are different,” says one poster with a girl who has multiple piercings on her face; “Relevance: What is good news for this person?” states another poster picturing a naked man curled into a corner; “Apologetics: Live your faith. Share your life,” says a poster with a black person’s hand and a white person’s hand embracing; “Truth: Plain and simple – Jesus is the Truth,” states a poster featuring a young man holding a “One Way” traffic sign pointing upward.
Brett Kunkle, a Stand to Reason speaker committed to equipping students to make a defense of their Christian faith and values, welcomed both series of posters.
“[S]ometimes we (I mean those of us who are theologically or apologetically-minded) are so critical of the church and all of her weaknesses and failings that we forget to paint a picture of what she should look like,” said Kunkle on Stand to Reason’s blog. “We’re good at telling people the ‘no’ but never the ‘yes.’ And in a public square where discourse is so often shrill and mean-spirited, a compelling vision of what the Church can be is profoundly refreshing.”
One of America’s pre-eminent evangelicals is challenging the advice of a retiring Roman Catholic Bishop in the Netherlands who has raised eyebrows worldwide by suggesting Dutch Christians pray to “Allah.”
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, argues that it is inappropriate for Christians to call God Allah based on irreconcilable theological differences associated with the name Allah and core Christian beliefs.
The key condition behind calling the Christian God Allah is that Allah must refer to the same God as the one in the Bible. However, this requirement presents “a huge problem for both Muslims and Christians,” contends Mohler.
The theologian pointed out that the Qur’an explicitly denies that Allah has a son, and Islam considers the idea of a triune God to be blasphemy.
“Thus, from its very starting point Islam denies what Christianity takes as its central truth claim – the fact that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father,” wrote Mohler on his web blog Wednesday.
“If Allah has no Son by definition, Allah is not the God who revealed himself in the Son. How then can the use of Allah by Christians lead to anything but confusion …and worse?”
Last Monday, during an interview with a Dutch TV program, 71-year-old Bishop Tiny Muskens promoted the idea of Dutch Christians calling God Allah, believing that it would ease much of the conflict between the Christian and Muslim faiths. Muskens contended that God doesn’t mind what He is called and the arguments over what to call Him is an invention of man. [KH: heretic!]
“Allah is a very beautiful word for God. Shouldn’t we all say that from now on we will name God Allah? …What does God care what we call Him? It is our problem,” said Muskens, according to The Associated Press.
The retiring bishop was a former missionary to Indonesia – the most populous Muslim country in the world – for eight years, where he said priests used the name “Allah” while celebrating Mass.
In response, Mohler pointed out that it would be difficult to support the argument that “Allah” can be used as a generic term for God. The theologian said separation of Allah from the language, theology, and worship closely associated with it is difficult. Moreover, even non-Arabic speaking Muslims use Allah when referring to their god.
Another irreconcilable difference is that Jesus commanded his followers to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
“When this command is taken seriously and obeyed, the whole issue is greatly clarified – a Christian cannot baptize in the name of Allah,” stated Mohler.
“So Bishop Muskens is disingenuous at best when he suggests that God does not care about His name. This is not a matter of mere ‘discussion and bickering,’” said Mohler.
“If Allah has no son, Allah is not the father of our Lord Jesus Christ…This is no mere ‘discussion and bickering.’ This is where the Gospel stands or falls,” the theologian concluded.
Bishop Muskens in the past endorsed other controversial ideas which went against the Vatican leadership – such as those who are hungry can steal bread and that condoms should be permissible in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
By Marvin Olasky
Sometimes we find guts in strange places, and cowardice where there should be strength.
Last month’s largest cowardice report came from The Netherlands, where a Catholic bishop said that Christian-Muslim animosity could be reduced through one simple measure: “Shouldn’t we all say that from now on we will call God Allah?” Sure and shouldn’t we also wear “What Would Muhammad Do?” bracelets and say the Quran trumps the Bible? For Muslims, peace comes through submission, so if we all submit to Islam, terrorism might decrease — but at what price?
Evidence of guts came from the Ivy League, of all places: The Yale University Press stood firm when a Muslim organization brought a libel suit against it and one of its authors. Yale made no payment to the plaintiffs and no changes in the book, Matthew Levitt’s Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad, which shows that Hamas-related social welfare groups support terror.
The group that sued, KinderUSA, is a sweetly named nonprofit group that says it raises money for Palestinian children and families. KinderUSA charged that Levitt’s linkage of it to terrorist entities was “false and damaging”; KinderUSA demanded that Yale stop distribution of the book and give it $500,000 in damages. Yale responded by defending the book’s accuracy and calling the lawsuit a “classic, meritless challenge to free expression.”
When “Yale came at us hard,” in the words of a KinderUSA lawyer, the organization withdrew its lawsuit. The result is significant because Yale’s stand came soon after the Cambridge University Press had settled a libel case against it by promising to destroy all remaining copies of a book about Islamic terrorism that it had published. One difference in the Yale and Cambridge situations is that British laws do not protect honest authors and publishers against libel charges; thankfully, American laws do.
We need such protection because a worldwide Muslim offensive against freedom of speech is now underway. Look at the resolution that the U.N. General Assembly has for two consecutive years passed: “Combating Defamation of Religions” highlights the purportedly “negative projection of Islam in the media” and urges governments to prevent speech or actions that foment discrimination or hostility toward any religion.
In some places the Muslim offensive against liberty is obvious. Islam maintains its stranglehold on millions in the Middle East and North Africa by not allowing freedom of speech and religion; if Christianity could be openly proclaimed and freely embraced, millions would turn to it, as millions have in most of Africa. Where Muslim-led governments allow some liberty, as in Indonesia and Malaysia, vigilantes persecute dissidents.
In the United States, the offensive carried on by some (but not all) Muslim groups is subtler but still effective. Late last month The Washington Post and at least two dozen other newspapers refused to run an installment of the comic strip “Opus” that featured one character appearing in a headscarf and explaining to her boyfriend why she wanted to become a radical Islamist. Washington Post Writers Group comics editor Amy Lago said, “I don’t think it’s necessarily poking fun [at Islam]. But the question with Muslims is, are they taking it seriously?”
Reportedly, Muslim staffers at the Post did not like the cartoon, which described radical Islam as “the hot new fad of the planet” — and top editors were worried about potential reaction. The trade journal Editor & Publisher quoted a Writers Group executive as saying that some newspapers “won’t publish any Muslim-related humor, whether pro or con. ‘They just don’t want to touch that.’”
Some Christians call for restrictions on free speech when they’re bothered by atheistic attacks on religion or secularist critiques of fundamentalism. The challenge of Islam shows us that we need exactly the opposite. We need more free speech: Let Christians and Muslims have a peaceful but vigorous debate, no verbal holds barred. The Gospel will hold its own in this country and soar in Muslim lands.
By Cal Thomas
Whatever else his critics say of him, no one can fault President Bush for failing to go the extra mile in his efforts to show that neither he, nor the United States, is opposed to the Islamic faith, or to Muslim nations.
Last week, the president and Mrs. Bush hosted their seventh Iftaar Dinner, the celebration that breaks the Muslim fast during Ramadan. Immediately after 9/11, the president visited a Washington, D.C., mosque and proclaimed Islam a “religion of peace.” He has frequently said that terrorists are not real Muslims, anymore than people who proclaim to be Christian and engage in violence are genuine Christians.
The president is the most openly evangelical Christian and faithful churchgoer since Jimmy Carter. And the evangelical community has mostly embraced him and twice voted for him in overwhelming numbers. But that constituency is likely to be troubled over something the president said in an interview with Al Arabiya television. In an official transcript released by the White House, the president said, “I believe in an almighty God, and I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God.” Later in the interview, the president repeated his statement: “I believe there is a universal God. I believe the God that the Muslim prays to is the same God that I pray to. After all, we all came from Abraham. I believe in that universality.”
To paraphrase a remark often attributed to the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, everyone is entitled to his or her own faith, but everyone is not entitled to define the central doctrines of that faith. The doctrines of what is called Christianity not only stand in stark contrast to Islam, they also teach something contrary to what the president says he believes.
It is one thing to try to reach out to moderate and sincerely peaceful Muslims. It is quite another to say the claims of your own faith are of no greater importance than the often contradictory claims of another faith. If we all worship the same God, the president should answer the call of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Osama bin Laden, convert to Islam and no longer be a target of their wrath. What difference would it make if we all worship the same God?
Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (carm.org) has created a useful chart that shows the conflicting claims of classic Christian belief and Muslim doctrines. It is worth studying whatever one’s faith.
The central doctrine of the Christian faith is that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for sinners and by repenting of sin and accepting Christ as Savior, one is “saved” and is guaranteed a home in Heaven. Muslims do not believe God had a son and, therefore, no atonement for sin is necessary. Muslims believe simply telling God one is sorry and repenting of sin is enough, if one also lives up to the five “pillars” of Islam. Furthermore, according to Muslims, Jesus did not die on a cross (as Christians believe); instead, God allowed Judas to look like Jesus and it was Judas who was crucified.
Evangelical Christians believe the Bible is God’s Word and is without error in the original manuscripts. Muslims respect the word of the prophets, but claim the Bible has been corrupted (mostly by Jews) and is only correct insofar as it agrees with the Koran.
God calls himself “I Am” and says He is one, but with three personalities. Muslims believe God’s name is Allah and reject the Trinity.
How can the president say that we all worship the same God when Muslims deny the divinity of Jesus, whom the president accepts as the One through whom all must pass for salvation? Do both political parties have the same beliefs? Are all baseball teams equal (clearly not, because only two will go to the World Series)?
The president can be commended for sincerely reaching out to Muslims, but he should not be commended for watering down his beliefs and the doctrines of his professed faith in order to do so. That’s universalism. There are “churches” that believe in universalism, his Methodist church does not. No Christian who believes the Bible believes in universalism. And No Muslim who believes the Koran does either.
President Bush is wrong - dangerously wrong - in proclaiming that all religions worship the same God.
The head of the largest Protestant denomination is not a Calvinist. But in response to ignited discussions over the rising influence of Calvinism, Southern Baptist Convention president Frank Page has clarified that he is open for dialogue.
“Most everyone who knows me knows that I am not a Calvinist,” said Page in a column on Baptist Press this week. “However, I have made it clear that I would be fair to those who are Calvinists in appointments in our convention. I have been true to my word.”
Page was responding to a LifeWay Research study that showed a growing percentage of Baptists are affirming the five points of Calvinism - total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. The study was released in November.
While only around 10 percent of SBC pastors overall say they are Calvinists, nearly 30 percent of recent SBC seminary graduates now serving as church pastors indicate they are Calvinists, according to the research.
“It would be difficult to say that Calvinism is not a growing influence in SBC life – and certainly a growing influence in the graduates of our seminaries,” Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, told Baptists at a conference on Calvinism in November.
While some Southern Baptists are embracing the doctrines of grace - five points of Calvinism - others see it as a threat to the convention, especially to their evangelistic efforts.
Five-point Calvinists believe God chooses every person who will be saved, not based on an individual’s merit, and that Christ died for the elect and not all.
“I believe that the issue of Calvinism is one that can be discussed within the family of Southern Baptists,” said Page. “I believe we need to have honest, open dialogue.”
Page requested SBC churches, seminarians and current pastors be “quite honest” with their congregations in this matter.
Promoting former SBC president Paige Patterson’s practical suggestion, Page said, “When pastor search committees approach pastors and seminary graduates about possible positions, they need to be very honest with these individuals about what they will allow regarding teaching in this area.”
While encouraging peaceful, Christ-like discussions on Calvinism, Page also urged Southern Baptists to study up on the issue and be aware of issues in Calvinism and non-Calvinism.
“It is incumbent upon all Southern Baptists that we study the Word of God clearly to see what it says about the salvation given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ.”